Monday, November 30, 2015

Sneakatara Boatman and the Crown of Pluto

The new book is out!

I'll be running some previews here over the next couple of weeks, but for now, I'd like to start with the Afterword.  It saves spoilers for later, and it--hopefully--gives a sense of what I was trying to accomplish with the book.

If that makes you more interested, then good.  If not, well, what can you do?

I wrote the first book for my kids.  At a certain point, though, I started writing this one for myself.
Get it here.
I wrote most of this during the run up to the 20th reunion of my graduating class at West Point, and in retrospect, I think that this influence—my anxiety about our reunion—is clear.  If you go to West Point, you can expect to serve overseas at some point, and that’s okay.  I myself served just five years after graduation, but even I managed to find myself cooling my heels along the demilitarized zone in South Korea, doing what soldiers do.  This was not surprising.  That kind of thing comes with the ring and is to be expected.  However, the United States—and more specifically, a goodly number of my friends and classmates—have been at war continually now for almost two decades.  My friends signed up to be soldiers, to serve, and that is what they’ve done.  Of the folks who made a career in the Army, two combat tours has been the absolute minimum, and some have served as many as five!  That is far more time in combat than our mentors saw back when we were coming up, and I think I can say with some certainty that no one was expecting it when we gave our oaths on Reception Day way back in July 1991.
It was, to say the least, a very different world when we joined the Army.
My parents are dead.  My father passed in 2007, and my mother went in 2011.  We weren’t particularly close for a variety of reasons, and while I remember thinking that someday we’d work through our crap and hash it all out, what really happened was that they just died.  I wound up carrying around all these old feelings of guilt and frustration with no hope of ever resolving them.  What can you do?  I still have a wife, and I still have kids and responsibilities.  I still have to move forward.  For that matter, I still have family because I still have my classmates.
I still have the men and women of the West Point Class of 1995.
Still, I was worried.  My father served just one tour in Vietnam, but that single tour did a number on him.  Everyone leaves the service eventually, but my dad didn’t do a good job of walking away, and in the wake of his passing, I’m left to worry about the guys and gals who are still with us.  Those fears showed up in a big way in the first chapter of this book, and from there, I realized that this just wasn’t going to be the same kind of kids’ story that Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki was.  There’s action and adventure here, sure, but there’s more here as well—at least I hope there is.
After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I decided to go with it.  Priest of Loki and Crown of Pluto together tell a single story, and yes, I probably should have released both parts as a single volume.  However, the tone of this part of the story is much different than the tone of the first part, and ultimately, I wanted to give parents the chance to manage that shift in town however they choose in their own families.  The subject matter of this book has led to some awkward discussions in my house.  For example, my younger daughter Emma asked, “What’s a ‘war by proxy’?”  And when I told her, she followed up with, “Yeah, but is it good or bad?”
What can you do?  We live in a complicated world, and if you choose not to engage, life still happens.  You can ignore the world, but it’s still going to turn.  I am personally comfortable trying to explain life to my kids, and in part, that’s why I started writing these stories.  However, each family has its own dynamics, and there is some pretty intense stuff here.  I’m not here to tell you how to manage that in your own families.
Our reunion went very well.  I don’t mind saying that my classmates seem to be made of emotionally sterner stuff than was my father.  We had a great time; it really did feel like being with family.  At this point, the opening to this story remains a mere artifact of my fears.  It’s real.  I felt it, and if you ever have to welcome someone back from war, you’ll probably feel it, too.  But we made it through, and that’s a lesson that’s worth learning.
Take that for what it’s worth.

Come on, folks.  You know you're gonna spend half the day shopping on Amazon regardless.  My book is $2.99; you won't even notice that next to the mountain of credit card debt you're gonna rack up today.  

Gimme a chance.  This is a good book--better than the last one, I promise.

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