steampunk, steampunk detective, steampunk romance, Sherlock Holmes, female WatsonRelease Day is here! ::Takes a moment to Snoopy Dance::

The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, a romantic steampunk history, is the culmination of a dream I had as a teenager when first read Hound of the Baskervilles and hoped I could write characters as fascinating as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

You can buy it at Samhain Publishing, Amazon, B&N, and any of your electronic bookstores.

Not being Arthur Conan Doyle, my idea for a Victorian mystery ended up quite differently, with a dash of magic, technology and an strong element of romance.

Here’s one of my favorite scenes form the book, a classic “detective meets client” scene with a little dash of sexual tension.

Bookshelves covered the walls, their dark color matched by the huge throw rug on the floor that was decorated with swirling Oriental-style designs against a black background. In the center sat a comfortable sitting couch with matching chairs on either side.

Gregor Sherringford was not as indifferent to his surroundings as he had first appeared. She could certainly picture him here, curled up with a book, his dark hair falling in front of his eyes. A pleasing image.

She heard the door close behind her. She turned, her face full of color. She had no reason to be embarrassed, but she was.

“Why did you not tell me to wait here at the beginning, sir?” she asked.

“It is interesting to see how people react to the workroom. If they are appalled or otherwise react badly, then they’re not people worthy of my time.” He hung his leather apron on a coatrack and rolled down his sleeves. “And I was in the middle of an experiment.”

“I do not much like trusting my future to someone who tests me like that.”

“And I don’t like being interrupted by someone ill-mannered enough to snap at me. If you wish to leave, you know where the door is located.”

She reluctantly shook her head and kept a firm grip on her tongue. If she could keep her temper with her father, she could keep it now. “What I wish is to have had no need to come to you, sir, but that is sadly not the case.”

“I’m clearly your choice of last resort. That would not be unusual among my clients.” He smiled thinly, as he had a moment ago in his workroom. “Please, stop glaring at me, Miss Krieger, and have a seat. We will both be more comfortable. Also, no more calling me sir. Mr. Sherringford will do.”

“I was not…” She cleared her throat. She had not been glaring. She had been studying him. In this setting, he belonged. The softer light burnished his hair and skin, as some silks glowed in certain candlelight. Now, she could well imagine him a gallant romantic hero as well as a champion. “I suppose I was glaring. My apologies. I have never done anything like this before. It has me off-balance.” She clutched her pendant tight as she sat down. “How much do you charge, sir?”

“That depends,” he said. “On how much I can afford to pay?” she asked. He drew his eyebrows together. She had angered him somehow. Again. “It depends on your problem. I have valuable work, as you saw. I dislike interrupting

it.” was like trying to get a proper measurement off a squirming customer.

“So it must be a problem that can be solved quickly?” Trying to sort out what he meant was like trying to get a proper measurement off a squirming customer.

“On the contrary, only a complicated problem would be worth setting aside my other matters. As to the fee, if it presents a proper challenge, I will waive it.”

“Excuse me? Usually, more work means a higher fee, not a lower one.”

“So I have been told. But those are my terms.” He looked at her and opened his palm, clearly signaling the next move was hers. “You definitely seem like a person who might have a worthy case. Thus my interest in hearing you out.”

She had an unsettling feeling that he was as interested in her and why she had come to him for help as he was in the problem itself. To him, she might be like one of his experiments, something to be examined and studied. Did he have feelings underneath his cool demeanor?

“I am not certain if my problem is complicated. My mother believes I could be imagining it. Or even losing my mind. Yet there is still a woman dead, and I want to know how she died.”

Official blurb:

Magic—and love—balanced on the tip of a needle…

The Steampunk Detectives, Book 1

Magic existed at the fringes until Prince Albert discovered he was a mage. Now he and others like him are leading a revolution in steam technology that’s held tight in the grip of the upper classes.

A man of half-Indian heritage, rejected by his upper-crust, mage-gifted family, Gregor Sherringford lives in working-class London, investigating cases involving magic among the lower classes. But he’s never met a client quite like spirited, stubborn Joan Krieger.

Joan’s dream was to lead a fashion revolution designing women’s clothing suited to the new technology. But when her richest client mysteriously dies outside her shop, it deals a mortal blow to her dreams.

She hopes the handsome, enigmatic detective can prove the death a magical murder. She never expected a dark plot would be woven right into the fabric of her family. Or that cracking the case will mean merging gifts, minds—and hearts—with the one man who could be her partner in every way. If they survive the release of a soul-binding curse.

 

 

steampunk, steampunk detective, steampunk romance, Sherlock Holmes, female Watson

The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, available at Samhain Publishing, Amazon, B&N and other ebook stores!

Magic—and love—balanced on the tip of a needle…

The Steampunk Detectives, Book 1

Magic existed at the fringes until Prince Albert discovered he was a mage. Now he and others like him are leading a revolution in steam technology that’s held tight in the grip of the upper classes.

A man of half-Indian heritage, rejected by his upper-crust, mage-gifted family, Gregor Sherringford lives in working-class London, investigating cases involving magic among the lower classes. But he’s never met a client quite like spirited, stubborn Joan Krieger.

Joan’s dream was to lead a fashion revolution designing women’s clothing suited to the new technology. But when her richest client mysteriously dies outside her shop, it deals a mortal blow to her dreams.

She hopes the handsome, enigmatic detective can prove the death a magical murder. She never expected a dark plot would be woven right into the fabric of her family. Or that cracking the case will mean merging gifts, minds—and hearts—with the one man who could be her partner in every way. If they survive the release of a soul-binding curse.

—Almost here!

Yes, I’ve been absent. My youngest son has had a recurrence of a serious chronic illness and we’ve been dealing with multiple doctors and hospitals for the last two months. He’s stable now and hopefully will remain so.

Which brings me to my first item.

That same son has a four-page story in this anti-bullying comic: You Are Not Alone.

This can be purchased at Grayhaven’s website and I believe if you’re a school or non-profit, Grayhaven will be able to supply some free copies. So proud of this kid! 🙂 🙂

And, well, if you’re at the Grayhaven site, you might also want to look at this Steampunk comic.

There’s a story in there featuring the hero of the upcoming The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, plus 38 more pages of great steampunk stories.

Be back tomorrow with more news of upcoming books! 🙂

Once again, I have been blessed by the cover gods for this. I began this book by naming the file “steampunk Sherlock,” and it morphed and became something that’s more. A homage to my love of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, yes, but also my own tale of adventures and love in a world where the creation of mage coal has led to a steam-powered technological revolution.

Caught in the middle of magic and murder is Jewish seamstress Joan Krieger, who life and livelihood are at stake in resolving the mystery. The consulting detective is one Gregor Sherringford, half-Indian scion and black sheep of a noble house.

Fun story about the dress–it wasn’t originally in the book but my editor and I received the cover while in the midst of edits. So I added in the dress and the gun. There’s one thing you can’t see on the top image that I wanted to point out:

steampunk, Sherlock Holmes, historical romance

Coming April 22

Joan’s sewing needle and thread, which plays a part in the mystery, both literally and figuratively.

I’m working on the final edits now and it’s a BLAST.

Can’t wait for you all to read this.

It seemed a good idea to give a sneak preview of the book. Yes, I end on a cliffhanger. Because..evil?

CHAPTER ONE

Joan Krieger had never liked going in the side door. It was necessary, of course. Certainly no mere seamstress would be greeted at the main entrance and receive the courtesies due a lord or lady.

“Chin up, be ready to charm the client, dear,” her mother said. “The happier we are about how the clothing looks on her, the happier she will be. You know how much rests on this.”

Her mother did not need to say it out loud. All rested on today’s efforts, both the future of their shop and her dreams of moving beyond their small business to a much higher level. (more…)

I’m pleased to announce the sale of The Curse of the Brimstone Contract to Samhain Publishing.

This novel my first foray into steampunk romance and I’m thrilled to have the contract. It will be published sometime in the first half of 2014.

What drew me to writing steampunk? First, it was the idea of writing a Sherlock Holmes-inspired story. Holmes was one of my first literary crushes, and I have both annotated versions of the Canon, though my William S. Baring-Gould edition is much more well-worn than the recent one published by Barnes & Noble.

I have these volumes, two of my most cherished books

Aside from being able to write a detective inspired by Holmes for the first time, I also wanted to explore how technological advances affect people emotionally. And then there were the class and gender issues in Victorian society. It seemed a really ripe and complicated (i.e. fun for the writer) setting and storyverse. So complicated, in fact, that my attempt at making this only a novella failed. This story was novel-sized.

While the explorers and lords of the Victorian world are fun, I wanted to come at it from the point of view of the working people of London. Thus, my heroine became Joan Krieger, a Jewish seamstress with a long and honorable family history, who has visions of changing society’s fashions and perhaps change the role of women in society as well.

My hero is Gregor Sherringford, consulting detective.

If you’re an intense Sherlockian, you might recognize the origin of Gregor’s last name. But Gregor isn’t quite a Holmes-analogue. Rather, he’s more Holmes-inspired. He’s an inventor and investigator, but he’s also the youngest son of a powerful ducal family. He’s in semi-exile from that family because he’s the son of the previous Duke and  a woman of no means from India who the late Duke rescued from the streets of Calcutta and raised to the heights of English society.

Why would a powerful Duke marry an woman from a different race and class?

Magic.

In my storyverse, the steam revolution has been fueled by mage coal, a type of stone that is created when a mage wields their magic. Mage coal is far more precious than gold. It lasts much longer than regular coal, burns more evenly, and burns hotter.

Those who possess mage coal, possess enormous wealth. And those who possess the magical abilities to produce mage coal are highly prized, such as Gregor’s mother. The upper classes like to believe they are the only ones gifted with natural magical abilities. They want to hold onto power.

They’re about to learn that denying the existence of lower and middle-class mages will cost them dearly.

Especially since Joan, aside from being a ‘radical’ in the field of fashion, is a highly gifted but untrained mage, though she’s unaware of this at first. Gregor is willing to throw off the rules of his father’s class and train her. They find more in common than ever expected, though I have to admit, it took me an entire novel to get them to the point of, well, you know. 🙂

So I have a Jewish seamstress with the natural ability to take on the ruling class, a consulting detective who’s half-caste and somewhat estranged from his older brothers, and, together, they solve the mystery of magical murders committed by a foe of unknown but vast abilities.

Thus, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, or as it says in the introduction, “the first of the adventures of Joan Krieger, radical seamstress and Lord Gregor Sherringford, consulting detective for special problems.”

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Eagle of Seneca by Corrina Lawson

Eagle of Seneca

by Corrina Lawson

Giveaway ends January 31, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

I’ve also got a small giveaway going on at Gail Simone’s forums on Brian Bendis’ Jinxworld. You just have to pop into the thread to enter.

Leonard Da Vinci's flying machine, the inspiration for Ceti's aquila

I’ve been remiss about publicity for Eagle of Seneca, absorbed in finishing the GeekMom book. So this is going to be my BSP week for what I’ve been calling my ancient steampunk story. And this scene, the first with Ceti in this book, illustrates why.

*******************
“Ceti, doesn’t what happened to this man worry you?” Gaius pointed to a headless figure resting against the outside wall of the engineer’s workshop. “A person would have been killed.”

“A person would have been able to land the aquila properly,” Ceti said, grinning. He felt like whistling. The last test flight had almost been perfect. He’d strapped the straw man, packed with heavy metal, into the aquila to test the effect of its weight on the flight. His creation had glided in the wind perfectly, even with the added burden of a person.

Well, the replica of a person.

“The wings handled the load just fine. And unlike the straw man, I’ll be able to control the aquila on the way down,” Ceti said.

“He lost his head,” Gaius answered.

“His head was sewn on. Mine better attached.”

**********************

Those who’ve read Dinah of Seneca will recognize Ceti, who’s a bit older and wiser now.

 

 

Born under a comet, Sky of the Lenape Wolf Clan tries

to live up to the destiny prophesied for her, but so far
she can’t understand what the gods want. When Ceti,
an engineer from the Roman colony of Mannahatta, literally
falls at her feet, Sky sees this as a sign and claims him.

 

Ceti is charged with protecting Mannahatta from an invasion.
The Emperor has sent his Imperial Fleet to bring the breakaway
colony back under his control, and Ceti sees a new test glider
as the key to victory—until it crashes and forever changes his fate.

Love may be enough for Ceti and Sky to overcome their personal
differences. But forging their two peoples into a force to fight
the Imperial Fleet means risking all, including their hearts.
Will it be enough?

Now available at The Wild Rose Press in print or as an ebook or at Amazon.


Woot!!! 🙂

I’ll be doing a giveaway next week in a few different places but I can’t let the release day go by without thanking Toni Andrews, Kristan Higgins and Dee Clancy, who helped me plot the book out one busy weekend.

And especially to Kristin for making me a t-shirt that says “And so Princess Fiery Wo-Ha lead her people to the Sacred Woo-Woo, thus saving their pathetic lives.”

Even if I did change the plot a little bit from that.

I couldn’t resist putting in a warrior using a glider to divebombing a battleship while tossing hand grenades instead.

And as the above sentence implies, there’s definitely an ancient steampunk feel to this book that makes it different than the first Seneca story.

Note: I  published this over at GeekMom last week but I thought it was relevant to my writing, so I’m cross-posting it here too. And, btw, if you missed GeekMom’s steampunk week last week, it’s not too late. Go look. Still awesome articles on steampunk books, music, crafts, and even the French side of steampunk.

I first heard “steampunk” used in connection with William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine, which was published in 1990.

At the time, I thought adding tech to the Victorian Age was a fascinating idea but I was much more interested in reading space-based science fiction and gave it a pass. I didn’t think much about steampunk until last year, when I started hearing that steampunk, particularly romantic steampunk, was the next big thing.

My response was, “Wait, how can it be the next big thing when it’s over 20 years old?”

Intrigued, I attended a workshop on steampunk at the Romance Writers of America national conference last summer.

At the workshop, I learned that steampunk is all about the gadgets. And the presenters did have the coolest steampunk costumes with a number of gadgets, including steampunk wrist-watches and, of course, goggles.

But still I wasn’t really connecting to the genre. The retro look is very cool but it seemed to me that regular science fiction has plenty of futuristic gadgets. I wasn’t sure what the point was of creating more cumbersome and less efficient gadgets and placing them in the Victorian Age.

Gradually, though, I began to see the appeal. Part of that is due to my love of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. The main planet in that series, Barrayar, is a backwards society loosely based on Russian society around the time of the end of the Czars. The contrast between the Barrayaran culture and the ultra-futuristic gadgets that they’d adopted from the rest of the colonized planets was a great way to show that while society may be technically advanced, similar advances in cultures and mindsets take far longer.

And that’s what I find the best part of steampunk. On the one side is a culture that is extremely constrained by rules and on the other side are technological advances that are leaps and bounds ahead of where people are emotionally. It’s a great way to explore the changing role not only of technology but also the class and gender differences of the time period. In some many ways, the Victorian era was at the crossroads of change. Adding technology to it would just accelerate that change, causing as many problems as it solved.

So when my lovely editor, Sarah Hansen of The Wild Rose Press, challenged me a few months ago to write a steampunk story, I was interested but unsure of where to begin.

I started thinking of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. That story had Professor Challenger and his gang of intrepid explorers discovering a hidden world where dinosaurs survived. It’s not quite steampunk but Professor George Edward Challenger is certainly a steampunk-style scientist.

Thinking of Doyle naturally led me to Sherlock Holmes. I’m an utter Holmes geek. I devoured the Canon as a teenager. I have both annotated editions. I’ve practically got the stories memorized.

Thinking of Sherlock Holmes led me to Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy stories, which are set in an alternate world where the Plantagenets still rule Britain and magic works. The Watson of these stories is a forensic sorcerer. That led me to another Holmes-style detective, Simon Archard, the main character in the comic book Ruse. Archard also exists in a Victorian-style age on an alternate word and his assistant is another magic user, female this time.

The answer to my question became blazingly obvious.

I would write a steampunk detective story with a Sherlock Holmes style character and turn my Watson-inspired character into a woman and possible romantic interest. I figured I’d just add some steampunk gadgets to the flavor of a detective story and I was all set.

Eh, not quite.

The mystery came easy. But I couldn’t just “throw in some gadgets” because that didn’t make sense. It’s never good to just throw in anything to meet a particular genre in any case and certainly it wouldn’t work in this story.

In order to create the gadgets of my steampunk world, I had to find a reason why these particular Victorians would be using steam power as part of their daily lives.

So in order to write a 24,000 word story, I had to create an entire alternate history for my world. Eventually, I followed Ruse’s lead and added some magic to the mix. The main idea is that the humans in my alternate world have discovered a talent similar to photosynthesis in that they can convert sunlight to energy. The by-product of this talent is a substance called mage-coal, which burns cleaner and far longer than regular coal and thus created a reliance on steam power.

Once I had the technological issues settled, I had to sort through all the implications of having magic users and what it would mean in term of gender and class issues in Victorian society. It could go either way but I felt there was a great deal of conflict to be had if the upper classes decided erroneously that mage power was something gifted only to them. They would feel that they were superior and that the lower classes would naturally not share such a gift. That would leave the class structure in place but also create untrained mages who would have little love for the current system and might use their raw powers to cause a great deal of trouble.

As in the real Industrial age, I had a conflict brewing between those responsible for great technological advances and those left behind to either be untrained labor or used up by the new system.

It was only until I had these world-building issues were settled that I was able to create the main characters, Lord Gregor Sherringford and Joan Kriegerson. They’re Holmes-inspired but definitely a product of this strange new world. (And if you’re enough of a Holmes geek, you might spot the Easter egg in my detective’s name.)

Having finished the story and sent it off to my editor last week, I was left with two main thoughts about steampunk.

One: it is really, really hard to write well and required far more research than I ever thought.

Two: it’s a whole lot of fun.