For almost a decade in the seventies, a government organization headquartered in Dallas made headlines when an investigation found that some employees, mainly buyers, performed illegal activies on the job. I knew many of the more than one hundred indicted and the thirty-five who served time. At first, I followed the story due to my connection with the organization because my ex-husband worked in Personnel. Then I decided it might inspire a novel, a genre that I only had edited for others.
After high school where I was an editor of my school’s newspaper, over the years I had written everything imaginable including articles, columns, business letters, grants, and brochures, and also edited newsletters. As I began writing the book, I found it exceedingly difficult to deviate from all I had learned when I studied journalism at Syracuse University. Painstakingly, I came to realize that readers could not follow the slew of players; I began combining personalities and reducing the number of characters, feeling as if I were pulling teeth without anesthesia.
Since I based the protagonist on several employees, including one who served time, I needed to make him more likeable to enable readers to feel empathy for him. I achieved this with a backstory where readers learn about his childhood in a dysfunctional family and about his father who accused him of killing his brother. The accusation haunted him throughout his life because he was unable to recall the events surrounding the death.
At the time I started writing the book, I was working fulltime, sometimes holding down two jobs. I was also a single mom. I would work on the novel when I could, putting it aside as life got in the way. Probably after the tenth revision, I had an opportunity to have an agent read it. It was not ready for publication. I figured out that it still had too many characters and that I should not name the actual “non-appropriated fund organization under the Department of Defense.” As a result, I “formed” a new organization that would serve all branches of the military instead of just a limited few. Believing that “Revenge is mine,” said the writer, I exaggerated characters’ traits. Of course, I created noms de plume to protect the guilty and prevent legal repercussions
To make the story seem more real, I pulled information from albums I had assembled from my life’s experiences. A restaurant may have closed, but as I had eaten there, I could make it real for the reader.
Fast-forward over the years that I toyed with the story until I retired in Costa Rica. Once again, it lay dormant as I wrote other books and learned more about the genre. Finally, I felt the book was nearly complete and asked others to read it and suggest edits and changes. As a result, I wrote a new first chapter and eliminated the final chapter because the story was complete without it.
One other hurdle required attention. A long-time artist friend voluntarily designed a cover for me without asking for or even discussing a fee. After he gave it to me, he informed me that I could use it for 100 books and then I would owe him money. No way would I agree to this as I feared unnecessary legal problems, and eventually our friendship ended. I canned his design and hired a specialist who continues to provide covers for my books today.
After many tentative titles, it evolved to “Secrets Behind the Big Pencil, Inspired by an Actual Scandal. A “Big Pencil” is slang for a buyer that has control of millions of dollars for the purchase of merchandise. By now, I had published other books. It was not difficult to format this one on Create Space, keeping costs to a minimum. After about 45 years since the scandal became public, the fictionalized tale was in print and on Kindle and I sighed with relief that I had not given up on the story.
Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/helendunnframe.com
BIO: During Helen’s business career, she wore several hats including professional writer, editor, marketing/public relations specialist, Real Estate Director for franchisees, sales, and commercial real estate broker (licensed in Texas and specializing in restaurants and retail).
In Costa Rica, where she has spent most of her time since 2005, she wrote a nonfiction anecdotal book based on extensive research and her adventure with input from other expats. Baby Boomers can use it to jump-start their due diligence in order to find their paradise for retirement or possibly for a vacation home or investment in Costa Rica. The third edition (2017) of “Retiring in Costa Rica or Doctors, Dogs and Pura Vida,” “Secrets Behind the Big Pencil, Inspired by an Actual Scandal,” (2014) Greek Ghosts, (2003) and Wetumpka Widow (2016) are available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon. A booklet called Retirement 101 (2017) is available on Kindle only.
Helen Dunn Frame, whom I had the benefit of having on my writing team at Inkwell Newswatch, and for whom I have consequently had the privilege of proofreading her work, is an enormously talented writer. She’s flexible, professional, and very thorough in every writing assignment; whether it was from other sources, her own books, or me. She is definitely a top-notch writer with the desire to perform beyond the call of a “normal” writer. Rowdy Rhodes