Welcome, welcome, welcome to another day of our Backlist Bash! Today I’m sitting down with TOM OLBERT to talk about his Science Fiction story Long Haul.
SHR: What makes this particular book your favorite?
TO: It was unlike anything I’ve ever done, before or since. My first attempt at first person narrative. It flows like a grade-B action movie. I don’t usually go in for that type of screw-ball action/humor; I really had a ball with it. I just cut loose and let it go where it led me.
TO: Mocha Memoirs Press published it, earlier this year.
SHR: Tell us a little about what you went through to get it published.
TO: I had four rejections before getting it placed with Mocha Memoirs. Mocha was high on a list of book publishers I’d found on line, mainly through Ralan’s Webstravaganza (an excellent marketing resource, BTW). The folks at Mocha did a fine job editing and getting Long Haul to market quickly, and they’ve been very supportive and creative in helping their authors to promote. It’s been a very enjoyable experience working with them.
SHR: On writing in general: What’s the hardest part for you? Why?
TO: The hardest part is keeping the life flowing through the point-of-view character, scene by scene; keeping the audience in the character’s skin and caring what happens to him or her. You have to keep up a visceral, continuous life process without being repetitive, while at the same time concentrating on the flow of the story and character development. You’re trying to give the character room to breath and grow while still concentrating on the physical mechanics of each scene. It’s really multi-tasking.
SHR: Unrelated: What’s your favorite color?
ABOUT LONG HAUL:
In the near future, physicists have stumbled on a way to channel dark energy, making it possible to instantaneously travel anywhere in the world by passing through parallel universes as they intersect with our continuum at given points in time and space. Daredevil truck drivers like Garth Jenkins and his trucking partner Sally Drake, earn hazardous duty pay by trucking cargo through perilous alternate universes often infested with deadly alien predators. Garth and Sally are offered a mysterious and possibly illegal contract to deliver some unknown cargo to unknown buyers in another universe. En route to the transdimensional drop-off point, their truck is hijacked by Keira Takahashi, a beautiful and radical young college student who claims they are carrying a nuclear device and are being used by evil alien forces intent on destroying another universe. At first, Garth and Sally dismiss the young woman’s story as madness, until hostile aliens in undead human bodies make an attempt on her life. Finding themselves on the run and not knowing whom they can trust, Garth and Sally embark on a crooked road through dangerous alien universes and remote time periods, with the fate of a cosmos at stake.
The ‘verse Red mapped us through was on a smuggler’s route. Way off the official roads. Hardly anybody ever used it. I could see why. We were crossing a gray desert under a night sky that was bright enough to read by. The stars were like nothin’ I’d ever seen. There were about a half-dozen galaxies in the sky, like bright spiral whirlpools of white-hot fire, washing the desert in a dull blue glow.
“This must be a small, contracting universe,” Keira said, sounding scared. “With the stars packed this tightly together, the radiation count must be pretty high.”
“She’s right,” Sal said, tapping her finger on the Geiger counter. I glanced over and saw the needle inching up into the red zone. “Don’t worry, baby,” Sally said softly, stroking Keira’s hair. “The EM (electro-magnetic) field is rigged to kick in automatically once that needle hits the red. We’re safe as long as we stay in the cab.”
“Don’t bet on it,” I said, my heart racing as one big dust storm came rushin’ at us across the desert. Not a dust storm, really, but a damn stampede. Don’t ask me of what. Whatever they were, I could see ‘em charging fast, dark shadows forming out of the dust cloud they were stirrin’ up. Big black things about the size of draw-horses. Twelve-legged, by my count. Not quite sure how to describe ‘em. Sort of like spiders, sort of like lobsters, sort of like scorpions. A hundred or more, comin’ at us fast.
“Keep your head down, sweetie,” Sally said as she reached back into the sleeper and pulled out that AK47. She rolled down her window and opened up on those buggers as they charged us, blasting them like clay pigeons at a shooting gallery. Sal howled like a bull rider at a rodeo, blasting off one burst after another, those big long-legs screaming like nails on a chalkboard as she blasted them to pieces. A few of ‘em cut onto the road in front of us, trying to cut us off. I swerved and floored the gas pedal, crushing a few of ‘em under the wheels. Pieces of their black-shelled hides and bits of their legs hit the windshield.
One of ‘em latched itself onto the bumper and bit down into the hood. It had rows of pointed teeth that shined like diamonds, crunching down through the hood like it was a peanut shell. It looked like that damn thing was gonna eat our engine block.
“Sal, get that one off the hood!” I yelled. She leaned half out the window and blasted that sucker off the hood. “Good shootin’, partner!”
The window shattered at my side and another one of those things reached in. Keira screamed. The thing’s serrated claw was pressing against my throat. I could feel its breath on my face, like a hot wind out of a furnace. “Sal, for God’s sake!!”
She reached across the cab and blasted that bugger off me with her 45. It screamed as its face exploded. “Thanks, Sal,” I muttered, once I could breathe again.
“Oh, my God, look!!” Keira screamed, pointing out the passenger-side window.
I glanced over. My jaw dropped. “Oh, Jesus…”
A big mama long-legs was pulling itself up out from under the desert sand. That damn sucker was big as a freight train with legs like bridge supports and a maw like a railway tunnel. Five or six rows of diamond teeth long as jackhammers, blue electrical flashes cracklin’ across ‘em. It was comin’ toward us fast. The ground shook like an earthquake when it moved.
WHERE TO GET IT:
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And be sure to check out MOCHA MEMOIRS PRESS!