G-Sale

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everal weeks ago, a number of church friends and I started getting ready for our 6th (7th?) annual Samaritan’s Purse fund-raiser Garage Sale.

One of my self-assigned tasks was sorting donated books. Authorizing myself ‘first dibs’ on any sales, I found two by John Grisham books I’d wanted to read and one by an author I didn’t know – Roger Hobbs.

After reading Hobbs’ Ghostman I discovered he unlike Grisham would write only three more. He died in Portland of a drug overdose at the age of 28. Very sad!

One of the Grisham paperbacks I haven’t gotten to yet was originally priced $9.99 and had a discount sticker on the front of $5.49. The Next to the barcode was a Goodwill sticker and barcode for $1.99. All books in our fund-raising garage sale will be sold for 25 cents. The economy at work?

A thought came to me. How would I feel if I walked into a G-sale and found my Nescient Decoy, Echoes of Nam, or An Odyssey of Illusions for a quarter?

 

Thanks

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hanks for the encouragement from my writing group and to two of my brothers and a friend, veterans all, who commented on my book Echoes of Nam after it was published.


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.

LABenson


Even though a work of fiction, in ECHOES OF NAM, John Benson does a superb job in articulating the mental and physical pain, confusion and suffering that many survivors of war deal with daily. Even as a combat vet, this story has affected the way I look at homelessness among veterans. While the V.A. has come a long way in dealing with PTSD and other disorders facing our soldiers, sadly there are many who still “slip through the cracks.” For that reason alone, this could be a true story.

Ray LePoidevin


Thank you for sharing your latest work. Echoes of Nam has me thinking about the impact of Military/Government Service on individual and family life. What makes this compelling story fascinating is the very real confusing, frustrating, physical and mental strength required to navigate the VA system and civilian world experienced by Brax and Wosk. They were victims of multiple trauma without benefit of mental resources. Many Veterans, in spite of apparent mental capacity, revisit the source of their trauma daily and nightly without let up.

Ron Benson


A

nd, thanks to pre-readers who wrote constructive criticism in its early drafts, and said:


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.–N.O.


You have woven a fascinating story with a wonderful twist. I love those kind of stories. You have built the locations and characters rich and full so I can see them as I read. Your dialogue flows naturally, not forced. Thank you for sharing and letting me read, enjoy, and comment.–S.F.


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. I was surprised how strongly the narrative captivated me again. It also helps and is enjoyable to read a book that describes places and things that I am familiar with.–S.S

Break from Writing

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ometimes you may need a break from writing. But what goes on in a writer’s mind during a timeout? I can’t say anything about others, but for me, my mind seems incapable of rest. And it goes with out saying that there is more to writing a book than writing a book. (If it goes without saying, why did I say it?) Word count? Even if self-published, there are necessities – well, decisions for or against promotion, gifting, distribution, etc.

There were a few ‘not imposed by others’ deadlines to meet, so with those met, I’m challenged to take some time off. However (isn’t there always a however), there are three unfinished manuscripts in my digital and human memory. And what I’m doing here certainly isn’t an official break!
I’ve tried to stop my story developer by trying to eliminate the source of ants in our bathroom. They’re persistent in their effort to be there! The scouts and workers who ant-bate promoters say will take the borax component to the queen and neutralize her don’t seem to survive the trip home. Or perhaps a competing queen is sending out her team too.
A feature of our house has bugged us (no pun intended) for some time. Recently unused hammer, flat bar, and other tools were applied to a project of anticipation and discovery. Remodeling projects, no matter how small, nearly always deliver surprises! What mystery lies under your hearth? “The shadow knows.” At least there wasn’t a body. The project will certainly outlive my quest for ant elimination.
I had some unread books too. I wouldn’t have bought John Grisham’s The Summons or Roger Hobbs’ Ghostman, but they were included in donations to our Samaritan’s Purse fundraiser garage sale. Hobbs may have had a writing career as long as Grisham’s, but the award-winning young writer overdosed in 2016. Reading those books took two days not including lunch or other activity breaks.
I found out something one should not do. After my Echoes of Nam: Absence from way is not the same as peace of the soul, was published, I noted in the GoodReads review window, “It’s difficult to review my own work.” After a pair of positive reviews, I decided to delete my own. Wrong move! An author’s deleting one review on GoodReads deletes all reviews! Hopefully, writers of the other reviews will notice them missing and re-submit them.
Since my book had Vietnam as one of its key-words, I downloaded a free Kindle copy of Vietnam Was Boring by Ronald Griffith. That took less than a day to read. I posted a review of it and the two other books I read in the last five days.

C

onsidering the break wasn’t as relaxing as I thought it might be, I’ll be back to another effort for Chicken Soup for the Soul, First Line, and trying to reach an ending for one of my other manuscripts.

Thank You Mrs. Kellogg

Dear Mrs. Kellogg

F

irst I’d like to thank you Mrs. Kellogg for the basics you taught me. That doesn’t mean I always practiced what I learned and almost immediately buried in the back of my brain. I’ve violated one of the basics in the first sentence of this paragraph.

Could you possibly believe I’ve just finished my third novel and have another being read by a legitimate small-press publisher? My last two books were self-published, and the first was published by what I discovered to be more of a vanity publisher than a traditional house.

Before I retired from teaching, I had half a dozen technical articles and one just for fun item published. Yes, after years of being a D student in English and just a C high school student overall, I had a good career as a teacher. And, I actually taught English too – how that happened is a story in itself.

I understand now, how you must have struggled reading the papers of us who had poor handwriting and innovative spelling. Yet, you were somehow able to glean our intended stories and encourage us to rearrange for clarity. You were the only English teacher who considered content as equal to the technical aspects of our papers. So I did pass your classes.

In the times which I write, I’m thankful for spill chick because it makes me the spiller I wouldn’t be otherwise. It was probably an interest issue back then, but I’m sure you and other teachers wondered how I could memorize physics equations, but not the words we used to communicate on paper.

Also, a sincere apology is due. If you were still with us, I’m sure you would remember a story differently. I remember quite well one assignment. We were to read a piece from Shakespeare and write what the author meant. I don’t remember what the piece was and what I wrote, but what came after is still as clear as it could be after 65 years.

You, “What you said isn’t even close to what Shakespeare meant in the piece.”

Me, “Did you interview him in person, or have you talked with someone who did, so you know what he meant?”

I certainly could have phrased my response differently, don’t you think?

So, thank you again Mrs. Kellogg and please accept my apology.

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.”