Excerpts to Whet your Appetite
Last week I interviewed Steven J. Clark, bestselling author of Wages of Greed, and Sue Hart, who is waiting to complete her fourth book in the Past-Life Memories series before publishing. Steven and Sue came as a pair to see if there had been differences in points of view between one who is already treading the published path to the other who is biding her time while looking forward. Today, I want to share novel scenes from each of their works; I hope you enjoy them, I did.
The Novel Scenes
Excerpt from chapter one of Evidence, by Sue Hart.
Hampton, Virginia, 1991
Maggie, a precocious child of five, sat outside in the sunlight swinging her legs back and forth, occasionally patting her great-grandfather’s leg in a nudge. It was story time, and he was taking a bit too long in choosing the story he would tell.
“Can’t you remember?” she asked with a suspicious gleam in her eye.
“I won’t forget my Mary, sweetheart. Let me tell you about the time I first saw her. She was sitting on a bench sketching something in the flower garden.”
The little girl moved from the edge of the bench wiggling around to her knees. This story always made Papa J happy. She liked it best. “Grandmamma hadn’t seen you yet, right Papa J?”
“No sweetie, she hadn’t. I was coming up the walk to the house when I saw her sitting there.”
Maggie pointed to the garden filled with yellow daffodils. “She was wearing a dress, like the color of those. I remember. It had a pretty lace collar and big pockets on the skirt.”
His eyes studied her. “I had forgotten about the pockets. She kept a hanky in one to wipe the charcoal off her fingers.” He patted her arm with affectionate approval.
“It wasn’t a hanky, Papa J, it was a rag.” She wiggled around again to see him better and took his hand with both of hers. “Tell me what you thought when you saw her face.”
A slight grin tipped his thin lips up. “I expected her expression to be serious because of how fast her hand was moving across the paper, but instead I found her delightfully entertained. Her eyes twinkled with laughter, making me wonder what she was drawing, so I turned my head and found a yellow kitten batting colorful butterflies teasing him.”
Maggie squeezed his hand. “Papa J, don’t forget to tell the kitty’s name.”
He pretended to forget, but then winked. “She was called Butter.”
“I know, ‘cause that was her color. You forgot to tell the part of how she just got her.”
He lovingly caressed her fire colored locks flying in the breeze. “You remembered though, didn’t you?”
So intent on the story, she asked, “Did the kitty catch a butterfly?” Her eyes popped with excitement.
“I am not quite sure, but I don’t believe it did. You see, the moment Mary’s eyes met mine and said hello, I forgot about the kitty.”
Maggie crawled upon his lap and patted his cheek. “Did you love her right then?” She felt his arm glide around to her back to keep her from slipping off.
“I’m sure I did. You see, she robbed me of my voice and I couldn’t say a word until she gave it back to me. She asked me who I was and of course, I needed it to answer.”
The new information amazed her. “Was she a fairy or a good witch, like in the Wizard of Oz?”
He laughed and leaned over to plant a kiss on her forehead. “I think she may well have been like either one, because she did many magical things.”
Her mouth opened wide with awe. “Tell me, Papa J, what did she do? Could she fly?”
“No, I don’t imagine she could, but she could certainly weave a spell on people. Everyone loved her, especially me.”
Her bottom lip popped out in a pout. “That’s not a real spell. A real spell makes wishes come true and turns bad things into something good.”
“People can do that too, little one. Not simply fairies or good witches. And that’s what happened to us. It all began when she fell off a horse and hit her head…”
Hampton, Virginia 2015
Maggie Warner sat across the breakfast table from her brother while he wolfed down eggs. Sunday brunch was a tradition they’d begun after he’d moved out on his own more than ten years ago. Sometimes, he stayed for the day, and they would do things together. This morning she planned to talk about his least favorite topic.
Larry dipped his toast into the yoke of an egg, when she asked, “Did you happen to see this article?” She swirled the paper around for him to see.
His dark green eyes moved to the title: ‘Technological Breakthrough’. “Missed it. What’s happened?” He reached to bring it closer, but she swung it back around in front of her.
She began to read it aloud.
‘Memories once hidden by traumatic circumstances such as amnesia, phobias, emotional problems, and a host of other conditions, can now be recalled in minutes by simply using a new technology designed by Dr. Robert Malone, a leading neuropsychologist in the field of memory research, and the director of the Hampton Memory Center.
The machine, a Bio-electromagnetic neuro-interfacing amplifier, he calls BENA, was recently approved by the FDA after ten years of research and testing. Dr. Malone plans to start using his machine in the near future at his clinic using selected patients.
It is the opinion of this reporter that BENA can possibly launch a new age in neuropsychiatry. And bring new hope to many.
Larry’s brows knotted as he waved a crisp piece of bacon he’d been eating. “That’s pretty impressive. I wonder if the memories he recalls will stick.” He examined her freckled face and slowly set the bacon down as a frown drew his brow down. “I recognize that scheming expression. What does this have to do with your memory? You don’t forget a damn thing. Not ever.”
“That’s the point. Don’t you know what value I’d be for him?” Her enthusiasm burst forth. “This machine used on me would help him calibrate it. Any man this smart could probably help me as well.”
With a groan in his voice, he said, “You mean prove the memories you have were there before Papa J shared those stories with you. Do we really need to go into this again? I don’t get why you think it’s important to hash over your memories of Mary. If there is such a thing as reincarnation…”
She interrupted him with a point of her finger. “The desire to discover what happens after death has been a quest of man since the beginning of time. Religions believe in an after-life, whether in heaven or hell or being reincarnated. There are documents that prove some people lived before. What’s so crazy about it?”
“I could have lived a hundred lives before now. What does that prove, other than I keep popping up? You can’t tell me that the lives I’ve lived before have anything to do with this one. What difference does it make if you were my great-grandmother, other than it’s beyond weird?” He shoved the bacon in his mouth and began to spread orange marmalade on another piece of toast.
Her voice was whisper soft as she answered him. “Because I can tell you word for word the stories Papa J told me. I can also tell you what he left out of those stories. I remember life during the time great-grandmother lived. Things he couldn’t have told me. Not to mention the memories I have that our grandmother doesn’t know anything about.
“Larry, I’m tired of being told that I’m filling in the blanks to make sense of dreams. I dream of being kidnapped, but it’s not me, it’s Mary. Yet, grandmother swears it never happened. Thus, I’m left being told a recurring nightmare I’ve had since a young age is nothing but my imagination. Well, I don’t believe it. I think Mary was kidnapped, and they kept it hidden from her and great-uncle Mathew.”
He sat staring at her while chewing the toast. He finally set it down and wiped his fingers. “I know how bad that dream is. I also know how many times you’ve roamed this old house thinking you were Mary checking on the kids.” He took a sip of his cooling coffee. “I won’t give you a hard time about going to this doctor. You know I’ll support you. I just don’t want you getting your hopes up and then meet another dead end. A simple thing to do is visit the archives, see if you can find anything about the kidnapping. Today, they probably have it online.”
“I looked. I went to the courthouse to look it up too, but you need a year or file number. I don’t have that either.”
“And you think you can use this machine to discover it?”
With a sigh, she sank back into her chair. “Yes. But first, I need to connive and beg my way in to see him.”
“Just tell him about your memory and he’ll be begging you.”
“I have to get past the female monitoring phone calls first. I told her about my memory, and you know what she said? I’m sorry, but the doctor is only taking people with memory problems. She sounded like a teenager reading a cheat sheet.”
“Guess that leaves you paying them a personal visit.” He reached over to her plate and took a slice of her bacon she wasn’t eating. “But Sis, don’t give them a chance to shoo you out the door. Make them listen to you. Trust me, if you go after them with as much gusto as you have me, they’ll listen. A man that smart doesn’t ignore anything.”
Excerpt from chapter one of Wages of Greed by Steven J Clark.
Ear-splitting sound waves reverberated off the sheer, thirty-foot walls of the isolated wash fifteen miles southwest of Shiprock, New Mexico. Though the sound was confined to the immediate area, there was no hiding the cloud of fire and smoke that curled hundreds of feet into the air.
“It works!” Eddie Nez exclaimed as he sprinted from behind the bend in the wash where he, Albert Horseman, and David Nakai had found protection from the blast.
“Aieeeee. There’s nothing left,” Albert shouted as the trio skidded to a halt at the edge of the ten-foot-wide crater.
“Where’d the pipe go?” David asked.
Earlier, while Eddie had attached the detonator to the three explosive-filled fuel cans, David and Albert cobbled together a collection of rusty pipes into something that approximated a natural gas wellhead. That was the structure to which the bomb was attached. Now all that was left was a crater where the pipe had been.
Their first full-scale test came off perfectly. Eddie nodded his head in satisfaction, remembering the hours he’d spent on the Internet, researching bomb-making techniques. A stack of discarded timers on his back porch told the story of the difficulty of finding just the right one he could modify into a safe and reliable detonator. In the end, it was the simplest and cheapest wind-up kitchen timer from Walmart that did the trick. The only metal parts were the timing spring, the bell and the clapper. With a wire soldered to the clapper and another to the bell, when the timer reached zero the clapper struck the bell and the electrical circuit was complete. But that had to happen only when they wanted it to. If there was the slightest contact between the bell and the clapper at the wrong time, Eddy and everyone around him would be dead in an instant.
Then there was getting the mix of fertilizer and diesel fuel just right. Eddie’s first test was with a quarter cup of each mixed in a frying pan on his kitchen stove. He ignited the concoction with the bare ends of an extension cord. The whoosh that resulted wasn’t so much an explosion as a ball of fire that boiled up and rolled across the ceiling. With singed hair and eyebrows, Nez found himself beating out a half-dozen tiny fires that threatened to burn his trailer to the ground. It was the last experiment he conducted indoors.
Their largest previous test was conducted in a hole in the sand on the bank of the San Juan River a couple of miles out of town. It used three plastic peanut butter jars to simulate the fuel cans. It was loud enough to make their ears ring and had told them that their detonator and pasty explosive concoction worked.
“What a difference,” Eddie said, staring into the still smoking crater.
“Like dynamite compared to a fire cracker,” Albert agreed.
“Where’s the pipe?” David asked again.
“Let’s go find it!” Eddie said. “Albert, you and I will head south. David, you go north.”
The banks on both sides of the arroyo near the blast were cratered by shrapnel. They searched for some distance before finding anything recognizable.
Ninety feet from the crater, Albert said, “Got something.” He pointed at a mangled piece of pipe sticking out of the dirt wall about ten feet up.
“Right here,” Eddie heard David shout from the other direction. He was nearly a hundred yards on the other side of the crater, pointing at the floor of the wash.
There should have been more. Apparently the main body of pipework had been blown over the sides of the wash and now lay scattered on the desert floor above.
“Man, that was huge,” David exulted when they gathered back at the crater. “I say we do it now—tonight!”
“No.” Eddie said. “We all agreed this would be strictly a last resort. We wait until after the next NALM meeting. If we don’t hear what needs to be said there, then we go.”