Thank you, Vanessa and Rachel, for having me back on The Jeep Diva with my new sci-fi fantasy release The Beach, a “duella” including the suspense thriller Short Time.
Just like most people, I’ve always been fascinated by puzzles. They have an element of mystery about them that includes the promise of discovery. It’s probably why they’re such a mainstay in science fiction, fantasy, and suspense genres. Arriving on the scene in all sizes—from the seemingly impenetrable pyramid-sized obelisks left by aliens on distant planets to small boxes with moving sections that summon evil monsters from another dimension—they set our imaginations on fire with possibility.
Of course, it’s not the box or container itself—it’s what’s inside. And that often poses the question of whether the object should be opened at all—perhaps what waits inside was put there to keep it contained, to control or restrict its influence.
When I began to think about the design of the puzzle-bottle in The Beach, I wanted something more than an updated version of Aladdin’s lamp. Ultimately, I was able to create a device that changes in complexity and purpose as the story evolves, making it an important touchstone for both the reader and the main characters.
In the following excerpt, our main man, Alan, is in his storage shed searching for hardware and tools to hang and display what he believes to be nothing more than an interesting combination of wood and stone—something he found on the beach. After gathering what he needs, he heads back to his kitchen to work on the project. But when he tries to drive a nail into the container, odd things begin to happen . . .
Here’s an excerpt:
“Somewhere under the bottom shelf . . .” he mumbled.
Peering into the rusted-out coffee can, he stirred the collection of loose hardware—mostly nuts, washers, and bolts—with his fingers. “It can’t be too big, might split the thing wide open.” Finally locating a few finishing nails, he dropped them into his shirt pocket.
Brushing aside a thick blanket of cobwebs, he began rummaging through an old plastic paint bucket, pulling out a plunger, paint roller, and a broken hacksaw before finding the hammer.
The lack of a decent working area forced Alan to return to his kitchen. He sprawled on the floor. I’ll seat the nail an eighth of an inch or so before driving it deep with a full strike.
Estimating the center of the cylinder’s flat end, he marked it with a pencil, set the nail, and gave it a light tap.
Instead of penetrating, the nail bounced off the surface.
What the hell? Must be hardwood, maybe walnut or cherry.
He brought it up for a closer inspection. Although the nail-point had failed to scratch the finish, the impact had definitely affected its integrity. He could hear a soft hissing, as if the interior had been under pressure and was now equalizing with the ambient altitude.
“Probably been under water a long time. Got to let off some steam.”
Re-positioning the nail, Alan swung the hammer again. This time the strike was solid, with plenty of force. The metallic ping of the nail ricocheting across the floor was suddenly lost to the sound of escaping air. Alan jumped to his feet, concerned the thing might explode, or that the rush of leaking gas might be filling the room with dangerous—even deadly—fumes.
“Maybe it’s some kind of high-tech fire extinguisher, or a CO2 dispenser for making wine spritzers.” It was mere speculation and both possibilities were doubtful, especially since a puncture to either type of pressurized container would have sent the cylinder skittering across the floor.
With no reasonable explanation for its unusual behavior, Alan wanted it out of the house. Grabbing a broom he drew back, preparing to whack it—hockey style—through the open door. He focused on the target.
The sight made him lower his broom.
The object—at least part of it—was moving. As the inlaid bands receded into the base material, the once solid form was rapidly assuming the appearance of a worm-eaten section of turned wood, its metamorphosis leaving it riddled with deep channels and tiny chambers.
No longer able to hear the hissing release of air, Alan concluded that any danger from explosion had passed. He bent down for a better look. It reminded him of a child’s puzzle, with interlocking pieces that could be removed to reveal a secret compartment. But this was clearly no toy. The obvious earmarks of intentional design reflected painstaking workmanship, the intricate symmetry more representative of fine sculpture than something mass-produced in the factories of Beijing.
Alan picked it up carefully and brought it close to one eye, peering into the elaborate maze of cavities and compartments.
Here’s a brief synopsis:
Alan loves the beach. More than a weekend respite, it is his home, his refuge, his sanctuary. And for most of the year, he strolls the sand in blissful solitude, letting nature—and no one else—touch him. But spring has given way to summer, and soon, the annual invasion of vacationers and tourists will subdivide the beach with blankets, umbrellas, and chairs, depriving Alan of his privacy and seclusion—the fundamental touchstones of his life.
Resigned to endure another seasonal onslaught of beach-goers, Alan believes there is nothing he can do but prepare for the worst.
But fate has other plans.
Delivered to him on the crest of a rogue wave, the strange object appears to have no purpose, no practical use—until Alan accidentally discovers what waits inside. Now he must attempt to unravel an ageless mystery, unaware that the final outcome will change his life, and the beach, forever.
In the companion novella Short Time, you’ll meet a respectable but bored middle-class executive, who exchanges his future for six months of excess and extravagance, only to find out the price he must pay for his hedonistic indulgence is beyond anything he could have imagined.
Author Bio: Jaye Frances is the author of The Kure, a paranormal-occult romance novel, The Possibilities of Amy, a coming-of-age romance novella, The Cruise-All That Glitters, a humorous adult satire about looking for love at sea, and The Beach, a sci-fi fantasy about a man who is given the opportunity to receive his ultimate wish and lives to regret it. Her next book, scheduled for a November release, is titled Love Travels Forever, a collection of poignant short stories and essays. She is also a featured columnist for the NUSA SUN magazine. Born in the Midwest, Jaye readily admits that her life’s destination has been the result of an open mind and a curiosity about all things irreverent. When she’s not consumed by her writing, Jaye enjoys cooking, traveling to all places tropical and “beachy” and taking pictures—lots of pictures—many of which find their way to her website. Jaye lives on the central gulf coast of Florida, sharing her home with one husband, six computers, four cameras, and several hundred pairs of shoes. For more information, visit Jaye’s website at www.jayefrances.com, or Jaye’s Blog at http://blog.jayefrances.com
Places to stalk Jaye
Website is: http://www.jayefrances.com
Blog is: http://blog.jayefrances.com
Amazon link for The Beach:
Amazon Author Page:
The Beach is available now in kindle eBook on Amazon
at a special Introductory Release Price of $0.99
until September 15, 2012
For the giveaway, Jaye would like to offer one (1) kindle eBook version of The Beach.