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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It's a Wrap!

WARNING: By viewing this post, you agree to hold blameless the Two-Fisted Blogger for any increased levels of testosterone, additional chest hair growth and irresistablility to shapely nubile fly girls.

Yes, unfortunately, the Men's Adventure Blog Tour has come to an end. Now what're we gonna do? Well, for starters, read the rest of this post!

In the days before social networks, a lot of us were routinely spammed by friends and relatives with email jokes, anecdotes, questionaires and smarmy stories. One of the best ones I ever received was called "The Writing Assignment." Because it meshes so nicely with some of my guest blogs during the tour (and because it's so doggone hysterical) I tracked it down and pasted it below:

PROFESSOR MILLER: Today we will experiment with a new form called the tandem story. The process is simple. Each person will pair off with the person sitting to his or her immediate right. One of you will then write the first paragraph of a short story. The partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the story. The first person will then add a third paragraph, and so on back and forth. Remember to reread what has been written each time in order to keep the story coherent. The story is over when both agree a conclusion has been reached. Ready? Begin.

REBECCA: At first, Laurie couldn't decide which kind of tea she wanted. The camomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he liked camomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So camomile was out of the question. 

GARY: Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think about than the neuroses of an air-headed bimbo named Laurie with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago. "A.S. Harris to Geostation 17," he said into his transgalactic communicator. "Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance so far..." But before he could sign off a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship's cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit.

REBECCA: He bumped his head and died almost immediately, but not before he felt one last pang of regret for psychically brutalizing the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4. "Congress Passes Law Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel," Laurie read in her newspaper one morning. The news simultaneously excited her and bored her. She stared out the window, dreaming of her youth — when the days had passed unhurriedly and carefree, with no newspapers to read, no television to distract her from her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things around her. "Why must one lose one's innocence to become a woman?" she pondered wistfully.

 GARY: Little did she know, but she had less than 10 seconds to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu'udrian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted wimpy peaceniks who pushed the Unilateral Aerospace Disarmament Treaty through Congress had left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empires who were determined to destroy the human race. Within two hours after the passage of the treaty the Anu'udrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying enough firepower to pulverize the entire planet. With no one to stop them they swiftly initiated their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his top-secret mobile submarine headquarters on the ocean floor off the coast of Guam, felt the inconceivably massive explosion which vaporized Laurie and 85 million other Americans. The President slammed his fist on the conference table. "We can't allow this! I'm going to veto that treaty! Let's blow 'em out of the sky!" 

REBECCA: This is absurd. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My writing partner is a violent, chauvinistic, semi-literate adolescent. 

 GARY: Yeah? Well, you're a self-centered tedious neurotic whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of Valium. 

REBECCA: You total prick! 

GARY: Stupid bitch!

Hey, don't blame me for what Gary and Melvin say...even if it turns out they are fans of the Two-Fisted Blog.

Well, I hope all who followed the first ever Men's Adventure Blog Tour enjoyed it. Thanks to all who participated, and that includes my fellow authors/bloggers James Reasoner; Wayne Dundee; Nate Granzow; Peter Nealen; Paul Bishop; Jack Badelaire; Dan Tharp; R.A. Mathis; Sean McLachlan; Winston Crutchfield; Jack Murphy; Mel Odom; and Jack Silkstone.

Some of you have also given Tier Zero reviews on Amazon, and I'm especially grateful for that. (John Scott and Jim Morris are not bloggers, but I don't want to leave you out--boocoup thanks for taking the time to read and post reviews!) Same goes for those who plugged the novel on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere: thanks very, very much. And thanks to all who clicked "like" on the Amazon page.

So here comes February and it's back to blogging for me. I believe there are some major changes coming in 2013 and those might include the Two-Fisted Blog. I have some ideas I want to implement--I just need a little help with them. The changes will be obvious if/when they occur.

Until next time, folks. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Men's Adventure Online Event of the Century!

Say hello to my little friends...

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To celebrate the launch of my new novel, Tier Zero, the Men's Adventure Blog Tour starts now!

Remember the unapologetic literary mayhem from the glory days of men's adventure paperbacks in the 1980s? Well, those days are back, only better, and we're going to celebrate that for the next two weeks. You are invited to the online traveling party.

We're gonna tour the World Wide Web, stopping at the very coolest blogs for guys who like books for guys. Through these blog stops, you're probably gonna discover some great reads by authors you haven't yet been introduced to. As a bonus, while surfing the blogs you just might find the lowdown on that movie you were wondering about, videogames, guns, military gear or other cool guy stuff. You never know with a motley assortment of miscreants like the bloggers in my network.

But back to the reason for this epic explosion of virtual testosterone:

Tier Zero is a present-day throwback to all that was good about the men's fiction of yesteryear, and a sequel to the military thriller Hell and Gone which Jack Silkstone (PRIMAL) calls "a man's book, through and through." In this guns-blazing sequel, Tommy Scarred Wolf leads the survivors from Hell and Gone on a rescue mission that pits them against human traffickers, pirates, a typhoon...and that's just for starters.

Each stop of the blog tour takes the participants to the online stomping ground of a fellow blogger who welcomes men's fiction/action-adventure/dude lit/whatever ya wanna call it. The tour runs from January14-30.


January 14: The Two-Fisted Blog (You are here!)

January 15: American Praetorians

January 16: Rough Edges

January 17: Reflexive Fire

January 18: Bish's Beat

January 19: R.A. Mathis

January 20: Post Modern Pulps

January 21: From Dundee's Desk

January 22: PRIMAL

January 23: Critical Press Media

January 24: Adventures in Writing

January 25: Civil War Horror

January 27: Sharp End of the Spear

January 28: Hot Extract

January 29: Nate Granzow

January 30: Wrap-up right back here on the Two-Fisted Blog!

I'll see you on the next tour stop!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Military Fiction Done Right--Hoowah!

As we grow closer to the release date of my latest men's adventure novel, Tier Zero, and I scramble around getting the coolest blog tour ever ready to go, I thought I'd take a look back over the bloody battlefield of my burgeoning fiction career to the opening shot, so to speak: my debut novel, Hell and Gone.

Above is the paperback's cover image. All but one of the surviving protagonists from that bloody shoot-'em-up are back for more madcap mayhem in Tier Zero.

Here's a bit of trivia for you: The original title was The Has-Beens. I liked it. Nobody else did. I changed it to The Samson Doctrine. People liked that, but it sounded too techno-thriller for me. As the original publication date loomed closer, I argued myself in circles about those two titles. Then I pondered what else I could call it.

It was an old-school commando tale. I figured a title that sounded old-fashioned would clue potential readers in on what sort of novel this was. I wrote about a dozen different blurbs for it, hoping a title would come to me before the deadline for publishing. While working on another blurb, I was summarizing what's at stake. Rocco and the gang had to steal a suitcase nuke away from Khaled Ali and his martyrs-in-training before they used it to blow Tel Aviv to...

(Here's where I thought: "Eureka! Herein lies the inspiration for a title!")

...Blow it to...

Smithereens. Nope. Although it would work well as a title of a comedy, or Clancyesque thriller spoof.

Kingdom Come. Hmm. I was getting warmer, but was sure that title must have been used a thousand times already.

And then it came to me. It was different. It was old-fashioned. And it sounded like something protagonist Rocco Cavarra would say. Bingo. I had a title, literally just a couple days before it was printed. (Yes, the print version came out first--another mistake I've learned from. Of course, I knew nothing about e-books at the time, so cut me some slack already. Okay?)

Anyhoo, there is a brand new Amazon review of H&G, and some others I have not yet shared on the blog. So let me correct that, now:

Military fiction done right., January 8, 2013
Winston Crutchfield "MindSpike" (Indiana, USA) Amazon Verified Purchase
This review is from: Hell and Gone (Kindle Edition)
In the tradition of "The Expendables" and "The Dirty Dozen", Hank Brown delivers rock solid military action with just a hint of techno-thriller. Brown paints "Rocco's Retreads" with a solid brush that emphasizes gritty, realistic action instead of a troop of invincible soldiers. The fighting is brutal and intense; the characters are recognizable and empathetic. The language of the book is noticeably less crude than one might expect from this type of military fiction, which makes the book that much more enjoyable. The plot is straightforward, and complications derive from perfectly natural mission-creep rather than complexly contrived circumstance. Brown stays on target and develops his characters and story without resorting to vulgarity, graphic violence, or gratuitous sex. This is a book about experienced soldiers on a dirty covert op; the writing is well-rounded and professional. I enjoyed reading this story, and immediately went looking for the author's blog (do a quick search for "two-fisted blogger"). Henry "Hank" Brown is definitely an author to watch.

Great Read - Fast moving Military Fiction, July 15, 2011
J. G Scott (United States)
Amazon Verified Purchase
This review is from: Hell and Gone (Kindle Edition)
I am a reader who likes military fiction and have found the field pretty sparse for quite a few years. I look for believable action, realistic characters and straightforward moral clarity - the next "Dogs of War," but relative to the modern world of instability.
Hell and Gone gives the reader all of it - and the style is so smooth it can be easily read in an afternoon, it was that good that I could not put it down.
The work starts by setting the scene for the twisted antagonists (they are truly sick) - just enough detail to whet my appetite and move us along to the good guys. It is very believable and makes me wonder if the author has seen something like the terror camp described....
The good guys are not supermen - they are men with faults but have innate clarity that allows their leader, D. Cavarra, to prove his mettle. The author takes just enough time to give us some insight into each characters inner workings - enough that we want more from those who survive. The various characters have to be a microcosm of any small unit out in various nasty parts of the world - from the bumbling wannabe goofball to the quiet man of many virtues, with a couple of intriguing twists.
The location looks to be prime, who could argue against the Sudan, and with a hint of Isreali intrigue the stage is set for a good tale. Scary in it's implications for nuclear holocaust but very relevant and even takes some time to poke back at inadequate leadership in DC!
No spoilers here - except when I put the work down - I could only say "sequel/prequel?"

Nuclear Suicide Mission, February 20, 2012
James F. Morris "Jim Morris" (CA USA)
This review is from: Hell and Gone (Paperback)
Look at these reviews. Have you ever seen reviews this long? Readers care about this book, and the reviewers have deconstructed it. So I will stipulate what they have said, that it is well-written, well-plotted, and has excellent characterization, which is hard to do when you have a military unit worth of characters to delineate.
The first fifty pages introduce the main characters and the mission, and they are interesting in themselves. After that reading this book is pretty much like being strapped to a rocket for about three hours. This is high praise for an adventure novel. The sucker moves and carries the reader with it, fast and smooth.

Nobody73 "D.R. Tharp" (Missouri) 
Amazon Verified Purchase
This review is from: Hell and Gone (Kindle Edition)
I had this book on my 'must read' list for awhile. I should have read it earlier. I read it in 3 sittings and it went by extremely fast. I really love the characterization in this book. Anyone who has served in the military will be jolted back to the service by reading the cast's resume and the way they do things. Even if you never served in Combat Arms, the people are the same. They range from Solid Officers who aren't afraid of work to the bitter angry socio paths who try and maneuver their way through 20 years and along the way they try and screw Anyone and everyone they can. Obviously, the author has been there and done that.

At first, I thought the plot to be a typical hadji hunt. The author has done a great job at assembling a mission that you might find anywhere and drags you into the depth of the characters. God, The Flag and American Pie, this is not. And I love it. The sequence of events in the last 2/3's of the book are extremely unique. I won't give away the plot of the book as it has been discussed above. Mr. Brown has a talent that I wish he would put to more novels of the military adventure class. This book is worth the time and price and then some. Do yourself a favor and spend the time getting to know the characters of this book. Bravo!

A man's book through and through., January 5, 2012
Jack Silkstone 
Amazon Verified Purchase
This review is from: Hell and Gone (Kindle Edition)
I read Hell and Gone over three days on my Iphone. Every opportunity I had I read it, on the train, at the barbers, waiting for physio, sitting in the park whilst my do burned off energy even waiting for a meal in an expensive restaurant (oh my girl loved me for that).

I couldn't put this action thriller down. Why? Because it grabbed me in the first few pages and didn't let go till the very end. It has it all, it's contemporary, it's well developed, the plot is solid, the weapons and tactics are spot on and the writing style is easy to read and doesn't bog down in to much detail.

There is a lot of independent crap on Amazon but this ain't some of it. This is an exceptionally well produced piece of action writing that any major publishing house would be proud of. Not that I think that all of their work is worth being proud of.

So why only four stars? Well I think that there was a few to many characters in the team. At times I found myself confused as to who was who and what background they had. I think the book would actually read better if the number of good guys was halved.

All in all a great read that I recommend to any man who likes real action.

Well done Henry!!

There are some more I haven't shared here before, but this post is already getting kinda' long. (Of course you're more than welcome to read them all on Amazon prior to buying about four million copies for friends and family all over the English-speaking world. What? Not quite four million? Quit being so unsociable and start sending some Facebook friend requests!)

When we meet again, Two-Fisted Bloggees, it will be time for the Men's Adventure Blog Tour, kicking off Monday, January 14 2013, after I pull the trigger on Tier Zero!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Action Adventure About to Kick Into High Gear

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There have been some detours and bumps in the road getting here, but the rough draft of Tier Zero, my sequel to Hell and Gone, is in the can.

After learning a lot the hard way by trial and error, this time I'm avoiding some of the mistakes I made with my debut novel.

The most important correction may have been my decision to hire a professional artist for the cover art this time. Despite the wise old adage to not judge a book by its cover, people do exactly that. We've all heard about the importance of making a good first impression. If the book cover doesn't pique a reader's curiosity, they'll probably never sample what's inside. So, in effect, it doesn't matter how good a book is if you can't lure readers to open it.

I was fortunate to find veteran cover artist Derrick Early. He was quick, reasonable and spoke my language--just an overall pleasure to work with, and worth every penny. Since I wanted TierZero to have an old-school men's adventure feel to it (despite its 2013 setting), I wanted a retro-men's adventure look for the cover, too. As you can see in the e-book version cover above, he delivered big-time.

I also made an effort to pack even more action into the story this go-round. And I cut the number of characters down from my cast-of-dozens in Hell and Gone. I still tried to keep the language PG-13.

What I didn't change was my effort to write a paramilitary shoot-'em-up throwback to the '80s paperbacks, but without obliterating suspension of disbelief or underestimating the intelligence of the reader. I was fairly happy with it once the rough draft was finally done.

There have been times when I thought I wrote something good, but when somebody else looks at it, they point out flaws I had been blind to before. So even though I think I've matured quite a bit as a writer, there's still some doubt, if not trepidation, when I go through the critique process (now called a "beta read"). My new novel recently finished the beta read and received much constructive criticism with few red flags. The revisions have been fairly painless.

So far, so good.

I also asked a favor of Jim Morris, since he is a well-established and respected author whose influence with readers spans decades: Would he be willing to give it a quick read and write a reaction I could quote for promotional purposes? He agreed, even though he was helping others with their projects. I got a blurb from him, and was very grateful to have it. Then I got these comments:

"I've edited more than 200 adventure books, fiction and non-fiction. Not five of them were as good or better than Tier Zero. ...It really is a highly superior adventure novel. Big fun."

That was welcome news, let me tell ya. He kept reading, then said:

"I'm two-thirds of the way through, and it just keeps getting better. You are one hell of an adventure writer. If I weren't already reading two other books I'd be through."

And finally, upon finishing:

"Loved it. Do I smell sequel?"

Heavy sigh of relief. And swelling of the head. When you're a relatively unknown independent author, you just have to share comments like that from a guy like Jim Morris.

Something else I'm doing different this time is a blog tour. It should be a lot of fun, and there's a giveaway with it. (Free stuff! Yay!) The tour is scheduled to start right here on Monday, January 14. Check back for the schedule and details on how to win (and what you can win).

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Second Wave: Resurgence of Men's Fiction

First of all: Happy New Year, everyone.

With Jack Murphy's novel hitting the virtual stands today, and my next one still on track for release later this month, I got to thinking about the "new wave" (or 2nd wave) of men's adventure/military fiction/paramilitary novels. 2012 was a very encouraging year for those of us who miss the genre(s) and would like to read it again. I actually think the resurgence began in 2010, but its growth has been accelerating, making last year the biggest so far.

So following is just a from-the-hip summary of what the state of the genre is right now.

Jack Silkstone's PRIMAL series burst on the scene in 2011 and has been taking no prisoners ever since. His heroes are part soldier-of-fortune and part vigilante. Imagine the A-Team, but more plausible. Imagine a James Bond villain, only righting wrongs instead of doing wrong. PRIMAL is a private military company, but they don't hire out to the highest bidder. They are privately (and well) funded, which means they don't have to compromise their principles to make a living by the sword. His latest installment is PRIMAL Vengeance, and I'm sure he's got another one in the works. He's also got some nice videos up, and a cool website.

I met Jack Murphy after he reviewed my novel, Hell & Gone. The review was a pleasant surprise, mostly because he was not only a fan of the genre, but another veteran, so he could appreciate it on at least two levels. Frankly, before that, I'd been seriously worried that there were no fans of the genre left...that there was no interest or market in this type of fiction. The closest thing to it was the techno-thriller a la Tom Clancy, Dale Brown, etc.

Anyway, Jack and I became cyber-friends and gradually, I discovered that there were a lot more of us out there. He was working on his debut novel, Reflexive Fire, at the time, and posting chapters on his blog. Jack had recently come home from the Sandbox and his knowledge was vast and up-to-date. (He also had some hilarious anecdotes from personal experience in SF and the Rangers that I hope he will find a way to insert in his future fiction.) I wrote Reflexive Fire's first Amazon review and was happy to do so.

Jack's been busy going to school, starting a family, writing books and co-founding SOFREP, a fantastic resource for anyone interested in Special Operations Forces. His novel Target Deck, sequel to Reflexive Fire, just went live on Amazon.

Dan Tharp is a regular contributor to SOFREP, and has recently been commissioned by them to write about the Rhodesian War. His study of African history and politics informed his debut novel, Task Force Intrepid: The Gold of Katanga. The heroes, again, are ethical mercenaries sorting out the chaos in the Congo. He followed up with a shorter adventure about TFI: Highway to Hell. In addition to being a scholar of the Rhodesian conflict (and his blog, Sharp End of the Spear, is a very informative site), Dan was involved in Mixed Martial Arts for a while. I can't wait to read the book he writes about that.

If you haven't discovered Jack Badelaire's Post Modern Pulps blog, do yourself a favor and check it out. He's one of my trusted sources for book and movie recommendations, and we've had some stimulating back-and-forth since we've known each other. And he's become a published author himself in the last year or so. When the craziness of my own authorial efforts die down for a bit, I plan on finishing Operation Arrowhead, his novel of British commandos raising hell in Fortress Europe between Dunkirk and Normandy. In addition to that, there is his debut novel Killer Instincts; a tongue-in-cheek fantasy short: NANOK and the Tower of Sorrows; and the E-Zine Hatchet Force, which I am pleased to have contributed to.

New on the scene is Peter Nealen, and a welcome member of our growing community. His novel Task Force Desperate is a well-written yarn set in the near future, about a PMC suffering mission creep after a US outpost in hostile territory is overrun and hundreds of hostages taken. You might be exhausted after reading it because the tension never lets up. From talking with him, I know that he has many more books in mind, in several genres (kinda' like me). He's also a brand new blogger, and his American Praetorians blog is well worth a visit.

This isn't everybody writing in this genre, but they're the guys I know (in an online sort of way). Of course there are guys out there like comic book writer Chuck Dixon, with his SEAL Team Six novels. All of it is welcome. I miss the 1980s because you had quite a selection to choose from, and you could find a book in the genre at most drug stores and even gas stations. Now you can't even find it in a brick-and-mortar book store. But I must say that the quality of stories now, at least using the authors mentioned above as examples, has improved since then. And you can shop for your E-reader anywhere, including at drug stores and gas stations.

And don't forget Walter Knight's military sci-fi/comedy series, America's Galactic Foreign Legion. Walter is a Two-Fisted Bloggee, and has too many books to represent here, about American expansion into outer space. He's got accolades from folks like Piers Anthony under his belt, and the series sounds like a lot of fun.

BTW, all the blogs mentioned are on my blog rolls to the left.