Timepiece is a steampunk time travel adventure about a girl, a pocket watch, Frankenstein's monster, the Battle of Waterloo, and giant clockwork robots taking over London.
Its sequel Timekeeper picks up where Timepiece left off, bringing to a conclusion the story of Elizabeth and William (though not of Maxwell – there will almost certainly be a third book at some point).
They are available from:
Barnes & Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/timepiece-heather-albano/1106037183?ean=2940013366398)
Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/93451) .
Timepiece was born when a friend of mine told me about a dream she’d had, in which a package arrived in the mail for her then-infant son. Inside the package addressed to him was a package addressed to me (how odd, she thought) and inside that was a velvet bag containing a pocket watch. Opening the pocket watch, my friend discovered that the period casing contained a futuristic-looking screen cycling through images of different historical times and places. “I think I had your dream, Heather.”
I tried to write a story about her son and the pocket watch and me, including a reason for the nested packages, but I couldn’t get it to gel. I sat staring at it and wondering if I could turn it into some other story instead.
A pocket watch seemed to belong to an older era anyway, I thought…so maybe this wanted to be a Victorian time travel story. Maybe steampunk, with huge mechanical monsters stomping down a gaslit street. Stomping after what? What would mechanical Victorian monsters hunt? Something natural run amuck, of course—the Victorians would totally build monstrous scientific artificial things to constrain monstrous natural things.
Okay, so where did the run-amuck natural things come from? And when? It would have to be long enough before the Victorian era—long enough before, say, 1885—for the run-amuck natural things to have become a problem, for the humans to generate a solution, and for the solution to have time enough to become its own problem. So something on the order of seventy or eighty years. What was going on in England seventy or eighty years before 1885?
Five seconds later, I was scrambling to look up the dates of the Battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo. Five seconds after that, I knew exactly what the story was about.
The more I researched, the more awesome real-world (or established-myth, at least) details I found that fit neatly into place. The Battle of Waterloo was a victory snatched from the jaws of defeat—“the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life,” in the words of Wellington himself—a day that could have very easily gone very differently. Before that stretched the years of the Napoleonic Wars, a time of very real danger that might well have prompted the beleaguered British to take more desperate measures to defend themselves than they actually stooped to. And in Mary Shelley’s novel, Viktor Frankenstein does in fact set up a laboratory in the Orkneys in about 1790. With those anchor points, the rest of my alternate universe slipped into place with the neatness of falling dominos. At that point it became obvious to me who the protagonists had to be: youngsters from 1815 who would endorse any action taken to defeat Napoleon…at least until they see the consequences.
For a moment, Elizabeth thought she was in a thunderstorm, though no rain fell. Lightning lit up the sky in a flash of blue-white, then was gone. It was followed by a crash of thunder, deafening, just overhead. A sudden cold wind sprang up and rushed over her, tugging her breath along with it.
“William—” she gasped.
“Here—” The wind tore the word away from her ears, as it had torn the breath from her throat. But he was right beside her, a vague source of warmth, and then a definite one as he pulled her closer. “I’m right here.”
But where was “here?” Somehow, impossibly, they were no longer in the orchard. The lightning flash had shown her not trees, but high brick walls. The wind carried with it not leaves, but sheets of paper, tumbling against her skirt and plastering themselves there.
There was no second flash of lightning, but there was a second boom of thunder. It shook the ground under Elizabeth’s feet.
And it shook the ground again.
She couldn’t see, no matter how hard she tried, but she knew that there was something enormous coming toward her. It took another stomping, earsplitting step. For the first time in her life, Elizabeth was too frightened to move. Beside her, William drew a breath to say what she knew would be “Run!” and tensed to drag her with him—
Something grabbed her arm and tore her from William’s grasp.
Her shoes scrabbled for purchase, but found none on the slick surface beneath her, and she went down, hard, onto bruising cobblestone. She couldn’t catch her breath or find her footing. She couldn’t do anything except fumble in the slippery muck. There was someone above her, looming over her—someone she could sense but could not see. Farther away, William called her name in a tone of desperation, while the ground all around them shook, and shook again, as something immense passed them by. The jolts grew fainter and less frequent as the thing, whatever it was, moved away.
A light flared, dazzling in the darkness.
“Get away from her!” William shouted, and flung himself forward. The flame went out. “Unhand her, sir, at once—”
“I don’t want to hurt you!” a second voice snapped, but William did not wait for explanations. There was a brief scuffle that Elizabeth could feel and hear but could not see. She had just time enough to think again of gathering herself and struggling upright, and then the fracas before her ended in a “oof” of pain—from William, she thought with a jolt of sickness. The flame flared alight again, a blinding glare that set Elizabeth’s eyes tearing before it settled into a larger, duller gleam. A lantern.
“I’m not trying to hurt her!” the voice behind the light repeated. It was an old man’s voice—it had the crotchety, creaking sound of an exasperated old man. “I’m trying to save you both, you young fool! What on earth possessed to go wandering about after curfew? And what the devil were you doing, standing in the middle of the street?” The voice and the lantern moved closer to Elizabeth, and the owner of the lantern crouched down beside her. “You could both have been killed!” he continued. “Don’t you know enough to get out of their—” The lantern shone full on her face then, and the words broke off.
“ . . . way,” he finished after a moment. “Well. Well, I imagine . . . I imagine you don’t, in that case. I . . . presume this is your first foray.”
“What?” was all Elizabeth could manage.
“I have one too,” the man said. He transferred the lantern to his left hand, and withdrew his right into the darkness beyond the spill of light. He motioned in a way Elizabeth thought was a fumble at his waistcoat—and then the right hand reappeared, holding for her inspection an overly large golden pocket watch. Lantern light gleamed softly in the crevices of etching and scratches.
From the darkness behind the old man, something screamed.
Elizabeth jerked and kicked and somehow got enough purchase against mud and cobblestones to lurch upright. Her outflung arm struck something warm and solid, and William seized hold of her and pulled her the rest of the way up. The swinging circle of lantern-light told her the old man was on his feet now too. He slammed down the lantern’s shutter, dropping inky blackness over them all, and then his hand met her shoulder with almost the same force.
The brick wall bruised her back and knocked the breath from her lungs for a second time, and between that and his hand over her mouth, she could not possibly scream. “Hush,” he commanded, his lips close to her ear. “Both of you.” Still pressing Elizabeth to the wall with his body, he took his hand off her mouth long enough to reach out and pull William to huddle with them. “It will come back this way, and it mustn’t find us.”
Bio: Heather Albano is a writer of speculative fiction, historical fiction, and interactive fiction (and works which combine one or more of the above). In addition to Timepiece and Timekeeper, her published works include short fiction appearing in Electric Velocipede, Aoife’s Kiss, the More Scary Kisses anthology from Ticonderoga Publications, and others. Her game design work includes five titles released by Choice of Games and one by Reactive Studios. Find out more at www.heatheralbano.com.
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Heather-Albano/187544947993606
Google+: +Heather Albano