While all this was going on, I did some reformatting to fit a 6 x 9 inch book and added yet a few more anecdotes that I wished I had remembered for the earlier editions. I also decided to hire an editor. It wasn’t that I was unhappy with my writing; I just felt that ‘pride of authorship’ should be set aside and a set of ‘fresh eyes’ turned on it. The woman I eventually hired, through the assistance of my 3rd son, Eric, was just what I wanted.
She managed to offer several ideas regarding formatting of paragraphs, etc. that have made the book what it is today. Best of all, she was careful to allow me to preserve my own style while making the changes. Perhaps her biggest contribution was to convince me that, if this was now to be a book for the general public, I just had to eliminate the references to ‘Mom’, ‘your brother’, the boy’s personal names, etc.
Since the book has appeared commercially, I have developed a multimedia program, which includes, among other things, two snips of actual combat film of my rescues I had forgotten I had. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. I have presented this program to churches, civic groups and historical societies and remain available to do at request. (Click on ‘Speaker Available’ in the Menu.)
All in all, I have been the lucky recipient of advice from my wife and all 4 sons as I waded through the murky waters of authorship. People constantly ask me if remembering and committing to writing my combat experiences has been emotionally distasteful. The answer is, “No”. I actually have very positive memories of my time in Southeast Asia. I was fortunate in that my actions saved the lives of men who otherwise would have died or spent years in a prison camp as a POW. Thus, I feel I was spared the negative experiences of others who have had, perhaps, a much harder time coping with their memories.
In the book, I record an experience that occurred in 2004 when I was a speaker for the Vietnam Moving Wall display in Kansas. This type of emotional healing of others, including some who have told me they now can begin to understand what their husband, father, or brother went though is perhaps the true reason for this book. I don’t know. I didn’t plan it this way. It just happened.
Another plus for me while in Vietnam, and one I candidly feature in the book, is the fact that I am a Christian and I felt that God was assuring me that He would see me through. He certainly did.
What a roller coaster ride it has been! To get the ball started, I gave away a few books to friends with the stipulation that they write a review on Amazon and the hope that they would recommend the book to others. This worked, after a fashion. From the first day, I have had a steady, but small, stream of orders.
I also spoke at a few local civic clubs and this resulted in immediate, on the spot, book sales. To date, everyone who has read the book has given an enthusiastic response.
Although I love the POD concept, there are some drawbacks. For instance, it is virtually impossible to get a bookstore to carry the title. They only have so much space and prefer established writers with a good sales record. They also want to order in bulk and on credit from the publisher, with the option of returning unsold copies.
It has been my experience that the book sells well when I actively promote it, but sales drop off when I am engaged with other projects.
Everyone asks when my next book will appear, but I am resisting the idea. If you have followed my recital of the history of VNAR, you will understand why I consider it to be a 'one off' as they say.
This seems like a good place to thank those who have assisted me in this project: my wife, Kaye, who has offered constant encouragement and support; my 4 sons -- David, who designed the animation sequence (which I hope to soon have back up on the site), the page banner and supported me with countless tips, tricks and advice; Craig, who got the ball rolling in the first place, edited the maps showing location of the rescues that appear in the book, and gave general support; Eric, who located the editor for the final book version; and Mark, who offered computer assistance and general support.
So, that is basically it as far as how VNAR came into being. Internet book sales continue at a sluggish, but steady pace, and every time I venture out for a speaking engagement, a good percentage of the audience will purchase books on the spot, which I am happy to sign for them. I suppose I should be more active in scheduling presentations, but it seems that life intervenes. Kaye and I have an idyllic existence, living on a private lake. Every time we travel for pleasure (which we do quite often) we enjoy ourselves, but are always very happy to return to our own little 'resort area'. I had one speaking engagement in November. There are none scheduled in December, but I do have two in January and one in February on the books.