Book Excerpt: Scorpio’s Kiss by MC Domovitch

Title: SCORPIO’S KISS
Author: MC Domovitch
Publisher: Lansen Publishing
Pages: 588
Genre: Romance

Scorpio’s Kiss is a spell-binding tale of love, ambition and greed that will keep the reader turning the pages until its surprise ending. Set in New York and Paris amid the glamorous and competitive worlds of art and real estate, Scorpio’s Kiss takes the reader from the late 1940s to the 1960s through the tumultuous lives of its heroes.

There is Alex Ivanov, the son of a Russian immigrant and part-time prostitute. He yearns to escape his sordid life and achieve fame and fortune. His dreams of becoming a world-class builder are met with countless obstacles, yet he perseveres in the hope of someday receiving the recognition he craves.

Half a world away, Brigitte Dartois is an abused teenager who runs into the arms of a benefactor with an agenda all his own. When she finds out that her boss has an ulterior motive, she flees again, determined to earn her living through her art. This career brings her fame, but also the unwanted attention of her early abuser.

Domovitch’s novel is a compelling tale, filled with finely etched characters and a superb understanding of the power of ambition. Scorpio’s Kiss promises to resonate with all who once had a dream.

For More Information

  • Scorpio’s Kiss is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Book Excerpt:

The days were getting shorter. The boy looked up in surprise at the sky, which had suddenly grown dark. He pulled his worn sweater tight against the October chill, blew warm breath into his cupped hands and hurried on. The newspaper bag strung across his shoulders was almost empty. He no longer had to put it down at every street corner to massage his sore back. He was almost home.

Alexander Ivanov lived at the end of the world. To the twelve-year-old, that was exactly what Brooklyn was; the end of the world. Maybe because the one time he had been to the city, what he called Manhattan, it had taken forever on the subway.

Alex hated living in Brooklyn, and never more so than when his mother talked about her youth in Leningrad with tears running down her face. She would revert to Russian, which he didn’t understand, but the passion in her eyes spoke more volubly of the beauty of her old country than words could convey.

Every day on his way back from school, weighed down by the load of newspapers, he passed the same dusty old stores, their signs barely legible from the peeling paint; the same ratty tenement buildings in which people suffocated in the summer and shivered in the winter; the same old women in their ritual wigs and shapeless dresses, vacant and blank expressions of hopelessness etched on their faces. Hopeless, that was how he sometimes felt; and then he would remember Manhattan and feel better. If there was one thing Alex wished for, it was to live in Manhattan. He yearned for Manhattan the way his mother pined for her old country.

Alex walked along Main Street, where pickles marinated in barrels, salamis swung from hooks, and sausages dried in their cotton bags. He was oblivious to the sights and smells around him. One by one, he took the papers from his bag, and with a quick, experienced motion, he threw them. His aim was almost perfect.

Tomorrow was collection day. He would stop at each house along his route and wait while his clients went to get their money. After making change, he would thank each one of them politely even though most never bothered to leave him a tip. His work would take him more than twice as long as on normal delivery days. Still, he looked forward to it. Collection day was when he could go home, count out his profits and decide how much of the money he could save. This week, if all went well, he might reach the fifty-dollar mark in his bank account. Fifty dollars! It was a fortune.

He reached into his bag, pulled out the last newspaper and aimed it with unerring precision at the Kodesky’s front porch. At that moment the door swung open and old man Kodesky stepped out. The paper flew through the air like a projectile and landed with a thud in the startled man’s well-padded stomach.

“Hey, you no-good little piece of shit!” He waved his fist. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Alex did not hear a word. He was a million miles away, dreaming of the day he would escape the hell of living at the end of the world.

Even now, two years later, he could still remember every detail of his trip to Manhattan. After a long subway ride, he’d emerged in the city surrounded by skyscrapers so tall, he could only see the top by looking up high and leaning back. People on the street rushed about in the lightly falling snow, pushing and jostling each other, their arms full of brightly wrapped packages. It was one week before Christmas and there was a dizzying feeling of joy in the air. Alex had been almost drunk from the excitement. This must be what Leningrad was like.

Deep in his dreams of unlimited delights, he walked home. Three blocks later, Alex climbed the stairs to the dingy one-bedroom apartment where he and his mother lived.

Before he was born, his mother had tried to make the apartment look warm and inviting. She hung pretty paper on the walls and crisp curtains over the windows. The furniture was inexpensive but attractive and functional. Whatever nesting instinct had once inspired Marlena Ivanov’s efforts had long disappeared. For the past twelve years she had done nothing more to improve her home. Indeed, she had not done even the most basic of repairs. Over time, the wallpaper had become worn and faded. The curtains lost their freshness and the once attractive furniture became old and shabby. The sour stench of poverty clung to the apartment like old dirt.

Alex closed the door behind him and dropped his canvas bag on the floor. He sniffed the air and wrinkled his nose. From the kitchen came the smell of boiled cabbage.

“Is dat you Alexander? Vere ver you? Is nearly six o’clock and dinner is been ready for hour,” his mother’s heavily accented voice called out from the bathroom. “I getting ready to go out. You vill ave to eat alone.”

Through the thin door came the sound of the toilet flushing. A moment later Marlena appeared wearing a tight pink sweater set and a black satin skirt. Her dark hair was freshly coifed, the marks of the bobby pins still imprinted between each wave. Her mouth was painted crimson in the shape Joan Crawford had made popular a decade earlier. From ten feet away the smell of vodka on her breath was overpowering.

“Will you be coming home by yourself?” asked the boy suspiciously.

“Vat you vant me to do?” She picked up her purse abruptly and threw in her lipstick. “You vant to eat. I not do dis for me. A boy need food to grow big, strong. Someday you understand.” A moment later, she was gone.

Marlena Ivanov was a bitter woman. She made no secret of the fact that raising a boy by herself was a heavy cross to carry, one she deeply resented. Alex sometimes thought his mother hated him almost as much as she did his father. He had never seen his father. He knew, only because his mother repeatedly told him, that Pavel Ivanov had been a gambler and a womanizer. Whatever wages the man had earned, he just as quickly spent on those two vices. The day Alex was born was the day Pavel Ivanov decided that married life was not for him. He disappeared, leaving his seventeen-year-old wife to deal with the struggles of working and raising a son by herself.

After a dinner of cabbage soup, Alex turned off the lights and climbed under his blankets. In the dark, he could clearly see his mother’s empty bed a few feet from his own. He turned his back to it and curled up.

Hours later, the muffled sound of laughter woke him up. The bedroom door swung open and the light turned on.

“Turn dat off. You vake up boy,” his mother ordered in a shrill whisper. The light flicked off. “Das better. I like dark.” She laughed. “Now, come to Marlena.” Clothes rustled. From his cot, in the corner of the room, Alex guessed every gesture, every movement. Old springs creaked. The sounds were loud, magnified by the stillness of the night.

Alex covered his ears. By trying hard, maybe he could keep the noises from reaching him. It was too late. The guilty stirring in his loins had already begun. His mind swirled in a mix of emotions too strong for him to understand. Maybe if he thought of something else. Someday I’ll drive in from the city in a brand new Cadillac. I’ll show them all…

The next morning, Marlena kissed the man goodbye and turned triumphantly to Alex. “See dis?” She pulled out a ten-dollar bill from between her breasts. “Dis can buy food for whole week.”

Alex looked away, embarrassed and ashamed, and returned to the picture he was drawing on the back of his spelling book.

About the Author

Monique Domovitch has had many careers, starting with being one of Canada’s top models. When she retired from modeling she moved on to a career in the financial services as an adviser and planner, specializing in helping women attain financial freedom. During those years, she was also one of the first women in Canada to host her own national financial television show. During all those years, Monique’s dream was always to someday become a writer. Ten years ago, Monique attended a writer’s conference where the first line of one of her novels was read out loud in a workshop, attracting the attention of a publisher and an agent.

Since that life-changing conference, Monique Domovitch has published nine books, four with Penguin using the pen name Carol Ann Martin, two with Harlequin using her own name, and another two with Lansen Publishing. Scorpio’s Kiss was previously published as two novels, Scorpio Rising and The Sting of the Scorpio. Scar Tissue, her latest, is her ninth novel and she is hard at work on her tenth.

A great believer in the energizing power of writers’ conferences, she says that if not for that first conference she attended, she would not be published today.

For More Information

Book Spotlight: MacClinton by Sam Griffith

Inside the Book:

Title: MacClinton
Author: Sam Griffith
Publisher: Conservative Press Books
Pages: 176 pages
Genre: Political Science / Political Satire

Book Description:

MacClinton, a modern tale of Bill Clinton’s political career told in the format of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. This amusing drama is fleshed out with notes that detail Clinton’s scandals and cover-ups. After reading it, you’ll want to examine the character and actions of political candidates before voting for or against them.


“When a citizen gives his suffrage [vote] to a man of known immorality, he abuses his trust; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor; he betrays the interest of his country.” (Noah Webster) Although Webster wrote this statement almost two hundred years ago, it is good advice for us today.


MacClinton illustrates this warning as it recounts Bill and Hillary’s immorality, scandals, and cover-ups in an entertaining and enlightening way. From the opening scene with the three *itches meeting Bill MacClinton to the closing scene of George W. Bush’s presidential election victory, you’ll view Bill’s political career and Hillary’s cover-ups for her political ambition in a new light. The preponderance of evidence against the Clintons as fit leaders of America should motivate you to investigate political candidates more closely before voting for anyone who will betray the interest of our country.


Book Excerpt:


*itch 1: When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning or in rain,
In the district court,
Or on David Letterman?
*itch 2: When the hurly-burly’s done,
When the court battles are lost and won.
*itch 3: Or likely before the setting of the sun.
*itch 1: Where the place?
*itch 2: At the motel at the edge of town.
*itch 3: There to meet with MacClinton.
*itches 1-3: Again!
Thus begins MacClinton, a modern tale of Bill Clinton’s political career told in the format of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

For More Information:


MacClinton is available at AmazonBarnes & NobleGoodreads


Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads



Meet the Author


Sam Griffith is a retired Justice on the Texas Twelfth Court of Appeals, a position to which he was elected three times, twice unopposed. As a high school senior, he worked after school each day full time in a manufacturing factory, then worked his way through college and graduate school, and through law school. Before being elected an appellate justice in 2000, he was a trial court judge and trial lawyer. He earned two legal specialization certifications from the Texas State Bar Association’s Board of Legal Specialization, an achievement of less than three percent of Texas lawyers.


Outside of the court room, Judge Griffith taught U.S. Constitutional Law at universities in Iraq and China, preached through northern Iraq and South Sudan, funded twelve water wells in South Sudan, and built homes for earthquake survivors in Nepal.  In addition, he co-founded a vegetable-growing ministry that was featured in a New York Times article and which, in five years provided more than one hundred tons of vegetables for local food banks.

For More Information: Author Website Goodreads

Tour Schedule


Interview with Edward B. Irving, author of The Day Of The Dragonking

Welcome to Book Marketing Buzz.  Can we begin by having you tell us a little about your book?

Thanks for having me. (waves) How is everyone doing?

Ok, back to the book. It was fairly simple in the beginning and then became mind-bendingly complex at the end as I tried to tie it all together.

I started with two concepts: I love the books about Harry Dresden by Jim Butcher and the books about Atlanta by Ilona Andrews. It’s the simple idea of you have a normal city with people going about their normal lives and one-day WHAM magic happens.

The second concept was the question of “what would happen if we had another 9/11 style attack except that mystical fanatics would replace the religious fanatics.”

At this point, everything looks simple.

Nothing is simple.

Next, I had to invent a System of Magic? Was it all going to be Vampires, Werewolves, and the Women Who Love Them? Or a ragged but doughty crew of hobbits, elves, and dwarves? How about a guy who begins as a wizard, then goes on to fighting vampires, and ends up part of the Faerie Court and defending the universe (yes, I’m talking about Dresden.)

Some decisions were easy—at least for me: NO Vampires. No Werewolves. Leave the stock characters back in Central Book Casting. I decided to create a basic Aristotelian Air, Earth, Water, Fire Magic with large scoops of the Tarot and a basic disregard for anything that got in the way of the storyline. Then I added everything strange I’d found, read, or stumbled across in 40 years of working in Washington DC. (There really was a Lord Telford’s Tavern that had no sign and had to be entered by walking through a Taco place. Really.)

Finally, throw in some charismatic heroes: a failed journalist who is the last remaining wizard but doesn’t believe in Magic, a sentient computer program named Barnaby at the NSA, the most powerful BMW built who talks but really doesn’t want anyone to mess up the seats, a cellphone with a Chinese ghost inside, and, because you have to have someone to kick butt for the central character like Hawk or Joe Pike, a woman who used to be a Navy SEAL and has absolutely no time for the primary journalist character.

Then we’re off.

I should mention that most of the book takes place in real locations and a good deal of the chit chat (especially about the Alien Ambassador) actually happened.

Yep, it happened to me.


What is the first thing you did to promote your book once your publisher accepted your manuscript?

Since my publisher, Exhibit A Books, apparently had my first book, “Courier,” handwritten by unemployed English monks, it didn’t appear on the market for 18 months. They did give me a phone call from England to inform me that they weren’t going to do any marketing—I would have preferred the money they spent on the phone call to use in marketing but water under the bridge.

My first event was a book launch in a motorcycle dealer’s parking lot (with hot dogs) and the second was a convention for “Cozy” mysteries. I’d never heard of a cozy, none of my books are cozy, and I didn’t have a single recipes for brownies. It was uncomfortable, to say the least.

Six weeks later, Exhibit A (which was really not a lot more than a guy with a phone and an email) went out of business, leaving behind a snarky note blaming the authors. In fact, it died as an afterthought in a three-way business deal that got Osprey Publishing into Random House and Angry Robot into some holistic healing nonsense.

Regardless, I was sitting there with the sequel “Warrior” already written and most of “Dragonking completed.”  I went nuts trying to buy my way back into Published Heaven and spent over $40,000 on publicity and got nothing.

Zip.

Bupkis.

The PR companies both blamed me. I find that somewhat reasonable because I’m a bit of a jerk but there are far bigger jerks in the book biz.

By the end of the year, my agent couldn’t find another taker for my books, folded his tent, and vanished in the night. The distributor threatened to mulch all remaining copies of my books and make compost out them so I formed a Publishing Company: Ronin Robot Books. I got a great deal on the unsold books, by the way.

What I’ve done with “Dragonking” is completely different. I put it out as a sneaky self-published book, got a Special Placement review from Kirkus Reviews and a Starred Review from Publisher’s Weekly. Sadly, all this made NO difference to the dismal sales so I pulled the book off the market, completely changed it, (OK, I really only changed the name of the Author) and re-launched it with about $2500 of publicity–all primed to explode at the moment of Launch.

Well, the publicity didn’t happen on Launch Day and that entailed a few days of bitter emails back and forth.

What I wanted to do was to bollix the *******eBook system by paying people to purchase books and thus rocketing Dragonking into the Top Ten. This is sort of boring technical stuff about how *******measures its books by Velocity and not Sales but if anyone wants to find out how to do it, read about the guy who took a picture of his foot and got a Number One Best-Seller. Some people ripped into him for unethical practices but I read the article as a How-To. I mean, how can you be unethical when dealing with an enormous and immoral bookseller like *******?

After that, what happened?

After the launch and the angry and bitter emails?

Not a lot. Dragonking is slowly slinking up the ratings and it gets good reviews but, oddly, it seems to be over the heads of a lot of people. I don’t know why because I was trying to write a dumb book that was just for fun and, everyone, please realize that’s what it is! Republicans become Dwarves, Democrats Elves, Tea-partiers Trolls, and DC’s over abundant stock of statues walk and talk. At the end of the book, we almost destroy Roslyn! I mean, Roslyn is a place just begging to be destroyed.

In 2014, my PR company informed me that there wasn’t a bookstore in the United States who would allow me to come in and speak and I’m not totally certain that’s true but I’m afraid to call them most of the time and when I do call or write, they seem to figure out a way not to have me come in.

The other thing is that I always feel that my time would be better spent writing.

I have a private investigator in 1930’s Manila series percolating in my head along with sequels to all my other books but I’ve spent about a year and a half editing other people’s work. Some were books that I intended to publish but felt they needed extensive work and a few were really nice: a memoir by the best film cameraman in the Vietnam War, a slightly-fictionalized memoir by a Marine who was determined NOT to be a Marine and sent to fight in Laos, and a cool book about Lenny Bias, the basketball player who had a sad end but was inspirational to his teammates before and after his death. Since people go nuts when you tell them that editing their 100,000 word book will cost $8,000—because that’s how much it costs—I usually end up working for free because I like the authors.

As for publishing, I’ve found one truly odd truth. Westerns sell better than anything else.

Really. You can check my royalties.

What’s your opinion on blogging?  Do you see that it is helping sell your book or is it not making much difference in terms of sales?  If you blog, do you blog often?

I have 2 Facebook business Pages, four websites, and a Google Plus presence but I’m not sure you could call what I do “blogging.”

Just an aside, I actually invented news-blogging back in the 90’s when I was working for the Don Imus program on MSNBC—I would just write up what I was reading in the news that day, throw in some silly remarks about past and future guests, and transcribe the occasional funny bit. I had about 20,000 readers on an email basis and the second-most popular page on MSNBC after the Today Show.

Blogging seems to require spending an inordinate amount of time writing helpful information i.e. non-fiction, which is the opposite of what I write. I bought a book on selling books on the Internet once and it had 15 chapters. The 15th was about Selling Fiction and the man said he really didn’t have any suggestions but, boy, could he sell books about selling books! What I see on the Internet are a few people who write nice personal and warm blogs to their readers and a whole lot of other people who put up stories about sharks and movies of cats so that they can be placed in other blogs and hopefully ring the bell on one of the gazillion ads on each page.

I understand using the social networks to promote your books is also an effective marketing tool.  What social networks do you use and do you find any of them effective?

Again, I have 14,000 Twitter Followers on one feed, three other Twitter feeds with about 2,000 Followers apiece, 3 Tumblr blogs for some reason I honestly cannot explain, 2 Zazzle stores that sell either TV stuff or tea cozies with my book cover on them, four websites, a book store, an author website, and a special system that creates links and informs me that I’m not making a single sale from any of the perhaps 100,000 sparkling notes I’ve flung into the Intertubes. The truth is that I’ve managed to automate just about all of it now and the machines spend a good amount of their time featuring the books of other writers, strange stuff you can buy, odd corners of the Internet, and the occasional perky comment.

The International Thriller Writers (a wonderful group that every writer should join) did an extensive study two years ago about how people go about buying books and found that advertising, internet feeds, Pages, and all that has very little effect on the buyer of Fiction because they (and we) have developed the ability to simply ignore advertising.

The fiction buyers want to buy authors they’ve already read (someday we’ll just have James Patterson books. Nothing else,) authors who are like authors they’ve already read, or authors who are recommended by friends.

Besides blogging and using the social networks to promote your books, what other ways are you promoting your book?

With the ITW study in mind, I use giveaways a lot. Book list giveaways like Bookbub and Audioblast work because they get your books out to people who then tell other people about them, Amazon giveaways tend to be followed by sales upturns, and I have a publicist who drops hints in various online book clubs and places ads when it seems like a good idea.

I would have liked to find out if placing a book in the Top Ten—which is all most people look at before picking a book—would have increased my personal brand but that’s going to have to wait for the next book. (If Amazon hasn’t worked out a way to eliminate such chicanery by then. Just like books and everything else, Amazon wants to the monopoly on Chicanery)

Otherwise, the only successful sales method I’ve seen is to write novels in series as fast as you possibly can because if someone likes a book in the middle of a series, you’ve got a buyer for the rest of the series.

Finally, quality does count (despite the Kensington Press editor who asked if I couldn’t just write a series about a black ops team that goes around ‘fixing’ things. She said there were just never enough of the things.) You are never going to please all of your audience—a good number of the people who read my two motorcycle/political thrillers complain that they contain too much about motorcycles. Do they read Westerns and complain of a surplus of horses? Or read Erotica and complain of …. )—but you can and should write the best books you can and then write more.

If you had to pick just one book marketing tool that you’ve used to promote your book, which would you say has been the most effective?

I don’t know if this is the most effective but it’s certainly the most rewarding. When I read a review on Amazon or Goodreads that says “I’ve liked Irving’s books and I’m looking for more” that just makes my month.

So, I would say write the best books you can, edit them 5 or six times, and get them on the market. When you find bookstores calling YOU up to ask you drop by, you’ll know you’re on the right track.

Oh, and get an agent and a publisher. I was writing a Query letter every day but don’t have anything new to sell now that Dragonking is out.

Best of luck.


The Day of the Dragonking Banner

Inside the Book:

The Day of the Dragonking

Inside The Book
Title: The Day of the Dragonking
Book 1: The Last American Wizard Series
Author: Edward B. Irving
Publisher: Ronin Robot Press
Publication Date: Paperback – February 2, 2106 / eBook – May 17, 2016
Pages: 316 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Satire
Book Description:

A “mystical terrorist group” sacrifices an airplane full of innocents to a dragon and uses the deaths to power an event that wreaks magical havoc on Washington, D.C. All the wizards in the U.S. government’s employ abruptly lose access to magic, and the world’s computers and gadgets become sentient.
Second-string journalist Steven Rowan embodies the tarot’s Fool and is forced to figure out the card’s magic on the fly. Bombshell soldier Ace Morningstar, who used her magic to disguise herself as a man so she could become a SEAL, drafts Steve and his cell phone, which contains the ghost of a Chinese factory worker who now communicates through screen animations and bad autotranslations, to help fix the mess. Gathering allies, including NSA supercomputer Barnaby and Ace’s BMW, Hans, the team fights off newly transformed demons, dog monsters, and ogres while trying to find out who is controlling the Illuminati before the villains embark on the next step of their world-domination strategy.
Book Excerpt:

The airplane crash woke Steven Rowan. To be entirely accurate, it wasn’t a crash.

It was the insane screaming of four of the world’s largest jet engines being pushed twenty percent past their factory- recommended maximum thrust only thirty feet over his head.

In addition, awake wasn’t really the correct term for his state of consciousness at that point.

Steve was standing stark naked in the center of the room, jerking back and forth in the classic fight-or-flight reflex–his mind frantically spinning between possibilities, developing and rejecting dozens of possible threats every second, and running throughas many options for escape. A small part of his mind was simultaneously working on the less-important questions of who he was, where he was, and what he’d done to himself the night before.

The pulsating howl of the jet began to diminish, but the screaming only grew louder and more intense. Suddenly, Steve fell to his knees, slamming clenched fists into his temples over and over, and screaming at the top of his lungs.

Tears flew from his eyes as he crawled forward and began to pound his head against the glass door to the balcony. A small rational part of his mind wondered that he could be driven to such desperation that he would fill his mind with self-inflicted pain in the vain hope that it would expel the shocking sound, the sheer terror, and the infinite grief.

He felt a sharp spark of agony as the glass cracked.

Suddenly, as blood began to stream down his face, the terrible pain diminished. The confusion and terror, the immense waves of emotions, all of that continued to pour through him, but the anguish had ceased. The massive assault of sound began to break down into hundreds of what he could only think of as voices.

Men and women were screaming, a mother was kissing the top of a tiny head and whispering soothing sounds, a man on a cell phone was frantically dialing and redialing–desperate to leave a message. In contrast, two men were running through a checklist with professional calm, but curses tickled at their throats, fighting to get out.

In the center, he heard a steady sound. A quiet chanting– young voices tinged with success and anticipation.

The glass door exploded.

****

It was going to be a lousy morning, his head hurt even worse than usual, and his head usually hurt like someone dying from alcoholpoisoning.

Steve opened his eyes at the sound of someone singing about hiding in Honduras and needing “lawyers, guns, and money.”

OK, that was Warren Zevon, so it was probably his phone ringing. On Mondays, he set it to Afroman’s Because I Got High just to irritate any senior editorial staff he might run into, but this song pretty well summed up his mood every other day.

He waited patiently until the late Mr. Zevon finished singing about how “the shit has hit the fan” and then listened for the Asian gong that would indicate a phone message.

Instead, Max Weinberg’s driving drumbeat pounded out the syncopated SOS that began Bruce Springsteen’s We Take Care of Our Own. Since every journalist knew (but would never report) that this song raised the dead whenever the Boss played within a mile of a graveyard, Steve figured someone was truly serious about talking to him.

In addition, he was curious because he’d deleted it from his phone over a month ago, exhausted by its contrast between the American ideal of “help your neighbor” and the reality of greed and selfishness that was currently sweeping the nation.

“Hello?”

There was a series of clicks and several of those odd changes in the quality of silence that indicate a call is being bounced from machine to machine or area code to area code. Of course, these were also the sounds that you heard when a telemarketer’s robot war dialer realized it had a fish on the line and switched in the human voice to make the sale.

“Is this a freaking robot?” he said, sharply.

There was a short pause without any clicks. For some reason, Steve thought the caller was thinking.

“Mr. Rowan?” It was a man–the deep and authoritative voice of someone used to giving commands.

“Who the hell wants to know?” Steve hated people with that kind of voice.

Another pause.

“Mr. Stephen Rowan of 14500 Windermere Drive, Apartment D2?” The voice had changed, just slightly. It wasn’t quite as abrasive and superior. Steve thought he could have a conversation with this guy.

“Yes.” Steve’s state of awareness was beginning to recover sufficiently so that it wasn’t taking all of his concentration to talk on the phone. Unfortunately, that allowed him to begin to look around the room. If he hadn’t just received his ten-year chip from Narcotics Anonymous, he would have instantly identified this as a drug dream—and not a pleasant one.

The smashed sliding door. Glass shards covering the carpet. The dozens of framed photographs he’d hung to remind himself of the good times when he’d worked in cool places were gone. They were in a heap of wood, glass, and photo paper on the other side of his bed. Only one remained. A picture of a Lebanese militiaman with an AK-47 wearing a T-shirt decorated with a picture of an AK-47 and the words “Lebanon War.” He reached over and straightened it.

“Mr. Rowan.” The voice on the phone had changed again. Now it sounded like a person cowering with fear. Hell, this guy was afraid to speak to him. “Umm. Are you busy at the moment?”

Steve looked around the wreckage of his apartment. His cheek tickled and he touched it with a finger. He stared at the blood on his fingertip. “Busy? No, not really.”

“Would you be so kind as to consider possibly doing me a favor?”

Now the voice had gone all the way to obsequious.

“Not until you tell me who the hell you are and what the hell you want.” Steve licked his finger, tasting the blood as if it might tell him something about what had just happened. “And stop sucking up.”

“‘Sucking up’?” There was another series of clicks and silences, and the caller continued in its previous, more confident tone. “Mr. Rowan. Let me ask you a question. Could you use a job?”

Steve reached into his back pocket to check his wallet for his current financial position. Suddenly, he felt a hand stroke his butt. He jumped. When he looked down, he realized it was his own hand because he was still naked. Then, a sudden stab of pain proved that the silvery dust all over him was tiny bits of glass from his broken door and he’d just shoved a shard into his ass. He pulled his hand away sharply and held it out in front of him–carefully examining both sides.

“Mr. Rowan?”]

“Oh. Sorry, I was distracted for a second. What…Oh, yeah. I have plenty of money.”

“From your increasingly occasional work as a freelance reporter?”

Steve didn’t say anything. The caller continued. “How’s that working out for you?”

Steve surveyed his ruined stereo and television and stopped as he saw his metal-cased laptop. It was rolled into a cylinder. He wonderedwhat in hell could do that to an expensive computer. Or at least one that had been expensive when he’d bought it.

“Don’t worry about the laptop. I think you’ll find your telephone will be sufficient.”

Steve’s eyes widened and he slowly pulled the cell phone away from his ear and regarded it carefully–again, front and back. When he turned back to the main screen, a cartoon of a hand making a “thumbs up” sign had replaced his usual home screen picture of the Lebanese militiaman.

Steve just stood there and looked at the hand. He knew it was a cartoon because it only had three fingers and a thumb. Somehow, the artist had made it look happy and confident. That worried Steve.

He heard a faint squawking from the phone. He held the phone with only two fingers and raised it gingerly until it was an inch from his ear.

“Mr. Rowan? Can you hear me?”

Steve cleared his throat and answered carefully. “Yes.” “Good, we can continue.”

“Not until you tell me how you knew about my computer, we can’t.”

“Your computer? Oh, you mean that you were looking at it?” “Yes. How did you know that I was looking at it?”

The voice sounded more confident, almost comradely. “That’s easy. Look straight out your window. See the apartment building with the exterior stairs?”

“They all have exterior stairs.”

“Well, the one with stairs and exceptionally ugly pink paint.” “Got it.”

“OK. Look at the left edge of the building and then run your eye straight up.”

Steve saw the gleaming black cube of a building on the other side of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. There were dozens of round white satellite dishes on the roof.

“OK, I see the building across the highway. The NSA or Fort Meade or whatever.”

“Just keep watching.”

Slowly, almost ceremonially, all the dishes on the roof turned, swiveled, swung, or tipped so that they were all pointed straight at him. Without thinking, Steve’s left hand moved to cover his crotch.

He made a noise, but it wasn’t a word. Something between a cough and the beginning of a scream, but definitely not a word. On the top of the black building, all the dishes nodded up and down in what he could only describe as a friendly fashion, and then moved back to their original positions.

“Mr. Rowan?”

Steve cleared his throat again. “I guess you just made that happen.”

“Yes.”

“That was better than anything I ever saw in college, even on mushrooms, but it still doesn’t tell me who you are.”

“No.”

“But it does answer the question of how you could see me.” “Yes.”\\

“And demonstrates a certain amount of power over things.” “Things and quite a few people as well.”

“I would have to say that that remains to be proven, but I can agree that you’ve gone a long way in that direction.”

“Why don’t we leave the rest of your questions for a later time and let me ask you one?”\

Steve’s eyes wandered from the roof of the building across the highway. “What am I looking for?” he wondered.

Then he remembered.

“Give me just one more question first.” Steve walked out on the balcony and scanned the horizon as far as he could. “Where is thesmoke?”

“Smoke?”

“Smoke. From the crash of the plane that just flew over me.”

“Mr. Rowan. Can I suggest you step back inside? Good. You were frightening several of your neighbors. No, there is no smoke and, as a matter of fact, no airplane. Since there is no airplane, there wasn’t a crash and, ergo, no smoke. That’s one of the things I’d like to hire you to investigate.”

Steve thought for a second. “I don’t like it when people say ergo. But we can deal with that later. Right now, I’d like to know why–no wait, let’s begin with how I would investigate the nonexistent crash of an airplane that wasn’t there.”

“You’re getting a bit redundant.”

“You’ll have to live with it. It’s a side effect of the unease I’m feeling due to the stress of this uncommon and aberrant situation.” Steve’s voice rose to a shout. “Stop fucking around and tell me what the hell is going on!”

“Well.” The voice on the phone paused as if choosing the next words carefully. “The jetliner did crash. At the same time, it did notcrash.”

“OK, I’m relieved that you made that clear. Now that I understand, I’m hanging up.”

“Mr. Rowan! Wait! Just one more minute.”

Steve didn’t say anything, but he didn’t punch the END symbol, either. He really wasn’t sure why.

“There has been a Change.”

Steve blinked and looked at the phone. He put it back to his ear. “Did you just capitalize the word change?”

“Hmm? Oh, yes, I suppose I did. This particular change is a pretty big deal and certainly deserves to be capitalized.”

“I’ll be the judge of that. What do you want me to do about this capitalized concept?”

“Would you work for me? Investigate this Change?”

Steve’s answer was quick and automatic. “I’m an experienced freelancer. I don’t work for just anyone.”

“Really? Not even if it was for the Good of the Nation?”

“Stop talking in capitals and, if you mean working for the government, the answer isn’t ‘no.’ The answer is ‘Hell, No.’”

“I believe those last two words were capitalized.” Steve’s head felt like it was about to explode.

“Possibly.”

“Would it make you feel better if I hired you on a temporary freelance basis?”

Once again, the answer was swift and automatic. “What are you paying?”

“Well, I think I have unlimited funds…”

“Then you’re full of crap. I’m hanging up now.”

The phone began to vibrate in his hand and the voice became agitated. “Mr. Rowan. Don’t do that! It has to be you. No one else observed the airplane!”

Steve’s eyes closed and whatever it was that had woken him up came back with the feeling of a knockout punch. His face twisted up in anguish at the memory of all the people…their terror…their helpless panic. He groaned.

“Mr. Rowan! Are you all right?”

“Not one of my better mornings.”

“I am actually glad to hear that.”

“Why?”

Because I’d hate to think of what it might take to cause a worse morning. What’s your daily rate?”

“Five hundred dollars. Double over ten hours.” Steve always held out hope even though he hadn’t made over $350 a day for the pastdecade.

“You’ve got it.”

Steve opened his eyes. “Plus expenses?” “Expenses and the use of a car and driver.”

“A car?” Steve walked over and looked out to the space in the parking lot where he’d parked his light-blue Prius. He thought it was still there, but it was difficult to tell because an enormous jet engine was smoking sullenly on top of the entire row of parked cars.

He could make out some twisted pieces of light-blue plastic in his usual parking space.

“I guess I will need a car.”

“Good. Then we are in business, right?” “I guess so.”

“Good. I’ve got some things to do right now, but I’d appreciate it if you could begin immediately.”

Steve slowly turned around and looked at his apartment. His clothes looked as though a knife-wielding fashion critic had attacked them. He touched his laptop and it rolled away, revealing fluttering bits of paper that he deduced must be his stack of notebooks. One of his shoes was lying by his right foot. He picked it up and slowly poured broken glass out onto the floor. “I’m going to need to be paid up front, I think.”

“Not a problem. Just answer the door.”

There was the synthetic clicking sound that cell phones made to indicate the end of a call.

“Answer the–”

There was a firm knock on his door.

For More Information:
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Meet the Author

Terry - Edward Irving

Edward Irving was a respectable television journalist for 40 years in Washington D.C. Any shred of respectability has been destroyed by “The Day of the Dragonking.” He is waiting for the committee to call and demand his 4 Emmys back at any time.

He has worked for just about every TV channel: Nightline, Wolf Blitzer, Don Imus, and Fox News Sunday – talk about culture clash! He has written 4 documentaries – mostly on Moral Courage – and the last one was particularly fun since it was about rescuing Jews to the Philippines, a decision made over poker and cigars by Manuel Quezon, Dwight Eisenhower, a private detective named Angel Zervoulakos, and brothers from a family that was the biggest importer of cigars to the USA.

Mr. Irving enjoys many things he can’t do anymore: motorcycles, racing cars, hang-gliding, scuba-diving, and long vacations. The good thing is that he can put them into books. He has a very forgiving wife, two kids, two grandkids, and a LOT of old books.

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Am I Going To Be Okay? New Book on Mental Illness, Addiction and Grief

Am I Going To Be Okay? is an American story with a universal message. Ms. Whittam traces her history in the form of stories about her all too human, and sometimes unhinged family; she throws a rope to the little girl living there, and in adulthood, is able to pull her out to safety, bit by bit.
Her history is peopled with folks from a different time, a time before therapy was acceptable, 12 steps unimaginable and harsh words, backhands and even harsher silences can be spun to appear almost normal. She writes of a mother who would not or could not initiate love nor give it without condition, and a father, damn near heroic at times, abusive at others, a survivor with his head down and his sleeves rolled up.
Ms. Whittam approaches her past with the clear-eyed tough but sensitive objectivity necessary to untangle the shame from the source. She speaks of the people that affected her life so deeply with an understanding of their time and place in American culture; a family not far
removed from immigrant roots when men carried their own water, emoted misplaced anger, and with fresh socks and food found on the trail, were confident, unflinching and at that same time tragical- ly failing to the little ones they ignored.
Like many of us, details notwithstanding, Whittam responded by numbing, running and gunning. Alcohol gave her hope, soothed a crushed soul for a time and wrecked her on a train, until finally she had the courage to accept it wasn’t working for her anymore. It was time to stop
drinking and take inventory and accountability. It was time to accept, forgive and move forward. She healed where she was broken.
It is in the telling of this story that Whittamteaches us the difference between just surviving and surviving well, the behind in our actions. Her story is a guide to surviving abuse and addiction.
It is also about witnessing and dealing with the shrinking faculties of aging parents in the unavoidable circle of life. Finally, she offers a realistic
sense of hope, forgiveness and a life we can shake hands with.

For More Information

  • Am I Going To Be Okay?
    Weathering the Storms of Mental Illness, Addiction and Grief is available
    at Amazon.
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    Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
About the Author
Debra Whittam is a licensed, practicing mental health therapist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who specializes in addiction, anxiety and depression, grief and loss. Whittam is passionate about her work in all areas of her specialties, especially addiction. Working in a detox unit for over three years before beginning her own private practice, Whittam realized, while counseling patients in the life and death arena of the detox unit, how much the loss of a beloved through death or a relationship impacted those struggling with addiction.
In this memoir, Whittam skillfully infuses her memories, stories and professional insights to remind us that the most important relationship we will ever have is with ourselves. She splits her time between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York and Paris, France.
For
More Information

Interview with Trey Dunham, author The Beams Of Our House

Welcome to Book Marketing Buzz.  Can we begin by having you tell us a little about your book?

Ultimately, it is a retelling of the Song of Solomon, so in many ways, it is a traditional love story: boy meets girl, falls in love, etc. But on a deeper level it is a story about humanity’s rejection of God and His efforts to win her back. The City is symbolic of our rejection of God. When Cain killed his brother and was sentenced by God to be a ‘wanderer,’ in the wilderness he rejected God’s offer of protection and instead built a city. He developed systems and techniques to meet his own needs; God became unnecessary, obsolete. And of course, separated from God, humanity suffers.

It is in this context that Sol, a young man from the City, and Lill, a girl raised by her brothers in the Wilderness, begin a long road towards finding one another.

What is the first thing you did to promote your book once your publisher accepted your manuscript?

I posted to my Facebook Fan page, Twitter, etc.. I think I also sent out an email to close friends. To be honest, this isn’t my first book, so most probably glossed over the email. Oh, and I did a Kickstarter to fund this novel, so I posted an update to my supporters.

After that, what happened?

Well, not much. Pretty good burst of sales initially, but then it tailed off over time. I try not to focus too much on that side of it to be honest. I want to focus on the writing and if the sales come they come. I did hire a publicist recently, so we will see how that goes.

What’s your opinion on blogging?  Do you see that it is helping sell your book or is it not making much difference in terms of sales?  If you blog, do you blog often?

I try to blog every week though I have taken a hiatus during the writing of a second novel. I haven’t really noticed an impact on sales, but maybe I’m doing it wrong. It seems to be a pretty nuanced thing, marketing does.

I understand using the social networks to promote your books is also an effective marketing tool.  What social networks do you use and do you find any of them effective?

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (to a much lesser extent). Word of mouth is the best network. It takes longer, but I think if you write good, engaging books then eventually people will want to read them.

Besides blogging and using the social networks to promote your books, what other ways are you promoting your book?

I hired a publicist, as I mentioned above. It was more affordable than I thought. She’s putting together a virtual book tour and obtaining some interviews and guest blogging opportunities.

If you had to pick just one book marketing tool that you’ve used to promote your book, which would you say has been the most effective?

Word of mouth from friends to other friends. But I am hoping this publicist thing pans out; I don’t like the idea of my friends having to sell for me, or pushing them in any way to do that.

Inside the Book:


Title: The Beams of Our House: A Novel Based on the Song of Solomon
Book 1: The Banner Series
Author: Trey Dunham
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Pages: 394 pages
Genre: Christian Dystopian / Furturistic Fiction


Book Description:

Sol 203119 hates Coupling—the forced dating and mating technique initiated across the United Cities as populations consolidated, gender tensions mounted, human reproduction plummeted, and marriage fell out of style—but he doesn’t know why. But when a fourth classmate at the Academy commits suicide, he follows the prompting of a mysterious voice and goes in search of a way out of the City for him and his classmates at the Academy.
Thousands of miles away, Lill, an orphan Wild, raised by strict and overprotective brothers, discovers she is part of an ancient prophecy that will bring to an end the longstanding battle between the Spirits of the City and Wilderness. Em, a mysterious, spiritual recluse, mentors Lill in her preparation: caring for refugees who have fled the City in search of a better life.
Able to escape the City, Sol slowly adapts to life in the difficult and dangerous Wilderness. He discovers a community of healthy, loving, committed families, but when a special ops team from the City nearly captures him, community leaders decide the time has come to unite and resurrect an ancient rite of the Spirit of the Wilderness: marriage.
Waiting anxiously for his return, a small contingent of Sol’s classmates from the Academy form an underground community in the heart of the City, which they call ‘the Banner.’ Meanwhile, Sol and Lill travel separately to witness the first wedding in centuries; the City counters with a deadly attack. In spite of massive casualties, a small remnant survives. And in a narrow underground cavern, the bruised and battered Sol and Lill meet for the first time.


Book Excerpt:

Washington, DC: The U.S. Department of Health and
Human Resources (DHHR) announced today recommendations made to federal and
state legislatures to suspend all laws and regulations related to the issuing
of marriage licenses, effectively ending a practice which had been in steep
decline over the previous two decades. DHHR Executive Director David Berkeley
said, “The psychological, economic, and legal weight of marriage places a
significant burden upon the health and well-being of individuals and society as
whole.
In light of these
health concerns and declining participation by the general populace, the DHHR
is recommending that federal and state lawmakers suspend all policies related
to marriage. Additionally, we ask that any binding legal restrictions to those
currently married, especially as pertains to divorce and separation, be
waived.”
Lawmakers at the
federal and state levels, which enter sessions next month, plan to review the
measure. Several states already have resolutions on the docket in support of
the DHHR recommendation.
1
(Many years
later)
Sol 203119 looked at himself in the mirror and
grimaced. After a full minute, he dropped his eyes then pulled off his shirt,
bending, contorting, folding and unfolding his arms and elbows like a giant
insect; standing as tall as his thin, slight frame would allow. He stopped,
then let his arms fall and dangle at his side. He closed his eyes and then
looked again, hoping that perhaps things would appear more to his liking. They
did not. He rubbed his chest, the part over his heart, with his right hand. It
felt warm to the touch.
He twisted his lips and puffed out his chest. He
was only partially successful. The left side laid flat, unflinching in spite of
his effort. His ears started to turn red with effort. He held his breath and
hoped that might inflate the muscle. He started to get dizzy and so he let go;
his lips broke their seal and released an enormous,
blubbering gust of wind and
disappointment.
Sol pulled the shirt over his head and then
slouched, paused for a moment, his eyes moved up and down his body. He rubbed
his chest again. The scar was still there, only it seemed to have grown larger,
like a knotty rope of flesh and scar-tissue. He first noticed it the week he
moved into the Academy. It was small then, a string at best. Now thicker,
harder, like a heavy rope, it extended from just under his shoulder down at an
angle and ended near his sternum. He felt it tighten and pull as he moved and
lifted his arm over his head. He grimaced, put his shirt back on and yanked
down on the sleeve. A knock sounded at the door.
“Hey, Sol. You ready?”
“Yeah,” he paused. “Just a minute. I’m getting
dressed.”
“Well, hurry up. They’re coming and from the sounds
of it they’re in a bad mood.”
“Ok.”
“And don’t worry. You can’t see it.”
“Sure.”
Sol opened the door with a click and stepped into
the common room. Adon stood in front of a full-length mirror, adjusting the
collar of his Academy jacket. He was tall, taller than Sol and bigger. His
chest and arms pushed menacingly against the fabric
“Still self-conscious about that pec, I see.” Adon
grinned. Sol reddened. “Don’t worry about it,” Adon continued, “the women they
put us with don’t care about that kind of stuff. At least that’s what
they tell us.” He smiled as if he
didn’t really believe himself what he had just said. He ran his fingers through
his black, coarse hair and, somewhat satisfied with what he saw, turned to his
roommate.
“Where’s Pietr?”
“In his room, I think. The door’s closed.”
“We better get him. They’ll be here any second. And
I don’t want to end up in the Tank because of that idiot.”
Outside, they heard the sound of shouting and boots
running. Heavy fists landed against doors at the far end of the hall. They
needed to be quick. Pietr’s door was closed, so Adon knocked, “Hey, it’s time
to go. You ready?” He spoke loudly and with conviction. No answer. Sol reached
down and pulled on the handle. It clicked. Unlocked. They pushed the door and
stepped inside. It was dark.
At first the room appeared empty, except for the
unmade bed along the near wall. A small desk was at the far end of the room
facing a large window that looked out into the City. It was night, but the glow
from the lights in the facing buildings was sufficient to illuminate the room.
The room smelled dank; a stale cheese sandwich lay in the corner, covered in
mold.
“You in here?” Sol asked.
Silence.
The boys crept deeper into the room, the air acrid,
unmoving. It smelled of sweat. “Ow!” Adon yelled and crumpled to the floor. Sol
heard a weight bar roll and crash into the wall. Adon cursed and murmured as
Sol moved deeper into the room.
Adon moaned, but Sol wasn’t listening. Two white
lights appeared in the in the corner, next to the desk. They blinked off, then
on, then off again.
“Pietr, I see you. Turn off the game. You have to
come out,” Sol said. “We’ll get in a lot of trouble if we’re not ready. None of
us want the Tank again.” Pietr’s eyes reappeared for a moment, and looked at
Sol. Then, they clicked off a second time.
“Turn the game off,” Sol said with some force.
Adon stopped moaning just long enough to shout,
“You can’t stay holed up in here all day. You know that. We have to go,
so get dressed or I am going to beat you like the useless piece of trash you
are.” Adon was suddenly angry and could feel the blood rushing up his back
along his spine to the back of his neck, the tiny hairs standing erect. His
hand pulled tight into a fist. Pietr was strong, and easily as big as Adon, but
he was soft. He did not have the malice of his roommate. Adon stood up slowly
and repeated his threat. “Get dressed or I’ll beat you bloody. Be out in two
minutes. I’ll get some Meds ready for you. That’ll help.”
Suddenly, they could hear shouting in the hall.
“Something’s going on,” Sol said to Adon, stepping over him and making his way
to the door. “Hurry, Pietr. Please!” He yelled over his shoulder as he
left the room.
Sol flung open the door to the hallway just as four
black-clad officers ran past. They were carrying weapons: long, black
lightweight batons. Sol watched them run down the hall, but did not see the
group behind them. An extended hand at the end of a locked arm slammed into the
small of his back and sent him hurtling, face first into the doorframe. He fell
back immediately and crack, the back of his head rang with a second
impact. He heard Adon grunt loudly. Sol felt the blood almost immediately begin
to trickle down his face. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand. It was
red. He could feel a lump start to grow on the back of his head.
Adon bent over holding his chin. “Oh, man,” he
moaned. He rubbed his face then stood up, “What’s going on out there?” Another
four officers ran past the open door, followed closely by two medics dressed in
white. Sol looked at Adon, his fingers pinching his bloody nose and slowly
shook his head. An officer, face shield covering her eyes, stopped and stepped
halfway into the room. “Keep your doors closed,” she barked “All rooms on
lockdown until further notice!” She slammed the door and was gone.
“That’s the fourth one here this week. Who knows
what’s going on everywhere else,” said Adon. “I heard that most Academies
average one a day.”
Sol didn’t answer. He stood looking out the window
into the night. The lights in the yard below seemed distant, the weight of the
moonless sky holding them down. He took a deep breath and looked out towards
the City. Buildings and lights rose from the earth as far as he could see. He
looked at his hands, small and pale. He tried to remember a time he had not
been at the Academy. He had lived out in the City once, when he was a child,
but that was before his father had left and his mother died. I’ve never
known anything else
, he thought. They brought me here when they needed
me and they will send me where they please when they’re done. What choice do I
have?
He stepped away from the window and turned to look at his roommate.
Adon sat still on the couch, rubbing his chin.
With more than fifty thousand boys, the Academy was
among the largest in the United Cities. Built in concentric circles, it
consisted of twenty-four identical towers housing two thousand one hundred
residents each: seven hundred rooms on thirty-five floors; twenty rooms per floors.
Three boys per room. Sol stood looking out of Room 3415, House 22.
“See if you can pick up any chatter.” Adon
stretched himself out on the couch, gingerly; his chin that had taken on a
slightly purple hue.
“They never talk about this kind of stuff publicly.”
“Yeah, but maybe someone can get through on a
high-wire.” He paused, thinking aloud, “I wonder who it was.”
Sol walked to the desk and opened the drawer. He
pulled out a small earpiece and awkwardly jammed it into his ear. A small red
light turned on, went yellow, then green. He closed his eyes and listened, then
looked up to see Adon watching him from the couch.
“You know they don’t like you taking that out.” He
gestured with his eyes to Sol’s ear.
“I know. Sometimes I need the quiet.”
“Still hearing it?”
“Yeah.”
Sol closed his eyes again and tried to concentrate.
Sounds began to fill his ear, distant and garbled, as if he were underwater,
the muffled tones drifted in and out, softer, then louder. He tried to focus,
concentrating on an especially high frequency. Brain waves from an adolescent,
from other boys, resonated at a higher frequency than adults, much like their
speech, and at times, when the situation dictated, high frequencies, what they
called “high-wires” could be accessed out of reach of anyone who might be
listening. Sol closed his eyes tighter, trying to understand what was being
said. It wouldn’t be long before the System detected the network anomaly and
disrupted the pattern.
“It was Salo,” he said finally.
“Salo?” Adon and Sol turned to see Pietr standing
in the doorway to his room. He was undressed, out of uniform, wearing shorts
and a white tank top, a large white blanket wrapped around his shoulders. It
hung three feet from the floor off his huge frame. It was covered, like his shirt,
with grey grease stains. He had on one sock, a huge toe poking out, the nail
yellowing.
Pietr shuffled into the room and fell into a chair
opposite Adon. Sol sat down and pushed the earpiece deeper into his ear. He
closed his eyes again. Pietr and Adon watched, waiting.
“He hanged himself,” he said finally. “Hadn’t been
out of his room in days. They’d put him in the Tank to try to shake him out of it,
but it didn’t work.” He pulled the piece from his ear and tossed it roughly on
the table. “Obviously.”
There was a noise in the hall, and then the sound
of doors opening. They heard a loud voice, someone yelling. Sol ran to the door
and cracked it open. He felt Adon behind him; his breath smelled like mint.
Halfway down the hall, he saw a group of officers, their backs to him, huddled,
working vigorously close to the ground.
Suddenly, they stood up lifting a gurney that
clicked firmly into place. They turned and pushed the bed towards Sol and the
elevators that would take them to the roof and a waiting transport. As they
moved, they tapped open doors with the ends of their batons, yelling at the
curious to get back inside. “Coupling will be delayed by thirty minutes only,”
an officer yelled, “and anyone not ready will get the Tank.”
Sol watched, staring as the gurney and officers
approached. The thump of heavy boots and harsh click of batons against doors
sent chills through his spine: he looked at the black bag as it passed, zipped
down the middle, resting silently on the cart. Who will it be tomorrow?
he wondered. Suddenly, he felt a sharp crack across his hands, the sting of a
baton on his knuckles.
“Thirty minutes,” she snarled.
He closed the door and fell back as it clicked
shut. He leaned against it, facing into the room. (There is another way.)
Sol closed his eyes again, listening.
(All you have known is the City, but there is
another way.)
He opened his eyes.
“Why do you think he did it?” Pietr asked quietly
pulling his blanket up around his shoulders.
Adon and Sol didn’t answer; both looked instead at
the floor.
“You know why.” Adon sat back down on the couch.
“The same reason we imagine doing it. We’re
afraid,” Sol said. “We hide in our rooms, but they root us out, drug us up, set
us up, push us out. And if that isn’t enough, if that doesn’t work, if it all
gets to be too much, then you just crack and you find another way out. Salo
found the only way out I know of.”
Adon looked at Sol. He knew he was right. Pietr’s
eyes fell to the floor, then he pulled the blanket up again around his huge
shoulders. He looked like a child, even though he was larger than any man Sol
had ever seen. The blanket struggled to hide him, but beneath it Pietr huddled,
afraid, shaking. He pulled the cloth over his head and then he started to sob,
quietly, his shoulders rolling.
“I wish it could be different,” Adon said. “The
Academy is trying to help us, to bring us back, all of us, the thousands of us
that live here and in the other Cities. But sometimes guys like Salo fall
through the cracks. They don’t make it.”
“Shai and Topher should have done something. They
should have told someone so they could have helped him. He needed help, but
they didn’t do anything. No one did anything.” Deep, violent sobs rolled out
from under the blanket. Pietr pulled himself tight into a ball, trying to make
himself small.
“Yeah, maybe someone could have done something,”
Adon said. “But the reality is there are fifty thousand guys just like him in
this place. And tomorrow someone else will move in right down the hall. And in
a week, everything will be back to normal. The whole City can’t just stop for
one person. You’d better get used to that. He’s gone, but there are a thousand
more just like him. And we’re still here. We have to keep on or we’ll end up
just like him.”
Sol walked behind Pietr and placed a hand on his
back: “Take this,” he said holding a glass filled with creamy white liquid in
front of his friend. “It’ll make you feel better.” He felt Pietr’s labored,
uneven breath.
“No, you’re wrong,” Pietr yelled, suddenly standing
up. He knocked the glass from Sol’s hand and it shattered as it hit the floor,
white cream exploding everywhere. “There was only one Salo,” Pietr said
angrily. He looked up, red eyes glaring at Adon, face streaked with dirt and
tears. He walked quickly to his room and slammed the door behind him.
Adon shook his head, “Some guys just don’t get it.”
Sol bent down and picked up a piece of broken glass. “Leave that for the
maids,” Adon said. “We’d better get ready. They’ll be here soon.” He turned and
walked into his room.

For More Information:
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Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads

Meet the Author

A writer, teacher, and church planter, Trey Dunham has been blogging on spiritual, family and personal topics since 2009.

He lives in Morgantown, WV.

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Virtual Book Tour

Book Excerpt: Not Quite So Stories by David S. Atkinson

Title: NOT QUITE SO STORIES
Author: David S. Atkinson
Publisher: Literary Wanderlus LLC
Pages: 166
Genre: Absurdist Literary Fiction

The center of Not Quite So Stories is the idea that life is inherently absurd and all people can do is figure out how they will live in the face of that fact. The traditional explanation for the function of myth (including such works as the relatively modern Rudyard Kiping’s Just So Stories) is as an attempt by humans to explain and demystify the world. However, that’s hollow. We may be able to come to terms with small pieces, but existence as a whole is beyond our grasp. Life simply is absurd, ultimately beyond our comprehension, and the best we can do is to just proceed on with our lives. The stories in this collection proceed from this conception, each focusing on a character encountering an absurdity and focusing on how they manage to live with it.

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Book Excerpt:

TURNDOWN SERVICE

Margaret’s heels clicked repetitiously on the polished marble floors of Finklebean’s Mortuary. The sharp sound echoed down aisles of metal-faced vaults in the chilled, solemn hallways. Her steps were quick but purposeful, her stride constrained by the tight skirt of her starched navy business dress. An invoice was clutched tightly in her talon-like hand. Someone owed her an explanation…and that debt would be paid.
Catching sight of the plain brown wooden door hidden off in a back hallway bearing a faded Caretaker’s Office sign, Margaret halted, causing her heels to clack loudly on the stone. She pursed her lips as she scrutinized the sign. As if using the white metal sign with flaking black letters as a mirror, she adjusted the smartly coiled chestnut bun of her hair. Then she shoved open the weathered door and marched inside.
“Excuse me,” she called out sternly before looking what the room happened to contain, or even whether it was occupied.
A portly man in old blue coveralls sitting at a rough wooden worktable looked up at her calmly. Long stringy gray hair framed his face around a set of coke bottle eyeglasses perched on the end of his reddened bulbous nose. A metal cart, half full of plastic funeral flower arrangements, was positioned next to the worktable. Individual plastic flowers littered the table surface.
Unlike the somber and silent polished gray marble trimmed in shining brass of the hallway outside, the caretaker’s room felt more like a basement or garage. The walls were cinderblock, unpainted, and the floor was bare concrete. Obviously, the room was not used for professional services.
“My bill is incorrect,” Margaret said, thrusting the invoice out at the frumpy little man between a thumb and forefinger, both with nails bearing a French manicure. “You maintain my grandfather’s plot, but this month’s bill is way over the usual twenty-five sixty-three…nine hundred dollars more to be precise. You may not be the person in charge of this, but you’re who I found.”
The older man quietly looked at her still presenting the invoice even though he had made no move to take it. “Name?”
“Margaret Lane,” Margaret said curtly.
“No,” the caretaker shook his mess of oily old hair. “I won’t remember you. I meant your granddad’s.”
Margaret pursed her lips again. “Winston Lane.”
“Ah, yes.” The heavyset man leaned back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head and cocking out his elbows. His belly pushed on the table slightly, causing loose plastic flowers to roll around on the tabletop. The flowers were separated into piles according to color: red, white, yellow, purple, and orange. “Winston Lane. His is over on hillside four, I believe.”
“I’m sure.” Margaret crossed her arms, still clutching the invoice. “So why do I have a bill for over nine hundred dollars?”
The caretaker hunched forward, setting his chin on a pudgy arm and wrapping a flabby hand around his mouth. “Let’s see…Winston Lane…bigger than normal bill…oh, that’s right!” His face brightened with recollection.
Margaret smugly waited for the expected rationalization to begin, the extras and add-ons designed to take advantage of the gullible grieving. She wouldn’t be so easily manipulated.
“He got an apartment.”
Margaret’s expression cracked.
“That’s what the extra money is,” he pleasantly explained. “It’s to cover the rent.”
Margaret stared, blinking occasionally. A thin purple vein throbbed angrily at the side of her neck.
The man smiled. Then he pushed his round glasses further back up his nose and grabbed one of the plastic funeral arrangements from the cart. It had a block of dense green foam set in a fake bronze vase and various colors of plastic flowers stuck in the foam. The man pulled all the flowers out in a single movement and set each in the respective colored pile on the worktable. Then he placed the vase in a pile of similar vases on the floor.
“You…rented my grandfather an apartment?” Margaret finally asked. “Why?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” the older man snorted, dismembering another arrangement. “He rented the apartment, not us.”
Margaret sneered, having recovered her self-possession and indignation. “Sir, my grandfather is deceased.”
“Yep,” the caretaker agreed. He started quickly taking vases from the cart, ripping them apart, and then tossing the materials in the respective sort piles. “Guess he didn’t like the plot he picked out. Maybe it wasn’t roomy enough, I don’t know. Some things like that you just can’t be sure of till you get in a place and stay there a while. Anyway, he must not have liked something about it because he went and got himself that apartment. He wouldn’t have done that if he’d been happy where he was at.”
Margaret stood rigid. The toe of one foot tapped irritably. “How could my grandfather possibly rent an apartment? He’s dead!”
“How couldn’t he?” The caretaker snorted again. “It’s a great apartment. Plenty of light. Nice carpets. Good amount of space. It’s got a nice pool, too. Not that pools make much of a difference to a guy like him, being dead and all. Anyway, take a look; happen to have a photo of the place right here. Can’t rightly remember why.”
The man handed Margaret a bent-up photograph he pulled from a coverall pocket. It depicted a pleasantly-lit living room with vaulted ceilings. Tasteful black leather and chrome furniture was arranged around a delicate glass coffee table. On top of the coffee table sat her grandfather’s mahogany coffin, looking just as stately as it had at her grandfather’s funeral service.
Margaret glowered, unsure what to make of the photograph, noticing after a moment that she was chewing her lip as she ground her teeth. Her brain couldn’t keep up, it was all just too ludicrous for her to grasp. The man sorted more funeral arrangements. “So…you’re telling me that my deceased grandfather rented an apartment. Him, not you.”
“Yep. That’s the long and short of it.” The man jammed the photograph back into his pocket.
“My dead grandfather.”
“Yes’m.” He took the last arrangement off the cart and disposed of it as he had the others. He paused to dust off his hands. Then he grabbed a vase from the floor, jammed a plastic flower inside from each stack, and set the newly arranged arrangement on the cart.
“How could anyone rent my grandfather an apartment!?” Margaret threw up her arms. “He’s dead! The landlord couldn’t do that!”
“Sure they can,” the caretaker countered, paying more attention to the funeral arrangements than Margaret. “The building is zoned for mixed use.”
“Mixed use?! He’s dead!” She wiped her hand down her face slowly, stretching her skin as it went.
“So? He’s residing there. That’s a residential use. Certainly isn’t commercial.” The caretaker accidentally shoved two red plastic flowers in the same vase. Laughing at himself, he ripped them out again and started over.
Margaret stepped back, perhaps wondering if the caretaker was insane as opposed to just conning her. That would explain the photograph.
She crossed her arms loosely and tilted her chin upwards just a little, trying to mentally get a handle on the situation. Her brain felt like an overheated car with no oil in the engine. “I’m sorry, but that’s very distracting,” Margaret commented, pointing at the plastic flower piles on the worktable. “Is there any way that you could stop a moment?”
“Sorry.” The older man shook a thick calloused finger at an old clock on the wall, stopped as far as Margaret could tell. “I got to get this done.”
“But…what exactly are you doing? You’re just taking them apart and putting them back together.”
The rumpled man gestured at the flowers. “Well, people pay us to put these on graves, don’t they?”
“Right…”
“They come from a factory, don’t they? Someone paying someone else to bring something a machine made? I don’t think much of that. My way, there’s at least some thought in it.”
Margaret did not respond. Instead, she watched the man fill up the cart again. The arrangements looked exactly the same as before.
“Anyway,” the caretaker went on, “don’t you owe your granddad?”
“Pardon me?” Margaret puffed out her chest.
“Sure,” the man said, peering up at her through the finger-smudged lenses of his glasses. “He said when he bought the plot that you were going to take care of it and he was going to leave you money to keep going to school. He thought you should start working, but helped you out since you were going to mind his spot.”
Margaret swallowed, ruining her attempt to look indignant. A few beads of sweat gathered at her temples.
“You figure you’ve done enough?” The man had his head held low, hiding the tiny smirk on his face.
Margaret’s eyes widened. Her arms hung limply at her sides and her shoulders slumped. “But…”
“Hey, that’s between you two. I just take care of things like I’m paid to. If he wants his plot, I do that. If he wants a two-bedroom palace, I do that instead.”
Margaret absentmindedly twisted an old, ornate gold ring on her finger. Suddenly, her eyes narrowed as if the light in the dim room had gotten brighter. The meticulously squared corners of her mind twisted and stretched deliciously. “That’s right…it was a deal.”
“Come again?”
“I agreed to have his plot cared for.”
“And?”
“Well…” Her lips slipped into a pointed grin. “I pay you a fixed monthly amount to care for that plot. Apparently this apartment is his plot now, so the rent should be part of your monthly care. I expect you to take care of it accordingly. After all, caring for his plot is caring for his plot.”
“Now see here–”
“Regardless, I can’t help but think,” she went on, “that it reflects poorly on your services if grandfather isn’t happy with his plot, not mine.”
The caretaker gawked at Margaret, his mouth hanging loose. “Is that what you think now?” The older man finally growled.
“It is,” she responded with a saccharine tone, “and I expect that all future bills will be for the correct amount.”
“Hmph,” he huffed, settling back into his chair. “Wonder what your granddad would say about that.”
Margaret smirked. “You’re welcome to go and ask him, if you think it will get you anywhere.”

Interview with Shane Cloonan, author of Journey To The Cross

Welcome to Book Marketing Buzz.  Can we begin by having you tell us a little about your book?

I was in the 6th grade and our assignment was to tell the story of the birth of Christ through another perspective.  I chose to write the story through the eyes of a donkey, because that was what carried Mary to Bethlehem.   After the paper was turned in, my parents encouraged me to take the story all the way to crucifixion because everyone loved it.  At the time we had 2 Sicilian donkeys, also known as the Jesus donkeys.  They had a distinctive cross on their backs that went from shoulder to shoulder and all the way down their spine. The legend of the donkey is that after Calgary the shadow of the cross shone on the donkey’s back and forever left its mark. A lot of people I know didn’t realize there is a cross on the donkeys back, so while telling my story of birth through crucifixion I incorporated the legend of the “Jesus donkey”.

What is the first thing you did to promote your book once your publisher accepted your manuscript?

We talked to the newspaper about featuring it in the newspaper, and we organized a signing.

After that, what happened?

I was nominated for “Kid of the Week” and was interviewed on a 2 radio stations.  Then we started marketing in the Catholic schools for book fairs, and signings.  We organized 3 more signings, and an authors fair at the local library.

What did your publisher do to promote your book? (ignore this is you’re self-published)

He helped work on social media, organized book signings and helped with setting up the Authors fair.

What’s your opinion on blogging?  Do you see that it is helping sell your book or is it not making much difference in terms of sales?  If you blog, do you blog often?

I think that blogging helps spread the word to a larger audience to reach more readers. Because I am still in school, I have done some, however it is difficult with my school work.

I understand using the social networks to promote your books is also an effective marketing tool.  What social networks do you use and do you find any of them effective?

We use facebook, and twitter, and my website.  On amazon I have an Authors page.  I think all of them had a major affect on sales.

Besides blogging and using the social networks to promote your books, what other ways are you promoting your book?

We send out flyers, I have my book featured in Combined Book Newsletters, My book will be showcased at 2016 Book Expo America, and as simple as it is, I go in to every book store we come across, introduce myself and  hand them a book.

If you had to pick just one book marketing tool that you’ve used to promote your book, which would you say has been the most effective?

I would say the internet today can spread the word faster than any other method.  I think it has helped us reach the most people.

Inside the Book:



Title: Journey to the Cross
Author: Shane Cloonan
Publisher: State Street Publishing
Publication Date: September 11, 2015
Pages: 35
Genre: Children’s Christian Fiction

Book Description:

This is the story of the Jesus donkey, a fictional tale that takes readers on a journey from our Lord’s birth to his ultimate crucifixion. Though written and illustrated for young readers, this book is perfect for people of all ages who want a fresh, youthful perspective on the life of Jesus. The book’s message is imbued in the strength and simplicity of hearts that are linked to other hearts by Jesus. Journey to the Cross follows the light of hope that first appeared on that special night in Bethlehem.

For More Information:
Journey to the Cross is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble

Meet the Author

Shane Cloonan is a resident of Elgin, Illinois and a high school freshman. This book, his first, started out as a grade school writing project. Shane is an avid outdoorsman. He also is an accomplished woodcarver. Shane took third place in his age group and category two years ago at the Ward World Championships Wildfowl Carving Competition in Maryland, then followed that up with a first-place finish in the International Woodcarvers Congress competition in Iowa.

You can visit Shane’s website at www.shanecloonan.com

For More Information:

Virtual Book Tour


Book Excerpt: The Bipolar Millionaire by John E. Wade II

Title: The Bipolar Millionaire
Author: John E. Wade II
Publisher: Sunbury Press
Pages: 164
Genre: Memoir

John E. Wade II, retired CPA, author, investor, television producer, and philanthropist, reveals in his memoir, The Bipolar Millionaire, his personal struggle with bipolar disorder and how he has succeeded in living a balanced and blessed life, despite his mental illness.

Wade takes the reader through his family experiences, political aspirations and beliefs, spiritual journey, relationship trials and errors, all while battling mental illness.

Through his religious beliefs, personal perseverance, and the help of friends, family, and his mental health professionals, Wade lives an active, creative, and successful life.

His memoir doesn’t end with contentment at achieving a balance in his life, however. Instead, Wade expresses a determined vision for the future, aiming to assist humanity in what he describes as achieving heaven on earth through his writing, political and spiritual endeavors.

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Book Excerpt:

I was struggling and dropped into a walk from the jog required of fourth classmen. It was an autumn day in 1963, just a month after I’d had a near-fatal attack of meningitis, and I was still fighting to regain my strength. Panting for breath, I was confronted by a first classman. He asked very directly why I wasn’t jogging. I quickly replied that I had a medical excuse, knowing full well that the excuse had expired. He ordered me to produce the excuse, which I did. Noting its date, he nonetheless allowed me to proceed.

Soon, I was in the academy hospital, lying flat on my back in an almost catatonic state, unable to cope with my mental torment. Although this severe depression, the first in my life, was not diagnosed at the time, it must have been my first bipolar episode, possibly having been triggered by the recent attack of meningitis.

My mother and Carol, my then-girlfriend, came to try to revive me, but I don’t remember responding. Years later, Carol told me that I asked her to help me kill myself, but I have absolutely no memory of making such a request.

Until this illness I had been a model cadet. I had prepared physically according to academy guidelines, so the transition to basic cadet summer was rigorous but easier than it would have been without vigorous training.

One other thing that helped me during basic cadet summer was the stream of daily letters from Carol. My fellow cadets were jealous, partly because of the letters, but also because of the picture of her I had in my room. Even though it was black and white, it was clear that she had blond hair, a sweet smile, and a pleasing, pretty face. That face helped me get through the rest of what we all had to endure to complete our training.

Each week we were given certain “knowledge” to learn, such as types of aircraft or chains of command. I always spent part of Sunday afternoon memorizing the information so that I could recite it during Monday’s meals. The upperclassmen pointedly asked several questions of each basic cadet, which kept us from finishing our entire meal. The first classmen took turns performing the interrogation, but as the questions were considerably shorter than the answers, they always had plenty of time to eat. I always felt I was short-changed because I was the only one who knew the trivia from the first day it was due, and yet I didn’t get a chance to eat more than the other basic cadets.

At the end of basic cadet summer, all the cadets were subjected to a physical fitness test, and I scored the highest in my squadron. At about the same time, we also went on a survival exercise in the mountains for which we were organized into small groups with twenty-four hours’ worth of food and about a week’s time to find our way back to the academy. The experience was particularly taxing for me. I became so obsessed with saving my food that I still had some left when we got back to the academy.

After the final tests, those of us who successfully completed basic cadet summer became fourth classmen. My personal excitement was not long lasting, however. Although I had scored high marks on the physical tests, I was disappointed with my first academic grades, which included some Bs, as I was used to all As in high school. When I asked a first classman for his opinion, he said I did just fine considering that I came from a weak high school.

Basic cadet summer had ended—then the meningitis hit. I’ve since read that physical illness can trigger the onset of bipolar disorder, and although the diagnosis was not made at that time, I believe that is what had happened. My father eventually was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder also, so it appears that I was genetically predisposed to the condition, as is often the case.

I had entered the academy in June 1963, and I received an honorable medical discharge that December; whether I was right or wrong, I considered the situation a great disgrace. It was definitely a life-defining event for me, and I was overcome with depression.

But, there was another aspect to my failure at the Air Force Academy that I didn’t disclose to anyone else until years later: part of the reason I attended the academy was that I had presidential ambitions, which I knew would be shattered by the stigma of mental illness. I internalized and brooded over that stigma for the next forty years.

To make matters even worse, when I finally got home I also lost my girlfriend.

It was quite a shock to me and had a negative effect on my confidence with the women I would date for most of the rest of my life.

I have often wondered what would have happened had I not had the meningitis and bipolar episode. What aspects of my life would have been altered? It’s a haunting possibility to consider.

Still, even though the realization of some of my dreams has eluded me, I have had and am having an interesting, fulfilling life in spite of bipolar disorder, and I invite you to understand its role as I work toward what I believe is my destiny.

Interview with Patrick Barnes, author of The Avocadonine and Spring Stone

Welcome to Book Marketing Buzz.  Can we begin by having you tell us a little about your book?

The Avocadonine and Spring Stone is a somewhat absurd high school classic about a boy named Rey who, in the process of finding his first girlfriend, stumbles upon a conspiracy at his school that stretches back generations to a malicious woman and a girl named Spring Stone.  There seems to be something the students are drinking that is enabling someone to control their minds.  Rey has to figure out who is behind the plot, what they want to accomplish, and how to stop them.

What is the first thing you did to promote your book once your publisher accepted your manuscript?

I drafted flyers of the book cover with reviews on them.  I got on Twitter.  I utilized Facebook.  I put my first chapter on Fiction Press.  I went through several book covers until I felt I had found the right one.  And I prayed my book would sell.

After that, what happened?

I sold some books.  But not enough for it to even make a financial dent in my wallet.

What’s your opinion on blogging?  Do you see that it is helping sell your book or is it not making much difference in terms of sales?  If you blog, do you blog often?

I had a blog when I was getting my Masters in Library Science at the University of South Carolina.  I posted information about my assignments, plans, and also my book.  I found it difficult to garner enough followers to really make it worth my while.

I understand using the social networks to promote your books is also an effective marketing tool.  What social networks do you use and do you find any of them effective?

My sister has thousands of friends on Facebook.  I unfortunately do not.  I’ve heard Facebook is a good way to get you book sold.  However, I haven’t sold many books with Facebook.

Besides blogging and using the social networks to promote your books, what other ways are you promoting your book?

I’m using Pump Up Your Book.  The team putting my tour together have been really diligent in finding good ways for me to promote.

If you had to pick just one book marketing tool that you’ve used to promote your book, which would you say has been the most effective?


Telling people to read it.  I’ve found friends, family, co-workers etc. who are more than happy to read a book written by someone they know.  Their feedback has been inspiring.  So  many of them say it’s one of the best YA fiction novels they’ve ever read.  The feedback on Amazon.com from people who read the book echoes that sentiment.


Inside the Book:



Title: The Avocadonine and Spring Stone
Author: Patrick Barnes
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: January 26, 2015
Pages: 334
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Book Description:

Praised by many as one of the best YA fiction books you’ll ever read.
Rey Naresh, a likeable kid worth rooting for, is going into the ninth grade at Pemota High.  He’s not sure what to expect being fresh off a visit with a gypsy who may or may not have been psychic, but he’s hoping in ninth grade he’ll get to meet his crush, the pretty green eyed, Christy Lane.  He’s wanted her to notice him since sixth grade and keeps a letter to her in his backpack.  The school bully, Huxley Core, and his friends, who call themselves Nadine’s Puppies, threaten to publish something about Rey in their libelous newsletter.  As Rey looks up at the stars one night he realizes he will have to confront Huxley and be man enough to make Christy fall for him.

One day, on the bus, fellow ninth grader, Ryan O’toole, says to Rey that there’s something wrong with something the students are drinking and that electronics are making a humming sound when he’s near them.  It sounds to Rey like looney toons, but are other students having a similar problem?  Rey and Christy unite and embark on a quest that seems to have to do with mind control by an evil administration and provides a quandary for philosophical thought.  A mystery seems to have taken hold of Pemota High, one that may stretch back generations to a malicious woman and a story of her relationship with a student named Spring Stone.


Book Excerpt:
Chapter 17

Rey got Isabel to make the call to Jocelyn Stone.  Her caretaker picked up.  Isabel explained that they had some information about Jocelyn’s late daughter Spring, and Rey and Christy wanted to speak to Jocelyn.  As it turned out, Jocelyn had had a stroke and was unable to speak.  Her chances of recovery were small and the caretaker didn’t want anyone to say anything to her that might upset her.  Isabel said that she understood and she’d tell Rey.  Rey said they were going to make the trip to see her anyway.  It was a forty-five minute drive.

The BMW 3 Series Compact had a sun roof open and it was freezing.  Tristan had explained to them what happened yesterday with the three lemon trees.  He told the two of them that he and Roach had brought garbage bags and a chainsaw to the trees.  Holly North had been outside the school.  She told them she planned on screaming to everyone coming out of the school that the Nadine’s Puppies article wasn’t true as they handed out Hochus Mochus and Mountain Springs.  By the time she was through, only twenty-five people made the walk to the trees.  They all ended up finding the trees cut down and the lemons missing.

Tristan had a lot of questions and Rey told him they would explain things to him on the ride down.  It was 9:45 a.m. and Christy told Brianna that it might be a day-long excursion so Brianna decided not to accompany them.  Brianna said she had something to do before work anyway.  When Christy asked her “what,” Brianna said she had to visit a friend.

The expressway was smooth and after Tristan closed the sun roof the drive was enjoyable.  When they arrived at Sea Eagle Watch they saw the high-end homes, all clad with porches and well-kept lawns.  They turned into Jocelyn’s driveway thankful for Tristan’s Mom’s car’s GPS, and sat in the car nervously waiting, trying to think of how best to proceed.  Tristan said they should just be honest and explain things to her.  Rey had brought the article Aba Brule had sent, “Track Star Doesn’t Go to State Championships,” and the letter sent from Aba Brule as well.  If worst came to worst, Rey said, they would just ask the caretaker if Jocelyn had any of Spring’s old possessions and look for clues.

They walked up the steps and rang the doorbell.

—-

The door opened and Miss Shumana stood there frowning, as if the last person on earth she wanted to see right now was Brianna Lane.  Brianna felt they were on a first name basis.

“Hello Evelyn.  It’s been a long time.”

Evelyn Shumana looked from right to left as if someone was hidden in the shrubs.  Then her eyes came to rest on her recently purchased Mercedes E Class Sedan in the driveway.  She looked down for a few moments.  Then said, “Come in.”

She closed the door and revealed her living room — a stark contrast with the run-down exterior of the green Cape Cod home.  Brianna sat down on one of her top-of-the-line leather sofas.

“What do you want?”  Evelyn said.  “Don’t tell me you missed me.”  She took out a box of cigarettes, and lit one up.  Then she removed her red hair — it was a wig.  She shook her blond hair free, then took off her black glasses, and sat across from Brianna.

“I have the non-prescription ones also,” Brianna said.  “Although I think while I’m reading my diploma, you’re going to be driving up past the Canadian border in that practically stolen Mercedes.”

Evelyn breathed out a stream of smoke.  “You’re not exactly an angel yourself, Brianna.  I think I saw you more during your senior year than any other student.  Only girl I ever caught having sex in the janitor’s closet.  I take it you’re still a drug abusing slut.  Or did Leander turn you into an Amish princess?”

“A Queen, really.”

“Oh.  Still at Lots for Littles?  Using Skywarriors to get students to rebel against authority figures?  I sure know you don’t buy them.  Could get you fired pretty easily.”

“Perhaps, we can reach an understanding.”

“We’ll be in school for another week.”  Evelyn dropped some ashes into a tray.  “Every parent of practically every student has been taken care of.  We’re paying them a million dollars to help further the development towards the archetypes.  If anything goes wrong, Alexa has a helicopter waiting for us to be taken away to wherever we want to go.  The chemical has a psychic property.  It’s Spring, but it’s also whatever you believe it is.  So if the meaning changes for Pemota High, it changes for everyone.  So now that we understand one another, what would it take for you to,” she took another drag off her cigarette, “help us with something that looks great on a college app.”  She put the cigarette out and raised her eyebrows.

—-

“Well, we think she needs to see us,” Rey said.  “See, the entire ninth grade at Pemota High is going to want to know what happened between Jocelyn and Spring.  Just give us five minutes and if she doesn’t want to talk to us, we’ll leave.”

The caretaker, Marie, looked back into the home wrestling with this.  “She can’t talk.  She has damage to the left side of her brain.  Spring was a long time ago.  Jocelyn has had three kids since.  I think it would be best if you left.”

A thumping sound from down the hall caused Marie to run back inside.  They stepped into the foyer and closed the door behind them.  They stood on the oriental carpet listening to Marie’s hushed whispers from down the hall.  Christy took her shoes off and gave Rey and Tristan a look.  They both reluctantly removed their shoes and Rey placed his backpack beside his.

Marie returned.  “Come with me.”  Marie walked down the hallway and they followed.  “This is her second stroke,” Marie said.  “Jocelyn is lucky enough to have the means to afford in-home care.  Her chances of recovering are better that way.”  They stopped in front of a door.  “She can’t talk.  And she usually doesn’t understand language.  But you can try.”

Jocelyn lay in bed, white sheets covering her, and surrounded by equipment.  She had short blond hair, and dim blue eyes in an exorbitantly wrinkled face.  She saw them and a fearful look came into her eyes.

“Hi, Miss Stone,” Christy said.  “My name’s Christy.  This is Rey and Tristan.”

Rey withdrew the article from his pocket and the letter from Aba Brule.  He handed them to Jocelyn.  “Miss Stone,” Rey said.  “We need to talk to you about your daughter, Spring.”

Jocelyn looked at the article then tossed it aside.  Then she looked at the letter from Aba Brule.  She let it drop on the bed sheet.

“She can’t understand it,” Marie said.  “She can’t read or write.”

“How faraway is she?”  Rey asked.

“A part of her brain has been compromised.  Sometimes people make full recoveries,” Marie said.  “But I think all you’re doing is upsetting her.”

“I have the syringe in my backpack,” Rey said.  “We could just put the chemical in some water.  It’s worth a try.”

“If it kills her, it’s murder,” Tristan said.

“There’s a chemical,” Rey said.  “It doesn’t kill anyone who ingests it.  It’s just lemon juice and purple dye.  But it has an effect on brain chemistry.  I just want to give her a little of it.”

Then something extraordinary happened.  Jocelyn turned to them and spoke.  “I want you to do it.”

Marie was stunned.  “Miss Stone?”

“Is it okay?” Rey asked.

“Miss Stone?”  Marie said again, now at her bedside.  They all stared at her.  She was silent.  “It’s okay,” Marie said to Rey.

Rey went and got the vile of purple fluid.  Jocelyn had a glass of water by her bedside and Rey poured a small amount of the fluid into the glass.  Jocelyn picked up the water glass and drank it.  They waited for almost a full minute for a reaction.  Then Jocelyn turned to them and her eyes seemed to come to life.

Marie brought in two more chairs and they all sat and stared at each other.  “Tell her about what’s going on,” Christy said to Rey.

Rey told Jocelyn the whole story — everything that had happened, from Aba Brule to Inez Castel.  “We want to know about Spring,” Rey said.

Jocelyn seemed to become aware that she was uncomfortable.  She tried to lift her pillow up.  Tristan stood up and helped her.  She sat up.  Then she spoke.  She was clear, lucid even.  “I knew this would happen.  I always knew I’d hear about this again.”

“Tell us,” Christy said.

“I’ve read that article.  Many times.  The story starts the year Alexa became principal at Pemota Regional High School.  In 1975.”

For More Information:
The Avocadonine and Spring Stone is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Goodreads


Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads

Meet the Author



Patrick Barnes lives in Charleston, South Carolina.  The Avocadonine and Spring Stone is his second book.  It has been awarded a five star review from Readers Favorite, and a four and a half star average among critics on Amazon.com.  He has a Bachelors Degree in Film and Writing from the University of Massachusetts and a Masters in Library Science from the University of South Carolina.  He has won first place in Arts and Entertainment Writing at the Yankee Penn Journalism Conference, and has worked as a Librarian at the Folly Beach Public Library.  When he’s not writing, he likes to walk on the beach with his dog, and watch movies.
For More Information:

Virtual Book Tour

Interview with L.B. Johnson, author of The Book of Barkley

Inside the Book:

Title: The Book of Barkley
Author: L.B. Johnson
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Genre: Memoir
Format: Ecopy/Paperback

2015 Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree.

2015 Reader’s Favorite International Book Award – Silver Winner.

Gripping Memoir, Hailed “An Instant Classic” by Critics, Shares Journey of Love & Life through the Inspirational Eyes of Man’s Best Friend…

Crafted from the heart and experiences of L.B. Johnson, ‘The Book of Barkley: Love and Life Through the Eyes of a Labrador Retriever’ takes readers from the author’s depths of grief and personal despair to an empowering new life chock-full of love. But Johnson’s radical life change didn’t come from finding God or attending a cookie-cutter support group, but instead from a black Labrador called Barkley who taught her the real, innate meaning of love.

In a wholly-unique and uplifting new memoir, Johnson tells the deeply-personal story of her life and experiences with a rambunctious Labrador Retriever named Barkley. It’s not just a story of one woman and her dog; but a bold journey to discover what love really is, and why learning to live like a dog gives humanity a powerful new meaning.

 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpgB&N

Is this your first book?

Yes, I’ve since written a second on human and pet adoption.

Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?

I thought about self publishing but ended up using a small publishing company that would let me control a lot of the process, but guide and offer professional editing and marketing services that I didn’t yet have the skills to do.

What lessons do you feel you learned about the publishing industry?

Talk to other authors and find out their experiences.  There’s a lot of good information on forums such as Good Reads and other places as well as blogs maintained by people who love the crafting of books and their publishing that will assist you.  I found the writing community extremely welcoming.

If you had the chance to change something regarding how you got published, what would you change?

I went with the same publisher with my second book, which also became a No. 1 best seller in genre at Amazon so I’m pretty pleased.

Did you credit any person or organization with helping you get published?

I used Outskirts press, and for the price, was very pleased with the service and how they didn’t pressure me to add on services I didn’t need as I gained more experience with my own marketing.

What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?

I’m a scientist by trade (criminal justice and forensic anthropology majors) and Ph.D. NOT a writer by profession.  If I can do it, you can, you just have to believe in your dream.

Meet the Author

A former commercial pilot, LB Johnson grew up out West where she later received a doctorate in a Criminal Justice related field in order to pursue a career in federal service after hanging up her wings. She lives in Chicago with her husband and rescue dog Abby. Mrs. Johnson is active in animal rescue and donates 100% of her writing proceeds to animal rescue organizations across the United States as well as Search Dog Foundation.
Her books include the #1 Amazon Best Sellers “The Book of Barkley” and “Saving Grace – a Story of Adoption”. She also has been awarded the Readers Favorite International Silver Book Award for Excellence in Writing.
Check out writing updates and news at her author’s webpage http://lbjohnsonauthor.blogspot.com/
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