We are at it again! Kicking off the year with a brand-new campaign: Full Steam Ahead!
Yes, we are funding more books. Yes, we would love if you would check them out, maybe show your support. But don’t think you have to do it blind. Here is a taste of A Cast of Crows, a Poe-inspired steampunk collection created in conjunction with the Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival.
The other two books funding through the campaign are Grimm Machinations – the sequel to Gaslight & Grimm, bringing you even more steampunk faerie tales; and Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk, an anthology that takes a look at the mechanics that keep the tech running, but more on those later.
Over the course of the campaign, we will be sharing these excerpts so you can get to know our authors’ style.
A Careful Application of Fish
You might think a mission to locate and steal treasure from inside a small, wooden ship would be easy. Except for two very important things:
That ship is locked up tight inside a much larger building.
And, more importantly, things get tricky when you’re stuck inside the body of a raven.
Granted, I’m not cursed with this body all the time. Only during the day. When the sun goes down, however, I change back into a woman. That was the crux of my brilliant plan. I’d sneak in as a raven before sundown and then wait to leave under the cover of dark in my human form with treasure in hand.
The ship, a schooner by the name of the Gold Bug, lived up to its name. Throughout the afternoon, I’d watched it sail into port, gleaming with a golden sheen under the bright, tropical, southern sun of my home-city—Bone Port.
The bulk of the city is shaped a bit like a chubby crescent moon, which hugs the clear, green-blue waters of Bone Bay, which in turn, is full of smaller islands that speckle the inlet like stars. Ships coming into and leaving our fair shores have to navigate around these islands. That gave me plenty of time to fly over to the Gold Bug and discretely ensconce myself amidst the sails.
Ravens are neither common nor native to these tropical climes, and while there are plenty of tropical seabirds with black plumage, any sailor worth their salt wouldn’t mistake me for a gull or a tern and certainly never a cormorant. And nor do I think anyone would have guessed that I was really secretly a human, cursed to live my days in this avian form, but ravens are extremely clever and have been known to have been utilized for espionage. This is an important factor, given how Bone Port, along with the rest of the continent to the north, was at that time ensconced in a bit of an all-out civil war, but that is a story for another time. Suffice to say, thus was my reasoning for perching atop the gaff of the mainsail rather than below on the railing. Had I chosen to risk being seen, things might not have gone so completely wrong.
In my defense, however, I’d been warned to take care. The treasure I was after reportedly had the simultaneous ability to help fund our war efforts and cripple a large segment of our enemy’s forces. Jupiter, the man who’d hired me for this mission, had said to be on the lookout for lots of hired muscle.
Well, technically, he’d said, “Calandra, my sources say the target is protected by the best security money can buy. You’re one of my top operatives, so do me a favor and don’t get yourself killed.”
Jupiter was also an incredible spymaster, so he usually said things like, “Don’t get yourself killed,” and, “Never assume anything. Always work off of the intel.”
I had to admit, I wasn’t impressed with the intel we had. Looking down from my perch high above the deck, everything seemed normal. Having grown up by the sea, I’d spent as much time on boats of all forms and sizes and uses as I had on land—my time bearing this transformative curse notwithstanding. I knew a normally functioning ship when I saw it. And everything about the Gold Bug was tediously ordinary.
The figurehead was, instead of some great beast or daring warrior, a scarab beetle. Not the most imposing sight to behold on the high seas, but the Gold Bug was allegedly only a simple merchant vessel, so it didn’t need to strike fear into the hearts of enemy combatants. And the captain, one Hortense Bridlepath, had a reputation for running a tight ship. The distinct lack of shilly-shallying amongst her crew bore that out. The only strange part was why a simple merchant vessel needed to be locked securely inside a ship hangar, which was where the Gold Bug currently headed. But while that might raise some eyebrows, money talked and could easily convince those eyebrows to raise themselves at other things. Word of those payoffs had been what tipped Jupiter off to something being amiss about the Gold Bug and its cargo.
I was so busy puzzling over all the suspicious things not happening below me on deck I’d forgotten to keep an eye on my surroundings. Those of you who possess even the merest sliver of nautical experience may see where this is going. I mentioned previously that I’d perched atop the gaff of the mainsail. For the non-nautically inclined, a gaff is basically a rod that sticks out from the mast to help support and steer a sail. And while schooners like the Gold Bug are on the smaller end of sea-going vessel types, they are often still riddled with smaller, extra sails on top. While I was distracted by how bloody normal everything below was as the Gold Bug threaded its way around our star field of small islands and sandbars, the topsail swung around and smacked into me like a cricket bat into a ball.
With a grating caaaaaaaaw! I arced through the air, spinning, flapping wildly, and failing to catch the wind beneath my wings. I plonked into the water with a… well, a plonk. And then debated staying there because, even though the sailors above would never be able to identify me as anything but a stupid bird, that doesn’t make getting hurled so spectacularly into the sea any less humiliating. I bobbed to the surface, coughed the water out of my lungs—yes, birds do cough—and listened for any indications that my cover had been blown. Nothing more than raucous laughs, reenactments, and a few bets as to whether or not I was dead met my ears.
Dana Fraedrich is a dog lover, self-professed geek, and author of the steampunk fantasy series Broken Gears, which includes the Amazon bestseller, Out of the Shadows. Dana’s books are full of secrets and colorful characters that examine the many shades of grey that paint the world. When she isn’t busy writing or attending book shows and author conferences, she can be found playing video games and frolicking among the Bookstagram community (the bookish corner of Instagram).
Even from a young age, she enjoyed writing down the stories that she imagined in her mind. Born and raised in Virginia, she earned her BFA from Roanoke College and is now carving out her own happily ever after in Nashville, TN with her husband and two dogs. Dana is always writing; more books are on the way!
Learn more about Dana Fraedrich here:
Website * GoodReads * Amazon Author Page
Follow Dana Fraedrich on social media:
Facebook * Twitter * TikTok * Instagram