Spanish Civil War

Memories of elections gone by

Eight years ago I ran for my local school board.  It was an interesting experience, because while I had worked in politics for many years, I'd never actually been a candidate before.

Perhaps the strangest thing was being the one in charge.  I got to decide what I said!  That sounds a bit odd, but if you work in politics, most of the time you're either asking people to say something or repeating what they said to someone else.  It was weird being in charge and able to say whatever I wanted.

I didn't win, but that was fine with me.  The entire reason I ran was to get rid of the school board president, and in that respect I was successful.

I've come to cordially despise politics and for those new here, I am officially A Man of No Party.  I've been a Democrat and a Republican and now I'm sick of them both.  How I vote is my business, and I haven't given a penny to a political cause since I got out of "the game" in 2006.

Politics seems to intrude everywhere these days, and everything from the food you eat to the car you drive is now held up to a political lens.  It's exhausting.

I like to think that when the election is finally over this will go away, but I'm afraid it won't.  I've said before that everything happening now seems like a replay of Spain in 1935-36.  I pray that I'm wrong.

The uncanny parallels

I try to keep this blog free of politics, but the last few weeks have brought out a series of very alarming parallels between the current situation in America and that in pre-Civil War Spain.

As Stanley G. Payne pointed out in great detail in his Spanish Civil War, by 1935 the Spanish Left reached a point where it believed that no other party should be allowed to govern Spain.  This repudiated the constitution that they themselves had written only recently.

Time and again, they broke laws, ignored customs and always chose to escalate rather than calm.  Payne goes through an entire checklist of "off ramps" the Left ignored, any one of which could have avoided the resulting carnage of war.

The fact of the matter is that it is difficult to push a war on people who don't want one.  The Man of Destiny series was written in calmer times, but I recognized that one of the fatal flaws in the Star Wars prequels was how arbitrary and random the start of the Clone War was.

Thus when I began telling my story, I spent all of the first book and half of the second chronicling the downward spiral, including opportunities for both sides to de-escalate.

All historical parallels are inexact and one can rightly note that the standard of living, technology, international reach of modern American cannot be compared with that of Spain in 1936. 

Still, I cannot deny that part of the frenzy that drove me to write Long Live Death was a desire to get out in front of events and supply the book as a cautionary tale.  Spain's leaders in 1936 did not have many examples of how a seemingly united and peaceful society can disintegrate into conflict.  We do, with not just Spain but the breakdown of Yugoslavia serving as grim reminders that the bonds that keep nations together can collapse with frightful speed.

I will conclude by asking those of a religious bent to include a plea for reconciliation, forgiveness and renewed unity in your prayers.  We need all the help we can get.

Long Live Death is a Best Seller!

Sales are starting to trickle in for Long Live Death, largely thanks to a big plug from the bookworms over at Ace of Spades HQ.

Naturally, they've already found typographic errors - ah, for the luxury of copy editor!

Still, it's the #1 New Release in History of Spain and Portugal! 

It's up to #3 for Best Sellers in History of Spain and Portugal.

How about that?

I'm actually a Best Selling Author.






Why did Amazon jack up their cover creator? I miss Createspace

When I first started self-publishing, Amazon had two options.

You could go direct to digital, or use their paperback portal, called "Createspace."

The latter had a much more flexible way to develop a book cover, and since you could port paperbacks into the Kindle system anyway, that was the way I always went.

But that's gone away, so now cover options are pretty terrible.  I'm thinking of just doing the whole file on my own.  Well, after this book, that is.  Right now I just want to finish.

I suppose the ugly truth is that e-books pretty much dominate publishing these days.  What's not to like?  Money without actual printing costs.  I certainly sell more e-books than paperbacks, but I myself do not buy e-books.  I'm a traditionalist, I guess. 

Obviously, this is coming up because Long Live Death is inching towards publication.  I may yet revise the cover, but I'm going to see what I can squeeze out of the Amazon interface first.  Three Weeks with the Coasties used a default cover, but it worked with the subject matter.  The same was true of The Vampires of Michigan, but I want something a little less abstract.  We'll see how it goes.

Last minute revisions to Long Live Death

I'm hoping to finish up the edits and format the book next week, but there's already been a change.  I'm altering the title to Long Live Death:  The Keys to Victory in the Spanish Civil War.

I'm doing this to differentiate it from E.R Hooton's Spain in Arms:  A Military History of the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939.  I've remarked before that too many books on the Spanish Civil War use the exact (or very similar) titles.  I need to be part of the solution.

Hooton's book is very good, by the way, but I would not recommend it to people unfamiliar with the topic.  It is very specialized, giving a lot of (needed) detail on battles and troop strengths, command arrangements, etc.  My book is all about the military, but I focus on the big picture, not the movement of divisions from one corps to another.

I have to admit that I was worried that Hooton would steal my thunder, since we are writing about the same topic, but his book compliments mine nicely.  I think one should read mine first because it's more accessible and provides more background information.  I also have a small section that outlines some of the equipment, so that readers get a sense of what the tanks and aircraft looked like.

At that point, you are ready for Hooton's more detailed book.  He and I are in general agreement, and I cite him several times.  I'm looking forward to having this project behind me and taking a break for a while. 



A break, and then a sprint to the finish

I've taken the holiday weekend off, and wish all my readers a belated Happy Fourth of July.

While the manic pace of my writing has been impressive, it's also wearing me out, so I've made a conscious decision to stay away from the computer as much as possible.  I'm spending more time outdoors, which is nice.

Still, I'm pressing on with the book project, and got back the edits of my test reader, which I will address next week.  It was well-received, but I am thinking of adding a brief summary of equipment as an appendix to help readers understand the aircraft and vehicles, many of which are obscure even to people familiar with the era.

After much thought, I've changed the title slightly to Long Live Death: A Military History of the Spanish Civil War.  That seems best to me.

I should remark that I sent an email to noted historian Stanley G. Payne and was pleased to get a nice reply back from him.  That was cool.

I'm not sure if my original deadline will be met, but at this point I'm not going to sweat it too much.

I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend.


Countdown to publication: maps, editing, format and...index?!

This week has been light on writing since I'm waiting for the test readers to get back to me.  Instead I'm working on the maps and figuring out the format.

Also, the dreaded index.

This is a new thing for me.  The maps are basically illustrations similar to the ones on almost every page of Conqueror: Fields of Victory.  Been there, done that.

The index is a bit trickier, because while the function is largely automated, the content isn't.  I mean, who wants a reviewer to whine about your inadequate index?

Anyhow, I'm still on track for mid-July publication.

After that?  I'm not sure.  My unwritten rule is one book per year.  This year I'm already up to two.

I've noticed that the more I write, the easier it gets, but I also feel there should be a point to each book.

On the other hand, it seems a healthy hobby, and when I don't write, I find I get lazy and bored.

Oh well, I'll worry about it in a few weeks. 

The first draft of Long Live Death is now complete

In a surprise turn of events, I raced to the finish line on my latest book last week.  I figured it would take until July, but for once I came in well ahead of schedule.

The stats thus far are 51,000 words in six weeks.  That's a phenomenal writing pace, something like 8,500 words a week.  I don't think I went more than a handful of days without doing some kind of work on it.

Of course writing is just the first step.  Editing can be a slog, then reformatting and (in this case) building the index.  I also need some maps and charts to illustrate my points.  Still, the heaviest lifting is always the writing. 

I've also settled on a title, Long Live Death.  It's catchy and appropriate.

Going forward, I'm hoping to publish in July.   I haven't done my hard copy edit yet, but my sense from doing the spellcheck is that this has less errors because it's a less creative form of writing.  We'll see how that works out.

Oh, and happy Fathers' Day!

Observations on non-fiction writing

I haven't written a substantial piece of non-fiction since college.  Sure, I've written reports, articles, that sort of thing, but this is my first stab at anything even remotely approaching a term paper in length. 

I figured that it would be a slow process, requiring note-taking, drafting and then a slow march through the outline, nothing like the speed I achieve with fiction.

I was wrong. 

I'm writing at the blistering pace of 7,000 words per week.  My goal is to have the first draft done by the end of June, and it's looking good.  Why is it going so quickly?

I think there are several reasons.  The first is the nature of the book, which combines a traditional historical narrative with analysis and discussion.  The bulk of the book is essentially an opinion piece backed by what I consider to be key data.  Much of this came to me while I was reading on the topic so the arguments are familiar to me and I'm just setting down things I've been thinking about for a while.

I'm also not doing a lot of original research, instead synthesizing existing data.  That was a large part of my goal -to build a concise military narrative that covered everything I found interesting.  That's a lot quicker than going to primary sources and seeking out new information.

Then there's the fact that I've read most of this stuff fairly recently, so it's fresh in my mind.  If I was starting from zero, there would be a long pause for research, but that's mostly been done.  When my mania hit less than a year ago, I soaked up a lot of information.  Now it's largely a matter of refreshing it as I set it down.

Finally, the change in technology has been a major factor.  In the typewriter era, one had to get everything set just so before working.  Word processing was just coming into play, so I could make corrections easily, but it was a lot harder to bounce around a manuscript and add things out of order.

But that's what I'm doing a lot of right now.  I'll address a topic, move on and then find more pertinent information (or a needed correction) while writing about a different area.  So I simply bounce back to the relevant passage and add to it.  I'm doing a lot of this, particularly as I work on the campaign narrative. 

One thing I did not expect to find was such variation on basic information in my sources.  I have three different start dates for the Battle of Teruel.  I've also found mistakes that could only stand out when one is directly comparing sources.  That's a caution for me to watch for, but also kind of cool that I've picked upon stuff the "industry standard" writers missed.

For those who care, the current word count is above 43,000, so it's already about as long as The Vampires of Michigan or Three Weeks with the Coasties.

Of course, that's not entirely accurate in terms of content since this book has a bibliography and I've added an extensive chronology to help the reader (and me!) keep everything straight.  Stanley Payne did this, but mine is more detailed and includes external events that I feel are important, like the dates of Stalin's purges, Hitler's moves, etc.

Those don't strictly relate to Spain, but they did have a clear impact on it.

My target length is roughly 60,000 words, so if this pace keeps up, I should get there by the end of the month as planned.