August Round Robin – Travel Teasers



This month we’re sharing excerpts of our work that relate to travel or vacation. And because I’m in the middle of a new work, you get a tiny taste of One Big Werewolf Wedding.

The title is obviously in the works.

And thanks to my stepmother, who requested I visit steampunk again, I have opted to exchange modern-day Boston/New York with an 1800’s steampunk version. I’m actually enjoying this change a good deal more, even if I am still struggling with the first person POV.

One Big Werewolf Wedding – Excerpt

Boston South Central hummed with activity, human and supernatural creatures alike making their way to individual train cars, politely keeping to themselves. There were many top hats and business suits to be seen, including those of my abductors, who were having a time blending with the crowd. They were all too large, and most had blunt noses from too many fights. Except, of course, for picture-perfect Derrick King.

Maker help me, that man needed a flaw.

Aside from the whole abduction business.

Really, the abduction business should have made him less attractive, even if he was trying to save his mother. But he’d chosen to shave before we left the seedy motel, and that blasted aviator jacket did far too many nice things to his shoulders.

Smug, whose name I’d learned was Mark, kept a brisk pace and blocked my view and I realized I’d been staring. Fighting a blush, I scowled at him, all too pleased to see his cut lip and taped nose. “Tell me why we aren’t driving again? I know the Leslies can afford autmotives.”

“The train shaves an hour off our travel time,” Mark said. “Which I think is a waste of money, but our fearless leader made the call.”

He looked particularly moody, and not just because of the battered state of his face. There was a sheen of sweat at his widow-peaked hairline and he had a white-knuckle grip on his bag. For that matter, the rest of our troupe were in varied states of distress, each with hunched shoulders and scowls, and I began to suspect that werewolves did not like to ride the train.

My suspicions were confirmed when we reached the train car’s steps and Mark’s coloring had gone an alarming grey. Only Derrick seemed unperturbed by our situation, confidently handing out tickets and ushering wolves toward the waiting conductor. There were grunts and mutters from the group, but none of them made eye contact with Derrick as they passed.

 “Trust me, you would not have wanted to be stuck in an automotive for four hours with this bunch,” Derrick said as he reached me.

Eyeing the brown paper ticket he was holding out I said, “I don’t want to be with this bunch at all.”

His jaw flexed and he gave me a tolerant look. I thought about screaming, making an awful scene and calling humans to attention, but there was the rune stone in my hand and dammitall if I didn’t need him. And, if I was honest with myself, there was the matter of his mother to contend with. I couldn’t really walk away, not with the knowledge that another woman might be harmed in my stead.

Still, I wasn’t about to let him off the hook. The fact that he was a Constable and allowing this to happen was an unspeakable breach of trust.  I scowled and Derrick’s eyebrow rose in question. He opened his mouth to speak but I cut him off by snatching the ticket, marching to the conductor with angry strides that I hoped made my point for me.

The conductor smiled and it was only after a moment that I realized she was making eyes at Derrick, which was unprofessional to the extreme. Irritated, I kept going, trusting that the brute would be right behind me, and he was. He stayed on my heels as we entered the train and squeezed through the tight space.

My seat was beside Mark, who had already stowed his bag and was bouncing his knee so hard I feared his foot might go through the floor. By the time I was buckled and slouched against the annoyingly tight seat, Mark had discarded the emergency instruction pamphlet in favor of the barf bag. For a heart-stopping moment I thought he meant to use it right then, but he just clutched it in his hands and exhaled through his mouth.

I stared at him. “Really? We haven’t even left the station.”

“Shut up,” he said and closed his eyes.

His Adam’s apple bobbed heavy under his skin and I unbuckled. There was no way I was going to sit next to a motion-sick werewolf for however long this ride might be. Ignoring the hushed protests of fellow passengers, I made my way to Derrick, intent on making him switch seats with me. He looked up when I reached his aisle, concern and surprise on his face, and glanced back at where Mark was leaning over his bag.

Most of the passengers were loaded and I nodded at the seat beside Derrick; “Is anyone sitting here?”

“I wouldn’t…”

“I don’t care what you wouldn’t do, Mr. King,” I said and sat down. “I refuse to deal with Mark throwing up on me.”

Derrick cringed as I settled in. “I didn’t realize they would have such a bad reaction to the ride,” he said, but his gaze was fastened on my lap. “I really don’t think you want to sit there.”

“Of course, I don’t,” I said, lowering my voice a fraction. “We both know I have no desire to be sitting here at all.”

The conductor began welcoming everyone to the train and the car jostled into movement.  It was then that I realized something was wrong with my seat. I could feel a wetness under me, seeping into my pants, and when I looked back at Derrick he was openly cringing.

As calmly as I could, I met his gaze and asked; “Why is my seat wet?”

“I tried to warn you,” he said. “That’s supposed to be my seat, but I smelled it and shifted over.”

“Smelled… it?” I asked weakly, wishing for all the world that I had the sense of a werewolf. Then again, I’m not sure smelling it would have helped.

“I fear the previous passenger may have…”

I cut him off with a hand; “Don’t say it. Please don’t say it.”

He stopped talking and I closed my eyes, frozen for a full twenty seconds as reality pounded into me.

I was sitting in pee.

Skin crawling, I fumbled with my purse, desperate to get up, but the train accelerated, pushing me back. Derrick’s hand covered mine in an iron grip and he leaned over to murmur; “You can’t get up yet, you’ll hurt yourself.”

“You’re not the one sitting in pee,” I said through my teeth.

His fingers tightened on me and I met his gaze. There was a hint of laughter in his eyes and I glared up at him as he said; “I sympathize, I do. But you need to wait. We’ll get this sorted once we’re moving properly.”

“You think this is funny!”

He shrugged but didn’t deny the accusation. “I did try to warn you.”

“Try harder next time!” I snapped and then, because the cool wetness was soaking into my undergarments and I knew what it was, I gagged.

Derrick had the barf bag out and in my hands within seconds, but I wasn’t going to throw up. At least, I hoped I wasn’t.

There was the stomach-dropping moment when the whole train jerked into forward motion, and I nearly did utilize the bag, but after several seconds of breathing exercises I was able to gain a semblance of control. Derrick kept hold of me, keeping me seated in someone else’s pee as the train chugged faster, still jerking and jostling as it tried to reach its top speed.  

Several aisles behind us, I could hear Mark losing his breakfast into his barf bag and I shuddered. If sitting in urine wasn’t already gag-inducing, that sound was sure to get me, so I tried to distract myself with Derrick.

“Why aren’t you a nervous traveler?” I asked.

“Who says I’m not?”

I slanted a glare at him. “I don’t see you clutching a barf bag.”

He gave a shrug and glanced at the fasten seatbelt sign. “I suppose I’m just used to it,” he said. “I did have to travel to America.”

“Nothing can inoculate you better than several days on a boat?”

He smirked at me. “Something like that.”

There was a mellow ping and I realized the train was as smooth as it was going to get. Derrick released my hand and I unbuckled, ejecting from my seat with enough speed to knock into the headrest in front of me. Murmuring my apologies, I slipped into the aisle and hurried for the nearest restroom. I ignored passengers who glanced at me as I hurried by, including Mark who I thought might have been scowling but with the uncomfortable cooling sensation happening around my backside I couldn’t be bothered to care.

I ducked into the first restroom and locked myself in. It was difficult in the cramped space, but I managed to strip my skirts and underwear off and squished them against the corner with a toe. Splashing a bit of soap and water on a paper towel, I did my best to clean the offending area and tried desperately not to think about what stranger I was having such an intimate affair with. And then I realized I was half naked in a tiny train bathroom with nothing else to wear.

I was going to have to put the pee clothes back on.

Groaning in despair, I fell forward, letting my head rest against the mirror. “Why is this happening to me?”

There was a knock on the door and Derrick’s rumbling voice; “Nora?”

Feeling awkwardly exposed despite the closed door, I scowled. “This is all your fault.”

“Yes, you’ve made me quite aware of that,” he said. “Could you open the door?”

I glanced down at my bare legs and snorted an unladylike laugh; “Not on your life.”

There was a beat and then; “I have some clean clothes, if you’re interested.”

“I couldn’t possibly fit in any of your things,” I said, which was an insane argument because what else was I going to do?

“Well, no,” Derrick said, and I could imagine him leaning into the door because his voice was easier to hear. “But I sent the lads to get some things from your home before we left so these should definitely fit.”

I sat stunned for a second, half furious that a group of wolves invaded my home and rifled through my private life. The other half of me was staring at pee-soaked skirts, shivering because it was blasted cold in the little room. And there was something else too, a niggling in my gut that might have been guilt.

Derrick didn’t want to be in this situation any more than I did, but he’d taken the time to see to my comfort, even with all my snark and sniping. Granted, I would have preferred if he’d been the one to gather my things. The very idea of Mark poking around my underwear drawer was enough to make me want to punch him in the nose.

Practicality won in the end.

I unlocked the door and opened it just enough to squeeze one hand through. I felt my clothes thrust at me and yanked it all inside, latching the lock once more. Since my blouse still had coffee stains on the sleeve – curse that ivory color, it always does this to me – I was pleased to find that Derrick had included a shirt. Even if that shirt was plain blue cotton that did not at all match the black skirt he’d delivered, at least it was clean and stain free.

Getting dressed inside a train car restroom was a unique challenge. I managed to stub my big toe twice, bash my head against the sink and then the opposite wall like a pinball, and ram my elbow into the toilet-paper dispenser so hard I lost feeling in my fingers. I’m quite certain I heard concerned murmurs outside but ignored it in favor of locating my boots. These at least were easy to put on, sliding up and over my ankles with their faux-fur fringe.

I looked ridiculous but urine-free, so I counted it a win and opened the door.

Derrick was there, his expression highly amused, and I glared at him because that seemed to be my default today.

“I don’t even care how stupid I look,” I told him. “I’m dry and that’s what counts.”

“You’ll get no argument from me,” he said and held out a paper bag. “I didn’t imagine you’d want to touch them again until they were washed.”

Realizing he meant my discarded clothes, I glanced back into the restroom. Of course my purple-polka dot underwear would be right on top and I cringed, feeling the flush as it raced up my neck to bloom in my face. It did not escape me that he’d already handled my clean underwear, which sported turquoise hearts and a frilly waistline, but somehow this was worse. I could dissect the reasons for that later, though.

“I thought we’d just burn them,” I said.

Derrick snorted a laugh. “They frown on burning things when the train is in motion.”

“Drat,” I said and took the paper bag.

I managed to get the soiled garments into the bag and rolled the top securely. When I turned back around, Derrick was still there. He flashed a faint smile and reached for the bag, which I was more than willing to part with.

The train dipped left and shuddered. I stumbled and might have bashed my head again if Derrick hadn’t grabbed me. His hands clasped my elbows, drawing me close enough I could feel his breath on my cheek. My eyes fastened on the hallow of his throat and I was washed in the scent of fresh detergent and soap. I hiccupped a breath, stiffening because some part of me wanted to lean into him, to feel if he was as solid to the touch as he appeared.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

My hand was on his side and yes, he was solid. I withdrew, flustered.

“Nora?”

“Yes, fine, just,” I scrambled for an apology but what came out was; “You smell good. I hadn’t expected…”

“For wolves to bathe?” he asked, with no small amount of amusement.

Mortified at my own words, I opened my mouth to apologize again, but hadn’t I just proven I couldn’t trust myself? I shut my mouth and pivoted away, praying I could make it through the rest of the trip without saying anything more. Just to be safe, I sat beside Mark and kept my eyes on my folded hands as Derrick went back to his seat.  

Maker help me, I needed to get home.  

Check out some excerpts from my fellow authors!

Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Marie Laval http://marielaval.blogspot.co.uk/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ ( YOU ARE HERE )
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1GK
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com



Wherein I Forecast 2019 (Writing-wise, of course)

Last week I noted the things that I managed to complete in 2018 – which was a lot and I’m still patting myself on the back for a good year. I recognize that only die-hard fans really care about this stuff, and for those of you out there who count yourselves among this rare breed of reader, let it be known that I love you all and pray you never change.

For those who watch the blog for the writing class updates and other content, this might not be the post for you. And that’s OK!

If, for reasons neither of us can fully explain, the idea of peeking inside an author’s deadline calendar entices you, then I fully welcome you to read on. Otherwise, this is mostly to keep my head on straight through the year.

So, what do I want to accomplish in 2019?

  • A short story every month. These stories will vary in theme and substance and, hopefully, will find their way into the market. Others may find their way onto this site for FREE content.
  • 2nd and 3rd drafts of The Castle of Three Kings completed. And then, of course, start submitting this MG/YA story to places.
  • 2nd and 3rd drafts of The 13th Month completed. Also with the submission process in full swing.
  • Record Enemy Souls into audio to be released in segments for FREE. The hard copy will be available for sale if people don’t want to wait a week to find out what happens.
  • Release the Fact vs. Fiction edition of Tapped at the same time as Enemy Souls.
  • Inmate rough draft. (Camp Nano)
  • Warpath rough draft. (Nano)
  • City of Cemeteries rough draft.

I am sure I’ll get sidetracked by something and replace stuff and/or scrap a project, but for now I’m sticking with this list. I look forward to seeing how much of this I can get done and I hope everyone else has fun in the coming year.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Results

Even with a holiday visiting my mother – on the other side of the nation, I might add –  I managed to make it passed the 50k mark and win NaNoWriMo. The rest of the year will be spent finishing this novel about ghouls and goblins and dragons. It has been great fun to write Pru’s story, though I did have to drift away from hand writing and start typing the thing.

Wrist cramps are a thing. And sometimes my fingers get sore when I’ve spent too much time writing by hand.

That being said, I am pleased with the results for this year. As soon as I have the entire book completed (which should happen on the 31st of December, if not before) then it will be tucked away until April.

Also this year I had my son participate. While his goal was not 50,000 words, he was assigned to write 200 words a day and for the first half of the month he did this beautifully. But then the laptop died and with it, his means of typing.

It was a joy to watch him work. Around the third or fourth day that he came to me, wide-eyed, and said; “I get why you like writing now. Anything can happen!”

My heart swelled with so much pride in that moment, I feared it would burst. I look forward to including him in future National Novel Writing projects when I’ve secured a personal laptop for him.

To those of you who participated and made your goals, I applaud you. Imaginary confetti is dusting your shoulders as you read this.

To those of you who participated but missed the mark, I still applaud you. Writing is a frightfully dangerous endeavor. As my son says; “Anything can happen!” The fact that you braved the blank page and started to fill it tells me you’re the courageous sort and I truly believe you’ll finish that story no matter what.

Character Auditions – WE Master Class Blog

Two weeks ago I mentioned the Writing Excuses Master Class put out a few years back. This is a free class that you can access via audio or transcript on the Writing Excuses website and I recommend it to anyone and everyone who enjoys the writing process.

Moving along in the course, I have my initial idea: a new app that can be downloaded directly into our consciousness goes horribly awry. Famous fictional characters bleed into our victim’s minds and take over, bringing new life to some of the more heinous creations in literature as well as the heroes meant to catch them.

I recognize that I’m going to be reading a lot of classics to widen my scope of literary characters I can choose from. The low-hanging fruit, in this case, would be Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty and I think I’m going to go ahead and use those two, if only as introductory players that help the narrative get moving.

The next assignment was character auditions, which is a new concept for me. Normally the character comes before the idea, and the plot grows out of what I know about them. This is an organic process that I have enjoyed over the last decade of writing, but I’m going to admit that I enjoyed doing character auditions.

The act of trying different voices helped broaden my understanding of the idea as a whole. From the surly detective who has to figure out which character is infecting which avid reader, to the dirt-poor boy who hacked his way into downloading the app, I was able to explore different ways this story could go.

In the end, I was stuck between two choices, which I will share now.

Detective Josephine Margot, first person POV. When writing out her first 500 words, I got a Blade Runner/Johnny Mnemonic feel to the narrative that I liked. She’s a cynical woman who gets called to a murder scene on a prominent college campus, which she is equal parts annoyed about and relieved to be working. Because as long as she’s on this case, she doesn’t have to be downtown at her brother’s wedding.

Makenzie Leeds, third person POV. When writing her first segment, I got a lot more humor, which I enjoyed because I always enjoy humorous voices. Also, I grabbed the low-hanging fruit and had her infected with Sherlock Holmes. In this scenario, she’d downloaded the app as part of an extra credit assignment and found herself plagued with an additional voice in her head.

I may bounce between the two before I settle, depending on what the assignments show me in the coming weeks. Until then, I’ll play around with Jo and Kenzie and see if maybe I can blend them together.

 

August Round Robin – Creation of a Writer

When we last visited the subject about what prompted our writing careers, I mentioned an assignment from the sixth grade where the teacher read the opening of a story and then told us to write what came next.

While I still consider that assignment the launching point for my love-affair with the written word, there were other influences too. I’ve always been a dreamer, letting stories play themselves out in my head, but I didn’t always love reading.

Or at least, I didn’t love finishing a book. I liked getting started, being introduced to impossible worlds with magic and mayhem, but I didn’t always connect with the characters on the page. When that happened, my happy brain took off and made the story my own, adding characters that I enjoyed better.

I suppose that could be seen as an early form of fanfiction, but I was in grammar school so I can live with that. And really, I didn’t start writing them down until that fateful assignment in the sixth grade.

I really should track that teacher down and thank her.

Throughout high school, I kept a special notebook that held all sorts of stories in it. Mostly fragments, scenes that came to me in the middle of class that entertained me. It wasn’t a full novel, not even a short story because there was no structure to the notebook.

To look at it now, it seems a testament to my own personal attention deficit disorder. A scene begun on page five was interrupted by a series of scenes about an earthquake rattling the school, forcing me to become the hero and help lead my fellows out of the rubble.

So what got me from that chaotic fictional buffet to full novel writing?

To be honest, I think it was my mother’s electronic typewriter. And I know mentioning that archaic bit of machinery is likely to date me, but I’ll own my age for the day.

One of my earliest stories was written after we visited family in Alaska. I loved the cool air and rugged mountains and vast seascapes that we saw there and, per typical youthful exuberance, commemorated the visit in fiction. As with everything back then, I focused on the people in my life, so the main characters were none other than myself, my brother, and my cousins.

But what I remember most about writing it, was sitting at the absurdly large desk in the living room and pressing the keys on that typewriter. Something about the whirring-snap sound it made every time I hit a letter filled me with absolute glee.

There was a permanence to the story I was writing. It was there in the whirr-snap of every letter, my own personal mark in the world.

This is probably why I have a very noisy keyboard. It may not have the same whirr-snap sound of the typewriter, and I can delete things almost as quickly as I write them now, but the sense of accomplishment is still there.

Check out what my fellow authors have to say about what started their writing careers in this month’s Round Robin…

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1ke
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Violence in Writing – July Round Robin

Anyone who’s read my writing can tell you that I use violence a lot in my work.

We don’t call it that, though.

We say it’s “action-packed” and full of conflict because the word violence tends to connote negative things. And really, it should.

As a parent, I find myself repeating the mantra that it is never all right to hit, that there are better ways to solve our problems. Because I don’t want to visit my son in prison one day.

But in my writing, the violence runs rampant.

My first novel, Sedition, starts with a duel in a tavernesque place. My second novel, Witch-Born, starts with an assassination attempt on the main character’s life in the middle of a crowded cafe.

Deviation begins with a hold-up in a bookstore.

Granted, those are all early works and there are a lot of things wrong with them. I really held to the “in medias res” concept and I recognize that it’s hard to care about a character being shot at if you don’t know who they are.

These days I try to focus on how the violence affects my point of view character in any given scene. While it was fun following Dorian Feverrette through the steampunk world of Magnellum as he hunted witch-assassins, I can admit that I never stopped to consider what sort of man that made him.

The truly interesting heroes are the ones who commit to violence and are then affected by that violence. We see them walk a tightrope between wanting to live in peace and needing to fight for that peace.

This tightrope holds a great deal of tension and opens up the character for deeper development. I’m still trying to find the right balance between action and the effect that action has on the character, but I hope to learn it soon.

Check out how my fellow authors work with violence in their novels.

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1i2
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Anne de Gruchy https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Judith Copek, //http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/

What I Learn from my Characters – February 2018 Round Robin

Characters are a bit like the writer’s pox. Instead of itchy red dots all over our skin, we have itchy personalities peppering our minds. Some are louder than others and we end up scratching those first because no matter how many times we’re told we shouldn’t scratch, the itch cannot be ignored.

As we scratch, fleshing that character out on the page, their voice becomes clearer and their story apparent. Often the process draws blood, a mix of fiction and fact that bleeds onto the page until it is difficult to distinguish between character and author. Neither would exist without the other, after all.

In my novel Deviation I have two women abducted through space and time, one a writerdeviation-510.jpg and one a mother. The writer finds herself being hailed as a prophet for things she wrote in her fiction, which was a horrifying thought for both the character and me, the author.

If you’ve read any of my work, you’ve seen the horrible things I put my characters through. I’m pretty sure most would want to kill me if they were real and standing in my apartment.

The other character, the mother, is desperate to get home to her family. She has a young son who needs her and she has to get back.

Midway through my revision of the novel I realized I had written my real life struggle into the plot. You see, at the time I was a new mother. My son was only months old and I felt like I was two people – a devoted mother who wanted nothing more than to see to the needs of my son, and an author who needed to carve out time to write.

As I completed my revision of the novel, I came to an understanding that has carried me through the last ten years of my son’s life; both the writer and the mother are essential parts of who I am as a person.

While the novel never addresses this personal journey, the ending still reminds me of the lesson Reesa and Kate taught me. I will always find a way to write, and I will always be a mother.

See what lessons my fellow authors have discovered through their characters in this month’s round robin…

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/  (YOU ARE HERE)
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Marie Laval http://marielaval.blogspot.co.uk/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1c1
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/