9 JULY 2010
First, I'd like to thank Nicole for having me today on her blog in support of my Destination: Berlin blog tour. Just a little about me: I was born and raised in Manchester, NH with a hungry appetite for reading gothic romance, especially by Victoria Holt. I served in the Army for 11 years from 1986 to 1997 and spent 7 years in Germany. My time in Europe inspired two passions – my love of history and the paranormal. Currently, I live in California and work for LAPD as a 911 dispatcher.
The idea behind Destination: Berlin
Stuck in a routine job in Cold War Germany guarding nuclear weapons, U.S. Army Corporal Sharon Cates thinks she is going to Berlin to attend an orientation tour. Unknown to her, the briefcase she carries contains top-secret information that the Stasi and KGB are willing to kill for.
Soviet Junior Sergeant Dimitri Nagory is an assistant to a high-ranking Soviet officer in his country's embassy in England. Dimitri isn't expecting a great adventure as he boards the duty train for a routine trip to headquarters in Berlin, and he certainly isn't expecting to meet any Americans.
The Stasi derails the train in the middle of East Germany, expecting to take the information from Sharon's dead body. But when the sudden explosion hurls Sharon and Dimitri from the train and into each other, Dimitri, too, becomes a target. With Sharon nursing badly bruised ribs and branded by her country as a traitorous thief for stealing top-secret documents, Dimitri goes against everything he's ever been taught to ensure her safe return to the West.
Remember 1988? For me it's a year I can't forget. I turned 20 in June that year. I was also in the military. I was active duty – a 95B, Military Police. My rank? Specialist. I was stationed in Münster, Germany at the 583rd Ordnance Company. In Münster, there were 10,000 British soldiers who were stationed there and only 200 Americans. My job? I guarded nuclear ammunition.
In 1988, the 570th USAAG selected me as Soldier of the Quarter in January. Solider of the Quarter for a Battalion sized element is quite an honor. In July, 1988, I was selected to attend the Berlin Orientation Tour. It was an opportunity I was excited to have. Like Corporal Sharon Cates, my military career was soaring. My personal life was practically non-existent.
Travel to Berlin in 1988 was limited. There was an air route, but usually high level officers used it. You could travel by car on one of two auto routes or you could take the duty train from Frankfurt to Bremerhaven.
I used the Duty Train out of Bremerhaven. When I traveled to Berlin that time I had to dot my "I's" and cross my "t's". I had to go in my dress uniform, fill out FLAG orders, a security briefing, and be at the station in Bremerhaven by 1000 pm.
The weekend after the 4th of July, I packed my bags and the company duty driver drove me up to Bremerhaven. It's on the northern seacoast of West Germany. In real life, only the British, French, and Americans could ride the duty train. In my novel, I include the Soviets since they were one of the four allies that won World War II. The duty driver dropped me off at 4 pm. I had a long wait. I found a café, bought a brotchen and the idea for my first book, Destination: Berlin was born.
I came up with the plot for the novel at that café – scribbling furiously on napkins that I shoved into my briefcase. Corporal Sharon Cates earns the opportunity to go to Berlin on the Berlin Orientation Tour. On the duty train, she meets Soviet Jr. Sergeant Dimitri Nagory. When the train derails in the middle of East Germany, Sharon and Dimitri must put aside their countries military philosophy and rely on each other to get to Berlin with the East German Stasi hot on their trail.
Sharon walked slowly toward the tree branch with the unusual glint. As soon as she was in eyesight, she smiled. Her briefcase! The handle was caught on a branch. Thank God she'd found it. She stood under the branch and reached up on her tiptoes, grimacing. It was just out of her reach. Looking around, she spied a stick that might help her to jar it loose. Her upper body still felt stiff and sore with the slightest motion, but she would soldier through it.
Was it like this for her father, too? He had been a first lieutenant in the infantry during Vietnam. Certainly he'd faced intense situations like this.
Sharon stopped, realizing she hadn't gone far. "Over here, Jr. Sgt."
He approached, his eyes narrowing. "What are you doing?"
"I found my briefcase." She pointed to the tree.
Dimitri paused and pursed his lips. Sharon took a stick and smacked the branch holding her briefcase hostage. The briefcase fell to the ground, but Dimitri snatched it up. Sharon could sense a change in his demeanor and it unnerved her.
"Corporal," he said, "I need for you to be completely honest with me right now. Can you do that?"
"Of course," Sharon answered. "What's wrong?"
"Are you a courier? Do you have classified government documents with you? Documents the Stasi want?"
STEPH: Here's a link to Destination: Berlin's Book Trailer on You Tube:
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