I'm really excited to share this one with you. Since Daniel's first book, Adrift, you've wondered how he became the guy we met in Council of Patriots. I've gotten emails about it weekly. It wasn't that I didn't know, I just hadn't figured out how to get it out of my brain and onto paper. Now the story's done and ready for you. Tested is the fourth and final book in the Daniel Briggs saga.
Thanks to the fact that you are one of Team Cooper's faithful, you get to take advantage of the limited time launch price of 99-cents. (The price will go up to full retail on 1/6/17) If you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber the book is free!
So don't wait. Snag your copy (and one for a friend) right now. Here's the universal link:
(For any non-Amazon readers, don't forget that you can buy Tested on Amazon, email me the receipt at email@example.com, and I'll send you the book in the format you need.)
"Las Vegas. Sin City. Or is it my City of Dreams?" - Daniel Briggs
Marine Sniper, Daniel Briggs, thinks he's got it all figured out. He's faced what he thinks is the worst, and his plan is to tackle Las Vegas like he conquered foreign enemies. But with his sobriety tentative at best, and with calamity tripping him up at every turn, how will the battered warrior fair in this, his hardest test to date? Will he succumb to his inner demons, or will he harness The Beast, and something new, in order to come out whole on the other side?
WHAT'S NEXT FOR 2017?
The next book I'm tackling is The Loyalist, which will be the second story in The Patriot Protocol series. I'm shooting for a late February-ish launch for this one. Then it's back to Corps Justice and a couple spinoffs with some of your favorite characters. More on those later...
One of the cool things about having the opportunity to write for a living is that I run into other writers. While that might not have been earth shattering in the past, this year one of my goals is to help other writers find amazing readers like you guys.
How will I do that?
I'll be helping them with their writing, marketing, etc.. and occasionally I'll share their work with you. Call it my way of giving back because some amazingly patient writers took time to mentor me. I hope you'll take the time to check my friends out because they are seriously talented.
I'll sign off by saying thanks again for being along for this awesome journey. I would never have achieved a sliver of success without you all. 2017 is shaping up to be quite a year.
Now back to writing. This next book won't write itself...
Semper Fidelis and Happy New Year,
The next Corps Justice novel, Liberty Down, is now live and ready for you to buy. I had an awesome time writing this one. I hope you like it as much as our beta readers.
The book is priced at 99-cents, which is significantly below retail. But don't wait. The price will go up on 11/9/16. This is a special discount for YOU, the best of Team Cooper.
Thanks in advance, and please consider gifting a copy to a friend. Oh, and don't forget to leave an honest review when you're done. Even the short ones help!
>> Here's your link to purchase Liberty Down: http://getbook.at/LibertyDown <<
(For any non-Amazon readers, don't forget that you can buy Liberty Down on Amazon, email me the receipt at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll send you the book in the format you need.)
Book Blurb: Even spies need a vacation. Paris. Amsterdam. Vienna. But what happens when the president's top asset, the warriors of The Jefferson Group, get taken by surprise as they enjoy their well-earned time off in Europe? Not only does the enemy want to wipe out The Jefferson Group, they're also plotting to harpoon the president before the November election. Will Cal Stokes and his team escape the enemy's net, and will the president survive the election? Or will the schemes of Congressman Tony McKnight finally win the day, securing his position as the most powerful leader in the free world?
SNAKE EYES: I'm currently working on the fourth and final Daniel Briggs novel, Tested, with the Novels Live team. Check out the unedited excerpt at the end of this post below. This one will go live in December.
2017: Next year looks like it's going to be a record production year. Could I really get as many as 10 books out? We'll see. If you have ideas for upcoming novels, please let me know. More than a few of you have given me great topics for past novels. I love getting your input.
Your support allows me to write and write and write. As long as you want more, I'll give you more. Thank you for making books like Sabotage and new series like The Patriot Protocol such a success in 2016. I am humbled and eternally grateful. Thank you.
(CAUTION: The following contains unedited material that may be unsuitable for the grammatically inclined.)
Chapter 1 (Raw & Unedited)
The first sip is my favorite. It always reminds me of the first kiss on a first date. It reminds me of one gentleman tipping his hat to another. It reminds me that there is an answer and that answer can be found at the bottom of the bottle.
So as I took that first sip and gazed over the vista of the Las Vegas strip from my cramped seat, I saw only opportunity. I'd given up drinking, but somewhere between Seattle and San Francisco, a bottle of Jack Daniels had appeared in my hand. I'd kicked the habit, and yet there he was, my old friend Jack, nestled quietly in the crook of my arm, telling me that it was good to be back, that the buds were together again and that I should never leave him behind. It was in those moments that I thought I could control him, thought I could control the cravings. Like I said, everything seemed right with the world.
"Hey, mister, can I have a drink?"
I turned to find a little boy who'd gotten on the bus, with his now sleeping mom, somewhere around Los Angeles. He'd left me alone while talking with the rest of the passengers on the bus. They'd already been afforded the luxury of his inquisitive questioning.
Now as he stared up at me, I wondered how a kid could be so open in place full of strangers. The mom lying next to him looked like she'd worked every night shift since 1982.
"Sorry. It's just for adults," I said.
"Is it that stuff that burns? Mom said it burns a lot."
Did mom have an alcohol problem, or had she kicked it like I had?
"Yeah, it burns," I said.
Not that I really wanted to dissuade the kid from having a future drink, but he was closer to 5 than 15. Better to be the good adult.
The kid stared at the bottle, obviously formulating another question. He wasn't put off by my demeanor because I wasn’t making it a secret that I wanted to be left alone. I don't think I had said a word to anyone but the bus driver since Berkeley.
"We moved," the kid said quickly, like it was something he wasn't supposed to say.
"Did you live in Los Angeles?" I asked, surprising myself by extending the conversation.
"California," he corrected me.
"Right, California. Did you like California?"
He shrugged, looking away again. "Pete says it's always hot in Las Vegas. Is it always hot in Las Vegas?"
I wondered who Pete was.
"It depends on the time of year."
"Like, because of the seasons," he said, brightening.
"Yeah, the seasons."
"Mom says we get to live in a hotel, but that they're going to have doughnuts, and waffles, and granola bars."
He licked his lips, and that was when I noticed his slightly hollowed cheeks, the dirt under his fingernails, the clothes that seemed two sizes too small. Then I looked over at the mother, who was staring back at me, not with hate or embarrassment, just resignation like a dog that had been beaten one too many times and had given up the will to fight.
"Nathaniel, leave the man alone," the mother said, her voice hoarse from sleep.
"But, Mom, I was just ..."
"It's okay, ma'am. He was just telling me about moving, and I'm the rude one. Nathaniel, my name is Daniel."
"Nathaniel and Daniel, that rhymes," the boy said, proud of himself for making the connection.
"Nathaniel, are you a betting man?" I asked.
"What's betting?" the boy asked.
"Let's say I ask you a question, and you get that question right. If you do, you win a prize."
"Wow, really? What kind of prize?"
"That's a surprise," I said.
"Prize and surprise. You rhymed again."
Nathaniel reminded me of a PFC in my last unit. He was from Chicago and would never shut up. Questions and rhymes, always the rhymes, although his rhymes were of the vulgar pedigree. I couldn't remember his name now, and the last time I'd seen him both of his legs had been blown off. I shut that memory away and refocused on Nathaniel.
"So, Nathaniel, are you a betting man?"
The boy nodded eagerly.
"Okay," I said. "What state is Las Vegas in?"
Nathaniel scrunched his eyes shut, thinking hard. His palms tapped on his thighs until he sprang up out of his seat, his bursting open, and said "Nevada! Las Vegas is in Nevada!”
"That's right. You win the prize."
"Mom. Mom, Daniel says I win a prize. What is it?"
I turned towards the window so he couldn't see what I was doing. I pulled out my wallet and slid out a couple bills. I wrapped the larger one in a one dollar bill and then handed it to Nathaniel. "It's all yours, kid, but why don't you let your mom hold it for safekeeping?"
The boy held it up like he had won an Olympic medal. Then he handed it dutifully to his mother and I wondered if that was a routine. He had done it so naturally. Kids don't usually like to give up their prizes.
I watched the mother give Nathaniel a tired smile, and then she took the money, unwrapping the bills to prep them for insertion into her voluminous purse when her eyes went wide. She'd found the hundred dollar bill. I put my finger to my lips when she looked at me. Nathaniel didn't need to know. She mouthed a silent thank you. There were no tears in her eyes. Maybe she was used to getting handouts, but there was gratitude there, and for some reason I knew that unless that money was pried from her hands, she would use it to take care of her boy.
She tucked the bills into a secret corner of her purse, nodded at me once, and then closed her eyes.
I hadn't been to Las Vegas in years, not since the crazy weekend after we had wrapped training at 29 Palms. The years might have improved the landscape: new hotels, shinier cars, more gamblers, but it all felt the same. The dry air mixed with the enticing pull of possibility greeted me as I stepped off the bus. Nathaniel and his mother came off a few moments later.
The boy tugged on my sleeve. "Hey, Daniel, do you want to come visit us?"
His mother didn't seem to notice. She was scanning the loitering crowd at the bus station looking for something, or maybe someone.
“Maybe I'll see you around. You save some of those waffles for me, okay?"
"You like strawberries or just syrup?"
I couldn't help but smile. "Both."
"Okay, strawberries and syrup, I'll save you some.”
I stuck out my hand, and he shook it like we had just closed a multimillion-dollar deal.
"You take care of yourself, Nathaniel."
Then they were off, Nathaniel dragged along by his still-searching mother. He waved at me, and I waved back, and then I went in search of a vending machine. The booze was getting to me now.
Lightweight, I thought, bouncing my paper cup into a trash can. Then for some reason I took my bag off my shoulder, unzipped it, and extracted the bottle of Jack Daniels. If Jack had a face, he would have been smiling at me at that moment saying, "Come on, buddy. Let's go have some fun.” It was the old battle inside me that ignited like a pop-up storm.
Where had I gone wrong? I had kicked the habit. Now here it was again. My vigilance had been lulled into complacency. And in had slipped my friend, my partner in crime. I thought of all that had happened over the previous months, all the progress that I had made, and it made me feel ashamed. I had never been to treatment or a single AA meeting. I didn't need that. At least that's what I told myself. I had been through the hardships of war and come out unscathed on the other side. Again, another little lie I liked to tell myself. Unscathed in the physical sense maybe, but there was more than one way to be injured.
I closed my eyes and pushed back the urge to put good ol’ Jack back in my bag. Instead I gave my old friend a respectful nod and tossed him in the trash.
Freed from that burden for the time being, I resumed my search for a vending machine. With the alcohol gone, I had a sudden craving for a candy bar. A Baby Ruth was my favorite, but a Snickers would do. I never found the vending machine.
I did find Nathaniel and his mother. She was speaking to two men. I might not have notice the tension of the scene if she hadn't been shielding Nathaniel behind her, pinning him in place with both hands. I moved closer, so I could hear what they were saying.
The first words from the men assaulted my ears.
"We didn't say nothing about no boy."
"But I couldn't leave him."
"I don't give a shit what you did with him. The deal was for you."
"He won't be any trouble. I promise. He's a good boy."
The man was looking around now as if he sensed the presence of an enemy. Then he refocused on Nathaniel's mother, his huge head and meaty forearms turning a dark red.
"Now, you listen here, bitch…”
"Hey, Nathaniel," I interrupted.
The two men and Nathaniel turned to me. Nathaniel's mother's eyes stayed locked on Meaty Forearms.
"Hey," Nathaniel said, his earlier exuberance gone.
"I was going to take one of those site-seeing tours of the city and wondered if you guys wanted to tag along.”
"Wow. Hey, mom, can we? Can we?"
His mother didn't say a word.
Meaty Forearms glared at me. "Move along, asshole.”
The Beast inside of me began to stir, stretching its muscled body, easing its way to its feet. I had been called an asshole a thousand times before, so the word didn't bother me. It was the reaction it had elicited from Nathaniel, like a light had been doused, his spirit broken. His countenance was like an echo of his mother’s.
Meaty Forearms stepped around mother and son, his matching meaty finger pointed at my face. I didn't move, but inside of me the beast was spinning circles like a caged animal, begging to be let out. Meaty Forearm’s meaty finger stabbed at my chest and I knew he was going to say something like "You have no idea who you're dealing with," or "You'd better move along before I kick your ass."
It was only natural. This was his turf. He was used to being the man in charge, Meaty Forearms with his sidekick, Crazy Hair. But they'd never met me before. Before the words could leave his mouth, his meaty finger was trapped in my vice-like grip. In a second he was on his knees, looking up at me, pain bulging his eyes.
"Say sorry," I said, calmly.
"What?" he asked stupidly.
My hand flexed and his finger snapped with a sickening crunch.
"Sorry. I'm sorry."
"Not to me. To Nathaniel and his mother."
The Beast was calling to me now, begging me to lash out, pummel the man in his spot. Not yet, I assured it.
"I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry."
I let go of the finger, and the man cradled his damaged appendage. He stood on shaky legs and glanced over at Crazy Hair.
That was all it took. Crazy Hair’s hands were already balled, ready for the fight. He rushed me, five long strides away. To me it felt like a mile. He broadcast every move with the stagger in his step. He overcompensated with his other leg. He was a bigger man, used to using his size to take down his opponents. Apparently at least one of his opponents had gotten the best of him.
Make that two, I thought, as I stepped to the side at the last possible moment and delivered a solid, not quite crushing blow to his handicapped knee. The man didn't so much fall as fold with pain in his knee, toppled to the right like I'd just chopped down a tree.
Meaty Forearms looked like he wanted to rejoin the fight. When he looked at me, I shot him a glare that bit off any coming remark and negated any action. Whether it was that look or the fact that a crowd was gathering, the man thought better of his choices. He gathered his hobbled friend, and left in a battered pickup truck.
Once they were gone, Nathaniel was all bubbly personality again. "Wow, Mom. Did you see that? Daniel was ... He's like a superhero."
Even my actions didn't make the mother smile. She had been through similar confrontations before and knew the future would inevitably serve up more.
"I was going to catch a cab into town. You guys want to come along? My treat," I said. Nathaniel looked at his mother, who nodded.
It wasn't until the cab had pulled away from the bus station curb that I realized the woman on the other side of the taxi, staring out the window with vacant eyes, had just lost her deal. Whatever arrangements she had made prior to coming to Las Vegas had been ruined.
I had come to Las Vegas for a fresh start. Sure, there had been a little hiccup along the way, old buddy Jack trying to nudge his way back into my life, but there was still the fresh start thing. Why Vegas? Call it the warped mind of a Marine, a grunt who gets a strange kick out of volunteering for the toughest things.
I'd looked at a map of the United States, and there it was, a siren calling to me with neon accents: Sin City. A bastion of sin and greed to many, it was an opportunity for me. I had no idea what that opportunity was other than a challenge, something that I relished.
Like I said: a fresh start, a chance to make a new name. Part of me wanted to dump Nathaniel and his mother at the next stop, maybe give them another hundred bucks and wish them well. I had my fresh start to look after, not some kid and his washed-up waitress mother.
But as I watched Nathaniel bouncing in the middle seat, trying to get a better view of the city, I knew I couldn't leave them. I had been the protector, and as much as I tried to run from that, I always got pulled back in, like the universe was saying, "Daniel Briggs, I know what you want to be, but this is what you will be." I went along with the universe's plans, not knowing that the decision to stay in that taxi cab with Nathaniel and his mother would soon lead me on the most dangerous journey of my life.
First, I wanted to say thanks to everyone who picked up a copy of the latest Corps Justice, Sabotage. By the looks of the reviews, it hit home for a lot of people. Speaking of reviews, if you haven't had a chance to review Sabotage, I'd love yours today. Remember, even the short reviews help! Here's the link to purchase and/or review: http://getbook.at/Sabotage
FREE GRAPHIC NOVELS?
I've got some great news. For all you comic book and graphic novel fans, the first two episodes of the graphic novel version of Back to War are available for FREE...but only for a couple of days.
Here's the link for Episode 1: http://getbook.at/BackToWarGN and here's the link for Episode 2: http://getbook.at/BackToWarGN2.
(NOTE: I'm not sure what countries Amazon allows them as a free download, but please give it a shot)
Also, please remember that this is a new format, and is intended to attract a wider audience that might not otherwise find my books. If they're not your cup of tea, all good. Skip to more exciting news below.
If you've checked them out and like them, please consider leaving a review.
THE NEXT CORPS JUSTICE NOVEL
Check out the new cover and a sneak peak of the next Corps Justice novel, Liberty Down below. Expect a late October-ish release.
(CAUTION: The following contains unedited material that may be unsuitable for the grammatically inclined. Keep in mind that I don’t review what I write until after the first draft of the whole novel is done, so please keep your spelling and grammar fixes until later.)
Three days had passed since the Republican National Convention, and Congressman Antonio “Tony” McKnight was still basking in the glow of public applause. He was now officially the Republican nominee for the White House. It might have been easy to assume that because his opponent, President Brandon Zimmer, was a popular head of state that maybe Republicans, McKnight specifically, were lagging behind.
In McKnight’s opinion, that’s where good old fashioned partisanship came into play. For the most part, people voted along party lines. If they were lifelong Republicans, they’d vote Republican. If they had the slightest liberal streak, they voted Democrat. Sure, there were the Independents and the Libertarians that were famous for nabbing the occasional headline, but that was a non-issue this election cycle. Zimmer and McKnight had waged a clean campaign up to that point, and when it came down to their basic beliefs, they could have almost been mistaken for the same man.
Both were single, former congressmen, good-looking, and tough in all the right places like foreign policy and immigration. It was no wonder that the two men had become friends, and worked closely on a wide range of policy moves. But it was election season, and it was time to get serious.
Overall, McKnight arrived at the Republican Convention with a healthy dose of skepticism. As a politician, his skepticism was honed to a needle’s point. He left the convention a changed man. It was the human equivalent of taking a normal-sized balloon and increasing its capacity by 300%. With half of the nation behind him, Antonio McKnight was now walking the tightrope of invincibility.
He had been competent most of his adult life, but now, with the full weight and monetary backing of the Republican Party, he was beyond powerful. He was unbeatable.
He left the Convention adorned by the adulation of millions, and while he expected a bevy of new resources, he had been astounded at what had already been given. He had his pick of the litter; the best of the best clamored for his attention. He couldn’t begin to remember the names of all the staffers they had thrown at him. Then there were the swank accommodations, the motorcades, the security, and every other creature comfort a presidential nominee might desire.
Now that he had had a couple days to digest it all, he figured it was time to make some changes, to make some bold moves, to take the battle to the enemy, as it were. One particular resource had been gifted, like that pretty blue box from Tiffany, subtle, discreet, yet unmistakably valuable.
It had been the head of the Republican National Committee himself who had slipped the handwritten number into McKnight’s hand, and whispered in his ear, “When you’re ready to start digging, call this number.”
There was a lot of pressure from his fellow Republicans to pull out all the stops. It wasn’t until he placed that call that McKnight lifted a public finger to attack President Zimmer.
It was exactly 12:15pm when the knock came at his penthouse door. McKnight answered the door himself, and motioned the taciturn man to enter. He was about to offer the man a drink, when a single raised finger stopped the presidential nominee. The man made a pass through the room, then through the master bedroom and the small kitchen. It was only when he’d completed his patrol that he made his way back to McKnight. It wasn’t until he came closer that McKnight noticed the ear piece.
“The Secret Service still make a sweep twice a day,” McKnight said, not amused that the man had taken his own security pass.
“I like to make my own sweeps, Congressman.” The man finally held out his hand, and said, “Ian Rourke, sir.”
“It’s good to meet you, Mr. Rourke. Would you like to have a seat?”
The man unnerved the normally implacable congressman.
“I won’t be staying long, sir. I assumed you got my assignment?”
Now McKnight was confused, although he did his best not to show it. All he had done was place the call; he had not said a thing about an assignment. There was no doubt that the man could be trusted. He wouldn’t have been given the name otherwise.
“Why don’t you tell me what you do, Mr. Rourke? Our mutual friend was vague on the details.”
Rourke nodded, like he expected as much.
“My firm handles surveillance and counter-surveillance. We rarely take direct action, but when we need to, we can get it done.”
“Do you work domestically or internationally?”
“We work both, although when we go overseas, much of our work is contracted out. It keeps us in the good graces of the local authorities.”
McKnight understood. There was nothing that a foreign power liked less than a bunch of rogue Americans prowling their streets. It wasn’t the Cold War, after all.
“And your background? I assume you’re prior Military?”
“No, sir. I was a cop before 9/11, and then I joined the FBI.”
“Let me guess; your skill set became too valuable on the outside, so you hung out your own shingle and opened for business?”
“I was lucky enough to make great friends in Washington. They keep me busy, and I don’t have to look for work.”
McKnight wondered who ultimately controlled Ian Rourke. He mulled it over for a moment, and then put off the thought for another day. There were just too many power players in Washington to sift through. By the way Rourke was looking at him, McKnight felt that he was the one being judged, like a law school grad, plucked out of the Employment Pool and plopped in front of the senior partner in some shiny New York skyscraper.
He didn’t like it, and he was about to tell the man to leave, politely of course, when another image came to mind … Something that had been plaguing him for months. Something that had first come as a complete shock, only because he had been introduced to it after what felt like a near-death experience, that had kept it so vivid in McKnight’s memory. He had met men like Roark before, and it was those men that now slipped in and out of the edges of McKnight’s nightly dreams, like bat-winged demons waiting for their chance to eviscerate him.
That made him smile, and his mind wandered down an entirely new path.
“Mr. Rourke, I just had an idea. I assume your schedule is open?”
“My men and I are at your disposal, Congressman.”
“Good.” McKnight walked to the window, and looked over the expanse of Washington, D.C. He could almost feel the thrumming of energy, ready to burst from the city’s seams.
“Have you ever heard of a small group out of Charlottesville, called The Jefferson Group?”
“I don’t believe I have, Congressman.” Rourke didn’t take notes. McKnight could see from the man’s reflection in the window that the name would not be forgotten.
“I want you to keep an eye on them. Tell me where they go, and tell me who they see. Would around-the-clock surveillance be possible?”
“Yes, sir,” Rourke said, without hesitation.
“Perfect. Why don’t we start there? How often will you give me your reports?”
“How often would you like them, sir?”
McKnight liked this man, cool and efficient, like a python ready to strike.
“Why don’t we see how things go for the first couple of days?”
“Is there a particular activity, or a certain relationship you would like us to exploit?” Rourke asked.
McKnight thought about telling Rourke about President Zimmer, and that The Jefferson Group was comprised of men who were not only Zimmer’s closest friends, but who might also be a top secret force the president used when needed. McKnight had been lucky enough to be introduced to those men. Zimmer had introduced them as friends, but after spending a full day with them, McKnight could see it was much more. They were a weapon, and the last thing Congressman McKnight needed was his opponent having a weapon in his hands that he himself couldn’t control. That was, unless of course … Well, there would be plenty of time to think on that.
“Why don’t you just stick with surveillance for now, Mr. Rourke? We’ll figure out as we go.”
There were no “good-byes.” No final handshakes. Rourke just gave McKnight a curt nod, and left with his marching orders.
It really could all be nothing, McKnight told himself as he once again gazed out over the nation’s capital. Then again. There was a part of him that had always been more far-sighted than his peers. He recognized opportunity. He knew how to grab it and wrestle it to the ground, choking it until it was his to wield. McKnight smiled at the thought.
The search would begin in Charlottesville, but who knew where it would lead? McKnight hoped it would lead to a iron stake in Brandon Zimmer’s heart, and then to Congressman Antonio McKnight’s golden ticket to the White House.
SNAKE EYES TOO??
As if all that wasn't enough for one post, I'm also excited to show you the cover for the next Daniel Briggs novel, Tested. I'll get to work on Daniel's Las Vegas sojourn as soon as Liberty Down is finished. Hold on tight...
DO YOU TEXT?
Ah email. It should be easy, right? As technology keeps advancing, so do the cornucopia of filters that keep my messages from getting to you. To combat this problem, I'm building a new text message system to make sure you get the latest updates. If you don't ever want to miss out, here are the details...
(NOTE: this is in addition to our normal email updates)
You've waited long enough. The next Corps Justice novel, Sabotage, is now live and ready for you. Advanced readers are saying that this is the best one yet.
As I've done before, the book is priced at 99-cents, which is significantly below retail. But don't wait. The price will go up very soon (PRICED INCREASED ON AFTERNOON OF 8/21/16). This is a special discount for you, my most loyal friends. Thanks in advance, and please consider gifting a copy to a friend. Oh, and don't forget to leave an honest review when you're done. Even the short ones help!
Here's your link to purchase Sabotage: http://getbook.at/Sabotage
(For any non-Amazon readers, don't forget that you can buy Sabotage on Amazon, email me the receipt at email@example.com, and I'll send you the book in the format you need.)
You know how excited I was about the first graphic novel episode of Back to War. Well, I've got some good news. The 2nd episode is now available for purchase. I still can't believe how talented these artists are. Their works blows me away. Please pick up a copy today so we can get the third and final episode wrapped soon.
Here's the link: http://getbook.at/BackToWarGN2
The Next Corps Justice Installment
More good news. I just started work on the next Corps Justice novel, Liberty Down. I won't get into the details quite yet, but just know that Cal and the gang are about to have a run-and-gun through Europe. Stand by for more...
I hope you're all having an awesome summer. As I mentioned in my last update, things are busy in the Cooper household, but there's always time to start work on the next Corps Justice novel. The Novels Live crew and I have begun work on Sabotage, and today I wanted to give you a chance to read the first chapter.
READ THIS -----> Before I do that I also wanted to share the news that the third installment in my series The Chronicles of Benjamin Dragon is now published. It's available to purchase for only 99-cents (for a very limited time) on Amazon >> HERE <<.
If you haven't gotten into Benjamin's tales yet, you can download a free copy of Book 1 >> HERE <<.
The stories are great for kids and adults, so pick up a copy for your littlest monkeys, send a couple to your grandkids or download one for your wife. Trust me, they'll thank you and so will I for supporting this whole writing thing :)
And now, without further ado, I give you the first chapter of Sabotage...
(CAUTION: The following contains unedited material that may be unsuitable for the grammatically inclined. )
At the moment, Vince Sweeney looked like anything but an army colonel from the First Special Forces Operational Detachment, Delta Force. Happily reclined in a pristine white leather chair, he was wearing what he currently considered his business attire: Khaki cargo shorts, an obnoxious Hawaiian button-down, and Timberland boots. His gnarled hand moved from the glass of whiskey to scratch his scraggly white beard. He'd gone gray early, but he’d never cared. It fit in well with what he did for a living. It was a perfect disguise when needed. But now that the current “job” was almost over, the beard would have to go.
As he closed his eyes and relished the cool blowing of the vented air conditioning, he smiled at the thought of going home. How many times had he left? He'd have to go back through his military records just to see. Not that they had them all. Being part of Delta meant that most operations weren't even classified and rarely documented. They just didn't exist.
He'd just hit fifty, and because he'd refused to play the game of Army career building monopoly, instead opting to stay in the field, he'd be getting out soon. Involuntarily retired.
He didn't mind. He'd had a great career, led honest and courageous men, had saved countless lives. So as he took another sip of his much-deserved drink, Colonel Vince Sweeney was content.
"Hey, you gonna drink all that, or are you gonna save some for me?" The man sitting across from him in a nearly identical outfit growled in mock indignation.
Sweeney had known Karl Schneider for almost twenty years. They'd served together in Delta Force on and off for that entire time. While Karl looked like a washed-up bartender with one foot in the grave, he was anything but. He was one of the toughest men Vince Sweeney had ever met. He could take on a man three times his size and win. It probably had something to do with his upbringing. His father had been a coal miner in West Virginia, and before enlisting in the Army, Karl had done two hard years in the mines. That did something to a man, and as the senior enlisted soldier under his command, Karl was not only a superb fighter, he was also Colonel Sweeney's best friend.
Sweeney passed the bottle of Johnnie Walker Black across the aisle and Karl refilled his own glass.
"Did you take a look at those listings I sent you?" Karl asked, handing the bottle back to Sweeney.
"Yeah, I like that place with the little red roof. Looked like something out of a painting my grandma had handing in her guest bedroom.”
Karl nodded appreciatively, equally at the whiskey and Sweeney's choice.
"You know what, Vince? You're not much to look at, but I'd say you're a pretty good judge of real estate."
Karl was on his way out too. He had a couple years on Sweeney, and that had forced the Army to take out its big fat magnifying glass and give Carl the old up-and-down. Vince knew what the higher-ups were thinking; that they were two washed-up soldiers ready to send out to pasture. Never mind the fact that they were Delta warriors. There was always a need to make space for the up-and-comers, and while Vince understood that, he was more sad for his friend than for himself.
While the Army and Delta Force specifically had been good to Colonel Vince Sweeney, it had been the blood coursing through Karl's veins for thirty years, and now that blood transfusion was about to be taken away. So they'd made a pact. When they got out, when they retired for good, they'd leave together. Neither man was married. They both had been, Vince once and Karl twice, but neither had any prospects on the horizon, and that was okay with them.
Karl had concocted a plan. They'd do what a lot of the guys were doing; getting out and setting up shop on the civilian side. They had plenty of contacts who'd be glad to use their assistance and training, both active duty military and police forces. Besides, they both had enough money put away to last them for years. They'd been smart, and even if a single job didn't come their way, they'd be more than content with living the simple life. Hunting in the mornings, then maybe a stroll out to fish, and then growing old on rickety rocking chairs under that little red roof.
"Yeah." Vince thought, "That sounds fine. Damn fine."
This journey home was one step closer to that goal.
"You know, I bet if we wait a couple months we might be able to get that place for a steal. It's been on the market for over a year, and the agent said the owners are ready to sell. What do you think, Vince?"
Vince looked over at his friend and smiled.
"I say why wait? Let's do it."
Carl grinned and held out his glass.
“Mud in your eye, Vince."
They clinked their glasses and downed the rest of their drinks.
And just like that the conversation was over. It was back to business.
"What do you think the big man's going to say about what we saw?" Karl asked.
Vince shook his head. "I know what he'll say, but it's what he'll do that I'm worried about."
Their mission had come straight from the top. As two of the most seasoned veterans of the famed Delta Force, Karl and Vince had been given first shot. It didn't hurt that they had a personal reputation with the President of the United States. When he'd called, they'd been only too happy to help. Besides, masquerading as oil venture entrepreneurs wasn't such a bad gig. Yeah, Africa was hot as hell, but riding first class wasn't too bad and the mission was important too. Why say no?
Vince and Karl understood the consequences. They'd seen firsthand the developments that the world wasn't supposed to know about. So while he was anxious to get home and take his first hot shower in a week, Vince knew an uncomfortable conversation was coming. Decisions would have to be made, contingencies planned for, but that was still hours away, and as he and Carl had done for years, they would enjoy their time in the sun. It wasn't every day that you were the only passengers on a swank private luxury jet, and that's what made the next moment so surreal.
The concussive blast rocked the small airplane that had barely been in the air for thirty minutes. It was years of reflexive action, physical memory that had been imprinted on his DNA now that saved Vince. He wasn't buckled, but he clutched onto his chair for dear life. He felt the sucking wind. When he looked towards the tail, he saw a gaping hole four rows back. He saw something fly through the hole, and for the briefest instance thought it was Karl, but when he looked across the aisle Karl was still where he'd been, clutching in the same way Vince was.
The plane was veering now as the wind tore through the passenger compartment. Vince could barely hear the blaring of emergency sirens overhead. No one came out of the cockpit, and that was probably for the best. It was sealed, and the best place for the pilots was driving the doomed bus. They didn't have parachutes or even weapons this time, so jumping wasn't an option. Instead, with grim nods, the two men climbed their way back into their chairs and strapped themselves in. It was going to be one hell of a bumpy ride.
+ + +
The pilot was good. Really good. He'd somehow manhandled the diving aircraft just beyond the edge of some storm-engorged lake. Vince smelled leaking fuel as soon as he stepped outside, shielding his eyes from the scorching sun. Luckily there weren't any flames, and when he did a quick inspection of the exterior of the hull, the only real damage he saw was the jagged tear along the aircraft's left side.
Both pilots climbed out next, one man holding onto Karl's arm as they stepped out into the light. Neither man looked injured, but both were visibly shaken.
"Well that's number three for you," Karl said, pointing a finger at Vince. "Remind me to get another flight home without you on it."
Karl smirked, but the joke was lost on the two pilots, who were looking around like they'd just landed on the moon.
"You two okay?" Vince asked.
One pilot nodded, and then the other.
"That was some amazing flying," Vince said. "Thank you both. You saved our lives."
The comment did little to soothe each man's stupor. They were in some kind of mild shock, and Vince had seen it many times before, but not the debilitating type, just the type that needed a couple minutes.
“Karl, why don't you go see if the stewardess can get us some water. For the gentlemen first please."
Karl shook his head. "She's not in there, Vince. I think she got sucked out. I'll go get some water."
One dead. That poor girl. She'd probably been on her way up to see if they needed anything when it all happened. Couldn't do anything about that now.
"Did you call for help?" Vince asked the lead pilot.
The man looked confused, but then shook his head.
"It was the strangest thing," he said. "Right when it happened…well, not right when, but the seconds before, all our comms went out. Then when we started going down, we tried to call in mayday but we couldn't get anyone. I've been flying for a long time, but I've never seen that happen before."
Vince figured it probably wasn't the first time that it ever happened. They were over Africa at all. But when he pulled out his satellite phone and tried to get a signal, he couldn't. That was a first for him too.
Karl was outside again handing water bottles to the two pilots.
"Hey Karl, you ever had one of these sat phones go out on you?" Vince said.
"Just the one that got shot out of my hand. You know, the one right outside Jalalabad."
Vince hadn't been there, but he knew the story. Karl had been calling in for close air support when an enemy sniper missed Karl's head and hit his sat phone instead. Bam.
Vince was about to ask the pilot if he knew where they were when a crackle of gunfire erupted from some distance away.
At least a klick, maybe two, Vince thought as he dove to the ground.
When he hit the dirt he went to see if the lead pilot, who was also laying on the ground, was okay. Vince winced. Half the man's face was gone and blood poured onto the ground, inching its way towards Vince.
"Get down," Karl hissed at the second pilot, who was crouched next to the cockpit.
The man looked back furtively and then back towards where the gunfire was coming from.
"Maybe if we surrender," the man said, "maybe if we tell them who we are. It could just be all a mista- "
He never finished the word. A flurry of bullets hit his body in rapid succession, metal tearing through simple flesh. Vince knew he was dead before he hit the ground. He looked at Karl who gave him one of those "what should we do next" kind of looks. Their options were limited. The terrain was wide open, and if they moved away from the plane they were sitting ducks. Hell, they already were sitting ducks. He could feel the invisible force moving closer. He saw the rounds tearing the sky overhead. A rough estimate told him at least twenty men, maybe more. Plenty of firepower.
Then, to his complete surprise, something horribly wonderful happened. He hadn't noticed the sky go black, but it had obviously noticed him. It started as a couple raindrops, and in seconds sheet after sheet of heavy rain poured down like a bucket tipping over and over and over again. He could barely see Karl, who was a mere ten feet away, but Karl found him and was now yelling in his ear.
"We need to go. We need to go now!”
That's when Vince remembered. He had something that might help, but not if he waited. It had been a gift from a friend. A new friend, but a good one. One that he'd helped in the recent past, and one who Vince knew without a doubt would help he and Karl if he could. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.
Karl looked at him like he was nuts, but Vince ignored him, tearing through the packet, the already soaked tobacco sticks falling to the ground and washing away in the raging streams. Tucked inside the cigarette pack was something that looked like a credit card, but when Vince held down his finger on the bottom right corner, a screen lit up. He'd been told he'd get one shot at it. Once it was used, it was done. “One shot, one kill,” his friend had said. It was completely encrypted and would send a signal up to a private satellite and then relay its message to Vince's friend.
He typed out the message quickly, pressed send, and waited for the green light to know that it had gone through. Even though its burst battery power was now expended, Vince snapped the card in half and shoved it in his pocket. No sense leaving evidence.
Now came the hard part; to somehow make their way through the blinding rain and hope that the heavens gave them more than a few minutes of cover.
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