Here it is: The Cover Reveal for my next Novel

SomedaySoon_Cover

There you have it.

The next instalment of The After War Series is titled, Someday Soon. I apologize for the long delay since my last contact, but I assure you, I have been busy indeed.

The ebook version will be released first, and the audiobook and paperback will follow. I don’t have a solid release date yet, but it will be sometime this fall. Stay tuned for more. Now’s the perfect time to catch up on The After War Series, here’s a link to my Amazon site: Amazon

I will have more to share soon, such as an upcoming trip to France, where I will be researching my next novel.

I share a lot of pictures and information on Instagram, so if you want to tag along, here’s a link to my account: Instagram

I wish you all the best,

Brandon Zenner

Want to become a character in my next novel?

mystery_character

It’s time for a raffle!

I’m hard at work on the third installment of The After War series, and I’m hosting a fun event where you, yes you, can become a character in the book. Last year, I hosted the same event, and the winner was John Zur, who became a character in Butcher Rising. Now, a year later, I’m doing it again.

It’s free to enter. All you have to do is review one or all of my books on Amazon, and you’re entered. That’s it. Each book you review gives you an extra opportunity, as well as each foreign marketplace. If you’ve already left a review, good news! You’re already eligible. Just email at brandonzenn@gmail.com, or comment on this blog post, with your name and the books you reviewed, and I’ll enter your name. On April 8th I will have my daughter pick the name from a hat at random, and that person will become a character in the next installment of The After War series. So to be clear, email me at brandonzenn@gmail.com and let me know you’ve left a review, or in the comments on this blog post. That’s all you have to do to enter. This raffle is free to everyone, so feel free to share with friends, neighbors, and on any social media.

Here’s a link to my Amazon page: Amazon

That’s it for now. Good luck!

All the best,
Brandon Zenner

Short Story: Gloria

Psych

And now, without further delay, here’s a short story for you. 

Gloria

My parents thought I was crazy when they got home from work and saw I had gotten rid of all my stuff.

“Gloria,” my mom said, “what’s gotten into you?”

My dad was looking at the tiny pinholes in the walls in square-like patterns where the posters had been. My television was gone, and so was my stereo.

“Nothing’s gotten into me,” I told them. “It’s all just stuff. I don’t need any of it.”

All I had left were my books and my clothing. I mean, come on, I had to keep my clothing. What would my friends think if I came to school wearing a monk’s robe? I’d still put on makeup and go on like nothing had changed, but when I’d get home, I’d wash my face and slip into something more comfortable. Then I’d sit there and breathe, and clear my mind as best as I could.

I was genuinely happy, but still my mom rubbed my arm and said, “Honey, I’m worried about you.” I told them the truth, but they didn’t understand. My dad’s look said it all; he had dollar bills in his eyes. He was concerned about the cost of the things I’d gotten rid of and about how much he’d have to spend if I went back to therapy. I didn’t want to upset him, so I had put my computer and the expensive stuff in a box down in the study. My mom was worried about my emotional state. Not that my dad didn’t care, but my mom and I were always closer about things like that.

“Does this have anything to do with what you went through last year?” she asked.

“Maybe we should call your doctor. I’m just concerned, honey.”

I smiled and took her hand in mine. “No, Mom,” I said. “It’s really not a big deal. I’m happy. I found, I think, peace of mind.”

My mom’s eyebrow raised, and she looked at me out of the corner of her eye.

I’m sure my parents talked when I was of the room, wondering what had changed and why. And as honest as I was, I knew they didn’t understand. It wasn’t a fad; it wasn’t something the other kids were doing. And it was nothing like last year. I wasn’t going around obsessively checking the door locks at night, like I used to, over and over again. I wasn’t counting anymore, or putting thing’s in symmetrical order. I could look at my mom’s collection of vintage candy tins on the living room shelf and not have the overwhelming desire to rearrange them according to height. Or my dad’s bookshelf—I didn’t care if the books weren’t arranged by height and color, and dusted of every last mote. Those days were over. I even stopped taking my medication. And I never felt better.

It was a radio show that first aroused my interest. An old Buddhist monk was being interviewed, and he said that focusing on his breath alone could reveal nirvana, or at least a glimpse of it. True happiness could be attained through meditation.

Normally, I wouldn’t have paid the interview much thought. I’m not into talk-radio or podcasts, but for whatever reason, I decided to listen that day, and the guy’s words made sense. We don’t need anything, per se; all we do is want. With wanting comes the obsession of wanting more. He had a quote that I liked. He said hope is the first step to disappointment. How true is that? He talked to the interviewer about his upbringing, and how he had been poor. His parents provided for him as best they could and bought him toys from the village—handmade trinkets and whatnot. As he got older and began studying meditation with some Buddhist monks, he realized all these things around him were nothing more than that: things. Everything he needed was already inside his consciousness, and happiness was easier to achieve than we’re led to believe. A negative emotion is a perception of events, and with focused clarity, we can direct our minds in even the worst of times.

I was on my way to school when I heard the interview, and when I got to my locker, there was Jake Morrison three lockers down. He’s one of those funny guys, or at least he’s one of those guys who thinks he’s funny, and who all the other idiots laugh along with. Jake is just so super cool, he thinks, but I know he’s really just mad. He’s mad that I turned him down freshman year. He pretends like he never liked me, that it was some big joke, but it wasn’t. That’s when he became a jerk. He started making comments about my hair, about my braces, and about the time I sprained my ankle and had to wear a cast and was limping. It normally got to me, but not that day. He turned to his friends and said something. They all started laughing, looking over at me. I didn’t care. I honestly didn’t care. I listened to what that old monk said: our emotions are purely in our minds.

If I want to be happy in the saddest of times, I can. Everything in life is a perception, and we can shape that perception to whatever we desire. Our psyche, the monk said, is an island. We can grow whatever we want on this island and let the waters of the ocean keep negativity at bay.

Whoa …

I didn’t know how to process his teachings, but I knew where to start—with Jake. So, when he made fun of me that day, I told myself I would remain in a positive mindset. I didn’t respond. I didn’t care. I turned to Christine and asked how her weekend was. We talked about the lab assignment due on Wednesday as we walked off with our backpacks full for first period. That entire day was different than any other day in my life. Not just better … but brighter? Like somehow the sun was shining everywhere I went, and I could see things with clarity. I was aware of my surroundings in a different way.

When I got home, I ordered a few books on meditation from Amazon. They arrived two days later, and I started reading the first. All I had to do was focus on my breath. It was so hard. The hardest thing I’ve ever done. I never thought that focusing on something so simple would be so impossible. I spent ten minutes that seemed like an hour sitting on the ground and breathing. All my mind did was go in every direction other than where it was supposed to go, which is nowhere. I didn’t think I’d accomplished anything, but then when I felt like giving up, I sat for another five minutes. Still, I didn’t think anything happened. There were a few moments when I seemed to be focusing on my breathing with a clear mind, but that’s about it. It was frustrating. But when I was done, things appeared different. I felt happier, lighter even. I could see my room and surroundings clearly for the first time; all the little bumps on the walls from moved furniture over the years, and the dust collected along the baseboards. That blissful sensation I had at school that day with Jake came back. I was stuck in the present moment, not in the past, not in the future. The oceans surrounding my psyche were at high tide. I was happy and alone inside myself.

I’m thinking next week I’ll shave my head. That’s what monks do. It helps eliminate vanity. I can get a wig or something to wear to school; or maybe I’ll be brave enough to show my true self. Christine will freak. It might shock Jake so much he leaves me alone … but that’s doubtful. I’m going to order some robes too, I decided. I’ll wait until they arrive to get rid of my clothes. All my books, unless they’re about meditation or something, are going. And my bed … do I really need it? The frame is pointless, that’s for sure. It’ll be gone too. Once my robes come, and I get rid of my clothing, I can move the dresser. My mom and dad will want to keep it, so maybe we can bring it to the basement. Then I can clean the baseboards and walls, make them sparkling white. They’ll worry, probably even more, especially after I shave my head. But I’ll explain. Everything’s fine, I’ll tell them. I know it’s only been a week since I heard that interview, but my thoughts have never been more rational. I’m good. I’m great. Never been better.

 

-End

I hope you enjoyed Gloria. Check out my website, http://www.brandonzenner.com, and get the short story Helix Illuminated for free when you sign up for my email list.

That’s all for now.

All the best,

Brancdon Zenner

I have a lot to share with you …

BookBrushImage(17)

Just as the image above says, The Experiment of Dreams is Free, The After War is a dollar, and so is Whiskey Devils. You can own all three novels for $2.00. Sale ends at midnight tonight. Click the image to get the books.

Now, here’s a short poem.
A while back, I wrote some poems for a writing class I was taking. I figured it’s time to share one with you all. Here it goes …

 

World on Fire

 

The power of nature beckoned my call,
called for my soul, called for us all,
to witness it raw. Behold, it said, as it exploded in
white. The outline of Devils Tower locked in my sight,
in a shadow of black as the hour struck late,
and my friends and I laid back to appreciate
just how majestic this storm that rolled in. Yet,
not a drop of rain from the clouds fell,
to pull us out of our hypnotic spell.
The wind lashed at the fire blazing between us, the dying embers a reminder
of how fast our lives can disintegrate. And I laid there with a smile—the world on fire,
the sky a strobing backdrop of the cosmos in dire
consequence.
And a boom from the heavens came, with the Devil’s
gargantuan form candescent
in the spiderweb formation spreading out
like the fingers of monstrous
Intent.
And yes, I smiled, to lay witness to this child,
of nature at its most awesome and raw.

Here’s a free short story, because … why not?

Former Regional Government Nuclear Bunker Up For Sale

That’s right, you heard right–here’s a free short story!

This is a brand new scene belonging to the world of The After War Series. If you want to learn more, the first book in the series will be free January 6-7, and the second book will be priced at $0.99. You can check it out here: Amazon. But for now, enjoy reading about the plight of the Priest. 

 

***

 

Awake

Wake up. Breakfast. Lead morning mass. Visit the infirmary. Lunch. Meetings with management. Evening mass. Dinner in the cafeteria. Bedtime in my shoebox-sized room.

Repeat.

It’s been a year since we sealed the doors shut, and the two thousand of us with enough money—back when money held influence—settled into our lives underground. I was among the last to step foot over the threshold, as I stood beside the guards at the entryway in my full priest garb, letting the frightened mass observe that a man of faith would be joining them in the steel and cement bunker that was to become our home. “Bless you,” I said as their feet trod grass for the last time, offering a wide smile. My hair wasn’t so grey back then. It’s amazing what a year without sunlight can do to age not just the physical stature of a man, but also the soul.

Many of us who served in the military in some fashion, but the majority of the population came from other avenues of life. Property owners. Stock brokers. Pharmaceutical executives. They offer nothing to help with the general operation of the bunker. But that’s what they paid for, for men such as myself to make their lives underground as similar to the before-times as possible. In my youth, I served as an Army chaplain for a duration, and by the grace of God, I survived melees that saw my fellow man struck dead by the various machinery of warfare constructed to kill.

I am no stranger to death.

So, I have been trained in both warfare and to preach the Lord’s intention. It’s my words that carry significance, and it’s my words that people seek. At no time did my words carry more weight than after the first dreadful month below ground. We brought the disease with us, unaware of its existence, to flood the population to near drowning. In a matter of days—not months or even weeks—two-thirds of the population succumbed to the virus and fell ill. News was still carried over the airwaves at this time, and we learned the sickness was not limited to our bunker alone. War had broken out all over the mainland, yet it was the disease that was massacring the population faster than bullets could find them.

Praise God, I was spared. Our leader, Marcus Johansson, was also spared, and he called for a security detail to meet the rush of people who were storming the front gate, thinking their chances would be better outside. Twelve were killed in the melee before the crowd dispersed.

I led the living in prayer over the dead. I cried along beside them, for none of us were without loss. The morgue in the basement was not suited to deal with the influx of diseased bodies, so whole floors of living space were designated for burial. Corpses lined the rooms and hallways, the floors sealed, the ventilation turned off, and I led gathering after gathering before the stairwells and elevator shaft, consoling the masses and hiding my own trepidation.

Months passed, and life became as normal again as it might ever be. Food. Water. Shelter. We had more than enough. The gardens grew an abundance of corn, tomatoes, zucchini, and all manner of vegetables. The aquarium farms hatched a growing population of small fish, and the chicken pens produced enough eggs to feed twice our numbers. The gardeners had begun growing a colorful assortment of flowers, which were cropped into vases all throughout the bunker, to add a degree of color to the sunless interior. In the large entry room, which connected to the corridor to the outside world, the flowers were abundant. The room was nearly the entire width of the silo, and the ceiling was domed and painted to resemble a vivid blue sky with wafts of clouds. It was the closest thing we had to seeing the actual sky. But there was no grass underfoot, no warmth radiating from the paint.

However, we all fell into something of a happy existence. We were surviving. The disease had spared us, and the war did not claim our bones. Then our true tribulation began …

I am of sound mind now to know it was God’s plan for those events to unfold, and I have spent hours in contemplation of their meaning. The wells, deep in the recess, dozens of floors down—they burst. The mechanics managed to stop the influx of water, but with the lead foreman, architect, and the dozens of trained laborers all perished from the disease, the mechanics could not stop the next leak from occurring. An explosion quaked the walls, and the pumps gave out again. The lower level flooded in such volume that two men drowned before then could escape. The floor was sealed … but then the water managed its way up.

We were told the rushed construction of the bunker in the face of war was to blame, for it was designed to stop such an occurrence. Sometimes it took days, weeks, or even hours, for the water to claim another floor, one at a time. Why the waters rose, we will never know, for the already dead were blamed and cursed.

The gardens, they have drowned. All of these vegetables, bright red tomatoes, and the vibrant array of buds, all underwater. The flowers still in vases upstairs are brown and withered. The medical wing, it is gone. The hatchery has drowned, and the livestock moved to upper quarters. Over half of the bunker is lost to the rising tide, and our storage of filtered, clean water is running low. I know that it’s God’s intention for us to now venture out and face what’s left of humanity. He has placed these obstacles to test our resolve. For if he hadn’t, we would not have intercepted the radio communications all the way from Albuquerque just as our panic levels were at a peak. There is a settlement there. Running, fresh water.

We need water to endure.

We need new, fertile land if we are to survive.

Our radio operators have contacted the people of Albuquerque, and alas, they have sent us to the wolves. They will not allow our numbers into their fortification. They will not meet with our management to talk a truce. They are greedy demons, led by the devil himself.

For many nights I sat in solitude, mulling the prospect offered by Marcus Johannsson. “The way I see it,” the man told the conglomerate of ranking officials, “We don’t have a choice but to invade.” There are some of us with children, who are the most at odd with going to war. I have sat in the dark for hours contemplating my past and deciding my future. What If I had a child of my own?

It was the day before the proposition would be put to vote that I struggled the most with my resolve. I placed my mindset in the position of a parent. I placed myself in the position of the elderly and weak, and not just as a spiritual advisor. Plus, it had been years since I held a weapon. Can I do it again? Can I fight for my people; fight for my survival?

In the end, the answer came to me clear in my prayers. The Lord’s path is laid out before me, as it always has been, all I have to do is walk His trail. Death takes us all. We cannot escape it. So, whether by my hands or by natural causes, I will send men to meet their fate. If he is righteous, the Lord will welcome him into his kingdom. If his intent is infested by evil, he will be sent to the inner pits. And yes, many of our numbers will perish in the fighting. I believe in my heart they will be sent to a better place. Perhaps if I had a child of my own, I would think differently, think of the youth’s survival over all others. Perhaps …

Tomorrow, the gates will open, and I will lead my people in hymnal tune. We will see the sky again, feel grass underfoot. We are Templar knights of a new dawn. We will survive to see another day.

 

***

 

I hope you enjoyed the story! Again, you can read more about the Priest in The After War series: Amazon

All the best, 

Brandon Zenner

P.S. – Check me out on Instagram, it’s been me new favorite thing lately: Instagram

The Doctor

With Cracks - High ResolutionMy first regret, sitting there in the reception room, was that I didn’t take a bit longer sorting through my shirts to find one that fit. The button over my belly was ripe to burst at any sudden movement, which was a reminder of my age, and how the years on this earth had added to the girth around my midsection. My usual attire of a loose lab coat made me appear slimmer. The flow of office workers walking across the foyer all wore perfectly tailored suits and dresses, formed around lean bodies. Clean shaven, hair cropped short, or pulled back in pony tails so tight it seemed to help the slender ladies of the office stand tall with heads held high.

I smoothed my springy hair, finger combed my beard, and looked down at my tan suit that I thought looked alright when I had examined myself in my bedroom mirror before leaving. I tried to spy my reflection in the shiny company logo emblazed on the far wall, Advanced Tomorrow, LLC, but I couldn’t.

Freaking Jerry Garcia, I though. I look like freaking Jerry Garcia, and not when he was young.

I hugged the satchel bag to my side, tapping my fingers against the warn leather, and fought the urge to check my watch. Back when I was at Johns Hopkins they would never have kept me waiting this long. Especially not with the manifold held within my briefcase. The years of research … the decade of work … it was all right here, a half an inch from my side, separated by a few thin layers of cloth and leather. Just a few dozen papers and blueprints. Enough to alter society’s perception of the human mind forever after. The machine alone would be groundbreaking, but it was the serum … the serum that could break the blood-brain barrier and read the neurons like a book, or how a radio picks up invisible transmission in the air. Any yet, hear I was, waiting.

I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and exhaled. Calm, old man, stay calm. It’s not their fault that you were expelled from the university like some old dead thing. It’s your own burden. This work of yours always gets you in trouble. And now you have to come groveling to approve funding like a common low life, and not a respectable …

The door leading to the executive wing opened, and a slender young man came out wearing a bright smile across his hairless face. He didn’t look old enough to shave in the first place. “Mister Wulfric?” the man asked, looking in my direction.

I pushed my wire-rim glasses farther up the bridge of my nose and smiled back, despite my mind protesting his use of Mister instead of my formal title, which took years of schooling.

“Yes,” I said, inching forward to stand.

“Mister Kalispell will see you now.”

“Great,” I said, and winced momentarily as my knees took the pressure of me standing.

My belly pressed against my shirt as I stood, and just when I realized that I needed to suck my stomach in, something small and round popped from my shirt and rolled across the thin carpet. Bright white against short gray bristles.

***

Thank you for reading this bonus chapter of The Experiment of Dreams.