Nyssa Glass and the Cutpurse Kid is the third book in the Nyssa Glass steampunk series. Today I have an interview with the author, H. L. Burke, along with a short review and excerpt from Nyssa III.
The third installment of the Nyssa Glass steampunk series and once again I am not disappointed! Nyssa Glass and the Cutpurse Kid had me questioning the motives of a certain character all the way until the end. Fantastic job and I await the next book!
The sun laced the retreating clouds with cotton-white edges. Nyssa inhaled the crisp, salty breeze wafting off the azure waves.
Ladies with white parasols and flowered hats strolled on the arms of gentlemen in suits complete with pastel cravats or ties and striped bands on their straw hats. The break in the clouds seemed to have drawn out every inhabitant of the island. Buskers played ukuleles and fiddles, and under a canopy a man wearing a beret offered to paint portraits. Gulls cried shrilly overhead, diving for bits of popcorn a sobbing child had dropped onto the wooden planks of the boardwalk.
Nyssa glanced self-consciously at her trousers and knee-high boots. Perhaps she should’ve changed out of her work clothes before they left. At least her gray peacoat was stylish. Ellis leaned forward in his chair, tossing bread crumbs to a pigeon. No one seemed to find him out of place in his unbuttoned vest and shirtsleeves—though most onlookers probably didn’t get past the elaborate workings of his self-propelled chair.
She sat on a bench beside his chair.
“On the way home we could stop at Pierre’s shop,” he commented.
Pierre? Do we know a Pierre? She quickly thought over the signs on Market Street. “Pierre … the gunsmith?”
“Yes. What happened today got me thinking. In ninety-nine percent of scenarios, I have enough brains to even the playing field, but when it comes to physical altercations …” His mouth twisted. “It killed me, watching you struggle in that brute’s hands without being able to help you.”
“You did help me,” she pointed out.
“Excuse me, miss.” Someone tugged lightly on her arm. A boy of perhaps eight in an over-sized jacket with patches on the elbows held out a pink silk flower. A basket filled with more fake posies hung from his arm. He had matted dust brown hair and big gray eyes. “Buy a flower?” He smiled a gap-toothed smile.
“Sorry, I don’t have any change.” She lowered her eyes, all too conscious of the pennies in her pocket.
“Here.” Ellis tossed the boy a shiny, silver coin. “I should buy you flowers more often.”
The boy caught the money, dropped the flower in Nyssa’s lap, and darted away to a grouping of young ladies and their beaus.
“You think you’re helping him, but I’d bet you anything he’s got a drunk father at home who wastes every cent that boy earns on gin.” Nyssa scowled.
Ellis rubbed the armrests of his chair. “So cynical.”
“I’ve been in that world. A few pennies won’t get a kid out of it.” She concentrated on the pigeons, trying not to think of her uncle.
“I suppose you have—I take it you don’t approve of me arming myself, either?”
“I don’t particularly like guns.” She shrugged. “Comes of being shot at once. Plus I worry you’ll shoot yourself, considering how you play with everything that comes into your hands.”
“I may seem careless, but that’s only because I’m confident in the tools I use, so I can afford to play. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect the destructive potential of devices. A gun’s a machine, and most machines can kill in the wrong hands.” He cleared his throat. “It was a horseless carriage, not a gun, that cost me my mobility.”
Nyssa’s eyes involuntarily darted to his motionless legs. “You … you’ve never really talked about that. So it was an automotive accident?”
“It was. Fairly straightforward, no one at fault. Bad weather and bad luck.” He shrugged. “Not really anything to talk about.”
“Who was driving?” she asked hesitantly.
“My father … Mom … they said her death was instantaneous. Touch and go for a few weeks for me, but I barely remember anything about recovery.”
Nyssa bit her bottom lip. Ellis’s father had shut himself and Ellis away after the accident. If he’d caused his wife’s death and his son’s injury, that explained his descent into madness.
I wish I could accept things the way Ellis can. My uncle’s choices cost me much less, and I don’t know if I will ever forgive him.
She leaned forward and touched Ellis’s hand. “If you want to arm yourself, I’m fine with that. What happened today with my uncle wasn’t your fault, though. You didn’t fail me.”
He picked up the silk flower and tucked it behind her ear. “There. That’s a pretty picture.” He smiled.
Nyssa sank into the dark brown of his eyes. The voices of the crowd and the crash of the waves faded to a gentle hum. A sigh escaped her lips as his hand squeezed her knee.
“Another flower, Mister?” A voice snapped her out of it.
“Huh?” Ellis looked up.
The flower seller was back, this time at Ellis’s arm and holding a full bouquet of his wares.
Ellis cleared his throat. “I’m sorry. I’ve purchased my limit in flora for the day. Maybe another time?”
The boy stuck out his bottom lip and pushed the flowers at Ellis’s nose. “These are scented, though. Smell them!”
Ellis waved away the boy’s flower-bearing left hand, completely unaware of the light-fingered right hand dipping into his breast pocket.
“Hey there!” Nyssa leapt to her feet.
The boy withdrew, Ellis’s silver pocket watch clenched in his fingers. His eyes widened.
Nyssa lunged towards him. Her hand tightened on the pickpocket’s wrist. “Oh no you don’t!”
“Help! Help! She’s hurting me! She’s beating me! She’s breaking my arm!” The boy wailed.
Every eye on the boardwalk zeroed in on Nyssa. Disconcerted by the attention, she let her grip slacken. The boy wrenched away. Ellis grabbed at him, but only managed to catch the basket of flowers. The boy dropped it and disappeared into a knot of tourists.
Nyssa started after him but stopped, uncertain which way he’d gone.
“Great, just great.” She stomped back to Ellis’s side.
Ellis shrugged and picked up a cloth rose from his lap. “Flower? Apparently these are scented.”
She groaned and sank onto the bench.
Please share some information about yourself. I’m a mom, military wife, and writer. I’m obsessed with dragons and cats, move around a lot, and I watch/read movie reviews of movies I never intend to see because I find people’s opinions on entertainment just as entertaining as the entertainment itself.
Tell us about your craft. I’m very instinctive and I chase the shinies. There’s always something shiny. My job as a writer is to catch it and imprison its shininess on paper. Sometimes the shinies try to hide from me, but I’m very persistent and keep writing in circles until the shinies give up and let me catch them.
How did you get started? I started dictating stories to my mom literally before I could write. When I was a little older, I wrote for my friends, fan fiction type stuff that would insert us into Star Wars or Nancy Drew or whatever we wanted. At first the stories were passed around in three ring binders … then after a bit I had an email list of other preteens who I’d email my stories to when I wrote them … so I’ve always been sort of “the writer” in my peer group. Once you’ve made something like that part of your identity, it’s almost impossible to stop.
Are you working on anything right now? I’m focused on the Nyssa Glass Steampunk Novella Series. The story I’m working on is a “Christmas Special” within the series, a little different than the rest, kind of an interlude where we focus on the characters and their relationships more than a mystery or adventure. I’m curious how readers will receive it, but it is a lot of fun to write.
What are your future plans, long or short term? Short term, I am really thinking hard about my next cup of coffee. It will have cream and sugar. Then I might have to have a tums because I drink too much coffee, which often gives me heartburn. Slightly longer term, I have a couple of series I need to finish up, Nyssa Glass, my epic series Elemental Realms … but basically I just plan to keep writing for the foreseeable future.
Any parting words or advice to other artists? Just get started. You can’t edit a blank page. Don’t ask if its been done before or if anyone is interested. Just worry about whether or not it interests you. I’ve seen too many people get frustrated because they want permission to write a particular story and post in forums asking, “Is there a market for this?’ or “Has this been done before?” and then lose heart when not everyone is enthusiastic about an idea or points out that yes, it has been done before (because at this point, almost every thing has been done to a certain degree), and instead of writing it, they start over trying to think of another more original, more marketable idea. You can learn a lot working on a bad idea, and it’s really hard to know if it is a good idea until you write it. A lot of really strange ideas managed to becomes something quite excellent, after all.
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