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, 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