Converging Paths

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A few years before the US blundered in uninvited into South East Asia,  harsh lessons had already been learned by the ‘US military advisors’ when the fighting between the Vietnamese and the French finally ended and they left France’s former colony of Vietnam forever, giving the US and her allies the excuse they needed to take on the role of crusaders for democracy, to stem the spread of communism throughout South East Asia.

Despite all, there was one lesson that the ‘brass’ seemed totally incapable of comprehending; the toughest enemy is the one defending his own home.

Now the western nations allied to the US in the Pacific were back once more not only fighting the VC and regulars of the North Vietnamese Army, but also the jungle, trench foot, diarrhoea, leeches, homemade booby traps and the strength sapping humidity.

Any reconnoitre patrol the VC encountered contained two primary targets; the officer in charge and the radio operator and his equipment. Killing the officer would not stop the patrol. But kill both and the patrol was rendered impotent…

~~~

The sun was shining and yet we were all soaked to the skin thanks to the constant drip, drip, drip from the jungle canopy above us. In other words situation normal given the country’s geographical location in South East Asia. The time was the late nineteen sixties; the location was a few clicks north of Saigon.

On our last patrol up country seven days earlier, we had lost our latest officer in a surprise ambush. It was his own damned silly fault. The young fool was fresh out of West Point, gung-ho and bristling with attitude, not prepared to listen to far more experienced men like our sergeant, and therefore a liability not only to himself but to the rest of us.

Anyone with a modicum of common sense, or in our case, six months on the ground, soon realized that the non commissioned officer in charge always knows the lay of the land far better than most. Plus he is fully conversant with the way ‘Charlie’ fights, as well as how to keep his men relatively safe while getting the job done, unlike the damned greenhorn 90 day wonders sent out as replacements on an almost weekly basis.

Despite having had this simple fact drummed into the stupid jerk’s brain by his instructors back in West Point who told him and his class mates to always take their NCO’s advice in the field, he refused. Consequently he died on his first operational day.

For the purposes of this tale, I have changed the names of those involved out of my deep respect for all concerned.

~~~

Gomez was on point, he preferred it that way. Like all of us Miller was once again exhibiting the thousand yard stare. He was understandably on edge with just seven days of his second tour to go before he rotated back stateside. Greaser shifted his light machine gun from his shoulder to across his chest. Our new ‘LT’, the latest FNG to join the patrol, followed nervously behind him. God he looked like a baby compared to the rest of us! None of us wanted to get to know him. What was the point? If he survived his first patrol, all well and good. If not…

The truth was that apart from the sergeant, we were all around the same age as our new LT. Apart from everything else like all war zones this place aged you prematurely. In all cases your thankful to make it back to base after each patrol.

Sarge followed the LT with me close behind weighed down with the extra belts for Greaser’s  30 cal, plus my combat shotgun and its extra ammo in twin bandoliers across my chest. My own reason for being there was my Prick 25, or to give it its official name – the AN/PRC25 backpack field radio and battery.

For a few short months, while the US military could guarantee to send out new junior officers, it was not easy to find radio operators. So the armed forces of the US’ allies were trawled for replacements. I was fine with normal radio communication, but hopeless when it came to reading incoming Morse code. Which is why I was volunteered. At the time I was a well-built Australasian eighteen year old fervent anti-communist. That was six months ago in another time and place. Now I was muscle, mixed with a little body fat, sinew and bone held together by skin, and fighting fit.

Joe Johnson alias ‘Mutt’ was following behind me watching our six. Our hackles were rising, something was not right. With the exception of our new LT we all sensed it. Ever since we entered the jungle after being dropped off by the Huey, the insects had stopped singing and the birds had ceased their chirping.

Gomez froze. We all automatically dived to either side of the trail and crouched, safety catches off, ready for what his eagle eyes had spotted. Sarge went forward as Gomez indicated the problem ahead, something that wasn’t here before – converging paths. The original path we were sent to patrol yet again, now merged with another consisting of recently trodden undergrowth. A decision had to be made on the spot. Clearly the new path was made by Charlie. Or worse, perhaps the NVA, even though there was no unequivocal intel to indicate their presence this far South, only unsubstantiated rumours.

Where did it go and for what purpose? Unlike his predecessors our new LT, used his common sense and asked the sergeant for his advice, in the process earning himself brownie points with all of us. And so we began probing the new path. We followed it for about two hours before the Sarge held up a clenched fist, the universal signal to stop.

We all took the opportunity to drink and eat something from our K rations while Sarge and Gomez went forward to check out the lay of the land. Within twenty minutes we were once more on the move. We all stepped carefully around what Gomez and Sarge had marked out as potential traps.

Unfortunately for me, I trod on one they had both missed –  a waist deep hole full of punji sticks. To say the pain was indescribable before I passed out would be an understatement despite the morphine Mutt had pumped into both of my legs.

My right leg was opened up from knee to groin by one stick, while a second had gone through the same leg behind my kneecap, with a third firmly lodged in my rectum. As for my left leg it was sitting beside my at a forty-five degree upward angle, meaning my left hip had been dislocated. While the woven mat of vegetation and sticks covering the pit had not given way from anyone else standing on it, because I was carrying the combined weight of man, radio, its battery, plus extra 30 cal ammunition was all that it needed.

The next thing I remember was waking up in hospital. Once any and all infection had been cleared up and I was fit to be moved, I was invalided back home.

To this day fifty years later, every time I climb out of bed in the morning and put on my jeans, or take a shower, those damned ugly scars are a constant reminder of the few months I spent there, along with my permanent limp…

😦

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The post that started me blogging back in the day

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Have We Had Help?

 You have to begin to wonder just how much fact there is among the vast amount of disinformation, fantasy, and accounts of sightings of alien life forms in this day and age. Thanks to the paranoia mainly created by the hidden agendas of various governmental groups in countries like the United States, Great Britain, France, and Germany, as well as the former ‘Iron Curtain’ countries, it becomes increasingly more difficult to sift out the truth.

Have you ever stopped to think how quickly we have advanced since the turn of the twentieth century? It wasn’t all that long ago, we were reliant on the horse and cart, candles, and sailing ships; the list is endless. Since the end of the Second World War, we have experienced a technological leap beyond the normal rate of progress for mankind.

Over the past 25,000 years, man has slowly but surely advanced towards a state of civilisation and self-worth in keeping with man’s ability to learn by trial and error, enabling us to find out what works best in any given situation. And yet since the late nineteen forties, we have advanced beyond belief in all areas of technology. We now have the ability to leave this beautiful planet of ours, to extend our natural lifespan via various means, and to create weapons of mass destruction. Are you willing to accept this accelerated advancement without questioning just how it is we have achieved so much?

The most implausible explanation can be made plausible if it is uttered from the mouth of someone in authority. I simply do not, and will not, believe that we have made such rapid advances on our own. For this to happen, someone must have given us a hand in all this, but at what price for mankind. Since nineteen forty-seven, people around the world have reported various phenomena, alien to our way of life. The various branches of the news media have tended to trivialise most of the reports by categorising them as ‘flying saucers’ or ‘little green men’ ably encouraged by governmental agencies who frankly scare the hell out of me! While a lot of phenomena witnessed by people from all walks of life, all racial groups, all political persuasions, and all religious beliefs, can be satisfactorily explained away, there are a growing number that cannot!

As we move away from beginning of the new millennium, just how many of the prophecies in books like the ‘Old Testament’ for example are going to be fulfilled. While it must be remembered that the people who originally wrote the basic text of religious books like the Old Testament were by today’s standards considered primitive, and had a far less sophisticated use of words, they never the less give us a rudimentary history of their times. If they are to be believed, then they/we have never been alone, they were helped by people not from this planet. Are we now experiencing the same kind of assistance, are we being advanced? If so to what end and why?

Throughout the history of mankind, we have had our failures and successes. We have learned, and at times unlearned, as in the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ which were anything but dark. We have seemingly done this on our own, at our own pace. But now we seem to be aboard a runaway train, from which we cannot get off. Why are we experiencing such rapid advancement in technology, medicine, and at what cost?

Why is it that mankind seemingly advanced from Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon in a relatively short space of time? To transform from an almost apelike creature to a life form, which could pass you in the street without drawing attention, seems remarkable to say the least! And yet it happened. Why, if the historians are correct, were there relatively advanced groups of humans in control in days gone by, like the ancient Egyptians who bear no physical or racial resemblance to the people they ruled over? Where did they spring from? Where do they fit in? Why do ancient peoples like the Maya speak of pale blond gods who set the pattern for their lives for centuries before the first white men arrived on the South American continent?

Why does a man miraculously arrive on the scene in ancient Judea via ‘virgin birth’, perform miracles, change man’s way of thinking, get crucified, get buried then completely disappear? Why does that same man according to legend then appear a few months later in northern Japan and supposedly live to a ripe old age in anonymity?

If we are being helped once more by non-humans, then it is incumbent on the governments of the more powerful nations to come clean. If however, as many believe, we are paying a price in human lives for technological advances beyond our present capabilities to fully appreciate, let alone invent for ourselves, then the price is far too high! Whether you believe, as I do, that we are not the only sentient form of life in the universe or not, the fact is that some outside influence is at work, and has been for the better part of sixty years or more! We are kidding ourselves if we believe otherwise.

If, as a growing number of people believe, and I number myself in this group, we are being ‘helped’, what are the government agencies afraid of? Why don’t they admit to non-terrestrial beings living and working alongside us? If they have a hidden agenda for mankind as some sort of subservient species designed to be a slave group, or worse, as a food source, then we must be told the truth! If there is nothing to hide, then where’s the harm in admitting the existence of the various groups of non-terrestrials? If they are benevolent or not then please say so and don’t keep us in the dark anymore!

Being kept in the dark is far worse than knowing the truth. At least if we know the truth then we can prepare ourselves one way or another for what is to come. By not telling the people of this beautiful planet what is going on, the governmental agencies are preparing the way for mass hysteria if the non-terrestrials are going to do anything harmful. After all, we receive warnings for things like volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, and tidal waves that enable us to take steps to protect ourselves.

If, however the non-terrestrials are so advanced that there is nothing we can do to protect ourselves against whatever they may have in store for us then we must be told now!

On the other hand if there are no non-terrestrials, as the governmental agencies would have us believe, and the secrecy surrounding the brilliant leap in technology in the last sixty odd years is solely down to mankind, I say show us incontrovertible proof! Throw open the doors of places like ‘Area 51” to groups of responsible human beings from various nations around the world who can once and for all put an end to all the speculation and rumour surrounding such places. If it’s good enough to send teams of people to inspect various situations around the world like Iraq’s so-called armament factories, or the former Yugoslavian countries various hell-holes, then its good enough for agencies like the United Nations to send similar groups to places like ‘Area 51’, and the so-called underground bases like ‘Dulce’. We’re not asking the various military groups to publicly expose their military hardware. All we want to know is whether or not it’s all our own work!

If it’s not then why not say so! Bring the non-terrestrials out in the open for the entire world to see. Let them address the world via the UN; let them tell us their intentions towards mankind once and for all! If it’s their intention to somehow or other assimilate us then we have the right to know! If however they are here merely to help us advance from a warlike race to a peaceful one, then let them say so!

By neither confirming or denying what is going on, the governmental agencies are reinforcing the commonly held belief by people not only in the US, but around the world, that they have a hidden agenda regarding aliens. Are we approaching Armageddon as prophesied in the Old Testament, or are we experiencing an unprecedented time of accelerated technological advancement?

The questions raised in this article can only be answered if we all demand to know the truth once and for all. The time has come when we can no longer remain complacent! Whether you believe in the existence of alien life forms or not, there is enough happening around the world as we enter the  new millennium, for even the most sceptical among us to begin to wonder what is really going on.

 

Definitely a wood for the trees moment?

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This post follows on from the other day – https://havewehadhelp.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/a-message-to-the-slackers/ where one of the commenters (Ken Thackerey) questioned my thoughts on reviews being the author’s only real means of knowing how many people actually read a free copy of a book. He got me thinking further on the subject.

***

Why do some books become best sellers? Is it the fact that the author promoted their book, hoping for sales, by initially giving it away once it was published? Perhaps it’s because the author publicised it on every book and social media site, not to mention their blog? Could it be because the author let it sit for a while in preorder mode, prior to publication? Maybe its the cover? Maybe its the fact that it was edited by a professional, or that a lot of money was spent having it promoted? Each one of them is standard practice, and yes they all help. But only up to a point. Might it have anything to do with genre? Not necessarily.

Then the penny finally dropped. It’s none of them or any combination you care to come up with. I’ll tell you why some books succeed while the rest don’t. It’s only taken me twenty years to finally figure it out. Call it a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees if you like. It’s blindingly obvious once you see it. The answer was staring me in the face all the time from the books in my library. It’s in yours too.

In this day and age, no matter the genre, or how much time and effort you put into bringing that story to life to make it stand out from the crowd, what any book needs is reviews. It doesn’t matter how good the story might be. Nor does it matter how eye-catching the cover is, or how much money was spent on having it promoted. To become popular, and therefore by osmosis, to be considered a best seller, if it doesn’t have glowing reviews prior to publishing, quite simply you are wasting your time. I’m not talking about those written by the general public after a book is published. Instead I’m talking about presale reviews.

Look at the cover of any book coming out of any traditional publishing house. Whether the author is a known quantity or a newcomer, all trad publishers ensure that each book they put out receives a smattering of excellent reviews prior to publishing, one or two on the front cover. Others inside after the title page, and maybe one on the back cover along with the author’s bio. It’s simplicity itself when you think about it.

What about Indies? Does this apply to them as well? Emphatically yes. I known what I’ll be doing with my next novella or novel before I publish it. Oh, and no more free samples…

😉

For Goodness Sake Make Time!

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I forget how many times I have told people, especially new writers, to pace themselves. I was having a conversation on Facebook with one of my female writer friends yesterday. She has bought copies of five of my eBooks, which I am eternally grateful to her for. Three of them are short novellas, averaging 168 pages. I don’t know about you but I can read a novella in an afternoon, or a morning. For instance, if I start reading at twelve noon, I will have finished it by seven in the evening, barring interruptions and calls of nature. When I read a full length novel (150 – 200,000 words) it takes me the best part of three twelve hour days.

As writers, if we are going to do justice to our own writing, there is nothing more stimulating than spending hours reading other people’s books. From them we glean those ideas that hadn’t necessarily occured to us. With every book I write comes endless reading beforehand. Its called research. The writer in question makes me laugh. She claims that she has no time to read. When I told her about my reading a novella in seven hours, she assumed that what I’m doing is speed reading. Sorry to disagree with you my dear friend but it isn’t. It’s just a normal reading pace. She seriously needs to make time to read. In other words, she needs to pace herself.

I’ve seen photographs of her with a library of books in the background. I’m assuming that given her profession, the library is her own. Maybe not. If, as she claims, she has no time to read, why does she have access to one, if not to read the books? in my case my own library is divided up into actual physical books in my five shelf bookcase, as well as eBooks and PDF files on this laptop. I’ve read every single one of them at least five times. Some like Graham Hancock’s epic work Fingerprints of the Gods, several dozen times. In that case it will usually take me a week, simply because its seven hundred and nineteen pages are jam packed with information…

Currently I have one hundred and thirty three eBooks and one hundred and twenty physical books. I also have one hundred and forty-two PDF files which I constantly refer to when I’m in research mode, as I am at present.

How many books do you have? Have you read them all?

A lot of people buy books, millions of us in fact. But how many can truthfully say that they have read every book in their possession? Some people like to kid themselves that by having a large physical library in their home, it will impress their visitors, by creating the illusion that they are well read, and therefore intelligent. If you want to impress your visitors, to begin with read the damned books, all of them. That way when your visitors ask you about a certain book you won’t be caught out in a lie.

Books are not for decoration, even though the multicolours of the jackets creat a splash of colour.  Every one of them contains the end product of a writer’s accumulated knowledge and hard work. They are meant to be read, not just looked at.

PS – I will admit that since I became a fulltime writer, I no longer read for pleasure. Plus, these days when I read a book, any book, the editor in me is constantly on the lookout for poor grammer, spelling and punctuation.

That is the one major drawback; the end of spending hours reading for pleasure…  😉

The US Review of Books – Professional Reviews for the People

 

A cracking review of Fiza’s book Classics: Why We Should Encourage Children to Read Them

 

The US Review of Books – Professional Reviews for the People.