The official publication day for my new essay collection The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault is this Labor Day. In order to spread the word about it, I am going to be doing all kinds of stuff on my youtube channel and on my Patreon page as well as here on my website.
This book is one that I worked on for a long time, and it's a book that I am extremely proud of. For every essay that is included here, I wrote five that will forever sit on my hard drives. For every sentence that is included in these essays, I wrote ten that were deleted, and for each time that a magazine said yes to publishing one of these essays, twenty magazines said no. This is the way it is for most writers. I guess there might be a few writers who know the right people and have never had a submission rejected, but what's the point in doing anything if you're never pushed to try harder? An easy life where everybody just pats you on the back all the time doesn't sound like a lot of fun to me.
The final essay (about writing my dissertation while my wife worked at a Mission Hospital in Macha, Zambia) that will be included in Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault was just published in Proximity Magazine and can be read by clicking the button below. Thanks to Brad Aaron Modlin for soliciting the work and thanks to both Brad and Maggie Messitt at Proximity for the edits and taking the piece.
There's been a lot of war fiction and war nonfiction released since I spent my measly six months at Prince Sultan Air Base back in 2002-2003. I had some near misses with agents like Nat Sobel and Kirby Kim for a novel I was writing that became Battle Rattle, and then I had a couple agents tell me that my collection of essays (that Tim Johnston at Little Presque Books has edited the hell out of) was "too much like Phil Klay's Redeployment for them to know how to market it. (I have not read Redeployment despite being mailed a review copy by Penguin: I assume it was because I was still teaching and they thought I might assign it in my class.) I have no idea if our two books are similar, but I guess I'll learn at some point when I have time to read something other than parenting books. For now, I know that my book is nonfiction and Redeployment is fiction. So they are at least that different.
When I started writing these essays, I was a very angry boy. I was focused on things that motivated me to push on as a result of anger and not because I wanted to make the world better for those around me. I finished this book before I had any children, and now I have two daughters. So my perspective has been altered. This is just a fact.
What this book is to me is a boy's journey into manhood. And I do not mean that I became a man because I "went to war." (To be clear: I fought war with communications equipment and not with bullets, so you'll not read about firefights or sieges in this book.) You don't have to go to war to become a man,. and you don't have to have children to become a man either. In order to become a man, you must engage in the world around you and work toward making it better. Of course "better" is relative, and one man will believe that some men's visions of a better world are anything but.
So I wrote these essays about my time in war, about my sometimes unhappy childhood, about the time I spent in Zambia with my wife before her mother was diagnosed with brain cancer. I wrote these essays about a boy who loved to learn and then had his love of learning ripped away from him by some strange man on the night Mike Tyson lost the Heavyweight Title to Buster Douglas. Then I wrote essay after essay until I found the essay I was looking for all along: an essay about how my wife's love and patience were all I needed to rediscover my love for learning, life and people.
To all my friends who have supported me throughout the years during good times and bad: thank you. This is an amazingly good time for me. I've never been happier. And I am excited to share this book with the world. Now maybe some of you guys will have a better sense of what I did when I was in the Air Force when you read some of these essays. There will be more and more on this as the weeks pass, and I hope that you'll tell your friends and family. I will do my damnedest to do some readings and to get the book on the shelves in the stores where you buy books so that you can support those stores where you like to shop. For those of you who shop at home, it will of course be available on amazon too.
Happy Monday to you all. Here is a picture of a Dinosaur Tea Party that Shannon commissioned. She is paying me in laughter and smiles which is enough to sustain me on most days.