Today we welcome back author Christine Bell.
Christine Bell is one half of the happiest couple in the world. She and her handsome hubby currently reside in Pennsylvania with a four-pack of teenage boys and their two dogs, Gimli and Pug. If she gets time off from her duties as maid, chef, chauffeur, or therapist, she can be found reading just about anything she can get her hands on, from Young Adult novels to books on poker theory. She doesn’t like root beer, clowns or bugs (except ladybugs, on account of their cute outfits), but lurrves chocolate, going to the movies, the New York Giants and playing Texas Hold ‘Em. Writing is her passion, but if she had to pick another occupation, she would be a pirate…or, like, a ninja maybe. She loves writing fun and adventure-filled romance stories, but also hopes to one day publish something her dad can read without wanting to dig his eyes out with rusty spoons.
The Bewitching Tale of Stormy Gale
by Christine Bell
Very excited to be back here at Steamed! Doubly excited because the second installment of my Stormy Gale series came out on May 28th! I’m celebrating with a big contest, so be sure to read the end of this post for details.
The Bewitching Tale of Stormy Gale starts off in Victorian London (in the steampunk tradition) but then takes us further back, to a time shortly after the Salem Witch Trials. Having grown up in New England, I’m fairly obsessed with this strange slice of American History. If you’ve ever been to New England during the fall or winter, the nights feel positively ripe for witches. The bare trees’ clawing silhouettes lit by a fat, milky moon that you almost expect to wink at you against from its perch in the inky night sky. Man, it feels soooo witchy. I’m convinced that such an occurrence could never have happened in, say, San Diego. It required a perfect soup of events and the locale had to play a part. Aside from my proximity to Salem growing up, I also always felt that this phenomenon was both a fascinating display of vagaries of the human psychology and a heartrending tale of fear and loss. What better place for a story? And I always knew that if I did a time travel story that would be one of the places I’d take it. The most excellent part is that it feels like such a natural extension of the steampunk aesthetic. A dark, grey pallor hanging over a village in the wake of horror and mayhem. People not trusting one another or themselves. Throw into this historical period some gadgetry that shouldn’t be there and then sit back to witness the subsequent reactions of the townspeople as they search for a possible explanation. It was like chocolate and peanut butter for the mind. Mmmm…Reeses.
At any rate, rather than be tied to the framework of the original trials thereby having to subject my characters to horrors I truly couldn’t stomach (I learned more than I ever wanted to know in my research and, friends, the word horror is an understatement), or being woefully historically inaccurate, I fast forwarded a handful of years. I found this allowed me to scale back some of the truly heinous behavior in an organic way as many of the townspeople would be more tentative at first for fear of making the same mistake twice still theorize that, if the stars aligned just right (or wrong, in this case), we could again fall victim to a similar situation. I believe that is true. I believe that, in the right cauldron of fear and intolerance, the Salem Witch Trials could happen again because when people get into a pack state of mind? Well, we do stuff that is stone cold crazy sometimes. That’s the thing I kept coming back to. These people who had a hand in the atrocities. Were they ALL evil? I don’t think they were and I hope I did the townsfolk of Salem right in giving most of them some humanity, while still condemning the actions of many. So you tell me, steampunk lovers: Do you think something similar to The Salem Witch Trials could ever happen again? Do you think that steampunk and witches are a match made in heaven or do you like your chocolate sans peanut butter? And lastly, do you find the topic of Salem as fascinating as I do?
Check out an excerpt of the book, and don’t forget, stick around for the giveaway at the end!
The cold was relentless, and every frigid breath sent a bolt of pain through my chest. I huddled into the corner, curling myself into a tight ball. Only a few more hours until daylight. It would be warmer then. A rattling cough shuddered upward and I covered my mouth quickly with a trembling arm.
“Jayzus, will you stop with the bloody coughing, you inconsiderate bitch? I’ve been up half the night making the quid to buy you that loaf of bread, and this is what I get.” My mother’s voice was slurred as she called down from the bed.
Loaf, my arse. The crust she’d thrown me had barely been enough to bother chewing. If she’d made any coin on her back that night, she’d drunk the profits soon after. But I was sick, and my ear still rang from the blow she’d delivered the night before, so I held my tongue. The wind howled and sent an arctic blast under the rickety door. I tried to hold my breath, to keep it in, but it was no use. Coughs racked my body, ruthless in their intensity and seemingly without end. But even over the sound of my barking lungs, I could hear her shifting, moving…the impatient sigh, the muttered curse, and finally the bed rustling as she leapt to her feet.
Panic warred with the need for breath and I buried my face in my sleeve. It was no use. A moment and one swift jerk later, I was on my back staring up at her, silhouetted in the silvery moonlight. Her hair was a wild mass around her shoulders as her mad, almost feverish eyes burned into mine like coals. She gripped my shoulders, nails digging deep through my threadbare nightshirt. Her hot, foul breath washed over my face as she screamed, “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!”
Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. The mantra ran through my aching head as she shook and shook
and shook… My vision blurred and faded. Then I was Bacon, shivering on the stone floor of Ipswitch Jail. My mother’s features morphed into those of a crone, her sneering mouth twisting into a gaping maw, her nose a disfigured hook.
“Wake up, love. It’s all right now,” a gentle voice crooned in my ear.
Warm, familiar fingers replaced the icy talons on my shoulder. I surfaced, sucking in a breath that made my chest ache with remembered pain. My teeth chattered as I tried to speak. “We need more wood on the fire. P-Please.” The pitiful weakness of my voice sickened me and I turned my face away to peer out the window into the gray light of morning.
“Shhh. Give me one second. Let me hold you.”
Annnd, end scene! Now, if you want to enter the contest, all you have to do is comment on this post. Tomorrow at 8:00 pm EST, we’ll pick two random winners. One will receive the Stormy Gale gift pack which includes a digital copy of the series, a set of Stormy Gale trading cards, pen, magnet and a $10 Amazon or B&N gift certificate so you can load up on some more steampunk! The second place winner will get a digital copy of The Bewitching Tale of Stormy Gale in whatever format they prefer.