I could not be more pleased! When my publisher asked if I wanted to be part of Coffee Time Romance’s new Steampunk site, I couldn’t get to the keyboard fast enough! Thank you so much for this opportunity to be a part of this kickoff, and among so many talented writers, too! I’m quite honored. Indeed.
Be sure to comment at the end of this post and ask me a question. One lucky winner will get a PDF copy of Avalon Revisited!
About Avalon Revisited:
Arthur Tudor has made his existence as a vampire bearable for over three hundred years by immersing himself in blood and debauchery. Aboard an airship gala, he meets Avalon, an aspiring vampire slayer who sparks fire into Arthur’s shriveled heart. Together they try to solve the mystery of several horrendous murders on the dark streets of London. Cultures clash and pressures rise in this very steamy tale.
2013 has started off huge for me, and I’m ever so pleased to share my excitement with you!
First, I’m thrilled to announce that my Amazon Gothic Romance Bestseller AVALON REVISITED: A novel of Vampires, Murder, and Sex in Victorian England was re-released last month by Riverdale Ave Books! Included at the end of this book is a teaser chapter for the sequel: Avalon Revamped! They’ve also just released my short story “A Kiss in the Rain,” a Gothic tale that “blurs genre lines of horror, romance, and fantasy,” as one reviewer put it. When my publisher gave the shout out about this $0.99 short story, she praised my work and said that she felt she was publishing the female Edgar Allen Poe.
I had to reread that sentence. Over and over.
Just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
She compared me to Poe.
Although, I definitely have his level of darkness going on in much of my work, as well as his tendency for tragic love affairs. No doubt.
Regardless, it was humbling.
About “A Kiss in the Rain”:
A Gothic erotic ghost story from another era, A Kiss in the Rain is the tale of Eliot, a professor and inventor, and his unbearable grief over the loss of his dead wife. Though an expert in the new invention of electricity, it seems that even modern science cannot bring her back, but maybe there is a force even more powerful?
I’ve also just signed an audio contract for Avalon Revisited, so it will be available in audio book shortly. In the mean time, if you like your fiction read to you, I have recorded some short stories, poetry, and my YA novel The Zombies of Mesmer in serialized podcasts for your listening pleasure, available through my blog Caught in the Cogs and through iTunes and Feedburner. For those of you not familiar with my blog, Caught in the Cogs, I write extensively about Steampunk as well as the darker matters of the heart and soul, covering such topics as alternative relationship styles, relationship tips and pitfalls, and warnings to the tenderhearted about sexual and emotional predators, those real-life vampires who will devastate your heart and shatter your soul. All that and more can be found at http://omgrey.wordpress.com
Additionally, more of my short stories will be appearing in publications, both in print and online in the very near future. The last several years of hard work despite the heartbreak are paying off, indeed, and my name and work are finding their audience.
Onto the Steampunk interview. Afterwards, please find an excerpt from Avalon Revisited to whet your appetite…
1. What does Steampunk mean to you?
Steampunk is where the past meets the future, and vice versa. It’s a blending of cultures and technologies. It’s a way to explore that which was problematic with the Victorian Era, like slavery and imperialism and violence against women and classism, and expose it for what it was, spotlight it while offering commentary and even alternative histories (or dystopian futures), all under the beauty of the aesthetic and the grace of an era long gone.
2. What is your favorite thing about Steampunk or writing Steampunk?
The creativity. I’ve had the honor of being a literary guest at several Steampunk and Fantasy conventions across the country, and the astounding amount of creativity in costuming and modding never ceases to amaze me. I’ve gotten story ideas from people’s outfits. I’m not kidding.
I like big bustles, and I cannot lie. If I’m dressed Steampunk, you can rest assured I’ve got a bouncy, fluffy bustle trailing behind me. In more formal wear, it elegantly drapes behind me. In edgy punky steampunk gear, I’ve got an awesome mini bustle that ties on. Bustles are what it’s all about. So much fun!
4. What turned you on to Steampunk?
The aesthetic, which is likely what drew most people to Steampunk. Back in 2009, I was looking for an agent under my alter-ego, award-winning YA author Christine Rose, when I first saw the term Steampunk. Everyone was looking for it. NY publishing was hungry for it. I had never heard of it. So, I Googled.
Then…LOVE. Seriously, love at first sight. Steampunk aesthetic attracted me in, Steampunk literature hooked me, and the fabulous Steampunk community gave me a home.
5. Do you have any upcoming Steampunk stories you can tell us about?
I have several! Thank you for asking!
First, a sequel, of sorts, to Avalon Revisited called Avalon Revamped. I say “of sorts” as it’s in the same world, but the tone and scope of the work is quite different than the dark, sexy romp of Avalon Revisited. Avalon Revamped goes even darker, even grittier, into the blackness of the soulless among us and the horrific deeds they do. Including Arthur…and an anti-antagonist who’s sole purpose is to stop them. Punish them. Make them atone. Forever.
I have more short stories than I can count, some steampunk, some not. Several of which you can find for free on my blog or around the web
- “A Kiss in the Rain,” newly published by Riverdale Ave Books, the same fabulous publisher who just published Avalon Revisited
- “Hannah & Gabriel,” a Steampunk retelling of “Hansel & Gretel”
- “The Tragic Tale of Doctor Fausset,” a Steampunk retelling of Briar Rose (aka Sleeping Beauty)
- “Of Aether & Aeon,” in three or four publications, last count
- Plus, the forthcoming “Railroaded” (Pink Pepper Press), “Love is for the Living” (Sirens Call Publications), and “Lost and Found” (Tales of the Talisman), all Steampunk romance
- And many more…both published and planned. I’ve been a busy girl!
6. Who is your favorite character of all from one of your Steampunk stories?
I would have had to say Arthur York (Tudor), my anti-hero vampire in Avalon Revisited and Avalon Revamped. Although far more likable in Avalon Revisited, he’s a scoundrel in both of them. My academic degrees are in English Lit, with a focus on the Renaissance, and I was completely enamored by those notorious Tudors. Arthur, Henry VIIIs older brother, the one who was supposed to be king but died young, intrigued me. Henry VII, their father, named Arthur as he did because Henry VII was a big believer in the Arthurian Legend and the promise of Camelot returned. Arthur was supposed to be Arthur II of England, but like I said, he died. Instead, history got the corpulent, lustful, and diseased Henry VIII. The Arthur in my books is true to his real history, although he was turned into a vampire instead of dying, but those that found him before he arose thought him dead and encased him in a tomb. When Arthur awoke in his second life as a vampire, he broke out of his tomb, leaving the lid askew. When the church guardians found Arthur’s body gone, they were so terrified of what would happen to them for letting a royal corpse be stolen that they covered it up and sealed the tomb empty. I love weaving history into my fantasy, and I’m always quite true to historical fact, or, at least, how it was written in the history books.
My Steampunk is quite close to actual history, so I don’t have to create too much that wasn’t there. I spotlight actual technology, often times, and embellish others. So much becomes but a footnote in history. Still, there are complete fabrications as well, of course, but I do stick quite close to historical evidence. The hardest part for me is keeping in the time! Not only the language used, but also what was and wasn’t already in existence in 1880, the year Avalon Revisited and Avalon Revamped takes place. For example, the Tower Bridge wouldn’t be built for another decade. Neither would the Eiffel Tower.
8. What’s the easiest thing about creating a Steampunk universe?
I suppose it’s the characters. Steven Brust once told me that an author has one or two natural talents, the rest has to be learned. For me, I think it’s characterization and dialogue. So those come fairly natural to me. I simply adore weaving history in, as I’ve mentioned, and that’s probably the most fun for me. In Avalon Revisited, for example, there is a character called Madame Jeffries the reader just hears about, you never meet her. She has several brothels, one called “The Chamber of Horrors.” It was a real place. It was really in Gray’s Inn Road. It really was for a more sado-masochistic clientele. She really did kidnap tweens and force them into sex work. Those horrifying things really happened.
9. What does Steampunk allow you to do as a writer that no other genres can?
Create really cool gadgets with lots of clockwork, brass, and steam! I enjoy sprinkling my dark fantasy with these technologies. Airship pirates and dirigibles. I just love to say that word: dirigible. Clockwork dolls and
10. What are the challenges and advantages to writing a Steampunk story?
The advantage is anything goes! And that’s pretty much the biggest challenge, too. For me, at least. I do best with some structure in writing and in life. If I have the freedom to do anything or go anywhere in a story, I will generally try to do too much, and the story will be so convoluted no one knows what’s happening, least of all me! It’s my challenge to reign it in and focus on a few things only. It’s why I stay within the confines of history, more or less, it gives me structure. Boundaries I can push, and I do quite enjoy doing that, in writing and in life, but boundaries nonetheless.
11. How much research does it take and how much imagination?
A LOT of both. So very much research, especially because I use so much history. Every surname I use can be found on a consensus report from 1891, and every first name can be found on a list of popular names at the time. I have links to maps of London from 1851 and the worth of Victorian money. I’m very visual, so I’ll watch films like Richie’s Sherlock Holmes and others to get a “feel” of the time. The sights and sounds and smells. Still, my stories, although they have a Victorian Steampunk backdrop, are quite character driven with lots of internal and external conflict, mysteries to solve, and an erotic or romantic undertone.
Avalon Revisited excerpt:
“I was to be the King of England.”
Before I died.
Of course, I didn’t say the latter aloud. Not yet. That would give too much away too soon. No need to cause alarm yet. After all, I did enjoy watching the looks on their faces when I told them I was to be king. It was true, of course, but they never believed it.
“King,” she said with a twinkle of humor in her eye. Her perfectly lined lips curled up slightly in one corner. She was taking the bait. She was amused, but more importantly, she was intrigued.
In a candlelit library we sat together on a white French Provincial sofa, a little too close for polite company, but then, I wasn’t polite company.
“You. Were to be king.” It wasn’t a question. It was merely a statement of complete disbelief. After all, I did look quite young, but the truth was much more complicated than that. Wasn’t it always?
I smiled and moved in closer, sliding slowly along the silk cushions towards her. She watched me close the distance between us and smiled a little wider, despite herself. I leaned in as if for a kiss, but instead brushed my nose softly along her jawline. “I was.” I breathed the words into her ear, letting my lips graze the pearl dangling from her earlobe. This one looked even more delicious than she smelled. That was a rarity. Especially for a woman her age. Normally, these middle-aged women had let their looks go. But not this one. She was still quite the beauty in her gown of deep scarlet, lined with black lace. The collar was wide, stretching from shoulder to shoulder, allowing me complete access to her neck, save for a choker: three strings of pearls clamped tight around her throat with a cameo adorning its center. She had a tiny hat embellished with an even tinier sailboat, pearls, and black lace, all perched purposefully crooked on top of her perfectly coiffed hair. Each copper curl shone in the candlelight, and I was entranced. She smelled of freshly picked heather on a warm Scottish evening. I wanted to roll and play in that heather. I wanted to pluck the blooms from its stems. I wanted to bury my nose in that heather and breathe in its luxurious scent.
I wanted her. But I kept my head and didn’t move too fast, lest I would’ve given myself away.
She didn’t recoil at my closeness, but rather seemed humored by it.
“You can’t be a day over twenty, lad, and you were to be king? Do tell, whatever happened to joust you from the royal line?” The dark lady turned her head cooly away from me and sipped the wine held by her black satin gloved hand. I softly traced my fingers along the hairline at the nape of her neck, and I saw her suppress a shiver. Good. She turned back and slightly leaned into me, playing my game.
The candlelight emphasized the smile lines around her eyes. She was forty if she was a day, and she felt flattered by the attentions of a younger man. Especially when said attention was offered by one as handsome and charming as I, at least, seemed. Her husband was nearly thirty years her senior, so she welcomed passion.
“I’m a little older than twenty,” I said as I brushed my lips up the curve of her delicate ear, exhaling warm air as I did so. I felt her shudder beneath my touch. She didn’t even try to conceal it. We both knew where this was heading.
I had her now. She was not only intrigued; she was open to being seduced. Obvious, really, since she thought I was joking about being king, as Victoria had been on the throne for well over sixty years, but she didn’t scoff at the game. She reveled in it. She likely hadn’t felt the thrill of seduction in well over a decade or two. However the kind of seduction she had in mind was quite different than what I had planned for her tonight.
The music played loudly in the adjoining room as the rest of the gala attendees danced or spoke to each other in raised voices, competing with the music. Still, it wasn’t so loud that they wouldn’t hear a scream, even back in this dimly lit library. No. Had to continue to move slowly.
The smell of musty books filled the air, and I was reminded of my father. Always reading. Always urging Henry and I to read and learn. We had had private tutors who taught us foreign languages and told stories of faraway lands. We learned about history and philosophy and theology and mathematics. It was all essential for our destiny. Me, future king, and Henry being groomed to be Archbishop. He had said we were the future of the kingdom. Well, he was half right. Henry had been the future, but now he was just the past.
“I died,” I sighed the answer to her question then nuzzled my cold nose in the nape of her warm, pulsing neck. Not yet.
She didn’t recoil at this dark disclosure, as she likely thought it was all part of this decadent game. Rather, she welcomed the soft kisses I placed on her neck. She shivered at the touch of my cold lips but moved in closer still. She was ready. Dare I say even earnest. She didn’t stop my hand exploring her thigh hidden beneath layers of satin. A soft moan escaped her lips, and I knew I had her. I continued teasing this dark lady, drawing out her desire. She caught her breath as I traced my tongue up the side of her throat to her white earlobe, circling around the pearl drop that hung delicately from it.
Then something across the room caught my eye. In the pale candlelight, an image on the far wall mocked me. A corpulent man stared back at me with black eyes. His gold doublet and fur-trimmed coat framed the fleshy jowls that held a smirking mouth. A replica of a painting, for even the sumptuous hosts of this opulent gala couldn’t afford the original Holbein. This painting I knew far too well. I had been forced to look at this likeness for centuries, and it always made me think about the road not taken, as if I had had a choice in the matter. Feelings similar to but not quite nostalgia filled my mind and ached in my chest. Perhaps it was more like sentimentality. If my heart still beat, it would be the rhythm to a sad song. But that’s part of my lament: my hollow chest. Every time I see that blasted painting of my fat, arrogant brother, I’d think, that should have been me.
But it wasn’t me. It was not my fate to be king. That was his fate. My little, immature brother.
My fate was to die, but I should’ve stayed dead. Over three-hundred years later, and I finally understood. I should have stayed dead.
“Why ever did you stop, dear boy?” The woman leaned into me, caressing my pale cheek with the back of her black satin hand. I hadn’t realized that I had pulled away from her while I had been caught up in my own remorse. She must have seen the sadness in my eyes, for she was becoming maternal. Mustn’t allow that. Time for a bolder move. Shaking off the past, I turned towards her and kissed her gently at first. But as she welcomed me with parted lips, I deepened the kiss. As my tongue swirled with hers, I drank in the warmth of her mouth, of her being. She didn’t seem put off by my coldness, but then few did when I had progressed this far. She ran her hand up my thigh, sending a spark through my core. My own roaming hand found her breast and cupped the soft flesh peeking out from beneath the hard corset.
I wanted to rip that corset off. Perhaps we had the same seduction in mind after all.
“Arthur,” she breathed. I couldn’t remember her name, but it didn’t matter. She was Catherine. They were all Catherine.
As I caressed her nipple over her evening gown, a small sound escaped from her pouty mouth. It was the sound of pure pleasure. No one had touched her like this in quite some time, and she was hungry for more. Then I slipped my thumb under the top ridge of her corset, grazing the nipple nestled beneath. Her hips moved involuntarily, and she arched her back in longing.
“Let us move to more private quarters,” she whispered, breathless.
Fine with me.
She stood and properly smoothed out her skirts. Years of social training didn’t just disappear, even in a rush of desire. With a coy glance, she reached back for my hand and guided me out of the library’s side door.
The other guests were still busy with merrymaking and gossip, so no one saw us steal away. For how could they, as each couple were but interested in their own lives. Each man wanting to do what I was about to do, and each lady pretending that she didn’t. They danced and drank and held up the pretense of civility, but I knew the truth. Beneath the façade we were all carnal beasts, hungry for the flesh.
As we climbed the grand staircase to the bedchambers above, I watched her bustled hips sway, and I hardened. I knew I would have her. I knew I’d be buried in the warmth beneath that bustle within the hour. I stiffened further, then adjusted myself with my free hand, never taking my eyes off that swaying bustle.
After all, I deserved some pleasure now and again. I deserved lifetimes of pleasure after watching my brother take my throne and then take my wife all those years ago. I had watched it all from the shadows of darkness. I had watched him cast my Catherine aside and make time with strumpet after strumpet, marrying some, but using more. He had made the throne of England a mockery. Then, with some delight, I had watched him get old and fat and eventually die. I had watched his children fight for the throne and kill those around them to secure their position.
That I didn’t mind too much. Especially Mary, the daughter of my beloved Catherine, she had a thirst for blood that rivaled even mine! Unfortunately she didn’t last too long. Bitterness hardened her heart, making it all that much easier to irreparably shatter when her husband had abandoned her. Elizabeth had followed and surprised us all, setting England back to rights. The country’s savior in skirts. They had called her Gloriana. Regina. The Virgin Queen. It was then I chose to leave England in search of new blood, as it were.
Now I returned to another hard woman on the throne. This one was not near as attractive as my niece had been. Women. Not one had heated my blood the way Catherine did. Not in these long centuries, but she betrayed me after I died. Denying our love to secure her place as Queen.
Politics over love.
I never understood it.
I would have been a foolish king.
Now I took a page from my brother’s book. Love and leave. Well, in my case, kill.
Come to think of it, he killed a few himself. Bravo, brother.
“In here,” she said, still in hushed tones as she led me into a vacant bedchamber, pulling my attention out of the dead past into the present. There was much more pleasure to be had here.
She stood awkwardly in the middle of the room and fiddled with her hands, then straightened her skirts again. She looked everywhere but at me, and there was a slight blush to her cheek. What had happened to the seductive mistress from downstairs? Now a demure damsel stood in her place. It was obvious she hadn’t done this in quite a while. She seemed so innocent in her nervousness. It was rather sweet, but not as sweet as her blood would taste.
I leaned back against the door, snapping it shut, and surveyed the room. Frilly lace dripped off every surface. Heavy taupe curtains draped the edges of the four poster bed sitting in the center of the room on a raised platform. The walls were lined with fine art framed in gold, and the chairs were all properly skirted. London High Society. How droll.
Gathering her courage, my prey sat on the edge of the large bed and gingerly patted the spot next to her, inviting me over.
Didn’t have to ask me twice.
I forced myself to move slowly, as my natural speed would startle her. Sitting closely beside her, I took her hand into mine and kissed it. She giggled, as if all this reminded her of younger days. She turned away as if suddenly bashful.
“Are you blushing, my sweet,” I whispered into her ear, before I traced my tongue down the side of her neck. “Certainly this isn’t your first time. A woman of your age?”
She cleared her throat, leaned away, and looked at me nonplussed. It was not proper to speak of a woman’s age. That question threw her off, just as I had hoped. I did like to toy with them, like a cat playing with a mouse.
“Well!” she said exasperated, snatching her hand away from mine.
Ah yes. Time to feign offense.
I just ignored her, even though the temperature of the room had dropped to colder than my own body temperature. I could feel the chill in the air, but a specific part of me was generating enough heat for the both of us. I resumed kissing her neck as if nothing had happened, and after a moment or two she once again softened beside me. She wasn’t about to give up the only chance she had for such a romp. Perhaps my faux pas would at least help her drop the pretense of innocence.
She turned into me and lifted my head, eager for more. She kissed me full on the lips, parting them with her aggressive, soft tongue.
Get your copy of Avalon Revisited in paperback or in eBook format from Riverdale Ave Books to read more of Arthur’s delicious debauchery, plus a teaser chapter of Avalon Revamped at the end! Then, don’t forget “A Kiss in the Rain” for a decadently dark reading escape over lunch.
Be sure to comment and ask a question below to be entered to win a PDF copy of Avalon Revisited. I’ll be around throughout the day to chat in the comments. You have until 11:59 pm PST Thursday, February 8th. On 2/9, the winner will be chosen! Be sure to leave your email address so we can inform you of your great fortune!