Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Write fifteen chapters? That's the easy bit!

Sorry, no time for blogging!
Ever since July 2012, when I began this blog, the column on the right has confidently talked about 'Letters from the Trenches' being finished by January 2014. However, the more observant readers may have noticed that this deadline has now come and gone!

Let me assure you that the book has been finished (bar a few loose ends) and allow me to explain why I haven't proudly announced the fact....I'm afraid I simply haven't had time.

I had no idea that completing this, my first book, would involve so many small but time-consuming tasks that have kept me working - with no time for blogging - like a hamster on a wheel. Take the Introduction, for example, something I had thought would be a pleasure to compose after writing fifteen chapters that demanded discipline, accuracy and a lot of research. But without soldiers' letters to talk about I was bereft of ideas and it took me far longer than I had expected to marshal my own thoughts for the book's opening.

Meanwhile, I've been sorting out my bibliography and assembling credits for all the letters and pictures I've used in the book, a task made doubly difficult by my decision to list alphabetically every man and woman whose letters or diaries I've mentioned, along with their relatives who are letting me use them. It's a way of saying thankyou, and also a small tribute to the people who lived through the war or gave their lives. But boy, does it take a lot of checking!

I've also had two longstanding gaps in my text which were waiting to be filled by letters held at the Imperial War Museum in London. Only last week did I finally manage to get up there and copy them out (yes, I'm sure I could have had them sent to me, but I wanted to see the real things for myself). Were they were worth the long journey from Bristol? Certainly. One describes the final moments of the famous German pilot Baron von Richthofen before he crashed to earth; the other is a poignant letter written to a British family by a German soldier who comforted their dying son on the battlefield.

Whilst in London I also met up with my editor from Pen and Sword Books to discuss images for the book - another wearying matter! I have so many lovely pictures - all kindly lent by those who also shared their relatives' letters - that it's been an awful job deciding which to use, and one that is still ongoing.

So you see, writing the book was the easy bit. Tying up the loose ends has been far harder and...oh dear...I haven't even thought about the index yet. But none of this need worry you. I shall keep blogging even after 'Letters from the Trenches' is published - so keep watching this space!

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