Meet the Blade Brigade: John Milkewicz

This week I introduce you to some of the friends who helped with Blade of Dishonor. Part 2 of the trilogy, Devils and Dragons, is free on Kindle until the 16th. You can get Part 1: The War Comes Home for 99 cents here, and Part 3: The Shadow Shogun for $1.99 here. That’s a dollar savings off the omnibus edition(which collects all all 3 novellas for $3.99). And yes, it is available in Trade Paperback from bookstores and e-tailers. If you buy the trade on Amazon, you can get the Kindle version for 99 cents through the matchbook program.

I met my friend John back in 2001, when we conquered Orctown with bow and axe. We have roved and roamed this great country far and wide on wide hobbit feet, from the Marines memorial in DC just before Johnny shipped to Iraq, to Stairway to Heaven, one of the most brutal hikes in New Jersey, and to Hillbilly Hotdogs and the home of the Mothman deep in the heart of West Virginia. John signed up in the Marine Corps reserves after 9/11 and served in Iraq. He helped me give Blade of Dishonor a sense of military realism and he’s been a great friend for a dozen years. He brought the book on his trip to Rome, where he photographed this memorial to the Devil’s Brigade, who spearheaded the Allied liberation of the Eternal City. I fictionalized this in the novel, because when I read of the accomplishments of the Devils–aka the 1st Special Service Force–I could not resist sharing their heroic exploits.

Here is the memorial:
devils brigade memorial rome

A photo of the book in Rome:
P1030021 copy2

And here’s me and Johnny, battling for the One ring atop the cracks of Mount Doom in the Sourlands:

Diamond Head Crater

Firecracker and I have two hobbies that the other doesn’t enjoy much. Mine is hiking; hers is horseback riding. I like riding, I’m just not any good at it. Hiking is a lot easier, it just takes conditioning so your feet and legs can handle climbing rocky trails for hours. Riding requires a similar commitment, but usually costs $60 or more, so that’s my excuse.

The crater from near the rim.

Diamond Head is a crater visible from Waikiki and surroundings on Oahu. It’s also the “Black Mountain” on Lost. It got its name from British soldiers who mistook calcite crystals for diamonds. Mark Twain got to ride around it on horseback when he visited the islands, but since then it’s been a military installation and now a park, so no more horses. It’s a 271-step hike that gains 560 feet in elevation, which is challenging on a hot and sunny day.


The stairs are real concrete stairs, not stones like the “Stairway to Heaven” part of the Appalachian Trail that Darth Milk and I have climbed. It’s kind of cool, getting to climb all over an abandoned military site, but it’s less enjoyable as a hike because you’re fenced away from nature.

The tunnel to the trailhead.

The hike to the top is worth it, with spectacular views of Waikiki. At the top, you climb out of a camouflaged bunker to the viewing spot. With the Japanese tourists everywhere, it reminded me a little of clearing the bunkers in The Thin Red Line.

Abandoned bunker sites are the same everywhere- graffitized.