Warship Wednesday–Carrier Doctrine #1

Interesting thing I discovered about carrier doctrine in writing the Usurper’s War series in general, but definitely with regards to Against the Tide Imperial: The three main carrier navies in our timeline did things very, very differently.

The USN basically went all in on “every carrier throws a haymaker.”  This was shown both in early task force doctrine (where each carrier and escorts operated separately for the most part) and in how the aircraft were warmed up, parked, then launched.  Although this had the advantage of “not all our eggs are in one basket,” it also made strike sequencing problematic.  The “dribs and drabs” approach likely saved Shokaku at Coral Sea, and then also was detrimental during Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz.  On the other hand, the spread out arrival of the American torpedo bombers and inadvertent lack of synchronization at Midway fortuitously wore down the Kido Butai‘s CAP / disrupted Nagumo’s strike iterations.

For the early war (as in before late ’44), the unfortunate combination of the RAF being responsible for equipping the Fleet Air Arm from basically 1924 through May 1939 plus European geography did no favors for RN carrier design.  This is not to say that the carriers were “inferior,” as some historians have stated.  No, it’s to say that despite an early lead in developing the type, the RN focused on gunline in basically a littoral setting rather than open ocean combat.  Thus, a RN carrier task force meeting either an IJN or USN force of equal strength in daylight during 1942-1943 would have had problems.  If the numbers were uneven?  Well, not to say “foreshadowing,” but you’ll see my take on things when Tide finally comes out.

As to the Japanese–diagramming out “split deck” strikes by division is a pain in the neck.  There are advantages to it, and some of those are discussed here, once again, in this article.  But man, those disadvantages are killer.  Especially when one has to factor in “Who is the duty carrier?” and whether or not the Tone and Chikuma‘s searchers should be augmented.  As noted above, at Midway the added friction of split deck operations eventually undid the Kido Butai’s sequencing…and that’s how you end up a bunch of Dauntlesses dropping virtually unopposed.

As a teaser, I’ll present the strike that gets launched in one Against the Tide Imperial‘s key sequences:

1st Division (Akagi and Kaga)

17 Shiden

15 Suisei

27 Tenzan

2nd Division (Hiryu and Soryu)

21 Zero

16 Suisei

12 Tenzan

3rd Division (Taiho and Shokaku)

20 Suisei

24 Tenzan

Now, in each of these cases, rather than each carrier launching an “alpha strike” of their own group, each division has designated one vessel to provide the fighters / dive bombers, the other the torpedo bombers.  I can only imagine this gets kind of hectic if one doesn’t have the fuel or time to practice it.  It also means _every_ carrier will be launching / recovering aircraft at the same time.  Taken to the next level, suddenly Japanese outcomes at Pearl Harbor (see no third strike), Midway (see returning Midway strike discombobulating ability to react to ship sighting), and Philippine Sea (see lack of strike training due to fuel issues) make a lot more sense.

In the Usurper’s War timeline, this is a pretty hefty strike.  Defending against it, the RN force only has a total of 66 fighters (of which 16 are Sea Hurricanes) on four flight decks.  Given deck handling practices, CAP rotations, and the fact that there’s a rather major intelligence miscommunication that’s coming, they won’t get that many fighters airborne.  How does it turn out?  Well, you’ll know in a few months… 😀

2019 in Review

Man.  It seems like just yesterday I was celebrating the imminent release of Those In Peril and preparing to go to Life, The Universe, and Everything (LTUE) Symposium in Utah.  Next thing I know, 2019 is in the rearview mirror, the Phases of Mars series is complete, and Against The Tide Imperial is…well, still not done, but definitely getting there.  Still, 3 anthologies in a year is not bad, and objectively I think it was a fair trade.  I mean, guys—I edited S.M. Stirling, Kevin J. Anderson, Taylor Anderson, Sarah Hoyt, and David Weber this year.  In books with my name on the front cover.  Shout out to Chris Kennedy for taking on a beer bet and to team “and more” for being amazing.

By the numbers, over 1,500 people visited the page this year, which was almost double the number of folks who showed up in 2018.  Thank you for coming along on this wild ride, and here’s to hoping that you continue to enjoy a glimpse inside the crazy.  Externally, this was my second year in a row over 1,000 books sold / 500,000 Kindle pages read (not counting the anthologies) both online and in person, and with at least one book coming out that will helpfully increase.  Moreover, I learned a lot this year about marketing, networking, and this profession in general.  While those could be 20 or more blog posts in and of themselves, the “Top 3 Things I Learned in 2019 Are”:

#1 Professionalism Matters—Nothing like being the chief editor for something to help you realize one’s reputation precedes you.  From the perspective of dealing with fellow authors, I was taken aback by the number of folks who do not understand some basic etiquette in dealing with their fellow human beings.  Or the importance of things like, “Hey, when the requirement says 7-10,000 words, that means you don’t turn in 6500 and cop and attitude with the editor.”  People will remember if you pull some prima donna crap when you really didn’t have to, and word spreads quickly.  Likewise, if you become, shall we say, radioactive in other venues, there will be folks who have problems with sharing a common battlespace with you.  Bottom line:  If you’re involved in a project, be on time (or admit that you’re not going to be able to do something in a timely manner), write to the specifications, and don’t be a jerk.

#2 People Plan, the Universe Laughs—I can honestly say 2019, while not the craziest year I can remember (oh hey, 2009), was up there.  Between deaths, getting forcibly invited to someone else’s car accident, a new job, and various other “What the Hell?!” things that occurred, I’ve come to realize the path to sanity involves accepting that life is chaos.  Don’t get me wrong–I’m still very much a work in project on this.

However, I’ve increasingly tried to take an objective look at what has occurred, then ask myself “Why did this happen?”  If it’s someone else’s fault, that’s usually followed by “Was this accidental, malicious, or unforeseeable?  If accidental, has the other party acknowledged their role in the negative outcome and taken measures to keep it from happening again? If malicious, is this salvageable or is it time to just close that particular airlock?”

If it’s my error, “What have we learned and how do we keep from dropping that ball again?”  This is usually followed by “How do we make amends?”  Because saying “I’m sorry…” is kind of pointless unless there’s an actual intent to make things right.

Above all these things, however, 2019 taught me this:  “If I died tomorrow, would I be happy I spent ___ minutes / hours / days dealing with rectifying this problem?”  Because having someone go from “I’m glad I’m finally going to meet him…” to “Whoa.  He’s going to be dead in less than eight hours…” definitely made me start assessing time and how I spend it.  Spend time doing what you love and with people who make time for you, as our hourglass only has so much sand in it.

#3 Network Makes The Dream Work—Among the “people who made time” for me were my writing tribe.  It really does take a village, and one never knows what connection will suddenly bear fruit.  I can honestly say that in 2019 I had positive interactions with people I first met back in the 1980s, went to school with in the 90s’, served with in the Army in the ’00s, and even folks I saw in passing at a random con sometime in the last six years.  In some instances this was expected.  In others, it was definitely one of us saying to each other or about someone else “Uhhhh, you know, let me see if _____ can help with that, because holy smokes you’re in a bad way”-response.  The outcomes were almost always great and definitely far better than I would have accomplished on my own. Whether it was fiscal (increasing royalties!), introducing me to another pro who provided a story (or stories) for the anthologies, or just providing a “morale boost” when I was questioning my sanity for even pushing on with this crazy dream, I’d like to issue a blanket THANK YOU! to the tribe and fans at large.  You all made 2019 great, and I look forward to what 2020 has to bring.

All right, that’s enough from the foxhole for today.  I’m going back to figuring out what happens when over 100 American aircraft surprise six Japanese carriers equipped with stolen British radar.  That’s right, it’s called “alternate history” for a reason, and boy howdy does the Kido Butai having decent radar change a lot of factors involved in World War II carrier fights.

 

Warship Wednesday–Death of a Prince

It is my intent to do a 2019 Year In Review blog post at some point before the end of the month.

Until then, feel free to read some in-depth analysis of the Prince of Wales‘ loss.  Much like reading an autopsy report will tell you quite a bit about how the human body fails, this account makes it easy to understand how the PoW basically became a wreck after a single, unlucky torpedo hit.

Paths to Publishing

Fellow author (and good person) Holly Messinger shared this infographic on paths to publishing on FB earlier today.  The original source has more information and commentary at this link.

I agree with what the original poster said on most counts.  As an indie, I assure you, fair reader, that you will be doing a lot of hustling if you wish to be successful.  To paraphrase a certain superhero, “With great independence comes great responsibility.”  Being independent means much of your life is like being a shark, i.e., if you’re not swimming, you’re drowning.  It also makes you subject to the vagaries of your given outlet, with Amazon’s algorithm shifts being the most well-known (and complained about) example.

Having just completed a certain trilogy ( with the conclusion hopefully more Wookies than Ewoks), I can now say that there are advantages and disadvantages to the small press route as well.  As with any joint endeavor, there were vehement disagreements with regards to direction, participation, and marketing.  However, I can say with 100% certainty, that “James Young, Slinger of Tales” does not land all the names you see on that last cover.  To hint at my “year in review,” I’ll merely say that this was a fun exercise, but it came at the cost of me being behind in my own projects.  Ergo, while I’m not saying I won’t be in or run another alternate anthology ever again, I am confident in saying it’s coming on the back side of my next two books.

Ultimately, no matter what your choices are, remember no one will manage your career as well as you do.  Keep your head on a swivel, and make choices that look out for your interests.

 

News From the Con World

This mirrors what a lot of other vendors have said about the 2019 season and concerns about 2020. While I will be potentially doing as many shows, I’m definitely leaning towards new markets with proven performers.

This is also something to consider for the larger author community. One may have to take a deep breath when looking at overall sales numbers and also pay strict attention to marketing. Things may get bumpy for a bit.

Review of Midway (2019 Film)

I’ve been plugging away on Against the Tide Imperial most of November for Nano. I was amidst the Kido Butai engaging four of the Royal Navy’s carriers in the Indian Ocean when my memory jogged:  I never reviewed Midway despite intending to right after seeing it.  This, folks, is called “Nano-brain,” in which other tasks seem to fall aside as one strives to get to 50,000-words by 30 November.  (As I’ve long been a Nano-rebel, yes, I’m counting this blog post towards my 50k.)

Bottom Line: Go see it.  As in, if you are a Pacific War buff, open a new tab, figure out a show time near you, then go immediately.  This is really a movie you want to see on the big screen, as it’s a visual feast.  I’m not saying see it in IMAX 4-D like I did (all the other show times didn’t line up well for a work night)

Is it accurate?  About 80-90% so, with the discrepancies (e.g., Halsey arriving just as the Lexington is sinking, said carrier being represented as a Yorktown-class due to CGI, etc.) being minor and obviously done in the service of story.  But let me be clear–this is not a Ben Affleck’s Pearl Harbor.  Or put another way, you can see that the historical adviser was front and center versus bound and gagged in the corner.  Indeed, it’s sad to say that Midway did a better job of accurately capturing the Pearl Harbor attack in a matter of minutes than the titular, much maligned movie did.

If you’re saying, “Wait, what?”, understand that this movie attempts to pack everything from 7 December ’41 to 4 June ’42 into the first half.  This goes better than expected and is highly necessary if you take someone who doesn’t know the history, but buffs may get a little annoyed at some shortcuts.  For example, I can’t remember Vice Admiral Fletcher ever actually making an appearance on screen, and Raymond Spruance kinda gets the short shrift.  Similarly slighted? Anyone who flew a Wildcat, Commander John C. Waldron, and the Yorktown‘s squadrons.  However, in exchange DICK BEST finally gets the credit he deserves (albeit with a lot of Hollywood spin), Wade McCluskey is humanized, and the sacrifice of Commander Gene Lindsey (VT-6) also gets front and center treatment.  Finally, you will leave this movie wondering when they’re going to film Doolittle, and not in a bad way.  (Seriously.  The Raiders need their own movie after this.)

Overall, very entertaining and mostly accurate, I’d give Midway 4/5 stars.  Yes, things could have been done better in a lot of ways, but the way they chose was very, very good.

***History discussion incoming***

For those of you who have been following some of the recent scholarship on Midway, the movie folks straddled between what I call the Miracle at Midway and Shattered Sword schools.  (For a brief rundown of the debate, see Parshall, Dickson, and Tully’s article here.  Parshall and Tully wrote the book Shattered Sword, which is a full length treatment of this article.)  I think the producers did it well, as they showed the problems constant attacks had on the Kido Butai.  However, they did have Nagumo well on the way to getting his second strike prepared and ready to spot when the SBDs show up.  This is mostly opposed to Parshall and Tully’s belief that the Kido Butai was probably at least another half hour out from being able to swing at Fletcher/Spruance when the weather forecast became, “Clear, with a 100% chance of Helldivers and 1,000-lb. bombs…”.  Personally, I’m with the movie producers, i.e., no the Japanese decks weren’t full of aircraft but another 20 minutes would have likely been bad news for the USN.  Hmm, maybe someday a person should do an alternate history of Midway…

Speaking of alternate history, Against the Tide Imperial is coming along well.  I’ve greatly benefited from reading the book How Carriers Fought as a refresher course in RN carrier tactics.  Let’s just say it’s a good thing Somerville stayed away from Nagumo in 1942.  Spoiler alert:  Vice Admiral Cunningham does not stay away from Vice Admiral Yamaguchi in Against the Tide Imperial.  So if you’re a fan of carrier battles, keep an eye out for the pre-order link next month.

 

WWII Quick References (NOV 2019)

Figured I’d perchance save loyal readers some gumshoe work down the road if they ever want to do a World War II story:

You can find ONI drawings for World War II references (like for your cartographer to draw ship outlines) here.

This is a good time zone converter for those cases when you go from Hawaii to Mombasa  to Ceylon all in one chapter.

Finally, lunar data for those pesky night Mosquito attacks.

Now, back to the Kido Butai vs.  Her Commonwealth Navy’s Far East Fleet.  Later!

Happy Veteran’s Day Potpourri Post

So it’s been a bit since I’ve updated the blog.  I figured I’d hit some of the high points of the last couple of weeks:

Attended the Ozark Book Con down in Fayetteville this past weekend as a vendor.  First year event with all that entails, but had good panels and talks with several good authors.  I recommend attending the event for the professional aspects if you’re in the area.  If you’re coming from out of the town, it’s definitely a “Hey rando friend I haven’t talked to in years, mind if I sleep on your couch?” until it grows some.  Which, given the professionalism and drive on display, I think it definitely will.

On the way back, finally got to meet Acts of War‘s editor, Mary, in person.  In addition to being long overdue, the fact it’s been 5+ years since that book went through her able hands made me marvel at what modern technology makes possible.  Although her current work with medical journals precludes her from working on anything else, I’m glad that a mutual acquaintance said “Hey, I know someone who might be able to help you…” many moons ago.

Speaking of the Usurper’s War series, Against the Tide Imperial continues to move along.  Unfortunately, after getting read the riot act by an author mentor, I’ve had to accept that the Phases of Mars anthologies are 100% my “books for the year.”  Combined with the new day job’s obligations (oh, yeah, I got promoted and changed positions), the process of putting out Those In PerilTo Slip the Surly Bonds, and Trouble in the Wind has pretty much sucked up a lot of available time.  So, rather than put out a substandard product or skimp on marketing, Against the Tide Imperial is slipping to the right again.  The manuscript will get done this year (which means preorders will be up), but the actual _book_ is probably going to be out in 1st Quarter 2020.  *angry author noises*

This dovetails to a professional lesson that I am learning again, but in a different dialect:  Projects are rarely as easy as they may initially seem.  At the beginning of the year, with Those In Peril shooting up the charts, “Suuuure, we can do two more of these this year…” seemed like a good plan.  What I now realize is one can do three books in a year, it just means one probably shouldn’t also do cons and other creative projects if there’s also a fourth book one would like done.  So, for 2020, the lesson will be, “No, I think that timeline doesn’t work for me, thank you…” as I get solo projects back in line.  (Feel free to remind me of this in the comments when my hair is on fire again this time next year.)

In addition, having now done editing three times, I cannot emphasize enough that you should always pay your damn editor.   It’s a whole different animal than writing, and I will issue a blanket, heartfelt mea culpa for some of my past sins to my editors.  In addition, as an author, understand that your editor’s job is to polish up your work.  “Polish” implies that you have done a grammatical read through, researched the technical aspects of the work, and are basically giving the editor a complete story that just needs a set of professional eyes to look upon it.  This goes doubly so for an anthology submission.  Indeed, I’m just going to let John G. Hartness take it away…(language alert…NO REALLY!):

Anyway, it’s Nano (and yes, I’m counting these words), and I’m going back to US CVs about to go to guns with an Italian Fleet.  (Yes, that’s a teaser.)