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Archive for September, 2013

Lilliana AndersonBestselling Author of the A Beautiful Series, Alter and the Confidante Trilogy, Lilliana has always loved to read and write, considering it the best form of escapism that the world has to offer.

Australian born and bred, she writes New Adult Romance revolving around her authentically Aussie characters as well as a biographical trilogy based on an ex-Sydney sex worker, named Angelien.

Lilliana feels that the world should see Australia for more than just it’s outback and tries to show characters in more of a city setting.

When she isn’t writing, she wears the hat of ‘wife and mother’ to her husband and four children.

Before Lilliana turned to writing, she worked in a variety of industries and studied humanities and communications before transferring to commerce/law at university.

Originally from Sydney’s Western suburbs, she currently lives a fairly quiet life in suburban Melbourne.

Visit her website at www.LillianaAnderson.com.

Connect & socialize with Lilliana at Twitter: https://twitter.com/Confidante_Lili

Like her on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/LillianaAndersonAuthor

Add her as a friend at Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6533406.Lilliana_Anderson

About the Book:

Phoenix 3After being unceremoniously kicked out of home at a young age, Paige was forced to fend for herself.

In a bid to survive, she did things that most people would never dream of, and stopped caring about herself as a result.

When the fastest way to get food and shelter was to sell her body, and the fastest way to forget was to take drugs, Paige embarked and a steady downward spiral. Until, finally she hit rock bottom…

In A Beautiful Forever we got to know Paige as she battled the demons of her past to move forward with her future and find her happy ever after. Now, in Phoenix, we get to see the moments those demons were created and how she managed to get her life back on track.

Purchase your copy at AMAZON.

Would you call yourself a born writer?

I would. I’ve always found that I communicate better via the written word than I do verbally. I tend to get tongue tied and stumble over my words.

What was your inspiration for Phoenix: The Beauty in Between?

I come from one of the shadier areas of Sydney. So I’ve seen my fair share of what we would call ‘a hard life’. Paige is based on those I once knew who didn’t get a ‘fair go’ in this world.

She originally featured in my novel ‘A Beautiful Forever’ and I had touched on her life within that title. But readers wanted more, so I felt compelled to write a thorough history for her.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I like to explore basic human need. Most importantly, the need to be loved and cared for. It’s something we all want and search for in life. But it can be a difficult road to traverse, as we often find ourselves drawn to the wrong people.

I like my characters to learn from their mistakes and be a little more wary, before opening their hearts and trusting new people.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

This particular one, took me two and a half weeks of solid work (although I took time off while it was being beta and proof read.)

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I am. While I’m writing, I’m incredibly focused and feel a great need to get my book typed out.

I have four children, so a typical day involves waking early and getting them ready for school or kindergarten.

After they have been dropped off, I go home and have breakfast with my husband and spend some time with him before he goes to work. Then I spend a couple of hours on social media.

By lunch time, I’ve opened my word document, and I’ve started working on my current manuscript. I’ll write until it’s time to get my kids from school.

After which, it’s family time until they are in bed.

Once they are asleep, I spend an hour catching up on social media again, then spend a couple of hours with my husband, before opening up that document again and working until around 1am.

I find I get my best writing done when the house is quiet and everyone’s sleeping.

I generally write around 5-10k a day, so my turnaround is quite fast.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

It forced me to face a lot of personal issues of my own. So, I needed to keep a box of Kleenex close by at all times.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love being able to create relatable characters and a world that readers can connect to and enjoy.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

I decided to self publish. While originally, it seemed like a very daunting task, it became very straight forward once I had gathered enough information. There are some great books and websites out there that walk you through the process, step-by-step, so you can do everything yourself.

Almost a year down the track, I am incredibly happy with my decision. My release schedule is at my own discretion, as are my promos and my pricing.

I don’t feel that I’d have as much as a fan base as I do know if I had have gone traditional. Although, it’s not something that I’d rule out in the future as I plan to slow down a little over the next twelve months.

Where can we find you on the web?

Author links –  Website –  Blog  – Fan Page –  Facebook – Goodreads –  Twitter  – Newsletter

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ImageAn action packed adventure.

The book opens with Captain Lopez, U.S. Special Forces hiding deep in the Amazon jungle, watching – the object of his observations is Eduardo Enrique, Bolivian drug lord and human trafficker.

Eduardo is a self-made man, a man who has learnt his lessons in the school of life and hard knocks. Having built up his empire with the help of his lifelong friend Benito, he is now rich, living the life of a playboy feeling secure in the knowledge that he’s surrounded by loyal staff and mercenaries, after all, is there anything money can’t buy?

With the scars of his life visible for all to see, and never having been a handsome man, he learns the hard way that women will use him, take advantage of his money, but in the end, they leave. However, a man with his extensive resources at his fingertips is not going to let this interfere with his fun, there are ways round everything, you just have to apply your mind and eventually a solution becomes apparent.

Then a U.S. Representatives daughter, celebrating her graduation with friends goes missing on holiday in Cancun, Mexico, her disappearance draws the attention of those in high places and her name is added to an existing list of missing women.

Politics is a clever game, politicians are always looking for opportunities, never missing the chance to shine as a hero to the American people, to stand out and be remembered for doing good. This is one such occasion, and combined with the added accolade of being seen to make a stand against the world of drug smuggling, its importance cannot be missed. Soon those who are in charge are making plans and the newly promoted Major Lopez, a man who is already up to speed with the subject, is given the task of handpicking a team of top Special Forces operatives to join him in this mission.

Soon the team find themselves deep in the heart of Bolivia, far into the Amazon rainforest, their mission underway, aware that they will be facing danger, both from nature and the powerful drug lord whose domain they are about to enter…

Written by an ex soldier, the military detail in this book is extensive and fascinating. I found myself transported deep into this dangerous world by the author’s highly descriptive writing and absorbing storyline in this action packed exciting epic novel.

Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Extraction-ebook/dp/B008VDMB1O/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1379519630&sr=1-1&keywords=extraction+by+gerald+patrick 

Reviewed by Susan Keefe

 

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Crypto_smDr. James Stone has a Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering, and numerous international certifications in computer security. He has worked at NSA, NASA, and the Department of Defense in various capacities, as well as having been a professor of engineering at a major university. He recently retired from engineering and plans to devote himself to writing.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Crypto. What was your inspiration for it?

A: Decades working in the intelligence community. I just didn’t see books that portray life as I had experienced it.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: My protagonist is a late-20s female LAPD Homicide Detective. She decides to make a move to the National Security Agency and takes a job as a Special Agent. She goes through all the wickets of background checks, polygraph test, and indoctrination and reports to her new office. Within an hour, she’s given her first assignment to investigate why NSA controlled cryptographic chips are showing up in boxes hanging on the backs of highway signs. She knows literally nothing about cryptographics and is tossed into the deep end with essentially nothing more than a few ‘good lucks.’ To make it worse, there’s already a multi-agency task force headed by the FBI that wants to crawl all through NSA, even though the law prohibits it. How she copes makes up maybe the first third of the book.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: I thought about this book for several decades, but didn’t want to write it until I retired from active participation in the security business. By the time I was ready to write, the book was full grown in my mind and just needed to be keyboarded.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: I see the story as a full-(extra?) length movie, scene after scene. If the scenes still excite me after all this time, then I figure it will others. Only the readers will be able to determine how well I’ve done.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: No. The keyboard excites me. I approach it with anticipation.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: It’s just my wife and me, she is very supportive, and I am otherwise retired. I write when I want, sometimes most of a day, unless something like doing taxes interrupts.

Q: How do you define success?

A: I’m already a success! My first book has been published, and the second (a SCI-Fi this time) is half written and moving along smoothly.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: I think my situation and life-experience is so different from most, my advice would not fit others.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: No – emphatically.

CRYPTO is available on AMAZON and from Twilight Times Books

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The Curse GiverABOUT THE CURSE GIVER

Lusielle’s bleak but orderly life as a remedy mixer is shattered when her husband betrays her and she is sentenced to die for a crime she didn’t commit. She’s on the pyre, about to be burned, when a stranger breaks through the crowd and rescues her from the flames.

Brennus, Lord of Laonia is the last of his line. He is caught in the grip of a mysterious curse that has murdered his kin, doomed his people and embittered his life. To defeat the curse, he must hunt a birthmark and kill the woman who bears it in the foulest of ways. Lusielle bears such a mark.

Stalked by intrigue and confounded by the forbidden passion flaring between them, predator and prey must come together to defeat not only the vile curse, but also the curse giver who has already conjured their ends.

PURCHASE AT:

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ADD BOOK ON GOODREADS:

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The Story Behind The Curse Giver

By

Dora Machado

 

            The Curse Giver was an accident, a professional indiscretion, if you will, conceived during one of my little escapades, and born out of unchecked passion. Yep, I might as well come clean. Even the most disciplined writer can be unfaithful to her projects, and no matter how thoroughly taken one is with one’s current novel, the danger for a tangent is always there when venturing into the world of research.

So there I was, researching one book, working hard to finalize the Stonewiser series, when I came across this insidious concept that kept disrupting my train of thought.

Now, to understand the story behind The Curse Giver, you must understand me and my writing habits. I’m not easily distracted. When I’m writing a novel, my brain goes into hyper mode. I’m disciplined, motivated and focused to the point of obsession, which is why The Curse Giver was such a surprise to me.

The subject of curses has always fascinated me, not only because curses are such a vital part of magic and fantasy, but also because they are so prevalent to the human experience. To be honest, I had always been intrigued by the subject, but didn’t delve into it, until one very late night—or was it very early morning?—when the wind rattled my window as a coastal storm blew in from the sea.

The clay tablets that popped up on my screen dated from 600 BC and were part of the library of Nineveh, also known as the library of Ashurbanipal, the oldest surviving library of cuneiform tablets. This is the same collection that gave us the famous Gilgamesh epic. Visually, the tablets weren’t much to look at, chicken scratches on clay. But the translated words had an impact on me.

May all these [gods] curse him with a curse that cannot be relieved, terrible and merciless, as long as he lives, may they let his name, his seed, be carried off from the land, may they put his flesh in a dog’s mouth.”

I know, hardly an inspiration for most. Me? I immediately thought of the man who had been thus cursed, of the pain and hardship such curse would bring upon him and his people, of the character that eventually became Bren, Lord of Laonia in The Curse Giver.

From there on, the curses flowed before my eyes, mysterious ones from ancient civilizations in Egypt, India and the Far East; thin lead tablets dating from the Greco-Roman world, judicial prayers, secret invocations, warnings and love spells that streamed into my consciousness. I knew I should get back to my original research, and yet I was smitten with the subject.

There were curses quoted from the Bible, medieval curses, real and forgeries, Viking, Celtic, Germanic, Visigoth, Mayan, Incan, Hopi, you name it. There were ancient curses but also modern curses, some associated with Santeria, voodoo and the 21 Divisions, religions that are common in the Dominican Republic where I grew up.

Who would cast these curses and why? What kind of creature could be capable of such powers? What would motivate a person to curse another one? As I explored these questions, a character profile began to emerge in my mind, someone whose understanding of good and evil was very different from my own.

Sorting through the research, I could see that some curses had practical applications to make sure people did what they were told. They served as alternate forms of law enforcement in lawless societies. Some were obviously malicious. They were meant to frighten and intimidate. Some were more like venting or wishful thinking. It turns out that mankind has been casting curses since the beginning of time and will probably continue for as long as we have the imagination and faith to do so.

A new question formed in my mind. Once cursed, what could a person do to defend himself? A third character emerged from this question, Lusielle, a common remedy mixer, a healer of hearts and bodies, someone who didn’t realize the scope of her own power until it began to transform her life.

Eventually, I wrestled myself out of the trance. I had a book to write and a series to complete. I had deadlines. But my little detour had made an impact. The concepts were at work in my subconscious, coalescing into a new novel, fashioning these powerful characters who demanded their own story. My encounter with curses had been but a slight detour from my research plan, a tiny deviation, an indiscretion to my schedule, but the seed had been planted and The Curse Giver thrived, even if I didn’t know it yet.

doramachadoABOUT DORA MACHADO

Dora Machado is the award winning author of the Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, coming this summer from Twilight Times Books. She is one of the few Latinas exploring her heritage and her world through the epic fantasy genre today. She holds a master’s degree in business administration and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University. She was born in Michigan and grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a bilingual fascination for writing, a love for history, and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She enjoys long walks, traveling, and connecting with the amazing readers who share in her mind’s adventures. She lives in Florida with her indulging husband and three very opinionated cats.

You can visit her at www.doramachado.com

WATCH THE TRAILER!

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DragonfliesABOUT DRAGONFLIES: SHADOWS OF DRONES

Shamus-Award winning crime novelist Andy Straka breaks new ground with this near-future science fiction thriller in which a former pilot and the ex-infantryman who saved her life search for justice in a world where surveillance by micro-drones is fast becoming the reality.

Former Army helicopter pilot Raina Sanchez is plagued by nightmares. She can’t erase the memories of being shot down in Afghanistan, of losing her foot in the crash, and the death of her commanding officer. When asked by an ex-military contact to participate in a secret drone operation with ties to the war, she jumps at the chance to exorcise some of her demons.

She joins Tye Palmer, the decorated ex-infantryman who rescued her from the flaming wreckage of her Kiowa chopper. As civilian private investigators, together they embark on a sensitive, risky effort: using cutting-edge micro air vehicle drones in an attempt to expose the son of media mogul Nathan Kurn as a campus date rapist.

But as Raina and Tye come closer to the truth about Kurn and his powerful allies, Raina’s loyalties take a potential detour when she begins to understand a chilling reality. In a world where surveillance devices as small as tiny insects are being piloted into places most would never imagine, public and private forces both large and small are maneuvering to control them with inevitable consequences. For Raina and Tye the danger didn’t end when they finished their military careers−the threat has just begun.

Purchase at:

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Add to Goodreads:

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Andy StrakaABOUT ANDY STRAKA

Publisher’s Weekly has featured Andy Straka as one of a new crop of “rising stars in crime fiction.” He writes the bestselling Frank Pavlicek novels starring an ex NYPD detective turned private eye and falconer (A WITNESS ABOVE, A KILLING SKY, COLD QUARRY, THE NIGHT FALCONER, FLIGHTFALL) and is the author of two widely-praised thrillers, RECORD OF WRONGS and THE BLUE HALLELUJAH.

Andy retired early from a career in medical sales to pursue his passion for writing. A licensed falconer, he lives with his family in Virginia where he hunts, hikes, and rails against the powers that be. He has also managed to survive a longstanding stint as a stay-at-home Dad, which makes neurosurgery look like tiddlywinks. An admitted technogeek, he opens a new series in 2013 with the near-future Sci-Fi thriller DRAGONFLIES: SHADOW OF DRONES.

Visit his blog “Prepare For Turbulence” at www.andystraka.com or stop by www.dragonfliesbooks.com

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darklullaby_facebook_webAt a tavern one Friday night, astrophysicist Gabriel Diaz meets a mysterious young woman. Captivated by her beauty as well as her views on good and evil, he spends the next several days with her. After a while, however, he begins to notice a strangeness in her…especially the way she seems to take pleasure in toying with his conscience.

The young woman, Kamilah, invites him to Rize, Turkey, where she claims her family owns a cottage in the woods. In spite of his heavy workload and the disturbing visions and nightmares about his sister’s baby that is due to be born soon, Gabriel agrees to go with her.

But nothing, not even the stunning beauty of the Black Sea, can disguise the horror of her nature… In a place where death dwells and illusion and reality seem as one, Gabriel must now come to terms with his own demons in order to save his sister’s unborn child, and ultimately, his own soul.

Only $.99 on Amazon

Dream Realm Awards Finalist!

Reviews:

“Mayra Calvani is a masterful storyteller… Dark Lullaby is complex and compelling…” –Habitual Reader

“Dark Lullaby is an atmospheric paranormal horror that grips you from page one and refuses to let go until you’ve raced, breathless, to the end.” –ePinions

“Dark Lullaby is a page-turner. A horror story from the top shelf! You’ll love it.” –5 stars from Euro-Reviews

“This is a terrific horror…” –Harriet Klausner

“Dark Lullaby will capture you with its rich descriptions, its exotic location, and the need to uncover the dark secrets hidden within its pages.” –Cheryl Malandrinos, The Book Connection

“I loved this story, which started as a romance, then quickly evolved into a spine chilling horror, transporting you back to a land where folklore legends, based on truth are alive, and unimaginable creatures walk the earth.” -Susan Keefe, Amazon Reviewer

“…this story is exactly the kind of creepy tale that’s given me a new reason to keep the light on at night.” -Relasped Catholic

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Excerpt

 

Late that night, sipping red wine on the second-floor balcony after a mouth-watering meal of barbequed fish, Gabriel was overwhelmed by the feeling of impending doom.

He gazed at the woods surrounding them. Far away from city lights and civilization, he had never experienced such perfect darkness before. Only the full moon illuminated them with its clear silver light. His eyes turned upwards to the sky and he held his breath. There, crossing the southern sky in all its splendor, was the Milky Way. An arm of it, anyway. Layers upon layers of stars created that milky effect. Never before had he seen such a magnificent, clear sky, not even in Arizona or New Mexico.

“Look!” Kamilah leaned forward, pointing with her finger to the woods.

And for the first time, Gabriel saw the little lights.

This was no trick played on his vision. There they were, going this way and that with uncanny rapidity, to and fro, making a little witch’s dance in the distance, as if they were electrons and neutrons trying to collide inside an atom. Unpredictable, erratic, volatile.

“Do you believe me now?” Kamilah quivered with excitement.

“The lights are real, no doubt. But your explanation of them is something else. Fairies? What did you call them—cin? Spirits of the forest?”

“That’s what people here believe. You know, two years ago a team of foreign scientists came here to study these lights, but they weren’t able to find any explanation for them. They were trying to compare them to similar lights seen in the mountains of Peru. The Peruvian villagers, though, believe them to be aliens. Spiritual beings from another world.”

Gabriel remained silent as he studied the strange phenomenon. For a moment the lights  vanished. Then they re-appeared.

Kamilah began humming a soft melody.

Gabriel felt goose bumps rise on his arms and legs. That music…. He listened, entranced. He began to feel sleepy.

“Stop singing,” he said.

“I did.”

He could still hear the lullaby, though the sound had now turned very distant. But it was no echo. It felt as if something deep within the forest itself sang.

“I’m going to take a closer look,” Gabriel said, standing up with the glass of wine in his hand.

“No! Don’t bother them! Sometimes they don’t like the intrusion. They might get mad.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” He was surprised at the sudden anxiety in her voice.

“I mean it!”

“You’re such a superstitious fool! I’m going to have a closer look.” He downed the rest of the wine and put the glass on the floor. A protesting Kamilah followed him.

“You don’t know what you’re doing!” she kept saying.

Soon he was outside striding to where the lights hovered. For somebody who had felt so ill this morning, his body felt marvelously supple and strong. The mountain air was cold, but his limbs were infused with an inner warmth, a warmth that wasn’t just physical, but also came from his intellect. Gabriel needed to know what these lights were. He needed to understand them. He couldn’t really explain his fervor to comprehend.

“They’re gone,” Kamilah said.

His pulse raced. Midway down the clearing he halted, his eyes searching. Darkness enveloped him. Then he saw them again, right in front of him at the edge of the woods, as if they had moved closer in order to greet him.

He approached them, his pace quickening with each step until he was practically underneath the magical light dance. He had to bend his head back to look at them. He wasn’t aware of Kamilah behind him or of anything else. The trees, the grass beneath him, the cottage…everything disappeared. He was alone with the twinkling magical lights.

The lights seemed to lower themselves closer to him, the pinpoints dancing right above his eyes. Immobilized by the thrill of it, he was overcome with palpitations. He forced deep breaths, while never moving his eyes from the lights.

Once again a gentle, lovely lullaby reached his ears, distant at first, and then closer and closer, until the sound became deafening, and he had to cover his ears with his hands.

“Go away! Leave him alone! He’s mine!” Kamilah shouted behind him, anguish and misery warping her voice into an inhuman rumble.

The lights began swirling around his head. He felt his mind swimming in light, immersed in it. There was no feeling of malevolence, but there wasn’t benevolence either. He tried to define the emotions involved, but couldn’t. He lifted his hands and tried to touch them, but realized there was no matter to touch. His hands went through the lights as if going through a spectrum. In this illumination, oddly divine in nature, everything around him became visible with absolute clarity, as if the sun had abruptly risen and washed the world with iridescent white radiance. He had the sudden, bizarre feeling that the lights were trying to send him a message.

The lights vanished suddenly.

Absolute silenced reigned. Only Kamilah whimpered softly behind him.

He was stunned. He turned around slowly, unable to see her. When his vision adjusted to the blackness, he tried to speak, but couldn’t.

Kamilah was sitting on the grass with her legs tucked under her, her hands covering her face. Finally she rose.

“Why are you crying?” he asked, his voice shaking.

She threw herself at him and cried, hugging him like a lost waif.

“What’s the matter?”

But she cried harder, squeezed him harder.

“I thought they would hurt you!” she wailed.

He wrapped his arms around her, instinctively responding to her obvious fear and pain.

“I’m fine,” he murmured, staring in wonder at the darkness.

“What happened? What do you feel?” she asked, drawing away from him, her eyes pleading and probing.

“Nothing happened. I feel…. I can’t really explain. It’s indescribable.”

“But what happened when the lights covered your face? What did you feel? What did you hear? I need to know!”

“I cannot explain my feelings right now. Nothing happened. The lights…” He was at a loss.

“What did they say?”

“Say? The lights didn’t speak.” But he wasn’t a skeptic anymore. He didn’t have the right to mock her. He was awed, and deeply respectful of the unknown. All his beliefs had come tumbling down. He was unable to explain with his five senses what he had seen or felt. Yet it had been real, there was no question about that. He instinctively knew it had been real, and he had to accept that. The experience had involved other senses beyond the accepted five ones. Different concepts and ideas swirled in his mind, concepts and ideas which until now he had deemed impossible. Words like ‘spirit world’, ‘psychic’, ‘sixth sense’ raced through his mind as quickly as the dance of the lights.

“Are you sure? You didn’t hear anything?” Kamilah insisted.

“I’m sure.” The warmth had left him, and he felt very cold now. “Come, let’s go back inside.”

Together they crossed the clearing, Gabriel’s arm around her shoulders, Kamilah’s arms circling his waist.

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Crypto_sm

Title: Crypto

Genre: Mystery/Adventure

Author: James Stone

Website: None

Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Purchase on Amazon

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Prologue

 

Moscow pedestrians forced to walk past Number 2 Lubyanka Square generally do so on the other side of the street. It is not that the walkways are better on that side. It is not that the view is better. It is simply that citizens of Russia understand from the depths of their souls that the Russian Secret Police are hazardous to their health. Home to the Russian Secret Police for almost 100 years, the Lubyanka is the seat of contagion, a place to be avoided at all times and under all circumstances. Its current incarnation, the Federal Security Service, FSB, wasn’t believed to be any different from its predecessors.

The normally minimal traffic had been further reduced to the vanishing point by darkness and a snow storm. This was even more so on the small street that ran behind the Lubyanka. No one witnessed a black ZIL limousine turn in at a narrow portal, curtains drawn for privacy. And another. And another.

The parade of quiet limousines disgorged, one after the other, a flow of equally quiet men who slipped into a doorway manned by guards who needed to see no identification. The quiet men made their ways to a top floor cloak room where they divested themselves of their overcoats. An astonishing array of braid and brass emerged. Generals abounded. There were some bear hugs of greeting, and some good humored banter, but they were mostly subdued, out of character for these normally demonstrative men. They waited, grouped together along lines of affiliation, and talked quietly. The director had not yet arrived.

An aide appeared and beckoned them into the adjoining conference room. He indicated that the director had entered the building and was on his way up. The men looked around and counted noses. They could be sure that those already present constituted the totality of the gathering. The director would not have arrived otherwise.

The conference table was in the shape of a long U. Cards were in place for each person. The director’s seat was at the head. The choicest seats were along the outside, at the extremities. The worst seats were on the inside. Those unfortunate to occupy the inside seats felt that they were in a fish bowl. People overlooked them from every direction. They felt especially vulnerable from the rear.

Each arrival looked with mixed curiosity and apprehension to see where he was placed. Some swelled with satisfaction. Others were stabbed with dismay. Those favored naturally felt that their positions had been mandated by the director. The others tried to tell themselves that the director had nothing to do with it, that the cretin who set up the table was at fault. None questioned their positions aloud. They stood at attention behind their appointed chairs.

The director was one of the most powerful men in Russia. As the head of the FSB, he controlled all overseas espionage, including an unknown number of exceptionally trained assassins. He also controlled all domestic intelligence and counter intelligence. Following time honored practice, he had set up a variety of sub-organizations, each with its own head, each intensely jealous of the others. The director balanced each against the other, thus keeping them mostly away from his own throat. Then too, there were always the assassins. Hence, the anxious readings of the entrails of a freshly slain conference table for omens of the future.

The director strode into the room and took his seat without a word. There was a general scraping as the others seated themselves. The director cleared his throat and spoke to no one in particular. “Comrades, the President sends his greetings. He asked me to tell you he appreciates the way in which you are carrying out the business of keeping our homeland safe.”

There were polite smiles and nods. They recognized the opening ploy and flowed with it. The director’s gaze scanned the table and settled on a small, elderly man at the far corner of the table. “Comrade Alyushin, what can you tell us about the American Situation?”

The assembled group looked at Alyushin, the Director of Planning and Analysis, with wooden expressions. They tended to treat him and his staff with contempt. His group was widely viewed as a pasture for those who didn’t have the good sense to retire when they should. However, he and the director were old compatriots, so they would give him a polite hearing. Alyushin removed a pipe from his mouth and spoke quietly to the director as though they were the only two in the room.

“The Americans have severe internal political and economic problems. Their lawmaking bodies keep switching parties, and their current president is widely viewed as having little international affairs sense or strength. Their economy is in shambles, only slightly better than the Europeans. Their obsession with global warming, and other things they call ‘political correctness,’ has made them vulnerable to terrorism and increasing dependence on foreign energy and other natural resources.

The group as a whole seemed to become more alert and more focused on Alyushin. A thinking man might not know where this was leading, but would be sure the director was responsible for the direction. A prudent man would watch and listen carefully.

Alyushin continued, “In short, it appears the Americans are in the worst shape since just before the ‘Great War’ and are basically paralyzed internationally.”

The director looked around the room. “If I have understood this presentation correctly, we have to contend with a country that is seriously weakened, and a president who is not in a position to respond internationally. Does that conform to your understanding?”

There were general nods around the table. No one was willing to disagree until he knew the name of the game.

The director turned to a General of the Army. “Please report on the combat readiness of the Army.”

“Highly satisfactory, Comrade Director. Regular combat divisions are at full strength. All are equipped with the latest combat weapons. Morale is high, especially in the division that recently completed an exercise.”

“Did you use the new cryptographic equipment?”

“We did indeed. It performed flawlessly.”

The director nodded his satisfaction. “You might explain this new system to the rest of the group.”

“Yes, comrade.” The general appeared to gather his thoughts. He began quietly. “What you are about to hear has been one of the most closely guarded secrets of Russia. Until the recent maneuvers, less than a hundred people knew even of the existence of the system. It went by the code name ‘Solid Ice.’ Its concept is no less grandiose than the total security of all Russian communications, from those supporting our diplomatic missions down to the lowest radioman in a rifle squad.”

Murmurs rolled around the room. The general continued, becoming more animated. “I can see that the significance of this breakthrough captures your imagination. With total communications security, we will be able to conduct the most sensitive diplomatic activities without fear of exposure. We will be able to exclude all outside intrusion into our affairs. And, best of all, we will be able to prepare for any military action without revealing the associated troop and logistics movements. I foresee the day, not long distant, when the despised U.S. National Security Agency will be put completely out of business.” The general basked in a round of general applause.

A man in civilian clothes, whose applause had been more polite than enthusiastic, leaned forward and cleared his throat. “How long distant, Comrade? What is the nature of this new miracle, and how fast can it be fielded?”

The general looked modest. “Not really a miracle,” he responded, “just the genius of our mathematicians and physicists. You see, since before the Great War, encryption has been based on the fact that any communication can be represented by a sequence of numbers. Further, the number set can be limited to ones and zeros. Scramble the numbers according to an algorithm known only by the sender and receiver, and the result is difficult to read. Not impossible, until a recent advance by our mathematicians. Our encryption is now unreadable by any practical method, even with the most advanced computers expected to be available in the next decade.”

The man in civilian clothes spoke again. “Assuming I accept that the messages are unbreakable, what prevents someone from watching radio traffic between units and inferring what is happening?”

“Another of our advances. Our new radios hop frequencies at very high rates, so they don’t stay on one frequency long enough to be detected. The same algorithms used to encrypt the core message are used to control the frequency hopping, so it’s doubly impossible to see who is doing what and where, or even that anyone is doing anything.”

“Next,” said the civilian, “how do the systems ensure command and control from the top to the bottom?”

“There, we’ve copied the American concept of combat net radio. Each unit, at whatever level, has its own network. The commander at that level is in his network and also in the network of the next level up. And so on, to the level of the prime minister. Also, we’ve put in a twist that allows higher levels to override all lower levels and take direct control.”

“Next,” said the civilian, “when will the new system be completely fielded?”

“Twelve months. That includes not only the new combat radio, but also all communications by any element of the Russian government. All will use the new master encryption system.”

“Impressive,” said the civilian. “Two final questions. You mentioned ‘practical methods.’ What about impractical methods? And how did the funding for such a program sneak through?”

The general flushed slightly. “It is theoretically possible, given enough computing power, to break any encryption. However, the computing power to attack our new encryption is decades away.”

The civilian stared at the general for a long time. The silence lengthened painfully. At last the civilian murmured, “You are certain? Absolutely certain?”

The director chose to step in at this point. The lack of love between the civilian and the general was well known. “As certain as anything in an uncertain world,” he said briskly, looking around the room. “To answer your other question, no one in this room except me knows how the funding was ‘sneaked’ through.” He turned to the general, eyes cold. “Have the new system fielded within the year. Fully.”

As if on cue, the door behind the director opened, and his aide entered with an arm load of folders. He began distributing them. They were dun-colored and marked “MOST SECRET.” Each folder had the name of a department, or organization, inscribed in the corner.

After the aide had left, the director looked around the room again. No one had opened his folder. “These folders describe projects each of you is to set in motion. Each of you is to return to his organization and began work immediately. Completion is to be one year from now. If you have problems, surface them immediately. No excuses will be accepted a year from now.”

The director abruptly stood and left the room. The others sat for a while wondering whether the meeting was over, wondering also what this new project might be. Finally, someone gathered sufficient nerve to leave. The logjam broke, and the parade of ZILs began quietly carrying their anonymous cargoes into the night.

——————————————–

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Stone has a Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering, and numerous international certifications in computer security. He has worked at NSA, NASA, and the Department of Defense in various capacities, as well as having been a professor of engineering at a major university.-He recently retired from engineering and plans to devote himself to writing.

Dr. Stone is originally from Arkansas, discovered his wife while at the University, married her while in college, and has never regretted a moment of their lives together. They currently live in Arizona, have two grown sons (one with a Ph.D. in computer engineering and the other is a clinical psychologist and director of a clinic at a major university medical college). Between the two of them, there are five grandchildren, three of them triplets.

 

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