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A man, his fish, and a pissed-off Volcano God. Pre-order a copy today!
BARRETT TWP. – Today was sunny and almost 60 degrees in our part of the Poconos. I told my wife that it was a pretty afternoon for a long walk in the woods. Alone, I said. Just a couple of cameras and a bottle of water. It’s safe, I explained, since hunting is currently banned in Barrett Township where the accused killer’s family lives.
My oldest daughter got married 43 days after Eric Frein is accused of killing Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II, 38, Dunmore, and wounding Trooper Alex T. Douglass, 31, Olyphant. The crimes occurred 45 days before my younger daughter was running late and missed the school bus. Mom had to drive. Police are still searching for Frein. The events aren’t connected, of course. Just horrible, wonderful, and slightly frusting things that recently happened. And all made for a good reason for a walk through the woods.
Sometimes I miss being a journalist. I peek at the online newspapers until a pop-up window tells me I’ve exceeded my monthly free visits. The Wayne Independent is filled with stories about people I know, while the Scranton paper gets the local sports posted online fast. There sure weren’t live updates of high school football scores when I was chasing stories. And seeing the credit line of one of the Times-Tribune photographers makes me do a double take because his dad was one of my heroes when I was starting out. Fred Comegys was – and is – the best photographer I’ve ever known. It really is a small world.
I don’t have interest in the $175,000 reward posted for Frein. I’m a photographer, not a bounty hunter. What if you find him, my wife asked. Will you call the police? I’m not taking a cell phone, I said. I figured the news editor I’m trying to sell the pictures to would call police. But that’s not really any of my business. For background, I used to cover wars, and the job is to present images and facts to people who buy your magazine or newspaper. You aren’t there to take sides. In fact, taking sides is one of the reasons so many journalists have been killed over the years, but that’s a subject for another time. The bottom line is that you have to work with the assumption that someone is likely not going to kill you if you don’t pose a continued threat. You might surprise them, which is a dangerous moment, but someone you come across in a sniper position doesn’t want to pull the trigger unless he has to. Guns are loud.
I picked a spot for my hike from a Google Earth map. I know the area around Canadensis fairly well. When you’re facing a needle in a haystack, you mix what you know with your gut feeling. I took a 90 minute, sixty mile perimeter drive, as well. I always felt more comfortable in a war zone if we were inserted after a helicopter sweep, rather than marching into a jungle. You are less claustrophobic, and you have a better sense of the terrain.
Deep in the woods of Barrett Township, a few thousand feet where Frein allegedly took the gun he used to attack officers, there are countless squirrels readying for winter, and even more birds making angry territorial cries. There are hundreds of dark stumps that look like mad-men. There are trees that cast shadows that look like prone bodies, and some of the remaining leaves catch the light with the same reflective quality of a rifle scope. I walked in twenty minute intervals, stopping to listen for five minutes each time. It was something I learned to do when hunting Contras in Nicaragua. You go to a place where they might walk right up to you, the Sandanista commander had said. Then you go to another place. Do it enough times and boom, he said, shooting an invisible rifle with his hands.
I didn’t see a single cop, nor did I see the weather balloon-like contraption they’re now using. It’s outfitted with some kind of spy technology, like slow moving drones, I suppose. The area campgrounds and parks are empty, but people are in their yards doing chores. A pretty teenage girl was rough-housing with a Golden Retriever, and she waived when she looked up.
The woods around Frein’s family home are quiet while you are walking, but noisy for those five minute stops. Falling leaves sound like marching boots if you listen too closely. Each breaking twig is the approach of a cold-blooded murderer. Those dark stumps just about drive you crazy. I swear, every single one was Eric Frein for a second or two, long enough to begin raising a camera.
It’s also a comforting hike because of the thick brush and changes in elevation, gullies and open trails for power lines. Walk far enough and there’s a house with a barking dog. The proximity to roads make it unreasonable that our outdoor sports were ever cancelled at Western Wayne High School. Our tennis courts were a million miles away from the trail of overturned leaves I followed for a few hundred yards.
Maybe Frein is still in those woods. If I walked right past him, then I’d like to thank him for not shooting me, although I know he was only making the correct tactical decision. But for what he’s done to the families of the officers, I sure hope he makes a fatal mistake.
So this nice young guy from up in Vermont is having a bad week. Catches his fiancee ‘under’ the dude who runs the town snow plow. Widowed mother will only talk to the nine porcelain baby dolls living at her dining room table. He’s fired for doing an excellent job. And while taking his honeymoon alone the engines of the jetliner go dead silent 35,000 feet over the South Pacific.
Surviving the crash might be the easy part, considering an eight-foot tall naked guy with the head of an angler fish just sat down on the lava bench next to him.
DASH IN THE BLUE PACIFIC won’t hit stores for another 202 days, but I’m incredibly happy to share the bright, shiny new cover just forwarded to me by Catherine Treadgold, publisher at Seattle’s Coffeetown Press.
And now for the cover …
I was tagged by E.E. Giorgi in the MEET MY CHARACTER BLOG TOUR. I met Elena at the Watercooler, and have had a crush ever since. Her debut novel, CHIMERAS, is an ultra cool story that grabs you by one of its taglines: Detective Track Presius has a unique gift: the vision and sense of smell of a predator. And I hear she has two new books set to go. So thanks for the tag, lovely Ms. Giorgi. Here are a few words about DASH:
Q. What is the name of your character? Is he fictional or a historic person?
Dash is a fictional guy who’s had a bad run of luck. His girl cheats. He’s fired from his job as a reporter after netting a great scoop. And when he decides to go on his honeymoon solo the jetliner crashes in a remote area of the South Pacific. Things get weird when he’s awakened in a damp lava tube cave by two women who might want to eat him.
Q. When and where is the story set?
Um, yesterday. Tomorrow? The story takes place on the island of Valelailai, which translates to toilet in the local language.
Q. What should we know about him?
Dash would very much like to have faith in god. Any god, that is, other than the Volcano God, who might be responsible for his plane crash. He is introduced to a variety of deities by a young island girl who’s hoping to be the next child chosen by marauding slave traffickers. Dash is torn by the fallibility of gods, and the strange balance of their power and selective effectiveness. His best friend on the island, by the way, is a former god who allowed his people to die during one of his alcohol-induced blackouts.
Q. What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?
Dash would be totally on board with fathering a white child as an offering to the slave traffickers, but was injured in the crash and cannot produce the goods despite some spicy ceremonies from the single native women.
Q. What is the personal goal of the character?
Sometimes his goal is to save himself. Sometimes it is to save the villagers, even though most hate him because of his skin color – and the fact that his crashed jetliner’s fuel poisoned their lagoon. Mostly his goal is to not become a human sacrifice.
Q. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
Dash in the Blue Pacific. Everyone is welcome to stop by at ColeAlpaugh.com, or join me on Facebook. I used to have a page for each new book, but tossed that idea. Readers and co-authors are family. You might want to turn away during soccer season, since I tend to rant a lot.
Q. When can we expect the book to be published?
The wonderful folks at Coffeetown Press tell me DASH will see the world on April 1, 2015.
Here’s a blurb:
Dash did calculations in his head. He guessed they had about four minutes to live. Not that he was an aeronautical expert—or any kind of expert, for that matter—but sitting alone in the upright position, he had nothing better to do after the engines went silent. When he’d attempted small talk, the elderly woman in the aisle seat had responded with an unfriendly grunt.
He shielded his eyes and craned for a view out the oval window, searching for flames and sniffing the air for trouble. Perfume and sweat. Someone close was a smoker. Setting fire to model airplanes as a kid seemed less cool now that he was aboard a full-size jetliner about to crash.
He had rubbed the fingertip pads that turned rough from pungent glue those summer days, hands trembling as he tied string to one wing and then held a lighter to the tail. He turned fast circles, flaming goo spraying across the lawn, black smoke curling into the trees.
The cabin speaker was full of static, and then a mouth came close to the microphone. “Cindy?”
Dash looked at his row mate. She was too old to be ‘Cindy.’ Cynthia, maybe. The woman caught him staring and glared back. He tried a smile.
“Are you there?”
Now on to meeting two great writers who accepted my invitation to join along. Stop by and visit them when they post on August 18th!
Ever hear this while in line buying your bangers and mash, or glob of stinky French cheese? I spit on you ignorant Americans who call it soccer.
Let us step back in place and time to 1860’s Britain, where folks at elite schools such as Oxford formed the Association Football, and used the abbreviation Assoccer in writing and statistics. These were the upper crust Brits that shortened it to soccer during the early years. Oxford legend holds that a student by the name Charlie Brown (really) was the first to call it soccer when friends asked if he wanted to play rugger that day. No, he said, I’d rather play soccer.
The great game spread throughout the country and the world, where lower class folk began calling it football for the obvious reason. Gentlemen, however, continued with its original name for years to come. By the time it reached the US, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, they were already playing a different form of football, so those countries used the proper British term of soccer.
Concealed from search crews on a remote Pacific atoll, the lone survivor of a crashed jetliner is given an ultimatum to father a white baby as an offering to human traffickers, or be sacrificed to an inimical Volcano God poised for eruption. But injuries have rendered the man unable to produce the goods, forcing him to rally help from unlikely allies: a melancholy deity he suspects is imaginary, and a young beauty sure to be among the next children stolen.
Faith is the sole path to salvation for both the castaway and the inhabitants who distrust him for his skin color. DASH IN THE BLUE PACIFIC is the story of an island people’s struggle for survival, and one man’s opportunity to alter their fate.
A new novel by Cole Alpaugh, coming April 1, 2015, from Coffeetown Press.
Being free on Amazon for three days has pushed The Turtle-Girl from East Pukapuka to the Amazon #1 Bestseller in ‘Sea Adventures Fiction’.