Seven more books by 2031!
Yes, an ambitious schedule. For the full agenda, see the list at the end.
Happening THIS YEAR:
Our second short story collection out December 15 for the 2019 holidays.
Fifteen stories—with twice as many pages as The Fountain! They run from micro fiction to just shy of a novelette.
Here’s a sample of what’s coming (see some excerpts and previews further down):
The Old Salt—see most of this micro fiction below
The Grelm—recounting the effects of climate change on an alien that takes root on America’s coastal wetlands; excerpt below
Precog Prez—you can guess what this about; it’s a somewhat longer story
The Dog Star—a bit of whimsy
Jacob’s Designer Gene—what happens when gene modification goes awry, and the biotech company has folded?
The Wishing Bell—Remember the Monkey’s Paw? This is a variation, sort of
The Jumping Cholla—Watch out for the barbs; excerpt below
The Time of Your Life—A company promises it can create a VR recording of your life (with edited excerpts) from interviews and a memory scan—what could go wrong?
Dog is My Copilot—werewolves at play, some who might have a conscience; excerpt below
The Vampire Bodhisattva–see the story below, subject to change
Plus, a preview of The Vacation will appear as an addendum. This sci-fi novel will be out in late 2020. If you read The Fountain, our first collection, you saw a shorter sample This excerpt will be updated and expanded.
It’s about rich kids from another planet getting their kicks on Earth at the expense of the locals. The book opens with Sam Andrews discovering weeks later, that he had been fired for unseemly conduct. Suffering from amnesia, he learns with the aid of deep hypnosis how and why it happened.
Excerpts and Previews
Some of these stories first appeared as a snippet on the author’s website. They have been expanded or edited. They will change more in final edits before publication. ALL of these are excerpts—except Vampire Bodhisattva, it too may change.
The old salt came through the tunnel into darkening skies of a setting sun. He had spent a night and a day fasting in the ancient cave. Once, hundreds of years before, the ocean filled the passage. He offered a prophecy that augured its return and more.
“The sea will rise and swallow this village. No more will the men throw nets from the shore. We must move to higher ground, ground with rich volcanic soil. We will become farmers, planting crops to feed the people.”
“But we know nothing of farming,” said the village chief.
“It’s not so different from fishing,” said the old salt. “You cast seeds upon the tilled land rather than nets upon the sea. You harvest food, not fish.”
“But how? How will we learn this?”
“First you will learn patience, before farming. The fish will still be in the ocean, but we will need boats to catch them. We must make larger nets–purse seines that we draw around the schools of fish.”
“So why crops? Why farming at all?”
“Because it’s what I saw in the cave beyond the tunnel. The vision is clear. The sea will rise and so must we–to the western hills. We will live the old ways no more.”
“What of the volcano?”
“It has lain dormant since we first came to this shore. The vision showed nothing to fear from it. We have time to prepare, time to learn of farming from the people far to the west. Time to make our bigger nets. But we must not tarry.”
“But how much time do we have?”
[See the funny ending in December]
The cholla’s roots pierced the meteorite’s rocky crust, drawing up minerals along with a coating of spores. The scant ground water revitalized the dormant microorganism—an extraordinary, sentient species. Among the spores, a communal mind awakened. A mind locked within the meteor since its expulsion from an exploding planet an eon ago.
An insentient being—a plant that cannot move, the hive mind bemoaned its fate even as it relished the awareness it had regained. Time meant little to an organism that could survive millennia. It settled into its new stationary host, awaiting an opportunity to acquire a mobile one.
It spread throughout the cholla, to every detachable thorn pad. Weeks and months passed as it sensed all passersby—winged, four-legged, six and eight legged. They all lacked a higher consciousness. At last, a bipedal organism neared—one showing signs of intelligence. The hive concentrated its cells near the tip of the branch, bending the cholla’s limb toward its prey.
Late afternoon sun struck the agave, highlighting golden nectar pods against darkening skies to the east. Lois grabbed her camera, heading out the back door. Perfect contrast for photography didn’t happen every day. Catch an elk or a deer feasting on the sweet pods and she’d have an award-winning shot. Then she spied the beautiful blooms on the cholla, with magenta flowers glowing in the sun. Take our picture pretty lady–win a prize. The voiceless invitation drew her to the cactus.
She knew better than to approach the cholla too closely. Their hollow-spined needles could easily pierce skin and curl into a virtual barb after penetration. Stopping three feet from the nearest arm of the cactus, she fumbled with the lens cap, dropping it. That’s when the attack came. Her arm and hand were less than two feet from the jumping cholla–within the danger zone. She felt the sting. The burn came next, like acid injected from a large gauge needle.
Jumping cholla don’t really jump; pods just break free easily when touched. She could swear this one did jump. Back in the house she got out the flat-tipped tweezers and headed to the craft room, with its illuminated magnifier on a gooseneck stem. She pulled out all the glochids she could see. Then she put white glue over the gauze pad covering the cholla attack site. A half-hour later she ripped off the gauze, taking with it most of the rest of the tiny barbs stuck in her skin. The pain relieved, she relaxed.
Once beneath the skin, the spores followed capillaries to the veins. A rich environment! So many more nutrients than that plant! The collective consciousness found its new home appealing—so far. Reproduction first—control later if a suitable candidate. It rapidly multiplied, moving along Lois’ bloodstream to her heart. Soon, it found the arteries leading to her brain.
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.
Despite his previous experience, Zack headed back to Tim’s cabin nearly a month later. Shape-shifting into a wolf came as a shock. He got over it quickly enough, with the aid of a few beers he drank before moonrise. Zack romped through the woods until dawn found him racing naked for the cabin. Tim was none the wiser, having dozed after several beers.
The next full moon, Zack introduced his girlfriend Alicia to the werewolf world. She enjoyed it as much as he did. But Alicia wanted to go to college in a warmer clime. His father figured Zack would take over the fishing boat. Spending months on the Bering sea wouldn’t work for a werewolf. So, Zack and Alicia headed south. South to a small Northern California town with nearby woods for wolfing around—and a liberal arts college.
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.The Earth’s politicians finally began listening to the scientists in 2035, likely too late to reverse global warming. But radical measures were taken in 2050. No more internal combustion engines, no more fossil fuel-fired power plants, all homes must be passive/active wind and solar powered. Over time, years that the Earth didn’t have, most countries began replanting trees.
The grelm knew nothing of this 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 into.
Too late now to move, its roots—figuratively and literally, were sunk deeply in the place. It wondered at the visitors who came with tools and instruments—measuring water depth and more. Had they come to help—to provide some salvation?
The grelm had never communicated directly with humans before. It sometimes thought they had felt its presence. It knew they were not the hunters, fishermen or simple visitors of years gone by. I must reach out to these two, it is time to break my silence. They are seekers. They will find me. I will teach them. They will learn from me and me from them.
§ § §
“Low tide came an hour ago, right?”
“Well, the water is still four feet deep here, Melody. That’s deeper than last season’s low tide at this location.”
“It’s saltier too and the trees are giving way to reeds and rushes.”
“You’re right, except for that odd clump of woody growth on the little spit of land extending out past us. I don’t think I have seen this species before. Do you have any idea what it is?”
“It’s a new one on me too. I think we may want to get some pictures and a small sample for analysis at the lab.”
As Melody began speaking, she felt an odd sensation—sort of a tickle in her head and even a bit of pressure in her sinuses. But it didn’t seem as much an actual physical feeling as a strong thought forcing its way into her conscious mind.
“Josh, did you feel that?”
“Like someone else was here, listening to me and trying to insinuate itself into my mind. There was kind of a physical sensation, but it was as much or more mental.”
“I think you have been out in the sun too long, Melody. Keep your hat on and keep hydrated. Maybe we should be heading in soon.”
“OK, so you didn’t feel it. I am not tired, thirsty or crazy. Let’s just get that sample and we can head in.”
“Fine. Let me do it. Just take it easy for a few minutes and you’ll feel better.”
“Stop patronizing me!”
He awoke at dusk, blood crusty and cracking at the corners of his mouth. Evidence that he once again had broken his vow. What kind of Bodhisattva could drink the blood of others? Ever since he had learned the path of peace, the practice of Buddhism, he had tried to leave the way of the vampire. Each night he awoke, renewed his vow to be a Bodhisattva. He must respect the humanity of others, leading them to the law. Instead, the hunger overcame him again and again.
Somehow, he must find a way to resist. Resist the flavor of warm blood coursing through the veins of passersby. Passersby he might otherwise lead to happiness. Happiness he himself was denied by guilt. But he couldn’t resist, not from twenty feet away or more. The redolence exuded from their pores—the lifeblood he wanted and needed, since the change.
In the meantime, he encouraged his fellow vampires to take up the practice. They laughed when he explained karma. How causes created effects in one’s life. That the karma from one’s current life carried forward into the next—in cycle of death and rebirth.
“Seriously?” one said, “A vampire is already eternal—we never die. So how could we be reborn?” The laughter echoed so loudly it pained his vampire enhanced hearing.
“Well, all of us don’t live forever, you know,” another said. “Those who get caught in the sun or are staked by a hateful human do suffer the true death.”
He realized then he had no other choice. Be true to his new found faith or remain a vampire. He fed one last time that night, before praying earnestly for rebirth. He walked outside just before the dawn, awaiting his flaming fate. He would never know for sure if his prayers were answered. The reborn don’t remember their past existences. Only their karma endures.
“Hello Mr. Burke. Back again for another donation?” the nurse said.
“Yes, I just can’t help myself—after I learned how valuable my O negative blood is,” he said, baring his arm with a smile.
“All right then. My goodness Mr. Burke, you’re due for your gallon-pin today—congratulations!”
Coming in 2020 and beyond
As noted above, The Vacation in late fall, 2020
- A third short-story collection in 2022, bigger than the second—with a novella anchor (that’s in progress and waiting for revision); stories are accumulating already
- Writing starts on a sci-fi trilogy in 2021—books out 2024, 2025 and 2026; about a colony planet, (story lines and characters waiting in folders now)
- The sequel to Waiting for Westmoreland will be out in 2027–paper and digital
- A genre shift, a mystery double novella—will be out in 2029 (lots of possibilities to draw from in story snippets posted on John Maberry’s Writings)
- Planned for 2031, a BIG time travel novel. Get just a hint of what it might be about from this brief sample, from a post last year in John Maberry’s Writing (here’s a link):
I Think, Therefore I When
The first incident happened like this.An old mix resurrected from a bin overdue for cleaning played in his ear. He didn’t know the song was on it. “Voices Carry,” took him back to that day when she told him it was over. She’d had enough, she said, and played the tune to illustrate why. A sudden gust tossed unbound hair in his face. He tied it back before moving on and looked up in shock.
“What the hell!” Derek said. He wasn’t recalling the event with Susan anymore—she was there in front of him, physically, in their apartment with Aimee Mann’s voice carrying as loudly as her own.
“No! No! This can’t be happening, again” he said, “We’ve been through this before!
“Yes and that’s why I’m leaving. I’ve had enough, Derek—it’s over! I’ll come back for my stuff in a couple days,” she said, slamming the door behind her, drawing air through the open windows.
The breeze brought Derek back to the present, stumbling along the sidewalk barely missing a woman passerby.
That was then; this is now. A memory and nothing more. That couldn’t have happened. Maybe that green chile cheeseburger overpowered me. Maybe I’ve been working too hard.
After a few days of worry and bewilderment, he put the strange event aside. An episode of the Twilight Zone—perhaps one he’d watched in syndication. Then it happened again.