Friday, September 21, 2018

More Wolf on Tuesday!

Many thanks to all of you who have downloaded The Kill Fever, or Wolf #1. I'm re-releasing the short stories, as I've said before, leading up to the big Wolf novel, Justified Sins.

Anyway, the next two short stories are dropping on Tuesday, the 25th, The Dark, and The Fixer.

However, a slight error is releasing The Fixer before The Red Ruby Kill. Since I couldn't change the pre-order dates, this is the way it is. But with the short stories, you can read them in any order.

If you haven't ordered yet, you can buy the stories here.

Thanks for looking!


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Guess Who Is Making a Comeback?

Remember Wolf?

Probably not, it's been a long time.

Once, when we were all young and beautiful, I wrote a set of short stories under a different name, featuring a hard-boiled vigilante/private eye named Wolf. The stories did well for me, but the pen name was a mistake. They'd have done a whole lot better for me if they were out under my own name.

Like before, the first story is The Kill Fever. It will be followed by The Dark, The Red Ruby Kill, and The Fixer. After that, Justified Sins, the first Wolf novel. After that, the second Wolf novel, and more short stories. I've big plans for Mr. Wolf.

Since I have a book from a real publisher coming out soon (The Skills to Kill, re: Steve Dane #1, which used to be The Rogue Gentleman), I'm putting out as much as I can on Kindle as a way of advertising.

The Wolf stories are the same as before, however, the upcoming novel, Justified Sins, has, again, finally (finally!) been restored to its original version, ie: before I took some bad advice and cut the entire subplot.

Thanks for looking. If you're read them before, tell your friends!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Espionage in Africa with Aiden L. Bailey

Aiden L. Bailey is an up-and-comer to watch, although he's been around, in one form or fashion, for a number of years in short story anthologies. His latest efforts concern the adventures of military contractor Simon Ashcroft, and his adventures on the Africa continent. The first book, The Benevolent Deception, is very good indeed.

You can find his books on Amazon (where else?) by clicking here.

I caught up with Aiden at a South Africa wildlife preserve and we chatted about writing while taking pictures of the wild animals who happened to pass by.

Brian Drake: You write thrillers featuring the adventures of Simon Ashcroft in Africa. It's not an area that shows up a lot in fiction. Do you have personal experience there that you used to model Simon Ashcroft?

Aiden Bailey: I backpacked through Africa when I was in my twenties and had a fantastic time there. It was the first continent I traveled to as an adult. I found myself in some reckless situations and soon saw the world from a completely different perspective. I gained a better understanding how the world works, and when it doesn’t work, why it fails. The good and the bad, it was all there in Africa and up in my face so I couldn’t avoid it.

Many of my story ideas seem to work best in an African setting. I’m obviously drawn to the location. The continent of Africa has many vibrant cultures, with wild landscapes and incredible people that are juxtaposed against militants, corrupt governments, extremes of poverty and a variety of amazing megafauna.

Simon Ashcroft features in three of my espionage thriller novels and novellas, and yes, all of them are predominately set in Africa. The Benevolent Deception is set in Kenya and Nigeria, The Assyrian Contraband in the Comoros Islands and Blood Ivory in Tanzania. Some of the locations Simon visits were places I visited and some of his experiences are my own. Many other descriptions are drawn from friends who’ve also been to Africa, based on stories they told me.

BD: When did you start writing? Who has been your biggest influence and why?

AB: I’ve been writing for most of my adult life. I’ve had over fifty short stories published in magazines and anthologies, many of which have won awards or appeared in ‘Year’s Best’ collections. I’ve been an editor with a fiction magazine and edited several anthologies. My day job is marketing communications copy-writing and technical writing for a variety of big industries including construction, defense, oil and gas, information technology and mining. It’s rare that I’m not writing something.

About three years ago I decided that what I really wanted to write was espionage thriller fiction. In my early days I was a big fan of authors like Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum, Len Deighton, Martin Cruz Smith, Desmond Bagley, Wilbur Smith, Gerald Seymour and others. I wanted to write the same kind of books.

About three years ago I started writing under the pen name Aiden L Bailey, putting out my first thriller novel The Benevolent Deception. It’s an espionage technothriller about cyberterrorists who assassinate the U.S. President, then fool the world that the President is still alive by impersonating him online through a variety of hacked digital news sources. This prompts all kinds of dangerous alterations to the world’s political, security and economic climate. The hero of the story, Simon Ashcroft who is a former spy turned military contractor, finds himself framed for many of the cyberthreats now facing the world. He goes on the run in Africa with a woman who might just know what is really happening, trying to stay one step ahead of the various shadowy forces trying to kill them.

BD: What is it about the thriller genre that attracted you?

AB: As a kid I was a big fan of the James Bond and Indiana Jones films. I liked the relentless action, the sense of constant danger and thrilling chase sequences. But there was also something really appealing about hero characters who travels the world and ends up in some rather exotic locations.

In my early days I wrote in many genres. After a while I noticed that all my stories had the same structure: action thriller fiction. I read far more action thriller fiction than anything else. I decided this was what I really needed to write and to focus on that.

I’ve discovered that I’ve never had this much fun writing as I do in creating espionage thriller novels. I can’t see that I will ever write anything else now.

BD: Do you outline or make up the story as you go? Why?

AB: In the early days I used to prepare detailed notes and outlines, but not anymore. These days I outline stories only in my head finding that is enough giving me the fluidity for stories to evolve as I tell them. But a structure is important, an overall plot is required because I need to know what is going on in every scene. Much of what is going on is not always at first obvious or apparent, only being revealed later. Mystery is important.

BD: The African continent is a great source of adventure, but also a land of tragedy. What is the overall theme of Ashcroft's adventures that take place there, and are you trying to teach readers anything about that area of the world?

AB: In The Benevolent Deception Ashcroft is confronted with the environmental degradation of the Niger Delta caused by oil companies operating in Nigeria, and terrorism in Kenya. Blood Ivory is about the mass slaughter of elephants in Tanzania and their near extinction in the wild because of the ivory trade into Asia. The Assyrian Contraband is set on an African Island in the Indian Ocean and features Islamic State terrorists smuggling archaeological artifact to fund their insurgency. You can read The Assyrian Contraband for free by joining my mailing list here.

I try to make my story locations as real as possible. Readers have commented that my stories bring these setting alive, particularly when I write about Africa. I guess I want to share what I find amazing about the African setting in my books. It is truly an amazing part of the world.

BD: You've mentioned on Facebook that you're planning a new series, and put up a poll to see which character name readers preferred. Which name won the poll, and what can we expect to see from this new character?

AB: My next series will be more traditional espionage thriller fiction in the same vein as Mark Greaney, Rob Sinclair, Mark Dawson, Tom Woods and Andrew Warren. It will feature an American CIA field operative who is incarcerated in a black prison for reasons he doesn’t at first understand. Eventually he escapes, only to discover he has been framed as a terrorist by a large, nefarious organization that is planning a rather nasty takeover of a major world commodity.

I have the first three books in this open-ended series plotted out. The first book is predominately set in Central Asia and Central Africa.

I haven’t settled on a name for the character yet, but the two popular options are either Travis North or Scott Pierce. One might end up as his real name and the other an alias. Not sure yet but I do like both names. Further feedback from readers is most welcomed.

BD: You've worked on some books with Andrew Warren, who has appeared on this blog twice. What was it like working with somebody else's characters, and do you plan to continue?

AB: Andrew Warren was looking for an author to help him write early stories in his Thomas Caine CIA assassin series. After Andrew read The Benevolent Deception and particularly The Assyrian Contraband, he approached me to co-write an early adventure in Caine’s career. He figured we write in a very similar style and tell the same kinds of stories. We’d been corresponding for some time already and it didn’t take me long to say yes.

The outcome was Sandfire, an espionage action thriller set predominately in Yemen. Thomas Caine teams up with a feisty  Australian UN aid worker and a Bedouin mother seeking her kidnapped children. Together they enter the world’s largest sand desert, The Empty Quarter, searching for a missing CIA plane hiding a secret that if exposed, could start a war in the Middle East.

The success of the first book led us to writing the next one, Depth Charge, currently in the works. Caine travels from China to South America to secure the defection of a Chinese military software programmer working on the People Liberation Army’s submarine program. While Sandfire was predominately set in the desert, the action in Depth Charge will occur predominately at sea, both above and below the water. Andrew and I should have this one out later in 2018.

Working with Andrew has been great fun, and as long as our collaborations remain well received, we could have a few more books in the works after Depth Charge.

BD: Thanks, Aiden. Great chatting with you. For more of Aiden's work, his website is

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Reuniting with PHOENIX FORCE in Harvest Hell!

I haven't done a book review in a long time, so why not get back to reviews with a book that really entertained me.

PHOENIX FORCE #13: HARVEST HELL is a book I found at a thrift store, and it had William Fieldhouse's name on the copyright page as the credited writer, despite "Gar Wilson" on the cover. Terrific! Sold! Fieldhouse was my favorite Phoenix Force writer. He wrote most of the series, a gargantuan feat considering the rest of his output at the same time; and Harvest Hell proves why Gold Eagle gave him most of the Phoenix assignments. The man simply wrote a team action story better than anybody.

Katz and the gang are in Greece this time, raiding an island where a dude is housing a bunch of terrorists in a conspiracy with Moscow to distribute a deadly virus that starves people to death. It's beautifully pulpy and outrageous--all in a good way. You want realism? Drama? Fuhgeddaboutit! You want a battle for the fate of the free world where five men will stop at nothing to defeat the dastardly villain even though sometimes the cheese gets a little thick but you don't care because this is the best Gouda ever? This is your book!

Of course the action scenes are terrific, so there's no reason to delve into one Fieldhouse's stand-out elements. What really zings in this later volume is that it reads like an introduction to the cast. Each member of the Force is introduced and highlighted with an action scene, background details, stuff somebody like me, coming back to the books after so many years, really needs in order to become reacquainted with these old friends. By the time the team got into their mission, they felt like real folks in real danger. It's the way a pulp story ought to be written. When you believe the characters, it doesn't matter how crazy the rest of the story becomes. You're fully invested, and nothing can break their hold on you.

As you might expect, I went back to that thrift store and raided their remaining Phoenix Force titles, most of them by Fieldhouse, but one of them, Down Under Thunder, written by Paul Glen Neuman, who wrote a great deal of PF titles himself, which I also had to buy, because it was the very first Phoenix title I read when I was 14 years old and sitting in Ms. McCoy's history class wishing it was my name on the cover.

It's going to be a lot of fun hanging out with Katz and the gang again.

Fieldhouse is an author I've love to interview, if any of you know how I might reach him, because I want to dig into how he worked and managed so many titles over a 20 year period. Just looking at what little of his bibliography is available on-line, it's hard to imagine he didn't pass out from exhaustion. It's all I can do to write four books a year; he, apparently, doubled and tripled that output without blinking an eye.

But if nothing else, he provided many hours and delightful reading in my youth, and he will do so again ... now that I'm significantly older, but still act like I'm 14.

A New Kind of Spy with Author Mark Parragh

When I first discovered the John Crane adventures by Mark Parragh, I was struck hard. As always, I look for crisp writing, nothing bloated--check. Fun adventure with lots of stuff going boom--check. It just kept getting better. And, look, he has more books to read!

And when I reached out to Mark for a chat, I found a kindred spirit. Mark and I are working along the same lines, trying to make spy and adventure fiction fun again, which has been sorely missing over the last two or three or maybe four decades.

If you like rip-snorting adventures, the kind to read on the porch on a Saturday afternoon with some iced tea, the Crane books are what you're looking for.

Mark and I met in a dark alley in Vienna to pass the microfilm back and forth.

Brian Drake: When did you start writing?

Mark Parragh: Well, I grew up in a very isolated setting and I was by myself a lot as a child, so stories and imagination had always been a big part of my life. But I can tell you exactly when, for better or worse, I became a “writer.” It was seventh grade English class. The teacher gave us each some object or line of dialog or whatever that we drew at random, and we had to use it in a story. I wrote a very cliched accidental time travel story about a guy who finds himself in the past and discovers that he himself is the mysterious ancestor who shows up out of nowhere in his family’s legends.

BD: And your teacher proclaimed you a future best-seller, right?

MP: It wasn’t prize-winning stuff, but I guess it wasn’t bad for a seventh grader. I got an A+, and a note from my teacher saying he’d read worse stories in magazines where people were paid to write them. Ka-ching! It was like, wait, I can do this for a living? Yeah, I’m up for that. And I was off to the races. It’s been a long, twisty path since then, but that one event probably did more than almost anything else to shape my life.

BD: What is it about spy and adventure fiction that you find so endearing? Why do you think it's a genre that keeps on going despite when other genres come and go?

MP: The world changes, right? Audiences and tastes change. When Fleming was writing James Bond back in the 50s, thrillers and mysteries were big. Westerns were big. Romance was big. Gothics were big. Some of those genres are still around and others have faded out. I think the genres that have lasted are the ones that speak broadly to universal human experiences.

Romance is a great example. When Fleming was writing the Bond books, the romance genre was very different. It used to be about the pretty nurse who lands the handsome doctor and bang, she has won at life. We’ve moved beyond that. But love is universal. Mystery is universal. Wondering about the future is universal. So genres like mystery, romance, and science fiction last because they can change with the times and present those universal themes in different forms. The genres that are mostly about their external trappings, like westerns or gothics, rise and fall with the audience’s interest in those things.

Spy adventures are still around. But that doesn’t mean they’re quite what they were in Fleming’s day. It’s not the cold war anymore with suave secret agents sneaking into East Berlin and matching wits with devious Soviets over martinis. Today, it’s more about heavily armed commandos fighting terrorists. But at its core the genre is about human conflict, about huge geopolitical issues distilled down to one hero’s struggles. I don’t think that’s ever going to go away.

BD: Who inspired John Crane?

MP: I’m sure it’s no surprise to hear that Crane was basically inspired by James Bond. Specifically, I was thinking about the way Bond always seems to be going rogue these days. I mean, in Spectre, all of MI-6 ends up going rogue with him! I started to wonder why that was happening, and I decided it has to do with, again, the way the world has changed since Bond was born. Like the genre itself, Bond has changed a lot over the years to keep up with social mores. And there are a lot of changes you can get away with. Take away the cold war, take away his cigarettes, make him less of a “misogynist dinosaur.” He’s still Bond. But there’s one thing that’s absolutely central to who Bond is. He’s a British agent. Change that and he’s no longer James Bond.

BD: How have you updated Crane, then, to the modern world?

MP: [T]he idea of government agent as hero has fallen out of favor since Fleming’s day. I think Vietnam and Watergate had a lot to do with it, but the idea of a government agent as a stalwart hero protecting us from foreign enemies really went out of vogue. By the 1970s you had all these paranoid conspiracy thrillers like Three Days of the Condor where a government agent was more likely to be the bad guy. By the time we got to X-Files, if the hero was a government agent, he was always a lone rogue trying to do good despite the system, and there was always somebody rotten in his own agency waiting to betray him. That idea has really gotten baked into the genre now until it’s a standard trope.

So how could I get around that? I thought, okay, then just take the government out of the picture. But if my spy wasn’t working for the government, who was he working for? Who else has spies? And the obvious answer seemed to be some ridiculously wealthy tech billionaire who can marshal the kind of resources that puts him on the same level as a government. That led to Josh Sulenski, and it all kind of fell into place from there. Crane is basically Bond, except now M is an idealistic 25-year-old tech nerd with enough money to do literally anything he wants. And he wants to save the world because he thinks that’s really cool. It’s a simple enough idea, but the more I played with the premise, the more fun I could see in it.

BD: Did you find it gave you more flexibility with Crane's stories?

MP: It just made the series feel more modern. We’re in a new gilded age now. There was a time when - maybe this is na├»ve of me, but in theory at least – we as a people concentrated our wealth and power collectively in our government and used it to provide for ourselves and build our nation. Now we’re back to basically handing it to powerful individuals and hoping they’ll use it for something that does us some good. The last time, we had men like Carnegie and Vanderbilt and Rockefeller endowing universities and libraries with their names on them. And those aren’t bad things, but maybe the people back then would have chosen to do something different with that money. And you also saw a lot of pointless grandiosity like the Biltmore Estate or the mansions in Newport.

The same thing’s happening now. As Josh notes in the first book, Bill Gates is trying to wipe out Malaria, and Elon Musk has his own space program. But Larry Ellison bought one of the Hawaiian islands, and a boat so big that he can’t actually dock it at his personal island. He apparently docks it at Honolulu, right next to a homeless camp.

In the last gilded age, government simply couldn’t match the power of these ultra-rich industrialists, and that’s kind of happening again. So if we’re going to be essentially ruled by plutocrats, then at least Josh is the fantasy of the “good billionaire,” the one who’s trying to use his money to make things better for everyone instead of running roughshod over you to get whatever he wants.

BD: You've brought up your Bond comparison, but one of your reviews also compares your work to John D. MacDonald, which is quite a comparison, considering they're two different sphere of the writing world. How has John D.'s work influenced you, and how have you used that influence to create Crane's adventures?

MP: I had to think about MacDonald, especially when I started hearing it from more readers. I think what they’re picking up on is the tone of the books. There’s a certain romanticism in MacDonald’s books, at least the Travis McGee series, that I think has passed down to some other authors I really admire like Carl Hiassen and Thomas Perry. And I think it’s there in the Crane books. The books can be intense and dangerous, but they’re not grim or depressing. Crane’s not jaded and broken by all the things he’s seen and done. He and Josh are out there saving the world and having a good time doing it. And even though Crane’s just one guy – granted, with a whole lot of Josh’s money backing him up - he can make a difference.

And it’s a world full of good people along with the bad. Whatever country or culture Crane finds himself in, he runs into decent people. I think there are a lot of heroes in the action genre who are ultimately about striking down horrible, irredeemable villains in self-righteous vengeful rage. And I didn’t want to write that book. I wanted the books to be more fun, but also to present a more hopeful world, a world where people want to do right, and where they can do the right thing, and where that can matter. That’s ultimately a very romantic concept and I think it owes a lot to MacDonald.

BD: What's coming up next for John Crane?

MP: Well, with Shot Clock, I’ve finished the first “arc” of the Crane series. My original idea was that the books would all stand alone. And I think they do, but I was building the world through these first books, so when I introduce a supporting character or a recurring villain, that’s the first time they’ve shown up. They’re not there in the earlier books. So I think the books work alone, but they work better if you read them in order, with the two novellas that kind of bridge the gap between book one and two and between book two and three.

Now that the world is basically there, I think it will be easier to have the books truly stand alone so you can read them in whatever order you find them. I’ve got the relationship between Crane and Josh. I’ve got Swift, who is sort of Crane’s Catwoman. They have this attraction and a connection that they can’t quite walk away from. They’re on opposite sides, but they each think they could be great together if only the other one would come over to their side. I’ve got a lot of the supporting players in place, and a sort of civil war going on behind the scenes. In a movie, they say that the first part of act two is where the really cool stuff gets going. That’s where the scenes on the movie poster happen. That’s where we are now with Crane. Everything is set up, and now we get to play with it.

BD: Thank you for a wonderful interview, Mark. How can readers contact you?

MP: I love hearing from readers! Getting feedback, and just sharing the fun I’m having with Crane and Josh is a big part of what makes this worthwhile. Readers can reach me through my web site at And I have a Facebook page at I’m not always the best at keeping them updated because I’m busy working on new books! But you can always reach me through them, and my email at  I hope to hear from you there!

BD: You can check out John Crane #1: Rope on Fire, here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Riding the Danger Trail with Kurt Barker's BLACKSHOT

I don't know about you, but I love westerns. They're the perfect storytelling vehicle. You can do a straight powder-burning story, throw in vampires, zombies, do a sci-fi twist, horror, mystery, romance, pretty much anything, and it will work.

There's something about the western in general, though, that always appeals to me. The open range. The loner on horseback. Untamed country. The possibilities. The danger. You don't find that in a lot of books. Maybe sci-fi, actually, but the wild west actually existed, and is part of the American mythology more than the questions of what lies beyond the stars.

Kurt Barker publishes a terrific series of "adult" westerns featuring hero Tom Blackshot. This is your typical powder-burning action western, but the writing is sharp, the action vivid, and Blackshot is a great throwback to the Golden Age of adult westerns like Longarm, The Trailsman, The Gunsmith, and recent series such as Stephen Mertz' BLAZE, to which I had the pleasure of contributing a book. The tradition lives, and is in good hands.

I bumped into Kurt at the livery stable and asked him a few questions over a bottle of rot gut:

Brian Drake: Who is Blackshot?

Kurt Barker: Tom Blackshot is a tough-as-nails gunslinger who will take on any job if the money is right, no matter how dangerous. He's part way between a law man and a bad man, but ultimately his heart is in the right place.

BD:  When did you start writing, and what inspired you to tackle an adult western?

KB: I had been writing as a hobby for a long time; most of my life, really. I never seriously thought about writing books because I always thought that the only way to get a book in print was to send manuscripts in to publishers, and I didn't believe I would stand a chance of getting through the bottleneck. When I found out about self-publishing and e-books, I decided to go for it and get some of my stuff out there. It's been a lot of fun and I've been very pleasantly surprised at the response I've received.

I got into adult westerns because I'm sort of an aficionado of book cover art, especially the great painted covers of the old pulp crime novels, “men's adventure” magazines and the like. When I first saw the cover art for series like Slocum and Longarm, with all the action, adventure and beautiful women, they really pulled me into that world.

BD: Were you a fan of the classic adult westerns like Longarm and The Gunsmith? How did they inspire Blackshot?

KB: I really like how fast-paced and action-filled those stories are; a lot of them would have made exciting movies. That style of storytelling appealed to me and made me want to create adventures like that of my own. Another big influence on my writing is Mickey Spillane. He was such a master at crafting hard-edged dialogue and characters, and the way he built suspense in the Mike Hammer stories was so impressive. Although I can't claim to be anywhere near his level, his writing did inspire Blackshot in a lot of ways.

BD: After a batch of short Blackshot stories, you finally tackled a novel. What made you decide to finally do a long-form story?

KB: I enjoy writing in the short story format, but when I started this latest story I knew that it was too big to tell in that way. I've always wanted to write a novel at some point, so I figured this was as good a time as any to take the plunge. It was a fun experience and has whet my appetite for more.

BD: What's next for Blackshot?

KB: Alas, poor Blackshot just can't stay away from trouble for long! There's plenty more coming his way, and I'm going to be writing more novel-length stories of his adventures. I still plan to sneak in some short stories too, when the right ideas come along.

BD: Will there be any other non-Blackshot, or even traditional, westerns coming from the muzzle of your Peacemaker?

KB: Yes, I do have a lot of other stories that I'd like to tell, including some Blackshot spin-off concepts. I also think that the present day West is a great setting for western stories, and I'd like to explore that in the future. I still want to write more of Tom Blackshot's adventures first, but I'm plotting out these other ideas, too.

BD: You can check out Kurt's Blackshot stories by clicking here. Get ready for a wild ride!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Taking on the Bad Guys with DJ Slaughter and Author James Beltz

Here's a good one for you, an all-out action extravaganza with a tough hero, tight writing, and a story that will keep you glued to the page (or screen, nowadays).

James Beltz is the author of the DJ Slaughter books, and he's not only a writer you want to watch, but he's created a character you'll want to spend time with too.

Slaughter, if I may, is a modern day Mack Bolan, and the ingredients that make Bolan such a great character are present here. To date, Beltz has written two novels and two short stories, with more to come.

I found James at the shooting range and we chatted over the delicious scent of burned gunpowder.

Brian Drake: Who is DJ Slaughter?

James Beltz: He is just an average everyday kind of guy. He is no ex-Seal or former Army Ranger, or anything like that. There is nothing unique or possessing any attributes that really make him special for fighting crime. He’s just a guy. He does have a tragic background having lost his family in a home invasion in which he was the only survivor. It has caused him severe depression and driven him to live a life of seclusion and become a modern day hermit. One day life tries to ambush him again in an armed robbery attempt. He decides to fight back. That decision leads to a non-stop chain of events involving a lot of bullets and bloodshed, and forever changing him into something different.

BD: Do your characters have any particular inspiration, or did they appear to your organically? How did they change once you started working with them?

JB: Both the main character and the supporting cast happened organically. Although, I will say that I named the main character and the supporting cast after people I know. I have two best friends in my life. There is a real DJ, a real Brett Foster, and the Abbi character is named after my daughter.

BD: How many books did you write before coming up with Slaughter, or is he truly your first stab at storytelling?

JB: This was my first effort. According to all of the glowing reviews, I think I have finally found something I might be good at.

BD: What writers influence you?

JB: Terry Brooks, Vince Flynn, Tom Clancy, and others.

BD: You provide a tremendous cliffhanger in one of the Slaughter books, but the jury is divided on whether or not ending a book in such a way is a good idea. Should cliffhangers be employed judiciously, or more often? And why? Any negative feedback over your use of cliffhangers?

JB: Cliffhangers absolutely work in all mediums. We see it in TV and movies, and we see it book series. They have their place in that they help connect people to the storyline. However, not everyone is a fan. I think they should be used strategically.

BD: You have two Slaughter novels and two short stories. Does it matter the order they're read in?

JB: The short stories were designed for two reasons. To add content that existing series lovers can enjoy, and to entice new readers in the series. So my shorts can be read in any order. But the series itself needs to be read in order. I have the third full length novel dropping in about sixty days.

BD: What's next for DJ Slaughter?

JB: You will have to read the series to find out!

Monday, September 3, 2018

28 Minutes Into The Future with Mr. Chrome Oxide

Normally I feature thriller writers on this blog, simply because that's what I read, and the market I study, so when I find somebody I like, I want to put them in the interrogation seat.

Today, I'm interviewing sci-fi writer Chrome Oxide, who has a book out called 28 Minutes into the Future. What we have here is a mix of sci-fi and hilarious, and often thought-provoking, political satire. I'm talking laugh-out-loud stuff, the kind of laugh-out-loud reactions one might have to Wodehouse. That's about the highest priase I can think of.

Mr. Oxide not only sat in the interrogation chair for the usual "writer questions", but also has a different interpretation to The Answer posed by Mr. Douglas Adams that I think you'll find enlightening.

I'm providing copious links to Chrome's book, because if you search "Chrome Oxide" on Amazon, the first results are cleaning chemicals and power tool components.

Which is quite funny.

Anyway, here's Chrome:

Brian Drake: When did you start writing?

Chrome Oxide: Back in 2009 I started writing a daily blog satirizing the news. In June 2010 I read a genre novel that really bothered me. So I stopped my daily political satires and started writing genre fiction. In 2012 I became a published finalist in the Writers of the Future volume 29. That convinced me I had a future writing genre fiction and have been writing continuously since then.

BD: Your satire is well done, and provided some very good laughs, but I can't help but find some of it also incredibly depressing, because I can see your scenarios coming true. What has shaped the vision of the future you write about? How do you see the world going in the very direction you describe?

CO: I grew up reading genre fiction, much of which extrapolates current trends into the future. My brother recently turned me on to Austrian Economics, which I've found does an excellent job of explaining how important private property and freedom is. When you factor in that I'm also a born again pessimist, I find I have difficult viewing any kind of positive outcome when the mainstream media is so dead set on supporting corrupt politicians and corrupt political ideas.

While I want to believe in a white swan event, something that will save humanity from itself, that can't be predicted so I think the leftist march into socialism will crush the last bastion of freedom on the planet.

BD: Is sci-fi the best place for political satire?

CO: Science fiction and fantasy are perfect places for satire. They are the branches of literature where the writer is not limited to what is happening today, but what can happen tomorrow. There is a lot of humor in the exaggeration of current trends and events. For example: In New Mexico recently a male Muslim (the religion of peace as the news media constantly tell us) was recently arrested for teaching children how to be school shooters. The judge released the teacher because she didn't think the teacher was a threat to the community (or maybe she didn't want to separate the teacher from his children). I look at that and immediately think that 28 Minutes Into The Future those trends mean there will be Muslims teaching our children how to be suicide bombers and that anyone complaining about that is blowing it out of proportion.

BD: Tell us about some if the trials and tribulations you've faced when showing your work to others.

CO: One major problem is finding critiquers who are NOT offended by my stories. On more than one occasion, members of my critique groups have told me they were triggered and couldn't finish reading the story, or asked me me who I think will want to read what I write or asked me to
write funny stories that don't include politics.

That is just the start of my problems. After I finish a story, I've had no place to sent it.

While it never occurred to me that what I am writing is subversive, I have had to accept that some (many?) of the publishers agree with the critiquers I'm dealing with.

In addition, I'm a white male. I'm seeing a lot of calls for stories from non-white, non-male and differently abled writers. Because stories can be emailed in, I'm occasionally tempted to submit my stories and claim I self-identify as a crippled black lesbian female.

BD: One of these days I'll submit to one of those markets as a black Chinese Puerto Rican Jew. Should be a shoo in. Why is the sci-fi community so screwed up? Myself and some other writer pals would love to do something in that genre (space opera, for me), but not if we have to deal with PC idiots who want to know why the USS Enterprise doesn't have handicap access.

CO: I think the problems we are seeing in the sci-fi community are a reflection of what we are seeing in the culture as a whole. Because leftist mainstream media constantly propagandizes us with their
anti-science anti-moral stance (everyone that disagrees with the left is evil, fight words with violence, gender is not biologically based, ...), the sanity challenged feel more comfortable attacking anyone who doesn't favor their disjointed view of reality.

BD: Who influenced your writing the most?

CO: Robert Sheckley has been the greatest influence on my writing. His humorous short stories mocking government incompetence have been bubbling around in my subconscious for a long time. So when I decided to try my hand at writing genre fiction after my straight political satires, I knew what I needed to write. While this collection is some of my satires (there are more where they came from) I also enjoy non-political humor. Some of the authors I enjoy include Robert Asprin's Myth series, Piers Anthony, Terry Pratchett and others that I'll remember after this interview ends.

BD: Any novels coming in the future? Will your style of writing and humor lend itself to long-form work?

CO: I'm working on the third draft of a non-political high fantasy novel. My elevator pitch is "Cheech and Chong" meet "The Lord of The Rings." When I finish my third draft I will turn it over to my editor, Elaine Ash, who also edited all the stories in "28 Minutes Into The Future." 90% of the
chapters in the book end in cliffhangers. While writing the book, I couldn't write a new chapter until I came up with one or more jokes to feature. Since I finished that novel, it means there are one or more major jokes in each chapter. So I expect there will be more novels in my future.

BD: Elaine Ash is a marvelous editor, and I've used her myself many times. Pardon the commercial, but if you want an editor with attention to detail, and who can help you fix a novel's weak spots, she's the one you need to talk to.

CO: In my notes file, are story ideas and a cast of continuing characters in a non-political urban fantasy setting. Again, humor will play an important part.

While I do get pushback from leftist/liberals about my political satires, I have had a few conservative/libertarians ask me what happens next to some of the characters featured in my short stories. So if I can come up with enough jokes to fill a novel, I will be doing that as well.

I need to briefly talk about my style of writing, which I call the Frankenstein Method. Everything I write starts with a joke. Once I think I have enough jokes that feel appropriate, then I start assembling them along with other bits and pieces of connective tissue trying to connect the jokes.

For example, "Vampire Free Zone" was inspired by leftists demanding "gun free zones'. Since "gun free zones" attract armed shooters, I decided that a "vampire free zone" sign at a blood bank would attract a vampire. Then it was a question of coming up with vampire jokes as well as a story to place them in.

BD: One last question, and one I hope you'll be able to handle because it's a tough one. Here we go: Is The Answer really 42? Please remember not to reference The Question with The Answer because, if you do, the universe will collapse on itself.

CO: The answer is 28. It is evenly divisible by 1, 2, 4, 7, 14 and all those numbers add up to 28.

BD: I knew I could count on you!

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