Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Blog Tour: Checkmate by Jonathan Patrick

Today I am part of Closed The Cover's blog tour for Checkmate by Jonathan Patrick. Keep reading to find out about the book, read an excerpt, and find out more about the author and his writing process.


It’s a difficult time in America. Several years of attempted economic and social fixes have failed. Its major cities have reached a tipping point whereby any disaster, manmade or natural, would have devastating consequences. America is no longer seen by its friends or enemies as the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Washington bureaucrats are involved in every decision and political correctness rules the day. The country that used to, only a few short years ago, project its military might outward to the world, has had its own military forces striped to the bone. No service has felt this impact more than the United States Navy. With only a fraction of combat vessels left to patrol the world’s oceans and keep peace in the world, decisions are no longer based on safety and national security but by financial necessity.

With most of its once mighty navy staying in port, and the remainder stretched thinly across the globe, America’s enemies now have different words to describe America: weak…and very vulnerable.

Q&A with Jonathan Patrick
(Thanks to Closed the Cover)

All authors have different methodology when it comes to writing their novels. Some authors write from beginning to end while others write the ending first. There are authors who have imagined the entire story before writing while authors imagine it as they go. Can you tell us about your writing methodology and why you feel that it works best for you?

As an experienced author…Oh wait, can’t really write that yet! I used a technique that probably has some very fancy name, but I’ll call it the “cadaver” technique. It started with the framework (bones) of the story in my head and then set out connecting most of the large bones together. Once a particular section started to take shape, I added soft tissue, etc. and refined the look of that particular part. I liked thinking about my characters during the day and writing about them after most of life’s distractions were over (gone to bed) for the night. That was usually great unless it was a real heart pounding part of the story and then I would finish up for the night and go to bed with my pulse still racing! If writing a scary story is rooted in your imagination and so is dreaming…where do you go for a good night’s sleep?

Do you find yourself the most influenced by other authors and literature or by other forms of entertainment such as music, movies or television? Who do you think has influenced you the most?

For this project, I was most influenced by my real life experiences and knowledge of what’s currently going on in the world around us. Many of the events in the story are not only highly plausible, but will probably be put in motion at one point in the near future. Of course this is only my opinion. One of my favorite authors, who I will miss dearly, Tom Clancy, had an impact on my aspirations to be a writer. On several occasions, during my military career, I found myself doing the job I was currently reading about or had previously read about in one of his many great books.

Was there any part of the story that you edited OUT during your revision process? If so, what did you remove and why?

I did edit out a chapter about the wife of one of my key characters. I did so because the path of that particular character was so very dark and depressing. I felt that, although it helped explain some of the psychological issues facing my character, it just wasn’t the direction I wanted to take the story.

What was your biggest struggle in writing about America as a failing nation? Is this truly how you view our future based on the current happenings in Washington D.C. or was this purely imaginative?

After proudly serving the nation for many years, I began noticing the nation begin a slow slide into civil complacency and political correctness in the early 2000’s. During all my years in the military we were constantly told that the core of our military strength was our people. Our job was to learn from history and never make the same mistake twice, if at all possible. Unfortunately, history was not on our side in that pursuit. It was always America’s armed forces doctrine to take the largest metaphorical gun to a knife fight. Conflicts were over quickly or because the world, due in part to President Reagan, knew that if you messed with the U.S. there would be nowhere on the planet you could hide that we wouldn’t find you and extract our measure of justice. Starting with the Bosnian conflict we didn’t seem to be willing to stand up for others’ freedoms. We waited and waited for others to say it was okay to “do the right thing”. Then we had Desert Shield and Desert storm, planned and executed with the greatest level of expertise our military was capable of. All that money and blood treasure spent to have someone else determine when it was over. I felt we were no longer using common sense and our nation’s brain trust to stay ahead of the bad actors in the world. As a nation, it seemed we no longer wanted to lean forward into the world’s problems for fear that someone might perceive us as overly aggressive.

How much planning and research went into your novel? Checkmate involves a lot of politics, history, military strategy and terrorism. How long did it take you to research your topics and prepare your outline before writing? From conception to publication how long would you estimate you spent writing your novel?

It’s really rather interesting that you mention politics. I actually worked very hard to keep the story apolitical. In my opinion, we, as a nation and to some extent as a people, have obviously made some whopper size mistakes in the past several years. The message I try to subtly weave into the story is that, just like going to a fancy restaurant…at the end of the meal you or someone nearby is going to be asked to pay the check. Failure to pay has its own set of consequences. For example, the “story” of Pearl Harbor has been remembered but “lessons” of Pearl Harbor have been forgotten.

Most of the history, strategy and terrorism nuts and bolts in the book are out of my “hip pocket” of knowledge accumulated over my years in the military and my apparent ability to see and connect dots that others don’t see. Many of the locations I wrote about in the story I have personally travelled to or had prior knowledge of. The finer details, or as I refer to them, “polish,” were done via the web and using some refined “call a friend” techniques.

I started the book at the end of last March and was done with the “story” in three months. It was an amazing experience. The words flowed out of my brain, down my arm and onto the screen. During the entire process I never experienced “writers block” per se. Believe it or not, the hardest part was keeping track of time zones. I used a cork board to remind me which characters were with whom and where they were and what the local times were. Oh, and names were tough! Trying to find names that a reader wouldn’t mind hearing over and over was both humorous and challenging. The Persian names were sporty. Most Iranian (Persian) names were either too difficult to pronounce or were two name combinations. Funny now, but when I was writing? Wow! Once I was “done” with the story I had several people (actually a couple of teachers and one awesome English student) read it for enjoyment with red editing pens at the ready. That process took another month or so. I guess “in the can,” ready to read, the book took just about five months in all.

About the Author:

Jonathan Patrick is a retired U.S. Air Force veteran who lives with his wife and two children in the Carolinas. His military career took him to many countries around the world and exposed him to the inner workings of several key intelligence agencies and programs. He has recently begun work on his second novel.

Excerpt from Checkmate:

Atash introduced himself and opened the meeting. “Gentlemen, thank you for coming today. My partners and I want to assure you this room is soundproof and we have taken the precaution of sweeping it for both audio and video surveillance equipment. It is important that you know we are risking our lives to bring you this idea and hope you will treat the information in such a way that we will all live long enough to enjoy our wealth.”

He continued, “Our idea has everything to do with the world's oil and gas reserves and the expanding problem of who has those resources compared to those who need them. My country, Iran, has the potential to develop itself as a nation, feed and clothe its entire population, and make something of itself. Instead it has chosen a path that will almost certainly get a third of my people killed.”

Atash checked the faces of the men who sat before him. Their faces registered no emotion of any kind. Was that a good sign? He cautiously continued, “As we all saw several months ago, the North Korean leadership continues its policies as it has for the past twenty years, ravaging its own people for the sake of their nuclear ambitions. They are ahead of my country in the weapons race but apparently lack the technology needed to pursue their ambitions of not just having nuclear power; they want to have the potential to engage in war with the west. Even a country as mighty as yours hesitates to take on American might.” Upon hearing some throats being cleared he quickly added, “And rightly so.”

Atash thought he detected a glance of distain from the man the others called General Zhao, PRC Army. At least now he knew they were listening. “Our plan ignites the passion of a young leader from North Korea, who as a boy probably liked to play with matches and pull the wings off of insects, with the religious zealots of my government who believe a war with the west is not only inevitable, but necessary. The best part of our plan from your perspective would be that you and your country will become very, very wealthy.”

He watched their faces. These men would make excellent card players as each wore a face of stone. Atash went on, “In order to proceed we will need some assurances from you that you will be operating in good faith. As you were advised in Pyongyang, our idea will cost you ten million dollars. I'll assume you have the brief cases?”

General Zhao rose and walked to the door of the adjoining room, knocked two times, paused, and knocked once again. He returned to his seat on the opposite side of the conference table from the Iranians. Responding quickly to Zhao’s knock, three large men from the security detail entered bringing in five identical black briefcases. They placed the briefcases on the table in front of the officials then each took his respective position behind their Chinese charge.

Atash watched the generals and the man without the uniform smirk as the cases were placed before them. Atash had studied his counterpart's culture years ago and was about to tell his friends what was to happen next when all four of his partners reached across the table and pulled the briefcases toward them. Before Atash could warn them, Mehrak spoke. “Due to the nature of today's business, you gentlemen understand that we have to count the money.”

Only Atash left his briefcase across the table. Each man to Atash's left subsequently opened their brief cases and counted the numerous bundles of money. The generals just watched in silence.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks Brinda!!! Always love having you as a tour host. :-D


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