Hello, Britain . . .

First Team, starring the irrepresible Bob "Ferg" Ferguson, is now available in the United Kingdom (and elsewhere in the world) as an ebook. Here's the Amazon UK link.

Speaking of paperbacks . . .

The mass market edition is now available at a bookstand and store near you . . .
The treachery of translators

My brilliant translating career hit another high when a French publisher invited me to translate Brigitte Bardot’s memoirs, “Initiales BB.” I had written a memoir about my childhood obsession with Bardot, so I said O.K. and suggested some modest revisions. It would have to be completely re-written from top to bottom and I would definitely take out all those exclamation marks. And I would put back in that affair with the English guy after she married Gunter Sachs – she should never have left that out! They took that as a “non.” Tant pis. All translators rewrite and rectify. Some even feel that they can do a better job of writing Bardot’s life than Bardot.

Full article.
Speaking of Iran . . .

. . . They're still monkeying around:

Things go boom . . .

. . .at Fordo, one of Iran's nuke complexes.

From the BBC:

"The false news of an explosion at Fordo is Western propaganda ahead of nuclear negotiations to influence their process and outcome," Saeed Shamseddin Bar Broudi, deputy of the AEOI, was quoted as saying by the state news agency, Irna.

Right. And next you'll claim there is no project to build a nuclear bomb. Oh, wait . . .

Now in paperback

Starring the irrepressible, coffee-swilling FBI special agent, Andy Fisher.

What women can do - fight

The decision to formally allow women to serve in combat is a well and hard-earned recognition of their abilities, patriotism, and courage.

I admit to being a late convert. But stories like Captain Linda Bray's (during the Panama war) proved the point:

Bray and 45 soldiers under her command in the 988th Military Police Company, nearly all of them men, encountered a unit of Panamanian special operations soldiers holed up inside a military barracks and dog kennel.
Her troops killed three of the enemy and took one prisoner before the rest were forced to flee, leaving behind a cache of grenades, assault rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition, according to Associated Press news reports published at the time. The Americans suffered no casualties.

(From a story about her in today's Washington Post.) More information here. And even more (a master's thesis) here.

There have been many others since. In actual fact women have been serving in combat situations now for considerable time; they just haven't gotten credit for it.

Best movie script . . .

My vote for the Oscar goes to FLIGHT - and not just because this fantastic Academy-Award nominated script was written by my cousin.

Go John!!!!!

Radio & the flu

First of all, thanks to everyone who's listened to me over the past two weeks as I've pontificated about the new book. And thanks especially to the indulgent hosts who shared their listeners.

And yes, I am now more or less finally over the flu. I'm not sure which was more painful - the virus or having to talk about myself.

Probably the latter.
The Zumwalt . . .

One of the most striking warships ever built is coming together in the little coastal town of Bath, Maine. The major components of the 610-foot-long ZUMWALT (DDG 1000) — a “destroyer” in name only — have been assembled this winter at the General Dynamics shipyard of Bath Iron Works, and the ship’s stark, tumblehome hull and superstructure is now together. These views were taken on Jan. 15, 2013

More photos, story.
Now arguing with St. Peter . . .

. . . and winning.

All in a cover

It's impossible to underestimate how important a book's cover is to its sales impact. Not only is it the best advertising for the book, it's the only advertising most books get.

Red Dragon Rising has now reached its climax with its fourth installment. The cover of the first book set a high standard as well as a distinct look, and no doubt played an important role in the series' success. Subsequent books have continued to have a very cool and instantly recognizable look.

But that didn't make things easy when it came time to create the cover for book 4, Red Dragon Rising: Blood of War. Here's an abbreviated look at the evolution, beginning with the first book we saw.*

This was the first cover that we saw, though I'm sure it had gone through a series of changes and artistic debates. It is a FANTASTIC cover. There's only one problem - well, two actually.

First of all, the action shown doesn't have much relation to what's in the book, and the weapons are wrong - two things long-time series readers were sure to pick up on. Secondly, the image is somewhat reminiscent of the cover of the first book, and we were afraid it just wouldn't stand up next to it.

So it was back to the drawing board. A lot of the critical action in the book takes place at sea, so I did up a rather horrible sketch to illustrate our ideas. In the interests of full disclosure and a belly of laughs I'm sure, here it is.

Hey, I never said I was an artist. The idea was simply to show the artist what we were talking about.

After the artist stopped laughing (I'm sure), we got this back. Again, a FANTASTIC cover:

Dramatic, dynamic, sets a great tone. But again, problems. First, there is no American aircraft carrier in the book, and second, while it is theoretically possible to have attack helicopters landing on a carrier, they're not in the book either.

So even though it was a great cover, the artist had to go back to the drawing board. We next saw a series of covers that included this image:

This time, the artist puts us aboard a Navy destroyer, and manages to get a very dynamic situation. I guess in retrospect we could have nitpicked about the helos, but we were so blown away by the great image we thought readers would be too.

Here's the final, final version, on sale this week:

Throw a few kind words in there about Larry (and me, actually), and we're good to go.

* - I've culled a few steps in the interest of brevity.
Ebooks & piracy . . .

You gotta fight the latter if you want the former to survive.


In a presentation at the Digital Book World Conference in New York today, [Professor Michael D.} Smith argued against three myths that he said permeate the discussion on illegal downloading. The first is that piracy doesn’t harm sales, which he said is not true. “Piracy harms sales,” he said, claiming that while 3 studies have been published suggesting that piracy doesn’t hurt sales, 25 others have shown that piracy is bad for sales. ”There are options to use legitimate distribution channels to convince people who have stolen your content to buy it,” he added. 
The final myth that Smith aimed to bust is that, “Anti-piracy regulation won’t work.” According to Smith, law enforcement around illegal downloading is not a game of whac-a-mole. “You can use laws to make pirated content less attractive,” he said. Citing the global Megaupload shutdown, Smith claimed that the shutdown helped lead to an increase in legal digital content consumption. “The shutdown of Megaupload caused a statistically significant increase in digital sales,” he said, comparing numbers between countries with high Megaupload usage to countries with low Megaupload usage.


Red Dragon 4, Klub missiles,
& the tyranny of math

A funny thing happened to on the way to the latest installment of our series Red Dragon Rising – we almost lost one of our main characters.

Worse: we almost lost a destroyer. And the war.


A quick briefing for anyone who hasn’t read the books:

In the series, climate change and economic problems have caused China to seek solutions outside of its borders. It begins by invading Vietnam. The U.S President recognizes that this is just the beginning of what may become a series of conquests, and wants to nip things before they blossom into World War III. But with the U.S. itself ailing and most of the public dead set against war, he has to move somewhat cautiously – not to mention covertly and, at different points, with questionable legality. America helps Vietnam, gradually becoming involved in a proxy war, and then finally explicitly exchanging fire.

Hopefully that’s informative enough without giving too much away.

One of the main threads in the final book involved a U.S. Arleigh Burke destroyer, fictional, of course, though closely based on real life. As things ratchet up in book four, the destroyer faces a succession of threats and finally does battle with a variety of enemies.

Smack in the middle of the plot progression was a small encounter with a pair of Chinese bombers, dispatched to sink the ship. (There's a story about how the name of the ship changed from one book to another, but I’ll spare that horror story for a different time.)

Larry and I sketched out the battle roughly, then I went on to write a first draft. Both when we were first talking about that battle and then when I was writing it, I saw the encounter as more of a pace setter – something necessary to amp things up, but not as critical as the other battles in the plot line.

In the fictional universe we created, the Chinese had purchased a number of Backfire bombers, and equipped them with a number of so-called Sizzler anti-ship weapons. The Sizzler – more formally the 3M-54E “Klub” missile – is a doozy of a weapon. Probably its most endearing feature, at least to the person firing it, is its final stage, where it takes a supersonic leap at the target, accelerating madly in a rabid sprint to its target. Just the thing to add a little spice to a plot.

As I originally wrote the draft, I posited that the planes would be flying from well inland China, and because of that would only be equipped with two of the missiles. They would make their attack from relatively close range. The destroyer would fend the missiles off, and then shoot down the planes.

I have to confess that part of this was due more to what needed to happen in the rest of the book than out of fealty to actual Chinese tactics. And there was a bit of leeway there – as you probably know, in real life China hasn’t (yet) bought any Backfires, and there were reasonable questions, at least to me, about how they would operate and where they would be based.

Reviewing the draft, Larry pointed out that the Chinese would almost certainly be using the aircraft to much better advantage, given what had already happened in the book and the series. For one thing, the planes would be based much closer than I had posited, and would almost certainly be carrying a full complement of the missiles.

“Hey, those things are light” is how I think he put it. “They’d load those suckers up.”

Not really a problem – we did a little bit of math along with the research, plugged some values into Larry’s excellent Harpoon simulator, and concluded that each aircraft would be reasonably expected to be carrying eight missiles. Then we also decided that they would employ classic Tu-22 tactics – very low altitude approach, pop up attack, etc.

Theoretically, that still wasn’t a problem, until Larry pointed out that given everything that had happened to this point, the Backfires would also be very wary of the destroyer, and would undoubtedly opt to stay out of range of its SM2 missiles. Which basically meant that they would make their attack no further than eighty nautical miles.

(I can see the hands shooting up to ask about SM3s. Because of plot complications – I don’t want to give away the rest of the book – only the SM2s could be used in this engagement. And the Chinese at this point, I decided, couldn’t know about SM3s. Well they could, but I still couldn’t afford to fire any.)
So OK. We gave the Backfires eight missiles apiece, and had them launch their popup attack from eighty nautical miles, the effective range for the SM2s. (Eighty-one if you want to be exact. Larry was working the calculator – I just had pencil and paper and tend to round down in real life anyway. Avoids trouble when I balance the checkbook.)

The destroyer had sixteen missiles coming at her from eighty-one miles away. They would start out “slow” but as they closed would hop up to roughly three times the speed of sound. Oh, and at wave-top level.

What does Harpoon say about that?


As soon as I realized the planes would launch from that distance, I knew there was no way that the destroyer could shoot down the Backfires, which really bummed me out. There’s nothing I like writing better than a good explosion, especially when it takes place in the air.

But as Larry started doing the math on the SM2 volleys and working the Harpoon numbers, I had a much worse feeling – I realized the American ship wouldn’t survive the attack.

We went back and forth, trying to change some of the variables – maybe there were less missiles on the Backfires because, uh, because, uh  . . . but in the end, escaping any reasonably sized volley wasn’t in the cards, let alone the simulator. We’d already expended our ERAMs, we weren’t touching the SM3s (admittedly for plot purposes, but they wouldn’t have helped the way we set this up anyway), and even the close-in Phalanx canon – one of my favorite weapons in the world – would be overwhelmed by the leakers.
In short, our ship would be sunk before the climax of the book. Which not so incidentally meant the U.S. would lose the war with a good hundred pages to go.

In real life, the U.S. Navy does have a few ways of dealing with this exact threat. For starters, they probably would have another ship with the destroyer (couldn’t change that because of the plot), air cover (ditto), or be operating much further from the Chinese mainland (double ditto). The ship might also be able to rely on its counter-measures a little more effectively than we did, although in my opinion we were pretty realistic there as well. (We did use the Nulka, which is a nifty radar cloak, but given the parameters of the engagement, I’m not entirely sure that even that superb weapon could solve the problem, at least not well enough to set the Americans up for the next battle. Which of course was our actual consideration.)

What all of this means, in fact and in fiction, is that the combination of Backfires and Klub missiles is a pretty awesome problem. We’re sure the Navy is well aware of it, but the math is very daunting.

In the end, we took a solution not available to American sailors: we changed the attackers, and their weapons.

I hate spoilers, so I won’t say what happens. But I will say this – I love math, except for when I hate it. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but it’s the spreadsheet and calculator that rule in the end.

Witch hunts in perspective

Talking about video games. Item:

To understand video games’ complex status as our current bĂȘte noire of media entertainment, it is helpful to examine, briefly, some of the pariahs of the past. Comic books, particularly those rich in murders and fornication, so irked lawmakers in the 1940s and 1950s that McCarthy-like hearings were held and words like “terror,” “horror,” and “crime” were banned from appearing in books’ titles. Not long after, television was called upon to face Congress, with representatives of the American Temperance Society, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Movement, and the National Grand Lodge of the International Order of Good Templars decrying the new medium’s alleged encouragement of violence and drunkenness. The same drama unfurled in the early ’90s with gangsta rap.

On the radio

Larry and I are doing some local radio interviews in support of the new Red Dragon book. Among the stations this week:








Check the Twitter feed for more details and times, etc.
On sale today

Actually, tomorrow, but they've already started putting it out. And you can get it online already.
Kirkus likes us

A generous review of Red Dragon Rising: Blood of War from one of publishing's leading book critics:

The final installment in Bond and DeFelice’s four-book Red Dragon Rising series sees China moving inexorably toward its conquest of Vietnam, while those in the know in the United States government and security services work behind the scenes to stop the Chinese juggernaut in its tracks.
In the Red Dragon Rising series’ version of 2014, climate change has brought the world to the brink of chaos. As the fourth and final book in the series opens, the Chinese army is preparing to sweep through Vietnam as part of a famine-ravaged China’s quest to conquer the smaller nation, primarily as a source of food. Maj. Zeus Murphy is still in country, and he’s come up with a plan to stall the Chinese advance, but in order to put it in motion, he’s going to need to work with the Vietnam People's Army as well as some of the darker elements of the CIA. Back at home, President George Greene, who believes China should be stopped sooner rather than later, and whose approval is necessary to set Murphy’s plan in motion, is facing a political crisis which may tie his hands. Meanwhile, while Josh MacArthur, the scientist who presented the world with proof that China’s justification for going to war was fabricated, is cooling his heels in rural Ohio and pining for CIA agent Mara Duncan, a Chinese assassin is lurking nearby, waiting for an opportunity to strike.
Naturally, Bond, who co-authored the quintessential military techno-thriller Red Storm Rising with Tom Clancy, is at his best depicting the technological components of modern warfare. He displays an encyclopedic knowledge of modern weapons systems and tactics, and he knows how to use his knowledge to full advantage without bogging things down in military acronyms and technobabble, thus creating exquisite tension during action scenes. When actual human emotions figure into the plot, though, as love does in several instances in this book, things read a little bit off, but few will notice or particularly care thanks to the novel's steamroller plot and tense action sequences.
Bond and DeFelice conjure a chillingly all-too-believable near future global conflict.

Our publisher's page with a sample and links is here.

Paperback coming

Due on the stands at the end of the month.

How free are we?

Watch the first segment of this report and decide . . .
Blame video games


WASHINGTON — Looking for broader remedies to gun violence, Vice President Joe Biden is reaching out to the video game industry for ideas as the White House seeks to assemble proposals in response to last month's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.
Biden is scheduled to meet with video game representatives Friday as the White House explores cultural factors that may contribute to violent behavior.

I'm still waiting to see the study that shows the connection between video games and violence in society . . . or a news story about someone stalking the suburbs with a Dahl Hornet.*

If video games incite violence, why has violence in America declined since they became popular?

* = A gun in Borderlands.
Kind words for Red Dragon: Blood of War

Publisher's Weekly gave us a "starred" review -

Publisher’s Weekly

 http://www.publishersweekly.com/images/reviews-star-19b.pngLarry Bond’s Red Dragon Rising: Blood of War
Larry Bond and Jim DeFelice. Forge, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2140-4 
Bond and DeFelice’s excellent fourth and final Red Dragon Rising military thriller (after 2012’s Shock of War) offers blazing combat, heroic deeds, and the sometimes sad, sometimes joyful personal stories of the men and women who have carried this saga on land, at sea, and in the air. Assisting the Vietnamese opposing the Chinese forces attacking their country are U.S. Army Maj. Zeus Murphy, a ragtag cadre of SEALS, CIA fighters, and battle-hardened mercenaries, all backed by a U.S. president prepared to wage an undeclared war. Meanwhile, off the Vietnamese coast, Dirk Silas, the commander of the American destroyer McCampbell, faces several Chinese warships determined to sink him and begin WWIII. Those coming late to the series would be advised to start with the first entry, Shadows of War, and read straight through all four books. Readers doing so will find themselves stopping only long enough to put one down and pick up the next.

More here. The box up there is supposed to be a star. Which is good....
The copyright wars, cont.

The War on Authors isn’t new. Dickens, Victor Hugo and others were vilified for promoting copyright law more than a hundred years ago. What’s new is a technology that tips the scales against authors

Article at Trichordist, summing up the situation re. "Orphan Works' The five-part series starts here.

Orphan works are works whose authors can't be located - with the implication (by some) that their copyright status should therefore be in doubt. (Or not, as the series lucidly argues.)

Blood of War trailer

The [preliminary sketch but probably very close to what the final will look like except for the resolution and little stuff that I always miss myself version] trailer for Red Dragon Rising: Blood of War.

Speaking of backlists . . .

Of interest to (older) writers, from copyright guru Lloyd Jassin:

When the Copyright Act was passed in 1976, little thought was given to the future impact of an esoteric provision that gave individual authors the “option” to terminate book contracts and “recapture control” of their copyrights. This provision was designed to protect against bad deals for authors—and is intended to aid authors who signed contracts with little bargaining power and who were not aware of the potential future value of their work. Accordingly, Congress embedded in the Copyright Act a “reset button” for every post-1977 contract, which, when activated 35 years after a contract was signed, returns ownership and control of the copyright to the author or author’s heirs.
This means that, starting in 2013, authors and their heirs or estates will be able to terminate virtually any publishing contract entered into on or after January 1, 1978. While some authors will use this powerful right to reclaim ownership and control of their books, others will leave their publishing contracts intact, but extract more favorable terms for doing so.

Full story in PW here.

Lloyd's website, which should be mandatory reading for writers of any age or persuasion, is here.

One take on "real" books . . .

 . . . vs. ebooks, with a focus on B&N and its role in the demise. And it's not an optimistic one:

There’s still plenty of evidence that people like bookstores, for example, and even sales of hardcovers — let alone print books — are holding on. And so the lust for higher margins — whether from Godiva chocolates or ebooks — turned into fool’s gold for B&N. It’s perhaps a typical death in the Free Trade era, when companies lose all sight of their identity in the blinding light of the bottom line … but it’s the wrong death for a bookseller. . . .
In short, B&N’s scorched earth policy of the 1990s has ultimately left us with, well, scorched earth. If the book is going to survive it, it’s going to take some real revolutionary activity, indeed.

Full piece.

Overheard at the bar:

Writer: How are you planning on positioning my new novel?
Editor: We're going to call it "the thinking man's dystopia."
Writer: (After staring at his drink for several long moments) I'm thinking that's not going to sell too well.
Editor: Sadly, no.

More on AGI's chutzpah

From the NY Times:

A.I.G. is weighing whether to join the lawsuit, filed by Mr. Greenberg’s investment firm, Starr International Company. A.I.G. most likely will not end up joining forces with Mr. Greenberg, but, as a duty to shareholders, it has to at least give his suit a thorough assessment.

One of Starr International’s major arguments is that A.I.G.’s bailout terms were far tougher than those granted to other large financial firms. But A.I.G.’s cash needs and internal failings were in many ways far more serious than those of other institutions. In fact, the company was in such dire straits after the rescue that the government chose to loosen the terms of its aid.
The concessions were considerable.
In early 2009, the Federal Reserve cut the interest rate on a big loan to A.I.G. At the time, the company said that would save it $1 billion a year in interest.
The Treasury Department made another favorable change. It exchanged $40 billion of preferred shares for new ones that effectively paid no cash dividends to taxpayers. If it had paid the originally agreed 10 percent dividend on all these and other preferred shares, the insurer would have paid roughly $20 billion from the beginning of 2009 to the end 2012.
Instead, the preferred shares were converted into common stock, which the government later sold. The Treasury Department made a $5 billion return on its investments.
The government could have made more, if it had chosen to.

Greenberg is the former chairman of the company.


Duty to stockholders? How about, duty to the country? And where's the humility about contributing to a financial disaster whose effects we're all still feeling?

More metrics

Continuing with the thanks, the latest Amazon metrics have put me in the top two hundred or so authors in terms of sales consistently over the past year (as long as they've been collecting the numbers). I'm gratified not only that the numbers in the genre sections - thrillers, for example, and memoirs - are so high, but also that in the specific area of history, where I've done only a few works, the sales put me in the top 20.

I have no idea what the numbers really mean if anything, except that I am eternally grateful for the support of the many readers who have taken a chance on reading my work.

There's a lot more I have to learn about writing, and I hope to continue to do so in 2013.

There's a word for this . . .

. . . actually several, none of which should be used in semi-polite company:

The board of A.I.G. will meet on Wednesday to consider joining a $25 billion shareholder lawsuit against the government, court records show. The lawsuit does not argue that government help was not needed. It contends that the onerous nature of the rescue — the taking of what became a 92 percent stake in the company, the deal’s high interest rates and the funneling of billions to the insurer’s Wall Street clients — deprived shareholders of tens of billions of dollars and violated the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the taking of private property for “public use, without just compensation.” . . .
Some government officials are already upset with the company for even seriously entertaining the lawsuit, people briefed on the matter said. The people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that without the bailout, A.I.G. shareholders would have fared far worse in bankruptcy. 

"Upset" doesn't begin to cover it. This is what tar and feathering were invented for

Thank you!

According to Publisher's Weekly, American Sniper was the number 11 best-selling nonfiction book of 2012.

We're overwhelmed.

Red Dragon Rising & the climate

Rapid climate change in Asia - China, specifically - is a key part of the back-story in the Red Dragon Rising series. Drought and the problems that follow push China to look for a military solution, which in the books begins with the invasion of Vietnam. The U.S., wary of outright war, gets involved in a clandestine campaign to thwart China.

Interestingly, the most controversial aspect of the novels hasn't been China's aggression or even the country they pick on first - it's been the question of whether the weather will really have an impact or not on geopolitical affairs. And whether the weather is REALLY changing.

Admittedly, the books are fiction, where things have to be a bit dramatic. But there are mountains of scientific data indicating that the world's climate is changing. A science writer recently tried to count all of the scientific papers "debating" the issue, and found there is no debate:

Scientists do not disagree about human-caused global warming. It is the ruling paradigm of climate science, in the same way that plate tectonics is the ruling paradigm of geology. We know that continents move. We know that the earth is warming and that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary cause. These are known facts about which virtually all publishing scientists agree.
Desmogblog (http://s.tt/1tBXZ)
Or, as his pie chart put it:

In terms of the actual plot and story lines in Red Dragon, climate change isn't important at all. You don't need to "believe" in the science behind the book to enjoy the tale itself. And clearly, many people have. I thank them for keeping an open mind.

Still . . .

I think it's more than fair to say that the climate change in the novels is far more dramatic than southern Asia has actually seen (though much of China is under drought conditions, as described in the book, and there have been typhoons similar to those that enter into the story). But I guess I continue to be baffled by claims that there's no such thing as climate change at all.

Debate whether we can do something about it, yes. But the basic underlying facts are not in dispute.

How not to handle a weapon . . .

Some people should not be trusted with guns.

Rex Ryan is now my favorite coach . . .


Jets coach Rex Ryan has picked up some killer reading material to help him forget about his team’s disappointing season.
Ryan was spotted thumbing through “American Sniper,” the autobiography of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, while sunning himself Thursday at a luxurious Bahamas resort.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/jets/rex-reading-choise-sniper-memoir-article-1.1232927#ixzz2H0rb0Yvt

Sorry, Tom Coughlin.

"Run and gun" will have a whole new meaning in Jets games next year.

Kind words for Red Dragon

A review of the forthcoming "Blood of War," the fourth installment in the Red Dragon Rising series:

Every book designed to fit into a genre must, of necessity, match reader expectations. So this is beautifully crafted individual action scenes against the big picture context. Although Zeus Murphy proves indestructible in a series of engagements, most of the military descriptions have a high-adrenaline quality showing American heroism at its most inspiring. Fortunately, although out gunned and less well trained, the Vietnamese are also allowed to do quite well while a multinational group of CIA operatives do what’s necessary to break Chinese morale north of the border.
Full review.

The book will hit the bookstores at the end of the month. Larry and I are set to do a number of radio interviews and related publicity; we'll publish details when they're available.
A must for every driveway

Make mine a Phantom.


Writing advice . . .

From Papa:

... always stop when you know what is going to happen next . . .

The rest of the quote, and more.