As we said in the December issue, we’re bringing you teasers for works coming not just in 2017, but also into the next decade. Perhaps even beyond. Science fiction, mysteries, thrillers and more. The titles may change. So may the excerpts. While we have invested a fair amount of time on some, we’re nowhere near the final drafts on most. Others remain in the conceptual phase.
Opening excerpt from The Vacation of My Life (sci-fi thriller)
Sam left the building in a daze. How could I have done that? How could I forget all that? I’ve got to call Melanie, maybe she knows something. Plopping down on a transit bench, he speed dialed Melanie. If anybody knew him, it was Melanie. Melanie picked up on the third ring, “Sam, why are you calling me again? I told you it’s over—now stop calling me!” she said, seething, as she clicked off the phone.
No, no—not Melanie too! Sam immediately redialed. Surprisingly, Melanie answered again, “Call me again and I will get a restraining order!” Melanie screamed.
“Wait, don’t hang up—please. Whatever I did, I’m sorry. But I don’t know what I did. I just went to my office and found out I got fired. They said I did some crazy stuff; stuff that didn’t make sense. I don’t remember any of it.”“What—are you kidding? Are you trying to say you have some kind of amnesia or something, or is this some kind of line?”
“No, it’s not some kind of line. I woke up late this morning; my alarm didn’t go off. I couldn’t find my building pass. When I got to work and asked for a temporary ID, the guard at the desk couldn’t find me in the employee directory. He put me through to Bob Jackson. He said they fired me on the spot at a staff meeting after I called the CEO an idiot and urinated all over the agenda. It’s crazy! Why would I do something like that? I remember summarizing the Gibson contract at the last meeting. It comes up for renewal in July.”
“Sam, this is August.”
“What! No, it can’t be. I—don’t understand,” Sam sucked in air.
“What you did at the staff meeting isn’t any crazier than your Fourth of July stunt. I suppose you don’t remember that either?”
From The Dragon and the Butterfly (sci-fi; title may change)
The butterfly’s bark shook Prentice from his reverie. A tart sound, heard only with neuro-pepper augmented senses. Without enhancement, he had no hope of navigating the rain forest. The forest offered many painful deaths—some quick and some prolonged. How long have I been standing here? He wondered, tracking the butterfly’s upward path until it veered away. That’s when he saw the giant spider, expectantly flexing its mandibles two feet overhead. Only the butterfly’s warning saved him from the hypnotic hunter’s mind-web that had been holding Prentice tightly.
“Hey, a spider’s gotta eat,” the hairy-legged monster said, “no offense.”“None taken,” said Prentice, blowing a hit of neuro-pepper in the spider’s face—a fatal toxin for arachnids of all sizes. The drug’s effects on Prentice must have been wearing off, three hours from the last assault to his seared septum. Otherwise, he would have noticed the spider before the mind-cloud got him. He had paused to rest for only a moment when the memories of Roz flooded over him, thanks to the eight-legged killer. Brilliant blue hues reflecting from steel-hard scales—how could there be a more beautiful lizard anywhere in the galaxy? He had to get her back, even if it meant daring the deadly rain forest.
Despite the havoc it wreaked on his nasal passages, he took another snort of the stimulant. He hadn’t tracked Roz across the galaxy to be stopped by drug company security. Big pharma imported the genetically engineered predators from low gravity labs orbiting the fertile planet Soleus to protect their investment in medicinal flora and fauna—with deadly force. Which way, which way Mr. Butterfly? Will you show me a safe path? Prentice wasted no words on the blue morpho, which had no ear for talk. Still, it heard his unspoken plea. With one quick yip and a waggle of its wings flashing brown and blue, it pointed Prentice the way—in hopes perhaps, of some reward for a successful lizard hunt.
The Dipping Bowls (mystery/suspense)
“Never seen nothing like this Sheriff. I mean, we’ve had a few drunks; a few punks taking drugs but if we find out, we get ’em outta here real fast. We’re real careful who we rent to.”“I’m sure you are, Fred. Why don’t you go out on the porch and sit down now, you’re still shaking. We can handle this in here. We got any more questions, we’ll come out and talk with you.”
The bodies were still fresh, with the cold nights of early June in central Maine. Fred, the cabin owner discovered them. The renters were two days late checking out, so he went for a look-see. Their car was still there but they didn’t answer his knock. Opening the door, he found them on the floor. Dishes and a few utensils lay near the bodies of the middle-aged man and woman. A red sauce stained the threadbare carpet, matching the remains stuck on plates and forks.
“What do you think happened here, Doc?”
“Well there’s no trauma—no wounds, no bruises other than what you could expect from a fall off the chairs. If there were just one of them, it could be a heart attack or stroke but there are two. I don’t like to guess, Bill. You know that. It could be something they ate, from the dishes on the floor. I’ll have to get the two of them and the dishes back to the morgue. I’ll run some tests.”
# # #
“Henry, where are the dipping bowls? I can’t find them anywhere!”
“How should I know, Margaret—you cleaned up the kitchen last fall when we closed up the place! Where did you put them?”
“Well, I always put them on the third shelf, left hand side. But they’re not there. What are we going to do now? Dinner is almost ready. What will we put the oil in?”
“I don’t know. Does it really matter? Can’t we just put the oil in the little pudding cups?”
“Oh, I suppose; but it’s not the same,” Margaret sighed.
“We’ll survive, Margaret. The oil will be the same and the bread will be the same. After dinner, I’ll have a look around. Maybe Tommy or Ellen used them for something else and forgot to put them back.” Henry had attained that age when the hair on a man’s torso, arms and legs turns brittle and thin before disappearing altogether—while vigorously growing tufts sprout from ears and nose. With that age comes patience, the tolerance of minor irregularities that time has a way of taking care of.
“All right, Henry,” Margaret said, setting the plates on the old pine table, a remnant from one of the other camps at Schoodic Lake. Many in Maine still call a cabin a camp–no matter how well furnished, if it’s open only during summer.
# # #
An American in Paris (suspense/thriller)
“Quelle heure est-il,” he asked the man selling crepes.“3:20,” the man replied, tugging a watch from his apron pocket. The vendor had no difficulty pegging him as an American, most likely a tourist, by his clothes and lack of finesse at a simple French phrase.
Alex had lost his own watch to a bump and grab pickpocket. Thankfully, the thief missed the wallet, secure in an atypically placed pocket behind two layers of clothing. Alex had ten minutes to get from the Eiffel Tower to the Bassins du Champs de Mars to meet a friend and her daughter. I had best hurry, he thought. Not quite a tourist, he had important business in Paris with his French amie. A hoverboard would have made that a quicker trip, but the airlines prohibited them now. Then again, if he avoided the risk of a burning hoverboard, he might have wound up with a sprain or worse on a bumpy sidewalk. A trip to the ER could be dangerous. The important thing is being discreet. No one must know why I am meeting with Genevieve.
The Clamshell Kimonos (drama and TBD)
Fumiko covered clamshells in kimonos every few days. She wrapped beautiful fabric around the shells, silk that might otherwise be worn on formal occasions by full-grown humans. How many she completed depended entirely on how many customers ate steamed clams from her family’s restaurant. Unlike fish served raw as sushi or sashimi, shellfish are most often cooked in Japan. Some days few patrons were in the mood for clams; other days many ate them. But why put a kimono on a clam? It’s not as if modesty required the attire. Of course, clamshells are not among the loveliest of things to be found in a kitchen. No, it’s not about the clams themselves but about a relatively inexpensive souvenir of Japanese culture easily carried to a tourist’s home. Far less expensive and easier to transport than the many yards of fine fabric that went into human-sized couture.
Rachel had to have one of the kimono-clad clams. Soba will be thrilled at the childhood memories of Okayama. It didn’t turn out as well as she thought. Unwrapping the present from Rachel’s trip, her grandmother burst into tears at the sight of the golden fabric with red flower petal motifs. How could Rachel know the pattern precisely matched the one her Sofu, Tetsushi, wore on the day that the bomb fell on Nagasaki. Tetsushi had gone there to apply for a job. Ineko wanted her husband to look his best that day, so she made sure he wore his best kimono. Rachel’s expected joy turned to perplexed sorrow.
In case you missed the December issue, here’s an excerpt from the cli-fi (sci-fi about climate change) story, The Grelm.
The grelm neither ate nor or drank. Like a tree, it drew sustenance from the wetland soil, the fog and the rain. Warmed by the sun, it took pleasure in the light of the moon. For nearly a thousand years, it weathered winters, hurricanes and tropical storms in the lowlands extending into the bay. Its survival grew more precarious as the sea level continued advancing year by year, gobbling more and more of the land. It knew nothing of climate change but worry crept into its mind. Perhaps I chose wrongly when the ship crashed. Perhaps I should have moved farther inland, despite the pain. There were other inlets I might have settled in. Too late now to move, its roots—figuratively and literally, were sunk deeply in the place.