This is a tricky chatlog to share, as Miss Saffia Widdershins was not only in text chat, but also speaking often in Voice. So, some bits might look like they are disjointed. I’ve done my best to re-create questions asked in Voice, and those are in parentheses and italicized. I’ve also removed greetings from folks as they came and went to reduce the overall size of the chatlog.
Also, Ceejay Writer is my virtual persona. So, what she says is what Lori Holuta is saying.
My thanks to Saffia Widdershins for inviting me, to Garnet Psaltery for all her organizing help and no doubt countless other tasks, Wildstar Beaumont for the photos, and everyone who attended and enjoyed Fantasy Faire 2015 in Second Life. Hope to see you again next year!
Ceejay Writer: Good morning or whatnot Saffia!
Vernden Jervil: I was told there was an author here or something?
Ceejay Writer: Where? Where? *looks around*
Saffia Widdershins: Most of this will be in text, but I may be lazy and use voice
Ceejay Writer: Saffia has this lovely Oxford accent so that’s good. I have an allergy wracked ‘merican voice so I’m in text.
Garnet Psaltery: Yes
Emerson Lighthouse: Saffia is loud and clear for me as well
Ceejay Writer: I can hear, too!
Garnet Psaltery: I sent a message in Babbage group chat about the session but I can’t send actual notices
Ceejay Writer: Time for me to refill my coffee cup!
Ceejay Writer: I’m loving this build, by the way! Great place to flop and read a book…. if you can catch one with a net, I see.
Garnet Psaltery: It is magical
Ceejay Writer: Hmm, one of my books may need to be dug up with a shovel methinks. It’s a bit buried.
Garnet Psaltery: You don’t have to hide your treasure here we’re not pirates
Garnet Psaltery: Um well maybe some are
Ceejay Writer: You may actually be outnumbered, Garnet. Sew your pockets shut!
Garnet Psaltery: Eeep
Emerson Lighthouse: I don’t hang out with pirates – except for CJ and Vernden…
Emerson Lighthouse: maybe Scottie
Emerson Lighthouse: and a few others
Garnet Psaltery: I hope I haven’t offended the pirates – they might come back and take over!
Emerson Lighthouse: damn, I have a lot of pirate friends
Ceejay Writer: I think you are an honorary pirate, Emerson.
Emerson Lighthouse: I look great with an eyepatch, Ceejay
Garnet Psaltery: On your eye?
Emerson Lighthouse: gives me that bad boy look
Emerson Lighthouse winks with the eye that is not patched
Ceejay Writer: Don’t wink! Makes you totally blind.
Emerson Lighthouse: I walk around with my eyes shut a lot anyway
Garnet Psaltery: Cos using it as a mankini would be a bad fashion mistake
Ceejay Writer: Now I can’t unthink that. Damn you.
Garnet Psaltery: lol
Emerson Lighthouse: lookout – or it is speedo time for Emerson
Ceejay Writer: I’m not above blinding myself if I have to.
Garnet Psaltery: Oh dear
Emerson Lighthouse: Saffia’s voice makes me want to sip tea and smile
Ceejay Writer: I am all yours – just order me around!
Emerson Lighthouse whistles for Ceejay
(Saffia gives me an overly long, very complimentary introduction, including mention of the fact that I was her ‘trusty dep’, Deputy Editor for the Primgraph Magazine.)
Ceejay Writer: Ah, the Primgraph! Still have such fond memories.
Ceejay Writer: All 16 issues are still at Calameo. Worth grabbing.
(Mention of how many Primgraph writers have gone on to successful careers, including an up and coming Science Fiction writer who shall not be named in this context, and World Fantasy Award-nominated author Jess Nevins, who authored the Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana.)
Ceejay Writer: Yes! You kickstart us to greatness!
Ceejay Writer: And yes, I have treats.
Vernden Jervil looks around for the cookies
Emerson Lighthouse: and circus tricks?
Ceejay Writer: Em…. no.
Vernden Jervil: awwwww
Ceejay Writer: Have to say – I’ve told my office (I have a day job, not rich yet) about RFL in SL. My campus has RFL in RL events. They are IMPRESSED by us.
Garnet Psaltery: Hooray!
(My last name is pronounced badly)
Ceejay Writer: Ho-LOO-ta
Vernden Jervil: gazoontite
Ceejay Writer: *snickers*
Ceejay Writer: Aw, I have a lot of reputation to live up to!
Emerson Lighthouse claps
Garnet Psaltery: BRAVO!!!!!!
Garnet Psaltery: ***** APPPPPPPLLLLAAAUUUSSSSEEEEEEE***********
Garnet Psaltery: .;:+*’`’* APPPPPPPLLLLAAAUUUSSSSEEEEEEE *’`’*+:;.
Garnet Psaltery: ♫~~♫~~APPLAUSE~~♫~~♫
Ceejay Writer: Thank you Esteemed Editor!
Lizzie Gudkov: applause
(Question asked: When did you discover steampunk?)
Ceejay Writer: Oh, good question! *cracks knuckles*
Lizzie Gudkov: 🙂
Vernden Jervil: Is the story about you being born with a monocle true, or is that just a rumor?
David Weinland: hehehe
Ceejay Writer glares at Vernden. Rumor! Totally!
Ceejay Writer: I think it started in about third grade, when my dad gave me a screwdriver, pliers, and a non-functioning HUGE tube radio, and said “Go sit on the patio and have fun finding out how that works”
Garnet Psaltery: Wow what a great dad
Saffia Widdershins: Great toy!
Ceejay Writer: See, my dad is an inventor of sorts. He designed transducers for Bell and Howell for years – he also designed a few Rose Parade floats, built model airplanes from scratch, taught me how to build a weather station on the roof (mom was MAD) and so on.
Ceejay Writer: He’s always encouraged me to look inside things, figure them out, so that I could build on that knowledge and make new things.
Ceejay Writer: So, I grew up curious. And creative. And I found it easier to write about these things than to beg for a blowtorch
Ceejay Writer: When steampunk came along, I just grinned and said ‘Oh, there’s a name for my affliction’
(Question asked: what aspect of steampunk did I discover first?)
Ceejay Writer: As a genre, I think I first got into the music, with Vernian Process and Abney Park.
Ceejay Writer: About the same time though, I started realizing some books were being labeled steampunk.
Garnet Psaltery: Start with the easy questions 😀
David Weinland: 😉
(Question Asked: How would you define steampunk?)
Ceejay Writer: Hmmm. Okay, there’s basic elements that resonate as steampunk to me. A balance of originality and homage to the past…
Ceejay Writer: A touch of world-music helps, or in books visits to exotic places, or characters from those places
Ceejay Writer: inventions, of course! Everyday tech that boggles us but is accepted by the characters.
Ceejay Writer: And an overall feel of ‘we aren’t in our time’
Ceejay Writer: I think the inventions are important, because they are the result of forward thinking minds, creative spirits. They are the outcome of steampunks.
Ceejay Writer: And the same for Dieselpunk, yes! I was involved through Seraph City, a now-gone wonderful sim.
Edward Pearse *sniffs*
(Question Asked: New Babbage is not only a steampunk city in SL, but has inspired quite a few writers. When did you discover New Babbage?)
Edward Pearse: Who do we blame?
Ceejay Writer: St. Patrick’s Day 2007, I created Ceejay and logged in.
Ceejay Writer: August, 2008, a visitor from New Babbage came to a nightclub I had helped build, and he just blew me away with his outlook, his persona, he even came in a robot powered easy chair.
Ceejay Writer: So I came over to explore, and immediately bumped into Shaunathan Sprocket. At the time I was a vampire. Unfortunately dressed in a mainland style elf Christmas outfit.
Garnet Psaltery: heh
Ceejay Writer: He was kind, and VERY proud of his city, took me on an extensive tour.
Ceejay Writer: I moved in a month later.
Ceejay Writer: To wander the streets, and see tinkerers in their workshops, which were on the ground in full view, NOT on skyplats… it was a wonderful feel of ‘this is what we do, we are a city of buildiers’.
Ceejay Writer: I explored every nook and cranny. It was breathtaking, after a year of mainland blight.
Edward Pearse grins
Vernden Jervil: I do miss the pre mesh/sculpt days when people built in the open.
Ceejay Writer: I took loft space in Her Dark Materials, which is still there.
Ceejay Writer: I do too, Vernden. It gave such a breath of life to things.
Ceejay Writer: My ‘loftmates’ after a bit were BlakOpal Galacia and Trilobyte Zanzibar… I was in good creative company!
Ceejay Writer: And though now I have a small parcel in the Blake Sea, and have been elsewhere too, Babbage is always my home town.
Edward Pearse: So were you aware of steampunk before this or was it something you discovered with Babbage?
Ceejay Writer: I was aware before, Edward, which was part of why I was so excited to find Babbage.
Edward Pearse: Cool 🙂
Ceejay Writer: Anyway… yes, my first build was the CocoaJava Cafe. Which was actually built by DreddPirateBob Streeter, and given to me. I learned a lot ripping it apart and tweaking it.
Ceejay Writer: Luckily it was meant to look old and funky, which hid a lot of mistakes.
Edward Pearse: Does Bob have an inspired character in the Brassbright kids?
Ceejay Writer: I did write a backhistory for the Cafe too, it’s in the first Tales Of New Babbage.
Saffia Widdershins: 🙂
David Weinland: cool
Ceejay Writer: Bob DOES! He’s got a character sheet done up for a future kids story.
Edward Pearse: Heh
Ceejay Writer: I want to do lots of short kids stories since I have a lot of funny concepts that aren’t enough for a full book. Steamkettle Kids is the first of those.
(Question Asked: What age groups are your books intended for?)
Ceejay Writer: The novels are aimed at 14-20 year olds, I think. The short kids stories at about 8-12 years old.
Ceejay Writer: I do amuse myself by writing the novels in a way that older people will find some extra cultural references, if they look for them though.
Garnet Psaltery: Welcome, those just arrived. Saffia is asking questions in voice and Ceejay is responding in text
(Question Asked: Can you tell us about the inspiration for your book? I understand New Babbage had a lot to do with that.)
Ceejay Writer: the first novel, this demurely colored book with a cannon and a hapless girl on it, was inspired completely by New Babbage, and in fact came to life as a ‘short bio’ for the City’s website forum.
Ceejay Writer: Couldn’t stop writing the bio, so it eventually had to come off the site as it was becoming something bigger.
Ceejay Writer: Various events and people in Babbage helped me flesh out the book, and that felt nice.
Saffia Widdershins: (the blogpost that ate Babbage)
Ceejay Writer: EXACTLY.
Ceejay Writer: The cover art was done by a Babbager as well. That stinky little DreddPirate Bob. He’s a very talented artist.
Vernden Jervil: and smelly….so smelly
(I understand the book took a while to be completed)
Ceejay Writer: Early 2009, as I recall for the start of the story. When I started blogging installments of it, I got a lot of encouragement, and I have to say especially from Breezy Carver – she was SUCH a cheerleader as I forged ahead.
Ceejay Writer: I wrote it in public at the blog until just after Constances ‘exit’ from the circus. That’s when I decided I had better take this aside and finish out of view.
Saffia Widdershins: 🙂
Ceejay Writer: Lots of life happened, so the book was slow in getting finished. I got involved in some eldercare situations with family, work went through some rough patches… I learned that it really IS hard to make time to write, but eventually realized I HAD to. I got cranky if I didn’t write.
Ceejay Writer: Ironically, the sequels happened in 30 days, each. Yay for Nanowrimo.
Saffia Widdershins: LOL
Lizzie Gudkov: 🙂
Vernden Jervil: Ceejay was a bit batty during those months.
Edward Pearse: Only then?
Vernden Jervil: well moreso
Emerson Lighthouse: those months, Vernden?
Ceejay Writer thumps Em, Vernden and Pearce.
(A question was asked about worldbuilding)
Ceejay Writer: That’s true. The sequels are set in Brassbright City, which I build extensively in the first book. But I’m still constantly world building, every day. I love the country I invented – Industralia – and I could wallow in it for decades and never get bored.
Ceejay Writer: In the third book, I go heavily into the back history of Brassbright City – which is my version of New York City
Edward Pearse passes CJ a spellchecker
Ceejay Writer: Sorry Pearze.
(Question Asked: Are the Brassbright Chronicles going to be one continuous story arc?)
Ceejay Writer: No arc. Each book is self sufficient, but pulls from the same worldbuilding.
Ceejay Writer: Constance is in book two,but NOT the main character. She’s settled in and is living her life at that stage.
Ceejay Writer: It’s set about two months after her adventure.
Ceejay Writer: Steamkettle Kids is concurrent with Flight to Brassbright, as I wrote it at the same time.
(So there will be other characters featured in Down The Tubes?)
Ceejay Writer: Yes! Certain characters will step to the front of the stage and then exit stage left for a time. Some are my own favorites, others, I’m learning from feedback, are reader favorites.
Ceejay Writer: I love feedback. Good and bad. I can’t write in a vacumn. Well I can for a while but then I turn blue.
Garnet Psaltery: heh
(Do you carefully plot out a story and then write from an outline? Or is it more seat of your pants write as you go?)
Emerson Lighthouse: I love how organic that style of writing is
Ceejay Writer: I don’t think I would enjoy stodgy writing. I just love to let it all gush out. And repair later. 😉
(You are self-published. Why did you choose this route?)
Ceejay Writer: Easy. No agent understood me, no publisher wanted me. I spent 6 months seeking representation, and while I got some nice feedback, no one wanted to take me on. I had set a personal goal of 6 months and no more. So then I educated myself about self-publishing.
Ceejay Writer: Its can be VERY DAUNTING at first, but as you paw through the blather, certain aspects become clear.
Ceejay Writer: I studied amazon’s rules and regs first, since they are the 600 pound gorilla.
Ceejay Writer: I learned that they lavish all the good stuff on authors who are willing to give up the freedom of publishing elsewhere.
Edward Pearse: All your stuff R belong to us
Ceejay Writer: I decided to publiish there at a low royalty rate, 35% in order to keep my freedom. So they are just one facet of distribution.
Ceejay Writer: Then I settled on smashwords.com and I can never say enough good about them. It was the best decision I ever made.
Ceejay Writer: They hold me to a high formatting standard – they have to, as their system will pull in my manuscript and spit it out in EVERY format. Nook, Kindle, PDF, many others. And they distribute me to Barnes and Noble, iTunes, PUBLIC LIBRARIES! (caps cause that excites me) and beyond.
Ceejay Writer: I highly encourage everyone to consider smashwords for publishing – and if you are a reader, shop there.
Ceejay Writer: I also built a website to be the ‘house’ for my books, and to post chattery stuff.
Edward Pearse: Any prospects of dead tree editions for us Luddites?
Ceejay Writer: Right now, they aren’t in paper form – YES, these prim versions are the hardest!
OldeSoul Eldemar: IF you do not have this book – you NEED IT!
Ceejay Writer: I’m still researching how to do the paper copies. It’s not just learning how to do it – it’s a lot of learning what systems are not laughed at by the public and indie booksellers
(Small discussion about reading Kindle books on other platforms ensued)
Edward Pearse: Ah! Did not know that. I’ll give it a look
Ceejay Writer: Yes, you can. Kindle apps are out there for other than kindle readers.
Ceejay Writer: And pdf is pretty much acceptable on all – and smashwords has that.
Edward Pearse: I won’t let my desktop talk to my iPhone
Ceejay Writer: In spite of my sneering at Amazon’s royalty structure, I’m a kindle addict.
Ceejay Writer: I have a Kindle Fire AND a paperwhite and love both.
Edward Pearse: Cool
Ceejay Writer: the Fire is my everyday tablet!
(Question, do you do your own promoting?)
Ceejay Writer: Yes. Promoting is never ending.
Edward Pearse: Get invited along to conventions
Edward Pearse: Game the Hugo awards
Edward Pearse: Stuff like that 🙂
Suzi Yao: I get my books hard printed on Blurb, worth a look Ceejay
Ceejay Writer: I have a facebook page, a twitter, a website, I printed and laminated bookmarks to give out in person, and next year I will even be at a panel at Anomalycon in Denver
Ceejay Writer: Blurb! Making a note of that.
OldeSoul Eldemar: We have them on our nooks
Ceejay Writer: I did try some of the indie book sites that promise promotion, and am very disappointed in them.,
Ceejay Writer: My bookmarks have been great- I go to a lot of local steampunk gatherings, and they always go with me.
Ceejay Writer: Oh! On the self publishing, too. Part of my learning process was getting The Steamkettle Kids Save The Day out there – it was my ‘training wheels’.
Ceejay Writer: They are actual printed bookmarks, laminated.
OldeSoul Eldemar: those are cool
Ceejay Writer: I hand them out instead of calling cards.
Edward Pearse: They help you find where you’re up to in a book 😛
OldeSoul Eldemar: yus
Ceejay Writer: The front has website and purchasing info, the back has a teaser.
OldeSoul Eldemar: heheheh Edward
Ceejay Writer: It is. I let the book cover and blurb sell themself.
Ceejay Writer: It’s less daunting if you start with a toe in the water
Edward Pearse: You should pick the brains of Cornelia Rothschild and Miss Sheryl 🙂
Ceejay Writer: I learned the smashwords style of formatting on a short story, now I understand it.
Ceejay Writer: Amazon reviews – yes, they do impact. And they help you not be buried under the crush of books at Amazon. Steamkettle Kids was up to #1 for kids stories for a bit, based on reviews.
Ceejay Writer: GoodReads….. eh. It’s good publicity I suppose but there’s not a lot of return for the effort.
Ceejay Writer: But I’m there – and at librarything and shelfari.
Ceejay Writer: Due Diligence. 🙂
(What advice would you give other new novelists?)
Ceejay Writer: #1 – Finish the book.
Ceejay Writer: 🙂
OldeSoul Eldemar: 🙂
Ceejay Writer: #2 – get feedback from a few impartial folk, and be ready to make changes
Ceejay Writer: #3 get edited, and not by yourself!
Ceejay Writer: Then start working on publishing, but get the words right first.
Ceejay Writer: Oh and a cover. Get a cover. Find a stinky pirate and get a cover.
Ceejay Writer: Actually, you can see the impact of a good cover, right at my feet.
Edward Pearse: 🙂
OldeSoul Eldemar: those stinky pirates are good
Ceejay Writer: Steamkettle Kids, I made generically from a tool Amazon offers.
Ceejay Writer: I paid Bob a handsome sum which he surely blew on rum for Flight to Brassbright.
Ceejay Writer: Bob will be doing the second cover too. Down the Tubes focuses on pneumatic tube mail systems, so I want him to do the title in tubes.
Ceejay Writer: Yep – and also, get a press release done and send it out, don’t overlook local papers!
(I can’t recall the exact question here – something to do with other aspects of promotion)
Ceejay Writer: It’s started with pre-orders – I had 30 sold the day it printed. Try to be ready to set up a pre-order at Amazon about 60-90 days ahead.
Ceejay Writer: Though, that made me sweat. Then I HAD to finish edits as the release date was already set.
Ceejay Writer: But mostly – keep pushing ahead, be reliable, be respectful of readers, be a person that people enjoy (if you are having a rough day leave it at home).
Ceejay Writer: You need to sell yourself.
Ceejay Writer: I admit I tend to use Plurk as my ‘blowing off steam’ place, but I try to keep my chatter there.
Ceejay Writer: Once you publish, it’s time to grow up a bit and treat it professionally
Ceejay Writer: Oh! To finish answering the question…
Ceejay Writer: Since the initial pre order burst, I’m selling about 3-4 books a week. That’s fine.
Ceejay Writer: Just got my FIRST royalty check last week! $21.01!!!!
Garnet Psaltery: Yay!
Edward Pearse: You can procrastinate once Warner Bros sends you the big cheque for the movie rights 🙂
Ceejay Writer: Write cause you love to write, don’t write to get rich.
Saffia Widdershins: Yay!
Ceejay Writer: Edward! Yeaaaaaaaaaah.
Vernden Jervil: are you going to cash it? or hang it on the wall?
Ceejay Writer: It went straight to PayPal from Smashwords.
Garnet Psaltery: CAKE!!!!!!
Ceejay Writer: I am going to print the email notification and frame it.
Edward Pearse: 🙂
Ceejay Writer: Another kudo for Smashwords. They pay out at a lower threshhold. Amazon, gotta wait till I build up lots more sales.
(I’m not sure how the questions was phrased here, but it had to do with re-writing history)
Ceejay Writer: Retrofitting history – that’s what steampunk mechanics could do!
Ceejay Writer: Get a big wrench.
Edward Pearse: Reverse the polarity of the trasduction inverter
Ceejay Writer: I think a lot of that sort of wrench-ing takes place in many books. As well as giving women a better place in quasi-history.
Ceejay Writer: I took a different stance for Industralia. It’s an alternate world, though it feels a lot like ours. But it’s history is VERY different. There was no Queen Victoria either, even though the aesthetics of the Victorian Era are prominent.
Ceejay Writer: I decided a clean slate would give women a better stance, and help me feel comfortable featuring other aspects.
Ceejay Writer: I’ve gone with no royalty.
Edward Pearse: Alternate History can lead to interesting places 🙂
Vernden Jervil: How does you get your moneys with no royalty?
Ceejay Writer: So far, I’ve only lightly mentioned city mayors, I haven’t gotten any further into government. One day I should.
Edward Pearse: Boom tish Verndan
Ceejay Writer: Vernden – hah. Good one.
Ceejay Writer: I DO give Brassbright City a 1920’s prohibition era, but it takes place in about 1840.
OldeSoul Eldemar: grins 🙂
Ceejay Writer: I have never liked being told what I can do (just like Constance there), so having to match up with history bugs me.
Ceejay Writer: I did invent the Butler’s Rebellion. And I couldn’t have done that in ‘our’ world.
OldeSoul Eldemar: Constance is a lot like you
Ceejay Writer: Gotta read the book to know what that is. 😉
Ceejay Writer: She is, Olde. But she’s also my own ideal.
OldeSoul Eldemar: hehe –
OldeSoul Eldemar: sekrit
Edward Pearse: Butlerian Jihad from Dune 🙂
Ceejay Writer: Well – at its’ core, the household servants were worked too hard, rebelled… stuff happened. Aftermath resulted in higher creativity of mechanical helpers.
Ceejay Writer: But it’s funnier in the book.
Ceejay Writer: Edward, PLEASE write fanfic on my world.
(Would you read to us from The Flight To Brassbright?)
Ceejay Writer: I’d be happy to!
Ceejay Writer: Well, tell you what. You can read Steamkettle Kids for FREE, and it’s only about 20 pages long.
Ceejay Writer: I’ll give out a couple of discount codes after reading. One for half off Brassbright, one for Steamkettle Kids for free.
Saffia Widdershins: Yay!
Ceejay Writer: okay! I am going to jump ahead in Brassbright, past some initial adventures Constance has, up to when she runs away to the circus. She’s still a kid.
Ceejay Writer: Getting my manuscript up here.
Ceejay Writer: This is Chapter Two, titled Roll Up! Roll Up!
Ceejay Writer: The highlight of your day will surely be our Tents of Unusual Beings! Dare you gaze upon the strange and unusual folk we have brought to Industralia from far off lands? Will your curiosity draw you closer, closer, and finally inside, where all bizarre secrets will be revealed?
Ceejay Writer: It was late afternoon when I arrived with my overstuffed satchel and understuffed belly at Winthrop & Hammerschlinger’s Travelling Emporium of Amazement. I gazed up in wonder at the gigantic green and gold striped tent, which I knew from books would be called the ‘big top’. But this circus was more ambitious than any I’d read about. There was much more activity going on outside of that huge canvas-and-rope construct. Smaller tents ringed the grounds all the way around the big top, the space between forming a promenade that kept all the visitors walking in a circle, round and round, to be tempted time and time again as they waiting for the main show in the big tent to begin.
Ceejay Writer: A captive audience, how clever, I thought to myself as I joined the ever-curving procession.
The ring of tents offered dozens of delights intended to lure the audience into giving up as much of their coinage as possible. Each tent was a unique work of art, created to compliment the display inside.
Ceejay Writer: And here we have Sir Brainiac, the man with two brains in one head! One brain knows the past, the other knows the future. Let Sir Brainiac tell you what lies ahead! Only a brasser to know what waits around the next corner for you? How can you afford not to know?
OldeSoul Eldemar: pawsome books
Ceejay Writer: Sir Brainiac had a line of curious patrons queued up outside his tent, in spite of the competition from Gizelda the Fortune Teller just down the promenade in her tent made of wildly varied patterned cloth, generously trimmed with heavy beige and black fringe. Blackish-grey smoke drifted out through gaps in the tent cloth, adding a mysterious atmosphere. She seemed to be a favorite of elderly ladies, who milled about in a cluster awaiting their chance to see beyond the veil.
Ceejay Writer: Miranda the Mermaid lounged lazily in a glass tank of murky green water. Her tail swished back and forth, while her upper body (clad, thankfully, in a bathing costume) rose above the top of the tank. She leaned back against the glass, crooking a finger and beckoning all to come take a closer look… for the price of a copper, of course, payable to the muscular gent dressed as a fisherman, standing at the tent-flap door.
Ceejay Writer: Within a purple velvet tent draped with gilded banners reading, ‘Madame Dolly Delight, The Bearded Fat Lady’, I could just catch a glimpse of Madame Dolly as she sat resplendently on a very large purple velvet-cushioned chair. In spite of her facial hair, she seemed quite ladylike.
Ceejay Writer: For a handheld portable dinner be sure to try the giant fried turkey legs! Bigger than an urchin and thrice as delicious! Napkins cost only a pewterbit extra!
Ceejay Writer: (these ‘announcements’ are bold in the book, they represent background chatter and barking)
Edward Pearse waves to mega Beryl
Beryl Strifeclaw purrs
Ceejay Writer: Gauzy beige cloth had been draped in puffs over a blue painted iron framework, creating the illusion of clouds. Inside, patrons could buy fluffy swirls of cotton candy, spun from colored sugars onto pastel paper cones. This was the first of the food tents, all lined up side by side. The warm summer breeze carried the scent of the cotton candy, mingled with an irresistible aroma rising from paper bags filled with hot roasted nuts, and the spicy smell of thin grilled sausage links served with mustard in clever oblong-shaped buns. Many of the men carried waxed paper cups of frothy beer, much of it spilling over the brim. They smiled and drank, not noticing or caring about the stains the brew was leaving on their coat lapels.
Ceejay Writer: Test your skills at the shooting gallery! Your day’s just not fun till you shoot off a gun! Can you beat the high score and win a trinket for your best girl or favorite boy?
Ceejay Writer: I lost count of how many tents I passed. Children squealed and laughed as they tried their luck at sharpshooting and ring-toss games in hopes of winning a prize. I squealed a bit myself when I noticed a Featherstone Fine Novelty Clockwork Sparrow on display above the ring toss tables. A paper sign had been taped to it, reading ‘Hook Five Rings and for You I’ll Sings’.
Ceejay Writer: And in front of Madame Zafrilda’s Oasis of Indulgence and Burlesque Revue tent is the Mighty Man Hammer of Masculinity! Pick up a mallet, give it all you’ve got and impress the ladies with your strength!
Ceejay Writer: (and by hammer… he means his hammer. Side joke.)
Ceejay Writer: So much to see! It was all truly overwhelming. I strolled around the promenade track, furtively snitching peanuts and bits of food from distracted vendors and careless patrons. In my defense, I was very, very hungry.
Ceejay Writer: Beyond the food tents, barkers stood on overturned fruit crates, using tempting words and big lungs to lure anyone with a spare coin to spend it on a variety of sideshow displays, including some of the wild animals.
Ceejay Writer: Roll up! Roll up! While you await the big big show under the big big top, marvel at our magnificently-maned King Leo! Someday you will tell your grandchildren that you stood face to face with a lion, and lived! For only a brasser, it’s an experience worth twice the price! Perfectly safe! Strongest iron cage in all of Industralia!
Ceejay Writer: I wandered for hours, until my feet ached and the sunset had arrived, casting its colorful beams of light across the circus grounds. I noticed that people were beginning to enter the big top for the last show of the night, paying their coins and being welcomed in by yet another smooth-talking barker through two raised tent flaps.
Ceejay Writer: Hurry, Hurry, Hurry! The time has arrived! Don’t delay! Move along, find your seat and prepare yourself for the most glorious evening of entertainment yet known to man, woman or child! Thrill as the Fantastical Flying Falootas defy gravity! Gasp as Princess Penelope performs a plethora of playful pirouettes while precariously perched on a pinto pony! These astounding performances and more await you! Roll up! Roll up!
Ceejay Writer: I didn’t have a coin to my name, so I wandered aimlessly along the now-empty promenade, searching for an opening somewhere along the big top where I could scramble through unnoticed. But that tent was stuck tight to the ground with nary a crack big enough to stick my shoe under.
Ceejay Writer: Meanwhile, as the crowds inside the big top gasped and roared their collective excitement, the game tent operators, food vendors, and other sideshow folk began to wind down for the night. They drew down their canvas flaps and wandered over to the beer tent to empty the already tapped kegs, share humorous stories, have a few laughs and relax after another busy day of showmanship.
Ceejay Writer: I chewed on my lip and pondered what to do next. All those stories I’d read had never mentioned *exactly* how one ran away with the circus and I was beginning to wonder if I’d made a bad decision. In the distance, I heard the sound of a calliope wheezing out a festive tune as the audience laughed and enjoyed the show.
Ceejay Writer: I sighed and began shuffling slowly towards the exit, when all of a sudden Madame Dolly Delight, the bearded fat lady, quite literally plucked me up off the ground. “And just where will you be sleeping tonight, little orphan?” she inquired. I knew who she was right away, having glimpsed her earlier in her tent. Besides that, her name was appliquéd along the full length of a bright green satin sash bravely encircling her waist. And of course, there was that beard.
Ceejay Writer: I was shocked by Madame Delight’s turn of a phrase, as I didn’t think I had a sign on my back that read ‘Pitiful Orphan’. I squirmed in her grasp and whined, “Put me down! I’ll call my daddy over here if you don’t!”
Ceejay Writer: (pause here, Saffia? Or more?)
Saffia Widdershins: I want more – what about the rest of you?
Suzi Yao: more pls – smiles
Ceejay Writer: 🙂
Lizzie Gudkov: more!
Magda Kamenev: More, unless there’s something else you’re dying to tell us.
Edward Pearse grins
Ceejay Writer: Madame Delight relented and set my feet back on the ground. The woman made clucking noises and patted my satchel. “Most little girls don’t come to the circus with a bulging satchel, and they usually have to be taken home early with a tummy ache from too much cotton candy. You’re not like most little girls, and I don’t think your daddy is going to come looking for you.” Then her voice softened. “You remind me of myself a long time ago, on the day I ran away to join the circus. Are you sure you want to do this?”
Ceejay Writer: (I’ll stop in time to give out some book coupons!)
OldeSoul Eldemar: That is what I liked about Madame Dolly – she was kind
Ceejay Writer: My mind was swirling. I sat down abruptly on a rough wooden crate and tried hard to focus. I could barely catch my breath, much less calm my thoughts. I guess all the events of the past few days were catching up with me fast and hard. Momma was gone. I couldn’t go home without getting caught and taken to live at the Hammernail house. I didn’t want to live with the Hammernails, and I really didn’t want to become the person they thought I should be. I was too young to live by myself or have a regular job. In the story books, little orphans would sell flowers or matches on street corners, and their lives always ended tragically.
Ceejay Writer: The circus was the only good option I knew of, and I was starting to have doubts about that too. I tried to remember what else I’d learned from all those story books. Was there any other way? Oh, yes—I could become a hobo! I had just figured out a second choice!
Ceejay Writer: I looked at Madame Delight and balled my fists up tight to help me hold onto my courage. “Maybe I am an orphan, but I only stopped by the circus on my way to the railroad tracks.” Now that I’d started the story, I could feel more of it welling up inside me. “I was thinking I’d ride the rails, Ma’am, those steam whistles are callin’ my name and making me feel the wanderlost! I can sleep like a queen on soft hay in a boxcar, don’t you be worrying none about me.” But a little quaver snuck into my voice, betraying my bravado.
Ceejay Writer: Madame Delight chuckled and shook her head, causing various parts of her generously endowed body to wiggle about merrily. “It’s wanderlust, you pipsqueak of a liar, but I like your word better,” she said. “And once you’re in that boxcar, oh Queen of the Rails, what happens next? How will you eat? Do you know where to go when the train reaches the end of the line? And what will you do if another hobo jumps into that boxcar with you?”
Ceejay Writer: I opened my mouth to reply, but in spite of my love of telling a tall tale, no words came out. I kicked at my crate-seat in frustration. Madame Delight was being reasonable! How dare she!
Ceejay Writer: The woman smiled smugly, knowing she’d won. She reached out for my arms with her round hands and lifted me up to my feet. “You may as well stay with us tonight. It’s going to be dark soon and you’ll need a safe place to sleep. Besides, old Cookie could use some kitchen help come breakfast time.”
Ceejay Writer: I had a notion that Madame Delight would be direly upset at missing breakfast, or any other meal for that matter. Come to think of it, I’d be missing my breakfast as well if I didn’t take her up on the suggestion, and so I meekly nodded my agreement.
Ceejay Writer: A jaunty fellow wearing striped pants, suspenders and a big blue shirt trotted past us, carrying a wooden fruit crate in one hand and a turkey leg in the other. “Evenin’ Dolly, and to you too, little princess. A fine night it is, simply grand!” he sang out as he scooted by. I recognized his voice… I’d been hearing it in the background ever since I arrived.
Ceejay Writer: “Evenin’ Barky! Those turkey legs will be your downfall, I keep telling you! That’s not really turkey!” Madame Delight called back, but her words only hit him in the backside as he vanished behind a wagon, trailing laughter in his wake.
Ceejay Writer: Madame Delight took up my little hand in her bigger one. It was soft and plump as a feather pillow—very comforting, really. “So, what do people call you, young one?” she inquired.
Ceejay Writer: (and and here we tie into Fantasy Faire! )
Ceejay Writer: Names are power. Everyone knows that. All the fantasy stories say so.
“Gwendolyn Daisydrop Greenmoor, daughter of Count Greenmoor and his concavebine, Priscilla.”
Ceejay Writer: “My stars in the heavens, are you going to tell me a story every time I ask you a simple question? Oh, and Priscilla would have been a conc-you-bine, unless she was curved in the wrong direction.”
Ceejay Writer: I winced at her correction. I’d gained a large vocabulary from all my reading, but sometimes the complicated words were hard to remember. She had asked nicely though, and I was being offered a bed and a breakfast after all, so I added, “But I changed it to Constance, ma’am, as I’m hiding from an evil troll.”
Ceejay Writer: “A charming name, Miss Constance, wise choice. Now, let’s toss the ma’am, I can’t bear such language. Call me Dolly, or Madame Delight. Just don’t call me late for supper!” Chuckling at her own wit, she led me out the front gate. We walked a little ways to a grassy field strewn with caravan wagons of all shapes and sizes. Many were dark, but a few wagon windows glowed warmly from within.
Ceejay Writer: “Welcome to Clover Junction, our humble little town away from home. We call it Clover Junction since we usually end up in some grassy cow pasture.”
Dolly pointed to an older wagon coated with thick, peeling green paint and thin, faded circus posters. “You’ll be sleeping there tonight.”
Ceejay Writer: And I shall pause here!
Saffia Widdershins applauds
Red: clap clap
Lizzie Gudkov: Applause!
Magda Kamenev: .-‘`’-. APPLAUSE APPLAUSE .-‘`’-.
Beryl Strifeclaw purrs
Saffia Widdershins: That was terricfic!
Suzi Yao claps loudly
Ceejay Writer: Thank you for listening!
Vernden Jervil: cheers
Suzi Yao: Thank you for sharing