CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MAN: Stand Back If You See Me Coming Your Way

Some people have been known to suggest that I am a bit clumsy. I believe the word “klutz” has been used on more than one occasion. As for me, I have a different take on this: I tend to move at twice the normal rate of speed through a somewhat sluggish environment.

Is it my fault that material objects fail to get out of my way in time?


An example: power tools are rarely my friends. Sure, I am lucky enough to have all my digits, but there’s still time to alter that state of affairs. It’s not that I am inept in handling these tools. It’s more that I rush forward in the expectation that the power tool can catch up.

And it’s not just power tools—hand tools can also be a challenge. Years ago—when I was teaching at New College of the University of South Florida in Sarasota and not yet a vegetarian—my wife and I were about to take off for Tampa/St Pete and I hovered over the kitchen sink with steak knife in hand, slicing off bits of meat from a leftover rib.
And, as it turned out, from my index finger.

Noting the copious red blood cells that pour forth when the first half inch or so of your finger is hanging by a thread of flesh, I grabbed for a dishtowel, shouted to Dani to get the car keys, and we raced over to the campus infirmary.

Now blood has never bothered me that much, although I prefer it inside my veins rather than splattering haphazardly about. And I could sense that this time I had done a pretty good job of releasing the red stuff, judging by the soaked kitchen towel. So when we approached the door to the clinic leaving a trail of droplets, I suspected that the doctor or nurse would be ready with sutures to stanch the flow.

I pushed open the door and we entered…to find the place empty. Not a soul in sight. Abandoned. And then I remembered hearing something about no weekend staffing. It was apparent that the last one to leave the night before had forgotten to lock the front door.
But since we were there, and I was now leaving bright blood everywhere I ran, we sought out bandages and tape and began emergency binding of the wound before heading off to find a local hospital.


What a mess we left behind—flooring splattered with blood, smeared pools on the Formica countertop, hastily-unwrapped bandages and gauze, soaked towel! But no time to waste cleaning up, and so we locked the front door behind us and off we went to the hospital, where a doctor did manage to save my fingertip. Although it took over a year before feeling returned to that digit.

(I do sometimes wonder what the college nurse thought the next day when he or she opened up the infirmary and saw the signs of carnage we had left throughout the clinic.)

Now, that was a hand tool, a simple knife. Imagine how much damage I can do with a power drill. More than once I have stabilized a screw with one hand while trying to imbed it in a piece of wood from some Petrified Forest, only to have the drill bit slip and imbed itself in my fingers. (I know, I know…drill a pilot hole first, but who has time for that nonsense. And in truth, the middle digit on my left hand is current bearing a Band-aid to cover such a self-inflicted wound.) And there have been a few close calls with a table saw (and rotary saw and saber saw—you get the picture).


Consider the time I slipped off a damp log while holding a running chainsaw. Luckily, the saw flew off harmlessly in one direction, and I in the other, but I did limp around for weeks from the deep indentation in my shin bone, which still bears a nice scar from the meeting of tree stump and flesh.

So keep this in mind should you see me coming with a power tool or other implement in hand: this guy is traveling at a speed which doesn’t allow for a margin of error, and stand back.

Just ask my parents-in-law, who are tempted to put away their good china and glassware every time I’m invited over for dinner.
And please don’t call me a klutz. I just move too quickly for anyone’s good.

(By the way, the photos are actually of drippings from overripe grapes, overhanging  the lovely private terrace of a room at Villa Gabrisa in Positano, Italy. Here’s the rest of the view…)

Copyright 2013 Patrick W. O’Bryon

Posted in Memoir, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


Two highly-respected professional reviewing groups dedicated to acknowledging quality independent fiction have recognized my debut espionage thriller Corridor of Darkness: A Novel of Nazi Germany with their top awards.


Awesome Indies (AIA) gives the novel its gold Seal of Excellence, with one of their three reviewers calling it a “first-rate, expertly crafted thriller,” and another stating: “When the writing is powerful and immediate and characters as real and believable as these ones are, our compassion is aroused and our heart opens.”

Compulsion Reads endorses the novel with the following praise: “Corridor of Darkness is a compelling and well-researched read…a grand adventure, set in Germany’s darkest hours.”

The novel is currently available as an ebook for either Kindle or iPad (or download a reading tool for your computer if you don’t have a Kindle) at, enter Corridor of Darkness.

If you prefer a trade paperback, it is currently available at a 25% discount by visiting, then enter the discount code V8S3FA76 at checkout.

For multiple copies use the site and save on shipping.

Thanks to all of you for your support, and don’t forget to post a review to Amazon if you haven’t yet! I sincerely appreciate it.

And remember to support during the holidays! The animal sanctuary was thrilled with your generous support through your donations at the book launch party.

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MY CAREER IN THE MILITARY: PART FOUR: Patience as its Own Reward

(For those of you who haven’t been following stories of my short-term military career in the 70’s, you may want to read the earlier postings to bring you up-to-date before tackling this one.)

Now I’m sitting pretty with orders to Germany along with the rest of my graduating class at Ft Sill. Only we still have a couple of items to handle. One, unless I can find a way to get my Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) changed from Fire Direction Control (FDC…the military does love its acronyms), I’m going to be spending my European military time in a tent somewhere in a winter-swept field near the Iron Curtain and East Germany, telling the artillery where to fire their practice rounds. And then I’m likely off to Vietnam anyway.

So I start asking around, starting with  career soldiers who have already been rotated into Germany. Question One: How do I get my MOS changed? And Question Two: When do I have to do it? And they give me the clues to success.

Böblingen, near Stuttgart. An old Wehrmacht caserne, home to the transfer station for troops rotating into Germany.

3:37 a.m.

I have been underway for hours, the flight from the East Coast delayed, then an overheated bus full of exhausted soldiers, and now a middle-of-the-night garishly-lit receiving room filled with dozing troops awaiting their assignments to outlying locations. The fluorescents are humming. And so am I, having consumed so much caffeine my ears are vibrating, but I must…stay…awake. For I have been told that my one chance for salvation lies before me in the shape of a somewhat rumpled sergeant who has just stepped to the front of the room with a clipboard in hand.

“If any of you wants a change of MOS, raise your hand.” His voice is a mumble, practically incoherent, but I have been alerted to this moment and my hand shoots up before the final words leave his mouth.

“Get up here, soldier,” he orders. I am the only one who heard, the only one who comes forward.

“What’s your problem?”

“No problem, sergeant, it’s just that I’ve lived here in Germany and speak the language, so I thought the Army might have a better use for me, as long as I’m here again.”

“You talk kraut?” Distrust in his words.

“I do.”

He lets out an exaggerated sigh, wishing for all his worth I had kept my mouth shut and he was heading back home and to bed with his long-suffering wife. “Wait here,” he says. And then dismisses the rest of the room. It is eerily quiet; only the overhead fixtures drone their obnoxious hum.

I get another paper cup of stale coffee. And wait. And wait.

A red-eyed lieutenant enters the room. “You O’Bryon?” As if there were anyone else in the now-empty room.

“Yes, sir.”

“And you think you speak German?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you don’t like your MOS, the one the Army in its wisdom assigned to you?”

“Not so much, sir, in that I could be more valuable using my language skills.”

“Wait here,” he says.

I wait. And wait.

6:28 a.m. A captain walks into the room. “You O’Bryon, soldier?”

I so want to point out the obvious, but I bite my tongue, which tastes of stale coffee: “Yes, sir,” I mumble.

“Where’d you learn German?” he asks. I tell him I was in graduate school here when drafted.

“Wait here.”

By noon I have done a heap of waiting. I’ve been sent to see a major, command Chief of Staff, I gather from the nameplate on the door. By 14:00 hours I am sitting in the office of a lieutenant colonel. We chat about living in Germany. He’s chatting. I’m trying my damnedest to keep my eyes open and at least sound coherent. I think I’m succeeding. A colonel strolls in, looks me up and down, nods to the lieutenant colonel, and I am directed across the hall, where a charming civilian secretary gives me a smile and directs me to a chair. “Please wait,” she says. And returns to her paperwork.

A clock ticks inexorably on the facing wall. From time to time the girl gives me a slight smile. “Patience,” her lips mouth. As if I have a choice.

Her buzzer rings, she picks up, her eyes catch mine, and she sets down the receiver and directs me into the general’s office.

He’s very, well, generally. Tall. Good posture. Spiffy uniform with lots of nice service medals.

“You O’Bryon?” he asks. AARRGGHHH, I think, but say out loud: “Yes, sir!”

And then he starts to talk. And talk. And talk. At one point he asks me what else I can do besides speak German, and I tell him I also speak French.

“Great,” he says, because we deal a lot with the French as well as the Germans. Fought the tough ones in the war, the others didn’t have the stomach to fight. Personally, don’t care much for either one, but it’s what we do.”

I’m beginning to think I’m in, that all that coffee and all that waiting has paid off.

The general drones on, I’m in euphoria, when suddenly I realized I’ve been dismissed, the girl’s at the door to lead me back to the lieutenant colonel’s office, where I’m told to wait in the foyer. I wait. And wait. I doze off briefly.

And then the wondrous news. The lieutenant colonel calls me in. “O’Bryon,” he says, “you’re to be the general’s interpreter, sort of an enlisted aide. He likes you. You’ll go to official functions with him. If you do well, there’ll be more assignments. Can’t say for sure what for now, being as how there’s no such position as an enlisted aide. Meanwhile, you’ll work here in admin. And we’ll work on getting that MOS changed so you don’t get rotated out of here just when we’re getting used to you.” He smiles. Nice guy.

New guy on the job in Germany

New guy on the job in Germany

Now, I still didn’t know much about the Army. Hell, I came to boot camp not knowing that soldiers got paid. I thought the Army provided food and lodging and that was it. Imagine my surprise and delight when that first payday was announced. $300!

And I sure as hell knew nothing about what was expected of me as a general’s interpreter. But for the moment, at least, I was in, I was staying in Germany (even if temporarily) and it was time to celebrate.

I dragged myself to the assigned barracks. I fell on a bunk and crashed.

Plenty of time to celebrate the next day, a celebration which almost cost me my new job and sent me back to FDC and some cold tent on the edge of the Iron Curtain.

But more about that later.

Copyright 2013 Patrick W. O’Bryon

Posted in European Travel, Memoir, Travel Memoir | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments


All right, ‘fess up. Haven’t you ever wanted to shuck it all and take off for parts unknown, make a grand break from everyday frustrations? So how’s this for a suggestion? Pack up some minimal belongings along with family pets, hitch up an over-stuffed travel trailer to your inadequately-powered car, and head to the backwoods of Montana.

In this day and age, when people complain about mortgage interest rates climbing above 4%, just imagine almost thirty-five years ago when rates were knocking on the 19% door, and very few people were answering. At that time I was brokering the sale of large apartment complexes to investor groups. Every deal took months to negotiate and further months to complete inspections. And then, three times out of four, just before signing the closing papers the investors took a close look at the bottom line of the real estate investment, compared it to, say, a CD rate of 15%, and decided to pull the plug on the whole deal.

So early one October day, after three very large (and potentially profitable) transactions fell to ruins, we packed up Tanya the German shepherd and Rasputin and Sage, our two cats, and took off for a sabbatical to await the return of sanity in the financial markets (Still waiting, but that’s a different story.) Back to the land, here we came.

As a boy I had visited Northwestern Montana with my family, and remembered the beautiful Flathead Valley, the broad expanse of Flathead Lake, the peaks of the Rockies surging upward from the valley floor without a second thought of foothills, the splendors of Glacier Park, the grizzly bears. As we passed through Oregon we stopped to visit one of my sisters, and she and her husband joined our caravan with a truck and trailer of their own. They, too, were game to challenge the great outdoors.

We made it to the high country just as the first flakes of snow fell. And we were happy to accept the gracious invitation of some newly-met folks who offered the winter use of two small houses on five acres, just outside Whitefish, a town of perhaps 2000 residents and perhaps half that many bars. Or so it seemed.

We took readily to cross-country skiing, and by late winter discovered acreage of our own to buy about ten miles north of Whitefish, then a mile or two in on gravel road, then another mile on our own path to the potential building sites for a couple of log homes.  Twenty great acres backing up to BLM and Forest Service land, and six or seven lakes within a 15-minute walk or ski. If any of you are daring foolish clever ingenious enough to tackle hunting for land during a Montana “spring,” just know that those wonderful little hills (seemingly so great for cross-country skiing) may well prove to be loggers’ slash piles once the snows melt away, say in April or May. Or June.

So as the snow turned to slush and then to mud, we set to work on a double project: burning huge wood-trash piles after salvaging any usable logs, and felling others to build log cabins. We sold our passenger car and picked up an old Bronco II 4×4, suitable for dragging downed trees out of the woods. Since our forest held many beetle-killed larch trees whose limited circumference didn’t lend itself to traditional log cabin construction, we chose a post-and-beam style which we then covered in rough-hewn planking.

Hey, no laughing at the hair...this was almost 35 years ago

Hey, no laughing at the hair…this was almost 35 years ago

The glacial moraine “soil” was so dense with rock that a traditional septic system seemed impossible without great expense, so we used an outdoor privy during that long construction summer. And because the land was so remote—our only visitors the daily bears—I opted to build our outhouse with windows on all sides so that the user could enjoy the views. Of course, this provided the occasional passing bruin with the opportunity to stop, sit down, and patiently observe a human in a glass cage. I presume constipation was never a problem for those guests unfamiliar with the four-legged residents of our land.

Once the cabin had attained some semblance of shelter, I set to work creating the world’s grandest composting toilet. The user reached its summit by ascending a staircase to a platform fit for a king (see photo). In winter the heated air from the woodstove would circulate through the main compartment of the composter to dry out the contents. In summer a home-fabricated solar panel would do the trick. And “flushing” consisted of the occasional turn of a handle protruding from the side which would rotate a metal mesh drum inside.  And once a year you had to shovel out the compost through a door opening to the backside of the cabin. And, no, in case you are wondering, you don’t want to recreate this yourself.

Regal dedication ceremony of the imperial composting throne

Regal dedication ceremony of the imperial composting throne

Now, we’ve always been lovers of animals, wild and domesticated. So the fact that we shared our land with a number of black bears (and one occasional honey-colored grizzly) was never a problem. The bears got to know us quickly, and when we came up a trail and met one along the way, the animal would amble up about twenty feet or so, sit down, and patiently watch its humans parade past. Then the bear would return to the path and resume its journey. We soon knew all the local bears by sight, so any newcomer was an event.

Once my wife came to tell me that a new bear had just wandered past our home. I grabbed  the binoculars and ran for the front porch. Dani, never one to encourage my bear observations unattended, joined me in slinking up the hill to gain a clear vantage point above the bear’s path.  Step by step we approached the spot where we were sure to spot the bruin through the trees on the trail below. The binoculars were glued to my eyes when Dani’s fingers tapped me lightly on the shoulder, and she whispered: “Turn…around… slowly.” And there a few strides off to our right sat the new bear, calmly assessing the strange behavior of two upright mammals in the woods.

We did take special care in berry season, when it was all too easy to come upon a bear and surprise her, and we gave a wide berth to mama bears with cubs. One memorable sight: Mama sitting honey-bear style in the berry shrubs, raking her long claws through the foliage and stuffing her mouth, while twin cubs chased circles around her and rolled down the slope in a furry ball.

Photo by

Photo by

We had no electricity other than a 12-volt battery system which was charged up occasionally when a generator filled our well’s holding tank, so candles were often the light source in the early morning. Dani was still in bed and I was in our bathtub/shower, which in that early stage of construction was still in the mudroom/foyer of the cabin. I noticed the light from the living room candle was especially bright as it came through the shower curtain, so I looked around the edge to find one wall of our cabin engulfed in flame.

Sage the cat had been hiding behind the drapery, and had dragged it into the flame of the candle. Jumping from the tub I raced across the room, grabbed the flaming material from in front of the window, and undertook a furious stomping dance atop it, just as Dani emerged from the bedroom to see what the fuss was all about: her husband, stark naked, dripping wet, and dancing like crazy on a flaming curtain. Obviously, I had gone mad, since she knew I had never been much of a dancer.


Anyway, you get the picture. Back-to-the-land Montanans.

The snick-snick of cross-country skis at midnight under a full moon, when the temperature drops well below zero, ice crystals are precipitating out the air, turning the world to a glistening wonderland, and a snowshoe hare hops across your path.

Gathering morel mushrooms at dusk, only to feel yourself observed by two large moose just paces away, ankle-deep in a snow-melt pool, calmly watching your progress.

Driving up the Going-to-the-Sun highway deep into Glacier Park, then putting on the skis and completing the trek up toward the divide, before gliding back down again, the cold wind on your face.

Lying under a feather comforter, a heated soapstone bed-warmer at your toes, the window at your heads wide open to the freezing night air, as a timber wolf bays at the full moon just thirty feet from your cabin, and Tanya the German shepherd cowers at your feet, wanting nothing to do with her distant cousin’s plaintive call.

Unforgettable. Wondrous. Worth every moment cleaning out that damned composting toilet.


Copyright 2013 Patrick W. O’Bryon

Posted in Animal stories, Memoir, Travel Memoir, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments


Thursday’s book launch  for Corridor of Darkness: a Novel of Nazi Germany was not only a great party (over 110 came to Mraz Brewing Company), but your generous contributions raised over $400 for Fat Kitty City non-profit animal sanctuary ( My heartfelt thanks to all of you gracious supporters who turned out for the gathering, or contributed even though you couldn’t attend.

Photo by Jessica Mraz at Mraz Brewing Company, El Dorado Hills CA

Photo by Jessica Mraz at Mraz Brewing Company, El Dorado Hills CA

As the next photo shows, some cats are already celebrating your generosity. (Sorry, couldn’t track down a source for this shot: these cats know how to keep their secrets!)


And for all of you who are now reading Corridor of Darkness, don’t forget to post your rating of the novel and a word or two of comment on Amazon when you finish. Just go to and write in Corridor of Darkness in the search box, then click on the novel’s title.

Again, thanks for your support. The  animals thank you…I thank you.Original cover choice (111x129)

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Don’t forget the launch party for

book cover - Copy (2)

Thursday 11/21 from five to seven pm at

Mraz Brewing Company, 2222 Francisco Drive, El Dorado Hills CA

And if you’d prefer to go incognito, reach for that fedora, that veiled hat, anything 1930s style, or even dress up completely in thirties  garb.

No obligation, but is there ever a wrong time to work your best spy look?



cover standing figures

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Dear friends, blog followers and readers who live in the Greater Sacramento area,

You are invited to come celebrate the release of my debut novel Corridor of Darkness, a book Kirkus Reviews calls “rife with historical intrigue.”

It’s Thursday, November 21st from 5:00 to 7:00 at Mraz Brewery, 2222 Francisco Drive, Suite 510, El Dorado Hills, CA.

2013 Sammy Award Winner Christian DeWild has agreed to share his great blues  talent with us.

And a portion of any book sales profits at the event will go to Fat Kitty City, El Dorado Hills’ non-profit animal rescue.

nazifinalwin2tocrop copy (1)

Here’s your chance to put an end to the recent and shameless self-promotion on this blog.

It’s an easy, three-step process:

1) Come celebrate. 2) Read the espionage novel. 3) Review on

Or, read the novel first.  Either way, I’d love to have you there.

Let me know if you can attend! And thanks!

Original cover choice (111x129)

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Note to Readers:  It’s Veteran’s Day! 

These days we have a military of volunteers, brave women and men who choose to risk their lives for their country.  But back during the Vietnam era, an army of draftees as well as volunteers handled  the tasks assigned to it, some heroically, some begrudgingly. And I know there were some not exactly cut out for all the challenges of military life.

And if you’re joining this narrative without having read the preceding two posts on the start of one veteran’s relatively short military career, I’d recommend you drop down to start at Part I.  

This is my story, for better or for worse.

Fort Sill

Halfway through our Artillery Fire Direction Control training in Oklahoma, a wondrous bit of news surfaces: the graduating class several weeks ahead of us just got its orders, and the entire group is heading to Germany. Even the drill sergeants are surprised by a German shipment of newly-minted soldiers, and rumors run rampant.  And just as quickly quashed with assurances that this is a fluke, “they’ll rotate you all into Vietnam after a few months, anyway.”

Now I had been  at a German university when  ordered back to the States to report for duty earlier that summer. At Ft Lewis I was invited to sign up for a program to become part of a “pacification team” in Vietnam, first spending a year learning Vietnamese. I had turned it down, since there was no doubt that choice would take me to Southeast Asia. Rumor had it that pacification teams went into dangerous areas ahead of the troops, which didn’t sound all that appealing  if I still had any other options.  And for some reason I held out a feeble hope that luck and circumstance might send me back to Europe.

And here was luck and circumstance knocking at the Ft Sill, Oklahoma door. Perhaps.

After the short-lived excitement of possible alternative destinations for our field duty, the orders for the next graduating class ahead of us came in: all headed to Vietnam, lock, stock and barrel.

Finally, we were told that our company’s orders were in, sitting over at headquarters under lock and key, but we wouldn’t learn what they were for a week. What?

Cue tension-filled music…

In the dead of the night three soldiers approach company headquarters. One flashlight, not clicked on until the last moment. A fellow from Chicago picks locks; “an easy one”, he says. File cabinets are carefully opened and examined as another soldier keeps close watch for the roving guards. The file is found, the orders quickly scanned. The door is re-locked and all is quiet on the Oklahoma front.

At least that’s what I hear happened. Can’t swear to it, you understand.

Word spreads quickly by morning light. The majority of our class has orders for Germany. Six are going to Korea for a brief holdover until rotated into Vietnam. I’m among the lucky six headed to Korea and then on to the war.

Now one thing you heard again and again in the draftee Army was “don’t write Washington, your congressman won’t do you a damned bit of good, and we’ll have your ass in a sling if you do.” That sort of thing.

So I wrote my senator in Washington instead. I explained that, as long as most of my other classmates were headed to Germany, and inasmuch as I had lived there and spoke the language, perhaps it might be reasonable to send our entire class to practice Fire Direction Control in the German field, even if only temporarily. At least until they rotate all of us into Vietnam.

Airmail. Special delivery. Fingers crossed.

A week goes by without a word. Graduation approaches, and I let my family know I’m headed to Korea.

Then a clerk shows up at my classroom and tells the sergeant I’m wanted by the CO. I dutifully head over to company headquarters, and the captain’s reception is very warm.  Hot, even.  Seems I wrote my senator.  Seems the good senator pulls some weight on the Armed Services Committee in Washington. Seems he believes our whole class deserves a trip to Germany. Best use of manpower.

To five of my buddies, I’m a hero.

To my sergeants and officers, something less of one.

But we are all headed east rather than west, and for us draftees, at that moment, it seems a very good thing.

Copyright 2013 Patrick W. O’Bryon

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Many of you loyal friends, followers and readers have been waiting to hear that CORRIDOR OF DARKNESS: a Novel of Nazi Germany, is NOW AVAILABLE FOR YOUR KINDLE OR iPAD!

photo of cover

Click here to find the ebook:

And here to order the trade paperback version:

and then enter Patrick O’Bryon or Corridor of Darkness at the search prompt, or visit, which takes you directly to the book.

And thanks to all of you who have offered such great support to my debut novel.

Don’t forget to write your own review on Amazon.

Original cover choice (111x129)

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On the virtual bookstore shelves at last…CORRIDOR OF DARKNESS, a Novel of Nazi Germany, now available on both and as a trade paperback. Coming soon to other on-line outlets such as Barnes & Noble, as well.

Three years in the writing, offering 362 pages of intrigue and espionage, all from a guy who knows so little about using Microsoft Word that this proves miracles can happen.finalfrontThe eBook Kindle edition will follow in a day or so, delayed by a technical error. (That also means me.) I’ll announce its arrival soon.

Meanwhile, for those of you who treasure and look and feel of a solid paperback, please take a look at:

and then enter Patrick O’Bryon or Corridor of Darkness at the search prompt, or visit, which takes you directly to the book.      rear coverI hope you enjoy reading it–thank you for supporting me in this venture. Share your thoughts by leaving your comments here on the blog, or by posting a review on Amazon once you’ve read the book. Please spread the word to all your reading and blogging friends, and watch for an announcement of the book’s launch party coming November 21st.

And Volume 2, BEACON OF VENGEANCE, is underway, due November 2014!

Original cover choice (111x129)


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