Review of The Perfect Assassin

51grn5cphil-_sy346_The Amazon blurb:

One perfect shot will change the course of history. Christine Palmer, a young American doctor sailing solo across the Atlantic, makes an incredible discovery – a man narrowly clinging to his life in the frigid waters. But there is much more to this desperate survivor than meets the eye. David Slaton is a Kidon – a highly-trained, highly-precise, and highly-dangerous assassin. The Kidon is both the hunter and the hunted, and he and Christine are in grave danger. Will they win in this race against time?With the precision of a sharpshooter, author Ward Larsen weaves an intricate tale of espionage and intrigue.

What I thought: 4 Stars 

The book hangs together well and has the feel of one of Tom Clancy’s shorter novels.  That is, a nice mix of political intrigue and daring-do action that quickly start stitching together to reveal plots within plots, and everything coming to a head.

The testy relationship between the woman whose sail boat our assassin anti-hero commandeers, essentially kidnapping her, sets us up for a nice romantic character arc as well, early on, with both parties’ fates precariously interlocked.  Will he kill her when he gets to shore and doesn’t need her sailing skills anymore, or will this be the start of a longer, even more dangerous journey, with an even more uncertain end?

I liked the multi-continent angle to the story, as I’m a fan of travel lit and thrillers that take me all over the world.

Chapters are long, especially for the action-thriller genre the author is writing in.  They are broken up by ellipses, however, or their equivalent, an extra paragraph break between cutaways.  But you’ll need extra size time blocks to get through a chapter.  That said, the chapters themselves still move very fast.

Note: despite the title, The Perfect Assassin, and despite our hero being an assassin, this really reads a lot more like a fast-paced Jack Ryan book penned by Clancy than your typical assassin book.  For some people that will be a great thing, for others, the richer mix of spies, espionage, conspiracy thriller, and action thriller will be less of a win.

Review of Eight: Terror Has a New Species

eight-terror-has-a-new-speciesThe amazon blurb:


Deep in the Amazon, the solution to the global energy crisis has been found; a mysterious source of power set to end our dependency on oil.

When she receives stunning photographs related to the discovery – courtesy of expedition leader and former partner, Ed Reardon – entomologist Rebecca Riley finds herself on the next flight to Brazil, heading down to join the team of scientists assembling there. She hasn’t seen Ed for more than a year, and their relationship hadn’t ended well.

But his revelation is impossible to ignore.

What she and Ed uncover is beyond imagination: strange statues in the jungle… a ruined city built by the refugees of a lost Pacific continent… and a terrifying new species of animal.

Forced to confront a crippling childhood phobia she’d thought long dead and buried, Rebecca realises this new species is no ordinary enemy.

It is an ancient enemy, one whose very existence has implications for all of humankind… and the planet itself.

What I thought:  5 Stars

It’s safe to say I’m always up for an Amazon jungle adventure, and this one, going by the blurb, had a distinct James Rollins flavor to it. So I figured I’d give it a try. I thought the author did quite well sticking with genre expectations and delivering a fun adventure story set in an exotic locale. He also did his research going by the way the Amazon jungle and river environs make their presence felt like actual characters in the story. There’s plenty of suspense and danger and cloak and dagger conspiracy plots. Plenty of pulse-bounding action. Big scary spiders. Big scary lots of things, really.

The novel is a place where big ideas meet big action, for instance. The author didn’t just do his homework with respect to the Amazon jungle region, but with respect to mythological studies, pseudo-science, and actual science going on around the world that converges in such a way as to support some pretty far out ideas put forth in the novel. Original theories about Atlantis, Lemuria, and other prior ancient civilizations are proponed. It’s still some pretty wild speculation, but it’s the fun kind that usually goes a long way to powering these kinds of stories.

If you like your thrillers and travel lit to come together under one cover, you like the future and the past to intermingle, you could do a lot worse than Eight. Is the book on par with Rollins’ own work? Probably not. But it’s damn close. And if you’ve run out of Rollins books to read, or you just can’t get enough of this sub-genre of thriller, you might want to move this author and this book up your tbr list.

Note: I want to thank NetGalley for supplying a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Review of The Tracker by Chad Zunker



The Amazon blurb:

Trust no one. Sam Callahan learned this lesson from a childhood spent in abusive foster care, on the streets, and locked in juvie. With the past behind him and his future staked on law school, he is moonlighting as a political tracker, paid to hide in crowds and shadow candidates, recording their missteps for use by their opponents. One night, after an anonymous text tip, Sam witnesses a congressional candidate and a mysterious blonde in a motel indiscretion that ends in murder, recording it all on his phone.

Now Sam is a target. Set up to take the fall and pursued by both assassins and the FBI, he is forced to go on the run. Using the street skills forged during his troubled youth—as well as his heightened mental abilities—Sam goes underground until he can uncover who is behind the conspiracy and how far up it goes. A taut thriller with an unforgettable young hero, The Tracker is a heart-stopping debut from an exciting new voice.

What I thought:  5 Stars

I’m a sucker for a good conspiracy thriller.  And this one really delivered.  The author’s writing style is lean and mean and just flows, contributing to a very fast-paced, hard-to-set-down read.

The first half of the story is told jumping between the past and the present.  I’m usually not a fan of this voguish writing structure that has taken off in the last couple of years, particularly with TV series.  The one that immediately comes to mind is ABC’s Quantico, another is NBC’s Blindspot.  It can make for a very disjointed, jarring, and extremely challenging reading and/or viewing experience.  But the author sidestepped this fatal flaw with this storytelling technique ably.  I felt the back and forth between the hero’s younger days and his present dilemma served well to build the context for how he could survive such harrowing straits, and also went a long way to getting me to identify with him a lot more.

The political intrigue element, with various parties vying to influence the results of a campaign, struck me as brutally realistic, and a lot more fun to read about than to see on the nightly news.  Not that stuff this juicy ever gets to the nightly news.

Note:  I want to thank NetGalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Interview With Award-Winning Author Tito Martinez Barberi

Thank you very much for this interview, Tito!

Please provide a brief description of you and your book:

Tito Martínez Barberi is an award-winning author born in México City. Tito spent many years as a writer of copy for ad agencies and doing translations. His experience as a copywriter and translator, added to what Tito calls his “hyper-imagination”, inspired him to write his current series, The Keeper of the Balance.

The Order of the Ancestors, book three in The Keeper of the Balance, was chosen as the Best Dystopian Book in the 2016 Summer Indie Awards, a contest featuring over 130 entries.

Tito is a lover of fantasy and sci-fi literature and movies. Although he lives in the state of Puebla, México, Tito’s mind spends most of its time in Akaladia, bringing to life The Last Bastion, the fourth and final installment in The Keeper of the Balance.

Tito, I would also appreciate it if you could add a picture of you, your book or both.











And finally, please provide a link where your book(s) can be purchased:

Book I: The Pinnacle of Power

Bouncepen (read the book, at only $0.02 per page)

Book II: The Warriors of Balance

Book III: The Order of the Ancestors

Website & social media:



Google +:


Much appreciated.  Now, on to the interview!

Can you tell us why you decided to become a writer?

I’ve always loved writing. For a long time, I would spend some of my free time writing pieces of fan fiction that I didn’t show to anyone. Then one day, a friend found one of these stories in my computer, and she insisted that I try my hand at writing something original. The next thing I knew, I was writing a rough draft for The Keeper of the Balance. I haven’t been able to stop writing ever since.

What do you love the most about writing?

Letting my imagination go wild. I love to imagine all these stories and characters in my head, and I just can’t resist the urge to bring them to life on the written page.

Where do you get you inspiration from?

I have many different sources of inspiration, going from real life to history to my favorite books and films. I love Sci Fi and fantasy because I believe that there are some great lessons to be learned from these fictional tales. Plus they’re also great escapism!

How would you describe The Keeper of the Balance series?

I like to think of The Keeper of the Balance as a classic tale of good vs. evil told from an original, fresh perspective. I really tried to give all characters some depth and perspective, as opposed to the good guys being white and the baddies being black. This was my intent as the author. It’s up to the reader to say if I accomplished my goal.

Why should people read The Keeper of the Balance?

Because this series is a lot of fun (laughs)! In all seriousness, I do hope that readers find The Keeper of the Balance books as much fun as I’ve been having writing them. But if people get something else out of my work, some kind of message, perhaps, then that’s even better.

Where did the idea for The Keeper of the Balance come from?

My ideas usually come from lots of different places. I like to combine different topics, tropes, archetypes, etc. and see where this leads. In this case, I wanted to tell my own version of the classic Hero’s Journey, combining it with a totally dysfunctional world ruled behind the shadows by a secret society. I truly feel like I succeeded in what I set out to do, but again, the reader will always have the last word.

What do you expect to accomplish with The Keeper of the Balance?

To sell lots of books (laughs)! Now seriously, I just wanted to explore things through the books that I find interesting and appealing, hoping that other people out there would find all this stuff as fascinating as I do.


What can you tell us about the latest book in The Keeper of the Balance series, without giving away any spoilers?

Well, The Order of the Ancestors (the last book that’s been published) is already the third installment in the series, so it’s hard to describe it without giving away too much. I guess what I can say is that the book is fast-paced, with lots of action and twists and turns along the way. Since it’s already the third book in the series, readers will already be familiar with most characters and situations. And this makes the book quite an entertaining read, methinks.

Which were the easiest and the hardest parts for you to write, without giving away any spoilers?

The easiest parts for me to write are action scenes and the more quiet dialogues. The hardest parts are romance and getting inside the minds of characters that are nothing like me. Villains were a bit of both, and they were also the most fun to write!

Do you have a favorite character, scene or situation in The Keeper of the Balance, and can you tell us why he, she or it is your favorite?

I love all of my characters. It sounds boring and cliché, I know, but it’s true (laughs). My favorite scenes and situations are the chapters where some major or shocking twist takes place. I love to rock the reader’s boat!

What can we expect to see in the next book in The Keeper of the Balance series, again without giving away any spoilers?

The next book, The Last Bastion, will be the fourth and final volume in the series. So obviously, you can expect to find what I expect to be the epic ending to this story, which has become a huge part of my life now. All I can say about this is that the end to The Keeper of the Balance will be bittersweet but realistic and hopefully, satisfying for all readers.

Some stories are what some have taken to calling Message Fiction, due to the fact that there are (conscious or unconscious) messages to be found in those stories. Did you insert any conscious messages in your story, and if so, what do they try to convey?

Well, the one recurring theme throughout the whole series is balance and how important it is in all things. I truly believe that imbalance is the root of the problems afflicting us all at a personal, microcosmic level, as well as in a broader, macrocosmic level.

I didn’t write The Keeper of the Balance trying to send a message, though. The main idea was, is, and always will be to entertain people through my writing. But if anyone can get some positive message from my work, then that would be great!

If your story is mature in nature (containing graphic sexual scenes, violence, swearing, etc.), what led you to decide that this was the right way to go, despite the fact that it might limit your potential readership?

Although I dealt with some difficult adult situations and topics in The Keeper of the Balance (such as sexual exploitation, child slavery, corruption in high places, etc.), I wanted to make the books accessible to a younger crowd (ages 13, 14 up). And so all this stuff I tried to present in a very smooth, discreet fashion.

There are some mild sexual situations, but no graphic sex, and no swearing (curses are totally made up and exclusive to Akaladia, the world of The Keeper of the Balance). There is some graphic violence, but nothing gory or more shocking than you would find in your typical PG-13 film these days, I would say.

And finally, is there anything else that you’d like to add?

I just want to thank you, Dean, a talented author in your own right, for this interview. It was a lot of fun! And to everyone out there in cyberspace who’s reading this: thanks and don’t miss out on The Keeper of the Balance series. You’ll love it, guaranteed!

Again, thank you very much for your time!


1259448179WDjxZ8Angela: This quote is taken from the book. Could you listen and then expand on the idea for me?

“Maybe it was for the best he didn’t know then what he’d come to know, after digging deeper into Hartman’s students’ lives:

That the best and brightest had fallen before the entire gamut of get-over-themselves schemes, powerless to undo the PTSD symptoms of modern life.

Like so many others making headline news, they had failed at employing best practices to stay afloat of the rising tide of expectations of the global economy.

If he’d known all that, he might have been tempted to ask:  So who was he? What one thing did he have in spades the others did not?  Was it what Drew said it was, or was it something else?  Or was he just fooling himself?”

Dean: The story is about one man’s quest to find out what it takes to survive our age. We give lip service to reinventing ourselves. We have all the right buzz words courtesy of corporations that subject their people to grueling pressures in order to stay afloat in a world of global competitiveness.  But how many are really thriving in this sink or swim economy, how many are merely surviving, and how many are going under?  In a sense the Occupy movement has already given us the answer: Only the top one percent are truly excelling.

But to get the ninety-nine percent to beat the top one percent at their own game, to be smarter, more creative, more driven…  What we’re really asking is exactly what does it take to turn men into gods? For it’s very much a Neitzschian proposition that global competitiveness forces on us when we have to find ever new ways to “get over ourselves” ever faster and more efficiently than the competition—many of whom have every advantage on us.  It’s this fundamental crisis of our age that the book delves into.

It’s a survivor’s manual that’s interlaced in the subtext; and there are quite a number of fields beyond philosophy and psychology interwoven into the interdisciplinary approach to the subject of thriving in an End Times economy. The novel is written so as to coax the integral mind to surface and take charge in this acid-test environment like only it can. If I’ve done my job, the story doesn’t simply present you with more than one path through the maze to higher consciousness; it drives the shift in consciousness needed to survive the age itself, which is something that can only be arrived at by allowing the wizardry of the words to take hold of you and procure the alchemical transformation.

Angela: Ostensibly, the book takes place in a parallel present, but before we’re through book one in the series we’re bursting into parallel universes, partaking of time travel. No shortage of superheroes and shapeshifters are thrown into the mix.


Dean: The theme of continuous improvement links the story-threads to one another, giving the book a very contemporary feel despite how many departures it takes into mind-blowing alternate realities, be they cyberpunk or steampunk in nature.  Can you imagine any time in the future, any alternate universe in which forever taking your game to the next level isn’t going to be front and center of your survival? Not only is it the defining characteristic of both Present and Future Shock, it is one of the things which collapses us out of ordinary space-time into Singularity State. Singularity is viewed in the context of the novel as the jumping off point to the multiverse—this idea that we can never let up, not for a second. Otherwise, we drop down to a lower energy level of consciousness, one not at all adapted to survival even in modern times, far less all the far flung worlds the book opens into, some contemporary, many not so.

Angela: So, far and beyond being a rollicking sci-fi adventure and thriller both, it’s a coming of age story for adults.

Dean: Yes. It wrestles with the idea of how we trigger Cambrian-like explosions of creativity within ourselves, and undergo major paradigm shifts in our thinking, versus mere incremental change.

I argue that certain historical circumstances—such as a worldwide economic collapse—generates the sustained long-term pressures needed to force people to take their minds to the next level. It drives the shift away from ego-identification to Witness state as all other human attempts to cope prove inadequate.

We are stripped bare, down to the God-consciousness at our core, which is our true self, and freed of self-limiting concepts. We become like the Phoenix rising in the fire, which is unbearable for mere humans; gods alone can survive the heat.

But just what exactly is the nature of the psychology running through the various man into superman scenarios?  Of what does the tool kit so necessary to the transformation comprise? These are the very Nietzschian questions with which the book is concerned.

The debate remains open throughout the series.  One by one, the flaws and fallacies of this line of thinking are exposed.  But we also see the redeeming qualities of the continuous improvement agenda and how it can help us to ride out any storm.

The series asks: why are we failing to make it to the next quantum level of consciousness both individually and at the level of the entire human race? What are the elements of our own natures that are holding us back, and what can we do to overcome them in order to ride the rising wave of global consciousness to the next level of our unfolding?

1305896816Ya91oxAngela: I keep coming back to why on earth you’d set a sci-fi world in 2012.  I guess your answer strikes me as incomplete.

Dean: What better location for a new Renaissance age than in the ashes of an old world order? The global economic crisis is in full swing; it’s the darkest era in human history. When you factor in that the next economic rebound will likely be driven by AI and not humans, leaving most of us disenfranchised, struggling to survive on the crumbs off the table, the present is grimmer still. As they say, it’s darkest before the dawn.

But for a new Renaissance to truly arise, it will take more than glass-half-full psychology and spin-control regarding the true hidden value to be found in this global crisis.  It will take deep dives into human psychology to unearth our sticking points better than ever before in order to accelerate our learning curve so we can possibly keep up with AI, even with human upgrades. And failing that, it will take such effort and more to get us past the resistance to migrating to this higher-order of consciousness—if indeed it is higher.

The book explores in depth the question of what indeed constitutes evolution. What does AI have to offer us that is truly better than what we have now? Is a better-marriage between silicon and carbon based life forms possible, and what would be the outcome of that marriage?

Angela: How much technology is enough before it ceases to improve the quality of our lives and starts to erode it?

Dean: Many would argue that we’ve already turned a corner with our existing technologies if indeed the outcome is mass joblessness on an ever-wider scale. What then is the changing nature of technology and our relationship to it that will continue to push us forward so more and more people don’t jump off the Ferris wheel as the Amish did, choosing to live in technological holdouts in time?

These are among the more profound questions of our age; grappling with them in fictional format has the advantage of recruiting all levels of our psyche, not just the rational mind, for that extra power boost we need to process and integrate these higher truths—and make the necessary life changes in time.

Angela: Your lead character is a strong advocate of the Occupy Movement. While the page count on this topic is admittedly quite limited relative to such a big book, aren’t you afraid this dates your novel? Especially with the Occupy movement going the way of the doe doe in the minds of many, who hear little of it because they only watch TV news. Major media outlets have done such a good job of tuning them out. No doubt because signs of revolution on the streets make the advertisers uneasy.

Dean: The Occupy movement signals the kickoff of the new Renaissance age.  Whether it recedes into oblivion or actually grows in importance over time, neither destiny will change its pivotal role.  They’re an early sign of the global shift in consciousness from an ego-centered psychology to a trans-humanist psychology, which thinks more in terms of the greater good than one’s personal good, or at least tries to better balance the two.  It represents a shift away from Machiavellian politics in a world of limited resources and everyone scrambling at one another’s expense for the crumbs on the table towards the idea that we thrive together, or we shall surely perish together.  Ironically, Occupy’s approach is closer to the military credo, “No man left behind.”

Whatever you think of the Occupy Movement, they represent a very real concern over the erosion of the middle class in favor of a ninety-nine percent versus one percent society in which the one percent is empowered to live as virtual gods, and everyone else is lucky to eke out a living as their hired help.  And, among the hundred percent, the top one percent are the lucky ones, at least for a time, before the ascent of AI and robots and software-driven IVRs and self-help websites continue to devalue human labor and cast even them out of jobs.  Something that’s happening far faster than anyone expected, even Martin Ford, who wrote Lights in The Tunnel.  You can check out the Technological Unemployment community on Google+ for additional insights on this issue.

Whether you’re a fan or a rabid opponent of the Occupy movement, you’ll find all viewpoints well represented in the book. I’m not looking to push an agenda so much as give multiple perspectives in which to help think through the change in consciousness happening worldwide, of which the Occupy Movement is a rather small reflection.

Angela: One of the hazards of writing near-future sci-fi is that by the time the book comes out, some of what is predicted as likely to happen in the future has already happened or possibly even been surpassed by something better.

Dean:  True, but the value in this genre is more in how the characters deal with present and future shock, and in how it looks at the societal impacts of these emerging technologies.  Viewed from this light, even if you are off here and there with a given technology, hopefully, what you’re really helping to imbue your readers with is the flexibility to deal with whatever comes along. The thing is to make a game of boosting EQ, IQ, and SQ, using narrative techniques to recruit the whole brain and not just the rational mind.  This is the power of fiction over nonfiction, to my thinking.

What’s more, by working out the logistics of these alternate reality scenarios, hopefully we are better prepared to know which ones to avoid, and which ones to steer ourselves towards in fashioning, as Leibniz would say, the best of all possible worlds.


Angela: One of the notions being toyed with in the story is that we may have to destabilize the system (human society as a whole) to make it paradoxically more stable.

Dean:  Yes.  We pass through our current period of growing chaos as a precursor to getting us to a higher integral order that is part of a trans-human condition. On the other side of the abyss is a co-created commons and a far more egalitarian world that is beyond what is possible in the strictly human ego-driven realm.

Angela:  Is this why you take some liberties with traditional narrative structure?

Dean: Precisely. You’ll find a good old fashioned three act narrative connecting the overarching story line as well as the five individual books of volume 1. But to capture the essence of a Renaissance age I had to go beyond allowing the hero and heroine and a small ensemble cast to steal all the reader’s attention. These familiar anchor points, too, are present, but there is a much wider constellation of characters that artfully play off one another, as one might expect in a more egalitarian age.

Sadly, the politics of the traditional narrative belong to the old world order; they suggest that most of us are here just to lend a minor supporting role to the one larger than life hero, the Titan among us.  Well, in a Renaissance age, we are all Titans.  This requires a modified approach to storytelling.  It doesn’t mean you throw out the baby with the bathwater, but you do have to tweak the formulas a bit.

Angela: You spend much of the early part of the book delving into the pitfalls of your characters’ minds, and how their psyches are built in many ways like temples of doom. Was that wise? Wouldn’t it make more sense just to get to the fun stuff straight away, with folks busting out with powers in the opening scenes?

Dean: There is no shortage of characters that are every bit as colorful in their caterpillar phase as they will be in their butterfly phase later in the book and in the series.  I indulged myself here because it does no good to just present folks with powers as some sort of wish fulfillment or escapist fantasy, if you don’t show the mechanics of the transformation itself, the how-you-too-can-do-this underlying process.

Angela: But isn’t that just more wish-fulfillment?

Dean: Amazingly enough, there has been quite a lot of literature on this topic dating back thousands of years coming out of various schools of Eastern mysticism. But the book draws on many other sources, as well, including quantum physics.  Moreover, it’s only by encouraging Zen masters among us—and cajoling people to center in Witness state rather than ego-state that the Singularity can be truly self-sustaining.

???????????????????????????????????????It’s tempting to think Singularity is strictly a technological phenomenon, but it isn’t. Mercifully, as the book illustrates, the emerging technologies will facilitate this shift in consciousness/will co-arise with it as the shift in technology’s focus moves more from manipulating the physical environment (which will still continue to some degree) towards empowerment of the individual. The nexgen technologies will also move towards fostering cocreated systems, i.e open source government, open source business.

Angela: But one of the big ironies we face today is people are regressing, not progressing, under the herculean stress of contending with a collapsed world economy. Major trauma tends to do that. You can’t build a healthy trans-ego on a weak ego.

Dean: This is another big reason for the focus in the early part of the book—to facilitate this remediation of the psyche, if the story magic is up to par.  First ego and confidence have to be strengthened, then the personality must be put in service of the higher self. The ordinary personality doesn’t go away, because it is also key to the unique expression of the Godhead through each of us.  It qualifies, filters, and focuses the impact of the divine ground through the “lens” of individuality. But that personality is now in passive service to the higher self.

This is what makes the Robin Wakefield series so profound; she is subjecting her psyche to the kind of inner work that ultimately we must all do to make it to the other side, to survive the global shift in consciousness. Only in this manner can we morph successively into the next generation lifeform.

The transhuman alone can survive the world of Singularity with its consummately more daunting rigors and challenges, but also its higher highs and lower lows as regards potentialities for human development.

Angela: You certainly don’t sugarcoat what it’s like growing up in the decaying old world order. I can tell you’ve tried to accurately portray the true horror of it and the cost to human life. Renaissance 2.0 arises out of this 2nd Dark Ages.

I appreciate that you take the truth of the old world order we live under, and the cost to society, and use the magic of storytelling to recruit dimensions of mind beyond just reason in order to help the reader blast free of the oppression.

By your own admission, this is the task you undertook in writing the novel. And this is a nice niche for you to create for yourself in the marketplace—as a philosopher and social critic hiding out in fiction, and as a bit of a magician aiding in the alchemical process of transformation.

Dean:  Robin’s quest to discover how to shockproof his mind against a mind-blowing modern-day world is perhaps the principal journey we’re all on today, by comparison to which all other quests pale.

Whatever our personal missions in life, we first have to master the same lessons Robin has to master if we are to accomplish them.


Note:  Angela Stevens is a good friend of the author and, to date, has penned such titles as Lemon Drops and Love (available on Amazon and Goodreads), and Mariquita, as well as a few other titles currently only available on Wattpad in rough draft form.



casual-interviewVictor:  According to your bio you average about three new titles a year.  But you also manage to pull another three or so off the slush pile over that time, dating back however many years, give those a final going over, and publish them as well.  That’s roughly a book every two months.  How do you do it?”

Dean:  Well, it’s left to be seen how long I can do it.  I don’t think you get to call yourself prolific for the first twenty years.  If I can look back after all that time and say, “I averaged six books a year for twenty years, or even four books a year,” then I’d get to call myself prolific with some street cred to back me up.  Until then it’s just “a phase” like Picasso’s blue period.

Admittedly, age is very focusing.  I don’t think I could have done this in my 20s or 30s, or even my 40s.  Life tends to get in the way a lot more when you’re younger.  There’s nothing like facing your own mortality to get you to identify your mission in life and get on with fulfilling it toute suite.  In that sense, I’m like the actor Morgan Freeman, who no one can ever remember being young in a movie but somehow manages to be in every movie since he started showing up.  Some of us are definitely making up for lost time.

Victor:  But there has to be something equivalent to “fuel treatment” for the mind you throw in to keep the engine humming.

Dean:   I’ve been practicing various forms of meditation for years.  I prefer the moving forms of meditation like tai chi, rhythmic trance dancing, and yoga, because, let’s face it, as a writer our lives are fairly sedentary.  But I also practice many varieties of seated meditation.  While I don’t claim to be anything but an apprentice in these fields, the mind control techniques go a long way to keeping the mind free of mental blocks.  Stir in the habit of meta-thinking or thinking-about-thinking, and resting in Witness state so I can observe “stinking thinking” as it crops up, and eliminate it on the fly, and you could say my every moment is a form of waking meditation.

Keep in mind also that I’ve been writing for many many years, and as with everything, the more you do it, the better and faster you get.  Because I predate the internet and the self-publishing renaissance, for the longest time there was little for my books to do but pile up in my closet.  That gives me a tremendous head start over folks who are only now picking up a pen for the first time.

Victor:  I’m guessing there are some other tricks of the trade.  That can’t be all there is to it.

Dean:  Believe it or not, that’s about ninety percent of it.  But I also know my strong and weak points after all these years, the kinds of stories I tackle well, the kinds of characters, and the kinds of things I have to leave alone unless I really do want to bog myself down. There’s nothing like writing historical fiction, i.e., to bog yourself down.  Most of the time spent with those books is in the research.   Nine months of research followed by three months of writing is not uncommon.  Neither is nine years of research followed by one year of writing.  Fortunately, as with sci-fi and fantasy writers in general, I was blessed with a powerhouse imagination that allows me to bypass those kinds of pitfalls.  Of course a lot of research goes into writing those kinds of books as well, but it’s of the type that you pick up through osmosis.  Because you’re always reading and watching shows in the field; you don’t think of it as research.  If anything, I’m often behind in my ability to react to all the newsworthy items I’ve taken in; so I’m always working with a surplus of ideas rather than having to shop around for a new one whenever I’m done.  That also helps to keep the conveyor belt moving along.

That said, you can’t always just stick to your shtick.  Or you fail to grow as a writer.  You have to find ways to challenge yourself with each new book.  But there are ways of doing that without setting yourself back.  For instance, I handle dialogue and banter very well; I’m also great with action set pieces and character dynamics.  Well, as it turns out that fits rather well into any genre I might care to write.  So to challenge myself in the second half of 2014 through 2015 I set my mind to writing high-tech thrillers as opposed to the usual action-adventure stuff I do.  So it’s new for me, it’s challenging, but in a way that doesn’t slow me down.

Victor:  What about your epics?  Those are some mighty big books.

Dean:  Those definitely do slow me down.  The huge page count for one thing and getting all that black ink edited.  And they are written to push me well out of my comfort zone.  As such they’re probably some of my best and worst writing all collected up in one place as you can imagine any growth-tip project being.

deadVictor:  There’s clearly a “Dean heavy” and a “Dean light.”  In the epics I notice you uncork the inner philosopher and give him a chance to breathe.  There’s a fair amount of Eastern spiritual ideas being tossed around in these books as well.

Dean:  The epics are definitely heady sci-fi.  So deep thinkers or people who like to be challenged are likely to feel a lot more at home here.  My shorter stuff, or “Dean light” as you say is written more in the spirit of the Indiana Jones or Transformers franchises, namely just a lot of fast paced, rollicking good fun, with no shortage of humorous asides.  But even the deeper epics are full of high-octane action and humor; they’re space operas right up there with Star Wars.  The Hundred Year Clones are arguably this generation’s Jedi Knights; they don’t just show off their super-powered minds; they teach you how you too can be like them.  They really expose all the stuff George Lucas didn’t tell you about what goes into making a Zen master of this caliber.

As to Renaissance 2.0, those five books are really one massive book broken into five digestible bits.  There’s just one story arc there, so if you start it and don’t go clear through to the end you’re likely to be lost, thinking, WTF?  As with the Game of Thrones franchise, each book is actually just a separate act of the story.  It takes a lot of trust that all the various story threads will ultimately weave together and the setups paid off, more so than I perhaps have a right to ask of people who’ve never read me before.  For that reason I would recommend reading one of my shorter works to develop the trust that you’re in good hands.

Victor:  Speaking of Renaissance 2.0, as it’s one of my favorite books of yours, but I would also concede the most challenging, what is with that monstrously sized cast?  Were you trying to outdo the rolodex of characters that accompanies a George R. R. Martin book?

Dean:  I covered this topic heavily in my last interview so I won’t regurgitate all of that here.  Suffice to say I felt it important to break the rules a bit with conventional storytelling to accurately portray what I feel is the beginning of a new Renaissance age, triggered by a collapsed global economy.  Since the Renaissance represents a decentering of power into a everyone-in-charge, more egalitarian age, I felt it remiss of me to treat everyone but the lead characters as bit players.  As a result, they all sort of get their fifteen minutes of fame.  But the traditional three act structure is still there, and you know who the leads are because they’re the ones who keep reappearing.  But to get back to what got us talking about Renaissance 2.0, if I weren’t as prolific as I am, I could never have tackled a project this huge.  Even then, it took a couple years of my life to write.  So there’s something to be said for being able to take our minds into hyperdrive, sort of like putting the hammer down on a trans-warp spaceship.

Victor:  What other tips would you give writers on the nature of being prolific?

Dean:  “Courage, Confidence, Enthusiasm.”  Do you remember that credo from The Company Men?  It’s really true.  There’s nothing more energy draining than doubting yourself.  It’s one thing to be detached enough from what you’re doing to keep an eye out for opportunities for continuous improvement, it’s another thing to question everything you do in a self-destructive manner.  Show me someone struggling to meet deadline and I’ll show you someone drowning in self-doubts.  We’re always going to have our detractors and haters; sadly that seems to be a part of life today.  But even when the critics strike a nerve, you have to be able to take that well, turn it into constructive feedback and be reborn on the other side of your trials by fire like the Phoenix.  Learning to digest all our negative emotions through writing is a far better way of dealing with them anyway than allowing them to keep us from writing.

This last point is all the more important to remember when you realize that not every book we’re going to write is going to connect with the public.  Hell, most if not all of them may only find a niche following.  Luckily for us we’re into an era of niche marketing precisely because people are always on the lookout for things they can’t find in the mainstream.  There’s nothing more marketable than an original voice, which is as true in this era of niche marketing as it was in the prior era of mass marketing.  You can probably tell from the last few examples of “spin doctoring” that re-framing failure as an indispensable ingredient of success, or even as success when viewed from a different angle, as with the “I have a small but loyal following” idea, is another secret to de-gumming the mind, and keeping the productivity up.

Victor: That example you gave of even taking the hard knock criticism on the chin reminds me of what I’ve read about niche marketing.  That if you’re hitting the zone, by definition people are either going to love you or hate you.  You can expect a lot of 4 and 5 star reviews, but maybe just as many 1 and 2 star reviews.  It’s the ones in the middle, the dratted “I could take it or leave it” 3 star review you’re hoping to avoid.  Because that translates to “didn’t move me much one way or the other” which is a sign of mediocrity and a death knell in a hypercompetitive marketplace.  That or a sign you just haven’t found your target audience.

Dean:  The reflections on the nature of niche marketing strike me as making intuitive sense.  Though I can’t imagine that it’s easy for any writer to palate a one or two star review.  It’s left to be seen whether those comments apply to me as I don’t see myself as “niche.”  A lot of the writers who do the kind of thing I do, albeit with their own distinct voice, are hugely popular.   So am I niche, or am I just undiscovered?  I guess only time will tell.

But to continue with your point about negative reviews and how best to interpret them, I’ve also heard that free book giveaways can bring out the haters, which makes me leery of doing them.  And that some writers are petty enough to give a one star review or click “don’t like” to a good review just because your book might compete with theirs.  It’s a tough marketplace and it’s sad that some people resort to tactics like that out of desperation.  I appreciate the digression as it leads me to my next point about maintaining prolificness.   Namely, stay informed of what’s going on in the marketplace so you can separate your paranoia and self-doubts about your abilities which are undeserved from what are just battle scars that everyone incurs with being on the battlefield.  Sometimes tuning in the world better is a great way to get out of our own heads and help ourselves separate facts from fictions, especially the bad kinds of narratives we spin about ourselves that can curtail and cripple our ability to write.

Victor:  You should consider doing a book on the nature of being prolific.  I feel like we’re just scratching the surface here.  The Zen practices and the Tony Robins-like positive affirmations and all the things you do to keep yourself in the zone would make for some pretty compelling reading.

Dean:  I’ve been thinking about it.  Perhaps we’ll keep speaking to this issue periodically until it does turn into a book I can distill from the interviews.  I’ve also been thinking of taking some of my ideas from my various sci-fi thrillers and writing a nonfiction book called The Human Upgrade Economy.  So, who knows, maybe that’s the next frontier for me, and a new way to challenge myself.  And we’ll see if it’s equally subject to the laws governing prolificness.


Victor Bruneski is the author of The McConnell House, One Big Problem, and Tales of the Great Steamboro, all currently premiering on wattpad in rough draft form.  Even in their nascent condition they betray an awesome talent and a writer with a wicked sense of humor.  For those who enjoy mysteries, thrillers, horror, dark fantasy and steampunk, all with a deep dunking in dark humor, I’d encourage you to look him up.

Ten Inspirational Quotes for Sci-Fi Writers

“The function of science-fiction is not always to predict the future but sometimes to prevent it.”

Frank Herbert

“The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.”

Arthur C. Clarke

“You have to believe.  Otherwise, it will never happen.”

Neil Gaiman

“I define science-fiction as the art of the possible.  Fantasy is the art of the impossible.”

Ray Bradbury


“Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”

Isaac Asimov

“The world sucks, so I made my own.”


“Science-fiction writers aren’t fortune tellers.  Fortune tellers are fakes.”

William Gibson

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Arthur C. Clarke

“Science-fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not.”

Isaac Asimov

“Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off.  Build your wings on the way down.”

Ray Bradbury