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After a career in medicine, Mike Houtz succumbed to the call to hang up his stethoscope and pursue his other passion as a writer of fast-paced thrillers. A rabid fan of authors such as Clancy, Mark Greaney, Vince Flynn, and Brad Thor, Mike loves series writing with strong characters, fast pacing and international locations, all of which explode into action in his debut novel, a 2017 Zebulon Award winner. When not at the keyboard, he can be found on the firing range, traveling for research across the globe, or trying out the latest dry-fly pattern on a Gold Medal trout stream.

He lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

His latest book is the thriller/international/action novel, Dark Spiral Down.

Website: www.mikehoutz.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/michaelhoutz

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.mikehoutz/

https://www.facebook.com/mike.houtz.77

BOOK BLURB:

COLE HAUFNER is a reluctant superstar in the professional mixed martial arts world. After his latest fight, his wife and child perish in a car crash. His grief deepens when his brother, BUTCH, a Delta Force operator, is absent from the funeral and reported missing by two furtive strangers who show up unannounced at the burial. Despairing, and acting on a tip, Cole travels to his childhood home in southeast China, looking for his brother.

Butch and his teammate, HAMMER, are the sole American survivors of a gun battle between their unit and North Korean commandos, both sides fighting over possession of a stolen suitcase containing a miniaturized fusion device that could either provide unlimited clean energy or be converted to an undetectable bomb seven times more powerful than a nuclear explosion. Leading the North Koreans is the sociopath, Commander PARK. Pressed into helping the Koreans is a disgraced former CIA operative, BARRETT JENNINGS.

Cole meets with the uncle who raised him, MASTER LI, and is warned to stop his search for Butch. Barrett discovers Cole’s identity (with the help of a genius computer hacker, LILLY), which opens a twenty-year-old wound when Barrett was blamed for the disappearance of Cole’s father, along with the man’s invention. Barrett enlists the 14K organized crime syndicate to help capture Cole. Hammer, separated from Butch during the fight for the device, thwarts the gang’s attempt to kidnap Cole, and the two then set off to find Butch and the device. All parties converge on the city library where Butch, now disguised as a monk, is attempting to communicate with the Pentagon. Barrett and Park capture Butch, while the 14K gang nabs Cole.

Danger mounts as Chinese authorities begin investigating foul play within their borders. Cole fights his way free of the gang and reunites with Hammer.  Both men find Barrett’s apartment and discover Lilly (the man’s stepdaughter), who divulges Barrett’s identity and plan. Cole clashes with Hammer, who is willing to sacrifice Butch in order to recover the fusion device. Lilly offers her help in exchange for her and Barrett’s rescue from Park’s grip. Meanwhile, Barrett discovers the true nature of the case the North Koreans are pursuing and, sensing he and Lilly are to be assassinated by Park once he has the device, frees Butch. Butch, trusting Barrett was sent to rescue him, leads the turncoat to the site where he hid the device. Barrett, hoping to make a quick fortune selling it, shoots Butch before escaping with the case.

Cole, along with Hammer and Lilly, arrives at the location of Butch and finds him gravely wounded. Butch fingers Barrett for shooting him and for stealing the case. Cole wants only to save his brother but Butch makes him promise to kill Barrett and recover their dad’s invention. The revelation that the device is his father’s scientific discovery propels Cole forward to fulfill his brother’s mission. Cole is forced to abandon Butch at a hospital. Cole pursues Barrett to a remote dock where the ex-CIA man is planning to escape China by boat. With the Chinese military now actively looking for Cole, Cole confronts Barrett and Park sparking a gunfight. Barrett kills Park. As Barrett turns the gun on Cole, Hammer kills Barrett. Cole, Hammer and Lilly escape via the boat, and the fusion device is safely returned.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

https://amzn.to/2UpXJmK

 

Would you call yourself a born writer?

For me, I believe the better description is ‘born storyteller’. The process of writing has always been a way for me to collect my thoughts and present my fiction in a way that isn’t jumbled or misses the point I’m attempting to convey. Writing allows me to fail before the reader sees the finished work. I’ve written with the intent to entertain as far back as junior high school, but I needed life experience and years of practice before I considered it a career. I’m only beginning to accept the notion I’m a ‘writer’, and I have a long way to go.

What was your inspiration for DARK SPIRAL DOWN?

I’ve been involved in children’s concerns—professionally and personally—for most of my adult life. My series shines a light on a little-known issue with the kidnapping of America children by one parent and taken to a foreign country against the will of the other parent. In 1983, a small consortium of countries adopted the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child abduction. Only about half of countries worldwide recognize the status quo child custody arrangement existing before an unlawful removal of a child from their home country. DARK SPIRAL DOWN introduces the readers to the main character, Cole Haufner, a trained Shaolin monk, as he looks for his missing Delta Force brother in Southeast China. At the end of the book, he comes to realize he has a knack for rescuing people. The books explore his journey with returning kids to their rightful caretaker. When the court system fails a child’s return, Cole delivers his brand of justice.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I’m forever drawn to the Good vs. Evil arrangement. I probably spent an unhealthy amount of time watching the Star Wars franchise growing up. A small band of rebels fighting the oh-so powerful bad guys with little chance of success. Who doesn’t like a David vs. Goliath story? I have a particular disdain for bullies, and I love scheming ways for their demise. I’d say another key idea for me is love and loyalty. The bond that people have with family, or a developed attachment based on shared experiences, is the basis for much of who we are and our motivations in life. Understanding what drives individuals explains most of their behaviors. That layering helps me develop a more complex and believable character with all the good and bad traits we all have. There I go with that good and bad theme again.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

I was in the middle of working on my medical thriller when this storyline just kept poking at me from the back of my mind. I became so frustrated I threw that manuscript into a drawer and pulled out a note pad and started outlining DARK SPIRAL DOWN. I had a completed rough draft of 84K words in about 5 months. This was my first full-length novel—ever. When I say rough, I really mean it. I entered a contest solely for the review from an experienced author and came away with an award. About 6 months later, I had a book deal and then another year before edits and details completed for final publication. Start to book launch took around 2 ½ years.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I’m disciplined up to the point my life allows. I travel frequently with my kids as their sports require a lot of time away from home. As time passes, I find myself necessarily more focused with my needed production. A typical day involves going over emails and social media then writing from eight am. until noon on a manuscript. I’ll take care of family items and other busy work over the lunch hours and try to pick up around Two. I’ll get pulled in many directions when the school bus comes home soon after. Some of my better stuff comes when I return to the story after everyone else goes to bed. That 10:30 pm to 1:30 am slot is when I can really crush it.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

As a debut author, I had little training and barely any idea how to properly write a novel. Some random idea would jump into my head and I’d race to get it on paper. I ended up acquiring chapters written for different sections of the book and little idea how I’d connect them. Though it worked out well, I wouldn’t recommend that type of scattered writing to others. I’m certainly not striving for a repeat.

What do you love most about being an author?

When someone, anyone, tells me they loved it, I get a rush of adrenalin knowing I entertained them, and their time was well spent. When I chat with someone face-to-face and see that excitement in their face and hear the elevated emotion in the voice reliving a scene I poured myself into, I can’t help but relive that same enthusiasm and feel a shared bond with them. That type of connection is powerful.

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 pitched my newly awarded manuscript to The Wild Rose Press, a smaller traditional publisher out of New York, at the Colorado Gold conference. After a request for a full, I was quickly put in touch with a senior editor who pushed the book through their committee at light speed. The communication along the way was outstanding, and I had that gut feeling I was in good hands. Because of how they’d treated me along the way, I had zero qualms of accepting the contract they offered. Working with my wonderful editor, Leanne Morgena, I’ve learned a ton this past year, and my writing has improved immensely. A great start to my career.

   Where can we find you on the web?

You can find me on various social media platforms including:

http://www.mikehoutz.com

https://twitter.com/michaelhoutz

https://www.facebook.com/author.mikehoutz/

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=dark+spiral+down&i=stripbooks&crid=

 

 

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Title: DARK SPIRAL DOWN
Author: Michael Houtz
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Pages: 377
Genre: Thriller/International/Action

BOOK BLURB:

COLE HAUFNER is a reluctant superstar in the professional mixed martial arts world. After his latest fight, his wife and child perish in a car crash. His grief deepens when his brother, BUTCH, a Delta Force operator, is absent from the funeral and reported missing by two furtive strangers who show up unannounced at the burial. Despairing, and acting on a tip, Cole travels to his childhood home in southeast China, looking for his brother.

Butch and his teammate, HAMMER, are the sole American survivors of a gun battle between their unit and North Korean commandos, both sides fighting over possession of a stolen suitcase containing a miniaturized fusion device that could either provide unlimited clean energy or be converted to an undetectable bomb seven times more powerful than a nuclear explosion. Leading the North Koreans is the sociopath, Commander PARK. Pressed into helping the Koreans is a disgraced former CIA operative, BARRETT JENNINGS.

Cole meets with the uncle who raised him, MASTER LI, and is warned to stop his search for Butch. Barrett discovers Cole’s identity (with the help of a genius computer hacker, LILLY), which opens a twenty-year-old wound when Barrett was blamed for the disappearance of Cole’s father, along with the man’s invention. Barrett enlists the 14K organized crime syndicate to help capture Cole. Hammer, separated from Butch during the fight for the device, thwarts the gang’s attempt to kidnap Cole, and the two then set off to find Butch and the device. All parties converge on the city library where Butch, now disguised as a monk, is attempting to communicate with the Pentagon. Barrett and Park capture Butch, while the 14K gang nabs Cole.

Danger mounts as Chinese authorities begin investigating foul play within their borders. Cole fights his way free of the gang and reunites with Hammer.  Both men find Barrett’s apartment and discover Lilly (the man’s stepdaughter), who divulges Barrett’s identity and plan. Cole clashes with Hammer, who is willing to sacrifice Butch in order to recover the fusion device. Lilly offers her help in exchange for her and Barrett’s rescue from Park’s grip. Meanwhile, Barrett discovers the true nature of the case the North Koreans are pursuing and, sensing he and Lilly are to be assassinated by Park once he has the device, frees Butch. Butch, trusting Barrett was sent to rescue him, leads the turncoat to the site where he hid the device. Barrett, hoping to make a quick fortune selling it, shoots Butch before escaping with the case.

Cole, along with Hammer and Lilly, arrives at the location of Butch and finds him gravely wounded. Butch fingers Barrett for shooting him and for stealing the case. Cole wants only to save his brother but Butch makes him promise to kill Barrett and recover their dad’s invention. The revelation that the device is his father’s scientific discovery propels Cole forward to fulfill his brother’s mission. Cole is forced to abandon Butch at a hospital. Cole pursues Barrett to a remote dock where the ex-CIA man is planning to escape China by boat. With the Chinese military now actively looking for Cole, Cole confronts Barrett and Park sparking a gunfight. Barrett kills Park. As Barrett turns the gun on Cole, Hammer kills Barrett. Cole, Hammer and Lilly escape via the boat, and the fusion device is safely returned.

Praise for Michael Houtz

“If you’re in the market for a fast paced, action filled, page-turning thriller, Mike Houtz delivers a must-read novel. I highly recommend this emotional rollercoaster of a book for every die-hard thriller reader…Get it ASAP!”

~Lima Charlie Review

“…this work proves that author Houtz is undoubtedly a rising star in the publishing world.”

~Andrea Brunais, Author

“Mike Houtz takes us on fast-pace adventure in Dark Spiral Down, a thrilling ride along the border between China and North Korea, where Cole Haufner is in pursuit of his Delta Force brother and a device that has the potential to change the world forever or destroy it.”

~Dan Grant, Author

Dark Spiral Down is a phenomenal debut novel by Mike Houtz. This book has everything readers of the genre love: a great plot, memorable characters, and a powerful voice. It’s a must-read!”

~Ammar Habib, Bestselling & Award-Winning Author, Editor-in-Chief of Thriller Magazine

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

https://amzn.to/2UpXJmK

Chapter 1

Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada Saturday night Main Event, April 21st

“Ten seconds!”

From his corner, Cole Haufner heard the cry all the way across the blood-smeared octagon. He held his opponent immobile, letting the clock run out on the second of three periods. He was well ahead in the fight, but a nasty gash over his left eye, one that opened in the late first round from a flying elbow, threatened the outcome due to the amount of blood pouring from the wound. The win was not his primary goal. A six-figure purse for a victory ensured his son’s life-saving surgery.

The referee separated both fighters while directing them to their respective corners.

Cole jumped up from the mat, fist-pumped the air for the crowd, and made his way to his corner where two men stood ready to attend to him. As he approached his team, Cole saw the fight doctor walk through the cage door opening with a look of concern. A sense of dread attacked Cole.

“Lemme take a look at that,” the physician ordered as he stepped forward to scan Cole’s injury.

“I’m good, Doc, I’m good.” Blood poured down his face, spreading across Cole’s sweat-covered chest and pooling onto the canvas mat.

The fighter’s corner coach, Barry Liggit, and cut-man, Scott “Stitch” Bell, leaned in close to see the wound.

“I’m fine. Just get me ready,” Cole snarled. He needed the fight doctor to give him a break on the injury.

Beyond the blinding lights shining on the fight ring, more than thirteen thousand fans chanted, “Gentleman, gentleman, gentleman…”

The spectacle of the crowd embarrassed Cole. This unwanted praise railed against everything he’d been taught at the Chinese Buddhist monastery where he lived and studied as a young boy.

“You hear that?” Barry shouted over the noise of the crowd. “They want you, Cole. They know you’re the next middle-weight champion.”

The doctor repeatedly held pressure over the cut and released to see how quickly the wound bled. Each time he let go, a fountain of red erupted.

Cole saw the concern in the physician’s eyes. “Doc, you know I need this one,” he pleaded. “You know my family story. I swear I’ll finish this quick.”

“I’m giving you one minute.” the doctor shouted to Barry. “I’m not losing my medical license because of his injury.” The ER physician turned and nodded to the fight officials outside the cage that Round 3 would start.

The crowd erupted in a roar.

Stitch jumped in front of Cole with packing cream and the frozen steel plate to stem the bleeding long enough to ready the fighter.

Barry leaned close to Cole’s face. “You’ve never had a fight last more than a minute. What’s the deal?

You don’t have a lot of time! You got me?”

Cole looked to his right. An empty seat remained at ringside. His older brother, Butch, promised to attend. Cole started the headline match with some concern, but now, he worried over his brother’s absence. They hadn’t spoken in the last twenty-four hours, even though Butch was supposed to have received a special furlough from his military unit to be here. For Butch to break a promise wasn’t unusual—it came with his job. Amid one of the most important moments of his life, Cole couldn’t help but worry.

A hand jerked his head. “Are you even hearing me?” Barry yelled.

Cole shifted his gaze back to the ring, catching Stitch looking in the same direction.

“Holy shit. Are you dragging out this fight waiting for Butch?” Stitch shouted.

Busted. Cole looked away from Barry, unable to hold his coach’s gaze.

Barry put his hands on his hips, lips smashed into a line. “You gotta be kidding me! Well, that would explain why we’re in round three. You’re one lucky punch away from losing this fight. Don’t you think your son needs this win?”

You know he’s off limits. For the first time in the match, rage filled his body. The immediate image of his son’s physical struggles with a failing heart sent a powerful surge through his nervous system. He glared at his trainer, blood running down his face as the cold plate slipped from the gash. “Shut your mouth,” Cole hissed.

Barry swallowed. The corner man quickly recovered “This is it, brother. The crowd wants ‘the

Gentleman,’ but give them the ‘Beast’. Let’s see some of that monk shit and finish this fight.”

Sorry, Butch, I can’t wait any longer. I know you’ll understand. Cole opened his mouth so Barry could slide the mouthpiece into place. “Don’t blink or you two are gonna miss an old move of mine.”

Barry and Stitch grinned.

Dragging out the fight was a stupid move. Even though he’d never met his match, not even close in the ring, Cole faced a professional fighter. Barry was right. Another lucky punch like the one that cut him in round one could lose him the one hundred- thousand-dollar bonus offered for a win. His son needed him.

Focus. Breathe. For Max.

The referee made his way to the center of the octagon and motioned for the fight corners to clear the ring.

Stitch held the cold plate to Cole’s forehead cut for three more seconds then followed everyone else out with the door clanging shut.

Vision in Cole’s left eye blurred—the blood was already seeping from around the edges of the packing cream.

The ref signaled to the ringside table he was ready then waved with both hands for the fighters to approach the center.

Cole stepped forward in his usual calm manner— the source of the nickname “the Gentleman.”

The other fighter bounced on the balls of his feet, just out of reach.

“Ready.” The referee continued with a slight pause in between. “Let’s bring it!” With that, he jumped back out of the way of the combatants.

Cole ducked as his opponent unleashed a flurry of combinations, trying to finish the fight almost as quickly as it had resumed. He parried the punches and kicks, toying with the other man, aware he had less than a minute before the doctor returned to the ring. Cole only needed a fraction of a second. He searched for an opening.

The onslaught carried on for a full ten seconds before the fighter dropped back, his nostrils flaring like a bull’s.

Blood flowed freely again, saturating Cole’s chest and shorts while clouding his vision.

The opposing corner yelled to their fighter to go to a defensive position.

“I’m sorry,” Cole shouted to his opponent.

The sweating mass of muscle furrowed his forehead. “The hell you say?”

“Sorry about this.” Cole stood from his crouch and lowered his fists.

“What are you doing?” Barry screamed from just outside of the cage. “Hands up. Hands up!”

In the blink of an eye, the other man slid forward and threw a powerful right hand.

This moment was Cole’s. Rather than defend, he leaped from the canvas, performed a front somersault in mid-air, and extended his right leg, bringing his heel crashing down on top of the man’s head. A sickening thud sounded upon contact, and the other fighter collapsed to the mat, unmoving.

Cole rolled forward after the strike, coming to rest in a crouch some five feet away. Though he suspected the instant he’d made contact he’d finished off his opponent, Cole took nothing for granted. He spun in case of a counterattack.

The ref, initially stunned, dove onto the unmoving man. The crowd’s collective gasp morphed into a deafening roar when the signal was given the fight was over.

Panting from the effort, Cole watched as the cage door opened, and medical personnel raced inside.

Barry and Stitch rushed through the portal and drew him into crushing hugs amid incredible noise. Literally lifted off his feet, Cole only felt relief in accomplishing what he’d set out to do; he’d likely saved his son’s life.

About the Author

After a career in medicine, Mike Houtz succumbed to the call to hang up his stethoscope and pursue his other passion as a writer of fast-paced thrillers. A rabid fan of authors such as Clancy, Mark Greaney, Vince Flynn, and Brad Thor, Mike loves series writing with strong characters, fast pacing and international locations, all of which explode into action in his debut novel, a 2017 Zebulon Award winner. When not at the keyboard, he can be found on the firing range, traveling for research across the globe, or trying out the latest dry-fly pattern on a Gold Medal trout stream.

He lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

His latest book is the thriller/international/action novel, Dark Spiral Down.

Website: www.mikehoutz.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/michaelhoutz

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.mikehoutz/

https://www.facebook.com/mike.houtz.77

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