We’ve all got places in our lives where we feel comfortable. Maybe because it’s familiar or because we have some kind of aptitude or control. It could be a place, such as your home or even your favorite room in the house. For some it’s their work environment or while playing a sport. We also have neutral places where we’re not comfortable, but not uncomfortable.
And then there are those places where we’re a little unsure of how things will turn out. This definitely happens when trying something new, whether it’s a new job, a date with someone new, or even trying a new restaurant.
So, back in May when Cat Grant invited me to be part of her military anthology Unconditional Surrender, I was very excited. Of course I wanted to be in an anthology with Cat and L.A. Witt! I didn’t think much about precisely what that would entail until I started planning my story.
Then panic set in. I was in one of those unknown zones.
[box type=”bio”] Who out there likes to read military stories? Is it because you’re connected to the military? I’m really curious. Since this is something new for me, I have no clue how many of my readers will want to read Unconditional Surrender.[/box]
I realized I’d never written a military story before and that it wasn’t going to be as easy as my contemporaries or even my Precious Gems mystery/suspense. Military writing is a whole new world for me. I had to do research before I could choose a story line. It’s easy to think of photos of sexy soldiers, but I wanted to write something more authentic.
While my Precious Gems character Reed Acton is a former Army Ranger, I really didn’t know very much about what that entailed beyond some basic reading, because it hadn’t been necessary for his stories. But since I had some small familiarity with that, I settled on writing about a Ranger.
That was the easy part.
To find a reasonable story line I would need to know more about the active duty military, deployment, and the war in Afghanistan. Not to mention becoming familiar with military slang.
My family includes many people who have served in the military. My mom was in the Army, as was my uncle, my grandfather, and most of my great-uncles. None of these people told stories about their wars, at least not to me, and most of them have passed. The one story I recall is that one of my great-aunts worked in the same building as General MacArthur in Tokyo, and she smashed her car into his jeep one day—her first day on the job. And yes, he was in it at the time.
So I had to do this myself.
I started by watching films like Black Hawk Down and Restrepo, and the Generation Kill series. (I really love Netflix streaming and Amazon Prime). I’ve also been reading books written by Marines, SEALs, and soldiers, to get an idea of day-to-day situations. So far, I haven’t found a book by an Army Ranger about Afghanistan. I guess they don’t feel the need to tell their stories.
It’s been incredibly eye-opening. Since I don’t personally know anyone who’s been deployed I had been very insulated from the wars our troops have been fighting for the past 13 years. Until now I didn’t have much idea of what it was like to go through boot camp, Army Ranger School, get deployed, or be shot at. I can’t say I know how these men feel beyond what they’ve said in books, but mostly what I’ve discovered is that people sitting at home watching TV don’t have a clue what these guys (and women) are going through.
I’m kind of embarrassed that without needing to do research for a story I would never have learned what I have about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I’ll share more of my observations and tell a little about my story “Irresistible Forces” later on.