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DARK SPIRAL DOWN: Michael Houtz on Writing, Publishing, & Promotion



After a career in medicine, Mike Houtz succumbed to the call to hang up his stethoscope and pursue his other passion as a writer of fast-paced thrillers. A rabid fan of authors such as Clancy, Mark Greaney, Vince Flynn, and Brad Thor, Mike loves series writing with strong characters, fast pacing and international locations, all of which explode into action in his debut novel, a 2017 Zebulon Award winner. When not at the keyboard, he can be found on the firing range, traveling for research across the globe, or trying out the latest dry-fly pattern on a Gold Medal trout stream.

He lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

His latest book is the thriller/international/action novel, Dark Spiral Down.




About the Book:

COLE HAUFNER is a reluctant superstar in the professional mixed martial arts world. After his latest fight, his wife and child perish in a car crash. His grief deepens when his brother, BUTCH, a Delta Force operator, is absent from the funeral and reported missing by two furtive strangers who show up unannounced at the burial. Despairing, and acting on a tip, Cole travels to his childhood home in southeast China, looking for his brother.

Butch and his teammate, HAMMER, are the sole American survivors of a gun battle between their unit and North Korean commandos, both sides fighting over possession of a stolen suitcase containing a miniaturized fusion device that could either provide unlimited clean energy or be converted to an undetectable bomb seven times more powerful than a nuclear explosion. Leading the North Koreans is the sociopath, Commander PARK. Pressed into helping the Koreans is a disgraced former CIA operative, BARRETT JENNINGS.

Cole meets with the uncle who raised him, MASTER LI, and is warned to stop his search for Butch. Barrett discovers Cole’s identity (with the help of a genius computer hacker, LILLY), which opens a twenty-year-old wound when Barrett was blamed for the disappearance of Cole’s father, along with the man’s invention. Barrett enlists the 14K organized crime syndicate to help capture Cole. Hammer, separated from Butch during the fight for the device, thwarts the gang’s attempt to kidnap Cole, and the two then set off to find Butch and the device. All parties converge on the city library where Butch, now disguised as a monk, is attempting to communicate with the Pentagon. Barrett and Park capture Butch, while the 14K gang nabs Cole.

Danger mounts as Chinese authorities begin investigating foul play within their borders. Cole fights his way free of the gang and reunites with Hammer.  Both men find Barrett’s apartment and discover Lilly (the man’s stepdaughter), who divulges Barrett’s identity and plan. Cole clashes with Hammer, who is willing to sacrifice Butch in order to recover the fusion device. Lilly offers her help in exchange for her and Barrett’s rescue from Park’s grip. Meanwhile, Barrett discovers the true nature of the case the North Koreans are pursuing and, sensing he and Lilly are to be assassinated by Park once he has the device, frees Butch. Butch, trusting Barrett was sent to rescue him, leads the turncoat to the site where he hid the device. Barrett, hoping to make a quick fortune selling it, shoots Butch before escaping with the case.

Cole, along with Hammer and Lilly, arrives at the location of Butch and finds him gravely wounded. Butch fingers Barrett for shooting him and for stealing the case. Cole wants only to save his brother but Butch makes him promise to kill Barrett and recover their dad’s invention. The revelation that the device is his father’s scientific discovery propels Cole forward to fulfill his brother’s mission. Cole is forced to abandon Butch at a hospital. Cole pursues Barrett to a remote dock where the ex-CIA man is planning to escape China by boat. With the Chinese military now actively looking for Cole, Cole confronts Barrett and Park sparking a gunfight. Barrett kills Park. As Barrett turns the gun on Cole, Hammer kills Barrett. Cole, Hammer and Lilly escape via the boat, and the fusion device is safely returned.

Readers Love Michael Houtz!

“If you’re in the market for a fast paced, action filled, page-turning thriller, Mike Houtz delivers a must-read novel. I highly recommend this emotional rollercoaster of a book for every die-hard thriller reader…Get it ASAP!”

~Lima Charlie Review


“…this work proves that author Houtz is undoubtedly a rising star in the publishing world.”

~Andrea Brunais, Author


“Mike Houtz takes us on fast-pace adventure in Dark Spiral Down, a thrilling ride along the border between China and North Korea, where Cole Haufner is in pursuit of his Delta Force brother and a device that has the potential to change the world forever or destroy it.”

~Dan Grant, Author


Dark Spiral Down is a phenomenal debut novel by Mike Houtz. This book has everything readers of the genre love: a great plot, memorable characters, and a powerful voice. It’s a must-read!”

~Ammar Habib, Bestselling & Award-Winning Author, Editor-in-Chief of Thriller Magazine



Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Michael Houtz.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Great to be here! This is my first full-length book. I’d had a few smallish

Shorth stories in tiny, obscure fanzines published many moons ago. This is my first, hopefully of many, professional releases.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

I’m with The Wild Rose Press, a small/medium New York traditional publisher.

Originally, I’d written the book as a self-publish title because I was working on a medical thriller intended for a Big 5 agency. Along the way, I’d won an award for my current book and received an offer for it to go the more traditional route. Definitely unexpected but a good way to go. I felt comfortable with them because of the excellent communication along the entire process.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

I signed a contract in Febr of 2018 and am hitting the market with full release in May 2019. I’d always assumed it would take at least 12 months or more on my first title, and I wasn’t surprised.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I was thrilled! I felt one step closer to joining the ranks of people I’d read my entire adult life. I have a really long way to go but that first step was such a joy. The validation that people saw my work as worth investing in, and reading, made all that early writing worth the struggle. I think it was a (couple) of beers and a Hibachi dinner with the family.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I’d had a number of media campaigns going into the leadup of the release. Signed book giveaways, interviews, book reviews, the list seemed endless. My first big outing was a speaking engagement with the first writers group I’d ever attended back when I first starting looking into pursuing writing as more than just a little hobby. I traveled back to Las Vegas to meet with the wonderful people at the Las Vegas Writers Group. It was so odd being the center of the discussion and not in the audience listening to someone I wanted to become.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

Certainly, I have a bit more confidence in what I’m doing. Before publication, there’s always a part of you wondering if you can do this sort of thing. Conversely, I have this newfound sensation I need to improve upon myself because I have this obligation to my publisher and new audience. I can’t rest on what I’ve done. There is always a push in the medical field for continuous improvement, and I feel that same obligation in writing. I guess I learned something valuable along the way.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

I don’t know if I’m surprised, but the glacial pace of the industry is something I hadn’t seen when practicing medicine. I may have made dozens, if not hundreds, of decision, some as fast as a few seconds, that could make the difference in another human’s life. Let’s just say that’s no longer the case in my life. I am amazed at the support within the writing industry. By and large, everyone I’ve worked with or come into contact with are genuinely nice people—another refreshing change.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

The support from people who’ve read my book is mind blowing. Total strangers excited about the story line and their willingness to give shout-outs to others has been a tremendous reward. The interaction with someone who is now a fan of my work always fills my heart with gratitude. I want to keep providing those folks with that same enjoyment. It’s very motivating.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

It’s the same message I heard before and am now passing on—the only difference between a published author and those that haven’t is that the published author never quit. Be prepared to commit to the process and not just give lip service. Understand it can take years, and you WILL make it. Never quit!



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