Tess Awakening: The Complete Story
The Tess Series Book 1
by Andres Mann
Genre: Adventure Romance
Tess Awakening - The Complete Story combines two previously published novels: Tess Awakening and Tess Valkyrie. Since the second novel is a sequel, the combination provides the full story of Tess’s confrontations with the fascinating villain Amir.
Tess and Amir continue to square off in an epic struggle to define their destinies. Aided by Jake, Tess’s friend and co-pilot Carmen and their colleagues, Tess must overcome Amir's vicious attacks motivated by his continuing obsession with her. They repeatedly clash in a succession of encounters taking place in Baghdad, Amman, Istanbul, Sorrento and New York. Tess's friend Carmen finally meets her soul mate in Nicola, who helps her overcome the traumas of her youth and becomes a valuable member of their team. The two women respond to their challenges by drawing on their skills as fierce warriors, battling Amir, who not only hurt Tess but plans to take over the Iraqi government. Their struggle leads to a series of violent and bloody battles in the air and on the ground. A heartbreaking loss at the end is redeemed by a final poignant resolution.
Tess: The Abomination of Human Trafficking The Tess Series Book 2
A powerful exploration of global human trafficking
After rescuing a child prostitute in Cambodia, Tess persuades Jake, Carmen, Nicola and the Team to tackle human trafficking worldwide. Sponsored by the United Nations, she creates a team of Valkyries, six remarkable women that alongside the men of the Team embark on a Herculean effort to rescue victims and pursue traffickers, starting with a degenerate financier that controls a multinational sex enterprise. The team then takes direct action by unleashing their military skills in battles against powerful slavers, Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Mexican cartels. The action turns to combating child trafficking, rescuing captured women abused by the terrorist group ISIS, probing Nigerian prostitution in Europe and Russia, and confronting the appalling sex trade in Mexico, Afghanistan and in the U.S. In a whirlwind series of actions, the story transitions from Phnom Penh to New York, Houston, Miami, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Buenos Aires, and Las Vegas. The deeper the Team gets involved, the more challenging their task becomes. With all cards stacked against them, Tess and Jake must find a way to address the fundamental causes of human trafficking and attempt to formulate a solution to intractable problems.
In this epic adventure, Tess and Jake continue to fight terrorists and try to address the overwhelming refugee crisis in Europe. When ISIS terrorists acquire two North Korean nuclear bombs, Tess and the team must change priorities to prevent a worldwide calamity. The stakes are high — the potential obliteration of European cities and possibly the destruction of Israel. The CIA asks Tess and Jake to use their special talents to find the weapons, forcing Tess to deal with her nemesis, the dissolute Laurent Belcour who is still obsessed with her but may know where the bombs are hidden. Personal complications arise when Tess meets a captivating symphony conductor who persuades her to play a piano concert in Moscow and introduces her to the Russian President. Their musical collaboration leads to temptation and turmoil, affecting Tess’s relationship with Jake, who has challenges of his own in fending off the stunning and talented Claudine Bisson. Spanning the globe, the frantic search for the missing weapons takes them to Bulgaria, Ukraine, the South China Sea, Syria, Israel, Tehran and Moscow. Racing against the clock, Tess’s team must pursue every lead no matter how tenuous and fight a host of enemies in a desperate attempt to ward off nuclear Armageddon.
Tess: Clash of Civilizations The Tess Series Book 4
Tess and Jake have fought bitter battles against ISIS and Boko Haram Islamic terrorists, but now they have an unusual dilemma. Their adopted daughter Aara received a huge inheritance from Tess’s nemesis, the deceased Amir al-Saadi. The fortune comes with an unsettling condition: Aara must marry into a Muslim family within one year. This forces Tess and Jake to overcome their prejudices and assess whether such a condition is acceptable.
31. Death in Mosul
A van driver took Tess, George, Carmen, Galina, Giuliana, and Eva to the regional Hezârfen Airport in Istanbul, where they boarded a private plane to the Incirlik airbase in Anatolia.
When the group arrived, Eric Clark, an American Air Force captain, met them on the tarmac. On the way to the hangars, he updated them on what was going on in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.
“The battle against ISIS for Mosul is in its seventh month of grueling urban combat. Iraqi forces backed by American airpower pushed deeper into the last pocket of Mosul controlled by the militants. They have dislodged ISIS from all but a handful of districts in the western half of Mosul, including the Old City, where the jihadis are taking advantage of narrow streets and its dense population to make their last stand. There is no continuous front line, just a patchwork of battles in the city proper and on its edges. When ISIS fighters retreat from a position, they try to leave behind as much damage as possible, and they even burn oil field wells to conceal their movements. You are walking into the final phase of operations.”
Tess wanted to borrow an Apache chopper and an A-10 Warthog attack plane for additional firepower, but all such aircraft were committed to the final phase of the battle. She managed to get an armed Blackhawk helicopter. The officer made sure that Tess signed a receipt for the aircraft stating that NTC, General Morgan’s company, would be responsible for any damage to or loss of the helicopter.
Tess climbed into the cockpit and started the Blackhawk as her team piled in, each holding an assortment of weapons. Soon they landed on the outskirts of Mosul and reported their presence to the local Iraqi commander, Brigadier General Mustafa Moussa, who told them "Daesh, the Islamic State, is drawing its last dying breath. Their fighters are broken and quickly retreating from all fronts."
The General also told Tess to be careful. ISIS had a long time to prepare for this battle, and its fighters were taking advantage of an underground network of tunnels throughout the region. Since the jihadists were vastly outnumbered, they resorted to letting loose suicide car bombs and snipers embedded among thousands of civilians that ISIS was holding hostage.
Conditions in the area still under ISIS control were increasingly desperate as civilians resorted to eating weeds under allied bombardment that killed many of them. When government forces liberated an area, most civilians tried to evacuate. About 10,000 people a day left Mosul, and the flow of refugees had more than doubled since the final offensive started. However, the Islamic State was eager to keep as many civilians as possible in the urban center, using them as human shields against aggressive bombing campaigns by the government and coalition forces. Anyone seen fleeing risked a sniper attack. Whenever possible, government troops escorted families to safety, urging them to hurry through streets that offered little cover.
Once civilians reached a safe zone, the Iraqis provided buses and trucks to take them to camps for displaced people. On the way, they received food and water. People gravely injured from sniper fire, artillery, mortars, and mines were driven out of Mosul in ambulances to hospitals in nearby Erbil. During the fierce fighting, dozens of injured people arrived at the hospitals every hour. The problem was that field hospitals had inadequate supplies, so they evacuated victims to where they could treat them. Some did not survive the journey.
Tess, George, and the Valkyries returned to their helicopter and flew it to the area where Yasmin was last seen. An Iraqi Colonel met them at a makeshift airstrip.
“Good morning, Colonel Jaffari,” Tess saluted the officer. “I believe you were expecting us.”
“Yes, Major Turner. The U. S. command asked me to provide any assistance that you require.”
“I am looking for one of my people, Yasmin Badawi. I understand that she was in this area.”
“She was here to pick up supplies and ammunition and had three young female volunteer soldiers with her. I believe they were Yazidis. The last time I saw them, they were fighting Daesh on the Western outskirts of Mosul, in an area that we haven’t liberated yet.”
“If you can just let me know where they might be, I would appreciate it. Also, perhaps you have a vehicle that we could borrow.”
Ten minutes later, Tess and the team piled into a beat-up Humvee that had not seen maintenance in quite a while.
“Don’t these people know how to take care of equipment?” George asked.
“They have been in a battle for quite some time, George.” What Tess didn’t say was that if she was in charge, one could eat off a well-kept pristine vehicle.
They drove in the desert, passing columns of troops headed for the front. They soon knew that they were close to their destination when they encountered horrendous scenes of carnage. Fleeing before the Iraqi advance, ISIS had killed dozens of men and hung them from power lines. The Iraqis were using a crane to take the corpses down. Further down, hundreds of men, women, and children were on the ground in various stages of decomposition under the merciless sun. Iraqi soldiers had found a young girl who had survived two days by hiding under her dead mother’s burqa and were trying to convince her to go with them. Tess, George, and the Valkyries were experienced soldiers, but they were trying hard not to vomit. The stench of the dead bodies was overwhelming.
“It seems that ISIS is executing any civilians that want to escape the fighting,” Tess said. “The final stage is going to be brutal. The Colonel told me that ISIS is routinely using the locals as human shields. It’s difficult to fight them without killing innocent people.”
Tess and the team made it on foot to a section of the Old City of Mosul where Yasmin and the three girls were last seen. The scene was surreal. Rotting bodies of dead ISIS fighters and civilians still lay in the streets, many more buried under mountains of debris. Burned limbs from corpses were scattered in the streets and next to the wreckage of destroyed houses. The stench of death was pervasive, a combination of rotting flesh and human waste mixing with the smell of garbage and sewage leaking from broken pipes. The Team coped with nausea by avoiding deep breaths and by taking small sips of flavored sodium water from plastic bottles that the Iraqi forces gave them before allowing them to venture into the rubble that was once a vibrant city. The streets were littered with shoes, scarves, T-shirts, and dresses, the detritus of the civilians who fled abandoning their meager possessions. They also had to leave loved ones whom they will never get to bury. They left photos of their families, their identities, and documents.
Tess noticed a woman in a black robe and hijab, a scarf around her head. She caught her eye, waving for her to come toward the team. The woman looked like she needed help, but, as she approached, Tess failed to notice that she was hiding an M-16 rifle beneath her clothes. The woman pulled out the weapon and aimed the barrel toward Tess and would have killed her if it wasn’t for George and Giuliana instantly reacting to the threat by firing a burst of bullets at the attacker. The woman fell backward against a house and slowly slid down to the ground, leaving a trail of blood on the wall. Her eyes were still open.
Tess was shaken and tried not to show her moment of panic to her team, but she failed. She had to sit down on a pile of stones, trembling. Carmen came to her and hugged her.
“You are okay, Tess. It’s over. You are fine now.” Tess tried hard to stop shaking, but it took a few minutes to calm down. The Team gathered around her, and they all touched her, making her feel that was still alive.
Tess recovered from her brief shock and walked inside the house with Galina and Carmen and found the dead woman’s identification papers. She had a German ID card and a marriage certificate to a Russian Muslim fighter, issued by ISIS. The marriage, of course, would never be recognized anywhere else. ISIS had created its own system and contracts, records that were meaningless to a world that would never recognize the Islamic State.
An American Special Forces Lieutenant and two soldiers arrived in a Humvee. He stepped out of the vehicle, saluted and shook Tess’s hand.
“We were told you were coming, Major Turner. I must inform you that things are messy here, and you need to be careful. The Iraqis have lost many men, and we keep getting reports that they are now summarily executing captured ISIS fighters. If you go to the front lines, you need to brace yourselves for some horrible stuff.”
“Thanks, Lieutenant. We already had a preview. We will watch out.”
George drove the Team closer to the front lines and soon saw firsthand what the officer was warning them about. The Iraqis were executing ISIS prisoners at the front lines and killing others after interrogation. As the Team approached, Iraqi soldiers dragged an ISIS fighter on the ground, tied his hands and feet, stretched him on his back then crushed him by having a tank running over him. Other Iraqis were beating three ISIS fighters as they begged for their lives. It didn’t work. The captives were shot to death and trampled.
There was no room for pity. ISIS fighters, who repeatedly executed Mosul residents accused of collaborating with the Iraqi Army, created their own doom. The Iraqi forces now viewed them with disgust and hatred, and there were consequences.
That didn’t keep Basil Dubrey, a British Human Rights Watch’s representative, from introducing himself to the team.
“Major Turner, I am glad to meet Americans. I was hoping that you could intervene.
“Only three of us are Americans, Tess said. “The rest of my people are from all over the world.”
The man continued as if he hadn’t heard.
"As you know, Major, killing captured combatants or civilians is a war crime, as is the mutilation of corpses,” Dubrey complained. “Iraqi senior military officers, instead of disciplining their soldiers, seem to oversee some executions – or at least condone them.”
As they were talking, a white pickup truck with military markings approached, dragging a corpse by a rope attached to his ankle, as crowds cheered.
Dubrey now seemed close to getting a stroke, his face reddening in anger. “The Iraqi government should control its troops and hold them accountable. Mutilation of corpses is a war crime, as is killing captured combatants or civilians.”
Tess understood Dubrey’s valid concerns, but she doubted that at this stage, after the horrors they had seen, anyone could dissuade the Iraqi troops from seeking revenge. As they talked, an Iraqi soldier grabbed the corpse of a killed ISIS fighter, kicked it in the face, and spit on it. Another one stepped on the body and posed for a photo. A man in military uniform with an Iraqi Special Forces badge on the shoulder called for a razor, announcing that he wanted the head of the dead fighter. Dubrey told his cameraman to film the scene, and the soldier relented. He walked away, fury displayed on his face.
Children came by, dragging another dead fighter by a rope tied around his ankle. They kicked and beat his body with a branch, and a soldier kicked the corpse in the head several times. Men, both military and civilians, tied a rope to the dead man’s ankle and dragged the body away with a pickup as crowds cheered.
With the help of George’s language skills, Tess briefly talked to three local people. They said that they were residents of the neighboring village of al-Hud and had come down Qayyarah’s main road because they had received word that one of the dead ISIS fighters was the one who had killed a neighbor’s father and three of his uncles. They calmly proceeded to behead the corpse of the ISIS fighter and to cut out his heart. As he was packing the butchered organs into a canvas bag, the aggrieved man explained.
“I am going to present this heart to my mother.”
The team saw children congregating around four more corpses, one with various organs outside his body and covered in blood, and another stripped naked. The kids amused themselves by repeatedly kicking the bodies. Further out, someone had strung up a dead fighter by his leg, by the entrance to a bombed-out soccer field.
Dubrey was still hanging on with the Team and was becoming increasingly disturbed.
“The government cannot allow these atrocities to happen!”
“Mr. Dubrey, I understand your position,” Tess said, “but we must face the reality of the situation. The Iraqis are finally able to take their revenge against evil people, and frankly, we can’t stop them. It might as well be the Dark Ages.” She left the distressed man helplessly observing the mayhem.
As Tess and her team were ready to depart, they received a message from the local Iraqi commander warning them to be extra careful when approaching women coming out of the ISIS-occupied areas. Female fighters were now using their children as human shields in a last desperate attempt to stop the final advance on Mosul. Thirty-eight women had detonated suicide explosives near civilians and enemy forces. Moreover, ISIS women were mingling with refugees leaving the city. An Iraqi officer told Tess that a veiled woman at a displacement camp mingled with refugees and detonated an explosive device, killing 14 and injuring a further 13.
Tess had seen her shares of horrors caused by wars, but this latest development made her sick. Her team was also shocked.
“I guess we will never know if those women sacrificed their children to fight for ISIS, or if they were forced to do so. How can anyone in this culture allow that?”
The team got back on the vehicle and reached the artillery units that were pounding the city. Every round knocked down a house and raised a plume of smoke. The ISIS fighters trapped in the city were still fighting back, forcing the Iraqis to crouch on the ground. The whole area was a pile of rubble. Tess found an Iraqi officer and inquired about Yasmin.
“Ah, the fierce female warrior and her three followers,” the man said. “They are great snipers and helped us a lot, but I am afraid they left for Raqqa.”
“Do you know why?” Tess asked, quite annoyed at this point.
“Yasmin said that she wanted to be in Raqqa to participate in the final extermination of ISIS.”
Tess thanked the man and turned to her team. “Let’s go back to the chopper, guys. I think we are getting closer.”
As they were piling into the truck, they saw four Iraqi troops beat up a man, who was crying for mercy in French. Tess drove over and slammed on the brakes when they reached the scene. She and George stepped out.
“George, ask them why they are abusing this man. He doesn’t look like a terrorist.”
The Iraqis did not look pleased when George insisted that they stop hitting the man. He turned to the pitiful bloody mess on the ground and asked:
“Who are you? What are you doing here?”
The man got on his knees and started to beg in French.
“Aidez-moi, s'il vous plaît. Je ne suis pas avec ISIS.”
“What did he say?” Galina asked.
Tess translated. “Please help me. I am not with ISIS.”
Tess approached the man and crouched in front of him. He looked familiar but could not remember where she had seen him.
“Why are you here?” she said in French.
“Please help me,” the wretched man begged. “I didn’t do anything. They just want to kill me for sport.”
“If we are going to help you, we need to know who you are,” Tess insisted.
One of the Iraqis walked behind the man and wrapped a cord around his neck. He tugged, choking him, then he kicked him in the kidney.
“Tell them who you are and what you did, you vermin,” the soldier said while kicking the man again for good measure.
In desperation, the man looked at Tess and her group and realized that they were his only chance.
“I just picked up some crates for my employer. I swear that’s all I did.”
The Iraqi tightened the rope.
“Tell them the rest or I will hang and disembowel you.”
“The man squealed and looked at Tess, terror in his face.”
“Please save me,” he said. “I will tell you what you want to know.”
George signaled the Iraqi to loosen the stranglehold.
Tess stood up and folded her arms across her chest.
“I am all ears. Talk.”
The Iraqi soldier kicked the man again and pulled him up to his feet.
The Frenchman was shaking in terror and looked at Tess imploringly as if she was the Madonna.
“I just picked up three crates for my boss. The rest of my group put them on a truck and sped away without me.”
“That was mean. You break my heart,” Tess commiserated. “Now tell me, what’s in those boxes, and where are they taking them?”
“I don’t know. I was just told to pick up the boxes.”
“I guess that we will have to leave you in the hands of these gentlemen,” Tess said sympathetically. “You don’t seem to be very useful.”
Two of the Iraqis approached with large unsheathed knives, an evil smile on their faces.
“No, please don’t leave me here,” the man started to shake again.
“All right. Talk, and we will take you with us,” George said.
“I am all ears,” Tess added. “You better tell the truth. We don’t have much time left. So, what’s in the crates?”
“The boxes contain dirty bombs made with spent nuclear fuel from Russia. ISIS put the weapons together, but now they can’t use them in combat because they are too hard to handle them now that they are under siege. We were told by our boss to pick them up and bring them back.”
“Bring them back to where?” Tess inquired while unsheathing a knife from her belt.
The man squealed again.
“Please help me. I don’t know. The other men ran off with them and left me behind.”
Tess’s patience was running out. She waved the knife in front of the man’s face and made a slight scratch on his cheeks.
“I am in a real hurry now. You have thirty seconds to spill the beans, or we will slice you like a cucumber.”
The man squealed again in terror.
“I will tell you everything you need to know. Just have this man take the rope off my neck.”
Tess nodded her head at the Iraqi, who reluctantly took the noose off.
“Okay, let’s have it. Everything.” She did not put the knife back.
“What is your name?”
“Who is your ‘boss’?”
“That name sounds familiar. Who is Dubois’s boss?”
“I don’t know.”
“Tess, his boss, is Laurent Belcour,” Galina said. “I remember him from his trial. He is the pimp and his partner.”
“Thanks, Galina. Now I remember.”
“So, how are you going to take the bombs out of the country and to Belcour?”
“I don’t know,” Joubert lied.
The Valkyries were assembled around the scene, enjoying Tess in action.
“Now observe Tess do her legendary act of persuasion,” Carmen said, smiling at her new colleagues, Eva and Giuliana.
Sure enough, Tess kneeled in front of the man and, with a flick of her knife, sliced off the fly of his pants.
“Last call to save your balls,” she said, pointing the knife at the man’s private parts. “How are you going to take the stuff out of the country?” She stabbed him enough to get his attention.
“Hold it. I will tell you,” Joubert suddenly remembered. “We have a private plane a few miles north of here. It’s supposed to fly to a small airport in Turkey. From there, we have arranged to bring the bombs to France. That’s all I know. Please help me,” he said plaintively.
“Ladies, let’s take this gentleman with us. We are running out of time.”
The Iraqis reluctantly let Joubert go after George put a thick wad of cash in their hands. The Valkyries tied up the Frenchman and kicked him into the truck. They returned to the helicopter and turned him over to the U. S. Army.
Tess: The Flight of the Valkyries
The Tess Series Book 5
In a story of high passion and conflict, Claudine Bisson returns to the Valkyries team. She persuades Tess and her colleagues to provide adversary services to the Air Force, a plan that requires learning how to fly jet fighters. The Team acquires surplus aircraft and hires a team of Russian specialists led by the abrasive Colonel Peter Brusilov, a hard taskmaster. Laurent Belcour, the notorious villain, is back and continues to create obstacles. Claudine further complicates things because she has an ulterior motive: to get Jake back by undermining Tess. While the team struggles to prepare for the upcoming operation, they must deal with the destructive collision between Claudine and Tess, leading to unpredictable consequences.
This is an illustrated version of the book. Why? I thought that by providing pictures of the many aircraft in the story would help the reader better understand the scope of the challenges faced by Tess and her friends. Once I started searching for appropriate images, I couldn’t resist adding pictures of venues, people and other material that might be of interest. The choice of illustrations is entirely arbitrary.
Andres Mann was an Army Officer and a business executive. He graduated with degrees in Political Science and International Relations and published three management books and various business articles.
The Tess adventure novels are based on real contemporary events and explore the challenges posed by international political developments and the issues that professional women face in today's world. The setting of the stories starts with the second Gulf War in Iraq and continues up to the current era.
Andy had the good fortune to meet remarkable people from all over the world, most of them good, others not so much. Some were extraordinarily talented, able to perform well in multiple endeavors. The novels are based on the actions of real people he observed dealing with challenging situations. He believes that it is interesting to understand multi-faceted personalities that are fascinating and sometimes evil, making it difficult to make quick judgments about right and wrong.
Action, intrigue, deceit, obsession, sensuality, the use of wealth to achieve one's goals, the struggle between good and evil are a constant theme.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I was an Army Officer, a business executive in the power engineering and construction field, and an entrepreneur. By the time I retired, I had already published three business books based on management systems I had developed. I found out soon enough that retirement was boring. I looked for something interesting to do, and I had a brainstorm. I had an exciting life, traveled all over the world, and met many fascinating people, some accomplished enough to qualify as Renaissance men and women. The more I thought about it, the more I wished to use my treasure trove of experience and write about them in some fashion. I could have written an engaging memoir, but I concluded that writing a novel sounded more fun. The first book, Tess Awakening, broke many conventions of storytelling, and I acquired a small but devoted group of fans. That encouraged me to make the Tess adventures a series, so now I have five published novels and more on the way.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I often weep real tears at the opera and classical concerts. I don’t know if I can attribute such behavior to extreme emotional sensitivity or perhaps low testosterone.
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
You don’t want to know.
What are some of your pet peeves?
I am obsessed with punctuality. To do otherwise is to show a lack of respect for others.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born in Eritrea, in East Africa, to Italian parents. The country borders Ethiopia, and it’s a fascinating place. Asmara, the capital, is a world Heritage place due to the Art Deco architecture inherited from the Italians when they invaded during the Mussolini years. Ethiopia was a monarchy until 1974. Ethiopia and Eritrea use the ancient Ge'ez script, which is one of the oldest alphabets still in use in the world. A majority of the population is Christian, and around a third follows Islam. The country is known for Coptic churches dug into the earth, and Axum for its obelisks. The country is the purported keeper of the Ark of the Covenant, and local lore makes it the ancient kingdom of the Queen of Sheba. A Jewish population going back a thousand years lived in isolation and developed against modern Jewish practice, yet align perfectly with rituals from the time of the Second Temple, described in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Between 1979 and 1990, most of the population was transported to Israel.
If you knew you’d die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
Sitting in front of a symphony orchestra with a glass of brandy and listening to music.
Who is your hero, and why?
I admired my late beloved wife, a renaissance woman who I used as the model for Tess. I also much admire two exceptional classical pianists: Martha Argerich and Juja Wang. These artists define perfection and spectacular skill. I modeled Tess’s playing the piano as a homage to them.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
Probably a benevolent dictator with no heirs. They generally mess things up afterward.
What are you passionate about these days?
Anyone that read my books will soon find out that I am passionate about strong women, music, arts, architecture, fine cars, and gourmet dining. I am also passionate about books of all kinds, including history, which regrettably repeats itself.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I listen to music and stream French, Spanish, and Italian murder mysteries just to challenge myself.
How to find time to write as a parent?
My daughter is grown up and on her own.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Pragmatic, low key, skeptical, discerning, and respectful.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I started writing business books and articles, but I came into my own with my novels. Not only are they more fun to write, but they provide me with an outlet to express who I am.
Do you have a favorite movie?
The Da Vici Code, Angels and Demons and Gladiator, mostly because Hans Zimmer composed the soundtracks.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
All of them. My fans keep saying that Tess would make a killer TV series. I started writing a script, so who knows?
What inspired you to write your books?
I write due to a desire to share my life experiences. I traveled a lot and met amazing people. I borrowed their personas to create my characters.
What can we expect from you in the future?
More of the same.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Tess is modeled after my late wife, possessing her temperament, brilliance, and flaws.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in The Tess Series?
Most of the characters show up in all books.
The heroine, Morgan Theresa Turner, called Tess by her friends, is an Army brat and a military helicopter pilot. In the fifth book, Tess and her colleagues become fighter pilots and play adversaries against the U. S. Airforce in war games. Tess is also a talented classical pianist and obsessive about doing positive things to save the world. She is relentless in pursuit of her goals and helping people grow to their fullest potential. She is sometimes unrealistic but is not discouraged by impossible tasks. Her view is that anything worth doing must be done to perfection, an attitude that she imposes of the Valkyries, who sometimes resent it. On the other hand, they know that high standards help them be the best they can be.
Tess’s husband, Jake Vickers, is also a pilot and an ex-CIA agent with an eidetic memory. Together they own a military services company called Strategic Resource Development (SRD), which provides military consultation, weapons testing, and aircraft training for pilots of developing nations. Tess, Jake, and their Team have an impeccable reputation for working in the best interest of their clients. Aara Vickers is Tess’s adopted daughter. She just graduated from Julliard and is working to become a concert pianist. She gets involved in the Team’s adventures.
SRD's staff includes people from several countries. They have outstanding work records and significant military experience. Carmen Cabrera, a pilot who flew combat helicopters with Tess during the Iraq war, is Tess's best friend and a top manager of the company. She is petite but fierce as only a person who grew in the Los Angeles ghettos could be. Nicola Orsini, Carmen's husband, is a tall Northern Italian, golden-haired and handsome. He is a pilot, an expert in European weapons systems, and Jake's best friend. Moreover, he is an accomplished linguist, a useful skill since the company operates in various countries around the world. Claudine Bisson, the head of SRD in Paris, is a French fighter pilot. She is often in New York for regular meetings. Like Tess, she is gorgeous, fierce, relentless, and unlike Tess, had a wicked sense of humor and can charm the pants off anyone. Perpetually in search of the perfect man, so far, she failed to find one. Her conquests are legions, but in her mind, all the guys she meets turn out to be self-absorbed, lazy, and wimps. She causes trouble because she wants Jake. Vaughn Wentworth is Claudine’s husband of convenience. He is a renowned classical music conductor and unfortunately in love with Tess. Galina Kutuzova, a Russian helicopter pilot and database expert, lives with Alexander Ivanovich Tukhachevsky, Alex Tuck, for short, who is a Russian weapons specialist. Both were Olympic athletes and look the part. Nicknamed Thor and Brünnhilde by the staff, they are formidable physical specimens. Tall, blonde, muscled, and sporting chiseled faces, they fit the image of Nordic Gods. Ifeyinwa Idigbe Ukume, whom the Team calls Alice, is a Nigerian detective that worked with the Team in the past to fight Nigerian prostitution in Europe. When she is in town, she takes part in team activities. Yasmin Badawi is a Syrian archaeologist that the Team rescued from ISIS, the terrorist group. She was abused and traumatized, but she recovered with the help of her friends and has become a valued member of the Team. She is determined to take revenge on her captors and is highly motivated to learn military skills.
Giuliana Malatesta in an Italian pilot and member of the Team. She harbors a secret hatred for one of the villains. Eva Bar-Lev, ex Mossad Agent, military pilot, is the new General Manager of SRD’s Paris office. Peter Brusilov is a retired Russian colonel, and legendary fighter pilot who teaches the Valkyries. George Kimmel is a military intelligence professional who works closely with Jake. He lives with Yasmin. Joe Slezak is SRD's Information Technology Manager and works with Galina. Of light build, wearing a Van Dyke beard, he is a computer genius. He tries to maintain a long-range relationship with his fiancée Trudi, an Argentine opera singer that travels all over the world. Joe is usually in a bad mood whenever she isn’t around.
Last but not least, John Powers is a weapons specialist. He can handle every lethal device in the arsenal, and trains personnel on how to use the hardware.
The five key women, dubbed "Valkyries" by the rest of the company, form the core of skilled operatives, agents, and pilots engaged in aircraft and weapons training services for third-world countries. Occasionally, they get involved in actual combat, lately against ISIS in Syria, and Boko Haram in Nigeria. They also fought in Mexico, where the Valkyries and the men of SRD decimated a convoy of Mexican traffickers to liberate hundreds of women slated for prostitution in the U. S.
On the side, the women play chamber music as "The Valkyries Ensemble," a group created by Jake to help pay for a human trafficking project that took a year out of their lives. The women perform concerts several times a year, the net profits going to various non-government organizations that worked to prevent the exploitation of women.
The pet dogs are characters in their own right. Tess has a beloved pet, Maggie, a gorgeous Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. When Tess went looking for a dog, she fell in love with a spectacularly beautiful Blenheim puppy. She wanted to get another one to keep Maggie company, but Jake insisted on equal rights. He always wanted an English Bulldog, and when he saw a fawn and white puppy shaped like a solidly packed billiard ball and weighing twice as much, he picked him up and decided that the dog was for him. Actually, it was the pup that did the selecting by giving Jake a slobbery lick on the face, making the acquisition inevitable. Thus, the couple sports what neighbors and colleagues call ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Sebastian, Jake’s English bulldog, also known as Tubby, Fathead, and various other names, all suggesting an absence of mental acuity, loves dropping his jowly face on Jake’s shoes when he works with his computer.
The first villain is Iraqi General Amir al Saadi. Amir developed an obsession with Tess when he first captured her during the Iraq war. Kejal, a Kurdish woman who was Amir’s slave, helped Tess escape. Later, Tess returned to face Amir to fulfill a promise she made to Kejal, who died helping her. She soon learns that Amir is not entirely a brute, but a highly educated and charming, complicated individual. He persuades Tess to spend a month in Europe with him and his sister Fadime, a sensuous and ruthless socialite. In return, he promises to give Tess what she wants, custody of Kejal’s child Aara. Spending time in glamorous places with Amir and Fadime, Tess experiences life with the Jet set. Amir puts on the charm, hoping that Tess will stay with him. They have a brief interlude, but Amir deceives Tess, who is not the forgiving type. She goes back to the Army and manages to reconcile with Jake. Shortly thereafter, they marry. Amir doesn’t give up, and he keeps pursuing Tess obsessively, unaware that she now has something that he wants above all. The confrontation turns ugly, and after a no holds barred struggle, tragedy strikes both of them.
The second villain is Laurent Belcour, a Frenchman who is the head of the International Development Organization (IDO). He had to resign his position when Tess forced him to defend himself against charges of using prostitutes for his organized sex parties, the least of his transgressions, which include sex trafficking of minors. He and his associates manage to escape conviction, but the damage was done. Not only he lost his prestigious position, but his reputation was sullied. The unfortunate event does not keep him from continuing to indulge in sexual adventures and engaging in human trafficking. He also plots revenge against Tess and her colleagues. Belcour's checkered past did not affect his standing as an astute financial strategist. He rapidly builds a consulting practice advising controversial dictators. He is good at creating strategies that, in most cases, produced results. He advises Kim Jung-un, the leader of North Korea and Russia’s President Putin.
Where did you come up with the names in the stories?
I am fascinated with foreign names and did a lot of research to choose names for the characters.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I start writing with only the kernel of a story, and as I go, I let the characters develop and make their own story. It is thrilling to spontaneously create stories and adventures that I hadn’t thought of before.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
I chose “Tess Awakening” to portray a career-obsessed strong woman who grows into a remarkable character with the help of friends and lovers.
Who designed your book covers?
A Russian artist in Russia did a remarkable job and was working for peanuts. I did not want to take advantage of him, so I had to counsel him on adjusting the price for such artwork.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. I am a perfectionist and don’t release a book until I am satisfied.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned everything a non-specialist can know about Russian jet fighters and tactics.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Tess is beautiful, talented, classy, and complicated. I would love to see Diane Kruger play her.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
My books are for everyone. They contain and unusual combination of sensuality, classical music, military equipment, war, and characters who are passionate about what they do. The villains are fascinating characters in their own right. They are charming, talented, passionate, resourceful, and problematic. They are formidable, ambitious, manipulative, and lack a moral compass.
Are your characters based on real people, or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
My characters are based on real people that I had the privilege of knowing during my career. I took literary license, but I believe I have done an excellent job of portraying remarkable individuals, good and bad. I just speculated what they would do when faced with the challenges in the stories.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story, or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
My characters absolutely hijacked the stories as my writing progressed.
Convince us why you feel your books are a must-read.
I believe that I have created remarkable characters and great stories that transport readers to fantastic locales. Themes of the novels include action, intrigue, deceit, obsession, sensuality, the use of wealth to achieve one's goals and highlight the eternal struggle between good and evil.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
What did you editoutof this book?
Some sensual scenes were controversial and unnecessary to propel the narrative.
Is there a writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I would love to have met Umberto Eco, the author of The Name of the Rose, Foucault’s Pendulum, and other history-based esoteric titles. His erudition is astounding, and I always learned much from it.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
I do extensive research because the books reflect the contemporary international environment. I use the facts and events of the real world and insert my characters as participants. I also include a list of references at the end of each book.
Do you see writing as a career?
I am retired and not doing much else, so writing qualifies as a late career.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
It sucks. Amazon dominates it, and authors have no choice but to comply with them.
Do you read yourself, and if so, what is your favorite genre?
Serious novels, biography, and history.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I write with Bach in the background. It helps to develop a mental rhythm that propels my writing.
Do you write one book at a time, or do you have several going at a time?
I write one book at a time because I don’t know where I am going. Once I achieve momentum, I have to say with it.
Pen or typewriter or computer?
The computer is the greatest tool for authors. I have a beautiful Mont Blanc fountain pen that I used to write my business books and articles way back. I keep the pen as a relic and haven’t used it in years. I keep thinking of the novelists and authors of the past, and how difficult it must have been to make revisions. I believe Balzac paid for printing various drafts, and because of that expense, he hardly made any money at all by the time the novels were published.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
Claudine Bisson. She is a killer violinist and leads the Valkyries Squadron in war games against the American Air Force. Like Tess, she is gorgeous, fierce, relentless, and unlike Tess, she has a wicked sense of humor and could charm the pants off anyone. The problem is that she is in love with Jake and creates havoc with the single-minded pursuit of her goal, which unfortunately involves attempts to undermine and compromise Tess by capitalizing on her weakness for Vaughn Wentworth, the conductor.
What made you want to become an author, and do you feel it was the right decision?
At this time in my life, being an author fulfills a long-term goal. It is the right decision.
What advice would you give new authors?
Don’t listen to naysayers. Just write, write, write until you find your voice.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Writing about women is fraught with peril because no man can decode what is in their mind. Women always surprise me.
How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
I don’t rush and let the stories develop at their own pace until the result makes sense. I usually take six months to write a book.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I don’t know any writer that hasn’t experienced writer’s block at various times. I hate to finish a book because then I have to think of another story to tell. Sometimes, it takes a year to find a direction.
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