Thank you very much to Coffee Time Romance for having me on this blog today. It’s an honour and a privilege, and I’m very excited to be here to talk about that staple of steampunk literature…air ships. It seems every story in the genre has one, doesn’t it? And there’s a very good reason why; not only are dirigibles visually interesting and majestic, they also represent the height of Victorian and early-Edwardian hopes and dreams for trans-Atlantic flight. Imagine, for the first time ever, being able to travel from America to Europe in just two days instead of the week or more it took on a steamer ship. Now, the above article from the 1930’s is quite an exaggeration compared to the reality. Certainly air planes had gained traction in the skies by then for their speed and easy portability as compared the giant-sized issues faced by dirigibles. Please click here for a quick article about the reality of dirigible’s and why the Empire State Building failed as a docking port. Cost has always been a factor in determining the feasibility of an idea, and the relatively cheap efficiency of planes won the battle fairly easily. But I do not think they ever won the hearts of the public. The romantic majesty of dirigibles lives on. They were, and remain to this day, huge floating dreams with limited practical usage but endless visions of opportunity to tantalize the minds eye. Especially the mind of a writer, like myself, fascinated with lighter-than-air travel and how it works in a steampunk world. In order to take my characters from England, where my steampunk series, Tin Heart, begins in 1898, to the fictitious country of Andovia nestled inside the watery borders of Madagascar, I knew I needed a dirigible of some kind. It was the most appropriate mode of travel for the time, most expedient and also most forgiving in terms of imaginative elaboration as to how it might function within the story. But what was it like being onboard a dirigible? How different would it be from an airplane? How did it manoeuver? How did it feel for the passengers? What would they see out a window? What was the accommodation like? The meals? The dangers? These were some of the many questions churning in my mind as I began to envision the flight which Lady Anne Amberleigh and her automaton companions must take. Questions, which I needed to answer if I wanted to immerse myself in the story-world and do it any kind of justice as a writer. Ideally, I’d gather personal experience to work from. A problem, since booking passage on a dirigible flight from across the globe is nigh-impossible in 2014. Luckily, there are many wonderful sites on the internet that can help answer all of those seemingly unanswerable questions without taking the trip oneself. One of my favourite sources is a fantastic web page hosed by called Airships.net: The Hindenburg and other Zeppelins. It is extremely comprehensive and I owe a lot to Dan’s knowledge in fuelling my own. Full of pictures, links and comments, it is a truly wonderful place to visit for anyone who has even a passing interest in dirigibles. I highly encourage you check it out. Another source I have made great usage of is a now out of print and in public domain text: Zeppelin: The Story of a Great Achievement, 1922. Written by Harry Vissering with first-hand experience during the time dirigibles were flying in the sky, the text is invaluable as a source of reliable information about air ships. But to really get a sense of the experience of dirigible flight, I went to YouTube: The Graf Zeppelin 1929 Around the Globe Trip documentary is truly fascinating to watch as is The Secret History of Airships.
All of my research, such as the above mentioned sources, has been instrumental in creating my romantic steampunk series, Tin Heart. I am excited to announce that the first book, unofficially titled The Gilded Corset, will be released in 2015 from Heart’s Desire Press! Unofficial blurb:
Lady Anne Amberleigh has lost much to the Andovian war; her parents, her home, and now her bid to remain unmarried. Betrothed to her most hated enemy as a political pawn, she embarks upon a journey that will take her across land and sea, upon dirigible and on foot, from her stoic life in England to the wilds of Madagascar. Accompanied by the mysterious Automaton soldier, Captain Leonidas, she learns the world is far more dangerous than she ever imagined. When she discovers love in the most unexpected places, however, will Anne find the courage to embrace it, even at the cost of her human soul?
Here is an unedited excerpt of the trouble concerning Captain Leonidas as he attempts to safely escort his charge, Lady Anne, to her arranged marriage in Andovia.
Leo had flown in poor weather many a time and was prepared for the inherent danger, but something more threatened his safe keeping of Lady Anne, treachery concealed behind a clandestine cloud he could penetrate no more easily than the grey veil which engulfed the ship. He’d nursed the suspicion since landing in London, and now with Thomas to corroborate his thoughts, he was certain foul play was at hand. But if treachery stalked them in the mists, he would have to try to force its hand or wait until it revealed itself before he could take action.
An attack would be a relief, he mused. He was tired of playing cat and mouse.
He scanned the sky again. “How fares our escort?” he asked Monsieur Renaud.
Out the main window, ahead and to the left, the aft lights of the point ship, the Andovian light battle cruiser, The Zephyrus, shone through the mist like a beacon in the gathering nightfall. On the Spectroscope’s screen the ship appeared as a bright green lozenge floating in a deep emerald sea. Two more lozenges trailed behind, the second being The Sirocco at the center point of the display, followed by the British escort, The HMS Prince Albert, which brought up the rear.
“They’re matching our heading and altitude, Captain.”
“Keep them in your sight. I want visual contact now until day break.”
“Yes, sir.” Monsieur Renaud kept his gaze trained on the screen, expression tight.
Was the problem perhaps Anne herself? Was it her fears Leo sensed? Had he become so distracted by her plight that he could no longer focus on his duty? Her presence wrapped around him, clouding his judgments at the same time it sharpened his hunger to be with her and taste her brilliance again.
That one small kiss…
The sooner they arrived at Alexandria and he recharged his etheric energy with Adele the better.
“We’re rising just past eight hundred now, sir,” the chief helmsman called out. “Should clear the worst of it momentarily.”
The mist had thinned outside the window, the outline of The Zephyrus becoming stronger as they began to breach the clearing, tendrils of mist swirling in their wake like fingers desperate to pull the ship back down into the smothering embrace of the thickening fog bank. And then they were free, flying unhindered in the clear evening sky, the last rays of the sinking sun painting the peaks of the cloud below them with tips of orange fire.
“Were level at eight hundred and seventy feet, Captain.”
Leo nodded, satisfied. “Hold present speed and altitude.”
They had regained their field of vision. With any luck the way would remain clear until they had at least reached the farthest edge of the Celtic Sea—
“Captain!” the navigator exclaimed.
But the warning was unnecessary, Leo had seen it too.
On the Spectroscope’s screen, the image of The Prince Albert had suddenly divided into two. Leo moved quickly to the railing and peered through the glass to no avail. Was it a ghost reflection bouncing off the cloud top, or was trouble following behind them?
“Ah,” Leo murmured as the thick cloud below began swirl and buckle, revealing at first the spine of antenna and then the curving top of a well-armed clipper, moving upward fast. “At last the rat reveals itself.”
“Contact The Prince Albert,” he shouted, “and warn The Zephyrus.” Had his lips been able to move, he would have smiled. “The Sirocco is under attack.”
Thank you very much for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed this blog today 🙂 ~Kate Reedwood~
Kate Reedwood writes Victorian romance set in a Steampunk world. Felicity Kates writes fun, flirty, fantasies for modern lovers. Together they are one busy lady, doing what she loves to do best–creating romantic tales for the world to enjoy.
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