Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Character Interview with Christophe from The Summer of France by Paulita Kincer

We’re thrilled to be talking to Christophe from Paulita Kincer’s The Summer of France. It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Pimp That Character! 

Thank you for your interview, Christophe. Can you tell us your story? 

First, I ask that you excuse my accent. I am French, so sometimes, my English is not so good. Second, this is not really my story, it’s Fia’s. She came from a place called Ohio with these dreams about running her uncle’s bed and breakfast, but I watched her from the beginning.

You see, her uncle has something very valuable hidden in that house, something he collected in World War II, and if I retrieve it, my father will be very ‘appy.

My job was to get close to Fia, but she tempted me in ways I didn’t expect. She made me think about my life and doing the right things.


Can you tell us about one of your most distinguishable features? 

(Christophe lifts his shirt to show rippling ab muscles and crooks an eyebrow.) This is what some say is my distinguishable feature. I’ve been told I look like Gilles Marini. You know of him, yes? He is an actor. Like him, I have dark hair that I comb straight back, and my blue eyes have crinkles at the edges that prove irresistible to many women.


What would I love the most about you? 

I am very patient and a good listener. I play the long game, you see. I can sit over a glass of wine for hours while we explore emotions. I can make you feel important. And that always worked out for me, until I met Fia. She stirred something within me. Ha! Some might call it a conscience.


What would I hate the most about you?

I am rather picky about doing the proper thing when it comes to traditions. Dinner should be eaten in a certain order. Coffee with milk should be drunk before noon only, after that, tiny cups of espresso. Riding motorcycles should be done in motorcycle leathers, not jeans and a t-shirt. In France, we have an order to the things we do.


Where do you go when you are angry? 

When I am angry, I ride my moto very fast. The roads are narrow and curving here in Provence. I can swerve around on the edge of my tires, past a car with a zoom. This sends a thrill through me. When I have much anger, I ride on the cliff roads with the Mediterranean crashing below.


What is your greatest fear? 

I fear losing the love of my family. My family, it is very complicated. My father, he wants us to do things, and he does not like when his children make other choices. Even though we all are grown, we follow the wishes of my father.


Do you think the author portrayed you accurately? 

The author was at the mercy of Fia as she described me. Fia saw my handsomeness right away, but she took longer to, how you say, warm up to me. I tried to woo her and found myself becoming enamored of her. Perhaps she took a harsh view of me because I wanted to sell a precious possession. Of course, the money would make life so easy. But slowly, I saw Fia’s point. Perhaps, the author made me seem greedy. Money provides so many advantages, but, (sigh) I guess other things are more important.


What is your idea of a perfect day? 

Fia and I had a perfect day at the beginning of our relationship. She worked so hard in the bed and breakfast while her family, they played tourists. I convinced Fia to come to Nice with me. You know this place, Nice? A lovely restaurant, a walk on the beach, a swim in the Mediterranean. The day ended with making Fia blush.


Are you a loner or do you prefer to surround yourself with friends? 

I enjoy being with many people; I can talk to anyone, but find that I cannot trust them because of the secrets in my family. I drink in the company of others, like a sponge, but I share nothing of myself. All anyone sees is my attractive surface. They must wonder what is beneath.


When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

As a child, I believed every possibility. I thought to be a, how you say, sea scientist. Marine biologist, this is it. I would go to the market with my mother and my head barely reached above the tables, but I would stare at all the things from the Mediterranean – sea urchins, slick, silver-eyed fish, burnished red crabs with their claws curved around their bodies. I thought to study these creatures. But I quickly learned that my family needed me in the family business.


If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today? 

I would go to my father and make peace. That is not to say I would kowtow to him, do what he wishes. But I would urge him to think about doing the right thing. Life can end any time and my père, he is still angry at me. After I make peace, I would take Fia back to that beach in Nice for a glorious day. I would want to make sure that I live every minute until the end.



About The Book




Title: The 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


Buy The Book:





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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:
Fia



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 France, I See London I See France, and 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 Pauliat:

Author Website: paulitakincer.com


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Monday, August 17, 2015

Character Interview with Major Grace Samuels from Deadly Strain by Julie Rowe

We’re thrilled to be talking to Major Grace Samuels from Julie Rowe’s, Deadly Strain. It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Pimp That Character!


Thank you for your interview, Grace. Can you tell us your story?

I’m a doctor with the US Army’s Biological Response Team. We’re the first line of defence against the use of biological weapons against our military and civilians. My job is to investigate suspected incidences of biological weapons being used, identify the pathogen and initiate a cleanup of the site. My secondary job is to ensure that any victims of the biological attack receive appropriate treatment and care.


What would I love the most about you?

I don’t take bullshit from anyone. I don’t care if you’re the Pope or the President, I am a bullshit free zone.


What would I hate the most about you?

I sometimes care too much, more than is healthy and it drives my friends crazy.


Where do you go when you are angry?

I seek out my best battle buddy, Sharp for a game of chess or poker. Sharp always seems to know what to say to pull me back from the edge.


What makes you laugh out loud?

Sharp. That man says the craziest shit.


What is in your refrigerator right now?

I don’t have one. I’ve been deployed in the Middle East for six months and have another six months to go. I put all my stuff into storage and won’t likely find a new permanent residence for at least a year. If I did have a refrigerator I’d have yogurt, fruit, whole grain bread, Nutella, eggs, cheese, peppers, milk and everything to make a kick ass salad.


What is your greatest fear?

Having a patient die on my watch.


If you could change one physical thing about yourself, what would that be?

I’d like to lose some pounds off my boobs.


What’s your idea of a perfect meal?

Anything I don’t have to cook.


If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?

Tackle Sharp, drag him off to my room and have my wicked way with him. Repeatedly.



About The Book

    


TitleDeadly Strain Book 1: Biological Response Team Series
Author: Julie Rowe
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: June 15, 2015
Pages: 260
ASIN: B00PQDB6LI
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Format: eBook, PDF  


Buy The Book:

Amazon: 
http://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Strain-Biological-Response-Team-ebook/dp/B00PQDB6LI/ref=la_B005WL9UJY_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431025158&sr=1-9

Barnes & Noble: 
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Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23366545-deadly-strain?ac=1


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Book Description: 


Book one of Biological Response Team Series

Major Grace Samuels, a trauma surgeon deployed to Afghanistan, spends her life helping her fellow soldiers overcome disease and combat injuries. But her own wounds are harder to heal. Wracked with guilt over the death of a fellow soldier, she finds comfort in her only friend and appointed bodyguard, weapons sergeant Jacob “Sharp” Foster.

Sharp feels more for Grace than a soldier should, more than he wants to admit. When the team discovers a new, quick-to-kill strain of anthrax, he tries to focus on the mission to find its source. He knows he can help Grace defeat her demons, but first they must defeat the deadly outbreak.

Sharp is Grace’s most loyal ally, but in close quarters, he starts to feel like more. She can’t watch someone else she cares about die—but she might not have a choice. The closer they get to finding the source of the strain, the closer it gets to finding them.


Book Excerpt:

The battle line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man. —Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Chapter One

“I’m so dead.” Dr. Grace Samuels stared at the chessboard. There was no hope. None. Not a single move left open to her.
Except for one.
She sighed, shook her head at the patience on her opponent’s face. “I concede.”
“Want to know where you went wrong?” he asked as he cleared the board. He set the pieces up again. Those big hands of his could bandage a wounded soldier, field strip a 9 mm and box her into checkmate with equal skill.
“I sat down in this chair,” she answered with a straight face. The mess hall was busy with soldiers, American and Afghan alike, either beginning their day or ending their night.
“No,” he said. “You played the board.”
Grace thought about it for a second, but it still didn’t make any sense. Then again, it was 0600 and she’d only been up for twenty minutes. “Huh?”
Special Forces Weapons Sergeant Jacob “Sharp” Foster looked at her earnestly. “You played the board,” he repeated. “You should have been playing the man.”
He winked and she had to fight not to roll her eyes. When she first met him she’d thought his flirting was for real, and had been worried she’d have to shut him down. She didn’t want to, because he was hilarious, but the impropriety couldn’t be ignored. Then, she discovered when he wasn’t on the job, he had a wicked sense of humor, and everyone was a target.
“Then I suppose I’ll have to study you.” She leaned forward and made a show of giving him a thorough once-over.
He grinned and spread his hands wide. “By all means, study me.”
Sharp was a big man, about six-two, and she’d guess he weighed about two hundred pounds. He flexed his biceps and waggled his eyebrows in response to her joke. Though he had brown hair, with a mustache and beard to match, he had the lightest blue eyes she’d ever seen—like looking into glacial ice.
Right now, those eyes were challenging her. She just wasn’t sure if it was regarding the game or something she didn’t want to talk about. At all.
Unfortunately, Sharp wasn’t going to leave it alone. The chess game should have warned her. They usually played poker.
She watched him reset the chessboard while, for the first time in a week, letting her mind go back to the moment she realized she was in trouble. On her way to her quarters late at night. They’d arrived at Forward Operating Base Bostick the week before, and she’d been introduced to the base commander, Colonel Marshall. He’d barely spoken to her. So why was he waiting for her outside her quarters with clenched fists and a face so blank she knew he was in the grip of a powerful emotion?
The colonel wasn’t known for any kind of emotion.
She stopped several feet away. “What are you doing here at this hour, sir?”
One corner of his upper lip lifted in a sneer and he snarled, “I wanted a private conversation.”
His words triggered every internal red flag she had. “I don’t understand.”
Marshall’s response was two words. One name. “Joseph Cranston.”
A name she wished she could forget. “You…knew him?”
Scorn turned his words into weapons. “He was my son.”
Oh God.
Grace took an involuntary step backward. Now that she knew, she could see the son in his father’s face, the same eyes and jawline as the young man whose features she couldn’t forget. As if conjured, his shade floated in front of her mind’s eye, thrusting her into a memory she wanted desperately to erase. His face, covered with blood, whipped her heart into a gallop. Her breathing bellowed, lungs attempting to push air through her terror-closed throat. She fought the invisible hands pulling at her and her vision spiraled into a narrow tunnel.
Sharp had surfaced out of the dark, his presence breaking the memory’s chokehold.
He’d crouched in front of her, calling her name, ordering her to respond before he did something stupid like give her mouth-to-mouth. She coughed out a response, couldn’t remember what, and fought her way to her feet.
Sharp didn’t try to hold her. He didn’t touch her at all, but he shielded her body from prying eyes with his own. He refused to leave her, facing down Colonel Marshall, who showed no sympathy and less tolerance for her fainting spell. Two of Sharp’s team members appeared and, after glaring at them all, Marshall left without saying anything else.
She managed to get inside her quarters before anyone could demand an explanation, shut the door and locked it. She’d only felt relief when no one knocked to ask for an explanation. It wasn’t until the next day that she realized their lack of questions was as suspect as her behavior.
She hadn’t expected to meet anyone connected to Joseph Cranston outside of the United States. Hadn’t expected something that happened that long ago to thrust her into a memory like it was happening all over again.
Fool.
In the days since, Sharp had been mother-henning her like she was some fragile little chick, and she’d had about as much of that as she could take. She was a Samuels. Her father, also a military doctor, had just retired from the army, and her grandfather had run a MASH unit during the Korean War. He’d met her grandmother during WWII; she’d been one of the first Air Force service pilots. If there was one thing she wouldn’t accept from anyone, it was pity.
“I’ve been studying you for a while.” Sharp finished setting up the board and met her gaze. “You’re a damn good doctor, a hellacious good shot on the range and you put up with our male stupidity with more patience than we deserve.”
“I hear the but coming.”
“What happened between you and Marshall?”
“None of your damn business.”
When he continued to stare at her, she added, “Look, I’m not going to saddle anyone else with my personal grievances or the fact that I don’t get along with someone.”
“Personal grievances?” Sharp asked. “Twice last week I thought you were going to damage a guy for jostling you in the chow line. What’s going on with you?”
Shit, of course he would notice. She’d damn near freaked out each time, a scream hovering on her lips, her hands and feet moving to defend against an enemy who wasn’t there.
The enemy wasn’t there. No gunfire. No weapons pointed at her, yet she still found herself reacting as if it were happening all over again.
She hadn’t been reacting that way until Marshall had confronted her. Meeting the father of a soldier who’d died an unnecessary death in front of her must have detonated an emotional trip wire in her head. One she needed to deal with.
Not an easy thing when on active duty and nowhere near a base with more than a glorified first-aid station.
It seemed like anywhere she went on the base, Sharp or one of the guys from the A-Team was there. Not doing anything, just there. They weren’t fooling her.
Damn alpha males and their overprotective tendencies.
“Nothing I can’t handle. I take care of myself.” She narrowed her eyes. Her sidearm, a Beretta M9, might have to make an appearance. Then Sharp’s words sunk all the way in. “Wait. Are you telling me I should play chess with the same mind-set as poker?” She buried his ass every time they played poker. He was terrible at keeping his attention on his cards and lousy at pretending he wasn’t checking her out—not that he was serious about it. He knew the rules same as she, and she was glad, ridiculously glad, she had a friend she could count on, someone she could trust.
“Sort of. Chess demands more of you than poker, but the principles are the same.”
Them’s fightin’ words. “The hell you say.” She’d been playing poker with her dad since she was ten years old. He’d taught her how to bluff anyone.
“Doc,” Sharp said, chuckling. “If I were lying, you’d be beating me, but you aren’t.”
“Ha.” She leaned forward and tapped the board. “Make your move.”
Sharp opened his mouth to respond, but he never got a chance to say anything before another Beret, the team’s other weapons sergeant, Harvey Runnel, strode over to them. It wasn’t the speed he was moving that drew her and Sharp’s attention, it was the look on the soldier’s face. Flattened lips, clenched jaw and a slightly flared nose. She couldn’t see his eyes due to the tinted safety glasses he wore, but she could guess that the skin around them would be tight—a man who was on full alert.
Special Forces soldiers did not get amped up for no reason.
“Playtime’s over,” Runnel said. “Doc, grab your go-bag.”
A mental blanket sank over her, numbing her to the horror to come. It was the first self-preservation tactic doctors learned. Compartmentalize all that terrible stuff or go crazy in a week. Sometimes she wondered when all those boxes in her mind would break open and rip her apart from the inside out.
There was an entire crate named Joseph Cranston.
“Warm or cold?” She asked even though she already knew the answer. Runnel never looked this rattled. Please say warm.
Her warm go-bag was a trauma kit, a backpack with everything she’d need if she was dealing with bullet holes, shrapnel lacerations or broken bones. The typical things most people expected her to treat since she was a trauma surgeon. But that wasn’t all she was.
She was also an infectious disease specialist.
Her cold go-bag contained the very latest in biological detection technology. One- or two-step tests that identified anything from anthrax to Ebola to a weaponized flu. She was a member of a select group of virologists, microbiologists and infectious disease specialists the US Army relied on to train not only their own troops, but the soldiers of other nations, in the detection of and protection against biological weapons. They were known officially as the Biological Rapid Response team, but most soldiers called them Icemen or Icequeens.
Lately the army had been assigning BRR team members to work with Army Special Forces teams—Green Berets. She’d been working with Sharp’s team for almost a year. Her job was to assist in training Afghan forces in everything from combat and demolitions to the most survivable responses to biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.
“Cold,” Runnel said. “No drill.”
Shit.
Adrenaline spiked through her system as Grace got up and followed Runnel. He led the way back to whoever was calling the shots, Sharp right behind her as they ran at a trot. She might be the base’s resident expert on biological weapons, but it was knowledge she wished fervently she didn’t have to use.
They entered the staging area where she’d been doing some of the training. Several members of Sharp’s team were using it to gear up. Runnel glanced at her and angled his head toward the base commander, a tall man in his forties who wore a permanent frown. He was looking at a map with several ranking officers, including the A-Team’s commander, Geoffry Cutter.
Cutter glanced at her. “The major is here, sir.”
Base Commander Colonel Marshall gave her a glare before returning his attention to the map in front of him.
He’d called her a fucking quack yesterday as he walked past her. If he kept demeaning her in front of the Afghan forces and their own soldiers, she’d lose the credibility she needed to successfully train them.
“Major,” Marshall said without looking at her. “One of our patrols reported in about ten minutes ago with what appears to be a biological incident.”
She waited, but he didn’t add any more details. “What led them to believe that, sir?”
He met her gaze with an even colder expression. “An entire village dead. Some of the bodies show lesions and bleeding from the nose, mouth and eyes.”
Holy Mother of God.
Bad. This was very bad.
“I concur with their assessment of the situation, sir. Your orders?”
“Get the fuck out there,” he snarled at her. “Figure out what happened and fix it.”
That part she knew already. Asshat. She’d hoped he’d give her some detailed orders, with a timeline and what kind of manpower she could expect. Not more sarcasm and snark. She came to attention and saluted. “Yes, sir.”
He took two steps, then stopped and turned around. He addressed Cutter and only Cutter, who had somehow inched his way over until he was right next to her, with Sharp on the other side. What a couple of papa bears. “Send half of your A-Team with the Icequeen. The other half will stay here in case I need a second team to go in.”
Grace bit her tongue hard to keep from telling what she thought of him and his orders, and mentally promoted him to asshole.
“Yes, sir.” Cutter saluted. “The location of the village is here.” He glanced at Grace and pointed to a spot on the map. From a distance Cutter looked like the least threatening person in the room. He was the shortest, skinniest guy on the A-Team, but he more than made up for that in stubbornness and stamina.
Grace moved closer so she could get a better look. “How far is it from the Pakistan border?”
“About two klicks.”
“Not very damn far.” She ran her index finger over the spot on the map. “Mountain valley?”
“Yeah. It’s a small village. Less than one hundred people.”
“The patrol found no one alive?”
“No one.”
Grace breathed in through her nose and out through her mouth. “Did they get their breathing gear on right away?”
“According to their report they did, but they’re nervous. Whatever killed those people, killed them fast.”
“Okay. I don’t have to tell you guys how to prep. You’re as well trained as I am. Consider this a live weapon.”
“Will do,” Cutter responded. He looked at Sharp standing next to her. “I’m assigning Sharp to ride herd on you, Doc. Where you go, he goes.”
“I’m not arguing, Commander. I’ve worked with Sharp plenty of times.”
“Good. We leave in fifteen.” Cutter nodded at her, gave Sharp a nod, then moved off to brief the rest of his team.
“I have to get my go-bag and the rest of my gear,” she said to Sharp, her mind on the eight million things she needed to do before those fifteen minutes were up.
“I’ll give you a hand.”
“Thanks, but I don’t need any help.” She was going to have to deal with his protective crap sooner rather than later, but carefully. “I do need every friend I can get, though. Are you in for that?”
At his grin, she relaxed a little and refocused on the job at hand.

* * *

Sharp watched Grace rush away for about two seconds too long.
“Do I need to replace you with Runnel?” Cutter asked.
He jerked his head around to stare at his commander. He’d thought Cutter had been briefing the rest of the team. “No.”
Cutter stood with his arms crossed over his chest and his feet apart. “Then pull your tongue back into your head. You’re damn near panting after her.”
“Not fucking likely. She’s just the only person on this base who can beat me in poker. If something happens to her, I’ll have nothing to do for the next month,” he said. “Besides, something’s not right. She’s been off her game since Marshall decided to be an ass. She’s our number-one asset. I’m worried.” The way he’d found her the other day, damn near passed out, shaking and hyperventilating like she was about to fly apart… It had hit him—a sucker punch to the gut. She was reliving something awful.
Post-traumatic stress disorder.
How many guys did he know who lived with PTSD? Ten, twenty, fifty?
What was Marshall’s connection? Something he’d done or said had set off a bomb in Grace’s head.
Even weirder, Marshall hadn’t liked it when Sharp wouldn’t leave Grace alone with him.
What the hell had Grace been involved with that earned her the dislike of a career military man who normally didn’t give a rat’s ass about what a doctor like her might be doing or not doing?
“Still, watch yourself. Word around the base is, he’s got a hate on for the doc and you got in the way.”
“What do you know, Cutter?”
“Nothing specific. Marshall hasn’t talked, but his attitude toward the doc is clear. He hates her guts.”
Cutter was right, Marshall’s face had been twisted by disgust and hostility as he stared at her the night he got between her and the colonel. What had happened to cause it? Whatever it was, Sharp wasn’t going to let anyone hurt her. She worked just as hard and long at training their allied troops as the A-Team did. And she was good.
“Sharp.” Cutter’s voice had a wary edge and he took a step closer. “Be careful, man. I like the doc, too. Hell, the whole team likes her, but you and I both know falling for someone while on deployment is a mistake.”
“Preaching to the choir here, boss. I might enjoy the view on occasion, but there’s a line I have no interest in crossing.”
They’d both watched as a former team member fell hard for a woman he’d met while overseas. The relationship disintegrated within weeks after he’d been reassigned. It had damn near broke him, and he’d left the military altogether.
“I respect her,” Sharp told his commander. “She’s smart and she’s worked her ass off this last year. I also think Marshall has some kind of vendetta against her. The look on his face the other night…” Sharp shook his head. “He’d have killed her if he could have. She belongs to us.”
Cutter was silent for a couple of moments, his gaze steady on Sharp’s face. Finally, he angled his head toward the knot of soldiers and gear. “Come on, no one is going to bother her now. Marshall needs her. Get your shit together.”
Cutter had one thing right. He needed to keep his focus on the mission. Sharp followed the other man, but there wasn’t much for any of them to do, since they were always ready to move out on a moment’s notice. Every man on the team had developed the habit during training and had only refined it since. One of their instructors used to say that an unprepared soldier was a dead soldier.
Sharp joined the rest of his team, double-checked his weapons, pulled on his battered gear and bio-suit and got out of the way. Focus.
Cutter was talking with Bart, one of their communications guys, when Colonel Marshall walked in a few minutes later with another half-dozen soldiers behind him and headed straight for the Special Forces group.
“Cutter, storm coming at twelve o’clock,” Sharp informed him quietly.
By the time Marshall came to a stop, the entire A-Team was standing at attention.
“Sir,” Cutter said with a salute. “The go-team is ready, sir.”
“Where’s that damn doctor?”
“She’ll be here in six minutes, sir.”
Marshall grunted. “You’re taking these men with you on this mission. Two additional medics, Yanik and Anderson, and four of my infantry for security. Your mission objective is to assist Major Samuels.”
For the first time since their arrival two weeks ago, Marshall was actually helping a situation rather than shitting all over it.
“And make sure that bitch doesn’t screw up,” Marshall added. “I want the men on that patrol back in one piece. Understand?”
“Yes, sir.”
The team saluted and Marshall stalked off like he was Patton or something.
“So much for that guy not being a tremendous bag of dicks,” the team’s second in command, John Leonard, said in an undertone.
   

About The Author

   


Julie Rowe’s first career as a medical lab technologist in Canada took her to the North West Territories and northern Alberta, where she still resides. She loves to include medical details in her romance novels, but admits she’ll never be able to write about all her medical experiences because, “No one would believe them!”.

In addition to writing contemporary and historical medical romance, and fun romantic suspense for Entangled Publishing and Carina Press, Julie has short stories in Fool’s Gold, the Mammoth Book of ER Romance, Timeless Keepsakes and Timeless Escapes anthologies. Her book SAVING THE RIFLEMAN (book #1 WAR GIRLS) won the novella category of the 2013 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. AIDING THE ENEMY (book #3 WAR GIRLS) won the novella category of the 2014 Colorado Romance Writer’s Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in several magazines such as Romantic Times Magazine, Today’s Parent, and Canadian Living.

You can reach Julie at www.julieroweauthor.com , on Twitter @julieroweauthor or at her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/JulieRoweAuthor 


Connect with Julie:

Author Website: http://www.julieroweauthor.com/ Facebook: www.facebook.com/JulieRoweAuthor 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JulieRoweAuthor Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/5272597.Julie_Rowe  



Virtual Book Tour Page

Friday, August 14, 2015

Character Interview with Ian from The White Knight, the Lost Kingdom, and the Sea Princess by Judy Carlson

We’re thrilled to be talking to Ian from Judy Carlson's book The White Knight The List Kingdom and The Sea Princess It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Pimp That Character! 


Thank you for your interview, Ian. Can you tell us your story? 

I am a 14 yr old kid visiting his grandparents in St. Paul, Minnesota. I sort of fell into this other world from my grandparents attic along with my 12 yr old cousin Clara. 


Can you tell us about one of your most distinguishable features? 

Pretty arrogant, good looking and tender hearted. 


What would I love the most about you? 

My getting messed up slot. 


What would I hate the most about you? 

That I take others down into a dark place with me. 


Where do you go when you are angry? 

I spit kick dirt and whine. 


What makes you laugh out loud? 

Flying on my Centaur Ethan's back. (Kind of a man horse creature. ) 


What is your most treasured possession? 

The White Knights Belt 


What is your greatest fear? 

Clara and I Not getting back home alive to our world. 


What is the trait you most not like about yourself? 

I am a betrayer of my friends 


What is your idea of a perfect day? 

A lady a pipe and and some berry wine 


What is your favorite weather? 

Snow and even better a blizzard. 


What’s your idea of a perfect meal? 

Cinnamon rolls at Mor Mors!




About The Book


Title: The White Knight, the Lost Kingdom, and the Sea Princess
Author: Judy Carlson
Publisher: Nordskog Publishing, Inc.
Publication Date: July 1, 2015
Format: eBook / Paperback / PDF
Pages: 476
ISBN: 978-0983195757
Genre: Mythical Fantasy


Buy The Book:


Book Description:

Just as the creator of the Chronicles of Narnia decided to try his writer’s hand and imagination, I decided to try something too. And so, I have written a story of my own having been prompted by that same idea of creating a God presence in another place. No, it is not Narnia but it is a new world similar yet different from our own. Surely, as I write this, I was inspired by the man who has invited tens of thousands of readers and not a few writers to write, think and look beyond this ‘shadow land’ called earth. I have named it The White Knight, the Lost Kingdom, and the Sea Princess’.

It is a story of intrigue and ever present danger in a world populated by creatures and mortals, whose destiny hangs by the threads of an Emperor’s vision, a prince’s lost love, mysterious foes, enchanting forest maidens, unlikely heroes, and a mermaid-heroine. All of this is wrapped up in a champion so invincible, yet mysterious, that he challenges the Dark Sorcerer with supernatural forces of a fascinating nature, using even the humblest of defenders. This profound love story will leave you with a taste for a country and a universe beyond your dreams and even imaginings. A world that is A fairy tale come true, and one “you will never want to end”.

IT MAY BECOME YOUR TRUEST 'HAPPILY EVER AFTER' STORY, AND perhaps YOUR OWN FAIRY TALE WILL NEVER END AS WELL.


Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1:

The Vanquished Kingdom

Under the Laws of Providence We have duties which are perilous. –Austin Phelps

Affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. –John Donne

A deathly pall hung over the palace and the city of Ajar as the threatening presence of the insidious Black Guard escalated.

“Hurry!” called the Queen to her maidservant, “Come quickly, Dianna!”

“Yes, Your Majesty!”

“The trunk is in my wardrobe closet. Count Amas has ordered two of his trusted men to secure it for me. They will take it to the cottage of the nursemaid Elnora and secret it there. We only hope they can avoid discovery.”

“Yes, madam,” the girl answered in a trembling voice.

“Disguise it with this linen cloth, Dianna, and lay flowers upon it. If noticed at all, a covered table will arouse less suspicion than a royal trunk.” The Queen of the Eastern Islands paused and lowered her head for a moment. Then glancing up at the servant girl, she said, “If evil befalls both Lady Elnora and me, reveal the trunk’s whereabouts only to a trusted friend. Perhaps my son Loren still has breath somewhere in this dim world and will come thither to claim it one day.”

“But, Your Majesty, surely the Lord Regent would not dare to hurt you!” The girl began weeping. Queen Maybella took her by the shoulders, fighting back her own tears.

“Forgive us, maiden, for we allowed evil to enter our beloved kingdom. Weep not for us. If we perish, we shall go to the White City. Weep for those who remain here in this place.” The lady’s voice became intense. “You must flee the palace if we are . . .removed. This wicked Usurper will come to his undoing some day. Yet as for you, without my protection, you will be. . . . Please, you must flee. Trust no strangers, Dianna. Aryel the White Knight will return. Be strong until then.”

(The increased power and control of the Lord Regent and his Black Guard had rendered the king and his advisors only figureheads. The royal family were little more than prisoners in their own palace. Fear of the attacks of a horrible dragon had spread like an epidemic over the citizens of the Eastern Island Kingdom of Ajar. In as much as it seemed only the Lord Regent had power over the fearsome beast, they had capitulated. Kneel or perish was his mantra. They were a free people no more. The few citizens who rebelled were killed, and so the underground resistance was born.)

The handmaiden of the queen did as her mistress bid her. When the soldiers came to take the trunk, it appeared to be a bench or table adorned for a summer tea. Several hours later, there came shouts and then screams from the royal family’s quarters. King Elmern’s voice was commanding, but to no avail. “Do not harm my sons! Take me only!”

A thunderous voice roared back, “Silence, you fool! If I would destroy you, why then would I leave an heir!” Following a tortuous silence, the Black Guards’ boots stomped through the halls. Then they paused behind the chapel door. The door shook from their pounding blows. The maidservant yet stayed by her mistress.


 About The Author 



Judy Carlson is from St. Paul, MN. She and husband Tim have six children and 20 grandchildren and reside in Missouri. Judy has a BA in English from Trinity International University. Her lifetime passion for literature and writing and the works of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien has permeated this novel with their characteristic sense of wonder. She wrote her first story at age nine, and has been the grand storyteller to her children and grandchildren.

Connect with Judy:
Publisher Website: www.NordskogPublishing.com




 Virtual Book Tour Page 

http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/2015/07/08/pump-up-your-book-presents-the-white-knight-the-lost-kingdom-and-the-sea-princess-virtual-book-publicity-tour/






Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Character Interview with Lieutenant Commander Patrick O’Toole from Vows to The Fallen by Larry Laswell

We’re thrilled to be talking to Lieutenant Commander Patrick O’Toole from Larry Laswell’s Vows to the Fallen. It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Pimp That Character! 

Thank you for your interview, Commander O’Toole. Can you tell us your story? 

As a kid, I fell in love with the stories and legends of Commodore Barry, the founder of the US Navy. He inspired me, and all I wanted to do was become an admiral someday.

When I think about it in retrospect—and I tend to overthink things sometimes—I would sum up my story this way. My grandfather raised me, and he was one tough SOB who was impossible to please. Because of that I grew up feeling inadequate. My feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy blinded me to my strengths and what I could offer my men.

Then I discovered that a military commander’s toughest job was to make those life-and-death decisions. Having to order men to their deaths filled me with guilt and grief. That, coupled with my self-doubt, really screwed me up. I would never make admiral the way I was headed, so I had to find a positive purpose for my life as a naval officer.


Can you tell us about one of your most distinguishable features? 

There is really nothing special about me. I believe I would vanish in a crowd if it weren’t for my red hair. Everyone says it’s the reddest hair they’ve ever seen.


What would I hate the most about you?

What would you hate most about me? You’d be like my crew—they hate most of me. Did I tell you my nickname is “Terror”? That’s what my crew calls me, and I don’t try to stop them. The nickname has two meanings. My ship, the USS Farnley, has the best-trained, bravest, and most-feared crew in the fleet. The Japs know about us—we’re a real bone to be chewed, and proud of it.

The other meaning of “Terror” comes from the fact I am tough on my crew. No matter how well my crew does, if it could be a little better, it’s not adequate. I learned that being easy on my men only results in them getting killed. I’m tough as hell on them because that’s the way I keep them alive. As a military commander, the kindest thing I can do is be tough on my men and make sure every man is trained to the best of his ability. They hate the training, they hate me for making them do it, and they bitch about the training all the time. Secretly, though, they know why I’m so tough. They know I care about them.


Where do you go when you are angry? 

Honestly, I rarely get angry. Sometimes my men think I’m angry, but really it’s just that someone disappointed me by not doing his best. When I do get angry, I don’t go anywhere. I stay put and deal with it right then and there; no pussyfooting around.


What is your most treasured possession?

One of my crewmen carried two brass balls in his pocket. He said it takes real brass balls to fight the Japs. He gave them to me right before he died. Undoubtedly those balls are my most precious possession. It reminds me what my job is as a military commander.

There is one other thing though. I don’t talk about it, and up until now, only my wife has known about it. I carry a notebook with the names of the men who have died under my command. I owe those brave young men a debt I will never be able to repay. It reminds me of the vow I made to them.


What is your greatest fear?

Making the wrong decision in the face of the enemy. Command decisions have consequences, and no matter what, I know men are going to die. I always worry about the decisions I made. I wonder, if I had done things differently, would fewer men have died? Of course, you can never find answers wondering about such things.


Do you think the author portrayed you accurately? 

Yeah, too well. He wasted way too much ink on me. I don’t think it’s right for anyone to single me out. He should have spent more time on my crew. They are the courageous ones, they are the heroes, they are the ones who make things happen. Me, I’m just a simple sailor and teacher trying to do my job.


Are you a loner or do you prefer to surround yourself with friends? 

Being the captain of a navy destroyer is a lonely job, but it’s bearable because I’m surrounded by my crew. With them around me, I’m never lonely, and I always make time to chat with them and find out what’s going on back home.


What is your favorite weather? 

Honestly? This is going to surprise you. Put me on the bridge of a ship in a hurricane. Give me a bucking deck and a dirty coffee mug; I love the reality of it, the power and majesty of the sea with nothing between you and the bottom except your skill. There are no blowhards, wannabes, or pretenders on the bridge of a ship in a storm. It the ultimate test of a man’s metal.


When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

My uncle worked at the Philadelphia shipyard when I was a kid, and he took me into the shipyard several times. The first time I saw a battleship in dry dock, it was the grandest thing I had ever seen. Ever since that moment, I wanted to be admiral so I could stand on her bridge and command the fleet.


If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?

I’ve been there. At the battle of Mujatto Gulf, we had to defend the invasion fleet against an overwhelming Japanese armada. It was a suicide mission, and I knew I was going to die in the morning. What did I do? What any American would have done—I did my duty.

If I were home and I knew I was going to die tomorrow, I would spend every last second of it with my wife, Kate, and my son, Patrick.



      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


Buy The Book: Publication Date: August 14, 2015
Pre-Order The Book: July 1, 2015



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?”

“No.”

“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?”

“Probably.”

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 www.larrylaswell.com

Connect with Larry Laswell: 

Author Blog:  larrylaswell.com/blog 

     

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 http://larrylaswell.com 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.

Pre-order Vows to the Fallen today!  


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