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Archive for January, 2014

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The White Queen & the Red Queen – Comicpalooza 2013

Lewis Carroll’s birthday was Monday of this week.  Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, best known by his pen name of Lewis Carroll, was born  January 27, 1832. In addition to a writer, he was also a mathematician and a photographer. He wrote over a dozen mathematic books under his real name.

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Lolita Alice and the Mad Hatter – Comicpalooza 2013

He wrote poems and  stories as a child. And in 1856 he gave the editor of The Train magazine a list of pen names for his poem Solitude. From that list the editor chose Lewis Carroll. Chalres Dodgosn came up with the name using Lewis in place of Lutwidge and Carroll in place of Charles.

For his birthday week, I thought I’d pull out the Steampunk Mad Hatter tea party. This is for you Lewis Carroll:the man who brought us the Unbirthday Party.

There was a table set under he pavilion in Houston’s Herman Park and the mad hatter was having tea at it.  No sleeping doormouse sat beside him. Plenty of  squirrels scurried about the park, which are quite close to mice, but alas he didn’t try to put a squirrel in his teapot.

Group Photo - taken by Marilyn at Houston- Herman Park Mad Hatter Tea Party

Along with the mad hatter, I and about forty other Houston area Steampunk enthusiast came to tea.

Alice - Taken by Marilyn

Including Alice, complete with the white rabbit on her necklace.

We bought teapots and tea cups and, though the Queen of Hearts didn’t make tarts for us, we had yummy cucumber finger sandwiches, luscious blueberry scones, crisp ginger biscuits, grapes, cheese, brownies, and more. We even had a fancy parasol center piece and a Steampunk sign. Though it was a lovely day the pavilion offered nice shade. It was much like standing under a large mushroom.

Though Alice was curious about the March hare’s watch, which didn’t keep time but told the year, here in the 21st century many of us have watches which do both, but we didn’t spread the best butter on ours or dunk them in our tea like Lewis Carroll’s march hare did. Still we had a great time drinking our tea.

The day was gorgeous and every time the little train in the park went by all the riders, parents and children, waved at us.

Waving at the train -taken by Marilyn

We smoked the hookah like Lewis Carroll’s large blue caterpillar and we played croquet like the Queen of Hearts court.

Lighting the Hookah

There were no cries of off with your head from the Queen but my croquet ball was smacked out by other balls several times. We used regular wire wickets, not soldiers doubled up and standing on their hands and feet to make the arches as they did at the Queen of Hearts’ croquet game. We also didn’t have to try to manage live flamingos for mallets or live hedgehogs for balls.

taken by Marilyn at Houston- Herman Park Mad Hatter Tea Party

Which is fortunate, as the chief difficulty of using a flamingo as a mallet is by the time you get its neck straightened out it twist itself round and looks up in your face with a puzzled expression. And the hedgehogs have a habit of unrolling themselves and crawling away.

Of course in Wonderland it is always time for tea since the mad hatter quarreled with Time last March it stays at six o’clock, but our tea party ran until 4 o’clock. Though somewhat sad, it’s good it came to an end so we could take our teapots and teacups home and wash them out rather than moving all the tea-things around as they get used up like the mad hatter, march hare and the doormouse did. After all, they couldn’t find time to wash them when it’s always tea time.

DSCN0246I had such a pleasant day at the Mad Hatter tea party, I half believe I went to Wonderland rather than Herman park. I wish you could have been with us Lewis Carroll…and Happy Birthday.

~      ~      ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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I teach a lot of online writing classes and do a lot of workshops. One of the things I encounter most is the assumption that in order to be “steampunk” a story MUST be set in Victorian London.

While you’re free to set you story here, this isn’t so. It’s not so much where your story is set as the setting itself. It’s in the aesthetic, the culture, the technology, the very feel of the story–things which trancend mere location.

My Aether Chronicles series is hardly set in London, they’re set in America (and Faerie), though they are set in an alternate version of the year 1901.

But the year your story is set is not a prerequisite either. Your story can be set in whatever year or city you want as long as it has that 19th century feel — and of course steam tech.

Your steampunk story can even be set in the future.

space-pirate-captainI’m not talking about a futuristic world where something happened and the world had to start over and has become steampunk (though that would be amazing.) No, I’m talking about honest-to-god futuristic steampunk with spaceships and the like.

Yes, this is possible. People have even considered it. Just google Steampunk Star Trek if you’re curious.  (Technically, IMHO Firefly is a Space Western, not steampunk, but feel free to watch it over and over again for inspiration like I do.) 

This idea of futuresteam, or steampunk in space, comes down to more than corset-laced spacesuits, steampunky outfits, and neat gadgets. However, these are important, too, in keeping up your aesthetic (another key element of a steampunk story.)

steampunk space suit 2One of the most important elements in making this work is the technology. So, perhaps steam-powered spaceships aren’t actually plausible yet in real life, but the tech needs to be present in your story for it to work in a way that’s most believable in the context of the story and preserves the basic elements of what makes tech steampunk. See my post about steam-powered spaceships here. 

This tech is going to be an important integration, since this is one of the things that really makes your story steampunk and not just a story dressed in steampunk.

steampunk-gearAnother element would be blending your futuristic tech with the steampunk aesthetic. This is where the phrase the future as imagined by the past comes in handy. This would also be where you’d add in your corsets and rayguns and fun tech. Keep these elements constant and consistent but you don’t need to keep hitting the reader over the head going look, it’s a steampunk story, but at the same time, you don’t want the steampunk elements to fall away as you get into the action and adventure. A few really amazing details can go along way in keeping up your steampunk throughout the story.

Future steam doesn’t necessarily need to be on a spaceship either. Perhaps we’re on Earth or some other planet with skyscrapers and flying cars. Or maybe we’re in an underwater city.

But the future can still be steampunked–after all, the future is yours. 

Suzanne Lazear writes Steampunk tales for teens.  INNOCENT DARKNESS, book one of The Aether Chronicles, and book two, CHARMED VENGEANCE are now available from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.

 

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capesandclockworkbookcoverDuring a forgotten time when the world was powered by steam and clockwork, heroes arose to do battle against the forces of evil. Some were outfitted with the latest technology. Others were changed by the mysteries of science and magic, while a few came from the skies. Capes and Clockwork fuses the fantasy and beauty of steampunk with the action and adventure of the superhero genre. Tease your imagination with sixteen stories of good versus evil, monster versus hero, and steam versus muscle! 

The Capes and Clockwork Anthology was published on January 1, 2014 by Dark Oak Press – what a great way to start off the year!

I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to some of the authors of this anthology –

Are you primarily a short story writer or novel length?

Alan D Lewis:  I’ve written both and enjoy both. A novel gives you plenty of room to explore the characters and their worlds in my depth and detail. I prefer writing novels. On the other hand, short stories can tell a brief but compelling story, not weighing the reader down.

For me, writing a few short stories after finishing up a draft of a novel is a pallet cleanser, so to speak.

Logan L Masterson:

It’s hard to say, since I haven’t actually finished a novel to date. Wait. Maybe it’s not that hard. With Clockwork Demons in Capes & Clockwork, a very brief story in an upcoming werewolf anthology, and a novella from Pro Se Press, I suppose I’m really a short form writer. I enjoy exploring the economy of shorter works, and I think they support theme a lot better than novels.

David J Fielding: Though I have aspirations at being a novelist, I find myself concentrating on short stories at the present time. There is a challenge to take readers on a journey, with a beginning, middle and end and keep it to a limited word count. Perhaps that’s the influence of modern media on storytellers – the on-demand format, the hyper-link generation – micro-bursts of entertainment; when they want it, how they want it. As a writer it challenges you to convey your ideas and story in a streamlined way. You find yourself creating shortcuts. There’s a Stephen King short story Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut that (for me) is a great metaphor of writing short stories – and that new roads, worlds and layers are out there.

Christopher Valin: I haven’t written a novel yet, although I did write a history book. Most of my work has consisted of short stories, feature scripts, and teleplays. I grew up reading comic books and eventually worked in the comic business as an inker and writer, so I’ve always loved superheroes.

Brent Nichols: I write frequently at a wide variety of lengths, from short stories to novellas to novels. Each form has its challenges and its rewards, and I’m fairly comfortable with all of them. Mostly, I like to tell a story, and I don’t worry too much about length. The story goes from the start to the finish, whether that’s four pages or four hundred.

What aspects of the Steampunk genre do you find the most satisfying?

Alan D Lewis:  With Steampunk, I’ve always been drawn to the Victorian Era and the spirit of adventure and wonder. It was a time where anyone with some know-how could take a box of metal cogs and springs and invent wondrous contraptions. Balloons and airship were indeed flying during this time. Maybe not monstrous flying machines, but they did exist and were built by individuals, not by aerospace corporations.

So Steampunk let my imagination run wild with what ‘could have been’.

And superheroes? Well as a kid, I grew up reading The Avengers, Thor, and others. So writing about them wasn’t a problem but joy.

Logan L Masterson: The best thing about steampunk is the opportunity of exploration. The Victorian era was a brilliant time, and its settings allow authors to as some great what if questions. That there remained so many unknowns opens the field. We can explore social issues, the resurgence of mysticism, technology, and wide, vast dominions, all with the same breath.

Christopher Valin: As for Steampunk, it’s something I liked for many years without knowing it was a genre. For example, as a kid, ‘Wild, Wild West’ was one of my favorite shows.

But it wasn’t until six or seven years ago that I realized it was a genre in itself, and started not only reading it, but writing stories in that vein.

So being able to write a story combining the two and figuring out how to make it work was very satisfying to me. I loved thinking about how superheroes would have been over a hundred years ago.

Brent Nichols:  The beauty of Steampunk for me is the absence of limits in certain key areas. I grew up reading science fiction and old-fashioned adventure stories, and steampunk at its best combines the two.

The thing about Steampunk technology is that it feels accessible. You can’t take apart a piece of modern technology and tinker with it. Pull the cover off of your smart phone some time and see how far you get. So much of modern technology is simply beyond the grasp of an individual. Most science fiction these days doesn’t involve a solitary genius making a breakthrough or building an innovative new machine. That sort of thing is done by the huge R&D departments of major corporations these days, not one smart person with a lab in his basement.

In the 19th century, though, we had men like Edison and Tesla, and a few women, too, making truly astonishing discoveries and building devices that changed the world. Steampunk technology often feels like something you could create on your own, or at least take apart and tinker with, and understand. It’s just plain more fun than modern science fiction.

The other part of Steampunk that appeals to me is the ability to play in a wild, fascinating past world, when every corner of the planet was not yet mapped and measured, when there were still lost tribes and unexplored jungles and so many things that were simply unknown. A steampunk writer gets to play in that marvellous world, without the need to be limited by actual history. Steampunk worlds are alternate worlds, and we get to make changes. We get to say, let’s change that historical fact, or devise that gadget that would not, strictly speaking, actually work. Let’s keep the story rooted in history and technology that are basically sound and feel plausible, but let’s allow for wondrous machines and places and events, because it allows us to tell such awesome stories.

What writing challenges have you learned to overcome?

Alan D Lewis: When I first started writing, my main problem wasn’t with developing the story or plot or characters. It was with the mechanics of writing. The subject had never been a strong point in school and I struggled, early on with that fact. Storytelling always came easy. Writing did not. But I surrounded myself with other writers who weren’t afraid to point out my errors and encourage me to continue. I also had to get over the fact that it doesn’t have to be right the first time. A writer can edit and rewrite and rewrites some more. My first book was a long, long road, but I learned enough that the second novel took a fraction of the time to turn around from an idea to a published manuscript.

Logan L Masterson:  Steampunk’s challenges are relatively few for me. It’s really a natural genre, since I grew up reading mostly comic books and, you guessed it, classics. Jules Verne, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and so many others. I was a teenager before I got past Tolkien into other “modern” fantasists, so the fusion of science fiction and Victoriana was easy for me. Add my love of comic books, and Clockwork Demons may have been the easiest story I’ve ever written. The only challenge for me was devising a unique, distinctive technology for my world. Once I had that wound up (hah!), the rest fell into place.

Christopher Valin: For several years, I wrote almost nothing by screenplays, so the biggest challenge for me in writing short stories is probably changing my mindset and including more description and inner dialogue.

I’m still hesitant to include too much about how everything looks because I want to leave some of it to the ‘director’… which, in this case, is the reader picturing the story in his or her head.

Brent Nichols: Learning to tie my shoes was a big hurdle. More recently, I’ve been struggling with how to present the technology of steampunk in a way that’s plausible and interesting without bogging the reader down in a lot of technical detail.

The big problem with Steampunk technology is that most of it wouldn’t actually work. There were no airships in the Victorian era, no walking machines, no hydraulic spiders or steam-powered giant mechanical ants. Steam power requires vast weights of iron and water to function. The really cool inventions that steampunk writers and artists dream up simply wouldn’t work in the real world.

I deal with it by dreaming up gadgets that are just a little bit beyond the realms of physics as we know it. Far enough out there to be cool, but not far enough out there to be ridiculous. And I hint at alternate-reality technologies, things that, if they had existed, would have opened the doors of possibility and allowed the fantastic gadgets of steampunk to be real. Enhanced coal, for example. My fictional enhanced coal burns hotter and faster than real coal and makes some preposterous machines just a little more plausible.

Now, what are you waiting for? Delve into the Capes & Clockwork stories –

Buy Capes & Clockwork on Amazon.com
Capes & Clockwork Facebook page

For more information on the authors in this Q & A –

Alan D Lewis – www.dalanlewis.com
Logan L Masterson – www.agonyzer.com
David J Fielding
Christopher Valin – www.christophervalin.com
Brent Nichols – www.steampunch.com

From Ray Dean: Howdy from Hawai’i, folks! I’ve been a guest blogger on Steamed! on several occasions, but thanks to Suzanne who gave me the opportunity to do this on a regular basis. So the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month you will be subjected… err… entertained(?) by my blog posts… YOU WILL BE ENTERTAINED, I said… *cough*

Anywho… A hui hou (Until we meet again)

Ray Dean – www.raydean.net – My Ethereality

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Today we welcome author Eva Gordon.

Eva Gordon writes genre bending paranormal/fantasy/steampunk and historical novels with a strong romantic element. She loves to create stories that combine her passion for mythology, steamy romance, and action/suspense. Her imagination takes her from one universe to the next. Thus far, she has several series lined up as well as single titles waiting in line for production.

Eva has a BS in Zoology and graduate studies in Biology. She once taught high school Biology, Environmental Science and Anatomy/Physiology. When not in her den writing, she can be found at steampunk conventions, at work at the raptor rehabilitation center, wolf sanctuaries, or to satisfy her inner Hemingway on some global eco adventure. 

The Hand of Miriam

By Eva Gordon

image001A Victorian world of supernatural creatures, magnificent airships, a secret society, and one bluestocking adventuress who, threatened by evil seeks protection by awakening the golem.

On an archaeological expedition, Bayla Gideon, is widowed by a supernatural force and branded with the Hand of Miriam or Knowing Eye. Threatened by evil, she awakens the golem; a mythical man of clay, who protected the Jewish community over three centuries ago.

The golem, Gesher, is surprised. Freedom –by a beautiful, enchanting woman. His desire is to return to the celestial spheres and regain his status as an avenging angel. Yet, Bayla challenges his mind, body and soul. Would he risk his return to the heavens for her?

Besides, dealing with the otherkind, mad inventors and an unrelenting matchmaking aunt, Bayla is equally determined to resist her steamy attraction to the striking fallen angel.

Thrust into a malevolent war, which includes facing Jack the Ripper, they must resist the magnetic pull toward each other, while protecting the world from encroaching evil.

Excerpt:

 Bayla unlocked the Gemmatridon and held it as instructed. The talismans on the cover shifted into gears that twisted in rapid circles, and buzzed like irate bees while emitting light. Startled, she fumbled with it. The box opened. Inside was a small parchment. The instructions dictated that it be placed in the golem’s mouth. She carefully removed the ancient scroll and with trembling hands set it in the slit that had to be its mouth. Immediately, the parchment sunk in as if swallowed by quicksand and vanished. The chamber shook as if an earthquake had struck. She fell back still holding the box. Sitting sprawled on the floor, she froze in terror. Thankfully, the tremor stopped.

A blinding bright light erupted from the crate and the golem roared a deep menacing bellow from within.

Bayla dropped the box. What have I done? She closed her eyes from the blazing brightness and wrapped her arms and head over her knees. Like a candle snuffed out, the light vanished. The golem’s holler subsided into a grumbling moan, as if awakened from its slumber.

She dared look. The golem sat in the crate. She suppressed a scream on seeing his rigid red-stone face. He looked like a misshapen man made of hard red rock. An aleph was added in front of met. The Hebrew word for truth, emet, now inscribed on his forehead, permitting it life. It slowly rose and stepped out. Tall, its square head almost touched the ceiling. It wasn’t too monstrous in stature, perhaps six-foot-seven, and within the range of human height. It blinked open gray eyes and stared at her. His eyes were the only part that looked remotely human and revealed his soul, by holding her gaze as if he knew her.

Bayla scooted back on her bottom but kept her eyes on him. There was a connection, a warm bond that eased her fear. She couldn’t read its thoughts. Was it because it had none?

The golem turned his head to the side and spoke in a deep baritone voice, “You are a woman.”

Buy Links:

Amazon Kindle US | Amazon Kindle UK | Amazon.ca  | BN Nook | Smashwords 

Paperback available on Amazon as well.

 

 

 

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dark-duetsI went to a book launch at Murder by the Book for the dark-fantasy anthology Dark Duets by a renowned group of fiction authors. Each story is collaboration between two or more authors. In the introduction, the editor, Christopher Golden, writes, “Collaboration in general is harder than you’d think. Logic would suggest since you are halving the number of pages that you, yourself, are responsible for, you are halving the work involved. In truth, collaborative fiction is more work than writing something by yourself. But the work, and the relationships that may spring from it, and the magic that sometimes results, are their own rewards.”

The contents of Dark Duets are Trip Trap by Sherrilyn Kenyon & Kevin J. Anderson, Welded by Tom Piccirilli & T. M. Wright, Dark Witness by Charlaine Harris & Rachel Caine, Replacing Max by Stuart MacBride & Allan Guthrie, T. Rhymer by Gregory Frost & Jonathan Maberry, She, Doomed Girl by Sarah Maclean & Carrie Ryan, Hand Job by Chelsea Cain & Lidia Yuknavitch, Hollow Choices by Robert Jackson Bennett & David Liss, Amuse-Bouche by Amber Benson & Jeffrey J. Mariotte, Branches, Curving by Tim Lebbon & Michael Marshall Smith, Blind Love by Kasey Lansdale & Joe R. Lansdale, Trapper Boy by Holly Newstein & Rick Hautala, Steward Of The Blood by Nate Kenyon & James A. Moore, Calculating Route by Michael Koryta & Jeffrey David Geene, Sisters Before Misters by Sarah Rees Brennan, Casandra Clare, & Holly Black, and Sins Like Scarlet by Mark Morris & Rio Youers.

Also the story, Renascene by Rhodi Hawk & F. Paul Wilson, is included. Renascene is a Steampunk piece. E. Paul Wilson is an award-winning New York Time bestselling author of nearly fifty books and many short stories. He’s also written for the stage, screen and interactive media. Rhodi Hawk won the International Thriller Writers Scholarship for her first work of fiction, A Twisted Ladder. Their tale is a fresh take on the intriguing Victorian theme of bringing the dead back to life. It’s set in 19th century New York City with two quirky characters that I loved.

Rhodi Hawk was one of the authors at the Murder By The Book signing. I asked her if it was she or Paul Wilson who initially wanted to write a Steampunk story, and she said, it was Paul. Another interesting tidbit is that to celebrate her Steampunk story, her husband actually bought her a live octopus. It’ll be kept in an aquarium at her house where she keeps a hosts of critters. Having a pet octopus is so steampunk. When asked what she was going to name it, Rhodi said she was thinking of calling him Sigmund after the children’s TV show, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. I got confused about that, because I was thinking of the old cartoon show, Beany and Cecil. Cecil instead of Sigmund. That was way back in the early 1960’s.  I use to watch it so I’m showing my age. I even use to have a stuff toy of Cecil the seasick sea serpent. It was one of my favorite toys. But either way Sigmund and Cecil are both great names for a sea monster, a  sea serpent, or an octopus.

The authors at the Dark Duet’s book signing spoke of their thoughts and experiences on collaboration. There is an adrenaline rush from having the opportunity to bounce ideas off another writer and this increases creativity as well. It’s important in a collaboration that both authors understand the other’s creative vision, do an equal share of work, work well together, and keep their own author voice, therefore adding ta unique flair and perspective to the story. Methods writers use for collaborative work vary. Many use a sharing method, one author starts the story off and the other revises that then writes the next pages,which the first author revises them then adds more and so on until the first draft is complete. Then they work it into a cohesive flowing story. I heard a successful husband and wife team, who write romances together, speak at a conference. They developed  a pattern of collaborating where she wrote the scenes set in the heroine’s point of view and he wrote those set in the hero’s point of view. It worked wonderful for them, they write under a pseudonym  combination of their two names together.

Though collaborations can be frustrating at times they can also be fun and rewarding. Many steampunk fans are strongly familiar with the basic idea and practice of collaboration because it’s followed in role playing games, which are so popular in steampunk. Also Some writing such as screen plays and  music is routinely done through the collaboration process.

Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts and experiences on: writing collaboration, fantasy anthologies including at least one steampunk story, having an octopus as a pet, old sea monster children TV shows or anything else you’d like to comment on.

~      ~      ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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I’ve been mulling over a Steampunk space adventure for a very long time, but for many, many reasons hadn’t really developed it. 

space

When I started to finally work on the project, one of the first things I started researching was the actual probability of steam-powered spaceships. Even if it wasn’t actually viable right now, I wanted to come up with something possibly feasible, or at least something I could explain, since I have a habit of writing female MCs who know, or want to know how things work — which means I need to know. I love science, but I was more into chemistry than physics.

M.E. Brines’ article Are Steampunk Spacecraft Really Feasible? was very thought provoking, though I was looking for something more akin to the spacecraft I was familiar with, such as  the Enterprise  or Serenity. 

The hubby proposed I look into nuclear submarines and that technology, or even Project Orion, which was a nuclear-propelled spaceship proposed in the 60’s (which Brines’ article also mentions.)

A recent party yielded the idea of Solar Sails. Now this was a very interesting idea.

Okay, I think I could figure out an interesting power source that fit into the definition of Steampunk–especially if I added that amazing all-purpose element aether.

But what about the carbon dioxide? Bingo. Spaceships use lithium hydroxide to break down the excess carbon-dioxide, so that definitely could have potential. Not to mention some hydroponics in the ship’s garden.

As for what the ship looks like and the layout?

Hmmmm….I don’t know.

Maybe I need to watch Firefly for inspiration. Again.


Suzanne Lazear writes Steampunk tales for teens.  INNOCENT DARKNESS, book one of The Aether Chronicles, and book two, CHARMED VENGEANCE are now available from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.

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It’s been 10 months, but finally the sixth story in the Gaslight Chronicles has arrived! Ashes_Alchemy

Ashes & Alchemy

Carina Press, Audible, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and All Romance e-Books.

London, 1860

Police inspector Sebastian Brown served Queen and country in India before returning to England to investigate supernatural crimes alongside the Order of the Round Table. If his wifeless, childless life feels a little empty sometimes, that’s not too great a price to pay in the name of duty.

Minerva Shaw is desperately seeking a doctor when she mistakenly lands on Sebastian’s doorstep. Her daughter Ivy has fallen gravely ill with a mysterious illness—the same illness, it seems, that’s responsible for taking the lives of many of Ivy’s classmates.

Seb sniffs a case, and taking in Minnie and Ivy seems the only way to protect them while he solves it. But as mother and daughter work their way into his heart and Seb uses every magickal and technological resource he can muster to uncover the source of the deadly plague, it’s he who will need protecting—from emotions he’d thought buried long ago.

***

Exclusive Steamed! Excerpt:

What felt like hours later, but had really been only minutes, they pulled up in front of the tenement Minnie called home. Inspector Brown lifted one eyebrow as he put his mask back on, but didn’t say a word, just gestured for Minnie to precede him up the rickety steps.

She’d have taken them at a run if her tired muscles would have cooperated. Instead she all but dragged herself up the three flights. There were no gaslights in the building, so she fumbled blindly in her pocket for her key, until she heard her companion mutter, “What the deuce?”

He reached out and pushed open the door—which had been broken off its hinges.

“Ivy!” Minnie shrieked and ran into the tiny flat. The lone oil lamp still burned in its corner of the table, but its wick hadn’t been trimmed and emitted thick, oily smoke. On the opposite wall was a worn settee Minnie had filched from the dustbin behind a fancy shop. Jane, dear, sweet Jane, lay at an odd angle, half on, half off the settee, her eyes vacant and a dark stain covering her shirtwaist. Minnie gasped. “Dear God, Jane!”

The inspector was already at Jane’s side, closing her eyes and covering her carefully with a quilt from the back of the nearby rocking chair. Minnie took two steps toward them, but he held out his hand and caught her shoulder. “Was she here minding your daughter?”

Minnie nodded and clapped her hand over her mouth. “Oh, no. Ivy!” She spun on her heel and ran into the only bedroom.

Everything had been thrown around, as if a small cyclone had ripped through the room. Ivy’s cot was empty—the blankets tossed every which way. Minnie’s narrow bed was ransacked as well, with no sign of the child. Minnie dropped to her knees to peer underneath. Nothing but a few boxes. “Ivy? Oh, God, Ivy, where are you?”

“There’s no blood in here,” Brown said softly. “That’s a good sign. He must have taken her, for some reason. That means she’s likely still alive.”

***

 Contest: a Rafflecopter giveaway

***

Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing. Award-winning author of Cindy_0111bw_web18 novels and more than 30 shorter works, Cindy lives in southeast Michigan with her husband, two sons and a houseful of pets. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book.

Website: http://www.cindyspencerpape.com

Newsletter group: http://yhoo.it/ni7PHo

Twitter: http://twitter.com/CindySPape

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/gjbLLC

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