Well, sharing that cover was exciting stuff! Thank you so much to those of you who took the time to email me and tell me they loved it. I appreciated hearing from you, it meant a lot!
But now I've shown you all the cover, I have a lot to do to get the book ready for you by the end of April. It seems as though there are 101 processes it needs to go through to make it as perfect as I can get it. I'm sure it will be well worth it in the end though and I can't tell you how excited I'm getting about it!
Two of my favourite tv shows when I was younger were China Beach and Tour of Duty. I'm not totally sure why. And I'm not sure their target audience was twenty something females. But since then I have always wanted to write a story set during the Vietnam War. Maybe it's the music of the 60's? Maybe it's the men? Maybe it's the weapons and the whole soldiering thing? Or maybe it was the comradeship or brotherhood that obviously happened between people during times of war when bonds formed lasted a lifetime? Or a combination? Who knows. But I remember watching Tour of Duty religiously every week, and I know that Terence Knox and Stephen Caffery were pretty darned hot stuff!
Favourite Tour of Duty actors, Terence Knox left and Stephen Caffery right
So after all those years of reading about the war and watching the movies and documentaries, I finally wrote the damned story!
When I got the chance to go to Vietnam at the end of last year, I felt like I was stepping back in time. I didn't see all the high-rise appartments, the glamour of 2016, I saw the simple, the unaffected Vietman of 1967 and 1968, the year's my characters were 'in country'. I was there to find where Jack had been, where Evie had performed her concerts. I wanted to drive over the same roads, walk where they had walked. And after stepping off the plane at Tan Son Nhut Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, I found myself slipping back into a city called Saigon. I knew the sites and landmarks of Saigon, I was transported to a time 50 years ago.
A week later when I arrived in Vung Tau, some two hours away, I could feel Jack's presence. It might sound odd, but for me Jack had become a real person. After living with my characters for so long they had all become real. I wanted to visit the places in Vung Tau where events in my story had happened. Suddenly the trip took on a whole new meaning. I ate the street food, lay in my bed at night listening to the noises that filtered up from the street below, wondering if they were the same street noises Jack had heard when he lay in bed in the stark room with just a curtain covering the window? Or had Evie heard the horns of motorbikes tooting as they navigated the towns streets late into the night? Had Evie walked the streets trying to ignore the oppressive heat after the temperatures of Auckland?
Visiting Back Beach with my lovely guide Khong. Looking north.
The most popular place for New Zealand and Australian soldiers to take R&R or use their leave passes, was Vung Tau. It was just over 30kms from where they were based at Nui Dat. During '67 and '68, Vung Tau was home to the American 36th Evac Hospital, the Australian 8th Field Hospital, a huge Australian Logistics Support Group, a port, an American air base and many other smaller Australian units. There was also a brand new Rest and Recreation Centre called the Peter Badcoe Club that opened in 1967. It had everything a soldier could want, while taking leave, including the only swimming pool in Vung Tau. But it had a strict No Girls policy.
The town boasted many bars, clubs, shops, hotels and two beautiful beaches. The nicest of the beaches was Back Beach. This long stretch of golden sand faced the South China Sea and was divided into segments. A portion was allocated to the Australians and New Zealanders to use, another to the Americans. The Koreans used another part. Soldiers came here to lie on the beach, surf, or swim. The Vietnamese locals didn't use it at all. They preferred to use Front Beach which faced Saigon (now renamed Ho Chi Minh City) and the Mekong region.
Back Beach looking south
Jack didn't ever stay at the Peter Badcoe Club. He got side-tracked and never made it there, you'll have to read the book to find out just where he did stay, but he did walk down to Back Beach and lie on the sand with someone and he did walk through the streets, becoming familiar with the people who lived there. However, Evie performed a concert at the Peter Badcoe Club while she stayed in Vung Tau. You'll hear about her concerts in the book.
Today Vung Tau has grown and where the Peter Badcoe Club once offered a save haven for soldiers while they relaxed and took time out, the magnificent Imperial Hotel now sits. But if you know where to look, you can make out the landmarks from some of the places from the 60's, like Radar Hill and the hill where Australian Logistrics Support Group once operated from, amongst others. Being able to experience the people, the noise and the heat was an extra special experience, and one I won't forget for a long time.
I loved Vung Tau, to me it had a special feel to it, but that might have been because I had ties to the town. Today it boasts a large population of Australian veterans who have made Vung Tau their home, and Russians who have found work on the many oil rigs that dot the horizon. On weekends the city fills with holiday-makers from Ho Chi Minh who travel the two hours to enjoy the beaches and the clubs and some time away from bustling city.
Front Beach at low tide with it's fishing boats. At high tide the bay fills with swimmers.
Vung Tau taken in 1968
Vung Tau taken in 2016 looking across Front Beach with the high rise appartments
An every day street science in Vung Tau in 1967. Note Kim Son's store on left.
The very same street as above taken in 2016. If you look closely you'll see Kim Son's store is still there on the left.
In The Nam Legacy, Jack is drawn to Vung Tau and he comes here as often as he can. In my next newsletter I want to take you for a walk down some of the small streets that Jack walked down, and we might negotiate the traffic of Saigon!
I'll be sharing some of the great music from the 60's on my Facebook page over the coming weeks too!
A gift for three of you!
First up I better not forget to let you know that the two lucky subscribers who each won a calendar were Lorraine and Deb (from New Zealand and USA). The calendar had some lovely images taken during my trip to Vietnam last year. Hope you both enjoy them.
This month I have three more gorgeous folding cards to give away between now and my next newsletter. And what do you have to do to enter? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! If you are a subscriber to this newsletter when I make the draw, your name will automatically be entered. Easy. There are three different designs and they are all equally as gorgeous. And, I won't write in the cards, so whoever wins them can re-use them!
If you have any friends who might like to sign up to receive this newsletter, feel free to forward it or send them to my website - http://www.carolebrungar.com where they will find the sign-up link.
STOP PRESS!! As I write, plans are being made to come to Auckland to launch The Nam Legacy in June, so if you live in Auckland, or there-abouts, I hope you'll be able to make it! I'll let you know more details closer to the time. I hope to get to other parts of the country as well, so will let you know more when I have the details.
LOOKING FOR A GUEST SPEAKER? If you belong to a group, (library groups, book club, fundraisers etc...) who are looking for speakers, keep me in mind. I love talking, especially when it involves talking about my writing adventures, my trip to Vietnam and finding Jack. Send me an email and let me know about your meeting.
If you haven't already read my first book, don't A tide too high you can buy the paperback or e-book here, or if you would like a signed copy, drop me an email and I'll only to be happy to send you a copy for NZ$20 plus postage.
Until next time, and thank you so much for your support!
*Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. I love sharing my exciting journey with you, but if you decided you'd like to go your own way, feel free to hit the unsubscribe button below, and I'll fully understand.
I will be sending out a newsletter every month with news and views, hopefully a few interviews, and some lovely give-aways. Mostly book related, but some arty news as well.