Extra Innings by Don Massenzio – an excerpt

SAMPLEEver since I was a kid in Upstate New York, the magic of going to a baseball game was something I’ll never forget. We had a AAA team in our town and they were the farm club of the New York Yankees. The post World War II stadium was small and quaint. It was also a bit rundown.

I remember opening days when snow had to be plowed from the tarp so the game could take place. I also remember humid summer nights where the mosquitoes were so dense, you had to brush them away from your face.

When I set out to write Extra Innings, I wanted to capture the feeling of that magic, but add another element to the story. What emerged is a story of a sad man, Joe McLean, who’s trying to capture some of his youthful memories as his beloved baseball stadium is being demolished to make way for a new one.

He buys a piece of memorabilia and receives more than he bargained for. He then sets off on a journey, using his newfound power, to change his life and undo some of the mistakes he made in his past.

The results are surprising.

Please enjoy Chapter 1 of my new book, Extra Innings. If you enjoy it, you can purchase a copy by clicking HERE.


Extra Innings – Chapter 1

TripleA baseball is just one step below the majors. For Joe McLean and his family, being fans of the Langerton Chiefs was a legacy passed down through multiple generations.

Langerton is located in a no-man’s land part of Pennsylvania that forms a small barrier between Western New York and Eastern Ohio and butts up against Lake Erie.

Langerton’s sports scene consists of baseball during the all-too brief Spring, Summer, and Fall along with minor league hockey during the seemingly endless winter. Hockey was a great diversion in the winter, but it was baseball that added a special magic to the brief period of warm summer nights.

The Langerton Chiefs had a long history going back to the 1940s. The United States was hungry for normalcy after the horrors of World War II. The wholesomeness and pure sensibilities of the American spirit that baseball offered were just the cohesive forces the country needed to pull itself together.

The minor league system for baseball, with its A, AA, and AAA teams, gave fans an outlet for inexpensive entertainment that showcased talented players before their potential ascent to the Major League. Many of the stars of the AAA Chiefs went on to be well-known players. Also, players on the mend or those looking for a comeback, often made appearances in minor league parks to sharpen their skills with the farm team before, hopefully, heading back to their major league clubs.

The parent clubs of these teams tended to shift from time to time. Joe McLean remembered, with great fondness, the days when the Chiefs were a New York Yankees farm club. The Yanks would come to Langerton each year for an exhibition game. Joe and his brother, Mike, had stood in line for autographs from greats like Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield and other stars of the 80’s and 90’s. Joe’s dad had a baseball card for Thurman Munson that had the late, great catcher’s signature.

Now, as Joe passed into middle-age, the Langerton city council had voted to tear down the old Maxwell Stadium and replace it with one of those brand-new but old-fashioned venues that had become popular when the Baltimore Orioles built Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992. Joe was not happy with this development.

“I can’t believe they’re going to tear the old place down,” Joe said to his brother Mike as they downed a huge breakfast at the Little Star Diner.

“It’s just progress. Maxwell is a dump.”

“A dump? It’s the place where we saw some great players and some great games. How can you call it a dump?”

“Yeah. We did have some great times there back when the Yanks were our team instead of the Blue Jays. They’re not even an American team.”

“How many Americans make up a team these days, anyway?” Joe half-joked. “You’re right. Most American kids play soccer now. I don’t understand a game where, after three hours, there’s no score,” Mike said.

“Sounds a lot like baseball?”

It was different though, the brothers agreed. A scoreless baseball game was a nerve-wracking event where, with each pitch, a million different outcomes were possible and strategic decisions could turn the momentum in a game. Both McLean brothers believed this to be true.

“I’m going to miss those old metal and wood seats. Something about that place made me feel at home,” Joe said.

“The new place will be fine. It’s the game that counts, not where it’s played.”

“I know, but still, the ambiance is going to be missed.”

 

“Ambiance? Look at you Mr. Fancy College Boy. If you miss it so much, why don’t you go grab some pieces of the stadium and put them in your apartment?”

Mike was the older brother by eight years. He was approaching fifty, but looked older. He had a husky build with a strong upper body balanced out by a substantial beer gut. His grey curly hair topped a roundish head with an Irishman’s ruddy complexion. He was taller and wider than his younger brother, but they had the same piercing blue eyes inherited from their mother. Mike went to work in the local auto plant right out high-school. Joe had gone to college and was now a CPA.

Joe was silent.

“I don’t like that look, little brother. I was joking, but your face says you didn’t get the joke.”

“Well, what are they going to do with the seats and the signs?”

“Trash them. After they salvage what they want, they’ll come in with dozers and backhoes and tear the place down, load it in dump trucks, and haul it away.”

“So what’s the harm in taking a seat or some signs if they’re going to just dump them?”

“There’s no harm if you don’t mind the breaking and entering or the theft charges that go along with your plan.”

“Listen to you. You always had a drawer full of candy bars and cigarettes in our room when we were kids. Did you pay for those? Besides, I was going to ask if I could take something, or even buy it.”

“Hey, we were kids back then and, even though Mom and Dad dragged us to church every Sunday, I didn’t know any better.”

Joe smiled at his brother’s comment. He remembered those Sundays when Father McDougal would give a homily filled with parables about the evils of money and material goods. This was always followed by the passing of the basket so that the church could collect some of that evil money.

“I’ll call the team office and see who I need to talk to. You never know, they might just let me take some stuff,” Joe said.

“Well good luck with that. I’ll be looking forward to those padded box seats in the new Price Choice Stadium.”

The stadium was to be named for a grocery store chain owned by Lackawanna Specialty Services, a holding company with rumored ties to the mob in Western New York. LSS owned the land that the stadium was on and

decided to name the stadium after its discount grocery store chain and obliterate Maxwell name that the stadium carried for nearly 70 years honoring a World War II hero from the area.

“I’ll be there too, but I sure will miss old Maxwell with its leaky roof and smoky field.”

The concession stands that sold burgers, hot dogs, and other grilled items were close to the field at the third base side. When the wind swirled off of Lake Erie, it often took the smoke from the old-fashioned grills and covered the field in a thick, wonderful smelling, carcinogenic haze.

The brothers finished their breakfast and went their separate ways. Mike, to one of the few remaining auto parts manufacturers in the northeast, and Joe, to the accounting firm of Romano, Provenza and Bianchi. The brothers got together for breakfast every Tuesday morning and had done so every week of their adult lives barring sickness, vacation and holidays. The Little Star, a 55 year-old greasy spoon was always their destination.

Joe pulled into his firm’s parking lot. The building that housed R, P, & B was a circa 1960 cinder block box with plate glass windows. Joe had worked here for 20 years. He was a hard worker and would have made partner in any other firm by now. Nepotism and the lack of an Italian last

name, however, kept that from happening in this firm. He was content. He lacked the drive and the nerve to strike out on his own. R, P,& B was the only accounting firm in town and virtually every business and many individuals in Langerton made up their client base. Joe walked past the offices along the wall to his half-walled cubicle.

“Hey Joe.”

It was Johnny Provenza III, one of the new junior partners that was just one year out of college and the son of one of the partners.

“Good morning, John.”

“How about those Steelers last night?”

“I missed it. The Yankees were playing the Red Sox in the ALCS last night.”

“Baseball. What a snooze fest. Does anybody watch that anymore?”

“I still do,” Joe said feeling his age more than ever.

“Oh yeah, of course. By the way Joe, do you have the Healthway numbers for me yet? Dad’s been asking for them.”

“I’m just checking some last minute figures and should have it to you by the end of today.”

John noticed others in the firm beginning to watch the exchange between him and Joe.

“See that you do, Joe. I won’t tolerate missing a deadline, the young Provenza said in a voice that had doubled in volume.

Healthway was one of the accounts that Johnny had been handed when he joined the firm as a junior partner. It was a lucrative medium-sized account with minimal complexity, but was way above Johnny’s abilities. Joe had offered to help and found the account totally dumped on him. He was doing all the work and would receive none of the credit. He wondered if John Provenza II. knew the work was not being done by his son. Joe would never tell. He just did his job without passion day after day. He was content. His only passion these days was baseball.

Baseball was an obsession that led to Joe tracking every statistic of every player on the Langerton team as well as the Yankees. He went to every Chiefs home game and weekend away games when they were within a three hour drive. It the game was more than three hours away, he was at home glued to the radio with a baseball score book recording every pitch, swing, score and out. And now, they were tearing down old Maxwell Stadium. The place where so many of his memories were made. He needed to get a piece of those memories for himself before they hauled everything away, but how?

Joe put it out of his mind. He had the Healthway numbers to finish and he had to focus and set aside his childish notions. He didn’t think about it again until lunch time.

 

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Blood Orange is now an Audio Book

Blood Orange

blood orange
A Terrorism Thriller
Ripped from the Headlines

Now brought to life as an audio book

Blood Orange is a terrorism thriller set in today’s high tension world of foreign and domestic threats against soft targets. The story begins on the night of the biggest game in men’s college basketball. Just as the two rivals are squaring off in the quest to crown a champion, tragedy strikes. A nation mourns as a team of elite specialists searches for those responsible.

Follow Navy Officer Brad Rafferty and his team through the twists and turns of this terrorism thriller to see if you can determine who is good and who is evil.

Here is what readers are saying about this novel:

“Very well written plot that could be current. The characters are great and well developed.”

“I highly recommend this book and this author. I look forward to more.”

“Great story, many twists and turns! You don’t want to put it down! Loved the fast pace! Want to see more of Rafferty and his team.”

Click the audible icon to check it outaudibleAlso available on Amazon and Apple iBooks.

Now Available for Pre-Order

Things are coming along well with the new book, Frankly, My Dear. I’m starting to get positive comments from the beta readers now and will be going out to advance readers in a couple of weeks. It’s up for pre-order on Amazon and will be released on April 29th.

If you’d like to pick up an advance copy, you can do so by clicking on the book cover below:

poster

Here is a synopsis:

Frank Rozzani, a transplant to Jacksonville, Florida from Syracuse, New York, has left his tragic past as a police officer behind for life as a private detective. Frank and his partner Clifford “Jonesy” Jones work with the local police to solve crimes that are virtually unsolvable.

In Frankly My Dear, the fourth in the Frank Rozzani Detective Series of novels, Frank and Jonesy are at it again and this time the case is one of the most bizarre that they have faced. Their latest client, arrested for domestic abuse, swears that he is the victim of one of the most vengeful women on the face of the earth.

Frank and Jonesy must determine if their client is telling the truth. As they become investigate the case, they again pay a personal price for their involvement. Is their client trying to get away with his crime or is his ex-girlfriend continually coming up with new ways to damage him and his reputation?

Follow them as they navigate the twists and turns in this exciting new installment in the series, Frankly My Dear.

 

The Frank Rozzani Detective Boxed Set

When you write a series, it’s great when you have enough to create a cool boxed set. I’ve done this with my first three Frank Rozzani detective novels (number four just went to my editor today).

The first three books can be read standalone, but do have a backstory arc that runs across them and is resolved (maybe) in book 3. They flow together nicely with each one setting up the next.

In addition to the three novels, I’ve included a special short story, Lucy’s Christmas Miracle, that was written about Frank’s loyal dog, Lucy.

All of this adds up to about 800 pages of compelling private detective mystery goodness for a price that is about 60% lower than the price of all of these things added together on Amazon.

But wait, there’s more…not really. That’s about it. If you like what you see, you can check them out HERE.

Here is a synopsis of each item, however:

Book 1 – Frankly Speaking

A 16 year old girl has disappeared. The police believe she is a runaway. Her parents believe she has been taken and is being held against her will. When the parents enlist the services of Frank Rozzani, a former police officer turned private detective, a series of events begins to unfold that implicates a popular local pastor and the religious stronghold of the ultra-conservative community.

Frank Rozzani, a transplant to Jacksonville, Florida from Syracuse, New York, must find the young girl despite the obstacles launched at him from the local police and others whose interests may be compromised by his investigation. Frank enlists the help of his associate Clifford “Jonesy” Jones to find the girl, uncover the conspiracy, and stay alive. While solving the case, Frank must deal with the demons that drove him from Upstate New York causing him to leave traumatic memories and his children behind.

Praise for Frankly Speaking

“A nicely woven tale with intriguing main characters.”

“Good indie fiction, a compelling suspense thriller”

“Frankly Fantastic”

Book 2 – Let Me Be Frank

A young girl is senselessly murdered. The police believe the murder to be a random homeless casualty until it is discovered that she has ties to Fat Sam and his mysterious past life in The Big Easy.

Join private detective Frank Rozzani, and Clifford “Jonesy” Jones as they travel to historic New Orleans and other areas in the Gulf Coast to search for clues in the girl’s trek to Jacksonville, Florida that will help them uncover evidence implicating those responsible for the murder so they can be brought to justice. They soon discover that things are not as they seem. As the case progresses, the evidence uncovered has ties to the tragic events that drove Frank from his life in Syracuse, New York. Frank realizes that proceeding with the case could change his life, as well as the lives of those around him, forever.

Praise for Let Me Be Frank

“Another great by Don Massenzio”

“Frank and Jonesy are once again doing what they do best”

“Great next installment!”

Book 3 – Frank Incensed

The stakes are high as Private Detective Frank Rozzani races against time to save the love of his life. Will Frank rescue her from the terrible man in the trench coat or will this man end the life of yet another person that Frank is close to? Find out who survives in the new Frank Rozzani Detective Mystery – Frank Incensed.

Praise for Frank Incensed

“I am a new fan of Don Massenzio”

“I loved this book!”

“The further adventures of Frank Rozzani, a good read!”

Bonus Short Story – Lucy’s Christmas Miracle

It’s the Christmas Season and a child is missing. Her parents are frantic. Join Private Detective Frank Rozzani and all of his friends as they search for her in the inclement weather of a cold winter night. It will take a miracle to bring her home safely. Christmas is the time for just such miracles.

Praise for Lucy’s Christmas Miracle

“Wonderful POSITIVE mystery short story by a talented author.”

“A happy little tale.”

“This short holiday story by Don Massenzio is definitely worth a read.”

Just a quick thank you

Hello,

As you have seen from my numerous posts, I’m doing a 99 cent promotion of Blood Orange this week. (Sorry, I feel like I’m running an NPR pledge drive). Anyway, the readers have come through. I have two days to go and I’m in the top 100 on the Kindle store in 3 categories and in the top 13,000 overall on Amazon.

I couldn’t be more pleased and humbled.

Thank you!Blood Orange Rank - 20160226

Starting Today – Only 99 Cents

I’m excited to announce, for a limited time, my latest thriller, Blood Orangeis on sale for the low price of 99 cents.

Why am I doing this?

Originally, this book was set to launch on November 13, 2015. Promotional events were scheduled. The book was going to be heavily promoted through the holiday shopping season to try to maximize sales.

If you remember that 11/13/15 date, it was also the date that terrorists attacked multiple locations in Paris, France. One of those locations was a sports venue during a soccer match. Blood Orange focuses on a very similar event. I thought it would be in bad taste to launch and promote the book so soon after this tragedy. It was likely devastating to potential sales, but I felt that it was the right thing to do.

I started a much more subtle promotional campaign at the beginning of the year and sales were decent, but I wanted to give it a bit more of a push. I’m proud of this book and want to see it succeed to it’s fullest. Thus the lowered price from the period of 2/21/16 through 2/28/16.

Here is a synopsis of the book:

Blood Orange is a terrorism thriller set in today’s high tension world of foreign and domestic threats against soft targets. The story begins on the night of the biggest game in men’s college basketball. Just as the two rivals are squaring off in the quest to crown a champion, tragedy strikes. A nation mourns as a team of elite specialists searches for those responsible.

Follow Navy Officer Brad Rafferty and his team through the twists and turns of this terrorism thriller to see if you can determine who is good and who is evil.

Here is what readers are saying about this novel:

Very well written plot that could be current. The characters are great and well developed.”

I highly recommend this book and this author. I look forward to more.

Great story, many twists and turns! You don’t want to put it down! Loved the fast pace! Want to see more of Rafferty and his team.

If you find yourself heading into the weekend looking for something to read, check it out. It’s just a $.99 investment (free if you’re a Kindle unlimited member). The most important part of this process for me is hearing what you think. I will keep on writing as long as there are readers that will read my stuff and give me feedback.

Advance Reader Copies – Are They Worth it?

In January I released my 6th book. As I look back over the activities that I’ve used to promote my books it is like going from the Stone Age to the Industrial Revolution. I’m not quite to the point where I can just write. Actually, I’m pretty far from that. As I’ve built up a modest reader base, however, I’ve been able to employ some more advanced promotional techniques.

Issuing advance read copies is one of those techniques that I employed with my last two books. For the book, Frank IncensedI only issued a few. It was partly to get reaction from readers and secondarily to get reviews on launch day. I tried to give the readers enough time so that they could read the book and review it on Amazon, Goodreads, and any other outlet on the day the book was released.

I definitely saw some bump in sales and ranking due to this. For my latest book, Blood Orange, I was much more aggressive in seeking out advance readers. I issued 30 copies to the members of my street team (more on that in a subsequent post) and approximately another 80 copies to people that I sought out through my mailing list. That’s about a 15% hit rate. That resulted in about 15 reviews on Amazon the day that the book was released. Could this have been better? Of course. I was hoping for about 25-30 reviews. This book, however, had extenuating circumstances, but more on that later.

First, what is an advance reader and how does this group differ from beta readers?

Advance readers get the book when it is finished and ready to be published. It is the final edited copy. No changes will be made based on their feedback unless some big, ugly, hairy error is found.

Using advance readers is a coordinated effort. It takes a bit of organization, but you can use technology to help you. Free technology. The first thing I did was compile a list of those that volunteered to be advance readers. The best took I have found to do this is MailChimp. You can import a spreadsheet with your contact list. You can also, for a minimal monthly cost, add automation to the mix. This allowed me to send a reminder to my advance readers a week before the book was released, the day before, and the day after reminding them to review the book. All of this happened while I was happily Internet and eMail free on a cruise ship. The whole MailChimp process is a series of blog posts on its own. Look for that in the future.

There downsides to using advance readers. Of course. That’s why I’ve compiled another handy dandy pros and cons list so you can decide for yourself.

Pros

  • Releasing your book with reviews in place on day one helps your ranking on Amazon
  • You build further rapport with your readers and they enjoy being part of the process
  • Your book appears mature upon release. A lack of reviews makes readers nervous about spending money on your work
  • You get honest feedback from your readers that help you improve quality

Cons

  • Like with beta readers, you are forfeit sales to those that are advanced readers (or do you). I’ve had a number of advance readers purchase the book anyway
  • As with beta readers, you are putting your work at risk. This is true, but it’s at risk even after it’s released as an eBook on Amazon. Most readers tend to be honest.
  • You risk receiving bad reviews. Ouch. If that happens, It probably would have happened anyway, but by giving your book away, you probably increase the odds. You can combat this, of course, by picking your potential audience carefully. The worst review I ever received was my one and only two star review on Amazon. It was one simple word, boring. I was devastated, but when I dug a bit further, I found that the only other reviews this reader had done was for gardening books. And they were just as enlightening. My point is, if you write erotic romance, don’t send your advance reader copies to people who like Christian oriented books.

Advance readers can be useful. Even though the results were not what I hoped for on Blood OrangeI will be using this technique for my next book. The reason it wasn’t as successful for Blood Orangewas the timing. The book was set to release on November 13, 2015. I timed it to be ready for huge Black Friday promotions and planned a marketing blitz throughout the holiday season. If you remember what happened that night, Paris was attacked by ruthless terrorists. Part of the attack was near a sporting venue. My book centers on just that kind of attack. I immediately pulled back on promoting the book and didn’t bother my advance readers, or anyone else for that matter. I didn’t start actively promoting it until after the first of the year. It was a tough decision, but I still feel good about it and I still think the advance reader process is a good one.

Please, those of you who have different experiences with this or questions for me, please reach out through the comments.