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Mermaids in New Orleans Opening Excerpt

19 Jun
I wrote the first chapter from a New Orleans perspective. I leave the world building for later on (I received feedback that there was too much too soon in the London version). In this version, they have not yet discovered the existence of mermaids.

New Orleans, 1860
Chapter 1
As soon as Heloise entered the drawing room, all went quiet; the family rarely conversed in her presence and when they did, it concerned trivial matters or polite enquiries. But this time, they had asked for her especially and Heloise wondered why. She stole a quick glance at Mrs. Wilder but her expression was as impenetrable as always.

“You rang, madam?” Heloise said in a soft French accent.
Marianne Wilder, a sallow, thin person of forty, inclined her head. “As you might know, we are hosting a soiree tonight.”

Heloise bit her lower lip. She certainly did; she’d spent many hours polishing the silverwork and dusting the carpets for the occasion.

“Mr. Lark has made a historical discovery and means to introduce it to the world from our home. This is a great honor for us and it is of the utmost importance that he leaves this house with a favourable impression. Is that understood?” Mrs. Wilder demanded.

Heloise whispered in the affirmative, her dark lashes fluttering at the prospect.
Mrs. Wilder scrutinized the girl’s face; her sun-kissed complexion, brown eyes and the black curls that slipped from her colourful turban. Heloise took a deep breath, her hands clasped in comfort and Marianne caught a glimpse of her bosom in the tight, cream dress.

“We must find you something else to wear. This would be highly inappropriate.”

Mrs. Wilder eyed her daughter, Sophie – a plain girl of eighteen with a wide jaw and a predilection to pink garments with an abundance of ribbons; Sophie did not listen to the conversation but engaged in needlework. Mr. Wilder, by contrast, read the newspaper.

Marianne sighed. “For tonight, you can wear Catherine’s uniform.”

And, with a glance of disapprobation at the turban, she added: “And you will wear a servant’s cap. That is all. Leave us.”

That did not leave much room for discussion. Heloise wanted to speak out and beg the lady to leave her heritage untouched. But that would not aid her suit. I could be dismissed and then where will I go? Back to the plantation? To the French Quarter like my sister? Never! I would rather beg on the streets than sell my body to strangers.

Heloise nodded, curtsied and left the room. Once the door closed behind her, she balled her fists and muttered under her breath. As the only Creole slave girl in the house, no one would understand or judge. It brought her solitude as well as loneliness. When Heloise returned to the kitchen, Sarah rushed to her side to learn what had been discussed.

“So, what did the family want from you?” she asked.

Sarah could rarely contain her curiosity and sought excitement above all else. They had become fast friends since Heloise joined the household a month ago; however, they had little in common besides their profession and interest in literature.

“They want me to wear Catherine’s uniform. They deem my own dress ‘inappropriate’. I can’t wear my turban either.”

Sarah chuckled; her green eyes sparkled when she laughed. “They want that Mr. Lark to marry Sophie. I heard the missus say so myself. They probably think that your attire would draw too much attention – although they still want you to be there to show Mr. Lark how generous and open-minded they are.”

Heloise washed some dishes. “Why? What sort of man is Mr. Lark?”

“He’s a politician – rumored to be the next governor or something. His party believes in equality – even for slaves.”

Although Heloise had no interest in politics, she hoped he would prevail so her kind could soon live life as they saw fit. If she were a free woman, she would seek employment aboard one of those passenger airships. Travel had always eluded her but she found it of great interest. She wished to go to Europe; to visit Paris, the birthplace of her ancestors.

“Would you like to try on the uniform?” Sarah teased and elbowed her.

The uniform fitted her rather well; the two ladies were similar in size and build but as Heloise peeked into the mirror, she scarcely recognized the person staring back at her. She looked almost American, though rather tanned for a Southern belle. A well-travelled woman or an Italian immigrant perhaps.

The rest of the day was spent preparing the house for the rich and powerful of New Orleans. For Heloise, it would be her first social event. She knew little of etiquette and refinement but she often watched Sophie as she descended the staircase looking very grand and fine. Heloise stood in front of the mirror and emulated a few gestures she had observed. Her hands moved with grace and for a moment, she felt like a débutante.

“The first guests will soon be here. We’re expected downstairs,” Sarah warned her and off they went. 

The servants gathered at the front door, ready to take a coat or hat. When the doorbell rang, Heloise swallowed but it was simply an old lady. Many guests flocked to the house and Heloise began to feel secure.

“Mr. Lark!” Mrs. Wilder exclaimed and a tall, blonde gentleman approached her. His bow was deep and respectful; he straightened his back and gestured at the door.

“I have brought a friend – a man of great importance to what I am about to impart tonight,” he said and a man entered.

“Mrs. Wilder, allow me to introduce you to the most feared bounty hunter in the New World, Captain Gabriel Faulkner of Neptune Sorrow, the greatest ship in the Seven Skies.”
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Steampunk novel opening excerpt

12 Jun
London, 1888
Chapter 1
Usually, the only enjoyable aspect of the Season was the underground boxing matches. Men were never as agreeable as when they were bloody, sweaty and out of breath. But there was no boxing tonight. Instead, they had been invited to a ball. Everyone who was anyone was present. Unfortunately, every nobody in the radius of 50 miles had bribed a way in as well.  Many miscreants weaseled about the room, begging for a dancing partner. Siobhan MacKenzie beheld the spectacle from the safety of a secluded corner. A light tap on the shoulder made her turn. Her dearest friend and accomplice, Cecilia Stayn. They exchanged a curtsy and a knowing smile.

 “I just arrived. Please tell me I did not miss the compulsory debutante blunder,” Miss Stayn said.

Cecilia had an everlasting smile. Golden locks escaped her fashionable hat and she wore an exquisite red gown with plunging neckline. Siobhan often envied the looks of her friend, especially her fair complexion and light figure. In contrast, Siobhan was rather freckled and curvaceous – though many suitors admired her for it. Sadly, her lack of fortune had prevented them from showing a serious interest. The world could be a mercenary place and in the industrious London, the marriage market mostly consisted of snobs and factory workers. Siobhan was a respectable woman and her father was a devout clergyman. As such, she visited the poor for charitable purposes and had her reputation to think of. Now, as a 25-year old singleton, she was considered a spinster, though she had not lost her bloom; her fiery hair attracted attention wherever she went, though some Englishmen treated her unkindly due to her Irish ancestry. But, having been born and bred in Yorkshire, there were no traces of an Irish accent. She had been brought up a true English lady. Her governess had seen to that. She remembered the many hours of punishment she’d endured at the hands of that woman.

“I am very curious about this scientist we were promised to meet. If it weren’t for him, I would have stayed at home.”

“Gregory Striker? The inventor of the dirigible?” Cecilia asked.

“Yes, indeed. The most brilliant scientist of our time. Allegedly, he will show us his latest discovery. Can you imagine? An exclusive.” 

Siobhan glanced at the door. Sadly, it did not open. She rather hoped for an introduction; perhaps his genius would rub off on her. Siobhan’s genius was in designing her own wardrobe. Most dresses she wore were of her own making and she amused herself by adding brass trinkets to her hats, gloves and belts. She also favoured feathers, beads and unusual colour combinations. Her style was far more conspicuous than her friend’s.

“I wonder what sort of discovery it will be. Everyone expects such great things from him it’s bound to be disappointing,” Cecilia remarked.

But Siobhan had faith in his abilities. Secretly, she hoped it would aid their personal pursuits. A few months ago, a mermaid washed ashore and caused quite a stir. Politicians struggled to decide the best cause of action. Should she be treated as a human or as a fish? Being both, they sent her to the zoo – to be seen by all the world and make them rich. A tradesman invaded the chamber and brutally shot the mermaid; he later claimed that selling mermaid tails would be a lucrative business. The man was executed but that was not the end of it. Local fishermen started hunting for other mermaids. Siobhan and many others feared for the their safety and sympathized with her plight.

As such, they formed the Alliance for Protection of Mythical Creatures and campaigned for equal rights. But the government did not act and snatchers captured dozens of creatures. Their tails were said to be worth thousands a piece. With the black market overrun by their criminal activity, the Alliance started fighting back. The hunters had now become the hunted. Siobhan, Cecilia and her fellow-hunters were committed to their training. They had a club house underground for shooting practice, fencing spars and meetings. Siobhan her favoured weapon was a brass whip that slithered around its target like a snake. Her father did not know she was a Protector. Nor that she wore trousers, suspenders and boots. She did not feel the need to justify her actions to him. Men went boxing. She went hunting. Few encounters with snatchers had a violent conclusion. Protectors always brought their pistols and snatchers were but impoverished fishermen; most could be dissuaded from their present course with a beer.

Still, some were more reluctant to surrender their cargo. Protectors were fast, strong and well-equipped. Vanity caused the occasional hunter to retaliate against them; but without any weapons or wits about them, fights were brief and easily won. Siobhan was still caught in reverie when the doors swung open and a gentleman tall, dark and frowning entered the room. There was no mistaking his authority; he walked with confidence and a sort of intellectual greatness. His dress fashionable and sophisticated, he exuded strength. This was no man to be trifled with. A woman’s lapdog winced and crawled underneath the pillow.

“He does not look like a scientist. Who is he?” Siobhan whispered to her friend.

The stranger found himself the centre of attention but moved through the crowd with the grace of a panther, his dark eyes lively and calculating.

The host, a chubby fellow whose name Siobhan never remembered, hastened to his side to bid him welcome.

“How glad I am you are here, Prof. Striker. We’ve been expecting you.”

The stranger raised an eyebrow.

“I’m not Mr. Striker. Sorry to disappoint you.”

Book Research and Facebook Author Page

10 Jun

Alrighty!

I’m busy with research for my book. I will soon share a short excerpt so you can all get a taste of what is to come. At this point, I’m still exploring all the possibilities of my steampunk adventure so if you have any suggestions, leave me a comment and I’ll take it into consideration.

There are some Victorian books I’d like to read (about Victorian asylums, hospitals, cemeteries, homes, etc) for inspiration and ideas. I love history and my book will be a mixture of history, humour and plenty of steam and spunk. 😉

Apart from airships, what is your favourite steampunk element? What absolutely NEEDS to be included?

In the meantime, I’ve started looking up agents interested in the genre so I can start sending out queries sometime soon (read: when I have written more than 1 page). This weekend will be dedicated to fleshing out the plot, potential characters and hopefully finishing chapter 1.

I will also try to keep my Facebook Author Page up-to-date. I just created it and it can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Renate-Linnenkoper/125803740834565

All ‘Likes’ would be greatly appreciated.

A new start

9 Jun

It was going well. I had 18 sales, a 3-star rating on Goodreads but something was missing. At first, I didn’t know what it was. Somehow, I wasn’t completely happy with the book.

But the literary consultancy helped me figure it out. They assessed my manuscript and had many useful comments and suggestions. One of the suggestions was that I change the time period. They observed that I have an old-fashioned writing style (from reading all those classics) and some aspects of my story had a period vibe. Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of contemporary literature and that showed in my writing.

Well, I gave it some thought and initially considered changing it to the 50’s. They mentioned the 70’s but I have no connection with that decade – too much orange and green for me to cope with. But the 50’s prevented me from using the technology that had become an important part of the sequel (which, I had started writing in my mind).

Then I remembered how I had actually wanted the story to be Victorian. That’s when it struck me. Steampunk! I should set the book in the Victorian age as I had always wanted to and add steampunk elements for technology. This way, I could still write a paranormal fantasy and it would fit perfectly. I could be myself, write period.

I also ended up agreeing with the editor about another comment: there were too many characters. So I started over with the plot outline and eliminated the characters that weren’t crucial to the plot. I gave my main character her mother back (in Exogenesis, her parents were divorced) and reduced the love interests from two to one. Much better. I scrapped a few nosy neighbours and resolved to remove the early focus on the police investigation and instead, work on building a credible relationship with the love interest.

I’m really getting somewhere now and my best friend and illustrator already supplied me with a fabulous drawing of Siobhan in steampunk attire. I kept the opening of the story and picked up after the first paragraph. So far, I’m pleased. I love history and as a retired re-enactor I feel knowledgeable enough to paint an accurate picture of the time. That being said, I fully intend to do the necessary research. Amazon has some excellent Victorian books I will explore.

>New Year’s Literary Resolutions

1 Jan

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Happy New Year!

May 2011 become a year of success, great happiness and wisdom. I hope my fellow-writers will achieve their literary goals and get the recognition they deserve. As for me, I only have a few New Year’s Resolutions and they’re fairly modest and realistic.

-drumroll-


My goals for the upcoming year are as follows:

  • To continue improving my craft through constant exercise
  • To get a short story published in an anthology
  • To enter writing competitions to get my work out there
  • To finish the first draft of my manuscript 
  • To undertake further training in a creative writing course

Definitely doable, right?

I have already made my payment for the Brit Writers’ Awards so I am putting the finishing touches on my requirements for resolution #3. A good beginning of the new year! I have added a few new links to my writing directory so I can soon move on to #2 and #5. Wish me luck! With all the talent we have out there, I’m going to need it.