My long short story, “Green Bay Outsiders”, is coming along. Yes, I know I’ve been at work on it for a while and it’s dangerously close to turning into a novella, truth be told. I converted the manuscript into Microsoft Word the other day just to see how long it was, and it had reached 170 pages. When did that happen?
In any case, one of the fun things about writing a story that turns long is that new themes emerge, or existing themes take on depth or nuance you originally didn’t expect. I posted my first post about “Green Bay Outsiders” back in September when the only thing I really knew was that one of the main characters, Jack Billings, was a Vietnam vet who had fought in Khe Sanh in 1968.
[Read more…] about About the Meaning of Freedom – Green Bay Outsiders #2
As part of my research for my current story, “Green Bay Outsiders”, I looked at some of the challenges facing Vietnam veterans once they returned to the United States following hostilities in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The protagonist of “Green Bay Outsiders”, Carl Daniels (who becomes a major character in the novel, Billy Maddox Takes His Shot), lives a somewhat comfortable if routine, middle-class existence in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He is fascinated, however, by the history of his uncle Jack Briggs, a former Army Special Forces soldier who fought at Khe Sanh in 1968. Jack’s experiences continue to haunt him, and his influence over the younger man (Carl is a recent college graduate) only grows when Jack moves to Green Bay from Missoula, Montana to help take care of a former war buddy, Bob Brown, whose exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide has led to serious health problems including the onset of Hodgkins disease.
To start researching Vietnam veterans, I turned to the First Blood films from the 1980s.
This is a big moment for me.
Within the next few days, I’m going to launch Billy Maddox Takes His Shot, a novel about a Border Patrol agent in Arizona that I began back in 2003.
Novels aren’t supposed to take this long to write. My excitement is mixed with disappointment that the project took this long. But it’s just what happened.
And I can’t tell if I’m at fault or not. At least once during this 13-year journey, I honestly could have said “I’m finished” and moved on to my next novel. But I didn’t. I stuck with the book. I’ll get to that shortly.
A few weeks shy of my sixteenth birthday, I watched someone fall off a cliff. He plummeted several hundred feet to his death. The header image above shows the Hudson Highlands near Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY, the town where I was raised. You’ll notice the beauty of it. Images like these help promote the Hudson Valley as a wonderful place to visit or live.
For me, though, the part of this image that I always focus on (not quite visible here thanks to the blog post title I slapped on top if it) is the sheer face of the cliffs since it was from one such face that I watched the man fall.
I might say that tragedy planted the seeds for my future as a writer. I’m sure that segue sounds crude given the gravity of what I experienced (watching someone die) and the conclusion I drew from it (that I became a writer). And you wouldn’t be entirely wrong.
But it is a sad fact that much of what drives great literary writing is the intensity of emotion that comes from truly horrific events.
I recently interviewed Allan Winneker, author of four thrillers including Border Line, which recounts the story of Rusty Powell, a Border Patrol agent kidnapped and held for ransom by a fictional drug cartel in northern Mexico. I interviewed Allan to learn more about the novel and his approach to the story, and to find how it was inspired by the highly visible and high-profile death of an actual Border Patrol Agent, Brian Terry, in 2010.
I am super-excited to announce that on Wednesday, January 20, I am scheduled to interview Allan Winneker, author of Border Line! Border Line is about, to borrow a quote from the novel’s Amazon page, “[t]he dangers facing U.S. Border Patrol Agents while policing our frontier…brought to life in this story of murder, kidnapping and the footprints that drug trafficking leave on the lives of those brave people locked in the battle to protect us.”
Winneker’s novel is intended to honor BPA Brian Terry who was killed in 2010 during a gunfight outside Rio Rico, Arizona.