The proposal has been accepted. Osprey has sent me a contract for a New Vanguard. I have signed the contract and sent it back to Osprey. What’s next?
I cannot speak for other Osprey authors, but the first thing I do is panic. I have a 15,000-word book, 40 pictures, and instructions for seven plates to deliver. On deadline. Plus or minus 500 words. And it has to be right. Osprey readers are a tough audience.
Once I am over panic, I go to the next step: research.
I have some advantages writing Seaplane and Aircraft Carriers of World War I. The biggest is that I am a World War I naval nut. Even as a teenager World War I was the naval war of the steel surface ship era, and back then I was a Jutland fanatic. I even learned German in high school so I could read Scheer’s memoirs. (They were at a library in my home town: Ann Arbor, Michigan. No one told me they were printed in Fraktur, though.)
So, I still have a good library of books on the subject that I had collected back then. Stuff like Jane’s All the World’s Warships 1919, and Brassey’s Naval Annual 1913. More importantly, I knew what I did not have, and how to get it. (Thank you, interlibrary loan.) I actually remembered several of the titles I regularly consulted back then.
Cornerstones of the Lardas Collection
I had another advantage: Nicholas Lardas, my dad. He is 90, and my biggest fan. He tried to make it as a writer back in the late 1940s, and was so successful he became an architect instead. When I actually started getting books published he was thrilled.
He was as into World War I aircraft as I was into World War I ships. When I was a child, he built models of World War I aircraft, and these he suspended from the ceiling of the bedroom I shared with my brothers. I went to sleep each night watching them dogfight in the dark.
He has a collection of books and magazines on World War I aircraft that puts my set on ships to shame. When I told him what my next book was to be, he went through his collection of Cross & Cockade magazines and sent me every issue that had articles on naval aviation. Some of the stuff was pure gold, including one 1980 article about aviation warships of 1914?1919. Thanks, dad.
Cross & Cockade
But even with that there were still big gaps. As a teen I was into World War I battleships, not aircraft carriers. I needed specific information on aviation warships. So, to find what I’ll need, I did what virtually every writer does now. I went to Wikipedia, Internet Archives, and Google Books.
No, I do not cut-and-paste Wikipedia articles. I mine the references: at the bottom of every Wikipedia article is a list of books used to write the article. Many are available through interlibrary loan. Some, particularly those published 30 to 40 years ago, can be purchased cheaply through http://abebooks.com or http://amazon.com. Wikipedia articles also have useful links to other websites.
Internet Archives and Google Books are two online sources for public domain books. While these are most useful for 19th-century wars, some books written immediately after World War I are in the public domain. For example: those Scheer memoirs that were only locally available in German when I was a teenager? These days you can download an English translation of Germany's High Sea Fleet in the World War from Google Books.
At least for me, research goes on right up until I deliver the book. Throughout the process I gather more information, and modify my manuscript as new data comes in. In my day job, I spent two decades doing space rendezvous navigation. It shared something with my writing: you kept doing corrections throughout the process until you reach the destination.
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