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.