I finished Beyond the Moon by my 50th birthday. A sample from that original manuscript obtained an agent for me. A man who represented the author of The Godfather and was sure he could sell my book. He didn’t, and never understood why. In looking back on it all these many years later, when the subject matter of that story is ‘trending’, I think I know one of the reasons why. First of all, no one wanted to be reminded of the fiasco and killing fields of Vietnam. Also, my story was there, but it was disguised by a lot of my own beliefs spilled out in sequels throughout the book. Many call these spurts author intrusion. Handily, I saved those I removed and want to share one with you here.
Here is an example so you can see what I mean. This book was written in third person, in one POV for the entire over 600 pages, lest someone has told you that a story of this depth can’t be told from the point of view of one person. My theory is that we live our entire lives in one POV and everything we learn out of our own experiences comes from dialog with others, reading, television and radio, etc. Here’s the excerpt:
“And where had all these young men gone? Plucked from a generation to leave a gaping wound which would never heal. Even yet they fell. In Arkansas alone, suicides among veterans was unbelievably high and showed no signs of tapering off, but rather remained on the increase. Even after all these years. How could that be? Something was dreadfully wrong. These were men who had gone through hell and back, but still nothing to compare to Glen’s experiences.
“The world her parents had known, the one she had grown up in, had slipped silently away. Now this brave new world stood stark and alone, brashly denying complicity in anything of any consequence.
“She had been born soon after the last honorable war. Now it seemed pride and honor lay buried beneath the ashes of burned flags and draft cards. Brave men were spat upon, and those who had fled to other countries were pardoned for their cowardice. Yet who could blame them? Still, being forgiven for their actions negated all that men like Glen had experienced. No wonder these veterans had more problems than what the war itself caused.
“As if that weren’t enough, according to Spencer, it wasn’t politically expedient to demand an accounting from our government over Vietnam. So the country betrayed those who fought and returned, those still being held in that savage heathen country, and worse, betrayed every citizen who believed in freedom and rights and justice. Illusory concepts at best.”
Though the sequel did go on for another few pages, I’ll not bore you with them. My editor and I agreed to remove the entire portion from this too-long book. A sequel, my reader friends, is the section between scenes when the story is at rest, giving the reader time to take a breath or two before you hit her with action again.
When I dragged out the only copy of this manuscript from those long ago days and began retyping and rewriting the story, most of the bits of intrusion came out. Others were worked into my character’s beliefs, which I had thought I was doing originally. Funny how little we know when we first begin to write about the people whose voices have pestered us for so long.
I had tried to write books off and on for several years, using styles of various writers I enjoyed reading, but this was the first book I completed, then learned to edit and rewrite in the way I wanted to write. In my voice.
Another trick I used that many beginners do is I placied the story on my home turf, right down to the description of our house and my art studio where I spent a lot of time painting. My heroine was an artist and teacher, so in some ways much like myself. The lake in the book is the one near where I lived the first five years of my life, and the past forty years as well.
This left the only research necessary that about the tragic consequences of the Vietnam War. The story takes place in 1985 when so many veterans were wandering and lost, with no one to understand their problems. There was no Internet when I began my research so I lived long hours at the library in Fayetteville 21 miles away. It got to where the research librarian would see me coming and lead me back to a stack of magazines, newspapers or books she had found on the subject matter. We dug deep and spent long hours making copies I could bring home. And the book was finally completed, only to be stores along with a few other manuscripts.
One day, a few years back, I cleaned out the clutter of those old unsold manuscripts, research, etc. and tossed it all. For some reason I saved one manuscript of Beyond the Moon and a couple of other books I thought might be worthy of eventual rewrites. All that research matter is gone, but the facts are in that book. Things I learned that had not been released to the public. What happened to the nearly 2500 soldiers left behind when Johnson pulled out of the war remains a mystery today. But some, like fictional Glen Tanner, were brought home by mercenaries doing the job for pay. Men involved in that war know it lasted till 1975, though officially, it was declared over in 1973, the longest war the US had ever been involved in up to that time. We’re at it again, but that’s another story.
This was a pet project of mine for a long while, and by rewriting the book I’m all het up about it again. Even today many of those men who fought over there are involved in battles of their own, as are the women who love them.
That’s what my story is really about. A woman who is so strong, so determined and so in love, she will do anything to help the man she loves recover from the aftermath of nine years of torture and imprisonment.
If this is your sort of tale, you might want to pick up a copy of Beyond the Moon. Published by Oghma Creative Media, the book is available on Kindle, iPad, in paperback and hard cover online at Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, and at your favorite bookstore. If they don’t have it, ask them to order it for you. The book has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
For more information on this subject and the book, go here and click on the board titled Beyond the Moon
And don’t throw away your old work, at least not for a few years. The only reason it’s not selling may be that new word we’re seeing all the time. It’s not trending.