Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bring it Close by Helen Hollick

Bring it Close
by Helen Hollick

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Re-released: June 2011
Publisher: SilverWood Books
Genre: Action, Pirates
Paperback: 386 pages
Rating: 5

Jesamiah Acorne, Captain of the Sea Witch, has accepted a government-granted amnesty against his misdeeds of piracy, but old enemies do not forget the past. In particular Edward Teach - better known as Blackbeard - has a bone to pick with Acorne. Following an indiscretion with an old flame, Jesamiah finds his fiancée, the midwife and white witch Tiola Oldstagh, has gone to North Carolina to help with an imminent and difficult birth. The problem; that is where Blackbeard now resides.

He must not discover that Tiola is Jesamiah's woman, she will have to hide her identity and her gift of Craft from the black-hearted pirate who has sold his soul to the devil. With Sea Witch damaged and himself wounded by Blackbeard, Jesamiah has to take stock of his situation at his old home in Virginia - but trouble follows him like a ship's wake and he is arrested for acts of piracy on the High Seas.

Too much trouble has come too close! How is Jesamiah Acorne to clear his name, overturn a sentence of hanging, keep Tiola safe, put an end to Blackbeard and deal with being haunted by the ghost of his father? Bring It Close moves from the Bahamas to North Carolina and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia at a swashbuckling pace. There is intrigue, misunderstandings, romance and adventure all wrapped up in a delightful blend of mystical fantasy.

Sea Witch - Voyage One
Pirate Code - Voyage Two
Bring it Close - Voyage Three
Ripples in the Sand - Voyage Four (expected publication Winter 2011/12)

My two-bits:
In-a-word(s): telescope
Arggg! Captain Acorne starts off quite the pirate rogue in his regards to his relationship with Tiola.

In addition, his life gets rocky as the past is revealed to us and catches up with him.

I love how there are strong female characters in this story and how they fend for themselves.

Again, loved the details of ships, sailing and the beauty of the sea.

Sooooo looking forward to the next installment of Captain Acorne's (and Tiola's) story.

--~ Book Giveaway courtesy of author ~--

signup to win this book

Tour schedule
check out the other stops
for more details on this book and goodies

Meet Helen:
Main Website
Muse and Views Blog
Monthly Journal
Blog profile
Picture Diary Blog
Guest Page
On Twitter


* review copy courtesy of author

In My Mailbox - 7.31.11

Free from Kindle: beware some free offers are limited

by Scott Nicholson

First Frost
by Jennifer Estep
-YA paranormal

One O'clock Jump:
a swing town mystery for the young at heart
(Dorie Lennox Mystery Series)
by Lise McClendon

by Sophie Littlefield

For Review and giveaway:

Mr. Softee
by Mike Faricy
courtesy of author
Thanks Mike!
stay tuned: giveaway set for August

by Ben H. Winters
courtesy of publisher
Thanks Eric!
stay tuned: giveaway set for August

Free from Netgalley: got mine, get yours!

A U S T E N alert!
All of august will be...

Austenesque Extravaganza
at Austenesque Reviews
i'll be going to that party!


Bookie Brunch schedule

Now follow me to the second Bookie Brunch meeting for a bit of chit chat at Beyond Strange New Words

Bookie Brunch Question of the day:
People often tackle the issue of characters or plot being unrealistic or not possible in real life.

Are you on the-book-must-be-believable/realistic side or not?

Why or why not?


* get a heads up on free or discounted ebooks from Books on the Knob

* per usual, check out the sidebar for my current giveaways to you

* image from Leafcutter Designs - world's smallest postal service and you can get a letter kit at Chronicle Books

* In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie. A post where we share books acquired via mailbox, library, store, etc.

Charlie No Face by David B. Seaburn

Charlie No Face
by David B. Seaburn

Published: 2011
Publisher: Savant Books & Publications LLC
Genre: Coming of Age, YA
Paperback: 270 pages
Rating: 5

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

When eleven-year-old Jackie meets every kid’s greatest nightmare–disfigured hermit Charlie No Face–his life is changed forever. Despite nagging questions about the death of his mother when he was an infant, the summer of 1959 is shaping up as the best vacation of Jackie’s short life.

He has friends, baseball, his father’s unanticipated vacation from work, and the hunt for Charlie No Face to fill his days. But in a few short weeks, Jackie’s life is turned upside down. He moves in with a distant relative whose shadowy boarder holds the key to Jackie’s past and, perhaps, his future.

Who is this man who won’t go out in the light of day but who roams the woods at night? Could it be?

Charlie No Face is a coming-of-age story in which a misunderstood recluse and a young boy redeem each other’s lives through a most unlikely friendship.

Quote to note:
Gossip is an ignorant person's truth...
- page 157, chapter 14


LISTEN to an interview with David about this book.

My two-bits:
In-a-word(s): buckeye
I loved this gem of a story! It is a beautifully written coming of age story from the perspective of an eleven year old boy during the late 50s.

There are a few moments that just tugged at the heart and others that caused pause for thought.

--~ Book Giveaway courtesy of author ~--

signup to win this book


* review copy courtesy of author

* part of rrRoad trip event

Blitz: Without Mercy

--~ eBook Giveaway courtesy of author ~--

Win a copy of this ebook!

Open to all.

Offer ends: July 31, 2011 - 2 winners
Offer ends: August 31, 2011 - 1 winner

Leave a comment or question for the author and your email.


Contest has ended - for July 31 deadline winner is here

One more winner picked after Aug 14 - winner is here


Without Mercy
by Belinda Boring
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

What would you do if a simple errand takes a deadly twist, turning you from cautious prey to dangerous predator?

When Darcy’s outing takes a turn for the worst and tests her to the point of breaking, she struggles to maintain her humanity. Where loyalty and pack mean everything, she surrenders to the inevitable and only an act of complete trust can touch her.

When all is said and done, with memories flooding her mind, Darcy holds tightly to the only thing that makes sense – it was all a dream. Or was it?


Meet the author...

A homesick Aussie living amongst the cactus and mountains of Arizona, Belinda Boring is a self proclaimed addict of romance and all things swoon worthy. When she's not devouring her latest read, you can find her celebrating her passion for book on her blog The Bookish Snob.

With all that excitement, it wasn't long before she began writing, pouring her imagination and creativity into the stories she dreams. Whether urban fantasy, paranormal romance or romance in general, Belinda strives to share great plots with heart and characters that you can't help but connect with. Of course, she wouldn't be Belinda without adding heroes she hopes will curl your toes.

Surrounded by a supportive cast of family, friends and the man she gives her heart and soul to, Belinda is living the good life. Happy reading!


* part of the Without Mercy Blitz tour - check it out for more goodies

Saturday, July 30, 2011

SteamBoyz: end credits

a virtual book event
steampunk driven
July 28-30, 2011

Thank you dear readers for joining me for this virtual book event.

Please note all giveaways end July 31, 2011 unless specified otherwise.

THANKS TO: Authors, Publicists and Publishers for Book Giveaways & Guest posts

The Atomic Weight of Secrets
or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black
-The Young Inventors Guild
by Eden Unger Bowditch

A Fantasy Flight to Adventure
by Ciye Cho

The Sky: The World
by Jessica McHugh

Special thanks to fellow bloggers:

Honorable Luke Cogsmith aka Freda of Freda's Voice

Mr Dash Goodbody aka MAD of Mary Ann DeBorde Writes (and Reads!)

Chef Vaporetto Malatesta aka Giada of Dr. Stravagante’s Traveling Book Circus

Lord Percival Ravenscraig aka Marlene of Book Lover and Procrastinator


* A bit of feedback on this event in comments or via email (vvb32 at would be much appreciated.

* Picnik was used for some graphics creations for this event.

::= SteamBoyz schedule =::

Klockwerks, perhaps?

Steampunk Shelf Clock
by Clockwerks

Dash clears his throat, begins to speak then thinks better of it. Casually, without taking his eyes off the mad chef's astounding creation - he pats the hidden pocket inside his waistcoat, the pocket usually given over to love letters and monogrammed kerchiefs ready to console discarded lovers.

Yes, excellent. Zink's duplicate is still there. No sense letting on to the other chaps, though Dash can't help but wonder WHICH timepiece is the true original?

Dash helps himself to a forkful of cake, careful to keep his gorgeous moustache free from tell tale crumbs.


Edward carefully folds his paper and puts it down beside his empty tea cup. He looks at Mrs O'Grady's clock made by the before mentioned Mr Zink for Klockwerks to check the time.

The Honorable Cogsmith is now in conversation with Lord Percival Ravenscraig about the identical timepieces in question since the post where the cupcakes were served. Lord Ravenscraig being a sort of tinkerer carefully inspects both timepieces in silence.

Edward dabs his mouth with his napkin and turns to Dash.

I say, Dash, I have a bit of time before I must go fetch my brother, would you like to join Chef Vaporetto and me to Klockwerks to see if we could solve the mystery of Cogsmith's timepiece and its twin?


Steampunk Gear, Gadgets, and Gizmos
A Maker's Guide to Creating Modern Artifacts
by Thomas Willeford
Release date: November 2011

This do-it-yourself steampunk guide shows you how to create your own retro-futuristic gear!

Steampunk Gear, Gadgets, and Gizmos: A Maker’s Guide to Creating Modern Artifacts is filled with hands-on instructions for making one-of-a-kind steampunk devices, jewelry, and fashion items. In this book, steampunk bodger Thomas Willeford takes you by the hand and guides you through the creation of a variety of customizable steampunk projects. The book provides information on background, tools, and raw materials, then leads you, step by step, through 8 innovative projects.

- Answers the all-important, often-asked question, "Where do I get those parts?"

- Demonstrates how to use the simplest tools to create the coolest results

- Explains how to look at an object and see what it "really wants to be"

- Provides a variety of step-by-step, affordable projects that you can customize to match your own vision

- Imparts the aesthetics of steampunk design so the project doesn't end up looking like a "pile of cogs"


* side note on Lord Ravenscraig:
Lord Percival Ravenscraig, who is heir to an earldom, goes against convention and invents glorious machines in what used to be his castle's dungeons.

* first spotted Klockwerks at The Steampunk Home

::= SteamBoyz schedule =::

Article: Welcome to the Sherwood Six

Meanwhile there's an adventure happening at another airfield...

~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~
by Jessica McHugh
~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~

“Quite the turnout, Jack,” Kat Barlough said as she scanned the empty airfield. “I thought you said you had tons of pilots lined up to audition.”

Jack hated that Kat remembered everything he said, especially when he didn't even remember half of it. She'd probably stormed into The Still while he was skull-deep in whiskey, accusing him of not adequately promoting the auditions for his dream aerobatic team. And he'd probably belched up a shoddy claim about there being so many pilots vying for a spot in the crew, they'd have to turn them away by the dozen. He may have under-promoted the event, but he did mention it while drinking at The Still and what place better than a pilot bar to spread news about recruiting pilots. True, many of the pilots that frequented The Still were either retired or too undisciplined, but Captain Jack Racine spent many of his nights there and he was the finest pilot in London, if not the world.

Buckles was good enough to keep his mouth shut about the lack of attendees, but Jack new he wouldn't get so lucky with Kat. He could always count on her to dash his good mood to bits. If she wasn't such a damn talented engineer, he would have ditched her ages ago; at least that's what he told her when she got haughty.

“How long do we have to wait for nobody?” she groaned.

“Don't make me give you a good slating, Kat.”

“You know he's not above hitting a woman,” Buckles wheezed in amusement.

“Woman? What woman? I don't see a woman,” Jack snickered.

Kat growled before hurling herself at him and knocking him to the ground. He let her have the upper hand for a few moments, delighting in the change of her expression when she realized she hadn't actually won. He rolled her just as easily as he had when they were children. She fought against him, but they both knew only part of her wanted to escape. Not that either intended on mentioning it.

“Now that's a woman,” Buckles purred gruffly.

“Stow it, Buckles,” Kat spat at him.

Jack cackled until Buckles yanked on his hair, and with his head lifted, so lifted his gaze to the beautiful woman standing on the perimeter of the airfield. When their eyes connected, her lips parted and a smile danced up her cheek. He was paralyzed by the power of her stride. Only the aid of music would have improved it; perhaps a waltz with echoing chimes to suit the bounce of her buxom charms. The breeze seemed delighted in playing with her fiery hair and lifted the panels of her skirt to grant glimpses of the flesh where her thigh-high boots ended and paradise began.

Jack sprang to his feet, butting in front of Buckles as he made a beeline for the woman in the skintight basque.

“You must be Captain Jack Racine,” she purred as she extended her hand. “It is a great pleasure to finally meet you.”

“Then let us meet again and again,” Jack said as he kissed the back of her hand. “And again.”

“That shouldn't be too difficult once I'm a member of your crew.”

“You are here to audition?” Kat asked with a snide emphasis on the “you”.

“Not that it's necessary, but yes,” she replied. “My name is Harlow Haddix and I'm the best pilot RAF Shrewsbury never had.”

“I was wondering if my non-discriminatory policy would drag any ladies out of the woodwork.”

“Nothing about me drags, Captain Racine.”

“So I see.”

“This is Kirkov, a truly expert navigator,” she said, gesturing to the man who was so slight and spindly, they didn't even notice him until he peeked over Harlow's shoulder.

He moved so gracefully and with such deliberate precision that Jack didn't doubt Harlow's statement. He'd known plenty of navigators in his life and the best understood that a plane's path was little different than a dance: something of which Kirkov, as a former member of the Ballet Russe, knew all about.

“Your qualifications speak for themselves and I”m glad to have you on board,” he said to Kirkov. “But you, Miss Haddix, I'll need to see in action.”

“Don't say you need it when you really want it. Besides, do you think an untrained woman would just saunter in here and pretend to know her stuff?”

“A woman like you might,” Buckles said, and Harlow scoffed.

“Darling, there are no other women like me.”

“From the look of your outfit, I'd say there are plenty of women like you found by those with loose morals and good coin,” Kat snorted.

Harlow sneered as she approached Kat and looked down at her.

“Don't tell me you're a pilot too. How can you even reach the pedals?”

“I'm a mechanical engineer, specializing in aerial picoepistemology. So, if you aim to take up one of our planes, I suggest not insulting me, lest you find yourself without an EPS.”

“That's enough,” Jack said as he pulled Kat away. “So, Miss Haddix, are you ready for your audition? Do you need to change your clothes?”

“I'm always sky-ready, Captain.”

She ripped a pair of goggles from her belt and as she began sliding on her gloves, Jack could easily picture her sliding other garments off.

“This is yours?” she asked and looked over the Azaz-450 as if it were a prospective lover.

“She's called The Sherwood,” Jack said proudly.

“I suppose that makes you Robin Hood.”

“Oh, for Azaz's sake,” Kat groaned.

“What about that plane?” Harlow asked, staring at a sparkling Azaz-D46 on the other side of the airfield.

“The Dragon? Dream on, Lady,” Buckles grunted. “The Dragon is the Flying Foxes' pride and joy and they never lend out their buckets.”

“She's hardly a bucket. I've never even seen a D46 this close before.”

“That's because Doctor Azaz only made fifteen models and never distributed the plans for more,” Kat said matter-of-factly.

“Well, look who knows her basic aviation history,” Harlow snickered. “It seems unfair that the Flying Foxes wouldn't share, especially with pilots that are clearly superior.”

“Don't even think about it.”

“Too late,” she said with a smirk and took off running.

“Jack, if she gets caught stealing that plane, she's going to get us booted from the airfield,” Kat said.

“You're right. Damn. I wish I had thought of it,” he said and dashed after her.
Harlow made short work of climbing the Foxes' fence and plastered herself against the shimmering side of the coveted Azaz Dragon. Jack was enamored of The Sherwood, but he had to admit the extraordinary beauty of the D46. And it wasn't even at its full glory yet. The appeal of the D46 for aerobatics existed in 80% of the plane being comprised of picocrystals. The wings, nose, and tail had regenerative properties like most planes, but they also had the ability to change length and shape at the flip of a switch. It also possessed the Bird-Catcher feature, which was common among other aircrafts, but the D46 was the only aerobatic plane that came with it standard.

“Come on, Robin Hood. Steal from the rich and give to a poor girl like me,” Harlow cooed.

“I thought there were no girls like you.”

“I'm impressed. Most men can't recall anything I say when I wear this outfit.”

“I'm not most men,” he replied. “After you, Maid Marion.”

She flashed him a sneer, albeit a sexy one, as he lifted the front canopy and Harlow made herself at home behind the yoke. As excited as she was, Harlow dutifully performed her pre-flight inspection. After declaring everything nominal, she hit the master switch, depressed the primer and locked it in place, and with a quick prayer, she started the engine. The instrument panel shimmered irridescent as the D46 rumbled to life.

The Dragon took to the air like no plane Jack and Harlow had felt before. Each roll and yaw was smoother than the last, making servants of the currents. Harlow demonstrated her aerial prowess with little difficulty, executing maneuvers that only a seasoned pilot could perform. Jack was more than a little titillated by watching her. Her concentration was perfectly blended with her joy, calling up gleeful giggles and hollers as the Dragon sliced the clouds to wispy ribbons. She flicked one switch and the wings glittered as they thinned and elongated, lifting the craft higher into the heavens. She normalized the wings and elongated the nose, sending Harlow and Jack shooting through the sky like a rocket.

“Try the Bird-Catcher,” Jack said and Harlow looked back at him with a grin.

There were only a few birds in the sky and they kept their distance until Harlow slowed the aircraft. As soon as they became a little more courageous, she pressed the button and braced herself as the cabin started to shimmy. From the Dragon's belly flew a flock of crystalline birds. They glittered in the sun, but only enough to capture the eye of the nearby birds and not distract the pilot. Jack leaned against the canopy like a child watching his first magic show. Indeed, it had been many years since he'd seen the Bird-Catcher in action. It was beautiful to behold the birds built from Doctor Azaz's ingenuity, endurance, and mechanical dream, and it was also effective. The crystalline birds ushered their feathered forebears out of the plane's path. If robins could be intrigued, they were in the thick of it, trailing the strange but similar creatures away from the D46. Harlow and Jack were so mystified by the Dragon's amenities, they hardly noticed the crackle of the radio. The voice that spewed from it, however, would not be ignored.

“Jack Racine, we know it's you. You have five minutes to return our Azaz-D46 to the Flying Foxes paddock before we call the authorities. Do you understand? Over.”

“Allow me,” Harlow said and donned her silkiest whisper to answer. “This is Harlow Haddix. May I ask who I'm speaking with? Over.”

There was a slight pause.

“Lieutenant Leroy Bowman. Over.”

“Leroy. I've always liked that name. Listen, Leroy. Captain Racine is with me, but it was not he who borrowed your plane. It was me. I simply couldn't resist. I suppose I have some issues with control. I'm always doing the wildest things,” she giggled. “Captain Racine couldn't stop me once I had the idea in mind. No one could. He came along to ensure that I did no damage to the plane of a crew he respects so highly. I will return your plane immediately, but I want to be certain that you won't call the authorities or blame Captain Racine. Blame me. Punish me. Over.”

“I see. Return our plane, Miss Haddix, and we'll discuss repercussions face to face. Over.”

“How kind you are, Lieutenant. I look forward to being face to face with you. Over,” she exhaled and switched off the radio.

The Dragon was gracefully returned to its lair, despite how regrettable it was for its temporary pilots. As deeply rooted as Lieutenant Bowman's scowl was at first, it was lifted with the ease of Harlow Haddix's curling lips as she popped open the canopy. Although they'd abandoned the plane, Jack let Harlow continue with the control. As he slipped away, she steered herself straight toward the Lieutenant and barrel-rolled him with smiles until his thoughts of reprimand turned to thoughts of ribaldry. He didn't see Jack Racine. He didn't mention Jack Racine. All he knew was Harlow, and all Harlow knew was victory in her sensual ease.

“Thank you for the gift you gave me today, Lieutenant. Your plane is sheer delight,” she said as he opened the gate for her.

“Perhaps we could arrange another ride one day.”

Harlow chuckled. Leroy waited for her to give him some hope, but she simply tapped her finger under his chin with her lips pouted and turned away.

“That was an impressive display. In and outside of the Dragon,” Jack said as Harlow leaned against the Sherwood. “You could be quite useful to me.”

“My talent greatly exceeds use by only one person, Captain Racine.”

“It also exceeds use by this company, but hopefully you won't let that stop you.”

“Stop me?”

“From commanding the sky as my Second, Miss Haddix.”

“You mean---”

“Welcome to the Sherwood Six,” Jack said and extended his hand.

She shook it demurely, but her excitement burst through and the grasp turned into a jubilant embrace. Jack was more than happy to squeeze Harlow just as emphatically, but as much as he wanted to tilt back a pint or two and see just how commanding Harlow Haddix could be, his exuberance about the crew surpassed both pub and bed. As raucous as Jack Racine could be, nothing was about to distract him from the task at hand, not even Kat's nagging about the silliness of the crew's name when they only had five members. He had good reason to keep focused. Not only did Jack intend on surpassing the Flying Foxes and the Azazian Aces as the most popular aerobatic crew in London, he intended on being as well known as the elusive Doctor Azaz himself.


Jessica McHugh is an author of speculative fiction that spans the genre from horror and alternate history to epic fantasy. A prolific writer, she has devoted herself to novels, short stories, novellas, and even playwriting. She has had nine books published in three years, including "Song of Eidolons", "The Sky: The World" and the first three installments in her "Tales of Dominhydor" series.

Visit Jessica
Become a Fan of Jessica McHugh on Facebook!

Guest post, Welcome to the Sherwood Six, created for SteamBoyz event by Jessica McHugh, author of The Sky: The World
© 2011. All rights reserved.

~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~
by Jessica McHugh
~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~

READ more about this crew in here...

--~ Book Giveaway courtesy of author ~--

The Sky: The World
by Jessica McHugh

signup to win this book


* image source snippet of Jessica's bookmark - see the full image and get yours

::= SteamBoyz schedule =::

Advert: Empire of Ruins

This advert reminds Edward that he must go to the airfield to meet the arrival of the 5pm Airship from Australia. His brother, Elliott, will be returning from vacation.

Empire of Ruins:
The Hunchback Assignments 3
by Arthur Slade
Release date: September 2011

Secret agent Modo's next assignment?

Find ancient Egyptian ruins hidden deep in the Australian jungle and the mysterious God Face, rumoured to be a powerful weapon—anyone who looks upon it will be driven mad.

And he must find the God Face before the evil Clockwork Guild does!


* image source newspaper advert

::= SteamBoyz schedule =::

Friday, July 29, 2011

Radio: Steampunk Maven

In the kitchen of Mrs O'Grady's tea shop the staff listen to the latest edition by the Flashes in the Dark Radio.

Listen to internet radio with Flashes in the Dark Radio on Blog Talk Radio

An interview with Steampunk Maven Tonia Brown!

topics include:

Pour out another cup of tea and give listen, why don't you?

Volume One:Rodger Dodger
(a steampunk tale)
by Tonia Brown
fyi: currently available at Smashwords for $0.99

Join us as we follow the strange stand-alone train known as the Sleipnir (pronounced Schlipnear); eight cars of free traveling steam powered might. Able to lay her own tracks, as well as pick them up again, the train is a marvelous feat of engineering, and as an unbound entity she can travel anywhere her master desires. The only trouble is the trouble she attracts. Her owner and creator, one Professor Hieronymus J. Dittmeyer, can’t seem to help but catch the attention of all manner of odd characters, including an undead conductor and ghostly guardian. But even a well meaning ghost can't help the crew. From run of the mill outlaws to world-class super villains, the crew of the Sleipnir needs protecting and they need it fast!

Enter Rodger Dodger, dead-eye marksman and all around vexed soul. Dodger finds he is inexplicably drawn to the Sleipnir and her crazy crew, though he is reluctant to return to the work of a gunslinger after a dreadful history of bloodshed and violence. At the request of a restless spirit, Dodger takes on the work, straps on the biggest guns this side of the Mississippi and soon finds his life will never be the same again. (Which is just fine with him because he didn't like the one he had anyways.)

On a train that can go anywhere, anything is bound to happen!


* image source for steampunk radio is the logo for The Clockwork Cabaret™ which is a weekly radio show hosted by the Davenport sisters on WCOM 103.5 FM-LP in Chapel Hill/Carrboro, NC, every Monday at 11pm.

::= SteamBoyz schedule =::

Advert: Top 10 Reasons to Read Steampunk

Does the last advert on the page above catch your attention???

Excerpt: 10 Reasons You Should Drop Everything Right Now And Read Steampunk by Heather Massey
guest post at The Pen & Muse Book Reviews

1) Steampunk is the great multitasker. While the genre is generally set during Earth’s Victorian era, authors have placed steampunk elements in a variety of settings, including alternate fantasy worlds, the American Old West, space, and Africa. In fact, because of its versatility, you may have already read some steampunk and didn’t even know it. Way to go!

2) Steampunk has airships, which frankly are way cooler than space ships.

3) Mystery is a popular partner of steampunk. Investigators in steampunk stories discover all kinds of strange and unusual contraptions in their quest to solve the crime. The real mystery then becomes, why don’t I get to have all of that loot, for real, in my personal collection?

READ the rest of this list here.


* image source newspaper advert

::= SteamBoyz schedule =::

Advert: Goliath

Dash leans over and interrupts Edward's reading.

What news of the war? he asks.

Edward hands him a section of the newspaper...

by Scott Westerfeld
illustrated by Keith Thompson
Release date: September 2011

Alek and Deryn are on the last leg of their round-the-world quest to end World War I, reclaim Alek’s throne as prince of Austria, and finally fall in love. The first two objectives are complicated by the fact that their ship, the Leviathan, continues to detour farther away from the heart of the war (and crown). And the love thing would be a lot easier if Alek knew Deryn was a girl. (She has to pose as a boy in order to serve in the British Air Service.) And if they weren’t technically enemies.

The tension thickens as the Leviathan steams toward New York City with a homicidal lunatic on board: secrets suddenly unravel, characters reappear, and nothing is at it seems in this thunderous conclusion to Scott Westerfeld’s brilliant trilogy.

It's not THE END end...

Wait. Last book? But there’s only been three! Don’t you know the secret meaning of trilogy?

Um, right. What I meant was that the three Leviathan novels are done. There’s still the Manual of Aeronautics to come. This book four, which may have a different title, will be a Spiderwick Field Guide-like large-format book of Keith’s art.

It’s going to be awesome, with big, full-color deck plans of the Leviathan, cutaways of the Stormwalker, and lovely portraits of many beasties, machines, and uniforms. Finally you will know what color everything is! There are also a few how-to diagrams, like Huxley Semaphore and sliding escapes.

It comes out in October 2012. -per Scott Westerfeld


* image source newspaper advert

::= SteamBoyz schedule =::

Advert: Soulless

Edward notices this announcement after reading the short story. It looks like something his sister would fancy...

Soulless: The Manga
Vol. #1 from The Parasol Protectorate
by Gail Carriger
Release date: March 2012
Available serialized through Yen Press online now


* image source manga first page

* image source newspaper advert

::= SteamBoyz schedule =::

Shiewo and the Majestic Swarm

As everyone blissfully eat their desserts in peace, Edward flips his newspaper to the back section to read one of his favorite features - the weekly short story piece.

~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~
by Ciye Cho
~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~

Shiewo and the Majestic Swarm
(A short story from the universe of Orberana)
by Ciye Cho

DOWN IN THE ODYSSEY’S ENGINEERING DECK, surrounded by wooden consoles with beeping machines, Felix Dabblezapp stood by a porthole. The young human stared out the small window at a cloudless orange sky. He searched the dusk for a flicker of a different color—but found none. All he saw was a darker orange above and below the ship.

Felix was about to sigh, when a child’s voice emerged.

‘Is something wrong, Felix?’

The young man turned to see Theo floating next to his shoulder. In the dusk light, the cloud’s rainbow-streaked body had a gold tinge to it. Felix looked amid the moisture to focus on the cloud’s mouth, nose, and two eyes—features that shifted about with a ‘cloudy’ vagueness.

The human smiled and brushed a hand along the top of the cloud. Droplets of dew gathered on his palm. ‘Hey, little guy.’

‘What’s wrong?’ asked the cloud. ‘There’s nothing outside.’

Felix shrugged and brushed back his spiky blond hair. ‘Maybe that’s just it.’ He stared back out the porthole. ‘I don’t understand how this place can be so barren of life. Imagine that… a stretch of sky without a single cloud.’

Theo morphed a part of his body into a tiny hand and used this to poke Felix’s shoulder. ‘I think you’re forgetting something,’ the cloud giggled as he left a damp spot on the youth’s singlet.

Felix looked over at him and chuckled. ‘Well, you’re not just any cloud!’

His laughter, however, died down as he looked back outside.

The young man opened the porthole and stuck his head out.

The sound of the Odyssey’s flight song filled his ears, and he closed his eyes for a moment to listen to a strange mix of electronic, acoustic, and otherworldly instruments. He heard synthesizers, reverb-soaked guitars, and resonant horns—all of which were tied together by a string of piano melodies.

He smiled to himself before opening his eyes to stare at the exterior of the vessel. It was hard to see much of the Odyssey from where he stood, but he could just make out one of the ship’s sidehorns. He could just see flashes of rainbow light streaming out from this enormous brass horn, carried out by the broadcasts of sound. Stretching his head a little further out, he could also see the ship’s lower balcony and (at the end of this structure) the ship’s basshorn. Streams of jet-black exhaust rushed out too, along with sounds of musical bass.

Flight music! He thought to himself as he shook his head—the concept still seemed so strange to him. ‘Amazing,’ he whispered.

He pulled his head back in and listened to the same song echo within the ship.

A smile crept over his face as he stared above him.

‘Let’s have some fun,’ said Felix as he wandered across the narrow deck.

‘Fun?’ Theo watched him head toward two silver doors on the far end. ‘Felix?’

The youth pressed a control panel next to the doors and opened them up to let himself into the deck’s tiny elevator.

‘Where are you going?’

‘Why, to see the captain, of course!’

‘Felix…’ Theo shook his head. ‘You know the captain will get mad if you disturb her while she’s conducting.’

The doors closed with a hiss.

‘Felix? Hey! Wait up…’

The cloud looked up at the ceiling and eyed a small crack between two planks. He floated towards it and squeezed his gaseous body through the gap to find himself in the Synthesizer Deck. However, the cloud paid no mind to the colorful keyboards that covered every single wall, searching, instead, for a crack between one of the ceiling units.

It took a moment, but he eventually squeezed into the level above.

The Respiration Deck was empty, but the accordions and bellows that hung from the ceiling played soft melodies to accompany the captain’s flight song. Theo took a moment to whistle along—until he heard the elevator whoosh up the ship. He let out a sigh but slipped through another ceiling to enter the kitchen above. And, from there, he rose through one last level to find himself in the Piano Deck.

Theo stared around the dim level. The narrow place was lit only by the semi-circular stained-glass windows on both of its longest sides. However, his attention soon drifted to the black baby-grand piano that waited in the center of the deck.

The command piano glittered in the dark, all of its embedded panels pulsing with electric light. And, just behind the piano, on a black bench, sat Captain Shiewo.

Theo floated over to watch the young woman.

Shiewo’s eyes were closed, and her heart-shaped face looked serene. Her hands, however, darted back and forth over the three overlapping banks of keyboards. Theo smiled as he watched her hands travel over dozens of multicolored keys—sometimes connecting distant keys with what seemed like a painfully wide stretch of her fingers. Her hair was a mess of short dark strands as she swayed back and forth, lost in a trance-like conduction.

Up this high within the ship, the music that she played did not have the additional accompaniment from the levels below. But Shiewo’s work was anything but a mere piano song: the work that left her deck was a constantly changing melody line; a strange and unpredictable mix of notes that rushed, exploded, lingered, and sometimes even melted away into nothing but reverb.

A jumbly thing of magic, thought Theo.

The cloud hummed along softly.

Behind him, the elevator doors slid open with a hiss.

Felix tiptoed over to Shiewo’s side. There, he raised a hand and waved it in front of Shiewo’s closed eyes. The captain, as usual, did not react, lost in the music.
The young man sat on the edge of the piano bench.

‘Felix?’ whispered Theo.

Felix raised a finger to his lips and turned to wink at Theo.

The young man did not make a sound but stuck his head right in front of Shiewo’s, before pulling a variety of silly expressions. Still, she did not flinch, and he shook his head in wonderment. ‘I just don’t get it,’ he whispered.

‘And everyone says that I’m a child,’ said Theo as he floated back toward the lift, waving the human toward him with a cloud hand. ‘Come on! Let’s leave Shiewo to her playing.’

Felix did not seem to hear the cloud, focused instead on brushing his hands up and down several lengths of each keyboard, doing his best to avoid Shiewo’s fingers as she raced up and down the keys.

Theo waited by the elevator and shook his head, his eyes almost rolled back—a recent expression he had mastered from watching Felix. ‘Felix,’ he repeated, waving for the youth to join him. ‘Come on!’ He looked through one of the giant stained-glass panels for a moment. ‘Let’s go back and…’

Theo quieted as he saw a flicker of gold light drift beyond the ship.

‘Huh?’ he whispered.

The cloud floated over to the young man and hissed: ‘Psst! Felix!’ The youth turned and Theo pointed behind him. ‘Look at that!’

The human looked up and shrugged. ‘Look at what?’

Theo turned—but this time he saw nothing but orange sky.

The cloud frowned. ‘Hey... Where’d it go?’

Felix shrugged but turned back to the piano and reached for a knob on its lid marked ‘pitch control.’ A grin passed over his face as he lowered his hand.

‘Don’t mess with that,’ whispered Theo as he blew a puff of cold air at Felix. However, as he got closer, the glimmer of light reappeared outside the opposite window. He froze. ‘Hey. There it is again…’

Felix started to get up from the piano bench, until something yanked him back down.

The young man looked down to see the front of his singlet locked in the grip of Shiewo’s right hand. He let out a gulp as her head turned to face him. Her other hand ceased playing and pressed a button on the side of the command piano to bring the ship to a hover.

Neither Theo nor Felix said a word. The only sounds to fill the air were the ambient loops of piano that the command piano used to keep the ship afloat in ‘hover mode.’

Shiewo opened her eyes, and her brows came down low over them to form a dark line. She did not say a word as she faced him. She did not stare or glower either, merely boring into his head with her bright green eyes.

‘Err… hey, Shiewo,’ said Felix sheepishly. When she did not reply, the young man started to count down in his head the number of seconds that drifted by without a single blink of her eyes. One… two… three… four… five… six… seven… eight… nine…

‘Did you guys see it?’ Shiewo said suddenly in a soft but clear voice.

She let go of his singlet and stood up to walk toward a window.

‘See what?’

‘You saw it too?’ Theo chirped. ‘That gold thingy?’

‘I don’t know what it looked like,’ she replied. ‘But I heard a strange whirring…’ She leaned against one of the stained-glass windows to stare outside, and then frowned. ‘…like the hum of a reverse coromiterial hyporial rotor.’

‘A what?’ asked Felix.

‘A hover motor,’ Theo translated.

‘Wait.’ Felix crossed his arms and shook his head. ‘You heard a motor over the sound of the Odyssey’s flight song?’

Shiewo looked over her shoulder at him. She raised an eyebrow.

‘I hear everything, Felix,’ she told him.

The young man reddened.

Yet, before he could say another word, a flash of light passed behind the captain’s side of the ship. ‘Hey!’ he called out as he rushed to her side. ‘What was that?’

One of the smaller panes of the stained-glass window cracked down the centre, and all of them hushed. Shiewo ran a finger over the crack. Her frowned deepened as the gold shape disappeared. She turned to look at Theo. ‘My friend, could you go take a look outside?’

Theo looked at the crack and gulped.

‘Outside?’ He avoided her gaze as he swayed from side to side. ‘I don’t know if that’s a good idea… what if it’s a lightning gremlin or some kind of sky porry?’

Shiewo moved over and gently ran the back of her hand over his cheek. ‘Theo…’

‘I know, I know…’ he sulked for a moment. ‘Courage. Yes… I remember…’

A near-smile passed over Shiewo’s face. ‘Then what are you waiting for?’

Theo shrugged, then took in a deep breath. He and Shiewo moved to the rear of the deck, and there, she opened the porthole.

‘Promise nothing bad will happen?’ he asked.

Shiewo reached up to gently touch both sides of the cloud—all she could do to hold his formless body. ‘I’m right here, Theo.’

The cloud stared at the orange sky for a moment, then sighed.


The cloud floated out.

Theo zipped a hundred feet away from the porthole before he turned. Alas, not much could be seen in the dusk light. All that stood out against the orange sky was the fish-like shape of the eight storey Odyssey—the giant brass finhorns looked as if they were made from gold in the strange light; the eye-shaped stained-glass windows on the port and starboard sides shone in orange-tinted colors; the tail balcony was nothing but a silhouette.

The Odyssey looked more like a strange animal than a narrow wooden vessel.

Theo floated around the ship, using the light from the ship’s portholes to help him study the air around him. He shivered as he stared around him at the eerily quiet world. He took in a deep breath, then did one quick pass, and another, and another.

However, nothing could be seen around the ship.

Finally, the cloud floated back.

‘Okay-I-did-a-search-and-there’s-nothing-out-there-anymore-so-lets-just-go,’ he told the others in a nervous gush of words. ‘Maybe it left.’

Shiewo shook her head as she stared back out. ‘No. I can still hear it.’ She closed her eyes. ‘There’s a faint clicking sound…’

She frowned as she opened her eyes.

‘Where exactly is Erduu?’ she asked.

It was a moment later that the crew got into the elevator and made their way down to the storage level. From there, all of them walked toward the glass doors at the end of the deck.

The doors opened with a hiss and they walked out across the lower balcony.

There, their ears picked up a strange humming sound, and they stared ahead to see a dark silhouette standing at the far end.

‘Erduu?’ said Shiewo as she and the others walked closer.

As their eyes adjusted to the dimness, they realized that Erduu was balanced on only one of his green legs. The other leg was held up at such an impossibly high arc that it might as well have been a bamboo branch. One of his arms was wrapped around the knotted mass of his torso; the other was held out above his head—and the nodes that divided this limb were coiled like a ribbon. His long face was equally still: the purple wings of his two eye-bugs were firmly closed over their beetle backs; his nose and mouth were frozen.

The bamboo swayed gently on that one straight leg. The only other movement to be seen was that of his leaf hairs as they shivered in the breeze.

Felix turned to look at Shiewo, and even she seemed a little taken aback by Erduu’s newest meditative pose. ‘Well. That’s a new one,’ Felix whispered.

They moved closer, and as they did, the humming to leave Erduu’s throat was painfully loud—as though every hollow bit of the bamboo’s body was resonating with the sound.

‘Erduu,’ said Shiewo. ‘We need your help. There’s something beyond the ship.’ The bamboo did not react and she raised her voice: ‘Erduu?’

No response came and she reached up, ready to knock on one of his hollow shoulders.

Yet, that was when a flicker of light appeared above their heads.

Everyone looked up to see a gold ovoid covered in unusual shapes of metal. Then, a flash of light escaped the bottom of it—a burst that disorientated everyone for a moment with its blinding whiteness.

‘Whoa!’ said Felix. ‘What was that!’

The crew held onto the balcony rail as their vision slowly came back.

Shiewo pursed her lips. ‘I have no idea… but let’s find out.’

The captain made her way back to the glass doors and pressed a control panel next to the door. A videoscreen above this panel lit up with a flicker and, through the communications link, the captain saw an image of a goldfish surrounded by murky water.

‘Livingston,’ she began. ‘Something just flew past the ship. Did you see it?’

A low rumble left the videoscreen as the goldfish replied: ‘See what? What are you talking about, woman? Exactly what sorts of things do you think I see from my tank? Puppies and red balloons?’

Shiewo let out a sigh. ‘Livingston! You know what I mean: did you detect anything passing by?’

‘Like what? We’re in the middle of nowhere, Shiewo.’

‘Like a gold blur’ said Felix as he rushed over. ‘A gold thingy rushing past.’

‘A really fast gold thingy,’ added Theo.

‘What?’ grumbled Livingston.

‘Livingston… this is important. We were in the middle of a flight song when—’

‘I’ll tell you what I was in the middle of,’ said Livingston. ‘I was in the middle of a nap before you people started pestering me!’
The goldfish cut the comm-link with an angry hiss.

‘Hey!’ said Shiewo. ‘Wait a minute, Livingston…’

The humming behind them faded abruptly, and everyone turned to see Erduu open the wings of his eye-bugs. The purple iris on the back of each beetle stared at them.
The bamboo’s contorted limbs came down to his side.

‘Oh. Hello, everyone,’ he greeted them cheerily. ‘What’s going on?’

‘What’s going on?’ repeated Felix. ‘There’s an alien object shooting around the ship at a million miles a second, and all you have to say is what’s going on?’

‘You’re looking for an alien object?’

‘Yes,’ said Felix. ‘An orb-shaped thing.’

‘Like—’ Erduu stretched his hands four feet apart, ‘—this big?’


‘Gold in color?’


‘Oh. Why didn’t you say so,’ he chuckled. And with that, Erduu walked beside them and pointed to the right.

All of them turned to see the orb floating beyond the balcony.

No one moved, merely staring at it from the corner of their eyes.

‘What are we doing now?’ Theo hissed under his breath.

Everyone looked to Shiewo, but found her focused intently on the object.

Felix shrugged. ‘I think we’re just staring at it.’

Theo floated over and positioned himself in line with the others. His ‘face’ faded out of existence for a moment before it reappeared on the other side of his body to let him look at the creature. ‘Am I doing it right?’ he asked. No one answered, all fixed on the orb, and Theo sighed. ‘I did it wrong, didn’t I?’

‘Shh…’ said Erduu.

The bamboo let one of his eye-bugs float away from his face to head closer to the orb. ‘What have we here?’ the bamboo whispered. ‘Let’s see what you’re made of.’

Erduu’s vision split into half as his left eye-bug relayed a closer view of the orb.
The object had a shell made up of dozens of small geometric pieces of metal. All of these pieces were flat, connected to the one next to it by a large bolt. All the pieces had engravings and embossed markings on them—Erduu could not see what they were from afar, but each pattern had a strange way of catching the light, making it seem dusted in starlight.

Erduu drew his eye-bug back.

Erduu frowned when his eye-bugs were united again. ‘Fascinating…’

‘What is it?’ asked Felix.

‘It’s some kind of an egg.’

‘An egg?’ said Felix.

‘Maybe we should leave while it’s stationary?’ said Theo as he darted behind them. ‘What if it’s dangerous?’

All of them quieted as the egg began to float a little closer to the ship.

However, while the others began to back off a little, Shiewo focused her eyes on the creature. She noticed things that none of the others did: some of the bolts and facets of the egg were dented and corroded; thin wires poked out of odd places; lines of grease had dribbled between some of the connected faces.

She watched a droplet of grease seep out from between two plates. Machine ichor? She thought to herself. A moment later, she noticed that the egg was shaking a little. Shivering.

Shiewo walked slowly to the ledge.

‘What are doing, Shiewo?’ asked Theo. ‘It could be dangerous.’

‘It could be spying on us,’ said Felix.

‘It could be many things,’ whispered Shiewo as she turned to look at them. ‘But I’ll tell you what it isn’t.’ She turned back to the machine. ‘It isn’t working properly.’

The captain leaned over the rail and stretched a hand out towards the creature.

The egg floated back a little, but did not flee.

‘It’s okay…’ Shiewo whispered to the machine. ‘Let me help you.’

Theo and Felix looked at each other.

The egg came a little closer.

Shiewo waited until the orb was just a few feet away before she reached out and grabbed it in her hands. With its hover engine still running, the orb seemed weightless.

She pulled it carefully over the balcony.

In the glow of the ship’s lights, everyone saw ornate patterns of stars, curves, and geometrics over each faceted corner. The creature looked tarnished and battered; it had a very strong odour of old brass.

The orb’s hover engine cut out abruptly, and it dropped to the balcony floor with a heavy thud.

A rumble echoed below them as Livingston appeared once more on the balcony wall’s videoscreen: ‘What was that!’ he exclaimed. ‘I felt something huge crash above my tank.’

‘It’s nothing, Livingston,’ said Shiewo without looking at him. She lowered into to a squat beside the egg to examine it from all sides. Erduu and Felix gathered next to her.

The image of Livingston in the videoscreen grew larger as the goldfish zoomed in on them from his end—taking the time to study the egg. ‘What is that?’

‘That’s what we were chasing,’ said Felix. ‘The egg thing with the blinding lights and window-cracking ability.’

‘Hold on,’ said Livingston. ‘Why exactly did you bozos bring aboard a potentially dangerous mechanical egg that’s capable of cracking windows and blinding people?’

‘Because Shiewo thinks it’s broken,’ said Theo matter-of-factly.

‘Ah, well of course—that makes perfect sense!’ Livingston scoffed.

No one paid any mind to him when a cracking sound echoed under the egg.

One of the panels underneath it popped aside, and everyone watched two legs emerge.

The creature pushed itself off the ground with the help of two silver limbs. Each leg was no more than a steel rod capped at the bottom by a sharp three-prong grappling hook.

Everyone held their breath as the creature swayed about, but the egg did manage to stay upright. And even though it had no eyes, it paced around in a circle to study at the crew.

‘Why hello there,’ said Felix. ‘What are you?’

The creature focused on Felix and let out a chirp.

Felix whistled back. That is, until the creature lunged toward him and hooked one of its talons down on the ground near his foot. ‘Hoi!’ the young man cried out as he darted back from the silver claw. Erduu and Theo also began to back away.

Shiewo, however, leaned forward and waved a hand in front of it. ‘What are you?’

The egg started to move toward her… only to crash backwards with a loud clang. Felix and Erduu could not help but chuckle, and Theo, who had been peering out from behind Felix, came a little closer. Shiewo did not say a word, but a near-smile passed over her.

Her eyes traced over the top of the egg, and she noticed a broken stub of metal jutting out from under one of the panels.

Shiewo reached into her toolbelt for a spanner, then stretched forward and undid one of the bolts holding the damaged plate in place. The creature started to shake, but she leaned forward and patted it on the head. ‘Shh… it’s okay.’ She told it.

The creature stilled.

‘I’m going to fix you up.’

With that, she pulled out the bolt.

The others gathered around her as she began to slowly remove the other three bolts that held the damaged plate. She then lifted the broken panel aside.

Shiewo stared inside the egg to see a tiny cosmos of silver and gold gears. But what she saw was no ordinary clockwork—many of the gears were unable to do a full cycle; they turned back and forth by approximately twenty degrees. She tipped her head to the side and placed her ear above the egg. She heard a soft doom-dum, doom-dum, doo-dum radiate outwards from the gears.

It’s like a heartbeat, she thought to herself.

She held her hand over her chest to feel her pulse, and found that it was not dissimilar to the rhythm of the machine below her. She pulled back from the egg and noticed a few strands of gold wire at the bottom.

The others gathered around it and stared on in awe.

‘It’s beautiful,’ said Erduu.

‘Most of it is just going back and forth,’ said Felix. ‘I wonder how it got stuck that way.’

Shiewo shook her head as she eyed the parts. ‘I don’t think it got stuck in any way. I think it’s supposed to be doing this.’ she paused. ‘Like it’s waiting.’

‘For what?’ asked Theo.

‘I don’t know,’ replied Shiewo.

Her eyes drifted to the broken gears inside it. She followed the paths of the gear trains to a fist-sized flywheel that seemed to be at the very core of the egg. As she eyed it, she tried to create a mental picture of all the gears.

However, she did not have long to picture it all.

While Shiewo, Theo, and Erduu focused on the creature’s top, Felix crouched low and spotted something unusual under the lower side of the creature: one of its panels was devoid of markings, only a single hatch.

He pressed the hatch and it popped open.

Shiewo left her reverie to see what Felix was doing. Erduu and Theo also turned. All stared in to see a dark recess beyond the hatch. There was one single object there: a gold button engraved with a small ‘X’.

‘Fancy that,’ said Felix as he reached to brush the button with his fingertip.

‘Felix!’ said Shiewo. ‘Don’t push that! We don’t know what it does…’

‘Easy. I’m just touching it. Nothing’s going to—’

The button sank under his touch, and everyone froze.

A loud pop echoed inside the egg, and all motion ceased within it.

Everyone’s eyes widened as the egg suddenly keeled over with crash.

‘Felix!’ said Shiewo.

‘You killed it!’ Theo trilled in panic.

Felix paled, but held his hands up. Curiously, before he could say a word, a single bolt shot out from the side of the egg and struck him on the chin. ‘Yow!’ he exclaimed as he looked back the egg. ‘It hit me! That thing hit me…’

‘Huh,’ said Theo as he stared at the egg.

Shiewo and the others started to lean forward.

That was when another bolt shot out into the air. And another. And another…

Everyone was rooted to the ground in surprise for a moment. But as the bolts arced closer, Shiewo snapped one arm around Felix and another around Erduu and dragged them back toward the balcony doorway; Theo floated after them. Together on the other side, they watched as the egg’s external bolts shot away. Felix watched one dart towards him, but just managed to dart away from it as it crashed onto the bulkhead behind him. Somewhere above, a bolt smashed into a porthole and shards of glass showered onto the balcony deck.

Yet, after a dozen bolts had been blasted aside, the pieces of the egg itself—now only held together by crusts of grease—were blasted in all directions. A cloud of steam, smoke and sparks filled the air as the skeleton of gears underneath it started to shake. A boiler inside the machine ruptured a second later, birthing an enormous gray cloud of steam.

The crew darted beyond the doorway.

‘Not good!’ Felix cried out.

A videoscreen on the inside of the storage deck wall came to life

Livingston came into view.

‘Hold on everyone!’ said the goldfish. ‘I’m going to use my sonic bass to swing the ship to the side and throw it off.’
Erduu and the others grabbed on to the edge of the doorway. From where they stood, they watched a stream of bass leave the Odyssey, accompanied by an insanely loud rumble as Livingston started to shake the ship from side to side, up and down. However, no matter how much it bounced, their rudderman was unable to create enough force to throw it off.

‘Get inside the ship, everyone!’ Livingston boomed. ‘Things are going to get rougher.’

With that, he rocked the ship with an even greater pulse of bass.

The others scuttled further into the ship. But, amid all the chaos, Shiewo looked down at a golden gear at her feet. She bent down and picked it up, oblivious to the sounds of the crew calling her back in. And as she stared at gear in her hand, her frown deepened. She looked back up and thought back to what she had seen inside the machine. ‘Doom-dum… doom-dum,’ she whispered to herself.

She rushed to the videoscreen with Livingston. ‘Wait! Stop, Livingston!’


‘WAIT!’ she told him. ‘You can’t toss it overboard.’

‘But it’s going to explode!’

‘No. It won’t! Stop, Livingston!’



Their rudderman growled but slowed. ‘Bah! This had better not blow a hole above my tank.’

The crew gathered around her. ‘Shiewo?’ said Erduu.

‘It’s going to be fine,’ she told them.

With those five words, the machine outside suddenly quieted.

A look of relief passed over Shiewo’s face. Yet, this expression soon faded as she looked out.

What she saw surprised her.

The crew wandered back out onto the balcony to find it covered with a mess of grease, ash, and rubble.

Shiewo frowned as she wandered amid the pieces.

Erduu picked up a piece of rubble and reached to throw it over the edge, until

Shiewo turned and grabbed his hand. ‘Wait,’ she told him.

‘There’s nothing more to see here, Shiewo,’ said Erduu.

‘But…’ she paused as she shook her head. ‘I don’t get it,’ she squatted down and brushed aside some of the scraps of rubble. ‘This makes no sense.’

Erduu sat down next to her.

The bamboo shrugged. ‘Who can explain oddities like this?’

Shiewo looked around her at the waste, searching for something recognizable from the egg. At last though, when she found none, she shook her head. ‘Maybe you’re right.’
The bamboo got up and extended a hand to help her to her feet. She reached for his. But as he began to lift her from the waste, she caught sight of something to her right.

She froze for a moment, and then lowered back down.

‘Shiewo?’ said Felix.

‘It’s just a mound of rubble,’ said Erduu. ‘Just some broken toy.’

‘No… I don’t think it is,’ said the captain.

With that, she bent down to pick up a piece of gold the size of a thumbnail. Holding it closer to her, she realized that it was actually a tiny face: two miniature cogs were attached to the front in place of eyes; a tiny slot looked like as a mouth; and a fan of tiny tickers fringed the top like hair. There was a small slot at the base of this head.

Shiewo looked around her and found a gold rod just a few feet ahead. She brushed off the ash and, without thinking about it, she inserted the rod under the gold head to create a single piece.

She turned around and began to spot other parts.

‘Shiewo?’ said Theo.

The captain did not answer and the crew looked at each other in puzzlement. At last, they bent down and began to help sieve the ash for more gold parts. All of their finds were soon piled up next to Shiewo as she began to inspect a whole array of tiny metal wires and gears.

Minutes passed until all the ash was cleared.

That was when Shiewo picked up a mass of metal wires and began to connect them together.

Her hands moved in a flash.

Until, a few seconds later, she came to a halt.

The crew stared down to see a tiny gold figurine in her hands. The gold head attached to the gold rod was capped at the bottom with a tiny wind-up key. Hundreds of wires were connected to the rod, just below the neck of the headpiece.

‘What is it?’ said Theo.

‘Let’s take a look,’ she whispered.

Shiewo twisted the wind-up key three times.

There was a soft whirr, before the creature whirred to life.

The strands of wire attached to the rod began to flutter, and as they did, they lifted the tiny figurine a few inches off Shiewo’s palm and into the air. The wires swished up and down so fast that they no longer could be distinguished as individual threads, blurring into a gold aura around the tiny metal head.

Up close, Shiewo realized that the tiny eye-gears had started to turn in a clockwise direction. The creature’s wings seemed to absorb a lot of the light from the ship, giving it the coloration of a candle: dark in the center and incandescent in the outer circle.

‘Hey there,’ said Shiewo.

Shiewo stuck her finger out and gently touched the gold blur of ‘wing wires.’

They felt ticklish and a near smile passed over her face.

The others stretched forward to try to touch it, but the creature merely chirped and lifted up above their heads.

‘Incredible!’ said Felix.
The creature lifted higher as they stood up. But unlike the hover engine of the egg, this creature neither zoomed nor hovered. It merely drifted across the air like the dried husk of a dandelion.

Up it floated into the air. It tumbled in the wind.

Felix turned to stare at Shiewo. ‘How did you know what it was?’

Shiewo turned to face him. ‘I didn’t.’

‘I don’t get it.’

Shiewo turned back to stare up into the orange sky. ‘Sometimes you don’t need to know what something is—only what it isn’t…’

The creature was ten yards above the ship when the crew looked up again. But just as it seemed ready to disappear into the sky, other things emerged. All over the horizon, a wash of other gold drifters emerged across the dusk, like stars gathering for night. As they did, each mechanical creature spun around this tiny newcomer, spinning so fast that they all became a flash of white.

And, just like that, the creatures melted away into the orange sky...


Guest post created for SteamBoyz event, Shiewo and the Majestic Swarm: A short story from the universe of Orberana by Ciye Cho, author of Shiewo: A Fantasy Flight to Adventure
© 2011. All rights reserved.

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