Hey, There’s Fantasy in my Steampunk!
Years ago, my first novella Canes and Scales originally started out as a steampunk novella set in complex world inhabited by Elves and descended-from- Serpents nobility. I laced it with plenty of trauma, drama, and romance, but I always thought the story needed more than I had given it.
When I decided to transform the novella into a novel, I added in more and more fantasy, until the new novel turned into a wild blend of steampunk, fantasy, and fierce magic. In this world, Linden, a Prince descended from an intelligent serpent-like race, goes to battle in dirigibles. Alasdaire the half-Elf travels in a steam-powered iron carriage. He uses natural magic when needed. My take is as long I use logic while blending genres, it works.
Some readers claim they would rather read one genre or the other not a blend, but sorry, the world isn’t just straight peanut butter or chocolate all the time. Canes and Scales: The Novel reminds me of the old commercial where two people run into each other: “Your peanut butter is in my chocolate! Your chocolate is in my peanut butter!”
For me, stretching the mental legs and trying something more adventurous is fun. Books that blend different genres really appeal to me, which is why I went ahead and turned on the verbal blender for Canes and Scales: The Novel.
Of course I ask why are readers reluctant to read books which mix genres? Genre-busting books always inspire me— better yet, books which conform to no specific genre thrill me.
My touchstone for this subject always comes around to China Miéville. He mixes everything into a wild froth. Granted he’s one helluva of a genius writer (and I am jealous as hell of him).
He has steampunk down cold and mixes in rebellion, horror, fantasy, science fiction… Miéville is a master of genre-blending.
Wait, why did this post turn into a love letter to Miéville? Because he kicks genre-blending up to something I’d love to attain.
In some ways, Canes and Scales: The Novel is a tribute to his genre-mixing style. Miéville claims he wants to write a novel using different genres. He hasn’t gotten around to the romance genre. Come on, Miéville, read Canes and Scales: The Novel for inspiration.
It’s nice to dream, eh?
Time to offer up a sampling of Canes and Scales: The Novel and let you judge.
Tell me your favorite genre-blending (comment section) in order to enter to win an ebook copy of Canes and Scales: The Novel.
Serpent Prince Linden of Ardaul is determined to drag his barbaric, power-hungry country into the modern age by encouraging learning, advances in the sciences, and tolerance. His insane brother Edward, the King, delights in making him pay for his efforts.
Long years of watching his back, fighting wars, and solving conflicts started by his cruel brother have taken a toll on Linden’s body and mind, and he needs a respite. When Linden meets an alluring young bed slave named Alasdaire, his weary heart responds. Alasdaire is an exotic mix of southern royal Totandian elf and human, and, although he’s also suffered hardship most of his life, his loving personality captivates the Prince.
Despite their differences, Alasdaire, canes—and Linden, scales—unite in body and soul, but their romance is nearly shattered by betrayal. When Linden becomes King, magical assassins, treachery, and threats plague them. They narrowly escape death more than once. The lovers must discover who wants them dead and more importantly, where they can turn for aid. Neither enemies nor allies are what they seem. Only time will tell who means to harm Linden and Alasdaire—the elves, the imprisoned Edward, or something even deadlier—and time is one thing they don’t have.
No matter where I traveled, I made sure a royal battle dirigible was within an hour’s horseback ride. We would reach Fort Narmin in under a half hour. As much as I appreciated modern advances, when I needed to make haste, a trusty steed came in handy. I used an old-fashioned method to reach the modern battle dirigible.
My era offered many contradictions.
My party climbed to the tether. Once inside, I staggered against a wall.
Jenkins gripped my arm. “My Prince, rest while we depart. I will wake you within the hour.”
I did not argue. My body needed more rest. After the ride I should feel alert, not exhausted. Strange emotional stress worked on me. “Yes, Jenkins, take me to the cabin.”
Had Alasdaire’s stress compromised me? No. I refused to accept such nonsense.
No matter. I relaxed and slept until Jenkins awakened me. I walked to the command gondola and settled in. I studied the last reported comm news about the terrorist attack. The more I read, the more confusion set in. Something felt wrong, aside from my being out of uniform. I equated airship travel with war and without my uniform, I almost felt naked.
We passed over the capital city. Seeing where I usually lived sprawling beneath us in illuminated majesty heightened my worry. From above, Rahalda’s low sprawl looked hellish. Smoke plumes and fog from the new steam power plants fouled the night. The engineers needed to work faster to create efficient filters to stop the unhealthy haze.
Boats moved along the mighty Arn River from north to south. Clusters of lights twinkled up, separating the rich from the poor. Sad how even this high up I could see the difference between the city’s districts. The thick output from the steam plants cast a fog over the poorer edges.
The Serpent Palace appeared as a long jeweled line, bright and glittering just beyond the city. Here the Arn split into the East and the West. A man-made canal created an island for the palace.
I wished I could drop a sharp rock onto my brother Eddie’s head.
Damn, I was tired.
Beyond the city, the vast fertile plains stretched north. The lights became sparser until darkness reclaimed the realm below us. Far below, the West Arn and East Arn caught the moonglow.
I read new comm reports. My distress twisted my thoughts into knots. The mighty Cerdain Range started appearing below us. Clouds heavy with snow built in the sky, obscuring the moon’s glow. Autumn had barely started, yet already it had snowed here. Had I enjoyed summer’s last grace alongside my elf?
Exhaustion turned comprehending simple logic into a puzzle. What details eluded me? I felt too fatigued to fathom the comm reports. My lack of sleep made my mind feel sluggish. Despite my stress, I smiled. After all, I, not Alasdaire, had suggested trying sexual positions described in bawdy Artian manual he discovered in Keith’s library. I think I shocked him a bit.
My eyelids fluttered shut. My inner eye still saw my Alasdaire panting above me.
I still smelled him on my skin.
Come on, what did I miss here? I chewed more licorice chunks, hoping the spicy flavor would wake me up a little. Four cups of strong tea had stimulated my bladder more than necessary.
Behind me, Captain Ayers gasped. I turned toward him.
“Prince, there’s an airship closing in fast from the north.” A slight tremor infected his commanding voice.
His words startled me. I shook my head. “What? That’s impossible.”
Ayers looked up from the ping comm sensors. Seeing the usually stoic Ayers’s agitation told me the danger. “Prince, please, the ping sensors do not lie. They bounce off another ship. The ship runs high and fast, displaying no lights. Tealer?”
Sergeant Tealer turned from his ship-to-ship comm. “The vessel ignores my comm hail, Captain.” His voice sounded concerned.
His reply cut through my befuddlement. My Serpent instincts kicked in entirely too late. I bellowed with frantic command. “Dive now! Dive or we die!”
A sizzling glow arced toward our dirigible. Traitors!
Captain Ayers bore down hard on his controls as if he could force the lumbering ship to move through sheer willpower. Our dirigible swung down with agonizing slowness. Luckily the sulfur bomb missed the hull by mere feet. My next order felt foul but necessary. “Abandon ship! We’re under attack by our own countrymen. Abandon ship!”
After all these years, the royal struggle had reached this sick end. I felt no surprise. Far below I sensed evil Edward’s demented satisfaction.
Damn my trust for letting him live.
- I wished I had dropped that sharp rock.
My guards scrambled toward the escape gliders positioned outside the gondola. Jenkins roughly shoved me into the back seat before he thrust himself into the pilot position. I secured goggles and the thickly padded helmet onto my head.
Damaging thoughts swirled through my mind. Cowardly Edward had finally moved to defeat me. He knew how much I detested dirigible travel. How cunning of him to bait me using a so-called terrorist disaster. Cunning indeed. My brother had forced me into a trapped airborne position primed for simple attack. My useless rage felt justified.
Jenkins shouted. “Away, Prince!”
“Go!” The escape glider detached and lunged for freedom. Above us, the next sulfur bomb scored a direct strike on the helpless dirigible. A gas-fueled inferno shot into the night air, the mass shimmering like a newborn star. How beautiful, yet how deadly. The combination of free fall and fear almost made me vomit.
We raced landward. Terrible fiery rain fell around us, hot and hungry. Flaming debris slammed into our small craft, pushing it on a whim. Red, orange, and yellow flames billowed against the darkness. The sky looked like the underworld’s blistering depths had broken free to conquer the world.
Cold air battered my exposed skin. Our small glider sped down too fast. I shouted above the sizzling turmoil swirling around us. “Jenkins, damn, slow down! Use the brake.”
“Prince, the brake is compromised.” Despite the mayhem, Jenkins sounded calm as a spring sunrise. I admired his spirit. “I fear it has been sabotaged. I’ll try my best to find a safe landing spot.”
How droll. They had damaged the brake, eh? Classic. Someone truly wanted me dead. Tonight I felt decidedly unpopular.
Each of my bodyguards understood the glider controls better than they understood how to breathe. I placed my faith in Jenkins’s ability. What else could I do? I huddled, helpless as a baby, and watched as red hell continued to replace the white heavens. The flames consumed the clouds. Ah, there, escape parachutes told me the remaining crew floated to…. No! No!
I gasped. Bright flame missiles ignited the parachutes. The traitors compounded their infamy.
My rampaging thoughts shut down until my hatred focused on one man who, sadly, shared my blood. Ah, Edward, who else helped you form this ugly plan? Sabotaging the brake in the forward royal escape glider told me someone in the military had been corrupted into supporting Edward. Killing the survivors—damn, how revolting!—underlined my suspicious. Edward had worked with a few decadent nobles who decided I needed to die in an accident. They had made their final move.
They had slaughtered me.
Fury and frosty air hammered me. Unfortunately, my fury didn’t warm my abused skin. If I survived this assassination attempt, I would bring down my brother. No question. If I discovered who piloted that airship, the traitor would spend long years praying for death for his cruelty toward my loyal men.
We sped downward, fast, fast, all too fast. The escape glider shuddered and bucked like a deranged horse. Clever Jenkins rode the winds, trying to halt our downward spiral by soaring up into the snow-specked clouds. We rocked up and down through the frosty air. Our small craft shimmied as though chained to a serpent’s writhing tail. Nausea set in. Yes, brilliant again to attack our dirigible in the high Cerdain Mountains. Few villages dotted these barren peaks. An attack here guaranteed little hope of rescue. Any medical assistance would be primitive.
I prepared to die. Before this, I had faced death on the battlefield. This situation seemed hopeless.
My thoughts focused on my poor Alasdaire. Sweet elf. My death doomed him to lifelong slavery. Indeed, my murder probably secured his death. His slavery would not last much longer. He had tasted freedom’s promise. I realized he would find a more lethal freedom preferable to eternal slavery. I imagined him taking the fatal steps past our bench, willingly passing the old pine that marked where the Catch would kill him.
My cheeks felt frozen. As we spun toward death, I tried to lose myself in a fantasy of my elf’s fierce love. I imagined his gentle fingers brushing my cheeks. In my fantasy, he pressed his warm lips to mine. Running my fingers through his black hair offered me solace from the cold misery pounding us.
The glider lurched down, spinning in a sick wobble.
“Prince, we’re soaring down too fast.” Frustration finally tainted Jenkins’s voice. “I lost the last updraft. I’m sorry, my Prince. By the Powers, forgive me for failing you in—wait!” His shout startled me from adoring Alasdaire. “Wait, Powers on High, I see a farm ahead. Yes, damn, there’s a field of damned tall haystacks down there. Yes! Linden, pray to the Powers and hold on.”
“Jenkins, I trust you above all.” I only half believed in the Powers concept, but I prayed as requested. The glider shuddered and shook before we suffered the hard impact. The escape pod burst. My body soared out and upward—how odd to travel up when we just hit hay—until I slammed onto the ground on my left side. At least the helmet protected my head from injury but I felt my limbs snap.
In the aftermath, hay fluttered down like flat golden snow, falling to coat my face in a choking bulk. I drifted away on a black tide.
Thanks for reading! Thanks to Coffee Time Romance for letting me share with you.
Oh: one last thing… if you’re in the mood, I’d appreciate support for Canes and Scale’s cover! It’s in the running at The Rainbow Awards on page 4, down at position 441.