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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Death of a Beagle

Lately I haven't been as diligent about promoting the work of other authors as I have in the past. I feel kinda' bad about it, actually. I fully intend to get back to plugging for others here on the Two-Fisted Blog. Some have asked for reviews, others have not, but I feel obligated to read and review just the same. I feel solidarity with my fellow authors, and I know indies and unknowns, especially, desperately need Amazon reviews and word-of-cybermouth to get noticed by their potential readership. The Two-Fisted Blog is over two years old now, and will continue to promote good reads for as long as it lives.

But lately I've had to cut way back on some activities in order to nurture my own fledgling career as an author. Obviously I haven't had much reading time. And my poor online book store, Virtual Pulp Press, hasn't been getting the TLC it needs (part of that is due to a convoluted situation with the computers in my house). Let's not even discuss other non-breadwinning activities...

So I've been putting what spare minutes and hours I can scrape up into Tier Zero, my sequel to Hell and Gone. Right now it's going through the beta read. Some helpful feedback so far, and no red flags or cause for massive rewrites (knock on wood). But there is one minor tragedy.

Let me rewind. I had a character in H&G, Gordy Puttcamp, who was a pilot. I had another character which was his dog Sentry. My favorite breed is the pit bull, and so I wrote Sentry as a large American terrier who is well-trained and plays with bowling balls like other dogs play with tennis balls (he's based on a real dog, BTW).

Puttcamp isn't in the sequel, so neither is Sentry. But I did give Rocco's Retreads another four-legged friend this time out, and her name is Shotgun (because that is the seat she claims as her own when riding in a motor vehicle).

Shotgun was a beagle. Why? Well, I learned a little about the breed some years ago. Despite their diminutive stature and stuffed-toy cuteness, beagles are hunting dogs. I've heard some folks say their noses are even more sensitive than a bloodhound's. With such an impressive scent-catching ability, I figured a beagle would be an interesting choice for a bomb-sniffing hound, which could be trained for other useful wartime tasks, as well.

As I wrote the first draft, I came to love the little furball--her floppy ears, stubby legs, her pitch-coded howling...

Then a beta reader pointed out that he's never seen beagles used for bomb-sniffing. Come to think of it, neither have I. Not that I've been around bomb squads in the military or civilian world, but I've seen pictures and videos. I haven't seen beagles or bloodhounds used for drug-sniffing, either.

With time as valuable a commodity as it is for me, I showed remarkable self-discipline in not spending half a day or more researching exactly why that is. This time I simply told myself, "There must be a reason why police and bomb disposal forces use mostly shepherds for working dogs."

(I've actually seen some MPs use rotweillers. And my beta reader mentioned Belgian malinois, which look enough like small German shepherds that I've probably mistaken one breed for the other in the past.)

And, while thinking further on the issue, I reminded myself that there were other chores I would have the canine performing which required a high degree of stealth. Beagles are not easily trained to be silent in any circumstance, especially when on a scent.

So, fickle mercenary jerk that I am, I had to put the poor girl down.I want it on the record that I tried, I really tried, to use a non-macho breed for a dog hero.

I had a girl-talk scene or two; there's a romantic sub-plot; a cute little sawed-off hound dog with a cold, wet nose and a wagging tail...I was really showing my sensitive side, there, until my roll was slowed by the mean old realism monster. But alas, no more vanilla-almond iced latte` for me--back to scalding hot black java in a beat-up canteen cup.

That's right, dear readers: Shotgun the beagle is dead. Long live Shotgun the shepherd mix. And things just aren't quite the same in the blood-splattered jungles of Indonesia...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Tales For Boxing Day

So far as I know, Boxing Day is a British Commonwealth holiday in which people trade occupations for a day. At least that's what I learned from a rerun of M.A.S.H. one night long ago when I was bored enough to watch it. And I don't think it has anything to do with the sport of boxing.

But what the heck. It seemed like a good excuse for a promotion of the Fight Card series. So from December 26 to January 1 ALL the Fight Card books will be available for 99 cents on Amazon. That's an opportunity to enjoy a lot of hard-boiled noiresque pulpy sports fiction for the cost of a proportionate binge on 40-ounce Arizona iced teas.

All the Fight Card authors, myself included, publish under the house name "Jack Tunney." But here's some extra incentive to buy mine: If you buy Tomato Can Comeback, then next time I play Fight Night Round Three, I'll name a character after you and beat the living crud out of him.

What's that, you say? You'd rather have your namesake beat the living crud out of me? Well, that can be arranged. Post an Amazon review and I guarantee your alter ego will emerge triumphant. I'll even adjust the outcome of the fight based on your ranking. One star and you'll barely eke out a decision win and fans will forever question your skills. Five stars and you'll destroy me in a devastating knockout that confirms your cyber machismo to the videogame world.

Is that an amazing deal, or what?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Men's Adventure Cameos

Crossovers are nothing new, but with the recent nostalgia for old-school action-adventure, spurred along by the Expendables movies (with a 25-year high school reunion flavor to them), it seems there was never a better time for team-ups between heavy-hitting icons.

The latest Mack Bolan novel, State of War, features a sort of team-up that is more along the lines of one of Alfred Hitchcock's cameos in his own films. Bolan is joined, not by another famous paperback action hero, but by author Jack Murphy (PROMIS; Reflexive Fire; Target Deck). I find this especially cool because I know a little about how he's been a Mack Bolan fan since he was a kid. Don Pendleton's character made Jack an enthusiast of the genre, and ultimately led to him becoming an author himself. His Deckard character is not a pastiche or knockoff of Bolan, but he is a sort of literary offspring. Anyway, Jack Murphy has now been fictionalized, and assists Mack Bolan in his war against evil. I haven't read it yet, but just had to buy the book, knowing this. I'm sure I'll read and review at some point.

This got me thinking. (Dangerous; I know.) Wouldn't it also be cool if, among the circle of military fiction authors publishing right now, we had some fun with crossovers in some of our own books? Not cameos of authors, necessarily, but of our characters. I read somewhere that Bolan and the the Death Merchant knew of each other, therefore existed in the same "universe." I don't know if they ever had a crossover or even cameos in each other's adventures, outside of fan fiction. If they didn't...they should have!

This could be our own little "in joke," shared by those savvy enough to follow the Two-Fisted Blog, of course. It wouldn't have to be a ha-ha funny joke, or a detour into self-parody a la` The Expendables II. Just something kind of fun, that would bring smiles to our faces, while paying tribute/respect to the creations of our fellow, contemporary, action-adventure authors.

What do y'all think?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Hegel Rides Again: Enemies Foreign and Domestic by Matthew Bracken

In the wake of the latest media blitz, capitalizing on the school shooting in Connecticut, I figured it was as good a time as any to review the first book in a trilogy written by Matthew Bracken. Bracken, a former Navy SEAL, is someone who believes in the 2nd Amendment, and his trilogy fictionalizes the federal government's war against individual rights.

It probably won't be long before somebody labels this book prophetic. And in some ways it is. Not that the author is clairvoyant--he just has paid enough attention to history and current events to notice the patterns and extrapolate from there.

Bracken has put some well-drafted characters into the mix. What mix? Some of tomorrow's headlines, and the real stories behind them. Tomorrow, that is, if you refuse to believe that the sort of false-flag operations he depicts are already happening.

As a work of fiction, what's refreshing to see is that the characters make sloppy mistakes and bad decisions that real people do...and usually pay for it. But even when they are smart and extremely careful, Big Brother can still track them down and bring the pain. Yet there are other characters who make mistakes (like the sniper that got cut around the eye by his scope) and don't wind up paying for them. Plausible.

Ranya Bardiwell is easily the smartest "good guy" in the book. The Lebanese-American beauty has had no formal military training as have most of the other citizens forced into conflict with their government, yet she accomplishes some impressive feats and makes very few mistakes along the way.

Brad Fallon is a likeable guy who just wants to live free and mind his own business. He has worked hard and saved to fix up a boat he plans to sail away from the police state our country is becoming. But fate and the evil ambitions of fascist control freaks (who happen to be just incrementally smarter than Eric Holder) will soon drive Brad, Ranya and some other law-abiding citizens together, hunted down as enemies of the State.

My only "problems" with this novel come down to matters of opinion:

First, the Mini-14 is called a "crummy rifle." I wholeheartedly disagree. True, it is not as accurate as the M16A2 and later AR variants. But it is far more dependable over time (and in any environment) than the AR15 family, speaking from personal experience.

More importantly, Bracken portrays our national descent into socialist police-statehood as orchestrated by over-zealous ATF nazis, while the individuals at the highest levels of government are hapless dupes, innocent of the false flag black ops making their own agenda a reality. That strikes me as a naive worldview, made necessary by the presumption that conspiracy is impossible. (After all, conspiracy theory is a hate-filled, farfetched, cockamamie fabrication of the vast right-wing conspiracy, ain't it?)

Compare press coverage of Fast & Furious with press coverage of this school shooting that just took place. The former has been swept under the rug, while the latter will continue to be hyped at least until the next atrocity. Fast & Furious, at last count, was responsible for roughly ten times the murders of those comitted at the school shooting. One reason for the glaring double standard is that Holder's "Justice Department" was caught red-handed committing a false flag operation. The crisis was revealed as a fabrication, and so it went to waste. This conveniently timed atrocity against children in Connecticut has not been revealed as a fabrication. This crisis will not go to waste. Though small potatoes compared to the murders perpetrated by Attorney General Eric Holder, this story will continue to be rammed into the consciousness of the culture relentlessly.

If you don't recognize the pattern, or the agenda, there's no use in trying to explain it to you, anyway.

This is a well-written book, but there's too much truth in it for an intelligent reader to be comfortable cuddling up with it. Escapism, it is not.

Oh yeah--what kept me from reading Bracken's books for so long was the exorbitant price. Electronic versions were priced around $10; paperbacks double that, or more. I obtained this E-book as a result of a free giveaway, or I might never have read it. But I'm happy to report that the prices have been reduced to a much more competitive level. This one was $4.99 and Castigo Cay was $6.99 last I checked. Still a bit steep for E-books, but not ridiculous, either.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Yesterday was the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I haven't read or watched any fresh material on the subject in quite some time, which is why I didn't blog about it. But that event was a turning point in history I doubt many people today appreciate.

The war with Japan was a catalyst which led to a change in warfare, and the world as a whole. Even after the Cold War ended, the paradigm shift has not yet been overturned. The major players on the global scene are still pushing their own agendas via proxy wars, when necessary. So I'm featuring a book written by someone who was there in the midst of some of those proxy wars: The Devil's Secret Name, now available as an e-book.

I've reviewed some of Morris's other books here on the Two-Fisted Blog before and, long story short, they are all good reads that just might educate you a bit if you're not careful.

A highly decorated Green Beret commander and acclaimed military writer, Jim Morris spent his post-Vietnam years as a journalist on assignment in the world’s most dangerous battle zones. Armed only with a reporter’s eye and a soldier’s heart, he covered the Third World conflicts that served to forge a post-Cold War world, shaping both lasting peace and sowing the seeds of global terrorism. An embedded journalist, years before the term was coined, he bore witness to the fierce realities and uncertain outcomes of guerrilla warfare.

From the jungles of Southeast Asia to the shattered peace of the Middle East and the violent twilight world of El Salvador, here are the frontline dispatches of a veteran reporter and seasoned solider. Inevitably the only reporter on the scene, Morris chronicles more than combat shrouded in the fog of war. Living among the soldiers, his remarkable battlefield reports capture the extraordinary courage, unwavering faith, and the dark humor common to all combat troops.


Jim Morris served three tours with Special Forces (The Green Berets) in Vietnam. The second and third were cut short by serious wounds. He retired of wounds as a major. He has maintained his interest in the mountain peoples of Vietnam with whom he fought, and has been, for many years, a refugee and civil rights activist on their behalf.

His Vietnam memoir War Story won the first Bernal Diaz Award for military non-fiction. Morris is author of the story from which the film Operation Dumbo Drop was made, and has produced numerous documentary television episodes about the Vietnam War. He is author of three books of non-fiction and four novels. He has appeared on MSNBC as a commentator on Special Operations.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gunfight: Union Yellow-Legs vs. KKK Night Riders!


Amazon has reduced the cost of my post-Civil War e-novella, Radical Times, to 99 cents. What better time to promote it, sez I. I've made sure it's available for the same price at Barnes & Noble for the Nook, at Kobo, Smashwords, Sony, Apple, Diesel and everywhere else.

It's tempting to categorize Radical Times as a western, and it does feature horses, six-guns and shootouts, but it takes place east of the Mississippi. Pick Garver is a soldier who survives the horrors of the War Between the States, but might not survive the smoldering hatred during Reconstruction. A native Arkansan, Pick was raised on his slave-owning uncle's plantation, but ran away North to fight with the Union Army. His "treason" is not appreciated by the white population of his hometown, but a desire to see two women overcame his better judgment. One was his dying mother; the other is the woman he loves but probably can never be with.

Wanna take a peek?

The invaders wore hoods made from flour sacks, pillowcases and various other material. Most were cloaked with sheets or blankets, though one of them wore a Confederate Army jacket. Pistols still smoking in their white hands, they fanned out to cover the crowd.
“Make way!” shouted a muffled voice.
The crowd parted, leaving an open path up the aisle to the front.
“What’s goin’ on?” one man asked the masked intruders. A pistol fired and he went down.
“Any more stupid questions?” asked the masked figure who had shot him.
“The time for you niggers to gloat is over,” declared another muffled voice. “By order of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. You niggers up there in front, come here.”
Huddy, Josiah and Lutrell exchanged fearful looks, then stepped down and walked toward the masked men.
“That means you, too, Shealy!”
Randy Shealy blanched, but stepped down and overtook the others.
When the group of leaders had reached the back of the church, Shealy approached one of the masked men. “Just what is the meaning of this?” he asked, in a quavering voice. “Who are you and what right do you have—“
The masked man slammed his pistol into the side of Shealy’s face. The preacher went down. “You’re a disgrace to the white race,” the masked man said. He kicked the prone, unconscious body. Then, seemingly enjoying the sensation of his boot sinking into Shealy’s stomach, kicked him again and again.
Pick went from shocked, to scared, to furious as the scene unfolded. His single-action Colt had five cylinders loaded, the hammer resting on an empty chamber, but none of his compatriots seemed to be armed at all. Slaves were forbidden to bear arms, so few freed men even owned weapons yet, much less were in the habit of traveling with one.
“Rush them!” Pick cried, unholstering his gun. “There’s only a few of them; we’ve got them outnumbered.”
They could have overpowered the murderous visitors with minimal casualties, but the crowd was sluggish to act.
“Who said that?” demanded one of the intruders.
Another fired toward the sound of Pick’s voice, hitting someone in between them.
Pick, unable to get a clear shot through the crowd, ran to the aisle. With a hooded target now in unobstructed sight, Pick took aim and fired. The man was slammed to the floor.
Men scrambled to get farther out of the line of fire. The hooded intruders poured hasty shots in Pick’s direction. Pick dropped to his belly and fired again, winging one masked man in the arm. A hundred voices shouted all at once.
The masked men grabbed the leaders—two of them carried Randy Shealy—and backed toward the door. As the last one backed out with his captive, pistol still waving at the occupants of the church, Simon Lutrell tore free and dove to the ground. The masked man cursed and fired into the room, then the door was slammed shut.
Amidst all the yelling and cursing, there were noises outside now: thudding, scuffing, scraping, even hammering. Then there was a crash. A flaming bale of cotton came crashing through one of the only two windows, landing on one of the church pews and blossoming into a powerful blaze.
Panicked men charged for the door, trampling friends and neighbors in the process. But the door was solidly barricaded, and smoke seeped in around it. Pick tried to assess the situation without getting trampled himself.
Pick decided the windows were the best way to escape, but they were rather high…and now they were being boarded up from outside with preassembled planking. Smoke thickened rapidly in the building from all sides. The whole structure had been set afire from outside.
He tried to quiet the mob, but at the top of his lungs could not be heard above the din. He moved toward the window nearest him. Others nearer the windows had the same thought and got there first. Men jumped up and hung from the window ledges by one hand, but had little leverage to force the boards out with the other hand. If they would only cooperate with each other, one man could stand on the shoulders of two and push against the barricade. But nobody was being cooperative.
 The church grew hotter and smokier. Pick yelled and mimed directions to no avail. They were all going to suffocate and burn here because nobody would work together and focus on a practical plan.

This scene was lifted from the middle of the story.

This is from an Amazon review:

A group of Union soldiers returning home after Appomattox has one last battle to fight and the author does a wonderful job in this tightly written novella of drawing characters and moving plot forward.

This novella has everything - a nice exposition that doesn't get bogged down, wonderful character development, a bit of romance, a touch of sex followed by intense, well-thought out action before returning to a poignant touching ending that distilled the consequences of American history into the lives of two lovers.

That's right, Two-Fisted Bloggees: Yours truly tried his hand at a romantic subplot--just to give you a warm, squishy feeling before the final bloodbath.

Dang. From the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" list, it's obvious most of the sales have come from romance fans. Where are the lovers of blood and guts action? Does this mean I should shift my efforts from action-adventure to mushy bodice-rippers? Oh, the irony!

 Here's another Amazon review...I assume from one of those romance readers:

Informative, exciting, romance. All good. But I didn't like the ending so I'm hoping there will be a book 2?????

 Next time don't be so long-winded, lady! (Just kidding--I really appreciate reviews of any length.)

Well, pilgrim, it so happens the idea of a sequel has occurred to me, so I'll make a deal: if sales shoot through the roof and I get a respectable number of reviews and likes (let's say, um...40), I'll do it.

Whaddya mean, ya don't like the ending?!?!?

Actually, I think I know. But I won't divulge because it would be a spoiler. So nyah-nyah.

Meanwhile, I'm off to buy a bodice so I can practice ripping it.

(P.S: Radical Times is also included in my adventure anthology Virtual Pulp, which is available in paperback as well as e-book formats. What a friggin' bargain!)