Summertime 2019 and toad-drowning rain pelted Arkansas for weeks. My yard and flowers became a jungle. Just so happens, I’ve finished my debut novel set against a backdrop of Vietnam. This year’s torrential rains and storms were perfect touchstones for that country’s monsoons. But with the approach of autumn, the dry season dominates and hard, cracked clay-ground is the norm. Mosquitoes are out in force. Heat shimmers down. Another good local insight and feeling into Vietnam for my novel, If You Walk Long Enough.
Protagonist Reid Holcombe, from South Carolina, grew up on a tobacco farm, went to college, enlisted, and shipped to Vietnam. The tale is about Reid’s return home, dragging with him the baggage from a war that has opened a growing chasm to political and social divisiveness and become synonymous with graft, covert government, and loss. Ellie, Reid’s wife, and Angela, his sister, are likewise caught up in their own tsunamic changes.
I grew up in north Florida along the Florida-Georgia line on a tobacco-hog farm. Tobacco, at one time a solid cash crop in the South, entails hard work from the seedbeds to final harvest and sale. Seemed like at least seven months of the year, slick with sweat, slid by cultivating that nicotine-rich plant. Summer vacation for brother, Mother, and me, was an overnight with cousins near Jacksonville, Florida, and a day at the beach. Daddy never went. He stayed at home to tend the animals.
I never understood what people meant when they said they took a vacation and drove to the west coast or up to the Smokey Mountains or any place and stayed overnight(s) in a motel. I was thankful when the school year opened and I no longer went to the fields at daylight.
With my novel’s completion comes the next stage. Talented beta readers combed through the novel and gave me some hard-hitting suggestions. I’ve made edits, more edits, and begun a search for an agent/publisher. With perseverance and luck, the novel should be on the shelves sometime within the next year… or two.
Blog posts will be coming more or less regular on incidents depicted in the book, jargon used, thoughts on the land, the decades between 1960-70s, animal characters, cigarette smoking, low-country cooking, and other topics. Stay tuned. Let me hear your thoughts as blog posts unravel.
I’ll introduce you to the characters in If You Walk Long Enough over the next months and offer comments on things happening in the larger world. Got ideas on the cover design? I’d love to hear them.