That’s Mickey Spillane, not me. But that’s a manly writer photo, right there. Seemed fitting. So, I’ve been busy. Really busy. Too busy to do much blogging, either here or over on The Unity Wars. Going to try to start picking up the slack on that soon, once I get draft writing somewhat stabilized. Given some market research, and seeing how the last book has done, The Unity Wars is moving somewhat to the forefront for the moment. That doesn’t mean that Brannigan’s Blackhearts is going away anytime soon; it is, however, going to slow down just a bit. Probably going to be four books per year, rather than six. I’ve barely scratched the surface on High Desert Vengeance, Brannigan’s Blackhearts #5, but I should be able to hit it hard after the next couple of weeks. Look for it in August. I’m also working on a pitch for another project that hopefully I’ll be doing with another author and good friend of mine. Can’t say much about it yet; we’re still hashing out the details, and he’s got to sell it to his publisher. Keep your fingers crossed. And with that, back to the word mines with me.
Since there’s a lot of inspiration from the SOBs series behind Brannigan’s Blackhearts, I’ve been slowly working my way through the series, in part as research to see how Gold Eagle ran a long-running action series. I slowed down a bit, due to missing a few volumes in the middle, but since those gaps have been filled, I’ll be getting back to it. Red Hammer Down is SOBs #6, following directly on from Gulag War. In a very real sense, they form a two-parter; Red Hammer Down goes into the backlash from the mission to Siberia in Gulag War.
What’s the key? What makes a combat scene really “authentic?” Pain. There’s an old saying in the Recon community: “Recon ain’t fun.” It’s pain and agony and suffering, only faced with the grit and perseverance to get through it and survive, to kill the enemy before they kill you. Over on Tom Kratman’s wall on FB, the subject has come up of a young woman on a panel at Life, The Universe, And Everything 2017. She claimed at one point that “gamers can write good action scenes, because we’ve experienced that.” No. No, you haven’t.
Frozen Conflict went live on Kindle at midnight. It’s also been available in paperback for a few days now; I approved the proof a little early. The plus side of that is that the Kindle and Paperback pages were linked by yesterday, so I don’t have to pester KDP about it, like I had to with the last two Brannigan’s Blackhearts books. Manhunt In A Post-Soviet Hellhole Transnistria. A breakaway republic on the eastern border of Moldova, and a bolt-hole for notorious black-market arms dealer Eugen Codreanu. Except that it’s suddenly turned from safe haven to prison for the man who was once rumored to be dealing in ex-Soviet backpack nukes. A shadow facilitator reaches out to John Brannigan, former Marine Colonel turned mercenary. The job: get Codreanu out of Transnistria, out from under the noses of the thousands of Russian peacekeepers swarming around the breakaway republic. The hook: Codreanu might have information about the terrorist operation in the Gulf of Mexico a few months before. The catch: there might be someone else trying to beat them to the punch. The terrorists who seized the Tourmaline-Delta platform in the Gulf of Mexico might be trying to tie up loose ends.
“Timeliness” is a temptation that I think most military/spy fiction writers have to deal with. “Ripped from the headlines!” and “Prophetic!” are compliments that reviewers have used for works in the genre going back to Tom Clancy, at least. Those same phrases have been applied to some of my own work, and I’ll admit that it can be somewhat affirming (though often in a grim sort of way) to see events move in a generally similar direction to that predicted in one of your novels. It shows you that you read the situation fairly accurately.
John Brannigan sank the bit of the double-bladed ax into the log round he was using as a chopping block and lowered himself painfully to sit on a bigger log nearby. His breath was steaming in the cold air, and looking down at his bared forearms, he could see steam rising from the graying hairs there, as well. It was well below freezing, but he was sweating and stripped down to his shirt. He gulped air, wincing slightly at the stitch in his side, as he critically looked at the woodpile. He might have gotten a quarter of a cord split. It wasn’t bad, given how long he’d been working, but it wasn’t up to snuff in his mind, either. Stretching, he felt the scar tissue on his side pull. It had been months since he’d been shot out on the Gulf of Mexico, and the wounds were healed, but it felt like it was taking forever to get his conditioning back. His leg and his side were tight, and his leg especially didn’t seem to want to work quite right. Getting old, John. He was further reminded of the fact as the cabin door swung open and Hank walked
“You’re imagining things, Eugen,” Cezar Lungu said. He was leaning back in an overstuffed easy chair with a massy, polished wooden frame, a blond, vacant-eyed Ukrainian hooker on his lap. He was fully clothed; she was in her underwear. He picked up the shot of Kvint and tossed it back with a grimace and a loud, “Pah!” “We have an arrangement! And with what we’re paying the Russians and the Transnistrians both, we should at least get a warning if anything has changed!” Eugen Codreanu did not turn away from the window, but continued peering into the night. He wasn’t looking out toward the Dnieper River below the dacha, either. He was looking back toward the wrought-iron gates and the guard posts, through the trees. He was looking back toward the city of Ribnitza, which was throwing its glow against the near-perpetual pall of smoke and steam coming from the steelworks. When Codreanu still hadn’t replied while he poured more Kvint, Lungu tried again. “You’ve been jumping at shadows for four months, Eugen,” he ventured.
It’s been a while for one of these, but I’ve slowed down a bit, since I have yet to get my hands on #7, River of Flesh, and #8, Eye of the Fire. I’ve admittedly been a bit reluctant to continue with #7, given that Robin Hardy wrote it, and my last outing with Hardy, Show No Mercy was…less than thrilling. But Michael Mercy, over on the SOBs Fan group on Facebook, assures me that the problems with Show No Mercy were corrected with River of Flesh, so I’ll be getting back in the swing of things soon(ish).
With Brannigan’s Blackhearts #4 – Frozen Conflict coming soon, it’s time for the regular gun porn post! This one turned out to be a bit more of an irregular operation, moving through the Eastern European underworld and relying on that underworld–not to mention a bit of “tactical acquisition”–for supplies. As such, there’s a bit more variety in the weaponry used in Frozen Conflict, though it’s still almost entirely Eastern Bloc. Eugen Codreanu is a Romanian gangster, but as an arms dealer he moves freely through multiple countries. He’s done business in the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe. But most of his men carry what they’re comfortable with. His right hand, Cezar Lungu, carries a Beretta PX4 Storm.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEDU1OC_pNI] Doing research for the Brannigan’s Blackhearts series can get interesting. Since most of my experience has been in the Middle East, sometimes I’ve got to dig to figure stuff out for other regions. As I point out at one point in Frozen Conflict, much of combat tactics boil down to common sense, and therefore there are certain common factors in good tactics. But sometimes, groups and nations don’t necessarily teach good tactics. So, trying to figure out what Transnistrian Army soldiers would do when trying to clear a structure, I had to dig for some regular Russian Army footage (not the carefully tailored, backflipping hatchet attack Spetsnaz stuff; these are regular grunts). It’s still going to be an approximation, but I found a bit of urban warfare footage in the above video, mostly starting at about 2:20. It’s a doozy, too. Lets just say that we’d have had the snot bubbles thrashed out of us at Bn for the kind of fire discipline (or lack thereof) these guys show… Sucks to be a hostage…