Two Navy Guys and a Novel: Meet the Guys

downloadThanks for coming back to visit the Two Navy Guys and a Novel blog series. If you missed our first post you can catch up here.

Let’s meet the Guys and find out what they hope to achieve with this little creative endeavor.

J.R.’s Story

I grew up in south Minneapolis, and read voraciously as a kid, mostly spy novels.  Before I finished junior high, I had read every James Bond novel and was looking for fresh voices in the spy genre. I moved on to Forsyth, Ludlum, MacLean, Follett, Clancy, Flynn, Higgins, and a Navy friend of mine – Chris Cameron.

As I grew as a reader, I developed a deep love for the kinds of novels that offered both intellectual challenges and realistic plot lines. I came to respect the complexity of what a great novel represents, and the enjoyment I have when I finish a really superb story.

CDR Olson One

Commander J.R. Olson

Maybe my love of spy novels drew me to my career in naval intelligence. After four years at the U.S. Naval Academy, where I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in History, I spent 21 years as a naval intelligence officer, retiring in March 2011.

Part of my service included carrier operations in the Persian Gulf and off the coast of Somalia. I was on the ground in Bosnia during and after the NATO airstrikes in the late 1990’s, and I spent time in East Timor after 9/11, just to highlight a few. That’s a long way of saying that my experiences in the intelligence world will, I hope, give me some special insights into potential story lines for our writing venture.

So, how did this whole writing partnership begin?

When I was approaching my retirement date from the navy, I was the U.S. Naval Attaché to Finland, stationed in Helsinki. (Nice work if you can get it.) I realized I was going to have lots of time on my hands after I retired, so I crafted a list of things I wanted to do with the rest of my life – my “bucket list” – to give some direction to my post-navy existence. On that bucket list were two things I’ll share here: “write a screenplay,” and, “write a novel.”

After I retired, I spent six months traveling around the U.S. and the Caribbean. You could call that trip my personal journey of discovery, and I shared that time with my dog, Baron, and the many friends and relatives I reconnected with during the trip. My wife was extraordinarily understanding of my desire to discover who I was without wearing the uniform of a commander in the U.S. Navy.

Baron - J.R.'s traveling companion

Baron – J.R.’s traveling companion

I kept a personal blog while on the trip, called “Travels with Baron.”  I may yet craft a book about that trip, but, suffice it to say, the writing bug started to take hold during that journey. The blog was a different kind of writing for me.  As an intelligence officer, I drafted reports all the time, but there is little creativity in military reports, even, and perhaps especially, in intelligence reports.  The blog was the first time in my life where I was writing for myself – and I enjoyed it!

When my wife and I moved back to Minnesota to start the next phase of our lives, I got involved in several new ventures, including teaching as an adjunct professor, starting a small learning center, joining a non-profit board of directors, and connecting with a number of fellow service academy graduates. This is where I met Dave.

Writing a Screenplay

imagesI was also selected for the FBI Citizens’ Academy, where I befriended a professor named James Densley.  James and I discovered we both had a tremendous interest in movies, and we subsequently partnered on a screenplay about the Falklands War.  We are in the final stages of polishing off that particular item on my “bucket list,” and we’re hopeful we can succeed in selling the screenplay to a production company.  Scratch off one of those bucket list items!

When Dave pitched the idea of co-writing a novel, I jumped at the chance. I’ve always had plot ideas for what I hoped could be a series of great spy/action/military novels buzzing around in my head, but, like many people, I had yet to actually sit down to put those thoughts into writing.  Our initial story meetings convinced me we have the juice to develop plots, characters, twists, and all the other elements that go into a multi-layered book.

What does success look like for J.R.?

I am hopeful people will thoroughly enjoy the book we write, and if you like our work when we publish, please tell your friends about us and our book!

Personally, I have found the collaborative process with both James and Dave absolutely thrilling.  It is one thing to craft these ideas on your own, but the creative energy between two people is a powerful force for invention.  While I am setting my sights right now on partnering with Dave to write this first book, long term I’m hopeful we succeed in writing a series of excellent stories, that you’ll enjoy the stories we tell, and that we might, MIGHT, someday be lucky enough to get one of the books made into a really good movie!

Now, back to Dave…

I wanted to do the WMD project with J.R. for a couple of reasons. Ever since I started following the Truant-Platt writing team, I’ve wanted to try a creative collaboration. Writing can be a lonely business and having a partner along to share the journey sounds like a great idea.

Next to what's left of the Berlin Wall

David next to what’s left of the Berlin Wall

So far, I’ve written four science fiction novels and I’m hankering to try a different genre. I’m a huge admirer of thriller writers like Ken Follett, Tom Clancy, Daniel Silva and the like. For me, the thing that makes those kinds of stories work is the authenticity factor and I think J.R. has the kind of background to make our project come alive.

I’ve been writing and publishing professionally for about a year now, and I’m in this for the long haul. About a month ago, I changed the name of my website to “The Writing Startup.” The change in name and message came from a simple observation that took me way too long to realize: writing is a startup business in its purest form. A creative professional lives at the intersection between commerce and creativity, and I’m making it my job to tell you all about it.

What’s in it for me?

At the end of the day, I’m looking to find readers who connect with my writing, the kind who follow my Irregular Newsletter and look forward to my next book. Those are nice, feel-good objectives, so I’ll throw a goal out there that I think is a real stretch for a couple of ex-Navy story-tellers: I would like to see our novel sell 1000 copies in its first month.

That’s all for this installment. Next time we talk about how we came up with the idea for WMD.

Got a question? Want to offer a suggestion?

Drop us a comment below or send an email to

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David Bruns is a writer from Minnesota, and creator of the sci-fi series  The Dream Guild Chronicles. Check out his website for updates, new releases and a free short story.

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4 Responses to Two Navy Guys and a Novel: Meet the Guys

  1. Richard says:

    I got excited just reading about what you two guys are planning! Waiting for the new book, will be difficult.

  2. Tammy says:

    This is exciting, David! I’ve bee eager to hear about your days as a submariner, and now it looks like I can. Looking forward to following these posts.

    • David Bruns says:

      Thanks, Tammy. Not sure if you’ll see submarines in Book 1, but the things we know have a way of sneaking into the story, don’t they?

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