End of the Line by @barbtaub #ExcerptWeek #wwwblogs #SciFi #UrbanFantasy

Note from Barb:

Thank you so much Marcia for all you do to promote other writers, and for allowing me to participate in Excerpt Week.  The following excerpt is from End of the Line, the final book in my Null City series. 


You have to understand that everyone in Null City is a normal human. Most of them just didn't start out that way. Imagine you're some superhero with special gifts or abilities that are, frankly, damn awkward. Let's say, for example, that you are the Man of Steel, but you don't dare have sex with the Plucky Girl Reporter because your LittleMan of Steel would probably split her in two. (And we're not even going to discuss the havoc your Swimmers of Steel could wreck on Woman of Pasta…) The point is that when you think about it, most people with special powers would be lining up to get rid of them and get their normal lives back. That's where Null City comes in. After one day there, those with extra gifts turn into their closest human counterparts. Dragons, for example, might become realtors. Or imps become baristas. (Of course, those imps are now ex-PhD candidates in literature or classics who claim to be experts on third-world coffee blends and obscure world music groups. But hey — there is only so close to human that hellspawn can get…)

End of the Line

by Barb Taub

You have to understand that everyone in Null City is a normal human. Most of them just didn’t start out that way. Imagine you’re some superhero with special gifts or abilities that are, frankly, damn awkward. Let’s say, for example, that you are the Man of Steel, but you don’t dare have sex with the Plucky Girl Reporter because your LittleMan of Steel would probably split her in two. (And we’re not even going to discuss the havoc your Swimmers of Steel could wreck on Woman of Pasta…)

The point is that when you think about it, most people with special powers would be lining up to get rid of them and get their normal lives back. That’s where Null City comes in. After one day there, those with extra gifts turn into their closest human counterparts. Dragons, for example, might become realtors. Or imps become baristas. (Of course, those imps are now ex-PhD candidates in literature or classics who claim to be experts on third-world coffee blends and obscure world music groups. But hey — there is only so close to human that hellspawn can get…)

POPPY: Null City, 2016

I paused on the landing of the grand stairway leading down to the main waiting room and on to the platform of the Metro Station. Above me the pearly light of a typical Null City afternoon streamed through the green and gold stained glass arched ceiling and huge matching rose windows at either end.

Just below the window, a tiled mosaic spelled out Ø CITY above a painted banner bearing a quote from Sir Isaac Newton: If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”.  Visitors are usually impressed, at least until someone shares the Null City version that it was painted by an artistic imp standing on an actual giant who was waiting for his one-day window to pass until he became a normal human.

Dark old polished wood benches from the waiting room—the round ones whose central lamp posts now bloomed with tissue flowers and white ribbons, and the long benches with elegantly curved backs—were filled with guests, both from Null City and those who had poured in on the special Metro run.

Null City residents know that the needles on any compass here point to the Metro Station as our own version of true north. But as far as I know, only the Anchor feels that pull. I closed my eyes, and opened my connection to the City. It wasn’t words, not exactly. But…images of feelings, like holding the most effervescent of champagne to my nose…dry and tingling and full of delicious, intoxicating promise.

I smiled at the tickle as the fizz of the connection spread over my skin and I passed my own feelings back along the connection. I know you’re pleased. This wedding is just the right thing, in the right place, with the right people. Continue reading

They gave ME a UK drivers license! What were they thinking? @barbtaub #FabulousFriday

image

“The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status, or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average drivers.”
Dave Barry, Dave Barry Turns Fifty

The Vomit-Comet, a Chevy Impala wagon painted (for reasons my father never revealed) mint green.

The Vomit-Comet, my family’s Chevy Impala wagon with the red pleather interior & outside painted (for reasons my father never revealed) mint green.

“Do NOT,” my mother warned as she slid out of the red pleather bench seat of the Vomit Comet, “…come out without IT.” I had just turned sixteen, and IT was my drivers license. Growing up in a California suburb where you practically needed a car to drive to your mailbox, a license meant freedom and adulthood and illicit trips to the beach. In my case, it also meant relief for my mother, who ran a one-woman taxi service for her ten children, frequently logging upwards of a hundred miles in a day.

While I pictured trips to the drive-in with all my friends—the Vomit Comet was purchased to my parents’ rigid specifications regarding the number of children that could be crammed into its seatbelts-are-for-people-without-spare-kids triple rows of seats—my mother was dreaming of the day someone else would help drive to school/grocery/other school/afterschool/after-afterschool/and on and on.

I did indeed return with the license, and duly received the keys to Gus, a geriatric VW bug twice my age who predated modern conveniences like a gas gauge, but boasted three important features—he ran (mostly), he had a great radio, and he was a teenaged Californian’s most essential accessory—a convertible.

Gus died heroically a year or so later with his radio on, blocking the entrance to the beach at Santa Cruz and resulting in a traffic jam so legendary it made the evening news and the next four decades of my father’s conversation. But I went on to drive for all of the following 40+ years. I even spent a gazillion years (that’s in parent-terror units) doing the required behind-the-wheel practice with all four kids.

“You’re a rotten driver,” I protested. “Either you ought to be more careful, or you oughtn’t drive at all.”
“I am careful.”
“No you’re not.”
“Well, other people are,” she said lightly.
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“They’ll keep out of my way,” she insisted. “It takes two to make an accident.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

But none of that mattered to Her Majesty’s Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency, who seemed to feel that while my colonial-trained driving skills were all very well for prissy American road conditions, here in Britain they would be measured, tested, and (undoubtedly) found wanting.

In the UK, driving is not an automatic rite of passage but a privilege that must be earned. Indeed, most years many more people fail than pass. The first hurdle is the written test, which includes a very fun video simulation that is (at least for mamas with on-the-job experience of four video-game savvy offspring) a LOT easier and not nearly as gory as Grand Theft Auto. The second test part is the usual series of written questions, most of which have one realistic answer mixed in with several answers composed by space aliens on crack, along the lines of: Continue reading

Superpowers suck? Try Null City #ExcerptWeek #SciFi #UrbanFantasy by @barbtaub

Thanks so much Marcia for allowing me to participate in your Excerpt Week promotion! Following is the blurb and excerpt from Round Trip Fare. —Barb


Excerpt week: ROUND TRIP FARE by Barb Taub

Warden Carey Parker’s to-do list is already long enough: find her brother and sister, rescue her roommate, save Null City, and castrate her ex-boyfriend. Preferably with a dull-edged garden tool. A rusty one.

Carey knows superpowers suck, her own included. From childhood she’s only had two options. She can take the Metro train to Null City and a normal life. After one day there, imps become baristas, and hellhounds become poodles. Demons settle down, join the PTA, and worry about their taxes. Or she can master the powers of her warrior gift and fight a war she can’t win, in a world where she never learned how to lose.

And then there is… him. For the past two months, a dark stranger has persistently edged his way onto the mental game board behind her eyelids. Well, whatever trouble he’s selling, Carey Parker is not buying.

She just has a few details to work out first. Her parents have been killed, her brother and sister targeted, and the newest leader of the angels trying to destroy Null City might be the one person she loves most in the world. And her sexy new partner’s gift lets him predict deaths. Hers.

It just would have been nice if someone told her the angels were all on the other side.


EXCERPT —Round Trip Fare

March 2011:  Pike Place Market, Seattle

Carey slid low in the seat as Iax finally came out of the restaurant and turned toward the waterfront. To her surprise, the two watchers continued to stalk…him. So he hadn’t posted them to watch for her. Interesting. She slid from the jeep and shadowed the followers.

Accords Agency Recruiting notice

Accords Agency Recruiting notice

The attack came as Iax stepped around construction equipment at a building site in the next block. He spun around a second before the first one’s bow released, but the arrow must have missed as he was already ducking low and coming up with a knife. She narrowed her eyes. Probably too far for accuracy, but his throw managed a glancing slash on the attacker’s arm. Impressive. The knife wound was enough to cause the bow to droop as Iax sprinted toward him.

By then, the second tail had come around the far side of the giant yellow earthmover and was in position. But Iax wrapped arms around the first assailant and whirled him into the path of the new arrow. Not missing a step, he dove for the dropped crossbow, loaded from its attached quiver, and without taking any apparent time to aim, lodged an arrow in the second attacker’s throat. Very impressive. There was just one thing he missed.

Iax was bent over the second assailant when the third dropped from the scaffolding above him and hit the ground head-first with a meaty thump. “You missed one,” Carey told him. “You’re welcome.” She moved across the street until she was standing in front of him. “Excuse me? Can I get by?” Their eyes locked as each quietly palmed a knife, before he moved aside. She rolled the third assailant over and removed the knife from his throat, wiping it with the dead man’s shirt. “It’s one of my favorites.” Returning the knife to her boot, she turned and headed back to her jeep. “You coming?”

He got in heavily, and she started the engine. “Where to?”

When he didn’t answer, she turned to see him slumped against the door. The front of his jacket was wet. Guess that first arrow wasn’t a total miss after all. Well, hell. Marley would never let her hear the end of it if they had to replace the upholstery. Again. Continue reading

Help Wanted: Accords Agency seeks new agents. Orphans preferred. #ExcerptWeek

Is it wrong that shooting people is just so much easier than making decisions? Carey Parker’s to-do list is already long enough: find her brother and sister, rescue her roommate, save Null City, and castrate her ex-boyfriend. Preferably with a dull-edged garden tool. A rusty one.

She just has a few details to work out first. Her parents have been killed, her brother and sister targeted, and the newest leader of the angels trying to destroy Null City might be the one person she loves most in the world. So the one thing she knows for sure is that she needs to keep her day job as a Warden for the Seattle Office of the Accords Agency.

Working at Accords is much like any other job. First you get recruited—

Accords Academy Recruitment Notice

Accords Academy Recruitment Notice

When you start, you’re given an Employee Handbook.

EEO Addendum

ACCORDS AGENCY EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK, fourth edition, revised July 20, 2010

Which comes with a welcome message:

 Congratulations! You’ve completed our application process and written your letter to be delivered to your next of kin in the event of your death. Welcome to the Accords Agency.

And maybe a few revisions:

Handbook Addendum notice

 —Addendum to Welcome Message, ACCORDS AGENCY EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK, fourth edition, revised July 20, 2010

You start to get a feel for the corporate culture:

Handwritten note taped to cabinet in staff break room.

Handwritten note taped to cabinet in staff break room.

At the Accords Agency, they say success depends on having the right partner. But nobody told Carey Parker that her sexy new partner’s gift would let him predict deaths. Hers.


Now available for presale on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, ROUND TRIP FARE will be released on 7 April, 2016.

Round_Trip_Fare-Barb_Taub-1563x2500ROUND TRIP FARE by Barb Taub

Is it wrong that shooting people is just so much easier than making decisions? Carey wonders— and not for the first time. But the Agency claims this will be an easy one. A quick pickup of a missing teen and she won’t even have to shoot anybody. Probably.

Carey knows superpowers suck, her own included. From childhood she’s only had two options. She can take the Metro train to Null City and a normal life. After one day there, imps become baristas, and hellhounds become poodles. Demons settle down, join the PTA, and worry about their taxes. Or she can master the powers of her warrior gift and fight a war she can’t win, in a world where she never learned how to lose.

Genre:

Urban Fantasy (with romance, humor, a sentient train, and a great dog)

Contact/Buy Links:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

Facebook | Blog | Twitter: @barbtaub

I’m a writer! (Isn’t everyone?) @barbtaub #FabulousFriday

image

HOW TO TELL IF YOU’RE A WRITER

http://www.zazzle.ca/funny_fiction_writer_answer_sheet_t_shirt-235975668204548181

Image credit: Zazzle

 

A new acquaintance stared at me with a look I imagine is usually reserved for little green men stepping out of their flying saucers. I’d just told her I don’t watch television, and in fact, don’t even own one. “I write instead.” We went down the list of my immediate family members, and somehow that was the first time I realized that we all write. My husband writes academic theory papers that are—literally—mostly greek (all those mathematical symbols, you know). Daughter #1 is a human rights attorney who covers “foreign policy, human rights, and shetland ponies” for vox.com. Daughter #2 writes comedy for a hot new late night show. My son does technical writing, but often throws out hilarious satire. And Daughter #3 is my occasional coauthor on the Null City series.

Supposedly, Samuel Johnson, author of “A Dictionary of the English Language” (1755) said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” (as quoted by his brilliant biographer, James Boswell). However, Boswell then added the comment, “Numerous instances to refute this will occur to all who are versed in the history of Literature.”(Both quotes from Life of Samuel Johnson, LLD (1791) by James Boswell.) [Image credit: Portrait of Samuel Johnson by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Supposedly, Samuel Johnson, author of “A Dictionary of the English Language” (1755) said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” (as quoted by his brilliant biographer, James Boswell). However, Boswell then added the comment, “Numerous instances to refute this will occur to all who are versed in the history of Literature.”(Both quotes from Life of Samuel Johnson, LLD (1791) by James Boswell.) [Image credit: Portrait of Samuel Johnson by Sir Joshua Reynolds]

Why do you do it?” my new friend asked. “Money?” Well… yes, actually. Money is not a dirty word for writers and artists. As my daughter wrote about growing up as a writer’s kid, “Would I still be in comedy if my mom had never written a single column? Maybe. But I would be crappier at it. I’m ambitious because I learned vicariously the thrill of creating something awesome and getting paid for it.” (Melinda Taub, Splitsider on May 6, 2011) Still, let’s face it—there are much easier and more lucrative ways to make money, often involving the words “…and would you like fries with that?”

There are other theories about why people write. Eugene O’Neil said, “Writing is my vacation from living.” It was also his therapy. Arguably his master work, the autobiographical Long Day’s Journey Into Night was his way of exorcising the demons of his dysfunctional family. Certainly, he wasn’t looking for it to provide money or fame, and indeed specified in his will that it not be published or performed until twenty-five years after his death. Within today’s writing environment, the opportunity to make sense of your past through writing about it—whether in social media, blogs, independent publishing, or even traditional publishing—has led to an explosion of personal and dynamic storytelling such as the simultaneously hilarious and gut-wrenching posts in writer Mary Smith’s My Dad Is A Goldfish blog. 

Others write because they’ve caught a glimpse of how words can rock the world. Daughter #1 says she remembers writer Iris Chang’s speech at her high school graduation.

At sixteen, I was not yet planning to go into the human rights field, but I remember watching her give that speech, and thinking that if I grew up to be someone like her, who did the things that she did, that would be something to be proud of. Many times, since then, I have thought about her speech when I have felt tempted to be the kind of person who just gets on with life and doesn’t bother reaching for something better. At those times, I have remembered seeing her, up on that stage, telling a room of fascinated children that we would have moments when cynicism and surrender seemed like attractive options, but that she believed we would be strong enough to overcome them. And then I have decided that cynicism can wait for another day. (Amanda Taub, Wronging Rights)

Why do I write? I was very lucky. My youngest daughter and I started telling each other a story, and when she headed off to college, I sat down and typed it up. As Maya Angelou put it, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Others agree:

  • Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”(Gloria Steinem)
  • Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.” (Terry Pratchett)
  • You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say,” (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

So what do we all have in common? My favorite explanation, hands down (although slightly NSF this blog) comes from Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds blog:

What matters is, knowing that your time on this Hurtling Space Sphere is limited, you should make an effort to live your life — and your art — the way you damn well want to. Do you really want someone to chisel the words MADE MEDIOCRE ART SHE DIDN’T MUCH LIKE BECAUSE SHE THOUGHT THAT’S WHAT SOMEONE ELSE WANTED HER TO DO on your gravestone? Or would you rather them carve in the words: ROCKED IT LIKE A MOTHERF***ER, WROTE WHAT SHE DAMN WELL WANTED, BOO-YAH, MIC-DROP –?”

As a public service for all you who are wondering if you can call yourselves writers, I’ve written the following quiz:

_____1. Do you have arguments with your characters about what should come next? Do you lose?

_____2. Do you eavesdrop on other people’s personal conversations because you might use them in your novel? Really?

tumblr_mtgcf1Xf3W1rq27uuo1_500_____3. Still flinching?

_____4. Do you have conversations with the paragraphs you’re cutting out of your manuscript, assuring them that you’re going to put them in a wonderful, safe little file (called Dead Kittens) so you can use them in your next book, but that doesn’t mean you don’t love them very, very much?

_____5. When you hear about a friend’s romantic relationship, do you think about how you would keep them apart for at least five more chapters to build tension?

_____6. Do you worry about the NSA noticing that your recent online searches include “best place to get shot”, “how to pick any lock”, “lightweight hunting bow”, “best concealed-carry weapons”, “how to tell if you’re being followed”, “amount of blood loss that is survivable”,  and “getting a fake passport”?

_____7. Do you write at night? Sometimes until the next night? Wearing sweats so you don’t have to change to take the dog out?

_____8. Have you written the words “THE END”? And meant it?

If you checked off numbers 1-7, you can high-five the other writer wannabe’s in your writing group. If you ticked #8, congratulations: you’re a writer.

IMG_3017_kindlephoto-55920491And me? I’ve just typed “THE END” on Round Trip Fare, Book 3 of the Null City series, plus I have a new travel/humor memoir, Do Not Wash Hands In Plates. I’m a writer!


 

I take a humorous look at writing, books, and life at Writing & Coffee. Especially Coffee.

My books are available from major online sellers including Amazon US and Amazon UK.

I would love to hear from you! When I’m not travelling or walking the dog, you can find me at home in Glasgow, Scotland trying to hide from feral packs of rampaging haggis. Or you can reach me via Twitter (@barbtaub) or Facebook, or just sneaking off for some quality time with my Kindle.

cropped-my-books-header.jpg