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.”

Echoes of Nam

R

eading 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.

H

acker Lee Goor concludes, “I fully understand anything that triggers a nightmare must be considered, and if at all possible avoided. We who were there and know that Vietnam won’t be over for many of my generation until their bodies are dead understand the most. I’ve never met a man or woman or their family who wasn’t mentally, emotionally or physically changed by his or her Vietnam combat or even non-combat experience. By the grace of God, my triggers have been reduced, but I still have echoes of Nam.”

Good Advice All Around

I

appreciate having my contribution selected for Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Best Advice I Ever Heard .

As a pre-release reader, I found good advice related to nearly every walk of life. The 101 stories about advice are all interesting and many are intriguing. Some may make you laugh, but some may make you cry.
The collection of an eclectic group of writers brings the getting advice experience of first-time writers and established authors as well. The advice depicted came to the writers from friends, relatives, and other sources.
Had it not been for the writers group, to which I belong, deciding we do something for Chicken Soup for the Soul, my contribution would not have happened. Thanks to (you know who you are) for the edits and ‘advice.’
My “Good, Very Good, Best” advice I ever heard tells about a life changing question from a friend.

ChickenSoup cover_art_ w gray side-bubble and text

A Considered Process

J

ohn Grisham, in a TV interview, said something about writing the end of a story first.

I was struggling with Nescient Decoy when I heard that interview, so wrote where I wanted Jason Finn to be at the end of the story. From that, I was able to lead him to that goal.
A beta reader asked, “Will there be more to the story, or is that all there is?”
I’d been asked the same thing when I ended An Odyssey of Illusions. I did draft of a sequel to that work, but I didn’t have an ending until the draft was finished. And the story in the draft didn’t please me either. So, I wrote an ending to ‘Odyssey’ instead of a sequel. A postscript finishes the story I will publish under a modified title.

Did I mention I’m drafting a sequel to Jason Finn’s decoy story? I am! The postscript from Nescient Decoy starts the story, and the end has been drafted.

S

poiler – there will be three Finns.