The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 7 Excerpt

Voyage of the Minotaur (New Cover)Iolanthe looked at her brother and narrowed her aquamarine eyes as she thought about the events of the previous morning. She had stepped into Augie’s apartment on an errand to discuss the supplies to be purchased upon arrival at Enclep, and found him lying naked on his bed. The room had reeked of alcohol. Iolanthe had grabbed the closest thing she could find, which were a pair of Augie’s trousers and beat him about the head and shoulders with them until he fought back.

“Kafira’s cross, Iolanthe!” He had shouted. “What? What do you want?”

“Go get cleaned up and dressed, Augie. I need to talk to you.”

Augie had jumped up and grabbed a pile of clothes, and as Iolanthe still whipped him with his own pair of pants, he had dashed out the hatch and down the hall to the water closet, which on the ship was called ‘the head’. While she had waited for his return, Iolanthe had looked around the tiny room in disgust at the mess. There had been clothes strewn everywhere and open and empty bottles of whiskey on every horizontal surface. Then she had noticed something in the corner. It was a pair of women’s bloomers, and peeking out from under them was something strange.

Iolanthe had bent down and picked up the bloomers, holding them at arm’s length, then retrieved the item of clothing beneath them, and examined it carefully. It was a man’s shirt, and on its front were two handprints, in what appeared to be blood. It was as if a man, his hands drenched, had wiped them on his front. Cognizant of the fact that a murder had been committed the night before, and mindful that Augie had been present at the site of a previous murder in the great city, she had quickly decided that this was a piece of evidence that could not be allowed to be found here. She had rolled up the shirt inside of the bloomers and then exited Augie’s cabin and walked through the hallway to the hatch on deck. Once there, she had quickly determined that she was alone on deck, and then had tossed both items of clothing over the side, watching them until they landed lightly upon the water and then trailed away into the distance. She didn’t believe that Augie could be guilty of murder, so any time spent investigating him would have been a waste, but murderer or not, it was in bad taste to bring it up at dinner.

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 5 Excerpt

Voyage of the Minotaur (New Cover)Senta turned around to look at a strangely dressed woman standing in the shadow of the building. The woman wore knee-high black leather boots and black leather pants. She had a red and black corset, cut low enough to expose a large star tattooed atop each bosom. Her arms and shoulders were bare, though she wore a spiked collar. Her short blond hair was formed into spikes, pointing in every direction, and made her look frightening—an effect enhanced by her black-lined eyes and deep red lips. The most remarkable thing about the woman though was the ring of sparkly, brightly colored, gem-like objects which floated around her head, making a circle about three feet in diameter, like a large rainbow-hued halo.

“What’s so special about that house?” the woman repeated. Her husky voice reminded Senta of Geert. She wondered if he, now living with that unknown distant relation, still went to the King’s warehouse for apples.

“I just like to watch it,” said Senta. “I like to watch the people there.”

“Mm-hmm. Me too.”

“Are those real diamonds?” asked Senta.

“Are what real diamonds?”

“Are those things floating around your head real diamonds?”

“There’s nothing floating around my head.”

“Uh-huh. I can see them.”

“What do you see?”

“I see those sparkly things. They’re like diamonds. There are red ones and blue ones and green ones and clear ones. And there’s one purple one.”

“My, my, my…little girl. You are an interesting one.”

“My name is Senta Bly.”

“Yes, I know. And you live with your Granny.”

“Granny’s dead.”

“Oh? I see,” said the woman. “So who do you live with now?”

“I live with the neighbor… Mrs. Gantonin.”

“None of the rest of your family took you in? And you’re still looking at the glamours.”

“What are they?”

“You’ve seen magic spells used before, haven’t you? Hedge wizards showing off in the park?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I am a sorceress. I can cast magic spells—spells more powerful than you can possibly imagine. I can also cast spells that will wait until I need them to take effect. That’s what you’re seeing—my spells which are waiting for me to activate them. Except you’re not supposed to see them. No one else does.”

“They’re pretty.”

The sorceress stepped forward and knelt down in front of Senta. She stuck out a finger and poked Senta on the nose.

“You’re pretty, too. Are you afraid of me? No… you’re not. You should be, but you’re not.”

“I’m not afraid of too much,” said Senta.

“That’s very good. That’s very good indeed. Because, you see, my little Senta, you are going to come and live with me. And if you are very good and do everything that I tell you, I am going to teach you things. Ponderous things.”

“I don’t know what that means,” said Senta.

“I know you don’t. My name is Zurfina the Magnificent.”

Zurfina stood up and took Senta by the hand and led her down the sidewalk, away from the palace where the woman who had once worn the white pin-striped dress lived. By the time she had taken her fourth step, Senta no longer wondered at the strange turn of events which had overtaken her. By the time she had taken her tenth step, she no longer thought of pulling her hand from the grip of the blond sorceress and running away. By the time she had taken her sixteenth step, it seemed to Senta as if she was exactly where she was supposed to be, walking down the street at the side of her mistress.

“Come along, Pet.”

Zurfina led Senta on a long walk through the city, finally turning south on Prince Tybalt Boulevard and passing Hexagon park. Throughout their trek, none of the many people on the street seemed to notice the strangely dressed woman leading a small child along by the hand. No one turned a head at all. Just past the park, they turned west on Prince Clitus Avenue and came to a small storefront. There was a sign above the door, but Senta couldn’t read it. It seemed to be written in a strange language. Zurfina opened the door and led her inside.

The shop contained counters and shelves filled with goods, though Senta couldn’t make out what they were. Several shopkeepers scurried about to help the half dozen customers making purchases. But something was very strange. The customers, the shopkeepers, the counters, and the shelves were all translucent, as if they were made of the same stuff as rainbows, gathered together and transformed into the semblance of people and things one would find in a city shop.

“What do you see?” asked Zurfina.

“I see ghosts.”

“They aren’t ghosts. They’re illusions. To everyone else, they seem real enough. To the people on the street, this shop is just one more emporium of useless mundania. No one ever questions it, and no one ever comes in.”

Zurfina, still holding Senta by the hand, walked through the shop, and through a doorway in the back, to a staircase leading upwards. At the top of the stairs was a landing and a door, but the sorceress continued up a second flight of stairs to the third floor, where the stairs ended in a blank wall. The sorceress waved her hand and a door appeared. She opened the door and led the girl in to a large and dark room, filled with all manner of strange things. More of the translucent people were moving about. Here they were packing away items in large black steamer trunks and stacking trunks into great piles. Unlike downstairs in the shop however, the steamer trunks and the items being placed within them were not, like the people, partially transparent. The items being packed and moved here were real, opaque, and completely solid.

The first thing that caught Senta’s eye in the room was the dragon. It was almost an exact replica of the dragon that sat in front of Café Carlo—about three feet long, with a wingspan of about four feet, sitting on a stone plinth. Instead of a burnished brass color, though, this dragon looked as though it were cast from steel. The effect was that this dragon looked far less lifelike than the brass one at the café. It looked far less lifelike until it moved. First it blinked its eyes, then it yawned, then it folded its wings and curled its neck up, exposing the underside of its chin. Zurfina rubbed the bottom of its long neck with her fingers, but when she pulled her hand away, it snapped at her with a mouth full of needle sharp teeth.

“Cheeky twonk!” said the sorceress.

The Voyage of the Minotaur – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Voyage of the Minotaur (New Cover)Outside the double doors of the church, Iolanthe paused to let her eyes adjust to the brightness, hyperventilated once more, then made her way quickly down the steps, around the corner, and back to her carriage. She noted that the steam coming from the release was much less than it had been, and with a sigh, opened the coal bin and retrieved the small shovel which was lying upon the small supply of extra coal. Using the shovel to lift the firebox latch, so that she wouldn’t burn her gloves, she shoveled a dozen scoops of coal from the bin to the flame. She then used the shovel to close the firebox door, tossed the shovel back into the coal bin, and closed the coal bin door. She flipped the steam cock to the engaged position and climbed aboard the carriage. Looking at her blackened gloves with disgust, she peeled them off and tossed them unceremoniously under the carriage seat. Then opening the glove compartment, she pulled out replacements from among several pairs of gloves, a small stack of handkerchiefs and two loose shotgun shells.

Iolanthe released the brake and pressed down with her foot on the forward accelerator. The carriage slowly rolled forward. The steam built up, and soon the vehicle had returned to its former vigor. Iolanthe tried to drive around the block of the Great Church of the Holy Savior, and get back onto the main road to return to the Old City, but the roads in this area did not seem to follow the normal grid pattern. And there seemed to be nowhere to turn around. After half an hour of trying to negotiate the unfathomable maze, she found herself at a dead end. She pulled the brake lever and sat trying to figure out at which turn she should have made a left, and how to get back to that point.

Suddenly a figure approached the left side of her carriage. It was a dirty man, wearing dirty clothes, with a dirty bald head, and a big dirty nose. He stepped in close to her and ran his eyes down the length of her form. Another, similarly dressed man stepped up behind him.

“Well, this is nice, ain’t it?” said the second man. “We can have us a little fun.”

“Yeah, fun” said the first man, pulling a long, thin knife from his belt.

“Careful though,” said the second man. “She might have a little pistol in her handbag.”

“Does you have a little pistol in your handbag, Dearie?” the first man asked. He casually waved the knife in his right hand, as he pawed at her ankle with his left. Then he stopped when he heard the sound of two hammers being cocked, and looked up into the twin twelve gauge barrels.

“I don’t carry a handbag,” said Iolanthe, pulling the shotgun to her shoulder. She pulled the first trigger, disintegrating the head of the first man, and sending a fountain of viscous remains over everything within twenty feet. The second man had no time to react before the second barrel was fired at him. He was far enough away however, that though he was killed, people who had known him would still be able to identify his body.

Iolanthe pushed the lever opening the shotgun’s breach with her thumb and tilted the weapon so that the two used shells dropped out onto the carriage floor. She opened the glove compartment and pulled out the two replacement shells, stuffed them into the shotgun, and snapped the breach closed. She then returned the still smoking weapon to its place behind the seat. Reaching back into the glove compartment, she pulled out one of the handkerchiefs and wiped some of the blood and jellied brains from her face.

Looking down at herself in disgust, she said. “I’ll never be able to wear this dress again.”

Tesla’s Stepdaughters – Ruth De Molay

Ruth De MolayRuth is one of the four musician characters in Tesla’s Stepdaughters. What was her inspiration?

In as far as the Ladybugs is an alternate world analogy of the Beatles…
Ruth is Ringo. She’s the drummer. She’s written one really famous song, although she sings some written by her bandmates. Everyone thinks she’s nice.

Ruth is a native of the Virgin Islands.

Read about her and the other Ladybugs in Tesla’s Stepdaughters.

Coming Soon: The Price of Magic

Book 7 of Senta and the Steel Dragon is on the way (this is actually the eighth book, since there is a book 0).  I’ve been working on the draft for the last 48 days and am halfway through.  If all goes well, it should be ready by September 1st, if not earlier.  And here is the cover.  For those of you who’ve read the series, this should be a pretty big reveal!

The Price of Magic