Who Are Your Heroes?

 

Fallen Heroes

A confluence of events has caused me to reflect on this question. The first is the posting on social media by a very dear friend of photos of soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, policemen, and firefighters who have died in the performance of their duties. The second was a speech given this past Monday at the weekly luncheon at Aggie Park in San Antonio by the Fifth Army North Commander, LTG Jeffrey S. Buchanan, where he addressed this very question. Third is the upcoming gathering of Texas A&M University alumni to honor those Aggies who have died this past year. And last, though I don’t have an exact release date, is the publication of my most recent book, Tarnished Brass, and my inclusion of a section entitled “In Memoriam.”

The social media postings honor individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country. Their photos are poignant reminders that service to country, whether in the Armed Forces, Law Enforcement, or as Firefighters often comes at a very high cost. These men and women are the very embodiment of heroism. Their conduct reflects great courage, superior character and integrity in a noble cause greater than self, and it cost them their lives.

In his own way General Buchanan echoed these sentiments by relating the story of a subordinate officer who served with the general in various assignments throughout his career including multiple deployments in Iraq where he was severely injured by an IED, and in Afghanistan where he lost his life. The general wears a wrist band in his memory.

The Muster tradition, an annual gathering of fellow Texas Aggies that dates back to 1883, has evolved over the years from just celebrating college memories to honoring those Aggies no longer able to attend the ceremony due to their passing. Normally held on April 21st in remembrance of Texas Independence and San Jacinto Day, this year’s event at the San Antonio A&M Club will take place April 22nd. April 21st is Easter Sunday.

National recognition of Muster hearkens back to April 21, 1942 and the Second World War when a roll call of the twenty-seven Aggies serving in the Philippines on the small island of Corregidor was held. All would either be killed or captured by Japanese forces, but their solidarity in the face of overwhelming odds heartened the nation’s will to persevere.

On April 21, 1946 the memory of those twenty-seven Aggies was honored in a ceremony on Corregador at the Malinta Tunnel, and the tradition of remembrance has continued ever since. Aggies gather together wherever they are in the world, read aloud the names of the departed, and answer on their behalf… “Here.”

It is the solemnity of making that declaration that leads to me to my final thought before my book comes out. Tarnished Brass is a work of fiction but the war and many of the characters included in the novella are real. At the end I pay tribute to two of those individuals:

Lieutenant Colonel, James M. Basile, U.S. Air Force, served as the Deputy Commander, U.S. MilGroup, San Salvador during the years covered in the book. More importantly, he was my friend who I both admired and loved as a brother-in-arms. He was killed in a helicopter crash July 16, 1987 at age 43.

I also had the honor of serving under General John R. Galvin, who was the Commander, USSOUTHCOM during the three years that I was assigned to the J3. He passed away after a distinguished career September 25, 2015 at age 86.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency within our society to equate heroes with sports figures, celebrities, wealth and power. When asked, the average person will name their favorite football, baseball or basketball player as their hero. Those not into sports might name a famous pop icon, television or movie star. However, though fame and fortune may keep these individuals in the public spotlight, their notoriety does not constitute heroism and their designation as heroes does a disservice to those who have given their all in service to others.

Keep this in mind the next time you’re asked the question, “Who Are Your Heroes?”

 

 

 

 

In the Blood of the Greeks: My Review

In The Blood of The Greeks Book CoverAuthor Mary D. Brooks’ novel looks into the “katochi,” the occupation of Greece by the Nazis during World War II. It pays homage to the Greek Resistance movement as well as the efforts of local priests and citizens to save Greek Jews from the horrors of Hitler’s final solution, and it tells the story of two women, one Greek, one German, who not only survived the war, but found both love and hope in the process.

Zoe Lambros is fourteen, headstrong, outspoken, and openly defiant towards the Germans who have occupied Larissa, Greece. Eva Muller is eighteen, the daughter of the German commander whose troops now enslave the local Greek population, and reviled by Zoe. Crippled in a bombing of her home while her father was stationed in Paris, she is recovering not only from physical wounds, but emotional scars suffered during aversion therapy. Eva’s attraction to other women has been brutally repressed by shock treatment and chemical injections.

Unbeknownst to Zoe, Eva is secretly working with the Greek Resistance through the local priest, Father Haralambros, providing forged travel documents to Jewish families so they can escape imprisonment and almost certain death in Nazi concentration camps. Their relationship also goes well beyond priest and collaborator, but Zoe is unaware of their secret connection.

When the Resistance’s activities against their German oppressors result in the deaths of German soldiers, the attacks are met with swift and brutal retribution. Major Hans Muller not only orders the execution of captured Greek fighters but local villagers. Cruel and sadistic, he takes pleasure in personally selecting and shooting the victims.  When he kills Zoe’s beloved mother, she swears revenge.

Zoe’s plans focus on killing Eva Muller whom she mistakenly believes laughed while Zoe held her dying mother in her arms. She doesn’t care whether she dies in the attempt as long as Eva dies along with her. She struggles with her faith knowing that suicide and murder are wrong. She denies God’s existence and questions how He could possibly allow the German occupation of her country and the atrocities committed against her family and her people.

Divine intervention intercedes when Father Haralambros arranges for Zoe to actually work in the Muller household as a caretaker to Eva. At first she can’t believe the irony,  but her hatred will eventually transform as she discovers who Eva really is, the physical and psychological trauma she has also endured at the hands of the Nazis, the courage it takes for her to defy them, her true relationship with Father Haralambros, and the emerging affection they both feel toward one another!

The title of the book comes from the Greek national anthem: And we saw thee sad-eyed, The tears on thy cheeks, While thy raiment was dyed In the Blood of the Greeks. It is the first in a series by Mary Brooks on Eva Muller and Zoe Lambros.

Readers, who enjoy strong female protagonists and an unlikely romance set against the backdrop of WWII and a part of that monumental struggle that isn’t often the focus of historical books, will enjoy this opening novel while looking forward to the continuing adventures of Eva and Zoe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live Wire: Promo and Series Spotlight

LIVE WIRE
(Maggie, Book One)
A What Doesn’t Kill You
World Romantic Mystery

by
PAMELA FAGAN HUTCHINS
  Genre: Romantic Mystery
Date of Publication: March 6, 2019
Number of Pages: 270
 
Scroll down for giveaway!
A hook-up turned lethal. A spurned, angry cowboy. Can rebel Maggie turn the tables before a killer adds her to the list of lost causes?

Washed-up alt-country rocker-turned-junker Maggie Killian is pulled to Wyoming by an irresistible force . . . former bull rider Hank Sibley, the man who broke her heart fifteen years before. When she unexpectedly meets his Sunday school-teaching girlfriend at a saloon, Maggie seeks liquor-fueled oblivion between the sheets of a younger man’s bed. But after her beloved vintage truck breaks down and leaves her stranded in the Cowboy State, she learns her hook-up died minutes after leaving their rendezvous. Suddenly surrounded by men with questionable motives, Maggie searches for the murderer while fighting the electricity between herself and her old beau, and her new penchant for local whiskey.

When the police zero in on Maggie despite a disturbing series of break-ins at her guest cabin, she realizes she’s got no one to rely on but herself. To keep herself happily in bars instead of behind them, she must stop the killer before the cops realize the man she really suspects is a jealous, angry Hank.

Live Wire is the first standalone book in a trilogy featuring sharp-tongued protagonist Maggie Killian from the addictive What Doesn’t Kill You romantic mystery series. If you like nerve-racking suspense, electric characters and relationships, and juicy plot twists, then you’ll love USA Today best seller Pamela Fagan Hutchins’ Silver Falchion award-winning series.

“Maggie is irresistible.” 
Robert Dugoni, #1 Amazon bestselling
author of My Sister’s Grave
 
CLICK TO PURCHASE
Series Spotlight Banner
Series Spotlight

What Doesn’t Kill You world features romantic mystery protagonists whose lives are interconnected in a bunch of ways. They’re smart, kickass women who solve whatever problems—including a few dead bodies—life throws at them as they navigate their unique journeys of friendships, romance, career, families, and more. My novels are mostly PG-13, and you’ll find a thread of everyday magic running through them. People say they’re funny. They’re probably full of it.

You meet all of the WDKY protagonists in Act One—which you can only get by subscribing to my newsletter. You don’t get a deep dive into their lives and characters there, but you totally do in their novels, and Saving Grace is a great example of that with Katie.

People often want to know if they have to be read in order….

No. Yes. Maybe. Do what you want J But it’s an experience enhancer. I jump around by protagonist, and I sometimes jump around in the timeline, too. Intentionally. So feel free to read freestyle. However, it does enhance the experience to read “in order.”

Buckle Bunny (Maggie Prequel Novella)

Shock Jock (Maggie Prequel Short Story)

Act One (Prequel, Ensemble Novella)

Saving Grace (Katie #1)

Leaving Annalise (Katie #2)

Finding Harmony (Katie #3)

Going for Kona (Michele #1)

Heaven to Betsy (Emily #1)

Earth to Emily (Emily #2)

Hell to Pay (Emily #3)

Fighting for Anna (Michele #2)

Bombshell (Ava #1)

Stunner (Ava #2)

Knockout (Ava #3)

Searching for Dime Box (Michele #3)

Live Wire (Maggie #1)

Sick Puppy (Maggie #2)

Dead Pile (Maggie #3)

Pamela Fagan Hutchins is a USA Today best seller. She writes award-winning romantic mysteries from deep in the heart of Nowheresville, Texas and way up in the frozen north of Snowheresville, Wyoming. She is passionate about long hikes with her hunky husband and pack of rescue dogs and riding her gigantic horses.
 
If you’d like Pamela to speak to your book club, women’s club, class, or writers’ group, by Skype or in person, shoot her an e-mail. She’s very likely to say yes. Connect with Pamela on the web.
 

WEBSITEFACEBOOKTWITTERBOOKBUB
INSTAGRAMGOODREADSAMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

Praise for Pamela Fagan Hutchins

 

2018 USA Today Best Seller

2017 WINNER Silver Falchion Award, Best Mystery

2016 WINNER USA Best Book Award, Cross Genre Fiction
2015 WINNER USA Best Book Award, Cross Genre Fiction
2014 USA Best Book Award Finalist, Cross Genre Fiction
2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-finalist, Romance
2013 USA Best Book Award Finalist, Business: Publishing
2012 Winner of the Houston Writers Guild Ghost Story Contest
2012 WINNER USA Best Book Award, Parenting: Divorce
2011 Winner of the Houston Writers Guild Novel Contest, Mainstream
2010 Winner of the Writers League of Texas Manuscript Contest, Romance
—————————————–
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FIRST PRIZE
Signed paperback of Live Wire + eBook of Buckle Bunny + $5 Amazon Gift Card
SECOND PRIZE
Signed paperback of Live Wire + eBook of Buckle Bunny 
THIRD PRIZE
Signed paperback of Live Wire
PLUS, ALL WINNERS
Audio downloads of Fighting for Anna and Searching for Dime Box
March 6-16, 2019
(International)

 

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Fatality in F: Author Interview

FATALITY IN F
A Gethsemane Brown Mystery,
Volume 4
by
Alexia Gordon
Genre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Henery Press
Date of Publication: February 26, 2019
Number of Pages: 234

Scroll down for the giveaway!
 
Fresh from solving her third mystery—and saving Dunmullach’s firstborn males from a vengeful ghost—Gethsemane Brown’s ready to relax and enjoy her summer. Her plans include nothing more dangerous than performing in the opening ceremony of the annual rose and garden show and cheering on Frankie Grennan, who’s entered his hybrid rose into the competition.
 
But when a mysterious stalker starts leaving Frankie floral bouquets as coded messages, Gethsemane fears a copy-cat may be planning to recreate the still-unsolved murders of the infamous Flower Shop Killer. Then Frankie’s main competitor in the rose show—and the reason his marriage failed—turns up dead in Frankie’s rose garden. Frankie takes first prize in the category “prime suspect.”
 
So much for a relaxing summer. 
 
As bodies start dropping like rose petals, Gethsemane must judge the other suspects and find the real killer. Or rose bushes won’t be the only things dead-headed in Dunmullach.
PRAISE FOR THE GETHSEMANE BROWN MYSTERY SERIES:

Book 1, Murder in G Major
Winner of the 2017 Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel
2016 Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel
Suspense magazine “Best of 2016” selection in Debut Novel category
Book 2, Death in D Minor
Runner-Up, 2017 Lone Star Bloggers’ Choice Awards, Best Mystery
Book 3, Killing in C Sharp
Starred review, Publisher’s Weekly, January 29, 2018
CLICK TO ORDER ON:
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AuthorInterview

INTERVIEW WITH ALEXIA GORDON

 Your book titles are cleverly related to your main character’s occupation. Can you tell us how you came up with your titles? Any titles that ended up on the cutting room floor?

I came up with my first title, Murder in G Major, because I wanted to let readers know it was a murder mystery and to let them know music played a role. And I wanted something alliterative since I couldn’t think of an outright pun. I thought the publisher would change it, but they didn’t.

The rest of the titles in the series had to follow the same pattern as the first. Killing in C Sharp originally had “A” before “Killing” (A Killing in C Sharp) but my publisher cut the “A.” The publisher also wanted me to put “Flat” after the “F” in Fatality in F because all of the other titles have a word after the note, i.e., major, minor, sharp. I argued that one because F-flat is the same note as E and it’s theoretical more than practical. With double sharps or double flats, it’s too complex for most musicians to play. F-flat also sounds, well, flat and I didn’t want my title to suggest a dud. I convinced my publisher to see things my way, but I did agree to have another title in the series without a word after the note, for consistency.

Do you now or have you ever considered writing under a pen-name? Why or why not?

I’ve never considered a pen name because I’ve always wanted to see my name on the cover of a book. Also, I couldn’t think of a good pseudonym.

Who would you cast to play your characters in a movie version of your book?

I want Thandie Newton to play Gethsemane and Prince Harry to play Frankie in the film version. Haven’t cast the rest of the characters yet.

What’s something interesting that most people don’t know about you?

I’ve won ribbons in State Fairs in weaving, knitting, and duct tape craft.

What is your favorite quote?

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”    –Toni Morrison

A writer since childhood, Alexia Gordon won her first writing prize in the 6th grade. She continued writing through college but put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. She established her medical career then returned to writing fiction. Raised in the southeast, schooled in the northeast, she relocated to the west where she completed Southern Methodist University’s Writer’s Path program. She admits Texas brisket is as good as Carolina pulled pork. She practices medicine in North Chicago, IL. She enjoys the symphony, art collecting, embroidery, and ghost stories.

 ║  Website ║ Facebook ║ Instagram  
BookBub  ║ Twitter  Goodreads

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One winner receives a signed copy of Fatality in F and 
a $30 Gift Card to David Austin Roses
FEBRUARY 26-MARCH 8, 2019

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Vortex: Lone Star Book Blog Tour Promo and Review

VORTEX
by
KIMBERLY PACKARD
Genre: Women’s Fiction / Psychological
Publisher: Abalos Publishing
Publication Date: January 31, 2019
Number of Pages: 308 pagesSCROLL DOWN FOR THE GIVEAWAY! 

Constant spinning, round and round and round, temperatures rise and fall from stifling heat to chilling cold, emotions run high in anticipation of what will happen next… there’s a fine line between surviving a tornado and falling in love.
A close encounter with a tornado, during the final months of her doctoral studies, jogs a lost memory to the surface. Desperate to relive the vision and find answers, storm chaser Elaina Adams continually puts her safety at risk by placing herself in the path of dangerous storms.
When betrayal strikes, Elaina is forced to pair up with Robert Tucker. “Tuck” owns a storm chasing tour group and only cares about two things: chasing tornadoes and making his next buck.
Seth Maddux was climbing his way to the top as the star meteorologist for the Forecast channel, but an embarrassing outburst on camera sent his career on a downward spiral. Hoping to reignite his career with a promising field assignment, he meets Elaina and a different kind of flame sparks.
Family secrets surface and passions explode in this twister of a tale.
Vortex is a story of family, love, identity and determination set against the thrilling backdrop of Tornado Alley. 

 

PRAISE FOR VORTEX:

“Set in the heart of America’s Tornado Alley, Kimberly Packard’s latest psychological fiction swirls with discovery and betrayal. VORTEX may make you question who among those closest to you are really your friends.” — Addison Brae, author of Becker Circle
“Vortex is a fast-paced story with a strong woman at its center. Readers will be in for a wild ride full of secrets, the labyrinth of memory, and the spark of romance. Definitely one to add to your reading list.” — Christine Brodersen, author of Lip Gloss, Shame and Murdered Tomatoes

“Kimberly Packard is an accomplished author who writes strong women characters. She blew me away with her Phoenix series (three books you don’t want to miss) and now in Vortex, we meet Elaina Adams, who, like all of us, struggles with her past, her career, and her family secrets. Action, and emotion-packed, this page-turner is a different kind of love story.” — Vanessa Foster, author of More than Everything

Review

Five-Stars

Welcome to the world of Elaina Adams, doctoral candidate and storm chaser, where unpredictability and the unknown have fueled an intense need to understand and confront her fears. As she attempts to complete her thesis on tornado genesis, repressed memories surface that could completely alter her conception of who she really is. Does she really want to reveal the secrets to her past? Will their revelation destroy her along with everyone and everything that she loves including her beloved yellow Labrador Retriever?

Kimberly Packard has written a riveting book that is part mystery, part psychological thriller, and part romance aptly titled Vortex. As her world circles around her, Elaina is drawn into the vacuum and becomes subject to its destructive forces. She will not be the only one!

Heath Bryant is her research partner. As Elaina’s determination to unravel the mystery of her past causes her to take unnecessary risks, how far is he willing to go and at what cost?

Seth Maddux is a newscaster who needs to salvage his career after an on-air meltdown. He and Elaina are drawn to each other romantically, but neither Seth nor Elaina are sure they should pursue their mutual attraction. Seth has been hurt in a prior relationship while Elaina doesn’t need the distraction from her research. Will they give in to their feelings?

Robert Tucker is a sleazy storm chaser who conducts tours for thrill seekers. He’s strictly in it for the money, but he does have an instinctive ability to predict tornadoes. Tuck also has secrets that are linked to Elaina’s past. He’s a menacing presence in an already dangerous situation. Should Elaina trust him?

Dr. Tom Pierce is the foremost expert on tornadoes and Elaina’s university mentor and financial sponsor. Crippled in a car accident during a severe storm, he can no longer conduct field research. Is there a hidden agenda behind his decision to advance the timeline for Elaina to complete her thesis even at the risk of personal injury to her and her partner?

Psychiatrist Harrington Preston treats individuals with repressed memories. In some cases those memories have been deliberately blocked by the drug “Retentamine.” Was Elaina given the drug during her childhood?

The answers to these questions are revealed in a climactic ending that forces each of these characters to face his or her reality and the consequences of their actions.

Kudos to Kimberly Packard for writing a thoroughly entertaining story that will definitely appeal to women and even to guys like me that normally do not read romance novels!

I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my review.

Kimberly Packard is an award-winning author of edgy women’s fiction. She began visiting her spot on the shelves at libraries and bookstores at a young age, gazing between the Os and the Qs. When she isn’t writing, she can be found running, doing a poor imitation of yoga or curled up with a book. She resides in Texas with her husband Colby, a clever cat named Oliver and a yellow lab named Charlie.

Her debut novel, Phoenix, was awarded as Best General Fiction of 2013 by the Texas Association of Authors. She is also the author of a Christmas novella, The Crazy Yates, and the sequels to Phoenix, Pardon Falls and Prospera Pass.

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FIRST PRIZE: Signed Copy  +  $5 Amazon gift card + Bookmark
SECOND PRIZE: Signed Copy + Bookmark
TWO WINNERS: eBook copies
FEBRUARY 19-28, 2019

(USA only)

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The Viking: My Review

The Viking Book CoverThe Viking by Marti Talbot is certainly not what the reader might expect. As a fan of the History Channel television series The Vikings, and the BBC production The Last Kingdom (based on the Bernard Cornwell books), I was looking forward to a saga focused on the Danish conquest of England. I definitely did not anticipate a love story.

The book begins with that promise. Stefan, a young Viking, is looking forward to his first raid alongside his father, Donar. But the foray into Scotland goes terribly wrong resulting in the death of his father, the retreat of the Viking fleet, and young Stefan stranded on Scottish soil.

Able to speak the language because his mother had been a Scot captured on a previous Viking raid, he finds refuge with a woman, Jirvel, and her daughter, Kannak, who are in desperate need of someone to till the land and help them survive. Jirvel’s husband has abandoned them to their fate, but the three bond out of necessity and form a family unit of sorts.

From there the story definitely shifts to the budding romance between Stefan and Kannak. As they grow and mature their filial relationship changes and the two eventually fall in love. However, just as the two realize their true feelings for one another, Stefan is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Stefan never gives up hope of freedom and returning to Kannak, and despite pressure to marry another, she holds onto her dream of a reunion.

In addition to this story of young love, Marti Talbot also writes of Jirvel’s yearning for Laird Macoran who is Kannak’s real father. Many years before, on the eve of their betrothal, war with the rival Clan Brodie threatens. The only way to keep the peace is for Laird Macoran to accept an arranged marriage with Agnes Brodie. It will be a loveless marriage that will also separate Jirvel from Macoran.

The reunion of Stefan and Kannak as well as Jirvel and Laird Macoran closes out the story and sets up Marti Talbot’s follow-on books about future generations. Younger readers will likely enjoy the storybook ending. For the more mature audience the abrupt plot resolution, its innocence, and the dearth of violence that characterized the historical period likely will temper their reaction to it. However, taken as a whole, The Viking is an easy read and enjoyable tale. It may not be anything that you expected, but it can and should be appreciated for what it is.

 

 

History and Legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers

In honor of Black History Month I thought it appropriate to revisit the history and legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers (see my post, Top Soldier, November 24, 2017.)

These all-black units were formed in the aftermath of the Civil War and served at posts stretching from the Texas frontier to the Dakota territories performing duties that included improving the nation’s infrastructure (the building of forts, roads, and telegraph lines), acting as rangers within our national parks, and participating in the Indian Wars.

Their record of outstanding military service begins in 1866 when six regiments (two cavalry and four infantry) were mobilized in concert with the peacetime restructuring of the Army. Eventually the four infantry regiments would be consolidated into the 24th and 25th Infantry, while the two cavalry regiments would be designated as the 9th and 10th Cavalry. All would adopt the name Buffalo Soldiers.

Native Americans originated the name. Its derivation has been attributed to their comparison of the soldiers’ hair to the hide of a buffalo, but it also reflects their admiration for their courage in battle.

The Indian Wars ended in the 1890’s with the capitulation of the Apache, however, the Buffalo Soldiers also fought in the Spanish-American War and in the Philippines. During World War I their duties were limited to patrolling the border with Mexico, and they did not see any action during World War II.

Military segregation came to an end in 1948 and the last all-black units were disbanded in the 1950’s. Today associations such as the Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers Association proudly carry on that heritage by dedicating themselves to the preservation of the Buffalo Soldiers’ history through educational programs and historical reenactments that inform the general public about their extraordinary record of accomplishments.

During their existence the Buffalo Soldiers have the distinction of having the lowest desertion and Court Martial rates in the Army. Many were recipients of the Medal of Honor. The nation’s highest award was bestowed upon eight members of the 9th Cavalry, four members of the 10th Cavalry, and six members of the 24th Infantry for acts of heroism from 1865-1899 during the Indian campaigns. Additionally, five members of the 10th Cavalry received the honor for their actions during the Spanish-American War.

I dedicated chapters of my book on westward expansion, Palo Duro, to their legacy. They are only now receiving the recognition that they so justly deserve.