It seems like it’s been forever, I’ll tell you that much. I wrote The Marsburg Diary, or at least I started writing it, over a year ago. It started off as a Stoker-esque historical horror piece, but through the constructive criticism of my friends, it became far more. Harvey Marsburg was born. He took on the traits of a couple of people I’ve met in my travels, at least in regard to the amount of Dr. Pepper he consumes (one of my LAV school instructors practically survived on the stuff; a 2-liter of it was always with him like it was part of his uniform of the day). I think ol’ Harv is what makes the series great. He’s like a fifty year old male version of Airel: a little eccentric and proud of it, with the occasional amusing bits of inner dialogue.
But Harvey’s also a little bit of my own personal fantasy doppelganger, too. He’s British, and I’m borderline obsessed with British culture. I’ve been digging for tasty bits of slang to use, and I fairly splattered the second installment in the Airel Saga Diary Books with a liberal amount of it.
Some of the criticism I got about The Marsburg Diary was that it was pretty meaty. You know, all that Victorian English stuff (which I love, and tried to make as authentic as possible). So to wit, the second book has lots more of Harvey. I had to integrate new characters and new diary lines, so the flashback diary bits are more of a seasoning than the main course. You’ll see a little bit more of William Marsburg’s personal thoughts, but the main event is Herr Wagner’s diary entries, which feature a little more of the infamous Mr. Rotheram. And I promise, in this book we finally get to the bottom of that haunting line, “I have always hated Falkenhayn.” Taking my cues from Goethe’s Faust, I really quite enjoyed writing the quintessentially evil Falkenhayn, and hope you enjoy reading him.
Want an excerpt? I knew you did:
Deep in the wood, somewhere in Illinois~
I probably needed a change of underwear.
Have you ever woken up to the sunrise after sleeping on a forest floor? Let me put it to you this way: it’s not like an advert for yoghurt and granola on telly, where the sun is gentle and there are woodland fairies to caress one’s cheeks. It’s bleeding awful. I felt like bugs were crawling all over me, I itched profusely, and I had managed to injure my neck and head with what I had decided to use for a pillow the night previous— a rounded stone. I was as stiff as grandmother’s knickers (whom I never met, God rest her soul).
It’s funny about getting older— when I was young, I was superman. Getting hurt was a rare thing that usually required me to do something really stupid. But now that I’m nearing fifty, all I have to do is wake up. I will try to rise to a sitting position and I’ll have sustained an injury.
Cautiously, then, I raised myself from the dirt. Gradually. Sloooowly. Never mind being nearly fifty. I felt dead.
“What happened?” I asked no one. I was half expecting an answer though, and looked around to confirm my solitude. I was greeted by none but the lone piercing sun in the east. I raised a hand to my brow to shield my eyes, the back of my hand brushing against a twig that had stuck itself to my forehead in the night— which scared me. After dancing around in fear for a moment, though, I finally calmed myself enough to gather my things, tend to the morning necessities, and begin walking.
What else could I do?
My car was dead. I had shot it.
And though my bestial enemy was dead too, or at least I assumed so, I also assumed there were no others like him chasing me round the wilderness. If there were, I reasoned, I wouldn’t have awakened at all. At any rate, I was an expatriate Englishman stuck within one of the islanded wilds of rural Midwestern America, stranded without a car, carrying only my backpack. My life had been whittled to that and its random plebian contents, with an especial consideration for those three books inside.
I checked my Ruger revolver. Empty still, of course. Anything else would have been uninteresting, after all. I shoved it back into my waistband at the small of my back.
I trudged on.
It wasn’t long before the wood began to thin out and brighten up. Trees gave way to scrub and brambles, which I tried to skirt around as best I could, moving toward some kind of exit. Nature doesn’t clearly mark these things.
Offhand I wondered what in the world I was going to do now. I was out in the middle of Illinois, somewhere south of Champaign, about an hour’s drive. That put me at least a hundred miles from my home in Chatham. The last road sign I remembered seeing was one for Tuscola, another anonymous American village utterly surrounded by corn. I knew at least that my wanderings had taken me off the beaten track and that I was far from help, far from home. Being on foot just made it worse.
I finally found a clear path to the edge of the wood, which was itself clearly defined: a gently curving razor’s edge, to one side of which there was unruly nature— brush and forest— and on the other side tall corn in perfect rows, towering at least two feet over my head, tassels waving in the early morning breeze.
That was the first time I felt what I call “the slip.” Like something just wasn’t quite right.
Some part of my brain was asking urgently why there should be a corn field ready for harvest in the middle of May. It was like gazing at an Escher; something was definitely not lining up here…
The Wagner Diary is now available for Kindle. Nook users have to wait until tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next day.