Friday, December 01, 2017

I am No Expert, But This is How to Write a Book

My brother Brian Donovan sent me this photo of my first book, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders. Available on Amazon and on iBooks, Ranger Karl Monger at The New American Veteran published an interview and my friend Greg published an excerpt from Chapter 13 in Soldier of Fortune Magazine. At this writing, there are now 40 5-star reviews of the work on Amazon. 

A friend and associate on SOCNET asked me "how does one write a book?"

This is what I wrote to him. 

"...I am no expert, but I will say that the simplest way to write is to just tell stories, tell them like you would if you were around a campfire. 

Writing is writing, yes, but it is story telling, and never forget that the first stories were oral, they were told with the mouth, to a small audience around a campfire.

I took writing courses decades ago when I was a student at CU-Boulder before I enlisted. They did not teach me to write. I suppose that you can say that I am self-taught, and it took me years to find my voice.

Tim Latsko sent me this photo from Chapter 13. 

The short cut is to just tell stories. Let them be as long as they need to be, but break them up if they get too long, and just tell stories. Remember that most of us these days are reading on phones and tablets, and there are many distractions vying for our time. 

So say your bottom line up front, then tell the story. The simple way to organize is to tell your audience what you are going to tell them at the outset. Then tell them. Then conclude by telling them what you told them. 

A. Tell your audience what you are going to tell them. BLUF. 
B. Tell them, ideally organized chronologically or sequentially. 

C. Tell them what you told them. 

If you keep it simple like that, advice that I obviously do not always follow myself, you will make it easier to tell the story and for a reader to follow it.

My secret: I read everything aloud. If it sounds wrong, it is wrong. Fiddle with it until it flows and sounds just like you speak.

Final advice: never assume that nobody will want to read what you write. That is not why you write. I write because it is a compulsion for me, I have always been a writer, my entire life.

My Ranger bro Mike Stewart sent me this photo of my book with a  Ranger  tab and old scroll 2d Ranger Battalion shoulder insignia. 

You cannot envisage all the various readers who will read you. I had 14 year old girls write to me and tell me that they liked my writing. Never saw that coming.

If it works better for you, just tell the stories orally and record them, then transcribe them. 

Make an introduction telling where the stories came from and why you wrote them, and what they are about. 

When you are done, tell the reader what you just told them, tie up any loose ends and dangle something more to come so folks will want to read what you write next. 

I cannot make it simpler than that. :) 

Available now on Amazon and on iBooks. Coming soon as an AudioBook. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Why I Live as an Expat in Bangkok

Phra Phrom as depicted at the Erawan Shrine in downtown Bangkok. 

I am often asked why I choose to live as an expatriate in Bangkok. There are many reasons. 

Initially, my family in America imploded in 2003, and I seized the opportunity to cut myself off from all entanglements. I am grateful that I had the perspicacity to perceive that opportunity, and the decisiveness to act upon it.

My life immensely improved, as it is often said that you can choose your friends, but you do not get to choose your family. I got no patience for drama.

More, living across the Pacific Ocean makes it complicated for ex-wives or other undesirables to push my buttons or to knock on my door in the middle of the night or to make scenes in my neighborhood. 

Good luck finding me in Bangkok. Even if you follow a GPS coordinate it is difficult to navigate a Thai neighborhood unless you are Thai. And my security sensors, old lady Thai aunties, surround me. I always see unwanted visitors coming.

Believe it or not, Her Majesty is acutely aware of her surroundings, even when she is napping on the couch with Momma. 

Her Majesty, my majestic cat, is my final intrusion detector. I know it when anybody knocks on the gate in the high wall surrounding my garden and my home. They do not even need to find the doorbell.

After I checked out of a residential PTSD program at the VA in 2003 I literally had no ties to anyone or to anything. I could go anywhere that I liked. So I went to Baghdad.

Holy cow, Baghdad was fun. The war was not really serious when I first arrived, though you could see it coming. It was dangerous enough to make it sporty. Like the Wild West.

Ranger John Czarnecki, myself and Phil Warner on Southern Camp Slayer at the FBI HRT house in late 2003, Baghdad. 

I had a glorious gun collection, and a “get out of jail free” letter from the CPA authorizing me to traffic in black market guns, munitions, and petroleum. I have got to find that letter. I could not believe that they signed it. It is in these files piled around me somewhere.

Then as suddenly as it started, it ended. I had to leave Baghdad, and I was not happy about it. At that time anyone with a PTSD diagnosis was considered undeployable. This was DOD policy. 

DOD later changed their policy, as a PTSD diagnosis would have rendered everybody with combat experience undeployable, but that happened too late for me.

PTSD was not a factor for me in Baghdad, in fact, Baghdad healed me. I felt better there than I had in years. I think that it was the immediacy of living in a war zone and the compulsion to be present in every moment. I did not live in the past, nor ache over old wounds.

I was gloriously alive in Baghdad. Working there helped me get over the implosion of my family. I was even able to get my medications refilled at the CSH in the Green Zone.

There was something about being back in a war zone strapped with guns and a dip in my mouth and the smell of jet fuel in the air that rejuvenated me. I was back home, where I belonged. And I was with my brothers. Baghdad was a big reunion for old school Rangers.

And then the policy intervened. I could have lied about it, but I refused. I am not ashamed of that PTSD diagnosis. I consider PTSD an honorable wound, especially when you get it in combat. 

So I went back to the states for a month. I contemplated going to Nicaragua, but no. I avoid Latin America, for reasons that will be explained in my fourth book, In the Valley of the Shadows, should I be blessed to live long enough to complete it. 

Then old SF brothers asked me if I had ever been to Bangkok. I had not been. While I was assigned to 1st Group, the SF Group oriented to the Pacific Rim, I was in the Korea Battalion, 2d Battalion, so I never went to Bangkok.

They invited me, and so I came. The minute that I saw that Thailand was populated with honey colored beauties with almond eyes and puffy lips and jet black long hair, I knew that the Big Ranger was guiding my path. 

I say it all the time. I came on holiday, and I never left.

I was a horrific man whore for two years. If it was feasible and it did not involve more than one penis (my own) I did it. I literally scratched every sexual itch that there is between consenting adults.

Then one day, eating steak with a friend, I saw my wife. She was the most beautiful thing that I ever saw, and she still is, 11 years later, sleeping placid beside me in bed while I write on an iPad.

That ended my man whoring. I did not mind saying farewell to a libertine lifestyle because I am not by nature a libertine, and I checked off every entry on my sexual bucket list.

I live now like a Mormon, spiritual, domesticated, monogamous, quietly. Except that I do not research my genealogy or wear big underwear. 

I cracked the code on Thailand when I realized that traditional Thai culture is very conservative. Thai women want their men to be strong, but not too strong. They want their men to be men, and they are often delighted to be housewives. They are glorious at it. 

Thai women are indoctrinated from birth to care for their families. All that I have to do is bring in the money. As I do not hit what I love, and I do not drink or gamble, and I naturally treat the women in my life like a gentleman, as my mother taught me, I stack up favorably to the competition.

My wife graduated with a BA in Business Administration. She runs our household like a business. I just have to stay out of her way. She has it all under control.

You can say that my wife tamed me, but really, I tamed myself. It is an honor to be in this marriage with her. I am endlessly grateful to her, as she taught me how to live. 

Phaya Naga, mythical semi-divine demi-creatures in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology. 

Thailand is also a very old culture, and I immediately felt comfortable here as it is a pagan country and I am a pagan at heart. 

I see no contradiction in my monotheistic belief in a prime mover God, or a Great Architect, if you prefer, and in an historical Jesus Christ who became more than man. I just permit no priest to intervene in my relationship with the Big Ranger in the Sky, and I worship nature, the universe, in all its manifestations.

I try to know my place, and I pay attention when the universe tells me no. I believe that karma, the hammer of karma, strikes not just in the next life, but in this one, as well. I see it around me every day.

The Hindu do not stress over these doctrinal matters that spawn wars and jihad and reformation as there are many manifestations of Brahma, and many goddesses and many gods. This makes more sense if you understand that Hinduism blanketed Thailand for centuries. 

But before that, there was animism. The oldest, most pure manifestations of animism are found in Tibet. But animism also pervades modern Thailand. So in the beginning here, there was animism, then the Hindu brought their unnumbered gods and goddesses with them. Only later, relatively recently, came the Buddhists.

Loi Krathong, Lumpini Park, Bangkok, 2007. WikiPedia

The Thai will tell you if you ask them that they are Buddhist. They will tell you this as they set candle-bearing boats adrift as offerings to the river goddess. Loi Krathong 2017 is mere hours away as I write this. 

The Thai will say, “I am Buddhist,” as they festoon old trees with ribbons and offerings for the tree spirits, and as girls wai to the golden idol of Brahma from the elevated walkway at the heart of the great city.

It all makes perfect sense to me. 

As Thailand is near to China, you see different blends of Buddhism, and you can get authentic Chinese acupuncture here. I do it when I have enough money to afford it. It works really well.

Buddhism is the state religion in Thailand, and they can be doctrinaire about it. But they are also quite lax about interfering in matters of faith, and there are some Christians here, and Mormons, and a small cell of secret Israel.

A Christian church as we saw it on a night cruise from the Phrao Chaya River. 

Then there is the food. Only the Thai know how to throw a party in your mouth and to treat your tastebuds like an amusement park. Hot, sweet, spicy, sour, it all happens in the same bite. Once you get acclimated to Thai food you come to crave it.

Then there is the fruit. I encountered many fruits for the first time in Thailand. Gigantic fruits. Exotic fruits. It just grows on trees. My wife brings me a chilled coconut when she comes back from the market. I drink coconut juice straight from the gourd here. It costs the equivalent of .25¢.

Then there is the tropical climate. I suffer from chronic and severe arthritis, the consequence of too many years under the ruck in elite units. Only narcotics and the hot, moist blanket of the Thai climate keep me ambulatory.

I see a pain specialist at an expensive Thai hospital for the narcotics. I take them most carefully. For the heat, I just open my windows and I cut the air con, or I walk around my neighborhood. When I walk out of the terminal at Suvarnabhumi airport and get hit by that wall of Thai heat, my face aches from smiling so hard.

This is no small matter. When I am stateside, in Orlando, for God’s sake, I cannot move when the temperature hits the mid-40’s. I freeze my ass off. I feel good in the Thai heat.

Then there is Thai massage. Like their food, the Thai just came up with their own thing and there is nothing comparable to Thai massage. You have to be able to communicate in Thai with your masseuse as they can hurt you if you do not ask them to back off. 

In the same way that Thai chilis can kill you if you do not restrain yourself, a Thai masseuse can hurt you. They seek the borderline between pain and pleasure, and that, I think, is the secret to Thai massage. But nothing works better.

My big brother Uncle Ray Caron took me and Momma out for Thanksgiving dinner at the JW Marriott. They lost money on me and Uncle Ray, just on lobster alone. Such a repast!

Then there is Bangkok itself. It is a gourmand’s paradise. Any food can be found here, and there are expensive delis at Asoke and at Emquartier. You can get fragrant croissants straight from the oven here. Glorious slabs of prime rib. Italian meats and cheeses. Dean & Deluca New York style pizza.

Bangkok malls are world class, and you can buy anything here from the illicit in word of mouth street markets to authentic Apple hardware. Bangkok Street food is justifiably famous, and there is no place better just for people watching. Everyone comes to Bangkok. It is one of the great capitols of the world.

Outstanding medical care is available here if you can afford it. It costs less than in the US, though I cannot use my Veteran’s Choice card here as I can back stateside. I make inevitable pilgrimages back to the VA when I need treatment.

So there are many reasons why I am an expat in Bangkok. I find the clash of cultures useful as a writer, it helps me see clearly through otherwise invisible filters and I get distance from the culture wars in America. It is simple to be red-pilled in Bangkok, as I control what goes into my mind. 

The Thai pay me no mind. I tip generously and I observe their social niceties. No people on the planet smile as much as the Thai,  though I could write an article just on the implications of the Thai smile, not to mention on the variations of the wai

My main reason, the primary thing that keeps me here, and makes me homesick when I am gone, is sleeping contentedly beside me. Where she is, is my home. 

For many years home was where I hung my hat. Now my home is with her. And with Her Majesty. Who just walked in at 0548 hrs in a somnolent Bangkok morning announcing that she had a nightmare. 

So I will leave this right here. This is why I live in Bangkok.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Neoliberal War on WikiLeaks

The truth is here: If you have the stomach to read it for yourself. No one can make you read the Podesta emails. But once you do, you can never unsee what they tell you. This is the deep state, illustrated. 

Political partisans at the Freedom of the Press Foundation are waging war on WikiLeaks because Assange exposed Hillary and he told us the truth about what her people were saying and doing. 

These critics are confused. Assange did not support Trump, and it illuminates their confusion that they are convinced that he did. Partisan politics is their prism and it blinds them. 

Assange condemned Hillary by exposing her conspiracies. The only sin that Assange committed was he told us the truth. 

Anyone who reads the Podesta leaks in particular understands that WikiLeaks performed a service for humanity. 

For the first time ever we got a shocking glimpse into the machinations of the deep state. 

The writers of this article dismiss the murder of Seth Rich as a conspiracy theory, a "discredited conspiracy theory," in fact. They condemn Assange for offering $20,000 for the exposure of his murderers. Apparently they already forgot what their neoliberal icon Seymour Hersh said about it. Watch carefully at the 1:00 mark: Assange gently nods when he is asked if Seth Rich was a WikiLeaks source. A body language tell? Watch it again. 

They are strangely smug for people who can be eviscerated when Assange proves that Russia was not his source by simply publishing documents. How I wish that Assange would quit mucking around and just do it. 

Those of us who have done our homework and who recognize their partisan politicking for what it is are dismissed. They simply omit to say the word "deplorables." 

These are the same people who dismiss PizzaGate as a discredited claim that Hillary sacrifices children in the basement of Comet Pizza and Ping Pong, when that is not what PizzaGate alleges at all. They know it. They are waging war. 

These are people who defend pedophiles. These are people who bitch because Assange told us the truth about their entitled goddess. These are people who bitch that we perceive the pedophile code in the emails. We did not write those emails. We just read them. They say what they say.

These people oppose WikiLeaks, because it dared follow the material where it led, and in telling the world the truth, it deviated from neoliberal orthodoxy. 

They condemn Assange for his personal failings. So he is an imperfect hero. We have to take what we can get, and I refuse to live in the fantasy that these people concocted for us. They do not get to dictate to me how I live, or how I believe. They certainly do not get to determine which facts that I choose to analyze, nor my conclusions.

Facts are facts. Documents are documents. Truth is truth. We can read for ourselves. We know what the Podesta Files say. It is not our fault that these fools chose to mob up with an alleged pedophile facilitator, and I will point them to the immortal words of Andrew Breitbart: "What's in your closet, John Podesta, big Podesta?"

Indeed. What is in his closet? Why is the Podesta lobbying firm imploding and collapsing after a mere glance from the independent prosecutor, the independent prosecutor that their loyalists appointed, Mr. Mueller?

Pedophilia and political murder is what these people support. They think that by vilifying WikiLeaks that they can turn back the clock and those incriminating emails will magically unread themselves. 

That is not the real world that we live in. Our real world is an ugly place, mostly because people like this are running around deciding what the rest of us get to know. 

Not here. Not on this page. I concur that Assange is an imperfect hero, much like Snowden, much like Trump himself. We have to take what we get. 

These men informed us. They told us the truth. Assange's critics are angry at the conclusions that we reached, because they are convinced against all evidence that Hillary was our foreordained solution. Thank God that she was defeated.

I do not care if they cut off WikiLeaks. I will send WikiLeaks Bitcoin from my own meager stash, because WikiLeaks is the lone media outlet that has a track record of dispensing simple truth. 

CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post all stand discredited and exposed as deep state propaganda organs in the worst traditions of Pravda and Izvestia. Only WikiLeaks simply told us the truth. 

This is not about politics, though they will never understand that. As I say, they are blinded by their partisan prism. This is about truth, and fact, and reality. 

The strings connecting them to their puppet masters are showing. We see them. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

A Tale of the Grenada Raiders on Amazon, GooglePlay, iBooks & GoogleBooks

A Tale of the Grenada Raiders, Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2017. Available now as an eBook on the Kindle Store, in softcover from Amazon, on Apple iBooks, GooglePlay, and on GoogleBooks. Coming soon as an AudioBook. 

In commemoration of our blessed dead 34 years ago in Operation Urgent Fury, I publish my war memoir, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders

Twenty six years in the making, I wrote the first stanzas of this highly personal chronicle of Rangers at war in 1991, after I resigned from DEA. 

The manuscript evolved over the decades. I long called it Learning the Language of Nightmares. Then I called it Idioms of Dreams. As I went to print, I decided to title it A Tale of the Grenada Raiders: Memories in the Idioms of Dreams, because that is what it is. 

This memoir is difficult to classify, but at its foundation, it is an eyewitness history of Rangers during the invasion of revolutionary Grenada in 1983. 

Brian Donovan sent me this snapshot of Chapter 2, which you can read free on GooglePlay

I returned to the manuscript over the years, lacquering on meaning, until health challenges two years ago scared me. That lit a fire under me, and I finalized the manuscript feeling the hot breath of the Reaper on my neck. 

I have long lived on borrowed time. I should have died many times over the years, and I recount several of those moments in this very strange book about war. I do not believe that luck is the reason that I am still alive to write these words. 

Few of us can foretell the future, but I know that the Big Ranger in the Sky has a plan for me, and my purpose in this incarnation is not yet complete. 

Publishing this book is part of His plan, and I did not want to die without publishing this manuscript. Now it is done. It is a milestone for me. And the Reaper is that much closer on my trail. He will catch me soon enough. 

A Tale of the Grenada Raiders recounts what it was like to go to combat for the first time as a young Ranger, and I make some of the Rangers from my unit famous. They needed to be immortalized. 

For me, combat was very much an initiation, and a critical factor in the evolution of my personal mysticism. 

I served with giants, some of the Rangers that I served with played critical roles in American special operations in later years. Some of those Rangers are still serving, one of them at the pinnacle of the Special Operations Command. 

Tim Latsko sent me this snapshot of page 123, available free on GooglePlay

Lushly illustrated, you could almost call A Tale of the Grenada Raiders a picture book. Rangers love photographs, mostly because we were not supposed to take photographs, so these photos were also individual acts of rebellion. 

As every person named in the narrative had an opportunity to review the manuscript before publication, the consequence was a deluge of corrections and additional information. My Ranger brothers caught many errors.

I use the real names of the protagonists, and I include photographs of them all. The events transpired precisely as I recount them, with a couple of exceptions that I address in captions to photos and later, in the forthcoming anthology Tales of the Rangers

As the narrative grew, I had to split off bridge chapters connecting Ranger stories to Snowcap stories into a separate book, so the companion memoir The Rosetta Stone of Memories will be published in 2018. 

The Rosetta Stone of Memories is mostly complete. I need to polish it, to shellac its deeper layers of meaning, and I need to curate photos and documents that I collected as the years went by. 

Many of the stories that Rangers told on our secret Facebook pages, on SOCNET, and on over the years, are now captured for eternity in Tales of the Rangers, the third volume in the trilogy, which is forecasted for publication in 2019. 

Tales of the Rangers is the book that the Ranger community actually wants. It is an anthology of Ranger oral histories that Rangers recounted over campfires deep in the North American rainforests of the Olympic peninsula since the early 1980's. 

Tales of the Rangers is now up to 777 pages, and I estimate that it is 75% complete. It will exceed 1,000 pages when I finalize it. I may end up publishing it in two volumes. Many Rangers contributed testimonies. Tales of the Rangers is their book, written by them. I am just the messenger. 

I hope that you like A Tale of the Grenada Raiders. It is an idiosyncratic memoir, so some may find it controversial. I am sure that it will have critics, and some Rangers did disagree with some of my recollections during the review period. I address Ranger controversies in the Forward and the Afterward, and in detail in Tales of the Rangers

A Tale of the Grenada Raiders is an unprecedented glimpse into warfare at the grunt level, so readers fascinated by militaria will enjoy it. But it is unlike any other personal account of war that I ever read, and I read many of them. I had no option but to write this memoir in my own way. 

I do hope that those of you who read it will review it, anonymously or not, on its Amazon sales pages, or on GoogleBooks or GooglePlay. If you hate it, you can say so. If you like it, I will be grateful. 

So far the book has garnered fifty 5-star reviews. Yes, 50 reviews. All from verified purchasers on Amazon, all 5-stars. Some of those reviews are very insightful. Thank you, friends. 

In the end, all that a writer truly wants is to be read. Many writers are never read, their words consigned to oblivion. Others are only discovered posthumously. So be it. 

Pete Russell sent me this photo of the softcover ordered from Amazon. 

A Tale of the Grenada Raiders is available in both Kindle eBook and softcover through Amazon. The softcover is published in 8.5x11 inches large format, full color. At 377 pages, the physical softcover weighs 2.4lbs. It is a big book. 

I finally succeeded in getting the book listed on GoogleBooks and on GooglePlay. You can read much of the work for free on GoogleBooks. The GooglePlay eBook edition is listed by Google at $9.99. 

The price that Amazon charges for the softcover fluctuated for a few days after its release. The softcover was initially listed at $64.99, then Amazon priced it without warning to me at $21.99. 

After 90 days at a discounted price, Amazon reset the softcover price back to its list price of $64.99. That is the price for the softcover at this time. Those of you who must hold a physical book in your hands are now charged an extortionate price by Amazon. 

I set the eBook price at $14.99 on GooglePlay as well, then Google decided to offer it for $9.99. 

Jeff Mellinger sent me this photo of pages 183 and 184, available for free on GooglePlay

I apologize for this pricing confusion, but it is out of my hands. Amazon rationalizes its softcover pricing by citing the large format of the book at 8.5-inches x 11 inches, and the number of photographs in the book. As I say, at 377 pages, the book weighs 2.4 pounds. 

The book is also available on iBooks. The iBooks version is $14.99, and it is electronic only, for reading on Apple iDevices like iPads, iPhones and Macs. It is very slick, befitting an Apple product. 

The GooglePlay eBook edition came online on December 15, and Google priced it at $9.99. GoogleBooks offers a large portion of the book for free, you can read much of the manuscript at no charge, and then purchase the remainder through GooglePlay.

For those of you who must hold a physical book in your hands, the Amazon softcover is the only option at this time. I prefer that readers read this book in electronic format. It is not only much cheaper, an electronic format enables you to zoom in on the photos and to search the narrative. Nonetheless, some readers prefer a physical book. 

As I get caught up, I will also release A Tale of the Grenada Raiders in audio format, as an AudioBook. I will read every word aloud myself. 

For those of you who waited for this book, I thank you for your patience. For those of you who read it, I am grateful for your time, for your consciousness, and for your eyeballs. 

Young Rangers died in combat on revolutionary Grenada. I hope that this book is a worthy memorial of them. 

Doc T sends. 

Updated 15 February, 2018.

ETA: Greg Chabot published an excerpt of Chapter 13 in Soldier of Fortune Magazine, and George Hand reviewed the work for SOFREP. As SOFREP is a subscription service, I posted the entirety of the review on my Facebook page.

Ranger Karl Monger interviewed me for The New American Veteran and posted it on YouTube and Facebook

ETA: I edited some facts that changed over time on 15 February 2018. Google does not compete with Amazon in the print-on-demand marketplace. Amazon holds a virtual monopoly there, and the only way to purchase a physical version of this book is through Amazon. 

At the time of this update, the price remains $64.99. I am very sorry about this, but Amazon is in a position to do whatever they like, and they do. 

The cheapest way to access an electronic copy of this book is via GoogleBooks or GooglePlay, at $9.99.