Tito’s Lost Children Book Two Historical References

I’ve said it more than once and I’ll say it again: Tito’s Lost Children is a work of fiction and all of the main characters are completely fictitious. However, many aspects of the books are inspired by real people, places and events. Let’s have a chapter by chapter look at some of the real history that War (book) Two: Croatia is based on.

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Battle One, The Cult of Personality: As I mentioned in an earlier post about the historical inspirations behind Book One: Slovenia, Franjo Tudjman, the president of Croatia, is historical. He was accused, in some circles, of emulating Tito’s cult of personality in order to consolidate his power. The Carrington Plan is historical as well. The Cetinje monastery in Montenegro’s former capital is very real.  The Serbian warlord Arkan and his Serbian Tigers paramilitary stayed there while they helped lay siege to Dubrovnik. Miroslava, his fictional bastard daughter, references this in the book.

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Cetinje Monastery: a base for Arkan’s Tigers where Zlatko recruits Miroslava

Battle Two, The Battle of the Barracks: The title makes reference to the fight that resulted from the Croatian police forces surrounding the Yugoslav People’s  Army garrisoned in Croatia in their barracks. The JNA forces in Gospić tried to bust their way out, resulting in the destruction of most of the town. The character of Colonel Čavar is historical; it is true that the commander of the barracks was found dead after the JNA surrendered to the Croatian forces, though it is arguable whether he was killed by his own troops, or whether the Croatian forces killed him. The book gives its own answer to this, later on in battle four.

Battle Three, Causalities of War: The specific photo-op that occurs with the wounded soldiers at the Zagreb train station is fictional. But, the scene was inspired by a Slovene friend’s memory of being at the train station in Zagreb at the time and seeing the wounded soldiers there. The siege of Vukovar and the fighting in East Slavonia, which occurs in the background for much of book two is historical. While we never go there in the books, Vukovar comes back in a big way in book three. Sorry, I can’t give away more without major spoilers.

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JNA actions in Eastern Slavonia Sept. 1991 – Jan. 1992

Battle Four, Daggers in the Back: The Yugoslav Air Force bombed the Croatian presidency building in real life. The plotline related to the Croatians rigging their own presidential palace to explode as a publicity stunt is fictional, but inspired by Serb accusations that the Croatians had really had done that, rather than admit to the bombing. The succession of Macedonia is historical. Anything about President Tudjman getting a gun stuck in his face by a really pissed off twenty-something is, of course, completely fictional.

Battle Five, Island Lessons: Barren Island and the remains of the Yugoslav political prison on it really do exist, as does the resort island of Sveti Stefan. The family Predrag protects and their situation is completely fictional.

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The author stands in front of the beach where Predrag got his bichaq dagger growing up

Battle Six, On the Run: The state of the bridge between Rab island and the Croatian mainland is historically depicted, though in real life the road was mined. I took a bit of dramatic liberty with our heroes’ escape on the ferryboat. The ferry, too, would have been within range of Serb artery on the front lines.

Battle Seven, The Hrvatska Dubica Massacre: The Hrvatska Dubica massacre is historical.

Battle Eight, The Gypsy Way: Trebinje and the hills between it and Dubrovnik are very real. The National Opera of Niš is fictional, through I did loosely base the physical theater and its location off of the Sindjleć theater in that city. The siege of Dubrovnik and the positions of the Yugoslav forces are historical.

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The hills  near Trebinje on the BiH/Croatian border. Try getting over these mountains…

Battle nine, The Cold Reality: Predrag’s description of the ruined house that he is staying in is consistent with what Serb paramilitaries often did to the homes of non-Serbs when they ethnically cleansed a village. Anything about deflecting bullets with electromagnetic knifes is totally fictional, though an engineer did tell me it could work.

Battle ten, The Convoy of Peace: There really was a convoy of peace led to Dubrovnik by a ship called the Slavija One. In reality it was headed up by Stipe Mesić, the President of the by-then-defunct Federal Presidency. It was filled with journalists and dignitaries, many of whom spent their time in the ship’s bar and was stopped in the Mljet channel by the People’s Navy. Jovana’s actions in the book are based off of Mesić statements and actions during this stand-off, as is the captain’s attitude, except Mesić didn’t also have to deal with a drunk and misbehaving adoptive brother at the same time she was negotiating passage!

Battle eleven, The Siege of Dubrovnik: Refugees from the surrounding villages did flee into besieged Dubrovnik as the JNA advanced from Montenegro. Not a single boat was left afloat in the harbor of Dubrivnik’s old town by the end of the siege. The specific shelling of Dubrovnik is fictional. As for that secret cache of experimental Yugoslav weaponry that Hristijan finds out about? Well, you’ll see…

Battle twelve, Objekt 505: Objekt 505 — the Željava air force base — is historical; Serb forces really did blow it up. The television program that Mojca is watching at the beginning of the chapter is also historical. The reference that Duško makes to President Milošević of Serbia unseating the president of the SAO Krajina is based on real events, as well. The evidence that Jovana discovers of US-Yugoslav collaboration on the space program is fictional. Actually, I put it in as a shout-out to the mocumentary ‘Huston, we have a problem,’ which is worth a watch if you want to see another alternate history of the region.

 Battle thirteen, Roads to Sarajevo: The Bosnian Serbian Autonomous Oblasts mentioned in this chapter were the precursor to Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb entity that fought the Sarajevo government.

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Serbian Autonomous Oblasts that would later band together as Republika Srpska.

Battle fourteen, Sarajevo, We Have a Problem: Warren Zimmermann was indeed the US ambassador to Yugoslavia and he did meet with Bosnian president Alija Izetbegović at the same time their ‘characters’ do in the book. Shortly after, Izetbegović declared Bosnian and Herzegovina independent, leading to theories that Izetbegović was encouraged to do so at the meeting. The reception held for Zimmermann at Sarajevo’s national library is made up by me. It is true, however, that at the war’s outset, President Izetbegović was reluctant to believe that there would, in fact, be a war. The Bosnian Presidency members Fikret Abdić and Biljana Plavšić are historical; so is the ethnic cleansing of Bijeljina by Arkan’s Serbian Tigers and Mirko’s White Eagles. The Banja Dvorovi spa complex is real. Civjetin Mijatović, another World War II hero with the partisans, is historical as well.

Battle Fifteen, The Council of National Salvation: The Council of National Salvation really did happen, minus my fictional characters, of course, as did the Serb takeover of the police academy on Vrača hill. The woman Jovana sees get shot as part of the resulting demonstrations is implied to be the first causality of the siege of Sarajevo. The Sarajvsko Brewery was one of the only two major factories to remain in production throughout the siege of Sarajevo, the other being the Drina cigarette factory. The house the General Aksentović gets on Jekovac street is a real place.

 

Battle sixteen, “I believe I Have Been Kidnapped.”: President Izetbegović really did get kidnapped by the JNA after landing at the Sarajevo Airport on 2 May 1992. His conversation with the anchor on the news has been represented faithfully. Zlatko’s plot for the kidnapping to be part of a take over of all of Bosnia is, of course, fictional; though some evidence may suggest that Fikret Abdić did attempt to take power and form a quisling regime with Serb support. He denies these allegations. Generals Kukanjac and MacKenzie are historical, as is the incident where the latter mistook Muslims for Serbs in Lukavica, while trying to rescue Izetbegović.

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The JNA offensive in Sarajevo on the day of President Izetbegović’s kidnapping.

Battle seventeen, A Question of Unity: The character of General Divjak is historical. The Bosnian forces really did try and stop the JNA when it attempted to leave the Sarajevo barracks. The voice that yelled “Talks tomorrow are out of the question” over General Divjak’s walkie-talkie has never been identified. So who knows, maybe it could have been Hristijan? The fight in the Sarajevsko Brewery’s basement is made up by me.

Battle eighteen, Civil War: The measures taken at Sarajevo’s Koševo hospital during a shelling have been represented as faithfully as possible. The Serb forces did have a position on mount Trebević, where Predrag is observing the besieged city, about to go back to Belgrade. We will get to meet his father — President Milošević of Serbia himself — in War Three: Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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All novels in the Keepers/Voyages universe now in one ebook!

With Tito’s Lost Children Book Three: Bosnia and Herzegovina probably launching sometime in October, I’ve decided that now is the time to bring out all six novels set in the Keepers of the Stone historical fantasy universe together in one omnibus.

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It’s available here on Amazon, or here basically everywhere else (Ibooks, B&N, Kobo). Now is the chance to get it at the limited time price of $0.99 before it goes rocketing up to $12.99 on September 4!

 

Tito’s Lost Children. War Two: Croatia Launches

War Two: Croatia, the second installment in the Tito’s Lost Children series is here!

 

It’s launching at the special discount price of $0.99 down from $2.99, so grab it while you can before the price goes back up on July 21st.

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As part of the launch, Tito’s lost Children. War One: Slovenia will also be FREE on Amazon through July 20th. Now is the perfect chance to try out this action-packed alternative history series that dares to ask the question: what if Maršal Tito, the strongman of Yugoslavia, named a completely untested successor to take over for him?

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Tito’s Lost Children Historical References

 

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I’ve written this as a sort of companion to Tito’s Lost Children War (book) One. One of the things I enjoy about writing these books is the idea that a story like this could have happened in the real world, in real places that you can go to. So, to give the book more of a grounding in real history, the identification of certain historical events and persons may prove helpful and interesting to readers.

Let me start by saying that the books which comprise Tito’s Lost Children are novels. The main characters, Jovana, Hristijan, Mojca, Predrag and Zlatko are fictional, as are their actions and (mostly) those of the real historical figures they encounter. However they sometimes also encounter real events and people that were important to the breakup of Yugoslavia.  I will point some of these references out by chapter (battle). Hopefully, it won’t give too many spoilers if you haven’t read the book, but if you really mind them consider yourself forewarned. Here goes:


Battle One, Ohrid Trout: All of the news the characters mention happening in the background of their lives is historical. The village of Vevčani really exists and tried to declare independence as it’s own country after Macedonia became independent, because the inhabitants didn’t like the idea of being surrounded by ethnically Albanian villages.

Battle Two, Government in Exile: The parliament of Kosovo really was shut down and subsequently met secretly in Kaçanik. Jusuf Zejnullahu did serve as the prime minister of its self-declared republic for a time during the early nineties. His actions in the book are, of course, fiction.

Battle Three, The Partisan’s Granddaughter: General Popović was a real person and was considered a war hero in Yugoslavia. The First Proletarian Brigade was a real fighting force in the Second World War; it’s continued role in the books is fictional. So is the character of Mojca’s grandmother.

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Near Dubrovnik, where Jovana discovers the true purpose behind her upbringing.

Battle Four, The Brigade: The design of the 1974 Yugoslav constitution that created the Presidium has been presented as faithfully as possible, though Jovana’s role in Yugoslavia and the ‘secret’ amendment to that constitution are, of course, completely speculative.

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In Book One our heroes must make their way from Ohrid, Macedonia to Ljubljana, Slovenia on the opposite side of the country.

Battle Five, Our Lady of Medjugorje: Medjugorje is a real place, as are the things in it like Cross Mountain. Some of the people there who claim to have visions of the Virgin Mary, continue to have them on a regular basis.

Battle Six, The Serbs of the Krajina: The Serbian Autonomous Oblast of Krajina and the Log Revolution are historical, as are President Babić and Police Chief Martić. The rest of the characters are fictional. The JNA (Yugoslav People’s Army) did aid the Krajina Serbs, though in the story, the extent of the aid at that specific point in history may be exaggerated for purposes of simplicity.

Battle Seven, The Croat of Knin: The declaration that Duško wants Jovana to give her support to is historical. The fighting and stealth techniques that Jure (and others) practice are completely made up by me, but the knives they use are real kinds of knives, as is Hristijan’s and the Serb Cutter.

Map of the Serbian Autonomous Oblast of Krajina (in red).

Battle Eight, Duško’s Gambit: The Pakrac Clash is historical and has been presented faithfully. While it is true that the Krajina Armed Forces did persecute Croats on its territory, the specific ‘tax’ Duško mentions is fictional.

Battle Nine, Plitvice Lakes: The Serbs’ Meeting of Truth and the conflict that occurred at Plitvice Lakes are historical, as is Milošević’s/the JNA’s attempt to call a state of emergency in Yugoslavia. The Croatian combatant who dies so that Hristijan and Jovana can get away is implied to be the first person to die in the Yugoslav conflicts. The Veliki Slap is a real place, as is the waterfall that plays a role in the story on the way to it.

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The Veliki Slap (Big Waterfall), Plitvice Lakes

Battle Ten, Yugoslav Youth Day: The House of Flowers is where Tito is buried and Kumrovec was where he was born. The existence of Yugoslav Youth Day and the Slet are historical. However, as the fictional mayor of Kumrovec states in the book, the specific ceremony and baton relay differs somewhat from how a ‘real’ one would have looked, while still being based on it. The Serb Volunteer Guard and Arkan are historical, though the daughter Predrag mentions is fictional.

Battle Eleven, Bura: The Bura windstorm is really a concern in north west Croatia and costal Slovenia. The bunker Jovana hides in is a reference to the bunkers that the Albanian totalitarian dictator Hoxha ordered built all over his country. The place where Predrag likes to brood in Belgrade is real, though the specific statue  is fictional (there’s a different statue there).

Battle Twelve, Galeb, or the International Community : The Galeb was Maršal Tito’s personal yacht, and it’s location at the time has been faithfully presented. The Navy base’s Admiral is fictional. The arena in Pula is very real. President Poos is historical as well, though his visit to Yugoslavia at that time is fictional. The Metelkova barracks are a real place, which today (fun fact!) is no longer a military compound but Ljubljana’s main alternative culture hub. General Aksentović is fictional, as is his love of Šljivovica, though I very loosely based his character on one of the real top JNA commanders in Slovenia at the time (If you’re that interested in which one, they share the same initials).

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Inside the Pula arena

Battle Thirteen “Živi naj vsi narodi…”: Admiral Mamula and President Kučan are historical. Kučan’s speech at the Slovene independence ceremony has been faithfully depicted, though not in its entirety. It occurred in present-day Republic Square. The other the parts of the ceremony were fictionalized.

Battle Fourteen, The Partisan and the Domobranka:  The story of Prešeren and Julija is historical and the line Hristijan says to Antonija after almost falling in the river is a reference to one of Prešeren’s poems about Julija. While the characters of Antonija and Janez are, of course, made up, the conflict between the domobranci and the partisans during World War Two was very real. The domobranci were persecuted by the victorious partisans right after the war, and having family on the ‘losing’ side of the conflict is still considered something of a stigma  in Slovenia today. The extent to which it causes problems for Antonija more than forty years later in the 1990’s may have been exaggerated for dramatic effect.

Battle Fifteen, The Ten-Day War: In real life, Slovenia’s president and defense minister can’t agree on who gave the order to fire on the JNA. The helicopter that Mojca’s sees get shot down is historical as are the peace talks that she mentions Jovana is attending in Zagreb.

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The view from Shoemakers Bridge where Mojca ends up during the Ten-Day War.

Battle Sixteen, The Holmec Incident: The fighting at Holmec really did happen and the border crossing really did get torched.

Battle Seventeen, Triglav:  All the trivia that Jovana gives about Mt. Triglav and Aljaž Tower is true; it is said that you are not a ‘true’ Slovenian if you have not climbed Triglav once in your life. Anything related to ending the Ten-Day War from its summit, or the JNA trying to renege on the ceasefire by cutting the phone lines to Ljubljana is, of course, totally made up by me. The Brijuni Agreement formally ending the war, however, is real.

Battle Eighteen, RAM: The RAM plan, as depicted in Tito’s Lost Children, is semi-real. It is known that something called RAM existed, but the content has never been revealed. While the specific contents of it in the book are speculative, it is however, known that the Serb leadership did premeditate much of the ethnic-cleansing, especially in Bosnia. The base Jovana is training on is fictional, though the Slovene Territorial Defense Force did have a training facility near Ljubljana. President Tudjman, who Janez mentions, is historical and we will meet a fictional personage of him in War Two: Croatia.

Tito’s Lost Children War One: Slovenia is available here.

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Acknowledgements for Voyages of Fortune

Below is the acknowledgements and inspirational background section that I had in the at the back of the final book of Voyages of Fortune, the sequel to my first trilogy, Keepers of the StoneWhen I got off the train the town of Celje one day I never imagined that I would come away with an idea for a continuation in the person of Alma Karlin. It was a pleasure to see what ‘happened’ when her real journey around the world met with the Keepers/Voyages fantasy universe. Oh, and there’s time travel, too…


When I first visited Celje in the summer of 2016, I never thought I would find a kindred spirit in the form of a statue standing just beyond the train station. It was here that I encountered the life story of Alma Karlin: a writer and novelist who, in the 1920s, left home with nothing but a few dinars in her pocket. Holding a passport almost no one would accept, she traveled the world for nine years alone rather than living the traditional life expected of her in the city’s bourgeois circles.

Over the course of that day, I learned about her travels and writings. She quickly became one of my heroes. So thanks, Alma, for setting out on your journey, inspiring my latest trilogy, and lending me the courage to write and travel as I choose, no matter what.

In addition to Alma’s travels and the legend of Friderik, Veronika, and the Counts of Celje so much of this story – from Mark’s internship in Southeast Asia, to Henry’s rediscovering his Slovene roots – has been inspired by my own travels and experiences over the past ten years. Some of the characters – I’ll leave you guessing as to which ones – were inspired by the people I have met over the course of my own journey. So thanks – or in some cases ‘thanks’ – for spurring me to put pen to paper.

The city of Karachi provides the setting for a large part of Book Three. So I also have to give special acknowledgement to my friends and host family from that city for the amazing time you showed me on my academic research trips there in 2012 and 2014. Your city will always hold a quirky, special place in my heart; one day I hope to be back.

Thanks, Mom. You’ve been my staunch first-line beta reader who cracked the whip on me when my efforts to connect the stories of Friderik and Veronika, Alma, and the other plotlines from the Keepers of the Stone universe turned the first draft of Book One into a hot mess. Because of you, the final one ended up being largely unrecognizable from the first one, in a very good way.

As always, my final thank you goes to you, the readers. If you’ve made it to the end, you understand what it means to live for yourself and to never let anyone choose your life for you. Thanks for letting me share the stuff that goes on in my sometimes overactive, bizarre imagination.

The Voyages of Fortune trilogy is available Here.

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Acknowledgements for Keepers of the Stone

Below are the acknowledgements and inspiration behind  my first trilogy, Keepers of the Stonea historical fantasy set in India, the US and Europe during the 1880’s. I decided to take it out of the back of my books and rather than just let it lay around my hard drive I thought it would be good to post it here. It’s true that the idea came  in a flash; and these books were inspired by my favorite novel, Nobel Prize winning author Henryk Sienkiewicz’s In Desert and Wilderness. When I sat down to write the first chapter I had no idea that it would turn into an entire series, let alone spark my career as a writer, but three years down the road here I am.


This is your fault, dad.

When you told me that you were planning a family trip to Egypt, I guess you couldn’t have known that the first thing I thought of was not the pyramids. Or the Sphinx. Or Cairo. Or Abu Simbel….

It was of Henryk Sienkiewicz’s novel: W Pustyni i w Puszczy,  my favorite book since I first read it at the age of seventeen, which is partly set there. When I heard of our family’s travel plans, first thing I did was start comparing the places we would go with locations in the original novel. Sadly, there was little coincidence. Yet, during this process, I noticed that someone had written a sequel to that novel. I put it on my reading list.

Shortly after, my hard drive crashed. I had time to read the continuation.

The morning after I’d finished it, I took a walk in Coventry, England – for better or worse where I was living at the time. I found myself standing in front of the town’s Lady Godiva statue, staring at the figure of a girl on a horse. Having no idea what the story of that noblewoman was, it came to me in a flash. There are some things you can’t unsee; this was one of them.

So, thanks, dad – like it or not – for setting me on the course that led to my putting proverbial pen to paper.

And thanks, mom. If you had not encouraged me to put this out there, it’s likely it would have simply sat on my hard drive. Also, you’ve been my proofreader and editor. If I created it, you helped figure out what it meant.

Also, thanks to my two close friends from high school, who encouraged me when I wondered if I was crazy for writing this – while doing a PhD, no less. And to my first Polish language teacher – wherever you are – who shoved a certain novel into the hands of an overstressed boy in his late teens.

Finally, I should thank Henryk Sienkiewicz and Leszek Talko: those whose stories – W Pustyni i w Puszczy and Staś i Nel: Zaginiony Klejnot Indii – loosely inspired me to create this dark parody of what might have happened next. You’ve spurred me to make a new world grown from the tales you’ve told.

To close it all out, I’ll just say thanks to you – all those who have read the books. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share the stuff that goes on in my sometimes very, very weird mind.

The complete Keepers of the Stone trilogy is available here.

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Tito’s Lost Children Interview with Total Slovenia News

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On the 39th anniversary of Marshal Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia’s funeral I thought I’d leave this here: My recent interview with Total Slovenia News, Slovenia’s leading English language news site, about the release of  the first book  in my new series: Tito’s Lost Children, A Tale of the Yugoslav Wars. It’s an alternative history adventure of the break up of Yugoslavia. What if it turned out that Tito left behind a secret,  illegitimate daughter as his chosen successor and stopping the Yugoslav wars was up to her?

In the interview I talk a bit more about how I got the inspiration for creating the story and doing research for the novels. I also go into depth about how Book (War) One has a special connection with Slovenia and Slovenian history, publishing in Slovenia and more!

The link to the interview is here.

Tito’s Lost Children Launches!

The first installment in my new series, Tito’s Lost Children. A Tale of the Yugoslav Wars, is finally out. It’s launching at the special price of $0.99, so now is your chance to get it before the price goes rocketing up to $2.99 on May 8th!

Get it now!

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It’s an alternative history first-person shifting perspective novel set during the 1990s breakup of Yugoslavia that doesn’t always take itself to seriously. So it’s same, same but different from some of the stuff I’ve written before this. If I do say so myself, it’s also the best thing I’ve written yet; everyone I’ve shown it to so far agrees! If you’re nor familiar with the region or history don’t worry. I’ve written this with you in mind.

The synopsis is below:

Yugoslav People’s Army brats Jovana and Hristijan grew up in a secluded border-watch compound, dreaming of grander horizons. They get their wish in the worst way possible when Predrag, a rogue Army captain, kidnaps Jovana for no apparent reason. Hristijan manages to rescue her, but their ordeals are far from over.

On the run, they uncover the shocking secret behind Jovana’s upbringing: she is the chosen successor to Maršal Josip Broz Tito. With Yugoslavia on the brink of collapse, it is her duty to keep order among the country’s quarrelsome nationalities – and stop the Serbs from grabbing power. There’s only one tiny problem: Jovana was never trained to take on her new role as the only hope for a unified Yugoslavia.

Joining forces with a hard-fighting mute girl, Jovana and Hristijan must make their way to Slovenia to prevent its secession from the Yugoslav Federation. To get there, they will have to outwit Predrag, who is determined to capture Jovana and win the approval of his Serb nationalist father.

The fate of Yugoslavia now rests with a band of snarky teenagers. Armed with nothing but a few guns and an old Army truck, they are about to make their mark on history.

Get your copy here

Keepers of the Stone Book One is FREE!

Outcast, the first book in in the Keepers of the Stone trilogy just became FREE yesterday.

Now there’s no downside to trying it out, absolutely no strings attached.

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Even better, the entire Keepers of the Stone trilogy is now available at the ebook retailer of your choice.

Click here for Amazon or here for basically everywhere else (B&N, Ibooks, Kobo, etc…) to start reading!