Well, since finishing Alderpod a few months ago, it’s been a little quiet around these parts! I’ve been very much in writing mode and, until about a month ago, I’d been working on a variety of projects that had little or nothing to do with steampunk (or, else, they do, but my reasoning for thinking of them in such ways is as long and convoluted as possible, not the sort of thing to lend itself particularly well to the blog).

But now, back into the fray. First and foremost, I’m working on The Ward of the Rose, the sequel to The Aldersgate, as we speak. But I should point out that I’m working slowly and steadily. It’s been absolutely thrilling to return back to the setting of the story, and I promise to post some snippets of the story as it progresses. I recently scrapped about 30K of the original sequel, finding that I started much too late in the book and was skirting some rather important issues. That’s been resolved.

Also, I’ve noticed a recent uptick in Alderpod subscriptions. Thanks to those out there listening to the story, again or for the first time. I think all the technical issues are finally resolved! Also thanks to the reviewers, too. I don’t know what the future of the book is, but I promise I’ll keep you posted. The support and encouragement from readers of the last two years has been absolutely remarkable. I certainly never anticipated that my little podcast would do much, but I’m so glad it’s introduced me to some of you.

I’ve also been writing quite a bit of weird west stuff lately, in short story form, and I’ll let you know if and when you can find them. While not always steampunk, they’re all definitely Neo-Victorian, since they take place in a fictional alternate Arizona of the 1880s. You can get a glimpse of that world in “The Brass Pedestal” which was in Steampunk Tales #4 (which isn’t in Arizona itself, but what’s now Missouri… but it’s not called that since… well, I won’t get into that just yet!).

At any rate, expect more in this space in the weeks to come. I’ve got lots of ruminations on steampunk to share, and am definitely looking forward to the year, and the words, ahead.

From Chapter One of The Ward of the Rose

“It is your decision to make,” Cee said with a sigh, matching that of her grand-niece’s almost tone for tone. She folded her hands and leaned on the railing, gazing across the slope into the fog. “Let no one make it for you, dear Coralie. Gem will be with you always, and Professor too, I think. For as difficult as your journey here has been, you are standing at a crossroads of fortune.”

“Fortune?” asked Cora, almost laughing.

“As you said. There is war, there is discussion, there are decisions to be made. And you are not alone in this. While Maelys is concentrating on the Ardesian threat, and the growing Soderon force, the fact that one Alderclass girl has escaped her grasp will likely pale in comparison to what she must do. For now you are safer than you were before. Though I fear Renmen and Gawen do not agree on the course of the Order of the Asp… they will likely both try to win you to their sides.”

“Because of what I can do,” Cora said, staring down at her hands. She flexed her fingers, then curled them against her palms.

“You are a boon no retinue would want to let go—a key to health and restoration,” Cee said, dropping her voice. “But listen well to their arguments, and make your own choice, whatever it will be.”

“I wish you could come with me,” Cora said, turning to Cee. Tears came, and she tried to hide them, but Cee saw and put her arm about her shoulders.

Cee squeezed Cora against her. “I’m an old woman, Cora. My adventures are at an end. For now, I will pick up the pieces of my ranch here, help those servants and workers I have left put the fragments of their lives back together again. My place is here.”

“It must be good, in a way, to have such a place,” Cora said.

“You may yet someday, Coralie. You may yet.”

I’ve been scribbling short stories like crazy the last few weeks, with little work on the actual novel. Not a complaint, rather an observation. The one I’m excerpting here is from “Dead’s End to Middleton” which borders between steampunk and weird west. I just like this bit from the beginning.

_ _ _

“Mary Mother of Jesus.”

Up until that moment, I had no recollection of my mother swearing. A proud, quiet, Catholic woman, she navigated the majority of her life with cool, calm reserve. It was my father who swore, adhering to that form of expression not unlike my mother to her rosary–repetitive, quiet, and a cadence unto itself.

“Christ almighty on a donkey.”

That was my brother Jack. Six years my senior, he was the one steering the covered wagon as we made our way from Dead’s End to Middleton, a near three day’s ride through the desert. We were on our way to Middleton to visit my father, who’d been working there for the better part of a month while the rest of us were left to the ranch, being at it was, time for the cows to birth. But most of that business was done, and my two oldest brothers Hector and William stayed back with my younger sister Bettany.

Mother let me along with her and Jack since it was my birthday in a week, and she reckoned seeing my father would be good for me. She said I’d been ornery, and that I needed a good sitting down with Father. I suspected it had something to do with the steam gal rags she’d found under my bed a few weeks past, but I couldn’t be sure. Hector had given them to me, and said that they’d help me calm myself. Whatever that had meant. All the pictures and stories had done was made me feel wound up as a spindle, though I couldn’t put a finger on quite why.

Still, on my way to becoming a man or not, I could make no more sense out of what I’d just seen than anyone else. Mr. Stein, Father’s business partner, shuddered next to me, and held a handkerchief over his mouth, gagging back blood and snot. He had the consumption, and the lights had just about scared his soul right out of him. It was to my great dismay that I had to sit next to him and, on the order of my mother, attend to his whims.

“What do you suppose—?” he asked, his voice gritty and low, wet from coughing.

I’d only emerged from the back of the wagon when my mother had screamed. The horses had been startled, too, but that wasn’t uncommon. I’d figured it was a snake, as had been the case a day ago.

But due to my late entrance, I only caught the last few moments of the event. A black streak in the sky, fire, and an explosion. Now, whatever had landed was smoldering on the horizon, long tongues of green and orange flames intermittently flaring and quelling. Smoke rose, too, casting gray puffy streaks into the sky, dissipating as they reached higher, but not going out entirely.

There was a sound, too. A low crackling–inconstant, and yet familiar. Like dry logs in a hot fire, but louder. Like distant thunder.

“Don’t reckon we can go around,” Jack said, wiping his eyes. He looked back at me. “Jess. Get back in the wagon.”