Wednesday, July 11, 2018

J.P. Medved Brings Back the Techno Thriller with JUSTICE INC.

My next guest is J.P. Medved, who is carving a niche for himself in the thriller and science fiction arenas, and bringing the "techno" back to the thriller as well.

His latest, from Liberty Island Publishing (full disclosure: L.I. is publishing my Steve Dane novels), is called Justice Inc., and you're in for a wild ride.

We hear a lot about private military contractors since the "War on Terror" began, where a DuckDuckGo search brings up a lot of articles on the pros and cons of using such organizations.

But J.P. has made the PMC a new kind of hero, detailing all the gizmos, gadgets, and other devices actually in use today as they lay waste to the bad guys, so I had to have him over for a conversation.

BD: When did you start writing?

JM: I've been writing since I can remember. In grade school a friend and I wrote a "screenplay" for a spy comedy, in middle school I wrote short funny stories in the margins of my notes during class, in high school I wrote a (terrible) few chapters of a military thriller about a future war with Russia, and in college I wrote a mix of steampunk and political, Ayn Rand-inspired short stories. I've got notebooks and Microsoft Word files going back some 20 years now with stories and other fiction projects. It's something I always come back to, and that really, in retrospect, feels like a compulsion. I don't think I could stop writing if I wanted to.

BD: I see quite an eclectic mix of titles on Amazon, sci-fi to thriller and a few in between. What is it like to genre hop? Do you ever get your sci-fi tropes mixed up with your thriller tropes, or do you find elements that are universal between the two?

JM: There's definitely a different mental state required to write a light, fun steampunk adventure compared to a gritty political thriller. Both scratch different itches for me as a writer which is why, despite the difficulty (especially in marketing), I continue writing in multiple genres. My experience has been it's actually not that hard to keep the two separate in my mind when writing, trope-wise. There's obviously differences; characters and reactions may be a bit "larger-than-life" in sci-fi compared to a more grounded, "realistic" treatment in thrillers, but the basics--arc, stakes, plot structure--are the same because those are universal to all stories. At least that's what I've found.

BD: Tell us about Justice Inc. What inspired the assembly of Eric Ikenna and his team?

JM: "Justice, Inc." was actually inspired by a documentary I watched about a South African private military company called Executive Outcomes.  In the late 90s EO was able to completely halt a brutal civil war in Sierra Leone and push back the mass murdering rebel forces of the "Revolutionary United Front" with only about 100-150 soldiers. My boss at the time and I started talking about it, and he posed the question of why an organization like that couldn't be incentivized to deal with some of the really bad, tyrannical, governments and dictatorships still operating in the third world. So I took that seed of an idea and did a ton of research into the economics and politics to see how something like that might work--I looked into operating revenues of existing PMCs, read Erik Prince's book "Civilian Warriors" about Blackwater, dug up a bunch of scholarly papers on private military contractors and the like. It seemed not only plausible, but interesting enough to build a story around, so I did.

BD: You have a lot of techno detail in Justice Inc. Fan of Tom Clancy growing up? How much is real and how much is from your imagination?

JM: Definitely a Clancy fan growing up; "Rainbow Six" and "Red Storm Rising" are still some of my favorite books. The tech in "Justice, Inc." is all based on things that already exist in some form, or have been suggested and are actively being researched as extensions of current technology. For example the stealth suits are based on some very real research into light bending meta-materials that has been advancing significantly over the last decade or more. The ubiquity of cryptocurrency, 3-D pharma printers, drones, and self-driving cars are all simply extensions and predictions of technologies we already have being refined and adopted en masse over the next few years.

BD: You already have a free Justice Inc story available on Amazon (it's called The Contractors); any further novels in the series planned?

JM: Yes! The 2nd book in the series is already outlined and I plan on getting started on writing it within the next month. With JI2 I'm really wanting to explore the question of how a functioning libertarian society could arise, semi-organically, and the major challenges (internal and external) it would face in a world of state-sponsored terrorism and fanatic religious extremism.

BD: What else would you like to mention?

JM: I'll definitely add a plug that, if you like "Justice, Inc." and similar stories, you should check out Liberty Island, which is the publisher and has a ton of other great, pro-freedom works. Additionally, the Libertarian Fiction Authors Association is a great source for additional pro-liberty novels and, for other writers, a collegial bunch of folks excited to help each other with craft and marketing.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Hero Cops Make Comeback: The Blazer Novels of G.C. Harmon

I bumped into my next guest on Facebook as we prowl the backstreets of men's adventure fiction. G.C. Harmon's Steve Blazer series is one to watch. It's time we had hero cops in fiction again, if nothing else to balance out the negative press law enforcement seems to attract nowadays, albeit some of it deserved, but we all know there are more good cops than bad, and their experiences are ripe for adventure fiction.

G.C. has two books out so far, Red, White and Blue, and Loaded. The Blazer adventures take place in San Francisco, which, after the Dirty Harry movies, I'm convinced is the best setting for any police story. New York, Chicago, LA? Fuhgeddaboutit.

After crashing a thieves' den, arresting several suspects, and recovering untold lots of stolen merchandise, G.C. and I sat down to talk about how to write about it.

Brian Drake: When did you start writing?

G.C. Harmon: I have been writing since about 1982, when I was 10 years old. Steve Blazer was one of the first characters I ever created. Even back then, I had an affinity for action heroes.

BD: Tell us about Steve Blazer. What makes him tick?

GCH: Steve Blazer is an honest and dedicated cop with a background in military special ops. In fact, this is where he met his mentor, Captain John Stanson. Because of his military background he is someone who is willing to do what it takes to get a job done. This has led much of the department to believe that, with an arrest record like his, and as many shootings as he's had, he's GOT to be doing something shady.

Steve is a deep believer in the war on drugs. Through much of his life, he's seen the damage that drugs do to people--not just the users, but everyone around them--and he has vowed to fight this any way he can.

In Red, White and Blue, Stanson is instrumental in seeing Blazer is given command of a special unit resurrected from the department's history. The unit has a shady past, and Stanson knows that the department is going to look at Blazer and his team with a lot of distrust. They both want to keep the unit above board and earn the department's trust. This is immediately put to the test when one of his men crosses lines and puts their future in jeopardy.

As a character, Blazer is also extremely cynical. He sees the worst of the worst, so he expects the worst in humanity. But it goes a little deeper. He sees where society is heading as a whole, and he sees himself as doing his part to try to save it, all the while knowing that the society probably can't be saved. But that battle must be fought. Steve puts his life on the line so good honest people can live good lives without fear. He feels like he has sacrificed his own chances at a normal life for others to have their chance.

BD: What inspired you to make Blazer a cop in San Francisco?

GCH: I've conceived many different versions of this character as we grew up together, but during the 1990s is when I settled on him being a cop. The more I wrote and developed the character, the more I wanted to try the cop thing myself. I graduated from the California Peace Officers Standards and Training Academy several years ago. I unfortunately never got the chance to work as a cop, but I've worked with police departments in my various jobs and I'm currently pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice. I've poured much of my training and many of my work experiences into my writing. As for San Francisco, I fell in love with the city as a kid, when I first went there with my dad. The view of the skyscrapers as we crossed the Bay Bridge was just awe-inspiring. It wasn't until much later that I saw the crazy politics of that city, but I actually like to incorporate that in my writing, at least to some extent.

BD: Do the Blazer books give us a glimpse into the real world of cops, are we getting a pulp extravaganza, or a little of both?

GCH: A lot of both. I love action, and I grew up on some of the popular pulp books of the '80s. I still read the Executioner series, the Destroyer, The Penetrator, Dennison's War, Nick Carter, some great and action-packed stories. I love crafting a long and complex action scene, and I've created some good ones in Red, White and Blue. At the same time, I strive for realism. I've taken many trips into the city (I live just a couple hours away) to do location research, and I have definitely put some of my own experiences into my stories. I try to avoid the cliches, the literary traps that are pure Hollywood. I want my stories to be exciting and inspiring, but also believable. My stories are definitely for action fans, but they will also appeal to anyone with a sense of justice.

BD: Any plans for non-Blazer books?

GCH: Absolutely. I will concentrate on Blazer for the time being, the second book is being adjusted and will be re-released soon. I am also currently working on the third book, a prequel. I've got story ideas to keep Blazer going for quite a while. At the same time, I do have a few other main characters in mind that I'd like to try out. I have a spy character that I want to explore. I have ideas for a futuristic sci-fi-series. But for now, the first Blazer novel, Red, White and Blue, is available! Books 2 and 3 will be available soon. Enjoy! And make your life an adventure!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Stiletto #4 Now Available

After a long delay I have finally released The Petrova Betrayal, aka Stiletto #4.

My fiance and I have been planning our wedding, so it's been hectic. Two more months and I kiss my bachelor days good-bye, and having been a bachelor for so long, I'm quite looking forward to the change.

For the two of you who have been waiting for Stiletto #4 (hahaha) you can buy it now.

Stiletto Unleashed!

Scott Stiletto is out of the CIA, but not out of action. Working as a freelancer, Stiletto is hired by Kim Jordan, CEO of Jordan Defense, a firm involved in creating a new radar system to detect stealth aircraft. It’s a development that may re-shape U.S. defenses, and somebody is trying to steal the plans. Stiletto dives in to stop the theft and keep the data from falling into the wrong hands, while attraction burns between him and Kim Jordan, causing Stiletto to take a much greater interest in the mission. An interest that may prove fatal. 

Soon competing enemies reveal themselves, old enemies become allies, adversaries thought dead reappear, and Stiletto’s quest to secure the radar plans takes him around the world in an action-packed thrill ride where nothing is as it seems.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mike Baron: From Comics to Hard-Boiled Crime

Author Mike Baron has written a set of terrific private detective novels that offer a new twist on the hard-boiled dick. Biker is the first in the "Bad Road Rising" series, and features P.I. and biker Josh Pratt, and his first adventure is a whopper.

Mike is no stranger to writing.  He is the creator of Nexus (with artist Steve Rude) and Badger two of the longest lasting independent superhero comics. Nexus is about a cosmic avenger 500 years in the future. Badger, about a multiple personality one of whom is a costumed crime fighter. First/Devils Due is publishing all new Badger stories. Baron has won two Eisners and an Inkpot award and written The Punisher, Flash, Deadman and Star Wars among many other titles.

I found Mike at our favorite biker bar (he drank whiskey; I had a glass of milk--in a dirty glass) and asked him a few questions.

BD: You've had a big career in comics before writing a novel. When did you start writing, and what inspired you?

MB: I started writing for my high school newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. I don't know, one day I just felt like writing! 


I have been inspired to write since I picked up John D. MacDonald's The Deep Blue Goodbye in a cigar store in Mitchell, SD, for thirty-five cents. Uncle Scrooge comics hit me like a neutron bomb. Why were these comics so much better than other comics? I began to analyze.

BD: Why did it take so long to write a novel? Or was it something you wanted to do for quite some time?

MB: I had it in the back of my mind to be a novelist since The Deep Blue Goodbye. Looked like an easy job! I wouldn't have to work! I tried writing novels right out of college. I wrote more than a million words of garbage before I quit. But after awhile I would start again. I fell off the earth for about ten years, during which I moved from Wisconsin to Colorado. I had some difficult times and it changed me. I'd been making notes on novels for years. I started again and this time, I got it! It took me thirty years to learn how to write a novel, but I'm a slow learner.

BD: Can you explain the difference between comic writing and prose?

MB: Comics are such a forgiving art form, anyone can do one and it will appear legitimate. You will read rebarbative writing accompanied by childish art and it will never occur to you to toss it aside and proclaim, “rubbish!”

A novel, on the other hand, must grab you with its narrative voice. Most readers can sense amateurish writing within the first paragraph. Then it becomes a struggle to read. The goal of the story teller is to grab the reader by the throat and drag him into the narrative so he forgets he is experiencing craft, and it becomes his reality. Even the best written comic will toss you out if the art doesn’t work. And even the most beautifully illustrated comic will leave you with an empty feeling if the story doesn’t hold up. I make notes on a novel months, sometimes years in advance. When I have enough of a framework, I write a detailed outline. The outline must be entertaining and exciting. Every word you write is an advertisement for your writing. I make notes on characters, plot devices, unusual inventions. Anything and everything that might pertain to the story.

BD: Where did the idea for "Bad Road Rising" come from?

MB: I've been a motorcyclist all my life, and I wanted to create a character like Travis McGee. That is, a flawed but noble man who lives outside the system and makes a living helping people. Fringe dwellers, unwed mothers, people who need it, deserve it, but can't get it. I made Josh a biker and gave him an horrific background which partially explains the way he is. I was riding into town one day and I saw a roadside memorial for a cyclist who'd been killed in a crash. That's where I got the name. I wrote Biker three or four times before I was satisfied. By the time I'd finished, Josh had taken on a life of his own.

BD: How did the history of the PI genre influence you, and what genre conventions did you want to subvert to make the story uniquely yours?

MB: Every writer reads. Every writer craves an exciting new book. By the time I got around to Josh, I'd read everything John D. MacDonald, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Randy Wayne White had written. I have three rules. One: entertain. Two: show don't tell. Three: be original. I don't know how you can not be original if you're writing honestly. We're all individuals with a unique history. I bring my world view to the page. As a journalist, I spent a lot of time talking to people. Musicians, bikers, retailers. Then I hear a unique phrase, I remember it. Sometimes I write it down. Fresh, realistic dialogue is my stock in trade. I don't worry about subversion. I worry about grabbing the reader by the throat and dragging him into the narrative so that he forgets all else. I don't choose the stories, the stories choose me. My stories are heterodox and I am bracing for a backlash. Go to Amazon and read the story description for Sons of Bitches or Sons of Privilege.

BD: Biker, while certainly not being religious fiction, does feature elements of faith, especially with Josh. What made you go in that direction?

MB: Josh’s conversion from hoodlum to Christian seemed natural. A person has to believe in something larger than himself to be happy. It also appeals to my sense of the heterodox. I write against the grain of popular culture.

BD:  How many books in the series are planned?

MB: Thousands! Working on the seventh novel now.

BD: Any plans for other novels not involving Josh Pratt?

MB: I just wrote a Destroyer novel for Devin Murphy. I've also written Banshees, Domain, and Skorpio, three horror novels of which I'm proud. Publishers Weekly gave Banshees a starred review. I also have an historical novel in the back of my head that I'll get to one of these days, but I'm already thinking about the next Josh Pratt.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

KREMLIN STORM: Discussing Russploitation with Ian Kharitonov

I first became aware of Ian Kharitonov through an interview he did with somebody or other talking about an action/adventure renaissance taking place in the independent author community. His reasoning impressed me, which of course it would, since I've been saying the same things privately to other writer pals as we churn out the kind of he-man action stories we grew up reading while wondering if readers cared. Looking at the samples of Ian's books on Amazon, I found a writer who is high and tight with the prose, wastes no words, and really hooks you from the get-go.

His latest, Kremlin Storm, is no exception. Get ready for a rocket-paced ride with a twist you might not be expecting.

More from Ian . . .

Brian Drake: You're writing a series with a subject matter (thrilling events taking place in Russia) that we don't see very much, with Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park probably being the most well known example. What made you decide to use Russia as the stage for your thrillers? (Aside from once living there, of course.)

Ian Kharitonov: Write what you know! The old adage still holds true. And in my case, I write what others don't really know much about, to be honest. A quarter of a century after the collapse of the Iron Curtain, Russia remains an enigma. Despite the growing interest in the country, many authors who want to jump on the Russia bandwagon often fall flat and get their basic facts wrong, even some of the big names. As a reader, I found it frustrating at times (and still do). So I decided to take the matter into my own hands. As an author, I turned it into an advantage, finding my niche. I've even coined the term Russploitation for the subgenre I'm writing in. There aren't many Russian protagonists in most thrillers that you see on the shelves. Only Red Sparrow has made a big splash recently. Arkady Renko is another notable exception, but Gorky Park and its sequels were police procedurals rather than action/adventure or espionage thrillers. And I believe that being Russian allows me to add an extra layer of authenticity that even Martin Cruz Smith couldn't achieve, giving my readers a real insider's look. I'm very flattered by the analogy, though, and my early sales pitch was "Jason Bourne meets Gorky Park," so if you want to sum up my thriller, it fits.

BD: Is Gene Sokolov based on anybody in particular? What about his rescue unit?

IK: I think that any protagonist is a reflection of the author's psyche in some way. It's the reason we write, to fulfill our hidden dreams and aspirations, or to banish our subconscious fears, to make anything possible on the page. I have two main protagonists in my series, the Sokolov brothers, Eugene and Constantine. Perhaps I've always wanted an older brother? I don't know! In any case, they're the only two surviving members of their family which has been ravaged by the last one hundred years of Russian history. I didn't want to create a cliché superhero who's equally skilled at brain surgery and powerlifting, and prone to quoting passages from Schopenhauer in the middle of a gunfight. So I wanted to strike a balance between my heroes. Constantine is a historian with basic self-defense training and Gene is an all-action man educated in civil defense. Constantine has been ousted from academia for his political views, while Gene continues working for a government agency. He's not a Russian Spetsnaz military type as seen in Hollywood, however. EMERCOM is roughly the real-life Russian counterpart of FEMA. Of course, I used some artistic license when fictionalizing it, making it more independent from the Kremlin's affairs. Sokolov is not a typical action thriller protagonist in the sense that he's supposed to be saving people instead of killing them, but he inevitably gets dragged into deadly missions that he has to fight his way through.

BD: Your bio says you turned down a diplomatic career to instead write fiction. What made you do that, and how did the experience that led to such an opportunity fuel your writing?


IK: Fresh out of college at twenty, I turned down a diplomatic career much in the same way as my main character turned down a military career. The nature of the Kremlin regime was quite clear and I didn't want to get involved. I was offered a job at the Russian Embassy in Sweden and I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole, especially in the wake of a recent spy scandal in Stockholm. Having lived in several different countries since a young age, I decided to move on to writing fiction, and Nordic Noir just wasn't my thing.

BD: You've released four books, two in 2013, one in 2015, and, of course, 2018. Most independent writers are grinding out titles every couple of months (sometimes one a month) to get traction, but it looks like you're approach is helping you sell books as well. What made you decide to do fewer releases, and what are your favorite marketing techniques?

IK: It's not a business strategy, it's procrastination! Seriously though, every writer wants to have written more and faster. I'm no exception. I do have an excuse of being a relatively young author finding my feet. My series required a ton of research, but now that I've laid the groundwork I hope to pick up speed and have quicker, shorter releases. I'm convinced that the ebook market is perfect for leaner novels like the men's adventure series from the 1970s. All plot, no padding.

As for the marketing techniques, the nascent digital landscape is still quite volatile and things change quickly. The tricks that work today might become useless tomorrow. My most reliable tool is probably targeted advertising. Some universal marketing principles do apply, and always will. Marketing begins before you even start creating your product, with identifying your readers' needs or tastes, or setting out to establish new ones. The market is difficult to predict, but the best thing you can do is write the sort of book you'd love to read yourself as a buyer.

BD: I'm a Cold War kid who used to think Russia was where "the enemy" was, and it didn't help that where I lived in California at the time was a Soviet "first strike target area". In recent years, mostly through research for stories, I've come to respect the people and culture. It's been disappointing to realize they've left one bad political system for another, under a regime that stays in power through dirty tricks and shenanigans, and continues to jail and malign (and maybe murder) those who oppose the system. Will Russia ever fully recover from the Soviet era, or will it take a lot of old men dying for new blood to finally make Russia great again?

IK: It was tragic, and my novels touch upon the subject. Unfortunately, the transition from dictatorship to freedom failed because it was still carried out by the same people. Communists who'd only learned about capitalism from Marxist textbooks could only build an evil caricature version of it.

As a result, Russia steered away from democracy toward a thugocracy. A Mafia state, like something out of a Mack Bolan book. La cosa di tutti cosi. As the popular saying goes: "Every country has its own mafia, but only in Russia does the mafia have its own country."

And there's no end in sight. On the contrary, Russia's become too small for these gangsters who want to spread their criminal influence around the world, from running internet troll farms to using WMDs in European countries. I'm sad to say that Russia has done everything to become the enemy once again. Are the Russian people complicit in allowing this regime to continue for at least another six years? The jury is still out.

Will Russia ever recover from the Soviet era? The very same question is posed at the end of my first novel, The Russian Renaissance. My characters were somewhat optimistic about it, but that sentiment dwindled in the following books.

BD: What's next for your books? Will you continue the Sokolov series, or try something else?

IK: Now that Cold War 2.0 is officially here (http://observer.com/2018/03/theresa-may-announces-measures-against-russia-for-sergei-skripal-case/), it's nice to have a head start in the Russploitation game. I don't see the series going away any time soon. I have big plans in store for the Sokolov brothers. Hopefully, my plot ideas won't become reality, at least not until I finish writing the stories!

Brian Drake: You can learn more about Ian at his website or at his Amazon page. Thanks, Ian!

Monday, March 12, 2018

There Be Zombies! The Post-Apocalypse According to John L. Davis

My next interview is John L. Davis, an author who admits he is outnumbered in his own house--a wife, two daughters, and a dog. Poor chap--I feel for you, John!

John's written some very good pieces of fiction you should check out if you're into the zombie / prepper genre, horror, or even Christian fiction. John dabbles in them all, and does very well indeed.

Brian Drake: When did you start writing?

John L. Davis: I started writing many years ago, around the age of 14. I had really just fallen in love with books and reading about two years before that and got to the point where I felt I had stories to tell. I’ve accumulated reams of short stories, novel starts and poems since then. I didn’t write with any serious intent until three years ago, when I first started writing my series, American Revenant.

BD: Tell us about American Revenant.

JLD: American Revenant is a zombie apocalypse survival series set in and around the town I live in, Hannibal, Missouri. The genesis of the stories stems from conversations with friends about survival during a world-changing event, such as an EMP or societal collapse. How we would handle it, what we could do to prepare ourselves and our families should anything like that ever occur. Then one day, jokingly, zombies were mentioned, (we had all been watching The Walking Dead at that point) and suddenly, that spark went off. When I mentioned the idea of a book, my friends essentially dared me to write it.

The series follows a group of preppers that never expected zombies in their survival plans. At first, they struggle to find a way out of Hannibal to a safer, more defensible location. The books aren’t far-ranging, meaning that characters are never really far from home. The idea of a wandering band of nomads was being done by everyone writing or filming zombies in any form. I wanted intelligent characters who would find a place to call their own and build it up to be a safe and habitable place.

BD: What attracted you to the zombie / prepper genre?

JLD: Zombies were on the rise again, (so to speak) with the success of The Walking Dead and Z Nation, and spending time playing in that undead world just seemed fun, like there were no real boundaries. I’ve loved the whole idea of zombies, and zombie fiction since I first watched Return of the Living Dead 2 and Night of the Living Dead (my all time favorite zombie flick) all those years ago as a teen. Dark and scary, or hilariously bloody, they always elicited a strong response from the imagination. Hacking my way into that world just seemed natural.


As for the prepper side of it, well, I’ve always had a strong interest in survival, especially wilderness survival. As a kid I would take my paperback copy of Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen out to the woods behind my Dad’s house and practice. I still have that book. It’s been soaking wet and filthy, the cover’s been taped up and taped back on many times. I slipped into the prepper mindset easily over the years, and it made its way into my books, to some extent.

BD: Tell us about Fat Jack and Hollywood Burning. What are the true stories behind your version of events?

JLD: Fat Jack- Fat Jack is a brutal revenge story with a wicked Supernatural-style twist. A running theme through many of my stories is family. What would a father do to protect his family, or should he fail to protect them, how far would he go for retribution. Jack is a huge embodiment of that retribution, especially when faced with a force that might be something other than what it appears. Of all my currently published pieces, Fat Jack is the one people most often tell me they want more of. People love Jack, and because of that I’m considering doing a series of short stories to really dig deep into his character and the world he inhabits.

Hollywood Burning – This is another story about family and retribution, from a different standpoint. The premise for the piece comes from the recent headlines regarding high-profile Hollywood elites coming under scrutiny for alleged sexual abuse against numerous people. What would a father do if he lost his young actor son to suicide because of the depravity heaped upon the boy by those in powerful positions. The story takes a violent look at a father’s broken heart, with something of that “Punisher” style of justice. As a nod to two well-known victims of Hollywood’s excesses, readers should pay attention to the son’s name in the story. If they look, they can figure out where it comes from.

BD: Along with your zombie fiction and revenge tales, you've also dipped into Christian Fiction. What inspired The Old Man & The Bible and The Boy & The Miracle?

JLD: Both of these stories were written at the same time, nearly twenty years ago, (It probably shows in the writing). I can’t specifically say what inspired them, but this was at a time when I was closely examining my faith in God. I remember writing Man/Bible to make readers open their Bibles to look up a specific verse at the end of the story. Boy/Miracle was me imagining what a really big miracle might look like in an age when people no longer believe that God works miracles. I had placed them up for sale at the request of a friend and can say honestly that I’ve never sold more than a few copies of each, but I leave them up. Maybe someday, someone will read them, just when they need them most.

BD: That’s great. We need more Christ-centered fiction in this cesspool of a world. How can readers contact you?

JLD: I’m all over the internet. Twitter is @AmRevenant, same for Instagram. The easiest way would probably be on the American Revenant Facebook page. I can also be found at Americanrevenantseries.com.

BD: What are you working on next?

JLD: I’ve taken a bit of a hard right turn with my new novel, tentatively titled Average Joe. I usually stay firmly in the horror or post-apocalyptic areas, while sometimes getting into a bit of science fiction, but this new book is strictly an action thriller. We’ve all read those fantastic action heroes (i.e.; Jack Reacher, Mack Bolan, Jason Bourne) that are well trained ex-military or law-enforcement. These guys have all the skills and honed abilities to defeat the bad dudes and win the day. I wondered how an average guy, without all that training, might handle a situation that he really shouldn’t be in.
Rather than go with self-publishing this time, I intend to at least attempt securing an agent or publisher for this one. If that doesn’t happen, then I’ll definitely release it online as I’ve done with my other works.

BD: Thanks, John. Best of luck with the new book.

You can check out John's website HERE and his Amazon author page HERE.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Happy Birthday, Mickey

I didn't want the sun to go down tonight before saying anything about Mickey Spillane's 100th birthday (today, duh) but the sun has gone down, and thoughts have eluded me all afternoon. What do you say about Mickey that hasn't already been said, and what can you add to the mix? But I finally have a few thoughts:

1) Mickey left us too soon, and The Goliath Bone, his last book finished by Max Allan Collins, was tough to read, because "the end" meant "good-bye" and I wasn't ready for that yet. I've learned more from Mickey Spillane than any other writer including Ian Fleming. How can you argue with, "The first chapter sells the book; the last chapter sells the next book." Nobody else talks about writing the way Mickey Spillane did.

2) Mickey once did a TV interview to promote The Killing Man on a talk show hosted by Bob Costas, "Later", I believe it was called, because Costas used to open by saying, "Thanks for staying up Later." I was fortunate to videotape the show, but now the tape is gone. I must have watched that interview a thousand times. Mickey was funny and engaging and he looked like my grandfather. I'd love to see it again. Mickey gave other interviews and recycled all the answers, but they weren't the same.

3) Anybody who wants to write about anything needs to read the first chapter of The Killing Man and memorize it. That first chapter is without flaw and shows you everything you need to know about setting a scene and building tension to the breaking point. It's brilliant. The rest of the book ain't bad, either. The last line? "Now I killed you, you shit." Terrific! Nobody writes last lines the way Mickey Spillane did.

4) I wrote him a letter once to tell him how much I admired his work and had the audacity to email Max Allan Collins to ask for the best address, because I knew he'd understand. Collins provided a "general delivery" post office location and said, "Don't worry, he'll get it." I sent the letter. I don't know if Mickey ever got it. But I hope he did.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Thrillers of Ethan Jones

I have a treat for you this time. Ethan Jones has written a terrific series of spy thrillers featuring such thrilling protagonists as Justin Hall, Carrie O'Connor, Jennifer Morgan, and, now, Javin Pierce, aka The Corrector.


You can check out Ethan's Amazon author page here, which lists his impressive body of work.

I invited Ethan by to tell us more about his books and his approach to writing, and why brain surgery is easier than writing a book.

Brian Drake: Tell us about your new book. Is this the start of a new series?

Ethan Jones: The Corrector is the start of a new series. When covert operations go wrong, the Canadian Intelligence Service sends in . . . The Corrector.

Enter Javin Pierce.

Javin comes in when no one else can. With his calm, well-thought manner he’s able to pull off jobs where others have failed. Javin is always two steps ahead, which is essential.

In The Corrector, he’s sent to Istanbul, Turkey, to retrieve a flash drive containing scandals that could topple world governments and plunge Europe into absolute chaos if they do not retrieve it in time. But, before even getting started, Javin and his less-than-trusted partner, Claudia, must deal with a devious terrorist plot and its aftermath, all without leaving a trace . . .

BD: After so many books under your belt, what have you learned about yourself as a writer?

EJ: I’ve learned to trust my gut on how and where the story is going. I’ve also learned to let the characters and their personality guide me and the plot lines. The characters can tell us, writers, so much if we can only listen.

BD: Tell us about Justin Hall. What has reader reaction been like?

EJ: Most readers love Justin. He comes across as firm, determined, but also has a kind side. I wanted to make him human, not superman. He has doubts, fears, he loves and hates like all of us. There are some readers who dislike Justin and my style of writing, but I’m okay with that. The majority of my readers still love him, and that’s all that matters.

BD: Are you able to find a balance between writing and marketing?  If so, how? If not, how are you trying to do that?

EJ: If I can only do one thing a day, that’s writing. I aim for 1000 words, which is a bit over three pages, and on most days, I can hit that target. Once I’ve done that, I switch to marketing. Many people are scared by the word “marketing,” but as long as I’m doing something to get the word out about my book, that’s marketing. I usually do that in the afternoon or in the evening, depending on the day.

BD: What is something, other than reading great books, that fuels your imagination for your own stories?

EJ: I like to read the news, especially from controversial media, which have some pretty far-fetched stories that are great for my spy fiction genre. I also like to watch documentaries, again mostly from local media of the areas where I’m setting my stories, so that I can get that authentic feel for the culture, the geo-politics, and a good sense of what’s going on in that part of the world.

BD: After being in the business for so long, do you find your level of enthusiasm has increased, or remained the same, from when you started? Did you ever consider an easier line of work, such as brain surgery?

EJ: You’re right, brain surgery is easier. You work on two models that never change . . . Joking aside, my level of enthusiasm has increased. Now that I have written 21 books and published 18, well, 19 if you include The Corrector, I know I can do this and give my readers books they love.

BD: What else would you like to add?

EJ: Thanks for the opportunity. Readers can check out my books for free if they join my exclusive readers club at http://eepurl.com/IpOm5

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Andrew Warren Returns with COLD KILL

My buddy Andrew Warren is back with more adventures of spy-on-the-run Thomas Caine, and he's trying a new concept with the series that you may find interesting--shorter novellas that exist along with his longer novels. Andrew has already proven himself as one of the great new voices is contemporary espionage fiction (I'm not easily impressed anymore, and Andrew's work impressed me indeed) so I am excited to see what he does next.

BD: What has been going on in the life of Thomas Caine since the series started?

AW: Well, since we last spoke, a lot has changed for betrayed assassin Thomas Caine.  I released two full length novels, Red Phoenix, and Fire and Forget.  I also rebranded the novella, Devil’s Due, into a new series called Caine: Rapid Fire.  Rapid Fire book 2, Cold Kill, was released last week.  I’m happy to say my readers seem to love the new book and series.

Caine also made the leap into audiobooks and print.  Print versions of all the books are available on Amazon.  Tantor Audio made me an audiobook deal for the first three novels, and I am producing the Rapid Fire series myself, through Amazon’s ACX program.

Finally, I am in the outlining phase of the next Caine novel, and I hope to have that ready in June.

BD: Have you been pleased with fan reaction?

AW: I have the say, the fans have been amazing… They really seem to love the Rapid Fire concept, and they gave me a ton of positive feedback.  Novellas are typically a hard sell on Amazon, but I think that comes down to length, and value for the reader.

Many of the ‘novellas’ I see on Amazon are really just ‘longish’ short stories. A lot of them seem to be 10-12k words or so.  Because of Amazon’s pricing structure, it’s really hard to make those a win / win for both authors and readers.  If you price them at 99 cents, the author makes almost nothing.,  But if you price them at the 2.99 sweet spot, it feels like there’s not quite enough content there for readers to justify spending the money.

The Rapid Fire series book come in around 35-40k words, which is long enough to read in multiple sittings if you want.  One reader emailed me and said the Rapid Fire books were the perfect length for a plane flight, or to read while riding the train to work.  They really are fully developed stories, packed with action, interesting characters, and exotic locales.  So if you get three reading sessions for about 99 cents each, I’d call that a bargain!

BD: Indeed. I once did a series of short crime stories under the name Dean Breckenridge that weren't more than 10k words, and they still bring in some nickels and dimes now and then, so the concept certainly is viable. What made you want to try novellas? 

AW: Well, one big reason was flexibility… not every story needs to be a 100k word novel.  Rather than padding them out, this shorter series lets me tackle a quick, action-packed scenario in between the longer works.  It’s a nice break for me, and it gives my readers even more Caine action to enjoy.

Also, having a separate series gives me the ability to jump around in time.  I originally planned to do that in the longer Caine novels… I wanted to tell some stories from Caine’s past, then jump ahead to his future when he’s retired, then back to the present. However, the background story that developed in the main books really took on a life of its own.  It became more serialized, and grew more complex, adding characters and detail with each book.  I didn’t think it would make sense for readers to suddenly jump back in time at that point.

And Cold Kill was an idea I had for years… As soon as I finished Devil’s Due, I knew the Russian Mafia would be coming after Caine for revenge, and the whole scenario flashed across my mind.  I actually started writing it before Red Phoenix, but then I shifted gears, and finished that novel first.  It did so well that I had to follow it up right away with Fire and Forget, and so I’m just now coming back to Caine’s Russian adventure.  Since it’s a prequel, putting it in a separate series along with Devil’s Due just seemed to make sense.

BD: How else do the novellas fit into the framework of the novels?

AW: The first two Rapid Fire books are direct prequels to Tokyo Black.  But Rapid Fire 3, which is in the works, goes even farther back, and explores a mission from Caine’s early days in the CIA’s Special Activities Division.  

As I said, I want to use this series to jump around in time, or even tell stories featuring other characters.  What did Mariko Murase do after Tokyo Black?  How did Jack Tyler start working with Tom?  Having this shorter series really opens the door to experiment and have some fun.  But rest assured, I’ll always keep writing the longer books as well… I love getting lost in exotic locations with Caine, and I don’t plan to give that up any time soon!

BD: What else separates the novellas from the novels?

AW: One thing I tried to convey in the marketing for the Rapid Fire series is they’re not just “short”.  They’re fast paced!  Each Rapid Fire book is quick shot of literary adrenaline, packed with ‘rapid fire’ action. In Cold Kill, Caine is kidnapped by the Russian mafia, and must run for his life through the frozen mountains of Siberia, while a team of Russian commandos hunts him like an animal.  It’s a simple story, but it’s filled with action, suspense, and memorable characters.  It’s like an action movie… it doesn’t need to be three hours long to enjoy it.  

I certainly hope my readers continue to enjoy these shorter books, because I really do love writing them in between the longer works.  

BD: What are some steps you've taken to promote your books? Do you depend more on advertising or your newsletter list?

AW: The short answer is “Both!”  Self-publishing has become more crowded, and it does get harder and harder to stand out.  Most readers tell me my last novel, Fire and Forget, is the best in the series, but Red Phoenix outsold it by a large margin, I think because of the time it was released. 

There are so many more authors now, putting out really great work with high quality covers, engrossing stories, and fun characters.  But ultimately, I think that’s a good thing.  It may be harder to stand out, but I also think from a reader’s perspective, self-published books are now seen as no different than traditionally published ones.  That means anyone who puts out quality work on a regular basis has a chance to succeed.

I do advertise on Facebook, Amazon, and Bookbub.  I also email my list about once a month, with news on upcoming releases, sneak peeks at new books, and special sales and contests.  If any of your readers would like to check out the Thomas Caine series, they can get a complimentary book by joining my Reader’s Group, HERE.

BD: What are you working on next?

AW: I’m in the outline stages of the next Caine book, and I’m hoping to have that finished in time for a June release.  I’m also working on my first collaboration with another author… it’s too early to talk about it right now, but anyone who joins my Readers Group will hear more about it very soon… Finally, the audiobook for Cold Kill is coming along well, and should be released early next month.  I’m working with a new narrator, and this guy is just killing it!  I can’t wait for audiobook fans to hear his work.

After all that, we’ll just have to see… I still really want to get to that Space Opera series I told you about years ago, but Caine seems to keep dragging me back!


Thank you again for featuring my on your site, Brian.  I truly appreciate it.  If your readers would like to learn more about me and my books, they can visit my Amazon page HERE, or my website HERE.

If anyone has any questions about me, my books, or self-publishing, please feel free to email me at andrew@andrewwarrenbooks.com.