Ringing True Review Highlights

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“One of the most realistic and genuinely touching tales I’ve ever read . . . by the end, you’ll be craving more.”

“I’ve never read a book like it. Smart, funny and the characterization is superb.”

“There is no drivel here, just pure entertainment.”

“What’s most impressive . . . is Morrow’s ability to navigate through controversial topics with such ease.”

“The points are made without drawing too much attention . . . and never at the detriment of the story line.”

“Finally! A novel for our times that doesn’t suck!”

“The book offers a very realistic view of what could happen if this religion actually took off in the mainstream.”

“The characters are diverse, rich and genuine and the dialogue in the book is truly OUTSTANDING.”

“Multifaceted characters with rich back-stories . . . you will find many places for your empathy to hook on to.”

“It makes one laugh, it makes one think. I was sad when it ended. I wanted to keep on reading and reading.”

“Morrow navigates some heavy and expansive terrain with surprising and convincing celerity.”

“It’s a thought-provoker without being preachy, and it’s downright sexy!”

“A heady and complex philosophical powderkeg of a story . . . with enough humor to keep the reader laughing.”

“A work that understands and addresses both the power of the intellect as well as primal human urges.”

“A work that neither sacrifices story nor character in its rapid pacing and development.”

“The author has written an incredibly interesting and compelling book that is also funny, making you laugh out loud.”

“It’s not preachy, it’s hilarious!”

“One cannot read ‘The Numbers’ without a little voice within saying, ‘Now THAT makes SENSE!'”

“If you’re settled cozily into your comfort zone – watch out!”

“I really loved this book. It was an easy read, but very thought provoking.”

“Too many religions now preach love and humility, but encourage hatred and fear of those who believe different.”

“The incredible twist ending that even I did not see coming. So much so that I even gasped, alone in my apartment!”

“A perfect read for people who don’t have their brains awash in dogmatic garbage.”

“This book is a great read, funny and amusing but also insightful and thought-provoking. ”

“I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking for intelligent and provocative entertainment.”

“(It’s) a fantastic book that went by entirely too quickly. I can’t wait to see what Morrow comes up with next!”

“The plot itself is a great combination of feeling familiar . . . and just enough twists to keep you on your toes.”

“Anyone who can’t get behind The Numbers truly has no humanity in them.”

“The thought-provoking views and conversations rang true for me!”

“A must-read page-turner.”

“I recommend to anyone who isn’t afraid to look at themselves and their religion and not shut down.”

“I think Ringing True is a real game-changer on the literary scene.”

“A funny, witty, sexy, controversial and intelligent read that makes you stop and think while enjoying every moment.”

(from the author) “I can’t rate my own work, but I had a helluva good time writing it!”

(Compiled from Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing and Barnes & Noble.)

Ringing True Excerpt: The Troops Revolt

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At this point in the novel, Ringing True is about to become a full-fledged for-profit corporation complete with a Board of Directors and by-laws in exchange for five million dollars in seed money provided by the famous actress, Gwendolyn Marks. Gwendolyn has installed herself as Chairman of the Board in the new corporate structure and self-styled marketing whiz Matthias Bender (former roommate of Justin and Theo) has helped himself to the role of CEO. Justin and Shelby have been reviewing the by-laws with Theo, Emmy and Emmy’s father (who happens to be an attorney) and have discovered a clause that will effectively strip them of ownership of The Numbers, the text behind the Ringing True religion.

The Gang of Four walked into the nearest branch of Mega Coffee, rearranged a few chairs and formed a loose circle in a relatively quiet corner of the shop. Justin opened up the discussion as soon as they had all sat down with their coffees.

“I can’t sign this. We can’t sign this!” he said with defiance.

Shelby agreed. “I agree. I don’t know what she’s up to, but I’m not about to let that bitch become the Almighty Censor of our thoughts and I’ll be damned if anyone else in this world gets to write new Numbers.”

Emmy seemed agitated, but said nothing that would indicate how she felt. Theo looked confused.

“Uh, I’m not sure where you’re coming from? I mean, she wants to give us five million dollars, right?”

“In exchange for control over The Numbers,” said Shelby, completing the quid pro quo.

“Well, isn’t that worth it? I mean, five million dollars?” said Theo, still befuddled.

Justin raised his hand and said, “Let me give you a little background.” He then told them the story of afternoon tea in the sunroom, throwing all neutrality out the window, emphasizing the sinister nature of Dwayne Barker’s appearance, the suspicious nod and the enigmatic message that ended their conversation. As Theo and Emmy still appeared lost, Shelby added her suspicions about Matthias’ role in the set-up, which finally helped them see the light.

“Oh, dude—what a major-league asshole!” Theo cried.

“That’s just mean!” cried Emmy.

Justin tried to suppress himself, but because being fair was part of his cellular structure, he had to point out the weaknesses of their interpretation.

“We know none of this for sure, and I’ll admit, I’m pretty sensitive when it comes to this stuff—”

“We all know you’re a tight-ass, Justin,” Shelby interrupted.

“But that’s the problem—there are too many unanswered questions. What’s her motive? What’s Matthias’ motive? Why would he give up control of the corporation that was going to make him the shining hero behind The Next Big Thing? And why the specific clause giving her control over The Numbers? I don’t know all the answers, but the whole thing stinks!”

“Why don’t we just ask them to explain it to us?” offered Emmy.

Justin was too stunned to answer such a silly question, so Shelby stepped in.

“Because we all know Matthias is a practiced liar and we have no chance of getting through to the Queen of England,” Shelby explained patiently.

“She seems like such a nice person,” Emmy offered, holding out hope.

Justin took over again. “And for all we know, she may very well be. Maybe this is some form of image protection—I don’t know how these people think. But the simple truth is we don’t know what’s going on and it would be stupid for us to sign off on this without some answers.”

“But how are we going to get answers if they’re all liars?” Emmy cried.

“Well, we’ll have to figure that out. What we need to do first is go to Matthias and tell him we’re not signing unless the word ‘development’ is cut out from that clause,” Justin insisted.

“Stricken from the record,” Shelby declared.

“And a new clause is inserted saying that only Shelby and I have the right to write The Numbers. And that our authorship will remain anonymous,” Justin added.

The others nodded in agreement.

Justin leaned forward. “Now. Under the old corporation rules, we’re four-fifths of the Board. All we need is a 3-2 vote to stop this.”

This was a silly comment, as Theo and Emmy were joined at the hip and would never split their vote. They looked at each other, made a few faces at each other, whispered unintelligibly to each other, and at last nodded in unison.

“We’re with you,” said Theo.

“Thank you,” said Justin, relaxing a bit.

“Let’s go tell the man,” said Shelby. “I think he said he’d be at the office today.”

They went off in search of Matthias.

 

*****

 

“What do you mean you’re not signing?” Matthias shouted at them as they gathered around the oversized executive desk in his office.

“We’re not signing unless the clause about The Numbers is revised to say that only Shelby and I can write new Numbers.”

“Not negotiable. Next?” Matthias snapped.

“Then we’re not signing,” Justin snapped back.

“And you’re all in this together?” Matthias said slowly sweeping the room like a programmable laser. The laser came to an abrupt halt when it spotted Emmy.

“Emilia! Are you a participant in this—this—mutiny?”

Emmy was trembling in fear, but she swallowed hard and said in a clear voice, “Yes.”

“Theo?”

Theo shook his head and said, “I know you too well, dude, I know you too well.”

Matthias rose from his executive chair to emphasize his presence. “Do you all realize what you’re doing? What this means? It means no pay for at least six more months. Justin—you’ll still be pulling shots at the coffee house. Shelby—back to the museum. Theo—you can kiss off that plasma TV you wanted to hang on your wall!”

Justin thought he heard Theo groan, but Theo held his ground.

Matthias pointed his finger at Justin and shouted, “You call this responsible? You’re being a selfish pig, Justin!”

“Takes one to know one,” Justin responded, returning to childhood.

“This is how you show your gratitude? Or have you all forgotten who loaned you the money to make it all happen?”

“I guess you should have done a better job of evaluating the risks before investing,” Justin smirked.

Matthias glared at Justin with a look of almost pure hatred, but he knew he was beaten.

“Jesus! Why have I been saddled with such imbeciles?”

“Guess you got lucky,” Shelby replied.

“Look, I don’t care if she owns the company, I don’t care if you get to play CEO, I don’t care about any of that crap. But she is not getting her hands on The Numbers!” Justin argued in summation.

“It’s our product, you idiot, our product! Every Board of Directors on the planet has the right to approve the development and release of new products and services!”

“You can call it a product, but to me it is what I believe. I don’t have a problem with the Board approving the release of The Numbers—that’s just business. But no one except Shelby and I have the right to create new Numbers—this was our idea and no one is going to take that away from us,” Justin said in a clear, firm voice.

“Crap!” shouted Matthias, kicking the desk and making Emmy hiccup.

“What about our anonymity?” Shelby reminded Justin.

“Oh, yeah—we want the new board members to agree not to disclose that Shelby and I are the authors.”

“Great! Let’s insult all of our new investors!” Matthias shot back.

“If they want to take it as an insult, that’s their problem. Now call your friend Gwendolyn and tell her if she wants in, this is the deal,” Justin insisted.

“I can’t. She’s off on some kind of personal retreat and is not to be disturbed,” Matthias shouted back.

“Well, then, it looks like you’re S. O. L. Let’s go, guys,” said Justin and they all started to walk out the door.

“Wait, wait,” Matthias said, relenting. “Let me talk to Dwayne. Shit!”

“We’ll wait,” said Shelby, admiring her manicure.

Matthias whipped out his cell phone and rang Dwayne. Quickly changing roles from harried executive to entrepreneurial backslapper, he jovially explained that a little snag had come up and he needed some help from his good buddy. Matthias described the problem, attempted to soften the blow by insisting Gwendolyn would, of course, be consulted during the development process (to which Justin nodded his assent), that the issue of Board control over release was not under debate, and concluded by saying that he was sure Gwendolyn understood the sensitivity that always seemed to accompany the issue of artistic control over one’s work. Dwayne put him on hold. During the fifteen minutes of limbo, Matthias maintained a stony silence while Shelby attended to her nails, Theo and Emmy whispered together and Justin sat with his jaw still set but with his insides churning.

Dwayne came back on the line. “That’s great, Dwayne, great. Tell Gwendolyn I appreciate her graciousness in this matter. You’ll send me the papers? Great, great—let’s talk next week. Ciao.”

“We won?” asked Justin.

“You won,” said Matthias. “Now get the fuck out of my office.”

 

Photo Credit:  . Rude rejection of handshake © Lorna 59 at Dreamstime.com

Ringing True: The Characters

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64-Gwendolyn and Shelby No Makeup

Reviewers have said some nice things about the characters in Ringing True.

“The characters are diverse, rich and genuine and the dialogue in the book is truly OUTSTANDING.”

“Multifaceted characters with rich back-stories . . . you will find many places for your empathy to hook on to.”

So, I thought I’d take the opportunity of an open spot on the blog schedule to tell you about these people whom I came to know intimately during the writing of Ringing True.

Justin Raines grew up in the Chicago burbs, the only child of two workaholic parents. At the start of the book, he finds himself living in another burb outside of Seattle interning at the Mega Software Company. Good-looking, ex-barista, living a life according to expectations, naive about the real world and constantly surprised by it, but on the surface, a typical nice guy. But beneath that surface there is a deep and genuine concern about the hatred, violence and greed consuming the human race. This concern exists only in formless, disconnected thoughts that he keeps purely to himself until he meets Shelby Mirabeau, who opens up new possibilities for Justin . . . possibilities he is unsure he wants to face.

Shelby Mirabeau is a free spirit who ignored the chamomile influence of her New Age parents to become an insightful observer of the human species. Open-minded to a fault, improvisational and stunningly non-judgmental, she encourages Justin to open up and share his inner secrets. Through the all-encompassing magic of Shelby-logic, she manages to convince a reluctant Justin to work with her to create a new religion for modern times (a religion they later name Ringing True). As they move through failure and stunning success, Shelby changes in ways she could never have imagined, but without ever compromising her essence.

Matthias Bender: The poster-child for American techno-capitalism, Matthias is a thoroughly selfish, driven and devilishly charming individual. When their maiden attempts at launching their religion fail miserably, Shelby convinces the always-cautious Justin to enlist his help. Matthias takes over the launch and eventually positions himself as President and CEO of Ringing True, Inc, a position he intends to use for a completely different purpose than to spread the world-saving message embedded in the religion.

Theo is the roommate who shares an apartment with Justin and Matthias and seems very much the prototypical Seattle geek. An employee of a video game developer who lives and breathes technology, he is also a devotee of a talent-challenged Seattle band known as Acoustic Disturbance who seem unlikely to break into the charts any time in the near or distant future. It is this sense of loyalty that leads him to unquestionably support Justin and Shelby in their efforts to launch a new religion, and once the decision is made that cyberspace is the key to getting the word out, Theo and his girlfriend Emmy become the gurus of ringingtrue.com. Theo is an unusually nice person, a hopeless slob and a great friend.

Emmy: With her hair in a tight bun and her glasses melted into her face, Emmy could have been cast for walk-on roles in any film needing a librarian. Somewhat rusty when it comes to social skills (much like her partner Theo), her thoughts tend to spill out in tiny, seemingly unconnected snippets, placing a heavy demand on the patience of her listeners. She is in fact an organizational and technical wizard who shares Theo’s sense of loyalty while enhancing that loyalty with a passion for home and hearth. While the others act out from time to time, Emmy always remains Emmy.

Gwendolyn Marks: An enormously talented and successful film actress with two Oscar nominations under her belt, Gwendolyn has reached that point in life where the search for meaning begins. Part of that search involves retreats in faraway places, and part of it involves surfing the Web. Introduced to Ringing True by a film crew, she becomes a serious student of the new religion. A chance appearance on a popular talk show leads to a meeting with Justin and Matthias, leading to a transformation of Ringing True that will either open the door to great possibilities or open a Pandora’s box of power politics and intrigue (or both).

Dwayne Barker: The ultimate empty suit. Business manager for Gwendolyn Marks. Speaks in a monotone with an accent reminiscent of a crisp polo shirt.

Sidney: Matthias’ executive assistant. Sidney was manufactured for a future career as Chief of Staff in the Bush III administration. I hope people get the “Clear it with Sidney” reference.

Tommy:  Tommy is a graphic artist of the fantasy genre and the leader of Acoustic Disturbance.

Although I certainly didn’t think of it when writing the book, I have tried to guess what each character’s Myers-Briggs type would be. It’s difficult with twenty-somethings because they are so changeable and diverse (which is also why they are so fun to work with). My best guesses would be: Matthias, ENTJ; Shelby, ESFP; Theo, ISFP; Emmy, INTJ; and Justin: INFP (with the I oscillating to an E at times).

©2010 Robert Morrow. Ringing True is available in e-book, hardcover and paperback formats on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s and many other booksellers. Go to www.ringingtrue.com for a current listing of online retailers.

Ringing True Excerpt: The Great Idea

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Where Shelby First Proposed a New World Religion to a Flabbergasted Justin

They jumped into the Beetle and sputtered over to Capitol Hill. On the way Justin told Shelby more about life at Mega Software. She laughed in pain with him. “Jesus—that sounds awful. I wonder how those people got so damaged.”

“I don’t know and I really don’t care. Try to imagine living your whole life like that.”

“Sounds like S&M without the fun.”

“Yeah, but you wouldn’t want to see any of those people in leather.”

Shelby found a back-in spot on Tenth Avenue and they stumbled over to Caffé Vita. After waiting in line without complaint for two perfectly-executed cappuccinos, they decided to sit downstairs where their conversation wouldn’t disturb the laptop geeks who always seemed to fill the upstairs seating area.

Shelby picked up where she left off.

“It’s hard to describe—something was definitely going on inside. I knew only one thing for sure—I was finally done with learning mode, at least in the traditional sense. And I think the experience on the plane convinced me that what I’d learned in college had been pretty much a waste anyway, so to hell with learning. I wanted to do something!

“Anyway, I don’t know if I ever told you, but when I’m ready to go through major changes, I get this incredible urge to sleep, like my dreams are pulling me inside, demanding that I pay attention. I had tons of dreams in BA. I don’t remember most of them, but there was one that finally cleared the fog from my head.

“It was you and me. We were out on the deck like we used to be but we were surrounded by a film crew—I don’t know why. We were just talking as always, and they’d move in for close-ups on our faces like what we were saying was like the most monumental pronouncements imaginable. Then somehow it became more of an interview format, and I was interviewing you. At first I didn’t know what I was interviewing you about, but I hung in there, confident and smiling, just like those bimbos on the morning shows.”

“How did I do?” Justin asked.

“You sucked,” Shelby laughed.

“Not surprised,” Justin smiled. “Couldn’t even imagine it in a dream.”

“But the dream got me thinking about seeing myself as someone who right now would be impossible for me or for anyone I know to imagine. I liked that.”

“So . . . you’re going to launch a career in broadcast journalism,” Justin snickered.

Years later he would still remember the look that appeared on her face when she looked up from her coffee. Only one word could describe that look: wicked.

“No. Something much better,” Shelby smiled. A wicked smile.

Justin felt himself getting curiously tense. “What?” he said.

“You’re part of it, too,” she smiled.

Justin was now even more uncomfortable, and said nothing.

“Ready?”

Justin took the plunge. “Okay—what?”

“You and I are going to be the founders of a new world religion.”

–From Ringing True

©2010 Robert Morrow. Ringing True is available in e-book, hardcover and paperback formats on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s and many other booksellers. Go to www.ringingtrue.com for a current listing of online retailers.