Friends since childhood, Logan Ritter and Hunter James are now only held
together by family ties and a history of codependency. Logan is a doctoral
student and teacher who wraps himself in work, Hunter’s parents, and his
other long-time friend, Missy. Meanwhile, Hunter, struggling to balance his
summer undergraduate courses, a part-time job, and his ever-increasing
alcoholism, becomes obsessed with a misguided young woman he’s never met. As
their university town experiences unprecedented fear in the summer of 2002,
each man’s life becomes blurred by self-absorption, assumptions, and
full-on delusions. When faced with some undeniable truths, Logan and Hunter
must decide how to untangle themselves from the false realities to which
they’ve been clinging.
Another mouthful of hoppy beer enriches my senses. Before I can even swallow, I see he has finally made the connection in his brain, his eyes opening twice as wide as I thought was possible. Logan lets out a breath and contorts his face, as if he just caught me doing his precious Buffy, or Cindy, or whatever, doggy style on their Egyptian cotton sheets.
“You’re delivering pizzas? A pizza delivery boy? That’s just fucking fantastic. Good for you. Something to be proud of after spending a fifth of your life in college.” Logan is really great with literature and shit, but he sucks at math.
“Well, like I said, I prefer to say I’m in transfers. I will transfer the pizza from Pizza House to someone’s living room,” I say, demonstrating the complexity of the gig with large gestures. “Without me, thousands of people would starve. I’m a god-damned humanitarian!”
Logan shakes his head, looks me up and down, and laughs. Not because he finds humor in anything, but because he is mocking me. His judgemental stare causes me to heat up with rage, with the amount of alcohol in my system I’m already highly flammable. “I am not a fucking clown!” I ignite and slap Logan’s beer bottle off of the table. It hits the already damaged wall and shatters making a loud, but not out of place, sound. No one else in the bar seems to notice. Logan lets out a slow, controlled breath. Now having a look of disapproval rather than shock, he pulls a fifty out of his wallet, sets it on the table and walks through the bar, leaving me alone.
About the Author
Lana Orndorff works as a freelance writer and lives in Chicago with her
husband and son. Missing Colors is her debut novel. As a reader and writer,
she prefers beautifully tragic stories that fracture her heart. Because of
this, her husband rarely takes her book recommendations.
Some secrets draw people closer………after they tear them apart.
Marybeth and Hollister moved to rural New York to escape—both the city life and a checkered past. Their lives were unassuming, until they bought a grandfather clock. They just wanted something to fill the space under their stairs, but they got much more than they bargained for. What secrets could the clock possibly hold?
Jane was sent to Callicoon to find the Eagle diamond, which was stolen from the Museum of Natural History in the ‘60s and never recovered. Convinced she won’t find what she’s looking for, she grudgingly takes the assignment. When she arrives, things aren’t what they seem and Jane finds more than she ever expected.
Brenda Loring was far too small for the overstuffed capacious couch. She appeared uncomfortably absorbed by the cushions, hardly consoled. At first glance, she looked swallowed by the plush off-white arms. It could be assumed that her body had found a semblance of solace, but the truth was, there really weren’t any sacred places to turn for comfort; the fluffed-up cotton squares were far too affectionate and they consumed her behind their good intentions, providing only a pretense of succor.
Brenda sat up straight and reached for her glass; next was the cigarette. Comfort was better found in a nicotine binge and a scotch devoid of ice or water.
Brock was still not sure if he should believe her, even though she’d been insisting for months. “I’m not hallucinating,” she kept repeating. “I know what the hell I’m talking about. It’s all going to hell.”
His thoughts raced ahead as he watched her light the tip of her cigarette with a lit butt from an old dish with more ash than a crematory.
Brenda was birdlike but hardly unattractive, just sticky and twiggy, unlike his wife, who was a full hug, an eye level kiss. Brenda took a deep drag and looked at him through smoke.
“What a fuck,” she said. “Both of them. They are both fucks. I’m telling you, Devon has bought Glen off, paid him well to screw us over, though I don’t know why he would, disloyal asshole.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s hard to believe, can’t wrap my head around it, that’s all.”
Brenda leaned forward and crossed her tiny legs, shapely but thin. Her fingers seemed long as arms, her elbows stuck out like wayward bones.
“Peter has lost control of his people. He’s too old to run the organization. That’s what I think. I have my spies, you know, people who hate Devon and will tell me the truth when I ask for it. You think he’s above screwing his brother?
“Why let the organization go to shit now?”
“Why not now? I heard Peter was sick; maybe that’s why he’s losing control. Maybe it’s serious. Maybe Devon doesn’t want anything going to Peter’s idiot wife if he should die. Imagine Delilah in charge of the LVAJ? Ha!”
“I don’t think Delilah would want it. Advising Peter in business is not quite the same as running the entire organization. That’s a mammoth job.”
“Ha!” Brenda took a sip of scotch. “I wouldn’t underestimate her, Brock. She has a degree in art, after all. You sound like a misogynist, just because she’s blonde and beautiful. She’s far from stupid.”
“I didn’t say she was stupid.”
“Didn’t say she wasn’t either.”
“Look, you think we ought to go to Peter with this?” he asked, “he should know about our suspicions.”
“No, I don’t think we should go to Peter.”
Brock took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “So, you’re saying the Prince was a phony, but what if he wasn’t?”
Brenda threw back her head and laughed loudly. He noticed that her hair didn’t move, so stiff it seemed to stand at attention. Her hair is obedient, he thought.
“Oh, come on,” she said. “The whole thing was a scam. I’ll bet my ass that the Yellow Diamond is sitting behind some asshole’s velvet pull in Saudi Arabia and nowhere near that little turd that calls himself ‘Prince Vizueta.’ She drew out the syllables of the prince’s name and made a face. “Prince of bullshit.”
Brock thought for a moment. “So, if the Yellow Diamond buy was a scam, what’s next?”
Brenda did all three things at once. It was quite impressive. She laughed and took a drag off her cigarette as she put the scotch glass to her lips and drank.
“I wish I knew.”
Brock stood up and looked at his watch. He hadn’t called home. It was after ten p.m. in San Francisco. Jane would be angry. One should make a point of calling home when one is suspected of having an affair.
“It’s getting late,” he said.
He’d spent months on the phone with Brenda, ever since she first uncovered what she believed to be a conspiracy. He wasn’t quite so sure. He thought she was a bit hysterical over nothing. Besides, he was cautious. He liked absolute proof. But with their constant phone calls, he couldn’t blame his wife for suspecting him of infidelity. Once Brenda got to Philadelphia for the Yellow Diamond Buy, she called him several times a day so she could give him the scenario of treachery; so she could share her anxiety as she nervously sucked on her cigarette and drew him into her fears like the nightmare fairy.
“Why don’t we wait for Devon’s next move, see where he’s going with this,” Brock said, putting Jane out of his thoughts, he’d deal with it in his own way. “No sense making a big deal out of something that could just be gossip,” he added. “Or paranoia.” He stared at her.
“Well, it’s been months since this phony prince put out a bid on the Yellow Diamond and went back to his phony country with it.”
“Right, and there hasn’t been anything since, no bids out on any precious stones at all.”
“But it doesn’t mean there won’t be,” she said. “I sense it in my bones that we’re being screwed with.”
“Look, if someone out there really has the Yellow Diamond other than the Prince, wouldn’t they have contacted Peter and told him he was being made an ass of, that you can’t purchase what someone else owns?”
“Why should they say anything? Anonymity is what matters to us, not friendship, you know that.”
Brenda stood up tall but barely reached his chest. She went to a wall of windows and looked out from her thirty-second-floor Manhattan condominium. The night was dark, but the city shone against the sky. It seemed like a false movie set, almost too perfect to be real.
She turned to face him. “Let’s confront Glen, find out what the hell is going on. If he knows we’re aware he’s a turncoat, he’ll tell us everything. When it comes right down to it, he’s a wimp and he’ll play both sides. Glen has no loyalty. “
Brock raised his eyebrow. “And you think Glen is going to admit he has his own agenda?” he said. “Just like that?”
“Where is it going to leave us if Devon takes over the American operation?”
“Under Devon’s employ, that’s where.” He realized Brenda was being too emotional; one of them had to be rational.
Brenda sat and puffed; taking deep drags and pushed the smoke out through her teeth.
Brock paced a bit around the room. “So, according to you, Devon paid the commission out of his own pocket? To make it all look legit?”
Brenda moved her head, barely a nod but he knew that’s what she’d intended.
“Right. He has a plan,” she said. “I just don’t know what it is. I mean, a phony bid? A phony buy? I don’t get it.”
Brock sat on the arm of a chair so thin it hurt his backside and he moved quickly onto the couch with false substance.
“It has to have something to do with discrediting Peter, that’s what I would guess. What else could it be? Devon has finally gotten sick and tired of sharing his customers.”
Brenda squashed her cigarette out. He was relived she didn’t relight. His throat felt raw from her smoke, and the nicotine stunk.
“Devon has thought this whole thing up, a fake prince, a ludicrous bid ─ and he sent it all to Peter on a silver platter. I watched Glen go through the motions of recovering the Yellow Diamond; it was clear bullshit.” She looked back out at her seven-million-dollar view. “I never saw the diamond with my own eyes; I never watched any money exchange hands. He had me answering the phone and reporting back to Peter all day while he said he was doing business.”
Brock wet his lips with his tongue. “Why would Devon approach Glen and not me, or not you, for that matter, if he’s plotting against Peter? I mean, why Glen?”
Brenda rocked her body just a bit. She was flirting, which was always her way, her constant affectation around men. Brock smiled, but only to himself. He’d never wanted any other woman but Jane from the moment they’d met. It was absurd that she now thought he did, especially Brenda, whose scantily fleshed out body reminded him of an adolescent boy. He wanted to flip open his cell phone and call his wife, just to tell her that her father was a bastard and the only thing he wanted from Brenda was assurance. If all this were real, it changed everything.
“Because you’re married to Jane and Peter was always more of a father to his daughter than he was. Jane would never let you betray Peter. And me?” Brenda winked at him. “My few one-night stands with Peter could be interpreted as loyalty, though God knows, I have none.”
Brock stood up. He towered over her and nearly reached her eight-foot ceiling.
“Listen, if what you’re saying is true, I want a takeover. I want no part of this war between Peter and Devon. Let them chew each other up. You and I together have enough contacts to go on our own.”
He stared at her. He was surprised at his own words, but he meant it. If he had wanted to work with Devon, he would have stayed in England. Devon was a mean bastard. He was also greedy; his split had been an absurd five percent.
“I was hoping you’d say that.” Brenda lit another cigarette without leaving his gaze.”
“That would make us partners,” he said, “just you and me, I’m not opening this up to anyone else.”
“I’m yours,” she said, sending him smoke rings. “Peter is getting too old for this and Devon is a creep; we can’t trust him. This idiot ploy of his is going to splinter the whole operation, so let’s take our contacts and run.”
Brock slipped on his jacket. “Let me think this through,” he said. “I’ll be back in touch. Id this is real we’re bound to hear of another false buy very soon. If this is Devon’s plan, to discredit Peter, he won’t wait very long to send him more bullshit about a precious stone that’s surfaced.”
“Maybe art this time, who knows? What about Jane, will you tell her?” she asked.
“Of course, I tell her everything,” he said and paused at the door. “Not right away though, she might not like it.”
About the Author
I am an award-winning hybrid author of southern and women’s Fiction,
including Dancing Backward in Paradise, The Story of Sassy Sweetwater, Where
the Wildflowers Grow, Pleasant Day, Marybeth, Hollister & Jane and Lies
a River Deep. As my alter ego, Olivia Hardy Ray my books include Annabel
Horton, Lost Witch of Salem, Annabel Horton and the Black Witch of Pau, and
Pharaoh’s Star. The first novel I ever wrote, Dancing Backward In Paradise,
won an Eric Hoffer Award for publishing excellence and an Indie Excellence
Award for notable new fiction, 2007. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater and
Dancing Backward in Paradise received 5 Star ForeWord Clarion Reviews and
The Story of Sassy Sweetwater has been named a finalist for the ForeWord
Book of the Year Awards. I have published in ESL Magazine, Christopher
Street Magazine and I have also written early childhood curriculum for
Weekly Reader and McGraw Hill.
Jack Galloway has had enough of life and is chasing a high he just can’t
seem to find. Upon meeting with a drug dealer from his school, he is given
some mysterious, bean-shaped pills that just so happen to be nothing but
beans. However, Relatively Normal beans do not grow miles and miles into the
sky overnight, drawing attention from everyone around and destroying the
very idea of reality on Earth.
Now, in order to restore his Relatively Normal world, Jack must embark on a
mission with a girl he barely knows from high school, Red Crawford, who just
so happens to be the only one he knows who has encountered a tear in the
non-magical reality they live in.
The beanstalk, too tall and too wide to climb, leads them down a rabbit
hole to the strange and nonsensical Underland, where they must go through
insane trials in order to reach the answer to their problems — the Giants,
magical creatures who live in Overland and can rid the Relatively Normal
world of that pesky beanstalk. However, the beanstalk and its effects on
reality might just be the least of their worries when they reach the dark,
Jack sighed. “Listen. It wasn’t a coincidence that yesterday, I
decided to try some harder drugs. It wasn’t a coincidence that Shy
gave me those beans. It wasn’t a coincidence that you were the one to
find me after I passed out. It wasn’t a coincidence that we’ve
been experiencing all of this together. I know we don’t even know each
other that well, but for some weird reason, I feel like we’re in this
together. If we want to fix this, it can’t just be me. It can’t
just be you. It has to be both of us. We’re the reason the portal is
opening, and we’re the ones that have to close it.”
About the Author
Mikaela Miller has not exactly found her place in the world yet, and she’s
still trying to understand herself, so there’s not much to say. She loves
writing, memes, her friends, and her fur children. She is currently living
the small town life but has high hopes of moving to a big city to live out
her dreams one day. She loves the darker side of all fairytales and has
recently discovered a love for horror novels. This book idea came to her in
a dream, as many of her strange ideas do, and she hopes for a bright future
as she delves further into her characters’ lives. One day, she would like to
be able to rescue lots of homeless animals and be the crazy old cat lady
down the street.
Cortex’s last villain dumped him, and V got a little overeager and
took out her hero prematurely. They meet on Meta-Match, a nemesis pairing
site for heroes and villains. After throwing punches at each other behind
coffee shops and hiring henchman to do their bidding (mostly just getting
them coffee), they realize they have a lot more in common than meets the
And they may have a lot more hero and villain inside than they realize.
About the Authors
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent, multi-published novelist, and proud to
call herself a nerd. When she’s not procrastinating and catching up
with followers on social media (@hopebolinger), or collecting 700+ bylines,
she participates in local theater, models for the runway, and dresses up in
costumes for no apparent reason.
Alyssa Roat loves books and writing in all forms. As her “day
job(s),” she is the publicity manager for Mountain Brook Ink, a
literary agent with Cyle Young Literary Elite, a manuscript editor with
Sherpa Editing Services, and a freelance writer with 200+ bylines in local
and international publications. She has a slight obsession with Captain
America and has watched all of the Marvel movies more times than a healthy
“Fate hunts us down in our sleep.” Clay Conover, retired Marine
officer turned corporate trainer has successfully re-careered and has a
long-term plan. A plan grounded in a sense of duty, loyalty, and tempered by
clear-eyed realism. Unfortunately, Clay’s plan doesn’t account
for the hiring of Sheera Prasad. Young, hungry and ambitious, Sheera has an
agenda of her own.
In the collision of wills that follows, Clay is confronted with a choice
that will define him, not simply professionally but personally. Will he take
the ethical high road, or opt for self-serving rathionalization? West of
Tomorrow is an intelligent romance, laced with corporate intrigue, betrayal
and the undiscovered phoenix living in all of us.
Excerept —In which Clay Conover’s past rmeinds him of who he is.
Chapter 1—Saturdays Never Lie
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The rain drumming on his helmet began subtly, rising in a crescendo Lt. Clay Conover had come to recognize only too well—overwhelming sound, drowning thought. Monsoon in Cambodia.
Late afternoon sucked the light out of the triple canopy, muting everything to shadow. Shadow that slithered into his thoughts, tugging subtly on his mood. A look back confirmed third squad following in trace, greasy orange mud sucking at their boots. Clay checked the progress of second squad up ahead—soundless apparitions navigating the downpour. It would be dark in an hour.
To his left, first squad’s nearest fire team struggled through tangles of liana vines, prompting Clay to move forward to adjust second squad’s rate of advance. Even before he got close, Corporal Knickerson glanced back. Clay signaled him to slow the advance, pointing to first squad, bogged down in heavier undergrowth.
Knickerson nodded, scrambling forward to match his squad’s pace to that of first’s. Should’ve made first squad base, Clay thought.
The rain subsided to a drizzle, making Clay’s breathing seem unnaturally loud. His pack straps dug into his soggy, rain-soaked armpits, raw now from days of chafing friction. His neck was stiff from the weight of his brain bucket and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been dry or when he’d been so tired. Static from the radio startled him back to alertness.
“Six this is deuce, over,” Thompson listened a moment. “Wait one.” Thompson’s gangly form covered the twenty feet between them in under five seconds. “It’s the Skipper,” he said, passing Clay the handset.
“Six Actual, this is Two Actual.”
“Two Actual, hold at the ORP. SitRep on arrival,” Capt. Mortensen commanded.
“Two Actual roger.” Waving Thompson to follow, Clay caught up with Corporal Knickerson to update his orders. In the forty minutes it took to reach the Objective Rally Point, the rain started and stopped twice. Clay halted second squad at the ORP, squinting through the waning light to confirm first squad had also stopped. Partially hidden by ground foliage and the gathering gloom, Clay could just make out the nearest fire team.
Third squad, ghostly in the jungle twilight, was closing up. Ramirez, the squad leader appeared in a sparser patch of undergrowth and Clay held up his fist, pointed at his eyes then back in the direction they’d come.
Ramirez nodded. Clay could count on him to tie his squad in with the other two. They could refine their positioning later, if necessary.
Clay took the handset from Thompson. “Seductive Snake Six, this is Two Actual. At the RP…all secure.” He headed for the left flank, waving his radio operator to follow.
Less that thirty-five meters over, they caught sight of Lance Corporal Brown, Clay’s youngest squad leader. Hunkered behind a decayed log next to his radio operator, Brown held the handset to his ear, beneath the rim of his helmet. Thompson’s radio crackled with static.
Brown heard it and rolled over. Eyes wide, he came to a low crouch on his knees, frantically waving them down. On his way to the mud, Clay heard the first round catch Thompson with a sickening smack, followed by the angry crack of its passage. More distant, the hollow thump of mortar rounds leaving their tubes came to his ears. The left flank erupted in pin points of light and the rattle of small arms fire.
Clay sprinted for his radio operator, dove prone and dragged him over on his back. Dead. He pried the handset loose and keyed it. Also dead. The first mortar rounds impacted close by and his gut jumped to the concussion, as his ears rang and went cottony.
From the flank, muzzle flashes winked in eerie, malicious quiet through the gathering darkness. The shadowy forms of the Peoples’ Army rose from spider holes, firing AK-47s that seemed not to miss.
Another mortar round impacted near Brown, blowing off his helmet to reveal a blood-soaked death mask. Brown stared at him reproachfully, with missing eyes Clay could nevertheless feel.
The throaty chuckle of a diesel starting up rose above the din. Tanks? When the hell did the PA get tanks? The engine noise swelled to the accompaniment of strengthening wind and the incongruous beep of a back-up alarm.
Clay came awake to the drone of the fan he used for white noise and the continued beep of a back-up alarm somewhere outside. Tow truck. He lay there, his chest jumping to each beat of his heart. As it slowed, the nightmare he’d always feared but had never quite materialized retreated.
But now as then, he remembered the endless wait that night for Kinseth’s medevac bird—his assurances as the morphine kicked in that the bird was on the way, knowing it would arrive too late.
He thought of the long, flight home from his first overseas tour, laced with a confusion of hope, disillusionment and dread.
After a cup of coffee, Clay stretched and prepared for his pre-dawn run. Seated on his front porch, he garroted his ghosts in the laces of his running shoes.
About the Author
Dirk came within a cat’s whisker of never publishing. Through two
frenetic professional careers first as a Marine officer and then as a
corporate trainer, he started way more stories than he finished, until full
retirement left him with the focused attention he needed. West of Tomorrow,
his first novel draws on his experience with the military, corporate America
and the unpredictable nature of life.
Since then, he has published Best-Case Scenario, Act I of Nyra’s
Journey a New Adult romance, Through the Windshield, Drive-by Lives an
anthology of short stories and Tier Zero, Vol. I of The Knolan Cycle. He
currently lives in Laguna Niguel where he surfs, snow skis in the
winter and facilitates an author’s critique group.