The Librio Defection: Promotion

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G’day all. I am running a promotion over the next few days (from September 25th to 29th), where my first Jarvis Love novella, The LIBRIO Defection is available as an eBook for free from Amazon.

The LIBRIO Defection is a fast paced novella filled with international intrigue and espionage.

1966: The world’s greatest violinist, Soviet, Alexander Stanislas wants to defect to the West after the violent death of his half-brother. But he has one condition; he wants his Italian mistress, Belladonna Librio to come over with him.

Jarvis Love works for the Global Intelligence Network. He is young, inexperienced and about to be thrust in the explosive world of Cold War espionage for the first time. His assignment seems simple enough; locate Belladonna Librio and escort her back to London. Major Sacha Vorinski, of the Fifth Chief Directorate has other plans.

Filled with brutal fights and wild chases, The LIBRIO Defection is a white knuckle action adventure which harks back to the great spy novels of the ’60s and ’70s, but infused with the high-octane punch of a modern thriller. In this edition, also included is a sneak peek at Jarvis Love’s first full length adventure, The DANAKIL Deception.

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The Librio Defection: Promotion

The Danakil Deception

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My latest spy thriller, THE DANAKIL DECEPTION, has just been released by Pro Se Productions, and I have got to say I am really happy to be part of the Pro Se family. On the surface, as Pro Se is highly regarded as a publisher of New Pulp tales, it may seem an odd fit. But I beg to differ – Pro Se has a healthy selection of espionage themed books – and more importantly a philosophy that is similar to my own. Before I go any further, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good thriller grounded in the here and now, and that holds a mirror to the reality of every day living. But I must confess I love a good story that drags me away from the everyday – escapist fare that takes me away from the mundane troubles and stresses of modern life, and that is what Pro Se specialises in. You don’t have to be a spy fan to be caught up in the adventures of the Rook, Thunder Jim Wade, or the Silver Manticore.

But, of course, if you’re reading this, you probably know me as a ‘spy guy’. And that’s a hat I am happy to wear. But if you combine ‘spy’ with fast paced ‘pulp adventure’ then you’ll really appreciate where I am coming from, and that’s what THE DANAKIL DECEPTION is all about.

So what is this Danakil thing I keep talking about? It’s an area in north eastern Ethiopia called the Danakil Depression. As a boy (and still as an adult), one of the many aspects I loved about a good spy story was the globetrotting. I was enthralled as I discovered cities, countries and cultures much different to my own. When i decided to write a series of spy novels, in the same spirit, I knew I had to take readers to locations that they had never been before – hence the Danakil Depression.

It’s an area of the world that is off the tourist trail. I read that it has about 70 visitors per year. It is also the hottest place on earth, with temperatures soaring up to 60 degrees C in summer. Then there’s the volcanic landscape, a virtual kaleidoscope of colour, pockmarked with salt plains and sulphurous acid pools. Sort of like a snake-bit version of Monument Valley.

So this Danakil thing – it’s a part of the world that is seldom seen, and it’s the primary location in my latest espionage thriller.

THE DANAKIL DECEPTION is the first of six full length adventures featuring agent, Jarvis Love. This story sees him young and at the beginning of his career. He makes mistakes and has to fight to make things right. And that’s one of the key elements to the series – Love’s a fighter. Many a time he finds his back to the wall, but he refuses to give in, fighting tooth and nail to stay in the game.

The Danakil Deception

Codename Orchid

Orchid
Author: Lance Stahlberg
Publisher: Pro Se Productions
Published: August 2014

The Single Shot series from Pro Se Productions are rapid fire tales that can be read in one or two sittings (and cost only .99c). The key words here are ‘rapid fire’ – as Codename Orchid is a tightly written, fast-paced, high-tech thriller that doesn’t let up till the end.

The story, about a young woman named Regina Cross is split into two narrative strands that meet at the end. The first strand concerns Regina, a young college student, who discovers she is a KGB sleeper agent. The second strand follows Regina – codenamed ‘Orchid’ – as she undertakes a mission to stop weapons grade uranium from falling into enemy hands.

Fans of the television series, Alias – or the film Salt will love this. Sign me up for more Regina Cross spy adventures. Highly recommended.

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Codename Orchid

Covert Ops: Tear Down the Wall

Gemini

Last week I talked briefly about a new project from Pro Se Productions called Covert Ops: Gemini, which is fashioned on the sixties and seventies TV series, Mission Impossible. The anthology contains three stories, The Havana Protocol, by J. Walt Layne – Romanoff and Juliet, by Tim Lasiuta – and “Tear Down This Wall!” by Wesley Smith.

Recently, I asked Smith about how he approached his contribution to the project.

CovertOpsGeminiIt’s difficult to explain why I approached this project in the way that I did. Coming up with ideas from scratch is difficult for me. There are infinite directions in which to go, and I can never choose just one. Throwing in random elements requires more creativity. Tell me to write any kind of story that I want and I’ll lock up. But if you tell me to write a western that includes the USS Constellation, Jefferson City, Missouri and the Monkees… Now that’s a challenge.

That’s how I started “Tear Down This Wall!” I pulled out 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and landed on the entry for The Brandenburg Gate. If my finger had fallen on The Blarney Stone or the Drakensberg Mountains, the story would be unrecognizably different.

Once I saw the picture of the Brandenburg Gate, I knew that the story I would write would be named “Tear Down This Wall!” (taken from Ronald Reagan’s speech in the shadow of the Berlin Wall itself) and that the climax would be on top of the gate itself. The basic plot came together from there.

Outside of the basic plot, what was eventually published beared almost no resemblance to the story I had intended to write. Since I had never attempted a 10,000 word story before, I grossly over-plotted it. My original vision could easily have been 50,000-60,000 words longer. It included a team twice the size of the one that saw publication, had subplots about human trafficking and blackmail. Like William Goldman’s / S. Morgenstern’s classic The Princess Bride, what you read in “Tear Down This Wall!” is truly the good parts version.

One of the things I enjoy most when writing is when the characters take the story in an unexpected direction. Furman Valero was like that. Before I started writing the scene where he was introduced, he was simply “Thug #1.” Again, I chose his name from a couple names list websites and was immediately had vision of who Valero would be: a brooding, somber, former Mexican wrestler who had fallen on hard times and was trapped in Germany with no easy way out. And instead of being a minor character, he suddenly became the emotional center of the story.

Things came quickly after that. I already had the climax of the story, but I wanted scenes worthy of an action movie. Since “Tear Down This Wall!” is set in Germany, a car chase on the Autobahn was required, and the fight in the meat packing plant was built around a couple specific images that came to me.

I am extremely proud of “Tear Down This Wall!” I always try to create something I’d enjoy reading. “Tear Down This Wall!” certainly succeeds on that level. This may sound corny, but if the readers enjoy “Tear Down This Wall” half as much as I enjoyed writing it, I’ll be happy.

Wesley Smith started creating stories when he was five,and hasn’t stopped since. He has lived in St. Louis, Omaha, California wine country and Memphis before settling in the central Ohio area, with each city bringing a new set of experiences to draw from. He and his beautiful wife/editor live in a 120-year-old farmhouse with three wonderful girls and a boy. When he’s not losing sleep over his next story, he’s losing sleep while taking care of his new baby girl.

Covert Ops: Gemini is available from Amazon.

Covert Ops: Tear Down the Wall

Covert Ops: Gemini

Last week, Pro Se Productions released their latest spy anthology, Covert Ops: Gemini, which is in the style of the Mission: Impossible television series – wherein a team of specialist agents take on a dangerous mission that nobody else could accomplish. I have started reading it, and so far it is pretty good. I couldn’t help but smile when I read that the team leader is named Steven Graves!

Expect a full review in a week or two, but until then, here’s the promo spiel.

CovertOpsGeminiIn a world where no one can be trusted and no one is safe, spies are everywhere. In the kitchen of the small house on the corner. High above a city at the top of a skyscraper under construction. In the checkout line at the local grocery. People with skills unheard of by most normal citizens living normal every day lives as accountants, teachers, plumbers, and more. Every day existence is their only battle…until a lone voice on the other end of the phone or in the static of a radio or even whispering in their ear from over their shoulder welcomes back to the war. Their own personal codename followed by one word – GEMINI. And then the housewife, the normal joe, Mr. and Mrs. America become the deadliest espionage agents this country has ever created, members of the top secret initiative known by very few as COVERT OPS: GEMINI!

Pro Se Productions, concept creator Tommy Hancock, and authors J. Walt Layne, Wesley Smith, and Tim Lasiuta proudly presents COVERT OPS: GEMINI.

In the tradition of Mission: Impossible, COVERT OPS: GEMINI delves into the world of international espionage and looks at the men and women who make up the deadliest team of spies ever. Led by Steven Graves, roguish and calculating agent, and overseen by the mysterious Officer James, members of Covert Ops; Gemini live regular lives, hold down normal jobs, build families and careers, until they are needed. Then they step away from their desks, their aprons, their very existences and put skills outside of their normal persona into use as they were trained to. What follows for them may be failure or even death. But, if they succeed, not only does the world go on, but they get the one thing back they value most- their covers.

Classic Spy Fiction at its best. COVERT OPS: GEMINI from Pro Se Productions!

Covert Ops: Gemini is available from Amazon and the usual affiliated outlets.

Covert Ops: Gemini

Nobody Dies For Free – An Interview

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Recently, I had a chance to throw a few tough questions at author, Aaron Smith, about his spy thriller, Nobody Dies For Free. From my hollowed out volcano, I grilled him on the story, the characters – and what’s coming up next.

P2K: Firstly, Aaron, welcome to Permission to Kill, and congratulations on the publication of your spy thriller, Nobody Dies For Free.

Before we talk about your book, as there are so many types of spy novels out in the marketplace, I thought we should begin with your influences. Who are the authors that inspired you to write a spy novel?

Aaron: First and foremost, there’s Ian Fleming. The spy genre wouldn’t be what it was without his James Bond novels. Like many people, I suspect, I discovered Bond through the movies first. I enjoy almost all the films, from the early more serious Connery episodes to the lighter Moore movies, and also have a great appreciation for the Lazenby and Dalton installments. In fact, I feel that Timothy Dalton’s portrayal of Bond is severely underrated. It was only after I’d seen the first 16 Bond movies that I read the books. Actually, I had the John Gardner Bond novels before the Fleming books, as those were new at the time but Fleming’s books were hard to find (this was before eBay and Amazon were around). When I finally did get to read the Fleming originals, I was blown away. While I like the movies and some of the later 007 authors, Fleming’s Bond is the real thing!

As far as other writers, Tom Clancy’s up there pretty high on my list and I was sad to hear of his death a few weeks ago. I like John LeCarre’s work a great deal. And Ludlum’s Jason Bourne is certainly an influence, both through the books and the film adaptations.

And I have to mention something I saw for the first time around the period when I was writing Nobody Dies For Free. There’s a great British TV series called Spooks (retitled as MI-5 when shown in the Unites States) that ran for about ten years and features the missions of a group of agents operating in and around the UK. It’s an excellent show and really ignited my imagination as I worked on a spy novel.

So James Bond started my interest in fictional spies, but many other books, movies, and TV series kept that particular fire burning. I suppose it was inevitable that I would eventually attempt to write my own spy stories.

P2K: Briefly, tell us about Nobody Dies For Free. Give the readers an overview of the story.

AS: Nobody Dies For Free is the story of Richard Monroe. He was a CIA operative, having retired early to marry the one true love of his life. He and his wife Genevieve are living in Paris, out one night, when she’s suddenly killed by a sniper. She bleeds to death in Monroe’s arms on the steps of the Paris Opera. The U.S. government’s investigation goes nowhere and Monroe goes a little off the deep end. He leaves Paris, wanders around Europe, and eventually tracks down the man who pulled the trigger and deals with him, permanently, but ends up in a Turkish prison. But that incarceration is just the beginning of a new chapter in Monroe’s life. He’s soon set free and summoned to the United States where he’s given an offer by a mysterious old master spy known only as Mr. Nine. Nine offers Monroe a way back into the clandestine world. Monroe will now work directly for Nine and be put on cases that are too secret or too sensitive for more official agencies like the CIA or FBI to know about. Monroe accepts the job, sets himself up in a new apartment in Boston, and waits for the call. On his first assignment, Monroe discovers some new information about who and what led to the murder of his wife, and business is suddenly personal again. This leads Monroe through several cities around the world on a quest for vengeance, or justice, or both, depending on your point of view.

P2K: Tell us about the main character, Richard Monroe. What kind of man is he? What drives him?

AS: Monroe has been a spy for a very long time. He started in the United States Navy’s intelligence branch and then went into the CIA. Espionage is his life, or it was until he fell in love with Genevieve and it is again after he loses her. He’s thirty-nine when we meet him and is forty for most of the book, so he’s at an age where he has experience, as well as emotional and intellectual maturity, but is still young enough to be in superb shape and meet the physical demands of his job.

He has all the skills you’d expect from a master spy: intelligence, the ability to evaluate a situation quickly and act accordingly, he’s good with guns, knows how to charm people and gain their trust, and can be either kind or ruthless, depending on the needs of a given situation.

He takes his work very seriously, only rarely letting personal feelings get in the way. He’s patriotic, but not overly political. In other words, he cares deeply about the good of his country and believes in what America stands for on its best days, but he’s more concerned about the safety of the nation that its particular current climate or controversies. Most of all, he’s the type of man who will do what it takes to succeed in his mission.

But he’s not just a blank slate of a man or an automaton that blindly follows orders. He’s also a man of deep feelings. Genevieve’s death has a great impact on him and it’s not something he shrugs off and gets over in the blink of an eye. Grieving takes time.

And he’s not all darkness and business either. Monroe enjoys good scotch, the company of beautiful women, and the loyalty of his few close friends. There’s a certain element of his spy work that he thrives on too; he might not admit it out loud, but he loves the adrenaline rush that comes with a dangerous situation.

P2K: In the story, there’s a femme fatale called Winter Willows – great name by the way! Her entrance is described as thus:

She was fashionably late, it seemed, and knew how to make an entrance. Spencer Archer had been right on all counts: she did have what the car thief had called a “killer body.” Athletic, lithe, expertly sculpted in all the right ways with no one particular area overshadowing the others. Her face was a sweet one but with the potential for severity and confidence, with a glittering diamond of a smile just below a naturally well-shaped nose which in turn sat beneath a pair of eyes that were the shade of roasted almonds, deep brown and warm. Her skin was pale but with a healthy red glow that required very little makeup. And, just as Archer had said, the hair was what made the picture so striking. It was pure white and looked oddly, ethereally enchanting as it flowed down the shoulders to frame a face that Monroe estimated to be somewhere in the range of twenty-seven to thirty-two with certainty that he could narrow that number down when he got close enough to take a better look. She was indeed startling in appearance.

It’s a great introduction. Where did Winter come from? What were your inspirations for the character?

AS: Of the three major female characters in the story, Winter is easily my favorite. In fact, she’s probably one of my favorite supporting characters that I’ve ever created, and she’s the most complicated of those three women. Of the other two, Angela MacIntyre is a damsel in need, a fragile young women who’s in way over her head; Genevieve, Monroe’s dead wife, is a sort of ghostly angel whose memory haunts Monroe and drives him forward. But Winter is a lot of things all at once. She might be Monroe’s ally or enemy, friend or lover, someone he needs or someone he’s tempted to kill. She has a sad back story and an interesting present. She’s a strong, smart woman and almost, if not completely, Monroe’s equal, despite the difference in which sides they seem to be on when they first meet. She’s a very important character to the story I wanted to tell.

Where did she come from? Well, in some ways she’s similar to the classic Bond girls, with her seductive ways, her physical beauty, and her appropriate and dramatic name. I think she was also partially inspired, though I may not have realized it at the time, by some of the female characters in the Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy and Will Eisner’s The Spirit. She fits that mold as a beautiful woman with one incongruous aspect to her appearance, the pure white hair framing a very young face.

P2K: Although Nobody Dies For Free is a contemporary novel, you almost push Monroe underground, and strip him of modern technology. There’s no satellite surveillance, or high-tech command centers. He is alone in the field. What was your reason for this?

AS: First of all, I wanted to tell a classic-style spy story, but I wanted it to be set in the modern day. So I had to find a way to limit the characters’ reliance on technology because I wanted it to be about Monroe the man and not about a bunch of people using satellites and the internet to get to the bottom of what was going on.

Back in the days when the early James Bond movies were being made, those wonderful gadgets that Q provided were the exception. Bond had them because of who he was. Technology was a privilege of his profession. But in today’s world, everyone has 24/7 internet access, GPS in their cars, and all sorts of instant information at their fingertips. So I reversed the equation, gave Monroe reasons to rely on wits instead of fancy tools. He’s an old-fashioned spy in a new-fangled world!

Those are the surface reasons why I needed to do that to tell this particular story, but maybe there are deeper reasons too. I tend to get slightly philosophical when it comes to modern technology.

Don’t get me wrong, because I love technology. Obviously, this interview wouldn’t be here if not for the internet, and my writing career wouldn’t be what it is without the tools of communication and commerce that the internet age has given us … but I do see many people relying too much on the ‘net! Maybe, for some, access to instant answers has made them lazy or causes them to miss out on certain things that, while harder, sometimes made life a little more interesting. I think of some of the skills that people are losing in today’s world and it makes me sad. Nobody reads maps anymore or has to figure out directions. Nobody writes letters or has to go to the library for research. Small talk is dying. People used to strike up conversations while on breaks at work or waiting in line in a busy bank or store. Now everyone has a smart phone in hand and texts and browses Facebook or Twitter. We have so many ways of constantly keeping track of every act or thought of those we already know, that I wonder how anybody meets anyone new anymore! I wonder how many people miss the chance to find what some call love at first sight because they never glance across a crowded room and lock eyes with a stranger!

So the changes to the world that have come about due to technology are something I think about often. With Nobody Dies For Free, I took that train of thought and applied it to the espionage world. When you live in a world where information flows quickly and constantly, it becomes harder and harder to keep secrets, especially when the general public has more access to information that ever before (a note, before somebody takes this the wrong way and starts an internet argument: I am not necessarily saying that any specific information should or should not be kept from the public. This is about a work of fiction, not my personal political views!). So it makes sense that there would be certain events in the world that would have to be kept quiet even among the men and women whose job it is to know what nobody else knows. I’m sure the intelligence communities aren’t immune to the over-reliance on technology that seems to plague the public in recent decades. So I decided that Monroe, as guided by Mr. Nine, would be the sort of agent who is made to avoid such issues by intentionally relying less on computers and such things and more on old-fashioned instinct, deduction, and hard-earned skill. Technology can give you more information, but it can’t make you more intelligent or more able to deal with tough choices or dangerous circumstances.

P2K: Nobody Dies For Free is not your only published work. Would you like to share a little bit about a few of your other projects?

Aaron: My work has been included in many of Airship 27’s pulp anthologies, featuring characters like Allan Quatermain and the Black Bat. I’m particularly happy to have been allowed to write some new Sherlock Holmes stories, since the Great Detective happens to be my all-time favorite fictional character. Besides Nobody Dies For Free, I’ve done other work for Pro Se Productions, including a series of short mysteries featuring Lt. Marcel Picard, a former professional hockey player who becomes a homicide cop. I’ve also written two vampire novels for Musa Publishing: 100,000 Midnights and Across the Midnight Sea.

And finally, what’s in the pipeline? Are there any future projects that you’re at liberty to discuss?

AS: Any day now, a publisher called Buzz Books will be releasing my zombie horror novel Chicago Fell First, so I’m pretty excited about that.

Those who have enjoyed Nobody Dies For Free will be happy to know that the series will continue in 2014 with the second Richard Monroe novel, which will be called Under the Radar. And just this week, I began work on the third one … and I’m not revealing the title yet! Even in this age of instant information, it’s fun to keep some things secret for a while.

Thank you for your time, Aaron, and I wish you continued success with your writing career.

Nobody Dies For Free is available via Pro Se’s store, at Amazon, and through Barnes and Noble in print for $15.00!

Aaron’s spy novel is also available as an ebook for only $2.99 for Kindle, on the Nook, and for most other digital formats at Smashwords!

For total transparency, please note, David Foster has work coming out from Pro Se Productions, the publishers of Nobody Dies For Free. The review copy of Nobody Dies For Free was also provided by Pro Se.
Nobody Dies For Free – An Interview

Nobody Dies For Free – Book Review

Author: Aaron Smith
Publisher: Pro Se Productions
Published: June 2013

Nobody Dies For Free is a contemporary spy thriller written by Aaron Smith. Although it is set present day, the story goes to lengths to distance itself from modern surveillance technology. So there are no gadgets beyond normal cell phones and laptops. The story is essentially one man completing a mission on his own, without backup. Sure the hero, Richard Monroe meets allies on the way who assist him with his assignment. But unlike many contemporary thrillers, he is not wired into a situation room, with techs there to support and guide him. There are no satellites tailing his enemy, and / or checking for heat signatures in buildings. The espionage is the old fashioned kind. One man – one mission, and I love that.

As the story begins, Monroe is a CIA agent stationed in Paris. His life is turned upside down when a sniper’s bullet kills his wife, while they stand in line for admission to the Paris Opera. After her death, Monroe falls apart and resigns from the CIA. But a man with Monroe’s skill set doesn’t just disappear. He reinvents himself, so he can find and kill the man who stole his wife from him.

In a round about way (I am trying not to spoil the story), his quest leads him back to the United States. He ends up working for a spy-master known only as Mr. Nine, who works outside the regular intelligence agencies. Nine gives Monroe an assignment. He is sent to find an assassin nick-named Simon Scythe. Scythe is no ordinary contract-killer. You see, he assists people in committing suicide. People pay him to kill them – one shot; quick, and clean. He is Dr. Death with a gun, and hence the books title ‘Nobody Dies For Free’. Monroe, eventually finds Scythe but the information the killer reveals leads Monroe on a more dangerous and personal mission. One that takes him back to Paris, to London, and then returning to the United States.

Nobody Dies For Free is a rapid fire thriller written purely to entertain, like a spy novel from the 1960s. If you are after a story that shows the true world of espionage – detailing trade craft, and modern surveillance techniques, this will not be the book for you. However, if you want to check your brain in neutral and be zipped around the globe, and pushed from one plot point to the next, then Nobody Dies For Free could be the tale for you.

Nobody Dies For Free is available via Pro Se’s store, at Amazon, and through Barnes and Noble in print for $15.00!

Smith’s Spy Novel is also available as an ebook for only $2.99 for Kindle, on the Nook, and for most other digital formats at Smashwords!

For total transparency, please note, David Foster has work coming out from Pro Se Productions, the publishers of Nobody Dies For Free. The review copy of Nobody Dies For Free was also provided by Pro Se.
Nobody Dies For Free – Book Review