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Book Spotlight – I Am Me

I Am Me just for Kindle

I Am Me
by Kai Strand

#YA #Contemporary

Despite—or perhaps because of—her fancy car, private school education, and life of privilege, Lola Renaldi has become a volunteer junkie. Feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, visiting the elderly—if it’s a good cause, she’s done it.

Lola’s favorite stint, building affordable houses, puts her directly in the path of Rodney. He refuses to discuss why he’s doing community service, but it’s clear he’s hiding something dark about his past. As their friendship grows, Lola begins to question the true reasons for her obsessive volunteerism and her view of those she has pledged to help.

She is only beginning to understand how lucky she truly is when her life falls apart. After losing friends, her boyfriend, even Rodney, Lola finally recognizes which parts of her life she wants to hang on to and what specifically she wants to go after. But with all she’s been through, will she be able to hang onto who she wants to be? Or will she lose all that defines her?


Is it my imagination or are me and my figure-hugging pencil skirt getting the evil eye from more than half of the girls stuffed into the room? Maybe it’s my doe-in-the-headlights expression. I feel like I’m in some sort of awkward-girl spotlight.

“Excuse me,” I mutter several times until I finally stumble into the hall and find myself surrounded by more kids who all seem to zero in on me as soon as I’m among them. I’m still trying to convince myself it’s all my imagination until I make eye contact with several people who look less than welcoming. Guess I should have tagged along with the other girls after all.

I’m temporarily turned around and start in the wrong direction. When my panic fades a bit, I realize I’m headed away from the auditorium and spin around. I smack into a boy’s chest and stumble backward. My purse slips off my shoulder, and I only just manage to grab it before it falls to the floor, but it swings up and hits the boy on the side when I yank the strap.

The kid grabs me to stop me from falling. I clutch his arm in return.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have turned so suddenly. Are you okay?” I rub my nose, its impact with the boy’s chest still stings. When I look up I’m surprised to recognize him. I place my hand on his chest as I exclaim, “Rodney!”

He goes still, which doesn’t really make sense, because he hadn’t actually been moving before I said his name. His eyes scan me, but his expression doesn’t change, and he remains mute.

I realize I might look different being that I’m clean and dressed up, so I clarify. “Lola. We worked together on Saturday. I taught you how to caulk.”

His eyes quickly scan the passing students like maybe he’s checking to see if anyone’s listening. Or maybe watching?

“Are you okay?” I repeat, only just stopping myself from rubbing the spot on his chest where my nose made contact.

One of his hands slides down the back of my arm and cups my elbow. The touch is so light, little shivers of expectation resonate through me. He lets me go without warning and walks away.

I spin and watch his head bob down the hall, my mouth hanging open. “That was rude,” I say to no one. Finally, I turn in the direction I need to go, reposition my purse on my shoulder, and return to the auditorium.

Get your copy:

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About the author


When her children were young and the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fireplace and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died. The end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Learn more about Kai and her books on her website, www.kaistrand.com.


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Release Blitz – The Mage Heir

About the Book

Traitor: that’s what Tatsu is now. On the run from both Runon and Chayd, Tatsu and Yudai’s only hope for survival is to disappear into the wilds. However, when the siphon’s deadly curse returns, they have no choice but to travel into the desert kingdom of Joesar in search of a cure.

Battling the unforgiving elements of the sands, Tatsu starts to realize that the path towards destroying the siphon may claim Yudai’s life. Time is running out as Nota’s fury—and the siphon’s hunger—begin to spiral wildly beyond their control.

As their options slowly fall away, the only thing Tatsu and Yudai can count on is each other.

Author Bio

Kathryn didn’t major in creative writing, but never stopped believing. She survives on books, strong coffee, craft beer, puppies, and the Oxford comma. She currently lives in Japan with her husband and teaches high school English to shape the next generation of young minds. She also comma splices like it’s going out of style.


The Mage Heir on Amazon

Book One (The Life Siphon) on Amazon

Book Excerpt

Tatsu didn’t mind sleeping under the leaves, but Yudai’s agitation seemed to grow as the sky darkened. He paced back and forth between two ancient tree trunks with his hands clasped behind his back, over and over, until the stars came out.

“You’re going to have to sleep eventually,” Tatsu pointed out, voice mild, once the moon was high overhead. It earned him a growl in reply. “Please just sit down.”

“This clearing will be dead by morning,” Yudai snapped. When he turned to retrace his steps again, Tatsu could see the twist of his fingers clenched together in tight fists.

“You can’t do anything about it, so there’s no point in blaming yourself. It’s probably just making the whole thing worse.”

The look Yudai threw him was dubious at best, but evidently, the possibility was difficult to ignore. Yudai eventually settled himself down between two patches of yellow-green weeds, and he ran his finger over his lip a few times before his eyes flickered up towards Tatsu. “Distract me.”

“You could ask nicely,” Tatsu said.

One corner of Yudai’s mouth quirked upward. “I could,” he agreed, and said nothing more.

“Did you know that my mother had other children?”

Yudai blinked and sat back, face slackening. “Good distraction.”


Giveaway for 5 eBook copies of “The Mage Heir” to celebrate the release day.

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Subject Excellence Award

David was awarded Subject Excellence Award today. Way to go!


VBT – Requiem for a Rescue Dog Queen

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About the Author

M.K. Scott

M. K. Scott is the husband and wife writing team behind The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries and The Talking Dog Detective Agency. Morgan K. Wyatt is the general wordsmith, while her husband, Scott, is the grammar hammer and physics specialist. He uses his engineering skills to explain how fast a body falls when pushed over a cliff and various other felonious activities. The Internet and experts in the field provide forensic information, while the recipes and B and B details require a more hands-on approach.  Morgan’s daughter, who manages a hotel, provides guest horror stories to fuel the plot lines. The couple’s dog, Chance, is the inspiration behind Jasper, Donna’s dog. Overall, both are a fun series to create and read.



About the Book

Requim ForaRescueDogQueen_LRG

Author: M.K. Scott
Publisher: Sleeping Dragon Press
Pages: 240
Genre: Cozy Mystery


Pre-school teacher turned private eye Nala Bonne, and her opinionated dog, Max, have a nose for evil doings in Circle City. They’ve recently gone to the dogs, make that rescue dogs. Not everyone in Indianapolis has a soft spot for a homeless pup. Someone has it out for the dogs and the people who love them. A midnight call jolts Nala and Max into action as they rush to the aid of a local rescue dog queen, but it may already be too late.



Book Excerpt

Forget about it and enjoy the moment. Her hair streamed behind her as the boat picked up speed. Even though it had been a hot Indian Summer day, going this fast on the water chilled her. The windbreaker she brought just in case would solve the issue but would cover up the flirty top she’d donned for the date. Should she be comfortable or becoming?

A loud noise interrupted before she could decide. The lake remained empty and calm, except for the wake behind the boat. Using her flat hand as a sun shield for her eyes, she peered toward the shore to figure out who might be playing the same trio of notes repeatedly. No one on the shoreline, which only deepened the mystery. It sounded so familiar. In an aha moment, she realized it was her phone. Unfortunately, the realization forced her to open her eyes in her dark bedroom.

The red numerals on her clock indicated it was one-thirty in the morning. It was too late or too early for anyone to call. The sound stopped when she realized the tune had been the one she assigned to Karly, her best friend. Karly would only call her this late if it was an emergency. A cold canine nose touched her hand as she reached for her phone on the nightstand.

“Go back to sleep, Max. It doesn’t involve you.”

Even though it was dark and Max was a black German shepherd mix, she would have sworn the dog cocked his head and gave her an oh, really look. The damp nose disappeared with the sound of dog nails on the wood floor as Max settled on the floor. She could hear him mutter under his breath, “We’ll see.”

Yeah, dealing with a talking dog could be problematic at times. Her fingers found the phone which now had a glowing dot on the dashboard for notifications. Before she could call back, the phone rang again, vibrating in her hand. Karly again.

“Why in the world would you be calling me in the middle of the night?”

Her friend’s breathless voice gasped out. “We need your help!”

Why A Talking Dog Character?

M K Scott


Most people who are cozy mystery fans know the genre features small towns, recipes, quirky characters, interfering relatives and adorable pets. At the very least, there are spoiled pets. People have genuine feelings for the pets in the story because they remind them of their own four-legged friends.

Celebrated author, Anne Perry, had mentioned at an authors’ gathering I attended that you never kill the dog. You can pretty much kill anyone else in the story, except for the dog. It makes sense that such an important character should get more space on the page, but there is only so much tail wagging and looking up with imploring eyes that a dog can do.

Max’s unusual ability to speak came from a disenchanted witch who gave the canine the ability to talk when she couldn’t get his taciturn owner who was also her boyfriend to hold up his end of a conversation. To say his owner wasn’t a fan of Max’s new ability would be putting it mildly. His early speaking efforts included how he felt and everything he observed.

Most people would get tired of the mention of squirrels, cats, and the occasional rabbit. Max didn’t stop there. He went so far as to offer relationship advice. His ability to talk resulted in a stay at the shelter where he finally discovers no one really wants a talking dog.

As a dog, Max says what he thinks. Every now and then, he comes up with a real wisdom gem. He also has the same skills as a regular dog such as the ability to track. The big difference is Max can tell Nala what he smells. Just like his non-English speaking counterparts, he is driven by food and will engage in a bark fest with other dogs since he’s multi-lingual. He counts scent as one of his languages, too. It is a treat to write dialogue for Max since he can be silly, snarky, and on occasion, brilliant. There just might be a tiny bit of my own pet in Max, too.


VBT – Ivy Vines, Visions

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About the Author

Judy Serrano

Judy Serrano holds a Master of Arts in English from Texas A&M University-, Commerce. She is the owner of Make Cents Editing Service, and was an adjunct professor at a local college. Currently she teaches high school English and is a freelance writer for certain on-line publications. Judy also writes romantic suspense and paranormal romance novels. She is the author of The Easter’s Lilly Series, The Linked Seriesand Ivy Vines, Visions.

Although originally form New York, Judy resides in Texas with her husband, four boys, two dogs and now five cats. She sings and plays guitar when she has time and enjoys singing with her very musical family in church when she is able.



About the Book

Author: Judy Serrano
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 267
Genre: Paranormal Romance


Moving to Sedona was the only way Ivy could think of to start over. She would meet her high school sweetheart and work on making things right between them. Her psychic abilities were gradually becoming a curse and she needed a new start. Little does she know that when she applies for a waitressing job at a local, upscale French bistro, she will come in contact with the dark and mysterious Eli Dubois. What she doesn’t realize is she has just walked into the middle of the Vortex Murders, which involve a great deal of paranormal activity. Elijah’s army of seers are being murdered, one by one, which seems to be magnifying Ivy’s special abilities. 

Eli’s best friend, Jake, arrives on the scene and reveals the secret that changes everything. With nowhere to turn, Ivy leans on the two men who offer her solace. And who is the old woman in the shroud? Is she a vision, a dream, or is she real? Only time will tell.

Ivy Vines Visions




Book Excerpt:

My heart was beating almost out of my chest as I drove to the restaurant to see Simone. I checked my rear view mirror often; just to be sure I wasn’t followed. I parked the car and ran as fast as my legs would carry me to the front door. I felt like I was burdened with cement weights around my ankles as I forced my body to keep moving forward. Trying to catch my breath was futile when Eduardo met me at the entrance. I was in no mood for his pretentious smile and flippant tone, but still he would not let me pass.

“I need to see Simone,” I told him, barely able to form the words due to the lack of air in my lungs.

“Will that be one for lunch or two?” he asked me. I almost punched him.

“Two,” I answered, regaining my composure. “Simone is off in a few minutes. She’ll have lunch with me, I’m sure.”

“Very well then,” he answered. He slowly took out two menus and sat me at a table by the window.

“Thank you,” I managed. “Please tell Simone I’m here.” He made an unfavorable face at me and walked away. I looked out the window and began to recapture a normal breathing pattern. I noticed an old woman walking by the creek. She had her head covered by a black scarf and she was wearing what looked like a black cloak over her body. It was warm out, being early September, and that’s why her clothing caught my attention. She took off the scarf and looked at me. When our eyes touched, I could feel my blood pressure rise. My face got warm. Long grey curls cascaded down, past her shoulders and her expression got very grave. Her nose looked like a misshapen staircase and she had a mole on the left side of her face along her jaw line. She pointed her finger at me, slowly straightening it out as far as it could go and I felt a surge of fear strike through my body. I stood up quickly, pushing my chair back with the backs of my knees and felt a hand on my shoulder. I let out a shriek, that was certainly noticeable and when I turned, it was Simone’s hand on my shoulder.

“Ivy, what is it?” she asked. “The last time I heard you scream like that…” I dismissed her, mid-sentence, knowing exactly what she was going to say. Since that day. The day we don’t dare talk about or even remember if we can help it. I turned my attention back to the creek but the old woman was gone.

I could feel her.

“It’s nothing I told her. Are you done with your shift yet?”

“Yes, I’m done,” she answered. “Eduardo is making me change my clothes first. So, sit tight and I’ll be right back.”

I sat back down and looked out the window again. A breeze blew open one of the side windows unexpectedly and I almost fell out of my chair. I could hear a faint humming. It was all too familiar. There was still no old woman, but I knew she was there.

She was watching me somehow.

Simone finally came back and sat beside me. “What’s going on, Ivy? I haven’t seen you this unraveled in a very long time. It’s a little disconcerting to say the least.”

“He’s after me,” I told her. “He knows I’m here.”

“Who knows you’re here? Ivy, you’re not making any sense.”

“Lucifer,” I whispered, leaning into her so that no one else would hear me. “He thinks I know.”

“He thinks you know what?” she asked, looking at me as though I had gone mad.

“When Jesus is coming. He thinks I know.”

“Do you?” she asked. “Do you know?”

A hiss filled the air in the room as the wind picked up and gushed through the open window. I drew a breath but I dared not answer.

She was listening.


Judy, thanks for being my guest. Tell us about you as a person.
That is an interesting question. When people look at me, they see a Christian mommy who brought up four wonderful boys and has a happy, wonderful marriage, all of which are true. However, when I was young, I was a bit of a thrill seeker. I used rock-climb without ropes (much to my father’s dismay), drive cross country with not much more than a guitar and a dream, and play music with strangers at campfires. No regrets.

If you could hang out with one famous person for one day, who would it be and why
William Butler Yeats. He is my favorite poet. I would love to hear his story, and find out how he ended up being such a prolific poet. He and I share an interesting fact. He suffered from dyslexia as do I. It is interesting to me that we would both become writers.

What’s the story behind your latest book?
Ivy Vines, Visions takes place in Sedona Arizona. I used to live there. The New Age Movement was fascinating to me. I picked up on a little bit of that and developed it into my novel.

What is your writing process?
The first thing I do is check my social media. Then, I re-read the last chapter that I wrote so that I can remember where I left off. Sometimes I listen to classical music when I write, but in general it doesn’t matter what is going on in the background. I have been known to write while carrying on a conversation with my children.

Tell us about your main character:
My main character is a strong, independent woman. She is vulnerable yet courageous. She has trouble choosing the men in her life though…

If your book was to be turned into a movie, who would play the lead role and why.
I would want Julianne Hough to play Ivy. She is beautiful, strong, and determined, just like my Ivy Vines.

What are you working on next?
Funny you should ask. I just finished grad school a few weeks ago, and I can’t wait to throw myself back into the game. I have a book that I started two years ago about the mafia. Although I already have The Easter’s Lilly Series, which is about the Mexican Mafia, this one is a new book with its own personality.  I am excited to finish the final edit.

What advice do you have for other writers who want to get the word out about their book?
Social media is the way to go. I have sold quite a few books from Facebook and Twitter. Make friends and connections, and work together.

What is your favorite book on your shelf right now?
All my books are in my Kindle with few exceptions. I think my favorite book of all time is The MacKade Brothers by Nora Roberts. The book is steamy, romantic and quite tasteful.

Do you have any special/extraordinary talents?
As a matter of fact, I sing and play guitar. I enjoy playing country and Christian music.

You are given the choice of one super power. What super power would you have and why?
After giving this question probably a little too much thought, I think I would like to be able to teleport. I work very far away from my house, and I hate to drive. I think that would make my life so much easier.

List 5 things on your bucket list:

  1. Audition for The Voice
  2. Visit Italy
  3. Visit France
  4. Write a best seller
  5. Own a lake house

Where can readers find you on the web?





Any final thoughts?

Thank you so much for the opportunity to visit with you today. I am blessed to be able to write and live my dream. My advice to anyone who thinks that their dreams are unattainable is to always go for it. Just remember that often the backup plan becomes the plan, so reach for the stars always, and push forward. My favorite quote is by Robert Browning- “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for.”

Thanks Judy 🙂

VBT – Sanctuary


About the Book
Title: Sanctuary
Author: Makayla Love
Genre: Steampunk / Post-Apocalyptic

Sanctuary Book Cover

Shiloh isn’t adjusting well to her new life in Ironbridge. Life isn’t how she always imagined it would be, and every day is harder than the last. Things only get worse when a small family on their way to a settlement called “Sanctuary” shows up on Shiloh’s doorstep looking for an escort the rest of the way. But Sanctuary isn’t all its supposed to be.

When they find themselves trapped, every second becomes a fight for survival. Can they find a way out before one of them falls to a mad tyrant? Or will their little group be broken up forever?

Author Bio

Author Pic

Makayla Love is an aspiring Harley Quinn-esque super villain who has decided to spend her time between nefarious schemes by writing paranormal novels in her lair somewhere in the general Kansas area. She enjoys sit-coms and doesn’t have enough shelf space for her ever multiplying collection of books.

Instagram: @agirl_unwritten
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/makaylaloveauthor/
Blog: https://makaylaloveauthor.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @AGirl_Unwritten
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00IR7QD40

Book Excerpts
Excerpt #1:

Late afternoon set in and I decided to put forth every ounce of energy and strength still in my body and sit up.
With that much accomplished, I made my next goal getting up onto my feet.
Doing good so far. I ought to try going somewhere . . . doing something. But what? The laundry needed done but it was far too much effort to fill the wash basin and scrub what few precious pieces of clothes we had. I could do an inventory on our supplies—which would be an easy enough job. I just had to count. Okay, I could do that.
I ended up being rather proud of myself when I finished the task. At least I did something.
Momentum is something best not lost. So while I still had it in me to keep moving even when I didn’t want to I found one of my embroidery projects. I took it out onto the porch after turning the gramophone radio on. By then the air was stifling and I had soaked in sweat since noon. After Garth was home for a while—
(If he comes home at all.)
–when he decides to go back out again—
(Again? He might not come back this time.)
—I could ask him to look for an electric fan for me. It would be nice to set it up in the house and try to cool it down some. But for now there was no reason to sit inside. If I wanted to feel better, I had to create the conditions for it. I had to put forth the effort to stop being like this if I wanted to—
(You’re never going to feel better)
—change my attitude. I needed to relax, to find—
(There’s only one way to make it stop. There’s only one way to end the pain for good.)
I had to create a sense of normalcy. Before Rilei and I came out here most of my days were filled with needlework and music and books. I had plenty of books but my needlework had been neglected. A lady can’t be expected to keep up her skills with a needle and thread if she doesn’t practice.

Excerpt #2:

My eyelids fluttered open to a room bathed in the glittering white light of day. Though how late in the day I couldn’t say. It was too bright and hot to be early morning but I didn’t know why I would be allowed to sleep in the way I was. Regardless, I rolled over onto my side and didn’t try to hurry myself to wake up. Why? I already slept much longer than need be. Might as well take my time about it.
Plus the heat kept me too sleepy and stupid to have much of a reaction to anything. Which might’ve been why when I saw Garth hovering outside my window, adorned in one of his shirts with the sleeves cut off so that his well-sculpted arms showed in all their muscular glory, I didn’t think much of it.
How peculiar . . . I thought as I watched him reach his arm up and down. Up and down. Up and down. How does he do that? I think I would want to learn that. It might come in handy someday, to just lift your feet off the ground and fly—
But people can’t fly. Not without the aid of a dirigible or airplane wings or turbine engines.
Everything came at me all at once, and did so with such force that I threw myself out of my bed and at the window.
“Garth! What are you doing?”
He didn’t look at me. “I’m—” He drifted his gaze over to me and whatever he intended to say died in his throat. A shade of bright pink lit up his face as his eyes grew wide and his lips pressed into a thin line. I watched his eyes, which moved from mine to something down . . . lower.
I followed his gaze. When I saw what he was looking at I made an odd sort of sound between a gasp and a scream. In my heat-induced stupidity and the shock of seeing him outside my second-story bedroom window I’d forgotten that I made a habit of sleeping in my bra and panties. I tried to cover my indecency up with my arms but to no avail. At last I drew the curtains shut and hurried to put on something.
Once dressed in my black t-shirt and blue denim shorts, I ran downstairs and out the front door. Garth stood near a long ladder with a gray soaked paintbrush in one hand and a matching paint can in the other.


VBT – Last Puffs

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About the Author

Harley Mazuk

Harley Mazuk was born in Cleveland, the last year that the Indians won the World Series. He majored in English literature at Hiram College in Ohio, and Elphinstone College, Bombay, India. Harley worked as a record salesman (vinyl) and later served the U.S. Government in Information Technology and in communications, where he honed his writing style as an editor and content provider for official web sites.

Retired now, he likes to write pulp fiction, mostly private eye stories, several of which have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. His first full length novel, White with Fish, Red with Murder, was released in 2017, and his newest, Last Puffs, just came out in January 2018.

Harley’s other passions are his wife Anastasia, their two children, reading, running, Italian cars, California wine and peace.




About the Book

Last Puffs

Author: Harley Mazuk
Publisher: New Pulp Press
Pages: 293
Genre: Mystery/Crime/Private Eye


Frank Swiver and his college pal, Max Rabinowitz, both fall in love with Amanda Zingaro, courageous Republican guerilla, in the Spanish civil war. But the local fascists murder her and her father.

Eleven years later in San Francisco in 1949, Frank, traumatized by the violence in Spain, has become a pacifist and makes a marginal living as a private eye. Max who lost an eye in Spain but owes his life to Frank, has pledged Frank eternal loyalty. He’s a loyal communist party member and successful criminal attorney.

Frank takes on a case for Joan Spring, half-Chinese wife of a wealthy banker. Joan seduces Frank to ensure his loyalty. But Frank busts up a prostitution/white slavery ring at the Lotus House a brothel in Chinatown, where Joan was keeping refugees from Nanking prisoners.

Then Max sees a woman working in a Fresno cigar factory, who is a dead ringer for Amanda, and brings in Frank, who learns it is Amanda. She has tracked the fascists who killed her father and left her for dead from her village in Spain to California. Amanda wants Frank to help her take revenge. And by the way, she says the ten-year-old boy with her is Frank’s son.

Joan Spring turns out to be a Red Chinese secret agent, and she’s drawn a line through Max’s name with a pencil. Can Frank save Max again? Can he help Amanda avenge her father when he’s sworn off violence? Can he protect her from her target’s daughter, the sadistic Veronica Rios-Ortega? Join Frank Swiver in the swift-moving story, Last Puffs.


.5 out of 5 stars Wonderful Read – Easy and Fun

February 10, 2018

Format: Kindle Edition| Verified Purchase

Frank Swiver is a detective. Murder investigations are his specialty. He likes wine, loose women and fast cars. Not necessarily in that order. Swiver inhabits an earlier world that is archaic and, without doubt, politically incorrect by today’s standards. Harley Mazuk recreates in Swiver a character from another era whose story is fun and entertaining. Mazuk has an impressive knowledge of wines and cars which permeate his narrative. As to his knowledge of women, I am not competent to judge. I do know that the geography and time period portrayed is well researched. There are many twists and turns to the plot as well as an injection of espionage that keeps the reader guessing. Fans of old fashion detective novels will enjoy this book. I know, I did.

— Amazon Reviewer


Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Book Excerpt:

Aragón, Spain, March 1938

There’d been a dusting of fresh snow in the high ground during the night, and the captain wanted our squad, which was nine men, to relieve an outpost on the crest of a hill, just up above the tree line. Max Rabinowitz took point, and I followed, climbing steadily. It was a cold, quiet morning, and we talked between ourselves about the ’38 baseball season, and whether we’d be back in the States to see any games.

“I would like to see Hank Greenberg and the Tigers play DiMaggio and the Yanks,” said Max. Max was dark-haired and rangy, and I always thought he looked a bit like Cary Grant, though now after a year in the field, there was nothing suave nor dapper in his appearance.

“How about Ted Williams?” I said. “We’ve already seen DiMaggio play in San Francisco with the Seals.”

“We saw Williams play with the Padres. Besides, he isn’t in the big leagues yet,” said Max.

“Yeah, but the Red Sox signed him.” I walked along just off Max’s shoulder. I was about the same height as Max, six feet, six-one, a little thinner, and looked at least as scruffy that morning. I wore a burgundy scarf around my head and ears, under a dirty and battered grey fedora. I scanned the virgin snow ahead of us with heavy-lidded eyes. The wind was faint, just enough to pick up a feathery wisp of snow in spots and spin it around.  

“He’s only about 19. I think they’ll keep him down on the farm for ’38.”

“I would like to see Bob Feller pitch to your boy Greenberg,” I told Max.

Smitty came up between us. “Feller throws 100 miles an hour, and he strikes out more than one per inning.”

“They say,” said Max, “he walks almost one an inning,”

“Keeps ‘em loose up there,” said Smitty, who was from Cleveland. “Hundred mile an hour heat and nobody knows where it’s going.”

As the three of us stepped out of the cover of the tree line, Smitty kind of hopped up on one leg and threw his arms out. I wondered what sort of a weird little dance that was; then I heard the automatic weapons fire coming down at us off the hill. It was a mechanical chatter, rather than gunpowder explosions, and the wind had blown the sound around the hills so that the bullets cut Smitty down before it had reached us. Branches near us started to snap off and tumble earthwards. Max hit the snow on his belly and rolled downhill to his right to get to cover behind a rock. I motioned for the others to get back into the trees, and dove into a low spot in the ground.

When we could look up, we saw that the fascists had overrun the outpost we’d been climbing up to the ridge to relieve, and the firing was coming from there. We returned fire. I heard cries in Spanish from behind me, a curse in a low voice, then a high-pitched prayer.

A potato-masher grenade came flipping end-over-end down the hill toward me. It seemed like slow motion. It hit a rock and bounced up. I could say a Hail Mary in about four seconds flat in those days, and I said one then. The grenade sailed over my head; I heard it explode, and felt a shower of dirt on my back. In front of me, Max was popping up and firing one round with his Springfield, then dropping behind the rock. I popped up and fired when he dropped down. I thought we were doing pretty well taking turns, but grenades kept arcing over our heads and bullets pinged into Max’s rock and raked the dirt beside me. Max tried lobbing one of his grenades towards the machine gun, but his throw was uphill, and he didn’t have an arm like DiMaggio.

After a few minutes of this, I tried to aim and squeeze the trigger instead of popping off quick shots. Then I didn’t hear anyone behind us firing anymore. I looked around and saw Rocco and Pete sprawled in the grass. I called to a couple of the others.

“Comrades…anyone…sound off.” Nada.

“Frank, this is bad,” Max yelled to me.

“I’d rather be facing Feller’s fastballs,” I told him. “Maybe it’s time for us to dust.” Then we heard an airplane motor. It grew louder, and the first plane, a Heinkel, zoomed over the ridge seconds later. Max had risen to his feet and was scrambling down the slope. He looked back over his shoulder at the plane just as a cannon shot from the aircraft hit the rock he’d been behind. The explosion flipped Max in mid-air and tossed him towards me. The ground under him ripped up and clods of dirt flew towards us.

The scene faded to black, but for how long, I don’t know. When I opened my eyes, I was facing the sky but I smelled the forest floor, earth and leaves. Truffles, perhaps? Max was on top of me, limp, and it was quiet. No planes, no shooting. “Max,” I said, “we gotta get up. Get off me.” I felt my voice in my head, but couldn’t hear it in my ears. Max didn’t get up. I rolled him over next to me, and saw that his hat was gone.  The top of his head and the right side of his face were a collage of blood and dirt. I shook him, and he gasped for breath, earth falling out of his nostrils. He was still alive.

“Frank, Frank. I can’t see. I can’t see.” It didn’t sound like Max, but there was no one else there.

“Easy, Max.” I tried to rinse some of the dirt, debris and blood off Max’s head with my canteen, then I ripped open a compress from my pack and put it over his forehead and eyes. I wrapped more dressing around his head to keep the bandage in place “Hold this on your face, man. Don’t try to open your eyes.” I was afraid his right eyeball was going to fall out. “Hold it tight.” Using the slope, I maneuvered him across my shoulder, head down in front of me, and struggled to my feet. I took off at a trot along the tree line.

Our lines were behind us to the east but it looked like the whole damned fascist army was charging down from the outpost, headed that way, so I ran south. It was downhill and my momentum carried us. The going was easy, but I felt panic building in my gut so I tried to slow down. I slid on the snow, fell on my butt, and slammed into a tree and dropped Max.

“Frank, where are you? Am I dyin’?”

“I got you, Max. You caught some shrapnel in the head from that plane. Say an act of contrition or something.”

“I’m a Jew, you idiot.”

“Say it anyway.” I lifted the gauze off his forehead and looked under it. His wound didn’t appear to be deep, but the right eye was very bad, all blood and pulp, and the bone around it may have been shattered. “Press on this, Max.” I pressed the bandage back against his face and put his hand on it.  

I hoisted him over my shoulder again, and stepped off, forcing myself to keep my pace steady and not too fast. We went on till the sun was high in the sky. I didn’t fall again, but my ankles were burning, and my toes were pinched in my boots from going downhill. I stopped twice, and opened our bota. I washed my mouth out with the wine, a rustic red from Calatayud, then I cradled Max’s head and opened his mouth. I squirted the wine in, squeezing the leather skin, the way I’d squeezed the trigger of my rifle. Max coughed. He seemed only half-conscious.

I carried Max down the hill and to the south, parallel to our lines, until we were deep in some woods. I was scared and it wasn’t easy, but I would have done anything for Max. We had been roommates and run around together at Berkeley. We fell out of touch when he went to law school, and I started drinking, trying to forget Cicilia. When Max re-connected with me in ’36, he tried to help me sober up and get back on my feet. I’d come around for a while, but always, I’d slip back into the abyss.

Max was a red, even back in our student days. I hadn’t been serious about my politics then. One evening to keep me from drowning my demons, Max took me to a meeting about the Spanish Civil War and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Before the night was over, we’d signed up to fight in Spain. Max didn’t have to. I think he did it to save me. Now I was going to save him.

When the sun dropped behind the hills, the woods quickly grew dark. There was a smell of pines, and the footing was better—no snow or ice on the ground, which was hard and covered with dry pine needles. Under the background din of war, the roar of artillery and airplanes, I heard water down to my left. I turned towards it and a few minutes later, came to a stream, probably flowing south to the Ebro. It wasn’t night yet, but it was so dark under the tall trees, I would have walked into the stream without seeing it if not for the sound of the water rushing over the rocks. I put Max down on his back, head and shoulders downhill toward the stream. The blood had dried; the gauze was stuck to his head. I scooped up water with my hat and poured it on his face. The icy cold shocked him into consciousness—and panic and pain.

“Morphine, Frank,” he moaned. “Gimme the morphine.” But I had used our morphine one night weeks ago on guard duty on a cold hillside. We did have a flask of Cardenal Mendoza Spanish Brandy, and I gave him some, then I drank. I rinsed his wound good and put a new bandage on it using Max’s kit this time. My legs felt weak and started to shake with cold or exhaustion. I don’t know if I could have stood up then if the Generalissimo had come down the hill waving his pistoles. We were down low, and there were some bare shrubs and young trees sheltering us on the uphill slope. I fought my exhaustion and tried to keep watch as long as I could. I had another swallow of brandy and pulled close to Max. My eyes closed, and I fell asleep.



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