Cover reveal: Two new books coming over the next three weeks



I’ve told you about Echoes, my new Lei Crime Kindle World mystery featuring FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm. This full-length novel appears on May 12, and I think it’s my best mystery, yet.

But two weeks before then, one week from today, on Thursday, April 27, a new Sydney Rye Kindle World adventure launches, too: The Three-Way, featuring your favourite, scruffiest, most irresistible and stubbornly independent secret agent, Van Freeman, along with his mysterious, ingenious partner, Earl LeBrun—the characters I introduced in Jet: Stealth, and featured again in The Wife Line.

3-WayCover-FINAL-smaller

In The Three-Way, Van and LeBrun take on Daesh, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.  Van, as usual, gets himself in way over his head. How he gets out has delighted beta readers so far.

Characters from the Sydney Rye universe created by Emily Kimelman include the smooth businessman and all-round enigma, Robert Maxim, as well as the Kurdish woman warrior from The Girl with the Gun, Mujada Taib.

Here’s a short sample

Chapter 2: Meet Van Freeman

Van swallowed the last of his espresso when he heard a voice that exuded confidence bordering on condescension. “Well, if it isn’t Van Freeman.” 

Deep, assured, relaxed. Van twisted toward the back of the café, nearly falling out of his chair. A tall man who looked to be in his late fifties sat in a chair against the wall. He leaned back, one ankle on the other knee, a hand on his raised thigh and his other holding an espresso cup. He had short brown hair, cut expensively, with silver at the temples. He wore dark travelling pants, a khaki-colored shirt and a light grey blazer that appeared to be poured onto him. 

Who is this guy? He wasn’t sitting there when I sat down. How did he get in without my noticing? Van thought. 

“Heyyy,” he said, smiling broadly. “Wow. It must be … How long since we’ve seen each other? And what brings you … Here, of all places?” He felt a tingle as the short hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He controlled his breathing and kept smiling. Without moving his eyes from the strange man, he scanned the room with his peripheral vision, looking for other threats, possible allies of the strange man and fastest escape route.  

“Relax, kid,” the stranger said, gesturing toward the chair across the table from him. “You’ve never met me, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your memory.” 

Van moved so the table was between them. “Then how do you know my name?” 

“You stand out, especially here: a six-foot surfer dude with blond hair past his shoulders, and no beard. You’re hard to miss.” 

“That doesn’t explain how you know who I am.” 

“I read the report that Sydney Rye wrote.” 

Van’s chest tightened. He breathed out slowly. “Sydney wrote a report about me?” 

I have several people to thank for helping me get this book out so fast: my wife, Roxanne, for putting up with long silences as I wrote this furiously over a month; my elder son, Evan, for inspiring the character of Van and polishing his dialogue so it seems more realistic for a Millennial; Roger Eschbacher, Gary Henry and Joy Lorton for advice, insight, editing and proofreading; and Emily Kimelman for inviting me to the Sydney Rye Kindle World, and for creating the characters of Sydney, her dog, Blue, Bobby Maxim and Mujada Taib.

If you’re willing to leave a review on the Amazon page on release day, email me at contact@writtenword.ca and I’ll send you an advance review copy.

 

 

Cover reveal: Echoes, a new #LeiCrimeKW mystery



May 12 is launch day for a new crop of thrillers and mysteries in the Lei Crime Kindle World. And I have a book that will be part of it: Echoes. Since that’s one month from today, it’s time for a cover reveal. Once again, it’s designed by the unequalled David C. Cassidy.

Echoes - 529x800 V3

What’s Echoes about?

In 1999, the Kahuna was The Man on Oahu’s west coast. The coolest guy at the wildest parties, with the coolest posse, the best weed and the most beautiful girlfriend.

Then he disappeared.

Fifteen years later, that girlfriend is no longer a high school senior. She is FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm, and she sees through every lie the Kahuna spins when he shows up again to beg her help.

How can she say no when the Kahuna wants her help not for himself, but to protect his little brother. Young Cole ‘Aukai is ready to set fire to the whole Oahu illegal drug trade—for revenge.

Echoes will be live on Amazon on May 12, 2017. Visit here to find it and all the new releases.

Book reviewers: If you’d like an advanced review copy, please email contact@writtenword.ca.

What is the Lei Crime Kindle World?

Echoes is the fourth book I’ve written in the Lei Crime Kindle World. It joins Torn Roots (July 2015), Palm Trees & Snowflakes (December 2015) and Dead Man Lying (2016).

Kindle Worlds is an Amazon initiative that allows authors to publish stories set in another author’s fictional universe. The Lei Crime Kindle World is based on the Lei Crime series, created by bestselling author Toby Neal.

Independent book review: Smoke Road



Scorch Series Romance Thriller Book 3

By Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman

Luca Luciano is a jerk.

The books of the Scorch Road series are gripping, fast-paced page turners that will thrill, scare, arouse and thoroughly entertain you.

Smoke Road is the third volume in the new Scorch Road, six-book series being launched at a rate of a book a month by co-authors Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman. Both best-selling authors in their own right, teamed to write a six-volume series, releasing them at about three-week intervals.

The books I have read so far in the series follow a pattern. Each one has two main characters: one of the six Luciano brothers from South Philly, and a strong woman he meets. Together, they have to fight their way through the chaos unleashed by the Scorch Flu, a pandemic that kills 90 percent of those infected. Along the way, they gather clues about the source of the virus and a deep conspiracy that caused it.

Smoke Road’s male protagonist is Luca, the eldest Luciano brother. He’s the “alpha male,” a former Special Forces member built like a superhero.
The female lead is Dr. Haunani Kegawa, a medical researcher and advisor to the U.S. national security establishment who has found intelligence about the source of the Scorch Flu: a neo-Nazi skinhead group in Texas who has stolen a virus developed by the government and dispersed it across the country.

The plot of the whole series follows the well-established apocalypse scenario. As most of the country falls sick and dies, society and government fall apart. Gangs loot towns. Communities are reduced to scavengers, pirates, raiders or slaves. Think The Walking Dead, without zombies.

Dr. Kagawa is charged with finding the skinhead neo-Nazis responsible for the calamity, and given a unit of National Guardsmen to help her—the only military force close to the enemy that has not succumbed to the flu—which includes Luca Luciano.

As soon as he meets Dr. Kagawa, they’re irresistibly attracted to each other. This is where Luca becomes a jerk

Luca has deep-seated issues. He doesn’t trust any women. He uses them for his own pleasure—and to be fair, many use him for theirs. He’s a hunk’s hunk. But he believes all women are devious.

Dr. Kagawa is anything but. She’s clearly drawn on Toby Neal’s main character, Lei Texeira: she’s part Hawaiian, part Japanese; she has baggage stemming from a bad, nearly abusive past relationship; and she carries a piece of beach glass in her pocket at all times, which she holds and rubs to allay anxiety. This is a direct carry-over from Lei Texeira.

The story is basically a love story, with the pandemic apocalypse a setting. Luca and Nani are drawn together by circumstance and biology, and their personalities are just similar enough that they clash repeatedly. They drive each other crazy in many ways.

Like reality, it’s the man who’s wrong.

Toby Neal

Toby Neal

Emily-author-photo

Emily Kimelman

It’s frightening to me just how well women can read men’s minds.

This book is compelling and exciting, full of action, suspense and hot sex scenes. It’s a true mark of a writer’s skill to be able to write hot sex scenes without coming off as either pornographic or silly.

Well done, Toby and Emily. You’ve done what every writer strives to do: make a nightmare fantasy completely believable.

5*

Breaking news: Donald Trump resigns presidency



Citing weariness with the sham he’s perpetrated over the past two years, Donald Trump has announced he will step down as President of the United States of America. The office will pass to Vice-President Mike Pence, effective immediately.

“I just can’t do it anymore. It’s been an unbearable, overwhelming weight on my shoulders, to maintain this pretense of helping the average American while continually taking steps and signing orders that clearly make their lives worse,” he said.

“Cutting the Environmental Protection Agency, deregulation of the financial sector, deregulation of industries, cutting taxes for the rich, and the new health insurance plan, all those measures are plainly transfers of wealth from the middle class to the richest one-tenth of one percent. That’s it. Deregulating coal won’t do anything at all, other than reduce some marginal costs. It won’t bring back a single job in the coal sector.”

“Another thing I found particularly difficult was pretending that I have the vocabulary of a seven-year-old.”

Then there’s all the measures that will do nothing at all, other than put yet more money into multinational corporations’ accounts, like deregulating coal. I mean, how could you not see through that

The announcement stunned commentators from across the political spectrum. It also clearly surprised Trump’s advisors.

Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, was caught off guard by the announcement. “Umm, yes, well, Mr. Trump, President Trump, I should say, former President Trump has stated what he believes. He clearly believes what he said, and I am now obliged to say that everything this administration has done since taking office has been designed to make things better for a few billionaires, like Mr. Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson, and their flunkies, such as, well, myself. And yes, everyone else was made worse off. For me, that was the biggest bonus.”

Mr. Trump had more surprises today, as well. For instance, he castigated the right-wing media that had supported him. “I think what really was the last straw for me was the way the sycophants at Fox News and other stations just swallowed everything I said, every outrageous statement, and started defending it. It was nauseating.”

Fox and Friends was completely unintelligible today, with all commentators and on-screen personalities babbling simultaneously.

Sean Hannity of Fox News and the syndicated Sean Hannity Show said “I, for one, would be proud to be made worse off by President Trump’s administration, and I say with confidence that tradition will be continued under incoming President Presumptive Mike Spence. I mean, Pants.”

Rachel Maddow, of the Rachel Maddow Show, who passes for a leftist in the United States, said “Wow. I … wow. Wow.”

Former President Barack Obama was reached on vacation. He said “No way. No freakin’ way am I coming back. I don’t care what you offer. Did you know that I actually managed to quit smoking since I stepped down? No way am I going back to that. Michelle would kill me, anyway.

“I knew he wouldn’t last,” the former President continued. “I’m not going to say ‘I told you so,’ because even in my wildest dreams, I never thought that an egotist like Donald Trump would resign. So yes, I am surprised.

“Put away the handcuffs. I am not resuming the office of President.”

In related news, the Breitbart so-called news site now shows only the picture of a mushroom cloud.MushroomCloud

April fool!

“This podcast is guaranteed”



door-to-doorSalesmanMy email inbox is getting crowded with a lot of surefire offers lately.

So many people offer online courses to help me learn marketing so I can sell more books. Here are some examples from my inbox.

  • Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10,000 Readers
  • Bryan Cohen Selling for Authors
  • Joanna Penn, the Creative Penn—three courses, including “How to Make a Living with your Writing”
  • Juliet Dillon Clark of the Winsome Media Group has a number of courses and packages on “building your author platform” and using that to increase sales, and on how to launch a new book
  • Mark Dawson has Advertising for Authors courses as well as shorter tutorials and lots of videos.

These are just some of the online courses targeted specifically at marketing for self-published authors. They join a huge list of similar online programs:

  • Ray Edwards offers the Copywriting Academy, a series of online seminars on writing effective advertising—not just for writers, but for any business.
  • Rebecca Dickson, once a professional editor with a spicy vocabulary (she edited a book of mine, Army of Worn Soles), has the Entrepreneur Incubator program
  • Wilco de Kreij teaches e-commerce
  • The most recent to my inbox is Joei Chan’s branding blog and courses.

They may have different names and slightly different foci, but they have a lot in common, too. They claim to have found a formula for increasing book sales. The blog posts contain a tip that I usually know, but mostly they’re long ads for the courses, webinars, videos, books or other materials that make the same promises: more book sales for independent authors.

There are often videos, some free, some behind pay walls. The free videos and free webinars, however, are usually more drawn-out ads for the courses. What’s most annoying about them is that they always promise a free, bonus, sure-fire tip, one thing you can do to boost your sales, or your email subscriptions or whatever, if you watch the whole thing to the end. Some have disabled the fast-forward function (I hate it when TV shows do that in their on-demand versions.) And most of the time, when I do watch till the end, it’s not worth the wait.

The course is the whole point of all this stuff. It’s presented like a university-level program with several hours of video, whiteboard animations, info-graphics and support materials like workbooks in .pdf format. There are often downloadable videos, too, to help you remember some of the information (I guess).

What’s wrong with that? you ask

I suppose these must work, because more people seem to be doing them all the time, and the people already doing them seem keep publishing their teaser videos.

They remind me of late-night infomercials, with some sketchy guy or overenthusiastic woman hawking a product that, even with good lighting and photography, looks too flimsy to last more than day if used for whatever the hawker tell us to use it for.

Or like a timeshare salesperson, with a sales pitch that promises you a free TV or car just for listening. And goes on and on and on…

They’re expensive, too

But the worst part is the cost. Joanna Penn’s Self-Publishing Success course is one of the most reasonable, at under $300. And for the time and materials, and if it actually delivers results, it might be worth it.

Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10,000 Readers is even more expensive, at about $80 a month for a year. Ryan Deiss’s Digital Marketer courses are just under $1000. Others don’t tell you how much they cost until you already agree to give them your email address.

Do they work?

The marketers tell us they do. And they all provide testimonials.

But I signed up for one—I won’t say which—and soon dropped it, because I already knew most of the content: write a good book, know your audience, stay focused; use email to engage readers, make sure you have a full “author’s platform,” meaning a blog, website and a presence on just about every social medium.

I’m in a quandary. I’d like to know the secrets to selling books, but I just don’t see anything from these courses that convinces me that the authors know, either.

What do you think?

What’s your experience, if any, with online courses or programs that guarantee you the ability to sell to strangers? Leave a comment.

Writing tips: What is style?



Creative Commons: dbdbrobot

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing style lately. Actually, I’ve thought a lot about it for a long time — as long as I’ve been writing, which is most of my life.

I find that my response to a book or to a writer, no matter what the subject is, depends a lot on style. I like an author who is original, who does not just try to copy a best-seller or the current trend in books you can pick up at the drug store.

But there is also something else that determines how well I like a story, something about the way the writer uses language.

I’ll give you an example: Margaret Atwood is generally accepted as one of today’s greatest writers. She has written a great many books in of a range of types — I am trying to avoid using the word “style” in different ways here — and, it could be argued, in different genres. Alias Grace could be called “historical fiction,” set in 19th century Upper Canada and based loosely on real events. The Handmaid’s Tale is a set in a dystopian future and, while it doesn’t have a lot of sci-fi tropes, it won the Arthur C. Clarke award for best science fiction.

Atwood is both accomplished and unarguably a master of the writing craft, but while she writes about many different subjects, there is something about her manner of writing that puts me off a little. The only word I can use to describe it is heavy. Her writing is heavy — I don’t read it quickly or easily; on the other hand, I can’t put it down once I start, either.

One writer whose style I really admire is Mark Helprin’s, particularly in his Winter’s Tale, a fantasy set in New York City. In addition to his ability to meld fantastic elements, humour and action into a setting simultaneously believable and fantastic, Helprin also manages to be very descriptive as well as economical with prose. It’s as good an example of magical realism as any I’ve ever read.

But what is it that determines the style? Word choice? Sentence length? Description? Active voice? Those are just a few items in the writer’s toolbox. Also critical are creating realistic, believable and interesting characters, pacing, mixing action and pathos and so much more.

The accepted good

There is a tension between popularity and what is accepted as “good writing” by the publishers and the leading literary critics of any time.

For instance, today, “good” writing is usually characterized by lean prose, active voice, realistic dialogue and sparse description. Writing coaches keep advising us to avoid adverbs in favour of more precise verbs, except when it comes to describing dialogue. We should only use “said,” and not try to change that around with “exclaimed,” or “replied.”

Crime novelist Elmore Leonard came out with ’s 10 rules of writing a couple of years ago; he admitted that he was at least a little facetious at the time, but now he says he seriously believes them. Okay. And Leonard is a great writer, and changed the literary world, and sells zillions of copies, okay, okay — but is he the arbiter of the English language, now? What if something happens in a sudden way? Elmore, what is wrong with the word “suddenly”?

The exemplars of great writing are still supposed to be Fitzgerald and Hemingway. I love their work, but again — should we all try to emulate their styles?

On the other side of that tension is writing that flies in the face of those rules, yet sells millions of copies. The current target of criticism is EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. Here’s a passage:

I watch José open the bottle of champagne. He’s tall, and in his jeans and T-shirt, he’s all shoulders and muscles, tanned skin, dark hair, and burning dark eyes.

Descriptive, yes. Also clichéd — it’s been done so many times. “Burning dark eyes”? While we can all imagine what those must look like, couldn’t the author have thought of something original?

And yet, millions of readers ate that up, burning eyes and all. Did the burning eyes cause heartburn, I wonder?

Description

Writing coaches also tell us not to use too much description. Hemingway and Fitzgerald did not describe what their protagonists looked like. Okay, but Dashiel Hammet did.

I agree that too much description can get in the way of the story. There is a lot of material for people to read, that communication of any kind must compete for an audience’s attention with so much more material than there ever was before, so we writers should always try to get as much information across as efficiently as possible — fewer words, more information. I get that.

Efficiency is the goal! (Photo: The Pug Father/Creative Commons )

But we do need to describe some things, some times. And occasionally, an adverb is the best way to do that. See?

Who says so?

Watch this space. Last week, children’s- and middle-grade author Roger Eschbacher opined about writing style. In future, other bestselling authors will weigh in on the subject. So watch this space, and leave lots of comments and questions for the guests, please. Maybe we can finally determine exactly what writing style is, after all.

A sneak peek and a big giveaway just for you



Do you remember songs that made you think, “This tells a story that would make a great book or movie”?

There are a few from my youth that made me think that. Songs with great music and lyrics that evoke a story that echoes in my mind for decades.

So I finally did something about it—I wrote Echoes, based on two of those songs from my youth, songs whose lyrics immediately gave me a plot and gripping scenes.

A new Lei Crime Kindle World novel—yes, this time it’s a full-length novel—featuring FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm, Echoes will be published on Amazon on May 12.

And I’m giving you a free sample, and a chance to win not only the full book when it comes out, but all of the Vanessa Storm e-books:

Torn Roots by Scott Bury

PTAS-800x500 Dead Man Lying - 529x800

What it’s about

Echoes is different from all my other books. Yes, it’s another Hawaii mystery featuring Vanessa, several characters from Toby Neal’s Lei Crime series, drugs, crime and action, there are several chapters that describe Vanessa as a young woman in her senior year of high school, and her first serious romance and her coming of age.

How to get your free sample

All you have to do is subscribe to my email newsletter, which comes out roughly four times a year so you won’t be drowning in Scott Bury emails. To do that, fill out the form at the top of the right-hand column of this blog and Click Subscribe.

Once you confirm your subscription, you’ll get a link that will allow you to download the prologue and first chapter of Echoes in the format of your choice: .pdf, .mobi (for Kindle e-readers) or .epub (for all other e-readers).

Of course, you can unsubscribe at any time—even immediately after downloading the free sample. But then you won’t get advance information about my new writing projects before everyone else, nor new contests and giveaways.

How to win four free e-books

Read the introduction and deduce which two rock songs from the 1970s Echoes is based on. There are plenty of clues in the text. Some of it is in the descriptions of Vanessa at 17, some of it in the depiction of her boyfriend and his homies. And some of it is in the dialogue, interior and spoken, of the characters.

There. That’s enough hints. Want more? Read the introduction.

When you think you’ve figured it out, send your response to me by email: contest@writtenword.ca. Every correct entry gets the four free ebooks, and one will also win a signed paperback of my first novel, The Bones of the Earth.

And if you have thoughts or questions about some of the hints, leave them in the Comments section.

Good luck!

 

What is writing style? Guest post by Roger Eschbacher



What is writing style? It’s an elusive topic, in many ways.

To help me chase down the essence of writing style, I’ve called upon some author friends for their opinions. First, we have Roger Escbacher, author of a number of middle-grade books, such as the Leonard the Great series,  Dragonfriend and Giantkiller, middle-grade/young adult fantasy adventure stories set in the time of King Arthur, as well as Undrastormur: A Viking Fantasy Adventure.

140d6-roger-portrait-small_dsc00275editRoger Eschbacher is also the author of two children’s books: Road Trip, and Nonsense! He Yelled, both for Dial Books. He is also a professional television animation writer who’s worked for Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, The Hub, and Cartoon Network. His blog is The Novel Project, and his Twitter handle is@RogerEschbacher.

How would you describe your own writing style?

I would describe my writing style as cinematic. My goal is to describe the action, world and characters in my book in such a way that readers have a movie playing in their head as they read along. I think this comes from two places, the first being that I’m a television animation writer. In animation, one has to fully describe what is happening so that the artists can animate it. Detailed descriptions are required in my “day job.” Second, as a reader I’ve always preferred books written in that style. I love getting lost in the “brain movie” when I’m reading for pleasure. In general, SF/fantasy books tend to be written this way, which is probably why I read this genre almost exclusively.

Are there any authors whose style you admire? Do you try to emulate them?

Dragonfriend

I admire the writing styles of Neil Gaiman, J.R.R.Tolkien, Douglas Adams, J.K. Rowling, and Rick Riordan, to name a few. All of these folks are quite “cinematic” so I suppose that’s the reason why. Of those four, I’d say Tolkien would be the strongest influence. I love his command of the epic tale so much that I find myself rereading LOTR and The Hobbit every couple of years. Oddly enough, I try not to emulate him too closely for fear of coming off as a low-grade copy of a true master.

Are there authors whose writing style you dislike?

Oh, yes.

How important is your writing style to you? Are you happy with your style, or are there aspects of it you try to change during rewriting or editing?

My writing style is very important to me and I am happy with it for the reasons listed above. When I’m editing, I do my best to make the manuscript an exciting and easy read. My goal is to produce a page-turner — something that flows. I want readers to fly through the book and not get knocked off course by speed bumps and, as Elmore Leonard says, “the parts that readers tend to skip.”

How can readers identify your writing style? Are there particular words or kinds of words that you tend to favour? Sentence structures? Or is it more in the story, the pacing or the characters?

UndrastormurFor me, it’s all about story, pacing, and characters. Natural-sounding dialogue is important, too. I hope that readers would describe my style as fast-paced and exciting.

Do you think your genre imposes certain restrictions on writing style?

Not really. I tend to write “quest-y” stories and for me that’s liberating in that everyone expects that the hero and his friends will go somewhere, do a lot of stuff along the way, almost get killed but survive and make it home. The challenge is to tell a quest tale in a way that follows the expected rules but also continues to surprise the reader.

Do you think your audience responds to your writing style, consciously or unconsciously?

 Yes, I do. My favorite reader compliment on Dragonfriend was from a kid who said, “I can totally see this as a movie.” I smile every time I think of that.

How important do you think writing style is to an author’s commercial success?

I honestly don’t know the answer to this one.Giantkiller

Thank you very much, Roger.

Readers, let Roger and me know what you think. How important is a writer’s style? What do you like? What do you wish authors would stop doing? And does an author’s writing style affect your decision to buy or recommend a book?

Bringing history to life



As you, my faithful readers know, I recently published the third book in my Eastern Front trilogy about the experiences of my father-in-law, Maurice Bury, during the Second World War. Writing those three slim books took me more than 10 years. Not only because the story itself is dark and difficult, but also because it required a lot of research to get the details right.

ArmyofWornSoles-smallerUnderTheNaziHeel.jpgCover-WOOW-500x800 (1)

While there must be thousands of books and other sources about the Second World War, most of it, at least those in English, focus on the western part of it, with a British, American or, sometimes, Canadian perspective. There is relatively little in English about the Eastern Front, where Maurice was drafted by the Soviet Red Army.

My research for the books began with the subject, my father-in-law himself. While he had occasionally mentioned something about his time in the army, at one point in the 1990s I decided I would write a book about his story. So we sat down in his kitchen, and I took notes.

But before I could complete writing the book, Maurice passed away. Which meant that any information I still needed, I would have to find in other sources.

Trusting memory

When I began writing the story, I realized I would have to turn to history books for essential background information about the war, the politics, weapons, organization of the armies and so much more.

Maurice’s memory of his own experiences was excellent, but he did not remember the exact dates, nor the number of his unit. When he told me how he sustained his wound, he remembered the weather, the German fighter planes arcing in the sky. But he did not remember the exact date. I had to do some research to work out when the Germans got to Kyiv, and the extent of the fighting there in 1941.

I also had to research the weapons used. Maurice told me as a Third Lieutenant, he commanded eleven men in an anti-tank unit. When he described fighting against the German tanks, the Panzers, it seemed to me to require some precision. The shell had to hit the tank at just the right angle to penetrate the armour and detonate inside. The challenge was that the modern Panzers had sloping armour to deflect anti-tank shells. The Soviet tanks in the early part of the war, on the other hand, had straight armour, making it easier for an armour-piercing shell to strike at the right angle.

But I neglected to ask him to describe the Soviet anti-tank gun. When I came to write about it, I realized I had no idea what it looked like. The answer surprised me. I had thought of a kind of cannon, but the PTRS-41 and the similar PTRD were strangely delicate-looking. They looked more like long rifles with extended, slender barrels. My first thought was “That little thing can knock out a tank?”

Image source: 13thguardspoltavaskaya.com

It turns out, it didn’t manage to do that very often. The shells could not penetrate the Panzers’ front armour, so the Soviet anti-tank gunners would try to shoot at the sides or back of the tanks, where the armour was thinner. That was an extremely risky tactic, requiring the gunners to allow the Panzers to pass them before shooting.

Finding this information in historical sources brought me back to the notes I took when interviewing Maurice before he passed away. He once told me that his men destroyed a Panzer by shooting at the back, hitting the exposed fuel tank.

As a writer, this was a satisfying—to find confirmation of Maurice’s memories and stories in the history books and websites.

What’s your experience?

Have you ever found that kind of confirmation of a relative’s or friend’s memory or story in an official or historical reference? Share that in the Comments.

Launch day: Walking Out of War



Source: Nasa

Today, the third book in the true-life trilogy about my father-in-law’s experiences in World War 2 launches on Amazon. That’s right: Walking Out of War is now available for sale in both e-book and print formats.

Cover-WOOW-500x800 (1)

And in celebration, you can get the other two books in the trilogy at reduced prices.

And if you want all three books for free, come to the launch party on Facebook from 5 to 9 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, February 22. Prizes include:

  • e-book copies of all three volumes in the trilogy
  • signed paperback copies of each book
  • a $25 Amazon gift card
  • and the grand prize—a complete set of all three books in the Eastern Front trilogy, personalized and signed by the author (that’s me).

There’s no fee to get in, but there will be skill- and knowledge-testing questions, as well as a live chat and lots of fun.

See you there!