Kim Fielding – Road Trip!

I remember well the family cars from my childhood. We had a couple of Pontiacs, a Mazda, a Honda, a Saab with a fold-down armrest that my brother and I fought over. We’d go for day trips—picnics near waterfalls, hikes around mountain lakes—or longer jaunts, maybe to the coast for a weekend or longer.

Now that I have kids of my own, we pile into the SUV for road trips too. We drive down south past miles of Joshua trees to visit my husband’s family, or north to visit mine. We go to Yosemite, San Francisco, wine country. We’ve spent endless hours along the dustbowl towns of Highway 99 and I-5. We know our favorite places to stop for bathrooms and fast food.

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I hope when my daughters grow up they’ll have lots of good memories of squabbling over backseat territory, eating snacks I only allow on long car rides, playing license plate games and making up stories about the strange sights we’ve seen. Because a road trip is more than just a way to get from A to B. It’s not like the placeless limbo of airports and airplanes. A road trip is a Journey.

In my newest novel, Motel. Pool., Tag Manning is on a road trip. He’s looking to escape a lifetime of bad decisions. But as is so often the case in these sorts of journeys, he stumbles upon something totally unexpected—a ghost who can change Tag’s life.

Motel. Pool. was inspired by a family road trip we took last year. We didn’t find any ghosts, but I think inspiration for a new story is a pretty good discovery in itself.

I’m giving away an e-copy of Motel. Pool. To enter, just comment here with your email and let me know about a road trip you’ve taken or plan to take. I’ll randomly choose a winner on May 12 at noon Pacific time.

Motel

In the mid-1950s, Jack Dayton flees his working-class prospects in Omaha and heads to Hollywood, convinced he’ll be the next James Dean. But sleazy casting couches don’t earn him stardom, and despair leads to a series of poor decisions that ultimately find him at a cheap motel off Route 66, lifeless at the bottom of the pool.

Sixty years later, Tag Manning, feeling hopeless and empty, flees his most recent relationship mistake and takes to the open road. On a roundabout route to Las Vegas, he pulls over to rest at an isolated spot on Route 66. There’s no longer a motel or pool, but when Tag resumes his journey to Vegas, he finds he’s transporting a hitchhiking ghost. Jack and Tag come to find much-needed friends in each other, but one man is a phantom and the other is strangely cursed. Time is running out for each of them, and they must face the fact that a future together may not only be a gamble… it may not be in the cards.

 

***

Excerpt: 

He’d find a room in Williams. Someplace quiet, where the sheets smelled like bleach and the cups were wrapped in plastic.

The highway was dark. A few cars were strung out in front of him and a few straggled behind, but he passed nobody heading the other way. His eyelids were heavier than they should have been. The damn radio was on the fritz again, picking up nothing but static and something that sounded vaguely like a pipe organ playing very far away.

That left Tag alone with his thoughts, which wasn’t a good thing. As clearly as the road in front of him, he could picture Jason’s handsome, earnest face. It was a Midwestern farmboy face, even though Jason had grown up in Kansas City. He had the kind of all-American looks that predisposed him to being a Boy Scout and a member of the high school football team, going to church with his family on Sundays, and probably helping little old ladies cross the street. Jason’s laughter came easily. He was the kind of guy who charmed little kids; who hugged all his friends, gay and straight; who loved to go out dancing, then tumble into bed with his boyfriend, sweaty and smelling of tequila. He was the kind of guy who told his boyfriend he wanted to go out to dinner, and in the pause between the soup and the steak, slipped out of his chair, got down on one knee, and produced a ring in a velvet box.

“Fuck!” Tag shouted. He rolled down the car window and let the slipstream tear the postcard from his fingers. It disappeared into the darkness.

“That was littering,” said an accusing voice.

Tag whipped his head to the side—and saw a man grinning at him from the passenger seat. Tag screamed. The car swerved onto the shoulder. He overcorrected, turning sharply the other way, flying across the northbound lane and onto gravel, spinning sideways. For an eternal moment, the car was poised to roll, teetering like a tightrope walker on a windy day. Tag wasn’t wearing a seat belt. He took a breath and waited to die. Then the Camry found its balance and skidded to a halt.

Without planning it, Tag popped the shifter to Park, flung open his door, and leapt out of the car. He stood there, breathing hard, every muscle in his body tensed. After several seconds, the passenger door opened. Someone got out—Tag couldn’t see details—and sauntered to the front of the car, where he was illuminated by the headlights.

He was a young man, twenty, maybe twenty-one years old. His sandy hair was short on the sides but longer on top, swept back in a sort of pompadour that probably required a lot of product. He was a couple of inches taller than Tag’s five eight. His plain white tee stretched over wide shoulders and a muscular chest and tucked into the trim waist of his blue jeans. He was smiling.

As Tag gaped, the man turned his back and perched his butt on the hood of the Camry. Tag didn’t see how the guy managed to produce a cigarette and lighter, but the flame flickered brightly, the guy exhaled noisily, and a cloud of smoke drifted through the headlight beams. Tag stepped around his open door and walked in front of the car. The man looked relaxed, a little amused. “You almost killed yourself just now,” he observed.

“Who the fuck are you? And how the hell…?” Tag ran a shaky hand through his hair. Had he really been so preoccupied as not to notice someone sitting in his backseat when he left the park? He certainly would have noticed him climbing into the front. It wasn’t like the Camry was a big vehicle.

The guy took another puff and tapped ashes onto the ground. “My name’s Jack Dayton.” He tilted his head slightly. “Maybe you heard of me? I was in a couple of movies.”

Tag shook his head mutely, and Jack shrugged. “They weren’t very big parts.”

***

Motel. Pool. releases May 12. It’s available now for preorder at Dreamspinner Press.

Kim Fielding’s blog: http://kfieldingwrites.blogspot.com/
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/KFieldingWrites
On Twitter: @KFieldingWrites

24 Comments:

  1. Yosemite and Big Sur are favorites, but my best road trip was moving myself from CA to MN for grad school. Drove my little Corolla hatchback through Craters of the Moon, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Jewel & Wind Caves. All amazing. Last stop was some Laura Ingalls Wilder museum, which was a big disappointment.
    Super-excited for this book!!! 🙂

    • Ooh, Big Sur! But I also love visiting some of those places in the middle of the country, which I think are underappreciated.

      • Then there was also the road trip around Poland, with a quick overnight trip down to Budapest… that was just amazing!!!

        • Now, that would be cool! I’ve been to Warsaw twice and once took the train from there to Krakow and back. I’d love to see the town my grandfather was from, way down in the SE. And I’ve traveled to Budapest too, but by plane (and then from there to Prague by train. But it was hot and I had morning sickness, so didn’t exactly enjoy!). I haven’t travelled much in Europe by car at all–mostly trains. Which is fun too, but not the same!

  2. Obviously, being from the UK our road trips weren’t very epic. We do often chuckle how we used to have to stop halfway to the coast as it was such a long way. Nowadays with motorways and better cars it is only around a couple of hours away maximum! LOL!

    Really looking forward to reading Motel. Pool.

  3. I made the trip from Illinois to Wisconsin numerous times to visit my grandmother when I was in grad school. Not much except corn/soy fields with some cows thrown in. Seeing my remaining grandparent regularly was worth every minute of boredom. Glad I got my PhD before she passed away.

  4. Hi Kim! Thanks for being a guest! I remember road trips with my family when I was a kid. My dad used to drive us from New Jersey to Miami for vacation. My brother and I used to love going to the pool at the motels we stayed at during the halfway point. And we always stopped at South of the Border (don’t know if it’s still there), take pictures on all the statues, and buy sparklers. Good times!

  5. It is so cool seeing your picture from the Hoover Dam! I’ve been going to Las Vegas every Oct for a sporting event, and I used to drive right through there until they reconfigured the road. I love going out there every year! I adore the cover of Motel. Pool and I can’t wait to read it!

    Kathy
    kbranfield@gmail.com

  6. Great! It’s very interesting and I liked the excerpt very much.
    My best roadtrip was the one I made last year in your land. We also have been at the Hoover Dam (btw. Great pic) and I spent two nights -WONDERFUL DAYS AND NIGHTS – in Williams and on the Route 66.

  7. This sounds like a wonderful book! 🙂 Great Picture too!
    I love road trips, the last one I took was with my best friend, she came all the way from Brazil (to Germany) and we drove away! Just within Germany but it was a lot of fun just because she was there. We also went to see a concert of one of our favorite Japanese bands 😉 It was lovely. In the future I wish I can take road trip along Route 66 – one of my dreams.

    coigocoro@gmail.com

    • Congratulations! You won the copy of Motel. Pool. I’ll be contacting you via email.

      A road trip through Germany sounds great. I’ve only been to Baden-Wuerttemburg and I’d really love to see more of the country.

  8. You’ve mentioned all of the places I went as a kid too. The family piled into the station wagon, towing the trailer. And hubby and I love Williams, it use to have a diner that made THE best biscuits and gravy and pie. It wasn’t there the last time we went through, we miss it.

  9. The book sounds great. My last road trip was last summer when I moved from New York to Arizona and drove my car cross-country. It was a very long trip. We took I-40 for most of the way & there was not much to see for a large portion of the drive.
    rockybatt@gmail.com

  10. I guess my latest and my next road trip are going to be the same, going to visit my mother in Fond Du Lac from Milwaukee, going up to spend time and visit her and wish her a happy birthday this upcoming one. As a person who doesn’t drive I am dependant on others or public transportation to get me where I am going.

    The books sound good.

  11. When we were kids the six of us used do a lot of cross country road trips piled into the station wagon or whatever familial conveyance we had at the time. Sometimes pulling a trailer (we had a tent trailer for a few years) most of the time, we just tented it. Not too much motelling. We mostly went east from Ontario, because most of my parents relatives lived in eastern Canada/New England. Used to see lots of cool stuff on the roadside Dad would very rarely ever stop to let us see. He was ‘focused on the destination’ kinda driver. We used to have a nice picture of me lying in front of a weather beaten dinosaur statue waiting to be eaten. It was one of those roadside theme amusement parks that consisted of three or four concrete statues and some playground equipment for the kids. A huge thrill in the sixties when you’re 8 or nine. heh.

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