Weekend Writing Warriors: Odd Duck (Majors)

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I’m back from vacation and already saving for the next cruise, because whoa.

It was nice to unplug for a while—I left my laptop at home and took notebooks and pens, instead—but I’ve had some serious withdrawal pangs the last two Sundays.  I have a lot of reading to do to catch up!

If I remember correctly—and I do, ’cause I checked—the last shared bit of Odd Duck revealed that Lowell Rhombeck, the leader of the Talbot City werewolf pack and CEO of the pack corporation, and his human assistant Susan are pregnant.

Or Susan is, because this isn’t that kind of story.

For various reasons, Rhombeck has reacted by asking Our Wereduck Hero Tom to convince Tom’s werewolf brother Bryan (who is also Rhombeck’s cousin) to take over his position in the pack.

For different reasons, Susan and Tom think this is a dumb idea.


“So you’re abdicating?” I asked.

“No,” Susan said.

“Yes,” he said. “You know what it will be like,” he told her. “I can’t put you and our child through that.”

Throwing Bryan to the wolves didn’t seem fair, either. “You don’t have anyone else to take over?” I asked.

“It’s not that simple,” he said. “I wouldn’t put any of the other possible candidates in charge of both the corporation and the pack.”

“Bryan has a PhD in environmental studies,” I said, “not an MBA.”


Rhombeck’s motivations are next—if I can shared them in ten sentences next week, I will.

Meanwhile, does anyone know why four suitcases produced eight full loads of laundry, when all we bought were three tee-shirts and I accidentally left half my underwear on the ship?  Travel physics is weird . . .

Cruising with Disney

Disney Fantasy

We’re back from our seven-day Bahama cruise on the Disney Fantasy™ and while the kids seem to have rejoined the Real World without a hitch—though with some magnificent tan lines*—my husband and I are still staggering around on sea legs humming “Be Our Guest”.

And doing loads and loads of laundry.

As many of you know, I approached this vacation with a high amount of anxiety about what we would need and what we would do and how I would handle the possibility that my family wouldn’t let me escape the experience without wearing a swimsuit.  In public.

But for the most part, it was a blast—a relaxing blast—and it was comforting to know that we were surrounded by families who understood about random pre-teen surliness and the low boredom thresholds of small fry in formal restaurant settings.  When I noticed a fellow passenger standing in a corner and lecturing their child through gritted teeth, I knew that these were my people.

The staff was terrific, the staterooms were comfortable, the showers were pure heaven, and the food was wonderful.  There were little touches, like towel animals and pillow chocolates and wait staff with impressive memories for preferences and a good supply of riddles and brain twisters.**

The Disneyness of the place, while obviously a fundamental theme, wasn’t oppressive at all.  Some people dove in head first and Lived the Disney Experience™ but the rest of us just skimmed the surface of our personal nostalgia, avoided the Princess Photo Op Corral, and/or took advantage of the company’s rights to the Marvel movies to see Ant-Man once or twice.  Three times tops.

My husband and I are already plotting to take another cruise, though next time, I’ll be referring back to this list of things I wish I’d known before we sailed:


1. Decent walking shoes are essential

 Sandals and flip-flops are usually good enough on board*** but don’t let packing space or weird tan lines prevent you from wearing decent arch support when you go ashore.

I brought my sturdy pair of walking sandals, but my mother’s quest for “that one shop” she remembered on Cozumel^ still nearly did my poor feet in—you know you aren’t doing well when the hawkers stop telling you about the bargains in their shops and start luring you with benches and band-aids.




2. Go off the grid

I decided to leave my laptop at home, figuring I’d write longhand and pay the minimum to connect to the ship’s WiFi through my phone to check my e-mail,^^ but I only tried once or twice with no joy—my phone couldn’t detect the signal.  My husband ended up borrowing a ship laptop to check in on my MIL, but the connection was very slow and intermittent, and ultimately wasn’t worth the bother.

Good thing we paid by the meg and not the minute!

And barring a bit of blog and texting withdrawal, I didn’t miss being plugged in at all.  My phone did come in handy for on board photo ops and to entertain Sunny on the nights when we were assigned to the boringest most formal restaurant, but I kept it in Airplane Mode the whole time.


Towel Baby!

Towel Baby!

3. Don’t care about the hair

You know how your hair reacts to your hometown humidity, but in equatorial, oceanic humidity, cowlicks go gleeful.  Arguing about this with styling implements, smoothing products, and bad language doesn’t help.

I gave up by day three—I’m stubborn—and generally wore my sunglasses as a headband indoors to keep the whole mess back.   By the time we reached Jamaica, I was able to walk through the windtunnel of Falmouth without care—and when the nice young lady trying to sell me a $2000 pendant told me she loved my hair, I thanked her instead of laughing in her face.^^^


Towel Rhino

Towel Rhino with nose blurr!

4. All body types are welcome

This ain’t the Love Boat—this is parents and grandparents and kids who are all too busy having fun to give a hoot how you look in your swimsuit.

Assuming you know what strangers are thinking about your body is defeatist and damaging . . . unless you’re focusing on all the strangers of your general size and shape who aren’t letting anything get in the way of their fun.  You can totally assume that these people think you’re fabulous and would like you to leave your towels and cover-ups behind as you stroll to the water, so they can check out the adorableness of your swim-shorts.


Towel Monkey!

Towel Monkey!

 3. Sunscreen. Sunscreen. Sunscreen.

At all times you are emerging into the open air, even if you’re only going to the buffet by the pools.  Reapply twice as often as you think you should.§

I had sunburned knees from sitting in the surf, even though the stuff we use was rated waterproof for 80 minutes, and I wasn’t in there that long.  I would think that the waters near public beaches would be 30% sunscreen anyway, but it apparently doesn’t work like that.§§


Towel Bear!

Towel Bear!

4. Save your receipts—there will be a quiz afterward!

The last full day of your cruise, your steward will deliver a copy of Declaration Form 6059B, courtesy of US Customs and Border Protection.  THis form will ask you which foreign ports your household members visited and how much they spent there, itemized by general category.

I saved my receipts because I do that, but my husband had to go through a few bags to jog his memory.  It was a blessing that the nine pounds of beach shells Sunny brought back, not to mention all the hitchhiking sand, didn’t count.

Of course, if you really want to be prepared, you can check the list of Things That Custom Agents Frown On before you go shopping . . . but what’s life without a little risk?

 Towel Monkey Again! We like Towel Monkey!

Towel Monkey Again!
Because we love  Towel Monkey!

4. Check every single drawer after you pack to go home, even if you remember doing it.

Because you might remember packing all your clean underwear and good bras from the upper drawer of the cabinet to the left of the connecting door . . . but  if you don’t make absolutely certain, it will become evident that you did not and tragically so, if you aren’t traveling directly home after disembarking.§§§


Snorkel Sunny!

Snorkel Sunny!

5. You aren’t actually obligated to do anything.

This is your vacation, too.

You can spend time with your whole family, part of your family, or enjoy some Me Time.

You can go swimming all day, every day, or never go near the pool.

Pirate Buffet!

Pirate Buffet!

You can eat at your assigned restaurant every night or skip it in favor of the buffet or a poolside food stall—or even room service.¤

You can see all the shows or none.

You can spend the whole day in the movie theater or never go at all.

You can stay in your room the whole trip and watch Disney stuff on television (or never turn it on after the suggested Shipwide PSA feature).

Princess Corral!

Princess Corral!

You can stand in line to get a photo taken with various Disney characters or avoid that noise altogether.

You can dance, play, write, nap, party, work Sudoku, take towel-folding classes, shop . . . or not.

You are paying the Disney Cruise Line to entertain, feed, and clean up after your family—let them take care of you, too.



*Sunny’s skin went brown and her hair went platinum.  She looks like a walking photo negative.

**Joseph, our amazing assistant server, managed to stump the whole family twice—we still maintain that our answer to that one about making four triangles out of two by moving one crayon was perfectly right.  So there.

***Though it’s a bigger ship than you think and most of it, oddly, is inside, away from the pools.  So you don’t actually need ventilated, water-friendly footwear all the time.  And unless you become addicted to Elevator Roulette (I did, at one point, for the sheer challenge of it all), you’ll be taking the stairs out of sheer frustration.

^I’m not sure we ever found it, but the ones we did find were well worth the blisters, if not the walk back.  At one point, I was seriously considering hiring a taxi to take me the remaining six blocks to the port entrance.  Guh.

^^On advice, I was careful to shut down the automatic updates on my apps the day before we left; the last thing I wanted was to waste all my allotted megs accidentally updating Fruit Ninja.

^^^I’ll admit that I might have been stunned by the price of the pendant at the time.  I managed to extract myself with relative dignity and bought a nice, kitchy, CZ frog necklace at the duty-free for . . . somewhat less.

CZ Froggie

CZ Froggie

§ Especially if your idea of setting a base tan is to glance briefly at the Midwestern sun as you scurry from your air-conditioned library workplace to your air-conditioned car.

§§ Except for Sunny, who never had so much as a pinkish blotch on her.  Though we still squirted SPF50 in her direction whenever she gamboled past.

§§§Thanks again for running that emergency load for me us, Dad!

¤But if you go on the Fantasy™, try the Animator’s Palate at least once—it featured interactive shows guaranteed to make 8-year olds abandon Tetris.  According to the aforementioned 8-year old, they also have the funnest desserts.

Mickey Cupcake!

Mickey Cupcake!

Hi ho, Hi ho, it’s off to Cruise I go . . .

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I hate traveling.  I like being places, but getting there, for me, is never half the fun, especially if it involves airports.

disney-cruises-logoBut Mom and Dad wanted to take the kids on a Disney cruise and invited my husband and I along for the ride—and I may be a travel curmudgeon with a serious hate-on for how certain airlines treat their passengers, but I’m not passing up a free week on a floating amusement park that exists solely to take over the entertainment needs of my high maintenance offspring.

So on Thursday, we’re driving the seven hours to my parent’s house, then flying out to Port Canaveral the next day,  to catch the boat the day after that.  Nice and easy—and plenty of time for Plan B, C, and even D, in case cars break down and planes are missed and luggage is lost.

So this time, the big problem is getting ready to get there.

Since my only experience with an ocean cruise thus far has been reruns of The Love Boat (I love me some Bernie Kopell), I’ve been spending the last few days spinning in panicked circles wondering what to pack and what  not to pack, reminding myself that the Disney Fantasy c. 2015 is not the Pacific Princess c. 1979,* reading every article about Disney cruises I can, all of which have differing ideas of what to pack and what not to pack.

But I’ve made a list of things to take (Sunscreen, extra contacts, Jane’s inhaler, manuscript, PASSPORTS), and another of things that need to get done before we go.  It’s not that bad, really; all I have to do is pack for me, assemble boredom bags for the car ride, clean the whole house, pack for the kids (one of whom wants to take everything and the other of whom has a decidedly minimalist/grunge approach), get Jane’s hair trimmed, write out instructions for pet care, get to the bank, sort out my purse, buy toothbrushes and sunscreen, and return that butt-ugly dress I bought in a panic over “formal dress night”.  And maybe a few other things . . .

WiFi may or may not be affordable, so you may not hear much from me for a week or two, until I come back with a sunburn and pics—and maybe even a manageable sleep deficit.

Disney is supposed to be all about making dreams come true, right?


Ever taken a Disney Cruise?  Any advice?

Who was YOUR favorite Love Boat crew member?


* I will not, for example, be meeting Isaac, however much I might need him, nor will I be on the prowl for anything other than an empty lounge chair and a nap.

Weekend Writing Warriors: Odd Duck (Changes)

We WriWa bannerHave a WIP, an EIP, an MS, or a published work you want to share on your blog, eight to ten sentences at a time?

Want to sample other people’s WIPs, EIPs, MSs, or published works, eight to ten sentences at a time?

Be a Weekend Writing Warrior!

Rules are here!

List of participants is here!


Or if you’re a fellow Facebook addict (we can quit any time we want to, right?),
why not check out the offerings of the Snippet Sunday gang?


Last week, Lowell Rhombeck, the leader of the Talbot City werewolf pack, asked Tom (our fearless wereduck hero) to talk Bryan (Tom’s AWOL werewolf brother) into taking over as packleader.

When Tom asked why, Susan, Lowell’s human PA, told him it was because Rhombeck was being stupid.  Okay, she said, “Because he’s being stupid”, but the next few sentences make it clear that she’s referring to Rhombeck.

Rhombeck thinks he’s being perfectly reasonable.

Susan, who is the voice of reason and therefore isn’t buying it, speaks first this week:


 “Lowell, nothing needs to change.”

“Everything has changed,” he said, his eyes intent on her face. He snagged her wrist and pulled her to the couch to sit next to him. “I won’t pretend that it hasn’t; I’m glad it has.” He rubbed the side of his head against the top of hers.

I hadn’t figured Rhombeck for a PDA guy, but it wasn’t much of a stretch to see them as a couple outside of the office—unless you factored in his other job.

“Is this a secret marriage kind of thing?” I asked.

“No,” Susan said, patiently waiting for Rhombeck to finish. “it’s an unplanned pregnancy kind of thing.”

“Congratulations?” I said.

“Yes,” Rhombeck said, “thank you.”


Just in case it’s not clear from this selection, Rhombeck’s “other job” is being packleader (you could say, he’s moonlighting–hey?  Anyone?  Crickets?).

In this book, there’s still some Old Skool were-human miscegenation bigotry to deal with, stemming from Rhombeck’s position as pack leader.   The fact that any children he has with Susan wouldn’t be able to shift* is also an issue.

In other news:  My family and I are leaving on a Disney cruise in a few days, and while I love you guys, I don’t know if I can swing the WiFi and/or roaming rates—or operate my phone with sufficient competency while battling sunburn and carsickness on the way home—to participate over the next two Sundays.

If I can, I will. If I can’t, I’ll see you next month!


* If Susan had any werewolf ancestors—she doesn’t because I say so—there’s a fifty percent chance the child couldn’t shift.  Depending on how recent those ancestors were, there’s also a chance the child could be a full werewolf . . . or a genetic mess. Luckily, this is set in our time, and were-geneticists are totally a thing (Yes, they can shift into scientists whenever they want . . . though most of ’em don’t bother turning back).

This kind of thing happens when you’re describing your idea for a wereduck character and someone says, “Cool.  But how does he make more of himself?”  And you say, “Oh, $#!%, he doesn’t have any teeth, does he . . .”  And then you stare at that picture of Mendel’s peapods for way too long.

“Prelude to Axanar”: The Stardate of Something Amazing

I’m a fan of Star Trek from way back, as was my mother before me.  She allowed me to watch as many episodes as I wanted in syndication—she’d already seen them when they first aired—and helped me to establish a decent collection of novels that are still on my shelves.

I’ve seen all the movies—occasionally to my regret—and while I’m not the kind of detail-oriented person who knows every episode and historical plot point by stardate—or knows all the canon-twisting reasons why Klingons changed their facial appearances as often as Starfleet redesigned their uniforms—I’m comfortable in the universe and get most of the in-jokes (I think).

So when my husband told me about a short, fan-made, Hollywood-filmed Star Trek video called”Prelude to Axanar”, which is based on a RPG sourcebook that outlines a (non-series canon) “Four Years War” between a young United Federation of Planets and the invading Klingon Empire, I thought it sounded interesting. So I gave it a try.

It blew my mind.

Written by Alec Peters, directed by Chris Gossett, created by a crew of magicians, and performed by professional actors you may (should) recognize, this mini-movie is a brilliant, documentary-style teaser that the creators hope will generate funds for a feature-length film.

My librarian’s heart was captured within the first twenty-two seconds. After ten, I had goosebumps.  And when it was done, I went to my husband and said, “Is it too late to give them all our money?  We could take out a second mortgage.”

See for yourself:

Even if you don’t know who Kelvar Garth was* or didn’t recognize Vulcan Ambassador Soval from Star Trek: Enterprise** or you aren’t even that into Star Trek at all, this is compelling stuff.  Heck, I’d gladly pitch in for the rest of the documentary, let alone a movie that puts us in the middle of the action.

I checked the Axanar website and, luckily for our financial stability and the kids’ college funds, they don’t need that much more money to reach their present goal.***  In fact, Anaxar (or at least the first act) is scheduled to be released in 2016.

This is going to be something to behold.  I can’t wait!



*I’ll admit, I’d forgotten that episode until I looked him up.  I do hope he fares better in this timeline.

**I had that one covered; I’ve been in fanlove with Gary Graham for years.

***Not that I didn’t donate, but I toned it down somewhat.  No kidneys were donated towards the making of this movie.  Not my kidneys, anyway . . .