What motivated my spy novel series?

SpySeriesI was interviewed recently, and one of the questions was where I got my ideas for my “The Secret Lives of Jessie Monroe” spy novel series from. I hadn’t pondered it before, but realized they were all based on current events with a twist of “what could go wrong?”

At the time that I was writing the first book in the series, “Alias Juno Wolf,” Amazon had announced plans to create a network of delivery drones to customers’ doorsteps. I thought, “What could go wrong?” Our heroine Jessie Monroe, CIA agent, undercover as Juno Wolfe, discovers a plot that she and her programmer friend, Truman, must unravel before the countdown ends and the wayward drones cause mass destruction. I leveraged my background in software security writing the story.

“Who is Juno Wolfe?” was written in 2017 when our newly-elected President displayed a proclivity towards Putin and penchant for appointing family members and donors to high level positions. I thought, “What could go wrong?” It was from that basis I created the character of “President Randolph White,” who has appointed his incompetent nephew as the head of the CIA, and created a dystopian view of today’s America, of what could go wrong. Like Dagny Taggert in “Atlas Shrugged,” Jessie fights against incompetence and goes to a hidden computer site in Monument Valley, Arizona. There she finds an even more devious Russian plot is underway. Growing up in Utah, Monument Valley and the Navajo have always held some allure for me and I incorporated some Navajo mystic.

“Finding Jessie Monroe” was born during the Black Lives Matter unrest in the summer of 2020. I thought, “What would happen if an outside influence leveraged the unrest to create more division in America, even start a civil war?” On that backdrop, our heroine goes under cover again. Time is running out for Jada as she pulls at the threads of a conspiracy that points to a shadowy Russian-backed plot, sucking in the Black Lives Matter leaders, and creating the ingredients for civil war. Jessie Monroe is back under cover once again, this time as Jada Foxx, a newspaper reporter whose prying questions pass for mere reporting. Can Jessie find redemption, recover the parts of herself lost to time and tragedy, and save America too?

At the time that I was writing the first book in the series, “Alias Juno Wolf,” Amazon had announced plans to create a network of delivery drones to customer’s doorstep. I thought, “What could go wrong?” Our heroine Jessie Monroe, CIA agent undercover as Juno Wolfe, discovers a plot that she and her programmer friend, Truman, must unravel before the countdown ends and the wayward drones cause mass destruction. I leveraged my background in software security writing the story.

“Who is Juno Wolfe?”, was written in 2017 when our newly-elected President displayed a proclivity towards Putin and penchant for appointing family members and donors to high level positions. I thought, “What could go wrong?” It was from that basis I created the character of “President Randolph White,” who has appointed his incompetent nephew as the head of the CIA, and create a dystopian view of today’s America, of what could go wrong. Like Dagny Taggert in “Atlas Shrugged,” Jessie fights against incompetence and goes to a hidden computer site in Monument Valley, Arizona. There she finds an even more devious Russian plot is underway. That allowed me to incorporate some Navajo mystic. Growing up in Utah, Monument Valley and the Navajos have always held some allure for me.

“Finding Jessie Monroe” was born during the Black Lives Matter unrest in the summer of 2020. I thought, “Would an happen if an outside influence leveraged the unrest to create even more division in America, even start a civil war?” On that backdrop, our heroine goes under cover again. “Time is running out for Jada as she pulls at the threads of a conspiracy that points to a shadowy Russian-backed plot, sucking in the Black Lives Matter leaders, and creating the ingredients for civil war. Jessie Monroe is back under cover once again, this time as Jada Foxx, a newspaper reporter whose prying questions pass for mere reporting. Can Jessie find redemption, recover the parts of herself lost to time and tragedy, and save America too?”

Just Published – “Finding Jessie Monroe”

Available on Amazon

Time is running out for Jada as she pulls at the threads of a conspiracy that points to a shadowy Russian-backed plot, sucking in the Black Lives Matter leaders, and creating the ingredients for civil war. Jessie Monroe is back under cover once again, this time as Jada Foxx, a newspaper reporter whose prying questions pass for mere reporting.

Jessie’s twin brother James is running for President to defeat President White, the corrupt president that has been causing unmeasurable damage to America, damage that his followers turn a blind eye to. James has lived his life as a spy, but hopes he can now offer his heart and a stable life to the woman of his dreams.

Jessie’s invented personas have always covered up her own self-doubts, and now she risks unraveling the secrets that Jessie has kept locked away, but she may find what she had been missing while living her secret lives. In the cold dark waters of the Potomac river lies Jessie’s first clue, a story unto itself, and the start of a harrowing quest.

Can Jessie find redemption, recover the parts of herself lost to time and tragedy, and save America too?

“Finding Jessie Monroe” is the third in the spy novel series, “The Secret Lives of Jessie Monroe.” Thanks to everyone who helped edit, proof, give feedback, and provide encouragement on this book. Their feedback was invaluable and helped me learn to write more cleanly and descriptively. I feel it is a breakthrough novel for me, bringing together what I’ve been learning writing various books since retirement.

Some early feedback included:

  • Part spy novel, part political thriller and part romance novel. Most of all, it is a statement!
  • It is a page turner (& emotional rollercoaster with Jessie).
  • The writing is crisp and very descriptive – easy to visualize how each character looks, dresses, etc. Places, too.
  • Riveting.
  • Your Jessie Monroe series would make for a good movie or mini-series.

Ukraine

I am sure we are all horrified about the events in Ukraine.

I was reviewing my last spy novel from “Who Is Juno Wolfe?” from the “The Secret Lives of Jessie Monroe” series, written in 2017. I had felt somewhat prescient when I wrote in 2017 of President White (who was modeled after Trump) being so friendly with the Russian president that he overlooked Russian network attacks. In real life, Russian network attacks did happen after I wrote the book.

But this is an excerpt from the book during Juno’s speech to America:

“Our government’s satellite tracking stations cannot see our own satellite data. But I can see it. I am in a secret bunker from where I can access our satellite data. And here is what I can see.”

As she spoke, the images started to be displayed on the TV screens, images from satellites high over Eastern Europe and a superimposed outline of the old USSR. 

Then the screen zoomed in to show one country after another, a clear line of tanks entering was visible. Smoke from bombs and fighting could be made out.

“The Soviets are marching into countries once part of the USSR, countries that rejected communist rule and voted for their own democratic governments. Yet now the Soviets are forcibly retaking those countries. Do the scenes you see look like those countries are happily agreeing to rejoin the New Soviet Union as you have been told? Smoke, bombs, and fighting do not look like a peaceful acquisition to me. Yet all of the news reports Americans have seen do not match the reality I am now showing you.” 

“Why do you not know this? Because you have allowed your government to filter what news you see.”

It Starts with an Idea – the story of a Silicon Valley start-up

If you haven’t read it, my first book was “It Starts with an Idea,” the true story of the software start-up I co-founded with two other great partners, Steve and John. Leveraging managers with tried and true experience together with very talented practical software architects and dedicated engineers, the Azerity product demonstrated that software can be done right. Such a great team and what an amazing adventure that was.

The ups, the downs, and what we all learned about how to develop amazing software and a product customers loved are all in the book. (I write more about the company with team photos in A Success Story.) There are many lessons learned contained in the book, from years in the software industry.

“It Starts with an Idea.”

   
Front Cover Back Cover

The book originally sold in the US and UK and got great reviews (thank you!!!). It remains a useful guide today with good, practical information for software developers and managers as well as a fun read for software professionals and non professionals.

If you liked it, I’d love for you to let other people know about it.

If you read it, and haven’t posted a review, please post a review on Amazon !!!

—————– THANKS FOR THE REVIEWS ! ———————
5.0 out of 5 stars – An Interesting peek inside the world of a software start-up.
July 5, 2016
Not having any background with computer coding and software development did not hamper my enthusiasm for getting a peek inside a California start-up company. As a manager, I most enjoyed reading about the financial challenges of starting a company, working with technical staff and considerations around out-sourcing, especially with India.
I applaud the vision, dedication and sacrifice of the entrepreneurs in this real life story. I have known Jan for over 50 years and admire her tenacity. If you haven’t read her book “Class of ‘67”, you missed reading about how hard she worked to excel in the academic world and how she moved from a background in math and physics to the software world.
The story didn’t attempt to hide the warts that come with any commercial endeavor and was honest about both the successes and failures. Thank you for an interesting read.

5.0 out of 5 stars
December 16, 2015
I acquired this book for a friend, an IT engineer, and decided to read it before I gave it to him. As a professional artist and computer neophyte, I’ve always been fascinated by this technology but struggled to understand it.
Not so now! As the author takes us through the development of a complex software package, she focuses, not on technical data, but the importance of building a team that shares in the process at every level. I laughed at the stories of office space crises, the hassles of moving to larger buildings as the enterprise grew, company parties and office pranks.
But the technical stuff was written in such a clear manner that even I could understand it. When I open an interactive web sight now, I know what’s going on with all those pip ups, drop downs and such. I can now interact with that nasty machine from a much more informed place!
This book should be required reading or even a textbook for advanced computer science courses. The technical sections offer some rare insights that every software developer could put in her/his toolbox!

5.0 out of 5 stars – This is by far the best approach I have seen
April 26, 2016
Any curriculum on software development should include this book as required reading. I started programming in 1965, and this is by far the best approach I have seen. Jan presents one of the most thorough, practical approaches to developing software that is based on the requirements, testing to those requirements, providing a set of documentation, all the while tracking everything through the life cycle from start to finish. Well done!!!

Full disclosure, I have known and respected Jan for many years.

All you software geeks out there – share this.

5.0 out of 5 stars
March 8, 2016
A great book on the travails of software development.

5.0 out of 5 stars – Great Book!!
September 13, 2015
I loved this book! I’m generally not a big reader but I read this cover to cover in 2 days. Not only was it fun to read but it also has great information that should be quite valuable to readers! Very well written!

Backstory – “Who is Juno Wolfe?”

BACKSTORY: In the second book in my spy novel series, “The Secret Lives of Jessie Monroe,” the title, “Who Is Juno Wolfe?”, is a take-off from “Who Is John Galt?”, the opening line of the dystopian Ayn Rand novel from the ’50s, “Atlas Shrugged.” In Ayn Rand’s book, the United States encounters constant business failures and severely decreased productivity. The government has gradually extended its control over businesses by passing ever more stringent regulations that increasingly favor established and stagnant corporations, especially those that have good connections in Washington. Frustrated by the government changes, the experienced, moral business leaders throughout the country had been abandoning their positions. The frantic heroine, Dagny Taggart, is left to try to keep America from failing.

“Who is Juno Wolfe?” was written in 2017, shortly after President Trump was elected. When Trump displayed over-friendliness with Russia and appointed family members and donors to high level positions, I thought, “What could go wrong?” It was from that basis I created the character of “President Randolph White” and created a dystopian view of today’s America.

Cover
Available from Amazon

THE STORY: In “Who is Juno Wolfe?”, President Randolph White has extended his control over government agencies and services by assigning his relatives and cronies to the highest-level positions, including high-level positions at the Central Intelligence Agency. The new agency heads are inept, without the experience and morals of the leaders they have replaced.

At the beginning of the book, our heroine has left her undercover persona behind and is once again Jessie Monroe, working her regular job as an Intelligence Analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency.

In her satellite data review, she notices strange network attacks apparently being sent against the United States systems from some foreign entity. As she works to identify the source, she encounters ineptitude and sloth has infiltrated the Agency … from the failing computer center and the laziness of employees, to the general lack of leadership. When she tries to raise the alarm about the network attacks from a foreign adversary, her concerns go unheeded, falling on deaf ears. It is clear that the Agency has fallen into disarray.

Jessie must go undercover again as Juno Wolfe, but this time, without Agency sanction. In a hidden government facility in Arizona, she solicits two genius engineers to join her and establishes a remote satellite tracking capability. While she works to track down the foreign network attack, she meets the old Navajo chief and spiritual leader. Juno is introduced to Native American beliefs and discovers an inner strength she didn’t know she had.

During her investigation into the network attacks, Juno finds even more than she bargained for. It is up to Juno Wolfe and her small loyal team, aided by an unlikely band of Freedom Fighters, to bring sanity back to the world.

Spy Novels from the Duck Pond – Book 1 Alias Juno Wolfe

I’m working on the third novel in my spy series, “The Secret Lives of Jessie Monroe.” But in case you missed reading them, here’s info on the first two.

Background – After I retired from software and technology and had published my first book about my Silicon Valley start-up adventure (It Starts with an Idea), I started writing more books. Some of my favorite books are my spy novel series (The Secret Lives of Jessie Monroe).

The First in the Series: Alias Juno Wolfe

In the first novel, Alias Juno Wolfe, we meet Jessie, one of the young twins whose parents’ brutal murder sends them both into shock and reclusion. Living with their uncle, they are home-schooled and self-isolated but extremely smart and technical. Besides technology, they discover a love of the martial arts and, since their uncle works at the CIA, they find a niche for their talents as spies.

On one of her first under-cover assignments as Celeste, she infiltrates a Central America drug lord’s inner circle. She is successful, but ends up being shot and paralyzed and retires for a while from spy work. Although having obtained multiple technical degrees, those were done using tutors and remote learning so now she takes the opportunity to attend MIT in-person and learns about their fascinating, advanced Multics computer with it’s multi-ring security. She is software-brilliant and easily hacks the never-before-hacked system, gaining the attention of the school and the head of the Multics Department. With hard work, she recovers her ability to walk. But that part of her life once again ends in tragedy. She once again returns to under-cover work to find meaning to her life and an escape from her sadness.

Jessie goes under cover as Juno Wolfe, software security guru specializing in drone management and tracking software. She uncovers a plot to cause mass destruction that Juno and her young programmer friend, Truman, must unravel before the countdown ends.

It was fun to write because I have a background in software security – from working at Ford Aerospace on Orange Book multi-level security which we then applied to our start-up product. Our product, ProChannel, was an early internet-based application with users worldwide with different access needs: From manager users within a semiconductor company with all rights to see all data, to sales users working for the company with less privilege to see each others commissions and company-confidential pricing algorithms, to distributors who carried competing semiconductor companies’ lines so needed a much more restricted view. That took robust multi-level security. Add to that the fact that this information was going over the internet, believe me, companies like Cypress Semiconductor, Maxim, and Linear Technology Systems would not allow systems that contain their price lists to be accessible via the internet. My lessons learned show up incorporated into the plot.

In addition, that was the timeframe in real life when Amazon was starting to announce their future plans for drone delivery systems. The two companies Jessie works under cover for are developing the latest technology applications – delivering packages and products via drone. What could go wrong?
Cover
Available from Amazon

An introduction to the 2nd book in the series will be the subject of the next post … stay tuned …

from the Duck Pond

What comes from the Duck Pond? Books – as well as Software Tips. What kind of books? Fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, and children’s books.

Why “Duck Pond”? Duck Pond Software was the name of my software consulting company. I chose the name while I was golfing at Discovery Bay Golf Club, walking between holes 7 and 8 past a small lake full of ducks. (The DBGC has more water than grass!) In addition, I live on Drakes Drive in Discovery Bay and Discovery Bay displays more “duck crossing” signs than “pedestrian crossing” signs. “I live in a duck pond!” I thought. Hence, “Duck Pond Software” … and now my books are “from the Duck Pond.”

My updated website now advertises all of my books. (New url: fromtheDuckPond.com) The software tips – about better software development, design, and management that Anita and I wrote – are still there under Software Tips and DB Posts. The home page shows my current books.

If you haven’t read it, my first book was “It Starts with an Idea,” the true story of the software start-up I co-founded with two other great partners, Steve and John. Such a great team! What an amazing adventure that was. The ups, the downs, what we all learned about how to develop amazing software and a product customers loved. (I write about the company with our photos on A Success Story.)

Besides the lessons learned that are contained in the book, Anita and I wrote our software methodology we coined Practical Software (which is more agile than Agile) and posted tips and advice. There are also a lot of blogs here about software development, management, offshoring, agile, etc. DB Posts

Now I’m writing more books … more about those in the next post …

“It Starts with an Idea,” got great reviews (thank you!!!) It has some 50-60 sales in the US and the UK. It remains a useful guide with good, practical information for software developers and managers as well as a fun read for software professionals and non professionals.

If you liked it, I’d love for you to let other people know about it.

If you read it, and haven’t posted a review, please post a review on Amazon !!!

—————– THANKS FOR THE REVIEWS ! ———————
5.0 out of 5 stars – An Interesting peek inside the world of a software start-up.
July 5, 2016
Not having any background with computer coding and software development did not hamper my enthusiasm for getting a peek inside a California start-up company. As a manager, I most enjoyed reading about the financial challenges of starting a company, working with technical staff and considerations around out-sourcing, especially with India.
I applaud the vision, dedication and sacrifice of the entrepreneurs in this real life story. I have known Jan for over 50 years and admire her tenacity. If you haven’t read her book “Class of ‘67”, you missed reading about how hard she worked to excel in the academic world and how she moved from a background in math and physics to the software world.
The story didn’t attempt to hide the warts that come with any commercial endeavor and was honest about both the successes and failures. Thank you for an interesting read.

5.0 out of 5 stars
December 16, 2015
I acquired this book for a friend, an IT engineer, and decided to read it before I gave it to him. As a professional artist and computer neophyte, I’ve always been fascinated by this technology but struggled to understand it.
Not so now! As the author takes us through the development of a complex software package, she focuses, not on technical data, but the importance of building a team that shares in the process at every level. I laughed at the stories of office space crises, the hassles of moving to larger buildings as the enterprise grew, company parties and office pranks.
But the technical stuff was written in such a clear manner that even I could understand it. When I open an interactive web sight now, I know what’s going on with all those pip ups, drop downs and such. I can now interact with that nasty machine from a much more informed place!
This book should be required reading or even a textbook for advanced computer science courses. The technical sections offer some rare insights that every software developer could put in her/his toolbox!

5.0 out of 5 stars – This is by far the best approach I have seen
April 26, 2016
Any curriculum on software development should include this book as required reading. I started programming in 1965, and this is by far the best approach I have seen. Jan presents one of the most thorough, practical approaches to developing software that is based on the requirements, testing to those requirements, providing a set of documentation, all the while tracking everything through the life cycle from start to finish. Well done!!!

Full disclosure, I have known and respected Jan for many years.

All you software geeks out there – share this.

5.0 out of 5 stars
March 8, 2016
A great book on the travails of software development.

5.0 out of 5 stars – Great Book!!
September 13, 2015
I loved this book! I’m generally not a big reader but I read this cover to cover in 2 days. Not only was it fun to read but it also has great information that should be quite valuable to readers! Very well written!

Star Child

My granddaughter, Serenity, was the reason I wrote my memoirs, “Class of ’67.” She would always ask me to tell her the stories from my childhood. Nagging me, let’s say. Continually. So I put them in a book and said, “Here – read them all.”

She did like the book. And liked the children’s books I wrote about the environment. Now that she’s older, she decided she wanted to read my spy novels, “The Secret Lives of Jessie Monroe.” Hmm, I thought. I cautioned my daughter Julie, her mom, that I wasn’t sure those were a good fit for my eleven-year-old granddaughter. People get killed, especially the young twins parents murdered before their eyes. Not good. Julie said Serenity loved the “Hunger Games” and all the “Harry Potter” books, even the later more grown-up releases. But shortly into the first book Serenity let me know, “Grandma … I don’t really like your spy novels. It doesn’t bother me when people get hurt and you know it’s fantasy. Yours seemed more real.”

It was what I’d expected, but still … I had an idea. It was mid-November but if I hurried, I could write a fantasy book and mail it to her for Christmas. So I started to think about a fantasy where Serenity would be in the middle of it and came up with “Star Child (A Serenity Book).” She said she likes fantasy, ferries, and magic.

Here’s the premise: “Serenity always thought she was a normal girl. But one night her parents disappear and a woman named Mathilda tells Serenity she is a Star Child. Serenity learns that an evil presence had taken her parents and Serenity is the only one that can save them. Mathilda gives Serenity a crash course in the Star Arts. Serenity meets others who help her in her journey: the Fairy People, the Constellations, and the porpoises. But in the end it is up to Serenity, alone, to go into the Dark Lord’s lair deep inside the earth and rescue her parents.”

To make it special, I used a photograph of Serenity and another little girl when we were at her cousin Rebecca’s wedding in Utah, up Parley’s Canyon surrounded by beautiful red rocks and a waterfall. The girls were in their white dresses, with bridal flowers in their hair. To me, they looked like little fairies … or star children.

The good news was I wrote it in under two weeks and had it published and into the mail with the proper customs forms before Thanksgiving. The last book I sent to her in the Canary Islands, Spain, got to her in ten days. That was good! On the other hand, her Aunt Kristin sent her a Christmas card that didn’t arrive until April. Shall we say mail service to the Canary Islands is very unpredictable.

Serenity didn’t receive her paperback by Christmas, nor by Three Kings Day. Maybe she’ll have it for her birthday late March. Thank goodness for Kindle … I think she’s been able to read it online by now.

Alias Juno Wolfe – Chapter 1 Teaser

TopCover

I’m working on my next spy novel in the series, “The Secret Lives of Jessie Monroe.” The first book in the series was “Alias Juno Wolfe.” The second was “Who is Juno Wolfe?” And the third, “Alias Jada Foxx,” will be available soon.

(Available on Amazon and Kindle.)

Chapter 1: CELESTE

The sound of the diesel engines assured her that the 120-foot yacht was still traveling full speed towards their destination.
Since her rescue, her photo had been prominent in the press, touted as the new, attractive, and now well-accepted companion of Roberto Moreno, a wealthy Columbian businessman. It didn’t make a difference that Roberto already had a wife and two children in Colombia. He was happy to flaunt his new mistress, who was always seen by his side at various events and business meetings.
Celeste was someone the photographers were happy to photograph. Her beauty was obvious. She was tall, blond, and slim. With Celeste by his side, Roberto seemed much more at ease and assured in his power, although he had always been a strong and confident businessman.
There was a great deal of curiosity from the press about Celeste’s past, but it was something Roberto was unwilling to share with them.

Who is Celeste really? And what is her mission?

Who Is Juno Wolfe?

I just finished my new spy novel – the second in the series, “The Secret Lives of Jessie Monroe:” Who is Juno Wolfe? I’m super excited about this book. I’d love it if you read the first book in the series, “Alias Juno Wolfe,” and then this one, but you don’t need to: they stand alone.

WhoIsJunoWolfeAmazonImage.png

My daughter Kristin was one of my proof-readers and said I need to get this one released ASAP. I started it a year ago, yet it predicts the recently breaking news occurring after the book was sent to the publisher: Russian hacking of our networks! And wait until you see what happens next! Kristin said it was an important book for people to read today.

It wasn’t originally meant to be a political novel, but I admit I have been worried about the trends I have been seeing in the U.S. I’m not talking about any specific president(s) (really I’m not), but more the trends towards Corporations taking over government (both parties) and the resulting negative effects. On the other hand, it’s also a fun spy novel so politics aside, I hope you enjoy it.

The book is set seven years in the future, where these negative trends have continued and America has degenerated. Like “Atlas Shrugged,” the book depicts a dystopian United States, updated and based on current events. Only our heroine can set them straight.

It’s both a warning about the future and an optimistic view of how things can be returned to the right course.

Let me know what you think! It’s on Amazon and you can get to it from http://www.Goodreads.com.