Woodrow Wilson Knapp ( Lt. j.g.)

 

Spending years in Vietnam during the war can take its tole, even if you are not a combat soldier. While there, I tried to come back to reality every six months by taking a brief R&R. Usually I went to Hawaii and once, I returned home to Australia. But this particular time I decided to take my break in Tokyo. After all, I had lived in Japan a few years earlier when I was working as an exotic dancer. I enjoyed Japan and I genuinely liked the polite people.

The Otani Hotel was the newest and most modern in Tokyo that year. Staying there was a nice contrast from the army bunks I usually slept on in Vietnam.

It was my first morning when I stepped out of the revolving doors into the warm sunshine. At the kerb, in front of the hotel, I spotted a young American in uniform. He was bending over beside a Mitsubishi cab.

“The Ueno Railway station,” he was saying “I want to go to the Ueno railway station…you know, train. Train.” He made a moving motion with his hand as the nonplussed driver shook his head and inhaled noisily.

            “Train, train…you take me?”

I walked over to the cab and translated, causing a large grin to spread over the cabbies face while revealing two gold teeth.

            “The young soldier turned gratefully to me. “Thank…

            “Look out!” I warned, grabbing his arm and pulling him back from the cab door which had automatically swung open.

            “What?”

            “These big Japanese cabs have automatic doors. You have to watch they don’t smash you in the stomach.”

            “I seem out of my depth here, Ma’am.” He replied. “I wish I spoke Japanese like you. Thanks for helping.”

The Cabbie was twitching impatiently in his seat, anxious to get going. Indeed, the soldier did look lost – so young and innocent in his freshly starched uniform. He had a boyish appeal which aroused my sympathy.

            “I tell you what. I’ve got nothing better to do, would you like me to accompany you and keep you out of trouble?”

His eyes lit up. “Would you? That would be just great. I’m heading to a museum I’ve heard about and I was worrying how I would find the correct train.”

            “Then jump in before this fellow takes off and leaves us.” I was climbing in as I spoke and the American had barely settled beside me when the door slammed shut and the driver lurched the cab forward.

            “My name is June,” I said. “What’s yours?”

            “Woodrow Wilson Knapp” he replied, “But my friends call me Woody.”

            “On R&R are you?” I asked, not recognizing any uniform insignia. “What unit are you with?”

            “I’ve never set foot in Vietnam. I’m a pilot on the aircraft carrier the Oriskany. We patrol the Gulf of Tonkin. The closest I get to Vietnam is when I fly over it on missions.”

            “Well it all has its danger although I’m sure your in-between times are much better than those of the grunts.”

            “Do you mind me asking you what your accent is?” a warmness, as well as curiosity, had crept into his voice “And what do you know about the grunts?”

            “I too am on R&R from Vietnam. I’ve been there a couple of years already.”

His eyebrows shot up. “Well, pardon me saying so Ma’am but you sure don’t look like any military personnel that I’ve yet met.”

            “Probably not. I’m a booking agent, placing rock bands into the camps to entertain the troops.”

It was hard to miss the admiring glances he was now tossing my way. I silently acknowledged that I wasn’t the ‘norm’ that a young man would expect to meet while on R&R in Tokyo. And while he had immediately made a good impression on me, it was not one stirring instant lust. After all, I could tell he was a few years younger than me, who, at 28 had experienced pretty much all that life had to offer. His aura of innocence made me feel I wanted to take his hand. He was different from the men I usually met- kind of innocent and sweet – with a purity, which somehow, did not detract from his masculinity.

 

We spent a lovely day together. We laughed as we were shoved and jostled onto the Japanese trains which bulged with way too many passengers. We visited a hilltop look-out and Woody clowned for the camera as I took movies of him.

He invited me to join him and three of his pilot buddies later that night for dinner. They too were off the Oriskany and were staying at the Otani.

           

They were all young, early twenties. Fine young men.

I did not enjoy the evening. At one point they decided to drink a toast.

‘Let’s order a bottle of Mateus Rose,’ one suggested. They all agreed. ‘That was Marshall’s favorite drink. He was shot down last week, another KIA of ours,’ he somberly explained.

I did not want to join in the toast. Reluctantly I did and as I lifted the glass to my lips, a cold shiver ran up my spine.

 

After we left the dining room we headed for the elevator and watched the light as one descended to our level. It stopped and the door opened. A teenager ( or so he appeared) fell out into the foyer wearing a disheveled uniform. He staggered forward, mumbling incoherently, and bumped into me. Woody’s demeanor instantly changed.

            “Straighten up soldier,” he barked. “You’re a disgrace to your uniform. If you are staying here, get back to your room and sleep it off.”

The drunken troop spluttered “Aw shit,” then tumbled back into the elevator.

I felt uncomfortable. “That was a bit harsh,Woody,” I said. “He is so young and we don’t know, he might have been out in the field yesterday and may have just seen his buddies killed. They have it really rough.”

            “He represents America,” Woody ground out. “He’s in uniform in front of the Japanese. This is not a whorehouse. There’s no excuse.”

When I was alone later I thought about our opposing views. Grudgingly, I acknowledged that Woody was right…but I still had some sympathy for the young drunk.

 

We spent three glorious days and nights together before we parted – he for the ship and his war plane and me for the camps of war.

 Woody’s letters soon started arriving. They were intimate letters, telling me about his life on the ship and recalling his days before that with his family. He spoke so fondly of his parents. His father was a top executive with Pan American Airlines. We learned about each other through the United States APO.

Then one day, I received a letter from him asking me would I marry him as soon as he got out of Vietnam. This was the last thing I expected. How to answer it? How did I feel? What should I do?

I have written in Goodbye Junie Moon about my first marriage and how I lost my three children. How, knowing I could not have children, I decided to leave my husband and never marry again. It seemed to me that as an independent woman, there was no reason to marry if children were not the outcome. How could I tie down this wonderful young man and give him no sons? Besides, I still did not want to marry anyone. How then to let him down lightly? I had been in Vietnam a long while and I had seen the effects of ‘Dear John’ letters. I could not do that.

After much heartache I wrote back. I no longer remember my exact words but I did say that we should think about it a bit longer and get to know each other better. In my heart –I just did not want to hurt him. I knew we were mismatched. I had lived so much. He had lived so little (if you discount the daily stress of his job). I loved him but I wasn’t ‘in love’. And his proposal was no doubt influenced by the effects that the war was having on him.

I could envision him back in the USA with a lovely young girl, fresh from College, on his arm. One who could explore life with him. One who was ready to settle down and give him a family.

I drank a lot in those days. At first I drank for fun. Towards the end I drank from despair. Woody barely had a drink. No, it could never work!

 I often wish I could remember the words I wrote in that letter. I hope they were gentle – not erasing all hope. I’m a sensitive person so I’m sure they were, but we all have moments of self doubt.

A few weeks later I received a letter from one of Woody’s mates. It was one who had had dinner with us at the Otani Hotel that night when I felt such a cold shiver.

The letter said Woody had been shot down over North Vietnam and he never had a chance to bail out.

 Days of numbness- blackness,-mental turmoil.

Would my letter have arrived before that fatal mission? If not, would his parents have received it along with his belongings and read it?

 All these years later…I still think of Woody and worry about that letter.

 

 

 

 

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BLOG HOP

This post has been a long time coming. Several reasons. I’ve had a serious and prolonged writer’s block. And, I have previously acknowledged that my total lack of technology skills does not lend itself to a first class blog.

Leila Summers, a cyber friend and great writer from South Africa has lured me back with this invite to participate in the blog hop. Leila is the mother of two daughters and she has written a great book ( I don’t use those words lightly) titled “It Rains in February”.

It can be found on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Leila-Summerse/B005HFPUMG.

Leila’s blog; leilasummers.co.za/blog/

Facebook; http://www.facebook.com/leilaOsummers

Many writers have good stories to tell but Leila does so with extraordinarily beautiful writing, check her out!

Thank you, Leila.

Leila has asked me the following four questions so here goes;

 

1. WHAT AM I CURRENTLY WORKING ON?

I am sorry to say that I have spent more time trying to promote Goodbye Junie Moon and Junie Moon Rising than getting on with yet another sequel. Many readers have asked me to please write a sequel about the children I adopted but although I keep trying, I find I cannot do it. It was a huge job and there were many days I would not want to live through again – even by writing about them. There are already so many sad memoirs out there and I don’t want to add to them. Still, I love writing and hope to come up with a new idea that grabs me very soon.

2. HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

My life has been so varied and intense that it is hard to believe some of it is true. (Most of it has been verified in newspapers and magazines) Therefore, although I write as memoir, it actually reads more like fiction.

3. WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

Because I know I have a story to tell. I know the subject extremely well and do not have to do a lot of research. In my stories I try to be extremely truthful – even when the truth does not put me in a particularly good light. Hopefully the reader finds enough good in the character to more than balance things out. Nothing is all black or white and I believe readers can smell the truth and appreciate it

4 HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

I am greatly in favor of prologues to set the scene. Other than that, I don’t use an outline although I generally have a rough idea of beginning, middle and end. Thanks to ‘cut and paste’ I am able to alter the continuity occasionally until I feel it runs smooth. Once I get into the story, it seems to stay in my head even while I am sleeping. It is not unusual for me to wake up in the middle of the night with actual sentences running through my brain. I get up immediately and write them down. I think it is important to know when to finish. I have read some books that still run on after what has seemed to be the perfect ending. I no longer want to keep reading. An epilogue should cover any unfinished business, short and sweet.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with me, here is a brief bio. I am an Aussie but I spent half my life living in the USA. As a teenager I married an Aussie sheep farmer but that did not last long after I lost the children I so desperately wanted during, or shortly after, childbirth. My life changed entirely when I became a dancer and started traveling the world. During the Vietnam War I entertained the troops for several years and put my life at risk by becoming a whistle blower against a group of corrupt club sergeants. That story was written about in detail in my first book, The Khaki Mafia. I was fortunate to have the well known author, Robin Moore as my co-author. Robin wrote The French Connection and The Green Beret as well as dozens of others.

I was a long time settling down after the war but eventually I married an American and together we adopted six children ( not babies) from several countries. Now in my retirement, I live a peaceful life interspersed with travel and occasionally…writing.

 

AN APOLOGY IS DUE HERE.

I needed to tag at least two other bloggers to keep this thing going. I selected Beryl Belsky from The Writer’s Drawer and Clancy Tucker. Both are prolific bloggers with world-wide followings due to consistently terrific posts.

CLANCY TUCKER has unfortunately had to decline. He is at the moment extremely unwell. Even so, he is managing to keep up his daily posts which he prepared while he was feeling a little better. He is both a writer and a photographer of great merit and his posts are varied and have a huge world wide following. His blog can be found at clancytucker.com.au and his book ‘Gunnedah Hero’, a good Aussie tale, can be purchased from his blog site. I cannot recommend his site highly enough so do yourselves a favor and check him out and maybe send him well wishes while you’re at it.

BERYL BELSKY of THE WRITER’S DRAWER is my other tag.

Beryl was born in Eire, raised in Australia but now lives in Israel. She graduated from the Australian National University with degrees in E.Asian studies (Japanese), and political science. For 30 years she worked as an editor for academic institutions.

A few years ago she started writing blogs which eventuated into The Writer’s Drawer – her main focus these days. When I think of Beryl, the words ‘literary nurturer’ springs to mind. Although she has not written any books herself, Beryl is the writers champion. Not only does she publish writers excerpts and reviews on her blog but she also shares writing tips with them and runs writing contests and promotes writing contests organized by others. She calls The Writer’s Drawer an intercultural site for authors of all genres, languages, status ( from beginners to established). For those starting out, she has always been ready to ‘give a hand’. A writer could not find a better friend than this. I was one of the fortunate ones whose book she has reviewed on her blog. It was an insightful and honest review. 

Besides the blog, Beryl annually publishes an anthology of short stories and poems. She is also available for freelance editing projects. On the 17th March, be sure and look up her blog to see her blog hop post. http://www.thewritersdrawer.net/index.html

 

 

THINGS THAT GO SQUEAL, GROWL, THUMP, IN THE NIGHT.

Three o’clock must be the bewitching hour because that is when those heart stopping noises wake me. We are talking ‘AM” here. And it is barely past that now, as I sit here groggily pecking away at the keyboard. 

And NO, I don’t live in New York – although I used to, and the sounds are different there. Sure, they have their screams, their sirens, their loud-mouth street work crews and their late-night party revelers. But Manhattan’s sounds are so constant that New Yorkers learn to shut them out and sleep through any ear-destroying catastrophe.

These current disturbing sounds, which wake me night after night, all emanate from animals. Real ones – not the partying kind. They lust, mate, scream, beat their chest, scurry, forage, fight, slither, and God knows what else, outside my office window. It might not be so bad if the office was not attached to my bedroom and the window is left open at night. But everything has a reason. I need quick access to the computer in case a brainwave for a new book or a bog post should suddenly arouse me. (If you follow my blogs, you know that hasn’t occurred lately.) And as for the open window, well I live on a mountaintop overlooking the Pacific ocean and I love the fresh air.

Right this minute the noise has stopped. That is unusual as usually the wild and varied sounds continue until almost dawn when the Kookaburras awake and scream laughing at them. That usually shuts them up. 

By now I suppose you’re thinking I live in a really noisy place but that isn’t really so. It is actually deathly quiet. There is rarely any traffic at night and in Australia, planes are not allowed to fly overhead while the populace is asleep. Besides, I and my neighbors all have at least an acre of land surrounding our homes on this short street. And that acre of land is my problem. You see, I have an envirocycle. Envirocycles are a wonderful invention and possibly unknown to you city-folk. Being semi-rural out here, we inhabitants must think a lot about water. We don’t turn on the tap and out comes dam water – the way you city folk do. No sireee! We must catch our water in big tanks whenever it rains. And considering it can go for months without rain around here, we treat that water like liquid gold. Indeed, in dry seasons, we restrict our showers to three minutes by putting an egg timer on the shower wall before lathering up. Some of us can lather and rinse faster than Lance Armstrong on steroids. But I digress – and digress – we were talking about envirocycles. Those wonderful inventions save our grey (waste) water, treat it until they say you could drink it (I won’t try) and then dispel it to irrigate our gardens.

I planted a tropical garden ten years ago when I first came here. Due to the daily waterings from the envirocycle, it has grown and grown, almost blotting out the sky at the back side of the house. This may not be the story of Jack And The Beanstalk but it is definitely June and The Banana Tree. So you see, this dense rain forest is the cause of the noise. The animals all love it. Add to that, I put ponds everywhere which also attract thirsty animals and you have got it.

Besides several families of cheeky possums, we have constant wild turkeys, frequent wallabies, a resident six foot goanna (which frightens the hell out of my American friends who all mistake it for a crocodile) and more recently, several koalas. The koalas are unfortunately diminishing in numbers throughout Australia (due to the burgeoning population of migrants) so we are privileged to have these beautiful creatures on our property. They are nocturnal animals and it has recently been mating season and BOY, how they can mate. The females scream and squeal continually and the males grunt, growl and moan. The noises are so loud that they carry for miles and it certainly sounds vicious. The first time I heard it I thought I was deep in Africa. When I gathered my senses and knew where I was, I thought it was wild pigs. It’s hard to believe that such delightful and harmless little things could roar like that.

It wasn’t Koalas that woke me this time. Whatever it was, it sounded more like someone sawing with a blunt blade through a piece of rusty tin. I wonder what it was? But no time to sit and wonder any more. The Kookaburras have started their pre-dawn racket; laughing uproariously at my attempt to write this post, I suppose. The sky is showing the first traces of light – so until next time, CHEERS!

A LONG TIME IN BETWEEN DRINKS.

That heading was meant to be ‘a long time in between posts’. Thanks to my tardiness I have probably lost a few of my valued followers now. I offer no decent excuses. The writing bug has been dormant recently.

With great uncertainty, I have started writing another book in the Junie Moon series. Because I haven’t been sure that I want to write this one, I have got off to several false starts. However, yesterday I went to my usual bi-monthly writing group where I read what I have written so far to the members. Their comments were most encouraging so I guess I will press on.

Initially, Goodbye Junie Moon was about one thousand pages long. Recognizing my lack of fame, I knew it was too long for an unknown writer and turned it into two books – publishing Junie Moon Rising as the sequel. Now I have readers still asking “What next?” Well, as I’ve said before, I didn’t want to write about the years when I had all the children at home. I like to write about positive things and frankly, some of it was hell. Nevertheless, they have all turned out well and got on with their lives – a far cry from where they would be had I not given them that opportunity, so I suppose I will give my story one last shot. At this point I am undecided if I should post early chapters here. It could work two ways. A, either titillate you for more, or B, turn you off – particularly if it has not been fully edited. I will leave that decision for a later date.

Meantime, I have been trying to relax and catch up on some of my reading. Only hours ago I finished reading Michael Caine’s autobiography, The Elephant to Hollywood. Now I have read many celebrity auto-bios and some of them have been little more than a litany of movies they have appeared in or other famous people they have known. The fascination of this soon palls. Not so Michael’s book. Sure, he tells us of every film he’s ever been in and every actor he has ever performed with. But the real person comes across with Michael, and not just the actor, exposed. One of the heart-warming themes of his book is his love for his mother and his family. In the instability of Hollywood, he seems to have remained loyal to, and totally in love with his wife throughout. Loyalty and even humility seem to be strong characteristics in this man whom I grew to admire, the longer I read. His book reveals several facets of his personality and habits, even his delight in gardening and cooking in later years. In fact he includes some of his recipes, although I skipped the one on preparing garlic snails.

A fortnight ago my Kindle went on the blink. I don’t like reading on the small screen of my iphone so I did something unusual for me, an avid ebook reader; I borrowed Michael’s bio, in hard copy, from the local library. Now I hate to take it back. When I really love a book I like to browse through it again. Meantime, I’ve bought a new ipad so I think I’ll have to order the book from Amazon.

Regarding my own two books, they are doing the usual. That means they are showing short bursts of good activity followed by periods of the doldrums. Goodbye Junie Moon is in the doldrums at the moment. I plan to let her rest for the moment until I do a bit of proof-reading and correct numerous punctuation flaws. I would have done it sooner but, as I frequently reiterate, I am computer illiterate and it is a great challenge for me to work out how to put the corrections onto amazon.

This self publishing is one helluva learning experience. I plod along like most of us, trying this and trying that, trying to crack the nut and get recognition. And when I do, you will be the first to know – those of you who are still with me.

In my efforts to promote my books I have joined several online writers’ forums. There are so many authors telling us all about their latest four or five star reviews that I mostly skip the review copies. Consequently, I rarely post copies of my own reviews here or on the forums. Immodestly I tell you, I am slowly building a healthy number of good reviews. Goodbye Junie Moon has accumulated 63 five star reviews and 39 four star reviews. Junie Moon Rising has only been out a short while and it has received 1 four star review and 14 five star reviews.

It is my most recent review for Junie Moon Rising that I am going to post here. Any writer is thrilled to get a five star review. I always value the time and effort the writer took to post a review, not to mention the joy I feel in knowing they liked my book. I always want to thank them but usually don’t know how. There is a small box beneath the review section where I can write a comment but I don’t think many reviewers ask to be  notified of comments.

The review which has thrilled me so much this morning is this;

By James A. Anderson on September 15, 2013

Format: Kindle Edition

This is simply an outstanding memoir and one of the best I’ve ever read. That includes memoirs by some of the biggest names in entertainment and politics.I must admit I have not read June Collins’s first book Goodbye Junie Moon yet, nor The Khakhi Mafia bestseller she co-authored with Robin Moore of The Green Berets and French Connection fame, but after this I simply will have to.

This book is captivating beyond words and a real page turner as she tells of her many exploits and activities. She has packed more in a lifetime than many people could even dream of.

This sequel to Goodbye Junie Moon picks up where she left off in Washington, after escaping death threats by testifying in Senate hearings about widespread army corruption in Vietnam. Collins was a whistleblower driven by conscience to expose this scandal. A flamboyant, divorced, ex-stripper and dancer, suffering PTSD from the Vietnam War, she writes a memoir of outstanding forthrightness and courage which shows us we should not judge a person for their occupation. Underneath it all, emerges the picture of a woman of real heart, courage and compassion for the downtrodden. I don’t know June Collins, but I would be proud to meet her one day and shake her hand.

In this book she writes of her hopes to become an adoptive parent for streetkids in Asia but has little hope because of her background and the lack of a husband. I don’t want to give too much away, but this book has a real heartwarming ending. A triumph of the human spirit over adversity. It would make an excellent movie. Any producers out there take note and snap up the rights.

SHOULD I OR SHOULDN’T I?

I’m talking about whether I should write a second sequel, or not, to Goodbye Junie Moon.

Several readers have contacted me via Facebook and asked me ‘What happened next?’

I feel as if I have left some of them hanging as I never went on to talk about life with the adopted children. I ended where they started coming. There were two reasons for this.

1st. I was considering their privacy. However, that is not much of an issue as I use a pen name on my books.

2nd. It was far from easy and I do not want to discourage anyone from adopting the ‘older child’. They need homes even more than the infants and yet there are many people willing to take the babies and infants.

However, I have started considering it and I’ve even gone so far as to write a prologue. This leaves me with more questions. For one thing, both Goodbye Junie Moon and Junie Moon Rising read more like a novel. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. They move along at a pretty smart pace and include some action and drama.

Once Junie Moon became a mother to so many children, the parties stopped. And so did the action…other than the normal dramas of a different kind; those associated with raising emotionally injured children.

I realized I did not want to write a chronologically continuous story such as – 1st so-and-so arrived and then came , blah, blah, blah.

If I write it at all, I want it to be in the form of random vignettes interspersed with initial perceptions, leading to philosophical conclusions. This won’t necessarily hold the reader’s attention because the book could be opened and read at any spot. Consequently I would keep it short and hopefully, sweet.

As I waver back and forth on this decision, I would appreciate some input from others – especially other authors. I will also bring up the subject at my next Writer’s Group meeting.

To give you some idea of my tentative direction at this moment, I shall include the prologue in this post;

 

PROLOGUE.

Breeeeepp, breeeepp, breeeepp! I tried shutting out the sound. Still it continued, somewhere in the background, like a sticky fly that annoys you on a hot summer’s day. I was at peace; warm, restful, mellow. Breeepp, breep, breeep, the shrill sound persisted, dragging me reluctantly back to life.

The room was pitch black. Groggily, I reached for the phone while trying to remember who I was, where I was. Phone calls late at night were a no-no. My last one occurred at 3 am one unforgettable morning when my mother phoned to tell me that Russell, my brother, had killed himself.

The digital clock blinked at me in the darkness. Two a.m.! I lifted the receiver with trembling hands.

“Hu…hullo?” I quavered.

“You will pay for this, you bitch,” an unfamiliar screeched over the phone. “And if he dies it’s all your fault.”

Who was this nut? If who dies?

“You must have the wrong number.” I answered, now fully awake.

“Are you Jose’s mother?” The female voice was hysterically loud. I pulled the receiver away from my ear.

“Well…yes.”

“There’s no wrong number,” the words fell in incoherent gasps, “And when I hang up here I’m calling the police.”

This was ridiculous. “Lady, whoever you are, I haven’t a clue what you are talking about.”

“David…David my son. He slept at your house last night. You were supposed to watch him and now he’s in emergency, dying… not breathing.” The words gushed out in a sob.

David? That rang a bell. Wasn’t he the school mate who came home with Jose yesterday? A polite boy…he made a good impression on me. But what was this hysterical woman talking about? I made them stop playing Pac-man and go to bed at 11 pm, after they finished the pizza.

“He and Jose are downstairs sleeping,” I answered as calmly as I could. “Is this some kind of a sick joke?”

She spluttered into the phone and released a string of expletives.

“….you fucking dumb bitch…he’s here in the Good Sam, fighting for his life. He’s got alcohol poisoning after chug-a-lugging a bottle of scotch. Where the hell were you?”

The Good Samaritan was the local hospital in Puyallup where we lived, on the outskirts of Seattle.

I still couldn’t comprehend what the woman was saying. We never kept scotch in our house and the boys hadn’t even had any beer. Jose was sixteen and my husband had told him he couldn’t drink beer until he turned eighteen. We thought we were being pretty liberal with that rule as twenty one was the legal  drinking age in the USA. It was a compromise of course. My husband was American but I was Australian and eighteen was the legal drinking age in Australia. I always thought Americans were crazy – sending their young men to war to possibly die at eighteen but not allowing them to drink.

Trying to make sense of this whole, confusing turn of events, I answered, “I’m running downstairs to the boy’s room now. I’ll call you back at Good Sam’s emergency in a few minutes.” I hung up before she could abuse me again.

Jose was the eldest of my six adopted children. When I adopted him and brought him from Columbia, he was thirteen years old. Raising him hadn’t been trouble free. Prior to being adopted he had lived in an orphanage where he gained advantage by using both charm and lies. He could charm people easily, being handsome and quick with compliments. He was always obliging, quick to carry the ladies parcels and so on. I didn’t blame him for that. In his situation, he had to survive as best he could. However, the lies I had a little more trouble with. There were occasions when I smelled marihuana and alcohol on his breath but I was yet to find any in his room.

I was thinking of these things as I entered the downstairs hallway to his room. In the darkness I smelled an unpleasant sourness. I switched on the light, revealing the source of the odour. Vomit lay in puddles and splattered the walls. Holding my breath, I sidestepped it and opened the door. Jose was asleep, fully clothed, on top of the blankets. When last I saw him, he had been in his pyjamas, under the blankets. David was not in either bunk. Now I was alarmed. I shook Jose roughly while calling his name.  He was dead to the world. I tried again before going to the kitchen and filling a glass with water. Back in the bedroom again, I threw the water in his face. He didn’t even stir. Worried now, I checked his pulse and his breathing. He was okay – just deeply, drunkenly, passed out.

Angrily, I made my way back to the kitchen, lifted the wall phone and called Good Sam. Five minutes later I had David’s distraught mother back on the phone.

“How is David?” I asked. “Any improvement?”

“As if you care,” she spat “but thank God he is breathing at last.” She inhaled noisily. “We have to wait to see if there is any brain damage…you…you neglectful… bad, bad person.”

I sighed heavily. “Look, I could hardly stay up all night watching over them as they sleep. I’m not a robot. But please…tell me what happened. Jose is passed out so I know nothing.”

“Apparently, while you were not paying attention, they went to a party at another teen’s house. The parents were away and when the noise got too loud, the neighbors called the police. Thank God they did. The police found David unconscious and called an ambulance. If he survives, it’s no thanks to you.” She hung up.

There was no sleep for me the remainder of the night. I sat at the kitchen table nursing innumerable cups of tea and thinking about my situation. Had Doug and I made a mistake by adopting so many children? There were times when I thought we had.

It wouldn’t be so bad if Doug’s work didn’t take him away from home, but as a ship’s captain, he was gone half the time and I was left in the role of a single mom. None of the children were babies when we took them and the six of them carried deep emotional scars to varying degrees. Each one had experienced horrors that no child should. The adoption agencies had never warned us of some of the problems we were inheriting. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and considered they may not have known, or wanted to know, the full stories. Our Korean son, Choi, whom we adopted as a healthy, thirteen year old boy, had barely unpacked when we had to rush him to hospital. Two operations later and we had saved his life. The doctors said his heart would have killed him before he turned sixteen.

My heart had been filled with love and a desire to help some of the world’s most needy. You might well call me naive. Good intentions are not always enough and I had unknowingly been unprepared for the problems that I encountered. It would take all my strength and resilience to succeed in the job that I was determined to finish.

 

If you can’t feed a hundred people then feed just one.

Mother Teresa.

AUTHORS AND EGOS.

There is really nothing wrong with ego as long as one does not allow it to become inflated. In fact, I think ego is a good thing. It spurs us on, it allows us some pride. It is a sad thing if someone has lost their ego. This generally does not occur with writers. We may write for ourselves but in the final count, most of us definitely want others to read…and hopefully like, what we have written. Why else are there millions of people out there writing their stories in this age of self-publishing? Just about everyone today has written, or knows someone who has written, or is writing, or is planning to write, their story. Why else am I, and others like me, blogging.

So many of us want to speak, we want to be heard. And whether anyone cares what we write or not, we have this great desire to share out thoughts.

I am no different. I want to communicate – whether it be by writing or in conversation. I have been known to gabble on but I hope I am not one of those I have heard of ‘ who have nothing to say yet keep repeating it’.

And so, in this quest for communication, I have written several books about myself. First, I was privileged to write The Khaki Mafia with Robin Moore (author of The French Connection and many others.) This was indeed a privilege because Robin was a well established author and I had much to learn.  He was generous in sharing his knowledge and time. One of the things he often repeated was “There are many writers out there who write beautiful words but have nothing to say.” Robin always had plenty to say…while holding the reader’s interest. I hope I have learned to do the same.

The Khaki Mafia was actually a true story of the corruption I encountered within the U.S. Army clubs in Vietnam and how I risked my life when I ‘blew the whistle.’ Robin said that it would sell better if presented as fiction so we changed the names and embellished a few facts. He was right. It sold a million copies.

Since then I have written the true story of the same events. In Goodbye Junie Moon I did not write in depth about the corruption as I did not want a repeat of our first book. I was trying to show how the events effected and changed me. A few ( very few) readers have complained about this, saying they wanted a deeper look at the corruption and less of me. (It is a memoir – which usually means a good look at the author. )

More recently, I wrote the sequel, Junie Moon Rising.

Promoting a book today is vastly different from the days when Robin and I wrote The Khaki Mafia. Back then, we were treated like celebrities as our publisher set up TV appearances and book signing tours for us. We traveled the country accompanied by a PR woman. We were accommodated in five star hotels and all our TV, magazine and newspaper interviews were pre-arranged.

I long for those days now, as I slog away, trying to write this blog, chat on Facebook and Twitter and other writer’s forums. And sadly, I am not very good at this new type of promotion, being rather inept at computer savvy.

My latest attempt at promoting Goodbye Junie Moon occurred between the 17th – 21st July. I offered the book for free during those days through amazon. Much to my delight, 33,000+ people downloaded the free copies. This is turn, generated an additional forty six reviews to date. Now reviews help sell books and prior to that Freebie, my reviews were pretty good and I must admit, I was beginning to get a swelled head. This last week has certainly brought me crashing back to earth. Some of those ladies who downloaded the freebies have not liked the story at all – couldn’t even finish it. I was found to be, raunchy, horny, boring and ungrammatical. One even asked for a refund. (LOL). Now, this should not matter. While writing, I did not have to put myself ‘out there’, warts and all. But I did, hiding nothing – the good and the bad. At times my life was raw. Sure I could tell the good things about myself and sugar-coat the bad. But that would not be honest and discerning readers know and appreciate honesty.

I have always been a person who danced to my own tune and never gave a fig (funny saying, that.) what others thought of me, as long as I liked myself. So why should I care about some negative (Not constructive) reviews? Especially when they were so outnumbered by the good ones.

Ego, of course E.G.O! I’m a little bit ashamed of that. I know better. I am bigger than that. Have I become a whiner? So many writers have endured the same rejection – the same criticism, and accepted it in silence.  So if other people’s opinions never mattered before, what is different? Is it because I am older? I think not! I believe that whereas my ego is within bounds generally, when it comes to my writing, it is desperate for approval. Stupid woman! My brain tells me that we can’t please everyone. We are all different. Let it be water off a duck’s back! I’m certainly not alone and even far better writers than me get negative reviews. So bring them on – and shut up, June.

And now for the happy ending. After that huge whinge, here is the end result; CONTROVERSY sells books! Although my rating has dropped a few points, my book has never sold so well. Take heart fellow authors and welcome those negative reviews. Smile as you run to the bank!

Until next time, Cheers.

Those Twirling, Swirling, Terrific NBA Players.

I have never been a big team-sports fan. I enjoyed playing AND watching tennis, water-skiing and surfing. Then I married an addicted sports fan nut. Fortunately he was at sea a lot but when he was home, the TV was tuned into sports shows almost continually, especially grid-iron.

He was my second husband, an American. The first one was an Aussie and he played rugby league. Rugby League and Rugby Union are played slavishly in Australia and my first husband was not only a fan, but a player (5/8th position, for those who care.) I lost count of the times I dragged him off to the hospital – usually with a broken nose. Unlike the USA where footballers are padded and helmeted, Aussies play almost naked and the injuries they sustain makes me wonder if they are all nut cases to begin with. But that’s the way it is in Australia – a man has to prove he’s a man, even if it means brain damage.

In my third life – the one in the USA, I did my best to ignore the TV sports shows, just the same as my husband ignored me whenever he had his nose stuck in the sports page of the newspaper. That was until one night when he asked me to meet him in downtown Seattle for dinner. I waited in the designated Sports Bar and he was late. The place was kinda deserted and the TV was switched to a game of basketball. Despite myself, I began to watch – and watch – and watch. By the time my husband arrived, I barely acknowledged his presence. How those hulking men could spin, and leap, and dart, and weave, and twirl. They left me breathless. As a former dancer I had always admired terrific body movement and these big men were as agile and graceful as any dancer I had ever seen. I was hooked – and how! Dinner was late that night. I could not be moved until the game had finished.

I remember it was the Seattle Sonics playing against the Portland Trailblazers. The Seattle Sonics won and Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Detlef Schrempf had unknowingly found an ardent new fan.

At first my husband was pleased with my new-found sports interest. He took me and the kids to a match at The Key Arena but he seemed less than amused by all my boisterous screaming.

Those basketball players, stars, received gigantic salaries so the cost of game tickets was pretty steep for a large family. The sad thing was, when our Seattle Sonics played a home game, the game was blocked out on TV for a distance of 20 miles (I think it was 20), thus forcing us to keep Key Arena always packed. I overcame this obstacle by finding several sports bars outside Tacoma and convincing my husband we must bundle up the kids so we could travel to watch every game. We could not take the kids into the drinking area but there was always seating for a food area where we could sit and watch. This worked well except my husband continued to be annoyed when in wild exuberance I leaped up, yelling and slapping those strangers nearest me across the back every time a Sonic shot a three.

“Think of your reputation,” he would say. (I owned Diamond Lil’s, a large shop/tea room in Seattle and was well known) “Think of the children.”

His admonishments were to no avail. Once all that court activity started, I was lost – whooping, jumping, yahoo-ing. So much for decorum.

I had my favorites and also a couple I disliked immensely. I thought Dennis Rodmann , that inked up, metal studded, spit dribbler who played for the Chicago Bulls – that great team, for God’s sake, was an utter and total jerk…which he lately proved in North Korea, embracing that short, pudgy ‘leader’.  I saw him again recently when he performed on the TV series, intervention. Ugh!!!

Charles Barkley (The Phoenix Suns) was another I had no time for. A great player but arrogant and contemptuous. During a game we watched him spit on fans who had paid big money for front row seats.

By that time Michael Jordan was in his last season. I loved Mike. I also loved Karl Malone of another great team – the Utah Jazz. But then, along came my favorite sports hero of all time.  David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs. What a big and handsome man he was. And what a good man. Unlike Barkley, I never saw him play dirty. He played center and he became the team Captain. Besotted by him I read everything I could about his background. As a young man he had won a scholarship to the prestigious Naval Academy in Annapolis (I visited there). Spotted by some professional Scouts, he was offered a great salary to leave the Academy before his commitment was up. He refused, citing the academy for giving him his first break.

“Come see me again when my time here is finished.” he told them, like the honorable, decent man he was and is.

Well I moved to Australia and boy, how I miss the NBA. There are other good basketball teams in the world but for me, there will only ever be the NBA.

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