Monday, August 31, 2015

The Summer Of France by Paulita Kincer

About The Book

TitleThe Summer of France
Author: Paulita Kincer
Publisher: Oblique Presse
Publication Date: July 1, 2013
Format: Paperback / eBook / PDF
Pages: 255
ISBN: 978-1300257332
Genre: Women's Fiction / Travel / Adventure

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Book Description:

When Fia Jennings loses her job at the local newspaper, she thinks she'll have the chance to bond with her teenage twins. As she realizes she may be too late to create the perfect family, she's saved by a phone call from her great Uncle Martin who operates a bed and breakfast in Provence. Uncle Martin wants Fia to venture to France to run the B&B so he and his wife Lucie can travel. He doesn't tell Fia about the secret he hid in the house when he married Lucie after fighting in World War II, and he doesn't mention the people who are tapping his phone and following him, hoping to find the secret.

Book Excerpt:


The quiet of the house mocked me as I rummaged through the Sunday paper looking for the travel pages. I ignored the meticulously folded “Help Wanted” section of the newspaper and the yellow highlighter that my husband had placed on the counter to remind me that I’d been unemployed for two months and needed to find a job – soon. The ring of the kitchen phone saved me from isolation and from a job search as the thick accent of my aunt came across the crackly line inviting me to move to France.
After a few sentences in the language that Aunt Lucie considered English, she handed the phone to my great uncle Martin, and I heard his booming voice.
“Fia?” he called as if using a bullhorn rather than a telephone.  Uncle Martin, the baby of my grandfather’s family, ventured overseas as a teenager to fight in World War II, found a French wife, and stayed.
I’d never traveled to France to visit him, but Uncle Martin always came home for the family reunion at the beginning of summer.
Hearing his voice on the phone, I glanced at the wall calendar, assuring myself it was late June and Uncle Martin’s visit had ended nearly two weeks before.
“Uncle Martin! What a surprise. How’s life in France?” I asked in a quiet voice meant to encourage him to lower his volume.
Uncle Martin continued to bellow. “Look, Fia, let me get right to the point.” He hadn’t lost his American directness.  “Lucie and I are tired.
We need a break, maybe a permanent break.”
“What?” I gasped my voice growing louder to match his. “You and Aunt Lucie are…but you can’t be…you can’t break up?”
“No,” I heard his old man grunt across the phone lines. It sounded as if he said something like “Zut!”
“Listen. Don’t jump to conclusions,” he chastised me. “We’re tired of working so hard. We’re old and it doesn’t look like any of Lucie’s relatives are gonna step forward and take over. That’s why I’m calling. Will you and Grayson come over and run this place?”
“This place” is what Uncle Martin always called the eight-room bed and breakfast that he and Aunt Lucie ran in a small village in Provence. Lucie’s family had owned the home for generations, wringing olive oil from the trees and wine from the grape vines. But as big cities and ample education called, the younger branches of the family moved away. When Uncle Martin and Aunt Lucie found themselves the only ones living in the big, old house during the 1970s, they decided to capitalize on a tourism boom and turned the house into a bed and breakfast. They encouraged American and English tourists to stay, and, after A Year in Provence came out in 1990, their business exploded with people who wanted to see the land that Peter Mayle described.
“We thought you could take over,” Uncle Martin blared, “obviously, since you’re not working.”
Thanks, Uncle Martin, for reminding me again of my current jobless status.  When a huge conglomerate bought our local newspaper and combined resources with the paper in the next town, I became superfluous. So, after years of writing about home design, I sat staring at my own shoddy decorating. I tried to look on the bright side. Now I actually had time to try some of those design tips. To add depth to the alcove next to the fireplace, I painted it a darker color. Next I added crown molding around the opening from the living room to the dining room.
So far, mostly, I spent my time trying to stay positive so an amazing job would find me, and I watched cable TV shows about happy families. Who knew The Waltons was on five times a day? Mix that with the Duggars, that family with 19 kids on TLC, and my days just flew past. I slowly realized that driving my kids to sporting events and extracurricular lessons did not count as quality time. Inspired by those TV families, I amplified my efforts to pull my 14-year-old twins closer. When they ambled home from school, I’d suggest some family activities. “Let’s draw a hopscotch on the driveway!” I’d say. Their eyes rolled wildly in their heads like horses about to bolt. “How about making homemade bread together? We can all take turns kneading? Or maybe an old fashioned whiffle ball game in the backyard?”
They suggested we go out for pizza or visit a sporting goods store for new soccer cleats or swim goggles. I declined, picturing the credit card bills I juggled now that I didn’t have an income.
Bills. Ooh! I couldn’t see Uncle Martin’s invitation to France winning approval from my husband, Grayson, who had just been complaining about money.
As a two-income family, we had paid bills on time and planned our next extravagant purchase. Of course, my pragmatic husband, the almost accountant, never used credit cards. But with my own income, I wasn’t that concerned about using credit cards. When I started to run a balance, I made the minimum payment every month. No need to inform Grayson who would’ve disapproved of my indulgences. Not that I bought things for myself. Nothing but the best for our kids with their private swim clubs, technologically engineered swimsuits, travel soccer teams, and state-of-the-art skateboards. I hadn’t bothered to save for an emergency but spent and charged as I went along until the bottom dropped out of journalism.
“Uncle Martin, you know we’ve always dreamed of visiting you and Aunt Lucie, but without a job now, I just… I can’t see it working financially.”
“I’m not talking about a visit,” his voice grew agitated. “I’m talking about you moving in here and running the bed and breakfast. I’d send the plane fare to get you here. You, Grayson and the twins.”
I sat stunned for a moment, so Uncle Martin repeated himself.
“I’ll send you the tickets. I’ll just buy them online for you, Grayson and the twins. Both of them.”
My kids were always “the twins,” as if sharing a womb 14 years earlier made them one entity for the rest of their lives.
“Whoa. That is heavy stuff,” I slid onto the swiveling bar stool. “We can’t just move. Leave our house, school, Grayson’s job.”
Even as I said it, I felt hope rising in my chest. Yes! I waited for a job to come to me and it did. A spectacular opportunity. I pictured myself in a flowing skirt and low-heeled, leather sandals walking along a dusty road away from the market that would line the village streets. I’d carry a canvas bag with French bread jutting from the top as I headed home, the pungent fragrance of a cheese wafting from the bottom of the bag. Although I’d never been to France, I watched any sunny movie set in Europe. The women always wore skirts and had leisure time to linger along the roadside, smelling the lavender.
I heard the front door slam and my husband’s heavy footfall in his casual Sunday topsiders as he came in from the office. Even on a Sunday, the work at Grayson’s accounting firm was plentiful.
I turned my back on my approaching husband and said into the phone, “When are you thinking, Uncle Martin?”
“I’m thinking… NOW. Last week,” Uncle Martin’s voice rose again. I cupped my hand over the phone to try to smother the sound of his bellowing. “I’m tired of dealing with these snippy tourists. I want to roam around the world and give other innkeepers a hard time.”
“You make the job sound so enticing,” I tried to laugh lightly so Grayson, who was drawing nearer, wouldn’t realize the importance of this conversation. The idea began to form in the back of my mind: We could make this happen -- with a little cooperation. I shot a hopeful glance toward Grayson as he walked in the room. I quickly raised my eyebrows twice, which I thought should give him an indication that good news was on the phone. He looked grim and tired – the horizontal line between his own eyebrows resembled a recently plowed furrow.
“Look, I’ll have to call you back later,” I hissed into the phone and punched the button to hang up as Grayson threw his aluminum briefcase on the island. His look turned from grim to suspicious.
“Uncle Martin,” I said with a blasé wave toward the phone. “He has a business proposal…”
I tried to sound nonchalant, but I guess my eagerness showed because Grayson dropped his head on top of his briefcase for just a minute before he stepped toward the cabinet over the refrigerator. He opened the door and pulled down a bottle of Scotch.
This conversation might prove more difficult than I’d anticipated.

About The Author

Paulita Kincer is the author of three novels, The Summer of FranceI See London I See Franceand Trail Mix. She has an M.A. in journalism from American University and has written for The Baltimore Sun, The St. Petersburg Times, The Tampa Tribune, and The Columbus Dispatch. She currently teaches college English and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and three children.

Connect with Paulita:
Author Website:

Virtual Book Tour Event Page

Friday, August 28, 2015

Character Interview: Louisa Unger from Jennifer Ott's 'Time of Useful Consciousness'

We’re thrilled to have here today Louisa Unger from Jennifer Ott’s historical fiction, Time of Useful Consciousness.  She is coming to us all the way Stuttgart, Germany.  It is a pleasure to have her with us today at The Literary Nook!

Thank you so for this interview, Louisa.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

Louisa: I would have never thought my story would be told, or if anyone would want to hear it. I was just a poor German girl living in allied occupied Stuttgart. My story is something even I have a hard time believing and it happened to me. I believe I was portrayed fairly, maybe a little too favorably at times. My actions were at times questionable as well as my love.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

Louisa: I believe my two strongest traits are endurance and love. I endured Nazi Germany, the air raids and even endured losing those I loved the most, but ironically it was my love that kept me going. I never gave up on myself and the people in my life.

Worst trait?

Louisa: Gullible. Yes, gullible. I put blinders on and didn’t see the dangers. I didn’t want to see it.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

Louisa: Yes. His name is Kris and he is handsome former reconnaissance pilot. He taught me to soar in many ways I never dreamed possible.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

Louisa: When we flew on mission to Amsterdam. Kris started acting nervous believing we were being followed and my brother Freddy was as uncontrollable as ever. I felt at that point something bad was going to happen.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

Louisa: I wouldn’t want to be my mother. For years I criticized her for believing she was uncaring and distant…and all her affairs. I didn’t realize until later how hard it was to be a single mother raising two children during a war. I didn’t realize how much she loved our father, and how much of herself she sacrificed for our protection.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

Louisa: Love will always set you free.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if she decided to write another book with you in it?

Louisa: She could chill on the family drama. I’ve had enough.

Thank you for this interview.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Louisa: Thank you. Maybe, maybe not. ; )

About the Author

Jennifer Ott is a prolific author who published numerous titles in various genres from literary fiction, women’s fiction, satire, dystopian fantasy, romance, crime drama and two satirical nonfiction titles. She will soon release her women’s fiction/historical fiction novel, "Time of Useful Consciousness."  

Under the pen name Mahima Martel, her romance novel, “Saying Goodbye,” received honorable mention at last year’s Best Beach Book Contest and her literary fiction novella, “Edge of Civilization” has been highly recommended by the Vietnam Veterans Association of America.  

She has been named head online course writer for the “The Friendly Universe.”  Her radio show, The SuperJenius Show on the Artist First Radio Network can be heard first Thursday of every month at 11:00PM EST.
For More Information
About the Book:

Louisa Unger, a young German woman in Post-War World II Germany kills a man in cold blood. In her mind, freedom and preservation cause her to pull the trigger.

Arrested by the American Allied forces and confined to a military prison, she greets the man investigating her crime, Colonel Taylor with biting sarcasm and scorn. Despite her offense, her fate is up to her - give up her countrymen for her freedom. She decides to play the loyalty card and remain in prison.

Among her conversations with Colonel Taylor, Louisa weaves her tale of the events by evading any real information. While imprisoned, she relives her experience of reuniting with her estranged brother Freddy, falling in love with Kris, a former reconnaissance pilot and learning to fly to a plane. She recounts in fairy tale fashion of monsters cloaked in shadows and lessons learned by incorrigible children, which does nothing but frustrate Colonel Taylor, who has no clue as to why she would protect evil men.

Seduced into the bliss of romance and flying, Louisa fails to recognize any threat. She grows immersed in the life of a smuggler, a pilot and a lover, something she would have never anticipated while hiding during air raids. It is hard to come back down to earth, when soaring so high.

After Louisa recounts the whole story to Colonel Taylor, there are still puzzle pieces missing. Still she relays no names and gives up no one. While Colonel Taylor sifts through all the information, one piece of evidence bears light, and it is something he never expects. Louisa holds onto heartache. Once Colonel Taylor reunites her with her lost love, is he able to get her to divulge secrets...most of them.

For More Information

Book Excerpt:

Rage erupted through her entire body, yet she was stoically calm. She had held it in so long believing someday they would be free againfree from the chaos and the violence, the global scrutiny and the burden handed to them from their parents. She wanted it all to end and deep inside, she knew the only way to make it to end would take just one more act of violence; one shot and it would be over. Taking a life would be so liberating no matter how long she would be hunted or incarcerated.
He laughed and asked in his usual pompousness, “See können nicht es tun. Sie ist Ihre Familie, aber verschieden schwach. Sie haben Verstand, ist nicht dieses Recht, Louisa?”
The Luger weighed heavily in her hand and her arm began to shake. Her face wrinkled and she choked on a few tears. “Ich bin klug.” She pulled the trigger and shot.
A small wisp of smoke plumed from the barrel and the bullet ripped through empty space as if in slow motion, yet he didn’t have time to react. His eyes widened and his mouth gaped. What he thought was impossible, happened. He was on the brink of being killed as he had done to so many innocents. The bullet pierced his pressed white shirt and red oozed spreading into a bloody stain.
The impact didn’t knock him over at first…maybe it was his disbelief that someone—especially a young woman—would get the best of him, or maybe he believed he was too powerful to die. Soon life escaped him, and he slumped quietly to the floor.
She lowered the gun and breathed in deeply, releasing a satisfying sigh. It was over—the ordeal she had never anticipated—yet after flying so high and fast, what could she expect? She was bound to come down sooner or later and like the rest of her family, she came crashing down hard.
Slouching to the floor, she set the gun beside her and traced her finger along the hardwood floor. She took a moment to smell the room’s organic, musty scent. A silent breeze from the pine outside the window lofted over her bringing calmness with it. The thumping of helicopter propellers outside proved her ordeal was not yet over.
She barely felt strong hands ring around her upper arms and pull her upright. “Are you okay, miss?” he asked in a Southern American drawl.
She hated that particular American accent, but the worst was the North Eastern accents of New York and Boston. She became quite an expert on American accents during the occupation. Many times she wished they were occupied by the British; at least they would be dominated by polite, proper voices.
The American soldier shook her gently. “Are you alright?” he asked again.
She nodded, shrugging away from his grasp. She was ready for her punishment, whatever it would be.
The soldier escorted her across the hilltop, which overlooked a clear lake and meadow of white edelweiss. Such beautiful scenery for such evil men. Why were the evildoers blessed with such beauty and the good masses succumbed to the gray darkness of the city? she thought as the soldier pushed her into the backseat of a helicopter.
As the helicopter lifted, she watched the mirrored reflection on the lake. So much power everyone thought they had—the Germans, the Americans—yet nobody knew anything. Everyone was ignorant. Flying over this land as she has done for the past year it became obvious how easy it was to lose awareness. It was so easy to get lost when she had been escaping reality daily.
Surrounded by American soldiers, she settled into her seat not knowing where they were taking her. It didn’t matter. Her life had ended several years ago and she remembered exactly the first day of the end.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Watch: Leave Yesterday Behind by Lauren Linwood

Title: Leave Yesterday Behind
Author: Lauren Linwood
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Pages: 244
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Format: Kindle

Callie Chennault vaulted to fame on the nighttime soap Sumner Falls, but after a decade of playing the same role, she is ready for a new acting challenge. When Callie is attacked by a stalker on the streets of New York, she takes a leave of absence from the show and returns to her roots in Aurora, Louisiana, to heal both physically and emotionally and determine her next career move.

Former professional baseball pitcher Nick La Chappelle has also come to Aurora to lick his own wounds after a messy divorce. A Cy Young winner and one-time ESPN broadcaster, Nick longs for the quiet of a small town in order to write murder mysteries under a pen name.

Sparks fly when Callie believes Nick is taking advantage of her great-aunt’s hospitality, but they resolve their differences—and surprise themselves by falling in love. Their bond is tested when both Nick and Callie become the focus of a serial killer nicknamed Lipstick Larry. Can they outwit a murderer bent on seeing them dead and survive to build a lasting relationship?

Please paste a short book excerpt here.  This may be needed for promotional purposes.  If you can include the whole first chapter, there are special promotions for this.  If not, a one or two page excerpt from the beginning of your book will work fine.

For More Information

  • Leave Yesterday Behind is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
Book Excerpt:

Maybe she should take a cab home. But her subway station was only a block and half away. It would be foolish to stand out in a downpour after nine at night when she could duck in and be on her way downtown in a couple of minutes. Callie liked that people left her alone on the subway. A few sometimes stared at her and frowned, wondering if they’d ever seen her before. Most turned away, not quite able to place her.
After all, she left Jessica behind at the studio every day. No chic clothes, Ravenous Red mouth, or fancy hairstyle. She didn’t often get recognized in real life unless it was a die-hard fan. Even then, most New Yorkers were cool about it and simply ignored her.
Chill out. Just move.
She turned automatically and saw a man standing behind her. He was probably the reason she’d had the feeling of being followed. He seemed a little out of breath, as if he’d been keeping up with her awhile. It had happened before. She knew it would happen again.
And always with this type.
He was non-descript in every way—average height and build, brown hair, glasses. Harmless looking. Dopey grin on his face, like he’d hit the lottery because he’d actually had the balls to speak to the crush of his daydreams. She knew enough to be firm. Give him a brief little personal moment, a smile and her signature on something, and get back to her life.
Then a quick flash of John Lennon signing an autograph for Mark David Chapman zipped through her brain. He’d been average, too.
And he’d killed Lennon hours after someone snapped a photograph of them together.
“You don’t look like Jessica up close.” His voice was silky, almost caressing, yet the tone was definitely disappointed.
Her pulse quickened. She took a step back to put a little distance between them and brushed against a brick wall.
“I like to give my skin a rest away from the studio. All that heavy make-up and hairspray can cause a girl some damage.” She kept her tone calm and friendly as she glanced over the man’s shoulder.
No one was in sight.
“I want to see Jessica. She’s my favorite.”
He pulled something from his pocket and held it up. “Put this on. It’ll help. It’s the perfect shade.” He smiled shyly. “I’ll even let you do it. You’re the expert.” He reached out and grabbed her wrist and laid the item in her hand before letting go.
Chills ran through her as she opened her palm. In it lay a gold tube of Jessica’s signature Ravenous Red.
A knife appeared, clutched in the stranger’s left hand. Callie’s heart beat erratically. Her words died in her throat.
“Don’t worry,” he said softly. “You know how to be Jessica whenever you want.”
Her palms grew damp. The lipstick he’d given her almost slipped from her hand.
“Jessica likes to be seen wearing this color. Put it on. Now.” His voice was quiet, but the underlying threat hung in the air all the same.
Callie brought a shaking hand to her mouth and realized the lid was still on. She removed it and twisted a few turns before she lifted the lipstick close again.
Oh, God, she was so nervous. She stroked color onto her upper lip and then across the bottom. Her hand slipped, though, and a searing red line jutted across her lower cheek.
“You made a mistake. Wipe it off. Do it again. It has to be perfect.” The tone was deadly.
“I’ll need some cold cream. Red stains pretty badly.” She gulped air, trying to calm herself. She couldn’t let this guy see how rattled she was. “And I know you want this to be perfect. So do I.”
“I can fix it.”
She watched him pull a tissue from his jacket pocket. He gave it a lick and then stroked it down her cheek to her jaw several times.
“That’s better,” he said, dreamily smiling as he inspected his work. “Now try again.”
Her eyes met his, and Callie prayed her hands would stop shaking enough for her to get it right.

Character Interview: Al the Pizza Man from Joe Canzano's 'Magno Girl'

We’re thrilled to be here today with Al the Pizza Man, from Joe Canzano’s comic urban fantasy novel Magno Girl.  He’s coming to us all the way from New York City. It is a pleasure to have him with us today at The Literary Nook!

Thank you so much for this interview, Al. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

I’d like to say I’m not as dumb as I came across and I’m also a lot classier, and smart, too. Also, I’m not a crook. I’m just a guy who grabs my opportunities, like maybe a pile of money or maybe some girl’s ass.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

I’m not sure about your question. If you’re talking about food, probably the meatball parmigiana.

Worst trait?

I guess the worst thing I got going on is a couple of court dates over some child support payments but I don’t care what the tests show that kid could belong to a lot of guys.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

I’m very interested in love but only for an hour or so at a time.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

I wasn’t nervous. I pretty much knew things would go my way, even when they didn’t.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

My brother, Ron. His girlfriend, Magno Girl, is a hot babe, but she’s too much of a smart-ass for me and I can’t put up with that attitude unless maybe she gets in a big TV commercial and makes a ton of money.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

I didn’t read the ending. I don’t read books—they got too many words. I’ll wait for the movie.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if he decided to write another book with you in it?

Make me a little thinner and make sure I come out on top.

Thank you for this interview.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

I’m not going anywhere unless the bad guys get me. So if you got eyes in your face, you’ll see me.

About the Author

Joe Canzano is a writer and musician. He lives in New Jersey, U.S.A. His short stories have appeared in a half-dozen printed literary journals, as well as in the Akashic Books online series, “Mondays are Murder.” He recently formed his own publishing company, Happy Joe Control, and published his debut novel, Magno Girl.

For More Information
About the Book:

Title: Magno Girl
Author: Joe Canzano
Publisher: Happy Joe Control
Pages: 320
Genre: Comic Urban Fantasy
Format: Paperback/Kindle/Nook
Price: Paperback $9.89/Kindle $2.99/Nook $2.99

When a Manhattan pizza maker is found dead in his own dough, Magno Girl enlists the aid of her biker ninja boyfriend to help solve the crime – and quickly discovers there’s more to the pie than meets the eye, including a sinister plot that spans the globe. 

Magno Girl leaps into action. After all, she can fly, she can fight, and she can use her fearsome superpower, the “Gaze of the Guilt,” to bring a hardened criminal to his knees. But the road ahead is hard. The city’s other superheroes despise her, and the cops don’t want her around, and her own mom won’t stop spitting out advice about marrying a “respectable guy” and trading in her crime-fighting career for a baby carriage—but is she attracted to “respectable guys”? And is she interested in emotional commitment? And will finding real love be her biggest challenge of all? 

Welcome to the world of Magno Girl, an absurd place filled with humor, action, and romance.

For More Information

Book Excerpt:

Magno Girl stared across the windswept roof. Her lips shimmered in the moonlight like a couple of beer-soaked cherries. From the depths of Manhattan below came the clanging sound of a city that was never satisfied.
Was she thinking about me? I was desperate to know.
I took a deep breath. “Mags, when can I see you again?”
She stared at me with those vivid green eyes. Her black hair, streaked with savage shades of crimson, billowed in the hot summer breeze.
“I’ll be around,” she said. Then she looked away. “I have to warn you, Ron. I’m not very good at relationships.”
I grinned. “That’s just one more thing we have in common.”
“Also, I don’t want to do any commercials for soft drinks. That’s definitely out.”
“No problem—the soft drinks can slide. What else?”
“Well, since you asked, I’d like to fight some crime. I’ve discovered an evil plot, and my superpowers might not be enough to handle it. Things could get crazy and absurd.”
“Hey, I want to help you with that. I’m totally on board!”
She smiled. “Okay, call me tomorrow. I’ve got a job for you.”
“Count me in.”
I puffed out my chest and stepped toward her, wanting to wrap my arms around her sleek body and kiss her long and hard—but she saw it coming, and she put out her hand and stopped me. She leaned forward and gave me a quick kiss on the lips.
It was something, and it was good. My whole body felt electric.
“Just tell me what you need, Mags. Anything.”
There was a spark in her eye. “Sometimes I need to be left alone. We’ll talk soon.”
She leapt from the roof, her powerful body snapping like a switchblade as she dove into the death-black valley of bricks, glass, and steel. I briefly envied her ability to fly and then took the stairs to the street. I hopped on my chopper and rode to the liquor store.
I woke up alone the next day, with the morning sky vomiting its sunshine through the grimy window of my East Village apartment. I groped around for my phone and found it under a pile of empty beer cans. I fumbled a bit and finally made the call.
“Hi, Mags. It’s me.”
“Hi, Ron. Can you meet me somewhere?”
She sounded friendly, and for a second I felt like I was floating. But as usual, there wasn’t much talk.
“Any place you want. Did you eat breakfast?”
“Yeah, but it’s noon, so I guess we can eat lunch. I’m over on St. Mark’s.”
“I’ll be right there.”


Vows To The Fallen by Larry Laswell

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      About The Book 

   Vows To The Fallen   

Title: Vows to the Fallen
Author: Larry Laswell
Publisher: Marshell Publishing
Publication Date: August 14, 2015
Format: Paperback - 277 pages / eBook  / PDF
ISBN: 978-0986385322
Genre: Historical Fiction / Military / Sea Story

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Book Description:

Vows to the Fallen
An Officer’s Journey Through Guilt and Grief
Another techno-thriller from the author of The Marathon Watch

August 9, 1942, 01:42 hours
USS Green on patrol off Red Beach, Guadalcanal
Bridge Officer: Lieutenant Patrick O’Toole

Lieutenant O’Toole’s goal is simple: someday he wants to become an admiral. But in a few moments, his life will change . . . forever. Yesterday, the marines stormed the beaches of Guadalcanal. Today, the Japanese Navy will strike back. The sudden and horrific carnage scars O’Toole for life and throws him into the abyss of survivor’s guilt and posttraumatic stress.

The Pacific War does not wait for O’Toole to heal. Duty calls, each new assignment brings more responsibility, and the roll call of the fallen grows. At the Battle of Mujatto Gulf, O’Toole faces a superior battle-hardened Japanese fleet and discovers the strength within him to climb from the abyss and find his true life’s mission. To the fallen, he vows never to abandon that mission no matter how high the cost.

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1

August 8, 1942, 2346 Hours
USS Green; 45 nautical miles northwest of Red Beach, Guadalcanal

Lieutenant Patrick O’Toole considered himself a career naval officer, and someday he hoped to be promoted to admiral. At Annapolis, his teachers had taught him the horrors of war, but he had never experienced combat. That was about to change and it would change him forever.

The steel ladder rattled as he clambered to the wheelhouse deck to assume the midwatch. On the wheelhouse deck, the port fifty-caliber gunner slouched with his back to the sea and chatted with the lookout on the flying bridge one level above. The helmsman faced the starboard bridge wing and had but one hand on the wheel. Dim red lights above the chart table and the polished brass compass binnacle added little illumination to the wheelhouse, and the men, gray smudges in the dark, seemed unconcerned. O’Toole’s concern bordered on anger, but he remained silent.

Find out what’s going on then fix it.

A man on the flying bridge lit a cigarette. This was way out of bounds. “Snuff your butt. The enemy can see that for miles,” O’Toole said, hoping his voice had a bark to it.

O’Toole had seen this before. Captain Levitte ran a relaxed ship, but this wasn’t peacetime. They were at war in enemy waters. O’Toole read the message dispatches, the captain’s night orders, and the chart. None of it good news, especially the report of a Japanese battlegroup headed south.

He located Lieutenant Karl, the officer of the deck on the port bridge wing. Karl’s life jacket vest was open, revealing a sweat-soaked khaki shirt, and sweat beaded on his brow.

Karl slouched on the bridge railing as O’Toole approached “What’s your status?” O’Toole asked.

Karl rubbed his day-old stubble. “At Condition III. Fire in all four boilers. Superheat lit, and the plant is cross-connected. Starboard steering motor, port steering engine” Karl droned as he went through the standard litany of the watch change. “On course zero-seven-zero at ten knots. Straight line patrol between points Able and Baker on the chart as per the captain. You have about ten minutes before you turn around and head back to point Baker. Received a report of Japanese ships headed south five hours ago. Told the captain, and he said Intel couldn’t tell the difference between a cruiser and a sampan. Besides, nothing will happen before dawn. Aircraft overhead, told the captain, he says they’re from our carriers. That, and the captain said to cut the crew some slack; they’re tired. I just ordered the cooks to make a fresh batch of coffee; you’re gonna need it. That’s about it.”
“Why aren’t we zigzagging?”

“Captain’s orders. Straight line patrol between points Able and Baker is what he wanted.”

“With an enemy force headed south we should be at Condition II at least.”

“I don’t know about that, but the captain wants to give the crew some rest.”

“Do we have star shells loaded or at the ready?”


“Which gun mounts are manned?”

“Mounts 51 and 55.”

“Only two?”

“Yes, and before you ask, one-third of the anti-aircraft batteries are manned, and I told those gun crews they could sleep at their stations.”

“Are the crews in Mounts 51 and 55 asleep?”


Out of professional courtesy, O’Toole didn’t challenge Karl, even though he would have been justified in refusing to relieve Karl of the watch until Karl corrected the battle readiness of the ship.

O’Toole saluted Lieutenant Karl and said, “I relieve you, sir.”

Karl nodded. “This is Mister Karl, Mister O’Toole has the deck and the conn,” Karl said to the bridge crew.

“This is Mister O’Toole, I have the deck and the conn,” O’Toole replied.

Karl handed O’Toole his life jacket, helmet, and gun belt and walked to the small chart table in the forward port section of the wheelhouse to complete his log entries. O’Toole brushed back his flaming red hair and put on the helmet, life jacket, and gun making sure all straps were cinched tight.

“Boats, over here,” O’Toole said to the boatswain mate of the watch as he headed to the starboard bridge wing. It was a lazy night: clear sky, high overhead clouds, calm sea, a slight breeze, and the ship plodding forward at ten knots. A night like this could dull the senses of the best of men. He couldn’t let that happen.

“Boats, square your watch away. We are in enemy waters, and there are reports of a column of Jap cruisers headed our way. I want everyone on their toes.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

“Messenger, over here,” O’Toole said, beckoning the watch messenger.

“Go below and wake up the chiefs and tell them there are enemy ships in the area. I want them to make sure their watches are alert and ready. Tell the gunnery chief I want him on the bridge.”

“Yes, sir,” the messenger said and headed for the ladder.

A few minutes later, the gunnery chief appeared barefooted and in a white T-shirt. “Yes, sir, you wanted to see me?”

“Jap ships are headed our way. Check your gun crews; I want them alert with their eyes to the sea. Bring six star shells to the ready with one round in the mount. If we come under fire, I want Mount 51 to fire three star shells in a 180-degree spread without orders from the bridge.”

“What’s up, sir?”

“Not sure, chief, except we are in dangerous waters and the crew is asleep.”

“Will do, sir. Should I stay with the gun crews?”

“Wouldn’t be a bad idea, chief. Do what you think is best, but be aware things might get worse at dawn.”

“Yes, sir.” The chief trotted to the ladder and disappeared.

Lieutenant Karl finished his log entries and left the bridge. O’Toole stood next to the quartermaster at the chart table in the forward port section of the wheelhouse. He retrieved the sighting report. Five Japanese cruisers and four destroyers headed south at thirty knots. O’Toole plotted the ten-hour-old sighting location on the chart and walked the dividers across the chart to estimate the current location of Japanese forces. They would have passed the Green an hour ago and would now be on top of the northern defense line around Red Beach.

The receding drone of an aircraft off the port bow caught his ear. They were too far from the Japanese airbase at Rabaul for them to have planes this far south at night. It didn’t make sense: he didn’t think the carrier aircraft could operate at night, but spotter planes from a cruiser could.

Nothing had happened. Maybe the Japanese column had slowed or diverted. Naval doctrine taught officers to avoid night attacks since it complicated the battle, and everyone knew you couldn’t shoot at an enemy hiding in the darkness. Still, everything added up to a night counterattack against the Guadalcanal invasion force.

“Get the captain up here on the double. I’ll be on the flying bridge,” O’Toole said the watch messenger.

He felt better on the flying bridge where he had an unobstructed view of the sea and sky. He swept the horizon with his binoculars: nothing but a black night.

The crew was exhausted from the invasion of Guadalcanal the prior morning. The shirtless bodies of a hundred sleeping men escaping the oppressive heat and humidity of their berthing spaces lay on the dark main deck. Not regular navy, O’Toole thought, but he couldn’t object because the crew needed the sleep.

“What’s up, Pat?” Captain Levitte asked as soon as his head popped above the flying bridge deck level.

“I think we have trouble, Captain. The Japanese column sighted in the intelligence report should be on top of the northern defense line right about now. We should be at general quarters or at least Condition II and be zigzagging. There could be subs in the area.”

Levitte rubbed the back of his neck, then put his hands in his pockets, and walked in a tight circle with his eyes on the deck. “Look, the Japs aren’t that smart, and you should know not even the Japs are dumb enough to attack at night. Nothing will happen until the sun comes up. In the meantime, cut the crew some slack; they’re tired and need their sleep.”

“I’m sorry, Captain, but that doesn’t make sense. The sighting said the Japs were at thirty knots. They wouldn’t do that and then slow down to wait for the sun to come up.”

“No matter what happens we’ll kick their ass,” Levitte began. “We kicked their ass in the Coral Sea and Midway. Now we’re kicking their ass off Guadalcanal. The marines ran the Jap garrison into the jungle before lunch. They can’t stand up to us no matter what, so there’s no reason to get worked up about it.”

“To be safe, let me take the ship to Condition II and zigzag. It won’t hurt anything.”

“No, lieutenant. My night orders said to cut the crew some slack, and there is no need to waste fuel zigzagging. You read my night orders, didn’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Follow them, and let me get some sleep.”

The shirtless lookout stiffened. “Sir, light flashes, port beam.”

Both men turned. Staccato bursts of light above the southern horizon illuminated the sky.

Another voice called out, “Flares off the port beam.”

The night erupted. White-golden flashes close to port blinded O’Toole. Captain Levitte’s chest exploded into a mist of blood. Shells exploded against the mast, and men dove to the deck.

On his stomach, O’Toole fought his life jacket as he rolled to the starboard edge of the deck. Crawling under the railing, he let himself over the side. He was about to let himself drop the last three feet when a jolt catapulted him to the deck below. His head hit the deck, and despite his cinched helmet, the blow stunned him to the precipice of unconsciousness. O’Toole fought to bring himself back to the present as he wobbled to a crouched position.

Concussions from explosions aft the wheelhouse punched at his chest and abdomen. He had to go through the wheelhouse to the port side to see the enemy ship. In the wheelhouse, only the quartermaster was up, crouching in the corner by the chart table. Sparks and flashes of incoming fire covered the aft bulkhead and enveloped the wheelhouse in smoke, shrapnel, and debris. Broken, screaming bodies littered the deck.

He fought his way through the wheelhouse across shattered glass that slid like ice across the blood-drenched deck. The Green’s guns hadn’t returned fire.

He turned to find the phone talker. A flash memory of the phone talker’s body falling next to the captain made him stop. The phone talker was dead along with most of the bridge crew. He was alone; he had no bridge crew, and there was no one left to command. To anyone who could hear, he yelled, “Tell the gun crews to return fire.”

On the port bridge wing, he peered over the railing. A thousand yards away, two searchlights blinded him, and a torrent of tracer fire arched toward the Green. Muzzle flashes from the enemy ship’s heavy guns ripped at the darkness, and spasmodic explosions on the Green followed each flash.

On his stomach looking aft, he tried to understand the hell erupting around him. Black smoke spewed from golden fires, and smoke boiled across the fantail near the depth charge racks. Antiaircraft rounds raked the Green’s main deck, tearing men apart; the lucky ones leapt overboard.

In the forward boiler room, the port bulkhead ruptured three feet below the waterline in a flash of light, wrenching the keel. Shrapnel pierced the two Babcock & Wilcox boilers, which exploded upward, shredding the main deck overhead. A half-second later, a second explosion severed the keel, and a third tore the shattered hull of the Green in two.

Sheets of water vaulted into the air, and the explosions pushed the Green hard to starboard and lifted it upward in a death spasm.

Torpedoes. The word lingered in O’Toole’s mind until he understood, then it vanished. He pulled himself to his feet. Ruptured boilers roared beneath clouds of steam.

The Green hinged aft the deckhouse. The stern rose and began its slide beneath the surface. When the cool seawater reached the aft boilers they blew a ten-foot mound of white water to the surface. The mound collapsed into a steam haze low above the water. As the first wisps of steam dissipated, they dragged O’Toole from his stupor.

The gunfire stopped. The searchlights were gone. Screams, moans, and the sound of rushing water welled up to fill the silence. He strained his eyes for an enemy invisible in the night. They had vanished. The battle was over.

There was no time for thinking or words; the conclusions flashed through his mind fully formed.
When the armed depth charges on the sinking fantail detonated, anyone in the water would suffer intestinal hemorrhaging and a slow, excruciating death.

To the men below he yelled, “Stay with the ship! Don’t go in the water; depth charges! Get everyone in the water back aboard!”

O’Toole took inventory. The forward part of the ship, though sinking, seemed stable. The wheelhouse was a confusing mass of shadows cut against golden fires, and the smell of blood and noxious nitrate gasses filled his head.

He entered the wheelhouse and stumbled. His knee landed on something soft. He looked down at the chest of a headless body. O’Toole’s stomach wrenched.

A figure appeared. “Sir, we took three torpedoes. No water pressure to fight the fires, no power, and we are flooding forward.”

One by one the sinking depth charges designed to sink submarines began to detonate, sending tremors from each concussive blow through the ship. When the explosions stopped, O’Toole took a deep breath, and the acid-laced air burned his lungs. “Get below. Pass the word to abandon ship.”

O’Toole turned his attention to the main deck, and released the one remaining life raft stored just below the bridge railing. Not waiting for orders, shirtless survivors leapt overboard. It seemed to take hours, but soon the decks were empty and the survivors were off the ship. With nothing left to do, he wondered if radio managed to send a message. He doubted it. He turned to the quartermaster and said, “Let’s go.”

The quartermaster collected the ship’s logs and joined O’Toole.

As he prepared to jump the last ten feet into the ocean, the quartermaster yelled, “Stop! Your helmet, sir.”

O’Toole had forgotten he was wearing it. Going overboard with a cinched helmet would break your neck. He tore it off, and they jumped together.

There was no past and no future, only the immediate need to survive. O’Toole swam from the sinking bow section, demanding his muscles move faster before her sinking hulk sucked him under. His muscles grew tired from the frenzied effort until a voice yelled, “She’s going down.”

He stopped and turned to what remained of the Green. Out of breath, he bobbed in the one-foot swells and coughed to clear the salt water from his lungs. The Green’s prow swung skyward while the hulk of the remaining bow section backed into the depths. The sea extinguished the fires as she slid under.

She died a silent death. After the tip of the bow disappeared, his eyes lost focus and he stared at the empty sea for several seconds, unable to grasp the meaning of this moment.

He linked up with a small group of survivors, and they linked up with other groups. They located two floater nets, lashed them together, and placed the injured in them. They found several of the watertight powder canisters used to protect the five-inch brass powder casings while in the magazines. The crew used empty canisters to stow stable dry food and water with the floater nets. He ordered several men to attract scattered survivors by yelling into the night.

At first, groups of four would swim toward them. Now an occasional lone survivor would show up. O’Toole gathered the surviving officers and chief petty officers. The group of seven rolled with the lazy sea, clutching the floater net to stay together. Three wore life jackets; the other four relied on the floater net.

“Someone said there is another group with a floater net south of us.” Pointing to Ensigns Carter and Fitch, O’Toole said, “Swim to the south floater net, if there is one, take a count, and tell them to swim their way to us and lash-in. While you’re at it, round up volunteers to scavenge for debris we can use. The men should also collect all the powder canisters and bring them here.”

Turning to Chief Brandon, he said, “Make sure the injured are wearing life jackets, and get those with serious wounds in the floater nets.” Brandon swam off.

To Ensigns Parker and Adbury, he said, “You two make the rounds and get a head count of the healthy, injured, and critically wounded. After you report back, take charge of the injured. Collect the morphine ampules from the crew.” O’Toole reached into his trouser pocket and handed over two morphine ampules. “Bring the wounded together, especially those with bleeding wounds. Get them in the floater nets and get the bleeding stopped; the sharks will show up soon enough.”

To Chief Zies, O’Toole said, “Chief, make the rounds, talk to everyone, and make sure their heads are on straight. Find anyone who might lose it and buddy them up with someone. We don’t want panic or men going nuts.”

Chief Zies swam off, and O’Toole reached underwater to remove his shoes. He tied the laces together and draped them over his neck.

Chief Zies made his rounds and returned to O’Toole’s position.

“You get a head count yet?” O’Toole asked.

“My count is fifty-seven, including you.”

“Just fifty-seven?”

“Lieutenant, the aft two-thirds of the ship sank like a rock. From the time the Japs attacked to the time the stern sank wasn’t more than a minute. I’m surprised we have this many left.”

O’Toole’s chest went hollow, and his mind went blank. Visions of shattered bodies and blood-soaked decks, the sound of dying men flashed through his mind. His gut radiated the hollowness of failure.
The dark corners of his mind whispered, “You’ll never be the same.”

“Three-fourths of the crew is missing,” O’Toole said.

“There has to be more out there,” Zies said.

“Yeah, there has to more out there,” O’Toole said.

As the deck officer, he was responsible for the safety of the ship and crew.

He had scanned the horizon, and he had jacked up the lookouts and the bridge crew. It hadn’t been enough. Either way it was his responsibility. It takes three minutes to get a torpedo firing solution, and one zigzag might have destroyed their firing solution and saved the ship. He hadn’t seen his options; the wall had blocked him again. His grandfather’s words stabbed at him.

You’re not adequate.

It was the story of his life; he always fell short of adequacy. There was always one more thing he might have done, but he could never see it until it was too late. The wall was always there to stop him and hide the solution. His wall had damned him to failure again. The wall was always there blocking his way a single step short of success.

Ensign Parker swam over to him. “Got the head count. Fifty-seven men. Twenty-one wounded. Six critical. That includes the south floater net we got lashed-in.”

“We’ll wait till dawn to find the others,” Zies said. “What the heck happened, sir?”

“Wish I knew,” O’Toole began. “A column of Jap ships were headed to Guadalcanal to counterattack. I suspect they left a destroyer behind to ambush us once the fight off Guadalcanal started.”

“That means they spotted us, but how did that happen without us seeing them?” Zies asked.

“That part is easy. We weren’t looking, but I still can’t figure out how we missed them once we did start looking. I should have zigzagged despite the captain’s orders.”

Zies looked at O’Toole for a long minute. “You’re not blaming yourself for this, are you?”

O’Toole didn’t answer.

“Are you?”

The question tore at O’Toole, but he had to look forward, and swore the wall would not stop him. “For now, we’re not losing any more men, Chief. Keep the men together. They’ll start looking for survivors tomorrow; they’ll find us.” O’Toole said.

Voices shouted. Zies turned. A searchlight from an approaching ship probed the surrounding sea. When it reached the far end of the floater nets, gunfire erupted. Spikes of water shot up around the Green’s survivors.

Both O’Toole and Zies screamed, “Everyone down!”

O’Toole shed his life jacket, took a deep breath, and dove. He figured five feet would be enough. He pivoted his feet beneath him and tried to maintain his depth. When the burning in his lungs became unbearable, he kicked hard to reach the surface. When his head cleared the water, he sucked in a chest of air, preparing to dive again, but the gunfire stopped.

The searchlight now centered itself on his small group, and a Japanese heavy cruiser loomed over them. With his hand, he blocked the searchlight so he could see the bridge. He studied the bridge and a man with a patch over his left eye. By his position on the bridge wing, his carriage, and the separation between him and the other officers, O’Toole guessed he was the captain.

They locked eyes. Neither man flinched. After several seconds, the Japanese captain walked away. The cruiser picked up speed and disappeared into the night.

Zies asked O’Toole, “What was going on between you and the guy with the eye patch?”

“I wanted the bastard to know we weren’t defeated,” O’Toole began. “The Japs won this battle not with equipment but with smarter officers and sharper training. How they pulled it off was brilliant: at night, torpedoes first, guns second, no star shells. They mauled us with their guns, but knew that wouldn’t sink us. Once the Jap ship saw the torpedoes hit, there was no need to continue a gun battle and endanger their ship; they knew they had sunk us, so they vanished into the night.”

O’Toole shook his head; he would have to figure out what happened later; he put it out of his mind.
“Okay, Chief, have the men with life jackets chain up. Make sure they lash in each chain to a floater net. As you make the rounds, make sure everyone is secure for the night. By God, we’re not losing any more men.”

“Aye, sir.” Zies swam away, yelling, “Everyone chain up and lash in!”

Men formed spiral chains. One man would loop his arm through the hole below the high collar of the next man’s life jacket, burying the arm to the shoulder. The chains provided security, extra buoyancy, and a way to sleep without drifting away.

About The Author

    Larry Laswell    

Larry Laswell served in the US Navy for eight years. In navy parlance, he was a mustang, someone who rose from the enlisted ranks to receive an officer’s commission. While enlisted, he was assigned to the USS John Marshall SSBN-611 (Gold Crew). After earning his commission, he served as main engines officer aboard the USS Intrepid CV-11. His last assignment was as a submarine warfare officer aboard the USS William M. Wood DD-715 while she was home ported in Elefsis, Greece.

In addition to writing, Larry, a retired CEO fills his spare time with woodworking and furniture design. He continues to work on The Marathon Watch series, an upcoming science fiction series titled The Ethosians, and an anthology of over eighty humorous sea stories titled A Ship-load of Sea Stories & 1 Fairy Tale.

You can visit Larry Laswell’s website at

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Poetry Contest

Win a dinner for two, a night on the town, or whatever you want to do with $250!

Enter Larry Laswell’s Vows to the Fallen Poetry Contest!

Pre-release sales of Vows to the Fallen will begin on July 1, 2015 for release on August 14th. One of the characters in the book has a habit of reciting excerpts from classic poems. If you are the first to correctly name all of the poems you win! $150 for second place and $100 for third place.

Here are the rules:
1. Order Vows to the Fallen in Amazon’s Kindle store.
2. At midnight (EST) download Vows to the Fallen and read it to find the poetry excerpts.
3. Leave a review on Amazon (How you rate the book has no bearing on your eligibility to win.)
3. Go to and click on “Contest.” In the form tell Larry under what name you left the review, and then list the poems by name and author. (Watch your spelling – it must be exact!) 4. The first correct entrant who left a review wins a dinner for two, a night on the town, or whatever they want to do with $250!
5. If Larry cannot identify the entrant’s review they will be disqualified (don’t use an anonymous name!)
6. If Larry receives more than one entry at the same time stamp, Larry will hold a drawing to determine the winners.
7. Any organization, or individual who received an advance review copy, their employees or family are ineligible.
8. Larry is the contest judge, and his judgement is final.
9. Larry is not responsible for delivery delays in the Amazon Kindle system.
10. Larry will post the winners on his website at 8AM EST on September 1, 2015.

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