The_Better_Spy_Cover_for_KindlejpgJuly 28 hasn’t been a date I’ve associated with positive things since this day in 2003, when my only sibling, my brother, died at the age of 44. This year, instead of taking this date and marking it as the anniversary of something sad, I’ve decided to reclaim it.

As of today, July 28 will be the anniversary of the launch of the book which, among the four others published, I’m most proud.

The Better Spy is a novel in stories dealing with the aftermath of a single spy mission by U.N. covert operative Mai Fisher. It opens in more or less present day (2013) when a dying British soldier needs to get something off his chest before he gets to the great beyond. It’s a secret that changes everything about Mai’s life since that mission in the 1980s when she was under cover in the IRA.

I’m particularly proud of its experimental form. It begins in 2013 and works backwards to a often-mentioned event in the series of stories, the bombing of an IRA stronghold in 1986.

The Better Spy is available from Amazon as either a paperback or for your Kindle. You can search by the title, or click here to go to my Amazon Author Page, which lists all my works.

Also, check out a new interview with me at the Flash! Friday Microfiction page by clicking here. I talk a bit about The Better Spy, what inspires me, how I got into historical thrillers, and more. Comment on that page and you’ll be entered to win a free copy of The Better Spy and my recent novella, My Noble Enemy.

I’ll always think of my brother today, but from now on it’ll be a happy thought. He would approve.

Clearing the Cobwebs

When you have more than one computer, you run the chance of “losing” a file. Losing as in not remembering which computer you wrote it on. For me it was an 80,000-word-plus second draft of the 2012 NaNoWriMo rough draft. I was convinced it was on my laptop, and I even found a version of it, except I didn’t know it was a version. I thought it was the file I was looking for.

About four chapters of re-writing later, I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t put a finger on it, so I plodded on. The nagging sensation I didn’t have the right version kept kept up to the point where I put everything aside because I wasn’t happy with the result.

I recently picked up on the “grown-up” coloring book fad and bought a couple of books and seventy-two art pencils. Hey, I do nothing in a low-key way. One book is called Balance: Angie’s Extreme Stress Menders, Volume 1 by Angie Grace. It’s a book of mandalas, uncolored, so you can, well, color them. I didn’t have extreme stress, only the mild stress of a re-write not going the way I expected and the last-minute details of planning and putting on a one-day writers symposium. Okay, that had begun to border on extreme stress.

I’m not in the least artistic, as in painting and drawing. Writing is my art. I was a big fan of paint-by-number when I was a kid. One such “masterpiece” hung in my apartment until I bought a house and started collecting art from people who knew what they were doing. When I was a flight instructor and had to draw airplanes on a blackboard to illustrate a fine point of aviation, my students invariably laughed at my renditions. I was a Bob Ross drop-out; no happy little trees in my muddy paintings.

Grown-up coloring books aren’t paint by number because you have to choose the colors and where you’re going to use them, so I figured this was going to be a disaster, but I’d taken art in college (wherein the professor suggested that perhaps I should become an art historian rather than an artist), so I knew the color wheel and color families. And I had seventy-two art pencils to choose from.

I found when working on what I called “Mandala 1” I didn’t think about much of anything except, “Is this the right color to use next to this one?” But here’s the result:

Mandala 1

Not bad, eh? Actually, I think it’s a bit chaotic and probably should call it “Chaos.” I certainly don’t think it has the calming effect Ms. Grace anticipated in her book.

A mandala in Oriental art is “a schematized representation of the cosmos.” In Jungian philosophy, a mandala symbolizes trying to reunify the self.

I was trying to do the latter, to reunify the proper draft of a novel with my self so I get on with the needed re-write. Mandala 1 didn’t quite do it. So, there was Mandala 2:

Mandala 2

Ah, much better, and toward the end of this one, I thought, “Look for the draft on the other computer.” Lo and behold, there it was, the file I wanted to re-write from. Self reunited.

Of course, indulging my “artistic” wants takes time from my work, which is writing. However, Mandala 2 cleared a great many cobwebs away and helped me focus the re-write approach. Trust me, before that I was like a Roomba blundering into a piece of furniture and backing up, only to blunder into a different piece. Now, I can do the re-write justice.

I’m sure there’ll eventually be a need for Mandala 3.

THE BETTER SPY – Release Date Announced!

The_Better_Spy_Cover_for_KindlejpgIt’s official! My newest collection of short stories about the globe-trotting U.N. spies Alexei Bukharin and Mai Fisher, The Better Spy, will be released as a paperback and an eBook on July 28, 2015!

You first met Mai and Alexei in Blood Vengeance, Spy Flash, and My Noble Enemy (a Spy Flash novella). The Better Spy isn’t exactly a continuation but, rather, another piece in the mosaic of these two characters’ lives.

What is it about?

“The defining mission of UN covert operative Mai Fisher’s career came in the mid-1980s when she went undercover in the IRA. It was a mission she barely survived, when a shipment of Semtex she intended to destroy before the IRA would distribute it to various cells exploded too soon. Nine people, including a man she’d come to love, died, and she carried the guilt for the rest of her career. Nearly three decades later, a dying soldier has a secret he wants to tell her, one that will change everything.”

You can pre-order The Better Spy starting today. Click HERE to pre-order. Enjoy!