The After War by Brandon Zenner — book feature

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Book Genre: Post Apocalyptic, Dystopian. Can fit in Thriller, Literary, and Science Fiction (not so much on the sci-fi part, but I know Dystopian is usually categorized under Sci-Fi).
Publisher: Brandon Zenner
Release Date: October 20, 2016
BuyLink(s):https://www. amazon.com/After-War-Complete- Novel-ebook/dp/B01JMS9CA4/ref= asap_bc?ie=UTF8 

Book Description:
Two years have passed since mankind faced extinction. 

Brain Rhodes and his cousin, Steven, are leaving the protection of their underground bunker for the first time, after a cataclysmic war and unrelenting disease ravaged the earth. 
On the other side of the North American continent, young Simon Kalispell is leaving the safety and seclusion of his cabin deep in the woods, traveling with his aging canine companion, Winston. 

For individual reasons, these men are traveling east, where the fragmented lives of a small number of survivors will soon be decided by the choices of a corrupt few. 

Simon Kalispell and Brian Rhodes are not yet aware, but the strength that resides inside them will soon be tested, and destiny will call for their fates to be forever intertwined.

 
 
 

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Author Bio:
Brandon Zenner is an American fiction writer and an Amazon best selling author. His short fiction has been published in both print and online publications, the first being submitted when he was 19 years old. THE EXPERIMENT OF DREAMS, his debut eBook thriller, has reached Amazon’s best seller list many times. His second novel, WHISKEY DEVILS, was released in early 2016. THE AFTER WAR, a dystopian thriller, was released in fall 2016. His genres of choice are thrillers, crime, dystopian, and science fiction.Author Links –
Website http://www. BrandonZenner.com
Blog https:// brandonzennerblog.wordpress. com
Facebook https://www. facebook.com/brandon.zenner/
Twitter 
https:// twitter.com/SlapstickII
Linkedin 
https://www. linkedin.com/in/brandon- zenner-28781598?trk=hp- identity-name
Goodreads 
https://www.goodreads. com/author/show/7908718. Brandon_Zenner
Amazon 
https://www. amazon.com/Brandon-Zenner/e/ B00IQVO1UK


Side Effects: What Candidates Don’t Tell You by Tomas Payne–guest author

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Book Genre: Nonfiction (political)
Publisher: Finlee Augare Books
Release Date: July 1, 2016Buy Link(s):
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Side-Effects-What-Candidates-Dont-ebook/dp/B01G0KUW0GBook Description:
The book candidates don’t want us to see.
“A must-read guide to campaign promises.” “Facts everyone should see before they vote.”
Candidates rally for our support and appeal to our anger and frustrations, often offering radical solutions, but what aren’t they telling us? Sure they pitch the good times they’ll bring. What about the side-effects and costs of their medicine.
Side-Effects: What Candidates Don’t Tell You takes you behind the scenes on issues of the day and campaign promises. It focuses on consequences, issues, and options. It also challenges myths such as who are the wealthy, and what is the history of depressed wages. The emphasis is on shedding light, exposing myths, examining consequences, and exploring options, not on personalities. Sorry, no dirt on the people, just on their promises.
Side-Effects will answer questions such as:

  •   Will raising income and estate taxes hurt the billionaires and redistribute wealth?
  •   Why healthcare is broken and what options we have.
  •   Why wages are depressed and what we can do about it.
  •   What are the implications of immigration plans?

Side-Effects cuts through the BS to look at campaign promises on wealth redistribution, taxes, Social Security, healthcare, depressed wages, and many other topics and aims to bring facts to these issues.

Guest Post Request For Avenue Books – Does Hillary’s and Trump’s faith matter?

While a candidate’s professed faith may shine some light on their character, a better indication of how they will guide the reins of government are his or her actions over respective careers. It’s true that religion has always been an important part of the American character. However, our Founding Fathers were very much afraid of the active intervention of faith in governance that they saw in Europe leading to centuries of wars and strife. They believed that faith can take many forms, but that people of faith can work to build bridges or to create strife. That’s why they fought so hard to separate church and state and keep faith as a private matter. They did not want America to follow the example of religious wars in Europe.

 

Do candidates’ religious beliefs matter? It’s interesting that every four years, candidates trot out their religious devotion and then move on to act out their lives as they see fit. Those who profess and even act upon the most devout religious beliefs can still promote policies that will disadvantage voters who can be whipped up to support them strictly on religious grounds. That’s a dangerous way to vote. It leaves voters open to being manipulated into voting against their own best interests. Voting for a candidate who backs your beliefs on abortion yet promotes policies that will make your job disappear isn’t really supporting your best interests.

 

I would argue that a candidate’s character matters more than their religious beliefs or their faith when it comes to guiding this country. Look at what they do, not just what they say.


Author Bio:
Tomas Payne is a CPA and has an MBA in Finance, BS in Political Science and over 30 years of business experience. He is a longtime student of business, the ever-entertaining field of economics, and of the political shell game.Author Links – 
Website/blog: http://www.WhatTheyDontTellU.wordpress.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30251510-side-effects
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Side-Effects-What-Candidates-Dont-ebook/dp/B01G0KUW0G
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tomaspayne76
https://www.facebook.com/PoliticalSideEffects/Giveaway – 
US Only: 1 signed print book of Side Effects plus $15 Amazon gift card
US Only: 1 signed print book of Side Effects
Worldwide: 2 ebook copies (mobi/epub) of Side Effects

 
 

Nature Inspired anthology — guest post

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Book Genre: Non-Fiction, Nature, Art, Animals

Publisher: Falling Leave Press

Release Date: August 25, 2016

Buy Link(s):http://www.natureinspiredanthologies.com/order.html (to receive discount)50% off the retail of $25.00 for the run of the tour.

On Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Nature-Inspired-Animals-Animal-1/dp/0997066059/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1472178085&sr=8-7&keywords=Nature+Inspired%3A+Animals

Wholesale Orders:

Available through Ingram

http://www.ingramcontent.com/retailers/products

Or through Nature Inspired Anthologies

www.natureinspiredanthologies.com (inquire)
Book Description:

Nature Inspired: Animal Edition offers you the opportunity to see animals both big and small through the eyes of different artists. With more than sixty works in this full color edition, it is a treasure trove of touching, charming and curious images.

www.natureinspiredanthologies.com

www.facebook.com/natureinspiredanthologies

@natrureinsprdbks


Follow The Tour Here

Kayla Bulster – Sunrise Underground – Book Tour

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Contemporary YA suspense 

Date Published: August 9th, 2016

Publisher: Anaiah Surge

Novel Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31349472-sunrise-underground

 

For Tilly White, ballet is her only escape from life, from her grief over her mother’s and brother’s deaths, and from her abusive stepfather, Fletcher. Late one evening as she leaves the studio, someone throws her into a van. But before they can carry out their plan, a mysterious boy rescues her… and steals her necklace?

Desperate to reclaim the last item she has of her family, Tilly chases her rescuer into the sewers where she discovers a secret society of ninjas. Through training with them, she learns to have real faith, which she’ll need when the job gets all too personal. The ninjas investigate a local mob boss to find Tilly’s best friend caught up in the mess. Fletcher might be involved, too! Her only allies are these ninjas she barely knows. Tilly will need to rely on her faith and her colleagues to save her friend.

*****

What inspired your latest work?
My high school students and my background as a martial artist were the inspiration forSunrise Underground. I wanted a story that would resonate with and inspire my students to achieve big things and fight for what’s right. I also like to take ideas that we have all grown up with, but put modern twists on them. 
Tell us about this story.
I like stories that feature strong young women who overcome adversity and who fight for justice (and who can kick butt!). I also wanted to create a story that was action-packed and engaging. So ninjas seemed like a perfect fit. Additionally, I like to write about issues that are less often discussed, such as human trafficking, in order to create dialogue about these issues. So having Tilly become a ninja and then fight to stop a human trafficking ring just naturally fell into place. 
What living person do you most admire?
I think that someone who I truly admire is Malala Yousafzai. She is such an extraordinary young woman who has accomplished so much in her young life. She has changed lives and doesn’t shy away from adversity. She’s a strong individual who will leave this world a better place. 
What is your most prized possession?
My wedding band is my most prized possession. It’s so simple, but it reminds me of my wedding day and of the life my husband and I have built together.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I know this is cheating, but I wouldn’t change anything about myself. God made me, flaws and all, for good works and if I changed myself, my purpose would change. I trust that I was made this way for a reason, so I do my best to accept and love myself for the way I am. 
Who is your favorite fictional character of all time?
My favorite fictional character is probably Black Widow. She doesn’t let the mistakes of her past dictate who she is and she fights for good despite the evil she endured. 
Who’s the favorite character that you created?
That’s tough! My characters are like children – you can’t choose just one. But if you’re going to twist my arm, then I would have to say Sami the genie from Wishful Thinking. Like Tilly, she fights for good, but she has a dark side, too. She’s afraid to let anyone in for fear of them getting hurt, so she really has to learn to trust her instincts and let go. 

*****

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in education, Kayla began working as a high school American Sign Language and English teacher. Her debut novel, Wishful Thinking, was originally released by Mckinney ePublishing in 2011. Kayla used her experience as a martial artist, and stories from her high school students as inspiration for Sunrise Underground. When she is not writing or teaching, she works as an actress where she continues to develop her skills as a storyteller. She lives with her husband and dog in San Diego, California.

Contact Links
Website: http://www.kaylabulster.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8089819.Kayla_Bulster
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorkaylabulster
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kaybulster

Purchase Links
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01JNF40ZI
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/655961

No Quarter: Dominium – Volume 1 by MJL Evans and GM O’Connor–Book Blitz

Title: No Quarter: Dominium – Volume 1

Author: MJL Evans and GM O’Connor

Genre: Historical Fiction / Action Adventureno-quarter

Volume 1 of 6 begins in 1689 Port Royal, Jamaica with Atia Crisp and her sister Livia shipwrecked and sold into slavery. They are separated and Atia is used as a pawn in a deadly card game at the Swiftsure Tavern until she is liberated by sugar merchant Capitaine la Roche. Hunted at every turn, they take refuge at Cherry Red’s Boutique and meet up with allies including the medication loving Dr. Strangewayes.

 

Series Description: 
Against the political stage of 1689 Port Royal, Jamaica, the unswerving Atia Crisp is thrust into the world of bondage, violence, beauty and love. Shipwrecked and sold into slavery with her sister Livia, the pair are soon separated and Atia is used as a pawn in a card game. Captivated by her beauty, Atia is swiftly liberated by sugar merchant, Capitaine la Roche (also known as the pirate, Gator Gar), whose past is stained with blood and grief. La Roche works with a network of friends and allies including local strumpet, Cherry Banks, Theodore Binge the card shark and the kindly, medication loving Dr. Strangewayes. Soon Atia and la Roche are ushered away to safety after a mysterious outbreak of scarlet fever wreaks havoc on the city.

Within the luxuriant tropical confines of Dr. Strangewayes’s plantation at the foothills of the Blue Mountains, bonds of friendship are formed and the fierce love between Atia and Capitaine la Roche becomes absolute. Atia is reunited with her sister, piratical father and unexpected old friends. However, nowhere is safe as spies seek out both Atia and la Roche for the bounties on their heads. Neither of them can escape the shadows of their former lives and must rely on each other’s strengths for survival. Their journey leads them to an inevitable conflict that threatens their world, but inches them closer towards freedom.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now Available:

No Quarter: Dominium – The Complete Series and No Quarter: Wenches – Volume 1

Author Bio

no quarter Author-bio-picture.jpgMJL EVANS wanted to be a writer since she was ten years old. Her motto – it’s never too late in life to get your act together and do something you really love. No Quarter: Dominium is her first book series and she currently writing the next, No Quarter: Wenches. Her sense of humor has been shaped by Monty Python, Black Adder and Red Dwarf, while her dramatic side has been influenced by independent/foreign movies.

You can connect with MJL Evans on Twitter at @artistmjlevans or noquarterseries@gmail.com

 

GM O’CONNOR is a huge movie fan, writer and visual artist.

Keeping Score by Jami Deise– book tour promo

Women’s Fiction
On Sale – Only $.99 July 25-31
Recipient of the Crowned Heart Award from In’Dtale Magazine!
When her 9-year-old son wanted to play summer travel baseball, Shannon had no idea the toughest competition was off the field…. When her son Sam asks to try out for a travel baseball team, divorced mom Shannon Stevens thinks it’ll be a fun and active way to spend the summer. Boy, is she wrong! From the very first practice, Shannon and Sam get sucked into a mad world of rigged try-outs, professional coaches, and personal hitting instructors. But it’s the crazy, competitive parents who really make Shannon’s life miserable. Their sons are all the second coming of Babe Ruth, and Sam isn’t fit to fetch their foul balls. Even worse, Shannon’s best friend Jennifer catches the baseball fever. She schemes behind the scenes to get her son Matthew on the town’s best baseball team, the Saints. As for Sam? Sorry, there’s no room for him! Sam winds up on the worst team in town, and every week they find new and humiliating ways to lose to the Saints.
And the action off the field is just as hot. Shannon finds herself falling for the Saints’ coach, Kevin. But how can she date a man who didn’t think her son was good enough for his team … especially when the whole baseball world is gossiping about them? Even Shannon’s ex-husband David gets pulled into the mess when a randy baseball mom goes after him. As Sam works to make friends, win games and become a better baseball player, Shannon struggles not to become one of those crazy baseball parents herself. In this world, it’s not about whether you win, lose, or how you play the game… it’s all about KEEPING SCORE.
Praise for Keeping Score:
 
“I really enjoyed Keeping Score… If you are ready for a fun read, and want to know who comes out on top (will it be Team Shannon or Team Jennifer?),  give this book a read.” – Chick Lit Central
 
“KEEPING SCORE is a great read–one I didn’t want to put down. I would recommend it for anyone looking for a fun take on life, love, and kids.” – Caroline Fardig, bestselling author of “It’s Just a Little Crush”
 
“All in all this was a fun read that keeps the story going and will have your mouth dropping open at certain points… Grab this book and sit down for a fun, light read!” — Joe Cool Review
 
“A must-read for any sports or contemporary lovers…” five stars! – InD’tale Magazine
 
“Keeping Score by Jami Deise is a wonderful novel, a story of love, despair, desire, and hope all mixed into one.” Anne Marie Reynolds for Reader’s Favorite
 
EXCERPT
 Sam grabbed his baseball bag out of my trunk and ran down the hill to the softball field, where the try-out was taking place. I was still in my work shoes, so I followed slowly behind.
 When the field was in sight, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A huge banner proclaiming “SAINTS BASEBALL” was strung across the backstop. There were nearly seventy nine-year-old boys, all wearing their baseball uniforms. The single set of bleachers overflowed with parents, who were also standing behind the backstop and near the baselines. Even Saints founder Patrick O’Connor had made an appearance. He seemed very pleased every time some star-struck dad asked for an autograph.
When I got closer, I could hear the parents’ anxious, boastful chatter.
 “Saints assured us that the try-out’s just a formality for Trevor. They’ve been trying to get him to play select since he was six, but we didn’t think that was fair to the other kids, having to be on a team with someone so much younger and so much better.”
 “I thought it was too soon, but Kyle’s pitching coach wanted to get a number. He’s already throwing seventy miles an hour. The coach thinks he’ll be at ninety five in high school.”
 “Jeremy isn’t going to be able to blossom to his full development in a cold-weather state. We’ll be moving to Florida in the fall so he can play year-round. The Florida State coach said he’d sign him right now if he could.”
 That gnawing feeling that showed up every time Sam was at bat took up residence in my stomach. What if David were right? What if all these kids threw sixty miles an hour, made plays that made Derek Jeter look klutzy, and hit the ball into Virginia?
 Then I remembered what Mike had said: That based on what he’d seen, Sam should have no problem making the Saints team. I took a deep breath and told myself that all this bragging was just that, and if I wanted to, I could sit down and babble about how two select teams were fighting over Sam, and which one should we chose?
 A tall man wearing a Saints jersey that said “Coach Kevin” pinned the number 55 on Sam’s back, and pointed for him to join other kids warming up in the outfield. Sam ran out there, his belly jiggling ever so slightly. The coach jotted something down on a clipboard. He was about my age, with an athletic build, curly brown hair underneath his baseball cap, a tanned face, and a cleft chin. His butt wasn’t bad, either.
I reminded myself that I wasn’t here to ogle coaches.
 Sam started throwing, but the balls weren’t coming back to him with any sort of regularity. I couldn’t see who his partner was, just the kid’s back — Sam was playing with number 1.
 I looked for a place to sit on the bleachers. And that’s when I saw her. Jennifer. She was covering her face with a paperback, obviously hiding from me. As if I wouldn’t recognize my own best friend from the neck down.
 Now I understood that look between Jennifer and Scott Sunday night, when I said I didn’t even know summer teams existed. It wasn’t, “Why didn’t Mike ask Matthew to play on his team.” It was, “Let’s hope Shannon doesn’t find out about the Saints try-out.”
 Someone who avoided confrontation might sit on the other side of the bleachers and pretend not to see her backstabbing best friend. But that someone wasn’t me. I climbed over a few people and squeezed in right next to Jennifer.
 “Didn’t we read that in book club last year?” I asked.
 She put the book down and painted on a big phony smile. “I never got around to finishing it. Shannon, I thought you already decided Sam was going to play for Mike this summer.”
 “He can’t. His league won’t take Saints kids.”
 “Oh. Because, that’s the only reason we didn’t mention the try-out to you.”
 “Really? So when exactly were you going to tell me? Because two days ago, I didn’t know anything about this.”
 On the field, the kids finished their warm-up throws and got into lines at shortstop, second and first base. Now I could see that number 1 was Matthew. He got into the shortstop line, while Sam was directed to first.
 A different coach walked up to home plate, struggling with a heavy bucket of balls and a metal bat under his arm. My stomach flipped as the true depth of the betrayal hit me. That coach was Scott. Obviously he had moved up in the coaching world, a promotion if you would, from rec to select coach.
 And he never bothered to say a damn thing about it. Not to Sam or any of the kids on the Rockets.
 I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach.
 Jennifer sighed, blowing her bangs up off of her forehead. Not a guilt sigh, but something more akin to righteous annoyance.
 “Here’s the thing. The boys all do everything together. They’re interchangeable. Same classes, even though Matthew should be in the G&T program. Same teams. Same people, over and over again. Scott and I felt that Matthew really needed an activity that was his and his alone. So he could start to figure out who he was as a person.”
 So Matthew was having an existential crisis. Nine years old seemed a little young for that, but everyone was an overachiever here in Persimmon.
 Who was this person? Who was this woman, whom I’d called my best friend for years? How could she do this to us?
 “And when Patrick told Scott he needed another coach for the U10 team, it just seemed obvious.”
 Patrick. As in Patrick O’Connor, the “Saint” of Saints Baseball, who was sitting three rows above us and to the left. Of course. Scott knew him through his work with the Orioles foundation. He’d only mentioned it a few hundred times.
 Scott was hitting ground balls to the kids at short and second. They fielded them, and then threw to the kids at first.
 Matthew and Sam came up at the same time. Scott hit a soft grounder to Matthew, so soft it barely came off the bat. Even so, it went through Matthew’s legs. Scott grimaced, then hit him another one. This one bounced off of Matthew’s knee. He dropped his glove on it, then picked up the ball and threw it to Sam.
 The ball was nowhere near first base. Sam jumped into the base line, made the grab, then stretched his foot out to snag the bag.
 Jennifer bit her lip. “He just really needs an activity that’s his and his alone,” she repeated. “Where he can shine, without all the pressure of performing for his friends. Can’t you understand?”
 “Of course,” I said, as another ball went through Matthew’s legs.
 I patted Jennifer on the back. “But maybe you should have picked an activity that Matthew’s actually good at.”
 I didn’t mean the words to sound as cruel as they did. But Jennifer’s face turned red, and her smile disappeared. “We’re supposed to be best friends,” she hissed. “But you’re so damned competitive where Sam and sports are concerned. I get it; he’s good. But you don’t have to make everyone else feel so terrible.”
 She grabbed her book and stomped off loudly down the bleachers, joining the other parents behind the backstop.
A baseball mom since 1999, Jami Deise wrote her first novel, KEEPING SCORE, about crazy travel ball parents, in 2013. Her second novel, THE TIES THAT BLEED, is about a vampire assassin for the FBI, although she personally has little experience slaying vampires. Jami is an associate reviewer at http://www.chicklitcentral.com and blogs at http://www.jamideise.blogspot.com. She currently lives (and sells real estate) in St. Pete Beach, Florida, with her husband Tom and dog Lady. Her college-aged son still plays baseball.
Contact Links
Purchase Links
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The Can’t-idates by Craig Tomashoff — book excerpt

Non-Fiction
Date Published: January 2016
Publisher: Bobtimystic Books
 
 
 I’m not a political person by nature. Most of the time, it seems the political world plays out more like a lame ‘70s sitcom with all its predictable characters and routine storylines. However, last spring, I got tired of hearing friends and family complain about the lack of exciting, innovative candidates for president. Everyone seemed ready to vote for “None Of the Above.” So, I decided to take a 10,000-mile road trip across America in May 2015 to meet several of the more than 1600 “real people” who are legit candidates for the presidency. Including a couple in New England.
 
The Can’t-idates is about dreamers — not all of whom are tin-foil hat crazy — who just want to fill a hole in their lives by running for president. And as I drove to meet them all, I realized a lot about not just my life but also about the country. If we could all take time to believe in what our parents always told us — “Someday you can grow up to be president” — maybe we wouldn’t be in the shape we’re in.

Introduction

As much as we love our children, the cold, hard fact is that we frequently lie to them in order to give them hope, which, in this world, is often in short supply. As far as I’m concerned, that’s totally ne. Adults recognize the harshness of a world that seems determined to discourage the next generation, so we manufacture comforting fiction to soften the blow and keep them in line (at least somewhat). How else do you explain countless fantastical tales throughout history, from stories of Greek gods to the annual appearance of Santa Claus to certain beliefs about what will cause hair to grow on your palms?

Most of these stories are innocent and well-intentioned. They tend to achieve the desired effect of keeping our kids believing in the unbelievable and living the good lives we want them to live. There is, however, one complete and total lie we have spun for years that may be doing far more harm than good. It has wreaked havoc on our entire democratic system. We tell America’s future leaders that if they work and study hard, any of them, no matter where they came from, can one day be President of the United States.

Presidential candidates want you to believe in this fiction because it humanizes them. They spend huge chunks of their day trying to portray themselves as men and women “from Main Street and not from Wall Street,” each one attempting to out- ordinary the next by sharing everything from stories of immigrant parents to childhood newspaper routes to their favorite barbecue recipes.

However, claiming they truly feel the plight of average Americans is like hearing them say they’re connoisseurs of Mexican cuisine because they’ve sampled the late night menu at Taco Bell. It’s pretty hollow reasoning and produces nothing but a lot of hot air. I’m reasonably certain this was not quite what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they set this whole democracy thing in motion.

 

In fact, they took great pains to keep the requirements for leading this nation as minimal as possible. It’s more complicated to get a Costco membership card than it is to make a run at the presidency. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution specifically states: “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

And that’s it. Turn 21 and you can drink. Turn 25 and you get a better rate on your auto insurance. Turn 35 and you can be the Commander in Chief. It all seems so simple. Which is may- be why we constantly remind our kids that someday it could be them. It really does seem that almost no one is ruled out of this race. At least that’s how it feels if you spend three minutes viewing any cable news outlet once the election cycle starts spinning. I could swear that at one point, the only person not running for the Republican presidential nomination was that crazy old guy you see arguing with cashiers at the grocery store. And even he would have led if he weren’t so busy watching Clint Eastwood movies and telling the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn.

 

 

So what are voters to do? We’re stuck between a rock and some head cases. On one hand, we all say we want a leader who can personally relate to the struggles of low- and middle-income Americans. On the other hand, we don’t want to waste our votes on candidates who can’t win. I’m not gullible enough to fall for the aforementioned lie that any of us can grow up to be president. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to at least find some candidates you’d enjoy having a beer and burger with? There has to be somebody out there running for president with the compassion of FDR, the folksiness of Harry Truman, the intellect of Stephen Hawking and the straight talk of your college roommate.

 

********************************************************

          I knew that none of these people would ever get elected. But that wasn’t the point. The point was just to try. If we’re also going to stick with that other great political lie — that every vote is important — I was really just doing what we all fantasize we’d do if we could. I was going to find the best person to hand my vote over to, regardless of what the outcome might be. Somebody has to, right? It’s fun to complain about our broken political system. Yet if the final answer is to vote for the most likely winner, that’s not the best path toward any change. The only way to make a difference is to search for somebody capable of making a difference, regardless of what school they went to or how much money they have or what kind of fast food they order. We need candidates who are told they can’t do this.

********************************************************

RONALD SATISH EMRIT

          Finally, we get around to talking about what brought me to him in the first place — that whole thing about running for president because he’d failed the bar. Often. Each attempt had cost Emrit $1,000 just to take the test. But there was more than a financial cost to his repeated failures. He’d been married, but when it became clear that a career practicing law was most likely not in the cards, the marriage ended. His wife remained in Florida with their daughter (now 12). While the newly single Emrit eventually found his way to Las Vegas.

           “It’d be nice if I was president, because then I could go to my ex and say, ‘Hey, I’m the president now. Can I get custody of my daughter? She could come to the White House,’” he said. “I haven’t seen my daughter in a couple of years. It’s a sensitive issue.”

********************************************************

HARLEY BROWN

 

          He also had a duty that, in looking at this gruff, bearded, 6’ 4” wall of a man, was hard to imagine ever being assigned to him. His Hell’s Angel demeanor made him seem like the last guy you’d want knocking on your door to tell you your loved one had just been killed in the line of duty. And yet, Harley Brown did just that for nearly two years.

          “It loosened a few screws in me,” he admitted. “How could it not? If you don’t have a heart, you could do that job.  But I was supposed to say this blurb: ‘The Secretary of the Navy said…’ Fuck that shit! I wasn’t gonna say that. I’d walk up to the door and they’d see my uniform and start thinking about their son. Then they look into your eyes and see the expression on your face and say, ‘Oh, Jesus!’ You have to confirm their worst fear. I had a lady who had a heart attack on the stoop of her home. I didn’t know what the fuck to do.”

          For one of the very few moments in the evening, Brown sat silent. “That fucked me up in the head. It just changed my whole attitude. It completely stripped me of a façade of political correctness. After doing that shit, you don’t care.”

*   *   *

          “Business was lousy and I was depressed. [So I] cried out to God, ‘What the hell am I doing driving a taxi? You didn’t make me the youngest fleet commander in the Navy for nothing. How about putting me back on active duty and make me a battalion commander of 1,000 men to fulfill my wildest ambitions?’ I think I was 40 years old at the time.

          “And then God talked to me. Not audibly, but to my heart. He said, ‘Harley, I have a much higher rank in mind for you. Being an Irishman, I said, ‘What? Secretary of War? Being in charge of all the troops and planes and tanks?’ He said, ‘No, son, I’m gonna make you Commander in Chief!’ I said, ‘Wow!’ Then it hit me and I thought, ‘That’s the president of the United States. What the hell do I know about politics and protocols?’”

          Not much, clearly. “I said, ‘Besides that, Heavenly Father, you give someone like me that kinda power and I’m gonna have to take over the whole goddamn world! Because that’s all those assholes can understand.’ I was thinking about Iran. And then the answer comes back, ‘I know what I’m doing, son.’ I was like, holy shit! The next day I went out and got the Presidential Seal tattoo on my arm!”

********************************************************

JOSH USERA

 

          Nate sat outside the door getting jacked up on candy and soda from the courthouse vending machine while his father and I went into an office. Clearly I wasn’t the only one surprised by this meeting. So was Usera’s probation officer, who seemed shocked that a) he had a writer following him around for the day to document his presidential campaign and b) that he even had a presidential campaign.

          Upon hearing this news, she feverishly typed something into her computer and then announced, “Josh, you do realize that there’s a warrant out for your arrest, right?” As it turns out, he was not. She explained the he’d neglected to pay a speeding ticket and therefore, he was headed for jail again unless he took care of the ticket ASAP.

          We rushed downstairs and across the parking lot to the sheriff’s station, making it inside just before they closed for the day. Old Horse had left for home, so Nate entertained me with a failed magic trick involving a disappearing quarter. After a couple minutes, Josh motioned for me to come over. I reached into my wallet for my credit card, certain it was going to be up to me to bail him out of this. Instead, he had already taken care of the payment and just wanted to introduce the clerk behind the counter to the writer that was covering his presidential campaign.

******************************************************

BARTHOLOMEW JAMES LOWER

 

          “Look around,” Lower instructed as we walked, constantly pointing at one empty structure after another with the same sighing recognition one uses when seeing high school yearbook pictures of friends who’ve died since graduation.

          “See the signs — ‘For Rent,’ ‘Available.’ That building’s empty. That one’s for sale. That one just switched hands again. See that green building? That used to be my in-laws, and it was a bar they ended up closing because of the economy. This whole corner building has been vacant for a decade. That one on the corner that kind of looks like a bank? That’s been vacant for a decade too. That one there? Empty. That one? Empty.” He stopped on a corner for a moment to take it all in. “Truck through downtown Ionia, and this is the rest of the country. The big cities are the big cities, but what you see here is the rest of the country.”

          Lower has a very personal relationship with one of the town’s drug abusers. When Nicole’s son was 16, she and Lower learned he wasn’t just using drugs. He was starting to deal them as well. A line had been crossed and Lower truly believed that “if you can’t hold people accountable in your own family, how can you expect to do it on a national or global level?” So, they turned their own child over to police custody.

          I had no idea how to respond. We’re so conditioned as parents to protect our children no matter what. The idea of handing them over to someone else for punishment seems unnatural. We preach tough love because it sounds good, especially when it’s about someone else’s children. I like to think that everything I’ve ever done for my son, this current journey of mine in particular, has been done to inspire him to do the right things—rather than scare him into avoiding the wrong things. And here was a man who felt the same way, yet still handed his oldest child over to the authorities.

          He had his reasons. The way Lower saw it, “when kids are under 17, you have a window where you’re trying to make a change that doesn’t end up hurting them the rest of their lives. He couldn’t follow the probation, so I finally looked at the judge and said, ‘He needs real consequences.’”

          Candidates talk all the time about their willingness to make tough decisions. Well, they don’t come any tougher than this one and Lower made it. He let his son go to a detention center for 90 days in order to start weaning himself off drugs. The decision definitely strained his relationship with the now 18-year-old. But I didn’t sense an ounce of regret from Lower.

********************************************************

LORI FLEMING

          There was a pause that hung as heavy as the early afternoon humidity. “I tried to commit suicide.”

          At age 14, Fleming had become a pariah because of her sexuality. The girl she’d loved left her. Someone at school planted a stolen stereo in her locker, then alerted the authorities that she’d taken it. Couple that with her struggles at home with her father and constantly being held back at school, and Fleming decided she’d had enough.

          “It was just a really bad year and I got tired of it all. I took a bottle of about 200 aspirin out of my mom’s medicine cabinet. I went to the park, climbed to the top of the ladder and took every damned one of them. I don’t know what happened. I woke up in the hospital. They pumped my stomach, and then I had charges pressed against me because it’s illegal to commit suicide. If you don’t die, you go to jail.”

          They don’t necessarily agree on everything. Her mom has warned her a few times that she doesn’t have enough money to run for president—even though Fleming is certain that the mystery donation of a few thousand dollars that was recently given to her campaign was from her mother. And when she mentioned that she was going to talk to me, her mom warned her to be very discreet.

          “She told me not to let anybody know that I’m a dyke. And I said, ‘Why?’ It is not like this was 20 years ago, when I could have actually lost my children.” Fleming paused. She didn’t exactly choke up, but I sensed a sadness in her that hadn’t been there even when discussing Travis. She quickly glanced at Marc, who had moved to watch over something wrapped in foil on their small, rusty barbecue grill.

          “I would love to be able to have a female partner hold my hand and walk with my children without having to worry about if someone was going to call Child Protective Services. It has happened for me. That’s why I had to go back into the closet.”

********************************************************

JOHN GREEN FERGUSON

 

          He’d already gone from being “a millionaire on paper” to being broke, courtesy of the 2008 stock market collapse. After she passed, he lived on odd jobs and food stamps, spending endless sleepless nights sitting in the same easy chair—“throwing myself into the news…local, state, national. I’d get one hour of sleep to get up and watch Face the Nation and all that stuff. Where most people are watching General Hospital and As the World Turns, I’m on cable watching BBC news from the UK. I am watching Japanese news. I am watching stuff all night long, I’m reading stuff. And I’m feeding on that.”

          In particular, he started following stories about the Occupy Movement. The grass roots protest against income inequality got its biggest media boost in the fall of 2011, when followers set up camp near Wall Street. It didn’t take long for the movement to spread to nearly 1,000 cities around the world, inspiring frustrated citizens everywhere—including Ferguson. Even though the Wall Street protest ultimately was broken up after a few months, he found a purpose in the movement’s ideals.

          “It was for my sanity, after being by myself in a prison,” he explained. “[Losing my fiancée] was really a kick in the balls. I was left alone to fend for myself. It wasn’t the surviving part. It is just that when you haven’t got anybody, no friends—I mean, I am away from anybody that I ever knew here.”

Craig Tomashoff is a freelance writer/producer based in Los Angeles. His blogs appear regularly at Huffington Post.com. Most recently, he was a producer for The Queen cantidates2.jpgLatifah Show. Prior to that, he served as Executive Editor of TV Guide, and has also worked as Associate Bureau Chief for People. In addition, he has written for the Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and Emmy Magazine. Prior to The Can’t-idates, he was the author of You Live, You Learn: The Alanis Morissette Story and co-wrote I’m Screaming As Fast As I Can: My Life In B-Movies with Linnea Quigley. He has also worked as a television writer/producer for such series as VH1’s Behind the Music, The Martin Short Show and The Late Show With Craig Kilborn.

 
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