Love Lock: Creating Lasting Connections With the One You Love by Rich Rollins and Marty Trammell is a new Christian / Marriage & Relationships book. It was released in June 2019, published by Crosslink Publishing.
In our socially networked but disconnected age, we find ourselves longing for deeper, more intimate connection.
Love Lock, Creating Lasting Connections with the One You Love is the perfect read for couples who want to have the closeness back.
We were created for connection, yet many marriages are coming apart as couples “unfriend” each other long before the feelings fade.
Love Lock couples are looking for ways to connect beyond what they allow people to see on social media. They care about friendship over filters, love over “likes.”
With Love Lock, reading the relatable stories and using the easy and engaging exercises, couples can discover or rediscover the intimate connection God intended.
“Rich Rollins and Marty Trammell have done it again! Writing in the same practical and thoroughly biblical style of Redeeming Relationships, they offer a roadmap for young couples just falling in love, hope for couples experiencing fractured relationships, and confidence for couples like Debbie and me (coming up on our 44th anniversary) who are in the latter portion of their married life. Couples who answer the questions together and engage in the activities at the end of each chapter are sure to find immediate benefits.” —William J. Katip, Ph.D. President Grace College and Seminary
“. . . . among other things, Drs. Rich Rollins and Marty Trammell have managed to tackle the often terminal role that personal expectations play regarding spousal and marital ideals. And by reminding us to neither “major on the minors,” nor “minor on the majors,” they have encouraged that sacrifice in a Christ-centered marriage is never out of fashion. Finally, the Love Lock exercises at each chapter’s conclusion provide practical opportunities to reinforce learning in promoting weight-bearing tracks to run on. This is definitely a worthwhile resource!” —Keith M. Douds, Psy.D. Licensed Psychologist Clinic Director
Excerpt from Love Lock:
Listening Your Way to Love
Research has shown that 90 percent of our struggles in marriage would be resolved if we did nothing more than see that problem from our partner’s perspective.—Les and Leslie Parrot
Ask any group of people—friends, coworkers—“When do you feel loved?” and the answer will likely include something about listening. When people listen, we feel worthwhile—we feel valued. Listening is hard when trying to start a love relationship, because we’d rather try to impress. Yet listening is one of the strongest ways to say, “I love you.”
Jesus’s example in this startles us. Why the God-man with all the answers would wait to hear our questions is provocative. But that’s just what Jesus did with the woman at the well. Though He knows immediately the answer to her need, He asks a question, listens, and waits for her response (see John 4). Why? Perhaps it is because, in knowing all things, He understands that His listening heart will be partly responsible for her healing.
A popular story tells of a little girl and a single mom who enter a toy store to buy a doll. As the little girl moves down the aisle, she asks her mother what each of the dolls can do. Some of the more expensive dolls walk, others talk, some sing or eat.
Finally, the little girl picks up a doll the young mother can afford. But, when the little girl asks what the doll can do, the mother notices there is no description on the box. Then an idea comes to her. She whispers to her daughter, “Honey, this doll listens.”
Although the little girl knew nothing about the costs of the other dolls, she chose the one that listened. This quaint story speaks to the child who lives in each of us. Why? Because, when we can, we still choose people who listen.
An E.A.R. for Marriage
In the middle of every loving heart is a listening E.A.R.
Most of us have seen “lonely people” on talk shows, in the malls, and in the cubicles where we work. Out of sight and out of touch, these individuals long for someone who can hear their hearts. Like the girl in the doll aisle, they are waiting for a box that reads, “This one listens.” They want a marriage partner who is, to borrow the common expression, “all ears.” Every marriage can benefit from improved listening skills. The following acrostic can help us remember that in the middle of every loving heart is a listening ear.
E—Enter their worlds
In his book Caring Enough to Hear and Be Heard, David Augsburger explains that, for effective listening to take place, we need to learn how to enter another person’s world. Entering our partner’s world will remove some of the communication barriers and help create an atmosphere where love can breathe. Sometimes entering our spouse’s world means building bridges by attending an event with them, reading a book together, or asking open-ended questions. When our spouse knows that her world is becoming more important to us, she feels our love more deeply. When we work through conflict this is especially important. Understanding our partner’s perspective can make it easier to find bridges we can cross together on the journey toward reconciliation.
A—Attend to the meaning behind their words
“You didn’t listen to a thing I said!”
How many times do words like these crush a conversation? It’s like we’re giving an important recital of our thoughts and no one is in attendance. It’s important to attend our partner’s conversations. It’s important to be there. When we aren’t attending to the meaning behind our spouse’s words, the conversation can seem like a kind of verbal air hockey—our words fly back and forth but seldom touch even the surface of our thoughts and feelings.
Solomon demonstrates this wisdom when he attends to the meaning behind his young bride’s words: “Tell me, you whom I love, where you graze your flock and where you rest your sheep at midday. Why should I be like a veiled woman beside the flocks of your friends?” (Song of Songs 1:7). She seems to reprimand Solomon for making her chase after him like an im- moral (“veiled”) woman, because he failed to let her know where he was at “midday.” The chorus, the “friends,” answer her ques- tion “where?” by providing directions—“by the tents of the shep- herds.” Their response might represent the typical husband who responds to words instead of meanings. Earlier, she advises, “Do not stare at me because I am dark, because I am darkened by the sun . . . my own vineyard [her body] I have neglected” (Song of Songs 1:6). Solomon remembers her words. His wisdom recog- nizes that a woman’s feelings about herself sometimes fashion her sentences. To love her, he compliments her beauty (v. 9) and makes a commitment to take time out of his schedule to make her “earrings of gold, studded with silver” (v. 11). He responds to her reprimand, not by defending himself or simply answering her question, but by attending to the meaning behind her words.
My wife, Linda, and I (Marty) have learned that our meanings are different. When I say, “I’m okay,” I mean it’s a good day. When she says, “I’m okay,” it means she wants to talk about something that’s troubling her. “Okay” can mean different things. It’s important to discover the meanings behind our spouse’s words.
R—Respond according to their needs
A youth director once told his youth group about the first time he kissed his fiancée. They were sitting beside a quiet stream when he asked, “Honey, can I kiss you?” She was silent. Although he considered the possibility that she didn’t want to be kissed, he chose to believe she didn’t hear him and asked again, “Can I kiss you?” She didn’t respond. Frustrated and wondering if he had already ruined his opportunity, he persisted, increasing his volume, “Honey, can I kiss you?”
She was silent.
“Are you deaf?” he pleaded.
“Are you paralyzed?” she laughed.
The point is she wanted him to respond, appropriately, to the situation.
After we’ve entered our spouse’s world and paid attention to the meaning behind his or her words, we can respond in a way that communicates, “I love you.”
To encourage healthy conversation in the church, Paul wrote that we should build others up “according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29). Entering each other’s worlds helps us discover the other’s “needs.” Although Paul is specifically focusing on relationships within the body of Christ, his principle is especially relevant to marriage. In a romantic sense, when we fail to travel beyond our own worlds, we fail to understand and meet our spouse’s needs, and we trade away the stars.
This is the model Jesus used when he entered our world, attended to the meaning behind our words, and responded in a breathtaking way to our needs. When we become all EARs, we can effectively love in a way our partner can hear. Every marriage can become more meaningful when we learn to listen our way to love.
About the Authors:
Rich Rollins, D.Min.
Co-author of Redeeming Relationships and Spiritual Fitness, served as Executive Pastor at Valley Bible Church for over two decades, has appeared on Family Life Today with Dennis Rainey and served as a healthcare professional, college Vice-President and church consultant. For more than forty years, Rich’s work on relational conflict and spiritual growth has made him a sought-after counselor and conference speaker. Rich has also served as director and announcer for Truth for Today, a radio program featuring Valley Bible Church. He has written articles for Focus on the Family’s online magazine. Dr. Rollins has also been the key note speaker at over twenty Family and Marriage conferences.
Rich and his wife, LouAnna, live in Southern California. They have been married for over fifty-four years. They have two daughters and sons-in-law, three grand-children, and two foster daughters.
Marty Trammell, Ph.D.
Marty Trammell, Ph.D., is the author of Communication Matters and co-author of Redeeming Relationships and Spiritual Fitness. He serves as Worship and Family Pastor at Valley Baptist and as a professor of Communication at Corban University where students call him “Dr. Love.” With his wife and best friend, Linda, Marty has ministered for over 30 years to hundreds of couples in conferences, retreats and pre-marital counseling sessions. He has written for Zondervan, Tyndale, Moody and others and writes regularly for redeemingrelationships.com and startmarriageright.com. Marty and Linda have three sons and two daughters-in-law who encourage their pursuit of the Father and help them enjoy sports, camping and family road trips.
Where Cowboys meet Dystopian. A Suspenseful Romance and a Twist!
Jake’s Redemption is the first book in the Angel Eyes cowboy dystopian romance series. If you like scorching-hot chemistry, clever post-apocalyptic worlds, and star-crossed love stories, then you’ll adore Jamie Schulz’s captivating tale. Genre: Romance, Cowboy/Western, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic/Sci-fi, Suspense
An imprisoned cowboy. An empowered woman. When true love is forbidden, opening their hearts could destroy them both…
Chained and enslaved, Jake Nichols is convinced he’ll die alone. In this new order where men are stripped of all power, he endures brutal torture at the hands of his female captor. But when he’s hired out to build a ranch home for an outspoken beauty, his dreams of escape transform into visions of passion.
Monica Avery struggles to fill her heart in a loveless society. With marriage outlawed and romantic partners reduced to pawns, she’s given up hope of finding her soul mate. But watching the rugged rancher hard at work on her shelter awakens her deeply buried desires.
As the project comes together, Monica discovers a kindred spirit in the tenderhearted Jake. But despite their growing attraction, he still belongs to a cruel woman who’d rather see him dead than free.
Can Monica save Jake, or will their love lead to a tragic tomorrow?
Excerpt from Chapter 1:
JAKE NICHOLS knelt in defeat on the cold ground of the mountain meadow, directly beside his best friend, Bret Masters. Defenseless, with their fingers laced together behind their heads, their eyes scanned the surroundings for any escape from the Raiders who had attacked their camp in the early morning hours.
Both men scowled up at their captor, a woman Bret had foolishly—and against Jake’s repeated warnings—loved to distraction. Jake risked a quick glance at his friend, knowing the pain Bret must be suffering in the wake of her betrayal. He felt the bite of it too, only for a different reason. Bret was family, and what hurt him, hurt Jake. His protective nature made him long to shield Bret from the misery this woman inflicted.
“I don’t care for you,” Amy had said only moments ago, indifferent to the devastation Jake saw in every line of Bret’s granite-hard face. What made her confession even worse was the bit she added about only wanting to use his body.
“You do have such a pretty face, but no brains in your head,” she went on, and then laughed at Bret’s seething look. His expression made Jake ache for his friend, and he silently hoped she had nothing more to torment him with. But Amy wasn’t done with Bret yet.
“How could you think any self-respecting woman would want you for anything more than your gorgeous face and hard body?” she asked, not waiting for a reply. “A decent woman would never accept you as an equal. Any woman who would is worse than the slave you will shortly become.”
A deep growl rumbled up from Bret’s chest, and to Jake’s surprise, Bret lunged to his feet and attacked her. Seeing an opportunity, Jake and all the other prisoners immediately joined him in a last, desperate attempt to gain their freedom. Their female adversaries, however, had a new genetic advantage. It may have taken a few seconds for the hysterical-strength to kick in, but once it did, the fight, strength-wise, was no longer in the men’s favor.
The skirmish didn’t last long, but in a brief moment before it ended, Jake turned to see Amy about to drive a long-bladed knife into his best friend’s back. Jake didn’t think, he moved, tackling Amy as her weapon plunged downward from its high arch. Amy tried to wiggle away from him, but he held on, desperate to keep her from harming Bret.
“Run!” He heard Bret’s frantic shout. “Run!” The sound of pounding feet and continued battle assaulted Jake’s ears. He tried to roll away from Amy, but now she held on to him. On his hands and knees, he jerked his arm to shake her loose and follow his friend into the forest, but she wouldn’t let go.
Pain bloomed sharp and bright in his ribs as a booted foot slammed into him—once, twice—and he fell. The boot kept coming. He curled up, protecting his vulnerable areas, but his assailant still landed several blows to his head and back.
“Enough!” Amy’s voice rang out, and the assault ended. Jake spit blood from his mouth and struggled to catch his breath. The dizziness in his head and the stabbing ache in his side told him getting to his feet might be harder than it was a few minutes ago.
Definitely broke a rib or two, he thought, tonguing his split lip and rapidly cataloging the pain in the rest of his body.
“How many do we still have?” Amy shouted to someone nearby.
“Ten got away,” a woman said. “With this one,” Jake assumed she was pointing at him, “we still have twenty-seven men, along with some traitorous women and children too.”
“Is there a tall man, black hair, green eyes, very good-looking, among those we recaptured?” Amy asked, describing Bret to a tee.
“That sappy, pretty-boy son of a bitch,” Amy swore, undoubtedly meaning Bret. “I should’ve known he’d try something like that.” She cursed again.
“You know their hiding places now,” the other woman said. “We’ll catch them and their friends too.”
Jake and Bret had come across Amy by accident—or so they had thought at the time—almost seven months before as they traveled the mountains, hunting for food. She’d been hungry and in need of aid. Unsurprisingly, she took an immediate interest in Bret. Although he had a mistrusting nature, she spared little time wrapping his love-starved heart around her finger. Jake had never liked her and the two friends argued about her more than once, but despite his misgivings about Amy, Jake refused to alienate his boyhood friend. Yet as a result of her relationship with Bret, she now knew the location of most of their woodland hiding places.
“That’s true,” Amy replied to the other woman’s comment. She tapped her chin with her index finger as if considering, and then she glanced down at Jake.
He had lain very still during their interaction, hoping against hope they might forget about him.
No such luck.
“And you,” she said coming toward him. “You—”
He didn’t give her a chance to finish; he had a fairly good idea of what came next. Instead, he ignored his dizziness and the pain in his chest as he surged to his feet, pushed her aside, and ran for the trees. He’d made it six feet when he heard a crack behind him. Then something hard and thin snapped around his neck and yanked him backward. He saw stars as his head and back slammed to the ground, sending a new wave of misery through his abused body. He groaned, trying to place what just happened, and then Amy was leaning over him.
She jammed her knee into his chest, and pain shot through his damaged ribs. He lifted his arms to shove her away, but the leathery rope wrapped around his neck yanked at him again, choking off his air. Desperate, needing to get her off him, needing to breathe, he tugged at the cord strangling him. His eyes widened as Amy grabbed him by the hair and tilted his head back to expose his throat. He reached for her again, but the minute the edge of her knife grazed his flesh, his arms collapsed to the ground and he froze.
The binding around his neck loosened and fell away as Amy glared into his face. Blessed air came freely, but the simple act of breathing caused his ribs to twinge more.
With the suffocating rope gone, his hands automatically lifted off the ground to defend himself. Amy’s knife cut a tiny fraction deeper. Blood tickled his neck as the warm liquid trickled over his cool skin, and he froze once more, afraid to even breathe.
“Uh-uh,” Amy warned as she increased the pressure slightly, widening the gash a bit more and digging the point of her blade into his Adam’s apple.
His mouth went dry. Is she going to slit my throat?
“Looks like Bret didn’t value your friendship as much as you thought, huh, Jake?” Amy said with a nasty smile, her dark brown eyes glittering down at him. Jake cringed inwardly. He knew that wasn’t the case. In the chaos, Bret probably hadn’t even realized Jake had been captured, and wouldn’t until he failed to show at their rendezvous point. But her implication twisted at his guts nonetheless.
A second woman stepped up behind Amy, coiling the long black length of a bullwhip in her hand.
So, that’s what was strangling me…I should’ve known.
“You fucked up my plans, Jake, just as much as your damned friend,” Amy hissed at him when he didn’t respond to her earlier comment. “If it weren’t for you, he’d be mine and you’d both make me rich. Now, I have to settle for you and those other losers we caught today.”
“What’re—you going—to do with me?” He stifled a groan for his halting speech and glared daggers at the woman hovering over him.
“Oh, I think you know what we do with captured men,” Amy chuckled. She tilted her head, and a strand of her amber-blonde hair fell into her face as her eyes raked over him.
“You know, Jake,” she said reflectively, “you’re a good-looking guy. If Bret hadn’t been around, you would’ve been my target. It’s only next to a man like him that you’d seem second best. But then, you were always suspicious of me, weren’t you? Maybe once you’ve been trained, I’ll pay you another visit.”
He clamped his jaws tight and didn’t respond, but his mind was in overdrive. He wanted to fight, but moving meant death. He didn’t want to know what it was like to bleed to death from a severed artery. Instead, he scowled all the more. If he wanted to live, it was all he could do.
The woman beside Amy crouched down, but he couldn’t see what she was doing. The next thing he knew, he jumped as a needle jammed into his hip and something injected into his body.
Ah, shit… He knew what that was; he’d heard dozens of stories about it but luckily had never had to deal with the drug, until now.
It started working almost instantaneously, driving up his anxiety level, making him shake and cringe. A few seconds passed, while Amy’s gaze bore into his, and the effect of the chemical doubled.
Oh, God, this is worse than I thought it would be. He had never felt so weak and vulnerable in his life.
“Now,” Amy said as she removed the blade from his throat and stood. She tucked the knife in her boot and then plopped her rear down on his chest, knowing he would be too terrified, thanks to the drug, to do anything to save himself. “What shall I do with you?” She ran a finger down the side of his face.
He flinched away.
You could let me go, he thought and tried to force out the sarcastic remark, but the substance surging through him wouldn’t allow it.
“I think you deserve a particularly horrible punishment for always interfering in my plans with Bret,” she said, answering her own question while tapping his bearded chin with one finger. The slight contact amped up his anxiety, and he shivered. “He may have listened to you complain about me, but he loved me.” Her derisive tone told him what she thought about that. “He would’ve never turned me out the way you kept telling him to do. And now, you’ve ruined my chance to have him how I always wanted him: in chains. So, how shall I make you pay for all of it?”
Jake’s body shook with fear, both real and chemically induced. Amy was far more lethal than he had once thought.
“I know just the place you should go,” she continued with a bright smile, as if she’d come up with a brilliant idea. “I have an acquaintance near here, a woman who’s exceptionally adept at training men to be perfect little slaves. I’ll bet she’d jump at the chance to make you a willing breeder. You’ll make her a lot of money. Once she pays me a high price for you that is.”
“P-Please…” Jake pleaded involuntarily, the drug wreaking havoc with his willpower. No matter how much he wanted to resist begging, he couldn’t stop now that he had started. “P-Please…” he muttered again, his voice shaking while fighting the drug—and losing. “Let me go…”
“Darla’s going to tear you to pieces, Jake,” she told him, her sinister smile sending waves of dread prickling up and down his spine. “A little bit at a time, she’ll peel away your pride—”
About the Author:
Jamie Schulz lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, her husband, and their fur babies. Writing has always been a big a part of her life.
Cowboys, ice cream, and reading almost any kind of romance are among her (not so) secret loves. To her, every one of her stories, no matter how dark, must have a happy ending, and she strives to make them impossible to put down until you get there.
She balances her free time between reading her favorite romance authors—in genres ranging from erotica and dark romance to sweet historicals and contemporary romance—and spending time with her family.
Her debut novel, Jake’s Redemption, was released in February 2019 and is available for sale on Amazon.
Readers can connect with Jamie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. To learn more, go to http://www.jamieschulzauthor.com/
Solving Cadence Moore is a suspenseful hometown Mystery / Crime Thriller novel by Gregory Sterner.
“A deftly crafted and compelling read from cover to cover … an extraordinary and unfailingly engaging read by a novelist with a genuine flair for narrative driven fiction and one that is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.” –Midwest Book Review
How much will one man risk to solve the unsolvable?
Ten years ago, famous young singer Cadence Moore disappeared without a trace on a remote highway in western Pennsylvania. To this day her fate remains unknown. Was she kidnapped or murdered? Or did she simply run away in search of a new life, leaving behind the abuse and heartbreak that haunted her?
Charlie Marx, host of the popular conspiracy radio show “Underground Broadcast,” is obsessed with Cadence. Desperate to find her after deceiving his boss to save his job, he launches an investigation of his own, digging deep into the missing woman’s past and uncovering her darkest secrets. Working feverishly for weeks, he claims to have solved the mystery and promises to reveal Cadence’s fate at the end of a groundbreaking podcast series and live radio special.
But is it all a lie? As years of twisted details slowly unravel, Charlie races to solve the biggest mystery of the decade. If he succeeds, it will mean closure for Cadence. If he fails, his entire world will come crashing down live on air—and the truth may be lost forever.
Excerpt from Solving Cadence Moore:
Chapter 1 – The Pitch
Charlie Marx sat with his arms crossed, refusing to visually sell his reaction to the sales pitch he was getting. As a successful conspiracy radio show host, Charlie had learned to trust nothing but consider everything, qualities which had made him very effective throughout his career.
His boss (as well as his mentor and friend), Tyler Reubens, had been in the public radio game for fifteen years, becoming a national celebrity by hosting a hugely successful syndicated show covering everything from intimate personal stories to murder mysteries called United Way of Life. Tyler, while still sitting at the helm of United Way of Life, was also now a big player at the executive level as a senior producer for WHHW (his home station) and programming liaison to UPR (the public radio juggernaut of which WHHW was an affiliate).
Tyler’s superiors were looking for on-demand content for various multimedia outlets (a trend the entire entertainment world had already been moving strongly toward for five years and public radio had been one of the first to plant a flag in podcast land, but had never had a smash hit). Tyler was reaching out to the one person who in his mind had the one show he was almost positive would connect with a large audience for the podcast mini-series UPR was prepared to push to the moon (or so went Tyler’s initial sales pitch).
The one man with the one show also happened to be a personal protégé of Tyler Reubens himself, Charlie Marx. Charlie was a former college DJ and conspiracy newsletter writer. Tyler had plucked him from obscurity and offered him an assistant producer job for United Way of Life, simply because he liked his work and was impressed by the buzz Charlie had managed to drum up for his conspiracy rag. Charlie produced a few conspiracy oriented segments for United Way of Life during anniversary years of the Kennedy Assassination and the Apollo Moon Landing. These segments had garnered such positive reviews that Tyler lobbied for Marx to be granted his own time slot on WHHW with a conspiracy-themed show called Underground Broadcast. Underground Broadcast eventually became one of the most popular programs on WHHW and had been considered at least on two occasions for national syndication over UPR stations, although that had never actually come to fruition.
All of that had taken place three years before and now Tyler wanted Charlie to captain a new vessel, one which would sail into the on-demand islands and, if all went as planned, land Tyler a fat new contract when his re-up period went into effect a few months later.
Tyler knew Charlie wouldn’t argue with him or refuse the offer. But at the same time, he’d been around a long time and he knew how to get what he wanted. You could force a man to walk the plank at the point of a sword or you could gently take his hand and lead him there. You could train a soldier to take orders or you could gain his respect and have him willing to die for you on the battlefield out of loyalty alone. Tyler knew good sales pitches needed emotional buy in. He had to sell the concept, sell the logic of the concept, and sell the benefit of the concept.
Tyler was very good at this approach and he knew Charlie was stone facing him across the desk, trying not to show any cards at all. Tyler liked that. He’d trained this man well. But just because he taught Charlie everything Charlie knew, that didn’t mean he’d taught him everything Tyler Reubens knew.
Tyler looked straight ahead and leaned forward, his smile never wavering. He said, “Charlie, this is an opportunity. Now before you say anything else, rest assured… I read your email. I understand you think this case is a bottomless pit. But listen buddy, your credibility and your show’s credibility is not at risk here. It’s all in how we play it. I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you my friend and the story is what it’s all about. If the story is there, the ending is inconsequential… if not completely, then at least secondary to the journey. Even if this thing is the ultimate cold case… even if we’re barking up a dying tree, if we carve out the right story we will succeed. We will accomplish what I’ve promised my bosses we can accomplish.
“I stuck my neck way out for you guys. For me too… I’m not trying to bullshit you. But I did that because I believe in you and I think your show is going to be the one that breaks through. They could have had Artie Rothstein do a podcast, they could have had Barry Shearing do a podcast, hell… half of the national guys already have podcasts, but this isn’t just a podcast Charlie… it’s a series and it’s a live radio special to conclude it. UPR’s never done anything like this before.
“The big bosses aren’t sold on it either, you can bet your last long dollar on that one. I’ve had to tread very lightly every time I’ve pushed an angle on it. At this point, every UPR show which also airs as a podcast has been barely a mild success as far as downloads go. The bigwigs have no reason to think a special is going to be any different. But these guys are fossils Marx. They haven’t seen the trend that’s been creeping up on their asses for half a decade now. But I see it. I know you see it, too. You’ve been water coolering the podcast angle for at least a year… I hear everything my friend.”
Charlie continued to sit with a stoic expression on his face, nodding every few moments and sitting slightly forward to express that he was paying attention. But he did not facially sell a single word of this. Not yet. He loved the idea, he loved the potential, but he hated the case. He’d personally been obsessed with Cadence Moore for years but he didn’t think there was anything he could do with it that hadn’t already been done and he feared this program would be a disaster and a letdown if they went in the Cadence direction.
Tyler kept rolling, “So, of course you know the reason none of them have been runaway hits as podcasts is because ninety percent of the fucking audience listens on the radio. Listeners are creatures of habit, we all know that. They might tune into a podcast here and there if they’re at the gym or they miss a week but usually when they discover something on the radio, they’re likely to keep listening on the radio. But if we sell it as something new… something different… c’mon Charles, you see where I’m going here.
“And besides all that, the reason I know you and your show are the way to go with this thing is because Rothstein and Shearing… just to name two, their formats won’t work to generate a mass audience of new listeners… I’m confident about that. Shearing’s a commentator… a satirist. Rothstein’s a writer, a sketch guy… a brilliant one sure, I mean they’re both great at what they do, but their shows don’t lend themselves to breaking new ground.
“In your case, I’m confident that your format is exactly what the doctor ordered for this particular story, and I also truly believe people will like the idea of a local radio guy, someone who’s not a national name, breaking into the mainstream with a special about an unsolved case which just recently became hot news again. I’m not talking out my ass here pal, I have good instincts and I know there is a right and wrong way to do this thing. The big bosses aren’t sold, but I guarantee you, once I’m through with them, I can get spots, I can get the air time… we will push this to the moon!”
Tyler noticed the very subtle grin that had permeated Charlie’s face. Charlie hadn’t intended it to be visible but his facial muscles betrayed him. Tyler drove in a little harder, “I’m not fucking around here man, I believe in it! And… I appreciate you guys, I really do Charlie. You’ve brought a damn big audience to WHHW. You guys aren’t a huge deal yet but you’re a big deal. I think this is exactly what is needed to make you bigger… to make you national names. If this works out the way I envision it working out, it could make your career and hammer out a giant hit for us.
“The Cadence case is truly one of the classics… never been solved! It’s a favorite of yours, that’s no secret… and I agree with almost everything I’ve ever heard you say about it. This is one of those deals where once you get into it, you can’t get out. How many of these things, these legendary cases, are actually still floating around without a conclusion?
“Cadence Moore has hooked people from the start and she will hook them again, Charlie. The Moore to the Story film got the public ramped up about wanting to know what happened to that girl. Jesus, half the people who saw the film didn’t agree with the answer those guys came up with. They still want closure and they’ve never gotten it. Those people are the ones I’m counting on to be the new listening audience once we start popping out the podcasts.
“I think, if nothing else, you guys can do a better job than those dicks Barnes and Angstat did with the movie and if you can’t solve anything, you can at least offer something fresh. Your mission, your crew’s mission, is to get this as close to solved as possible so when the finale airs people believe the answer is coming. Close is the operative word here Charlie. You have to run a completely different angle than the film ran. And if the real answer doesn’t come, which, let’s be honest, we both know it won’t… people need to feel like they got something… something better than they got with that shitty movie.”
Charlie Marx knew where his bread was buttered and he respected Tyler Reubens more than he respected just about any man in the world. This man was his boss but also the person who’d given him his one and only break in professional life, but Charlie was diametrically opposed to Tyler’s take on this particular program.
He felt if they tackled Cadence, they’d wind up with nothing. There were reasons a case stayed cold for a decade. They’d hit brick walls and the whole thing would be considered a grand failure that would damage Charlie’s credibility and cost him a good portion of his dedicated listeners (If only he knew the position he’d be in in a few weeks, losing a few listeners would have seemed like a pleasant dream). Charlie had things to say but dutifully waited until he knew it was his turn to talk. Once he was sure Tyler was finished, he began his own pitch.
He responded honestly, “So, if I understand correctly, you’re telling me Tyler… even if we don’t solve it… which as you said, we won’t… this thing will be produced like one of your United Way of Life stories… no matter what the ending, the audience will stick with us if they think something is coming?”
Tyler smiled a little bit wider, knowing his pitch had just been caught. He said, “Precisely! You got the picture Marx. I knew you would, that is why we’re talking right now.”
Charlie continued, “Okay then. So, when the thing everyone thinks is coming doesn’t come, this is my concern. I have never lied to my audience, Tyler. When we haven’t been able to deliver an answer to a mystery or a theory, I’ve always told them that up front and usually why the thing will never be answered. When something is a bottomless pit, which I’ve told you Cadence Moore is, I tell my listeners it’s a bottomless pit so they know what they’re getting.
“Credibility for us is life blood and if we lose it on this podcast series experiment, we lose it for the radio, too. I’m just trying to make you understand the biggest reason why your short-term goal may not be worth the long-term consequences. What makes you so sure when they realize they’ve been hoodwinked like a gang of sorry chumps, they won’t say fuck you to us, fuck you to WHHW, and fuck you to UPR?”
Tyler considered this sincerely. The time between Charlie’s question and Tyler’s response was a solid thirty seconds, which in the room and in the moment felt like an hour. Tyler finally said, “Because… fuck… because, Marx. Because I believe in you and I know we can do this. For Christ’s sake, Charlie, this shit is the difference between the men and boys. We take a risk, we make history, we grab a big audience, and we get a chance to do much bigger things on much bigger stages on much bigger days! That’s what we do! That’s what people who are successful do! So, let’s stop being pussies and just fucking do it!”
Charlie had to be careful how he proceeded. Tyler was a friend but he also held the strings, the marionette strings as well as the purse strings. Charlie said, “Tyler, I hear you… every word. But I need you to hear me too right now. I am not questioning your judgment… I’m just questioning your approach. What if we looked at some alternatives? You want an unsolved case?
I’ve got plenty… and those plenty have lots of loose leads dangling that me and my team could sink our teeth into and actually solve. It damn sure wouldn’t be the first time.”
Tyler would indulge him for a moment, even though in his mind it was going to go down his way and this special was Cadence or nothing. When Tyler was set on something, that something was going to happen. He said, “Okay, Charlie, tell me what unsolved cases you have in mind.”
Charlie let out a sigh of relief and smiled slightly. He was about to start talking when Tyler held up a finger. Tyler added, “Oh… but before you do that, my time is short and so is yours, so, I hate to waste any of it for either of us. As you list off these unsolved cases, make sure you only mention the ones that a massively successful film has recently been made about. That way, I can make sure the attention we need for our special will be the same whether we focus on Cadence or not.”
Charlie visibly sank in his chair. He said, “Tyler, you know I can’t do that. Nothing I’d be able to solve in time for a podcast series is going to have the national prominence of Cadence Moore. But, you said it yourself; Barnes and Angstat fucked up the movie and didn’t solve anything. Do you want us painted with the same stain those two idiots are currently being painted with?”
Tyler smiled. He said, “Charlie, they can stain me any color they want as long as the eventual color it all turns into is green. Barnes and Angstat may be a couple of jerks but they’re rich jerks, Marx, and they’re jerks who currently have a bigger audience for their product than either of us have for ours. So, if you’re gonna sit there and tell me it’s a better idea to dig up Katie Marsh or Herman Jackson (two missing children whose parents had alleged ties to occult activity in New Mexico), then be prepared to tell me how we’re going to monetize that. If you want to sell me on another conspiracy theory… like a podcast about deadly vaccines or a podcast about mass shootings being orchestrated by the government to create a police state… well again pal… tell me how we turn the crap into cash. If you can’t do that Charlie… then stop wasting my time and let’s get back to talking about how you’re gonna produce the Cadence Moore special.”
Tyler was studying Charlie’s face and knew he had nothing to say. Tyler had simultaneously stumped him and sold him, using cold hard logic as his weapon. He could now reel him back in a little and get some more buy in. He said, “Look Marx, I’m not trying to be a douche. But, you have to check the naiveté at the door if you want to be part of something this potentially big. It needs to be a hit, Charlie. It needs to connect with an audience. If you want to stay true to your art form and die with every shred of your credibility intact, then that’s fine. But if you make that decision, you’re not going to make this journey with me, and WHHW is as high as Underground Broadcast is ever gonna get. I’m not threatening and I’m not bullshitting. I’m being honest. It’s Cadence or bust pal… Cadence… or… bust. You got it?”
What could Charlie possibly say? He had his marching orders and he had to move ahead. He didn’t like it at all and he thought it would fail, but as someone who understood loyalty as well as logic, Charlie wasn’t going to say no to Tyler Reubens. He owed this man his career and if Tyler wanted to take a huge risk and was asking Charlie to climb aboard, he had no choice but to go along. He shook his head and said, “You’re the boss, boss. Lets fucking do it then. I’ve said what I had to say and you said what you had to say. At the end of the day, you sign the checks and you gave me my name… I won’t say no, even if I think it’s a terrible idea. If we both lose our shit on this, you’ll owe me a shot… every night… for eternity.”
Charlie really didn’t like it. He really didn’t like it at all. He knew the odds of solving the Cadence case were next to impossible and his credibility was definitely on the line. (If Charlie only knew in this moment how severely he was about to risk his own credibility and his career, he likely would have choked).
Tyler slapped him on the shoulder and said, “Shots, every night forever… you got it Marx. But I have a feeling, you’ll be the one buying drinks when all of this is over. I wouldn’t lead you to the cliffs, Charlie… I’m leading you to the tippy top. Believe that!”
Charlie didn’t respond. He just extended his hand and sealed the deal. What the hell had he just agreed to?
UNDERGROUND PODCAST 1: (Official Transcript) Intro
Charlie Marx’s Underground Podcast: Episode 1 (Intro). Original Drop Date: November 1, 2013. (Brought to you by United Way of Life, courtesy of Tyler Reubens, this program is funded and sponsored by WHHW, a subsidiary of Universal Public Radio)
(Narration by Charlie Marx) Welcome friends to the Underground Podcast. I am your host, Charlie Marx. The late-night hour is upon us weary travelers. Mysteries abound and the truth alarms sound… bringing out the seekers in every single town. Rest easy good friends… you have reached the final end… of your desired destination.
This is the place where we lift the curtain of accepted reality, and look deeper… down into the depths of the stories that permeate our consciousness. Yes, weary travelers, you can now take a rest, put your feet up, and plug in your minds. The investigation has begun, and it’s gonna be damn good fun!
This series is the most important program in the history of our show which you have up until now known as Underground Broadcast, but here we are now… arriving up to date with the rest of society, and we find ourselves in podcast world. This podcast tonight is in fact the most important program of my career. Those of you just stumbling across this by accident may be asking yourselves why that is.
Well travelers, we will begin our quest to answer one of the most perplexing and legendary unsolved riddles in the annals of modern crime. We will finally dig up the answer to the question that has haunted the masses for years.
We will reveal the specifics of how one Cadence Moore, a beautiful young college circuit-singing sensation, just on the brink it seemed, of breaking out into mainstream American mega stardom, on one tragic night just disappeared without a trace, never to be seen or heard from again.
Seekers of knowledge, sailors of the dark information seas, my listeners one and all, that all comes to an end. During this series, we will definitively answer the question: Whatever happened to young Cadence Moore? Legally, I must state a disclaimer, so I will state it now. Anyone listening to this should be of legal age and younger downloaders may find the violent subject matter, mature content, and strong language of this program offensive. We will be running on a several second delay during our live special and the worst language will be edited, but the podcasts will air in their entirety. You have been warned.
Okay, then… with our disclaimer out of the way, let’s get started. Like any momentous occasion, the theme of our show tonight must fit within the appropriate boundaries of weight and substance, and truly be worthy of discussion on our biggest program. What better subject to focus on than a story which has never offered a satisfying conclusion… a true mystery of our time?
The Cadence Moore story captivated mass audiences when it first came to national prominence on the weekend of Cinco de Mayo in 2002, and recently the story was plastered right back onto the speeding wind- screen of the world with the release of a fascinating, albeit flawed, documentary made by a Mr. Barnes and a Mr. Angstat, who will both be heard from during this series.
But, in spite of all the media coverage and a movie about this case, there has still never been a true end-of-the-story answer to all the speculation, evidence, and shreds of footage.
Todd Barnes and Michael Angstat tried during the making of their film to come up with indisputable proof that they’d found their man, but they failed. Some may disagree with that statement and to those people I will say this. Their film, which is highly entertaining, never accomplishes its true goal of solving the case. It simply succeeds in publicly accusing one man and presenting sensational images to support that accusation.
So, it is that we find ourselves here, with four podcasts and a live radio special to burn, in which we will pick up every clue, film strip, blood trail, and eyewitness statement, turn them all sideways, and see what no one has ever been able to see before.
When it’s over, I want you all to leave this series feeling like pioneers who finally came upon the smell of golden roses on the cliffs of El Dorado with enough sense left in your minds to call this a mystery solved.
With those words my good men and women, we begin our descent, down into the depths of pure adventure, skulking through caves and digging out trenches, to arrive on the other side with provable findings, and some real facts about the greatest mystery we’ve ever seen since Dallas in ’63. We shall answer the question… and arrive on the knowledge shore with glistening waves, pounding and pure, and we will know where it ends, and open the door to see what indeed ever happened to young Cadence Moore.
About the Author:
Gregory Sterner is inspired by the great storytelling presentations of National Public Radio, including This American Life and Wiretap, as well as novels by Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, and many others. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Albright College and is currently completing his Master’s in Philosophy at West Chester University while working as a supervisor for Penske Truck Leasing. He lives with his wife Abigail in Reading, Pennsylvania, and has four children: Jordan, Austin, Alexis, and Jack. His debut novel Solving Cadence Moore was released on November 7th, 2017. It is available for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. Readers can connect with Gregory on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook,and Goodreads. To learn more, go to http://www.aperturepress.net/books/solving-cadence-moore/
The Bedwetter: Journal of a Budding Psychopath by Lee Allen Howard is a new horror/psychological thriller. It was released on May 1, 2019 and is available for sale on Amazon.
“Original, audacious and raw. A truly dark treat for fans of the serial killer genre.” – Best Thrillers
“Lee Allen Howard’s The Bedwetter is an inventive psychological horror novel with a voice that’s as stylish as it is dark.” —Dustin LaValley, author of The Deceived
“A brutal, dark, compulsive read… stark, powerful, and satisfying.” —Online Book Club
“Highly disturbing and electric, this book will have its readers only setting it down so they can come up for air during its darkest moments.” —The US Review
Armed with electric hair trimmers and a military fighting knife, Russell accepts his dark commission.
Russell Pisarek is twenty-six years old and still wets the bed. He grew up different from other young men because his vicious mother punished him for wetting by shaving his head. When he confided this to his girlfriend Tina, she betrayed him, advertising his problem to all their high school classmates, who turned on him mercilessly. He took out his frustration by skinning neighborhood cats.
Now Russell fantasizes about finding just the right woman—so he can shave her bald. He struggles to overcome his dark tendencies, but when his sister discovers he’s wetting again, she kicks him out of her house.
During this time of stress, the mythical Piss Fairy appears in his dreams, and Russell is driven to satisfy his twisted desires with his innocent coworker Uma, who also needs a new roommate.
When his plans go awry, the Piss Fairy commissions him for a much darker task that graduates him from shaving to scalping—and worse.
I turn on my TV and fire up the PS4, then go downstairs and throw some pizza rolls in the toaster oven because Becky didn’t make dinner tonight. She usually does. She’s no gourmet chef, but she’s a decent cook, and I don’t mind eating her food. (^:
I holler up the stairs, “Becky?”
She don’t answer. Maybe she’s pooping, LOLz. Bathroom door ain’t closed, though, when I look up the stairs.
I crack open a beer. When the toaster oven dings, I scoop those bad babies onto a plate, grab a paper towel, and then carry them upstairs to my room. Worst thing about pizza rolls and Hot Pockets is, if you cook them till they’re done, they’re hot as frigging lava.
Becky comes out of her room and passes mine on her way to the bathroom. She closes and locks the door. I start Call of Duty, and it’s still loading when she comes back out of the bathroom and knocks on my door. It ain’t closed, so she pushes it open.
She’s got her arms crossed over her tits like she does when she’s uptight about something.
“What’s up?” I say.
“I found your tee-shirt between the washer and dryer, so I washed it and brought it up this morning.”
She’s all fidgety and won’t look me in the eye, so something’s up.
Eating pizza rolls on a piss-stinking mattress ain’t the most appetizing experience. But I eat them anyway.
I say, “What’s Aiden doing? Ain’t seen him yet.”
“He’s playing with his cars you got him,” she says. “When I brought your shirt in, I couldn’t help but see your bed was stripped. And why.”
“So? It makes me… concerned.” She tosses her head, not to get her hair out of her face—it’s tied back as usual—but because she’s gearing up to make some point or say something unpopular.
“Hey, I couldn’t help it. I didn’t wake up. I washed my sheets. What are you so concerned about?”
Her lips get tight when I raise my voice. I don’t much care. It’s not like I pissed HER bed.
I toss the controller on the wet spot, then mute the TV. “Well?”
“Look, Russell, you know what it led to last time.”
“Yeah, and I was living at home then. You remember what that was like for me. I ain’t wet since I moved in with you.”
“Not that I know of.” She gets that snooty high and mighty look.
I want to shove the remote up her goddamn nose. “That was years ago, Becky. I’ve changed. I’m better now.”
“How do I know that? All I know is what you did.”
“But I didn’t do it to you, did I? I never done nothin to you.” I hurl the remote into the closet. It hits the back wall, and the batteries pop out.
“Calm down, Russell,” she says, pressing the air with her hands like she does when I get worked up. “You’re right, I’m sorry.” She always says that too, but it’s just to talk me down because I make her nervous. But why shouldn’t I be pissed? How come I can never express myself when I’m mad?
“I gotta get my sheets.” I push past her, out the door, and go downstairs. In the kitchen I unlock the basement door and stomp down the rickety steps. The cellar smells musty. Like I said, it’s an old townhouse, with stone walls and a concrete floor all cracked. Damn cold on my sockfeet. My sheets and bed pad and blanket are wadded up on top of the dryer. Becky does that if I forget to empty it when my stuff is done. I scoop them up and then head back upstairs.
Becky’s still standing there, hugging herself. “Here. I’ll help you.”
I turn around and get in her face. “I don’t need your help, Becky. I can do it myself. I been doing it since I was seven years old, remember?”
“All right. I’m sorry. I just… never mind.”
She walks out the door but comes right back in.
“No, I’m not going to let this go,” she says, fists on her hips. “This isn’t just about wetting the bed. It’s about that, that… disgusting rug you made. Cat skins. God, Russell, that’s so sick. I had no idea you still had it. Thank goodness Aiden didn’t see it.”
“And what if he did?” I say. “You think I would have told him what it was made out of? Jesus, Becky, gimme some credit.”
“I don’t care. I don’t want that thing in my house. Get rid of it.”
“I live here as well as you do. It’s not like you own the place. I pay rent too.”
She huffs. “Sometimes.”
“Oh, fuck off, why don’t you? I’m workin. I been workin. Just because I don’t got a good job like you don’t mean I ain’t pitchin in.”
“Look. I think it’s time you moved out on your own, Russell.”
I blink at her, shaking my head. “What?”
“You heard me. Aiden’s four years old. He needs his own room. He can’t sleep in my room forever, especially with Mike spending nights here.”
“It ain’t my fault you can’t screw with Aiden in the room.”
“Russell!” she hisses.
“Keep your voice down,” she says, shoving the door closed. “It’s not about me and Mike. Aiden’s getting too big for his toddler bed. You know that. He’s growing like a weed, and even a twin bed won’t fit in that room. Where’s he supposed to sleep?”
I lay a folded hand towel on the wet spot, make the bed on top of it, and then stretch out on it. She stands there, waiting for me to say something. She pisses me off. Ignoring her is the best I can do.
“Don’t go quiet on me, Russell. I’m trying to have a conversation about something important. Do you understand why I think it’s best that you move out?”
I snatch up the controller and press start. The game begins, but I can’t hear it because I muted the TV, and I can’t unmute it because I flung the remote in the closet.
Becky steps closer. “If you got something to say, then say it. Stewing about it won’t do any good. You know what it leads to.”
“Who are you, my fuckin mother?”
She grabs her head with both hands, spins toward the door, then turns back, curling her fingers into claws and showing her teeth.
“You’re a dick, Russell. You either move your pissy mattress to the basement or out of the house, take your pick!” She rushes out, and I can tell she wants to slam my door, but she don’t.
I do. And yell, “I hope your car’s fixed, because I’m driving mine tomorrow. Bitch.”
I put the remote back together, then pick up the controller, but my hands are shaking, and I don’t feel like playing no more. Don’t feel like finishing my pizza rolls. What I really need is a smoke.
I fish in my jacket pocket for my Camels only to find my last cigarette is broke in two.
FUCK! FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!
I crush the pack and throw it on the floor. I dress, grab my coat and gentleman’s hat, then descend the stairs by threes and fly out the door into snow like freaking cottonballs.
About the Author:
Lee Allen Howard’s dark fiction spans the genres of horror, dark fantasy, supernatural crime, and psychological thrillers. His publications include The Sixth Seed, Severed Relations, Desperate Spirits, Night Monsters, Death Perception, The Adamson Family, Perpetual Nightmares, and The Bedwetter.
Howard earned his BA in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. He edits fiction and non-fiction, and has served as a book publishing consultant. He blogs about his fiction and fiction writing at http://leeallenhoward.com. Readers can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.
Howard is also the founder and editor at Dark Cloud Press, which has published the horror and dark crime anthologies Thou Shalt Not… and Tales of Blood and Squalor. He resides in western New York state with a lot of books.
Richard Hummel’s debut novel Radioactive Evolution was released in November 2018. Since its release, Radioactive Evolution has become an Amazon #1 Best Seller in Apocalyptic and Cyberpunk with readers calling it ‘a masterful mix of fantasy, LitRPG, apocalyptic future and advanced tech.”
The story follows a young man in a post-apocalyptic America who bonds with a dragon.
The series is recommended for readers who enjoy general SFF, Dark Fantasy, Dark YA, Cyberpunk, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Survival Story and anyone that is a gamer and likes RPGs since he has a system in place that allows the main character and his dragon companion to “level” themselves up through abilities and enhancing their bodies and minds.
Hunger Games, Ready Player One, and Game of Thrones collide to bring you a Science-Fiction & Fantasy cross-genre spectacular!
How far would you go to change humanity’s fate?
Jared Cartwright has spent the last two years delving into the twisted, scarred wastelands of an earth ravaged by nuclear war. The rich and powerful have taken to the oceans and skies on floating utopias, escaping destruction and leaving the rest of humanity to fend off the mutated creatures that roam the earth.
To face his new reality, Jared must become an apex predator if he hopes to survive. He must unlock his true potential to confront those that left mankind to die. With deadly adversaries above and below, Jared must evolve beyond mere human limitations to defeat the powerful rulers of the cities and the rabid beasts lurking in the shadows.
Jared’s quest takes a new turn when he discovers dragons are real.
Excerpt from Chapter 1:
Jared stood at the precipice of almost certain danger, the yawning black chasm simultaneously beckoning and repelling him. The last six months of exploration led him to this moment, and now he hesitated to follow through. For months he’d searched for evidence of others.
In a city this size he expected to find something. Remnants of a battle, bones picked clean by the many carnivorous creatures that roamed the area, or anything worth scavenging. However, the only evidence he’d found was a series of tags painted on the walls around the perimeter of New York City. Only one set of markings, distinct in their pattern, delved further into the streets of the once great city. It was these patterns he found himself following, stupidly assuming he’d find treasure at the end of the veritable rainbow. Except there was no leprechaun or pot of gold, only a staircase descending into utter darkness. A faded sign announced it as “Metro Tr…”
Jared shrugged. He didn’t know for certain, but he’d read about old means of transportation before the nuclear wars obliterated most of the planet.
Taut as a bowstring, his eyes and ears strained, Jared looked for any sign of predators. In a city this large, he was at the bottom of the food chain, and his only protection was his father’s Colt Peacemaker, a .45 caliber revolver. In the two years since he’d left his home colony, it’d saved his life on more occasions than he could count. Absentmindedly, he reached down to finger the weapon in its holster, contemplating if he dared risk the underbelly of the city.
Agonizing over the decision, Jared flicked his gaze to the corner of his vision. A holographic outline of his body floated, where a countdown timer showing a little more than two months remaining. It represented how many nanites he had left before he needed to use an injector and replenish his stores. These microscopic machines were the only thing preventing humans from dying excruciating, radioactive deaths. He hoped the trail leading down would end at the body of whomever left all the tags, and that they had some of the life-giving injectors on them. On the other hand, it was a gamble and he had no way to know for sure without making the trip.
What should I do…
Jared sighed and ran his hand through his hair. It was a two-month journey back home, and he wasn’t sure he’d survive the trip before his body deteriorated from radiation poisoning, or some creature overpowered him when his body began to weaken.
His mind screamed at him to run the other way, but Jared ignored it and walked back to the staircase leading down. He couldn’t discern the bottom even with his ability to see in the dark. Slowly, he crept down the stairs, gun at the ready. It felt like an eternity until he reached the bottom. Time became irrelevant as every minute stretched into what felt like hours. He jumped at every creak and sifting of pebbles. At the bottom, the markings pointed off into the darkness. An absolute darkness that pressed in on him. The shadows writhed at the corners of his vision. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as cold shivers raced down his spine. The natural sunlight failed to penetrate the inky black and Jared’s eyes transitioned to night vision, a by-product of nanite enhancements. It seemed that when pushed into extreme circumstances, or survival depended on something, the nanites adapted and allowed him to obtain special abilities, like night vision and the ability to survive extreme temperatures.
Just as he started relaxing, Jared heard a soft scrape and a nearly imperceptible pressure as something brushed past his head.
He threw himself to the floor, eyes widening at the creature. A grotesque, mutated lizard clung to the ceiling, its legs coiled to spring at him. Thick, discolored saliva dripped from fangs as long as his arm, dozens of golden spider-like eyes following his movements. With no hesitation, Jared squeezed the trigger. The creature’s head exploded in a shower of black ichor and bits of gray brain matter. It plummeted towards him. He shoved away from it, barely avoiding being crushed by its shiny silver body as it slammed into the concrete floor. The quick evasion did nothing to prevent the shower of blood and gore. Spluttering and spitting, he tried to eliminate the metallic tasting remnants that made it into his mouth.
Jared shook his head, the gunshot ringing in his ears. He needed to move, and fast. The gunshot might’ve been a homing beacon for more of these things. Desperate to put distance between himself and the disgusting creature, Jared sprinted up the tunnel following the other explorer’s path. While he ran, he kept his eyes peeled, careful to watch the ceiling for more of the lizards.
Jared no longer cared about stealth or caution. He needed to find the body, recover the supplies, and get out of the city. He rounded the next corner following the markings and almost fell headlong into a large crater. He caught himself on the edge and wind-milled his arms to regain balance. His tiptoes teetered on the edge of the crater and he felt his balance shift back and forth. Finally, after a several moments of sheer terror, his balance returned, and he managed to step back from the ledge.
He’d almost fallen into a pit that looked like the site of a bomb detonation. A closer examination revealed piles of bones, refuse, and a collection of random equipment.
Tilting his head to the side and moving further from the corner, Jared tried to determine what he’d found.
It looks like— His mouth dropped open in astonishment. It’s a nest.
The blood drained from his face, and he shrank against the wall, cursing himself for making this journey. Paralyzed in fear, it took him several minutes before he was calm enough to peek around the corner. The last marking he’d followed ended a couple pillars back, and he didn’t see a new one. Fear coursed through him as he realized this might be the farthest his guide had made it. As if fate were playing a cruel joke on him, it was then he spotted a pair of black boots at the bottom of the nest. Jared slid to the ground and buried his face in his hands.
The explorer. I’ve come too far to abandon this farce now. With shaky legs, he rose and skirted the massive nest.
Psyching himself up, Jared repeated a mantra in his mind. It’s just a crater, it’s just a crater…
If he dwelled on the nest and what might live in it, he’d succumb to cowardice and flee.
Delicately, he picked his way through the pile of refuse, periodically stopping to extricate large bones that blocked his path. It was eerily quiet, the only sound his ragged breathing as he tried to push past the overpowering scent of rot. With each passing moment, his anxiety grew.
This is taking too long, and I don’t want to be here when this thing returns!
Finally reaching the pair of worn leather boots, he started extracting bone after bone, looking for any other equipment. Several minutes later, he uncovered a tattered backpack hooked over a human ribcage. An audible gulp escaped his throat as he looked into the empty eye sockets of the skull that used to sit atop the skeleton. Holding his breath, Jared bent closer and breathed through his mouth. The smell of death and decay intensified and raised bile to the back of his throat.
Careful not to disturb the rest of the pile, Jared unhooked the straps from a cracked shoulder blade and what was left of the rib cage. He’d successfully extracted the pack and turned to leave when a strange object partially hidden by yellowing skeleton limbs caught his attention. Already in over his head, Jared looked closer, eager to find anything of value. He reached out and felt heat emanating from what looked like a large rock.
Strange, he thought.
As his fingers brushed the strange object, a jolt of electricity shot through his hand.
“Ow!” Jared grunted and snatched his hand away. “What is this thing?”
Curiosity piqued, he reached out again. When his fingers neared the object, the hair on the back of his hand stood on end. Jared snatched his hand back again and decided that he needed to bring whatever this was with him. This was by far the most unique object he’d ever come across. If it generated some kind of electricity, it could be invaluable to him during his travels. As quickly and quietly as possible, Jared slid his pack off his back, stuffed the other explorer’s gear inside, and grabbed a spare shirt to wrap up the strange object. The electrified rock secured, Jared began the painful process of picking his way back across the crater to climb back up to the platform.
His trip up proved much easier, and he breathed a sigh of relief after he’d made it to the platform. No sooner had he reached it than he felt a reverberation through the ground. Thinking it was his nerves and imagination, he ignored it until he distinctly felt the vibration and with it a distant thump.
What the— Panic flooded through him. What could make the earthshake?
No way was he waiting to find out. Jared sprinted back the way he’d come. Just as he passed the decapitated corpse of the lizard, an ear-splitting roar shook his body to the core. A violent thrashing and growling erupted behind him as the unknown creature unleashed mayhem in the tunnel he’d just vacated. A moment later, a wave of intense agony assaulted his mind, causing him to stumble into the wall.
Jared glanced over his shoulder at his bag and contemplated dropping whatever it was he stole, but instead he bolted up the stairs, taking them four at a time as he sprinted up the shaft of daylight in the distance. Before he reached the halfway point, he caught sight of something lunging at him from his periphery. Ducking, another lizard-like creature soared over his head, crashing into the wall. He didn’t pause, but raced up the stairs, the creature fast on his heels. Jared dove through the opening, the sun’s golden rays bathing him in warmth. The split-second of euphoria didn’t last as the lizard launched through the opening, landing right on top of him.
Dangit! Stupid. Idiotic.
He violently reprimanded himself for thinking these creatures confined to the underground tunnel. The lizard pinned his arm before he managed to free his Colt. The overgrown reptile snapped at his face, its shiny metallic head filled with razor-sharp teeth and fangs. Gooey, hot saliva bathed his head and obscured his vision.
Straining his muscles, Jared tried to force the creature off, but failed. It was strong, and if he didn’t find some way to turn the tables, it would rip into his face.
In a desperate move, Jared slammed his feet down and thrust his pelvis upward, throwing the lizard back just enough to extricate his Colt. He angled the revolver into the body of the creature and squeezed the trigger three times before the lizard stopped moving.
Soaked to the bone in gore from both scuffles, Jared recovered quickly, picked up his pack from where it’d fallen, and sprinted for the city’s edge.
The gigantic creature raged beneath the city, judging from the echoing of rock crumbling behind him. He thanked his good fortune no other creatures barred his path, and whatever he’d angered hadn’t surfaced to track him yet.
His panicked flight led to his safe haven, a small room in the remnants of the Statue of Liberty. Breathing heavily, Jared dove into his hideaway beneath the melted hunk of rusting statue. When he’d first come to New York, he’d cleared out the entry and made his own barrier he could bar from the within.
Safe in his bunker, he sat back against the wall in exhaustion. He didn’t know how much time passed, but from the slant of the sun’s orange rays peeking in through the cracks, it neared dusk. He didn’t need the light to see, but trepidations about what the night would bring made him wish for the day to last longer.
“I almost died in there,” Jared muttered to himself. “This backpack better be worth the risk. There’s no freaking way I’m going back into that city.”
Even hours after the harrowing experience, he shook with adrenaline and fear. He could do nothing but sit there in abject terror waiting for his body to give him a moment’s reprieve. Eventually, it gave way to exhaustion and pushed him into a fitful slumber.
When he woke several hours later, he could still hear distant shrieking and buildings collapsing. Thankfully, it didn’t sound like it was any closer.
Rested and ready to see what treasures he’d found, Jared pulled out the explorer’s pack from his own. The mysterious electrical object discarded to one side, he opened the flap on the other pack.
“Whoa,” breathed Jared.
“A worthy series kickoff with riveting characters and a world that readers will want to explore.” – Kirkus
“Radioactive Evolution features an exciting world, a plot that keeps moving, and a fun twist on the typical GameLit phenomenon. Overall, I thought it was an enjoyable romp in a Post-apocalyptic future. I’m already looking forward to seeing where Hummel goes from here!” – 5 Stars, LitRPG Reviews
About the Author:
It all started when he read the works of two Russian authors, D. Rus and Vasiliy Mahenenka. After devouring every one of their books, Richard Hummel became obsessed with the LitRPG / Gamelit genre, which basically combines MMORPG with Science Fiction & Fantasy. He started joining a ton of groups, mailing lists, and Discord servers talking to readers, authors, and professionals in the industry. He’d continually bounce ideas around until one day he realized that he had more than enough ideas to create his own world and characters. Then he buckled down, picked up a copy of Scrivener and went to work and Radioactive Evolution was born.
Radioactive Evolution: A Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic Adventure is the first book in his new Sci-Fi Fantasy series. It was released in November 2018 and since then, has become an Amazon Bestseller.
Radioactive Evolution tells the story of a young man in a post-apocalyptic America who bonds with a dragon.
The series is recommended for readers who enjoy general SFF, Dark Fantasy, Dark YA, Cyberpunk, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Survival Story and anyone that is a gamer that likes RPGs since he has a system in place that allows the main character and his dragon companion to “level” themselves up through abilities and enhancing their bodies and minds.
By day, Richard Hummel is a cyber security analyst and father of two beautiful girls and a little boy on the way! He is currently hard at work on the second book in his series, which is set to be released Spring 2019. Stay tuned for more in this epic dystopian adventure!
Readers can connect with Richard on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. To learn more, go to https://www.hummelbooks.com/
Automotive industry expert Max Zanan announced the release his latest book Car Business 101: #CrazyShitCarDealersDo. Car Business 101 is a follow-up to his first book Perfect Dealership – A Car Dealer’s Guide to Surviving the Digital Age, which was released in November 2017.
In Perfect Dealership, Zanan teaches what car dealerships SHOULD do to stay competitive and survive. In Car Business 101, he describes the crazy things car dealerships ACTUALLY DO and if they don’t stop, they might go out of business.
Automotive retail is at crossroads–either it gets better or becomes extinct. Consumers are dissatisfied with the sales process in brick and mortar dealerships and that is the driving force behind the rise of Carvana and other industry disrupters. However, it is not too late to fix the way car dealerships operate and improve their reputation. Car Business 101 highlights irrational and counterproductive behavior that car dealers engage in on a daily basis. If you own or work in a car dealership it will be easy to recognize insanity that goes on in Sales, F&I, BDC, HR, and Parts & Service departments. This book offers a fresh perspective and practical solutions for dealerships to implement.
Car Business 101 is informative and entertaining at the same time. It is a must read for dealer principals, dealership employees, and vendors that service car dealers.
“I truly hope that this book will be a wake-up call for car dealers across the country,” says Max Zanan.
Car Business 101 was released in December 2018 and is available for sale on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback.
About the Author:
Max Zanan is a seasoned automotive industry expert with nearly 20 years of experience in sales, F&I and dealership consulting. After graduating John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Zanan went on to get his Master’s Degree before starting his career in automotive retail as a salesman at a local, New York City Volkswagen dealership. After working his way up the ranks, Zanan then became the General Manager of a New York City Mitsubishi dealership, which subsequently placed #1 in sales for Mitsubishis in the United States. Following his stint at Mitsubishi, Zanan went on to become the Platform President at Elite Auto Group, where he oversaw three dealerships, with 150 total personnel.
Max Zanan has worked in every department of a car dealership. He started as sales person and throughout the years worked as a sales manager, finance manager, general sales manager, service manager, and general manager. He has also provided income development services through F&I products and training as the owner of Total Dealer Compliance—one of the best dealership compliance firms in the country. In addition to F&I and Compliance, he provides dealership consulting services that are focused on process improvement, customer retention, and profitability. As Founder and CEO of IDDS Group, Zanan utilizes all of the skills he has picked up over the years to cohesively mentor dealerships on how to increase revenue and profitability, and eliminate non-compliant practices in all departments. Max Zanan is also the author of Perfect Dealership and Car Business 101. Readers can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.
To learn more, go to http://www.crazyshitcardealersdo.com/
Root Cause by Steven Laine is a suspenseful wine thriller. It was released in February 2019, published by Turner Publishing.
Can you imagine a world without wine?
Corvina Guerra is a flying winemaker who dreams of one day settling down in her native Italy on her family’s vineyard. On a visit to a vineyard in Italy, Corvina makes a startling discovery: Phylloxera, a menacing plant louse that devastated vineyards in Europe more than a hundred years ago, has infested the vines.
After reporting her findings to her company, Universal Wines, Corvina is charged with investigating the spread of the bug. Nicknamed Philomena by the media, the aphid is soon discovered in vineyards around the world. To aid in her investigation, Corvina recruits a wine expert in London, Bryan Lawless. In pursuit of its origins, Corvina and Bryan embark on a thrilling globetrot on which they uncover that Philomena is being intentionally spread.
The deeper Corvina and Bryan search, the more they become convinced that Universal Wines holds the answer to everything, and the harder they pursue their investigation the more surprises pile up.
In spite of devastating consequences, Corvina and Bryan vow to continue their investigation and do what they can to contain the spread of the infestation – but time is running short and they always seem to be a step behind. Unless they can find a way to stop the Philomena – vineyards around the world will be ruined for decades; potentially causing the collapse of the wine industry. Can Corvina and Bryan get to the root cause and save the international wine industry from ruin?
Steven Laine has paired his experience in the wine industry with his passion for writing and world travel to create a mysterious international thriller that will have wine lovers on the edge of their seat.
Praise for Root Cause:
“An entertaining, wine-soaked mystery.” – Kirkus
“Root Cause is a pithy, pitch-perfect story about the sort of madness that can ensue when one of humankind’s favorite vices comes under fire. What’s remarkable about this novel is that it illustrates just how far the wine industry stretches, reaching to all corners of the globe in a self-sustaining system—much like a vineyard’s very roots. It’s always great to see an author taking the age-old adage “write what you know” to heart, and never has a saying been more fitting than with Root Cause. Having traveled to over one hundred vineyards and wineries, and after many years of working in the wine industry, it’s safe to say that Laine knows his grapes. Root Cause is the perfect application of Laine’s extensive knowledge of vineyards, and is, to boot, a thoroughly researched story that will both educate and entertain readers.” –★★★★★, Red City Review
“This cleverly titled novel is a very compelling mystery through and through with a twist that you’ll never see coming. The plot is one complex enough to keep you on your toes yet easy enough not to oversaturate the reader, creating an exciting and page-turning story… Laine’s own expertise in the field of winemaking is apparent as he carefully interlaces details within the story. He gives the readers a small glimpse into the world of wine, showing the complexity and intricacies that it takes in the field but without indulging in too much explanation. Everything is explained in just the right manner and helps to wrap up the narrative neatly.” – The US Review
“This book will appeal to wine lovers and mystery enthusiasts alike. There is a wealth of information about the growing of grapes and winemaking. However that is not a distraction from the search for the culprit or culprits.” – Reviewed by Jo Dervan for Goodreads
Excerpt from Chapter 1:
…Corvina followed Marco between the vines. He stopped halfway down a row and held out some off-colored leaves. “I think some of the vines have been infected with something,” Marco said.
Corvina pulled her silk scarf tight and donned a pair of latex gloves—which she carried with her on all her winery visits—before reaching out to examine the leaves. She noted the cluster of vines around her all had the same dry, copper-colored leaves. Their undersides were covered in pale-yellow pustules. The pustules burst silently in her hand, coating her fingers with a fine, musty dust.
She crouched to inspect the leaves closer to the ground. They looked and felt the same. She dug her fingers into the dirt surrounding the base of one of the vines until a long, bare section of rootstock was exposed. She brushed off as much dirt as she could and studied the rootstock and surrounding dirt with great care to confirm her suspicions.
The insect matter on the leaves made her suspect Marco’s vines had aphids, but seeing their tiny yellow bodies writhing in the soil and crawling along the roots left no room for doubt.
“When did you first notice the infestation?” she asked Marco, wiping the dust and dirt from her gloves.
“You think it’s an infestation? Not an infection?” Marco asked.
“Definitely an infestation,” she replied.
“What do you think it is?”
“It’s not what I think it is—it’s what I know it is.” Corvina stood. “Marco, you have aphids.”
“But I use pesticides, and my vines are grafted. How can I have aphids?” he asked. His voice had risen two full octaves. He looked around the vineyard as if seeking an explanation.
“Not just any aphids, but it looks like some variety of phylloxera.” But how was that possible? The vineyard was in the heart of Italy, and Marco’s vines were grafted, the best means of resisting phylloxera. She had to get back to Barcelona as soon as possible to tell her boss. If she was right, Marco had bigger concerns than a bad winemaker—and wineries all over the country might be in jeopardy.
“Oh no, oh no, oh no.” Marco was shaking his head from side to side. He appeared to be in shock.
“Marco, how old are your oldest and youngest vines?” she asked.
“The oldest are twenty-five years—those are the cabernet sauvignons. The youngest are the pinot grigios. I just planted them last year.” Her father’s friend looked crestfallen. He covered his forehead with one hand, and his eyes went wide. “What’s going to happen to them now?”
“They’re going to die. All of them,” Corvina said. She removed her gloves by turning them inside out, keeping her hands clean in the process. She wished she could just as easily unsee what she had seen among the roots. Phylloxera was a winemaker’s worst nightmare. She stared out over the vineyard and shuddered to think how far the aphid might have already spread…
About the Author:
Steven Laine was raised in Ontario, Canada and has dual Canadian and British citizenship. He has travelled the world working in luxury hotels for international brands including The Ritz, Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, Jumeirah and Pan Pacific. When he was Beverage Manager of a five star hotel in London, he learned all about wine and has since visited over one hundred vineyards and wineries in Napa, Sonoma, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Lebanon, Australia and South Africa. As the only North American ever invited to be a Member of the Champagne Academy, he had the privilege to visit and learn from the major Champagne Houses in France. His circle of friends is made up of winemakers, Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, restaurant managers, and wine distributors from all over the globe.
Steven lives in Singapore and is now working on his next novel.
To learn more, go to http://www.stevenlaine.com/
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