Steel Kisses by Laura Strickland

STEEL KISSES

A Buffalo Steampunk Adventure

by Laura Strickland

Genre: Steampunk Romance

Reynold Michaels might not be the smartest man in the city, but he knows a beautiful woman when he sees one. The lovely creature he watches disembark from the steam tram every morning simply cannot be a prostitute…or an automaton. Yet at the high-priced bordello where she works he discovers she’s not only a hybrid mechanical, she’s funny, vulnerable, and quite possibly the missing piece of his heart.

Lily Landry understands that as an automaton she isn’t entitled to make her own choices. She must do as instructed or face the ultimate horror of being shut down. But when she forms a bond with Reynold, she quickly learns what it means to desire a life of her own.
In a city conflicted over automaton rights, can they hope for a future together?

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Sheer Madness (A Buffalo Steampunk Adventure)

SHEER MADNESS
A Buffalo Steampunk Adventure

by Laura Strickland

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Genre: Steampunk Romance
All her life, Topaz Hathor has denied her ability to see the spirits of the dead. She despises her father—an infamous spiritualist—for exploiting his wealthy patrons and the souls that flock to him. But when the spirit of an attractive man appears in her bedroom claiming he’s been drawn to Topaz rather than her father, she sits up and takes notice.
Though not dead, Romney Marsh has been banished from his body while confined to an asylum and can’t remember much besides his name. Yet he can feel Topaz’s spirit calling to his, and he’s not leaving until she agrees to help him. Through an increasingly violent spiral of danger and their discovery of unspeakable undertakings, they bond ever more closely. But can Topaz be in love with a man she’s never touched, or would that be sheer madness?
He observed as, clad only in a silken dressing gown, she spoke at length with a dark-haired man—discussing him.
And when the dark-haired man—her brother?—went out, leaving the two of them alone, seen and unseen, he knew it would be now or never.
Concentrating with unprecedented intensity, he hovered beside her bed, pictured himself as he knew he appeared when in his body, and did his best to make himself look solid.
She turned. Her unusual golden eyes widened, and she saw him.
About bloody time, he thought with a victorious rush. And now what? Could they communicate?
“Who are you?” she breathed in a low, husky voice that should have raised his pulse—did, for all he knew, back where his body lay.
“You can see me?” he asked, projecting the word-thoughts into her mind the way he had projected his image.
“Of course I can see you. Why else would I ask who you are?”
“Romney Marsh,” he supplied the name to which he clung so hard.
Her eyebrows, like two black slashes above those incredible eyes, twitched. “Well, Mr. Romney Marsh, you’ve strayed to the wrong place.”
“I don’t think so.”
“The party’s downstairs in the solarium, where my father’s summoning the souls of the dearly departed. You must have taken a wrong turn at the stairs.”
“No. I don’t want him. I want you.” Abruptly he realized it for truth: he wanted her as only a man possessed of flesh could—and surging flesh, at that. It made no sense, yet he couldn’t deny it.
She shifted slightly on the balls of her feet the way she had just before she took on the two thugs who’d come through the window. Did she, then, think she needed to fight him off?
He said quickly, “I’m not here to harm you. Rather, I need your help.”
She tipped her head. The black hair slid over one shoulder to caress a generous breast. His nonexistent fingers itched.
“I’m not able to help you.” She waved a hand in the air. “Be gone, spirit, to the next realm.”
“I can’t.”
“Of course you can.” She leaned toward him, and her gaze moved over him with considerable interest. “Do not partake in my father’s mischief. Spare yourself that. Move on and embrace peace. I dismiss—”
“No.” He moved closer, and her eyes widened again. “Don’t do that. Don’t send me away.”
She drew herself up to her considerable height, which had he possessed his body must nearly match his. “But, Mr. Marsh, it’s where you belong.”
“It isn’t.”
“Give me one good reason why,” she challenged.
He could give her the very best of reasons. “I’m not dead.”

 

 
Born in Buffalo and raised on the Niagara Frontier, Laura Strickland has been an avid reader and writer since childhood. To her the spunky, tenacious, undefeatable ethnic mix that is Buffalo spells the perfect setting for a little Steampunk, so she created her own Victorian world there. She knows the people of Buffalo are stronger, tougher and smarter than those who haven’t survived the muggy summers and blizzard blasts found on the shores of the mighty Niagara. Tough enough to survive a squad of automatons? Well, just maybe. 

Merely This and Nothing More – Poe Goes Punk

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Release Date: May 31, 2016

Available from: Writerpunk Press
Formats: Kindle and Paperback (348 Pages)
Language: English

BLURB:

A clockwork raven. Two sets of irresistible teeth. A house brought to life by nanobots. A heart that won’t stop beating. All this and much more in the Writerpunk Press version of the beloved suspense stories by Edgar Allan Poe. We’ve pulled out all the stops this time around to bring you the very best punked versions of classic Poe tales, complete with shiny gears and tiny bots! In addition to the more familiar Cyberpunk and Steampunk, we’ve added Bio, Deco, and Dieselpunk genres to the mix. The resulting volume is a dynamic take on horror of which the Master of Macabre himself would be proud. Profits are to be donated to PAWS Lynnwood, an animal shelter and wildlife rescue located in the Pacific Northwest.

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EXCERPTS:

“Things of the Future” ~ AR DeClerck

A futurepunk story inspired by “Mellonta Tauta”

April 1, 2058

The Grand Balloon Skylark

Below us is the vast ocean that never ceases. I write to you from my perch high upon the pinnacle of our great transport. I find myself wondering why we cannot go faster, as other balloons pass us by at more than one hundred and fifty miles per hour and we move at less than one hundred. The captain says that we must conserve, but I find that what was once the peace of the blue waters below is nothing more than a sinister and lonely wasteland to me now.

I cannot say that I am not intrigued by the idea that nothing exists below us. I have seen ships on the waters, their propellers churning as they move. I might have worried that they will someday run out of fuel, but the captain assures me they, too, have perfected the drying and burning of the great gutta pucka fungi that provides fuel for us all. One bit of the pungent plant that grows upon the top of the sea can keep us running for days. The boats are far more crowded than our own vessel, the throngs of poor and unwashed below me eliciting my pity and some admitted relief that they are below and I am up here.

The question we all ask ourselves remains unsaid. Will we find land again? We have traveled much, from the only bit of soil that remained untouched after the great cataclysm, searching for some bit of terra firma that may exist across this ocean. None of us recall the days of walking upon the land, and I myself was born upon a ship much like the one I sit upon now. What would it be like to feel real dyrt between my toes, as my grandfather used to expound upon to us on hot nights. Even when we started out, the captain tells me, there was only that small island of sand remaining upon which to build our vessels for this trek.

How much time has passed since humanity left that sand dune in ships and boats? There is no real guess. Days grow longer now, and the dual orbs in the sky keep it light for twenty seven of our hours. The captain has a theory about this, as well, and he says that the rotation of the planet has slowed thanks to the appearance of the Alpha Lyrae in the sky. It is why the days stretch on to forever, and we age much more slowly than our parents and grandparents. Wiggins, the captain, has even suggested that we are as near to immortal now as our species will ever be.


“Red Sky at Morning” ~ Jeffrey Cook

A steampunk story inspired by “The Masque of the Red Death”

Poe with goggles.jpgFour months passed without a sign of trouble. The noblemen and women, hidden behind their masks, gloves, and fancy clothes, danced, and as the ship moved, and the sun with it, the lights danced with them—red in the earliest or latest parts of the day, depending on the ship’s facing, and then each of the other shades of the stained glass, sometimes only blue, or only green, or one of the others when the sun hit just so, and sometimes the lights danced and mixed amidst the revelers, moving as if in time to the music.

The call went up one morning, “Red sky by morning.” The crew begged the Prince to go below decks, to send the dancers and musicians and all of the crowd to quarters, that they might take down the glass, extend the sails, and try to run as far and as fast as the engines might take them.

The Prince would hear none of it, chastising the frightened sailors, insisting that he trusted in their skill, and the sheer size of his airship, and the good fortune they’d enjoyed so far. Instead, as he’d done before when the news seemed worst, the Prince tried to dispel it with the greatest of his parties yet. The entertainers were all called at once, that no part of the deck would be without spectacle, and he called all of his friends to come and enjoy the day. He had the cooks and servers prepare a feast, holding nothing back. Wine flowed freely, and the Prince looked upon all he had wrought, and was pleased.

A shift in the wind moved the ship about, and the blues and whites of the reflections abruptly shifted. The sun struck the uneven red pane, disappearing where the streaks of coal dust marked it, and uneven shadows played amidst the dozen shades of red that danced over the revelers as midday neared.

A singular figure that none could recall joined the dance. The figure was slender, wearing trousers, polished shoes, and a shirt of black. The jacket and top hat, however, were of the richest red crushed velvet, soft to the touch. The mask was the simplest of all the revelers, plain white porcelain, but wherever the figure moved, the light through the red window always caught it, dancing red lights shifting across the reflective surface.


“The Clockwork Raven” ~ Carol Gyzander

A clockpunk story inspired by the poem “The Raven”

My device sat waiting on the work table in front of me. I removed the cloth cover and looked at it with a critical eye. Peering back at me were two fixed, black, beady eyes and a strong, almost menacing beak. Trailing away from the head, dark feathers lay smoothly across the back and flowed out to the wings. The feet curved into sharp talons.

I turned it over and opened the plate on the underside. I smiled at the array of miniature gears and pulleys inside—this was one of my masterworks. I inserted the key into the first of three winding points. Turning the key in each one, carefully, until I met resistance, I listened to the ratcheting sound of the clockwork mechanism as it wound. When I removed the key the final time, closing the plate and turning it upright, I could hear a faint tapping sound.

The bird stretched its wings and looked at me with those black, beady eyes. Considering the key still in my hand, I shook my head. Yes, it was working for now, but one winding would not last the time required. I opened my own volume of ancient lore, turning the pages to find what I sought. Speaking low and clear, I read the words and performed the gestures recorded so long ago, watching the Raven as I worked.

The eyes came alight with an internal fire. Its head tilted to one side as it peered at me, and it flapped its wings once, again. I concentrated for a moment and inclined my own head, searching inside my mind, and saw through the Raven’s eyes: an image of myself looking back. As I moved around the room, the bird’s eyes followed me, and the image changed.

“It’s working,” I said, and heard the words in my mind as the Raven heard them.

A feeling of faintness came over me under the Raven’s steady gaze. My shoulders sagged. I braced myself against the work table and fought off a sudden wave of fatigue; held a hand to my brow, blocking its view. I was not the one from whom it should draw its energy. Not the one who must be drained.

Who needed to pay for what he had done.

Donning my coat, I tucked the clockwork Raven under my arm and headed back out into the night. This would do—only this and nothing more.


LINKS:

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AVAILABLE ANTHOLOGIES:

Sound & Fury: Shakespeare Goes Punk

Sound & Fury

Amazon:

Goodreads:

Once More Unto the Breach: Shakespeare Goes Punk 2

Once More Unto the Breach

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Goodreads: 


ABOUT WRITERPUNK PRESS:

We are a small, somewhat anarchic writers’ collective–a community of authors, illustrators, bloggers, poets, artists, graphic designers, and readers from all walks of life who are fans of cyberpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk, and associated genres.

Sound and Fury: Shakespeare Goes Punk, our first anthology of stories based on the Bard’s work, was published in March 2015. The second anthology, Once More Unto The Breach: Shakespeare Goes Punk 2, was released in December 2015. We have taken the plays that audiences have enjoyed for hundreds of years and reinvented them as cyberpunk, dieselpunk, Teslapunk, and steampunk tales. Featuring comedies and tragedies as well as a wide variety of punk genres, these collections have something for everyone. The anthologies have even been added to high school and college curriculums.

Our third collection, Merely This and Nothing More: Poe Goes Punk, will be published on May 31st.  In this anthology, we have punked classic tales penned by the Master of the Macabre. In addition to the more familiar cyberpunk and steampunk, we’ve added bio, deco, and dieselpunk genres to the mix.  As with all Writerpunk Press publications, a spirit of subversive fun is strongly encouraged.


 

 

Promo Tour of Holly Barbo

WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF
HOLLY BARBO

TENDRILS

Where ’What if’ becomes ‘What is’
AUTHOR: Holly Barbo
GENRE: Short story collection covering the following genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Sci-fi thriller, Sci-fantasy, Contemporary, Contemporary Thriller, Historical Fiction and Fantasy

Stories come from any number of places. One could start from a memory, a photo in a magazine or from pondering a news item and wondering, “What if?”
This collection arose from that sort of random stimuli. Some are pure imagination of science fiction or fantasy. Others developed from random historical facts or the disturbing news stories of war-torn regions.
This is a collection of stories for those who like to think.
Includes 4 award-winning short stories.
“I enjoyed every story in Tendrils! I am impressed with the versatility and well thought out environment in each setting. Obviously good research was put into writing these stories as well as a wonderful gift of empathy with a delightful touch of practical wisdom. In my opinion the last story would even make a good movie!” (Cynthia)
“An excellent compilation of short stories over different genres. I was highly impressed by the quality of the writing and her use of words, which dragged me in on every page.” (Bookcollecter)
“I thoroughly enjoyed this read. I had a hard time putting the book down. Some stories are short, some long. All are suspenseful & of different genre. I am amazed at her extensive vocabulary and her overall knowledge on so many subjects. Her imagination takes you on a great trip every time with every story. None are ever boring. I highly recommend this latest book of hers. You will not be disappointed. Sit back & take yourself on an adventure. You will learn something too along the way.” (Paul and Patti L. Jordan)
SAMPLE FROM THE SHORT STORY “A CRYSTAL SNOWFLAKE”
Orion gave a quick scan of the room. He needed to make sure he had everything important. His backpack was stuffed and the computer case held so much that there were edges of paper sticking out of it in a haphazard manner. The slender young man slung the strap of the computer bag over his shoulder, grabbed the backpack and headed for the front door. His hand paused as he reached for the knob and he looked out the window.
It was dark and he could see the snow falling through the street lights. There didn’t seem to be anyone about, so he slipped from the house and walked casually to his trusty old Chevy, his breath coming out in rapid visible puffs. The nonchalance was an act. He wanted anyone watching to assume he was going to M.I.T. to get in some late night work. He scanned the shadows, hoping that no one was there. He threw his backpack on the passenger seat then wedged the computer case between it and the seat back. He wanted both within easy reach. Once buckled in, he allowed his nervousness to slip out and thoroughly checked the view from his mirrors.
He eased onto the street and when there was no sign of his tires slipping, increased his speed. Orion reached into the pocket of the backpack for the pre-paid phone that he’d picked up when he determined his cell had been tapped. At the stop sign, he punched in a number. The snow flurries were increasing and he switched on the wipers. Orion waited for his friend to pick up.
He smiled when he heard her voice and responded by saying, “I’m on my way and no one is following me. Just in case, I sent instructions to our safe place. Don’t worry about retrieving the envelope unless I don’t get there by morning. Okay. Gotta go. I’ll be at your door for breakfast with your favorite croissants. Have the coffee brewed.”
Orion laughed at the response. “Okay. I need to concentrate on driving in this stuff. See you soon, Chayse. Bye.”
Beyond the stop sign, the road sloped to a picturesque country bridge, one of many that dotted the New England states. He had to admit it was beautiful in the snowfall but with the driving conditions worsening, he focused on how the car responded to his small adjustments in steering. In the weak light, he didn’t notice the watcher standing in the shelter of some trees on the far side of the road. The muffled figure took a box out of his pocket, pointed it at the car and pushed a button. The loud sibilant schwuff of the slush hitting the car’s undercarriage drowned out the pop.
Without any warning, Orion’s power steering quit. Working to compensate on the slick road, he fought to correct the fish-tailing motion of the car. “Shit!” He tapped the brakes and was horrified as his foot went all the way to the floor.
Fighting the wheel and the momentum of the old Chevy on the slippery surface became his entire focus…and he was losing. He tried gearing down and applying the emergency brake, but the car went into a spin and he caught a glimpse of the bridge railing coming up too fast. “Shit!” The car broke through the wooden barrier and sailed into the darkness over the side.
SUNSTONE
AUTHOR: Holly Barbo
GENRE: Steampunk Thriller

The steam-powered civilization of Myrn is a thriving adolescent culture. But the rapid industrial development has given rise to greed, and the triumvirate of government, banks and industry leaders has lost sight of those it is supposed to serve and protect.
When a mysterious incurable illness sweeps through the impoverished masses, increasing the suffering to breaking point, rebellion seems unavoidable. Society is on the brink of revolution, and the planet is marked for destruction.
M’nacht, his son Kes, and his team of researchers investigate a legend about three sacred fossils that could save the people and rebalance Myrn. However, they are not the only ones looking. Where they see salvation, others see power, wealth and control.
Will the gifts from the goddess Navora be found in time to save their world, or will the sacrifice of innocents be lost under the weight of human depravity and corruption?

“Kes, M’nacht’s been attacked! He is in a bad way. I’m at Paramount Hospital now. He’s in surgery and I don’t have any information. I came back from the market to find the place crawling with security officers and M’nacht bleeding and broken on the floor. The room was a mess, as if someone was determined to find something. The officers wanted me to straighten up after they had gotten their evidence. I couldn’t find anything missing, but I did find M’nacht had programed a message bot and left it docked on the dash-key. Kes—he had set it on a timer to call in the alarm! Damn him! He had known they were coming and sent a delayed call for help! He took that beating when he could have prevented it! This morning before I left, he had mentioned for me to keep in touch with you if he couldn’t. I didn’t think much about it at the time. Anyway, I want you to know I’m here and watching out for him. Knowing that maddening old man, he probably sent you a message too. Whatever it was—heed it!”

Kes ran a shaky hand over his face and let out a shuddering breath. The steam car beeped its proximity to their destination. Kes took over the controls and parked in his space. The messages had rattled him enough that he braked the vehicle with a jolt instead of his normal smooth skill. He would rather be by his adopted father’s side, but the old man’s words kept playing in his mind. He needed to get to M’nacht’s place in the Heights as nonchalantly as possible and let himself in. It sounded like the home could be under surveillance. It didn’t matter who was watching: the law or thugs. He couldn’t be seen and he had to get in and out as fast as possible. This was the last twi-day. Perhaps the gloom would help. Pulling out a bulky sweater and a hat to disguise himself, he slipped the pack on his back and left the garage. His vacation could wait a few minutes.

When Kes got to the house, he furtively stepped off the sidewalk and behind some concealing bushes, then, crouching low, sprinted. He let himself into the empty house and, moving with as much rapid stealth as he could, went to M’nacht’s study. He glanced at the blood stains on the rug, the shards of a broken vase and the pile of books that Quin had organized as he’d tidied up. Wasting no time, Kes strode to the navorite and tapped a rhythm on the base. There was an almost inaudible whirring and a click as the gears engaged and the door opened. Kes listened to the silent house, then stepped inside the closet. He quickly removed the sweater and hat, stuffing them in the pack. The peepholes showed he was still alone in the room, so he turned to the work space. He glanced at the shelves and the armored wall safe but nothing appeared abnormal. On the narrow countertop was a small pile of items: a hand-sized leather-bound journal that looked very old and a small silk bag. On the top of both was a moon-pearl blossom. Kes knew that M’nacht loved those flowers. He picked it up. It had been cut that morning and still held traces of dew. Kes knew that the flower marked the small pile as if it had a sign with his name on it.

He stowed the journal in his pack and the small bag into his vest pocket. His hand paused as he pulled out his little fossil. Somehow everything tied back to the little navorite he’d found in the Cradle. He started to slip it back in his pocket when his attention was suddenly drawn to the peepholes. Two men and a woman were silhouetted in the study’s archway. They were using hand signals to each other and carrying cudgels. His heart began to pound and he moved to check if he had completely secured the door. It was still open a crack. With gentle pressure, he closed it, but there was a whisper of a click. One of the men whirled and leaned into the room. From beneath an overturned chair, the little robo-cleaner hummed into view. The man swore under his breath but stepped into the room anyway. The other two silently followed.

His heart was pounding as he peered through the hidden peepholes, watching the man get closer. Suddenly, Kes felt the air stir. There was a tang to the scent which reminded him of the sea. A heartbeat later, the hidden security closet was empty.

        
        

Holly’s world is shaped by her love of family, the beauty of the natural world and an irrepressible creative drive. She has always been curious and sees life through questions. These four characteristics color her writing voice and her stories frequently evolve from her asking “What if….?” Her tales tend to have non-urban settings with nature contributing to the plot, building discordant themes inside a seemingly peaceful refrain.

My motto: Weaving Alternative Worlds with Threads From Today.

Sunstone by Holly Barbo

SUNSTONE
AUTHOR: Holly Barbo
GENRE: Steampunk Thriller
COVER DESIGNERJC Clarke
EDITOR: Sheenah Freitas

The steam-powered civilization of Myrn is a thriving adolescent culture. But the rapid industrial development has given rise to greed, and the triumvirate of government, banks and industry leaders has lost sight of those it is supposed to serve and protect.
When a mysterious incurable illness sweeps through the impoverished masses, increasing the suffering to breaking point, rebellion seems unavoidable. Society is on the brink of revolution, and the planet is marked for destruction.
M’nacht, his son Kes, and his team of researchers investigate a legend about three sacred fossils that could save the people and rebalance Myrn. However, they are not the only ones looking. Where they see salvation, others see power, wealth and control.
Will the gifts from the goddess Navora be found in time to save their world, or will the sacrifice of innocents be lost under the weight of human depravity and corruption?

Ravarian wiped the sweat off her forehead and peered out over the strait. Her grey eyes were clear and resolute. The clear day was warm and so beautiful that her heart filled with bittersweet joy. Grateful for this last gift from the Goddess, Ravarian pulled in her line and the small fish on it. Once it was stored in her cooler, she moved her boat again. No one watching her would be able to see when she palmed the fossil and let it slip beneath the waves as she pulled in her catch. Hours went by as she continued to cast her line.

Her task accomplished, Ravarian decided to stop performing for her watchers. Returning to shore with her cooler full of her catch, she was met by the young man she had rented the boa from. He grinned at her and the size of her haul. They bantered about her luck. She loaded her steam car to return home and smiled her good-bye. As the steam filled the chamber and she began to move, Ravarian gave a final salute. The lad laughed and way her away. When her vehicle crested the rise on its way back to the city, his face took on a serious expression and he returned to the hut. On his desk was the dash-key and, without wasting a minute, he tapped out his report and hit “send”.

She was ready when the uninvited visitors came. Her mind was at peace. As she opened her door to them, she had the random thought that the police reports and newspapers would report her death as a victim of a brutal home invasion burglary. Ravarian was shoved into her living room as one of the men tore her pictures and books from the walls. The other set a bad down that clunked with ominous metallic sounds and approached her with the gait of a predator. She knew that the next few hours would be unpleasant for her and frustrating for her guests. No one would hear her screams. They wouldn’t learn what they wanted to know, only enough of a story so they wouldn’t go after her loved ones. This particular chapter of the Sunstone would close for now, but she was confident that the little fossils, there would be another day just as she know she wouldn’t live to see the next sunrise.

Holly’s world is shaped by her love of family, the beauty of the natural world and an irrepressible creative drive. She has always been curious and sees life through questions. These four characteristics color her writing voice and her stories frequently evolve from her asking “What if….?” Her tales tend to have non-urban settings with nature contributing to the plot, building discordant themes inside a seemingly peaceful refrain.

My motto: Weaving Alternative Worlds with Threads From Today.