August 8, 2014 • No Comments
I’m delighted to welcome steampunk author Nikki Woolfolk to my blog. She’s just released The Men of Summerly, a sweet and steamy romance! She’s dropped into the salon to talk about terrariums–a fine way of keeping a piece of the Victorian garden growing even when things aren’t quite as “summerly” outside. Yes, bad pun. Smack me, but do read on …
If green thumbs exist I am lacking in having one, but it doesn’t keep me from trying. My mum has the ability to make the most fragile plant grow even if it seems dead. When it comes to me I can kill a cactus in the desert. How sad is that?
Several years ago I decided to try my hand again at growing plants, but I needed something that was almost fool proof. At the time I had been living in a Second Empire Victorian home and I was trying to understand the era in which my house had been built. I stumbled across many Victorian ways of gardening including creating Terrariums.
On the East coast the winters can get pretty harsh so what better way to keep the vibrancy of Spring in the Winter than with a plant in a glass case?
The more I read the more I fell in love with the idea of creating my own terrariums. The beauty is that you can keep plants and moss flourishing while creating a scene inside of your creative glass jar or cloche. As a storyteller by trade this tickles me. Soon I began dreaming up scenes from my favorite novels and trying to figure out how to recreate that one moment in a tiny terrarium. It sounds simple unless you are like me and have fish stick size fingers and not the delicate digits I longed for as a kid. Nevertheless, I’ve found creating terrariums to be quite relaxing and allows me to take a break from my writing whenever I find myself stumped.
This relaxing pastime has spilled into my writing and became something my “prince”, in my newest Steampunk novella THE MEN OF SUMMERLY, uses as a way to settle his nerves from his daily tasks as a trade envoy. In a world filled with steam, gadgets, gears and goggles there’s something quite grounding in playing with nature, manually cross pollinating orchids and building terrariums. In regards to the meaning of plants the orchid, in all its delicacy, is a symbol of the beauty of life even if fragile. When you understand the symbolic meanings of plants and flowers it opens up a whole new world of how you view a terrarium scene.
The British trade envoy, Simon Leatherby, fills his rare downtime from a day scheduled with meetigns to attend to his terrarium, but even in creatign a perfect world under glass the outside world has different plans. Here’s an excerpt of Simon, the British trade envoy, finally getting some downtime from a hectic day.
The high summer sunlight from the open window illuminated the round glass work of art Simon created in the center of the table. The environment made of miniscule plants, stones, moss and delicate porcelain figurines was one that he had completed months before arriving in the States. He had tended to the creation across the ocean on the ship, and then over the mountains on the airship. This was the world he had created inspired by Shakespeare’s play, Titania asleep beside a donkey headed Bottom. “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.”
If the winds of fortune had blown a different way, Simon believed he could have had great joy as a botanist owning a terrarium business. Family pressure led him down a different path. To have taken up a trade would have been a slap in the face to his fortunate birth as a black man in this day and age.
Simon put on his loupe and adjusted it until it magnified his view of the Cymbidium Orchid within the ecosystem he had created. He adjusted the tweezers to pollinate manually the exotic flower hoping to create a hybrid. He loved seeing the beauty of change, nature evolving. He loved being a part of creation.
Henri cleared his throat. “I beg your pardon, Leatherby, but there is a matter that needs your attention.”
Simon sighed and removed the loupe. “Herrison, I cannot abide any more visitors.”
“No, sir. It is not that. Apparently this town has never been the host of the person of your position and though they have been informed to make your extended visit hospitable I believe they misunderstood.”
Henri’s nervous mustache bristled. “Sir, I have been listening to what people have been saying, and I have noticed a change in the types of gifts we are receiving.”
“I believe the town of Stubborn has mistakenly thought that the town’s resources of gas and coal aren’t the only things up for negotiation. And I am afraid we are going to require more space…”
Simon’s brows furrowed. “Speak plainly, man.”
“I believe the town intends on finding you a spouse.”
Simon fell backwards into the chair and raised his hand to his head.
Clearly, the town will challenge Simon’s desire for quiet. Though as he’ll learn that though gorgeous to look at, there’s a message and a world beyond the glass terrarium that is one of hope, beauty, and magic. What story do you tell in your terrarium?
So thinks British trade envoy Simon Leatherby as he settles into his temporary home in the mountains of Stubborn, West Virginia, to negotiate an equitable export trade agreement. As the guest of honor at the annual Midsummer Night’s Dream Costume Ball, Simon is charmed by the beauty of this rugged country and matchmaking townsfolk, but only business is on his mind.
Ashland “Ash” Gottschalk, a sweet tempered glassblower, is caught up in a horrible set of circumstances, no thanks to an evil manager and his two wicked assistants heaping abuse on all the downtrodden workers of the Pantoufle Glass Factory. With a clever plan, borrowed items, and a touch of magic, Ash’s friends transform the kind cinderfella into a proper gentleman for one stolen evening at the ball.
A chance meeting at the celebration turns into a magical evening to remember as Ash and Simon meet their match. When the clock strikes midnight and the mysterious Ash disappears as suddenly as he appeared, Simon moves heaven and earth to seek out the keeper of the glass trinket left behind on that starry night.
Will Simon find his ‘prince’ before time runs out or will the evil management’s last cruel trick destroy his happy ending with Ash?
Find The Men Of Summerly HERE on Amazon.com
Nikki Woolfolk grew up with her southern father’s good cooking and tall-tales and her mother’s science fiction loving influence early Silicon Valley. In 2013, a friend challenged her to mix her two loves, science and writing, to create a romance novella. Considering herself more nerd than a romantic, Nikki wrote her version of a romance in which she gets to “have a parkour chase scene, blow sh*t up, and make sure the good guy and gal get the girl” with food on the side when the adventures work up an appetite.
Nikki lives in New England with her son and her partner and is working on the next book with more original recipes for the Steampunk Romance Sweet & Steamy series. For more details go to her blog: thedrunkenmousse.wordpress.com or find her on Twitter!
August 6, 2014 • 68 Comments
I wanted to do something a bit different as a giveaway for the release of the UK edition of the Baskerville Affair series. So, I took myself to the genius crafter who has customized journals for me before and asked for another steampunk creation. I’d given one away previously to one of my street team, which I loved and could barely bring myself to part with. And here came another journal, very different from the first, and I’m going to be just as reluctant to part with it!!
The clasp on the front is magnetic and finished with a radio tube. There are other found objects, including parts of old London maps, keyholes, and more intriguing pieces. The insides of the covers are decorated as well as the front and back, and there is also a bookmark included. I find myself looking at these journals for ages, because there is always one more image I find that I didn’t notice before. (Click on the images to see a bigger view)
How to win this treasure? Leave a comment below and tell me something about how you bring steampunk into your world–reading? music? costume? or something else wonderful and quirky? Or, are you just discovering it, because that counts, too! I know there are readers for whom the Baskerville Affair was their first venture into the genre. Tell me about it and you’re entered in the draw. Contest closes at the end of the month.
August 4, 2014 • 1 Comment
It is with great fanfare and delight that I announce the UK editions of the Baskerville Affair! It pleases me enormously because, of course, a) the UK is fabulous b) the books are set in England and I gathered so much of the research material there and c) best of all, there are TONS OF AMAZING READERS who are now poised to fall into my web. Really, that’s all authors care about. Great herds of willing readers saying “fill me with words,” with shining faces turned our way and clamouring for our stories and characters . . . sigh. That is author happiness. Welcome, welcome!
The series is being released in ebook only editions through Piatkus Entice, which is somewhere under the Little, Brown umbrella. They are available for sale August 7, 2014!
Here are the covers:
April 12, 2014 • 4 Comments
I can’t begin to describe how odd it is to hear someone else narrating YOUR story. There is a moment of excitement, territoriality, and extreme suspicion–and then if you are as lucky as I have been, all that quickly transforms into pure enjoyment. I have been extremely lucky to have Angèle Masters giving voice to my characters in the Audible version of The Baskerville Affair trilogy (if you haven’t DO go check these out–there are samples:
I’m even luckier that Angèle agreed to do an interview!
A long and weird journey, actually, and I like to say that I was destined for it from childhood. I was an avid reader as a child, (my mother had to institute a “No books at the meal table” rule), and I especially loved to read aloud, whether it was in class at school, to my siblings or, when lacking a human audience, to my stuffed animals, who were much better listeners than my younger brother and sister. After moving to America and leaving school, I ended up with a job in an audio bookstore. This was about 15 years ago, right around the time that Jim Dale started doing his amazing recordings of the Harry Potter books, and most audiobooks were Abridged versions, which you rarely see these days. The concept of audiobooks was still relatively new at that time – I mean, we still had a majority of books on cassette tape, not even CDs. I think if someone had mentioned the idea of a “digital download” at that point, my head might have exploded. Anyway, I digress. I remember looking at the backs of the cases, at the pictures and bios of the narrators, and wondering how in the hell I was going to get my name on one of those boxes. Fast forward to late 2010, and I decided to take a class on the art of narrating that my voiceover agent was teaching. At the end of the class, we talked a little about how to actually get involved in the work, and Jeffrey mentioned a newish production company here in Atlanta called ListenUp Audiobooks, owned by a guy named Chris Fogg. He gave me Chris’ phone number and e-mail address and told me to get in touch with him. I sent Chris a truly terrible demo that I had recorded on my phone during class one night, and I waited. And waited. This was at the beginning of 2011, and the industry was just on the brink of exploding in popularity, as in it hadn’t yet exploded and projects were scarce. At the time, however, I didn’t realize that part and assumed the worst – that my demo was, in fact, truly terrible, so terrible that it wasn’t even worth getting back to me to tell me how terrible it was. Then, a couple of months later, I got an e-mail telling me that they loved my voice, and would I come in and record a real demo. I said yes, of course, and it went from there. I recorded my first book in April of 2011, and by September of that year was working at ListenUp as the Casting Director, in addition to narrating as much as possible. I have since left my casting position, but continue to narrate for the company.
What are some of the other projects you’ve done?
So many books at this point!! And so many good ones! Some that stick out: The Collegia Magica series and the Bridge of D’Arnath series by Carol Berg; The Book of Night with Moon, and To Visit the Queen by Diane Duane; Silvermeadow by Barry Maitland; The Perfect Royal Mistress by Diane Haeger; The Dragon Chronicles series by Susan Fletcher; The Watchstar Trilogy by Pamela Sargent. I do most of my narrating in my native English accent, but occasionally I get the chance to stretch my vocal chords with an American author – I loved working on Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale. And I was thrilled to put an Irish lilt to the character of Keira in Orca – Book Seven in the Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust; the majority of that series is voiced by the talented Bernard Setaro Clark.
Tell us a little bit about what the experience of doing an audiobook is
like. How do you prepare?
Well, audiobooks are kind of like the marathons of the voiceover world. Physically, they require a great deal of stamina in both the voice and the body, so plenty of sleep the night before a session and plenty of warm water to drink during the session. As for the words themselves, I like to do some prep in terms of familiarizing myself with the characters and any possible accent choices that need to be made or foreign languages that I need to wrap my mouth around, but I will confess that a big part of me really hates losing the element of surprise that comes from prepwork. I don’t mean the “Holy crap, I just read this whole character in an Irish accent and now, here on page 328, it says that she’s French!!” sort of surprise, because that’s REALLY not fun, but the kind of surprise that you get when you’re actually listening to the book or reading it on the page, the kind of surprise where you stop and say “Holy crap, I can’t BELIEVE the author just did that! What the what??” – sometimes, prepping seems like a giant spoiler alert! One great thing that seems to happening more lately is getting to speak with the author BEFORE going into the studio. It’s nice to get some insight into character choices, accents, pronunciations and that sort of thing before I start recording, and it certainly eliminates the anxiety of wondering whether or not the author is going to hate what I’ve done with his or her carefully crafted story. I know that my heart was in my mouth when I got YOUR e-mail, Emma Jane 🙂
What are the challenges?
First, the physical stamina required. The voice can only take so much of a workout before it forces you to stop. I used to do 8- or 9-hour sessions at a time, but I’ve cut myself back to 6 hours a day. Actually, while working on the Baskerville Affair, I got really sick and lost my voice for a few days. When I got it back and got back into the studio, I pushed myself a little too hard and ended up losing it again after only one day! I learned to be better about taking care of myself, especially when reminded that permanent damage to my vocal chords would put me out of a job. There’s also the physical strain of sitting in a small booth for hours at a time; I do a lot of yoga to counteract that cramped-up feeling in my back and legs 🙂
Second, the artistic stamina. It’s tough to create voices for so many different characters and keep them interesting and authentic, especially as a woman doing male voices. You never want the listener to be confused as to which character is speaking at any given time, nor do you want to devolve into the realm of caricature or any kind of cartoonishness – not to mention making sure that each character’s voice stays consistent throughout the story! It’s definitely a team effort with your engineer to make sure that you’re staying true to the life that you’ve given each person. I’d be lost without our amazing crew of engineers at ListenUp.
How long does it take?
Recording time varies from narrator to narrator. I have a very good ratio in the booth because I don’t make many mistakes, which means that I, generally, spend an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half in the booth for every hour of finished audio. If a project has lots of foreign words or phrases, it can take longer because I’m very particular about getting my pronunciation perfect. Luckily, I have a good ear for languages and accents. (God, do I sound awfully stuck on myself??) I’ve also been known to decide halfway through a book that I’m unhappy with a character choice and insist on going back and fixing every piece of that character’s dialogue in previous chapters, but I try not to make that a habit!
What is your favourite part of the process?
I love the craft of storytelling; I love feeling the words coming to life in a recording session. Honestly though, my favorite part has to be saying the very first and very last lines of a book. That first line will set you up for the rest of the recording, and I think there’s a particular art to being able to make those last few words come out just so and neatly wrap up the story into a perfect package. And, of course, there’s a huge sense of accomplishment with that last line, especially on a particularly lengthy story. The Baskerville Affair, for example, was a huge project. We spent almost a week on the record for each book, and all of those characters felt like old friends by the time we finished. My engineer, Mallah Corbett, and I were both a little sad after I said the last line of A Study in Ashes. There’s definitely a sense of stepping back into the real world that can be sort of surreal.
How does it compare to other kinds of acting?
Oh, vastly different from anything else I’ve ever done. When I was still casting, I used to tell new narrators that this kindof work would go against a lot of their natural instincts as actors. Usually, we only get to tell the story from one point of view. Film and television work, especially, is very disjointed and can feel very disconnected from an actor standpoint; depending on the project, you may not even have any idea of the rest of the story outside of the scenes that your character is in. Theatre is more connected by virtue of it being live, but again you’re only getting to tell one side of a story. Other voiceover work generally involves a much shorter amount of time in the studio, even if it’s animation for a film or television series. Audiobooks will involve you in a very different way, simply because you have the feelings of an entire world of people running through you all at the same time. It’s intense and completely immersive. At least, it is for me.
What are you working on next?
In my audiobook life? At the moment, I’m working on two books in a series by Liz Carlyle – The Bride Wore Scarlet, and The Bride Wore Pearls – set in mid-1800’s London. After that, I can only hope for a reunion with Evelina Cooper. Please.
What would you say to someone who has never tried audiobooks?
That’s a tough one, because I certainly understand the resistance to hearing someone else’s idea of what things should sound like. I’ve always been completely transported by books, totally moved into a world where I have definite ideas of what people should sound like and the tone and inflection of any given sentence. If you’re a first-time listener of audiobooks, definitely don’t seek out a recording of your favorite book, or even your top 10 favorite books. It’s just like watching the movie adaptation of a book that you love – no matter how good the performances or how beautiful the costumes and locations, it’s never going to be exactly how you pictured it when you read the words for yourself. Oh, and make sure that you listen to the voice samples before you download!! Even if you love the description of a book, the narrator’s voice will completely affect how you feel about the story. Reading listener reviews can be helpful, but it’s completely subjective, and how a narrator sounds to one person may not be how they sound to someone else.
Angèle Masters is an actress, voiceover artist and soon-to-be Biology major based in Atlanta, Georgia. She hails, originally, from England, which is why she narrates so many books in an English accent, but she’s been here in the US for almost 25 years, which is why she also does a few in a totally fake American accent 🙂 In addition to reading books in her outside voice, she’s also quite fond of reading them with only the voices in her head. In her spare time, she likes to travel the world in search of adventure, but she can generally be found in her kitchen either baking, performing cooking experiments or doing weird things like making her own butter and vanilla extract. If she’s not there, check the garden. In fact, if the kitchen could be in the garden, life would be pretty perfect. Currently, she shares her life with her talented tattoo artist husband of 8 years, her almost-18-year-old stepdaughter, 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 hives of honeybees, and will be welcoming 6 chickens to the family in the very near future.
February 23, 2014 • 14 Comments
I also got to go to Dartmoor and stay in the Postbridge area. It’s right near the place (in the Bellever Forest area) where Conan Doyle stayed while writing The Hound of the Baskervilles.
This is the pub on the East Dart I used for the Schoolmaster’s secret conferences. The publican (after plying me with the local scrumpy—bleh) told me “the true tale” of the Hound according to local legend.
According to our jolly barkeeper, the tale dates from the time of the temperance movement in the mid-nineteenth century. The wife of the pub’s owner convinced him to stop selling alcohol, but since that was bad for business and no fun, the publican would meet with his friends after hours and have a pint in the cellar. When the wife discovered he’d been smuggling in drink, the townswomen rolled the offending barrels out into the streets and smashed them. Beer poured in rivers down the cobbled lane. A large wild dog that had been roaming the moors came along and drank its fill of the offending liquid. It then ran wild, mauled some sheep, and finished by drowning itself in the East Dart. An acquaintance told Conan Doyle about the incident, and the idea of a savage dog roaming the moor got folded into his tale. Do I believe our friendly barkeep? I don’t know. I will never trust a man who sells me scrumpy like that.
When I mention writing more books in the series, many readers ask for more of Sherlock Holmes, so clearly other people are as interested in his character as I am. During the interviews I’ve given about the Baskerville Affair series, I’ve come up with some sound bites about his appeal. So now how about YOU? What keeps you coming back to Mr. Holmes? Leave a comment and enter my contest to win one of two $25 Amazon gift certificates.
February 22, 2014 • 3 Comments
Please note the Baskerville celebration contest will be posted live here on February 23!
For even more fun, visit HERE to join the party live on Facebook Feb 23 at 7:00 pm EST & meet lots of other authors, steampunk fans, and generally fun people.
February 21, 2014 • 3 Comments
Who doesn’t like an excuse for a holiday? While researching my series, I travelled to the south of England and of course encountered the cream tea. Nine times out of ten, it was a simple affair consisting of a cup of tea, one or two small scones, clotted cream, and maybe preserves. There was nothing overdone or fussy but everything was absolutely fresh. This wasn’t a huge surprise since, in some cases, the cows were literally in the back yard.
When I got home, I started to experiment with scone recipes to recreate the experience (minus the cow). I started with traditional Victorian recipes, but soon started doing my own thing. I came up with a recipe I really like for lemon cranberry scones, which balance the sweet and tart and still taste great with cream, butter or even plain greek yogurt (yes, I’m strange). Here you go:
2 cups of flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp of salt
3 tablespoons of sugar
Cut in ¼ cup of butter
Make a well in the center and pour in the juice of one large lemon and enough milk so that the total volume of liquid is 2/3 cup
grated rind of one large lemon
½ cup dried cranberries
Knead the dough for 5 minutes on a floured surface. Roll out until it’s about an inch thick and cut into 2 inch rounds with a floured cutter. Brush the tops with a little milk.
Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
For a traditional taste, omit the cranberries and lemon and use heavy cream for the liquid. Currants are also a nice addition.
February 16, 2014 • 1 Comment
Susan McCaskill, the seamstress who made my fabulous costumes, has many talents! It’s with great pleasure that I give a signal boost to her new, independently published children’s book, Penelope Parker: Witch in Training. It’s written for a young reading level, maybe about seven to ten depending on the reader. here’s the blurb:
Penelope Parker is a ten year old girl with a problem; she has just been expelled from school! Now what on earth could a ten year old girl have done that was serious enough to get her expelled?
Well, Penelope has special powers, the trouble is she can’t control them. Her father is a wizard and her mother Mundane, with no powers at all, so the powers Penelope inherited from her father are not balanced by those of her mother. This causes no end of catastrophes, one of which ends with Penelope being expelled.
From that time on, Penelope’s life was never to be the same. Follow her adventures and the scrapes she and Hecate, her talking cat get into, and the danger just around the corner.
and a link to Amazon: here
And here is Sue:
First, I’d like to thank Emma Jane Holloway for hosting me on her blog; it is much appreciated!
My book Penelope Parker: Witch in Training started rumbling around in my head a little over ten years ago. I played with it, wrote a couple of chapters, and made notes. Then Life intruded, and it sat collecting dust until last year, when I decided I wasn’t getting any younger, and the book was not going to write itself. (It did, but that’s another story.)
Penelope herself is based loosely on me as a child. I was gangly, a square peg in a round hole, and was mercilessly bullied. I also saw things others didn’t, and I’m sure my mother worried about me!
Gillian Barrington-Smythe, the antagonist, is also based on a girl I knew at school. She came from a rich family, and was spoiled and used to getting her own way.
The other characters just emerged fully formed from the recesses of my brain, and I’m not sure where they came from!
The school Penelope was expelled from is also the school I went to in England, as is the headmistress. Unfortunately, the school no longer exists; there is a council estate there now.
I love the Harry Potter series, but I always felt that a few more strong female characters would have been good, so I set out to do just that. There aren’t too many books in the fantasy genre that have a female as the main character, so Penelope was born, partly from me, partly from fantasy.
All the main characters are female, and the only males in the book are the fathers, Gwyddion and Marcus, Hecate’s brother, Paddy, and Jacob. I think that will continue, at least for the next book, and we’ll see what happens after that. I’m already working on the second book and hope to have the first draft finished by April if all goes well.
About the author:
Susan (or Sue, as she prefers to be called), was born in post war England, and lived there until the age of nine, when she and her mother emigrated to Canada. Her father died when she was eight, and left a huge impression on her. Both her parents encouraged her to read, and learn. She has always believed in fairies and elves, and probably always will, and as a child, she saw things many others didn’t, and as a result she was thought to be a little strange.
Although she has been in Canada for so many years, she still misses the English and Welsh countryside, and because of this, her novel is based in the ancient, picturesque town of Betws-Y-Coed, and the surrounding countryside.
Sue lives on beautiful Vancouver Island, with her husband and her demanding cats.
February 14, 2014 • No Comments
New from steampunk author Melanie Karsak!
- A sabotaged airship.
- A recovering opium addict.
- A messenger with life-shattering news.
With the 1824 British airship qualifying race only weeks away, Lily Stargazer is at the top of her game. She’s racing like a pro, truly in love, and living clean. But on one ill-omened day, everything changes.
Pulled head-long into the ancient secrets of the realm, Lily soon finds herself embroiled in Celtic mysteries and fairy lore. And she’s not quite sure how she got there, or even if she wants to be involved. But Lily soon finds herself chasing the spirit of the realm while putting her own ghosts to rest. And only accepting the truth–about her heart and her country–can save her.
Begin the adventure with Chasing the Star Garden, The Airship Racing Chronicles I, available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Garden-Airship-Racing-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00GXUU6IC/
About the Author:
Melanie Karsak grew up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania where there wasn’t much to do but read books and go for hikes. She wrote her first novel, a gripping piece about a 1920s stage actress, when she was 12. Today, Melanie, a steampunk connoisseur, white elephant collector, and caffeine junkie, lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.
- Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Melanie-Karsak/e/B009DKGKQG/
- Blog: http://melaniekarsak.blogspot.com
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/MelanieKarsak
- Email: email@example.com
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorMelanieKarsak
- Authorgraph: http://www.authorgraph.com/authors/MelanieKarsak
- Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/melaniekarsak/
- Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6539577.Melanie_Karsak
A chartreuse-colored leaf fluttered down onto the wheel of the Stargazer. It was early morning. The mist covering the surface of the Thames reflected the rosy sunrise. Yawning, I reached out to brush it away only find it was not a leaf at all. Carefully, I balanced the fragile creature on the tip of my finger.
“Mornin’, Lil. Hey, what’s that?” Jessup called as he bounced onto the deck of the Stargazer.
Angus was cursing as he cranked out the repair platform below the ship. We were preparing for our morning practice run to Edinburgh.
“A luna moth,” I replied.
“I thought maybe you’d finally caught the green fairy,” Jessup joked as he climbed into the burner basket.
I grinned. The moth’s green wings, dotted with yellowish eyes, wagged slowly up and down. It was beautiful, but it was dying. “My mother once told me that they are fey things, that they live in the other realm until it’s their time to die. Then, they come to humans.”
“Why?” Jessup asked as he adjusted the valves. Orange flame sparked to life.
“She said that even enchanted things want to be truly loved at least once.”
“Don’t we all?” he replied with a laugh.
A harsh wind blew across the Thames, clearing the morning mist. It snatched the delicate creature from my hands. I tried to catch it, but the breeze pulled it from me even as it was dying. I lost it to the wind.
I sighed heavily as I picked up my tools then bounded over the side of the ship to the repair platform. I pulled out a dolly and rolled under, joining Angus who had fallen remarkably silent. The moment I saw the gear assembly on the Stargazer, I understood why.
“What the hell?” I whispered.
“Jessup!” I shouted. “Get the tower guards down here!”
“What’s wrong?” Jessup called.
“The Stargazer has been sabotaged!”
I stared at the mangled gears. From the saw marks on the gear assembly to the metal shrapnel blown around the galley, it was clear what had happened. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut.
Seconds later I heard Jessup’s boots hit the platform and the sound of him running toward the guard station.
“They removed Sal’s torque mechanism. Sawed the bloody thing right off,” Angus said angrily.
“But . . . who?” I stammered.
“The Dilettanti?” Angus offered as he strained to examine the rest of the assembly.
“No,” I said as I touched the saw marks. The rough metal cut my finger. “That business is finished. Byron saw to that.” I stuck my bloodied finger in my mouth. The salty taste of blood mixed with the tang of gear grease.
“Someone who didn’t want us to race in the qualifying. Someone who wanted to learn what had us running so fast.”
We were less than a month out from the British qualifying. While there were other good race teams in the realm, no one raced better than us. After all, we were the champions of the 1823 World Grand Prix. My stunt in Paris had brought us heaps of acclaim, but not all our British competitors were impressed. Envy had set in.
“Grant?” Angus suggested.
Julius Grant, whose team was sponsored by Westminster Gas Light, was our greatest competition at home. He hated us. He was annoyed that we were sponsored by Byron, annoyed that I was female, and annoyed that we were faster than him. Grant was the most likely suspect. But he was not the only one. “Almost too obvious. What about Lord D?” I wondered aloud.
“He’d love to, but he doesn’t have the stones,” Angus replied. “Might be someone who doesn’t want us in the Prix. If they take us out during qualifying, we aren’t a threat abroad.”
“That means it could be anyone.”
“Hell, maybe one of Byron’s lovers took a stab at you.”
“But I’m not even romantically involved with him anymore.”
“The rest of the world doesn’t know that.”
I rolled out from under the ship. Leaning against the Stargazer, I wiped my hands. The cut stung as grease mingled with the open wound. I wanted to either beat someone to death or cry. I wasn’t sure which. Maybe both.
Angus joined me.
“Can we get it fixed in time?” I asked him.
He wiped sweat from his bald head as he thought. “It’ll be close. I’ll need Sal’s help.”
“You? Need Sal?”
“He’s busy getting the factory ready, but he’ll come.”
Jessup returned with Edwin, the stationmaster, and Reggie, one of the guards.
“Where the hell were your people last night?” Angus demanded of Edwin. We’d known Edwin for a long time, and we trusted the guards in London. Something wasn’t right.
As Angus and Edwin discussed, a terrible ache rocked my stomach. I set my hand on the side of the Stargazer. Her honey-colored timbers shone in the sunlight. Just as sleek and beautiful as she was the first time I laid eyes on her, she was my pride and joy. My ship. My love. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
“What do you think, Lil?” Jessup asked.
Clearly, I’d missed something. “Pardon?”
“Edwin suggested we post a private guard,” Jessup explained.
I nodded. “We’ll sort it out.”
“Lily, I’m so sorry. Someone must have sneaked past us. I can’t believe it,” Edwin said. His clear blue eyes were brimming with tears.
I set my hand on his shoulder. “Who was stationed on this end last night?”
I sighed. I wasn’t one to point fingers, but that explained it. “Was he still drunk when he went home this morning?” I asked Reggie.
Reggie shifted uncomfortably as Edwin turned to look at him. “He was,” Reggie answered after a moment.
“That lazy, rummy bloke. I’ll kill him! I’ll kill him!” Edwin shouted, and in an angry huff, stomped back down the platform.
“Sorry, Lily. Angus. Jessup. I won’t take my eyes off her,” Reggie said sadly then went to take a post near the Stargazer.
“We’ll sleep on the ship until we get a guard on board,” I told Angus and Jessup who nodded in agreement.
“A guard . . . but who can we trust?” Jessup asked.
“The Stargazer is family. We need family to keep her safe,” Angus replied then looked at me.
“You mean . . . Duncan?” About three years earlier, I’d been, albeit briefly, in a relationship with Angus’ older brother Duncan. While I’d fallen for Duncan the moment I’d laid eyes on him, we were not suited for one another. Back then, I wasn’t ready to give up Byron or anything else.
Angus shrugged. “I suppose he’s over you by now.”
“That’s all well and good,” Jessup spat, “but we need someone to look into this! Someone needs to be held accountable! We should send for the Bow Street boys.”
Angus shook his head. “Only if we want everyone in London to know.”
“Well, we need to do something!” Jessup protested.
“Let’s keep it quiet. I’ll talk to Phineas,” I replied.
Jessup nodded eagerly. “Yeah. Good idea.”
Angus frowned. “Are you sure about that?”
Phineas and I had a convoluted opiate history, but as Angus knew well, I’d been keeping my habits in check. “It’ll be fine. I’ll check in with Phin, go get Sal, and come back. We can head out to the league meeting together.”
“If Grant looks even a wee bit guilty, I’m going to squeeze his neck,” Angus cursed.
“If he looks guilty, I’ll help you,” I replied. I set my hand on the Stargazer. It was so painful to see something you loved damaged.
“It’ll be all right, Lil,” Jessup said trying to comfort me. “We’ll get her fixed.”
I smiled weakly at Jessup then turned to leave. I knew he was right, but it didn’t make me feel any better.
February 4, 2014 • 2 Comments
I was trundling through the countryside and spotted an intriguing looking junk–ahem–antique shop. As I have no willpower in these matters, I stopped to have a look. See what I found! The cutest possible cast iron doorstop. And how can it be metal, antique, and a mouse and not be Evelina’s Mouse?