Tag: Author

Let me introduce the Flesheater!

Combat functionality taken to the max!

Sensei AJ Advincula teaches the Army close combat.

According to Ret. U.S.M.C. MSgt. Arcenio J Advincula, the Flesheater is the ultimate combat fighting knife, a masterful blend of design and craftsmanship that is a cut above, straight, and to the point. Jim Hammond, a world-class custom knifemaker, worked with AJ Advincula to develop this unique bladed weapon.

I first encountered the Flesheater after attending an Isshin-ryu Karate Seminar given by Sensei Advincula in Raleigh, NC, a few years ago. I have attended several seminars given by Sensei Advincula over the years, and like Sensei Sherman Harrill, he is the real deal.

At the seminar, I met Richard Rosenthal. an Isshin-ryu Karate practitioner like myself, who also trained in Sensei Advincula’s Mano Y Lago Escrima. I began attending Sensei Rosenthal’s escrima classes and thoroughly enjoyed its practicality and compatibility with Isshin-ryu Karate.

The origins of the Flesheater

The Flesheater originated when Master Chief Petty Officer Don Griffiths, who spearheaded the design development research for the SEALTAC™ Series with USN Special Warfare (SEAL) personnel in 1981, asked his martial arts instructor, “What would you look for in a fighting knife, not a combat knife, but a pure fighting knife?”

During a later visit to the shop where the first two prototypes were being developed, Don accidentally experiencing the edge of the first prototype. Griffiths proclaimed, “That knife’s a real flesh-eater!” The name stuck.

The Flesheater design is based primarily upon Largo-Mano Escrima and Isshin-Ryu Karate. Advincula is a first-generation student of the founder of Isshin-Ryu Karate, Tatsuo Shimabuku. He began studying escrima and knife fighting in 1946 at age 8 with two Filipino Scouts and close combat instructors, Pete Rado and Tony Navarro.

The Flesheater’s role in Montagnard.

In Montagnard, Carlos Vivas, a US Navy SEAL and teammate of the main character, JD Cordell, is a skilled practitioner of escrima. In the fictional story, Vivas’ father served with AJ Advincula in the US Marines as a drill instructor and trained in Mano Y Lago Escrima. Carlos, who left Puerto Rico to enlist in the US Navy, carries on the tradition.

As the friendship between Carlos and JD grows, Carlos presents JD with a Jim Hammond-made Flesheater at JD’s retirement party. The knife appears throughout the story and plays a key role in the climatic ending.

The Jim Hammond Flesheater, from Jimhammondkinves.com

For more information about the Flesheater’s design, characteristics, and versatility, click the link or image above to visit Jim Hammond’s website.

My Flesheater – a reliable and valuable companion!

I have to admit, I did have a new custom leather sheath made. I ordered my Flesheater from Columbia River Knife and Tool and found the thermoplastic sheath they included quite impractical for my purposes.

Also, CRKT no longer carries these knives. You have to order them directly from Jim Hammond now. I suspect it is because there are designed specifically for combat and are probably not something the typical outdoor person might carry. It is also not very practical for cleaning your fingernails.

Be sure to check out my books by clicking here! They do get great reviews!

Behold, an Ashen Horse

A gripping alternative history by Lee and Vista Boyland

Description

Alternative history is fiction based on the assumption one or more historical events happened differently. For example, what if President Lincoln had not been assassinated, how would Lincoln’s survival have affected America?

Behold, an Ashen Horse is the second novel of a five book (so far) series based upon three alternate historical events: (1) the Soviet Union attempted to copy both of the Atomic Bombs developed by the Manhattan Project; (2) al-Qaeda obtained several atomic devices; and (3) President Bush was not reelected in 2004.

Islamists believe they have to convert the world to Islam ruled by Shariah Law and they will use any weapon available to kill infidels. Now they have used nuclear devices to destroy five U.S. cities. George Alexander, the secretary of Homeland Security is the only surviving senior government official and it is up to him to save the nation. Once again America is blessed by having right man for the job. Alexander forms a working government, pulls the nation together, deals with hostile nations, domestic jihads, unhappy progressive-liberals, and the new Caliphate before seeking retribution from those responsible.

Alexander is statesman president who puts America’s need first. Much of this story is found in today’s news.

After this novel was released in 2007, the authors received several emails in 2008 asking if Donald Trump was President Alexander? We answered maybe. Now readers can answer the question for themselves.

Behold, an Ashen Horse is a frighteningly realistic story of events after a nuclear 9/11.

My thoughts …

This is the second book in a series by this author. I have actually not read the first book, titled Rings of Allah, but I still enjoyed this one immensely. I did read Revolution 2016 by this author and really liked it as well.

In this story, President George Alexander, the Secretary of Homeland Security in the previous installment, must decide how to defend the United States and get the government operational again after a nuclear attack takes out 5 major U.S. cities, the President, his cabinet, and the Congress.

The new president stops apologizing for America and throws political correctness right out the window as he fights to hold the nation together and identify those responsible for the horrific attack. And when he lets loose the dogs of war, the new president puts the entire world on notice.

I was struck by how well the authors blend this narrative into current events and the internal strife currently dividing our nation, making the possibilities this alternative history present hit just a little to close for comfort.

Lee Boyland is a veteran and an accomplished writer with extensive knowledge of military weapons, the armed forces, the structure of the American government. He is quite knowledgeable about Islam. I have read several books on Islam as well as the Koran. While this is clearly an alternative history, you only need to read an honest English language version of the Koran to confirm the plausible reality of Boyland’s narrative.

I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy this kind of fiction.

CBD Path

Is it truly another path to wellness

Last night was another Veteran Referring Veterans Happy Hour hosted by Justin, our peerless leader! I really have been getting a lot from these happy hour discussions. But to be honest, last night, I nearly skipped the session because of the topic. The presentation would be from a veteran-owned CBD company, and I simply was not a fan of what I considered the whole CBD fad.

But finally deciding not to skip the happy hour, I grabbed a cold one and joined the Zoom session. And now, I have to man-up and admit I was wrong in my initial judgment. This became a prime example of why “keeping an open mind” can be such a great concept.

About CBD Path

CBD Path is a company founded by Mike and Claudia Donnelly. Mike served his country as a Navy SEAL for nearly a decade. As you can imagine, Mike understands full well what it means to put a lot of extremely rigorous mileage on your body, as well as the benefit of maintaining your health, strength, and wellbeing.

Both Mike and Claudia are amazing people, and I was immediately struck by the sincerity and honesty of their presentation. Mike joked that Claudia was the brains of the outfit, and he was the brawn. Mike had already started several businesses, being a self-described serial entrepreneur. He is also very active, giving back to the veteran community by serving as a board member for the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum and the Trident House. Mike also volunteers throughout the year in fundraising events across the country to raise money for the families of fallen SEALs. When he isn’t working or volunteering, Mike works out, extremely committed to a lifestyle of health, fitness, and training.

Mike and Claudia had seen first-hand the effects of prolonged combat duty on their friends, fellow SEALs, and other veterans. These effects included PTSD, anxiety, depression, amputated limbs, burns, insomnia, among others. Over time they began to also hear about some of their friends and other veterans having some success alleviating their symptoms with CBD products.

Claudia began to do some serious research.

Mike described a fellow SEAL who’d lost limbs and suffered from PTSD and chronic pain, and who experienced real relief from using CBD oil.

Another friend (also a SEAL) has a son who had lost a limb in a bad motorcycle accident, had undergone several surgeries, and suffered a great deal of pain from the damage, and who experienced real relief from CBD.

Friends called in tears, when their son, who hadn’t slept a wink in many weeks, got several hours of real sleep after trying a CBD product.

While CBD is certainly not a miracle drug and is not for everyone and everything, it does have a real history of success if you know where to look.

And even aspirin does not work for everyone.

Here are some things I did not know.

Most of the research available on CBD products and health is found in Israel and Australia. Both of these countries have done a great deal of research on this topic … including using CBD products to treat children with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, or PTSD associated with abuse. The US is woefully behind in this area.

CBD was a commonly used treatment for ailments until about 100 years ago, just about the time “big pharma” began to emerge. I guess it could be coincidental, but if you can grow it in your back yard, they can’t control it or make a profit from it.

There are several types of CBD products available.

Full Spectrum vs Isolate

Not all CBD is the same. Mike and Claudia offer both full-spectrum CBD products and CBD isolate products. Full-spectrum CBD is CBD also containing trace amounts of other naturally occurring cannabinoids (CBG, CBC, CBN, THC < 0.3%), terpenes, and flavonoids found in the hemp plant. These individual components are believed to work together in a phenomenon called the entourage effect, potentially boosting CBD’s natural therapeutic effects.

Some people find that full-spectrum works best for them, while others prefer isolate. If one isn’t quite getting the job done, you may have better results with the other.

CBD is referred to as a “promiscuous” molecule because it acts upon several different non-psychoactive pathways in the body: the TRPV channels, GABA receptors, 5HT1A (serotonin) receptors. It is also called “biphasic” because in different dosages it can have different effects.

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production, sale, and consumption of hemp and hemp-derived compounds like CBD. In order to be classified as hemp and not as cannabis (they are genetically the same species), a plant has to be tested by a third-party lab and proven to contain les than 0.3% THC content.

So, in other words, CBD is not pot!

More about CBD Path

CBD Path is a company that manufactures and distributes only the best quality CBD (this is not 7-eleven CBD) to its customers. Their products are all produced in certified hemp manufacturing facilities. They offer advice, support, and education. Each product they sell has a QR code on the label you can scan to verify the source of the hemp and the certificates of analysis.

They did not just jump on the bandwagon, they are doing it for the right reason and in the right way.

CBD Path

Visit their great website to learn more and check out all the information available.

After this presentation, I had a very different view of CBD and its uses as a health and wellness supplement. But it is very much a “buyer beware” market with many unscrupulous distributors jumping on the CBD wagon with inferior products. If you find CBD is something you are considering trying, these are definitely the folks you will want to talk to right here!

And, while you are here, sign up for my monthly newsletter …

Yes, being an author, I actually do have an author’s newsletter! Would you like to keep up with new releases, writing tips, upcoming events, freebies, and bonus content? Then you can sign up by clicking here! And, I promise, no spam!

Check out some of my other blog posts by clicking here, and be sure to check out my books by clicking here! They do get great reviews!

Tunes for Tuesday: Easy Livin’

Uriah Heep is an English rock band formed in London in 1969. The group’s origins go back to 1967 when 19-year-old guitarist Mick Box formed a band in Brentwood called Hogwash and began playing in local clubs and pubs. A few lineup changes and the band changed its name to Spice. From the very beginning, Mick Box avoided playing covers, preferring to do something original.

A second name change came shortly after that. The group chose the name, Uriah Heep, after the well-known Charles Dickens character from David Copperfield. At this time, Dickens was everywhere because people were observing the 100th anniversary of his death, and to the members of the band, it seemed a fitting tribute.

Easy Livin’ (1972)

Uriah Heep’s 1970 debut album, …Very ‘Eavy …Very ‘Umble, was released in the United States as Uriah Heep.

The band suffered through some difficult times and more line-up changes, but by 1973 had fleshed out a fairly stable and productive line-up producing a fairly unique sound. This line-up consisted of Mick Box, Ken Hensley, Gary Thain, David Byron, and Lee Kerslake.

Uriah Heep now show-cased Hensley’s driving organ background overlaid with a heavy guitar sound, complemented by David Byron’s theatrical, dynamic vocals that soared above the band’s thunderous backdrop.

July Morning (1972)

The last four minutes or so of July Morning feature of a virtuosic organ solo. And as a historical note, the odd sounding calliope riffs are played by Manfred Mann who, according to the album credits, is appearing for the first time with his Moog synthesizer.

Sunrise (1973, Live at the Budokan in Tokyo)

The line-up with David Bryon on vocals in perhaps the most memorable and loved by loyal Uriah Heep’s fans.

And yes, some acoustic and jazz elements also found their way into the Uriah Heep mix.

The Wizard (remastered 2017)

One of my favorites, Lady in Black, is a song from their 1971 album, Salisbury, and is credited to Ken Hensley. It tells the tale of a man wandering through war-torn darkness and encountering a goddess-like entity who consoles him. It is often praised, by fans and critics alike, as Hensley’s most poetic work.

Lady in Black (1971)

I could not find a live video of Sweet Lorraine with good audio quality, but it is another in my “Heep” of favorites by this 1970s band.

Sweet Lorraine (remastered 2017)

Uriah Heep, a unique band with a unique sound that paved the way for many musical talents of the future. Definitely still one of my favorites.

Sign up for my monthly newsletter …

Yes, I do have an author’s newsletter! Would you like to keep up with new releases, writing tips, upcoming events, freebies, and bonus content? Then you can sign up by clicking here! And, I promise, no spam!

Check out some of my other blog posts by clicking here, and be sure to check out my books by clicking here! They do get great reviews!

Just Stories, Part 4

Isshin-ryu Karate … JD Cordell style!

My involvement with the martial arts …

I have had a long-held interest in the martial arts. One Christmas, I received a book called Best Karate, written by Mas Oyama, when I was 13 or 14 years old. I spent hours in my bedroom trying to learn from the book.

When I began attending the Charles H McCann Technical School in North Adams, Massachusetts, I was invited by a friend to a Uechi-ryu Karate (a very traditional Okinawan system) class in nearby Adams and started attending. But once I discovered cars and girls, that pretty much ended that … as well as my interest in scouting.

When I was stationed in Korea (12/81 to 12/82), I studied Tae Kwon Do with the battalion instructor. He was excellent. I earned a red belt, which, in that system, was the equivalent of a brown belt in the ranking system used by many styles. When I got back to the U.S., I started competing in tournaments and did okay. However, I discovered these Isshin-ryu guys who had a wicked reverse punch. They would slide up your extended kicking leg and nail you with it. I decided I needed to see what they were doing and so sought out an Isshin-ryu dojo.

Years later, I was running my own dojo and hosting tournaments. But I was very disappointed in the way things were evolving. I was never that wild about sport karate. I just did that to keep students. I saw limited techniques being used in sport karate; it was more like a game of tag. The rules seemed to violate the karate “maxims” I was trying to adhere to.

For example, in Okinawan Karate, all kicks are targeted below the waist. Step into the ring, and now all kicks must be above the waist. That seemed odd!

And kata, especially with the advent of musical kata, quickly devolved into breakdancing with some kicks thrown in.

Note: Let me just say that full-contact karate and MMA fighters of today are great athletes and some damn tough individuals. They are very good at what they do and deserve respect. It is just not “karate” as I had come to understand it.

The problem was that I do read a great deal, and I had read a lot of history about Okinawa, the birthplace of Karate, and the early pioneers of Tang Hand, which later become known as Empty Hand … or Karate. I was simply not seeing the Karate I’d read so much about. Either the stories were all lies, or there was nobody around who could do that stuff anymore. I was actually ready to throw in the towel. Then I met Sensei Sherman Harrill.

Sensei Harrill was from a cross-roads in the cornfields called Carson, Iowa (near Council Bluffs). He was an ex-Marine who trained with the Isshin-ryu system’s founder, Tatsuo Shimabuku, while stationed in Okinawa in the late 50s. And he was the real deal.

Everything I had ever seen paled when stacked up against what he did. No matter who you were, how big, how strong, or what you knew … he would effortlessly show you the error of your ways. Organizations, rank, who you knew did not matter. It was what you could demonstrate on the mat that counted.

So, I started over. I traveled all around the country to seminars for years to train with this guy. It was a humbling and memorable moment when I asked him how I could become his student. He laughed and replied. “well, most folks just ask.” So, I asked. And he replied, “Darren, I have seen the changes you are making in your Karate and how you train … so welcome aboard.”

That was the beginning of the journey of a lifetime.

The origins of JD’s Nguyen-ryu

Nguyen-ryu is an indigenous martial art found in Vietnam. Mai’s father, Ang, was a village elder, and in the book Serpents Underfoot, a well-respected practitioner of this art. Ang taught this art to both his daughter, Mai, and the son of his old Montagnard friend, Dish. Dish and Mai both taught the art to Curtis Cordell, Mai’s American husband, and JD’s father.

Curtis tried to teach Nguyen-ryu to his son, but that old father-son thing interfered. Eventually, Curtis took his son to a dojo run by a friend of his. That Sensei taught a very traditional version of Isshin-ryu. JD did learn a great deal of Nguyen-ryu from his mother, which blended well with the Isshin-ryu.

It has been my experience that most “real” martial arts have more in common than differences. That is because when you get past all the marketing hype, it is body mechanics that determine what works … and the human body only moves powerfully so many ways.

My exposure to Nguyen-ryu

Enter Charlie Taylor, a good friend, a Vietnam veteran, and a damn good martial artist. He just showed up at my dojo one day and started helping out.

Charlie had served several tours in Vietnam as a medic on Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols in the region of Vietnam my books focus on. He was a quiet guy, but when the mood struck, he had some fantastic stories to tell about his experiences in Vietnam. I am sure he embellished them a bit to make them more fun to listen too, but there was something in the stories and his eyes when he told them that led you to understand that there was an element of truth to each one.

Charlie was also a highly-skilled martial artist, and there was nothing “superfluous” in what he did. I remember spending time training what was essentially a “silent sentry removal” technique with him and being shocked and a bit disturbed at the ease with which it worked. I still remember asking him, rhetorically,

“And, you’ve used this before.”

He just looked at me kind of funny and replied, “On a few occasions.”

While he knew a few of the kata, Charlie didn’t practice Isshin -ryu. In fact, many of our workouts consisted of me teaching him more Isshin-ryu kata. He practiced what he called Nguyen-ryu. Charlie claimed he’d learned it from his grandfather, who’d married a Vietnamese girl while stationed in Japan after WWII. This girl’s father was a skilled practitioner of the style, and after a suitable period of denials, consented to teach it to his daughter’s round-eyed husband.

I know it sounds like a movie plot. And maybe it is. I can neither prove nor disprove Charlie’s claims. However, I can definitely vouch for his abilities. Charlie could be damn scary when he was “in the zone,” much like my former instructor, Sensei Harrill. Those who have trained with Sensei Harrill will understand what I am referring to. We called it “shark eyes.”

Charlie breaking three boards (no spacers) with a ridge-hand at a demo in Norris, TN.

Charlie did have an honorary 5th-degree black belt in Isshin-ryu Karate signed by Harold Long. However, he always claimed it was not worth the paper it was written on. It seems Charlie had impressed Harold Long with his abilities while training for a period at Long’s school in Knoxville, Tennessee, but, as mentioned earlier, had only learned a few of the kata. He held no official rank in Nguyen-ryu, so he always wore a white belt.

I will say that the kid’s classes loved it when Charlie regaled them with stories of his early training days. He always referred to them as “Papaw Days.”

Unfortunately, Charlie passed away a few years ago from a combination of medical conditions, several of which I am sure originated with his tours of duty in Vietnam. Some of the threads in Serpents Underfoot and Montagnard are based on past discussions with Charlie. And I think Charlie may be resurrected from the dead for a character in the next book in the series titled Reciprocity. I think he would like that.

Martial Arts scenes in the two books …

I have seen a large man knocked unconscious with a punch to the shoulder. I do not know too many people who could do that. Sensei Harrill certainly could. And, his “fence post punch” was something to behold. You did not want to get hit with it.

On more than one occasion, MMA fighters or cage fighters from the casinos in Council Bluff would make their way to his dojo after hearing about this karate guy who had a reputation for being a badass. Every one of them left with a new appreciation for karate … well, at least Sherman Harrill’s version.

The technique JD uses to take out the drug smuggler on the trail from Laos into Vietnam is simply one of my variations on Charlie Taylor’s sentry removal technique.

Putting it all together

I like to think my stories are written to entertain, but there is so much more to them, at least for me. They are ways to remember, record, and share the people I have known, places I have been, things I have seen, and the stories I have heard, as well as the possibilities those things can combine to create.

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Would you like to keep up with new releases, writing tips, upcoming events, freebies, and bonus content? Then sign up for my monthly newsletter by clicking here! And, I promise, no spam!

Be sure to check out my books by clicking here!

JD Cordell is going international!

I have often wondered about the value, for authors, of Kindle Unlimited.

Clearly it is great for readers!

I mean, having access to read almost everything in the Kindle store for one monthly subscription fee, if you are an avid reader, is a great deal.

Does Kindle Unlimited truly benefit authors?

The response from authors I have heard or read is pretty much split down the middle. About half of the writers love it, saying KU is the source for much of their revenue. The other half claims it is too limiting, and they prefer to have access to other eBook distribution channels.

And I still am undecided because it does lock your ebook into Amazon for your 90-day period of KU enrollment, which renews automatically. However, at the end of any 90 days, you can opt-out. I have not opted-out yet because I haven’t really explored other venues to sell the ebook through.

However, I have discovered that Kindle Unlimited (KU) has allowed me to reach readers in countries I never expected. And, that is pretty darn cool!

I was going over my KDP reports, and I noticed the KU readers from the UK, Australia, and India have read Montagnard. The UK, I expected. I have friends there, and after all, we are two countries separated by a common language. Even Australia was not a huge surprise, I mean, they speak English too .. well, sort of! 🙂

I was surprised and delighted to see people in India were reading Montagnard. That really made my day. I certainly hope they enjoyed it, and I appreciate it very much! I haven’t yet gotten any reviews from India that I am aware of, but perhaps that will come over time.

However, I did recently receive a review from a Goodreads reader who had this to say!

Needless to say, this lady’s review made my day!

If you enjoyed this post, I hope you will take a few minutes and check out some of the other posts on my blog by clicking here!

And by all means, if you enjoy a thrilling, fast-paced, award-winning action & adventure thriller, check out my newest novel, Montagnard. As you can see, it is getting rave reviews!

Veteran To Veteran

So what is Veteran’s Referring Veterans?

Founded by a veteran, Justin Clark, after being medically retired from the military, the mission of Veterans Referring Veterans is to become a trusted partner with veterans who own businesses and to provide a web-based directory where consumers can connect with and select veteran-owned companies. But it is so much more than that!

How does it work?

I have been intrigued by this organization for some time seeing their posts on both Instagram and Facebook. Justin Clark hosts “Happy Hours” every Thursday night via the group on Facebook, where veteran-owned businesses are highlighted. This week the featured company will be Four Brothers Mead. These four veteran brothers based in Missouri make a Viking era honey-based wine known as Mead. They wanted to produce the best Old World Mead by using only superior, locally harvested pure honey. I have yet to try it, but by several accounts, they have succeeded.

I joined after participating in a happy hour in which a veteran who now writes children’s books was highlighted.

Veterans Referring Veterans is very active on social media including Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. There is also a VRV podcast.

If you are interested in learning a bit more, here is a video clip explaining what Veterans Referring Veterans is all about.

So what is the catch?

Well, there really is none. Joining is very affordable. You can design your own profile and upload images. You join in on “happy hours” and other events, meet other veteran business owners, and help spread the word for each other. If you choose you, you can also travel to larger events in other locations. VRV is now in 24 states and even Germany. The growth has been incredible.

Current member veteran-owned businesses include:

  • Automotive
  • Business and Law
  • Entertainment
  • Financial
  • Health and Beauty
  • Home
  • Marketing
  • Medical
  • Pets
  • Recreational
  • Restaurants
  • Technology
  • Yard
  • Miscellaneous

Please go to the Veterans Referring Veterans website if you are looking for help in these areas.

I hope you will take a few minutes and check out some of the other posts on my blog by clicking here!

If you enjoy a thrilling, fast-paced, award-winning action & adventure thriller, check out my newest novel, Montagnard. It’s getting great reviews … even from Kirkus!

Just Stories, Part 3

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing

Edmund Burke

That is the short version attributed to Edmund Burke. It is actually derived from a longer work titled Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770).

Defining Good and Evil …

As old fashioned as it might seem, I do believe in good and evil. And I strongly agree with Edmund Burke that for evil to triumph, all that is needed is for good men to sit by and do nothing.

And I certainly understand that the world we live in is not always so black and white. No, I am not racist; I am merely using an analogy that far predates the politically charged various versions of racism we must try to sort through today.

There is a great deal of gray in the world. However, social order and civilization are dependent on defining what lawful and unlawful behavior is. And, some actions are almost unanimously deemed as reprehensible (or evil). These, even in today’s upside-down world, would typically include stealing, murder, rape, slavery, human trafficking, genocide, etc.

Complete pacifism only leads to one of two possible places …

What are those two places? Simply stated, they are slavery or extinction.

You might argue that it is a bit extreme. I argue it is not. History is chock-full of examples supporting this concept, going back thousands of years. And, those who fail to study history are far too often doomed to repeat it.

I have thirty-five plus years of martial arts training. I served in the U.S. military and graduated from the best private bodyguard training school in the United States. I understand what really evil people can do, and refusing to stand up to them typically does not stop them.

I am reminded of a dinner party I was at many years ago. One of the guests was a local radio station disc jockey, and I soon discovered, an avowed pacifist. He asked me how I could justify owning guns and also teaching people how to beat up other people. I simply answered that I do not teach people how to hurt other people. I teach people how to stop people from hurting them or people they care about.

He scoffed at that. So I gave him a scenario (we had just recently had our first home invasion in Anderson County in the news, where an elderly couple was tied to chairs, brutally beaten, and robbed). I asked him if he were home at night with his wife and three young children, and violent people invaded his home with the intent to harm his family, would he just step out of the way because he “did not believe in violence,” or would he try to protect his family?

He thought about that for a minute, then answered that he would have to try to protect them. I then told him that the only real difference between him and me was that I would have much a better chance of succeeding. His final comment was something like, “Wow, you’ve cut me to the quick on that. I have to think about that.”

Sometimes, good people must do bad things to stop evil people!

Strictly speaking, there are no such things as good and bad impulses. Think…of a piano. It has not got two kinds of notes on it, the ‘right’ notes and the ‘wrong’ ones. Every single note is right at one time and wrong at another. The Moral Law is not any one instinct or set of instincts: it is something which makes a kind of tune (the tune we call goodness or right conduct) by directing the instincts.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

It is in this quote that we can see the defense for my comment above. The difference for me is in the character of the person and the reason for the act. Yes, good people can sometimes be called on to do bad things to protect those they care about. But they do it out of necessity, not for fun, personal gain, or on a whim. And therefore, they are willing to stand before God and be judged for their deeds.

This is the reference JD makes near the end of Montagnard.  It is also how, in real life, a Navy SEAL like Chris Kyle or Rob O’Neil, or any soldier, sailor, airmen, or marine, would be able to justify to themselves what they do and sleep at night.

Poster for the movie Act of Valor.

Evil does exist in this world. Often, it cannot be reasoned with, appeased, or avoided. Sometimes, it must be faced down. There have been a few instances in my life where I made the choice to stand against evil. I do not regret those decisions and I do not believe God will hold them against me when my time comes. 

My stories, at their core, are about facing down that evil.

The third installment in the JD Cordell Action Series I am calling Reciprocity, will delve into the dark world of human trafficking, which I think any sound-minded individual would consider an evil blight on humanity.

If you enjoyed this little philosophical meandering, please take a few minutes and check out some of my other blog posts by clicking here!

And, if you like reading an award-winning action & adventure thriller, check out my award-winning novel, Montagnard.

Just Stories, Part 2

A word about characters … and character.

Characters …

Many readers who have reviewed Montagnard have made comments about the story’s characters. Here are a few examples.

The action is incredible, the characters are amazing, the storyline is astonishing. It all feels so real, the men, the action, the times, the war.

DD Gott

The story has believable characters (including strong women and a dog that I loved). It draws the reader into the story, a story that covers five decades. The Bangkok bar, Obsession, is a hoot.

Lee Boyland, Award Winning Author

My husband , who is not really a reader finished this book in three days. That being said decided I needed to see why he thought this was such a good read. After I started this book I understood. Characters are so real you become concerned about them. Loved this book.

Kathleen Palazzolo

Gilbert’s enjoyable sequel offers some rousing subplots … But this novel concentrates on fewer characters, such as the returning players Curtis, Mai, and Ajax.

Kirkus Reviews

… a thrilling novel … elevated by intriguing characters … an exotic location … danger around any corner.

Literary Titan

My editor, Beth, commented on the story’s characters several times.

“Great characters.”

“Really laughed a few times … when Pallie ‘is trying to wrap his head around the current situation’ in the club. Humor is authentic and genuine, not trying or forced. Truly funny. These are guys you want to hang out with.”

“Genuine movie potential. Love the secondary characters. Mai, Ellerson, the driver Hung, Hana, Hoa, Jum Y, Poh … like and care about each one of them. Peripheral layers to cast and story. Very well done.”

One of my beta readers also commented early in the editing process that my writing style is very “character-driven.”

So, what is the point of all this?

I lurk in several writers groups. I say “lurk” because I tend to listen-in more than I post. You can learn a great deal as a writer listening to comments and questions of other writers. One surprisingly common thread is, how to create better characters.

Here is my big character “secret!”

Are you ready?

You, as the author, have to love your characters … that’s it.

If your characters are simply “names” filling a spot in the story, you are not doing your characters justice. You have to actually see your characters as real people with real feelings, interests, faults, personalities, etc. I love each and every one of my characters (yes, even the evil bad guys. I love them because they are so easy to hate).

I have seen people posting that this is somehow hard for them to do. I have to admit that I really don’t get that. These are characters in a story you are writing. If you don’t love your characters, why are you even writing the story?

Here is what I do …

Sometimes I base a character on a person I know. I may even ask that person if he or she wants to be a character in my book and get their input on how they see themselves in that character’s role.

Pallie is one example of that. Pallie is based on a good friend, Joe, who worked as a bus driver in New York City until he suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Since he could no longer drive the living, he took a job chauffeuring the dead … a hearse. He said, “the dead really didn’t mind.”

Now, that’s Pallie to a T!

Joe is a boisterous, friendly, Sicilian man who is a great friend and would be at your side if needed, just like Pallie. When writing Pallie’s part in Montagnard, all I ever had to do is say, “What would Joe do here? Or, what would Joe say here?” How could you, as an author, not love that character.

One more example is Mai. Mai is a composite of several strong women that have left an indelible impression in my life. She personifies what I respected most in each of those women. How could I, as a writer, not love her character.

This same idea can be found in every character in my stories, even with the secondary characters, although perhaps to a slightly lesser degree.

And what about the Main Character?

JD Cordell is also a composite character. He is the result of combining the character traits I respect most in several men I have come to admire in my life, with some of the qualities I am proud are a part of my character. I guess I could also say that JD Cordell is my alter-ego … if I were Bruce Wayne, JD would be by Batman.

Now, a word about character …

To me, my stories are about character.

First, I guess I need to explain my understanding of character. To me, our character is what defines us at our core. To put it plainly, it is who we are when the “shit hits the fan,” and when no one is looking.

I also believe that too many people mistake learned behavioral tools as character traits. These tools are things like politeness, rapport, charm, or dressing nicely. To me, these are not character traits at all. They are simply tools people can turn on and off as needed.

Even Jeffery Dahmer could dress nicely, be charming, smile, and act politely when it suited his purpose. But I doubt too many of us would argue Dahmer was a man of good character.

Character traits are who we are at our core. They cannot be turned on or off at will. It would take a genuinely traumatic or life-altering event to change a character trait after we are set in our ways (about age 8).

Why does this matter?

It matters because, when you are developing your characters, they need to have consistency. Character does matter. And, sometimes people with good character are forced to do bad things for the right reason, to protect those they love or care about.

JD makes a reference to this near the end of Montagnard, when he says, “I am not a Bible thumper, but I know what I believe. I’m a sailor, and I’ve done a lot of things for which many people would be quick to condemn me. The things I’ve done … well, let’s say I am willing to stand before God and account for them.”

Here is one more example. Many readers have questioned why I did not have Mai kill the villain in the story. After all, I did kind of set it up to look like she might do just that. However, Mai killing the villain in the act of vengeance or retribution would be out of character. While Mai is undoubtedly capable of defending herself or her family (see Serpents Underfoot), she would not hunt someone down to exact vengeance. She would stand for justice and the rule of law.

This has become quite a long post, so I will stop here. I will just sum it up by saying that creating characters that people can identify with, respect, loath, or “hang out with” is a crucial aspect of writing a good story.

My next “Just Stories” post will tackle my thoughts on the theme of “Good vs. Evil,” which is also clearly a big part of both Serpents Underfoot and Montagnard.

If you would like to read Montagnard, now is the time to buy. For a limited time only, the Kindle version is only .99 on Amazon.com.

A Labor Day Celebration for Readers

Okay, its shameless promotion time!

Being locked down over Labor Day weekend is no fun!

So, you need something good to read, something that will grab your attention and keep it!

Something that is so good, that you will not want to put it down!

Bravery, valor, honor, comradeship, revenge, and love with realistic combat and martial arts scenes kept this reader enthralled and turning the pages

Lee Boyland, Award Winning Author

A tightly focused and exciting second installment of a thriller series.

Kirkus Reviews

Gilbert has outdone himself in Montagnard. With its lightning pace, gripping storyline, and well-constructed action scenes … an absolute page-turner. Action thriller lovers will hate to miss this one.

The Prairies Book Review

D.C. Gilbert has crafted a taught military action novel that explores humanity at it’s most vengeful. This is a thrilling novel … elevated by intriguing characters … an exotic location … danger around any corner. A great continuation of the JD Cordell Action Series

Literary Titan

You want something that will cost you under $1.00 …

And here it is … Montagnard!

While this is Book 2 in the JD Cordell Action Series, it stands very well on its own as a great read.

After midnight on September 4th, Montagnard will be only .99 for 7 straight days … ending at midnight on September 11th.

Click the button above after midnight on September 4th or before midnight on September 11th, to get your Kindle copy of Montagnard at this fantastic price.

And you have done, please take a moment to let other know what you thought by leaving a review on Amazon.com. Thank you!