Tell us about yourself and your books.:
I was born and reared in Southern California, in the Los Angeles County beach community of Redondo Beach. In college, I studied journalism and afterward embarked on a journalism career during which I worked as a newspaper crime reporter, a national award-winning investigative journalist, and a freelance correspondent for LIFE Magazine and Newsweek, and finally as editor of a business newspaper. After twenty-some years of that, I grew tired of journalism and left it for a position as an analyst in combat medical operations for the U.S. Navy. I left that position in 2018.
Besides my journalism career, I also spent 27 years in three branches of the military reserves. I did search and rescue. medical response, and maritime law enforcement in U.S. Coast Guard Reserve for 13 years broken service, and counter-insurgency warfare in the Naval Reserve for three years in between my two tours in the Coast Guard. This was followed by 11 years in a component of the California National Guard, where I served first as a medical service corps officer, then as a military policeman. I just retired in the Fall of 2016 as an executive officer of a state MP unit with the rank of major.
I’ve also been a member of a federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team and a local county disaster response team, as well as a reserve sergeant and medical specialist with the local sheriff’s Search and Rescue Detail. All of this, of course, was part time.
Because of my background, I tend to write mystery thrillers. I have two series, the Peter Brandt mysteries featuring a war-scarred journalist, and the Linus Schag, NCIS, thrillers. I also have an award-winning collection of short stories called DUTY, with mystery and suspense stories dealing with national service, and a sci-fi novella called EDEN, in which a group of American GIs in war torn Iraq stumble onto an ancient secret about the beginnings of humankind. My latest novel, Polar Melt, is a sci-fi novel centered around the melting Arctic ice cap. That book is due out January 1.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
When I was still working for the Navy, writing time was scarce. So, I also carried my Kindle Fire tablet and a Bluetooth keyboard in my ruck everyplace I went. When I got a chance to write, I would bring them out and pound out a few hundred words. I also did a lot of writing on my iPhone during meetings. When everyone else was checking their emails and texts, I was writing a short story or something.
These days, my writing schedule is more conventional. I sit at a desk first thing in the morning and aim for 500 words. After that, I do freelance editing for publishers or other authors.
What authors have influenced you?
Oh, that is impossible to say because there were so many. In college, I was very influenced by the Lost Generation writers – Hemingway, Dos Passos, Remarque. But I also read a lot of science fiction by writers like Bradbury, Wells, Verne, etc. Of course, I read and still read a lot of thrillers and mysteries from the greats like Ian Fleming, Raymond Chandler and John D. MacDonald. Of contemporary writers, I would say David Morrell has had the most influence on my work. Like David, I do a great deal of research for my novels to give them an air of authenticity.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
One word: Rewrite. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Too many new writers complete one draft of a manuscript and think it's ready for publication. It's not. You have to be patient and put it aside for a while, then come back to it with fresh eyes. Do that two or three times, minimum. I always say the art is not in the writing, but in the rewriting.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
My late father-in-law, Robert Wade, was a very successful mystery novelist and book reviewer, and he helped me with my first two novels, The Killing Depths and Empty Places. In fact, I dedicated Empty Places to Bob. Bob told me the ending to your book has to give readers a sense of relief, a feeling that the world wasn't going to hell in a handbasket. No matter how cynical or world-weary your antagonist might be, by the end of the book he has to have some form of redemption.
What are you reading now?
I'm currently reading The Sand Pebbles, by RIchard McKenna. I love the movie with Steve McQueen, but I had never read the novel. I recently did a read and critique for a retired Navy chief who is working on a naval drama along similar lines as The Sand Pebbles, and that inspired me to finally buy the book and read it.
What’s your biggest weakness?
Finding enough time to read. Reading is very important to writers. But sometimes after spending hours at the computer writing – or editing or proofreading someone else's book – I don't feel like reading for pleasure.
What is your favorite book of all time?
That's difficult to say. I like several books for several different reasons. Let's just say my favorite book of all time was the last one I finished reading.
What has inspired you and your writing style?
Most of my novels are inspired by historical or current events. The Last Refuge, the second in my mystery thriller series featuring Peter Brandt, for instance, was inspired by news reports saying that while we were still fighting the First Iraq War—Operation Desert Storm—American corporations secretly negotiated with Saddam Hussein to rebuild his war manufacturing capabilities.
The basic plot for The Butcher's Bill was inspired by a tragic event in which a Los Angeles police officer went rogue and began killing people. He claimed he was trying to expose police corruption. I started thinking, "What if that were true?" That gave me the vehicle to write about the vast amount of corruption and war profiteering that went on during the Second Iraq War—Operation Iraqi Freedom. Bill Butcher is a former NCIS agent who appears to have gone rogue after trying to expose the theft of nearly $9 billion in cash during the war. That theft actually happened, probably the biggest bank heist in history, and it's never been investigated. Butcher enlists the aid of his closest friend, NCIS Special Agent Linus Schag, to expose the truth.
What are you working on now?
I'm currently writing my third Peter Brandt mystery. It's titled The Fourth Rising. It was inspired by the theory of some historians that while Germany surrendered in 1945, the Nazi Party did not, that the Nazi leadership spread out across the world to continue the party's quest for world domination through means other than war – economic means. Peter's investigation into the gruesome murder of his ex-lover's husband leads to his uncovering this decades-old international plot.
What is your method for promoting your work?
Like most authors, I try to maximize my use of social media to promote my work. But I also buy advertising on Goodreads, Google, and Amazon. I also take part in public events, such as the recent book festival held in San Diego, CA, where I live.
What’s next for you as a writer?
Audiobooks. Audiobooks are the biggest seller in book publishing right now. I have two audiobooks in currently in production, and expect more to come.
How well do you work under pressure?
As a former daily newspaper reporter, I'm used to working under the pressures of deadlines, as well as in noisy environments. A news room is filled with the voices of people talking on the phones, and the sound of the teletype machines – well, probably not so much the latter these days. But I don't need a quiet room in which to write.
How do you decide what tone to use with a particular piece of writing?
It all depends on the story. You don't want to write a cozy mystery when your story involves a prolific serial killer. At some point in the plotting stages you begin to sense the tone of a story, and that tone should be heard in the very first sentence of the book. Think of first line in Melville's Moby Dick: "Call me Ishmael." It not only introduces the name of the story's narrator, it also evokes the religious overtones of the novel since Ishmael is the son of the prophet Abraham.