Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Lee Rozelle who’ll be sharing a couple of excerpts from their latest audiobook Ballad Of Jasmine Wills.
About the Book
Ballad Of Jasmine Wills
A zany twist on the Southern Gothic, Ballad of Jasmine Wills is a wild and heartfelt tale of abduction and revenge, body shaming and media fame. Lee Rozelle’s debut novel is the story of overweight banker Jasmine and her kidnapper, the enigmatic reality TV mastermind Preston Price. Trapped inside an egg-shaped studio in the secluded backwoods, Jasmine is tortured with haute cuisine, brainwashed with self-help videos, and badgered with cardio exercise routines for her growing mass of livestream fans. Filled with flashbacks of adolescent nuttiness and ennui in the 1980s, Ballad of Jasmine Wills goes bizarro to explore links between reality TV and the real, intervention and exploitation.
Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Teri M. Brown who’ll be sharing an excerpt from her latest release Sunflowers Below The Snow.
About the Book
Sunflowers Beneath The Snow
A Ukrainian rebel. Three generations of women bearing the consequences. A journey that changes everything. When Ivanna opens the door to uniformed officers, her tranquil life is torn to pieces – leaving behind a broken woman who must learn to endure the cold, starvation, and memories of a man who died in the quintessential act of betrayal. Using her thrift, ingenuity, and a bit of luck, she finds a way to survive in Soviet Ukraine, along with her daughter, Yevtsye. But the question remains, will she be strong enough to withstand her daughter’s deceit and the eventual downfall of the nation she has devoted her life to? Or will the memories of her late husband act as a shadow haunting everyone and everything she loves, including Ionna, the granddaughter that never knew him? In Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, Teri M Brown explores the tenacity of women, showing that even in grueling circumstances, they can, and do, experience all the good things life has to offer – compassion, joy, love, faith, and wonder.
Lyaksandro was aware of just three things. The slit of sun sneaking through the hurriedly closed curtains in an otherwise claustrophobic room. The air sucking into his lungs only to escape again in uneven gasps. And the unsympathetic, unyielding metal pressed against his temple awaiting his decision.
How had he gone from a simple man – Lyaksandro Hadeon Rosomakha – a university employee, a son, a father, and a husband – to a man facing a decision at the end of a gun? What had pulled him into a life littered with secret meetings, men with no names, and information passed in the hours between darkness and dawn?
Undoubtedly, the state police would slap an informant label on his forehead despite the mundane activities he was called upon to perform. His treachery was not the kind to find its way into the banned spy novels still wending their way through the eager hands of boys wanting to prove they were men. No, rather than the high-tension, clandestine meetings of books and movies, he merely passed along innocuous information on loose pages of lined notebook paper carefully taken from the university library that employed him.
Sometimes he was asked to provide a list of those visiting the library on any given day. Other times, he would be asked to provide the names of those who checked out certain books or inquired about specific topics. He’d even been asked to photocopy pages from manuals. He didn’t know what they were looking for. The link between a man named Bodashka Kravets and an interest in 4th century Ukrainian history, for example, was never explained. Nor did he truly know who was asking. His place in the resistance machinery was minor at best, and deadly at worst.
In this moment, though not for the first time, he wondered if the information was actually worth dying for. He was simply a small gear in a huge network of informants. Yet, despite the inconsequential nature of the information he passed, he understood, if caught, he was unlikely to survive. Informants – spies – regardless of their importance, were not tolerated. At best, he might face permanent imprisonment in a psychiatric facility. At worst, he would be killed and unceremoniously dumped into the nearest ravine, never to be heard from again.
The cold metal pressed more urgently against his skull. Would he die here? The choice was his to make and his to live with or die from. Would he say yes? No? Beg for a different option, like a small child hoping to get a treat for lunch rather than carrots and beets?
Pictures from his life flashed into view, each one an arrow pointing toward the path leading him to this place, this time, this decision. Although he had no memory of his father choosing a strong name for a strong son, his naming had become a personal folktale with Lyaksandro as the hero. His father would hold his young son in his thick arms, smelling of sweat and freshly cut wood, explaining each part of his name in considerable detail.
“You, my son, are no ordinary boy, and you have been born into extraordinary times. I’ve given you a name to guide you – to show you what you are meant to be. You are Lyaksandro Hadeon Rosomakha.
“Lyaksandro. Defender of man. A protector and guardian of mankind.
“Hadeon. Warrior. But not merely any kind of warrior – impetuous warrior. I want you to be willing to complete your mission without concern for the consequences as you seek after your cause.
“Rosomakha. Wolverine. Ferocious and wild, yet intelligent. Connected to family. Willing to be alone but longing to be part of a community – preferably like-minded souls longing for something better in life.”
By the time he entered school, he recognized who he was and what kind of man he would become. His name said it all.
A name, however, wasn’t enough fuel to propel someone forward if they weren’t willing to go. He was one Lyaksandro among many, and to his knowledge, they were all waking in their homes this morning while he drew in, what had the potential to be, his remaining breaths.
Although he had been born under communist reign, his father never let the stories of the Ukraine he experienced as a boy die. In the same way he could recite the story of his name, Lyaksandro could narrate the stories of his home as it had once been before communism and the USSR. The community traditions, the dances, and the songs, even the acres and acres of sunflower fields fading into the horizon.
“Ah, the bechornytsi.” This word would sigh from his father’s lips turned upward into the closest thing Lyaksandro would ever see to a smile. “Once the crops were gathered and put up for the long winter to come, all the young people from the village would gather in a sparse building in the center of town erected specifically for occasions like these.
“Such singing and dancing, Leki! Young men performing the Gopack, alternating between standing and squatting while energetically flinging their legs and feet toward the giggling young women who shyly observed in hopes of being chosen from the crowd for more personal attention. Older women embroidering along the edge of the makeshift dance floor, keeping time with their feet. Older men telling tall tales and laughing too loudly at their rude jokes, secretly wishing they still had the ability to dance at the end of a long day to titillate the ladies.
“And the food. Oh, Lyaksandro, you have never seen such food. Varenyky, borscht, golubci, salo, papukhy. Everyone ate and talked and laughed long into the night. I met your mama at a celebration such as this.”
In spite of never witnessing the glory for himself, he missed it with a fierceness as immeasurable as his father’s – a man who died trying to gain back what had been forcefully taken away.
During the Shelest regime, Lyaksandro believed everything his father wanted for his beloved Ukraine was happening. He believed perhaps his father’s death had not been in vain. Novelists, artists, and film directors created their art with few restrictions. Ukrainian pride – something quite apart from Party loyalty – flourished. Lyaksandro had found, courted, and married Ivanna, and the two of them had a darling daughter. What more did a man need to be content?
Except he had ignored the signs and pretended all was right with the world. He was blinded by the Politburo’s permissiveness and flattery and was unable, or unwilling, to see the truth, until, without fanfare, and more importantly, with very little protest, years’ worth of literature was ripped from the shelves. Any art deemed anti-Soviet or nationalist was burned. Dissidents, once tolerated with a mild slap of the hand, were incarcerated in corrective labor camps – ispravitelno-trudovye lageria, or insane asylums.
Then, one fateful day changed the course of his life and brought him here, a man on his knees, at a fork in the road which would change the trajectory of his life. He realized he could no longer be a bleating sheep, following along with a timid “as you wish” while the Party elite dined on stuffed pheasant. He could no longer tolerate a gradual reformation of society, when all around him, those he loved suffered.
Despite his mother’s heroic efforts to keep him from taking up his father’s sword, Lyaksandro would do no less – could do no less. It was for this cause he found himself with a choice to live or die.
His name. His father. His love. His country. Each played a part that landed him in a dark alley – was it just last night? – instead of lying next to his wife of 12 years under a hand-stitched quilt, her soap-scented hair swirled on a pillow they shared. The pretense that all was well in his beloved country was over. This realization led him to seek out those who were actively making changes, while others only whispered about them, furtively looking around for Party finks. Ultimately, he had agreed to collect information to pass on to unknown carriers to squash communism and bring back the Ukraine his father had taught him to long for.
Last night had been the culmination of two long years’ worth of effort. For months, he had been providing information through coded sentences in the still of the night, each time acutely aware that this could be the last time – each time lying to himself that this would be the last time. And yet, he ventured into various alleyways throughout the city on scheduled nights, again and again, delivering bits of information to further the cause despite these promises he made to himself while lurking in alleys in which he didn’t belong.
Three hours ago, maybe four, he had been standing in a pitch-black alley, fear wrapping itself around Lyaksandro like a jaded lover’s arms ready to administer another round of arsenic in the wine. Had he somehow known he would end up here, like this? His skin pricked on the back of his neck again, precisely as it had then, the small hairs standing at attention. He recalled the small sound, a distance away that had caused his breath to halt in his throat, fearing any sound might give him away. He had flattened himself against the doorway and listened intently, once again hearing the small but deafening noise.
Such a minuscule sound would have been swallowed up in the bustle of the day, but there, in the inky darkness, it became ominous and menacing. Though he had willed it to be his contact, his sense of foreboding suggested otherwise. Never had he heard the approach before. In fact, he was often disconcerted at how swiftly and silently the contact arrived, asking for a light before Lyaksandro fully comprehended someone was at hand.
The sound, like soft scraping of metal against stone, happened again. Then again. More regularly. And closer.
Lyaksandro carried no weapon, and though he was officially a spy, he had no training. Until this very moment, he had never considered what he would do if things didn’t go as planned. Nonetheless, some instinct, or perhaps the hand of God, had him drop to his haunches, seconds before a bit of brick where his head had been moments earlier burst into fragments and rained shards into his hair.
Whether he yelled out or not, he did not know, but it wouldn’t have mattered either way. A cacophony of noise instantaneously erupted in the once-silent night. Men’s voices mixed with explosions and the tinkling sound of broken glass. Running footsteps. The squeal of tires. And then silence again.
This could not be happening. He wanted to help his country, to provide a place for his wife and child to thrive. Nothing more. Certainly not this. He wanted only to be home with his wife and child, and tears flooded his eyes as he crouched against the wall, immobilized by fear.
Before he comprehended what was happening, someone grabbed Lyaksandro under the arm and hauled him to his feet. He threw his arms wildly toward the hand that gripped him, desperate to get away. He wasn’t a spy. He was merely a man. “Please, please. I don’t know what you want. I…” But before he uttered another word, a man in perfect Ukrainian said, “Come. Now. Quickly. We don’t have much time. They followed you here, hoping to catch two birds with one stone, but ended up with nothing to show for their night’s adventure, eh? Are you hurt? No? Come.”
One foot quickly followed the other as the man, carefully concealed under a cap and scarf, weaved in and out of streets and alleys, bringing him to a fourth-floor flat in a run-down, nondescript building. He threw some clothes in Lyaksandro’s direction. “Change. Quickly. No! Don’t use the light. Hand me your things.” Then, they were off again, this time, more slowly but not without purpose. Two more times, they ducked into buildings, changed clothes, and emerged again, the final time as others were beginning their morning routines.
Lyaksandro realized with a joyful clarity that, unlike his father, he had lived. His joy, however, was fleeting as the man who saved his life said, “Here. Enter here.” As they moved inside, he gave Lyaksandro specific directions which seemed foreign and impossible to understand, consonants and vowels hobbled together but providing no meaning. “Sit here, in this chair so I can cut and dye your hair. We procurred documents for you. We will have you in London by this time tomorrow.”
“But…” Lyaksandro sat down heavily in the proffered chair, his mind reeling as he tried to take in the events over the past hour. Leaving his beloved Ukraine? Everything he did was to save this country, not leave it. And his family? What would Yevtsye think about leaving her homeland with a child in tow? It would make no sense to her. He needed to speak to her, to help her understand. “What about Ivanna? Yevtsye? When will they arrive? Where are their papers? They will be so frightened, so confused. I must explain everything to them.”
The man’s hand reached out and held Lyaksandro’s shoulder. “мій друг, my friend, the deal is for you. You, alone.”
Lyaksandro jerked away, wild eyes darting around the room. He would never leave his wife and child. They were the reason he did what he did. They were the reason for the risks he took. Without them, the midnight rendezvous made no sense. With a mixture of panic and resolve, he shouted, “No! No! They go, or I stay.”
Bending at the waist, bringing his face level with Lyaksandro’s, the nameless man who had saved his life hours before whispered slowly, as if speaking to a small child. “No. It is too late for ultimatums. We cannot get your wife and daughter. Your home is under surveillance. They watched you leave tonight. They followed you to the alley. They wanted to kill you. Your wife and daughter…they are…it is hard to say…where they might be?”
A wild, animal-like guttural groan escaped from Lyaksandro’s throat. His beautiful Ivanna. His beautiful Yevtsye. He had killed them. He regarded his hands, realizing they were capable of both stroking his wife’s cheek and effectively signing her death certificate. Had they started trembling in the alley, or only as he became aware of his new role as executor?
More urgently, the man said, “Now. You must go now. We cannot permit you fall into your government’s hands. Doing so would cause far too many problems for us. Get up. Now.”
Mere seconds had passed. The man shifted his stance to stare directly into Lyaksandro’s eyes, the two men merely a gun-length apart. “Are you going? Or are you dying here?”
Twenty-four hours later, a shattered man, stripped of his Ukrainian name and his family, landed at Heathrow.
About The Author
Teri M. Brown
Born in Athens, Greece as an Air Force brat, Teri M Brown graduated from UNC Greensboro. She began her writing career helping small businesses with content creation and published five nonfiction self-help books dealing with real estate and finance, receiving “First Runner Up” in the Eric Hoffman Book Awards for 301 Simple Things You Can Do To Sell Your Home Now, finalist in the USA Best Books Awards for How To Open and Operate a Financially Successful Redesign, Redecorate, and Real Estate Staging Business and for 301 Simple Things You Can Do To Sell Your Home Now, and Honorable Mention in Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award for Private Mortgage Investing. In 2017, after winning the First Annual Anita Bloom Ornoff Award for Inspirational Short Story, she began writing fiction in earnest, and recently published Sunflowers Beneath the Snow. Teri is a wife, mother, grandmother, and author who loves word games, reading, bumming on the beach, taking photos, singing in the shower, hunting for bargains, ballroom dancing, playing bridge, and mentoring others. Teri’s debut novel, Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, is a historical fiction set in Ukraine.
Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Valeri Stanoevich who’ll be sharing an excerpt from her latest release Fancy Shop, a collection of short stories.
About the Book
Fancy Shop Short Story Collection
The stories contain features of fantasy, urban legends, mystery, magical realism, penetration in the deepness of the human soul. The characters are different: knights, anonymous people, dreamers, outsiders, crazy ones, technocrats, cockroaches, holders of secret knowledge. They crave for another world of dreams come true, inexpressible truths and oases of redemption of past guilt. On the way to their new identities, they move freely between reality and fantasy. They are in constant conflict with themselves, and the front line is the line dividing the two hemispheres of their brains. The stories are very short but each has a complex plot, provocative suggestions and a surprising end. Without in any way denying the traditional concepts of good-evil, simple-profound, they lead the reader into worlds in which paradox is a synonym of universal meaning.
Nobody remembers when the greasy rain started. It’s considered to be a meteorological phenomenon. (Its drops leave stinking spots.) People of means use grease-protected cars and an appliance like a tunnel, through which they reach their shelters. The government provided the rest of the population with remaindered wetsuits, but due to their negligence they soon became completely greasy.
In the evening, the city becomes quiet. From the streets, through the lashing rain, from time to time wails of desperation or hatred can be heard. For example: ‘White worms!’, ‘Shit!’, and so on.
They say that there was a valley over which snow kept falling eternally. Those who reached it, would sink into the drifts. The cold would numb their bodies. The wind would stop their breathing. And there, a moment before they froze, with the last breath of air they accepted freedom. The freedom to be pure.
About The Author
Former engineer and forensic expert. All my live except the study I inhabit my native city Ruse at Danube River. Occasional publishing in Bulgarian editions. I prefer silence and loneliness. Beloved activities: wandering through the mountains, contemplation, solving technical problems. Interested in: mythology, philosophy, psychology, poetry and painters with an unusual point of view to the reality. I don’t like displaying. I think that one should remain in the shadow of his deeds.
Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Philip Brunettiwho’ll be sharing an excerpt from his latest release Newer Testaments.
About the Book
Ever get the feeling that your life is caught up in some kaleidoscopic Jungian dream and that you weren’t exactly dying but still everything you’d ever been is flashing before your eyes-and then when you wake from this dissolutive dream, your reality remains altered and time has become concurrent and characters from thirty-plus years ago walk into your life again, if ambiguously, and press you on matters of a sacred-profane written text that you never completed?
Heretical and outrageous, ironic and absurd, Newer Testaments scores a hit in the heart of where the existential meets the fated, and the writer’s task becomes both revelatory and abject. Into this formidable personal struggle a cast of untoward and/or diaphanous characters rotate including The Jesus Girl, John Baptist, Macbeth, King Kisko, The Tree Girl, Nurse Mother, a glass satyr and a French New Wave Mother. Has the nameless narrator lost his mercurial mind, or is this a subconscious-shadow-world sojourn he’s been practicing for all his life?-the keys to the kingdom of being.
“In the tradition of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, Brunetti’s wondrously wandering writing is taut and cryptic, vivid and hallucinatory, rendering an irony-laden, aberrant odyssey for his impossibly likable protagonist.”
-Franco D’Alessandro, playwright & poet, Roman Nights, Stranger Love, and Everything Is Something Else
I thought I was living in a French New Wave film. I had faked my own death. I’d spent my life carrying pens. There were these days. Each thing had its place. But there was never the right thing or place. Or rarely. I went on moaning. They strung me up like a dead Jaws tiger-shark on a hook. But everyone knew I was a fake. I’d lived inside my wallet. Folded up. This doesn’t mean I’d known money. Mostly we were left to pray by the curtains. My sister with her tail in her lap.
They had spoken of vestibules. The house was collapsing around them. I didn’t even know their names. But they were standing there like in a box. An elderly couple. They appeared naked. They were holding each other by the waist. They both had gray hair and pubic hair. It mixed with the dust. The house was being demolished around them for some reason. And for some reason they were naked in the dust. I was off in the bushes somewhere like a secret photographer. A faux paparazzo. But I never clicked a picture. The image of their fall from grace was their own.
We’d picnic in winter. Sometimes in the park under the nether-Whitestone Bridge. I couldn’t remember why I was dying (I wasn’t) but as a kid I had the feeling that I was. I went to get lost in the woods. My sister was behind me. She was getting ready to play a trick. She’d sneak around and jump out on the trail and scare me. I’d throw up my arms and scream. I was timid. Then she’d report me for my timidity. I had to be the man but I wasn’t this kind of man. I hadn’t been invented yet. I was on trial. And all the juries were out still. Maybe it was coming to disaster. But I’d never let out a sound.
In the interim I read Leaves of Grass. I crossed and crisscrossed America. I had a fool’s wanderlust but found nothing inspiring. The Walmarts were a cancer. They’d eaten up the towns. I was on my knees in Chicago—Lake Michigan bound. I fell at the Great Lake seaside. The pillars of tenements behind me. The black children playing in the sand. I took a fiery shot of bourbon. It’d been warmed up in the heat of the van. My partners in crime were misfits. We were men on the run.
We planted infant trees in the garden. We went on planting infant trees. I didn’t know what I was doing but I could follow directions. So I followed them. The woman was like a little drill sergeant. She told me what I could and couldn’t do. I was given a spade and trowel. I had loose wrists and turned the earth. It was slipping from my senses. All the meanings I’d once meant.
‘We’re going nowhere now,’ I said to the woman.
‘That’s why you’re here,’ she rejoined.
I said nothing else. Later I’d show up with a watering can. I was playing with seeds. I didn’t know any better. The ground would open up too. There’d be a big crack in the earth, a hole fissuring. We’d have to go under the trees and roots even. All of the sprigs and dreams busted. But there was some truth in the ground.
‘How deep?’ I asked.
‘Keep going,’ she said.
We were six feet underground.
The Jesus Girl never had a hold on me. I’d buried her like an ant in the carpet. But I could see her still—shining in my eyes. I had wanted to be something. There was this fusion—bad and good, masc and fem, life and death. In truth I couldn’t go through that atrocity. I kept quiet. I was a small man in a big world. The word on the street was there was no word on the street…I’d expected more…or different. I was a man waiting at a vending machine without change. Dark stormy clouds were gathering. I felt weak. In a few hours bad things would happen. It was just a matter of time.
I had to become him but could never become him. It was easier to put the fig back on the tree. Take some other bite.
I didn’t know anything about grace. But it’d been threatened into me so I eventually grew curious. I talked to Simon. His black eyes burning—he harped on the Book of Revelation. He wrote his 8th Grade interpretation of it. The English teacher gave him an A+. It’s a sacred cosmogony. Simon never said that. But it came to that in the report. Even the end of the world was beautiful.
Tiring at dusk. But getting more awake too. And never remembering my name. Never having a proper name in the least bit. Being nameless even with a name. That’s how it mattered then.
We’d go out in the snow. There were 27 inches, nether-New York’s biggest blizzard in years. I had my pants tucked into rust-colored boots. My father put plastic bags over my doubled socks so my feet would slip through, stay dry. Then he tucked in my pants, meticulously, mercilessly. All in the name of love.
We exited from the garage door—into a landscape of pure snow. My older sister led the way. My father kicked me in the ass and I got moving. Each leg lift, each leg plant and I got buried to my thighs. The wind blasts froze my snots to my face. There was no turning back. This was the tundra of youth…we’d keep marching delinquently across the virgin snow.
About The Author
Philip Brunetti writes innovative fiction and poetry and much of his work has been published in various online or paper literary magazines including Cobalt, The Boiler, The Wax Paper, and Identity Theory. His debut novel Newer Testaments, published in November 2020 by Atmosphere Press, has been described by the Independent Book Review as ‘an innovative existential novel told through hallucinatory poetics.’
Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Deepak Mullick for sharing an excerpt from his latest release SimplyMutual: The 1% Formula To Gain Financial Freedom.
About the Book
SimplyMutual : The 1% Formula To Gain Financial Freedom
Everyone wants to be rich, but not everyone is. There is a method and meaning to it that’s more than just numbers.
In this book, investment veteran Deepak Mullick takes you on a journey to financial freedom. SimplyMutual isn’t just a guide to make more money, it is about building wealth to live the life of your dreams.
If you’ve ever thought of retiring in your 40s to do what you love, this is THE book for you!
On a warm summer evening in 1947, my grandparents packed their bags and left their life behind. FREEDOM. That was the chant in the air. History was being made as the British left a partitioned India behind. For millions of people this meant leaving behind everything they owned, their life’s work and savings, the security and comfort of their homes, of the life they had known, and moving to unknown lands with an uncertain future. My grandparents too made their way from Dera Ismail Khan in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of what is now Pakistan, to Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
I grew up hearing the stories of their life. In the evenings when we all sat together in the courtyard of my grandparents house, they would get nostalgic. My grandmother would tell us about our culture, our food, the traditions, all the wealth we had, the lands we owned back then, and how we earned our surname Mullick, a title given to big landlords. Even as a child, I could hear the longing in her voice, and a note of bitterness at being uprooted. When I write this from the comfort of my home now, I can’t even imagine what they must have gone through. The way they had managed to move with just a few suitcases, hurriedly packed. The way they had to travel hundreds of miles in search of a new place to settle in an environment of extreme hostility.The stress and anxiety of not knowing where they are headed and the despondency of having to start living from scratch.
But start again they did! And they made quite a success of it too.
Why am I telling you this? What does a story about uprooting and migration have to do with a book on wealth building?
Well, in this story there is a lesson. That life is unpredictable. That ups and downs will happen. That sometimes everything you took for granted will be disrupted. But don’t lose your wits. Financial success is all about thinking in the long term. As the poster boy for long term investing, Warren Buffet said, “successful investing takes time, discipline, and patience.”
I’ll add to that and say wealth building is also about optimism. I consider myself an eternal optimist! It’s in my DNA! And even after witnessing the ups and downs of economies for over 25 years, I continue to believe in the India growth story. But more on that later.
I learnt important life lessons – resilience, optimism, and street-smartness – from my parents, grandparents, and my Alma Mater La Martiniere, that have helped me immensely on my path to financial freedom.
After I finished my schooling, I had the easy option to join the family business. But it wasn’t something that interested me. I wanted to look at work as something that helped me live the life I desired. And I am very unapologetic about it. I am a firm believer that you work to live and not live to work. Have you ever thought about it?
What would you do if you had all the money you needed to live a comfortable life?
Would you still pursue the job you have currently?
Would you go after something that you are truly passionate about?
Would you give and contribute to the world?
Would you spend time travelling the world, experiencing new things, and gaining different perspectives?
The thing is, most of us spend a lot of time in the lower 2 stages of Maslow’s Hierarchy. We struggle to make enough money to pay for our basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. And we compromise on building meaningful relationships and on finding our true potential. Often because that raise or that promotion is so much more important. Well, I didn’t want to live all my life with some golden handcuffs.
So my aim was to find a career path that would help me realize my retirement goals (yes, I was thinking of retirement when I was 20!) by the time I turned 45. A highly ambitious goal given India’s economic situation then. However, in a series of seemingly unconnected events, I found my calling.
In the early 90’s when I was figuring out my career choices, the financial services sector was abuzz with activity. India was undergoing an economic transformation. From a bottomless pit for foriegn aid, India was creating Economic Liberalization policies that will make it an emerging superpower in just two decades. Companies were coming up with IPOs every other day and there was high demand for finance talent. Later, this timeframe would also be known as the IPO scam period. Amidst this turmoil, I passed out with an MBA degree and a campus placement in a financial services company that gave me a take-home salary of about Rs. 5000/- per month.
From a starting point of Rs.5000/- per month to a sizable corpus of a few Crores, I have come a long way to retirement at 45. And I have lived well. I’ve indulged in my passions and in things that interest me and my family. We’ve traveled extensively and experienced the world closely. From whisky trails to northern lights, we have made our way to 29 countries across 5 continents.
This financial freedom has been a journey of considerable learning. First, I found a God-sent friend, philosopher, and guide with whom I have had the privilege of working for two decades. And then, for over three decades, I had the opportunity to witness the rapid evolution of the country’s economic constituents – the businesses, the consumers, the regulatory environment, government policy, the markets, and the ever-changing global scene. I have figured out what works and what doesn’t. I have learnt to tame the volatility and to invest in a way that sustains my lifestyle choices while building my corpus of funds. I have distilled this learning into this book and created the 1% formula to gain financial freedom.
The idea of this book came from my experiences of sharing my technique with friends and family members who wanted to quit the rat race, to pursue other life goals, and passions. And most of them have benefitted by following my technique.
This book is written as an equity investing guide for those who are keen to make their money work for them. People in their 20’s and 30’s who are looking to retire by 45 or those who have 7-10 years before they want to retire. People who want an easy to understand insight into how investing works. This book is your ticket to long term wealth creation and living comfortably off that wealth without giving in to stress, anxiety, or overwork.
In this book I will tell you the secrets to financial success. I’ll share stories of people who have seen the light and changed their investing behaviors for enormous gains. I’ll help you build good investing habits and make informed investment choices.
While there are different assets you will invest money in – both physical and financial, we will not cover the entire umbrella of financial planning and management. And there is a reason for that. I believe that if you understand equities the right way, and work with the 1% formula, the need for other kinds of investment vehicles is greatly reduced.
In my 25 years of experience in the financial sector I have got a fair idea of practices of banking industry, insurance industry, and the quality of the advisory business across categories of advisors. I have worked with several financial planners, attended many workshops, and deep dived into the subject of financial and investment planning. I’ve looked at all asset classes – real estate, gold, debt, equity, foreign equity, etc. from the lens of factors such as – returns adjusting for risks, returns adjusting for inflation and taxes, liquidity, volatility, convenience, costs of investing, etc. I’ve realized that Equity Mutual Funds is where the best balance can be achieved. In fact, I’ve been able to pull out of my term life insurance policies because of the corpus I have built through equity MF investments!
And so, this book will deal in equity investments only, and more specifically investing in equity through mutual funds. For the purpose of this book I am also considering Hybrid Mutual Funds with over 65% investments in equity as Equity Mutual Funds.
By reading this book, you would:
Get a better understanding of the India opportunity and how long will it remain
Get the right perspective on share-markets, understand emotional hurdles and mistakes on the way to financial freedom, and gain insights on how to benefit from the markets
Learn a simple equity-based technique to build wealth and to create your own “Salary-Pension” stream for retirement
Like every great adventure, this book is a start. And as you read it, I’d like to give a word of caution. This book focuses on financial resilience. That means periods of no-gain or even loss that you sit through for long-term returns.This book is NOT about quick fixes or immediate gains. If that’s what you are looking for, then this book is not for you. If thinking long-term does not appeal to you, then this book is not for you.
That said, in the coming pages there is a wealth of knowledge and tried and tested methods that work. I hope you’ll find them as useful as I have, and use them to find your financial freedom.
About The Author
Founder and Chief Wealth Strategist, SimplyMutual
Deepak has spent over a quarter of a century in the investments industry, working with the country’s largest wealth creators. His last assignment was a 15-year stint at HDFC Mutual Fund. He was their Business Head for North, South and East India during different parts of his tenure. Having dealt with a large spectrum of investment avenues, Deepak realised that Equity Mutual Funds is where the best balance can be achieved. This belief in the India growth story and its potential to create wealth for decades to come stems from deep experience.
Deepak spent decades in the financial sector witnessing the fast evolution of each constituent of the investments industry — mutual funds, banking, insurance, investment advisors, NBFCs, the regulators, etc. He associated with the country’s top minds in financial and investment planning, attended numerous workshops and conferences, and dived deep into the intricacies of the business.
To come up with the best solutions for investor needs, he constantly drew comparisons between the most popular asset classes, such as equity, debt, real estate, fixed deposits, and gold, and other new asset classes like foreign equity, cryptocurrency, and art. He weighed each option with an exhaustive list of factors such as liquidity, volatility, regulatory environment, transparency, cost of investing, cost of holding and maintenance, convenience, and returns adjusted for risks, taxes, and inflation. This analysis has cemented his belief in the importance of Equity Mutual Funds for individual investors and given him the foundation to create SimplyMutual: The 1% formula to gain financial freedom.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have any questions or need to contact m
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!
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.
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…
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.
“GOD HAS ABANDONED US!”
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
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.
Welcome to TRB-Lounge, the section of TRB dedicated to book promotions. Today, I’d like to welcome author R.J. Parker, for sharing an excerpt from his latest release Requiem, Changing Times.
Read on to get a sneak-peek into this amazing new read!
About The Book
Clint and Corbin are having a weird day. Best friends for life, things are getting a little strange around their town, and at school. When they’re followed by a strange man looking for Clint and later attacked by an imp, it makes sense to retreat to the safety of home. But when strangers from another world, Banks and O’Neil, arrive with their medley of allies, things get even weirder. Why are they here? What do they want? And what is The Requiem that everyone keeps talking about? As Clint and his friends and family are drawn deeper into a thrilling adventure, only one thing is for sure. They may not be getting out alive. And class with Mrs Christenson will seem like a walk in the park after this.
Clint looked through his venetian blind at Tamara’s door move as if something was leaning on it from the outside. The only source of light was from Tamara’s window that shown brighter than his from the street lap outside. Also, a single nightlight that was by her bed shimmered, reflecting on the rest of her room which was black down to the carpet.
Clint was looking for anything that he could use for a weapon that was around the room, like one of the lamps by Tamara’s bed, or one of her gothic figurines, when the doorknob shook then started to turn.
With a slight moan the door opened revealing a dark hallway beyond. It was like the storm had cut all power and most of the light through the house as the shadow of a tall image stood in her doorway. Whatever it was Clint couldn’t even see its entire head as it was taller than the door frame at least to the ceiling. There was a flash of lightning again from outside, illuminating it for in instant. Clint saw a large green hand damp from the rain that looked big enough to grip around a basketball and crush it easily. In its other hand it gripped what looked like a giant, crude wooden club, balancing it on one shoulder.
It waited in the hallway, facing the door frame. Clint heard it sniffing the air and the drops of water falling from it hitting the floor. As it stood in the dark hallway Tamara and Clint didn’t move, they didn’t even breathe. Whatever it was in the hallway took one gigantic step inside Tamara’s room, ducking down to bring its head in. Tamara started to take sharper, panicked breaths. She pulled a sleeve of a shirt that was hanging up and bit it, holding it in her mouth to muffle her sound. As it moved deeper into the room Clint watched in awe in the dim light penetrating through the stormy window. Clint saw one of its wet feet was bare and must have been at least a meter long, dark hair covering its skin in small patches on top of the foot. It took another step as it reared its large head searching around for them, still sniffing.
Its muscular frame moved slowly in with its huge club raised, scratching the ceiling. It quickly checked the other side of Tamara’s bed ready to strike if something was there. It had almost no coverings over its skin, just some odd bits of cloth around its waist. It had what looked like tattoos on its arms, chest and back. It also had a thick neck that it stretched to see around the bed and then around Tamara’s chairs, chest of drawers, and other furniture, taking an occasional sniff in the air.
Clint finally saw its face as it turned toward the closet when a lightning bolt struck, illuminating the room. It was sniffing faster now, moving excitedly towards them. Its face was also green with two large teeth growing out of its bottom jaw, it had an upturned nose and prominent overlapping bottom jaw like a barracuda. Its eyes were small and deep set with large bushy eyebrows. Thick black hair was pulled back in dreadlocks. It came closer and closer to them with each heavy step making things in the room shake. It reached out with its club-free hand and touched the far-left closet door.
Tamara and Clint moved as far down as they could to the other side of the closet without making any noise. Clint felt the fear and amazement coursing through him. Tamara started shaking as her breath became unsteady and separated as a large green hand hit the door again. This time the closet door on her end sprang open slightly. Past all the clothes that Clint had pulled on top of himself he could see its fingers open the door the rest of the way. It sniffed some more and reached in toward them. It stopped just short of Clint’s arm and grabbed one of Tamara’s undershirts. It pulled on it, breaking the hanger it was on with remarkable ease and brought it up to its nose, taking one long sniff. It opened its large mouth and laughed softly, threw the undershirt over its club-free shoulder and started to turn to the door where it had come in the room.
Clint moved just his head to keep the intruder visible through his small window space past the clothes and spy the opening in the closet door. The thing moved heavily but gingerly toward the door and when it was out it checked both ways down the hall and stepped out into the hallway.
Suddenly a song cracked through the air from somewhere in the room. It was from Tamara’s cell phone. Tamara shot bolt upright in panic to see her phone on her bed ringing.
“It’s Bill!” she whimpered in terror so low that Clint could barely hear her.
Wham! The intruder had leapt from the doorway across the room and slammed his club over Tamara’s bed, shattering it into pieces. Tamara screamed as the creature lifted its heavy club and turned those small eyes toward the closet. It let out a war cry that sounded like a lion charging to kill. It shifted its weight onto its back foot and started to charge right at the closet door, club held high once more, mouth open yelling, coming right at Clint and Tamara.
Slam! Banks shot from the open door, connecting with the creature that was only a foot away from breaking through the closet door. Banks bared his shoulder into the massive green intruder and with legs pumping drove him to the far side of the room. With both of their strength moving them they were out of control as they whirled toward the window.
With an almighty cry from both of them they shattered the window and plummeted down one story as they clung to one other fighting and punching, until they hit the moist earth with a squelching noise like a plunger in a plugged drain. Their cries of war stopped as Banks hit the ground first, the green man landing right next to him. Clint flung the closet door open and hurried to the broken window, looking down as the rain water poured off the roof on top of his head and down to Banks and the intruder who were sprawled on his front lawn.
Clint watched as Banks rolled over on his back, unsheathing a long sword and holding it up in a defensive stance, while the intruder adjusted his grip on the club to hold it on the very end and swung it along the ground while not getting to its feet. The blow hit Banks’s feet causing him to fall sideways back onto the ground, splashing mud and water everywhere as he moaned in pain. The green intruder swung the club high in the air as it got to its knees and, like a hammer meant to drive a man into the ground it came down right at Banks’ head. Banks pushed with his legs sliding down the sloping hill of their front yard, causing the club to miss him by inches and the force of the blow driving the weapon down into the grass.
O’Neil was suddenly by Clint’s side watching Banks and the intruder both get to their feet and face one another.
“Orc!” O’Neil shouted as he pulled out a short metal handle, and as he brought it to the ready a blue axe blade composed of flames erupted from it. The Orc howled again, giving Banks a taunting swing with the club and held its arms wide showing its bare chest. Banks stood firm and for some reason held out a hand as if he was telling the Orc that he wanted a timeout. In that moment there was a sharp sound of a bow shooting. A glowing fire arrow hit the Orc in the right thigh causing it to fall to one knee. Just then O’Neil dove off the roof, planning to land on the Orc but the Orc with only one good leg started to slide down the slippery slope causing O’Neil to miss and fall face first in the mud.
About The Author
Russell Parker was born in Bountiful, Utah. As his father was a safety manager he had to move around until his senior year of high school, when he came to Cache Valley, Utah to stay. He married the most wonderful woman in the world and they are the parents of four fantastic kids, with one crazy dog. Russell played all kinds of sports and was an outdoorsman until an accident brought him to writing. A writer since high school, encouragement brout his stories to life.
Welcome to TRB-Lounge, the section of TRB dedicated to book promotions. Today, I’d like to welcome author S.B. Goncarova, for sharing an excerpt from her latest release Harnessing Light.
Read on to get a sneak-peek into this amazing new read!
About The Book
“I SAID GOODNIGHT knowing full well it was goodbye, and then in the dark, you were there, on the bed next to me, only three thousand something miles away, and the quiet sounds of you muddling on your guitar seep into my veins and lull me into that cloudy space between awake and asleep, and in the end I am brought back to the beginning—”
Can one create a love so bright, that it crosses distance and time? In this enduring love story, Harnessing Light is the journey of one woman trekking across the world in a search to find home, peace, purpose and love. In a quest that transcends physical limitations, Harnessing Light beckons us to our own, to discover what the true search really is.
UNCOVERING A DUSTY old piano on an empty stage in an empty room, and thinking she’s alone, she sits down and begins to play. She begins with old songs. Songs once played at weddings, songs once sung for children. But then the songs transpose and mutate and take on their own life. She was a musician once, before she was told she wasn’t. Today, on this day out of time, the world offers itself to her, to recreate what was lost, to stitch a patch on the fabric of time. She knows the destruction of her life work is inevitable. But something compels her to re-create it nonetheless. Us angels in the wings sink to the ground and listen in silence, our cheeks flooding with tears as she works out her inner struggle through the songs, as she decides on yet another path unfamiliar and unproven, as she surmounts the fear of knowing that her dreams could be torn apart, again, at any moment. She enters a place of such sadness that words cannot touch, that touch cannot heal, a place where only music and silence can survive in the dark. This is her grief sung openly to the heavens, her life wisdom inscribed in shimmering morse code, an invisible mandala of silken strands drawn across the sky. A star map, written in beads of dew and the light of the dawn, echoes of constellations, of spirits, of lullabies, of lovers, of heartsongs long forgotten, of the stories of our lives before we live them, written and rewritten and rewritten again.
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
You can also listen to the following tune related to Harnessing Light:
About The Author
S.B. Goncarova is a writer and visual artist based out of Montréal. She has been the grant recipient of the Puffin Foundation and Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. Her visual work can be found in the Archive of Digital Art, Danube University, Austria, PS1 MoMA Contemporary Art Center Digital Archive, The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Art Library, and Rutgers University Special Collections.
She loves creating sound compositions for films, combining almost-whispered spoken word with nature sounds, city soundscapes and meditative music. She is currently working on some short video pieces for her ASMR youtube channel called Abba ASMR, which feature segments from Harnessing Light. (Her nieces call her Abba.)
Her next book, “Education of a Diva,” is due out in 2020 by Clay Grouse Press.
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.
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
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.
Welcome to TRB-Lounge, the section of TRb dedicated to book promotion. And today, I’d like to welcome author C.J, for sharing with us an excerpt from her latest release, a fascinating speculative fiction novel, Beautiful Disaster.
Read ahead to get a sneak-peek into this amazing new read!
About The Book
When chemists Danny and Kevin accidentally create the ultimate beauty cream–with a little inadvertent help from Danny’s biochemist girlfriend, Maggie–they’re convinced they’ve hit the jackpot. After all, who wouldn’t pay anything for the ability to permanently remove blemishes, burns and even scars?
But a discovery like this is one many would kill for–something the three quickly learn when they are targeted by a rival corporation and their murderous corporate spy, Suzanne. Even worse, it isn’t long before the unstable formula’s decidedly nasty side effect pops up. If Maggie, Danny, and Kevin can’t figure out a way to fix it, the world will soon learn that there’s a heavy price to pay for beauty.
As the three scientists struggle to save humanity from potential disaster, they will have to overcome deadly mercenaries, the sociopathic Suzanne, and the man pulling everyone’s strings: the mysterious Boss. Will this Beautiful Disaster be the beginning of a brand-new world or the end of mankind?
Suzanne Verassing, Safety and Human Resource coordinator of Lexi Corp. was making her usual trip to the security office with an armful of baked goods. Since her hire date Suzanne had been cultivating the friendship of all of the security personnel. She believed if she was seen often enough, and shoved enough baked goods down their throats, they would feel she harmless and would cease to notice when she came around or at least not be alarmed when she did. Her plan worked, for, on every trip to the security office, which she made several times a week, she would download several days’ worth of video surveillance on a flash drive she carried with her at all times for opportune moments of piracy. Then she would watch it at her leisure at home or occasionally in a vacant Lexi office and forward any pertinent video off to Teaberry Cosmetics, Lexi Corp’s main competitor.
Suzanne was actually employed by Teaberry, the, CEO of which had no compunctions about getting ahead in the cosmetics business no matter the risk or illegality.
Suzanne Verassing or as she was known at Teaberry, Suzanne Hemlock, was a jack of all trades so to speak, a hired gunslinger for companies, which like Teaberry left their scruples behind after their stock first became public. With her chameleon-like features, Suzanne could fit in anywhere and conform to any type of situation. At five foot four 120 pounds, with shoulder length dark hair and hazel eyes, she had deceivingly soft facial features which contrasted her extremely physically fit and heavily muscled body. She covered up her muscles with long sleeves and full-length skirts. At Lexi, she was the Human Resource woman who wore her hair in barrettes and favored pastels and flower-printed outfits. With a permanent smile on her face, she could always be found around the company delivering home-baked goods to someone’s office or a conference room.
Teaberry hired Suzanne because her abilities included theft, actual and informational, and product sabotage. She was not above seducing anyone who might have valuable information or needed to be slowed down if they were on the verge of a significant breakthrough. She also had a knack for destroying companies from within by preying on the weaknesses of essential members of staff, such as alcoholism, gambling, etc. What Teaberry didn’t know was that Suzanne also was a hired assassin and that she advertised on the dark web for extra money and for the sheer thrill of killing. She especially enjoyed making a murder look like an accident or a natural death. However, there was something to be said for the out and out wham bam bullet through the head approach. She often wondered if she was more of a sociopath or a psychopath but decided that was society’s problem to figure out at some point. For now, she would just enjoy the ride.
For two long years, Suzanne had integrated herself with these self-absorbed non- productive piles of emotionally driven drones. She had plastered on a smile after fake smile. She had signed every birthday, get well, and retirement schlock filled card until she wanted to puke. Known as the happy homemaker of the company, she had brought in baked goods by the dozens, which gave her stomach cramps. Finally, yes finally she was going to get out of this stifling environment and move on to something that didn’t involve skin care or the beauty industry. If it required chemistry, she wanted the end result to at least blow-up.
“Actually that might be a fitting end for Lexi a lab explosion with these annoying lab rats blown up in a fireball. Whoops, something went wrong, and just when they were having a breakthrough, what a horrible tragedy. Well, it’s time to butter up Mitchell and Roger,” Suzanne said to herself as she grabbed a tin of cupcakes and headed for the security office, unaware that she was about to hit pay dirt.
Later, after leaving the security office, she headed on home and watched the video she had downloaded. On it Suzanne saw Kensington and Montgomery (code names, “Dumb and Dumber”) run to the UV-VIS (ultraviolet, visible spectroscopy) with some sort of sample to analyze. She noticed Dumb and Dumber were acting stranger than usual, and something seemed different about them as well. They didn’t look as repulsive as they usually did. Their skin glowed as though they just had a body wrap, which was doubtful. She wasn’t sure they even bathed.
She leaned into her monitor as far as she could while zooming in. Suzanne couldn’t believe what she saw. Kensington and Montgomery both had perfect, unblemished skin. Had they actually come up with something? No. It wasn’t possible, she thought. She waited for them to suddenly combust, or for their first layer of skin to slide off in a crusty heap, but nothing happened. They just stood there grinning at each other and doing what appeared… Wait, they’re seizing. They are having the start of some sort of grand mal. No, oh God, they’re dancing and chest bumping.
She immediately texted her contact at Teaberry, Gretchen Meadows, and told her she was sending a feed off her computer. Once the feed uploaded, Suzanne and Gretchen began an Internet Relay Chat (IRC). They start an Internet Relay Chat (IRC).
G- Why are they analyzing the formula now? Are they double checking the ingredients? They should’ve examined the formula ages ago. They needed to have run it through the spectroscopy months ago for the quantitating determination of the different analytes. They can’t be checking to make sure their sample complies with the Drug and Cosmetic Act for the FDA now. It’s crunch time.
S- I wonder if the morons are using Nanotechnology and or nanoemulsion. That’s a little beyond their limited scope.
G- Of course it was experimental in 1998 and is the new hot ingredient we hide in the label. Of course no one advertises it that way. Who wants to buy something that bores into your skin and then possibly into your bloodstream and lymph system?
S- Think again, G. Some of these women would give 10 years off of their life to look 10 years younger now. What do they care if things run amuck in their system and eventually damage their tissue?
G-Why are you just showing me this now? It looks like they have been working on this for some time. What have you been doing over there?
S-These guys are idiots, grade “A” morons who spend the whole day playing games and socializing. The odds of them coming up with anything slightly marketable and innovative are the same odds of a pig winning the lotto. I’m looking through the previous video to see the breakthrough moment. I’ll also look for any specific ingredients or at least find out where they keep their notes.
G-Teaberry is paying you a lot of money. You had better do more than just look at the video and guess at what they came up with. I want that formula, I want everything surrounding that formula and no trace of anything or anyone connected with it after you have it. Is that clear?
S- Yes, G. I understand. You will have it all and Lexi Corp. will have nothing once again.
G- Signed off.
Suzanne was nervous and for Suzanne nervous was unthinkable. She disregarded the most recent portion of the download since it appeared those two grade A idiots were just throwing ingredients into a bowl. And when they combined the two containers, she figured they were making their lunch again. Several months ago she’d been fooled. While viewing a surveillance video, she thought Dumb and Dumber were looking unusually focused as they compared notes from battered notebooks. She had carefully taken notes of every colored-coded jar, only to learn that the morons had been making chili for themselves and the rest of the lab.
She couldn’t find a moment in any of the videos where Kensington and Montgomery had manufactured a formula. In fact, she could barely find a moment when they were actually working. Suzanne thought she had it back in July, but then a series of explosions and an evacuation of the lab destroyed that possibility.
She sat and pondered things. She began to wonder if the video in which they’d been making chili might have been when they actually created the formula and the latest video with what appeared to be them tossing random ingredients in was part of that same formula. Did I misjudge those idiots? Are they that brilliant that they can come up with a working formula in that short of time? Did they just need a deadline to perform? No. They are idiots that got lucky, and now they will be the late idiots of Lexi Corp.
Suzanne packed a “to go” bag. For her, this meant a Glock 21 .45 cal. with a silencer, a .223 DPMS rifle in a case, plenty of ammo and enough explosives to wipe out an entire city block. She also put in a change of clothes; she would walk past the Tweedles as Suzanne from HR, but would come out a warrior. She put all of this in her Land Rover. Soon after arriving at Lexi Corp., she had the car outfitted with plates registered to that moron Brian Conner. She never drove the Land Rover to Lexi Corp. before given she felt it would not go with her happy homemaker image. But today, when the big bang occurred, the last car seen going through security would be Conner’s Land Rover, and his ID badge would be used in the entryway. It was always good to be prepared and to have a scapegoat, and Conner, the jackass, was perfect.
About The Author
C.J. graduated from Illinois State University and has lived her entire life in the Chicagoland area. She is currently semi-retired, works part-time at the local library and lives with her husband and two dogs, Chili Pepper and Molly. She finally managed to put down on paper the strange and humorous story that had been with her for several years. This is that story and this is her first book.
Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author Kevin Hollingsworth, for sharing with us the excerpt from his latest poetry collection Stellar.
Read ahead to get a sneak-peek into this soulful collection.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
“Stellar” is an interesting as well as compelling book of prose poetry that encompasses the wonderment of love. Further, stories of romance, love, and tragedy are told creatively through the eyes of 106 poems.
In “Stellar” one will have a chance to go on an odyssey of figurative language, and will also get a refreshing sense of the human condition; that we all need, and yearn for love.
In “Stellar” one will also have a unique opportunity to view emotionalism seemingly painted by the masters. However, these poetic words of distinction cannot fit on a canvas; but are to be read on paper, and enjoyed by you and your imagination…
“She was the most beautiful ocean. She was the most beautiful breeze. I looked up, and I saw her beauty design the sky.”…
From the poem Blessing In Disguise:
“As he fainted, he saw her from the corner of his eye. She was as pretty as the French language. Her song was like a dream he once knew”
About the Author
I have been a dreamer since I was born in N.Y.C. My dreams started September 20th, 1968. I moved to Los Angeles, California when I was very young. I received my education in Los Angeles, and joined the workforce a couple of years after graduating from college…
I did not start writing poetry until later in life. Friends and family really enjoyed the beautiful words I shared with them. So, I continued to write, and published my first prose poetry book, “Wonders,” in 2009. I published my second book of prose, “Romance with A Touch of Love” in 2011.
The dreams kept coming; and I continued to be inspired to write beautiful words. I am honored to share these beautiful words with the world in “Stellar.”