Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Writing Military Heroes (What it takes)

This is a presentation I have to give this weekend. Any feedback you can give me would be wonderful. 

I write military romantic suspense. Navy SEAL romantic suspense.  

I had a leg up writing military characters because I’d lived the life for the first 14 years of my life. My father was a Marine for 24 years. During that time he was a member of the 1st and 3rd Marine Corps Battalions.  He went through WWII, Korea, and Vietnam and served 2 tours of duty in each. He was on Iwo Jima when the flag was raised.  He was a charter member of the Marine Corps rifle team, number 5 in the nation for 5 years. During that time we lived in San Diego, California, Quantico Virginia, Parris Island, South Carolina twice, and Millington Tennessee.  I went to 9 schools in 12 years.  And felt more at home on a military post than I did off of one.

That experience taught me what Military men were like.

From all that I learned two things. 1. There are good and bad in all people.  Even military people.  And 2.  When you train men to be aggressive, to protect themselves and others, when your country asks them to take on the most soul searing responsibility of taking a human life, no matter the purpose behind it, you change that man in ways we civilians can only try to understand.
Because of the numerous weighty responsibilities we place on their shoulders I also learned that heroes are not born they are self-made.

When you start to create a military character for your story keep in mind he wasn’t just born on the page a natural heroic figure with all the characteristics that come with it. He was forged into that person through his life experiences before the military ever became a part of his psyche and afterward.
He might have had good experiences and bad. He might have lost a love one to disease or accident, or he could have experienced loss by being dumped at the altar. He could have been bullied in high school or faced prejudice or violence because of the color of his skin. Or he could have also been the quarterback of his high school football team and be a natural leader. It’s up to you to build that character from the ground up.
 The backstory of your character is as important as the things he faces on the battlefield because sometimes that backstory plays into how he’ll react to his training and to situations he faces afterward. 

That backstory can help him or her bring just as much to the table in your romance and in the suspense angle of your book as their military training. So don’t rule out any part of his or her life. And don’t be afraid to write about it. Because when you write a military hero it’s important for you to write the whole person and not just the military persona you build in your imagination.

He’s a person and your reader will want to know that person and develop a relationship with him as they read his story.

Forging that relationship is the single most important thing you’ll do in writing any book. It’s what keeps the readers coming back. That’s why Series are so popular. Series can build a readership because your readers become attached to the characters in your stories and they want more about them with each book.

SEALs are divided into 8 man squads, 2 squads to a platoon. What makes them so unique (as apposed to other special ops teams) is they can be broken down into smaller units and still function independently because the men are all trained to be able to do the same things. They are all demolition experts, expert marksmen, expert swimmers and scuba divers, they can do battlefield medicine, they’re communication experts, Recon, and each team of four are called a fireteam.

Luckily I have 8 men in my SEAL squad and that has given me 8 books to write about them.
And I allow my characters to visit with each other or walk on as part of my plot so my readers can learn that they haven’t stayed in a static environment when they haven’t been reading about them. They’ve gotten promotions, built relationships, had children done all the normal things human beings do, off stage, until they walk back into a book and become a part of the current story.

Readers want to know those things because they’ve bought into your world, into the lives of your characters. They want to see them succeed and live a full life. But they also want some conflict in their lives to spice things up.

Some of the things I’ve tackled in my books are:

Dealing with being separated from family
Domestic Violence
Betrayal by a member of the team.
Being accused of murder in a combat zone.
Not being there when a close family member dies.
Spousal illness  (breast cancer)
Military Politics
Planning a wedding and possibly missing it.
Having a spouse with a disability
Being an amputee
How the stress of separation affects a marriage.
Being married to a SEAL with a special needs child.
War Dogs and their training
The difficulty of having a normal relationship with their children after long absences.
The aftermath of rape.

This is a  weighty list for romance books, but I like a little meat with my potatoes and I like to put a weighty challenge before my men to see how they can overcome it or help someone else do so.  

Characteristics you want to give your character so he or she will become the hero your readers are looking for.

Courage – Nelson Mandela said, “Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
But your hero didn’t just wake up one day and say I’m going to be courageous today. He has to make a conscious decision to face danger instead of running from it.

From Breaking Free:

Damn thing fits like a coffin lid. Lieutenant “Hawk” Yazzie eyed the edge of what had once been the outer wall of a building balanced above him. Sweat trickled across his shoulder blade down his side. He thrust aside the claustrophobic pressure and focused on the two lookouts on the roof through night vision binoculars. They weren’t moving. Good.
Come on, come on.
A silhouette appeared in the second story window. The light behind the man gave the impression of broad shoulders and a stocky frame. The rifle slung over his arm, the firearm’s barrel pointed skyward, identified him as another hostile. Hawk squinted but couldn’t make out his features. He’d counted six men upstairs earlier. Was this one of them or someone new?
Three clicks came over the radio. “Doc”, Zack O’Connor signaled he was finished and in position. Hawk pushed the call button on his radio in answer.
Where the hell were Cutter and Strong Man?
Derrick Armstrong, “Strong Man” broke radio silence. “We have a problem, over.”
Hawk’s muscles tensed.
“C’s a no show, over,” Strong Man whispered.
Fuck. The last assignment of their tour, and fucking Murphy’s Law decides to kick in.
Hawk pressed the switch on his belt triggering his throat mike. “Cutter, come in, over.”
Damn it, Cutter, respond.
“Last location, over?” Hawk asked.
“Ground floor. I thought he was right behind me, over.”
Hawk blinked the sweat from his eye.
“Five minutes, over.” Oliver Shaker, “Greenback”, their rear security, came across calm, level, reminding them they needed to get the hell out of here.
God damn it.
He’d never lost a man and Cutter wasn’t going to be the first.
“I’m going back in for him, over.” Hawk shook free of his pack and slithered like a lizard from beneath the slab, pushing his submachine gun ahead of him and kicking up dust.
There was always dust in this dry desert country. God, he was sick of it.
He belly crawled to the cracked wall fifteen feet to his right. The rush of adrenaline pumping through his system thrust his heart into overdrive.
He pushed to his feet behind a half wall still standing and glanced up at the second floor. Everything appeared still. All hell would have broken loose if they’d discovered Cutter. He was either trapped somewhere inside and waiting for an opportunity to escape or something worse.
Hawk drew a deep breath and assessed the situation. He’d have to go up the street out of sight of the lookouts, go across, and work his way back. Keeping to the shadows next to the crumbled wall, he moved east down the strip of abandoned buildings.
Gravel crunched just ahead. He dodged into a doorway and flattened himself against the wall. Shadows closed around him like a cocoon.
A man strode by, a rifle held in the bend of his arm. He clasped a flashlight and projected a small golden circle on the broken sidewalk before him.
Hawk withdrew his SOG knife and fell in behind the tango. Concrete debris crunched beneath his feet. The man started to turn. Hawk slit his throat and any sound he might have made strangled to a gurgle. Hawk caught him as he sagged, dragged the body to a doorway, and rolled it into the shadows.
He took off his helmet, tossed it aside, and peeled off his tack vest. The cloying, coppery scent of blood hit him as he jerked the tango’s shirt free and put it on over his body armor. With his dark hair and skin, he’d pass for one of them.
Hanging the MP-5 down his spine, he retrieved the MK-47 rifle and flashlight.
Seconds ticked by in his head like a metronome. Two minutes thirty seconds. His muscles jerked with his efforts to keep his pace to a stroll when everything in him urged him to run.
A voice called from the second story window asking if he’d seen anything. His heart rate surged.
Answer him.
He formulated an answer in the local Kurdish dialect. Sweat ran in itchy rivulets down his spine beneath the Kevlar vest that hugged his torso.
The man said something about a cold. Hawk grunted an agreement.
He thumbed off the rifle’s safety and putting his finger on the trigger, dodged into the building through the front door. The entrance opened into a dark, empty hallway. After a moment’s pause, he flipped on the flashlight and trotted down the hall to the fourth doorway on the left.
A voice called from upstairs asking what he was doing.
“Getting my ass blown up,” he murmured beneath his breath. He darted into the back storage room. Crates stacked nearly to the ceiling lined the walls. One crate stood open, straw spilt onto the floor around it. AK-47 rifles lay nestled inside.
Intel was right. They had to get out of here.
Hawk flicked the flashlight back and forth as he worked his way through Cutter’s route.
A black piece of fabric sticking out from behind some furniture caught his attention and he jogged to it. Cutter lay crumpled into a ball behind a heavily carved cabinet, his helmet beside him. Blood coated the side of his head near his temple and pooled on the floor.
Jesus. What the fuck happened? Hawk bent to check for a pulse. It beat weak and thready beneath his fingertips.
He glanced at his watch. One minute. Fear ripped through him. His breathing grew labored. He laid the flashlight and rifle atop some crates and swung his MP-5 into position under his arm. Bending, he heaved Cutter’s limp frame up and over his shoulder.
Forty-five seconds. Hawk’s stomach and back muscles grew taut as he adjusted to the one hundred and seventy pounds of limp weight with an effort.
He poked his head out. The hall light flashed on. A tango blinked at Hawk in surprise. He shouted an alarm as he raised a pistol and closed the distance between them at a run.
The forty-five automatic’s muzzle looked like a cannon. And sounded like one as the tango fired.
Wood splintered from the door facing close to Hawk’s face. He swung the submachine gun up and pulled the trigger in a controlled burst. Red blossomed across the tango’s chest, the force of the bullets throwing him back against the wall. His body bounced off the surface then crumpled to the floor. Footsteps pounded above.
What a clusterfuck. They were sitting ducks in the hallway. Hawk sprayed the hall light with bullets killing it, then sprinted down the hallway to the front door. The timer in his head counted off the seconds, thirty-five--. He leveled a short burst of fire at the doorknob and it flew open. He struggled through the opening.
Bullets peppered the road and dogged his steps from above, ricocheting off the asphalt around him. Muzzle flashes exploded like sunspots in front of him as his men laid down suppressing fire.
Another shot of adrenaline coursed through his veins making Cutter’s body seem like a featherweight as he zigzagged towards the cover of the crumpled wall he’d left five minutes before.
A foot away from safety, the sky lit and his ears popped. The ground heaved throwing him up and forward. Cutter’s body flew through the air like a rag doll.
The world came crashing down.

The next characteristics in building a hero are Determination, Focus, and Persistence.

Everything SEALs do or face in their training builds determination, focus, and persistence.
SEALs have a motto. “The only easy day is yesterday.” It’s inspired because of the training they do in Bud/s and the success they work toward during Hell week.

If they allowed themselves to acknowledge they might fail, it would weaken their resolve and it would undercut their success. So they just refuse to acknowledge the possibility of failure and continue to work toward success and survival.

SEALs Never Give UP.

If you’ve read Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell,  American Sniper by Kris Kyle , 13 Hours by Mitchell Zuckoff, or The Red Circle by Brandon Webb you immediately understand that everything they faced, every decision they made, is based on the odds of survival and the success of the mission.  They have a mind set that refuses to allow them to give up or acknowledge the possibility of failure. And when a hint of failure arises, they are constantly working toward a solution that will secure their survival.

90 percent of what they do takes those three things Determination, Focus, and Persistence. It’s all about  mental strength. If you read any of Dick Couch’s books on SEALs and SEAL training, that will become apparent to you.

10 percent is the physical training to keep them in shape and in expertise for their vocations: firearms, explosives, scuba, tactical training, and jump training. And each team has a medic and that teammate does extensive training to be prepared for any injuries sustained during a mission. They have an expert marksman, a sniper who has had extensive training it that. Each man of a team is an expert in some way.
The other branches of the service go through the same types of training, only they don’t train as intensive as the SEALs.

 SEALs Never leave a buddy behind. This is also a motto of many branches of the service. The SEALs just happen to have succeeded in never having a man captured or left behind living or dead.   That tradition was forged during the French Indian war long before the SEALs were created.

One of the best stories I’ve ever heard came from a Navy SEAL from Team 2. 
One of the things that was drummed into us, beginning with the recruiting process (when I joined the teams you had to be invited by UDT/SEALs to the training; you couldn’t just walk up and say, “Dude, I want to go to BUDs”) was that “There has never been a SEAL captured or left behind, living or dead.”
During our training, if a classmate or crewmate (we were divided into boat crews by height — since you spend a lot of time carrying those f*cking boats, that part makes sense) got hurt, if the injury was not life-threatening (and believe me, our instructors had a strange scale to measure what constituted life-threatening), then it was our duty to carry that person through the rest of the exercise while the instructors screamed into our ears — “There has NEVER been a SEAL captured or left behind, living or DEAD!”
Sometimes, if no one got conveniently injured, an instructor would touch someone on the shoulder and say, “Your leg’s broken.” And the same drill would ensue with the appropriate screaming at us. Times were not adjusted to account for the extra effort, because there are no such adjustments on the battlefield. If you blew your time, your time was blown.
In Quang Ngai  (pronunciation Guong Guy)during a recon I caught a bullet in the hip. It blew off a chunk of my iliac crest and cracked my pelvis. The guys on my team did the usual bandaid-type first aid, rigged a stretcher, and humped my ass the hell out of there nearly eight miles to try and reach a place where the choppers could reach us to evacuate.
I was hurting like hell. I was also feeling guilty for slowing my guys down, and feeling responsible since we were supposed to be avoiding contact and when the contact came, I had been “on point.” Eventually, when the pain and jostling had gotten to be more than I could stand — along with the guilt for being the cause of all this — I begged my guys to put me down and leave me with an M60 so I could at least slow down the folks chasing us.
To my great relief they put me down and stopped the bouncing. To my surprise they all busied themselves digging the f*ck into a perimeter around me. I told them, “No, leave me. You guys get outta here.” I was greeted with seven guys shouting in my ear — “There has NEVER been a SEAL captured or left behind, living or DEAD!”
My friend [name withheld] said, “If you die, everybody dies.” Faced with that choice I told them to pick me up and start the bouncing again. This time I sucked it the f*ck up and took it.
I have no opinion of the “worthiness” of Bowe Bergdahl before, or since, his capture. That shit is way above any pay grade I ever held.
If he was at any time on the field of battle like me, then it is my sworn duty to bring his ass home one way or another, even at the cost of my own life.
That’s the f*cking rule, *ssholes. No. Exceptions. Ever.
–Former Member SEAL Team 2

Conviction and Dedication  
All military personnel must remain dedicated to their training and to their cause. And there cannot be dedication without the conviction that they are doing right. They are there to support and protect their country and every man woman and child in it. Without that conviction and the dedication that comes from it we wouldn’t have a military.

Honesty and Loyalty.
Loyalty to the country they serve. Loyalty to their brothers and sisters in arms. Loyalty and honesty to the people of the country they stand for.
Don’t let the few headlines that emphasize the dropping of the torch by a few of our military personnel. There are thousands of others who haven’t lost their way and won’t. They should count far more than those who have.

Wisdom and Patience
Comes with the seasoning of the soldier through experience and training. But it also comes through that Backstory I mentioned from the first.

SEALs are sometimes sent into rescue situations to rescue hostages. Whenever those people need medical attention the medic of the team takes care of them until they can be transported to a medical facility. How much more compassion and courage could another person show than to put his life on the line for someone you didn’t even know. They will cover them with their own bodies during firefights and put their own life on the line to get them airlifted out to safety.  

There are times when the US military goes on humanitarian missions and we have a hospital ship that can be sailed into ports to care for injured during natural disasters.

While in Afghanistan and Iraq many marine units were used as expeditiary forces to attempt to build better relationships with the locals and lets not forget the numerous units that helped train their armies to take over the fight against terrorists when we pulled out.

Also deployments can range from 6 months to 18 months depending on the branch of service, area of deployment and the reason for their deployment. My father was gone for 3 years during Vietnam and only came home for Christmas one time.
The time military personnel lose with their families and friends is one of the highest prices they pay for their service. And lets not discount moving every 2 ½ to 3 years. Their kids grow and change, their wives or husbands become so independent or so emotionally distant there’s a power struggle when they come home or divorce papers waiting.
I explore how those long separations can bring a marriage to the brink in Breaking Point.

Trish Marks fluffed her cap of straw-blond hair. This style would be easier to take care of than the longer one she’d worn forever. It was time for a change. She always ended up tying it back in a ponytail to keep it out of the way anyway. And it was just hair. If she decided she didn’t like it, she could grow it back.
Too bad it didn’t make her feel any lighter.
There was a weight dragging on her. The position of it didn’t register. She just knew it felt like she was being driven slowly, relentlessly into the ground.
The weight of taking care of too many cases at work. The weight of the kids and all their activities, in school and out. The weight of the household, the yard work, the cooking, cleaning—everything.
Sometimes when she lay in bed at night, with the empty spot beside her where Langley should be, her heart started pounding louder and louder, and she couldn’t catch her breath because of that density pressing down on her.
The weight of having her husband deployed and in danger hurt the most. At least that particular issue was lifted somewhat. Langley was finally home. But he wasn’t entirely. Not yet.
They were going through a longer than usual adjustment period. And part of it was her fault. She was feeling ragged out, stressed, and just plain resentful. She’d spent a lot more time in the bathroom talking herself out of biting his head off this time, too.
Langley was patient with her. Too patient. She wanted them to have a screaming row, but instead they were silent because of the kids. Maybe if they hammered at each other with words it would end this heavy, stifling feeling.
Especially right now, with Langley getting ready to leave for a two-week training. He just got back from a deployment, and his three weeks of leave hadn’t been long enough for them to put their family back together. And they’d exchanged some sharp words in the past few days.
After fifteen years of marriage, she’d learned to deal with everything alone. But lately, with the added caseload heaped on everyone at the office, she couldn’t seem to get her feet under her.
What was wrong with her? Why was she struggling so?
Because her husband was gone more than half the year, and her son was acting out because he felt neglected by the one parent whose approval and attention he needed most.
“Tad, stop it.” Jessica’s voice, strident and sharp, carried down the hall interrupting Trish’s thoughts.
Like fingernails down a blackboard. Were there still blackboards in schools? She hadn’t seen any in the classrooms she visited in the last few years. They’d all gone to white boards or smart boards.
Trish slipped on her shoes, went to the door, and looked down the hall. Tad’s shadow, elongated and skinny, was projected against the wall opposite Jessica’s bedroom door. Trish started down the hall.
“You took my picture while I was practically naked, you little shit.” Her twelve-year-old son’s irate tone was worrying, and Trish lengthened her stride, instinctively knowing things were escalating.
“I’m sick of you wandering into my bedroom any time you want. It’s my room. When the door is closed, stay out.”
Trish reached the door just in time to see him raise the small camera Jessica got for her birthday two weeks earlier, and spike it down to the floor like it was a football and he just made a touchdown. She heard the crack of the device breaking at the same moment Jessica cried out. Her features were already crumpling as she rushed to pick up the camera.
Shocked at the violence of his reaction, the willful destruction, Trish stared at him. When she found her voice she only managed, “Tad—”
Anger still had a grip on him, and he shoved past her, stomped down the hall to his room, and slammed the door.
Jessica dropped to the floor and cradled the camera against her. Her heartbroken sobs gave Trish’s own heart a hard pinch. Her daughter had been asking for a camera of her own for a year. The camera, the only thing she’d wanted for her birthday, was now her prized possession, and she’d been so careful with it.
A small bit of plastic, part of the housing, crunched beneath Trish’s foot when she stepped into Jess’s room, and she flinched. The camera couldn’t stand up to Tad’s rage. That, too, gave her heart a jab.
She crossed to her eight-year-old daughter, sat down on the floor, and gathered Jessica close. She rocked her and smoothed her dark brown hair back from her forehead, but managed to resist joining in with a few sobs of her own, though her eyes stung and her throat ached. Twenty minutes passed before Jessica’s crying subsided into hitched breaths.
“Tad will be responsible for buying you a new camera.”
Jessica used her T-shirt to wipe her nose. “It won’t be the same.”
No. Trish didn’t think it would. It wasn’t the loss of the camera. It was her brother’s conscious desire to hurt her that Jessica would remember.
“I deleted the picture, but Tad wouldn’t listen.” Fresh tears streamed down her face. “He hates me.”
“No, he doesn’t. He’s just going through some changes because he’s getting older. He doesn’t want me in his room when he’s dressing either. Do you know what it means when I say you invaded his privacy?”
Jessica nodded. “It means I opened the door while he was dressing and I shouldn’t have.”
“Promise me you won’t do that again.”
Jess’s chin wobbled, and more tears streamed down her cheeks. “I won’t.” She turned her face into Trish’s shirt, another sob escaping.
She was such a sensitive child. She rarely did anything demanding discipline. The harshness of Tad’s actions would stay with her for a long time.
The uncontrolled rage in his expression would stay with Trish.

And I haven’t mentioned the physical sacrifices a lot of our service members have given. In Breaking Boundaries my Marine, Cal Crowes, has lost part of a leg and has a prosthetic. I explore some of the struggles an amputee has getting back into dating.

He slouched on the end of the bed, pulled off his heavy work boots and socks, then paused to study his prosthetic foot for wear or damage. After an eight-hour shift, he needed a break from the device. His pulled down his jeans so he could reach the pressure valve on the side of the socket. He pushed it in and air entered the form cupping his stump. It broke the vacuum holding it in place, and he pulled his stump free. His jeans soon joined the overflowing work clothes in the hamper, and he sighed.
Next he removed his sock and liner to allow the limb to breathe. He’d have to wash his liner and leave it to dry after his shower, one of the daily chores he attended to faithfully. By doing it, he made certain he didn’t develop any kind of skin infection.
He’d grown used to seeing the barren end of his leg, and the scar where the skin and tissue had been stitched over the end of the bone. It was another thing to bare it to someone else. Any girl he was drawn to, before he ever asked her out, he worried whether she’d be able to handle the sight of his lower leg and foot being—gone.
The military psychologist he saw on occasion said he made his amputation more difficult to accept by acting as though it was something to hide. But the guy didn’t realize how gut-wrenching it was to see the revulsion on a woman’s face when she saw it for the first time. His fiancĂ©e Stacy hadn’t stuck around for long after the unveiling at the hospital. And he’d been grateful. He had enough on his plate to deal with at the time, without having to shore up a reluctant girlfriend whose first instinct was to bail when shit hit the fan.
The thought sent his mind straight to Kathleen O’Connor. She hadn’t bailed. She’d gotten right down on the platform and offered Julio a hand. Would a woman like her flinch from a little thing like a missing limb and some scars?

HUMILITY is possibly one of the most attractive qualities when writing military characters and in meeting serving service personnel. Most military personnel will share stories with other members of the service. But when it comes to sharing with the rest of us, they clam up. No one likes a braggart. And the man or woman who’s done the right thing at the right moment doesn’t need anyone to tell them thank you.

Now think about what the whole package would be like if you had a man or woman with those characteristics as your hero or heroin. Imagine what that character could bring to a romantic relationship or a suspenseful situation.

Now for the other characteristics. For all the comradery that being in the service creates for the men, women and their families (We have lifelong friends we’re still in touch with since my father retired and even since he passed away) Service members do have a bond with everyone they fight next to that their families share in a peripheral way. They really are a band of brothers and sisters. They have shared intense experiences that have bonded them.

From Breaking Boundaries:

Doc measured and recorded Flash’s catch on the board while Flash secured it in a large cooler.
“Ladies we’re gonna need more than one of those if we’re going to feed the hungry hoard at Lang’s tonight,” Doc said.
Cal cast his line again and felt the immediate tug as the bait was hit. The reel spun as whatever had latched onto the scrod ran with it. He flipped the spindle with his thumb and the reel abruptly stopped, but the force of it nearly jerked the pole out of his hand. Jesus, whatever he’d hooked was big. He cranked the handle and felt the pressure of trying to keep the line tight. He pulled back on the rod, the tip bowed as he forced the fish closer and reeled in the line.
“Need any help over there, Cal?” Doc called.
“Not yet. Once I get him close in to the boat, I’ll yell.”
He took a seat in the lawn chair and braced his feet on the side of
the boat. He took his time, working the fish in toward the vessel by short increments. Six minutes later he dropped his feet and stood, thinking surely he was close.
A gray-blue shadow swam back and forth beneath the water, disappeared beneath the boat, bending the end of the rod down at an angle. Cal pulled up on the pole with steady pressure but didn’t try to reel in any more line. He waited for the fish to swim back out. As soon as he saw the shadow again he cranked the reel furiously. When he saw the size of the thing his breath caught. He had no idea how he’d kept it on the hook.
“What is it?” Doc asked.
“I’ve hooked a yellowtail, and it’s big.”
Doc and Bowie reeled in their lines and laid aside their poles. “Jesus!” Doc exclaimed. “That fucker’s huge.”
“Too big to eat,” Bowie said. “That’s a mounting weight.”
“You want him mounted, Cal?” Doc asked, his green eyes gleaming with excitement.
“No. I’m not a trophy kind of fisherman. I usually eat what I
catch.” He could just imagine what Kathleen would have to say about a stuffed dead fish on his wall.
“He’s too nice to turn loose. Imagine all those tuna steaks on the grill,” Doc said, rubbing his hands together. “Keep his head up so he can’t go back under the boat. Bowie and I will gaff him and get him on board.”
Flash having reeled in his line wandered over to watch. “That might be a record, Cal. That sucker has to be at least five feet long.” He whipped out his cell phone and video’d the fish.
Bowie got the longer gaff, while Doc got a shorter one. Doc leaned over the side in order to reach the tuna. Bowie hit the fish in the top of the head with the hook and held on while it thrashed. Blood poured into the water. Doc swung to get a hook on it, too.
A large silver streak advanced on the yellowtail in a rush. Cal had only enough time to yell. “Shark!” A monster heaved up out of the water, jaws open, exposing razor sharp teeth. Its black eyes gleamed flat as it narrowly missed Doc’s arm and clamped down on the tuna from the side, shook its head with a frenzied fury and tore half of the yellowtail away.
Doc’s hand slipped off the railing and he started to pitch headfirst into the water. Cal dropped the pole and dove for his legs, and managed to grab a calf and part of his shirt. He was hanging by a foot just above the water with the predator likely circling to take another bite. His head was brushing the water.
Bowie jerked what was left of the tuna aboard and threw gaff and fish onto the deck, spreading blood across the polished wooden floor.
“Jesus H. Christ, get me up!” A long string of colorful swear words followed.
Bowie and Flash rushed to help. Bowie grabbed Doc’s arm and his belt while Flash fastened onto his other arm and his other leg. The three of them heaved him back onto the deck, and set him on his feet. He still held the gaff he’d been intending to use.
Cal grabbed the rail to regain his feet. “You okay?”
Breathing hard, Doc pushed his dripping hair back from his flushed face, his eyes wide. “Yeah.”
As they watched, the sickle-like dorsal and tail of the shark whipped back and forth as it circled past the boat in search of more prey.
“Shit!” Bowie whispered.
Flash bent over what was left of the dead, mangled tuna. “Dude, you were robbed.”
An hour later, they’d moved the boat to a different location and paused to eat the sandwiches and potato salad Cal and Kathleen fixed for their trip. They laughed again at Flash’s comment as he passed his phone around to view the video of Doc’s close call and as Bowie dubbed it “the great tuna tug-o-war.”
“It seems saving people is getting to be a habit with you, Cal,” Doc commented.
“I’ve just been at the right place at the right time a time or two. The shark would have been too full of my damn fish to munch on you anyway. But I didn’t think you’d want to get your clothes wet.”
“That was damn considerate of you.” Doc nodded. “The water out here is cold as hell. Makes my balls shrivel up just thinking about it.”
Cal grinned, more at ease with the low-key thanks than all the attention he’d gotten recently. He shrugged. “Just passing it on.” He realized he felt more relaxed with these guys than he did even with his building crew. They’d let him step back into the military brotherhood and just accepted him.
“Kathleen said you were going to be on television this week.”
Cal grimaced. “Yeah. Actually, it’s tonight. I got roped into doing an interview with Nora Harper, on Harping on the Truth. You were right about the video. We should never have posted it. I had to send her signed releases yesterday so she could use parts of it, but she’d already found it and put a link to it on her website. Women were leaving comments.”
“What sort of video and what sort of comments?” Bowie asked.
“It was just me at work doing stuff on the building site. But their comments were—suggestive.”
“Man, you should eat that shit up,” Bowie said.
Cal shook his head. “Not while I’m dating someone. I had Kathleen delete it and the comments.” He glanced at Doc.
Doc nodded his understanding. “Speaking of videos. Flash my man, I’m going to have to ask you to keep the gem you recorded to yourself.”
Flash looked up with a frown. “Why?”
“Because I’ve been halfway around the world and dodged more than bullets at numerous times, in numerous countries and never had a scratch. That damn shark came closer to getting me than any terrorist. I don’t want my family to see it. Every time I go out on the boat they’ll be thinking Jaws is out to get me.”
Cal laughed right along with the others.
Doc pointed his finger at the man. “Do not post it on some social media site.”
“I won’t.” Flash threw up a hand as though swearing in court. “But I will email you and Cal a copy. Cal needs proof of the size of that fish.”

I’ve concentrated on character because that’s the theme of my talk with you today. But there are some pesky organizational things you have to do while writing Military heroes. Create a book bible to keep everything organized. Use photos to help you write about locations, google maps, satellites, and go on trips to research the area if you can. You have to do research about their training, their MOS (or mode of service) so you’ll know what it is they do, where they’re stationed, and some of the hot spots they might be sent to. You’ll need to research their weapons, their modes of transportation, their uniforms, their ranks and their insignia. And keep up with current events because you never know when today’s headlines might inspire an idea for a book.

B&N http://bit.ly/QrnCxu 
Apple: http://bit.ly/OfgIJH

Breaking Point 

Breaking Ties 
Amazon:    http://amzn.to/1oH0qe5

Happy Writing and Reading 
Teresa Reasor