Excerpt From “The Disaster Tourist” (in production)

I spent something like six months in Somalia during the civil war in the run-up to the arrival of foreign troops in a failed attempt to restore order.

Those six months in 1992 and 93 felt more like six years, or perhaps the entirety of my life. When every day is a fever dream of madness, time stretches out.

I suppose some people must think of Mogadishu as their dearly loved hometown, but for me it will always remain a city dreamt of by a terminal drug addict, and Somalia a rough first draft for the end of the world.

Every aspect of life in this sadistically tortured country has been twisted so grotesquely that more than one aid worker has wondered out loud whether we hadn’t so much come to a land of unfortunates as we had died and arrived in the waiting room for the pits of hell.

Mogadishu was once called the Paradise of the Indian Ocean.  Well sure, perhaps once, but it has become clear over the months of civil war and famine that some metaphysical planning board has re-zoned it as a bedroom community for hell.

On this Sunday in the late November before the international armies arrive and arguably made things worse I’m sitting in the back of a massively armed Toyota Land Cruiser on a short errand to the docks and then the main market, or as I’ve come to view it, the Looted Goods Recycling Center.

A Toyota Land Cruiser war wagon
A Toyota Land Cruiser stripped for wa and bristling with gunmen who probably don’t even know how to use their AK-47’s

The Toyota is called a technical for some vague reason having to do with Italian terminology left over from Italy’s occupation of the country for much of the century. There are other theories of how the term came about but they all mean the same thing. A looted heavy duty SUV or truck to which a heavy calibre machine gun has been mounted. They will also frequently have three or four men armed with light machine guns hanging onto the outside and usually at least one inside. The term and the idea of arming a four wheel drive vehicle has spread since its introduction in Somalia in the early nineties and now can be found in just about any war zone or disaster area around the world.

The two guards on the roof of the Toyota that I am in each have an AK-47 in addition to the heavy machine gun bolted in front of them.  Inside with the two of us are a driver and two more armed Somalis.  You could tear a house apart with the firepower these guys are carrying.

There’s a neat little system at work here.  Any non-Somali who walks anywhere outside of an armed compound, no matter how short the walk, runs an extreme risk of being beaten, robbed and killed.  And since the only vehicles available are in the hands of Somalis who have acquired them from god knows where, you’re pretty well stuck with having to pay upwards of a hundred dollars a day (cash in uncreased US 20 dollar bills please) to go anywhere.  If you refuse and try to walk, the same people will probably shoot you down just to maintain their business position.

Newcomers make the mistake of feeling at ease as they speed through the littered streets protected by violently trigger happy guards until they learn that the weapons and the gunmen are only there to protect the vehicle.  The guards won’t lift a finger to protect their passenger unless it’s a question of keeping the poor bastard alive long enough to collect the day’s hire.

Technicals come under attack frequently because the battle wagons are the most highly prized of looting tools and that means all vehicles are potential targets for freelance hijackers.

There’s a tremendous amount of status associated with weapons and technicals.  The teenagers who make up the bulk of the technical guards are at the top of the swagger list.  They get the women, the drugs, the fearful respect and anything else they want just by a negligent wave of a gun muzzle.  They’re dangerously violent at the best of times but horribly and psychotically murderous in the late afternoon as the effects of the amphetamine like plant they chew takes effect. Khat, in all of its spellings is the drug of choice in northeastern Africa. Most of it in Mogadishu is flown in daily from Nairobi in specially charted light aircraft. It is grown mainly in Ethiopia and has to be transported to the buyer in not much more than 24 hours otherwise it loses its potency.

The highest sport on the status list is reserved for the few even more crazy who ride around in trucks converted to carry such Somali sport hunting weapons as recoilless rifles which are a kind of baby tank cannon.  On a couple of occasions I’ve seen trucks sporting rocket clusters ripped out of abandoned Somali MIG fighter aircraft.  No one seems to know whether they could be fired but really who would want to doubt.  An air to air missile fired at close ground level range would go through a block of buildings like a sword through a mouse.

A US Marine Light Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle and Italian Soldiers in a Fiat-OTO Melara Armored Personnel Carrier (right) guard an intersection on the “Green Line” in Mogadishu. The line divides the northern and southern part of the city and warring clans.

You should see the destruction the warring factions have inflicted on this

town.  There’s hardly a building without a shell hole in it, there’s no electricity, no water, no businesses.

The scale of looting and extortion is astonishing.  Except for those homes and buildings that were fortified and defended constantly throughout the civil war, everything has gone.  Windows and frames, plumbing fixtures, doors, electrical wiring, all stripped out of the buildings and sold somewhere else, mostly in Yemen across the Red Sea or south in Kenya.  All of the above ground telephone and power lines have gone, even some of the buried cables in the downtown have been dug up and shipped away for resale.  It’s a city of concrete and cement and nothing else ­ a rotted corpse of a city.

The arrival of international aid groups has given the looters the best time they’ve ever had.  Shiploads of highly valuable relief food and tonnes of equipment meant for the refugee camps disappear with depressing regularity the moment they arrive in the country.

Some of the worst offenders are the very guards who are supposed to stop it.

A word about the guards.  They’re supplied by General Mohamed Aideed, the leader of the faction which holds control of most of Mogadishu and a fair part of southern Somalia.  These technicals might be hired and paid for by the international aid groups but they still work for Aideed and Aideed is the top dog in the looting food chain.  Foxes guarding hen coops have nothing on technicals guarding relief supplies.

The technicals are used to guard Mogadishu port.  Well that’s what they’re hired for, but mainly they hang around helping their relatives steal food.

CARE employs 900 technicals at the port.  And whether they show up or not, whether the port is operating or not, they demand payment, some twenty thousand dollars every four days, (in uncreased 20 dollar bills please.)

The International Red Cross also operates from the port and oddly enough they too employ exactly 900 technicals.  They are of course the same people being paid twice for doing not much at all.

Every once in a while, about twice a day really, technical units at the port will get into arguments with each other and start firing.  They might be well armed but no one has given any of them any training.  When the arguments start the bullets spray wildly all over southern Mogadishu and only coincidently is the actual target ever hit.  We’ve learned rather quickly to get under cover when the firing starts to avoid the 7.62 millimeter lead rains.

Things settle down when the sun sets and the Khat chewers slump into inactivity. But, then there is a second wind towards midnight and for no particular reason the various factions will fire off rockets and heavy artillery at no particular part of the city so sometimes the night sky just blossoms with fireworks and booming explosions.

Attention Walmart Shoppers

Unexpectedly, and to my immense delight, I have just discovered that Cobra Flight (ebook & audio) is now listed in Walmart’s new ebook store catalogue.

It’s a distribution deal with Kobo Rakuten which is a growing Canadian based ebook publisher and very popular, probably more so than Amazon, with Canadians.

The Walmart deal gives me access to a vast, if unknown, market I wouldn’t have been able to conceive of cracking on my own.

I will henceforth stop making bad jokes about Walmart and it shoppers. In fact, there is a store half a kilometre from me and I think I will wander over and give them some business as a way of thanking the Lady Luck and the Fates.

The paperback edition of Cobra Flight as a 3d image

 

75% Off Sale — July 2018 Only

75% Off Sale!

For the month of July 2018, Cobra Flight is 75% off its regular price at Smashwords. The sale price is $1.25 US, which today is about $1.65 Canadian.

Cobra Flight is set in the High Arctic which makes it the perfect read during these blazing hot days of summer.

It is only available at this price in ePub format which means that it normally will not work on a Kindle. But, I outline a simple way of getting Kindles to read non-Amazon books in this previous post.

ePub book files are a world standard and among others Kobo readers have no problem with it. It can also be read on any mobile phone or tablet, iOS or Android, with one of the many many ebook reading programs in the various Play Stores. And — most mobile and tablet readers are either free or dirt cheap.

To get your copy of Cobra Flight just go to Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/760669

How To Read non-Amazon eBooks On A Kindle — A Guide

 

Normally, Amazon Kindles will only read books published through Amazon.

In order to read an eBook published in the many other eBook Retailer Stores one had to use something like the truly fantastic program Calibre. Calibre will do far more than just convert books to Amazon format and it is worth checking out, but it is so powerful as a book catalogue and book editor that it can seem overpowering.

So, along comes this new feature from Amazon that allows you to email an ePub file to your Kindle account and have it appear perfectly in all your Kindle apps and machines.

Do, this . . .

Go to Amazon and look up your Kindle send-to-kindle email address. It is listed under Personal Document Settings in your Manage Content and Devices section of Amazon (just do a search and it should just pop up if you have never looked at your Kindle settings.)

Mine looks a bit like this “rg_(some random number)@kindle.com”

Go to where your book file is, probably in your downloads folder, and rename the bit after the Dot, or Period, from epub to png. If you are not sure about how to rename files it’s pretty easy to look up how to do it online — but the easiest way is to grab whichever random teenager, or elementary school student that happens to be around and have them do it. It really is easy.

So, Cobra Flight goes from “cobra_flight.epub: to “cobra_flight.png” The paperback edition of Cobra Flight as a 3d image(That’s not the real file name since I couldn’t be bothered digging around for it.)

Anyway, using your mail program, just send the file to your Kindle account by attaching it to the email. Kindle will do everything it needs and put it into your book library very quickly.

Another way is to use the “sendtokindle” app available in various forms at Amazon.

But don’t forget to rename that file before using the app or the mail program.

There is quite a fine article about all this at this website

 

 

Audio Book — Good Launch

Well, I had an unexpected and nice surprise this morning when Audible sent me my sales report for April. Normally, audiobook sales are about a third of ebook sales and paperbacks are about a fourth.

For whatever reason, and I am not complaining, the report showed that three or four times more people downloaded the audiobook of Cobra Flight than the ebook.

We are not talking big numbers here, but it is interesting and very heartening,

By the way, I got a note from the FindAwayVoices people who are handling non-Audible audiobook sales for me to say that Kobo will soon be distributing the audiobook. That is something unexpected because I had been under the impression that Kobo was taking only a few select audiobooks into its catalogue.

Since Kobo is much bigger in Canada than Amazon for ebooks it is an important development.

The AudioBook of Cobra Flight is Now Available

It has taken longer than I expected but finally the audiobook of Cobra Flight is now for sale at audible, and in the various amazons worldwide.

So now there is a choice of ebook, paperback, and audiobook for you to choose from.

If  you don’t have a monthly subscription to audible.com for a free book each month you can get a Trial Membership for one month which will allow you to get Cobra Flight for nothing.

Here is the link to the amazon.com listing.

Paperback Edition of Cobra Flight is Out!

It has taken a while and the delay was entirely my own fault.

But, Cobra Flight is now out in a handsome paperback volume through Amazon. I wasn’t going to bother with doing a physical edition, but so many people said they wanted a “real book” and were willing to pay the much higher price that I went ahead with the project.

It does look good, in my opinion.

This is the Canadian Amazon version;

and this is Amazon.com.

If it hasn’t already, it will soon be appearing of all of the Amazons around the world

 

Cobra Flight Audiobooks and Paperbacks Very Soon

It has taken a while, and it will be a short while yet before you can buy, but Cobra Flight has now been accepted by a couple of dozen audiobook publishers worldwide including Google Play, Kobo, etc. Amazon, Audible, and iTunes are doing their final quality checks.
 
Next week I will receive the printer’s proof for the paperback and those of you who want to can buy a physical copy. And of course, the eBook is for sale just about everywhere worldwide, including Kobo and Amazon

Commas and Typos – Redux

I hope that this is the last time I have to write about typographic errors, but quite frankly I doubt that I will ever be free of the chore. They breed like wild boars in a forest and forever root around in all of the text like it is swill in a trench.

But, it may be the last time I have to write about them in context to Cobra Flight.

If you click on the Categories list in the sidebar and then on Writing-Skills you will find several entries about my unfortunate experiences with typos in publishing the book. One entry in particular has an unfortunate and premature title .

As I neared the end of doing the voicing of Cobra Flight for the audiobook I resolved to send the manuscript yet again to a proof-reader before I shipped it off to be turned into a paperback.

I was, however, quite confident that I had nailed every one of the little bastards and doing another proofread would be for reassurance only.

Now, keep in mind that the manuscript had been through my own, not inconsiderable editing skills, a professional copy-editor, and two experienced proofreaders. In addition, just about every piece of grammar checking software I could find had been let loose. And then in the recording phase I had found what I believed were the remaining bastards.

So, imagine by chagrin, shock, and anger, when it came back to me with 1,062 errors flagged in MSWord Tracking.

That was a staggering number of errors and I was ready to just drive an oaken stake through the black heart of the book and walk away.

But, on closer inspection I saw what had gone on.

You have to understand that there are two approaches to writing and those approaches affect how words are edited, and how they are handled.

Formal prose is the sort of thing one would find in a weighty non-fiction treatise. The other approach is focused on clarity of communication and is suited more for things like novels than 15 thousand word New Yorker Magazine essays.

My third proofreader was very much from the world of Correct Grammar and the precise use of punctuation. My two other proofreaders were the other way, as well as being blind of course.

I write, or I try to write, very much as how an itinerant story teller would spin yarns and myths around the fires of the Golden Horde as they swept out of Asia to massacre Europe; the way people tell each other ghost stories late at night around the fire at the weekend cottage. It is the way that good radio and television personalities reach out and grab listeners by the ears so they cannot pull away from the story.

Unfortunately, the people who write grammar books, who make up rules about punctuation, who use strict language usage rules to establish power over others, never seem to read novels, so they miss the point.

My writing bible is the Chicago Manual of Style. While there are other style guides out there, none are as comprehensive and so widely accepted.

No one ever got tossed into the grammar dungeons for following the guides in the CMOS.

But, one needs to keep one’s head when reading it.

The section on comma usage is 16 pages long and contains something like 35 sections about this or that and whatever involving commas. All worthy stuff if you are editing for the New Yorker, but a sticky tar pool of disaster for the novel writer.

The authors of the CMOS recognize this and make a crucial point, which seems to escape the understanding of pendants.

This is how the editors introduce the comma section.

Section 6.16

“ … it usually denotes a slight pause. … Effective use of the comma involves good judgment , with ease of reading the end in view.” (My emphasis)

Let’s just scoot over to end of the chase where we cut them off at the pass.

I did a bunch of spot checks in the list of suggested changes and then decided I didn’t have enough time to see where I might have misused a comma. Instead, I hit Accept All Changes and accepted the fact that while I would never have sprinkled commas around the way this proofreader thought proper, no one was ever going to come after me for being pedantic, whereas they would if their beady little nazi eyes spotted a Rick Grant induced comma error.

I’ve mentioned this before in context to typos, but Sod’s Law, requires there to be typos in this post as well as the microscopically checked Cobra Flight, so don’t complain.

Betrayal – The New Spy Thriller from Ethan Jones

Ethan Jones is writing strong and hard spy thrillers with a Canadian viewpoint and engaging characters.

Here’s his promo copy for the newest in the Javin Pierce series. 

You should buy a copy.

 

A hero, sent out as a mark; who is behind the betrayal?

Covert CIS operative Javin and his partner Claudia are on the hunt for two terrorist masterminds, but their mission suspiciously goes awry right from the start. The team is now forced into a dubious alliance with Mossad and the infamous Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

Pursuing the terrorists deep into hostile Saudi Arabia, they not only discover an assassination plot that could topple the Saudi kingdom, but also suspect a traitor has infiltrated their team. Who is behind this betrayal? In a race against time, can Javin and Claudia unmask the traitor and stop the assassination plot before the Middle East is plunged into an all-out war?

Betrayal is the next instalment in the explosive new bestselling Javin Pierce spy thriller series.

You will love this fast-paced international suspense, action, and mystery novel that will appeal to readers of John le Carré, Ian Fleming, and Daniel Silva.

Grab a copy of Betrayal now to enjoy the low price of $3.99 (or the equivalent in your country’s currency) and the following exclusive limited- time bonus content:

The Way to Closure, a short story that ties into the next book in the series.

An exclusive excerpt from Closure, the third book, to come out on May 3.

Start this explosive series today! Here’s the link: https://books2read.com/Betrayal-Ethan-Jones