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First Chapter Reveal: The Desire Card by Lee Matthew Goldberg

 

Title: THE DESIRE CARD
Author: Lee Matthew Goldberg
Publisher: Fahrenheit Press
Pages: TBA
Genre: Crime/Suspense

BOOK BLURB:

Any wish fulfilled for the right price. That’s the promise the Desire Card gives to its elite clients. But if the Card doesn’t feel like they’ve been justly compensated, the “price” will be more menacing than the clients could ever imagine.

Harrison Stockton learns this lesson all too well. Harrison has lived an adult life of privilege and excess: a high-powered job on Wall Street along with a fondness for alcohol and pills, and a family he adores, yet has no time for. All of this comes crashing to a halt when he loses his executive job and discovers he has liver cirrhosis with mere months left to live.

After finding himself far down on the donor list, Harrison takes matters into his own hands. This decision sparks a gritty and gripping quest that takes him to the slums of Mumbai in search of a black market organ and forces him under the Desire Card’s thumb. When his moral descent threatens his wife and children, Harrison must decide whether to save himself at any cost, or do what’s right and put a stop to the Card.

THE DESIRE CARD is a taut international thriller that explores what a man will do to survive when money isn’t always enough to get everything he desires. It’s the first book in a series followed by PREY NO MORE that focuses on other people indebted to this sinister organization, where the actual price is the cost of one’s soul.

PRAISE:

“Careful what you wish for, especially from a nefarious shadow organization, in this gripping start to Lee Matthew Goldberg’s fast-paced, highly compelling, buzz worthy new series. If you love characters morally compromised, richly drawn, and constantly surprising, you’ll love THE DESIRE CARD. I burned through the first book and can’t wait to get my hands on PREY NO MORE to see where this endlessly exciting story takes me next! Loved it!” – Daniel Palmer, critically acclaimed suspense author

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Chapter 1

HARRISON SAT OUTSIDE THE OFFICE OF THE MANAGING DIRECTOR AWAITING HIS FATE. The end of the month meant slash and burn time, but he had successfully avoided the axe for twelve months now. Something told him this wasn’t going to be lucky number thirteen. After almost twenty years of dedication, he swore he wouldn’t beg, wouldn’t give that fucker Thom Bartlett any satisfaction in letting him go. Thom, with his faux British accent even though he lived in the U.S. since he was two, his nose up the CEO’s ass at every chance, his chastising of Harrison’s “extracurricular activities,” even though Thom was just as guilty of similar vices. Harrison stared at this fucker’s door, as if by monitoring he could will it to stay closed and ensure that he’d forever remain a part of Sanford & Co.’s Mergers and Acquisitions team.

A sharp pain in his abdomen caused him to pitch forward. His stomach churned as a flood of bile crept up his throat. Thom’s door now appeared so out of focus that for a second Harrison forgot where he was.

“Bad lunch?” his buddy Whit whispered, from a nearby seat.

Thom’s ancient secretary glanced up at them from her fury of typing and went back to punishing the keys.

Harrison clutched his stomach and let out a stifled belch. The air now smelled like he’d been dining on garbage. His chronic halitosis had only been getting worse. He could barely recall the last time he’d kissed Helene like when they were young with an appetite to devour. At most he received a peck while she held her breath. It’s not like her body hadn’t also changed, and yet he still found her a knockout: whip-smart and sophisticated, alluring whenever she was in deep thought and chewed on the earpiece of her reading glasses. Only once had he participated in a particular “extracurricular activity” outside of their marriage. It was something he instantly regretted—but she had been treating him like a pariah in the bedroom for almost a year, and he found himself in the arms of another. So now he let her give those little digs about his hygiene, one of the small pleasures she seemed to have during the scant few hours a day when he was home.

Whit seemed to inch his chair away from Harrison’s death burp and occupied himself with the new Breitling hanging from his wrist. Here the two were about to be sliced up and gutted and Whit had spent last weekend dropping $10K on a watch. Sure Harrison indulged in more luxuries than most and hated his old Tag enough to go splurging, but unlike Whit, he had two kids in uptown private schools to worry about.

“Drinks at Mobeley’s later tonight?” Whit asked, placing his hand on Harrison’s shoulder. “Whatever the outcome of this summons might be?”

Harrison nodded with tired eyes.

“You’re a VP here, Harry. Higher up on the rung than me. You’ve got a better chance of surviving.”

Whit’s hand still massaged Harrison’s shoulder, but his encouragement was not convincing. He had probably expected a similar consoling reply, except the room was spinning too much for Harrison to care.

“You’re not looking well,” Whit said. Thom’s secretary seemed to glance up from her typing again to nod in agreement. The two of them caught each other’s eye, as if they were conspiring against him. Well, we couldn’t all look like Whit. Just a few years younger but still with a full head of thick black hair only slightly graying at the temples, something that made him appear even more distinguished. Pecs and abs that he never shut up about. A terror on the racquetball courts who slaughtered Harrison every time. The son of a well-known surgeon at N.Y.U Medical with a hot Japanese wife barely out of her twenties whose goal in life was to be at his beck and call. Whit had been made an Associate two years earlier than Harrison and was able to maintain a rapport with the higher ups that Harrison could never manage: calling the CEO Dougie to his face instead of Mr. Sanford and still having a job the next day.

The secretary picked up the phone on her desk while still typing away.

“Certainly, Mr. Bartlett,” she chirped into the receiver, and then turned her disapproving gaze to Harrison. “Mr. Bartlett will see you now, Mr. Stockton.”

Harrison gathered up his briefcase and overcoat. He had to hold onto the seat as he stood, his feet pivoting and almost sending him to the ground.

“Gotta watch those martini lunches,” Whit said, slapping Harrison on the back and pushing him toward his doom.

Harrison put one foot in front of the other slowly, avoiding Thom’s inevitable decision for as long as possible.

Even if he wound up getting let go today, an outsider looking in might assume that his life was still going well: two decades of marriage, healthy kids, and a fantastic New York apartment; but he felt like he’d just been going through the motions for too long. A major chunk had been missing, a spark of excitement, adventure, and meaning. He couldn’t put his finger on what it was, just that he desperately longed for it to exist.

As he put his hand on the doorknob and turned, he tried to think of what would make him happy, something he wanted more than anything that would cause him to shoot out of bed every morning with a smile.

He squeezed his eyes shut, willing this desired vision to appear, but all he saw was darkness.

Who in their right mind didn’t covet Thom Bartlett’s office? High floor with downtown skyline views, fluffy clouds outside of the windows, a wet bar that Harrison eyed. Some good Scotch had already been opened. Harrison had forced himself to keep sober during a gobbled lunch of an Italian sub without his trusty flask to chase it down. Now his hands trembled at the thought of that Scotch burning his throat.

“Can I offer you something?” Thom asked, indicating the bar with a grand sweep of his arm, as if to say, yes, I have a bar in my office, which you, dear sir, never had here and regrettably never will.

“I might as well,” Harrison coughed, scooting over and pouring two shots worth into a glass. He sat across from Thom and put the comforting drink to his lips.

Thom fiddled with a stack of papers in a folder on his desk. He looked up at Harrison through the thick frames he kept low on his sloping nose, almost touching his top lip.

“So Sanford & Co. has become swollen lately. We’re too big for our own good right now and need to restructure–”

“Just spit it out,” Harrison said, knocking back half the glass of Scotch.

“I’m sorry, Harrison. We’re going to have to let you go, effective today.”

Thom delivered this news while fixing his Windsor knot, which Harrison figured had taken him numerous tries that morning to perfect. Harrison wanted to grab him by that knot and choke his tiny little bird head until it popped off.

“I’ve given practically twenty years to this firm,” he said, running his hands through his thinning hair. “I sleep here, I eat here. I barely exist at home anymore.”

“It’s the same for all of us, mate.”

“I’m not your fucking mate,” Harrison said, finishing the rest of the Scotch and starting to sway.

“Old boy, I am not the villain here. Every firm on the Street has been feeling this strain since the economy collapsed. Now we are offering you a solid severance package, which I think is more than generous. I’ll also save you the spectacle of having security escort you out.”

“What was Sanford’s reason?” Harrison asked quietly, not wanting to hear the answer but knowing that he’d be unable to leave without one.

Thom had already started pushing the folder across the desk, shutting Harrison up, getting this over with. His face looked exhausted from delivering executions.

“We’ve heard from some clients,” he said, taking off his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Heard what…?”

“Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately, huh, Harry?” he asked, his voice rising to the level of an uncomfortable squeal. “Your skin, mate…sorry, but you’re looking rather yellow, and your eyes, well there’s this permanent creaminess to them… I’m just using the client’s words–”

“Which client?”

“Which one hasn’t mentioned this is more like it.”

Harrison went to respond but now Thom was on a roll.

“As a VP, this is a face-to-face business. I go for manicures, mate, you think I like it–it’s a requirement. Maybe if you cut back on the drink….”

“I’ve advised some huge mergers here over the years.” Harrison pointed at Thom with his empty glass. “I didn’t realize this was only a pretty boys game.”

“You’ve let some messy pitchbooks slide through recently, as well.”

“Shouldn’t the analysts be blamed for creating them?”

“Don’t think they haven’t been dealt with, too.”

“So maybe I’ve gotten lax with a couple of pitchbooks for smaller clients, but never any of the big ones.”

“When…was the last time you’ve been to a doctor, Harry?”

“Doctors,” Harrison said, brushing them all away with a flick of his wrist. He had always believed that no matter what, doctors tried to find something wrong with you so you’d give them more business. And yeah, his skin had developed a yellowish hue as of late and sometimes his gut felt like it was rotting. Varicose veins had multiplied along his thighs and there were moments when he’d lose balance and have to go and dry heave in an empty stall once no one else was around, but he was a professional drinker just like his dad had been, and that son-of-a-bitch had put back a liter of gin and a pack of smokes a day up until the ripe old age of eighty-eight. Hell, who needed to live longer than that anyway? Life could be brutal, and if some booze, some smokes and some pills provided a relief from the banality of it all, then screw any doctor who’d tell him otherwise.

Thom tapped on the folder to indicate that it was time to wrap this up.

“I have to make sure that you understand what’s in the package,” he said, pushing it closer to Harrison until it practically fell off the desk.

Harrison opened it up and flipped through: six months pay, benefits as well, blah, blah, blah. He closed it shut and went to throw it in his briefcase.

“Tut tut,” Thom said, wagging his finger. “There’s something you missed that Mr. Sanford wanted to make sure you saw.”

Harrison re-opened the folder and spied a card clipped to the first page.

[]

“What the hell is a Desire Card?”

Thom reached over and un-clipped the card.

“You have been a valued employee here. Mr. Sanford wanted to make sure you understood that we’re not parting on bad terms. This is what’s best for everyone.”

Thom handed him the card. Harrison turned it over and over with his stubby fingers.

“It’s like…a phone or something too?”

“Of sorts, just to keep their network as secure and exclusive as possible. We didn’t include this in everyone’s package, so you know. This is an organization that Mr. Sanford has a long history with, very hush-hush obviously, very elite. If you want something…anything…they have the power to make it happen.”

“Can they get me my job back?”

“Cute, Harrison, don’t ever lose that charm.”

Thom reached over to take the empty glass away.

“So tonight, Harry, instead of drowning your sorrows in a bottle, give the Card a try and have them ring you up a girl I guarantee you’ll enjoy. Or whatever else you wish. We promise we’ll give a glowing report to any future job prospects so consider this the start of a paid vacation.”

Thom stuck out his hand to shake, the nails manicured, no rogue cuticles to speak of; but the hand was delicate and unassuming, not someone with the power to hold Harrison’s life in his palm, just a meager messenger. Harrison slipped the Desire Card in his pocket and shook Thom’s hand, squeezing hard as Thom grimaced.

“And see a doctor,” Thom replied, giddy now that this ordeal was over.

“Watch out, you’ll be gutted next,” Harrison said, rising and feeling his legs give out. He collapsed back into the chair as Thom let out a spurt of a laugh.

“You all right there, mate?”

“Piss on England.”

Harrison gave standing up another try. He gripped Thom’s desk for support. Thom looked worried that Harrison might take the whole desk down with him, but Harrison was doing his best to maintain even though it felt like he was viewing Thom through the wrong end of a telescope.

“You can go ahead and send Mr. Carmichael in,” Thom said, fixing his Windsor knot again that had become slightly askew. “Best to Helene and the children.”

Harrison slung his coat over his arm and gripped his briefcase as he headed for the door. After a few steps, his vision became cloudier and he could feel the creamy tears falling from his eyes. They stung his cheeks as he grappled with the doorknob and lurched into the hallway.

In the front office, Whit was leaning over the secretary’s desk; the two engaged in hushed words that stopped once Harrison emerged. Harrison ran his finger from one side of his neck to the other. Whit gave him a solemn nod back, but Harrison couldn’t hold it in any longer and puked up the barely digested Scotch.

“Oh my!” he heard the secretary say.

He stared at his sickness bubbling on the floor, a mix of half-chewed capicola and salami in an amber soup with specks of dark red blood throughout, the clots of blood so dark they looked like tar. He wiped his mouth and trudged past all the onlookers toward the elevators outside, glad that a part of him would remain embedded in Sanford & Co.’s carpet.

As the elevator arrived and he stepped inside, he wished for the undoing of everyone involved in his termination, knowing that only their collective downfall could get him to shoot out of bed with a smile.

 

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of SLOW DOWN and THE MENTOR (St. Martin’s Press), which was acquired by Macmillan Entertainment with the film in development. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. The first two books in a thriller series, THE DESIRE CARD and PREY NO MORE, are forthcoming from Fahrenheit Press in winter 2019. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, Essays & Fictions, The New Plains Review, and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series (guerrillalit.wordpress.com). He lives in New York City. Follow him at www.leematthewgoldberg.com and @LeeMatthewG.

 

 

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Interview with Michael Houtz, Author of Dark Spiral Down

After a career in medicine, Mike Houtz succumbed to the call to hang up his stethoscope and pursue his other passion as a writer of fast-paced thrillers. A rabid fan of authors such as Clancy, Mark Greaney, Vince Flynn, and Brad Thor, Mike loves series writing with strong characters, fast pacing and international locations, all of which explode into action in his debut novel, a 2017 Zebulon Award winner. When not at the keyboard, he can be found on the firing range, traveling for research across the globe, or trying out the latest dry-fly pattern on a Gold Medal trout stream.

He lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

His latest book is the thriller/international/action novel, Dark Spiral Down.

Website: www.mikehoutz.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/michaelhoutz

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.mikehoutz/

https://www.facebook.com/mike.houtz.77

 

Q: Welcome! Can you tell us a little bit about your writing background?

Wonderful to join you. Well, it’s a short story! Actually, my earliest memories of writing goes back to grade school. Somewhere in a box in the basement, I have a writeup from an early grade-school teacher asking where I’d come up with such a wild story on a prompt she gave the class. Most of the kids offered a three or four sentence response. Mine was nearly four pages. I dabbled here and there until my mid-twenties. I halted those desires for my medical career. I’ve been purposefully writing, after I took an early retirement, for three or four years now. I’m not ever winning any literary awards, but that same vivid imagination never left me. I’m trying to become the writer my imagination deserves.

Q: What fact about yourself that would really surprise people?

I’m a picture of contrasts. I suppose folks who don’t know me would form an opinion on my personality based on my practicing medicine and writing—cerebral endeavors largely populated by people of culture enjoying wine tastings. I ended my martial arts career undefeated in 5 years of combat competition. I have National titles in wrestling and represented our country in the sport. I’m a slightly polished knuckle dragger.

Q: How do you define success in regards to writing and publishing books? 

This is the most important question I’ve seen in all my interviews. Bravo. I tackled this subject on the first day I considered writing as a career. I also pose this very subject to every new writer I interact with. My answer, and everyone should have their own, started as a bucket list item. I wanted to check off that line stating I’d traditionally published a book. One. On day number two, I changed my mind. My current definition is I want to entertain and create emotional responses in readers. Nothing is more satisfying to me than when someone tells me in an excited voice about something in the story that shocked them or created an adrenalin rush for them. That’s my success.

Q: Can you tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?

How many pages do I get?

The protagonist, Cole Haufner, is a twenty-six-year old professional mixed martial arts superstar. Considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport’s history he holds a unique attitude with his career—he HATES fighting. Growing up in a Shaolin temple in Southeast China, he carries a serene spirit and calm outward persona. Planning to attend medical school, his plans abruptly change when his newborn son suffers a congenital heart condition and requires extensive medical care. He turns to the one skill that can provide for his son—the employment of his renowned martial arts skill. At the peak of his success in the octagon, tragedy strikes and he’s left alone in the world save for his brother, an American Delta Force operator who goes missing on a mission. Cole follows a clue back to his childhood home and becomes embroiled in a desperate fight between the remnants of his brother’s Delta unit and North Korean commandos hell bent on acquiring a stolen device capable of changing the world or destroying it depending on who manages to escape with this invention.

A few years ago, I retired early from a career in medicine. No surprise, my first writing effort started with a medical thriller. I felt, and still do, the story has a strong premise and has the potential to do well. Somewhere around that same time, I read an appalling account of a child whisked away from his father to South America by his ex-wife. The courts in that part of the world were manipulated by the new boyfriend, an attorney, and the father struggled mightily against unsympathetic ears. From all accounts on subsequent research, I discovered the dad was a good guy with no history of violence, and he’d been a loving father to his son. His journey for the return of his son spanned years. Imagine dropping off your child with a spouse for visitation and never seeing them again. Having two sons around the same age, the account really hit me hard. I imagined someone rescuing the boy and bringing him back to the only home he’d known. I woke up one morning, shoved the medical thriller in a drawer, and let the anger and sympathy pour out into the novel. From that spark, my own personal life mission changed too.

Q: When you are not writing, how do you relax?

With my two sons, I don’t know how to relax. When not writing, I’m shuttling my kids to practices or traveling for their competitions, getting in a workout, or working with my German Shepard, Saber. Sometimes I can sneak in time at the shooting range or hit a Colorado stream for native trout. It’s a fast and furious life, but I’m grateful for all of it.

Q: Please tell us why we should read your book?

If for no other reason, you’re joining a growing group of people providing support to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children network. My mission is to bring light to the horrible crime committed upon children by an adult unlawfully removing them from their home and taking them to a country that does not recognize our laws on child custody. Every book sold supports that effort both financially as well as creating awareness.

Plus, if you’re anything like me, seeing a character employ a really nasty skill set in these horrible situations is very satisfying. When the courts fail, Cole begins his brand of justice.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other authors just getting their feet wet?

First, answer question three. How will you “know” when you’re successful. Everyone will have a different answer. Why are you spending hours, day in and day out, for years, writing? Is it a fun hobby or are you shooting for Bestseller status. Your answer will likely change over time, but you should have an initial idea.

Secondly, any timeline you’re giving yourself just double it. There are so many different factors to publishing out of your control. The industry moves like a glacier. I had one of the fastest turnarounds I’m aware of from the first sentence to book release, and it took nearly three years. If you’re a relatively unknown, prepare for a long haul.

Finally, the difference between published authors and those who don’t reach that mark is those published writers never quit. Take all the “no” responses and collect all the rejections into a nice big ball, because you will get them, and vow to shove it up their rear ends. Never surrender to other people’s failures projected onto you.

About the Book:

COLE HAUFNER is a reluctant superstar in the professional mixed martial arts world. After his latest fight, his wife and child perish in a car crash. His grief deepens when his brother, BUTCH, a Delta Force operator, is absent from the funeral and reported missing by two furtive strangers who show up unannounced at the burial. Despairing, and acting on a tip, Cole travels to his childhood home in southeast China, looking for his brother.

Butch and his teammate, HAMMER, are the sole American survivors of a gun battle between their unit and North Korean commandos, both sides fighting over possession of a stolen suitcase containing a miniaturized fusion device that could either provide unlimited clean energy or be converted to an undetectable bomb seven times more powerful than a nuclear explosion. Leading the North Koreans is the sociopath, Commander PARK. Pressed into helping the Koreans is a disgraced former CIA operative, BARRETT JENNINGS.

Cole meets with the uncle who raised him, MASTER LI, and is warned to stop his search for Butch. Barrett discovers Cole’s identity (with the help of a genius computer hacker, LILLY), which opens a twenty-year-old wound when Barrett was blamed for the disappearance of Cole’s father, along with the man’s invention. Barrett enlists the 14K organized crime syndicate to help capture Cole. Hammer, separated from Butch during the fight for the device, thwarts the gang’s attempt to kidnap Cole, and the two then set off to find Butch and the device. All parties converge on the city library where Butch, now disguised as a monk, is attempting to communicate with the Pentagon. Barrett and Park capture Butch, while the 14K gang nabs Cole.

Danger mounts as Chinese authorities begin investigating foul play within their borders. Cole fights his way free of the gang and reunites with Hammer.  Both men find Barrett’s apartment and discover Lilly (the man’s stepdaughter), who divulges Barrett’s identity and plan. Cole clashes with Hammer, who is willing to sacrifice Butch in order to recover the fusion device. Lilly offers her help in exchange for her and Barrett’s rescue from Park’s grip. Meanwhile, Barrett discovers the true nature of the case the North Koreans are pursuing and, sensing he and Lilly are to be assassinated by Park once he has the device, frees Butch. Butch, trusting Barrett was sent to rescue him, leads the turncoat to the site where he hid the device. Barrett, hoping to make a quick fortune selling it, shoots Butch before escaping with the case.

Cole, along with Hammer and Lilly, arrives at the location of Butch and finds him gravely wounded. Butch fingers Barrett for shooting him and for stealing the case. Cole wants only to save his brother but Butch makes him promise to kill Barrett and recover their dad’s invention. The revelation that the device is his father’s scientific discovery propels Cole forward to fulfill his brother’s mission. Cole is forced to abandon Butch at a hospital. Cole pursues Barrett to a remote dock where the ex-CIA man is planning to escape China by boat. With the Chinese military now actively looking for Cole, Cole confronts Barrett and Park sparking a gunfight. Barrett kills Park. As Barrett turns the gun on Cole, Hammer kills Barrett. Cole, Hammer and Lilly escape via the boat, and the fusion device is safely returned.

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Interview with Geoff Armstrong, Author of Moments That Made America

Geoff Armstrong began his teaching career in 1965 after receiving a teaching diploma from McGill University’s Macdonald College. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Montreal’s Concordia University in 1967 where his major field of study was history. Armstrong credits writers such as Bruce Catton, and Thomas B. Costain, as well as the encouragement of his father who had little formal education, but a deep love of reading and of history, as the inspiration for his own life-long interest.

Throughout a 25-year teaching career he taught history at several grade levels and learned quickly that to reach the hearts of his students, history had to be made immediately and deeply relevant and accessible: that some event that took place centuries before those students were born had a direct and profound influence on every aspect their lives. He also learned that talking down or writing down to his students was a recipe for defeat. It is this awareness, shaped by a quarter century of teaching and countless questions by thousands of intelligent young people that has informed and shaped his writing.

His latest book is Moments That Made America: From the Ice Age to the Alamo.

You can visit his website at www.MomentsThatMadeAmerica.com.

Can you tell us what your book is about?

Although the story of America begins in geological time, the three book series under the general title: Moments That Made America does not chart the usual course of a pandemic history, with event following event based on the date of its occurrence. Instead, it focuses on those events and circumstance that had they not occurred exactly the way they did, the America we know would not exist. This means that the life of not only every American would be different, so would the life of almost everyone on the planet.

From its geological birth during the breakup of the Pangaea supercontinent millions of years ago, through America’s political independence from the British superpower Moments That Made America illuminates and explores the specific defining moments that profoundly shaped the nation and its people – crucial turning points that worked inexorably to mold and make America. These critical “tipping” events formed America’s geographical, sociological, political and historical landscape. The first part of the story culminates just before the Civil War. The second volume: “From Civil War to Superpower” takes the story from the bloody civil war that ended slavery and killed more Americans than all its other wars combined, through to the 20th Century. The final volume takes America’s story through the twentieth century, the most destructive and dynamic period in human history.

Why did you write your book?

The presidential election of 2016 exposed a gaping wound in the soul of America and a dangerous lack of understanding among Americans about what it took for their remarkable nation to come into being. Too many fail to understand that except for a extraordinary set of circumstances, some of them bordering on the miraculous, their nation shouldn’t exist at all: that in the entire five billion year history of this planet, their nation is unique. It is a lack of understanding and self-imposed ignorance that endangers the very survival of the United States. At this moment, America teeters at the edge of a precipice. Around the world, hate-filled, malicious enemies are watching and waiting for the misstep that sends America and its democracy over the edge.

What kind of message is your book trying to tell your readers?

That democracy isn’t easy and that freedom isn’t a guarantee.

Who influenced you to write your book?

The young people around me who don’t understand what a miracle their country is and how easy it to lose the freedoms so many sacrificed their lives or fortunes to achieve.

Is it hard to publish a nonfiction book?

It is incredibly difficult. It has taken me 75 years.

Which author(s) do you admire?

Too many to include in this write up, but they include authors from the brilliance of Shakespeare and Mark Twain to the depth of John Steinbeck and the creativity of Ray Bradbury as well as the amazing historical writers such Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote, James McPherson, Canadian author Pierre Burton and James A. Michener.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

I suspect that everyone experiences writer’s block. When I’m working on a project, I set myself a goal of writing something every day. It might be a single sentence or a paragraph, but I will not shut down or go to bed without fulfilling the DAILY goal I set myself. That single paragraph or sentence goal can go on for days, at some point, I have discovered that just having to sit down and write, suddenly blows that goal away and it turns into a thousand or two thousand words.

What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

Hang out with family and friends or my cat if everyone else is busy. If my cat is busy I’d read.

Which holiday is your favorite and why?

Easter, not for the holiday itself, but because it means that spring has arrived in Upstate New York.

If we were to meet for lunch to talk books, where would we go?

To the picnic pavilion I built in the woods behind my home in Upstate New York.

What kind of advice would you give other non-fiction authors?

  1. DO YOUR RESEARCH: (Capitals were my choice.)
  2. Enjoy what you are writing about.
  3. Find a different way to tell your story.
  4. Write because you really want to – forget about paying the mortgage.
  5. If you choose a controversial topic, talk with people who disagree with you.

 

 

 

 

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An Interview with Author Louis R. Negrete

Dr. Louis R. Negrete was born and raised in Los Angeles. During his distinguished career, Dr. Negrete served as Director of Project Head Start for the Council of Mexican American Affairs and was also a founding member of the new Chicano Studies Department at the California State University in Los Angeles. He served as professor of Chicano Studies for some 35 years at Cal State LA. CHICANO HOMELAND is his first book. Dr. Negrete makes his home in Los Angeles, California.

Web site for book at www.ChicanoHomeland.com

Face Book: https://www.facebook.com/Chicano-Homeland-Louis-R-Negrete-1657612917852351/?fref=ts

 

1: Can you tell us what your book, Chicano Homeland, is about?

My book is about activist Chicano organizations that fought against anti-Mexican racism in Los Angeles during the 1960’s and the 1980’s. It describes how they opposed police mistreatment, schools that didn’t teach, and general discrimination in society. The organization and struggle of the united farm workers for just salaries encouraged community groups to oppose injustice. At the same time, reports of unfair rates of killing of Spanish Surname and Afro-American soldiers in Vietnam generated anger expressed in open opposition to the war. The Chicano movement, as activists called themselves, became an important part of the national civil rights movement. A younger generation of activists formed the Brown Berets to confront police mistreatment and the Chicano Moratorium Committee attracted thousands of supporters to movement events. Much protest events expressed defense of immigrant families. Other activist groups included in the book were also part of the growing movement.

2:         Why did you write your book?

I believe that all minority groups must fight back against racism in local and national politics. The Chicano movement was successful as evident by an increase in Mexican Americans and other Latinos now employed as police officers, teachers, government workers, medical staff, nonprofit agencies, business, all across the range of employment and careers, including election to public office. But persistence of continuing poverty and homelessness in Latino neighborhoods must compel the younger generation of activists to keep the movement alive. Anti-immigrant government policies popular today pose a major threat to democracy. The Chicano people and Latinos, especially younger generations, must fight racism. They must know about the Chicano movement as part of their own national history.

3:         What kind of message is your book trying to tell your readers?

All people who immigrant to America face hard times. They manage to overcome economic and social barriers to become true Americans. They also resist racial prejudice and assist other immigrant communities to survive as Americans. The national civil rights movement involved people from many immigrant origins, including Mexican Americans. My book tells the history of how Chicanos fought to claim an American identity like other minority groups. This is an important part of American history.

4:         Who influenced you to write your book?

No one in particular influenced me to write my book. My teaching experience as a university professor made me realize that I should write about what I learned based on what I observed and experienced. I marched with community activists and attended protest events off campus. I also dedicated much time to building the Department of Chicano Studies at California State University, Los Angeles.

 

5:         What kind of advice would you give to other non-fiction authors?

Enjoy your writing. Be honest in what you write about based in part on your own experience.

BOOK BLURB:

Los Angeles author-educator Dr. Louis R. Negrete lived and now tells the compelling, dynamic story of the movement for the rights of Mexican-Americans in the USA, particularly those In California.  In his riveting, powerfully written historical book, CHICANO HOMELAND,  retired college professor Dr. Negrete vividly describes the issues that sparked the Chicano civil rights movement, that saw unbridled police brutality, institutional poverty (that still even exists today, he says), demands for better schools, the  anti-Vietnam war protests and the support for undocumented immigrants.

Mr. Negrete’s CHICANO HOMELAND captures in its historical pages the early Mexican settlement in Los Angeles to the 1950s Zoot Suit riots in L.A. to where Chicanos stand today in the California culture. He gives us a colorful, vivid history of a people that every Hispanic should read, especially as he says, “Chicanos and Chicanas, so they can know where they came from, how they got here and be inspired to chart a course to a genuine, lasting political power for what is now the largest ethnic minority in the United States.”

Commented author Dr. Louis R. Negrete on his book, “I believe that Americans must fight back against racism and national politics. The Chicano movement was a success but resistance to racism must continue, especially with the anti-immigrant policies popular today. I wrote the book based upon my experience growing up in Los Angeles, aware of persistent demands for justice and an end to racism. Younger Mexican-Americans and other minorities should know this part of United States history.”

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Sheila Roberts on Success, Relaxing and Advice for Authors

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Best-selling author Sheila Roberts has seen her books published in a dozen different languages and made into movies for both the Hallmark and Lifetime channels. She’s happily married with three children and lives in the Pacific Northwest. When she’s not hanging out with girlfriends, speaking to women’s groups or going dancing with her husband she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate.

Her latest book is the women’s fiction/romance, THE SUMMER RETREAT.

Website Address:  http://www.sheilasplace.com

Twitter Address:  http://www.twitter.com/_Sheila_Roberts

Facebook Address: https://www.facebook.com/funwithsheila/

BOOK BLURB:

Celeste Jones has plans for a perfect summer with her boyfriend (and hopefully soon-to-be fiancé)—until he dumps her to be with the woman he’s had on the side for months. Heartbroken and furious, Celeste resolves to move on. When the going gets tough, the tough…okay, the not-so-tough go to the beach.

As soon as school lets out for the summer, she waves goodbye to her first-graders, packs up her bikini and heads for Moonlight Harbor, where she knows her big sister, Jenna, will receive her with open arms. Jenna could probably use some help at the Driftwood Inn, and Celeste is happy to do chores around the place in exchange for a relaxing summer escape. She just needs something—or someone—to distract her from her troubles.

Finding The One can be tricky, and Jenna is determined to make sure Celeste gets it right this time around. Not that Jenna’s an expert. She’s still trying to sort out her own love life. But if both sisters listen to their hearts, eventually they’re bound to discover that life—and love—is good at the beach.

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Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Retreat-Moonlight-Harbor-Novel/dp/0778369404/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1549301194&sr=8-1&keywords=the+summer+retreat+by+sheila+roberts

Barnes & Noble

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-summer-retreat-sheila-roberts/1129125875?ean=9780778369400#/

 

Q: Thanks for stopping by, Sheila! Can you tell us a little bit about your writing background?

I’ve been writing stories since I was a little girl. Looking back, I feel sorry for my classmates, who were a captive audience. (My teacher thought I was the next Jane Austen and always made them listen to my stories.) I majored in music in college but took a ton of English classes and loved creative writing. Sold some articles to magazines when my husband and I were newlyweds. And then, somewhere along the way, I got an idea for a book. And that was that!

Q: What fact about yourself that would really surprise people?

I used to own a singing telegram company. Great fun!

Q: How do you define success in regards to writing and publishing books? 

That definition changes throughout a writer’s career. There’s always one more mountain to climb. At first it’s “If I could just get an agent,” then it’s “If I could just sell a book,” Then it’s “If I could just make a best-seller list”… “get a movie deal”… “make more money.” I think for me, now, it’s just, “Have people know who I am.” J Success is an elusive thing. Satisfaction, however, that’s a different animal. Satisfaction comes with having written a story well. Satisfaction comes when a reader tells you how much she enjoyed your book. Satisfaction lies in doing something you enjoy. Every author may not find the success she craves, but every author can find satisfaction.

Q: Can you tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?

My new book is set in the fictional beach town of Moonlight Harbor, and gives a character who’s made several guest appearances the center stage. Celeste Jones, who’s kissed way too many frogs has run away to the beach. And there, she meets the perfect man. He’s a minister, for crying out loud. They don’t come any more perfect than that. But then there’s “the killer in room twelve.” And the town gossips. And … that’s all I’m gonna tell you.

Q: When you are not writing, how do you relax?

Reading, of course! Traveling with the hubs, hanging out with girlfriends and playing games. Loooove games.

Q: Please tell us why we should read your book?

For fun!

Q: What kind of advice would you give other authors just getting their feet wet?

Wade in hip deep, work hard, and enjoy the experience. This can be a frustrating business, but the rewards of being able to bring characters to life makes it all worth it.

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First Chapter Reveal: Stairway to Paradise: Growing Up Gershwin by Nadia Natali

Stairway to Paradise

Title: STAIRWAY TO PARADISE: GROWING UP GERSHWIN
Author: Nadia Natali
Publisher: RareBird Books
Pages: 304
Genre: Memoir

BOOK BLURB:

Growing up as Frankie Gershwin’s daughter, the sister of George and Ira Gershwin, was quite a challenge. I didn’t have the perspective to realize that so much unhappiness in a family was out of the ordinary. But I knew something was off. My mother was often depressed and my father was tyrannical and scary, one never knew when he would blow up. I learned early on that I had to be the cheery one, the one to fix the problems. Both sides of my family were famous; the Gershwin side and my father who invented color film. But even though there was more than enough recognition, money and parties I understood that wasn’t what made people happy.

As a young adult adrift and depressed I broke from that unsatisfactory life by marrying Enrico Natali, a photographer, deeply immersed in his own questions about life. We moved into the wilderness away from what we considered as the dysfunction of society. That’s when we discovered that life had other kinds of challenges: flood, fire, rattlesnakes, mountain lions and bears. We lived in a teepee for more than four years while building a house. Curiously my mother never commented on my life choice. She must have realized on some level that her own life was less than satisfactory.

Enrico had developed a serious meditation practice that had become a kind of ground for him. As for me I danced. Understanding the somatic, the inner body experience, became my way to shift the inner story.

We raised and homeschooled our three children. I taught them to read, Enrico taught them math. The kids ran free, happy, always engaged, making things, and discovering. We were so sure we were doing the right thing. However, we didn’t have a clue how they would make the transition to the so-called ‘real world’. The children thrived until they became teenagers. They then wanted out. Everything fell apart for them and for Enrico and me. Our lives were turned upside down, our paradise lost. There was tragedy: our son lost his life while attempting to cross our river during a fierce storm. Later I was further challenged by advanced breast cancer.

It was during these times that I delved deeply into the somatic recesses of myself. I began to find my own voice, a long learning process. I emerged with a profound trust in my own authority. It became clear that everyone has to find his or her way through layers of inauthenticity, where a deep knowing can develop. And I came to see that is the best anyone can offer to the world.

Enrico and I still live in the wilds of the Lost Padres National Forest, a paradise with many steps going up and down, a life I would not change.

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First Chapter:

On December 8, 1980, my husband, Enrico, our three-year-old daughter, Francesca, and I finished our cross-country journey to Ojai, California, where we planned to make a home on land we had seen only once but had long been dreaming about, away from city life and, especially, away from my difficult and powerful family.

We’d caravanned in separate vehicles, hauling all that we could carry in and on top of our cars, in addition to a foldout trailer hitched to Enrico’s Toyota jeep. At the end of a long, winding two-lane road that followed Matilija Creek, a brown metal gate barred our way. Beyond the gate lay the Los Padres National Forest, wilderness, and a mile farther up a dirt road through the canyon, our property. We had to wait for a key to open the lock, a key that a forest ranger was going to hand over—the key to our new life. I gazed toward the jagged and intimidating mountains that leaned over the canyon. Inhaling the sweet smell of the dry chaparral, I couldn’t help but compare it to the lush, green landscape of my childhood home in Connecticut. This is going to be a very different life, I thought. My privileged upbringing seemed the polar opposite of this place, and maybe that was what attracted me to it. Observing the struggles of my family and seeing that money and fame had failed to bring happiness, I’d learned I needed to find my own path. I had not fully formulated my goal, but it was something unique and original, and I had to find it on my own.

A moment later a forest service truck pulled up by the gate. “You sure found yourselves a beautiful piece of property out here,” the ranger said, as he offered his hand to shake. “I’m Dave Brown. I suppose you know there are some pretty dangerous natural conditions you’ll need to look out for.”

Enrico shook Dave’s hand as he asked, “And what does that mean?” Dave took a big breath. “Well, you should know about this if you guys are planning to live here. There’s the flood. That’s real serious this time of year. There’re two creeks you have to drive through that rise fast and wild when there’s a lot of rain. The water turns black and fierce. You could get trapped in here for weeks.”

Enrico and I exchanged worried looks. We had not known about this. “Also,” he continued, “as you probably know, there are rattlesnakes, coyotes, bobcats, and black bears. The bears won’t bother you much if you keep your food well covered. But the mountain lions . . .” Dave trailed off, as he looked at our young daughter. “If you suspect there are any about, better keep your little girl close by.”

I glanced at Francesca to see if she was listening. She was busy poking the dry dirt with a stick, her red corduroy cuffs turning brown with dust. I wasn’t sure I wanted her to hear all this. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear it. I imagined grabbing a stick of my own and drawing pictures in the worn shoulder of the last bit of paved road.

“The thing that would bother me more than anything though,” Dave continued, “are the kooks that come out here.” That was all he said on that subject, as if he expected us to know just what he was talking about. Then we noticed a large parking area at the side of the road for vehicles, and figured that must be where people parked who were going to walk in.

I hoped he was exaggerating. Kooks? Francesca continued to prod the ground, making scratching sounds that in my mind echoed off the hard landscape and the ranger’s words. Suddenly a sweep of fatigue from the packing, driving, and camping for many nights hit me. I was beyond tired.

“But,” Ranger Dave went on relentlessly, “the fires are the biggest threat. This is the most dangerous canyon in California, if not the whole country. It hasn’t burned in fifty years, and it’s real serious when it does.

There’s only one road kept open, to get in and out.” The ranger stopped.

My heart skipped a beat. He must deliver this information routinely, I thought. That was why he seemed unaware of how scary it sounded. Maybe the reason that no one else lived up here in the Los Padres National Forest is because of the danger. I didn’t know what to say. This was not how I’d imagined our arrival at our new home would be. Was I being irresponsible and risking the safety of my family? I felt numb. I wondered what my mother would think, though I knew she wouldn’t want to get involved. She couldn’t handle challenging situations.

A warm, peaceful breeze sighed through the chaparral, along with the high-pitched buzz of tiny flies that Dave kept sweeping away with his hand. Enrico was silent, typically slow to react. I suspended my negative thoughts. What could we do at this point anyway? “We’ll figure it out,” a voice in my head whispered. “It’s the cold season, and we won’t have to worry about rattlesnakes, bears, or fire for now.”

Francesca’s voice broke into my thoughts. “Mommy, let’s go,” she said, gently tugging on my hand. Her smile pushed my worries away.

I picked her up, gave her a fat smooch on the cheek, and brushed off her pants as best I could. Looking around at the dusty terrain, I had to laugh at my futile attempt to keep her tidy.

Dave handed Enrico the key. We said good-bye and closed the gate behind us. Enrico crept along in the jeep, his tires stirring up dust in the clear winter air. Francesca and I followed in the faded-blue Renault. Only one more mile to go.

Rugged mountains surrounded us, and then a graceful valley emerged before us. Its colors were muted, everything brown and dry. The chaparral and meadows were sunburned to a pale sage green. The tangled grasses were still yellow from the dry heat of summer and fall. The rainy season had barely started.

As I followed the jeep, I heard the ranger’s words in the noise of the tires on the dirt road repeating over and over, “Floods, fires, rattlesnakes, and bears, oh my!” And yet the pronouncement of these threats couldn’t diminish the beauty we saw on our first day.

Our vehicles splashed through the shallow water of the first creek crossing, bumped over stones, and labored up the steep bank on the other side. The dirt road was narrow and densely shaded by spindly red alders. Then the landscape abruptly opened and again revealed the mountains and a bright blue sky.

A quarter of a mile farther ahead we met the second creek crossing, a broad convergence of three streams. There was so little water flowing that winter day that I could not imagine it as a raw, roaring flood. The slow- moving water gently murmured around the rocks, serene and harmless. I recalled Phil Kern, who had sold us the land six months earlier, telling us that this was a special site of the native Chumash who had come to Ojai and into Matilija Canyon thousands of years ago. “A chief and his tribe used this area where three creeks meet—the Matilija, the North Fork, and the Murrieta— as the site for spiritual retreats and shamanic rituals,” he had said.

Once beyond the crossing, I told Francesca the little I could re- member learning about the Chumash. I could almost sense the imprint left in the canyon from when they lived there so many years ago. The earthy color of the chaparral with its sages and scrub oaks was a visual echo of the color of their skin and of the animals they used for clothing, while the wind rushing through the dry grasses could be their distant voices like a welcoming presence, leading us to our property. Something was definitely special about this place, something alive within the landscape. Francesca opened the window, and we excitedly inhaled the fragrance of a wilderness and life new to us.

I had made this rash move with no thought to its consequences. Six months earlier, without considering the details, I’d impulsively decided to buy the property. But I wanted to be in Ojai so badly that the decision felt like it had to be right. The risks I was taking in this drastic move were prefer- able to my previous life in a family with a history of deception and false promises of happiness.

I knew how well Enrico had handled rough living during the years when we lived at what had been his family’s cabin at Sackets Harbor, New York. How he thawed out our hand pump every cold day to get water, how he blasted out a well, cut firewood, tobogganed in the snow to and from our car, and repaired the rustic cabin to make it livable. Amazingly, he did it all with little prior experience, having only watched his father make do and create from very little. But he had the gift of confidence. He had a conviction that he could do just about anything. It was Enrico’s self-assurance and my belief in his abilities that allowed me to move to this wild land.

Bumping along the dirt road to our new home site, I felt the conditioning of my privileged past dispersing with the plume of dust kicked up behind us. Watching Enrico’s jeep lumbering ahead with our foldout trailer bobbing and bouncing behind him, I felt like a kid on a new adventure.

That trailer was to be our dwelling while we built a house. I knew I could handle a simple life because I had become expert at making a home in temporary primitive campsites. But it could be a year before we had a real house. Could I last that long? One thing I did know: this was going to be a life very different from my childhood.

Enrico parked the jeep in a small clearing on the edge of our forty acres, the national forest surrounding it on all four sides. I jumped out of the Renault and tried to find a larger clearing, but the dense chaparral blocked my way. I knelt down to peek through the undergrowth, its strong, tangy scent unfamiliar. The undergrowth was so thick that it kept the sun from reaching the ground. There was no chance of getting farther onto our property until we cleared a long wide path. Perhaps a week, I thought.

About the Author

Nadia Natali, author of the memoir, Stairway to Paradise: Growing Up Gershwin, published by Rare Bird, Los Angeles, 2015, and The Blue Heron Ranch Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from a Zen Retreat Center published by North Atlantic Books, Berkeley CA, 2008, is currently working on a second cookbook titled Zafu Kitchen Cookbook.  

Natali, a clinical psychotherapist and dance therapist, specializes in trauma release through somatic work. She earned a master’s degree from Hunter College in New York City in Dance/Movement Therapy and completed another masters degree in clinical psychology with an emphasis in somatic psychology at the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute. Nadia is a registered practitioner of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (RCST) and is also a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) who trained with Peter Levine.

DanceMedicine Workshops is Natali’s creation where participants move through their trauma with dialogue and dance. She also offers the Ojai community, DanceMedicine Journeys. In addition to her private practice, Nadia and her husband offer Zen Retreats at their center.

Born into a famous family that was riddled with dysfunction, Nadia Natali made the choice to turn her life inside out and step away from fame and fortune. Against her parents’ consent she married an artist and moved to the remote wilderness in California. It was there that she found grounding as she and her husband raised and homeschooled their three children and opened a retreat center. As she gathered her own momentum, she enrolled in a doctorate program finally becoming a clinical psychotherapist specializing in psychosomatic work. She and her husband live in Ojai California.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

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First Chapter Reveal & Giveaway: Monsterland by Michael Okon

Title: MONSTERLAND
Author: Michael Okon
Publisher: Wordfire Press
Pages: 232
Genre: Monsters

BOOK BLURB:

Welcome to Monsterland—the scariest place on Earth.

The last couple years of high school have not been fun for Wyatt Baldwin. His parents divorce, then his dad mysteriously dies. He’s not exactly comfortable with his new stepfather, Carter White, either. An on-going debate with his best friends Howard Drucker and Melvin over which monster is superior has gotten stale. He’d much rather spend his days with beautiful and popular Jade. However, she’s dating the brash high-school quarterback Nolan, and Wyatt thinks he doesn’t stand a chance.

But everything changes when Wyatt and his friends are invited to attend the grand opening of Monsterland, a groundbreaking theme park where guests can rock out with vampires at Vampire Village, be chased by actual werewolves on the Werewolf River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville.

With real werewolves, vampires and zombies as the main attractions, what could possibly go wrong?

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

Chapter One

The fire Billy created burned bright, rabbits roasted on a spit made from hickory, the juices dripping to hiss in the flames. Seven of his hairy friends lay in scattered repose, enjoying the late afternoon lull—two napped, the others tossed a stuffed fur in the form of a ball around the clearing, hooting with amusement when it rolled into the brush. They traveled in a pack, his group, his makeshift family, foraging together, hiding in plain sight. It had been that way for generations. But the glades were getting smaller, the humans invasive.

Mosquitoes droned lazily over the still water; frogs croaked while they sunbathed on waxy lily pads. The sun started its slow descent to the horizon, hot pink and lilac clouds rippling against the empty canvas of the sky. Here and there, fireflies lit the gloom, doing a placid ballet in the humid air.

Unseen, the men moved closer to the campfire as the sun sank into the western treetops.

A lone hawk cried out a warning, disturbing the peace of the glade. Huge birds answered, flapping their wings, creating a cacophony of swamp sounds. The area became a concerto of animals responding to the disruption of their home—wild screams, squeaks, and complaints of the invasion of their territory.

Billy stood, his head tilted as he listened intently. He heard a melody, that strange organization of sounds, predictable as well as dangerous. It had been years since he’d heard music. His stomach clenched with uneasiness. Where those rhythms originated meant only one thing—they were not alone in the swamp.

His pack rose, tense and alert, their eyes watching the waterway. Billy silently parted the thick leaves to expose a flat-bottom boat with dangerous strangers floating slowly toward them.

The boat was filled with people, excitedly searching the banks of the swamp, their expensive khaki bush clothes ringed with sweat.

Little John, Billy’s best friend, leaned closer and whis-pered, “Tourists?”

Billy noticed the rifles before the rest of the group. He held up his hand signaling for silence. “Not tourists. Enemies,” he replied.

Men’s voices drifted on the turgid air.

This was no good, Billy thought furiously. He was gauging the time, his eyes opening wide. It was late. They had to get out of there. It’s going to happen, and those people were going to see it.

The bald top of the moon peeked over the line of trees in the south, the sky graying to twilight with each passing second. Night came fast in the swamp, dropping a curtain of darkness, extinguishing all light except for the beacon of the full moon. The moon floated upward, indifferent to the consequences of its innocent victims.

A halo of lighter blue surrounded the globe, limning the trees silver, the cobwebs in the trees becoming chains of dripping diamonds in the coming night.

What did these strangers want? Billy fought the urge to scream.

This is our home. Humans don’t belong in the swamp.

The moon continued to rise, the familiar agony beginning in his chest. A full moon, a dangerous moon, Billy fought the demons churning within his body, feeling the pain of metamorphosis.

He curled inward, hunching his shoulders, the curse of his nature making his spine pull until his tendons and muscles tore from their human positions to transform into something wicked.

A howl erupted from his throat, followed by another, and then another. Grabbing handfuls of dirt, he tried to fight the awful change, but, as the sun set, the moon took control of his life, and the unnatural force tore through his unwilling body.

Reason fled; his heart raced. Falling on his hands and knees, Billy let loose a keening cry as his face elongated, his body changing into a canine, fangs filling his mouth. He raced in a circle in a demented dance, knowing his fellow pack members did the same thing.

Slowing, he regulated his labored breathing, forcing the icy calmness he needed to keep some semblance of reason. He peered through the dense brush. Lights from the search party bobbed in the distance. The odor, the stench of humanity, filled the clearing. The enemy had arrived.

He turned, digging furiously on the ground, throwing dirt on the campfire flames, hiding their existence. Discovery would ruin everything. No one could live with their kind.

Humans brought disease; humans brought anger; humans brought hatred. They were there; he could smell them, see their clumsy bodies splashing through the swamp.

“They’ve found us,” he growled in the unique language they used after transformation.

“Run!” he barked as he turned to his pack, watching his friends’ naked skin transform until it was covered with the same silvered fur.

They cried out in unison at the pain, howling with the injustice, and then ran in fear from the interlopers threatening their habitat.

They separated into two groups and took off in different directions to confuse the strangers.

Billy tore through the brush, thorns ripping his fur and in his adrenaline rush, he didn’t feel anything. He glanced back-ward; the humans were chasing them, one running with a huge camera, nine others, the long barrels of their rifles bearing down on them.

In the distance, he heard multiple shots and triumphant shouts, knowing that his friends were succumbing one by one.

With a frantic growl, he urged Little John, Petey and Todd to run faster.

Little John’s massive body was blocking him. Billy bayed at him to keep his head closer to the ground. He worried about Little John knowing that his big frame might as well have had a target painted on his back.

“Stay close together,” he urged. His heart sank when he heard Todd yelp loudly. The shot hit his friend from behind sending him careening into a trench. Billy wanted to stop but knew he couldn’t help Todd. The humans were on his friend’s fallen body seconds later. He had to find Petey and Little John a place to hide.

There was a loud scream as one of their pursuers stum-bled on a root to their left. Billy paused panting wildly to get his bearings next to the broad trunk of a cypress tree.

“Which way?” Petey asked.

Billy’s eyes searched the tangle of the mangroves for an opening.

A shot rang out, splintering a tree, sending shards of bark around them. Billy reared in surprised shock. It wasn’t a bullet. A red feathered dart was vibrating next to him sticking out of the wood.

“What is that?” Petey whimpered.

“It’s a dart,” Billy said. “They’re trying to capture us. This way!”

He and his pack mates took off disappearing into the twisted vines.

They clawed through the swamp, hiding behind clusters of Spanish moss, dipping under the water when the hunters approached.

One man in the group stood taller and leaner than the rest. His dark wolfish eyes scanning the dense undergrowth looking for them. The man paused, training his gun in Billy’s direction as if he could see straight through the foliage.

Billy held his breath, terrified of discovery, but the harried sounds of a chase in the distance distracted the leader of this group.

Billy and his pack skirted solid ground, their bodies quiver-ing. He glanced at the sky wishing for the sun to rise and he would transform back to being human.

The splashes of their pursuers seemed to recede. The pack waited in claustrophobic silence for the time to pass.

Billy spied a dinghy heading towards the flat-bottom boat as dawn approached. They heard the sputter of an engine being turned over.

“They’re leaving,” Little John said hopefully.

The rays of the sun lit the eastern sky. It was quiet once more. They padded softly toward the shore. Coming out of the water, they shook themselves of the muck. Early morning bird calls broke out in the thick stillness.

He barked a cry of dismay as shots rang out. Little John went down in a tumble of leaves and mud, a dart silencing him.

Billy veered right, squirming under a broken log, Petey barreling over it. The report of another shot and a loud thump told him that he had lost Petey too.

What do they want from us?

Billy dug his paws into the marshy land, his heart pumping like a piston. He leaped high over a somnolent alligator, a sharp pain ripping into his flank.

His eyes dimmed as he tumbled headlong into the boggy ground. He rolled over and over, coming to rest on a bed of rotting leaves. He couldn’t move, his limbs were leaden. His ears registered the sound of running feet.

Billy looked up into the triumphant black eyes of the man who led the attack. The hunter placed his boot on his neck holding him down.

“Got ya,” he heard the man say with a thick accent before everything went dark.

About the Author

Michael Okon is an award-winning and best-selling author of multiple genres including paranormal, thriller, horror, action/adventure and self-help. He graduated from Long Island University with a degree in English, and then later received his MBA in business and finance. Coming from a family of writers, he has storytelling is his DNA. Michael has been writing from as far back as he can remember, his inspiration being his love for films and their impact on his life. From the time he saw The Goonies, he was hooked on the idea of entertaining people through unforgettable characters.

Michael is a lifelong movie buff, a music playlist aficionado, and a sucker for self-help books. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and children.

His latest book is Monsterland.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

Michael Okon is giving away 2 autographed copies of MONSTERLAND!

Terms & Conditions:

  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • Two winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive a copy.
  • This giveaway ends midnight December 29.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on December 30.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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