Tag: science fiction

Excerpt from SILENCED: A Cybil Lewis Novel

Silenced_A Cybil Lewis Novel In 2008, my first futuristic thriller/mystery, Silenced: A Cybil Lewis Novel, appeared for the first time in print. The first release in Parker Publishing’s Isis SF line, the goal was to publish and promote black speculative fiction. Cybil was to be the flagship for that line.

Fast forward to now. Cybil is back in print! This time Mocha Memoirs Press has re-released it for your reading pleasure. So, if you missed her introductory run, you can catch up with her before the release of COZENED, the second in the series.

So, here’s a glimpse of Cybil’s world in Silenced: A Cybil Lewis Novel. 

 

Excerpt from Silenced: A Cybil Lewis Novel.  (R) 2008 Nicole Givens Kurtz

Available Print: $13.75 | Ebook $3.99

“Good afternoon, Mayor Christensen. What brings you to D.C.?” I ignored Jane. She could explain it later—although I was curious to see what spin she would put on this.

Jane sat down at her desk, her hands twisting together in front of her as she kept her eyes on the mayor and me. Already a thin line of sweat decorated her upper lip and even from across the room, I could see her eyes flittered around, unable to focus on one thing.

Yep, she had done something she knew I’d be pissed about.

I don’t like being ambushed and despite what Jane would tell me later, the situation definitely felt like an ambush. If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, and looks like a duck, then it surely is a duck.

Ditto the ambush.

Mayor Annabelle Christensen, Belle to Jane and other family members, was as Southern as grits and bluegrass music. She had occupied the mayoral seat of the Memphis quadrant for at least ten years. The Memphis quad extended up as far north to what was once Louisville, Kentucky and as far south as the modern day Jackson, Mississippi. The quad’s eastern border stopped at the far mountainous border of what was once Tennessee and dipped down to the former Mississippi. The Mississippi River served as the western border to not only the Memphis quad, but also the entire Southeast Territories to which Memphis was the largest quadrant.

She rose from her seat like a queen, with grace and an air of royalty. Her media smile stuck to her face like glue. The room smelled like sweet southern honeysuckles and was thick with humidity. The mayor had been waiting a long time since her scent seemed infused into the office’s atmosphere.

“Ms. Lewis, so good to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much about you and your work.” Her voice dropped on me in heavy globs, like syrup, thick and sugary. “I wish it could be on better terms. I assure you that what I have to say will not waste your time.”

Jane fidgeted in her seat as if she wasn’t sure about her aunt’s claim.

I didn’t look over at her, but I could feel Jane’s uncomfortableness. We’d been partners long enough that I didn’t need to see them to know what they were thinking or feeling. I just knew.

“What do you want?” I asked, ready for the game to be over and failing to keep my irritation out of my voice. Mind games, pomp and circumstance didn’t suit me well. My immediate dislike for the mayor didn’t help the situation either, and beneath my attempts at professionalism, I think she heard it.

Her eyebrows rose and her mouth made a small little ‘o’.

She recovered and her media smile was back on, full blast as if I hadn’t said anything. Despite the grin, a smarminess seemed to radiate out from her heart-shaped face as if she was restraining her own dislike for me.

Sometimes, a person doesn’t have to do anything to you for you to dislike them. It had to do with chemicals and personalities and other biological complex stuff.

I didn’t know the exact chemicals, but I knew I didn’t like Mayor Christensen.

Moreover, I didn’t trust her.

Already pain nibbled at the edge of exploding along the base of my neck. Stress. I didn’t feel like bullshitting around with the mayor and her entourage of goons. Had the clientele been a little seedier, I’d shot someone by now.

I have only so much honey in my system a day. Nice people, sometimes-even clients (when we get one) received small doses of my honey. My mother used to say I had an overabundance of vinegar. Of course, bees liked honey, and no one liked vinegar.

Right now, my honey supply of kindness was ebbing away faster than the eastern coastline.

The two bodyguards reached into their jackets threateningly, their eyes narrowed and attached to me. I fought the urge to smile and wave back at them.

Mayor Christensen’s red painted lips opened to speak, but instead she waved the goons into submission. A reddish flush appeared on her cheeks.

“May I speak with you in private?”

I shrugged and headed to my private office with her in tow. I unlocked the doors with a lick of my thumb. After a DNA confirmation check, they slid open. I dropped my satchel on my big oak desk as I stepped into the room and remained standing behind it. It had a big, open surface for all of my belongings. I loved the desk more than some men I’ve known.

Mayor Christensen didn’t sit in my only visitor’s chair.

With that well-bred posture, she remained standing as she scanned the walls of my private office taking it in. I knew what she was seeing, and I didn’t really care. Everything in the office came secondhand or was here when I leased the space eight years ago. The walls were adorned with newspaper and electronic clippings of various cases I had either been involved with or solved. The yellowing on some of the actual paper ones had chipped and split along the edges. New jpegs had been enlarged and added with updated electronic articles about recent cases. They scrolled upward in slow, casual, read-me-if-you’re-bored cadence.

“Mayor, why are you here?” I asked tightly, my voice edgy and impatient. With amazing effort, I tried to hang on to some professionalism. It slipped out of my hands, like sands through an hourglass. “I do have work to do.”

I had a good idea of what the mayor wanted. Still I wanted her to say it, to speak it out and to ask.  There was something naughty in the smile I gave her. The edges curled up in a dark satisfaction of knowing that I’d refuse her request anyway. Beg me, baby! Wait—hold for the rejection.

She brought her eyes back to mine and pressed her lips together before talking as if trying to keep her mouth from saying things she might regret later. With three more attempts, her words finally managed to clear the gate.

“Miss Lewis, I am from tough southern people who aren’t bothered by mosquitoes, wauto wrecks, or mouthy inspectors.”

Her voice lost its sweetness and turned hard, like wet sugar left out in the cold. In place of the soft, worried mother, was now the voice of a seasoned politician who thought I would cower and obey her every whim.

Obviously, she did not know me very well.

“The Memphis regulators are idiots,” she was saying, her hands folded neatly in front of her. “They have bungled my daughter’s missing person’s case and I want the bastard that took Mandy found,” she finished, her voice demanding, her eyes seething with anger and raw emotion.

Will the real Mayor Christensen please stand up? There is something knowing, hell creepy, about someone who could flip the coin of her personality like that. It made me want to lock my satchel in the safe, and nail down the valuables.

She stood there in her immaculate gray suit that cost more than my monthly food budget allowed. The layers of make-up didn’t hide the bluish circles under her eyes, or the new crop of wrinkles along her forehead the photos and media coverage seemed to have missed or airbrushed.

“In case you haven’t noticed, this is a long way from Memphis,” I said, my temper escaping into thin strips of exasperation. “And I don’t respond well to threats and name calling.”

The mayor’s eyes held mine.

“I apologize,” she said forcefully, as if she didn’t really mean it. “You’re the best in this business, or so I’m told.”  She crossed her arms over her chest. “You solved the case that sent Governor Price packing to Alamogordo Cradle a few years back.”

“Yeah, I did. But the answer is still no,” I said back, inserting my own steeliness into my voice. The Change met with certain death and several key political figures were apprehended, killed, or promoted depending on what side of the case they landed on. It garnished me some publicity and the client list swelled after that, a fat monsoon rain, drowning me in fresh currency, vile human actions, and a shower of gun play.

It had since dried up.

I came around to stand close to her, to face her so that she knew she wasn’t intimidating me. I was taller by about three inches and weighed more than her for sure, which somehow didn’t make me feel all that great.

The doors to my private office slid back in a hush. Jane came in, cautiously. She stood inside the entranceway. She opened her mouth to say something, but quickly closed it.

Smart girl.

Mayor Christensen ran her hand through her light brown Afro, ruining its puffiness.

“Miss Lewis, I have come all this way through the territory. The regulators are no closer to solving this than they were four weeks ago! Time is ticking away, and my, my baby is out there somewhere. These are dangerous times, as you well know. Help me find her, please.”

Suddenly, she was the sweet, southern girl from Memphis, twang and all—the distressed parent, not the bullying politician.

This one was quite the actress.

I shrugged. “As a rule, I don’t investigate cases where the regulators have already been called in.”

My friend Daniel Tom, a regulator and the only one competent  on the D.C. staff would kill me for meddling in his case without his permission. I’m sure the Memphis regs felt the same way.

She stared at me, aghast. “As a rule? This is my daughter, Miss Lewis, surely…”

“Yeah, a rule. You should know about those. They’re kind of like regulations…back in the day those were called laws. When you are self-employed you can make up rules for your business. That’s one of mine.”

I did not dance to the beat of anyone’s drummer, but my own, especially not that of some big shot politician. She could bring all the muscle she wanted, but I wasn’t budging unless I wanted to.

Call me stubborn. Call me cautious. Just don’t call me dead. I didn’t like the way this whole thing was unfolding.

“I will double your usual retainer,” she said as she looked around the office. “It seems you can use it.”

Jane winced, but still didn’t speak.

“No,” I said, struggling to keep my displeasure from going nuclear. “I just explained it to you. I don’t do regulator ruined cases.”

“Miss Lewis-”

“No.”

My voice was louder than I wanted. Could it be that she just didn’t get it? I wasn’t taking her on as a client. Was it because she was a mayor and no one in the Memphis quadrant ever refused her, so that no was a word she didn’t understand?

Or could it be that she was so desperate to find her daughter, no was unthinkable?

I wasn’t quite sure yet, but I did know one thing…I didn’t like the ambush and it had put me in a bad mood.

Mayor Christensen stiffened as if slapped.

Jane finally spoke. “Cyb…”

I waved her off. My ire boiled beneath my somewhat awkward grin. I didn’t take to people barging into my office with a trio of paid thugs to flex on me. If you truly wanted my help, there were better ways to ask than to come armed. Yeah, I had a reputation. And sure, she required protection, who didn’t in this age? Still, the entire affair could’ve been handled differently. Way different.

“Excuse me, Mayor Christensen. Jane. I have work to do.”

What work? I had no idea, but I wanted them both out of my office and fast before I lost total control. I hunkered down at my desk and turned on my computer. I played around with the mouse, gliding my fingers across the metallic square as if I had something important to read or type up.

I didn’t look up as the doors opened and closed after them.

Cybil Lewis is Back!

Silenced_A Cybil Lewis NovelMy iconic character is back! Cybil Lewis’s series began with the first novel, SILENCED, which was previously published by Parker Publishing. Out of print since 2015, Cybil’s first thriller is back in print, courtesy of Mocha Memoirs Press.

Here’s what the critics had to say about SILENCED.

“Silenced” is a great combination of science fiction and murder mystery…” Amazon 5 Star Review

“…As a reader who really enjoys science fiction/fantasy books, I need to have solid characters in a very convincing fantasy world conquering real life battles. Kurtz has done this with Silenced. The Cybil Lewis series is definitely a series not to be missed…” 5 Star Review by LisaLovesBigBooks

 

SILENCED: A Cybil Lewis Novel is available in e-book and in print.

Blurb: In the ruins of the collapsed United States, private inspector, Cybil Lewis and her inspector-in-training, Jane, fill a need. When Jane insiste they look into her cousin’s disappearance , Cybil agrees and is catapulted into a world of lies and deceit. As they investigate, they move far into the reaches of the divided states and deep into the upper crest of political turmoil. Caught up in the maelstrom of betrayal and corruption, Cybil and Jane unearth long buried secrets and survive attempts on their lives.

As they move closer to the truth, they discover that the people, who are entrusted with the safety of the territories, will do anything to keep their secrets, including murder. Especially murder.

Cybil and Jane will do what they must to get to the truth. They will never be SILENCED.

Follow Cybil at her spot on the web, http://www.cybillewisseries.blogspot.com

Weird Western Wednesdays’ Guest, Cynthia Ward

Weird Western Wednesdays
Weird Western Wednesdays

We’re heading west, the weird west, every Wednesday. Weird Western Wednesdays are devoted to the wonderful and often wild sub-genre of speculative fiction, weird westerns.  Guest authors will contribute a posts discussing weird westerns.

Welcome the amazing and talented, Cynthia Ward to Pulp Reports.


The West That Was and Wasn’t:

Lost Trails: Forgotten Tales of the Weird West

by Cynthia Ward

 

It may seem strange that a straight white cisgender Easterner (from Maine, no less) would edit the diversity-themed Weird West anthologies Lost Trails: Forgotten Tales of the Weird West: Volume One and Volume Two (WolfSinger Publications).  For me, it seems reasonable, because I grew up exposed solely to Hollywood and history-book images of the “Old West.”  In other words, I knew only the stereotypes:  the “savage Indians” unjustly hanging on to land that rightfully belonged to the white newcomers; the brave male sheriffs and outlaws and cowpokes and ranchers and stagecoach drivers and Indian killers; and the white men’s helpless female helpmeets.  On the subject of Western American history, I was like Voltaire’s Candide:  an utter naïf, primed to notice every gap between image and actuality.

LostTrails: Tales of the Forgotten Weird WestThose gaps appeared soon after I moved to California in 1983.  I learned that a third of cowboys were African-American, and that Chinese immigrants participated in the Gold Rush, and that the Californios included cowboys and ranchers.   I learned that the indigenous peoples of the western regions were neither “savages” nor culturally uniform, and that the Spanish missionaries were providers not of civilization, but of deadly cultural imperialism.  I learned about historical figures who upended the Western myth of manly men and meek damsels in distress, such as bandit-killing “One-Eyed Charley” Parkhurst, the respected stagecoach driver revealed in death to be a cross-dressing woman (http://www.mobileranger.com/losgatos/one-eyed-charlie-the-cross-dressing-stagecoach-driver/), and the “Zuni Man-Woman” We’wha (http://www.amazon.com/The-Zuni-Man-Woman-Will-Roscoe/dp/0826313701), one of the many gender-variant individuals who held respected roles in the Native American nations.

 

A move to Washington State put further cracks in the hegemonic media and history-book image of the “Old West”:  rodeo grandmas (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cl0-XBRfatc); a cross-dressing female jazz musician (http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20119615,00.html); the exploitation of women of color as prostitutes and the existence of a robust Western logging and timber industry (http://www.americanhistoryusa.com/early-washington-and-logging-timber-industry/); and the rise of a radical worker’s union in the Northwest (https://content.lib.washington.edu/iwwweb/readIWW.html).  The story and movie Brokeback Mountain brought awareness of same-sex relationships in the Western past.  Vacations in New Mexico revealed a unique cuisine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Mexican_cuisine) and a unique history (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_New_Mexico) and the presence of Jews and Muslims among the Spanish immigrants to New Spain (https://www.cabq.gov/humanrights/public-information-and-education/diversity-booklets/jewish-american-heritage/conversos-crypto-jews).  And I’ve recently learned that stuntwomen were far from unknown in the early days of Hollywood (http://www.npr.org/2015/11/01/453632475/guts-grace-digs-into-the-untold-history-of-stuntwomen).

 

Meanwhile, in genre fiction, the Twenty-Teens brought a resurgence in the availability and popularity of Weird West prose.  Happily, this genre fan devoured several new titles.  Unhappily, most of the authors of those titles proved unaware of the rich and diverse realities of life in the historical West.   Too many owed their depictions to the narrow old stereotypes, with one significant and undesirable change:  the near-disappearance of indigenous peoples as characters.  These discoveries frustrated me, not only because I’m a Weird West fan, but because I’m the coauthor, with Tiptree Award winning author Nisi Shawl, of Writing the Other: A Practical Approach (Aqueduct Press, http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Other-Conversation-Pieces-Book-ebook/dp/B0065MZ26O), which is one of several readily available sources of information and instruction on the subject of writing believable characters of diverse backgrounds.  Eventually, I voiced my frustration on Facebook, and Publisher Carol Hightshoe offered me the chance to edit a diversity-themed Weird West anthology for WolfSinger Publications (http://wolfsingerpubs.com/).  The anthology grew to two volumes, because we received such an abundance of excellent story submissions which fit our theme.

 

Lost Trails: Forgotten Tales of the Weird West: Volume One is now available in print and eBook formats (September 2015, http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Trails-Forgotten-Tales-Weird-ebook/dp/B014V2H2YO/), and Volume Two is scheduled for release in Winter 2015/2016.  The stories in both volumes mix historical Western settings, scenarios, themes, and archetypes with fantasy, science fiction, horror, steampunk, alternate history, and other speculative fiction genres.  The stereotype-busting characters include gunslingers and madams, miners and drifters, priests and shamans, boomers and busters, cooks and conquistadores, actresses and revolutionaries, hobos and train-robbers, scientists and homesteaders, sheriffs and outlaws and bounty-hunters, monotheists and polytheists and atheists, pioneers and colonials and indigenes, and more.  The contributors to Lost Trails: Volumes One and Two include Saladin Ahmed, Kathleen Alcalá, Steve Berman, Tobias S. Buckell, Milton Davis, Aliette de Bodard, Edward M. Erdelac, Gemma Files, Carol Hightshoe, Ernest Hogan, Naomi Kritzer, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Ken Liu, Carole McDonnell, Misha Nogha, David Lee Summers, Don Webb, and many others.  If you enjoy Weird Westerns, or are looking to give the genre a try, I hope you’ll consider Lost Trails.