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Hazel Dains

Hazel Dains

Canada

Hazel Dains is a writer, editor, and blogger based in Ontario Canada. She loves creating worlds and having adventures.

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About the author

Over the past three years, Hazel has written and published one children's picture book (The Jittery Jostled Journey of Morley the Mouse), and one middle-grade fiction (Like a Spark). In November 2021, Hazel celebrated finishing her first full-length adult novel, The Danger of Exposure. Since then, she has started writing three sci-fi novels, and one historical fiction set in ancient Rome during the first century.

Hazel Dains is also the co-host of the official podcast for A Thousand Lives Lived Publishers.
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The Danger of Exposure

Hundreds of years into the future, teenage Malcolm struggles to find significance in a near communistic village sprung from a generation of rebels. Bored and full of angst, Malcolm demands a more exciting life for himself, which brings him into contact with the world outside his controlling village. But with freedom comes the discovery of a mutinous, conniving world

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Science Fiction & Fantasy
88,000 words
100% complete
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Synopsis

It's the year 2256. The world as we know it collapsed eighty years ago. The people who were unwilling to help re-establish the fallen system left to create a society that is not dependent on electricity, technology, or, most importantly, the internet: Lignum Sedes.
And as far as Malcolm is concerned, it sucks! He dreams of being freed from the wooden prison that everyone else in the village seems to be ok with. At his graduation ceremony, he is assigned the role of forager and is responsible for finding materials from abandoned towns that could be useful to the village. After just one small taste of freedom, his position is called into question as the village investigates four mysterious disappearances. Worried about sending an eighteen-year-old outside the village on his own, they assign him a teammate: Isla, the most beautiful and richest girl in the whole village.
During their first mission together, Malcolm happens upon an old broadcasting station and is enamored by what he finds there. Despite his partner’s warnings, he stuffs a few items from the station into his backpack. A sudden storm threatens both of their safety, as dirt paths turn to muddy sinkholes. In an instant, Isla’s life is in question, and Malcolm is faced with his true feelings for this girl that he knew very little about. Suddenly, his thoughts are full of her, longing to say something smart to her and even to touch her. But Isla makes it clear there is no way for them to be together.
A broken-hearted Malcolm returns to Lignum Sedes, determined to forget about his sudden obsession. A welcome distraction appears out of nowhere: a stranger in the village. This never happens. Most would be highly suspicious and even afraid to see a visitor. But not Malcolm. His curiosity and the stranger's need for supplies bring them together. He learns that the stranger, Cam, is from the city to the south, the one that had supposedly been destroyed eighty years ago. After hearing about the atrocities that had been happening for eighty years, he can feel nothing but contempt for the village that had been lying to him for his whole life. In no time, Malcolm decides that this was all fate. He was supposed to bump into this stranger. And he was supposed to do something about the evil in the south.

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  • 100+ followers on Twitter and growing
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Similar titles

  • 1) “Infinite Detail” by Tim Maughan, 230 ratings, MCD x FSG Originals (March 5, 2019)
  • 2) Earth Abides by George R Stewart, 2302 ratings, Del Rey; Reprint edition (March 28, 2006)
  • 3) The Immune, by David Kazzie, 1204 ratings, Grub Club Publishing (May 30, 2019)

Audience

The target audience for this novel is teenagers, both male and female, who enjoy television shows like “The Walking Dead” and other similar survivalist-thriller type series and books. Comparative titles currently available on the market are: “Lights Out” by Ryan Casey and “Seeking Safety” by T.L Payne.

Advance praise

"I've started The Danger of Exposure! Really really enjoying it! I love your pacing and the teen point of view!"- author TT Linse (www.ttlinseauthor.com)

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Chapter One
Malcolm’s Cage

From his perch on top of the thirty-foot wooden wall, Malcolm could see both worlds: the cage and the forbidden freedom. The light of the midnight moon danced all over, revealing glimmers of life in the forest in front of him; glowing green eyes of a vermin, or the light-brown fur of a night-raiding cougar.
This was Malcolm’s haven, his fortress: on top of the wall, in the silence and dark of midnight. This was the only place he felt like himself. The world behind him, in the village, was oppressive, strict, and achingly dull. But what his deep clover-green eyes could see out there, that world excited him. All the others seemed to be ok with the daily drudgery of village life. But he couldn’t be like them.
Malcolm sat there for a while, taking in the sounds and smells of the forbidden realm in front of him. The cool breeze of the midnight summer air caressed his shaggy blond curls. He knew he didn’t have much time. In a matter of minutes, the night guard patrolling the street below would see his tall slender frame hunched on top of the wall and notify his colleagues. Then five men would climb the stairway up to the top of the wall and drag him back home. On the five-minute walk home, the protection squad would tell him about the dangers of sitting on the wall and that it was an offense punishable by the council. Then the deal. They always gave him a deal! They’d say, “If you promise not to do this again tomorrow night, we won’t make a report of it.” I mean, how dumb could they be? How many times are they going to make that deal? Every night, it seemed. Sometimes, Malcolm wished that they would just bring him to the council and be done with it. But he supposed that they were squeamish about reporting a teenager. And maybe deep down, they all thought sitting on the top of the wall and dreaming of adventure was harmless. Not likely, Malcolm thought as he was rudely returned to reality by the knocking sound of a wooden ladder making contact with the wall. Here they come. Malcolm looked down and saw two protection squad officers at the bottom of the ladder getting ready to mount it.
“Hey, kid, you know you have a gate of your own back in your slum!”
“Yeah, you could just climb that and save us all the hassle of going up there to get you every night!” projected Garry, the head of the squadron for the night shift. Malcolm almost regarded these guys as his friends, he had been through this so many times.
“Hey Gar, you know the slum gate doesn’t have much of a view! I might as well have something nice to look at to break my fall.” Malcolm answered in kind, laughing at the ridiculousness of this routine. As he sat at the top of the wall waiting for the guys to come up the ladder, he played with the idea of just knocking the ladder over. That would probably buy him a few minutes and might even result in a laugh if no one got hurt of course. It’s not like he wasn’t already in trouble. Trouble didn’t really bother Malcolm. It was as common as his mother’s Saturday pot of soup simmering over their wood stove.
He looked directly down the wall. It was only about thirty feet to the ground. He was sick of being hauled down by Garry, so he decided to start his descent on his own. “Alright guys, I’m coming down.” He turned himself around and using his oversized feet, felt for a footing on the wall and slowly made his way down towards the ground.
Once he was down, the officers jumped off the ladder and launched themselves at him, putting him in the scratchy homemade ropes that he had become accustomed to, and started to pull him down the street towards his slum gate.
It wasn’t a long walk. They walked about five hundred meters then turned down a narrow alley that connected to the main drag. About halfway up the alley on the left side of the street, there was a towering ancient gate made of thick wood boards and decorated by rusted iron, that may have looked nice eighty years ago, but now only looked sinister. The guards pulled open the gate, revealing a stone courtyard lined by a U-shaped housing complex, and thrust Malcolm inside.
“Alright, alright, just get in there. And get to bed. And try to think about the good things in life, eh?” Garry teased, shutting the gate behind him. The thud of the wooden door as it closed behind him was immense, and the grisly sound of the rusty six-foot piece of iron sliding over the lock would scratch the inside of his ears all night.
Malcolm walked across the cobblestone courtyard to the most run-down and smallest hovel in the area. He reached his arm through the broken window so that he could unlock the front door that he knew his mother kept locked. He entered the cold dark of his mother’s one-room hovel and immediately wanted to retreat again, especially since he knew what new restrictions tomorrow would bring.

Chapter Two
Lignum Sedes

“Let’s recite the law of Lignum Sedes,”
“By the one we die
By two, we live
All connected in this village to give
Give work, give heart
And most of all
Never depart!”

“Well done! You are all dismissed!” The instructor announced loudly against the sound of chairs dragging through the dirt floor of the school. “Remember to report to the town council in two days to receive your assignments. Good luck!” Malcolm was amongst the first of the graduates to leave the classroom. Man, I hate that song!
His was a short walk, and really so was everyone else’s. The village was not big. He passed the wooden shops of the baker, the fishmonger, and the farmer, all about to close for the day. I hope I won’t end up in one of these god-awful shops! Malcolm thought to himself as he kept his head down and made his way home.
Malcolm reached the old rickety wooden door to their small living “shed,” as he called it. His nose was immediately assaulted by the leftover cabbage stew that had been simmering on their wood stove since the weekend, two days before. His family had been assigned one of the lowest ranking cottages, lowest ranking, meaning smallest. The main floor room consisted of a hay floor covering, a stone hearth to keep warm at, and a table and chairs. The only thing that they had of worth, was a large wooden corner cabinet that stood a few feet away from the woodstove. It was filled with keepsakes from his mother’s past, most of them being his father’s personal effects. Malcolm had always loved looking at that cabinet full of things linked to his dad, who he hadn’t seen in over eight years. There was a weighty ball with forest and reindeer that filled with snow. There was a stand-up clock that didn’t work and a very ancient-looking compass. At the back of the cabinet was a rectangular plastic box that his mother had called a radio.
“Malcolm! Oh, good, you’re home! You can help me finish up the laundry deliveries! How was your last day?”
“Oh, Ma, it was just as boring as every other day….”
“That’s nice, dear,” she said as she dropped a twenty-pound pile of someone else’s clothes on him. “Now be a good dear and iron those out for me. The table is already set up in the corner.”
Malcolm rolled his eyes, not looking forward to the mountain of work that had just literally been thrust upon him. He fumbled his way to the hearth where the hot iron was sitting and began his assigned work.
“You know, Malcolm, you shouldn’t be so grumpy all the time! Cheer up! The day after tomorrow is assignment day! You’ll finally know your place in the village! And…”
“Ma, I just feel like I’m wasting my life here.” There was nothing in the village that he wanted to do. He had always felt like that.
“Less moping and more ironing, yeah?”
Case in point.

Malcolm tossed and turned on his shallow and uncomfortable straw mattress. For hours, he stared up at the wooden rafters and wondered where they would put him. What position in the village could possibly pose enough excitement for a lifetime? Why did they have to make people stay in one job their whole life? Why can’t anyone leave? Dread and a general feeling of hopelessness made it all but impossible to fall asleep. As the night sky revealed tiny shafts of color and light, Malcolm imagined himself playing the role of almost every job in the village. And he hated them all.
Malcolm slipped on his old and faded blue school pants and buttoned up his off-white shirt. This was the best he could do. Malcolm leaped down from the loft with his old leather bag strapped around his shoulders. He opened the door to the cabinet and very carefully removed the ancient compass. He wiped the dust from its face, revealing a beautiful copper casing, handmade notches, and an arrow made of tin pointing due north. It still worked. Malcolm placed the compass in his pants pocket and headed towards the door. He felt a sense of relief having a piece of the past with him today as he was told what his future would bring.
“Good luck, son!” Diana waved goodbye to him from the door.
“Thanks, Ma!”
She was really the only thing he liked about this stupid crowded wood-chipped village! Malcolm walked down the narrow street outside of his house and then stepped out onto the village's main road where most of the shops were. He walked past the bakery, fishmonger, and the farmer’s stale, taking in the wonderful smells of the freshly baked morning bread, the sea salt applied to the fish, and the summer berries newly picked by the farmer. The smells were tormenting him to the point that his feet changed their trajectory. He had to make a stop.
Ding! Ding! The door widened, and the baker came out from the back of the bakery with a very red face. Baking was hard work!
“Ah, Malcolm! Let me check if your family has any credits….” Damn credits! I wish I could just buy stuff without being hassled. The town council felt the need to control and restrict every aspect of life right down to how many credits each family could have, what they ate, how they ate it, and when.
“You’re in luck, Malcolm; your family has one extra credit for today, so what would you like?” Lucky, indeed! Malcolm thought as he ordered a freshly baked chocolate croissant.
Malcolm hurried down the street, past the pub to the town council building. He was almost late, which was an absolute sin in the village, just like eating in public was a sin. councilors banned it because people started to want other people’s food, making them go to the food shops more. And with such a short supply of food and barely any credit allotted to the poor and middling folk, no one could buy food just for the simple reason of enjoyment and pleasure. So, Malcolm devoured his precious chocolate croissant and opened the door to the town council building. His future awaited him!
Malcolm hadn’t been in this building since his first year of life training. He forgot how high the ceilings were and how the light danced off of the beautifully framed windows. The wonderful smell of a roast chicken. I mean who cooks a roast chicken at 9 in the morning? He knew the smell was coming from the direction of the kitchen that was for the express use of the council members. An unexplained privilege!
“Sir!” A tall, austere-looking man nudged him from his trance.
“Oh yes, sorry I….”
“Right this way, sir” He guided him down the hall and opened two large dark green doors. Light, color, and warmth beamed from the room. It was an immense ballroom where the council meetings were generally held. But instead of very old boring people, Malcolm saw all his classmates standing around talking excitedly about the positions they’d hoped to get during the ceremony today. What a boring lot of shiftless…
“Malcolm!” A female voice yelled from across the room. It was his only friend in the world, Roslynn. Malcolm smiled and pushed his way through the crowd to get to her. Just as he was about to reach her, the town council music began, and the very old and boring men and women of the council emerged from behind a curtain. The man who had interrupted him in the hallway also appeared and stepped towards the gathering crowd.
“Is height a prerequisite to being a member of the town council?” Malcolm whispered his silly question to Roslynn. She laughed out loud, too loud, and was immediately hushed.
Roslynn punched him directly in the stomach in jest. “Always getting me in trouble, friend!”
“Welcome to the beginning of the rest of your lives! From this day forward, you are truly a member of the village! Shall we recite the village law?”
Let’s not! Malcolm thought as he stared down at his once brown, now faded and flaky leather loafers, willing himself to ignore the annoying meditations of all in the room.
“Give work, give heart
And most of all
Never depart!”

“Right, let’s begin with announcing the assignments. Lucy Buttonsworth, you will be our newest school master’s assistant. Jack Donaldson, you will be assisting the arborist. Graham Rotterbelly, please report to the minister.” What a name! Minister Rotterbelly! Ha!
“Fred Matterston, you will be reporting to the protection squad. Roslynn Thomers, please report to the carpenter’s bench.”
Roslynn, a carpenter? That should be interesting. Malcolm examined his friend’s face for her response. She seemed to welcome the idea of working with wood.
“Malcolm Jitterwood, please report to the fishmonger….” A sudden change spread across Malcolm’s face as if a pile of bricks had just landed directly on his stomach. This was undoubtedly a blow to his system! The job of fishmonger was known to be the most boring, smelly, oily, yucky job in the whole village!
“Ok, congratulations again! You are all dismissed.”
“Someone must not like you!” Roslynn whispered into Malcolm’s ear as the other students started to shuffle out of the room. Malcolm left the room in a state of shock, ignoring all conversation and dodging the faces of his classmates that were only too ready to ridicule and gawk.

Malcolm opened the shifty door to his house, and just as he had supposed, his mother already knew what his particularly shameful assignment had been.
“Ha!” Diana greeted him with laughter as he entered their one-room hovel.
“You a fishmonger! Ha! Someone at the town council must not like you very much!”
“That’s what Roslynn said too.” Malcolm moped.
“Well, when do you start your illustrious career as a fishmonger?”
“OHHHAHH!” An uncontrollable moan spilled out of Malcolm, seeping with despair and frustration as he contemplated his future.
“Tomorrow…. tomorrow, my life ends!”
“Oh, don’t be such a drama queen! We need a new fishmonger. Alfy is getting well into his old age. And why shouldn’t it be you?”
Well, because I’m smart and brave and adventurous and know nothing about fish and don’t care to! Malcolm couldn’t bring himself to speak his thoughts, no matter how true they were.

Chapter Three
Fresh Fish

“Fresh fish! Fresh fish for delivery!” It was Malcolm's job to yell this all morning into the town square. How embarrassing!
“Louder, Malcolm! And with more heart, for goodness sake, you’re not selling the plague, you know!” Yelled Alfy from just inside his shop door. It smells like I’m selling the plague!
His job thus far was straightforward. He was to promote the fish in the middle of the square so that the richer passersby would be enticed to buy some fish. The poorer ones didn’t have the option, so he was instructed to ignore them. So, not only was he embarrassed, but he was also a jerk! Ugh, what a waste of a life!
He had endured two full days of smelling like fish, feeling like a fish, and with greasy, slimy hard pieces of scales rubbing off on him. He’d carried enough fish to break his back, and now he was done! He couldn’t be a fishmonger! This job will actually kill me! He was going to march his fishy self to the town council and ask for a re-assignment. Technically that was allowed, but no one ever did. The village people were too scared that they’d be arrested for laziness, which was a major offense.
But Malcolm didn’t care. Being arrested would mean that he wouldn’t have to go to the fishmonger’s shop every morning. So, Malcolm stripped himself of his obnoxious rubber fish boots, brown tunic, and puke green apron.
“Hey, what do you think you’re doing? The day’s not done yet!” Alfy hassled him.
“Uh, well, it’s done for me!” Malcolm rushed out of the shop with a big smile on his face. With that same satisfied smile, he opened the door to the town council building. He was immediately stopped by the tall stern-looking man he had run into just days before.
“Do you have an appointment, sir?”
“Well, no, I...”
“Wait here.” The man pointed at a small wooden bench in the hallway. As Malcolm obediently sat down to wait, the determined steam that had carried him to this building was let out. Malcolm waited and waited on that uncomfortable wooden bench. He tried lying down on his back, putting his feet up, and sitting up straight, but none of these positions were helping. He was nervous. He brought his father’s old compass, as he always did, and started to fiddle with it. He opened the clasp of the lid and then closed it over and over. Clasp! Click! Clasp! Click! The motion of the pieces of metal meeting and then retreating mesmerized Malcolm and led him down a dark trail of angst mixed with determined hope for a better life.
Finally, the giant forest green doors at the end of the hallway opened, and there stood a young woman in a burgundy tunic with gold thread embroidery trimming around her neck collar.
“Malcolm, is it? Come in!” She waved him through the double green doors into a large room lined with bookshelves full of old and dusty books and one lonely working desk in the corner next to a window open to the village square. The woman, Ruby, was the town’s treasurer and a member of the council. She was known to be the youngest and, therefore, the most belligerent of the council members. And her business-like attire and manner complimented her reputation. She firmly closed the door behind Malcolm and briskly walked back to her place of authority behind her desk and motioned Malcolm to have a seat on one of the plushy velvet green chairs.
“What can I do for you, Malcolm?” Ruby asked from behind her desk, not looking at him but on her paperwork.
“I, uh, well…” Malcolm started to fiddle with his compass.
“Let me guess you are having trouble with the fishmonger? Alfy can be difficult to get along with, to be sure, but with time you’ll get used to him.” Believing that she may have solved his issues already, then Ruby got up from her chair.
“Wait, no, no, that’s not it. Ma’am, I…”
“It’s Ruby.”
“Ok, Ruby. I can’t be a fishmonger.”
“How do you mean?”
“There must have been a mistake made or something. I need to be reassigned.”
“We don’t make mistakes,” Ruby stated matter-of-factly.
“Ok, well...” Malcolm hesitated, trying to find the words. Ruby’s confident and authoritative demeanor was curbing his usual determined spirit. “…I would like to formally request a position change!” There he had got it out! Malcolm looked down at his father’s compass, which he was still fiddling with. Ruby sat back in her chair and looked around the room. She was thinking. Ruby’s eyes stopped on Malcolm’s hands as she realized what he had been playing with.
“Ok, Malcolm. I think you’re right. I don’t think fish mongering is for you.”
“Oh, that’s a relief, ma’am.”
“What is that round trinket in your hand?”
“Oh, uh, this thing?” Malcolm held up his copper compass.
Ruby nodded. “Well, it's my father’s old compass. My Ma told me that his dad brought it with him from the old world.”
“And you carry it around?”
“Yes, ma’am. I guess it reminds me that there is a world out there, outside of the village.”
“Hmmm.” Ruby was thinking again.
“We do have an opening in a department that I think might interest you.”
“Ok.”
“How would you like to be our new forager?”
“Forager, ma’am?”
“Yes, forager. You have good enough life training scores for the work.”
“Do I? I’ve never even heard of this position.”
“We don’t promote it in life training. But I think that it would be a good fit for you. I mean, you’ve already proven that you are quite agile.
Agile, ma’am?
Ruby smiled to herself as if she was thinking of something humorous. “I get all the reports from Garry. He says you can scale the village wall like it’s a step.”
Really? thanks, Gar!
“Ok, so this is how the position would work: you’ll be given weekly missions from the town council to visit abandoned towns and forage for materials that would be useful to this community and that cannot be made here.”
Malcolm’s face lit up in surprise and excitement. This is precisely the kind of job I want!
“Ma’am, I would love-” Ruby held up her right hand to silence him.
“Now, wait, before your mind takes you to exciting and adventurous daydreams, you have to understand the immense importance and responsibility of this role. The town council would expect you to keep every mission secret. You would also have to follow each mission's instructions to the ‘T.’ Suppose you fail to follow the instructions or wander off on your own. In that case, you will be arrested and likely convicted of Wandering. If you fail to keep the details of your mission secret, you will be arrested and tried for treason. So, do you see that this job must be done perfectly?”
“Yes, ma’am. I can do it!”
“I believe you can. Go home and wash off the fishy smell. A representative from the town council will deliver a package to you with your formal contract and gear. You will report to me, your supervisor, tomorrow morning for your first mission.”
No longer will I be a slave to a boring stupid nasty job!
“Yes, thank you, ma’am. I will be here!” Malcolm could barely contain his excitement. He leaped out of his chair and happily drifted towards the intimidating green doors.
“Oh, and Malcolm…?”
“Yes, Ma’am”
“Call me Ruby!”


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