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"Write what you know..."

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Posted at 5:30 PM, Mar 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-11 18:59:06-05

A retired U.S. Marine, now calling Maryland home, is sharing his stories with the world and getting rave reviews.

“It was a roller coaster ride in itself,” Matthew Betley said.

That ride, taking Betley from retired Marine and civilian contractor to nationally published fiction author, started more than five years ago while on vacation with his wife. He was reading when an idea began forming.

“I realized I have this running dialog in my head and all of these experiences as a Marine officer. I’ve been around the block a little bit. I realized I can do a better job than this," he said.

So after a little obsession and coaxing from his wife, Betley committed to getting it done.

“I wrote a five year plan on a white board,” he said. “No kidding. I sat down and just started writing. It took me 18 months and eight days to write the first draft.”

But Betley would soon learn, the book was just the beginning.

After criticism from fellow fiction writers, he knew it was time to get an agent if he had any intention of getting the book to print.

“At the time, there were only 93 commercial agencies accepting my kind of submissions,” he said. “It was ‘No. No. No. No.’ ‘This sounds great.’ ‘No. No. No.’ Finally, one said, ‘This is fantastic. We want it.’ It was another 14 months before we had an offer with Simon and Schuster.”

The result is Overwatch, a tale of mystical artifacts captured during the most recent Iraq War and a global race to prevent the U.S. from another conflict. The center of Betley’s story is the character Logan West.

“Logan’s a troubled guy when we meet him. He’s suffering from PTSD. I also explain an ambush at an insurgent compound in three parts in the book. It explains why Logan left the Corps, why he is the way he is, and why he became an alcoholic," Betley said. 

That last characteristic, alcoholism, is something Betley knows first-hand. Today, he’s seven years sober.

“I was a weekend guy,” he said. “I wasn’t one of those guys getting drunk and going to work, especially in the Marine Corps. I’m just gonna party really hard on the weekends, and party hard for me was like 36 beers.  And with my personality, I wasn’t always the nicest guy. That’s just the reality.”

But Betley committed to making a change, and today is dedicated to his work, his family and his health.

“Everything I have today, I owe to my sobriety,” he said.

Released to bookstores March 1, Overwatch has been well-received by critics and fans alike, and Betley’s writing style is being compared favorably to famed military action authors Brad Thor and the late Vince Flynn.

“To have my name thrown in with those guys, especially the late great Vince Flynn, its humbling,” he said. “It’s intimidating because the bar is set so high, and the book just came out on Tuesday."

“I worked for this. From day one, I’m a very methodical person,” he added. “This is what I’ve been working towards. I believed all along that this was going to happen.”

Betley has already completed his second book in the Logan West series, currently titled First Shot. It’s in copy-editing for a March 2017 release.

Book three, Betley says, is written in his head. He just needs to get it on paper, something he says he should have time to do after his current book tour.

A book signing is scheduled for 1 p.m on Saturday, March 12 at the Books-A-Million store in Arundel Mills Mall.