kongo.com – Four Related Novellas

The March 29th release of my book, kongo.com is tomorrow! It’s a bit different than your typical novel or short story collection. It is comprised of four related novellas that each tell a distinct story about a behemoth corporation, kongo.com.

It’s no secret that online organizations are part of our everyday life. The company portrayed in this book takes what we know today to the next level.

It takes place in a not to distant, potential future. The stories in this book are all based on the possible evolution of existing technology – nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and our obsession with our devices.

Leading up to the release, I’m going to tell you a bit about each novella. Three of the four were previously published on my blog as serials. these three have been enhanced and modified. The fourth story is brand new and is meant to tie the previous three stories together.

The third story in the book is called First Impressions.This story explores the combination of a large retail services company and a dating/matchmaking site. When you think about it, online companies know a lot about us. Who better to take that information and help match customers with other customers looking for a relationship. What could possibly go wrong? In the world of kongo.com, whatever can go wrong, probably will. First Impressions take the reader down that path all with a surprise guest from my Frank Rozzani detective novels.

You can enjoy the first part of First Impressions below:

Couple Holding Hands at Sea Sunset

First Impressions

Meredith was finally getting her life back together. It had been 18 months since the divorce became final. At 33, she had finally come around to realizing that she was still relatively young and attractive. She had removed herself from an abusive relationship and was moving on. In the immediate months after the divorce, she couldn’t imagine looking for another relationship. She had sworn off men and was determined to go it alone and revel in her newly found freedom.

Then, as she observed those around her, she would notice the second glance from men in the coffee shop, the lingering smile from other in the grocery store. She felt that, possibly, she was ready to put herself out there and could potentially enjoy the company of the opposite sex once again. Being a very analytical person that was comfortable with technology, Meredith decided to check out the latest dating apps. She wanted something that was between the virtual meat markets like Tinder and other similar apps and the marriage-minded services like eHarmony. She wanted to date, but she didn’t want one-night-stands and she wasn’t ready for a long-term commitment.

Her analysis of what was out there brought her to Kongo-Match. This relatively new online service offered by the online behemoth, kongo.com, seemed to fit the bill. The service was known for carefully screening the backgrounds of those that signed up and had a very good track record of matching people with not only similar, but complementary interests. The parent company, kongo.com, had close to a billion members. Meredith was among them. She subscribed to the kongo.com VIP service which guaranteed her free delivery, often the same or next day, and put her in line for being among the first to have access to newly emerging services from the company.

The registration process for Kongo-Match was extensive. It was almost like filling out a job application. There were several sections that probed an applicant’s education, work history, finances and personal interests. The process took Meredith through several screens asking her about her favorite books, favorite genres of television and movies, favorite music, favorite hobbies and many other facets of her life. Kongo used the response to match applicants up with others in similar social strata with similar likes and dislikes. Of course, because the membership was free, Meredith assumed that Kongo would use her responses to customize her online shopping view to those things for which she indicated a preference. She was fine with that. She understood how companies used information like this. It was up to the consumer to exercise self-control.

After she completed her application, she expected to receive notifications for matches with all manner of riff-raff, but, surprisingly, there were no responses within the first two days. She thought that maybe she was too unique or too difficult to match with anyone. The thought depressed her. Kongo-Match had over 20 million members. More than 50% were male. If none of them came up as a match, maybe, Meredith thought, she faced a life of being alone and unmatchable. Then, on the third day, she received a single notification in her inbox. She reluctantly clicked it half expecting a message from Kongo-Match telling her that she was a loser and had no potential matches. What she found surprised her.

Meredith,

We are pleased to let you know that Kongo-Match has found what we believe to be a perfect date for you based on your preferences. We apologize for the delay in providing you with the information, but we take this mission of bringing people together very seriously. When you read the information about your potential match, we believe you will agree that the wait was worth it.

Please review the profile for John. If you like what you see and want to provide your information to him, just let us know and we will help you get acquainted.

Meredith was surprised at the level of security, but also pleased. As she scrolled through John’s information, she noted how very close they were in background, education and preferences. John also was at a similar economic level. One thing that was not included was a photograph. She assumed one would be shared later.

Meredith looked over John’s background information a few times looking for areas of concern or some chink in the armor, but she found none. Finally, with only the slightest hesitation, she clicked the ‘Yes’ radio button indicating that she wanted Kongo-Match to share her information with him.

She settled in to watch a movie on Kongo’s streaming service when, after only 30 minutes, a notification popped up on her phone.

Kongo-Match has a response waiting for you

Meredith paused the movie and clicked on the Kongo-Match icon and went to her inbox.

Meredith,

Good news. John has reviewed your profile and has indicated that he is interested in sharing a photograph and contact information with you. Please click the link below to receive this information.

Please Note: Kongo Match will not share your photo or contact information with John unless you indicate that it is okay.

Meredith clicked on the link. The man she saw was good looking, about her age. He had thick brown hair with a slight curl to it. He had a strong jawline and a kind face. The most notable feature that he possessed was a set of piercing, intelligent hazel eyes. He looked like someone she wanted to meet.

She again clicked the ‘Yes’ radio button indicating that she liked what she saw. Again, she only hesitated slightly before clicking ‘OK’ when the next message appeared.

Meredith: You have indicated that you would like to move to the next step in contacting John. By clicking OK, you are agreeing to provide John with your photograph and a brief message of introduction. John will also receive your Kongo-Match email address. Are you sure you would like to proceed?

Meredith hovered her cursor over the OK button and then clicked it. A box popped up so that she could enter an introductory greeting of 144 characters or less. She thought about what to say and then typed in her message:

Kongo’s technology thinks we are compatible. Let’s see if the technology right or wrong. Let’s get in touch. I’m new at this, so be patient.

She thought it sounded corny, but, what the heck. She clicked send and didn’t give it another thought as she engrossed herself in the movie.

As the closing credits rolled by, another notification from Kongo-Match popped up on her phone display. She checked the inbox and it was a message from John.

Meredith, aside from mix-ups for orders I receive, Kongo’s technology seems very advanced and accurate. Who am I to argue? Let’s give it a try.

Meredith liked the humor in his response. It’s hard to convey aspects of your personality in a message with complete sentences in 144 characters. Maybe this was going to be fun.

In the coming weeks, with help from Kongo-Match, Meredith and John engaged in a virtual chess match as they corresponded with each other. Each of them had been burned in past relationships and were being cautious with the information they shared. The end result was that neither of them seemed to be psychopathic or dishonest. They finally set a time to meet for dinner. Meredith would meet John at a local Tuscan-Italian restaurant for an early dinner on the next Friday night.

As Friday arrived, Meredith carefully chose an outfit that was somewhere between librarian and hooker. She wanted to look attractive, but not desperate. She chose a silk blouse and tailored capris. As she looked in the mirror, she thought she looked attractive and relaxed. It was just dinner. No commitments and no pressure.

She arrived at the restaurant about five minutes after the time they said they would meet. The hostess indicated that her dining partner was already seated. And led Meredith to a table in the back of the dining room. She recognized John from his photo immediately. He rose from his seat to greet her with a handshake and held her chair as she sat. Manners. That was a good sign.

“It’s so great to meet you in person,” John said. “I feel like I know you from our chats back and forth.”

“I feel that way too.”

Just as the conversation was about to lapse into that uncomfortable stage, a waiter appeared.

“Can I take your drink orders?”

John gestured to Meredith.

“I’d like a glass of white Zinfandel,” Meredith said wondering if alcohol was the right choice.

“Actually, let’s make that a bottle,” John said, confirming the choice.

As they settled in to dinner and sipping the wine, the conversation came much more easily. John listened attentively as Meredith talked about her work and her likes and dislikes. She did the same as he spoke about his job as a financial analyst and his love of jazz music. They both fumbled over their most recent failed relationships. As it turned out, both had been the victims of cheating spouses. This seemed to bring them closer together as they discussed the hurt they had experienced.

As John spoke, Meredith was drawn continually to his eyes. They were intelligent and sincere. There was no way this man she was speaking to could get away with not telling the truth. His eyes were transparent windows into his psyche.

As they spoke through the main course and a shared dessert, their hands moved closer together on the table. When they finally touched, Meredith found herself holding hands with this man she just met. The electricity was undeniable. She saw, from his eyes, that he felt it too. She felt a stirring in parts of her body that had been dormant since the divorce. She promised herself that this date would just be dinner, but that promise appeared to be in serious jeopardy. Of course, she began to rationalize, even though this was the first in-person date, she and John had been communicating for weeks. It wasn’t as if this was a blind date.

As they walked out of the restaurant toward her car, she could tell John was conflicted between being a gentleman and acting upon what he felt. She made it easier for him by embracing him and giving him a kiss that communicated the hunger she felt. Before she knew it, John was in her car and she was driving toward her apartment. The walls she had erected were crumbling.

Meredith led John to her bedroom. She hurriedly put her keys and phone on the nightstand, and they began their night of passion. Meredith had forgotten how good she could feel in the arms of a man. Even though it had only been a short time since the divorce, the time from when she had been intimate with a man was much longer. The marriage had ended long before the divorce.

In the afterglow, she lay in John’s arms feeling safe and happier than she had been in a while. As she looked at his face, she saw that he felt the same. They slept briefly, but John awoke to use the restroom and Meredith put on some clothes while he was gone.

He came back from the bathroom wearing his boxers and shirt.

“I feel awful about this,” he said. “I have an important meeting tomorrow and I need to get back to my car.”

“I understand,” Meredith said with sincerity.

“It’s just…I don’t want you to think this was a one-night thing. I didn’t expect…I knew I had this meeting and I thought it would just be dinner…I mean.”

“No need to explain,” Meredith said. “I thought the same thing. I will bring you back to your car. You focus on your meeting and we’ll talk about where this goes next. I enjoyed the evening very much.”

“I did too. Listen, I’ll get an Uber. There’s no reason for you to go out again.”

“Okay. It’s no trouble, though.”

“I’m fine with an Uber. I’d feel better if you’re not out driving alone at this time of night.”

Meredith appreciated the chivalry of this man. His Uber came within ten minutes and she thought about all the wonderful things she felt as she drifted off to sleep. She slept dreamlessly until her alarm cruelly work her up. As she looked at the clock on her nightstand, she realized that it was only 6 AM. Her alarm was set for 6:45. It was her phone that was ringing. The number belonged to her coworker and office mate Marian.

“Hello,” Meredith said groggily.

“Meredith. I’m sorry to bother you, but I figured, well…you better look at your email from work.”

“Why? What is it?”

“Just look at it. It’s better if you see if first.”

Meredith took her phone away from her ear and switched to her email app. She saw nothing out of the ordinary except for an email from Kongo-Match that went to her work email address. That was strange. She never provided this address when filling out her profile. She clicked on the message:

It looks like someone from your company has been enjoying their companion that they found through Kongo-Match.

There was a link to what turned out to be a video.

It was dimly lit at first, but then she realized, in horror, what she was looking at. The perspective was from the nightstand in her room. The dimly lit figures in the video were naked and they were passionately engaged on her bed. She then realized that it was her own body underneath that of John. It was a video of their night together. She quickly closed the video and, in the CC: field of the email, she saw that everyone in her company, over 150 people, had received the email with the video link. She put the phone back to her ear.

“I don’t know where this came from, Marian and I certainly don’t know how it was sent to everyone. I didn’t intentionally record this video.”

“Well, I thought I better warn you. Otherwise it would have been uncomfortable coming into work and getting blindsided.”

As Marian finished her thought, another call came in. It was John. She reluctantly told Marian she’d call her back and answered the call.

“John, what is it?”

“Meredith, we have a serious problem.”

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kongo.com – Four Related Novellas

I am very excited about the upcoming release of my book, kongo.com. It’s a bit different than your typical novel or short story collection. It is comprised of four related novellas that each tell a distinct story about a behemoth corporation, kongo.com.

It’s no secret that online organizations are part of our everyday life. The company portrayed in this book takes what we know today to the next level.

It takes place in a not to distant, potential future. The stories in this book are all based on the possible evolution of existing technology – nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and our obsession with our devices.

Over the next couple of weeks, leading up to the release, I’m going to tell you a bit about each novella. Three of the four were previously published on my blog as serials. these three have been enhanced and modified. The fourth story is brand new and is meant to tie the previous three stories together.

I look forward to your reaction to these excerpts. This first week, I’m going to introduce you to Joyce and her quest for fitness and the ideal body in the story No Pain, No Gain.


No Pain No Gain – An Excerpt

Joyce loved her stylish new personal fitness device. She had saved up for the latest Buff Cuff. It was not cheap, but the girls in the office all had them. Most had received them as gifts from their boyfriends or husbands. Joyce didn’t have either of these, so she had to buy one for herself, but that was okay. If it worked as advertised, she would have a boyfriend or husband soon.

Joyce had tried everything to lose weight. Diets, exercise and pills had not worked. She investigated bariatric surgery and was not a candidate. She was about 35-40 pounds overweight which was below the threshold for which insurance would pay for the surgery. She even considered gaining enough weight to qualify for the surgery, but that seemed self-destructive, especially with her borderline hypertension and diabetes.

Her doctor had sent her to a nutritionist, but nothing seemed to help. Then she saw an infomercial for the Buff Cuff. Its technology was cutting edge and the spots featured numerous testimonials, some from women just like Joyce, touting the product and its life-changing benefits.

When Joyce saw the price, about what she made in a month, she hesitated. These infomercials could be biased and misleading and, when weighing the priority of rent, her POS car and utilities, the Buff Cuff seemed like a reckless purchase. Then her coworkers started raving about the ones they received and started talking about and showing their results.

Marcy, who seemed to be perpetually pregnant, received a Buff Cuff as a present from her husband. At first, she was angry with him taking it as a message that he thought she was fat. After she started using it, however, her baby weight began to drop off almost instantly. She was thinner and more fit than anyone in the office had ever seen her. Her energy level improved as did the quality of her work.

Then Jennifer, the leading office donut and cake consumer, started noticeably trimming down when her husband gave her a Buff Cuff for her birthday. Her eating habits changed, and she started working out at the gym at the end of each day.

This was when Joyce realized that this fitness gadget was not an anomaly. There was something there. She resolved to save up enough to purchase one. It was now six months later, and she had scraped together the funds she needed. She sat in front of her computer looking at the latest models. She had just enough for generation 4.0. This was the latest and the manufacturer, Kongo-Fit, a subsidiary of the giant retail mail order conglomerate, kongo.com.

The device touted the usual fitness gadget technology. It could monitor heart rate and count the number of steps for its wearer. Somehow, through patented technology that was rushed through government approval, this device could also monitor oxygen levels, blood sugar and blood pressure all in one device. It was equipped with an array of sensors that used ‘super-secret’ technology (in the company’s words) to ‘help you with your fitness journey’. As a result, it was being prescribed for patients by medical professionals at a staggering rate. Insurance companies were scratching their collective heads as they pondered whether to pay anything toward this device.

Joyce counted down the minutes on Friday afternoon. Her package from Kongo was due to be delivered today and would likely be waiting for her when she got home. The office, an accounting and financial advisory firm, was quiet on this Friday afternoon at the end of summer and that made the time pass much more slowly. While she waited, Joyce reached into her desk and pulled out a dark chocolate bar that she had been saving for this day. She unwrapped it and savored it as she acknowledged to herself that this would be the last one until she reached her weight and fitness goals.

Mercifully, she found some work that took her to five o’clock. When that magic hour arrived, she nearly sprinted from her desk, as close as she could get to sprinting, anyway. She got into her ancient Chevy Cruze. It was nine years old with over 120,000 miles on it. She opened the door and could still smell the fast-food from lunch. In anticipation of receiving her Buff Cuff, she had done somewhat of a farewell tour this week consuming all her guilty pleasure foods. She truly believed that this small piece of electronics was going to deliver her from her life of obesity and bad habits. She didn’t want to be delivered without saying goodbye to her old friends like tacos, French fries, milkshakes, and cupcakes. The debris in the back seat confirmed her venture into each of these favorite food groups.

Joyce battled the traffic as she on her way home. She pulled into a space near her apartment building and went out to the community mailbox. As she unlocked the one for her unit, her hand was shaking. She internally scolded herself for being so excited about receiving this gadget, but she couldn’t help it. Finally, she wrestled the key into the lock and opened the small door to her mail slot. It was empty. Not only was the Buff Cuff absent, but there was no mail at all despite it being nearly 6 PM.

There was a precedent for this. Her mail delivery person was a woman who was in her late 60s or early 70s. She sometimes fell behind on her route if there were several medium to large packages to be delivered. Today must have been one of those days. Joyce wasn’t sure what to do. She guessed she would go up to her apartment and change and come back and check the mail later.

Just as she was about to do so, she saw the mail delivery woman’s battered white jeep pulling into the parking lot. There were three community boxes in this lot for each of the three buildings that surrounded the cars belonging to their occupants.

She watched as the woman moved at the pace of a three-toed sloth as she carefully put bundles of mail in the slots in box one. Next would be box two and then, finally, box three, where Joyce’s mail was assigned. Joyce thought about returning in 15 minutes or so, but just knowing that her Buff Cuff was on the verge of being delivered and was in this civil servant’s hands, she wanted to supervise the process.

After what seemed like days, the woman navigated the jeep toward box three. She gathered her bundles of mail and opened the rear of the box to place them in the individual slots. In anticipation, Joyce opened her slot. Immediately, the woman stopped her task and looked at Joyce over the top of her thick bifocals.

“Miss, I can’t deliver the mail with a slot open. That’s against regulations.”

“It’s my slot.”

“That doesn’t matter. Please close it so I can continue.”

Joyce let out a frustrated sigh and closed the small door to the slot. Finally, the woman finished placing mail and Joyce reopened it. There were a couple of envelopes and a small parcel in a bubble wrapped sleeve. The return address had the Kongo-Fit logo. As she pulled it out of the slot, she was a bit underwhelmed at the packaging and the size and weight. She held in her hands nearly a month of her salary. It seemed like it should be bigger or at least weightier.

She was out of breath as she climbed the stairs of building 23 to her second floor 1-bedroom apartment. She had that same shakiness in her hands when she opened the door. She wondered to herself, was she putting too much faith in this small package? Would it change her life? Then she thought of Marcy and Jennifer. It had certainly worked for them.

Joyce carefully opened the package. There it was. Her very own Buff Cuff. It came with the standard black band. She would have to save up to buy other colors. She opened the molded plastic packaging and carefully set her new purchase on the table. The instruction booklet was amazingly small, but there was a comprehensive web site and social media community around the device. She had already feverishly read the areas that were accessible to the public prior to being a registered purchaser.

As soon as she opened it, she realized the instruction booklet was essentially a quick start guide. It had three steps to complete before she could put it on her wrist. She pulled the plastic tab from the back of the unit that covered the sensor array and separated the battery from the device. As she did this, the face of the Buff Cuff came to life. It read, “Hello Joyce. Have a great day!”. She was a bit surprised by this, but she had used her name when she purchased the device on line and remembered checking the box that said it was for her own personal use. The next step was to put the device on her wrist. It instructed her to put it on the wrist of her dominant hand, which in Joyce’s case was her left. She felt a slight vibration as the device seemed to mold to her wrist as she fastened it.

The next step was to register the device. She brought up the Buff Cuff site and entered the serial number as instructed. As she did this, it brought up her name and address. There were several fields she was asked to enter to complete each screen. As she entered height, weight, desired goal weight and blood type, she felt the device vibrate a few more times. As she saved her information, she felt a slight pinch under the face of the Buff Cuff. She supposed that was normal. It vibrated again and showed readings on the face. Her respiration was 20 breaths per minute – high end of normal. Here blood pressure – 130 over 85, a bit high. Her blood glucose level – 150 – too high for someone who hadn’t eaten since lunch, but she did have the chocolate bar. The reading made sense.

Now that her Buff Cuff was on her wrist, the sensation was a bit anti-climactic. She didn’t feel different and she still had laundry to do. She would get on the web after she started her clothes in the wash. Joyce gathered up her dark clothes and walked down the stairs and to the apartment complex’s laundry room. She put the clothes and detergent in the washing machine and pulled some quarters out of the little canvas bag where she collected them for this purpose, put them in the slot and started the machine.

Joyce walked back to her apartment feeling much the same as she did before she received her new purchase. She was a bit depressed. She was out a month’s salary and didn’t feel inspired to do anything. She got back to her apartment and went directly to the freezer for a carton of Ben and Jerry’s peanut butter cup ice cream. She took it over to her computer with the intention of looking up more information on her new acquisition and, possibly, investigating how to return it for a refund.

When she sat down, she saw a message on the computer display screen that must have come up while she was putting in her laundry in. It said, ‘ACTIVATE FINAL CONFIGURATION (Y/N)’. Joyce looked at the message and felt a sudden feeling of relief. She eagerly keyed in a ‘Y’ and checked the box saying she accepted the terms and conditions without actually reading them. She then clicked continue. The browser refreshed with a congratulatory message and she felt a slightly sharper pinch under the face of the Buff Cuff. It was very brief, but she felt a slight electrical current emanating from the device, down her left arm and into her body. It was gone as quickly as it happened.

Joyce clicked on the home page and started to read about her device’s capabilities as she took a generous spoonful of ice cream from the carton. She absently spooned the frozen treat into her mouth and began to savor the flavor. Suddenly, she began to gag and spit the ice cream out. It tasted horrible. It was a mixture of a creamy and vinegary taste that was rancid in her mouth. She dropped her spoon on the floor and looked at the carton. The ice cream looked fine. She checked the expiration date and it was still months away. She had already eaten a third of this carton last night and it tasted fine then. She looked at it again and then sniffed it. It smelled as bad as it tasted.

Joyce dumped the ice cream in the sink, rinsed out the carton and threw it in the trash. She still had the horrible taste in her mouth. She grabbed her last 20-ounce bottle of cola from the fridge. She was going to switch to diet or some other low-calorie drink but had this one bottle of regular soda left. She quickly twisted off the top and took a large mouthful from the bottle. She immediately spit it into the sink. It tasted like a mouthful of vinegar to her.

She grabbed a glass from the cabinet and filled it with cold water from the fridge door. Water was the last resort. She hated the taste of it but needed something safe to rinse the taste from her mouth. As she swirled the water around in her mouth, she was shocked by the taste. It was the best tasting, most refreshing drink she ever experienced. She quickly drank the rest and filled the glass two more times. The taste was gone from her mouth. In fact, she felt like she had just brushed her teeth. The aftertaste of the water was wonderful.

Joyce needed to eat something. She opened her cupboard and saw that there was a can of green beans in the back. For some reason, the picture of the beans on the label made her mouth water. She opened the can, poured the beans into a bowl and put them in the microwave for 30 seconds. When they were done, she wolfed them down with a spoon and followed them with three more glasses of water. She felt more satisfied from this small meal than she had from anything she’d eaten in recent memory.

By this time, Joyce needed to transfer her laundry to the dryer. She changed into sweat pants and a t-shirt. For some reason, instead of her usual flip-flops, she put on socks and laced on her rarely used sneakers. She grabbed a load of white clothes and trotted down to the laundry room. After she transferred the clothes and put in the new load, she suddenly felt the urge to run. Joyce had never been a runner, but for some reason that was all she had the desire to do at this moment. She left the laundry room and ran around the perimeter of the apartment complex three times. The distance was at least a mile, which was about a mile farther than Joyce had ever run continuously in her life.

She was physically exhausted but exhilarated at the same time. It was a feeling she had not experienced before. She finished her laundry and returned to her apartment feeling energized, yet tired. She took off her sweaty clothes and padded into the shower. She let the hot water soothe her muscles which had been shocked by their sudden use. She put on pajamas, crawled into bed and entered the deepest, most restful sleep she had felt in a very long time.

The next morning, Saturday, Joyce awoke feeling a bit sore, but energized. She needed to get some groceries. She got dressed and went to the supermarket. As she cruised up and down the aisles, she gradually filled her cart. By the time she got to the checkout, she didn’t recognize what she was about to purchase. The cart was filled with organic fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurts and whole grain concoctions. These were things Joyce had never purchased, yet somehow, she had grabbed them from the shelves as if she had made a stringent list of healthy foods. The funny thing was, everything looked delicious to her.

She brought her purchases home and put them away. After a breakfast of yogurt mixed with granola and a banana, she had the urge to take another run. She got dressed and did another set of laps around the complex. Once again, she felt great.

This behavior continued for the next week. Joyce was getting up early to run. She was packing herself a healthy lunch for work and making sensible meals for dinner. It felt like this lifestyle change required no effort on her part. She had a wonderful week. When she shared her new-found energy with her co-workers, they agreed that they had felt the same thing once they activated their Buff Cuff. The device was truly a miracle.

On the Saturday, one week following her purchase, Joyce bounced out of bed and headed for the scale. She had not weighed herself the entire week. She wanted to see if this drastic change in her lifestyle would have an impact after a week. She wanted to see a three or four-pound difference in her weight. She was astonished to see that she was eleven ponds lighter. She checked the scale and stood on it three times to be sure.

Joyce showered. Her plan was to clean out her apartment today. She had been putting it off, but today she felt like she had the energy and desire to do it. As she dried herself off and got dressed, she thought about where to start. She looked in the mirror trying to spot a difference in herself. As she ran a brush through her hair, the first large clump of hair fell out.


kongo.com is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com by clicking HERE.

Cover Reveal and New Book Announcement

Well, after a great deal of time, effort and procrastination, I am happy to announce my new book, kongo.com, that will be released on March 29, 2019.

I thought I would take a minute to reveal the cover and announce that it is available for pre-order. Here is the synopsis:

Imagine a company so large that it touches the lives of the majority of citizens around the globe. Through technology, seemingly unlimited resources and philanthropy, kongo.com set out to change the world while making profits never seen before in business. 

Follow the actions of this behemoth company through four stories detailing the life-changing methods used to make the world a better place.

What could possibly go wrong? Read these stories to find out exactly what can go wrong, even with the best intentions, when one company’s vision is unleashed on its customers without their knowledge.

The book is a science fiction/thriller with four novella length stories that have a common theme that ties them together. I was inspired to write a book of this type after reading The Enhanced League by C.S. Boyack.

I’ll be telling you about the four stories in the book in future posts leading up to the March 29th release date. The book is currently available for pre-order by clicking HERE.

Here is the cover. It’s the first that I’ve designed myself and each of the images relate to the stories within the book.

An Excerpt from C.S. Boyack’s New Book, Voyage of the Lanternfish

It is my distinct pleasure to welcome C.S. Boyack to my blog and help him spread the word about his new book. I have met many authors along the way, but Craig is one who, in my voracious reading life, gets his books added to my Kindle as soon as they come out. I have read all of his books and thoroughly enjoy his writing style, no matter the genre.

It’s hard to put his books in a distinct category. It’s just fun to start reading one and enjoy the ride.

To set the scene, this happened at officer’s mess in the captain’s cabin. Mal, the ship surgeon asked about a pendant worn by one of the other officers. Let’s pick it up there.

So, sit back and enjoy this excerpt from Voyage of the Lanternfish.

image2

***

Mal turned to Johnny Jump Up and pointed to his necklace. “This?”

“Just a piece of coral,” Dan said.

“Aye, mate. True enough, but it isn’t any piece of coral.” He untied the leather thong and handed it to Mal. “This came off the moving reef.”

“That’s an old sailor’s story,” Dan said.

“I suppose I qualify as an old sailor, but this story’s true. I seen him, at the battle of Fort Lemuels. We shelled the fort for weeks, but them boys inside gave as good as they got for a few days. We had broken masts and burning ships all over the place.

“When the fort stopped firing, captain said to go rescue any sailors we could find. There was men bobbing around everywhere. So we dropped the longboats and made for the first burning ship. I was in the third boat, pullin me oar.

“Our officer stood a little higher to look at something, so we all turned. Corals was sticking above the waves, and we thought it was an unknown reef… until it moved.

“Them corals turned and lined up towards us. You could see a great swirl behind them, from the fish’s tail.”

“How big is this thing?” Fala asked.

“Bigger’n this ship,” Johnny said. “He’s mostly straight along the back, but he’s got a huge belly that needs feedin. He’s covered with corals and scallops atop his bony plates. Like whales’ll grow barnacles on occasion. Got two long fins up front to help him steer. His mouth looks like a bulldog’s, and that’s the part what matters.

“Old Reefy lines up on our first longboat, and slurps them down like Mr. Philson here might drink up a fresh oyster. Twelve good men, one officer, three drowning sailors, all the oars, hats, muskets. Everything, boat and all. But it weren’t over yet.

“Then Reefy comes about, toward the next longboat, and slurps them down too, before he adjusts course and comes for us.

“We decided to abandon ship and take our chances one by one, but our officer ordered us to stand fast. We were faced with feedin the moving reef, or hanging for desertion, so we parked our butts and waited for it. And those corals kept coming our way. Like great spines along the monster’s back.

“Then old Reefy just moves past us. I looked right into his eye, and he looked right back. An eye the size of the ship’s wheel, mind you. Then he went under.

“The wake shoved us aside, and we took water over the gunwale. Officer had us start bailin, with our boots. That’s when the corals started grindin away at the belly of our longboat. It sounded like a dog gnawin meat off the bone of a dead thing.

“Last part I seen of him was the tail. It weren’t up and down like a proper fish, but it weren’t sideways like a whale neither. It was more primitive like. Reminded me of a giant polywog.”

Mal gave the necklace back. “This?”

“I’m gettin to that part, mate. We didn’t have time for no gazing after the beast, we was sinkin. So we kept bailing, but there was a hole in the bottom of our boat now.

“This posed a predicament, because if we started rowing, we’d all sink. If we kept bailing, we couldn’t move. And the moving reef was still out there somewheres too. Finally, we settled on two of us bailing, and everyone else rowing to get back to the ship. When the water got ahead of us, everyone stopped rowing and helped us catch up, till we could get underway again.

“Back at the ship, the carpenter said he could fix the longboat if we could haul it in. I had to stay behind and bail so’s the lads could pull it up. Those minutes by myself, in the sinking longboat, on the same sea my mates were just gobbled down in, we’re the longest minutes of my life. I didn’t know if the moving reef would come back, or not.

“When I finally got on deck, we flipped the longboat.” Johnny held forward his necklace. “This piece of coral was lodged in the wood.”

“Great story,” Dan said. “But I don’t believe a bit of it.”

Johnny tied the necklace back around his neck. “There are things in this ocean a man’s ever seen, Mister Philson. And there’s at least one thing I never want to see again.”

***

Craig’s Words:

I hope I’ve intrigued some of you with this pirate’s tale. I’ll provide Don with all the details, including that all important purchase link.

Blurb:

An honorable man is mistaken for his disreputable father. Now he’s pushed into a political scheme to start a war that will spread across multiple kingdoms. James Cuttler’s fiancé is being held captive to ensure he goes through with the plan.

He soon decides his skills are at sea and procures a ship to wage war upon those who disrupted his simple life. He can’t do it alone, so he recruits a band of cutthroats to help him. But first, they need guns and munitions to outfit the ship properly. Deception and trickery will only get them so far. Eventually, they’re going to have to engage the enemy.

James’ goals aren’t necessarily the same as his crew. It’s a delicate balancing act to collect enough loot to keep his crew happy, while guiding them back to rescue the girl.

Voyage of the Lanternfish is filled with adventure, magic, and monsters. Lots of monsters. Hoist the colors and come along for the ride.

Purchase Link: http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B07MP8V633

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About Craig:

I was born in a town called Elko, Nevada. I like to tell everyone I was born in a small town in the 1940s. I’m not quite that old, but Elko has always been a little behind the times. This gives me a unique perspective of earlier times, and other ways of getting by. Some of this bleeds through into my fiction.

I moved to Idaho right after the turn of the century, and never looked back. My writing career was born here, with access to other writers and critique groups I jumped in with both feet.

I like to write about things that have something unusual. My works are in the realm of science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy. The goal is to entertain you for a few hours. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Craig

Time Travel – A Recurring Theme in Science Fiction

As a reader, my fascination with time travel began as a child. When I first read The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, I was enthralled by the idea of travelling either backward or forward in time.

Traveling backward could allow one to catch glimpses of historical events or important figures. You could go back and wander among dinosaurs. Similarly, traveling forward gives a view of the development of man, technology and the future of our planet.

As I sat down to write my book, Extra Innings, I was fascinated by the different views of time travel that have been used in fiction. This post will discuss those various theories and I’ll give you a view of my thought process in landing on one.

Here are some of the theories that have been presented in fiction:

Watercolor dreamcatcher with beads and feathers. Illustration fo

  1. Precognition – This is the idea of seeing the future during dreams or through the feeling of  déjà vu. Abstract black and white design
  2. Time Loops – If you’ve watched the movie, Ground Hog Day, you’ve seen this time travel plot device in action. Usually the events time loop repeat until the character or characters perform a certain action to end the loop and move forward.De Lorean
  3. Time Paradox – If you watched Back to the Future, when Marty McFly went back in time and nearly prevented his parents from getting together for the high school dance, you’ve experienced this time travel device.Time Tourism
  4. Time Tourism – Just like it sounds, when time travelers travel through time to witness historical events as a spectator, this is time tourism.terminator
  5. Time War – This is the use of time travel to conduct war over time using time travel. It could involve going back in time to change events leading up to a pivotal battle or trying to bring about a reset of events that didn’t play out as planned.Erasing The Past
  6. Changing the pastThis is the notion of time travel that I used in my book, Extra InningsThe idea of changing the past is logically contradictory. Even though the consensus today is that the past cannot be changed, science fiction writers have used the idea of changing the past for good story effect. Stephen King used this method of time travel effectively in his book, 11/22/63, by having his main character, Jake Epping, attempt to go back in time to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Though ultimately successful, when Epping returns to the present, he discovers that his actions have had unintended consequences.


If you enjoy time travel and the possibility of going back in time to right wrongs and do things differently if given a chance, follow the adventures of Joe McLean in my latest novel, Extra Innings.

SAMPLE

Joe McLean hates his life. A lonely, divorced, middle-aged man, stuck in a cramped apartment, the only bright spot in Joe’s life is cheering on his hometown baseball team.

Now, the local stadium, the place of many childhood and adult memories is being replaced. Joe desperately wants a piece of this iconic venue to preserve his memories and have some memorabilia from his happier past.

That’s when unusual things begin to happen, and Joe begins to rethink the direction his life has taken. Can Joe take a different path in life?

Can he use the special ability that he has acquired to change the course of his life? Will he realize the truth about old adage, you can never go home again? Follow the twists and turns in this supernatural story, Extra Innings, to find out.

Writing in a New Genre – A Scary Proposition

When I started writing my latest release, Extra Innings, it was as a weekly serial published on my author blog. When it began, I wanted it to be a mix of baseball nostalgia mixed with my usual crime fiction genre.

As I began fleshing out the character of Joe McLean, something became very apparent. he was a character worth exploring. He was a 40-something-year-old divorced man who was stuck in the drudgery of working in a family business. Because he was not a member of the family, he would never be promoted above the level he had achieved after more than 20 years.

old stadiumHe went through a sad divorce from a childless marriage and still pined for the woman he loved and lost. His only constant was attending baseball games and rooting for his hometown team in the WWII era stadium that was such a big part of his youth. Now, with the stadium set to be demolished and replaced with a new corporate cookie-cutter version, Joe’s depression began to set in.

As he examined that depression, he came to the realization that the stadium was only part of it. He had a dead-end job, a lonely life and had lost both of his parents to untimely, preventable events.

This was when the question arose in my mind: If you could go back and change things in your past to make your future more desirable, would you? That’s when the idea of time travel crept in and I found myself branching off into a new genre.

Now, I have to explain that the supernatural/paranormal/horror genre family is something that I enjoy reading as much as my beloved crime fiction. I’m an avid reader of Stephen King (along with both of his sons) and, to some extent, Dean Koontz. I just was afraid that, as an author, if I deviated from the genre I was known for, it might end up alienating readers.

The beauty of indie publishing combined with having a blog is that I could first test the waters through the vehicle of my weekly serial and then, if the reaction was positive, turn the serial into a full-fledged book in a new genre without securing any approval but my own.

That brings me to today and the release of Extra Innings. I used more beta readers than usual for this book, and the reaction has been positive. In addition, pre-orders were up over some of my previous books. I take that as an encouraging sign.

SAMPLE

Here is a blurb from the back cover:

Joe McLean hates his life. A lonely, divorced, middle-aged man, stuck in a cramped apartment, the only bright spot in Joe’s life is cheering on his hometown baseball team.

Now, the local stadium, the place of many childhood and adult memories is being replaced. Joe desperately wants a piece of this iconic venue to preserve his memories and have some memorabilia from his happier past.

That’s when unusual things begin to happen, and Joe begins to rethink the direction his life has taken. Can Joe take a different path in life? Can he use the special ability that he has acquired to change the course of his life? Will he realize the truth about old adage, you can never go home again?

Follow the twists and turns in this supernatural story, Extra Innings, to find out.

The book is now available for purchase on Amazon.com at this link if you’re interested.

About Don Massenzio:

me-20160408Don was born in Syracuse, New York to first generation Italian American parents. He’s an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors are Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, Jonathan Kellerman, John Grisham, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird.

Don started writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate life. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet to combat my homesickness. 

His first published book was Frankly Speaking. It was the first in a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The series is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from the 70’s television show, The Rockford Files.  He’s also released a collection of short stories called Random Tales that is available for your Kindle or in paperback. 

Also, look for his non-fiction book, The Ultimate Guide For Independently Published Authors: Tips for improving quality and selling your work, now available on Amazon.com as an eBook or in paperback

He moved to Jacksonville, Florida 23 years ago where I currently live with my wife, daughter, and three dogs.

Social Media Links:

Blog: www.donmassenzio.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authordonmassenzio/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dmassenzio

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00JJVN0UI

Quest of the Brokenhearted – New from Charles Yallowitz

A battered soul faces a city of monsters in
Quest of the Brokenhearted!

Cover Art by Sean Harrington

As Windemere moves forward, a broken spirit falls into the shadows.

Two years have passed since Luke Callindor was lost during the champions’ battle against Baron Kernaghan. Many mourn the loss, but none have been hurt more than the fiancée he left behind, Kira Grasdon. Plagued by grief and determined to prove he is alive, she has sacrificed her business, her reputation, and her hope. Surviving on the streets of Gaia, she has become an emotional husk of her former self. It is only by chance that Kira crosses paths with an old friend and learns of a path, which will either end her suffering or revive her shattered soul. As the rumors state, hundreds of adventurers have flocked to Lacarsis and none have returned.

Will Kira meet her death in the City of Evil or will she thrive among the monsters?

*****

Book Excerpt: The Farm

The blast of warm air hits and swirls around the area to make all those in metal armor feel like they are about to faint. As the wind billows out, it carries the fog away to reveal broken fences and an abandoned farmhouse. The porch is partially collapsed with a swing sitting in the mud, its chains still connected to the fallen roof. The front door is closed, but a large hole is in the middle as if something tried to punch its way inside. Rusty pots and tools are scattered about the ground, some of them having been plunged into the ground. Not far away is a large barn, which shows no sign of damage beyond peeling paint and cobwebs dangling from the eaves. A crooked weathervane sits above the hay loft, the bat-shaped object spinning wildly even though the wind has died. Wilted crops stand in the fields among those that have already rotted into mush. Piles of hay dot the landscape, each one having turned black and become surrounded by swarms of thumb-sized flies. When the last of the fog clears, the entire area is bathed in a sickly orange light that causes the adventurers’ skin to crawl.

An animal call erupts from a nearby pasture, the grass a light brown and showing signs of being repeatedly trampled. In response, the sounds of chickens drift from the farmhouse and they are soon joined by other familiar noises. The ear-wrenching symphony continues to grow as the adventurers spread out across the road and into the fields. Most are focused on the farmhouse door, so they are caught off-guard when the attack begins. Zombified pigs, horses, goats, and sheep burst out of the barn to charge the nearest warriors. With acidic foam flying from their mouths, the undead livestock crash into the armored figures and rip into whatever flesh they can reach. The goats and pigs cause the most damage, their teeth breaking through metal and bone while the horses do more harm with their hooves. Flapping wings from the farmhouse are a slight warning before a flock of chickens and ducks explode from the windows. Lacking teeth, they have a harder time killing their prey, who swing wildly and blindly cast spells that miss half of the time. Chaos is consuming the crowd when the first animal call erupts from the right and four knights are sent hurtling through the air. Flesh dangling from its horns and blood splattered across its rotting face, the zombified bull barrels into the adventurers. The grunting beast tramples everything in its path as it crashes into one of the fields and sends a broken cart rolling away. Turning around, the animal ignores the arrows that stick into its hindquarters and charges back into the crowd.

While the others try to retreat, Kira swings her sickle at the bull’s side and gets the weapon stuck between the exposed ribs. She holds on while she is dragged and uses the blunt end to swat chickens out of the air. As she passes a stallion, she swings her kusari-gama to get the chain wrapped around its hind legs. With the horse galloping away from the bull, Kira plants her feet and pulls hard on her weapon. Her strength combined with that of the zombified steed allows her to shatter the larger animal’s ribs. Spinning around, she whips the sickle into the side of the stallion’s head and uncoils the chain as it crashes to the ground. Without turning back, the adventurer dives to the side and narrowly avoids getting gored by the bull. The moment she hits the ground, she pounces to grab the jagged hole in its body and pulls herself close enough to punch inside with the blunt end of her weapon. Kira continues striking the rotting heart until the confused animal rears back and exposes its stomach for a pair of spearmen to impale it. They are unable to support its weight and are promptly crushed while the young woman flips up to slam her sickle into the base of its skull. Hanging onto the bucking bull, she violently twists the blade until the zombie finally falls over and rapid decays. The others are about to cheer when the call of another bull bursts from the pasture.

“They just keep coming,” Kira mutters as she watches more animals pour out of the buildings.

Grab your copy on Amazon for 99 cents throughout the month of July!

*****

Interested in more Windemere? Then don’t forget to check out Charles E. Yallowitz’s first series: Legends of Windemere

All Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Or more interested vampires? Then check out War of Nytefall: Loyalty:

Cover Art by Alison Hunt

About the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

LET THE TOURNAMENT OF LACARSIS BEGIN!