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.
I know, I haven’t been posting here much. Need to get on that. Probably need to do some scheduling. But I’ve been busy. Very. I’ve got another new series in the works, and it’s more than a little different from anything I’ve done before. I’ve played around with military action adventure, horror/fantasy, and heroic fantasy (though y’all haven’t seen that much of that yet). But this is going to be science fiction. Now, the funny part is that I originally started tinkering with writing, back in high school, with science fiction. I still have notebooks (somewhere) of notes, starmaps, and starship diagrams from those days. I had an entire sweeping timeline of wars between alien empires and human-alien alliances. It was, to borrow a turn of phrase from Nick Cole and Jason Anspach, WingCommanderNotWingCommander with a leavening of StarWarsNotStarWars. In fact, Task Force Desperate started out as a mil-fic backstory leading into the “21st Century Chaos” that was part of the backstory of what that epic evolved into. (It isn’t anymore; the Praetorian Series became very much its own thing.) What I’m working on now isn’t that particular epic. It’s much more “The Clone Wars meets The Horus Heresy with
So, a week and a half after Fury in the Gulf‘s release, I see I still have some learning to do when it comes to making Amazon’s algorithm sit up and do tricks. Working on it. There might be a new push just before launching the pre-order for Brannigan’s Blackhearts #2 – Burmese Crossfire next month. As for Burmese Crossfire, it still has one editing pass to go, plus I have to get the preview for Enemy Unidentified done to put in the back. As I’ve been thinking about Enemy Unidentified and the later books in the series, there might be some adjustment in the planned schedule. There seems to be more of an arc forming in my head, contrary to the original idea for the series. (I’ve already established some continuity with characters–no, not everybody’s going to survive–so this won’t be quite “’60s TV show episodic.”) With the series sitting where it is, I’m adjusting to an every-sixty-days schedule for releases. This will allow me to work on a couple of other projects, one of which has already been started. Not going to say too much about ’em yet, since they won’t be launching for a little while (February
Action Adventure vs Techno-Thriller
What’s the difference? In reality, less than one might think. In general, I think, the “Action Adventure” genre, as exemplified (and coined) by Don Pendleton’s Executioner series, which spawned multiple spinoffs and inspired others (there is actually a flashback in SOBs #3, Butchers of Eden, in which Col. Barrabas remembers a night fighting back to back in Vietnam with Sgt. Mack Bolan), has generally been looked down upon as cheap, poorly-done “pulp,” with even less merit than comic books. “Techno-thrillers,” ostensibly started by Tom Clancy with The Hunt for Red October, are considered better quality and more realistic, though still sneered at by the literati (I had a high-school English teacher speak dismissively of Clancy as “pop-lit.”).
The (Literary) Problem of Evil
From a piece by John C. Wright, from a few years ago: In none of the stories I just mentioned, even stories where the image of Our Lord in His suffering nailed to a cross is what drives back vampires, is any mentioned made of the Christ. Is is always an Old Testament sort of God ruling Heaven, or no one at all is in charge. So why in Heaven’s name is Heaven always so bland, unappealing, or evil in these spooky stories? I can see the logic of the artistic decisions behind these choices, honestly, I can. If I were writing these series, I would have (had only I been gifted enough to do it) done the same and for the same reason. It is the same question that George Orwell criticized in his review of THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH by CS Lewis. In the Manchester Evening News, 16 August 1945, Orwell writes that the evil scientists in the NICE [the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments, who are the Black Hats of the yarn] are actually evil magicians of a modern, materialist bent, in communion with ‘evil spirits.’ Orwell comments: Mr. Lewis appears to believe in the existence of such
The Barrabas Run
Part of my “creative process” (damn, I hate that term) often involves reading in the genre I’m going to be working in. Call it “setting the tone.” I’ve had a few standbys for the shooter genre, ranging from Larry Correia’s and Mike Kupari’s Dead Six series, to Jack Murphy’s Deckard series, to Jack Silkstone’s PRIMAL series, among others. Brad Taylor’s Pike Logan series has been pretty good (though I’m way behind on that one), along with Dalton Fury’s Kolt Raynor series. I’ve also gone with some of the older books, such as Forsyth’s The Dogs of War, which I reviewed last week. Part of the inspiration for the upcoming Brannigan’s Bastards has been the old Pinnacle/Gold Eagle Action-Adventure series, such as The Executioner, Phoenix Force, Able Team, and Stony Man. But a larger part, among those old pulp shoot-em-ups, has been the Soldiers of Barrabas, or SOBs.
In The Deep Places Of The World
The Jed Horn series usually hasn’t involved a great deal of research (certainly nowhere near as much as either the Praetorian series or Kill Yuan). A little bit of looking around for cool big-bore rifles for the Witch Hunters to carry, perhaps, but for the most part, the series has been a somewhat more serious version of telling spook stories around the campfire at Scout Camp (and depriving young Scouts of many hours of sleep). But with Older and Fouler Things, I ran into the need to do some research. Since the story is a cross between The Exorcist, Dracula, and an old-fashioned dungeon crawl (with holy gunslingers and a biker priest/exorcist), there is a substantial part that happens underground, in an old, abandoned silver mine. Now, I’ve been in a hard-rock mine before, but it was many, many moons ago, so memory is hazy, at best. I had to do some digging. The best resource I found was a YouTube channel entitled “Exploring Abandoned Mines and Unusual Places.” I got a good idea of general layouts of old hard-rock mines, whether silver, copper, or even tin. I also found some stuff that kind of fit in with the Jed
The Writer Master Plan
Back in June, Nick Cole and Jason Anspach released a military SF novel entitled Galaxy’s Edge: Legionnaire. I’d been peripherally aware of Mr. Cole for a while, ever since Harper Voyager kicked him to the curb for political reasons. But what he and Anspach pulled off made me sit up and take notice. Because Legionnaire, a brand-new, independently-published mil-SF novel, shot to the top 100 on Kindle, and #1 in its categories, and proceeded to stay there. For weeks. And they made no secret that they wanted to share how they did it with other authors. I talked to Mr. Cole myself for a bit, and got the gears turning, even before they released their After Action Report podcast. Cole pointed me toward the non-fiction work of Chris Fox, who has been studying what works in independent publishing, specifically Amazon, for some time. I started doing some more reading.
“This Story is Dated.”
I recently had the opportunity to finally pick up and read a classic of science fiction, E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Triplanetary. I’d had the paperback sitting on my shelf for quite some time, but had only in the last couple of months gotten around to reading it. I was a little confused at first, since none of the stuff about the Arisians or the Eddorians that was on the back cover was in the book. It turns out that Cosmos Books had only printed the original 1934 serial version of Triplanetary, from before Smith rewrote it to fit in with the Lensman series in 1947. Instead of the actual Lensman version of Triplanetary, that the cover advertised, these folks printed the original, and packaged it along with another story, “Masters of Space,” that Smith had serialized with E. Everett Evans in 1961 and 1962. Not knowing anything about the story, and being unsure if it was supposed to be part of the Lensman series or not, I went looking around the internet to find out about it.
The First Draft is Done
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.