Excerpt Reveal: Reflections of an Anxious African American Dad by Eric L. Heard

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Eric L. Heard for sharing an excerpt from his latest release Reflections of an Anxious African American Dad.

About the Book

Reflections of an Anxious African American Dad

The purpose of this book is an awkward discussion of Eric Heard’s life to his son. He talks about his life in a candid way that tries to explain his anxiety as an African American dad. It is an open and honest account of his life through the life of a child that has been through a lot in his life. It is a reflection on his life that has been shaped by his childhood experiences.

You can find this book on:

Amazon | Goodreads


This episode jolted me into making another connection between my childhood and how I was acting as a parent with my son. I would take actions to ensure that what had haunted our family tree for generations would not happen to him. I knew it would require some radical steps. One of those actions was writing a book that he can share with his family after I leave this earth. When he thinks about the times I would not go with him to the baseball game or to his school assembly, this book will provide the answers when he reads between the lines.

 I hope this book will help others who don’t have their stories told anywhere in media. There are other African American men dealing with their childhood experiences and wanting to insulate their sons and daughters from the echoes and continued grasp of systematic racism. I grew up during an era of seismic changes that saw whole communities decimated. The mental anguish quietly pushed African American dads to find a way to deal with an unforgiving world. These dads are looking to raise kids while at the same time reconciling crushing pain. I would like this book to be an acknowledgment of that pain and let them know they are not alone.

About The Author

About Eric L. Heard

Eric L. Heard currently lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky with his wife, Sonya, of 17 years and his son, McKinley. Eric is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Engineering. He also has a Master’s Business Administration from Indiana University and Master’s of Manufacturing Operations from Kettering University. He is an Army Brat who has lived in the Southeast United States, Germany, and Japan. Please contact me at ericlheard@hotmail.com, if you have any questions or need to contact m

You can contact Author Eric here:

Email | Amazon | Goodreads

Excerpt Reveal: Brand Purpose – Less Unicorn, More Zebra? by Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday for sharing an excerpt from her latest release Brand Purpose – Less Unicorn, More Zebra?

About the book

Brand Purpose – Less Unicorn, More Zebra?

Purpose is a journey, not a destination. More business leaders, marketers and customers need to become aware of true brand purpose and act upon it through business strategies, marketing campaigns and their wallet. This book challenges the way brand purpose has been deployed over the past few years and examines ways of correcting misconceptions and misuses by providing practical solutions and examples of what good looks like. We all have a role to play in the community, so stop dreaming about unicorns and be more zebra!

You can find Brand Purpose here:

MyBestseller | Amazon Blurb


There is a lot of confusion around purpose, especially when it comes to a brands’ purpose, how they deploy this concept in their marketing efforts and then portray it to the world. We are currently living in some really troubled times (probably not the worst in human history); but nevertheless constantly bombarded with bad news, apocalyptic images and consistent negative updates across politics, nature, economics and many other verticals. So naturally, people as consumers and as citizens of this world turn their attention – more than ever to social and environmental issues. 

There has never been such a desire to change, fix, improve, eliminate, or embrace actions that would make a difference to the current affairs and not only make us feel better about ourselves but genuinely help shape a better future. Specifically, for this reason more than 60% of consumers believe that brands play a greater role than governments when it comes to the future of this planet. Whilst this is all fabulous news for brands to be entrusted with such great confidence, some of them are taking advantage of this trend in an unorthodox manner. 

Here I present this book, hoping to highlight some of the issues around brand purpose and purposeful brands, attempting to better define brand purpose and dreaming to be able to make a difference in how people/consumers/marketers perceive brand purpose and its real importance and power.

I just don’t want to stay silent anymore and marvel at how some big brands who have been silently chopping down trees from nature reserves are getting praised on a wider scale for improving and changing our society for good. I want to bring bad examples to your attention, but I also wish to define genuine brand purpose to inspire those companies out there who are fooling themselves (and at times, us) that their brand purpose is real.

Thus, I hope you will enjoy this book and become inspired to evaluate the brands you are working on as a marketer or the brands you are buying as a consumer through the lens of “true brand purpose”.

About The Author

Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday 

Laricea Ioana Roman-Halliday is a business leader, marketer, mentor, public speaker and brand specialist who has built her passion for brand purpose on the back of her meaningful marketing career with various Fortune 100 companies. Her experience includes working with Microsoft, Google, Unilever, Huawei, Hyundai and many more. She is a big environmental advocate who truly believes in successful business done for good and is constantly curious about driving it forward.

You can find author Laricea here:

Instagram | LinkedIn

If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Excerpt Reveal: Forgive Us by E.T. Gunnarsson

Welcome to TRB-Lounge, the section of TRB dedicated to book promotions. Today, I’d like to welcome author E.T. Gunnarsson, for sharing an excerpt from their latest release Forgive Us.

Read on to get a sneak-peek into this amazing new read!

About The Book

Three timelines. One dark future…

A new form of energy has poisoned the earth, leaving civilization in ruins. As decades go by, the inheritors of this devastation struggle to survive and reconquer a broken planet…

In 2099: Mankind emerges from the darkness. A lone rider named Oliver journeys east, seeking civilization beyond the Rocky Mountains. Braving the toxic earth and poison air, Oliver must battle a horde of deadly mutants as he unites a band of refugees into the first nation of this new world…

In 2153: Fledging nations clash over land and resources. London, a veteran of the wasteland, struggles to protect his adopted daughter Rose as the world decays around them. But little does he know, both he and his adopted daughter will soon find themselves drawn into a coming war…

In 2184: Simon, a descendent of those who fled the earth, lives on the great Arcadis Station. A gifted technician, he works vigilantly against those who rule his society with an iron fist. In the shadows, he will be the difference between enslavement or liberty…

Fans of The Gunslinger and The Stand will love Forgive Us. This epic novel takes readers on a post-apocalyptic thrill ride, spanning three generations of a ravaged earth…

You can find the book here:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | BookBub | Goodreads | Lulu | NetGalley


Chapter I


8:46 PM, December 31, 2099

Silent, empty, and cruel. This was the nature of the wasteland.

The wasteland was a vast expanse of ruins, sand, and dying life beneath a polluted sky. This was the new world. It was created by humanity in 2079, and it was the world that they now had to brave to survive. 

The downfall of the old world happened slowly. Humanity did not know it, but their cunning and technology became their undoing. In the great battle between Mother Nature and humanity’s dominion, there was no winner. 

The sound of a thunderous engine erupted throughout the eerie wasteland as a motorcycle sped along the ancient roads. Upon it was a survivor, alone and braving all odds. His name was Oliver, a thirty-six-year-old man who had grown up in the old world.

Oliver was a refugee from the wild and untamed lands near the Rocky Mountains. He fled East, guided by the hope that the East would be better, though he could feel in his gut that it wouldn’t be. The only solace he had were stories from traveling caravans and survivors who spoke of growing settlements in the East.

Oliver was pursued. Not by man, not by beast, but by time. Starvation, dehydration, exposure, all of these were barely kept at bay by luck and experience. His current and most dangerous pursuer was the weather. 

The pollution haze above blocked out the sun. As night approached, the world slowly became pitch black and freezing cold. The darkness parted before the headlights of his motorcycle, yet Oliver felt vulnerable. 

Parallel to the road were telephone poles, some of which had tilted or completely fallen to the ground. The surrounding wasteland was desolate and empty, occupied by rocks and sand dunes. 

Oliver wore an old-world smart suit that was on its warmest setting. He also wore a coat made out of animal hide over his smart suit. He had traded for it a while ago, and it had saved him from freezing to death many times already. Still, he shivered.

A gas mask covered his face. It was vital for survival in the wasteland; without it, the toxic air would corrode Oliver’s lungs. It was old and worn, created in a factory in the old world. Still, it worked much better than the makeshift masks that most people wore. Finding filters for the gas mask was easy; they were everywhere.

There was a grim face beneath the intimidating gas mask. Oliver’s brown eyes reflected a man whose past was full of pain and hardship. Through the visor, they seemed tired. The light that most people have in their eyes was dim in Oliver’s. He also had deep curves between his brows and fatigued laugh lines. His skin was dark and covered in colored blotches, irritated and damaged from the wasteland air.

Oliver focused on his current task: finding shelter for the night. Such searches were often painful since he had to be picky about the buildings he used. Some were too unstable to hold up against the wasteland’s extreme weather; some were too hard to get into, others occupied.

He paused at a fork in the road, gazing down each path. After a few seconds, Oliver turned the motorcycle right and sped off. The sand-covered asphalt in front of him rose into a hill. Oliver followed the road and arrived at a parking lot. In front of him was an old, wooden church that was leaning to one side. A few cars sat parked in the parking lot, their paint stripped by sandy winds and their frames rusted out by time. The church itself had shattered windows and holes in every wall. Oliver had to make do. It was too dangerous to search for better shelter with night fast approaching.

The thunderous engine cut out as Oliver parked and turned off his motorcycle. The world became silent again. Only faint wind could be heard in the absence of the engine’s power. Oliver turned on a flashlight that was attached to the side of the gas mask. Next, he grabbed his gun off the back of his motorcycle. Holding it with two hands, he turned toward the church. Oliver’s boots met the ground with quiet clicks. These were combat boots, tough and made for smashing jaws. 

He swallowed nervously. Though anxious, Oliver felt safe with his Railshot Rifle in hand. It was beautiful, a flawless combination of a railgun and a shotgun. He checked the top port of the gun before entering the church. The gun had plenty of scrap metal in it, ready to shred flesh and bone instantly. Next, he checked the round blue energy meter above the trigger. Oliver felt sure there was enough charge to keep him safe.

He moved toward the entrance. The flashlight pierced the darkness, allowing him to see the gnarled and twisted vines covering the church. They looked so dry that it seemed like they would crumble to dust if Oliver touched them. The twin doors that blocked off the entrance to the building posed no challenge. One was hanging weakly from its hinges, while the other had broken off and now laid on the floor.

Step by step, he entered the church, walking over a fallen door and looking up into the steeple. The lonely church bell still hung far up there. It was rusty, kept in place by a few frayed ropes, gently moving back and forth.  Each time the wind gently moved it, Oliver heard a distant “ding” from the steeple. 

The bell seemed so lonely. It was a reminder that this place was once the center of a community. Where were they? He assumed that they were all long gone, lost to the last twenty years. 

The interior of the church was desolate and destroyed. The hard, wooden floor inside had a layer of sand and pebbles. Each time Oliver took a step, a quiet crunch followed.

 There were broken benches and piles of rubble everywhere. Oliver wondered if any ghosts still sat on those benches. Were they at peace, or were they suffering? Many parts of the walls and roof had collapsed upon the altar and benches lining the church. Oliver looked around cautiously, taking in the looming structure.

Here was once a holy site that held peace, now defiled by the wasteland. To Oliver, all of it was just firewood.

The place was empty of any living presence. The only recent trace of human activity was a single piece of graffiti over the altar. Oliver examined the graffiti, stepping upon the altar to wipe some dust off of it. 


Oliver frowned and stepped down from the altar, turned around, and started to gather pieces of wood. The graffiti was unsettling. Oliver breathed uneasily as he moved around. Once he grabbed enough pieces, he formed them into a campfire at the center of the building. Oliver took off his backpack and laid it beside him. It was an old, rugged backpack that held most of his belongings. There were some holes in it, and its fabric was so worn down that the once blue-ish fibers were black and dirty. The backpack held a bedroll, food, gas mask filters, incredibly precious bottles of water, and bags of scrap metal.

He dug inside the backpack and pulled out a tesla lighter. It was old, given to him when he was younger. On one side was a company logo that was almost invisible from wear. He flipped the cap open and turned it on. Arcs of energy formed between two metal rods, the arcs humming and dancing.

Oliver lowered the lighter down to the campfire. First, there was smoke, then after a few moments, a small flame appeared. Oliver nurtured the flame until it engulfed the small campfire. Once it was going, he unstrapped the bedroll from the backpack and laid it out beneath a bench near the fire. Oliver felt happy as he basked in the warmth of the fire; his shivering slowly stopped as he turned off his flashlight and sat down.

The church creaked and moaned from the rough winds outside. The sounds made Oliver uneasy. He stared at the fire, his face wrinkling in thought as he contemplated the church. People still clung to Christianity in the new world, though their beliefs had changed over the past two decades.

Many were afraid of old churches. Some said that God had punished humanity for their sins. Sin was thought to be the reason why the world was like this now. Many believed that the Devil lived in old holy places like this church. Oliver didn’t believe in all those stories, but the idea still creeped him out. He imagined the evil, horned demon dancing in the shadows with the flickering flame, laughing at his ignorance and plotting to steal his soul.

While warming up from the heat of the campfire, Oliver gazed at the device on his forearm. It was a Smartwrist, similar to a smartwatch from the early 21st century. He turned it on and checked the time. It was nine o’clock, three hours until midnight. New year, new century, same problems. People used to celebrate the new year, drink, and make merry. Not anymore.

With nothing else to do, Oliver decided to eat dinner. He grabbed the backpack and dug through it, procuring a vial with a full meal inside of it. Processed cubes of synthesized meat and vegetables composed the meal, food from the old world. He frowned bitterly under his mask as he looked at the vial. Oliver unscrewed the lid, quickly lifted his gas mask, emptied the vial, and put his mask back on in one swift movement. Instead of throwing away the vial, he put it back in his backpack for later use.

Oliver looked like a chipmunk with so much food in his mouth. Stuffing too much food into his mouth was a bad habit Oliver had; as a matter of fact, he used to be called “Chipmunk” by his family. The artificial food tasted like stale popcorn. Oliver’s metal teeth chewed through the stuff easily. While he was eating, Oliver thought about his last visit to a dentist in the old world.

He remembered having his teeth pulled out to be replaced by 3D printed metal teeth that wouldn’t break or decay. The pain from the procedure was brutal and lasted a few days after the surgery. For many, it was once a rite of passage, marking the transition from teenager to adulthood. Everyone went through it, and, in Oliver’s opinion, he was happy to have metal teeth. Suffering tooth decay from the inability to deal with his hygiene was the last thing Oliver wanted. They looked like real teeth anyway and didn’t turn yellow.

Oliver’s gaze shifted to the doorway of the church. Outside, there was the darkness of a polluted world. There was no grass, but there was still some life, mostly brown, dry, and barely alive. The winds were blowing fiercely as always. A blackish color tainted the air, and waves of dust sailed over the ground with the tremendous force of the wind.

A discontented exhale left his lips as he closed his eyes. Oliver tried to remember a time when the sky didn’t constantly have a dark haze over it. Growing up in a cramped apartment, Oliver heard stories of when there were still green fields and blue skies. He believed the stories only because he had seen pictures that captured those forgotten times, though some doubts lingered in his mind. No matter how hard he tried, he could never recall a bright, sunny day. All that came to mind was the sky darkening as time passed.

He struggled to remember a day when he didn’t have to wear a gas mask to go outside. Oliver recalled that every indoor space had a sort of airlock before anyone could enter. He would walk in, have doors closed behind him, then have the room completely emptied of air and refilled with filtered, clean oxygen in a few seconds. 

Oliver checked the time again. Two hours until the new year. He put more wood on the fire to push the biting cold away.

A pained moaning interrupted the peace as the sparks and flames engulfed the new fuel. Oliver let out a startled gasp, holding his breath and looking toward the sound. Far away outside the church, Oliver could hear footsteps approaching. Oliver barely made out the shapes of figures in the darkness outside, human shapes with extra arms, faces, and body parts fused into them. They were human mutants, the fiendish nightmares of the wasteland.

Oliver hastily stood up and snuffed out the fire in front of him with a boot before laying down flat. He reached out for his weapon and held it, his heart throbbing with dread. The noise and the moans were the worst part. The faint silhouette of their horrid, mutant forms was all Oliver could see in the darkness as memories of being chased, attacked, and more slowly crawled back and made his skin feel cold. They came close to the church, horribly close. Their footsteps and hoarse breathing filled the air.

Oliver heard bodies brush against the sides of the church as they walked past, their footsteps passing slowly and beginning to fade. Oliver carefully stood, proceeding to investigate the church. Had he been seen? Did they know he was here? Nothing. Nothing seemed to be hiding among the ruins, and he heard no more sounds outside. A relieved exhale left his lips as he returned to the fire and knelt beside it, trying to start it again.

Abruptly, footsteps quickly approached from behind. Oliver swung around with his gun ready as he heard them. At the same time, something his size crashed into him, causing him to see stars.

It knocked the gun out of his hands and sent Oliver to the ground. He landed with a pained grunt. In an instant, his knife was in his hands. Despite his surprise, Oliver immediately retaliated against the figure he could barely make out.

The beast shrieked as he plunged the blade blindly into its body. Its arms thrashed, mouth gnashing at Oliver. He stabbed again, then again, the thing falling on top of him. Its shrieking grew higher in pitch, a rough hand striking Oliver in the head. The strike made him blink, stunning him but not stopping him from stabbing.

With a tremendous kick, Oliver threw the creature off and began stomping the monster into the floor. Every smack made it squirm less, its whole body growing still after a while. As he stopped, Oliver heard a rasping breath from it. He stomped again out of spite. Oliver wasn’t going to give it mercy. He lifted his mask and spat on the dying creature. As he did, he caught a whiff of its rancid, sweaty smell.

Oliver listened to the creature as it occasionally let out pained squeals. He started the campfire again, the flame slowly growing from the church’s dried, ancient planks. In the light, Oliver could make out the creature dying before him. It was a mutant, shaped like a human with a face fused partly into its shoulder. A useless limb extended from its belly, while a stunted leg dangled from the calf of its right leg. Stab wounds covered its body, blood seeping from each.

Oliver relished its suffering. He watched it trying to fight again, weakly twisting and squirming. It growled and gurgled, painfully bleeding out. After five minutes, it gave in and collapsed completely. Once the mutant was dead, Oliver remained wary of any more creatures. Fortunately, none came to avenge the mutant that he had just killed.

Oliver felt a stinging sensation on the side of the head where the mutant hit him. He rubbed it, causing his face to scrunch as he winced. It must’ve been another mark. 

“That’s going to bruise,” he whispered to himself.

His skin was rough and covered in scars, damaged from the toxic air and the violent wasteland. Even if it did bruise, it wouldn’t stand out.

He checked the time again — only forty minutes to midnight. The wind outside began to batter the creaking church. The structure’s stability was questionable, but there was no option to find shelter in another building. Oliver moved his bedroll under a bench and got inside of it, keeping his gun close at hand.

He played games on his Smartwrist to pass the time. Oliver felt a sinking sensation of emptiness when his thoughts dwelled on these games. In his youth, games and social media were a major part of his life. Oliver had followers, friends, people that he still kept in touch with years after losing face-to-face communication. Sometimes, Oliver had met his old friends in virtual worlds. The thought caused his fingers to meet the port where the VR chip went, the object that connected the Smartwrist to the VR equipment he once had.

The world felt more desolate than it already was when these thoughts of loneliness came to him. He remembered virtual games too and how many hours of his life he lost to them. Gaming was a happy memory that made him smile when thinking about all the friends he had made, especially those from strange places. Now, survival was lonely and harsh. Whenever humans met one another, it was either shoot or run.

The last thirty-five minutes passed in the blink of an eye, and before Oliver knew it, the last minute before New Years arrived.

As the last minute dwindled, Oliver released a relaxed, drawn-out exhale. He counted it in his head, one Mississippi, two Mississippi. Oliver mumbled it under his breath until the last ten seconds. He turned off the Smartwrist and lifted both arms in the air with spread fingers.

“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one… HAPPY NEW YEAR!” he whispered as loudly as he dared.

The year was 2100, and Oliver was still alive.

About The Author

E.T. Gunnarsson

Mr. Gunnarsson grew up on a horse-rescue ranch in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado. He now resides in Georgetown, TX.

Once in Texas, he wrote his first post-apocalyptic book, “Forgive Us” while attending high school. Outside of writing, Mr. Gunnarsson is a purple belt in BJJ and a brown belt in Judo.

You can connect with the author here:

Facebook | Instagram | Reedsy Discovery | Twitter | Website

Book Excerpt: Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai by Con Chapman

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Con Chapman for sharing an excerpt from his latest release Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai.

About The Book

KIMIKO CHOU is a girl on a mission. Her mother and brother have been killed by robbers in 14th century Japan while her father, a samurai warrior, is off on an invasion of Korea.
Chou (“butterfly” in Japanese) narrowly escapes death by hiding while the robbers ransack her home, then—dressed as a boy in her brother’s clothes—she goes in quest of her father. Alone on the road, she takes up with Hyōgo Narutomi, a former samurai who has been dismissed by seven previous masters, and Moto Mori, his page.
The three of them—man, boy, and girl—make their way across Japan along with Piebald, an old horse with a curious spot on his coat that resembles a Fenghuang, the mythical bird that rules over all others in Asian mythology. Together this unlikely trio experience a series of adventures and narrow escapes until Chou and Mori—but not Narutomi—land in Korea. There, as a spy for the Koreans, Chou searches for her father-across enemy lines!

You can get this book here:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound


My name is Kimiko Chou, and this is my story.  I have set it down so that it will live after me, for other girls to read.  They may find it hard to believe, but it is true.

My given name “Chou” means “empress child butterfly.”  It was given to me at my oschichiya—naming ceremony.  I was swathed in white, like a little cocoon, pure as I came into the world.  Like every other aka-chan (“little red one,” loving term for a newborn baby), I wore only this color of godliness for seventeen days.  From then on, I was clothed in the colors of the world, and not just the pure shade of ame, the lofty sacred world of the gods of heaven, the ama-tsu-kami.

            It should not surprise you that I came to live as a samurai, for the way of the samurai is death, and I was born, so to speak, in death.  When robbers invaded our home and attacked my mother and brother, I hid in the alcove—the tokonoma—that is found in the main room of a samurai’s dwelling, and in which is displayed a single beautiful object for contemplation.  I held myself still and breathless while the robbers ransacked the house for money and weapons; they looked only for things of material value, and so didn’t notice me.  I pulled my clothing over my head like a sea urchin in order to save myself.

            How, you ask, is such conduct worthy of a samurai, if the samurai, faced with a choice between life and death, must choose the latter?  Well, we all want to live, and we form our thoughts according to our will.  But at that moment, I was not a samurai, and I had no master.  I had no aim in life, other than to survive.

            When the robbers departed, I was alone.  My mother Hino and my brother Tadashige were both dead.  My father—Kimiko Kiyotaka–was gone, part of a force that had invaded the kingdom of Koguryo (current-day Korea).  I did not know when or if he would return.  I was eleven years old.  

            I was fearful, and for good reason.  The robbers could be seen moving from house to house, repeating their acts of thievery and violence.  Tada and I had recently undergone the ceremony of genpuku, by which we had formally been recognized as adults.  I was to prepare for marriage, he was to prepare for war.  I received a mogi (a pleated skirt), he—a samurai helmet.  If I became my twin brother, I would be able to defend myself from the assaults of the robbers, and I would not be an object of attraction to them.  And so I donned the garb of the samurai at an age when most girls had just begun to play the coquette.  I was close to Tada, as twins will be, and so I had absorbed much of what he had learned in his training to become a samurai.  Now I would become him, and adopt his name.  

            There was nothing left of value in our home except food, and so I cooked some rice and made onigiri (rice balls).  These I packed into Tada’s hakama (pants), and I set off on a quest to find my father, although I knew it might take many years.  I saw myself in the eye of my mind having many adventures before we would be reunited.  I would be a woman then—if I could find him before he died.

            I took with me my mother’s weapons:  Her naginata.  This is a spear with a curved blade at the end.  It was used by women in defending their homes when their samurai husbands were absent from the home.  With its long shaft, it could be used to keep a male opponent at a distance, thus allowing a woman to fend off a man stronger than her.  Next, her tanto, a dagger favored by women because of its short length and capacity for camouflage.  When sheathed, it looked like a fan, and could concealed as an item of innocent adornment until needed.  Finally, her kansashi, a hairpin that is a woman’s weapon of last resort.  Six inches long, it innocently keeps her hair in place but can be pulled out to pierce an attacker’s chest or throat when he is on the point of overcoming her.

            I started out on the road that led towards the sea.  I wanted to go to the place where my father would land when he came back, and if that did not happen for some time, I wanted to find a way to go search for him, on a fishing boat or a bigger craft bound for Korea.  I must have made a forlorn-looking sight.  My brother’s kataginu (sleeveless jacket) hung loose about my shoulders with its exaggerated shoulders, and while I was tried to put on a brave face, my heart was empty—my mother and brother gone, my father far away.  I was all alone in the world.

            The road was a muddy path, the color of my mother’s clay cooking pots.  On either side were bright green hedges of grass that gave way to rice paddies.  I was headed in the direction of the Tsushina Strait, towards a sky that was full of rain coming up from the sea.  It was tinged with grey and blue and pink, like the inside of an oyster’s shell.  It was hard to be hopeful, but I tried to walk with a forceful stride, to show the world that I was determined.

            After a while I heard the clip-clop of a horse coming up behind me.  I did not turn to look, as I wanted to give the rider the sense that I wasn’t a young girl he could trifle with, I was a samurai on a mission.

            As the horseman drew nearer, he called out to me in a curt manner.  “You there!”

            I turned my head slowly to the left, but did not stop walking.  He must know that I would not stop for anyone.  He called again—“You!”

            I kept walking, but said “Yes?”

            “Where are you going?”


            He laughed.  “And how will you get there?”

            “I will hire a boat.”

            “With what?”

            “Never you mind.”

            Upon hearing those bold words, he dug his heels in his horse’s side and rode in front of me, blocking my way.

            “Are you a samurai?” he asked with a mocking smile.

            “I am a samurai’s page.”

            “And who is your master.”

            I hesitated just a moment.  “You would not know him, he lives far from here.”

            “Then how did you come to be all by yourself?”

            I was silent, out of words.  I should have foreseen that I would be questioned, but I had not given thought to the story I would tell.

            “Well?” the man asked.  “Who are you, and what do you have to say for yourself?”

            I fought down a lump in my throat, and spoke.  “I am Kimiko Tadashige.  My master is dead.  I am on my way to seek my father, who is in Korea.”

            The man rubbed his chin, sizing me up.  A boy came up behind him, dressed much like me, but in shabbier garments.  I guessed that he was a page to this samurai and, from the looks of his clothing, had been traveling with him for some time.  Perhaps, I thought, the man on horseback was a ronin, a samurai without a lord.

            “I am Hyōgo Narutomi,” he said with a fierce voice, as if he wanted to scare me and not just say his name.  “This is my page, Moto Mori.”

            The boy bowed slightly and looked me over.  His eyes seemed to see a rival, or even an adversary, even though I was just a stranger walking along the same road.

            “I could use another page,” Narutomi said with a tone of cold calculation, as if I were a fish in a market.

            I did not know what to say.  I would be out of food soon enough, and I wanted protection from robbers and others with malice towards me.

            “Where are you going?” I asked.

            “The same place you are,” Narutomi replied calmly, as if that settled the matter.

            I looked off to the horizon behind Mori to my left, and Narutomi ahead of me.  There was no shelter, and no other road to be seen, all the way to the end of the world within my view.  What choice did I have, other than to continue with my concocted story about where I came from, and where I was going?

            “All right,” I said, without enthusiasm.  “I will come with you.”

About The Author

Con Chapman is the author most recently of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges (Oxford University Press), winner of the 2019 Book of the Year Award from Hot Club de France. His work has appeared in The AtlanticThe Christian Science MonitorThe Boston Globe, and a number of literary magazines. His young adult short story, “The Vanishing Twin,” appeared in the March/April 2015 issue of Cicada.

Follow the author on Twitter @conchapman

If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Audiobook Excerpt: The Mystery Of Martha by Eliza Harrison

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Eliza Harrison for sharing the audio excerpt from her latest release The Mystery Of Martha.

About The Book

The Mystery Of Martha

Two timelines, one truth . . . 

Two women, two millennia apart with seemingly unconnected lives – one from the Lake District in England and the other from Bethany in Palestine. Both experience loss and betrayal, which engender feelings of fear and uncertainty about what their future holds.  

Martha from the Lake District faces challenge and change in 2000 AD as her deepest insecurities are exposed. But supported by her partner Ben, she discovers the mystical Aramaic teachings of Yeshua that offer her a pathway to Self-realisation and freedom.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

In 30 AD Martha of Bethany has Yeshua as a friend and guide. From a place of tenderness and vulnerability, she witnesses the last three years of his life as he embodies the ultimate mystery and power of love, which inspires her own journey to awakening. 

These two stories weave together seamlessly until finally they converge in a hauntingly beautiful tale of revelation and redemption.

You can find The Mystery Of Martha here:

Website | Audible | Goodreads

Audiobook Excerpt

In case if the player doesn’t work, listen to the Audiobook Excerpt here: https://heenarathorep.files.wordpress.com/2020/12/01-the-mystery-of-martha-sample-track.mp3

About The Author

Eliza Harrison

Eliza has had a lifelong passion for exploring different spiritual pathways in the East and the West and has been a teacher of meditation all her adult life. Alongside her work as a spiritual mentor and guide, she is a photographer and author and has produced several books on the life and landscape of Northern England, including The Light Within – A Celebration of the Spiritual Path, and the story of her own: In Search of Freedom – One Woman’s Journey. Now, with her husband David, she runs Sacred Meditation from their home in Cumbria. 


Author Website | Facebook | Instagram

If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Excerpt: The Blazing Chief by Matt Spencer

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author  Matt Spencer for sharing the excerpt from his latest release The Blazing Chief, the 3rd book in The Deschembine Trilogy.

About The Book

For untold ages, the refugees from the land of Deschemb have lived secretly beneath the surface of human society. Now modern civilization crumbles as their ancient feud boils to the surface. As chaos and brutality engulf the world, strange alien forces reshape the lands for a new beginning…for whoever survives.

In the frozen Canadian wastes, the United Deschembines take shelter in an abandoned military base, under the leadership of Jesse Karn, Zane Rochester, and Sally Coscan.

In the Louisiana swamps, Rob and Remelea press towards the ruins of New Orleans, for a final confrontation with Talino.

In Brattleboro, Vermont, a long-forgotten doorway opens, to a land beyond living memory, where two lifelong enemies must journey as allies, to save two worlds, or destroy them.

You can find The Blazing Chief here:




At nineteen, Ronald “Fishhook” Fairbanks figured he’d seen it all. Over the back end of Summer, he’d seen a whole lot more. For one thing, he’d never expected to see a dude get chopped in half with a Goddamn sword. By the end of the early Autumn day, that wouldn’t even be the weirdest thing he witnessed, or the worst.

That morning, he woke up in a ditch, under a blanket of leaves. He couldn’t remember his dreams, but he knew they’d been bad. He sat up, brushed most of the leaves out of his face and hair, blinked his eyes clear, and looked at the sky. He almost panicked, because it wasn’t the same sky anymore. So what if he should be used to it by now? It still freaked him out, whenever he woke up looking at it. It never had gone back to normal after the solar storm, never lost that weird, sickly, purple-orange tinge. 

Fishhook twisted the worst of the snap-crackle-pops out of his body, hoisted his bag over one shoulder, shuffled to the edge of the road, and stopped dead in his tracks. A little kid stood on the other side of the road, staring at him, four or five he guessed by the height, dressed even shabbier than himself, in plain brown shirt and britches with legs and sleeves falling to the knees and elbows, with dirty bare feet. No, wait, hold up. That wasn’t a kid. It was a fully grown, evenly proportioned adult, except only three or four feet tall. 

Fishhook blinked, made sure he was seeing this right. “Hello?” he shouted. “Hey, what’s up!”

The short fucker just kept staring, past Fishhook. When he looked around, another face peered out of the bushes, on the other side of the ditch. It was shaped like a human face, but it sure as shit wasn’t human. It wasn’t staring out of the bushes, either, but rather was made of them. Branches and leaves jutted and twined together, pressing against each other at just-so angles, so they formed a jaw, eyebrows and forehead. Knotty clumps formed the chin and cheeks, with the leaves from two parallel horizontal branches for lips, two budding pods that hung in twin hollows for eyes. The breeze drifted through the bush, fluttering the face so it moved, like it was talking to the short fucker across the road. When the air went still, so did the face.

Fishhook spun back around. The short fucker was gone. When he looked again, the bush still had a face. Plants could play tricks on the eyes at funny angles, sure, but such illusions usually faded once you looked closer. The more Fishhook looked at this one, though, the clearer he saw it. Its gleaming seed-pod eyes looked right back at him. 

He shivered, muttered, “Well, fuck you too, then, you freaky bitch,” turned, and hurried up the road, doing his best not to look off into the woods. He didn’t want to see more plants with faces, or something even freakier.

At sixteen, Fishhook’s birth-family had kicked him out of the house for being queer. Well, kicked out wasn’t technically accurate. More like he’d left on his own, because his piece-of-shit stepdad would have beaten him to death for it otherwise. Since then, he’d found his brothers and sisters of the road and the rails, and he’d been to plenty of their funerals; all in nice, neat funeral parlors, with open caskets displaying serene, well-dressed, made-up mannequin-like young corpses, of boys and girls who’d died of overdoses, stabbings, shootings, beatings, or exposure. Anyone who showed up who’d known the departed—really known them—might think they’d wandered into the wrong place. More than once, Fishhook had wondered, when his time came, how many of his real friends would show up and ask, Who the fuck is Ronald Fairbanks?

Fishhook hadn’t touched any drugs in months, yet ever since the solar storm, it seemed like the whole world had overdosed on bad acid. He hadn’t seen any of the others in a while; Shipwreck, Scags, Skunk, Stonewall, old Boxcar, Abby, any of them. He usually caught up with folks on the rails, and he’d been avoiding trains like the plague lately. Where the trains still ran, folks said, those railroad bulls had cracked down, gotten twice as diligent and four times as mean. They didn’t even bother to arrest you anymore, just beat you to death, lucky if they didn’t pull a train on your ass first, and that’s if the freaky people—the things—didn’t catch you first. 

Who the hell had Fishhook first heard about the things from? Skunk? Yeah, probably. Of course that crazy motherfucker would believe something like that. Except Skunk had never had that much of an imagination. The last time they’d ridden the rails together, though, he wouldn’t shut up about the people from another dimension who you had to watch out for now. Then as the weeks passed, Fishhook heard more folks spouting the same shit…the same strange words and names…

Schomite. Spirelight. Crimbone. And finally, High Natural.

Since the solar storm, cell phone service had come back in some places, but WiFi was a thing of the past. That threw a wrench in anyone keeping up with anyone. The last time Fishhook had seen Abby, she’d mentioned she’d be in Chattanooga in a few weeks, visiting some cousins. If he’d kept track of time right, she should be there by now. So that’s where he was headed.

When the solar storm happened, there’d been a lot of train wrecks, all at once, all over the country, along with plane crashes, prison riots, riots on the streets of major cities…Hell, some people claimed the military had turned on and eaten itself, which was why not even the National Guard had swooped in, to either save everyone or just fuck everything up worse. Nowadays, the back roads were the closest place left to safe. Chattanooga sounded too densely populated for Fishhook’s liking, but if he could just get there and find Abby, maybe he could get his bearings. She’d given him her cousins’ address. If he could just find her—find anyone he trusted who was left—then maybe…

Whenever he heard a vehicle whirring towards his back, he stepped a little further off to the side and stuck his thumb out. A few cars and trucks blasted past him. There were fewer of them these days, and hitching was always a crapshoot, more so in some parts of the country than others. Here in the middle of the damn Bible Belt, you got fewer motorists willing to take a chance on a dude with ratty dreadlocks, with ears and a face full of piercings, including a big septum ring, wearing a beat-up leather jacket covered in radical political buttons. To be fair, they had more reason than usual to be suspicious. Maybe they thought he was one of those others, never mind that he was five-five and weighed a hundred and forty pounds soaking wet, probably less by now.

Something big and clanking slowed to a stop behind him. He turned and saw a long, gray pickup with a rattling U-Haul trailer hooked to the back. Two people sat up front within the truck, which had a backseat in it, to Fishhook’s relief. The U-Haul had a dinosaur painted along the side, advertising some resort out in California that probably didn’t exist anymore. The truck pulled over onto the shoulder. Fishhook hurried up alongside it and yanked on the right rear passenger door. He found it locked. The front passenger window cranked down. 

“Just a moment, son,” crooned the driver. “Before we let you in…do a little dance for us. You know what I mean.”

Until a few months ago, Fishhook would have gone, You gotta be shittin’ me. A year or so back, he’d spent part of his winter on the streets of Manhattan. He was only half black, and usually passed for Caucasian. That hadn’t stopped the NYPD pigs from pulling over to harass him for a laugh, to make him do the chicken-dance. For all the stereotypes about the North and the South, the racist bullshit he’d encountered in Tennessee had nothing on what he’d gotten from the New York pigs. Except he’d heard the driver’s tone, and he knew that wasn’t the issue here. He still froze up.

The driver leaned over towards the glove box. A knob turned and it dropped open. Fishhook heard a pistol cock. “You know what I mean,” the driver repeated.

Fishhook’s extremities tightened. His heart pounded while the edges of his jaw quivered with deer-in-the-headlights dread. He wanted to tell the driver to fuck off, wait for the next ride, but lately, that might still be an invitation to get his head blown off. He let his pack slide off his stinging shoulders, then he hopped like a bunny, waving his arms around like some poor bastard in a stupid costume spinning a sign outside a tax-return office.

“Okay, that’s good enough. Well, go on now, Fran. Let the boy in.”

The front seat passenger twisted around, reached back, and pulled the lock up.

Fishhook hoisted his pack, opened the door, climbed in, and tossed the pack across the other side of the long back seat. It smelled like a thousand years of stale dust and wood chips in there. It reminded him of his dad’s truck when he was a little kid, before his mom had won the custody battle and hooked up with that right-wing scumbag who’d become his stepfather. Fishhook bit back on the urge to break down sobbing. His real dad had always been a kind man, fuck what his mom had told the judge. Would he have still been a kind man if he’d been around long enough to find out his son was a queer? Fishhook liked to think so.

He noticed another smell in here, like old rotten eggs. He fumbled around ’til he found the seatbelt strap, then buckled up. The driver up front looked absurdly small, almost a midget, coming up barely high enough to see over the dash. Fishhook remembered the other weird little fucker from earlier, but no, this guy was just a really short dude. He had big, pale, bespectacled bug eyes, with silky salt-and-pepper hair cascading from beneath a dark blue ball cap, around a narrow, weather-beaten, stubbly face. His jaw and cheeks had that sunken quality, from the bone-deterioration that happened after smoking too much meth. He wore a checkered green and white shirt, with sleeves that were too big around his gnarled, spidery hands. He put the pistol back in the glove box and returned both hands to the wheel. Next to him, there sat a woman with pasty, pillowy arms, beneath a sloping, wrinkly neck, supporting a wobbly head that looked too small for the rest of her, covered in pale, patchy, stringy hair. She smiled at Fishhook, showing off more black gaps and tortured red gums than teeth. Looking at the two of them side by side, Fishhook got the impression of an insomnia-crazed Kermit the Frog and a googly-eyed, lobotomized Miss Piggy.

The truck lurched back onto the lonely highway and sped off through this world that wasn’t the world anymore. Fishhook only just now noticed a tiny ceramic crucifix dangling from the windshield mirror. Great. Jesus freaks. Just my luck.

“Sorry I had to scare you like that, son. I had to make sure. You understand.”

“Make sure of what?” Fishhook got the gist, but he had to make sure too. There were a lot of versions of the story going around. Fishhook still didn’t know what to believe, but someone else’s ideas about it could mean the difference between life and death.

“That you’re a man. That the bones beneath your flesh move the way a man’s skeleton is supposed to move. That you don’t move like one of the abominations.”

“Yeah, I get it. A Crimbone, you mean.”

The old guy nodded, keeping his eyes on the road. “What’s your name, son?”

“Fishhook,” said Fishhook.

“No it ain’t,” hiccupped the old bastard. “That’s not your real name, is it?”

“That’s what everyone who knows me calls me.”

“But that’s not the name your loving parents gave you, is it? It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. My name’s Norm. This is my wife Fran.”

Fran looked back at Fishhook, gave him that infected, gappy smile again, and waved with a hand like a speckled, flesh-colored Mickey Mouse glove. “Hi!”

“Hi.” Fishhook waved back, even though her high-pitched voice made his skin crawl.

“You want some coffee?” said Norm. “You’re shivering like a leaf back there.” He pulled a thermos from a drink holder and held it back.

“Yeah, that’d be great. Man, thank you so much!” He grabbed the thermos and unscrewed the cap. Steam wafted out. The first gulp burned his tongue. He almost gagged, then tilted the thermos, blew on the liquid’s surface, and sipped slower. It tasted like shitty gas-station coffee, but he didn’t care. The warmth flooding his veins reminded him what true relaxation felt like.

“Where are you headed to, son?” said Norm.

“I’m trying to get to Chattanooga. I’ve got a friend waiting for me there. Or at least she said she would be, before…well…all this craziness.”

Norm nodded. “A girlfriend, then?”

Fishhook glanced at the cross dangling from the dashboard mirror. “Yeah.”

“Chattanooga is on our way. The place used to be a good, God-fearing city. These days, though…I still own land up in the north, son. That’s where we’re going, where we hear things are still good. You and your girlfriend could come with us…”

“Maybe. I’ll have to see what she wants to do.”

‘We’ll be stopping in Rock Spring soon. This highway takes us straight through the center of it. Have you been to Rock Spring, son?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Lovely little town. God-fearing people there. At least I hope that’s still the case. We’ll have to stop for gas there. If the Lord is on our side, there will still be a gas station open. Amazing that there are still gas stations open anywhere, when you think about it, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is.”

“That’s why people don’t realize the end times are already here. They all expected it to happen at once. After the sky let the fire loose on us, you’d think that would be that, but no, it’s still happening slowly. Lots of people still have electricity. They still go out to eat, would still go to the movies if there was anyone out in Hollywood still making them or shipping them to picture houses…act like this big old world keeps spinning on as always. But I take one look at you, boy, and see that you’ve seen it too.”

Fishhook sipped more coffee from the thermos. “Yeah. Yeah, no shit, right?”

“You know, further down south, there is the town where I grew up. I courted and married Fran there.” As if on cue, Fran looked back at Fishhook, smiled and nodded. Thankfully, she didn’t open her mouth this time. Maybe that meant there was a god. “Fran and I here used to have a program, on the local radio station, talking of the word of the Lord. When the Lord unleashed the wrath of the sun, he spared our radio station, so we might continue to preach our ministry to whoever was still out there listening, right when more people needed to hear it than ever. Except the people no longer liked to hear us tell what the good Lord had to say. I was forced off the airwaves, for speaking the truth of our Lord. Even now, while society falls apart, people still find ways to tell themselves that our civilization has not already abandoned us. Soon, only one civilization shall remain…that of our Lord’s making. That will be the Kingdom. It was censorship, plain and simple. People don’t want to give up the evils they think define them. You can’t be one of the drug-addicts, in the Kingdom. You can’t be a fornicator in the Kingdom. You can’t be one of the homosexuals, in the Kingdom.

Fuck, Fishhook couldn’t get out of this truck fast enough. The guy’s being nice. So is his wife. He doesn’t have to know who you are. No one’s making you suck their dick for a hit, or anything like that. Count your blessings. It’ll all be over soon enough.

Fishhook also noticed that he really needed to piss. Damn, he should have done that back on the roadside. He tried to will the contents of his bladder further up through his abdomen, away from his aching dick. “Yeah, I know, right? Say, how far are we from…wait, which town, man?”

“Rock Spring. Just another mile or so.”

Even with the windows up, the closer to Rock Spring they drove, the more something smelled like burning pork. It didn’t exactly cancel out the rotten egg smell, but it made Fishhook pay a lot less attention to it. The truck rounded a bend, and he saw all those little boxes made of ticky-tacky buildings of downtown Rock Spring, Tennessee, nestled in the shadow of the Smoky Mountain ranges. Half the town was on fire, including a red caboose in what used to be the yard of the local historical society.

“Norm?” squeaked Fran. “What’s going on? I don’t like this.”

“I don’t like it either, hon. Just sit tight. Now what in the world…”

“We should turn around.”

“We can’t. This is our route to where we’re going.”

“So we can find another route! Come on, honey, we can find one that doesn’t…”

“Doesn’t what? Make us to look in the eye what the Lord hath placed before us? No, my dear, many are those who would avert their eyes, and look where that’s gotten us.”

“Man, seriously,” said Fishhook, “listen to your wife. This is no good.”

“You’re speaking out of turn, young man. I don’t recall asking—”

The nearer the center of town drew, the louder the screams echoed. Fishhook twisted around against the seatbelt in rising agitation. “Dude, look, I know when I’m in a bad place that it’s time to get clear of, and this—”

“We will be clear of it soon enough. Now hush.” The truck sped up.

Far ahead, a soot-covered woman ran screaming out of a burning municipal building. She tripped, fell, got back up and shambled a little, then sprinted across a big, green common-area lawn. What she ran from came from every doorway, alleyway and corner, converging towards her…bodies that did move with superhuman speed and agility, like they didn’t have real human skeletons under their filthy, scarred skin. They weren’t dressed like Fishhook or any of his old train-hopper buddies. Some of them weren’t wearing clothes at all. They all looked like those others, some with the mottled, swirly skin folks now called Schomite or Crimbone or whatever, others with the gleaming, pearly, whiter-than-white elf-like builds of those called Spirelights. It didn’t matter anymore. Some new master had united them, under a banner of rape, murder and plunder. None of the safeguards of so-called modern civilization were left to do shit about it. 

The fleeing girl must have had a good thirty feet head-start. One of the Schomites stretched out its gnarly clawed hand and grabbed her, like time and space folded between them to close the distance. It tackled her to the ground, ripping her clothes off, its teeth tearing and worrying into the flesh beneath. 

Something hit the side of Norm’s truck. The whole world spun through the air…


Blood stung Fishhook’s eyes. When he wiped at it, his arm screamed.

Oh fuck, oh fuck, don’t let it be broken, don’t let it be broken…

Shattered glass blanketed him like sharp snowflakes. Some of it stuck in his face and hands. Someone kept screaming. At first, he thought it was him, then he realized it was Fran. His jaw felt like someone had popped it off and stuck it back on upside down. All that came out of his mouth were huffs and grunts. The whole world screamed, along with every nerve in his body.

One of his eyes still more or less worked. Except every time he opened or closed it, he saw something different. There was Fran up front, shrieking and gyrating. Next to her, Norm stared blankly, over the steering wheel embedded in his chest. Through Norm’s window, Fishhook could see the top of the police car that had broadsided them. The red and blue lights still spun and flashed while smoke rose from the mangled hood. One of the cops moved like a drunk toddler while he tried to pull his partner out of the wreckage. He was gray with ash, except where scarlet streamed from his scalp, down his side. The wrecked cop car wasn’t the only siren blaring. It sounded like there were a lot of them, for miles around.


A grumbling whoosh sounded somewhere. Flames licked out of the edges of the twisted hood of the truck, small and pale at first, then dark with smoke, puffing out thicker and thicker. They leaked past the border of the shattered windshield, into the truck. Norm didn’t appear to mind, probably because he was dead. Fran shrieked louder and thrashed furiously. Her seat rocked and banged against Fishhook’s knees.

Fishhook tried to bolt, but his seatbelt held him in place. He tried to unbuckle it, then shrieked because he’d just used his fucked-up arm. Yep, it was definitely broken. Shit! He took a few deep, rapid, whistling breaths to get himself under control. His good hand shook as it found the button. The belt snapped and slithered away. When he tried the door handle, it refused to budge. The whole rig was twisted around him. He rammed the door with his shoulder. Bigger flames were filling the front seat. Fran squalled like a bobcat caught in a trap. Parts of her face turned red, bubbling up with welts full of boiling white pus It smelled a lot worse than the rotting-egg scent from earlier. Fishhook drew up sideways across the seat and mule-kicked the door, once, twice, thrice…

The hinges gave, so the cold air spilled in on him…


Concrete pressed against his shoulder, shoving chips of broken glass through his coat so they bit into his arm. Every time he thought he’d gotten the pain under control, it seemed, another part of his body moved funny, so his whole being lit back up with grinding, shrieking raw nerves. He smelled more burning buildings, more burning flesh.

I have to move. I can’t, though. I don’t want to. Why am I even conscious? Can’t I just go back to sleep? Just let all this go away…


His eyes opened and closed, opened and closed…

Someone let out a furious howl. At first, Fishhook thought it was one of those things, closing in on him. Then a dark shadow passed overhead. He shifted sideways and tried to crawl under the truck, but the rising fumes sent him scuttling back the other way.

His eyes opened and closed, opened and closed…


Everything blurred in and out of focus. His fucked-up arm felt just as bad as before, but it seemed further away now. He got a grip on the next overturned car and pulled himself to his feet.

An echoing clash shook the earth, of metal striking metal…with a chime that reverberated through the concrete, beneath his feet, a sound that pulsed through his whole being. At first, he assumed it was another car accident, but that was wishful thinking. No, it was the clash of otherworldly matter against otherworldly matter…something that shouldn’t even exist in this world, yet there it was.

When his eyes snapped back open, he saw the center of the town lawn. Two of those freaks had just slammed into each other, howling with elemental bloodlust. What the hell was Fishhook watching? This was nuts! It looked almost like a kung-fu fight in some Jet Li movie on TV, but the more his vision cleared, the more it looked like two wild animals ripping each other apart, quicker than the human eye could follow…both of them swinging long, curved blades of black metal, ’til one deflected the other’s downward chop and sidestepped him with a diagonal slice. A meaty crunch sounded. The loser split open and hung in two directions like a blooming flower, his insides gleaming and gushing…because another man had just chopped him in half like a head of cabbage, with a fucking sword. A sword made of unearthly black metal. Fuck!

The winner righted himself, let out a joyous growl, then looked at the split-open body, which was somehow still standing. He gave it a boot to the ass so it fell over, spilling its insides across the grass. That’s when Fishhook noticed the whole lawn alive with a melee from some other reality, an even weirder one than the last few months. Fishhook couldn’t even tell who was on whose side…until the swooping shape descended…

Fishhook’s eyes opened and closed, opened and closed…


More meaty crunches sounded, as blades cleaved through bones and organs, everywhere. From where he leaned, Fishhook still heard Fran shrieking. The burning truck wasn’t that far away, still somewhere to his left. He was no badass, that was for sure—and now that he saw all those otherworldly mutant freaks hacking the shit out of each other in the distance, he realized he didn’t want to be—but there was no way was gonna leave someone to burn to death like that, not if he could help it. He lurched, righted himself, hobbled halfway over to the truck. Then the heat of the blaze pulsed in his face, repelling him like a wall of pure, hot energy. Fran stopped screaming. Fishhook’s guts turned to liquid and tried to fall out of his asshole. 

Plenty of other folks kept screaming, people who lived around here, while the otherworldly marauders dragged them out of their homes and jobs, while they laid waste to the infrastructure. Big, greasy rednecks came out brandishing shotguns, pistols, semi-automatics, automatics, you name it. At first, they looked happy as pigs in shit to finally get a chance to act like the local militia against the invaders…until they started shooting, and it didn’t do a squirt of piss worth of good, except to get the things’ attention. Fishhook couldn’t tell if the creatures moved fast enough to dodge bullets, or if the bullets just didn’t hurt them. Either way, they swarmed in on the gunmen. Before Fishhook knew it, the shooting had stopped, replaced by more blood, guts, hair, teeth and eyeballs flying all over the place.

Out on the lawn, a strange sort of circle had formed. Somewhere in the middle of all this, Fishhook had gotten a sense of the two sides fighting each other. The ones who’d attacked the town were made up of both those dirty, animalistic freaks and those…pale, gleaming, whiter-than-white elf-like fuckers…Spirelights; that was the word for them, right? Except weren’t those two sides supposed to be fighting each other? What the hell were they doing, ganging up on this town together? The ones who’d come to fight them all seemed to be the other kind, the beastly ones…Crimbone? It was like they’d swarmed in out of the hills, as though to defend the place…baited into a trap, apparently, one which must have worked, given how few of the latter were left, and by the way the leader strutted back and forth like a rooster in a henhouse.

Fishhook couldn’t make sense of the leader’s appearance. It looked like a cartoon animal version of Axl Rose or Kid Rock or one of those assholes, the cap of its head tied up in a dirty red bandana, but with a jutting, deformed snout like a dog’s face, with big dragon wings fanning out on either side. And it was dripping in blood, from head to toe…blood, and who knew what other fluids.

“Okay,” the creature’s voice boomed, while it rubbed at its crotch, “this is where the Daddy told me to git shit rollin’. Can’t tell why just yet. Place looks like a shithole to me. Still, I gots ta say, not a bad Goddamn start at all. Ain’t that right, bitches? Why, just look at all these bitchass so-called Crimbone we got here to start replenishin’ our ranks with.” The creature cast an eye around, at the last of the gnarly defenders who’d been herded into the circle. “Why, it’s almost like they all swam right up to our fishhook, ain’t it?”

In that moment, it might have been Fishhook’s imagination, but he swore the monster peered across the expanse and looked him right in the eye. That’s when he quit pretending not to be a coward, when he booked it, quick as he could, back behind the nearest wrecked vehicle that wasn’t on fire.

“Not as big a haul as we’d hoped for, but that’s okay. Shit, this won’t do at all. No, wait, let me check.” A crunch split the air, followed by another shriek, along with a wet, ripping noise. “Gah, peh, these here Earth-line bastards an’ bitches get more rancid every stop! Oh well, catch as catch can. Nah, nah, nah, boys, you take ’er easy with the good folks of this cute little town. The meat tastes better when you get it off the bones alive.”

About The Author

Matt Spenser

Matt Spencer is the author of five novels, two collections, and numerous novellas and short stories. He’s been a journalist, New Orleans restaurant cook, factory worker, radio DJ, and a no-good ramblin’ bum. He’s also a song lyricist, playwright, actor, and martial artist. He currently lives in Vermont. 

You can find author Matt here:

WebsiteTwitter | Facebook

If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Excerpt Reveal: The Latecomers by Rich Marcello

Welcome to TRB-Lounge, the section of TRB dedicated to book promotions. Today, I’d like to welcome author Rich Marcello, for sharing an excerpt from his latest release The Latecomers.

Read on to get a sneak-peek into this amazing new read!

About The Book



Maggie and Charlie Latecomer, at the beginning of the last third of their lives, love each other but are conflicted over what it means to age well in a youth-oriented society. Forced into early retirement and with grown children in distant cities, they’ve settled into a curbed routine, leaving Charlie restless and longing for more

When the Latecomers and their friends discover a mystical book of indecipherable logographs, the corporeal world and preternatural world intertwine. They set off on a restorative journey to uncover the secrets of the book that pits them against a potent corporate foe in a struggle for the hearts and minds of woman and men the world over.

A treatise on aging, health, wisdom, and love couched in an adventure, The Latecomers will make readers question the nature of deep relationships and the fabric of modern society.

You can find the book here:
AmazonGoodreads | Facebook

Book Excerpt


About The Author

Rich Marcello

Rich is the author of four novels, The Color of Home, The Big Wide Calm, and The Beauty of the Fall, The Latecomers, and the poetry collection, The Long Body That Connects Us All. He also teaches creative writing at Seven Bridges’ Writer Collaborative. Previously, he enjoyed a successful career as a technology executive, managing several multi-billion dollar businesses for Fortune 500 companies.

The Color of Home was published in 2013. Author Myron Rogers says the novel “sings an achingly joyful blues tune, a tune we’ve all sung, but seldom with such poetry and depth.” The Big Wide Calmwas published in 2014. The US Review of Books stated, “Marcello’s novel has a lot going for it. Well-written, thought-provoking, and filled with flawed characters, it meets all of the basic requirements of best-of-show in the literary fiction category.” The Beauty of the Fall was published in 2016. The Midwest Review of Books called it “a deftly crafted novel by a master of the storytelling arts” and “a consistently compelling read from cover to cover.” The Long Body That Connects Us All was published in 2018. Publishers Daily said, “Fathers and sons have always shared a powerful and sometimes difficult bond. Rich Marcello, in a marvelous new collection of extraordinary verse, drinks deeply from this well as he channels the thoughts and feelings of every father for his son.”

As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, aging, self-discovery. His novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet. For Rich, writing and art making is about connection, or as he says, about making a difference to a least one other person in the world, something he has clearly achieved many times over, both as an artist, a mentor, and a teacher.

Rich lives in Massachusetts with his family. He is currently working on his fifth and sixth novels, Cenotaphs and In the Seat of the Eddas.

Website | Email  | Goodreads

Excerpt Reveal: Beneath Pale Water by Thalia Henry

Welcome to TRB-Lounge, the section of TRB dedicated to book promotions. Today, I’d like to welcome author Thalia Henry, for sharing an excerpt from her latest release Beneath Pale Water.

Read on to get a sneak-peek into this amazing new read!

About The Book

Set amidst the physical and psychological landscapes of New Zealand’s southern hills and grasslands, Beneath Pale Water is a social realist and expressionistic novel that follows a triangle of three damaged individuals – a sculptor, a vagrant and a model – who have grown calcified shells against the world. Their search for identity and belonging leads them into dangerous territory that threatens both their sanity and lives. As their protective shells crack they are left vulnerable – both physically and emotionally – to the high country winds and their own conflicts that, ultimately, might free – or destroy them.

book links:

AMAZON | GOODREADS | Book2look | BookSirens | KoBo | Cloud Ink Press | Book Depository | Fishpond

Book Excerpt

In the fading light Luke took his fishing rod and laid it flat by the water’s edge.  His stomach rumbled. He walked away from the campsite, closer to the roadside where a row of poplars swayed. His fingers tossed aside the larger rocks. He picked one up in each hand and gouged at the dirt. It stung underneath his nails, and the exertion coated his forehead with a sheen of sweat. A tail flickered just beyond his grasp. Its body glistened and then vanished. He dug deeper and, with his thumb and forefinger, pulled a worm from its escape. He squeezed and it died instantly. He pulled a second and it too hung lifeless in his fingers. The first worm he brushed off and swallowed, then attached the second to a hook and cast out the line into the evening light. No food was wasted, not even the most disgusting. He was used to it and didn’t retch.

The smell of searing trout wafted across the campsite. Luke chewed on strips of flesh. Afterwards he buried the bones at the spot where he’d dug the worms.

He felt around inside his tent for the jersey he kept beside his mat and a baggy hat to rest askew on his head, put his feet into a pair of gumboots, sat on a rock and watched his breath rise. The lake stretched before him, a burnish of silver gracing its surface. Two ghosts danced pirouettes on it. He shook his head to shake the image away but the ghosts remained.

He watched the, smiling to tempt their friendship. Each figure was blurred, lingering somewhere between life and death. The man had bare feet and looked weatherworn and free. The woman turned her head, acknowledging Luke’s figure perched in the darkness. Two share eyes stared at him. Startled, he realised the apparition looked just like Delia. This jarred him. Since he’d met her by the side of the lake, she hadn’t returned, and he was starting to wonder whether she’d visited him at all. His eyes and mind fell heavy. The ghosts with their piercing eyes waltzed a slow diagonal in one direction and then the other, criss-crossing the corners of his skull until they fade from his sight. She might have turned to farewell him, her sundress swirling in the night, but he couldn’t be sure. Too much time alone; he must be losing it. When he looked up again, he saw what he had thought to be figures were worn down pylons – like those that once must have held up a jetty, and that the shapes of the pylons had warped with the lull of the lake into contours. He returned to his tent. The isolation of the landscape covered him in a blanket and he fell asleep.

About The Author

Thalia Henry

From Aotearoa New Zealand, Thalia Henry is the author of the novel Beneath Pale Water, her Masters of Creative Writing thesis and a work that comes out of a play, Powdered Milk. Inspired by the landscapes of the rugged South Island high country, where she spent time as a teenager learning to glide with her late father, Beneath Pale Water is her debut novel. Beneath Pale Water was awarded a gold award in the 2018 IPPY competition – Australia/New Zealand Best Regional Fiction category. 

connect with the author

WEBSITE | Cloud ink press

If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Excerpt Reveal: The Inheritants By K.M. Mackmurdie

Welcome to TRB-Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author K.M. Mackmurdie, for sharing with us an excerpt from her latest release, a fascinating new urban fantasy, The Inheritants.

Read ahead to get a sneak-peek into this amazing new read!


An urban fantasy like no other, The Inheritants delivers adventure and magic with a realistic, gritty twist. Meredith may have inherited her powers from the Gods, but she isn’t the only one….and she soon discovers that the other side fights dirty.

Meredith Earl is an Inheritant orphan with no one left to trust. Her lover Sloane is dead and his corpse missing – now Meredith must find out who took him, and why.

After the tragic death of her parents she vowed never to use her powers again, but to find Sloane Meredith must enter the shrouded world of the Inheritant Families once more, and rediscover who she really is.

Meredith embarks on a voyage rife with love, loss, sacrifice and despair to face an enemy more cruel and vengeful than she could have ever imagined.

Book Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CSJ8TK2 

Book Excerpt

A single lamp illuminated him.

What was left of Sloane was bathed in a feeble, flickering glow. The mulch that served as his head had tipped forward, revealing the debris of skull and brain that congealed on the wall behind him, maggots and porridge against bloodstains that appeared black in the gloom. The blood was still dripping, that night when Meredith knocked at the door, the pool seeping into the hallway being the first thing she had seen. A good girlfriend would have run straight in to face it. A good girlfriend would have had the first two nines dialled before she even discovered it was too late. Meredith was not a good girlfriend, and neither was she an optimist. She threw up right there on the threshold.

When she thought back now she cringed, because the fact was she had sat in that hallway, dry eyed and brain dead, tasting and smelling her own sick for almost an hour. Until the dripping had stopped and the blood that first appeared like clustered, winking rubies was now still and brown, like fatty stew.

She had braved the room eventually with no particular purpose. Something in her bones told her to stand, and so she did. Something somewhere told her legs to move, and her body followed. She had been unprepared by how the blood had stuck to her shoes. It was almost comical, the way each step was accompanied with the squelching sound usually found in tacky clubs and children’s play areas. At the time Meredith was disgusted with the thought. She knew now it was the shock. Still, the distaste persisted. The initial glimpse had been the worst, surprisingly, because there was so much to take in, yet in that moment the smell overtook the visual. Sloane’s bowels and fluids had mixed and spurted from his corpse, wafting a putrid scent of rotting meat and sickeningly sweet perfume to catch in her throat. She couldn’t breathe with the cold heaviness of it; it was as if she were being buried in it, the stench getting stronger and stronger, filling up the air she dragged in until even her oxygen tasted like rancid garbage during a heatwave. Meredith threw up again, right there on the doorway to the living room, as if she were playing hopscotch with her DNA.

The second look stopped her heart and released her tears.

All of him was drenched in crimson, a parody of a king draped in velvet. His legs were crossed under him, uncomfortable, though she supposed that was no longer a concern. The inane thoughts kept drifting and twisting through her head as she took in what she could see of his face, or what remained. It had caved inward, everything above his nose little more than a bridge. He no longer had a mouth or teeth. His jaw hung obscenely by two flaps of skin attached to his free-falling chin. Even under the weak glow of the lamp, Sloane was lit up like New Year’s Eve, alone but for the side table and light, a vulgar tableau.

Eventually, Meredith dialled the three nines but been unable to speak to the operator, so her call was marked low priority and she sat, just outside the circle of blood, for a further half an hour before the police showed up. She had spent forty-eight hours at the station while two greasy officers by the name of Greaves and Judd had worked her over. Meredith hadn’t asked for a lawyer, or even to leave. She hadn’t even said it wasn’t her. Two weeks later they told her the fingerprints had come back and, other than a partial on the front door, there was no sign of her prints anywhere else in the house. They told her she could speak to a grief counsellor. Meredith had hung up the phone. The smell had stayed with her for days. When she closed her eyes and thought of Sloane, it was still the first image to come to mind, no matter how hard she tried to forget it. She knew that would stay with her forever.


About the Author


K.M. Mackmurdie

K.M.Mackmurdie has always preferred fantasy lands to reality – and it only took her twenty five years to bring her daydreams to life.
Born and bred in Islington, London, she moved from place to place soaking up snatches of conversation and the body language between furrowed brows, before ending up in Hertfordshire, with a wonderful partner and two highly distracting cats. A local government dropout, K.M. Mackmurdie swapped politics for storytelling and published the first three instalments of her hotly anticipated Inheritant Saga in May 2018.

When not being a tortured artist, K.M. Mackmurdie can be found reading, (duh, right?), cooking up a masterpiece or making a fool of herself on the dancefloor.

Check out The Inheritants now on Amazon Kindle and Ingram Spark. K.M.Mackmurdie’s full debut novel is also available in print.

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If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Excerpt: Legends Over Generations by Ashraf Haggag

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Ashraf Haggag, for sharing with us the excerpt from his upcoming novel Legends Over Generations.

Read ahead to get a sneak-peek into this insightful new release.


Since the beginning of human settlement, a lot of people came up with ideas, philosophies, beliefs, experiments, research, redesigning of thoughts, talents, and surveys to bring myths to reality.
People contributed to various life aspects science, politics, literature, arts, social activities and so many other fields. These genius minds put a keen interest in every phenomenon right from when they were young. The zeal, passion, dedication, hard work and efforts they put into their work helped them discover something new about the world we live in.
In these Legends, we’ve seen inexplicable abilities that helped us define our existence and human life. Their names are engraved in the sands of time for their work in the welfare of mankind with different inventions that have made our lives easy, enjoyable and successful. The following chapters commemorate the greatest personalities we’ve ever seen who changed the world.
They are among the most influential people of today’s world. With practical advantages in various aspects, they have helped us to grow a better understanding of the world and different working phenomenon’s that governs us. Their way of shaping modern day culture is completely unrivaled.

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36586774-legends-over-generations

Book Excerpt

Key Features & Traits Across all Legends

  1. Greatest people are passionate about what they do.

Passion tops the list because “if you love what you’re doing, it will be so much easier to develop the other seven success traits. There are two types of people: strivers and seekers. Strivers know what they want to do early and can go for it from a young age, the majority of people, however, are seekers. They have to discover what they love.

There’s one easy question you can ask yourself to determine if you’ve found your passion: “Would you do it without being paid?” If the answer is yes, then you’ve likely found it.

  1. Greatest people work hard while living

Hard work is necessary in any field, but it’s important to live while you work. There is no link between success and hours worked however Successful people aren’t workaholics; they’re “work frolics” because they perform and live normally their daily life.

  1. Greatest people have a specific focus.

Focus is key. To be successful, it’s important to specialize in a certain area and build your expertise.

“Success means narrowing down and focusing on one thing, not being scattered all over the map,” St. John writes.

However there’s more to it than just picking a field and focusing on it. You should start out thinking wide and then narrow it down into one specific focus.

  1. Greatest people push themselves out of their comfort zones.

Pushing yourself starts with getting out of your comfort zone. Greatest people push themselves through shyness, doubts, and fear.

There are seven specific ways helps to push yourself toward success:

  1. A goal to push you.
  2. A challenge to push you.
  3. A deadline to push you.
  4. Push yourself with self-discipline.
  5. Get others to push you.
  6. Get competition to push you.
  7. Get a tormentor to push you and a mentor to support you.

5. Greatest people consistently come up with new ideas.

The key here is creativity. There are eight ways to come up with ideas and creativity

  1. A problem to solve, because creative ideas come from everyday problems.
  2. An observant: Eye-Q can be more important than IQ.
  3. Listening Ears are antennas for ideas.
  4. Asking questions leads to ideas.
  5. Borrow an idea, and build it into a new idea.
  6. Make connections: Take one thing and connect it to another.
  7. Mistakes and failures lead to great ideas.

6. Greatest people are constantly getting better.

Someone who achieves great success is always improving, regardless the field.” Continuous improvement means getting good at something, then getting better, and then aiming to be the best. It’s important to focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses. It’s fine to be bad at a lot of things as long as you’re really good at one thing.

  1. Greatest people provide value to others.

Most people only care about how they can handle their problems. However if you shift your focus off yourself and put it onto the people you serve, you set yourself in a different category of others

  1. Greatest people are persistent through failure.

There is no true overnight success. Persistence works hand-in-hand with patience. And it’s important to keep in mind that failure is unavoidable, whether it’s making mistakes or facing blatant rejection. How you deal with it can be the deciding factor.

“Failure can be heartbreaking, and when it happens you have a choice, “You can let it be your school or your funeral.”

Greatest people using failure as a stepping stone and building off it.

*The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong – Gandhi

* We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves –Dalai Lama

* It always seems impossible until it’s done –Nelson Mandela

* Silence is the ultimate weapon of power –Charles De Gaulle

* Never, never, never give up.-Winston Churchill


Ashraf Haggag is a senior executive with nearly three decades of experience in close proximity to the corporate market. His more recent experience has also taken him to every facet of the hospitality industry.

Haggag has direct experience in many different aspects of business, including sales, marketing, revenue management, and administration. Having worked in Germany, the United States, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, his global experiences have helped him realize that companies must target new market zones in order to grow and prosper in the international marketplace. He is eager to bring enhanced cross-cultural awareness to today’s business leaders.


Website: http://ashrafhaggag.com 

If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Excerpt: From Wrath To Ruin by Justin Enos

Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Justin Enos, for sharing with us the excerpt from his upcoming novel From Wrath To Ruin.

Read ahead to get a sneak-peek into this amazing new release.


In exile from his homeland… As a mercenary, Tijodrin has wandered far and wide, and now his travels have brought him to the great city of Hohvenlor, a city he knows well. He quickly finds himself caught up in a fierce rivalry that threatens to destroy two powerful merchant families and turn the streets of Hohvenlor into a battlefield. Within the city walls, Tijodrin will find danger in many forms. Can he survive the endless plots of the vengeful merchants and the swords of their bloodthirsty henchmen, as well as the lurking daggers of the shadowy assassin’s guild?

Book Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Wrath-Ruin-Justin-Enos/dp/1483598004/
: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35070270-from-wrath-to-ruin 


In the fading light of the afternoon, Tijodrin strode further down the Street of Arches before turning east down a winding side lane and a series of short steps. Soon, the fine shops and dwellings were replaced with shabby tenements, squalid workhouses and storefronts with no name or sign to indicate what sort of shadowy business went on inside. The streets narrowed so much that two people could scarce fit between the buildings. Overhead, upper floors shouldered outward until they almost touched, blocking out most of what little daylight remained. Refuse of every description was littered about, and weeds sprouted up amid paving stones that were uneven, cracked, or missing altogether.

This was the Warrens, the most disreputable area in Hohvenlor. A haven for thieves, cutthroats, and a host of other criminals. Hooded eyes watched Tijodrin from doorways and windows – footpads sizing up a potential victim and whores sizing up a potential customer. Tijodrin returned their stares with bold ferocity. The footpads retreated into the shadows to await easier prey, while the whores responded with lewd suggestions and flashes of pale flesh.

Eventually, he came to a small open space that could only very generously be called a square. It was an area of dirt and patchy brown grass with bits of rotted wood, broken masonry and other debris strewn about. The middle of the square was currently occupied by the prone figures of two men, whether dead or merely passed out Tijodrin could not tell. Four buildings surrounded the area, and a more ramshackle collection of structures could hardly be imagined. A tenement that looked abandoned and in danger of falling in on itself, a dank bawdy house with rusty iron bars over its lone window, and two taverns as decrepit as any he had ever seen. It was to the tavern on the left that Tijodrin turned his attention.

The Withered Man occupied the whole of a single-story building that leaned drunkenly against the larger building behind it. Thrown together with roughhewn timbers, it’s few windows were all heavily shuttered and its door was a patchwork of several pieces of mismatched wood. The rag-draped skeleton on the crooked sign out front was desperately in need of a fresh painting. Scowling, Tijodrin strode across the square to the tavern and pushed through the flimsy door.

If the outside was a wreck, the inside was even worse. Candles burned weakly in wall lanterns and on some tabletops, while the sunlight barely peeked through the shuttered windows. The fireplace in the corner had partially collapsed and was now only useful as a resting place for a mangy brown dog. The bar was nothing more than a sagging plank of pine laid across some empty ale barrels. A short, bald man stood behind it, staring suspiciously at Tijodrin.

The air was thick with the acrid smell of skral, the cheap narcotic so popular here in the northern lands. Half a dozen men sat at the battered tables scattered around the room, puffing on large pipes of the stuff, each in varying states of oblivion. Tijodrin wrinkled his nose in disgust as the clouds of skral were not quite enough to mask the odor of stale beer and unwashed bodies. The man that he was looking for was easy to spot as he had been unflatteringly, and thus accurately, described.

Obrik sat at the least worn of the tables, one cluttered with half empty plates and several wrapped blocks of skral. He was a corpulent man with a double chin drooping over the collar of his tunic, a tunic that had once been fine but was now stained with wine and sweat. He was chewing noisily on something, and his greasy beard held the crumbs of at least one meal. A scrawny girl wearing a thin cotton shift was slumped against Obrik’s shoulder. Tijodrin could not help but notice the collection of bruises that covered her arms.

Standing on either side of the table were two huge men in loose trousers and leather jerkins. Short stabbing swords and thick, curved daggers hung from their belts. Seeing Tijodrin’s gaze fall upon their master, the heavily muscled giants uncrossed their arms, their hands falling to sword hilts. One of them lumbered around to stand in front of the table. Tijodrin withdrew the leather wallet and stepped purposefully toward the table.

“Letters from Harnir of Skoden,” he announced over the giant’s shoulder.

The hulking bodyguard turned his head in Obrik’s direction, and the fat man responded with a grunt.

The bodyguard shifted to one side, just enough to allow Tijodrin to get past. Placing the bulging wallet on the table, he pretended not to notice the bodyguard taking up position directly behind him. Obrik glared up at him through bleary eyes as if Tijodrin had interrupted something more important than another unneeded meal. Belching loudly, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“An islander,” he muttered, easing his bulk forward and resting his elbows on the table.

Next to him, the girl stirred from her slumber and gave Tijodrin a yellow-toothed smile. She could not have been more than twelve or thirteen.

“Didn’t think they let your kind wander out of the guildhall.” Obrik’s sneering tone implied a strong support for that particular restriction.

Tijodrin said nothing, only regarded Obrik impassively.

Opening the wallet and removing the letters, Obrik jabbed his finger at the empty chair opposite him.

“I’ll stand,” Tijodrin said flatly. He did not wish to spend any more time in this man’s presence than was necessary.

Obrik’s eyes narrowed, but he shrugged and started sifting through the letters, carefully checking the wax seals on each of them.

“You know Harnir well?” He asked, tapping a dirty fingernail on the parchments. “Well enough.”

What Tijodrin knew was that Harnir was a minor merchant who traded in information as much as in goods. He was also a smuggler, a fence, and possibly, even a spy. As unsavory as he was, Harnir had a certain amount of honor, of decency. The same could not be said of this foul person in front of him.

“Everything seems to be in order,” Obrik muttered again, sounding almost disappointed.

He tucked the letters back in the wallet and slipped it inside his filthy tunic.

“I am surprised Harnir would trust an islander. I have always heard that your ilk are dishonest.”

“Perhaps you have also heard that we do not take kindly to insults,” Tijodrin replied, his eyes growing cold. The warning in those eyes went unheeded.

Obrik said something in a dialect that Tijodrin did not understand, but by the way the girl and the two bodyguards laughed, it was clearly crude and at his expense. Tijodrin gave the fat man a small smile, though it was anything but friendly. It was a smile that promised malice.

Slowly, and with obvious reluctance, Obrik withdrew a small handful of silver coins from his belt pouch and slapped them on the table. Tijodrin scooped them up and placed them in his own pouch.

“Care to spend any of that now?” Obrik leered, jerking his thumb at the skinny girl.

She rewarded Tijodrin with another wan smile and pushed a few loose strands of tangled hair out of her eyes. Making no attempt to hide the expression of contempt and revulsion on his face, Tijodrin started to turn away from the table. A hand like a slab of granite came down on his shoulder, holding him firmly in place.

“I did not dismiss you,” Obrik growled.

“I do not require permission from the likes of you.”

“Arrogant cur! You would be wise not to disrespect me in my place of business!” “Were I you, I would not be so quick to claim this cesspit.”

As Obrik’s face darkened in anger, Tijodrin sensed a surge of movement from behind him. He hunched his body forward so that the fist intended for the back of his skull found only air. Grabbing the edge of the table with both hands, Tijodrin shoved it into Obrik’s ample chest. Then he swept up the chair and turned to swing it at the bodyguard behind him.

The chair was poorly made, shattering against the man’s body and doing nothing more than momentarily stunning him. Tijodrin was on the man as quick as a panther. He unleashed a pair of punches to the bodyguard’s stomach that had him doubling over. As the man’s head came down, Tijodrin’s knee came up, cracking the bodyguard’s jaw like an eggshell.

Pushing the collapsing guard away from him, Tijodrin moved to face the second guard. The giant had drawn his short sword and was advancing on Tijodrin with loud curses. Tijodrin brushed aside the sword with his sleeve shield, then drove the heel of his hand into the bodyguard’s nose, crushing it in a spurt of red. A heavy clout from the sleeve shield smashed against the bodyguard’s head, knocking him to the floor. Meanwhile, Obrik had pushed the table away and was shouting for aid. From one of the tavern’s back rooms came the hurried thumping of booted feet. With a swift kick, Tijodrin sent the table smashing into Obrik’s body again, then turned to face the new threat.

Three more men burst into the room, their steel already bared. Tijodrin’s sword hissed ominously out of its scabbard as the men charged him in a mad rush. He knocked aside the first blade, letting the attacker’s haste carry him past.

Ducking under the swing of the second man, Tijodrin lunged forward, his blade sliding easily between the man’s ribs and plunging out of his back in a gout of blood. In one fluid motion, Tijodrin pulled his sword free and spun to catch the descending blow of the third swordsman.

With a deft flick of his wrist, he sent his opponent’s weapon clattering to the floor. Before the man could react, Tijodrin’s sword was chopping clear through his forearm. Screaming in pain, the man stumbled back against the wall, spewing crimson.

The first swordsman came after Tijodrin again, swinging his weapon hesitantly. Dodging to the side, Tijodrin brought his sword flashing down to slice through the back of the man’s ankle. He dropped his sword and fell shrieking to the floor, his bloody foot flopping uselessly. Tijodrin silenced him with a hard crack to the side of the head with the flat of his blade.

The two huge bodyguards were now beginning to recover their wits, and their feet. The first wobbled upright, groaning and clutching at his shattered jaw. Tijodrin sent him back to the floor with a brutal kick that cracked his kneecap. A second kick cracked at least one rib. The other giant flailed wildly at Tijodrin with his short sword, his face a mask of blood. Tijodrin lunged swiftly at him, his sword piercing the man’s shoulder. Another clout to the bodyguard’s head with the sleeve shield tumbled him down onto his comrade.

Springing over the fallen pair, Tijodrin brought his sword whistling down in a two-handed blow that hacked Obrik’s table in half. Kicking aside the broken halves, he placed the tip of his sword under Obrik’s bulging chin. Rage and fear battled in the man’s eyes as his henchmen’s blood trickled down the length of the blade to stain his throat.

Beside him, the girl was curled up in a ball, whimpering softly. The barman and the other patrons were cowering out of sight, while the mongrel in the ruined fireplace slept on. There were no further sounds of reinforcements, only the painful moans of the wounded and the dying.

“Our business here is concluded,” Tijodrin said in a low, menacing voice. “I want no further trouble from you or I will return and burn down this fetid hovel with you still inside.”

Slowly and deliberately, Tijodrin wiped his sword across the shoulder of Obrik’s tunic, removing the remaining blood from the blade. With one last withering look around, he carefully backed toward the door, not sheathing his sword until he was outside the tavern.



Growing up in a military family, Justin Enos was lucky enough to get to see a lot of the world as a child. Born in Thailand, he subsequently lived in Kentucky, Maryland, Vermont, California, Germany and Virginia. He hasn’t stopped moving around as an adult either, calling Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Thailand again, and now Portland, Oregon home.

Justin began devouring books at a young age and his interest in writing followed soon after. Never much of a student, he could at least count on his creative writing abilities to gain him some top marks. Fantasy novels were his main love as a teenager and that led to what has now become a long-term interest in fantasy writing. After publishing a couple of short stories in fantasy magazines that no one has ever heard of, he buckled down and began working on his first novel.

“From Wrath To Ruin” is the first in what will eventually be an ongoing series of books. Inspired in part by the Conan novels written by both Robert E. Howard and Robert Jordan, each of Justin’s books will be stand alone stories.


Website: https://justinenos72.wixsite.com/mysite
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Justin-Enos-Author-1215967911845266/

[divider]If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch directly by e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Excerpt: Cuteness Overlord by Mike Aaron

Today, at TRB Lounge, we are featuring an excerpt from Cuteness Overlord by Mike Aaron.

Read ahead to get a sneak-peek into this unique new release.

About the Book:

Carl Shan is an underappreciated scientist who is absolutely sick and tired of it all.
His research ideas are illegal. He’s been fired. The twenty-nine year old is dumped and has been reduced to living with his parents in stupid Barnley. Furious with the way the world treats him and knowing that he should always believe in himself, Carl decides to leave it all behind. He builds a time machine to the year 2117. When he arrives, he is surprised to find his workshop a mess.
Why are the buildings in ruins and the streets empty? Also… since when did baby animals have such sharp claws?

Read the tale of a ridiculous dystopian world overrun by cute animals, where the only hope lies with a narcissist who has absolutely no interest in saving anything but his fame.

Book links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Cuteness-Overlord-Mike-Aaron-ebook/dp/B072LC2RPR
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35893903


If this was indeed the year 2117, then everyone he knew would probably be dead. He’d not heard of any breakthroughs in life-prolonging research in his own time and the scientists of those related fields were, to be honest, incompetent. There was no parade. Had no one inherited the house despite his mother’s many relatives? Where was his parade, and how did this terrible disuse appear? He’d expected a carnival full of pretty women of all ethnicities.

Carl left the shed only to find a garden full of knee high grass and weeds like Yerkshire fog, added to Anisantha sterillis, which he did not know the common name for. Long stems drooped at the end in measured distaste. He stepped across the stones, lab coat fluttering noisily, watching in frustration the ruins of his old house. Then he stopped and turned.
Outside the center of Barnley, fences were short and useless for blocking sight. This meant he could see through to neighbor’s houses. This was considered an indecent but popular activity, which meant that for once Carl participated in a long standing Barnley tradition.

Their houses were in ruins too. The McSultries to the right even had slight case of missing roof, and he couldn’t see nosy Bessy anywhere. Carl stepped into the kitchen where he’d been rejected blindly by Sara for a second time just a month earlier.

A stench twisted the air outside. Wood littered the floor while rotting food sat in a broken down fridge. When food rots that badly, its sight slams the gut. Still, Carl fought to pull out a carton of milk so off the cap had welded shut in despair. The expiry date was set to 18/7/2025.

Due to the stench, Carl hurried out of the house in a hurry, just then noticing a silence. It was an unpleasant sort, full of insects and wild animal calls and buzzing like his smartphone, which showed no signal. The sun stood high on the sky, as pitiful as always over the clouds of Barnley.

By that time, Carl had realized that something had gone terribly wrong in the year 2025. Perhaps a war had erupted, or an epidemic, or a nuclear blast in southern Yerkshire. Carl did not check the house for dead bodies despite the stench, or maybe because of it. His parents would have still been there in 2025 if something had happened.

A long, pleasant life followed by eventual death was what he’d expected to discover of them. With a shrug, Carl left his old house behind, pulling his labcoat about him.
As he walked down the street, Carl’s thoughts drifted to “The Notebook,” and Yerkshire pudding of a certain sort. He hadn’t been there, which he supposed was lucky for him and the world in general. Despite this reasoning, Carl wondered if they’d missed him.

Just then, a noise drifted to Carl which made him stop. Barkings, meowls, and clucks sounded in a harmony. His tut joined them. Baby animals were the last thing he needed. His kitten (with the name he’d forgotten) was thankfully out of his life.

Carl turned to the left just as the group rounded a corner and came towards him. Carl knew that a group of capons was a mew, a group of cats was either a litter or a kindle, or that a group of electronic book-reading devices had no name. He knew no name for a group of every baby animal that could be considered even remotely “cute”. Thus his mind was at a loss for once, causing him to fumble for an answer as the meowling, whining, barking, chirping, oinking, and squeaking group of animals came towards him.
The second thing that occurred to Carl as the animas walked the center of the road towards him was that all these animals should not even be travelling together. There was a grey puppy at the head.

Also, why did their eyes seem so large?

As the animals came close, a slight twinge started in Carl’s chest. It was a soft B note informing him that these animals might just be hungry and need his help. Helpless and lovely, just like him. Adorable. He remembered that a flock of finches was called a charm and smiled ruefully, watching the animals and their adorable paws, wings, eyes. Maybe they just needed food, he thought.

At that precise moment Carl noticed the bloody fangs and claws.

About The Author:

Mike Aaron is a 23 year-old, most notably known for being a failing student of business studies. His short story, ‘Homes and Humans”, was out on Storyteller magazine in June, 2017. In his free time, Mike writes news articles and volunteers for The Green Light zine and Road to Nerdfighteria.

Contact Details:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/theflawedones

If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch through e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Excerpt: The Flawed Ones by Jay Chirino

Today, at TRB Lounge, we are featuring an excerpt from The Flawed Ones – A Story of Mental Illness, Addiction and Love by Jai Chirino.

Read ahead to get a sneak-peek into this exciting new read releasing very soon.

About the Book:

After leaving behind a trail of drug-addled destruction, Jay finds himself confined to the walls of a psychiatric hospital. He is now compelled to confront his actions, his issues, and the past that led him to such downhill spiral. But what surprisingly affects him most are the people that he becomes surrounded by; people with considerable deficiencies that will shed some light on the things that truly matter in life.

“The Flawed Ones” is a thorough examination of the struggles of mental illness, depression, addiction, and the effects they have on the human condition. Most importantly, it proves that physical and mental shortcomings do not necessarily define who we truly are inside- that the heart is, in fact, untouched by our “flaws”, and that love will always prevail above all.



I was stained with the color of despair, my face as white as paper and my eyes afraid. I had not been me for a while and I didn’t know how much destruction I had caused, but I had the terrible suspicion it had been a lot.

The room had nothing in it but a single-wide bed, right in center. There were no pulse monitoring devices, blood pressure monitors or any other type of triage care equipment. Behind the bed was a window that brought in enough light to see that it was daytime, but it wouldn’t be soon.  There was a small television hanging from one of the walls, but it wasn’t on. For a minute, the thought of looking for a remote ran through my mind, but just thinking about exerting that type of effort made me feel exhausted.

I sat in the middle of the bed with elbows resting on my knees and hands balled into fists, supporting my head. Mom and Dad stood next to me, pacing nervously in quiet desperation. They had not slept for days and their faces showed it. Their eyes told a story I didn’t want to read, so I kept my head down and refused to make eye contact. There was a constant static noise inside my head that got gradually louder as the minutes went by, and by now it was getting to the point of unbearable. I tried squeezing my ears shut with my hands, closing my eyes and blowing out my nose, but nothing worked. It felt like the station inside my head had lost all reception, and only the white noise remained, slowly torturing me, forcing me to surrender the rest of my sanity.

A doctor eventually walked in the room, sporting a fake smile, as if its only purpose was to sooth me. It failed.

“Hello, my name is John, I am the ER doctor today,” he said, still grinning without credible emotion. His whole expression had been programmed for dealing with the people he encountered, maybe in an attempt at making them more comfortable or at ease. He probably spent a long time in front of a mirror, perfecting it, practicing hard at masking his aversion to broken people, the reason he decided to become a doctor in the first place. Then he realized that fixing the broken meant being around them for a while, and he had no choice but to learn how to conceal his true feeling on the matter. I just hoped that his whole act worked better on others than it had on me.

“What brings you in today?”

His question was just part of the protocol; he already had the answer. His left hand had a grip on a chart that told him more than he needed to know, and I didn’t have the desire of reliving any of the details that had transpired the previous weeks. My blood would do that for me; it would give a thorough recount of the alcohol binge, the sedatives, the stimulants and whatever other substance I had put in my system without recollection. It would be a faithful witness of the accounts that made me lose total control and landed me in the hospital that day.

I kept it short and sweet to get things moving. “I have been struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, self-medicating with alcohol and drugs,” I said with embarrassment, not for telling the doctor, but for having to openly admit what I never had in front of my parents.

“I see…” Now the doctor’s fake smile dissipated; my answer was the cue that gave him clearance to stop the pleasantries and get down to business. His new face was no better though; it had morphed into somewhat of a concerned frown, eyebrows making a considerable upwards tilt where they ended, by his nose. His nostrils opened wider than normal, almost begging for more air. His eyes strained with focus as he made eye contact with nothing but the chart that he was writing on, while speaking to no one in particular.

“Let’s go ahead and run some labs and see what medicine we can give you in the meantime, to ease some of the symptoms, deal?” He looked at me momentarily and there was one more artificial grin. Before I could nod in agreement he was walking out of the room, turning this time into his true, uninterested self. As he walked past the glass wall in front of me, I saw the real ER doctor for the first time. It almost made me feel relieved to not have to live with the lie; the clumsy act that he had to put on, just for me.

A needle went in my arm and painted three vials red. There went my story, no detail left behind. Questions were going to be asked, and truthful answers were going to be given. The dark era of lies and deceptions was finally coming to its inevitable end.

Then I waited, waited for help, a knot in my throat as the walls of the room started to close in. Sobriety sank, deep in my gut. I started reminiscing without anything to blur the images, and excruciating pain bubbled up inside me. There were projections on the walls, chopped up scenes of disastrous moments that defined the surrender of my sanity, of my happiness, of my hope. I wanted to scream, but didn’t know how. I wanted to cry, but tears wouldn’t come out. I sat still in the middle of the bed, and the walls were now so close that I could touch them with my hands. Mom and Dad became dark shadows that stood still in the background. The ringing in my ears became louder and it muffled everything else. My head started pounding harder than my heart, and my desolation became intolerable.

The wait continued, the minutes refusing to move on, time becoming relative to my discomfort. Mom and Dad still stood by my side. Their pacing had continued, just a little slower. Heads down, arms crossed, I could only imagine what was going through their heads. I was well-aware of their exceptional distress, and felt immense guilt knowing it was me who put it there.

Outside the room, movement continued. Nurses and doctors did their dance as stretchers drove by and parked in empty rooms, delivering their cargo. Green scrubs would rush to hook up monitors, get blood pressure readings and insert IV’s.  An agonizing patient begged for pain killers. The loud speaker called out for a code blue in room twenty-six. Nurses sprinted past the room, almost in rehearsed formation.

I waited.

A blonde-haired woman now sat on a recliner on the other side of the glass wall, in front of the nurse’s station. It seemed like she couldn’t quite understand why she was there. She attempted to helplessly explain to the nurses and the cop standing by her that she had not meant to threaten anyone’s life. It had just been a fit of anger, like the ones she had gotten before, during her first tries at sobriety. The nurses, with their empty smiles and careless eyes, nodded and ignored her. It wasn’t a story they hadn’t heard many times before, or one that could possibly change her outcome in any way.

Seventy-two-hour psychiatric hold. We were going to be staying on the same floor.

At last someone came. They had secured a room for me to stay in. My parents got close and embraced me. Mom gave me her “it’s going to be ok” look, but the fear in her eyes said something else, something sadder. Dad walked past me and gave me two soft pats on the shoulder, then continued to walk out of the room, head down, as if my failures were his own.

As they disappeared into a corridor that now seemed five times longer than when we got there, my stomach ached the same way it did that very first day of public school, when they waved their hands in unison, and their blurry silhouettes shrank as I saw them vanish through the tears.  I had never felt more alone, more abandoned. The complete weight and heat of my burning world rested entirely on my shoulders now. Would the elevator taking me to the third floor be able to hold that much? I was about to find out.

About The Author:

Jay is an author, mental health advocate and recovering addict, who spent over ten years battling his demons. Today he focuses on sharing his story and the story of others like him in order to create awareness and help eradicate the stigma that has always surrounded mental illness. He lives in Tampa, FL with Ana, his cat.

Contact Details:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theflawedones
Twitter: https://twitter.com/theflawedones

Book links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35893903

If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch through e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Excerpt: Start Winning With Money by Donnie Masters

Today, at TRB Lounge, we are featuring an excerpt from Start Winning With Money: Your Guide to Personal Finance, Small Business Growth, and Building Wealth by Donnie Masters.

If you’re in to learn some really good advice about not only building but also managing finances, then read on…

About the Book:

If you are looking to make millions of dollars while sitting in your pajamas, then this book is not for you!

Start Winning With Money is financial book that offers high impact, real world solutions for life’s many money questions.

Want to better your personal finances?
Want to open your own successful business?
Would you like some real clarity on the cost of higher education?
Want to address the issue of debt in your life?
All of that and more is available to you.

Start Winning With Money will teach you:
Why your current income has nothing to do with obtaining wealth
Challenge the popular belief that all debt is bad
Address the issues with public education and why you were taught to fail with money
Define a proper budget
Why good debt can help you grow wealthy
Explain the importance of money in achieving financial freedom
Redefine true wealth

Book Links:



Chapter 3

You have been lied to 

Have I previously mentioned my distaste for the public school system in America yet?. One of my biggest concerns with our nation today is that children are being taught years and years of English, Math, and Science. But in most cases, our kids graduate high school without having had one class in financial management.

Over the course of your working life, you will be expected to pay taxes, fund your retirement, and take care of yourself financially. I am not sure how we can expect our children to do this when they are not being taught how to do so. Additionally, the cards are stacked against most children as no one in the family has enough wealth to manage. This simply means that there is zero education at home as well.

Since at least the 1950’s, and maybe longer, the American consumer has been fed four downright lies that have been ingrained in our culture as truth, even though logic and simple math tells us that it doesn’t make sense. These four “truths” are that you must buy a house, you must get a college education, you must save a lot of money for retirement, and you must avoid all debt.

We are going to tackle all of these “truths” head on in this chapter, but we need to break them down one by one in order to make some sense out of it all. Let’s start off with the grand daddy of them all. You must buy a house!


Big Lie #1 – You Must Buy a House

Most people can not just go out and buy a house with cash. They do not have that kind of money in their bank account ready to spend on a residence. In order to purchase a house then, most people must take out a mortgage to pay for their home. Since most people have to utilize a mortgage as part of the payment process, shouldn’t we start by defining what a mortgage is?

Dictionary.com defines a mortgage as:

  1. a conveyance of an interest in property as security for the repayment of money borrowed.
  2. the deed by which such a transaction is effected.
  3. the rights conferred by it, or the state of the property conveyed.

In plain language, a mortgage is a legal agreement that carries the conditional right of ownership of an asset by the owner to a lender as security for taking out a loan. In terms of real estate, the house acts as collateral for the lender. The lender’s interests are then recorded in the register of the title documents to make it public information that they have an interest in a specific property. The mortgage agreement is then voided when the loan is fully repaid by the borrower.

I believe that there are three primary reasons people are told to purchase a home. If you take this advice at face value, it appears to be solid financial advice for a lot of practical reasons. But let’s take a brief moment and really break down these three reasons that people buy a property to live in.

  • A home is an appreciating asset
  • You get to lock in your payments
  • I can sell it later on for a profit, or live in it “free” at retirement

Let’s start by talking about whether your personal home is an appreciating asset. Do you live in a single family home, townhouse, or condo? How much is your house going up in value every year?

USA Today conducted an interview with renown Yale economist and Nobel prize winner Robert Shiller. His direct quote is as follows:

“If you look at the history of the housing market, it hasn’t been a good provider of capital gains. It is a provider of housing services…

Capital gains have not even been positive. From 1890 to 1990, real inflation-corrected home prices were virtually unchanged.”

In other words, yes the house you live in will go up in value over time, but that value is merely keeping up with overall inflation. Your house is therefore NOT an appreciating asset. Furthermore, it does not produce income for you either, so we can’t even classify it as a good debt.

Now someone is thinking okay, but you get to lock in your payments for the life of the loan, right? In theory yes you do. But do you know that your payments are still going to fluctuate every year anyway? Taxes on personal property can be outrageous depending on classification of the property and home values in the area. Every year taxes and insurance cost more than the year before. So yes, your payment on the mortgage and interest will stay the same, assuming that you locked in your mortgage rate, but your escrow will constantly adjust with the changing taxes and insurance rates. This means your payments will fluctuate over time.

All right! I hear someone else saying. Enough of this craziness! At least I get to live in my house “free” at retirement or I can sell it for a big capital gain later on in my life. Sure, if you say so. But before you believe that hype, answer me a question. How do you live in a house for free? Yes, maybe after 30 years you have paid off the mortgage, but taxes, insurance and utilities will be higher than they have ever been. Not only that, but how many upgrades and repairs have you had to do over 30 years? The true cost of home ownership is very high and it is most certainly not free.

Someone else is going, “hold on a minute here.” I sold my house and got a big fat check with capital gains at closing. What can you say about that fella?

I could tell you that you would have done much better investing your money in the stock market over the same 30 years that you paid off your mortgage. Don’t believe me about that one either?

According to the Washington Post:

“The Washington Post analyzed Shiller’s data and reported that, over the past 100 years, home prices have only grown at a compound annual rate of 0.3%, adjusted for inflation. The S&P 500, on the other hand, has had an annual return of 6.5%. That’s an awfully big difference.”

I can certainly understand why many readers may need to re-attach their jaws right now. After all, I currently own a single family home, and I bet a lot of you do to. But what else am I going to do, sell my house and rent forever? No, and neither are you.

As with any legend or myth, there is some truth to this argument. The reality is, that being able to lock in your payment on an appreciating asset is a beautiful thing for your overall wealth accumulation. The problem is, that a single-family house is not an appreciating asset. So what is the best solution?

If you are going to buy a home to live in, I would suggest that you look into a 2-4 unit “multifamily” house. The reason why is incredibly simple to understand. Your private residence will now cost considerably less for you to live there, as other people will rent from you and help pay off the house. With some of these savings you can invest for your retirement sooner in life. Plus, you will build equity over time on a “good debt”. We don’t even need the house to appreciate in value to make this plan work. Let me explain this even farther.

A good debt produces income for you, right?. We have learned that part already in this book. If 3 out of your 4 units are paying rent to you then the property will produce income. This now makes your personal residence a good debt. The rent payments should cover all the mortgage due plus the taxes and insurance on the property. Having 3 paying units will allow you to live in your personal residence for next to nothing. You may even find a deal that allows you to live payment free on your personal residence. No monthly mortgage payments to live in your house, now that’s how to start winning with money!

On top of all that, you are borrowing money in a property that will go up in value over time, even if it only keeps up with inflation. The best part is, the house can actually not appreciate in value and this will still be a winning formula. Maybe your personal residence’s return on investment doesn’t beat the stock market’s return over time, but you have to live somewhere while you are alive. Why not let it be a property that works with you to achieve financial freedom long term.

So if you are going to take on all the risk of a mortgage (and a big one at that), wouldn’t it at least make sense to understand what it all entails?


What’s The Deal with Mortgages?

A mortgage is the most readily available home loan opportunity and what most people are familiar with. When it is truly a home mortgage however, only two different parties are involved; the homeowner and the bank. A loan is provided to the individual from the bank, with the home used as collateral for the length of the loan.

If the agreed payments aren’t made on time, the bank can then begin the foreclosure process. They use the mortgage agreement to take over full control of the house. The bank will then sell the house in an attempt to recover the loan that had initially been given to the individual. Foreclosure homes are often sold via auction, as the bank wants to get back their funds as quickly as possible. The auction process will make the house being sold sell at a steep discount to the general market. This is because all auctions are sold “as-is”, “where-is”. In other words, you are buying the property in the shape you see it with all it’s flaws.

The key factor in the foreclosure process is time. The process can be very time consuming for the bank involved. It often takes several months or up even up to a year to clear the legal system and finally gain possession of the house. Many states also have contingency plans where the homeowner can get the home back very late into the foreclosure process if they can catch up with their payments. Because of the time and money involved in the foreclosure process, most lenders prefer issuing a deed of trust instead.


Deed of Trust

In a deed of trust situation, a third party is involved. This third party is referred to as the “trustee”, or he who holds ownership of the home until the loan is repaid in full. The homeowner is still responsible for making payments to the bank, and once they have repaid the loan, the trustee holding the deed of trust will release it to the individual.

The bank can reclaim the house if payments are not made, just as with a mortgage. The home is reclaimed directly from the trustee however, and the long, lengthy process of a mortgage is non existent. This is because both the bank and the individual never actually held title to the home. Banks prefer the deed of trust arrangement as they can get title to the property and resell it much faster than if a mortgage is in place. A deed of trust also reduces the administrative costs (read legal fees) and length of time between foreclosure and getting the home resold.

Ultimately, when it comes down to it, lenders will desire a deed of trust arrangement while buyers will want a mortgage. Not all states allow deeds of trust and the terms can differ dramatically from state to state. As such, if a bank is pushing for a deed of trust, you should review the state guidelines with a real estate attorney to ensure you clearly comprehend the risks and whether or not a mortgage is even available in your specific state.


Basic Components

As with all other types of installment loans, mortgages have interest and are scheduled to be repaid over a set period of time. Most mortgages are up to 30 years, though repayment plans up to 50 years can be had. All types of real property are secured with the property itself as collateral.

A mortgage is still the primary method used to finance private ownership of residential and commercial property in the United States. Although the methods will differ in various countries, the basic components are similar to ours. These are the common terms used in mortgages and deeds of trust.

Property: The physical residence being paid for. The exact form of ownership is determined by the agreement entered into; either a Deed of Trust or a Mortgage.

Mortgage/Deed of Trust: This is the secured interest of the lender in the property, which may or may not include restrictions on the use or disposal of the property.

Borrower: The person borrowing funds to finance the “asset” and is creating an ownership opportunity in the property.

Lender: The party offering the financing money, but it is usually a bank or financial institution.

Principal: The original total amount of the loan, this may sometimes include other costs. Whenever any principal is repaid, the principal amount will reduce in size.

Interest: The profit or financial reward gained by the lender for the use of their money over time.

Foreclosure or repossession: The process where the lender has to foreclose, repossess, or seize the property under certain situations.

Other terms are more prevalent in different countries, but the above referenced terms are the essential components of a mortgage in the United States. Most governments regulate areas of the banking and lending industries within their respective countries in order to prevent fraud.

Lenders provide loan funds for properties to earn interest income, or make profit. Lenders generally borrow these funds themselves since they do not have enough capital to lend over and over again without replenishing their coffers. The price at which other lenders lend out these monies affects the cost of borrowing as well. Lenders can also sell the mortgage loan to other parties after closing on the deal.

Mortgage lending also has to take into account the risk of default on the loan. In other words, the assumed risk is the likelihood that the funds lent will be repaid as agreed. If they are not repaid as agreed, the lender will foreclose on the real estate assets as we have previously mentioned. This is not the preferable method of most banks. Banks prefer to have the interest funds to re-invest for more interest. They are not interested in a property to maintain and sell.


Mortgage Underwriting

Once the mortgage application enters into the final stages of preparation, the loan application is moved to a mortgage underwriter. The underwriter verifies all the financial information that the applicant has provided, and makes sure it is correct and valid. Verification of the applicant’s credit history will occur. The house is then appraised, or given a value relative to similar properties in the area.

The income and employment information of the applicant will also need to be confirmed by the underwriter. The underwriting process may take several days to complete. It is advisable to maintain your current employment and not open any new credit while undergoing the underwriting process. Any changes made to the applicant’s credit score, employment records, and/or financial information can lead to the loan being denied.

In the case of a fixed rate mortgage, the interest rate remains fixed, or locked-in, for the duration of the loan. In the case of a monthly repayment plan, which most mortgages are, the payment will remain the same amount throughout the entire loan. Please note that the amount of escrow and taxes will fluctuate every year as we discussed earlier.

In an adjustable rate mortgage, the interest rate is generally fixed for a set period of time, after which it will periodically adjust up or down based on the market index. The rate may adjust monthly or annually under the terms of your financing agreement.

Adjustable rate mortgages are not to be taken lightly. Adjustable mortgages transfer the risk of rising interest rates from the lender to the borrower, and thus are largely used where fixed rate funding is difficult to obtain or prohibitively expensive. Since the risk is transferred to the borrower, the initial interest rate may be between, 0.5% and 2% lower than the average 30-year fixed rate. We do no recommend an adjustable rate mortgage for a primary residence.

The interest charged to a borrower will depend upon the credit risk and the interest rate risk. The mortgage origination and underwriting process involves checking several factors including, credit scores, debt relative to income, down payment available, and other current assets owned by the borrower. Jumbo mortgages (mortgages over $417,000 in most of the United States) and subprime lending (borrowers with a credit score under 620) are not supported by government guarantees and face much higher interest rates than standard mortgages.

Now that we have covered one of the biggest financial decisions you will make in your life, buying your personal residence, let’s turn our attention to another big “truth” told in America today. You simply MUST get a college education.


Big Lie #2 – You Must Get a College Education

Okay, so maybe this was sound advice 50 years ago when a majority of people did not already have a college education, but it simply no longer applies in today’s society. Most people can spend a fraction of college costs on certification and/or job training and find meaningful employment. Let’s talk about student loan debt for a bit and why college is not a “good” debt.

In the United States, student loans were not even an option until the 1960’s. In hindsight, a simple law that should have opened the door of opportunity to many more students, quickly got out of control. It took less than 20 years for reality to set in about student loans.

In 1958, the United States was only 13 years removed from World War II. Within our country, there was a legitimate concern about the spread of communism and how to combat it. Most people from the World War II generation will be able to recall the legitimate fear regarding communism. At one point, the United States even went as far as having public hearings, called the McCarthy hearings. Many high profile celebrities were called to testify before Congress in an attempt to expose communism among movie studios.

In an attempt to make sure that the United States stayed competitive with the Soviet Union, especially in regards to math and science studies, Congress decided to pass the National Defense Education Act in 1958. In 1965, the Johnson administration created the guaranteed student loan, or Stafford loan program. Since 1965, the cost of a college education has outpaced inflation by more than 2 1/2 times.

According to an article entitled, “The History of Student Loans in Bankruptcy“, the cost of a higher education amended for inflation is absolutely startling. According to the author of the referenced article, Steven M Palmer, in 1980, the average cost for tuition and room and board at a public institution was $7,587 adjusted for 2014 dollars. So what’s the problem? By 2014 that same, exact education now cost $18,943; more than 2 ½ times the rate of inflation. Unfortunately, the news only gets worse as we go along.

If we continue down that same train of thought, loans are also becoming more necessary for someone who wishes to attend a college or university. In 1981, for example, someone who worked a minimum wage job could work full time in the summer and earn almost enough to cover their annual college costs. By 2005, that same student would have to work the entire year and use every penny of their earnings in order to attend school.

Between the years of 1958 and 1976, the United States government began to see a problem with their plan. Prior to 1976, student loans could be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings without any constraints whatsoever. As the economy began to sour in the 1970s however, change was enacted. The federal bankruptcy code was enacted in 1978, and the ability to get rid of student loan debt in bankruptcy was drastically changed.

The article goes on in detail, explaining that between 1978 and 1984, only private student loans could not be discharged in bankruptcy. As the situation continued to worsen, and more and more people were getting into debt via student loans, the government continued to restrict bankruptcy discharges.

Changes were made to bankruptcy laws in 1984, 1990, 1991, and 1992. In 1996 the federal government even allowed Social Security benefits to be considered as income towards repaying defaulted student loans. In 1998 more changes were made again. By 2001, changes were made again allowing disability and retirement benefits to be considered as repayment income.

Basically, as the United States government became aware of the problem that they created, Congress continued to modify the bankruptcy laws, to make sure that student loans had to be paid back even when someone declared bankruptcy. They began changing the income requirements for repayment as well. Ask yourself a simple question, why is this?

Now that you have been informed of this new information about student loans, it should be obvious that student loans should always be considered a bad debt. In fact, let’s continue to go into this a little deeper still. What about the fact that a college graduate will earn more money over their lifetime?

Technically, it is a true statement that a college graduate will earn more money over their lifetime of earnings than someone that does not attend college. But once again we are only being sold on part of the story. In reality, the average college graduate will not earn enough money to offset the student loan payments and interest accrued on their debt. In fact, a college degree isn’t even a good indicator of whether or not you will get ahead in life.


Are Student Loans a Good Indicator of Success?

There can be no doubt that members of our government were simply trying to encourage its citizens to get a better education. This is most likely the reason that the laws were passed to help ensure every student could go to college if they wished to. So how did a good idea go so bad?

After World War II, the United States government saw the success of the G.I. Bill. The G.I. Bill ensured that military veterans would receive their college expenses paid for by the US government. Based upon the early success of the G.I. Bill, low interest loans were made available to all Americans by 1965.

The college graduation rate in the early 1960s was only 7 to 8% by the time most of these laws went into effect. In other words, a college graduate that was looking for a new job represented only one out of twelve applicants.

By today’s standards, more than 30% of the population has at least a bachelors degree, and more than 60% has some college education, up to and including an Associates degree. At this point, the American workforce has so much education that almost everyone who applies for a job has some college education on their resume.

Based on the college graduation rate of the 1960s, the notion that higher education was better than entering the workforce straight out of high school became a common theme. Multiple generations of Americans have now been sold on this lie. At one point in time, statistics were presented that showed college graduates would earn as much as $3.4 million more in their lifetime than students who didn’t graduate with a college education.

Unfortunately, due to the rising demand that student loans created, the cost of a college education began to rise much faster than the rate of overall inflation. This meant that families began to devote more of their income just to pay for college costs. At this point in time, annual tuition has entered into the tens of thousands of dollars per year. College expenses are so high that they have even outpaced families in the upper middle class. Many more students have had to turn to student loans to pay for their education, even if their family has some money set aside.

Today, more than 71% of students are leaving school with student loans, according to studentloanhero.com. Additionally, even though the average college graduate earns $17,500 more annually than a high school graduate, loans for a basic 4 year degree are now topping $60,000. A repayment on that type of loan equals a small mortgage payment in some parts of the United States. Students are dedicating $400-600 per month on student loan payments. According to the Economist magazine, this means that a lot of students with degrees are actually, “…worse off than if they had started working at 18.”

With more and more students understanding that they are probably going to incur student loans as part of their education expenses, people have begun searching for ways to reduce college costs overall. Let’s continue to go down this path of having a higher education at any cost.


The Dangers of Student Loan Debt

For high school students who are searching for ways to reduce the cost of a college education, your local community college has probably been pitched as a way to reduce your overall expenses and avoid larger debts by attending a more expensive four year university.

Many, if not all, financial advisers actually flat out recommend that you complete your first two years at a community college before transferring credits to a four year university. They claim that this is a sure fire way of cutting overall college costs by as much as half, thus minimizing your need for college loans. So far this sounds like really logical financial advice.

Community colleges usually have annual tuition rates that are well below those of a traditional four year college or university, and the two year route may really help in terms of overall cost management and the amount of student loan debt when finished. So where, exactly, is the problem with this plan?

As it turns out, statistically, community college students are more likely to struggle with their student loan debts AND are also more likely to default on payment of their student loans altogether. This doesn’t seem to make any sense now does it?

According to pewtrusts.org, “38% of two-year college students who started to repay their loans in 2009 defaulted within five years…”

So the bigger question is, why do community colleges have this problem that doesn’t seem to effect major universities?

The truth is that more people simply drop out of community college than a four year program. Some statistics report as many as 38% of community college students do not finish their program. Combine dropping out of school with the fact that high school graduates have lower paying jobs in the first place and you can clearly see the problem. A lot of community college students had to borrow money to live on while they went back to school which means they don’t have extra money to repay the loans.

Even though tuition and overall costs are a lot lower at community college, the students are not as committed to finishing their degree there. Some of this can be explained by age and educational levels in the household (community colleges have older students and more immigrants), but much more of it involves lack of education about the cost of higher education.


Minimizing, and Managing Student Loan Debt

What do we make of all these default and delinquency rates for students trying to find a way into the working world? What do we say to high school graduates who are looking for ways to minimize the cost of a traditional college education by transferring credits from a community college?

The answer is to avoid student loan debt at all costs. It is a much better option to just work your way into better situations, promotions, and opportunities within the work force. The average person will actually do much better for not having the student loans wrapped around their neck for the rest of their life. Especially since student loans can not be discharged in bankruptcy.

If you aren’t willing to take that as an acceptable answer, please at least heed some sound financial advice on student loan debt. Below is a list of things to do or look for in order to avoid taking on more student loan debt than you will be able to handle later on.

  • Keep ALL other expenses as low as possible

Managing or reducing your overall college expenses may mean living at home with your parents and packing your lunch instead of eating on campus every day. Working part time or full time while you go to school in order to pay for it is an even better idea.

  • Constantly be looking for scholarships and grants

You can cut your college costs by seeking out scholarships and grants. Scholarships and grants provide you with financial aid that, unlike a student loan, does not need to be paid back.

If you’re a working student, make friends with the human resources department at your employer. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement programs or professional development benefits that can help you reduce the cost of your education.

  • Always complete your degree program

For college students who must rely on student loans to get through school, the single best predictor of successful repayment is actually graduation. Students who have completed their degree are the most likely to repay their school loans without defaulting.

“Just 15 percent of community college graduates default on their college loans, compared with 27 percent of community college dropouts,” according to the Institute for Higher Education Policy.

Students who spend one year or less in school are the most likely to run into repayment problems on their student debt. This is often because they can’t find a job or the job they do find doesn’t pay enough to enable them to make their student loan payments on top of life’s normal expenses.

  • Do not borrow more than is required

Borrowing more than they need is very problematic for community college students because the federal education loan programs offer the same maximum loan amount regardless of what type of school you attend.

The maximum federal undergraduate loan available each year will typically cover the cost of all tuition and fees at a community college plus a few thousand dollars available for books, transportation, and living expenses.

That extra money can be very tempting to use. Living expenses pose a major challenge for many college students, regardless of what type of school you attend. How you plan to pay for your living expenses while in college can mean the difference between manageable and unmanageable levels of debt when you finish.

Having a plan to pay for your living expenses without resorting to maxing out your student loans will significantly reduce the amount of money you need in order to complete your degree. The less student loan debt you have when you graduate, the lower, and more manageable, your monthly payments will be. Having lower payments also means you will be able to pay those loans off faster.

Before we conclude this section on student loans, I believe it is important to cover the different types of student loans and how they can impact your financial future.


            Not All Student Loans Are Created Equal

Federal education loans are issued directly by the federal government and they carry a fixed (locked in) interest rate, along with very flexible repayment terms. Federal student loans also have multiple options for postponing or reducing monthly payments based on financial circumstances. Federal student loans are generally low cost and lower interest loans.

Private education loans, which are not issued by the government, are issued by banks, credit unions, and other private lenders. These loans often have variable rates. Private loans are credit based loans that typically carry higher fees and interest rates than their federal counterparts. Private student loans offer fewer options for financially distressed borrowers to be able to postpone or reduce their payments as well.

One major difference between typical consumer loans (think auto loan) and a student loan is the deferment period. With a car loan, payments on the principal begin almost immediately, even if they are relatively small at first. In other words, with every payment made you are slowly paying down the total balance of the loan.

In contrast, all federal education loans and a lot of private education loans allow students to defer making any payments while the student is still in school. The repayment of the loan is then delayed for years in most cases while the student finishes their education. This comes with a cost of course, as there is not a delay on interest charges.

Except in the case of subsidized federal student loans (in which the government will cover the interest while a student is in school and are also awarded only to students who demonstrate the most financial need), interest begins to accumulate on college loans as soon as the loans are issued, even if a student is deferring payments.

This accumulation of interest may take place over months or years, quietly running up the balance on a student’s school loan debt to alarmingly high levels.

If we add up all of these small details about student loans, then we begin to understand the much larger picture. Yes, it is true that college graduates will make more money than non-college graduates. The problem with that mathematical equation however, is that we are not calculating the amount of interest and debt repayments that come out of that extra income. When you begin to peel away the layers, we get a much clearer picture.

At this point in time, it just does not make any mathematical sense to enroll in college UNLESS you have a clear path to a high paying career. The amount of debt that one must take on in order to complete a basic four year degree far outweighs the difference in income for an average degree. If you are not looking at a masters or doctorate level career, then I believe the additional income to be truly insignificant for the amount of debt that you will have to incur.

The math no longer makes sense for kids to accumulate debt in order to get a basic degree now does it? That is why America is still being sold on something that no longer applies in today’s new economy. Going to school after high school still helps you earn more money longer term. Unfortunately, the gap is closing quickly for a lot of majors. When you figure in years and years of loan payments that accumulate interest and never go away, the math becomes a lot clearer.

For further reading and research on this topic, I suggest this article. The article, by Nikelle Murphy, specifically points out 10 college degrees that are almost worthless to employers now. Not only is it a great read, but it may help you make a much better decision in life.

I think there is one more point that needs to be made at this time. The new economy that involves the Internet has also broken down the barriers between educated and non-educated citizens. Much like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did to the computer industry years ago, so has the Internet done to this generation. You literally have college dropouts, high school dropouts, and teenagers, making vast sums of money via the Internet.

While it is important to note that this path is not for everyone, not attending college and pursuing your own business via the Internet is a viable option for some people. If your long term plan does not involve traditional education than you should heavily consider an Internet based business. I specifically like creative and art driven people to consider this road of success as opposed to “graphic design” schools.

Now let’s tackle the next myth head on. That is, you must save a lot of money in order to retire.


Big Lie #3 – You Must Save A Lot Of Money For Retirement

How much money do you need to retire? One million? Two million? More or less than that amount?

No one, and I mean absolutely no one, has a realistic number that you can just plug in and use as a goal for your retirement accounts. The reason why is because one thing is constant in the world we live in, inflation.

Inflation is defined as:

“A sustained, rapid increase in prices, as measured by some broad index (such as Consumer Price Index) over months or years, and mirrored in the correspondingly decreasing purchasing power of the currency.” This definition is according to businessdictionary.com.

So what does inflation have to do with America being sold a big lie about saving money for retirement?

The truth is you will never be able to save enough for retirement. Even if you were to put away 20% of your before tax income from the day you turned 21, you will never have enough for retirement without generating additional income. How can I be so sure this is true? Inflation erosion.

I can hear some of you rolling your eyes already. You are probably going back in time and imagining the job you had a 21, and starting to calculate what 20% of your before tax income would have been. I will save you the math.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you earned $100,000 per year, every year for 40 years. In this example, you would have earned $4 million in your adult life. You were also one of the lucky ones, and you were able to retire at the age of 61 since you saved so diligently.

Now using these exact numbers, 20% of your pretax income would be $800,000. But let’s also assume that you invested wisely, and that you were able to grow your $800,000 retirement fund by a 250% return over the 40 years. $800,000 times 250% equals $2 million. A lot of you reading this right now are probably going that’s incredible! I agree completely.

So what is inflation erosion and what does it have to do with my retirement account you ask? Inflation erosion is a technical term based on the belief that savings are being erased faster than ever because inflation is rising faster than the average income.

So at this point, you are probably asking how I can be so confident in my mathematical calculations? As it turns out, once again the United States government is supplying all the information we need. Specifically, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics produced the following chart attempting to track inflation for just one 12 month period.

The base line for inflation is 1.8% per year for the 2011-2012 period referenced in the above chart. In reality, medical care is almost doubling the rate of inflation every year. Additionally, housing and transportation services are outpacing inflation as well. If we add in discretionary spending, such as higher education and new cars you can see why your dollar is not going as far as it used to. There is no way to “out save” inflation.

So going back to our example, you retire at the age of 61 with $2 million in your retirement account. The problem is, based upon inflation, that $2 million doesn’t go near as far as it used to. Let’s look at a really specific example.

The exact same Bureau of Labor Statistics, has a really neat online calculator. This online calculator will show you exactly what inflation has done to the US dollar over time.

For our specific example, a person working for 40 years between the ages of 1960 and the year 2000 would retire with a $2 million retirement account. However, in order to have the same spending power in the year 2000 that their money had in the year 1960 when they started saving, you would have needed to accumulate $11,522,184.30.

Yes you just read that correctly, in order to have the same spending power that $2 million had in 1960, by the year 2000 and you would have needed more than $11 million! Unfortunately, I don’t see any scenario in which this gets better going forward.

But there’s another other thing I’d like to point out as well. During the years 1960 and the year 2000, a majority of working Americans received some form of pension and will collect full Social Security payments. I want to stress to you that I’m not making a political point here, but rather I am telling you that my generation and the generations behind me will not receive pensions. They simply do not exist anymore in today’s world. As for Social Security, it’s anybody’s guess how long that’s going to stay around.

To make this new information sound even more dire, this specific data was supplied by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yes, the United States government acknowledges that this is a real mess and has zero solutions to fix it. Obama care? Trump care? Neither one will fix the mess that insurance providers, politicians, and pharmaceutical companies have created when it comes to healthcare.

Now let’s talk about your income for just a moment. Are you currently making $100,000 per year? Are you even making more money than you did last year? Are you making more money than you ever have in your life? Probably not.

According to USA Today, Americans finally got a raise in income level during the 2015 tax year. The article says that incomes rose for the first time in 8 years, meaning that incomes had not risen at all since 2007. The same article continues on stating that most Americans don’t feel like they got a raise in income because after adjusting for inflation their true level of income has not matched the levels of 1999. Depressing isn’t it?

So for 16 years straight, the average US household has made less money than before. Once again the data was supplied by our own government. The data for this specific USA Today article was supplied by the United States Census Bureau. The same government that is supposed to be guiding it’s citizens and providing a portion of their retirement has acknowledged that it is failing you.

Is Social Security even going to be available for another generation? Are we creating more jobs that pay a real living wage? Are expenses going down every year? Are incomes going up? The answer to all of those questions is “no”, and I don’t see any reason to believe they are going to be fixed any time soon.

So now we come to the fourth and final lie that is being taught to most Americans, you must avoid all debt in order to succeed in life. Debt is evil! All debt is bad! The credit card companies are ruthless with their aggressive advertising!

Do me a small favor and hear me out on this next part. It really might just change the way you look at things going forward in your life.


Big Lie #4 – You Must Avoid ALL Debt

Ah, yes. Stand up my Dave Ramsey loyalists and scream at me! ALL DEBT IS BAD!

What if I could prove to you it isn’t? In fact, what if I could show you documented proof that debt can actually make you wealthy beyond your wildest dreams?

You have probably heard some stupid expression over the years about how 90% of all millionaires got to millionaire status by investing in real estate. Think back to where you first heard such a crazy thing. Was it a friend that said it?

At one time in life, I repeated this to people as well. In fact, just last year I wrote a blog post that referenced the fact that 90% of millionaires started in real estate. I am guessing that this expression started somewhere in the real estate circle years ago. Most likely a Realtor or mortgage broker started this silly expression trying to convince someone to buy real estate. Can you become a millionaire by owning real estate? Yes. Did 90% of all millionaires achieve their wealth through real estate? No.

According to an article, on Financial Uproar, most millionaires do in fact OWN real estate, but a good portion of them did not use real estate to become wealthy. According to their own admission:

“…90% of millionaires do not come from real estate. Most millionaires come from a combination of success at work, owning a business, and investments, mostly in equities.”

So why do we assume that people who have loads of debt in real estate holdings are wealthy? Does owning something other than your own house make sense long term? Absolutely, as long as it is purchased, repaired, maintained, and managed correctly.

The case for using real estate as part of your personal wealth building plan is a strong one as long as you follow all the rules outlined below. If you want to make money in real estate you must follow the path that many before you have laid out.

The 4 Rules of Investing in Real Estate

  1. Cash Flow
  2. Buy Below Market
  3. Use Leverage Correctly
  4. Take Every Tax Advantage


The cash flow on an investment in real estate must be positive by as much as possible. Simply put, the difference between what you can rent the property for and your mortgage payment must be a positive number. In order to not get into financial trouble down the line, you must be able to put this money away for future repairs and unexpected bills.

I do also want to make one more note here. There are a portion of real estate investors that believe buying the right property at any price is advisable. Based upon their beliefs, they will argue that depreciation, amortization, and the tax benefits of owning real estate as an investment, will make up for any cash flow losses. I strongly urge you not to listen to this advice.

As with any other investment, there are a multitude of general rules that are being taught on the Internet. My biggest suggestion would be to listen to someone that actually owns investment real estate as opposed to someone writing an article on it. If you simply ask for assistance, most people will be willing to share their opinions and advice about their own business.

Buying below market is paramount to making future gains on your property. Paying down the mortgage alone is not great use of your money. We have already looked at why that doesn’t work very well. If you can not add value to a property between the time you buy and the time you sell, then you must get a discount when buying it.

We have already outlined good debt and bad debt. Using debt to make money is a good debt. If you can lock in a payment on the property that offers positive cash flow, then you are making money by using debt. Leverage should never be a long term plan by itself. Use debt along with the other 3 rules to make money.

I would also strongly advise against taking large loans against the property. While in some cases you may be able to get financing up to 95% of the purchase price, I would not advise going this route. The only time that it makes sense not to use a large down payment, is when you are planning to flip a property within a two year time frame. If you are truly buying an investment property, then you probably have no plans of selling it anytime soon, so lock in a great rate with no PMI (private mortgage insurance).

You must also take every single tax advantage available to you as well. Hire a good accountant or pay for professional advice if you are in doubt about anything. The tax advantages of owning rental real estate along with positive cash flow can be simply astounding over the long term.

There are two terms that you also need to become really familiar with. I have already hinted at it, but depreciation and amortization are your friends. I will quickly define both below.

Depreciation is defined as being able to write down the value of an asset over time, based upon common wear and tear.

Amortization on the other hand, is the ability to offset your income by deducting the loan payments as they are incurred. In other words, you will be able to deduct the interest expenses of the mortgage, and a portion of the principal, against the property’s rental income.

I am going to really stress that ALL 4 of these things must be present in order to make it a good investment. If any of the 4 rules are missing in the deal, then you are taking on an extremely risky debt. Don’t do it!

Are their other examples of using debt other than just real estate to help build wealth? Yes.

Many people have borrowed money to start a business, or take their business to the next level. Remember the rule of using debt, if you can make more money by using debt than it is worth considering.

I want to also stress one key point about business loans. Borrowing money to simply increase a business’s revenue without being able to generate additional profits, is just plain stupid. In order to even consider taking on a business loan, you must be able to mathematically prove that the additional profits would be more than enough to repay the loan.

Let me say that one more time to make sure everyone hears this clearly. Before you even consider talking about a business loan, you must be able to mathematically prove that the additional profits generated would be more than enough to repay the loan. I prefer to use a calculation of 2-3 times more profit dollars for the risk of taking on a loan.

We have now clarified what the four “truths” are that Americans have been taught when it comes to personal finances. Additionally, I hope that I have also provided some factual evidence for why I believe that these four truths are not sound financial advice going forward.

So now that we know excelling at work, having a business, and making smart investments in both real estate and stocks are the key to your financial future, let’s get right into starting your own business.

Book links: Goodreads and Amazon

About The Author:

Donnie Masters is the current owner and president of Masters Investment Group. He is an accountant for a small private business, as well as an American book author. Donnie was born and raised in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

In 2015, after having spent more than 15 years as a restaurant manager and retail store manager, Donnie began working on his first book. was published in June 2016.

Mattress Buying 101 is a how-to book on properly buying a mattress. The book was written as a guide to help the average consumer purchase the best mattress for their budget. Donnie’s inspiration for writing the book was based on his career at Sleepy’s, where he rose from salesperson to district manager in just 3 years time.

After his first book’s success in the small niche genre of mattresses, Donnie decided to write again on a couple more subjects he knew about, business and money. Start Winning With Money was started in September of 2016.

In early 2017, Donnie founded the Masters Investment Group and began focusing his energy on financial education. He continues to actively work as an accountant and write full time.

Contact Details:

Website: http://www.donniemasters.com/
Twitter: @realdonniem
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/realdonniemasters
Email: mastersinvestmentgroupllc@gmail.com

If you are an author and wish to be featured as our guest or if you are a publicist and want to get your author featured on TRB, then please get in touch through e-mail at thereadingbud@gmail.com

Book Excerpt: A Burning In The Darkness by A.P. McGrath

Today, at TRB Lounge, we are featuring an excerpt from A Burning In The Darkness by A.P. McGrath.

Read on to get a sneak-peek into an exciting mystery read.

About the Book:

A murder at one of the world’s busiest airports opens this simmering crime story where a good man’s loyalty is tested to its limits. Michael Kieh is a full time faith representative serving the needs of some of the 80 million passengers, but circumstance and evidence point to his guilt. His struggle to prove his innocence leads him on a charged journey that pitches love against revenge.

Michael’s loneliness was eased by a series of brief encounters with a soul mate. When she confides a dark secret, he is motivated to redress a heart-breaking injustice. Together they must battle against powerful forces as they edge dangerously close to unmasking a past crime. But Michael faces defeat when he chooses to protect a young witness, leaving him a burning spirit in the darkness.

Michael’s commitment to helping those in need was forged in the brutality of the Liberian civil war. Protected by a kind guardian, he too was a young witness to an atrocity that has left a haunting legacy of stolen justice and a lingering need for revenge. More poignantly there is a first love cruelly left behind in Africa because of the impossible choices of war. When Michael and his former lover find each other once again they become formidable allies in proving his innocence and rediscovering their lost love.



Young Foday Jenkins spied a curious sign at the far end of the concourse. The seven-year- old weaved his way through the hurrying travellers with their trolley-loads of suitcases. There were airline pilots and cabin crew walking briskly towards their international flights and armed police strolling like fortress watch guards. A rainbow glistened in the eastern sky beyond the floor-to-ceiling glass walls, watched in wonder by the frustrated passengers whose flights had been delayed by the ferocious summer storm. A charcoal wash of lightning-filled rain clouds shrouded the distant city outline.

Foday arrived at the sign. It was a matchstick man or woman kneeling, praying. Beneath it there was an entrance of two heavily frosted glass doors. He pushed them open and stepped inside. When the doors closed behind him there was a nice silence. He was in a room, maybe twice the size of his classroom, but it seemed so much bigger because there were sacred symbols from all over the world and holy words on the walls and little statues, and it wasn’t brightly lit in here like outside, yet it wasn’t so dim that it was scary. The duskiness made you look. There was a lovely smell in the air, the scent of a faraway country.

There was a row of electric burning candles that could be switched on for a handful of coins. There were six happy photographs of teenagers from all over the world tacked to the wall above the electric candles. One of the happy faces looked like his older sister Ameyo. She smiled that way. Uh-me-yo. This is how Mummy said it. There were handwritten notes stuck around the photographs with words like Please remember. Foday wondered if the person who wrote one of them had been crying because the ink was smudged.

On a cloth-covered table there was a visitor’s book. Foday wrote his name and address: Foday, 19 Bletchley Avenue, London NW22, UK, Europe, The World. He added I really like this place.

Over on the other side of the church, tucked around a corner, there was a wooden playhouse. A sign outside the door read: If you want a priest to hear your confession, press the button.

Foday turned nervously when he heard the loud sounds of the bustling concourse as the church doors opened. He could see a silhouetted figure against the gleaming frosted glass. The figure focused into a heavy man walking down between the seats. He stopped, agitated and sweating.

‘Are you lost?’ the man asked.
Foday knew he shouldn’t talk to strangers.
‘Where’s your mummy or daddy? Are they with the priest? Are you alone?’ he asked crossly.
Foday pressed the button requesting a priest to take confession.


Book links: Goodreads and Amazon

About The Author:

AP was born and grew up in Ireland.

He now lives in London and works in TV. He is a single father with three beautiful teenage children.

He studied English and Philosophy and then post-graduate Film Studies.

A Burning in the Darkness is his first novel.

Contact Details:

Website: http://www.apmcgrath.com

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