combat

The Desert and Acheron by Bryon Morrigan

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The Desert and Acheron are novels by Bryon Morrigan. Both are set in Iraq and feature soldiers from the United States Army in combat against other-dimensional creatures shrouded in a strange green fog.

The Desert, originally published in 2007 by Dark Hart Press and re-issued in 2011 by Permuted Press, strands an intelligence specialist and his commander in an abandoned village, where the soldiers discover a diary written by the (apparent) last surviving member of an expeditionary platoon that disappeared six years prior. The men quickly find themselves in a situation similar to that described in the diary: under attack by inhuman monsters existing in their dimension and ours simultaneously, surrounded by a green mist that allows  the soldiers to see the monsters and, more importantly, the monsters to see and attack the soldiers. The first half of the book is primarily concerned with the text of the found diary and bringing the current-day characters up to the point where the diary ends, while the second introduces a third main character and culminates in a dramatic escape attempt.

 

Acheron, published for the first time in 2011 by Permuted, pits an Army captain against the same sort of creatures seen in The Desert, though with different names given them by different characters. Whereas the captain in the first novel is a coward and an idiot, Acheron‘s protagonist is an officer more deserving of the reader’s respect, though Nate Leathers is certainly capable of making his share of mistakes with disastrous consequences. Where the first book is pretty much Three Dudes vs Some Monsters, the second includes a cast of supporting characters, including some Bible-thumping mercenaries, a group of Iraqi civilians the surviving members of an archeological dig. Acheron is technically not a sequel to The Desert and both books are satisfying read out of order or by themselves, though events at the end of Acheron place it as occuring after The Desert.

Morrigan’s a former Army intelligence soldier, so both books are devoid of even slight inaccuracies that can annoy readers who know better. Though both books deal with the same subject matter (monsters, mist, Iraq), there are enough differences to make both books enjoyable even when read back to back. While after digesting most of the second book, I figured I’d certainly read more Morrigan, but that a third Iraq/monsters/mist book would be beating a dead horse, the end of Acheron ends in such a way that a third book in the series seems both inevitable and anticipated.

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The Writing Warfighter

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I work hard to keep a wall between the different aspects of my life. I don’t want my family to be plastered all over my website and public profiles to such an extent that my wife is accosted by nutjobs at conventions if all my hard work pays off in notoriety. The clients of my family’s side business may not enjoy zombies, serial killers and such. Military operational concerns (and the plain ol’ desire to not want to deal with it when I’m home) necessitate minimal revelations to the public about my career in the Army. That last one, though, is sometimes that hardest one to keep separate.

My military life coincides with my writing life more than anything else. Most recently, this was brought to mind by Drew Williams’ recent guest piece on Brian Keene’s blog. Drew solicited personally inscribed signed books from a number of genre authors, then sent the box of 32 books oversea’s to a buddy’s troops in Afghanistan. You should read the whole blog entry, but for those with limited time, here are the names involved, because you should totally support them with your cash:

Kim Paffenroth, Cody Goodfellow, Harry Shannon, Nate Southard, Michael Laimo, Maurice Broaddus, Bob Freeman, John Skipp,  Steven Shrewsbury, Gene O’Neil, Scott Nicholson, Tom Piccirilli, Brian Knight, Mike Oliveri, Gord Rollo, Lee Thomas, J. F. Gonzalez, Mort Castle, Kelli Owen, Brian Keene, Mark Rainey, Nate Kenyon, Sephera Giron, M. Stephen Lukac, Bryan Smith, Elizabeth Massie, and Weston Ochse. (And a second thanks to Brian Keene for letting me borrow his blog and one to Brian Knight for finding a few extra “RARE”ities!)

Reading this got me to thinking about a similar experience, which I shared in the comments on Brian’s blog. I started my writing career while on a FOB in Afghanistan, and a few months after I began making friends in the horror community, Ms. Fran Friel, a lovely person and outstanding Stoker-Nominated author, conducted a similar drive to send books for me. I got a box of probably twenty or so books later that month. I read my first books by Gord Rollo and Stephen Mark Rainey that way, amongst others, and I’ll never forget that amazing display of generosity.

That was just the first of many overlaps. During my last deployment, to Qatar, I stumbled across a Permuted Press anthology, ROBOTS BEYOND, in a random pile of books in a barracks common area. Having reviewed a number of Permuted titles and being on friendly terms with several of their authors, I was tickled to find this. I ended up submitting a story to the editor’s next antho, as a matter of fact, and it was shortlisted (I’m still not sure when, if ever, that antho is coming out, but I can’t wait to read it). It was so nice to have a little taste of home that I didn’t have to chase down. I also have a few older Dorchester titles, procured from a lending library, that I still haven’t read.

During that same deployment, I made friends with an Airman while riding the post shuttle. He also was a writer, and had recently self-published a novel through Createspace. He only had a few weeks left on his deployment when we met, but we killed a decent amount of free time together. Not only did I advise him on a way to break his series down to make it more palatable to editors, I also recovered the entirety of the EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS he gave Booksurge in return for shitty editing, cover design and book production.

I wrote the bulk of the stories that would eventually become MAGICK & MISERY and DESPAIRS & DELIGHTS while deployed to Afghanistan. I wrote the entirety of WILD while deployed to Qatar.

I gave a powerpoint presentation on the small press to a group of soldiers in order to obtain my instructor credentials at the US Army Signal Center. I penned an essay on military service as a support system for creative efforts while in a leadership course. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that piece, and its work probably still isn’t finished.

I’ve met an astonishing number of genre stalwarts who formerly served or are still on duty, either in the regular army, the Guard or Reserves or as government employees. They include, in part, Brian Keene, Weston Ochse, Bryon Morrigan, R. Thomas Riley, Jeffrey Wilson and Tim Deal, among others. I know I’m forgetting several.

I’m grateful for the occasional intersections my military life makes with my writing life. It’s important to keep them separate for the most part, both because of national security and the preservation of my sanity, but I’ve also met some great people because of crossed paths. It’s even opened a few doors for me, because if American soldiers past and present comprise approximately 1% of the United States population, horror authors publishing while on active duty are an even smaller, and sometimes fascinating, segment. Most importantly, I’m grateful to have a respected and honored career with which to pay the bills and support my family while pursuing my dreams.

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