Evolution of an Idea

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ould you read this if you saw this on the back cover of a book? Brandon Wosk’s Radio Research Unit was strategically positioned by Vietnam’s Dak Bla River in support of US forces during the 1968 Battle of Kontum. The unit was ambushed two weeks into the battle. Wosk awoke on February 26, 2013, with 45 years of memory missing. He had lived all those years as Adam Skaw with a wife who had met him when he first awoke after the ambush without his first 25 years of memory. Unknown to Wosk, the real Skaw had lived the same 45 years with Wosk’s name. Their other connection was unknown to either of them.

In 2014, I thought it was a good question when I finished the first version of my just self-published Echoes of Nam.


That first concept had a working title ‘Lost Tags.’ Subsequently I worked with a concept title ‘Delusions’ which evolved to ‘Paradox: Vietnam Consequence.’ A serious pre-reader suggested that ‘Vietnam Consequence’ be dropped; the evolved story (at the time) really is not about Vietnam.” But in my mind it was!

Two readers felt that the two names I used for the primary characters (Wosk and Skaw) were difficult. My point at the time was that they were obscure names which did not appear in the Portland area. As an ersatz editorial team some family members and I brainstormed other names. We settled on Grame and Brax; neither of these appeared in local directories. Choosing Grame for Wosk caused me to change the name of a minor but impacting character from Graham to Haxten.

Three of my readers felt that none of my previous titles really fit the story. After some reflection, I agreed. More brainstorming! I discovered that I had already written the title I would choose (but not keep): “The captain did examination routines and the orderly recorded his comments. He asked again, “What did you say your name is?”
“They called me Grame. That must be it. I seriously do not know.”

Definitions of the word grame fit the circumstance of the wounded man and the story line
– 1. anger; wrath; scorn 2. sorrow, grief, harm, misery.

Before long, I started to focus on my character having those personality characteristics and lost my original focus. So, I came up with several other names in an attempt to re-focus on my original intent.


Thanks for the comments to my pre-readers of the 30,000-word version:
Ron: I can’t put it down…will finish “Recovery” last 10 pages and go to sleep. This is so plausible and readable and will appeal to a much broader audience than old spooks. (Ron is one of my brothers.)
Nancy: The characters seem real. My favorite is Annemarie. As far as I’ve read so far, there is a Christian thread but it is not preachy.
Sheri: I finished your book today. Wow. Powerful. Those are two of the words that come to mind. You have woven a fascinating story with a wonderful twist.
Debbie: The first chapter got me hooked. Stan is reading it a second time.
Stan: I was captured by the story so much the first time that I thought it was a true account, even though the preface stated that it was fictional.


Time to present the work to publishers? I certainly thought so. I should have saved the e-comments to provide exact quotes, so not having the documents, I’m paraphrasing. ‘Interesting twist on retrograde amnesia,’ one said. Another said, ‘Sounds like an intriguing story, but not our genre, nevertheless I’d like to read it when it’s complete.’ (I really wish I’d saved this e-address.) I took the advice of one and increased the word count but lost my original intent again. Most publishers did not reply.

Bits and pieces of the retitled work were read by members of my writer’s group and I got good feedback. But I was still frustrated with the story and a voice to use for telling it. I put it aside and worked on other projects.


I was asked about my writing by a man at church. During our conversation, he mentioned someone who’d written a book about Vietnam. I read Alternate Route that veteran’s personal story of his life before, during, and after Vietnam. The need to tell the story I had all but given up was rekindled. I changed the name to Echoes of Nam, found a voice and completed the work in a month.

I didn’t want to go through the long wait for the publisher process and self-published it in January 2019.

The first reader after its publication said, “I just finished Echoes of Nam – found it to be enticing, i.e. couldn’t put my Kindle down. Although touted as fiction, I sense that there were interviews of a few ‘Nam vets who had stories to tell but lacked the wherewithal to formulate a book with several stories tied together. The weaving of various security agencies activities through the book evokes the imagination of readers who have no idea as to what goes on behind closed doors, much less the Faraday cages. I’ve known just a few people who served in ‘Nam – am sure that many of them could fully understand the loss of memory. Quite glad that I was too young for Korea and too old for ‘Nam service. Hey bro’ very good job with this book. LA Benson.”
(Yes, LAB is my brother.)


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ould you read the book when you see this on the back cover?
Reading the 2017 obituary of Brandon Wosk gives Hacker Lee Goor echoes of Vietnam. Later, after a routine mental health checkup, he briefly meets Adam Brax and his wife Annie whom he’d seen at the VFW memorial.

Wosk and Goor shared an ambush at Dak Bla Bridge 4 days after the start of TET-1968. They met again when both were homeless on the streets of Portland, OR.

Goor said, “The many times we talked and shared mind and memory altering street product, I probed and gave details, but he couldn’t remember me, the flight to Nam, the ambush at Dak Bla Bridge, the guys with us, or what he’d told me about his life before Nam.”

Goor seeks answers about why the Braxes were at the memorial. After discovery, he proposes the story to an editor with whom he’d worked. Ironically, that editor had a previous connection with navy nurse Annemarie (Sanders) Brax. Thus, Goor was able to put an ironic element into Echoes of Nam.

The two men (Wosk and Brax) were raised differently but were significantly changed by similar experiences and one common event in Vietnam. One of their shared consequential experiences wouldn’t be known to the other until one was dead.


 

And Goor concluded, “… but I still have echoes of Nam.”

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