Tag Archives: Steven R Southard

A Tale More True….

25 Apr

Another release from Author of the Week: Steven R Southard.

A Tale More True by Steven R. Southard

Baron Münchhausen has been known to stretch the truth a bit, then tie it in knots, toss it on the floor, and stomp on it. But to prove him wrong, is it really necessary for Count Federmann to construct a gigantic clockwork spring and launch himself to the Moon? If the Count should do so, and if he should drag his trustworthy servant along, perhaps he’ll learn enough to tell . . . a tale more true.

Excerpt:

No one on Earth could detest Baron Münchhausen more than he did. Count Eusebius Horst Siegwart von Federmann felt certain of that.

As he sat watching Baron Hieronymus Carl Friedrich von Münchhausen, the Count’s loathing of the infernal liar magnified in intensity. The Baron hosted this evening’s dinner party, and all the nobles in the town of Bodenwerder and the entire Electorate attended. Not wanting to miss the evening’s highlight, they’d gathered in the enormous parlor on upholstered walnut Rococo chairs with maple veneer. Münchhausen sat on his chaise longue; hands sweeping with dramatic effect; his beaked nose pointing at each person; his mouth drawn up in a smile that lifted his waxed mustache; his high-pitched nasal voice squeaking like a child’s viola.

Yet he captivated the crowd, just as the Count had seen Münchhausen do at dozens of other elegant parties. His falsehoods couldn’t be more obvious, but the party-goers clapped and laughed in appreciation. He claimed to have felled over seventy birds with a single rifle shot, to have killed a wolf by turning it inside out, and to have survived in the stomach of a large fish for many hours. How could anyone believe such nonsense?

Adding to the Count’s vexation, all the beautiful, young, single women sat transfixed, hanging on the Baron’s every farcical word. Were these maidens so easily swayed? How could the buffoonish Münchhausen—that misshapen man with the door-hinge voice, a man already married—hold every fräulein’s admiring attention? Had this been a world where true justice prevailed, the maidens would be listening to the eligible bachelors, the handsome, smooth-toned ones, such as the Count himself.

Not only younger than the Baron, he ranked higher in the nobility hierarchy, was arguably better looking, and possessed a deeper voice. True, he’d not served in any military capacity, but the Baron’s actual combat experience had little to do with his popularity. People flocked to his parties, gathered around him, and sat in attentive silence for the sole purpose of hearing the man’s outlandish lies. Münchhausen might well be the most accomplished and successful liar in Europe, or even in all of history, the Count thought.

Seething with hatred, Count Federmann kept his facial expression neutral, not joining in the laughter or applause. Neither did he call on Münchhausen to provide proof for his assertions or otherwise humiliate the lying Baron. Still, he knew, something must be done.

                                                               ~~~~
“Dante should have reserved an additional circle of Hell for liars like Münchhausen,” the Count said as his manservant removed his overcoat. His rage had only worsened during the carriage ride from the Baron’s manor house to his own, and now he needed an outlet. “The Baron would have us believe he saw a whale half a mile long, and the beast pulled his ship by its anchor chain at a speed of no less than twelve knots. Utterly preposterous!”

“Not even a very gifted liar, Illustrious Highness, to stretch believability by such outrageous exaggeration.” The manservant spoke with a French accent, surely the worst possible assault to the German tongue, in the Count’s view. The servant, a short man with bright eyes and a sharp taper to his face that emphasized his pointed beard, had come into the Count’s employ only the previous week. Going by the name Fidèle, he had arrived in the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg to escape what he foresaw as a coming time of troubles for his native France.

The Count cared little for what might happen to the Gauls, but had told Fidèle he could not abide the offense of lying. On that matter he made himself quite plain and desired to be clearly understood, since he’d had to dismiss his previous manservant for speaking an untruth.

Count Federmann’s fixation on truthfulness stemmed from his formative experiences. His mother had died in childbirth, and his father had loaned the infant to a childless couple in the village. He’d ordered the couple not to tell the growing boy about his noble blood. The young man grew up believing himself a commoner. Apprenticed to the village clockmaker, he showed significant prowess in the craft. In his eighteenth year a messenger had arrived, taking him off to a vast manor house and informing him his father had died, leaving him as the new Count.

He’d hated his father for the deceit, for hiding the truth from him, for maintaining a secret others knew when his own son didn’t. His father had wasted the time of his youth, forcing him to grow up as a mere commoner, rather than learning the skills and manners of the nobles. He found it hard to imagine an evil more vile than abandoning a child and letting the boy believe a lie.

And now, to hear that scoundrel Münchhausen spinning his far-fetched yarns, and getting away with it!

“The Baron is most fortunate,” Fidèle said as he followed the Count to the drawing room, “no one has challenged him to a duel to defend his honor.”

The Count laughed. “He has no honor to defend. He would have to refuse any such challenge.” He thought that was true, but knew another fact. Baron Münchhausen had served in the Russian Army, and was undoubtedly more adept with sword, pistol, or any other weapon than was the Count. Proving the Baron wrong was important, but not worth certain death.

Only the silver radiance of a full moon slanted in through the parlor windows until Fidèle lit some lamps. The Count had come to perform the most relaxing activity he knew, the only balm to ease his angry mind. He took down a mantle-clock, one of sixty clocks in the residence, and began disassembling it.

He sat at a work table in the large drawing room. Tools, gears, and springs lay scattered across the table. Purple velvet fabric hung from the walls, setting off the paintings, the wall clocks, the busts on their pedestals, and the Federmann coat of arms. Bookshelves lined one wall and several books lay open on a stand while newspapers spilled across a reading table. Fidèle stood nearby, refreshing the Count’s brandy as need be, holding a candelabra to ensure proper lighting, and bringing clean rags or the bottle of whale oil when asked.

Clock repair always calmed the Count, restored a semblance of control to his life. He didn’t know why. Perhaps it took him back to the secure times of his youth as a commoner, and his apprenticeship. Gears and ratchets and cams always obeyed his commands without tiring, performed in a harmonious manner, and in all ways behaved unlike people.

“You say, Renowned Master, this Baron is able to attract a crowd of young ladies to listen to his lies, is that so?”

“Yes.” The Count adjusted the position of the escapement.

“That must arouse the jealousy of the other young men at the party, no?”

“Hmm? I suppose this is true. Now hold those candles over my other shoulder. Ah, there.” The Count reached in the clock casing and removed a ratchet. What is Fidèle getting at? Then he realized his wily servant was attempting to find out if his own motive was jealousy. Outrageous even to think it! “Perhaps some of the other young nobles feel that way,” he said. “But for those of us more skilled in all matters of courtship, there is no cause for jealousy.”

More skilled in courtship? Did that hint of a smile on Fidèle’s face suggest his French servant was wondering why, then, there was no Countess Federmann?

“Some of us,” the Count went on, “are more interested in the truth. This is the Age of Reason, after all. Do you know,” he said as he pointed a tiny screwdriver at Fidèle, “what the Baron’s most bald-faced lies were?”

Fidèle shook his head.

The Count inserted the tool into the case and motioned for better light. “He claimed to have gone to the Moon. The Moon! Not only once, but twice! Just think of it. For his first trip, he would have us believe he climbed a very tall beanstalk, the far end of which was fastened to one of the horns of the Moon. He made his second trip by supposed accident when a hurricane lifted his ship from the water and blew it up to the Moon.”

He laughed, and Fidèle joined in. Then he frowned, for a mounting screw within the clockwork mechanism was being stubborn. He tightened his grip on the miniature screwdriver and resumed working. “One cannot climb to the Moon, nor get blown there by a storm. We know from the astronomers how distant the satellite is, some two hundred and fifty thousand miles away. And Sir Isaac Newton tells us we must overcome Earth’s gravity to get there. That requires great speed.”

He grunted, twisting the tool. “What is needed for a Moon trip, in truth, is some means of storing up energy, then releasing it when desired.” The stuck screw came loose, freeing the maintaining hook. The clock’s mainspring jumped from the casing, flew across the room, and rolled under a mahogany desk.

The Count would not be distracted. “If only I could think of such a mechanism.”

“The spring, Eminent Highborn!” Fidèle shouted.

“Yes, yes, I saw it. Go get it and bring it here. You don’t expect me to go crawling about the floor, do you?”

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StevenSouthard.html#TMTExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Tale-More-True-What-Wrought-ebook/dp/B00D5XRH4Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398441091&sr=8-1&keywords=A+tale+more+true+-+steven+r+southard

Rallying Cry/Last Vessel of Atlantis….

24 Apr

Another release from GSP Author of the Week: Steven R Southard.

Rallying Cry/Last Vessel of Atlantis by Steven R. Southard

Two adventure stories packaged together! In “Rallying Cry,” an aimless youth meets two old geezers who spin bizarre war stories. They tell of a secret World War I regiment in France with ship-sized helicopters and mechanized walking tanks. Just as an inspiring shout can move soldiers to action, perhaps all Kane really needs to turn his life around is a rallying cry. In “Last Vessel of Atlantis,” a ship captain and his crew of explorers return to find Atlantis gone. While facing violent savages, braving fierce storms, and solving internal disputes, they must somehow ensure their advanced Atlantean civilization is not lost forever.

Excerpt:

Rallying Cry

Kane Jones felt like he’d entered a video game set in some bygone era. Two geezers looked up at him from where they sat, each in a wheelchair, playing cards at an old oak table. Each face bore more wrinkles than Kane had ever seen on just two people. He wondered whether dinosaurs had manufactured their radio: a wooden box with large knobs and a bent coat hanger sticking out. A news program blared from its speakers. A film of dust covered the TV on its credenza as well as its remote. Few decorations adorned the room, except a number of framed family photographs.

“Maintenance,” Kane repeated loudly. He’d used his key to enter the room only after knocking and shouting for several minutes from outside the door. “Someone called about a leaking sink faucet.”

“Eh?” the old fossil on the right asked. He looked like he might once have been stocky, but that was before time had collapsed his body.

“He’s here to fix my sink!” the one on the left shouted at him. That man’s face and body looked too thin and cadaverous to be alive, but Kane decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

“Less than a month into his term,” the voice on the radio said, “President George W. Bush spoke today to troops in Fort Stewart, in Georgia . . .” The man on the left switched off the radio. 

“Are you Mr.—” Kane checked his clipboard and frowned. “Loiseau?” He pronounced it Louie-seeow.

The man on the left nodded. “I’m Loiseau.” He spoke the name as Loo-zoh with a fluid French smoothness Kane knew he’d never master.

The room had a dry staleness to it, as if the air was seldom used for respiration. Kane felt he was aging by the second, as if he would walk out ten years older after a half hour in the room.

“I’ll be as quick as I can, sir,” Kane said, and really meant it. His last job of the day, only Loiseau’s sink stood between him and many hours of playing Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn. He took his toolkit into the bathroom.

. . . And laughed. In place of the sink’s cold faucet knob, a rusted pair of vice grips clamped the valve shaft. Ugly, but serviceable, Kane thought. Beneath the sink, layers of gray duct tape coated the hot supply pipe’s shut-off valve. While he watched, a drip formed on an edge of the tape, then dropped into a half-full bucket on the floor.

The old coot had tried to fix it himself, Kane thought, amused. Then he realized something. Most of the fifty residents of the Excelsior Nursing Home in Baton Rouge called Maintenance from time to time. Indeed, Kane suspected two old ladies of breaking things on purpose just to watch him work. But there were two rooms he’d never been in during his three years on the job. This was one, and next door was the other. The other card-playing fogy probably lived there.

A whirring sound startled him. Kane turned to see Mr. Loiseau sitting in his motorized wheelchair, blocking the bathroom door.

“Admiring my work, are you not?” His smile accentuated his facial wrinkles. His voice sounded like Jacques Cousteau must have on his deathbed.

“Out of the way with you, Marin,” the voice of the other man came from around the corner. “I can’t see the boy at all.” His French accent was even thicker and more filled with gravel.

Great, Kane thought, and sighed. So that’s how it’s going to be. Both old codgers looking over my shoulder.

With their wheelchairs, they jockeyed into position so the near-deaf one could look past Loiseau to see Kane’s work. Kane knew better than to ask if they had something better to do. With no polite way to avoid their scrutiny, he set to work. Since his toolkit contained spare faucet knobs and shut-off valves, Kane anticipated a quick repair.

After a period of silence, Loiseau spoke. “You have a knack for this. Are you a professional plumber?”

Kane shook his head. “Nope. Just licensed for general maintenance.”

“Ah,” Loiseau nodded. “That is good, your ability to repair many things. With such skills, you will have a bright future.”

A bright future, Kane thought. He’d never given any thought to the future. Too uncertain; anything could happen. No point in planning for it. “To me, the future means a fixed sink,” he said as he wrapped Teflon tape around the replacement valve’s threads, “me out of your way, and you two getting back to your card game.”

“Eh?” asked the one behind Loiseau.

“He said,” Loiseau winced as he turned his head, “his future is as limited as ours.”

“Now, wait. I didn’t say that,” Kane looked at Loiseau. He must think I’ll amount to nothing.

“Not so?” Loiseau gave his wrinkly smile. “Tell me, young man, what is your name?”

“Kane. Kane Jones.”

“Tell me, Monsieur Jones, about your plans. Where will you be in five years? Ten? Will you be in charge of all the maintenance men here? Will you be manager of the Home?”

Kane frowned, unable to understand. Five years? He shook his head. “No, no. I’m not gonna still be working here. It’s just a job; I’ve gotta have money, to . . .” To keep hitting the bars and buying the latest video games, he thought, knowing how lame that would sound out loud.

“You have a goal in life, no?” Loiseau’s eyes searched his own. “A passion for something?”

Kane didn’t appreciate the prying tone and didn’t feel like spilling out his life story to these ancient strangers. Not that there was much to tell. He tightened the valve in place with his wrench. “Look, no offense, guys, but I’m twenty years old. I don’t need goals or passions. You probably don’t remember what it was like to be my age, but . . .” Right away he regretted putting it like that, but they’d annoyed him and he wanted to end the conversation.

“It’s true I am old now. I never thought I’d breathe the air of 2001. And yet I still have the memories of being young, memories as clear as a glass of white wine.” Loiseau seemed to be staring across decades. “The Great War was on, and I served in the Regiment.”

A gasp came from the other man, who’d cocked his head so his ear was near Loiseau. “You’re not going to tell him about the Regiment! They ordered us to keep it secret forever.”

Kane had heard old men telling war stories before, but such tales were never as good as the video games. He tested the hot water flow and checked for leaks.

“What can they do to us now, Yvet?” Loiseau asked. “Send us into battle again?” He laughed, which led to a short coughing fit. “Monsieur Jones might just benefit from hearing it.”

Fishing around in his toolkit, Kane found a matching faucet handle. He checked his watch. “Look, I’ll be all done here in two minutes. You don’t have to—”

“Very well. Tell him if you must,” the one called Yvet said as he crossed his arms. 

“But I warned you against it. It’s plain the lad doesn’t want to hear it. Moreover, he’ll never believe you.”

Loiseau put a hand to his chin. “It was July seventeenth of 1915. I served in the Jules Verne Regiment aboard the French aeronef Albatros.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Machine gun shells whizzed around me. Some bounced off the iron shielding, but most lodged in the wooden hull. From above came the monstrous humming of thirty seven propeller blades, each mounted atop a long shaft. The shafts differed in height, taller ones amidships and along the centerline, with shorter ones at bow and stern and outboard along the sides, giving our vessel a passing resemblance to an ocean-going clipper. Instead, these propellers kept her aloft. Albatros cruised as a clipper of the clouds.

I manned the number three gun mount on the starboard side, pouring all the ammo I could into a gigantic German Zeppelin. The enemy airship had appeared just as we’d completed our bombing mission against a German armaments factory. I had a poor angle for shooting, since our helmsman steered toward the enemy airship. I aimed at the Zeppelin’s gunners when they came in view, and also at the gas envelope when that was all I could see.

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StevenSouthard.html#RallyingExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Rallying-Last-Vessel-Atlantis-Wrought-ebook/dp/B00IUSAIF6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398365130&sr=8-1&keywords=Rallying+Cry%2FLast+Vessel+of+Atlantis

Within Victorian Mists…

23 Apr

A GSP release from Author of the Week: Steven R Southard.

Within Victorian Mists by Steven R. Southard

If the fog of time had lifted a bit differently on the 19th century, and you could mix a hauty Englishman tinkerer, a plucky American steam engine repair-woman, laser holograms, giant dirigibles, and ornithopters, you might just get one madcap steampunk romance. Strap on your brass-rimmed goggles to see what happens . . . Within Victorian Mists.

Excerpt:

Hoping for success this time, Stanton Wardgrave threw the knife switch. Through smoked-glass goggles, he watched his apparatus, fearing another failure. On the laboratory table, an image began forming at the end opposite the gleaming mirrors and prisms. A reddish apparition shimmered there, a tall, glowing blob lacking any distinct features or shape of its own. A voice issued from the crimson ghost, Stanton’s own voice.
    “John, by the grace of God King of England,” the voice said, “Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls—”
    “The bloody devil take it!” Stanton said as he jerked back on the switch lever to open the circuit. The apparition vanished. Its voice ceased. Stanton stared at the arrangement of prisms, mirrors, and lenses, wondering what other adjustments he could make now. Nothing seemed to make a difference.
    “Sir, may I present—”
    “MacSwyny!” Stanton tore off his goggles to glare at his rotund, red-haired servant standing at the laboratory’s entrance. “I told you not to interrupt . . .” he trailed off as he saw other people silhouetted by the sunlight in the doorway behind MacSwyny.
    “Apologies, sir,” MacSwyny rolled the final consonant, “but ‘tis Tuesday. Two o’clock on Tuesday.”
    Stanton straightened up. “Confound it, man. My no-interruption rule remains in force on Tuesdays at two o’clock, and at all other times. Now, go.” Stanton dismissed him with a wave of his hand.
    “Sorry, sir,” MacSwyny remained stationary, but looked uncertain, “but ye had agreed to meet with your sister at this hour.”
    “Eh?” Stanton frowned, searching the backroom shelf of his mind reserved for social trivialities. “Amelia . . . Tuesday . . . ah, yes, I recall now.”
    “Oh, now you recall,” Stanton’s sister Amelia entered the laboratory, blonde curls bouncing beneath her pink bonnet. “After we’ve trudged all the way from the house to your dreary, dusty hideaway.”
    “Amelia, I’ll not put up with—”
    “And did you also recall that I was to introduce my friend to you today?” Amelia curled a gloved finger and a second woman entered the room. “She’s the one I told you about, whom I befriended during my trip to America. Now she’s visiting here.”
    This newcomer stood taller than Amelia, almost to Stanton’s height. Overcome by his foul mood, Stanton noted very little about her other than her shoulder-length brown hair and rather plain blue traveling garments.
    “May I present Josephine Boulton, from New York, in America,” Amelia said.
    The American stuck out her right hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Wardgrave,” she said, in a pleasant alto voice marred by a jarring Yankee accent.
Stanton was taken aback, being used to bows and curtsies at formal introductions.
    “Charmed, Miss Boulton,” he shook her hand, surprised at the firm grip. “I really must apologize for the condition of my laboratory.” With a glare at MacSwyny, he added, “I wasn’t expecting visitors.”
    “It’s your own fault, really,” said his sister. “If you concentrated on your social appointments as much as you think about this—whatever it is . . .” She waved a hand over the experiment table as if to sweep it away. “For some reason, when I mentioned your silly laboratory to Josephine, she actually wanted to see it, didn’t you, Jo? Well, I must go now. Entertain Josephine, won’t you, Stanton? And try not to bore her to exhaustion.” Amelia strode out the door with shocking swiftness.
    “What?” Stanton stared after her in open-mouthed disbelief. “Amelia! Come here!” He ran to the door, but saw no sign of her. No doubt she’d hidden among the hedges of his nearby garden. If he ran out to find her, she’d skip to a different hedgerow until they would both be scampering about, making them both look foolish. Stanton knew his sister’s games too well.
    So now Amelia was playing the matchmaker again. Stanton snickered at the thought of just how wide of the mark her Cupid’s arrow had flown. Not only was he uninterested in the burden of female companionship at the moment, but even if that had been otherwise—what on Earth would attract him to this Yankee creature?
    Still, the present situation wouldn’t be helped by undue rudeness to a guest. “I’m terribly sorry, Miss Boulton,” he cleared his throat as he re-entered the laboratory, “this is all most unseemly, you being here without a proper chaperone. We must locate my sister at once.”
    “Chaperone?” the woman looked up from the apparatus on the table, at which she’d been gazing. “Am I in danger, here with you and you servant?”
    “Absolutely not,” Stanton said. “It’s just . . . well, it isn’t done . . .” Did Americans not know the rules?
    “That’s settled, then,” she said, “and I’d very much like you to explain this equipment here.” She pointed, her finger almost brushing a mirror.
    “Don’t touch that!” Stanton snapped. Then, softer, “I’m sorry. Please, just leave the equipment alone. It’s delicate and much too complicated to explain to, uh, to . . .”
    “—to a woman?” Boulton frowned at him and crossed her arms.
    “Well, of course, to a woman,” Stanton said. “This is intricate machinery, well beyond the understanding of any—”
    “It’s an experiment in optical physics,” she interrupted, returning her attention to the table. “Here you use electricity from a voltaic pile to produce light. Over here you split the resulting beam, and there you guide the beams with mirrors and lenses to that end of the table. The light rays meet there at an acute angle . . .”
    Stanton blinked. This strange woman had somehow correctly guessed at the rudiments of his device. He found himself rather impressed with her powers of discernment. What sort of female was this?
    “. . . and from the noise you were making as we approached your laboratory,” she continued, “I deduce that this machine doesn’t work.”
    “It works, indeed,” Stanton struck a defensive tone, “just not as well as I would like. You see, this device with the ruby rod and the mirrored ends produces a powerful coherent beam of light. I call it a ‘dynaphoter,’ from the Greek for ‘mighty light.’ Where the separated dynaphoter rays meet again they form a picture in three dimensions. I call the entire apparatus an ‘Omni-Sim,’ from the Latin for ‘whole image.’”
    “You could as well have stuck with Greek and called it a ‘holo-gram,’” the young woman pointed out.
    Stanton would not admit that he liked that name better. “I’ve kept the Omni-Sim small,” he went on, “so that it can be packed up and carried in a briefcase.”
    “Can you turn it on and show me?” Josephine asked with a hopeful smile.
    “I really don’t think—”
    “I’d love to see it. The whole thing sounds wonderful.”
    Stanton sighed. “Ah, well. Please bear in mind that it is an uncompleted project. First, however, you must don goggles to guard against the hazards of the dynaphoter rays.”
    He handed her the goggles usually worn by MacSwyny when he assisted Stanton, and told MacSwyny to avert his eyes. The goggles featured brass frames, darkened round lenses, and leather straps to go around the head. Josephine removed her sky-blue bonnet and put on the goggles without hesitation, as if part of her daily wardrobe.
    When Stanton turned on the machine, the same vague reddish blob appeared, and the voice began speaking again.
    “It’s amazing!” Josephine studied the ghostly apparition from all angles. “And it speaks quite clearly. What is it reciting?”
    “The Magna Carta,” Stanton said, still disappointed in the Omni-Sim’s image quality and in his complete lack of ideas for improving it.        

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StevenSouthard.html#VictorianExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Within-Victorian-Mists-Wrought-Series-ebook/dp/B00495XU2W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398278108&sr=8-1&keywords=Within+Victorian+Mists

GSP Author of the Week: Steven R Southard

22 Apr

Congratulations to GSP Author of the Week: Steven R Southard.

Steven R. Southard, Author of What Man Hath Wrought Series

Growing up in the Midwest, Steven R. Southard always found the distant oceans exotic and tantalizing. He served aboard submarines and now works as a civilian naval engineer. In his stories, he takes readers on journeys of discovery in many seas and various vessels. Steve has written in the historical, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and steampunk genres. 

    Visit Steven’s new website at: http://www.stevenrsouthard.com/

Watch this space for releases from the author.

NEW NEW *** A Tale More True *** NEW NEW

10 Aug

Congratulations to Steven R Southard on his new release from GSP.

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 Growing up in the Midwest, Steven R. Southard always found the distant oceans exotic and tantalizing. He served aboard submarines and now works as a civilian naval engineer. In his stories, he takes readers on journeys of discovery in many seas and various vessels. Steve has written in the historical, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and steampunk genres. 

    Visit Steven’s new website at: http://www.stevenrsouthard.com/

His book we are highlighting today is A Tale More True.

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Baron Münchhausen has been known to stretch the truth a bit, then tie it in knots, toss it on the floor, and stomp on it. But to prove him wrong, is it really necessary for Count Federmann to construct a gigantic clockwork spring and launch himself to the Moon? If the Count should do so, and if he should drag his trustworthy servant along, perhaps he’ll learn enough to tell . . . a tale more true.

Excerpt:

No one on Earth could detest Baron Münchhausen more than he did. Count Eusebius Horst Siegwart von Federmann felt certain of that.

As he sat watching Baron Hieronymus Carl Friedrich von Münchhausen, the Count’s loathing of the infernal liar magnified in intensity. The Baron hosted this evening’s dinner party, and all the nobles in the town of Bodenwerder and the entire Electorate attended. Not wanting to miss the evening’s highlight, they’d gathered in the enormous parlor on upholstered walnut Rococo chairs with maple veneer. Münchhausen sat on his chaise longue; hands sweeping with dramatic effect; his beaked nose pointing at each person; his mouth drawn up in a smile that lifted his waxed mustache; his high-pitched nasal voice squeaking like a child’s viola.

Yet he captivated the crowd, just as the Count had seen Münchhausen do at dozens of other elegant parties. His falsehoods couldn’t be more obvious, but the party-goers clapped and laughed in appreciation. He claimed to have felled over seventy birds with a single rifle shot, to have killed a wolf by turning it inside out, and to have survived in the stomach of a large fish for many hours. How could anyone believe such nonsense?

Adding to the Count’s vexation, all the beautiful, young, single women sat transfixed, hanging on the Baron’s every farcical word. Were these maidens so easily swayed? How could the buffoonish Münchhausen—that misshapen man with the door-hinge voice, a man already married—hold every fräulein’s admiring attention? Had this been a world where true justice prevailed, the maidens would be listening to the eligible bachelors, the handsome, smooth-toned ones, such as the Count himself.

Not only younger than the Baron, he ranked higher in the nobility hierarchy, was arguably better looking, and possessed a deeper voice. True, he’d not served in any military capacity, but the Baron’s actual combat experience had little to do with his popularity. People flocked to his parties, gathered around him, and sat in attentive silence for the sole purpose of hearing the man’s outlandish lies. Münchhausen might well be the most accomplished and successful liar in Europe, or even in all of history, the Count thought.

Seething with hatred, Count Federmann kept his facial expression neutral, not joining in the laughter or applause. Neither did he call on Münchhausen to provide proof for his assertions or otherwise humiliate the lying Baron. Still, he knew, something must be done.

                                                               ~~~~
“Dante should have reserved an additional circle of Hell for liars like Münchhausen,” the Count said as his manservant removed his overcoat. His rage had only worsened during the carriage ride from the Baron’s manor house to his own, and now he needed an outlet. “The Baron would have us believe he saw a whale half a mile long, and the beast pulled his ship by its anchor chain at a speed of no less than twelve knots. Utterly preposterous!”

“Not even a very gifted liar, Illustrious Highness, to stretch believability by such outrageous exaggeration.” The manservant spoke with a French accent, surely the worst possible assault to the German tongue, in the Count’s view. The servant, a short man with bright eyes and a sharp taper to his face that emphasized his pointed beard, had come into the Count’s employ only the previous week. Going by the name Fidèle, he had arrived in the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg to escape what he foresaw as a coming time of troubles for his native France.

The Count cared little for what might happen to the Gauls, but had told Fidèle he could not abide the offense of lying. On that matter he made himself quite plain and desired to be clearly understood, since he’d had to dismiss his previous manservant for speaking an untruth.

Count Federmann’s fixation on truthfulness stemmed from his formative experiences. His mother had died in childbirth, and his father had loaned the infant to a childless couple in the village. He’d ordered the couple not to tell the growing boy about his noble blood. The young man grew up believing himself a commoner. Apprenticed to the village clockmaker, he showed significant prowess in the craft. In his eighteenth year a messenger had arrived, taking him off to a vast manor house and informing him his father had died, leaving him as the new Count.

He’d hated his father for the deceit, for hiding the truth from him, for maintaining a secret others knew when his own son didn’t. His father had wasted the time of his youth, forcing him to grow up as a mere commoner, rather than learning the skills and manners of the nobles. He found it hard to imagine an evil more vile than abandoning a child and letting the boy believe a lie.

And now, to hear that scoundrel Münchhausen spinning his far-fetched yarns, and getting away with it!

“The Baron is most fortunate,” Fidèle said as he followed the Count to the drawing room, “no one has challenged him to a duel to defend his honor.”

The Count laughed. “He has no honor to defend. He would have to refuse any such challenge.” He thought that was true, but knew another fact. Baron Münchhausen had served in the Russian Army, and was undoubtedly more adept with sword, pistol, or any other weapon than was the Count. Proving the Baron wrong was important, but not worth certain death.

Only the silver radiance of a full moon slanted in through the parlor windows until Fidèle lit some lamps. The Count had come to perform the most relaxing activity he knew, the only balm to ease his angry mind. He took down a mantle-clock, one of sixty clocks in the residence, and began disassembling it.

He sat at a work table in the large drawing room. Tools, gears, and springs lay scattered across the table. Purple velvet fabric hung from the walls, setting off the paintings, the wall clocks, the busts on their pedestals, and the Federmann coat of arms. Bookshelves lined one wall and several books lay open on a stand while newspapers spilled across a reading table. Fidèle stood nearby, refreshing the Count’s brandy as need be, holding a candelabra to ensure proper lighting, and bringing clean rags or the bottle of whale oil when asked.

Clock repair always calmed the Count, restored a semblance of control to his life. He didn’t know why. Perhaps it took him back to the secure times of his youth as a commoner, and his apprenticeship. Gears and ratchets and cams always obeyed his commands without tiring, performed in a harmonious manner, and in all ways behaved unlike people.

“You say, Renowned Master, this Baron is able to attract a crowd of young ladies to listen to his lies, is that so?”

“Yes.” The Count adjusted the position of the escapement.

“That must arouse the jealousy of the other young men at the party, no?”

“Hmm? I suppose this is true. Now hold those candles over my other shoulder. Ah, there.” The Count reached in the clock casing and removed a ratchet. What is Fidèle getting at? Then he realized his wily servant was attempting to find out if his own motive was jealousy. Outrageous even to think it! “Perhaps some of the other young nobles feel that way,” he said. “But for those of us more skilled in all matters of courtship, there is no cause for jealousy.”

More skilled in courtship? Did that hint of a smile on Fidèle’s face suggest his French servant was wondering why, then, there was no Countess Federmann?

“Some of us,” the Count went on, “are more interested in the truth. This is the Age of Reason, after all. Do you know,” he said as he pointed a tiny screwdriver at Fidèle, “what the Baron’s most bald-faced lies were?”

Fidèle shook his head.

The Count inserted the tool into the case and motioned for better light. “He claimed to have gone to the Moon. The Moon! Not only once, but twice! Just think of it. For his first trip, he would have us believe he climbed a very tall beanstalk, the far end of which was fastened to one of the horns of the Moon. He made his second trip by supposed accident when a hurricane lifted his ship from the water and blew it up to the Moon.”

He laughed, and Fidèle joined in. Then he frowned, for a mounting screw within the clockwork mechanism was being stubborn. He tightened his grip on the miniature screwdriver and resumed working. “One cannot climb to the Moon, nor get blown there by a storm. We know from the astronomers how distant the satellite is, some two hundred and fifty thousand miles away. And Sir Isaac Newton tells us we must overcome Earth’s gravity to get there. That requires great speed.”

He grunted, twisting the tool. “What is needed for a Moon trip, in truth, is some means of storing up energy, then releasing it when desired.” The stuck screw came loose, freeing the maintaining hook. The clock’s mainspring jumped from the casing, flew across the room, and rolled under a mahogany desk.

The Count would not be distracted. “If only I could think of such a mechanism.”

“The spring, Eminent Highborn!” Fidèle shouted.

“Yes, yes, I saw it. Go get it and bring it here. You don’t expect me to go crawling about the floor, do you?”

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StevenSouthard.html#TMTExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Tale-More-True-Wrought-ebook/dp/B00D5XRH4Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376118253&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Tale+More+True+Steven

 

A Tale More True…

26 Jul

The final day of the GSP Legends Promo welcomes back Steven R Southard. His book we are highlighting today is A Tale More True.

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Baron Münchhausen has been known to stretch the truth a bit, then tie it in knots, toss it on the floor, and stomp on it. But to prove him wrong, is it really necessary for Count Federmann to construct a gigantic clockwork spring and launch himself to the Moon? If the Count should do so, and if he should drag his trustworthy servant along, perhaps he’ll learn enough to tell . . . a tale more true.

Excerpt:

No one on Earth could detest Baron Münchhausen more than he did. Count Eusebius Horst Siegwart von Federmann felt certain of that.

As he sat watching Baron Hieronymus Carl Friedrich von Münchhausen, the Count’s loathing of the infernal liar magnified in intensity. The Baron hosted this evening’s dinner party, and all the nobles in the town of Bodenwerder and the entire Electorate attended. Not wanting to miss the evening’s highlight, they’d gathered in the enormous parlor on upholstered walnut Rococo chairs with maple veneer. Münchhausen sat on his chaise longue; hands sweeping with dramatic effect; his beaked nose pointing at each person; his mouth drawn up in a smile that lifted his waxed mustache; his high-pitched nasal voice squeaking like a child’s viola.

Yet he captivated the crowd, just as the Count had seen Münchhausen do at dozens of other elegant parties. His falsehoods couldn’t be more obvious, but the party-goers clapped and laughed in appreciation. He claimed to have felled over seventy birds with a single rifle shot, to have killed a wolf by turning it inside out, and to have survived in the stomach of a large fish for many hours. How could anyone believe such nonsense?

Adding to the Count’s vexation, all the beautiful, young, single women sat transfixed, hanging on the Baron’s every farcical word. Were these maidens so easily swayed? How could the buffoonish Münchhausen—that misshapen man with the door-hinge voice, a man already married—hold every fräulein’s admiring attention? Had this been a world where true justice prevailed, the maidens would be listening to the eligible bachelors, the handsome, smooth-toned ones, such as the Count himself.

Not only younger than the Baron, he ranked higher in the nobility hierarchy, was arguably better looking, and possessed a deeper voice. True, he’d not served in any military capacity, but the Baron’s actual combat experience had little to do with his popularity. People flocked to his parties, gathered around him, and sat in attentive silence for the sole purpose of hearing the man’s outlandish lies. Münchhausen might well be the most accomplished and successful liar in Europe, or even in all of history, the Count thought.

Seething with hatred, Count Federmann kept his facial expression neutral, not joining in the laughter or applause. Neither did he call on Münchhausen to provide proof for his assertions or otherwise humiliate the lying Baron. Still, he knew, something must be done.

                                                               ~~~~
“Dante should have reserved an additional circle of Hell for liars like Münchhausen,” the Count said as his manservant removed his overcoat. His rage had only worsened during the carriage ride from the Baron’s manor house to his own, and now he needed an outlet. “The Baron would have us believe he saw a whale half a mile long, and the beast pulled his ship by its anchor chain at a speed of no less than twelve knots. Utterly preposterous!”

“Not even a very gifted liar, Illustrious Highness, to stretch believability by such outrageous exaggeration.” The manservant spoke with a French accent, surely the worst possible assault to the German tongue, in the Count’s view. The servant, a short man with bright eyes and a sharp taper to his face that emphasized his pointed beard, had come into the Count’s employ only the previous week. Going by the name Fidèle, he had arrived in the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg to escape what he foresaw as a coming time of troubles for his native France.

The Count cared little for what might happen to the Gauls, but had told Fidèle he could not abide the offense of lying. On that matter he made himself quite plain and desired to be clearly understood, since he’d had to dismiss his previous manservant for speaking an untruth.

Count Federmann’s fixation on truthfulness stemmed from his formative experiences. His mother had died in childbirth, and his father had loaned the infant to a childless couple in the village. He’d ordered the couple not to tell the growing boy about his noble blood. The young man grew up believing himself a commoner. Apprenticed to the village clockmaker, he showed significant prowess in the craft. In his eighteenth year a messenger had arrived, taking him off to a vast manor house and informing him his father had died, leaving him as the new Count.

He’d hated his father for the deceit, for hiding the truth from him, for maintaining a secret others knew when his own son didn’t. His father had wasted the time of his youth, forcing him to grow up as a mere commoner, rather than learning the skills and manners of the nobles. He found it hard to imagine an evil more vile than abandoning a child and letting the boy believe a lie.

And now, to hear that scoundrel Münchhausen spinning his far-fetched yarns, and getting away with it!

“The Baron is most fortunate,” Fidèle said as he followed the Count to the drawing room, “no one has challenged him to a duel to defend his honor.”

The Count laughed. “He has no honor to defend. He would have to refuse any such challenge.” He thought that was true, but knew another fact. Baron Münchhausen had served in the Russian Army, and was undoubtedly more adept with sword, pistol, or any other weapon than was the Count. Proving the Baron wrong was important, but not worth certain death.

Only the silver radiance of a full moon slanted in through the parlor windows until Fidèle lit some lamps. The Count had come to perform the most relaxing activity he knew, the only balm to ease his angry mind. He took down a mantle-clock, one of sixty clocks in the residence, and began disassembling it.

He sat at a work table in the large drawing room. Tools, gears, and springs lay scattered across the table. Purple velvet fabric hung from the walls, setting off the paintings, the wall clocks, the busts on their pedestals, and the Federmann coat of arms. Bookshelves lined one wall and several books lay open on a stand while newspapers spilled across a reading table. Fidèle stood nearby, refreshing the Count’s brandy as need be, holding a candelabra to ensure proper lighting, and bringing clean rags or the bottle of whale oil when asked.

Clock repair always calmed the Count, restored a semblance of control to his life. He didn’t know why. Perhaps it took him back to the secure times of his youth as a commoner, and his apprenticeship. Gears and ratchets and cams always obeyed his commands without tiring, performed in a harmonious manner, and in all ways behaved unlike people.

“You say, Renowned Master, this Baron is able to attract a crowd of young ladies to listen to his lies, is that so?”

“Yes.” The Count adjusted the position of the escapement.

“That must arouse the jealousy of the other young men at the party, no?”

“Hmm? I suppose this is true. Now hold those candles over my other shoulder. Ah, there.” The Count reached in the clock casing and removed a ratchet. What is Fidèle getting at? Then he realized his wily servant was attempting to find out if his own motive was jealousy. Outrageous even to think it! “Perhaps some of the other young nobles feel that way,” he said. “But for those of us more skilled in all matters of courtship, there is no cause for jealousy.”

More skilled in courtship? Did that hint of a smile on Fidèle’s face suggest his French servant was wondering why, then, there was no Countess Federmann?

“Some of us,” the Count went on, “are more interested in the truth. This is the Age of Reason, after all. Do you know,” he said as he pointed a tiny screwdriver at Fidèle, “what the Baron’s most bald-faced lies were?”

Fidèle shook his head.

The Count inserted the tool into the case and motioned for better light. “He claimed to have gone to the Moon. The Moon! Not only once, but twice! Just think of it. For his first trip, he would have us believe he climbed a very tall beanstalk, the far end of which was fastened to one of the horns of the Moon. He made his second trip by supposed accident when a hurricane lifted his ship from the water and blew it up to the Moon.”

He laughed, and Fidèle joined in. Then he frowned, for a mounting screw within the clockwork mechanism was being stubborn. He tightened his grip on the miniature screwdriver and resumed working. “One cannot climb to the Moon, nor get blown there by a storm. We know from the astronomers how distant the satellite is, some two hundred and fifty thousand miles away. And Sir Isaac Newton tells us we must overcome Earth’s gravity to get there. That requires great speed.”

He grunted, twisting the tool. “What is needed for a Moon trip, in truth, is some means of storing up energy, then releasing it when desired.” The stuck screw came loose, freeing the maintaining hook. The clock’s mainspring jumped from the casing, flew across the room, and rolled under a mahogany desk.

The Count would not be distracted. “If only I could think of such a mechanism.”

“The spring, Eminent Highborn!” Fidèle shouted.

“Yes, yes, I saw it. Go get it and bring it here. You don’t expect me to go crawling about the floor, do you?”

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StevenSouthard.html#TMTExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Tale-More-True-Wrought-ebook/dp/B00D5XRH4Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374813111&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Tale+More+True+Steven+R+Southard

 

The Six Hundred Dollar Man…

19 Jul

Next up on the GSP Legends Promo is Steven R Southard.

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Growing up in the Midwest, Steven R. Southard always found the distant oceans exotic and tantalizing. He served aboard submarines and now works as a civilian naval engineer. In his stories, he takes readers on journeys of discovery in many seas and various vessels. Steve has written in the historical, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and steampunk genres. 

    Visit Steven’s new website at: http://www.stevenrsouthard.com/

HIs book we are highlighting today is The Six Hundred Dollar Man

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Sonny Houston, cowpoke. A man barely alive. “I can rebuild him, make him the first steam-powered man. A darn sight better than before. Better, faster, and a heap stronger, too. I’ve got the know-how.” A century before any bionic man, a doctor in the Wyoming Territory attached steam powered legs and an arm to a man trampled in a stampede. Get ready, Pardner, for a rip-roarin’ steampunk adventure!

Excerpt:

Doctor Rudolph Wellburn looked up from his workbench as Red dragged the trampled man through his door.

“I brung him as soon’s I could, Doc,” Red said, looking around the office. “Whereabouts should I—”

“Set him up on the table over there.” Doc pointed and rushed to assist. “Don’t unstrap him. Just lift the whole thing.” The man had been bound with ropes to three tree limbs lashed together. From the way the ‘foot’ end of the limbs had been worn smooth and stained grass-green, Doc figured Red must have dragged the tow-haired young man for miles behind his horse. Blood had run down the logs in a dozen places. Together they lifted the stretcher onto the table.

Doc leaned over the patient’s chest and listened.

“Reckon he’s alive, Doc?”

“Barely alive.” Doc sighed. “He’s the Widow Houston’s boy, isn’t he? What in tarnation happened?”

“Thunder spooked our cattle and they started in to stampedin’.” Red was still breathing heavily from his ride. “Sonny lit out after ‘em a’fore we could stop ‘im. Then a lightnin’ flash spooked the herd agin and they turned right into Sonny, poor devil. Can you fix ‘im up, Doc?”

“Can’t rightly tell, yet.” Doc glanced up from his examination. “Go fetch the Widow.”

After Red left, Doc worked by the light of oil lamps, untying the ropes, stripping off interfering clothing, and cleaning the wounds. He kept checking to ensure the young man still breathed and had a heartbeat. So many bones had been broken in the stampede, Doc knew he’d have to amputate three limbs. Only the patient’s head, torso, and right arm remained uncrushed.

“Sonny, you messed yourself up something awful,” Doc murmured, pausing to wipe his brow. He sighed and gazed out the window. The earlier storm had passed and now the moon bathed Cheyenne with a dim, silver light.

He glanced over at his workbench with its pile of papers showing drawings of pistons, crankshafts, flywheels, and boilers. Should Sonny be the one, the very first to get it?

#
“Looks like this stump has started in to healing, too,” Doc said as he peered at the knob where Sonny’s left arm had been. Doc sat in a chair next to the straw-filled mattress on which Sonny lay sleeping.

The interior of the Houston’s shack looked plain, but clean and well kept. A single room served all purposes, with a wardrobe and dresser near two straw mattresses, a table and chair along the back wall, and a coal stove for supplying heat and cooking food. Liberty Houston sat at the table, looking at Doc, her brow knitted with worry. At thirty-nine, she’d weathered almost as many years as Doc, but her gray, wispy hair made her look older. Only a tough woman can deal with the death of a husband and the crippling of her only son.

“I’ve got to talk to you, Libby.” Doc began putting instruments back in his black case. It had been a week since he’d amputated three of Sonny’s limbs. Sonny spent more time awake each day now, though he still winced a lot from the pain. His mother had cried a good deal, and fretted over her son, and asked Doc how she was supposed to work the farm and care for Sonny by herself. “I might be able to make Sonny walk again,” he said, “and have the use of two good arms.”

Libby’s eyes filled with hope. “How?”

“There’s a chance I can rebuild him. I can put new limbs on him to make him a darn sight better than before. Better, faster, and a heap stronger, too. I’ve got the know-how to fix him up.”

She frowned. “You gonna give him someone else’s legs and arm? Like that monster Doctor Frankenstein made?” She shuddered.

“No, Libby, no.” Doc shook his head. “I can strap a steam engine to his back and use it to power mechanical legs and an arm.”

“A steam engine?” Her face showed puzzlement and shock. “Like a . . . like . . .”

“Like a Union Pacific locomotive, that’s right.” Doc nodded and turned his chair to face her better. “Only this engine would be much smaller.”

She looked about to swoon.

“Stay with me, now, Libby. Stay strong for Sonny.”

She breathed deeply, fanned herself, and appeared to recover. “Steam powered,” she murmured, then looked up. “You ever heard that song, ‘The Steam Arm,’ Doc? The one about that feller got himself a steam powered arm? That arm went plumb crazy. The feller ended up tearin’ his house down, hurtin’ his wife, and clobberin’ policemen. What if—”

“Now don’t you worry,” Doc said. “Sonny’s iron limbs would be under his control and will only do what he wants them to.”

Her worried look returned. “It sounds plumb expensive to me. How much does such a contraption cost?”

Doc knew the parts would cost close to six hundred dollars, and also knew Libby couldn’t pay, not with the farm just getting by. “Don’t you fret. I’m not fixing to charge you a penny. I wouldn’t build it for the money.”

Her eyes widened in curiosity. “Why on Earth would you do this for us? For Stephen?”

Doc frowned, his memory dredging up horrific scenes too ingrained to forget. “Back in ’63, I was an Army surgeon with the Union side. At Gettysburg, scores of lads were getting limbs blown off. All I could do was saw their bones, patch up their stumps, and tell them they’d never walk again. Even so, plenty of those fellers died. They hauled all the wounded men off in a steam train. As I watched it chug away, I got to thinking.” He squeezed his eyes shut but his mind’s eye still saw each wounded soldier. “I’ll build this for Sonny because of all those boys at Gettysburg whose limbs I couldn’t save. Maybe someday when someone loses a leg, they won’t end up crippled; they’ll be made better.”

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StevenSouthard.html#SixHundredExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Hundred-Dollar-What-Wrought-ebook/dp/B00A9N5XT6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1374250387&sr=8-2&keywords=The+Six+Hundred+Dollar+Man

Leonardo’s Lion…

24 Jun

Today on the GSP Legends Promo we welcome back Steven R Southard. His book we are highlighting to day is Leonardo’s Lion.

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In 1515, Leonardo da Vinci built a mechanical lion to entertain King Francis I of France and his guests. Until now, no one knows what happened to this amazing clockwork creation. Over half a century later, when a ten year old boy discovers the lion in a royal storeroom, young Chev doesn’t know he will soon embark on a strange and dangerous mission. His quest will lead him many leagues through a French countryside devastated by religious war in search of Leonardo’s greatest secrets of all, hidden mysteries that could affect the future of all humanity.

Excerpt:

With his good hand, Chev opened the door, eased through it, and stood with his back against the oak portal, panting.

“Mon Dieu!” An old man looked up from his desk. “A visitor, here? By all the Saints! I never get visitors. No one ever comes to see old Gaspard…” His creaky voice trailed off to a mumble.

“I’m sorry, Monsieur,” Chev interrupted in a whisper, unsure if he could trust the old man. “Please don’t tell anyone I’m here.” Since escaping the orphanage earlier that day, he’d been trying to avoid people, clinging to shadowed alleys, hiding in alcoves, and squeezing through wall cracks. Any adult who saw him, he feared, would turn him over to the authorities and he’d be back where he’d started.

“I won’t give your secret away, for goodness’ sake.” Gaspard stood and beckoned to Chev. “Come in, lad. Make yourself comfortable. I enjoy company, and that door so seldom opens. What’s your name, son? And how old are you? You look no more than ten. Very young to be running in fear…” He continued speaking in a low murmur.

“My name is Chev, Monsieur,” he began to catch his breath. “I don’t know how old I am.” Chev dared not tell him he’d come from the orphanage.

“What happened to your hand, young Chev?”

“I caught the holy fire disease,” Chev looked down at his right forearm to where it ended in a rounded stump. He would never forget the pain that day the monks cut off his blackened, withered hand while telling him it was necessary to save his life.

The man nodded. “I’m sorry for you. A terrible thing.”

Chev looked around at the room’s vast interior. “What is this place?”

Gaspard swept his hand in a jerky manner. “Welcome to King Charles’ Storeroom. Here go all the old, forgotten gifts and decorations, all the royal possessions from the Amboise palace no one bothered to send to Paris. These wine goblets, for example, were given to Louis XI in 1475. And this scepter…”

Chev stared in disbelief at the amazing riches stacked in haphazard confusion in floor-to-ceiling piles. The heaps included armor, tapestries, books, portraits, musical instruments, polished wood furniture, ornate boxes, tableware, and jewelry.

“…and with this sword, King Charles VI knighted Sir Ambroise de Loré in 1415,” Gaspard continued. “Notice this exquisite chessboard given to King Philip VI in 1345…”

While Gaspard droned, Chev wandered to where the fancy clothing hung, each garment featuring delicate trim and bold colors. He brushed some of the clothes with his hand, feeling the smooth fabrics, devoid of holes or rips.

A fearsome face stared out from behind some garments as he swept them. Chev fell backward to the floor and crab-walked rearward in horror. “A monster!”

“Monster?” Gaspard asked, frowning. “Hmm. There are no monsters on my inventory. It is here you found it, no?” He pointed to some of the robes and dresses.

Chev nodded. “I swear it, Monsieur. Please don’t—”

Heedless of the plea, Gaspard parted the fabric.

There it was! A menacing face, like some cat magnified to enormous size. But now Chev saw it did not move, not even its eyes. Carved from ash wood, its tan and black contours looked very real, but frozen in place. Chev sat up, a little less scared.

“Ah, yes, the lion,” Gaspard smiled at Chev. “Just a wooden lion, not a monster. I’d forgotten it was there. Here, help me pull him out from his jungle of clothing.”

Chev stood and came closer, still worried the huge beast might somehow come to life.

“You may touch it,” Gaspard patted the lion’s head. “I don’t believe it’s hungry.”

Together they worked to slide the wooden feline out from behind the clothing. It seemed very sturdy, yet light, for such a huge replica.

Old Gaspard was out of breath from his mild exertions, but kept up a steady, gasping monologue as they pulled. “This lion was built by a man named Leonardo and presented to King François I for his visit to Bologna to meet Pope Leo X in December, 1515.”

“Lion? Leonardo? Pope Leo?” Chev didn’t know if the man was joking with him and whether he should laugh.
Gaspard chuckled. “A coincidence of names. Also, he brought out the lion again later when the King visited Lyon!”

Chev did laugh with Gaspard at that, but then grew curious. “1515? How long ago was that, Monsieur?”

“Well, let’s see, this year is 1569, so it’s…well, quite a long time ago.” Gaspard continued, “Leonardo was an artist and entertainer, inventor and scientist, too. The King invited him to move here from Italy.”

Chev had never seen a real lion, but held terrifying notions of them from stone statues he’d seen and hair-raising stories told late at night by older boys in the orphanage. The animal before him looked like someone had spent a lifetime carving its details. Even the wood grains imitated a living creature’s fur. Teeth and claws appeared as sharp as sword blades. Overall, the statue showed more power, pride, and grandeur than anything Chev had ever seen. “It’s wonderful,” he shook his head in awe after circling the beast.

“It’s not just a statue,” Gaspard scratched his gray goatee. “Let me see if I can recall how it works. I think perhaps I first do this.” He grasped the long, graceful tail and raised it up in an arc.

Chev heard a metallic clicking noise, like the sound of winding the mantel clock at the orphanage.

Gaspard worked on the tail, moving it up and down a few times until he gave up, breathing hard. The man then examined the back of the lion’s proud, upraised head. The mane’s hair curved down in real-looking locks. Gaspard’s bony hand felt along this mane, feeling one of the locks in the center, low, where the mane ended. “Watch now,” he said as he lifted the lock up, then pushed it back into place.

The lion began to walk, and Chev almost fainted.

Its gait was slow and stately. As the beast moved, its head swiveled from side to side, its mouth opened and closed, and its tail swished with its stride.

In delighted amazement, Chev overcame his dread of the animated lion. He rushed to it and marched alongside. As if pacing its realm, the creature strode down the narrow aisle formed by towering piles of royal belongings.

Gaspard talked the whole time, in his creaky, babbling voice. Chev ignored him, so intent was he on the marvel of a moving wooden feline beast.

Without warning the lion stopped. It lowered its hind end to sit on its haunches. It faced forward, head held high, mouth closed. Its chest began to open up, like the twin doors of a cathedral. Chev looked at its chest. The open “doors” revealed only an empty compartment. A moment later the breast plates closed and the beast returned to its standing posture.

“…the festive reception when King François I met the Pope,” Gaspard was saying, “Leonardo had put lilies in the lion’s chest, and they fell out upon the floor. Lilies are in the coat of arms of France, as well as that of the city of Florence, Italy. Florentine dignitaries were also in Bologna for the celebration, and the lion itself is a symbol of Florence. Ah, think of the impression this machine must have made on everyone present that day.”

Chev cared nothing for court noblemen at some long-ago celebration. He wanted to see inside the lion. Scrambling underneath and looking up, he saw the outline of a second rectangular opening farther back from the chest area. This one had two small metal latches Chev could move with his hand. The panel swung down on hinges.

“What are you doing down there? Be careful not to break anything.”

“I’ll be careful, Monsieur.” It took a moment to see anything in the lion’s dark interior. Then details became clearer. Metal gears and springs and rods and wheels, like those of the mantel clock at the orphanage, filled the animal’s insides. But this machinery looked far more complicated than the clock. Everything connected to something else—rods attached to wheels, gear teeth meshing, springs wound on axles.

Except one item.

About the author:

 Growing up in the Midwest, Steven R. Southard always found the distant oceans exotic and tantalizing. He served aboard submarines and now works as a civilian naval engineer. In his stories, he takes readers on journeys of discovery in many seas and various vessels. Steve has written in the historical, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and steampunk genres. Come aboard at http://sites.google.com/site/stevenrsouthard/ and voyage with his intriguing characters in tales of aquatic adventure. 

    Visit Steven’s new website at: http://www.stevenrsouthard.com/

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StevenSouthard.html#LeoExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Leonardos-Lion-Wrought-Series-ebook/dp/B005U4NMZ6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372063099&sr=8-1&keywords=Leonardo%27s+Lion+steven+r+southard

 

 

Alexander’s Odyssey…..

15 Jun

Another GSP release from Steven Southard on the Legends Promo, Alexander’s Odyssey.

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Alexander the Great might well be on his way to conquering the world, but when he decides to explore underwater in a glass-windowed wooden barrel, he enrages Poseidon. The other gods may debate Alexander’s fate and make their deals on Olympus but the ocean deity is determined to frighten the young King out of the watery realm. Will Poseidon defeat Alexander and prevent future deep-sea exploration by mortals, or can a single clever Macedonian outwit a god?

Excerpt:

 Poseidon wondered if the mortals were, once again, up to no good.
     The sea-god knew several ways to monitor their activities, but preferred appearing among them in human form. Mortals reacted in a more natural way, and revealed more, when among their own kind. Therefore, when he’d been informed by an alert dolphin about an odd construction project on a beach in the eastern Mediterranean, he had decided to investigate it himself.
     While walking toward the large, barrel-like object he thought it did appear most unusual. He frowned as he smelled a burnt, oily odor spoiling the salt breeze. Four humans worked on the upright cask, a couple of them standing on stools to reach its upper parts, their white clothes splotched with black smears. The barrel stood taller than a man and spanned three cubits at its midpoint, tapering to two at the circular top and bottom. Six square glass panels ringed its circumference one quarter of the distance down from the top.
     One of the workmen looked up at his approach. “Pelagios! We heard you were sick. You look well enough to work. Join us. There are extra rags.” He dipped his own cloth in a heated cauldron of tar and spread the black, viscid substance where some of the wooden barrel staves joined together, rubbing to work the sealant into the seams.
     “I’m feeling better now,” Poseidon said. During the night he’d come to the workmen’s tent and waved a hand over one of them, imparting a fever to the slumbering man. He’d then assumed the size and shape of that laborer, evidently named Pelagios. “I’m ready to work again. But first, friends, tell me the purpose of this barrel.”
     All four of them stopped daubing tar and looked at him. “What?” one of them asked. “Why, only yesterday you were . . . Ah, I take your meaning now,” he smiled. “He has a riddle for us, men. Very well, Pelagios. What is the purpose of this barrel?”
     Inside, Poseidon seethed. These humans were maddening! He felt like killing them all with a thought, but restrained the impulse. He needed the information he’d come for. “No, I have no riddle. Perhaps I’m not fully myself yet today. I must have forgotten about the barrel. If you wish me to help, I must first know what manner of thing I’ll be toiling with. It’s an odd thing, this cask with windows.”
     Three of the workers showed a mix of puzzlement, suspicion, and indifference. The other seemed more sympathetic, and spoke. “Mark well, Pelagios. Pretending forgetfulness won’t relieve you of your duties. You know full well the King ordered this special barrel—his Colimpha—built. He intends to weight it down with stones, get inside it, seal the opening on top, and then be lowered from a ship into the depths.” He paused to work some of the tar in at the edge of a square window, taking care not to smear the glass. “Now that I think of it, I don’t know if that makes us coopers, or shipwrights, or both, eh men?” He laughed and the others joined in.
     Poseidon did not laugh. Anger rose within him like the tide; this sounded like a new and different way for mortals to enter his realm. He struggled to keep the edge out of Pelagios’ voice. “Why is the King doing this?”
     The workman nodded his head to the southwest toward an island in the distance with high stone walls rising from its shores. “It’s said he wants to check on how our divers are doing.”
     “Divers?” Poseidon fought to keep patient.
      The laborer sighed again. “You’ve forgotten even that? We must remember to keep you and wine safely separated, or you’ll forget your own name!” The others chuckled at this and he continued, “The cursed Tyrians put obstacles underwater to impede our war galleys—jagged boulders and pointed spars. Divers are removing them.” He looked around, then leaned closer and lowered his voice, “I think the real reason for this Colimpha is the King wants to go beneath the deeper parts of the sea. You know how he loves to explore and conquer. I think he wants to be King of the fishes, too!” He laughed once again and the others also enjoyed the joke.
      The bitter feeling inside Poseidon kept surging like a storm-whipped wave. His jaw set, but he kept his tone inquisitive, curious. “Why would the King risk angering Poseidon?”
     The man smiled. “You and I would worry about that, but not Alexander. He’s not afraid of anything—man, beast, or god. I’ll wager he’s actually looking forward to tweaking the old seaweed-eater’s nose!”
     Poseidon felt his rage burst like a bubble. He glowered at the cask, then faced the sea. His eyes blazed, boring into those opaque, blue waves, into the dark fathoms beneath.
     In a few moments he heard a worker shout, “By all the gods, look!” Advancing toward their spot on the beach came a huge wave, its white crest towering fifty cubits above the otherwise calm waters. At its southern end, the monstrous wall of water tapered to nothingness, sparing Tyre and its teeming populace. As it neared the beach, its main peak dwarfed the Colimpha and the men.
     “Run!” the laborers shouted, and one paused to tug Pelagios’ arm. The man gave up and sprinted inshore across the sand.
     But Poseidon did not budge. As if fixed in place, he watched the mighty wave bearing down on him like a moving, blue mountain. He heard it now, a monstrous, deafening roar of gurgling, splashing, crashing spray and water. The sea-god smiled, admiring his destructive creation, summoned by his own command.
     As if drawn by a heavenly chariot, a large, billowing cloud passed in front of the sun. The sky darkened. In quick succession, four jagged lines of lightning lanced downward. Each bolt smote the immense wave, sending forth gigantic plumes of steam. A fierce, sustained blast of wind came from nowhere and whipped seaward, meeting the onrushing wall in a titanic contest between the elemental forces of air and water.
      Battered and beaten, the wave rushed on, much lessened in height. Reduced to a gentle roller, it swept up the beach and doused the fire beneath the cauldron of tar, then wetted Poseidon’s ankles and the bottom of the King’s Colimpha before receding back to the sea.
      Only one being could be responsible for preventing his destruction of the vessel, and the sea-god knew whom, if not yet why. Poseidon glared at the cloud as it moved past, allowing the golden sun to reappear. In a voice of fury, as loud as crashing surf, he yelled, “Zeus!” 

About the author:

Growing up in the Midwest, Steven R. Southard always found the distant oceans exotic and tantalizing. He served aboard submarines and now works as a civilian naval engineer. In his stories, he takes readers on journeys of discovery in many seas and various vessels. Steve has written in the historical, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and steampunk genres. Come aboard at http://sites.google.com/site/stevenrsouthard/ and voyage with his intriguing characters in tales of aquatic adventure. 

    Visit Steven’s new website at: http://www.stevenrsouthard.com/

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StevenSouthard.html#AlexOdy

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Alexanders-Odyssey-Wrought-Series-ebook/dp/B004UGNDPO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371272485&sr=8-1&keywords=alexander%27s+odyssey+steven+r+southard

 

 

 

 

Against All Gods……

12 Feb

The GSP Romance Promo welcomes Steven R. Southard.

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Growing up in the Midwest, Steven R. Southard always found the distant oceans exotic and tantalizing. He served aboard submarines and now works as a civilian naval engineer. In his stories, he takes readers on journeys of discovery in many seas and various vessels. Steve has written in the historical, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and steampunk genres. Come aboard at http://sites.google.com/site/stevenrsouthard/ and voyage with his intriguing characters in tales of aquatic adventure.

Visit Steven’s new website at: http://www.stevenrsouthard.com/

 

His book we are highlighting today is Against All Gods.

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In ancient Athens, trireme commander Theron and the woman he loves, Galene, have each earned the wrath of jealous gods. To marry Galene, Theron must voyage to all seven of Wonders of the World. At every stage the immortal gods test their love with all the power and magic at their command. While Galene suffers anguishing torment in Athens, Theron faces overwhelming challenges at every Wonder from Ephesus to Rhodes to Babylon. Theron and Galene may be devoted to each other, but it’s doubtful whether mere mortal love can survive…against all gods.

Excerpt:

 

Piraeus Harbor near Athens, 7th day of Hekatombion, Year of Archon Lysitheides (253 B.C.)

Galene loved Theron and—equally wondrous—knew he loved her, too. When he went on his voyages, she missed him each day until his return. This separation would be for several weeks, but when his ship came home this time, they could marry. Yet even that knowledge didn’t cheer her. Her sweet Theron would soon sail away from her again. She brushed away a tear before he could see it.

They stood together on a pier in the Athenian port city of Piraeus. Moored sailing ships rocked with the lapping waves; sea-birds swooped among the rocky crags of the shore; and a salt breeze wafted out of the evening sky. Behind them, servants of her father watched both her and Theron, ready to report to her father anything inappropriate such as holding hands, embracing, or—worse—kissing.

Avoiding such contact required all of Galene’s self-restraint. She’d been pursued by, and resisted many men, but this one, Theron, stood out like a horned buck among wild boars. She adored his personality, a pleasing combination of kindness, commanding presence, and wit. His handsome face framed with curly black hair and beard, his broad shoulders and powerful chest, had not escaped her attention either.

“You’re being brave,” Theron spoke in his sonorous baritone. “You grieve, but do not cry.” He smiled with warmth. “Still the most amazing woman I know.”

Gazing at his blue eyes, Galene didn’t know how much longer she could stay her tears. By the gods, she would miss him so much. “Please, just don’t speak about leaving,” she said. “I’ve cried enough about it already, alone at night. Speak only of your return when we’ll be together again. Here, I made this for you.” She held out one of her arrowheads with a leather cord to go around the neck. “Wear it and remember to return to me.”

Theron smiled and took the gift. “I will wear it always, though I need no arrow to remember my huntress. Here, take this and never forget me.” He handed her a small, spiral sea shell on its own leather cord.

Galene could hardly wait to put it around her neck and thought it looked beautiful.

“Don’t forget,” Theron said, “When I return, we can get ma—”

She felt a sudden gust of wind, strange on such a calm day. More than that, it felt as if something large had flown past her.

A tall figure appeared before them. Clad in winged helmet and winged boots, the messenger god Hermes held a golden caduceus in his right hand. He towered over them both, their heads just even with the god’s chest.

After the gusting breeze of his arrival, no other sound reached her ears. Waves and birds had halted in mid-motion. The servants appeared frozen as well.

Galene started to kneel out of respect and fear, but Hermes gave a laugh.

“Rise, Galene, daughter of Hypatos and Photine,” he said. “Theron, son of Dareios, I bring tidings for you both.”

Galene looked behind her. “Swift Hermes, what has happened to—?”

“Fear not for them,” the god smiled, showing boyish dimples. “My words are for you two alone. When I depart, all will return as it was.”

Galene had never seen a god before, and until this moment had held doubts there were any. She doubted no longer.

“There is much talk of the two of you on high Olympus among the other gods and goddesses,” Hermes said, and Galene thought she saw him smirk.

“Talk of us?” Theron asked.

“Each of you has angered a deity in recent weeks.”
Galene couldn’t believe it, and saw Theron looking at her with a puzzled expression.

Hermes smiled as if relating a joke. “Theron, you spurned Hera when she came to you in human form.”

Theron frowned, and then rubbed his beard. “There was a beautiful woman who seemed interested in me, but I turned her away, for I love Galene.”

Hermes pointed at Galene. “You rejected Zeus himself.”

 

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/StevenSouthard.html#AgainstExc

 

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/209897

 

http://www.amazon.com/Against-Gods-Wrought-Series-ebook/dp/B008R0J6CI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1360692705&sr=8-1&keywords=against+all+gods+steven+southard