Tesla’s Stepdaughters – Chapter 3 Excerpt

Tesla's StepdaughtersAll four of the ladybugs were pleased to get out of New York early. The stress of being locked up in their hotel under guard and the threat against their lives hung over them like a cloud. Having the chance to spend two full days in Chicago before the concert, instead of only one was just as welcome. Rather than chartering another dirigible, the band was given the use of an official government airship.

“I didn’t know a Science Police agent could summon a dirigible at her whim,” commented Ep!phanee to Agent Andrews.

“We can’t, but the Science Council can. There are quite a few Ladybugs fans among them, I’m sure, and I doubt that they want any of you to hitchhike to Chicago.”

Every school girl knew that the Science Council ran the world. They had since the great Science War, which began in 1956. At that time the last remaining totalitarian rulers had tried to expand across Europe and Asia. A coalition of nations picked themselves up from the depths of the Great Depression and fought back. When the war was won, a new world government had been created. Science Council members were chosen for their knowledge and wisdom and acted for the good of humanity.

Once the airship S.V. Rosalie Morton had left LaGuardia, the two agents continued their investigation. Agent Wright spoke to each of the crewmembers and support staff of the band and Andrews interviewed the two remaining musicians. The first was Penny Dreadful. They met in Andrew’s cabin and sat at the small desk beside a large window as the clouds passed by outside. She was a large woman though not fat. If she had been a building, she would have been called structurally sound. And a skyscraper. She was about five foot eleven. She weighed around one hundred fifty pounds, a good thirty pounds heavier than she was on the old album covers, on which she had seemed extraordinarily skinny. The white corset, not quite reaching down to her waist left plenty of cleavage, and she wore long white gloves decorated with tiny pink bows. Her white layered net tutu skirt left fourteen inches of bare, white thighs above her knees, which were covered by white lace stockings. She wore white combat boots. Her huge mane of red hair was still styled in the dreadlocks she had worn on stage, and she had two huge hoop earrings and a smaller hoop in the middle of her lower lip.

“Thanks for seeing me,” he said.

“You’re kidding, right? Before yesterday I’d never seen a man in real life before. This is really a treat for me… you know, besides somebody trying to kill me and all.”

“So you think you are the target?”

She shrugged. “Steffie’s probably right. A lot of people were pissed off when Carpetmuncher hit the air. That’s the name of the song, um… no offense.”

“I think it’s a great song,” he said.

“You’ve heard it?”

“I bought the album the day it came out.”

“Really?”

“Oh yeah. I’m a huge Ladybugs fan, and that includes your solo albums. I remember watching you on the Dorothy Kilgallen Show, and I had to present my PhD thesis the next day. So you see; it’s at even bigger treat for me to be assigned here with you.” He watched her for a moment, and then asked. “I’ve been north for two years now, but I still don’t really understand the anti-homosexual attitude. There are plenty of women running around dressed as men, my partner for instance, with her little fake mustache. It all seems pretty open.”

“Not really. We’re still very parochial. Even though men have been gone from most of society for years, there is the tradition around the world of women not going out unescorted. So women like Agent Wright and Alexa Rothman, faux-men, are tolerated and even encouraged. With no men to escort women, someone just had to take their place. Sex in some ways is really just an extension of that, but nobody talks about it. Women pretend that faux-men are men and for the most part, treat them that way. Women who openly have sexual relationships with other women, or at least with other women who look like women, are ostracized.”

“That’s the other thing that surprises me,” said Andrews. “How women look. Without many men around, I expected to see relatively few women putting on makeup, but you all do… except those pretending to be men.”

“I imagine that most men and women were surprised to find out how little women dressed up for men and how much they dressed up for each other. It’s all about outdoing each other. That includes painting our faces, and wearing jewelry.”

“Yes, I knew women pierced their ears, but I wasn’t expecting everything else.”

“Maybe sometime I’ll show you all my jewelry.”

This seemed as though it was meant to be suggestive, but Andrews couldn’t find anything particularly arousing in looking through a jewelry box.

“Besides those who are upset over homosexual content in the music, can you think of anyone else who might have something against you?”

She stared back, smiled, and then rolled up the bottom of the white corset to reveal her smooth featureless stomach.

“You mean because I have no belly button—because I’m a vat baby?”

“That’s one possibility.”

“That’s hardly my fault. They should blame Anton Dilger, not me… Are you all right?”

Andrews had turned white and his eyes widened.

“Are you all right? Do you need the doctor?”

“No.” He took a deep breath. “No, I’m all right. It’s just that… in the enclaves… we don’t ever say that name. Not ever. It’s worse than any profanity or blasphemy. It’s just not tolerated.”

Penny nodded, tugging on the ring through her lower lip.

Sixty years before, during what was still known as the Great War, German-American scientist Anton Casimir Dilger had come up with a plan to keep America from joining the allies. Not content to poison American cattle with Anthrax, he had created a strain of an existing disease, some said influenza, though no one had ever identified the original. With it he had infected several cities along the east coast. Though initially killing almost sixty million men, women, and children, the disease mutated over time to affect only the males of the species. There had been more than 850 million men on earth before he began his sabotage. By 1930, there were less than 200 million, and by 1950 there were less than 10 million. Governments had sent their remaining men to enclaves in the far southern reaches of the globe where the disease didn’t seem as virulent, and there most of them remained. In the last years of his life, the great inventor Nikola Tesla, in an attempt to save the species, had designed and built the baby vats, where girls were grown from their mothers’ cells. The first vat babies had been born just after Tesla’s death in 1943. Penny was born in 1945.

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 are 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.

Tesla’s Stepdaughters – Steffie Sin

Steffie SinSteffie Sin is one of the four musician characters in Tesla’s Stepdaughters. What was her inspiration?

In as far as The Ladybugs are an alternate world analogy of the Beatles…
Steffie is a mixture of Harrison and McCartney. Like Harrison, she has her songs pushed aside on albums because of the prolific songwriting of Piffy and Penny.  Like McCartney, she can play just about any instrument.  She spends her off time in seclusion.

She has a little boy.

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

Tesla’s Stepdaughters – Penny Dreadful

Penny DreadfulPenny Dreadful is one of the four musician characters in Tesla’s Stepdaughters. What was her inspiration?

In as far as The Ladybugs are an alternate world analogy of the Beatles…
Penny is a mixture of Lennon and McCartney, with a bit of Harrison. She’s a hard rocker and a large woman, a bit like Ann Wilson of Heart.

She’s the greatest guitar player of all time, and oh yeah, she’s a clone.

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

Tesla’s Stepdaughters – Ep!phanee

Ep!phanee (Piffy)Ep!phanee (pronounced Epiphany) or Piffy is one of the four musician characters in Tesla’s Stepdaughters.  What was her inspiration?

In as far as The Ladybugs are an alternate world analogy of the Beatles…
Piffy is a mixture of Lennon and McCartney.  Song writing style, she’s more Lennon.  Management put her at odds with the other three band members: ala McCartney.  And like McCartney, she’s always looking to “do it in the road.”

She’s a wild chick with a bit of Joan Jett in her and stylewise she’s a bit Lady Gaga and Bjork too.

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

Motivations: Astrid Maxxim and the Electric Racecar Challenge

Astrid Maxxim and the Electric Racecar ChallengeI had planned for the fifth Astrid Maxxim book to be the Electric Racecar Challenge all along, and had built up to it in the previous books.  As I was writing Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane, I came across an article about a woman who had suffered amnesia in an auto accident.  I decided that it was how I wanted to start the next Astrid book.  It would be quite a shocker opening.

I wrote the first two chapters and then got sidetracked writing His Robot Girlfriend: Charity.  I got back to Astrid and then got sidetracked again, first writing a few new chapters of Kanana: the Jungle Girl and then writing the entirety of The Price of Magic.  At that point, I looked back at the Astrid book, which was about half done, and thought “get to it!”

Even after all that, I ended up with everything but the last chapter done and got stuck.  I don’t really know why.  I knew what I wanted to write.

One little thing I’ve been playing with is that each last chapter of an Astrid book is named for a Shakespearean play.  I was stuck with this book until I suddenly realized that I could name the rival race car the Cheetah Tempest.  There you go!

Motivations: The Price of Magic

The Price of Magic - NewThe Price of Magic, The Sorceress and the Dragon Book 7, was set up in book 6.  Reading through them, they really feel like parts one and two of a story arc, although that wasn’t quite the way I planned it.  I wanted it to be a bit more open-ended.

The Price of Magic was much easier to write than The Sorceress and her Lovers.  It’s probably the longest book that I’ve written straight through without stopping.  I had just finished His Robot Girlfriend: Charity and started in on Astrid Maxxim and the Electric Racecar Challenge, stopped that and wrote a bit on Kanana the Jungle Girl.  Finally, I set all that aside and jumped back into Birmisia and Senta, and it seemed like that was what I was meant to be writing.

Perhaps what made it so much fun to write was that I was dealing with Iolana Dechantagne Staff as a fourteen-year-old.  I seem to be making a career of writing about teen girls– between Senta in The Drache Girl and Astrid Maxxim.  In any case, I really enjoyed writing Iolana’s portions of the book as well as Tokkenoht’s.  She had not been one of the primary characters up until this point.

When I finished, the pieces of the next book just fell into place.  I sat down and wrote out a very complete outline for it.  It would become A Plague of Wizards.

Motivations: His Robot Girlfriend: Charity

HRG CharityI had been working on an outline for the next robot book, which I planned on calling His Robot Wife: A Great Deal of Patience.  While I was doing that, I came up with a plot line that I wanted to write about.  This probably grew out of my frustrations with writing Kanana the Jungle Girl, which I had been trying to finish, but couldn’t quite, and which also had a similar plot line woven into it.

I could have written this plot in any number of ways– made it an entirely new story or a space opera story.  Knowing that people were clamoring for a new robot book, I decided to go that way.  Of course the story didn’t fit with Patience and Mike, so I created Charity and Dakota.  I decided to throw a bit of the back story that I had been working on for A Great Deal of Patience, along with a cameo by Mike, and there is a quick little book.  As I mentioned the other day, it took me only forty-two days to write.

A Great Deal of Patience ended up changing a lot, because much of what I had originally planned was in Charity.  That’s really worked out well, because I can move the plot along without having to worry about doling out background tidbits.  The story has to be able to stand on its own though and I think it does.  Both Dakota and Charity will appear in the new book, especially Charity, as this is a much more robot-centered story and less human-centered.  Watch this space for more information on the upcoming books in the series.

Motivations: Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space PlaneIt’s a funny thing.  I had started and stopped writing Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition several times, but by the time I was done, I was just hitting my stride.  I immediately started working on Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane.  The previous books had hinted quite a bit about what would be in this book and I just continued on.

This was without a doubt the quickest I had ever finished a book.  I started the rough draft August 24, 2014 and finished it September 13th.  Twenty-one days inclusive.  The very next day, I started on His Robot Girlfriend: Charity, It took forty-two days, exactly twice as long, but still pretty quick.  A big part of this is probably because I just finished a second twelve credit graduate program at SUU, and I hadn’t been able to write much during those months.

The cover for the book went through half a dozen drafts as we got just the right spacecraft and image of Astrid.  Though not created at the same time, this cover and the one for the upcoming Astrid Maxxim and her Outpost in Space fit really well together.

Motivations: Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic ExpeditionWhen I first wrote Astrid Maxxim and her Amazing Hoverbike, I set for myself a loose expectation that I would write one Astrid Maxxim book a year.  I had written the first in 2011 and the second in 2013, so I was already a year behind.  By this time, I was half finished The Sorceress and her Lovers, and really needed something light to clear my head.

I had always planned to take Astrid to the Antarctic.  There were many reasons for this.  First: Tom Swift (my inspiration) had gone on such journeys.  Tom Swift and the Caves of Ice, and the Tom Jr. story: Tom Swift and the Caves of Nuclear Fire.  Second, I had hinted as much with Astrid’s discovery of the dust-covered chest marked “Antarctic Expedition” in Astrid’s basement.  Finally, the Antarctic is a timely location, with the subject of climate change so much in the news.

I wrote a chapter or two and then set the book aside, while I worked on His Robot Wife: Patience is a Virtue.  Then I returned and wrote a bit more, only to put it aside to work on The Sorceress and her Lovers.  Once the other book was done, I returned to Astrid.  Somewhere in writing this book, I got off my outline and ended up with a couple of chapters two or three times longer than I had intended.  I went back, edited them down, and renumbered chapters, but in the end, it was still off.  This book has only 17 chapters while the others have 19 or 20.

This book works better as a part of the overall series than it does as a single volume.  Lately, sales of this book and the other Astrid Maxxim books are really taking off, which makes me very happy.  While written for teens, I think it holds up pretty well, and adults might find some nostalgia in here, as I do.

One final note.  Matthew Riggenback at Shaed Studios did the cover, as he has all the Astrid Maxxim books.  We had more trouble with this one than any of the others.  We had a hard time finding an Astrid in cold weather gear.  The first few versions looked even more like they came from a fashion magazine.  Then we had a great background picture, but to get our girl in, we had to cover up either the snowmobile/sled or the base camp.  In the end, we covered up the base camp, which is too bad, because it really looked pretty cool and perfect for the story.