Hello, friends. It’s been a full month since I’ve blogged, but taking time off for NaNoWriMo made a huge impact on my WIP. I hope to get back in the swing of things eventually, but December will likely be sporadic for me. The company I work for is undertaking a physical move to a new location and life is chaotic right now. If you don’t see me about in the blogosphere for a few days, I’m likely up to my ears in packing and unpacking, LOL.
Today, I’m super excited to welcome friend and Story Empire author, Gwen Plano, with her latest release, The Culmination. I read the first two books in this series and enjoyed them both. I’ve already grabbed my copy of The Culmination and am looking forward to seeing how this adventurous series ends. Please welcome, Gwen!
Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Mae, and for helping me launch The Culmination, a new beginning. Just a couple of days ago, it went public on Amazon and I’m super excited. To celebrate, the Kindle edition is on sale at 99¢ through December.
So, what’s the book about? The Culmination can best be described as a military thriller. It tackles difficult topics such as denuclearization, the power struggles over oil in the Middle East, as well as the ever-present danger of war. Readers will find themselves sitting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, walking in the historic Red Square, and laughing with children in an orphanage in Turkey. They will glimpse the horror of war and watch the give and take of a negotiated peace. Readers will also meet the two Heads of State who fall in love and subsequently commit themselves to creating a world in which all are family.
I never expected to write this book, but in some ways, I had no choice. The characters crowded into my office and insisted that I listen to them. In a very real way, they wrote the book. I simply tapped the keys.
The Culmination, a new beginning is the third book in The Contract thriller series. After an assassination attempt on an Air Force base in northern California, tensions mount. Heads of state meet to craft a denuclearization agreement. The meetings between these nuclear powers take a murderous turn. A nefarious conspiracy re-emerges and leads the characters into the heart of the Middle East, where they encounter the unexpected and find a reason for hope.
Margaret Adler, the Vice President of the United States, has flown to Moscow at the request of Russia’s president. She is met by his son, Ivan. Upon seeing him, Margaret flashes back on her experience as a soldier in Afghanistan and wonders if they crossed paths at that fateful time. Margaret begins the conversation…
“It’s possible we were there at the same time. Maybe we were in the same locale.”
“Are you serious? Really? Why would anyone willingly recall such bloodshed?” Ivan’s eyes lower, and he glances to the side.
She presses, “I keep thinking we’ve met. Would you humor me and think back with me?”
“I don’t like such games.” Ivan’s response sounds gruff, and Margaret steps back as her agents step nearer. “Besides, I’m not sure what that would accomplish. This is one nightmare I choose not to recall. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He glares at her.
Margaret nods. “I understand, of course. But if we can travel back in time, perhaps we might decide if we can trust one another.”
He shakes his head and scoffs, “I can’t imagine that to be possible.”
“Isn’t it worth the effort to find out?”
Her persistence wears down his obstinacy, and begrudgingly, he agrees. Ivan stares off into the distance.
Margaret notices his grimace and realizes he’s gone back to the battle.
She lowers her voice and says, “A shell hits the building I’m in, and I rush outside. I can’t see through the clouds of dust and debris. People scream. People run. I hate this place, and it hates me.
“I call to my men, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ There’s gunfire, and we’re unsure which direction to run. I can smell the blood, the sweat, and the fear. It’s musty and thick; it lingers and gags me. Sand and bodies lie beneath my feet. I stumble and recoil at the horror that I meet. I see a female soldier among the masses. She moans from the hit she received. I reach for her arm to pull her up, but the limb is all that follows me. I retch and call for my men.”
“Pomoch’ yey!” Ivan yells. “And my men help her. They put a tourniquet on her arm, and we move on.”
Margaret holds back the shock that she feels and looks at Ivan. He keeps his eyes closed, and he appears to be caught in a battle.
Margaret says, “Another explosion. The shell lands close to me. My face is on fire, and I get thrown backward. I can’t move.”
Ivan reacts with a gasp and reaches for his face, now frozen and white and trembling.
Margaret says, “I’m being moved—my body dragged. The Afghan Northern Alliance is helping me.”
Ivan’s jaw clenches, and he holds his shoulders rounded and slumped. Resignation floats across his face.
Margaret notices his instability. He teeters. She calls out, “Soldier, lean in. Lean in!”
Ivan leans into Margaret. She wraps her arm around him, and time becomes fluid. Ivan chokes out tears, first in agonizing bursts, and then in sobs—loud and wrenching.
Margaret draws Ivan closer. They now stand cheek to cheek, tears blending. “Ivan,” she says. “Ivan, what do you feel?”
He doesn’t respond.
Again, she asks, “Ivan, what do you feel?”
His words are halting, “Failure. I could do nothing. I was only there to arrange for more armaments.”
“All right, what else do you feel besides failure?”
He holds her tighter. “Useless. I’m barely a man now. My body has betrayed me; it is broken.”
“There’s more, Ivan. Tell me what else you feel.”
“Sadness. So many are gone. My friends, my enemies. Gone. And for what?”
“The remorse of a soldier. I understand. There’s more.”
He flounders and struggles to regain composure.
“Ivan,” Margaret says. “What more do you feel?”
He pulls her close and whispers, “I feel hope—hope that maybe the treaty will work. It has to. It must. Maybe the countries are serious about ending this horror. That is my hope.”
Margaret nods. “You’ve identified your purpose.”
Ivan clasps her left arm, and at the firm feel of the prosthesis, he jerks away.
He opens his eyes and looks into hers. “You’re the one, aren’t you? The one we stopped and helped.”
“Yes. You saved my life.”
Whether you’re new to this series, or have been following from the start, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating with Gwen on her release. And what a deal at .99c! Please use the sharing buttons and help us spread the word about The Culmination. Don’t forget to GRAB YOUR COPY and drop Gwen a comment. Thanks for visiting today. I wish you happy reading!