Steampunk and shifters? Do they even go together? Of course they do. Steampunk is all about the possible, the magical and the otherworldly. Shapeshifters are all about bending the idea of humanity into new shapes. Combine them, and you get Shifting Steam.
The stories in Shifting Steam pave the way for a magical journey through space and time to alternate realities, where anything is possible. From dragons to birds, from Victorian era expositions to secret laboratories, these stories explore what happens when man meets beast in a world of airship captains and fantastic creatures. Whether it’s a Jekyll and Hyde style beast, a wolfman who would rather not be a wolf, or a man who wishes he could fly, every kind of creature gets its day in the steampunk sun. Step into the world of Shifting Steam and let it transport you to a sexy, fantastical new universe.
Shifting Steam features stories from authors Missouri Dalton, Ekaterina Morris, Rowan McBride, Lydia Nyx, M Raiya, Lynn Townsend and Emory Vargas
So guess who wrote one about dragons? Yes, that would be me.
No, it's not about Varian and Josh. It's about my other dragon pair, Justin and Wells. They first appeared about a year ago in my story "The Dragon and His Knight" in the Mine Anthology. But yes,"Origin" takes place in the same dragon universe that Notice does. The premise is that during the Dark Ages, some dragons learned to take human shape to survive the havoc that knights were inflicting on them. Roughly a thousand years later, their descendants are trying to live double lives and evade modern knights who know their secret. Varian Kendall in Notice is one of these modern dragons.
Justin, however, is a REAL dragon, though Varian would kill me for saying it. Justin is one of the original dragons to take human form. He is immortal (or at least, as a friend of mine pointed out, he hasn't died yet). His way of surviving in the human world was to capture a human prisoner to use as a guide. He chose to ensnare a young knight named Wells. The system worked far better than he'd hoped, and he and Wells become partners in every sense of the word. After a thousand years, they truly are everything to each other.
We meet Justin and Wells at, of all places, the University of New Hampshire, which is where I did graduate work. (Yes, I have a Master's Degree in English. You may all bow and applaud. No, seriously, it a breezy three semesters of reading and writing. The only thing that scared me was the public reading at the end. Picture me behind a microphone on stage in a huge auditorium packed with underclassmen who were required to be there, and reading one of my short stories. It's one of those moments that if you can survive, you can get through just about anything later in life. My best memory of UNH is of the bagel cart outside Ham Smith, which Wells visits. And I wonder sometimes what my esteemed professors would think if they read some of the things I've published...)
Anyway, you'll have to read "The Dragon and his Knight" to find out what happens when a lady knight surprises Justin and Wells while sitting in the auditorium where I did my reading. Both their mortality and their love are deeply tested.
Now, "Origin" is a kind of prequel, set in the late 1800's in Liverpool, England. Justin and Wells are a kind of dragon police squad. When another dragon begins to misbehave in daylight over the bustling wharves, they investigate and find out there's a whole lot more going on in Liverpool than a renegade dragon having some fun. The story also explains what planted the seed in their minds to cross the Atlantic and leave their native land.
Fans of Varian and Josh, don't despair -- I have a few more things planned for them. Perhaps even a story that brings all four of my dragonish heroes together. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, here's an excerpt from "Origin:"
"Good sirs!" A woman slipped out from a doorway into Justin's path, forcing him to stop. From her scarlet gown with plunging neckline to her carefully groomed hair and sultry eyes, and from the dim lights and heady perfume drifting from the room behind her, Wells knew that she must be one of the "fallen women" as they were called now.
"This way, and all your needs shall be fulfilled," she said, beckoning.
Wells seriously doubted it, but she didn't know she was wasting her time as she slipped a well-manicured finger through Justin's collar. In the mood Justin was in, Wells knew she had no idea of her danger.
"Madam," Wells said, striding forward swiftly.
But he needn't have feared. Smoky air and hunger might shorten Justin's normally short temper, but his sense of honor wasn't touched. As Justin gently removed her finger, Wells had to smile. In some ways, the dragon was more of a knight than Wells. Justin -- tall and dark-haired and dark-eyed -- knew how attractive he was to the opposite sex, and to the same sex, for that matter. Justin couldn't help himself. It was the dragon just below the surface, in his eyes, in the lithe way he moved, in the cadence of his voice, which hinted of wildness and freedom and clean air. Wells would do anything to keep that dragon safe.
"I beg your indulgence another moment," she said. "If this might perhaps be more to the liking of you good sirs?" From behind her in the doorway, she pulled forward a boy. He looked about eleven, thin, fair-haired and with wide, bright blue eyes, and he wore a white shirt open to the waist over dark trousers. His expression was terrified as Justin and Wells stared.
The woman dug her fingers into his arm. "Avery," she hissed. "Your manners!"
"If it please you," the boy stammered out, "I mean -- I will -- please you?" He flushed bright red and sent a desperate look into the woman's face.
"Fortunately, he will not need words to serve you," she said, giving the boy's arm a sharp twist. He dropped, or collapsed, to his knees before them.
God Almighty, Wells thought, his knightly compassion for the weak stirring. What was humanity coming to? He was still human himself, though deeply changed by his relationship with Justin, but he felt the distance more each time he and Justin left their solitude.