Keely: A Steampunk Story

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Keely: A Steampunk Story

Author: D. Alan Lewis

Narrated by: Phillip Mays

 

A new synonym has been found for Hope. That word is Keely.

Keely: A Steampunk Story from D. Alan Lewis is an excellent short tale of adventure and romance. In Humanity’s darkest hour a star falls from the sky.  Told from the perspective of Thomas Layborne, whose inventiveness are all that stand between Fortress Britain and defeat by an alien invasion, nurses our one true hope back to health. Her innocent discovery of the world is a delightful contrast to the cloud of gloom nibbling on the human spirit, Keely blossoms into a beacon of hope. For the human race in general and Thomas Layborne in particular.

I admire Alan’s craft in the steampunk genre. His character developments, both of the main and supporting characters, are what drive the story. While definitely Steampunk, the technology is not the driving force of the story, it is second to his characters. All of whom are delightful.

A story, whether print or audio, is a doorway into a theater, the theater of the mind. Alan’s characters may drive the story; it is his masterful descriptions which show you the story. These elements woven together create an experience you will not soon forget when you have reached the climax. Keely: A Steampunk Story is engaging through its humor, compassion and adventure. I do not know I have seen anyone else consolidate so much into a short story.   

The narration for Keely: A Steampunk Story is excellent. Phillip Mays has a smooth delivery and great tonal qualities. There was never a question what character was speaking or what they were feeling. Male or female, you had no doubt their emotional state. No background noises and though I could hear him swallow a couple times, but as with his pauses, just made me more comfortable listening to him. While I am not generally a fan of audio books, I would listen to more books narrated by Phillip Mays.

 Keely: Steampunk Story

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for writing a review. I was not obligated to give a positive review, and all thoughts are my own.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

 

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A Swashbuckling Adventure in the Sky

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The Adventure of Anastasia Hawke: The Celeste Affair
Author: D. Alan Lewis
Narrated by: Kat Marlowe

A stirring steampunk adventure from the mind of D. Alan Lewis. The stakes are sky high in The Celeste Affair for ace spy Anastasia Hawke. Set in the Civil War era Anastasia must find the courage to fight personal battle all the while preventing the war in North America from escalating worldwide. A well-paced swashbuckling exploit filled with sword fights and airship combat this is sure to keep you entertained.
Do not listen to this expecting to hear another tired steampunk story. Alan has an interesting take on the tropes we often see in the genre. Listening to his stunning visuals I could taste the bitterness of the sea mist, almost smell the grease and hear the grinding of gears. Between the action of the story and the depth of his all too human characters you too will be drawn in from the first chapter.
Here a confession must be made, I do not usually listen to audio books because I do not care for being read too. That being said, Kat Marlowe did a very good job of getting and maintaining my attention to the story. She has a lovely voice which is easy on the ear and she enunciates beautifully. I could listen to her read the phone book. Her reading in this case is a little flat. Almost as if she never took a breath. Her attempts at changing voice for the different characters, while clearly differentiated who was speaking was also mildly distracting. In this instance. I believe varying her pitch and rhythm would have sufficed. Her attempts to deepen or affect accents drew me out of the story. Because of this I found myself with a need to listen multiple times before I felt had the entire story.

The Adventure of Anastasia Hawke: The Celeste Affair

Thank you for reading,
Ernest Russell

Flash Friday – The Zephyr

The joy of fully realizing and knowing the bond of our friendship had deepened over the last three years made my heart sing that fateful morning. Seen from a distance the early rays of dawn glistened against the silhouette of The Zephyr exiting the barn. That The Zephyr existed was a triumph of the bond shared between Philip and I. Through the trials, tribulations, and victories of our endeavors as our shared vision took shape so too did our relationship grow from friendship to brotherhood.

Our combined skills in engineering and electrical sciences produced this magnificent airship. While not as large as its successors would be, this ship would be the proof of concept which would change the world, ushering in a new age of commerce and transportation. This maiden flight would test and confirm our theories shining as a beacon of hope for the future.

Preflight checks all seemed to be in order. The rudder and planes responded well to the controls from gleaming brass and polished wooden controls in the wheelhouse. The small Donkey engine aft generated a good head of steam as it spun the two dynamos up to speed. Dials spun as they engaged both in the engine compartment and their duplicates in the wheelhouse. They reflected the steady pressure of the Donkey engines chug-chug and the current flow from the dynamos. A third dial held a steady vigil as the batteries held their charge while four smaller dials below read the amperage fed to each of the powerful electric motors ready to spin the propellers.

A steam engine required to power even a ship this size weighed more than the ship could lift, besides and cargo capacity being negated by the requirement to carry enough fuel to feed the monster. Our concept used a very small donkey engine to charge batteries. It was light weight, could be tuned off for extended periods while the ship was powered by its batteries therefore requiring much less fuel. At least that was the idea.

I lost the coin toss to Phillip. It would be he who piloted our craft as I operated the engine and tended the batteries. Our six backers and their wives would occupy the small, but well appointed, passenger cabin and we would carry 250 pounds of mixed cargo. Our future plans would aim for up to 100 passengers or as much cargo as large freighter. Other designs might allow for a mix of passengers and cargo. Yes, our optimism was high.

The ground crew loosed our bonds the earthly realm. With hardly a bump, our beautiful craft with its crimson and gold gas bag adorned by the saw-toothed stabilizer fins bore us heavenward.

We circled the town, checking our systems and operations, allowing our backers to, “ooh and ahh”, as we dipped low enough to view landmarks. A tight circle of the town’s clocktower confirmed the trim crafts maneuverability. All conducted in silence.

The intent was we would fly northward to our capital, showing our invention to the government. Surely after such a prolonged period of devastation, an invention such as ours might inspire them to back us as well. The possibilities were endless. Our dreams were of the pie in the sky variety, for our heads and our invention were in the clouds.

Our Backers were ecstatic, fortunately the weather was good, and they gushed over how comfortable the travel. Even the best trains were loud, and smelly. This was almost as comfortable as sitting in their own parlors. Their schemes at attracting passengers soon outstripped Phillips and mine most grandiose of plans. The only sound the occasional chug-chug of the Donkey engine to keep up the charge.

As the batteries charged two things happened. First they generated heat and this in itself could cause them to boil out exposing the plates seated in the sulfuric acid potentially causing a spark. This results in the second problem of explosion. For as the batteries charge they generate not only heat but hydrogen gas. This gas is the very thing suspending our craft between heaven and earth. A spark could ignite it.

Phillip solved these problems in two ways. Each battery resided inside a glass housing. Ingeniously a stopcock attached to each of these housings allowed the hydrogen to be siphoned off and stored for future use. This would solve one of the questions posed in obtaining a supply for our ships. A creative system of ductwork flowed over the batteries removing the oxygen produced as part of the process which had the effect of cooling both batteries and the engines. The controls to open these ducts resided in the wheelhouse. The siphoning process could be controlled manually at the batteries or from the wheelhouse.

We made the trip from Texas to Washington D.C. in less than 14 hours. A three day trip by train reduced to less than a day. The trip was a complete success for our vision of the future.

Well, mine at least, for I noticed the temperature of the batteries rising. This had occurred a couple of times during the flight but each time Phillip had opened the ducts rapidly cooling things down. There was no cool down.

The speaking tube engendered no response. Worried I went to the wheelhouse only to find the door locked. My knocks produced no more response than the speaking tube. Concern for Phillip led me to break open the door. In the interest of lightweight, the doors and nonstructural components were made of the lightest materials, the door collapsed under a determined assault.

“Phillip, what is wrong?” stunned as he seemed to be piloting the craft normally. I could just see the capitol through the front windows of the wheelhouse.

“There is nothing wrong Emmet. I aim to repair history. We never should have lost that war and now carpetbaggers steal our ways of life. Take our property and our lands, do you really think those men back there are not plotting to take every cent from our toil? When this ship crashes into the capitol our brethren will rise again, throw off the shackle of these northern oppressors.” Madly throwing controls The Zephyr abruptly canted downward. If action were not taken swiftly our dreams would turn from an optimistic vision to a thunderbolt of Zeusian vengeance.

“Phillip, after all we have come to understand each other how can you dash our dreams? The war was lost, slavery was on the way out as machinery changed the economics. Ours is a time to look to the future, rebuild from the ashes and create new things, things like the Zephyr. Please Phillip, step away from the controls.”

“I knew you had gone soft Emmet, when you mourned Lincoln, I knew it then. You are a good man but you just do not understand. The idea came to me as we flew. I knew you would never understand what this chance represented. ”

“I understand Phillip. I understand too well there are those who cannot that times change. There will always be those who want to hold dearly to old ideas, will fight to prevent change. Even change for the better where all mankind might learn to live as one brotherhood. How can I convince you this is not the course to take? Only evil can come of it.”

With a glance to the controls Phillip spun to face me.

“I can’t let you do this Phillip.”

“I can’t let you stop me Emmet.”

Without further word, we both launched at each other.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

Flash Friday – To Catch a Tooth Fairy

Dr. Silas Von Rott smiled while putting the final touches on his automaton. “Yes,” he thought, “when laid out on the bed it will look just like a real little boy.”

Carefully, he loaded banana pudding into the trap’s squirt gun. When that tooth fairy shifted the pillow in order to retrieve the tooth, banana pudding would squirt from the fingers.

He called his manservant to bring the automaton. While walking to the room he had prepared, Dr. Von Rott rubbed his hands and chuckled.

“Tonight, Mordecai, I shall become powerful. I shall bait the pillow with this tooth I purchased. Ahh, a lad after my own heart he was, all I had to do was promise him a sweet. Knocking the tooth out of some other child and bringing it to me was his idea. Delightful child. Soon, I will have a tooth fairy’s wand. Do you realize what this means, Mordecai?”

Mordecai just shook his head; carrying the heavy automaton up the stairs took all his strength and concentration. Besides, whether he answered yes or no, he knew Dr. Von Rott would tell him anyway. The Doctor enjoyed expounding upon the cleverness of his ideas.

“No, of course you don’t, Mordecai. A simple fellow such as you would never grasp the sublime simplicity of my genius.” Dr. Von Rott continued so swiftly Mordecai could not have answered even had he been so inclined. “As you know, when a child loses a tooth, the tooth fairy comes to collect it. They leave behind money for the tooth. Sometimes as much as a quid, and how do you think they carry it? No, I know you do not know. It is not in a wallet or purse I can tell you that, there isn’t one big enough. No, they use a wand to summon the money once the tooth has been collected. Now, once I have secured the wand I can summon all the money I wish, enough to finally create my army of clanks armed with death rays with which I can take over and rule the world!”

Mordecai shook his head a lot as he placed the automaton as the Doctor instructed. His family had served the doctor’s family for generations and this was in no way unusual behavior. Besides, the benefits were pretty good.

Automaton placed, Mordecai and the Doctor left the room. Mordecai went to his room to read while the good Doctor went to his study to determine how he would spend his soon-to-be immeasurable wealth.

*****

Fang was so glad this was the last call. This night had been one of the roughest in memory. Screens, cats, and bug zappers – all of the troublesome things which make a tooth fairy’s job less than dreamy. One child this night even had the audacity to attempt to capture him. Fortunately, it was only a mason jar and easy enough to flutter through. Fang just wished it had been a new jar. In the short time it took to exit, he had smelled enough pickles to last him years.

There were no screens on the windows for this house. Fang fluttered through and stopped to look around the room. He did not see any teddy bears. Those guardians of childhood never bothered him, but he did like to say hello, just to be friendly. Something did not feel right.

With a shrug, he flew to the bed where a child lay fast asleep. Fang landed near the edge of the pillow. Taking just a moment to preen his whiskers and scratch his ear, he sniffed the air. Yes, there was a fresh tooth from a boy under the pillow, but there was an undercurrent of odors he did not like, banana pudding with a hint of grease. It seemed to come from the sleeping child. Perhaps the lad had simply had some banana pudding for desert.

Slowly, with a bit of apprehension, Fang approached the pillow. He could see the tooth, just a little too far back for easy reach. The surprise came when he lifted the corner of the pillow.

A glob of banana pudding engulfed him. If not for the slight hiss as the air released, he would have been caught facing the pillow. The warning gave him a split second to turn slightly, or else he would not been able to react. The child’s mouth opened, springing a cage made of false teeth.

Dr. Von Rott had been daydreaming of giant clanks marching on London when the alarm sounded. The Queen was just about to give him the crown too! But more importantly, the tooth fairy trap had been sprung. He raced up the stairs to claim his prize.

Old tooth fairies do not become old tooth fairies without having learned to survive attacks such as these, so faster than thought as the false teeth sprang forward, Fang summoned up the unusual defense he learned early in his career, a shield of vanilla wafer. Bracing as best he could, the uppers broke as he knew they must, the impact throwing him clear of the banana pudding.

He was covered in the banana pudding. This was indeed a dastardly trap. Whoever set it knew banana pudding would prevent a fairy from using their dust. Normally fairy dust formed a cloud around the fairy allowing them to fly and flutter through objects, but this sticky covering kept the cloud from forming. Those false teeth, he shuddered, were the one thing which a fairy could not flutter through. It had been a close call. Fang had one last trick up his sleeve, and it did not depend on fairy dust.

Footsteps were charging up the hall. Just as the door opened, Fang used his last trick. Even many fairies did not know why they had whiskers and rounded ears. In the once-upon-a-time days, people left their children’s teeth for his kind, until one day such a great amount of belief magic accumulated it turned the humble grey mice to tooth fairies. In times of great need, all tooth fairies could still take the form of a mouse.

Dr. Von Rott saw the banana pudding and broken cage on the bed. “Curses! Foiled again! And by a mouse!” he screamed as a pudding-covered mouse scurried along the sideboard.

(Inspired by actual events)

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

Flash Friday

It was always a pleasure browsing the library; Professor Barremon kept it well stocked in the latest information on all manner of subjects. If only there was some way to access this store of knowledge through the aether. But that was a thought for another day. As I replaced “Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire”, by Sadi Carnot in its place on the shelf one of Prof. Barremons interns skidded into the room.

“It’s huge! Where’s the Professor?” he breathlessly exclaimed. “In his study, I believe. Why?” I queried as over his shoulder came “Meteor!”

Professor Barremon was a leading astronomer and occultist, so there were almost always 2-4 interns underfoot around the mansion. I had to know what caused such excitement. Following I came into the study a few moments behind the intern to hear, “..and that’s it Professor. I ran the calculations 3 times and Nick checked them too. It’s headed right for us!” “Hmmm,” handing back the clipboard. “ your figures appear correct Jaymie, but the sky isn’t falling, at least not just yet.” Noticing me as I bent down to scratch Merlin behind the ears, “Ah, Duncan, how is the double helix boiler coming? Cracked the heat problem yet? Young Jayme here was just informing me of the worlds impending doom. Can you believe that?”

Laughing, “Can’t be any worse than the last couple of times Prof., if that cult business down in New Orleans didn’t do it not sure anything could. Byron still have the tentacle piece in his trophies, right? Whatever that monster was if it had come through that gateway, would have been all over. So how much time have we got?”

“By these figures, about 11 months I’d say.”, “Heck Prof, 11 months? With our circle of friends if we cannot figure out and take care of it in 8, I’d be surprised. Ready for an adventure Jaymie?”

The young intern swallowed hard, “Y-y-yes sir.”

Thank you for reading,

Ernest