Tag Archives: automata

Ephraim’s Curious Device: Sneak Peek at Chapter 1

Warm up with a Clockpunk Wizard story

Warm up with a Clockpunk Wizard story

Only a couple more days until Wizard Kadmeion’s airship leaves for the floating island of Mevil.

What a pleasure the preparation for Ephraim’s Curious Device has been here at Lita’s house. I’ve had a lovely time visiting the magicians, the dragon, and the fey-folk.

So much to do!

The cover artwork and layout comes first. Editing is the biggest task, first with telling the story, then polishing every moment until it shines. Then it’s proofreading until the vision blurs over. No time to rest. Lita uses her eye drops, then returns to more proofing and polishing.

The beta reader weighs in. Lita adjusts the last nits in the story. Then come mundane matters with filing the copyright, formatting the upload files, and publishing–what lovely magic. A moment to rest, then Lita is off to plan the book launch party.

If you haven’t yet done so, take a quick minute to see the book trailer and let me know your thoughts, then head over and read the back cover blurb for the story teaser.

You’re back?  Splendid!  Here are the first few pages of Wizard Kadmeion’s second Clockpunk Wizard story. Welcome aboard the airship.

Ephraim’s Curious Device by Lita Burke

Copyright 2012 by Lita Burke. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

His Lordship Hissalumieon, Mevil Island

The air popped at Bright’s elbow. He jerked, then dropped a tiny brass gear from one of their airship’s clockwork automata. A scroll with an unfamiliar wax seal fizzled in to existence on his workbench. The vellum rocked for a moment, then lay still.

Bright slipped off his stool and backed away. He ran a hand through his long blond hair to get it out of his eyes. “Ham-fisted mooncalf of a magician. Our message box is in the next room.”

A crash came from Kadmeion’s forward workroom at the end of the hall, followed by rare harsh words. A wizard’s curse flapped through the doorway on leather-like wings and circled Bright’s head. He snagged and crushed the curse. It squeaked. Disappeared. A wisp of mint and pine-scented magic tickled his nose.

“Furgo, fetch my broom now.”

Bright blinked. Kadmeion never shouted. Another wizard’s curse winged its way in. Time to lend a hand. Bright snatched his workroom’s broom and trotted toward the commotion. He paused at the wizard’s doorway. Several circling curses swooped toward him. He swatted them away. “Need some help?”

Yes. Where’s Furgo?”  More…

Let Us Eat Cake

Even wizards set their desserts on fire to celebrate

Here is the galley and adjoining dining room. Apologies to rush you through. The wizard requests the pleasure of our company in the front sitting room. The Chesterfield settee is especially comfortable.

Here is the celebration cake for the release of the Lita Burke novelette, Forever Boy.  The candles were Kadmeion’s idea. Bright spoke the spell to set them afire. The homunculi will serve our refreshments while we chat with the magicians.

Don’t look so shocked that Furgo refused a slice of cake. He thinks that sweets are horrid. Has something to do with him really being a dog instead of a boy. Again, Forever Boy explains why.

More Clockpunk Wizardry

Kadmeion and Bright don’t know it yet, but they will be in the thick of it in December when the next Clockpunk Wizard story comes out. If you want a sneak peek, take a look at Lita’s notes over here on the Ephraim’s Curious Device page. Meanwhile, we’ll let the two magicians enjoy the cake. Do you have any Magic Guild gossip to share with them?

Finished with the cake? Splendid. Copernicus says we have arrived at our destination. Time to go. I’ll walk you out. The gang plank is this way.

A New Rocky Floating Island

Floating Rocks

This island has just broken off from its spire at the South Pole

We are in one of the Gear Rooms for Kadmeion’s airship. Step over here. I want to show you something.

Some of the automata have removed the hull’s inner wall boards so you can see the floating rocks that miners have cut into bricks. The mortar holds the bricks in place. The wall boards keep the bricks from wandering about the room if they work themselves free.

Why do some rocks float? It has to do with the South Pole at the spindle.

Volcanic activity at the pole heats rocks until they melt. This intense heat causes the latent magic to transform the liquid rock until it is lighter than air. The strings of rock flow upward, collect into top-heavy spires, and cool. Earthquakes break the islands free of their fragile spires. The islands hover close to the ground where plants, birds, and animals jump onto their new home. They finally float to the edge of the South Pole landmass and go out to sea.

Mathematicians can calculate a floating island’s age by its size, distance from the South Pole, and its height above the sea. Old islands lose their buoyancy and sink closer to the sea. Some of the oldest islands rest it the sea for a time before the Rim storms tear them apart.

Let’s go see the Crew Quarters next.

Clockwork Automata Man

Copernicus, One of the Minor Demons

Cross section of an automata

Step inside the Pilot House. Meet Copernicus. He flies Wizard Kadmeion’s airship.

Copernicus is the most advanced metal homunculi (also called automata) on Kadmeion’s airship. Copernicus is a magical sentient creature with a metal body created by Bright, and animated by a minor demon summoned by Kadmeion.

Demons live on the nether plains until called by a magician in the Clockpunk Wizard world. There is a hierarchy of demons based on their mental sophistication and physical ability to animate magician-created bodies. The demons have established this caste system for themselves. I’ve simplified it here.

The lower classes of minor demons easily answer the calls of magicians that practice low magic, such as pellars and hedge-witches. These lower demons are jesters that favor crude humor, such as word puns and rude noises. They are indiscriminate with the bodies they will inhabit, so you will see them in mandrake roots and fresh corpses.

Copernicus is just out of camera view. This is the Pilot House.

The middle class of minor demons will be thick-witted, but are useful as bodyguards (the magical term is goons). While they will not animate corpses, they will inhabit vat-grown homunculi bodies. They don’t like residing in clockwork bodies because they lack the mental acuity to use the legs without tripping.

High class minor demons are smart, articulate, and well-behaved.  They respond only to a wizard’s high magic summons (this is a point of pride in the minor demon ranks). These minor demons will only inhabit clockworks bodies of a certain high quality. Copernicus is the epitome of fussiness about his metal body. I understand from talking with the Agatha University clockworks magicians that Kadmeion and Bright’s efforts with Copernicus are splendid.

Let’s not distract Copernicus while he’s guiding the airship through these tricky floating islands. Let’s go below decks and see Kadmeion and Bright’s current magical project. The Workrooms are next on our tour.

Potential Energy: Curse of the Metal-Man

With being a scientist in the mundane world, and also being the writer-architect of the magic systems in fantasy worlds, I must create magic that “makes sense,” or risk the justly deserved disappointment from Gentle Reader. Oh, the challenges.

For example, the Sye fantasy world in Wrath and Tredan’s Bane showcases the conflicts between Enchanter seduction magic and Churchie moralistic spells. Sye uses the Magic Guild to keep the magic works in balance and control the magicians’ tendency to feud.

In my forthcoming Ephraim’s Curious Device story, the wizards’ magic has very different rules, and their concerns are airships, floating islands, and automata (homunculi). There’s a philosophical conflict between the clockwork guys and the “Meat-Men” who create automata from plants or dead animal parts.

Yuck on the Meat-Men. Let’s get back to clockwork.

Here’s the curse with the Clockpunk Wizard fantasy world: how do I keep a clockwork man from winding down too quickly?

How Clockwork Works

Clocks have various sized gears. Clocks use tension stored in a mainspring, or they use gravity like in a grandfather clock, to transform potential energy (spring tension) into kinetic energy. Kinetic energy moves the gears, and the gears then move the hands on the clock face.

The different-sized gears release kinetic energy in bursts (seconds). This regulated system measures out uniform chunks of time. In addition to keeping time, clockwork powers other animations such as phase of the moon dials, cuckoos, and music box innards.

In Ephraim’s Curious Device, clockwork animate the homunculi who fly airships. Very inconvenient for an airship’s automata pilot to stop its ticktock at the wrong time and blunder into the side of a floating island. The clockwork designers (“Metal-Men”) must deal with the curse of potential energy running out in their devices.

Magic is the Solution (of course)

A couple of approaches come to mind: (1) magical power runs the automatons, or (2) spells call something to power the clockwork. Sye already uses magic as a power source to fuel magician’s spells. (Gentle Reader frowns–don’t repeat yourself–it’s boring. Understood.) That leaves the second approach. Here is another question for the fantasy world writer-architect: what do the spells call?

Let’s talk this through. Whatever the magic workers send for in the Clockpunk Wizard world, it must be small enough to live inside clockwork gizmos. Shall the wizards send for tiny fairy folk? No, they already have bodies and that means the bodies must be cared for. Demons? Too powerful and dangerous. Minor demons? Hmm. Okay.

So minor demons drive the clockwork automata. I’ll give equal time to the yucky Meat-Men creations. Wizards use spells to call, dismiss, and animate homunculi with minor demons. This means a wizard should have a partner who builds clockwork, plant, or meat-made gizmos.

Meet Kadmeion and Bright

We have solved the Potential Energy curse. I’ve also just met my two Clockpunk Wizard “good guys.” Pleased to meet you, Wizard Kadmeion. Also charmed to meet your business partner, Metal-Man Bright. We have a lot of work ahead of us, guys.  Let’s get to it.