Today, I would like to welcome my friend Karen J. Carlisle to the blog. Our works have appeared together in three different steampunk anthologies: Denizens of Steam, Den of Antiquity, and DeadSteam: A Chilling Collection of Dreadpunk Tales. Karen has a new novel coming out tomorrow and she has agreed to share an excerpt from it. So, without further ado, I will turn the floor over to Karen.
Good morning everyone and thank you to David for allowing me to guest post on his blog.
So far on this blog tour, I’ve written about why The Department of Curiosities was written, introduced our heroine, Tillie Meriwether, and other characters and exposed some background on one of the many competing groups.I’ve chatted about mechanicals (gadgets), shared book trailers and a new short story and The Department’s Australian connection.
The Department of Curiosities is a tale of adventure, a heroine, a mad scientist, traitors and secrets. All for the good of the Empire.
Buckle up and get ready for the adventure…
Now there’s just one more day until my new book goes live on 22nd May. It’s also Tillie Meriwether’s birthday! (I chose Tillie’s birthday in the first draft – and had forgotten the date. Imagine my surprise when I realised it was the week of the intended release date. So why not make them the same day?)
To celebrate the official release, and Tillie’s birthday, here’s an excerpt… Everyone does the first chapter, so this time I’m sharing the second scene from chapter eighteen:
Of Airships, Trains and Flying Machines
The crew had assembled in Little Nessie’s lower hold. Only the pilot and boilermen remained at their posts. The General had yet to arrive, and Harrow was conspicuous by his absence. Tillie frowned, and wondered what mischief he was orchestrating.
She stood behind the troop of operatives gathered before her. She stretched up on tiptoe to observe the proceedings.
Six strapping men, some of England’s finest; each wore a harness wrapped around their torso. A life-line of thick silk rope attached them securely to the winch. They were armed with pistols, grappling hooks and devilish-looking knives. Strapped to their backs were over-sized blunderbusses: a silver ball jutted from one side surrounded by brass tubes, which coiled along the rifle’s barrel to the muzzle. A mini-grappling hook perched on top of the barrel end; its cord funnelled along a tube back to a cartridge on the other side of the rifle body.
The troops eagerly jostled each other as they circled a large hatch in the floor of the hull. They checked their equipment, donned their goggles and readied to jump into oblivion below. The hatch intrigued her, as did the large brass winch secured to the floor near its rim. Sir Avery checked the gauges on the body of the winch assembly and swallowed. The colour drained from his face, until he resembled a wide-eyed Ghostman. His moustache twitched.
<<It quivered,>> said the Orb.
<<Don’t be horrible,>> said Tillie. <<If you can’t say something nice, then don’t speak at all. Or I’ll ask the General to bring his cane.>>
The Orb shuddered. The corner of her mouth curled in satisfaction. She’d finally discovered something to curb the Orb’s increased bullying.
“Are we not joining them?” she asked Sir Avery.
He stared at the floor hatch and didn’t reply.
<<Reckless,>> said the Orb.
<<Not your choice,>> she said.
The Orb fell silent.
The door behind them clanked. The men snapped to attention.
There was a faint chuckle beside her ear.
“Yes, you are going, my dear,” said the General.
“We get to fly?” Tillie squealed with delight. “How?”
Sir Avery managed only a weak smile.
“You get these.” Harrow stepped into view, carrying a large cylindrical contraption on each arm. “Personal Flying Machines.”
“Confiscated from an Australian smuggler,” said the General.
Sir Avery relieved Harrow of one of the flying machines and held it at arm’s length.
“The cylinder contains a pressurised gas…”
His words faded as Tillie ogled the brass cylinders. So shiny. She could see her own reflection in their brilliance. She ran her hands along the pipes and grabbed the harness.
“How do I put it on?” She spun around, slipped her arms through the harness straps and pulled the contraption onto her back.
Sir Avery halted his lecture and blinked; his hands, still holding the harness straps, now encircled her waist. Her bustle nudged his arm as she snatched the ends of the straps from his hand and buckled up the harness.
He took a quick step backwards, transferring his hands to cradle the gas tanks until the straps were secure. The colour had returned to his cheeks.
Harrow handed Sir Avery the second Personal Flying Machine. Sir Avery donned the contraption and demonstrated how to adjust the pack to sit securely.
“You’re not accompanying us, Harrow?” she asked.
“I have my orders,” he replied. “I am to stay here with the General. The Personal Flying Machines are restricted to those with Lower Level clearance.”
Harrow’s face remained fixed, showing no emotion. He was up to something.
The Orb jittered. Tillie eyed Harrow out of the corner of her eye. She was not comfortable with leaving him alone with the General, in such close proximity of a gaping hole hundreds of feet above the countryside.
Harrow smiled at her. It was faint, but it was there.
<<He knows I suspect him. What should I do?>>
The Orb did not reply. She frowned; this time she wanted its opinion. She glanced at the General’s cane and frowned. Blessings could also be curses.
Sir Avery jiggled the gas canisters and tapped on the pressure gauge. Tillie relaxed her muscles, trying to look as calm as possible, and returned her attention to the Personal Flying Machine.
“How do I start it?” she asked Sir Avery.
He swivelled two metal pipe-handles over her head. They clicked in place. She grasped them.
“Steering?” she asked.
“Yes,” he replied. “Just apply pressure in the direction you wish to travel.”
She pushed forward. The handles moved under her guidance.
“This,” he indicated a switch at the bottom of the main body of the pack, “is the ignition switch. And this…” He indicated a large button on the right side of the pack, about elbow height. “This will get you back to the ground if you lose power.”
Tillie grinned. It seemed simple enough.
The General stepped forward.
“Miss Meriwether and Gentlemen, I will remind you this is a retrieval mission. I have direct orders from Her Majesty. We need the Inventor alive.” He turned to the troops. “And intact. Is that understood?”
The men nodded.
“Once he is retrieved, and you are clear of the train, Little Nessie will descend to facilitate your extraction.” He turned to Harrow. “There is an extra flying machine prepared for you. Stop the train if there is any danger to the passengers.”
Harrow narrowed his eyelids.
“Sir?” he said. “I thought-”
“Change of plan. We need to ensure the safety of the other passengers on board. That is your priority.”
Harrow slipped on the flying machine and clicked the harness in place.
“Miss Meriwether, you are to accompany Sir Avery to First Class to apprehend the Inventor. The rest of the men will keep the Ghostmen from interfering.”
There was a murmur of assent.
She carefully lifted her goggles over her head, hoping it would not disrupt her coiffure, and wrangled a ringlet back in place. The dirigible and the General would be safer with Harrow on the ground, though she’d have preferred to have someone accompany him, to keep an eye on him. At least he wouldn’t have a chance to warn the Inventor.
The floor vibrated beneath her feet. A loud ratcheting echoed throughout the hold. A jet of air rushed through a crack at the rim of the hatch. The crack widened slowly, as the hatch slid open in front of them. Wind roared beneath them, whistling at the edge of the gaping maw.
Harrow stepped toward the hull hatch, flicked the ignition switch and stepped into the chasm. He hovered for a second, then plummeted out of sight.
She leaned forward and watched as he turned and sped northward toward the engine as it neared the bridge.
Little Nessie was now directly above the middle carriage, almost in position to drop the rest of her human cargo.
Sir Avery closed his eyes and ignited his flying machine. He winced as it rumbled into life, then took a deep breath and edged toward the hatch.
Tillie flicked the switch on her own contraption. A dull twinge gripped her rib cage as the initial vibration knocked on her spine. She took a, not too deep, breath and struggled to relax the muscles in her torso. The vibration settled into a gentle rhythm. The twinge eased until it was only a mild irritation.
Sir Avery leaned close to her. “Are your ribs still causing discomfort, Miss Meriwether?” he whispered. “You should inform the General.”
“They are healing as expected,” she replied. “There is no need to bother the General.”
He nodded. “Very well. Then follow me, Miss Meriwether, into the heavens.” He stepped into the air, screwed his eyelids shut and lowered himself out of sight.
Tillie stepped up to the edge. Her skirts fluttered in the churning air currents.
<<Oh dear, I didn’t think this through.>> She grabbed the back of her overskirt with each hand and folded the edges forward, tugging them tight to tie a knot and tucked the ends into the harness strap, then stepped forward and descended into the void.
The Department of Curiosities will be released 22nd May, 2019.
Watch the book trailers: https://karenjcarlisle.com/books/the-department-of-curiosities/book-trailers-the-department-of-curiosities/ or on Karen’s YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/kkZKisvU1Ks
If you want to follow the rest of The Department of Curiosities book launch blog tour, check out the links on Karen’s blog post: https://karenjcarlisle.com/2019/04/14/the-department-of-curiosities-book-blog-tour-schedule/
You can pre-order your eBook copy of The Department of Curiosities (for special price of US$2.99) at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/934976
Follow Karen on:
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karenjcarlisle/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenJCarlisle/
Or support Karen on Patreon (for less than a cup of coffee a month and you get cool rewards!): https://www.patreon.com/KarenJCarlisle
Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, was published in 2015 and her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.
Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.
She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.