Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense #Book Extravaganza - #99cents on January 2 only!

That's right, Book Addicts!

For one day only, 26 mystery, thriller, and suspense authors come together to offer a total of 34 books for only 99cents each. This is the first time AVENGERS OF BLOOD, the second Cass Elliot Crime Novel, goes on sale.


And that's not all. Join in the fun on Facebook for giveaways, interaction with the authors, and a chance to discover new books to love.

Catch all the action from 12:01 a.m. through midnight January 2nd!

Join us on Facebook (click here) and browse the books at dougdorow.com.

Happy 2015!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Meet the Herd: Elvis the Bull #farming #animals

WARNING: This post contains references to animal breeding and uses anatomically correct language and some slang. Gentle readers may find the topic uncomfortable.

Elvis in his natural state: eating
If you stop by this blog now and again, you may have come across the first member of our herd to be profiled, Mr. Donkey. Our bull Elvis is next. He joined us in 2009 and is a full-blood Black Angus. Why did we name him Elvis? We were looking for a Romeo, a bull who could woo our cows like they've never been wooed, and make very pretty babies. Elvis was a good choice, because he curls his lip in true Presley fashion when he's in an amorous mood.

Our first bull (Bully) came from my parent's farm, and when it was time to replace him, we were a little nervous. Picking a bull isn't as easy as it might sound.

It turns out that you need a bull strong enough to dominate his herd and fight off other bovine contenders for the attention of his females. He has to have good stamina and a healthy libido to ensure all the ladies get bred at the right time. It's important that he have a small head and relatively narrow shoulders, so his calves have no problems coming down the birth canal. His calves have to put on weight quickly, so they bring a good price at the sale barn. It's also important that our bull be easy to manage and not try to dominate us.

While you can judge some of these traits by appearance and personality, one of the most important factors to a bull's success - his fertility or rate of impregnation - can only be judged through his testicles.

So how do you measure a bull's rate of impregnation? Just like with a human male, you can take a sample of his semen and evaluate sperm quality and quantity. Are we likely to do this with Elvis? Heck no.

Another way to determine fertility is to measure the size of your bull's balls.

I laughed the first time I heard that. I thought the guy who told us was joking, but he was quite serious.

It turns out that size does matter where a bull's plums are concerned. Scrotum circumference influences the number of sperm a bull produces, the size of his son's scrotum, and his daughter's fertility. (If you're fascinated by this topic, see this article at the University of Missouri Extension website.)

Back to Elvis. How do his cobblers measure up? We'll never know for sure, because I'm not about to chase Elvis around the pasture with a tape measure. From eyeballing his backside, they look pretty good to me.

The best proof is his offspring. We haven't had to pull any of Elvis' calves from the birth canal, which means the babies are a good shape. His bulls weigh in nicely on sale day, so we have no complaints on growth rate. And our cows end up bred every year, which means that Elvis' libido and his sperm are doing their job.

That's probably more than you ever wanted to know about bulls and cow breeding, and Elvis would be mortified to know I've been talking about his gonads. So to end this post on a lighter note, I'll share a few fun facts about Elvis:

Favorite book: The Butterfly and The Bull by Stuart Haddon. Elvis is chuffed that a Black Angus bull can play such an important role in a paranormal thriller. He thinks he might have a shot at a starring role in Haddon's next book, but we're trying to keep his ego in check.

Favorite song: He digs the Elvis Presley version of Milkcow Blues Boogie (music and lyrics by Sleepy John Estes) because it's sung by his namesake.

Favorite food: Cubes from the Big Blue Bucket. No question.

Little known fact: Elvis weighs almost as much as a Mini Cooper, but he's a gentle fellow and loves a rub between the ears.

Check back for more posts on other members of the herd, including Mr. Donkey, Sid Vicious, 107, and Gimpy.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Meet My Character Blog Tour - Maxine Leverman

I was lucky enough to be asked by Charles Dougherty (@clrdougherty) to introduce the main character from my current novel. Charles is probably best known for the Bluewater Thriller series, but my favorite book of his is a mystery called DECEPTION IN SAVANNAH. It has a great cast of characters and is loaded with a twisty plot that will have you laughing and dying to know who done it.

Be sure to meet the main characters from the Bluewater Thriller series on Charles' blog (click here), and at the end of this post, I'll introduce you to two new authors, so keep reading!

One of the things I love about writing a series is that I never know where the characters will take me. People often assume that my characters are an amalgamation of people I've known with a smidge of my personality thrown in, but this is rarely true. So far, my characters have arisen from the imaginary world I've created, Forney County, to fill a necessary role in the story. We need an insecure sheriff, and hey presto, Bill Hoffner is born and matures through the books. Characters rarely arrive fully loaded with an intact history; instead, I have the pleasure of learning about them as the stories, and then the series, unfolds.

Today I'm introducing a character who made herself known in the second Cass Elliot crime novel, AVENGERS OF BLOOD. Maxine Leverman appeared about halfway through the book, and once I finished writing, she wouldn't leave my head. So I decided to try and write her out of it. Will it work? She's turning out to be a persistent gal and I suspect she'll end up having a series of her own, but only time will tell.

Who is Maxine Leverman?

Maxine was born in 1985, the same year as Cass, which makes them both 26 in 2011, the year the first two Cass Elliot novels and Maxine's first book begin. She and Cass have known each other since childhood and in Maxine's words:

Cass Elliot is my best friend. Has been since, well, maybe not since before dirt, but certainly since we were eating dirt. Usually at her house. Mud pies tasted better there, probably thanks to something toxic in the soil.

Maxine married young and divorced her hedge fund managing husband after realizing he was a cross-dresser. She's making him pay for his love of lingerie, literally, and has no need of a job. On a weekend out partying after her divorce, she was drugged, raped, and marked with a scar that runs from her collar bone to beneath her breast. She and Cass lost touch during "the hedge fund years", but Maxine finally came to Cass in AVENGERS OF BLOOD, seeking help in finding the man who attacked her. She discovered that Cass has a similar scar on her chest; it seems they've been raped by the same man, although years apart.

After Cass is shot in AVENGERS OF BLOOD, Maxine decides to become a private investigator to work with Cass in finding and stopping their rapist.

When and where is the story set?

Maxine's first novel moves between the very fictional Arcadia located in Forney County in East Texas, and the very real Dallas, Texas. Maxine was born and raised in Arcadia but finds that even though she needs to come home to be closer to Cass, she can't leave her big city life behind. Thankfully, she has enough dirt on the cross-dressing ex-husband to fund comfortable homes in both locations.

The book is set in 2011, the year of Texas' worst drought in nearly a century. If you've read the Cass Elliot crime novels, you'll recognize many of the characters who turn up in Maxine's story. In a place as small as Arcadia, we're bound to bump into the same people now and again. But you'll also meet a host of new characters relevant to Maxine's life and this mystery.

What defines Maxine?

Maxine is ferociously headstrong and independent. Her father adored her but valued her older brother because he was the male child and therefore the heir to their family's oilfield business. She found herself competing for their father's recognition until his death when she was twelve. During their childhood and into their adult lives, their mother was absorbed in competing with her husband by building a successful custom furniture business.

This lack of attention and love drove Maxine into the bosom of the dysfunctional Elliot family. She spent much of her childhood in Cass's home, simply accepted as another of the many children racing through the house.

Maxine is defined by her gender, or more specifically by her father's belief that while girls are special, boys are worthy. Marriage to the hedge fund manager introduced her to power and money on a massive scale, and while she's more than financially secure thanks to his love of silk panties and the trust fund her father left her, she needs to build her own life, to find a path that allows her to be taken seriously. She's decided that the road to credibility lies in becoming a private investigator and working at the Lost and Found Detective Agency with her aunts, Kay and Babby, and her cousin Cindy.

What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

Maxine is mouthy, impetuous, and overtly sexy. She's fully capable of messing up her own life, although circumstances outside her control have contrived to kick her occasionally. She surreptitiously takes a case on her first day at Lost and Found and decides to work it herself, assuming that finding a missing husband is a no-brainer. After all, she's had a husband, hasn't she? How hard can it be to find one that's gone astray?

From that decision, things go from bad to worse. When the aunts find out, Kay makes up her mind to fire Maxine for working without a PI license, and Babby only manages to save her by promising that Maxine will work under her supervision. Chastised, Maxine accepts the help of her aunts and cousin and finds the husband, but also discovers that his life is a tangled web of lies. The deeper she digs, the more secrets she discovers and the harder it is for Maxine to let go of a case she's already solved. When people start dying, she doesn't believe the police have arrested the right murderer and pushes her aunts, her cousin, and Cass to help her find the truth.

What drives Maxine?

When she started working at Lost and Found, Maxine's sole goal was to use their resources to find her rapist. But as she's worked the case of the missing husband, she's found that she enjoys investigations and that her passion for seeing things to completion (or her hardheadedness, depending who you ask) is a benefit that can drive her to succeed. More importantly, she's discovered that the truth, and finding it, matters greatly to her.

Is there a working title for this novel?

Nope, no title yet.

When can we expect the book to be published?

Follow me on Twitter (@gaelynnwoods) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/gaelynn.woods) for news about this release and upcoming Cass Elliot novels.


And now I'd like to introduce you to two fabulous authors that I've read and enjoyed, Dana Griffin and Sinclair Macleod. Check their blogs in the next week or so for introductions to one of their characters.

Dana Griffin (dana-griffin.com) writes high intensity airline thrillers. Yes, thrillers about airplanes. His first two books are THE COVER-UP and COERCED, and Dana knows what he's talking about. He's been a pilot for 25 years, the last 15 of those with major airlines. All this experience gives his books a reality that makes for a wild, conspiracy-filled ride. You can find him on Twitter at @DanaGriffin97.

Sinclair Macleod (sinclairmacleod.blogspot.com) lives in Glasgow and writes THE RELUCTANT DETECTIVE mystery series starring Craig Campbell, a Glaswegian insurance investigator pressed into finding out who murdered a young boy. Sinclair has a way with characters, giving you a sense that these are real people who live and breathe. He draws you into the seedy underside of life, but manages to leave you with a bit of hope for humanity no matter how depraved we may seem. You can find him on Twitter at @sinclairmacleod.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Meet the Herd: Mr. Donkey #farming #animals

I'm starting this series thanks to a kick in the pants from my wonderful friend Jackie in England, who asked for photos of the creatures inhabiting our farm. Rather than just post photos, I thought I'd share a little about their history and personalities, so we'll start with Mr. Donkey, who is truly one of a kind.

He's a lovely brown, with a darker mane and tail, and a splash of white at his bottom. He also wears white cotton socks on all four legs and has a few white splotches on his neck. As he's aged, Mr. Donkey's muzzle is fading to gray, giving him a grizzled look.

Why do we call him Mr. Donkey? His personality demands a certain respect. He's our only donkey, but he is a key member of the herd. You see, Mr. Donkey's main job is protection. He's the muscle, which might seem odd given that he's about 1/10th the weight of a cow. But when a calf is born, Mr. Donkey assumes baby-sitter role and minds the newborn while the momma (or mommas, depending on how fast the calves are coming) grazes. He's a brave fellow despite his diminished size and has put himself between a coyote and the herd, and a pack of dogs and the herd. Neither challenged him.

He's also a bit of a punching bag. As the calves grow, he's the nearest creature to their size, so when they get tired of head butting each other, they try to butt Mr. Donkey. He tolerates it pretty well, but when the calves see his tail flick, they learn to back off or get a tap from his hoof.

While we think he rivals Methuselah in age, we're not really sure how old he is. His early years are a bit murky, but we know he did a stint as a rodeo donkey and was rescued by the Heard family (fitting, eh?), who live near my grandparent's old place. While at the Heard estate, a mule took a chunk out of his neck. We have no idea how his spinal cord managed to avoid being severed, but it did. Mr. Heard smeared a healing ointment in Mr. Donkey's wound and barring a strange dip mid-neck, he's fully recovered.

He came to live with my parents about fifteen years ago when they expanded their cattle herd, and he moved to our ranch in 2007. He's an eating machine, stopping only to roll around on the ground for a nice dust bath. Given that we've had such a lovely spring and summer, he looks a little like a barrel on legs but he'll trim down to his normal svelte size in the winter.

He's notoriously camera shy (I was lucky he tolerated my taking these photos) and even a bit moody when it comes to being petted, although if you catch him just right he loves having his ears tickled. When he makes his mind up to be immovable, he's immovable. We've tried moving him from one pasture to another by tugging on his halter (when he wears one), but have found that shaking a bucket of feed works better.

He's very patient with creatures that are smaller than he is, like kids. Mr. Donkey has not been ridden since he's lived with us, and when people ask if he's rideable, we answer that if you can catch him, you're welcome to try.

Some fast facts about Mr. Donkey:

Favorite book: The Geronimo Breach by Russell Blake (A burro plays a key role in saving the hero. I think there's a bit of donkey-envy going on.)

Favorite song: "Donkey" by Jerrod Niemann. Even though he objects to the riding part, Mr. Donkey digs the chorus: "Gonna ride that donkey donkey down to the honky tonky, it's gonna get funky funky, aw aw." The song is either stupid or brilliant, depending on the listener, but Mr. Donkey loves it. He's also partial to Johnny Horton's "Electrified Donkey", mostly because Mr. Donkey's too smart to touch an electrified fence.

Favorite food: Anything, really, but he'll come trotting for an apple core.

Little known fact: He was the inspiration for the strip club name 'The Ronkey Donkey' in The Devil of Light.

Stay tuned for more posts on other members of the herd, including Elvis, Sid Vicious, 107, and Gimpy.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Right Turn, Clyde - What Happens When Your Character's Character Changes? #amwriting

My husband and I are rabid devotees of the British radio drama The Archers. It's been on the air for over 60 years, but I didn't luck into listening to it until I moved to London in 2001. Every day at 1:00 p.m. (prior day's episode) or 7:00 p.m. (new episode) we'd tune into the Beeb and wait with baited breath for the top of the hour news to finish.

We thought we'd have to give up The Archers when we moved to East Texas in 2007, but we eek out enough internet speed in our slice of Redneck Paradise to stream the 13-minute episodes. Thank goodness. We've done without McVitie's Digestives and Galaxy chocolate since the move, but I'm not sure how we'd cope without The Archers.

The BBC describes The Archers as "Essential drama from the heart of the country." Bah. It's the story of a bunch of people - many of them involved in agriculture - who live in an imaginary place called Ambridge in an imaginary county called Borchester in rural England.

More specifically, it's a delicious mix of gossip and righteousness about how their lives will be tangled up by new roads that could split a family farm, the birth of a child with Down Syndrome, personnel changes at the local pub (The Bull), an outbreak of tuberculosis among the dairy herd, e-coli in the organic ice cream factory, a gay relationship, the loss of organic status on the pig farm, or the breakup of a marriage.

The people who write The Archers' episodes are usually excellent at their jobs, but let's face it: over the course of 17,000+ episodes, the plot lines need a little jiggling now and again. Lately, the writers have taken an annoying approach to liven things up: changing a character's personality, or their character, right out of the blue. It's totally disconcerting.

Some examples:

Tony Archer, an amiable fellow for as long as I've known him, has suddenly developed a case of the whinging nasties and is on the outs with his mom, Peggy, because he thinks she doesn't believe he's capable of running a successful farm.

Tony's son Tom (he of the Tom Archer's Organic Sausage empire) leaves the lovely Kirsty at the alter, abandons his pigs in their fields, and makes off for Canada. Only a couple of months ago his grandmother named him as primary beneficiary in her will, and he was focused on his future with Kirsty, building a house, and expanding his sausage and ready-meal business.

Steadfast Roy Tucker cheats on his sweet wife, Hayley, with his posh boss Elizabeth Pargetter who is still mourning the untimely death of her husband Nigel four years ago (I'm still irked over that) and has shown no interest in a relationship, sexual or otherwise, since.

Granted, these character changes can send the story off in new directions, but the ham-handed way they're delivered makes you wonder if the writers have had a hay bale dropped on their heads.

Perhaps the most annoying aspect of these changes is that once the drama is over, the writers often drop the characters back into their normal lives with nary a ripple of the change remaining. Take the 2011 discovery by Tony and Pat Archer that after their eldest son's death, his girlfriend gave birth to a son. She so despised Tony and Pat that she didn't tell them. Once they learned about him, Pat obsessed for weeks about meeting her grandson but once she did - poof - that storyline disappeared into the ether. We're left wondering why they wasted so much airtime on Pat's anguish if the kid can so easily vanish from the story.

At times it's enough to make me stop listening, but after 13 years of knowing these (admittedly imaginary) people, I'm committed.

Lessons for the author? First, if there's a change coming in a character's personality, give the reader hints that something's going on. In fairness, the writers tried to do this with Tom Archer's hard-hearted dumping of Kirsty by making Tom moody and forgetful before the wedding. We knew something was going on, but thought it had to do with his old flame, Brenda Tucker. Were there signs that the weight of the pig farm was too much for Tom? That his assumption of the 'heir' role rather than the 'spare' role after his brother's death years ago was haunting him? If so, they were so subtle as to not exist.

Second, once a character's character changes, make sure the impact continues to flow through the story so readers believe the change was essential, rather than a cheap way to hold their attention. The writers are trying to do this with the Roy Tucker / Elizabeth Pargetter affair, but Roy's behaving so badly after Elizabeth told him their one night stand was only a one night stand, that we wonder if Roy was ever the steadfast guy we thought he was.

And third, over the course of the story help the reader understand why a character's character changes. There has to be a reason Tony Archer's in such a tizzy and battling with his mother all the time. Doesn't there?

http://venturegalleries.com/author/gaelynnwoods/How do you feel when a character's personality makes an unexpected turn? Does it throw you out of the story?

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Making Hay While the Sun Shines #farming #amwriting

One of the blessings - or curses, depending on how you look at it - related to writing crime fiction is that I can't help but look for danger in almost any situation. It's summer, and that means it's time to make hay in East Texas - or not, depending on the weather. We've had a beautiful spring and summer so far, and the pastures are lush with grass. Some farmers are working on their second cuttings of hay, but we've just had our first cutting done.

Since many of my friends live overseas or have never had a chance to see hay baled, I wanted to share a few photos of how the process works. And, as usual, I'm looking for creative ways to kill my characters. It's that blessing or curse thing.

The Musick Men are our hay balers and they start checking out our pastures in May, but we're usually not thick enough to cut until June. Hay baling is a five-stage process if you count the growing stage, and I guess we should.

Stage 1: Growing. Pray for rain and hope the grass grows. Yes, it's that simple. You can fertilize and amend the soil, but without rain, there's not much hope for hay.

Stage 2: Mowing. Essentially, you hook a great big mower to your tractor and drive around the pasture in ever decreasing circles until you've cut all the grass. Leave the grass to dry and pray for no rain.

(Nope, those aren't the Musick Men, that isn't our house or pasture, and their tractor doesn't look like that. I had a great photo of Mr. Musick the Younger cutting hay, but can't find it. If you squint and tilt your head just right, this is kind of how our mowing went.)

Stage 3: Fluffing. The technical term is raking, but it looks like fluffing to me. After the hay dries, attach a rake to your tractor (the attachment looks like modern art against the sky, doesn't it?), and drive around the pasture in ever decreasing circles.

The rake fluffs the hay and leaves it in neat little rows, like this:

4: Baling. This is where the fun comes in. Attach the baler to your tractor and drive around the neat little rows, sucking the hay up into the baler, rolling it into a round bale, then tying it with twine and dropping it out the back. Looks like a dinosaur giving birth, if you squint and turn your head just right.


 (Those babies are nothing to mess with - they weigh in at 1,500 pounds or more. Hefty.)

5. Stacking. This part might seem silly, but you've got to get the baled hay off your pasture so you can start growing grass again. 

The Musick Men are kind enough to stack our hay where it stays relatively dry and is easy to access in the winter.

Now for the killing part. Is there opportunity for one of my characters to die when baling hay? Absolutely, particularly if the baddies are baling the hay. Sadly for real life farmers, the risks related to hay baling are all too real. Accidents happen every year, resulting in amputations, deep cuts, broken arms and legs, crushing, and death. The Musick Men are some of the good guys and thankfully, are conscientious when they're working with farm equipment.

In the fictional world, there's a great chance that one of my bad guys won't be so conscientious and will die while baling hay, or maybe when an errant bale rolls over them. Oh the fun we have in the country...


photo credit: Therm0 via photopin cc
photo credit: kingary via photopin cc

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Is It Possible to Have a Real Friend on Social Media?

I've seen a few comments lately about whether the friends you make on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter are really friends. They question whether you can have a meaningful relationship with someone you've never met, and are likely never to meet. Some say yes, others say no. I'd say the people you meet through social media are pretty much like the people you meet in 'real life': a collection of folks who stay with you through thick and thin, those whose company you enjoy on an occasional basis, those who run at the first sign of trouble, and those who simply are trouble.

Although I've lived in big cities and traveled pretty widely, I'm somewhat naive when it comes to meeting people and making friends. (If you were traveling on the London Underground between 1999 and 2007, I was the gal who made eye contact and smiled. You might've wanted to have me arrested for aberrant behavior, but I couldn't help it. Still can't.)

Maybe naive is the wrong word. I have few reservations when it comes to meeting new people and making friends, and I rely on my gut to determine whether you're someone I want to know better.

Is it easier to make that gut level determination in person? Possibly. I watch your body language, hear the tone of your voice. I feel the strength of your handshake, observe how you interact with those you might consider less than yourself, like wait staff or receptionists. On social media I rely on your written interactions with me and with other people. Some folks I've met through social media make me uneasy due to their language, the nature of their comments, or the inconsistency of their behavior. We can all be who we want to be online, but it's hard to be someone else full-time.

There aren't many people who make me uncomfortable. On the contrary, I've met some wonderful people who provide great support or comfort, and who make me laugh. People who are genuinely happy when I achieve something big or small, and share my frustration when things don't work out as I'd hoped. People who trust me with what's going on in their lives, and want to know what I think and feel about what's happening to them. People who help me when I need it, and will ask for help when they need it. Aren't these the kinds of things friendship is about?

Maybe I'm being naive again. It's quite possible. But I've had the pleasure of meeting a few of these cyber-friends in 'real life', and have found everyone I've met so far to be just who they presented themselves to be online - a real friend. Will every encounter turn out that way? Probably not, but I'm grateful for those that have.

What about you? Do you think it's possible to make real friends through social media?


photo credit: ilouque via photopincc
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photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

Sunday, June 29, 2014

ARMY OF WORN SOLES by Scott Bury - #bookexcerpt and #giveaway @ScottTheWriter

Excerpt fifteen from Army of Worn Soles

The Army of Worn Soles launch blog tour continues! Read to the end for the clue that will help you win the Grand Prize of a signed paperback copy of Army of Worn Soles plus a $50 Amazon gift card. If you collect all the clues and put them in the right order, they’ll make a sentence. Send the sentence to the author (Scott Bury - see below for contact details) for a chance to win an autographed paperback copy of Army of Worn Soles plus a gift certificate from Amazon.

For a chance to enter the early-bird draw, enter the clue at the bottom of the post in the Comments section.

To see where the blog tour stops next, and to find the next clue, visit the author’s blog, Written Words.

Chapter 11: Fighting on the Dnipro

Central Ukraine, September 1941

Maurice and his men grew more and more nervous as the clouds approached the riverbank. By afternoon, they saw refugees approaching the bridges, streams of people on horse-drawn carts or on foot, a few rickety trucks. Behind them were the remnants of the 6th Army, mostly foot soldiers, a few battered tanks and hundreds of horse-drawn carts. From their vantage point, Maurice and his boys watched the sorry parade stream across the Dnipro bridges.

Then they heard the distant thunder of approaching war. And the Germans were upon them.
The airplanes were first. Maurice could never forget the buzzing sound of the Messerschmidts and the screaming Stuka bombers. They filled the sky, bombing and strafing, easily dodging Soviet anti-aircraft fire from the eastern riverbank. 

Where are our planes?” someone yelled after a bomb shook the bunkers. 

There wasn’t a Soviet aircraft to be seen—just panic on the ground as the guards blocked the bridges. 

The Wehrmacht tore apart the ragged Soviet columns still on the western bank. Then Maurice and his men saw the dreaded Panzers. Some raced along the roads. Others crossed the deserted farmlands more slowly. It seemed only minutes before they were at the edge of the river, even though Maurice knew it had to have been hours. 

Charges under the bridges detonated before the Germans got there, stranding thousands of refugees.
The idiots,” said Danylo, the lieutenant of the unit to Maurice’s right. “They should have waited until the first tanks were halfway across and taken some of them down.” 

But Maurice and everyone else knew that was too risky.

Behind them, the Soviet heavy artillery started firing. Maurice saw plumes of dust rising as the shells struck among the German tanks but never actually hit one.

Behind the tanks came the infantry in squat armoured cars, and horses hauling cannons and wagons. By nightfall, the Germans had dug in behind the riverbank, and even though the Soviets kept firing cannons and mortars at them, the Germans didn’t seem bothered. “They’re indestructible,” Private Yuri said. “We can’t even touch them.”

Don’t be stupid,” Big Eugene said. He was a broad-shouldered youth who stood more than six feet tall. “Our gunners just have to get the range.”

Well, they sure seem to be having trouble doing that,” Yuri said.

The Red Army settled into a new routine, hunkered down in the trenches during most of the day as each side’s artillery duelled. Sometimes, the riflemen would take long shots at their opponents, but never hit anything. Overhead, the cannons and mortars roared and coughed and below the bluff, the shells exploded among the trucks and tanks. Occasionally, they hit something, but usually did no more than send dirt high into the air.

The Germans’ heavy guns would answer, spitting death overhead to crash down behind them. Usually they missed, but sometimes they smashed apart stores of food or ammunition, sometimes ripping apart men and horses. Once, Maurice and his men rushed up the bank to help douse a fire burning close to an ammunition store.

Days dragged. Maurice and his unit spent as much time away from the trench as the officers would tolerate. They hid in the bunker, playing cards and smoking. While on duty, watching the enemy across the river, they felt useless. 

Why don’t we attack them?” Corporal Orest said. “We’re doing nothing. We have the higher ground. We could destroy them.” 

Let’s keep our heads down, Corporal,” Maurice said. “There’s no use in making ourselves into target practice for Fritz.” 

Or being cannon fodder for the Russians, he thought.

About the book:


1941: Their retreat across Ukraine wore their boots out—and they kept going. 

Three months after drafting him, the Soviet Red Army throws Maurice Bury, along with millions of other under-trained men, against the juggernaut of Nazi Germany's Operation Barbarossa, the assault on the USSR. 

Army of Worn Soles tells the true story of a Canadian who had to find in himself a way to keep himself alive—and the men who followed him.

It is available in e-book form exclusively on Amazon.

About the author:

Scott Bury is a journalist, editor and novelist based in Ottawa, Canada. He has written for magazines in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia. He is author of The Bones of the Earth, a fantasy set in the real time and place of eastern Europe of the sixth century; One Shade of Red, a humorous erotic romance;a children’s short story, Sam, the Strawb Part (proceeds of which are donated to an autism charity), and other stories.

Scott Bury lives in Ottawa with his lovely, supportive and long-suffering wife, two mighty sons and two pesky cats. He can be found online at www.writtenword.ca, on his blog, Written Words, on Amazon, on Twitter @ScottTheWriter, and on Facebook.

Today’s clue: sequel

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Battle for the Harvest Begins... #Texas #garden

Texas is a wonderful place to set a crime novel. Not just because we locals are such characters, but because the epic struggle for life takes place at all levels, and the weather often plays a role. The Cass Elliot crime novels begin in 2011, the year of Texas' worst drought in nearly a century, and the weather plays a role in the series; in one case, helping uncover a crime that occurred decades before.

For now, my struggle is all about crime in the garden. These aren't words you'll often read, but it's been a fabulous spring in Texas and our summer is off to a gentle start. Our garden is bursting with tomatoes and onions, the potatoes are huge, and the strawberries are coming along. The masked thieving critters are out in full force, and I don't mind sharing as long as they share back. Unfortunately, they love the garden almost as much as we do, and I'm desperate for fruit protection solutions. This is serious business, folks, because who knows when we'll have weather like this again?

I planted five peach trees in January 2011, the winter before this terrible drought began. Not very clever on my part, but who was to know? Some friends gave us a fig tree that spring, and it's struggled ever since. We also have a pear tree that's as old as Methuselah and adored by the cows - it's their favorite scratching post.

We've struggled so much with the weather over the past four years that I haven't expected much from the fruit trees, and they've reliably not delivered, with the exception of the pear tree. That thing puts on pears every year, and every year my husband walks out and squeezes the pears, saying, "A couple more weeks." And "Maybe another week." And "Tomorrow's the day!"

Trouble is, every year the thieving raccoons have their own very reliable ripeness testing routine. Without fail, we've woken on "the day" to major disappointment: the raccoons have called in their buddies and worked overnight to steal every pear from that old tree. Those pears they didn't outright eat, they took a nice nibble from and tossed around the pasture so the fire ants can have a go. Needless to say, hubby's bummed every year, because it'll be another year before we get a shot at the pears!

This year, we have peaches to protect in addition to the pears. Yes, we could kill the raccoons, which would be in keeping with the whole crime novel thing, but my husband's determined to beat them at their own game. This year, he's gone on the offensive and wrapped the trees with six strands of electric fence wire. He's linked the cages to our electric fence, which holds enough charge to pop a cow hard enough that she won't go near the fence again. So far, so good. He's testing the fruit every day, but neither the peaches nor the pears are quite ready for picking. We won't know if the electric fence works until we win and the raccoons and fire ants go away disappointed.

I'm draping bird netting over PVC hoops to protect the strawberry plants, but I hate the stuff. Birds get caught in it, one rat snake got tangled up in it (I was most unhappy to have to cut him out, even though he had strangled himself), and this morning a red-headed woodpecker was fluttering around inside the hoops. He was easy to release, but this stuff is a pain. It's saved the strawberries, but I'll need a better solution for next year.

As irritated as I am with the crime prevention that goes along with gardening, the experiences will come in handy. Goober, a gentle soul who manages to stumble into the most gruesome crime scenes in the Cass Elliot novels, is a wonderful gardener. I think he'll have the benefit of my frustration when it comes time for him to plant his next garden, and who knows? Maybe somebody will have a nasty run in with a thieving raccoon or get tangled up in some electric fence...

photo credit: lovecatz via photopin cc

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cover Reveal - ARMY OF WORN SOLES by Scott Bury @ScottTheWriter

ARMY OF WORN SOLES by the amazing Scott Bury is coming to Amazon June 22, 2014!

1941: Their retreat across Ukraine wore their boots out—and they kept going.

Three months after drafting him, the Soviet Red Army throws Maurice Bury, along with millions of other under-trained men, against the juggernaut of the biggest invasion in the history of warfare: Nazi Germany’s Operation Barbarossa, the assault on the USSR.

Maurice sees that his job as Lieutenant is to keep his “boys”—the men of his anti-tank unit—alive as they retreat from the unstoppable Panzers and German infantry. When they’re captured, survival becomes impossible. Their captors starve them.

Then a miracle: Maurice gets a chance to escape. He cannot leave his boys to starve. But how can twelve Red Army soldiers cross German-occupied Ukraine without being shot?

For more on ARMY OF WORN SOLES, visit Scott’s blog, Written Words - and follow him on Twitter at @ScottTheWriter or on Facebook.

Monday, June 2, 2014

How Many Characters Is Too Many? #amreading

I'm about halfway through Believing the Lie, one of Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley novels, and just realized how many characters she's woven into this story. There are the same half dozen primary characters that run through the series, but this book has a host of others that are key to the plot - at least a dozen who had motive, means, and / or opportunity to commit the murder Lynley and team are investigating, plus a few other supporting characters with important roles.

What surprised me is that I am halfway through the novel and only now realizing how many characters she's created. That tells me George has done a seamless job of building these characters in my mind, to the point that I have no problem remembering who is who and how they fit into the mystery and each other's lives.

I realize that some books have many more characters than this - particularly if they span generations or move into other worlds. But mysteries are usually pretty compact when it comes to characters that are central to the story. There are always those characters necessary to move the plot along - detectives, lab technicians, folks who knew the victim but aren't actual suspects - but the core characters essential to the mystery remain limited.

I wondered how George had done it. How she managed to pull me into this world that's so busy with people, yet help me keep them all straight. And here's what I think:

1.  She introduces the characters at a reasonable pace over the first third of the book, giving me some history about them and their place in the story. Just like in a crowd at a party, I have a better chance of remembering people when we get to know each other a little when we're introduced.

2.  George gives me touchstones for each character, a way to remember them. Sometimes it's a physical characteristic, like the journalist who's nearly seven feet tall and has blazing red hair. Other times, it's a personality tick, like the kid who tears at the back of his hands when anger overwhelms him. With another character, George uses the woman's constant scheming to bring her role in the story back to me.

3.  She uses those touchstones in each scene where that character appears. Sometimes by mentioning the hair or the journalist's size. For the scheming character, George references the woman's Zimmer frame (walker). Those two words remind me that she's the character who's lying to her parents about her health, and blackmailing her father over an infidelity.

4.  George gives her characters distinct names and there's very little room for confusion. Bernard is the dead man's (Ian's) uncle and isn't sure Ian's death was accidental; Kevah is Ian's gay lover (or maybe he isn't gay, and only wanted Ian's property); Mignon is Ian's scheming cousin; Manette is her twin and opposite in personality; Zed is the bumbling journalist; Vivienne was (and might still be?) Bernard's secret mistress.

5.  The last thing George does is build a compelling story. One that absorbs me. That fact alone keeps me interested in the characters, regardless of how many there are. This is a mystery and so far, there's only one murder. I usually prefer a few more, but in this case, I need to know who killed Ian, or if his death was just an accident as the coroner ruled.

Is it possible to have too many characters in one book? Oh yes. But a talented author finds ways to anchor her characters in her reader's minds, helping them come to know these characters as if they were real.

How do your favorite authors help you remember their characters? If you write, how do you help readers keep track of your characters?


photo credit: Alexis Gravel via photopin cc
photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

photo credit: Gae-Lynn Woods, 2013