QSFer K.S. Trenten has a new FF Christmas Steampunk romance out: Wind Me Up, One More Time.
When their home becomes too dangerous for them, Nathalie and Grace’s mothers decide that Mama Morisot will move with the girls to the city of Verity while Mama Bibi stays behind. There, they find safety and friends—Nathalie in the dashing Maia and Grace in Theodora Bear—but all is not right in Verity.
The gears of industry grind on relentlessly in the city, threatening to stifle creativity and magic, seeking to end childhood. One tragic blow at a time, Grace watches as the magic and love around her dies until she also begins to give into despair. It will be up to a stuffed bear and the magic of the holidays to remind Grace how vital imagination is in keeping her family whole.
When Nathalie first arrived in Verity, she felt a little like the princess in Mama Morisot’s story, the one she’d been named after. Mama Morisot’s home didn’t have walls of gold, but it was so large and quiet after the sneaky danger of the swamp and the tense shelter of the hut.
Verity was a place where time had stopped. Sometimes Nathalie had glimpsed skyscrapers beyond the swamp, quite a few of them, along with the noise of shouting, sharp cracks of angry violence. There were hardly any noises like that in Verity. They’d disappeared along with the skyscrapers.
Most of the dwellings were white and gray, with blue trimmings, dripping with what looked like lace. Only this lace was made of wood. There was only one skyscraper, looking like a gilded glass lady, looking down on squat, disapproving wooden buildings.
Most of the homes, shops, and places to go in Verity would never allow themselves to get above her neighbors. Yes, Nathalie was already thinking of Verity and all the buildings in town as “her”. The entire place felt female. There were a few sons and husbands here and there, yet something about Verity attracted single women, or women living together. Mama Morisot’s own grandmother came from outside to get away from the progress and rush of the modern world. It wasn’t that strange a story.
A return to the honorific “Mrs.” or “Miss” was included in the strangeness, a strangeness which made Mama Morsiot roll her eyes. She let her feelings be known to a very special visitor who came by with a silent daughter. Nathalie never forgot the visitor, the daughter, nor her mother’s sentiments on ever calling herself “Mrs.” or “Miss”.
“As if I’d return to that way of speaking or thinking. Ever.” Mama Morisot gritted her teeth, lifting a tea cup to her lips to hide her expression. “I’m going to hold what social progress we’ve made with my teeth and tongue. I insist upon being addressed as ‘Ms. Morisot’.”
“Oh, Isabeau.” Auntie Cassat tittered. For one moment, she allowed her eyes to sparkle when they met Mama Morisot’s. “You were always impossible.”
“Well, you kept the name Cassat, didn’t you, Marie?” Mama Morisot lifted an eyebrow with slow slyness. “Even though it’s an acquired name.”
“What’s an acquired name?” Nathalie piped up, eager to know.
Grace lifted her head from munching on her blanket, as if she too was curious.
“It’s a name you choose for yourself as opposed to the name you were born with,” Mama Morisot explained, trying to balance Grace on her knee. Only she nearly dropped her.
Auntie Cassat’s little girl, Maia moved at the same moment Nathalie did to grab Grace. Nat was closer to Mama Morisot, so she was able to catch the baby first.
For a moment, their fingers touched. Nat looked up to meet the other girl’s almond eyes, dark and shining.
Maia blushed, dropping her head.
Nathalie shifted her sister, so she was sitting firm on her lap, very glad to have the kind of cheeks that didn’t show red.
Not that Grace seemed to mind or notice the change in the person holding her. She let out a burp of contentment, reaching out to tug at one of Nathalie’s wayward curls.
“Good thing Bibi’s oldest has fast reflexes.” Auntie Cassat turned a critical eye on Mama Morisot. “You have no idea how to hold a child.”
“She’s my oldest as well as Bibi’s.” Mama Morisot stiffened a bit. “Both Nathalie and Grace are my daughters as well as Bibi’s.”
The air grew sharp with unspoken things. This was the first time Nat heard other names for Mama, Mama Morisot, and Auntie Cassat.
“Did you choose the names Isabeau and Marie for yourselves as well?” Nathalie glanced from her mother to herformer partner.
“No, Isabeau is the name I was born with.” Mama Morisot studied her slender, pale fingers. “I chose to go by Morisot, since it’s the name of my favorite artist.”
“Many women take on new names when they come to live in Verity.” Auntie Cassat smiled at Nathalie, although there were shadows under her eyes. Her face and hands were as pale as Mama Morisot, but she had an ivory complexion, almost like cream and marble. “I, too, chose the name of a painter I admired.”
“I’ll never forget the one of the girl in blue.” Mama Morisot’s face was a ruddy study of wrinkles and lines, telling a story of all the places she’d been. “It conveyed a mood, a theme, and a character just with a glance.”
“You always preferred to express things in words.” Auntie Cassat smiled, her dark eyes softening with memories. “I, on the other hand, had the talent of transforming stories into picture, but couldn’t actually tell stories myself. Perhaps this was why when I met you I felt like I’d met my soul mate.”
The two women gazed at each other for a moment as if the room and everyone else in it had disappeared.
“I could never stop telling stories. Alas, I had no way of painting them.” Mama Morisot’s own dark orbs shone with a hundred stories reflecting back Auntie Cassat. “In a way, we were perfect for each other.”
“Do you remember the day we left the factory?” Auntie Cassat leaned her face on her hand and continued to gaze at Mama Morisot.
“We were having an ice cream.” Mama Morisot chuckled, a ruddy flush rising up her neck. “I just started talking to you about Grace and Theodora while you suggested the tall, sinister, striking woman who’d take Grace’s sister away.”
“This was all I contributed to Magic and Mishaps.” Auntie Cassat shook her head. “The illustrations, the characters came to life while I sketched them like nothing since.”
“Aren’t you still drawing?” Mama Morisot frowned. “You used to always have a sketch book handy.”
“That was when I was with you.” Auntie Cassat looked down at her hands. “It hasn’t been a part of my life since I became a wife and a mother.”
“Guess that’s why we stopped being perfect for each other.” Spoken softly, the words still sounded harsh. They killed the cheerful ease between the two women.
Hello! I’m K.S. Trenten, a Californian author writing tales of ambient science fiction/fantasy.
What is ambient science fiction/fantasy? These are stories of wonder and magic which tend to be emotionally driven rather than action oriented. It’s a return to the kind of stories we read as children, only these don’t always end with a princess falling in love with a prince. We’ve got princesses falling in love with princes, mouse kings sweeping nutcrackers off their feet, and wannabe captains driving off into the starscape to find themselves. It’s not always about the battle or the trek into the wilderness. It’s the journey into a character’s heart which can take on a sense of surreal wonder.
If you’d like to take a peek at these journeys, stop by the Cauldrons of Eternal Inspiration (my blogs). My characters usually have something to say on Mondays and I offer free stories and samples on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Some of my characters have appeared in my published works listed here. Others are currently battling their way out of various works in progress. They’ve all got a story to tell.
I’m still learning about the writing process, but I’m willing to share what I’ve learned in a monthly column for Queer Sci Fi called Sources of Inspiration as well as blogs as cauldron keeper.livejournal.com and rhodrymavelyne.dreamwidth.org. You can also find me as rhodrymavelyne on Twitter, tumblr, NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNoWriMo, and Archive of Our Own.