A new book walks closer

Cover-WOOW-500x800 (1)Walking Out of War, the third book in the true-story trilogy about Maurice Bury, the Canadian in the Soviet Red Army in World War two, launches in two days. I’m excited. It’s already received three excellent early reviews that you can read on Goodreads. and I’m giving you another free taste of what’s coming.

There are going to be several special online events on and around launch day:

  • Army of Worn Soles, the first book of the trilogy, is FREE on Amazon from February 21 to 25.
  • Under the Nazi Heel, the second book, is on sale at 99 cents for the same period.
  • launch event on Facebook will feature giveaways of electronic and print books from the trilogy as well as other works.
  • A blog tour will feature excerpts and images from Walking Out of War. Watch this space for details and links.

And now, your taste of Walking Out of War:

Donbass, summer 1944

“How did you learn to break down a rifle so quickly?” the drill sergeant asked.

“I grew up on a farm,” Maurice answered. “You have to have a gun on a farm.”

“A shotgun, yes. Not an automatic rifle. I come from a farm, too,” said the drill sergeant. He was a small man with a round face and earnest brown eyes.

Maurice shrugged, hoping the sergeant would not hear his hammering heart. “I guess I’m just a fast learner.”

The sergeant’s eyes narrowed, but he moved on to the boy beside Maurice, who was fumbling with his weapon. “Get that magazine back together in the next sixty seconds or you’re on double guard duty tonight!”

I have to be more clumsy. And more careful, at the same time, Maurice thought.

Compared to his experience as an officer three years earlier, this training camp for soldiers was brutal. In August 1944, the Red Army had reached the outskirts of Warsaw and was within sight of the Gulf of Riga. They had pushed the Germans out of Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia and were throwing every man they could find into the drive to destroy Hitler’s Germany.

In June, the Red Army had launched Operation Bagration. Two million men, thousands of tanks, heavy assault guns and airplanes, attacked in a coordinated series of attacks along a front that stretched from Estonia to Romania, accompanied by 220,000 trucks from the U.S., with tanks and guns from Britain, tonnes and tonnes of food and ammunition from the West. In two months, they pushed the Germans out of Belorussia.

The Soviets annihilated the German Army Group Center. Hundreds of thousands of German soldiers were killed, wounded and captured, including thirty-one generals—a quarter of the German strength on the Eastern Front gone in two months.

The Red Army’s losses, while not as severe, were still huge: 800,000 casualties, including over 180,000 killed and missing.

What Walking Out of War is all about

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.

Maurice has determined his only way out of this hell is to survive until Nazi Germany dies, and then move home to Canada. But to do that, he’ll have to not only walk out of war, but elude Stalin’s dreaded secret police.

What the early reviewers are saying 

“Full of heart and indomitable spirit”—Joy Lorton 

Walking Out of War is a well-written and powerful read, and a difficult one. The violence and war crimes are startling, and Bury, being a master at his craft, effectively paints mental pictures. He doesn’t linger on vile acts, however; he isn’t gratuitous. But he is a vivid writer and skilled at choosing the right verbs and adjectives to bring his prose to life, where the reader can visualize scenes as if watching them on film. “—Elise Stokes 

“A very compelling read.”—Frederick Brooke 

You can pre-order Walking Out of War for a special price until launch day.

On Remembrance Day, in honour of all who served: Chapter 1, free

Today, November 11, 2014, is Remembrance Day in Canada, Veterans’ Day in the US, Armistice Day in the UK. It’s a day recognized under many names in countries around the world, marking the end of the First World War, called the “defining calamity of the 20th century.”

That calamity, which took millions of lives and changed the perception of war, began 100 years ago.

In honour of all who served, I offer the first chapter of Army of Worn Soles, the true story of a Canadian drafted into the Soviet Red Army just in time to face Nazi Germany’s invasion in 1941.

Chapter 1:Prisoner of War

Kharkiv, October 1941
Maurice put the bottle on the ground beside him and took off his uniform shirt. He spread it on the smoothest piece of ground he could find, then laid the bottle near the officer’s insignia on the collar and pushed down. He rolled the bottle over tattered, light-brown material until the lice cracked under the glass. Back and forth, twice, three times. He felt a dull satisfaction at his first pathetic victory in more than half a year.
The effort was exhausting. His stomach ached and his throat burned with thirst.
He slumped back until he leaned against the barracks. Men in grey uniforms stood or walked across the cobbled courtyard of the ancient castle. One came toward him, a slim man with light brown hair and hazel eyes. He stopped in front of Maurice and leaned down.
“Maurice? Is it you?”
Breathing required effort. So did looking up. Maurice had not eaten in days, but he still trusted his sight. He knew the man with the light-brown hair and hazel eyes, even in a Wehrmacht uniform. 
“Maurice?” the young man said again. “What are you doing here?”
He couldn’t swallow. His mouth held no moisture. “Dying. I’m starving to death.” Maurice closed his eyes and hung his head.
Bohdan crouched beside him. “You got drafted?”
Maurice made the effort to look up at his old friend. “The Red Army made me a lieutenant. What the hell are you doing here, and in a German uniform, Bohdan?”
“The Germans kicked the Russians out, something we couldn’t do. Why shouldn’t I join the winning side? And it’s ‘Daniel’ now, not Bohdan.” He looked around to make sure no one noticed him, a Wehrmacht officer, talking to a prisoner of war. “I’m glad you survived, that you were captured instead of killed. The Germans killed a lot of Red soldiers.”
“I know. I was there.”
Bohdan looked around again. “How did you get here?”
“Like you said, we were captured, the whole army, outside Kharkiv. They brought us here.”
Bohdan shook his head. “Are you all right? I’ll see if I can bring you anything, but I have to be careful.”
Maurice looked into his friend’s eyes. “Get me out of here.”
“Set a prisoner free? Are you crazy?”
“Bohdan—sorry, Daniel, you’re my best friend. Or you were. If I ever meant anything to you, get me out.”
Daniel—Bohdan, looked left and right again. “I cannot let Red soldiers go,” he whispered.
Maurice took a dry breath. His strength was almost gone. “You’re an officer in a victorious army. You have the power. You can get me out, me and my boys.
Daniel shook his head and stood. “Stalin’s going to surrender within six months, and then all the prisoners will be freed. Hitler has promised freedom for all nations. We’ll all be free. Ukraine will be free.”
Maurice looked at the ground between his splayed legs. He could no longer lift his head. “I can’t wait six months. I can’t wait two days. If you wait, you’ll find a corpse. We’ll all be dead. You have to get us out now.”
Daniel hesitated. He looked around the camp again, but no one paid attention. “So the Reds made you an officer, did they? Where are your men? All dead?”
Somewhere, Maurice found the strength to stand up again. He staggered to the barracks door, went in and called his odalenye, the unit he commanded. “Step over here, boys.”
Daniel followed Maurice inside, and Maurice wondered if Daniel wasn’t breaking some regulation by entering prisoners’ quarters unaccompanied by at least one guard.
Daniel scanned the room, taking in the defeated, injured and starving men. No one threatened him. They did not even move. Maurice realized when they saw Daniel, they saw their captor.
Daniel stepped out of the barracks and waited outside the door. “I’ll see what I can do, Maurice. But you’re on the wrong fucking side.”
Maurice picked up the bottle and returned to crushing the lice out of his uniform shirt. It was the only thing he could do to reduce his misery.
He thought about the last time he had seen Bohdan, before he became Daniel.
It was in the gymnasium, the pre-university school in Peremyshl. What used to be Poland. What a long, strange, twisted path my life has followed. 
For more from Army of Worn Soles, click the cover image at the top of this blog.
Visit the Worn Soles page on Facebook.

Operation Book Launch looms

Image by Clément Bucco-Lechat. Licenced under Wikimedia Commons
Army of Worn Soles, my third book, will launches June 22, the anniversary of the start of Operation Barbarossa, Nazi Germany’s invasion of the USSR in 1941.
Army of Worn Soles is the true story of my father-in-law, Maurice Bury, who was drafted by the Soviet Red Army in 1941 just in time to be thrown into that struggle.

“But I am a Canadian citizen,” he told the conscripting officer.

“You live here now, tovarisch,” the officer said. “You must help defend the motherland.”

Listening to my father-in-law tell stories like that inspired this book. Army of Worn Soles is his view of the war, a perspective rarely seen in the West. The popular image of the war in movies and books mostly focuses on events in western Europe or the Pacific. The only movie I can think of about the eastern front is the excellent Enemy at the Gates.

The details will shock some readers—Maurice’s accounts certainly shocked me the first time I heard them. One example? The way the Germans deliberately starved their eastern front prisoners of war. It was an explicit policy, the “Hunger Plan.”
I only wish I had buckled down and written it years ago, and he were still alive to read it.

Surprises in store
There are a lot of other little facts that surprised me and I hope will inform the readers. You’ll have to wait to find out, but not necessarily until June 22.

David C. Cassidy
Your first chance comes on Thursday, June 5, when the David C. Cassidy reveals his fantastic cover design on his website. The cover reveal continues to the blogs of my good friend Cinta Garcia de la Rosa, and then Raine Thomas, Onisha Ellis, Gae-lynn Woods, Frederick Lee Brooke, Dana Griffin and the BestSelling Reads site.

The Army of Worn Solesblog tour kicks off on June 15, when D.G. Torrens, author of the bestselling Amelia’s Story, hosts the first excerpt. That will be followed by excerpts appearing on the blogs and websites of Literary Gary Henry, Scholarly Fred Brooke, Cultivated CR Hiatt, Scintillating Cinta Garcia, Dazzling David Cassidy, Raffish Rob Guthrie, Ozzie Onisha Ellis, learned Michael Lorde and Stupendous Seb Kirby.
Thank you all very much for your support. I’ll send each of you a free e-book.

Win a paper copy
And for all you readers who follow the tour, something special: I’m borrowing a page from Fabulous Fred and making a contest out of it. Collect the clues on each stop on the tour, email me the solution and I’ll send you a free, autographed paperback copy.

Come back to this blog often for updates and links to every stop on the tour.