When I was young I wanted to be a writer.  I read the letters of famous authors and two stuck with me through life.  Ernest Hemingway said that the best way to become a writer is to go out and live.  Have as much experience as you can and then write.  He did not mention that an education in English or writing could help.

I went out and started college.  I took up boxing.  I was still living at home.  Our Uncle Sam wrote to me and drafted me into service in the Police Action (War) in Vietnam.  I left in the spring of 1966 from my parents home in Fullerton, California.  During those days most people went through boot camp and then spent about 10 months or so in Vietnam and then went home and were discharged.  Through a series of unfortunate events (excuse me) I ended up spending around 5 years in service in and out of Vietnam. What I did and saw and learned has affected me the rest of my life.  Everything since then has been lived in the context os the war.  I suffered from PTSD but didn’t really get that diagnosis for almost 40 years after returning to the United States.

In recent years I have finally gotten some good counseling from the VA.  I had been attracted to counseling in my life to try to help me understand what I clearly did not know about myself.  I worked with three good counselors in my life but none of them even thought to ask about the war and it’s effect on me.  I have found out that I have a condition called alexithymia, which is an inability to feel the normal emotions of life.  Apparently there are over 200 emotions we humans experience and a PTSD sufferer has access to only about 10% of those.

So I had trouble getting and keeping jobs, having and keeping relationships, feeling good about myself for any extended period of time.  I missed the music and romance and dancing in my life.  I ran an extreme sports practice for several years.  I was drawn into the world of investment and insurance by a concerned client.  I worked in that field for 30 years and it proved to be good in that I could change companies and products and approaches without ever having to quit.  I tried more than 10 times to have a long-term relationship and always failed.  So my personal life did not reflect the success I had in other areas of life.

I didn’t work in financial services, I fought in the corporate wars, and so forth.  Always defined by my experience in Vietnam.  the VA has told me that Vietnam Vets are the most suspicious people in the country.  We have the least trust in the government.  I have done a lot, I had experiences in life as urged by the successful authors that went before me.  All defined by the war experience.

So I call my writing efforts, The War Chronicles.  I wrote a series of seven novels about a Vietnam Vet trying to live in what seems like a hostile world to him.  His name is Gideon Jones because I always said I should write a book called Gideon, Jonah, and Me, Three Men Who Tried to Escape from God, but Failed.  It was my vague understanding of the PTSD that controlled. me. Those stories are put away for now.

I followed those up with a book that dealt with the needs and desires of two marginalized groups in the U.S.  LGBTQ and Veterans.  The book is called The Consequence of War, and is about a man who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and has come home unable to fit in anymore.  He is living a dark violent life and is about to disappear from society for good.  Then two acts of violence leads him into an opportunity to find love, to define and understand who he really is, and then puts him into a deadly situation from which he cannot escape by himself.  So many people can’t even tell others how they feel and how they want to live.  They are forced to pretend that they fit into the very oppressive binary role models forced on us by society.

The Consequence of War is a very dark book that deals with life on a violent and negative basis.  In this book we find that many people make their decisions on selfish desires that are not based on healthy wants.  We are faced with men who will beat, and kill other human beings and especially like to torment the weak.  So when a soldier who has been trained to kill, and then has killed successfully and often comes along and sees this behavior, he uses the skills that he was taught.  He is much better trained than the average criminal so he solves problems by killing the perpetrator.  There is no recovery, or rehab in his world, there is no counseling or workshops to help a person change or grow.  There is only an end to their deprivation.  He was trained that the first person to move wins, and in his case the first one to move lived.  He doesn’t talk to bad people, there is no witty or macho conversation.  He just walks up to them and kills them.  He doesn’t fight, he kills.

So we find the main character, Elijah McCoy, living a life with only one friend, and with no intimacy, friendship other than his main friend, and no love or tenderness.  There is no room for that.  He keeps on the move, like a shark.  He rides a bicycle everywhere around the city.  He is silent and fast and can show up anywhere.  He is not taught to assess danger as such, just right or wrong in a situation.  If there is something that needs to stop then he stops it.  He doesn’t do it to endear himself to the people he saves.  He does it because it’s the right thing as far as he can tell.  He often leaves without even talking to the person he saves and never tries to find them after that meeting.  Until he saves the life of a young gay man who is being beaten to death.  That man tracks him down and makes a connection with the soldier that saved him.  He can see the goodness inside Elijah for some reason.  The man he saved is named Phillip and his long time friend is a man named Rick Vargas.  The two of them adopt him and start to bring him into a social circle.

Elijah tries to help a woman who is being stalked and in the confrontation with the stalker, Elijah kills him.  The woman is no doubt saved from the stalker but in the death Elijah is put in a situation where his best and only friend takes the rap for him because of the Elijah’s underground life.  Because the man who died, was a member of a large biker gang The Sons of Perdition, the best and only friend becomes the focus of the wrath of the lawless bikers and the battle is on.  Elijah can’t figure out a way to kill all the bikers without having to also battle the police in his Oakland City, so he realizes he has to join forces with them to save his friend.  To do this Elijah has to give up his freedom and therefore a chance to have a relationship with a man who loves him.  The only time in his live he has been known, accepted, and loved.

The situation becomes a huge battle that finally determines the life or death of many, many people.  It shows the nature of the city, the strength and weakness of the police, the character of the best friend, and the value of love in various forms.

This book led to another necessary book that is called The Welcome Center and described the life of us all in the very near future.  It is dystopian, true, very real, and what is called faction.  It is fact based fiction and very engaging.  When you read this story the situation in which we all find ourselves right now become clear and all the more frightening.

Dr. Gillen and Page published a research study in 2014 that looked at the relationship between the actions of the congress (government) versus the needs and desires of the people.  They looked at around 2,000 pieces of legislation and found that there is now a zero correlation between those two sides.  The actions of the government in the United States is no longer connected to the will of the people  We were founded as a nation where the government was the servant of the people, and was composed of the people, by the people, and for the people.  This is clearly no longer the case.  So Dr. Gillen and Dr. Page rightly classified us as an Oligarchy.  There were several million people in the 2016 election that responded to this study and asked the rest of the population to wake up and take back power.  The election process was subverted by the existing government, whoever that is, and their total control of the media and somehow we were led to believe we actually had an election and Donald Trump was now our legitimate president.  I believe that our situation is a lot more dire than this, as bas as this sounds.

The second book The Welcome Center starts off with an announcement that could come any day now, that Washington, D.C. is no longer the capital of the United States.  The congress has been moved to an undisclosed location, the president is now living in New York, and the Supreme Court is in a private enclave.  Well this is not far from what you know to be true.

This story then takes that premise and extends it up through the probably rulers of the country now, and down to the people like us that are trying to live in this confusing time. The premise is that the “Shadow” government is banking on the fact that they can fool enough of the people into thinking that everything is still as it was, that as long as they lie they can do whatever they way.  So they start to push the envelope to see just how much the people of the U.S. will take.  Thus they get to the point of making the big announcement about the change to the Welcome Center status of the capital.  It gets worse from there.  It becomes necessary for veterans who served honorably, to put themselves in situation in which they know they will be killed, to get the message out to the people that we are no long what we think we are.

The book makes a couple of really big points.  1. is that the oppressing government, whoever they are, can only rule us if they break us into factions and keep us fighting with each other.  So 2. for the nation to heal and save itself, we all need to acknowledge that there has been a takeover of our government, and the citizen’s enemy is not each other in little splinter groups, but it is the government.  We will have to draw together and accept each other as equals in order to take the government, our freedom, dignity, and future back from the people who have stolen it.  It becomes clear through the example of the veteran suicide missions, that gay people, poor people, non-shite people, women, immigrants, and others are not really dangerous to us at all.  But we can all pull together and when 300 million people take to the streets very little can be done to recapture the oppressive forced work structure we now have.  So when millions of people of color, non white people lead the way by taking control of Los Angeles, and when that leads to 9 more cities setting up permanent protests, it is not surprising.  The people who saw the courage of the veterans who chose to die so we could all be free, and the non white population’s courage in leading us in a stand against the lies, is enough to motivate all of the other groups of people to unite against the takeover of the U.S.  Finally the militia movement in the country realizes that they have not been really protecting the gem of democracy by joining in the oppression of non-white people and gay people, and immigrants.  They have actually been helping our oppressors to crush the life out of the beautiful dream the United States could be.  So the militia moves to help and join with the non white protestors and suddenly there are millions of people fighting for freedom.  There are many themes in this book and a lot about which to think.

Book One, The Consequence of War, has been shared with the Crime Writers Association as they did a paid assessment of the manuscript.  Their analysis was that there was a lot of work to do but that the story was worth the work.  They said “it was satisfyingly dark.”  That led to a conversation with a published author who encouraged the further hard work to take the ideas and make them into a more professionally done book.  So a real artist was hired, Alan Gilliland, of England, a very well established and very talented artist.  he created the striking cover after long discussions with me about the book.  A real editor was put to work, Amber Helt of Rooted in Writing.  She worked with me for several months on a developmental edit.  It is well worth bringing in a good professional editor.  She then worked it through a final polishing edit.

Now I have sent the book to Kirkus for onoe of their expensive and harsh reviews.  If they think it is a book then my very capable editor will put it in eBook format and we will upload it to Amazon (Create Space) and Ingram Spark and start marketing it .

I am just ready to turn book two over to the editor.

Step by Step.

Working with an Editor

The process of writing a book is emotional, long, hard work.  Once a complete story is ready I have found that including a professional editor is the best way to prepare a book that can be understood and appreciated by the reading public.  Once we determined we were a good fit and that the editor would be comfortable working with a dark, violent story that involved marginalized groups, we set off with a developmental edit.  The editor, Amber Helt, from Rooted in Writing, determined that I needed help with pacing, acceleration, dialogue, and timeline order.  She also identified some important characters that had not been developed and started asking for information about the, putting them into chapters with their own point of view.  She kept an eye on Point of View throughout the book.  She asked me for an “I love you” chapter, a PTSD dream chapter and more.  She worked on the violence and motivation for it, the actual commission of violent acts and the logic of the timing for it.  She dove into the romance in the book without judging it.

The end result is that we took out 30,000 words of the original manuscript and added back 20,000 words that included the new character development and the redesigned timeline.  She took out passages and people who slowed the story or did not really add to the narrative.  She did a very good job of changing the book into civilian language and still keeping the military information accurate.

As I read the revisions and added the requested information I started to see a book that I would like to read myself.  The end product is so much more accessible and inviting.  The editing process has increased the size of the market for the book by several factors.

We are done with the development of the book and she will now start the copy edit that will clean the book up and prepare it to be submitted to publishers or to prepare it for an eBook format.  I have options now because this book is actually publishable.

Getting a book out involved the art of writing, having a story to tell, having the courage and discipline to write 90,000 words, the skills of language provided by a professional editor, and then the marketing skills involved in selling it to the publishing world and then the public.  It isn’t reasonable to expect one person to be able to do all these things.  Get help along the way from professionals who can complaint your art.

Rooted in Writing…

Now that I have the cover designed I am working with a professional editor, above, to make the book more readable.  Amber Helt is working with me and I am so happy to have her input and sharp eye working with me.

She began with a thorough read and then a summary report to me about her understanding of the book and her ideas of how best to work on it with me.  She really understood what I was writing.  She described the characters in the book just as I wanted them physically and emotionally.  She know their background and motivations.  For a young editor she seems to have a good working knowledge of how things happen here in the U.S.  I have been touched with her insights and impressed with her open minded acceptance of what I am trying to do.

This is a dark book and deals with unpleasant subjects.  Many of the worst human emotions are found in this story.  There is violence and mistrust, criminal activity and consciously bad ideas and behavior.  The characters are under all the stress of trying to live in a very controlled society and have broken out in an attempt at authenticity.  Ms. Helt has been willing to look at the underlying story as it is told and just to worry about pacing, dialog and flow.

She does ask me questions about what I am trying to convey and how I am saying it, and then once she understands she is creatively incorporating that fabric into the book.  What is happening is a story that has less hesitation and more motion.  It will help you understand what happened and how the people involved felt about it.

This is a tough story to write for civilians because the horrors of war crush the humanity out of soldiers.  In order to survive we (they) have to give up access to most emotions, or we would go crazy doing the horrible things that war requires.  So if I write the veterans in the story accurately they feel to remote for the reader, Ms. Helt is able to tell it from the understanding of a non-soldier while still presenting the challenges of the soldier.  We don’t talk well with other people.  We don’t share our feelings with other people.  We don’t react to things that evoke strong emotions in normal people.  (i.e. non-combatants) If I write that accurately then it could be a pretty slow-moving or shallow story.  The trick is to convey the degree to which the soldier or veteran in this case, is seeming remote even while feeling tortured..

We are progressing 6 chapters at a time and should be done in a month.  At that point I think this will be a story by a veteran, about veterans, that should be easily understood by civilians.

Soldiers want all the same things everyone wants, love, acceptance and understanding.  We all want to be accepted and helped.  We want to share our lives and experiences with others and to understand the experiences of those others.  We just can’t show what we feel.  We are so protected that sometimes we don’t even know what we are feeling or at least we are not able to express it.

This is a book about the search for love and validation but in a very hard reality.  It’s coming.

Suggestions from a CWA Assessment…

I paid the Crime Writers Association for an assessment of my manuscript. They kept it for almost a month and had one of their judges read it and write a nine page review for me. The suggested several things that I could do to improve the book and I went to work to fix, add, delete or improve the book. I was grateful for the professional opinion. These people get books published.

The review gave me the confidence to continue to work on what they saw as a basically good book. Their assessment started out with this:

“The book is rich in action, but its driving force is Elijah’s emotional struggle with violence and his ultimate redemption through his love for another man. It is the story of one man’s search to reconnect with his own humanity, wrestling with the difficulties of readjustment in a ‘normal’ world after witnessing – and playing an active part in – the violence of war. The author is not afraid to confront the serious issues and dilemmas that arise from Elijah’s situation: the analogy of exile between the returned soldiers and the gay community is thoughtfully – and thought-provokingly – explored, and the blending of satanic and earthly evils is interestingly handled.

The tone of the narrative is satisfyingly dark.”

They said that I overexploited at times, which is fixed now. They said I came on too strong sometimes, fixed. While I overexploited some things I didn’t give enough description to create a sense of place or to create an atmosphere of what was happening. I worked on this.

They liked Elijah McCoy the main character.

“I liked Elijah tremendously, and despite some highly unconvincing dialogue (see section 6), I believed in him and in his situation. His struggle to find a path from the violence of his heart is movingly explored, and his awakening to love and sexuality makes him attractively vulnerable. He is an intriguing blend of complexity and naivety, violence and compassion, and unusual because of that.”

This was interesting to me in that the stilted dialogue really did describe one of the big problems that veterans have when they (we) come home. The fact that the dialogue was uncomfortable and “off” emotionally proved the authenticity of the book. However that had to change so the reader could understand what was being done, thought, and felt. I hope i have fixed that but some of the time I am pretending that I know how to talk to people. This was true of Elijah’s emotional reactions along the way. Something terrible would happen and he did not react like a normal person. Well that is one of the ways a veteran protects from horrible experiences. I tried to mitigate this without changing the way a veteran reacts. At least they are somewhat aware of it now. If you ever watched the TV series Dexter, with his discomfort at being around normal people you get the problem.

“The progression of the plot is logical and the transitions in Elijah’s character are well-paced, leading to a satisfying personal and collective outcome.” I felt as if the story was told to me by Elijah (some part of me?) and that I just wrote down what happened. I wrote it in big blocks and was surprised sometimes at what happened. I was anxious to share the pages with my partner because of the surprise.

“Ironically, it’s not the dark, supernatural aspects of the book that stretch credibility (these worked well for me, whether you choose to read them on a literal or metaphorical level); it’s the moments of everyday living, and this is down to a fundamental problem with dialogue.” This gave me strength to keep working on this book. I continue to work on the dialogue.

I was grateful for this service and think that the story is told in a much better way as a result of it. I am completing the eighth edit of the entire book. I think I am getting close to being ready to publish.

We Are Born Into the Darkness…

In first world countries we feel as if we are born into the light and live there safely.  We feel as if we have to be careful of the darkness but just being watchful should be enough.  Everyone who lives outside the first world knows that the world is made for the darkness and only by our volition and through a huge and constant effort can we move toward the light.

This book, about the Consequences of War is a study, or an exploration of the effect of bad people and bad behavior on us all.  Governments choose to wage war, often and dangerously.  Those governments have an acceptable number of their own citizens that they will sacrifice in the waging of war.  The decision to wage war rather than some other conflict resolution method is the decision that it’s okay to kill people in other countries and take their land and wealth.  It’s also okay if some of your own people are killed so that the ones who decide can have that wealth or land. Amazingly vague and illogical reasons are given for the war and for the participation and ultimate loss of citizens that will result from it.

A huge amount of the resources, including materials, wealth, time, effort and even human lives are devoted to the ability to wage war, and the actual wars. Surprisingly, even knowing that the violence of war is going to result in damage, physical injury and psychological and spiritual injury will occur, there is very little time, materiel, wealth, resources and human lives dedicated to repairing or even addressing that damage.

Induction into the war machine, often of citizens who were drawn in unwillingly (through a draft for example) is brutal and contains no consideration of the humanity of those conscribed .  The justification is that the war machine is intended to be brutal to do brutal things to the other countries considered enemies.  The people who are pulled into service are given physical and psychological tasks to shape them into fighters capable of being brutal. Brutal is defined as extremely cruel or harsh, typical of beasts.  Not of humans but beasts.  The fighters, or combatants who make up the war machine have to give up their humanity and become capable of behaving like beasts.

Each task or step in shifting citizens from civil to brutal is a test of willingness of the people involved.  Each time the combatant has to decide if they will give up some more of their humanity.  Among the tools the owner of the war machine (i.e. the government) use include a view of failure to become brutal as weak and disgusting.  To enforce the difficult decisions each combatant has to make an effort is made to create a belief that it is patriotic, brave, heroic to give up the humanity and become brutal practitioners of war.  The more brutal the more heroic. Patriotism is understood to be showing a great love and support for your country.  Any other behavior is viewed as not only weak but hateful of your country.  Any combatant that is successful in serving the war machine is therefore, very little human on their return.

Once the combatant returns to society it is fully expected from day one that they will be fully human again and able to behave in a civil manner.  The combatant often feels so unable to anticipate how they should react to any situation, that they withdraw emotionally, and sometimes physically from society.  This makes people around them uncomfortable which reinforces their withdrawal.  One of the central feelings that keeps the returned combatant from asking for help or even explaining what they are feeling and why, is shame. This is a feeling of guilt, regret or embarrassment, that expresses  a feeling of disgrace or dishonor.  In a society like ours here in the U.S. where no one talks to veterans, no one wants to understand what they experienced or felt in the war, the problem is huge.

So a veteran comes home, goes to work, tries to have a relationship in which they can’t share what they are feeling, live unknown in their own homes, and tries to cover the fact that they really don’t know how to react to any challenging situation.  The result is sadness, loneliness and frustration.  It makes the returning combatant a poor partner, a poor friend, and even a poor companion.  Their frustration often builds and expresses itself in ways that harken back to the skills they learned in the war.  The veteran feels under attack by being ignored or judged by people who know nothing about them.

The veteran, in order even to survive, has to learn complex and dangerous skills in the service of the war machine.  A quick violent response is the most effective way to avoid and survive what is viewed as hostility from those around the veteran.  Some veterans become frustrated enough to resort to what they learned to do best and become violent. Once that path is chosen is descends rapidly into choices that can’t be escaped.

This book deals with two veterans.  On their return after 6 years of frequent combat, they both know that they’re scary and hard to be around.  One gets married, starts a family, and opens a business.  His fellow combatant can’t make the transition back to home.  Elijah can’t make it home and moves into a safe house that he and Juno build in the back of Juno’s import/export business warehouse. Elijah works a few days a week with the Longshoremen’s Union, through a friend of Juno.  He keeps himself fit and battle ready. He finds opportunities to use his skills as a soldier in his new hometown and that is the problem.  We find Elijah at home and experiencing one of this bad dreams early one morning.  He goes to have breakfast even before sunrise because he knows he can’t sleep any more.  He discovers three men beating up a young slender man near his favorite breakfast place.  He is incensed and enters the battle.  He seriously injures one of the three bullies.  He kills the second and chases off the third  He takes the injured man to his breakfast place, Buster’s Cafe, so the injured man won’t have to confront the police and become a martyr for the gay movement.

This is a simple act of bravery that opens a door that can’t be closed again for Elijah.

Choosing the darkness or the Light

In this space I will ask you to join me in a discussion of how we should choose the darkness or the light in our lives.  Life in the darkness is centered on the self.  Time and energy goes into the development and advancement of the self only.  Life in the light is working to be fully while reaching out to other fully developed people.

This blog will focus on the effort to tell the story of a pair of veterans returning from war. Their transition from citizens in a first world country into warriors operating often in third world countries.  We will look at their process through the demands that are put on them by those who have the power to jail them, place them in danger, or reward them.  We will experience their decisions as they turn into people who have either accomplished a lot or those who should be ashamed of what they have done.Cost of War, Gilliland cover

Part of the exploration of how to choose between the darkness or the light is the presentation of a book based on the lived experience of a warrior who has been trying to come back for 45 years.  The author was drafted at the age of 19 and then spent almost 5 years in Vietnam service (1966-1971).  For him the war began in 1966 and continues to this day.  This is true of veterans who have served in a theater of war and in combat.  Only about 25% of military serve in hot combat and for those, their lives are forever changed. The arc of their lives is knocked off the path that was set from their birth family and circumstances.  The people the would have met, the relationship they would have had and the consequences of war in their lives will be different than if they had not been chosen.

It is believed by psychologists who deal with veterans that war is crazy, when you are pushed into it then you should run away, or go crazy, or find some other way to deal with the incongruities of the experience.  Some do run away.  Some do end up in facilities to serve the emotionally disturbed. Some deal with the constant barrage of horror by developing a condition called Alexithymia.

Alexithymia – condition characterized by the inability to identify and describe emotions in the self.

  • Dysfunctional emotional awareness
  • It leads to un-empathic and ineffective emotional response
  • Peter Syfnios – 1973 identified the condition and described it.
  • The word is based on the Greek lexis for speech, and thumos – the soul modified by an alpha positive (that expresses negation or absence) it literally means no words for emotions.

The expression of the problem is that one who suffers from this condition just don’t have the normally expected reactions to most situations.  People around the one who suffers notice and become uncomfortable to be around that person.  The person who has lost the ability to emote normally just withdraws.

It is difficult for the sufferer to explain why they are stymied in their response because the cause of the withdrawal consists of things of which they are ashamed.  Alexithymia is part of PTSD.  This larger and more discussed condition only exists in societies (like ours) where returning soldiers are not encouraged to talk about the experience they had in their war..  In cultures where everyone goes to war like Israel, and then returns to share experiences with each other, PTSD is almost not known.