WHAT I READ IN 2019 and the first month of 2020

This topic often comes up in conversation, and I often lead with “I don’t read nearly as much as I did before I started writing.” While that may be true, after doing a little back-tracking into 2019, I came up with a fairly healthy list of books that I somehow found the time to read.

I’d like to share that list with you, to include a few words about the titles or series. I’ll also link these titles to Amazon if you want to dig deeper. No affiliate income is derived from these links. I probably missed a few books…as I created the list, I thought of more.

LITERARY FICTION:

  • We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter – Heart wrenching, based on the true story about one Polish-Jewish family’s epic struggle to survive the World War II. Compelling from star to finish.
  • YES…I need to expand this section in 2020!

HORROR:

  • Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay – Modern day, sublime version of The Exorcist…and so much more. The end will blow you away.
  • Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Trembly – Made me scared to get up in the middle of the night…again.
  • The Outsider by Stephen King – King at his best. Read the book and then watch the HBO series. They compliment each other perfectly.
  • The Institute by Stephen King – Loved this one. Had an epic feel. The end will leave you thinking hard for days to come.
  • We Sang In The Dark by Joe Hart – (Not yet released) This one left me afraid of the dark for a while. Joe has a way of doing that with his novels.

THRILLER (Any subgenre):

  • Recursion by Blake Crouch – Mind-blowing. Just get it right now and take this incredible journey.
  • Don’t Make a Sound by T.R. Ragan – (Not yet released) Takes the revenge thriller to the next level in a gritty and chillingly realistic hunt for a killer.
  • Origami Man by Matthew FitzSimmons – (Not yet released) Hard to beat the first four books in the Gibson Vaughn series, but FitzSimmons does it handily. Highly recommend the series!
  • A Gambler’s Jury by Victor Methos – Underdog, scrappy lawyer caught up in vicious conspiracy. Edgar nomination for Best Novel.
  • The Killer’s Wife by Victor Methos – Serial killers and a haunted prosecutor. Twists and turns galore.
  • Pray for the Girl by Joseph Souza – Edgy, tense…will keep you guessing until the end.
  • The Chain by Adrian McKinty – One of the most inventive premises I’ve read in a long time. Unputdownable.
  • Green Sun by Kent Anderson – A hypnotic cop thriller set in early 1980’s Oakland, California. Couldn’t put it down.
  • The Eighth Sister (Charles Jenkins Book 1) by Robert Dugoni – Flawlessly executed espionage novel and white-knuckle journey through the byzantine world of modern intelligence.
  • The Last Agent by Robert Dugoni – (Not yet released) Book 2 in Charles Jenkins series. Knocks it out of the park with a full throttle cat and mouse spy story.
  • The Killer Collective by Barry Eisler – A mashup of Eisler’s most iconic characters in full-tilt covert operations thriller.
  • Dark Tomorrow (Lisa Tanchik Book 2) by Reece Hirsch – (Not yet released) Cyber-espionage and warfare amidst a high stakes federal manhunt for a murderous sleeper agent.
  • The Spider Heist by Jason Kasper – Not your ordinary bank heist book. Not by a long shot. High octane action and twisty plot.
  • The David Rivers Thrillers (Books 1-5) by Jason Kasper – Gritty, brutal, unapologetic action by a former Green Beret. Burned through these books one after another.
  • Murder Board (Boston Crime Thriller Book 1) by Brian Shea – Brian Shea is the real deal. A veteran detective turned thriller author…It truly doesn’t get any better.
  • The Little Drummer Girl by John le Carre – Classic le Carre. Meticulous. Sets the standard.

POST-APOCALYPTIC/DYSTOPIAN/SCI-FI:

  • Bar at the End of the World by Tom Abrahams – Tom takes a killer premise and builds a dystopian world like you’ve never seen before.
  • Winter World (The Long Winter Trilogy Book 1) by A.G. Riddle – Classic A.G. Riddle. End of the world story that takes reader across space and time.
  • Solar War by A.G. Riddle – Book 2 in the Long Winter Trilogy. Riddle does what he does best…pushes the story to unimaginable places.
  • Our War by Craig DiLouie – A second civil war burns out of control across America. Brilliant rendering of a worst case scenario that feels all too real.
  • Sons of War by Nicholas Sansbury Smith – (Not yet released) As always, Smith reboots the post-apocalyptic genre with a unique story of a societal collapse.
  • The Path Between Worlds by Paul Antony Jones – Epic, saga like potential set in a world beyond imagination, but eerily familiar.
  • Forward Collection (short stories by Andy Weir, Blake Crouch, NK Jemisin, Paul Tremblay, Veronica Roth and Amor Towles) – Take your pick…you can’t go wrong with this powerhouse group of authors.
  • The Second Sleep by Robert Harris – Eerie from start to finish. A slow burn, dystopian masterpiece.

NON-FICTION:

  • Red Notice by Bill Browder – A sweeping indictment of Russian corruption and malice. Fast paced, expertly crafted. A must read.
  • Bad Blood by John Carreyrou – Investigative masterpiece chronicling the rise and fall of Theranous, a nebulous and sinister Silicon Valley startup.
  • The Road to Unfreedom by Timothy Snyder – Hard hitting book. “A stunning new chronicle of the rise of authoritarianism from Russia to Europe and America.
  • The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis – “Masterfully and vividly unspools the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works.

THE RAID (Ryan Decker 2) is now available

Book 2 in the Ryan Decker series is now available internationally at Amazon (see links below book cover) in ebook, paper and audiobook formats.

A Border Patrol murder exposes a high-level conspiracy in USA Today bestselling author Steven Konkoly’s explosive thriller.

After exposing and dismantling a deep-state conspiracy that nearly destroyed his life, Ryan Decker finds his covert skills have put him on the radar of influential Senator Steele. Now Steele needs his help. Two patrol agents were killed in a bizarre explosion near the US-Mexico border—and the evidence doesn’t line up with the official story.

Enlisted by Steele to run an undercover, off-the-books investigation, Decker and his partner, Harlow, head to the border town of Tecate. But when they’re caught in an ambush, Decker realizes they’ve stumbled onto something far more dangerous than any of them understood.

The cover-up is rooted deep in the Department of Defense itself. Fearful for their own lives and unable to trust anyone outside their small circle of skilled associates, Decker and Harlow set in motion a risky plan to stop a criminal conspiracy.

US AND INTERNATIONAL LINKS BELOW! Available at AMAZON in ebook, hard copy, hard cover and audiobook form.

CLICK HERE FOR THE U.S. STORE

CLICK HERE FOR THE UK STORE

CLICK HERE FOR AUSTRALIA

CLICK HERE FOR CANADA

THE RESCUE (Ryan Decker Book One) — The #1 Thriller on Amazon during March 2019!

WOW! It has been over a year since I last posted here. Crazy that more than a year has passed since the last Steven Konkoly book. I promise I won’t make you wait that long again. That said, I think you’ll find the long wait to have been well worth it.

THE RESCUE has arrived, featuring Ryan Decker, Harlow Mackenzie and a cast of memorable characters that early readers have thoroughly enjoyed. Don’t take my word for it! Over 600 reviews with a 4.6 out of 5 average speak for THE RESCUE.

US AND INTERNATIONAL LINKS BELOW! Available at AMAZON in ebook, hard copy, hard cover and audiobook form.

CLICK HERE FOR THE U.S. STORE

CLICK HERE FOR THE UK STORE

CLICK HERE FOR AUSTRALIA

CLICK HERE FOR CANADA


Sucked into a FIRE STORM

That’s what will happen when you start reading book 3 in The Zulu Virus Chronicles!

SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Fire extinguisher is probably the right answer.

FIRE STORM: Book 3 in The Zulu Virus Chronicles is now available in ebook and hard copy format. Audiobook will be available in mid-March.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE KINDLE BOOK

CLICK HERE OT ORDER A PAPER COPY

SOMETHING MERCILESS WATCHES OVER THE OUTBREAK–GUIDING ITS COURSE.

Having narrowly survived the KILL BOX, HOT ZONE’s hardened survivors and their KILL BOX allies separate to pursue different objectives–outside of the Indianapolis quarantine zone.

For David Olson, that means bringing his son south, to the safe haven of his parents’ home–far away from the infected cities. Eric Larsen takes him up on the offer to rest and heal at the house, before departing on the long journey to find his family in Colorado.

For Rich and his secretive black ops team, that means transporting Dr. Chang and Dr. Hale to a secure facility out east, where they will join the nation’s few surviving bioweapons researchers–with the hopes of pinpointing the source of the virus and possibly developing a vaccine.

Neither group will get very far, before the true face of the evil controlling the Zulu Virus arrives–tempting them with irresistible opportunities.

DANGEROUS OPPORTUNITIES, WITH THE POTENTIAL TO SWEEP THEM RIGHT INTO A LETHAL FIRESTORM

Your KILL BOX has arrived

Not something you normally hear! 

FOURTEEN NOVELS—8,000 pages—6,300 Amazon reviews later, I bring you….

A FIFTEENTH NOVEL. 

KILL BOX: Book 2 in The Zulu Virus Chronicles is now available in ebook and hard copy format. Audiobook is on the way (early January).

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE EBOOK

CLICK HERE TO ORDER A PAPER COPY

A LETHAL BIOWEAPON HAS BEEN RELEASED ACROSS AMERICA.

With their daring escape plan thwarted at the last possible moment, HOT ZONE’s motley band of survivors faces a worst-case scenario. Forced to take refuge near the epicenter of the bioweapons outbreak, deep inside in a city gone mad, THEIR TIME IS RUNNING OUT.

Unable to slow or adequately contain the infected population, the government has triggered KILL BOX, a desperate and merciless contingency protocol.

HOT ZONE’s survivors have less than twenty-four hours to escape the KILL BOX.

The Zulu Virus Chronicles places you at ground zero during a chillingly realistic, insidious “event.” This is a story about regular people from different walks of life coming together to survive an unthinkable disaster.

Welcome to the KILL BOX!

 

Author Steven Konkoly and the Wonderful World of Audiobooks

I know. The blog post title sounds like some kind of movie nobody should watch, or an audiobook nobody should listen to! I figured the worse the title, the more curious you’d be. Morbidly curious.

HOT ZONE just hit the audiobook shelves at Audible and iTunes, so instead of a post with a single title, I thought I’d create a post listing all of my audiobook titles. A one stop reference for those of you with long commutes, long walks to take, long breaks at work OR those of you who simply don’t like to “READ.” I know who you are!

CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW FOR EACH STORE

I’ll start with HOT ZONE and break it down by series after that. Happy Listening!

HOT ZONE at  AUDIBLE | iTUNES



THE PERSEID COLLAPSE SERIES

 

THE PERSEID COLLAPSE (BOOK 1) at  AUDIBLE | iTUNES

EVENT HORIZON (BOOK 2) at  AUDIBLE | iTUNES

POINT OF CRISIS (BOOK 3) at  AUDIBLE | iTUNES

DISPATCHES (BOOK 4) at  AUDIBLE | iTUNES

THE JAKARTA PANDEMIC at  AUDIBLE | iTUNES (sort of a prequel)



THE BLACK FLAGGED SERIES

 

ALPHA (Book 1) at  AUDIBLE | iTUNES

REDUX (Book 2) at  AUDIBLE | iTUNES

APEX (Book 3) at  AUDIBLE | iTUNES

VEKTOR (Book 4) at  AUDIBLE | iTUNES

OMEGA (Book 5) at  AUDIBLE | iTUNES



THE FRACTURED STATE SERIES

 

FRACTURED STATE (Book 1) at  AUDIBLE | iTUNES

ROGUE STATE (Book 2) at  AUDIBLE | iTUNES

 

Welcome to the HOT ZONE

Not words you’d typically want to hear under any other circumstances.

HOT ZONE, the first book in THE ZULU VIRUS CHRONICLES, is now available in Kindle or hard copy on Amazon. The audiobook version will follow in August. HOT ZONE is also enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program.

CLICK HERE TO GRAB THE KINDLE VERSION

CLICK HERE TO GRAB A PAPER COPY

While you wait for you book to arrive or download, check out my recent chat with LEE WEST, author of the Blue Lives Apocalypse series. Lee was one of first to read HOT ZONE, providing some spot on developmental advice. You can also CLICK HERE to check out THE ZULU CHRONICLES VIRUS PRIMER for more information about the series.

QUESTION AND ANSWER WITH STEVEN KONKOLY:

Lee: Having just finished HOT ZONE, I’ll start out by saying “I see what you did there.”

Steve: Is that a good or bad thing?

Lee: It’s a very good thing. For those of you wondering, there’s a subtle tie-in to one of your previous series, I won’t give it away, but let’s just say that it’s brilliant, hiding just below the surface. Obviously, you did this on purpose. Can you expand on that?

Steve: Guilty as charged. When I set out to write another series in the post-apocalyptic/dystopian/disaster genre, I wanted to take it in a different direction than most of the books recently written in the genre. I didn’t have to look very far. I had been sitting on a devastating scenario since 2012, when I wrote REDUX: A Black Flagged thriller. I had already created the perfect bioweapon, and put it in the hands of some very nefarious people. They just never got to use it thanks to some skilled and enterprising American operatives. The ZULU VIRUS CHRONICLES imagines what might have happened if that virus had been released.

Lee: So this isn’t a Black Flagged book.

Steve: Right. Fans of those books will find a few Easter Eggs, but this is an entirely new story that every thriller reader will enjoy. There’s no homework required to read the ZVC books.

Lee: That’s good to hear. Nobody likes homework. You obviously enjoy unleashing viruses on the world—that sounded kind of odd, didn’t it?

Steve: It did, but let’s go with it.

Lee: I’ll rephrase it. This isn’t the first time you’ve fictionally unleashed a virus on an unsuspecting world. Your first novel, The Jakarta Pandemic, imagined what it might take for an everyday family to survive a lethal pandemic and the ensuing societal collapse. In HOT ZONE, I strongly sensed a return to that type of storytelling.

Steve: I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that. I really wanted to return to my roots with the ZULU VIRUS CHRONICLES, and tell the kind of story that launched my career. The Jakarta Pandemic was an intimate, if not claustrophobic, look at a pandemic’s impact on “normal people.” It focused less on the disease itself and more on the unpredictability of the human factor.

Lee: That’s what made it so fascinating in my opinion. It bucked all previous trends, focusing on regular citizens instead of the usual “CDC scientist running around the world saving the day.” Your characters barely left their neighborhood, and the neighborhood nearly killed them.

Steve: I take a similar approach in HOT ZONE, but the characters won’t have the luxury of lingering in one place for very long. Readers will get a taste of several different walks of life, as the disaster unfolds around this diverse group of characters. By the time the outbreak is in full swing, the characters will be doing what they do best in my books. Trying to survive. Moving frequently will be one of the keys to survival in this series.

Lee: You certainly don’t make it easy on your characters in this one. I can attest to that. I do have to call you out on one thing. There’s a hint of conspiracy in HOT ZONE, and a scientist who looks like he might be in a position to “save the day.” He definitely falls into the regular character category for now, but I see some potential. Am I wrong?

Steve: I can neither confirm nor deny the expansion of his role in future books, but I do like to take characters out of their comfort zones, so we’ll see. As for hints of conspiracy in HOT ZONE—don’t forget that we’re talking about a suspected, widespread bioweapons release on U.S. soil. A conspiracy lurks. I just haven’t decided how much of it will come into play within the series. Right now, it’s in the background, where it might reach out from time to time to hinder or even help the characters—the true focus of the story.

Lee: HOT ZONE is a frighteningly realistic look at a bioweapons attack from several angles on the ground. You obviously put a ton of research and thought into this scenario. So…why bioweapons?

Steve: Because bioweapons scare the $#@% out of me! Seriously. I wrote The Jakarta Pandemic partly because I’ve always been obsessed with viruses and biological warfare. I blame Stephen King’s The Stand, which I read as a teenager. People forget that Captain Trips, the virus in The Stand, originated in a fictional U.S. bioweapons lab. The beginning of that book was brilliant, and stuck with me for years. Still does. I’m rambling. After The Jakarta Pandemic, I didn’t stray far from viruses. No wonder. Right?

Lee: I see where you’re coming from, now.

Steve: I don’t like to be predictable. That’s a bad thing for an author.

Lee: You’re hardly predictable, especially with HOT ZONE. I guarantee readers won’t see where this book is headed. Last question. You claimed to have “created” the perfect bioweapon. What did you mean by that, fictionally of course.

Steve: I appreciate the disclaimer. I don’t need any more black vans on the block. Bioweapons in general are horrifying by nature, designed not only to kill and maim, but to inflict fear. A slow killer that requires the maximum amount of resources to handle. There’s no easy solution when dealing with an effective bioweapons attack. Unlike bullets or bombs, a properly designed bioweapon can cripple everyone, but leave them alive—needing extensive on site care and support. The impact of a bioweapon can’t be underestimated or overstated. It’s more like the “perfect weapon.” And in the grand scheme of terrorist weapons, they can be relatively inexpensive, flying under the radar in hidden laboratories around the world, or right here in the U.S.

Lee: Thanks for scaring the $#@! out of me, Steve.

Steve: Any time. Sleep tight.

THE ZULU VIRUS CHRONICLES PRIMER

WITH LESS THAN TWO MONTHS BEFORE THE PROJECTED RELEASE IN LATE JUNE…I figured it was time to give give you more than just a few teasers about HOT ZONE, book one in The Zulu Virus Chronicles.

Before I go crazy here, I want to highlight an opportunity to be an integral part of the The Zulu Virus Chronicles launch. I plan to provide advanced reader copies (ARCs) of HOT ZONE (and all future books in this series) to a sizable group of readers. I can’t include everyone in this, but for those of you that would be willing to read a free copy of the books ahead of the launch, and possibly share your opinion of the book with the pubic, I will consider you a candidate. I will also form a members only group on Facebook, where we can “hang out,” and I can pass news, launch material and get your opinion on aspects of the story. You don’t have to be on Facebook to be part of this group. If you’re interested in doing this, send me an email at freebooks@striblingmedia.com OR message me directly at my author page on Facebook by CLICKING HERE.  

NOW FOR THE FUN STUFF. What exactly can you expect from The Zulu Virus Chronicles?

Fans of my Black Flagged books will be somewhat familiar with the Zulu Virus, which has been featured in that series. The Zulu Virus Chronicles, however, takes place in a world mostly separate from the Black Flagged series. An alternate reality, so to speak. Black Flagged readers will catch a few “Easter eggs,” but The Zulu Virus Chronicles is a post-apocalyptic thriller saga, with a strong hint of political/government conspiracy. The setting is current day, in a Midwest city—Indianapolis. Much of the action takes place within a thirty minute drive of my house. I’ve driven the routes. Walked the streets. Shopped in the same stores. Visited the locations. I kind of feel bad inflicting this disaster on my new hometown, but it’s what I do. Scarborough, Maine was never the same after The Jakarta Pandemic. I just hope my new neighbors don’t think I’m crazy…too.

With that said, here’s the cover and blurb for HOT ZONE, BOOK ONE. After the blurb, you’ll find several sample chapters, which will introduce you to all of the main characters, and hopefully scare the $#@! out of you. Keep in mind. The weaponized virus you’ll meet in these chapters was not my idea. Minds far more disturbed thought of this first. I just hope they never successfully create and deploy it.

By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

-William Shakespeare’s Macbeth-

SOMETHING INSIDIOUS HAS EMERGED—RIGHT IN THE HEARTLAND OF OUR NATION.

Dr. Lauren Hale, a hospital resident, is nearly killed by a raving mad emergency room patient, in a senseless, unprovoked attack.

Officer David Olson, veteran cop and former Marine, returns from a father-son camping trip to discover that his ex-wife has vanished under bizarre circumstances, and his police department is on the verge of collapse.

Jack and Emma Harper, a young upwardly mobile couple, find their cozy, city neighborhood rapidly descending into madness.

Dr. Eugene Chang, a research scientist for major pharmaceutical company, makes a shocking discovery that might explain the rapidly spreading wave of illness and violence gripping the city.

Eric Larsen, leader of a top-secret, rapid-response unit, circles high above Indianapolis, in an unmarked military transport. Mission still unknown, his team waits to parachute into the night.

WITHIN FORTY-EIGHT HOURS, ALL OF THEIR WORLDS WILL COLLIDE, driving them to join forces to survive the living nightmare that has been unleashed on their city—AND THE NATION.

WELCOME TO THE HOT ZONE!



SAMPLE CHAPTERS BELOW. Keep in mind, these have not been professionally edited. This is a raw, sneak peek into HOT ZONE.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD SAMPLE CHAPTERS IN WORD FORMAT

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD SAMPLE CHAPTERS IN PDF FORMAT

 

MAY DEALS

THE DEALS AND NEW RELEASES KEEP ON COMING! I’ll keep this short, in bullet format, because my wife informed me that I have a tendency to ramble…and she’s the boss.

1.) Both novels in my Fractured State series (near future covert operations and conspiracy thriller) have been discounted by my publisher to $1.99. They aren’t free, but at $1.99 each, you’re looking at a 75% discount for the series. Click the images below to grab a copy from the U.S. Amazon store. Sorry, but the deal is not available outside of the U.S.

 

 

 

 

2.) Long time good friend and fellow author, Lee West, just released Resist and Evade, sequel to the smash hit, Survive and Escape. Lee’s Blue Lives Apocalypse Series focuses on the police response during a widespread EMP event; a unique twist in an overworked genre. At my recommendation, Lee keeps the series at a very affordable $2.99 each. Trust me. These books are a steal at the price. Check out this series if you’re looking for something new in the post-apocalyptic genre. CLICK ON THE IMAGES for the U.S. Amazon Store.

 

 

 

 

 

3.) Bestselling author and good friend, Nicholas Sansbury Smith, has taken the post-apocalyptic genre by storm with his TRACKERS series. Nick rocked the military post-apocalyptic thriller world with his EXTINCTION CYCLE series, bringing that same expertise to the TRACKERS books. THE HUNTED, book 2 in the series hits the shelves (ebook and paper) on May 4. THE STORM, book 3, comes in October 2017. This is a very reasonably priced, rock-solid series of books. The first book is $2.99, a complete steal for this USA Today Bestselling author. CLICK ON THE IMAGES for the U.S. Amazon Store. You can also follow Nick through his newsletter by CLICKING HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

4.) Later this week, I’m going to reveal the full premise of my upcoming series, THE ZULU VIRUS CHRONICLES, to include a few initial chapters. I’m beyond excited about this series—the first book will be available in June 2017.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED READERSHIP AND SUPPORT!

 

A CONSPIRACY COME FULL CIRCLE—THE BLACK FLAGGED LEGACY AND BEYOND

***Post-apocalyptic fans will find some VERY exciting news at the end of this post (new series), so keep reading. Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the Black Flagged series***

I’ve led readers on a wild ride through the Black Flagged series, most of that ride centered around a particularly nasty, weaponized virus created by Dr. Anatoly Reznikov, a devilishly unhinged, former employee of the Russian Federation’s State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology (VECTOR Institute).

REDUX (Book 2) followed Dr. Reznikov to Monchegorsk, Russia, where he infected a city of 60,000 inhabitants with the ZULU Virus—in a twisted revenge plot against the Russian government. Readers saw first hand what can happen to a populated area hit with the virus.

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APEX (Book 3) brought the ZULU Virus to the United States, where it was snatched from the hands of Al Qaeda, by a sophisticated domestic terrorist group that had orchestrated the creation and delivery of the virus from the very start.

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VEKTOR (Book 4) extinguished the bioweapons threat created by Dr. Reznikov, along with the illegal bioweapons research program at the Vector Institute—ALMOST.

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OMEGA (Book 5) brings Dr. Reznikov and his designer viruses back into the spotlight, amidst political turmoil in the United States and a blossoming conspiracy.

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VORTEX (Book 6)—TO BE RELEASED IN 2017 OR EARLY 2018—will marry Dr. Reznikov’s lethal creations to the ultimate conspiracy against the United States.

Excited yet! I am. The conspiracy introduced in REDUX (Book 2) will come full circle in VORTEX (Book 6), which I promise will be unlike anything you’ve read before. I know, that’s a tall order.



Why should post-apocalyptic readers and fans be excited by all of this?

Think The Jakarta Pandemic meets The Perseid Collapse, with a hint of conspiracy. Still not convinced?

CLICK HERE (PDF) to read a few of the hard core post-apocalyptic chapters from Black Flagged Redux to get a taste of what’s to come. This series will not be directly linked to the current Black Flagged books. It is a standalone, post-apocalyptic series based on a worst-case scenario release of the ZULU Virus in the United States.

virus-imageWHAT IS THE ZULU VIRUS? Check out the description of the virus taken directly from the Black Flagged novels. 

“A weaponized form of herpes simplex encephalitis, genetically modified to aggressively attack the brain’s temporal lobe. Left untreated, herpes simplex encephalitis has a high fatality rate. Near seventy percent. Treated aggressively, we can reduce this to thirty percent.”

“If the Zulu virus is released into a public water source, containment of the disease itself will not be our biggest challenge. Physical containment of the impacted community and the management of information will be your biggest priority. Weaponized encephalitis is the ultimate biological weapon.”

“Herpes simplex encephalitis does more than produce casualties…In those treated aggressively, less than three percent regain normal brain function. This can vary from very mild to severe impairment, depending upon several factors. Early treatment with high dose, intravenous acyclovir is the only modifiable factor scientists have identified.”

“If released in a municipal water supply, unknown to the population, it has the potential to affect nearly everyone. Take a small town of twenty thousand people. Even if we discovered the attack immediately after the virus circulated through the drinking water and treated everyone in the town with acyclovir, 95% of them will suffer neurological impairment at varying levels. 19,000 citizens. Neurological impairment will range from full homicidal rage and hyper-aggressive behavior to minor seizures. Brain damage in almost every case.”

Media Report regarding situation in Monchegorsk, Russian Federation taken from Black Flagged Apex—IMAGINE THE SAME REPORT COMING OUT OF INDIANAPOLIS.

“Confirmed news from the area is scarce, but persistent rumors of a deadly epidemic continue to surface. So far, nobody has been able to confirm the shocking and unbelievable footage sent anonymously to Reuters, suggesting that the Russian military is systematically destroying the city and killing its inhabitants. Russian officials have made no comment. One thing is for certain, the Russian government has taken extraordinary measures to seal off the area surrounding Monchegorsk. What is truly frightening is the fact that the world hasn’t seen an emergency government response on this scale from the Russian government since Chernobyl.”

MORE NEWS ABOUT THIS SERIES TO COME! Enjoy this cover reveal. 

OMEGA

1160 Steve Konkoly BLACK FLAGGED banner

FINALLY! Three years isn’t that long…right?

Don’t spend another second waiting. CLICK HERE TO ORDER

1543-steven-konkoly-omega_2THANK YOU for very patiently waiting for this book. I released Black Flagged VEKTOR (Book 4) in the summer of 2013, after deciding to take a short break from the series. I’d written four books back-to-back in two years and was starting to see the Black Flagged characters in my sleep. That short break turned into a long detour. Six books and several novellas, in two different series, to be exact. I really appreciate your loyalty and patience. I think you’ll find OMEGA worth the wait.

I had a lot of time to ponder the fifth book, which I thought would be the last novel in the core series. I’m very pleased to let you know that there will be a sixth book. Halfway through OMEGA, I realized that the finale I had in mind for this story was worth a full novel, so you can expect book six within the next year or so. I don’t want to give too much away, but the scope of the conspiracy unveiled in OMEGA is vast and devastating, unlike anything you may have read before.

On that note, I need to make a statement that I’ve never included in my books before OMEGA:

All characters and corporations or establishments appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Why the disclaimer? You’ll soon find out. Here’s a little background and a hint. In 2012, I created a fictitious political movement for Black Flagged APEX, called True America. Some similarities in core beliefs between the Tea Party movement and True America existed, but my intention, as stated in APEX, was to create a third, viable party vying for political power. I had plans for True America later in the series. Fast-forward to the spring of 2016, when I finished the first third of OMEGA, in which True America shocks the establishment and wins the 2008 (series time) presidential election. You can probably see where this is headed.

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t” — Mark Twain.

Black Flagged OMEGA takes place in 2009, roughly two years after the events of Black Flagged VEKTOR.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER OMEGA TODAY

OMEGA is available in Kindlebook and Hardcopy. The audiobook version will be available in April 2017.

THREE YEARS LATER—HOW DO YOU REIGNITE A SERIES?

WITH A BIGGER CONSPIRACY, AND A COMPLETE SHAKE-UP

 

1543-steven-konkoly-omega_2OMEGA: A BLACK FLAGGED THRILLER (Book 5) redefines the characters, organizations and all of the relationships readers have come to known in the Black Flagged series. At the same time, OMEGA introduces a blistering conspiracy perpetrated at the highest levels of power.

VORTEX: A BLACK FLAGGED THRILLER (Book 6—COMING IN 2018) will unleash a disturbingly familiar, but entirely reimagined conspiracy to the American people.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER TODAY AND GET IT TONIGHT AT MIDNIGHT!

“A joint U.S.- Russian Special Forces raid against a hidden laboratory yields an alarming discovery. Anatoly Reznikov, the deranged bioweapons scientist stolen from U.S. custody a few years earlier, vanished minutes before the attack—taking his deadly work with him.

In the United States, Beltway power brokers grapple withTrue America’s surprise presidential win, finding the new administration to be anything but easy to work with. Karl Berg, demoted within the CIA due to the sudden shift in agency leadership, seeks to stay out of trouble, and retire quietly—a task he finds impossible when news of Reznikov’s near-capture unofficially reaches his desk.

Oblivious to the growing threats domestic and abroad, Daniel and Jessica Petrovich finalize their plan to abandon the “Black Flag” business for good, only to have it delayed by close-hitting news. A last minute trip to the United States drags them closer to an unfolding plot in the heart of Washington D.C.

A plot connected to everyone and everything the Petrovich’s have touched. A diabolical conspiracy none of them saw coming—AND ONLY ONE GROUP CAN STOP!”

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes of the Fractured State Series: Part Five—THE UNFOLDING BATTLE OVER WATER

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For those of you who’ve read FRACTURED STATE, you’ve probably guessed that the key conflict of the series revolves around WATER. While the public faces of the One Nation Coalition (anti-secessionists) and the California Liberation Movement (secessionists) fight over the fate of California and the disposition of its natural and man-made resources in Fractured State, a game changing plot has been set in motion that will be exposed in ROGUE STATE. A plot that could potentially undermine the billions of dollars invested by One Nation Coalition supporters to ensure the future of the profits in the Golden State. 

Nathan Fisher’s family, along with David Quinn find themselves at the very heart of a second conspiracy aimed at virtually guaranteeing California’s secession from the United States. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll leave you with a few clues.

1.) The image below shows a recent picture of Lake Mead, on the reservoir side of the Hoover Dam. The light colored rock represents the water level several years ago. The drop over the last decade has been drastic, unlike anything seen since the dam’s construction. The continuing drought has dropped the water level of Lake Mead to critical levels. In the 2035 world of Fractured State, the level would be at least four to five times lower,  at the point where water trickles downriver. At that level, no water can be pumped to Las Vegas, or diverted to Arizona. The electrical power plant run by the flowing water has been decommissioned. California receives little to no water from a source that had once provided most of Southern California’s water supply.

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2.) In 2035, the only peaceful way to restore the Colorado River flow would be to either convince multi-billionaire agriculture barons in the Great Plains to stop illegally diverting water, the only way for them to currently water their crops, OR, to convince the U.S. government to stop the illegal redirection of water from the Colorado River. Southwestern states have pursued both options for nearly two decades, but nothing has changed.

3.) Another option exists. Rivers flow naturally, unless they’re obstructed. You can probably guess the rest.

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If you’re interested in digging deeper into the politics,history and controversies surrounding the Colorado River Basin and other major fresh water sources, you can explore this links:

Overview of the Colorado River Basin

The disappearance of ground water throughout the world

Lake Powell slowly vanishing

Lake Mead sinks to record lows

$650 million pump station constructed to draw water from lowest levels of Lake Mead

California continues to draw from Lake Mead water bank despite record low levels

Spoiler article for Book 3. Read the entire article. 

Draining of the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest source of fresh water in the Great Plains.

Speculative article about what happens if the Colorado is denied to California

Dust Bowl days are here again.

Return of the Dust Bowl.

CLICK HERE TO GRAB A COPY OF ROGUE STATE 

Read Behind the Scenes PART 1, PART 2, PART 3 and PART 4

 

 

Behind the Scenes of the Fractured State Series: Part Four—WHAT’S NEW IN ROGUE STATE?

If you missed them, read Part One, Part Two and Part Three of Behind the Scenes of the Fractured State series!

Konkoly-RogueState-21878-CV-FL-V1With the launch of ROGUE STATE (Book 2 in the Fractured State Series) a few days away, I wanted to give readers and fans a look behind the curtains of the upcoming release. I thought I’d go with a TOP TEN list, because it’s early and I don’t have to come up with clever seaways between paragraphs. I have a 10 hour writing day ahead of me, so bear with this streamlined process. What this really means is that 1.) I haven’t had enough coffee yet. AND 2.) I’m getting a little lazier, truth be told.

HERE’S WHAT READERS CAN EXPECT ON JANUARY 10th!

predator-invisible-camo1.) Adaptive Camouflage: Sometimes called “active camouflage,” this fledgling technology today will be fully developed and available to the military and highest bidder in the 2035 world created for Rogue State. You can imagine the tactical benefits of rendering a vehicle or operative invisible to the naked eye or infrared detection. Check out a few links describing today’s efforts to harness this technology. The image to the right is from the movie Predator, I couldn’t resist…the ultimate in adaptive camouflage.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/animals/a11105/behold-the-octopus-inspired-adaptive-camouflage-17108661/

http://www.military.com/video/logistics-and-supplies/military-equipment/new-hi-tech-adaptiv-camo-system/2450498175001

http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2011-01/active-camouflage-system-uses-e-ink-make-tanks-invisible-battlefield

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3072599/US-Army-developing-invisibility-suit-soldiers-say-begin-trials-just-18-months.html

rifle-camera2.) Rifle mounted, goggle integrated cameras: This isn’t exactly something new, but it isn’t routinely fielded today. I got the idea from playing Call of Duty and did some research. Like anything that might provide the modern day field operative or soldier an advantage, companies are putting consider time and money into development. Consider the benefit of being able to stick your rifle around a corner, see a target and shoot it.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2649051/The-app-lets-shoot-round-corners-Smart-rifle-uses-Google-glass-sight.html

https://defensesystems.com/articles/2016/10/31/wireless.aspx

face_recognition_fr_pic33.) Facial Recognition Software is widely, publicly and openly used by law enforcement and government agencies in 2035. A few states have declared it unconstitutional and prohibit the use of FRS technology. This isn’t new either, but as far as we know, proactive, wide scale use by the government hasn’t been implemented yet—OR HAS IT?  Here’s a quick paragraph from Rogue State describing the problem.

“Federal law enforcement agencies devoted significant funding to co-opting municipal and state FRS feeds, posing a significant detection risk. The Department of Homeland Security maintained a massive persons-of-interest FRS database, reportedly tracking the real-time movements of nearly a million people.”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2016/10/20/from-cellphone-tracking-to-facial-recognition-minority-report-is-here/#25840ce6742a

4.) Most of  Texas, the American Southwest and the western half of the lower breadbasket states have become the New Dust Bowl, an area ravaged by drought severe weather patterns. Massive dust storms and firestorms have driven most of the population, in the worst hit areas (Arizona, New Mexico and west Texas) away permanently.

mexi35.) Taking advantage of the population resettlement, drug cartels from Mexico have seized control of most of Arizona and New Mexico. The U.S.-Mexico border no longer exists as a barrier in those areas, and fierce battles rage between well equipped cartel soldiers and National Guard units in key border cities along the Texas border. It’s fair to say that the State Department has issued a travel advisory to Americans thinking about vacationing in Mexico. Much of Rogue State takes place a few miles south of the border or in these lawless U.S. areas.

6.) Social Media Network monitoring provides real time crime and terrorist information for law enforcement agencies and our government. Once again, this isn’t something I imagined. It’s happening today—I just took it to a new level in Rogue State.

http://www.thenewamerican.com/tech/computers/item/7248-fbi-pursues-social-media-surveillance-to-gather-intelligence

https://it.ojp.gov/documents/roleoffusioncentersincounteringviolentextremism_compliant.pdf

i-qyrtdrhisa7.) Mercenaries used by corporations to achieve their “goals.” You already got a good taste of this in Fractured State. CERBERUS is essentially a high-end mercenary outfit retained by corporations to safeguard their financial interests—or create new ones. In Rogue State, you’ll meet a slightly less refined group of mercenaries, comprised of former Russian Special Forces (GRU) operators. They specialize in murder and mayhem, which will unfold spectacularly and gruesomely.

https://informnapalm.org/en/russian-private-military-companies-as-licensed-tool-of-terror/

8.) New Characters: Sounds kind of boring, but trust me, you’ll like some of the new faces that appear in Rogue State. David Quinn’s father, Stuart Quinn plays a key role, along with David’s brother in-law, Blake. The Russian mercenary commander, Chukov, won’t fail to make an impression. He’s a piece of work, and was a pleasure to write. Nissie Keane, a hacker employed by CERBERUS will play an important role in Rogue State and future books (spoiler). Finally, readers will get to know Jose (Nathan and company’s mysterious savior from book one) very well, along with some of his most trusted California Liberation Movement operatives.

9.) Fracking: And not the kind from the rebooted Battlestar Galactica show. I won’t say much about this, because it would be a big spoiler for the rest of the series. Let’s just say that CERBERUS isn’t looking for oil in the California desert.

shutterstock_12301414310.) A Bigger Plot Unfolds: I’ll talk more about this in the fifth Behind The Scenes article, but it will become clear to Nathan Fisher and David Quinn that the California Liberation Movement is far more than what it seems to the public. They’ll face a tough decision when confronted with the full scope of Jose’s plan.

Click here to order ROGUE STATE TODAY for $4.99 and grab FRACTURED STATE for $1.99. 

Check out Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Five of Behind the Scenes of the Fractured State series!

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2016 YEAR IN REVIEW (Part Two): Thriller reads

(Click here for Part One-Post Apocalyptic and Dystopian novels)

If you’re read this in the other post, go ahead and skip this paragraph. Instead of the traditional “end of the year review” about what I’ve accomplished as a writer, I wanted to highlight something different this year. What I accomplished as a reader. 2016 was without a doubt my best year as an author from every angle, but it was also one of the best years I can remember as a reader.

2016 introduced me to new writers and firmly solidified my commitment to some of my previous favorites. Below you’ll find my 2016 THRILLER reading list, in no particular order. This is not an all encompassing list by any means. I’ll probably add to the list as the days go forward. It’s also worth mentioning that you should strongly consider checking out the backlists and earlier in series books for ALL of these authors. 

Poisonfeather by Matthew Fitzsimmons

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Dark Matter by Blake Crouch 

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Embrace the Fire by Stephen England

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The Last Girl by Joe Hart

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First to Kill by Andrew Peterson

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The God’s Eye View by Barry Eisler

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Pushing Brilliance by Tim Tigner

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Furious by T.R. Ragan

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Need to Find You by Joseph Souza

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Written in Fire by Marcus Sakey

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Once Was Lost by Matt Iden

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Captive in Chief by Murray McDonald

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Jihadi Apprentice by David Bruns and J.R. Olson

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The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins

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Rules for Revenge by Ian Graham

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Cold Blood by Alex Shaw

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2016 YEAR IN REVIEW (Part One): Post Apocalyptic and Dystopian reads

(Click here for Part Two-Thrillers if post-apocalyptic/dystopian isn’t your kind of story)

Instead of the traditional “end of the year review” about what I’ve accomplished as a writer, I wanted to highlight something different this year. What I accomplished as a reader. 2016 was without a doubt my best year as an author from every angle, but it was also one of the best years I can remember as a reader.

2016 brought some exciting new names to the POST APOCALYPTIC and DYSTOPIAN genres, in addition to plenty of releases from the “tried and true” PA authors of the past several years. Below you’ll find my 2016 reading list, in no particular order. Some of the books are first in a new series. Some are a 5th or 6th in a series. Each author is worth checking out in full! Many have written multiple series. I hope you get as much entertainment out of these as I did.

Survive and Escape by Lee West

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Trackers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

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Surrender the Sun by A.R Shaw

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Spaceman by Tom Abrahams

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Push Back by R.E. McDermott

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Blood Honor by Russell Blake

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Unexpected World by Chris Pike

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Devil Dog by Boyd Craven

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Canine Plague by Burt Walker

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Cry Havoc by Angery American

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Locker Nine by Franklin Horton

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Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

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Trial by Murray McDonald

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Razor’s Edge by G. Michael Hopf

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Gavin’s Woman 

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99 CENT CHARITY BOXSETS for the holidays!

UPDATE 12/14/16: The THRILLER THIRTEEN boxset raised close to $4,000 for the International Justice Mission. A HUGE THANK YOU to the thousands of readers that supported this cause, and grabbed a great compilation of stories. On top of that, the boxset hit the USA Today Bestseller List! See below:

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SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE HERE! Each boxset on sale for 99 CENTS! The best part? One of my stories is included in each set! Already read my books? No worries. You’ll find novels and novellas by some of the top authors out there.

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UPDATE 12/11/16: THIS BOXSET IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE FOR THE LIMITED TIME OFFER OF 99 CENTS. 

THRILLER THIRTEEN  features novellas and short stories by bestselling authors in thriller, mystery and crime. All proceeds go to the International Justice Mission, an organization dedicated to fighting human slavery and trafficking around the globe. You’ll find ORIGINS: A Black Flagged Short Story in this boxset, which takes readers back to Daniel Petrovich’s early years as a Black Flagged operative. It’s a gritty, brutal look at Daniel’s undercover mission to infiltrate a Serbian paramilitary group during Slobodan Milosevic’s reign of terror in Yugoslavia.

 

KILLS, CHILLS AND THRILLS features a “first in a series novel” from seven bestselling authors that spawned fan-fiction Kindle Worlds. Proceeds will go to Read Aloud America, an organization dedicated to promoting family literacy in the United States. I have contributed The Perseid Collapse to the boxset; a book that has spawned 35 fan-fiction stories set in that post-apocalyptic world. The fan-fiction worlds created by seven authors featured in the boxset have inspired more than 200 stories set in those worlds.

AN EARLY HOLIDAY GIFT! Sort of…

The long awaited fifth book in the Black Flagged series is now available for PREORDER. Ebook version only for the preorder. Hardcopy and audiobook versions will be available closer to the FEBRUARY 20, 2017 release date.

BOOK FIVE has been renamed OMEGA (Reprisals and Vortex are gone), to symbolize the events and circumstances that will unfold in the story. Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet, and Alpha is the first. It is no coincidence that the series starts with Alpha and ends with Omega. Beginning and end. And that doesn’t mean the series ends with OMEGA. It means things as series readers know it will change significantly…you’ll see what I mean. GRAB A COPY OF OMEGA TODAY!

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OMEGA: A Black Flagged Thriller (Book 5)

“A joint U.S.- Russian Special Forces raid against a hidden laboratory yields an alarming discovery. Anatoly Reznikov, the deranged bioweapons scientist stolen from U.S. custody a few years earlier, vanished minutes before the attack—taking his deadly work with him.

In the United States, Beltway power brokers grapple with True America’s surprise presidential win, finding the new administration to be anything but easy to work with. Karl Berg, demoted within the CIA due to the sudden shift in agency leadership, seeks to stay out of trouble, and retire quietly—a task he finds impossible when news of Reznikov’s near-capture unofficially reaches his desk.

Oblivious to the growing threats domestic and abroad, Daniel and Jessica Petrovich finalize their plan to abandon the “Black Flag” business for good. An unforeseen, last minute personal trip to the United States drags them into an unfolding plot, based in the rotten heart of Washington D.C.

A plot connected to everyone and everything the Petrovich’s have touched. A diabolical conspiracy nobody saw coming—AND ONLY ONE GROUP CAN STOP.”

POST ELECTION DAY MADNESS SALE

Update: Due to a small mistake, the deal for The Perseid Collapse books will commence in the UK on Nov 11. I can’t offer the discount on The Jakarta Pandemic in the UK at this time.

Because a relaxing book about SOCIETAL COLLAPSE is just what the doctor ordered after this election. I don’t know about you, but I’m SO GLAD it’s over. 

ALL OF MY POST-APOCALYPTIC BOOKS ARE DEEPLY DISCOUNTED FOR A LIMITED TIME. 

—You can grab THE JAKARTA PANDEMIC  for FREE if you’re a member of Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited, if not, it’s half price at $2.99. CLICK HERE FOR THE JAKARTA PANDEMIC

1390 Steve Konkoly ebook THE JAKARTA PANDEMIC_symbol_2015

 

 

 

 

 

THE PERSEID COLLAPSE books are $1.99 or less—EACH. OR, you can grab the entire series for less than $7. CHECK OUT THE PERSEID COLLAPSE BOOKS

Book One

Book Two

Book Three

Book Four

 

IT’S FINALLY HERE!

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After more than a year since my last novel sized release…

I finally have something to prove that I haven’t been on a 14 month sabbatical from writing! 

FRACTURED STATE is now available for purchase as an ebook, audiobook or hardcopy.

FOLLOW THIS LINK TO GRAB A COPY AT AMAZON.COM (U.S)

FOLLOW THIS UNIVERSAL LINK if you’re outside the U.S.

I know you’re going to love Fractured State, and the rest of the books to come. The series promises to be incredible. I just delivered the second book to my publisher, Thomas and Mercer, and they’re busy tearing it apart—in a good way.

Check out Thomas and Mercer’s series description for a taste of the entire series. This paragraph absolutely captures the essence of what I set out to accomplish…almost like mind reading!

“Steven Konkoly’s Fractured State series charts a nightmarish near-future vision of America, ravaged by environmental devastation and teetering on the brink of political collapse. When average family man Nathan Fisher unwittingly learns of a terrifying conspiracy at the highest levels of power, he and his family must run for their lives, pursued by ruthless killers and aided by a resourceful Marine with a mysterious agenda of his own. Unrelenting suspense; rich, relatable characters; and a vividly imagined, all-too-believable future world of high technology and low-down violence: welcome to Fractured State.”

Thank you for checking out the series. Don’t forget to check out some of my earlier “behind the scenes” of Fractured State posts!

BEHIND THE SCENES of Fractured State

The Perseid Collapse World

HUNDREDS OF YEARS IN THE FUTURE!

When author Richard Stiller reached out to me earlier in the year to discuss his possible participation in the Perseid Collapse Kindle World, I was instantly intrigued. Unlike the rest of the Kindle Worlds canon, Richard proposed setting the books hundreds of years in the future, long after the collapse. The link between the Perseid Collapse story set today and Stiller’s imagined future was Aaron Fletcher, a direct descendent of Alex Fletcher from my original series. The more I learned about Richard Stiller’s imagined world, the more excited I became about the Perseid Oracle series. What I read blew me away. Richard has created an epic story, extending the Fletcher legacy far into a dystopian future. I encourage you to take a look at what he has created.

518L7-84A5L._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_Perseid Oracle: Book of Aaron

A hundred years have passed since the Perseid Collapse. Aaron, a direct descendent of Alex Fletcher embarks on a journey across a post apocalyptic North American Continent in a last ditch attempt to stop the pandemic that is killing off mankind. The answer lies with a solitary oracle named Sybil who is located in the mountains of the continental divide. First Aaron must navigate a world where civilization has slipped backwards. Where the strongest rule and the enemies of man are in ascendance.

GRAB BOOK of AARON HERE!

51nGL8SnPDL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_Perseid Oracle: Book of Sybil

This is the second book in the Perseid Oracle series. It is a century since the Perseid Collapse. Aaron Fletcher travels westward to find Sybil, the oracle that holds the answer to the virus that is slowly, but surely killing off mankind. The world that we know has been ripped apart. Mankind and civilization have slipped backwards. Aaron must navigate what was once known as the USA, but is now a series of ruined cities, fortified towns and open country where the strongest rule. In the west a new nation has arisen. In a remote mountain cavern Sybil awaits the coming of those who would seek her help while destroying those who would annihilate her.

GET BOOK 2 in The Perseid Oracle series!

Book 3 is due in late 2016: Perseid Oracle: Book of Daniel

Aaron Walker reaches The Red Mountain and encounters The Oracle. He sees the bleak future of mankind and realizes that he holds the fate of the human race in his hands.

Behind the Scenes of the Fractured State Series: Part Three—THE FULL SERIES MAP

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THE SOUTHWEST UNITED STATES HAS RADICALLY CHANGED BY 2035

THE FRACTURED STATE series sweeps you through this vast, twisted landscape with reluctant hero, Nathan Fisher, as he fights against all odds to keep his family alive.

Click on the map to enlarge and explore.

ORDER Fractured State today!

Also, check out Behind the Scenes PART ONE , PART TWO, PART FOUR and PART FIVE.

Fractured State Map3

Behind the Scenes of THE FRACTURED STATE SERIES: PART 2

Fractured State coverBuilding the greater world surrounding THE FRACTURED STATE SERIES was a serious blast, but inventing the details of a near-future world was the proverbial “icing on the cake.” This is the kind of stuff I live for as a writer, and Fractured State was a fertile playground for these details. That said, it wasn’t easy.

Set 20 years in the future, I found myself walking a thin line between advancing technology far enough to create a “wow factor” and keeping it familiar enough to the reader. The last thing I wanted to do was create a new vocabulary for readers.

Here’s a fantastic example of that struggle, with a slightly disappointing ending. What do you call a cell phone/smart phone 20 years from now? The answer isn’t simple, or is it? I got a crazy idea during the developmental edit, based on a suggestion from my developmental editor (I blame David!), to replace every instance of smartphone with the term LINK. We’d discussed the technology upgrades evident in the manuscript and agreed that the device served as more of a communications link, but we couldn’t call it a COMLINK. That term had been coined by the Star Wars franchise years ago, and it didn’t sound right, anyway.

But what about LINK? That’s simple, catchy…hey, 20 years from now, people might be looking back at Fractured State and saying, Steven Konkoly used the term first, now everyone calls their phone a LINK. Communications companies will be paying me billions to license the term…it sounded fantastic, until it didn’t. Actually, it was my editor at Thomas and Mercer that essentially said something to the effect of, “I don’t know. It’s cool and all, but forcing readers to use the word LINK instead of phone throughout the story might get a little annoying.” Too kitschy, so I dropped LINK and went back to phone or satphone. Lesson learned. The device had more bells and whistles, but it essentially did the same thing it does today…let’s you talk to people. Why complicate matters?

But one creative disappointment can’t ruin the creative process for me. NOT EVEN CLOSE. That was ONE device out of hundreds used in the novel, and I had a ton of fun with the rest. Too much fun, probably.

mq-9-reaper_001-ts600If you’ve read any of my books, you probably can guess that I like weapons. From knives to attack helicopters, I don’t shy away from the details, and I like my characters to make the best use of the weaponry available to them. Fractured State gave me the unique opportunity to take systems currently in development, and imagine them in widespread use 20 years from now. Every firearm is more compact and versatile, ammunition is far more lethal, heavy duty weapons systems normally employed by armies are now available to mercenary groups, and the effectiveness of personal protective equipment has increased to counter this new lethality. Take a look at the following links, along with a brief explanation of how I chose to employ that technology in Fractured State.

Guided sniper munitions – Used by assassins in a coordinated attack against a politician at his reinforced mansion. The effect is rather gruesome, as you can imagine.

ge5mcdjxhbxj9sfxla38Color night vision technology – I call it synthetic daylight…heard it here first! This actually presented a bit of a challenge, since describing what the characters see through these goggles is no different than what they’d see in the daylight. At times, my developmental editor couldn’t remember if it was night or day. To remedy this, I added some additional features to the goggle’s display, which measured light intensity and could tell the wearer how dark it was outside.

Liquid gel body armor – This has so much promise for the future in my opinion. Form fitting and reactive, liquid gel body armor can potentially stop any type of munition, evenly spreading the brunt force of the impact to reduce internal injuries commonly seen with solid plate armor.

Dragonskin armor – Recently rejected by the U.S. Army, I see a future for this type of armor. Lighter, shape conforming and effective against armor piercing ammunition…I could see this as standard issue.

Rifle launched missiles – I don’t actually use these in the books, but damn if this isn’t cool.

xm25Smart grenade launchers – I take this one step further, and apply the same range finding automation to an automatic grenade launcher system. The effects are spectacularly devastating…and messy of course.

Hand launched surveillance drones – Nothing new about the Raven, except the newer versions can fly longer and transmit more data. Putting two of these in the air, one of the teams in the book finds a “needle in a haystack.”

See through wall radar and imaging devices – Can you imagine looking at a 3-Dimensional schematic of a building and seeing a live image of everyone inside? It’s not really possible today, but in 2035…

Bullet resistant glass (nothing new, but this video is COOL) – I find some creative uses for glass like this in the series…in ways you might not expect.

Missile firing drones – Over U.S. airspace? You bet, especially when operated by Cerberus International…and to make matters worse, the drones are mostly undetectable.

Active or adaptive camouflage – Can you turn a vehicle invisible? With enough money and 20 years of research and development. Why not?

Converting seawater to energy – This method is energy intensive, but when co-located with a nuclear power plant?

Desalination plants – Reality today, and critical to survival in a drought parched future.

This is a very short list of some of the types of technology upgrades found in Fractured State, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Everything is slightly reimagined in this series, from sinks that recycle water for rinsing to mandatory  GPS tracking systems installed on every vehicle to measure fuel efficiency and restrict movement. Life has changed…it’s up to the reader to decide if the change is for better or worse.

PREORDER FRACTURED STATE

READ Behind the Scenes Part One, Part Three, Part Four and Part Five

Behind the Scenes of THE FRACTURED STATE SERIES: PART ONE

Fractured State coverWith the release of FRACTURED STATE less than a month away, I thought I’d give readers and fans a look behind the scenes at the creation of the near future, dystopian world supporting the story. As most of you know, I spend a considerable amount of time envisioning and creating the worlds behind my fiction. The process is time consuming, and if left unchecked, can take on a life of its own. I know this from experience. When I started to create the world for my first novel, The Jakarta Pandemic, I reached a point, long into the early stages of development, where I asked myself: “When are you going to actually start writing the story?” I didn’t have an answer, which in itself was my answer. It was time to quit researching the world, describing characters on notepads, creating maps, developing timelines—AND TIME TO GET DOWN TO BUSINESS. I had spent months world building, when I could and should have been writing.

With that lesson SORT OF learned—a few times, I’ve developed a rough world-building process that gets me started and keeps me on the right track.

IMG_13421.) Creating a world to support a series requires me to create a ALTERNATE HISTORY, or in the case of Fractured State, a FUTURE set 20 years from today. Either way, I start out with a TIMELINE OF EVENTS. This is outside of the story plot. For the Fractured State series, I started in 2016 and envisioned the world, national, state and personal-level events that would land the reader on page one. As you can see, this sheet has endured coffee and beer stains, many on-the-fly changes and an accidental “throw away” since I created it in early 2015. It rarely leaves my side while I’m writing.

2.) For the kind of deep background and expansive geographical reach involved in writing a series like Fractured State, I find the use of MAPS to be invaluable. I create them throughout the entire process, starting with big picture world building maps down to individual scene orientation maps. Every complex, action oriented scene likely originated with a sketch.

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First map created

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Map of California’s present and future energy sites

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Motel scene in Rogue State (Book 2)…little spoiler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.) Whether based in the past, present or future, I also create lists and descriptions of the organizations involved in the story. Past and present is easy…a few clicks on Google and you have a nice organizational chart of the CIA. Future requires a little more work. In Fractured State, I envisioned San Diego County as an entity that effectively absorbed every municipality throughout the current county, providing town administration, resource management, leadership and police functions for the entire geography. San Diego County Police Department (SDCPD) officers patrol the streets of Chula Vista, CA, south of San Diego, just he same as the streets of Carlsbad, CA—40 miles away.

In Fractured State, Nathan Fisher, the story’s main character, works as a water reclamation engineer at the San Diego Water Reclamation Authority, an entity that does not exist today. Since water reclamation is a critical part of Californian’s lives in my story, I gave it an organization separate, but subordinate to the existing Water Authority. Of course, in the resource stressed world of Fractured State, both authorities serve under the San Diego County Resource Authority. Yeah, I have fun with this stuff. Sorry to put you to sleep!

4.) Throughout the creation of the TIMELINE, MAPS and boring ORGANIZATIONS, I’m constantly researching topics related to the big picture to generate new ideas, validate previously envisioned plot points or expand the story.

lake meadFor Fractured State, I spent a lot of time studying WATER sources in California, the rest of the southwest and the Great Plains. While the events in my story are purely fictional, the historic, ongoing drought in California and the U.S. Southwest is REAL. Frighteningly real. California’s current drought started me on the path to writing this series. The more I researched, the more I knew I had the background for an incredible story. What if the drought continued for another 20 years like many climatologists agree is possible? AND what if the effects of the drought were intensified by corrupt group of greedy industrialists and enforced by a ruthless mercenary army on their payroll? Secession? Mayhem? All of the above.

Check out some of the original bookmarked links that I used to get a feel for the drought issues facing California and the nation. It’s scary stuff. All of it. I just listed them as LINK. Click on any or all to give yourself a fright.

LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK.

ORDER FRACTURED STATE TODAY!

READ BEHIND THE SCENES PART 2, PART 3, PART 4 and PART 5

Introducing FRACTURED STATE

Fractured State coverI’m so excited to get this book into your hands, I barely know where to start. Seriously, I’ve been staring at the same few sentences for the past ten minutes. I’ll make this easy on both of us, and start with an emotionally charged statement.

Fans of my previous novels will absolutely love this book! I know that’s a bold claim, but I really believe it. Fractured State brings the best of the Black Flagged and Perseid Collapse books to life in a fast paced, stylish thriller series. At its very core, Fractured State is a story about an innocent family—inadvertently dragged into the middle of a lethal struggle to determine California’s fate.

I’m going to vastly over simplify the story here, but picture Alex Fletcher and his family ruthlessly pursued through a near future, dystopian southern California, by a Black Flagged-like group with unlimited resources and an unquenchable thirst for murder. Unlike Alex, the new main character, Nathan Fisher, doesn’t have the hard skills required to keep his family alive against professional killers. He’s crafty—the son of a retired Marine Sergeant Major—but he’s in way over his head in Fractured State. Nathan gets help from an unlikely source—a Marine officer thrust into the situation by chance. Together, they fight to stay one step ahead of the shadowy group’s relentless efforts to silence the Fishers. You’re going to love these characters just as much as the story.

PREORDER FRACTURED STATE NOW! (That’s just a suggestion)

For those of you thinking — “Wow, Steve couldn’t describe one of his books to save his own life!” Here is the official description for Fractured State.

“In 2035, the southwestern United States is ravaged by drought, reeling from an environmental catastrophe that has left the landscape a chaotic, depleted ruin. California, still viably inhabitable due to its oppressive social controls, marshals state-of-the-art surveillance technology and totalitarian policies to preserve its fragile hold on rapidly dwindling resources and an increasingly unsettled population.

After a prominent California congresswoman is assassinated for her support of the state’s secession from the United States, Nathan Fisher—accidental witness to a clandestine military-style operation—is drawn into an unraveling conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of power and threatens the lives of Fisher and his family.

Hunted by ruthless killers seeking to ensure his silence, suspected by the authorities, and aided only by a loyal Marine officer with a mysterious agenda, Fisher and his loved ones must somehow stay a step ahead of their relentless pursuers, navigating a ruined world in a desperate search for sanctuary.”

PREORDER TODAY!

Book Cover Evolution

If you follow me on Facebook, or occasionally check for my latest release on Amazon, you’ve probably noticed that my books look different from time to time. If you stalk my books (I don’t mind that at all!), you might wonder if I’m addicted to changing book covers.

Since publishing The Jakarta Pandemic over five years ago, I’ve changed the covers for every book published at least twice. The older the book, the more change they’ve seen. While it is absolutely true that I LOVE NEW BOOK COVERS, I can assure you a lot more thought goes into the changes than satisfying a potentially expensive addiction. Instead of a didactic explanation of the general  process, I’ll walk you through the thought process for the books that have seen the most change.
0440 Steven Konkoly ecover Black FlaggedThe Black Flagged books have undergone the most dramatic changes over the years. When I first published Black Flagged, I hadn’t decided if the characters and plot would continue in a series. Frankly, I had no idea if the books would sell! With that in mind, Jeroen ten Berge created a standalone cover, which remains my favorite to this day. There’s something about this cover that draws me back, over and over again.

Despite my love affair with the original cover, we decided to change it when I committed to a three book series. Jeroen suggested a uniquely branded look across the books, resulting in the covers that adorned the series for the longest stretch of time to date. The continuity of the covers, forming a flag, is a brilliant touch. Unfortunately, I hadn’t anticipated the forth book (Black Flagged Vektor), so we couldn’t fit it into this particular cover stretch.

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Instead, Jeroen created a new look for Book 4. It has the same feel, but draws VEKTOR out with an eerie green color. These covers represented the series nearly 2 years.

Black Flagged Vektor

 

 

 

 

 

The next set of changes resulted from a simple need to shake up the series. It was time. Repackaging the books breathed a new life into the series, as new readers discovered a series they may have passed up before. The books took on a new life with a more technothriller oriented look

1142 Steven Konkoly ebook Black Flagged_21142 Steven Konkoly ebook Black Flagged_REDUX_21144 Steven Konkoly ebook Black Flagged_APEX_51149 Steven Konkoly ebook Black Flagged_VEKTOR_2

 

 

 

 

 

Flash forward a year! I learned some interesting lessons participating in a few Amazon sponsored advertisement programs. Amazon does not like to mass advertise books with guns on the covers, so why cut myself out of that opportunity? We changed things up a bit. The new covers also coincided with a purposeful rebranding of the series to shift the title of the first book from Black Flagged to Black Flagged Alpha, and we added some iconic genre related images.

1277 Steven Konkoly ebook Black Flagged_ALPHA1395 Steven Konkoly ebook Black Flagged_REDUX_20151401 Steven Konkoly ebook Black Flagged_APEX_20151396 Steven Konkoly ebook Black Flagged_VEKTOR_2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS

WRITE MORE

2015 was kind of a slow writing year for me. I have a deadline to meet at the end of February, and more books to write after that. The more I write, the more you get to read. I plan to accomplish this by…

SURFING THE INTERNET LESS

Sorry, but this is a polite way of saying “spend less time on social media.” I’m not going away, but every word I type on Facebook is one word taken away from my work in progress. Added up (and it ADDS UP!), this forces me to work longer days to meet deadlines, and ultimately takes time away from…

SPENDING MORE TIME WITH FAMILY

There’s no reason for me to be writing during family time on weekends. A few hours in the morning by choice is still fine. I like to write every day, even if just for an  hour or two, and I can do that in the early morning hours when most of the house is asleep. But spending most of the weekend days writing to meet an easily achievable deadline is not healthy or fair to the most important parts of my life. Same goes for weekday evenings. Cutting out social media related event time is one way to help with this, the other is…

DEVELOP A BETTER SCHEDULE

The cross country move threw what I considered a tight schedule WAY off track. In military terms, it did not survive first contact with the enemy. No more of that. The first thing I’m going to do every morning is stretch out with the 5 Tibetans (Hugh Howey introduced me to these—check out the video), fix a coffee, and spend an hour walking and WRITING on THIS CONTRAPTION! I’ll be up early enough to do all of this and hang out with the kids before they head to school. Then it’s off to the gym or out for a run. I plan to spend to be at my other desk by 9AM. I’ll probably see the treadmill again before the end of the day whistle blows between 4-5PM. If I hit 3K words before 4-5PM, I’M DONE.

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EXERCISE MORE

My new routine will ensure that I exercise more. The concept of regular exercise took a vacation in 2015. My goal for the year is to be in as good or better shape than Alex Fletcher from my Perseid Collapse Series. That may sound kind of strange, but I have a reason for this goal. I write a lot of post-apocalyptic, prepper-related fiction where characters are constantly fighting for their lives. It’s over the top stuff for sure, but it really drives home an important point. What’s the point of readiness and prepping, even for a minor emergency, if you’re too out of shape to execute your plan?

Fat militia

I chose Alex Fletcher, because he wasn’t a physical super star. He could run 4-5 miles at a decent pace, carry a pack on an extended hike, swim several hundred yards against a mild current and sprint around shooting at the bad guys for a few minutes without vomiting. That’s all I’m looking for. And I wouldn’t mind NOT looking like a tub of $#@! in vacation photos. The lens doesn’t lie! While more exercise will  help, shedding the FAT weight equivalent to a rucksack helps even more. For that, I plan to…

EAT HEALTHIER AND EAT LESS

 

More on this later. The food plan doesn’t start until January 5….and I have BEER waiting in the fridge. 

WHAT ARE YOUR RESOLUTIONS FOR 2016?

 

STEADY ON THE HELM, EYES ON THE HORIZON

Note: I talk numbers later in this post, lots of numbers, so bear with the more didactic start to my year end post.

I DON’T DO PREDICTIONS

2016There’s nothing wrong with predictions, I just think other authors tackle the subject better. Why reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Take a moment to read Russell Blake’s End of an Era and Joe Konrath’s New Years Resolution for Writers. Each author takes a different approach, but you’ll notice a common theme at the core of each post. Indie authors need to write, AND WRITE A LOT, to be successful. Not exactly rocket science, but it’s worth repeating. I’m going to make a small tweak to that message, which I think is critical to success.

WRITE WHAT YOU ENJOY WRITING—A LOT. Once again, no atoms have been split so far, but this is an important distinction, and part of the overall theme of this post. You can probably guess why.

Ship in wavesThe past two to three years has been tumultuous for both the indie and traditional publishing industry. Authors have seen ups and downs, like waves, and panic has ensued when they starts the downward journey into the trough. Of course, the waves come in different sizes for each author, and in some cases, the ride down is indeed scary—just like the ride up a massive wave of sales can be exhilarating. Kristine Kathryn Rusch does a far better job describing the wave metaphor in one her most memorable 2015 posts—The Hard Part. 

HERE’S THE THING. Storms always pass, leaving mostly calm seas.

You need to build a career strong and stable enough to weather these storms (real and perceived)—so you’re still around when the winds die down and the clouds part. 

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What’s worked for me? You’ll be glad you didn’t pay for this. Ready? In keeping with the nautical theme:

KEEP A STEADY HAND ON THE HELM—WRITE WHAT YOU WANT TO WRITE

KEEP AN EYE ON THE HORIZON—PLAN FOR THE LONG HAUL

ADVERTISE SMARTLY AND FREQUENTLY—I know, that’s not a nautical term. 

Feel let down? You’re not alone. I felt the same way when I dug into what has brought me the most success over the past five years. No tricks or gimmicks. This is it! And this is why I don’t do predictions. I don’t care what’s predicted for the next six month or year. Predictions have never changed the CORE of my approach. They’re little more than distractions. That’s not to say I ignore trends or pass on sudden opportunities. I just make sure they fit into one of the CORE tenets of my approach.

And I’m not claiming this was my master strategy all along. Far from it. It somehow naturally developed, likely while I was juggling a day job and publishing two to three books a year. I didn’t have time for distractions. I spent 95% of my available time WRITING and the rest developing long-term GOALS. Many of those goals seemed unattainable and SO far away at the time. Like a dream—but I saw the importance of pursuing them, regardless, in order to build a CAREER that could smash through waves. READ MY 2014 POST ON DIVERSIFICATION to learn more about these strategies.

I still have a long way to go, but based on 2015 numbers, I feel good about my  strategy. 

WHAT HAVE I DONE IN 2015? 

I released a grand total of one 75K word book and one 25K word novella (in Russell Blake’s Kindle World). Not exactly my most prolific publishing year. I typically release about three times this amount.

I wrote and delivered Fractured State (105K words) to Thomas and Mercer. Being the first book in a new series, I spent a considerable amount of time building the Fractured State world before writing in it. A sacrifice I was willing to make in order to realize the long term goal of publishing with Thomas and Mercer. More on that later.

I launched The Perseid Collapse Series Kindle World, which took an extraordinary amount of time and energy to coordinate. WELL WORTH THE EFFORT on many fronts. The world has attracted top notch authors across several genres. I couldn’t be happier or more humbled to be a part of it. Thank you to every author involved, and to Sean F. at Kindle Worlds for believing in The Perseid Collapse. To date, 25 novellas wait to be read by fans of post-apocalyptic and thriller fictionwith more on the way. 

I moved from Maine to Indiana. Don’t ask. Needless to say, this was the BIGGEST, unavoidable distraction of the year, and likely cost me the writing and release of a book. From March through the end of June, it was a non-stop event.

At this point, you’re probably thinking that I had a mediocre sales year. We all know the formula for success, right? Publish, publish, and publish again! While there’s certainly truth to this. I’m going to show you some surprising numbers, based on a very modest publishing year by my standards.

Underachiever

THE NUMBERS

-Overall income is UP 61.5% over 2014. Remember, 2014 was UP 57% over 2013. NOT A BAD YEAR AT ALL, considering my modest production schedule.

Ebook sales are up 20% (units sold increased by 25%), not including  Kindle Worlds or Kindle Unlimited numbers.

Paper is down by 25%, but this has never been a significant income area.

Audio unit numbers are down 6.5%, but sales are up 37%. Head scratcher, but deeper analysis shows that the royalty escalator clause (no longer offered) kicked in big time this year for The Perseid Collapse books, and I’m getting paid more per audiobook. I can’t stress the importance of audiobooks to building a strong career. Audiobooks account for 15% of my total business, and they seem less susceptible to some of the sales cycle storms that occasionally strike. Do some research here. It’s not a guarantee of quick income, but it is a viable long term strategy. It has paid off handsomely for me in both genres, more so in the post-apocalyptic books. Invest in audiobooks—NOW!

Kindle Unlimited. You’re either going to love this part or hate it. For me, it’s a love story. Let’s start at the beginning. All of my titles are in Kindle Select, but it hasn’t always been this way. My Black Flagged Series had spent nearly two years out of select, gaining LITTLE traction in the wider world of ebooks. When I finished the series in 2013 (4 books over two years), I took the series wide after enjoying enough success with the books to quit my day job (the books sold well to say the least). Good thing I had a hot post-apocalyptic series in the works, because going WIDE didn’t work. Not even BookBub could not ignite a steady income stream outside of Amazon. It took me until June of 2015, right before the advent of KU 2.0, to throw it all back into Kindle Select. Good timing. KU 2.0 boosted income across all of my book.

Units borrowed increased 132% over 2014. Close to 25K units total. After July, I divided pages read by the KENPC calculation for each novel to arrive at unit numbers since the program was now measured by pages read. For 2015, sales through KU increased by 158%, and much of that came from the second half of the year under KU 2.0. The Black Flagged franchise was a big part of that.

Kindle Worlds. It’s hard to compare this from year to year, since 2014 was my first year publishing on Amazon’s fan fanfiction platform. Here are the raw numbers. Between three novellas and an omnibus, I’ve sold close to 9,000 units in Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines Kindle World. I had a big surge in  sales when Wayward Pines hit Fox Network as a mini-series. That was the business side of why I wrote the novellas in 2014. I mostly wrote them because I loved the series and can’t get enough of Blake’s work. That said, a little looking ahead made it a no brainer decision to take time away from The Perseid Collapse series to indulge in Wayward Pines. I also used some time in 2015 to write a novella for Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World, adding another 1,500 units to the Kindle Worlds mix.

ADVANCES made up 10% of my income in 2015. I can’t get into specifics, but 2015 was the first year I was ever paid an advance. I like the concept, and hope to that percentage increase.

Foreign Translation of The Jakarta Pandemic? Let’s just say that German readers weren’t ready for an intense pandemic survival story based around an all-American in New England. Who could have guessed? I was pushing for the translation of my international espionage thriller series. I made money, but thankfully did not invest any of my own capital.

HOW DID I DO THIS?

I aggressively advertised multiple books in both series. This is listed first, because it had the biggest impact—and it’s a bit complicated to pile onto this post (another will follow). In a nutshell, it’s no secret that BOOKBUB is a powerful advertising and book marketing tool…depending upon how you use it. I use it to generate buy through for an entire series and expand readership. A short and long term goal. I don’t mind giving away free books to meet that end.

I experimented with Facebook ads. I’m not going to lie to you. I haven’t seen uber success selling books directly through Facebook, though like any hardcore gambler, I’m convinced my luck is about to take a turn for the better with the next ad.  Always experimenting. With that said, I have seen considerable success growing my mailing list with targeted Facebook ads.

I grew my mailing list from around 1,000 to 9,000 (not all through Facebook!). They bought a lot of books, full price and at special discounts. My goal for early 2016 is to better engage this list and turn it into a powerful marketing and promotional tool to launch books. Sounds all business-like. Let me rephrase this. I want everyone on the list to look forward to my updates and special offers, especially the ones announcing a book launch.

I resisted the temptation to write another purely post-apocalyptic series, and instead, created the story I’ve been dying to write. Fractured State. No genre is a sure thing, but post-apocalyptic books sell. I know from experience, which is why this was a hard decision to make. I had my reasons. I made some contacts at Thomas and Mercer in 2014, with the hopes that they sign me in 2015. I’ve had my eye on this goal since 2013, when I became a full time writer, knowing that they don’t publish post-apocalyptic novels. By the time my talks with the editorial staff at Thomas and Mercer blossomed, I was in a position to present a full series synopsis and 10K words of the first novel in the series. Fractured State will be published by Thomas and Mercer, in May 2016, followed the second book in January 2017. I have no doubt this decision will make 2016 my most successful year ever.

I diversified in 2014. Every time one of my book titles rose in Amazon rank during a promotion, buyers, borrowers and audiobook listeners alike were drawn to the commotion—and all of my books. Sales across all platforms increased, contributing heavily to the bottom line.

I had a little help from my friends. I certainly didn’t do this alone. I can’t stress enough the importance of community for writers. We all sit behind desks most of the day, by ourselves, and there is only so much you can do to get the word out about your books. I love helping other authors, and find that I’m not alone in that feeling. THANK YOU to everyone that helped. This includes writers and READERS!

Those readers keep buying my books! And to that, I am eternally grateful.

SHALL I END HERE? WHAT ELSE CAN I SAY?

2016?

-I shall write the books I want to write. As many as I can. It’s worked for me so far.

-I shall advertise aggressively.

-I shall stay in Kindle Select, even if the seas look rough.

-I will continue to look as far ahead as possible and steadily build the sturdiest ship for those waters.

-Hopefully go on a nice vacation.  

I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST IN 2016!

What are your plans for the NEW YEAR?

 

 

 

 

 

Diversification in the new Indie landscape

2015Without borrowing too many of the themes expertly highlighted by my esteemed colleague, Russell Blake, in his recent flurry of end of the year, must-read posts (The New Landscape and 2015 Predictions), I want to take a few moments to explore a critical strategy for navigating the new Indie publishing landscape. Diversification.

There’s little doubt that the e-book landscape has changed. From the weakening impact of popular promotional services (if you can even get selected for one of the major services) to a softening of the traditional Indie pricing advantage, most Indies (big and small) have reported a decline in e-book sales and revenue. The launch of Kindle Unlimited remains a key suspect in 2nd half 2014 declines, ironically affecting authors that had taken steps to shield their book portfolios from Amazon by taking their books out of Kindle Select. This is the kind of irony that leaves nobody laughing.

For ebooks, 2014 yielded a seismic shift in the Indie landscape, with after shocks that will be felt long into 2015. 

What can an Indie author do to prepare for 2015? As I sit down to create my 2015 business goals, I look back at 2014, and wonder how I can replicate the year’s sales numbers? Financially, 2014 represented my best year as a writer, and it had little to do with ebooks. That’s not exactly true. It had less to do with ebooks, and more to do with treating the novels as fully exploitable property. It also had to do with seeking completely different opportunities, some of which represented a bit of a risk. 

Before I talk strategies, here’s a brief recap of the basic numbers, which you might find surprising. I certainly did:

Ebook unit sales were down 28.7% in 2014, over 2013—With the addition of 4 relatively successful titles!

Income across all sources was up 51% in 2014 from 2013.

This may have you squinting, because it came as a surprise to me. I knew e-book sales were down, but I hadn’t assembled the full financial picture. This is clearly a business performance I would like to repeat. What did I do differently in 2014, and how will I proceed in 2015?

– I raised the prices of all of my titles, and saw an immediate impact on revenue without a drop in units. I had always hovered in the $3.99 range, with $4.99 the going price for a new release. I bumped that up a dollar in each category. Nothing earth shattering, but it made a difference. I don’t know if these prices will be sustainable in 2015, with the advent of subscription reader services and lower priced “big name” offerings. See Russell Blake’s New Landscape post for an in-depth look. I’ll be watching this aspect closely.

– I started a real mailing list. Prior to going full-time as a writer in the fall of 2013, I handled this task miserably, collecting emails myself. I had “calls to action” at the end of my novels, but they were about as compelling as a cold hamburger. I signed up for MailChimp  and tripled my mailing list using basic strategies found in various Indie help guides. This allowed me to sell a lot of books surrounding each new release, at a good price. When you see over a thousand people on your mailing list click your pre-order link, that’s a good feeling. I sorely wish I had taken this more seriously from the beginning. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve sign-ups. In 2015, I will be giving away free books for readers that sign up.

– Switched Genres. Actually, I went back to my original genre—post apocalyptic. My first novel, The Jakarta Pandemic, launched my early writing career. I wrote four books after Jakarta, all in the covert operations thriller genre. The books fared extremely well from 2012-2013, allowing me to quit my day job, but 2013 marked the beginning of huge resurgence in post-apocalyptic books, particularly prepper-themed books like The Jakarta Pandemic. I started writing The Perseid Collapse Series in late 2013, publishing 3 books in the series in 2014. Trust me when I say, GENRE MATTERS. As a small example, my paper sales are up 210%—all in the post-apocalyptic realm—and the numbers represent 6% of my overall sales. As you can probably guess, I will not stray far from the post-apocalyptic genre in 2015.

– Audiobooks saved 2014. I sold more than 9,000 audiobooks in 2014, most of them in the post-apocalyptic genre, and most of them through pay-per-production deals through ACX. I can’t understate the importance of analyzing your genre and seeing if audiobooks are profitable. My thriller audiobooks (Black Flagged Series) are on a 14 month investment recuperation schedule. I can live with that. My goal is to create viable, long-term income streams. However, my post-apocalyptic (PA) audiobooks earn out within a month, sometimes less than that. Another strong argument for sticking with the post-apocalyptic genre. I won’t hesitate to produce all of my books in 2015.

– Loans through KU/KOLL up 107% over 2013. Not just from Kindle Unlimited. Loans early in the year were strong, though the total numbers were clearly bumped by KU. To date this year, I’ve seen more than 10,000 loans, 60% under KU. Kindle Select has been a benefit for 2014, however, I’m constantly analyzing the landscape, and here’s what I’ve seen and done.

Loans for my Black Flagged series have always lagged behind my PA work, and after a brief Kindle Unlimited boost, they dropped significantly with overall e-book sales in October. My PA work held steady. That gave me enough of a push to take the series out of Select and widen distribution. I’ve heard nothing but good things about iBooks and Kobo, and these rumors proved true. The numbers haven’t reached the break-even point compared to Select, but the trends are positive, and I don’t think this will be a decision I regret. With that said, my post-apocalyptic books will stay in Select for now.

– Kindle Worlds. This has been the biggest surprise of the year in many ways. I started out writing one novella for Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines world. Blake reached out to me in February 2104, asking if I’d be interested in writing in his world—how do you refuse one of your favorite authors? You don’t, especially if you love the Wayward series as much as I do, and found yourself in between projects. I took two weeks to write a 23K world novella, discovering a story arc for a three novella series. I wrote the next two installments in August, once again taking a break between novels. In October, I was contacted by Kindle Worlds and asked to combine the three into an omnibus, which they’ve featured prominently on the Kindle Worlds page.

Shortly after that, I was asked to write a novella for A.G. Riddle’s Atlantis World, which I published in early December. To date, I’ve sold close to 5,000 novellas through Kindle Worlds, establishing a new, unexpected income stream. Sales have been steady, tied to the success of the original series. Not a bad deal at all when your novella shows up on the first or second page of “also boughts” of books consistently ranked in the top hundred paid Kindle titles.

This is my ultimate diversification story. Not only do I receive numerous emails from Blake Crouch’s fans, who have found my work through the novellas, but I’ve managed to strike an incredible deal. Through working extensively with the excellent folks at KW (one gentlemen in particular), I successfully pitched my series as one of their worlds.

On February 3, 2015, The Perseid Collapse Series launches as one of their Kindle Worlds. This would never have happened if I hadn’t decided to take a chance on Kindle Worlds. I’m not telling everyone to run out and write in Kindle Worlds, but I took a chance on this, and it paid off in a way I never expected when the journey began. It’s hard to beat that, but I’ll offer a few more areas to explore.

– Foreign Translations. I’ve dabbled unsuccessfully in this for a few years, but finally managed to attract the attention of Amazon’s foreign translation unit, Amazon Crossing. My first novel will launch in Germany on January 6, 2015, and I hope this represents a new frontier for my books. I’m waiting to see how this novel fares in the German market, and will evaluate the possibility of paying for the translation of follow-on novels. It’s an expensive venture, one I’d prefer to leave in Amazon Crossing’s hands, so I hope Die Jakarta Pandemie does well enough to attract another offer in 2015.  

Live Connections. I attended two conferences this year. BEA in New York City and Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach. At BEA, I met several fantastically helpful authors—all several stratospheres more successful than Steven Konkoly. They’ve all helped me in 2014, one of them in particular. I don’t want to name names, but TR gave me the idea to pitch my series as a Kindle World, and she’s been instrumental in pursuing the foreign translation market. Not only did I meet authors, I had the pleasure of hanging out with the talented crew behind the scenes at KDP, Createspace, Audible, Kindle Worlds and Amazon publishing imprints. I fully intend to repeat this circuit. 

New Series in 2015. Can you guess which genre? I plan to write a three book series in 2015, leaving room for other projects. I don’t know what these projects might be, but that’s half the fun. I’m good for about 450K words in a year, so that leaves me some wiggle room, if not an entire fourth novel.

WHAT AM I MISSING? What are you planning to do differently in 2015, or the same? 

 

 

One Year Anniversary…

As a full time writer.

Actually, it was  September 17.  The day, one year ago, that my regular paychecks stopped, my cell phone allotment ceased, my ridiculously generous healthcare insurance ended, and “the man” quit paying for my car (and gas).

ONE OF THE BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE!  

Life has been hectic…no doubt about that…but I have never once looked back. Probably because I don’t have the time! Here’s what I’ve accomplished in the past year.

Published 423,772 words broken down into:

3 NovelsThe Perseid Collapse, Event HorizonPoint of Crisis

3 Novellas for Kindle WorldsFirst Contact, Last Betrayal and Sanctuary (coming very soon)

1 Non-fiction collaboration on personal readiness and disaster preparedness—Practical Prepping: No Apocalypse Required.

Pursued several franchising opportunities:

Re-edited and re-issued 2 books—The Jakarta Pandemic and Black Flagged.

Launched 4 audiobooks through Audible—The Perseid Collapse, Event Horizon, Point of Crisis and Black Flagged Redux. The rest of the Black Flagged franchise is on the way.

Signed a deal with Amazon Crossing to translate and publish The Jakarta Pandemic in German. E-book and hardcopy.

Signed a deal to translate The Perseid Collapse into German. I’ll publish it as an e-book.

Sounds like no time for fun and games, right? Don’t shed any tears for me. I had plenty of downtime.

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My name is Steven Konkoly—

And I have Amazon Infatuation Syndrome.

It started nearly four years ago, when I decided to forego sending query letters to agents, after reading Joe Konrath’s blog from top to bottom.

I independently uploaded my first novel to Amazon’s various retail platforms and sold 5,000 copies (with minimal marketing) within 6 months. I quickly decided that self-publishing through Amazon presented a viable path to becoming a full-time writer. I published my second book (in a completely different genre) one year after my Amazon debut, selling 8,000 copies in six months. A new book followed every six month—all while I worked a lucrative day job and dreamed about the day I would resign to pursue full-time writing. Each book brought me closer, until I finally developed enough sales and readership velocity to escape the gravity of an easy, six figure salary job. Amazon didn’t write my books, but they played a more than nominal role in my quiet success. For that, I’m a little infatuated with Amazon.

Nate Hoelfelder at The Digital Reader thinks I’m deluded because I’m happy with Amazon. Read his article. His blog post is the latest reaction to the ongoing corporate negotiation battle between Amazon and Hachette Publishing. In essence, he says that corporations only care about the bottom line and cannot be your friend. Friend? How about business partner? How about EXCELLENT business partner? Then, he goes on to say that Amazon’s words are meaningless, because they are a corporation spewing PR desperation that should be taken for face value.

I understand the concept of “acta non verba,” which is why I judge my friends and business partners by their actions more than their words.

Here’s a run down of the actions Amazon has taken to earn my trust and friendship.

They promptly (every month) and transparently  pay 70% royalties on my titles. I can see my sales figures and calculated royalties through an always-accessible, near real-time sales report system).

They allow me to control pricing, so I can optimize product performance based on market conditions. They also provide me with real-time analytics to decide the best price point. 

They don’t require onerous contracts or knee-capping non-compete clauses. I can terminate my contract at any time. The most “draconian” non-compete measure implemented by Amazon’s Kindle Direct Program requires 90 days of exclusivity, in exchange for enhanced marketing tools. Kindle exclusivity has netted me over $35,000 since its inception in late 2012. I’m feeling dewy-eyed.

I retain the necessary rights to expand in all media, like audiobooks, foreign sales, movie/TV rights. I earn a significant portion of my income from these media, and plan to expand my presence further.

Friendly and responsive customer service across all platforms. They’ve quickly resolved every issue I’ve brought to their attention

They’ve provided marketing opportunities that have allowed me to grow readership drastically.

They market my book every second of every day through customer emails, matching preferences on related books’ sales pages, and search algorithms. I didn’t sell 5,000 copies of my first book in six months through any genius marketing plan of my own.

I’ve sold 55,000 books over the past 12 months, all through Amazon.

They’re nice! I’ve personally met everyone directly involved with the different Amazon platforms. No evil smiles. This crew genuinely cares about authors, and we all share a common vision. To sell more books! As an author, if you’re suspicious of that sentiment, you have a serious problem on your hands.

BUT I DON’T JUST LIKE THEM AS AN AUTHOR!

As a customer:

They shipped a basket ball stand (60lbs at least) for free because I paid roughly $80 to be a member of Amazon Prime. I recoup at least five times the cost of membership in free shipping every year.

They provide hassle free returns on nearly every product I’ve purchased. I don’t hesitate to order an item. If I don’t like it, I print a return label, tape up the same box and get a refund immediately. I’m lazy like that. Beautiful!

The only items I can’t find on Amazon are ammunition, guns, cigarettes, booze, and pornography. Apparently Hachette’s parent company, Lagardere, had a tough first quarter this year due to the loss of cigarette sales in Hungary. Now that’s a company to be proud of! Sorry, that’s my AIS shining through. Forgot my meds.

If supporting Amazon as an author and customer means I suffer from Amazon Infatuation Syndrome, then so be it. I’m infatuated.

To read more about this curious syndrome label, and how it is utterly preposterous, please check out Hugh Howey’s most recent post and David Gaughram’s guest post at Words with JAM.

 

 

and Amazon qualifies as a good friend. Will that change?

Doubleshot Reviews take on Event Horizon

1051 Steve Konkoly ebook EVENT HORIZON_3_LA special thanks to Heather Faville for putting the time and detail into an incredible review. I figured she would enjoy the novel, but you never really know with Heather—or any reader. I change up just enough in each novel—even closely tied series—that the experience isn’t the same. The last thing I want is for readers to feel like they’re digging through the same book they just finished.

Doubleshot Review of Event Horizon.

Podcast interview with Tim Knox

at Interviewing Authors. 

I’m going to come clean right now and tell everyone that I went into this interview thinking Tim Knox was “just some guy” putting together author interviews. To say I didn’t invest in a little due diligence is an understatement. I’ve been so busy lately, I devoted all of my prep time to outlining talking points for the interview and securing a pair of headphones (with mic) that didn’t make me sound like I was talking from outer space. I travelled really far to find them too…my son’s room (I knew he wasn’t talking to himself while playing games online).

With the bulk of my “spare” time exhausted, I really had no idea “who” I was talking to when I donned the headphones. Well, Tim Knox is not “just some guy.” Holy %$#! I’m glad I took this seriously! Tim is a widely respected talk radio host, author, entrepreneur, motivational speaker…the list goes on. Check out his official website. The man gets around. He’s been there and done that…twice. Not only that, he’s a great guy, or maybe the southern accent disarmed me.

Needless to say, the interview was fantastic. Take a listen or read the transcript here. With a focus on entrepreneurship, Tim convinced me to give up my million dollar secret…unfortunately, that secret involved non-stop writing for several more years. I was looking for a quicker method.

 

Interviewed by James Moushon of HBS Author’s Spotlight

This is a fantastic interview (not because of me) by James Moushon of HBS Author’s Spotlight. He clearly put a lot of time and effort into his questions, and I enjoyed taking the time to delve deeper into my own process. Take a look.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author:

First things first. Let’s start with what’s next. Rumor has it that you have another book on the horizon called Event Horizon. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Yes! I just wrapped up Event Horizon, the second book in The Perseid Collapse Series. It’s available now for preorder on Amazon, and will be released on March 20, 2014. The Perseid Collapse Series is a gritty, post-apocalyptic story set in New England that chronicles the collapse of society from an “event.” The “event” is a devastating combination of a natural phenomenon with a sinister, manmade attack. The first several chapters of the novel focus on the big picture conspiracy and mechanics behind the “event,” but the reader is quickly put in regular shoes, to experience the disaster on a personal level.

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Did you use forums, newsletters and methods like that?

My Twitter following can be a little deceptive. While I do engage with readers on Twitter, most of the impact there comes from retweets by other authors or followers interested in my genres of writing (Post-apocalyptic and political/espionage thrillers).

It’s an easy way for readers to reach out to me, without a ton of expectation. 140 characters makes for short conversation. Twitter also draws people to my blog. I keep a Twitter feed rolling with book reviews (for other authors’ books) and articles that I have posted to my blog. I see these retweeted quite often. The bulk of my regular social media presence comes from Facebook, both my personal page and thriller-writing page. It’s probably the best place to catch what I’m doing, besides my blog.

All of my news filters through Facebook. Blog posts, new release updates, exclusive content releases, contests, genre related news pieces. Beyond that, I do keep a mailing list, which I regularly (2x per month) update with new release information, exclusive content (sneak peek chapters), and upcoming book deals. I converse regularly via email with many readers on this list.

Finally, I’ll talk about finding a niche and expanding it— on my blog at http://wp.me/p1knlr-8h. Sorry to do that to everyone, but I can’t possible do justice to this important topic without sending this interview’s word count through the stratosphere.

Do you do book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

I have to admit that this is one part of the writer’s world in which I am conspicuously absent. Prior to quitting my day job in September of 2013, my time was divided between day job, family and writing, which left little time for anything else. The prospect of giving up weekend time or evenings to sign books didn’t appeal to me.

I have started to do radio interviews, which typically occur later at night and do not interfere with home life. Last week I spent an hour talking to a radio host and listeners in Fairbanks, Alaska. Reaching out and expanding my public exposure is one of my 2014 goals.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

Jeroen ten Berge is a gifted artist. I truly wish I could say that I had a direct hand in creating these amazing covers, but I don’t. I send Jeroen an early draft, sometimes just half of the book, and he starts to conceptualize the cover. He’s a big post-apocalyptic fan, so we talked back and forth quite a bit about the story, but I never dictate what I want to see. I leave that to him, and the results are incredible.

What writer support groups do you belong to? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?CATCH THE REST AT HBS AUTHOR’S SPOTLIGHT!

 

I don’t often cry…

but when I do, it’s usually because I just completed the plot board for one of my novels and realized—I have a long way to go! Each Post-It represents a chapter. I typically add Post-Its as I go. Now I’m really crying.

Point of Crisis: Book Three in The Perseid Collapse Series promises to be a game changer.

Point of Crisis

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. 

 

The Perseid Collapse goes live

Not that this comes as a big surprise. Still, it’s a little surreal to know that another book is out there, for anyone to read.

It’s a little scary too, since this is what I do for a living now. Write books. I no longer have a convenient paycheck rolling into my bank account, on top of what Amazon pays me. It’s actually a lot more exciting than scary, and it couldn’t feel better.

With that said, The Perseid Collapse is now available on Amazon. You can download the ebook or pre-order a hardcopy(will be shipped Dec 6th), or wait for the audiobook in January—can you really wait?

Apparently, someone has already read and reviewed The Perseid Collapse. It’s an incredible review, capturing the essence of the story.

Check it out: First Amazon Review for The Perseid Collapse.

Another review just hit Amazon from award winning writer and apocalyptic author, Joseph Souza: Souza’s Review

Welcome to  The Perseid Collapse world! 

One for the Black Flagged fans

I realize all you have been hearing lately is “Perseid Collapse this and Jakarta Pandemic that.” I’ve admittedly been in POST-APOCALYPTIC mode for nearly five months at this point, and I haven’t spoken a word about Black Flagged and the Petrovich’s, aside from assuring everyone that THEY WILL RETURN.

While writing the acknowledgments for The Perseid Collapse, I commented that my wife has been instrumental to the difficult shift between The Petrovich’s in the Black Flagged series to the Fletcher’s in The Perseid Collapse. After writing FOUR Black Flagged novels, it wasn’t easy.

Writing those lines reminded me of a short story I had written about Daniel Petrovich’s early years, when he went by a different name, Marko Resja. I haven’t mentioned this piece in a while, and some of you may not be familiar with it. It’s buried in Black Flagged Redux, at the end of the novel. At some point, it will fit into one of my novels…when I go back and tell Daniel, Jessica and General Sanderson’s stories. Black Flagged Beginnings. Until then, I still owe you Black Flagged Book Five, which will end the current CORE series. I hope to start working on this in the spring of 2014. Coming up soon.

Here is the excerpt I wrote for Black Flagged Beginnings. Unedited. Enjoy!

Excerpt from Black Flagged Beginnings

Resurfacing one of my favorite interviews

With The Perseid Collapse launch rapidly approaching it’s magic date—December 1st, I wanted to bring back some memories of it’s predecessor, The Jakarta Pandemic. TJP was my first novel, kicking my writing career into full gear. A ton has been said about TJP, covering every aspect of the story. I’ve been interviewed several times, and hundreds of independent reviews (individual blogs and websites) have been posted.

Randy Powers of Practical Tactical interviewed me during the late spring of 2013, and his questions blew me away. It was evident from the very start, that he had put an incredible amount of time and thought into my novel. This is by far one of my favorite interviews. He asks some hard questions about the more “controversial” material, giving me an opportunity to explain how I merge fiction with research.

THE INTERVIEW:

Welcome, Steve.  First and foremost, thank you for your service.

Thank you, Randy. I really appreciate the opportunity to dig below the surface of my writing and expose some of the core ideas and concepts that help shape the stories. Regardless of what other authors may claim, writing is a personal endeavor, no matter how far fetched the plot or action may seem to the reader. There is always something deeply personal embedded in the writing, and the threads that wrap around these aspects often define the story’s core essence.

In your writings, there is no such thing as black and white.  You deal in personal confliction and there are no easy answers.  You have also said that your military experience figures heavily into your writings.  With all that said, TJP brings all that together in a complex character and gives us Alex Fletcher.

Ten years out of the Marines, Alex has fully transitioned back into the private sector and seems to be doing quite well.  Putting aside what I assume would be Alex’s tendency to be prepared due to his military experience, I would like to talk a little about what motivated Alex to focus on the threat of a pandemic and make preparations for his family.  At the end of Chapter 5, we learn about a presentation that Alex did for his company Biosphere and the research that went into it.  We learned that process “changed his life” in apparently more ways than just professionally.  Can you talk about how this process impacted Alex and his decisions when it comes to his family’s preparedness?

When I started to conceptualize The Jakarta Pandemic, I wanted to highlight the difficulties of surviving a catastrophic level event in a suburban setting. The leading difficulty in my opinion would be dealing with everyone else’s varying degree of unpreparedness in the face of a complete lack of essential services. With that in mind, I wanted to start Alex in a position of self-sufficiency, and I chose this “presentation” as his catalyst to start preparing for a worst-case scenario. The conclusion Alex draws from his research reflects the culmination of my own examination of the scenario. In a nutshell, it’s not a matter of IF something like this will happen, it’s a matter of WHEN, and WHEN it happens, survival will depend on your basic level of preparedness and planning.

I’ve read that you raised your personal level of preparedness AFTER writing TJP.  I was a bit shocked by that fact.  One of my favorite parts of the book is when we get a first look at the Fletcher’s supplies as we join Alex for an inventory “the Frito supply” for the first time.  You describe the Fletcher’s well rounded stockpile in some detail and even lay out a good plan for rotating food stores as if you had been doing it yourself for a long time.  I particularly appreciated how you pointed out throughout the book that building a stockpile like the Fletcher’s is something that anyone can do if they make a plan and execute it in a practical way.  Was family preparedness and establishing an emergency survival kit a chicken and egg type thing for you as you wrote the book?  And, without divulging too much, how much did Alex teach you about being more prepared and what steps have you taken in your personal life to be better prepared for any future emergency?

Most people are shocked to learn that I never visited a prepper or survivalist website prior to finishing The Jakarta Pandemic. In many ways, I’m glad that I didn’t. I’m a details oriented writer, and despite the fact that the scene you described is exhaustively detailed, I would have driven myself insane trying to get the Fletcher’s “bunker” perfect. I put a considerable amount of thought into the contents of their survival stockpile, starting with the basics: Food, Water, and Medical Supplies…and expanding from there. And I certainly expanded far beyond the basics. Solar panels connected to battery storage, two oil tanks for storing fuel (this is a New England phenomena…most of you have natural gas or propane), wood burning stove (which I don’t think they ever used), generator, antibiotics (unethically obtained through Alex’s employer) and many other items that might come in handy if the shelves at your local Home Depot and grocery store emptied overnight. Imagine going cold turkey off Fritos…devastating. :0)

So to answer your question, I created this incredible stockpile or “bunker” in my novel, and didn’t have so much as three extra cans of vegetables in my own house to back up one of the main themes in my book. A few months after publishing the novel, I took Alex Fletcher’s advice and started to slowly build up a reserve of food and supplies, one shopping trip at a time. It’s truly amazing what you can amass in two years, when you take a systematic, consistent approach to stockpiling supplies. Does my basement now resemble Alex’s? Not even close, but I feel confident that my family could ride out a major disaster, without resorting to desperate measures. Of course, the same question always remains, regardless of how much you prepare…what is your neighbor doing to avoid resorting to desperate measures, and what is your plan to deal their desperation. This becomes a pinnacle issue for Alex, and his plan is woefully lacking in this author’s opinion…on purpose.

Most folks living a preparedness lifestyle understand that planning is paramount to the success of any emergency plan.  This usually means having a plan to ride out an emergency situation at home, also known as sheltering in place or bugging in, and also having a plan to evacuate if the situation dictates, commonly referred to as bugging out.  If the plan is to shelter in place, neighbors can become a real problem like we see in TJP.  We don’t want to give the story away, but what are your thoughts on working with neighbors or building a survival team, given that the necessities of dealing with a pandemic primarily call for isolation?  Makeshift alliances develop in TJP, but should Alex have developed relationships and built his team within the neighborhood well ahead of the pandemic since he viewed it as such a real threat?

This is hard to say. Unfortunately for Alex, his plan from the start was isolation, but he quickly learned that this wasn’t going to be a viable option. Without recognizing the need for a diplomacy based “crowd control” plan prior to the arrival of the pandemic virus, he really shortchanged himself and put his family in danger. With that said, none of us want to view our neighborhood as an episode of Survivor, where shifting alliances and secret plots undermine the ease of living and sense of relaxation we come to expect when we pull into the driveway. Alex had some core friends in the neighborhood, which came in handy as the conflict escalated, and he found a few surprise allies along the way. If anything, Alex could have been more open to dispelling a few stereotypes that hindered him in the beginning. I don’t write big moral lessons into my novels, but Alex’s character gave me the opportunity to point out a few negative behaviors that most of us can find in ourselves from time to time.

Read the full interview

Final Cover for The Perseid Collapse

0979 Steve Konkoly ebook THE PERSEID COLLAPSE_2_LJeroen ten Berge has turned the tables on me! He’s delivered an incredible cover design, and I haven’t finished writing the book!  As always, Jeroen scored a bullseye. His design brilliantly captures the core essence of The Perseid Collapse’s sweeping apocalyptic world.

2019. Six years after the Jakarta Pandemic, the United States stands at the brink of a fiscal and industrial resurgence. Stories of prosperity and confidence dominate the headlines, orchestrated to distract the nation from a dangerous current of hostility and fear—running strong below the surface. Nobody has forgotten the horrors of the Jakarta Pandemic. Sickness. Hunger. Desperation. Unspeakable violence.

On August 19, 2019, an unprecedented “mass event” will release a darkness across the United States. A human darkness with a vast appetite for violence and chaos. Alex Fletcher will awaken to this new world, catapulted unwillingly into an frantic odyssey, against overwhelming odds, to save his family and friends.”

Big News Part Two…

Last week, I alluded to a second big change in the works, though I suppose the word “change” is a bit of an understatement. The news is a complete paradigm shift for me. The bottom line?

I RESIGNED FROM MY POSITION AT PFIZER INC. about two weeks ago, in order to pursue a career as a full time writer/author. For those of you who know me outside of my books, this move should come as no real surprise.

My passion for writing long ago eclipsed my enthusiasm to continue working as a pharmaceutical sales representative. With five books published, and an endless supply of ideas rattling around in my head, I had reached the point where it no longer made sense on any level to continue donning a suit every day and driving all over Maine to do a job I had long ago ceased to enjoy. It was truly a no-brainer, and couldn’t come at a better time. As you can probably guess, this is a good thing for everyone…not just me.

Most importantly for you, the books will come faster. The Perseid Collapse will now be available in mid to late November, instead of December. Instead of writing for two hours in the morning, I now have the entire day…and I have no intention of abandoning my early morning routine. I anticipate releasing 4-6 books per year, instead of two. It’s amazing what I can accomplish without having “report for duty” at Pfizer every day. I’ve written more in the past several days than in all of August, and I haven’t settled into a routine yet.

Tomorrow will be my first FULL day writing, and I couldn’t be more excited. For the first time in 24 years, I have no work uniform to pull off a hangar. No Service Dress Blues (Navy). No camouflage (USMC liaison days). No suit (Pfizer days). Just shorts and a T-shirt…I couldn’t be happier.

Links for writers…

If you’re an independent author, you rely on the sage advice and research of “other” independent authors, especially the ones that have made the “full time” shift to writing—or have been writing for years. I learn an invaluable amount from these authors, often collaborating to validate new publishing theories, grade the effectiveness of promotions or trade marketing ideas. Everyone’s experience is unique in it’s way, but we all share the same goal. To make a living writing the best books possible.

Some of us are new to the game, others have been around a long time. Everyone offers something, which is why I want to pass along the best sources of “indie” publishing information and guidance. This is by no means an exhaustive list. It represents the most prolific amount of well-formed opinions and advice that I can fit into my schedule. Truly, this represents the tip of the iceberg, and any additions are welcome. In my opinion, if you dig into what these four authors have written about their experiences, you’ll come out ahead of the pack, with your nose pointed in the right direction.

Leading the most recent charge to arm authors with the knowledge to make solid career decisions: Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey’s Author Earnings.

 

The King of the Indie Publishing movement: Joe Konrath.

Witty and sarcastic, wildly successful. Prolific business advice: Russell Blake

Insightful, raw and unyielding analysis of the pressing issues: Robert Bidinotto

From traditional to “indie” publishing. A rare and prolific insight into both worlds: Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Firebrand and agent provocateur: David Gaughran

Lots of content, all worth digesting: The Passive Voice

Right between the eyes advice. Married to Kristin Kathryn Rusch. Can’t imagine this household: Dean Wesley Smith

Sample Chapters of The Perseid Collapse

I have decided to release “unedited” chapters of The Perseid Collapse periodically until the novel’s release in December. A fair number of you have waited VERY patiently for me to return to the apocalyptic genre, so I thought I would give you something to hold you over until the launch. I anticipate posting roughly one chapter per week through November, which should bring you about a third of the way through Alex Fletcher’s latest survival journey.

Yes, the Fletchers are back, just as the United States has effectively settled into a comfortable, but tenuous post Jakarta Pandemic routine. A new era of isolationism has emerged, with the economy stabilized and the population better prepared for disaster.  On the surface, its business as usual in the United States, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that one thing has remained the same. Trust in the government is at an all time low. The collective memory of twenty-six million deaths (nearly one in every ten citizens) during the Jakarta Pandemic runs like a shallow current, waiting to break through the thin facade of prosperity and confidence. The Perseid Collapse takes place in 2019, six years after The Jakarta Pandemic. It starts with a “Mass Event” that instantly shatters the fragile barrier…and unleashes a torrent of fear, panic and mistrust.

Of course, the Fletchers will be caught up in the middle of it…and they’ll no longer have the option of secluding themselves in the comfort and safety of their “prepper” paradise. I’m taking all of that away from them in The Perseid Collapse…from the very start. If you enjoyed The Jakarta Pandemic, or my Black Flagged novels, I guarantee this one will grab you from the beginning. Part technothriller, all apocalyptic…The Perseid Collapse is the best of both worlds.

You can find and download the chapters from my blog, either at the top right corner of my blog or on The Perseid Collapse page accessible at the very top of my blog. The chapters are available in Word or PDF form. You can save these on your computer and upload them to your Kindle. If you don’t know how to do that, let me know…it sure beats reading on a computer screen.  

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.

Review of Richard Stephenson’s RESISTANCE

1001000_636306239713166_701576081_nRichard Stephenson’s follow up to Collapse will be available Monday, July 15th. If you like epic post-apocalyptic thrillers, Stephenson delivers. Fast paced, dystopian fun…let’s hope his vision of the future never comes to pass.

“Fans of Collapse will not be disappointed with Stephenson’s second installment to the New America series. Fast forward eighteen months after the Collapse of 2027, and Howard Beck, president of the Pacific States of America, is plotting to defeat the Unified American Empire and restore unity to a nation torn apart by the nefarious deeds of the Great Empire of Iran…and some particularly opportunistic buzzards in D.C.

The author spells it all out in macro detail, then starts to dig in where his strength truly lies…with street level action, bringing along the exceptionally developed cast from Collapse and introducing the reader to new characters. I was particularly happy to see Benjamin Black return with a major role in Resistance. He’s come a long way from the charismatic leader and Walmart destroyer we last saw in Collapse. Black is by far my favorite expanded character, along with a nefarious mystery saboteur/assassin that I couldn’t get enough of.  

Stephenson treats the reader to just about everything in Collapse. From individual checkpoint battles to massive high tech combat engagement; political assassination attempts to complex coup d’état’s; macro level political maneuvering to psychotic leaders…all culminating in a twist that you will not see coming. The battle lines are drawn in Resistance…then redrawn when you least expect it. Resistance is as much a political/military/apocalyptic novel as it is a cautionary conspiracy gem.

From a purely mechanical point of view, Stephenson has upped his game. The writing is smooth and the descriptions are vivid. He moves back and forth from big picture to point of view action flawlessly. The author has clearly taken his writing to the next level.” 

Black Flagged featured at Free Kindle Books and Tips

Do you have a Kindle? Do you like ebook deals? Rhetorical questions? Sort of. If you like ebook deals, you should check out Free Kindle Books and Tips. The host is a Top Ten Reviewer on Amazon and offers a daily selection of…you guessed it, links to Free (or discounted) Kindle Books and Tips (to help you optimize your Kindle experience). If you head over there soon, you can sign up to win a Kindle Paperwhite (they are pretty sweet…I don’t have one, yet). Kindlewhite Giveaway.

You never know when you might find the first book in a really popular series discounted to .99

Black Flagged featured on Free Kindle Books and Tips 

Review of Paul Antony Jones’ Exodus (Book Two of Extinction Point series)

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Paul Antony Jones is the first “formerly” self-published author that I met when I started my own journey into writing. He has come a long way since then and serves as an inspiration. He truly defines the essence of a “successful” writer, having attracted the attention of Amazon with the self-publishes success of the first book in his Extinction Point series, Extinction Point. You can read my review of the first book in the series HEREHis model of success is simple. Write the best damn book you can, in a genre filled with hungry readers. He truly hit the mark. 

Exodus, the long awaited second book in Paul Antony Jones’ Extinction Point series takes his sweeping apocalyptic vision to the next level.

The reader catches up with Emily, as she heads north along the Hudson River, on the first leg of her journey to reach Alaska and rendezvous with the only other known group of survivors in North America. Guided by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, Emily’s trip takes on sudden urgency, when she learns that a massive “red” storm rapidly approaches the eastern seaboard. With her trusty canine companion and an unexpected addition to her entourage, Emily battles her way west and eventually north, trusting that salvation lies at a remote station, on an island off the Alaskan shore.

Jones descriptions of the alien phenomena left me spellbound and frightened. The tree pod creatures in particular are horrifyingly marvelous, unlike anything I’ve ever read. The “red” terraforming is taken to an entirely new level with massive weather events witnessed from low earth orbit through a unique viewpoint. The alien lifeforms’ resilience is tested in colder weather, lifting the fog of hopelessness just enough to shine a light on the hope that humanity might have a chance of escaping extinction.

I noticed a significant shift in the author’s writing since Extinction Point. One of the most common complaints revolved around the exhaustive descriptions. Jones has trended away from this, and I didn’t detect any superfluous or extraneous exposition. The action was realistic, given the character’s capabilities. I think that Mr. Jones took this criticism to heart and made an excellent adjustment to the style he has adopted for the series.

Exodus similarly benefited from an improved flow. For such a “lonely” and linearly progressing story, involving a minimal number of characters, the pace at which the characters move along on their journey toward their destination in Alaska is believable and well timed. The mechanics of Emily’s travel work superbly in this novel.

I eagerly await the launch of the third and final book in the series, my only complaint being that I would like to read it now. The series is a hauntingly compelling vision of an extinction level event. Paul has seamlessly combined horror, science fiction and post-apocalypse in an epic series.”

Pick up a copy at Amazon today

 

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

The Process…

Six Books Later.

Never before has the process crystalized so clearly, as it has for my sixth book, The Perseid Collapse. The long overdue sequel to The Jakarta Pandemic has percolated in my head for nearly six months (while writing Vektor), which certainly helped smooth the transition, but I credit “the process” for swiftly delivering me to the starting line…the point where I can start writing. For me, the less time I spend in between novels, the better. I find myself lost without a manuscript-in-progress. Putting words into a story eases that feeling.

I often joke around about the”organic” mental process for creating the complex plots in my novels. “Neural Flow” is a term I used recently to some amusement. The Black Flagged series is extremely complicated and deeply nuanced, or so I have been told, and I wish I could keep it all straight in my head. “A Beautiful Mind” I am not. Instead, I rely on a process that appears rigid, but is inherently flexible. Let’s face it, any system based on the placement of yellow stickies on poster board isn’t exactly chiseled in stone. Still, I’ve followed the same process for three novels, which implies a level of rigidity…for the process at least

The rest is fluid and can change at a whim. A random thought while driving (I have more windshield time than I care to admit), a tech article on the internet, YouTube gun video (I watch far too many of those), a ten minute Call of Duty game play with Matthew (son), a sudden discussion about a character with my wife…all of these can change the course of my novel within the flash of a synapse. I’m always thinking about the story, and the story is always changing, slightly…sometimes drastically. This is the neural process, and I can’t really explain it. What I can explain is how I tee up the writing and keep myself on track throughout the three to four months it takes me to strike the words.

I start out with a “talk through.” Basically, I vomit a VERY rough synopsis of the story and expand it over the course of three to five days. If you read it, you’d probably feel like puking. It barely counts as English, but it works. I take this four to five page document and try to identify potential scenes from the scribble.

TalkthPerseid

For the Perseid Collapse, I identified 44 scenes, which translates into a minimum of 44 chapters. I created a yellow sticky for each scene, and added them to my board.

The board takes on a life of its own over time, with stickies moving back and forth, up and down…or into the trash. New stickies arrive weekly. The topmost stickies are labeled to represent individual or group entities in the story. I place scenes involving these entities under the appropriate heading, in chronological order. Books in the Black Flagged series required some creative space arrangement on the board. The Perseid Collapse is a welcome break from multiple organizations and diffuse subplots. Compare the two. Vektor is shown in the first picture.

PBvektor PlotboardPerseid

The last piece of the puzzle was recommended by a fellow Maine writer and the host of my local writing group, Bryan Wiggins. He thought Aeon Timeline would help me keep track of the complex timing involved in the Black Flagged novels…wow has that program saved my ass on multiple occasions. I finished Black Flagged Vektor without it, which was a big mistake. My inner voice told me to take the time and input every scene in Aeon Timeline. I resisted, but quickly relented and spent an entire day inputing the scenes. Without going into detail, let’s just say that I found a few critical timeline errors that my readers would not have missed. For Perseid, I will input the scenes as they are written. The story takes place over a 72 hour period, which doesn’t give me a lot of wiggle room in terms of timeline.

A lot happens to the Fletchers in those three days.

Did I mention the research? I’ll save the details for another post.

Finding a little inspiration…

to start a new novel.

You’d think that starting novel number six wouldn’t be a big deal. It’s always a big deal, and frankly, I find myself more than a little nervous as I type the title on the page, make sure it’s centered and STARE at the screen for an indeterminable amount of time. The first words are always the most difficult for me, compounded by the fact that those words commit me to a minimum of three straight months of writing.

I wrote the first 420 words to The Perseid Collapse this morning, sitting at a desk in a hotel room. Not exactly where I would choose to start such an important undertaking, but my day job requires these things, and I write everyday no matter where I find myself…even a lonely hotel room. No, it wasn’t someplace fancy or scenic. As a matter of fact, it was within sight of both a mall and the Maine Turnpike.

But it was in Bangor, less than eight minutes (as measured by my iPhone’s mapping software) from my favorite author’s house.

photo

 

I’ve been to Bangor several times over the past few months for work, but I’ve purposely avoided West Broadway. I’ve driven by it and struggled not to turn. Why? Because I wanted the context of seeing Stephen King’s house to be special. Seeing it on the same morning that I typed the first words of my sequel to The Jakarta Pandemic qualified, so I made the turn off Union Street and parked in front of his house long enough to take a few pictures. It was all I needed to round off a perfect morning…almost perfect. I forgot to bring the power cord for my Mac Air on the trip, and found myself with 46% power upon waking at “zero dark thirty.” 420 words was all I could write before the computer basically told me to save my document and find something else to do.

 

Where I write…

Most of the time.

office1

I realized I should explain each of my “offices” a little better. I posted this on Facebook, and one of my friends thought the tall glass was a beer. He missed the 4:30 in the morning part from an earlier post…not that I have a blanket prohibition against beer at 4:30 AM. Here it is. My version of “zero dark thirty,” except it’s no longer dark when I enter. The sun peeks above the horizon far too early in Maine.

“People, friends and family always ask the same question when they find out that I’m a writer, in addition to having a day job. When do you write? 4:30AM, pretty much every day of the year. 5:30 on weekends. It has simply become a habit. There are variations in that schedule, depending on where I am (vacation, overnight trip, visiting family). The picture shows how I start each day, with one notable exception. I’m in between books, so my desk is way neater than usual. For those that are curious. The beverages include, fresh juice (from a juicer…carrot, celery, apple, spinach, ginger, cucumber) and an espresso.”

Review of Murray McDonald’s latest release, America’s Trust

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Murray McDonald has been a long time writer and friend, eventually introducing me to “good scotch” made in a distillery (Glengoyne) just north of the Scottish highland line. This alone was worthy of his inclusion in my Friends Hall of Fame (I just made up that organization).

Beyond picking out fantastic scotch, his true talent lies in his writing. He can spin a masterful, international thriller. I’ve been waiting a long time for his latest novel, America’s Trust. If you’re a fan of this genre, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re a fan of scotch, let me know, and I’ll pass the word to him for another recommendation. Sipping scotch and reading political thrillers is hard to beat.

Below is my review of America’s Trust…not influenced by the scotch:

Murray McDonald delivers an epic political technothriller with America’s Trust, combining the best elements of his previous novels, in an explosive, action packed ride that never eases up. Incorporating themes ripped from today’s headlines, and foretelling of a believable near future, Murray presents his finest work to date. This well-crafted, cautionary tale will leave you breathless; pondering the extent to which McDonald’s wildly realistic scenario could become reality.

The story begins with a flashback. President King’s Inauguration Day is a melancholy event. The United States is in a steep economic decline, deep in debt with little hope of recovery. Upon returning to the Oval Office after a private ceremony, he is informed of a meeting that had been scheduled by President William Howard Taft, over one hundred years ago. He is promptly met by a representative of “America’s Trust,” who proceeds to pass instructions that will irrevocably alter the course of American history.

Two years later, CIA analyst Tom Butler makes a startling discovery. The “Trust” may not be what it seems. Powerful forces converge to silence him, setting in motion the wheels of McDonald’s unstoppable story. Spanning the globe, America’s Trust presents twists after twist, propelling the reader to the shocking revelation. What is the Trust? The truth is brilliant…one of the most frightening scenarios imaginable.

Murray McDonald’s America’s Trust is a must read for fans of Tom Clancy, Brad Thor or the late Vince Flynn.  A perfect blend of techno/military/political thriller.

“Trust” no one.

Black Flagged Vektor

Black Flagged Vektor is finally in the hands of my editor and several beta readers, leaving me in that awkward phase, where I find myself waking up at 4:30 in the morning and watching You Tube videos for 30 minutes, followed by Facebook for another 30…then finally on to something related to writing…sort of. Blog updates. Book reviews. Tardy emails. The list more or less confirms that I’m lost without a book in the works. I still have some work left to prepare Vektor for a mid to late June launch, but it’s not the kind of intense industry that surrounds spinning a story.

Once the story board comes down, I stare out of the window a lot, turning to my computer sporadically. I gave myself one important thing to accomplish this week, among dozens of smaller tasks. Vektor’s synopsis or book blurb. This is often harder to write than a full chapter of the story itself. How do you condense the book into a summary that draws readers into the book, without giving away plot twists? You spend three days of wringing your hands over it, constantly coming back  to change a word, shorten a sentence or trash the whole thing.

I started this on Monday and have been $@#!ing around with it ever since. I think this is nearly the last iteration. Let me know what you think.

Black Flagged Vektor:

“With the recent bioterrorism threat to the United States neutralized, and Dr. Anatoly Reznikov in custody, CIA Deputy Director Karl Berg proposes a permanent solution to prevent future bioweapons attacks against the West.

A covert raid by General Sanderson’s Black Flag unit against Vektor Labs, deep inside Russia…to destroy a program that should have ended with the Cold War.

The U.S isn’t the only country looking to tie up loose ends. The sudden abduction of a CIA officer in Stockholm exposes the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service’s (SVR) ruthless campaign to discover the truth behind the massacre of an elite Spetsnaz team sent to silence Reznikov.

When the SVR investigation takes a turn that could threaten the mission against Vektor, Berg goes “off the books” like never before. Through an intricate web of unsavory alliances, deviously orchestrated political maneuvers and shockingly brutal black-ops action, Karl Berg will set in motion an unstoppable chain of events with the potential to ignite a new Cold War.

Black Flagged Vektor continues the series’ tradition of gritty, unapologetic storytelling, plunging readers even deeper into the murky, shark infested waters navigated by covert operators and their puppet masters.” 

Review of Tim Queeney’s The Atlas Fracture

Atlas Fracture

The Atlas Fracture is a solid entry in the Thriller/Adventure genre, the second in Queeney’s Perry Helion series. I’ll confess that I haven’t read the first…I jumped ahead in order, however, Queeney provides more than enough backstory to keep the reader in the game.

“Tim Queeny’s The Atlas Fracture is a refreshingly sharp adventure technothriller. Set mostly in austere Antarctic environs, the story’s plot, characters and action brought excitement and ceaseless amazement to the barren landscape. Queeny reignites the action genre with a strong blend of character development, technical detail and chain reaction adventure, pitting his protagonist Perry Helion against a diabolical group of terrorists in a nearly nonstop march to the book’s finish line.

Perry Helion, Tim Queeny’s protagonist from The Shiva Compression, is a hardened agent working for the Department of Defense’s enigmatic DARPA group, which is tasked with investigating new technologies and scientific discoveries for their possible military potential. When satellite imagery discovers that a scientific expedition to the Antarctic may have been wiped out, Helion is sent to investigate. It was no secret that the expedition had been drilling deep into the ice, in an effort to discover biological samples trapped miles below the surface.

What sets Helion apart from other “heroes” is his sense of humor and believable skill set. He’s handy with a weapon and not afraid of a little hand to hand combat, but he doesn’t excel in these areas like a Jason Bourne character. He’s a more rationale, analytical hero, often relying on his ability to make a quick, well-timed decision to throw off his enemies. Queeny cleverly injects this often-understated trait at critical times throughout the story, propelling the reader past some harrowing situations.

I particularly enjoyed watching the story’s progression through the eyes of antagonists. Queeny puts together an unholy alliance of twisted fiends, all hell bent on unleashing the power of the Atlas Fracture on an unsuspecting world for varying reasons. Money, revenge, scientific accolades…all combine to form a well-functioning evil coalition on the brink of imploding. Subplots and conspiracies abound within the coalition, adding to the suspense and intrigue…and the fun.

Without a doubt, Queeny did some solid research for this novel. He provided clear explanations of the scientific principles involved, without ever getting bogged down. I felt the same about his functional descriptions of the equipment and procedures employed by the different groups. I finished the novel thoroughly entertained, with an expanded knowledge of Antarctic operations.

The Atlas Fracture comes in shorter than most books in the genre, but while immersed in the story, I honestly didn’t notice the length. This is without a doubt, a complete story, with full background scenes and no plot holes on the way to the finish line. Queeny has effectively trimmed the fat and produced a rock solid adventure technothriller. I plan to read his first Helion Perry book, The Shiva Compression shortly.”

Review of Ian Graham’s Veil of Civility

Veil of CivilityIf you’re a fan of political/technothrillers, you’ll enjoy Veil of CivilityThis plot is literally ripped from recent headlines…frightening that Graham made the Chechen connection to terrorism in this book long before the Boston Bombing. 

“Ian Graham delivers a slick, well-executed thriller with Veil of Civility. The novel’s plot flows extremely well, with no gaps, and just enough back story to explain the motivations of a fascinating cast of characters. There’s a lot to like about this novel, and I found myself constantly stealing time to continue reading.

Declan McIver, former IRA commando turned legitimate business owner in the United States, finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy ripped from today’s headlines. An invitation from an old friend catapults McIver into a cat and mouse chase on par with Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series. His adversaries are relentless, employing technologies and ruthlessness that will leave you breathless. Spanning two continents, the chase is brilliant and worth the price of admission alone. Graham doesn’t let McIver off easy. Not in the least. The author paints a painstakingly realistic picture of how difficult it would be to go “off the grid” with the wrong people looking for you. He kept me in suspense throughout novel, never giving me the sense that McIver could rest, or that I could rest…I had to keep reading!

Declan McIver and his nebulous former IRA unit, Black Shuck, is exquisitely crafted from what appears to be exhaustive research on Graham’s part. Linked to a top-secret (and existing) Russian spetsnaz unit, Black Shuck is a devastatingly scary and utterly enthralling concept. Graham’s research is a strong point, and as a reader, I highly appreciated the way he weaved this research into the story. Though purely fiction, he integrates aspects of history into a speculative array of back story that is so convincing, that I found myself hopelessly immersed. Graham spends considerable time delving into Declan McIver’s background, giving the reader a well-redacted history of Ireland’s turbulent recent history. I’m hoping that Graham plans to bring McIver back for future novels. He is by far one of the most interesting and crisply drawn thriller characters I’ve read in a long time.

Veil of Civility succeeds on many levels. As a political thriller, it far exceeds expectations. Behind the gut wrenching at of terrorism at the story’s core, there is a sinister plot afoot, embroiling senior politicians and law enforcement agents. With unexpected plot twists lurking everywhere, these behind the scenes manipulators nudge (in many cases push) the plot forward toward its unthinkable conclusion. This is a conspiracy of the highest order, set in motion to satisfy a powerful agenda.

Ian Graham succeeds brilliantly with his first full-length novel. He’s captured the essence the political thriller genre, topping off his effort with enough technothriller aspects to satisfy the most demanding genre readers. I look forward to Graham’s future endeavors and plan to read his collection of short stories, Patriots and Tyrants, which features characters from Veil of Civility.”

Chinese Cyberwarriors…

are crossing a dangerous line in the realm of Asymmetric Warfare.

I have been watching this issue for years with a detached interest. There is truly nothing earth shattering (hint) about the accusation that China continues to systematically prosecute economic espionage operations against the United States or the West. This is not a new theme out of Asia. The Japanese were accused of conducting industrial and corporate espionage in the 80’s and 90’s, which purportedly launched several of their high-tech companies far beyond the reaches of American counterparts. Most American electronics brands never recovered from the supposed theft of billions of dollars in research and development information, leaving Japanese brands to dominate the market. So, what is different about the current Chinese brand of economic espionage? China is a rising superpower and competitor, with much greater aspirations than dominating the world electronics market. Think military, then think beyond.

EUVE_satellite

Can China, or any nation ever surpass the United States in terms of military technology, power and the ability to project that power? Not in my lifetime, or my children’s…thankfully. We have cornered the market by spending trillions and developing a robust military-industrial complex. The Soviets tried to compete with us directly and it tore them apart. The Chinese won’t make that same mistake. Think more subtle, then think massive scale.

What are they really doing? Stealing military secrets is part of it, but the persistent, widespread cyber-attacks indicate something deeper.

I have been thinking more about this lately, because the concepts of Cyber and Asymmetrical Warfare will be featured prominently in the sequel to The Jakarta Pandemic, setting the stage for a complete shut down of the United States. I just hope the Chinese don’t shut us down before I launch the novel. 

Take a look at this article, which does a great job explaining what has been capturing U.S. officials’ attention: Asymmetric Warfare article 

 

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!

The habit of writing…

is hard to break. 

For those of you that enjoy my books, don’t worry yourselves…I’m not trying to break myself of the habit. It has been two years since I published The Jakarta Pandemic, and I found myself once again reflecting on these years, which is my custom in between novels. I struggled to finish Jakarta over a three-year period, starting and stopping that novel more times than I care to admit. I had carefully ignored Stephen King’s sage advice to carve out a ritualistic writing routine, which is the first, and most important step to taking yourself seriously as a writer. So much has changed since then, and it is hard to believe that I have finished three more books since launching Jakarta in October of 2010. Of course, I almost fell into the same trap that would have everyone, myself included, still waiting for book two.

I started writing the first Black Flagged novel in the same haphazard fashion in May of 2011. By June, I realized that it would take me two years to finish Black Flagged. I decided that this was unacceptable for many reasons.  This shift in mindset was mostly motivated by a thorough enjoyment of writing. I had finally found something that I enjoyed without reservation, and didn’t need to do as part of life’s struggle to survive. However, I’m a pragmatist, so I won’t try and pretend that the success of The Jakarta Pandemic  didn’t also figured prominently in this cathartic moment. It did, and I couldn’t wait two years to launch another book. Self-publishing ebooks came into it’s own that year, and I was well positioned to ride the ebook wave.

I revisited Stephen King’s On Writing, and decided to take his advice to set aside time every day. The same time. Since I don’t function well at night any more, I settled on the morning. I set my alarm for 4:30 AM and slept through it for a few days…at least I tried, and my body started to realize that I might be serious about getting up this early. Within a week, I had established a tentative routine, which had me sitting at my desk, listening to Pandora and writing by 5 AM. By the end of June, I had solidified this routine into a habit, and found myself waking up early on weekends to write. By mid-July, I realized that I would finish my second novel by the end of August (total writing time of three months), instead of the spring of 2013 (two years).

I remember chuckling at portions of Stephen King’s book, especially the part about his writing habits. I couldn’t understand the concept of writing every day, including holidays, until I had finally settled into my own habitual routine….thanks to his advice. I now wake up at 4:30 without the help of an alarm, and find it unsettling to miss a writing session. I wake up early on vacation, on our sailboat…just about anywhere. I find it equally disturbing to be in between novels…and there’s plenty to do between books, especially as a self-published author and a part-time writer. I balance this time between marketing the latest book, writing reviews and setting up the next novel. 

The next book in this case will be Book Four in the Black Flagged series. I had originally planned to take a break from the series (the last novel came in at 170K words, which is twice the size of most self-published offerings) and pursue a post-apocalyptic follow-up to The Jakarta Pandemic, but the Black Flagged story is far from finished. The Russians are still operating a bioweapons development program and Srecko Hadzic is plotting his escape from the United Nations detention unit. Loose ends galore, and lots of opportunity for Sanderson’s Black Flagged group. 

So, did what did I do this morning? You’re looking at it. 

I’ll start writing Black Flagged Vektor tomorrow!

Sample Chapters from Black Flagged Apex

I have uploaded four chapters of Black Flagged Apex, in addition to a sneak peek into the fourth installment of the Black Flagged series, Black Flagged VEKTOR. Apex will be available in early to mid December. VEKTOR’s release date is unknown, since I may write another post-apocalyptic book after Apex’s release. Enjoy!

Black Flagged Apex Chapters 1-4 PDF

Black Flagged Apex Chapters 1-4 Word Doc

Black Flagged VEKTOR PDF

Black Flagged VEKTOR Word Doc 

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.

 

 

 

Review of Tom Abrahams’ SEDITION

Finding a book like Tom Abrahams SEDITION is one of the true joys of being an Indie writer. Actually, this book found me. Tom found me. I love this genre and was more than happy to give his book a chance. Tom couldn’t have been more accurate in his introductory email. This book is “right up my alley.” While Tom winds down from covering the 2012 election, take a look at my review and consider approaching politics from a different view. Did I mention that his book features a plot to kill several politicians? Maybe hundreds? After being subjected to thousands of TV and radio ads, sit back and enjoy some escapism fiction, SEDITION style.

“Tom Abrahams delivers a tightly written, suspenseful thriller from start to finish. Drawing on the rich tapestry of U.S. politics, this timely conspiracy takes political maneuvering and secret cabals to a new level. Set in the hallowed halls of D.C.’s most ruthless powerbrokers, Abrahams draws on his rich experiences as a national political reporter to craft unforgettable scenes and shower the reader with “insider” details. In a rising sea of political conspiracy novels, Abrahams’ SEDITION stands out as one of best I’ve read in several years.

 SEDITION is based loosely on a series of real historical events surrounding the Cato Street Conspiracy, in which a small group of radicals attempted to the British cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister in 1820. The new setting is modern-day Washington D.C., and Abrahams lends many of the historical names from the original conspiracy to the settings and characters in SEDITION. Taking a few moments online to research the original conspiracy adds another layer of enjoyment to the reading, but is in no way necessary to delve into Abrahams’ rollercoaster plot of twists and turns.

 Abrahams’ strengths as a writer rise to the surface in character development, scene description and faithful plotting. SEDITION brings to life one of my new favorite characters. Sir Spencer Thomas. Cunningly ruthless, fiercely intelligent and arrogant to a flaw, I couldn’t get enough of his “received pronunciation” and dry wit. He is a scathingly hilarious and psychotic character that you will love to hate. The rest of the Abrahams’ characters are crafted with equal attention. Particularly, he pays close attention to the link between their motives and the “conspiracy,” which is important for the genre and this story in particular. One does not engage in SEDITION of the highest order, without the strongest personal motivations, which he captures for each conspirator.

 The plot moves along swiftly and realistically. I detected no logic gaps or dreaded “leaps of faith.” The twists were well-timed and intensified the suspense, catching me by surprise a number of times, which is always rewarding. The final chapters were simply breathtaking. The sense of dread and urgency was palpable…I was reading as quickly as possible.

The final aspect I will mention is the exquisite detail. Tom Abrahams can paint an immersive picture with his words. From the artwork that adorns the Capitol Building’s walls to the feel of fabric in a character’s suit, he draws the reader in with remarkable detail and sets them loose in the scene without wasting pages.

 In full disclosure, Tom Abrahams provided me with a copy of his novel, which I accepted with no preconceptions or conditions. From page one, I was absolutely hooked, and by page two, I knew the weekend would be lost. If you enjoy conspiracy-based thrillers, it doesn’t get any better than SEDITION. I look forward to further offerings from this author.”

The Jakarta Pandemic earns 200th Customer Review on Amazon…

and the statistics remain the same.

One reader out of five would trip me in the grocery store aisle if they got the chance. Of course, if they read Black Flagged, the last place they would ever consider accosting me, would be a grocery store…especially Whole Foods.

See the full spread here : 200 Reviews

All kidding aside, I anticipated “number 200” to be one of the “beauties” that seem to come up out of nowhere to put balance back into my life and remind me that it is impossible to write a story that everybody will like, nor should you try. 

I’ve developed a thicker skin since publishing my first book in the fall of 2010, and learned some hard lessons about writing in a genre that can be politically polarized. Especially if you throw the occasional dig in either political direction. Hands down, the conservatives were the most sensitive, though I did have liberals weigh in on the protagonist’s actions as well. In celebration of my “200th review” being a positive review, I’m sharing the top ten negative comments “earned” over the past 20 months. To be fair, I won’t add any commentary.

1. “I tried to finish the book hoping there will be a shocking,exciting climax and revelation towards the end but was I utterly disappointed when I finished the book feeling empty.Is this a love story or what??It is so cheesy with the main character and his wife that it makes you sick reading it.How many times do I have to read how much they love each other?seriously once should be enough.I read his first book Black flagged that’s why I decided to read this next one but I can’t believe it’s written by the same writer.” 

2. “The lead character is an arrogant know-it-all. He treated his parents and brother with impatience and superiority because they got their info from FOX News (gasp)!”

3.  “I won’t discuss the liberal social bias of the characters other than to say it was a point of distraction, but perhaps they were intended to be social liberals. There was nothing about the main character or his wife that I liked, and the kids were just wooden props. “Ward and June Cleaver Versus the Virus” could have been a fitting title, based on their 50’s era mind-set, yuppie opinions and “better-than-thou” attitudes. By the time I reached the halfway point of the book, I was rooting for the virus!”

4. “I got about one third the way through and gave up. I rarely give up. I am astounded by the positive reviews. It makes me wonder if any of these reviewers are literate. To put it in a nutshell this book really stinks. You feel like you might lose IQ points if you persist in reading it. Please people for you own sakes don’t expose your brains to this drivel.”

5. “It’s a book written by someone who has no idea of what a real, independant-minded, ex-military man or woman is, and it’s beyond the bounds of my credibilty–as developed by my own military background, current law enforcement and survivalist mentality–that a man with his stated credentials, who has so much to lose and so many weapons and other resources could be such a milksop. I ran some of his scenarios across a female Army Infantry vet coworker and she was disgusted by his behavior. I’m beginning to suspect “Steven” may be a pen name for “Stevie” or “Stephanie”

6. “I’m sorry, but this whole theme of “liberal Marine” just didn’t sit well with me, and was completely unrealistic. However, if you are in the less than 20% of the people in this country who call yourselves liberal, you will probably love it.”

7. “I really like the subject matter and the story idea. I just couldn’t get very far because this book is replete with the usage of the Lord’s name taken in vain along with substantial foul language.”

8. “The author’s blurb describes the “Islamic Republic of Indonesia.” There *is no* “Islamic Republic of Indonesia.” That tells you all you need to know about the author’s bias. Only thing missing from this book is a forward by Newt Gingrich or Glenn Beck. If an author can’t get the name of a country right (it wasn’t a “mistake,” BTW), what else did he “not get right”?

9. “Don’t like the “hero” — he is mouthy and antagonistic, aside from being a thief. Needlessly provokes confrontations right from the beginning. Pretty much brags about being prepped while others did not or could not prep, which of course will guarantee resentment, plus he did not train his family. He makes several stupid mistakes and sets himself up for getting killed — and getting his obnoxious family killed.”

10. “not much there not really good he spends to much time dising fox news and not enough time getting a story that is less tan boring”

I eagerly await number 201. Statistically, if I had to bet…I’d bet on a bad one! 

UPDATE: I beat the odds. #201 was a Five Star Review. My glass is half full again!

Review of Hugh Howey’s WOOL

When I started to write a review for Hugh Howey’s sensational bestseller WOOL, I found myself with writer’s block. I never get writer’s block. So much has been said about the WOOL series that I struggled to find something new to say…maybe it’s not possible at this point. Hugh Howey is an inspiration to Indie writers like myself, as he continues to slug it out in the trenches, despite the wild success of this series. If you enjoy dystopian science fiction or apocalyptic stories, you can’t pass this one up. Destined to be a classic? I think so. 

What more can be said about Hugh Howey’s WOOL, right? I suspect readers have just barely scratched the surface. WOOL is a delightfully wicked post-apocalyptic story, packed with an even flowing, inexhaustible supply of cleverly crafted allegorical and symbolic devices. From the Silo itself to the division of classes, Howey develops an irresistible world with a jarring number of eye opening parallels to our own pre-apocalyptic existence.

Beyond this lies an engaging dystopian science fiction story, filled with intrigue, deception and hope. The deeper you dig into the series, the better it gets, though I have to admit that the first book in the series was by far my favorite. The job of Sheriff within the Silo reminded me of Sean Connery’s role as Marshall O’Niel, in the early eighties sci-fi classic Outland.

 I agree that Howey’s Wool is destined to be a science fiction classic in the same vein as Heinlein, Bradbury or Asimov. I know this sounds lofty, but Wool has all of the suspenseful, thought provoking, well-developed elements that drew me into the science fiction classics. I look forward to future installments of the Wool series and to catching up on Howey’s books. 

Review of Richard Stephenson’s COLLAPSE

I’m a sucker for Apocalyptic Fiction, if you couldn’t already tell, so when Richard Stephenson offered me the opportunity to read an advanced copy of COLLAPSE, I couldn’t resist.

Richard Stephenson’s debut novel held me in its grip from start to finish. Based in the not so distant future, the background for Collapse is a frightening projection ripped from current headlines. In the context of today’s Western financial crisis and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Stephenson’s dystopian setting does not come across as a far-fetched fictional ploy, but rather one of several worst case scenarios developed by Beltway think-tanks.

The year is 2027. The war with the new Empire of Iran is not going well. America’s heartland resembles a scene from Mad Max, with the newly formed Unified National Guard barely keeping control on the streets. The unemployment rate is no longer a relevant measure of the economy, because the employed are in the minority. America is still a super power, but that distinction is fading rapidly.

This is the backdrop for a fast paced, character driven story that explores the best and worst of humanity. The reader will be introduced to a host of characters, all with a role to play in the outcome of this sweeping apocalyptic tale. Character development is one of Stephenson’s strongest skills, bringing each character’s motivations and background to light at the right time, in the right place. You won’t find cardboard cut-outs in this story, but watch out…the author often spends time developing characters that meet an untimely fate.

Most of all, Stephenson tells a riveting tale that starts with a bang and doesn’t lose momentum. There is just the right amount of “telling,” where you learn about the background leading up to the war with the Empire of Iran or American’s financial collapse. Most of the story is told from the characters’ perspective, where you will find them battling through incredible circumstances…eventually winding up on the same journey. Stephenson effectively employs the popular, yet often poorly executed strategy of alternating between characters in different settings. The tension escalates in each of his scenes, culminating in several mini-finales. I found myself reading with rapt attention, but constantly looking forward to getting back to the other main characters’ stories.

I would give Stephenson’s debut 4.5 stars. My only complaint was that some of the technology available to one of the main characters seemed unrealistic for 2027. The character is Howard Beck, the wealthiest man in the world, and likely the most intelligent. Stephenson’s incredible imagination shines brightly here, but I found myself slightly distracted by the disparity between what I found inside his compound and outside. In retrospect, I understand what the author was trying to accomplish. In the face of abject dystopia, Beck’s wealth and genius has allowed him to keep pace with the world that “could” have developed. Likely far exceeding it. Perhaps it would be like walking into Bill Gate’s house today, which would be an experience nearly unrecognizable to most of us.

If you like post-apocalyptic scenarios, this story will fully satisfy your hunger for gritty, unapologetic “end of the world” literature.

The Jakarta Pandemic’s LOST SCENES

Actually, they were never really lost. I cut 60,ooo words from the first draft on purpose…to save you from reading a 200,000 word novel. Think Stephen King’s THE STAND length.

21 months after The Jakarta Pandemic’s launch, I have brought about 30,000 words back to life in a re-release. I reformatted and added this material to the end of my book as bonus material. Of course, I don’t expect previous readers to buy the new version. You can download the material right here: BONUS MATERIAL PDF or BONUS  MATERIAL MS Word

What made me decide to resurrect this material? Reading The Thin White Line by Craig DiLouie.

I’ll explain. Most of the material cut from my novel consisted of imbedded news reports, television interviews and radio show segments. Since the story is told solely from the main character’s point of view, there is no omniscient presentation of information about the world pandemic situation. The reader learns about the pandemic through Alex Fletcher eyes and ears. Since I did a ton of research for the novel, I was over eager to “share” volumes of this information with my audience. Not the best idea when you are trying to move a story along and maintain tension. The virtual editing floor was littered with cuts made on the reader’s behalf.

Craig DiLouie’s self-published book, The Thin White Line, is a painstakingly researched, fictional account of an avian flu pandemic in 2012. Presented on a more clinical scale than The Jakarta Pandemic, he tells the story from multiple perspectives within a beleaguered healthcare system and collapsing civil structure. He masterfully details every academic aspect that I cut from The Jakarta Pandemic and more. Way more. Read together, I believe The Thin White Line and The Jakarta Pandemic redefine pandemic fiction.

To complete the ultimate pandemic experience:  Check out The Thin White Line at Craig’s website.

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD IT FREE! for now, so don’t miss out on this great opportunity.

For those of you unfamiliar with Craig DiLouie’s work, he is a well established writer within the apocalyptic horror genre, featuring several wildly popular titles, including Tooth and Nail (which I reviewed on this blog) and Infection. His most recent work, The Killing Floor (a continuation of Infection) was just released by Permuted Press to an eager fan base.