• Tag Archives Epiphany Club
  • The Epiphany Club – What Was That All About Then?

    After years of hard work, distractions, and delays (some self-inflicted), I’ve finally got my Epiphany Club series out in print. So it’s time to talk a bit about this book – what it is, why I wrote it, and what it means to me.

    The Epiphany Club started out as a throw-away line in a short story. I was writing about Victorian adventurers heading into the sewers beneath Venice to face the mechanised head of Leonardo da Vinci. To flesh out their background, I made them part of a scholarly club with a history of such escapades. That story became “The Secret in the Sewers”, published in issue four of a magazine called Fiction, and later republished in my collection Riding the Mainspring. And out of that story, Dirk Dynamo and Sir Timothy Blaze-Simms were born.

    I liked Dirk and Tim, so I ended up writing more short stories about them, some of which saw publication. In fact, I liked them so much that, when I wanted to write something longer, I decided to make it about them.

    This was a decade ago, a time when I knew much less about writing, but when I went at everything with gusto. Any fragment of steampunk or Victoriana I came up with was shoved into my Epiphany Club planning. From Parisian sewer maintenance to the aftermath of slavery, in it all went, with little thought to theme, audience, or consistency. By the time I got onto part two of however many, it was a bit of a mess.

    But it was a mess that I loved and one that could be broken up into novella-sized chunks. So when I decided to try self-publishing, and that the best way to do that was a novella series, it was a perfect fit.

    In the meantime, I’d learnt more about writing and representation. This led to some big changes in the book, particularly around character arcs and the roles of men and women. The results are something far better and far more coherent than my original vision. It’s far from perfect, as is everything in this world. But for my first serious attempt at putting something this substantial out, I’m still pleased with it, and more fond of my characters than ever before.

    The me who started this project so messily, creating much more work down the line? Him I’m not so fond of, but it’s a little late for recrimination.

    Despite the eclectic nature of its birth, there is a coherence to The Epiphany Club. It’s a story that tries to mix pulp adventure with the things we often ignore in steampunk and Victorian adventure stories. Gender inequality, colonialism, and the toxic effects of nationalistic politics are all there. But to stop that dragging it down, there are also strange machines, hideous monsters, and action galore. It’s the sort of adventure story I’d like to read, and so I’m proud I’ve written it.

    If that sounds like something you’d enjoy, then you can get The Epiphany Club now. And if you enjoy it, please let me know. It’s always good to hear when your story works.


  • The Epiphany Club Out Now

    The Epiphany Club is out today! Collecting all five novellas in my steampunk series, it’s the biggest book I’ve put out so far, and the first one that’s available in print as well as e-book.

    So what’s it all about? Well…

    Dirk Dynamo is used to adventure. He’s chased villainous masterminds across the mountains of Europe, stalked gangsters through the streets of Chicago, and faced the terrible battlefields of the Civil War. But now he’s on a mission that will really shake his world.

    For centuries, the Great Library of Alexandria was thought lost. Now a set of clues has been discovered that could lead to its hiding place. With the learned adventurers of the Epiphany Club, Dirk sets out to gather the clues, track down the Library, and reveal its secrets to the world.

    But Dirk and his colleagues aren’t the only ones following the trail. Faced with strange machines, deadly assassins, and shocking betrayal, can they survive the perils confronting them? And what will they find when they finally reach their destination?

    Roaming from the jungles of West Africa to the sewers beneath London, The Epiphany Club is a modern pulp adventure, a story of action, adventure, and romance set against the dark underbelly of the Victorian age.

    The Epiphany Club is available now from all sorts of online outlets. Go get yourself a copy now, and if you enjoy it, please leave a review where you bought it or on Goodreads.


  • The Epiphany Club

    Dirk Dynamo is used to adventure. He’s chased villainous masterminds across the mountains of Europe, stalked gangsters through the streets of Chicago, and faced the terrible battlefields of the Civil War. But now he’s on a mission that will really shake his world.

    For centuries, the Great Library of Alexandria was thought lost. Now a set of clues has been discovered that could lead to its hiding place. With the learned adventurers of the Epiphany Club, Dirk sets out to gather the clues, track down the Library, and reveal its secrets to the world.

    But Dirk and his colleagues aren’t the only ones following the trail. Faced with strange machines, deadly assassins, and shocking betrayal, can they survive the perils confronting them? And what will they find when they finally reach their destination?

    Roaming from the jungles of West Africa to the sewers beneath London, The Epiphany Club is a modern pulp adventure, a story of action, adventure, and romance set against the dark underbelly of the Victorian age.

    This book contains all five novellas in the Epiphany Club series.

    Available in all good e-book stores and in print via Amazon.


  • Fireworks and Foolishness – a flash steampunk story

    The smell of fallen leaves and bonfires filled Dirk Dynamo’s senses, as close to fresh country air as London ever got. Somewhere in the distance, the first fireworks were going off, but here in the heart of the city the crowds were just getting warmed off.

    He headed off the main thoroughfare and up a well-appointed residential street. Outside Sir Timothy Blaze-Simms’s apartment, something was looming, its bulky body, heavy wheels, and strange projections casting a monstrous shadow in the gaslight.

    “You’re here!” Blaze-Simms appeared, his top hat askew and a wrench in his hand. “Just in time to see my latest creation.”

    “What is it?” Dirk asked, peering dubiously up at rows of brass tubes.

    “An automated firework launcher, programmed using a miniature Babbage engine.”

    “Why the wheels?”

    “So that it can drive past crowds. This way, everyone can have a good view.”

    “Nice thought. Did you have to get a licence?”

    “A licence?”

    “For a truck full of explosives near Parliament.”

    “It’ll be fine.” Blaze-Simms pulled a lever. Steam burst forth and wheels began to turn. “What could possibly go wrong?”

    After years of working with Blaze-Simms, Dirk couldn’t pick a single answer. There were just too many options.

    With a whoosh, the first firework shot skyward, exploding in a dazzling burst of white light. A red one followed, then a blue, then a stream of smaller yellow rockets as the machine accelerated down the street.

    “It’s not meant to go that fast,” Blaze-Simms said. “Maybe we should stop it.”

    He looked expectantly at Dirk, who raised an eyebrow.

    “You can clean up your own mess this time.”

    “But I…”

    “Your machine, your mess.”

    “I suppose so.”

    Blaze-Simms dashed after the machine. It had reached the end of the street and headed out into the crowds. People jumped aside to avoid it, laughing and screaming as Catherine wheels spun on its sides.

    Dirk strolled along behind, keeping the machine in sight. He saw the moment Blaze-Simms leapt onto its back and started prying a hatch open. He saw the burst of steam that blew the inventor’s hat off. He heard his friend cry out in pain and fall back into the crowd.

    “Dammit.” Dirk started running.

    The machine was veering through an increasingly panicked crowd. Dirk had hoped that Blaze-Simms could learn from this one, but he couldn’t let that happen at other people’s expense.

    The sky blazed with artificial stars as the machine rolled at ever-increasing speed through the city. It hit a lamppost, spun around, smashed into the side of a Hackney carriage, and continued its rampage towards Westminster Bridge.

    Some people saw the machine in time to leap clear. Others, distracted by its fireworks, were almost crushed as it bore down on them.

    Dirk caught up just as it thundered onto the bridge. He leapt onto its back, clinging to the towering mass of gunpowder and brass as it headed towards the lights of Parliament.

    With a crash, the machine hit a chestnut seller’s cart. Hot nuts and blazing coals flew in every direction, some of them falling down the pipes at the front of the machine.

    A renewed volley of fireworks sprang into the sky. So many launched at once that the machine shook, almost flinging Dirk off. His shoulder blazed with pain as he was hurled to one side and then the other, but he clung on with all of his strength.

    Hauling himself up, he peered through an open hatch into a mass of gears and pistons. Acting on instinct, he reached inside, ready to yank something out or jam something in, anything to bring it to a halt. But a blast of steam forced him to pull his hand back, skin red raw.

    The pain was intense. He had to cool the hand down before it got any worse, but first he had to stop this machine.

    Over the side of the bridge, he saw an answer to both his problems. The problem was, it meant diverting a machine ten times his own weight.

    Clinging on with his good hand, he flung himself one way and then the other, putting his whole weight into it. His shoulder went from an ache to a raw blazing pain as he became a human pendulum, each swing bigger than the one before.

    At last, the machine started to sway with him. It tipped up onto just two wheels on one side and then the other. As Dirk flung himself back and to the left, the machine started to turn.

    They were nearly at the end of the bridge now. A dozen alarmed-looking policemen were rushing to get between the machine and Parliament, but Dirk couldn’t see any way they could stop this. The heart of democracy was about to face the explosive fate Guy Fawkes had once planned, this time at the hands of a well-intentioned eccentric.

    He swung with all his remaining might. The machine lifted up on one wheel and pivoted around. It clanged back down at ninety degrees to its previous course, hit the side of the bridge with an almighty clang, and tumbled over, taking Dirk with it.

    As they plunged through the air, Dirk kicked off from the machine. There was a huge splash, then a smaller one as he hit the Thames. The water was filthy, but the cold on his hand came as a sweet relief.

    He surfaced to see a crowd looking down at him, pointing, gasping, and cheering. Beyond them, Parliament stood proud against the night sky, lit up by fireworks.

    Dirk turned onto his back and watched the fireworks as he drifted towards the bank. He had to admit, they were spectacular.

    On the bridge, a figure in a top hat stood awkwardly, waiting to face the consequences of his latest endeavour. Maybe this time he’d remember how these things could go wrong.

    Dirk wasn’t holding his breath.

    * * *

     

    For more of Dirk and Blaze-Simms’s adventures, check out The Epiphany Club, a story of action, adventure, and intrigue set against the dark underbelly of Victorian society, released on the 1st of December. And if you’d like more short stories like this one then you might want to sign up for my mailing list. You’ll get free flash fiction straight to your inbox every week, as well as updates on my other releases.


  • Coming Soon – The Epiphany Club

    If you’ve been following my blog for any time at all, you’re probably familiar with the Epiphany Club. They’re a band of Victorian steampunk adventurers I invented for a short story, reflecting my interest in Victorian history, strange machines, and old-fashioned adventure stories. In the decade since, I’ve written five novellas exploring their adventures. And now, at last, those novellas are collected in one place.

    The Epiphany Club isn’t just my biggest self-publishing project yet – it’s also the first time that I’ve dared go into print. Previously, my books have been purely digital, but now, for the first time, you can also get a physical version. A preview is currently sitting on my desk and I have to say that it looks pretty awesome. I’m very proud of this project.

    So what’s it all about? Well…

    Dirk Dynamo is used to adventure. He’s chased villainous masterminds across the mountains of Europe, stalked gangsters through the streets of Chicago, and faced the terrible battlefields of the Civil War. But now he’s on a mission that will really shake his world.

    For centuries, the Great Library of Alexandria was thought lost. Now a set of clues has been discovered that could lead to its hiding place. With the learned adventurers of the Epiphany Club, Dirk sets out to gather the clues, track down the Library, and reveal its secrets to the world.

    But Dirk and his colleagues aren’t the only ones following the trail. Faced with strange machines, deadly assassins, and shocking betrayal, can they survive the perils confronting them? And what will they find when they finally reach their destination?

    Roaming from the jungles of West Africa to the sewers beneath London, The Epiphany Club is a modern pulp adventure, a story of action, adventure, and romance set against the dark underbelly of the Victorian age.

    You can pre-order the e-book now, and if this is a story that appeals to you then please do pre-order. If you want to read a sample before you buy, the first novella is free from all good e-book retailers. Sadly Amazon won’t do pre-orders for the paperback, but I’ll provide details when it’s available.

    Welcome to a world of curiosity and adventure. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed the writing.


  • New Version of Guns and Guano

    A new, revised version of my novella Guns and Guano is now available for free at a multitude of e-book stores. This rewrite doesn’t substantially change the story, but is still something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I’ve tidied up some of the prose and tried to subtly improve the way the character of Isabelle is presented. The place of women in Victorian society is an important issue in this series, and this story in isolation wasn’t dealing with that the way I wanted it too. The result of the changes is far from perfect, but it sets the tone better than I could a few years ago.

    Guns and Guano is a tale of action, adventure, and strange events on an Atlantic island. It’s about dealing with the past and looking to the future. There are gangsters, conspirators, and a chisel-jawed hero punching a shark. Honestly, what more could you want? Go get a copy, you know you want to.


  • Things I’ve Learned in Writing The Epiphany Club

    This Friday sees the release of the fifth and final instalment in my Epiphany Club series of novellas (you can pre-order it here). These were the first piece of original work I started self-published some years ago. There have been delays along the way, but I’m finally getting to the end of something that’s important to me. I’ve learned a lot from this experience, so I thought I’d share some of it.

    First up, I learned that I’m not as good as I’d like to be at tackling gender issues. I set out to tackle gender inequality, to present female characters who defy the stereotypes of their time. But along the way, I ended up slipping into modern tropes and stereotypes, like the idea of a woman’s strengths lying purely in her social skills. And because the undermining of stereotypes happens more in the later books, the first one looks like it’s playing even more into the stereotypes. I remedied some of this through the advice of beta readers. I’m also planning on revising the first book quite heavily and re-releasing it, to make things better.

    I learned that novellas are harder to market than novels. A lot of marketing avenues aren’t open to them, even within the relatively flexible field of self-publishing. I’m going to get around this by creating a collected edition of this series, but it’s made me re-think what I’ll write in future.

    I’ve got a lot better at planning and at persevering with projects. That’s how I got to the end of this one, despite numerous delays.

    Just through this much practice, my writing skills have grown stronger. One more reason to revise that first book!

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. But it’s important to combine that pride with spotting the flaws in my work and the ways I can improve. After all, that’s the only way I’ll get better as a writer.

    And if I’ve learned one thing from this experience, it’s that I am getting better.


  • Coming Soon: Old Odd Ends

    A magic-wielding card shark living by her wits. A diplomat frustrated by criminal aliens. A private investigator in a city built on rusting machines. Meet these characters and more in fifty short stories set in worlds beyond our own.

    My latest collection of short stories, Old Odd Ends, is coming out on the 16th of March. Collecting all the flash fiction published on this blog in 2017, it features 50 stories, including my experiments with episodic serials. It’s available to pre-order now as an Amazon e-book. So if you’re looking for something new to read, or you’ve enjoyed these stories and would like to support my writing, you can go order a copy now.


  • Coming Soon – Dead Men and Dynamite

    Adventurer Dirk Dynamo finally has all the clues he needs and is heading into Egypt to find the lost Great Library of Alexandria. But as he sets out on the final leg of his trail, others are there ahead of him, people who would use the knowledge of the Great Library to nefarious ends. As he races spies and criminals through the land of the Pharaohs, Dirk must decide how far he will go for knowledge, and what he really values most in the world – life, love or learning.

    Find out the final fate of Dirk Dynamo and the Great Library in Dead Men and Dynamite, the fifth and final book in the Epiphany Club series, published in February 2017 and available to pre-order now.


  • Old Odd Ends – a steampunk story

    The quaking of the ground shook Dirk’s whole body. His stomach lurched and his legs trembled as he fought to stay upright. Chunks of rock tumbled from the ceiling of the cave, battering at his head and shoulders.

    “We’ve got to smash those machines,” he said.

    He snatched up an axe handle from beside one of the fanatics he had knocked out and hefted the length of wood, testing its weight and balance. Then, with wobbling steps, he approached the nearest of the two medieval machines that were shaking the cave. Its hammers and levers jerked back and forth with frantic energy, driven by an enormous paddle wheel of ancient wood.

    “These are unique artefacts,” Sir Timothy Blaze-Simms said. “We can’t destroy them!”

    “They’re gonna shake the whole city down,” Dirk bellowed above the clatter of machinery and falling rocks.

    “Then disable them,” Blaze-Simms said. “Please!”

    Dirk knew that more lives than theirs were at stake. But he’d never have gotten into events like this if he wasn’t fascinated by the wonders of the world. It would be amazing to show people these devices, hidden for centuries beneath the streets of York.

    Instead of striking one of the paddle wheels, he strode out into the stream, icy water soaking him to the waist, and thrust the axe handle through the sturdy oak spokes. Bracing himself, he tried to hold the wheel back, to stop the machine while Blaze-Simms found a way to turn it off.

    The machine barely registered his presence. The wheel kept turning, swinging the axe handle around. It smashed into his face. Pain lanced through his jaw as was thrown from his feet.

    Dirk fell back into the icy water. Currents churned around him. The paddle wheel caught his leg and dragged him deeper, grinding him against the floor. He was caught between the machine and solid rock, paddles battering his back, breath squeezed from his body. He flailed around, desperately trying to pull himself clear, but the currents dragged him back down.

    He could feel his mind fading as the oxygen ran out. In desperation, he grabbed hold of one of the moving paddles. Clinging on with all his might, he let it drag him around, scraping him against the rock and then the rest of the machine, until at last he emerged, gasping and bleeding, into the air.

    Flinging himself to one side, he landed heavily on dry ground.

    “I say, are you alright?” Blaze-Simms asked. He stood by what looked to be the machine’s controls, a broken lever in his hand. “I’m afraid that woodworm got to this part. Rather stopped me switching it off.”

    “That’s it,” Dirk growled as he forced himself to his feet. “To Hell with posterity.”

    He picked up a rock and charged at the machine, letting out all his pain and frustration in a mighty roar. He smashed at the controls with the rock. Smashed at the gears. Smashed at the axle, the paddles, the spokes. When a solid length of wood broke free, two long iron nails protruding from his end, he seized hold of that and used it to keep on smashing.

    At last, the paddle wheel was reduced to a broken wreck, the gears scattered across the ground. The machine stopped turning.

    Up the cave, the other device was still going, still shaking the floor and walls. Dirk raised his improvised club and charged straight at it, like he was back on the battlefields of the Civil War and it was the Confederate lines. He wasn’t just fighting for him, he was fighting for all the other people this thing threatened. For Blaze-Simms. For the inhabitants of the city above their heads. For the poor, deluded fanatics who had set this machine in motion and were now about to be crushed by its work.

    He stumbled on the shaking ground and almost lost his footing on a loose rock. But he kept going, charging straight at the heart of the machine, and slammed into the housing of the paddle wheel.

    Ancient wood, made brittle by time and fragile by woodworm, exploded into flying splinters. The paddle wheel rolled free, landed with a thud on the stream bed, then began to fall. A sound like screaming filled the cavern as the tortured mass of machinery toppled toward Dirk.

    With the last of his energy, he dived away. His bruised shoulder hit the ground and he rolled clear just as the machine crashed down.

    At last, the ground stopped shaking and the cave fell still.

    *

    Dirk sat enjoying a hearty breakfast of tea and kedgeree. It wasn’t what he usually looked for in a meal, but this was the last day of his holiday and he was feeling adventurous.

    A piece of loose plaster fell from the ceiling, landing atop his pile of curried rice and fish.

    “They’re finally putting on that performance of Richard the Third this afternoon,” Blaze-Simms said, looking up from his sketches of the earth-shaking machines. “Would you still like to go?”

    Dirk shook his head.

    “I’ve had enough of digging up medieval things,” he said. “Reckon I’ll just go for a coffee instead.”

    * * *

     

    So ends another adventure for the Epiphany Club. If you enjoyed this, you can find more stories featuring Dirk and Blaze-Simms on my steampunk page, including links to buy e-books, which will help to fund my writing and keep these stories coming. And if you’d like a free steampunk e-book, along with short stories straight to your inbox every Friday, then why not sign up for my mailing list.

    Next week, something else entirely.