September already. Sometimes time passes much too quickly. The upside is that we’re approaching the season that is one of my favorites in Nebraska. Crisp, cool air with a ‘bite’ in it. Leaves changing color. What’s not to like? At the moment, though, most days are still too hot, too often.
There is indeed some writing news to talk about this month. Two items, actually. The first relates to an interesting magazine with an unusual name. Spank the Carp is a fairly new. It is a mostly on-line magazine that prints a year-end anthology in book form. It has a nice reputation for publishing fiction stories of various styles and genres. Some of you may recall that two or three years ago they published a ‘flash fiction’ short story of mine titled “Surely You Knew.” In early August, I received an email from the editor which is excerpted below. Please excuse the asterisks; I’m trying to keep this as a G-rated website.
Congratulations, I’ve decided to accept your work “Doomsday 3.0” for publication in SPANK THE CARP.
- Tom: Pardon my French but, Holy S**t. That’s one of the best stories I’ve read. And honestly, I wish I knew someone in the movie biz because that’s Tom Clancy, “Sum of All Fears” level stuff. And the thing that made it so good is that it’s spot on realistic and appropriate, as in 2024 here we come. Thanks for making my night. ;) – Ken
I had checked email just before going to bed, so actually the editor made my night. I think I’ll keep his note handy. It might be useful as a pick me up on the many days when things aren’t going so well. There’s nothing like an unexpected compliment to get a person through a cloudy day.
What made the note especially pleasing was that the story the editor made reference to - “Doomsday 3.0” - was kind of tough slog. I had rewritten it once fairly extensively and then did a second scrub in an attempt to polish it further before submitting it for a final look. The editor advised that he’ll let me know the publication date a month or so prior.
The second bit of writing news concerns the military history book Glory in the Shadows: America’s Forgotten Military Leaders, Cold War to the Global War on Terrorism. An evaluator for Pen & Sword publications advised that the book is being forwarded to the Military History editor for approval. That’s good news but not a guarantee that they will choose to print it. They could say yes, or send it back for revisions, or say nice try but no thanks (or words to that effect).
Whatever the outcome, it was good to hear from that source. Pen & Sword is one of the class acts in military history publishing companies.
Meanwhile, work continues on the book-length work of fiction. Some very gifted people, colleagues in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, did a marvelous job proofing, editing, and critiquing a very rough first draft. A second version is now nearly complete. Among other things, it attempts to clean up my myriad grammatical misadventures and it shortens or chops up pieces of dialogue that rambled on far too long. Some of the first readers suggested more detailed character descriptions – what the characters look like, how they dress, etc. As I told my daughters, the latter aspect is tough for me. I spent almost my entire professional life – 36 years in the military – not having to make a lot of decisions about what I was going to wear to work when I woke up in the morning. So my clothing sensitivities may be a bit lacking. And when it comes to women’s clothing, you’ve got to be kidding. My usual level of descriptive awareness is something like: “She was wearing sort of a brown dress. She looked okay in it.” I know, sad isn’t it? We’ll see how it turns out.
Just a few thoughts on a more serious matter. Several days ago, I noticed reference to a publication titled “What We Need to Learn: Lessons From Twenty Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction.” It amounts to an after action report on the U.S. involvement in that country. It was produced by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. I think it came out about the same time as the anniversary of our withdrawal. It is not a terribly long report, 120 or so pages, but there is also a six page Executive Summary that some who do not wish to pore through the whole publication might find more user friendly. Those who are interested can google it up by referencing the title of the report.
I found it informative, sad, frustrating. One of the major takeaways was the assessment that we tried to teach the Afghans to wage war the American way – heavy firepower, air mobility, armor, etc. That was a type of war that the Afghan units were not prepared to fight and, indeed, could not fight effectively without American advisors and equipment. According to one source, at the height of our involvement, there were 20,000 contractors “in country” to maintain equipment – helicopters, tanks, Humvees, armored personnel carriers, staff cars, etc. At the time of our withdrawal only 100 remained. The Afghan Army had none of that capability, so the hundreds – if not thousands – of pieces of equipment left behind for their use did them little good. In some ways, that part of the story is a reprise of Vietnam. There were cultural and tribal aspects involved as well. The more useful approach would probably have been to post small and medium size Afghan units in cities and villages, keeping them close to the population, enabling them to gather intelligence and defend against raids. At the same time larger, more mobile, and heavily armed units could be “trained up. Those formations would be positioned to sweep and respond to attacks inside their areas of responsibility.
The Afghan government had a thin shell of democratic institutions, but widespread corruption remained and ‘warlords’ continued to exert enormous influence. The report indicates that initially the U.S. tried to combat the corruption but eventually those efforts lost impetus and as time went by were given less attention.
According to Wikipedia, total U.S. losses were 2,456 killed of which 1,932 died in combat; 20,752 were wounded. Total monetary cost to the U.S. over our 20-year involvement was about two trillion dollars.
Enough of that for now. Time to move on to more positive things – like football in a major way this weekend and looking forward to a mid-September trip to visit our daughter in Massachusetts. If all goes well, that trip will include a further jaunt to Canada and Quebec City, then down the Maine coast to Acadia National Park; Mount Washington, New Hampshire, and back to Springfield, Mass. We hope all will go well. We are really looking forward to it.
And, now TRULY AWFUL PUNS. (I know, these are really bad. And this time both daughters are to blame. You try so hard raise them properly, but …)
After you die, what part of your body is the last to stop working?
Your pupils: they dilate.
A physicist and a biologist had a relationship.
But there was no chemistry.
Best wishes to all,