Tag Archives: Marine Corps

Point of Crisis Arrives

1114 Steve Konkoly ebook POINT OF CRISIS_4_Lon thousands of Kindles across North America and the UK! Yes, I did have nearly 50 pre-orders from eager readers across the pond. Paper versions will ship today and the audiobook should be available in late August or early September.

If you haven’t purchased a copy, may I direct your attention to this link? Purchase Point of Crisis

Don’t forget to join my mailing list. I just uploaded an exclusive Black Flagged short story, available for download to members of the mailing list. Other perks include exclusive sneak peeks at upcoming work and exclusive discounts. Sign up here!

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Fiction Research: Black Hole or Thousand Points of Light?

The answer to this question depends on the genre. I’ll stick to what I know and focus on Technothrillers. 

Walking a fine lineReading reviews for my novels can be confusing. “If you like Clancy, you’ll love—” “Doesn’t overwhelm the reader with technical details.” “Too many equipment descriptions.” “Not Clancy.” All true, depending on the reader. For story details, I strive for the middle ground, with a tendency toward descriptions that would satisfy the pickiest Clancy readers.  On the flip side, Clancy-esque minutiae is NOT for everyone, including myself. I’ll be the first to admit, that I’ve read about three quarters of every Clancy novel. Readers skip passages no matter what you write, that’s reality—my goal is meet readers half way.  This has always been my personal preference as a reader, but as a writer, it’s necessary for survival. With most of my books purchased ($5.99 or below) and read on an e-reader, I can’t afford to lose a reader’s attention for very long. Within seconds, they can switch to something new and forget about me.

Research Bookmarks for The Perseid Collapse

Research Bookmarks for The Perseid Collapse

Been there. Done thatMany of my readers are convinced that I’m 1.)  a D.C. insider 2.) a former covert operative 3.) still involved in intelligence agency operations and 4.) have travelled extensively across every continent. There may be some truth to this. I’m not here to dispel rumors or burst anyone’s version of Steven Konkoly. What I will admit, is that I’ve never led an “off the books” Black Ops team on a raid against a Russian bioweapons facility or secretly crossed the Finnish border to investigate rumors of a virus outbreak in the Kola Peninsula.

How do I manage to capture the essence of these operations? My background gives me an advantage. I know the lingo (there’s still a ton I don’t know) and how to navigate online research. I know where to look for articles and how to tell if it’s authentic. Reading everything and anything (books, online articles, subscription sites) helps immensely. I wasn’t on the raid to capture Osama Bin Laden, but I know I could write a fictional OBL raid scene right now, and most readers would believe I had exclusive access to one of the DEVGRU operators on the mission.

How did someone like Tom Clancy get his descriptions, operational details and military jargon so close to reality? In the beginning, he must have fought for exclusive access to some incredible sources. There’s no other explanation. When he became famous, Clancy was granted nearly unfettered access to the military and D.C.  Keep in mind, Tom Clancy  worked in the insurance industry for nearly 15 years before his first novel, The Hunt for Red October, was released. Clancy never served in the military, but he managed to create the impression, from the very start, that he was an insider.

Research Bookmarks for Event Horizon

Research Bookmarks for Event Horizon

Prepping the battle field For me, initial research is critical to achieving momentum. I research on the fly, but I prefer to have the “framework research” already established. Once I finish with my version of plotting, as described in THE PROCESS, I sit back and figure out “framework” topics that need research. If a Marine Infantry Battalion plays a significant role in the story (like in The Perseid Collapse series), I need to know everything there is to know (without going crazy) about the current and future structures for a Marine Infantry Battalion. The Perseid Collapse series takes place in 2019, so I was particularly interested in papers published out of Quantico or the Navy War College about future structure and equipment concepts. This is one example of  dozens of framework research.

Don’t get bogged down here. You have to start writing at some point, and if you’re like me, I feel lost when I’m not in a story. This doesn’t require weeks of prep work. I identify the framework research and do enough to get me started on the novel. I typically like to write 20K words without breaking for heavy research.

Research on the flyThis is the land of Black Holes. Vast seas of time vanish from my day when I’m not disciplined about research on the fly. Sometimes it’s necessary to gain a solid understanding of an important concept, but there’s a difference between researching for the sake of educating yourself and researching to enhance your novel. Trust me, the line is extremely blurry. I still haven’t mastered it. Most of the time, you’ll only know it AFTER the fact. Like getting pick-pocketed. You’ll feel guilty and probably take a break—treat yourself to a snack, because…you’ve gone down a rabbit hole looking for a rabbit, and ended up finding Wonderland. I know I’ve seriously mismanaged my time, when I go on YouTube to watch a clip of a suppressed .50 Caliber sniper rifle for a scene in a book, and emerge from YouTube land 40 minutes later after watching the .50 Cal sniper scene from the movie Smoking Aces. It’s crazy if you haven’t seen it.  Careful, it’s violent and full of bad language. I just watched it again—I never learn.

Google Maps street level view of bridge in Event Horizon

Google Maps street level view of bridge in Event Horizon

Google is my travel agent:  I’ve never been to Novosibirsk, Russia, or Moscow, but I have it on pretty solid authority from a Russian author that most readers would never figure that out through my writing. Damn, I just spilled a secret. Oh well, while I’m at it—I’ve never been to Kazakstan or Argentina. My Russian author friend was surprised that I had never travelled to either Russian location. He knew I hadn’t lived there for any length of time, but the descriptions of the locations, the general feel and the “little things” passed muster.

I like the “little things.” Details about the culture, restaurants, beers, food, street conditions, traffic, graffiti, weather, money, trends—stuff you can find by reading traveller articles, restaurant reviews, hotel reviews, city reviews and tourism board sponsored sites. I spend time on this stuff, and in most cases, if I put a specific description of a location, hotel, street corner, park or restaurant in my novel, it’s real. I change the names (sometimes) for obvious reasons, but here’s a little hint. I rarely make us street names, and I often visualize scenes using Google Maps. If a gunfight occurs in front of 22 Bondegatan in Stockholm, disrupting a cafe with a red and white checkered awning, you’ll very likely find this to be a real place. Okay, I sort of pulled a fast one on you here. I’ve been to Stockholm—but I wrote the scenes from that book and submitted the manuscript to my editor before our Iceland Air flight left Boston.

Militia stronghold in Event Horizon-Eli Russell's place.

Militia stronghold in Event Horizon-Eli Russell’s place.

Here is an excerpt from a recent review. The reviewer is Gustavo Rossi from Buenos Aires. “…The political context is well managed too, and the references to Argentina (books 2 and 3 have long parts there) are surprisingly correct for an american writer…” I’ve never been there in person, but I’ve logged dozens of hours on the internet in “virtual Argentina.” Lesson learned? You don’t have to write on James Michener’s level to connect with a locale. 

Secret Contacts : I graduated from Annapolis with over 1,000 top notch men and women (somehow I got mixed in this crew), many of whom are still on active duty or in the active reserves. They’ve commanded warships, led SEAL platoons and Marine infantry companies in combat, served in the Pentagon, rotated on and off Unified Combatant Command staff (PACOM, CENTCOM, EURCOM, etc). During my eight years on active duty, I’ve met 100’s of other officer, enlisted and civilian contractors. It’s a vast network of professionals that doesn’t divulge secrets or pass information to celebrities. I’ll leave it at that.

The Bottom Line: For my style of writing and genre, detailed research is well worth the time. I’m always feeling the crunch to make progress on a novel, but not at the expense of the reader experience. The trick is deciding which details are essential to the story, and which are gratuitous displays of knowledge gained during a Black Hole trip through the Web. I’m still honing this process. 

 

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Chapter Three Sample now available

I just posted Chapter Three here on my blog. I plan to release one chapter every Friday (or Thursday if I’m out-of-town), but I won’t add a new post like this every week…no need to clog your email boxes with notifications. I do have some exciting news about The Perseid Collapse, which I will release by next Friday, along with at least two chapters. Sorry to leave you with a cliff hanger, but I still have some details to work out and a plot board to modify. Trust me when I say, that the news is good for reader and author alike.

If you haven’t signed up for my New Release Updates List, I highly encourage it. It’ll give you a leg up on New Release information…and some of the giveaway prizes that will be linked to The Perseid Collapse Trilogy’s release. Did I say Trilogy? Click here to sign up.

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Veterans Donation Campaign Update

Given today’s tragic significance to our nation’s military, most specifically our selfless Special Operations community, I have decided to announce the results of the donation campaign surrounding the launch of my latest book, Black Flagged Vektor. Fictional, yet accurate renditions of service members, (particularly our Special Ops heroes) figure prominently in my novels, so I thought it only appropriate to split my target donation amount between two groups that best represent our nation’s finest.

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 11.15.27 AMI have donated $1000 to the Wounded Warriors Project and $1000 to the Navy SEAL Foundation (my military roots begin with the Naval Special Warfare community). Both of these amounts will be matched, bringing the total to $4000. This brings the total amount given to these (and other) worthy Veteran’s organizations to $11,000 over the past two years.

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 11.20.43 AMYour support of my books has made this possible, so please accept my sincerest and most enthusiastic THANK YOU! Spread the word, and lets continue to support dedicated, heroic men and women that TAKE THE FIGHT TO THE ENEMY.

Historical Background: Two years ago, on August 6th, 31 Special Operations service members were killed when their transport helicopter brought down by enemy fire. They were on their way to reinforce a unit of Army Rangers engaged in a brutal firefight nearby. Six years earlier, in late June, 19 Special Operations personnel were killed during Operation Red Wings, when a Quick Reaction Force helicopter was shot down during the rescue attempt of an overwhelmed SEAL patrol, killing all on board. Three of the four SEALs in the patrol were also killed that day.

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Black Flagged Vektor live at Amazon

 

Black Flagged VektorI’m very excited to announce that Black Flagged Vektor is now available as an ebook at Amazon. The hardcopy version should be available by the end of the weekend (always takes me a little longer to put that together…sorry Greg).

DONATION CAMPAIGN NEWS!

As always, I will donate a significant portion of the initial proceeds to veteran’s charities.

For Black Flagged Vektor’s launch, I have decided to split the donation between The Wounded Warrior Project and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Both organizations serve the unmet needs of veterans and their families, bringing the concept of “no man or woman left behind” to the often overlooked battle these families face even after they return from combat.

WE have raised $7000 for organizations like these over the course of the last three book launches. My goal is to donate $2000 and have that doubled by my company’s matching gifts program, raising the total to $11,000.

You can help the cause by spreading the word…and dare I say it…plunk down $4.97 for 420 pages of pure covert operations/political/espionage enjoyment!  Purchase Black Flagged Vektor Today

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Memorial Day and upcoming veterans charity campaign

Memorial Day weighs heavily on the hearts of veterans and service members. We all know someone, or all too often, MANY…who have fallen in service of our nation. Memorial Day weighs even more heavily on the parents, spouses, children and family  of those same men and women. It’s a solemn day for them. A day in which most of us go about our business trying to enjoy the very same things the aforementioned can not fully embrace. They attend the barbecues,  picnics and parades, but someone is missing. Someone is always missing for them. Take a moment today, to quietly remember the fallen and their families.

I decided to start Memorial Day with two things.

First, I just donated $100 to producer Tracee Beebe’s film The Unremembered. She’s tackling a difficult subject affecting Vietnam Veterans, one of whom is her father. The Unremembered is a dedicated effort to bring attention to thousands of veterans that have been denied the benefits they deserve, and their friends died to preserve. Consider making a donation and bringing their plight into the open. Link to The Unremembered.

Second, I decided once again to coordinate a charity campaign with the launch of my next book, Black Flagged Vektor. Previous campaigns raised a total of $7000 for organizations like the DAV and Wounded Warriors Project. I will continue to support the Wounded Warriors Project with my upcoming launch. My goal for this charity campaign is $2000, which will yield $4000 through a corporate match.

As always, spread the word. 

The pictures below were taken during a recent trip to my alma mater, the United States Naval Academy. The first picture shows my son, Matthew, standing at the entrance to Memorial Hall. The second gives a more panoramic view of the space. Memorial Hall is dedicated to all of the Naval Academy graduates who have fallen in the line of duty. There are many.

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Ignoring my own hypocrisy

PredatorThe drone controversy reached a boiling point this week, as Senator Rand Paul filibustered the Senate for nearly 13 hours over the White House’s reluctance to assure the American citizenry “that drones will not be used against American citizens on U.S. soil.”

I won’t get into all of the specifics and relive the drama here, but after a few emotional days of listening to both sides argue over this, I decided to weigh in a little on Facebook. I can’t help myself sometimes. At one point, I stated that I couldn’t foresee the need for any administration to use drones to kill ANYONE on U.S. soil. After all, we have law enforcement agencies that can hopefully contain and defuse most crises. I started to get riled up by the partisanship, really buying into my own assumption that many of these politicians were grandstanding…and many of them were. I kept finding myself asking if these people really believed that drones could be used to hit a Starbucks? OR Take out Jane Fonda? I heard both of these mentioned by Rand, in addition to a dozen other scenarios that spiraled into the stratosphere of ridiculous. So I thought.

A combination of thoughts and FB posts jarred me out of this reverie. A good libertarian friend reminded me that “from order comes chaos,” and that “if the capability is there, eventually it will be used.” We all know that the use of technology or available resources expands, never contracts. So, if the government starts using drones for routine surveillance of suspected terrorists, where could this go? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask the question, though I can’t imagine Hellfire missiles hitting Starbucks. If a terrorist is ordering a triple shot, caramel latte, and we have the kind of pinpoint intelligence that puts him in that Starbucks, I’m sure the feds can arrange for a few agents to arrive on scene, instead of an 18 pound high explosive warhead.

But what about a terrorist compound in the middle of say, West Virginia? A hidden, inaccessible compound so heavily fortified that conventional law enforcement methods would certainly result in fatalities on par with the Waco, Texas raid? What if that terrorist group posed an immediate threat to the population? Would a drone strike be acceptable then? What if the terrorists were U.S. citizens? All interesting questions for sure. Sounds like a crazy scenario, right?

This is where the hypocrisy thing comes into play. The scenario described above occurs in my latest novel, Black Flagged Apex, written well before the most recent controversy reared its ugly head. When and if you read the novel, you’ll be shocked by the methods used to deal with the terrorist compound. My imagination went well beyond drones, and if I can think of this stuff, I’m sure some much brighter individuals in a government sponsored think tank can do the same. Drones are probably the least of our problems. So while I criticized the Starbuck’s drone scenario, there are hundreds of other scenarios apparently more farfetched, and I created one of them. Hypocrisy exposed.

I did some research into the Insurrection Act, and the powers it grants to the Executive Branch. I suggest you do the same, because the use of drones, special forces, and artillery that I put forward in my novel is not exactly off the table in a time of domestic crisis. Define domestic crisis? The Insurrection Act uses terms like militia, insurrection, domestic violence and conspiracy in a manner that makes the 2nd Amendment look crystal clear. Maybe my Libertarian friends have the right idea. The more transparency the better.

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Today Was a Good Day…

Black Flagged Apex is live, the Charity Campaign is decided, I kept my job,  and the first Black Flagged reached #1 in the Free Kindle Store…and “I didn’t even have to use my AK.” 

I felt that an Ice Cube reference was in order. Here’s why. I waited around the phone yesterday to find out if December 21st would be my first day as a full time writer. I decided to time the launch of my new book with this phone call, in case I received the thumbs down. Regardless of what happened, I’d have good news. Fortunately, my company decided to keep me in place. Not all of my colleagues had a good day, which made my news bittersweet to say the least.

Before I share the details of Black Flagged Apex, I need to acknowledge two people who made it possible to launch this book before Christmas. Felicia A. Sullivan and Stef Mcdaid. Felicia has been my editor from the start and very generously agreed to meet my Christmas deadline for a 170K word novel. A few days ago, she probably wondered if I had hidden the total word count from her. I know she worked her @#! off on this one and the result is simply awesome. Thank you, Felicia! Stef provided an equally quick turnaround with the formatting, taking my messy document and turning it into a polished, sharp looking ebook. If you’re a writer looking for editing and/or formatting services, please get in touch with me. I will put you in good hands.

Alright, here are the details and links for Black Flagged Apex:

1. Black Flagged Apex is available as a Kindle ebook. The hard copy version is on it’s way. You can grab the ebook here: Black Flagged Apex 

2. The Donation Campaign was decided by all of you. Proceeds will go to the Wounded Warrior Project. You can see the update and details here: Apex Donation Campaign

 

THANK YOU for patiently waiting! Black Flagged Apex is considerably longer than the first two books in the series, which is why it took longer to publish. I think you’ll find it to be well worth the wait. Black Flagged Vektor won’t take as long…I’m already 20K words into that one (and it will not be 170K words). ENJOY the new book and if you would, please leave a review on Amazon when you finish reading it!

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Black Flagged Apex Donation Campaign…

UPDATE 12/23/12

The Donation Campaign is bringing out the best in everyone, and I feel better about NOT counting book sale numbers to determine the final amount. A good friend and reader has generously kicked off the campaign…ONCE AGAIN…with a $100 donation. Thank you, Greg. That immediately brings the total to $2100 (with match). I have commitments from others, which I haven’t counted, but suspect will bring the total to $2200.  The Black Flagged Series has contributed nearly $5000 to wounded veterans so far…I expect this to increase over the holidays. 

Thank you to everyone for a great start!

UPDATE 12/21/12:

Based on your votes, I will once again donate to the Wounded Warrior Project, an undeniably worthy cause. I’m taking a different approach to the donations this time. Instead of counting books and stressing myself out, I am starting at the $850 mark, which has been “our” contribution for each campaign over the past two book launches. At the end of January, I will decide whether to increase it. I very likely will. Any individual donations outside of book sales will be added to the $850 mark. Keep in mind that the total amount raised is matched by my employer.

GET THE WORD OUT! Buy Black Flagged Apex for Kindle

THANK YOU AGAIN for your support of a great cause

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11/20/12: You Decide!

Once again, I will be donating a portion of the proceeds from the initial sales of Black Flagged Apex to charity, but this time, I will take reader input regarding the charity. I have pre-selected three charities and included a poll to collect your votes. The combined total donated from my last two book launches was $3500, and all of this was sent to organizations that support wounded veterans (Disabled American Veterans-DAV and Wounded Warrior Project-WWP). Here are the choices. You can click on the links to see each charity’s homepage. Vote Below!

1. Continue with the Wounded Warrior Project - As a veteran, I can’t underscore the importance of supporting the shattered lives of the brave men and women wounded in combat.

2. Donate to Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS) – In my first Black Flagged book, a police officer is rather brutally killed (unintentionally) by the main character. I took some heat from readers about that scene, which really drove home the gut reaction people have (even in fiction) to the death of a police officer.

3. Donate to Kids in Distressed Situations (KIDS) – Specifically the Hurricane Sandy relief effort. With the holidays around the corner, this charity looks after the needs of young children and teens affected by the storm, some of whom lost everything. If this charity is selected, I will make an early donation in time for the Christmas.

Please vote, and spread the word!

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Black Flagged Apex Coming Soon

DECEMBER 2012

Book Three in the Black Flagged Series.

“A tense alliance between the CIA and General Sanderson’s covert operations group narrowly averts a deadly bioweapons attack by Islamic fundamentalists against Europe. With the virus canisters still missing, Daniel Petrovich’s “black ops” team is sent to investigate a lead provided by Dr. Anatoly Reznikov, the twisted scientist responsible for handing the virus over to Al Qaeda. What they uncover will shake U.S. authorities to the core.

Every canister of the Zulu Virus has been shipped to the United States…

Back in Washington D.C., the grim reality of this discovery is compounded by a startling revelation. Suspected Al Qaeda cells under FBI surveillance have been simultaneously murdered, targets of a shadowy domestic terror organization with ties to a rising political movement within the United States. When Special Agent in Charge Ryan Sharpe discovers that Al Qaeda lost the Zulu Virus canisters in the coordinated massacre, he deploys Task Force Scorpion to hunt down a new breed of terrorist and recover the virus.

As Sharpe’s task force unravels the curious fabric of True America’s plot, they start to assemble the chilling details of a possible domestic bioweapons attack–on an unimaginable scale. With time expiring, and his task force running out of options, Sharpe embraces the illicit help of a sworn enemy, whose questionable tactics may be their only chance of stopping an insidious plan to destabilize the United States.

Black Flagged Apex propels the gritty, often unapologetic Black Flagged Series into new territory, where hidden agendas, startling betrayals and brutal action define the daily landscape navigated by the puppet masters and frontline operators in the war on terror.”

CHECK OUT THE NEWLY DESIGNED SERIES CONCEPT BY ARTIST JEROEN TEN BERGE.

 

 

 

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