Over a blasted landscape, a mouse scampers. He lifts a defiant paw to the heavens, oh, wait, he’s just saying hello…
Mousetrick: Greetings! Welcome to Steampunk Lancaster! My name is Mousetrick, prince of the warren, owner of whiskers extraordinaire…
Theodora is the large, stuffed bear carried in the arms of the little girl wearing a red cape.
Grace: (the girl in the cape) Theodora says you’re supposed to introduce our scribbler. Not yourself.
Mousetrick: Says who? (chitters) I am a lot more interesting than she is! Just look at my whiskers. (twirls his whiskers)
Theodora: (unimpressed) Growrrr…
Mousetrick: Oh, fine. We were created by K.S. Trenten. She scribbles. Back to what I was saying. Strange time have struck the Islands of Ire…Flesh eating Liver birds plague the sky…
A sinister cackle erupts as said birds dive-bomb Mousetrick…
An army of tiny soliders march over the landscape, taking aim at the birds with their tiny toy guns. They’re lead by a nutcracker. They take aim at the sky.
Pop! The birds screech their indignition and depart.
Mousetrick: That’s my toothy beauty! (preens and smooths his fur) As if those weren’t bad enough Sugar-Zombies roam the streets, spreading their curse like a plague…
There’s moaning and shuffling sound from all directions. Mousetrick, Grace, Theodora, the soliders, and the nutcracker freeze in their tracks.
Grace: Quick! To the lighthouse!
Everyone runs in the direction of the lighthouse, glowing, emitting choral music which stops the zombies in their tracks. It gives mouse, girl, and toys a chance to pound on the door.
It’s opened by a sleek, attractive individual of indeterminate gender, dressed in the somber black attire of a household servant.
Claude: Good evening. You’d better hurry inside.
They stand out of the way to let the refugees race up the stairs.
At the top; a slender boy and four young women stand together, singing in perfect tune.
In the old tower
We re-kindle the beacon
Keep watch on the hour
So hope may awaken
They stop singing when the little party stops and stares at them.
Nathalie: (for she’s one of the women singing, a coppery-skinned young woman dressed in loose russet) Grace!
Christopher: (for he’s the boy. Never mind how he knows Mousetrick, he knows all of my characters) Mousetrick!
Cinders: (the dustiest of all the four women) Claude let you in? You found your way here?
Ariella: (a dark-haired lady in dark blue with sharp ankles visible beneath her skirt) Of course they did.
Maia: (the last woman wearing a top hat) Grace, what were you doing out there? Didn’t you hear what we were singing?
Grace: It’s all right. We got away from Liver Birds and Sugar-Zombies.
Mousetrick: (smoothing his fur once more) As you can see, we are well-armed and able to protect ourselves.
Cracktooth: Except we ran.
Mousetrick: Oh, don’t sweat the details! I’m well-armed with my toothy beauty and our army of tin soldiers. We shall keep the beasts at bay.
Christopher: We shall?
Grace: We’ll think of something. Won’t we, Theodora?
Nathalie: I could distract them with a story? Maybe they’d go bother someone else.
Cinders: As guardians of hope, should we really encourage them to go bother someone else?
Maia: I could take them down a casserole. Or gingerbread. Are Sugar-Zombies fond of sugar? Maybe they’d prefer gingerbread to brains.
Mousetrick: You’ll attract all sorts of riff-raff if you start carrying around gingerbread. (He sniffs in unease at the night. Yes, among the monster sounds there’s the chittering of other rats.)
Christopher: (opening eyes filled with color and stolen memories) I wonder if what’s out there is worse than what I’ve found beyond the Door.
Grace: Let’s not find out!
Nathalie: I agree.
Cinders: Let’s just keep the forces at bay. Keep hope alive.
Grace: We can do that.
Mousetrick: (striking a pose) Of course we can!
Cracktooth: Aren’t we supposed to be introducing our scribbler’s work?
Mousetrick: (striking a pose) Of course! Her’s is the tale of our torrid passion, Cracktooth’s and mine, misunderstood in many a story or ballet; Seven Tricks…
Some say a mouse king has seven heads. Hah, trust a human to get our legends wrong. A mouse prince must perform seven tricks before the twelve days of Christmas are up. It’s how he wins his crown, but I’ve got my whiskers set on something else. A stiff beauty with a magnificent jaw, waiting for me under the holiday shrub. I caught his scent in a dream, which I’ve been sniffing after ever since. Scamper with me through my adventures and misadventures, dodging traps, cats, and giants, while I win a steadfast nutcracker’s heart.
And if you wish to read about our adventures-
Cracktooth: Or misadventures.
Mousetrick: (unphased) -go to…
Nine Star Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/seven-tricks/
Maia: And here’s where you read about my torrid affair with Nathalie…
Nathalie: Not to mention Grace’s adventures. Or misadventures.
Maia: No matter how much of it is inside her head.
Grace: You tell them, Theodora! This is our story. As long as Princess Grace’s story. And Iama the Terrible’s story.
Maia: I’m *not* that terrible.
Nathalie: Depends on which Iama you’re talking about…
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.
Maia: Nat, the buy links! We need to tell them where to buy our story at!
Nathalie: Oops. (abashed grin) Here’s where you can find Wind Me Up, One More Time…
Mischief Corner Books/Shenanigans Press: https://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/wind-me-up-one-more-time.html#/
Cinders: Ariella and I-
Ariella: And Claude.
Cinders: And Claude. We have our own story, At Her Service which is searching for a home.
Ariella: Which means it needs to be republished.
Cinders: Our scribbler does have another story, A Symposium in Space. I feel a lot of empathy for Phaedra. She’s on a journey, too, only it’s through the stars. And her heart is being tested.
Ariella: You go to a ball. She goes to a symposium.
Cinders: Yes, there is that, isn’t there in A Symposium in Space?
Phaedra and her lover, Pausania are invited to a dinner party. Only this won’t be like any party Phaedra has ever been to. Nor does Pausania want her to go. Phaedra is determined, even if she has to find her own way to this symposium in space. A fateful encounter with the spaceship of her dreams and the wandering philosopher, Sokrat, lead Phaedra to a unique gathering of individuals where thoughts of love are offered up…and consumed.
Tagline: The party continues in a decadent matriarchal future where the guests may find themselves eating their words…literally.
Ariella: You can find A Symposium in Space at…
Nine Star Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/a-symposium-in-space/
Christopher: I’m involved in a series of stories our scribbler has been working on for some time, Tales of the Navel. You can find some of those stories at her blog, the Cauldron of Eternal Inspiration. I’m there most Mondays, having conversations with other characters. When I don’t have to share the space with a particularly obstinate dwarf.
Quartz: (his voice comes from the air) Who’s obstinate?!
Christopher: Ahem, we’re at inspirationcauldron.wordpress.com
Quartz: Ruddy shadows. Don’t eat, just devour memories and feelings. Like vampires or ghosts they are.
Everyone looks at Christopher.
Christopher: (lowering his eyelashes) I’ve never denied it. Our scribbler sometimes writes as herself at…
Christopher: Or she indulges in flights of fanciful fandom at…
Quartz: Ruddy Hannibal. As if she wasn’t distracted enough.
Christopher: You’re not here! Fairest needs to find a new home, too! And Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystals Coffins, your story, hasn’t been published yet!
Ariella: He’s right, though. She is distracted.
Cinders: This may be why many of us are distracted, too. Grace?
Grace gazes off into space, not answering.
Nathalie: I guess that proves your point.
Christopher: Anyway if you’d like to find our scribbler, K.S. Trenten on social media, look at these places…
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/kstrenten
Nine Star Press Author Page: https://ninestarpress.com/authors/k-s-trenten/
Grace: Is that all?
Mousetrick: (twirling his whiskers) Our shift is over.
There’s a pounding at the door below.
Mousetrick: (scampering behind Cracktooth) Liver-Birds?
Grace: (hugging Theodora) Or Sugar-Zombies?
Christopher: They have a taste for artists. Ever since one fell afoul of them.
Nathalie: (raising an eyebrow at Maia) We’d better be careful.
Maia: (walks to the stairs leading up) As if Iama the Terrible has anything to fear.
Christopher: (follows) I thought she was just a character in your mother’s novels.
Maia: (smiling with a glint in her eye) Oh, Christopher. Is anything “just” anything in a place like this?
The two of them watch the stairs. Happily the rest of the watch passes peacefully…we hope!