I finished the first draft on the next book! And then I gave it to Calmer Half, for the tactical read-through. Because accuracy matters. (After he finishes, it's going to a geologist who will do her own accuracy read-through. I aim to always write something good enough that people who are skilled in the profession shown do not want to throw the book across the room.)
He came back with three tactical errors. One of which was a one-line fix, and two of which require rewriting an entire chapter. We'd already discussed the third one, and I knew it was coming; he has encouraged me to write it horribly instead of not writing it, because it'd be easier to edit to correct than to get right the first time. But the second, ah the second. He insisted I had to write the aerial shootdown. Which has been so frustrating to research and write that I copped out and had the viewpoint character looking the wrong way.
Calmer Half isn't going to let me get away with that. Darnit. He holds me to higher standards than I sometimes want to be held, and I love him for it, no matter how frustrating it can be. So, being unable to figure out what I need from online, I finally swallowed my pride, took a deep breath, and... asked him for help. (Yeah, I know. He's right there. Doesn't mean it's always the easiest option.)
"Love, what's it look like to someone on the ground when a plane launches a missile?"
He said offhand, "There are youtube videos."
"Oh, I know, and funker350 videos. But they're mainly air to air, from the plane. Or they're handheld shakycam, and assume you know what you're seeing, or staged, or Hollywood. Not useful if you're running and look up. Which is why I avoided writing it in the first place. Help?"
He took a long, deep breath in, and let it out slowly, then said, "When the fucker is launching a missile at you as you're trying to shoot it down, first it looks like something broke; the wing changes shape, and you think 'did something fall off?' And then there's a flickering as the rocket ignites."
"And then... it accelerates too fast to actually see the missile. Your eyes just can't focus on something moving that fast. A smoke trail suddenly appears."
His lips twisted in an odd grimace, and I said, "And when it hits another plane? I'm betting the Hollywood fireball is completely wrong."
He rolled his shoulders, trying to relax a sudden tension, and moved his neck side to side, before saying. "Eh. When it hits a fighter, with the missiles and fuel tanks, it's a fireball. It's a... a slam, that's the only way I can describe it. A slamming explosion. And a fighter just disintegrates, so explosion, fireball and smoke, and bits falling."
"Now, transport planes? They're so much bigger you can see the explosion along it's length, with the nose fore and tail aft. So you'll see a wing come off, and it gently flutters, slowly drifting down to the ground. The plane itself, as it still has that one wing giving lift, starts spinning and tumbling and it is the most astounding tumbling flopping. It bends at the break, too, as it spins and flops and it's almost comical. Things fall out at the breaks. You can see the bodies falling, if you're close enough." His voice went soft, and deep, almost guttural, "Sooner them than me."
Okay, maybe there's a reason that I don't ask him for help if I can avoid it, and it's not just pride. It's not liking poking old wounds. Time to retreat with humour. "You know, for someone who said he's not going to write about Africa, there's an awful lot of writing about Africa in this house."
He looked back at me, and the humour sparkled in his eyes. "But I'm not writing it!"
...right. That was accurate. And accuracy matters!