I’ve delved into Mexico a bit in my fiction. The deepest was The Devil You Don’t Know, which not only looked at the overall situation in Mexico, but also the consequences of focusing too much on High Value Targets. We seem to be obsessed with getting the “leaders,” the HVTs. (Not saying that there aren’t people working on “going up the killchain,” but culturally, our focus is always on getting the guy at the top. Whether it was the “Thunder Run” to Baghdad, that was supposed to end the war in days, in a repeat of Desert Storm, or the focus on getting Bin Laden, or al Baghdadi, or El Chapo. The idea seems to be that if you get the guy at the top, then the bad guys will collapse. Except that it doesn’t work that way. It never really has. Capturing and executing Saddam didn’t end the insurgency. Killing Bin Laden wasn’t the end of Al Qaeda. And from the trial of El Chapo, it’s evident that he really wasn’t that important to the Sinaloa Cartel, either. As of this writing, the prosecution and defense have finished their closing statements and we don’t know how it will end.
Hopefully everybody had a good Christmas. I posted earlier that I was working on facelifting the American Praetorians series. That project is now complete, with new front and back matter, some edits, new covers for Task Force Desperate and Hunting in the Shadows, and standardized formatting through all paperbacks. In honor of it, and for those of you who might be new, for a limited time, here’s a chapter from the final book, Lex Talionis. Bullets and blood aplenty for the holidays. (I’m working on possibly coming out with a couple of boxed sets for the series in the next couple of months. Possibly with some previously-untold short stories.)
So, I’ve got to get new files for the revised Task Force Desperate cover. KDP Print is printing way too dark, and the silhouettes are disappearing into the background. I don’t think that’s going to be an issue with the updated Hunting in the Shadows cover. Feast your eyes: I think it fits the title a little better. (And before somebody starts pointing out the AR, notice the profile, and remember that .300 Blackout ARs were in common use in this book as well.) Currently no similar updates in mind for the other covers; I think they’re still pretty solid. Some interior updates are happening, but they are relatively minor (reformatting, updating the “Also By” list, etc.). Once everything’s updated, I’ll probably run a Kindle Countdown deal, probably next month, see if I can’t rekindle a little interest. Drawing the Line might (might) be coming down off Amazon and turning into a free newsletter draw via Bookfunnel (like Incident at Trakan for The Unity Wars). Haven’t quite decided that yet. (And, it’s going to mean redoing interior files again to put the link in the back matter.) Now, back to the word mines.
It’s been a slow couple of weeks, because that’s how outlining goes. I’d hoped to speed that process up, but the Cogitation Engine only seems to work so fast, and outlining a book still takes the better part of a week. A week for less than 5k words (Grumble, growl), but those 5k – are necessary to get the machine running when it comes to hammering out the draft. In the meantime, however, the aforementioned updates to the American Praetorian series have begun. Task Force Desperate has been reformatted, bringing the front and back matter (and the rest of the interior formatting) more in line with later stuff. Applying the lessons of the last six years, you might say (yes, it has been six years since TFD first was published). There’s also a new cover. Over the five years of the series, the style was developed to a sharp point, and so we’re going back and touching up the first couple to match. Feast your eyes: Hunting in the Shadows will be getting a similar update soon; I’ve just got to figure out what reference photos to send Derrick for him to work the silhouettes. Currently, the Kindle edition has
Mercenaries haven’t really been a staple of mainstream thrillers since the ’80s. Tom Clancy introduced Jack Ryan, an analyst, as the hero of his techno-thrillers, and it seemed to set the tone for much of the genre to come. Harold Coyle’s heroes were mostly tankers. Dale Brown’s were bomber pilots. As the GWOT got started, even the more shadowy operatives, like Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp and Brad Taylor’s Pike Logan were still directly operating within the government apparatus, if so black that they “didn’t exist.” So, why did I go with mercenaries for the Praetorian series, Kill Yuan, and the Brannigan’s Blackhearts series? Well, I think that has several answers.
What do we have here? It’s a beast of a book; 430 pages. Five more days.
Well, after a 4057-word day, the first draft of Lex Talionis is done. Finally. This thing is a beast. It is the longest book I’ve written to date, topping the final draft of Hunting in the Shadows by over 13,000 words, weighing in at 161,860 words. And that’s before editing, where a draft usually gains a couple thousand words. But there were a lot of threads to tie up in this one. It’s brutal, it’s bleak, but I think it’s a fitting end to the series. There are parts that were quite uncomfortable to write, and probably will be a bit uncomfortable to read. It is a cautionary tale in many ways, as the tagline, “War and Politics Have Consequences” should probably tell you. I’m going to take a couple of days to let the gray matter rebound, and then it’s into editing. I’ve got thirty days to get this monster ready to go.
This post, while following on from the last one, will be addressing a bit more of a broad problem across genres. It’s gotten a lot more talk in the science fiction and fantasy genres (particularly fantasy) than it has in the thriller genre, but it still applies. The fantasy version of this has been most recently highlighted by the work of George R.R. Martin, though there are plenty of authors working along a similar vein, which has been coined “grimdark,” a term that became at first something of a joke, based on the tag-line for the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop sci-fantasy wargame: “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.” Taken to its extreme, it can become so ludicrous that it shades into “grimderp.”