kongo.com – Now available

It’s been a week since my new book, kongo.com, was released. This was an interesting book to write. It contains three novellas that started as serials on my blog. The fourth novella is from an original story that has never been published. The intent of this story is to pull the other three together to show the ultimate goal of this corporation and the truth behind its technology.

In this post, I’m sharing the first part of this story. It’s called 3D life.


3D Life

Fifteen-year-old Jeff Beckett clicked through the kongo.com web site nervously. His Uncle Steve gave him a $100 gift card and he couldn’t decide among the hundreds of thousands of things on which he could spend it. He knew whatever he picked would have to be approved by his mom. Ever since his dad left with a young analyst from his company, Mom had been very restrictive of whatever Jeff did. He felt like she was punishing all men because of what his dad did. It wasn’t fair. The analyst was kind of hot, though.

Jeff finally decided on a new holographic game controller for the Kongo Z-Con game console his dad gave him for Christmas. The console was the most expensive on the market and was obviously a guilt gift from his dad who left just before Thanksgiving. Jeff couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw it. His mom hated it and it was the first thing to be taken away whenever Jeff was punished for something. The tech was cool, and Jeff liked the holographic sports games. He had one Z-Con holo-controller. A second one would allow two-person games using the full display capabilities.

The controller was $89.95 leaving him about $10 on his card. He decided to use that on music downloads. His mom had to approve every song, but he could live with that since she didn’t understand the music he liked. He could sneak songs with secret lyrics by her with no problem.

His mom was in her office going over some files for her patients. She was a school psychologist which made her mind games even more unbearable. Jeff knocked and poked his head in.

“Mom, I decided what I want. I want to get another holo-controller. I put it in our check out bin. Is that okay?”

His mom’s face said it all, but she relented.

“As long as you’re not spending more time on that game. I could kill your father for getting it for you. It’s a waste of brain power.”

“I know, Mom,” Jeff said with a patented eye-roll. “But, can I get it?”

“Yes. I suppose so. I’ll put it through after I order some other stuff that we need. We’re low on Kongo chips and your sister needs some clothes and school supplies.”

“Okay. Let me know when you send it. I want to invite Justin over to play later.”

“I will. Just remember, school starts soon and you’re not going to spend hours on that game once summer is over.”

“I know, Mom. Just let me know when you put it through.”

“Okay. Love you.”

She always had to say it. It was almost like a question that demanded a response.

“Love you too, Mom.

Jeff went into his room and logged on to his computer to chat with his friend Justin. He brought up the Kongo-comm chat app and clicked on Justin’s name. Soon, his friends face appeared on the screen.

“Hey Jeffy. how’s everything? Did you get it?”

“Yeah. My mom said it’s okay. She’s going to put it through in a little while. Why don’t you come down and we’ll wait for it?”

“Okay. I can’t wait to try out that new Kongo World Cup 25. I heard it’s like being in the stadium with that holo-controller.”

“It’s cool in single player mode, but I’ll bet two-player is a lot better.”

“It is, because then I can kick your sorry butt.”

“Yeah, whatever. I’ll see you when you get here.”

The friends signed off and Jeff went back downstairs to see if his mom had ordered the controller.

********

Retailer kongo.com was a behemoth. Over 15 years, it swallowed up every competitor, big box department and book store and was now zeroing in on the grocery business. Kongo’s founder and CEO, Jack Burgess, was the perfect combination of technology and retail genius. He was Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos rolled into one amazing visionary. His brainchild, kongo.com, took delivery to a new level. The industry had progressed to mail order retailers offering next day, and eventually, same day shipping was the norm. Then kongo.com raised the bar to a level that no one anticipated. They introduced instant delivery.

The process was in the works for years. Burgess pulled together brilliant molecular scientists from all over the world and used his seemingly unlimited funds to conduct nearly ten years of research. What emerged was a process that could take in a top-secret raw material, put it through a patented process and used a cabinet that was a type of 3D printer/replicator, like the fictional one from the Star Trek television series, to produce whatever the customer ordered. It didn’t matter if it was clothes, electronics, or food, the ‘closet’, as it was unofficially named, was the delivery method for all goods.

As customers ordered goods, the appropriate raw materials, in molecular form, flowed through a conduit into the closet and the item appeared. The time it took to create the item varied based on its molecular complexity.

Over the past few years kongo.com had spent billions to run the conduit lines, much like telephone, electrical and internet service to nearly every location in the United States and most locations in modern countries. The company’s leadership, along with the U.S. State Department, was now in talks with China, Eastern European countries and even North Korea, to run supply lines to large cities. Despite the billions spent, Kongo had earned back the money spent on the infrastructure in less than two years. Along with paid services from its customers, kongo.com had established a pipeline supplying free food to the parts of the world that needed it most. Burgess was viewed as a humanitarian and was even being considered as a potential candidate to win the Nobel Prize in both the science and peace categories.

The secretive processing of kongo.com’s raw materials was the key to the success of the company. Although the source and composition of the raw material was the most closely-guarded trade secret in the history of business, speculation abounded, and theories ranged that the raw material was a combination of desert sand and water or a secret new chemical element. All this speculation incorrectly identified the source. Burgess was able to protect the secret by having a nearly 100% retention rate of the staff with the knowledge of the process. He paid them very well and, if the money wasn’t enough incentive, each employee involved in the process signed a combination non-compete/non-disclosure agreement that would find them virtually unable to get a job anywhere if they divulged any secrets. Even their generous pension and 401K program would be wiped away if they felt the need to speak about the process after retirement. Though the agreement seemed threatening, the salary and benefits offered to these specialized individuals would never be matched in another company.

********

Jeff was sitting in his room when he heard a knock at the front door. He could see the front of the house from his second story bedroom. He saw Justin’s bike leaning up against the magnolia tree in the front yard. He opened his window just enough to yell down to his friend.

“Just come in. It’s unlocked.”

He heard the door open, a muted greeting to his mom and then the plodding footsteps of his friend as he made his way up the stairs.

“Hey, Jeffy,” Justin said as the door burst open. “I didn’t catch you doing anything you shouldn’t, did I?”

Jeff shook his head as he looked at his friend. Justin was overweight and unkempt. Unlike Jeff’s mom, his parents didn’t regulate his video game time and, as a result, his body showed the effects. Jeff loved video games, but he also liked to be outside and played in multiple sports. Theirs was an unlikely, but solid friendship.

“Right, Justin. I told you to come in. Did you think I’d just keep at it? I know it takes a while to haul your manatee butt up the stairs, but not that long.”

“Bragging again, I see,” his friend said with a smile.

The teasing between them was the kind that only best friends could get away with.

“Just for that, when I get that holo-controller, I’m not going to go easy on you. You’re toast.”

“Right. You can’t match my skill. I’ve got a lot more hours on the console than you’ll ever have.”

“I know,” Jeff retorted. “That explains your ‘body by video games’ physique.”

A slight look of hurt crossed Justin’s face and Jeff regretted the comeback. He knew Justin’s parents were on him about his weight, but, as they were both obese, they couldn’t teach or demonstrate any kind of self-control that would change his fate.

“Hey, I’m just short for my weight,” Justin answered in his self-deprecating style.

Jeff let it go and changed the subject.

“Let me check to see if mom put in the order with the holo-controller yet.”

Jeff logged in to the kongo.com site and, sure enough, his mother had ordered the controller. The queue indicated that it would print to the closet in about 10 minutes.

“We’ve got 10 minutes,” Jeff said. “Let’s get a snack before it prints.”

“Sure, first you tell me I’m fat, then you offer me food.”

“Does that mean you don’t want some leftover coffee cake?”

“I didn’t say that. I was just pointing out the irony.”

Jeff and Justin descended the stairs to the kitchen to wait for the closet to deliver the goods ordered from kongo.com.

********

The kongo.com closet was about the size of a small refrigerator. It was essentially a hollow box with a door on the front and a thin layer of highly-sophisticated circuitry between the inner and outer walls. The unit could be custom ordered to fit the décor of whatever room it was in.

There was a nine-inch display screen on the front of the closet that served multiple purposes. It showed the time and local weather when the closet was inactive. It could be used to leave messages, compile a grocery list, send text messages and even make phone calls. Its primary purpose was to give status updates when there were incoming goods. The goods were fully created within the closet by rearranging the molecular structure of the raw material that flowed into it from a small pipeline in the back of the unit.

The cost of items produced in the closet was based on three factors. First was demand. If something was very popular, kongo.com used traditional laws of supply and demand to set pricing. The latest fashions, electronics and other tangible items were priced at premium levels. The second factor was complexity. Something small and electronic might be much more expensive than something large. A Kongo-Fit wristwatch, for instance, might cost $400 while a six-person tent might only cost $150. Third was the amount of raw material required to create the object. The density and weight of an object would help determine how much it would cost. The intersection of these three factors determined how much the customer would pay.

Because the raw material and technology to produce each object was the same, there were no situations where items were out of stock. For objects that were too large for the consumers closet unit, kongo.com had regional fabrication centers that could produce automobiles, semi-trucks and even component parts for buildings in very large fabrication chambers. These components parts could then be picked up by consumers or companies that chose to use kongo.com as their manufacturer for customized items. This capability had changed the consumer and small company manufacturing industries overnight.

******

Jeff and Justin finished their snacks. As they sat at the kitchen Island, they could see the items ordered from kongo.com queuing up on the closet’s display screen. The Kongo Chips were the first to appear. Kongo Chips were one of the revolutionary food products created by the company. They were completely synthesized, almost completely comprised of healthy proteins, fiber and vitamins. They were extremely nutritious but, unlike virtually all healthy foods, delicious. They had a taste that could only be compared to crunchy potato chips with a hint of buttered popcorn and just a touch of sweetness. This was all with minimal calories.

The chips were not only available to consumers, but they were provided at no cost to countries struggling with hunger and malnutrition, a PR boon for kongo.com. The military also purchased a version of them to virtually replace their traditional Meals Ready to Eat or MREs, as they were affectionately called.

Jeff retrieved three bags of chips from the closet to make room for the next item. Apparently, his mom had ordered some underwear for his older sister. This grossed him out, but he could see Justin had some interest. Unfortunately for him, when Jeff retrieved them gingerly from the closet, they were boring white garments with no titillating value whatsoever.

Finally, the holo-controller was the next item on deck to print. Jeff and Justin snacked on Kongo Chips as they waited the interminable ten minutes it took to produce the sophisticated electronic device. Finally, when it was complete, Jeff grabbed the controller and they hurried to the family room to sync it up with the game console and try it out.

Once the sync was complete, they loaded up Kongo World Cup Soccer 3D. Jeff and Justin put on their headsets and chose their usual avatars from their favorite teams. The avatars earned points based on their success in the games in which they had participated. Based on the number of points, they were chosen on teams that were formed in the game’s virtual community. You could choose to play on the same team as friends, but Justin and Jeff chose to be on opposing teams. They both had extensive experience with the game and were chosen on Level B teams, three levels below the elite AAA Level teams mostly populated by professional gamers.

A timer floated away from the TV screen and hovered in mid-air counting down the 30 seconds until the game started. Jeff’s position was a left wing on his team. Justin ended up as the opposing team’s goalie.

As the timer approached five seconds until game time, a virtual stadium crowd encircled the family room and Jeff and Justin’s avatars appeared as holographic images in the center of the room along with their teammates. User names appeared on the front and back of the avatars’ colorful jerseys. This allowed them to, of course, keep track of their own player along with the capability to address other players on their teams.

An imposing looking referee appeared and placed the ball in the center on the side of the field for Justin’s team to kick off and start the game. The game started in earnest and the opposing right winger dribbled the ball near the sideline. Jeff could see that he had difficulty controlling the ball. He waited for the right moment and deftly stole the ball as the player, Beckham42, tried to pass him by. Jeff expertly mashed the buttons on his controller and dribbled the ball into the other team’s territory. As two players ran toward his avatar seeking to double team him on defense, Jeff waited until they both committed and passed the ball off to the center forward. He then maneuvered his avatar at an angle toward the goal being careful not to get behind the defenders and be cited for an off-sides violation. Once he was in position, the experienced center forward with the user name, Pele72, passed to Jeff at just the right moment. He could see Justin’s avatar waiting for him in front of the goal. When he felt he had the right angle, he kicked the ball aiming for the upper right-hand corner of the goal. Justin’s avatar reacted with lightning quickness, however, and expertly tipped the ball over the top of the goal resulting in a corner kick for Jeff’s team.

The closely matched play went on for quite some time with no score until Justin’s team finally broke free with the ball and scored a goal with a minute left in the match. That was the score at which the game ended. Jeff never had another opportunity like the first one to score on Justin. For now, Justin would have bragging rights. Jeff knew that he would push the bravado to a certain level but would back off before taking it too far. He was a true friend.

As the friends waited for the completion of the game and the summary statistics began to pop up. Jeff felt a slight tickle in his right ear. It wasn’t an electrical shock exactly, but just a tiny stimulation of the hairs in his ear that was barely noticeable. He didn’t give it a second thought. If he had mentioned it to Justin, however, his friend would have told him that he experienced the same thing.

The boys shut down the game and decided to go up to Jeff’s room and check out what new games would be coming out soon now that Jeff had the second holo-controller.


If you enjoyed this snippet of the final story, please consider purchasing your copy of kongo.com from Amazon by clicking HERE.

It’s Release Day!!

Today is release day. It’s hard to believe that it is the release of the eleventh book that I’ve written in the past five years. This one was fun as it was outside of my traditional crime/mystery genre.

About kongo.com

In my book, kongo.com, I have pulled together four separate related stories. Three of them were published as serials on my blog over the past year. The fourth is a brand new story that weaves together the other three. This was an enjoyable exercise and I hope that those that choose to read it will enjoy it as well.

Here is a bit about each of the stories in kongo.com

No Pain, No gain

In this story, we meet Joyce. She, like many of us, struggles with extra weight and with a lack of desire to do anything about it. That is, until she buys a revolutionary new fitness device from the mega-online company, kongo.com. The device is advertised as being life-changing. As you will see in this story, it truly is, but maybe not in the way Joyce hopes.

Memories of Rachel

Rachel is a young woman who is energetic with her whole life in front of her. The same day that she and her AI Scientist husband, Ben, find out that they are having a baby, she also finds out that she has advanced terminal cancer. She decides to make the ultimate sacrifice by foregoing toxic chemotherapy and radiation so that her baby can survive. She and Ben decide to use the artificial intelligence technology that Ben is developing for kongo.com to capture her memories, her emotions and her essence so that their infant child will know its mother even is she is not around to be in the baby’s life. Follow this story as the technology works beyond expectations and beyond boundaries to achieve this mission and much more that could endanger all that come in contact with digital Rachel.

First Impressions

Imagine a dating service that can match it’s subscribers to their perfect soul mate. To achieve this, the service would have to have a deep background in order to profile it’s customers. As a gigantic online retail organization, kongo.com has details on the buying, viewing and listening preferences of hundreds of millions of customers. Why not use this to help them find others with the same preferences? It seems like a logical expansion of their business until someone with a grudge and serious computer hacking skills seeks to sink the company from within using this service. Follow the twists and turns in this story that includes a visit from one of my favorite characters from my Frank Rozzani Detective Series.

3D Life

This tale reveals the ultimate goal and vision for the future by the behemoth company, kongo.com. Find out the underpinnings of the technology that is being rolled out from multiple areas of the company with one end game in mind. This brand new story appears exclusively in the book, kongo.com.


If you’re interested in checking out kongo.com, you can order a copy HERE. It’s available in print and Kindle formats today.

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.”

kongo.com – Four Related Novellas

The March 29th release of my book, kongo.com is getting closer. 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.

I look forward to your reaction to these excerpts. In this next story, I’m going to introduce you to Rachel and her husband Ben who, after much trying, have finally been told they’re expecting a child. At the same time, Rachel is diagnosed with a highly aggressive cancer. The story balances the choices she makes about her treatment with elements of artificial intelligence and suspense that, again, relate back to kongo.com.

Please enjoy this excerpt from the novella, Memories of Rachel, part of my
kongo.com collection. (now available for pre-order)


Memories of Rachel

It had been four months since Rachel died. It was a long, slow period where Ben watched her go from being a vibrant, athletic woman to a frail shell with skin barely covering bones. The onset of the cancer had been sudden and aggressive. She lasted for seven months. She might have survived if she had allowed treatment, but treatment would have killed the baby. Beautiful baby Erin would never have entered this world if her self-sacrificing mom had not refused aggressive chemotherapy.

Ben agonized over his wife’s decision. He assured her they could have more children if she would just save herself. He remembered the conversation.

“Please. Go through the treatment. You can get pregnant again,” Ben pleaded. “I…I just can’t live without you.”

“The treatment will kill the baby. I just can’t do that. Parents are supposed to protect their children. Besides, there’s a good chance the treatment will do so much damage to my body that I won’t be able to get pregnant again. You heard the doctor.”

Rachel had a roller coaster of a month. It ranged from the happiest day of her life, the day she found out that, after three years of trying, she was finally pregnant. Then, four weeks later, eight weeks into her pregnancy, what should have been a joyous day turned out to be one of unimaginable confusion and chaos. It was at the appointment for her first sonogram that the technician noticed something unusual. It turned out to be a shadow on the screen. The doctor was called into the room and he saved several views of the image and scurried off to his office.

They had done their best not to alarm Ben and Rachel, but the technician and doctor could not totally mask their concern. Once Rachel had dressed, she and Ben insisted on talking to the doctor. After he completed his phone call, which Rachel assumed was about her, he ushered the couple into his office.

“First,” the doctor began. “I want to assure you that the baby is right where it should be at this point in your pregnancy.”

Rachel was never one for the sandwich approach to delivering bad news. She liked to hear and evaluate what she was dealing with upfront.

“I hear a big ‘but’ coming, doctor,” she said with impatience, “What are you not telling me?”

“We saw something on the sonogram. I’m not 100% sure what it might be. I’m consulting with a colleague and we think…”

“What kind of colleague?” Ben said, cutting off the doctor.

“Well, it’s an oncologist.”

“Oncologist?” Rachel asked, stunned.

“Just a precaution,” the doctor said. “He’s right in the same medical plaza and he wants to see you today so we can see what we’re dealing with. You can go right over.”

Ben and Rachel went from the obstetrician directly to the oncologist.

Talk about the circle of life, Ben thought to himself once they viewed the patients in various form of decay in the waiting room.

“Ben, I’m scared,” Rachel said.

This was the first time Ben’s could ever remember his confident wife admitting to being scared. He would find out, over the next seven months, it wouldn’t be the last. Not by a long shot.

“Let’s hear what the doctor has to say first, before we jump to conclusions.”

That was Ben’s response. He was trying to convince himself as much as he was trying to comfort his wife. Even though he was feigning calm, his heart was performing Olympic-quality gymnastics in his chest. Rachel was his rock. She was his North Star. He wasn’t sure how he would deal with any bad news about their future.

Once the receptionist took their names, they barely settled into the molded plastic chairs when her name was called to go back and see the doctor ahead of those that were waiting much longer.

There was no sitting in an exam room. Rachel and Ben were directed immediately to Dr. Kaplan’s office. The décor in his office was sparse. It didn’t have the usual motivational or cheerful pictures or mementos. It was almost sterile with only his diplomas and hospital affiliations on display. He was a man who was likely in his 50s but looked like he was in his 60s. Ben imagined that Kaplan’s job was a stressful one where delivering bad news far outweighed the positive.

Kaplan settled into his well-worn chair behind his sparse desk. He turned the large computer monitor so that Ben and Rachel could see it. Ben wondered what they were going to see. He didn’t realize at the time that it would change their lives forever.

“As you were having your sonogram, the technician noticed a…um, an anomaly.”

“What kind of anomaly?” Rachel asked.

“Well, it was a mass. It appears to be attached to your liver.”

“So, what do we do to treat it?” Ben asked anxiously.

“We have a few options. We need to assess the tumor and, if it’s cancerous, how advanced it is and if it’s spread to other areas of the body,” Doctor Kaplan explained. “Then, we can discuss treatment options.”

“What about the baby?” Rachel asked.

“The baby, um, yes. Your pregnancy is only about eight weeks in. The surgery and the resulting treatment would likely cause you to abort spontaneously.”

“Abort spontaneously? You mean a miscarriage?” Rachel asked.

“Well, yes. That is the common term for it.”

“But she will be able to get pregnant again, right?” Ben asked.

The doctor leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers behind his head which caused his brow to furrow. He was silent for a moment and then seemed to carefully weigh his next words.

“There are still many aspects of this that we can’t be sure about. The tumor could be benign and might just need to be removed. If it is cancerous, it may not have metastasized to other parts of Rachel’s body. If it has, the treatment might be fairly aggressive and could damage the uterus and ovaries making pregnancy difficult if not unlikely. This is all conjecture, however. I don’t want to scare you into drastic action but, with that said, we need to move quickly to rule out those worst-case scenarios.”

As it turned out, all the worst-case scenarios were confirmed. Rachel had cancerous tumors, not only her liver, but in her lungs and there was evidence that it had metastasized in her brain. She and Ben were devastated. The most aggressive treatment would possibly prolong her life, but not cure her. It would also end the life of their unborn child. This was not acceptable to Rachel. This drove her to the decision to forego treatment and concentrate on delivering a healthy baby. She more than exceeded this goal.


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.

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.

FANTASY AUTHORS UNPLUGGED: THE HAT BY C. S. BOYACK – From the Archer’s Aim Blog

Fantasy Authors Unplugged is back and I hope there will be more posts for the feature soon. Today, fellow Story Empire contributor, C. S. Boyack pays a visit with his latest book, The Hat, in the spotlight. I’m pleased to have Craig back today…

Thanks for having me over again, P. H. It’s been a while now.

You’ve written a wide range of books from anthologies to novels. How do you approach a story and decide what the length will be?

I have a hard time with this one. Like most authors, I started out writing tomes that were huge. As I learned to me more efficient with my words, I often have a hard time making word count these days.

I still want specific projects at certain parameters though. The Hat was designed to be a novella, because there is a market I want to approach. I would have liked another 5000 words or so, but I don’t want it to bog down at all. The format doesn’t allow for a lot of navel gazing by the characters.

I really like the approach of making stories as long as they need to be. This works well with short stories and micro-fiction. With the longer work, some planning is required. Even knowing that, many of my novels are on the short side these days.

via Fantasy Authors Unplugged: The Hat by C. S. Boyack