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Archive for the ‘Action/Adventure’ Category

Title: WOLVES AT OUR DOOR
Author: Soren Paul Petrek
Publisher: Editions Encre Rouge/Hachette Livre
Pages: 319
Genre: Historical/Action/Adventure

BOOK BLURB:

The Allies and the Nazis are in a deadly race to develop the ultimate weapon while supersonic V-2 rockets rain down on London. Madeleine Toche and Berthold Hartmann, the German super assassin who taught her to kill, search for the secret factory where Werner von Braun and his Gestapos masters use slave labor to build the weapons as the bodies of the innocent pile up. The Allied ground forces push towards Berlin while the German SS fight savagely for each inch of ground.

 

Finding the factory hidden beneath Mount Kohnstein, Hartmann contacts his old enemy, Winston Churchill and summons Madeleine to his side. While she moves to bring the mountain down on her enemies, Hartmann leads a daring escape from the dreaded Dora concentration camp to continue his revenge against the monsters who ruined his beloved Germany.

Together with the Russian Nachtlexen, the Night Witches, fearsome female pilots the race tightens as the United States and the Germans successfully carry out an atomic bomb test.

Germany installs an atom bomb in a V-2 pointed towards London, while the US delivers one to a forward base in the Pacific. The fate of the Second World War and the future of mankind hangs in the balance.

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CHAPTER ONE

Mid-August 1943

Peenemunde Research Facility

Northern Germany

In Northern Germany on a remote peninsula, jutting into the Baltic Sea, the Nazi government maintained a covert research station. Hoping to turn the tide of a stalemate war back in Germany’s favor, Adolf Hitler had become fascinated with the development of superweapons. The larger the weapons, the greater his interest and the Peenemunde facility was producing the biggest and most lethal ones ever conceived.

It had required ten thousand workers to build the twenty-five-square-kilometer compound. Schools and living quarters were erected for the families of the two thousand research scientists who had worked to produce weapons to satisfy Adolf Hitler’s desire to crush the enemies of the Third Reich. Liquid oxygen production plants sucked 70 percent of the electricity the on-site power station produced. Peenemunde was the largest military facility in the world. The work being done there had nothing to do with the development of atomic weapons; rockets were built and tested. Missiles that could reach cities and battlefields far away from where they were launched. Once perfected, their range could be increased to reach, potentially, anywhere on earth.

***

Late evening August 17, 1943

Peenemunde

The car that pulled up to the front gate was met by a security detail. As he stepped out of the passenger side, German rocket scientist Werner von Braun flicked his cigarette butt onto the gravel drive; he then reached into his pockets for his identification papers. He had been put in charge of the entire complex, and he was only thirty—an enormous achievement for someone who had been fascinated with rocketry since childhood. His area was liquid-fueled rockets, which he hoped would one day take men to the moon. For now, the research was used to develop a weapon that would flatten London. And he had produced one. A forty-six-foot monster: the V-2 Rocket. Most of the prototypes detonated on the launch pad or quickly skirted into the sea, but some of the missiles achieved altitude before crashing farther out. It was enough to keep his funding and the research moving forward.

Von Braun walked up to the main gate, where he was welcomed by a guard who took his papers. According to his orders, all visitors to Peenemunde were required to produce the necessary documentation. The facility was top secret, and, at least so far, the Allies hadn’t determined its purpose. Von Braun hoped that would continue until he had a reliable working model. With a flick of his flashlight and a smile, the guard checked von Braun’s face against his identification. It was hardly necessary. Tall and fit with a thick head of black hair, von Braun came across as a man of both position, thanks to his bearing, and wealth, thanks to his suits. It would have been difficult to impersonate a man the guards saw every day.

The main gate was one of the few access points to the sprawling compound. It was surrounded by two layers of fence with barbed wire and overlooked by several high guard towers. One hundred kilometers from the nearest town, there was no one around. Vast stretches of beaches along the Baltic Sea were deserted. There were no fishing boats or industry of any kind there except for Peenemunde.

Von Braun walked along one of the paved roads that crisscrossed the south end of the research and manufacturing campus. Reaching into his pocket for a cigarette, he glanced up at the sky. Even though the night was clear, motion stirred the sky. But what was it? He heard the whine of a large falling object.

He barely had time to react when the first bomb hit. He stood dumbstruck as masses of clustered bombs followed the first. Buildings around him popped open, spilling people from their dormitories and offices. Groups of men and women ran for the nearest fallout shelter. Detonations tossed torn-apart vehicles and bodies into the air. Against the backdrop of crumbling buildings, incendiary bombs set off raging fires that sucked in oxygen from everywhere. A firestorm raged through the compound, torching everything in its path. My research, von Braun thought as he ran toward his own office. Nearby coworkers raced after him to save the documents. The fire had not yet reached the second floor as he and his coworkers sprinted up the stairs to salvage what they could.

They were headed toward the records room when a flash of fire burst through the doorway. Von Braun dashed through the flames, shouting, “Throw it all out the window!” He picked up a file box and tossed it out an open window. Two men shoved an entire file cabinet out another window, and others followed suit, collectively rescuing months of work. Somewhere in the paperwork lay a clue of why the tests weren’t yet successful.

Waves of heat intensified as the men’s clothing started to scorch.

“Get out!” von Braun screamed, pushing his men ahead of him and out of the room. Had he missed anything? Only the fire drove him from the room.

He charged down the stairs and through the blaze on the first floor. Outside, he watched a guard, who’d had the presence of mind to shelter the research, loading the boxes into a truck.

The people who weren’t already dead crawled, bloodied, through fire and burning rubble. Screams of pain and yells for help compounded the chaos, coupling with the smell of burning flesh. The acrid stench of cordite hung in the air, left after the concussive blasts. What little oxygen there was fed the fires.

Von Braun watched silently as his dreams burned.

***

Dawn came as the broken buildings smoked. Walls crumbled under their weight as workers tried to find bodies in the rubble.

Notified of the bombing, the first of the Nazi officials showed up on the scene to assess the damage. A motorcade came through what was left of the main gate. There were no guards posted. There was little left to protect.

Stepping out of his staff car, SS General Hans Klammer looked over the compound. He held a Ph.D. in civil engineering and could easily see beyond the surface damage. The overall structural impact on the buildings was significant. A few fire trucks continued to spray water in an attempt to keep other fires from spreading, but there were too many of them. Most of them were allowed to burn themselves out as long as they couldn’t spread to the nearby forests and grassy areas. Klammer thought the Allies must have used thousand-pound bombs. And they certainly weren’t concerned with accuracy. The goal was to decimate the facility, and it was easily achieved.

Large bomb craters left the landscape pockmarked, as though an angry giant had pummeled it with a hammer. All of the buildings were damaged, some reduced nothing but piles of concrete and twisted metal. Even the ones still standing had scorch marks and shrapnel scars from bombs that had narrowly missed them. Crews of prisoners moved bricks and pieces of concrete manually, while bulldozers and tractors lifted the larger sections. It was beyond repair.

As von Braun walked across the compound, Klammer thought he looked like a stricken man, and he vowed to help sooth his nerves. After all, von Braun was a civilian and a scientist to boot, someone they needed for the project—someone they needed calm, level-headed.

“I’ve lost my main design engineer and several other key scientists,” von Braun said, lighting a cigarette with a shaky hand. His drawn face appeared to have aged years in a matter of hours. “One hundred and seventy key personnel killed and the extent of the damage hasn’t been calculated. We were able to save most of my most important documents. I almost died pushing files out windows with my staff,” he said, throwing his hands in the air. “This is a scientific facility. And then this.” He gestured. “Most of the men aren’t even in the military.”

“Herr Doctor, I know you’re upset and feel partially to blame.” Klammer placed a gloved hand on von Braun’s shoulder. “You’re not to blame. We are at war and would have done the same to the British if they had been building rockets. Your project is too important to let this dissuade you.” Klammer gesticulated passionately against the ash-colored sky. “Clearly the facility needs to be moved beyond the range of their bombers. We can’t rebuild this, and even if we did, they’d just bomb it again. No, clearing away all of this debris and tearing down the buildings will cause an unacceptable delay. We will find a more suitable location, somewhere in central Germany.”

“We’ve also lost five hundred prisoners,” Von Braun added. “Some of them were highly skilled at assembly.”

“The survivors will work when we locate an appropriate site. We’ll have work for many others as well,” Klammer said with a smile. “Don’t worry, Doctor; you’ll be back in business in no time. Just leave it to the SS. We’re very efficient at construction. Down to the last Mark and Pfennig.”

“I worry about using new unskilled labor to build the rockets,” Von Braun confessed. “Each one is individual to itself. With three thousand independent parts, consistency is vital. Conditions have to be optimal for assembly and testing. Do you know what kind of location you are considering?”

“Underground,” Klammer told him, “where bombers can’t do any more damage. We have already begun an exhaustive examination of potential sites within Germany, and we’ve narrowed it down to a few. The Fuhrer wants no more delays caused by destruction. He has great expectations for the use of rockets against England. He hopes to fire at least a dozen per day at London with no loss of German lives. When they land, only the British will die. We’ll test their resolve to keep on fighting with London in flames.”

“But construction of another factory will take months,” von Braun argued.

“Three or four, if everything goes according to plan.”

“Three? Isn’t that a bit aggressive?”

“The Jews will build it. They’ll work day and night. We will find a suitable location that won’t require an enormous construction budget.”

“When can we relocate?”

“We will move the equipment that can be salvaged to a temporary location. Your testing and experiments can continue there. Don’t worry,” Klammer assured the scientist, “I’ve built several work camps under budget and ahead of schedule. I know what I’m doing.”

“We will determine what equipment is viable and catalog it immediately,” von Braun said, nodding his head. “Several rockets survived, and testing can continue as soon as we can relocate.”

“Fine, the future of your project depends on continued progress. The Fuhrer often grows impatient and loses faith when things don’t go according to plan. As a fellow engineer, I have the utmost faith in you, Dr. von Braun. I’ve rarely seen a man so driven to succeed.”

“Thank you,” von Braun said. “This research could win the war. My hope is that we can settle this nonsense on our terms. So that we can pursue the real goal, Germany’s conquest of space.”

“We all want that. Everyone is tired of war, but we must win a decisive victory. Now I must get back to Berlin. Keep me abreast of your progress, Werner.”

“I will, sir. Thank you for lifting my spirits.”

“We’ll be up and move forward in no time. You do the science and leave the rocket building to me.” With that, Klammer climbed into the back seat of his car. He waved at von Braun and motioned for his driver to leave.

Von Braun watched Klammer depart. He felt better, but the design problems with the rockets nagged him still. He walked back to his makeshift office to begin the cataloging project. No doubt with enough cruelty and loss of Jewish life, the SS would accomplish their task. A new factory was one thing, but he had to find out why the rockets weren’t achieving altitude. With the structural design team in tatters, what would von Braun have to do? Stand underneath one of the things as it crashed back down to earth?

***

Half of the Jews forced to work at the Peenemunde installation were killed or wounded. Those with superficial wounds were herded among the other men. Those too far gone were shot where they lay.

The survivors were crammed into cattle cars in which hay and dung littered the floorboards. They were pushed inside until it was standing room only. Many pairs of lungs competed for the thin and stifling oxygen.

As they left the Peenemunde facility, those men near the sides of the car tried to see through the tiny slits serving as windows. Other than briefly glimpsing civilization as the train passed a town, the men saw nothing but trees and open fields; they had no idea where they were going. Hungry and tired, they gratefully took turns sitting when they could no longer stand, though sitting room diminished as the train meandered down through the middle of Germany, picking up other prisoners as it headed south.

In the late afternoon of the first day, the train stopped. The men were offloaded and given some weak soup and water. They were permitted to sit as the food was distributed. The guards had been given orders to deliver them alive; dead workers were useless. They were allowed to relieve themselves at the side of the tracks, long ago having lost the privilege of privacy. Few of them looked at one another, and none spoke.

They were jammed back onto the train, and there were no more stops. On the second afternoon, the train reached its destination. With Mount Kohnstein looming above them, their rail cars were opened by SS guards. As they were herded toward the face of the mountain, they were handed pickaxes and shovels. They moved toward a small track railway that led into what looked like a mine entrance protruding back into the dark recesses of the mountain. A guard hit a switch, and a string of dim lights illuminated the tunnel farther than sight could follow. Men were already chipping away at the Gypsum rock that lined the walls. Metal clanging against rock echoed. It was a soft mineral and came out in large chunks that were immediately loaded into metal carts and pushed by hand out of the mine. No indication was given to the workers as to what they were supposed to do, other than keep digging.

Inside the mine, there were no mechanized engines, only manpower. If a cart tipped over, the prisoners were beaten until the car was set upright and the rock reloaded. The dust choked the workers and made it hard to see. Fumes from blasting perpetually hung in the air.

They worked around the clock, and the shifts changed every twelve hours. Afterward, the prisoners were taken to an area where wooden bunks were stacked four high. The thin mattresses brought no comfort and allowed for little sleep. Stale bread and a thin foul tasting soup gave little nourishment. Over the weeks and months, as many men died from dysentery and Typhus as were executed or worked to death. The lack of proper nutrition gave the prisoners violent diarrhea; a bucket was their sanitary facility. Every straw filled mat they slept on was stained with excrement and vomit. Lice, scabies and other insects, tormented the men constantly.

The passageways were widened, and the ceilings made higher. The main tunnels needed to accommodate fully assembled rockets as they were put together. Scaffolding was necessary to reach the roof. Men fell on every shift. Some died while others were injured. The men who could no longer work were shot. Their bodies tossed on rail cars laden with rock. Outside, they were transferred to piles of human corpses. Every day and night, the piles of dead grew.

The progress was rapid despite the inhuman conditions. The two main S-shaped tunnels ran parallel and snaked through the mountain. Forty-six connecting passageways had to be dug through rock walls. Storerooms and barracks for the prisoners and guards were hollowed out along one of the main tunnels. A small hospital was constructed and various workshops and laboratories. The pace was brutal. When a prisoner died, there were always replacements coming by train from concentration camps all over Germany, Poland and elsewhere.

About the Author

Soren Petrek is a practicing criminal trial attorney, admitted to the Minnesota Bar in 1991.  Married with two adult children, Soren continues to live and work in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Educated in the U.S., England and France Soren sat his O-level examinations at the Heathland School in Hounslow, London in 1981.  His undergraduate degree in Forestry is from the University of Minnesota, 1986.  His law degree is from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota 1991.

Soren’s novel, Cold Lonely Courage won Fade In Magazine’s 2009 Award for Fiction.  Fade In was voted the nation’s favorite movie magazine by the Washington Post and the L.A. Times in 2011 and 2012.

The French edition of Cold Lonely Courage, Courage was published January 2019, by Encre Rouge Editions, distributed by Hachette Livre in 60 countries.  Soren’s contemporary novel, Tim will be released along with the rest of the books in the Madeleine Toche series of historical thrillers.

His latest book is the historical action adventure novel, Wolves at Our Door.

Website: https://www.sorenpetrek.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SPetrek_Toche44?lang=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/soren.petrek

 

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51RqV8fD+EL._AA160_In this book, I was intrigued to learn about Joe’s very first days as a fire fighter. I will be the first to openly admit that I love Joe Corso’s stories about his career, and, as he recounts his memories, I felt as if I was transported into the very soul of the young Joe. He describes his very first day and meeting the men he was to worked with, men whose courage and dedication he strove to emulate throughout his career. Experienced fire fighters ,who took the young rookie under their wing, guided and encouraged him, whilst all the time instilling in him the firm codes and values they worked by.

There’s so much in this book. The Prologue, which has been researched by members of the IAFF tells the history of the Maltese Cross, which is the international symbol of the fire service. I loved reading Joe’s recollections of the alarm calls they went on, the unusual characters he met, and how this close knit brotherhood of men dealt with the odd bad apple or two. I also discovered that there are many types of fires, and whilst all are dangerous, the smoke alone given off of the source materials of some can be deadly. Then the history of the old fire brigade building came to life, as Joe and his friend had to recover the old fire station journals from the roof space, and discover other things, stored there.

At the end, Joe has looked back at the animal hero’s of the service, the brave fire horses and included an interesting and humorous article by Jim Blanchard of the Saugus Fire Department and a fantastic photograph.

What can I say, this book captivated me, I just could not put it down. I loved reading of the true comradeship, loyalty and brotherhood of these brave men as seen through the eyes of the author as a young man, and the pictures within were just fantastic to see – the icing on the cake as they say.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Available in Paperback from Amazon  and on Kindle.

 

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Joe Sergi photo

Joe Sergi lives outside of Washington, DC with his wife and daughter. Joe is an attorney and a Haller Award winning author who has written articles, novels, short stories, and comic books in the horror, sci-fi, and young adult genres. Joe is the creator of the Sky Girl series of novels and the editor of Great Zombies in History. His first novel, Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy was selected Best of 2010 by the New PODler Review. Joe is a life-long comic fan who regularly writes on the history of comics and censorship for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. A complete list of Joe’s titles is available at www.JoeSergi.net. When not writing, Joe works as a Senior Litigation Counsel in an unnamed US government agency and is a member of the adjunct faculty at George Mason University School of Law.

Would you call yourself a born writer? 

I think it’s fair to say that I was a born storyteller (much to my parents’ and teachers’ chagrin). As a child, I spent a lot of my time in imaginary worlds with imaginary friends and fantastic creatures. Luckily, I had teachers and parents that encouraged this behavior. My parents tell me that they used to get notes about my vivid imagination. Some of my earliest memories including laying in the back seat of my parents’ car during long road trips creating comic books based on my favorite Saturday morning cartoons or writing the screenplay for a Star Wars inspired opus, complete with the marriage of Luke and Leah (I had even cast the movie with neighborhood kids when we finally realized that none of us owned a movie camera.) In high school, I often annoyed teachers by taking the most mundane assignment and giving them a unique twist. (For a career fair assignment on employment advancement, I outlined the steps that could be employed by the President to manipulate the Constitution to create a monarchy.) In college, I was once accused of plagiarism because “a business major could not possibly be this creative.” In law school, I wrote articles and edited scholarly journals and magazines. In college and law school, I found an outlet for my creativity through standup comedy and acting. As an adult, I decided that I wanted to be a litigator. Many people think this is because a trial attorney is just a story teller with the judge or jury as the audience (nonfiction of course).Currently, I work as a senior litigation counsel for a government agency. As a litigator, you could say I have been a professional non-fiction writer for decades (and quite frankly earn much more per word than I will probably ever make writing fiction.)

What was your inspiration for Sky Girl?

I think it is fair to say that the entire Sky Girl trilogy was conceived in a comic’s podcast forum project and born out of a father’s love for his daughter.

Let me explain. The Comic Geek Speak Podcast is made up of a bunch of great guys that love comics. I have listened to them and appeared on their show for several years and am still an active member of their forums. It was on those forums that I learned about a proposed prose anthology, which would be written by the listeners of the podcast. I wrote a story called the Return of PowerBoy, a story about a middle aged accountant, who may or may not be a superhero. (The anthology was never produced and the story was later featured in A Thousand Faces, the Quarterly Journal of Superhuman Fiction where it won the Haller for Best Writer in 2010.) The story was a very dark tale of what happens when a super villain wins. One of the very minor characters was the accountant’s four-year-old daughter, CeeCee.

Sometimes writers don’t create their characters, they channel them and that’s what happened with CeeCee. After the story was finished, I kept coming back to that little girl. What kind of life would she live, would she develop her father’s powers, and what would she do if she did? Well, CeeCee became DeDe, and the character of Sky Girl was born.

By this time, I had a daughter of my own. And I can’t help but think that this is what converted the very dark Powerboy story into the light hearted story of Sky Girl. As a proud geek daddy, I wanted to share my hobby with my daughter and looked for characters to inspire her. Sadly, I found very few. With a couple of exceptions, most of the female characters from early comics were merely eye candy fawning with unrequited love over the male protagonist or were relegated to the role of guest star (or even hostage) in their own books. Even the few that started as everywoman characters (like Kitty Pryde or Cassie Sandsmark) rapidly developed into über pin-up babes in the 1990s and 2000s. Thankfully, things have gotten a lot better for the modern female comics character, but the industry still has a long way to go. Female characters should have the same chance to grow, develop, and overcome adversity as male characters do. DeDe is a strong teenager and not defined by the men in her life. The series is really about DeDe’s journey to find herself and become Sky Girl. She makes a lot of good decisions, but she also makes some bad and selfish ones. But, at the end of the day she hopefully ends up in the right place. I hope she inspires my daughter to make good decisions.

At the end of the day, Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures, and the character of Sky Girl is the culmination of reading far too many great comics, finding far too few strong female characters and loving my daughter just enough.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?Sky-Girl-Front-Cover

Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures is a fun story that I hope entertains. At a deeper level, it is about taking responsibility and growing up. I hope DeDe will serve as a role model. She is independent and strong and knows what she wants. But, she is also responsible and knows what she has to do. How she handles that, tell a lot about her character.

My intention was to have Sky Girl represent a strong female character who always tries to do the right thing. She isn’t perfect. She makes mistakes. But, she learns from her mistakes and, most importantly, she never gives up. In Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures, Sky Girl has to deal with some heavy emotional things like the death of her father, the fact that her mother is moving on with another man, and the ever-changing relationships around her. But, just because she allows herself to be emotionally open and vulnerable, that doesn’t mean she is weak. Dealing with adversity makes her that much stronger when she triumphs over it.

How long did it take you to complete the novel? 

I had a pretty unique writing process when I did Sky Girl. I write all of my first drafts on my Blackberry as emails, which I send to myself and edit later. (I do the same thing on my iPhone and iPad now, with a lot more corrections thanks to the autocorrect feature and fat fingers.) It is a habit I developed during standing room only commutes to an old job and frequent travel on my current job. I can pretty much tune out the world when I write. Sometimes I listen to music, other times I sit quietly, and still others I stand on a crowded bus, train, ferry, monorail, or on a really long line for a theme park attraction. Later I look at these emails and I do my final editing. I should add that I always like to listen to movie and television soundtracks (usually very late at night/early morning). I have a very large collection, which runs the gamut from classic to anime to horror to science fiction. I can always find something to put me in the mood. For example, in the fight scenes in Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy, I remember listening to The Mummy Returns, Van Helsing, Superman Returns and King Arthur (I would add the Avengers if I was writing it today). Those scores really create the heroic mood. The score from Dracula or the Exorcist can always inspire horror (and is really creepy in the morning). Alias and the Mission Impossible scores are great for suspense.

Of course, the harder part of the work (and the biggest delay) was the submission process. Right out of the gate I got numerous three chapter and full book requests from several publishers and agents. However, always at the last level, the book would be rejected because 1) it should be written as a graphic novel, 2) the target audience for superhero prose fiction is too small. More specifically, that the there is no audience for superheroine fiction, which is like saying “girls don’t read comics.” (This is clearly not true and sexist in my mind.) 3) My platform wasn’t big enough. Numerous publishers suggested I self-publish the book, which was a route I didn’t want to go. The few offers I got were from publishers that were on the Predators and Editors lists (or should have been). As I will get into, I think I ended up making the wrong choice and learned from it. But, I am grateful that the first publisher was willing to take a chance on the book because I know there is a Sky Girl audience out there.

So, to answer the question, conservatively it took 3 years for each book to come out.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I’m not sure there is anything such as a typical day. There are two major philosophies that I have adopted for my writing. The first comes from Ray Bradbury, who I had the privilege of meeting at San Diego ComicCon before he died. I asked him if he had any advice for writers. He said the best thing a writer can do is write. The second philosophy comes from Stephen King (in On Writing and not told to me in person), who said something like, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time to write.”

So, I try to read and write all the time. I get the majority of it done when no one is awake. I’m one of those people that doesn’t sleep very much. I get a couple of hours a night. That leaves a lot of time when no one is around. I used to watch a lot of television infomercials. Now, I use that time more productively and write. At the very least, I have to try to write creatively every day (I also write for my day job, but it is a very different structure). I don’t hold myself to minimum page limits or time limits when I write fiction. Instead, I try to set aside 5am to 7am to write every day and see how much I can do.

So with that philosophy in mind, I will go through today. I got up at 4:30 am and read some chapters in Marty Sklar’s new book, Dream it! Do it! Then, I edited some interviews I wrote last night for the Sky Girl book tour. Next, I started this interview, wrote a comics script, and did some research for my nonfiction book before my daughter got up for school. I dropped her off and, on the way to work, I listened to the audio book for Michael Schumacher’s Will Eisner: A Dreamer’s Life in Comics. I heard something that sparked an idea for a CBLDF article, so I sent myself an email with the idea after pulling in my office parking lot (don’t text and drive it’s  a bad idea). During my lunch hour, I did some research for my potential CBLDF article, updated my website, and answered some writing related emails. After work, I listened to the audiobook for David Walter Smith’s In the Shadow of the Matterhorn. (I frequently listen to up to 5 audiobooks at a time, which is while I love Audible). After I got home, I finished this interview, attended to a Comics Experience lecture by Andy Schmidt on working for the Big Two, outlined my ideas for the CBLDF article, reviewed my research on my nonfiction book, read Rise of the First Lanterns, and did some work I brought home from the office. It is now 1:45am and I am finally going to bed. The alarm is set for 4:30 and then I can start all over tomorrow. I’m lucky, there are some nights I get so engrossed that I inadvertently pull all- nighters.

Admittedly, there are times that it is very hard to fit in the writing. My position as a Senior Litigation Counsel is more than a full-time job. Add on to that I still try to take comic classes and do workshops with Comics Experience (which I highly recommend by the way), and the fact that I have an eight-year-old daughter (and a wife that travels for a living), and time gets pretty tight. When I’m traveling, I do the majority of my writing on commutes or while waiting.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

The hardest part of writing Sky Girl, or really any work of fiction, is the editing–especially if you decide to cut something. For example, in the original draft, Dianne (DeDe’s mom) had remarried and DeDe had a little brother. Because of this, I had a completely different role for Michael Valjorge–he was going to be a school janitor that DeDe and Jason tried to avoid while they tested DeDe’s powers. In early edits, it became apparent that these extra characters only complicated the plot and didn’t add anything. So, they were cut from the novel and Valjorge came in as the boyfriend.

Another thing that causes a problem for me is motivation to edit. I write because I have stories to tell. Far too frequently, I get the story on paper and that satisfies the need to get it out. So, I have to force myself to edit and then edit and then edit. If this occurs, I have to put it aside until the muse calls me back to it. Of course, that’s easier to do when you aren’t on deadline. However, if something is due, I just struggle through it and hope for the best. The other thing that occurs when you put your work aside for months is that you may lose the connection to the characters. This happened in a recent story I did called “The Tube” (in Indie Comics Horror #2 available in comic shops now). By the time I got back to the story, I had to rework the main character (from a school girl to a secretary) because I didn’t feel her anymore. I liked the way it turned out, but the original version was very different.

What do you love most about being an author?

While it is true that a writer is anyone who writes, it’s pretty cool that I can look at my shelf and see all the books I’ve written on my shelf and say, “I made those.” To know that after I am gone future generations will have the ability to see my imagination is pretty awesome. But, by far, the best thing about being a writer would have to be the readers. I mean sure, authors are a pretty dedicated lot, who provide entertainment. But at the end of the day, I write for me—because I have a story to tell. I would write if no one ever read it. (For evidence of this, you should look at the sales figures for some of my earlier work). Readers on the other hand, have no such compulsion. They spend their valuable time and money on someone else’s work. There are a lot of great books out there by some amazing authors (living and dead). As a result, these people don’t need to take a chance on me (or any other unknown), but they do. I really appreciate that. So, the most rewarding part of being a writer is a no brainer. It is the people. I love going to conventions and meeting people to tell them about my books. I love the people that take the time to read my books and just come by and say hello and tell me they liked it. I just finished two days at Baltimore ComicCon. I am exhausted, worn out, and have no voice. But, you know what? I would not have traded that experience. I got to meet some great people and introduce them to my book. Some of them bought it and some of them didn’t. Nothing is more rewarding than someone coming up to me at a show and telling me that they really loved my book, or that it is their daughter’s favorite book, or that they made (or had someone make them) a Sky Girl costume for Halloween or a ComicCon. At my last comic con, two little girls told me that Sky Girl was their favorite book and they can’t wait for the third book. These people tell me their theories and guess at what will happen next. It is humbling. If you want to know a secret, book festivals and comic conventions aren’t that lucrative for me (I rarely ever make my table cost). But, writing is pretty solitary, so the chance to meet people is priceless.

To these people, I say “Thank you!”

There is a second, less tangible benefit of being a writer and that is the moment when you realize that your characters have come to life. For example, a major character doesn’t make it through the current book. I never intended for this event to occur. But, when I wrote that part of the story, I realized that there was no other way the tale could be told. Someone once said that a writer doesn’t tell stories, they discover them. When that happens, it is a great feeling.

Where can we find you on the web?

My author site is www.joesergi.net; Sky Girl can be found at www.SkyGirlNovel.com, and the official site for Great Zombies in History is www.GreatZombiesinHistory.com; my monthly articles can be found at www.cbldf.org.

Thanks for having me. For those interested, Sky Girl is available at all online booksellers and can be ordered in brick and mortar shops and chains. It is also available directly from the publisher at www.martinsisterspublishing.com. I will also have copies and be signing the book at some upcoming show appearances, some of which include: The Collingswood Book Festival (October 5), New York ComicCon (October 10-13), and the Festival of the Book (October 19).

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Kraig DefoeKraig Dafoe was born in Potsdam, New York and grew up in Canton. He played high school football and joined the United States Army Reserves at the age of seventeen.

Kraig married at the age of nineteen and moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia where he worked as a Private Security officer for The Christian Broadcasting Network and also attended the Tidewater Community College for business.

After five years as a security officer, he became a Deputy Sheriff for the city of Chesapeake Virginia.

Kraig left the Sheriff’s office after nine years of service and pursued a couple of different business opportunities before he went on to publishing his debut novel.

Kraig is the father of five children and he currently resides in Kansas, raising his youngest son.

His latest book is the fantasy/adventure, Search for the Lost Realm.

Visit his website at www.kraigdafoebooks.com

Would you call yourself a born writer?

I don’t know if I was born a writer but I definitely think this is what I enjoy the most out of everything I’ve done.

Search for the Lost RealmWhat was your inspiration for Search for the Lost Realm?

I was role-playing and really enjoying it. I decided I wanted to make my own stories instead of just playing in someone else’s world so I started to write.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I like to make sure the human factor is present. I’m not sure that is really a theme but character development is important and I focus on that. If someone likes the character, the story tends to take a back seat.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

If you take into consideration it sat on a shelf for a long time in between the times I actually wrote, fourteen years.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I’m a little more disciplined now. I don’t necessarily work on my new book everyday but I do think about it and kind of situate things in my head every day. I usually spend two to three days thinking to one day writing.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Motivation. Not knowing if it would ever be published was difficult for me. Typing is easy, thinking is easy, getting motivated is not.

What do you love most about being an author?

The freedom. I can do anything I want on the page. Tell me what other job gives you that freedom.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

The process was impossible as far as traditional publishers. Unknown authors have little chance so after being rejected by more than one hundred agents over the years and most publishers not accepting manuscripts without an agent, I self published. I am happy with the decision because now people can enjoy a great story with awesome characters.

Where can we find you on the web?

You can find me all over but a good place to start is www.kraigdafoebooks.com.

 

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ByzantineGold 500x750 (1)Book description…

A sunken warship from the Byzantine Era carrying an unusual cargo of gold has been found off the coast of Northern Cyprus. News of the valuable cache has attracted the attention of a terrorist cell. They plan to attack the recovery team’s campsite and steal the artifacts. On the Black Market, the sale of the relics will buy them additional weapons.

Charlotte Dashiell, an American archaeologist, and her lover, Atakan Vadim, a Turkish government agent, are scheduled to be part of the recovery team that brings up the artifacts. While en route to Cyprus, they find themselves caught in the crosshairs of Maksym Tischenko, a Ukrainian contract killer bent on revenge. Charlotte, Atakan and Tischenko share a grim history. As a result, Tischenko is a man who will stop at nothing to achieve his goal—seeing them both dead.

Read the first chapter / Watch the trailer / Purchase from Amazon  /Author interview

My thoughts…

Being a great fan of nautical archaeology, exotic settings and long lost treasures, I absolutely loved this book. It is pure entertainment from start to finish. I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing the first book in the series, Golden Chariot, and that was also a great read, but I have to say that this second installment was even better. The relationship between the hero and heroine–American archaeologist Charlotte and Turkish agent Atakan–evolves and deepens and their love scenes are a lot more playful, steamy and exciting. Karslen weaves the exotic aspects of the setting, the sensuality of the sea, and the sights and sounds of Cyprus to add even more thrill to their loving relationship. We also see a more complex human side to cold-blooded villain Tischenko that is quite interesting.

Then, of course, there’s the constant threat and danger, not only from Tischenko with his revengeful agenda but from a Kurdish terrorist who wants to steal the artifacts and sell them in the black market in order to support the PKK. I loved the tension-filled, underwater segments between Charlotte and the terrorist, as they dive together and she becomes more and more suspicious about his identity. He, of course, is pretending to be an archaeologist like the rest of them, when in reality he doesn’t know much about it.

The novel is written in multiple points of view separated by chapters, which works well with this type of thriller, making the action move at a quick pace. The dialogue is sharp and natural and Charlotte and Atakan are good at witty, darkly humorous comebacks and retorts.

If you enjoy romantic suspense or stories about treasures and archaeology set in exotic locales, I highly recommend you pick this one up. You won’t be disappointed.

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ImageThe process Brandon and I have set up for ourselves is quite easy. We first come up with an idea for the story, the characters, their backgrounds, etc. Once the major details have been agreed upon, one of us writes the first chapter, let’s say it’s me. I then send it to Brandon so he can critique it. He then sends the chapter back to me filled with all his comments, to which I critique his critiques. Once we’re both happy with the chapter then he works on chapter 2. And the whole process repeats itself until we’ve finished the entire novel.

Though Brandon and I have developed a good working relationship, we also know co-authoring a story is not for everyone. The creative process is very personal, and some people have a hard time receiving negative feedback from someone else. But that is what needs to happen if they are to have any chance of finishing their novel.

For us, there have been the inevitable disagreements along the away, such as deciding on the structure of a particular scene, the way a sentence should be written, or the kinds of personality traits we want for a character in the novel.  In the end, the overall vision for the story is what mattered, to make it as exciting as we possibly could.  That always trumped the other’s feelings about the way a scene should be written or what to leave in or cut out of the story.  Usually, when one of us shared our reasons for why a certain part needed to be a certain way, especially when he felt pretty strongly about it, the other would usually defer to him, and then we would move on. In the end, the story always ends up being that much stronger because we both embrace the collaborative effort.

About the book: An 800-year-old letter discovered at an archeological site in Istanbul makes the astonishing claim the cross of Jesus still exists, and has been safely hidden away in an unknown location. Dr. Colton Foster and Dr. Mallory Windom, two leading archeologists, take on the hunt for the cross, but soon discover hired mercenaries are bent at stopping them at all costs. Their search eventually leads them to a small town in Israel, where they must choose between their growing love for one another and the future of the cross itself.

ImageAuthor’s bio: Mike Lynch’s first book, Dublin, came out in 2007, followed by When the Sky Fell, American Midnight, The Crystal Portal, and After the Cross. His next novel, Love’s Second Chance, will come out in 2013. He has also published numerous short stories in various magazines. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.

Link to author’s website or blog: www.mikelynchbooks.com

Link to excerpt: http://www.mikelynchbooks.com/PreviewChapters/tabid/66/Default.aspx

Link to purchase page: http://www.amazon.com/After-Cross-Brandon-Barr/dp/0982624204/ref=pd_rhf_p_t_1

 

 

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What happens when your loyalties are in conflict and you must betray your old mentor in order to fulfill your duty? What if this old mentor who used to protect and help you as a kid is now a dangerous drug-and-human trafficking overlord? This is the predicament our protagonist, Tim Kelly, faces at the beginning of this partly autobiographical suspense thriller by talented first-time author Jim Gilliam.

An undercover narcotics officer now working in the Mexican hacienda of Guzman, his old mentor, his real identity is discovered by Guzman’s ‘right hand,” Rucho, a bully who also knew Kelly from his childhood days. Guzman decides Kelly’s fate and orders that he be injected with heroine so he’ll become an addict and beg for his own death. Unbeknown to Guzman, Rucho adds physical torture to the punishment. Kelly slips in and out of consciousness and through his mind we begin to see flashbacks of his life. So the book starts in the present but then goes back in time to relate the events that led him to his present situation, from his early days of fighting bullies, when he met Guzman and Rucho, to his escape at 14 to New Orleans to join the Coast Guard, to his experiences in the military and later to his becoming an undercover narcotics officer.

Point Deception is a compelling novel and its strength lies in the protagonist. Kelly is a complex character with lots of flaws, yet sympathetic in a bittersweet kind of way. A hot-tempered, impulsive romantic hero, he won’t play by anybody’s rules and makes his fair share of mistakes.
Though it may put some readers down, I found all the details about weapons, drugs and the military fascinating. I also enjoyed the dynamics between the characters. At times I felt there was a lot of telling but it didn’t bother me for the most part. This is a novel that will strongly appeal to fans of military thrillers.

Like his protagonist, Jim Gilliam ran away from home and joined the Coast Guard at 14. He has recently retired from the Navy’s Military Sealift Command and is currently writing the sequel to his novel. He lives with his wife Laura in Warwick, New York.

Point Deception
By Jim Gilliam
Booklocker.com, Inc.
1609106202
978-1609106201
Release date: December 5, 2010
Paperback, 250 pages, $17.95
Action/Military/Thriller

Website: http://www.pointdeception.com

Purchase Links: http://booklocker.com/books/5202/html

http://www.amazon.com/POINT-DECEPTION-Jim-Gilliam/dp/1609106202/ref=sr_1_2_title_1_p?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1313980886&sr=1-2

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