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.
The ball was off to a superb start, with a classical orchestra playing lilting songs on a calm sea. At the captain’s table were the usual dukes and duchesses, other would-be royalty, lords and ladies, and one very outspoken red-headed woman of a certain age. Madame Jane d’Avery by name, a round, robust socialite who had earned her place at the table through her vast riches gained in her widowhood. A savvy art collector, she had made herself another small fortune in the art trade. She traveled not only for pleasure but to transport her treasures from port to port for exorbitant sale.
Madame d’Avery wore such a large bustle that she had to sit sideways on her chair. Her face was flushed with laughter in quite an unladylike way, in Captain Edgarton’s opinion. “Gadzooks,” he whispered to Annabel. “She is telling bawdy jokes.”
The table roared with laughter as Madame d’Avery chugged another glass of red wine.
“What hangs at a man’s thigh and wants to poke the hole that it’s often poked before?”
The titillated group called out all the wrong answers. “Do tell us,” urged Annabel. Captain Edgarton groaned.
Madame d’Avery took a large breath, creating a suspenseful pause. Her large bosom threatened to pop out of her rounded bodice. “A key!”
The table erupted in laughter. Edgarton wished there was something stronger than wine in his glass. He nudged Annabel Lee and spoke just barely above a whisper. “Don’t laugh. It will only egg her on.”
Madame d’Avery had sharp ears and observant eyes. She saw the elbow of the captain meet the thin, silked arm of his fiancée. She heard the words uttered from his mouth.
“We all deserve a good laugh,” she said into the air, addressing no one in particular. But she saw the crimson flush of anger start at the base of the captain’s throat above his cravat. She knew she had been understood.
After the dinner, the grand ballroom filled with excited dancers, couples and pairs who had met onboard the HMS Annabel Lee. The automaton servants even seemed to step more gaily as they attended to their duties.
Masterminded by the greatest engineers, the servants were created to be mechanical soldiers. Yet, in this time of great peace, there was no need for articles of war or fighting metal men. So they were redesigned as workers aboard ships such as the Annabel Lee, from automatons feeding coal to the steam engines to the serving staff, rolling on well-oiled wheels with brakes that stopped the progress of the shiny creatures in rough waters. All the details of daily life on board were regulated by clockwork, creating a smooth transition for busy socialites to easy ocean faire.
Annabel excused herself from the hustling swishes of cloth and clogs. She made her way furtively to the deck in search of the cool night air. As she exited the ballroom, she was side-swiped by a large object at her hip.
“Oh! Do pardon me,” exclaimed Madame d’Avery. She adjusted her bustle with an easy flounce, causing her entire backside to bounce.
“No need for pardon,” Annabel said. “We all suffer for our fashions.”
Madame d’Avery eyed Annabel’s wasp-like figure. “Some suffer more than others.”
“I will say the captain appreciates my efforts, but it does make laughing difficult.”
“Then I must ask your pardon again, for I did see you laughing, if only the best you could under the circumstances.”
“Under the circumstances, yes,” Annabel agreed.
Madame d’Avery hooked her arm with the younger woman’s. “Since we both seem headed in the same direction, we might as well hobble together.”
Annabel smiled. “Indeed.”
The two women stepped out onto a balcony. The dark ocean loomed beneath them, with small cresting waves blinking in the reflection of the starry night.
“Do you not have someone to accompany you?” Annabel asked.
“I have been a widow long enough to be able to navigate the sea solo. Of course, at times, I must remove my glove to pronounce a solid slap across the mug of some more forward of the masculine kind, but as I get older, those occasions have become fewer.”
“You are still a looker.”
Madame d’Avery guffawed in a deep throaty laugh that Annabel was growing to love. “As long as you and I think so, that’s all that matters.”
After taking in some air, the chill coaxed the two women back into the ballroom. They pranced arm in arm to the punch bowl.
Captain Edgarton watched disapprovingly from across the room. He excused himself from his conversation and shifted his way across to Annabel. He tugged her elbow, causing her to spill her punch upon the elaborate tablecloth. He grabbed the crystal goblet from her and slammed it down onto the table so that more of the red liquid jumped up and out. He steered her away, his teeth gritted, and his lips pulled back in a false smile. He spoke between the gaps in his mouth.
“What are you doing consorting with that American trash?”
“But you are American, too.”
“But I am not THAT kind of American. I know my place in the world, and it’s time you learned yours.” His grip tightened. She shook her arm to remove his hold, but he only tightened his grip. “Don’t embarrass me,” he growled.
Just then, a brush of wings touched Annabel’s cheek. The crow flew between the couple’s heads before resting on top of the captain’s.
“Annabel Lee” cawed the crow and dropped a silver dessert fork. Annabel caught it before it fell to the floor.
Captain Edgarton yelled out an oath unbecoming of a gentleman. He thrashed at his head, missing the black bird as it took wing and swooped down at him. The orchestra stopped playing, and the crowd strayed from dancing to encircle the feisty scene. Gasps of shock gave way when one throaty voice laughed. Soon the entire ballroom was in hysterics.
“Here, let me help.” Annabel reached for the crow, holding the silver fork out like a perch. The captain swatted her away and stabbed himself with the tiny fork in the process.
“You she-dog! You stabbed me!”
The crow flew away, out past the balcony, and into the night.
“I did not mean to,” Annabel wailed.
Edgarton heard all the laughter and raised his arms in false joviality. “This ball is for more than just the birds!” His voice rang broadly through the crowd. “Please, continue your festivities!” He grabbed Annabel’s waist and whispered seethingly. “As for you, you are taking a break.”
He led her back to her quarters and threw her to the floor.
Jessica Lucci is a poet and steampunk fantasy author who writes about modern issues while maintaining historic integrity. She makes her home in Waltham, MA, USA, with her time-traveling budgie, Lamarr.
Her poetry has appeared in The Edible Anthology of Poetry Greatest Hits, edited by Peter Payack, and also in Lucidity Poetry Journal. Her steampunk novel Subton Switch was a finalist in the 2019 Lesfic Bard Book Awards for science fiction. Other works include Waltham Watch, Gustover Glitch, Salem Switch, Steampunk Leap Year, Steampunk New Year, and Steampunk Pride.
Learn more about Jessica Lucci here:
Website * Blog * GoodReads * Amazon Author Page
Follow Jessica Lucci on social media:
Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest * Instagram