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Real Spies, Real Lives

Real Spies, Real Lives

By P. A. Duncan
Exploring the writing life of an espionage writer
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Happy Book Birthday to WELCOME TO BELGRADE

Real Spies, Real Lives

Another Reading from WELCOME TO BELGRADE
Three-quarters of the way through Welcome to Belgrade during its birthday month, we'll see that Alexei will do almost anything for the mission; a review of a sci-fi/alternate history series on Apple TV; and don't forget this month's giveaway of a hardcover edition of Welcome to Belgrade. Go to the podcast's Facebook leave a comment about this episode or episodes 40 and 41. After October 31, I'll select a name at random to receive the hardcover edition.
October 21, 2021
We delve a bit deeper into Welcome to Belgrade, book one of the Self-Inflicted Wounds trilogy, and I have a mini-review of No Time to Die, the latest James Bond film. For Welcome to Belgrade's book birthday this month, I'm giving away a signed, hardcover edition of Welcome to Belgrade. To put your name into contention, go to the podcast's Facebook Page and leave a comment along with the episode number. It has to be a comment about one of this month's episodes, so far, number 40 and 41. Here's the link to the podcast's Facebook Page: After October 31, I'll place all the commenters' names in a selection randomizer app and pick a winner. This giveaway has nothing to do with Facebook.
October 14, 2021
Happy Book Birthday to WELCOME TO BELGRADE
We're celebrating the first book birthday of Welcome to Belgrade, book one in the Self-Inflicted Wounds Trilogy. As part of that celebration, I'm giving away a signed, hardcover copy of Welcome to Belgrade. Here's how you can enter: Go to the Real Spies, Real Lives Podcast Facebook page. Leave a comment on today's episode, number 40. At the end of the month, I'll put the names of all commenters in a randomizer tool and have it pick the winner, whom I will contact via Facebook Messenger. And since I've mentioned Facebook, I have to say that this giveaway has nothing to do with Facebook; it's my offering. Thanks for celebrating Welcome to Belgrade's book birthday with me!
October 7, 2021
Wrapping up THE BETTER SPY!
Some final readings from the novel in stories, THE BETTER SPY, a mini-review of American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally, and what's coming up in October.
September 30, 2021
The Conclusion of THE BETTER SPY
Two readings from "The Better Spy," the title story for the novel in stories, a Netflix series review, and a book review. I was quite talkative this week.
September 23, 2021
You Always Were THE BETTER SPY
Why writing conferences are cool, a reading from my novel in stories, The Better Spy, and the expected COVID/vaccination rant. If you want to learn more about the Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity (C3) Con, click HERE.
September 16, 2021
The IRA kidnaps the daughter of U.S. Secret Service Agent Henry Munro. Who can he turn to for help? A woman he met briefly in the aftermath of the Kansas City bombing - Mai Fisher. Enjoy some excerpts from one of the stories in Blood Vengeance, "A Father's No Shield for His Child."
September 9, 2021
The Podcast is Back!
After a two-week hiatus, "Real Spies, Real Lives" is back with more about writing, spies, and writing about spies. Oh, and some books are on sale, too.
September 2, 2021
Oops! Another Delay
I'm at a writer's retreat with limited internet access, so tune in next week for a return to our regular programming! Have a wonderful weekend.
August 26, 2021
No Podcast This Week
Explaining why there’s no podcast this week.
August 19, 2021
Reading from the second half of A Change for the Better, a couple of mini-reviews, some baseball talk, and, yes, the weekly COVID rant.
August 12, 2021
More Novellas
Some readings from a recent novella, A Change for the Better, and how it came about. Plus, wear you d****d mask!
August 5, 2021
An Introduction to an Upcoming Trilogy
A reading from book 1 of a new trilogy starting in 2022, Meeting the Enemy, about 9/11. A couple of mini movie reviews, too.
July 29, 2021
Concluding Our Look at The Moscow Rules
Readings from the final two stories of Spy Flash III: The Moscow Rules, a bit about the writing life, what's coming next month, and, of course, my COVID safety reminder.
July 22, 2021
"Pick the Time and Place for Action"
A couple of reviews: the Netflix series "Spycraft" and. . . Black Widow! And some readings from another story in Spy Flash III: The Moscow Rules, "Pick the Time and Place for Action," which features the return of Olga Lubova. Where did she go? You'll have to read the story!
July 15, 2021
"Lull Them Into A Sense of Complacency"
Moscow Rule number seven's story introduces two hapless SVR officers given the task of following Cybill Fleming in Moscow. A beta reader called the two officers the "Keystone KGB"--so you get some humor amid all the drama. Enjoy!
July 8, 2021
Vary Your Pattern/Stay Within Your Cover
The next Moscow Rule is "Vary Your Pattern and Stay Within Your Cover"--again a somewhat long and cumbersome story title, so I wrote two stories. "Vary Your Pattern" takes us back to the early 1990s when Edwin Terrell, Jr. is still alive and Mai and Alexei are struggling to accustom their lives, personal and professional, to raising Alexei's granddaughter Natalia. "Stay Within Your Cover" is an examination of debating whether or not to do the right thing. If you don't someone might die; if you do, your cover's blown. Spy Flash III: The Moscow Rules launches in 10 days.
July 1, 2021
"Don't Look Back; You're Never Completely Alone"
The 4th Moscow Rule--Don't Look Back; You're Never Completely Alone"--was a bit long for the title of a single story, so I split it and wrote two stories for Spy Flash III: The Moscow Rules. And it's 16 days to launch!
June 24, 2021
"Everyone is Potentially Under Opposition Control"
Moscow Rule number 3 and story number 3 from SPY FLASH III: THE MOSCOW RULES. If things seems too good, like this really beautiful woman--or guy--paying attention to you, better be careful.
June 17, 2021
"Never Go Against Your Gut"
The second Moscow Rule and the title of the second story in Spy Flash III: The Moscow Rules--Never Go Against Your Gut. Sage advice for anyone. Preorder Spy Flash III at
June 10, 2021
Assume Nothing
Assume nothing--the first Moscow Rule, and the first story in my new collection, Spy Flash III: The Moscow Rules. Hear some excerpts and learn about the special preorder price.
June 3, 2021
This episode concludes the look back at two of my novellas, The Yellow Scarf and My Noble Enemy, and it has a tease for my July new release. Also the podcast now has a Facebook Page. Follow it HERE.
May 27, 2021
Another Novella!
This episode features the second novella published in 2015, My Noble Enemy--where I, gasp, kill off a character. A bit of a warning: adults discussing sexual situations and some sexual innuendo; nothing explicit.
May 20, 2021
This episode wraps up the focus on my 2015 novella The Yellow Scarf before we move onto the other 2015 novella My Noble Enemy. Also, you get a movie recommendation and a warning about some sexual banter between a married couple and some pretty harsh language. Enjoy!
May 13, 2021
What's a Novella?
A brief discussion about novellas and reading from my first novella, The Yellow Scarf. It and my second novella, My Noble Enemy are on sale this month. Find them on my Amazon author page.
May 6, 2021
Concluding a Look Back at A PERFECT HATRED
A writing lesson, some readings from Collateral Damage--the concluding volume of A Perfect Hatred--and a little preaching about civics. Plus, two days left to get all four books of A Perfect Hatred for free.
April 29, 2021
Revisiting Descending Spiral
Readings from Descending Spiral, book 3 of the series, A Perfect Hatred, and a bit of a chat about ethical dilemmas facing undercover operatives. Look for a birthday gift next week -- from ME to YOU for my birthday; all four books of A Perfect Hatred will be free from 4/26/21 to 4/30/21. 
April 22, 2021
Revisiting Bad Company
Continuing my revisit of my series A Perfect Hatred, I read from book 2, Bad Company, and discuss music and writing. WARNING: Both readings end with a leave-it-to-your-imagination sex scene; nothing explicit.
April 15, 2021
Revisiting A Perfect Hatred
It's the 3rd anniversary of the start of the series A Perfect Hatred. What better way to celebrate than with special pricing and a reading from Book 1, End Times.
April 8, 2021
Reading from a WIP Plus a Movie Review
Some readings from my rough draft of a new novel and a brief review of the new movie, The Courier, with Benedict Cumberbatch. To celebrate the three-year anniversary of the launch of the series A Perfect Hatred, all four books are specially priced.
April 1, 2021
The Conclusion to A War of Deception
We tie up all the antagonists' threads in this episode, and you get a preview of the books I'll be featuring in April--my four-book series, A Perfect Hatred. (Warning: some salty language)
March 25, 2021
Real Spy Results vs Fiction
More reading from A War of Deception and a brief discussion of an interesting, unclassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
March 18, 2021
More from A War of Deception
And A Face in the Crowd. Some thoughts about Bobby Sands on his birthday, and the podcast has its own website:
March 11, 2021
A Trip Back in Time
In March, I'll be reading from my 2017 debut novel, A War of Deception, and its mini-sequel, A Face in the Crowd. Find them HERE.
March 4, 2021
A New Novel and Spycraft
I'm reading from the rough draft of a new novel, The Devil Passed By, and discussing episode 4 of the Netflix series Spycraft--"Clandestine Collection."
February 25, 2021
Love Death and ... Sexpionage
A final reading from the new novel, Love Death, and my thoughts on Spycraft Episode 3, "Sexpionage." Note: Though not explicit by any means, I do discuss the use of sex as a way to recruit, control, and blackmail subjects.
February 18, 2021
Nearing the End
Alexei's incursion into The Annex is complete, and he's escaped with Gunter Metz, who wants only to see his family. A glitch at Checkpoint Charlie means Mai has to be the diversion to get Alexei safely into West Berlin--or she'll be the target. This episode is marked clean but warning for a post-sex scene between a married couple; nothing explicit.
February 11, 2021
Planning and Spycraft
There's mission planning, but then there's Mai Fisher's intuition. Alexei has learned to trust it, even when she strikes out on her own. Also, I discuss episode two of a new Netflix series, "Spycraft." The episode fits right in with Love Death; it's called "Deadly Poisons."
February 4, 2021
Going Off Topic
More reading from the upcoming new novel Love Death, but also NASCAR and baseball. What? (Note: I've marked this episode "Clean," but there is a scene of a married couple in bed, post-coital.)
January 28, 2021
Always Good To Have A Plan
Mai learns something about Alexei she didn't know when she meets Kolya Bukharin.
January 21, 2021
Approaches and Pitches
Warning: I talk a bit about politics. Otherwise, get a glimpse into how two different spies make their approaches and pitches.
January 14, 2021
New Year, New Mission
Another taste of my upcoming book, Love Death, with some history and German politics. Oooh, exciting. 
January 7, 2021
Out With the Old...At Last!
Some refections on 2020 and a reading from an upcoming new novel, Love Death. Happy New Year!
December 31, 2020
Old Spies Don't Die...Until They Do
My personal appreciation for John le Carre, who died this past weekend at the age of 89. Also, no podcast for 12/25/2020. Happy holidays--whichever one you celebrate or not. Be safe!
December 17, 2020
Character Origins
In this episode, I talk about who inspired the characters Mai Fisher and Alexei Bukharin. You'll get a little back story and an insight into how much fun writing these characters is for me.
December 10, 2020
The Trilogy Concludes
The final few chapters--and some editorializing about Slobodan Milosevic--of the trilogy Self-Inflicted Wounds, after its conclusion with the publication of And Justice for All, book three. Tying up loose ends seldom happens for spies, but Mai Fisher generally gets what she wants. Find the trilogy HERE.
December 3, 2020
The Last Mission?
We're closing in on the conclusion of And Justice for All. Mai and Alexei wrap everything up in Belgrade and prepare to return home--but is the mission really over? And is it, as Mai promised, their last? Please note: There will be no podcast on Thanksgiving Day. Enjoy your holiday, everyone!
November 19, 2020
It's well known that Mai Fisher will risk almost anything to have a successful mission, but let herself get captured? Not the first time. Trigger warning: Mention of rape.
November 12, 2020
The Beginning of the End...of the Trilogy
And Justice for All brings Mai and Alexei's mission in the Balkans to a close, but in the process, they deal with an old enemy, discover a devastating betrayal, and save a marriage--not theirs. And Justice for All is available for preorder HERE.
November 5, 2020
We Reach the End of Book Two
The final chapters of Dangerous Truths, book two of Self-Inflicted Wounds, also end on a bit of a cliffhanger. You might say all of book three is the denouement!
October 29, 2020
Plausible Deniability and Dangerous Truths
Some more chapters from book two, Dangerous Truths, and my philosophy on sex scenes in thrillers. That got your attention, right?
October 22, 2020
A Fateful Encounter
Mai and Alexei get a hint of who might be involved in the murders of the "friends of Milosevic" and someone takes care of a complication for them. More from Self-Inflicted Wounds book two, Dangerous Truths. Preorder book two HERE.
October 15, 2020
The Plot Thickens
Another reading from Self-Inflicted Wounds Book Two, Dangerous Truths. Mai Fisher confirms that if it is Russian mercenaries behind the murders of Yugoslavian officials, they're a sadistic bunch, and she finds that out the hard way. 
October 8, 2020
Dangerous Truths
Launch day for Welcome to Belgrade (which you can buy HERE), a resolution to our cliffhanger from Welcome to Belgrade and a few chapters from book two, Dangerous Truths, which you can preorder HERE.
October 1, 2020
A Cliffhanger!
Cliffhangers are a tried and true thriller trope, perhaps overused on occasion, but certainly a good way to keep a reader reading. Welcome to Belgrade is still available for preorder and launches a week from today.
September 24, 2020
Let's End This on a Cliffhanger
Why not? Cliffhangers are one of the oldest tropes in a thriller. I try to avoid cliches, but a trope? Sometimes they can be an author's best friend. Welcome to Belgrade is available for preorder and will launch on October 1, 2020.
September 17, 2020
Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave...
Episode 14! A few more chapters from Welcome to Belgrade, book one of the trilogy Self-Inflicted Wounds, and I ramble on a bit about John le Carre, British interrogation techniques, and 9/11.
September 10, 2020
Deception Shouldn't Surprise a Spy
From Self-Inflicted Wounds: Welcome to Belgrade (book one): Mai Fisher arrives in Belgrade for her mission to stop the political murders in Yugoslavia, unaware that Alexei has reactivated himself and is following her surreptitiously. Mai visits an old acquaintance, now a low-level Russian Mafiya boss in Belgrade to see what information he might have on the "friends of Milosevic" murders. Alexei, however, can't quite convince himself that Mai isn't behind some of those murders. Preorder Welcome to Belgrade HERE.
September 3, 2020
Small Talk
Episode 12! We're moving along--and the audience is growing. Wish I knew what caused that so I can keep it up! This week's episode revolves around the opening scene of the first book in my trilogy Self-Inflicted Wounds. In Welcome to Belgrade, my character Mai Fisher meets with the notorious Serbian war criminal Arkan, and he insists that they make small talk so as not to raise suspicions about his motivation in meeting her. His version of small talk, however, means bringing some of Mai's worst memories. Welcome to Belgrade is available for preorder now.
August 27, 2020
He is Finished!
"He is finished" was the opposition's campaign slogan against Slobodan Milosevic in the election of 2000. It took a couple of weeks post-election to accomplish that, but it did happen peacefully. I'm winding up readings from my reader magnet, Dateline: Belgrade this week. Next episode--more background on why I wrote a trilogy about a European election.
August 20, 2020
When Protesting Made a Difference
More reading from the new reader magnet Dateline: Belgrade, with an emphasis on a change in the purpose and nature of street demonstrations in Belgrade in the year 2000. Why did the police lay off--most of the time? What did a student group and a radio station have to do with activism? And a hint about how changing a constitution backfired on the man it was supposed to benefit. I'm talking 20 years ago; I swear. You can still preorder Dateline: Belgrade at a special introductory price (99cents) here.
August 13, 2020
Introducing a Reader Magnet for a New Trilogy
Some background on a reader magnet entitled Dateline: Belgrade came about, and an introduction for the upcoming trilogy, Self-Inflicted Wounds. You may learn more about the Balkans than you ever wanted to know. And, yes, a thunderstorm passed over while I was recording. This episode contains some excerpts from Dateline: Belgrade and the trilogy. One excerpt touches on the disturbing topic of human trafficking. 
August 6, 2020
Absolute Power Can Corrupt--or Not
In the final story, "Brave New World," from the collection, Spy Flash II, we see that even the most sincere of politicians can succumb to the temptations of power, even if for good reason. And it takes a spy to show the way back to the light. Stay tuned next week for excerpts from an upcoming novella, Dateline: Belgrade, and be prepared to learn more about the history of the Balkans than you ever wanted to know.
July 30, 2020
Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold
What role does a Klingon proverb play in the third story from the collection Spy Flash II, "Best Served Cold"? Listen and find out. Though this story's inspiration was four years ago, it unfortunately encompasses a topic still timely today, still unbelievably making headlines today: the killing of unarmed Black people by the police. A human story, not a spy story per se, "Best Served Cold" was difficult to write and record. Please note this story was reviewed in 2016 by sensitivity readers, and I made corrections they suggested. To hear past episodes of this podcast, go to Past Podcasts on my website.
July 23, 2020
Manipulation--It's What Spies Do
Story number two from the collection Spy Flash II. "Promise her anything" is the instruction to get an asset to agree to a marriage she doesn't want. But some spies fulfill their promises.
July 16, 2020
Trying to be more spontaneous instead of scripted, even when reading the excerpt. I may have, well, employed my limited ability to mimic accents. Be kind.
July 9, 2020
Second Guessing the Second Guessing
Some thoughts on including extremist characters and their philosophy in fiction, and an excerpt from A Change for the Better.
July 2, 2020
When is History History?
My thoughts on whether an event is history or a current event. Oh, and an excerpt from my novella, A Change for the Better. You can hear more excerpts at my website. Just click on the "Past Podcasts" tab.
June 25, 2020
The Lure of Historical Fiction
Some insight into why I write historical fiction. 
June 18, 2020
The Dark Side of Writing Thrillers Remix
Let's try this again--after some much-needed tutoring on sound editing. Enjoy!
June 12, 2020
June 11, 2020
June 11, 2020