My new standalone novel The Embassy Guards recently went to Marcia for edits. The draft has been making its way through the beta readers, and I feel like we’re finally there on this book.
Notice the “we’re” rather just an I. Sure I do the writing, but there are a lot of people involved by this point. I usually have boatloads of questions as I write. Some I know to ask while I’m working, but many are asked by my beta readers once they have the draft in their hands.
I thought it might be fun to tell you a little about this part of the process, even though it’s a bit out of order here. It never ceases to amaze me how willing my friends are to help.
The key to success is a wide variety of friends with different skill sets, all of whom are willing to help just because… Well, I don’t know why some of them haven’t told me where to take myself off to yet. I try to keep track of who helps on each book and put them in the acknowledgements. I also offer to buy them a beer or a cup of coffee the next time I see them. Fortunately, most of them live out of state so I don’t have to pay up.
Some people answer multiple questions. Dave Dingley (former Marine) is my resident weapons guy. He makes sure that I used the right weapon, that I called it by the proper name, and never, ever, “Oh my God, Top, are you just a f***ing hooplehead?” ever call a magazine a clip! He also helps by providing many inappropriate comments throughout the beta process. Finding the common ground between the Marine nomenclature or descriptions and translating those into language all of my readers can understand often falls to Dave. He first has to explain whatever “it” is to me so I can understand what “it” is, and then I can write about “it.” Talk about reducing something to the lowest level! Dave is incredibly articulate. And patient… very, very patient.
Some people answer a single question. But sometimes those little questions just stop me in my tracks and annoy the hell out of me. I hate not getting something I should know right. George Zaniewski was kind enough to look at a short paragraph that I had screwed up. I mistakenly used the word enlistment when referring to a term of service for an officer. He provided the appropriate terminology for me. I’m sure Ski thinks what he did was nothing, but help from a friend when you need it is priceless. That particular item was actually caught by one of my military beta readers, Jim Lewis. While I was asking Ski, Jim had also followed up by asking one of his friends who is also a retired commissioned officer. Interestingly enough, they refer to their term of service as a “commitment.” That word, while correct, makes it feel like they have been sent to the asylum to work off their education sentence. Oh, wait… they have.
Scott Underwood helped me out when I asked him a dumb question about radio call signs and identification. He answered the question, and I wrote the section and moved on. Sadly, I have many more questions now. I’m fine with the squad leader being One, but why the hell is the lieutenant or the captain Six? And just who the hell are Two, Three, Four, and Five? None of those questions matter to my story, but this is what happens when I ask a question. Twenty more occur to me. I fortunately didn’t bother Scott with all those unnecessary questions – I can’t afford to run him off.
So, while the actual writing is solitary, my novels are truly a team effort.
The Embassy Guards will be out later this month.