Prim and Proper? Not These Steam Age Murderesses

Today’s article is by author Phoebe Darqueling, and part of the blog tour for Army of Brass. Scroll to the bottom to find more about this awesome collaborative novel!

In the new collaborative Steampunk novel, Army of Brass, we’ve got a couple of female characters who end up going to a pretty dark place. No, I don’t mean the toxic swamp or twisting tunnels in the fantasy world they inhabit. (Though they do spend some time there, too!) I’m talking about the space filled by our demons that can lead people to torture and even murder.


Even though Army of Brass is a fantasy adventure story, the real steam era had plenty of dastardly dames of its own. For this latest stop on the blog tour, I’d like to introduce you to four of the most famous. You can find more info about the tour and Army of Brass (just $.99 now through May 13) at the bottom of the post. But for now, on to the carnage!


1849 – Marie de Roux

Marie was born in Switzerland, but moved to England to find work as a domestic servant in the mid-1840s. She must have been quite the charmer, because two different men proposed to her at the same time. One was a rich man named Patrick O’Connor, but he was older than Marie. The other was Frederick Manning, a man closer in age and with a promise that he would inherit a great deal of money soon. Marie chose Manning, but sources say she continued to have some sort of relationship with O’Connor as well.


Soon after marrying, Marie discovered that Manning’s future inheritance was a lie. This is when they hatched their plot against poor O’Connor. Their first attempt was thwarted when he brought a friend with him to dinner, but the next invitation implied he and Marie would get some “quality time” if he came alone. Patrick O’Connor was never heard from again.


Marie shot him in the back of the head, though this was not actually the fatal blow. Manning used a crowbar to finish the job, before the couple placed the body in a hole they’d already dug under their kitchen floor. They took the next few days to go through O’Connor’s belongings and steal as many stock certificates and other valuables as they could. Unfortunately for the murderous Mannings, O’Connor had friends who were looking for him. When they became worried their crime would be discovered, Marie sent her husband on an errand to prepare for their escape. When he returned home, Marie and the spoils were gone.  


They were both later caught and tried together. The scandal, called the “Bermondsey Horror” by the newspapers, garnered much attention. When the Mannings stepped up to the hangman in 1849, somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 people showed up for the festivities. This included Charles Dickens who wrote “I believe that the a sight so inconceivably awful as the wickedness and levity of the crowd collected at that execution this morning.” By 1868, his full account of the event, as well those by other writers, are credited for playing a role in the abolition of public hangings.

1852 – Mary Ann Robson

Mary’s murder weapon of choice was arsenic. She likely learned all about it when she and her first husband moved to northeastern England in 1852 – a region that was known at the time for arsenic production. It was quite easy to obtain considering it was used around the typical Victorian era household. The symptoms of arsenic poisoning are very much like those of typhoid, and doctors had not yet figured out how to tell the difference between the sickness and foul play.


Before she ever married, she became pregnant three times. When the infants died, she collected “relief” money from the men. Though they were out a tidy sum, they should consider themselves to be lucky. Between 1852-1873, Mary had four husbands and eleven children and step children. Only one husband and two children survived the experience. 


In addition to collecting on their life insurance policies each time, the constant name-changing and moving around helped conceal her crimes. In 1873, she was convicted of the murder of her stepson, Edward Cotton, when a parish official asked the police to make inquiries into her cavalier remarks that “he would go like the rest of the Cottons.” Her trial and execution were delayed because she was pregnant at the time, and she gave birth to her last child in jail.


If you want more of the story, you can find the two-part series, Dark Angel.


1860s-70s Amelia Dyer, the “Baby Farmer”

On the surface, Amelia appeared to perform a public service. She opened a “house of confinement” for unwed mothers where they could stay until their delivery. The children were to be fostered by Amelia – for a modest weekly fee, of course. Though infant mortality was high in those days, her charges so rarely survived her tender care that she was convicted of neglect and served a six-month sentence. So she changed her tactic.


She set her sights on adoption. This came with a much larger one-time payment, and after playing the part of the dutiful and loving mother in front of the parents she targeted, she’d kill the babies within hours of the adoption. Her method was to strangle the infants with white tape, then bury them in the yard or throw them into the Thames. When she was finally arrested, the bodies of over 50 victims were found, and she told the cops “you’ll know all mine by the tape around their necks” (The Independent, February 2013).


1880s – 1908 Brynhild Paulsdatter Størseth/Belle Gunness

Last, but certainly not least on this tour de torture, is Brynild. This nasty Norwegian married her first husband in 1884. They had four children together, but two of them died. There were also a couple mysterious fires covered by healthy insurance policies. Her husband died soon after, and happened to go on the only day when two of his life insurance policies overlapped. Coincidence?


In 1902, after changing her name to “Belle,” she married her second husband. Not long after, a heavy piece of machinery mysteriously fell and crushed him. His daughter made the mistake of commenting on the nature of the death and disappeared. Belle began corresponding with men and worked the angle of being a poor widow to entice them into her home to bring her cash gifts. At least six of these generous gents never left again. Gunness’ home burned down in 1908, revealing the bodies of the suitors as well as the disappearing daughter. There was also a decapitated woman whose identity was never confirmed. Of Belle herself, only her dentures were found but she was declared dead in the fire all the same.

Final Thoughts

So, the next time someone tries to tell you women are the “weaker” sex, you’ve got some contradictory examples. These women certainly played by their own rules, and some of them even got away with their crimes for decades. In Army of Brass, even though our leading ladies go a little overboard at times, they’re not half as scary as the villainous “Hunter Baron” they are fighting. If you don’t mind things on the dark side, you’ll love our story of intrigue, conspiracy, and giant automatons. Check out the blog tour stops listed below for more information about this amazing collaborative project written by 21 international writers.

Order your ebook copy of Army of Brass for $.99 for a limited time.


We’ve got a giveaway going on for the entire blog tour, so between April 13-May 13, enter to win ebooks from our Army of Brass contributing authors.


You can find more of Phoebe’s articles on her author website, at Steampunk Journal where she is the co-editor and on the blog tour.  


Blog tour stops so far:

4/13 – A Sneak Peek at Chapter 1 by Jason Pere

4/14 – Launch announcement

4/15 – Interview with contributor Jason Pere

4/16 – Memes in the Making

4/17 – Excerpt by Jim O’Loughlin

4/18 – The Pros and Cons of Collaborative Writing

4/19 – Interview with contributor Jean Grabow

4/20 – Collaboration is the Future by Kathrin Hutson

4/21 – Excerpt by Michael Cieslak

4/22 – Excerpt by Dorothy Emry

4/23 – Review by Penny Blake

4/24 – Character interview of Captain Jack Davenport

4/24 – What’s in a Name? Steampunk Before “Steampunk”

4/25 – Steampunk: The First 10 Years

4/25 – Interview with contributor Jeremiah Rickert

4/26 – Steampunk: The Second Decade

4/27 – Steampunk: The Last 10 Years

4/27 – Excerpt by Phoebe Darqueling

Army of Brass

Steampunk celebrates its 31st birthday on April 27, so join in the festivities with the high-flying adventure, Army of Brass.


“Steampunk” began as a literary genre, but has expanded to include fashion, music, art, and live events all over the world. During 2017, in honor of author K.W. Jeter coining the term in 1987, Steampunk Journal editor Phoebe Darqueling and the Collaborative Writing Challenge joined forces to create an amazing work that blurs the line between science and magic. Twenty international authors contributed chapters to this story full of gadgets, romance, and political intrigue set against the backdrop of a fantasy world informed by the culture of the 19th century.

What is Army of Brass About?

When the mad conqueror haunting Elaina’s dreams invades her adopted homeland, the real nightmare becomes what she’s willing to do to stop him.

The dreaded Hunter Baron has landed on the shores of Mailderet, but Master Tinkerer Elaina Gable believes she has the solution. Giant automatons sit rusting in the valley, waiting for someone with the drive and ingenuity to bring them to life. But the king, swayed by the destruction his ancestors wrought centuries before, harbors a deep-seated fear of the machines. Though he will not allow the alliance of Tinkerers and Smiths to complete the work, Elaina and a famous airship pilot resolve to bring the machines back to life in secret.

From the safety of the swamps, a woman with silver skin jealously guards the secrets of the automatons. Though the Silver Woman also wishes the past to remain buried, she must weigh the value of secrecy against the thousands of innocents her hesitation might send to the grave.

As they discover the link between the toxic valley and the inner workings of the automatons, Elaina and her allies are drawn into a web of deceit threatening the balance of power across two continents—and proving the truth behind the deadly legends surrounding the Army of Brass.

Read Chapter 1 NOW on Steampunk Journal

Pre-order your ebook copy of Army of Brass for $.99 and receive it on Friday, April 27!

Plus, Join us on Facebook April 28-29 to meet the writers, participate in giveaways, and more!

Speaking of giveaways, we’ve got one going on for the entire blog tour, so between April 13-May 13, enter to win ebooks from our writers.

Collaborative Writing Challenge:


Launch contact:

The Sounds of Steampunk


I’ve been a fan of British television for years. Due to the wonderful service provided by PBS, my eyes (and ears) were opened early in life to shows like Mystery, Masterpiece Theater, Doctor Who, and (because my Dad had a good sense of humor) Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Dave Allen at Large, and Fawlty Towers. As a 6 year old I spent equal amounts of time with Big Bird and Mr. Rogers as I did with the Daleks and Miss Marple.

At college I studied Shakespeare and Victorian Literature. I watched (and listened to) hundreds of hours of plays and films produced by some of the greatest British directors and filled with British actors/actresses. And, of course, on my college radio station I heard the serialized version of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy for the first time.

Fast forward a few years. I publish my first steampunk mystery novel, Unquiet Dead. I naturally want to include an audio book version. I determine that Audible, which is associated with Amazon, is the place to go. And since it is set in a neo-Victorian society, I want a British voice actor.

Let me first state that I know there are different dialects in Britain, just as there are in the U.S. Listening to a speaker and being able to identify if he/she is from New York, Chicago, Austin, New Orleans, and so forth is something that we pick up just from living in this country. I assume that a native of the British Isles would have a similar type of cultural knowledge.

When I start setting up the request form, I am faced with the following choices:

Conversely the American version looks like this:

What’s an American author to do? When I think of voices, of style of speech, I think of characters. Joan Hickson (from the Miss Marple series) sounds completely different than Brian Glover (from the Campion mysteries). Do I want someone who sounds like Benedict Cumberbatch, Sean Bean, or Gary Oldman? (And since Gary Oldman uses a different accent in every movie, which version would that be?)

In addition, all of the characters do not “sound” the same, coming from different areas and levels in my fictional society. Some of them aren’t even human. (But we can leave that for a different post!) And what is the appropriate terminology for the style of speech after I make the choice?

Fortunately for me (and for my listeners) I found a wonderful narrator in Penny Scott-Andrews. Pen is a regular narrator for, and voices the daily news with Cover Media for Yahoo, AOL and Google. She is currently recording Audiobooks with White House Sound, and narrating for The No Sleep Podcast, and Joosr. Learn more about her HERE.

Pen took my notes and created a wonderful performance. You can hear a short clip HERE. I’m still not certain what each character’s dialect should be called, but I do know that it sounds just right.


Effective WorldBuilding

Recently I watched the first season of The Frankenstein Chronicles on Netflix and started musing on steampunk world building. The Frankenstein Chronicles is not a steampunk series. It is a sci-fi period drama starring Sean Bean that originated in the United Kingdom. After a successful run on ITV’s Encore station, Netflix acquired the show and presented it as a Netflix Original. But while viewing the series, I felt that it had all of the elements that I wanted to see in a neo-Victorian era steampunk show—except the “steam.”

About the Show

In The Frankenstein Chronicles John Marlott (Sean Bean) is a police officer who discovers the body of a small child. Except forensic examination reveals that it’s not a small child. Pieces from “seven or eight” small children have been dismembered, mutilated, and stitched together to form a “new” body.

Soon after examining the body, Marlott is charged to discover the murderer by Sir Robert Peel (Tom Ward), the Home Secretary and an advocate for advanced medicine who is trying to pass “The Anatomy Act” in Britain. If made into law, the act would ensure only licensed experts could practice medicine, and the deceased corpses of the poor would be donated to surgeons for practice and education. Because of the condition of the corpse, Peel believes that the murderer is trying to discredit “The Anatomy Act.” Of course, given the title of the series, a viewer will be able to discern that everything is not what it seems on the surface.

Minor Spoiler Alert (Occurs in the first few minutes of the show.)

When Marlott discovers the “body,” the child grabs his hand. Which, given the “facts” of the composite body, is impossible. But it happens and is one of the reasons Marlott is so invested in solving the crime.

What Does this Demonstrate for Steampunk Worldbuilding?

Now we get to the crux of the argument. Why is this series such a good example for a steampunk world?

1). It brings the “punk.”

Last week The Steampunk Cavaliers presented a wonderful guest post by Steven R. Southard: “Putting the Punk Back in Steampunk.” Sothard writes:

“The ‘punk’ part means the story has a rebel who’s opposed to the existing socio-political order. At least one character needs to strive against the prevailing norms of the time.”

As Marlott delves into the messy politics of 19th century health care, he discovers a war raging between the wealthy and the destitute, the religious and the scientific, and the young and the old. It is a clash on many different levels and Marlott stands at the center, fighting against both the old traditions and the new innovations, advocating for a humanism that is radically different than any other side.

2). It brings history to the forefront.

In 19th Century England an increased interest in anatomy study caused issues for the universities. A lack of cadavers ushered in the practice of grave robbing. Some groups (or gangs) in London would murder victims to sell to anatomists.

The Anatomy Act was put forth in an effort to combat this supply-and-demand situation and to legalize the acquisition of cadavers.

3). It doesn’t gloss over the problems in the society.

Marlott champions London’s disenfranchised underclass. He works with the orphans who live on the streets, the prostitutes, the runaways, and the homeless. The series captures the grittiness of the world alongside the upper-class and aristocratic homes. Yet social class does not make you inherently “good” or “evil” in this worldview. It is more complex and layered.

There are other elements inherent in a good, layered steampunk world, but these three are a start. The first season of The Frankenstein Chronicles hits the mark for a work that is not steampunk and has a lot to offer those who want to learn about effective worldbuilding.

What are some things you look for in your reading and viewing of steampunk works? What else should be included? Let me know in the comments below.

Putting the punk back in steampunk

This is a guest post by Steven R. Southard. Want YOUR article featured here? Submit a guest post!


For many, steampunk is all gears and corsets, airships and goggles. It’s all about a time when technology was new and anything seemed possible, the optimism of an age of discovery and stylish machinery. That may be steam, but it ain’t punk.


For steampunk fashionistas, those who dress like quasi-Victorians, or those who tinker around making Jules Verne-style watches, guns, furniture, computers, etc.—for all of them, that positive, cheery view of steampunk is fine. They can have their steampunk entirely free of punk.


But if you write steampunk, then to be true to the genre, you really should punk it. Once I get done telling you what that means, you’ll probably want to anyway.


The ‘punk’ part means the story has a rebel who’s opposed to the existing socio-political order. At least one character needs to strive against the prevailing norms of the time. You’re writing a story, so you’re going to need conflict anyway. This clash between your rebellious character and the world can be the main conflict or a minor one in the background; it can be an external conflict or a conflict inside the character’s head; but it should be there.


If your story is set in a quasi-Victorian setting or a Wild West setting, these societies had plenty of norms a character could oppose—antisemitism, chauvinism, child labor, classism, colonialism, economic inequality, ethnocentrism, glorification of war, imperialism, monarchism, racism, sectarianism, sexism, snobbery, xenophobia—the list goes on and on. Of course, our modern society is not entirely free from all of these attributes. Not yet. That means your story, though set in an entirely different society from ours, can have relevance to contemporary readers.


For example, there’s a punk element in my short story, “The Commeteers.” It’s set in 1897 and a planet-destroying comet is on a collision course with Earth. There are no space shuttles or nuclear bombs available in the 19th Century, just steampunk technology. No single nation can afford the price of the planet-saving mission, so numerous countries insist on participating. The hero has to overcome his xenophobic distrust of foreigners (and other obstacles) to succeed.

Ripper’s Ring” is my mix of an ancient Greek legend with Jack the Ripper. I punked it by contrasting the rich and poor neighborhoods of London, as well as juxtaposing nobles with commoners. The story’s Scotland Yard detective sets aside societal norms and pursues Jack out of a sense of justice alone.

As a final example, “After the Martians,” is my examination of how World War I might have ensued using weapon technology left over after H.G. Wells’ Martian invasion. The story’s young protagonist begins with an unrealistic, glorified notion of war, a common sentiment in pre-World War I times.

Maybe you didn’t like the sound of that ‘punk’ syllable at first, but I’ll bet you’re warming to it now. I got those creative lubricants flowing through the gear meshes, didn’t I? Whether you’re writing a short story, novel, or screenplay, when you write steampunk, please don’t leave out the punk.


Submariner, engineer, and Jules Verne enthusiast, Steven R. Southard pens stories that showcase people as toolmakers, gadget-masters, dreamers and tinkerers, creators of devices and victims of them. He’s written ten published steampunk short stories, some for single sale and others as part of anthologies, including Avast, Ye Airships! He’s also crafted tales in the clockpunk and dieselpunk genres. Learn about Steve by visiting his website, following him on Twitter, or visiting his page on Facebook , Goodreads, or Amazon.


SEEKING: Guest Contributors for The Steampunk Cavaliers!

The Steampunk Cavaliers has long accepted guest posts for invitation, but we want to do something bigger and better! We are officially open for submissions from ANYONE, about ANY steampunk related topic.
Check out our guidelines below and shoot us an email today to make YOUR contribution to the Steampunk Cavaliers:

Guest Post Guidelines

Guest articles can be on any topic related to the steampunk genre or the Victorian era. Topics that do particularly well tend to center around the darker and more political aspects of steampunk and the Victorian era. These can take the form of historical articles, articles examining trends in the steampunk genre, or recommendation lists of books/films/games that explore specific aspects of the Victorian era (I.E. 5 great books that use steampunk technology to challenge strict Victorian norms).
If you’re a steampunk creator, we’d also love to hear about how you deal with these themes in your work. A great example of this is On Writing Steampunk and Accessibility by Rebecca Diem.

What to Submit

We accept both ideas and completed articles.
For ideas, send 2-4 sentences to diannalgunn @ explaining what you want to write about and why you’re the person who should write about it.
Full articles should be 350+ words long (there is no maximum word count) and focused on a single aspect of the steampunk genre or the Victorian era. All completed articles should be sent to diannalgunn @ Please send them as .rtf, .doc, or .docx documents. Articles should also be accompanied by 1-4 relevant images, sent as separate attachments, an image of you and/or your work, and a 3-6 sentence bio. Include links to your website and any social media channels you want shared as well.
If you contribute high quality articles on a regular basis you will eventually be invited to join as an official contributor. This means you get an official account on our WordPress blog, and first dibs on any open weeks. Your image, bio, and links will also be added to the Steampunk Cavaliers‘ “About” page.

My First Steampunk Series

These are the stories of how all kinds of creators have been drawn into steampunk, featuring their first steampunk event and the reasons why they love the community. The only requirements are that they’re 350+ words long (no maximum) and that they come with at least one picture.

Before submitting, please take a moment to check out our previous My First Steampunk guests:

Victoria L Szulc

Felicity Banks

Phoebe Darqueling

Please only send completed drafts for the My First Steampunk series. All drafts should be sent to diannalgunn @ in a .rtf, .doc, or .docx file.

Unquiet Dead

This month I would like to share something a bit different: my own steampunk novel. I hope you enjoy.–Chris


Unquiet Dead

Chris Pavesic

Screen Shot 2018-01-12 at 7.55.36 PM

About the Unquiet Dead:

When the Temples north of Chiaroscuro are burned and followers of the Sun Goddess are murdered, Catherine, a bard of the Ealdoth Temple, sets out to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. With only the help of a traveling group of minstrels and a retired fae investigator, Catherine must solve the mystery before more people are killed.

So saddle up your clockwork mount, buckle on your electro-dagger, and join Catherine as she finds herself pitted against members of her own Temple, rogues members of the Seelie Court, and a seemingly unstoppable army of undead.

  • Genres: Steampunk/Mystery/Dark Fantasy
  • Length: 140 pages.
  • Available in Print and E-Book
  • Add to Your Shelf on Goodreads
  • Purchase Your Copy from Amazon
  • Learn More on Facebook


Services were scheduled to commence in an hour, and Ernest needed to be ready. He struck a match and lit the first gaslight, watching the flame take hold and flare up. The light pushed back the shadows so parishioners were able to find their way to the pews without stumbling. He would extinguish the artificial lights right before the service so the effect of the sunlight illuminating the darkness hit with maximum impact as it flooded through the skylights.

The parishioners would marvel at how the Temple filled with the Goddess’s Holy Light just in time for the service. Ernest would marvel at the fact that none of them were smart enough to realize he flipped a switch on back of the altar to swing open mechanical shutters.

There was a religious stirring in Grand Marsh more powerful than anything Ernest had experienced in his ten years as a Sacerd. The services at dawn, noon, and sundown were packed. Few of the farmers went out to the fields. They worked in town on community projects or sat drinking at the tavern. Their wives remained in the town square, full of chatter, instead of staying on their farmsteads. Their thin voices filled the air. The youngest children were kept close while the teens clustered in protective packs far enough away to keep their discussions out of reach of their parents’ ears. But close enough to be in sight at all times. None of them wandered off.

Three times a day they filled the Temple, ready to hear his words. Faces tilted up to him. Man and woman, young and old. And none of his parishioners would confess why they were so filled with the Holy Spirit that they were neglecting their farms. They were afraid of speaking blasphemy. But he knew the reason, and it caused a lift in his heart that was not due to religious inspiration. They were scared, plain and simple, and it gave him hope.

Since being assigned to the far parish almost five years ago, a posting he saw as an end to the upward progress of his career in the Temple, he struggled daily to swallow his disappointment. It wouldn’t leave, and it was bitter. Bitter.

In this remote village, far from the bustle and industry of Chiaroscuro, the quality of his life, the texture of his life, changed. He longed for life in the city. The world seemed to have shifted into two zones. The pace of life for the city dwellers increased while people living in the countryside were being left behind.

Time’s arrow struck fastest through the densest populations. Sacerds assigned to any of the major cities made more connections and accumulated more power in a single week than he did in a year. Exerting influence was impossible when the spheres of power were spinning outside of his reach, moving too fast for him to see, let alone have an impact.

The wound to his pride stung the most. The elders had hurt his feelings. To be dismissed so easily, passed along so casually—it was like the swatting of an annoying insect. The Temple elders did not treat him as if he mattered, as if his family ties were consequential. True he was a third son, but of a noble line. And they assigned him to a rustic Temple to attend to common folk far below his station.

Very little was required of him here. Or, more precisely, very little of what he did here interested him. He burned to return to the central Temple and to be part of the intrigues and power shifts. This attracted him more than caring for the simple souls of farmers and shopkeepers. Power was why he joined the Temple, and what he was now denied.

But not for long. The thought clanged in his mind with undeniable rightness. Not righteousness. It was an important distinction. Would the Goddess sanction his actions? Probably not, but he was past caring about her approval. During all of the ceremonies, all of the prayer and introspection, he had never felt any divine presence. He had never witnessed any miracles, and doubted their existence.

But power, oh he had seen the existence of power. Political. Social. Religious. Whatever you called it really didn’t matter. Get enough people to follow you. Enough people to believe in what you were selling. This was the belief that could move the world.

There was only one woman in his life he needed to please now, and she held no divinity. Merci had offered him a way out of this rural purgatory, and he had accepted. Truth be told, he had grabbed at it like a castaway might grab at a line from a passing airship. If the price were the damnation of his soul, so be it.

He glanced out the window at the transport coming down the lane. A high quality clockwork carriage with the Temple’s Crest stamped on the doors rattled over the boards strewn across the irrigation ditch and stopped, parking in the speckled light cast by the ornament trees planted along the lane. The carriage blocked traffic, but the driver did not seem to care. Elder members of the clergy, Hlytere, and above, felt they had the right of way. Others had to go around.

A pale, dark-haired woman emerged and stood for a moment looking around. She pulled the hood of her dark cloak over her hair and walked through the yard toward the Temple. Ernest’s gaze followed her, trying to imagine who this stranger was.

Her footsteps sounded in the aisle and, when he turned from window, she was almost upon him. Her speed startled him. When he saw her face to face he realized she was younger than he had supposed. Too young to be a Hlytere, but her use of the carriage meant she was favored by the Temple elders. The seed of jealousy radiated through him. He felt it in his chest and the pit of his stomach. He struggled to keep the emotion off his face.

“Greetings.” He shook her hand with a firm grasp. Her hands were small and smooth and white. “Will you come in for a moment?” He led her to the small reception room off the main area that contained a round table and several wooden chairs. He lit a cheroot, offered her one, which she declined, and they sat down.

“Please forgive me for calling on you so close to mid-day Services, Sacerd Ernest.” She paused. “You are Sacerd Ernest, correct? It’s not like me to presume.”

“Of course. I’m glad you came. I watched you drive up, you know, and I wondered who you were. We don’t get many visitors from the Temple here.”

“I’m surprised you don’t recognize me, cousin. Of course, I didn’t recognize you. So perhaps it’s not so surprising.”

“I’m sorry. I …”

“I’m from the cadet line of our family tree. My father is the elder son of the younger son of our line.”

His brow creased in thought. “Grace?”

“Yes,” she said with a smile, reaching out to touch his hand. Her fingers rested there for a moment too long. Lingered. And then she leaned back in the chair and crossed her legs, which were slim and bare beneath her robe.

Sacerd Ernest regarded his guest, wondering that her physical presence should suddenly dawn upon him so. She was more beautiful than he had thought at first. Her skin was clear and lovely, and her eyes and mouth were made up carefully and well.

What’s her game? He licked at the perspiration that appeared upon his upper lip.

“I would like your help in a small matter. And of course I wanted to meet you.”

“You did?”

“Our sponsor has spoken of you with such affection.”

“Our superior?” He used the wrong word to see if she would correct him.

“Technically, I suppose, she may be yours. I’ve never thought much of the rules of hierarchy in the Temple.” She cocked her head, listening to noises from the other room. Some of his parishioners had started to file in for the service. “It’s such a mercy, isn’t it?’

Ah, code words.

She must think she’s being clever, although he had no idea who could possibly overhear their conversation. It was only just dawning on him why she must be here. In his town. In his Temple. But he didn’t care. All he wanted to do was get out of Grand Marsh. Get back to Chiaroscuro. It didn’t bother him that people, his parishioners, may die, or suffer a fate worse than death. He just wanted to get out.

It’s not my fault if I’m following orders.

But that was a poor excuse, wasn’t it? Guilt flared, hot and strong.

Do you want to stay in Grand Marsh forever? Ministering to the townsfolk? Do you?

No … but he didn’t want to hurt people. Those conflicting thoughts pulled at him. There was the question of right and wrong. What was right for him might go wrong for others. But that was the way it had to be.

Thus he banished the guilt. When something inside of him tried to protest again, tried to tell him to think before he did this, he smothered it.

“When?” He didn’t have any time for nonsense. The quicker it occurred, the quicker he resumed his rightful place.

“In two days. I have some items in my transport that need to be set up in the Temple, but kept out of view.” She smiled and spoke a little louder so that the earliest arrivals overheard her. “I wish I could stay to help with the Mass, but I am needed back in Chiaroscuro.” She lowered her voice. “Officially I never left the city.”

“Of course.” He guessed that she had no desire to partake in the service. “I will help you with whatever you need.” Whatever may come of it, he had gone too far to stop now.


Meet the Author:

Chris Pavesic lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.
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What the Heck is the Aether?

Issac Newton

The aether comes up every so often in steampunk. Often, it’s used as a hand-wavy thing to explain all manner of strange technology or effects the same way ‘subspace’ is used in Star Trek. Am I guilty of using the aether to hand-wave things? Oh yeah, big time. However, the aether is actually a real concept, albeit an outdated one.

The word aether comes from Ancient Greece and was used to described the air-like substance present in the realm of the gods. It has been used to describe various concepts as physics developed as a science. Issac Newton solidified the concept of the aether as a substance that filled the universe at the end of the 1600s. As we all know from the story of the falling apple, Issac Newton developed the first equations that described the effects of gravity. However, while he could describe the effects of gravity, he was left with the mystery of how gravity works.

Newton’s laws of motion describe the way forces work on objects and the inertia of mass, but gravity didn’t really fit in. What force was acting on that famous apple to make it fall to the ground? So Newton created the concept of a substance that filled the universe. In this theory an object’s mass caused this substance to flow toward it. Other objects are then caught up like a log in a river. Newton moved away from this idea latter, but the concept of a universe-filling substance persisted and came to be named ‘aether’.

In the 1800s, new discoveries brought back the idea of the aether in a big way. During the last half of the 1800s, the Victorian age, a number of scientists began to develop the equations that described electromagnetism that would formulate into Maxwell’s equations. An outcome of this work was that electromagnetic radiation (light, radio, microwave, x-ray, etc…) propagated at the speed of light as a wave. That brought of the question of what was waving. Sounds waves waved air, ocean waves waved water, so what did light or other forms of electromagnetism wave? The aether provided the answer.

It seemed like a solid theory, but then scientists started running experiments to detect the aether. The best known of these was the Michelson-Morley experiment. In this experiment, they measured the speed of light in perpendicular directions. If the Earth was moving through the aether that filled the universe, the speed of light would have to be a little different in the two different directions. Think of it like measuring sound while moving through the air. In this analogy, consider the Earth as a boat moving at a good clip. On the top of the boat we affix a device to make a sound and two detectors, one 10 feet away toward the front of the boat and one 10 feet away toward the side of the boat. We’ll also assume there is no wind. When the sound gets made it will radiate through the air in all directions at a constant speed. However, the detectors on that moving boat are also moving through the air. The sound is lot faster than the boat so it will still reach both detectors, but not at the same time. So while the sound is moving at a constant speed, the speed we measure at each detector isn’t the same. The point of the experiment is not to measure the actual speed of sound, but to show that the source and the detectors are all moving through the air.

However, the Michelson-Morley experiment showed no difference in the detected speed of light between the two directions. This result really puzzled scientists at the time. It would take Albert Einstein and his laws of relativity to finally explain the results. Between relativity and quantum mechanics we now understand the nature of electromagnetic waves isn’t the same as sound or water waves and the concept of something waving doesn’t apply. We also gained a new understanding of gravity that saw the effect of gravity as warping space rather than making a substance flow toward mass.

With relativity and quantum mechanics changing the way we saw the universe, the idea of an aether faded away to become a relic of the Victorian age. Nonetheless, recent observations of the universe have suggested an unknown energy, called dark energy, filling empty space and accelerating the expansion of the universe. Maybe the aether will rise once again.

Erik Larson was born in Manhattan — the Kansas one — and raised mostly in Topeka Kansas. He went to college in San Antonio at Trinity University where he earned a degree in physics. After the cancellation of the Superconducting Super Collider, he decided to seek his fortune with software engineering instead.

Eventually, he gained an interest in writing his own fantastical tales and has written three fantasy novels. Cog and the Steel Tower is the first one ready for public consumption. He normally goes by the name Erik Larson, but decided on W.E. Larson for a pen name since there is already a well-known author with his name.

My First Steampunk Experience by Victoria L Szulc

Today’s article is part of a series called “My First Steampunk”. To learn more about the series – and apply to be featured – scroll to the bottom of this article.

My first exposure to basic steampunk Victorian elements goes back to the mid-1970’s. In primary school, I was part of an educational trip to the Missouri History Museum to study the 1904 World’s Fair. I was assigned to do sketches of fashion of the fair, and from that moment, I was hooked on history.

Continue reading “My First Steampunk Experience by Victoria L Szulc”

Quest of Thunder

  •  Author: Karissa Laurel
  • Release: 2016
  • Genre: Steampunk | Fantasy
  • Series: Stormbourne Chronicles
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Publisher: Evolved Publishing, LLC

Recently I reviewed Heir of Thunder by Karissa Laurel, the first book in the Stormbourne Chronicles. You can read that review here. The second novel in the series, Quest of Thunder, has just been released and I am excited to share the next part of Evelyn Stormbourne’s journey with you.


Evie must restore her divine abilities, or be enslaved by her enemy’s dark Magic

Evelyn Stormbourne has overcome revolutionaries, pirates, devious relatives, and powerful Magicians to claim her birthright as Lady of Thunder, but before she can embrace her dominion over the skies, her powers falter, leaving her impotent and adrift. Under the protection of her stalwart companion, Gideon Faust, Evie hides in anonymity and searches for news of the Fantazikes who had once promised to help her master her divine abilities.

Without her capacity to control the storms, Evie wonders how she’ll ever reclaim her throne—a legacy she’s not convinced she deserves. But when a fearsome nemesis from her past reemerges, she embarks on desperate quest to find the Fantazikes and restore her powers. If she fails, her enemy’s dark Magic will enslave her, forcing her to destroy everything and everyone she loves.

Review (Spoilers Ahead)

Evie, heir to the Throne of Thunder, is still on the run from a group of dark magicians who want to rob her of her birthright. To complicate matters, she has lost control over her own magic. Without her magic at full strength, she cannot hope to protect herself and reclaim her kingdom. Evie describes her situation in the following manner:

“My powers are unreliable, my allies are few, and I have good reason to believe I’m being chased by a group of powerful and malevolent Magicians. It’s not safe for me to go home yet.”

Still, Evie is adjusting to life outside of the palace with the help of Gideon and his sister, Marlis. She doesn’t want to live in exile forever, though, and works to reestablish her magical abilities. But this practice inevitably draws attention to her whereabouts from both friendly and unfriendly forces.

Evie feels that reconnecting with the Fantazikes (her allies in Book One) is the best chance for her to regain control over her powers. Not willing to put her friends in danger any longer, she joins a traveling circus that just happens to be en route to the last known location of the Fantazikes.

And what a circus it is! This is a steampunk world after all, and the circus animals, wagons, and some of the acts reflect this:

“Light reflected from the beasts’ metallic surfaces, exposing skins of brass, iron, and copper. Subtle gear-works clicked and purred as the animals shifted, mimicking the movements of their live counterparts. Dull bladed feathers, like rows of butter knives, fluttered as birds flapped their wings. The unicorn’s horn glowed a warm gold as she pawed the ground. The elephant’s trunk curled upon itself with a tink-tink-tink of metal joints compressing. He flapped his great ears, raising a breeze that stirred loose hairs around my face.”

This is the type of detailed world building that I love to see in a steampunk novel. Laurel takes the exotic setting of a circus one step further by adding mechanical animals and transports. She also doesn’t over-describe the steampunk elements. It is very easy for a reader to picture the bird feathers that look like butter knives, for example. It reminds me of Stephen King’s advice in On Writing: Add just enough description so that a reader can share the writer’s vision. Be clear and succinct.

Will Evie find the Fantazikes? Will they help her regain her powers? Will she develop enough of her powers to re-take her kingdom? Is this the destiny she wants for herself, or will she choose another path?

I cannot wait to read the next book in the series. I highly recommend both Heir of Thunder and Quest of Thunder for anyone who loves steampunk, fantasy, and adventure.