Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

My first steampunk novel!

“…and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.” This is excerpt from the back of the book “Soulless” by Gail Carriger and while all the “he’s so hot” adjectives left me cold, the idea of Queen Victoria employing a werewolf made me sit up straighter. What? Wwhhhaaaatwhoooooohooooowww?  What?Who?How? are the first questions for falling into true book love and I rushed out to buy myself a copy. I’m never one to resist falling for a book. My library and husband can both attest to this.
So I went and found and was thrilled to find that “Soulless” is only available in mass market paperback. Mass markets are smaller, cheaper and so easy to carry around and to hold while reading. I took my copy home and began and was surprised to find…
A strong, self-assured and cranky heroine. She joked and verbally clawed at everyone and my, how refreshing it was. Now there’s other things about this book too, like steam punk professors with special eyeglasses that clink through various lenses and copies of writing made with metal and the fact that the supernaturals like vampires and werewolves have all come out and have helped England become the mighty Victorian superpower that it was and all this is good and exciting…but what really got me was Alexia Tarabotti, soulless female extraordinaire. She bops ill-wishers with a weighty parasol and fights with her skirts and infinite petticoats so she may fight others. You try kicking someone hard with one of those huge Victorian dresses on and all the myriad of layers it cocooned the wearer in! Yes, exactly. The dress must be conquered so that the enemy may be.
She has a caustic tongue, lives with her family but does her best to not be in it and is lonely for companionship on so many levels. With someone like that, there’s bound to be adventures and there is. I hate to give away the plot so I won’t but it’s chock full of zany characters and lots of fun suppositions come to life.
There is only one thing about this book that I regret and that while it’s a fun and zippy read (dirigibles anyone?), I was hoping for a little bit more substance. There’s evil but it’s rather absurd and everyone’s rather mean for the most part but I wanted something nuanced to chew on, be it morality or whatever. This is not that book, ah well. Still tho’, I’m ready to be on to the next!

Also…I find it odd this is my first steampunk novel…I dressed steampunk for years without even knowing it. And of course, I always feel pretty much at home while reading Victorian lit. hmmm.

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A Tale of Two Worlds

I walk past a window on my way to get a glass of water and note the snow falling outside.  As I fill my glass at the sink, my thoughts have already turned back to my work on the computer. I’m wrestling with the household budget, when I’ll fit some reading in, how to get on with my writing work, when I’ll exercise, when I’ll catch up with email correspondence and the list goes on and on.

Anytime I stop my work and look up, past the chatter in my mind, the snow catches me off guard as if it’s the first time I’m seeing it. I debate whether I can put off the grocery store to avoid driving in the snow.

This is the world of the everyday. It’s full of a thousand petty cares, some essential to living, others not as much but all in a lump group, tugging us along.

But there are times my mind needs something more refreshing, and it’s time to take a break. And that’s where music comes in—as powerful as Circe creating a circle of magic with her staff. I pick out music without words (or words I don’t understand). Today is Rimsky-Korsakov, tomorrow might be the film Phantom Thread’s soundtrack, or a piece of jazz played by Lucky Thompson.

As Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden starts, the circle opens. I come out of the everyday world and enter somewhere extraordinary, where beauty converges with life and cares and worries exit for a time. And all it takes is a little music, a little snow, and entering the moment that is now.

I watch the snow falling, noting the wind direction as the snow blows southeast and then drops and then exhales again southwards. I note the density of the snow, how it’s light and sparkling and then downy, heavy, and wet.  My thoughts finally still and I turn off the music. A heavy relief passes over my body and mind and I am still, watching the beauty of the world.

The Fog Rises Up and We Come Down to Meet It

This winter has frozen and thawed. And then frozen and thawed once again. With the most recent exhale of cold, fog rises up from the melting ground and wraps my town in a trance.

It softens the ragged tops of trees and transforms the dead yellowed grass into a carpet spreading out into unseen lands.  With foggy foreshortened vision, the world becomes finite and in the smallness, my wonder grows.  Trees become gloomy gods, bushes hunch over like mysterious beings with secrets hidden in twiggy souls. The sky blurs out and the land rises up to meet it and everything is reformed or brought down to its most basic form. It is easy to become lost and confused.

I walk the perimeter of my neighborhood park. We become redone together.  The playground becomes enchanted, strangely unknowable as the slides and swings soften and distort.

The ballpark’s high chain link fence however, becomes more sure.  The metal darkens and braces and holds against the diffused white light.  I stare at it through my camera lens, delighted by its ferocity while everything else around it wavers and melts.

A train passes over the hill and I can see nothing, it has been whitened out, but I can hear the busy clack of the iron wheels running on steel rails.

Geese fly overhead for a minute and then vanish.

I press on and the mist parts as I walk and so we walk together, softened, softening with the night closing in behind our steps.  The night takes everything behind us, rebuilds it like it wishes and then I step into my home and close the door.

Rain falls a few hours later and the fog mounts up, gently pressing at the windows but by morning, it is all gone and only little bits of ice remain on the walkway.