~ RHYS FORD ~
What do libraries have to do with a steampunk novella I’ve got coming out in over a week? Funny you should ask that because really, it all started with a book.
My grandfather gave me books. It was a struggle to get them as a child. They were viewed as extraneous crap by my father but oh how I loved to read and my grandfather knew that. So he became my underground supplier time and time again.
Purely for educational purposes, mind you. *winks*
As I got older and well, more focused, I discovered we had this magical place a mile or so over called a library. I was five. I’d already been reading for two years but here was a place where I could get BOOKS. For free and then give them back and I would get more. My mother took me a couple of times then at some point, my five or maybe six year old brain said fuck this shit, I can walk it.
So I did.
The librarians there were nice. I remember them being nice. They were stuck with me. For HOURS but I had a few corners I knew were comfortable and read. I didn’t even need to take the books home, I could just sit there and read until they kicked me out. Most of the time, they came by before it got dark and said; You need to head home before the sun goes down. You can take that with you.
It was a different time. And I grew up in Hawai‘i which has its own kind of rules. I wasn’t worried about anyone accosting my blissfully ignorant self on the way home. I was more concerned about how I was going to get these books home. Thank god for bags from Shirokiya.
These women—who didn’t know me— gave me the greatest thing I’d ever gotten, portals to other worlds. I could visit places that I’d eventually visit on my own. I was already the kid the family knew wasn’t going to stay. I had what they called “itchy feet” since the day I was born. There was always someplace over there to visit—someone over there I didn’t know with maybe an interesting story—something to taste or experience just beyond the horizon.
And like the Maui of legend, these librarians helped me pull the horizon to me so I could go there.
Eventually we moved. Eventually I no longer looked to a public library for my books. I scoured garage sales and thrift shops. Book sales at libraries were perfect but I longed to own them not just give them back. I wanted to keep my friends and places so I moved on—to second-hand stores and swap meets, armed with change and looking for a deal in a place that often devalued the richness of a book.
I learned to love the smell of old paper and ink. I liked to look at different book covers and never dog-eared my pages. I never cracked their spines and treated them with respect because they were important and I was merely their caretaker because eventually they would go to others.
I knew that. Nothing in my life was permanent but oh these words and ideas were. These places were. And once read, my memories were mine to keep forever.
And I certainly have kept these memories. If not the titles, then at least the story. I found The Phantom Tollbooth, Black Beauty, All the Oz books, All of the Mary Poppins books and The Treasure is the Rose. I discovered how to make duck sausage—I was interested in food building even back then—and was determined to make a perfectly folded omelette.
I have mastered the omelette.
Libraries led me to challenging my norm. To breaking out of the reality I had around me and into places I never could dream of…and then into places only I could dream of.
So there you have it. The first step in my journey was an unassuming building in Kaneohe and it led to a novella written about men, love and mechanical things that go whirr in the night.
If you have books you are no longer going to read, pass them onto your local library. Feed someone’s head. Feed a child’s head. Better yet, feed someone’s dreams. You never know where they might be taking you in the near future.
And now, the official business part of being an author… book pimping.
Clockwork Tangerine, my steampunk novella, is being released on Feb 19th by Dreamspinner Press. It was a lovely and frustrating adventure to write because oh, I had to keep it to novella length but damn I wanted to fit in so much. The delicate balance of relationship in a world where men can’t be gay and there is a battle between magic and technology, all wrapped up in a neat little ribbon.
So much fun to write. Really. Hope you all enjoy it.
The British Empire reigns supreme, and its young Queen Victoria has expanded her realm to St. Francisco, a bustling city of English lords and Chinese ghettos. St. Francisco is a jewel in the Empire’s crown and as deeply embroiled in the conflict between the Arcane and Science as its sister city, London—a very dark and dangerous battle.
Marcus Stenhill, Viscount of Westwood, stumbles upon that darkness when he encounters a pack of young bloods beating a man senseless. Westwood’s duty and honor demand he save the man, but he’s taken aback to discover the man is Robin Harris, a handsome young inventor indirectly responsible for the death of Marcus’s father.
Living in the shadows following a failed coup, Robin devotes his life to easing others’ pain, even though his creations are considered mechanical abominations of magicks and science. Branded a deviant and a murderer, Robin expects the viscount to run as far as he can—and is amazed when Marcus reaches for him instead.