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I’m pleased to announce that I have created a new blog that will be devoted to non-authorly things that can get one censored on big tech platforms where only official narratives are allowed.

That blog is aptly titled Russell Blake Uncensored, and can be found here. You might wish to bookmark it or sign up to be notified whenever I post a new one. I’ll be covering all the topics I’m hesitant to address on my FB page for fear of anonymous “fact checkers” deciding to memory hole me for wrongthink, which is happening increasingly all over the world.

This page will continue to be dedicated to topics of interest to authors and readers of my action adventure fiction.

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5 Jun 2021, by

Ten Years In

Hard to believe that ten years ago I published my first novel on Amazon kindle. Since then sixty-something books have gone under the bridge, and I’m grateful that I’ve managed to develop an audience for my work, such as it is.

The self-publishing landscape has changed so radically in that ten years it’s almost unrecognizable. Back in 2011, you got free organic visibility from Amazon in a host of ways, so discovery was relatively easy via free first books in a series, or via bookbub, or by pricing low, or by including a novel in a bundle with other authors. It was the Wild West, and like all gold rushes, everyone involved knew it was destined to end.

And end it did. Nowadays, ebooks aren’t new, or news. The novelty of getting a tome for a few bucks isn’t a viable discovery tactic. Likewise, free doesn’t do much, as there are millions of ebooks out there, many of them free, or worse, perceived as free (value-less) via subscription services. The also-bought widget on Amazon is constantly being changed, and disappears periodically, so that discovery tool is iffy at best. Which leaves advertising, or more appropriately, pay-to-play, which is how most retail businesses operate once they are mature, which the ebook business is.

Most authors don’t have the money, or the time, to mount effective advertising campaigns that will earn them more than beer money, if that – partially due to a glut of the desperate who will gladly bleed cash just to get their labor of love seen. Which means in an auction system like Amazon’s, the price to advertise rises until it isn’t a money maker for most. Even a few years ago you could see double the money on ad spend, but over time that dropped to 50 cents of additional revenue for every dollar spent, and then 25, and then…well, you get the picture.

After ten years, I’ve slowed my production to a trickle, partially because during this time of pandemic-driven social upheaval I find it difficult to concentrate on writing the next one, as it seems trivial and meaningless compared to what is happening in the real world. Just keeping up with the daily flood of new information and revelations seems to be a full time job, and it’s hard to immerse myself in the page when the world seems to be headed for a train wreck of biblical proportions. So I’ve spent much of my time digesting info and writing social commentary on my FB feed, which I’m going to stop very soon in favor of a new blog where censorship won’t be as big an issue as the major tech platforms, where anything that diverges from the groupthink consensus of the official narrative is branded fake news and censored lest folks actually get multiple viewpoints to consider…and make the “wrong” decision.

As to writing, I’m working on the latest Day After Never, and when I’m done with it, I’m seriously thinking about taking six months or a year off to focus on other things. I have numerous projects vying for my attention, and it just seems that with the body of work I’ve created, there’s no shortage of Russell Blake material to read. I’m considering extending my “Retirement Secrets of Mexico” non-fiction into a series of Retirement Secrets books, to include other locales of interest to folks who are researching expatriating, but again, the time involved may not be worth the ultimate reward. I have restaurants, construction projects, an expat community I’m helping with, a crypto project I’m exploring…all of which take up time, leaving precious little for writing.

That said, I can’t imagine not writing, as it is an integral part of my life and personality. So it will be a hiatus, not an abandonment. And I may do a co-writing project with an author whose work I enjoy, so anything can happen, and my hiatus may turn out to be extremely short lived. We’ll see. One thing I’ve learned after a decade as a vocational scribbler is to never say never, and to expect the unexpected. I periodically am approached by production companies about developing one of my series, but have resigned myself to low expectations on that, as Hollywood tends to talk big but is easily distracted, and so far has yet to come to the table with anything worth serious consideration.

I’ve been lucky enough to make a lot of good friends during this decade of publishing, and more than my share of enemies and critics, which goes with the territory anytime you experience success. I consider myself fortunate to have an eclectic bunch of fellow travelers I would have never known had I not sat down at the keyboard and begun my first story, and for that I’m eternally grateful. As to my enemies and critics, as always, they can bite me, and I plan to live to dance a jig on their forgettable cold dank graves.

So that is my state of the union at ten years in. I believe the next six months will be some of the strangest and most dangerous of my lifetime, and my plan is to concentrate on preparation and projects with huge payout potentials while I decompress from the grind of producing a novel every six weeks, which pace I maintained for nine years. My gut says I’ll be happier generating a couple novels a year that interest me rather than treating it like a job, which I have for too long. It is a job, and it’s one of the best in the world, but I’ve been asking myself for some time do I want to live to work, or work to live, and it seems sensible with time my most precious limited resource, to spend more attention on the living part, and less on the working part. I’m sure I’ll get pushback on that from some readers, but truthfully the old bear doesn’t know how many summers he has left to come out of the cave, and nobody ever lay on their death bed wishing they’d worked more (cliche, but true).

I’ll post more info on my new blog, tentatively titled “The New Mexican,” shortly. It will be a hodgepodge of my usual politically incorrect views, of expat thoughts and tips (after living in Mexico 16 years), of societal commentary, of economic topics I find interesting, of crypto musings, of pandemic reporting as events unfold, etc. In other words like my FB feed used to be, before every third post received a warning label or a threat to block. Watch this space for more on that, but probably not until I finish Day After Never 11.

So in summary, it’s been a hell of a decade run, and I plan to continue as before, but at a more sane pace, with an emphasis on enjoyment, not on production. Because all work and no play…

Well. You know.

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A new interview with yours truly just went live. For those wondering about my murky past, or whose shirts I wear, or whether I put the toilet paper on the older inny or outy, this one’s for you.

In it I share my collected wisdom from decades on the planet.

Which means it’s a short interview most should be able to manage in a couple minutes.

Here’s the link.

Enjoy.

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The sixteenth installment (eighteenth if you count the two prequels, which you should) in the bestselling JET series is now live, and it is a doozy (the technical term in literary circles).

As with all JET books, danger lurks around every turn and nothing is as it seems. In this chapter, she and her family are betrayed and must risk everything in order to flee to safety from adversaries who will stop at nothing to destroy them.

Those who enjoy Jet’s no holds barred approach to conflict resolution should find it satisfying, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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Right on schedule for the American election, comes a tome packed with essentials on how to expatriat to Mexico, and what destinations I find the most appealing.

It turned out quite a bit larger than I had originally envisioned, but I wanted to flesh out many of the sections so they would anticipate likely follow-on questions arising from the information presented.

Whether you have toyed with the idea of retiring in paradise, but never felt you had sufficient info to make an informed choice, or are just curious about what life south of the border could be like, this books was written with you in mind. In it I present eight of the locales I consider ideal, for different reasons, although all have in common safety, affordability, weather, infrastructure, health care, and general quality of life.

I hope you find it as interesting as I found writing it to be.

Available at all booksellers, and in paperback within 48 hours or so.

Here’s the Amazon link.

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My magnum opus, Retirement Secrets of Mexico, will be going live October 30th, and I’ve uploaded it for preorder on Amazon and will be listing it for sale on all other platforms as of that date.

The book offers eight virtually unknown Mexican dream destinations where one can live in safety and comfort on every sort of budget – from a nominal $1400 a month for a couple, to triple or more (the objective of the book is not to list the cheapest places in Mexico, but rather the best combo of value, safety, infrastructure, lifestyle, healthcare, weather, etc.).

It also does a deep dive into every aspect of Mexican life and all one would need to know in order to evaluate whether it’s for you. Chapters cover banking, health care, crime, renting and owning, building, starting and operating a business, immigration and visas, taxes, expat groups, culture, language, infrastructure, automobile ownership, and so on.

My goal was to create a guide that answered every question I’ve heard over my 16 years of living here, and to offer my thoughts on the best ways of dealing with challenges one will encounter. It originally started off as a non-fiction 30K word tome, but wound up at double that. Go figure.

Anyhow, if you want to order it in advance, you can do so at this link on Amazon. Paperback will be forthcoming maybe a week or two after the Oct 30 drop date.

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14 Aug 2020, by

My Other Jobs

I’ve been asked to talk a bit about my other jobs, aside from being a working novelist.

I have several businesses in Mexico, and a publishing company in the EU.

The publishing company is self-explanatory – it publishes my novels in the US, Canada, and the EU (other than countries where I’ve sold the translation rights, like Germany and Bulgaria and the Czech Republic). The Mexican businesses are not as obvious: I have a custom home design and construction firm in Cabo San Lucas, and am the owner of a chain of restaurants in Guadalajara.

The design and build business is called BuildCabo.com – it specializes in larger custom homes in higher-end communities in Baja, Mexico. It has built dozens of these sorts of houses over the last 14 years, many of which are on the beach or in luxury areas like on the golf course in Puerto Los Cabos (a marquis development in San Jose del Cabo), as well as in Zapopan, Guadalajara. If you’re curious about the work, you can go to the website and select “projects,” which will bring up a selection of the various styles I’ve designed and built.

I’m also considered an expert on Mexican building, and wrote a construction column for the Gringo Gazette in Cabo for years, and published a how-to book titled “This ‘Ol Casa – Building in Baja 101,” under the name C. Phillip Osso. It covers a multitude of do’s and don’ts involved in the construction process in Mexico, where there are virtually no codes, no building inspectors, and no licenses or certification to speak of for builders.

The restaurants are named Peku (the sound a chicken makes in Mexico, sort of like a “cluck” but with Latin flavah), and are a California chicken concept much like Chic-Fil-A. We have three locations at present, and after the virus is over, plan to expand to 8-10 in Guadalajara, and franchise over the rest of Mexico. The Facebook page can be found here. The places throw insane levels of profit due to having fine-tuned food costs and processes, and see well above the 33% net that is the standard for restaurants of their type, making them attractive for franchisees (they were barely break-even when I bought them). Best of all, they cost less than $100K USD to build out and equip a location, so I have no doubt they will be in hot demand once we open them up for franchising (we already have a waiting list for several areas!).

The other projects I’ve been working on are an Argentine Gelato franchise for Mexico (for which I’m currently headhunting gelato chefs in Buenos Aires), and I’m also helping with the home design, construction standards, and overall look and feel for a subdivision in a five star, 18 hole golf course community. I’m very excited about both these projects, although I’ve been sworn to secrecy until they’re ready for launch, so that’s all I can say about them for now.

That’s what I do when I’m not writing. So those who are annoyed that it’s taking 3-4 months for a novel instead of 6 weeks, just understand that none of this happens by itself, and time management only allows so many hours in a day for any of my responsibilities.

I also have been known to drink too much tequila and hang out with women of questionable character, but that’s par for the course given my primary vocation.

And don’t even get me started on the ugly rumors that periodically surface about me. I mean, seriously. You throw one dead hooker off a bridge, and suddenly you’re pigeonholed.

Not fair, people, not fair.

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It’s been exceedingly difficult to get into writing, with the virus calamity and the projects I’ve been working on, but I’m chipping away at a new JET, and making slow, if steady progress. You would think things would have slowed while in quarantine, but nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the projects is a new “Retirement Secrets of Mexico” book wherein I reveal what I believe are the best buys South of the border. Taking into account housing prices, crime, cost of living, taxes, banking, health care, lifestyle, infrastructure, visas, weather, amenities, proximity to cool stuff like beaches or other wonders, etc. I’ve already finished a companion book that came in at 180 pages, titled “Escape to Baja,” that highlights the charms of Baja, Mexico, but the more complete tome will take a while. I think it will be of value as folks age, tire of being taxed to death, and want to live out their lives in locales that are affordable, safe, and generally chill. I’ve got properties in three of the five areas I plan to highlight, so I put my money where my mouth is.

Obviously I consider these the best places I’ve found because I could live anywhere but chose them and remain in them, although there are other locations in Eastern Europe and the Far and Near East that also are strong contenders, as well as a few in South America. Perhaps those will the the topic of a third book. Remains to be seen. But for now, my focus is Mexico, where I’ve lived for 16 years, have started or bought into six businesses, and where I’ve had the time of my life. So whether it’s toes in the sand beach living, European style cosmopolitan vibe, golf resort lifestyle, expat haven immersion, or a combo of all these, I’ll have something for everyone, although for my money there are a couple of clear winners, with one that 99% of Mexicans, and 99.999% of Gringos have never even heard of, being a top standout.

Another of the projects taking up my bandwidth is a chain of Argentine style gelato stores in Mexico, where there is a massive Argentine expat population, thousands of Argentine restaurants, and no Argentine gelato outlets. I plan to change that. But there are a lot of moving parts – sourcing a master chef, buying the equipment for a manufacturing hub, writing an operations bible, etc. I’m in the headhunting stage, but have a business plan that’s both aggressive and unique, and I have high hopes.

So not enough hours in the day between all this, and writing, and designing and building homes.

I should probably feel blessed at the embarrassment of riches life has dealt me.

But sometimes I just feel like a 30 hour day would be more practical than one with 24 hours. Oh well. Be careful what you wish for!

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16 years ago I moved to Mexico, changed my name for reasons that shall become clear shortly, and started a new life as a retiree, lazing in the sun, after which I decided to become an architect and builder, and then, a winemaker, and ultimately, an author, restaurateur, and entrepreneur.

But the past never stays in the past, at least if vengeful pecuniary interests are involved.

To understand what I’m talking about, a little history might be in order. Before I moved from the U.S., I sold my medical company and became somewhat of a Wall Street sensation, first as the creator of a website that countered the hatchet jobs of a Who’s Who of short sellers, and promptly thereafter, once I recognized that Wall Street had a systemic problem, as the creator of a group that exposed the criminal antics of the seedy underside of stock traders who destroyed companies for profit.

That website and organization drove very powerful people in NY berserk, because my opening salvo was a full page ad in the Washington Post highlighting a practice called Naked Short Selling, which is basically counterfeiting stock and selling it as though it was genuine, in order to destroy a targeted company’s price.

Given that was the livelihood for some unscrupulous players, they weren’t amused. My audacity of confronting them publicly was an affront to massive egos that ill-gotten gains had inflated to Hindenburg proportions. And their “investors,” which included Russian and Italian crime figures, tended to play rough, and didn’t appreciate the antiseptic of sunshine directed into their customary shadows.

But I’d watched retirees driven into the poor house so some rich, corrupt scum on Wall Street could buy a new place in the Hamptons, and because I had the time and resources, decided to take on an impossible fight even if it endangered me and paid squat. So I spoke truth to power in a very visible manner. Note to self: bad idea, as Assange has discovered.

The SEC and every major financial publication insisted I’d called the naked short selling conspiracy wrong, I was nuts, this was all nonsense – that naked shorting never happened, and if it did, it was tiny volume, and completely innocent. Which was pure bullshit, because when forced to detail exactly how many shares per day didn’t settle (i.e. didn’t exist), it turned out to be a massive number – something like 15% of all trading on the NYSE on many days.

So the benign explanation – that this was all innocent, likely grandma forgetting where she placed her stock certificate, turned out to be BS. As did the next parry, which was that, well, okay, maybe it did happen, but it was nothing to worry about. I was vilified, even on the front page of the WSJ business section (you can imagine why I was tickled that I made the front page of the WSJ above the fold years later in my new incarnation as a successful author), attacked constantly in major publications – me, a little nobody who used a pseudonym for self-protection, with a cheesy website calling out a problem with stock settlement.

One of the kindred spirits who joined this fight against Wall Street miscreants was the CEO of Overstock, Patrick Byrne, who was a pugilistic kindred, and pitted himself in a public manner against the big dogs of Wall Street, eventually suing them and emerging victorious, all the while being described as a loon, a nutter, a dope fiend, you name it, by the NY mainstream media – which is largely nothing more than a propaganda arm for Wall Street and their compromised politicians in Washington, as many have learned over the last four years.

Then the 2008 crash happened, and suddenly naked short selling, which we’d been assured never happened, was conspiracy theory lunacy, or if it did, was benign…had to be made illegal when directed at the big Wall Street firms – not for everyone else, of course, but for the banks responsible for most of it. The irony was not lost on me, but I was vindicated, because in a matter of days the thing that never happened had to have emergency legislation in order to be stopped, or it could collapse the entire economy in hours. They literally said that, out loud, in print. It was a magical moment, where the “you’re a conspiracy theorist and are wrong about everything” turned out to be that I was 100% accurate about it, in spite of all the denials, including from the highest levels of the SEC.

Those who know how to use the Wayback machine should look up NCANS.net – the National Coalition Against Naked Shortselling, as well as TheSanityCheck.com. You can see the entire labor of love, and judge for yourself whether it was a noble pursuit, or Satan’s plaything, as it was colored by Wall Street. Needless to say I was vilified as a combo of Hitler and Chuck Manson by the three or four captive “journalists” who essentially were the lapdogs of the big hedge funds and brokers who lost big due to my actions.

Naturally, given the powerful enemies I’d made and warnings from some powerful folks on my side of the battle, I decided to bow out of the limelight and move on – my point that Wall Street was a rigged game populated by snakes and connected con men had been made by Wall Street itself during the financial crisis, so there was nothing left to fight for, especially with Patrick continuing the battle with his website, DeepCapture.com, which chronicles the entire ugly crusade in detail and is a worthwhile read.

Given the level of danger involved in hitting Wall Street and organized crime snakes on the head with a stick, I got out of the country for good, changed my name, and began a new life, reinventing myself and leaving the cause celebres to brighter minds.

Now the same Wall Street press lapdogs are coming for me again, using their usual tactics of innuendo, misstatements, unverifiable or false claims, half truths, etc. Their purpose is to cause me problems. There is no other reason – it isn’t news, nobody in their audience cares, and there is no there there. But their masters have long memories.

I expect to see a slew of lurid innuendo and half or partial truths. But as any author knows, the irony is there is no such thing as bad publicity. Should be good for more than a few sales of my Wall Street novels, like Zero Sum (which is somewhat autobiographical, and available from Amazon for a song – wink) or Silver Justice.

The good news is that my little crusade was on the side of the white hats, and did nothing but threaten the ill gotten gains of some of the biggest predators on Wall Street. That comes at a cost, and the price is the threat of one of them trying to get even for the financial damage the exposure of their scam caused them. One large hedge fund actually went out of business due to Patrick’s lawsuit, and another, one of the biggest on the Street, wound up being prosecuted and found guilty of all sorts of impropriety – but was powerful enough to avoid anyone going to jail. That’s the clout of these people. There are two sets of laws, as should be clear by now: the ones you and I must follow, and those they get to ignore, which are one and the same.

If this sounds like something out of one of my novels, as I’ve said many times, the truth is far stranger than any fiction I can engineer. My job is really just toning down reality so it is believable.

I’ve spent my entire life creating – building companies from scratch, writing, generating content of all types. I’ve learned there are really only two types of people – creators, and destroyers. Creators are driven to build. Destroyers try to profit from destruction. One’s path in life is directed by which one chooses to be. Alas, destruction tends to pay better, but then again, money isn’t everything, and I sleep well at night.

I’m fond of saying everyone’s got a story. Some are just more interesting than others. And you have to admit, this one just got a lot more interesting…

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Nine years ago I pressed publish on my first novel.

To say it’s been a hell of a ride would be the understatement of the century.

Since then I’ve published sixty-something novels, including two co-authored with Clive Cussler. I’ve been celebrated on the front page of the WSJ, I’ve been featured in The Times, the Boston Herald, Huffington, you name it. I’ve had my work translated into a whole bunch of languages I can’t even remember. And thankfully, I’ve been able to build a loyal following of readers who seem as happy to read what I’ve written as I am to write it.

If it gets any better than that, I’m not sure how.

When I first got into the game, names like John Locke and Amanda Hocking were the rage. We were still a couple years from them fading from the indie spotlight, and the future looked bright for authors for the first time in forever. Up until 2010 or so, being an author meant even if you had a bestseller or five, you’d best not quit your day job. All that changed when Apple forced Amazon’s hand to match its 70% royalty rate, and suddenly it was the content creators who saw most of the rewards instead of the middlemen.

Fast forward, and the meritocracy of the early days transitioned into a more mature retail market, where the tsunami of crap that was warned about became a viable business model for the blink of an eye, and organic visibility got replaced by pay-to-play advertising, exactly as I warned a few years before it happened. Now, we’re in a difficult market where it takes money to make money, and the dream of writing something, creating a cover in a few hours, having your mom “edit” it, and getting rich, seems an impossibly distant dream from a naive time where anything seemed possible.

The business is now largely a battle of marketing dollars to attract eyes. Amazon ads have become ineffective as the market has been saturated by the desperate seeking any chance at being seen, and bids have gone through the roof, which shows no signs of stopping. And now, with the virus, trad publishing has been kicked in the throat with the closure of hundreds of indie, airport, and chain bookstores, slashing its profits to the bone. The future is no longer rosy, and there are storm clouds lingering on an uncertain horizon.

Still, after shifting something like 4 million novels over the years, it beats flipping burgers, and many are still making bank, albeit less than before, and working harder for each dollar. That’s how mature markets work, as Amazon has crowded out the other players to dominate online book sales, giving it a de facto monopoly in many genres.

Meanwhile, spiders and flies continue to do what they always have, and the world continues to turn.

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to another nine years of writing. I love the process, love being my own boss, love the joy of inventing a new twist or story.

And of course there are the orgies. But I digress.

To my readers, thanks for an amazing run, and be sure to buy my crap, and encourage everyone you know to do the same. To my enemies, as always, you can bite me and fester in your own sick at the fact that I’ve done as well as I have, in spite of a dearth of talent and a penchant for malingering. To my fellow authors, I’ll raise a cup, because that’s sort of the whole point of it, besides the writing and the human sacrifices.

Oops. Hope I’m not giving anything away there. Better shush before I commit suicide with a double tap to the back of my head with two different guns, or decide to plow my car into an embankment at 120 MPH.

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