The complexities of revolution

Getting rid of Asad is a good thing, but . . .

The past few months have witnessed the emergence of larger, more organized and better armed Syrian militant organizations pushing an agenda based on jihad, the concept that they have a divine mandate to fight. Even less-zealous resistance groups are adopting a pronounced Islamic aura because it attracts more financing.

But we're just scanning stuff . . .

The Amazon collusion suit is not the only book issue clawing its way through the courts . . . Google is still in the dock for giving away - or trying to - books it had no rights to.

The latest, from Paid Content:

Google cites everything from Mad Men to minority rights in a fresh attempt to bolster its claim that the scanning of millions of books qualifies as a “fair use” under copyright law. The arguments, set out in court filings submitted on Friday, come as Google’s long-running dispute with the Authors Guild heads toward an end game.
According to Google, its massive book scanning project is fair use because the scanning has delivered many public benefits without harming authors. The company claims that its creation of full-text book searching is “the most significant advance in library search technology in the last five decades” and that the Authors Guild has shown “no evidence that Google Books has displaced the sale of even a single book.”

Full story.
Thanks, but . . .

As of yesterday, two of the three Jake Gibbs - Patriot Spy books are in the top 100 on the nonfiction Revolutionary War/history list at Amazon.

Only thing is, all three on fiction. Based on history, but fiction. Honest.

Not that I'm complaining. (Except to kick the third book, The Golden Flask, in the binding for being an underachiever . . .)

Thanks for reading. I appreciate it. (You can find the first one in the series, The Silver Bullet, here.)

A ship before its time?

Or is the LCS just too much of a good idea, rather than a practical one? Reality meets theory in a hard way:

As Defense News’ naval man Christopher P. Cavas has revealed in a series of extraordinary reports, the bottom has dropped out of the LCS stock inside the service, which quietly worries the ships can’t do several of the key things for which they were designed: Deploy with small, highly expert crews; quickly and easily swap their mission equipment in foreign ports; or keep the ships in fighting shape on an extended voyage at sea.

From DoD Buzz here. (You can jump from there to the Canvas story.)
The definition of ouch

The word you're looking for: obtuse

The latest on the suit:

The Justice Department’s filing largely skates away from issues related to Amazon’s role in the e-book market. It states that public comments suggesting it sue Amazon for abuse of dominant market power or address issues of online sales tax issues are beyond the scope of the antitrust action.

Basically, Justice has decided that it (and Amazon) are right, and everyone else in the world is wrong.

China & the South China Sea


China's newest city is a tiny and remote island in the South China Sea, barely large enough to host a single airstrip. There is a post office, bank, supermarket and a hospital, but little else. Fresh water comes by freighter on a 13-hour journey from China's southernmost province.
Welcome to Sansha, China's expanding toehold in the world's most disputed waters, portions of which are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and other neighbors. On Tuesday, as blustery island winds buffeted palm trees, a new mayor declared Sansha with a population of just 1,000 China's newest municipality.

Read more: 

The dispute is one of the issues playing in the background (and occasionally the foreground) of Red Dragon Rising. You can get Book One here or here; Book Four (Blood of War) is due out at the end of the year/early 2013.
Welcome to NY

The bookstore - 2015 edition

David Houle, futurist, predicts the future for the bookstore on

The perception of books as physical objects will continue to morph. 2015 will be the time when two things happen in this regard.
First, the majority of books that people read will be digital, but the books that have emotional significance, that have a personal meaning, will be physical. I may have Alvin Toffler’s and Marshall McLuhan’s books digitally, but I also have them in physical form. They helped shape my identity and my thinking in years past, so they are personal legacy. It is nice to hold onto one’s legacy.
Second, physical books will take on a sense of provenance. The provenance of having read this copy of a Kerouac novel in my 20s [$.95 ] that I have moved with me all these years, or the provenance of an actual book that a loved one or an admired person had owned. If there was a store that sold Dr. McLuhan’s book collection, I would buy a book because he owned it.
These two trends, I think, suggest that the “used book store” will be ascendant.

Full entry.

Kind words 

The National Space Space Society gave Helios a very generous review, which you can read here. I'm very grateful for their interest. A brief excerpt:

The story held my attention throughout. Overall, I think DeFelice did an excellent job in describing the political intricacies and the fact that industrial spying does occur, especially in a market where much money is to be made. The main character is an anti-hero who is unconventional, but one that I grew to like. It was also refreshing to find that rocket scientists and other principal players in the book were women, which I don’t find often in novels of this genre.

I should mention that, while for many the words "rocket scientist" and "woman" are not thought of going together, in fact, a large - and growing - number of scientists in the field are women. They are making important contributions to our knowledge. I'm sure they must face some adversity and prejudice, but everyone I've met or spoken to is definitely up to the challenge. The quality of their work, their ideas, and their vision, is second to none.

More Rogue teases . . .

WASHINGTON — The head of compliance at Europe’s largest bank resigned from his position and apologized Tuesday after a Senate investigation found HSBC had lax controls that exposed it to money laundering and terrorist financing . . .
The panel released a report Monday that found the bank’s poor oversight of its operations allowed Mexican drug cartels to launder billions of dollars through its U.S. division.
HSBC bank affiliates also skirted U.S. government bans against financial transactions with Iran and other countries, according to the report. And HSBC’s U.S. division provided money and banking services to some banks in Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh believed to have helped fund al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, the report said.


Some days, I'm not sure where the line is between fiction and nonfiction. Other days, I don't think there IS such a thing as fiction any more . . .

Random thoughts on feedback & mistakes . . .

For a writer, living in the age of social media, email, and the Internet means that you get lots of feedback on your work. Personally, I think it’s one of the best things about writing these days.

Naturally, we all love positive feedback, a generous sentence or two can make a day – or even a week. It certainly spurs me on. But negative feedback is useful as well.

Recently I got a pretty hot and oddly personal comment from a reader, claiming I'd made a huge mistake in one of my books. The only problem was the reader was wrong, by quite a bit; it was a mistake about a non-mistake.

I can only sympathize. I've done that myself. Hopefully, I've kept my temper about it better; the shoe leather is a little softer if the insertion is gentler . . .

I truly appreciate readers who go out of their way to point out errors they find in my books. It helps me correct them – not just in future editions of that book, but in other work as well. And candidly, I’ve met a lot of great and very knowledgeable people through my mistakes – though I should hasten to say that I don’t make the mistakes for that reason.

One of these days, I’m going to sit down and write a long dissertation on how errors get into books. There are certainly a number made in haste. And then there are those that we – I – make because we think we know something, but don’t.

I find the most interesting are weird mind-flips – things that of course you (or I) know are wrong upon reflection, but are made because of some sort of weird trick the mind played at some point. What weird trick of the unconscious introduces a name or description that isn’t what we thought we were thinking (and writing) about? The mind is a strange, strange land.

A mentor – I forget who it was now – once told me that mistakes are the only things we can truly call our own.  A strange claim to originality and ownership, I suppose.

Shades of Rogue Warriors to come . . .


TIJUANA, Mexico -- Three sophisticated drug tunnels equipped with lighting and ventilation – including one with a railcar system – have been discovered along the U.S.-Mexico border in less than a week, the latest signs that cartels are building passages to escape heightened detection above ground. 
Two of the tunnels were incomplete, including one that the Mexican army found in a Tijuana warehouse Thursday with more than 40 tons of marijuana at the entry. The passage extended nearly 400 yards, including more than 100 yards into the United States. . . . 
An incomplete tunnel along Arizona's border with Mexico was found Friday during an inspection of a drainage system on the Mexican side of Nogales in early stages of construction, said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Amber Cargile. No arrests have been made in the investigation of the crude passage.
The 240-yard tunnel in San Luis, Ariz., showed a level of sophistication not typically associated with other crude smuggling passageways that tie into storm drains in the state
"When you see what is there and the way they designed it, it wasn't something that your average miner could put together," said Douglas Coleman, special agent in charge of the Phoenix division of the Drug Enforcement Administration. "You would need someone with some engineering expertise to put something together like this."
As Thursday's massive pot seizure in Tijuana demonstrated, tunnels have become an increasingly common way to smuggle enormous loads of heroin, marijuana and other drugs into the country.

People, too. Story.

To DRM* or not . . .

One possible solution:

Traditional printed books are often shared with family and friends. What ebook publishers need is a way to distribute ebooks with as little hassle as possible, while ensuring that the publisher can sue pirates and stop ebook resale, rental and large scale sharing.
To accomplish this, we don’t need heavy DRM, but something lighter. Why not use a form of DRM that lets the market grow, and reap the rewards of the next technological revolution as the ebook wave brings a massive new volume of sales and sweeps printed books to the side?
Thus, I propose using personal information as a deterrent against wrongful distribution of the book. We can deputize our customers to prevent wrongful distribution. The customer agrees not to distribute the book. If they do, the next reader will see the personal information of the original owner placed throughout the book, both visibly and invisibly. As such, not many users will violate their agreement because they will not want to have their personal information shared with unknown third-parties. Further, if they strip the information, they’re in clear violation of the DMCA.

Rest of the article here.

* DRM = Digital Rights Management - essentially copy protection for books, music, etc.
Dream deals . . .

Various and sundry savings on some of the different books in the Dreamland/Whiplash series are now being offered for ebooks . . . Check out B&N's site if you have a Nook or Nook app. Endgame was the 8th book in the series (and was not, obviously, the last book we did)

If you prefer Kindle-flavored books, there are various and sundry at Amazon. Raven Strike is free; others are just 99 cents.

Just a note: despite the cover, Raven Strike is actually a Dreamland Whiplash book. Not to make a big deal of it, but the Dreamland books are dated in the 1990s; Dreamland Whiplash (or just Whiplash) picks up in the 2010s. They're all related, and you don't have to start in sequence - though obviously we hope you'll read all of them.

I'm not sure how long the specials last. Thanks for the support!

And they won the Super Bowl, too . . .


21:00 11/07/2012 MOSCOW, July 11 (RIA Novosti) - The Iranian Army has successfully completed three-day air-defense exercises, downing several mock pilotless aircraft, Press TV reported on Wednesday.
Air defense units in northwestern Iran effectively engaged the mock enemy’s stealth, pilotless aircraft, “after detecting them electronically”, Brigadier General Shahrokh Shahram, deputy commander of the Iranian Army’s Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Base, said.
The exercise came in response to “the enemy’s psychological warfare and is meant to neutralize the regional media’s propaganda campaign against Iran,” the army said.

Coincidentally, I recently conducted a similar exercise, and shot down five MiGs, three Predators, several B-2 Bombers, and a Star Cruiser. The Death Star got me in the end, though . . .

Knowledge & the sun

The Helios Conspiracy is fiction, but orbiting solar power satellites are a very viable solution to our energy needs.

Here's a link for more information from the National Space Society, which is an organization dedicated to working "with U.S. and world leaders, and their citizens, to ensure adequate policies and funding for 
human spaceflight, exploration, and development." The organization has  a wealth of information on space exploration in general, and is a valuable resource on space exploration in general:

The real Jake Gibbs

The character in my Patriot Spy novels is, of course, fiction, but he’s based on a number of real people, starting with Enoch Crosby, who was active in the New York and Hudson Valley area during the time the books are set.

Crosby and his tales are said to have formed the basis of Fennimore Cooper’s The Spy, but I first learned of Crosby himself from Willa Skinner, a local historian in Fishkill, New York. Crosby had been held prisoner in Fishkill during the Revolution, apparently as part of his elaborate cover as a Tory.

Mrs. Skinner (how she preferred it, as I recall) told his story countless times, each time a little better. She told it to me when I was a young newspaper reporter, working my way through college and in need of a feature story. I doubt the story I wrote then was half as good as the ones she told of Crosby’s escapes from both jail and death. But I remembered it, and plundered freely years later when I started working on the books. A bit of them is set in Fishkill, which is authentically recreated.

Well, almost authentically. I had to move a barn about a hundred feet to make some of the action work in one of the books. And wouldn't you know: a member of the local historical society called me on that when I gave a talk on the history behind the books.

You can't fool a real buff.

 (The first book in the series is now available for Kindle here.)
Nice words

Publisher's Weekly gives the upcoming installment of Rogue Warrior some kind remarks:

Rogue Warrior: Blood LiesRichard Marcinko and Jim DeFelice. Forge, $25.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2541-9Marcinko’s fast and funny 15th in his Rogue Warrior series, his sixth with coauthor DeFelice (after 2011’s Rogue Warrior: Domino Theory), takes Dick Marcinko south of the border with his gang of shooters: Shotgun, Mongoose, Trace Dahlgren, and Tex Reeves. An assistant to the U.S. secretary of state wants Dick’s company, Red Cell International, to find evidence that Hezbollah is not setting up training camps in Mexico. At the same time, Dick agrees to look into the kidnapping of Melissa Reynolds, the gorgeous daughter of a fellow Navy SEAL. Dick calls in the rest of the Red Cell regulars, and they go to work, which means they institute a scorched earth program of killing and/or maiming every variety of Mexican bad guy, from the head of the country’s largest cartel to the lowliest corrupt cop. As always, Dick supplies the running commentary and all the gags. For everyone—readers, authors, characters—the usual good time. Agent: Wieser and Elwell. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/09/2012

The image on the cover kind of looks like the street Dick stayed on . . .
Where Washington slept . . .

. . . and ate, bought curtains, and generally fought the war is of quite a bit of interest in historians - and historical novelists who want to be authentic.

One of the most unusual books on the Revolution that I encountered while researching Jake Gibbs: Patriot Spy, was George Washington’s Expense Account, edited and augmented (if that’s the right word for writing a novella-length essay) by Marvin Kitman.

The cover blurb makes the book out to be something of a humorous take on Washington and his spending habits; that seems to be how many readers look at it. But the book introduced me to Washington ledgers, which in turn proved to be invaluable in writing about Washington. Every time he appears in the series, he’s where he was in real life, partly thanks to his “expense account.”

And just a tease: there are some thirty-five references to the real Captain (later Major) Gibbs in the book.

RIP. Not your deepest work, surely, but still a lot of fun.
Fiction gets real . . .

. . .  in the South China Sea:

On June 21st Vietnam’s parliament passed a maritime law that reasserted the country’s claims to the Spratly and Paracel Islands. China called this a “serious violation” of its sovereignty. It responded by declaring that a county-level government which supposedly governs the two archipelagoes and much of the rest of the South China Sea from one of the Paracel Islands, had been upgraded to the administrative level of a prefecture. Chinese media described this notional jurisdiction, Sansha, as by far the biggest prefecture in the country 

The quote is from the Economist, which details tensions between Vietnam and China, mostly over oil.

One thing: The author says that neither county "wants this to escalate," a kind of standard journalist line that means nothing, especially in a story where he's spent most of his time giving indications to the contrary. What both countries want is for the other to back down. They probably don't want a victory in the dispute to cost them much in money or lives (not much of a guess), but I think it's safe to say that they're willing to push quite a bit more before they back down themselves.
Larry Bond and I describe one way this could go in Red Dragon Rising, our four-part series on an American proxy war with China -- where Vietnam is the proxy. The books are fiction, of course, but the Asian depression and the effects of climate change on the region we started writing about three years ago are already upon us.

Book Three, Shock of War, came out in hardcover earlier this year; the first paperbacks, in the large bonus size, will be out this December. We've just about wrapped up work on the final book, which should be published either at the very end of the year or beginning of next. (I'd post that cover, but we're still fiddling.)

Reviewed, reviled, rebounded

Author Patrick Somerville:

In the end nothing matters but the work.  You can’t control how it’s taken, and the act of telling a story always involves a gap. Sometimes confusion is the risk of ambiguity–I say that to students all the time. It’s true at the fireside and it’s true in the parlor, and it’s true in made-up towns and New York. Two humans face one another, words come out of one, words go into the other mind through the ears and eyes of the listener. It’s a story. It’s simple. The gap is the thing. Make sure you build the bridge.

Somerville's most recent book got a harsh review from the NYT, at least partly because of a mistake in reading by the reviewer. He dealt with it handsomely, winning a correction. I'd say it was the first time an author got the last word, except that it was his character who did the talking: "Thank You For Killing My Book."

Joseph Plumb Martin

Writers are supposed to know all the classics, but it wasn’t until I started researching my Jake Gibbs series that I came across a book that is an absolute must not only for history buffs but for anyone interested in memoirs or biography: The Narrative of Joseph Plumb Martin.

Martin’s book – actually begun as an account to justify his receiving a war pension – is one of the most honest first-person accounts of war ever told. Martin was a private, and served in a good number of the major campaigns. The work’s strength comes both from its candor and its simplicity; there’s no attempt to adorn either the prose or the events.

Or heroes like George Washington, who doesn’t make the impression you’d expect in these pages.
The book is long out of copyright and you can find inexpensive reproductions in many places. If there’s one book on the Revolution, or on war, that should be read, this is it.

The book continues to influence me - it was one of my main models when I helped Chris Kyle write American Sniper.

The real iron chain

In many ways the “star” of the second book in the Jake Gibbs: Patriot Spy series isn’t Gibbs or even his sidekick Van Clynne, but an inanimate water beast – the iron chain that stretched across the Hudson River. Which of course is why the book is called The Iron Chain.

During the early stages of the War, the Hudson River was a critical highway for the Revolutionists. It was also a link between the new England colonies and the rest of the young nation. Both sides recognized this, and the river became the focal point of a major campaign to split the rebellion in two in 1777. While the British campaign ultimately failed, the river retained its strategic importance, and Washington could never afford to leave it completely unguarded.

There were actually two chains across the Hudson, and many more schemes to build one. The chain in the book – and the only one that actually saw battle – was anchored on the western bank near Fort Montgomery, running east across the river roughly where the Bear Mountain Bridge runs today. Made of iron links, it floated at intervals on rafts, which undoubtedly would have bobbed and weaved with the river, still tidal there. The chain was one part of an integrated defense, functioning something like a minefield would. Located at the bend in a river where ships would presumably have to tack or slow as they maneuvered, the chain would hold them back long enough for shore batteries to sink them.
The chain would have been just to the
left of the bridge in the picture above.

In the fall of 1777, a British force sailed north on the river, aiming to relieve the beleaguered British army marching to Saratoga. (Or, if you want the more optimistic British view, hoping to unite with it and snap the head off the dastardly rebellion.) The fleet sailed north, but rather than attacking the chain directly, the commander sent troops ashore below the fort to overwhelm the defenses. The lead elements engaged in a commando-style attack through the woods, surprising the few American defenders in the half-built earthworks below the main fort; Fort Montgomery and the river were cleared by the end of the day.

After the British retreated, a more elaborate chain was strung across the Hudson further north at West Point. That chain included a boom to help slow down an attacking fleet. From the vantage point of some 250 years, it also seems to have been better located - the river bend is nastier and West Point had a more commanding view of the river than Fort Montgomery - but in the event it was never challenged. Visitors to the Military Academy can see some of the chain, and judge the location for themselves.

(The Kindle version of The Iron Chain is available here. My webpage on the series is here.)
Beard that tanker

Oil sanctions force Iran to disguise tankers to store - and smuggle - oil. Item in the Economic Times:

BANDAR ABBAS: The hulking tanker Neptune was floating aimlessly this week in the warm waters of the Persian Gulf, a fresh coat of black paint barely concealing its true identity as an Iranian ship loaded with hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil that no one is willing to buy. 
The ship's real name was Iran Astaneh, and it was part of a fleet of about 65 Iranian tankers serving as floating storage facilities for Iranian oil, each one given a nautical makeover to conceal its origin and make a buyer easier to find. The Neptune had been floating there for a month, and local fishermen said there were two even larger tankers anchored nearby.


There's no doubt that the sanctions will hurt the Iranian economy. The question is whether they'll have any effect at all on the nuclear program. It's hard at this point to see the Iranians dismantling it, and any agreement short of that should be unacceptable to the West.

One unintended consequence for the Iranians - the crisis is pushing their neighbors closer to the West, as demonstrated by the increased oil production which has helped drive the overall price of oil down, lessening the market for Iranian oil, smuggled or otherwise.

It's always been clear, though, that logic has nothing to do with the nuke program - which is why it's so dangerous.

Spirit of 1776

The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, but there were no 'real' celebrations of July 4th that year - the Declaration was adopted that day, but not physically signed for some weeks afterward. (And over a few months' time, I should add.) The City of Philadelphia, where the Congress was meeting, celebrated independence July 8, 1776, with a simple reading of what people already knew was one of the most radical documents in history.

The anniversary of the Declaration's enactment was observed the following year in several places, but it wasn't until 1778 that July 4th really became a day of celebration. Philadelphia had a large ceremony and festival, which included fireworks - and the Hessian band Washington had taken at Princeton a year and a half before.

Fireworks, music, and speeches have dignified the day ever since.

A database of notable July 4 celebrations is kept here.

Preventing hangovers

Because some of us have to work Thursday  . . .

Revolutionary best-seller

The Silver Bullet (Kindle edition) is now in the top fifty of books on "Revolution & Founding" at Amazon.

My new favorite gun

Story on National Museum of History blog here.
Researching Patriot Spy

When it comes to the writing of books – as opposed to the business of books – everything is fun for me. But I take special pleasure in research, especially when it involves history.

Usually, that means a lot of documents and books, archives and dust, dust, dust. But researching Jake Gibbs: Patriot Spy was a real boots-on-the-ground undertaking. I tromped through the Hudson Valley, visiting the sites where the action takes place. From Ticonderoga (not really a setting in these three books, unfortunately), to Fraunces Tavern in New York, I felt like I was walking with ghosts at every step.
Visitors Center at Fort Montgomery

Much has changed in the nearly 250 years since George Washington sent people like my hero out to harry the Brits; linger too long on Jake’s route in old New York and you’ll be run over by a bus. But what’s surprising are how many things remain the same. The Hudson River is an obvious example. And the valley surrounding it is studded with houses and buildings, restored and otherwise, that date either from that time or soon afterward.

Major displays of Revolutionary history can be seen at places like The New Windsor Cantonment, where Washington’s army spent much of the war. These places are always inspiring. But I was helped just as much if not more by the numerous small, local museums and displays that are scattered through Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Columbia, Orange, Greene, Saratoga and Ulster Counties.

One of my favorite trips involved researching the site of the Iron Chain. At the time, the local forts had not been restored or even reliably mapped, and finding the old earthworks on the western bank of the river involved a good bit of guesswork and brush hacking. Exploring the other side was even more of an adventure in estimation, as the east shoreline had been significantly altered in the interim.

Fort Montgomery and the related sub-forts can now be accessed without having to do strenuous hiking, let alone weed whacking. This web site lists some of the area’s many attractions on an interactive map; Revolutionary highlights are primarily listed under “Highly recommended” and “Special Interest.” Whole guidebooks have been devoted to New York City and the Revolution without completely exhausting the subject, but here’s a link to Fraunces Tavern Museum to get you started.

( The Patriot Spy series is now available on Kindle. More information and links here.)