I thought I was pretty much finished. With Huaca, that is. I knew it was missing a little something. A niggle in the back of my head told me. So, I gave it to my usual Beta readers who know both the story and the characters well. The first lot of feedback came from my female readers. They mainly commented on the relationship between Kelly and Freya. Will they, won't they. And of course the ending, which I must have re-written four times. This was important to get right, and I am always grateful to understand the 'romantic pieces' from a woman's perspective. But for the most part, the story was left untouched.
Then, I received feedback from Stu Jones. He is my regular beta reader who gives realism to my action scenes and military jargon. I met Stu, virtually, on Goodreads. In his own words, he is:
"[a] family man, SWAT cop, martial arts expert, lover of motorcycles and fine beer (not at the same time), and writer of epic genre blending fiction.
Stu currently serves full time as a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama. His duties include felony fugitive apprehension, criminal investigations, instructing defensive tactics, and serving as a member of his department's SWAT team.
He is a Christian who is an author, not necessarily a Christian author. He has chosen to find and overcome the boundary which traditional Christian fiction will not breach and refuses to publish. His books tend to combine two very different outlooks: The Christian message with a positive and inspirational story combined with the grit, grime, violence, abuse, and general tragedy that permeates this life that we live."
In short, he is a bad ass. With a big heart. Pretty much the all American hero. He should be in movies.
His feedback literally took Huaca apart at the seams. Piece by piece he pointed out every crack, issue, story hiccup and flaw he found. And he was right. About it all. Unlike my female readers, Stu focused on the macro environment. It is of note that Stu actually dislikes my main character quite a lot. I think he has referred to Kelly Graham as a 'dick' on a number of occasions. But that's a good thing. One, because it means my writing causes a visceral reaction. And, two, because Stu gets to comment freely without being clouded by affection for the protagonist.
Some might not be able to take Stu's comments. They're pretty direct. But for me, they were invaluable. I now have an entire new thread and sub plot. I am re-writing chapters I thought I was done with. All in all Huaca will be ten times better thanks to Stu.
And so, I would encourage you to read his work. I have actually previously reviewed his first novel, Through the Fury to the Dawn, on my site. It's a gory mix of Christian faith and the desperation of mankind. His next book, Into the Dark of the Day, is even better. I have been privileged to be a beta reader. Of course, I gave him some feedback too. Nothing like a bit of tit-for-tat.
Check out Stu's work on http://www.actionofpurpose.com/home.