Open windows

Sadly, my screenwriter friend and I did not make the semifinals of “The Next MacGyver” contest, to wit:

Thank you for submitting your TV series concept(s) to “The Next MacGyver” competition. We received nearly 2,000 entries from around the world and each was carefully reviewed by numerous people with experience in both entertainment and engineering. The submissions have finally been narrowed down to 12 finalists, and those people have already been notified. We will make the finalist names and show concepts public at in early July. If you have not been notified that you are one of the top 12, your entry is no longer being considered. Nevertheless, we very much appreciate your participation in this potentially historic contest to identify and develop a TV series starring an iconic female engineer as a main character.


Nicole Flores

National Academy of Engineering

I cannot imagine what they were thinking, but never mind. The Lady has other fish to fry! If she actually fried fish. I believe Grannie Protheroe has that privilege. To abuse another metaphor, when doors close, windows open, so we’ll keep an eye out for one of those, shall we?

In other news, I returned last week from a trip around the Southwest, in the Four Corners area. We were doing a photography safari for images to go on book covers … which means that Gloria Meriwether-Astor’s adventures in the Weird West are becoming more reality than possibility.

The only question I must ask myself is, “Will there be zombies?” In other words, how weird do I want things to get?

The Magnificent Devices series hasn’t really been notable for its weirdness, and I’ve had correspondence from some of you expressing your relief that this is so. (I suspect fear of zombies is behind it.) Being of a practical turn of mind myself, I like things to be rooted in, if not reality, then at least possibility. So this will require some more thought. I did buy a number of reference books in Taos, though, on supernatural occurrences and beliefs in the old Spanish West, so considering the stubborn entrenchment of the Royal Kingdom of Spain and the Californias upon the left coast of the Americas, this may become something Gloria is forced to deal with.

In an upcoming post I’ll share some of the pictures I took in the beautiful southwest desert. I hope you’ll enjoy them!



The Next MacGyver—digits crossed!

Many of you, being of a technical turn of mind, will remember the TV show MacGyver, where a spy with a lot of engineering talent got himself and others out of scrapes by putting together a piece of string, a paper clip, and who knows what else, and blowing up the bad guys. The character’s name has even passed into the popular vernacular (my husband refers to his multipurpose knife as a “mini MacGyver.)”

Now the folks connected with that show are looking for The Next MacGyver: “Thirty years ago, the original MacGyver created enormous interest around engineering with the exploits of Angus MacGyver, a spy who used his powers of engineering in every episode to solve problems. According to Lee Zlotoff, the show’s creator: “I literally could not tell you how many times people have come up to me and said, ‘I became an engineer, or I went into the sciences because of MacGyver.’” In the spirit of that show, in 2015, we are looking for TV ideas that will feature female engineers or female protagonists who will use their powers of engineering to solve problems.”

My goodness. Does this sound familiar to anyone?!

Screenwriter Carol Lee Hall contacted me and said that she believed the Lady might have a chance in this contest—she fit every single one of the requirements. It was a strange feeling to pair Lady Claire’s Victorian London with the words TV pilot, but this is Carol’s metier and she was up to the task.

We submitted our entry, and 12 semifinalists will be announced on Monday, June 1. Yes, two days from now.

Digits crossed!

A Gentleman of Means releases today!

I’m delighted to say that with over 300 preorders, A Gentleman of Means debuted at #9 on the Amazon steampunk bestseller list before it was even released! My grateful thanks to all those who leaped into the breach to get their copy, and to all of you who are planning to get yours today, release day! As I say in my note at the end of every book, you folks really are like the steam in Athena‘s boiler, keeping this whole enterprise in the air. Without you … well, without all of you, I’d still be at Hewlett Packard, and we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation!

Several have already asked me, “Is book eight the last in the series?” Which one might take a number of different ways… hm. Let me rephrase: “Surely this isn’t the last one, is it?” To which I may heartily reply, “Not if you don’t want it to be.”

I think Gloria Meriwether-Astor needs some life experiences to turn her into the woman I know she can be. All I’ve ever known about her future is that in my Glory Prep series of contemporary YA novels set in San Francisco, “Glory Prep” is student shorthand for the Gloria Stanford Fremont Preparatory Academy. Poor Gloria and her penchant for unwieldy surnames. On the bright side, her portrait hangs in the school entry hall and she is wearing a Worth gown. But, one must ask, how did she wind up in San Francisco founding a school? And acquiring that surname? And wearing such a dress?

I’m curious. And you know what happens when that happens …


A Gentleman of Means—summary

A Gentleman of Means by Shelley Adina

Coming May 28, 2015—Book 8 in the Magnificent Devices steampunk series!

How much must one sacrifice for the sake of friendship?

Lady Claire Trevelyan has had to deal with betrayal before, in small ways and large. But none is quite so painful as the belief that Gloria Meriwether-Astor had deserted her and her friends and left them to die under the waters of Venice. When she learns that Gloria has inexplicably vanished, she has no choice but to follow her heart and attempt to find the missing heiress.

But the decisions of the heart do not sit well with the gentlemen in her life, who had every reason to believe she planned to settle down at last—and suddenly Claire finds herself without a career, a fiancé, or the confidence in her own abilities that has carried her this far. Captain Ian Hollys is suffering from the megrims and cannot seem to recover from his dreadful experience as a prisoner. Alice’s dream of captaining her own ship in England is scuttled. Tigg is struggling with a revelation that has turned his life upside down—and may result in a betrayal more harrowing than any the flock has yet seen.

Will the bond of friendship that has brought Claire and the flock together be the very thing that separates them for good? Or will love tip the balance and prove that what really defines a gentleman of means is none other than a lady of resources?

“It’s another element I love about these books; from Claire to Gloria to Alice to Lizzie and Maggie to Lady Dunsmuir, the women in this series generally like and respect each other. Other women are not required to be lesser—weaker, more cowardly, less intelligent—in order for Claire to be awesome. She is not an exceptional woman, she is an awesome woman among awesome women.”
—Fangs for the Fantasy: The latest in urban fantasy from a social justice perspective

Making progress

Probably the most frequent question I receive is “When will the next book be out?” The answer to that question depends on how far away we are. It can range from “next spring” to “next week” to “as soon as I get this wretched plot figured out!”

But to get an even better idea, you may have noticed I installed a handy progress bar in the left column of this blog (get yours here). Not only does it encourage me to see it inching its way toward 100%, but it’s a way for you folks to see how things are coming. When I hit 90%, it’s a pretty good bet that a release date is not far away. Or you might hop over to my Facebook page, where I usually change the timeline photo to include a release date as soon as I’m close enough to be sure I’m going to meet it.

In case you were wondering, A Gentleman of Means is coming out May 28, 2015.

Once the book is completed, it goes to my wonderful beta readers, who have an uncanny ability to find holes. “You already gave us that big reveal in book four,” one told me. “Why are you making a fuss about it in book five?”


Things like that. That particular boo-boo meant a fairly extensive rewrite … but I would much rather hear about it at the beta stage than in the reviews.

Oh, and as of today, the progress bar stands at 65%!

A Gentleman of Means: sneak peek II

A Gentleman of Means

by Shelley Adina

Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.


Continued from previous post…

But it was already too late. The middy stood in the open door, staring at the empty valises that had contained the breathing apparatus worn by each of her friends.

“They’re not here, Miss,” he said. “I’ll have to call a search—can’t have civilians wandering about this vessel unescorted.”

“They are both engineers,” she said sharply. “I am quite certain they won’t pull at the levers just for amusement. Come along. I am missing the view.”

“Begging your pardon, miss, but I must do my duty.”

He slipped past her navy linen skirts like an eel and before she could remedy the damage, a search party had been organized and sent out.

The inevitable result, of course, was that her fibs and falsehoods were exposed for exactly what they were. But this did not signify, because in the ten minutes the search had taken, they had traveled even farther out to sea. Gloria took the cool cloth from the basin, applied it to her own forehead, and sank onto the bunk, her knees incapable of holding her up any longer.

She had sent her friends to their deaths.

At the moment of their greatest happiness, when they were looking forward to a rewarding life together—when they had achieved that which Gloria herself wanted most in the world—she had failed at the single task they had set her.

Failed abysmally. Fatally.

Sick, with cold chills of horror running through her veins, Gloria lay on the bottom bunk and wished for the first time in her life that she could die, too. Perhaps she would. Perhaps the shame and the grief would eat at her until she wasted away like a consumptive.

She would deserve nothing less.

A knock sounded at the door. “Miss Meriwether-Astor, are you quite well?”

It was Captain Hayes. With a sigh, she curled up, her face to the iron wall.

“Miss Meriwether-Astor, I am coming in. I am quite taken aback.”

Bother the propriety of it. He was captain of this vessel and if he only knew, shared some small part of the murder that lay so heavily on her conscience. She couldn’t care less whether he came in or not.

“My dear girl, are you quite all right? What is the meaning of this merry chase you have been leading us?”

There was nothing for it. She was going to have to tell him. But she must do it like a lady of spirit.

She must do it as Claire might.

She rolled over and sat up, swinging her legs over the side of the bunk and going to the porthole just in time to see a kraken’s curly tentacle caress the glass and slip off.

“Oh,” she choked, and turned to face him, tears springing afresh at the reminder that there could be more than one fate for an underwater swimmer in this most dangerous of cities.

“Do not be afraid,” he said, clearly misunderstanding her behavior. “The kraken are curious creatures. Once they realize we are not edible, they tend to leave us alone. But please. You must tell me what is going on, for I am quite at a loss as to how to account for my missing passengers.”

She took a deep breath. And then she told him.

Not all of it. Not about the part her father had played—his deal to import convict labor from the transport ships to increase the population of convicts who scrubbed and cleaned the gearworks as the sentence for their crimes. That was too shameful for a word of it ever to cross her lips. But about Jake’s and Captain Hollys’s wrongful imprisonment … and the rescue that Claire and Andrew had attempted … and their certain deaths? Oh yes. While she felt a thimbleful of compunction that she was forced to cast him in such a dreadful role, he had brought it on himself. If he had only listened and done as she asked, both of them would not now have the deaths of two—four!—innocent people on their hands.

Captain Hayes groped behind him for a chair and, finding none, folded himself onto the bunk next to her as his knees gave out. “I cannot believe it.”

“It is quite true. And now also quite impossible to rectify. They are almost certainly dead.”

“And if they are not, they will be long before we can turn the ship about and retrace our course. We are ten leagues at least from Venice now.” He lifted his head, his eyes wide with shock, his face pale. “Why did you not tell me the truth?”

“Would you have believed it any more readily than the lie?”

Her honesty seemed to shock him, and it took a moment before he could reply. “Possibly not. I am frankly still not quite ready to credit you, my employer’s daughter, gently reared and educated, with breaking condemned men out of a Venetian gaol.”

“I was not, in fact, to break them out. I was merely to provide the conveyance. And now I must live with the knowledge that my friends’ last thought before dying was undoubtedly that I had betrayed them and left them to drown.”

He winced, and she instantly regretted the childish urge to lessen her own pain by increasing his.

“I am sorry, Captain. That was unfair when you had no reason to imagine what we were concealing from you.”

“Is there anything else?”

“That I am concealing? No,” she said bitterly. “Only my own shame and horror, which I will have to live with for the rest of my life.”

He was silent a moment. “Then let us have perfect clarity between us,” he said at last. “I must tell you that we are not joining the fleet out in the Adriatic.”

“We are not?” Gloria’s heart bumped against her ribs with a sudden rush of hope. “Then may we return to Venice? At least we might recover the bodies of my friends and have something more to tell their families than—than—”

“We cannot return.” He got up slowly, as though testing his legs’ ability to hold him up. “I am very much afraid that we will be taking you to Gibraltar, where an airship is waiting to take us to England.”

She stared at him. “England? ‘Us’? Are you mad? I have no desire to go to England with you or anyone. Father and I are to return to the Fifteen Colonies once his business here is concluded.”

At last the captain’s gaze met hers, and in it she saw that he had left horror and shock behind with an effort of will, and had allowed resolve to flow in. “I am afraid not.” He reached into the jacket of his uniform and for a frozen moment she thought he would withdraw a gun.

But it was merely a handkerchief, with which he wiped his brow.

“Please make yourself comfortable for the journey,” he said. “You will not be locked in, for we have secured the torpedo tubes, and there is no other means of escape.”

“But why?” she managed. “What is the meaning of this—this abduction?”

“I am not at liberty to say,” he told her. “But rest assured that you have committed no crime and will not be harmed in any way.” And with this mystifying pronouncement, he bowed to her and returned to the bridge.

At an utter loss, Gloria sank onto the bunk and wished, not for the first time, that she had never been born.


A Gentleman of Means: sneak peek

A Gentleman of Means: A steampunk adventure novel

by Shelley Adina

Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.


Venice, October 1894

Upon her graduation from St. Cecilia’s Academy for Young Ladies at the age of eighteen, Gloria Meriwether-Astor had returned to the Fifteen Colonies believing herself to be the epitome of feminine charm, wealth, and beauty, and had been launched upon Philadelphia society with enormous success. When considerable expenditures of money and energy had not resulted in applications for her hand by either the scions of political families or barons of industry, she had swallowed her chagrin, boarded one of her father’s airships, and been conveyed back to London. When the following glittering Season bore similar fruit—or lack thereof—Gloria’s father Gerald had expressed his disappointment in no uncertain terms.

“I’ll not have you frittering away my money for anyone of lower rank than a baron,” he said one morning as she was pulling on her gloves in preparation for making that day’s calls. “You’re to be a ladyship and that’s that. If you can’t pull it off by the time the Season ends, you’ll go into the business with me and make yourself useful that way. I’m not throwing good money after bad, missy.”

Gloria could think of nothing more appalling than accompanying her father from boardroom to warehouse to ship’s deck and back again, but despite her best efforts and an attempt to elope with the third son of an earl, she was no closer to a wedding by the age of twenty-two than she had been at eighteen. Indeed, she was much farther away, for the successive waves of Buccaneers that had washed up on England’s shores dressed to the nines and ready to bag a peer had become increasingly younger and the competition consequently more intense.

So Gloria had boarded another of her father’s airships and commenced a world tour with him, which had taken her to the Canadas and brought her into renewed acquaintance with her former schoolmate, Lady Claire Trevelyan.

She had not paid much attention to Lady Claire at school. Despite her title and distinguished family, Claire was a brainy, mousy thing who hardly ever spoke, and when she did, it was to say something odd or so distressingly practical that one wondered what on earth kinds of books her father kept in his library. Julia and Catherine despised her, and so Gloria was content to despise her as well.

Until the Canadas. Until young Jake Fletcher McTavish had held the merciless mirror of his opinion up to her, and she had been found wanting for the first time in more important ways than merely looks or wealth.

And Gloria’s life had changed irrevocably.

If she did not know the full extent of her father’s web of intrigue and political aspirations, it was only because he hid them from her. She had been willing to be blind, for to see the truth would have destroyed her world. Or so she had thought, until Lady Claire had drawn her into her confidence and she had helped to save a man’s life in the Canadas. And now, as she stood at the viewing port of Neptune’s Fancy, one of the Meriwether-Astor fleet of undersea dirigibles, she was helping to save a man’s life once more.

Two, in fact: Captain Ian Hollys, of Her Majesty’s Royal Air Corps, and that same Jake Fletcher McTavish, navigator aboard a former pirate vessel called the Stalwart Lass.

She owed him one, and she was determined to see it through.

The tension inherent in doing so, however, was making her nerves vibrate like the strings of a cello.

“Is it not awe-inspiring?” Captain Barnaby Hayes gestured to the undersea view before them—the great gearworks upon which the city of Venice turned, its moving neighborhoods changing places in a clockwork dance of massive proportions every few days. It was Leonardo da Vinci’s masterwork, she had been informed by more than one man as they drifted under gears and arms the size of Buckingham Palace. But Gloria couldn’t concentrate on feats of engineering. Her ears strained for a sound from the torpedo tubes that would tell her that Lady Claire and her fiancé, the renowned scientist Andrew Malvern, had returned from their rescue mission. Her anxious gaze probed the wavering green depths for a sign—swimming figures, perhaps, or a stream of bubbles that would tell her they were on their way back with Captain Hollys and Jake.

Her present company, of course, did not know they and their ship were being used for a rescue mission. Captain Hayes believed Lady Claire to be recovering from a faint in her cabin, Andrew at her side pressing a cold compress to her forehead. Now he gave a quiet command and the vessel changed direction, thrusting gently through the water as though it meant to investigate a gargantuan piece of machinery whose vague outlines she could see in the distance.

She caught at his arm. “Oh, no, let us not go yet. Lady Claire will be recovered in just a moment, I am sure, and I would not wish her or Dr. Malvern to miss such a sight.”

“I am afraid we must, Miss Meriwether-Astor. I have strict instructions to convey you out to the fleet until the danger of the acqua alta is past and you can go back to your hotel.”

Gloria threw a desperate glance over her shoulder. “No, please, we must not leave.”

“Are you so interested in Renaissance engineering, then?” he asked with some interest. “If so, you are the most singular female of my acquaintance.”

He must have a very narrow acquaintance among the gentler sex, then, for her immediate circle here in Venice numbered no fewer than five who possessed an interest in engineering. But this was no time for such small talk.

“I must insist, Captain. Let us return to our previous location so that Lady Claire and Doctor Malvern may see it. I wish to share the experience with my friends.”

Before she could stop him, he had jerked his chin in the direction of the crew’s quarters, and a middy leaped to obey. “We shall inquire as to her health, then,” he said cheerfully. “I would see your mind at rest.”

Her mind would not be at rest, now or in the future, if they discovered the cabin empty. “Goodness.” She hurried after the middy. “How shocking for her to have two males in the cabin.”

But it was already too late. The middy stood in the open door, staring at the empty valises that had contained the breathing apparatus worn by each of her friends.

… to be continued