I hadn’t realized when I wrote Cobra Flight how alien and unknown the Eastern Arctic, (better known as Nunavut these days,) is to many people. Judging by some of the questions I have received, the scene of action could as well be somewhere in the arctic regions of Mars as Canada.
In retrospect I should have included a map, and future additions to the series will contain maps. And I promise that if I update the first edition of Cobra Flight I’ll get a map into it as well.
In the meantime, here is where most of the action takes place, well up far in the most north easterly corner of Canada’s Arctic. The line roughly shows the various flight routes and communities.
I am well into the writing of the sequel to Cobra Flight. Today I received the mock-up for its cover.
The title is provisional but apart from that, this is what the cover will look like. (note the glaring typo in the title. Either it is a form of copy protection for the artist until I pay him or more likely it is that horrible little demon that follows me around on these projects, the dreaded Typographic Monster From Hell.)
And of course there will be paperback and audio versions as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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” (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.
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.
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.