The writing life

Reading research

“The problem with research,” I tweeted a few days ago, “is that I’ve got a list of at least fifteen books that I don’t so much want to read as want to have already read, right now.

On reflection, I think that’s one of the two problems with research, but more on that in a moment.

It’s not to say that I don’t want to read these books; I do.  Some of them I think are going to be great reads; others will be a slog but will still be about topics I find fascinating.  (Some will be flat-out disappointing, of course.  I had one of those recently.)  But while I am also reading these books for pleasure, centrally I’m reading them to extract information or get a better understanding of something I want to write about.  Holding off on writing about it is a really frustrating feeling.

(Which makes me feel like I should pipe up and say that I don’t have any intention of finishing my research before I start writing; I’m a strong believer that that’s a horrible way to write.  For one thing, your research should never actually be “finished”.  I start writing when I feel I’m ready to start writing, and my research continues apace while I write.  But when I know there’s a lot still out there for me to get a handle on before I can write what I want to write, well, it’s frustrating.)

The other problem with research is that it’s migratory.  There are three or four different things I want to learn about, and the simple act of researching one of them can make me shift interest to one of the others instead.  Right now, I’m reading about the American Federal period.  But that could well lead to me wanting to shift back in time, as I decide to read about the backgrounds of Federal-era statesmen by reading about Colonial America instead.  Or instead maybe it’ll send me across the Atlantic, and I’ll want to research Napoleonic Europe, which had such an impact on Federalist America via things like the Haitian Revolution, the Louisiana Purchase or the War of 1812.  From Napoleon I could well end up going elsewhere in French history—I’ve been meaning to do some reading about Vichy France, for instance, for a while.

So here’s the reading list.  There are books that are higher priorities on here than others; I thought about organising it on that basis, whittling it down or boldfacing the ones I’m either really excited about or feel a really pressing need to tackle before the others.  But then I realised that those priorities change, and the book that I’m thinking, “Oh, I’ll definitely want to read that one after I finish this one I’m starting now,” could, by the time I finish this new one, suddenly find itself way further down the pile.  So instead, here they are organised very roughly by chronology and geography.

The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America by James Axtell

Pitt the Elder: The Great Commoner by Jeremy Black

Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes: French Diplomacy in the Age of Revolution, 1719–1787 by Orville T. Murphy

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman

Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa and Sarah Lennox, 1740–1832 by Stella Tillyard

A Royal Affair: George III and His Scandalous Siblings by Stella Tillyard

America at 1750: A Social Portrait by Richard Hofstadter

The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H.W. Brands

William Franklin: Son of a Patriot, Servant of a King by Sheila L. Skemp

Benjamin and William Franklin: Father and Son, Patriot and Loyalist by Sheila L. Skemp

Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution Through British Eyes by Christopher Hibbert

John Adams by David McCullough

Mr. Jefferson’s Women by John Kukla

Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser

The Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African by Olaudah Equiano

A Sorrow in Our Heart: The Life of Tecumseh by Allan W. Eckert

Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr by Nancy Isenberg

American Emperor: Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America by David O. Stewart

The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation’s Call to Greatness by Harlow Giles Unger

The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered by Laura Auricchio

Napoleon the Great by Andrew Roberts

Napoleon: His Wives and Women by Christopher Hibbert

The Man Who Broke Napoleon’s Codes: The True Story of a Forgotten Hero in Wellington’s Army by Mark Urban

The Exploits of Baron de Marbot by Jean-Baptiste de Marbot

Courtesans: Money, Sex and Fame in the Nineteenth Century by Kate Hickman

The Courtesan’s Revenge: Harriette Wilson, the Woman Who Blackmailed the King by Frances Wilson

1812: War with America by Jon Latimer

Warships of the Great Lakes, 1754–1834 by Robert Malcolmson

Don’t Give Up the Ship!: Myths of the War of 1812 by Donald R. Hickey

Vienna, 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna by David King

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life by Paul C. Nagel

Henry Clay: The Essential American by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler

The Lost German Slave Girl: The Extraordinary True Story of Sally Miller and Her Fight for Freedom in Old New Orleans by John Bailey

Speculators and Slaves: Masters, Traders and Slaves in the Old South by Michael Tadman

American Slavery: 1619–1877 by Peter Kolchin

Generations of Captivity: A History of African American Slaves by Ira Berlin

The Prince and the Yankee: The Tale of a Country Girl Who Became a Princess by Robert N. White

Damn that’s about twice as many as I expected.  And I stopped before I got to the books I recently picked up about gender roles in the American Civil War, or the aforementioned books about Vichy France, because those are just too far down on my priorities list right now.

Damn.

I

James Wilkinson and us

As usual, it all comes down to perspective.

We know intellectually that people who lived through history didn’t know what the future held for them, and we probably have no problem grasping that when we talk about moments of great crisis.  We can understand, for instance, that when George Washington led the defeated remnants of the Continental Army into hiding in the woods after the Battle of White Plains, then had them flee across the Hudson River under cover of rain and fog, that a lot of people on both sides probably thought they’d just seen the end of the American rebellion and that British rule would be restored in the colonies shortly.  And we can understand why Joseph Kennedy, ambassador in a London that was being pulverised nightly by an overwhelming German air force while the German army stood in control of all Europe from the Spanish border to the Russian, sent dispatch after dispatch back to Washington telling FDR that Britain was completely finished and Germany already had the war won—even as we smugly snigger at him for how wrong he was.

But as humans, we’re psychologically incapable of stopping ourselves from forgetting that people’s view of the future has always been like this all the time, not just in those instants when all the pieces are thrown up in the air.  It was inevitable, we insist, that once the threat of French colonies in Canada and Louisiana had been removed, once Parliament had determined on extracting revenue from the American colonies, that those colonies would revolt from British rule; but the colonists certainly didn’t think that was a likely or even a realistic outcome until fairly late on in the day.  It was inevitable, we’ve been saying ever since the East Berliners climbed over that wall in December 1989, that we would win the Cold War, that the Eastern Bloc would collapse under their own economic inefficiency.  But we never said that during the Cold War, because we didn’t think it was true.  We thought the Cold War and Communism were going to go on indefinitely; the 1984 Doctor Who story “Fury From the Deep” depicts them as still alive and kicking in 2084.  If anything we thought the Communists probably had the edge on us; you don’t come up with something like the domino theory if you think the natural advantage lies with democracy and the free market.

Of course normally when I talk about this sort of thing, I’m talking about it in relation to alternate history.  But I want to make the point that this is important to consider when looking at real history instead.  I wrote a novel set in Berlin in 1946, under Allied occupation, right after the end of the Second World War.  Read any account of that time and the one thing that comes across very strongly is just how actively uncertain everyone was about what the world would look like in the coming days or months or years.  People were uniquely conscious of how impossible it was to see into the future, both on the personal level (where had their loved ones gone, were they still alive somewhere, would they ever return?) and the geopolitical (was Hitler still alive?  Would the Russians stay in Europe? Would the Americans? Would the Allies demolish all the German cities and leave its people to live as peasant farmers for ever? Would there even be such a thing as Germany ever again?)  It’s really difficult to convey that uncertainty on the page because the reader, of course, already knows the answers to all those questions, and so doesn’t feel the tension over them naturally.

Next time I want to talk about what James Wilkinson can tell us about how Americans saw their republic and its future during its first generation of life.  But before I did that, I thought it was important to establish why and how he can tell us it.  And the answer to that is all about that magical P-word: perspective.

I

1667 words per day

I think I’m planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year.  It’ll be a fun way to mark how much more writing time I’m getting now that the kids are in school, and it’ll be a good way to focus.  Writing that much that quickly is always exhilarating.  Plus I previously did it in 2006 and 2010, so I suppose by doing it again this year I can establish a motif.

Lately I’ve been working on the Shanghai novel I used to talk about here, and I’m happy with how that’s going.  But NaNoWriMo requires something new, so both Shanghai and revisions on Zero Hour are out.  (Honestly, I’ve recently had a couple of ideas for the Shanghai book that I’m kind of happy to give a month or so to gel.)  I’m going to go with writing some alternate history and give myself a chance to flex my worldbuilding muscles in a way that writing historical novels about interwar Shanghai or Allied-occupied Berlin doesn’t.

That decided, I’ve got basically two possibilities of what to write: either I could sit down and write a manuscript for my South-wins-the-American-Civil-War novel, or I could give in to this kick I’ve been on lately about the Federalist Period and do something with a point of departure in 1787 (which is to say, a POD where the United States never ratifies the Constitution).  The South-wins novel is actually in a pretty advanced stage of planning, with a cast of characters, a solidly developed setting and most of a plot; its one big problem is that I’m simply unable to find a way that my protagonist fits into the rest of the book.  Plus (and this is a pretty big consideration) I’m very confident the book is saleable; at least, as saleable as alternate history gets.

The no-Constitution idea, on the other hand, is really just in its infancy.  I have some idea of how the world looks, but no idea of the setting, characters or plot, beyond an opening line that fascinates me.  But it’s what’s been catching at my imagination for the last couple of months, and I’ve done a lot of reading on the period and am really immersed in it right now.  Yesterday I checked a biography of James Wilkinson out the library, who’s a fascinating character who really should be better known from this period of American history.  After just forty pages it’s already prompted a number of thoughts that are almost certainly going to end up as posts here in the coming days.

I really wish NaNoWriMo were December rather than November, is what I’m saying, because then I’d jump on the idea of doing something with the no-Constitution POD.  But it ain’t; it’s November.  So I’ve got a decision to make.

I

Ports

When my imagination first gets captured, when I get that first spark of an idea that there’s a story here I want to tell, it almost always has to do with setting.  Characters and plot follow on later.

There’s a lot of things that can fascinate me about a setting.  Social class, nationalities, history (particularly its influence on the present), politics and diplomacy, custom and tradition, criminal underworlds.  Usually what I find myself wanting to explore is the dichotomy all these factors create between how the rules of how things should be and the realities of how they are, between people’s public virtues and private corruptions.  Almost always, my settings are urban.

And one type of setting that I’m particularly fascinated by is the port city.  Ports are gateways (porta is the Latin word for gate), the portals that allow for the interaction between a specific country or land and the outside world.  They’re crossroads (crossroadses?), the endpoints for routes of communication, commerce, invasion, diplomacy, intrigue, espionage.

But it’s a specific type of port I love.  It’s one that is just as alien to the country it serves as it is to its foreign arrivals.  Liverpool and London, for instance, have their own unique identities within England, but they are English identities.  Ditto the relationship between many of the world’s other historically great ports and their hinterlands—New York, Charleston, San Francisco, Hamburg, Veracruz, Buenos Aires.

But there are other ports that are not—or historically were not—of their lands.  Singapore.  Istanbul.  Alexandria.  Shanghai.  Often this is because of the mixing of locals and foreigners, whose national identities fuse and overlap and create something divorced from its origins.  Shanghai and Hong Kong, by being both Chinese and European, became something neither Chinese nor European.  Alexandria, by being both Greek and Egyptian (and later, Roman), became something neither Greek nor Egyptian nor Roman—indeed, the ancient Egyptians never considered Alexandria a part of Egypt, and the Ptolemaic pharaohs bore the title “Pharaoh of Egypt and King of Alexandria”.  New Orleans, from its purchase by the United States in 1803 until after the American Civil War, was something that was neither properly French nor properly Spanish nor properly American.

(Related to this would no doubt be my fascination with city-states, especially imperial ones.)

So I like ports where all of those inhabitants who come from elsewhere—as most of the populations of great entrepôts do—can never be truly native; only those who happened to have been born and spent their lives there can, and they, in turn, can never be truly native anywhere else.

I

The Doctor has his Day (SPOILERS)

Three DoctorsOn Friday, we passed the fifty years since the deaths of two of the great names of early British fantasists; and then a day later, Britain’s greatest television fantasy reached its fiftieth birthday, and threw itself quite the party.

I’d been somewhat worried about the fiftieth-anniversary special.  Despite my best efforts, I’d been unable to avoid spoilers about all the elements from the last fifty years of Who history that it would be giving screentime to: Daleks and Zygons and Cybermen (about which … um … ?) and David Tennant and Billie Piper.  Combined with the cliffhanger that had ended “The Name of the Doctor”, with the Smith Doctor and Clara trapped in the deepest depths of a vaguely defined “Doctor’s Timestream” in which all his memories and past adventures could haunt them, that had got me really worried that the special would take place in some sort of fantasy dreamland in which gratuitous continuity references could be hurled at us for eighty minutes as placeholders for an actual story or dramatic tension, a la “The Five Doctors”.

But I will happily admit I felt a lot better after seeing “The Night of the Doctor“.  That reassured me that the special was going to approach things in what I think is exactly the right way: more self-indulgent than we’d expect of a typical Doctor Who story, to be sure, and with some continuity elements that were going to be baffling to audience members who didn’t understand their history, but with the needs of the story still supreme and with every allusion and reference and onscreen recurrence having an actual, legitimate justification for appearing.

As a piece of nostalgia and as a celebration of Doctor Who, I think “The Day of the Doctor” does its job wonderfully well.  By its end I was grinning with happiness.  It was full of love for the programme it was honouring, it was funny, it was dramatic.  It gave us a climax that I think we all have known was inevitable, in one form or another, for many years, and because of the occasion it was able to give us that climax in a way that made it as special a moment for us as it was for the Doctor.

(And I will freely admit that I spent much of the episode thinking, See? This is exactly what I was talking about!”)

Billie Piper was excellent.  I loved the banter between the three Doctors, which I honestly felt was written better than in any of the previous multi-Doctor stories, and I particularly liked the Smith Doctor’s habit of commenting on allusions to Who history: “Nice scarf!”; “You never do”; “He always says that.”  And was that final cameo by Tom Baker widely known about?  Because I certainly managed to stay unspoilt for it, about which I’m very glad; that wonderful little surprise at the end really made my day.

As a work of storytelling, an episode of Doctor Who and a contribution to Who continuity, “Day” is a lot more mixed, I think.  Of course we all knew from the moment the Moment (hehe) chose to present herself as Rose Tyler that the episode would end with the Hurt Doctor having his memory wiped of events.  But I think that by using that memory loss to allow him never to have destroyed Gallifrey, never to have pushed that big red button, Steven Moffat struck a real blow at the character of the Doctor as it’s been constructed over the last eight years.

The Doctor pushed that button.  The Doctor murdered every Time Lord and every Gallifreyan.  Throughout the RTD and Moffat production eras–particularly the RTD era–that has been who he is.  It’s not just a matter of him thinking he once did it, it’s a matter of him being someone who did do it–a matter of him having been the Doctor, as the Smith Doctor so wonderfully puts it, on the day it was impossible to get it right.  There are so many times over the course of New Who when the Doctor opts to once again push that button or this time not to push it, and the dramatic impact of those moments is very much informed by our knowledge, as the viewer, that he is a man who has pushed that button before, knowing that there would be no escape, and who could choose to push it again in the same circumstances: when he refuses to unleash the delta wave in “The Parting of the Ways”, when he drops the impossible planet into the black hole in “The Satan Pit”, when he shows Miss Hartigan what she has become in “The Next Doctor”, when he flirts with megalomania in “The Waters of Mars”, when he sacrifices himself to seal the cracks in the universe in “The Big Bang”.

All those moments now have been altered.  The Doctor no longer is someone who definitely can get it wrong, because he no longer is someone who definitely did get it wrong when it mattered most and there was no right way to get it.  He is a less fallible and therefore less compelling character.

I don’t object to Gallifrey coming back; indeed, I welcome it, as long as it’s handled right–and the writers of the programme for the past eight years have consistently shown me that they can indeed handle potentially tricky continuity morasses like this.  But I object to the Hurt Doctor never having had to press that red button, and I object to him coming out of the situation knowing that he found a way to avoid pressing it, even if that knowledge did then get locked up in his head for four hundred years.

But for me the important thing about “The Day of the Doctor” is how wonderful it was to be a Doctor Who fan yesterday, and how much the episode helped that wonder along.  When we reached the fortieth anniversary ten years ago, the idea of having anything like this for the fiftieth would have been laughable.  But we’ve had a fiftieth-anniversary special that now holds the Guinness record for largest international transmission in history; we’ve had a TV movie about the programme’s genesis; and we’ve had days of national and international celebration.  “The Day of the Doctor” was certainly a worthy entry in all that, and rewatching it in the years ahead is something I will always do with joy.

I

To conclude, I’ve got a list here of all the little shout-outs to previous Who, both classic and new, that I’ve noticed, omitting obvious plot-integral things Captain Jack’s vortex manipulator or the appearance of all thirteen Doctors in the climactic sequence.  This is from two viewings, during neither of which did I take notes, so I welcome any other additions people have:

–The opening shot, the policeman’s silhouette on the I.M. Foreman’s Scrapyard gate, is a recreation of the original shot from the programme’s first episode, “An Unearthly Child”.

–Clara is teaching at Coal Hill school, where Ian and Barbara are teaching and Susan is a pupil in “An Unearthly Child” and which the Daleks invade in “Remembrance of the Daleks”.

–We see a portion of the Tennant Doctor’s (or as I like to call him, D-Ten) encounters with Queen Elizabeth I, alluded to in “The Shakespeare Code”.

–River Song’s high heels are held by the Black Archive.

–The Tennant Doctor’s line, “You’ve redecorated! I don’t like it,” a quotation of the Troughton Doctor from “The Three Doctors” and “The Five Doctors”.

–The Brigadier’s old file on the events of “The Three Doctors” being named Cromer.  Nicholas Courtney was very pleased with his ad-lib about Cromer in that story, and I think giving the file that name was lovely.

–The refusal, as in “The Sontaran Stratagem”, to pin down whether the UNIT stories took place in the 70s or 80s.

–The Tennant Doctor’s last words being, “I don’t want to go.”

–Osgood wears a Tom Baker scarf.

–I did rather wonder if the Smith Doctor’s monologue at the end was meant to allude to the McCoy Doctor’s closing monologue in “Survival”.

–I really loved that the Brigadier got explicitly namechecked and his photograph on the companions’ bulletin board got a lingering closeup.  Nicholas Courtney is, I think, the most loyal servant Doctor Who has ever had, and to acknowledge his passing in “The Wedding of River Song” and then to pay tribute to him again on this day of days have both been perfect moments.

–On the subject of that bulletin board, I also really liked that we saw the different faces of UNIT over the decades pictured alongside the companions they were apparently checking on: Captain Yates and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Brigadier Bambera and Captain Magambo and Kate Lethbridge-Stewart.  Nicely done.

The state of A Traitor’s Loyalty

Hey guys

To let you know, the publisher for A Traitor’s Loyalty went out of business at the end of last year, after having problems for a while, which means that the e-ditions are no longer available from websites.  The sites still show physical copies of the book available, which represent the remainder stock still in the warehouse, though they won’t be there long and how likely orders for them are to be filled remains an open question.

The book will be coming back into print, in electronic and physical editions.  That should happen shortly, though I don’t have an exact timetable.  Anyone who’s interested in knowing when the book will be available again should let me know.

Thanks, guys

I

So Boy gave me the finger

Then he asked, “What does this mean?”

And I told him, “It’s like saying a swear word.”

He thought about this. “You mean like when you say, ‘I swear I don’t know the answer’?”

So I explained that, no, a swear word is a very bad word that you shouldn’t ever say. Does he know any swear words?  He shakes his head. Does he know the F word?  Or the S word?  Shake of the head; shake of the head.

Then his face brightened. “Oh, I know the S word!  I’m not going to say it, though, because you shouldn’t say it ever.”  I smiled and nodded in agreement and approval, and then he adds, “Unless you’re talking about a Dalek.”  I kept smiling and nodding for a moment until what he said penetrated, but then before I could ask what he meant, he ploughed on.  “One kid thought I said the S word, but I didn’t, I said soccer.

“Ah,” I said.  “Okay.”

“I would never use the S word, unless I was using itfor real, you know?  Like, for what it’s really used for.  Like if you’re talking about a Dalek.”

You guys.  He thought the S word is sucker.

I

Where my book at?

A Traitor’s Loyalty’s listed publication date was 1 May.  As you’ll be aware if you’re one of the ones who preordered the book, that’s been delayed somewhat.  I’ve actually now heard from someone that she’s had an email from Amazon letting her know the book has failed to arrive in stock on time, and asking if she wants to wait, or if she’d rather they refund her money.

So, first point–yes, the book is absolutely still coming.  Those of you who were good enough to preorder, I thank you for your support and ask for your patience.

My publisher, Vantage Point Books, is shutting down.  Vantage Point’s parent, Vantage Press, had been a well-established vanity publisher–that is, a publisher whom authors pay to publish their books–since long before vanity publishing got rebranded as self-publishing.  They created Vantage Point last year as an effort to move into traditional, advance-paying publishing, where it’s the publisher who pays the author for the rights to publish their books.  For whatever reason, they’ve now decided they no longer want to continue that effort, so they’re discontinuing Vantage Point.

But the books already in production–that means A Traitor’s Loyalty–are still coming out as scheduled (or, apparently, a little behind schedule).  Last week I got the final proofs for the full cover and was told that it would take about ten days after I’d signed off on them for a finished book to be produced.  So I’m hoping that the book is shipping within a fortnight.

The news about Vantage Point does, unfortunately, mean that the second book on my deal with them has been cancelled.  That’s the book for which I’d written the first draft of The Zero Hour.  But I’m looking on the bright side–I’ve still got a book coming out, I’ve still got a professional publishing credit, and I also now have a first draft that I produced in record (for me) time that, once it’s been through revisions, will be ready to be shopped.

Hopefully the next time you see my name is on the front cover,

I

Two to the fifth

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Ian, with your birthday falling on a Saturday this year, and with it being only two weeks until the end of the Premier League season, it must have been great to get to spend all morning and early afternoon watching the football.

Well, no.  Saturday was my birthday, and there was indeed lots of Premier League football on, but I didn’t watch any of it.  You see, my sister and her husband will be moving into the area this summer, which means they need to go househunting.  And since it’s tough to househunt in Northern Virginia from their current location in America’s wangFlorida, she decided to send me househunting on Saturday morning instead.  I figured that’s a small price to pay for unlimited free babysitting anytime I want.

Finding Claire a house around here has also kickstarted our own discussions about buying a house ourselves.  Lisa has been saying for years that she wanted to buy a house, but I’d pretty much come to the conclusion that what she really wanted was to complain about how she wants to buy a house.  But she insists that’s not true–so we’re about to start looking in earnest.  I told her that if we do move, though, we need to replace our standard-def television with an HD model.  Not for an improved Media Experience, but because I was looking at the twenty-pound HD TV in our bedroom, and thinking how much easier it would be to move that than it will be the eighty-pound standard-def in the living room.  I don’t ever want to have to move that thing again.

So anyway.  We spent the morning househunting, then went home so I could receive my birthday presents.  Girl got me a pair of Cookie Monster boxer shorts with COOKIE LOVER printed across my arse.  Boy got me a Star Wars-themed edition of the board game Trouble that makes R2-D2 sound effects when you pop that bubble-thing that rolls the dice for you.  And Lisa got me an HD TV.

Yup.  A high-definition television.

And the best part was that it was free because she won it in a raffle.  Last weekend, we’d had our conversation about how I want to replace the eighty-pound standard-def TV with an HD model.  On Wednesday, Lisa spent all day playing in a golf tournament for work.  At the tournament, she got raffle ticked 204, but lost it somewhere.  Then one of her colleagues found ticket 200 on the ground, and gave it to her since she’d lost her proper ticket.  And ticket 200 won the grand prize, the HD TV.  All Lisa’s friends told her she shouldn’t tell me that she didn’t pay for it, as that would make it less special or something, I guess?  Whatever–they clearly don’t know either of us at all.  It being free makes it way more special than it could have been otherwise.

So then, since I’m a dad and since someone in the household–whether me or anyone else–had received a major piece of electronics as a gift, I spent the next hour hooking it up, before it was time to miss the last Premier League match of the day so that we could go to Boy’s soccer match.  Granted, four-a-side U-6 soccer isn’t quite Premier League football, but I suppose you can’t beat a match that has twelve goals in 32 minutes of play.  (Literally can’t beat it, as it finished a 6-6 draw.)

Then we headed to Best Buy, to pick up some HDMI cables and a Blu-Ray player.  The HD TV has only one composite hookup, meaning, as I reasonably explained to Lisa, that we can’t hook both the Wii and the DVD player up to it at the same time, so we’ve replaced the DVD player with a Blu-Ray player, which we can hook up to the new TV by one of its three HDMI ports.

I got back out to the car with all that stuff and found Lisa asleep in the driver’s seat and Boy asleep behind her, so rather than wake them, I got Girl out of the car and walked with her up the road to the used bookshop.  There I discovered that they’ve eliminated their Biography section in favour of an expansion of Romance, and I picked Lisa up a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey (happy birthday to her).  Then we headed back to the car.

Where we discovered that Lisa had kept the air conditioning and the radio on the whole time she’d been asleep, so when she tried to start the car, the battery had died completely.  Lisa therefore popped the hood and stood next to the car, and, since she’s a woman, within two minutes someone had pulled up next to her asking if we needed a jump.  Actually, a startlingly good looking 25-year-old man in a gleaming silver BMW had pulled up next to her and asked if she needed a jump.

So we got the car going again, but we needed to drive around for a while rather than going home.  We therefore elected to drive down to Fredericksburg, 35 miles away; that way, we could go to either Sonic or Steak and Shake for dinner.  Actually, it was my birthday, so we stopped at both Sonic and Steak and Shake.  I also popped into the comic book shop next door to Sonic, as I always do, and looked at their selection of Doctor Who toys and t-shirts.  They had some nice stuff, as they always do, and it was exorbitantly priced, as it always is.  Particularly hard to resist was the Lego Cyberman playset, which Boy would have loved, but it was $80 for what was maybe a $30 Lego set (and that’s even accounting for the fact that Lego sets generally cost about half again what they’re worth to begin with).

And then we were home, and I was sticking HDMI cables into our new TV to connect it with the cable box and the Blu Ray player.  All in all, not the best birthday I’ve ever had, but a lively and eventful one.  And one that brought with a new HD television!  Followed by the discovery that the new HD television was free!  So in the end, I can’t complain.

I

As publication nears

If you’ve been reading, or if you’ve been trapped in conversation with me over the past year, you know that the publication date is fast approaching for A Traitor’s Loyalty, my first novel.  (The date is, in fact, 1 May.)  And you know that I’ve spent the last two months on the first draft of the second book on my contract, tentatively titled The Zero Hour.  And you know how excited I am about both those things.

Now, I found out today that my publisher’s going through some … stuff.  And there’s some fallout from this stuff that’s going to be affecting me.  Mostly those effects have to do with the second book, not A Traitor’s Loyalty, which is still due out on time.

However.

It’s been conveyed to me that a push on preorders and word of mouth would be a really good thing right now.  So I’m asking you guys to take a look at the book.  Just to give it a moment of your time.  Down at the bottom of this post, you can read the blurb that’ll appear on the back cover.  Maybe it’s something that intrigues you.  Maybe you know someone you think it’d appeal to.  Maybe you’ve been planning on picking up a copy but haven’t felt the need to place a preorder–if you placed one now, you’d be doing me a personal favour.

Of course, there’s a number of you guys who have already ordered it, or have already been talking about it.  You have my thanks for what you’ve already done, and, you know, feel free to go ahead and order a second copy.

Hey guys, it’s an Ian Racey first edition.  Few things are rarer than that (like an Ian Racey second edition).

A Traitor's Loyalty coverHere’s where you can order the book on Indiebound.

And on Barnes and Noble.

And on Amazon.

Twenty-five years have passed since the German victory in World War II.  Hitler has just died, unleashing a conspiracy that threatens the future of the world …

Simon Quinn walked away from a brilliant career with MI-6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, but now they have blackmailed him into returning to Berlin.  His mission: located Richard Garner, a British spy who has disappeared and is suspected of defecting.  He enlists the help of Ellie Voss, a Third Reich dissident who opposes Nazi rule but still considers herself a German patriot.

But when Quinn and Ellie discover the true reason Garner went into hiding, everything changes for them.  Now, pursued by both the Gestapo and MI-6, Simon Quinn must choose, not between his country and treason, but between the brutal Nazi leaders battling for the succession: Reinhard Heydrich, the key architect of the Final Solution, and Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS and Gestapo.  For this British spy, it is a choice that will test even …

A Traitor’s Loyalty.

Hitler said his Reich would last a thousand years.

I

A Traitor's Loyalty Cover

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Interested in translation, audio, or movie (oh, yes, please!) rights to my works, please contact my agent via his website at www.zackcompany.com.