Author Interview with Tom Birk

(1)       How long have you been writing?

            I started writing seriously in 2007 and produced a first novel called “The Shoetree.”  The Shoetree was never published but part of its plot has been written into “Beneath The Rock,” the novel I published prior to Zero God.  Additionally, I am a lawyer and have written much for the courts and clients.  However, talent for legal writing does not translate into talent for novel writing.  I’ve had teachers in grade school and high school – and one at Purdue – suggest that I had at least some talent in creative writing and they encouraged me to continue.  But, again, I did not take up serious writing until circa 2007.

(2)       What is your favorite genre to write?

            I can’t say, yet.  I have written solely in the third person thriller genre and it looks like I will stay there for my third novel.

(3)       Which genre have you never tried before, but would you like to try out?

            I would like to write a Young Adult novel.  I live in Indiana.  Indiana has been agog over basketball since the early 20th century. In Indiana, basketball is not a game.  It is a religion.  The YA novel would involve a boys’ 7th – and then 8th – grade basketball team.  The basketball story would be a strong subplot to the major plot, written in the thriller or mystery genre.  I also might work in a fantasy of “forest spirits” but leave the reality of the fantasy up to the reader.

(4)       A Synopsis of “Zero God.”


            A secretive but highly influential organization called the Foundation, based in Washington, DC and led by a charismatic leader, seeks to turn their apocalyptic vision of a future based on the “Kingdom of Jesus” into reality. They operate in the open as modern day evangelists but, because of their twisted interpretations of certain passages of the bible, they eschew the terms “evangelism” and “christian” and, instead, call themselves “Followers of Jesus.”  In the open, they pray with corrupt world leaders to, they say, bring them to Jesus Christ.  Out of sight, however, they pray a different tune.  Their method of operation is to first, gain an audience with the corrupt leader, second, pray with him, and third, bribe him into offering them profitable contracts to develop the nation’s natural resources.

            The Foundation doesn’t stop there, of course.  Behind the scenes and well hidden, and bolstered by a series of “Dark Jesuses” born of a nonsensical mathematical equation, they work to undermine American democracy. They believe that democracy is an affront to God and must be eliminated. Their ultimate goal is a complete takeover of the US Government. The Foundation will then have the vast resources of America, particularly its military, to impose a fascist regime on America and begin their conquests of other nations.  To this end they nurture and then place a “Manchurian” candidate, Lincoln Kincaid, into the presidential race. Kincaid becomes the leading candidate for president by running on a popular liberal record he amassed as governor in conservative Indiana.

However, Kincaid is not what he appears to the American people and, in an odd twist of plot, to the Foundation.  Yet, he is all but ensured election to the presidency. Americans are well aware of their external adversaries such as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, but are ignorant of their most dangerous adversary, the Foundation as Puppet Master to a President Kincaid.

An emotionally damaged small town lawyer, Andy Balbach, and his estranged investigative reporter wife, Rhonda O’Malley, stand in the way of national disaster. Set in the gently rolling hills of Southwestern Indiana, Zero God begins with Andy Balbach’s innocent jog on a cold February morning.  From there, it is anything but innocent as Andy and Rhonda, along with a cast of interesting characters amidst a host of secret locations, take on the Foundation and Kincaid to thwart their goal of hijacking the American government.


(5)       My most and least favored characters?

Very tough question. A writer tends to love all characters regardless of their moral standings in the plot.  I can approach this in one of two ways:

(a)        From the point of view of the reader who is likely to love the “good guys,” disdain the “bad guys,” and hope like hell that the good beats the bad; or

(b)        From the point of view of the author who is divorced from the good – bad characters.

I choose the latter.

            The best novel is one that is so powerful that it changes the reader, if ever so slightly, between the first and last pages. Such a novel must therefore include one or more compelling characters who also undergo change. Additionally, this character must suffer the pain of her metamorphosis. My favorite character is therefore Polly Thompson. Polly undergoes a very personal and painful transition from that of an assassin for her father, Earl Thompson, the charismatic head of the Foundation, to that of a person who gains a conscience. She summons the courage to throw away her father’s relativistic morality, posit good and evil as basic forces in the universe, and journey across the void between her father’s world, which offers her no pangs of conscience, to the world of decent human beings who have souls and must face tough moral choices.  I believe the plot improves, not only with Polly’s new-found soul, but also with the fact that she becomes at odds with her father and the Foundation, and is hunted down for it.

            My least favorite character is one who does have a conscience and the intelligence to grasp that other persons or entities with whom he interacts are criminals, but who lacks the courage to bring them to justice.  In Zero God, this character is Garrett Jennings.  To be fair to Garrett, he does somewhat redeem himself.

(6)       What was the hardest part about writing Zero God?

            A serious novelist must summon the strength to:

(a)        Work, work, & then work, and then more work. He must write, rewrite, research, research, work, work, work, and then repeat this process again and again.  The previous sentence is nonsensical to a non-writer.  To a novelist, it makes all the sense in the world;

(b)        Look inside himself and confront his confront his internal conflicts which generally spring from growing up in a dysfunctional – even if loving – family.  These conflicts, while painful, generate creativity;

(c)        Endure loneliness because he must accept the fact that creative writing is not a group activity but the sole activity of the author; and

(d)       Risk the occupational risks of a writer:  Loneliness, depression, alcoholism, and suicide.

I am accustomed to hard work and pressure, and I live with my internal conflicts in all parts of my life.  However, the journey of writing Zero God meant grasping all journeys, whether pleasant or not but which are necessary to produce a believable story with believable characters.  Why?  So I do not breach the faith of the reader who suspends disbelief.  I suffer the loneliness and sometimes depression inherent in novel writing.  I tried alcoholism but I couldn’t handle the hangovers!  And suicide is off the table because then I would never again experience the deep pleasure of producing what I like to believe are fine pieces of writing.

(7)        My writing routine.

I am lucky enough to be able to set aside time for writing during my workday.  After that are weekends and holidays.  However, there is a curious aspect to my routine:  “I don’t write the book when I’m writing the book.”

This sounds a little crazy but to a large extent it is true.  For me, the truly creative parts of writing occur when I am not writing.  This may be true of other writers but I have not sounded them out.  The writer’s subconscious mind works on these things when he’s not conscious of them.  For example, there are times when, in the evening, I reach a thorny problem as to plot, staging, timing, developing characters, and so on.  I have no answers then.  It’s all confusion.  However, some or all of the answers may be clear the next morning when I awake.  I also “write the book” when I’m jogging, in a boring seminar, and maybe just meeting with family and friends over a beer and annoying the hell out of them when I launch into a daydream of novel problem solving.

As to the conditions for a writing session, all I need is a computer with an independent keyboard.  And, believe it or not, I need some noise around me.  Never underestimate the power of ADHD!

(8)       How long did it take to write Zero God?

            My best estimate is a little over a year.

(9)       The Editing Process.

            No matter how much time and effort I spent on a certain paragraph or chapter and editing and reediting it, there is always the feeling that it could be written better.  This feeling can haunt a writer.  However, I found that, so long as an edit did not involve my publisher, actually editing something I wrote maybe a week before can at times be pleasurable.  This is the point at which I begin having fun with the project.  It’s like Winston Churchill, who wrote and published many books, said:  The book you’re working on becomes like an old friend, holding it at your side, and looking to it at any time for solace.”

            However, the real work starts when the book is finished and my publisher IS involved.  I rewrote Zero God no fewer than 10 times before my publisher was satisfied.  I accepted most of my publisher’s advice and demands for revision.  After all, my publisher knows one helluva lot more about publishing novels than I do. However, there were times when I disagreed with my publisher and did not take its advice.  There are reasons why I want to keep that paragraph or tweak a character’s personality or forego a lead-in sentence.

(10)     Is Zero God a part of a series?

            I don’t yet know.  I have been researching my next book and, at this point, it looks like the second book in a series.  I have given little though to the number of installments in the series.  However, I introduced many characters in Zero God who would fit nicely in a sequel or series.


(11)     Do I have any advice for aspiring authors?

            There is much advice for aspiring writers.  Much of it is irrelevant.  Some of it is not.  The best I can offer to a new writer is this:  The book you start out with Ain’t – A – Gonna – Be the book you end up with.  Put another way, as you write the book, you are likely to find better plot lines and more interesting characters.  If you are lucky enough to be under the tutelage of a good writing coach (as I have), you will disdain many of his or her suggestions, but eventually you will find that he or she’s right!  And, always keep in mind the endgame:  Someday, after all the noise and angst and work and research, you will publish the book and, in so doing, experience a sense of satisfaction known only by writers.

(12)     Why should everyone read Zero God?

            Not everyone should read Zero God.  Zero God is a warning to the people who live in democracies and abide by the rule of law that these things can easily morph into totalitarianism if they are not vigilant.  These people should read Zero God.  Those who already live in repressive regimes might read it.  I suppose Zero God can go both ways:  First, how to lose a democracy, and second, how to gain a democracy.  Zero God’s plot line is the former but not the latter.  However, an astute reader can glean the plot in a “backwards” sense and maybe gain insight into the means of returning their country to liberal democracy and the rule of law.

(13)     If I could meet 3 authors, dead or alive, which would I choose?

(a)        Definitely Harper Lee who wrote my favorite novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.  She died last year.

(b)        William Kent Kruger who writes novels about Native American tribes in north Minnesota and Canada.

(c)        Pat Conroy who wrote several of my favorites:  “The Great Santini,” “The Water is Wide,” the “Prince of Tides, and the “Lords of Discipline.”

I have stated that my one criterion for judging a novel is the extent to which that novel changes the reader.  Every one of these authors, and many not named, have written books that have moved me, imbued into me concepts of which I had been ignorant, and changed me.

(14)     What inspired me to write Zero God?

            History and politics have fascinated me since I was a child.  I have been personally involved in the political world for at least 30 years.  I’ve watched my country take on inklings of totalitarianism.  Nothing overt, of course, but it’s there, moving slowly and, so many uninformed believe, gently.  Zero God is a warning to Americans and all free peoples around the world that there is no universal law that says they will always be a vibrant democracy and need not fear their country’s takeover by totalitarianism.  I had conceived Zero God’s plot about a year before Donald Trump came onto the scene.  Zero God is a warning of a Donald Trump.  I personally despise the man and everything he stands for.  He has and will continue to damage America and the world.

            I’ve written in a blog that Donald Trump would sneer at Zero God. In Zero God, the true natures of Lincoln Kincaid and the Foundation are hidden from Americans.  Americans haven’t gleaned that the most dangerous enemies are those that hide in plain site.  Trump would laugh and point out that there is no need for secrecy.  After all, he amassed tens of millions of followers with his foul messages.  He offered something to his followers that no one can have:  Simple solutions to complex problems.  To their eternal shame, they elected the man.

(15)     What I’m working on now.

Another thriller that might be the next in a series of which Zero God is the first.  Although, as I’ve said above, I haven’t made any decision.

I have another reason for writing novels:  The world is faced with new issues of right and wrong almost daily.  Given the roles of our science, engineering, and technology, these issues arrive at an ever-accelerating pace.  The danger is what I have called “moral relativism,” the belief that there are no set rules of good and bad and what we might consider “wrong” today could very well be “right” tomorrow.  This is a dangerous notion in that it frees humans from their moral obligation to tackle hard choices.

I am not overtly religious.  However, I posit right and wrong as basic forces in the universe.  Some very smart people disagree with me and I honor that.  I do not honor at all those people who have ceded away their responsibility to identify and then struggle against wrong and for right.

All this morphs into my view of history:  History is not so much a record of the past as of the future.  This does not mean that I agree with those who predict the future as nothing more than an arc in a round cycle.  Quite the contrary.  History is a prediction of the future only to the extent that humans either respect or disrespect their imbued talent for rationality.

About the Author:

Tommy Birk was raised in Jasper (pop. 14,000), a community mostly of German descent, located in Southwestern Indiana. His interests include the history of German immigration to America, reading thrillers and mysteries, and studying ‘cutting edge’ and futuristic science. He particularly enjoys fiction writing, which includes real historical events and imagined future events. Tommy traces his fascination with woodlands back to his German forbears from Bavaria and the Black Forest of Germany. His family owns forested lands and these spark many of his ideas. But his writings go further; Tommy has been an activist of the type that embraces a changing world, one which struggles daily with new questions of right and wrong. He admits that his writings reflect his opinions. Tommy still lives in his hometown, jogs and lifts weights, and makes his living as a lawyer. He is a graduate of the Purdue University School of Engineering and the Vanderbilt University School of Law.

Book Excerpt Third Party

Book Excerpt

51jrqg90tdl“So, the confluence of my thinking is this: I plan to take the majority of my personal wealth and use it to support third-party activities. In fact, I plan to start a new political party.”

There was a stunned silence.

“I don’t mean to burst your bubble,” K.C. finally said, shaking her head, “but this has been tried before, and rather unsuccessfully, I may add. Teddy Roosevelt couldn’t pull it off and he was beloved. Ross Perot couldn’t pull it off. He had more money than even you.”

“You’re right,” Atlas responded calmly. “This has been tried and there have been many failures. Roosevelt got just over twenty-seven percent of the vote and Perot, nineteen. Not much to write home about. If you look throughout history you will see hundreds of political parties, yet very few have achieved any significant success. Even in today’s world, there are dozens of parties across America that are lucky to hit a bunt single every cycle or two. The few successes, like Jesse Ventura winning the governorship in Minnesota, or Joe Lieberman’s recent run as an independent in Connecticut, have been about individuals. They could not, and did not, translate to party continuity.

“Listen,” said Atlas, holding his hands as if about to catch a pass, “I know how this sounds. But, I have spent the better part of the past eighteen months contemplating this idea and it is my hope that, by the end of our time here, you will all join me in this effort.

“Lauren, you have more experience than anyone I know in I.T. General, you’ve spent your entire life organizing and leading troops and then workers. K.C., you’ve dedicated your life to the advancement of critical social issues, some of which are more mainstream today than ever before. And, Tom, if you will indulge me for the time being, you are my secret weapon.”

Tom looked puzzled, but said nothing.
“It will all be revealed in time, Tom, I promise.

 “Each of you has impeccable reputations for honesty and the highest ethical standards; above all else, our research shows these to be the most important qualities that Americans covet in government.”

After a brief pause, Atlas stood and stretched a bit. “Whaddaya say we break here? I know you will need time to digest, literally and figuratively. You can resume tearing me apart over dinner. Assuming you don’t pick the carcass too clean, there should be adequate time to forge a third party plan.”

Atlas mentally stepped back and surveyed his guests. He wasn’t sure if they were inspired, in shock, or maybe some of each—but he knew they were totally engaged. In the case of K.C. and the General, it was certainly not the first time he had caught either off guard with a revolutionary idea.

About the Book

Why doesn’t the United States have an effective, competitive third political party? What would it take to get one off the ground? To what lengths would the Democrats and Republicans go to prevent this from happening? Most importantly, could a new third political party really make a difference? Third Party: Volume I: Starting in the Middle provides answers to these and other relevant questions regularly contemplated and discussed across America by a disgruntled and disconnected electorate. Volume I also serves as a primer for those who lack knowledge of the “behind the scenes” maneuvering that makes American politics the ultimate contact sport.

Author Bio

STEVEN NEMEROVSKI is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University with the School of International and Public Affairs. He was the Parliamentarian for the Illinois House of Representatives, Special Counsel to The Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, Special Counsel to the Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public Schools, and outside general counsel to various state agencies in Illinois.  He hosts the “None of The Above” television programming on Grassroots TV in Aspen, Colorado. Learn more at and
Third Party: Volume I: Starting in the Middle
Is THIRD PARTY fact or fiction? It is an intriguing story that could become reality in the hands and hearts of the right people. No matter how passionate or well intended America’s third party proponents have been to-date, the current “system” is designed to defeat them. In THIRD PARTY, one visionary man shows how it can be accomplished in the face of insurmountable odds.Vol. I “Starting in the Middle”  is the story of Alex “Atlas” Stein, a self-made billionaire, who risks wealth and reputation to create a viable third political party in America. It follows the resourceful efforts of Atlas and his loyal team from the conception of the E Party through two election cycles and the intervening legislative session. Volume I is filled with the “behind the scenes” cut-throat political maneuvering that makes American politics the ultimate contact sport.
Third Party: Volume II: Strange Bedfellows
Volume II, Strange Bedfellows, examines the twisted thinking of modern day Democrats and Republicans that it is more important to get elected than it is to govern responsibly. Focusing on the evils of win-at-all-costs elections and the role decennial redistricting plays in protecting incumbency, the story sheds light on the legislative process and how policy goals take a back seat to political dynasties.This political thriller is again cloaked in suspense revolving around the diabolical DNC Chairman, Eddie Cobb. As the E Party fights for its’ survival, in consort with Republican leaders and others, Cobb outdoes his hostility from Volume I by unleashing a series of relentless,subversive attacks in the spirit of America’s many unprincipled, cutthroat politicians.

Book Tours: Starter Day Party Against the Grain


I’m hosting the starter day party today for coming of age / political “Against the Grain”. There’s also a tour-wide giveaway for 3 signed paperbacks during this tour. Scroll down to theb ottom of the post to participate.

Tour Schedule

March 14th: Starter Day Party @ I Heart Reading

March 14th: Book Excerpt Post @ Stormy Night Reviewing

March 16th: Book Excerpt @ Cassidy Crimson’s Blog

March 18th: Guest Post @ Editor Charlene’s Blog

March 20th: Book Excerpt @ I’m an Eclectic Reader

March 22nd: Author Interview@ SolaFide Publishing Book Blog

March 23rd: Book Excerpt @ The Book Daily

March 24th: Book Review @ I Heart Reading

March 26th: Guest Post @ The Writer’s Inkwell

March 27th: Book Excerpt @ Bookaholic Ramblings

March 28th: Book Excerpt @ Maari Loves Her Indies

March 30th: Author Interview @ Majanka’s Blog

March 31st: Book Excerpt @ Hollow Readers

April 2nd: Book Excerpt @ Ali The Dragon Slayer

April 4th: Book Review @ Books are Forever

April 6th: Book Excerpt @ Fascinating Quest

April 8th: Guest Post @ Bedazzled Reading

April 10th: Book Excerpt @ Indy Book Fairy

April 11th: Book Excerpt @ Literary Musings

April 12th: Author Interview @ The Single Librarian

April 13th: Book Excerpt @ Bookish Madness

April 14th: Book Review @ Back Porchervations

About the Book

Against the Grain E-CoverTitle: Against the Grain

Author: Phil Williams

Genre: Contemporary / Coming of Age / Political

A tyrannical high school principal.
A young anarchist with nothing left to lose.
One way or another, this place is goin’ down.

Matt Moyer is an orphaned teen growing up on a primitive farm in the Pennsylvania coal region. He’s homeschooled by his eccentric and philosophical great-uncle, who’s a stickler for logic, reason, and intellectual honesty. Despite his uncle’s reverence for veracity, inconsistencies arise regarding the old man’s shady past and the teen’s parents.

Through a harrowing sequence of events, Matt is forced to attend a public school. The feral teen finds it difficult to cope with the hypocrisy, propaganda, and misinformation that adults and children so readily accept. Faced with the possibility of expulsion, arrest, and ostracism, he must make a choice. Will he choose the easy lie or the hard truth?

Adult language and content.

Author Bio

Author Headshot CroppedPhil M. Williams is an author, activist, blogger, and consultant. He lives in Central Pennsylvania with his wife, Denise, where he writes and tends his permaculture farm. He is the author of Fire the Landscaper, Against the Grain, Stone Lake, and co-author of Farmer Phil’s Permaculture. His new releases can be read for free at








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Book Tours: Book Spotlight Why I Am An Independent Conservative

Why I am Banner


Why I am an Independent ConservativeTitle:
 Why I Am an Independent Conservative
Genre: Political
Author: Karen Jourden
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 276
Language: English
Format: Ebook

Liberty is never free—it comes at a cost. Throughout the history of the United States, our freedom has been safeguarded through immense sacrifice. But without the truth and knowledge of the past, this liberty can be threatened.

Bringing to light some of the key incidents of American history, author Karen Jourden seeks to safeguard liberty by remembering the past in Why I Am an Independent Conservative. She delves into early American history, the writing of the US Constitution, the American Civil War, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s massive government expansion during the Great Depression.

Urging all Americans to do their research, Jourden offers her straightforward,unvarnished opinion on the state of America today. She tackles tough subjects, including threats to our freedom of speech, the rise of the ACLU, liberalism, environmental activism, and much more.

Keeping America free requires hard work, dedication, and, above all, vigilance. This treatise seeks to light the path for concerned Americans to take a stand, urging them to protect liberty and justice for all.




Karen Jourden was born in Louisiana in 1951. She received a BA in business administration from Adams State College and an associate’s degree in office technology from Trinidad State Jr. College. Jourden lives in Colorado with her husband, Don, a retired disabled veteran of the US Navy.

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Book Tours: Starter Day Party Ionshaker Desperate


I’m hosting the starter day party today for “Ionshaker Desperate”, a suspense/political thriller novel. Enjoy!

Tour Schedule

October 23rd: Starter Day Party @ I Heart Reading

October 24th: Book Excerpt @ Sylv Jenkins’ Blog

October 26th: Guest Post @ Cassidy Crimson’s Blog

October 28th: Book Review @ The Single Librarian

October 29th: Author Interview @ Majanka’s Blog

October 30th: Book Excerpt @ Serenity’s Lovely Reads

About The Book

Image 8 - Ionshaker desperateTitle: Ionshaker Desperate

Author: Felix Timothy

Genre: Suspense/Political Thriller

Trey’s wife, his wife’s shrink and his attorney are shot dead. His ex-girlfriend narrowly escapes death, gets admitted in ICU in critical condition, but mysteriously disappears from the hospital just a few hours after being admitted. The four of them are connected to Trey.

Brett (the lead FBI detective) pursues Trey (now the sole murder suspect), finds himself framed for two new other murders, becomes a wanted man and starts running like Trey, after learning that it’s not Trey but Al Fakir (an Al Qaeda splinter group) that is killing anyone with the knowledge that Al Fakir has stolen Ionshaker (a cutting edge universal nuclear management device).

Al Fakir’s intention with Ionshaker is not very clear but it is obvious that the country that possesses Ionshaker possesses all world nuclear power on its finger tips because the device can control any nuke on earth. It is suspected that either Iran, Germany, China, Russia or Pakistan could be behind Ionshaker’s disappearance and in the event that Ionshaker actually leaves American soil, then the U.S automatically loses its dominance, security and stability. Worse still, if Al Fakir’s imagination is to detonate American nukes, then their best imagination will be America’s worst nightmare.

In response, the President sanctions a covert mission led by the only two people that can stop Al Fakir: Trey (an ex CIA) and Brett (now ex FBI) to repossess Ionshaker from Al Fakir before the device leaves the country. Before things get better, they will first get worse as people will die, scandals will be exposed, and America will be desperate. The mission is called Ionshaker Desperate.

Author Bio

Hi, my name is Felix Timothy, and Ionshaker Desperate is first thriller. I began writing the first draft towards the end of 2008 after getting hooked to the story lines of the hit TV program 24. I always knew I could write but I never really got the courage to start writing until 2008, and now after many years, many re-writes and many reviews I am happy to have my story published. At the moment I am working on the sequel to Ionshaker Desperate in the Ionshaker series, its called Ionshaker Redemption and I hope to release it at the end of the year. In addition to writing novels I have also completed writing the screenplay for Ionshaker Desperate.





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