Posts Tagged ‘Steampunk’
Walking the Plank – Pirates and Heroes
Reading through these fabulous guest posts on villains, heroes, and everything in between, one thing is perfectly clear: There is a point of no return for these characters, when they’ve done something irredeemable. Much like walking a plank, you can only go so far before falling into some shark-filled, treacherous waters, with little hope of escape – and if the character is bad enough, you might even hope that he’s eaten or drowns.
It’s also perfectly clear that the point shifts, depending on the reader.
This was something that I thought about constantly while writing The Iron Duke. My hero, Rhys Trahaearn, isn’t a nice guy. He’s arrogant and overbearing, and his moral center pretty skewed. A former pirate, he was a thief, and he didn’t hesitate to kill anyone who threatened him, his crew, or his ship. Sure, he had his reasons and a tortured history – and depending on where a person’s perspective, he might have even been justified in those reasons: the law failed him and many other people, and so he chose lawlessness.
Now, the worldbuilding itself gives him a little more leeway there on redeemable/irredeemable, because the pirate stuff he does would never fly in, say, a contemporary novel. No question, he’d be an out-and-out bad guy if the setting was modern day America (or Somalia). His actions would be unforgiveable. Much like the serial killer of the modern suspense novel, the excuse of a bad childhood only goes so far (but then you make that serial killer only murder bad guys, and you’ve got a Dexter – a hero of another sort).
So Rhys has a history that pushes him close to the edge of that plank, but there are other circumstances that keep him from falling overboard: because he freed England from an oppressive regime, he’s also considered a national hero. Even the heroine, who doesn’t like his pirating ways at all, is grateful to him for that.
And although Rhys isn’t a pirate anymore by the opening of the novel, he still often does exactly as he wants without considering what others want or need – and there’s always a point where overbearing and alpha can turn into: he’s a jerk.
I pushed Rhys to that jerky line a couple of times – I pushed him to the edge of that plank – pretty deliberately. For some readers, I know that means he goes straight over, because their plank is shorter than mine. There’s one scene that was actually difficult for me to write, where he is his usual “I know what I’m doing, I’m totally in control of myself” mode, and he inadvertently hurts Mina, the heroine. He’s immediately remorseful and horrified as soon as he realizes what had happened – which, to me, meant that he’s just barely hanging on to the edge of the plank by his fingernails, but there’s still the possibility that he can pull himself back up – but to a lot of readers, I knew that he took a flying leap right into the water.
That is always the risk that heroes like this will run. There will never be a one-size-fits-all-readers plank for our characters to walk. As I writer, I accept that.
As a reader, it makes for a lot more interesting experience with each book. When I read a review, I never know whether a hero or heroine will cross my personal line into irredeemable territory . . . and I think that’s a good thing. It keeps everything exciting. Maybe not as exciting as hanging upside-down from an airship and shooting a spear at a kraken, but still a pretty damn good time. Heroes that walk to the edge of the plank keep us on our toes, if nothing else – hoping they don’t go over and become shark-bait (or hoping that they do.)
The Iron Duke Excerpt:
Mina turned to find a man as big as his voice. Oh, damn the newssheets. They hadn’t been kind to him—they’d been kind to their readers, protecting them the effect of this man. A hollow fear shivered within her, much like the first time she’d run into a razor-clawed ratcatcher in an alley—the instinctive knowledge that she faced something dangerous and that she didn’t wholly understand.
Not that Rhys Trahaearn looked strange, or mutated as those ratcatchers were. He was just as hard and as handsome as the caricatures had portrayed—altogether dark and forbidding, with a gaze as pointed and as guarded as the fence that was his namesake. The Iron Duke wasn’t as tall as his statue, but still taller than any man had a right to be, and as broad through the shoulders as Newberry, but without the spare flesh.
But it was not his size that made her wary. And for the first time, she could see why his crew might follow him through kraken-infested waters or into Horde territory, then follow him back onto shore and remain with him. When he leveled that cold, detached gaze at them, as if he couldn’t care less whether they dropped dead in front of him, they would be too terrified to do anything else. He leveled it at Mina now, and the message in his eyes was clear.
He didn’t want her here.
Because of her bloodline or her occupation? Mina couldn’t decide. It hardly mattered, anyway—she was here now.
She glanced at the man standing beside him: tall, brown-haired, his expression bored. Mina didn’t recognize him. Like the Iron Duke, he wore a fashionable black overcoat, breeches, and boots. A red waistcoat buckled like armor over a white shirt with a simple collar reminiscent of the Horde’s tunic collar. Perhaps a bounder and, if so, probably an aristocrat—and he likely expected to be treated as one.
Bully for him.
She looked to the duke again. Though she’d never been introduced to someone of his standing before, she’d seen Superintendent Hale meet a marquess without a single gesture to acknowledge that he ranked above her. Mina followed that example and offered a short nod before addressing him.
“Your Grace, I understand that you did not witness this man die.”
“And your companion . . . ?”
“Also saw nothing,” the other man answered.
She’d been right; his accent marked him as a bounder. Yet she had to revise her opinion of him. He wasn’t bored by death—just too familiar with it to be excited by yet another. She couldn’t understand that. The more death she saw, the more the injustice of each one touched her. “Your name, sir?”
His smile seemed just at the edge of a laugh. “Mr. Smith.”
A joker. How fun.
She thought a flicker of irritation crossed the duke’s expression. But when he didn’t offer his companion’s true name, she let it go. One of the staff would know.
“Mr. St. John has told me that no one has identified the body, and only your footman saw his fall.”
“Did your footman relate anything else to you?”
“Only that he didn’t scream.”
No scream? Either the man had been drunk, asleep, or already dead. She would soon find out which it was.
“If you’ll pardon me.” With a nod, she turned toward the steps, where Newberry adjusted the camera’s thermite flash. She heard the Iron Duke and his companion follow her. As long as they did not touch the body or try to help her examine it, she did not care.
Mina looked down at her hands. She would touch the body, and Newberry hadn’t brought her serviceable wool gloves to exchange for her white evening gloves. They were only satin—neither her mother’s tinkering nor her own salary could afford kid—but they were still too dear to ruin.
She tugged at the tips of her fingers, but the fastenings at her wrist prevented them from sliding off. Futilely, she tried to push the small buttons through equally small satin loops. The seams at the tips of her fingers made them too bulky, and the fabric was too slippery. She looked round for Newberry, and saw that the black powder from the ferrotype camera already dusted his hands. Blast it. She would bite them through, if she had to. Even the despised task of sewing the buttons back on would be easier than—
“Give your hand over, inspector.”
Mina hackles rose at the command. She looked up into Trahaearn’s face and heard a noise from his companion, a snorted half laugh—as if Trahaearn had failed an easy test.
The duke’s expression didn’t soften, though his words did. “You’ll finish more quickly if I assist you. Will you allow me?”
No, she thought. Do not touch me, do not come close. But the body on the steps would not allow her that reply.
“Yes. Thank you.”
She held out her hand and watched as he removed his own gloves. Kid, lined with sable. Just imagining the luxurious softness warmed her.
Mina wouldn’t have been surprised if his presence had, as well. With his great size, Trahaearn seemed to surround her with heat just by standing so near. His hands were large, his fingers long and nails square. As he took her wrist in his left palm, calluses audibly scraped the satin. His face darkened. She could not tell if it was in anger or embarrassment.
However rough his skin was, his fingers were nimble. He deftly unfastened the first button, and the next. “This was not the evening you had planned.”
She did not say this was preferable to the Victory Ball, but perhaps he read it in her voice. To her surprise, his teeth flashed in a smile—then his face quickly hardened again, as if his smile had surprised him, as well. He bent his head over her hand again and Mina found herself staring at his short eyelashes, so thick and black that his eyelids seemed lined with kohl. She looked away, but gold glinting through the thickness of his dark hair drew her gaze again.
Three tiny rings pierced the top curve of each ear. His earlobes had been pierced, too, though he wore no jewelry in them.
And so the newssheets had dressed him up. In a drawing, his thickly-lashed eyes and jewelry would have appeared feminine. But not up close, not in person. Instead, the effect was . . . primitive.
Unsettled, she focused on her wrist. Only two buttons left, and then she could work.
She should be working now. “Were the dogs patrolling the grounds before the body was discovered?”
“No. They search for the point of entry now.”
Mina pictured the iron fence. Perhaps a child could slip through the bars; a man could not. But if someone had let him through . . . ? “Have you spoken with your man at the front gate?”
She had not asked the gatekeeper his name. “If Wills has a prosthetic left leg, and often saves a portion of his supper in his beard for his breakfast, then we are speaking of the same man.”
“That is Wills.” He studied her with unreadable eyes. “He wouldn’t let anyone through.”
Without my leave, Mina finished for him. And perhaps he was correct, though of course she would verify it with the gatekeeper, and ask the steward about deliveries. Someone might have hidden themselves in one.
His gaze fell to her glove again. “There we are,” Trahaearn said. “Now to . . .”
She pulled her hand away at the same time Trahaearn gripped the satin fingertips. He tugged. Satin slid in a warm caress over her elbow, her forearm.
Flames lit her cheeks. “Sir—”
His expression changed as he continued to pull. First registering surprise, as if he hadn’t realized the glove extended past her wrist. Then an emotion hard and sharp as the long glove slowly gave way. Its white length finally dangled from his fingers, and to Mina seemed as intimate as if he held her stocking.
Her sleeve still covered her arm, but she felt exposed. Stripped. With as much dignity as she could, Mina claimed the glove.
“Thank you. I can manage the other.” She stuffed the glove into her pocket. With her bare fingers, she made quick work of the buttons at her left wrist.
Mina looked up to find him staring at her. His cheekbones blazed with color, his gaze hot.
She’d seen lust before. This marked the first time that she hadn’t seen any disgust or hatred beneath it.
“Thank you,” she said again, amazed by the evenness of her voice when everything inside her trembled.
“Inspector.” He inclined his head, then looked beyond her to the stairs.
And as she turned, the trembling stopped. Her legs were steady as she walked to the steps, her mind focused.
“Tell me, captain: Did you plan to assist her, or undress her?” she heard his companion ask. Trahaearn didn’t reply, and Mina didn’t look back at him.
Even the pull of the Iron Duke was not stronger than death.
Meljean was raised in the middle of the woods, and hid under her blankets at night with fairy tales, comic books, and romances…and that pretty much explains everything about her. Meljean is the author of the Guardians paranormal romance series, and the Iron Seas steampunk romance series. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter.
I’ve been a long-time lover of steampunk, being a science fiction and fantasy reader since childhood and I’ve been very excited by the recent surge of interest in steampunk as its own genre. I was already working on a steampunk/urban fantasy moshup full-length manuscript but when I had the chance to write a gay erotic steampunk story for a Sasha Illyvich and Sizzler Editions, I jumped on it.
But where to start….
I knew I wanted to write a military-based steampunk but I didn’t want to push it all the way back to Victorian times. Instead I wanted to embrace a world closer to the current year but one in which society and technology had taken turns different than those taken historically. Because I enjoy and am pretty familiar with maritime lore, I decided it would be fun (and sexy) to use airships as an offshoot of the navy and integrate a lot of naval lore into them. Not a new idea (airships are almost as ubiquitous to steampunk as goggles) but one I wanted to explore. There is a lot of ritual, tradition, and stage dressing in the naval realm, especially if you look toward the Victorian era. I could also carry over the manners and mores of the time but infuse them with some more modern sensibilities.
Once I had that sort of concept in my head, I could not shake it. Instead I started to get a peek at my characters. Those of you that have read my gay romances know I’m considered a “sweet” gay romance author so it’s probably no surprise that I ended up with two men who were lovers and were separated by the fact they are on different sides of a seemingly insurmountable divide.
But a lot of steampunk is setting and I needed something more interesting than just staying on a ship, no matter how cool and steamy the ship may be. I needed a compelling view of the world these two men live in. I knew I wanted a port setting for their “reunion” and briefly considered my home town of Seattle but it didn’t have the richness of sin and horrible deeds I wanted. San Francisco was much closer to the flavor but I wanted something that was more politically independent and more exotic.
Then I went into research mode. Whenever I do that, a part of my brain seems to latch onto assortments of facts and then build them into “what if” scenarios. After a bit of poking and searching, I decided to take the Republic of Hawaii and mix its importance to trade in the days of sail because of its trade winds with the vice and corruption that was rife in ports like San Francisco. Opium dens were a natural because there was historically a rich opium trade and dens in Hawaii in the Victorian era. I also knew I wanted to not make the world in this story too pretty, too clean or perfect. Hawaii is often portrayed in modern days as a vacation paradise with pristine beaches and bikinis and I wanted to show it through the lens of the Victorian port-of-call and with slums, thieves, press gangs, opium dens and drunken sailors.
And, after all, if you were a gay naval officer and visiting a port known for its carnal pleasures, wouldn’t you seek out the better of the two gay “clubs”? One of my heroes decides to try to exorcise his demons and regrets by seeking out some company in the club – only to wake up a prisoner instead.
Be sure to check my website for updates of when this anthology is available and I’m working on the full-length sequel to this novella. My website is http://www.realmsoftheraven.com.
© 2010 Maura Anderson
Coming soon from Sizzler Editions as part of the “Riding the Rocket” anthology.
Cage stepped out of the boarding house he’d taken a room in, one of the less disreputable ones in this section of Honolulu, and carefully blended into the stream of bodies flowing down the worn wooden pedestrianway. A frisson of excitement—or tredipation, perhaps—heated his belly. Six long years since he’d last visited Honolulu port but the smells and sounds brought back the events of his last visit as if it were yesterday. The memory of the most intense pair of peridot-green eyes he’d ever seen sent a pang of loneliness through him. Harland’s eyes.
He could do nothing about the British airship captain and the fact their loyalties were at odds, even if their bodies were in exact agreement. Pining for him did no good, though he’d tried for a while, but it was time to put aside his obsession with the other man and move on with his life. To help that cause along, he’d made sure he had time to look for some temporary companionship during this lay up. He needed someone to take the edge of the loneliness that seemed to envelope him like a cloak these days, even if only for a few hours.
Eyes squinting against the bright afternoon sun, even under the unfashionably wide brim of his palm fiber hat, Cage pressed himself against the railing of the narrow pedestrianway to dodge a weaving pair of men making their way down the street past him. Despite the thick miasma of wood and coal smoke, not to mention the faint, sweet tang of opium, he could tell the two had not even taken the time to bathe before seeking out the seedier areas of the airship port and each other.
If their frequent pauses to grope each other and exchange clumsy, wet kisses were anything to do by, the two men didn’t seem to be at all bothered by either their own odor or the amusement of a few of the more interested onlookers. They disappeared into the doorway of the by-the-hour boarding house several doors back. The scarred wooden door swung out and then quickly back shut again after admitting the two men.
A breeze would have been welcome to clear away the remaining musk of their sweaty uniforms. Wool wasn’t the best choice in the tropics at the most temperate of times and today was far from temperate. The few natives foolish enough to be out in the thick heat of day were dressed in loose linen for comfort in the summer heat. Unfortunately, Cage was not free to go as simply dressed as the natives. Even out of uniform, there were regulations that must be obeyed.
Cage eased back into the press of traffic on the pedestrianway. A strong shove pinned him back against the pitted brass railing, the impact almost but not quite disguised the feel of fingers easing into the pocket of his civilian overcoat. A quick grab gained him possession of the thin wrist of a Hawaiian urchin attempting to pick his pocket. Unrepentant, if not overly skilled, the small boy twisted out of his grip and disappeared into the crowd, bare feet silent on the boards of the pedestrianway. He would likely seek out a more lucrative—and less aware—victim, since Cage’s pockets were already empty before the pickpocket struck. Only a fool kept his papers or money anywhere accessible in this port.
Careful to slouch a bit and avoid any military mannerisms he could, Cage wiped his sweaty forehead with a plain handkerchief before he tucked it back into his sleeve. He made sure to scuff the heels of his boots on his way to the establishment he frequented here in Honolulu as well. There was no signs or advertisement for the Persimmon Palace, not even an address. Just a door you had to know the location of and a man on guard against those without membership or sponsorship.
The doorman was the same huge native man he’d seen at the door for over a decade. He still didn’t know the doorman’s name or whether he was even able to talk. His dress never varied either. He wore a pale linen tunic, loose trousers and palm fiber sandals. They were clean but never varied in style or color. The doorman could have been a stone statue if he’d only had more expression on his face.
“Mr. Kamaka is expecting me.” Cage removed his hat and waited while the doorman assessed him as if he’d never seen him before. Dark, suspicious eyes slowly ran from the top of his tousled curly brown hair to the toes of his worn boots.
Cage had been careful to wear no part of his American Airship Navy uniform, nothing that would cause word to go back to his commanders and nothing that would cause problems with any representatives of navies of various other countries. Few things were so frowned on as those who caused too much official attention from foreign powers in the neutral Kingdom of Hawaii and Mr. Kamaka was known to quickly do whatever was necessary to remove that attention from the Persimmon, no matter the reason it happened in the first place.
Finally the doorman gave a curt nod and stepped aside to open the door to the Persimmon just wide enough for Cage to slip through it before shutting it firmly behind him.
On The Origin of Bluebeard’s Machine (Abridged)
By Mari Fee
Steampunk is a chameleon genre. Unlike paranormals, it isn’t defined by types of characters or use of magic. Unlike thrillers, it isn’t defined by the killer vs. good guys plot. Unlike historicals, it’s not always set in a historical setting. Sometimes it’s set in an alternate universe, sometime there is no science involved, and sometimes there’s no ‘punk’
with the steam. It’s… more of a flavour, an aesthetic (as defined by the Steampunk Scholar http://steampunkscholar.blogspot.com/2010/05/defining-steampunk-as-aesthetic.html) and a DIY ethos. It also has sense of irreverence and fun, but isn’t afraid to tackle the Big Issues in fiction – race, gender, privilege, class and inequality.
This chameleon-like quality is part of what initially drew me to steampunk. Also the goggles and corsets, because goggles and corsets are cool.
When Samhain Publishing’s Steampunk Romance Anthology call went out, a good friend of mine challenged me to submit. While I’ve always loved the genre, and romance in general, up until this point I’d always been a short
story writer. Writing a novella seemed impossible.
But then I had an Idea.
Stereotypically steampunk is all about engines, gears and the underclass, but at its core it’s also about science. Darwin’s *On The Origin of Species* and Gregor Meldel’s study on peas was floating the idea of genetics, while at the same time gothic novels like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein warned against scientific hubris and abandoning ethics in the
name of progress.
These are big ideas – big, fun, scary ideas… and this is where I found *Bluebeard’s Machine*. The question isn’t “can we do this?” but “should we do this?” My heroine, Ada, has to deal with the consequences of a scientific breakthrough… although she’s got a very sexy, very geeky scientist to help her through the stickiest parts.
Ada, Isaac and the questions they deal with inspired me enough to pound out an entire novella – the longest thing I’ve ever written, EVER. It was amazing. It was exhilarating. It was awesomely fun. And I can’t wait to do it all over again!
Love, science, death. She is all three.
A Silk, Steel and Steam story.
Determined to discover what new experiment is stealing her husband’s attentions, Annette Parker ventures into forbidden territory—his study—only to discover a secret he would kill to keep. She is his fifth attempt to clone the original Annette and, according to his journal, he’s planning a sixth…after he dissects her dead body.
Unsure of who or what she is, she assumes a new identity and flees to the Orkney Islands and her last hope. The man she once rejected.
Isaac Ward’s first instinct is to get this mysterious “Miss Ada” out of his undersea laboratory—and out of his life—before he repeats the mistakes that drove him there in the first place. Her wild stories and stubborn insistence that they’re true wear his patience thin, but it doesn’t matter. She is as irresistible as the tide.
Then the truth appears right outside the portholes of his lab, stripping away her dubious disguise. Exposing a secret that could kill them both…unless Isaac abandons the science he knows for a second chance with the woman who broke his heart.
Contains mad scientists, wanton murder, identity crises, and boiling hot underwater sex. Submersible instructions not included.
The top of the column was pushed open by a large male hand, followed by a white shirtsleeve stained with ink, and then by the head and shoulders of Isaac Ward himself. The naturalist’s long face was clean-shaven, and he had fiercely intelligent green eyes beneath a tangle of brown hair badly in need of a trim, or at least a bit of grease. The beginnings of crow’s feet radiated from the corners of his eyes, which grew wide when he spotted Ada.
“Mr. Ward?” Ada’s cheeks grew warm as he stared. Dragging her gaze from his was one of the hardest things she’d ever done, but looking at the sea was so much easier than looking at Mr. Ward. He wore his years well. Too well.
She cleared her throat and started again. “Mr. Ward, I hate to intrude, but I’m Miss Ada Powell. I…”
“Miss Powell?” The sound of his voice doubled the butterflies in her stomach. “Have we met?”
“Only briefly. Many years ago.” She forced a smile. “I, uh… I have a request, but this isn’t the best place to discuss it.”
“A request.” When she glanced at him, he was staring at her intently enough to make her squirm. “I don’t often receive visitors, Miss Powell.”
“I hoped you would make an exception for me.” Ada resisted the urge to look away fidgit as he studied her. This was not the man she remembered. Time had ground the softness from him, and perhaps running to him for help wasn’t as good of an idea as she’d first thought. He was a man of science, after all. Like her husband.
“Fine. You and Mr…?” Ward pointed at the Whitemaa’s captain.
“I hired Mr. Marwick to bring me here. He will return when I send for him. You do have a way to contact the—surface?”
“I have a telegraph.” Ward ascended the rest of the way up the ladder inside the column and stepped onto the platform next to Ada. Her heart thumped painfully at his nearness, and she stepped back without thinking
about it. He grabbed her elbow to steady her as her heels hit the edge of the platform. “Careful—you almost walked into the sea.”
“Thank you.” Ada put a hand to her throat and took a deep, calming breath as the ocean lapped at her feet. His hand radiated heat through the sleeve of her tweed jacket, and he waited another heartbeat before releasing her. He was taller than she remembered, and smelled faintly of brine and Indian
“Perhaps you and I ought to talk aboard Mr. Marwick’s fine salvage vessel. I’m sure it will be much more comfortable for a lady. My observatory is quite cramped—”
Ada shook her head. “I wish to speak with you privately, Mr. Ward. If you fit down that hole, I am quite sure I will as well.”
“I’m not sure I agree. Climbing a ladder in skirts—”
Picking up her carpetbag, Ada thrust it at Ward. “I am perfectly able to climb down a ladder as long as my hands are free. Mr. Marwick, I will have Mr. Ward send for you when I wish to leave. Thank you for your services thus far.”
“Any day, Miss.” Marwick tipped his hat to her even as he rolled his eyes at Ward, who growled something inaudible in return. The masculine exchange clearly said women! and it raised Ada’s hackles, then depressed her. If they only knew the truth of it, she thought dismally, then hiked her tweed skirt over her knees, sat on the edge of the ladder column and swung her legs into the hole. A ladder was welded onto the side of the round column, and the air coming up the shaft smelled of tobacco and salt.
Ada looked at Ward, who sighed and stuck her carpetbag beneath his arm. “We still have time to go to the ship.”
“Good day, Mr. Marwick.” Ada gathered her skirts in one hand and threw the majority of the fabric over her arm, then slowly descended beneath the waves. Her shoes rang against the metal rungs of the ladder as the light filtering through the portholes in the column walls became dimmer and dyed blue-grey the deeper she went.
The hatch closed with a clang that made her wince. Ada gripped the rungs a little tighter. “I’m not at the bottom yet.”
“Then keep climbing.” Ward sounded annoyed, so she took a deep breath of stale air and resumed her descent. There were thirty-four rungs in total before Ada’s groping feet found the floor.
Ward’s undersea observatory was a living room, kitchen and study combined. A leather couch and a black wingback chair bisected the room, and behind the seating was an electric range with a huge black hood. Copper pans and iron skillets hung against the wood-paneled wall above a massive wooden chest—presumably a pantry—and two heavy bookshelves loomed to her right. To her left stood a lamp with a stained-glass shade on a desk overflowing with papers.
Most wondrous of all were the windows.
There were four, two on each side wall, and behind the wavy glass was the sea. Ada gasped and crossed the room to press her face to the window. The water was slightly murky and she couldn’t see more than twenty feet, but beds of green-grey kelp danced in the current. Darting silver fish with bulging eyes swam in the seaweed, and purple starfish splayed across the rocks. Above the observatory was the dark belly of the Whitemaa. The Whitemaa’s hull was pierced with rows of portholes, perhaps because of the salvage operation Ward had mentioned. The ship seemed like a fishing vessel to her, but what did she know?
“Amazing, isn’t it?” Ward spoke from just behind her, and Ada jumped. Her heart fluttered as he reached over her shoulder to tap the glass. “Most people never see past tide pools and the fish that grace their dinner
plates, let alone *Ascophyllum nodosum* in its natural habitat.”
“Kelp. The forests of the deep, and largely taken for granted.” He turned on his heel and strode across the room, depositing her carpetbag and umbrella on the couch as he passed. “Why are you here, Miss Powell?”
Mari Fee is a tea-swilling former archaeologist and current heritage conservation consultant living in Edmonton, Canada. She spends her days looking for old buildings and prowling through archives, and her nights reimagining a past that doesn’t look a whole lot like what actually happened. Other interests include adventuresome cookery, growing tomatoes, exploring, and indie music.* Interesting anecdotes include that one time Mari dug up a skeleton, and that other time she watched a black bear eat a box of Hot Tamales.
*Mari Fee is not a hipster, mainly because her little chicken legs look stupid in skinny jeans.
Author Website: http://marifee.com
The term steampunk is a wide umbrella these days that encompasses many types of stories. Some lean more toward the paranormal, others toward alternate history with gadgetry. The elements that seem to be essential to classifying a story as steampunk are a sense of Victorian style, make-believe inventions based on steam power and intricate gadgets with a lot of moving pieces. At least that’s my interpretation. There are plenty of articles out there which are more in depth about what defines steampunk.
When I decided to try to tackle the genre, I wanted to focus on how an amazing new invention could wreak havoc on society by eliminating jobs and causing an even greater schism between the classes. I came up with the idea of mechanical clockwork people taking the place of the laboring class. One of my favorite romance themes is a couple overcoming social barriers. The idea of a radical extremist kidnapping a scientist to draw attention to his cause was born.
In order for this romance, which begins with a kidnapping, to be believable I knew Victoria Waters would have to be a very special woman. She’s ahead of her time, a scientist with a social conscience who never intended her invention to eliminate so many jobs. She’s already an outcast in society because of her eccentricity so she is able to do things, think things and feel things for an inappropriate man that no normal woman of her time would do.
But the social story behind Like Clockwork is only part of it. I felt a story set in pseudo-Victorian times wouldn’t be complete without a creepy serial killer ala Jack the Ripper. So I invented the Southwark Slasher. The real Ripper, btw, was also dubbed the Whitechapel Butcher by the press because his kills were found in that area of the city. Southwark, near Whitechapel, was a dangerous slum at the turn of the century.
Which brings us to my hero, Dash, a man from the dregs of society, born in Southwark, surviving on the streets by whatever means necessary. His life turned around when one kind man reached out to help and educate him instead of turning him in after catching him robbing his shop. Dash turned from crime to legitimate labor–until the advent of the automatons lost him his job.
There are plenty of chills, thrills and twists in Like Clockwork, available from Carina Press.
A little about Bonnie Dee: I began telling stories as a child. Whenever there was a sleepover, I was the designated ghost tale teller, guaranteed to frighten and thrill with macabre tales. I still have a story printed on yellow legal paper in second grade about a ghost, a witch and a talking cat. Writing childish stories for my own pleasure led to majoring in English at college. Like most English majors, I dreamed of writing a novel but didn’t have the necessary focus and follow through at that time in my life. It was only in 2000 that I began writing again. I enjoy reading stories about people damaged by life who find healing with a like-minded soul. When I couldn’t find enough books to suit my taste, I began to write them. You can see my back list of titles at http://bonniedee.com, or join my Yahoo group for updates on new releases, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bonniedee/ You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.
Majesty Mysteries: Silver Spider
by Lena Austin
Writing Steampunk for me is an exercise in combining science fiction with historicals, two of my favorite genres. I very much enjoy giving a lady much more to do than hostess a tea party or faint when things get tough. The idea of her getting her hands dirty to win the day while still wearing a corset is a delightful joke, and very unrealistic. However, in my research I discovered how joyously many women delved into the secret world of naughtiness. Nothing gives me greater pleasure, except when I can combine all this with paranormal adventure. So it is with the Majesty Mysteries series. I do hope you enjoy. There are more to come over the course of time.
by Lena Austin
Cover art: Marteeka Karland
Series: Majesty Mysteries
The secretive Duke of Aberystwyth has invited Madge Majesty to a murder mystery party, but he’s the first victim!
Madge is a harpy, mystery writer, and amateur sleuth with a nose for murder. At her side is her faithful chauffeur, Hayden, who is a telekinetic ex-thief — and a confirmed bachelor.
Now it’s up to Madge to solve the whodunit. Her suspects are a motley assortment of inverts and very nervous heterosexuals, all of whom have more than just their sexual foibles to hide. Is it the cross-dressing vampire, the packless werewolf, the voyeuristic doctor, the gargoyle majordomo, or the promiscuous man who seems bent on getting everyone into his bed, including Hayden?
Majesty Mysteries: Silver Spider
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2009 Lena Austin
This e-book file contains sexually explicit scenes and adult language which some may find offensive and which is not appropriate for a young audience. Changeling Press E-Books are for sale to adults, only, as defined by the laws of the country in which you made your purchase. Please store your files wisely, where they cannot be accessed by under-aged readers.
Madge Majesty looked up from her study of the papers spread on her lap and across the seat of her beloved 1912 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Limousine. “Yes, Hayden?”
“Madame, Dunraven Castle is but perhaps half an hour away. You requested a warning.” Hayden had lasted years longer than any of her other drivers, so he knew he was liked, but wasn’t fool enough to take advantage of that knowledge. Harpies were not creatures to take lightly.
“Hmm. So I did.” She gathered up her papers and stuffed them into her leather case. Wearily, she pulled on the gloves she’d laid to the side and put on the ridiculously large hat with an immense array of feathers decorating it. “There. I’m properly adorned.” She huffed out an unladylike breath, as much as her corset would allow. “I’d give a great deal to be back in Greece where the fashions were sensible.”
Hayden quirked a smile at her. “But not warm, Madame. Wales in winter is considerably chillier.” As if to emphasize his point, the wind rattled the Rolls with no respect for the craftsmanship that went into it.
“I’m very sorry I agreed to be the Duke’s hostess for this mystery party. Why didn’t I refuse and stay in our lovely townhouse in London, where I could enjoy a party or write as I pleased?” Madge rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “Ah, well, what’s done is done. We’ll make the best of the weekend and be toasting our toes in front of the home fires soon enough.”
“I’ve never been to a mystery party, Madame. How does one throw a party for a mystery?”
“Very simple. It’s all in this box.” Madge patted the locked strongbox beside her. “There are clue cards and the basic plot for me to follow. This one is perfect for a winter game, called The Santa Clause. Who wouldn’t love to murder a solicitor or two now and again?” She shrugged. “I certainly would, upon occasion.”
Hayden retreated into silence and returned his attention to maneuvering her precious new car through the few treacherous roads that Wales bothered to have at all. The ex-thief was not fond of anyone who had anything to do with the law. He was officially rehabilitated, but a mere ten years of service as her driver didn’t negate a lifetime of running from authority. An extremely careful and quiet man by nature, he was — in Madge’s opinion — the perfect companion, much better than a twittering peahen of a lady’s maid.
The car lurched and slid to one side on a patch of icy mud, throwing Madge against the door. She bore it in stoic silence. Hayden wouldn’t understand how much they needed the money provided by this weekend of enforced merriment. Everyone was writing books in this day and age, and she wouldn’t say the money she earned was paltry, but it certainly didn’t allow for a lavish lifestyle. In fact, if the truth were known, Hayden was the only employee she could afford. Thus, while on their jaunts — often paid by those who wished for a bit of fame and glamour to rub off on them — Hayden served as chef, chauffeur, lady’s maid, and man of all work.
Since it suited her to be knowledgeable about subjects many men hadn’t even the stomach for, Madge pulled out of her case one of the few books where the great Sigmund Freud appeared to change his mind on the subject of anxiety and inhibitions. Madge grinned to herself. She did love humor, especially when humans meant to be serious. “Of course we all have inhibitions, moronic little man.”
Her mumble caught Hayden’s attention. “Why do you bother with that mumbo-jumbo, Madame? He thinks everything has to do with sexual congress!”
“Hmm, yes, well, he does have certain prejudices, doesn’t he? I’m not aberrant because I enjoy sex, and I seriously doubt the way your mother changed your nappies has anything to do with your homosexuality. Do be forgiving, dear. He’s hopelessly addicted to cocaine, and trapped in a repressed society.”
Sadly, everything she said was true. “You’d know more about repressed societies than I, Madame. I’m only a poor human, after all.” Hayden gave her one of his infamous Mona Lisa smiles — a smile that showed no teeth but implied much more than mischief while keeping well into propriety. Bless him, he never stepped a toe out of line publicly, unless called upon to do so.
Madge, on the other hand, had no compunctions about showing her fangs, even when she covered her retractable dagger-like talons with silk gloves. The pointed ears peeking out of dark curls and her Grecian looks marked her as a foreigner in a land notable for its snobbery, but Madge saw no need to bother hiding herself. Well, all right, she hid the wings. Blasted things got in the way if she didn’t, but that was for her convenience and not propriety. She was what she was — an expatriate harpy who told a good story and occasionally found cause to use her bloodthirsty nature to solve a mystery.
The irony was, no one ever thought to accuse her of the murders because harpies weren’t known for subtlety when it came to killing. Madge acknowledged the legend with twisted lips, and didn’t bother to remind anyone that she was free and no longer the slave of the Furies.
Framed by snow clouds the color of a pigeon’s breast, Dunraven Castle hove up from the surrounding hills like a fairytale. Beautifully situated and scrupulously maintained by a trust none of the Duke’s wastrel ancestors could touch, it was a welcoming sight in the gathering gloom of dusk. Thanks to the road conditions, if you dared call the deeply rutted mud tracks by the same noble word the Romans used for their craftsmanship, they were hours late. They’d missed tea in their haste to make up time, and now her stomach rumbled audibly. “Have we time for a biscuit, Hayden?”
“Was that your stomach, Madame? Surely I thought we were about to have a storm.” Hayden pretended to study the sky very seriously. At the same time, his hand reached back imploringly. “I’d love a bikky, thank you. No doubt I’ve missed the servant’s dinner, and I’ve no mind to make do with a bit of cold chicken and some bread until morning.”
Chuckling wickedly because he knew she always insisted he sit with her at table, forestalling any foolish matchmaking attempts, Madge handed him a large shortbread biscuit from her hamper, and they munched companionably. Finally, the car traversed the bridge atop the dry moat and passed through the portcullis into the courtyard of Dunraven.
“Just do me one small favor, Madame?” Hayden did not move from the seat to open her door.
“So serious! Very well, what is it?” She thought she knew, but made him ask.
“Let’s try not to let this weekend become a real murder mystery?” His hands gripped the steering wheel tightly, and she imagined under the proper driving gloves of his profession, his knuckles were white. Poor thing, he really had suffered at the last mysterious weekend, and had ended up incarcerated for three days until Madge had proven to everyone’s satisfaction that another had committed the deed. For poor Hayden, it had been a truly miserable occasion.
Madge patted his shoulder. “Buck up, Hayden. I’m planning nothing more than a game all weekend. After all, what could happen in the Duke’s presence?”
by Marie Treanor
I love steampunk. It’s a quirky genre, combining bits of several others, which, to a genre-hopper like myself, is heaven. Historical novels were my first love; I also love science fiction with strong characters; and time travel both fascinates and baffles me. Add a touch of the gothic, some bizarre characters in outlandish Victorian costume, and a few wonderfully anachronistic gadgets and I’m your woman!
Now, stir a hot romance into this heady mix, and you could have something totally enchanting . Yes, you’re right, I couldn’t resist writing one .
Steamy Nights is a steampunk romance set in fog-bound, Victorian Edinburgh, featuring an exiled time traveler and a beautiful if naive young prostitute who’re drawn together to solve the mystery of Edinburgh’s disappearing women of the night. There’s an element of Jack the Ripper, and of Burke and Hare, Edinburgh’s infamous body-snatchers (who cut out the middle-man and murdered people in order to sell their corpses to medical scientists).
This is only part of the story, though. It moves on to a wild, ruined world inhabited by a game-playing civilization with steam-powered cars and canons, and cannibal bandits – an appalling Earth future caused by none other than Robert Louis Stevenson taking the wrong career path. There are no airships in my story, or goggles that I can recall, but there is fine collection of steam-powered gadgetry, including a time machine and a wicked sex toy (you can read the excerpt on my website!).
Reviewer Patrice from Joyfully Reviewed made Steamy Nights a Recommended Read because of its “chaotic energy, driving the story with a quixotic insanity that never quits”. I like that description! And though I’m obviously biased, I also like the unusual romance between my main characters – at once tender and steamy. Here’s a taste:
By MARIE TREANOR
Available Now from Changeling Press
Love, lust, and revenge, woven through the twisted chaos of time…
Fighting for her life in Edinburgh’s dark, dangerous streets, Miri stabs the wrong man — and ends up in his arms, sparking a sequence of events that alters history, with catastrophic consequences.
Wrongfully exiled from his own dimension, Caratacus is determined to find a way home. But that’s going to be difficult using only nineteenth century steam technology — even more difficult when distracted by the sort of steam he creates with Miri!
Before he can go home, he has to set things right. That means hunting down a Jack the Ripper copycat, prevent Robert Louis Stevenson from becoming an engineer, and help a brutal, game-playing civilization protect itself from cannibals — all without destroying the intense but fragile love he’s found with Miri.
After that, reversing time should be easy.
Impatiently, he snatched off his steamed up spectacles and tossed them on the ground. Miri wanted to pick them up before he stood on them, but her trembling legs wouldn’t move.
He said, “Your admirers have gone, haven’t they?”
She nodded. He tightened something forcefully with the spanner. “Did you show them a good time?”
“They’ve got no money,” she whispered, and wanted to die. To make it worse, he turned his attention from the engine to her. She wondered how much he could see without the glasses.
“Don’t you ever do it just because you want to?”
“Free shots?” she hazarded. Hope began to rise in her. “Sometimes…”
“And how does that work out for you?”
“I… what do you mean?”
He sat back on his heels. “Does it give you pleasure?”
“I don’t… You shouldn’t ask me such things!”
“Because I’m a whore! And you’re not interested in using me!”
“Using you? No, that’s true.”
She turned her head away. As shame doused her excitement, she was conscious of the pulse beating between her legs. It seemed to throb to the rhythm of the pistons beside Caratacus’s head.
He said, “Doesn’t mean I’m not interested in you. I’m just asking if you like sex? Making love?”
Curiosity brought her head back round to look at him. Considering the subject matter, his voice had sounded cool, almost clinical, but his intense green eyes were hot and misted, mesmerizing her. Behind him, she was aware of the pistons plunging rhythmically up and down, almost like the act of love. Sex…
Excitement rose again, higher. She felt daring, wicked, talking to him like this, she wanted to tell him what she did, see his reaction, tell him more…
She gasped, “I like to give men pleasure. Apparently I’m good at it.”
“Oh I’ll bet you are. You could just lie there and be good at it. But I’m interested in your pleasure. What — or who — makes you orgasm?”
She thought her knees would buckle.
“I don’t think I… should I? No one’s complained…”
He shuddered, maybe with laughter, although he didn’t smile. He rose to his feet, reaching up one hand to hold onto the beam above his head.
“I think you should.”
“You’ve no right. You don’t even want me…”
“I want to make you orgasm.”
She couldn’t believe she was having this conversation with anyone, with him. She should be dying of shame, and yet if he stopped it now, she’d explode… So she drowned in his hot eyes and whispered, “How would you do that?”
“Oh lots of ways… all the ways I thought of last night while your breast pressed into my naked skin. I think I’d kiss you lots — your mouth is shaped for kissing. I’d catch your little tongue when it sneaks out to wet your warm lips, and I’d lick it and bite it. I’d hold your lovely breasts in my hands and kiss your nipples, caress them until they stood out like organ stops, begging for more.”
Steam had begun to belch harder from the engine. Miri knew how it felt. Her imagination followed every word Caratacus spoke and her whole body was on fire.
“I’d open your legs, bathe my fingers in your wetness. And if you let me, I’d put my cock in you and fuck you until you screamed with joy.”
Miri moaned, pressing the heel of her hand hard against her pubic bone, wishing the thin shabby fabric of her gown wasn’t there. She couldn’t see him now for the steam, so she just closed her eyes and listened to his voice.
She gasped out, “Why didn’t you do these things last night?”
“I had an idea you’d appreciate me more for being allowed a night’s sleep.”
“You could have had me any time…”
“A fuck for fourpence? I don’t have the money, so you have to have the orgasm.”
She snapped her eyes open. “My payment?” Suddenly, she was outraged, as ugly reality swept over the delicious fantasy. Caratacus emerged through the cloud of steam and kept walking.
“No. Mine,” he said and, seizing her damp face between his hands, he covered her mouth with his.
Hope you enjoyed it!
For me, one of the most fascinating things about steampunk is the number of completely different styles and imaginative storylines that have emerged from this once-obscure sub-genre. Writers as diverse as William Gibson, Cherie Priest, Dru Pagliossotti, Gail Carriger, Bonnie Dee, Ciar Cullen, Katie MacAllistair, have all come up with amazing steampunk stories of one kind or another, all involving the iconic costume, goggles, airships etc, yet all completely unique books. And I want more!
Marie Treanor lives in Scotland with her eccentric husband and three much-too-smart children. Having grown bored with city life, she resides these days in a picturesque village by the sea where she is lucky enough to enjoy herself avoiding housework and writing sensual stories of paranormal romance and fantasy.
Marie’s website: www.MarieTreanor.com
Join the party on her new blog: Marie Treanor’s Romantic Theme Party:
Getting SSssteamy with Steampunk!
By Sahara Kelly
It’s true – everything you’ve heard – Steampunk has arrived and now there are more than a few exciting romances on sale that feature the newest genre to intrigue readers. So what the heck IS Steampunk, you may be asking? Well, you can’t go wrong by checking out Jules Verne, an early proponent of the genre (although I don’t think he knew it at the time since it didn’t get an official name until the early 1980s, I believe). He’s got it all wrapped up neatly in his work – thrilling adventures, amazing machines that hadn’t been invented at that time – the only thing missing was the romance.
So…guess what? We’ve added it. And I, for one, have thoroughly enjoyed the process. I’m a “traditional” Steampunk fan, meaning my stories are set in the mid to late Victorian period. I’ve long been a fan of historicals (with more than a few Regencies in my backlist) so moving to the late 1800s wasn’t much of a stretch. Besides the period-appropriate settings and clothing, there was also the rapid growth of the industrial age, and this – probably more than anything else – makes it such a super setting for Steampunk tales.
Machines, ideas, blueprints for the future, gleaming in laboratories and laying the foundation for the Edwardians – and the new century. So when I arrived, I looked around me and thought hmmm…. Yeppers, this is a fine time and place to have some fun with my characters. Now, being that I tend to write erotic fiction, I also had to consider the interaction between my characters. Would it be appropriate to include some “heated passion”? After all, I’m in the Victorian era when such things were kept strictly behind closed doors and modesty was taken to an unnatural extreme by people who felt the human body should never be revealed. Ever. This, of course, would be a problem for someone like myself who regularly strips her characters stark naked and encourages them to let nature take its course. Which it does, with much sweaty enjoyment and fun all around.
But after due consideration and the first chapter or two, it became apparent that my hero and heroine were,
beneath the Victorian clothing and aside from the scientific acumen, just a man and a woman falling in love. As I wrote, the story dictated their romance, taking it easily from tentative affection to full blown passion. I had no problem finding the middle ground, the balance between the Steampunk elements and the desire. Some might say that this is the wrong genre for an erotic romance. I would counter by asking what, in their opinion, is the right one? I didn’t have them stripped by a mechanical undressing machine (although…you know…that’s an interesting idea ), nor did I forget the inventive devices when they closed the bedroom door behind them.
So I hope you’ll agree that there’s not a darn thing wrong with adding a little more steam to Steampunk, and that purists of the genre will forgive a romance writer for finding inspiration in their territory! I had a lot of fun there, and might go back someday soon! I hope you’ll come with me….
Sahara Kelly was born and raised in England and now makes her home in the Northeast USA with her family, alternating between blizzards and heat waves. She mostly ignores both as she spins her stories, accompanied by an exhausted coffee pot and one or two very dark chocolates for those times when inspiration is desperately needed!
Find out about Sahara Kelly’s Steampunk novels (and her other romantic imaginings) at her website – www.saharakelly.com
You can follow Sahara on Twitter – (SaharaKelly) – on Facebook (Sahara Kelly) – or via her newsletter (Subscribe here: http://eepurl.com/bxPvP ) or visit her blog at writersaharakelly.blogspot.com .
Sahara’s Steampunk novels are available from Samhain Publishing (www.samhainpublishing.com). “Flavia’s Flying Corset” is part of the Silk, Steel and Steam anthology and is currently available in eBook format. “Miss Minnie and the Brass Pluggit” releases January 25th.
BLURB for Miss Minnie:
“Contains scientific references, unlaced Victorian desire and some really nasty villains at war with fascinating machines. Author is not responsible for any consequent urge to dismantle a vacuum cleaner and build a mechanical man.”
Lady Minnie Dalrymple is eccentric, unconventional and possessed of enough beauty to make a man forget his own name. Dr. Pierce Lowell damn near does just that when they meet, but soon recovers when he learns there’s more to this society beauty than one might suppose. Together they take on a murder mystery and uncover a sinister plot of far greater implications than they could have imagined. It leads to a moment where Pierce’s inventions are all that stand between Minnie and death…
EXCERPT from “Miss Minnie and the Brass Pluggit”, releasing Jan 25th from Samhain Publishing.
He prowled his way around the circular room, pacing like the caged tiger he felt moving within his gut. It clawed at him, demanding release, demanding…what?
The light fell in predictable patterns – it was morning, the sun was in its customary position and the prisms refracted by the thick glass exactly where they always were at this time of day. So why was it that Dr. Pierce Lowell found himself anxiously striding around, peering landward, awaiting the arrival of Dusk and his visitor?
Ever since he’d received a brief tip that Lady Minnie Dalrymple had expressed an interest in visiting, something had begun to itch inside his mind and hadn’t let up. Now it was a full-blown need to see her, to look into her eyes and to ask her what the hell she was doing here. He’d found a grainy image of her in one old newspaper – barely adequate to make out her elegant profile. Since it was just after Lord Dalrymple’s funeral, she was clad in dark, obscuring clothing. There’d been little more to learn from it and it had done nothing to assuage Pierce’s annoying itch.
He’d learned to trust that itch. It had never steered him wrong. There was something about Miss Minnie, about her visit – something he needed to be aware of. Something that would keep him on his guard during her time at the Brass Pluggit.
Always assuming she didn’t faint when she first caught sight of it. Several of his acquaintainces had done so, dramatically and thoroughly.
He couldn’t, in all fairness, blame them.
He’d damn near pissed himself when he’d first seen the place, since he’d been laughing so hard that control had become extremely difficult.
It wasn’t just the amazingly phallic lighthouse – as if that wasn’t bad enough. No, it was the two small geodesically domed greenhouses that sparkled at the base of the damn thing. Seaward, of course, to allow for maximum light.
And to top it all off, there were rocky protrusions extending out into the water, for all the world like thighs, positioned exactly where they should be if a giant lay aroused on the shore of the Isle of Wight, legs widely spread, exposing his genitals to the universe.
Whoever had built the lighthouse in the first place had possessed a giant sense of humor. Or a wicked need to shock every woman within twenty square miles. Whatever the goal, Pierce found his new home to be a source of continual amusement and fascination. So he lived in a brass cock. What of it? If ladies wished to make any comparisons or comments, they were quite welcome to. He’d heard all of them several times over the last couple of years.
And had a few compliments to his own equipment as well. Apparently, the unique shape of his lighthouse was a lure in and of itself. Those women who didn’t faint at the sight of it, often hurried down to meet the occupant and see if anything matched up.
Modestly, he confessed to himself that they’d all left with smiles on their faces and no further jests about the Brass Pluggit.
He might not be brass, but he could pluggit as well as any man.