Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What could possibly go wrong? TTS excerpt - caving under the Green, Green River

We turned toward Hugh, who was on his stomach next to the hole, shining the big light down. Creeping up carefully, Lena and I peered into the round, straight-sided limestone shaft, about ten feet across.
            “How deep?” asked Lena.
            “Thirty feet,” said Hugh. “Guesstimate.” The sparse cave stream poured over the edge next to him, plummeting noisily down the shaft and into a hole in the floor way below.
            “That drain,” Hugh shone his big light at the hole, “must head toward the Green, Green River, which is only about two hundred feet that way” – he pointed toward the far wall – “north.” He got up and we backed away from the hole, stepping carefully in the slick mud.
            “We shouldn’t be so close without a safety rope,” Lena said, but Hugh was shining the superlight around, and had found the hole in the wall of the big cave room.
            “That has always been full of water,” he said, striding over and bending to look inside. 

             "Let’s go,” he called, disappearing into the hole.
            “Wait,” said Lena as we leaned inside the small opening, lights showing a narrow muddy passageway that sloped steeply downward. “What are you planning to do?”
            “We’re here, we have the time, let’s see if this goes,” Hugh called back, his voice muffled by the tight space.
            Lena turned to me. “Can you manage this?” she asked.
            “Only one way to find out,” I said, and began climbing down the steep corkscrewing passage, feet first.
“Go Mom,” she said, scrambling in behind me. The tight walls supported my shoulders as I scooted down, feet seeking the way, Lena close above, both of us accumulating a mud coating. I soon heard Hugh’s voice. His light was shining on my feet.
            He called, “Just lie down and scoot out on your butt and back,” and I slid out a two-foot hole onto the floor of the shaft. I got up, followed by Lena, and stepped through the pattering waterfall. Hugh was shining the superlight at the drain in the floor.
            “It goes!” he cried excitedly, and sat down on the edge of the hole, looking around for us to follow.
            “Can you just wait a minute,” I said. Lena shone her headlamp at the sides of the shaft, the waterfall, the small side hole we had emerged from, and upward to the rim of the shaft, now thirty feet above us.
            “What’s the plan, Stan?” she called to Hugh over the racket of the waterfall, loud in the confined space of the shaft. Removing a chocolate bar from a pocket, she broke off a chunk and handed it to me.
            “Water break,” she said, deliberately slowing the pace. Hugh got up and joined us. We had a long cool drink from our canteens and relished our candy bars.
            “It’s only another two hundred feet to the river,” repeated Hugh, wolfing down his snack. “Based on what we already know, this drain here should drop ten feet and then go right under the river.” He adjusted his pack, put the superlight away, and turned toward the drain hole.
            “You are saying that this little hole here goes underneath the Green, Green River?” I asked. This situation was beyond my comfort zone. “Is this safe?”
            “I think,” said Hugh, visibly impatient, “And Steve Roberts thinks, along with our entire science team -
            Lena raised her eyebrows to interject, “A whole five people,” as he continued.
            “The Pleistocene re-set of the river’s north shore re-opened a passage that went under the river during that ancient era. Water pressure here, in this drain, pushed open a plug. We can now get under the Green, Green River and into the Pleistocene via this drain. It’s the path the cat used.”
            He said, “We have been in here only an hour. Let’s give it one more hour. OK?” We nodded.
            “C’mon,” he said, scrambling into the small drain. I followed, Lena behind, climbing down, leaning away from the water. The drain was smaller than the last climb-down and I slid down the slick rock face. We scrambled downward on ledges, back and forth across the vertical drain. We climbed down one side of the widening canyon once our legs were unable to bridge the gap. Hugh’s light shone up from below and he shouted something I could not hear above the noise of the waterfall.
            “What’d he say, did you hear?” I called up to Lena.
            She puffed, “This is longer than he said it would be. Damn it.”
            I heard Hugh again, and reported to Lena, “He said ‘hand-line.’ ”
            “Oh shit,” she said, “Wait a minute, ok?” I held onto the wall as she opened her pack, removed a rope, and tied it off on a projecting rock. The line dangled down toward Hugh’s light, fifteen feet below.
            “OK,” she instructed, “Hold onto the line the rest of the way down. You may have to drop.”  I edged carefully down, one hand and arm wrapped around the slender line. Next step, my left foot met empty space.
            Hugh called, “It’s only a three-foot drop. Use the line to brace yourself – straighten out –” he was right there, holding on as I dropped, plummeted and landed. I let go of the line as Lena landed lightly behind me. We were in a small bowl-shaped room. To go back, we would have to climb up into the wide drain hole in the room’s low ceiling. Water from the drain flowed across the flat floor into a side passage. Something shiny on the floor –
            “Is this cool or what,” said Hugh, walking over to an inflated dinghy. He spoke loudly over the racket of the water. “This was sucked all the way down here when the lake emptied.” He lifted and dropped it. “You saw there was only one up there, at the landing, right?”
            “Why did it stop here?” asked Lena. She shone her light at the small passageway ahead.
            “Maybe the suction dropped, at this point,” said Hugh, “Like, you know, the giant toilet bowl flush was complete.” I envisioned the rubber raft being yanked from its rope, circling the shaft and plummeting as the lake room emptied, then being sucked into the canyon we had just scrambled down. I’m mentally tough – have to be – but with the distance piling up between us and the blue sky above, I was feeling a little bit uneasy.
            “Not much use here, is it?” I said, masking my discomfort with a kick at the poor lonely thing, stranded down here. Lena, who knows me well, shot me a look.

            Hugh laughed and said, “We’re about ten feet below the bed of the Green, Green River – and that passage will take us underneath it to the Pleistocene.” He said, “I hope you understand how important this is,” and led the way. The three of us hunched over to fit into the narrow five-foot passage and headed north, splashing in the stream.  
            Excerpt from Ten Thousand Secrets National Park (c)  2015 Hilary A.B. Lambert 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Synopsis, Ten Thousand Secrets National Park

Janet Harper works at Ten Thousand Secrets National Park Casino & Entertainment District in Kentucky, following a mysterious explosion at her previous workplace, Nevada’s Historic Red Light District & Jazz Casino National Park. In hiding from her two children for over a year, Janet is tracked down by her daughter Lena, and they are drawn into a struggle between the Federal Parks Service and the Department of Defense over control of time travel, which has been in Park Service hands since its discovery by Cornell Tech scientists twenty years earlier. 
Fronted by charismatic Professor Thomas “Cat” King, a small but influential faction at the Department of Defense is tired of hearing liberals whine about the “environmental impacts” of time travel, and is planning military expeditions to correct past disappointments.  As King says at a D.C.-area holiday party, “George Bush is gonna thank me big-time when we go back and clean up his messes.”
Meanwhile, Janet’s son Brian writes a community development grant for a rural hamlet in south-central NY State. He meets their beautiful leader Maeve and becomes enmeshed in her fervent search for grant funding to support her immigrant Irish fairy community, hiding in plain view near the city of Corning for centuries.  Brian and friends are soon fighting a highway project that Maeve’s Congressman has cajoled her into supporting. The highway would destroy a nature preserve in our world, while leaving the landscape untouched in Maeve’s alternate present time.  She explains it this way to Brian:  “Why would you deny us the chance to better ourselves? With an interchange and big road, we can draw in visitors for short and longer stays. We want what the rest of the world has. And we need people.”
Tom King has added Maeve’s community to his inventory of “natural time openings,” where he can mount military expeditions to the past without going through the federal government’s laborious environmental impact process. His dark ally, Senator Harlan Styce of KY, helps King seize control of the Park Service’s top-secret time travel research program, operating as the Pleistocene Place theme park attraction at Ten Thousand Secrets National Park. Styce lines up his ducks: “We funded the Parks folks to study time travel for the sole purpose of its defense applicability. OK! We’re there! Time’s UP.”
Janet races to complete her own dire mission at Ten Thousand Secrets NP before King’s military minions arrive, while struggling to keep her children safe from seductive fairies, malign Senators, fracking gas well explosions, flooding caves, bad time trips, and her own dangerous behavior. Wonderful allies emerge to help, among them Senator Liz Maximus of Massachusetts and her brilliant staffer Ravi Sen-Ellis, who knows the right questions to ask: “What time is this place?”

Synopsis, Ten Thousand Secrets National Park - Hilary Lambert (c) 2015

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Meet Ravi Sen-Ellis, and get an eyeful of Dr. Tom "Cat" King: Excerpt from Chapter 7 of Ten Thousand Secrets National Park.

King had augmented his pre-party drinks with whisky neat, twice. Standing next to his date he scanned the battlefield for prey, lusting to inflict lasting damage. 
He saw Ayres and thought, ‘Time to finish him off in public.’
            Professor King’s signature bullying move was to plow into a person’s private space belly to belly, eye to eye. Few in polite society could withstand this. He had tired of the hushed brutality of academia, where professorial gladiators fight for the death of their colleagues’ programs via committees, publications and tenure, always smiling and collegial. King brought physical intimidation and violence into the university coliseum. He used these weapons carefully, lacing aggression with charm and synthetic warmth, catching opponents off-guard. And now, his new position made him unassailable, even terrifying. As he shoved through the crowd to get at Ayres, people turned in irritation, falling back when they recognized him. 
           The Smithsonian guy felt the force approaching.
            Looking up, he saw King, said to Bob Ayres, “Oh shit, well, come see us when the dust settles, a quiet life is what you need,” and vanished.  King addressed Bob loudly, playing to the crowd.
            “Go home, Bob. You’re out of the game.” His physicality smelled out the weak spots, where his victim’s vitals rode near the surface. He would hurt Bob quickly. “This party is for winners and players. You need to be sitting in the bleachers at Kevin’s ball game. At least he misses you. You’re wasting your time here.” King’s public naming of Ayres’ child was a threat. Bob was suddenly on fire, as King intended. But a quick retort was unwise, so he stood quiet, pale. A hand patted his shoulder – a warning to keep it cool. Who was that? Bob broke stares with Cat to glance at the Vermont Senator’s young head of staff, smiling supportively.
            King took advantage of the distraction to step forward and push Bob against the wall.
            Bob smelled the whisky as Cat stage-whispered, “Your liberal-assed science is dead, and I killed it. My science is hard – and mean – and takes no prisoners.” He pressed Ayres into the wall with each word. Even for King, this was excessive use of force in public, and a little gross. A voice called out the big man dominating the smaller man.
            “Hey, King! Get a room!” This drew shocked laughter from the group, which scattered as King swung around, looking for the heckler. Ayres moved away, sucking in cold air from an open window. Up came the Vermont Senator’s staffer, mighty pleased with himself over his anonymous act.
            “Do I need a drink after that?” Ayres asked him, while shaking his head to deny the impulse. “What I need is dessert first, dinner later. I am starving.” They walked to the buffet and Ayres piled up all the sweet stuff he wanted, thinking how he would describe the fancy array to his kids.
            Through the crowd they heard King boasting, “New science, action-focused, restoring our nation’s pre-eminence,” but his words failed to sting. The two took their plates to a quiet nook and Ayres began to eat, soon feeling a rush of relief and calm.
            “My name is Ravi Sen-Ellis, by the way,” the staffer said. “We met at the Parks Science conference last month.”
            “Right,” Bob replied. “I was trying to hint to you, around the top secret elephant in the room, that time travel is emerging as an excellent tool for ecosystem management and recovery.” Ravi’s eyes flew open, and he stopped munching on a fancy morsel to think about what he had just heard.
            He said, “Suddenly I have a million questions, but why don’t you keep going for a minute or two.” He took a couple of bites as Bob continued.
            “It won’t be a secret much longer, with that asshole in control,” Bob said, shrugging a shoulder in the direction of King’s voice. At the other side of the room, Ard Sprinkle was having a heck of a time convincing the boss that it was time to go home. He had one of Cat’s arms into his coat and was walking him slowly, begrudgingly toward the door. Anna Holms waved bye-bye, shutting her ears to King’s exhortations.
            “We can finally optimize our country’s military heritage. George Bush is gonna thank me big-time when we go back and clean up his messes. Congresswoman, Ohio’s bases are going to benefit big-time.” Out the door, his voice trailed off, “Better get on board while you can.” Cat’s date was waiting in the car, fuming. General Granger stood well clear of the uproar, busy lobbying on behalf of King’s interests with a Ukrainian arms dealer over Cognac, as the door closed behind King and Sprinkle.
            Granger shrugged, “Hey, he just won the biggest fight of his career. Has to let off a little steam, you know?”
            In the quiet nook, Ayres told Ravi, “The Homeland-Interior program I just lost was researching the environmental and societal impacts of time travel.”
            “OK, so I didn’t imagine you said that,” replied Ravi. His voice trailed off; he was dumbstruck with wonder. And desire. “Oh my goodness,” he said. “That Kentucky Pleistocene theme park. That’s real?”
            Ayres nodded, smiling. “Each day there is the same day, re-set every twenty-four hours. That way we can – could – entertain visitors safely, and do research, without long-term impacts.” He scraped the last bit of ganache off his plate and looked at the dessert buffet. He would snag some of those neon-bright cookies for his sons. They loved the silly stories about his big nights out, his wife giggling, relaxing after her own hard day.
            Ravi was staring at him. “Can you come give me and the Senator a briefing? I can barely believe this, but I guess I have to.”
            “Sure,” said Bob. “I’d love to tell you the science. I’d love to talk to someone who appreciates what we have achieved. The secrecy has been a real bummer.”
            “I don’t get that part,” said Ravi, gently probing, privately horrified. “How could they keep a discovery like that under wraps for twenty years?”
            “Back in the day, the development team at Cornell Tech was Homeland funded,with proprietary protections in the contract. When they hit paydirt, a bunch of profs quit their day jobs to work for Homeland under tight security.” Ayres swept a pile of neon macarons into a napkin, and the two walked toward the door.
            Putting on his coat, Ayres bent close to Ravi’s ear. “You may be too young to remember that we had a brief window of liberalism in the White House back then, so Homeland was forced to go halfsies on the program with the Department of Interior. They gave it to the Federal Parks Program, where it landed in my lap. It was my top-secret baby until they gave it to King.” Out on the steps they breathed cool air, momentarily alone as Ayres’ car approached.
            Bob summed up: “Twenty years of top secret time travel research, serving the Park Program’s twin goals, protection and enjoyment. While fending off Homeland, which pushed us to develop ‘military applications.’” Bob spared Ravi the “quotes” gesture.
            “So,” Ravi said, “The Senator and I regard King as a kook. His teaching colleagues say he is disruptive, and they suspect his science is fake. Why is he running this show? What’s he planning to do with …” Ravi sighed and shook his head in awe, “…time travel?”
            As Bob stepped into the car he said, “Fake science, huh? That could be very useful. He is running the show because he says what some in the military want to hear. What’s he wanna do? He wants to go back and change history, so the USA comes out on top. I mean, to coin a phrase, duh.”

            Ravi watched the car depart. The muted nighttime roar of our nation’s capital region hummed outside the enclave of big houses. He was aflame, his life’s dream come true, in a casual party conversation. Wherever this led, he was already there. In a state of bliss, he walked to his car in a distant lot.
Excerpt from Ten Thousand Secrets National Park (c)  2015 Hilary A.B. Lambert 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Road to Hollymount Inn... Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Ten Thousand Secrets National Park


The woods ended. Beyond lay winter fields, dotted with small cottages. In one field stood a small horse, a miniature variety. This looked normal – back-to-the-landers, ten acres, cabin, off the grid. At the foot of a distant wooded hill, buildings lined the road. One was larger, the elusive Inn, I hoped. The beauty of this upland valley scene caught me, golden light deepening the mild browns and pale blues of winter. The land gleamed with wisdom, speaking a language I did not understand.

        ‘Where are all these wild thoughts coming from,’ I thought. ‘I need to get out more, hang out online. How can I get my career going if I am a kook? I gotta cut out the fantasy books and games. I’ll be useless over lunch with Maeve and they’ll never hire me again.’
        I walked fast, gazing at the lazy arc of a crow overhead. It descended to the road, ten feet ahead. The crow – two feet tall, a strut to its walk and shining black eyes – approached me, bowed, turned around, and walked alongside. We moved forward at a good pace, and I met the gaze of my silent companion. The crow tilted its head and nodded in a friendly way.

        I said, “Hello, I am Brian Owen, but maybe you already know that.” The crow nodded in response, and we proceeded in what seemed a friendly silence. Nearer, the big wooden building had an Inn-like air about it, romance novel style. Its two storeys had curtained windows along both floors, and it was painted dark blue. Stone chimneys wafted pine-scented wood smoke. Two shapely trees framed wide steps up to a wooden door in the center of the rambling old building. Above the Inn loomed white pines and holly trees – tall, massive, twisted. There was no parking lot.

        The crow darted into a nearby cottage garden and returned, in its beak a sprig of the small white flowers that speckled the fields and roadside. Fluttering off the ground, the bird hovered in front of me, placing the sprig carefully in my jacket pocket. Then it spiraled upward, cawing loudly in the cold air, and was gone. I did not watch, my eyes caught by the sign posted by the big front door. Written in chalk, it read:

Hollymount Inn
Today’s Lunch 
Smoky broth
Roast viands
Special today! 
Serving Humans

        Something was a bit off there, but I was hungry, and climbed the steps. The door swung open inward, and a beautiful woman stood in the doorway. Not red hair – black and soft, curling. Pale white skin, dark blue eyes, long black eyelashes. Wearing jeans, cowboy boots – and a green sweater a little bit unbuttoned at the top – she was smiling at me.

Excerpt from Ten Thousand Secrets National Park (c) 2015 Hilary A.B. Lambert

The photo depicts the woods along the path to Hollymount Inn. At the O.D. Von Engeln Preserve, Dryden NY.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Sabertooth Tiger: While government factions vie for control of time travel, the tiger follows his nose.

Sabertooth tiger. The young sabertooth tiger was hungry and tired. He wondered why his friend the sun was being mean, burning his eyes and making him thirsty. Back home where the sky was a comfortable grey and the temperature just so, he had followed his nose into a hole in the ground, trailing a delicious odor.

Its allure drew him through miles of dark passageways under a river, through a tingling barrier, and up into daylight onto a hard black surface surrounded by giant trees. He would take a nap in their branches, but first - that big meal. Ahead was the dumpster with its siren scent of discarded taco salads, burgers, chili, grits, sausage gravy and bacon. Oh man.

The young beast leapt lightly into the bin and began to feast, right outside the back door of the Hideaway Café & Curiously Satisfying Breakfast Buffet, one of many fun eateries in the national park's Casino & Entertainment District.

Presently a busboy came out and climbed up the steps to the bin, intent on dumping a full trash bin from satiated lunchtime eaters. Large tawny eyes rose to meet his. He saw a five-foot long, 150-pound wild cat with curving foot-long canine teeth, screamed, dropped the trash bin and fled, slamming the door behind him. The cat started in on the cascade of delicious fresh garbage, thinking maybe soon he should climb into a tree and ponder the edibility of these hairless animals. His family would be proud of him for finding new food.

The above photo was taken on an unnamed road in an unnamed Kentucky national park. Fabulous new hunting grounds for the young sabertooth tiger who had found a hole in the time barrier maintained by the Federal Park Service and Homeland Security. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Maeve. A thousand years ago or longer, Maeve departed Ireland for the New World...

Maeve. A thousand years ago or longer, Maeve departed Ireland for the New World, after one too many spats with the thickly-settled fairy communities at home. She found all the room she needed in what is now the Southern Tier of New York State, and settled in the uplands there with several close fairy friends. They built an Inn under the lee of a steep hill, planted holly trees and made the area round about homelike and comfortable.

But it was lonely there, and the fairies did not get along with the Iroquois tribes and obnoxious European settlers, many of whom were straight off the boat from Ireland, singing songs that created a deep longing for their older home. By the early 21st century most of her kind had returned to Ireland, leaving Maeve with a few dull, marginal fairies to help her tend her nature kingdom and find the funds and human flesh to pay her regular taxes to the underworld.

In desperation, Maeve began to haunt local bars in Corning and learned that she had a friendly Congressman, and could apply for grants to support her little community. The men who explained these basics of American life to the apparently guileless, black-haired, blue-eyed beauty sometimes did not return to their homes and families.  As our story begins, Maeve has hired a local grant writing consultant, young Brian Owen, to help her obtain a community development grant.

This photo was taken along Goodhue Creek, just off the Great Eastern Trail on the north bank of the Canisteo River, near Addison NY. Maeve's community is not far away.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Introducing Ten Thousand Secrets National Park, a science fiction fairy tale embedded in present-day US politics.

Last fall I found the time for novel-writing: 6:00-8:00 am. Six months later, I have the second draft of a grand novel - finally, out of my head and onto the page. In it, a mom and her family cope with the fallout of her obsession with environmental causes. Their attempts to reconcile are complicated by a political fight for control of government-regulated time travel, and the seductive call of an immigrant fairy community nestled in the New York State landscape.

In this slightly altered present, casinos and gas fracking wells pay for our national parks, and a Kentucky senator rallies his bad-ass allies to update our nation's proud military heritage.

Will science survive? Can we ignore the Grandfather Paradox of time travel and get away with it? What's Brian's mom up to now? Which of the many secrets would you want to explore?

I'll share excerpts and images here while embarking on the grueling process of publishing this novel of fast-paced adventure-fairy tale-ecofiction. If you accept the presence of swear words, plot-appropriate mayhem, and delicate hints of off-stage romance, the book is enjoyable for adults and older kids.

The photo of young woodlands comes from Kentucky's Little Barren River valley, just east of a famous national park. In this story the government has re-named it Ten Thousand Secrets National Park Casino & Entertainment District, to attract a more diverse, bigger-spending clientele.