Walking Out of War cover wins 1st place



I’m thrilled to announce that the cover of the third book in the Eastern Front trilogy, Walking Out of War, has won first place in the East Texas Writers Guild 2017 Blue Ribbon Book Cover Contest for Nonfiction/Memoir.

The contest drew entries from across the U.S.A., as well as from the U.K, Australia and Canada.

A team of artists and designers from the Dallas, Texas area judged the entries in five categories:

  • romance
  • mystery/thriller
  • science fiction/fantasy
  • historical fiction
  • nonfiction/memoir.

You can find all the winning entries on Caleb & Linda Pirtle’s blog, Here Comes a Mystery.

Walking Out of War’s cover won first place in the nonfiction/memoir category. It tells the story of my father-in-law’s experiences from 1944 to 1947, as he fought in the Soviet Red Army across the Baltic States, Poland and Germany, finally at the Battle of Berlin.

This award-winning cover was designed by David C. Cassidy, who also created the covers of the previous books in the Eastern Front trilogy, Army of Worn Soles and Under the Nazi Heel.

It depicts a Red Army soldier, walking calmly away from conflict and toward a brighter future. Meanwhile, the shadow of the Soviet Union reaches for him from behind. It’s an image that perfectly captures the main theme of the book.

 

David has also done covers for most of my other books, as well, including One Shade of Red, Torn Roots, Jet: Stealth, Palm Trees & Snowflakes, Dead Man Lying, Echoes and The Wife Line.

You can see all the covers on the Books by Scott Bury page.

David, of course, also designs covers and websites for a lot of authors and companies. He is also the author of excellent and truly scary horror novels, such as Velvet Rain and The Dark. Check out his work at his website.

I would like to thank David for his excellent work, and the East Texas Writers Guild for holding the contest that helps promote so many excellent authors and designers.

Two First Chapter awards in one week



2-FirstPlace-Mystery-page-001My thanks to the East Texas Writers Guild. This year, I entered two books in their First Chapter awards, one in each category: Published Work and Work in Progress.

And this week I learned that both won!

IMG_0020.jpgUnder the Nazi Heel: Book 2 of Walking Out of War, earned Second Place in the Nonfiction/Memoir category.

Dead Man Lying - 529x800And my newest Lei Crime Kindle World entry, Dead Man Lying, won First Place in the Works in Progress category!

At the time of the contest deadline, June 1, Dead Man Lying was indeed in progress. My proofreader, the stalwart Typo Detective, Joy Lorton, had sent me the corrections, and I was still polishing a few items noted by beta readers. I published the story on June 27, in time for a major Facebook launch party along with several other new Lei Crime books.

Two awards in one week — I feel blessed.

Thanks to everyone who helped: beta readers, editors, proofreaders, other writers in the Lei Crime world, and especially all the readers who have pushed Dead Man Lying into bestseller status.

Book launch day: Dead Man Lying, the new #LeiCrimeKW mystery



Party time!

LCKW-party-2016

It’s launch day for my new #LeiCrimeKW mystery, Dead Man Lying, and there’s a huge party on Facebook where you can win some awesome prizes:

Book launch

A book party is a great time to launch my latest book, Dead Man Lying — a new #LeiCrimeKW mystery featuring a favourite character of readers, FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm. Dead Man Lying is a locked-door mystery evoking the noir mysteries of the 30s, 40s and 50s. I’ll let you figure out which specific book was an important inspiration for the plot.

What’s it about?

She knows when you’re lying …FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm is back on Maui to catch a killer.

With lush rain forests, black sand beaches, and a laid-back lifestyle, Maui offers the perfect retirement location for once-famous country singer Steven Sangster … until he ends up dead.

As the killer, or killers, strike again and again, Detective Lei Texeira and FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm must untangle the lies spun by the singer’s associates, friends, family — and the singer himself before the music dies.

Dead Man Lying - 529x800One more giveaway

I’ll give away two free e-copies (suitable for Kindle) to someone who can answer one of these two questions:

  • Which classic noir thriller from the early 20th century is the inspiration for the plot structure of Dead Man Lying?
  • Which country-folk singer is the inspiration for the victim in Dead Man Lying?

Leave your responses in the Comments section, along with your contact information, and I’ll pick one right answer to each question at random.

Then come to the party!

Preview: Under the Nazi Heel



The sequel to Army of Worn Soles is nearly ready to publish. I have been going through edits and corrections made by the excellent Gary Henry and Joy Lorton, and all I need now is a final cover. So I thought that I would share another preview. Since winter has finally arrived in my part of the world, I thought I would present a wintry, snowy episode from a January, 73 years ago.

Subscribe to get Written Words in your email today, and I’ll send you a free e-copy of Army of Worn Soles so that you can read it before the sequel comes out.

Trondheim forest preview

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Chapter 11: Meeting in the Snow

January, 1943

The winter of 1943 was not as cold as 1942, when oil froze in Panzer engines, but January nights were bitter. Driving a single-horse sleigh through the forest at night, Maurice pulled his fur hat lower on his head and the collar of his coat higher.

He was returning by horse-cart from a village called Prosova, in the eastern part of his range. He had left a little before sunset. No one would want to be out on such a cold night, and the Germans had long before learned not to venture at night into the countryside. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army lived deep in the forests and swamps, supported by willing donations of locals. And then there was the rival OUN-B, the nationalists led by Stepan Bandera, who had no mercy for soldiers, agents, spies and collaborators of either Nazi Germany or the USSR.

The snow beside the sleigh tracks was deep and the setting sun turned the clear, distant sky a vivid yellow in the west. When he looked back over his shoulder, he could see white stars against the deep purple-blue sky.

Maurice shivered under his thick fleece blankets and flicked the reins to urge the horse to go a little faster. He steered toward trees, keeping to the paths known to the locals. Still, Maurice knew that their security depended on adherence to the rules of secrecy and stealth. They worked in separate units, communicated only in the stefetka code and used only code names. Maurice did not even know the real name, nor the face of his superior officer, and he had never met most of the agents who reported to him.

Every move was fraught with multiple risks: risks of being observed by one of the enemies; of their intelligence being faked; of being killed by the Germans, the Communists or by mistake by partisans. Maurice shivered again.

Maurice’s heart began to pound when he saw a slim shape on a big, black horse coming straight toward him through the trees, along a path that crossed his. Maurice took his pistol from its holster and held it under the blanket, then chucked the reins to speed up his horse so that he would reach the path intersection before the rider.

Just as the last daylight faded, Maurice reined in so that his sleigh blocked the intersecting path. The rider stopped when he could actually see his face. It was a young boy, maybe thirteen or fourteen years old. “Good evening, sir,” he said in a shaky voice.

“You’re out late tonight,” Maurice said, and he knew he did not sound friendly. He was nervous, himself. Why was a young boy out after curfews? “Where are you going?”

“To see my uncle,” said the boy, trembling. Maurice became more curious. Why was this boy being evasive? Why was he so afraid? He must have been able to tell that Maurice was not a German officer.

“Where does your uncle live?”

The boy hesitated. “In … in Mykulynci.” The town was about five kilometres away, but still, why was a young boy traveling alone at night? Maurice started to get the feeling that the boy thought he was doing something heroic.

“You had better tell me what you’re doing,” Maurice said in a softer tone. Not friendly, but not unfriendly, either.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, tell me the real reason you’re travelling at night when there are strict curfews. It’s not safe.”

“I’m not afraid,” said the boy, looking around. But the only way forward was blocked by Maurice’s sleigh, and the snow was too deep for the horse to pass around it.

“Why are you going to Mykulynci?” Maurice asked again.

“I told you, to see my uncle.”

“What’s his name?”

“I don’t see why I should be telling you anything. I don’t even know who you are!”

“You don’t need to know who I am. But I know who you are,” Maurice lied. “And I know you’re much too young to be doing what you’re trying to do. Who are you going to see?”

“I’m not too young to love my country!”

“This is not a game.” Maurice leaned close to the boy, his voice a growl. “This is a war between grown-up men, and children who get involved always get killed.” Maurice decided to change tactics. “Listen, my friend, I know what you’re trying to do. But think how your mother would feel if you were hurt — or worse. And what if you fell into German hands?”

“I’m not afraid of the Germans! We rule the night!”

“‘We’? Who are ‘we’?”

map of Ternopyl Oblast

Ternopyl Oblast, Ukraine, today. Maurice’s territory was south of Ternopyl city.

The boy’s eyes widened and he looked around again. He realized he had made a serious mistake.

Maurice leaned close. “Which unit are you with?” he whispered. When the boy hesitated, he said “Come on, you can trust me. I’m a Ukrainian, not a German. I love my country, too.”

“Can I really trust you?”

“Oh, yes. I’m friendly to … our side.” Maurice wished he could say more, but the less the boy knew, the safer he would be.

The boy leaned closer and whispered “I’m bringing a message to Mr. Stefaniuk in Mykulynci. It’s from a man named … ‘Half-Moon.’”

“Half-Moon” was the code name of one of Maurice’s agents, one of the few he knew personally. Maxim Tanshysyn was a lazy old bureaucrat who was never on time, nor were his reports ever complete. Now he was sending children to do his work for him. “What sort of message?”

“I don’t know. I was told to put the message directly into the hands of Mr. Stefaniuk.” The boy pulled a slip of paper from a pocket, but held it close to his chest.

“I know Mr. Stefaniuk myself. I’ll get the message to him. I know all the people involved in this. I’m a friend of … our organization. Your duty is to look after your family and not to endanger any of your comrades. And someone your age, out here, is going to draw a lot of attention from the enemy. If you get caught, you’ll endanger everyone that you know. Is that what you want?”

Maurice could see that the boy was thinking about it, and that he was a lot more scared than he had been at first. He suddenly thrust the paper to Maurice. “I’m trusting you.” Without another word, he turned the horse around carefully and retreated down the path. In seconds, his shadow had melted into the forest.

Maurice opened the note. In the dim moonlight, he could barely make out rows of numbers. It was the stefetka code, all right. Half-Moon was going to get it. But now, he had to make another detour before returning home, to bring the message to Stefaniuk in Mykulinci.

About Under the Nazi Heel

For Ukrainians in 1942, the occupying Germans were not the only enemy.

Maurice Bury was drafted into the Red Army just in time to be thrown against the invading Germans in 1941. Captured and starved in a POW camp, he escaped and made his way home to western Ukraine, where the Nazi occupiers pursued a policy of starving the locals to make more “living space” for Germans.

To protect his family, Maurice joins the secret resistance. He soon finds the country faces multiple threats. Maurice and his men are up against Soviet spies, the Polish Home Army and enemies even closer to home.

Experience this seldom seen phase of World War 2 through the eyes of a man who fought and survived Under the Nazi Heel.

Find it on Amazon.

Writers who love writing: Claude Bouchard and Mohana Rajakumar let it all out



DG EMPL / Creative Commons

Writing is a job, or a vocation or maybe an addiction that requires you to do a lot of things besides writing. Then there are those of us who seem to find a lot of other things to do (hold on while I straighten that picture on the wall) before we can get around to writing.

In this installment of Written Words, thriller author Claude Bouchard from Montreal and Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar from Qatar offer their very different perspectives on the art and craft of being a writer.

Which element of fiction is most important to you as a writer?

Claude Bouchard: If I’m limited to a single choice, the plot is most important as you can’t really have a story without, uh, a story. However, characterization and setting(s) are required elements as well in order to give the story life and dimension. Details are also important in terms of accuracy although I don’t tend toward minutiae. To varying degrees, action is dependent on the genre and, in my case, is also a relevant aspect in my writing. Sex, not as much since I write crime thrillers.

Mohana Rajakumar: I tend to write character driven stories and learned the hard way that what happens in the story is as important as to whom it is happening. I’ve started outlining before writing to help me stay on track.

Because all my books have a cultural element, getting the little details right, such as words, clothing, food, etc. is also really important.

What part of writing do you spend the most time on: research, writing, editing, making coffee or cleaning your work space?

Claude Bouchard: In my case, research, writing and editing are all ongoing activities throughout my writing process so they get equal billing. Coffee is a couple of cups in the morning, the machine having been set on timer the night before. As for cleaning my work space, I may have missed the memo regarding that one.

rajakumar-mohana-webMohana Rajakumar: Editing! I can write a manuscript in 30 days but I need seven months to revise it (or more!).

Which of these do you enjoy most?

Claude Bouchard: The pure writing part of my process is what I enjoy the most, especially when I’m on a roll.

Mohana Rajakumar: I love writing a good scene. Nothing can beat the feeling of having created a world others want to enter.

What do you wish you had to do less?

Claude Bouchard: Although I generally like doing research, it would be nice if I sometimes knew everything and could simply spew it out.

Mohana Rajakumar: I wish I could write flawless prose that never needed a proof reader.

What part of writing or publishing do you think you could help other writers with?

Claude Bouchard: Having written and published fourteen works to date, I’ve had a number of writers ask for help or advice in a variety of areas and, to my knowledge, assisted them to their satisfaction.

Mohana Rajakumar: I could help other writers with story structure.

Which of your books or other works are you personally happiest with? Why?

Claude Bouchard: I love all my books and don’t you be telling them anything different. However, I am rather pleased with Nasty in Nice, the novella I wrote for the JET Kindle World. Melding Russell Blake’s characters with mine was a blast, the plot is solid, the action rocks and I put it all together in record time.

Mohana Rajakumar: I do love the new crime series that I started with The Migrant Report because it was a completely new genre for me.

Thank you, Claude and Mohana!

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had two sons, and became a writer.  She has since published eight e-books, including a momoir for first-time mothers, Mommy But Still Me; a guide for aspiring writers, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies; a short story collection, Coloured and Other Stories; and a novel about women’s friendships, Saving Peace.

Her coming of age novel, An Unlikely Goddess, won the SheWrites New Novelist competition in 2011.

Her recent books have focused on various aspects of life in Qatar. From Dunes to Dior, named as a Best Indie book in 2013, is a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf. Love Comes Later was the winner of the Best Indie Book Award for Romance in 2013 and is a literary romance set in Qatar and London. The Dohmestics is an inside look into compound life, the day-to-day dynamics between housemaids and their employers. Her latest book is The Migrant Report.

After she joined the e-book revolution, Mohana dreams in plotlines. Learn more about her work on her website at www.mohadoha.com or follow her latest on Twitter: @moha_doha.

Claude Bouchard wrote his first novel, Vigilante, in 1995, and two more by 1997, but did not publish them until 2009. Since then, he has also written a stand-alone novel, Asylum, and eight more thrillers in the Vigilante series including his latest release, Sins in the Sun. Two of his novels were included in the pair of blockbuster Killer Thriller anthologies, the second of which made the USA Today Bestsellers list in March 2014. Claude has also penned Something’s Cooking, a faux-erotica parody and cookbook under the pseudonyms Réal E. Hotte and Dasha Sugah. His most recent work, released July 28, 2015, is Nasty in Nice, his contribution to Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World.

Eight of his eleven books in the Vigilante Series have been #1 bestsellers in the Vigilante Justice category on Amazon while the remaining three came close in the #2 and #3 slots. Nasty in Nice made #3 on the Kindle World Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Bestseller List and sat comfortably at #1 for several days as a Hot New Release. Almost 600,000 copies of his books have been distributed to date.

Claude lives in Montreal, Canada with his spouse, Joanne, under the watchful eye of Krystalle and Midnight, two black females of the feline persuasion.

 

Claude’s other interests include reading, playing guitar, painting, cooking, traveling and planning to exercise.

 

His website, claudebouchardbooks.com, has often been described as comparable to DisneyLand without the rides.

Another milestone: Finished a new book



Image by stockmedia.cc / stockarch.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

(Just the first draft)

Over the weekend, I finished the sequel to Army of Worn Soles. Looking at the outline a week ago, I realized I had only one chapter left to write to complete the story arc. So that’s what I did: I mapped out and then wrote that last chapter.

What a great feeling. But now a new phase of hard work begins: straightening out a tangled web of prose into a clear story.

To clarify: I have been working of the story of my father-in-law, Maurice Bury, for many years, and in June 2014 I released Army of Worn Soles. That tells the events from March to December 1941, with flashbacks to Poland in the 1930s. The second book will focuses on 1942 and 1943, a tumultuous time in Ukraine, when the Red Army drove out the occupying Germans.

That period, and the book, begin with Ukraine under German occupation. The man sent by Hitler to govern the western part of the country, Erich Koch, described himself as “ruthless dog.” The nazis arrested and/or murdered intellectuals, political and community leaders and hundreds of thousands of Jews. The Germans confiscated food grown on farms, and took thousands, if not millions of young people from Ukraine, Poland and other occupied countries, sending them into slave labour in factories and fields. Young men became workers, women often maids for high-ranking Nazi officers and officials, or whores.

In the second book, I will tell the story of Maurice’s struggle against both Nazi and Communist occupiers in the underground, as an intelligence officer and occasionally an operative.

The challenge now derives from the fact that it has taken me many years to write this book, and I did not write the chapters and events in the order that they happened or that they will appear in the book.

I began over 20 years ago, talking with the subject of the story, Maurice. After he passed away 12 years ago, I had to do a lot of historical research. And over a year ago, I realized it made sense to break the story into three books, based on the three distinct phases of Maurice’s experience: as a drafted officer in 1941, up to his capture and escape; as an underground fighter in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and then the Ukrainian National Revolutionary Army; and finally, in 1944 and 1945, as a reluctant second-time draftee, fighting across Poland and Germany to Berlin.

Now that I have written a complete first draft, I know that I have a lot of work still to do. I realized that I have written about the same events, background and ideas more than once.

How to untangle this mess?

So the job now is to re-read and reorganize all that stuff, merge and eliminate the repetition and figure out the best order to tell the story. And that’s what I’m focusing on in my writing now. I intend to finish that process by the end of this month — about three weeks.

In the meantime, I’m still open to suggestions for titles. So far, I’m going with Under the Nazi Heel, but I would appreciate your thoughts about that.

I’ll let you know how it’s going.

Kristos Razdayetsya: A Ukrainian Christmas present



Ukrainian Christmas Eve Paska and candle.

January 6, as everyone knows, is “Ukrainian Christmas Eve.” Actually, it’s Christmas Eve according to the old Julian calendar.

 
So my Ukrainian Christmas present to readers, and to Ukrainians around the world, is an excerpt from my upcoming book, still unnamed, the sequel to Army of Worn Soles. This is the story of my late father-in-law, Maurice Bury, and his experience on the eastern front in World War II as a Red Army soldier.
 
This section is set in the autumn of 1944, when the Red Army was pushing the Germans out of the Baltics, and meeting stiff resistance.

 
Niemen River (Border between Lithuania and East Prussia)
October 10, 1944
The sun shone into Maurice’s eyes as the sergeant called a halt. He leaned back and let his pack slide off his shoulders, then sat down, grateful for a minute’s rest. The temperature had been dropping all day, and Maurice’s nerves were pulled taught from the sounds of machine-guns and bombs that grew ever closer as they marched. The Germans had retreated, but the boys knew they were marching toward an enemy defensive position.
 
Niemen River, Lithuania. Image: Creative Commons
The flatland of Lithuania continued as far as they could see, but maybe two hundred metres to the south, a shallow, broad river valley across the plain. That was the source of occasional gun- and cannon-fire.
 
“The Niemen. Across that is East Prussia. Germany,” said a young officer, passing by. “Don’t get too comfortable. That’s where we’re heading.”
 
By sunset, the gunfire died down. The two armies were stalemated, facing each other across the valley of the Nieman River, also known as the Neman and, in local Lithuanian, the Nemaunus. When the sky was dark, the officers quietly ordered the men in Maurice’s troop to move to the fortifications the Red Army had already dug, fifty metres from the bank.
 
No one knew, no one told them, but Stavka, the Soviet high command, had already tried to penetrate into East Prussia and take the strategic fortress of Konigsberg. The Baltic Offensive had succeeded in driving the Germans out of most of Estonia and Latvia and had finally taken Riga back from the Germans. Soviet General Bagramyan had pushed the Third Panzer Army down the Baltic coast, where they holed up in the town of Klaipeda, which the Germans had renamed Memel in 1939.
 
With the town surrounded, the Soviets then committed four armies to attack into East Prussia, driving for a line from Gumbinnen to Konigsberg, fifty kilometres further south.
 
General Erhard Raus’s Third Panzer Army stopped the Red Army, though, and held it at the Neman River. The Stavka decided to hold that position until it could bring in more reinforcements to allow it to use its deep operations strategy. Maurice’s unit was just one part of that strategy.
 
The soldiers already at the river had dug trenches and made fortifications a few metres back from the banks. Maurice’s unit found a place to set up camp. The next morning, they settled into a new routine: patrolling the fortifications, watching the enemy across the broad river, firing a few shots across just to let the enemy know they were watching. When their watch was over, they went back for food and snatched what sleep they could.
 
At night, Maurice did not sleep much. He knew he should have made the most of this break in the fighting, but he couldn’t relax. Something big is going to happen soon. One day near the end of October, Maurice thought the officers seemed to be stirring more than usual. In the evening, as the sun hit the horizon, the major called the junior officers into a circle; then the lieutenant of Maurice’s unit, Vasilyev, gathered the men. “We’re going to do some reconnaissance across the river,” he said. “Find out where Fritz has his cannons, tanks, and most important, supplies. Get the directions back to our gunners. You’ll have to be smart, quiet, and you can’t lose your head, or we’re all done for. The Major’s looking for four men.”
 
The sergeant, a tough old communist named Nikolai Nikolaev, stepped in front of the unit. “Okay, with me, it will be Oleh, Maurice and Mykhailo—it’s your turn, comrades.” Maurice suddenly felt as though his guts were wide, hollow and empty at the sound of his name. Numbly he followed the sergeant and the other boys to the quartermaster’s wagon. He felt another cold shock when he saw German uniforms lying on the ground.
 
“Get dressed, boys,” said the quartermaster, leering.