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Enemy Within, Executive Office Book 3
The White House, infiltrated.
The president, running for his life.
A traitorous general, intent on burning the world to the ground.
When everything falls apart, who do you trust?
President Jack Spiers fled Washington DC on the heels of a devastating attack on CIA headquarters, masterminded by one of America’s own, former General Porter Madigan. While the world believes Jack was killed in the bombing, he embarks on a wild infiltration mission, smuggling himself into occupied Russia to rescue the love of his life: former Secret Service Agent and First Gentleman Ethan Reichenbach.
Reunited, Jack, Ethan, and deposed Russian president Sergey Puchkov, along with President Elizabeth Wall—the only person left in Washington DC who Jack trusts—must work together. They piece together a desperate plan, hunting Madigan to the ends of the earth and the bitter frigidity of the Arctic, where Madigan’s world-shattering doomsday plan comes together.
Outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and outgunned, Jack, Ethan, Sergey, and the rest of the team struggle to put a stop to Madigan and his army. In the desolate extremes of the Arctic, their resolve, their strength, and even their love is tested, pushed to the absolute limits as choices must be made: choices that pit the fate of the world against the love in their hearts, and the loves of their life.
As the world crumbles around them, Jack and Ethan find themselves waging a war on two fronts—against an enemy they can see, and another, hiding within their ranks.
Who can be trusted when the enemy is within you?
Isn’t that cover amazing? I love it. The always-amazing Natasha Snow of Natasha Snow Designs created this. It captures the novel perfectly. Absolutely perfectly.
(For those who are wondering, yes, it does represent a break between the first two [major] novels of the Executive Office. Enemy Within will be self-published.)
I was asked to share a little about my writing process, and specifically how I crafted this (long!) series. Clocking in at 435,000 words, this series is definitely one of the longest pieces of writing I’ve ever composed. If you add in Interlude, the holiday novel, the whole series is over 500,000 words.
My editor’s initial reaction, after reading Enemy Within for the first time was this: “WOW! I had no idea that things I thought were isolated incidents in the first two books would come back and be such a part of the overall tale!”
Readers, beware: everything in the Executive Office is connected. Everything matters. Everything has a purpose.
When I started writing the Executive Office, I did not think it would grow to be as large as it has become. Enemies of the State was nominated for 13 M/M Romance Book Awards in the Goodreads group, and placed third in Best Action/Suspense/Adventure and Best Military/Intelligence Officers categories. Enemies of the State was also nominated as Book of the Year on multiple review and blog sites. I won Best Debut Author for 2016, as well, on several sites.
Holy Hell. I did NOT expect that. To be honest, when I first published Enemies of the State, I thought people wouldn’t like a quirky book that looked in depth at the inner workings of the Secret Service, and explored a president discovering his sexuality and embracing his bisexuality/demisexuality with one of his Secret Service agents, set against a traitorous general and his band of loyal followers intent on reforming the world into their own idealized image.
The stories in the Executive Office each follow a segment of the Hero’s? Journey, the classic foundations of epic literature and story-telling from ye-olde-days up to the present. Instead of plotting each novel as mini-Hero’s Journeys, I plotted the series as a giant Hero’s Journey.
Since both Jack and Ethan were the Heroes, and since this was, at its core, a romance, I had to tweak the Hero’s Journey a bit... with all of my eternal apologies to Joseph Campbell! Let’s call it the Romantic Hero’s Journey.
Enemies of the State (Book 1) represents the first quarter of the Hero’s Journey. Jack and Ethan are in their ordinary worlds, living their lives, and all is well. And then, they meet. Their lives crash into each other – incoming president Jack Spiers meets lead detail Secret Service agent Ethan Reichenbach.
My first tweak to the Hero’s Journey-turned-Romantic-Hero’s Journey was to adjust the “Meeting the Mentor” segment (where Luke meets Obi-Wan, in Star Wars) to the “Meeting of the True Loves.” Jack and Ethan, our main couple, meet and sparks fly. The road ahead for their love is not easy, though. They endure the “Road of Trials/Tests” – hiding their growing friendship, navigating what it means for Jack when he starts to feel for a man for the first time in his life, Jack’s acceptance of his bisexuality, Ethan’s breaking of every single one of his Secret Service rules, etc.
And then, disaster. Enemies of the State is a love story set against the backdrop of a coup, masterminded by a splinter cell operating deep within America’s own military and headed by one General Madigan. There are traitors close to Jack and Ethan – very close! – and both men must sacrifice to get through the “First Threshold.”
All ends well in the end, with the coup averted and the traitors put down… but Madigan fleeing into parts unknown.
Enemy of My Enemy (Book 2) begins after the “First Test” has been successfully passed. Jack and Ethan have crossed the “First Threshold.” They are in love, publicly out – still navigating trials and tests with their now-public love – and exploring what it means to be together.
Unfortunately, Act Two of the Hero’s Journey is the Descent to the Underworld and the “Supreme Ordeal”. I think my readers can attest that Enemy of My Enemy put them through a supreme ordeal! :)
In Enemy of My Enemy Jack and Ethan are riding high on their life and their love, and they settle into the White House as the First Couple. They work with Russian President Sergey Puchkov, Putin’s successor, and form a strike team to track down Madigan. Politics and international relations and strike team missions play out, and Jack and Ethan grow closer and closer, still. Jack commits to very public shows of his love for Ethan, reversing his commitment to keeping his personal life private and out of the media. Ethan buys a ring. They find within their love their own “Shadow Selves,” and this section represents their descent into the innermost reaches of their own souls, and exploring the depths of their love.
However, Madigan’s reach is long and his plans are patient, and he strikes back at the heart of their love, shattering Jack’s friendship with Sergey and his relationship with Ethan in one sweeping trap.
Meet the “Supreme Ordeal.” All of my readers know what I am talking about, but I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the novels yet. I’ll just say one word: Sochi.
What happens in Sochi, Russia represents the “Harrowing of the Soul.” Everything that Jack and Ethan worked for and gain – all of their love, the totality of their new identities – seems lost in a moment. Lost, the heroes are scattered and afraid, wandering without the anchors of each other, and facing their greatest challenge yet: does their love, and their new life together, survive?
Jack “Refuses the Return” at the end of Enemy of My Enemy, choosing to go back and reunite with Ethan. He wants his life with Ethan, and not the life that was offered to him during the “Supreme Ordeal.” When he chooses Ethan, he leaves the ‘normal world’ behind and enters the “Realm of the Wild Man.” Literally, he does. Jack, faced with a terror attack, more traitors and spies surrounding him, and Ethan both missing and in danger, chooses to leave Washington DC and find Ethan, to reunite them and make their love and lives whole again. He leaves the presidency in the hands of his vice president, and leaves the world to believe that he perished in the terrorist attack.
As Enemy of My Enemy closes, Jack and Ethan are reunited, but struggling against an ascendant Madigan, whose plans are coming together nicely. Ahead of them lies the “Dark Night of the Soul” and the “Third Threshold”, and beyond, the “Catharsis/Climax.”
Enemy Within (Book 3) begins with Jack and Ethan – and all our heroes, including Sergey, Sasha, Adam, and Faisal – working through their own “Dark Night of the Soul(s)”. This point symbolizes and represents the death of dreams, or the realization that all is changing, and that the heroes must change as well. Do they embrace what is before them—true love, and the chance to be something bigger, stronger, more complete, as a unit, as a pair, as a couple that loves with an intensity to rival the sun? They must embrace the wholeness of their identities, as well, and find strength through both self-love and loving their partner.
The “Third Threshold” rises against the heroes, and the “Showdown” against Madigan. No spoilers, though!
Following the “Showdown”, there are consequences for actions taken and choices made, and Jack, Ethan, Sergey, Sasha, Faisal, and Adam each have to face the journey they just walked. For some this leads to a “Resurrection,” and at the end of the book, each hero is poised above the “Fourth Threshold”…
Plotting this story took about a month in Summer 2015. I wrote Enemies of the State in September 2015, and held on to the notes for the rest of the series, in case the best were to happen. Enemies of the State launched in February 2016. It did well.
I wasn’t able to write the sequel until July 2016. But, I dusted off the notes and wrote it out, writing Enemy of My Enemy from mid-July to mid-August 2016. It released October 2016.
I took a short break for the holidays and concentrated on my surprise novel, Interlude, which takes place between Books 1 & 2. It was truly a ‘thank you’ gift to my readers. I wanted to share more of Jack and Ethan’s fun, loving, and goofy sides… especially before Enemy Within (Book 3).
Enemy Within will release on March 28th 2017 at Amazon, Smashwords, and other ebook & print retailers.
I want to move away from my writing process to what this all means to me, for a moment.
The warmth, acceptance, and love shown to me and to my stories—and to my characters—has been overwhelming. There is true love out there for Jack and Ethan, the two lead characters and couple in these novels. There’s even a little bit of affection for me! (I kid.)
I cannot explain or enunciate how deeply this moves me. How much this warmth and acceptance means to me. I cherish and value each and every one of my fans. I love hearing from everyone. I love chatting with everyone. I love discussing the books and these characters with everyone. I am 100% fully cognizant of the fact that my success has come about only through the love and support of my readers, bloggers, and fans. Thank you, from the absolute bottom of my heart, for all that you have done.
Writing a romantic political thriller in this present time is an interesting experience. But, if you’d like to see a good president fall in love with a man for the first time in his life, and then explore what that means to the him, to the man he loves, and to the world, give the Executive Office a shot.
You can find more about me and my books on my website. www.talbauerwrites.com
I post weekly flash fiction pieces that are user-submitted prompts based out of my worlds. Look for Bauer’s Bytes. I am always looking for new prompts from readers! Drop me a line anytime!
You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter. I always love to chat!
Jack and Sergey lurched over rough ground, keeping the river on their left as they headed south. Sergey stopped every hour or so to check the ice on the river. He came back to the jeep each time with a frown and a shake of his head. “We keep going,” he said. “We will cross when we can.”
They moved slowly, and as quietly as they could. Jack kept a rifle in his gloved hands as he sat in the passenger seat, constantly scanning for anything around them. Any sign of the shooter, or being pursued.
The embankment ran out, and they turned into the mountains, putting more distance between the river and their jeep… and Ethan.
Ethan’s absence was an ache in Jack’s heart, a sense of loss that hovered around him. Where were their shared smiles, the looks they traded in silence as if they could read each other’s thoughts? The hand that would slide into his during the drive, a simple act that made the world feel warmer? Sometimes, he said things that Ethan swore was on the tip of his tongue and they’d laugh together, their worlds aligning like pages turning in a book. Being without Ethan, without that effortless love and care, was like a piece of himself was missing.
Sergey, silent and dour behind the wheel, did not make things any easier.
Not much had been said since their conversation at the river, when Sergey had nearly broken down but had gripped Jack’s hand instead. Where was the Sergey who could talk to a wall and make it laugh? Befriend a lamppost and spin a yarn that captivated whole rooms?
Jack kept quiet, watching out of the window.
“Tell me how you and Ethan came to be lovers?”
He turned and stared at Sergey.
Sergey wouldn’t look back. His jaw clenched, and he gripped the steering wheel, one elbow propped on the windowsill with his hand on his forehead. “I only know what the media reported. And all of it contradicted each other. I do not know what actually happened.”
Slowly, Jack began to speak. He told Sergey about their friendship, about how Ethan was a breath of fresh air in a stilted world. How, even as the president of the United States, he’d become starved for human interaction and friendship. What Ethan had risked, giving that to him, and how their friendship had grown, deepened, and become something more.
Sergey said nothing.
And then he told Sergey about the kiss. Ethan’s hopeful, aching heart wishing for the best, and Jack, shocked and shaken and reacting without thinking. How they’d fallen apart, and then came back together, ironically, to stand against Sergey in Prague.
Finally, Sergey reacted. Frowning, he shook his head, as if trying to understand. “You… didn’t know this about yourself before Ethan?”
“No. I was never attracted to men before him.” He hesitated. “I do know myself enough to recognize that I fall for someone with my heart first. That’s how it was with him and me. I already had fallen for him, and then the physical desire started. Maybe if I had given it a chance before, the same thing would have happened with someone else. If I had been open to it.”
Sergey scowled. His cheeks darkened and his lips pressed together, a thin, red line slashing across his hawkish face.
“What’s this ab—”
“Nyet. No, no, I am done talking about this.” His hands kneaded the steering wheel again. He refused to look at Jack.
“We come from different worlds, Jack!” Sergey snapped. “You know nothing!”
Jack’s temper flared white-hot, racing through him in an instant. Cold fire, burning bright. “You’re right, I know nothing about falling for a man for the first time. Nothing about trying to figure out a whole new reality. A new sexuality. Make sense of a new world, or of choosing to accept the love of the best man I’ve ever know.”
“So American! You think you have all the answers—”
“Maybe I just do not want it!” Sergey bellowed. He glared at Jack, his eyes dark and pinched. “Maybe I saw everything you went through and I want nothing to do with that kind of trouble!”
Sergey’s words were like daggers, cutting into him. “Fuck, Sergey, Sasha died for you and you can’t even say that you cared for him!”
“He did not die for me!” Sergey’s voice went high, strangled and thin. “He was determined to go on that flight! The mission you said was important! You made him go!”
“He gave you everything he had, every last thing so that you could keep fighting! We’d be blind if it weren’t for his sacrifice.”
“He should not have gone!” Sergey hollered. His foot slammed on the accelerator, and the jeep jumped ahead, spitting snow behind their tires as they slipped almost sideways on the mountain track. “You should have helped me stop him!”
“Why? So he can still be here to follow you around? Wait for whatever handout you think would keep him interested?”
Brakes squealed, and the jeep shuddered to a halt, sliding on the frozen ground. Sergey threw open his door and leaped from the cabin, striding away.
Jack followed, jumping out and shouldering the rifle. He left his balaclava on the front seat. His boots disappeared in the snow, almost knee deep, as he shouted at Sergey’s back. “At the very least, you could acknowledge that he meant something you.”
“You think I do not love him?” Sergey spun, rage twisting his face into something ugly. Spittle flew from his lips as he bellowed. “Of course I do! He is the voice in my head! I see him in the snow and in the stars! I cannot be free of him!”
Jack froze. He stared at Sergey, breathing hard and shaking in the glow of the headlights, shin-deep in the powdery snow. Silence strained the frozen forest, the feet that separated them.
Shoulders heaving, Sergey dragged in breath after breath, swallowing gulps of frosty air. He looked away from Jack, into the forest, his hands on his hips. When he spoke, his voice was too deep, and it shook. “I—”
A blade sliced through the air, past Jack’s cheek, and embedded in Sergey’s shoulder. Blood wept down the front of his jacket and stained the snow beneath him…
“Sergey!” Jack stumbled through the snow to him, just as Sergey’s knees buckled. Jack fumbled, trying to catch Sergey and unshoulder the rifle at the same time.
Tal Bauer is an award-winning and best-selling author of LGBT romantic thrillers, bringing together a career in law enforcement and international humanitarian aid to create dynamic characters, intriguing plots, and exotic locations. Tal is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America.Pronouns: They/them or he/him
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