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Sneak peek of Wander, the next Rucksack Universe book

Sneak peek of Wander, the next Rucksack Universe book


“How did you know it was my birthday?” asked Wander.

Sitting behind his desk at the front of the hostel, the elderly proprietor looked up from his computer and smiled. “Your passport,” he replied. “Twenty. A wonderful year. A time when many things may change.”

Wander smiled back. The past five years had been nothing but a time of change. Six months wandering South America, and another two years wandering Africa. Seven months in Ireland, a year in Russia. Indonesia in the morning, Australia at night. With no family or friends, birthdays had been just another day to check off the calendar. Now, at the southwestern coast of Morocco, the warm waters of the eastern Atlantic sent salt on the breeze, maybe a birthday could be something to look forward to after all.

Wander leaned forward. “So, what should I do on my birthday?”

“Ahh, now that is a good question.” The proprietor sat back in his chair. “Check your email and all those social thingies, then come back. I will tell you then.”

Logging on to the hostel’s computer, Wander wondered how many other people in the world had access to the internet but didn’t have a Facespace account. Or a Twitlinkpinstagramr+. Opening the daypack, Wander took out a small flip phone. A traveler on a couch looked up from their bright-screened, too-big-for-the-hand Apsamgoo iGalixel and smirked.

“Trust me,” said Wander over the beeps and boops coming from the traveler’s phone. “Last thing I need is a data plan or unlimited messaging.”

It had been a while since Wander had checked email—somewhere between Thailand and Morocco, but that time had been such a whirlwind Wander could hardly remember. Not that it mattered.

Zero messages.

Not that there was anyone who would be emailing. Or showing up for a surprise party. Or sending a card.

When your only friends were your backpack and the stretch of road currently under your feet, you learned not to make birthdays a big deal.

Still, that hadn’t been the only people. And for twenty, well, Wander couldn’t help but hope. There were people Wander had connected with over the years. Random wanderings together in a new city. Dormmates in a hostel room. The traveler in Galway, Ireland. When they met, Wander wondered what else could have happened between them. They’d exchanged info… that last touch of hand on hand had been so hard to let go… but now, on Wander’s birthday… nothing. Wander looked away. The screen must have been too bright. Of course that’s why Wander’s eyes eyes hurt all of a sudden.

There was always Paithoon in Chiang Mai too. Then again, thought Wander, maybe not hearing from Paithoon was a good thing.

With a sigh and a shrug, Wander logged off email, then the computer. Moving to the little table at the window of the hostel’s common room, Wander stared at the ocean. Blue rising. Whitecaps cresting, then falling. The dry air mingled with the sea spray, suffusing everything with the taste and scent of salt. The few days Wander had been here had been calm, refreshing—badly needed, especially after all that had happened in Thailand.

The memories stirred, the remembered dreams, the remembered past, hard won from five years of traveling and weeks of frustration and sleeplessness, trying to uncover Wander’s own forgotten history. Wander had been more than ready to move on. The southwestern coast of Morocco, staring out over the Atlantic, was as good as anywhere else, but those final moments in Chiang Mai still clung to Wander’s mind. A storm had come, a storm had passed, and now Wander was enjoying the calm. At least, it felt like the calm. But Wander knew a question cast a shadow even over the bright Moroccan morning: was the storm truly over, or was this the quiet eye—to be followed by more storm?

A tap on the shoulder made Wander turn.

The hostel proprietor smiled and held out a large envelope, bigger than a regular sheet of paper.

“What’s this?” asked Wander.

He shrugged and set it down. “Today’s mail,” he said as he went to answer the phone.

The side Wander saw was blank. Turning it over, there was no return address—not even a mailing address. Just “Wander,” written in a fine script with immaculate—and familiar—handwriting.

Wander opened the envelope and gasped.

The stiff, thick sheet inside was like Wander’s favorite painting, called “The Wanderer in the Fog.” In the painting, the figure held a walking stick, wore a black tailcoat, and stared out over mountains and valleys. This was similar, but different.

Running a fingertip over the surface of the art, the rough and smooth textures left no doubt that this was a painting. On a narrow outcropping sticking out from the edge of a rocky cliff, a figure stood before a sheer drop to a white-capped, gray-blue sea below. At the far edge of the sea, Wander could just make out a thin line, as if a new world lay just beyond. Despite the blue sky, shadow obscured the figure so much that Wander could not tell if it was a woman or a man. The black rock of the cliff didn’t look like it was in shadow though. It looked like it had been burned and charred. Below the cliff, a strange, shadowy light seemed to glow upward from somewhere unseen, somewhere down the cliff toward the sea. It enhanced an overarching conflict, as if the painting were caught between darkness and light. Calm seas had grown teeth, whipped into a growing frenzy as a storm blew in.

“The Wanderer” showed only one figure. And so did this painting—except in the foreground, at the left bottom corner.

Gloved in black leather, a left hand reached out toward the wanderer at the edge of the world.

Heart pounding, Wander turned the painting over and read:

No matter where you wander,

May you always find a

Happy Birthday

The Thai madwoman had signed her name. Wander smiled and let out a chuckle. It made no sense that the madwoman’s painting had gotten from Chiang Mai to this hostel in Morocco, but if anyone would have managed it, it would be her.

Beneath the message was a P.S.:

I dreamed recently, and at the last moment of the dream, this is what I saw. I don’t know how I knew it, and I don’t know where this is, but I knew this was you.

Wander stared at the calm seas outside the hostel’s window. The madwoman had to be wrong… but Wander knew better. Trembling a little, Wander tucked the painting back into the envelope.

“Happy birthday,” said the traveler sitting nearby, with a nod toward the card. “I couldn’t help but see.”

Wander shrugged. “I’m glad someone noticed.”

The sunlight coming through the window was warm, bright but soft. Wander had savored every moment so far, every bite of breakfast, every sensation, the touch of water on hands, the scent of tea. But the painting changed everything. A shadow hung over the sunny morning. Wander looked at the card again. A birthday could be a momentous day. A day where everything could change. A day where someone could make a decision that just might change everything.

Wander considered going back to the dorm room and putting the card in the big pack there, but decided against it. The card was a memento, a reminder of what the madwoman had helped Wander learn, there in Thailand, those lonely, hard weeks ago. The daypack always went with Wander—and so would the card.

Wander unzipped the daypack and put the card inside. By now, after all these years, the pack reminded Wander of a dog, though by now it was an old dog. It was the one thing Wander still had from then, from there, when as a teenager Wander had been left with nothing and so had left with nothing. Except for the backpack. The one constant in Wander’s life for the last five years.

With a sigh, Wander went back to the front desk. “So, what did you decide this traveler should do today?”

He smiled and leaned forward.

On a small piece of paper, he drew a map. He said nothing, only occasionally looked out the window, as if gauging something, checking something. Whenever he did, when he looked back the smile would be gone from his eyes, as if it had been taken by whatever he was looking for.

Or maybe he just wasn’t looking forward to cleaning up the puke in the upstairs bathroom.

Accepting the map with a thanks, Wander started to walk away.

“Wait,” said the proprietor. “What you got in the mail. Was it good news?”

Wander shrugged. “You tell me.” Reaching into the daypack, Wander handed him the painting.

He looked at it, saying nothing, staring and staring. He read the back. Then, at last, he looked at Wander.

“Well, this is interesting,” he said. “I indeed gave you one map, one option. But if you want, you could go here instead.”




Free Rucksack Universe Fiction: Stars in your beer

Stars in your beer - B.S. Trotter - Rucksack Universe Anthony St. Clair

From The Lost & Found Travels of BS Trotter

Originally published in London Rising

Okay, we all know that after a couple of pints you can, well, see things. But for Londoners they were not expecting to see strange things in their beer.

I want to make a distinction here: they are seeing strange things in their beer, not because of their beer. We all sometimes see strange things because of beer, typically because we should have stopped about five pints back.

Street lights turn weird for me. After I’ve had a few too many I always find that the street lights, instead of just shining and being bright, in fact have a sort of halo. The light hangs in cloudy rings around the light bulb, as if the lampposts were strangely camouflaged angels. Sometimes I think I’m seeing the world how painter Vincent Van Gogh saw things when he painted his famed Starry Night.

Then I realize I probably just need a kabob and my bed.

However, Londoners are seeing the strangest thing in their pints. Reports and calls and letters have been flooding in to London Rising that all over the city, when someone first picks up a brimming-full pint of their favorite blackest stout, they see a star inside.

Folks, that’s not fancy talk from a humble itinerant reporter suddenly aspiring to be a poet. That’s what people have said, over and over and over. The same thing.

A star.

They look at their pint, which is dark as night sky, and in the middle of the beer, it’s as if they see a small spark. It’s there just a moment, then it either fades or simply can’t be seen anymore or wasn’t there to begin with.

First Call Brewing declined a request to be interviewed for this story. However, the cheeky buggers did point out that no stars are used to brew Galway Pradesh Stout.

Keep those reports coming in, though. I’ve heard it said that after a good pint you can understand the universe. Like you I didn’t expect to see the universe in my beer, but I’ve a feeling the universe is a better place for it.

The Rucksack Universe is Anthony St. Clair’s ongoing beery travel fantasy series of myth, intrigue, and adventure.




Free Rucksack Universe Fiction: Brewing School Launches in London

Brewschool - BS Trotter - Rucksack Universe

From The Lost & Found Travels of BS Trotter

Originally published in London Rising

BrewSchool has opened in London, England. Focused on “brewing brewers,” the teaching operation will train prospective professional brewers in all aspects of the beer industry. Areas of training include developing recipes; the brewing process; equipment selection, ordering, installation, and maintenance; finances and regulation; scaling business; packaging (kegs, bottles, and cans); marketing; and serving beer.

Founded by longtime homebrewer Zara Porter, BrewSchool is an interesting new initiative in the industry. “BrewSchool gives women and men the opportunity to understand every aspect of this ancient and complex process,” says Porter. “By the time students graduate BrewSchool, they will be ready to bring value to any of the world’s breweries, or start their own.”

Porter’s younger sister, Branwen, is the newly appointed second-in-command at First Call Brewing, which recently regained its independence from Deep, Inc., and left London to return to its roots in New Galway, Ireland. First Call is among over a dozen breweries that have already pledged support for BrewSchool and its first class of graduates.

In addition to setting up shop in London, Porter has also negotiated certifications and special offers for BrewSchool graduates. Students will be eligible for business planning services, apprenticeships at small breweries and large operations such as First Call, and will also be eligible for special financing offers for new business startups.

BrewSchool offers a new way to get into the esoteric industry. “Brewing will always rely in part on the apprentice model and being a self-starter,” says Porter. “However, all brewers benefit from an understanding of the full process, and they can then build on this strong foundation of knowledge and training depending on where their professional journey takes them.”

Porter is embarking on a two-month world tour to promote the school, develop and further relationships with breweries abroad, and recruit students. The first formal training sessions, each lasting six months, are expected to begin early next year.

The Rucksack Universe is Anthony St. Clair’s ongoing beery travel fantasy series of myth, intrigue, and adventure.




Who is Faddah Rucksack? – 100 Days to Forever

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#100DaysToForever

Day 6: 95 Days till FOREVER THE ROAD

“I’m Himalayan by birth, Irish by fortune, and myself by choice.”

So far in the Rucksack Universe, we’ve met folks like Jake Hongkong, Jay the world’s greatest traveler, Aisling the Awen of Ireland, and Declan.

And, along with a wee cameo in Home Sweet Road, in The Martini of Destiny we had our first enigmatic encounter with the stout-swigging, ever-mysterious, anywhere-faced, gloved-left-handed who-the-feck-are-ya-anyway Faddah Rucksack, the world’s only Himalayan-Irish sage.

Faddah Rucksack. Just “Rucksack” will do. Or, if you’re a bartending, destiny-slinging Jake or Jade, you might as well call him “let me get you another pint of Galway Pradesh Stout.”

Personally, I’ve always figured Rucksack for a combination of Morpheus from The Matrix…

…and the fourteenth Dalai Lama…

(BTW, he’s certainly as bald, but no glasses.)

Or, to put that another way, I’ve always considered Rucksack as what would happen if The Doctor from Doctor Who and Nanny Ogg from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld had a lovechild.

How’s THAT for a crossover?!?

As you can probably guess, the Rucksack Universe is ultimately the story of Faddah Rucksack. Everything that’s happened in other stories, and everything happening in Forever the Road, ties back to him in one way or another.

But who the hell is Rucksack anyway? Unfortunately, Rucksack tends to be very evasive when it comes to answering questions. But let’s give it a go anyway.

A Quick Q&A

Who is Rucksack?

“Some say he’s a broken hero,” said the figure in blue and green.

“Some say he’s the world’s only Himalayan-Irish sage,” said the figure in brown and black.

“Some say he’s just a freeloading drunk,” said the figure in silver and gold.

“None of these things has ever been proven,” they all said together. “All we know is that he is an unknown quantity.”

Rucksack is from the Himalayas and India. However, he also lived a long time in Ireland.

Why did you move to Ireland?

“That’s a boring story o’ youth and a family that had to flee for their lives. Nothing that would interest you.”

In addition to having a face that makes him seem like he could be from anywhere, Rucksack is also distinguished by wearing a black leather glove on his left hand. No one knows why, but let’s ask.

What’s up with the gloved left hand?

“You wouldn’t want to hear about that. It’s a gruesome tale involving an innovative effort to come up with the world’s first piecrust flattener machine.”

Sigh. See what I mean? The bugger can’t stand to answer a question.

Why you gotta be like that?

“Myth is the best camouflage for the real.”

Nonetheless, there’s far more to Rucksack than a love of beer and a tendency to never directly answer a question. Let’s ask someone else…

Is there more to Rucksack than meets the eye?

His heart beats like a person’s. He breathes and blinks. He drinks and eats… and drinks. The sun, cold, wind, water, and dust of the world are etched into him like tattoos. He could seem like other people. Except for this emptiness, this loneliness around him. He is so alive, life burns like a fire in him and hums like a song, but he has no path…. He transformed his grief into gold, a rich happiness that didn’t serve him but served to bring out the joy in others, since he seemed not to have any of his own.

And in Forever the Road, we’re going to start learning how much more to Rucksack there really is.

What should we do in the meantime, Rucksack?

Raise those pints. There’s no such thing as the sound o’ one glass clinking.

I’ll drink to that.

Add to Goodreads

Tune in Next for…

100 Days to Forever

On Sept. 8, 2014, Forever the Road, the third Rucksack Universe book, will be released as an e-book and trade paperback worldwide.

During our 100 Days to Forever lead-up, you can follow all the adventure on the blog via the 100 Days to Forever category, on my email list, and at the #100DaysToForever hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.

#100DaysToForever
Images: fringedbenefit; Morpheux/The Matrix © 1999 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.; Debarshi Ray



He was smiling as he did it

Today’s Oneword: Aperture

More postcards from the urban fantasy stories of the Rucksack UniverseHe was smiling as he did it, she thought, anger and disgust flooding her. Through the camera she looked, twisting a dial to change the aperture.

“Bet you never thought anyone would see you doing this,” she said softly, then snapped the picture.

And a quick note… The postcards are taking a holiday break. I’m going to spend the rest of the year planning 2014’s novels and novellas! Happy Holidays 🙂

What are these things?

The Oneword website is a writing exercise where you have 60 seconds to write something based on one word, which changes each day. I use it to explore ideas and give you a daily postcard into the Rucksack Universe of travel fiction stories.

Want to know more? Leave a comment below or check out the stories.




But who is he?

Today’s Oneword: Colonel

More postcards from the urban fantasy stories of the Rucksack Universe“But who is he?”

“He’s just himself.”

“Come on, a man like that, he must have known command, leadership. Colonel, general, admiral, boss, mayor, king, come on, what?”

“He has no title. None who he leads know that he leads. That is why he is so effective.”

What are these things?

The Oneword website is a writing exercise where you have 60 seconds to write something based on one word, which changes each day. I use it to explore ideas and give you a daily postcard into the Rucksack Universe of travel fiction stories.

Want to know more? Leave a comment below or check out the stories.




You may have to improv

Today’s Oneword: Improv

More postcards from the urban fantasy stories of the Rucksack Universe“You may have to improv,” she said, trying not to look down.

“Surely it’s not that strange a situation,” he replied.

“I’ll grant you that you’re probably not the first person to try to cross a border while not wearing pants,” she said. “But completely naked? I’m pretty sure that’s a new one.”

“You don’t think they’ll give me a visa?”

“I don’t think you’ll like where they stamp you.”

What are these things?

The Oneword website is a writing exercise where you have 60 seconds to write something based on one word, which changes each day. I use it to explore ideas and give you a daily postcard into the Rucksack Universe of travel fiction stories.

Want to know more? Leave a comment below or check out the stories.




It wanted out

Today’s Oneword: Mechanism

More postcards from the urban fantasy stories of the Rucksack UniverseThe little hollow cube shouldn’t have been so heavy. There was no mechanism to open it, no crack or seam to suggest that it had been assembled. The cube was as natural as the sun, not made but there. It was hollow, but something was inside.

And it wanted out.

What are these things?

The Oneword website is a writing exercise where you have 60 seconds to write something based on one word, which changes each day. I use it to explore ideas and give you a daily postcard into the Rucksack Universe of travel fiction stories.

Want to know more? Leave a comment below or check out the stories.




The guru shuddered

Today’s Oneword: Meanwhile

More postcards from the urban fantasy stories of the Rucksack UniverseThe motorcycle stood at the edge of the cliff.

Meanwhile, the guru looked up from his desk in his high tower in London.

The woman took off her helmet and stared north.

The guru shuddered.

The woman started the engine. It’s a long way from Tibet to England, she thought, but I’m coming for you.

What are these things?

The Oneword website is a writing exercise where you have 60 seconds to write something based on one word, which changes each day. I use it to explore ideas and give you a daily postcard into the Rucksack Universe of travel fiction stories.

Want to know more? Leave a comment below or check out the stories.




So much for peaceful

Today’s Oneword: Plumes

More postcards from the urban fantasy stories of the Rucksack UniverseShe stood on the peaty ground, staring out over the dim, misty morning. It should have been silent. It should have been a peaceful morning, full of tea and a crossword puzzle.

But she stared harder, waited, and at last, she saw it. Plumes rose from the worn dirt track leading to the hostel. The motorcycle sped up.

Great, she thought. So much for peaceful.

What are these things?

The Oneword website is a writing exercise where you have 60 seconds to write something based on one word, which changes each day. I use it to explore ideas and give you a daily postcard into the Rucksack Universe of travel fiction stories.

Want to know more? Leave a comment below or check out the stories.




Hi.

Anthony St. Clair - Travel Fantasy Author / Craft Beer Writer / Business Copywriter

Author and copywriter Anthony St. Clair has specialized in online content since 2000, blogged since 2004 and is the author of the Rucksack Universe travel fantasy series.

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Check out this free sample of FOREVER THE ROAD

Anthony's third book, FOREVER THE ROAD, is a Best Books 2015 Fantasy pick from Library Journal's SELF-e, and a 2015 Oregon Book Award nominee.

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Rucksack Universe

Travel fantasy tales
of wit, adventure & beer

Forever the Road by Anthony St. Clair, a Rucksack Universe Fantasy Novel - learn more and buy now

Home Sweet Road by Anthony St. Clair, a Rucksack Universe Fantasy Novella - learn more and buy now

The Martini of Destiny by Anthony St. Clair, a Rucksack Universe Fantasy Novella - learn more and buy now

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