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 Excerpt: Expanding the Circle

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Justin and Shelby have by now created The Numbers, the text that contains the beliefs of the new religion (as yet unnamed). After discussing possible methods for getting the word out, they settle on the idea of focus groups but have no idea how to secure a place where these focus groups can meet. They agree that Justin should approach Theo (one of his roommates), because Theo has connections with the Seattle music scene and one of them might know of a suitable venue. Justin accompanies Theo and his girlfriend Emmy (both of whom would qualify as “somewhat nerdy”) to a gig featuring their favorite local band, Acoustic Disturbance. After discussing Emmy’s sick cat on the way to the event, they arrive at Pioneer Square in Seattle.

At the time, Pioneer Square was in one of its frequent periods of slight cultural decline due to a combination of a city clampdown after the 2001 Mardi Gras riots, well-publicized incidents of street crime and the persistent appearance of new sports bars creeping out from the recently constructed stadiums. The music scene, centered in Pioneer Square during the heyday of grunge, had dispersed throughout the city, but there were still a few credible venues in the neighborhood. Justin always felt a combination of comfort and anxiety being there. He felt comfort because Pioneer Square was one of the few places in Seattle dominated by brick; anxiety because he knew that brick was not the architectural material of choice in an earthquake zone. Still, he liked the preservation of the old State Hotel sign advertising rooms for seventy-five cents and the faded paint advertising business establishments that hadn’t done business in decades. The dim lighting from the triple-globed street lamps may have contributed to street crime, but had the virtue of providing the scene with a sense of romance and mystery. As he walked with Theo and Emmy through the tree-lined streets and dark alleys to the Colourbox, kicking up leaves and cigarette butts with his shoes, taking in the shouts and smells of the already-inebriated, Justin felt that old Vancouver feeling coming back. He loved the diversity of a city.

Acoustic Disturbance was second on the bill, which meant that Justin had to endure a lame two-person retro-grunge band with very little in the way of talent. Theo and Emmy, on the other hand, cheered loudly after every number and sang along to the cover songs, gazing into each other’s eyes as if they were a husband-and-wife duet on a 1960’s variety show. The impromptu duets allowed Justin to marvel at their physical differences. While Theo was loose and gangly like a toy soldier with broken springs, Emmy was tight and very well-contained. Theo dressed in baggy t-shirts, baggy pants and floppy shoes; Emmy dressed like the stereotypical librarian, with a sweater buttoned at the top serving as a makeshift shawl to cover her thoroughly buttoned blouse. While Theo’s hair refused to form a recognizable shape, Emmy’s brown hair was pulled back tight into a bun that refused to allow a single strand to escape from its clutches. Justin smiled as they stared wholesomely into each other’s glasses, singing away, oblivious to their dissimilarities.

As the bands swapped equipment, Justin and Theo engaged in raised-voice conversation while Emmy twitched to the filler music.

“So, man, this is terrible, Mega Software and all. If you need any help, you just let me know,” offered Theo.

“Well, I need some help finding a stage,” said Justin offhandedly.

“A stage? Do you—you don’t play—I’ve never seen you play—what do you play?”

“Nothing,” Justin responded.

“Then why do you need a stage?” Theo asked, now quite puzzled.

Justin wasn’t ready to disclose to the world that he was a religious icon in the making, so he just said, “It’s a long story.”

“What kind of stage?”

“Something simple—cheap—something with a curtain—a place that could seat maybe thirty or so.”

Theo thought for a minute and said, “Let me talk to Tommy.”

“Who’s Tommy?”

“Tommy’s the bass player for Acoustic Disturbance. He’s sort of the leader? But don’t let the other guys hear you say that.”

“Why talk to Tommy?”

“Oh, man, they rented this space? Kind of over near First Hill? And they signed a lease and everything, thinking they were going to use it as their practice space? But they played so loud that they got complaints and the landlord told ‘em they couldn’t play with amps anymore. And get this—the landlord still wants them to pay for the place and they can’t even use it. This one’s going to court, man.”

“So how do you know about it?”

“Oh, I work with Tommy—he does the coolest graphics—and sometimes they let me hear them practice.”

“Ah,” said Justin. “So, what’s the place like?”

“Well, that’s why I thought of it. It used to be a space for this theater company that went under? So it’s got a stage and some curtains and they even left some of the lights. That’s what they liked about the space—the stage.”

“Sounds promising.”

“You’re not going to have any drums or amps or anything like that?”

Justin shook his head, “No, no—it’s just—like talking.”

“Okay—let me talk to Tommy. He’s really cool. I bet they’d even let you use their practice sound system if it’s still there.”

“Cool,” said Justin, terminating the conversation. He felt uncomfortable because Theo was being so nice while he was keeping a secret. He looked around the club and pretended to notice people for a while, like he was on the make but rather shy about it. Finally he broke down and leaned over to Theo.

“After the set I’ll tell you what it’s all about.”

Theo broke out into a huge happy smile. “Cool!” he said.

*****

It was easy to forget about inconspicuous little Emmy and Justin had done just that. After Acoustic Disturbance had finished (leaving Justin seriously wondering about Theo’s taste in music), the three of them walked outside and looked for a relatively quiet place between the streams of people moving between clubs and away from the homeless who sometimes wandered into the middle of the throng. It wasn’t until they found a small cranny in the entrance of an old building that Justin remembered that Emmy was with them, and with no graceful way out, Justin resigned himself to doubling the size of the inner circle.

Justin didn’t know where to start. After several false starts, he finally said, “This is going to sound crazy.”

Theo showed a look of patient concern and Emmy followed his cue and did the same. “It’s cool, man—it’s your thing—if you don’t want to tell us, we’ll understand.”

Because Theo meant it, Justin lurched forward.

“Shelby and I have started to—have created what we think is going to be a new—new—new . . .” Justin got hung up on the word “religion” for it sounded so pompous.

“A new world movement . . . we need to kind of test it out with some people,” Justin finally choked out.

Theo’s face was a blank, so Emmy went blank, too.

“You mean like a political movement—against the war or something?”

“No, no, more like a, like a—oh, the hell with it—a religious movement.”

Theo now looked thunderstruck. Emmy did not mimic this, but squeezed his arm in a gesture of concern.

“Religion? Wow, man, I never pegged you as that kind of person,” Theo said quietly.

“Well, it’s not your typical religion—we invented sort of a non-religious religion,” said Justin, groping to explain. “We need a space to try out the message and I figured you might know someone who knows someone.”

“So, you want like some kind of space for like a church?” Theo said, still trying to get his fuzzy head around the fuzzy idea.

“No, man—there’s no church. There’s just a message. No rules, no rituals, no priests. Nothing but a message: to try to stop people from doing mean things to each other.”

“I like that!” came Emmy out of nowhere.

Theo looked at Emmy, who nodded, which in turn removed any lingering doubt Theo had. Suddenly, Justin felt Theo hugging him.

“That is so cool! Yeah! Stop all that bullshit!” he shouted into the night, releasing Justin from his grasp.

“Well, now that the cat is out . . .” started Justin.

“Poor Myrtle,” Emmy interrupted.

Justin paused in memory of Myrtle, then took Theo by the shoulders and looked him straight in the eye. “Now, don’t tell anyone about this—especially, and I mean especially, Matthias.”

Theo looked horrified. “Oh, no, man, I don’t tell that dude anything.”

Justin seemed relieved.

“So you’ll talk to Tommy.”

“Yeah, yeah—I’ll go find him right now.” He ran across the street and disappeared into the throngs of clubbers, shouting, “This is so cool!”

Justin turned and looked at Emmy, who was just standing there smiling.

“Theo’s a great guy,” said Justin.

Emmy’s smile brightened up the night. “I know—a great guy.” Justin thought he heard her giggle.

“And I have to tell you—I—” Justin paused in mid-sentence as a little “uh-oh” went off in his mind when he realized he was talking to Emmy.

“What do you want to tell me?”

“Ah, it’s nothing—”

“Oh! Well, I just thought, you know, well, you know.”

Justin looked at Emmy and considered the possibility that she wasn’t an airhead, but simply someone who had a hard time communicating. He decided to throw her a lifeline.

“Would you like to help us?” Justin asked.

Emmy gave Justin another bright smile and said, “Ah! Well! Thank you! I’ll do—I’d love to—well, you know.”

“Yeah, I know. I’ll send you guys our little ‘bible.’”

Emmy stood there gushing, speechless, flabbergasted and then said, “Send the ‘bible.’”

“But like I said to Theo—keep it under your hat. We’re still working things out—and I just think, you know, well, you know.”

Emmy brightened up so much Justin thought the heat would burst her skin. “I know!” she said, with great excitement.

Ringing True Excerpt: Meeting Gwendolyn

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The long white limo dragged itself slowly up the hill and through the brown mist, bound for the Ventura Freeway. Matthias lounged comfortably in the center of the rear bench, legs spread wide, yelling at an accountant over his RAZR phone. Justin sat across the bar on the side bench, experiencing uselessness. Since this was his first trip to the Golden State, he looked forward to seeing something of it on the drive. After forty-five minutes on the 405, he realized his memories of the Golden State would be cars, cars and more cars, relieved occasionally by directional signs and construction cones. There seemed to be nothing for him to do but slide up and down his seat with every brake-and-start and listen to the hip-hop music Matthias had ordered the driver to pipe into the rear compartment.

Justin did not want to be here but once again he had worked himself into a position where there was no way out. After Emmy had miraculously set up the call with Gwendolyn Marks’ business manager, Matthias entered into a series of negotiations that ended with an agreement to meet at the actress’s retreat in a canyon north of L. A. The nonnegotiable condition was that Matthias bring with him the person who wrote The Numbers and that placed Justin firmly on the hook.

“I can’t go,” Justin protested.

“You’re going,” Matthias informed him.

“Look, dickhead, I’ve got a job—”

“Screw your job. This is important. You owe it to the rest of us,” added Matthias, reminding him of Responsibility Two.

“Why can’t Shelby go?” Justin threw out in desperation. “If it wasn’t for her, there wouldn’t be any Numbers. She knows this stuff as well as I do.”

“Because Ms. Marks specifically asked for the person who wrote The Numbers, not the muse who may have inspired The Numbers. It’s a deal-breaker and we need this woman to take us to the next level.”

“I don’t want to go to the next level. I didn’t want to go to this level.”

“Well, you’re here, we’re going, so get off your tight ass and start packing.”

To Justin’s dismay, they had flown first class and a stretch limo was waiting for them at LAX. Now imprisoned by the legendary traffic on the 405 and forced to watch Matthias play Donald Trump in the back of a limousine, Justin found himself stuck on a course that would lead to the home of an overpaid, overrated celebrity who discovered her latest plaything in the form of Ringing True, Inc.

Matthias snapped the cell phone shut and said to Justin, “Have you reviewed the portfolio?”

“Yes,” said Justin in a get-off-my-ass-dad tone of voice.

“Well, read it again. I need you on the top of your game,” said Matthias, tossing a document folder on the seat beside Justin.

Justin sighed and opened the folder to read the bio and background of Gwendolyn Marks for the second time. On top was her IMDb profile:

 

Date of Birth (location)

4 September 1974

Chelsea, London, England, UK

Mini-biography

Gwendolyn Marks has described her acting career (show more)

 

Birth name

Gwendolyn Edith Marks

Nickname

None

Height

5’ 6 1/2” (1.69 m)

Mini biography

 

Gwendolyn Marks has described her acting career as a “never-ending journey of personal discovery.” Daughter of the renowned British director, Peter Marks, she first appeared in a small role in her father’s adaptation of Bleak House at the age of eleven. Seeking to forge her own way, she left Britain at eighteen for New York, ostensibly to study with the avant-garde film actor and playwright Kieran McDougall. A brief courtship resulted in an even briefer marriage and subsequently the young actress found her way to Hollywood.

 

After three years of what Ms. Marks has referred to as her “cave period,” during which she studied film, dance and classical literature, she landed a meaty role as the deranged young housewife in the traditional thriller 229 Black . . .

 

Justin closed the portfolio, bored to tears. He could not have cared less about the history of Gwendolyn Marks or any other celebrity for that matter. He still considered the celebrity culture irrefutable evidence of human insanity and the participants on both sides of the screen distorted, shrunken people. To Justin, celebrity was the ultimate example of self-worship, producing nothing of value and nothing that remotely advanced the human condition. Like many people, he thought it sad that celebrities made obscene amounts of money while so many went hungry and poorly clothed, but thought it even sadder that so many people seemed willing to sacrifice any last scrap of human dignity for a shot at seeing their faces projected into the popular consciousness, if only for a moment.