Today’s the day, delicious ones. The first step on the final leg of the journey. Transmuted has released, marking the last misadventure in a sea of misadventures for our unabashed misadventuress, Cherry St. Croix. I’m so sad! As the final book in the series, I am supremely grateful that I got to carry Cherry’s tale all the way through to the grand conclusion.
I couldn’t have done it without you, dear readers.
But I don’t like goodbyes. They seem so final. Instead, I figured I’d tide you over until the next new adventure—whatever it may be—with this list of fun facts that came out of the St. Croix Chronicles. They range from fictional to factual, offering a brief and final glimpse into the history.
Just the Facts, Madam
1. Do you even smoke?
One of the things I get asked a lot is: Have you ever done opium? Okay, let me be clear, here. No. I’ve never done opium, heroine, or any other derivative—except for medical situations, such as the Kidney Stone from Hell. I took a bit of what I remembered (heh, not much) from that, and combined it with the first-hand accounts of opium-users of the era. One of my favorite resources was Confessions of an English Opium Eater: Being an Extraction from the Life of a Scholar, by Thomas de Quincey. It’s incredible reading.
2. Red hair is awesome. Why does Cherry hate it?
Red hair is awesome. Of course, that’s a fairly modern assessment. In Cherry’s era, Society had great disdain for red hair—it was a color typically associated with actresses and harlots. It was quite fashionable to dye one’s hair auburn with henna should one be partaking of either of those professions. (A woman could also dye her hair brown with henna, which was common for covering grays and/or bringing one’s ‘mousy’ colors to a stronger shine.)
Cherry’s hair would be incredibly lovely by today’s standards, but peer pressure at the time—ha! Peer pressure, of the capitalized variety—was vicious. The “fashionable” esteem fell to blondes, and brunettes of a certain carriage were also favored. Redheads, especially short, curvy ladies as Cherry began her adventures as, were to be pitied.
3. Did you know…?
a. The tincture that Cherry talks about having been given was a real thing. Called Godfrey’s Cordial—among other things: see at left—this was a concoction that varied in ingredients but always contained opium. It was given to infants to calm them down, keep them asleep, or otherwise “prevention and removing disorders to which Infancy is liable”. Variations on a theme were also given to older children for various reasons. Despite the fact that The Visitor, or Monthly Instructor, referred to it as “pernicious quackery” in 1838, and other physicians railed against its use, it did not slow sales. As they reached adulthood, “laudanum”—a similar concoction comprised of opium grains dissolved in alcohol— was commonly prescribed for everything from coughs to hysteria to wounds to stress to mental disorders… You get the idea.
b. When speaking of coloring and hair, the origins of the word “ginger” have straddled across color lines. According to E. Anglia (1830), “Ginger, of a pale red colour, particularly applied to hair.” However some years later, in an 1886 Words County of Chester, it is stated that ginger is “sandy-haired. ‘He’s a bit ginger.’” Nowadays, it’s more commonly applied to full-on redheads or strawberry-blondes.
c. The myth of the seedy London opium den is suggested to be just that: a myth. Sometime around Cherry’s era, a quality known as “the literary Limehouse” was applied to the district—which is to say, writers of the time began overindulging in the “exoticness” of the area. Among other traits, Limehouse—and London—suddenly earned a reputation for being riddled with opium dens, filled to the brim with the smoke of the bliss and run by iron-fisted immigrants. An unnecessary embellishment for many reasons, not least of which was the fact that opium was easily accessible by any man, woman or child at any druggist’s shop. Which isn’t to say that opium dens did not exist—only that it’s been posited that they weren’t quite so prolific and/or underground.
4. Bookmarks… Bookmarks!
I research a ton for my novels, and I save everything that I use—or might use. To date, Cherry’s bookmarks hold the record at a weight 119 researched topics.
5. Any friend of Cherry’s…
Those of you who’ve read The Mysterious Case of Mr. Strangeway know about this little gem, but did you catch the brief reminder in Transmuted?
Look closer, now. You may find a vague reference to certain friends Cherry made in The Mysterious Case—to wit, one Mr. John F. Strangeway and his friend Captain Smoot. (Whom Cherry unabashedly calls Mr. Smoot because he’s cheeky and Cherry is mouthy.)
The secret here is one of my favorite things about this entire series. Strangeway and Smoot are, in fact, real life friends, who very kindly allowed me to use their inspirations for Cherry’s first ever misadventure. Captain Anthony LaGrange, who inspired Mr. Smoot in the novella, and Mr. Strangeway remain among the kindest, handsomest, and most beloved friends I’ve made on the steampunk circuit. Cherry wouldn’t be half the adventuress she is today if it weren’t for their shenanigans—and shenanigans it most certainly was!
How did Mr. Strangeway inspire the story of the man in the metal suit, you ask? Very simple: he is none other than the real life face behind the world-renowned Steampunk Boba Fett, whom I was lucky enough to catch in the wild. Even better, did you know that I donate half of all proceeds from The Mysterious Case to Steampunk Boba Fett’s favorite charity, Make a Wish? True story.
Turns out Steampunk Boba Fett isn’t all about disintegrations!
4. What happens now?
I don’t know, delicious readers. After you finish Transmuted, I’d love to know what you think happens next.
Still have some burning questions? Let me know! I’ll prescribe some laudanum for the itch, and then I’ll see what I can answer without spoilering anything too much.
And always, thank you for coming with me on this grand misadventure. I hope you loved it as much as I did.
Transmuted, The St. Croix Chronicles
In this final installment of Cherry St. Croix’s adventures, only one thing could compel the disgraced countess to return to Society—the threat of immortality.
All is not peaceful in the wake of the Midnight Menagerie’s ruin. Although the Karakash Veil has been forced to flee its stronghold, the mysterious head of the criminal organization is not content to fade away.
Above the foggy drift, a priceless diamond vanishes. In the dangerous Underground, a murderous rampage demands retribution. The hunt for the mastermind behind these misdeeds sends me back to Society—and into the unforgiving embrace of the world I’d left behind.
Nothing is what it seems. Enemies, allies—and a man who struggles with a nature even devotion cannot tame. Torn between the scars of the past and fragile new beginnings, I must create balance in the world I have chosen—and with the people I have come to love. The game has changed; should the Veil achieve the immortality it craves, I will have nowhere left to run.