Tag Archives: steampunk

June Author Update

Nimbus Takes Shape

Don’t rush.

Take your time.

Enjoy.

I might have these words stencilled to my eyelids because my fingers aren’t listening. No matter how hard I try to rein them in, they’re off. Tip-tap-tip-tap-tip-tap goes the keyboard like hailstones on a tin roof. Must be a storm coming. Perhaps there is?

I have quite literally this very minute, well, a few minutes ago, finished the second revision of my latest work. The Theatre of the Moon, Book 1: Nimbus, is now fully formed. I head into the third revision with detail foremost in my mind. Every word must count towards the overall story and there’s a lot of story to count to.

The advantage and disadvantage of writing fantasy is that it gives you leeway to push the boundaries, but the restriction of knowing you must have them. How far can they be pushed? Well, it’s going to be a loooooong way.

Don’t rush.

Take your time.

Enjoy.

The words are back again, and although I’m typing this so you know what I’m up to, I’m already far away. Best disappear whilst the brain is still working.

I’ll see you all soon.

Richard

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An Unexpected Ride

Author’s Note: I was recently treated to an app that makes scripts from your notes. I have found this a real joy to use as I can pour myself into dialogue whenever I like and the whole thing comes out clean for later use. In fact, I can’t stop. Here is a little scene from my WIP. The great Victorian investigator Mortimer Headlock, and his associate Miss Grace Grace, are inspecting Albion’s latest aeronautical device. The aeronaut, Clarence Periwinkle, is their host. 

PS: If it’s any help to you, the app is called Untitled. My copy is on iOS and is currently half price. (Don’t laugh, I’m skint!)

Of Headwear and Social Etiquette 

Of Headwear and Social Etiquette.

A Perkin Perkins Steampunk romp.

Another social gathering at Buckingham Palace and manservant to the Royal Household, Perkin Perkins, is on yet another hiding to nothing.
“Poopkins,” sighed Her Majesty.
“Perkins, Ma’am.”
“Since when?”
“All my life, Ma’am.”
“Then why change it?”
“I haven’t, Ma’am.”
“Then why did I address you as Plopkins?”
“You didn’t, Ma’am. You addressed me as Poopkins.”
“Are they not the same?”
“Only if you say so.”
Queen Victoria tapped brass fingers on her steel plate jaw. “Then, I do.”
“As you wish, Ma’am.”
“So, Porkins, tell me. Why is that gentleman wearing his underpants on his head?”
“I cannot be sure they are his.”
“And why not?”
“He’s French, Ma’am.”
“Does that explain anything?” The Queen’s eyes blazed ruby anger from behind her owllike goggles.
“The French are very particular. To some they are trendsetters, to others, not. The onus is on the viewer to decide which shoe fits.”
“I was addressing his headwear not footwear.”
“A term, Ma’am. Merely a term.”
“Do we as Britannia’s finest think him a fool?”
“Oh, indeed we do, Ma’am. I can only speak as a humble servant, but I should imagine there anarchy if you were to don such a hat.”
Queen Victoria removed her horsehair wig, scratched at the metal beneath and replaced it at a jaunty angle. “Any ideas, Porkling?”
“I could have him politely ejected, I do speak French.”
“Can you be discreet?”
“Always, Ma’am.”
“Then do it, and don’t return until he’s off the property.”
Perkins bowed low and marched over to the giant of a man in question, his walrus moustache the only feature of note protruding from his underpants headwear. A whisper in his ear, inaudible to all else, and the Frenchman set to gesticulating, as is their way. Once he’d had enough, he allowed Perkins to lead him from the room and away from a hundred prying eyes, the gentry and usual toffs allowing their upraised noses to communicate their displeasure.
Only when long gone did the Chief Scientist of the Ministry for Empirical Advancement, one Sir Magnus Monk, sidle over to his monarch.
“What is it, Monk?” Snapped the Queen.
“We appear to be missing Sir Belvedere, Your Highness.”
“He is too tall to misplace, Master Monk. I suggest you look again. His moustache stands out at thirty paces, so it shouldn’t be hard even for you. And hurry up about it, too. I know he hates these shindigs, but it’s no excuse for non-attendance.”
Sir Magnus sidled off in his Quasimodo way, aquiline nose to the ground and hump raised.
He said he searched everywhere much to his monarch’s anger when he eventually returned. And to be fair, he had. Other than the Palace’s cellars, a cold, dark place where a man with a walrus moustache sat drinking with a manservant, both of whom wore their underpants on their heads.

Author Interview

The very wonderful author Julie Northup has kindly interviewed me about my current work in progress. If anyone would like to read about my future Steampunk project, its main characters and what will follow, please feel free to click HERE. You’ll see why I’ve not been here so much. 

Thanks in advance

Richard

Little Bird

Author’s Note: This is a scene I have decided not to use from my latest Steampunk Fantasy. The beautiful Miss Grace Grace has fallen foul of the evil Sir Magnus Monk, or so he thinks.

“I prefer the subtle prod, the suggestive wink, the perfect persuasion. Life is too short to wallow in misery when a bird has but to loose its wings and fly. I am a bird, Magnus and my wings refuse to be pinioned.”

“You are nothing!”

“Correction, sir, I was nothing. However, my father and late mother gifted me that most precious commodity.”

“Life?”

“Promise. This little bird, this canary, as some have said, has so much world to see, so many friends to smile with, so much love to find and lose and find again, that I shall never allow a petty, hawklike predator such as you to quell it.”

“And yet here you are tied to a chair before this… what did you call me… petty, hawklike man. Who’d have thought it other than I, after all, brains always trumps beauty.”

Sir Magnus Monk sneered the sneer of a lecherous old goat and ran one dirty, chipped fingernail along his prize’s cheek.

When the ropes Monk bound Miss Grace Grace with slipped to the floor with a gentle hush, her knee making contact with parts he’d rather have not shared, doubling the hunchback over so his nose brushed the mouldering carpet, she returned his sneer with a rather more elegant contempt.

“Yes, Sir Magnus Monk, slave to a fallen angel, a man some have said already damned, you are quite correct, brains always triumphs. Such a pity you have none.”

With that, Miss Grace Grace rose to her feet like the lithe beauty she was resplendent in her always canary-yellow garb and exited the room. She did not look back. The little bird had flown.

Sneak Peek: Britannia Unleashed

I’m so pleased and relieved to have just finished editing what will in a few months time be released as Britannia Unleashed that I thought I’d share a passage. I have spent the last three years editing The Eternals Series and this and for the first time in as long can now start writing again. (THANK GOD!) I have big plans for the Britannia books. Big, big plans!

I hope you enjoy this little snippet.

Richard

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From Britannia Unleashed section: A Certain Release.

Note: Britannia’s greatest investigator, an ageing Mortimer Headlock, is led to a dilapidated mansion by a lady that is not quite a whole woman. Here he meets a foe from his past. A dead foe!

Stocked with more paraphernalia than Headlock had ever seen in one place, the mansion mired in mismanagement. He glanced into what appeared a dining room and back across the hall to what might have passed for a lounge, both cluttered from floor to rafters with junk. Piles and piles of miscreant objects littered every surface with none left bare. The lounge was worst with the accumulated garbage almost touching the ceiling. Great heaps rose from the carpet, tables and chairs like a London cityscape reimagined in miniature with only one area, darker than the rest, ominous by its excavation. Something resided in that blackness; two glittering eyes confirmed it. Headlock noted them but said nothing, there would be time for such things later.

“Shall we take a seat?” No-Name enquired.

“Lead the way, Madame,” he replied. As he suspected, she led him away from their fellow resident. Holding aloft the lantern more for himself than No-Name, Headlock followed her through the warren that was her father’s home.

It was here that he imagined a reasoning for his companion’s strange gait. Whereas Headlock stumbled and bumbled into this item and that, a straight passage elusive, causing commotion after commotion of tumbling junk, she tottered between the stacks of papers, plants, furniture and more bizarre items like a world champion in avoidance. Her tottering seemed perfect in its side-to-side rotations to make haste through the accumulated detritus. Headlock’s longer strides were less so.

By the time he reached No-Name, she’d pulled up two chairs to a large, mahogany kitchen table, and sat, her hands by her sides. Headlock took his place opposite and began as he would in any procedural meeting by asking questions. “So, where is said ghost?”

“Close,” her cryptic reply.

“And how long has this demon antagonised?”

“All my life.”

“Hmm, that is unusual.”

“Is it?”

“Very. As a rule, the spirits of the deceased come and go at will. However, in my experience of such things, they almost always require something before departing.” Headlock found himself tapping the one bit of exposed table top for dramatic effect, his fingertip orchestra echoing around the room.

“And if they required something to facilitate not departing?”

“My apologies, Madame, but I don’t follow.”

She opened her small almost circular mouth to elaborate when something interrupted her.

“Headlock,” said a disembodied voice. “Headlock,” it came again shaking the room’s wooden beams with its depth of bass.

“Sir?”

“Mortimer Headlock.”

A dispassionate individual, though undoubtably male, Headlock found the voice’s owner both hard to read and altogether rude. As such…

“I would care for you to do me the service of addressing me face to face, Mister?”

“Sir,” hissed the voice. “Sir Magnus Monk.”

And the proverbial penny dropped.

Thank you for reading

Richard

Richard M. Ankers

Writing Practise and Forgetting Your Work


Author’s Note: When I am working on a large project, I will often practise with dummy scenes and similar passages to those I will eventually publish. I find this an ideal way to feel a story out without worrying about it effecting the eventual outcome. The problem is, as with many creatives, your mind is so full of ideas that you prioritise the important ones and forget the rest. A case in point is the following short story. I hate to waste them.
I am collating a steampunk anthology — one of my favourite genres — whose main characters shall then appear in their own books. This along with The Eternals Series, which has just been completed, have monopolised my brain (it’s not big enough to handle too much). Everything else has slipped into a hazy past. So, I thought I’d share the following story here so people can see the sorts of things that often get forgotten, bypassed or dumped without even realising they’ve disappeared. This turned up in my hunting out another story that I’ve misplaced (yes, I am that bad). I genuinely hope you enjoy it.

PS. My Advice: Take more care of your writing than I do mine.

The Tinkerer


An irreconcilable truth, yet, nevertheless a truth, we were meant to die, not last forever. Eternity was meant for gods and monsters, myths and legends, dreams and imagination, never for the ordinary and undeserving. We were supposed to live our lives, make foolish mistakes, garner regrets and memories to be passed down through the generations like water to the sea. Yes, we were meant to pool in that oceanic basin called life, but never stagnate. We were meant for better things but never on Earth.

Modifications, they called them, modular adjustments, augmentations of self. The supposition was that a world without death might become a world without fear and therefore one without any desire for war. The warring nations of our planet would come together under one banner, Victoria’s banner, and peace would settle like the first winter snows carpeting the world in gentle sleep. Peace was an enviable utopia if it were the truth, but eternal life, mortality if you will, could not have been farther from that truth. I knew for I fabricated the lie.

I was an inventor, not a scientist, nor even a man of particular cranial might. My skills, for what they were worth, were formed in those steam powered machines that encircled the globe, and in particular Great Britain because she who must be obeyed — otherwise known as Queen Victoria — commanded it. The youthful me’s methods were formed from cogs and steam under the ever watchful eyes of such engineering stalwarts as Stephenson and later Brunel. If it sounded glamorous, it wasn’t. Filth and smog and oil were my medicines, and I hated taking them. So, I diversified. I tinkered, or so my mother used to say, dabbled with things beyond my ken, things that were better left alone. I left my work and retreated to the basement of my home to be seen less than frequent but more than seldom. Frogs were my speciality, my experiments of choice, as they were plentiful in the streams and ponds abutting our village: frogs in metal frameworks; frogs with extra brains stuffed in their tiny heads; frogs made to be not-frogs. Like a mad professor from a children’s fairytale, I fiddled and jiggled with the fabric of life and never once had a clue what I tampered with.

My parents did not take well to my work, in fact, they hated it. So I took my tinkering elsewhere, left the pile of stone and ivy that constituted my family’s legacy, my home, and ran away for good. I had no desire to have scorn heaped upon me at every turn, who would? Instead, I sought the quiet surroundings of nature, rural comforts, one might have said. I found them, too. Nestled away in a small corner of Yorkshire where a good horse was a greater prize than any of those new-fangled automobiles, I settled into endless days of adjustments.

I grew so good at what I did in those formative years, in my improving, that the local farmers actively fetched their livestock to be remodelled. Can you believe it? To me! I sewed extra udders here and there, grafted a pair of extra legs to this or that animal, increased a sheep’s wool capacity to that of a seeding dandelion. All knew my work by the white clouds of precious wool which lifted from said oves with the ease of blowing seeds from the dead flowers they resembled. There was no limit to my refabrications. I even crossed a pig with a Zeppelin to make it easier to move. Not bad, eh? Not good, either! I should’ve sewn up their behinds before allowing them the freedom of the skies, tethered or otherwise. Life was good. Life was easy.

My fame grew in proportion to the experiments I perpetrated. I say perpetrated because they should never have taken place. My mother had called me evil — I was not evil, I was good — but I began to see why she’d claimed it. A Mister Samuel Rothbarton, an owner of several Bradford Mills and a small island in the Caribbean, had acquired enough of a fortune to prize me from my arboreal bordered land to one of stone and brick. He refused to die and wished for me to prevent it. “I am not a commoner and shall not die like one!” he’d proclaimed. I almost believed him, too.

I had never considered the process of immortality in my tinkerer’s remit. Honestly, I hadn’t! You must believe that. However, I must confess it appealed to my bravado, my showmanship one might have said, to see if I might have managed it. I did. It wasn’t even hard. A few organs replaced, limbs adjusted, all with gears and clockwork minutiae, more than did the trick. In fact, Mister Rothbarton became more of a grandfather clock than the actual clock I’d stolen his parts from. He did not care. The cancer that had plagued him had no hold over metal, his gout ineffectual on an articulated leg. He showered me with all the money I could ever have dreamed of and never required. But like all greedy humans, once garnered, I wished for more.

I advertised myself as a man of miracles, augmenter extraordinaire. The population at large believed me. Eventually, so did our Queen.

Her Majesty Queen Victoria regarded me through heavy-lidded eyes, old eyes, and passed me a sheet of paper that merely said, I wish to be Immortal. She did not speak, not a word, and neither did her advisors. I nodded my acquiescence and was then dismissed to a small workshop adjoining the palace stables.

Things might have gone better with Her Majesty’s alterations, much better. However, live she did and would for as long as someone oiled her. I could do little about her exterior appearance, age had withered her, but her beating heart was strong and became stronger. She took to her new form like the bitten to vampirism, ruled with vigour and a literal iron fist. She bounded about the palace on strong-sprung legs like a newly walking toddler. And for a time, her people admired her that way, accepted her for what she’d become, and she accepted them. It did not last.

Victoria first pitied those doomed to die, then grew bored, then raged in spiralling madness at those unlike her, the unaltered. In a moment of sheer frustration, she had them butchered, every last man, woman and child. Not one regular human remained. Not one! Except me, that was, for I faked my metal appendages; I had no desire to last forever.

Her Majesty never allowed me far from her side — just in case, she claimed — but after a time age told upon me. Whereas she and those she’d had me correct thrived, nature took its course on my weak body. I claimed most of it by choice: I whitened my hair because I disliked black; stooped because it made the table closer, and any number of ridiculous lies. Ridiculous or not, she and her underlings believed them. Believed them until my heart attack, that was, but not after.

Victoria had one Ignatius Bumbleswick perform the operation, my one time assistant and general dogsbody. The man who I had always considered a prying fool was in fact an absolute genius. He manipulated my tools with a skill I should never have managed. Like Constable a painting, or Shelley words, Bumbleswick tore me apart and remade me: he made me exceptional.

I did not thank him or his monarch for gifting me renewed life, how could I? I wanted to die. I wanted death more than anything for I knew God would never allow me into the realm of eternal light after what I had done, not unless I remained untainted myself. That had been my hope, anyway. They stole my one chance of a pardon with an ever-present reminder ticking in my chest.

And so I persevered through the changing dynasties of the world, through Victoria’s massacring of everyone except those she wished Bumbleswick and I to maintain. Soon, although it might have been many aeons, one loses time after the first few centuries or so, few remained in a world too spacious to appreciate its worth. We congealed around London like germs a handkerchief as the rest fell into disrepair then ruin. Or so we thought?

They came from overseas. More beasts than men, the evolved and evolving, such a crush of feathers and fur were they that most Victorians — as we still called ourselves — gawped and stared in disbelief of what we witnessed. The beasts neither gawped nor stared, they butchered.

They saved me until last. I saw all fall before me, even Queen Victoria in an explosion of oil and flame, every human I’d augmented, every soul I’d taken. When a cotton wool ball of a creature tottered over to stand before me, I realised the truth. The creatures were the descendants of those I myself had altered. The ghosts of my past had come back to haunt me, my first tinkering experiments had returned tenfold.

Even then, I might have been excused, pardoned the fate of the others. They watched me through great, big eyes with the expectancy of children unwrapping birthday gifts. However, when upon closer scrutiny I scowled upon their unkempt forms, their ugliness, half-smiles turned to full snarls. They had thought me their God, when in truth, I was the Devil. They tore me apart by talon and teeth. I was glad to go.

There was no promised light, not even a candle. I lapsed into darkness like the shutting of a coffin lid on a catatonic man. In darkness I remained, my conscience trapped to tinker in obsidian forever.

The End

As Always

Thank you for reading

Richard M. Ankers

Author of The Eternals Series

The Eternals

Hunter Hunted

Into Eternity (Very Soon!)