Outstanding Review of The Drone Enigma by Luxury Reading

Luxury Reading is a well-established and respected book review website. Individual reviewers provide objective reviews of all genres of books.

Review by Lauren Cannavino of Luxury Reading

Final Cover

Books that are touted as military thrillers, like The Drone Enigma, are often laden with too many technical terms, government speak and cold, surface characters. None of these characteristics apply to this novel. Ron McManus presents a lively story of secrets and intrigue, murder, mystery, politics and adventure. Ex Navy SEAL member Jake Palmer is called to join an investigation by his old SEAL team member and friend, Wade Jansen. Jansen works as a top defense contractor and needs Palmer to dig into the death of an employee working on a top secret project. What Palmer gets himself into and what he uncovers along the way is far from expected or safe.

Palmer is no nonsense, intelligent and skilled which allows him to quickly gather information and back stories on everyone connected with a top secret government project named Perseus. The project is centered on the design, development and eventual implementation of military drones. The murder of one of the top project engineers paired with the theft and return of a top secret laptop have rightly aroused suspicions. Only a few days into the investigation, Jansen is shot and killed in his office and the case soon takes on an entirely new level of importance for Palmer. While this action is unfolding, other stories and suspicions are interjected throughout and all paths will soon lead to Palmer and his discoveries.

The cunning and beautiful Alona Green shows up as a possible suspect with a wealth of knowledge and skills that are both useful and potentially dangerous to Palmer. Green has confessed to stealing the laptop that belongs to project leader Owen Fuller whose part in the plot begins to excitingly take shape as the book advances. Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, a shadowy figure, Hassan Aswad carefully lays the groundwork for his plans against America; the connection to the events and people that Palmer is uncovering cannot be denied. Green and Palmer become an unlikely duo when Palmer must turn to old SEAL friends and avoid the police when things begin to head south. Never questioning his gut, Palmer affirms his loyalty to both his dead friend and his country, and continues his personal mission in order to stop an attack on US interests overseas.

The chapters of The Drone Enigma are quick and as a result the book survives a beginning that seems slow only as the major pieces are presented. The Perseus Project and all of its details are slowly revealed with an exciting climax at the end of the book. Palmer is a rugged and gruff, yet fun hero who has a sense of humor paired with a dry, quick wit. He has no time for nonsense and no time for threats to his country. McManus ends the story in a very interesting fashion that leaves the reader with a multitude of questions, not about the story which wraps up cleanly, but rather about our very own government and all the secrets we are kept from daily.

 

Rating: ★★★★☆

The Drone Enigma: Goodreads Giveaway

I have allocated ten copies of The Drone Enigma for a Goodreads Giveaway that will run through February 13th. Residents of the US, UK and Canada are eligible to win a copy. If you win, please review the book on Goodreads.

The Drone Enigma Awarded Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Rating

This weekend I returned from North Carolina, where my wife and I had been visiting relatives over the Christmas holiday, to find that Readers’ Favorite, the book review and award website, had given The Drone Enigma a 5-Star rating. The Drone Enigma has been available in bookstores and through on-line retailers since mid-December.

Reviewed by Michael McManus for Readers’ Favorite

Final Cover

When a young, healthy employee of LTG, a defense contractor for the US Navy’s drone development program, dies suddenly from an overdose of a dangerous chemical, Jake Palmer is called in to investigate. Jake, an ex-Navy SEAL turned private investigator, is reunited with an old SEAL buddy and a woman he dated in college, making this assignment different for him than most, but he is certain he can get to the bottom of the mystery in just a few days. Unfortunately, the theft of a laptop and the murder of his former SEAL friend, along with a chance encounter with Alona Green, a beautiful corporate spy, complicate Jake’s investigation and make the situation uncomfortably personal. Injected into the chaos of an investigation that appears to be getting out of hand is a terrorist plot, concocted by a dangerous member of the Taliban in Afghanistan, being hatched against the drone program itself. When all of these elements begin to collide, the action begins.

The plot of The Drone Enigma moves quickly and always in one direction. Its author, Ron McManus (no relation to this reviewer), continuously builds the tension by the unpredictable, but quite believable, plot twists and turns. The dialogue he skillfully presents is often witty and always crisp and to the point. His characters, especially Jake and Alona are well defined. Their relationship makes me believe that we will see them together in future works. I would recommend this book to readers who like action and adventure and a frighteningly believable plot.

Working with a Publisher’s Editors

I mentioned in an earlier post that my book, The Drone Enigma, will be published by Koehler Books in January 2014. I’m in final stages leading up to publication and have recently completed the edit process with the publisher.

www.writersdigest.com by Brian Klems

www.writersdigest.com by Brian Klems

No one enjoys the self-editing and revision cycles, but it is a means to an end. However, when the publisher’s editors go to work, the experience is quite different. Someone else is messing with your words, telling you to slash narrative, attribute dialogue, and rewrite or delete scenes. At times, it’s difficult not to get defensive.

During the past few weeks, I’ve worked with both Koehler’s senior editor and copy editor to edit my manuscript. The senior editor took a 40,000 foot view, realigning chapters or portions of chapters, deleting narrative passages that slowed the pace of the story, and asking me to justify the need for some characters to be named because having too many named characters can confuse the reader. The copy editor, on the other hand, took a mid and low level view, editing for consistency, repetition, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

In the first two rounds with the senior editor, we worked in a Word document, using the Track Changes function. I was familiar with that, having used it for years in the corporate world. After two rounds of editing, he sent the Word document to the publisher. He sent me a copy of what he sent. I went through the document and found I didn’t agree with some of the changes. He assured me that I would have other chances to review it.

Not your mother's editing marks (mightyredpen.wordpress.com

Not your mother’s editing marks (mightyredpen.wordpress.com

A few days later, I had a long telephone conversation with the copy editor, during which she discussed areas where she had questions or needed clarification. After that, I received a revised version in Adobe Acrobat Reader. From that point on, we used the Sticky Note function of Reader, commenting on changes using sticky notes until we reached agreement. There were three or four rounds of this before it again went to the publisher and came back to us. The copy editor and I reviewed it, and found a few additional changes that needed to be made. For the most part, they were errors made in making the requested changes or errors we made in describing the changes. We also found two or three new changes. After two quick rounds with the publisher, we were done and the digital Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) was produced.

Overall, I found the process was not perfect, but it was effective. Sure, I hated to see some of my words struck from the pages. And after writing and editing the manuscript too many times to count before the publisher first received it, the last thing I wanted to do was go back through it. It was a time consuming, detailed, and thorough process. But in the end, I am pleased with the final version and believe it is an improvement over the original.

With the editing finished, it is time to solicit endorsements to be used on the front cover or back cover or inside the cover. I’ll describe that process in my next blog.

Hampton Roads Writers Conference 2013

The 5th annual Hampton Roads Writers Conference was held at the Westin Hotel at Town Center in Virginia Beach September 19-21.2013postcard

The conference began Thursday evening and ran through Saturday. Because of a previous commitment, I was unable to attend the Thursday evening session. I arrived Saturday morning, registered, and went to the plenary session, featuring keynote speaker, Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling Young Adult author of the WAKE series, VISIONS series, and UNWANTED series. Being neither a YA reader or author, I was curious as to what she had to say. An hour later, I added Wake to my list of books to read.

A “first ten-lines” review by a four-person panel of authors and agents followed the keynote address on Friday and Saturday. The panel members confessed to be nit-picky in their comments, and one might ask what could be learned from listening to critiques of someone’s first lines. It was for me and many others, a lesson in what is required to grab the attention of the reader and make them want more. One of the panelists said that it was once believed the first page or two were the most important because that is what someone who picked up the book would glance through before deciding to buy it. While that is still true, he pointed out that the author must now pay close attention to the first 25 pages, because that is what a reader sees if he or she downloads a free sample from amazon.com. If you can’t hook the reader in those 25 pages and make them want more, they won’t purchase the book.

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Ron McManus and Kevin Maurer

Sunday’s keynote speaker was Kevin Maurer, co-author of No Easy Day. I had read the book and was eager to meet him and to hear what he had to say. I wasn’t disappointed. His account working with former Navy SEAL “Mark Owen” to write the book held everyone’s attention. I also attended Maurer’s session on interviewing for nonfiction. He is a fascinating individual and a genuinely nice guy.

Other sessions I attended were: Copyrights and Wrongs – Fair use of quotes and other things to avoid a lawsuit; First Person Problems – The specific challenges and opportunities of writing in first person; Where Does My Story Start – How to write a winning first chapter; Show and Tell, Interviewing for Nonfiction – Getting the story right; Writing What you Don’t See – How a point of view can drive a plot; and The Bookkeeping Side of Writing – Literary dollars and sense.

All of the presenters did a fantastic job. Of them, I found Virginia Beach author Lydia Netzer to be both energetic and informative about the craft of writing. She not a teacher by training, but if she taught a writing course, I’d be the first to sign up.

The youngest attendee of the conference was Koyoko Leaman, a 12-year old girl who was accompanied by her parents. Her first-10 lines were critiqued, and I was in a session where she read the first chapter of her manuscript. Remember the name. This young lady is already a posed and talented individual, one from whom I’m certain we will hear from in the future.

So, if you’ve never attended a writers conference, do so. Your expectations will be exceeded. And if you’re fortunate enough to live in or near beautiful and history-rich Hampton Roads, Virginia, join Hampton Roads Writers and plan to attend the 2014 Hampton Writers Conference. You won’t regret it. Hope to see you there.

Salty Dog 501 Aborts Carrier Landing

On July 10, 2013, after two earlier successful trapped landings on the USS George HW Bush (CVN-77), the Navy’s X-47B “Salty Dog 502″ drone self-aborted on a third attempt and flew to an airfield on Wallops Island on the Virginia Eastern Shore. The plan was to have the other of the two Northrop Grumman experimental drones, Salty Dog 501, make a trapped landing on Monday, July 17th, so that the objective of three trapped landings could be reached. Unfortunately, Salty Dog 501′s trapped landing attempt was also aborted because of unspecified technical issue.APphoto_Navy Unmanned Aircraft

Some news media are questioning the sucesss of the $1.4 billion drone project because 50% (2 of 4) of the trapped landings failed. The Navy and Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the X-47B, are taking a more positive view, saying that the tests were successful, and they have enough data to analyze the results and move forward with the drone development program.

(Photo by Steve Helber – Associated Press)

Historic Day for the US Navy and Naval Aviation

Remember the date, Wednesday, July 10, 2013. It’s the day that the US Navy’s drone, the X-47B dubbed “Salty Dog 502,” made an arrested or trapped landing on an aircraft carrier, the USS George HW Bush (CVN-77). In trapped landings, the drone, like a manned aircraft, lands and is stopped when the tail hook latches onto the arresting cable on the carrier. It is the most difficult maneuver a pilot will make, and likewise, the most difficult maneuver for a drone.

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Following deck-handling trials on the USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) in December 2012, the X-47B drone was successfully launched from the USS George HW Bush (CVN-77) in May 2013. A couple of weeks later on the BUSH, the X-47B made a number of touch-and-go landings, where the drone landed and took off without stopping. The trapped landing, the final hurdle for the experimental  drone, is a milestone in naval aviation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Lorelei R. Vander Griend/Released)

It’s worth noting that after two successful takeoffs and trapped landings, a third trapped landing was aborted when one of the drone’s three onboard navigation systems developed a glitch. The drone was diverted to an airfield on Wallops Island, Virginia, where it landed without incident. Once the issue is resolved, the drone will return to Naval Air Station, Patuxent, Maryland.

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(U.S. Navy graphic by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Arif Patani/Released)

The other of the two X-47B drones will be launched for unspecified tests the week of July 15th. David M. Ewalt of Forbes reported that after these tests, the two drones will be retired, and engineers will analyze their systems and data to determine if the X-47B is ready for final production and deployment.

According to Rear Admiral Matt Winter, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, the drones that the Navy will ultimately deploy will be in operation by 2020. By then, the first of the Navy’s next generation carriers, the USS Gerald Ford (CVN-78), scheduled for delivery in 2016, will be in service, as may be the USS John F Kennedy (CVN-79), scheduled for delivery in 2020. The contract will be awarded to one of four companies next year. It’s been widely reported that the four are Northrop Grumman’s  X-47B, Lockeed Martin’s Sea Ghost, Boeing’s Phantom Ray, and General Atomics Sea Avenger.

My Welcome Meeting with the Publisher

Mystery CartoonWhat happens after signing with a publisher has been a mystery to me. I signed with Koehler Books earlier this month, and over the next several months, I will be posting my experiences and opinions regarding the process leading up to book launch.

Although I’ve had two informal meetings with John Koehler of Koehler Books, I had the official welcome meeting on Monday, March 18th. Margo Toulouse, author representative, of Koehler Books joined us on the call. The purpose of the meeting was two-fold: to review the timeline to publication and to review the author questionnaire I had completed and submitted.

Project Management CartoonThe first task was to review the timeline to publication. Publication is slated for January 2014 with advance reader copies of my book and the electronic version available well in advance of that date. If “well in advance” sounds vague, the milestones on the timeline are also vague. Before the call I checked with colleagues, who confirmed that publishing timelines are stated in terms of tasks and the approximate time each task should take. For example, creative development, which includes copy editing, should take 3-4 months. As a former vice president in pharmaceutical R&D, I know that a timeline like this for a drug development project would get you fired. For book publishing, from what I understand, it’s the norm. I’m getting the impression it will be a hurry-up-and-wait process.

Social MediaOne item that has been stressed over and over is that the author—me—has primary responsibility for promotion of the book, including hiring a publicist to train me on the use of social media. I’ve already retained one of the best, in my opinion, Shari Stauch, CEO of Where Writers Win. I have a web site with a good Alexa ranking, as well as a presence and following on the Big Three—Twitter, Google+, and Facebook—as well as a presence on Goodreads, Shelfari, AuthorsDen, RedRoom, and other high traffic reader/writer sites. Because I’ve been working with Shari and her team for a while now, I’m doing pretty well. That doesn’t guarantee results, but it’s a start. Being present and being engaged with the community are two quite different things. I’m still working on the latter while trying not to let it eat away at my writing time. This can become a rabbit hole from which you never emerge, if you allow it to be.

With the timeline reviewed and agreed, we moved on to the author questionnaire. This was a useful exercise to review the information related to the book and my background and experience. Included in the discussion were a possible title change, initial thoughts on the cover design, and other information that will be used to prepare a tip-sheet for the book.

The above took about an hour. There were a few a action items, which completed the next day. The next step will be the cover design. I’ll be receiving two or three draft covers for review and discussion with John. John’s plan is to post the top two on the Koehler Books web site, where anyone can vote for his or her favorite. I’ll let you know when it is posted.

 

Iran claims to have captured US ScanEagle surveillance drone

ScanEagleLaunchIn December, Iran claimed to have captured a U.S. ScanEagle surveillance drone that was violating Iranian airspace. The ScanEagle, designed to be flown from a ship, is a small drone, 4.5 feet long with a wingspan of 10.2 feet with an empty weight of under 30 pounds.

The most notable use of the drone was in in 2011 in the MV Maersk Alabama piracy incident in the Indian Ocean. The New York Times report that US Officials have downplayed the drone’s technology, stating it has less computing power than a smartphone and camera technology that could be purchased at Radio Shack. If that’s true, one might ask why the ScanEagle system costs $3.2 million.

Photograph of Sentinel Drone that Iran has claimed to have captured

Photograph of Sentinel Drone that Iran has claimed to have captured

The ScanEagle is one of several drones that Iran has claimed to have captured, the most notable was the RQ-170 Sentinel Drone in December 2011. The New York Times reported that the Sentinel Drone was lost over Afghanistan, however, officials stated they would have expected to see much more damage if the drone had been brought down. Unless, of course, Iran seized control of the drone and landed it without damage. The other possibility raised in the report is that the drone glided to the ground after control was interrupted.

How Drones Work

How Drones Work

Is Iran is telling the truth? Can control of a drone be hacked? The BBC reported in “Researchers use spoofing to ‘hack’ into a flying drone” that it can be done. If that’s possible, is it also possible that the weapons systems be controlled?

In 2011 the LA Times and others reported that combat drones had been infected by a virus. All of this makes one wonder how secure the systems that control drone are. And these are government drones. What are the unintended consequences and unforeseen risks when drones are more widely used? I foresee a time when they are as commonplace as security cameras and traffic cameras.

Update – Virginia set to ban drones for two years

In an update to yesterday’s blog post, Stacy Parker has reported today in the Virginian-Pilot (“Hobbyists finding there’s not place like drone”) that Virginia’s two-year moratorium on the use of drones by police and government agencies will not apply to civilians. Looks like I can buy and use the Parrot AR Drone at Brookstone without breaking the law after all.