Sending Jo Into the Dragon’s Lair…

Well, maybe not literally.

I’ve been given an opportunity to have the Chronicles for sale in a lovely little indie bookstore in Canada, Dragon’s Lair Artist Emporium. I just mailed off copies today for her to look at, and hopefully they will be onboard soon. (And I didn’t forget to send along tins of the teas to see if she’s interested in pairing those too, Tea Punk Teas.)

It will mean exposing a whole new market to Jo and friends, and I am quite excited about it. We’ll see how it goes.

Aside from that, things are still stalled here as we try to get Fred’s book whipped into shape. Don’t give up on us, though! You know Jo–you can’t keep her down forever!

Here’s a poetical venture from our heroine herself–

*If you ask me where I’m going
I might tell you where I’ve been
‘Cause my life’s so topsy-turvy
that my head is in a Spin!

I’m Josephine Mann
and I do what I can
to take care of myself
and my cat.

When all hope was gone,
I met Alistair Conn
and things turned around
just like that!

With a good deal of pluck
and a fair bit of luck
We manage to get
through the day…

On land or in air
We make quite a pair,
though he swears I will turn
his hair gray!

(Someday, I hope to make it her theme song…)

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All’s Quiet on the Conn-Mann Front

.

Whether Alistair is too busy in his workshop or Jo decided they would have the rest of their Honeymoon Progress alone, I haven’t had any ideas for them in ages.

I even tried to write short stories for NaNoWriMo this year to prime the pump and get things going again. No luck.

I am still working on Fred’s book. Finally getting some specific feedback, and there appears to be a HUGE hole in the plot, so it’s still got a ways to go. It will be done…eventually. After all, it has a Brad Fraunfelter cover already done!

Still, I haven’t given up hope for more adventures in my favorite universe. There are plans. I just need Jo to cooperate!

In the meantime, here is the ONE piece I got finished in November. It is a look at that fateful first meeting from Alistair’s POV. Enjoy.

The Other Side of the Equation

“Is that you, Perfessor?”

“Yes, Ma. Sorry, I didn’t let you know, but I’ve already had something for lunch.”

“Oh?”

“Yes…it was the most peculiar thing. I believe I have hired a research assistant.”

“Good fer you! You work far too hard. It will do ya good t’ have someone to share the work.”

“I suppose so. I’m just not sure how it happened.”

“Well, sit down and tell me all about it. I am sure ya have room fer a spot of tea and a piece of pie.”

Alistair Conn pulled out his chair at the boarding house table and sank into it with a sigh. “Thank you, Ma.  It has been a most unusual day.”

Ma Stark set a steaming cup of tea and a large slab of pie before him and then pulled out a chair across from him and sat down. “Tell me about it, dear.”

“I’ve been planning to hire someone for some time now, but I still hadn’t taken any steps to pursue it. Aunt Emily has been nudging me to get on with it, so I promised her to go to the newspaper and place an advertisement this morning.” Needing to collect his thoughts, Alistair took a large bite of the pie. It was his favorite–cherry. Ma spoiled her tenants so…

“Is the young gentleman going to need a place to stay?”

He swallowed hastily. “That’s just it…it isn’t a young gentleman. I seem to have hired a young lady for the position. She rather steamrolled me into it, but she seems to have a sharp wit and pleasant manner. I’m sure it will be fine.”

“A young lady? Alistair Conn–I didn’t know you had it in ya.”

He could feel the tips of his ears growing hot. “It isn’t anything like that at all, Ma. She just happened to be in the right place at the right time to intercept my advertisement. I don’t even know if she will prove satisfactory to the job. But she is most persuasive, I will give her that.”

“Well, tell me about her. What’s her name?”

“Josephine Mann. She’s a little thing…her head doesn’t quite reach my shoulder, and she’s got the most incredible hair–red as fire and tumbling down in a mass of curls…”

Ma cocked her head. “Interestin’ thing to notice.”

“Well, it is her most recognizable feature. And you might have occasion to see her going in and out of the place.”  

“How did ya meet, exactly?”

“Well, I was stepping into Mr. Greenstreet’s office at the newspaper when she barreled into me, promptly landing herself on her posterior.”

“Oh my!”

“I was afraid she had hurt herself, but it soon became clear that wasn’t the case. I attempted to complete my business with Mr. Greenstreet, but she convinced me she would be a reasonable candidate for the position, so I agreed to give her a trial period.”

“When do you expect her?”

“Tomorrow morning, actually. I suppose I should do a bit of tidying up before she presents herself.”

“Do you think it is proper t’ have a young female around your premises unchaperoned? I know ya, but not everyone does.”

“It’s too late to do anything about it now. If she doesn’t suit, I am sure I can find some pretext for dismissing her.”

“Don’t you dare! At least not until ya give her a decent chance.”

“I promise to run the experiment to a natural conclusion, Ma. But I make no guarantees that I will continue to employ her past the week.”

“Just be patient. Don’t be hasty. It sounds like she really needs th’ job, and you really need someone to clear up some of that magpie’s nest of yours. I don’t see how ya find a thing in that mess.”

“You do have a point, Ma.” He finished the pie, washing it down with the tea. “Thank you for the refreshments. The pie was lovely. As I say, I expect her bright and early tomorrow.” He rose to his feet. “I gave her the address before we parted.”

“Did you tell her to look for you downstairs?”

He blinked in consternation. “No. I’m so used to dealing with people who know me that I completely forgot to mention it.”

“I’ll keep an ear out for the door in th’ morning and set her straight. Now, go on with ya. You’ve got a lot of work to do before morning. I’ve seen your laboratory.”

Alistair gave her a quick hug. “Yes, ma’am.”

Bounding down the front steps of the boarding house and those leading to his apartment below street level, he entered the laboratory with a light heart. Tomorrow would be the start of something very interesting. He was sure of it.

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Looking to the Future…

This year has been a bust for me in so many ways. Not getting to conventions and getting the burst of inspiration and aspiration that comes from meeting new people and talking to fans has really been weighing me down. But we can’t just stay in stasis forever.

It’s time to move forward.

In anticipation that conventions (or at least some sort of show…) will return in some form, I have ordered things for my table next year. A new chair…some promo items for the new series that will hopefully be debuting…appropriate masks…

Miss Priss even approved them.

This year has been like one long vacation as my husband worked from home…but I am ready to get back to work!

How about you? Are you looking forward to seeing Fred and Kevin’s book come out? (My final run-thru edits in process…)

And hopefully, Jo has gotten bored of her vacation too! November is coming…

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Fashion in the Conn-Mann Chronicles

Fashion in the 1870’s was in a state of flux. (Isn’t fashion always changing?) Skirts were narrowing and the fabric was moving to the back of the skirt instead of the sides.

A fashionable lady–like Leonora or Aunt Emily–would be up on the most current styles, and dress accordingly.

Jo and Fred would not. They are not up on the current styles. They go for comfort. Jo is not one for stays. Fred is much more practical too. They are more likely to be found in a simple bodice and skirt.

Alistair is seldom dressed for the board room either–though, as a professor, he is sure to wear a jacket and tie in classes. In the warehouse, he’s in shirt-sleeves and a lab coat.

Kevin is much more likely to be in a suit, as he is in a professional position. As a detective, he would not be in a uniform, but Sergeant Doyle would be.

For more information on the fashion of the time, here’s a good blog post, and here is another.

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The Next Coming Thing

It was a busy day, so this will be short. I just thought I would talk a minute about a common thread in many Steampunk properties. In fact, it is what makes some of the media “Steampunk” in the first place–and that is the search for the “next new/coming thing.”

One of the things that makes The Adventures of Brisco County so charming is Brisco’s eager search for the technology just over the horizon. Wickwire’s inventions fascinate him for this reason.

On The Murdoch Mysteries–just now out of the Victorian era and into Edwardian–there is a similar wonder about the next technology on the horizon, though Detective Murdoch is more of a “hands-on” sort, having already invented a stop-action security camera, gears for his bicycle, an ultraviolet light for crime scene investigation and at least a dozen other gadgets. Again, the whimsical wonder as to what will be the next big idea adds a charm and fun to the show.

It’s easier to “show” this mindset on video than “tell” it in the pages of a book, but Jo has referenced Alistair should make some sort of communications device (telephone) and Seamus has a recording mechanism built into one of his mechanicals. So, I do try to get a bit of it in.

What is your favorite example of this trope? Share in the comments! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

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Guest Post: Captain Nemo—the First Undersea Pirate

20KLeagues_Front Cover

Thank you, Rie, for the opportunity to steam into your blog. I’ll try to leave the place looking as shipshape as I found it.

I know Rie and her fans love pirates, so allow me to brag about a new anthology featuring the first man to conduct his piracy underwater. About a year ago, I realized Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea would turn 150 years old in June 2020. I decided to commemorate that sesquicentennial by creating an anthology of stories paying tribute to Jules Verne’s proto-steampunk classic.

Along with Kelly A. Harmon of Pole to Pole Publishing, I co-edited 20,000 Leagues Remembered, which contains 16 stories by modern authors, each written in honor of the first submarine novel. Here’s a taste of what you’ll read:

  • Author Stephen R. Wilk merges Twenty Thousand Leagues with another Verne novel, The Blockade Runners, in his lively ship chase, “A Game of Hare and Hounds.”

  • If you pit Nemo’s Nautilus against Mark Twain, an ironclad, and an airship, you get submariner M. W. Kelly’s rollicking story, “Farragut’s Gambit.”

  • What if John Strock, Verne’s American detective in Master of the World, was assigned to investigate strange maritime reports from Baltimore? Find out what happens in J. Woolston Carr’s “The Ghost of Captain Nemo.”

  • In Eric Choi’s riveting adventure tale “Raise the Nautilus,” British salvagers attempt to recover the Nautilus and its technology, but they may not be the only interested party.

  • Older English translations of Verne’s novel were horrible, and in “The Silent Agenda” by Mike Adamson, you’ll find one fascinating explanation why.

  • Suppose Professor Aronnax were to meet Cyrus Smith, the leader of the castaways in Verne’s The Mysterious Island, years later. Read “An Evening at the World’s Edge” by Alfred D. Byrd to discover how both their lives change forever.

  • Maya Chhabra explores Captain Nemo’s origin in Bundelkhand, India and how it affected his interactions with Pierre Aronnax in her thought-provoking story, “The Maelstrom.”

  • Nemo assembled his loyal crew somehow, and must have found a way to replenish their depleted numbers by some secret method. In Andrew Gudgel’s “Recruiter,” you’ll read how that might have happened.

  • What if the Nautilus existed today, and contained mysteries that could alter us and our planet forever? Enjoy “Nemo’s World” by James J.C. Kelly and uncover Nemo’s long-hidden secrets.

  • Nikoline Kaiser wrote a poignant coming-of-age story we couldn’t resist, a tale set in Greenland, of all places. “Last Year’s Water” explores a young girl’s grieving process.

  • If a diving mishap left you trapped inside an extinct volcano, could you escape? Read “Homework Help from No One” by Captain Demetri Capetanopoulos to discover a particularly Vernian solution to that problem.

  • 150 years can seem like nothing, if you ride in the right kind of vehicle. The protagonist of Corrie Garrett’s “A Concurrent Process” might wish she’d not spent her time investigating that strange UFO over Chicago.

  • What happened just after the Nautilus entered the maelstrom at the end of Verne’s novel? Thanks to Jason J. McCuiston, you can find out what bizarre sights Nemo and one unusual crewman encounter “At Strange Depths.”

  • Could a band of misfit criminal oddballs hope to steal the gold and treasures rumored to be aboard the Nautilus? Author Allison Tebo will leave you laughing out loud when “Fools Rush In.”

  • Nemo described sperm whales (cachalots in French) as nothing but “mouth and teeth.” To know what a sperm whale might think of the Nautilus, you’ll have to read “Leviathan” by Michael D. Winkle.

  • Twenty thousand leagues in outer space? We travel there, too, in Gregory L. Norris’s tender story “Water Whispers.”

20,000 Leagues Remembered is available in ebook form at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, and several other distributors. The paperback is available at Amazon as well, and check Pole to Pole Publishing for news about the other outlets.

Thanks again, Rie, for the chance to surface my sub in the waters of your blog. I’m leaving now. Cast off all lines! Dive! Dive!

Steven R. Southard

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Finishing with Avast, Ye Airships!

3D illustration of a flying organic fantasy airship

Today we finish our tour of Avast, Ye Airships! from Mocha Memoirs Press.

“Adventures of a Would-Be Gentleman of the Skies” by Jim Reader tells the story of a young man smitten with the idea of air piracy…and the soiled dove he named his ship after. Both ideas perhaps a bit misguided…

Steven Southard tells what happens when old-style pirates have a run-in with the up-and-coming generation in “A Clouded Affair.”

When I first read “The Climbers,” I wasn’t sure if it fit into the anthology, but it was such an intriguing tale of aliens who could be classified as pirates and their plan to invade the Earth that I had to send D. Chang an acceptance letter. 😉

“The Steampunk Garden” by Wynelda Ann Deaver revisits The Secret Garden with a Steampunk flair. A brilliant girl with the mind of an engineer thwarts a kidnapping and proves she’s more than a child.

Steve Ruskin’s “Lotus of Albion” proves again that things aren’t always what they seem, and taking people at face value can sometimes land you in trouble beyond your wildest dreams.

Finally, we come to our last story by K.C. Shaw. Two lovely young pirates taking their new ship for a test flight find a worthy prize and every pirate’s favorite beverage in “And a Bottle of Rum.”

So, sit yourself down with a copy of Avast, Ye Airships! and your own bottle of rum, or whatever your favorite beverage might be, and enjoy sailing the cloudy sea! (Or maybe you’d like to make your own rum…) 😉

Fare thee well, me hearties!

3D fantasy organic airship in the hangar

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RieView: The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.

For more than two decades (and coming up on three now…) this picture has hung on my wall:

20200731_143128

It’s not a great sketch, but I did my best. 🙂 Heck, I even did one of my longest pieces of fanfic for this series–The (Future) Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. — a mashup of about a dozen series woven together. It used to be up online, but the website no longer exists. I’ll keep looking for a copy and share if I find it.

I had just moved back to Austin in 1993 after realizing that being a teacher was not for me. I was living with friends, trying to get used to a new job…not a real happy place. And then, one night, pretty much by accident, as I remember, we turned on the television and discovered The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.

I instantly fell in love, and I have been a huge Bruce Campbell fan ever since. I went back to find everything he had done previously and have watched everything I can get my hands on since. While Ash will always be a favorite, Brisco holds a special place in my heart.

So, when looking for Steampunk to RieView on this website, I decided this was a great place to start. 🙂

Set in 1893, in the waning years of the Victorian Era there are a lot of Steampunk elements involved–from Professor Wickwire’s rocket to Brisco’s obsession with “the coming thing.” The mysterious orb that holds the whole series together could be something straight out of Jules Verne or H.G. Wells. With elements of horror and science fiction to leaven the Western setting, it holds something for everyone.

The series starts with Brisco County, Sr. talking to a reporter after successfully rounding up John Bly and his gang. The bandits wind up escaping–and Marshall County is killed, setting up the premise that Brisco is looking to complete his father’s work.

The writing still holds up after all these years, full of word-play and smart repartee. The characters were all well-drawn. The acting is generally a little over the top but fits the style of the series beautifully.

Guest stars abound, from John Astin to Robert Picardo to Terry Bradshaw–and there is no more wicked villain than Billy Drago‘s John Bly. Many familiar faces from the early days of TV Westerns pop up now and then. And then there are the tongue-in-cheek references, like “Doctor Quintano, Medicine Woman.”

Even after all these years, when I see John Pyper-Ferguson in any role (and there have been quite a few) I see Pete Hutter obsessing over his “piece.” When a bit player makes that big an impression, you know that the whole series is well-done.

To see this show is to love it. It is available to stream free on IMDB TV with a few minimally invasive ads, or to buy on DVD. (I have a set, though many of the reviews on Amazon seem to say that the discs don’t last very long–I watched on streaming for this review.)

Apparently, despite the fact that it only ran the one season, there were plans for a second. And Bruce has intimated that he would still be interested in reviving the role. Of course, it could never be quite the same without the late Julius Carry or Billy Drago, but I am sure that they could figure something out.

I would definitely give this one 5 Cogs.

5 Gears

 

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Continuing with Avast, Ye Airships!

AvastYeCover

Continuing on with the walkthrough of Avast, Ye Airships! from Mocha Memoirs Press, we will look today at the next seven stories.

Andrew Knighton’s tale, “A Wind Will Rise,” tells of two adventurers out to save a shipload of captives from a Confederate Colonel who doesn’t believe the South has fallen forever. A rousing adventure tale with gadgets aplenty but not a spot of tea…

“Hooked” takes Wyndie Darling aboard the Neverland airship to sail with Captain Pan on a genteel pleasure cruise. But a storm blows in, bringing with it the infamous Jolly Roger, and she must choose a life of complacency or piracy. Not your normal Peter Pan.

Ross Baxter’s delightful tale of environmental responsibility and thinking outside the coal box, “Go Green,” should bring a smile to the most cynical lips.

“Lost Sky” is set in the same world as Amy Braun’s Dark Sky series. It is a grim tale of a young engineer trying to keep herself and her sister safe in a world gone mad. I really love this story. It is very gritty and dystopian in a Cherie Priest sort of Steampunk.

In “Miss Warlyss Meets the Black Buzzard,” Diana Parparita tells us of another young woman frustrated by the lifestyle she is expected to follow. Luckily, she has learned a thing or two about engineering…

Libby Smith’s tale of “Plunder in the Valley” is a rollicking tale of pirates come to plunder a most unusual item from a god-fearing community. You’ll never look at pirates in quite the same way again.

“The Clockwork Dragon” by Steve Cook is a story of revenge and redemption. Clockwork dragons ply the skies taking out pirates…but who can slay the dragons?

 

Next week we will finish up Avast, Ye Airships! The week after I have a treat for you. 🙂

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Avast, Ye Airships!

AvastYeCover

Continuing from the theme of last week, this week we take to the air with the pirates again and begin a discussion of Avast, Ye Airships. 🙂

In 2015, Mocha Memoirs and I wanted to publish a Steampunk anthology. As you might have guessed, I really like airship pirates–in fact, the book came out a year before the album and was actually one of the potential Kickstarter rewards for Pirates Vs. Dragons.

We will be going over the stories for the next few weeks like we did with Dark Divinations, RieTales, and Bruce and Roxanne from Start to Finnish over on the RieWriter website. Because we aren’t doing daily posts on each blog, we will be going over more than one story per post.

To begin, here is the table of contents (Author links where available):

Come and Be a Pirate — Rie Sheridan Rose
Beneath the Brass — Stephen Blake
Maiden Voyage — Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins
Colonel Gurthwait & the Black Hydra — Robert McGough
Captain Wexford’s Dilemma — Ogarita
Her Majesty’s Service– Lauren Marrero
A Wind Will Rise — Andrew Knighton
Hooked — Rie Sheridan Rose
Go Green — Ross Baxter
Lost Sky — Amy Braun
Miss Warlyss Meets the Black Buzzard — Diana Parparita
Plunder in the Valley — Libby Smith
The Clockwork Dragon — Steve Cook
Adventures of a Would-Be Gentleman of the Skies — Jim Reader
A Clouded Affair — Steven Southard
The Climbers – D. Chang
The Steampunk Garden — Wynelda Ann Deaver
Lotus of Albion — Steve Ruskin
And a Bottle of Rum — K.C. Shaw

 

The anthology opens with the lyrics to one of the songs from Pirates Vs. Dragons because it was too perfect not to use it, and Marc said: “Go for it.”

The first story is Stephan Blake’s “Beneath the Brass.” Written as a series of diary entries, it tells the tale of a young woman who was committed to a mental asylum only to be “rescued” by a cyborg and taken aboard a piratical airship. Her adventures with the pirates make for exciting reading.

“Maiden Voyage,” tells of a dancer and her companion who foil a pirate invasion of a luxury airship on its first voyage. It is a rousing tale of derring-do proving women should never be underestimated. 😉

In “Colonel Gurthwait & the Black Hydra,” two old hunters try to play a practical joke on a third who desperately desires to be included in their club. The results are not at all what they expected.

The premise of “Captain Wexford’s Dilemma” is that an airship has accidentally gotten itself possessed, and now the crew must figure out what to do with their unwanted guests.

“Her Majesty’s Service,” is an interesting tale of a “Spider” aboard a royal airship. These crewmen flit about the ship tied to the rigging like spiders on silken strings. It’s a hard job, but bears its own rewards, as Nandi discovers in the course of the tale.

Next week, we will continue the walkthrough of the Avast, Ye Airships anthology.

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