Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Publisher's Weekly Review!

I'm being completely freaking serious when I say that one of the craziest thing to happen to me, especially lately, is to get a book reviewed in Publisher's Weekly. Not just a book, but an M/M Superhero book that's technically the third in the series. Just...wow. Riptide, you are amazing, and Amelia, you're the most amazing, so...thank you!

And also, thank you to everybody who read the first two, because without you I wouldn't have written a third one. I'm so happy, and you're such a big part of the reason why.

I'm just attaching the whole thing, because I'm still all *heart eyes* over it :)

"Z’s third novel set in the beautiful but dysfunctional city of Panopolis, where superheroes and their daily affairs are a frequent threat to civilization, is sexy, emotional, and hilarious. Craig Haney, aka superhero Freight Train, feels like a regular guy doing an endless job. Though he lives to protect his beloved city, he is hopelessly isolated within the force field that’s his primary superpower. He knows he can’t trust his sponsor, GenCorp, but he can’t help falling for their newest star scientist, Dr. Ari Mansourian. Beset by irrational villains and dangerously vain heroes, and given one last shot at love and freedom, Craig has to at last become the hero to himself that he has always been for everyone else. Z keeps the action rolling at a breakneck pace, with sharp turns from bold humor to heartbreaking tragedy and self-sacrifice. The satisfying and exciting conclusion is tender and a just reward for both the hero and the reader." (May)

The Train: Chapter Two, Part One

Notes: I know this seems like a lot of setup, but it's not all that long. Plus, more magic! And as it stands, we start to ramp up the intrigue, so...enjoy!

Title: The Train: Chapter Two, Part One.


It didn’t take too much investigation for Anton to figure out which way he should be going. His berth was in Sleeping Car Four, Cabin One, Upper Bunk. It was, according to the ticket, located right next to the washroom at the end of the car, had its own small sink that would apparently run with hot water for a fifteen-minute period each morning and evening, and was “amply appointed both for comfort and entertainment.” If that meant there would be enough room in the cabin for Anton to use to avoid interacting with his berth-mate, he was all for the ridiculous level of luxury.

The train was completely done in the “vestibule” style, enclosed on all sides, with a diminutive hallway down the center of each car that one could use to travel along. Anton clutched his holdall a bit closer to himself as he made his way to Sleeping Car Four, which was five cars back from where he had boarded. He had worried about the potential of being accosted by someone who should know him, or rather, know Consul Hasler, but fortunately spirits were too high as the train began to depart from the platform to pay him any heed. Passengers waved gaily from the windows out at the avid Parisian crowd, which had finally been allowed to gather and take a closer look now that they were leaving. Anton wondered for a moment if the increase in traffic meant that his attacker was ever-more-likely to be found, and pressed his lips together tightly. He wouldn’t rest easy until this train was well on its way.

Likely he wouldn’t rest easy regardless, not until he was safe in Zürich. It would be better for his state of mind if he did not borrow trouble before then, however.

Finally Anton reached Sleeping Car Four, and tentatively opened the door. The cabin was empty, and Anton gusted a sigh of utter relief. He shut the door behind him and leaned back against it, wishing there were a key he could turn that would make the illusion of privacy more real. As it was, he forced himself to keep moving, rather than giving in to the impulse to pull down his bunk and take a well-deserved rest on it.

But, ah—his bunk was already pulled down. A brown leather valise sat atop it, appearing undisturbed. Anton set his holdall on the elaborately-tooled leather chair in the cabin’s corner, then reached for the valise. It was heavier than he’d expected, and the brass fittings atop it were more than decorative closures; they were equipped with a serious lock.

Anton sighed. He might have expected that, given that the man whose role he was assuming had recently tried to murder him with a very magical knife. One probably didn’t have much luck remaining a top-secret assassin if one wasn’t prepared to be, well, secretive.

“Right, then.” There were ways of getting past a lock, and given that Anton had no idea who he was supposed to be beyond a name, he needed to get past it. He leaned in close and inspected it. Brass was a transmutable metal, an alchemically hot metal, and metaphysically speaking it was easy to produce a simple reaction with it. Anton considered for a moment, then reached for his holdall. He would be needing his chalk.

In theory, there was no need for the actual symbols when it came to the practical side of alchemy. While they were useful in establishing the pattern of what element was placed where, what thaumaturgical equations might apply to the given situation, and what ritual was necessary for the desired result, technically speaking, they were merely a prop.

Practically speaking, the symbols were a prop in the same way that a blueprint was a prop to an architect. Certainly, Buckingham Palace could have been built without one, but the servants quarters would probably have ended attached to the Queen’s privy if they hadn’t.

Anton was no artist, but he had adapted to the necessity of accuracy early in his life. The slender chalk circle outlining the lock at the top of the bag was perfectly equidistant on all sides, angled leather surface notwithstanding. Anton’s father had made him learn to draw perfect circles on molten glass; he could certainly handle this. On one side of the circle he drew he symbol for zinc; on the other, copper. It was the most potent approximation of brass currently available to a practicing thaumaturge, although Caroline was working on correcting that. His best friend might be a theorist rather than a practitioner, but she was determined to drag alchemical symbolism into the new century, and that meant adapting it to alloys rather than working around them.

Anton shut his eyes and wished, not for the first time, that he had some way of contacting her. Caroline’s recent marriage had taken her from London to Edinburgh, where her new husband was originally from. As the only children of two of England’s most notable thaumaturges, their fathers’ professional and personal proximities had naturally led to a certain closeness between their families. Being two years apart in age had been like nothing―they had played together, fought together and been educated together almost their lives, largely because it had taken some work on Caroline’s father’s part to secure a place for his daughter in a school of distinction. Caroline was easily as smart as Anton, though, and she had proven it time and again by ranking first among their peers after every examination.

Anton took out his magnifying loup, fixed it to his eye and examined the lock more closely. Oh…Caroline would have loved this. The work was simple but elegant, the body of the spell worked into the very teeth of the mechanism that held the valise closed. A variant of fire—lightning, perhaps? Rather shocking, in any case. Possibly debilitating, and nothing that would be conquered with a key or combination. Without the right incantation, this lock would be a challenge to open. But its spell could be muted or even undone with a careful application of water, perhaps, and Anton had a source of that readily available. As long as he could manage the side-effects that would inevitably be caused by…


Anton could almost hear Caroline laughing at him. What is the first rule of thaumaturgy?

Evaluate whether or not it is actually necessary to use thaumaturgy. But surely whoever had designed this bag had been more thorough than that.

There was only one way to find out. Anton pushed up the loup, reached into his holdall and removed a lead-handled knife with a silver blade. It was next to useless for cutting, but it would keep the worst of the spell from affecting him. Holding his breath, Anton readied himself, then stuck the blade through the side of the valise. It slid in smoothly, nothing fighting its path but the natural toughness of the leather, and no defensive spell to speak of manifesting.

The bloody fool hadn’t bothered to secure the soft, penetrable sides of his bloody baggage. Perhaps dying on the tip of his own weapon had been a sadly inevitable, rather than horrifying, end for him. Anton rolled his eyes and cut until he could easily reach both hands into the valise.

Undergarments. Well used, but at least they were clean. Anton set them aside and kept feeling around. There were more clothes, but it wasn’t clothing he was interested in. He needed information: an example of the man’s correspondence, perhaps an idea of who he would be meeting with in the course of his duties on this trip, anything that would make it feel less like Anton was floundering in the dark.

He pulled out a rather garish artificial fly in a box marked Weber & Sons—of interest to an angler, perhaps, but otherwise less than helpful right now. There was a copy of what seemed to be yesterday’s newspaper, the front page split between Napoleon the Third’s latest diplomatic conquests and unrest in the east. There was a little book of…Anton almost got dizzy looking at it. The type seemed to crawl on the page, one minute coalescing into recognizable letters, even if the words were foreign―unfortunately, his father’s translation Device included no visual component―and becoming a cipher of loops and lines the next.

There was no natural reason that he shouldn’t be able to focus on the page. Anton pulled his loup back down over his right eye and looked again. Ahhh…there it was.

Not that the writing was intelligible; it was still in a language that Anton didn’t speak, but he could at least make out the true shape of the words now. This was a palimpsest. A magical palimpsest.

It was a puzzle, and Anton adored puzzles. He wanted to pore over every page of it, but just then a polite knock sounded against the door. “Monsieur, the trainmaster requests your presence in the dining car for a brief explanation of amenities and expectations in five minutes.”

“I’ll be there,” Anton called out.

“Very good, Monsieur.” The man’s footsteps continued on, and now that Anton wasn’t so wrapped up in his own head he recognized the sound of many different footsteps, actually; an entire parade of people seemed to be making their way past his room, chatting and laughing and generally being merry. It was…quite irritating, actually. This was why Anton had always fought tooth and nail to get his own laboratory space; he was, at best, politely indifferent to his fellow researchers and at worst, actively misanthropic. It was a defect of his character that a lifetime of Caroline and his mother’s fine examples hadn’t been able to cure.

Anton repacked the valise as best he could and lay it in a corner on the floor, transferring the palimpsest to a secure pocket of his holdall before tucking that away as well. He took a moment to examine himself in the mirror above the small but sumptuous marble sink against the wall.

He looked decidedly worse for wear. Anton kept his face shaved, a minor but continual remembrance for his father, who had done the same all his life. This habit, unfortunately, left him with no cover for the scrape that he couldn’t remember getting along the right side of his jaw. His dark stubble was just beginning to prick through his skin, and his hair was lank with sweat and possibly other fluids. His tired brown eyes were bloodshot, and his skin was decidedly sallow, appearing too thinly stretched over his cheekbones. It was not a good look.

On the other hand, the coat still appeared acceptable even if it was beginning to smell a bit ripe, and the hat was…better than his hair. Anton retied his ascot, straightened his coat, and headed out into the hall before he could give himself a chance to rethink his strategy.

Of course, it was hard to rethink something that didn’t actually exist yet.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Train: Chapter One, Part Two

Notes: Onward for Anton! Things are starting to come together in my head (yeah, I'm totally pantsing this plot, but I have faith). The mystery deepens, and I throw a little more magic in there. Because I can ;)

Title: The Train, Ch. 1 Pt. 1


At the far end of the alley, where little light could penetrate the high stone walls, a man stood bent over at the waist. One pale, trembling hand was pressed to the wall, practically all that was keeping him upright, for Anton could see his knees knocking from where he stood. He was retching with a vigor that defied his body’s ability to produce relief, and seemed not to notice Anton’s hesitant appearance several yards away.
It wasn’t the man’s illness that was so arresting to Anton. While the compassionate side of him sympathized with a fellow’s plight, he had no skill with physicking. Having ascertained that the man was not dying but did need help, the next logical step would have been to direct someone with more authority to assist down the alley. But this man represented more than a chance to do some little good; he represented a chance for Anton to help himself, and in doing so commit a crime he would never have considered at any other time. For this man, this sick, pasty man who was in no way fit to be going anywhere but a bed, wore a black frock coat with the insignia of the Bonapartes on his left breast pocket: azure an imperial eagle or, the imperial eagle on a bright blue background.
He was a member of the viscount’s staff. He wore the insignia that would grant Anton the status to board the train. And as there was no way that he was going to be able to board it himself…
It wasn’t really stealing, Anton argued with himself as he gingerly made his way down the alley, avoiding the puddles of sick that his target had voided earlier in his rush for privacy. It wasn’t! It was borrowing in a permanent way, perhaps, but the overall good that would be accomplished for both of them was worth bearing the inconvenient ethical dilemma.
Bold, foolish Anton, he almost heard Caroline whisper mockingly in his ear. How comfortable you must be, to have such flexible morals. Beware that your actions don’t come back to bite you.
Nonsense. Anton gritted his teeth and pressed on. Lady Caroline’s pithy wit might occasionally haunt him at times, but she had never understood where he was coming from. She didn’t know what it was to be thrown down from a great height and trampled under the feet of those whom you had once called peers. She didn’t understand the sacrifices he and his mother had made to get him this far. He had to act.
First he had to get close enough to the man for him to take notice. “Sir?” Anton asked, carefully bending over next to the wretched fellow. The smell was almost overpowering, but he persevered.
“Geh…awauhhh…” The man could barely draw breaths between bouts of purging.
“Sir, you should sit down, you’ll strain yourself otherwise.” Anton took his arm and led the not-really-protesting man over to a wooden crate along the far wall that smelled of paper and, more faintly, rotten vegetables. “And you must be hot,” he continued, resisting the urge to bite his lip. “Let me help you take this coat off.”
“There, sir, there. Just one moment and you’ll be much more―” Anton’s voice cut off abruptly as he caught sight of the edge of a blade cutting straight up. He fell back―almost literally, his ribs paining him as he forced himself away from the man just as he lunged at Anton. It was a desperate maneuver, and one his attacker didn’t have the strength to carry off. Rather than extending his long body to reach Anton, he ended up curling over his doubtlessly aching abdomen and falling chin-first onto the cobblestones.
Honestly, was he wearing a special sigil that advertised his excellence as a target of violence? That the fellow Anton had intended to assist—and, fine, rob as well, but that was neither here nor there—had just tried to assault him was disturbing enough, but then… The blood seeping out from beneath the man’s body startled Anton into movement. He leaned down and rolled the fellow over, wincing when he saw the hilt of the man’s blade protruding from just beneath his sternum.
Oh no. No, that was just…ridiculous, was what that was. If Anton hadn’t been so desperate to breathe shallowly and avoid fainting, he would have scoffed. Disregarding the fact that he’d done nothing to warrant such an attack, the idea that the man would then fall fatally prey to his own weapon simply because of a stumble? Inconceivable. Anton reached for the man’s neck, testing for a pulse, but there was nothing. He had died within twenty second of being stabbed? Not just inconceivable: that was impossible.
Aware of the foolhardiness of his situation but compelled by his own damnable curiosity, Anton crouched down next to the corpse and examined the hilt of the blade. It was black, just long enough for a man’s hand to get around. The handle wasn’t glossy like jet or obsidian; rather it seemed to absorb light into it and reflect a mere fraction back again.
 Anton turned and opened his holdall, avoiding the shards of glass and pulling out a slender silver wand with an empty socket where the tip should be. Anton opened the side pocket that held his blank quartz endcaps and screwed one carefully into position. He activated it with a simple incantation to the four elements; for a greater spell he would need to utilize the elements themselves, but he had already primed his personal store of endcaps with alchemical potential. The quartz gleamed bright in the dimness for a moment, then went dull again. Perfect. Anton reached down and carefully touched the very tip of the wand to the tripartite end of the hilt.
Crack. The quartz endcap splintered into a hundred tiny pieces, falling apart at Anton’s feet. He stared at it blankly for a moment. “Thank goodness it didn’t explode,” he murmured. This knife, then, was something rather special. Something steeped in spells so dark they reflected in its very surface; a knife that had just killed its bearer, which surely hadn’t been the intent of the man impaled by it. This was not a knife that should be left lying around where anyone might find it. Anton would take it and do some tests.
The piercing whistle of the train broke through his reverie. Good God, how long had he spent in contemplation of this uncanny corpse? There was no time to waste.
Getting the coat off the man wasn’t as difficult as Anton had feared. It wasn’t exactly clean, but he would take the time to clean it once he was safely aboard. He rifled through the man’s pockets and found his passport, badge of identification, and a wallet which contained bank notes for a rather alarming number of francs. Anton grimaced, but took it all, and swore a silent prayer that he would donate the money to a shrine for St. Dunstan, patron saint of alchemists, as soon as he reached Zürich.
He also located the knife’s sheath in a hidden pocket along the top of the man’s right boot. Anton tugged it free, and then, using the fellow’s own burgundy-colored ascot to protect his hand, jerked the knife out of his body. It came without any resistance, the short blade seemingly untouched by the bloody mess it had just been removed from. Anton shuddered slightly as he resheathed the weapon and placed it within his holdall.
He stood up and put on the jacket, still warm from the man’s slowly dissipating body heat. Anton inspected himself briefly. He was wearing his second-best vest, fresh white cuffs and collar and a pair of boots that, if not exactly modern, at least shined to his satisfaction. The true giveaway was the simple bowler hat atop his head, already a bit crumpled from its earlier interaction with the ground. He needed a top hat. He did not have one. Therefore, he would bluff until he could acquire one. Anton stuffed the bowler hat in his holdall, carefully tousled his own hair to avoid the wound at the back of his head, and then headed out of the alley and into the light.
The steward was closing the doors of the train. Anton raced over to him, shouting in an effort to be heard over the piercing whistle: “Stop! Stop that at once!”
The steward turned to face him, his heavy moustache bristling indignantly. “What’s the meaning of this delay?” he demanded.
“The meaning, man, is that I should be on this train and you are in the process of thwarting me, and therefore thwarting his Lordship,” Anton said haughtily.
“You, sir?” The steward cast an assessing eye over his form and clearly found him wanting, if the condescending curl of his lip was anything to go by. “Your papers?”
Anton winnowed through the stack of papers he’d taken off his attacker until he found both the ticket and the passport. He held them out for inspection. The steward lingered for some time before he begrudgingly lifted his head. “Very well, Consul Hasler.” He reopened the red glass door. “I would show you to your car, sir, but time is of the essence,” he said pointedly. “Have a good journey.”
Anton said nothing, just nodded and stepped up into the train. The door smacked shut behind him, and only moments later the train began to move. The whistle sounded far less piercing from inside.
Well, there. He was aboard the train that would take him to Zürich. Now he simply had to figure out who he was, where he needed to go and what he needed to do in order to avoid being ejected and arrested.
The next several days would doubtless prove...challenging.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Release: Shadows and Light

Soooo...I've got a new release out this week!

Shadows and Light is here at last! It's my epic fantasy/BDSM/mm romance/magical thriller (all of that happens, I swear) and so far, people seem to like it. I don't normally share reviews but I've got some really good ones, so lemme give you some highlights:

From Joyfully JayHonestly, I am not sure where to begin this review—so, so much happened in Cari Z.’s novel, Shadows & Light. It was, simply put, absolutely stunning. Gorgeous world building, fresh and unusual paranormal characters, a delicious enemies to lovers trope that played out in such a searing and passionate way and, finally, a plot full of shocking twists and turns that kept me glued to my e-reader till the final page —all these combined to make this book one I couldn’t put down.

And from Prism Book AllianceFor a short book it’s packed with action and romance, from the first pages where Rafael works for the dastardly Daeva, a proper bad guy, to the end. And because of this I was worried that the characters would lack depth, but that wasn’t the case, I was emotionally invested all the way through.

As a general rule I don’t read a lot of books that involve pain as pleasure, unless I really trust the author, as it’s not my thing – but here Cari Z captured the balance so well.
Yay for being off to a lovely start :) If you're interested in reading for yourself, you can find this story here:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Train: Chapter One, Part One

Notes: It's finally time! Lord, but this has taken forever. In my defense, I've had one illness after another lately, so I'm pretty pleased to be presenting anything at all. This story is, get ready for it: an alternate history-steampunk-murder mystery-m/m romance, light on the romance, heavy on the crazy steampunk. This is Tiffany's story, in fact. She won it last year (!) and it's taken me this long to get my shit together, but now it's together, so...yeah. Have some story.

Title: The Train, Ch. 1, Part 1.


The Train

Chapter One


The trouble all started at the train station. Rather, it started with the train itself.

Well, strictly speaking, that wasn’t true. And Anton Seiber, as a journeyman thaumaturge possessed of a letter of acceptance to the Masters of Thaumaturgy program at the prestigious Universität Zürich, should know better than to allow himself to indulge in generalizations. Specificity was the cornerstone of reputable, repeatable thaumaturgy, and if he was going to do anywhere near as well at his chosen profession as his father had, he was going to have to cultivate a more nuanced outlook of the world. The trouble, his trouble, had not begun with this bloody train. But staring at it now, sitting on sparkling tracks beside a secured platform that might as well be miles away from Anton rather than yards, it was difficult not to be a bit spiteful about it.

Anton had had tickets for the train from Paris to Zürich, the last train from Paris to Zürich that could get him to the university before the first day of classes. A series of mishaps on the trip over from London—Anton winced and adjusted his stance at the stab of pain in his side, hearing the broken glasswork in his holdall rustle accusatorily—had resulted in a delay, but it shouldn’t have mattered.

It shouldn’t have mattered, for Paris was never meant to be more than a waystation, a place he might wile away a day or two before he left for Zürich, but no more than that. His mother had procured him this train ticket, at great expense. Despite everything, despite the aches and pains and inconvenient blood stains and the loss of far too much of his personal laboratory equipment, he had made it. He’d made it all the way here, and now he was to be shoved aside for one of Bonaparte’s royal lackeys. Worse still, there was no way to procure a new ticket on another train, and he couldn’t afford a ride in one of those newfangled auto-carriages. Not even as far as the border of Switzerland, much less all the way to Zürich.

“Doctor Grable is a great thaumaturge,” his mother had told Anton the night before he left, “but he is a difficult man. He places enormous value on punctuality and propriety, and has dismissed students from his program before for rather innocuous offenses. You cannot afford to be late, Anton.” This was the maxim she’d been drilling into his head ever since he was accepted to the university’s alchemical thaumaturgy program. “For if he dismisses you, there are a hundred other scholarship applicants vying to take your place.”

“I won’t be late, Mother,” he’d assured her, so full of himself in his final hours at home. He had lived there almost all his life, watched it gradually fall into a slow decay after his father’s death, with no money to be spared on repairs. He had clawed and fought his way to a position in Oxford’s apprentice thaumaturge program, his place far from guaranteed despite his father’s illustrious career there. He had graduated at the top of his class, confident in his skills and his chances for a position in London, only to see them melt away into the hands of other, lesser graduates, people of smaller minds but greater status.

It had been a learning experience. A hard one, but one that had provided a fire of purpose that set his mind ablaze. He had taken a lesser position with a minor forensic researcher specializing in death miasmas. Anton had designed a spell that not only let a layperson see the aura of the previously deceased in the moment of their death, but whatever lingering auras remained of his surroundings as well. As far as practical theses went, it was impressive. Impressive enough to land him the scholarship in Zürich. But he had to get there before anything was assured.

His head ached. Anton wasn’t sure whether it was from anger or from the way the back of his skull had been knocked against the cobblestones of a dirty alley just off the Champs Elysees, but either way, it was getting worse. He’d come so close. So close, only to find that his train had been diverted for this candy apple, steam-powered monstrosity. It was a beautiful train, actually, with crystal clear windows and bright, shining red enamel stretching down the length of it. It looked like an artery, bright and healthy, ready to carry its passengers from the heart of Napoleon III’s empire out to one of it’s distant limbs. The train’s final destination was Lucerne, where a royal alliance for one of Bonaparte’s cousins waited with the recently-widowed Duchess of that selfsame canton.

The cousin in question, a viscount or some such nonsense, was in the middle of a throng of brightly-colored courtiers, the men all dandy in frock coats and top hats, the women resplendent but slow-moving in waist-defining corsets and layers of petticoats. At their edges were lines of unobtrusive servants moving baggage onto the train, and beyond them, the people who did the actual work for the lordling: his advisory staff, all wearing the royal crest somewhere on their clothes and all far more serious than the flock of fine society. Guards checked the ticket and identification of every person who approached the platform, and more than one curious onlooker was menaced with the business end of a saber for venturing too close.

Anton had been displaced for a popinjay. A royal sycophant, a—a toff toad amidst a bloody puddle of toads! This was who he was losing his livelihood, his future, for? This back end of a donkey who just happened to be related to the most powerful man on the continent? Of course it was. Of course, because there was no one to say otherwise.

Well, no. There was Anton, damn it, and he was going to be on that train whether he had to beg, borrow or steal his way aboard. There were things in his holdall he could use if all else came to naught—things that those swaggering thugs hadn’t thought to destroy, too tough or too innocuous looking to be of any interest to them. He might have to fudge a few of the finer details, but—

God in Heaven, his head was aching now. It was never a good idea to do magic with anything other than a clear mind. Perhaps it was worth another argument at the ticket counter before resorting to fresh spellwork. Fortunately, his father’s Device was still working perfectly.

It was far from unheard of for a gentleman to carry a token of his lady’s affection on his person: a handkerchief, a twist of hair inside a silver locket or set in a ring. An earring was perhaps a bit unusual, but it was a plain thing, a simple silver clasp that fit perfectly around Anton’s left lobe. Someone looking at it might assume that the other half of the pair resided in the jewelry case of the young lady it came from.

In reality, the second half of the pair was a slender, flexible silver disc that fit over the soft palate of the mouth. The Translation Device was one of Gerhardt Seiber’s finer engineering feats, the result of long nights working out theory with his linguist wife, who spoke seven languages fluently. It used complex thaumaturgical equations to enable someone ignorant of the language at hand to hear what was being said, and perceive it as being said in their native tongue. Only in general terms, unfortunately, but it was far better than nothing. In turn, the silver receptor plate within the mouth provided a translation effect for whatever the wearer said. Speaking with it had occasionally nearly tied Anton’s tongue in a knot, but he couldn’t imagine learning French would be any easier at this point. He hadn’t the time. Literally, he hadn’t the time: the crowd was beginning to move onto the train. If he did not act quickly, he would lose his chance.

Anton narrowed his eyes and turned resolutely toward the ticket counter. By God, he would make the man see sense, or—“Oof!” He was suddenly almost knocked off his feet by a tall man in a dark brown coat, whose shoulder had very firmly found it’s way into Anton’s.

“I beg your pardon, sir,” the man said graciously. “I should have been more careful.”

Anton would have liked to absolve him, but the action had knocked his careful physical equilibrium out of place. A sharp pain lanced through his skull and somehow ended up lodged in his side, where someone’s solid boot had made itself known. “Ah—huuuh,” he gasped, nearly bent in two.

“Are you quite all right?”

“Ye—yes, quite,” Anton managed. The last thing he needed right now was pity, from anyone other than the ticket clerk at least. “Thank you.”

“Only you seem rather unwell.”

“’Tis nothing,” Anton insisted. “I just need a moment to catch my breath.”

“Then at least do so where another clumsy oaf like myself cannot knock you down.” A warm hand found it’s way to his elbow and guided him gently through the crowd to the side of the train station. Anton leaned against the smooth stone and closed his eyes as he sorted the pain away, back to where he could function.

“I would stay to ensure your comfort, but my train is about to leave.” The man had a pleasant voice, his English crisp and nearly without accent. “Again, I beg your pardon for my haste.”

“I’ll be well momentarily,” Anton assured the fellow, his eyes still shut but his posture slowly recovering. “Please, don’t let me keep you.” The man turned slowly and began to walk away. By the time Anton opened his eyes, he could no longer distinguish the cause of his little mishap. He straightened his back and began to head for the ticket counter—but no. The window was closed. All of the windows were closed, their inhabitants leaving to watch the pretty red train ride off with its pretty cargo. Anton stared at the shuttered window for a long moment, then gritted his teeth and reached for the clasp of his holdall. Right, he didn’t want to do this and his brains might be coming out his ears by the end of it, but surely he had enough energy for a minor obfuscation. All he needed was a place to work it, and the strength to push his way through the crowd to the train before it left.

A place, a quiet place—not easy to find in this crowd, but—there. The tiny little inlet beside the ticket booths, dark and uncomfortably like the last alley Anton had had such terrible luck in. It didn’t matter. He pushed the memory of his assault back and stepped as briskly as he could manage into the tight, dark space. A few yards more and he would have enough privacy for five minutes of—but wait. No, someone else was back here.

Anton stopped when he heard the sounds of a man in violent distress coming from further down the narrow corridor. Not the sound of an attack: Anton was well acquainted with those. This was a man who sounded terribly ill. As much as Anton needed to get on that train, he couldn’t stop himself from following that sound, just to ensure that the person in question wasn’t on the brink of death.

What he saw froze him in his tracks.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Best Laid Plans...

So, hey!

One or two blog posts ago there was a list of all this stuff I was going to do, get done, post here, be prolific with...yeah. About that.

One illness turned into a different illness that's left me wishing I could just do without my lungs for a while, and I'm traveling tomorrow to visit family and won't be back home until Monday. So the new blog story, in all likelihood, won't be really started until the week after next. Sorry!

I'm trying to revise my almost-subbed-to-Samhain story for another press, trying to proofread something else and trying to keep my eyes from crossing with fatigue at the same time.

I owe three people books, and they're coming, darlins. I haven't forgotten you.

I'm getting things done, just much more slowly than I'm used to. Hopefully in another few days I'll be perky again. <3 p="">