Sometimes, books have to evolve.
I’ve mentioned on this blog before that while I served in the navy for a little over two years, I ultimately received a honorable discharge as a conscientious objector (CO). The legal definition of just who could file as a conscientious objector then was somewhat fluid and likely to be interpreted by local draft boards in different ways.
Early on, one could not viably file as a CO unless s/he was a member of a church with formalized anti-war beliefs–such as the Quakers. The alternatives to serving in the military were either jail (for committing a felony and not registering for the draft or for failure to appear when drafted) or going to the (then) safe countries of Canada or Sweden.
Wrestling with these questions impacted me, and I always thought there should be a fictional way of handling them.
The Navy/CO experience originally inspired a section of a rather lengthy magical realism novel that I self published some years ago. Subsequently, a small publisher contracted with me to break that book into a trilogy, the middle book of which was focused on life aboard an aircraft carrier. The publisher did not like magical realism, so neither of us ended up being happy with the resulting three books. The books didn’t sell and the whole thing went out of print.
Publishing books in a series is a blessing and a curse. In many ways–especially in romance novels and thrillers–a series is a good way to go. But otherwise, it can be a problem because the readers who might be interested in, say, the second book in a series won’t buy it because they won’t have read the first book. The more you link the books together, the more likely people who don’t read all of them won’t understand any of them.
I still believe in the story, though. So here’s how the ultimate book has evolved. I’ve extracted the navy story from the trilogy, stolen some related material from the other two books, and added material that was originally left out because the whole thing was getting too long, and am now ready to bring out a new edition of the navy story under a new title.
I’m going to release the book on Kindle to see if the story garners any interest. If it does, then maybe a paperback or an audio book version will make sense. Right now, I’m focused on the final editing and formatting of the Kindle edition.
Today, men still have to register with the selective service commission and military service is voluntary. To some extent, I want to remind people it wasn’t always that way. Today, if you don’t believe in the current war, you don’t have to enlist. More than that, Vietnam was in many ways a crisis for the American people because it showed the United States was fallible. It couldn’t send troops wherever it wanted and be assured of a positive result. So I think there’s still a viable book here when we look back on that time in our history.
I’m happy to say that my personal demons about that war have finally been put to rest and that the book that comes out of them is almost ready to release. What will come of it? I don’t have a clue. But I needed to write it.