Fiction

Chapter reveal: ‘Joe Peas’ by Samuel Newsome

joe-peas-jpegTitle:  JOE PEAS

Genre:  Fiction/Inspirational

Author: Samuel Newsome

Website:  www.drsamnewsome.com

Publisher: Lulu

Purchase here.

An extraordinary tale about life, love, faith and friendship, Joe Peasillustrates how the most important life lessons sometimes come from the places we least expect.

About Joe Peas:  Who is Joe Peas?  Is he a simple Italian immigrant house painter, or is he a complicated man with much to hide, even from himself?   When the aging painter develops health problems, his life intersects with that of family physician James King. Dr. King is drawn to the curious Italian, whose life is a stark contrast to his own orderly life.  The free-spirited painter and doctor forge a unique friendship—a friendship that only grows when Joe breaks a hip, and becomes a patient in a long-term care facility where he does rehabilitation under Dr. King’s care.  As Joe interacts with other residents at the facility, he learns of their struggles, their triumphs, and witnesses their close relationships with their families.  The spirited little Italian enriches the lives of the other patients—and encounters with the residents change Joe in ways he never expected.   Through these interactions, Joe realizes just how much he missed in his own life.  While Joe struggles to come to term with his past, Dr. King faces his own struggles living in a community that values conformity over individual expression.  Eager to help his friend, Joe hatches a plan.  But that plan—as colorful and vibrant as Joe himself—sets in motion a chain of events that sheds light on the secrets of the enigmatic painter. Things are not always what they seem on the surface. Could there be more—much more—to Joe Peas than meets the eye?  And will the truth about the mysterious painter finally be unveiled?

An extraordinary story that will stay with readers long after the final page is turned, Joe Peas is irresistible. Tender and touching, thoughtful and thought provoking, Joe Peas is filled with unforgettable characters that come to life within the novel’s pages.  Informed by Sam Newsome’s experiences as a physician and educator, Joe Peas is a powerful story about true healing.

////////////////////////////

Joe Peas

by

Sam Newsome

Copyright 2015

Prologue

February 16, 1944

The Battle of Monte Cassino, sometimes referred to as the Battle for Rome, was as intense as any combat in the Second World War. Axis troops guarded the mountains and controlled the Rapido, Liri, and Garigliano River valleys. They controlled the old Appian Way access to Rome. While the German forces did not occupy the Abbey of Monte Cassino, they did control the surrounding hillside. Allied forces were uncertain of the strength of the Axis defenders and whether the abbey was under Axis control or not.

On February 15 alone, a massive barrage of 1,400 tons of bombs was loosed upon the abbey and its environs.

American soldiers of the Fifth Army witnessed the Allied bombardment as they steeled themselves for yet another assault on the enemy stronghold. The smoke and mist rolled down into the valley from the hills.

Most of these weary, battle-hardened soldiers were veterans of the North African campaign. They had not seen their wives and families for months, if not years. They knew that nothing or no one could survive such a barrage.

On February 16, as the smoke began to dissipate and the irritation of the GIs’ eyes cleared, a patrol noticed a new and unexplained feature on the landscape of no-man’s-land. A closer investigation revealed what appeared to be only a smoldering pile of cloth, perhaps a sack. On closer inspection they discovered the cloth to be the burned and tattered shirt and trousers of a small child. And they were surprised to find that the waif inside the clothes was still alive. The child was no more than smoke-stained skin and bones. His hair was filthy and scorched.

The soldiers snatched up the child and got him out of harm’s way. Over the next few days, he gained strength but appeared to be mute. The medics couldn’t tell if this was shell shock or a more serious medical condition. The homesick GIs refused to hand the boy over to the authorities. As he gained his strength, he was more or less adopted by the mess hall personnel.

Eventually the boy learned a few words. His main word was “Joe.” He probably had heard the term “GI Joe” so often that, when asked his name for the hundredth time, he said, “Joe,” and the moniker stuck.

The time came for the Fifth Army to move on. Joe had become a fixture at the mess hall and had won the hearts of the GIs, but they couldn’t take him with them to the next deployment. He was classified as a displaced person. When the aid worker asked for his name, he said, “Joe.” As for his last name, he had no idea. After an uncomfortable period of silence, he saw the cook opening a can of black-eyed peas. Joe had become fond of them as a staple of his new diet, so he said, “Peas.”

The aid worker asked, “Your last name is ‘Peas’?”

“Peas.”

And so it was. At least that was one version of the story.

 

Chapter 1

“You guys don’t know how to paint a house. You got to scrub, and I mean really clean the shit off! You don’t do that, you just wastin’ you time! Then you scrape that sucker plenty good! You don’t scrape and you just wastin’ you’ time! And then you prima it.” He used the word prima, instead of prime. “Then the paint. You got to use that good paint and none of that shit you get at any hardware store. You gotta know you’ paint, man.”

All this was overheard above the usual cacophony of the Waffle House. The customers in the surrounding booths, the chatter of the counter traffic, and a jukebox with the usual repertoire of country offerings provided a constant din that completed the diner experience. The high-speed, enigmatic counter orders shouted by the waitresses, and the clatter and motion of Freddy, the short-order cook, completed the symphony of a morning at the King’s Mill Waffle House.

The atmosphere was not one suitable for meditation, but it was great for a quick breakfast with a genial ambience. And with the bonus of a little time to read the daily paper, it was hard to beat. There was also something to be said for the old-fashioned diner experience that allowed the patron to see the food prepared.

Dr. James King and his wife, Betty, frequently slipped in for a Sunday breakfast before hospital rounds. This morning the paper took second place to the bantam man monopolizing the counter conversation. He had a dark, olive complexion; a pate of slick black hair; and a pencil-thin mustache. He appeared to be of an advanced age, but his animated speech and gestures suggested he was very active. Doc and Betty had lived in town all their lives, but they didn’t know him, and yet the small man was literally holding court with a cadre of local laborers as though he was a well-known local craftsman. Doc knew that a couple of these men had been lifelong painters, but they and the younger men listened when the speaker harangued them as though he was the resident house-painting expert.

“Lemme tell you ’bout paint. You paint a house like you court a beautiful woman. You don’t think Joe knows women? Lemme tell you guys. All the world’s best lovers, they’re Italian. All the best painters, Italian. You think that may be an accident?” The little fellow gestured widely with both hands, ending up with his thumbs inside his suspenders.

“You see a beautiful woman, you size her up. You got to find her blemishes. She may bebellissima outside, but she will have secrets. She got a jealous lover, or even a husband, you gotta know.”

He looked over at Betty, and she could have sworn that he winked at her. “That house you paint. It’s a got problems, you gotta know ’bout it. It got dry rot or hidden wasp nest, it can hurt a fella.

“That woman, you got to court her; you offer her flowers and candy. Flatter her and tell her she’s a so special to you! Give her all the attention she needs. She’ll say she doesn’t want it, but never you mind. She’ll eat it up. Make her believe she’s a you’ only one.

“That house, you got to court it too. Clean it like it’s a you’ best friend. Give it attention; take care of its special needs. It’ll pay off, guaranteed!

“That woman, now you better close in on the next step. You got to get physical contact. Now you guys know physical contact.” He looked around, giving his audience a knowing look. “A li’l touch and a li’l kiss and you on you’ way. Now you get to know her. She let her veil drop. You learn what she want or not want.”

Again, Betty sensed the Italian’s eyes on her. She could not help but wonder if it was more of a leer than an innocent glance. He was, after all, an Italian!

“That house, you ready for the next step. You get more physical with that house. You place the best prima you got. A simple kiss, a preparation for the real amore.” As the little Italian said this, he seemed to blur the comparison of house painting and a romantic liaison.

“Gents, it’s a now time to consummate the affair. Be gentle, be thorough.” He looked around to see if the entire diner, even Betty, was listening. They were. Then he continued.

“Take you’ time. You be simpatico with her and she be kind to you. Remember, you ’mericans, you always hurry. You take you’ time here. Smitty, none a’ dis wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am! Make you’ time with you’ lady count!

“That house, now it’s time to complete the act. Use you’ best paint. You no grab the brush like a bat. You hold it gently; caress it like a fine lady’s hand. You do slow, so slow, even passes, gentle strokes, feel the moist paint being stroked into the rough wooden surface. Soon the surface becomes moist, pliable—sexy. The strokes, they become more rhythmic, hypnotic—even erotic. You take you’ time, jus’ like with that bellissima woman. You do a slapdash job, you paint no good.”

As the fellow warmed to the sensual aspects of house painting, he actually lost part of his broken English.

“After that, you stay. You call that what? Afterglow! You stay. You be kind. You stay. You no run off and you see what it’s like to have real, real…”

“Intimacy.”

The little Italian and everyone in the diner turned to see who had said that. Dr. King and Betty looked around too, till they realized that the now red-faced Betty had volunteered the statement.

Joe continued, “Buono, intimacy. That lady deserves you’ best. That house deserves you’ best. You got it painted, then you look at the family. You see the look and feel of the family who live in the house. That’s a so good!”

One of the painters, Smitty, looked up from his third cup of coffee. “I need a cigarette.”

Abner, Smitty’s partner, decided he’d better call his wife and see if she was ready for their regular “date night.”

Dr. King and Betty had lingered longer than usual over their coffee as the little Italian and his band of painters entertained them. As Doc and his wife left the restaurant, they heard Joe ask his audience, “Who is that guy?”

“Why, he’s my doc,” said Smitty. “Fixed me up real good when I hurt my back last year.”

Categories: Fiction, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy, by M.D. Moore

Waiting for the CoolTitle: Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy

Genre: Fiction/Family Drama

Author: M.D. Moore

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

An extraordinary debut novel, Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy introduces protagonist Harmon Burke. The son of a schizophrenic mother, Harmon is haunted by three decades of his mother’s “un-cool” craziness and the mistakes of his own past.  Caught somewhere between his past and present, Harmon is trying to navigate and survive the detritus of his life—a life littered with personal failures, strained relationships and life-threatening health issues.

When Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy opens, Harmon’s mother Cece is on her way back to the psychiatric hospital after another psychotic episode—an episode that nearly lands Harmon in jail for his third and final strike before lifelong incarceration.  Landing an unusual lucky break, Harmon cashes in a literal “get out of jail free card” with one caveat: in order to avoid serving jail time, he promises to seek help for his issues.

Harmon starts to see Boyd Freud, an eccentric ex-convict and unorthodox counselor with a wry sense of humor, and a penchant for strong coffee and unusual theories.  Somehow, the no-nonsense and rough-around-the-edges Boyd manages to convince Harmon to confront the trials that have dogged his past and present. But everything changes when Harmon’s high school sweetheart Emmy shows up on his doorstep. Pleading for help escaping her abusive husband Frank, Harmon’s childhood nemesis and lifelong adversary, Emmy reopens a chapter in Harmon’s life he thought long closed.  But Frank—a cruel and vindictive bully intent on righting a past wrong—will prove a dangerous and complicating force for Harmon and his family.

With Boyd’s help, Harmon begins to make sense of the past and heal. But in order to help Emmy, find peace with his mentally-deteriorating mother and discover redemption from his past and current failures, Harmon will have to return to the trials of his youth to find answers and discover truths long buried. Along the way, Harmon will realize that making sense of the past might lead him to see the possibility of a future he’d given up on long ago.

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1984

“Hey sleepyhead, how would you like to have a birthday party?  I know someone who’s turning thirteen soon,” Mama said in song, her face only a couple inches from my own.  I had been sleeping and freaky-dreaming thanks to a too-strong-dose of Nyquil before I had gone to bed.  I fought hard to shake the sleep and cobwebs from my brain, though the medicine and the psychedelic night’s sleep made it difficult.  I rarely complained of trouble sleeping because a double dose of Nyquil was Mama’s answer to insomnia, and I couldn’t stand the taste of the nasty, radioactive looking stuff.  I used to take my dose and after the yuck-shudder, I’d pretend to turn into the Hulk that made Mama and Connie buckle with laughter.

I knew my birthday was a few weeks out, but since we had never celebrated it, at least not in any meaningful way, I had learned to tamp down any excitement about the occasion to ward off excessive disappointment.  Most years, my birthday would slip away without so much as a “Happy Birthday” from Mama.  As the idea of an actual party fought through the haze and sank in, I shot up in bed as Mama lay over my legs.

“Well, whaddya think, little man?” she asked again, her eyes as wide and blue as topaz, her open-mouth smile never fading.

I looked at Connie who was now sitting up in his bed too.  His head nodded violently, as if someone had cranked the windup key a couple notches too far.  For most children, this question would have been rhetorical.  Of course, I wanted a birthday party.  But this was Mama’s way.  She wouldn’t force anything on us, not even a birthday party.  She was asking me in earnest.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Connie now shot in rapid fire, bouncing on his bed, pillow smashed over his head.

I held my breath and watched her eyes, looking for a reason to say no.  I could read her eyes like others read tea leaves and I was waiting for the demon to rear its ugly head and spoil the moment.

Mama read my mind.  “I’m doing really good right now, sweetheart.  My meds are working and I feel great.  Don’t I seem to be doing good?”

“Yeah.  I just know you’ve been worried about stuff lately and sometimes…I don’t know, sometimes that’s not so good for you.”

Mama pulled me by my ears until our foreheads were touching and we were eye to eye.  “I love you for caring, sweetheart, but your mom’s doing good and I really think I can do this.  Can you trust me this one time?”

“Yeah, Mama,” I said as I pulled away.  What else could I say?

“Alright!” she said, clapping her hands enthusiastically.  Now she started to bounce on my bed, not as excitedly as Connie, but her excitement was clear.  “This is going to be so great!  We’ll get balloons and streamers.  I’ll make a cake and get whatever ice cream you want.  We’ll invite all your friends and it’ll be the best party any of them will have ever seen.”

My smile, though still present, had lost the sparkle that had been there a moment before.

“What’s wrong?” Mama asked, her enthusiasm fading.

“Nothing,” I said through clinched teeth, trying to hold my smile.

“He’s worried he doesn’t know any kids who’ll come,” Connie said, still hopping on his bed.  “And he’s right to be worried.”  Even as a ten-year old boy, Connie’s verbal filter had a gaping hole in it.

“Are you guys kidding?  Who’re all those boys I always see you playing with outside?  God, you guys move around the neighborhood like the Wild Bunch.”

“They’re the neighbor kids who let Harmon tag along.  They’re not his friends,” Connie said.  “They treat Harmon like he’s a mongrel dog.”

“Shut up, Constantine,” I stammered.

“Oh, boo hoo.  You’re calling me by my name.  That really hurt,” Connie said, a mean flash streaking through.

“Enough, Connie, or you won’t be invited.  Anyway, I bet they’ll be his friends that day,” she said, believing that should make me feel better.  “Who’s gonna say no to the funnest birthday party ever?”  I shrugged my shoulders.  “I almost forgot.  What do you want?”

“For what?” I asked.

“What do you want for your birthday present, retard?” Connie answered.

“Constantine.  That’s enough,” Mama said sternly.  She turned back to me.  “That’s right, sweetie.  What do you want for your birthday present?”

I knew we didn’t have money.  Even as she was asking, I was wondering how she was going to pay for just the basics of the party.  Our shortage of funds, though never a conversation between Mama and us, was well known to Connie and me through her crying and fighting with landlords and bill collectors and sometimes to no one who could be seen… at least by us.  We knew her meds cost a ‘small fortune’ and Connie and I knew we didn’t have what other kids had just so she could get them.  Since we’d seen her both on and off of them, it was a sacrifice we made without hesitation.

“The party is a great present, Mama.  I don’t need anything else,” I said.

“Ohhh, don’t be a party pooper.  C’mon Harmony, think big.  Maybe a video game player.  Or a new bike.  I saw one of the neighbor kids riding past our house a couple a days ago riding the most beautiful burgundy colored bike with a sparkly banana seat and chopper handlebars.  That’s the kind of present I’m talking about.”

I considered a video game player.  It did look cool and all the coolest kids in class had one.  But in my heart of hearts, in the small place where I still let simple dreams survive if not necessarily thrive, I knew a bike would win out.  Boys in my neighborhood rode around like a gang of bikers and Connie and I, the only kids in the area without wheels, were the omega dogs of the pack.

“I guess if I had to pick…” I said, drawing out my words.

“Yesss,” mama said, goading me on, her fingers pushing lightly in my sides.

“If I had to pick, then I’d say…” I said, my giggles starting to build.

“Yessss.”

“I’d have to say a bike.  If that’s ok?” I quickly qualified.

“Ok?  That’s great.  Now that we have that settled, how about we plan for a party?” Mama asked.  Looking back, it is hard to believe such a joyous lighting of the fuse could create such a cataclysmic explosion.

As we drove back to the hospital, Connie and me in the front, Emmy holding Cece in the back, all that could be heard were sniffles coming from the front and back seats.  I was tempted to turn on the radio to drown them out, but felt these tears had earned their stripes tonight and deserved their full respect.

“He was so nice to me,” Cece whispered after a long silence.  “Why do I hafta keep screwin’ stuff up?” she asked as she broke into full-on, heartbroken tears.

We all listened to her cry and asked ourselves the same question.  “He really seemed to like you, Cece,” Emmy said.

Cece’s cries slowly turned to hiccups as she looked at the program in her hands that she had taken from her purse.  “I think he does,” she said, her words slurring through the alcohol still residing in her system.  “He said he’d ask the hospital if he can take me out to dinner and a movie or just for a drive or whatever.  Do you think he will?”

“I’m sure he will.  He’d be lucky to have you as a friend,” Emmy said.  She sounded naive giving that clichéd advice to our acutely mentally ill mother, but she was being sweet and supportive and I figured if nothing else, it kept Cece sedated for the ride back to the hospital.  Connie must’ve felt the same as he didn’t jump in either.  I had no doubt that tonight was the last we’d ever hear or see of Ernie Vadonovich.  While I did feel sad for how the night had gone, I’d been down this road so many times before, and often times worse, I couldn’t get too worked up over what had happened.  At least tonight I was traveling down this road in a Cadillac.

As we approached the hospital, the darkened building against the cloudy backdrop welcomed us back with the warmth of a prison yard.  I couldn’t see Cece’s face for the darkness, but knew I wouldn’t want to if given the choice.  More than her sadness, it was her dying spirit that could move me, especially given the gains she’d been making recently.   The car stopped and we all sat silently, waiting for someone else to make the first move.

“I need to go,” Cece said as she slid right behind me, waiting for me to open the door for her.  We all scooted out and, with Emmy on one side and Connie on her other, we escorted Cece back into the hospital.

I watched her wither as she took each step towards the door of her ward after we’d exited the elevator until Emmy and Connie were practically carrying her.  Her shoulders began to shake as real tears took hold and the gravity of the night weighed fully on her.

“Oh, baby doll,” a kind female staff said as she opened the door to the ward.

“I screwed up so bad, Julie,” Cece said as she released her chaperones and hugged the woman.  She held her tightly as Cece began a quiet but intensifying wail.  Julie waved us off and nodded, indicating she could take it from here.  We all put a hand on Cece and said goodbye, Connie giving her a kiss as we departed.  She cried harder.  Julie began walking her to her room where she would comfort her and calm her down, with medication if necessary.  We watched as she shuffled down the hall, the flowers from her hair dropping to the floor.  She was home.

Categories: Fiction | Tags: | 1 Comment

Wifey by Fey Ugokwe

WifeyTitle: Wifey
Author: Fey Ugokwe
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Pink Purse International
Pages: 154
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615764908
ISBN-13: 978-0615764900

Purchase at AMAZON

When life as a curiously paired, young married couple in California–in the midst of a growing state and national economic crisis–becomes literally unworkable, Rodney, an earnestly toiling, playboy of a husband, unilaterally determines that he and P.V., his ambitious but naive, exotic wife, should relocate to Texas. So P.V., a struggling sophomore realtor and avid foodie, and Rodney, a newly unemployed marketer and sports addict, sell virtually everything they own and embark upon a downsized existence in the heart of North Texas–Dallas. But an eerie and horrifying morning dream that P.V. previously experienced becomes a dark and ever-unfurling, pain-filled prophesy that ultimately threatens the very foundations of their humanity. Sex, depravity, despair, and an uneven pavement of good intentions lead to a black, one-way road with a shocking and hair-raising end.

Book Excerpt:

But then one day, unexpectedly, the sun rose sweepingly black upon the state—and it wasn’t the only one—and they awoke to find themselves holding onto nothing but what was standing in three dimensions, and what little they had jointly saved. They had eagerly spent—as if single college co-eds—without much store-housing, always encouraged by the reality that together, they could easily generate sufficient and more. So, in the fresh darkness, their carefree, economic togetherness began to crack, splinter, web. It all started when on a Monday, Rodney’s bosses assigned him to train a new marketing team member from their New York office, and then summarily that Friday, swiftly laid him—and his entire marketing unit—off, except for the one employee he had been forced to mentor. The fragmenting downspiral continued with P.V. realizing that the once flock of eager, wild-eyed buyers had run, scattering well deep, into hiding. Accordingly, she helplessly—an additionally, inexperienced one—watched as her real estate-for-sale listings inventory rolled and aging sat, month after nail-biting month. Resultantly, for income, the two began to snatch away anxiously at the rest of their dwindling, pea-sized savings, and at the vapors of P.V.’s plummeting realtor commissions.

Suddenly, the two together were thinking older, living older—too much older than their individual years. They began redefining the meaning of frills, and withholding those like penny-pinching pensioners, things they once thought of as basics, that they used to, in better times, allow themselves without blinking. And so, they were struggling to maintain no longer the burgeoning, middle income luxe that they had begun to build, but dearly, just the very safe that they had at least, once been. Yet, somehow, the very last to be redefined—to go—were Rodney’s expensive man-crew weekends away to revel, and the first to be jettisoned, long before the redefining, P.V.’s buffering girlfriend trips to cook and soothingly dine. And then one day, in the choking grit and dust wake of it all, for the first time—inclusive of the days of their respective singlehoods—they were broke, miserable, and officially stuck with someone. They were left id-minded, like runaway children caught up in a typhoon at blind-side—force-dragged into an undertowing cycle downward and downward still, eyes squeezed shut intermittently and little arms looped, each round the other’s, league by league in the under together.

*********

Rodney awoke with a jolting, eyes-up-open-in-a-flash, start. It was as if a hypnotist had bid him loudly, firmly to wake up—snapping fingers together with an equal harsh force, to facilitate his return to full reason. His eyes were the only part of him that first moved, and he let them do the work as he lay there—rest of body static—by increments perceiving, breathing in the morn. Yellow-white rays of California sun were just beginning to stream slightly in through the luxe, half-slanted open, teal linen blinds. They shifted to illuminate too, the lower tips of the matching, clean-lines-contemporary window treatments that neatly boxed both windows. At an angle out like a tipping domino, the elongated shadow of the window loomed on the pristine—and real—white oak floorboards. Rodney twisted slightly to ease a twinge of pain, the minor injury a result of having slipped and almost fallen the night before, on the pristine, white and grey marble tiles that paved his and P.V.’s master bathroom. P.V. was a heavy head to his chest, her mass of black, medium-length, hot-curled hair almost neatly contained in the crook of his elbow. She was still breathing in the realm of sleep, but her little body was tossing and gesturing at intervals, as if walking and acting in that unseen world. And at that very moment, in fact, forever unbeknownst to him, P.V. was indeed dreaming—of Nani.

In the dream, Nani appeared physically as her normal self: she was a beautiful—almost brown—bent-forward-midway-at-the-waist and thin, but wide-bodied, woman. Her parabolic bearing always made her seem as if she were perpetually giving salaam, a condition caused by her incorrigibly poor posture as a girl, and the late stages of osteoporosis in her end years. Her smooth, black hair was parted in the middle, and streaked with coarser, fly-away strands of white, all disappearing into a long braid that peeked out again near her waist. She was standing in Trinidad, outside P.V.’s parent’s first home together, in an alcove portion off the veranda that was sheltered by the low, Spanish-tiled roof of the house. In the distance, P.V. could see the blanched sands of the beach, and the sparkling, green-blue waters rolling and retreating on its thin lip. But Nani was oddly barefoot—and alarmingly sheathed from top to bottom in a white sheet that was wound about her body in sections, as if on a mummy. She was muttering and curved over a roti flat pan and board, spindly fingers slightly floured and glistening from the oil mix. One roti was already sizzling on the flat pan, and to her left, there was a large, white china plate with a royal blue pattern, heaped high with all that she had previously cooked.

The sky suddenly darkened into a night, with a large, spinning patch of daylight in the distance—and bright, rich, almost blindingly deep-blue flowers began to fall out of the air to everywhere. The blooms, each as if clovers springing out their vivid blossoms from a single stalk, dropped on top of Nani’s head and onto her shoulders, immediately bouncing off on impact to the area around her. And they fell onto the food and preparation table, sticking into the mixing bowl containing the remainder dough, and blanketed the entire surface of the ground and tiled veranda floor. One huge stalk fell violently and lodged behind Nani’s ear, its tip caught in her hooped, gold earring.

And Nani seemed to abruptly become aware of P.V’s presence—whipping about sideways to face her, straightening completely up from the waist as would have been impossible for her, braid jerking to and fro with the immediacy of the motion. In her right hand was the stack of roti, topped with the new roti that had been in the pan—which was still gleaming—a flaky, beckoning nourishment, slightly charred and golden in spots. And grunting, face ashen and gaunt, she extended the breads to P.V., wrinkled right hand shaking out an urgency for her to take them. But when P.V. reached for that right hand, Nani moaned and extended her left, which—flesh inexplicably missing in parts—began to gush a dark red blood, thick from the palm and up over like discovered crude oil, from deep within its center.

 

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Crypto, by James Stone

Crypto_smTitle: Crypto

Genre: Mystery/Adventure

Author: James Stone

Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Purchase at AMAZON.  

Cryptographic chips unique to the National Security Agency are found where they should not be. The FBI forms a task force and demands open access to NSA, which they cannot legally have. NSA assigns Ellen Drew, a new recruit from LAPD Homicide. The assignment quickly leads her into a maze of duplicity, treachery, and treason. Lives, everyone’s lives, are on the line as the full scope of the plot emerges.

Excerpt:

Prologue

 

Moscow pedestrians forced to walk past Number 2 Lubyanka Square generally do so on the other side of the street. It is not that the walkways are better on that side. It is not that the view is better. It is simply that citizens of Russia understand from the depths of their souls that the Russian Secret Police are hazardous to their health. Home to the Russian Secret Police for almost 100 years, the Lubyanka is the seat of contagion, a place to be avoided at all times and under all circumstances. Its current incarnation, the Federal Security Service, FSB, wasn’t believed to be any different from its predecessors.

The normally minimal traffic had been further reduced to the vanishing point by darkness and a snow storm. This was even more so on the small street that ran behind the Lubyanka. No one witnessed a black ZIL limousine turn in at a narrow portal, curtains drawn for privacy. And another. And another.

The parade of quiet limousines disgorged, one after the other, a flow of equally quiet men who slipped into a doorway manned by guards who needed to see no identification. The quiet men made their ways to a top floor cloak room where they divested themselves of their overcoats. An astonishing array of braid and brass emerged. Generals abounded. There were some bear hugs of greeting, and some good humored banter, but they were mostly subdued, out of character for these normally demonstrative men. They waited, grouped together along lines of affiliation, and talked quietly. The director had not yet arrived.

An aide appeared and beckoned them into the adjoining conference room. He indicated that the director had entered the building and was on his way up. The men looked around and counted noses. They could be sure that those already present constituted the totality of the gathering. The director would not have arrived otherwise.

The conference table was in the shape of a long U. Cards were in place for each person. The director’s seat was at the head. The choicest seats were along the outside, at the extremities. The worst seats were on the inside. Those unfortunate to occupy the inside seats felt that they were in a fish bowl. People overlooked them from every direction. They felt especially vulnerable from the rear.

Each arrival looked with mixed curiosity and apprehension to see where he was placed. Some swelled with satisfaction. Others were stabbed with dismay. Those favored naturally felt that their positions had been mandated by the director. The others tried to tell themselves that the director had nothing to do with it, that the cretin who set up the table was at fault. None questioned their positions aloud. They stood at attention behind their appointed chairs.

The director was one of the most powerful men in Russia. As the head of the FSB, he controlled all overseas espionage, including an unknown number of exceptionally trained assassins. He also controlled all domestic intelligence and counter intelligence. Following time honored practice, he had set up a variety of sub-organizations, each with its own head, each intensely jealous of the others. The director balanced each against the other, thus keeping them mostly away from his own throat. Then too, there were always the assassins. Hence, the anxious readings of the entrails of a freshly slain conference table for omens of the future.

The director strode into the room and took his seat without a word. There was a general scraping as the others seated themselves. The director cleared his throat and spoke to no one in particular. “Comrades, the President sends his greetings. He asked me to tell you he appreciates the way in which you are carrying out the business of keeping our homeland safe.”

There were polite smiles and nods. They recognized the opening ploy and flowed with it. The director’s gaze scanned the table and settled on a small, elderly man at the far corner of the table. “Comrade Alyushin, what can you tell us about the American Situation?”

The assembled group looked at Alyushin, the Director of Planning and Analysis, with wooden expressions. They tended to treat him and his staff with contempt. His group was widely viewed as a pasture for those who didn’t have the good sense to retire when they should. However, he and the director were old compatriots, so they would give him a polite hearing. Alyushin removed a pipe from his mouth and spoke quietly to the director as though they were the only two in the room.

“The Americans have severe internal political and economic problems. Their lawmaking bodies keep switching parties, and their current president is widely viewed as having little international affairs sense or strength. Their economy is in shambles, only slightly better than the Europeans. Their obsession with global warming, and other things they call ‘political correctness,’ has made them vulnerable to terrorism and increasing dependence on foreign energy and other natural resources.

The group as a whole seemed to become more alert and more focused on Alyushin. A thinking man might not know where this was leading, but would be sure the director was responsible for the direction. A prudent man would watch and listen carefully.

Alyushin continued, “In short, it appears the Americans are in the worst shape since just before the ‘Great War’ and are basically paralyzed internationally.”

The director looked around the room. “If I have understood this presentation correctly, we have to contend with a country that is seriously weakened, and a president who is not in a position to respond internationally. Does that conform to your understanding?”

There were general nods around the table. No one was willing to disagree until he knew the name of the game.

The director turned to a General of the Army. “Please report on the combat readiness of the Army.”

“Highly satisfactory, Comrade Director. Regular combat divisions are at full strength. All are equipped with the latest combat weapons. Morale is high, especially in the division that recently completed an exercise.”

“Did you use the new cryptographic equipment?”

“We did indeed. It performed flawlessly.”

The director nodded his satisfaction. “You might explain this new system to the rest of the group.”

“Yes, comrade.” The general appeared to gather his thoughts. He began quietly. “What you are about to hear has been one of the most closely guarded secrets of Russia. Until the recent maneuvers, less than a hundred people knew even of the existence of the system. It went by the code name ‘Solid Ice.’ Its concept is no less grandiose than the total security of all Russian communications, from those supporting our diplomatic missions down to the lowest radioman in a rifle squad.”

Murmurs rolled around the room. The general continued, becoming more animated. “I can see that the significance of this breakthrough captures your imagination. With total communications security, we will be able to conduct the most sensitive diplomatic activities without fear of exposure. We will be able to exclude all outside intrusion into our affairs. And, best of all, we will be able to prepare for any military action without revealing the associated troop and logistics movements. I foresee the day, not long distant, when the despised U.S. National Security Agency will be put completely out of business.” The general basked in a round of general applause.

A man in civilian clothes, whose applause had been more polite than enthusiastic, leaned forward and cleared his throat. “How long distant, Comrade? What is the nature of this new miracle, and how fast can it be fielded?”

The general looked modest. “Not really a miracle,” he responded, “just the genius of our mathematicians and physicists. You see, since before the Great War, encryption has been based on the fact that any communication can be represented by a sequence of numbers. Further, the number set can be limited to ones and zeros. Scramble the numbers according to an algorithm known only by the sender and receiver, and the result is difficult to read. Not impossible, until a recent advance by our mathematicians. Our encryption is now unreadable by any practical method, even with the most advanced computers expected to be available in the next decade.”

The man in civilian clothes spoke again. “Assuming I accept that the messages are unbreakable, what prevents someone from watching radio traffic between units and inferring what is happening?”

“Another of our advances. Our new radios hop frequencies at very high rates, so they don’t stay on one frequency long enough to be detected. The same algorithms used to encrypt the core message are used to control the frequency hopping, so it’s doubly impossible to see who is doing what and where, or even that anyone is doing anything.”

“Next,” said the civilian, “how do the systems ensure command and control from the top to the bottom?”

“There, we’ve copied the American concept of combat net radio. Each unit, at whatever level, has its own network. The commander at that level is in his network and also in the network of the next level up. And so on, to the level of the prime minister. Also, we’ve put in a twist that allows higher levels to override all lower levels and take direct control.”

“Next,” said the civilian, “when will the new system be completely fielded?”

“Twelve months. That includes not only the new combat radio, but also all communications by any element of the Russian government. All will use the new master encryption system.”

“Impressive,” said the civilian. “Two final questions. You mentioned ‘practical methods.’ What about impractical methods? And how did the funding for such a program sneak through?”

The general flushed slightly. “It is theoretically possible, given enough computing power, to break any encryption. However, the computing power to attack our new encryption is decades away.”

The civilian stared at the general for a long time. The silence lengthened painfully. At last the civilian murmured, “You are certain? Absolutely certain?”

The director chose to step in at this point. The lack of love between the civilian and the general was well known. “As certain as anything in an uncertain world,” he said briskly, looking around the room. “To answer your other question, no one in this room except me knows how the funding was ‘sneaked’ through.” He turned to the general, eyes cold. “Have the new system fielded within the year. Fully.”

As if on cue, the door behind the director opened, and his aide entered with an arm load of folders. He began distributing them. They were dun-colored and marked “MOST SECRET.” Each folder had the name of a department, or organization, inscribed in the corner.

After the aide had left, the director looked around the room again. No one had opened his folder. “These folders describe projects each of you is to set in motion. Each of you is to return to his organization and began work immediately. Completion is to be one year from now. If you have problems, surface them immediately. No excuses will be accepted a year from now.”

The director abruptly stood and left the room. The others sat for a while wondering whether the meeting was over, wondering also what this new project might be. Finally, someone gathered sufficient nerve to leave. The logjam broke, and the parade of ZILs began quietly carrying their anonymous cargoes into the night.

Categories: Fiction, Suspense | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Spotlight: WIG BEGONE by Robert Seymour

Title: Wig Begone
Author: Robert Seymour (aka Charles Courtley)
Publisher: Matador/Troubador
Publication Date: August 17, 2010
Paperback: 248 pages
ISBN: 1848761732
Genre: Humorous Fiction

PURCHASE HERE!

Charles, a newly qualified lawyer without a penny to his name, plunges into the archaic world of the Bar as it was thirty-five years ago. After a stroke of beginners’ luck – and a taste of good living – he soon becomes established in practice battling away in the criminal courts, conducting court-martials in Germany and on one horrifying occasion actually appearing in a commercial court, “winding up ” companies of which he knows nothing! He encounters a wide range of clients including an Italian motorist charged with assault, who claims to have been savagely attacked by an elderly lollipop man wielding his road sign. On top of that, there are instructing solicitors who never pay him and even one who has departed this world altogether yet still manages to operate on a shadowy basis from the vicinity of Bow Road in East London. Court-martials take Charles abroad where he encounters a German policeman’s dog whose canine expertise is deemed to be perfectly sound evidence and samples a night out on the other side of the infamous Berlin wall just making it back to the safety of the West. Wig Begone is an exhilarating tale of Charles’ early career with disaster often lurking round the corner and culminating in his own appearance in front of England’s most notorious judge!

Excerpt

‘Charles Courtley,’ declared the Treasurer of Galahad’s Inn, eighteen months before.  ‘You are hereby called to the Bar of England and Wales.’

That was it.  Finally, I had achieved my dream and become a barrister.  True, it had taken me some years to pass the exams but I had made it at last!  Now for the formal dinner in the grand surroundings of Hall and then the last bus home – I reckoned I had just about enough money on me for that.

Frankly, Andrea and I were still very hard up.  Married for three years, we were living in a dingy basement flat in Peckham; all we could afford.  Not only was it damp all the year round and freezing cold in winter but constant electrical shorts often announced themselves with a loud bang.  It was also miles away from the nearest tube.

The call ceremony took place in 1972 and I was about to eat the last dinner in Hall reuqired of me.  These twelve compulsory events were regarded as being equally important to passing the exams.  Nonetheless, it felt good to sit down at the hhigh table in Hall that night as a barrister and not a student.  For the first time, I wore my brand new bar robe over the pin-striped trousers and black jacket which would be my uniform from now in.  The fact that these items were bought second-hand from Moss Bros. worried me not at all.

“Even if one person only in 50 years time, were to read a copy of my book,long discarded but now rediscovered in somebody’s attic, I would be rewarded enough.”

— Robert Seymour

Robert Seymour, (under the pseudonym of Charles Courtley) is a retired judge who lives on the English coast with his wife, Jane, of 38 years, and a small dog called Phoebe.

He is the author of Wig Begone, a tale of a young barrister’s triumphs and tragedies. As well as adapting his novel into a screenplay and writing a sequel, he contributes to legal newsletters and blogs.

Find him online at http://courtleyprocedures.wordpress.com.

Categories: Fiction, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plug Your Book Spotlights Black Child to Black Woman by Cheryl Bannerman

Find Cheryl at Bannerman Books

Title of Book: Black Child to Black Woman, A Journey of Tremendous Proportions

Author: Cheryl Bannerman

ISBN: Paperback/Soft cover: 978-1-4520-3578-9
Hard cover: 978-1-4520-3579-6

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Authorhouse

Publication Date: 08/2010

# of Pages: 179

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Excerpt:
From a small town down South…
Hi. My name is Tara. Tara Walker. I’m just a child (nine years old to be exact), though sometimes I don’t feel like one. I’m one of those kids that is tall for my age. But that’s not all. I see and hear things I am not supposed to. Grown-ups are always tryin’ to hide stuff from me, like I don’t know already.

Trying to be a good little girl is not hard for me. I don’t say much so it makes it easy to be the perfect little girl I am supposed to and expected to be. Good in school, no trouble at home, and I eat just about anything, so you can’t even say I’m a picky eater. Sometimes I wonder why everyone always calls me “heavy-handed”. I guess it’s because I break things by accident, and also I’m kind of klutzy, I guess you could say. I’m much taller than most of my friends which makes me somewhat stronger than most my age. This is not something I do on purpose, but I think my mom and dad think that I do. Speaking of mom and dad, I guess you want to know about them, huh? Well, my mom works for this bank in Philadelphia called “1st Pennsy” I think. Anyway, she works all the time and mostly the late shift, so I’m stuck with my brother watching me until my dad comes home. My mom is nice. She’s very pretty, and very classy, from what I hear. I try to be like her and also listen to everything she tells me because she’s smart.

Sometimes my mom is upset because of my dad. You see, my dad drinks acka-hall (that’s a bad drink), and my mom doesn’t like it too much. Sometimes their fighting wakes me up and I can’t get back to sleep for a long time. My dad’s really cool! He’s funny and he takes me everywhere. He works at this lumber company where they sell wood and when he has to take me with him to work I get to pretend I’m building all these neat things with hammers and nails. I get lost in my own little world and even forget to have lunch! My dad takes me everywhere! Oh, wait, I said that already. Sorry. Well, this may seem weird to you but I even go with him to the bar. It’s a place where all these people meet every day or weekend, I think. They drink that stuff my mom doesn’t like and play pool (some boring game with sticks and balls), and video games. Whenever I go there I would drink soda from these tiny little glasses and eat snacks from a bowl and play video games. My favorite game was Space Invaders. Pinball was cool too. Everyone treats me great. It’s like I am a movie star! Whenever I run out of quarters I just get more from my dad. That is my typical Friday or Saturday night. I guess my mom is at work. I don’t really know.

Cheryl Bannerman

Cheryl McNeil (pen name, Cheryl D. Bannerman, her birth name) is CEO of a small virtual training company based out of Central New Jersey. She works out of her home office and creates classroom training materials, e-Learning modules, job aides and much more for corporate employees and their clients. She holds a Bachelors in Business Management and a Masters in Project Management. She is also the (divorced) single mother of a beautiful eleven year old girl.

In her spare time she loves to read murder mysteries, watch movies, try new restaurants and cuisines, shop with her daughter, and in the summer, walk the boardwalk and take in the sun on the beach. Although her works are fiction, she has incorporated many of her life’s experiences into her stories.

You can find Cheryl at www.bannermanbooks.com

Categories: Fiction | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

THE OVUM FACTOR by Marvin L. Zimmerman

Title of Book: THE OVUM FACTOR
Genre: Fiction/Adventure/Thriller
Author: Marvin L. Zimmerman
Website: www.theovumfactor.com
Publisher: Synergy Books

Summary:
Destruction of Earth’s ecology threatens the survival of humanity. With time ticking away, a clandestine think tank of scientists and world leaders has identified our last hope – the controversial research of a Nobel Prize – winning professor aimed at unleashing the power of a unique molecule that can alter the course of human history.

When David Rose, a young investment banker from New York, is assigned to evaluate the professor’s research, he soon becomes swept up in a whirlwind of international espionage, assassination, and sabotage. David finds himself on a journey that takes him to the unexplored depths of the Amazon in order to fulfill two ancient prophecies for saving mankind and at the same time to realize his own destiny.

From New York to Califonia, from China to the slums of Rio de Janerio, and into the Amazon, the search for the mysterious source of this rare molecule will take you into the heart of the unknown and unseen forces of nature.

Ask the Author:

“The Ovum Factor is a unique blend of high concept thriller with Indiana Jones’ style adventure, Michael Chrichton’s scientific twist and the intrigue of the Da Vinci Code. Can you give us examples of why this is so?”

The Ovum Factor combines the imaginative scientific premise typical of Michael Crichton with the tense intrigue of a novel by Dan Brown – all told in the swashbuckling style of an Indiana Jones adventure.

A Noble Prize-winning professor from Caltech discovers a unique new molecule that will vastly increase the brain development of babies while still in the early fetal stage. He hopes that a future new generation of geniuses will offer humanity our best hope for solving the almost insurmountable problems we have created, including irreversible climate change, destruction of the natural world and imminent pandemics by virulent new micro-organisms.

The only problem is that this miraculous molecule is so complex in its chemical structure that it has so far proven highly elusive to synthesize in the laboratory. Ultimately, the only recourse is to find its only natural source which has been established to be a rare plant used by a reclusive Indian tribe living somewhere in the immense Amazon rainforest.

Parallel to this central theme, there is never slackening intrigue as assassins and saboteurs working for ultra-conservative groups try to stop the research at all costs. There is also international espionage by foreign agents whose only motive is to profit from the immense commercial value of this extraordinary molecule.

Apart from its important underlying message about the impending environmental apocalypse facing humanity, The Ovum Factor is also a thrilling adventure. The unlikely hero, David Rose, a young New York investment banker, finds himself stranded in the most remote part of the Amazon. He must battle his way past hostile Indians and the unforgiving jungle as he tries to find the source of the mysterious plant. His seemingly impossible challenge is made even more difficult when he comes to realize that he must succeed to save the lives of those he holds most dear.

As David’s journey toward his true destiny unfolds, there are constant twists and turns that will lead to an ending no one could have anticipated.

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Categories: Adventure, Fiction, Thriller | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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