Hello everyone and welcome to the Magic of Solstice fantasy writers’ blog tour. During the month of June I’ll be hosting a whole manner of fantasy authors here on my blog. I’ll also be out and about visiting the blogs of others. To keep up with the tour visit our Facebook page.
Our first guest is Charlotte Henley Babb. Charlotte has been writing since she was four, and now makes up fractured fairy tales for people who have survived beyond the last love’s kiss. Today she shares with us an sneak peak from her new steampunk adventure, 20 Hours to Charles Town. Her upcoming novel is set on an airship brothel where a secret meeting of ambassadors is discussing the recognition of the nation of Texas in an alternate history line where the American Revolution failed. New France and Mexico are at odds, Spanish Florida is barely hanging on economically, and the freed slaves have joined with runaways and Natives to form a new country on the southeast coast, Liberia.
Brandy walked into Madame’s office, standing before the imposing desk, the elegant lighting and the books–so many books. She waited to be spoken to, standing in the position they used to photograph the hostesses. Madame said they were to be seductive at all times on the job.
After a few seconds of scrutiny, Madame spoke. “Why do you want to work for me?” She sipped from a shot of tonic.
“I want to go to college, and this is the only way I can make enough money to go.” She kept her glance steady on Madame’s face, taking in every shift of expression. She didn’t know why she was in trouble.
“Why college?” Madam’s expression didn’t change, and her voice was even, almost friendly, like a maiden aunt.
“I want to be a financier, to make money in the stock market.” She didn’t say anything else, waiting for Madam’s reply.
“My accountants are well paid for their work. You could learn on the job.” Madame shifted in her seat, crossing her long legs that even at her age were firm and supple. She did the same training that she required of her girls and had been known to take some of them down a peg if necessary.
“Yes, Madame.” Brandy shifted slightly and suppressed a wince. “What are the advancement opportunities?”
Madame tilted her head. “Show me your ribs.”
No one hesitated to disrobe on the ship, especially at Madame’s command. Brandy dropped her kimono, standing nude with her arms by her sides.
Madam motioned for her to turn around. “Did you learn anything from this?”
“Yes, Madame. I need to be quicker, and I need to learn when to back up.” Brandy looked away. Dixie was three inches taller and had much longer arms and legs. Brandy hadn’t been able to find a way inside the barrage of hands and heels and elbows. Dixie seemed to enjoy it. Maybe getting off the ship would be the way to go, as she’d never be able to get to Dixie’s status as long as Dixie was the top.
Dixie made in one night what Brandy would pay for a year’s tuition, on top of the money the men, and some women, paid just to ride The Elephant, even after Madam’s twenty percent.
“I won’t have bruisers–or rumors of bruisers–on this ship.” Madam stared out the gallery windows at the late afternoon skyline of New York. She waved her finger at the kimono on the floor.
Brandy grit her teeth as she leaned over to pick it up and slid into it. She stood straight again, waiting to be dismissed, probably forever.
“Opportunities for advancement are found for people I can trust.” Madame glanced up. “I have an assignment for you this trip, a man who won’t have sex with you on principle, but who needs some encouragement to trust me. You’ll have to think like an accountant instead of a whore.”
Brandy did a double-take. “Madame?”
“An accountant has no feelings about the numbers, except a sense of satisfaction when everything adds up and is in the black. Can you work with a person like that, seeing the investment rather than the man?”
“Yes, Madame. What do I need to do?” She always thought of the men that way, another tuition payment, a book or ledger for her studies. She liked sex all right, but it was a business for her. “What will make him trust you?”
“I don’t know.” Madam shook her head as if she were thinking of something far away. “He doesn’t approve of what we do here, but he pays his way to do his networking. Just being here is a sacrifice of his principles, but he can’t get what he wants any other way.” She gave Brandy an appraising look. “I need for you to change that impression. I know what he has to offer, and I want in on the deal. Make that happen, and I’ll see that you are trained as an accountant, a financier and a securities broker. I’ll even send you to law school, if it works out favorably for me.”
Brandy’s heart leapt to her throat, and she could not speak. She nodded, pulling her composure together. She didn’t want to know what would happen if she failed. “I can play an innocent, maybe, a runaway who is working passage to a new life. Do you think he would like that? It’s not that far from the truth, except for the innocent part.”
She shifted her stance to stoop a little, hanging her head and opening her eyes wide. She dropped her shoulders, and let the pain of her cracked rib show on her face.
Madame laughed. “I think you can pull that off. Can you still talk like a Brooklyn street rat?”
“I’m a good, honest girl. I just need a job.” Then Brandy straightened up, almost rigid, with her eyes turned away. She changed her voice to sound more like the mountain people. “I got away from the Iroquois, so I know how to work. Give me a chance.” She stared directly at Madam, letting her hands fall limp from her wrists and straightening her shoulders.
Madam stood up, walked around Brandy, looking her over again, like a horse she might want to buy. She lifted Brandy’s hair, twisting it up into a knot, just to get the effect. She stood back, crossed her arms, and tilted her head again. “I’ll work you hard, and you’ll have a half-day off on Saturday. Can you cook and clean?”
“Yes, Ma’am. I can tend babies, sew and keep a garden. I’m your all-around girl.” Brandy crossed her arms too, mimicking the stance of the buyer, as she’d been taught to do. She even matched Madame’s breathing.
Madame smiled. “I believe you can. We’ll give it a try. If nothing else, I can put you on the stage.” She put her arm around Brandy, again like an aunt, instead of the hardest, most dastardly scheming robber baroness of them all. “I’ll have Mei Lin train you. She is smaller than you, and can handle a full-grown Irish boxer with one hand. You may give Dixie some of her own back, then.”
“Dixie doesn’t like my client.”
“That’s why she isn’t working with him. You are. Do me proud.”
Madame left the “or else” unspoken.
Look forward to the release of 20 Hours to Charles Town in late summer 2015.
Can’t wait then check out Charlotte’s first novel, Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the Veil, an adult fantasy (not erotica) about a down-and-out 50-something who gets a job as a fairy godmother and proceeds to fracture each fairy tale she is assigned. A sequel is in the works, That Darn Maven, wherein she is transformed into a cat until she can grant three wishes. http://bit.ly/Maven2ed
Charlotte also has three story collections out. Maven’s Fractured Fairy Tales includes three stories, “Mavenstiltskin,” “Fairy Frogmother,” and “Bubba and the Beast,” though they are much in Maven’s future. Just a Smidgen of Magic has five urban fantasy stories, not connected to Maven. Walking Off Heaven’s Shore contains ten pieces, including a bit of poetry and illustrations, mainstream flash fiction and short stories.
Maven’s Fractured Fairy Tales: http://bit.ly/eMFFT
Just a Smidgen of Magic: http://bit.ly/Smidgen
Walking Off Heaven’s Shore: http://bit.ly/WalkShore
Charlotte sat down with me and answered a few questions. What attracts you to fantasy?
Reality is for people who have no imagination. Nobody in their left mind would live here.
If you had a superpower what would it be?
I would remove all deleterious effects from all delicious foods like chocolate, fried chicken, mayonnaise and sausage biscuits. Did I mention I live in South Carolina?
If you write YA, how have you attracted teens to read your books?
I don’t write YA, but my stories do include YA characters. I hope sometime to explore their experiences, but at 64, I don’t really remember much about being a teen.
What are you reading right now?
I’ve collected a number of Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Place stories, and some of his other science fiction. There are few people who write science fiction humor, and he is one of the good ones I missed in the 80s and 90s..
If you could travel to any place, real or imaginary where would you go?
The Place, Jake Stonebender’s replacement of Callahan’s. Or perhaps Lady Sally’s place, the model for my airship.
Tell me one odd thing about you.
My silver hair is currently dyed cobalt blue and copper. It’s nice to be old enough that nobody questions why I want to do what I want to do.
Connect with Charlotte through these linky-links!
Also check out my post today on Joshua Robertson’s blog, Robertson Writes.