The Origins of Brother-in-law

There is a character in my new book ‘Redfish’ called “Brother-in-law.” ‘His real name is Orin Blackmon, but nobody calls him that. To everyone he is simply ‘Brother-in-law.’ The backstory in the book is that he picked up the name while serving in the Navy SEALS.

The real backstory is that I came across a Vietnam vet nicknamed ‘Brother-in-law’ back in 1978, when living in North Carolina while on a mission for my Church. Brother-in-law was living in the town of Henderson, North Carolina and going to college near there on the GI Bill. He was kind of a hillbilly and saw some serious action in Vietnam. He was the point man for his platoon, which as you can imagine, was a very dangerous position to have. In Vietnam, most American casualties came from booby traps and mines, and the point man was usually the one to set them off.

He told me that when he was in Vietnam, his senses hightened to an unbelievable level. For example, one day as he was guiding his platoon through the jungle, his eyes picked up a gossamer thin trip wire out of all the foliage, vines, and vegetation that surrounded him. His fellow soldiers were incredulous. How on earth did he see that, they asked him! Afterwards, they wouldn’t go out on partrol unless Brother-in-law was their point man.

The character in my book is not as gregarious as the real Brother-in-law. He was a happy guy when I knew him: long hair down to his shoulders, a willingness to talk, and a care-free attitude towards life despite all that he’d seen. A remarkable person all-in-all.

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Thanks for A Thousand Suns

 Today A Thousand Suns was officially published, and I wish to thank all those who read the manuscript at various stages and suggested helpful edits. In no particular order: 

·         Grey Titmus, my long time Boise friend and resident expert on all things Idaho.   

·         My agent Donna Eastman whom you can thank if you liked the fight between Rulon and Boris in the Rockin’ Rooster. Originally I had planned to cut off the scene right before the fight started and leave the actual fight to everyone’s imagination. But Donna encouraged me to actually write it out, and I did. Good call, Donna! 

·         Margaret Habelt-Pattison, my Zurich editor, who not only has an excellent eye for detail, but gives helpful suggestions on plot and characterization. She was my sounding board while writing the book. Everyone needs a Margaret when they’re writing a book – an editor who is detailed oriented and unfailingly honest in their feedback but never tries to take the book away from the author. 

·         John Franklin, an old high school friend with whom I’ve reconnected after many years. By the way, John has a couple of extremely talented daughters who can sing up a storm. They’re called The Franklin Girls and have just recorded their second pop album. 

·         John Solosabal who owns a ranch near Glen’s Ferry and Jerry Butler who ranches several thousand acres in the Owyhees are both longtime Idaho ranchers who were immeasureably patient in answering all my cowboy related questions. Having been born in Brooklyn, New York, all I knew about ranching before I talked to them, was, well, actually, I didn’t know anything. And certainly nothing about the vagaries of Idaho ranching. 

·         Melissa Caldwell, my editor at Cedar Fort, who did her job professionally and made the editing process so very, very easy. Also, she did a great job of laying out and setting up the book for publication. 

·         Martin Bingisser, American hammer thrower, now living in Zurich, who I once plied with Mexican food at Tres Kilos, Rulon’s favorite Zurich restaurant, and who suppled all the hammer throwing details in my books. Over that meal and in subsequent communications, Martin taught me lots about hammer throwing including the fact that world class hammer throwers don’t ‘pull’ the 16-pound ball through their spins as one might expect but rather ‘push’ it. That little fact pops up in ATS out of Rulon’s dad’s mouth. 

·         Google and my laptop’s backspace key, without which I would still be working on the first chapter of Einstein’s Trunk.   

·         And finally, last but not least, Kimmy, my loving wife, who reads my chapters, always gives honest feedback, listens to me working out scenes while on our walks to the gym, hands out my bookmarks to all her business acquaintences, and keeps my feet planted firmly on the ground.  
 
My most heartfelt thanks to all of them, 
 
Jim 
Boston, Mass.    

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Where did the title ‘A Thousand Suns’ come from?

     The other night a friend asked me how I came up with the title A Thousand Suns.  Here’s the background: The title is not taken from the Linkin Park album ‘A Thousand Suns.’ And it’s not from the Iron Maiden song ‘Brighter than a Thousand Suns.’ Both of those musical creations got the phrase from a statement by Robert Oppenheimer, the leader of the Manhattan project, who, after seeing the first atom bomb go off at Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 15, 1945, said that it reminded him of these words from the Bhagavad-Gita: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky that would be like the splendor of the Mighty one…”

And then a minute later when he saw the mushroom cloud rise high above the earth, he said it made him think of the rest of that poem: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of Worlds.”

But this is how it came to be in my book. Just as they were ready to fall asleep, Yohaba asked Rulon how much did his enemies hate him. This is the rest of the scene: 

Half asleep, without opening his eyes, Rulon mumbled, “Oh…I’d say with the heat of a thousand suns. Yeah, that sounds about right…”

After a few minutes, Yohaba propped herself up on one elbow and looked at Rulon sleeping like a baby. Moonlight breaking through the clouds streamed in the window and made moving shadows on Rulon’s face. Her love for him stirred and her heart gave a leap. She looked around the room and up at the ceiling trying to focus on something, anything, to keep from crying. She managed all right except for a single tear that ran down her face into the corner of her mouth.

The salty tear mixed with the lingering feel of Rulon’s lips acted like an Oracle’s potion. It set her mind to racing and conjuring up memories of their life together, the love and violence they had shared so far in equal doses, as if a cosmic scale needed to stay in balance. Yohaba gasped, suddenly overwhelmed with a portent of the future – this will not end well. She knew it without a doubt: There will be blood.

The moment of realization quickly passed and was replaced with a terrible calm. Looking down at Rulon’s kindly face, she whispered into his ear, “What a coincidence. A thousand suns. That’s exactly how much I love you, Cowboy.” She rolled over onto her side away from Rulon and now the moon shadows spilled across her face. “But mine burn hotter,” she said into the night. 

 ———-

Jim

Zurich

 

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Getting published

     Occasionally I’m contacted by aspiring authors asking what it takes to get published and how the publishing business works. The short answer is that writing a book is an enjoyable exercise if you love to write, but that getting published and successfully selling a book can be pretty painful even under the best of circumstances. Though, I suppose, selling 50,000 copies would dull the ache!
     The rules of the publishing game have changed thanks to Amazon. I recently read that no one really knows how to sell books anymore. For example, when Borders, the second largest book store chain in the U.S., went out of business, normally Barnes and Noble, the largest chain, would have benefitted. But it didn’t. Amazon did. Nowadays, the strategy seems to be for publishers to mainly focus on the potential ‘mega block busters’ hoping for a  million-book bestseller. Most of the rest of the books are left to scramble for themselves and authors must do a lot of their own promoting. Thankfully there is Facebook and internet websites!

Exactly one month from today A Thousand Suns hits the bookshelves and approximately 100 internet web sites around the world – including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
    
Best regards,

Jim
Zurich

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Can a thriller be humorous?

     Can a thriller be humorous? This question came up because of the trouble I have whenever I see a short description of A Thousand Suns. If the description doesn’t mention the humor, I’m bothered that they missed something unique about the book. If it does mention the humor, then I’m worried people wil think the book is funny, light, and not a real thriller. So, with this post, I’d like to set the record straight about humor in my thrillers.
     My books are not humorous, but they have characters who have a well-developed sense of humor and who tend to see the humorous side of most situations. For my characters, particularly Rulon, humor is a safety value and a way of dealing with unpleasant outcomes. In fact, this humor is part of what makes ‘A Thousand Suns’ a realistic book.
     In researching A Thousand Suns, I read the book On Combat by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a former army Ranger and West Point psychology professor. In it he talks about how men and women in life and death situations use humor to, in a sense, escape from reality.
     A Thousand Suns is a thriller. But it’s not a downer. It has a few laughs, thanks to my characters innate natures, but it also has scenes of courage, loyalty, love, hate, violence, disillusionment, and revenge. I don’t want readers to be crying at the end of it or laughing. I’d like them to put the book down when they are done and simply sigh, “Good story.”      On a different note: I have a new website design at: www.jimhaberkorn.com   I’ve also started using Facebook to publicize my upcoming book A Thousand Sunshttp://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Thousand-Suns/433298710075276?cropsuccess&success=1     Please free to visit those sites, and, if you feel so moved, let me know what you think. This blog post is also found on my website. I’ll be making a decision within a few days about whether to keep this blog or to simply transfer the activity to my website.

Best regards,

Jim – from Zurich

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A short description of ‘A Thousand Suns’

A Thousand Suns is a rip roaring thriller that takes place in Idaho and Zurich. And like Einstein’s Trunk, it is a little offbeat. The opening scene with Rulon, our hero, is a fight between him and a Russian spy in a Twin Falls cowboy Karaoke bar.  But it is Yohaba who is the main character in this one. In the course of being dragged deeper and deeper into Rulon’s world of spies, revenge, and violence, she learns new survival skills that will come in very handy in book three of the series – which I’m currently working on.

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A Cover for a "A Thousand Suns"

    Below is the cover for A Thousand Suns – the latest Rulon Hurt thriller, due out in March 2013. I think ATS was a tough book to design a cover for, just as it is a tough book to describe in a few sentences. How do you capture Idaho, Zurich, Nazis, cowboys, Russians, germ warfare, asteroids, and the book’s ironic humor in a cover?
    Still, thanks to James Bond, any picture of a European city on the cover of a book suggests INTERNATIONAL THRILLER with some serious action, heroic heroes, villainous villains, beautiful girls – well, actually only Yohaba in this one, but she is enough! – and an impending calamity. Forty percent of the book takes place in Idaho and sixty percent in the environs around Zurich. I suppose if you live in Zurich then to you Idaho is an international setting! As it is, though, I really like the cover. The picture of Zurich captures the international thriller side, and the tagline brings in Rulon Hurt, our easy-to-underestimate cowboy, and also gives a hint of the book’s offbeatness: 
Don’t let your cowboys grow up to be spies
          It was important to me that readers looking at the cover not be fooled about what was inside. Yes, it is a thriller and yes there is some humor. But the well-developed sense of irony and humor is woven into the dialogue of the characters. In the end, A Thousand Suns is a serious thriller.

Best regards,

Jim
Umhlanga, South Africa

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What Tiger Hunting and Ceramic Guns Have in Common

     With the sequel to Einstein’s Trunk – titled A Thousand Suns  scheduled to be published by Cedar Fort next March, I’m now working slowly away on the third and final book of the trilogy titled: A World of Hurt.  As I’m writing, I’m becoming ever more convinced that I’m doing myself and my readers a service when I weave interesting facts and details into the plots of my books. In ET, there were true but little known details about Einstein’s life, nuclear weapons, asteroids, and CERN. For the sequel, I’ve thrown in some interesting details on tiger hunting in Siberia, Aryan Nation rhetoric, biological weapons, and illegal ceramic gun technology that can evade airport security scanners. Note: I hope I’ve peaked your interest in the 2nd book just a little.   

     ATS, my second book, was fun to write. I really had a good time developing Yohaba’s character. While Rulon plays a major role in the first 40% of the book, Yohaba takes over for the rest of it. Without giving away the plot, let me just say that she has a deep well of character and determination that I never fully understood – though Rulon obviously appreciated those traits and her charms right from the start. 

     In the third book, Rulon and Yohaba get dragged into the swirling complex world of Russian oligarchs, macro-economics, and multi-national corporations vying for profits. Oh, and the odd asteroid coming to destroy the earth. Weird, isn’t it? Yohaba says that all these weird things happen because Rulon is a whacko magnet, but we know it’s really because of Einstein’s trunk and the events it set in motion.     
     Now that the Repubs and Dems have both had their conventions, I feel a surge of political insight  coming on. Perhaps my next blog.
 
All the best,
 
Jim
Zurich
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