You’ve Got Mail: Point of Contention

You may recall from my blog post “You’ve Got Mail: Initial Feedback” me saying:  Much like there is competition and healthy banter between members of the different Services, there is even more “contention” between Special Forces Units and Navy SEALs.

Well…you can’t have an exchange between an Army Ranger and a U.S. Marine without running into some points of contention either. Thankfully, both AG and I are officers.  Besides the trash talking between services, the no love lost between the SOF communities and SEALs, the differences between women and men, nothing gets more lines drawn in the sand like discussing the differences between enlisted and officers.

Anyway, AG has interacted with and admits liking Marines, but he is definitely proud of being an Army Officer (West Point Grad) and especially of being a Ranger. He started out as an infantry officer before going to Ranger school.  I respect his background, although I don’t completely understand how strenuous and difficult his training was or what he has done so far in his career.  He has made some separations between his reality as a Ranger and what he puts it as “Big Army.” Meaning, Rangers aren’t like Big Army…but to me, at the end of the day, he’s part of the big green Army machine, and has to claim them as his own, as much as his elite section of the bigger monster.

Last week, I saw a post on Facebook that said “God Made Marines.  So Soldiers Would Have Heroes.”  I sent it to AG. Thought it would get a much deserved snide comment back that would give me a good laugh.  However, what I did is clearly hit a nerve. One I was recommended not to hit again.  I was taken back, but I apologized, and promised to not poke the bear again (as tempting as it might be)

No harm done.  The Ranger and Marine could go on collaborating. Our exchanges continued.

But then two nights ago, AG hit one of my nerves…or two. I was having a hard time with the conversation between Josh and Ava.  I couldn’t get them into any sort of small talk (see yesterday’s post) so I asked him what he thought about it. Part of his comment, rubbed a sore spot:

…the one thing that’s challenging about this is she is signal, correct? That creates some challenges. There’s definitely a difference in mindset between combat and support troops… I know marines are supposed to be marines first… yeah yeah ok. Believe it or not, officers of every branch went through a course designed to teach basic combat skills before they went to branch specific training. It didn’t matter… the signal dudes were still bitches and the infantry guys ran shit. It’s the mindset that’s different. I (and guys like me, and I guess Josh) chose this work because we’re willing to close with and destroy the enemy to get the job done. That doesn’t apply to a guy who picked logistics as a career path.

And there lies the biggest difference between the Army and Marines.  Every Marine joins with the mindset to close with and destroy the enemy. I didn’t join to play with radios, and setup communication networks, I joined to fight and win battles.  That’s what Marines do, we make Marines and win our Nation’s battles.  We’re war fighters, it’s our history, our ethos, it just is who we are. Sure, Marine Infantry talk trash about Marines in other MOS, and all Marines talk trash about Marines in the Wing, but we’re allowed.  No one outside the family can say, a Marine isn’t designed to ultimately close with and destroy the enemy.

Ava just as much, as Josh, is trained as a war fighter and would hold up her own in any conversations about combat…especially with the experiences I’m putting in her background. I definitely have a close with and destroy the enemy mindset…I don’t recommend putting that to the test.

I went all Marine and replied to AG, and pointed out that he’s forgetting the Marine Corp is much smaller and a lean fighting force – all members, are designed to either be infantry or in direct support of the infantry, but we all have the same mindset.  I went on to say much more about the difference between a signal officer in the Army and a Marine Corps Communication Officer (CommO). The challenges of being a CommO compared to a straight line infantry platoon commander – another touchy subject for me.

He replied in his annoyingly, on point, accurate way (I really have the highest of regards for him):

First by saying “hahaha I knew that would get you going” Got it, a little pay back, well done.

(omitting initial part due to nature of language)…if there’s one thing the soldiers are good at it’s finding the army’s faults. Sometimes I think marines look at the corps with rose-tinted glasses. I went to airborne school with a few marines… as usual, some were good and some needed to be reminded of their place. I don’t want to continue to needle you, but think about possibility including it as a discussion… Josh is obviously going to see the corps differently than Ava. That’s not to say he doesn’t respect it (or that I don’t), but being on the outside typically reduces the attribution bias inherent in being a proud part of an organization.

His point is exactly why while there are lots of Marines I could bring on this project to help me, and many of them will get enlisted to help down the road, none would bring the kind of perspective AG brings. They too, are cut from the same familiar cloth of being Marines, and we do sometimes wear rose-tinted glasses. The perspective AG offers is unique and priceless.

Our discourse continued for a bit…more about the difference between communication (support MOS) and infantry officers – but that’s a conversation/contention I’ve had with Marines as well!

So we found some kinks in each others armors…some sore subjects best left alone.  I’m sure we’re not done with finding those…

You’ve Got Mail: God at Work

Over the last 24 hours, the veil has been lifted on another portion of the vast tapestry of men God has been weaving together in my life for the last 5+ years to undo the hurt, pain, and damage that had been done.  To heal the wounds, establish a sense of safety, an ability to open up, and restore trust.

Almost 6 years ago, I was left totally wounded when my fiancee walked out the door and out of the complicated relationship we had found ourselves in.  I was broken.  I was broken when we started the relationship because quite frankly, when it came to having the ability to have a relationship, I was not whole enough to be in one.  As is the case with Ava, the main female character of The Hijacked Holiday.  She’s a former version on myself…and bringing her to life these last couple of weeks, awakened things that I simply hadn’t thought about for years. She really began to mess with me.

Airport Guy was also not adding up.  I knew God had placed him in my path, and while he was turning out to be super helpful, I was growing frustrated, and uncomfortable with him because of how little I knew about him.  I needed to know what kind of guy God had placed in my life to provide all this hard truth he was giving me.  AG also pointed out the time had come for me to really divorce myself from Ava.  He didn’t realize how much she was messing with me, but he saw that I was getting in the way of fully expressing who Ava was.

Truth is, I was protecting Ava’s flaws, the same way I used to protect those very flaws in me, instead of seeing how I’m not her anymore.  Ava won’t have to stay that way either.

AG came forth with more of his backstory, once I directly asked for it, which explained why he was helping me, and why I was the ideal candidate to help him with his story.  He hadn’t gotten personal with me, because he wasn’t looking for that.  He is happily married, and his wife, his friends, or his family could all help him with the book, but they are too familiar with the characters in the book to be of any substantiate help, without impacting the story.

I was so happy and relieved to finally have some information on him.  It helped to put so many things into perspective.

But back to God’ work.  Like I said, over the last 5 years, there have been some significant male friends (and role models) that have come in and out of my life to break down, undo, and improve the things I believed about men. I have named them all in my journal and the role they played, but I won’t do it here or ever, without either letting them know first, and/or changing their identity for the sake of their privacy.  But they have been part of God’s plan…and Josh, my male character is in many ways bits and pieces of those men/friends.  Josh will do for Ava, what they did for me.

Now that AG and I have cleared the air, we are forging on with helping each other, may be I’ll even discover he has a great sense of humor, and we can have fun working together. If I’m going to keep eating humble pie from him, I needed to know he was in fact a great guy, with a full life, surrounded by amazing people.

But AG is more than help for me on this project to make it better – I have past experiences with men partnering up with me for the wrong reasons and my getting really hurt by it.

I believe God placed him in my path to show me, there are stand-up guys who can have a personable professional partnership with me, that is based on mutual respect and exchange of knowledge, gifts, and skills to help each other out.

Of course God would gift wrap him in a nice looking package, He’s God, He knows how to get my attention!

If you haven’t turned your life over to God, you simply can’t understand how closely He will work in your life.  How He will answer your prayers, slowly at times, according to His timing and His ways, but He can, and will restore what you have lost, heal your suffering and renew everything about you. It will not likely be according to the way you want it, but in the end, much better!

I mean sure, I would have liked for a Josh to enter my life, and work through all my issues with me, but it didn’t turn out that way, it was a slow process because that’s what was best and it truly glorifies Him. I have been able to celebrate each man who changed something about me, be grateful for him entering my life, and acknowledge God for sending Him. I have witnessed how systematically God has been working, how carefully He went about carrying out His plan, and above all, how much He loves me to make it all fit together perfectly.

He’s continuing to work out my kinks, confirmed I need to continue on this project, and did I mention, He LOVES me.

There’s a hanging chad, which happens to be the lynch pin to falling down to my knees in the first place in this weaving God has been doing.  Not related to AG, but possibly related to either the future of my love life or the future of my professional career.  Either way, I’m excited and curious to find out what God has planned for him.  Not even going to try to figure it out.  I absolutely adore the way God surprises me with His plans!

You’ve Got Mail: Adding Sex Appeal

As I’ve mentioned, AG is also writing a novel – it’s actually a pretty interesting story and I enjoy reading his scenes…probably a lot more than he enjoys reading mine. I honestly don’t get what he gets out of helping me.  In the last couple of weeks of exchanging emails, we have made little progress in actually getting to know each other…but his feedback remains super helpful.

Anyway, last week he sent me a scene, in which his main character goes off the deep end after witnessing the violent loss of the woman he loves.  His main character ends up kicking some serious ass, which made his character come across as pretty hot and sexy.

Realizing how his scene gave me the hots for his character, it made me recognize Josh was missing that kind of sex appeal. (AG never intended for his scene to have that kind of impact). I’m writing a romance novel after all, I need my readers, who will be 99.9% women to have the hots for Josh.  I’m making Ava this totally kick ass female Marine, but not properly making Josh a good match for her.

I asked AG to help me give Josh more sex appeal. I wrote a scene and I needed him to add his touch to it. I know very little about AG, but intensity, having a serious streak, and being a true professional are definitely strong personality traits for him. Traits women find sexy.

I don’t know AG’s relationship status, but if he’s single, I imagine he leaves a lot of women feeling frustrated and aggravated with him. He’s handsome, intense, focused, polite, professional, and probably completely oblivious how sexy women find him, which only makes him sexier to them.

While I see the appeal myself, it’s way too frustrating and I don’t like being frustrated.  I’m not looking for Josh to be like that.  Josh is a cut above the rest, overall humble about his accomplishments and abilities, but also confident and well aware of what he has to offer.  He doesn’t hesitate or back down in his pursuit of Ava. I need a male character that’s got some game…for Ava’s and my sake.

What’s really sexy is a man who knows what he wants, recognizes it when he sees it, goes after it, and does what it takes to earn it.  I don’t think I could do the type of romance novel where the man doesn’t realize what’s in front of him…till it’s too late. If you can’t realize what’s in front of you, then you don’t deserve it.

I still haven’t heard from him…not sure if he missed the scene or I’ve finally asked him for something he doesn’t want to do!

You’ve Got Mail: Marine Speak

I’ve been busy this week working on the initial scenes in the book.  The scenes are designed to introduce Josh and Ava to the readers.  Josh is a Navy SEAL and Ava is a Marine…and my readers, not likely to be familiar with the military. These first few chapters, while easy enough to write being a Marine myself, they aren’t likely to be as easy to read which has thrown a wrench in my storytelling. Especially the scene where I introduce Ava in her work environment, amongst Marines.

Of course I sent the scene to AG, my linear thinker, who also happens to be an Army Ranger, and not so familiar with the Marine Corps.  I asked him to let me know how it might read to a non-military/non-Marine audience.

Besides him not agreeing Ava would be able to do 30 pull-ups, which I’ll take into account his disbelief when I settle on the final number, he pointed out all of my Marine speak and overuse of acronyms.

His comments made me realize it’s better that the military scenes don’t sound realistic to my fellow Marines, but make sense to my readers.  I’ll definitely have some editing to do for that scene to make sense to a general reader.

Some of his feedback: Unless the G6 or G6 Ops are important characters, I wouldn’t spend so much time explaining who they are. Like you hinted at before, it’s super military-specific and is going to make your civilian readers’ eyes glass over.

The other point AG made, is that Ava comes across as too perfect. The irony is, her imperfection is how perfect of a Marine she is – this is also hard for anyone who is not a Marine to understand.  You have some Marines who are just WAY TOO MARINE. Unless you’re a Marine, you don’t know what that means. I will however have to find a way to explain it.  To let the readers know, Ava has nothing outside of the Marine Corps. No friends, relationships, interests or life which is not a good thing.  Josh will help her see this about herself and overcome it.

You’ve Got Mail: The Confessions

I woke up very early Friday morning eager to read AG’s feedback to the scene I’d sent him earlier on. I was excited about this scene. I consider it the second most important scene in the book. I sent him mostly all dialogue because at this junction, I was more concerned about getting down what Ava and Josh needed to get through and understand about each other, than the actual setting in which the conversation took place.

I initially had a hard time reading through what he returned. As always, it was super thorough and thoughtful feedback…which in this case meant, he basically rewrote the entire scene for me.

Let me pause here for a second and explain a thing or two.

First, AG is a better writer than I am. He sent me some of the material he’s written, and it’s beautifully done. He is very intelligent and possesses an extensive vocabulary. We’re not in a competition with each other, he’s helping me, so it’s to my benefit he’s in fact a gifted writer, versus some guy who can barely write his name. But I wanted to believe I was somewhat good for a first time author…well, he put me to shame. Thankfully, I quickly humbled myself and got over it. Once again, choosing to see it as a blessing.

Second, he and I are alike in many ways but different in other critical ways. For example, if we walked into a room, and something was going on between people, I would pick-up on what’s going on much faster and easily decipher the situation. However, he would be better equipped to verbalize it. I’m intuitive, lacking in communication skills. He is more intellectual with the ability to easily express his thoughts, but less apt with reading situations and emotions. In that respect, for the projects we’re both working on, our strengths compliment each other well for what the other person needs.

But the thing with his feedback that got to me wasn’t my lack of writing skills in comparison to his, but that my inabilities to express myself in real life had permeated into my writing.

The dialogue I wrote made perfect sense to me although abrupt and entirely too direct compared to how normal people speak to each other. It however, made little sense to AG.

Confession #1

It was time to confess to AG something he probably needed to know about me, to assist him, as he keeps providing me feedback, and seeing what will likely be more bad dialogue. I confessed to him, as I am now confessing to you all, that I’m a loner and have never been one for expressing myself to others. I don’t spend a whole lot of time with people (mostly known for avoiding it by choice), as a result, my abilities to communicate have both deteriorated and were probably never all that strong to begin with.

His feedback made me realize I needed to slow down and really go over how my characters communicate and express themselves.

My characters need to be more gifted than I am in this, and well…all departments. Another glaring shortcoming AG I’m sure never intended to point out.

However, him unintentionally pointing that out also offered the potential for more depth to my characters, and another challenge for them to overcome together.

Confession #2

The writing of this book I knew was going to challenge me in many ways, which led me to make a second confession to AG, and now to you. As I did the research trip for this story, and worked through what my characters would be facing together, it made me wonder if their love story was even possible. Did I believe something like the story I was about to write could happen to me? The initial answer was “no”. I don’t believe in their love story.

So, as I write Ava and Josh’s love story, they will have to make me a believer. I figured if their story can’t convince me their kind of love is possible, than I best never publish this book. However, if their story can make me believe in love, I will in fact have written a true and powerful love story.

It was really tough to come to and make these confessions to AG in an email I sent him on Friday morning, but I trusted him with the information. Making the confessions to him, has allowed me to come to peace with them over the last couple of days, which is why I’ve written this blog post.

I shed light on them and they no longer have power over me.

I’m a complete loner who is working on forging better bonds through being more open with people and investing time in communicating, and expressing myself. This is very hard work for me.

I’m a romantic who doesn’t even believe in love, but wants to prove to herself it’s possible through writing a love story that challenges norms, pushes her characters to grow, and establishes real intimacy between two very strong individuals.

So there you have it…all because AG rewrote one of my scenes.

You’ve Got Mail: Initial Feedback

Technically, I wasn’t supposed to start writing until November 1st – I tried to wait but honestly, if there’s a story (especially for a first time writer) that needs to be written, I don’t think putting a lid on it is a smart thing to do.

So, I started writing The Hijacked Holiday.  To be fair, I won’t count the words written before November 1st, as part of my 50,000 words.

Besides being ready to get my first novel started, I also wanted to give working with AG a “test drive”, not at all knowing how this would work and what to expect.  We had exchanged a few other emails, mostly me telling him additional background on the characters, so he could be more familiar with them. I’m not writing this story sequentially, so he needed to know as much about Josh and Ava as possible.

Once written, I sent him my first scene.  The scene where Josh shows up to hijack Ava’ bike trip, and she sees him for the first time in six months.

The Feedback

First line of his feedback had me cracking up!  “SEALs are not Special Forces. (haha I’m going to be a stickler about this because if you’re going to insist on writing about SEALs I’m going to make sure your character doesn’t get confused for a real man)”

Much like there is competition and healthy banter between members of the different Services, there is even more “contention” between Special Forces Units and Navy SEALs.

I get it, and it definitely made me laugh, and so did this comment: “SOF dudes don’t put milk in their coffee. I mean, SEALs might, because they’re SEALs, but real men don’t need to fluff it up.”

Solid input, Josh will be drinking his coffee black.

Jokes aside, his feedback was excellent and spot on. He clearly grasped what was happening in the scene, between the characters and what they were experiencing.  He even broke down some of the thoughts and emotions Josh was probably experiencing that I didn’t write in the scene.

He also made me realize the areas I need to amplify, clarify and add.

His feedback was more than I expected.  I asked for his help for a different scene, and once more, the effort he put into his reply was impressive.

AG is not one though for small talk or actually giving me any additional personal details about himself…and that’s okay.  He is going through what I can only guess is a pretty tough course right now, and the fact he’s taking the time to help me out is already more than I can ask for.  Just because I always get off point and put in my personal two cents on most things – doesn’t mean he has to.