Saturday, November 10, 2012

In Honor of Veteran's Day - Sharon Wildwind



The Long, Long Trail Ends
by Sharon Wildwind


Theres a long, long trail a-winding

Into the land of my dreams,

Where the nightingales are singing

And a white moon beams.


Theres a long, long night of waiting

Until my dreams all come true;

Till the day when I'll be going down

That long, long trail with you.

~ Stoddard King and Alonzo (Zo) Elliott, December 1913


It’s been a long haul.


Even good things—maybe especially good things—come to an end. In three days, my publisher ships Loved Honor More, the final Elizabeth Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen Viet Nam mystery. Five books in seven years isn’t exactly burning up the mystery world, but I’m very proud of the run, especially since I had a day job, family events happened and the publishing world got really crazy. In short, it was life as usual in the writing lane.


People ask me, won’t you miss your characters? Maybe a little, but it’s time they get on with their lives without me looking over their shoulder. When writing the final book, I faced different questions that in the other four. Did I want all of my characters to survive or was I going to polish off one or more? Was I truly finished with the series, or did I want to plant a few seeds in case I wanted to write #6,. #7, etc.?


The hardest thing was taking a dispassionate look at the fall of Saigon and the weeks that preceded it. Thirty-five years out, it still appeared to me to be an unmitigated disaster. Reading and thinking about it still inflamed old passions that I thought had died a natural death. They haven’t.


plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more things change, the more they remain the same)

~ Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (1808 – 1890), French critic, journalist, and novelist


The most fun thing was including a character named Kaye Barley. Yes, I did this with Kaye’s full permission. She said I could do almost anything I wanted, as long as the character got to wear cowgirl clothes at some point. She does.


One thing I’ve thought a lot about lately was the age span of Viet Nam veterans. At one end of the scale I imagined a grizzled supply sergeant who finished his thirty years in the military doing a tour of duty with the initial U.S. Military Assistance Advisor Group (M.A.A.G.), which, in 1956, assumed responsibility from the French for training South Vietnamese forces. My imaginary sergeant would have been about 48 when he was in Viet Nam, which would make him 104, were he still alive.


At the other end of the time span is the eighteen year-old Marine who was on the last helicopter out of Saigon on April 30, 1975. He’d be a spry 55 today.


Smack in the middle would have been a young Captain who led troops, flew helicopters, or worked in a field hospital during the late 1960s. His or her age today would be between 65 and 75. This includes my characters, and me.


We’re all a lot older, and a lot tougher than we were back in the day.


That’s a lot of water under the bridge, a lot of marriages, families, divorces, university degrees, second and third careers, dream vacations, hobbies, moves, and just plain survival because the ones of us who are still alive are, in every sense, survivors. Thanks to that pesky social media, we’re reconnecting with one another. In the past three years I’ve been contacted by and found information to contact more of the people I served with than I did in the previous thirty years. It’s a good feeling to get caught up on what’s happened since the last time we saw one another.


So my last advice to my characters is when computers come along, get one. Learn to use it. It’s going to come in really handy in about thirty-five years. Maybe on your journey to look up your old Army buds, you’ll look me up as well. I’ll be right here, waiting, and more than a little interested in how you’ve gotten on over the decades.


My last advice to you is that I have 3 Advanced Reading Copies of Loved Honor More that I’d love to send to 3 people reading this blog. I’ve left it up to Kaye to determine how those three people are chosen. So do what she tells you. And in the words of Bob Hope, “Thanks for the memories.”


Final quote:

You have never lived until you’ve almost died. To those who fight for it, life has a flavor the protected never know.

~ sign over a Mike Forces bar, Pleiku, RVN


A Footnote:
Sharon asked me to tell y'all how to win a copy of an Advanced Reading Copy of her latest and last Elizabeth Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen mystery series.  I'm going to put the comments in our famous pink Willie Nelson Baseball cap and I will draw three names.  I'll do this on Monday, Nov. 12 and I'll come back here and post the names at Meanderings and Muses, so be sure you check back (and to be really really for sure for sure - include your email address with your comment).

I had to wait a day to post this (and only with Sharon's consent) because after eading Sharon's post I had a very long cry.  For a number of reasons - not least of which is the fact that Sharon showed a personal side of herself here.  That's a rare thing for her to do, being an intensely private person.

Sharon wrote, "Five books in seven years isn’t exactly burning up the mystery world, but I’m very proud of the run . . . "

But damn it, this is a series that SHOULD have been burning up the mystery world.  It should have and it still should.  No one has written about the Viet Nam war the way Sharon Wildwind has from the point of view that she has.  Not many people could.  And many who could have chosen not to, for a wide variety of reasons - many of them heartbreaking.

Many of us were here at home while loved ones fought a war that confused us all, including many who were fighting.

It was, and remains today, an emotional time in our lives. 

I first heard about Sharon's series was from my buddy Mary Jane Maffini.  She mentioned the books to me because A) she loved them, and B) because Sharon mentions Boone, NC.  Well, boy howdy, that was reason enough for me to pick up the first in the series.  Reading about Boone always just tickles me pink.  However - this time - I was hooked.  Seriously hooked.  And as I am wont to do when a book touches me, I dropped Sharon an email to tell her so.  And squealed about it at DorothyL where I learned I was far from her only fan.  Sharon Wildwind is one of those authors that just simply has not, for whatever reason, received the attention that this series and her talent deserves.  I've been an advocate of this series since I read the first chapter of the first book - and I will continue long after I've read the last chapter of this last book.  I urge each of you to give this series a try.  And, especially, if you're of an age that remembers Viet Nam the way I remember Viet Nam, you'll thank me for the introduction.

I've been lucky enough to have been a character in a few books.  Lucky and honored to have been in some acknowledgements.  These things are always a thrill.  But I have to say - this honor is going to live in my heart till the day I die.  Thank you, Sharon.  Not just for the honor of being a character in your book (which you know I love!), but for all you've done - I salute you, with great honor and great admiration.

NOTE:  Because the Blogger captcha thing is such a massive pain in the neck, anyone leaving a comment under my status about Sharon at my Facebook Page will also have their name tossed into the pink Willie Nelson baseball cap.  Thanks much!


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Sharon - Welcome, my friend. Love this piece, love your writing and am honored to call you friend.


Kari Wainwright said...

Darn it, Sharon & Kaye, now I have another series to add to my must-read list.

hollygee said...

Thank you for introducing me to Sharon's books. I'm looking forward to putting one on top of a tottering pile of TBR's.

Pat Browning said...

I share Kaye's comment about this series. Sharon's first book, SOME WELCOME HOME, made my list of 2005 Favorites, and my review is still up on Amazon. I quote her excellent first line from time to time:

Through the slit in the closed drapes, a thin bar of afternoon sunlight fell across the soldier's chest, highlighting the dark, small bullet hole."

Somehow I managed to lose track of Sharon during the past 7 years, so I have some catching up to do. Thanks, Kaye, for featuring Sharon and her excellent series.

And Sharon, I love the photos! In my old blog that Google jerked when my e-mail was hacked I had posted the photo of you in the door of a helicopter. Do you still have it? Would love to see it again.

Wishing you all the best --

Pat Browning

lil Gluckstern said...

I am looking forward to the new book. The end of the series not so much. I have really savored this series, and I have felt the personal quality of your writing. I number several veterans of the Vietnam war in my acquaintances, and I sometimes they still carry the burden of that with them. Thank you for the post, and thank you,Kaye for having Sharon here.


Eileen said...

I just went to my library's website and order the first two in the series. Thank God, they have all of them. My son's best friend's Dad served in Viet Nam. My best friend from childhood is a name on the Viet Nam Veteran's Memorial. He stepped on a landmine the day before he was shipping home. I am looking forward to reading this series. Thank you....

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I am a couple of books behind and very sad to learn the series is ending. I agree with Kay that it did not get the recognition it deserves.

Anonymous said...

This song brought tears to my eyes as my mother used to sing it. I assumed it was a Tennessee song, as she was from Knoxville. Thelma Straw in Manhattan

Shalanna said...

SO it goes . . . the quality stuff never gets the attention it deserves, while crap rules the airwaves and the bookshelves. (sigh) People tell me not to call that stuff "crap" because they LOVE IT SO MUCH. But . . . I call 'em as I see 'em. The really great stuff seems to scare the masses away sometimes, until it gets rediscovered, as Mendelssohn "rediscovered" Bach.

Time will tell, though. Your books may stick around. If even one young person grows up remembering them nostalgically, you're ahead of the game.

Kaye George said...

I love this series! Sharon is a masterful writer, no matter what she says. I hope you come up with another series, Sharon, as good as this one. I'd LOVE to win the book!

Warren Bull said...

This is another reminder that my generation's war to most people took place in the ancient past, maybe just after the Civil War or between the two world wars. All the best to Sharon.

Carleen said...

Kaye, thank you for leading me to this page and this story today. I'm sorry I haven't heard of Sharon's books before now - it will be remedied immediately! And pass along my thanks for her service.

Catherine said...

Love these books and hate to see the series end.

I hope this doesn't mean you're not going to continue writing Sharon.


jenny milchman said...

"It's time for them to get on with their lives without me breathing over their shoulders." The words of an author who loves her books enough to have breathed life into them for so many. I love that quote. Thanks for this post, Sharon & Kaye.

Athanasia said...

I too have enjoyed the series. I discovered them only in the past few years through a comment on the DorothyL list.
After graduation my first paying and very fulfilling job was at the Veteran's Administration Medical Center in Milwaukee or Wood VA as it was called in the 70's. I will be sad also for the end and I am sure I will cry too, but would not have missed out on these for anything. I have submitted a purchase request for LOVED HONOR MORE. Thank you Sharon.

Keizerfire said...

I'm sad to say I haven't read this series yet, but I certainly will have to. You see, my father was also that young captain in 1967, coming home from his second tour terribly injured and disabled. And yet, he is the most amazing man I've ever known, and he left the past in the past, and moved forward to build a successful life by anyone's standards, and he would be the last one to consider himself "disabled". You can see him on my main FB pic, the handsome dark haired soldier looking at the camera. I choose to read books about Vietnam, hoping to find some understanding of what he and others experienced, as my father rarely speaks of his time there. He took my mother and went back last year for a visit.

Anyway, thank you for what sounds like a most interesting series, and I will be sure to buy the books!

Lisa R - keizerfire

caryn said...

I am another person of the Viet Nam era and all fo these years later there still is a lot of pain. I have really enjoyed this series even though it took years before I could bring myself to read them-because they have that Viet Nam tie. Maybe you could just let the characters rest for a few years and then bring them back?

Gerrie Ferris Finger said...

I love being introduced to new authors. The era she writes about is fascinating.

Bobbie said...

It is the eleventh of November. My flag is flying outside, as always on Veteran's day. Vietnam tore a very big hole in my life, emotionally. I still cannot look at it with calm. We all lost friends, classmates, family members, or at least someone we knew. I give a civilian's salute to all who served, hand on heart. Thanks for this opportunity, on Veteran's Day.

Anonymous said...

I really like this series too, and I'm glad Sharon got to complete the story arc as she envisioned it. That doesn't always happen in publishing these days. I wish the series would be picked up for movies or tv. Liz

Ann said...

I have so enjoyed the first 3 books in the series & am grateful to the members of DorothyL who brought the series to my attention. I'll be sorry to see the series end, but hope that won't be the end of Sharon's writing.

Anonymous said...

I hope I'm not too late to get into the drawing!