Awards for Crossing Savage

BFA-LogoThe last week has been filled with wonderful news. Crossing Savage is a finalist in the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) 2015 Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Popular Fiction, plus it is a finalist in the INDIEFAB 2014 Best Book (thriller/suspense), sponsored by Foreward Review Magazine! To say I am excited is an understatement, and I am deeply appreciative to all those at Light Messages Publishing who helped bring Crossing Savage to life, and thanks to all of you, the readers and fans of Peter Savage.indiefab-logo-name

If you are a reader of Nook books, mark your calendar. On March 22 Crossing Savage is the Daily Find and all day it will be priced at $1.99, so don’t miss out!

Also, two copies of Relentless Savage will be given away by Goodreads on March 31. Follow this link to enter on Goodreads, and good luck!

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Book of the Year Finalist!

Crossing Savage cover angle viewIt’s been just about a year since Crossing Savage was released, and within a few weeks the second book in the Peter Savage series, Relentless Savage, will also be publicly available. So it seems like a good time—as good as any—to pause from the high-pace pre-launch activities, and reflect on the accomplishments of past 12 months.

In October, Crossing Savage rose to the ranks of best-seller for a thriller novel on Amazon. That was a very exciting month to say the least as the title steadily climbed, first breaking into the top 50, then the top 20, and finally into the top 10 (peaking at number 7)… WOW! And it is all the more significant to me because it means readers were buying the book. Personally, I can assure you that the feeling of satisfaction I get when readers enjoy Crossing Savage is genuine and extremely rewarding.

Just prior to Christmas I did a couple of benefit book signings to support the Central Oregon Youth Orchestra, and that venue offered a lot of opportunity to talk to readers. It was great! Plus we raised a significant amount of money to support this group of young musicians.

With the elation and smiles fading as the year drew to an end, it was time to focus on completing Relentless Savage. Fortunately I have a wonderfully talented team at Light Messages Publishing to help—and help they did. The front and back cover design is second to none, and the same for the interior layout and editing. With so much energy being put into the forthcoming release, I had more or less forgotten about Crossing Savage until a phone call yesterday from my publisher…

I’ll digress for a moment to share a widely known secret—authors tend to be insecure. Thus, my anxiety level shoots up several ticks when my publisher calls and leaves a message that goes something like “I have some news but feel it’s best to tell you directly.”

It turns out the news was good, Crossing Savage is a finalist in the 2014 INDIEFAB Best Book of the Year contest sponsored by Foreword Reviews. Oh my, I don’t believe my heels touched the ground for 10 minutes, maybe longer. I’m still a churning caldron of emotions, but to say I feel honored is a gross understatement.

Whether or not Crossing Savage wins Best Book of the Year award, I am thrilled that it is a finalist. And I have so many to thank because crafting a novel is not a single-person exercise. The folks at Light Messages have been fantastic, and there have been so many who have helped with marketing and publicizing the book. But mostly I continue to thank the readers who have given me support and encouragement—this is for you.

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Todd Steed–co-worker and friend

machinist 5Peter Savage’s son, Ethan, is kidnapped in Western Sudan. He has no idea who has taken Ethan, and not a clue as to where his son is being held. What would a father do?

If he’s lucky, he has friends like Gary Porter and Todd Steed. Previously I introduced Gary Porter in this blog. This week, I’d like you to meet Todd Steed.

A skilled machinist, Todd Steed is also a practical and clever, self-machinist 1taught engineer. He works for Peter at EJ Enterprises, managing the fabrication shop and helping to design new magnetic-impulse weapons; he’s also responsible for building and debugging the prototypes. His short brown hair is complemented by a brown, neatly trimmed beard. A modest and principled man of few words, when Todd speaks it’s because he has something to say, and if you’re smart, you’ll listen. He has a bone-crushing grip, and lives by the motto that a man says what he’ll do, and does what he says.

Hunter 2Todd Steed, like Gary Porter, is a good shot and handy with a rifle. He has hunted the Northwest as often as his work schedule allows. In Todd’s mind, good and evil, right and wrong, are easily distinguished. So when Peter calls on his friend for help, he already knows that Todd will be there, shoulder to shoulder, to bring Ethan home.

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Introducing Gary Porter, a loyal friend

Owen 3This week I’d like to introduce you to Gary Porter, a long-time and trusted friend of Peter Savage. We meet Gary early in Relentless Savage, when Peter phones and makes an incredible request for help, one that will send the two friends to a very remote and dangerous part of the world, with little logical expectation of survival. Without even the slightest hesitation, Gary agrees to help his friend. That’s a key attribute of Gary’s character—loyalty beyond question; his word is his bond.

Soon we see the carefree, fun-loving side of Gary. He’s a joker—quick with wisecracks—and not shy when it comes to attention. In fact, he data computing 1likes to be the center of attention. He’s also more than willing to speak up and call out the nonsense often encountered in everyday life. Sometimes this gets him into trouble (like when he back-talks an Air France gate agent), but usually his wit and charm is sufficient to talk his way out of it.

We should all have friends like Gary Porter.

hacking 4When I think of Gary, the images that come to mind are of a younger John Schneider, or perhaps Owen Wilson. Indeed, Gary has a lean, but muscular, build. He stands a little over six feet, and sports a wavy, unkempt mop of dirty-blond hair.

In addition to being Peter’s best friend, Gary is a successful programmer and, with his wife Nancy, runs a cyber security business. His expertise in hacking plays an important role in the unfolding plot. You can definitely expect more of Gary Porter in future Peter Savage books.

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Introducing Ethan Savage–Relentless Savage

Ethan UOLast week I introduced Colonel Ming, main antagonist and chief bad guy in Relentless Savage. Arguably, his polar opposite is Ethan Savage. Here is how Ethan is introduced early in the novel:

“Of Scandinavian and Irish decent, Ethan had blue eyes, light brown hair, a moderately pale complexion and average build—very common by any measure. His personality, however, made him stand out from a crowd, or draw the attention of one. He was outgoing, engaging, both witty and humorous—at times overt and at other times very subtle. He was intelligent and focused; two attributes his professors UOespecially valued. But he had yet to declare a major and he was halfway through his second year at the University of Oregon, his father’s Alma Mater.”

Ethan is the son of Peter Savage, and his sister is Joanna (you may recall meeting Joanna—she likes to go by Jo—in Crossing Savage). In the prime of his youth, Ethan is still trying to understand the world around him, and naïve about its dangers. He is generous and compassionate; he loves UO 2the outdoors and is quite comfortable in the wilderness of Central Oregon where he often backpacks and hunts. Like a lot of young adults, Ethan is ready to take on any challenge and won’t back down from an adventure.

This youthful, enthusiastic spirit has dire consequences for Ethan in Relentless Savage.

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Introducing Colonel Ming—Relentless Savage

Col Ming 1On March 25 the next book in the Peter Savage series will be released: titled “Relentless Savage”. Over the forthcoming weeks I’ll introduce several new characters that play a prominent role in the story. Some will be antagonists, and others will be protagonists. I’ll begin with Colonel Ming.

He’d be an interesting guest to a cocktail party, but not someone you’d want to be closely associated with due to his low regard for human life. Nevertheless, he can be charming, plus he’s sophisticated and has traveled extensively. He is an officer in the Chinese army, highly intelligent, authoritarian, and with an ego that goes off the scale. Ming is aloof to his subordinates, truly believes he is superior to all others, and does not tolerant failure on the part of others (he views this as equivalent to ineptitude). Genghis Khan and Colonel Ming might be best buddies if they lived concurrently.

This is how Commander James Nicolaou introduces Colonel Ming: “Colonel Ming is a very RS cover web reselusive character. He is reported to be a brilliant scientist. Trained in medicine and genetic engineering, specializing in viral diseases. He completed two post docs in the U.S.—Harvard and UC San Francisco Medical Center—by age 30. Then he left the U.S. and reappeared a few years later in Beijing. Over the last two decades he worked mostly for the North Koreans and the PLA—People’s Liberation Army—researching and developing bioweapons.

“About eighteen months ago the CIA started to receive unconfirmed reports that Ming was in Sudan, but without agents on the ground we were never able to develop actionable intel. A lot of the information we have on Ming was obtained through the MOSSAD. They refer to him as a modern-day Doctor Mengele, Angel of Death.”

Up next—Ethan Savage, Peter’s son.

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Oil prices are down 40%–good, or bad?

oil-well-art-d0e8499fbec07478You may not realize it, but we are living through an energy revolution. Thanks to new production methods, the past five years have yielded a phenomenal increase in domestic oil and gas production. U.S. crude oil production, which had averaged around 8 million barrels per day (bpd) in the 1980s, declined a low of less than 4 million bpd by October 2005. Since then, production has soared to 10 million bpd as of November 2014. About half of this total comes from only three mega fields in the lower 48 states: the Permian Basin (centered domestic prodaround Midland, Texas), Eagle Ford (West Texas and New Mexico), and the Bakken formation (North Dakota and Montana). The result is a dramatic reduction in foreign imported oil from 60% of U.S. consumption in 2005 to about 27% by late 2014.

The cost to release this crude oil from underground reservoirs ranges from about $50/barrel to $80/barrel, with an average of about $65 prod bpdto $70/barrel. With oil currently trading in the neighborhood of $60/barrel, domestic producers are feeling pressure. If prices do not rise, there will be a reduction in U.S. production—it’s a simple matter of dollars and sense.

However, oil is a global commodity, meaning that crude oil trades at about the same price (excluding shipping costs) everywhere in the world. Low oil prices reduce margins for both U.S. producers and foreign producers. Many of these foreign producers (e.g., Libya, Iran, Venezuela, and Algeria) have seen dramatic declines in crude oil production between 2008 and 2013. This, combined with the fact that many countries that are overtly and covertly hostile toward the U.S. maintain their current leadership with the help of petrodollars, makes for a volatile combination.

Low oil prices contribute to reduced gasoline and diesel prices at the pump, certainly beneficial to consumers. Plus, the average cost in the U.S. of all types of energy is significantly lower than in European countries and Japan, which equates to an economic advantage to American consumers and companies.

The dark side of low oil prices is that not everyone likes them, and oil prices are very sensitive to international unrest and uncertainty. Russia, a major oil and gas exporter (and member of OPEC), would stand to gain handsomely from higher oil prices. With Putin’s forces North Sea Brent crude oiloccupying portions of Ukraine, and threatening control over larger regions extending west to Transnistria and Moldova, it is easy to imagine a regional conflict that disrupts energy flow to Europe, driving up prices. The Russian economy would benefit as would Putin’s political standing.

In the Middle East, ISIS (or ISIL if you’re running around the inner circles of the Obama administration) generates substantial income from the sale of oil. The same can be said for Venezuela, Libya, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Like Russia, the domestic economy—and domestic tranquility—of these countries improves with increasing oil prices.

Are low oil prices good or bad? No doubt consumers benefit from reduced energy prices. However, in a global environment already fraught with tensions stemming from bitter political and religious differences, low oil prices only provide another reason for regional conflict.

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This is not what I expected from global warming!

iceberg and mountainAs we emerge from a bitter cold-snap that lasted about a week here in Bend, Oregon (my home town), the thought crossed my mind that we need more global warming–literally. You see, I don’t care much for cold weather anymore. And by cold, I’m talking single-digit cold. I know, I know… the hardy folks who live farther north may consider me a sissy, and that’s okay. I’m at that point in my life where my desire to be comfortable takes precedence over third-party opinions of my manliness.

I’m not ready to say that our start of winter is harsher than normal—after all, when we talk about the weather what is “normal”? I certainly recall some winters in Bend, most especially back in the late 1980s, when we had prolonged stretches of very cold weather with night-time low temperatures in the single digits and even below zero. That’s when I learned not to set the parking brake on my Toyota pickup for fear that the brake may freeze and lock the wheels, and I’d not be able to release it. I also learned how to keep the pipes in my house from freezing (tip: close the foundation vents).

All this reminiscing and thinking got me wondering, has the pattern of summer and winter temperatures in Bend really changed? To listen to the news media, one is left with the indisputable conclusion that Earth is undergoing a rapid increase in global temperature. Surely, that must be reflected in my home town—so why is it so damn cold?mean T Bend

Since I’m a man of science, I did what all scientists do when they can’t answer a question—I got data. Not just a little data, but a lot. I found historical records of the average January temperature and average July temperature going back to 1902, input that data into a spreadsheet, and then plotted the data. Once done, I wanted to look for trends—specifically, is it getting warmer or colder since 1902. The plot is shown here so you can see what I found. Consistent with my memory, the average temperatures vary considerably from year to year. Now that I had all this data, I wanted to know, is global warming really causing it to be warmer in Bend?

To answer this question, I first fit a straight line to the data. You’ll see the nearly horizontal black line going through the data in the graph—not a very good fit. By this I mean that most of the data is well above or well below the straight black line. Not surprising. So I decided to get more sophisticated and I used a polynomial expression. Big words, and more complicated math compared to a linear expression, but super easy to do in an Excel spreadsheet. Just a few mouse clicks, and this nice wavy (green) line was overlaid on the data. Bingo! I was making progress; this is a much better fit to the data as you can see.

Now, here’s the deal. When the data fits a wavy line, like this 110 years of temperature data, and you look to extrapolate into the near future, whether the temperature is projected to increase or decrease depends on where you are on that wavy line. If we are on an upslope, then temperature is expected to increase in forthcoming years. But if we are on a down slope, just the opposite is expected. And based on my admittedly simplistic analysis, it appears Bend has just reached the peak of the wavy line for both winter and mean T Brocktonsummer seasons. This means that the past 30 to 40 years of gradual temperature increase in Bend is likely to revert and follow a trend of decreasing temperature for several decades.

Rats! Colder winters and cooler summers—not what I wanted from global warming. Time to seriously consider moving south to a location where palm trees are native, the sand and water are warm, and only the beer mean T Brocktonis ice cold.

Oh, just in case you are interested in temperature patterns for other parts of the U.S., here are the results of similar data analyses I conducted for Brockton, MA (a suburb of Boston) and for Dallas, TX.

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Energy supply and an expansionist Russian government

gas flare and pump jackTwo weeks ago the EU and Ukrainian government signed an agreement with Russia to resume natural gas supplies which had been frozen since June. Part of the terms of that deal (totaling about $2.2 billion) includes a prepayment of $760 million for future supply of gas. Roughly 33% of the natural gas used by EU countries is purchased from Russia, and about half of that gas flows through the Ukraine.

Tensions between the West and Russia have not calmed since Vladimir Putin signed a declaration to annex Crimea in March, followed by the downing of the Malaysian Airline flight in July. Now, pipelinewith the onset of winter, Europe must expect Russia to leverage energy supplies to their advantage. Political tension drives up oil and gas prices, which directly serves those countries that export energy. President Putin may also leverage energy supplies to reduce sanctions, or receive closed-door concessions that the EU and NATO will not interfere in Russian expansionist policy.

Putin and pipelineThe annexation of Crimea is only the most recent example of Putin establishing footholds to achieve a Greater Russia, a nation with international borders more closely resembling the former USSR. South Ossetia and Abkhazia were taken from Georgia by invading Russian forces in 2008, and Transnistria (a narrow sliver of land between Moldova and Ukraine) was formally separated from Moldova with the help of the Soviet 14th Guards Army. U.S. General Breedlove has warned that Russia may be seeking to establish a corridor across Ukraine linking Transnistria to Russia.

Combine these recent land grabs with Vladimir Putin’s assertion, which he has repeated often, that Moscow has the right and the obligation to protect Russians anywhere in the world, and suddenly Eastern Europe appears to be a very dangerous place.

Commander James Nicolaou has shared two contributions to this LNG shipblog with the goal of explaining Russia’s aggression and the role that energy plays in facilitating the expansionist and nationalist mindset in the Kremlin. As long as the EU countries are dependent on imported energy from Russia, there is little reason to believe Putin will back down.

So what should Europe do? In the early 1980s, then-President Ronald Reagan warned Europe against relying on energy imports from Russia. Those warnings fell on deaf ears. It takes years, possibly decades, to build an extensive international energy infrastructure, so change in Europe will be slow. LNG (liquefied natural gas) is being imported from the Middle East, Norway, and the U.S., and this helps, but is insufficient.

Renewable electrical power from wind, tidal, and solar generation are also positive additions, but again to expand the infrastructure is a huge challenge. Some European countries are considering increasing domestic natural gas production using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing—techniques that have yielded an abundant supply of cheap gas in the U.S., but those governments will need to overcome popular opposition first.

It may be a cold winter in Europe. I wonder how many European governments now wish they had heeded Reagan’s paranoid warnings.

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Cover reveal—Relentless Savage

RS cover web resThis latest installment in the Peter Savage series launches the reader into a fast-paced, action-driven adventure confronting the greater questions of genocide, genetic manipulation, and the tipping point in the balance of world power.

I am excited to share the cover design for Relentless Savage, the sequel to the best-seller Crossing Savage. A lot of hard work and talent from the folks at Light Messages Publishing went into this cover, and I absolutely love it! The symbolism is excellent (what suggestions do you see in the cover?). I’ve also posted an image of the back cover so you can read the short blurb and, hopefully, peak your interest. RS back cover web res

Relentless Savage is scheduled for release  March 25, 2015. Available for pre-order now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major book sellers.

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