Saturday, January 15, 2011

Harsh Climate - opening pages of a thriller

For Sample Sunday, I am offering up the opening pages of my new novella.

Harsh Climate is the story of a pair of teens who find themselves stranded on a desolate road in the middle of winter. When they seek shelter in an abandoned farm house, they find it's the lair or a gang of vicious kidnappers. But you know what? These two are up for it.

* * * * *

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Harsh Climate

IT HAD BEEN an unusually warm early fall, but the temperature had dropped rapidly that day, leaving the landscape of Overton blanketed with light snow. And now after the snow, with a clear dark sky, the temperature dropped further and the wind picked up. A crust of ice began to form on ponds and in ditches, and sidewalk puddles became a slick of black ice. The stars were like pinpricks of ice.

Clyde Watkins turned the battered Oldsmobile into the driveway on Windsor Street. He was seventeen and not dressed for the weather: no socks, worn sneakers, and just an extra sweatshirt for warmth. It was his own damn fault. He’d left his coat at a party somewhere, and he never did like socks.

He hesitated before getting out, but it wasn’t really the cold wind or snow. He looked with trepidation at the house. Even inside the car he thought he could hear yelling. Mr. Bleur, Vicki’s dad, was not happy. He was a state trooper and he scared the hell out of Clyde. But there was no point in delaying. Vicki wanted a rescue so he was there to provide it.

Clyde threw himself out of the car and ran to the house. Tiny ice crystals worked their way into his shoes, making his ankles ache. He ducked his head and jumped up on the porch and knocked.

Inside he could hear Vicki shouting.

“That’s what’s wrong with you!” she said. “You don’t care!”

“Oh, sure,” roared the voice of her father, so loud he must have been standing near the door. “Miss Teen-Queen I-don’t-care girl is telling me I don’t care.”

“I care! I care about everything,” screamed Vicki. “You don’t even know how to care any more. You’re just a cynical old fart!”

Clyde sighed. It was not going to get any better and he was cold. He knocked again, louder this time. The door jerked open and Mr. Bleur glared down at him.

“Oh, Christ, it’s Poughkeepsie,” he said, as if Clyde were just a package left on the step—a package Mr. Bleur was not much interested in receiving.

“Actually I’m from—” began Clyde, but he was interrupted by Vicki, who stood on the stairs behind her father.

“That’s Denver,” she said firmly. “And tell him I’ll be right there.”

“—I’m from Toledo,” continued Clyde, “and my name is—”

Mr. Bleur shut the door in his face as if Clyde wasn’t even there.

Clyde stood on the porch and considered whether this was worth it. He was about to strike out on the open road with the most interesting girl in school. Worth it. But there was no point in just standing there on the cold porch. Vicki needed a ride.

He tried the knob, and found the door was not locked. He pushed it open and stepped into the warmth of the house.

Mr. Bleur was glaring up the stairs after his daughter. He didn’t turn around to look at Clyde, but he knew he was there.

“She’s not going anywhere, Poughkeepsie, so you can just forget it,” he said.

“My name is—” began Clyde one more time, but then Mr. Bleur turned to glare at him. Man that guy had a tough glare. Clyde backed away a step.

“Are you her boyfriend now?”

“No?” said Clyde. They’d never dated, they were just friends more or less, so he assumed that was true. Mr. Bleur turned and shouted up the stairs.

“So is this your fag ballet partner?”

“Don’t be a homophobe!” shouted Vicki from somewhere upstairs.

“No, I’m not,” said Clyde. He supposed he shouldn’t be a homophobe either, but he didn’t want that misunderstood.

“So what are you doing here?” growled Mr. Bleur, but he didn’t wait for an answer. He slapped the air dismissively, with a force that could have knocked over a horse, and went into the next room.

Clyde stood alone in the entryway, and looked after Bleur.

“I... guess I don’t have any purpose here whatsoever,” he said. He stepped to the bottom of the stairs and called up. “Vicki?”

“I’ll be right there, Denver,” she called from somewhere out of sight.

“No she won’t!” roared her father from the next room.

“I’ll wait in the car,” said Clyde.

“It’ll be a long wait!” called Mr. Bleur.

Clyde went back to the car, figuring that Mr. Bleur was probably wrong.

It was so cold in the car already. One of the windows didn’t quite close and the wind seemed to sneak in, like one of those evil mists in a horror movie. He considered starting the car to let the heater run, but he wasn’t sure about the gas. If they were going all the way to Colorado then they were going to need gas.

At least he thought they were going to Colorado. Vicki had been calling him Denver ever since he agreed to drive, but she’d never actually said where she wanted to go. She was kind of obnoxious, really, but Clyde had this philosophy about people. If you let them get to you, you miss out on a lot of life. If you get offended all the time, you might not notice something really cool right there on the other side of the insult. Besides, life’s too short to deal with other people’s shit.

So he sat and shivered and considered whether he should start calling himself Denver, The Ride Guy. Everybody else was calling him Denver now at school.

Vicki came running around from the back of the house. She must have snuck out. She was hauling a large suitcase with her. She just made it to the car when her father threw open a window.

“Is that a suitcase? Where the heck are you going?”

Vicki threw the suitcase in the back seat.

“Go!” she yelled and she jumped into the passenger seat.

Clyde started the car. Of course it took a minute to turn over. Mr. Bleur disappeared from the window, and he knew it was only a minute before he’d come running out the door. But then the engine roared roughly to life, and Clyde hit the reverse so fast his tires squealed.

Vicki buckled her seatbelt. She may have been a rebel but she was a cop’s daughter. She settled back.

“This doesn’t make you my boyfriend.”

“I know,” said Clyde. “I’m doing this for the gas money.” He paused. “You have got the gas money, right?”

“Of course,” she said, and she patted her purse.

“Then westward ho.”

She paused, and he could tell she was looking at him. Why did he say something stupid like that?

“Thanks, Denver,” she said at last.

“My name Clyde,” he said. “And I’m from Toledo.”

“Denver’s a better name,” she said.

He glanced away from the slippery road to look at her. She was smiling a thin smile. Mona Lisa style. God, she was beautiful. Blond hair, green eyes, lithe and energetic. She was a dancer and sometimes her body just seem like a taut spring—even in her lumpy winter coat.

He took a breath and turned back to the road before he ran them into a ditch. Okay, Denver was better. He could be Denver.

* * * * *

If you'd like to read more of Harsh Climate, the ebook is currently for sale for $1.99 at Amazon's Kindle Store, and Kindle UK Store. The book is also available in various formats for most ebook readers or computers at Smashwords.

Coming soon to Apple's iBookstore, and other online stores like B&N's Nook, Sony, Kobo and Diesel, too.


L.C. Evans said...

Camille, I love your writing. I care about these characters and the mom in me wants to take care of them. This one's definitely going into the bunch for my next buying spree.

Linda S. Prather said...

Great excerpt. Pulls the reader into the story immediately, and gives you someone to care about. I do think you may have one typo or perhaps it's just the way he talks, but near the end you have--"My name Clyde" - and for some reason that just doesn't sound right to me. Perhaps - "My name's Clyde".
Still a great job and I would want to read more.

Sibel Hodge said...

Really enjoyed this, thanks for sharing.

The Daring Novelist said...

Linda -

Aaaahhhhhhhhhhh! Why does that always happen? Sigh.

Thanks all for the nice comments!