My guest this week is an author with enough real-life adventures to keep him inspired for years. Please welcome Richard Marman to the Showcase.
I reckon I’ve led an interesting life, which is a great help if you want to be a writer because you’ve got exciting experiences for inspiration.
I was a military kid before moving to Australia. I went to six primary and three high schools, which I’d didn’t mind although I don’t think it’d suit everyone. I served for nine years in the RAAF, including a tour of duty in South Vietnam followed by over thirty years in civil aviation. I’ve survived a burning chopper wreck and a horror smash on the M25 — both due to the recklessness and incompetence of others — maybe I’ve still seven lives left.
I started writing seriously when I left aviation in 2007 to attend the University of the Sunshine Coast in Southern Queensland, graduating with majors in creative writing, graphic design and visual arts all of which I apply to my creative endeavours.
My first four works: The Wealth, McAlister’s Trail, McAlister’s Way and A Tale of two Turtles evolved from university assignments.
The McAlister Line is my showpiece series It started as a stand-alone novel, but as JRR Tolkien said, the story grew in the telling to a four book series, a sequel and three prequels with another in the pipeline.
I write what I like to read, so it’s got to be fast paced with loads of stuff happening. I’m not a plodder when it comes to reading. Initially I targeted a YA market, but although the protagonists are teenagers heading into adulthood, I found my historical novels set in the 1950s are more popular with baby-boomers who remember being kids back then.
Here are a few pleasing reviews:
‘Masterfully handled and quite eloquent — Wonderful.’
‘I like this book it covers issues that need to be addressed.’
2012 Australian CYA writers’ awards judges
‘With pirates and secrets set amongst the northern tropics, you’re in for a delightful read. It has a really good sense of place and from the voice to the detail. It’s a fast moving action story that will leave you wanting more’
Lauren Jones, Sunshine Coast hinterland
McAlister and the Great War
‘A very good and well researched read. I enjoyed it very much.’
Squadron Leader Mark ‘Cowboy’ Willcocks, RAAF ret. Chief Pilot and CEO Fubilan Air Transport PNG
Rollicking good tale funny as…..
Kevin Colbran, author
‘A decent read and a fun romp across the Southwest.’
Sandy Whiting for Western Writers of America Roundup Magazine
While I love illustrating my own stories, I’ve illustrated a number of works for other authors and enjoyed the experience of bring their tales to visual life. My art style is eclectic. I’ll have a go at any medium.
I’ve been a nomad all my life and still enjoy nothing better than travelling — in comfort. I’ve never been a back-packer. I believe the success to a happy life is travel extensively, don’t take yourself too seriously and avoid political-correctness wherever possible.
Although I write predominantly historical fiction I have ventured into the wonderful world of fantasy with two titles: The Wealth and Dragon Stalkers as well as illustrating Hannah Meets a Dragon for Rita Hayward. I know there are a squillion fantasy and sci-fi fans out there, so here are a couple of short Frogofferings just for you.
He had warned her about the book, and now of course the consequences were dire and he was left to fix things. She had been a pretty girl, with fetching dimples much admired by young men, but that had all changed.
I wonder what young men will think of her now, he mused.
He sat at the kitchen table with the book open beside him while a small, brilliant green frog hopped over the pages.
This will be tricky, his brain kicked into overdrive. I know it works with handsome princes, but pretty girls normally have to be asleep for a while. Anyway where will I find a prince at this time of night, I’ll have to go to Denmark or England. Harry’s out of the pictures now, while George is far too young. Mind you, nothing’s specifically mentioned about age.
He picked up the frog, which chirped a particularly pathetic ‘ribbitt’ and snuggled into his hand eyeing him rather sheepishly.
‘It’s nouse you looking like that,’ he addressed the frog firmly, but not unkindly. ‘It’s too late to buy a plane ticket, which means I’ll have to borrow your Aunt Edith’s broomstick, and you know how I dislike using it. You should have thought of that before. So, now you’ll just have to wait here until I can sort this out.’
Thus the sorcerer departed mumbling something about only taking her on as an apprentice because she was his niece, especially after having similar trouble with Mickey Mouse all those years ago.
The frog hopped onto the book entitled, Advanced Magical Spells. Remorsefully she eyed the disclaimer beneath the title stating:
‘Beware of side effects — spells recommended for experienced witches and necromancers only.’
A Frog Went A-Courtin’
‘My, my, aren’t you just the sweetest little frog,’ the handsome prince gushed. ‘Swam right into my hand, you really are friendly.’
Yes, of course I’m friendly. I was a beautiful princess once, until an evil witch turned me into a frog. Now just one kiss, my darling, and I’ll be back to my old (young actually) self in a jiffy — voluptuous and nubile beyond your wildest dreams.
‘What gorgeous, green eyes you have,’ the prince crooned dreamily. ‘I was betrothed to a green-eyed princess, you know? But she disappeared. I must admit I’ve never met her and they say she’s a bit pushy and headstrong, spoilt and proud. But I’m an understanding fellow, I’m sure we can work it out.’
Oh, you dear, sweet boy. Yes, of course we can. Now plant one on me, come on, just a little peck and I’m all yours — the hour-glass figure, the ebony hair, soft milk-white skin, the emerald eyes and ruby lips — all yours! Just kiss me, you numbskull, please. PULEEEASE!
This simply sounded like a high-pitched ‘ribbitt’ to the prince.
‘He can’t understand you, of course,’ a passing dragonfly announced haughtily. ‘They’ve lost the knack. It’s progress, you see. There was a time when humans could chat away quite happily with animals, but that’s all gone now. Too busy worrying about the future and goodness knows what to be bothered with us lesser beings. Look at that arquebus strapped to his saddle. He hasn’t even the decency to hunt with a crossbow anymore.’
The frog eyed the dragonfly.
‘Look what evolution has done to me,’ the insect continued. ‘We used to be dragons!’ He was in full swing now. ‘And just because we liked to carry off a virgin occasionally, princes like Mr Fancy-Pants there came along, slaughtering us in droves. Now we’re reduced to tiny creatures just to survive unnoticed.’
‘What precisely did you have in mind for the virgins?’ the frog challenged, temporarily distracted from the matter at hand.
‘Well, what use are virgins anyway?’ the dragonfly said dismissively.
‘Princesses are always maidens until they marry their princes,’ the frog replied primly. ‘It wouldn’t do to behave like tavern hussies.’
‘You didn’t sound so chaste a moment ago,’ the dragonfly observed, rather harshly in view of the frog’s situation.
‘You look so adorable, I’d like to take you back to the palace and keep you as a pet,’ the prince purred.
‘Oh, please do,’ the frog croaked, hoping for another chance to be kissed.
‘No, it wouldn’t be fair to take you away from all your friends here,’ the prince conceded. After replacing the frog in the water, he mounted his charger and galloped away.
The charger, like other chargers, wasn’t particularly bright, but he’d followed most of the conversation and was secretly relieved, because had the princess been restored her former glory, he would’ve had to carry her and the prince to the castle, which was half a day’s ride.
‘What friends?’ the frog wailed in despair. ‘It’s a jungle out here. There’s a hawk I have to dodge every day, not to mention that beastly pike lurking at the bottom of this pond!’
‘I’m truly sorry it didn’t work out for you,’ the dragonfly said compassionately.
‘And so you should be,’ the frog sighed.
Her tongue shot out and snared the hapless dragonfly, gulping him down in less than a heartbeat.
‘I would have preferred a nice cup of tea and some jam tarts at the palace,’ she reflected with a discreet, lady-like burp. ‘But as that’s not available, you’ll just have to do, Master Dragonfly!’
For those who enjoy historical fiction McAlister’s Way will be available for a short time by subscribing to my website www.richardmarman.com don’t worry I won’t bombard you with emails, although I plan some special offers in the near future.
I was an adequate guitarist, but arthritis forced me to sell my beloved Fenders. I took up ukulele playing instead and wrote an instruction manual which players find easy to follow and is selling quite well. Click the link below to hear a song I wrote which won second prize at the 2015 Sunshine Coast ukulele Festival.
And finally, an excerpt from McAlister’s Siege — Angela and Danny are trapped at Dien Bien Phu
It was nightfall before the last patient passed through triage. Angela, who’d been on duty since dawn, had also worked through half the previous night. It was only when Major Grauwin ordered her to bed that she finally grabbed a few hours rest. But first she needed some fresh air. The medical staff quarters were right next to the casualty wards and Angela just wanted a few minutes away from the horror and misery of suffering men.
As she stood by the barbwire overlooking the aircraft pens lightning flashes blended with artillery explosions. The rumble of shell blasts mingled with thunder to a point where Angela couldn’t tell the difference.
Oh Danny, I should have listened to you. How I’d love to be arguing the toss with you somewhere — anywhere but here in this hell. But how can I leave these stricken men now. Some aren’t any older than us, Danny.
‘Pardon, mademoiselle,’ a voice spoke quietly. Angela spun around with a start. A friendly faced man stood beside her. He’d approached so quietly, she was completely unaware of his presence until he spoke.
‘Forgive me,’ he said. ‘I didn’t mean to frighten you, but do you think it wise to stand out here? Look at our smart fellows. They keep their heads down and stay in the trenches or under cover.’
The man beside her was about forty years old. Although there was nothing particularly remarkable about him, even in the night’s dimness it was impossible not to notice his left arm was missing. Angela had never met the man before, but she recognised him as Colonel Charles Piroth, GONO’s artillery commander. He’d lost his arm when his unit was caught in a Viet Minh ambush near Saigon back in 1946.
Pulling a pack from his uniform jacket pocket, he single-handedly fumbled for a cigarette. He offered one to Angela and, although she didn’t smoke, she accepted it anyway. She took his lighter and lit both cigarettes, gagging when she drew her first lungful of smoke. After that she just held the cigarette. Smoking was supposed to be sophisticated and adult, but she didn’t think she’d make a habit of it. Mind you she’d said that about alcohol, but now enjoyed a glass of wine from time to time. She recalled that Danny, for all his vices, hadn’t succumbed to tobacco’s addiction either.
‘Do you mind if I stay here with you a while, mademoiselle?’ Colonel Piroth said in a rather resigned, dispirited tone.
‘It will be my pleasure, colonel,’ she replied sincerely. He appeared to be such a pleasant man although his face looked wracked with pain and self-doubt.
They stood in silence for a few minutes while Colonel Piroth dragged on his cigarette.
‘I couldn’t help them, you know. I’m sorry,’ Piroth said softly, almost in a whisper as if talking to himself.
‘Help who, colonel?’
‘Our men at Beatrice and Gabrielle. There were just so many targets and I had so few guns. I tried to meet all the demands, but my crews were overwhelmed. If only I had more howitzers and gunners to man them. I should have demanded more heavy guns when I had the chance. We were just spread too thin.’
That was true. General Tan had ordered many smaller Bo Doi diversionary attacks before concentrating on Beatrice and Gabrielle in turn. The wily Viet Minh general knew other GONO strong-point commanders would demand artillery support to the detriment of Beatrice and Gabrielle’s defences.
‘I’m sure you did all you could, colonel. No one could have done more.’
‘Thank you,’ he said even more vaguely. His mind seemed to be drifting. ‘If you don’t mind me saying, you are a very beautiful woman, mademoiselle.’
‘Not at all, colonel,’ Angela replied with a smile. ‘No girl should mind if a gentleman calls her beautiful.’
‘I remember the beautiful girls of Paris and Saigon walking or cycling past the cafes. Is it wrong to admire beautiful girls, mademoiselle? Is it sinful?’
‘Not if you mean them no harm.’
‘Oh no, it made me happy that God created such lovely creatures and I was privileged to witness their beauty. I shall miss that.’
‘I can see nothing wrong in appreciating beauty. I think we all do that. I’m sure those girls would be charmed to know you admired them so. You are a Frenchman after all. I think it is expected of you. I’m sure you’ll be back in Saigon enjoying the ladies before long,’ Angela said with a smile.
‘Thank you, mademoiselle, but I don’t think that will be the case,’ Piroth said as he finished his cigarette and stubbed the butt into the muddy ground. ‘It has been my great pleasure to speak with you.’
‘Come and chat any time, colonel. It’s nice to talk to someone who isn’t wounded,’ she said then realised that Colonel Piroth had endured life with only one arm for eight years.
‘I’m sorry,’ she stammered, ‘that was thoughtless of me.’
‘Not at all, ma chère,’ Piroth said softly. ‘Au revoir.’
As he walked away Angela was left with an unsettling impression that he was so forlorn and guilt-ridden, his heart was in the depths of despair and there was nothing she could do to cheer him up.
Angela’s assessment was correct. Colonel Piroth walked slowly to his command bunker and retired to his quarters. Sitting on his cot, he drew a grenade from his pocket and pulled the pin with his teeth as he held the weapon to his chest. Four seconds later his chest was blown to mush.
My thanks to this weeks guest for a great post. I hope you all enjoyed it.
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Have a good week,