Coming SOON—A New Book from Eagle Peak Press
Short stories. Micro or flash fiction too. Even a bit of verse. Fast reads or leisure time escapes–your choice. Twice the size of our last collection.
A potpourri if you will: Multi-genre: Speculative fiction–fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal; creative nonfiction–memoir, nature observations; general fiction–relationships and more. Some come from items that once were blog posts—edited, expanded and adapted for this book.
See the review of a wonderful book by Sally Cronin as an example of how diverse today’s books can be. This one will be more so.
When can you get it? We are hoping for the holidays, 2020. IF we don’t make it, look for it in early 2021. If you’re a subscriber, you’ll get the news first. But we will get the word out on the publisher’s blog: johnswriting.com.
Look for: Suspense, humor, the drama of relationships, nature and more. Something for almost any taste. Check out a few samples of our wares below. All the items below are subject to revision before publication.
This oddity is inspired by a short piece from James Tate, It Happens Like This. Read Tate’s piece here and you will understand. Or just read a few words at the end of this item.
It Might Have Happened Like This
The wind came early that year, bringing with it the spring that never ended. Flowers bloomed as never before. Fruit soon followed. Sweet, succulent and intoxicating delights drenched beards or bodices of all who partook of it. Everyone enjoyed the sunny days and refreshing nights. When the wind went its way, they all waited for spring to give way to summer. It did not. Some thought spring might pass directly to fall. It did not. Winter never came either. People enjoyed the fruit while it lasted. They enjoyed the weather as well—for a time. Then some became unsettled. Cranky even. “It’s not normal,” they said.
At first just a few talked of leaving. Then they did. Soon others followed. Eventually, only a goat remained. He ate what fragments of fruit the townspeople left behind. Then the goat too moved on, to a town whose seasons still came and went. He stopped at St. Cecilia’s Rectory when he saw a man smoking. A man he could follow–which he did.
“It looked up at me and I stared into its eyes. I felt he knew everything essential about me.” From Tate’s piece as featured here.
Do you like fantasy or sci-fi? Here’s a piece that we plan on including in the book. Call it flash or microfiction—let’s not be technically fussy.
The starcatcher practiced his lonely trade on the galaxy’s rim. He pulled back in escaping suns. No one else cared. Cared that galactic gravity couldn’t hold onto them all. All part of the natural order in an expanding universe. Galaxies collide, forming clusters—then super clusters. Who cares about one star or two getting away? Stars that could become intergalactic rogues. He cared. They belonged with their counterparts in the clusters where they were born.
Ironic, considering his departure from his own system. He grew up close to the congested center of a galaxy. A dense region filled with suns and planetary systems. Systems packed with people. A place buzzing with workers and craftsmen making things or people doing things, together. He started as an explorer but so did many others. Then it got too confining, coping with star-lanes filled with FTL ships, long-haul travelers being pushed at ever increasing speed by their ion drives.
Like the stars he caught, he escaped the galaxy’s pull but only as far as the distant rim where no one ventured. Immense energy and inconceivable forces were required to move a star. No one knew how he did it because no one knew that he was doing it. If they ever found out, he would be alone no more. They would stop him. No more messing around with gravitons, tachyons and dark matter. Too dangerous.
A Buddhist concept expanded upon.
The Oneness of Self and Environment
“I sing the body electric,” said Walt Whitman. Herman Hesse heard the teachings of his blood pulsing within. William Wordsworth said,
“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”
Nature is without and within—man, the microcosm lives amidst the macrocosm. As the moon moves the tides does it not pull, albeit unfelt, on the 70% of our human bodies made up of water and blood? There is no life without an environment and within the environment there is life. The self and the environment are two but not two, they are one in essence. From ourselves we can know our surroundings. From the world we can know ourselves.
A sample you may have seen in last year’s Annual. A werewolf tale that needs a bit more work. A full-fledged short story that starts like this:
Dog is My Copilot
Dog Is My Copilot read the bumper sticker. Nick moved into the right turn lane, heading out of town. He glanced over at the hairy beast, big as a wolf, sitting in the truck’s passenger seat. The dog turned, giving Nick a goofy grin with a lolling tongue—far from his lupine ancestry.
“Well, Lauren, we won’t look much like that guy tonight—will we?” Nick said.“
Not hardly,” she laughed.
“Another hour on the road and then the hike on the trail. Time enough for a beer before the shift,” he sighed.
“Or maybe a joint with the pack. A pack of stoned wolves,” Lauren giggled.
“Wouldn’t mind that—but maybe just for the two of us,” he said, stroking her thigh.
“Oh, you have a different sort of hunt in mind, eh?” She slid a hand under his ponytail, rubbing his neck. “But you know we have to join the others for the hunt.”
“Sure—later,” he grinned.
§ § §
The six-wolf pack began with Zack, who led it. Two years before, 19-year-old Zack had a few too many beers in a friend’s cabin. Zack wandered off in search of something. As night fell, so did he, hitting his head on a log. When he awoke, his shredded shirt revealed deep gashes. Tim, Zack’s sometime drinking buddy, said he recalled hearing a wolf’s howl and firing off a rifle round into the air to scare it off. The wound healed surprisingly quickly, given its depth.
From a dream comes this strange item, a complete story—
Muriel and the Water Buffalo
Jim walked into a backyard, an unfamiliar one. Very unlike the one he knew. His own, in the semi-arid Southwest, had limestone shards broken up by bear grass, prickly pear, and sundry cacti. This yard had grass—short, but not brown. Two women, unknown to him, sat on functional but nondescript lawn chairs. He paid little attention to them; his gaze drawn to the white-coated labradoodle lounging nearby. One of the 40-something ladies introduced the dog as Muriel. He sat down at a metal picnic table 15-feet away, expecting Muriel to come and investigate. She ignored him. He might as well have been in Silver City, where the dogs are quite laid back and disinterested in strangers.
He went inside via the back door—two steps and a landing perpendicular to the house, through the simple kitchen. Suddenly it was his house—sort of. He had to get into town—errands to run. Light from a cloudless sky poured in through the front window. Now late afternoon, the sun would be down upon his return. He began closing the shades when they all came in, unexpectedly. Not the strangers in the yard, but immediate and extended family—out of time and place. His sisters-in-law Alice and Cindy. His daughter, Michelle, fifteen years younger than her current age, and his wife Wendy.
Alice said, “Some guy called me, trying to get hold of you. Said you owed $4,400 for repairs to a car you rented.”
“What! Why the hell did he call you?”
“I don’t know. Said he tried to reach you but couldn’t.”
“Sounds like bull. Phishing, most likely. I’ve had the same number for seven years. Did the guy leave a number?”
“Yeah, sure. Here, I wrote it down.”
“Ok, thanks—I’ll straighten this jerk out.”
Jim went just ten feet away, back into the kitchen of the tiny house. “This is Jim. Did you call my sister-in-law Alice, telling her I owed you money for repairs to a rental car?”
“Uh, what’s your full name and what was the amount?”
“Never mind my name–$4,400. Now you tell ME when and where this car was rented. I haven’t rented one in several years and never turned one in damaged.”
“The car was rented in July 2019, in Norfolk, Virginia—to a James Skidmore. It needed extensive repairs.”
“Well my name’s not Skidmore. Didn’t go anywhere in Virginia in 2019 and sure as hell didn’t rent a car there. Maybe you made an honest mistake. But if you call me or Alice again, I’ll assume this is a scam and I’ll call the authorities—got it?”
“Uh, well, must be a glitch in our system. We will do some research. Thank you, Mister . . . Jim.”
Done with the call, Jim turned to find an unknown man, juice glass in hand, asking if Jim could turn up the kitchen light so he could read the calendar pinned to the refrigerator. Jim took the glass and put it in the dishwasher before brightening the room.
At that point, time was moving on to make the trip into town. Wendy wanted to go along. They drove through the neighborhood’s narrow streets, turning here and there. Finally, they came to an intersection with a highway. On an incline, the car wanted to roll back down. A bit of a challenge managing the brake and transmission awaiting a break in traffic to make it through to the other side, going left. Odd, he thought, cars haven’t had that problem for a very long time.
After a bit, they made it alongside a very narrow median, only to wait for three people walking on the area beyond the pavement. What are people doing on an interstate? He thought. Of course, it couldn’t be an interstate. Instead of proceeding on to town, he turned off down a slight slope to a body of water—a large lake perhaps.
He began driving atop the boulders that initially seemed connected into a roadway. To the right, he saw a water buffalo a hundred feet away, grazing on what he assumed were submerged grasses. He looked back, seeing another creature resembling the first. Somehow, it was munching on the skull of a monkey—partially covered with hair, or perhaps grasses. But how could a water buffalo hold a monkey’s head?
Paying attention once again to his driving, Jim noticed the boulders growing further apart—too distant to drive on. He turned the car to get back up the hill and onto the road. Soon they were mysteriously on foot—without the vehicle. They competed with others hiking on a narrow path to the pavement they had left moments before. Only now, the pavement had become a congested pedestrian way, leading toward a shopping area.
They found themselves walking on the bricks next to a man holding an ice cream cone. The guy reached over to refasten a bandage on the back of Wendy’s left hand. Jim was surprised. Wendy said nothing, a puzzled look on her face. The fix didn’t stick. A few yards later, the man tried again.
Jim said, “Keep your hands to yourself, buddy,” and rushed Wendy along, turning past the fellow into a food and shopping area. In front and to the left, Jim spotted an area of tables, set ten to fifteen feet apart. People sat eating and drinking at many of the spots, listening to the light acoustic music coming from a tiny stage only a few feet above them, against the wall of a bookstore. As they walked through the open spaces between the chairs, Wendy headed to the restroom. Jim urged haste—with twilight approaching soon.
So ended the very, very odd dream of an early Monday morning.
Finally, this story you have not seen before, just briefly noted in last year’s Annual—The Dog Star’s Bark. We’re going to take a chance and show you the whole story—hoping you will be hooked to buy the book.
The Dog Star’s Bark
I gazed in rapt wonder at the dark night sky, nearly asleep in the deck’s recliner. Then came the sound. I swear, I did hear the Dog Star barking at me. Jill wouldn’t believe me of course, when I told her. Any more than when I told her of the squirrel. I knew he returned my wave with an uplifted paw that day, when we saw one another through the front window. Hey, he was one of the residents, why wouldn’t he wave?
“You fell asleep out there under the stars. That’s all.”
“No, I’m sure. Well–I think I’m sure.”
“So did its tail wag too,” she smirked.
“No! Of course not. A star doesn’t have a tail to wag.” She refused to take my observation seriously. Who could blame her, I supposed. “The squirrel didn’t wag its tail either.”
“Ah, so why do you suppose it barked at you? Hoping for a handout–perhaps a bone?” One eyebrow arched up as she patted my arm.
“I don’t know! Maybe a warning to watch out for one of your Seven Sisters?” I offered an arched brow of my own, omitting the pat.
“I don’t have seven sisters. What are you talking about Jack?” She hadn’t a clue of course.
“Are you sure? You know of at least one half-sister to go along with the three sisters who lived at home with you growing up. Maybe there are more out there that your father played a part in bringing into the universe.”
“Ok, there was that one, but he wasn’t a rolling stone so far as I know. He only hung his hat in our house.”
“So, not the Seven Sisters then. Maybe Orion then. Maybe he had one too many belts at the Big Dipper and got rowdy.”
“Yeah right. I think you had too many belts while binge watching the Outer Limits and Neil deGrasse Tyson last night.”
“Could be,” I chuckled at that.
§ § §
She came in a dream one night—at least I think it was a dream. A few months after the Dog Star’s bark. She looked like me or anyone you know. Not at all like an alien. Said she was from Sirius and thought I might like to visit—look for dogs, barking or otherwise. I laughed and apologized for our Earthly imagination of naming constellations after animals and mythological gods. She wasn’t offended, just amused. Interesting—Sirians having a sense of humor. I asked how I might get there and were there any planets to visit.
“No planets, sorry. You’d just astrally project here. You might find the spirits of some ancient Egyptians whirling around hither and yon—although you’ll find their worship of me as Sopdet has waned. The Dogons, though, they’re still convinced we visited long ago and told them all about us. We did, of course, just as I’m visiting you now.”
“Well, if you visited them on Earth, why would I want to project myself a few lightyears to Sirius. Which one, by the way, A or B.”
“If it’s all the same to you, we don’t talk about the white dwarf. And don’t even think of the tiny red one, despite what the Dogons will tell you. There is no third star. There are no physical Nommos because there are no planets. There’s just me—the heart, mind and soul of the big star. I don’t talk to the dwarves; they keep to themselves. By the way, I projected a whole bunch of fishy folks—really amphibians, to interact with that tribe in Mali.”
“Oh, never mind them. You can search all about them on the web.”
“You know about the web?”
“Of course—as a sun goddess I know all about everything. So, are you up for that visit tonight or not?”
“Uh, I’m feeling the urge to take a pee break about now. Maybe some other time.”
“OK then. You know it gets lonely here these years, just the amateur astronomers pointing their tiny telescopes my way. If you ever decide to visit—just go to bed thinking of that star barking. That was me, by the way, just to get your attention.”
I took that trip to the bathroom and came back with the dream still fresh in my mind. At breakfast I planned to tell Jill about this great travel opportunity. FREE! Maybe we could go together. I thought better of mentioning it as the caffeine kicked in.
§ § §
Months later, I finally took Sopdet up on her offer. What an interesting person—or goddess, I should say. Thankfully, she wasn’t blindingly bright as one might expect. She had assumed a human form, she explained, for the sake of my comfort. She needn’t have made herself look like a twenty-five-year-old version of Jill. Appealing yes, but comfortable no. A goddess thing I supposed, enticing a man into mischief. She succeeded, despite resurrecting memories of the nubile Jill.
The appearance of Sopdet as Jill soon gave way to the seductive soul of a multimillion-year-old being. An astral encounter far different than experiencing physical sex. Sensual pleasures do involve the mind and not just the body, of course, but this went way beyond that. I felt her sensations and mine as one. I knew her not carnally, but cerebrally.
“Thanks, Jack. I’ve been missing that the last few centuries. I’ve been so busy keeping the fires burning, the orbit stable and other solar tasks,” she whispered in my astral ear.
“Oh yes, I couldn’t imagine how much work being a star entails,” I said (I really couldn’t, of course—not being an astrophysicist).
After our interlude, Sopdet showed me around the stellar system of three suns. She laughed about the Earth’s people applying all the mythological names for constellations of stars. Especially calling Sirius the Dog Star and Canis Major following Orion the Hunter.
“Of course, that’s not his real name—Orion. He’s more the dog than me. I loved him for a time, but we simply could not get along—he was an overbearing god. Worse, he kept playing around with those other stars—the ones your early Earthly astronomers called the Seven Sisters.”
“Ah, I never would have imagined there really were romantic lives among the celestial objects.”
“Oh yes, you would be surprised at who’s zooming who with comets whizzing by black holes and dark stars out there that you humans can’t see. Physicists see us as nuclear furnaces, having no conception of our spiritual lives.”
“Well, there still are those on Earth who ascribe a mystical life and effects on us by all your fellow stars. They’re in a minority and the scientific types don’t take them seriously.”
§ § §
My trip took far longer on Earth than it did in my mind. I woke up to Jill shaking me.
“Wake up Jack, it’s nearly noon,” she said. “I’ve been trying to rouse you for nearly an hour. I almost called 911! Are you OK?”“Uhhhh—yeah, I think so. I was light years away, visiting Sopdet.”
“Sopdet? Lightyears?” Jill’s eyes grew wide as the words flew from her mouth. “Did you do some drugs last night—after all these years?” Tears welled up as she pulled a chair near the bed.
“No; no drugs. I had a dream some time ago—this personification of Sirius invited me to come visit. She said I could astrally project there—she’d show me around.”
“Ok, so a dream—a few months ago. What happened last night, Jack?” Jill said, frowning as she clutched my hand.
“So, I went there—not physically, of course. To the Egyptians, Sirius was the Goddess Sopdet. You’d be amazed how much she knew about Earth and its people. She told me she had this thing with Orion, but he played around, so she broke it off.”
“That’s either the weirdest dream you’ve ever told me about or you need help, Jack,” Jill’s eyebrows arched.
“Yeah, must have been a dream. I could maybe see astral projection, but not connecting with the soul of a star. I’ll be OK, after I get some lunch—and some coffee.” I offered my best silly smirk. Couldn’t have Jill thinking I’m nuts—or worse, fooling around with a sun goddess who looked like her at 25.