Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Gripped by a New Idea - Crunchtober #3 & #4

OMG! OMG! OMG! This idea steamrollered me yesterday so both days I have ignored the prompt and written about this:

Kitten Graves and the Floating Pleasure Palace
The basic concept is for a Steampunk novel that revolves around a 17 year-old girl named Kitten Graves. It is set in the 1880s and the action will take place on a steam powered luxury liner that is a travelling high-class brothel. (I envision the ship being advanced for the era in the same manner that Captain Nemo's sub is advanced in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). Below are some character sketches etc:

The Floating Pleasure Palace THE CHAMBER OF VENUS: A giant luxury liner, built in 1850, of the variety that actually wasn't seen for another 40 years. Think luxury on the lines of the Titanic, with promenade decks, a ballroom, formal dining, smoking parlors, three and four bedroom suites etc. The ship is propelled by a system of planed flippers that work like the old roman slave rowing system. Each blade is controlled by its own steam engine, and each engine is manned by a team of engineers that can shovel coal and keep the pressure at a perfect tipping point. The ship is fast and highly maneuverable in open water, and the flippers can be retracted while a simple screw propeller is enacted for coming into port. A snaking series of brass speaking tubes allows the captain to issue orders to the engine room and control the direction and velocity of the ship. She is an oddity in an era when all steamships used paddle-wheels and oceangoing steamships used auxiliary sails.

Connor James Iain Aiden Graves: A Black-Irish immigrant to Scotland, Connor is 6'3" tall with pale skin and a shock of white hair that once was coal black. At the beginning of our tale, he is shot dead on ship as they are docked in Boston Harbor. He was an Irish immigrant to Glasgow in the 1820s. Worked in the shipyards. Never married. Scraped and saved every penny and sought investors until he had enough to build the FPP luxury liner steamship from his own designs. Owned and operated the world's most luxurious and exclusive brothel in the ship - sailing from port to port. All clients are vetted and searched before boarding - no weapons allowed on board, and all payments up front on and full night's basis. He met the whore that would become Kitten's mother in Tangiers when he was 70 years old - she was Scottish and a fiery redhead. Smitten, he promptly recruited her. They never married and the mother took off when Kitten was 5 years old.

Katherine 'Kitten' Collette Mary Jean Graves: Born of Connor James Graves and the mysterious Scottish whore. She is extremely petite (5'4"), and has honeyed peach skin, marred by freckles across her nose, and a shock of strawberry red curls. Kitten lived her entire life (while she wasn't at school) on The Chamber of Venus. Her mother left when she was five, and other than a couple of old daguerreotypes, she knows nothing of her. Determined that his daughter will have all the good things in life he didn't have while growing up, Connor Graves sent her away to exclusive boarding schools in England and France where she received a perfect classical education. When her elderly father is shot by an unknown assailant, Kitten inherits the FPP and all of the employees therein.

Madame Rita: She is a South American who Connor found in the Cote Azure on his first trip to Africa in the 1860's. She is of late middle age, stout and redoubtable. She is responsible for the health of the whores, and is also quite versed in all known methods of birth control. She serves the role of the traditional English housekeeper as well, menu planning, supervising the staff, overseeing decorations for holidays and special events and monitoring the 'household' budget.

Just Fletcher: A combination of Butler and Bouncer, Just got his appellation by refusing to divulge his full name - 'Just call me Fletcher' got shortened to Just over the years. A giant of a man, who made even Connor Graves seem short, Just keeps order on the FPP and ensures that travel and arrivals in port are handled smoothly and professionally. Although he looks a bruiser and is responsible for paying bribes, recruiting new girls and managing the seedier sides of the business, Just is a very gentle soul with a penchant for playing piano and a love of poetry. He was in Boston at the funeral of his father when Connor Graves was shot. He blames himself and has sworn to never leave Kitten's side because of it.

Various Whores and Tutors: The whores are all quite high-class, although as is usual for the time, completely uneducated. They will be witty at conversation, skilled in various artistic pursuits, perfection on the dance floor and paragons of beauty. The tutors will be recruited to live on the ship, paid by room and board, plus a once weekly romp with the whore of their choice. I imagine them in the Byronic mold - dreamers, poets and philosophers.

The Story: Kitten will be away at school when her Father is shot. Just will bring the FPP to London with her Da's body for burial. She will bury him and then, much to the dismay of the various villains who are hoping to seize control of the FPP, take on the running of the family business. During her first turn at sea, as she comes to know the individual girls who now work for her, she will decide that they deserve to be educated, so she will hire tutors to travel with them. With Just's help, she also sets out to search for her father's killer. She will struggle to master the intricacies of running the FPP, while fending off the despicable attentions and underhanded dealings of her business competitors who feel that the legendary Floating Palace does not belong in the hands of a little girl.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Crunchtober #2 - Fiona's Grandmum

Field Report, June 2011: The dawn of my second attempt at retrieving Fiona XXX was heralded by snow. I was entirely confident that this recruiting run would proceed as it should. While my charms are considerable in the general sense, the contrast of my coal black coat and a pristine dusting of snow would, I was certain, prove utterly irresistible, and the young girl with the shockingly inappropriate hair would become my Rider.

I proceeded to the coordinates of the second attempt and was most pleased to find that the Council had wisely booked it on the beach at Mussleburough. The reasoning for this was sound. Water is my element, and the combination of the Firth and the snow coated coastline would conspire to heighten my powers; there was no way that the pink-haired schoolgirl could elude me. Although I can't say I approve of the child's choice of haircolours, I must admit that it does make her easy to target. As the scouts had predicted, Fiona was making her way along the beach with her Grandmum on her arm. Fiona herself is a pixieish child, but next to her Grandmum, she is a virtual giant. I had thought that the onslaught of modern nutrition and hygiene had eliminated such diminutives, but there was something of the fey in this tiny wispy woman. Her thistledown hair strained to escape the confines of the tight bun it was imprisoned in, ghostly white tendrils coronaed her head. Fiona's posture was one of solicitous attention, as she helped her ancestor along the strand.

As expected, the two women, reached the first house at the end of the beach and turned in, passing through the back garden gate and up the porch stairs. A quick glance at the white spot of sun buried in snow clouds assured me that Fiona would shortly come pelting out of the door to run back along the beach and up to the plaza for the bus. The scouts report that Fiona always delays to the last minute and then sprints for the bus. I figured that was the perfect opportunity to put myself in her path. I took a few bracing steps, just enough to add a high arch to my neck, and start my nostrils flaring prettily, and placed myself in the path that led from the house's back garden onto the beach. I was certain of my quarry as the door slapped open and Fiona came barreling out, calling goodbyes over her shoulder. My skin was quivering with the excitement, and my tail twitched as I could not refrain from shifting, hoof to hoof. This was the moment! I tossed my head, showing myself to advantage against the stoney sky and snow-blanketed beach. Fiona reached the gate, sprung the latch and whirled through, deftly kicking the gate closed behind her. She hadn't seen me yet, but in just a second our destinies would collide and her world would change forever.

"Movit awa fra the bairn!" The command rang across the strand with a volume that should have been impossible from such a tiny frame, and I turned to see Fiona's Grandmum standing like an avenging angel on her back stoop, clutching a bundle of Rowan twigs in her tiny fist.

Fiona was galvanized by her Grandmum's words and threw herself back behind the protection of the gate, staring fearfully over the garden wall at me. The pick up was ruined, the sparkling snow wasted on these heathen women. Disgusted, I turned to the Firth and made a dramatic exit, Jumping cleanly through the water. It was clear I was going to have to take a different approach to recruiting Fiona XXX.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Crunchtober #1 - When Angus Didn't Meet Fiona

Field Report, June 2011: Upon dispatch, I jumped to proper coordinates on the shore of Blackness to gain the attention of one Fiona XXX as instructed by the Council. The day was fine, a light mist adding sheen to my coat, and inspiring confidence that, as usual, I would appear irrestistable and my new Rider would, quite understandable, be grateful to be chosen. Blackness stands on a promentory in the Forth, removed from the town centre and full of secluded nooks and crannies, making it the perfect place for acquistion of a new Rider.

Fiona and her class arrived as scheduled, the teacher herding the gaggle of children first into the small curator's cottage, and then along the heath into the castle itself. The Rider's bright pink hair was easy to spot in the clump of teenagers and I tracked her progress through the gates.I overheard the teacher instructing teh children in proper behavior while investigating the ruins and extolling them to use their guidbooks to answer the quiz questions she had handed out on the bus. She then gave them two hours to disperse and explore.

Fiona consulted the papers in her hand, and then leaning over to say something to a friend, turned back towards the gate where I was standing and Thinking that this was the perfect opportunity to make myself known, I dissolved cloaking and arched my neck. She saw me. I am sure she saw me, but her face drained of blood and she reached back to grab the hand of a departing classmate. "On the other hand," she said, a little too brightly, "I think I will go with you guys. I can get that outside stuff later." I watched her walk away with some bewilderment, but I realized that she must not, in all actuallity, have seen me. Patience is a virtue and I am nothing if not a patient Horse.

I renewed my cloaking and waited patiently as the kids ran all over the castle, shouting down at each other from high windows and ramparts, taking turns incarcerating their mates in the tidal prison and staging pretend sword fights with biros and lead pencils. Fiona was never alone through this, but kept safely in a clump of her mates, participating in the general mayhem and distinct lack of scholarly behavior. I was growing restive, and, unable to still the ring of my hooves against the cobbles, decinded that I had best retire to the outer courtyard where I could watch for my Rider from the quite green turf.

Eventually, fiona came through the gates with two other young people. They moved along the Western wall of the castle down towards the shore. I followed at a distinct difference, careful to set each hoof silently against the stones. At the water's edge, the three students split up and wandered the lacy edge of the water, searching for inspiration in the rocky rubble. Fiona pulled a sketch pad from her backpack, and seated herself on a boulder facing the castle. The Firth of Forth spread out behind the walls of Blackness, the distant bridges framing the scene. I could see why she wanted to sketch it and was happy for her concentration as the other children wandered farther affield and Fiona, absorbed in her sketch did not notice she was alone.

Dissolving my cloaking, I stepped once again into her view, confident that the sparkling water, the ancient walls of the castle and the light breeze in my mane would conspire to make me irresistable. I was already hearing the congratualtions of my mates on the perfect recruiting run. So wrapt was I in my imaginings, that it took me a moment to process the reality of the scene before me. Contrary to all experience of humankind, Fiona seemed immune to my charms. She was resolutely not looking at me, as she fumbled to close her sketchbook and put it into her backpack without looking up. I stepped closer and tossed my head, knowing that the resulting shimmer on my glossy mane would call for her touch, knowing that once she touched me she would be mine.

"I'll have nought to do with you, ye black bugger!" Fiona said. "I know yer like, and I'll no be consorting with a kelpie, no matter how beautiful ye appear."

I was completely gobsmacked, and entirely unable to think of what to do. I had never had a human ignore me in such a rude and insulting manner before. I must admit, my pride was hurt. I snorted my diresion, and pawed the pebbled ground a little to show my impatience. This was my designated rider and she would be taking her first ride today. It was like the child was made of stone, she neither looked up nor said another word as she skirted the boulder to get away from me, wetting her legs to the hem of her tartan skirt, and never once turning her back as she resolutely refused to raise her eyes. It was infuriating to watch her progress back across the rock strewn ground to the safety of her classmates as they gathered onto their bus.

I stood on the shore, flanks quivering with rage as the bus backed around and pulled out of the parking lot. Fiona's bright pink hair blazed through the window as she watched me stand, riderless on the strand my own eyes locked on her receding form.