Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Soldier's Woman

The final edits are done and everything is ready for Eternal Press to release it on August 7th and I must admit to being quietly pleased with the final product.

Having lost her father in the Falklands Campaign, it takes a very special soldier to overcome Megan Ryan's distrust of all things military, especially when Michael Davidson returns from Afghanistan to usurp her hard won position at Davidson's Machine and Tool. Only the seriousness of the position holds her there as they battle to save the firm, both at home and in Singapore.
After prolonged tension catapults them into his bed, the ultimate confrontation at the Lim mansion, leaves Megan with two impossible choices.
Lose Michael to the SAS or follow her mother's footsteps and become a soldier's woman.

I love researching my books and this one was no different.

Singapore was home territory for so long that it needed very little effort, and Oliver's Hill was equally familiar, as was the engineering firm. This left only the SAS and my search introduced me to some very generous souls who shared their knowledge freely, giving me a glimpse into a hidden world.

The Special Air Service was the brainchild of then Major David Stirling in the middle east during WWII and their name was chosen to confuse German Intelligence into believing there was a parachute battalion being formed in North Africa. After an initial false start they combined with Ralph Bagnold's Long Range Desert Group to perfect a very effective tactic of appearing out of the desert in armed jeeps to attack German garrisons.

The Australian SAS copied much of the tactics of the British 22 SAS after the War and adapted them to the different cultural imperatives of Australia, serving with distinction in Borneo, Vietnam, East Timor, Iraq and now in Afghanistan. There is a love/hate relationship between them and the regular Australian Army, where they are referred to as "The Swanbourne Polo Club", or the "Brown Hats" (Swanbourne is a suburb of Perth containing the SAS headquarters and the SAS wear beige berets.).

One regular soldier in the airborne infantry battalion illustrated this perfectly when he asked "How many SAS troopers does it take to change a light bulb?" When I looked blank, he answered "A whole squadron. One to change the bulb and the rest to applaud."

The tall poppy syndrome is alive and well in the Australian Army!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Following the muse

My current WIP is taking me on a fascinating journey. It began with a teaching tool I've used repeatedly in the Adult Education courses, a means of providing a common connector to a group of disparate would-be writers in developing a story from a single scene in a forgettable movie starring Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman. In the process, I've written a dozen or so scenes from the story to illustrate how to begin, develop, sustain and complete it. Of necessity, I've kept the story reasonably simple, but my last group of students challenged me to write the whole story and, in a moment of unusual weakness, I agreed.

I began by joining the dots, connecting the existing scenes into a continuous narrative, but the character of the hero kept eluding me. I couldn't quite see how he came to be as he was and went searching into his background for an answer.

A memory came to me of a transit lounge conversation in the early hours of the morning, some ten years after Vietnam. Our plane was delayed, we were tired and bored and my companion on the journey had drunk more than was wise. He'd been involved in covert operations during the conflict, but didn't speak much of their details, concentrating instead on how he was recruited and trained. An astute individual, his descriptions of the methodology and the individuals involved kept me interested and successfully passed the time until our plane was ready.

Vietnam was too far in the past to be of value to the story I was writing, but the effect of the passage of time on my companion wasn't and I had the environment that moulded the hero into the man he was.

Storytelling presented a problem. With so much to be hidden until the right moment, a simple narrative from the heroine's point of view was inadequate, and the normal(?) balance of heroine/hero not much better. I'd already passed the thirty thousand word mark and was loathe to discard the lot so I went searching for another point of view that could carry the story and found it in a secondary character.

I'm now back at the thirty thousand word mark, having re-written the beginning to capture the changes in the heroine and introduced the thoughts and actions of my second point of view. Other than a very general picture, I have no idea where the story will go from here...and it's fascinating.

It's a great life...insane or not.