Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Book Publishing Secrets with Michael Houtz, Author of Dark Spiral Down

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.


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.

Readers Love 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



Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Is this your first book?
Mike: This is my first full-length novel. I’d worked on a medical thriller but felt compelled to write and complete this title. I slid the WIP into a drawer and cranked this one out in about 6 months.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Mike: I went with a smaller, traditional press out of New York. The truth is, no matter the path you choose, much of the promotional work rests on the author. My publisher aggressively engaged me with wonderful communication, and I felt they genuinely believed my book was well written and had the markings of a successful debut.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
Mike: I entered a writing contest at a large conference looking for judge’s feedback on what was essentially a rough draft. Surprisingly, I won an award in the thriller/suspense category. I was completely shocked. A few months later, I attended the Colorado Gold conference and went to my first pitch session looking to see what that 10-minute session looked like. My luck had continued, and I was asked for a full submission. Within a few days, I was contacted by a senior editor saying she loved the work and would present to the acquiring committee for a possible offer. A promised three-week reply to me turned into a 36-hour contract offer. I couldn’t believe how quickly everything occurred.
            I don’t really have any cons. I’d say I had a few somewhat negative responses here and there but, by-and-large, my experience was incredibly positive—more so that I ever expected.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Mike: I came into the business as a true neophyte. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. It’s hard to pinpoint where to begin when you’ve never done something before and don’t have a point of reference. I think for those folks in the same position I found myself, the important message is to plant your flag somewhere, anywhere, and strike out on a path regardless if it’s in the right direction. Listen to your inner voice, learn what works and doesn’t work for you, and adjust course accordingly. My personal lesson is believe in what you’re doing, regardless of the noise coming from others. If you truly want something bad enough, you’ll get there if you don’t quit.
            What I’ve learned about the industry is that it moves like a glacier. Despite my quick, early success, not something most people experience, expect a long, slow slug. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Something that amazed me was the welcoming from other authors into the fold. Publishing isn’t necessarily a zero-sum business. There’s always room for another great novel.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Mike: I would. Especially for debut authors. You get to see the aspects of traditional publishing—working with your editor, discovering the entire process from a contract all the way to your finished Galley, and finally the approaching publishing date. I found the whole process incredibly exciting and I learned so much I never knew existed. You’ll also become heavily involved in the marketing and promotion side of the business. That’s been a real eye opener, but I’m grateful for the opportunity.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Mike: Probably the same thing repeated by so many others—the difference between published authors and most others is the published author didn’t quit. This goes back to my own personal mantra—if you want something bad enough, you’ll make it happen. Wrapped up in all that is the will to succeed, however you define your own success. The act of winning is generated by all the work you do when no one else is looking.