Wounded warriors and the making of AWAKENING MACBETH

Wounded warriors and the making of AWAKENING MACBETH

My great-uncle Nicky was the second-to-the-youngest of my grandfather’s five brothers. He was missing most of his right index finger.

During WWII, while my grandfather turned out copper ship hulls as a foreman at the Revere Copper and Brass rolling mill, Nicky and four other brothers were GIs. I think Nicky was the only one to see combat.

What’s ANZIO?

“Uncle Nicky was at Anzio,” my mother confided. “And the South Pacific.”

As a child, I had no real idea what she was talking about, although Anzio was a cool and somehow romantic word. I used to say it to myself as I waited to fall asleep. Anzio, Anzio. I pictured Uncle Nicky as a fierce soldier dressed like my cousin’s GI Joe action figure, with a gun that blew up, taking his trigger finger with it.

It was only much later that I found Anzio on a map and learned about the bloody and pivotal battle that took place there in the first six months of 1944. Uncle Nicky saw hell in Italy, then was sent to help mop up the Japanese. As if this wasn’t enough for him to handle, Nicky’s young wife died shortly after the war.

Despite his experiences, when I knew him, Uncle Nicky was a lively, wiry, and good-natured man who occasionally visited my grandparents. It was many years later that I learned that he hadn’t been wounded in the war but lost his finger as a kid in a kitchen accident.


Uncle Nicky may have encouraged my love of history and geography but many veterans have impacted my life. When my parents met, my father was an Air Force meteorologist at a Strategic Air Command base.. My uncle served in Vietnam as a Navy chaplain. A good friend parachuted into the first Iraq War and later taught my son how to be an altar server. A close friend’s husband served in Afghanistan. He survived multiple IED attacks only to face an indifferent and inefficient VA system.

The courage and strength of our vets have moved me, especially when I see wounded warriors rebuild their lives and go beyond what most of us could do. If like me, you are a fan of Dancing With The Stars, you saw double amputee Noah Galloway compete a few seasons ago. His resilience and determination resonated with millions.The same with BT Urruela, a combat wounded amputee, purple heart recipient, contemporary author and veteran activist. Photographs of BT by photographer Michael Stokes captured the character of veteran and amputee Joe Birnam in the thriller  AWAKENING MACBETH.

BT Urella by Michael Stokes

Indeed, I pay tribute to our veterans in the character of Joe Birnam in the thriller AWAKENING MACBETH. In the story, Joe is a Marine Corps vet who lost a leg in Iraq. When we meet him, he has retired from the military and rebuilt his life. Almost.


Not to give the plot of AWAKENING MACBETH away, but a centuries old game is being played every night as we sleep in which the devil steals souls that wander in search of answers.

In history professor Brodie Macbeth’s nightmares, Joe’s soul is the prize.

Why this particular soul?

The would-be thief—call him evil or a demon or what you will—knows that a warrior’s soul is special. Hence he answer.

“After all, the soul of a warrior is the biggest prize in the game. Warriors’ souls get insulated by pride and patriotism and discipline. Dedication to duty. They’re hard to come by.”

But can your soul truly be stolen? Read AWAKENING MACBETH and find out . . .

Awakening Macbeth

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Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.



Book Review: For Love of a Cause by Elly Michaels

Book Review: For Love of a Cause by Elly Michaels

Every once in awhile we come across books that we simply can’t put down. FOR LOVE OF A CAUSE by Elly Michaels is one of them.

In 1970’s Bolivia a small insurgent group is battling an undefined but assumed corrupt and brutal government. American suburbanite Annie Crossland travels there with a church group to aid an orphanage and connects with the British purveyor for the well-hidden insurgent group. Annie accompanies him on a supply trip to the main rebel encampment where she finds a role for herself that has been hitherto missing in her life, as well as a volatile yet fulfilling relationship with the rebel leader. Yet we know the fate of most South American rebellions . . .

This is an amazingly well-researched book that lets us walk in Annie’s shoes the entire way. She is the bored wife of a wealthy and bland lawyer but she has hidden strengths and skills that quickly become useful to the rebel group; shooting thanks to skeet with her father, Spanish from college courses, and animal husbandry because of the horses she has at home. She is an innate organizer, as well, who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.

The authenticity and writing quality of this book, in terms of both description and characters, cannot be overstated. Annie is no idealistic do-gooder and she is torn between going back to her husband, the Brit who makes periodic supply trips between civilization and the rebel encampment, and her growing fascination with Alex, the educated and handsome but brutal Marxist rebel leader (think Che complete with black beret and cigars.)

Everyone is complex—the product of their background—and Michaels does a wonderful job of slowly connecting Annie and Alex as each struggles with lust, ideology, and relationships with other members of the growing rebel force. I was impressed with the way the author kept Alex true to his character and never gave into temptation to soften him into an easier person for Annie to love. And Annie never loses her awareness of his volatility and cruelty. Dialogue is used to good effect such as when Alex taunts Annie because she is not eating and she tells him it is because he smells like an animal or they argue over socialist ideology. The atmospherics throughout the book are excellent and consistent.

The rebels want to create a new society in Bolivia and try to create a system of local justice to provide the peasantry some measure of protection and stem the Bolivian Army’s random seizures, taxes, and rapes. Annie gets caught up in the effort, deciding to stay with Alex and divorce her husband. Some of the best scenes are those in which Annie shoulders a gun and engages in guerrilla warfare with the rebels whose infiltration strategies are well described. Expect your heart to pound as Annie panics but does what is required, with an emotional aftermath she barely survives. Another stellar scene is when the volatile Alex finds out that she is married. And then there is the chilling moment when he becomes the ultimate arbiter of justice in the area the rebels now control.

I would have liked a little more backstory on the Bolivian government the rebels are fighting and a reference to JPG files was out of context, given the assumed time period of the book. The book also deserves a better editor, cover, and description page on Amazon. It is a gem that couldn’t be more hidden.

The author’s Amazon page and the book’s categories fit this into the Romance genre. There is sexual tension, to be sure, but billing this book as a run-of-the-mill romance does it a disservice. This is a sweeping 5 star novel that fans of Ann Patchett or Anita Shreve will enjoy.

for love of a cause

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