Three Chapters To Go

I called a halt a little early today to my work; only 2,500 words, but there was a reason – I've reached the chapter that is essentially the climax of the entire book. This one has to be a big deal, absolute and guaranteed, and I need to be at my best when I write it. It's going to be a long one, I think, a good four thousand words, and given that it is a continuous action piece the best course of action is to sit down and write it all in one go. Then two more chapters to tie up the last few loose ends, and I can get it sent off to my beta readers to see what they think. With a little luck, in two or three weeks time I'll be writing a triumphant blog post about its launch.

By which time, of course, I shall be hopefully well into writing the second book in the series, 'Not One Step Back', about which I am already thinking and taking notes...I pretty much have it at the same state now as I had 'Price of Admiralty' when I began that. (Incidentally, I'm pretty sure Alamo is going to end up at 78k or so on the draft, but my second drafts tend to lengthen rather than shorten. 82k is probably a good estimate of where it will finally end up. Of course, that also suggests that I will end up with another record writing session tomorrow, but I rather hope and expect that I will write a lot faster for the two concluding chapters than I have during the harder third-quarter of the book. (Every writer has his hard spot – therein lies mine. Far enough in that the initial excitement of a new project is gone, far enough from the end that it seems like a way off.)

Naturally there will be a blog post tomorrow, probably written when I am in a state of total exhaustion, talking about all the lessons I have learned getting this one done. It is something new to me in that this is the first novel I've been able to write in one go, with no real breaks or interruptions. I made at least some progress every day, though it wasn't quite a steady as I would have liked. Already pondering how I'm going to make those changes.

A few more books coming for next month's reading – which is going to be Early American Naval History. Not even the Civil War, earlier than that – the battles against the Barbary Pirates, the Quasi-War, the War of 1812, that sort of thing. A few bits and pieces are on their way so that I can get the entire month; as I finish each book I shall, naturally, review it for the blog. Really, I'm doing this because a large part of the setting for the Alamo books is heavily inspired on the early United States, and given that the books focus on the Triplanetary Fleet, where better to find ideas than the history of the time? I should have about a dozen books on the subject to get through over the course of the month. I think the Russian Civil War is likely to follow, but that's still up for decision – its as much a matter of what is interesting me at the time as anything else.

Of course – that is scheduled for the month of June, and there are still plenty of days remaining in this month, so in order to fill the gap I've decided to strengthen my knowledge of early-20th century US military history a little, with biographies of Leonard Wood, Billy Mitchell, 'Black Jack' Pershing and Glenn Curtiss. All of these people have been on my 'to do' list for a while, with books sitting on my shelves ready to go, so I've decided to push ahead and read them as my research for the month. (Technically the Mitchell book is still on the way here, but it should be with me by the time I get to it. Suffice to say that I'll probably be doing that one last.)

All of these people were formative. Leonard Wood, aside from being Teddy Roosevelt's right-hand man in Cuba (probably putting it the other way round would be equally as accurate), was the first head of the Army not from the combat grades, and yet instrumental in preparing it for a modern war. That he was seriously pushed as the commander of the American Expeditionary Force in France in 1917 speaks volumes alone; the book I've chosen on him is 'Armed Progressive', by Jack C. Lane. General Pershing, of course, was the man chosen to fill that slot – another favoured by Roosevelt, promoted from Captain to Brigadier-General – something I doubt happens very often, somehow! His experiences during the First World War ought to be quite informative. For him I've chosen Smythe's 'Pershing – General of the Armies', which focuses on his Great War years. There is a previous volume 'Guerilla Warrior' that I couldn't get a copy of, but it's on my 'to find' list.

Then comes the flyers! Billy Mitchell I know best from the film 'The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell' the old Gary Cooper film, but he's basically the USAF's spiritual founding father, and an early advocate of strategic air power – as well as being the American Air Commander during the Great War. As controversial figures go, this one has them all. For him – I went for 'A Question of Loyalty' by Douglas Waller. I couldn't find a decent straight biography of the man, but the reviews I read suggest that this is close. Finally – Glenn Curtiss, another aviation pioneer that was instrumental in naval aviation in the United States – two sides of a coin, really. I know least about him...but he is figured as important, so I picked up 'Hero of the Air' by William Trimble, on the basis that the Naval Institute Press is usually pretty darn good. (I might augment that one with 'Two-Block Fox', a history of early carriers, if I end up waiting too long for Waller's book.)

A slightly lesser-known figure I decided to add at the last minute was Benjamin Foulois, whose claim to fame was that for a brief period - he was the entire United States Air Force! I stumbled across him when I was looking for a good Billy Mitchell book, and given that a good biography of him was available on the Air Force Historical website (the books their authors write are generally available as free PDF downloads - a nice touch) I decided to add him to the list. The book here is 'Foulois and the U.S. Army Air Corps. 1931-1935', by John F. Shiner.

Five books by the end of the month sounds reasonable enough to me as a start...not sure where to begin, but probably with Foulois. That way I can book-end with aviators!

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