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Chapter One of Dead Magic

dead-magic-ebook-cover

Since Dead Magic will be coming out in a little over a month, I thought I would share the first chapter here to wet your appetite for its release on November 10th. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be releasing a few more of the opening chapters. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter One

 Flesh and Bone

On balmy summer nights, Highgate Cemetery lay as still and silent as its residents, but not on this night. Footfalls echoed through the rows of vine-covered graves, their names impossible to read in the scant moonlight. Crickets fell silent and the grasses on either side of the well-worn path rustled with life just beneath the surface as Cecil Hale passed. Reaching for the shuttered lantern at his side, the young man stopped and listened for any sign of his compatriots. He had been instructed not to open the lantern until he reached the Egyptian Avenue, but the graveyard was harder to navigate in the dark than he had imagined. The dizzying rows of cockeyed graves seemed to go on forever, all nearly identical to the next.

Closing his eyes, Cecil drew in a long breath and released a wave of energy that began at his russet hair and passed through his feet. In the darkness beyond the curve of trees, he felt a flash of power pulse back. So they had ventured into the vault without him after all. As he rounded the bend, his heart quickened at the sight of the obelisk and lotus-columned entrance to the Egyptian Avenue. Leafy boughs and Jurassic ferns spilled over the top of the mausoleum’s entrance, drowning out the tang of death with the scents of summer. He paused as the iron gate whined beneath his hand, waiting for the light of the night watchman he knew would not appear. A smirk crossed his lips. No one thought to worry about the dead.

Cecil’s gaze swept over the faceless row of doors on either side of him until it came to rest on the wavering radiance of an oil lamp shining from beneath the threshold. Pulling open the door, he shut his eyes against the harsh light of the lanterns within.

“Did they not teach you how to tell time at boarding school, Lord Hale?”

Cecil Hale stiffened. If it had been anyone else, he would have cut them down to size for not only insulting a viscount but for daring to question the standing of the youngest practioner initiated into the Eidolon Club, but when his hazel eyes adjusted, he found Lady Rose glaring at him.

“Do forgive my tardiness, Lady Rose, but it wasn’t easy to find my way here in the dark. Not all of us frequent graveyards,” he replied before he could stop himself.

A low chuckle emanated from where she stood, but Cecil swore he hadn’t seen her lips or chest move. Among the shadows of the mausoleum, her polished bronze hair and pale green eyes took on such an unnatural hue that he dared not question what he had heard. Of all the practitioners he knew, she was the only one he feared. If he stared too long, he could see the energy writhing and slithering around her, pulling at the flames positioned in a circle around the coffin at her feet. It was her power he felt when he cleared his mind’s eye.

As Cecil pulled the crypt door shut, a lanky, white-haired figure emerged from the neighboring chamber. Cecil was accustomed to seeing Lord Sumner in the Eidolon Club’s vast study, but seeing him standing in the mausoleum didn’t sit well. It felt wrong, like seeing one’s grandfather walk out of a Piccadilly brothel. He couldn’t imagine him with his carefully trimmed beard and Savile Row suit anywhere near a charnel house. The man had a lineage as distinguished as any king on the continent, so what could be so important that he would risk being found prowling around a graveyard with the likes of Lady Rose? Perhaps Cecil wasn’t the only one who didn’t trust her.

“Will it be only us this evening?” Cecil asked, his voice reverberating against the vaulted stone as he stared into the darkened chamber.

Without looking up from the coffin edge, Lady Rose replied, “If you’re worried about discovery, I hired a man to keep watch outside, but the ritual only needs one. His lordship is merely here to supervise.”

“Let’s hope the ritual won’t be necessary,” the elder noble murmured, averting his gaze from Lady Rose’s makeshift evocation circle.

“Oh? Are you having second thoughts, Lord Sumner?”

“I think all of us would prefer to avoid such vulgarity. We can only hope his family thought it best to bury the damned book with him.”

“So resurrectionists like us could find it? I doubt it,” she said, running her bare fingers over the lid as if feeling for something.

“Did anyone check his estate and town home?” Cecil asked.

Lady Rose and Lord Sumner exchanged an incredulous look before turning their attention back to the casket. Her fingers slid over the decorative molding and around the brass bars affixed to either side, probing every cranny for hidden springs.

Resting back on her heels, she motioned for Cecil to come to her side with a curl of her finger. “Cecil, would you do the honors?”

For a moment, he wished they had left the door open to the crypt. The stale air pressed in as he drew in a breath and held it. Cecil steeled himself, ready to avert his gaze when the lid cracked opened, but as he tried to yank it loose, a bolt of pain shot into his wrists and up his arms. Howling, he staggered back, nearly kicking over Sumner’s lamp.

“The bloody thing’s hexed!” he cried, rubbing his burning, twitching hands.

“The duke’s underlings were smarter than I thought,” Lord Sumner said under his breath.

Grabbing a handful of dust from the floor, Lady Rose cast it across the casket top. A series of rings, lines, and scribbles appeared through the detritus. Cecil leaned in to get a closer look. He had never seen a sigil that actually worked. The Eidolon Club didn’t endorse the use of such an out of fashion technique, so there had been no reason for him to bother learning about them. At the pulsing throb in his hand, he wished he had. Before he could finish tracing the twisting line with his gaze, Lady Rose pulled out a handkerchief from her Gladstone bag and scrubbed at the sigil. Cecil watched with wide eyes as she gritted her teeth and continued even as the arcane symbols crackled and arced with electricity beneath her palm.

She released a labored breath and wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. “Open it.”

Cautiously, Cecil reached for the lid, expecting to feel the bite of electricity once more. The lid groaned under his hand, but as he raised it, the bile crawled up his throat at the overwhelming stench of putrefaction. The smell of rotting meat mixed with the bite of acid and the coppery sweetness of blood was so strong that he dared not look down. He had hoped that in the few months since his death, the Duke of Dover’s body would have been reduced to nothing more than a skeleton in a suit. From the corner of his eye, he could make out an unnaturally blackened and melted face and a hint of bone peaking from the top of what he could only imagine had once been the duke’s hand. As he returned to his station near the door, Cecil covered his mouth with his handkerchief, hoping Lady Rose and Lord Sumner wouldn’t notice his sudden pallor, but she was already leaning into the coffin, her hands probing the body for the missing grimoire.

“Just as I suspected, it isn’t here,” she said, turning to Sumner.

“Then, what do you propose to do now?” he replied sharply, knowing the answer.

“The ritual. Unless you no longer want to acquire the book, but I highly doubt the Pinkertons or your investigators will be able to find it without hearing what the duke has to say.”

Lord Sumner’s lip curled in disgust as he locked eyes with the witch perched beside the coffin. She held his gaze, her green eyes at ease while the noblemen squinted at the pungency of the rotting corpse. With a final look at the duke’s bloated form, Lord Sumner retrieved his cloak and hat from an empty niche.

“Do what you will, but I will not be a part of it. Leave a message for me at the club if you find anything, but don’t taint me with your bone-conjuring.”

Storming out of the crypt, Lord Sumner slammed the door, leaving Cecil and Lady Rose in silence. She stared ahead, her face betraying nothing even as she sat back on the dusty floor. Cecil dared not ask if she was all right.

After a moment, she licked her lips and swept a stray bronze curl from her forehead. “Cecil, if you ever want to succeed, never let theory trump practical knowledge. Despite your position, you’re never too good to use what you have learned.”

“I don’t plan to rely on theory, Aunt Claudia.”

Satisfied with his answer, she asked flatly, “Did you make the tincture I asked for?”

Cecil nodded, reaching into his breast pocket for the flask. It had taken him most of the day to prepare it from the notes she had given him, but it was perfect. It had to be. He had been so careful to check the thermometer and even test some of the precipitate to ensure he had created the intended compound. What it did, he had no idea. Plucking it from his hand, she sniffed and swirled it before setting it aside.

“Very good. Do you intend to stay for the ritual or would you prefer to wait outside, Lord Hale?”

“If you would permit it, I should like to stay.”

“I see. Then, you must remain quiet and out of the way. You may be disturbed by what you see, but you must remain silent. Can you manage that?”

For a brief moment, Cecil considered slipping out the door of the crypt and getting into the first cab that would take him back to his flat, but he was an alchemist and to be taken seriously, he had to stay even when Lord Sumner would not. Sealing off his energy with a slow exhalation, Cecil stepped further into the shadows until his back rested against the damp stone. He watched as Lady Rose reached into the Gladstone bag at her side, pulling out a large, squat bowl, a bottle of what appeared to be water, a handful of narrow vials, and a rough obsidian blade. She emptied the bottle of water and three of the vials into the bowl. Placing it before her, she wafted the faint trail of smoke that rose from the liquid toward her. As she closed her eyes, her body rocked in time with the languid curve of her hand and a low chant resonated in her throat. Her free-hand skated through the dust at her side, scrawling tiny shapes he couldn’t make out before darting for another vial to add to the bowl.

The air grew thick with the stench of sulphurous smoke until Cecil feared he would be ill. Lady Rose’s lithe body writhed and snapped as her chant grew louder and more insistent. Sounds morphed into words he nearly recognized but were lost before his mind could retrieve their meaning. Drawing in a loud breath, the words ceased.

The obsidian knife flashed in the wavering candlelight. In one swift motion, Lady Rose ran it across the duke’s hand. A few drops of a thick black liquid seeped from the wound and across her open palm where a bloated finger lay neatly severed from its mooring. Cecil silenced a gag with a tight swallow as the stench of offal overpowered his senses. Whispers raced across Lady Rose’s lips as she raised the finger high before dropping it into the bowl. The smoke writhed and condensed, combining with the shadows lingering at the edge of the circle of candles. Monstrous faces flickered. They rose in open-mouthed grotesques only to be swallowed by another until finally the vague outline of a man solidified. His stern eyes and hollowed cheeks locked onto Cecil’s hazel gaze before turning to Lady Rose.

“Duke Dover, we—the blind living—humbly ask for your assistance. Your divine sight sees all: past, present, and future. Tell us, sir. Tell us where the Corpus Grimoire lies at this moment,” she pleaded, her voice level but tinged with yearning.

The duke’s face dissolved, drifting and roiling until a new scene appeared in the smoke. A paper package sat among stacks of crates and bags of letters stamped London, England. The faint hum of a dirigible reverberated through the tomb. It was on a mail ship.

Lady Rose’s eyes widened. “Duke Dover, who will receive the package? To whom is it going?”

Smoke twisted into a column before chipping away to reveal the soft curves of a woman. Her hair was fashionably curled into black coils that trailed down her neck and across the shoulders of her violet gown. Cecil leaned closer. Her rounded cheeks, the wide byzantine eyes, the tight set of her jaw in concentration. He knew her. During the season, he had sought her out at each dance, entranced by her wit and the warmth hidden behind her knowing looks and pointed remarks. Her figure fell in on itself before stretching higher into the form of a wiry young man. He would have been unremarkable, except for the long scar that cut through his left eye. How could they both have the grimoire?

A shadow stirred in the corner of the mausoleum. It climbed along the stone, straining and expanding until it nearly engulfed the entire wall. Cecil’s heart raced as the shade solidified into the shape of a man. It lashed out with an arm and wiped the flames from the tops of the candles. The tomb plunged into darkness, the only sound the swoosh of the shadow and the clatter of the bowl as it tipped. Groping for the lantern at his feet, Cecil felt for its radiant warmth and quickly opened the shutter.

Even before he was able to see, he knew the spirits had left the crypt. Despite the godawful smell of the corpse, he no longer felt as if he would smother. Stepping closer, he could make out a spreading stain where the bowl had fallen over and spilled the brew. Lady Rose stood behind it. She glared down at her ruined ritual before turning her hardened gaze to Lord Hale. He swallowed against the flare of power emanating from her body. Questions hung on his lips as she snatched the empty vials from the floor and threw them into her Gladstone.

“You aren’t going to try again?”

“There’s no point. The duke didn’t have much steam to begin with. He wouldn’t have lasted through another question, let alone being resummoned. We have enough information. The book is in transit, and it will fall to one of them.”

His mind trailed to the vision of the young woman with the dark hair and owl eyes. “How will you find them?”

“I have my ways,” she replied, pausing to lock eyes with something in the darkness. “If it’s in the city, one of us will feel it and find it.”

“The girl, I think I know her,” he said, not wanting to imagine what would happen if his aunt got to her first.

Lady Rose looked up from her bag, her eyes softened with interest. For the first time, her gaze was free of scorn as she searched his face. “Really? Can I trust you to keep an eye on her and report back to me? If she has the grimoire, it will be your responsibility to retrieve it.”

“But what if she won’t give it up?” Emmeline Jardine wasn’t a stupid girl who could be easily swayed with his noble charms and a bit of flattery. “She’s a true medium. I can sense her power at the Spiritualist Society. What if she wants to keep the book for herself?”

With a faint smile, she ran her handkerchief down the length of the obsidian knife. “Then, we will simply change our tactic.”

He swallowed hard. “And the other man?”

“Leave him to me.”


If you enjoyed what you read, you can pre-order Dead Magic here and have it delivered to your Kindle on November 10th. Paperbacks will also be available closer to the release date.

Stay tuned for more chapters and previews to come.

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Plot Bunnies and Projects

dm cover idea

A sketch for the cover concept for Dead Magic.

Hey peeps,

I thought I’d drop a post about why there’s been silence AGAIN on the blog. Well, that’s mostly because I’m actually writing. The more words dropped into MS Word, the less words I have to spare for the blog.

So I am knee-deep in Dead Magic at about 45% of the way into it. I’m still planning on having it ready to publish in the fall, so I will definitely be posting more excerpts and hints along the way.

What I’m really excited to announce is that between now and the fall, I will be writing two companion novellas for the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series.

The first story divides its time between Edo Japan where Americans and Europeans have finally barged in to “modernize” the Japanese and 1880s New York. Judith Elliott’s little sister is dead. Unable to save her and in failing health, Judith is sent to her uncle’s country home in New Jersey to recover. Resentful and dissatisfied with life, Judith fights her family’s concern and the treatments her doctors believe will get her over the devastating loss. Judith fears her life will never go on until she meets her uncle’s Japanese wife, Kiyo. Kiyo has seen more in her life than anyone Judith knows and thinks she can devise a way to repair a broken spirit. Can Kiyo help Judith move on? And is it possible to move on after fate steals the one you love?

The second will be a paranormal romance that centers around Emmeline’s mother. An old suitor has come to call. Two years after his disappearance, he’s returned to claim Madeline’s heart and hand. The only thing standing in their way is her absentee husband who has once again gone off to Africa, leaving Madeline alone at Headington Hill. Will she give in to her renewed feelings? And does her ex-lover have more to explain than just his absence?

Sound interesting? Well, the reason I decided to post the early blurbs for my forthcoming novellas is because I’ll be offering them as free ARCs (advanced reader copies) to my newsletter followers. If you would like to receive the free ARCs for my next two novellas along with updates and exclusive excerpts, sign-up for my newsletter by clicking here.

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Release Day and Sale

IMD Sale

To celebrate the release of The Earl and the Artificer (IMD #3), the entire Ingenious Mechanical Devices series is on sale this weekend! On Saturday, January 30th and Sunday, January 31st, you will be able to get the entire series for under a cup of Starbucks.

You can find the books here:

The Earl of Brass (IMD#1): FREE

The Winter Garden (IMD#20): $0.99

“An Oxford Holiday” (short story): FREE

The Earl and the Artificer (IMD#3):$0.99

 

**The prices above are only guaranteed for Amazon US. I’m not 100% sure if the sales will appear on all markets, so please check before you click buy**

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Teaser Tuesday: The Earl and the Artificer

Hey, everyone! I have been holding off for quite a while now with posting a teaser from The Earl and the Artificer, aka book 3. I wanted to get closer to completion before putting anything online because I feared I would post half the book in my excitement. The book is still being written and edited, but I couldn’t wait any longer and had to give you a little glimpse.

In book 3, Eilian and Hadley journey to Brasshurst Hall, the ancestral home of the Earls of Dorset. Below you will find there is an uninvited guest at Brasshurst.


She put a finger to her lips and backed away from the window, her eyes locked on the head swaying above the chair’s back. As Eilian crossed the room and grasped the rough fireplace poker, he frowned at the hearth. The ash had been swept from the firebox and the mantle cleaned of debris and cobwebs recently enough that dust hadn’t settled over them again. Inching toward the double doors at the far end of the library, Eilian listened to the chug of an engine on the other side. Hadley followed close behind, fishing through her clutch. When had she started carrying that instead of her carpet bag? Her face brightened as she pulled out a snub-nosed gun the length of her palm.

“You brought your derringer?”

“It’s been useful thus far.” She checked the chambers before snapping it shut. “You didn’t think I would let you go in there alone, did you?”

Holding Hadley’s gaze, he counted off with his fingers. He drew in a deep breath and threw open the door to the orangery. A puff of hot breath hit them as they stepped into the artificial jungle. Massive palms and bushy camphor trees blocked the sun, casting the greenhouse in a balmy haze. The stench of fetid water was overwhelmed by the scent of plants. Everywhere was the smell of earth and the things that belonged to it, concentrated and bottled under the glass dome.

Eilian pushed back a Jurassic fern and followed the cobbled path toward the pool. Sweat collected under the leather brace around his upper arm, but he ignored the urge to wipe it and swept his eyes through the brush. With firecracker flowers and orchids of every shade and strange conformation crowding the path, he expected to hear the caw or flutter of a parrot, but the air was quiet, rolling and bubbling with the river and fog. As they rounded the corner, the man in the armchair came into sight. The hammer of Hadley’s derringer clicked in Eilian’s ear. He tightened his grip on the poker and watched the man turn. His sharp eyes never left his assailants as he stood and stepped around the chair. His dark suit was impeccably pressed and the fabric even from a distance was fine, better than Eilian’s. Something in his aquiline features was strangely familiar.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” Eilian called, feeling Hadley tense beside him.

“Is that any way to greet your cousin, Lord Dorset?”

“Cousin?”

“Put down the gun, Lady Dorset, before you hurt yourself.”

Hadley’s jaw clenched as she kept the muzzle pointed at the grey-haired man at the edge of the pool. Catching her eye, Eilian nodded, and she exhaled, dropping her arm but keeping the gun at her side. Eilian lowered the poker as the man approached with measured steps.

The man’s lined, silver eyes fell on Hadley’s simple coiffure before lingering on her breasts and waist a moment too long. The new dress, while of good quality, was already dirty and the corset too loose, and though her features were pleasing, she was far from beautiful. The garter gun hung looped in her stained fingers. Where Lord Dorset had found such a creature, he could hazard a guess, but why would he marry it?

“I’m surprised your father never spoke of me.”

“We didn’t speak very often.”

“Apparently. Lord Dorset, the real Lord Dorset—Harland Sorrell—and I were cousins. We were raised in this house.”

When the man’s cutting gaze reached Eilian’s mechanical hand, the younger man tucked it out of sight. “How did you get in here? Did the maids let you in?”

His eyes narrowed as he straightened and cocked his head with a scoff. “I have a key, and even if I didn’t, I know this house better than my own body.”

“You still haven’t told us who you are,” Hadley said, resisting the urge to train the gun on him. There was something in his manner, the way all of his movement seemed to be in his eyes, that set her on edge. She had seen men like that in London— men who kept you busy with their eyes when you should have been watching their hands.

“Randall Nash, and you are Hadley Fenice, the illustrious toy heiress who has risen to countess.”

Hadley winced. The embellished wedding announcement had not been her idea. Her future mother-in-law had taken it upon herself to soften the blow of an inter-class marriage with money. Heiress had a better ring than craftswoman, even if it was false. At least the announcement brought in as many orders as their Christmas advertisement.

“Are you insinuating something, Mr. Nash?” Eilian asked, but before the man could reply, the butler’s harried voice rang through the walls. His voice grew fainter as he retreated through the gallery. “In the greenhouse, Pat!”

A crash resounded behind them, and when Eilian and Hadley turned back, Randall Nash was gone. Using the end of the poker, Eilian pushed back the plants around the edge of the pool but could find no trace of him. He stared down at the empty armchair. From the humidity of the orangery, the fabric had rippled and dampened, raising the varnish on the arms and legs. Beside it sat an open bottle of champagne, a chipped glass, and a book.


I hope you all enjoyed this little sneak peek of The Earl and the Artificer. There isn’t any pre-order info yet, but stay tuned! Also, if you join my newsletter, in a few weeks you will be getting another exclusive sneak peek of chapter one.

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Project Announcement: The Book Three Journey

The title of book three of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices will be:

the earl and the artificer titleThe Earl and the Artificer will soon have its own Goodreads page in a few weeks, once I solidify the plot a bit more and can come up with a working blurb.  In the meantime, I can give you a little background into what will happen in book three.

Eilian and Hadley Sorrell are back.  Newly married and at the urging of his mother, they journey to Dorset to visit his ancestral home, Brasshurst Hall, and meet his tenants. What they didn’t expect to find is a manor built on Ancient Roman ruins complete with a greenhouse that hides a secret, a plant long thought extinct that once drove the empire’s prosperity, and an estate manager who seemingly appears out of nowhere.  As Hadley comes to terms with her new role as the Continue reading

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Character Preview: Immanuel Winter

im close up(Artist credit for this pic of Immanuel Winter goes to the lovely Fiammetta de Innocentis)

I put up a poll on my Facebook page asking the fans of my work what they would like to see next as a preview of The Winter Garden.  Only a few people answered (I’m not that popular and Facebook hides my posts), but it was unanimous that they wanted to see a character preview.  What I am going to reveal here will contain no spoilers and only contains information from before the events of The Winter Garden.  Down the line, I may release a few more of these along the way, but may I present to you, the leading man of The Winter Garden, Immanuel Winter.

Immanuel Winter was born February 2nd, 1870 in Berlin, Germany.  His family line can be traced back to the alchemists of Cologne, but during the time of the French Republic, his family migrated to Berlin.  This change of cities officially shifted their already changing identity from alchemists to scientists, but one remnant of their esoteric past remained in the form of a pendant: Continue reading

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Why Steampunk?

gear99

Before I go on about my preferred genre, I should probably explain what steampunk is since most people stop me after I have already begun to speak about it to ask what exactly I mean. Simply put, steampunk is a marriage between historical fiction and science fiction. It’s the Victorian Era that never was, and instead of moving toward combustion engines, steampunk stories tend to explore how the world would be if steam technology became the predominant mode of transportation and energy generation in the nineteenth century. Most stories are set in the mid to late 1800s, but that isn’t always necessarily the case with some stories being set in a neo-Victorian future.

There are three reasons I write steampunk stories (each of these reasons will be explored further in this post):
1. Playing with the past
2. Exploring modern social issues out of context
3. Victorian aesthetics

Playing with the Past
Some of the most fun I have writing is utilizing real people and places within my work. Several historical figures make an appearance in The Earl of Brass or The Winter Garden, including Lord Carnarvon, David Hogarth, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert (as a corpse), and in the future, I can see many other real people making cameos. More importantly, places are key to creating a richness in a story that delves into the past. A good chunk of my research is scouring Victorian maps and texts for places my characters can go and how they looked in the 1890s. The research can be fascinating and lead to more plots or simply a nice place for your characters to go to for a night on the town. Creating a realistic landscape even with the changes I have set up in my universe has been something I have worked on throughout my writing career, and about halfway through the second book, I realized how their world would really be.
To wrap up this section on playing with the past, I have to mention technology. Most people tend to think of carriages, coal, factories, and horse poop when thinking of Victorian technology, and while that isn’t far off, science and medicine were just about to take off. The Victorian Era is a launching point from which many of the things we have today began. Medicine is a topic I work with quite often, and part of the reason is because the Victorian era was half in the superstitious past and half in the modern world. In The Earl of Brass, the main character, Eilian Sorrell, has a prosthetic arm that can flex when he commands it to. Obviously there were prostheses, but they were not nearly as advanced. In the world of steampunk, I can sprinkle in modern ideas but only use materials that were available in the Victorian Era (no stainless steel, no biotechnology, no aspirin).

Exploring Modern social Issues out of Context

Another way to bring mingle the past with the present is to focus on issues that are prevalent today but set the story in the past. Some of the issues I have explored are: climate issues, humanism v. capitalism, LGBT rights, and equality. some of these issues were present in the 1890s, especially LGBT issues with the Oscar Wilde trial and the brief movement in Germany around the same time. Part of the reason I like to do this is because it allows the reader to see what they might not notice in the modern world they take for granted. Working these issues into the Victorian Era breaks the common misconceptions, and by approaching it through a creative rather than preachy or academic way, people are more likely to listen. My hope is that my LGBT characters will capture the reader’s hearts and that you will feel for them because they are humans who hurt and are victims of the world’s prejudices by no fault of their own. As a writer, integrating modern issues into the past helps me deepen my understanding of the issue by having to research it, get into the characters’ heads, and make sure the theme is coherently coming through. By having a purpose, you make a judgment of that issue and take on both sides by creating conflict between opposing characters or between characters and society.

Victorian aesthetics
This reason is a lot more vain and visual. I love the pictorial representations of the Victorian Era. The tug and pull of artisan lace and fabric with the utilitarian mass-marketed goods of the working class always thrills me. When I think of the Victorian Era, I always think of fog rolling in off the Thames as a woman in a bustle and corset walks between gas lamps. There is something sinister yet romantic about the era. The Victorians were a pretty morbid bunch with their postmortem photography and momento mori usually made of human hair. When you contrast any “wild” place with London, the grime of the era becomes so apparent, but the civility and rigid manners still outshine any detractors of the era. Then comes the next question, what lies beneath the starched shirts and laced corsets? To understand the Victorian person, one must understand the culture and why there was a need for structure and decorum, yet it is imperative to remember that they were humans just like us. No matter where they lived or what they wore, they had the same desires as we do now, and the universal humanity in all of us, ties the modern steampunk writer to the likes of Oscar Wilde or Dickens.

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