A War In Which We Did Leave Men Behind

pow Vietnam

Today, with our troops in the far East being wounded, captured or killed, we hear more and more about honoring our wounded warriors, in fact honoring everyone who serves. And for the most part we as a country are doing that. And we hear also that no man is ever left behind.

I pray this is true today, but there was a time when that last statement was not true. For when I was young and our youth were being thrown into the wicked maw that was Vietnam, the country ended in leaving a lot of men behind. I remember it well, and it was one of the things that prompted me to write BEYOND THE MOON. That and so many books and movies that portrayed the women who were left to deal with men traumatized by the war as everything from bitches to disloyal, impatient, unfaithful harridans.

As my friend Pamela Foster says often enough, it takes a lot of courage to remain with men so damaged, sometimes it takes more to leave them.

I wanted to write a story about a woman who, like Pam, was an angel who did not leave her man. Who loved him, who protected him, who kept him safe, and in the end saved him from the worst that could happen. I understand that today three of America’s hero/warriors commit suicide every day.

The research I did lasted more than six months, back in the day when computers and online research were the dream of some, but not yet a reality. I dug long and deep and found much more than was released to the general public. Facts hidden in short obscure reports found in the back pages of magazines like Newsday and Time and local newspapers.

I based much of my story of Glen Thomas, a navy pilot whose helicopter was shot down over Laos, on that information. This is a man who spent nine years living in bamboo cages in Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam, daily tortured almost beyond endurance.

But the story is not his, not really. My story belongs to Katherine, who bonds with this damaged man. It’s not a war story, but a love story about two people who rebuild their shattered lives and how they do it.

The following is an excerpt from an article published online which you can read in its entirety if you’re interested in this dark period of our history.

“Following the Paris Peace Accords of 1973, 591 American prisoners of war (POWs) were returned during Operation Homecoming. The U.S. listed about 1,350 Americans as prisoners of war or missing in action and roughly 1,200 Americans reported killed in action and body not recovered. Many of these were airmen who were shot down over North Vietnam or Laos. Investigations of these incidents have involved determining whether the men involved survived their shoot down; if they did not survive, then they considered efforts to recover their remains. POW/MIA activists played a role in pushing the U.S. government to improve its efforts in resolving the fates of the missing. Progress in doing so was slow until the mid-1980s, when relations between the U.S. and Vietnam began to improve and more cooperative efforts were undertaken. Normalization of U.S. relations with Vietnam in the mid-1990s was a culmination of this process.”

“It’s kind of hard to hang in there, day after day, in my case, 2110 days, you’ve just got to have absolute belief that someday your country’s going to come get you. When I went to Vietnam, I was prepared to be killed, to be wounded, even to be captured. But I was not prepared to be abandoned by the country that sent me there” – former American POW.

Katie and Glen at the Vietnam Monument:

She pretended not to hear for fear of what she would say, raised her gaze, and saw herself and Glen reflected beyond the names like beings sucked into its ebony essence. Their faces stared back from the jet mirror, expressions bewildered and tightened in mourning. She had a wispy vision, a fearful thought that each visitor was somehow captured in the reverse image and stored away within the pure stone slashed from some faraway mountain. It would forever hold the names of the dead and their tortured souls as well as a piece of all who came to lament their passing. The fury of the place burned like a fire, names of the slain marched forever across the black headstone against which lay flowers, pictures, letters, and medals, all spotted by salty tears. It was as quiet as if the world had ended.

This is probably the lowest point in the story once she gets him home. One reader, the wife of a Vietnam Vet who suffers from PTSD, wrote about this book: “Wow, you wrote my story.”

gargantual moon

Go to: http://www.amazon.com/author/veldabrotherton to find this and my other books. Please do me the favor of writing a review if you like any of my books. All are available in ebooks and soft cover. Beyond the Moon is also available in hard cover, which would make a marvelous gift.

Go here: http://www.pinterest.veldabrotherton.com and check BEYOND THE MOON Board to see a large collection of memorabilia pinned by veterans and others interested in this era as well as photos representing my idea of the Glen and Katie characters.

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Looking at Life

Don & meHubby and I taken a while back when we both looked fairly young 

After a rough few weeks, I’ve decided to write about what has happened recently. Perhaps there are others out there going through similar tough times. Blogs should be upbeat, but right now that’s difficult to achieve.

Wednesday my husband will be transferred from rehab to long term care. He simply can’t rehab any further. It’s been an upsetting time for both of us and other family members as well. We’ve been together since we met in high school. I was 14 and he was 16 when we had our first date. Though I went out with other guys for a while, it soon became obvious that we were a couple. We were engaged out of high school. I was barely 17 and we married that December when it became possible he would be called up for the Korean conflict.

As it turned out, the war came to a close soon after we married. That was 1953 and as they say today, we had a lot of rough patches in our marriage, but here we are still together, separated for the first time by circumstances beyond my control. He went to bed one day and that’s where he stayed. No matter how much we cajoled, doctors warned, nothing would convince him otherwise. Soon he could no longer stand or walk. Though he is healthy otherwise, that’s where he’s at now. His mind is wandering at times, though he does not have dementia.

I am learning to live alone, I happen to like my own company. Often I talk to myself or the cat just to hear the sound of my voice. I’m not afraid to be alone, it’s just strange. My daughter Jeri is a Godsend. She cleans the house and does my shopping, which she has done for quite some time as I’m physically unable to do a lot of chores. Her husband Farrel repairs stuff around the house and is preparing to put a new roof on for us. He will be paid for that as part of the spend-down for my husband’s Medicaid application. Our “other” daughter Chrissy props me up with visits and she and her hubby Brian help out as well.

I have learned a lot about the care of people and how it is paid for. I learned that Medicare covers the first 100 days of the rehab process, providing the patient is truly working on his physical therapy. Then it becomes private pay or a long, drawn out process of applying for Arkansas Medicaid. All assets are liquidated except home and car and divided in half. Then the patient’s half must be spent down on family expenses, such as medical bills, car repairs, home repairs and certain other allowable items.

It is wise during this process to obtain a competent attorney. His fee becomes part of the spend-down. Get someone where the spouse is being treated to recommend one.

During all this process I had to look at what might happen with me in the future. My daughter Jeri, who had found the North Hills Rehab for her Dad, was busy checking out retirement places for me. We considered Assisted Living, but I balked at this, still being able to do most things for myself. I don’t need a caregiver at this point as long as she can do the things she does for me. After checking several places, she found Nantucket. It’s set up for the elderly. I shudder every time I think of myself in that way. They have apartments equipped for the disabled and regular apartments. It’s more like having your own home. So she filled out all the applications and we were put on a waiting list. It may be a year, but I have qualified.

Sara Bartlett, a long time writer friend who is with CareSupport Services, has been advising me and she suggested I remain where I’m at while the stress level is so high. Perhaps live here for the winter before deciding to sell and move. It’s a difficult decision to make because I’m still very active. I attend writer’s events and friends help me when I need it, but I still drive most of the time. I visit my husband twice a week.

According to Sara it’s smart to plan ahead so you don’t have to arrange everything under pressure. This past week I’ve visited the funeral home and prepaid our funerals, attended two writer’s meetings during the pouring rain, worked on several projects for my next book and taken care of duties for my new job as Distribution Director for Oghma Creative Media, which happens to be my publisher. I’ve asked them to keep me busy and they are doing that. I’ve also worked at learning new tasks on the computer. 

It is important during times like this to stay busy, keep your mind occupied, cry when necessary and socialize with good friends. Don’t sit and stare at the wall, don’t lay in bed all day, sleep well, read a lot and don’t watch daytime soaps. I love movies so I take a break from writing around 5 in the afternoon, watch a couple of good movies or catch up on streaming my favorite shows, then I write for a couple more hours before going to bed where I read for an hour or more.

lilacs redbuds 005

I planted this lilac bush in 1972, a start from my Aunt Allie’s yard to mine.

I live in the country amid the songs of birds, the wind in the trees on the mountain slope behind us, the leaves dancing in sunlight in the hundred-year-old maple out back, the fragrance of magnolia and lilacs and iris as they bloom, and the night sounds of frogs in the creek, a whippoorwill high in a tree, the owl who calls to her mate every night. I wait like her for the sound of his voice in reply. Without these my life would be drab, and so I’ll stay here for a while longer, keeping the windows open so a breeze can flutter through bringing the outside to me.

This photo was taken just down the road from our place

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Using Backstory Effectively

veldabrotherton:

This will help all of you who talked about flashbacks and backstory being so all important. This is a good one.

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

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All righty. So we have been discussing “flashbacks” and I have been working hard to pull this blanket term apart because not everything that shifts back in time is the dreaded “training wheel flashback” that make us editors break out in hives. New writers love to shift back and forth in time because they are weak at plotting and characterization and “flashbacks” often serve to prop up these weak spots.

Um, like training wheels.

Before we get into non-linear plotting, I would like to talk about backstory. Often we feel the need to include a lot of backstory right in the beginning because we just simply don’t trust that the reader will “get it.” Sometimes this will be delivered through going back in time so we need to talk about it.

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Our goal in fiction is to hook early and hook deep. GUT HOOK. Get as close to the inciting…

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This Little Light

veldabrotherton:

Thank you Jan, for your courage. Your family as ours is racially mixed and so we do not want our children and grandchildren judged as anything but human. Sweet, innocent lovely children have become the target so many times. Don’t let it continue to happen.

Originally posted on THE RED KIMONO:

quilt Quilt that hangs over the altar at United Church of Santa Fe

I’m ashamed to admit I considered not going to church with my father on Father’s Day. I can weasel out a bit of an excuse–that on Saturday we’d driven ten hours from Dallas to Santa Fe and we were tired.

Fortunately, the “little voice” inside me chastised me when I woke early Sunday morning: (Or, maybe it was God.)

You know how much your dad would like to bring his daughter to church, don’t you? You’re going to regret it if you don’t go. Get your lazy self out of bed.

And so, I went to church with my dad. I’m grateful I did, not only because it was the right thing to do on Father’s Day, but because I needed to hear the sermon given by Reverend Talitha Arnold at the United Church of Santa Fe.

Reverend…

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Indian Head Pennies and a Dollar Haircut

The highway to Durham, Arkansas, and beyond, is known as the Pig Trail. It is a favorite route for those heading south to Little Rock. Despite that, it is narrow and winding with no shoulders and deep wide ditches on both sides. The wide curves tend to fall off the mountain during heavy rains. I’m on my way to meet a man, a special man who has stories to tell me.

After turning onto the Pig Trail I’m forced to concentrate totally on my driving. In Durham I have no trouble finding the building that is being renovated. It and the general store, make up most of the town. After a suitable time of picture–taking and looking over the barn of a structure, I make my way to the barber shop and Dal Collins.

The sagging door to which I’m pointed is at the back of the general store. I peer through the screen into the muskiness. There’s an occupied barber chair, a stooped barber and on a wooden bench, a couple of elderly men and an empty space. I slide in and sit.

The barber, who of course must be Dal, glances at me and  takes a careful snip at the thin gray hair trusted to his shears. He can tell right away that I don’t want a haircut, not unless I want my mostly angry mop styled around a shaved neck and trimmed sideburns. Anyway, this is not one of those new-fangled beauty shops that cater to both men and women.

Dal is used to being interviewed. He’s been quoted in newspapers as far away as Little Rock, even been on television occasionally, mostly because he has plenty to say about everything and no qualms about saying what he thinks. I suspect this notoriety might cause Dal to get a little more colorful than he would otherwise, but I figure to take my chances.

After closing out a discussion about the proposed landfill that has everyone up in the air, he says to the room in general, but for my benefit, “I get a dollar a haircut. Oughta get five. Hear tell they’re charging as much as seven in some places.”

In the gloom of the single-windowed, narrow room with its ancient barber chair, I eye the steady-handed barber. I’ve been told he’s nearly ninety, but I can’t see the age on him.

I ask him about the Durham store and he goes right to the heart of the subject without any meandering. “Place is over a hundred year old. Spencer Bassett, he ran a store there for seventy-five year or more. When I was a kid, we pitched pennies in there. There was cracks in the floor….” He holds up thumb and finger and measures out a good half inch, then continues, “…and they went right on through. Indian heads. Far as I know they’re still down there under the floor.”

I think about that a while. Maybe I won’t write anything about the rare pennies. I wouldn’t want an army of treasure hunters overrunning the quiet little town in a state that, for some unknown reason, attracts its share of those.  Of course, he could be applying what I’ve come to call the “hillbilly yank” on my leg.

His other tales are for another time, and when I thank him and push open the creaky screen door, he says, “You come back again, real soon.”

I never got around to paying him another visit, and he’s gone now. Nope, he didn’t retire, he passed away one night and just didn’t open up the next day to open his shop. By then he was surely otherwise occupied. Do angels need haircuts?

From Wandering In The Shadows of Time, 1994 Edition with update.

Interviews and wanderings by Velda Brotherton

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Deep P.O.V. Part One—What IS It? How Do We DO It?

veldabrotherton:

If you don’t listen to me, pay attention to Kristen Lamb.

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of FromSandToGlass Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of FromSandToGlass

Writing is like anything else. The trends and fashions change along with the audience. For instance, Moby Dick spends an excruciatingly long time talking about whales, namely because the audience of the time probably had never seen one and never would. If we did this today? Sure, feel free to walk around in a literary gold-plated cod piece, but er…

Yes, awkward.

Epics were also very popular. Follow a character from the womb until death. FANTASTIC STUFF! Why? Because no one had HBO, Pinterest or Angry Birds. Books were a rare indulgence usually reserved for a handful of literate folks with the money or connections to get their hands on…a book.

Also, since writers were paid by the word, their works were padded more than a freshman term paper. Their motto? No modifier left behind. These days? We have to write leaner…

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Keeping Memories

A Long Time AgoMe on Grandparent’s farm 1940

I’ve noticed something peculiar about approaching 80 years of age. More and more I dredge up memories and spend time in the past. I remember when my mother-in-law told me, as she aged she lived in her memories. I thought that strange that she would want to shut out her life. But as I get to where I have to rest more and let my mind wander, I’m doing the same thing.

Signing Books at B & N

Here I am back in the day with Radine Trees Nehring,and Dusty Richards.

As a writer this is worrisome. I need to continue to visit with Tyra and Josh and Zach in Tyra’s Gambler, my work in progress, and not drift away to other times in my life. It’s important to me that I be able to continue to pursue what I love, which weighs in just after who I love. But more and more I find myself talking about the past with friends or revisiting it when I take a break.

Holton KS

Signing copies of Angel’s Gold in Holton, Kansas

Perhaps this is a signal that it’s time for me to write that memoir I’ve kept packed away in boxes. Over the years teaching workshops I’ve always encouraged others to write their life stories, if only to preserve them for family members. And to write them in a way that allows those interested to enjoy the reading.

with Don OWFI

With Hubby Don at OWFI in 1999

So maybe I’ll do that soon. Just as soon as I finish this next western historical romance and the next Twist of Poe mystery, The Pit and the Penance. Oh, and there’re those other characters knocking on my mental door, waiting in line for their turn.

Oh, well, maybe I’ll get to that memoir in a few years.

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The Tell-Tale Stone (A Twist of Poe Mystery Series Book 2)

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In “Love” with a Narcissist/Sociopath: Althea’s Story

veldabrotherton:

This has an adult warning on it, but is so important for women to read. August McLaughlin pulls no punches.

Originally posted on August McLaughlin's Blog:

When I put word out that I was planning a series on dating a sociopath, starting with my own story, I heard from numerous people who had done so. They’d moved on with their lives, learned a great deal and wished to weigh in.

Then I heard from a friend who I haven’t seen in a few years, whose story is quite different.

I’m currently in a relationship with sociopath/narcissist, she wrote. I’d love to help!

Wow. I asked if she could speak publicly and openly about her experience. Not all sociopaths are abusive, after all. I’d recently read about a neuroscientist who discovered, rather by accident, that he is a psychopath—and an overall good person. He’s what some call a pro-social psychopath; he’s chosen to lead by intellectual empathy.

So maybe, I thought, my friend and her guy were making it work! Maybe they’ve both embraced his diagnosis and she’d like to show…

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Always look for rainbows and stars

Cutting our cake on our 50th Anniversary

Cutting our cake on our 50th Anniversary

Recently I saw a quote on Pinterest that was so suitable for me that I pinned it and remembered it too. It simply said, “When it rains look for rainbows, when it’s dark look for stars.”

Night has always been my favorite time. Funny, cause when I was a kid I was afraid of the dark. It always felt like something was reaching out for me. The hairs on my neck would waver, a fist would clutch my stomach and a lizard crawl up my spine. Yet, all my life I’ve loved to look at the moon and the stars. Stare endlessly at them while my imagination flashed in the darkness, making up tales of adventure and romance.

Other things live in the dark and we can see them if we concentrate. Lightning bugs, known as fireflies up north, cavort in the summer nights. Ivory moon flowers reflect light from the stars, comets criss-cross black space, while on the ground critters scurry, their eyes bright as diamonds.

The past couple of months have been difficult for my family, with my husband going downhill so fast we could scarcely believe it. The craziest thing of all is there is nothing wrong with him, or so the tests show. He’s just going somewhere both physically and emotionally where I can’t follow. Not even dementia or alzheimers is indicated. He has some strange symptoms. We’re going to see if an ENT can see him as they appear to be something to do with crystals in the inner ear, from what we can learn. But we’re not doctors.  My daughter Jeri has exhausted herself looking out for both of us, and she is my support.  I will be forever grateful to her.

Here's the cover of my latest

How strange it is to have this going on and learn that my latest book, The Tell-Tale Stone was released today. Feelings are so mixed. It’s difficult to celebrate while dealing with life as it is right now. I’m so excited about the book. The cover is gorgeous, designed by Casey Cowan and published by Oghma Creative Media. I couldn’t be happier than I am with the people who work with this publishing company. The editors, mine is Staci Troilo, are fantastic, the writers are superbly talented, and Casey holds it all together with such expertise it’s amazing to watch. And he’s so caring of each of his authors, so concerned about what I’m going through with my husband.

Casey wishing we happy 79th birthday

Casey wishing we happy 79th birthday

The writing community in Northwest Arkansas is supportive as well. In all the years I’ve been involved with writers, none have been so kind and helpful as they are now. We have a fabulous group in our Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop, and on a wider scale all those involved with Arkansas Ridge Writers and Oghma Creative Media. Coming to my aid also is an old friend, Sara Bartlett, who is skilled in the care of the elderly and has offered me a helping hand. I’m so thankful to be within their comforting arms during this difficult time.

 

 

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