SILVER AND STONE is the middle book of my Australian steampunk fantasy trilogy, which began with HEART OF BRASS and will end in 2018.
The trailer is here (it includes a fast-and-dirty explanation of steampunk and features my daughter).
Like to read the back cover? Here it is:
Getting into prison is easy.
Getting out is hard.
Getting away is nearly impossible.
Getting the power to control your own destiny might cost everything you have.
Emmeline, Matilda, and Patrick are sworn to rescue Patrick’s mother from the infamous Female Factory prison, but when a vengeful police officer tracks down their hideout, things get worse fast.
Soon they’re framed for a double murder and fighting a magical monster in the eerie and unfamiliar island of Tasmania. Patrick’s mother hides crucial papers in a tin under her prison smock, and her best friend Fei Fei is dying in the overcrowded prison.
More than one woman’s life hangs in the balance.
As a rule, it’s easier to search for “Felicity Banks” than “Silver and Stone”.
The ISBN is 978-1-925652-20-8 (pbk) | 978-1-925652-2-15 (ebook)
You can use that number to quickly and easily order it into any bookshop you like. Most Australian bookshops and libraries should stock it already. If you’re in Canberra, Harry Hartog’s in Woden does a good job of keeping my books in stock.
SILVER AND STONE can always be bought in physical form directly through the publisher (who will post it to you—Odyssey is linked to printers in Australia, the US, and the UK, so if you’re in one of those nations the postage cost will be domestic).
It is extremely helpful to me for readers to leave reviews at Amazon and/or Goodreads. The more you say why you like/dislike it, the more other readers will know if it suits them or not. I do read reviews but I’m not bothered by negative ones (sometimes I even learn something), so go ahead and be honest!
Like a sample?
I don’t deliberately make things explode.
Patrick O’Connell stomped on the trap door above my head. Bang, bang, bang.
Three bangs was Patrick’s signal for ‘May I come in?’ He was quite well-mannered for a bushranger―or perhaps by now he’d simply walked in on Matilda and I kissing one too many times. I grabbed my six-foot iron poking stick and tapped the three bangs back to him through the ceiling to indicate he was welcome to enter.
The trap door creaked open and Patrick looked down at me, shaking his head like a disappointed parent. ‘How do you expect me to get the grease out of that dress?’
I looked down and noticed that my apron had, as usual, failed to protect my clothing. There were several spots of oil here and there, as well as dust and soot and tiny burn marks from my magically altered and occasionally self-combusting rats.
‘I don’t expect you to get the grease out,’ I said. ‘We’ll buy a new one next time we go to town.’
He grunted in reply and descended the ladder to pass me a tin mug of black tea. I tasted it, noting there was plenty of honey, just the way I liked it. So he wasn’t truly cross after all, just anxious. Patrick had good reason to be tense, given his mother’s location. He cast a glance over my desk, which lined the entire underground room on four sides. I resisted the urge to hide certain diagrams. It wouldn’t have done any good, since I’d already made several models and was experimenting to see whether the effects of magical metal scaled consistently between miniature and life-size machines.
I had to get it right―for Patrick more than anyone. His mother was a suffragette trapped in Tasmania’s ‘Female Factory’ prison, and we were going to get her out. All I had to do was figure out how to extract Mrs O’Connell without getting us all killed.
Patrick moved closer to the largest of my models: a steel train engine featuring twenty segmented metal legs designed to compensate for difficult terrain and/or a lack of railway tracks. The black silk balloon linked to the train’s roof was potentially useful to reduce the train’s weight and perhaps even harvest the heated air from the engine―but that was assuming Patrick let me cannibalise his precious hot air balloon for a radical new method of travel. From what I’d heard, Tasmania was much more inclined to dramatic vistas than was entirely convenient.
‘Are you sure it’s safe?’ he asked, rubbing his hands through his hair and making it stick up like straw. He chose not to say aloud what we were both thinking: There was little point in rescuing Shauna O’Connell only to burst into flames immediately afterward.
‘Not yet,’ I said stiffly. ‘I’m pushing the boundaries of what is possible.’
‘Hmm.’ He eyed the largest of the craters in the wall and rubbed the gunpowder burn on his cheek.
‘Would you like to see the train working?’ I asked, popping my goggles over my eyes in preparation.
‘Err. . . maybe when it’s ready for an open-air display,’ he said, and went back toward the trap door just as someone else stomped on it three times. Bang, bang, bang.
Patrick waited as Matilda descended, then he went back up the ladder into his father’s house.
Matilda examined me with a proprietary air. ‘You look unusually tidy today, but never fear―that’s easily fixed.’
She removed the pins from my hair one by one, and my red curls tumbled over my shoulders and just touched the top of my brass corset. I wore magical brass when I wanted its help to notice the most elusive details of my experiments, but sometimes it just made me notice Matilda more forcefully than ever. Matilda and I had both been working hard, knowing all the while that every delay meant another day of misery for Mrs O’Connell. Now that she was close my corset heated up, making me flush, and then deliberately opened all my senses to the woman I loved. Brass can be impertinent, and I wasn’t strong enough to resist the temptation to be distracted.
Matilda smelled of smoke and eucalyptus from her time spent burning off the nearby forest: a delicious mixture of our temporary outback home all tangled up with elemental fire. And she smelled of her own unique spice, making me want to lean forward and inhale until I swooned. Her coppery-brown eyes shone in the lantern-light, ready to laugh. Her lips parted. Her breath quickened. . .
I kissed her, and forgot I was holding a square of tin. It binged in emphatic delight, and I dropped it, hoping to defuse its magical enthusiasm. That wouldn’t have been a problem, except it landed on one of my rats, who immediately combusted in surprise, burning yet another large hole in the wooden floor. The tin parped in distress and Matilda stepped back. Her heel caught in the new crater.
She fell backward with a shriek, and I instinctively dived forward to catch her. As we both tumbled to the ground, I grabbed for something to hold on to. My hand hit the wooden strut holding up the opposite side of my workbench. The strut snapped in two, and the back half of the bench creaked alarmingly. I rolled off Matilda and crouched under the desk, bracing it with my hands and shoulders.
Matilda sat up, twisting around to face me. ‘Emmeline! Are you all right?’
‘Why are you holding up the table?’
‘So it doesn’t fall down.’
‘Ah.’ She stood and hastily moved objects from the collapsing bench onto the sections of the work table that were still secure.
‘It really is quite heavy,’ I said through gritted teeth.
Matilda moved faster, grabbing models and papers and cogs and jars and pliers at top speed. It wasn’t fast enough.
‘Poking stick,’ I said.
‘Now is hardly the time.’
‘Use the big iron stick to hold up the table. It’s strong, but it needs to be cut down to size.’
She grabbed the length of iron and laid it across two of the solid workbenches, making a triangle shape. There was an axe hanging on the wall so she grabbed it and hit the poking stick hard. It was no use. She cast the useless axe aside. Her frantic gaze landed on my rats.
‘Matilda, no!’ Just because the rats recovered quickly from deaths in the family didn’t mean they should be exploded willy-nilly.
She didn’t listen. She grabbed a rat and some string, and tied the innocent creature to the midpoint of the iron rod before grabbing the axe once more and crouching to meet the rat eye to eye. ‘Burn through that metal, or I’ll cut off your tail.’
The rat squeaked in terror and exploded outright, snapping the iron bar and casting a fine spray of blood, fur, and mechanical parts onto the nearby walls and floor. Matilda grabbed the remains of the poking stick and jammed both halves under my bench.
I slid out gratefully and rubbed my aching shoulders. ‘You killed my rat, but you did it in such a timely manner I can’t complain. Are you sure you don’t want to officially become my lovely assistant?’
‘Absolutely not,’ she said. ‘Although I confess I understand your penchant for explosions a little better now. That was fun.’
‘I don’t deliberately make things explode!’
‘What a shame,’ she said. ‘It’s a very attractive quality.’
‘Oh really?’ So this was flirting. I hadn’t had much practice at such things before I was transported to Australia. The other convicts had all known just what to do―I remembered my friend Lizzie with a sigh―but I hadn’t practised when I had the chance. It was a tragic oversight, but Matilda appeared to like me anyway. I leant casually on the workbench and tried to raise an eyebrow.
The shored-up workbench collapsed, throwing papers, cogs, inkwells, and screwdrivers every which way. One lens of my goggles blackened with ink, and several small cogs landed and then stuck in the brass frame. Through the other lens I saw my match-tin spring open and several phosphorus matches spill out onto the rough floor, igniting at once.
Unfortunately, I had spilled enough grease over the course of several weeks to thoroughly soak the wooden floor, which promptly caught fire. My skirts were well within range of the flames, and I leapt up onto the more solid part of my workbench at once, laying more or less flat so I didn’t collapse another section. I was all too familiar with the flammability of my crinolines.
Matilda was wearing rational dress―a rather distracting set of trousers―by way of a compromise between dressing like her father’s British notions or her mother’s native ones. She kicked off her heels and used her bare feet to stomp out the fire while I lay helplessly on top of several homemade models designed to combine magic, steam, and silk in order to design a better airship. One of them slipped and drifted to the ground. It didn’t smash onto the floor, but floated gracefully. How marvellous. It worked. I resisted the urge to distract Matilda by pointing out my latest success.
The fire was almost out, and I carefully lowered myself to the ground, trying not to damage any more of my laboratory. Matilda stomped out the last of the fire and I just watched her, guiltily delighted at the sight of her black and blond tresses falling loose around her face.
At last we were safe.
She looked at me and laughed. ‘You were saying?’
‘Something about not exploding things,’ I admitted. ‘To be fair, you did specifically say that you enjoy the occasional fireball.’
‘So I do.’
She slipped her shoes back on, apparently unhurt.
‘Did Patrick ask you when we’ll be ready to rescue Shauna?’ she asked, casting a guilty glance upward, where Patrick and his father were stoking the kitchen engine ready to bake bread for lunch.
‘He’s focusing on safety today,’ I said. ‘He seems so calm, but he’s fetched me seven cups of tea already―and not mentioned Mrs O’Connell once.’
She nodded. We both knew how much Patrick wanted to rescue his mother; a passion matched only by his desire to keep Matilda and I safe from similar harm. Too bad he hadn’t made friends with a pair of girls who would gladly wait at home while he faced all the danger.
I picked up the model that had drifted to the ground. It was little more than a hot air balloon with a propeller and a rubber band to represent a steam engine. With enough magical aluminium, we could neutralise the considerable weight of a steam engine and thus solve one of the greatest problems of airship construction.
The issue of how to fill the varnished silk with air had stymied me until now. ‘What if we hurled ourselves off a cliff?’ I said thoughtfully.
‘Sounds good,’ Matilda said with just the tiniest hint of sarcasm. ‘Can I tell Patrick? His face will make quite the picture.’
‘Sounds like you’ll get a chance right now,’ I said.
Matilda and I waited in silence for the third stomp on the trapdoor. It never came.
‘Uh-oh,’ said Matilda, dropping her frivolity like an old coat. ‘Two bangs. Isn’t that code for―’
I pressed my fingers to her lips and nodded, mouthing, ‘Our time just ran out.’
She took both my hands in hers and squeezed my fingers until I thought they might snap in two.
The third and final book in the Antipodean Queen Trilogy will be released in 2018 (probably August).