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Combat Mission

September 10, 2012

The prevailing theory in combat aviation is that if a pilot survives their first ten combat missions, their chances of surviving the rest of the conflict increase dramatically. The US Navy was the first branch of the military to formally train their pilots the art of combat in order to provide those vital first ten missions stateside and the results were dramatic. Following Vietnam every branch of the military invested in their pilot’s combat experience and it has evolved so that today, before any military member deploys to a combat zone, they receive hours of training. The regular Army soldier will deploy to bases in the southwest United States and practice fighting before they go do it for real.

The first deployment to Iraq was the most difficult for a number of reasons, but the chief one was this was my first real war. I had served several tours in Bosnia but that wasn’t a real war. For us it was the perfect war. Live in Germany and fly every third day. Every month was tax free pay and 40 dollars a day in per diem. Not to mention the three day European vacation sometime in the middle of the three week deployment and I should mention that no one ever bothered shot at us. Iraq was not as perfect for every reason. For me it took about 10 missions before I began to feel comfortable flying over there. After that, and on every deployment afterwards, it did not take long to re-acclimate to a wartime footing.

Is there a point to this post? About three weeks, I posted the First 1300 words of my novel for the world to see. It was my first dive into the deep end of the big boy pool or said differently, my first combat mission in the war of words. The reports are back in from the front line, I will live to fight another day but this battle has been lost. My good friend, Egg pointed out several problems with the work. Again, I appreciate his honesty and the time he took to review my work. Last Monday, Greg and I spoke for a couple of hours about the book and Egg’s comments. We both agreed that the first third of the book needed to be changed. It wasn’t good enough for public consumption. (For those who don’t know, Greg is my brother and co-author of the book however the First 1300 words were all mine. When he gets involved, the results are dramatically better). The last phase of the battle happened over the weekend.

There is an author/editor/reviewer by the name of Ray Rhamey. This is the biography on his website “Flogging The Quill.”

“I’m a writer and editor, and have made my living through creativity and words for a few decades now. As a writer and then creative director in advertising, I rose to the top tier of the Chicago advertising scene, then left it to try screenwriting.

In Hollywood, I became a writer/story editor at Filmation, one of the top five animation studios—look for my screenplay credit next time you rent my adaptation of The Little Engine that Could at your local video store. But L.A. is not a hospitable place to live and raise small children, so I left to focus on quality of life and writing.

In 2001 I launched (now FtQ Edits), and have clients from the Pacific Northwest to Lebanon. I’ve been a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and the Northwest Independent Editors Guild, and a member/board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and the Seattle Writers Association.

On the writing side, I’ve had novels represented by a literary agent, although I’m currently seeking a change in representation. I’ve written five novels that range from literary fantasy to a coming-of-age mystery.

One of the services he provides is a free unbiased critique of the first chapter from anyone. I have been following his reviews for a few months and I have found him to be fair and honest in his critiques. I submitted the same first 1300 words to him just as they were posted here. Here is his review:


I found this to be confusing. There’s so much information that doesn’t flow well for me. We start with puppies, but that becomes about grief, and I have no idea who the Master is. Then a mini-flashback of exposition that alludes to things that, while there is attitude, aren’t clear as to cause. And “perverted orgy?” Of what? The narrative is mostly exposition and backstory, and nothing much is happening. There are writing craft issues, too, which I’ll point out.

My response is that I agree. Totally, 100%. My mistakes are ones of inexperience and poor form. Thanks to Ray’s feedback, I know where to focus my energy and start the story. I am going to take a week or so and research writing and allow the comments to digest. Next week, I will be back at it and hope to have something of substance for you. I am encouraged and emboldened. I have two big issues. One I will fix and that is practice the other is a real problem with the English language. Greg has his work cut out for him.

I did not include the positive comments from Ray. You can read them on his site if you like.

These are a lot of words to say this: I have had my first taste of combat and I find it tasty.

From → writing

  1. Interesting and constructive comments from the flogometer. You’ve inspired me to give it a go too.

  2. Egg,

    I was inspired by our mutual friend Joe Schwartz of the “Crossover Test” fame. He submitted the first chapter of his second novel and while not warmly received, I know that he got what he was looking for. I found my experience the same way. It is humbling to hear someone say that your work isn’t up to standards but the reviewer isn’t mean or vengeful about it. He is just stating a fact.

    My advice would be to send in your very best. My submission was full of grammatical errors, I did not have it scrubbed in a professional manner and it shows when it is reviewed by a professional. Secondly, and more importantly open strong leaving the reader with a major question to be answered. Strong writing isn’t enough; it is about a great story combined with strong writing.

    His premise is that you have about 20 or so sentences to grab the attention of a jaded audience. That is all he is going to post on his site and if you waste that time with fluff and meandering like I did, then you will not get a strong review.

    If you want, send it to me and I will give you a separate opinion before you send it in. I owe you one.


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