Blathering: Reality Interrupts My Virtual Life Once Again

As with all of my creative friends, I spent yesterday in a state of shock. It’s still hard for me to believe that a doctrine of hatred, bigotry, racism, name-calling and pomposity actually carried the popular vote. As long as I’m putting my politics on the line, I can admit that neither candidate had my total support, but I was willing to take a chance on Hillary rather than go with the hate ballot.

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Based on what we have seen this past year or so, America is now in for four years of fear and loathing, with occasional rants and tantrums and massive propaganda campaigns against … well, pretty much anyone who isn’t a white male.

Not being a white male, I feel it is only natural that I feel trepidation when faced with this new regime. Being friends with so very many non-white males and females, I feel it is only natural that I fear for their safety as well. I fear for everyone in this country who is different, for that is what Trump and his Trumpettes are afraid of.

We are entering an age where the dumbing down of America has reached its climax, where it is no longer admirable to seek to better your education, your mind, or anything other than your wallet. In our new America, it is better to be ignorant and afraid of anything you don’t understand — and since you’re ignorant, that will be pretty much everything in the universe.

Even though I am not Jewish, the Holocaust has always terrified me because it is so very easy for ignorance to be stirred to horrific acts against others. It is so very easy to fan the flames of fear and hatred, to turn human against human.

I have no good advice for getting through these next four years because I just don’t understand their fear-based thinking well enough. My reaction to fear has always been to learn as much as I can about whatever it is I’m afraid of, so that I can conquer it. Their reaction is to destroy whatever they suspect might be causing their fear.

Keep your heads down, my friends. Act dumb and go along with things so long as nobody is getting hurt. But if the violence starts, we’re going to have to stand up and get hurt rather than step back and let someone else take a beating. Don’t stand aside as they come for someone else, because it will end with them coming for you. Stand up for the true American values: freedom to be who we are, love for all humanity, and a sincere desire to better yourself in all ways.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope Americans are not going to degenerate into violence against Americans. I hope Trump does a 180 and becomes, if not a wise leader, at least one who listens to his advisors before acting. I hope we can love one another as Americans have always tried to do before. I hope everyone lives through this.

Be safe.

The Mind Wanders

As you may already know, the state is under the eye of Hurricane Matthew this weekend. I’m hoping everyone who chose not to evacuate will survive. They’re predicting something equal to, if not greater than, Hugo.

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Having been through Hugo, I can barely imagine anything worse. The Lowcountry looked like it had been hit by a bomb – acres of trees downed, all lying in parallel lines; debris and flood water everywhere, making it hard to walk safely; homes destroyed outright or damaged beyond repair. We were without power for about two weeks, and we were lucky it was that quickly repaired. We were also lucky to be inside a brick building, so we had less damage than others around us, and we were about 30 miles inland, so we missed the storm surge from the surf. It took weeks to clear the roads entirely, though, and many downed trees were just sawn through and left beside the road instead of being cleared completely.

At this point, Matthew is still Category 2 (Hugo was 4 and 5), but is expected to strengthen before it hits South Carolina. Our hotels here in the Upstate are already full of evacuees and late-comers are having to travel further in search of shelter. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this storm – I’ll post anything significant on my Facebook account.

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I’m also dealing with the death of a friend’s mother. She had Alzheimer’s, but was a funny and loving woman. My friend made her last years happy ones, and that’s always a comfort.

Good News!

I just learned that I placed first in my group for a flash fiction challenge. We’re starting with around 60 groups and weeding down to one winner in December.   Each group is given a random genre, location and prop to include in their story. A round begins at midnight Friday and ends at midnight Sunday.

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My assignment: Ghost Story/Tuxedo Rental Store/Wrench

Early Morning Jazz

“Where’d I put that strap wrench?” Jazz didn’t take her head from beneath the sink.

“Sorry, I was sitting on it.”

Jazz gave the man the eye. She let her gaze linger on the wedge of hairy chest showing at his shirt collar. Damn, he was a looker.

She collected her wrench and got back to work. Mr. Hotness was paying her to fix his leaky sink, after all. She checked the time. 7:52. She’d only been twenty minutes on the job. Not going to pull in a huge paycheck, not even with the after-hours bonus. “Looks like you got a good clog under here. Just take a few more minutes to clear it.”

“I appreciate you coming out. Don’t want to close the washroom during business hours.”

She shot him a look. “Lot of men needing tuxedos lately?”

He grinned wryly. “Just don’t like putting up a ‘closed’ sign. Gives the customers the wrong idea.”

“Well, you got about ten years worth of coffee grounds in this trap.”

“Bob always puts too much in the filter.”

“Tell them to wipe out the grounds before they rinse the pot, then. Surprised you haven’t had to call before now.”

“You know how it is. Just a drip at first. Shove a bucket under it and make do.”

She knew. Nobody wanted to pay the plumber. “Then you’re ankle deep in water when the pipe breaks.”

He laughed again. “Didn’t figure I should wait quite that long. And I liked your ad.”

“Designed it myself.”

“I like the way you shopped that old Billy Holiday video. Looks like she’s really saying the line.” He put a hand on his hip, mimicking the singer’s pose. “‘Plumbing giving you the blues? You need Jazz.’ I’ll bet you could write for an advertisement company.”

“There’s an idea if the work slacks off.” She held up the pipe. “You can’t just dump everything down the sink without rinsing. Let the water run for two or three minutes.”

He crossed his arms across that brawny chest, eyed her up and down. “You really like doing this? Must be a filthy job sometimes.”

She fought the heat that gaze left behind. They always asked. “I like figuring out what’s wrong and fixing it. Can’t do that behind a desk in some office.”

She returned his look. “You like renting tuxedos?”

“It’s a business. I like finding the right suit for a man, seeing him look his best. And most men don’t really need a tux more than once or twice.”

“Proms and weddings.”

“Mostly. But folks aren’t going to quit having either one any time soon. You had both yet?”

She cut a glance at him. Was that a convoluted way of asking if she was available? He wasn’t wearing a ring either, though he had a pale strip on the right-hand finger, like he’d worn something recently. “Went to the prom. You?”

“Same.” He leaned toward her. “You about finished?”

She banged the pipe against the side of the bucket. The coffee grounds glopped into the bottom — and something clinked.

“Is this a college ring?” She fished it out, wiped the grounds away with her rag. “Somebody’s going to be happy to see this.”

His face lit up, a dimple seamed his cheek. “I never knew what happened to it.”

She set the ring on the counter. “You got time for coffee before you open up? I’ll be done in under five minutes.”

He stared at the ring without picking it up. “I’d really like that. I’m not sure I –”

“Tell you what: I’ll finish up, walk over to Starbucks and get my latte. If you show, great. If not, I’m a big girl. I can deal.”

“It’s not that. I –”

A key turned in the front door. The lights in the main room buzzed, then lit up. Jazz finished the job and rose. Mr. Hotness was nowhere to be seen. Who knew beefcake could move that silently?

A balding fellow shuffled along the hallway, a glass coffeepot in one hand. He took one look at Jazz and screamed. Literally. Like the proverbial girl. He dropped the pot, screamed again when it shattered on the tile floor.

Jazz hefted her tool bag. “I guess you didn’t know the boss called a plumber.”

His jaw dropped. “Somebody called you?”

Jazz put a hand on her hip. “No, I used my ouija board.”

The man stumbled backwards, caught himself on the edge of the washroom door. “That is in poor taste, young woman. You never met Mr. Kersting.”

“I most certainly did. And if you’re Bob, he’s got a few things to say about your coffee.”

His face paled. “You couldn’t know about the coffee. And how did you get in here?”

“I told you. Your boss let me in. And now we’re going out for Starbucks.”

She stepped gingerly around the broken glass, halted at the trembling hand that plucked her sleeve.

“Mr. Kersting,” the man said. “He died last year.”

Jazz glanced back at the washroom. The ring no longer sat on the counter. Didn’t it just figure? All the good ones were married or gay … or, it appeared, dead. She freed her arm from Bob’s grasp, patted his shoulder. “I don’t think you need to worry about it. He must have been looking for that ring.”

“His college ring? He never took it off, but we couldn’t find it anywhere.”

“He’s got it now.” She turned toward the front door. You never knew. Maybe a ghost could stop for a latte on the way back to the afterlife.

10 Awkward Writing Questions

We’ve all been there: someone discovers you’re a writer, fixes you with a curious eye, and blurts out That Question.

Where do you get your ideas?

I usually say “www.ideas.com” and change the subject. Here are 10 more awkward questions you’ll hear – and how to respond.

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  • How much money do you make? I don’t know why, but people just assume writers a) all make what Stephen King makes and b) don’t mind talking about their salary. The best response here is a vague “Enough” and a quick change of subject.
  • Will you read my novel? Or my friend’s or my relative’s or anybody else’s. The correct answer is “I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time.” If they seem serious, explain how they can go about finding a professional copy editor (and mention that those folks get paid for their hard work).
  • Will you write a book with me/for me? Everybody has that One Great Idea … it’d make a fantastic book or movie. If only they had someone to help them write it, or to write it for them. If you’re truly interested in their idea, you can offer to help them (but don’t expect much out of someone who hasn’t actually sat down and tried to write on their own first). The better answer is “I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time.” You could explain how they can find a ghost writer if they seem serious (and mention that those folks get paid for their hard work).
  • How do you get published? Here’s another would-be writer who’s never actually put any work or research into the craft. The polite answer is “You can find a ton of information on that subject on the internet and Writer’s Digest puts out a great book every year called ‘Writers’ Market’ to help you.”
  • How are your books doing? People think this is expressing polite interest, even though it smacks of our first awkward question. The best answer is “They’re doing fine – have you bought your copy yet?”
  • Is your book at the library? Most people have no idea how libraries (or bookstores) actually work. The best answer here is “I don’t know, but if you request a copy, they’ll get it for you.” You could also remind them to give you a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads once they’ve read it.
  • Is your book on the bestseller list? Unless it actually is, the answer would be “Not yet, but if you buy a copy and tell all your friends to buy one, it might get there.”
  • How do you find an agent? This one’s done a bit more work than the “How do you get published” questioner, but they’re still not applying themselves. The right answer is “Writer’s Digest puts out a great book every year called ‘Guide to Literary Agents.'”
  • Have you been on any talk shows? Sometimes people equate “author” with “celebrity.” If they’re genuinely confused, you can politely remind them that most authors don’t get invited to talk shows. A good answer is “Not yet – how about you?”
  • When will your book be made into a movie? Here’s another common misconception you might politely correct if you feel the need. The best answer is “I have no idea.”

And of course, you’re welcome to think up your own replies to “Where do you get your ideas?”

Works in Progress

So I have a couple of projects cooking at the moment, and I thought you’d be interested in what’s going on.

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First, Western Fictioneers like my story for Luck of the Draw and have asked that I create a character for the shared-universe setting of Wolf Creek. This is very exciting – I love the series and am fascinated with working in a shared world.

I’m working on a character that is basically Chance if he’d grown up in a different sort of world. Dublin is a mixed-race street kid from New York City who gets caught in a police raid and sent to the orphanage, where he is promptly shoved onto one of the Orphan Trains that operated back then, carrying orphans West (presumably to happy homes, but more often to families that just wanted extra labor for the farm). Dublin’s having no part of that, so he manages to escape when the train stops for fuel and water at Wolf Creek, Kansas.

Dublin is convinced he will have no trouble surviving in the country, though his ultimate goal is to get back to his home in New York. He’s going to learn that surviving in the street of a big city takes totally different skills than surviving in a small town on the middle of the prairie. I envision Dublin as a go-between for the town, shuttling information back and forth between the “good” side of town and the “bad” side – his fingers in every pie, feelers out for all secrets and gossip, willing to sell his knowledge to the highest bidder. He’s not above an honest day’s work, but he’d much rather earn his money quasi-legally without what he thinks of as actual labor.

The second project is another Kye and the Kid story. My agent sent me a link to the latest Malice Domestic anthology, “Mystery Most Historical.” I’ve got until July 31 to send in a 3,500-5,000 word mystery story set in the past.

Kye and Chance are in San Francisco for this story, still in their teens and new to the city. They visit a carnival and Kye talks Chance into seeing a Gypsy fortuneteller. The story revolves around a mysterious stranger, nefarious doings (that weren’t orchestrated by Chance), and a cryptic warning about ravens. I think it’s going to be pretty good.

Keep an eye peeled for these two projects – I’ll post links once the Wolf Creek story is published, and I’ll let you know what happens to the Malice Domestic entry.

For You: Snippets

Here are a few scenes from the new book for your amusement!

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Our heroes have reached New York City and are taking an afternoon walk:

There is nothing quite so certain to attract the attention as a promenade in the proper section of town. Music filled the air as street musicians plied their trade along the sidewalks. Sidewalk vendors hawked their wares: hot chestnuts, neckties, jewelry, newspapers and magazines, and, of course, toys. Many of the department stores were already decorating for Christmas, and we stopped to admire their windows in the gaslight. We were forced to skip and dodge around the masses of children, all struggling for a glimpse of a mannequin dressed as Santa Claus, his trusty spyglass in hand, with which he keeps a sharp lookout for good little boys and girls.

“We shall have to purchase some token gifts for our friends back home,” Emily mused as a trio of women hustled past us, their servants close behind, laden with boxes and bags. 

“Let’s make a day of it once we’ve solved this case of ours,” I said, leading the way into a nearby restaurant. Snow, in my opinion, is far better viewed from behind a thick glass window. “We can buy up the town if you want.”

Chance decides to infiltrate a gentleman’s club:

At the door of what looked like a fairly typical mansion, I was examined minutely for evidence of substandard dress, and eventually allowed to set foot in the foyer. The man didn’t even take my coat and hat, but asked my business in a voice that would have made the stuffiest English butler proud.

“I’ll be in town for a few weeks,” I replied, putting on my best Old Money Face and ignoring the marble staircase and velvet curtains. I was fairly certain that the hat stand had cost more than our parlor sofa. I proffered my own gentleman’s club card, printed on the finest ivory paper and gilt-edged. “I’ve been told the Knickerbocker Club is a fine establishment.”

“May I ask which of our members was so indiscreet as to mention this fact?”

and Chance’s opinions on his home city:

San Francisco never ceases to enthrall me. We passed through her streets, busy even in the middle of the afternoon, and between her grand buildings. The horses strained at the steep hills, and I could hear them blowing as they hauled us upward at a steady walk. The tang of smoke filled the air, and fine ash drifted down from the chimneys of the houses and offices. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

Stone was still sulking when we alit at the Old Poodle Dog. We’d be lunching in the restaurant, not in the second-floor banquet halls, so we strolled in via the front door. The waiters knew us, of course, and whisked us quickly to a table near one of the windows. I pretended not to know that this was more to show off who was dining with them than to provide me an uninterrupted view of the never-ending parade on the city streets.

Kye and I ate at the Old Poodle Dog fairly often, and had even made use of the private suites upstairs, along with Emily. Somehow, the owners avoided scandal, though the suites included a bed and bathroom along with the dining area. Stone admitted that this was his first visit, so Kye proceeded to educate the man on the intricacies of the menu, recommending this fish and that meat. I left them to their culinary discussion and resumed my favorite activity: people-watching. At this hour of the day, most of the folks bustling along were deliverymen or servants, sprinkled with the odd businessman on a late lunch hour. I amused myself by figuring out which was which without looking at their hands, which would provide a dead giveaway.

For You: 1800’s Parties

This is another interesting tidbit from Light and Shadows of New York Life, 1875 – all about how to throw a good party.

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New York has long been celebrated for its magnificent social entertainments.  Its balls, dinner parties, receptions, private theatricals, picnics, croquet parties, and similar gatherings are unsurpassed in respect to show in any city in the world.  Every year some new species of entertainment is devised by some leader in society, and repeated throughout the season by every one who can raise the money to pay for it.  The variety, however, is chiefly in the name, for all parties, breakfasts, dinners, suppers, or receptions are alike.

Of late years it is becoming common not to give entertainments at one’s residence, but to hire public rooms set apart for that purpose.  There is a large house in the upper part of Fifth avenue, which is fitted up exclusively for the use of persons giving balls, suppers, or receptions. It is so large that several entertainments can be held at the same time on its different floors, without either annoying or inconveniencing the others.  The proprietor of the establishment provides everything down to the minutest detail, the wishes and tastes of the giver of the entertainment being scrupulously respected in everything.  The host and hostess, in consequence, have no trouble, but have simply to be on hand at the proper time to receive their guests.  This is a very expensive mode of entertaining, and costs from 5000 to 15,000 dollars, for the caterer expects a liberal profit on everything he provides; but to those who can afford it, it is a very sensible plan.  It saves an immense amount of trouble at home, and preserves one’s carpets and furniture from the damage invariably done to them on such occasions, and averts all possibility of robbery by the strange servants one is forced to employ. Still, many who possess large and elegant mansions of their own prefer to entertain at their own homes.

Upon the evening appointed a carpet is spread from the curbstone to the front door, and over this is placed a temporary awning.  A policeman is engaged to keep off the crowd and regulate the movements of the carriages.  About nine o’clock magnificent equipages, with drivers and footmen in livery, commence to arrive, and from these gorgeous vehicles richly dressed ladies and gentlemen alight, and pass up the carpeted steps to the entrance door.  On such occasions gentlemen are excluded from the carriage if possible, as all the space within the vehicle is needed for the lady’s skirts.  The lady is accompanied by a maid whose business it is to adjust her toilette in the dressing room, and see that everything is in its proper place.

At the door stands some one to receive the cards of invitation.  Once admitted, the ladies and gentlemen pass into the dressing rooms set apart for them.  Here they put the last touches to their dress and hair, and, the ladies having joined their escorts, enter the drawing room and pay their respects to the host and hostess.  When from one to two thousand guests are to be received, the reader may imagine that the labors of the host and hostess are not slight.

Every arrangement is made for dancing.  A fine orchestra is provided, and is placed so that it may consume as little space as possible.  A row of chairs placed around the room, and tied in couples with pocket-handkerchiefs, denotes that “The German” is to be danced during the course of the evening.  There is very little dancing, however, of any kind, before midnight, the intervening time being taken up with the arrivals of guests and promenading.

About midnight the supper room is thrown open, and there is a rush for the tables, which are loaded with every delicacy that money can buy.  The New York physicians ought to be devoutly thankful for these suppers. They bring them many a fee.  The servants are all French, and are clad in black swallow-tail coats and pants, with immaculate white vests, cravats and gloves.  They are as active as a set of monkeys, and are capital hands at anticipating your wants.  Sometimes the refreshments are served in the parlors, and are handed to the guests by the servants.

The richest and costliest of wines flow freely.  At a certain entertainment given not long since, 500 bottles of champagne, worth over four dollars each, were drunk.  Some young men make a habit of abstaining carefully during the day, in order to be the better prepared to drink at night.  The ladies drink almost as heavily as the men, and some of them could easily drink their partners under the table.

After supper the dancing begins in earnest.  If The German is danced it generally consumes the greater part of the evening.  I shall not undertake to describe it here.  It is a great mystery, and those who understand it appear to have exhausted in mastering it their capacity for understanding anything else.  It is a dance in which the greatest freedom is permitted, and in which liberties are taken and encouraged, which would be resented under other circumstances.  The figures really depend upon the leader of the dance, who can set such as he chooses, or devise them, if he has wit enough.  All the rest are compelled to follow his example.  The dance is thoroughly suited to the society we are considering, and owes its popularity to the liberties, to use no stronger term, it permits.

The toilettes of the persons present are magnificent.  The ladies are very queens in their gorgeousness.  They make their trails so long that half the men are in mortal dread of breaking their necks over them; and having gone to such expense for dry goods in this quarter, they display the greatest economy about the neck and bust.  They may be in “full dress” as to the lower parts of their bodies, but they are fearfully undressed from the head to the waist.

Towards morning the ball breaks up.  The guests, worn out with fatigue, and not unfrequently confused with liquor, take leave of their hosts and go home.  Many of them repeat the same performance almost nightly during the season.  No wonder that when the summer comes they are so much in need of recuperation.

Make A Writer Happy

People are always happy to talk about their favorite books and authors, but did you know you can help them out?

Writing (17 of 30)

The best thing a reader can do for their favorite author is to take two minutes to write a review!

Most people would rather go to the dentist, though – there’s just something about that blank page on the website that intimidates people.

Here’s a painless way to write a review that will help increase your favorite author’s book sales and make them happier:

  • Stick to the big reading websites for your reviews: Amazon and Goodreads – and write a review on each one, not just one of them! Some people only look on one of the sites and never see the review you may have written on the other site
  • Just make a simple title like “I loved this book” or “You’ll want to read this” instead of wasting time trying to think up a catchy phrase
  • Start by giving a short summary of the main points of the book in 1-2 sentences. “A lonely girl is whisked away to a magical land and must try to return home.” “Three children travel to a magical land where nobody ever grows up.” “A simple hobbit must travel across the world to destroy an evil object that can enslave everyone in Middle Earth.” You don’t have to give a lot of information, just enough to get other readers interested.
  • Tell what you liked – this is the meat of your review so be honest. Let other people know what it is about this particular book that struck such a chord in your heart. Explain why it’s so good and why you keep reading it over and over. This is the part your author will most likely quote, so feel free to be as flowery as you want.
  • Tell why the other readers will like it – this is where you can say “if you like _____, you’ll like this book, too” and mention some of your other favorites!
  • End with a short endorsement like “I would definitely read any book this author writes” or “This author is one of my favorites.”

Writing (5 of 30)

Not so very hard, now, is it? Why not try it out – click on one of the links above and go praise your favorite writer!

 

For You: The Lads Travel

In the latest book, the lads (and friends) must travel across the country by train. Here’s an excerpt from that chapter for your enjoyment:

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Half the car had been arranged almost like a pair of parlor sitting rooms, with large cushioned chairs facing one another and a small table between. I spotted the curtains that would be pulled around to form our “bedrooms.” We even had a sofa large enough for Kye to nearly stretch out on, in the back of the “parlor.” There was a coal-burning stove at one end of the car, which did wonders toward dissipating the damp chill in the air. I left Kye examining the chairs, which would fold out into our beds for the night. The table folded away into the wall as well. Our trunks and dressing cases were settled neatly in the back corner of the car, where we could easily get at whatever outfit we desired. One side of the car was to be mine and my “wife’s,” while Kye would take the other side. 

The forward end of the car contained a dining table and chairs. Kye set the picnic basket on the table, with a longing backward glance. We had our own kitchen at this end, with a cook and two waiters. 

“Once we cross the Rocky Mountains,” I told the ladies, “we will have a dining car on the train, like a moving restaurant.”

Emily clapped her hands. “I cannot imagine why I have not traveled more, if it is this comfortable.”

“Hardly as comfortable for the masses,” I replied. “Second class consists of hard benches arranged in rows. Even the ordinary first class passenger must share a compartment with others.”

“I remember the train to San Diego. It was not so bad, sharing a car, and I did not think that there were so many other people.”

More than I like on a journey, and I’m a man who enjoys company. “We weren’t on that train for 10 days, my dear.”

I also enjoy my privacy when it’s time to retire for the evening, and I like a bit more than just a curtain between me and my fellow passengers. I rang for a porter, gratified at the speed with which the man appeared. We might even have our own porter on this journey.

The porter — they all answered to “George,” after George Pullman, who invented the cars in which we rode — was a tall, thin, black fellow in a spotless white uniform. He flashed a grin at the coin I slipped into his palm, and brought a nice bottle of brandy and a box of cigars. The smoking car, he informed me, was only two cars in front of us, just past the first class compartments. Kye and I would be spending a good bit of time there, or on the platform at the rear of our car.

Barbara had been busy unpacking all the things that a lady needs to entertain herself: a selection of magazines, a basket of sewing, a writing kit, and even a sketching book. The car looked practically like a real parlor. I poured a brandy and took a seat opposite Emily’s. Kye and Barbara would have the chairs beside ours, at the opposite windows, until it was time to retire. Then, Barbara would remove herself to the servant’s area beside the kitchen, where she had a small but comfortable-looking compartment.

“We shall all have excellent views,” Barbara said now, watching out her window as the baggage handlers hurried about, loading the baggage car. She had set a canvas bag at her side, most likely containing an assortment of the lurid dime novels she read. If Barbara Myers had been born a man, she would likely have been an even more flamboyant outlaw than yours truly.

Emily prowled the car with Kye, poking her nose into all of the ingenious contraptions that made a railroad car into a living space. She and Kye exclaimed over the lamps, set in such fashion that they swayed with the motion of the rail and remained upright, rather than pitching from side to side. I busied myself watching the passengers now boarding.

There were the usual assortment of Traveling Salesmen, of course, weary-looking men clutching their sample cases. They spent much of their lives on the road, and thought of the hours ahead as something to be endured rather than enjoyed. They’d probably be good for a card game when the ride grew too boring. I spotted a couple of Young Families, the wives herding their offspring onto the car, or sending an older child scampering after a straying younger brother or sister.  An Elderly Widow ascended to first class, followed by her sour-looking maid. I felt sorry for whoever sat next to that pair.

A few last-minute arrivals bustled over, and were hurried on board. With a whoosh of steam and a series of great jerks, the double engines pulled us away from the station. A cloud of cinders flew past the windows, sparkling in the gloom, and the scent of wood smoke stung my nose. That ash would get everywhere if we opened the windows or left the car. Our clothing would require a good cleaning once we reached our destination. I had to remember that it was small price to pay for such a speedy journey. After all, it had taken our grandparents months to travel across the country. Just because I’d prefer to be relaxing within my own drawing room was no reason to disparage the wonders of modern technology.