DEB RICHARDSON-MOORE – Journalist / Minister / Author

Deb Richardson-Moore is the author of a memoir, The Weight of Mercy, and four mysteries, including a 2021 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion finalist, Murder, Forgotten. All have been published by Lion Hudson of Oxford, England.

 

 

Deb is a former journalist and minister to homeless parishioners in Greenville, SC. She tells the story of her mid-career switch in The Weight of Mercy, a memoir that reveals the traumas and rewards of dealing with addiction and poverty. It has been studied at Harvard and Duke Divinity Schools.

Murder, Forgotten is a stand-alone in which an aging mystery writer is losing her memory. When her husband is murdered in their beachfront home, her grief is mixed with panic: Could she, deep in the throes of a new plot, have killed him? Upcoming in 2023: Deb’s latest work, Through Any Window, has been accepted by Red Adept Publishing in the U.S. Set in a gentrifying area of a vibrant Southern city, tensions are already high between old-timers and rich newcomers. When a double murder explodes, police must determine whether its roots are personal or the rocky result of urban renewal.

Do you write in more than one genre? After a 2012 memoir, I have stuck to murder mysteries.

What brought you to writing? A lifelong love of reading and a 27-year career as a feature writer for a newspaper. After leaving the demands of daily deadlines, I was finally able to write books.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in my cheerful sunroom, with five uncovered windows and loads of happy artwork and family photos. At this point, I’m not in a race to see how many books I can produce! I do allow distractions – coffees and lunches out, volunteer work, speeches, travel.

What are you currently working on? I’m in the editing process of a mystery tentatively titled Through Any Window, which is set in a gentrifying neighborhood in a Southern city. People in new mansions live side by side with people in boarding houses and a homeless shelter and can see their neighbors’ lives through their windows.

Who is your favorite author? It’s a toss-up between Joshilyn Jackson and Jodi Picoult. I’m amazed at the breadth of their work.

How long did it take you to write your first book? In all, it probably took a year. When I was halfway through, my board of directors gave me a sabbatical to finish it. Without that nine weeks, I’m not sure I could have done it. I was in a deathly fight with my inner critic.

How long to get it published? Another three years. To my surprise, a publisher in England picked it up, then agreed to publish my fiction titles as well.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? Yes, I did this once. ( I won’t say which book!) My writers’ group got into a major argument over it. One member thought it was breaking a contract with the reader. Others liked the surprise of it. I loved it because I believe it allowed the story to veer into a deeper, sadder place.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? You have to have subplots. In Through Any Window, one subplot whirls around the tensions of rich and poor living side by side, and another concerns a young man who recognizes a property where he once lived. The subplots give rise to possible motives for the murders.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? I wrote my three-volume Branigan Powers series about a homeless man who helps a news reporter (Branigan) solve murders. Because he glides through their town virtually unseen, Malachi sees and hears things that other people don’t. I based him on a dear friend, a homeless man who attended my church for 15 years. As for Branigan herself, I’m sure she has aspects of me, as does her friend, Liam, a pastor in a homeless ministry. (I also wrote my dog, Annabelle, into Murder, Forgotten).

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I don’t know that term! But I don’t outline, so I guess I’m a pantser. I think it’s more exciting if you can constantly surprise yourself. I had so much fun writing Murder, Forgotten, because I couldn’t wait to see how it turned out. It was quite literally almost as much fun as reading a twisty thriller.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I mix them all together. The Branigan Powers series was set on my grandparents’ farm in northeast Georgia, but I plopped it near a city that doesn’t exist. In each book, Branigan usually travels to the South Carolina coast.  Murder, Forgotten was set on Sullivan’s Island, SC, and the eastern coast of Scotland. I mixed actual villages and streets and restaurants with fictional houses. Through Any Window is set in fictional Greenbrier, SC, but I draw on much of what is going on in Greenville — and any growing American city.

What is the best book you have ever read? Oddly, not one by my favorite authors. I’d have to say Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. Or possibly Ira Levine’s Rosemary’s Baby. I get shivers thinking about both.

How do our readers contact you or learn more about you?

https://www.facebook.com/deb.richardsonmoore/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/readerswriterswordlovers
https://www.facebook.com/groups/286102814821828
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1284419714917352
https://www.facebook.com/groups/852252819063291
https://www.facebook.com/groups/357651988042629
https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheBookClubGirls

Contact for Deb: richardsonmoored@gmail.com
To purchase: www.debrichardsonmoore.com or any online seller

 

7 Comments

  1. Sue Miller

    Really looking forward to your next book

    Reply
  2. Donnell Ann Bell

    Oh my goodness, fascinating! My TBR is ridiculously long, but i have to add Ms. Richardson’s books. what a superb cover, I might add.

    Reply
    • Deb Richardson-Moore

      Thanks so much, Donnell.

      Reply
  3. Candace

    Thanks for this interview. What a fascinating author.

    Reply
    • Deb Richardson-Moore

      Thanks, Candace.

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you do a lot of good work besides writing. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Deb Richardson-Moore

      Thank you, Michael.

      Reply

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LORNA & LARRY COLLINS – Dynamic Writing Duo

Lorna and Larry Collins grew up together in Alhambra, California. They have been married for fifty-seven years and have one daughter, Kimberly.

 

They worked together on the Universal Studios Japan theme park in Osaka. Larry was a Project Engineer responsible for the Jurassic Park, JAWS, and WaterWorld attractions. Lorna was the Document Control Supervisor in the Osaka field office.

Their memoir of that experience, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, was a 2006 EPPIE finalist, and named one of Rebeccas Reads Best Nonfiction books of 2005.

Their mysteries, set in Hawaii, are Murder…They Wrote and Murder in Paradise.

Along with several friends, Lorna co-wrote the six sweet romance collections in the Aspen Grove Romance Anthologies series, set in Colorado. Directions of Love won the 2011 EPIC eBook Award as best anthology.

Her solo mystery/fantasy is a ‘beach read’ called Ghost Writer. She also wrote Jewel of the Missions: San Juan Capistrano and a children’s book, Lola, The Parrot Who Saved the Mission. Their joint venture is The Memory Keeper, a historical novel set in San Juan Capistrano in the 1800s, told from the point-of-view of a Juaneño Indian.

Larry’s collection of short stories is entitled, Lakeview Park. His latest project is his sci-fi series, The McGregor Chronicles. He has finished nine books in the series.

Their latest collaboration is Dominic Drive, from an idea of Lorna’s late brother, Ronald Travis Lund. (Available in ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audio.)

Dominic Drive is the coming-of-age story of Charlie Williams, a young man who has a difficult childhood but who remains optimistic and hopeful, told through the eyes of another young man who becomes as close as a brother to him. Set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it captures life in a post-WWII community.

All their books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, their website (www.lornalarry.com), and other online book outlets. Follow Lorna’s blog at http://lornacollins-author.blogspot.com.

Do you write in more than one genre? We started writing a nonfiction memoir of our time spent working in Osaka on the Universal Studios Japan theme park, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park. We never expected to write and publish anything else. However, we attended a writing conference and got an idea for our first Mystery, Murder…They Wrote. This led to our second mystery, Murder in Paradise, and we have added several other genres since.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Since we write together, blending our voices into one seamless voice was initially a challenge. Also, Larry is a plotter, and Lorna is a “pantser.” (She writes by the seat of her pants.) Over the first few books, Larry learned to trust the characters, and Lorna became more disciplined. We sometimes disagree on plotlines, but we usually throw out both ideas and settle on another—better—one. After having written several books together, the process has become almost second nature.

What are you currently working on? After nearly three years of research, in 2014, we published The Memory Keeper, a historical novel set in San Juan Capistrano, California, between 1820 and 1890. We talked about a sequel and started the research for it. However, we both were pulled into other projects, and this one languished. When Larry finished Book 9 of The McGregor Chronicles, he was ready to get back to it. Meanwhile, Lorna had written quite a few chapters, but she needed Larry’s voice in the story. They are finally finishing the sequel to be called Becoming the Jewel, to be published soon.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? After we wrote our first book, it was nominated for an EPPIE award from EPIC (The Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition). We attended their conference in 2006 and became members. There we met publishers, other authors, agents, and other industry professionals, from whom we learned a great deal. We did presentations and panels at over a dozen or more of their conferences, including one keynote address, and Lorna moderated the publishers’ panels. We remained members until the group disbanded several years ago.

Through members of EPIC, we joined PSWA (Public Service Writers Association). We have attended several of their conferences and learned a great deal about police procedures as well as how other safety professionals work. We have also made some great friends in the group.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters of the opposite sex? This is where writing together gives us a decided advantage. For the most part, Larry writes the male characters, and Lorna writes the female ones. With one exception: Larry writes most of the old ladies in our novels! For some reason, he started writing them in our first mystery, and he has continued ever since.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? Between 1861 and 1863, a plague (black pox or smallpox) killed 90% of the Indian population of San Juan Capistrano. When we were writing The Memory Keeper, we knew at least one of our characters would have to die. Larry was set to lose one, but Lorna argued with him. If 90% of the native population died, then their family would have to lose more of their members.

When we reread the completed chapters about the plague, Lorna sobbed. She does so every time she rereads the book. A few chapters later, we needed to lose another character. He was a particular favorite, so his loss felt very personal to both of us.

In these cases, their loss was already part of the plot. (Larry is a plotter, remember?) The storyline already included their losses, so the storyline continued as planned.

What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? Because we write about the authentic history of San Juan Capistrano, California, and because history is so revered and protected here, we have to be 100% accurate. (History is like a second religion in town.) If we say a particular thing happened at a specific time, it did. Historical figures must be portrayed exactly as they were. So far, we have received no criticism about our historical accuracy, so we must have done a few things right. But in order to achieve this level of accuracy, we have to read a great many books and articles and interview many experts. About 95% of what we learn never makes it onto the pages of our books, but it is necessary for us to know it.

Do you have any advice for new writers? The first thing is to keep writing. Too many writers give up early. Second, join a critique group or take a college-level writing class. Third, when you think you are finished, find a few beta readers, who are NOT friends or family members, to read the complete work and give you feedback. This is where professional organizations can be of great help.

Once you get positive feedback, hire a professional editor. No one can properly edit their own work—including us.

Last, if you intend to self-publish, also invest in a professional cover artist. Since books are now purchased mostly online, the cover must stand out when seen as a thumbnail image. A professional can help you with an image that will sell your book.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourselves? Lorna is a well-respected professional editor. She had lots of experience in her former career in Document Control and carried it into her writing profession. She provides content and line editing as well as formatting for ebooks and print.

Larry is a professional cover artist with well over 100 published covers to his credit. He has designed nearly all of the covers for their books.

8 Comments

  1. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    My admiration for these two is enormous. First they are great writers, but to be husband and wife and writing together is an accomplishment in itself. I can’t have a lengthy conversation with my wife without her getting pissed off at me. I ask questions for clarification to better understand what she is saying or what she heard someone else say. I unfortunately am always concerned about sources and language and that seems to lead to frustration on her part and annoyance. I love her beyond words, but she’s a country girl and I’m a city kid and sometimes there seems to be a language barrier that is usually my fault. Great interview and I truly enjoyed their answers.

    Reply
  2. Marilyn Meredith

    Of course, Lorna and Larry are very good friends of mine. We met at an Epic conference years ago, have attended many of the same conferences, and they are responsible for the repubishing of all my mysteries and my other books–Lorna is an excellent editor, has done the work of publishing, and Larry, the covers. Enjoyred reading this.

    Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Larry and Lorna in person at the PSWA Conferences and I can attest that they’re both outstanding individuals who know a lot about writing. Best of luck with your new book.

    Reply
    • Lorna Collins

      Thanks, Mike. We have enjoyed our time with you!

      Reply
  4. Bruce Lewis

    Lorna and Larry’s advice to “not give up” when writing is excellent. My first novel was rejected by my publisher. I rewrote it in six weeks and got a contract a week after resubmitting it.

    San Juan Capistrano, where my mother-in-law lives, is a beautiful community with tons of history. Good job digging it out and sharing it.

    Reply
    • Lorna & Larry Collins

      WE adore San Juan and have written several books set there. We are currently finishing the sequel to our historical, “The Memory Keeper” called “Becoming the Jewel,” set between 1891 and 1912.

      Reply

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EVE SPRUNT – Prolific Writer and Diversity Consultant

Dr. Eve Sprunt is a prolific writer and consultant on diversity and inclusion, as well as the transition from hydrocarbons to cleaner forms of energy. She is passionate about mentoring younger professionals, especially women struggling to combine parenting and professionalism and those facing cross-cultural challenges.

 

Her over 120 editorial columns addressed workforce issues, industry trends, and cross-cultural challenges. In addition to authoring 23 patents and 28 technical publications, she is the author of four books:  A Guide for Dual-Career Couples (Praeger), Dearest Audrey, An Unlikely Love Story, A Guide to Career Resilience (Springer Nature) as co-author with Maria Angela Capello with whom she authored Mentoring and Sponsoring: Keys to Success (Springer Nature).

During her 35 years in the energy industry, Eve acquired extensive experience working for major oil companies on projects around the world. She was the 2006 President of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), the 2018 President of the American Geosciences Institute, and the founder of the Society of Core Analysts. She has received high honors from SPE, the Society of Women Engineers, and the Geological Society of America. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from MIT, and she was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. (1977) from Stanford in Geophysics. She speaks and consults on women’s and energy issues and is an active member of the California Writers Club Tri-Valley Writers Branch.

Books:
A Guide to Career Resilience (with Maria Angela Capello), 2022
Mentoring and Sponsoring, Keys to Success (with Maria Angela Capello), 2020
Dearest Audrey, An Unlikely Love Story, 2019
A Guide for Dual-Career Couples, Rewriting the Rules, 2016

Do you write in more than one genre? Yes, self-help and memoir/biography

What brought you to writing? It runs in the family. My mother (Ruth Chew) wrote and illustrated 29 children’s fantasy chapter books. Mother’s first and best-selling book, The Wednesday Witch, sold over a million copies. My maternal grandfather was also a writer.

As a female scientist, when technical women were rare, documenting my work in writing (both within the company and in industry publications) improved my odds of getting credit for my work and enabled me to build my reputation.

I volunteered to serve as Senior Technical Editor of the Society of Petroleum Engineers for three years because the role included writing a monthly editorial column. I authored “edgy” articles on workforce issues. After my term ended, I continued writing bimonthly editorial columns for another seven years. I began writing books when I retired and was no longer subject to corporate censorship.

What are you currently working on? I am polishing a memoir/biography of my mother, Ruth Chew, who became a successful children’s book author/illustrator after I left home. Passionate Persistence is based on Mother’s 67 years of daily diaries and my memories. The Tri-Valley Writers critique groups and Lani Longshore (as a beta reader) have been tremendously helpful.

When the leader of my hiking group learned that I was receiving the 2022 Curtis-Hedberg Petroleum Career Achievement Award for outstanding contributions in the field of petroleum geology, she urged me to write a memoir about my career. I was astounded to be selected for that Geological Society of America’s award because my degrees are in geophysics, and I usually impersonated a petroleum engineer. However, my most significant technical contributions involved convincing the engineers that they had overlooked critical aspects of the geology.

How long did it take you to write your first book? The first book I wrote was the one I self-publishing in 2019, Dearest Audrey, An Unlikely Love Story. I found an agent for that manuscript, but in hindsight, I suspect she took me as a client because she was a fan of my mother’s children’s chapter books, which were out of print. Shortly after I signed agreements with the agent to represent both my work and my mother’s, an editor at Random House approached me about the republication of my mother’s books. The agent received a sizable commission on the agreement with Random House but never found a publisher for Dearest Audrey, despite representing it for several years.

That agent didn’t like my manuscript for A Guide for Dual-Career Couples but recommended that I go through the submission process for Praeger, which asked for an outline and sample chapters. Praeger accepted my proposal, and the agent spent months working on the contract, leaving me only about six weeks to get the manuscript completely revised if I wanted to have A Guide for Dual-Career Couples included in Praeger’s spring 2016 catalog. I realized that since I was working for myself, I could work 7-day weeks and long hours, and I met the deadline.

Eventually, I concluded the agent would never find a publisher for Dearest Audrey, so we agreed to dissolve our agreement. I hired a developmental editor through Reedsy, who guided me through the self-publication process. Dearest Audrey was published in 2019.

Self-help books like A Guide for Dual-Career Couples and my two books published by Springer, Mentoring, and Sponsoring, Keys to Success (2020) and A Guide to Career Resilience (2022), are accepted based on an outline and sample chapters. The writing and publication process can be very swift.

Passionate Persistence, The Life of Ruth Chew, which I hope will become my fifth book, may be a tough sell. I asked the developmental editor I used for Dearest Audrey to edit it and advise me on whether I should seek an agent or pursue self-publishing. After I left home, my mother was so focused on her successful career as an author my younger siblings ran wild. She wrote children’s chapter books, but her life was not a story for children.

About twice a week, I go hiking with a group of ladies. When the leader learned I was selected for the Geological Society of America’s lifetime achievement award, she said, “Who’s going to write your story? You need to do it.”

In A Guide to Career Resilience, my co-author and I share examples in which we successfully challenged the system. Both of us consider ourselves to be shy, but I don’t know anyone else who would. Our author at Springer objected to the concept that “forgiveness is easier than permission.” We included the concept and the examples but refrained from using the forbidden phrase. In our careers, my co-author and I leveraged that concept to surmount barriers.

My mother (the title character in Passionate Persistence) was an ambitious woman. She thought her older sister, Audrey (the heroine of Dearest Audrey), was afraid of her own shadow. Ironically, before writing Dearest Audrey, I accepted my mother’s assessment of Audrey despite ample evidence to the contrary – Audrey went on sabbatical to Pakistan in the mid-1950s, not knowing exactly where or what she would teach, and was traveling alone near the Khyber Pass when she met her true love.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? All the time. I always disguise their identity if I use them as a bad example.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I plan to write about my life experiences but will weave them into a self-help book because those are easier to market than memoirs.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Join a writing group.

How do our readers contact you? Please contact me at www.evesprunt.com or email me at evesprunt@aol.com

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    Wow, what an inspiring story, Eve. It’s great that you’re continuing the family tradition of writing. Good luck with your new one. Stay strong.

    Reply

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MICHAEL BARRINGTON – Almost Executed in West African Civil War

Michael was born in Manchester, England. He lived in France and joined a French Order of Missionary priests. He spent ten years in West Africa, several of them during a civil war when he was stood up to be shot. He spent a year living as a hermit in Northern Ireland, was a teacher in Madrid, Spain, and as part of the British ‘brain drain’ taught at the Univ of Puerto Rico.

The owner of MJB Consultants, he flew all over the world monitoring and evaluating humanitarian projects and has worked in more than thirty countries. He is fluent in several languages, an avid golfer, and academically considers himself over-engineered, having three Masters’ Degrees and a Ph.D. On his bucket list is to pilot a helicopter, become fluent in Arabic, and spend a week’s retreat at Tamanrasset in the Sahara Desert.

Michael lives with his French wife, who designs and paints the covers of his books, and a Tibetan terrier in Clayton, California.

His latest novel, The Ethiopian Affair (May 2022), begs the question: Is there a plot to abduct the US ambassador to Ethiopia? MI6, the CIA, and NISS (Ethiopian Secret Service) are faced with discovering the truth.

He has always been a writer, and his first book, The Bishop Wears No Drawers (2017), is a memoir of his time in Africa. Let the Peacock Sing (2020) is a historical novel set against the backdrop of the French Resistance during World War II. His second novel, a coming-of-age book, Becoming Anya, was published in November 2021. Michael also writes fiction and nonfiction articles for several magazines, including Alive East Bay and The Big issue (UK). He is a feature writer for the Mt Diablo Gazette.

Do you write in more than one genre? My first book is a memoir of ten years spent in Nigeria as a catholic missionary priest, where I was stood up to be shot. My second book is the historical novel Let the Peacock Sing.

What brought you to writing? I have always been a writer, mainly nonfiction and academic articles on philosophy and spirituality. Retirement gave me the time to develop my craft and let my imagination run wild.

Tell us about your writing process: I treat my writing like a job as if I am employed and quite disciplined. I usually spend six to eight hours a day on a book, either writing or doing research. I take breaks with a round of golf and vary my writing by producing fiction and nonfiction articles for various magazines.

With fiction, I usually have an idea with just a couple of specific points, and the rest of my process depends entirely on my characters. As they grow and develop, they tell me who they are, what they want to say, and what they are doing.

Nonfiction: It depends on my mood and particular interest at a given moment. I occasionally do book reviews.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? The only challenge I have as a writer is that there is insufficient time to write all the stories and characters in my head.

What are you currently working on? I am five chapters into a novel comprising six different stories, all intertwined with links to two main characters. It’s fun and challenging.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Not really. I joined CWC because writing is a lonely business. I started the Writers Connection, where a group of us could meet to socialize and talk about anything related to writing.

I read more biographies than novels. Who’s your favorite author? Depends on the type of book. Thrillers: John Le Carre; Literary: Edna O’Brien & Jose Luis Borges. Paul Theroux is, for sure as a travel author.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Love/romantic scenes are particularly difficult to write, just to get the language balance and sensitivity right. My wife, who is both a painter and psychologist, is always the first to review my drafts and gives me excellent feedback.

Do you have subplots? Always have several subplots. That’s a major part of the fun and challenge in writing.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? Yes. I believe that almost every author, especially early in their career, base some characters on their own experiences. We often write from what we know.

What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? Sometimes it’s difficult to access or find all the information needed about a character. For example, I needed a great deal of information about the French railways during World War II. There are lots of bits and pieces, but that complete history has still to be written. I have researched French archives and come away empty-handed.

Where do you place your settings? Depends. I write a lot about places and countries I have lived in, especially France, Ireland, Spain, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Latin America.

What is the best book you have ever read? Henry Kissinger: 2 Vols. The Whitehouse Years, and he was writing in a second language. From the point of view of command of language and style, Mark Kishlansky’s A Monarchy Transformed: Britain 1603-1714.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? My head is full of characters wanting to tell their stories. I’ll just keep writing because I must. I would like to see my book Let the Peacock Sing turned into a mini-series, and I am working on that.

How do our readers contact you?

Majb7016@gmail.com

Website: www.nbwriter.net

Facebook: Michael.Barrington733

Twitter: @Mj_Barrington

6 Comments

  1. Valerie Brooks

    What a wealth of material, Michael! You need three lives to complete all the works you have in you. I was going to mention the same thing Debra mentioned about being a spy. I know, I know, you can’t say anything.
    Best of luck with your work!
    Valerie

    Reply
  2. Alfred Garrotto

    Michael’s an inspiration to those who know him. As a fellow writer, I’m in awe of his pool of experiences from which he builds his work. I’m grateful to be in his writing community. I mostly listen and hopefully learn from him.

    Reply
  3. Debra Bokur

    Michael, the only thing missing from your resume is “international spy.” But I suppose most international spies-turned-author don’t publicize that, correct? Your books sound fascinating!

    Reply
  4. Glenda Carroll

    The life you’ve lived is made for writing stories.

    Reply
  5. Marie Sutro

    Having your spouse as the first reviewer is a special gift!

    Reply
  6. Michael A, Black

    It sounds like you’ve got a lot of experiences to drawn upon. I had a friend who was in country during the Nigerian civil war and he said it was brutal. Congratulations on surviving. Best of luck to you in your writing.

    Reply

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David R. Evans USMC 2113468 – Thank You For Your Service

The last post here was a fictional account of a soldier returning from the Vietnam War. This post is a letter written by a Vietnam War Veteran. I have not changed a single word.

While going through my diary I ran across a letter I wrote shortly after returning from Vietnam and thought it might be of interest to some who would take the time to read it or not. Let me know what you think.

 

I am a Marine and from the day I entered boot camp in 1964 I was taught that Marines are fearless.  From the moment I landed in Danang Vietnam in October of 1967 I feared for my life. Can I put a date on incidents that increased that fear no not really. The memories of my thirteen months in Vietnam are locked away in my mind. On occasion when I am asked to remember those days I do so with reluctance.

My first thought of dying was probably in November of 1967 when the sirens went off and I heard the screaming sound of rockets overhead and the explosions of 120mm rockets as they impacted on the flight line. I grabbed my rifle and helmet and ran for the bunkers on the flight line in the revetments. I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to run that fast. With my fellow Marines we dashed the hundred yards to the bunkers as rockets landed all around us. When the rockets struck the shrapnel flew around us, it was pieces of fiery gold metal, and somehow we ran faster. On one occasion a rocket struck an aircraft ahead of me and the explosion knocked me back. I dodged to the right and angled to the bunker away from the exploding A-6.

These attacks occurred on an irregular basis throughout my tour.

On one occasion when I ran for my position at the bunker at the entrance to our hangars a rocket struck the aviation fuel tank 29 yards from the command bunker and the tank exploded and burned all night long. The sides of the tank seemed to melt as the tank collapsed. I remember seeing a man on a bicycle pedaling by as if the devil himself was chasing him. We laughed at the time but I thought afterwards how I emphasized with the man and felt his fear.

On a weekly basis I would travel to the Air Force’s side of Danang’s airfield and I saw the open sided sheds that were 15’ high and filled with shiny aluminum caskets. They were the dead waiting to be transported back home. That sight still haunts me as I think of the 50,000 men killed in a futile war.

I remember hearing that a truce was declared between the North Vietnamese and the US only no one told the Viet Cong. They kept on attacking. In January of 1968 during Vietnam’s Tet or New Years the Viet Cong began a massive assault on South Vietnam. We heard they had overrun Hue and several other Marine bases. Our turn came shortly after. The rocket attacks intensified, on one occasion the  rockets struck all around as we were in the chow hall. I dropped my utensils and ran for the nearest bunker. I tripped on the wooden sidewalks leading to the bunker, falling face down and splitting my lip when my teeth smashed through my lip. My partners scooped me up and carried me to the bunker and later to the medical center where the Corpsman stitched my lip . I remember him saying “Your mouth is dirtier than your asshole!” When he saw the startled look on my face he said there were more germs on my lips than on my anus

My friends joked that I should get Purple Heart for being injured during combat. I thought of all the Marines out in the jungles being wounded and killed by bullets and booby traps and thought my injury paled in comparison to their traumas.

One night during a rocket attack a missile struck the bomb dump at the end of the runway and blew down dozens of our tin roof screen sided huts. There was  a mushroom cloud rising into the sky and I thought they had finally gone the final step and dropped an Atomic bomb on us and I would surely die a horrible death from the radiation. Shortly after they hit the Flare dump in the same area and I saw the most spectacular fireworks show I had ever seen. We were standing on the top of our bunker between our huts photographing the explosion dressed in our underwear, a flak jacket and helmet when the First Sergeant came up to us and told us to get our ass’s inside the bunker. Shrapnel was whizzing all about us piercing the side of our hut and the sandbags of our bunker. I still have pieces of shrapnel as a reminder of how close I came to being maimed or killed.

When the Viet Cong over ran the base we ran to our bunkers on top of the revetments and began shooting at the black pajama clad Viet Cong as they ran down the run way caring satchel bombs to throw under our aircraft. Suddenly bullets started striking the metal below our sand bags. We discovered it wasn’t the Viet Cong shooting at us, it was the Air force. I thought that it would be a hell of a thing to be killed by “friendly fire.”

Speaking of “friendly fire” shortly after Martin Luther King was killed back in the States a black soldier went berserk and began firing a M-79 grenade launcher into our living area scaring the hell out of me and every other Marine in the area. Fortunately he was captured before he could complete his revenge attack on the “white people” who had assassinated his hero. Was I scared, hell yes I was scared every day I was “in country.”

The last thirty days were the worst. Rumor had it that more men were killed in the month before they rotated back then any other day of their tour.  The happiest day of my life was when the plane carrying me home lifted off the runway in December of 1968. When I flew over the San Francisco bay to land at the SF airport a lady commented on how muddy the water was and I said “yes it is but it’s my home and I’m so glad to be back here alive and not in a silver box!”

My first wife can testify to my lingering fears; when a siren would go off and I would jump out of bed and run for the door. She caught me and held me till the fear and shaking stopped. My second wife can tell you how movies about the war in Vietnam would ignite those old fears so bad that she wouldn’t allow me to watch those films.

I was in Country during the intense spraying of “Agent Orange” to defoliate the jungles to expose the trails and hiding spots of the Viet Cong. Did this cause the degenerative nerve disease Multiple Sclerosis? I don’t know and I don’t think my Neurologist Doctor Joanna Cooper can say for certain. The cause of MS is still unknown but the possibility is there.

I returned to the States in December of 1968 and was advised I would get an early out in December instead of May 1969. I was still credited with a full four years of service. I received a letter from Sgt Major at Treasure island advising me that Marine Corp in its infinite wisdom promoted me to Staff Sergeant, added a metal and then invited me to Treasure Island to accept the stripes and ribbon. I declined seeing an re-enlistment pitch coming.

David R. Evans USMC 2113468
David R. Evans-6580
USMC 1964-1968 Semper Fi
OPD-1969-1995

 

7 Comments

  1. Wanda

    So glad that you made it home safely. One of my brothers enlisted in the Army. He was 19 years old at the time. Like you said, the last month is when more guys don’t make it. In my brother’s case, he came home but with multiple bullets still in his body. He was left for dead by the Viet Congs. He had a bullet in his groin, shoulder and behind his left ear. I can’t remember where he was operated on but he had a scar from shoulder to shoulder, about 2 inches wide and an inch deep. The one behind his ear, they couldn’t operate on because it was too close to his brain. Apparently, the body’s way of protecting itself is it formed a capsule over the bullet. Fast forward 30 years, he was out hunting and he heard something snap. He went to the hospital and they did x-rays and found shrapnel free foating at the base of his spine. Surgeons in our area did not know how to deal with his injury and he refused to go to the VA. His usual headache was a severe headache one afternoon, he asked his wife if his life insurance was paid and asked her to take him to the ER. He walked into the hospital, told the doctor what was going on. They sent him for a Cat Scan and when he came out he was in a coma. The shrapnel deteriorated his brain stem. They put him on life support and all of us siblings took a week to convince her that my brother wouldn’t want to be kept alive like that. He told us repeatedly that He didn’t want that. He lived a few more hours after he was taken off life support. So, even though he was given 30 more years life, the Vietnam War eventually took his life.

    Reply
  2. Violet Moore

    David,

    I wish I could have been there to welcome you home.

    Reply
  3. L. Todd

    Welcome home, David. So glad you made it.

    Reply
  4. Wanda Dean

    David, When reading your horrifying account of your time in Vietnam, living a
    tortured life, I just kept wondering how you emotionally survived it all!…I don’t know
    what it takes, but you have done it! For young men to go through such an unbelievable event day after day after day of “running for your life”,for your country, and then coming home to folks that didn’t understand or care, when you needed at least a thank you, or a kind word of what you went through, makes the healing process, just even that more difficult if not impossible. I just want to thank You for all you did for me, and for our country! And I thank you for sharing your story that is so important for us to know. I hope you are doing very well. I care!!!

    Reply
  5. George Cramer

    You might add a message I sent to a fellow Marine about “Coming Home.”

    “Johnny,
    About two years ago, I was sitting in a restaurant and had one of my many USMC hats on when a tall guy dressed in motorcycle chaps & a vest with USMC & Vietnam patches on them. He pointed to my cap and said, “you in ‘Nam?” When I said yes, he said, “Welcome Home.” That was the first time in 40 years that someone uttered those words. This was completely opposite to my reception at the Oakland Airport on returning from Vietnam in 1968. Here I was met with cries of “baby killer” and spit.”

    David R. Evans-6580
    USMC 1964-1968 Semper Fi
    OPD-1969-1995

    Reply
  6. Dan Oates

    I’m glad you made it, Dave. I was a member of the Amtrak unit at T.I. they probably wanted you to re-up with. I have a couple of friends who relate similar experiences, one who is fighting his third bought of Agent Orange-related Cancer. I was a member of the Amtrak unit at T.I from 63-69 and feel lucky to this day I was not called up. A few years after discharge, I too, joined the cops for the next 30 years. Five in Ontario and 25 at San Mateo Co. Sheriffs. I hope you are well and safely retired, you have given enough.

    Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    Glad you made it back, Dave. Semper Fi and thank you for your service. You exemplify the best of us. It’s because of men like you that our country remains free.

    Reply

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ALBERT VANDE STEEG – Discusses the Lives of Cops AND Life Under Nazi Occupation

Good morning. I am Albert vande Steeg, an immigrant from the Netherlands. My careers include ranch hand, police officer (detective) contractor, and a builder of missionary buildings in fourteen foreign nations; Europe, Africa, South America, and the South Pacific.

Cops have many stories that relate humor, intrigue, serious crime, and danger. Most of these stories are told when cops get together and they “one-up” each other. Others are told at family gatherings. When the stories are good and told well, someone will say, “you should write a book.” That is what my former partner said, and six months later, The Black Band had its first draft.

Yes, it was a struggle to get published. Having no experience and no writers club or conferences to guide, I found the Writer’s Market with all the publishers and agents listed. Reading this taught me how to persevere. Six months later, the contract was offered, and nine months later, The Black Band was published by Oak Tree Press.

The Black Band has been rewritten and titled “The Canopy.” Many of the stories found in the book originated at the cop bar, The Canopy. That is where stories were told and retold over mugs of beer and giant “Texas” cheeseburgers.

 

Writing about places is easier if one is familiar with the setting, so the descriptions are natural and real. Maps are used to correct street names and create a community the reader will identify as genuine.

Finding names for characters posed a real difficulty. Remembering created names of people not known brought a memory fog to writing. The solution was to name all the good and liked characters the first name of a friend or person that is admired and the last name of another such person. The bad guys then became people who are not liked or admired, again mixing first and last names. That is easy to do when doing police work.

For instance, there was a particular thief who stole calves from farmers. Knowing that many farmwives use the cash they receive from selling calves for their grocery fund, I was offended because my early years were spent in hunger during WWII. His name and that of a Sergeant who stole a pistol from the evidence locker became the name of the calf thief.

Speaking of hunger reminds me of that time enduring the pangs of hunger and the fear of living under the Nazi occupation, a story told each year to the fifth graders at our local elementary school.  Having heard the war and immigration story, these students and their teachers suggested that it would be a good read if written.

That was the birth moment for writing The Dutch Winter. I knew how it started and how it would end; the plot and stories would flow as writing began for a historical novel. It had to be a novel in order to include the many stories told by parents, uncles, and aunts and historical accuracy for locations and events.  The research was done by touring the sites in Holland and subscribing to a group that publishes Dutch war events, and I interviewed people who lived during that time.

Since there is a retirement home with many Dutch residents nearby, it is easy to find people in their nineties who would tell their stories over a nice lunch at their favorite restaurant.  There I found a spry ninety-three-year-old lady who carried messages for the underground resistance as a girl of sixteen. She was a lovely lady with great humor who cried when telling of the horrors she experienced.

The Dutch Winter is not limited to one hero or heroine. The Dutch were patriotic and brave in their zeal to resist Germany and protected the lives of the underground fighters and Jews from capture and extermination in concentration camps.

Another main character is a Dutch patriot that returned to Holland from Minnesota to fight the Nazis. He is paired with the girl who delivered messages, and they fight side by side, and, as every story needs some romance, they marry.

That required that I know where he came from and be familiar with his hometown. I chose a small country town where a friend was born and raised. Along with a map and internet search of the town, Pease, Minnesota became real.

To ensure that the cities, streets, and places in Holland were spelled correctly and placed geographically, I secured maps of these places to verify accuracy.

All my writings bring the characters to life with their beliefs and practices. During WWII, it took faith in God and strength of character to survive hunger and fear. Thirty thousand Dutch died of starvation during the winter of 1944-45. The majority were grandfathers who gave what little they had to their children and grandchildren and then searched for food and died on the streets, too weak to continue.

That patriotism and spiritual strength is evident in The Dutch Winter.

The Dutch Winter and The Canopy are available to order at any bookstore or Amazon.

My website is Albertvandesteeg.com  and my email is albertvandesteeg@gmail.com

2 Comments

  1. Thonie Hevron

    Thanks for this informative post, Al and George. I’m definatley interested in the Dutch WWII novel. I’ll see you at the conference.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    It’s great to hear from you again, Al, and I’m looking forward to checking out your books at the upcoming PSWA conference. Having met you before, i can say are a true gentleman in every sense of the word. I’m glad you’re telling these stories of suffering and sacrifice. As you said, they need to be heard. Good luck to you.

    Reply

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