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



From Coast to Coast – With Cats

IMG_1466 (1)
Pest telling me how awful I am.

All right, so admittedly Idaho isn’t exactly on the coast, but it is close enough to the west coast that my move to Massachusetts was significant.

I suppose any move across state lines is significant but I’m sure you gather my meaning here. We spent 40 hours on the road, not counting pit stops and the necessary Motel stays.

I must take a moment to give my husband a shout of appreciation for doing all the driving. I’m 97% sure I would have had a heart attack trying to pull the UHaul on my own.

So! 40 hours on the road with one 10-year-old (who slept a great deal of the trip) and two very unimpressed cats. What could possibly go wrong?

IMG_1457 (1)
Nuisance hiding under the dinosaur’s butt.

Well, let’s go ahead and start with the obvious – Cats don’t like cars.

Like, at all.

My cat in particular (aptly named Pest) chose to pee on me before we even left my home town of Boise. Granted, I realize this was a direct reaction to never having traveled further than the vet’s office in his 9 years of living, but it was a sad portent of things to come.

IMG_1469
He is plotting my demise. I can feel it.

Pest spent the first hour and half of every day crying.

Every morning. No matter how early we chose to rise and get started, and we were getting up at 4AM to avoid traffic in the more populated cities.

After that first hour and a half, either because he ran out of kitty-voice to expound his displeasure or because he got used to the whole moving car thing, he quieted down and hid under my son’s feet to sleep.

We also had a big fluffy dinosaur thing that I put in the back seat for the kiddo to sleep on, but the cats decided that was a perfect-most-wonderful-spot to sleep UNDER. Not on top of, but UNDERNEATH, hidden from view, thus keeping the kiddo from being able to really use it.

The other kitty (named Nuisance or Funny Face or whatever the kiddo decides for the

IMG_1556
“I am ninja kitty!”

day) did much better. He didn’t cry or pee in the car at all.

Nooooo, not that cat.

Instead, Nuisance chose to find any hiding spot he could in the hotel rooms, leading us on a frantic hunt up and down the halls of the third hotel. (He was under one of the beds, pressed so tight against the foot board we couldn’t see him.)

Beyond the upset kitties, there are a couple of issues to take note of;

#1) The lady in Utah going 40MPH in a 70MPH zone. She really, really, really needs her license taken away. Or some loving family member to drive her around.

IMG_1503
…. Wyoming.

#2) Wyoming is full of nothing. SO MUCH NOTHING. Nebraska is a close second, but unless a cataclysm happens and the landscape cracks open or something, Wyoming will forever hold the title of Most Boring To Drive Through.

#3) The Motel 6 on the edge of Wyoming gave us a room that was already rented, leading to a super awkward moment. Also, that motel is so close to the train tracks there is really no sleep to be had there. Every twenty or thirty minutes there was a train rumbling by right outside the window.

#4) Omaha is the gateway to Hades. Or at least their roads look like it and I’m really surprised we made it out of there with our souls intact.

And there we have it. Suffice to say, the trip wasn’t awful.  Brendon and I did have some fun, we got through the first three Naomi Novik Temeraire audio books, and once the landscape turned there were interesting things to look at.

That being said, I’m glad we made it safely and look forward to more adventures in New England.

Travel & Travel Blogs

One of the things that really helps inspire me are photographs.  It especially helps if these are photographs that I have taken myself, but occasionally I find inspiration in what I see on the Travel Channel or on another person’s blog.

Oh!

And let me tell you how much fun I have searching through space photographs!   Just take a look at this image done by gucken over at Deviantart.

For the Travel Channel, I normally like Anthony Bourdain No Reservations.  He’s just too snarky for his own good sometimes.

For bloggers who have caught my attention, I’m afraid there are only two.  First there is Katy at her storytellingnomad site.  She has some neat pictures up there of Venice and Europe in general.  I love the pictures, and she adds a bit of the writerly life to her posts by discussing what happened in whichever city she happened to be in.

The second is Luke Burrage.  You might have already heard of him, and then again you might not.  He runs a Science Fiction Review Podcast that you can get for free on iTunes.  Also, he’s a juggler who works on cruise ships … so he inevitably gets to see wonderful, exotic places.  He is also a photographer and he has some beautiful pictures up on his blog.  (Be patient on his blog link, it’s heavy with content so it takes slightly longer to load.)

While I would love to visit all the places in the world and experience everything there is to taste, touch, smell and what have you, I’m afraid life is just too short.  However, through these few people I am given a slightly broader scope of experience to work with — albeit vicariously — and I am supremely grateful for the work that they do.

So!  Kudos to all of you!  And if you, dear reader, know of any travel blogs, pictures blogs, or other forms of art that you think would help stretch my imagination further, then please let me know.