When one can’t travel, traveling by novel is the next best thing. Sometimes it’s even better since the feet stay warm by the fire and there are no missed flights.
Recently I had the great pleasure of dropping back into the adventures contained in one of my favorite books, Dawn of Steam, First Light, by Jeffrey Cook with Sarah Symonds. It’s set in 1815 and is based on historical events along with invented travels across America via dirigible in a steam-based society. It has adventure in the Jules Verne tradition and relationships and humor ala Jane Austen. The colorful characters and lively narrative captured my imagination so well that I asked Jeffrey Cook if I could set my new character, the witty Miss Livingstone, on the Dame Fortuna, to travel with them during one of her many time-traveling adventures. He graciously gave permission and was pleased that I wanted to build on his alternate history with some of my own.
I’ve been madly editing Miss Livingstone’s first novel and feeling frazzled. But when I came to the chapter where she arrived on the dirigible I was all in. I went back and read a scene in Jeffrey Cook’s book to make sure I stayed to the ‘facts’ and once again I was swept off to adventure.
Here’s a snippet from the beta edit of The Unwitting Journeys of the Witty Miss Livingstone:
I sailed through the sky rather more quickly than I liked. “Oh my!” I cried as my feet touched down and I grabbed for the railing that presented itself to my glad hand.
“Oh!” I couldn’t stifle my cry. It was one shock after another. I realized the detail of the ground over the edge and comprehended how high I must be… “Flying! I’m flying!”
“Yes, indeed, or rather we are riding and the Dame Fortuna is flying, to be exact.” A young boy addressed me with a self-important air. He seemed quite pleased with his grasp of the workings of the situation. “But pardon my asking, who are you?” His brows sat up high and mighty awaiting my answer.
“The Dame Fortuna? But…”
“Aw Miss, don’t tease me. I know that’s the ship’s name, I just said so. And –”
“But that must make you the young Master Matthew Fisher-Swift.”
“Yes ma’am, ship’s boy and gun monkey. You’ve heard of me?” His face beamed brightly beneath his light brown hair.
“Well only in stories – accounts, I should say. Remarkable!” I took another peek over the side and looked upward at the open sky. Without a doubt, I stood upon the deck of a dirigible. I had achieved my dream of flight, though not with the fine young Mr. Chesterton of Chesterton Air, but on the very vessel that birthed my hopes of air travel – the Dame Fortuna.
The accounts of this crew’s conquering of the American west were released the year I was born, and I cut my literary teeth while reading them. How thrilling! But that would mean I was back in time…about 1815-17, perhaps? Could Miss Harriett Wright and the Coltranes and the infamous… “Sam Bowe! Pardon me, is Miss Samantha Bowe on this craft?”
“Oh yes, ma’am, I reckon Miss Bowe is about. Do you know her?”
“In a manner of speaking yes, but we haven’t…Oh, do you think I could meet her?”
“Now how did you get aboard this craft without meeting the…You still haven’t told me who you are.” The boy crooked his brow and pulled his shoulders back fiercely.
“Livingstone. I’m Miss Livingstone from Boston, and the far west. And the ornithopter? Is it here too?”
“Yes, though it’s still not quite itself after the storm and all. Not to fault Miss Wright’s handwork on repairs. I’m still on the mend as well, they say. I’ve got this here binding on my leg. But as you can see, I’m perfectly capable of keeping watch. I found you, after all.”
“You certainly did, sir. And I think it’s about time you reported it so.”
“Should I report it to Aunt Ruth or take you straight to Eddy?”
“Oh my, I’m feeling a bit faint.” I dropped the amethyst down into the pocket just in time to use both hands to keep myself from pitching over the edge as things went black of a sudden. I recovered my sight quickly, but had the shakes.
“Now that you mention it, Miss, you do look like you’re dressed for resting. I don’t normally see woman in dressing gowns or clothes without all of those contraptions and coats and all, except for Miss Bowe, of course, but she’s got her own reasons. Can’t hardly knife-fight in those confining stays. Don’t tell Aunt Ruth I’m talking of such things.”
“Knives or lady’s undergarments”
“Either… or I mean, neither would be best.”
-by Sheri J. Kennedy aka Kennedy J. Quinn
All Rights Reserved.