RIP: Canada’s everyday poet



Gord Downie passed away last week.

Okay, that’s not news anymore. Every Canadian and many others around the world know that. But I need to acknowledge the passing and honour the man whose words have meant so much to me over the years.

Gord Downie was the front man and lyricist for The Tragically Hip, which has become known as “Canada’s Band.” Which makes Downie Canada’s principal poet and conscience over the past 30 years or so.

So I thought I’d share with everyone the words of the first Tragically Hip song I remember. Please, pay attention to the words. They are powerful, and like all great poetry, they have many deep layers of meaning.

“New Orleans Is Sinking”

All right

Bourbon blues on the street, loose and complete
Under skies all smoky blue green
I can’t forsake a dixie dead shake
So we danced the sidewalk clean

My memory is muddy, what’s this river that I’m in?
New Orleans is sinking, man, and I don’t want to swim

Colonel Tom, what’s wrong? What’s going on?
You can’t tie yourself up for a deal
He said, Hey, north, you’re south, shut your big mouth
You gotta do what you feel is real

Ain’t got no picture postcards, ain’t got no souvenirs
My baby she don’t know me when I’m thinking bout those years

Pale as a light bulb hanging on a wire
Sucking up to someone just to stoke the fire
Picking out the highlights of the scenery
Saw a little cloud that looked a little like me

I had my hands in the river, my feet back up on the banks
Looked up to the lord above and said, Hey, man, thanks

Sometimes I feel so good I got to scream
She said, Gordie, baby, I know exactly what you mean
She said, she said, I swear to god she said

My memory is muddy, what’s this river that I’m in?
New Orleans is sinking, man, and I don’t want to swim

Swim

What’s your favourite Tragically Hip song? What’s your favourite poem? Leave a comment below.

Last week, three-quarters of a century ago



Last week in Second World War history

Those who know their history know that the Eastern Front was by far the largest theatre of operations during the Second World War. The Soviet Union put more men and women into the fighting than all other Allies combined, and the countries of the Eastern Theatre suffered over 11 million casualties.

The Germans also put far more men and resources into the Eastern Front. The launch of the war in the east, Operation Barbarossa, sent nearly 4 million men across the Polish frontier, overwhelming—at first—a Soviet strength of under 3 million.

Source: Britannica.

In comparison, the western Allies sent 1.3 million men into Italy between 1942 and 1945, and 156,000 stormed the Normandy beaches on D-Day.

On Facebook and Google+, I’ve been posting daily updates on “on this day in the history of the Eastern Front of the Second World War.” And here, I’ll post a summary of the previous week in history, three-quarters of a century ago.

September 25 – October 1

1939:

September 25:

  • Hitler arrives in Poland to observe the bombing in Warsaw.
  • Soviet troops capture Bialystock, Poland.
  • Stalin proposes to Germany that the USSR take over Lithuania, giving Germany areas near Warsaw in exchange.

September 26:

  • Insignia of the Polish Home Army, Armia Krajowa.

    The resistance Polish Home Army, Armia Krajowa, established in Warsaw.

September 27:

  • Polish government in exile sets up in Paris, France.
  • After a 2-week siege, Warsaw falls to Germans.
  • Soviets execute 150 Polish policemen.

September 28:

  • Estonia and USSR sign a 10-year mutual assistance pact, allowing Soviet troops to be stationed in Estonia.
  • Germans and Soviets sign agreement denoting common border in Poland.
  • Joachim von Ribbentrop, Reich Minister of Foreign Affairs.

    German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop arrives in Moscow to announce joint Soviet-German negotiations for peace with Western powers.

September 29:

  • Hitler orders repatriation of ethnic Germans living in Estonia and Latvia to Germany, as he knows the USSR will soon demand control of the Baltic States.
  • Formal surrender of Poland and division between Germany and USSR

1940:

September 26:

  • German ambassador to the USSR tells Soviets that Japan would join alliance with Germany and Italy.

October 1, 1940:

  • Erich Hartmann in 1944.

    Erich Hartmann, greatest fighter ace in the history of aerial warfare, begins basic training in East Prussia. He would shoot down 345 Soviet planes and never be shot down himself. After the war, he was wrongfully convicted of war crimes and served 10 years at hard labour in Soviet prisons. After his release, he joined the air force of the Federal Republic of Germany.

  • Hitler orders Polish gentry exterminated and civilians’ living standards in Poland reduced, as they are now “workers” for the Reich.

1941:

Einsatzgruppen killing unarmed civilians in 1942. Wikipedia.

Karl Jager, commander of Einsatzkommando Group A, a Nazi death squad, begins keeping detailed records of numbers of Jews and other civilians his team murdered each day. These became known as the “Jager Reports.” The Einsatzgruppen were special detachments of the SS, specifically charged with killing civilians. For example, during this week in 1941, he reports killing:

  • September 25: 575 Jews in Lithuania
  • September 27: 3,446

September 25:

  • Hitler orders cease of attacks on Leningrad, in favour of starving the city.
  • German and Romanian troops reach Perekop Isthmus to cut off Crimean Peninsula

September 26:

  • German battleship Tirpitz joins naval manoeuvers in the Baltic Sea.
  • Free French sign alliance with the USSR

September 27:

  • German truck stuck in the mud in Russia. Pinterest.

    Rain begins on the Eastern Front, making mud a problem for German invaders.

  • Lord Beaverbrook and U.S. diplomat Averell Harriman arrive in Arkangelsk.
  • 23,000 Jews murdered at Kamenets-Podolsk, Ukraine.

September 28:

  • US and UK officials travel to Moscow to discuss western aid to USSR.
  • Soviet General Gregory Zhukov announces that family members of captured Red Army soldiers would be arrested and shot.

    Georgy Zhukov in 1944. Wikipedia.

  • Jews in Kyiv, Ukraine order to gather at Dorogozhitshay Street at 7:00 the next morning.

September 29, 1941:

  • Reinhard Heydrich named Deputy Protector of Bohemia and Moravia.
  • Vyacheslav Molotov, Lord Beaverbrook and U.S. representative Averell Harriman discuss Western aid to the USSR.
  • Soviet submarine ShCh-319 attacks German ships off Latvia, then strikes a mine and sinks.
  • Hitler orders Leningrad wiped out by bombardment.

    Leningraders during the siege. Source: Daily Chronicles of World War II.

  • Einsatzgruppen death squads murder 50,000 – 96,000 Ukrainians at Babi Yar near Kyiv.
  • Red Army prevents German forces from entering Crimea.

September 30, 1941:

  • Military photographer and long-time Nazi Johannes Hahle turns over some photos in a folder marked “in the East” to his superiors, but keeps photos of the Babi Yar massacre a secret.
  • Soviet Black Sea fleet begins considering transferring from Odessa to Crimea.
  • German Operation Typhoon begins with early assault on Moscow.

October 1, 1941:

  • US-UK-USSR aid conference produces protocol for immediate, long-term aid deliveries to the USSR.
  • Finnish troops reach Petrozavodsk, capital of Soviet Karelia, further isolating Leningrad.
  • Majdanek Concentration Camp in Poland begins operations.
  • Soviets release over 50,000 Polish POWs to form a Polish unit of the Red Army to fight Germany.
  • Soviet POWs in 1941.

    Germans launch Operation Typhoon, attack on Moscow.

  • Panzergruppe 2 splits into two to advance on Orel and Bryansk, Russia.

1942:

September 25:

  • Hitler sacks Colonel-General Halder as Chief of the Army General Staff and replaces him with General Zeitzler

September 26:

  • Soviet ace Lydia Lytvyak, the first female ace. She made as many as 14 kills.

    Red Army launches offensive in Tuapse region in the Caucasus.

  • German forces begin new offensive in Stalingrad.
  • Soviet ace Lydia Litvyak shoots down German bomber over Stalingrad, and shares credit for downing a second.

September 27:

  • Sgt. Jacob Pavlov and three other Soviet soldiers attack an apartment block in Stalingrad with hand grenades, expelling occupying Germans and freeing wounded Soviet soldiers. This building became the iconic “Pavlov’s House.” The men defended it for 58 days against infantry, artillery and tank attacks.

    “Pavlov’s House” in Stalingrad, where a handful of men under Sgt. Jabo Pavlov defended the building against repeated attacks for two months.

September 29, 1942:

  • Sigmund Freud’s sister Esther Adolphine dies in Theresienstadt concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia.

September 30, 1942:

  • Soviet forces cross the Volga River near Moscow.
  • Due to a typhus epidemic in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Commandant Rudoph Hoss forbids guards from consuming any raw foods.
  • 610 Jews arrive at Auschwitz from the Netherlands. 454 gassed immediately.

1943

September 25:

  • Red Army captures Roslavl and Smolensk.

September 27:

  • German forces in Ukraine begin withdrawal to western bank of Dnipro River.

    An iconic war photo of the Red Army preparing to cross the Dnipro River in 1943, chasing the retreating Germans. From Bill Downs, War Correspondent.

  • Red Army captures Temryuk, Russia, the last Black Sea port held by Germans.

September 28:

  • Germans recapture Split, Yugoslavia from partisans

September 28:

  • Minesweeper USS Aspire transferred to the USSR under the lend-lease agreements.

September 30, 1943:

  • Red Army expands is bridgehead over the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine to 500 km.
  • U-boat “wolfpack” in the Kara Sea north of Russia sink freighter Arhangelsk.

October 1, 1943:

  • German U-boat, circa 1942. Pinterest.

    German u-boats sink Soviet freighter and escort ship in the Kara Sea, off northern Russia.

1944:

September 25:

  • Soviets trick Slovakian Captain Frantisek Urban to visit Moscow, then arrest him, sending him to Lubyanka Prison.

September 26:

  • Red Army completes occupation of Estonia.

September 27:

  • 2000 soldiers of Armia Krajowa, Poland’s resistance army, surrender in Warsaw

September 28:

  • Germans begin transferring 18,000 prisoners from Theresienstadt Concentration Camp, Czechoslovakia to Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland.
  • Josip Tito authorizes Soviet troops to enter Yugoslavia. Red 57th Army begins moving toward Belgrade.

September 29:

  • US OSS agents parachute into Bucharest to liberate 1,888 Allied POWs, and take Romanian diplomatic documents to prevent their capture by Soviets.

October 1, 1944:

  • Slovak resistance fighters name themselves the Czechoslovakian 1st Army.
  • Hungarian delegation comes to Moscow to discuss armistice separate from Germany.
  • Red Army crosses Danube into Yugoslavia.

October 2, 1944:

  • Boy Scouts in the Armija Krajowa, the Polish Home Army, during the Warsaw Uprising. Wikimedia Commons.

    Warsaw Uprising ends after 63 unsuccessful days of fighting. 15,200 Armia Krajowa insurgents and 200,000 civilians killed, along with 16,000 German forces.

This is the history that I cover in the Eastern Front trilogy, through the eyes of a man who was there: my father-in-law, the late Maurice Bury.

Check out the books from their page on this website, or on Amazon.

Have anything to add about last week in history? Leave a Comment!

 

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.

Sneak peek: Echoes launches May 12



Echoes, my new #LeiCrimeKW Kindle World novel, launches along with 8 other new novelettes and novellas on May 12. Don’t forget to go to Facebook on that day—there’s going to be a launch party and a lot of prizes to be won.

But to whet your appetite, here’s a taste of Echoes.

Out of the past

2014

The first time that the Kahuna was able to sneak up on Vanessa was the first time she met him, when she was 16 and he was 19. He wasn’t able to do it again for sixteen years, until a bright morning in Honolulu as impossibly picturesque clouds floated across the impossibly blue sky. Vanessa was walking along Beretania Street, taking an iced coffee to start her day in the FBI Honolulu field office.

One second, she was walking by herself, trying to time her steps so that she would arrive at the corner of Punchbowl Street just as the light turned green. The next second, a tall, muscular Hawaiian man with graying hair tied in a pony tail was in step at her right shoulder. She noticed him and stopped, her mouth open.

Honolulu Hale—the municipal building of Honolulu, HI. Photo: Wikipedia.

“Come here often, Nani?” he said, using the pidgin term for “beautiful.”

Vanessa’s coffee sloshed over the rim of the cup. It took her several seconds to find her voice. “Dylan ‘Aukai?”

He turned on that smile that she remembered had made her knees weak when she was a teenager. “Long time, Babe.”

“What are you doing here? And where have you been for so long?”

“I could ask you the same thing, Nani. But why don’t we get a cuppa coffee and catch up?”

“I already have a coffee, Dylan.”

He tilted his head and turned on the high-beam smile again. “C’mon. You gotta couple minutes, doncha?” He nodded down the street. “You’re right. I don’t actually wanna sit in one of these fancy coffee places that don’t even serve Hawaiian coffee.  Let’s sit in the park, in the shade. I hafta tell you somethin’.”

Vanessa looked at her watch. She’d arrive at the office a few minutes late, but knew it would not be a problem. She found herself walking fast to keep up with Dylan’s strides to the park across the boulevard from the Honolulu City Hall.

Dylan led her to a bench under a koa tree and stretched his long legs out in front of him as she sat beside him, careful not to spill more of her drink. “What do you want to tell me, Dylan? No, wait. Before that: where have you been for the past 15 years, and why did you take off that night without a word of why? What happened?”

He turned and smiled again. “Let’s not dwell on the past, Nani. Let’s look to the future.”

“Knock off the cheesy lines, Dylan. You abandoned me at a very critical moment for a young woman—probably the most vulnerable moment in my life to that point. You know what I’m talking about. What happened?”

Dylan sighed, looking around the park, from the massive and impressive city hall, to the arching koa trees, the carefully watered and maintained grass at his feet, the nannies pushing strollers through the park. He took another deep breath and held it for a moment before looking at Vanessa again. “You’re right. I knew it was a very special time for you. And I wouldn’t have left if I didn’t have to. Truth is, the cops were after me. They framed me. For all I know, they’re still after me.”

“That sounds like bullshit, Dylan.”

“It’s not bullshit. But it’s the past. Look, I came to you for help, not for me, but for my brother, Cole.”

Watch for it on Amazon on May 12.

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.

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.

“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.

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!

 

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.