Starting In The Middle
Hi, Suzanne! Thanks so much for having me to visit again! I’m back in my steampunk world again, with a standalone smuggler tale for you.
Not only is “Captain Fenna’s Dirigible Valentine” the second book in my Steampunk Smugglers series, so I had a heroine I’d already written about, I started her story in the middle too. I’d assumed Terrwyn Fenna would want a more romance-driven story like her sister Linet, who rescues Terrwyn from Newgate Prison during “Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas.”
But then I thought, this novella has ‘Valentine’ in the title and I’ve started the story in April, when Terrwyn meets Ian Cavill for the first time. Won’t readers want to know what happened on Valentine’s Day? So I began again, and Terrwyn found romance, yes, but also a lot of action and adventure.
Since this series is set in England in the 1890s, I needed to gather some inspiration. I turned to a book called “Victorian London Street Life”, which is full of contemporary vignettes about the working folks of the time. I was instantly inspired by the section about locksmiths, since I already knew my heroine had been a screwsman, or lockpicker. Lightbulb moment! My first scene would be set at a locksmith stall. After all, my heroine is trying to go straight after three years in prison for her smuggling crimes.
The third Blockader, a tall, wiry blond with wispy side whiskers who hadn’t spoken until now, fingered the small ring of expensive keys where Terrwyn had found a suitable match for the birdcage. “A lot of money in this stall. Why aren’t you trading inside?”
“I don’t make those decisions.”
“What is the name of the stall owner?”
Terrwyn desperately wanted to lie, but knew these men could easily find out the truth. “Owen Fenna.”
“Fenna, eh,” said the third man, a gleam in his eye. “Bloody smugglers, the lot of them. You a Fenna?”
Terrwyn took a couple of steps back, until she was pressed against the stone wall of the Market.
“By marriage, right?” said the youngest officer.
“She has the look of them,” said the hairy one. “Black hair, dark olive skin.”
The youngest officer peered at her. “No wedding ring.”
“I heard tell of the most beautiful Fenna of them all,” said the third Blockader. “She’s in Newgate Prison.”
“I don’t know about that, Everard,” said the hairy one. “Hard to believe there’s a prettier one than this.” With speed belying his avoirdupois, he shot out a hand and grabbed Terrwyn’s wrist, pulling her toward the counter until her belly slammed painfully into the edge of the wood.
She couldn’t quite keep her cry of pain in her throat, still a bit sensitive from giving birth less than two months before. Were they toying with her? Did they know she had escaped? When she’d come to Cardiff, she’d thought she could hide here, but airships had drastically sped communication in Britain, even though the only legal flight was by the government. She could have been known to be here all along.
“Word was that beautiful Terrwyn Fenna had a deft hand with locks,” said Everard.
The hairy Blockader pulled Terrwyn’s hand toward him and examined it minutely, blasting her with onion breath. “Her hands aren’t nearly as pretty as her face.”
She wrenched her hand from him and stumbled back toward the wall. How could she escape? She had no weapons, no friends nearby to create a diversion.
“Let’s take her in,” the youngest one suggested. “If she’s an escapee, we might be able to pick up a fat reward.”
“Was the pretty Fenna famous enough for a big reward?” asked the hairy one.
Everard’s only answer was a grin.
Terrwyn knew her time was up. Summoning lightning speed from somewhere deep inside her, she ripped two strings of keys from their nails and threw them in the faces of the hairy Blockader and the youngest one, then grabbed Owen’s strongbox and lobbed it at Everard. While they cursed, she leapt onto the base of the stone column to her right, steeling herself against the bite of heater rays that might hit her back any moment if the men were vicious. The surface above was smooth, but on the left were brick walls. With more luck than skill, she reached the outcropping of stone just below the arch of the doorway, then grabbed for the electric lamp post and pulled herself on top of the iron bar.
Shillings clattered to the ground along with keys as the Blockaders stomped into Owen’s stall. She felt terrible to see his livelihood destroyed. Did he have friends who would protect his goods when the Blockaders finished with her? Hopefully someone would tell the Bebbs.
The youngest officer leapt onto the stones a few feet underneath her boots. With a prayer, she reached above her head and pulled herself up to the capital of the column. A few moments later she balanced on the roof. The glass roof.
She heard shouts from inside the market as people spotted her. Young men pointed to the view up her skirts. “At least my combinations are clean,” she muttered. After whoring for prison guards for a year, the thought of men viewing her underskirts wasn’t an impediment to her actions.
Smuggler Terrwyn Fenna just escaped from Newgate Prison and most of Queen Victoria’s British Air Force is after her. Instead of spending a quiet Valentine’s Day with her infant daughter, it’s time for them to jump an airship and flee Wales. Terrwyn thinks she’s out of harm’s way—until the airship comes under siege.
Ian Cavill recognizes Terrwyn during the battle. An enslaved crewman serving aboard the government airship Defender, he wants to escape the clutches of the government as much as she does. Will joining forces help them rebuild their lives or lead them into more danger from all their enemies? Both have much to lose. They can die trying…or find a way to survive.
Captain Fenna’s Dirigible Valentine is a 27,000-word steampunk adventure novella. It is the second release in the Steampunk Smugglers series. Available at: Smashwords, Amazon, All Romance Books, BN.com
[Update: The giveaway winner has been selected with the help of a random number generator. Congratulations to John Leavitt! Thanks to everyone who stopped by to leave a comment. It’s much appreciated.]
HEATHER HAS AGREED TO GIVE AWAY A COPY OF CAPTAIN ANDREW’S FLYING CHRISTMAS TO ONE *LUCKY* COMMENTER. THE WINNER WILL BE SELECTED ON WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4TH. LEAVE A COMMENT, BELOW AND BE SURE TO MENTION WHICH FORMAT YOU’D LIKE. GOOD LUCK! ~S.G. ROGERS