Thursday, June 18, 2020

Read the First Chapter! SLOW DOWN by Lee Matthew Goldberg

By Lee Matthew Goldberg

How far would you go to make your dreams come true? For budding writer and filmmaker Noah Spaeth, being a Production Assistant in director Dominick’s Bambach’s new avant-garde film isn’t enough. Neither is watching Dominick have an affair with the lead actress, the gorgeous but troubled Nevie Wyeth. For Noah’s dream is to get both the film and Nevie in the end, whatever the cost. And this obsession may soon become a reality once Dominick’s spurned wife Isadora reveals her femme fatale nature with a seductive plot to get rid of her husband for good.
Slow Down, a cross between the noir styling of James M. Cain and the dark satire of Bret Easton Ellis, is a thrilling page-turner that holds a mirror up to a media-saturated society that is constantly searching for the fastest way to get ahead, regardless of consequences.

Here’s what readers are saying about Slow Down!

“Slow Down is a frenetic first novel…full of unedifying characters scrambling for the elusive, perhaps imaginary, brass ring.”
Publishers Weekly

“Lee Matthew Goldberg writes like a young Bret Easton Ellis doing a line of uncut Denis Johnson off the back of a public urinal. Memorable in the best possible way, also mostly illegal, Goldberg’s Slow Down is a mad man’s tour of Manhattan’s vices, follies, and ultimate betrayals.”
–Urban Waite, author of The Terror of Living and Sometimes the Wolf

What would happen if one of Raymond Chandler’s 1940’s femme fatales were to join forces with one of Jay McInerney’s enfant terribles? Lee Matthew Goldberg wrings every delectable trope imaginable out of this mashup while still managing a fresh spin. A writer to watch out for.”
–David Kukoff, author of Children of the Canyon

“Slow Down starts fast and gets faster quick, gunning through yellow streetlights on its way to a full collision with your shattered soul. Lee Matthew Goldberg takes on the American Zeitgeist in this stunning debut.”
–Stephen Jay Schwartz, LA Times bestselling author of Boulevard and Beat

Slow Down is a brilliant rush of a work charting the rise and fall of Noah and other pretentious losers. Savor this book.”
Foreword Reviews

“Dark and hard-boiled writing that grabs you by the throat. Slow Down is one of those rare novels that’s so good you want it to go on forever!”
–Nick Pengelley, author of Ryder: An Ayesha Ryder Novel

“The plot takes off…there’s no denying it’s fun to watch rich snots destroy themselves.”

“Goldberg’s portrayal of the New York demimonde is one of the book’s strengths and brings to mind Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero. He also succeeds in marshalling a complicated plot.”


Amazon →

THE STEPS THAT LEAD ME TO MY CATACLYSMIC ENCOUNTER WITH DOMINICK BAMBACH WERE PUT IN MOTION TWO DAYS EARLIER WHEN I GOT THE NEWS ABOUT BEING DOUBLE-FIRED FROM MY SOULSUCKING JOB. Ah, Classic Screw-Up Noah. I’d come home a little buzzed from a Yankees game to hear my parents’ cook, Consuela, shouting from room to room trying to find me. Since my parents’ place was big enough to get legitimately lost in, I had no clue where she was, but I did run into my brother Dex ripping bong hits on our wraparound terrace.
“That mad Guatemalan woman has been huffing and puffing around the apartment for over half an hour,” Dex said.
“Is she okay?”
“Importante!” Dex mimicked, rather poorly, sounding more stereotypically Asian than stereotypically Spanish. “Más importante, señor Noah. Su jefe llamando! Your boss called!”
I caught up with Consuela in what my parents dubbed their “Conservatory,” named with pretension like we all lived inside the game of Clue. Actually, it was a shoebox of a room that had wedged in a piano, a piano bench, and a rather spectacular view of Central Park. I found Consuela perched on the window seat, hands folded in her apron like she was praying, breaths heavy and sad. She was a whale and I had made her sweat.
“Señor Noah. Oh, señor Noah,” Consuela heaved, the life drained out of her, ready for her deathbed. “Message for you.”
She had written the message in Spanglish on a post-it stuck Slow Down
to her large left breast. She displayed it to me like it was a medal of honor. It also had a blob of her famous Diablo sauce and basically said that my jefe sounded muy angry and would call my cell at nine tomorrow morning.
My father had adopted Consuela fifteen years ago, a rotund woman who fancied spiced rum and sour looks. My parents had met her during one of their “slumming vacations”—meaning a stay anywhere in the Third World, even if they shelled out for five-star hotels. This time it had been in Guatemala, where she was an overworked cook who made delectable tamales at the breakfast buffet. After one bite of her tasty creations, they whisked her back to the States as their latest charity case. But my father, all red nosed and with a jarring demeanor, had stated the real reason one night at a dinner party:
“You should see some of these people, just ghastly…” my father, a swirling glass of port in his hand, spouted to an audience of wondering blinks. I couldn’t stop looking at his blinding white teeth, which made him look demented. “That is where Consuela would still be if Janet and I hadn’t opened up our home to her. But my God, can that good woman make a tamale!”
I had passed out from a couple of late-night bong hits and woke up the next morning thinking about the note Consuela had given me. The sheets had been pulled up to my neck, the open window letting in cool hums of early spring air. I ran one cold big toe over the other as some morbid indie band played from my iPod alarm, soft and sweet as if they were singing me back to sleep. I had to download some new songs soon.
It was odd that my boss Irene had called, since the company only had few days left before it shut down completely. So calling me on a Sunday night, a time better spent basking in her wonderful glow, meant that something huge had gone down.
I’d been recently fired. No big deal, most of the company had been “downsized” or “let go,” or any other nice way of describing permanent termination. An economy in the toilet meant a whole lot of trouble for an independent media production company with only one client. Recently, all my co-workers had been summoned one-by-one into her office situated away from the rest of the peons.
The day I got the ax, I’d been ignoring the red light blinking on my office phone, which always meant that the Queen wanted something. E-mail this, call so-and-so, walk my dog while I get my hair done for an upcoming interview on CNN (that would probably never air). I finally picked up the receiver.
“Noah, come into my office.”
I wanted to be “let go.” Really I was aching to do nothing but come up with an idea for a novel and then adapt it into a film, my guaranteed tickets to fame. Back in college, a story I wrote for a fellowship won me five-hundred bucks and a trip to a Writer’s Colony in Wyoming, so I knew I had chops, but since then I’d written zilch. I had only one year left before I turned twenty-three and became older than F. Scott Fitzgerald when he wrote his timeless classic, This Side of Paradise. And, if I wanted to direct an adaptation of this yet-to-be-written novel, I had to hurry up before I turned twenty-five and became older than Orson Wells when he directed Citizen Kane. I longed to give an interview that would bring up both these bits of trivia and anoint me into the history books, but time was running out fast.
So this bullshit job where I booked authors for an interview series that aired on a Big Bookselling Chain’s website was really just holding me back. I pitched the project to the author’s publicists, set it all up, and sent them an embarrassing questionnaire that my boss created with questions like:
If someone described you as an animal, what animal would you resemble on the outside, and what animal would you identify with on the inside?
Unfortunately, this whole venture was happening right around the time that Big Bookselling Chain was going bankrupt. Anyone who didn’t anticipate a downsizing was in serious denial or too stupid to breathe.
When I stepped inside the Queen’s office that afternoon, it felt like walking smack into Calcutta. She had cranked up the heat on a day that didn’t require it. Her panting dog greeted me by doing an interpretive dance on the rug. The thing was about a hundred and sixty-five in dog years and begging to be put down.
“Have a seat, Noah.”
She gave me a smile that was completely devoid of any emotion. I could tell that it had taken so much out of her to produce, and it still managed to only be the smile of a stroke victim, one end being pulled up by a puppeteer’s string and the other end long forgotten.
“How are things?” she said, grimacing.
“Super.” I nodded.
Her half-smile had already vanished.
“I’m sure you know that the Big Bookselling Chain is in dire straits right now.”
Yes, I did already know this. I had figured it out one month ago when all of the authors the company filmed were mysteriously pulled from the B.B.C’s website without any explanation, and then The New York Times reported that one third of the B.B.C’s staff had been terminated.
“So, Noah, along with that, I don’t think that we can keep you on any longer as a Talent Booker,” she said, with a sigh to show how traumatized she was by having to fire me, a sigh to convey her plight. Forget the fact that she had just closed on a two-million dollar property in the Village a couple of weeks ago.
“As of today?”
“No, I am giving you two weeks notice. Any interviews you want to go on are fine by me, but this is the way it has to be.”
Her little rhyme made her sound like an Alice and Wonderland character, the caterpillar atop the mushroom blowing plumes of smoke in my face. I choked on a fake cough to keep from laughing since I’d been waiting for a day like this for the last few months. At least now I wouldn’t have to quit and go through the process of telling her off, something I honestly did to people in power too often and was a trait I needed to rectify.
My cell rang at exactly 9:00 am. The moody music had lulled me back to sleep for the past hour, but the phone was relentless. I found it under a pair of balled-up khakis and a Fight Club poster that had floated down from my wall.
“Hello,” I said, out of breath.
“Can I speak with Noah Spaeth?”
The voice was curt and cold. This couldn’t be good.
I am Noah’s complete lack of surprise, I thought, as I pictured Edward Norton’s sad-sack character from Fight Club.
“This is Irene, your boss. I don’t want you coming in today or any of your last days.”
“Uh, why…?”
“Well, Noah, over the weekend I decided to go through some of the e-mails that you wrote on your office account…”
She said it as if it was the most normal thing to do, as if he should be proud of her shadiness.
“Since I was allowing you to use me as a reference, I needed to make sure you had been spending your days here productively, but I realized with some of the things you wrote about me and the company itself that you never took this job seriously and that you’re just some immature twenty-two-year-old child. This means that you’re fired.”
“I was already fired.”
“No, you were let go; now you are fired.”
“I’m not understanding the difference.”
“Meaning you will not be able to use me as a reference anymore, so good luck finding other employment.”
I blew a raspberry into the receiver.
“Excuse me? Is that all you have to say?” I blew another raspberry.
“You little shit.”
I stayed on the line, the dial tone pulsating in my ear. I had trashed her as a person and a boss, e-mailing to friends that she was a trust fund baby who got the company as a type of hush money from parents who just wanted to get rid of her, but worst of all (well maybe not worst of all because, at least, it was making me laugh at the time), I had e-mailed to a friend about her big ass, how it was über long and flat in the white mini skirts she’d always wedge herself into and made her look like a pulled tooth when she bent over due to that sizable rear and bowling pin legs. All of this had now been read and dissected by her; she probably fled to the bathroom afterwards and planted herself in front of a long mirror that only proved those accusations right. Her frequent mentions of a personal trainer weren’t fooling anyone.
My cell rang again to the sound of breathing at the other end.
“Hello,” I said, ready for her. Her breathing sounded winded, as if she was trying to blow up a balloon from across the room.
“I…” she began, but I was too fast.
“Have a big ass. I know.”
I threw my cell to the floor without hanging up and could hear her muffled shouts, but I was laughing so hard that I could care less. I held my stomach and rocked in a fit, wanting her to hear.
My laughter echoed down the hallway as my teenage sister Cassie passed by, yakking on the phone. She was dressed in the skimpiest amount of clothing that the Baron School for Girls allowed. Just a few years ago she was wearing leotards and tumbling through the house with her hair in pigtails.
“No, Maddy, we’re totally gonna make her cry at school tomorrow…I know, I’m so psyched. All the Untouchables deserve to cry.”
I stepped out of my room in front of her so she couldn’t get past. She twisted a finger around her bra strap and let it snap against her skin. Her expression looked as if someone was using her face to juice a lemon.
“Move out of my way, Noah.”
“Why does everything you say need to have its own lingo?” I made a grab for her cell. “What the hell is an Untouchable?”
I could hear cackling coming from her cell. Cassie rolled her eyes as if I wasn’t worthy of sharing her air.
“It’s someone at Baron that’s poor. Just like you’ll be one day.”
She snapped her gum and continued past me with her middle finger in the air. The finger had become yellow from her new smoking habit; the nail caked with white powder. As if her bloodshot eyes weren’t enough evidence that she’d snorted her breakfast.
When she was born, I thought she’d been stolen from another family in the hospital because her hair was so blonde. My parents had let me hold her, and I whispered “my baby” into the tiniest ear I’d ever seen.
That seemed like many lifetimes ago.
Heading to Consuela’s kitchen for breakfast was always the best part of my day. I could already smell her Hollandaise sauce, which meant that I’d be eating Eggs Benedict soon. A perfect cure for my newly fired self. Good ol’ Consuela, with a work ethic like an Alaskan race dog in the Yukon, knew what I needed. The fact that it was Monday and her “Noie” (as she sometimes called me) wasn’t already at work had indicated that something was up. A wise shaman had once told her during a trip to the jungles of El Petén that “food cured all,” so she lived with that mantra and preached it unabashedly.
But as my nose followed the Hollandaise aroma through the hallways, I began to feel unsettled. Five minutes ago the whole boss-reading-my-e-mails thing had been ridiculously funny, but now reality was starting to sink in. My girlfriend at the time, Margaret, was bound to dump me because she had a firm plan of a career path and life for us both. Being attached to an unemployed artiste and wasting her glory twenties, as she called it (which always made it sound perverse) was not part of The Plan. So if I wanted to keep her around, I knew I’d have to scour the job sites, go on interviews, and pretend to be interested in whatever lame experience some company offered.
I entered the kitchen to find Dex and Consuela whispering to one another.
“Why aren’t you at work already?” Dex asked, studying me through his thick glasses without any lenses. His hair was a brown ball of chaos, and he wore a lopsided sweater over pajama bottoms that he’d probably live in for the rest of the day.
“Why aren’t you in school?” I shot back, knowing Dex had dropped out of Franklin & Marshall College last spring because he couldn’t take the Amish people in the town anymore, obviously an excuse that sounded better than his likely suspension.
“Touché, brother. Consuela, chop-chop with the Eggs Bene. I’m about as hungry as an Ethiopian at a Smorgasbord, or a newly-fired boy desperate for another job.”
He gave me a condescending squint while pushing the bangs out of his eyes only to have them fall into place again. I knew that he kept those bangs to give his fingers something to do: at parties, talking to girls, it was his thing. He could hide behind his hair if he wasn’t interested, or flip it away, show you his eyes, and pretend to care.
“Maybe you wouldn’t be so hungry, Dex, if you didn’t have two joints for breakfast already.”
“Haha, double touché, brother Noah.”
For the past year, Cassie, Dex and I lived in our childhood apartment parent-free with Consuela as the only authoritative figure; primarily there to make sure we ate. Our parents occasionally traipsed back home with stories of the South of France, or the wonders of Vanuatu before clearing out the gin and Scotch and slipping under the cracks in the door to board any type of transportation away from us all. Our grandfather, Hubert, my mother’s father, had finally choked on his own vomit in his sleep from an overdose of morphine medication that a hired specialist insisted was necessary for his emphysema. Hubert had paid for our pre-war, Classic Eight masterpiece on 79 th and Central Park West, but mostly kept his “little princess Janet on a tight leash” (his phlegmy words) with a monthly allowance that included weekly spa indulges and daily lunches at Le Cirque and the like. He let my dad foster his career as an art dealer and insisted on private schooling and a maid for his three grandchildren whose names he always mixed up.
Since I could remember, my parents had been planning their ultimate kids-free journey once the old geezer stopped breathing, complaining about a “youth idolized” New York. So when Hubert upchucked his last breath, they packed up their suitcases and vowed to live out of them. After air-kissing us, they left some vague numbers in case they needed to be reached (but only for an emergency!), along with some martini-soaked advice about the real world before slamming the front door and returning mostly through postcards.
I always imagined what I’d say to them and the rest of my family if I ever made it big:
“Mom and Dad, I’m a famous author-slash-filmmaker and you two did nothing for that. Cassie, you’ve become a hideous lost cause, but Dex, you can stick around. You may not be a good friend, but you’ll always be my brother. I know you’ll keep circling back into my life each time your antics stop being amusing to everyone else, and I will be all you have left.”
An overpowering smell of weed pummeled my nostrils as I opened Dex’s door to find him inhaling a massive hit and drumming on his knees in a lotus position. Dex held out a smoking bong as an offering.
“So what happened with your job, bitch?”
I shook my head and gazed around Dex’s room, a study in dementia. Retro Playboy magazines created a non-existent carpet, a mob of tits and eyes scrutinizing me. Chynna, the mannish wrestler from back in the day, seemed to be the most inquisitive, spreading her legs and giving me a “yeah, why’d you get canned?” glare.
“My boss read some nasty e-mails I wrote about her.”
“Haha, you fucked up big time.”
“I was already let go, it just means I can’t use her as a reference. It doesn’t really matter–”
“Tell that to the judge, or rather, tell it to Margaret and see if she’ll ever let your irresponsible ass touch her coot again.”
I’d been dating Margaret for almost a year. We met as seniors at Connecticut College, a tiny enough school where we knew everything about each other before ever really having a conversation. The first time we actually spoke, I was bombed out of my mind and found myself in some ethical debate with her, which sounded life changing at the time. We left some party, the Connecticut sky pure and smelling of the surrounding woods, dizzy with one another. Throughout the rest of the year, she became more of a convenience than anything. The type of girl who joined every amnesty-animal-feminist rights organization to compensate for her bland personality and championed her pre-law studies as being more important than whatever anyone else was doing. I kept her around because a few months before I met her I had tried to kiss Nevie, who then cut me out of her life for good.
“You should come to a party tonight,” Dex said.
“I should write tonight.”
I thought of Nina, the only character I’d created so far. I pictured her at a bar, twisting away on a stool, smiling wide from all the drugs she’d consumed. People would be naturally crowding around her because she had that magnetic effect. She longed to be in movies, using her skinny, but still rocking body, to work her way into chic clubs and get close to anyone with connections, but she wound up vomiting a cocktail of pills by dawn. She had peaked too early and knew her biggest accomplishment was bound to be a tragic headline. She’d need the hero of the novel, a guy just like me, to remind her of the Nina that she used to be, someone who’d stop her from rushing toward an early death and let her find solace in his arms. I could be that hero.
“Dude, come to the party. You can even bring…Margaret.”
“No, I should stay home and get serious about my writing.”
“You are such a pretentious loser. You’ll lock yourself in your room and write some dumb story with me as this screw-up who’s going nowhere and you’ll be the protagonist who gets him to go back to school or some shit like that. Oh, wouldn’t that be lovely?”
“Are you done?”
“I heard your whacko girlfriend going off on me the other day. Evidently, I gave her some look that she misinterpreted when she was here with her nose on the ceiling.”
“Yeah, she can’t stand you, what’s your point?”
“My point is that you can still bring her to this party because I can see you need a night of fucking fun after getting canned. You can always write tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after. In case you didn’t realize it, we’re basically living a charmed life here without any expenses and can do whatever the hell we want to do.”
“You’re right, man,” I said, shoving Dex and making sure, as always, to play the role of Older Brother. “You are so right. Why should I agonize over getting another job and dealing with another possible Queen? And Margaret can kiss my ass if she has anything to say. I’m about to create something that’ll blow people away and no one can stop me.”
I imagined my character Nina again, home from college at her country house in South Hampton, deliriously stoned after a round of golf at her parents’ club. I envisioned myself beside her as we danced around a bonfire on her private beach.
But I knew she wasn’t actually a creation, just a substitution. That night on the beach in South Hampton was based on one of the last times I saw Nevie. I can remember she was leaning in too close to the fire while high on something, and that I caught her before she burned herself.
“Are you okay?” I had asked.
“My hero,” I longed for her to say, but she only wriggled out of my arms, staring at the fire as if she wanted to fall in.
“I’m never okay,” she said, and stumbled up toward her house where she locked her bedroom door and didn’t even come out to wish me good-bye in the morning before I had to board my train.
That weekend had also been one of the last times I was able to write anything.
I told myself not to stress about that now. Tonight I’d be Nevie free. And maybe if I’d be able to keep forgetting about her, a bevy of dazzling ideas would flow once again.
“The Spaeth boys will be out for blood tonight,” Dex cheered, taking a final bong hit. “Brother Noah, I think I know how to get you started on the fast track to living.”
A cloud of smoke obscured Dex’s face as he continued preaching.
“Zoom. Zoom. Zooooooooom!”

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE DESIRE CARD, THE MENTOR, and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. The second book in the Desire Card series, PREY NO MORE, is forthcoming, along with his Alaskan Gold Rush novel THE ANCESTOR. He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, Cagibi, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press, Monologging and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City.


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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Panorama: The Missing Chapter by Ross Victory

By Ross Victory
Real Life Stories/Relationships & Sex

After a friendship ignites and morphs into a curious tale of parallel souls with a Brazilian-American soldier serving in the U.S. military in South Korea, Panorama reflects on the author’s contemplations to return to a crumbling family life in Los Angeles or to endure his life in Seoul for an end-of-contract cash payout.

With a thought-provoking storyline that covers eating live octopus, philosophical debates about the gender of God, a pregnancy, and bisexual erasure in men, Panorama delivers a page-turning cerebral adventure. Ending with prose that simultaneously bites and soothes, Panorama suggests readers stand tall in their unique intersections of relationships and sex. Reminding us that as daunting as the vicissitudes of life, and no matter the view from the cockpit of life, the human spirit cannot, and should not, be restrained. While truth may be the bitterest pill of them all, the effects of our truth can bring us closer to an unbroken life.


In this small book are two masterpieces, a riveting remembrance of several life-altering experiences and relationships the author began in Seoul, South Korea, and an essay, let's call it part tirade, part profound reflection on our view of men, masculinity, sexuality, and romance. You cannot stop until finished because there is no midway, no stopping point as you become a part of his world. After nearly every sentence you scream with or at his observations either with critical reflections or ecstasy. Ross has his pulse on his generation and the most precarious issues confronting sexuality and romance.

--Dr. Ritch C. Savin-Williams, Ph.D. -Cornell University & Author of "Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity among Men"


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I found myself in a local bar called Panorama, skimming through my work contract. I contemplated my ability to continue this working abroad disaster and considered walking away from a large end-of-contract payment, or perhaps I was simply waiting for an explanation from “God” about why everything falls apart. I read the pages over and over, searching for what I needed to do to end my contract and still get the cash. Panorama was a quaint, local bar that Koreans escaped to to enjoy horrific karaoke and shots of throat-burning Soju, the equivalent of cheap vodka. Americans were not interested, nor did they notice this dingy place.
Tonight, it was fairly empty. Alone on the stage stood a Korean ahjumma, or aged woman. An ahjusshi, or aged man, also Korean, sat in flooded tan trousers on a short stool next to her, holding a large cello. The woman had a gray, shoulder-length poufy perm with a slight purple tint. She wore a hanbok—a traditional Korean dress—her face covered in thick, pasty-white makeup. With clarity, passion, and purpose, she and the cellist performed as no one but me watched. The song had a simple, memorable riff with a reflective chord progression. The woman had turned off the karaoke television screen and sang from memory as the cellist supported her.
She sang as if this were the last song she would ever sing. Her soul flickered between every note, with presence and awe. Like she was going somewhere and would never return. As the woman sang, she reached into the spotlight that lit her, pulling the light closer to her chest—like she and the light had established a deep state of devotion. As the ahjusshi played the cello, hidden in the woman’s shadow, particles of dust floated through the light and disappeared into the darkness, like floating glowworms. I could not recognize her words but recognized the source of them. This woman must be singing to me... I thought. I fantasized about hope as she sang.
The four soldiers sat at the empty bar, near the stage. I sat in an oversized, black leather booth near the entrance. One of the soldiers went back outside, propping the door open momentarily. The glacial breeze returned. The soldier strode back in and took a detour toward my booth, warming his hands. I turned away but could see him approaching from the corner of my eye.
“Ey, excuse me, bro. Restroom around here?” He shivered.
“Behind the bar...” I pointed.
After a few minutes, as I began to pack up, I heard a voice. “Ey, can I sit here? You look normal...” I looked up, confused. It was him again. He chuckled and shivered.
“Yeah, I’m headed out...all yours. Has a good view of the stage.” I snickered to myself.
“Man, this woman can sing. I wonder what she’s saying. I’m Alveré,” the soldier continued, “Alvín in English. What you drinkin’?”
I motioned to my waiter for the check.
“Let me guess. You’re from the West Coast,” he said.

Alveré quickly made it clear that he had plenty of time to chat and was looking for a new friend. He removed his hat, placed it on the table, and rolled up his sleeves; he began flipping through the beer menu. Someone new in my life is the last thing I wanted.
Alveré had a slightly grown-in buzz cut and a naïve presence. He was dressed in army fatigues with coyote brown boots. He was covered in crisp snowflakes; Somehow, I could see the hexagonal and octagonal crystalline structure of the ice. His face was stuck in a half-smile, on the verge of a chuckle. He was nearly six feet tall with perfect posture and the typical, stiff, herculean stance of a military person.
He wore a forearm tattoo on his left arm of an Admiralty ship’s anchor wrapped in chain links. The anchor trans- formed into a thirty-petal rose at the eye of the anchor. There was a hummingbird feeding on the rose, its wings curled in and up.
“Yep, from California—L.A. I’m Ross.”
“Ross from Cali...” He seemed to contemplate this and quickly mumbled something in Portuguese. “Nice to meet you, Ross. I’m from New York, born in São Paulo, Brazil, though.” “Moved here when I was thirteen.” Alveré excitedly corrected himself, having momentarily forgotten that he was now in Korea. “You know what I mean...moved out there.” He laughed.
“Brazil? How’d you get into the U.S. Army?”
“Long story. My unit just got here. I just met these idiots—FML.” He continued. “You military? What are you doin’ all the way in yourself?”
“I’m actually an English teacher in a work-abroad program,” I responded.
“You signed up to come here? Who does that?!”
I pondered, squinting my eyes. “I guess I did? What a dumbass.” We laughed. “And I’m honestly sitting here regretting every moment.” I held my contract up.
“Respect. Wow.”
For the next several minutes, we spoke about the absurdities of Korean culture. Every time I glanced at Alveré to size him up, his eye contact felt like a Cyclops beam, at least for the fraction of a microsecond our pupils met. In these moments, the details of his eyes were apparent. His eyes were thalassic, deep, abidingly blue, with a thin chestnut lining. While intense and notably awkward, something about Alveré seemed familiar, like a puppy’s gaze.
As we spoke, Alveré was wringing his hands on top
of the table. He would rub his hands on the side of his pants and laugh randomly between longer gaps of silence, uttering, “Interesting!” at the end of most of my sentences. One of the other army guys tumbled into my booth.
“Hey, bro!” a drunken soldier said to Alveré.
“Ooh, he’s sexy, Alvin! Did you get his number?” the solider drunkenly joked while reaching out and twisting Alveré’s nipple. Alveré pulled away, embarrassed.
Another soldier interjected, “Alvin, you going tonight, bro? Rampant Korean p*$$y, flowing like mas agua.” The soldier began to do the robot dance.
“Alvin’s our new resident Brazilian model to attract that tiger pussy... Look at this face.” The soldiers exploded into gut-wrenching laughter, grabbing Alveré’s chin and squishing his lips. “F$g#@t,” one soldier joked. “We’re headed to this joint in Hungdae.” Hungdae was Seoul’s party capital. A night in Hungdae would mean we would be out until 6 a.m.
“You should join us...” The solider glanced over at me. “I’m Connor.” Connor reached out to shake my hand. He continued, “I hear they just let you...” The soldier paused, then wiggled his middle and ring finger around in quick circles. “And the girls just start makin’ out with each other.”
“You wanna roll through or...” The soldiers looked at me as Alveré hesitated. He whispered to me, “Don’t leave me with these idiots. Please, bro, pleassssse!”
I explained to the soldiers that I was an English teacher and that my class started early. They became distracted and began to chatter drunkenly to each other.
“Please, Ross from Cali... Don’t leave me with these douches—we vibin’, right?”
I continued to pack my bag.
“I’ll text you the address. Let me get your number. Just a few hours; never been to Hungdae...”
“Nice to meet you, Alveré, but I’m out...”
“My mom calls me Alveré; friends call me Alvin—you can call me Alví, though, if you want...” He continued. “You can tell me about L.A. I’ve always wanted to go there.”
I laughed. I stared at my contract. My passport looked back at me from the bottom of my bag. I looked back at Alví.
All right. I’m in, let’s go.

Ross Victory is an Award-Winning American author, singer/songwriter, travel geek and author of the father-son memoir, Views from the Cockpit: The Journey of a Son (2019) and Panorama: The Missing Chapter (2020). Ross spent his early years collecting pens, notepads and interviewing himself in a tape recorder. With an acute awareness for his young age, Ross was eager to point out hypocrisies and character inconsistencies in children and adults through English assignments. If he weren’t keeping his English teachers on their toes for what he would say or write next, he was processing his world through songwriting and music.




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Ten Things You Didn't Know About Jennifer Chase

Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning and best-selling crime fiction author, as well as a consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent psychopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling.  She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists, and member of the International Thriller Writers.



1. I always write my novels in my bare feet. It’s just comfortable and I’ve been doing that for as long as I can remember. It has happened once or twice that I had to put on a pair of socks if the winter is extra cold.
2. I was born and raised in California, and currently reside there. But, I’ve lived in Oklahoma and Colorado for a short period of time.
3. I’ve had dogs in my entire life ever since I was two years old. My first dog was a Golden Retriever.
4. I won an open tennis tournament when I was fourteen years old.
5. I thought seriously about becoming a veterinarian because of my love for animals.
6. I don’t drink coffee! I love the smell of freshly ground coffee, hate the taste with a passion, but I’ve been known to eat coffee ice cream on a whim. A little bit crazy—I know.
7. I write left handed, but I’m ambidextrous in most activities.
8. My favorite city in California is Santa Barbara.
9. The snack I like to eat I’m writing is black licorice—especially when I write about serial killers.
10. I love to write when it’s raining.

About the Book:

On the floor, amongst the piles of freshly pressed laundry, lay the woman’s lifeless body, her pale yellow nightdress soaked in blood. 
“I didn’t do it…” came a whisper from the corner of the room. 

Detective Katie Scott has never seen two people more in love than her aunt and uncle as they danced on the decking the night of their wedding anniversary party. But the next morning, when Katie finds her aunt’s body sprawled across the floor, that perfect image is shattered forever.

All fingers point to Katie’s uncle, Pine Valley’s beloved sheriff and protector – after all, his prints are all over the antique knife found at the scene. Grieving, but certain of her uncle’s innocence, Katie is consigned to the cold case division after she’s discovered searching the house for clues. Does someone want to keep her as far away from this investigation as possible?

Ignoring warnings from her team, Katie digs into her uncle’s old case files and discovers photographs of the body of a young girl found tied to a tree after a hike in search of a rare flower. Her body is covered with the same unusual lacerations her aunt suffered. Katie knows it can’t be a coincidence, but every lead she follows takes her to a dead end.

Moments before the sheriff is arrested, Katie realizes that a single piece of thread she found at the crime scene could be the missing link that will stitch old crimes to new. But how can she prove her uncle’s innocence without throwing herself directly into the line of fire? She doesn’t have a choice, he’s the only family she has left


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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Read the First Chapter: THE MARVELOUS MECHANICAL mAN by Rie Sheridan Rose

The Marvelous Mechanical Man is the first book in a Steampunk series featuring the adventures of Josephine Mann, an independent woman in need of a way to pay her rent. She meets Professor Alistair Conn, in need of a lab assistant, and a partnership is created that proves exciting adventure for both of them.

Alistair’s prize invention is an automaton standing nine feet tall. There’s a bit of a problem though…he can’t quite figure out how to make it move. Jo just might be of help there. Then again, they might not get a chance to find out, as the marvelous mechanical man goes missing.

Jo and Alistair find themselves in the middle of a whirlwind of kidnapping, catnapping, and cross-country chases that involve airships, trains, and a prototype steam car. With a little help from their friends, Herbert Lattimer and Winifred Bond, plots are foiled, inventions are perfected, and a good time is had by all.

Kate Winslow pulled her hat brim low to shade her eyes. It was always difficult making a shot into the sun, but this time she had no choice. The varmint who was trying to take her ranch was holed up on the other side of the ridge, and she had one chance to rescue Pa and save their range land. If she could shoot a hole in the water tank rising above the stock pen, perhaps she could start a stampede and draw the varmints away from the house long enough to get inside and free Pa.
She had never expected to find herself in this position as a child. Ma and Pa had made sure she learned to read and write and cipher—Ma wanted her to be a schoolmarm when she was old enough; and until she was twelve, she’d expected that was how it would be.
That year Ma caught scarlet fever, and Kate and Pa were left alone to run the homestead. Instead of planning lessons, she’d learned to shoot and ride like a Comanche, and swear like a wrangler. Smart as a whip and strong as a horse, Kate earned a reputation for hard living and equally hard loving. She wore men’s trousers and had been known to tip a few in the local saloon.
But what she really longed for was a man that could stand at her side, run the ranch, and make her feel like a woman….
Garrett Goldthwaite — Calico Kate and the River of Gold

Chapter 1

I did not lie to you, sir! I am Jo Mann. I am here…”
I heard my voice creeping up toward a shout, and forced myself to take a deep breath. What would the heroine of one of Garrett Goldthwaite’s dime novels do in a case like this? I had found that question served me well in similar cases where I was at a loss for what to do.
It didn’t take but a moment to decide. She would stand her ground. Of that, I had no doubt.
Straightening my back, I looked down my nose at the odious little toad in the wrinkled shirt who was staring back at me with bulbous eyes.
I am here to apply for the copy reader position that was advertised in last evening’s paper.”
The toad blinked myopically.
But you aren’t qualified.”
The advertisement said the only qualification is an ability to read and write. I assure you, sir, I am most qualified in that area. I have been doing both since I was five.”
But you are a girl.”
That has nothing to do with…!” I was beginning to screech again. Deep breaths…deep breaths…
I tried once more.
I am fully aware of my sex, Mr. Greenstreet. However, it has no bearing on whether or not I am able to read and write. These are the only listed qualifications for the position.”
But you’re a girl. And a little slip of a thing at that. A newspaper is no place for a lady.”
realized he was trying to be kind as he tapped together my papers and handed them back to me, but it did nothing except irritate me further. I knew what he saw when he looked at me—a short female with too many unruly curls and too few pounds on her slight frame. And not much chance to get any fatter if I didn’t find a job soon.
The five one-dollar bills tucked into the sole of my boot were all I had left in the world. To make matters worse, two of those were due the landlady on Monday.
I swallowed any pride I had left and tried a final time.
Mr. Greenstreet. Sir. I understand I would be an unconventional choice for the position…”
Whatever kindness the gentleman had felt was rapidly deteriorating—I could see it in his eyes. I’ve always been good at reading people.
Look, Miss, I wish you the best of luck, but there is no work for you here. Why don’t you see if Father Murphy over to the church across the street can suggest something? Maybe one of his parishioners is looking for a governess or some such. Good day.” He handed back my forged letters of recommendation—a girl has to eat—with an air of great finality.
Stifling a sigh that I feared might lead to tears, I stuffed the carefully fabricated papers into my reticule with no further concern for their well-being. Fat lot of good they’d done.
I spun on my heel, nose in air, and swept out of the room. Unfortunately, my exit was marred when on the way out of the door I slammed into a hard surface and bounced backward; it was sheer luck that I didn’t fall flat on an unmentionable body part. I opened my mouth to protest—and, for once, found myself at a total loss for words.
The “surface” in question turned out to be a young gentleman dressed in most peculiar clothing—natty tweed trousers and neat brown boots, but a collarless shirt with undone vest in a vile green plaid that clashed horribly with the trousers. Over the entire ensemble, he wore a long white coat with many pockets bulging in interesting ways and bearing several noxious stains in lurid colors. Not bad looking in an academic way, he wore his dark hair a bit longer than was fashionable and had the most brilliant blue eyes I’d ever seen behind round wire spectacles.
I am enough of a typical female that I felt a frisson of pleasure run through me at the sight.
Oh, excuse me!” the gentleman murmured, reaching out a steadying hand stained with splotches of some chemical. “I didn’t see you.”
Obviously not,” I said with a sniff of distain. It would never do to show the man I thought he was rather handsome. It would just encourage him. Men didn’t need any encouragement to be obnoxious.
Are you all right, Miss…?”
Yes. I’m fine. No thanks to you, I must say.”
I’m terribly sorry. If there’s anything I can do…”
Mr. Greenstreet stepped from behind his desk.
The young lady was just leaving, Professor Conn. Have you brought your advertisement?”
The young man glanced down at a grimy piece of paper clutched in one hand as if he had never seen it before.
Oh. Yes. Yes, here it is. I would like to run the piece for one week in both the early and late editions—unless we have a favorable response, of course.” He handed the scrap of paper to Mr. Greenstreet. “I believe you said that would be fifty cents?”
He fumbled in his vest pocket and pulled out a coin. The newspaperman took the coin and read aloud what was scribbled on the paper.
“‘Wanted, lab assistant. Hours expected: ten a.m. to four p.m. Occasional night work may be required. Pay twenty dollars a week’—oh my, Professor Conn. That is a mistake, surely. You mean twenty dollars a month, don’t you?”
No…no, I mean twenty a week, Mr. Greenstreet. You feel that’s excessive?”
Mr. Greenstreet shrugged. “It’s your money. I’ll just send this down to the typesetters.”
That was an outrageous salary…it was as much as a governess would earn in a month! How hard could the position be?
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Heart pounding in my chest, I snatched the paper from his hand.
No need to trouble yourself, Mr. Greenstreet.” I turned to Professor Conn. “Do you have a problem with a female assistant, sir?”
The gentleman in question blinked at me.
Well, no, I don’t suppose so. As long as she’s willing to work.”
Then there is no need to place the advertisement.” I plucked the coin from Mr. Greenstreet’s hand as well and handed it back to the professor. “I’ll take the job.”
Oh. Well, I…”
Poor dear, he seemed totally out of his depth. Lacing my arm through his, I turned him back toward the doorway.
Now, why don’t we go next door to that lovely little café, and you can tell me all about the position over a nice glass of lemonade and a cucumber sandwich?” This was pushing things a bit, but I was ravenous.
The professor looked a bit dazed, but he didn’t protest or hang back, which was a good sign. Mr. Greenstreet glowered at me as he moved back around his desk, but I didn’t care. I gave him a little wave as we stepped out the doorway.
I couldn’t help feeling a bit sorry for Professor Conn as I guided him down the stairs and shepherded him to the café. Marching him to the counter, I ordered two lemonades and a plate of sandwiches. The young man behind the counter looked up at us expectantly, and I nudged the professor in the ribs. He jumped a little, but reached into his wallet and paid for the food without protest.
Steering him to one of the little tables, I finally let go of his arm and plopped down on a bentwood chair. As he sank down across from me, a bemused expression on his face, I stuck out my hand.
My name is Josephine Mann. I go by Jo. I believe I’m your new assistant.”
He took my hand in his, calluses scraping the bottoms of my fingers, and shook it.
Alistair Conn. I teach three days a week at the University. The rest of the time I spend in my workshop. I’m a bit of an inventor.”
I waved away the explanation, cramming half a cucumber sandwich in my mouth. I was too hungry to be ladylike. I hadn’t eaten since the previous morning, and it was well after two in the afternoon. Washing down the sandwich with a gulp of lemonade, I made an effort to be nice.
Just tell me where to be in the morning, and I’ll be there.”
Professor Conn scratched his ear.
You aren’t precisely what I was expecting in an assistant, Miss Mann—”
Jo. Please.”
Jo, then. I require someone to take dictation of my lab notes, to do some minor lifting, perhaps monitor some of my experiments while I am in class…”
I can do all that. Maybe do your laundry too,” I mumbled around sandwich crumbs, with an eye to his mussed and rumpled clothing.
I am not looking for a maid, Miss Mann,” he replied stiffly. “I need a lab technician.”
I bit my lip. I was irritating him already. Not a good start to a working relationship.
Yes, I know,” I said, in my most soothing tone. “I promise I can do all that. I write a good hand, I read everything I get my hands on, I’m a good listener and a quick learner. I’m strong as a horse. And I really need the money.”
Well. You are direct, I’ll give you that.”
What’s the point in beating around the bush? You need an assistant, I have rent to pay—oh, and about that. Today is Wednesday. If you could see your way to pay me for the rest of this week in advance…” I held out my hand hopefully. Never hurts to try.
He took out his wallet once more and pulled out ten dollars. He started to hand it to me then pulled it back.
This just feels a little sudden to me, Miss Mann. I’m not sure—”
Please, Professor Conn, I really need this position.”
I’m not very good at feminine wiles, but I batted my lashes anyway, hoping he wasn’t used to being on the receiving end of them either and wouldn’t notice my lack of finesse.
I’m down to my last dollar. There aren’t many openings for women in these enlightened times of eighteen-seventy-four. England may be ruled by a queen, but here in good old New York City, it’s a man’s world. I’ve tried all the acceptable positions—shop girl, factory worker…but I never seem to land in one place for very long.”
I wonder why that is,” my new employer commented wryly.
I felt the heat rise to my face. Obviously, I was already making an impression.
To be frank with you, sir, unless I want to be a governess or a housemaid, all that’s left for me is settling down as some man’s wife, and I assure you, that’s not the life for me.”
I see,” Conn said, looking a bit taken aback. “Well, you do raise some very valid considerations. I know something about societal expectations myself. We will give it a week’s trial. Or, shall we say, half a week? If we are both satisfied with the arrangement by Friday evening, we will consider a more permanent arrangement.” He handed me the ten dollars.
Ten dollars for two days? It was a fortune! I could live with that—and, with careful budgeting—start to improve my situation. Mrs. Milligan would be happy to have the rent on time for a change, that was certain.
I stuck out my hand again.
You’ve got yourself an assistant, Professor.”


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About the Author 

Rie Sheridan Rose multitasks. A lot. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies, including Nightmare Stalkers and Dream Walkers Vols. 1 and 2, and Killing It Softly Vols. 1 and 2. She has authored twelve novels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs. These were mostly written in conjunction with Marc Gunn, and can be found on “Don’t Go Drinking with Hobbits” and “Pirates vs. Dragons” for the most part–with a few scattered exceptions.
Her favorite work to date is The Conn-Mann Chronicles Steampunk series with five books released so far: The Marvelous Mechanical Man, The Nearly Notorious Nun, The Incredibly Irritating Irishman, The Fiercely Formidable Fugitive, and The Elderly Earl’s Estate.
Rie lives in Texas with her wonderful husband and several spoiled cat-children.


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