Author:

Russell Blake

It was seven years ago today…

Seven years is a long time.

Over half many dogs’ lives.

Little over 2500 days.

During which time I’ve written something like…five million published words. Not counting blogs, or Facebook posts, which probably total a few million more (note to new authors – stay the hell off social media if you want to be productive).

Never at any point when I started this amazing journey did I see into the future where I’d have sixty-something novels in the can, have co-authored with a living legend, been on the front page of the WSJ and been featured in a trove of international pubs, landed a top agent, been republished in a bunch of different languages, interviewed more than one literary idol, hung out on boats in Cuba and beaches in Mexico and vineyards in Argentina, and had some astoundingly prosperous years. Truly an embarrassment of riches.

But most importantly, I’ve been fortunate enough to make good friends along the way, and to have been able to help some climb the mountain with me – because any peak is kind of lonely if you’re the only one there.

Each day I’ve tried to improve at my craft, but I don’t feel like I’ve reached my potential yet. Not sure when I will, but it gives me something to wake up for each morning, and that’s a good thing. When I go back and reread parts of my first novels, Fatal Exchange and The Geronimo Breach, I smile – they weren’t as terrible as they could have been, for which I’m thankful. I always open them on my publishing anniversary as a humbling reminder of where I started, and they serve their purpose well.

I’ve also been fortunate to have worked with a pro team – Dorothy Zemach editing, Pauline Nolet proofreading, Stef Mcdaid formatting and editing my first several dozen tomes, Ares Jun and Elizabeth Mackey on covers (with Jason Gurley having done the Assassin covers). These folks tolerated my peccadilloes and eccentricities and I’m a better author for it. I count them all as friends, even if they won’t pick up the phone when I call (they aren’t stupid, after all, and know I’m given to drink).

But, you ask, what have you done for me lately? Well, I’ll be releasing a techno-thriller I’m quite proud of, titled Quantum Synapse (cover below), which is the first book in a series set a few decades in the future that pushes the envelope on the genres I’ve mined (think Da Vinci Code crossed with Crichton, seasoned with Blade Runner and Total Recall and you might be close). I’m currently working on the fourth Drake Ramsey adventure, set in the Philippines. After that I see another JET, a cooperative project with one of the top sellers on Amazon, and two or three more novels to finish out the year. All while delivering some amazing custom homes I’ve designed and built in the Los Cabos area – work I’m exceedingly proud of.

And of course, still holding my breath on Hollywood making me an offer I can’t refuse.

So a full plate, which has kept things interesting.

I began this writing journey after turning fifty. For some, that marks the autumn of a career. For me it marked the start of a new one, and the continuation of another.

I just wish there were more hours. There are never enough. But I don’t want to be lying on my death bed thinking “I wish I’d tried that.” Part of what I’ve learned, if I’ve learned anything, is that trying is half the battle and almost all the reason – that creating meaning by taking on challenges, whatever they are, fills one’s cup and keeps one in the harness instead of dwelling on the past. That will be for when I’m 90. For now, I’ve got a lot to do before I sleep, and I hope I get the chance to give everything I’ve imagined a try.

To you, dear reader, consider this a kind of love letter. You’ve been a blessing, and your support of my work has been gratifying at countless levels. I realize how fortunate I am to have been accepted by you as one of your reading choices, and I’ll continue to try to get it more right than wrong – maybe for at least another seven years, although probably not another sixty-something novels.

That would be kinda nuts.

 

 

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The day is finally here! Not the apocalypse. The release of the seventh novel in The Day After Never series, titled Havoc.

It picks up at the end of book 6, with Lucas in Oregon, enemies everywhere, and danger lurking behind every tree. Havoc is the beginning of a three book arc that will complete the series, unless something else springs to mind and demands to be written. But as of now, it’s the hopefully thrilling conclusion to a post-apocalyptic saga that spans the most difficult time in modern human history.

Hope you enjoy it. You can pick it up on Amazon now!

 

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A new sci-fi trilogy, edited by yours truly, has hit the shelves – at least the first installment has. It’s a military sci-fi epic that’s chock full of action and adventure in a future that’s eerily similar to our own, only with Gauss guns, mechas, starships, and TCI-Armored super soldiers.

This isn’t my usual cuppa, but it was a hoot to be involved in the making of, and I’d encourage anyone who likes the genre to give it a try. It’s gotten high praise from a who’s who of bestselling authors, and reader reviews are universally positive.

Here’s the cover for book one, The Tetra War. Click on it to go to the Amazon page.

 

 

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That’s right. Santa slid his fat butt down the chimney, and managed to land the latest in the JET saga on Amazon! Apple, B&N, Kobo…they’ll go live on January 9. But Amazon has the goodies now! JET – Renegade, is on the shelves!

This is a good one, if I say so myself.

Obviously, I’m biased. But that said, fans of JET will find all the elements they love in this installment.

If I say anything more, it’ll spoil the story, so I’ll just leave it with order that bad boy and enjoy. You won’t be disappointed.

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The second novel in my Leah Mason suspense thriller series, A Girl Betrayed, is now live, and available on Amazon. It’s different than many of my other works, in the sense that they are action thrillers with an emphasis on cliffhanger chapter endings, car chases, shoot outs, and all the rest of the action-related tropes readers of the genre know and love. A Girl Betrayed, like its predecessor, A Girl Apart, is more cerebral, in the style of classic whodunnits where the joy is in the figuring out of the crime.

It’s a fun break from action and adventure, and I think it turned out well. Readers will be the judge, of course.

I’m now hard at work on the next JET, which will release Christmas day. JET – Renegade takes place in Africa, and pits our heroine against a diabolical group of baddies in a land where there are no rules.

For now, though, give A Girl Betrayed a look. It’s in the vein of Michael Connelly and Jeffrey Deaver, and has more twists than a silly straw.

Here’s the cover.

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December will mark six and a half years of being an author – of writing for my supper instead of dancing for it.

Along the way, there have been astounding years like 2013 and 2014, and decent ones like those thereafter, as the market has changed, and as Amazon has modified their algos to favor some titles over others. Especially telling has been the invisibility of free titles for about a year now – if you do a search, for example, for JET, you will find all the paid books listed, including the audiobook of the first title, but not the free book – you have to select the audiobook to then see it in six point script listed as free.

I’m not annoyed or surprised – I predicted that once Amazon had its way with the big 5, once indies had served their purpose as a stick with which to threaten trad pubs, it would go back to business as usual, where the lion’s share of sales went to trad pubs and Amazon imprints (a variation of trad pub), and indies had to generate far more content and work far harder for a much smaller slice of the pie.

Which is where we are today.

Oddly, I’ve never been more excited to be writing. I have several new series ideas I intend to launch next year, and am looking forward to another Ramsey’s and JET, as well as the conclusion of The Day After Never’s final arc.

This, after having penned about sixty novels since starting my career, and sold somewhere approaching three million books by now.

Anytime you can do what you love and get paid for it, you’re a lucky man.

I’ve never been luckier, even if it’s harder to make the same buck.

Nothing remains static in life, and especially not in the entertainment biz. You’re only as good as your last sale, and there’s no guarantee you ever have another one. Such is the nature of the beast. I find it keeps me on my toes, and pushes me to improve my craft and storytelling. Some find it depressing. Shrug. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, and this, while one of the hardest to succeed at, is by far the most rewarding at a self-actualization level, which offsets the peaks and valleys of income all artists must be prepared to endure.

My advice from six years ago for budding authors remains the same as it does today: write well, write a lot, and always keep your eye on the next one, not the last. Up your game every time you sit down to put pen to paper, and don’t waste your time with mediocre stories – write compelling accounts of interesting characters faced with impossible obstacles they somehow manage to overcome.

Because life’s too short for mediocrity, and there are no guarantees how many stories you are able to tell before your number’s up.

Most of all, recognize that the odds are against you, and don’t be delusional or resentful about it. Making a living from being an author is a long odds game. It is what it is. But the chances of doing so on a sustained basis have never been better, and my sense is that if you are delivering work that is exceptional for your genre, that readers can’t get from other authors, you will prosper, or at least will never starve.

In the end, that’s not a terrible deal.

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A friend suggested I post this entry from my FB page, written to attempt to answer the question of why I write. Everyone’s reasons are different, but this is as good as any I’ve come up with:

The gift, or perhaps compulsion, for writing, comes from a willingness to dig for harsh truths and record every element of them, and then regurgitate them in a way that may be uncomfortable, but is interesting, or even horrifying, whether in fiction, or non.

As an example, I sat in a gelato store yesterday evening, and an elderly gentleman with a bald pate but long angel’s wings of silver-white hair on either side of his head slowly walked to the counter as I ate my treat, and paid for a single scoop of gelato in a cone. I noted that his blue blazer, while old, was an obviously expensive cut from a bygone era, the lapels hand stitched, and his gray wool slacks well cared for. His leather shoes were at one time pricey, but were splitting at the seams, the heels worn down and toes scuffed, betraying the ravages of time. I watched as he shambled from the cashier to the counter, placed his order in an inaudible murmur, and then sat a few tables from me, obviously struggling to manage the spoon and the gelato, but also all dressed up to do so.

My heart broke. Being a writer, I conjured up instant possibilities – is he an eccentric millionaire and this his guilty pleasure? Was that his last dollar and he is returning to his home he’s lived in for seventy years, his last joy a bite of gelato before he ends it all? Or does he live in a doorway, and this is his bid for humanity, if only slight. Is he a widower, and is this his window into the world of the living, for which formal attire is preferred? Or perhaps he’s one of the last living Nazi monsters, comfortably ensconced in Argentina, his cataract glazed eyes replaying his atrocities with every blink?

He dropped the cone with a plop on the floor about halfway through his one scoop, and looked around in embarrassment before scraping it up and tossing it into the garbage. Nobody else saw but me, out of the corner of my eye. He rose, brushed off his threadbare slacks, and left without a word. He didn’t glance at the cashier to perhaps buy another one. He recognized the finality of gravity’s work, and left as quietly as he had come.

I seriously considered going after him and buying him another cone, but didn’t. Why? There was a pride, a frail, birdlike poise to the way he squared his ancient shoulders, even in defeat, and left without attracting attention, as though he was making the best of what he had to work with. Who was I to intrude on his life, his drama, his experience, playing some sort of fat, privileged demi-god of gelato, thinking my overture would change anything other than to impose my existence into his life, and possibly remind him of his own failings, his own inability to buy as many gelatos as he wished, for those with whom he felt empathy? Or to make him uncomfortable because he perhaps could buy the whole town gelato, but carefully compartmentalized his ritual to only one scoop, one time, and the chips fall where they may. Worse, what if that was the last few dimes he had collected, and he’d saved them sedulously, only to watch their worth splat in a gelatinous glob on the floor? And I would then cheapen that by making it all as though it had never happened, with a “ha ha ha, think nothing of it, here are a few coins, mere trinkets hardly worth consideration?” I both desperately wanted to make his immediate reality better, to show him, hey, see, I got your gelato back, but feared the ramifications of even that smallest of kindnesses, for which I am the poorer for my inaction.

The problem with connectedness is you feel the joy, as well as the pain, and mostly the aimless futility, because it all seems so hollow and pointless much of the time, and it usually is, except for the doing, and even that is questionable. So your instinct is to want to soften that discomfort for others, and yet in doing so, you’re also reducing the authenticity of their experience, and injecting your perspective into their struggle, sometimes for good, sometimes with poor results. An easy way to frame it is trying to soften the blows for your kids, and yet robbing them of the pain that is life’s way of teaching them lessons they must learn to survive and prosper.

But what I do know is that my humanity, that kernel of sentience that’s resisted the caustic ravages of the world to this point, resonates with others at the oddest of times, be they dogs, cats, humans, bugs; and wishes that all of them could have just a brief sojourn from the norm, in a good way. Then back to spiders eating flies, and puppies being collected and gassed or tortured by street kids, and stoned punks roaming streets looking for easier duty than working. For my one divine moment, we would all be sitting with full cones of gelato, savoring that beat in time – puppies in our well groomed laps, their fur stroked by healing hands – with one collective, appreciative, sigh.

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It’s summer, so that must mean there’s a new JET hitting the shelves!

I’m happy to announce that JET – Rogue State, is now available wherever fine ebooks are sold.

This episode was a blast to write, and I tried to include some fun topical stuff along with all the usual explosions and chases. Hopefully it will surprise and delight you, or at least keep you from returning it for a refund and swearing to never buy another one. Either is good, although I’d obviously prefer the former.

I don’t want to give away the plot, so I’ll keep this announcement short. If you liked the last eleven installments, and the two prequels, you’ll be glad you picked this one up. If not, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll buy it, so I won’t worry about what you think – you are dead to me.

Below is the cover, and a purchase link to Amazon. Enjoy, but please don’t stay up all night reading, lose your job, and wind up living under a freeway overpass huffing paint with vagrants and sleeping with newspaper stuffed beneath your soiled clothing for warmth.

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It’s May, so it must be time for another novel!

This time, it is book six in The Day After Never series, titled, Perdition. In it, the story arc set into motion in book five, Insurrection, is concluded, with all the usual action and adventure you’d expect.

I’m now hard at work on the next JET – Rogue State, which is progressing nicely, if slowly. I’ve been involved in a number of projects that have eaten into my schedule, so that one will likely release in July, with the next novel, probably one in the A Girl Apart or Ramsey’s series, in Sept or Oct.

If you haven’t checked out The Day After Never series, you should – some are calling it my best work to date. Here’s the cover and a link to Amazon, where it will remain exclusive for 90 days before going wide.

 

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What can be said about the fifth installment in The Day After Never series – Insurrection, without giving too much away? Well, most importantly, it begins a two book arc that involves the delivery of the vaccine to the Pacific Northwest – a seemingly simple task for the likes of Lucas that quickly turns deadly in unexpected ways.

Not that crossing half the country in a post-apocalyptic hell isn’t deadly, but Lucas and company are experienced enough to dodge most of the usual dangers: bandits, raiders, scavengers, bushwhackers of all shapes and sizes, landslides, predatory animals, etc.

Let’s just say that there was no way they could have prepared for what comes next. When things go from bad to worse, in the dystopian badlands, they tend to do so in a big way, entropy being the only dependable factor in the chaotic aftermath of the society’s collapse.

I think the book is one of my better efforts to date, but I always think that once done with one. Hopefully you’ll find it entertaining, and a worthy installment in the series. The next, book 6, appropriately titled “Perdition,” will release in May, so you don’t have long to learn how everything resolves – I considered waiting until June to release it, just to torture everyone, but decided that wasn’t particularly nice behavior, and so May it is.

Here’s the buy link at Amazon, where it is exclusive for the next 90 days. And of course, the cover.

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