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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Discovering Duke Davis, Retired Navy Man, and His Books: Science Fiction, Western, and Post Apocalyptic Adventure

Duke Davis is a Retired Navy Man who has lived in Jacksonville, Florida for most of his adult life.  He has been a Policeman, Special Warfare Operator, Real Estate Salesman, Computer Engineer, Electronics Engineer, Collage Professor, and Customer Service Specialist.  He has sold most everything there is to sell in part-time jobs.  He holds a Bachelors Degree in Electrical Engineering and is a published author with seven novels and twenty short stories to his credit.  
He has had to quit sky diving and scuba diving, his doctors didn’t like him doing that,  but he still climbs mountains,  goes spelunking and likes to explore the jungles.  Though retired, he has opened two businesses in the last year and is currently working on a third.  He volunteers at an Outreach Center twice a week where he teaches computers and software and at the Independent Living Resource Center as a Volunteer twice a week.
Duke spent multiple tours of duty in Vietnam, was involved in the 1972 Israeli Arab War, and several other small wars and conflicts around the world between 1960 and 1990.  He has retired a total of four times but just cannot seem to stay that way.  Retirement is the pathway to the grave.  Keep busy and active is his motto.  Currently he works on a Cruise Ship as a Computer Instructor teaching software to passengers. 
Tell us about the genre of your work. 
I really do not stay in any one genre unless you use a broad pen and call fiction its own genre.  Currently I have a Post Apocalyptic Series going, my bestselling book right now is a Western, but I also have a book about a war between ghosts, a Vietnam War Adventure, a hurricane hitting Key West but with a supernatural bent,  and a book of short stories that spans just about every genre there is except porno.  I really do not get into that one.  Nothing against it, it is just not my area.  I think my largest two areas of interest are Science Fiction and Post Apocalyptic Adventure though I am pleasantly surprised at my Western doing so well.
 I was hooked into the end of the world by writers like Andre Norton, George R. Stewart, and Pat Frank.  That is, Starman’s Son, Earth Abides and Alas Babylon for those not that familiar with the authors.  I read those as a youngster and was then hit heavily with Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova, R., A, Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, and all the big names in SF from before and after the sixties.  I was a pulp rag fan from the word go and grew up with the trade.  No matter what else is popular, Science Fiction always sells.  
Why did you choose this genre?
 The two things I know the most about are War and Science Fiction.  I have always heard that you should write about what you know.  Well, I have a bit of a varied background and know a little about just about anything.  I am lucky that I can talk about anything as if I knew what I was talking about.  In real life I’ve worked on Atomic Bombs, hunted men in the jungle and on the streets, taught all kinds of subjects from computers to explosives and weapons training, sold everything from vacuum cleaners to computers and ladies shoes ,  tended bar, been a short order cook, and you name it.  All of that combines into a wonderful background for science fiction.  After all, science fiction is not magic; it is everyday life with special effects.  At least it is for me.  Magic is Fantasy, but then I mess around a little there, too.
What are some of your books, stories that have been published?  -- 
I have a Western called, The Bounty Man, and it is about a bounty hunter on his last case. It turns out he is after a young man that no one in the town wants arrested.  He figures out a way to take care of the situation that might surprise you, it is meant to.  It is not chock full of gunfights and such, however you can tell that the main character, Case, is a pretty violent man.  It takes a look at the west as it was back in the mid to late 1800s.  I learned about that from my Great Grand Father who had been a bounty hunter at one time.  
Another book, actually my favorite, is The Dead Wars.  The whole book is written entirely about ghosts.  All the characters, with a few exceptions, are already dead and the story is about what happens after you die.  The hero is killed on the first page and the story evolves from there.  I have always heard that dead men tell no tales and I had to prove that wrong.  Reese, (the hero) wakes up dead and has to learn how to live (?) as a ghost. 
 It is not quite as easy as you would think.  Have you ever wondered why a ghost can walk through walls, yet he does not fall through the floor?  I answer that quandary in the book.  Reese winds up going back to the US, and as a tourist, he wants to see Washington DC.  Since no one can see him, he does not figure he will have any problems at all and really wants to see the things we do not normally get to see.  For instance, he wants to look into the CIA files and see what really happened on the knoll in Dallas, and all the finer points of that story.  He wants to see everything, and since he does not have a life span anymore, he has the time.
 However, he finds that there are more ghosts around than him, and not all ghosts are nice.  He meets a lot of good ghosts and some bad ones.  It seems most are waiting for a chance to go to the light or the darkness, whichever trip you have earned in your life.  Not everyone becomes a ghost.  The ones that do are the people that died without knowing they were about to die.  If you knew you were dying you went in the direction you had earned, but if you did not know, you became a ghost and wandered around until you earned your destination.  In DC, Reese teams up with a lot of old Military Ghosts from Arlington Cemetery and they wind up in a war with the bad ghosts.  Hence, the Dead Wars.  It has a little of everything, humor, Indian lore, military history, and magic, tears and even a love story.
My Apocalypse series is called The Long Journey Home.  Brad, the main character in the book, is an active duty US Navy SEAL stationed in Djibouti, which is a country on the mouth of the Red Sea.  Brad is from Jacksonville, Florida.  He wakes up one morning and finds that everyone else is dead.  Everyone! 
Well, if you were in that position, what would you want to do?  Probably go home just in case someone was still there, and that is what he wants to do.  Brad is not a pilot and cannot just hop in a plane and fly home.  While he is a Sailor, he will not try to cross Africa and then take a sailboat across the Atlantic to the states, nor can he handle a boat large enough to make it across the ocean by himself.  However, he can take his Computerized Off Shore Patrol Craft, a nice 65 footer, heavily armed, and he can sail north from Djibouti up the coast until he comes to India.  Then follow the coastline down around India and up to Burma (I still prefer that name!) then down the peninsula to Singapore, up the East side of Asia past Vietnam, Korea, and China to Russia.  There, it is only sixty miles across the Bering Straits to Alaska. He follows the coast south to Washington State, gets rid of the boat, picks up a motor home, and heads for Jacksonville.  Easy trip right?

 Along the way, he finds out that not quite everyone else is dead.  Roughly ten percent of the world’s population is still alive and kicking.  Now if ten percent is alive, the odds say that half of them will be good people, and half will not.   Who will be in charge?  The bad guys of course.  With all of the world’s weapons just lying around waiting for the first person to come along and pick them up, chaos will soon be the norm.  Brad meets people and winds up saving a few from all kinds of bad fates.  He picks up a crew and they go on his Journey with him.  The first book, The Journey Begins, takes Brad as far as Singapore. Book two, On The Pacific Rim, mostly takes place in Vietnam.  Book three is called Hong Kong Trade Off.  It is kind of obvious where that one takes place.  Each book in the series will be in another port or in a particular area at sea where Brad and his crew winds up in a pickle and usually have to shoot their way out.  It is going to take quite a few books to get Brad to Jacksonville.  Shanghai - Shanghai is underway now.
I have a book of Short Stories called Duke’s Short,s which I thought would really take off but it has not just yet.  It will soon, it just has not been noticed yet.  It has everything from a Space Opera to regular Science Fiction, to Horror, H
umor, Adventure, and the Macabre.  A Squirrel inherits the Earth, a man with a computer finds put he can do fantastic things with it, and a new guy in Vietnam earns his nickname.  A man on a cruise winds up in a strange predicament, Merlin the Magician shows up, a computer game you play for real, a Space Tug finds a really strange tow,  a new Officer reports to the space fleet but has problems along the way, First Contact between species, and a strange trip through your insides.  There is something there for just about everyone.
In Bad Odds, a young man goes to Vietnam as a Tech Rep for a Helicopter Manufacture and gets his induction into life.  As they are taking him out to the base where he will be working, his helicopter is shot down over the Arizona.  That is a piece of Vietnam that most Vets remember without any fondness what so ever.  Bob is the sole survivor of the crash.  He has spent six years in the Navy as a Helicopter Mechanic and has been a Civilian for the last four.  He has never been in Vietnam before, let alone in a Combat Zone.  His total experience for he now faces is zero.  He has no weapons, no food, nothing but a pack of smokes and a Zippo lighter and he is stranded in what is about the worst hellhole in the world.  Within a couple of days, the Viet Cong capture him.  The odds are bad that he will get out of there alive.
All of my books are available on Amazon.Com and Barnes&Noble.Com as eBooks.  At the moment, that is the only place you can find them, however, I am working on getting them out in print but that will be sometime in the future.
Currently I am working on a book called Hurricane Key, which is a combination Horror and Adventure story.  A horror author, Ben, and his wife Megan, move to the Florida Keys.  He has sold his latest book as a movie and it went big.  They buy a whole island just out from Sugarloaf Key, which is seventeen miles north of Key West.  On the island is an old house, which they have added to so they have a nice modern, but Key West Modern, house. 
One of the first things Ben does is turns off all radios, TV, etc.  He is there to write and not to do much else.  A hurricane brews off the African Coast and starts its journey westward.  Ben and Megan know nothing about it.  As the hurricane approaches Key West, people evacuate the Keys, and the Police shut down the highway.  The Hurricane has built to a Category 5 storm, (Category four is as big as they come) and is the worst ever seen.  Meanwhile, some strange force is influencing Ben.  He starts seeing and hearing things.  A mass murder happened in the old house back during another monster hurricane in the early part of the twentieth century.
This is an integral part of the story.  The eye of the storm comes over the top of Hurricane Key and things begin to happen that are far from the norm.  I do not want to give away anymore than that because the book is not quite finished.  I have the ending in mind and do not want to spoil it. 
How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books? 
For places, I usually use real places to the extent of geography, but I will change names of towns and such to save embarrassment of others or myself.  Of course, at times, you have to use real places and I do.  In Hurricane Key, I followed the old road around the backside of Sugarloaf to the old burned out wooden bridge that used to stretch way over to the next island south.  I then moved in a new island and named it Hurricane Key. 

Much of what I write about is true in some respects.  Embellishing the truth is fun.  I have made enough enemies in my life and do not need any more so I usually apologize for what I do.  My characters on the other hand come straight from my imagination.  I may make up some character from a combination of what I have seen in a movie or another book and add my own quirks and characteristics to make them mine.  The names depend on the person I am trying to create.  I try to make a name actually fit what I think the character is as a person.  I do admit to taking names for things from the Bible.  I am sure not the first to do that.  

If you are a Star Trek fan you will find many of the names of races, species, planets and people come from the Old and New Testaments.  The Ferengi were a race of Nomadic Traders in Mesopotamia and the name means foreigners in a couple of languages.  Kind of fits the Ferengi on the show, does it not?  I do not like using something someone else has come up with because I am the one in charge of my universe and I have to come up with it to make it work.

How did you develop the character of your protagonist in this book?

 Again, this depends on the story I am working on.  I will usually take on the personality (to a degree) of the character I am trying to develop.  I will create a file for that person, write their bio, a history of the person, and include many things that will never be in the story but I need to know to make the character real.  I know his birthday; his mother’s birthday, his dog’s birthday, what his kids like to eat, if his dog is housebroken, just about everything I need to make this character real.  I spend a lot of time in my office and while in there, I adopt the character’s attitudes and personality.  My wife keeps away from me when I go in my office.  Sometimes I am a nice guy but sometimes I am not.  I have a six-year-old granddaughter that will not come in if “Papas writing.”  I try to live my character.  I have to if I want them to be convincing.  It is much easier doing this for a protagonist than for an antagonist.  My wife says I am the last Boy Scout and one of the good guys and I have a difficult time creating a bad guy.  Little does she really know!

What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?

  I try to keep all the bad guys separate.  I do not reuse them or their character. Once I finish with an antagonist, I usually bury them so to speak.  I will start all over again with a new villain or whatever.  About the only thing you could say is a carryover, is evil.  I do normally have an evil antagonist.

What is your favorite thing about your book?
 I cannot really say I have a favorite thing about any of my books except maybe in The Dead Wars.  There I have a young kid; he was a Drummer Boy for the Confederacy killed in battle obviously, who is a ghost in modern DC.  He suffers the standard growing up problems of any young man and being a ghost he can get into more trouble than we living could ever imagine.  He even gets to fall in love.  I had a good time writing this guy.
How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?
  I do not find much difference going from genre to genre for many things.  The character’s personality in the story is about the main difference.  For instance, I would have a completely different person when writing The Bounty Man than I would have writing Bad Odds.  
Some genre require so much research that they are slow projects at best and I tend to stay away from them.  Do not get me wrong, I spend a lot of time doing my homework so to speak.  However, I really do not get into things that require a lot of facts.  I do not think most readers are out there looking for facts.  They are looking to be entertained.
 My Apocalyptic fiction is probably the most different genre I fiddle with.  In there, you have to get a few things right. You have to have some things the reader will know and relate to, but after that your imagination is the ruler and that makes a lot of difference.  You just cannot get carried away in any other genre as you can a Science Fiction work.     
Why and when did you begin writing?
 I began writing as a kid back in the late forties.  I wrote strictly for my own enjoyment.  I never considered trying to get published.  In my eyes, I did not stand a chance.  I would finish something and often toss it in the corner and start something else.  A long time later, I would find it again, read it over and either redo it or discard it.  I knew it was not good.  I always received good marks when I turned in something in school but I could not make the connection that I was turning out something that could interest other people.  I kept doing this until I was in my fifties and a friend read one of my short stories.  They talked me into joining a writer’s group they were forming and I did.  I was shocked when people liked what I was putting down.  I wish now I had kept some of those old manuscripts.  I can now see there was good stuff in some of them.  
What is your writing schedule?
  I really do not have a schedule.  I have retired four times in my life and I really do not enjoy it.  I need to be busy.  But now I can afford to sleep late and I do.  I was always up and going at oh-dark- early and at work before most folks got out of bed.  Now I usually get up between ten and eleven in the morning.  I eat breakfast while I read the newspaper.  Then, if I have something pressing to do, I go do it. However, usually I wander into my office and turn on the computer.  By one in the afternoon, I have finished my email and social networking and I pop open MS Word.  I will write until I give out either physically or mentally.  That sometimes means eating a cold supper after midnight but I will stop when my wife calls me usually.  It depends on how well things are flowing.  I usually write between ten and fourteen hours a day. 
I have two Dachshunds that enjoy it when Papa is home and writing.  They have a nest built under my desk and they stay right there.  Kasea and Suni are real clowns.  They keep me laughing a lot and when I am happy, I turn out better material.  My last job was teaching Computer Software on a Cruise Ship for six months at a stretch.  There I only worked on the days we were at sea and then only eight hours a day.  The rest of the time was mine, and boy, did I ever get some writing done.
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future? 
I was watching a Universe show on the Discovery Channel the other day and they gave me my next book, I think.  It is about Time Travel and the fun and games that are inherent to that.  I have a company I have named Time Trawlers that is going to get in and out of trouble in the past.  I have a couple of ideas for some somewhat unique (is that still possible today?) happenings I want to explore.
What kind of advice or tips do you have for someone who wants to write and get published?
Oh, this is simple.  The advice is WRITE, then READ, then WRITE MORE.  Of course, that is simplistic.  Nevertheless, to be a good writer you have to be a good reader.  I usually have two or three books going at one time.  I read a lot.  Sometimes when the words stop flowing I will pick up my Kindle, read for a bit, and then hop back into the manuscript.  Moreover, the more you read the more qualified you become to write. 
Before you write anything, do your homework on the subject.  There is a lot to be said for writing about what you know.  Nothing will cause me to toss a book faster than someone talking about a place or thing and not knowing anything about it.  I really got fed up recently with a book where the author was talking constantly about all the wonderful sandy beaches there are in the Florida Keys.  I lived down there as a kid and again as an adult.  My wife and I will both happily tell anyone there are NO natural sandy beaches there, and the few manmade beaches are small, additionally it is not easy to get to them.  They are usually private.  There are a couple of public beaches though.  Key West and the Keys are surrounded by a reef system that does not allow waves to come in.  Waves are what make sand.  Without waves, you have rock beaches.  That is the Keys.  If the author had done any research on the Keys, they would have found that fact out and maybe would not have made me drop the story so fast. 
What do you do when you are not writing?
 I have many hobbies.  I am really into guns and cutlery.  I shoot for relaxation, now, but I was on a pistol and rifle team while in the Navy.  The weapons I collect are all old.  I think my newest weapon is my Buck 110 that I got when they first came out back in the early 60s.  I carried it in Vietnam; and still have it somewhere on my person every day.  I have swords and old guns.  My oldest is a 1650 English Boarding Pistol.  
I also like to snorkel.  My doctors will not let me dive anymore nor will they let me jump out of airplanes either.  Those were my favorite hobbies.  My body has seen a lot of use and most of it was a bit rough.  I still like to drive a sports car on a fast track.  By sports car, I mean something like a Triumph Spitfire or TR-6, maybe an old Porsche, or MG.  Cars made back when a sports car was really a sports car.  I still like to climb mountains, but no ropes or anything like that anymore.  Now I have to climb a mountain I can walk up. 
My real interest is in Spelunking but at my age that is starting to become a bit difficult, but it is still a lot of fun.  Who knows what you will find?  I also build things.  I make oil lamps out of stone, do a bit of woodworking, or just about anything you can imagine.  I always have something to do.  At heart, I am still an adrenalin junkie.
What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
Let us see, I graduated college after I retired from the Navy; that was a biggie.  I joined the Navy with less than a high school education and now have a BS in Electrical Engineering.  
I was the first person in my family to get a degree.  Several things that were “Made it” moments are kind of private, like getting through some rough training in the Navy, surviving combat in a couple of situations in Vietnam, things like that. 
One of the big ones was my first story sale.  I sold a little short story about a man with a computer to a new startup magazine.  The writer’s group I belonged to, WITS, which stands for Writers In The Sun, had eleven members.  For five of us our first sale was into the premiere issue magazine out west.  We were all in Florida and had never heard of it, but five of us got in right off the bat.  Of the original eleven members, nine of us were published.  Two are still trying I guess.
Find all of Duke's books on his Author Page on Amazon at:
My website is  and there you can always get an up-to-date note on what is happening.   Stop in and sign my guest book.

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