Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Interview with Judy Carlson, author of The White Knight, the Lost Kingdom, and the Sea Princess

Judy Carlson


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





Author Interview



Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

Telling stories for years to my six children in the oral tradition plus reading them mythical fantasy such as C S Lewis Chronicles of Narnia. I decided to write down such a tale myself as I have always been a writer. 


How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Very difficult to completely create your own mythical world. Every detail is made up. Make certain all are in agreement with various locales of your fantasy. 


Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

Nordskog Publishing Inc. it was long and arduous with big issues with  the C.S. Lewis Company. 


Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

How long it took and all the editing. 


What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I am working on a story but have no plans to publish at present. 


What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

No where except responding to personal emails.  I love to read. 


Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

That there is an occupied universe populated by creatures and places created by the divine hand. It and they are very near us, within and without our sphere aiding us as we head for an eternal destiny of good or evil. We must choose Goodness or be lost. 


Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Read my story. You will never see the world in the same way Again!



About The Book

The White Knight


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


Buy The Book:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/White-Knight-Lost-Kingdom-Princess/dp/0983195757/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436384287&sr=1-1&keywords=The+White+Knight%2C+The+Lost+Kingdom+and+The+Sea+Princess%2C+Judy+Carlson


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.


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Guest blog from Sarah Smith Ducksworth, author of No Crystal Stair


Title: No Crystal Stair
Author: Sarah Smith Ducksworth
Publisher: Trafford
Genre: Poetry
Format: Kindle

 Each poem in this collection is a reflection upon the author’s personal life or is a response to her vicarious interactions in the lives of characters she has met in real life or in books. Through the critical lens of poetry, she has looked for deeper meanings inside those experiences. Though the writer ends with an understanding that her life has not been a “crystal stair,” alluding to the hardships the titular character in Langston Hughes’ Poem--“The Negro Mother”-- faced, the writer feels that these poems, all together, reflect her world view and personal Truth.

To Purchase No Crystal Stair

Guest Post 

When I was in elementary school, my mother, who observed me constantly scribbling on paper, told me I should never write anything down that I would be embarrassed to have the world read. She gave me this warning back in the day when both manual and electric typewriters were primarily considered office equipment and there were no digital devices available for composing and sending messages through space. Moreover, the technology did not exist for desktop and portable computers which could store countless volumes of random thoughts. Back in those olden days, I was what you might call a stream of conscious writer, putting my ideas and fancies into notebooks. And, my mother perceived a danger in this.

As a child I did not realize that such eclectic and responsive writing could be classified as therapy.  All I knew was that writing was for me a necessary extension of myself. I wrote about things I thought about—things that hurt my feelings, desires for revenge, wishes, and whatever else that made me tick. The same is true today. I write about things that trouble me, about fantasies that intrigue me, etc.; and, in the process, I exorcise demons and find ways to improve good and bad situations.

Of course, over the years, there have been times when the wrong people have gotten hold of some rant I’ve written and used it against me. The trouble my mother perceived so long ago has been proven time and time again as prophetic. And so, over time, I have become more careful in protecting my private thoughts. Still, the digital world has caused me a huge setback. The world-wide web, rife with hackers, has become my biggest challenge. Based on recent experience, I know first-hand that the internet is no place to vent.     

Back in 2010, I went online and filled out a form posted by a self-proclaimed “ethics investigator.” I asked this expert about the ethics of a local prosecutor who would not assist me in finding out who was hacking my cell phone. I also invited comments from visitors to this “legal” website. In my post, I explained that there was a person who was remotely using up data on my phone and that this person had caused my cell phone, while it was lying dormant inside my pocketbook, to dial my landline phone. 

Since that ethics question was posted in 2010, it has stayed prominently associated online with my name. Someone must be very interested in this post; yet, there has never been a response to my query, either from the ethics investigator or from one of his visitors. I felt hopeful when I first posted the question, but its staying power as an online item both puzzles and bothers me today.

Do I regret putting a sensitive question into the public sphere, which has the life span of dirt? The answer is yes. But, on the other hand, my life has been greatly enriched by the caveat my action provided. As result of my experience, I will consider the thin line between public and private communications when it comes to social media in the future. 

Now, I face another consideration: Do I have to slash and burn my electronic diaries? After being hacked, I believe I should. Unfortunately, the loss of this private writing could translate into a loss of wisdom and hamper my growth as a writer. The only solution may be returning to pen and pad. But, even that may not work if someone really wants to get me and invades my home. Farfetched, you say?  
When confronted with the choice of writing freely for emotional release or not writing things I don’t want to share, I have to choose writing anyway and taking the precaution to keep those ideas off the web. 

Writers from the past and present support me in extolling the therapeutic value of writing to explore one’s own world view. Graham Greene conveyed the benefits of diary writing when he mused: “I wonder how all those who do not compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”          

About the Author

For most of her life, Sarah Smith Ducksworth has seen herself as a teacher who writes. She has had a teaching career spanning nearly forty years and has taught language arts in New York and in New Jersey middle schools, high schools and universities. This current book of creative writings represents a reversal in the way she has begun to identify herself and launches her intent to spend the rest of her life pursuing her love of writing.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Interview with Larry Laswell, author Vows To The Fallen

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 

     



Author Interview


Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

Vows to the Fallen is a prequel to my previous novel, The Marathon Watch, and a tribute to destroyer sailors and the canons of duty, honor, and country. Vows to the Fallen tells the story of how one character in The Marathon Watch, Captain “Terror” O’Toole, became a no-nonsense, crusty navy commodore. To flesh out O’Toole’s story, I added an exploration of the emotional and psychological issues faced by military commanders who have to order men to their deaths. This is just one facet of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

This, my second novel, was harder to write than my first. Part of it was the subject matter, which at times became dark and depressing. The second part was my approach. When I wrote The Marathon Watch, I had a good outline from the start. The story grew organically as I wrote, but I kept the outline updated as I went.

For Vows to the Fallen, I started with an idea, plugged in a few key incidents, and began writing. It also grew organically, but without an outline to guide me, the story became a sprawling mess. I had subplots that didn’t support the story. Scenes were out of sequence, and material was repeated. I had to throw away more than 30,000 words. That hurt.

Now, determined to never make that mistake again, I’ve started outlining my next trilogy, which has the working title The Ethosians. I quickly outlined the first book, but once I started on the second book, my outline fell apart and I was unable to mentally manage what I had.

I tried using index cards. I tried using a top-down approach, expanding multiple layers of the story in a cascading fashion. I tried mind mapping and outlining software. These techniques worked well for one book, but when I expanded to two books, the story again grew too cumbersome to manage.

Then I found, on the Internet, a copy of J. K. Rowling’s hand-written outline for one of the Harry Potter books. It was a simple grid with major characters listed across the top and with story benchmarks listed down the left side. In each block she noted the key activities of each character along with plot points, struggles, and reveals.

I imitated this with MS Excel, and presto—I had a high-level outline I could deal with that spanned three books. Each novel occupies one page, and the grid provides all the information necessary to develop the plot and characters. It provides the big picture for the trilogy in a manageable way, and I can easily move key story elements around. It still needs expansion down to the scene level, but working from the grid this way will be easy.


Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

So far I am exclusively a self-publisher. I knew it was a one-in-a-million shot to get a publisher to pick up The Marathon Watch, because it broke the rules large publishing houses want authors to follow. Those rules are designed to minimize the probability of failure, not maximize the opportunity for success. So far I have been vindicated: my Amazon reviews are running at four-plus stars.


Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Two things surprised me, and each is the flip side of the other. First was how terrifying it is to give a novel to the world and let the world comment on it. Authors risk their pride, reputation, and hours of hard work. What if readers pan you and your book in public? If they do, there’s nothing you can do but lick your wounds.

The second surprise was the response I got from readers, and how much I have learned from their comments. All of my critics have valid points to make, and I listen to those; but in general, my reader reviews are far more positive than I could have imagined.


Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I am working on three series projects: a humorous, satiric series on navy life; the third book in the Marathon series; and a science fiction series with the working title The Ethosians. The satiric series is a collection of humorous sea-story essays. I publish a short volume about every six months. I have scheduled the third Marathon novel for release in mid-2016, and the first science fiction novel for late 2016.


Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

My wife accuses me of having attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), because I hang out in far too many places. I do manage to make a weekly tour of Goodreads, The Writer’s Life, Writers Helping Writers, Advanced Fiction Writers Blog, The Independent Publishing Magazine, and the private site of a writers group I belong to.


Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

The guilt and grief military commanders feel over the loss of their men can crush them or can become a powerful force for good.

  
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Support our troops and veterans.


      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.



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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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Guest post by Christopher G. Nuttall, author of the bestselling 'Schooled In Magic' series

I was asked, at Ravencon, just what makes an indie writer successful.  I think they were hoping I’d know some great secret to success that I could tell them.  The truth, unfortunately, is that the key to any form of writing success is nothing more than hard work.  For some reason, no one wanted to hear this <grin>.

It’s a blunt truth that the first work of any writer, me included, is awful.  Writing is a skill that can only be learned by doing.  Eric Flint asserts that the first million words a writer produces is worthless and he’s probably right - I have several completed manuscripts on my hard drive from my early years that will never see the light of day.  The key to turning your desire to become a writer into actual success is practice, practice, practice … and learn from your experience.  Get beta readers, get editors; I cannot stress enough just how badly you need someone looking at your work, someone who doesn’t have any interest in keeping you happy.  (Your mother may say you’re the next JK Rowling, but treat her opinion with extreme caution.) 

I know, I know; it hurts to have your work criticized.  There’s a strong urge to start telling the critics just why they’re wrong, because you know they’re wrong.  But you’re the one responsible for explaining to them just what’s happening in your world - if they don’t get it, the fault lies with you, not them.  Grow a thick skin - believe me, you will be savaged out there - and learn from the critics. 


Far too many indie writers have self-destructed because they have not taken that to heart.  They get out on the review forums and blast reviewers, rather than learning from them.  Most of them, as far as I can tell, put their first work online, then expect the plaudits, movie deals, etc to simply start rolling in.  That, alas, is an unrealistic expectation.  It takes time to build any sort of reputation - and failing to learn from the critics is a good way to lose any reputation (or gain a bad one).

About the Book
Title: Trial By Fire (Schooled In Magic 7)
Genre: Fantasy
Author: Christopher G. Nuttall
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Sample Chapter HERE.
Purchase on Amazon / OmniLit
Three years ago, Emily killed the Necromancer Shadye before he could sacrifice her and destroy the Allied Lands.  Now, the shadows of the past hang over Whitehall as Emily and the Grandmaster travel into the Blighted Lands to recover anything Shadye might have left behind, before returning to Whitehall to start the fourth year.  For Emily, it is a chance to stretch her mind and learn more about new and innovative forms of magic … and to prepare for the exams that will determine her future as a magician.
But as she starts her studies, it becomes clear that all is not well at Whitehall.  Master Grey, a man who disliked Emily from the moment he met her, is one of her teachers – and he seems intent on breaking her, pushing her right to her limits.  In the meantime, her friends Alassa and Imaiqah are acting oddly, Frieda seems to be having trouble talking to her and – worst of all – Caleb, her partner in a joint magical project, is intent on asking her to go out with him.
As she struggles to cope with new challenges and to overcome the demons in her past, she becomes aware of a deadly threat looming over Whitehall, a curse that threatens her very soul.  And when she makes a tiny yet fatal mistake, she finds herself facing a fight she cannot win, but dares not lose…
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About the Author
Christopher Nuttall was born in Edinburgh, studied in Manchester, married in Malaysia and currently living in Scotland, United Kingdom, with his wife and baby son.  He is the author of twenty novels from various publishers and thirty-nine self-published novels.
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