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Welcome to Steampunk Revelry!
Board your airship, coast on over to Steampunk Revelry and sit down to enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of absinthe while we celebrate Sibelle Stone’s new release “Prudence and the Professor” a Western romance with steampunk elements.
Read the excerpt of Prudence and the Professor, play the Twochops crossword puzzle game and enter the Rafflecopter for a unique, original Feather Fascinator to adorn your hair or top hat, (hat not included) or a $10 gift card from the Coffee Time Romance e-book store.
I started writing steampunk romance with a short story, No Ordinary Love, and was hooked. When I attended the first Steamcon held in Seattle, I knew I’d found my “people” – who loved Victorian fashion, amazing machines, fabulous music and having fun as much as I do. Adding steampunk elements to my stories stretches my creativity and allows me to play with supernatural elements. In addition to writing steampunk and western romance, I create costumes, decorate hats and design original jewelry.
Excerpt: Prudence and the Professor
In this rollicking steampunk romance from an award winning author, a Civil War widow travels to Montana territory in search of adventure and independence. She takes a position as a personal secretary to an eccentric inventor. The handsome professor is not what she expected, and while he’s drawn to the raven haired beauty he must develop his newest invention to meet a critical deadline that could change the course of the War-Between-the-States.
An Adventurous Woman
“You don’t actually expect me to ride on that… that… contraption?” Prudence Worthington pointed at the mechanical monstrosity and couldn’t control the shaking of her gloved hand. “It certainly can’t be safe.”
The tall cowboy standing across from her pushed back his large, black hat and jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the machine standing a few feet away.
“It’s the only way you can get to Jubilee this time of year. The roads are slick with mud and we can’t haul a wagon and team up there.” He pointed at a range of mountains jutting into the powder blue sky at the edge of the horizon. “’Less’n you plan to walk up.”
When he bent his head toward her and stood silent, she sensed he was waiting for her decision.
Prudence whipped her head around to glance at the stage station, but there was no sign of the caretakers. They were probably back in their snug little cabin, enjoying the warm glow of a fire and sipping a cup of hot coffee.
Prudence could almost smell the aroma of the dark, heady drink laced with rich cream and several teaspoons of sugar. She took a deep, dignified breath and tried to calm her nerves.
Damn Professor Rhinehart and his ridiculous inventions. She’d come to Montana to be his secretary, get his papers in order and help him apply for patents. She certainly had never expected to be flung about on a monstrous contraption made of wood and tin and spouting steam from several massive brass pipes.
She closed her eyes for a moment. She needed to remember, this was simply the first step to fulfilling her dreams. With the generous salary Professor Rhinehart had promised, she’d someday have enough money to build a business school for ladies. Widows and single women would no longer be left destitute and forced to depend on their relatives for charity. Or worse. Become prey for men and their deviant tastes, using women for their perverted pleasures.
“Steaming Meemie is safe as riding a little girl’s pony,” the man who had introduced himself as Brandon Faraday said. He’d informed her he’d been hired by Professor Rhinehart to escort her up to the mining town.
“I’ll just push a few levers, release the brake and we’ll be in Jubilee ‘fore dark.”
Prudence pursed her lips and glanced at the watch pinned to her brown taffeta jacket. It was a bit after two o’clock, which meant this screaming thing would take nearly four hours to get up to the mining town. Her complexion wouldn’t fare well with being exposed to the sun for that long and the hard wooden bench seat promised her posterior an unpleasant ride.
But— she’d already traveled thousands of miles and despite her misgivings, she shrugged into the long slicker coat Mr. Faraday handed to her to protect her traveling gown. She removed her now bedraggled straw bonnet with its assortment of silk flowers and stuffed birds to don the protective goggles he held in one strong fist.
“I assume from the name that this… Meemie thing is powered by a steam engine?”
He nodded and Prudence resolved to accept the circumstances and consider this an opportunity to learn something new. At least she could write home to her Uncle Edwin about this innovative new transport system. As a professor of mechanical engineering, this sort of thing would excite him with its possibilities.
That is, if she managed to survive the experience of riding on the terrifying machine. She imagined if the Steaming Meemie somehow lost its steam, they’d be lost in the wilderness. She couldn’t decide what frightened her more, riding on the machine or being stranded.
Mr. Faraday offered a hand to help her climb up and onto the seat. Then he stepped behind the wagon box that held her luggage and an assortment of bags and boxes. She assumed they were supplies for Jubilee, the small mining town they were headed to in the mountains of Montana Territory.
Pulling his hat down lower on his wide forehead, Brandon Faraday mounted the machine and Prudence tipped sideways before he settled his tall, lean body next to her. Although she was distracted by the worry of traveling on what appeared to be a treacherous machine, she couldn’t help but admire the wide shoulders and thick muscled arms of the man assigned to take her to the town of Jubilee.
She’d heard men in the west were reticent and quiet. Brandon Faraday seemed to exemplify those traits, as he’d barely said more than a handful of words to her since she’d arrived.
He held out a large leather strap. “Best fasten this on the other side, ma’am. Sometimes the Meemie leans a bit, and I wouldn’t want you to fall over the edge.”
Prudence was hardly reassured that somehow the thick leather belt would prevent them from tumbling down the side of a mountain. But she fit the belt into a metal holder on the side of the machine then buckled it as tight as possible without squeezing too close to her driver. Despite the fact that he was one of the handsomest men she’d met in a long time, she didn’t intend to snuggle up to the man.
He glanced one more time at the large brass kettle thing attached to the back of the wagon, gave a nod to Prudence and pulled a lever. A huge plume of steam erupted from the back like a geyser.
A loud hissing noise and ear-piercing metal screech drowned out any other sounds. If nothing else, the Steaming Meemie was living up to its name,
They shot down the single iron track with a speed that reminded Prudence of galloping horses. She gave a small squeal of surprise and grasped the metal bar edging the seat with a grip that made her fingers ache. Mr. Faraday wore a huge grin and held on to the brake with one hand and his hat with the other. He didn’t seem at all concerned and Prudence wished she could be as trusting.
As they lurched up the side of a hill, the machine slowed down a bit, and Prudence leaned back onto her seat. After the initial shock of taking off, the conveyance settled down to an easy pace, like the trot of a horse. She could admire some of the lovely scenery and relaxed her death-like hold on the edge of the seat a bit.
They came to the top of the hill and a dark green valley spread out below them. The pale blue sky with a few wispy clouds gave truth to the territory’s nickname of “Big Sky Country.” She imagined she could see for hundreds of miles and the landscape stole her breath away.
She turned to comment to Mr. Faraday, but before she could say anything, he shot her a wicked grin. “Best you hang on tight, little lady. This here’s where it gets a tad tricky.”
Prudence followed his gaze down the track—down, down, down to the bottom of the hill. Which now seemed more like a mountain to her terrified eyes. Realization hit her with a force that robbed her of all the air in her lungs.
With a loud clank and then another rush of steam, the Steaming Meemie launched them around a curve to dip down the hill. And the machine wasn’t the only thing screaming, as Prudence let out a long, loud wail of distress. Her stomach gave an uneasy lurch and she squeezed her eyes shut. She had no doubt whatsoever she was rushing to her death as she murmured a prayer begging the good Lord to watch over her soul.
Gerritt struggled with the wrench, swearing under his breath because the gaggle of kids standing beneath the windmill were watching with an intensity that made him sweat. They were the same kids who followed him around whenever he was working on a project outdoors, and as much as he’d like to shoo them away, he could remember how curious he was when he was growing up.
And he recalled his father’s patience when explaining the way complicated weaving machines in the woolen mill worked. It was those visits that had ignited his passion for inventing things. It was a passion that earned him his first patent when he was just seventeen years old. A passion that still made him eager to wake up each day excited to see what complicated problem he could solve with a new design.
The bolt tightened and he released his hold on the wrench. With any luck, the windmill would now spin and pump water to the generator in the mine shed. This in turn would bring the intricate machinery which was underground back to life and the temporary shutdown would be over.
Not that his men had suffered. Unlike other mine owners, Gerritt never docked the pay of his workers for a mechanical failure. It didn’t make sense to make them suffer the consequences when one of his inventions needed to be repaired. Machines broke down and they needed to be fixed. That was a fact of life.
Perhaps it was also the opportunity to get out of his workshop and into the outdoors that made it seem more like a holiday for him than a nuisance. The mild weather, warm sunshine and blue sky made him welcome the chance to work in the yard.
It also allowed him to scan the horizon for the Steaming Meemie. He was anxious as he awaited the arrival of Mrs. Prudence Worthington, a war widow and the woman he hoped would rescue him from a task he deemed worse than being sent to the depths of hell. Office tasks such as organizing his papers, submitting his patent applications, maintaining correspondence and other secretarial duties.
He needed to get his patent applications and correspondence in order, and if her letters of reference could be believed, the Widow Worthington was a paragon of womanhood. Intelligent, respectable and clever enough to be one of the few women to graduate from Lamere’s Business College. Her letter of application indicated she was adept at Fonografy and could operate a typewriting machine. Her photo indicated she was sufficiently dowdy to keep her on the job and unmarried, at least long enough to get his office organized into some semblance of order.
In her letters she’d maintained that her greatest wish was to be productive, earn her own income and someday open her own business school to train women in secretarial skills. She’d seemed the perfect candidate, a prim, proper widow who had no interest in romance or marrying again.
The sad truth was this territory had a serious shortage of womenfolk and any female arriving in Montana acquired suitors followed by a shower of proposals of marriage. He’d had a hell of a time keeping a teacher for his school. Men remained long enough to acquire a grub stake and strike out to pan for silver or gold. Single women were so scarce that once they arrived in the territory, they could pick from an abundance of eligible bachelors. And even some married women improved their prospects with a quick divorce when they realized they could better their lot in Montana.
Gerritt put a hand over his eyes to block the sun, then let out a whoop of excitement.
“The Meemie’s coming kids. She’s making the bend now. Hang on and I’ll be down in the wink of an eye.”
He slipped into a harness connected to two thick lengths of rubber cording that were attached to the frame of the windmill. As he finished fastening the belt around his middle, he glanced down at the small sea of upturned faces below him, then waved and stepped off the edge of the platform.
Gerritt stuck out his arms and legs when he dropped, bouncing as the vulcanized rubber cords spun him about in the air.
The kids waited for this any time he climbed up to the top of the windmill. He’d made a dramatic jump a few months ago, terrifying everyone below until they realized he was jiggling in the air like a marionette on a string and not lying crushed in the dirt.
His joke soon became an anticipated antic that delighted the children and made the adults shake their heads and wonder if the professor wasn’t plumb loco.
The cheer from his small crowd of admirers was interrupted by a high pitched female scream.
The bouncing stopped and as he planted his two feet on the ground again, the children rushed up and surrounded him. They knew he had peppermint candy in a paper bag in one pocket. It was another tradition he’d started that day. The laughter and jostling soon ended as they all understood he’d give them each one piece. He didn’t want to contend with the displeasure of the mothers of Jubilee if he doled out candy and spoiled too many suppers.
With the candy distributed, he pushed through the crowd to find Brandon assisting a woman down from the Steaming Meemie.
She rushed over to him, yanked off her goggles and stared at him wide-eyed. Her stormy gray eyes were full of concern. She blinked at him several times and Gerritt felt a twist in his gut. She was not what he expected.
She raised her hands, as if to examine him to see if he was still all in one piece, then seemed to recall they were perfect strangers and folded them across her breasts.
“Excuse me, Sir, but are you quite mad?”
If she’d never been a schoolmarm, she might have missed her calling. Although her shoulders were lifted and her arms crossed, her lips had a slight curl of amusement that signaled once she realized he wasn’t injured, she was enjoying the prank.
Several of the children who’d been trailing behind him almost knocked him over as they halted at her question.
Gerritt blinked. “I don’t believe so,” he offered, unsure if he wanted to admit to being totally sane. After all, it took a touch of madness to make a good inventor.
She shook her head and while she didn’t cluck her tongue at him like Miss Fairfield, his teacher when he was eight years old, he still felt as chagrined as if he was a pupil in a classroom.
“What in heaven’s name would possess a rational man to jump from the top of a windmill? I imagined I was witnessing someone falling to his death, not some outlandish prank initiated for the amusement of children.” She placed a gloved palm over her heart. “It’s a good thing I’m not inclined to succumb to the vapors, else wise I’d be prostrate upon the ground.”
A twitch of her mouth told him she was working hard to suppress a grin. “I’m Professor Gerritt Rhinehart, and I assure you, I was never in any danger. I was demonstrating the properties of caoutchouc when it is vulcanized.” He squared his shoulders against the attack from the tiny, teasing harridan.
She adjusted a rather ugly straw bonnet covered with several soiled stuffed birds, brushed off white cuffs dusted with the dirt of the trail, and cleared her throat. She reminded him of a field wren—small, shapely and alert. She pulled a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles from her pocket, donned them and then pursed her pink lips as she surveyed him from head to toe.
“I would suppose there must be a safer method of showing how adding carbon black and using a chemical compound strengthens rubber.”
Gerritt was shocked into silence as he realized she understood the process he’d been trying to explain to the children for several months.
“I’m Mrs. Prudence Worthington,” she said, stretching out the syllables of her name, so it sounded like prude – dance – worth –ing-tonnnnn.
It was a neat trick and he was impressed. Her letters, written with the delicate, flawless script and clear description of how she could turn his unruly, messy office into a model of efficiency, had convinced him she was the best candidate for the job. He hoped she understood trying to change him wasn’t part of the deal.
He realized she was expecting him to shake her hand and he rushed forward to grasp the gloved fingers. Her grip was firm, but not too mannish. The top of her head would just touch the tip of his nose, if they stood closer, but Mrs. Worthington maintained a discreet, sensible distance from him during their ritual of introductions. A prim and proper widow…as he expected.
**** End of Excerpt
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About the Author
Sibelle Stone is the pseudonym for award winning author Deborah Schneider. Sibelle writes fantasy and steampunk romance, with magical creatures, witches, fairies and amazing machines. She is independently wealthy, and spends her free time creating steampunk fashions, modding plastic guns into something more sinister, haunting antique shops and wearing hats.
Deborah is forced to support Sibelle with a day job at one of the busiest library systems in the US. She gets to create programs for authors, writers, jugglers, musicians, dancers and artists. Not a bad gig. She’s been named Librarian of the Year by Romance Writers of America, won the Molly “Unsinkable Heroine” award from Denver RWA and an EPIC award for Best Western Romance.
Visit Sibelle at http://www.sibellestone.com/