A Perfect Life Interrupted…
For Samantha Grayson life at prestigious Great Northern University outside of Chicago couldn’t be any more complete: the star news reporter for The Daily Northern and deeply in love with Tyler McManaway, the strikingly handsome All-American quarterback of the school’s resurgent football team. But a passing glimpse of a story concerning the baffling disappearance of five young women that terrorizing Los Angeles a year earlier catches her interest and the research into the tragic incident unknowingly leads Samantha on a path towards a danger unimaginable in her most dreadful nightmares.
A Horrifying Secret From The Shadows Of History…
Samantha has no idea the puzzling disappearances are linked to a dark chapter of human history. Descendants of those involved in the African slave trade never leaving the wicked business, evolving their sordid commerce into an enterprise far more vile and insidious. A shadowy cabal trafficking in female flesh, kidnapping unsuspecting young women to fill grim consignments worth millions for wealthy and powerful clients to satisfy barbarous and twisted desires. Now their most skilled Collector, an operative known for ruthless cunning, has come to Chicago to acquire ‘product’ for his most profitable, and brutally sadistic, client. A man that if his depraved secret of violent bloodlust comes to light will send political shockwaves around the globe and threaten the fragile stability of the world’s economy.
A Race Against Time. A Fight To Survive…
When a worried freshman seeks Samantha’s assistance in locating her missing roommate, the investigation thrusts Samantha directly into the clutches of a terrifying peril not only jeopardizing her life, but that of her closest friends as well. As Samantha struggles to escape a seemingly hopeless situation and a brutally cruel destiny guaranteeing certain death, Tyler McManaway is forced into a desperate life-or-death contest far removed from the playing field. He must find and rescue the woman he loves from evil men with malicious intentions before time runs out or Samantha Grayson will vanish forever as another helpless victim of The Trading Society.
Tricia: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Eric: Eric Martin is my pen name, a combination of my first and middle names. My given name sounds like I should be writing books on Italian cooking. I was born and raised in Seneca Falls in Upstate New York, as the birthplace of women’s rights everyone has read about it in their history books during high school. I graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1988 and while there I worked as a reporter at The Observer, the campus student newspaper. I moved to Chicago after graduation to work in public relations but was laid off and by a few twists and turns wound up in the athletic goods industry where I am today, working in sales for Fleet Feet Sports in Chicago where I also write and edit product copy for the company website. I live in Homewood, which is a suburb south of Chicago, with my rescue greyhound Cubbie who is also a sometimes muse for my efforts. The Trading Society is my second book, I wrote another thriller, one about serial killers, under my given name back in 2000 during the primitive dawn of the ebook/self-publishing days.
Tricia: When did you begin writing?
Eric: I began writing back in grade school while growing up in the 70s, doing these mash-up stories with different characters from popular shows and movies that we call ‘fan fiction’ now. This was in the days long before the internet so I did them primarily for my own benefit and entertainment. I did some writing for the literary magazine during my high school days (when it was published between quite lengthy intervals.) Then I moved onto writing news stories at The Observer while at Notre Dame. With the emergence of the internet I joined a few story groups on Yahoo and that’s where I started to develop my style and wrote my first full-length novel, though real life intruded to keep me from pursuing my dreams of writing a second novel after I published my first work in 2000.
Tricia: Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?
Eric: For one it involves sitting in a Starbucks drinking copious amounts of Pike Place coffee with my Pandora internet radio playing over my headphones to get me in the mood.
To start with I block out every scene in the book-a short synopsis of the scene, what the action is going to be, any particular lines of dialogue I might want to include. By blocking it out first I can easily move parts around and decide where I want the chapter breaks to be. Then I start writing the scenes out. I’m not a ‘start at the beginning and write to the end’ sort of person, I used to be when I was younger and I would get stuck at a certain point, get discouraged and drop the project. This way I can work on parts I have a good idea about, then go back and work on those parts that may not be as defined in my mind. Also working on one part might provide me an idea or an insight that I use in the part that is giving me trouble.
When I’m done I’ll go back through and see if there are any parts that don’t advance or play an integral part in plot and cut them out. I’m also not adverse to switching things around right up until the final edits. In the climactic chapter and the final showdown I realized I need to switch the action around to have more of an impact and add some uncertainty.
Tricia: Can you tell us about your most recent release?
Eric: The Trading Society is a suspense thriller. Samantha Grayson is a young and beautiful college journalist at Great Northern University outside of Chicago with a perfect life: she’s the star reporter at the campus newspaper and in love with Tyler McManaway, the star quarterback of the school’s resurgent football team. Then by chance she spots an article in the Chicago Tribune about the mysterious disappearance of five young women in Los Angeles over the course of days the previous year. The pictures of the missing remind Samantha of her roommates and catch her attention and she starts to research the story with the intent of doing a story for her paper, not knowing this will send her on a path towards terrible danger.
Samantha has no idea the missing women, and many more that that, were victims of a human trafficking ring run by the descendants of men involved in the African slave trade in the early 1800s. When the commerce was abolished they moved onto abducting young women to sell to the wealthy and powerful. Now their most ruthless and cunning ‘Collector’ is in Chicago to procure ‘the product’ for their most lucrative, and most brutal, client. A man if his violent secret is revealed will send political shockwaves around the world.
A worried freshman seeks Samantha’s help in locating a missing roommate and Samantha’s investigation leads her right into the clutches of this human trafficking ring placing Samantha, as well as her roommates, in terrible danger. It falls on Tyler McManaway to find Samantha in time before she is sold off and disappears forever as the next victim of The Trading Society.
Tricia: How did you get the idea for the book?
Eric: The Trading Society started as a serial I worked on for one of my Yahoo story groups while I was writing my first novel. My first book was about serial killers and was pretty grim and I needed a release from that grind. The adventures of Samantha and her friends, and the enemies that torment her and place her in peril, grew into a fairly involved work that in retrospect I should have done as my first novel instead of what I did wind up releasing. Also I grew up in the 1970s and every cop show at that time seemed to have an episode where a ‘white slavery ring,’ what human trafficking was called in the days before political correctness, was kidnapping pretty coeds from college campuses to sell overseas. I guess I was pretty impressionable back then because the idea has always stuck in the back of my head and found life in that long-lost Yahoo story group.
In the original story the human trafficking group was evil and sinister, but pretty generic, I called them a ‘network’. But as I was writing the story to novel length I realized I had to give more of a history/motivation to these traffickers. Then I thought ‘what if these people were descendants of men involved in the African slave trade and they never left the business when the trade was abolished.’ With that the antagonists gained a history and their motivation, to kidnap young women to sell to the rich and powerful to act out their desires, provided a depth to the plot.
Tricia: Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?
Eric: That’s like asking which one of your siblings is your favorite. They all have to be a favorite but for different reasons. If you don’t like writing for that particular character then the scenes they are in become more difficult to write. And I like writing of the interactions between the characters. There is also a perverse satisfaction when writing for the antagonists, you get to tap into that ‘dark side.’ If I have to say which character is my ‘favorite’ it would have to be Samantha Grayson as she is the moral center of the story.
Tricia: What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
Eric: I think, since I have a job in the real world, was finding the time to sit down and write. I’d write before work in the Starbucks down from where I work and also spend much of my off-days working on the project. And since I had to ride the train to and from Chicago to get to work, about an hour each way, I’d pull out the laptop and try to push out a page or two. And the writing of the story was the easy part, once I was done I went through it four or five times refining and editing the work until I felt it was ready.
Tricia: What would you like to tell us about your book or your writing that someone wouldn’t discover during a casual review of your blurb or website?
Eric: I try to work in details from my own background or things I know or am familiar with in the story. I grew up in the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York, and the wine industry is pretty important there, so I had Samantha grow up at a winery.
Tricia: What is your primary goal as an author?
Eric: I hope this series, I haven’t come up with a name for it yet, takes off and I’m writing books about Samantha Grayson’s battles with The Trading Society, and some other ‘big bads’ that threaten her and her friends, for years to come. But I do have other ideas outside of this series that I’d like to pursue.
Tricia: Which authors have inspired your writing?
Eric: I really don’t read a lot in my own genre, I try not to as to allow my writing to develop organically. If there is one author who influenced my writing it would have to be Tom Clancy. Yes, he was the master of the technothriller but I was impressed by how he would build the plot through the course of the story. And I was also impressed by how in-depth he was with developing his characters, even the minor characters had some outstanding memorable detail. I read a great deal of historical fiction and I just finished ‘The Guns At Last Light,” the last book in Rick Atkinson’s ‘Liberation Trilogy’ on the campaign of the Allies through Western Europe in World War Two. His attention to detail was amazing and his writing style, how he makes the history come to life, absolutely superb. If he ever decides to write fiction I will buy whatever he writes.
Tricia: What projects are you currently working on?
Eric: Right now I’m focused on marketing The Trading Society. The writing the book was the easy part, the getting the word out and gaining attention for the work is hard, hard work. Once I’m ready to write again I’ll start to work on the next book in the series Constellation Rising.
Tricia: What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?
Eric: Always. Be. Writing.
About the Author:
Eric Martin is the pen name of this 1988 graduate of The University of Notre Dame, where he worked as a news reporter on the staff of The Observer, the independent student newspaper. When not writing at Starbucks, he puts his bachelor of arts degree in government to use selling running shoes and promoting the gospel of a healthy lifestyle at Fleet Feet Sports in Chicago where he also writes and edits copy for the store’s website. He does not have an advanced degree in fiction writing, only has a fertile, and some noted overactive, imagination with him since childhood in Seneca Falls in Upstate New York. It is his wish to write an enjoyable story people might want to take time out of their busy day to read and escape the grind of reality for a few hours.
The Trading Society is his debut novel under his pen name; expanding on a shorter work originally developed in a Yahoo story group in 1999. He lives in Homewood, Illinois, a suburb south of Chicago, with his rescue greyhound, and sometimes muse, Cubbie.
Never in the nineteen years of her young life had Samantha Grayson known the experience, or felt the chilling, desolate sensation, of being completely helpless.
Blessed of limitless self-confidence, the natural gift of graceful poise garnered for Samantha admission to the prestigious, and highly selective, Randall School of Journalism and Communications at Great Northern University, helped her earn a coveted reputation as the top reporter at The Daily Northern, the campus newspaper. Always in control of events swirling relentlessly about her, able to overcome any obstacle or navigate whatever tempestuous situation life placed squarely in the path towards a bright, shining future.
Now that unbridled confidence betrayed her. Samantha believed in her ability to handle the lead obtained earlier that afternoon; an anxious freshman seeking her assistance locating a roommate she’d last seen the previous afternoon in the dorm room they shared.
The innocent assumption proved horribly wrong.
The darkness of the cramped closet where Samantha lay on her side, broken only by a sliver of pale light seeping underneath the pencil-thin crack at the bottom of the door, smothered her in a suffocating grasp like the tentacles of an octopus. The bare wood floor, cold and hard against her body, induced a tremulous shiver as if suddenly caught outside in a biting winter wind, sent unending waves of goose bumps prickling the tender skin of her arms and legs.
The meager light enough to illuminate the horrifying magnitude of her peril. Samantha could barely move, bound excruciatingly tight with white cotton rope. Hands pulled behind her back, bonds cutting deep into her wrists producing a warm, numbing sensation deadening her fingers. An intricate network of rope wound about her torso, twisted around her limbs like the pressing coils of a python, bands of cord looped above and below her breasts, arms pinned uselessly to her sides, holding her slender form in an obscene lover’s embrace. Samantha peered down; with shamed dismay saw her white silk blouse torn, folds of shimmering fabric pulled aside, revealing the black satin bra with a floral print worn underneath.
Her ankles tied, black skirt pushed up with more white rope, in stark contrast to the black microfiber tights sheathing her legs, cinched taut about her knees and thighs. A million aches vibrated ceaselessly through her body in a constant, steady thrum of pain. The stringent bondage secure and unyielding, every knot positioned out of reach of straining fingers, chances of escape reduced to the faintest of elusive hopes.
Samantha couldn’t scream, not that it mattered, no one able to hear her plaintive cries. The cloth wadding jammed deep in her mouth, held firmly in place by a thick strip of soft white cotton knotted behind her head, fabric pulled cruelly back between her lips, muffled completely any sound she uttered, rendering useless her pleas for help. Samantha tried to suppress, but to no avail, the shiver of fear coursing through her with the crackling intensity of an electric current.
She heard footsteps approach her cramped cell, head lifting at the sound. Unsettling questions rattled around her mind like a handful of coins shaken in an empty glass jar. What now? What is he going to do with me? How much time do I have left? Each possible answer, along with violent visions accompanying every outcome, threatened to shatter into tiny shards a psyche already teetering on the edge of uncontrollable panic.
Tousled strands of auburn hair fell over brown eyes wide and moist with suffocating dread. He can’t let me go, not with what I know, a rising tide of terror crept through her thoughts like the relentless march of vines crawling up a wall. He has to do something with me. But what? Samantha sobbed, chest aching with every ragged breath.
She understood exactly what her captor had to do.
Get rid of me.
Samantha struggled to rise from the floor, groaning with strenuous effort to heave her bound body into a kneeling position in the confined space, then slumping against the corner as the simple effort exhausted her stamina, drained her will. Wished she possessed a mystical gift, a sacred talisman, to turn back time, replay the day from the start and return to the safe, secure environs of the Great Northern campus, be with her cherished friends and the young man she loved with heart and soul. Wished she never chased the lead bringing her to this now uncertain fate.
The door opened and Samantha whined, blinked as bright light pierced her eyes with the sharpness of a dagger. The gauzy glow outlined the slim figure looming over her in the doorway; one Samantha only knew as a nameless captor now holding in his hands her precious life. “Are we having fun yet?” His tone deceptively soothing, yet oozed with cunning sarcasm. “It’s only begun.”
Samantha Grayson moaned in fearful protest, chest heaving as her breathing quickened, a fresh surge of adrenaline infused with fear injected in her veins by his terrifying presence, flowed through her body with the unleashed fury of a raging river. What have I gotten myself into? Worse still, she didn’t fully comprehend the reason why she held captive, bound and gagged, locked in a closet, or the fate of the missing girl she set off in search of earlier that afternoon.
There was one more thing Samantha Grayson didn’t know.
How am I going to get out of this?