Army of Worn Soles: Battle of Poltava



On this day, September 18, 1941, the German forces invading the USSR captured the city of Poltava, Ukraine. My father-in-law, Maurice Bury, was in that battle. I wrote what he saw and experienced in Chapter 10 of Army of Worn Soles, the first book in the Eastern Front trilogy. Here’s a sample. 

 

Source: Wikipedia.

Chapter 10: Panzers

Kyiv was gone.

The rumours arrived well before the official news. On September 17, 1941, Stalin finally gave permission to General Kirponov, head of the Soviet 5th Army, to withdraw from Kyiv. Once the orders went out to withdraw behind the Dnipro River, the Germans pounced and took control of the city in less than twenty-four hours.

But the withdrawal order had come too late. “Hurrying Heinz” Guderian, the great Panzer general, had already crossed the Dnipro in Belorussia in late August and had penetrated far east of the Ukrainian capital, to the area around Romny. General Ewald von Kleist blasted past the Dnipro south of Kyiv by September 10. On the September 14, the two generals shook hands a hundred miles east of Kyiv—having trapped five Soviet armies, more than half a million men, in the huge pocket between their forces.

It had not been the first time, nor would it be the last. The Soviet 6th and 12th armies had been encircled and trapped near Uman in mid-August. And after the Wehrmacht’s capture of Minsk in July, they had captured another five Soviet armies.

General Kirponos had fought hard against the encirclement in September, but a landmine killed him. Only a few in his army managed to break out.

Part of the 38th Army under newly appointed Major-General Vladimir Tsiganov managed to escape the Kyiv encirclement. Maurice and his men joined the retreat, heading southeast to defend the bridgeheads between Cherkassy and Kremenchuk. The Germans sent more Panzer divisions, and in October, the remnants of the Red Army pulled back another one hundred kilometres. Soldiers dug into the eastern banks of the shallow Psyol River to protect Poltava, where Marshall Timoshenko had his headquarters.

Maurice’s unit took shelter in trenches built by the locals, but there were no bunkers this time. Food delivery became sporadic and the men griped continually about the autumn rain. The soft soil of the trench walls crumbled. The food was bad or there wasn’t enough. But they could not complain for long. The Panzers kept coming.

They stayed awake all night, squinting west across the Psyol River to the invisible, continuous rumble of heavy vehicles. Some of the men prayed. Commissars and officers moved up and down the lines, inspecting and admonishing the soldiers to vigilance and readiness. “At the first sign of the Germans, we counterattack,” they said.

Maurice doubted it.

That first sign came at dawn. As the sky greyed behind the Soviets, the early light picked out German tanks advancing along the roads, cautious yet swift.

Maurice’s fingers tingled as the rising sun revealed columns of armoured vehicles and marching men, officers’ staff cars and motorized cannons. The lines stretched for miles. The German army moved in unison, fast, alert and fearless like a predator.

Two Panzers ventured onto a small wooden bridge. They weren’t even fazed when the bridge collapsed under their weight. The water didn’t reach over the tops of their treads. The drivers down-shifted and continued on.

An officer shouted to Maurice’s right and anti-tank guns fired. Shells burst on the lead Panzer and flames erupted around the turret, but didn’t damage the tank. Its machine gun fired and then its cannon barked. Maurice saw Red soldiers’ bodies fling up out of destroyed trenches.

“Fire!” Andrei and Orest pulled their triggers and the kick-back of the rifles geysered dirt into the air. Damn, Maurice thought. If that doesn’t draw the Germans’ attention, nothing will.

The shells went wide.

“Reload.”

Machine guns erupted from behind and a German armoured car carrying dozens of soldiers exploded, throwing bodies high into the air.

Maurice’s men fired again, and this time one shell hit a tank front-on. The shell stuck, burned into the metal plate and burst, but did not penetrate the armour. The tank reversed gears and drew back from the riverbank. The Panzers halted on the west bank, waiting.

All at once, shells began falling behind the Soviet lines, bursting and burning among the men. The Germans had turned their heavy artillery guns on the Red Army.

“Down, boys,” Maurice said, pulling his helmet as low as he could. It’s hopeless. If a shell doesn’t land in this trench and kill us all, it’ll only be sheer luck.

Soviet guns answered, sporadic and uncoordinated. They were aimed generally westward, in contrast to the German shells, which seemed demonically guided to Red Army targets.

When the heavy fire relented, Maurice chanced a look over the trench. The German tanks were advancing again. Somewhere, a heavy anti-tank gun fired, hitting the lead Panzer square on. The explosion blew its treads off and it lurched sideways into the river, crippled, smoke pouring from its front plate.

But more Panzers splashed through the river. Behind them came soldiers, running from cover to cover, firing their fast submachine guns. As they climbed onto the near bank, some hit landmines and fell, crippled, but more Panzers drove around them.

To his right, eastward, came a deep rumble. Maurice saw hulking Soviet KV heavy tanks, looking twice as high as a man, crawled forward on their wide treads, firing cannons and machine guns.

Why are they moving so slowly, he wondered. He saw their tracks moving, churning the earth and sinking into it. They’re too heavy for the soft ground. They were impervious to enemy fire unless it was point-blank on, but they were soon immobile. The Panzers just went around them.

“Pull back,” Maurice yelled, and the boys picked up the guns and ammunition and ran, crouching low as they could to the next trench, where they joined several other odalenje. Maurice’s boys hurriedly set up the guns and aimed at the Panzers.

They were too late.

The tanks swept past them, crushing wounded men under their treads. Andrei and Nikolai swung their gun around. “Aim at its back,” Maurice said. “FIRE!”

The gun whooshed and the shell hit the Panzer’s cylindrical fuel tank, oddly exposed on its rear deck behind the turret. The tank’s rear end lifted high and Maurice thought it would flip over. Shards of metal flew in every direction and the tank’s hull split and burned. The explosion rang in Maurice’s ears for minutes.

“Let’s get them, Lieutenant,” Orest said. He stood to pick up the gun, and Viktor, his loader, looked at Maurice wide-eyed. “We killed one tank. Let’s get more of the bastards.”

Big Eugene stood too, submachine gun at the ready. “Get down,” Maurice said. He grabbed Orest’s uniform and pulled him to the ground. Big Eugene dropped as a shell burst thirty metres away. Maurice saw him crawl back to the trench, flat on his belly.

Army of Worn Soles

A Canadian is drafted into the Soviet Red Army during World War 2, just in time to be thrown against Nazi Germany’s invasion in Operation Barbarossa. Caught in the vise of the Nazi and Communist forces, Maurice Bury concentrates on keeping his men alive as they retreat across Ukraine from the German juggernaut. Now the question is: will they escape from the hell of the POW camp before they starve to death?

Army of Worn Soles is the first book in the Eastern Front trilogy, which tells the true story of Maurice Bury’s experiences in the Second World War.

Find it on Amazon.

Sample Sunday: The Red Army takes Estonia from the Nazis



Today in the history of the Second World War on the Eastern Front

1944: The Red Army breaks through near Narva, Estonia. — World War II Database 

A description of the following events from Walking Out of War.

From Walking Out of War: Book 3 in the Eastern Front trilogy

Battle of Narva, 1944 Image source: Wikiwand http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Battle_of_Narva_(1944)

When the train passed a station with a sign that read Narva, Maurice realized they had reached Estonia, which the Germans called Ostland. Its history was complex. Home to a sizable German elite minority for centuries, Estonia had been independent after the fall of the Russian Empire during the Great War. In 1939, the Molotov-von Ribbentrop Pact ceded the Baltic states to the Soviet “sphere of influence,” and Germany evacuated tens of thousands of ethnic Germans from Estonia and Latvia before the Soviets took over. The Soviets deported thousands of Estonians to Siberia and killed thousands more.

When Germany invaded in 1941, many Estonians saw it as a liberator from Stalin, as many had in Ukraine. And as in Ukraine, the hopes for independence were soon proven to be lies. Germany set up Reichskommissariat Ostland, a huge buffer zone between “greater Germany” and the occupied areas of the USSR. Nazi Germany confiscated all the state property that the Soviets had confiscated a year earlier and imprisoned or killed the Estonian political, intellectual and commercial leaders that had not escaped. The German Reich minister for the occupied eastern territories began “germanizing” Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The Nazis set up concentration camps and murdered tens of thousands of Estonians, including over 4,000 Jews. By the end of 1944, the Reichskommissar could declare Ostland “Jew-free.” The Nazis exploited Estonia’s resources for their war effort and used Estonians as slave labour.

Which means the country is filled with partisans fighting both the USSR and Germany. Just like Ukraine.

As evening fell, the train stopped at an improvised army base, a muddy field in the midst of forests. The crops that had once grown there had been burned by war and churned by vehicles and marching feet. A few trees still held leaves, colourful in the fall, but most had been blackened and broken. Skeletal ruins of a town and farm buildings were grey against the red sunset.

Red Army soldiers in Riga, Latvia, 1944. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

“The Estonian-Latvian border is ten kilometres west of here,” said the earnest Lieutenant Vasilyev. “The Germans hold the border town of Valga. We’re going to take it in the morning.”

Maurice looked at Mykhailo. He was shaking. Old Stepan looked glum, as usual, and Young Olesh was pale even in the red sunset.

Maurice took a deep breath and let it out slowly. I’ve been in action. I’ve been in far worse situations, when we were running from the Germans. I survived. I will survive tomorrow, too.

They camped, groups of three making little tents of their chenilles, or greatcoats: one on the ground, two draped over their rifles, propped up as poles. They would sleep alongside one another in shifts: every few hours, they would change around, so each of the three had a few hours in between the other two, and thus the warmest place in the tent.

The sergeants woke them quietly before dawn. They packed their gear, pulling on their greatcoats against the chill. Maurice tightened his helmet strap and checked his rifle magazine was full. The sergeant led them to their starting position. Groups of two odalenye, or twenty-four in total, would accompany a tank. “Let the tank do the hard work,” said Nikolaev. “Your job is to protect it from enemy infantry. The tank will be your protection, but remember that it’s also the target for Fritz’s artillery. In the town, watch the windows and don’t trust the civilians. A lot of partisans favour the Nazis and will kill any socialist comrade they can.”

Or maybe they just want to be free from both Germany and Russia, Maurice thought. “Keep low, boys, and keep your eyes focused ahead for Fritz in hiding places,” he told his comrades.

The Lieutenant stepped in front of them. “This is our first experience in carrying out deep operations. The shock army will hit as soon as there’s light. Keep your head down as the planes strike. The tanks will move fast, striking deep. We’re the second echelon,” he said, and Maurice thought he sounded disappointed. “When they’ve broken through, we follow into the breach and occupy the town, destroy any remaining resistance and take over their bases, ammunition, vehicles. Our regiment’s specific objective is the railroad station. When we get there, we’ll set up the Maxim as a defensive weapon. If the enemy counterattacks, follow your training. Fire in short bursts. Don’t waste ammunition.”

A colonel stepped up behind Lieutenant Vasileyev, his battle uniform perfect. “We’re going to liberate Valga today,” he said, catching each man’s eye in turn. “That means we are freeing Latvia from the Nazi tyrant, restoring the rule of the people of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Latvia, and tomorrow, Lithuania as well. Other than partisans, this town is part of the Soviet Union. Stavka will not tolerate looting or abuse of the civilian population. Is that understood?” He did not wait for a reply, but walked away to repeat his message to the next group.

Sergeant Nikolaev summed it up. “Hands off the women and especially the girls.”

The sky lightened behind them, and then a line of planes buzzed past overhead. Maurice had faced the blitzkrieg in 1941. He knew what it was to be overwhelmed by a fast, unstoppable foe.

But nothing could have prepared him for the Red Army’s assault on the German invaders in 1944. The line of planes hitting the enemy stretched in both directions as far as he could see, and explosions lit up the western horizon with a hellish light. They felt the earth vibrating, felt the heat on their faces.

Katyusha rockets. Image source: World War II today.

As the sun’s first rays lit up the field, Maurice saw the artillery raise their barrels and begin firing: mortars and cannons, long-range artillery pieces and something new: the Guards Mortars, the innovative rocket launchers that became known as the Katyusha. They looked like the pipes of a church organ mounted on cantilevered assembly on the back of one of the now-ubiquitous Studebaker trucks. Maurice watched a crew load fourteen metre-long rockets onto the rails. The rails rose, pointing at an upward angle toward the enemy. Then with an unbearably loud but almost musical sound, they fired. Rows of multiple rocket launchers sent a volley of thousands of shells toward the Germans. Nothing could survive that, Maurice thought.

Then the shock armies raced westward. First came tanks and armoured cars, all carrying men with a grim but confident air. Looking at them, Maurice knew they had no illusions that some of them were going to die, but they were going to destroy the enemy.

Soviet infantry advance alongside T-34 tanks in the summer of 1944. Image source: World War II Today.

Hundreds of vehicles poured past Maurice’s position. The Germans returned fire, but that did not slow the shock troops. As the day brightened, the men could see the German positions in the town of Valga, about two kilometres to the west. Smoke billowed up from dozens of spots. Buildings crumbled as shells from Soviet tanks and cannon struck.

Successive lines of Soviet tanks, trucks, guns and men moved across the fields toward the first buildings of the town. Men fell, trucks burst into smoke and fire but the shock troops kept moving forward.

Walking Out of War: The Eastern Front, book 3

Ukraine, 1944: After the Soviets burned the Ukrainian city of Ternopyl to the ground to crush the stubborn Nazi occupiers, they rounded up every remaining Ukrainian man around for the Red Army’s final push on Germany. Maurice Bury, Canadian citizen, Ukrainian resistance fighter and intelligence officer, is thrust once again into the death struggle between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR.

Fighting across the Baltics in the autumn of 1944 is tough and bloody. Then the Red Army enters Germany, where they’re no longer liberators—they’re the long-feared Communist horde, bent on destruction, rape and revenge. The Communists are determined to wipe Nazism from the face of the earth. And the soldiers want revenge for Germany’s brutal invasion and occupation.

Get it on Amazon.

Sneak peek: A new #LeiCrimeKW mystery — Dead Man Lying



That’s right: I’m about to launch a new book. Dead Man Lying is a new Lei Crime Kindle World novella.

I know many of you liked FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm from Torn Roots and Palm Trees & Snowflakes. You’ll be happy to know she returns in Dead Man Lying, along with the beginning of the whole Lei Crime Kindle World, Maui police detective “Lei Texeira herself.

It will launch along with a new crop of Lei Crime KW titles in June. For now, here’s a peak at Chapter 1.

Vanessa paused at the edge of the forest to try to rub some of the dirt off her shoes. “Steve Sangster. I can’t believe I’m investigating his death. Did you like his music, Detective Texeira?”

“Call me Lei. Yeah, I love all that folksy-rock stuff. I even had one of Steven Sangster’s albums as a girl. Did you?”

Vanessa could not repress a smile. “I was a big fan. I had all his old CDs — still do. I had such a crush on him when I was 16. He was so handsome.”

Lei smiled back. “The blue eyes and the square chin, huh?”

So this is the famous Lei Texeira, Vanessa thought, looking at the slender detective with her peripheral vision while appearing to study the heiau. She was small for a cop, but athletic, with beautiful big brown eyes and a sprinkle of freckles across her cheeks and nose. Her features spoke of a mixture of Hawaiian, Asian and European extraction. Her dark brown curls rippled to her shoulders, and Vanessa wondered briefly how much of the curling was due to the incredible humidity of Hana, on Maui’s rain coast.

“Is this where it happened?” said an unfamiliar voice. Vanessa and Lei turned and Vanessa’s shoe slipped again. Her knee buckled and she almost went down, but Lei’s small hand grabbed her arm, steadying her. Vanessa was impressed — Lei was stronger than she looked.

Steady again on the wet lava, she looked up to see a short, balding man letting the yellow police tape down behind him.

“Don’t the words ‘Do not cross’ mean anything to you?” Lei demanded, stepping toward the man.

“I’m Simon Sangster. He — the victim … I mean, he was my father,” the man stammered. He did not step back, but actually put a foot up on the lava rock.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Mr. Sangster, but you still cannot step past the yellow tape.”

The man scowled, straightened his back and puffed out his little chest, which did not protrude nearly as much as his belly. “Now that my father is … this is now my property.”

“Even so, this is a crime scene and you’ll have to step back past the yellow tape,” Lei retorted. She lifted the tape for him.

“It’s so that no one compromises the investigation,” Vanessa offered. “Please, step back.”

“In-investigation?” he said, seeming to deflate. “I thought it was an accident?”

“We’ll have to wait for the coroner’s final report to know that,” said Lei. She stepped off the heiau and took the younger Sangster by the arm.

Vanessa had one foot off the lava platform when a tree beside the path exploded and a boom rolled up the hill. Lei dove between the trees, pushing Sangster with her. Vanessa dropped and rolled, conscious of her jacket tearing on the rock, ending up half buried under bushes with long, pointed leaves. The top half of a young koa tree toppled. She waited, counting to five before lifting her head. Her face was wet from the bushes and covered with bits of shredded wood.

About the book

When a once-famous singer is found dead on his own estate on Maui, it’s all FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm can do to untangle the webs of lies spun by every member of the singer’s family. Dead Man Lying is a new addition to the Lei Crime Kindle World, based on characters and settings created by Toby Neal.

Dead Man Lying will launch in June 2016.

You can win a free e-copy by leaving a comment below.

Happy Mother’s Day: A mother in wartime Ukraine



The third book in the series that began with Army of Worn Soles and continued in Under the Nazi Heel launches February 22, 2017. Read the conclusion of Maurice’s story in Walking Out of War.

Creative Commons archive

Today’s post is a Mother’s Day tribute to a mother out of history: Tekla Kuritsa, the mother of my father-in-law, Maurice Bury. This is an excerpt for Army of Worn Soles, the story of Maurice’s conscription into the Red Army in 1941, his experience fighting the German invasion called Operation Barbarossa, his capture as a prisoner of war and his escape. At the end, he finds how his mother, a diminutive yet very strong woman, fights the war in her own way.

Out of uniform, out of the army, out of prison, Maurice was now under the command of his mother. Tekla Kuritsa did not allow her son to do anything but rest for a whole month. The harvest over, she paid young local boys to do what remained: manuring fields and fixing fences.

Day by day, Maurice regained weight and strength. At first, he sat in the kitchen, drinking tea and reading newspapers.

Nothing but German-approved propaganda. This paper actually says we Ukrainians are happy to be occupied by Germany.

Idleness quickly lost its allure. Maurice decided to make sure the farm was ready for winter. He started with chopping firewood. Just a half-hour a day, relishing in his ability to split logs with a single blow, chopping and sawing harder, and lasting longer each day.

One evening, Tekla took Maurice to the shed beside the barn for a chore he would find much more enjoyable.

“Is that a still?” he asked. “Mama, are you making vodka?”

“It’s not very good, but the German officers like it,” she said. She set him to work.

Maurice liked the opportunity to concentrate on a task, drawing a spoonful of clear liquor, carefully closing the valve then setting fire to the spoon. If the liquor burned with a blue flame, it was “proof,” good enough for sale.

One evening, Maurice filled six four-litre jugs and put them on a small wagon.

“Good boy,” Tekla said and buttoned her coat. “I’ll take this to the village.”

“Why?”

“To sell to anyone who wants it, of course. But mostly it goes to German officers.”

“It’s getting too late to go out, Mama,” Maurice said. “It’s almost curfew.”

“That’s the time men want to buy vodka,” she said, buttoning her coat.

“It’s too dangerous for a woman out in the evening. Let me go.”

She shook her head. “Maurice, you strong men don’t know how things work in wartime,” she said, patting his cheek. “An old lady out in the evening is much safer than a man. What would the patrols do if they caught you out after curfew?”

“Throw me in jail.”

“They would probably shoot you on the spot, sweetie. But they see an old lady struggling with a heavy wagon, they think of their own mothers.”

“Some of these bastards would just as soon shoot their own mothers.”

“That’s when I sell them some vodka.” She smiled and kissed him.

Maurice watched her pull the wagon to the road until she vanished into the evening gloom. He did not realize he was smiling as he shook his head.

Army of Worn Soles cover

Army of Worn Soles

My mother. After all I’ve been through, she’s going to sell cheap liquor to the Germans. She’s the bravest person I’ve ever seen.

About Army of Worn Soles

A Canadian is drafted into the Soviet Red Army during World War 2, just in time to be thrown against Nazi Germany’s invasion in Operation Barbarossa. Caught in the vise of the Nazi and Communist forces, Maurice Bury concentrates on keeping his men alive as they retreat across Ukraine from the German juggernaut. Now the question is: will they escape from the hell of the POW camp before they starve to death?

Available on Amazon.

Army of Worn Soles is the first book in the Walking Out of War trilogy. You can find the other two books on Amazon in e-book or print form.

Sydney Rye Kindle World Week: The Catalyst, by DelSheree Gladden



Day 3 of Sydney Rye Kindle World Week

The new Sydney Rye Kindle World launches on Thursday, March 17. As an extended St. Paddy’s Day present from me to you, valued readers, Written Words presents excerpts from each of the seven novellas in the project. Today’s installment is from DelSheree Gladden’s The Catalyst, where the Syndey Rye and Blue world crosses over the Eliza Carlisle reality.

CatalystCover“Before I let you get back to sleep,” Lauren said, “have you been keeping up with local news while you were in LA?”

It seemed like a random question. “No. Why?”

“Uh, no reason,” she said cryptically. “One of my students, could you keep an eye on her while I’m gone? She’s got a lot of talent, but she’s been struggling the last few weeks. She might need a little extra encouragement.”

My head ached from lack of sleep and jetlag, but I smiled. Lauren’s soft heart was a contrast to many of her coworkers at the culinary institute. Some might call it weakness, but I never would. “Who is this student?” I asked.

“Her name’s Eliza Carlisle. She’s a bit of a misfit at times, but like I said, she’s really talented and I would hate to see her get overwhelmed and give up.” Lauren sighed, like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. “Thank you, Hugh. For covering for me, and for keeping an eye on Eliza. You’re a good friend.”

“Yeah, well, you’ve been there for me often enough the last year and a half, I figure I owe you,” I said with a smile. “I hope everything goes okay with your dad.”

“Thanks,” she said, emotion making her voice squeak. She’d played off her fears when trying to talk me into covering her classes, but I knew how much not being there was eating at her even then. She drew in a deep breath to calm herself. “I’ll bring the key by this afternoon. My flight is a five, so I’ll swing by on my way to the airport. Get some sleep.”

We said our goodbyes and I ended the call. Rolling back toward my pillow, I pressed my face into the fabric. James’ scent had long faded, but the memory of it hadn’t. I both loved and hated the reminders of him that still lingered even after packing up his things. I wondered if the wounds losing him created would ever heal.

Friends didn’t understand. It had been a year and a half since his murder. The killer was dead at Joy’s hand. Didn’t that mean closure? Shouldn’t I have been able to move on after so long? Sometimes I wondered that as well. Moving on sounded good, in the same way made-from-scratch mac and cheese sounded good on a rainy day. Comfort food didn’t make the rain stop. Wishing I could move on didn’t make me miss him any less. It didn’t make me feel any less responsible for not being there when he needed me.

My body begged me to go back to sleep, but my mind was too awake. Lauren’s question about whether I had been following local news poked at me. What had happened while I was gone? An uncomfortable dread settled in the pit of my stomach. The last time something had blown up in the news, it had surrounded Joy, James, the mayor, and murder. Picking my phone back up, I brought up the latest news stories, found nothing overly interesting, then wondered about the girl Lauren had asked me to look out for. It took me a few seconds to remember the name.

Typing “Eliza Carlisle” into the news app, I hit the search button and sighed when the results loaded. “Local culinary student plays key part in solving 50-year-old murder.” That wouldn’t have sounded so ominous if not for the pictures and videos accompanying the headline. Anything involving SWAT couldn’t be good. My mind decided it had had enough and was ready to shut off. Ditching my phone, I crawled back under my blankets and closed my eyes. Lauren’s favor just got a whole lot more complicated.

What’s The Catalyst all about?

Eliza Carlisle has the unwanted talent of attracting trouble, in all its forms. That couldn’t be truer than when she moves into the most bizarre apartment building on the planet. Weekly required dinners with the landlord and assigned chores are bad enough, but the rules don’t end there. Top most on the list of requirements is NO physical violence against the others residents.

There have been issues.

In the past.

The young manager, Sonya, claims that hasn’t been a problem recently, but Eliza comes home from her first day of culinary school to find a dead resident, her next door neighbor looking good for the crime, and a cop that seems more interested in harassing her than solving the case.
All Eliza wanted was to escape her past and start over, completely anonymous in a big city. That’s not going to be so easy when the killer thinks she’s made off with a valuable piece of evidence everyone is trying to get their hands on. The ultimatum that she turn it over to save her own life creates a small problem. Eliza has no idea what the killer wants, or where the mysterious object might be.

If she can’t uncover a decades old mystery in time, surviving culinary school will be the least of her problems.

About the author

DelSheree GladdenDelSheree Gladden lives in New Mexico with her husband and two children. The Southwest is a big influence in her writing because of its culture, beauty, and mythology. Local folk lore is strongly rooted in her writing, particularly ideas of prophecy, destiny, and talents born from natural abilities.

Check out her latest books, get updates and sneak peeks of new projects:

 

And follow her on Twitter @DelSheree

What are Kindle Worlds?

SRKWlaunchimageKindle Worlds is an Amazon initiative that allows authors to publish stories set in another author’s fictional universe. The Sydney Rye Kindle World is based on the characters and situations created by bestselling author Emily Kimelman.

The Sydney Rye series of vigilante mysteries feature a strong female lead and her rescue dog, Blue. It is recommended for the 18+ who enjoy some violence, a dash of sex and don’t mind a little salty language. Not to mention an awesome, rollicking good mystery with tons of action that will keep you reading late into the night!

New #LeiCrimeKW title for Christmas: Esther’s Gift



By Bette Lee Crosby

A new crop of Lei Crime Kindle World (#LeiCrimeKW) novellas and stories hit the Amazon e-shelves last week. Here’s a sample of one by bestselling author Bette Lee Crosby.

EsthersGiftCover #LeiCrimeKW

The dream wakes her two hours before dawn. She feels the chill of an evil wind whistle through the open window and bolts upright. She calls her husband’s name. “Keoki,” she says, “Did you feel that?”

He is turned on his side with his muscled back to her and doesn’t stir.

She touches her hand to his shoulder and gives a gentle shake. “Keoki?”

“Auwe!” His eyes spring open and he turns to face her. “Why you wake me in the middle of night?”

“Did you feel it?”

“Feel what?”

“The wind of the storm.”

“There is no storm,” he grumbles and again closes his eyes.

Esther knows better; she has seen it in the dream. It is not just a storm, but a storm that will tear the island of Kauai apart. She saw trees that have stood for centuries downed and broken into splinters. Whole houses blown away, fields flooded, crops destroyed.

This isn’t the first time such a vision has invaded her sleep and forewarned of a disaster. Years earlier she saw Lilinoe’s diabetes; it happened a full month before she sat beside her sister and listened to the doctor tell of it. And before that she’d begged young Lono not to take his boat out on the weekend. In her dream she’d seen the boy floating face-down in the bay and she’d warned him. But youth believes itself invincible and he refused to listen.

This knowing is a gift that Esther can neither explain nor wish away. It simply is what it is, but she has learned to heed its warnings.

She slides from the bed and silently pads toward the kitchen. The sky is still dark but on the edge of the horizon a silver strand of light is already feathering the blackness. Within the hour it will be daylight. She will allow Keoki to sleep until then. This will be a long, hard day and it will go better if he is well rested.

Esther fills the coffee pot with water then adds the rich Kona blend coffee and sets it to brew. The powerful aroma drifts through the hallway and tickles Keoki’s nose. He rubs the sleep from his eyes and swings his feet to the floor.

When he appears at the kitchen doorway, Esther smiles. “Good,” she says, “you are up.”

He nods sleepily, then lowers himself into the chair opposite hers. She pours a cup of black coffee and sets it in front of him.

As a sliver of steam rises from the cup, he takes a small sip and then waits for it to cool. After the third sip he says, “Now what is this nonsense about a storm?”

“I saw it in my dream,” Esther replies. “Terrible destruction, crops ruined—”

Keoki interrupts, “Eh, not so. The radio weatherman says there is a storm but it is far south of the islands. You worry without cause.”

“No, I worry with cause,” Esther replies. “This is what I have seen. It is what I am certain of.” Her words are solemn and without apology or hesitation.

“This is a knowing?” Keoki asks hesitantly. It is the word they have ascribed to her visions because there is no other explanation.

She nods. “Today we have much work to do.” She speaks of the supplies to be gathered, the crops to be harvested, and the animals to be stabled or brought inside.

As soon as the sky turns light, Esther begins telephoning friends and neighbors. She warns of the coming storm but few listen. Like Keoki, they have heard the weatherman saying the hurricane named Iniki is four hundred miles to the south of the Hawaiian Islands and expected to continue westward.

For most of Kauai, this is a day like any other. A bit breezy perhaps, but with a blistering sun and puffy white clouds dotting the sky. There is no hint of rain but still Esther and Keoki work at getting ready for what she knows is coming.

Plucking the ripe breadfruit and mangoes from the trees, they harvest what they can and carry it to the storehouse. They work through the afternoon and into the evening, bringing in everything that cannot survive such a storm—beans, corn, green onions, tomatoes and squash. Some of the produce is not fully ripened, but still they gather it. Even though much of it is not ready to be harvested, it is better than losing everything to the storm. Keoki climbs the trees and tosses the lychees down to Esther and she fills basket after basket. She knows that great hunger and need will follow the storm, and she is determined to save all they can.

That evening they sit at the kitchen table and listen for news of the storm, but there is none. There are bits of local news, word of a new farmer’s market, a prediction of increased sugar cane prices, and an ongoing stream of music, but no one speaks of the storm.

“Are you certain what you saw is a knowing?” Keoki asks. “Maybe it was just a dream? The aftermath of a late-night snack?”

Esther gives a solemn nod and again explains the vision. “It will be a storm such as we have never seen,” she says. “The ocean will roll ashore with waves so tall they cover a tree and the wind will tear across the island with a force that lifts houses from their foundations.”

Keoki hangs on every word. Although there is no mention of the storm on the news, he knows the power of Esther’s gift and he believes in it.

That evening she cooks the guava and makes it into preserves that will keep for a long time. When that is done, she cooks and pickles the mangoes that are still green. Tomorrow she will start early and make jam of the lychees. It is after midnight when Keoki finally convinces her to go to bed. Esther’s hands ache from the work of cutting and cooking, but she is resolved to start again in the morning.

About Esther’s Gift

A Lei Crime Kindle World (#LeiCrimeKW) novella

In the days before hurricane Iniki hit the island of Kauai the forecasters predicted it would stay south of Hilo. But Esther Ka’awai, a psychic and gifted wise woman of the ancient culture has seen the future. She knows of the devastation that will come to the island. She has warned those she loves; now all she can do is pray.

As she struggles to accept this gift of knowing, Esther discovers that even the most wonderful gift can sometimes break your heart.

A story of love, faith and a belief in the future.

About the author

BLCAuthorPhotoUSA Today Bestselling Author and Award-winning novelist Bette Lee Crosby brings the wit and wisdom of her Southern Mama to works of fiction—the result is a delightful blend of humor, mystery and romance along with a cast of quirky charters who will steal your heart away.

“Storytelling is in my blood,” Crosby laughingly admits, “My mom was not a writer, but she was a captivating storyteller, so I find myself using bits and pieces of her voice in most everything I write.”

Crosby’s work was first recognized in 2006 when she received The National League of American Pen Women Award for a then unpublished manuscript. Since then, she has gone on to win another twenty-four literary awards, including the Royal Palm Literary Award, The Reviewer’s Choice Award, the FPA President’s Book Award Gold Medal and the Reader’s Favorite International Book Award Gold Medal.

Her published novels to date are: Cracks in the Sidewalk (2009), Spare Change (2011), The Twelfth Child (2012), Cupid’s Christmas (2012), What Matters Most (2013), Jubilee’s Journey (2013), Previously Loved Treasures (2014), Blueberry Hill, A Sister’s Story (2014) Passing through Perfect (2015) Memory House (2015) The Loft (2015) and What the Heart Remembers (2015). Crosby also authored “Life in the Land of IS” a memoir of Lani Deauville, a woman the Guinness Book of Records lists as the world’s longest living quadriplegic.

Where to find her:

And don’t forget to follow her on Twitter @BetteLeeCrosby and sign up for her newsletter, Words, Wit & Wisdom.

About Amazon Kindle Worlds

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

New #LeiCrimeKW titles for the season: Christmas Makes It Chaos



By Julie C. Gilbert

A new crop of Lei Crime Kindle World (#LeiCrimeKW) novellas and stories hit the Amazon e-shelves last week. Here’s a sample of one by bestselling author Julie C. Gilbert.

Christmas Makes it Chaos final 1A premonition made her pause. Something wasn’t right. Every light in the room had been turned on, and her clothes had been moved from the bed where she’d laid them out. A cloud of steam followed her out of the bathroom, cutting down on visibility, but movement from her left caught her attention.

She tensed and turned in time to catch the bundle of clothes hurled at her chest. She caught them instinctively, realizing her hands were now both occupied.

“Agent,” greeted a voice she recognized.

“Assassin,” Marcella returned, preparing to toss the clothes back and launch herself at the taller woman.

She noticed the woman’s hair was now a rich brown color instead of blond. Although tied back, the hair appeared shorter than it had upon their last meeting. The assassin’s youthful looks combined with jeans and a Drexel sweatshirt to give the impression of a harmless co-ed, but her piercing blue eyes countered the image.

Contacts?

“Get dressed,” the assassin ordered. “We need to talk, and I’d rather not have to shoot you. You’ll feel better with clothes on.”

Marcella considered her options. She could go with Plan A and throw the clothes before trying to tackle the woman, but the silenced handgun aimed her way discouraged such a move. She could follow the directive and get dressed, though that would put her at a further disadvantage. She could also try to keep the woman talking and hope she made a mistake that gave Marcella the upper hand. The only difference between the waiting plan and the following directions plan was whether Marcella had more than a towel on, so she opted for Plan B: comply for now.

Dropping the clothes, Marcella quickly donned each item then kicked the towel back into the bathroom. The assassin had been right. She felt better once fully clothed, but she still had the wrong end of a gun pointed at her. She knew that ought to make her nervous but for some reason she actually believed the assassin’s claim about wanting to talk. It was really the only thing that made sense. Like it or not, the assassin had caught her completely off guard. Talking could still be a precursor to a hail of bullets, but something about the other woman’s wary expression said there was more to the story.

“Good. Now please sit on the bed with your hands underneath your legs. I know you don’t trust me, but I’m not here to hurt you. I need your help with a job.”

Marcella’s eyes widened, but she followed the instruction, acutely aware of the gun tracking her movements.

“You have a heck of a way of asking for help.”

“We didn’t exactly part on good terms, but trust runs both ways. If you agree to hear me out, I’ll lower the gun. What do you say?”

“I’m all ears,” Marcella said.

About Christmas Makes It Chaos

A #LeiCrimeKW Lei Crime Kindle World novella

Christmas is a time for peace, love, and family. Right?

Wrong. Some people prefer chaos.

FBI Special Agent Marcella Scott travels to Philadelphia with her partner, Matthew Rogers, for a law enforcement conference on battling terrorism. She never makes it. Instead, she ends up investigating an actual threat with an unlikely ally.

Cassandra Mirren prefers working alone, but she’s been ordered to bring Agent Scott along for the ride. Their last encounter was adversarial, but this time they have a common foe.

Can the agent and the assassin save countless lives this Christmas? 

About the author

Julie Gilbert 2013 (5 of 25)Julie Gilbert writes, teaches chemistry, and collects Star Wars stuff, including Legos.

She writes in multiple genres. Her current project is a science fiction story, but the Lei Crime Series Kindle World stories are all mystery/thriller or mystery/suspense. “Christmas Makes it Chaos is as close to thriller as I’ve ever gotten,” she says.

Check out her books:

Defining Moments Stories:

Devya’s Children Series (YA Science Fiction):

Heartfelt Cases Series (Christian Mystery):

Short Stories:

Compilations:

Follow Julie Gilbert on social media

About the #LeiCrimeKW LeiCrime Kindle World

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. Seven new stories launched on December 21.LeiCrimeDecemberBadge