Warning: This post is image heavy and may take a bit to load completely
Blog Tour: Chasing the Star Garden by Melanie Karsak
Chasing the Star Garden
(The Airship Racing Chronicles #1)
by Melanie Karsak
Genre: Alternative History/Gaslamp-Steampunk
Publisher: Clockpunk Press
Date of Publication: December 4th, 2013
Number of pages: 325
Word Count: 70,000
Cover Artist: Damonza
An opium-addicted beauty.An infamous poet living in self-imposed exile.An ancient treasure about to fall into the wrong hands.
Melanie Karsak's Chasing the Star Garden takes readers on a thrilling adventure from the gritty opium dens of gaslamp London to the gem-colored waters of the ancient world. Lily Stargazer, a loveable but reckless airship racer with a famous lover and shattered past, reluctantly plunges into a centuries-old mystery in a romantic adventure best described as Dan Brown meets Mary Shelley.
It all begins on one of the worst days of Lily’s life. She just lost the London leg of the 1823 Airship Grand Prix. To top it off, a harlequin fleeing from constables shoved a kaleidoscope down her pants, told her to fly to Venice, then threw himself from her airship tower. What’s a girl to do? For Lily, the answer is easy: drink absinthe and smoke opium.
Lily’s lover, Lord Byron, encourages her to make the trip to Venice. Lily soon finds herself at the heart of an ancient mystery which has her running from her past and chasing true love and the stars along the way.
Chasing the Star Garden | Chapter 1
I was going to lose-again. I gripped the brass handles on the wheel and turned the airship sharply port. The tiller vibrated in protest making the wheel shake and my wrist bones ache. Bracing my knees against the spokes, I tore off my brown leather gloves to get a better feel. The metal handgrips were smooth and cold. My fingers tingled from the chill.
“Easy,” I whispered to the Stargazer. I looked up from my position at the wheelstand, past the ropes, burner basket, and balloon, toward the clouds. They were drifting slowly left in a periwinkle blue sky. There’d be an updraft as we passed over the green-brown waters of the canal near Buckingham House. I locked the wheel and jumped from the wheelstand onto the deck of the gondola and looked over the rail. The canal waters were a hundred feet away. I ran back to the wheel and steadied the ship. If I caught the updraft, it would propel me up and forward and give me an edge.
“Cutter caught it, Lily,” Jessup yelled down from the burner basket below the balloon opening. “Up he goes,” he added, looking out through his spyglass. The gold polish on the spyglass reflected the fire from the burner.
“Dammit!” I snapped down my binocular lense. I saw Hank Cutter’s red-and-white striped balloon rise upward. At the top, he pitched forward with great momentum, catching a horizontal wind. I could just make out Cutter at the wheel. His blond hair blew wildly around him. He turned and waved to me. Wanker.
I was not as lucky. Just as the bow of the Stargazer reached the water, a stray wind came in and blew us leeward. The balloon jiggled violently in the turbulent air. I missed the air pocket altogether.
“No! No, no, no!” I cursed and steadied the ship. I had chased Cutter from Edinburgh across the Scottish and English countryside. He had been off his game all day. I’d had him by half a mile the entire race. With the bottom feeders lingering somewhere in the distance behind us, I’d thought the London leg of the 1823 Airship Grand Prix would be mine. That was until St. Albans, where Cutter caught a random breeze that pushed him slightly in front of me. Cutter had a knack for catching favorable winds; it was not a talent I shared.
“We’re coming up on Westminster,” Jessup yelled down from the basket. “Lily, drop altitude. Cutter is too high. Come in low and fast, and you might overtake him.”
The airship towers sat at the pier near the Palace of Westminster along the Thames. A carnival atmosphere had overtaken the city as it always does on race day. Colorful tents were set up everywhere. Vendors hawked their wares to excited Londoners and international visitors. I could hear the merchants barking from their tents even from this far above. I fancied I could smell roasted peanuts in the wind.
I jumped down from the wheelstand, ran across the deck, and pulled the valve cord, opening the flap at the top of the balloon. Hot air released with a hiss. I kept one eye on the balloon and another eye on Tinkers’ Tower. At this time of day, the heat coming off of the Palace of Westminster and Tinkers’ Tower would give us a bump. I looked up. Cutter had started preparing his descent. It would be close.
I ran back to the wheel.
“Angus, I need more speed,” I yelled down to the gear galley, rapping on the wooden hatch that led to the rods, belts, and propeller parts below.
Angus slapped open the hatch and stuck out his bald head. His face was covered in grease, and his blue-lense monocle glimmered in the sunlight. He looked up at the clouds and back at me.
“Let’s giddyup,” I called to him.
“You trying the Tower sling?” he yelled back.
“You got it.”
He laughed wildly. “That’s my lassie,” he yelled and dropped back down, pulling the wood hatch closed with a clap. I heard the gears grind, and the propeller, which had been turning nice and steady, began to hum loudly. The ship pitched forward. Within moments, we were coming up on Tinkers’ Tower. The airship towers were just a stone’s throw away.
I aimed the ship directly toward Tinkers’ Tower. Just as the bowsprit neared the clock, I yanked the wheel. The warm air caught us.
“Whoa!” Jessup yelled as the balloon moved within arm’s length of the tower.
The sound of “Ohhs!” echoed from the crowd below.
A mix of warm air and propulsion gave us some go, and seconds later we were slingshotting around Tinkers’ Tower toward the airship platforms. Gliding in on warm air and momentum, we flew fast and low.
Cutter had kept it high, but now he was dropping like a stone toward his own tower. Damned American. I didn’t blame him; I would have used the same move. His balloon was releasing so much air that I wondered if he would be able to slow down in time, not that I would have minded seeing him smash to the ground in a million pieces.
“It’s going to be close,” Jessup yelled as he adjusted the heat pan.
I guided the helm. The Stargazer was temperamental, but we understood one another. A shake of the wheel warned me I was pushing too hard. “Almost there,” I whispered to the ship.
The Grand Prix Marshalls were standing on the platform. Cutter and I had the end towers. I was going to make it.
“Cut propulsion,” I yelled toward the gear galley. On the floor near the wheelstand, a rope led to a bell in the galley. I rang it twice. The propeller switched off.
A soft, sweet wind blew in from the port side. It ruffled my hair around my shoulders. I closed my eyes and turned the wheel slightly starboard, guiding the ship in. Moments later, I heard a jubilant cheer erupt from the American side and an explosion from the firework cannon signaling the winner had been declared. My eyes popped open. I tore off my goggles and looked starboard. Cutter’s balloon was docked. I threw the goggles onto the deck and set my forehead against the wheel.
The Stargazer settled into her dock. Jessup set the balloon on hover and, grabbing a rope, swung down to the deck. He then threw the lead lines and anchors onto the platform. The beautifully dressed crowd, gentlemen in suits and top hats and fancy ladies in a rainbow of satin gowns carrying parasols, rushed toward the American end of the platform to congratulate the winner.
I was, once again, a national disgrace. Lily the loser. Lily second place. Perhaps I would never be anything more than a ferrywoman, a cheap air jockey.
“Good job, Lily. Second place!” Jessup said joining me. He patted me on the shoulder.
I sighed deeply and unbuttoned my vest. The tension had me sweating; I could feel it dripping down from my neck, between my breasts, into my corset.
“You did great,” I told Jessup. “Sorry I let you down.”
“Ah, Lily,” he sighed.
Angus emerged from below wiping sweat from his head with a greasy rag. He pulled off his monocle. He frowned toward the American side. “Well, we beat the French,” he said with a shrug and kissed me on the cheek, smearing grease on me.
“Good job, Angus. Thank you,” I said, taking him by the chin and giving him a little shake as I wrinkled my nose and smiled at him.
Angus laughed and dropped his arm around Jessup’s shoulders. They grinned happily at one another.
“You stink, brother,” Jessup told him.
“It’s a wee bit toasty down there. Besides, I pedaled this ship across the entire fucking country while you were up here looking at the birds. That, my friend, is the smell of success.”
“You pedaled the ship?” Jessup asked mockingly. “Like Lil and I were just up here playing cards? If I didn’t keep the balloon aloft, your ass would be kissing the ground.”
“Now wait a minute. Are you saying your job is more important that mine?” Angus retorted.
I could see where this was going. “Gents.”
“More important? Now why would I say that? Just because I’m the one . . .” Jessup started and then his mouth ran.
“ . . . and another thing . . .” Jessup went on.
“Gentlemen! Our audience awaits,” I said cutting them both off, motioning to the well-shod crowd who waited for us on the loading platform outside the Stargazer.
I grinned at my crew. “Come on. Let’s go.”
I patted the rail of the Stargazer. “Thanks,” I whispered to her, and we exited onto the platform.
To Read more of chapter one - CLICK HERE
“Black Friday” Shopping, 1823
Lily Stargazer’s Holiday Shopping List
By Melanie Karsak
Thanks to Beckie for allowing me to stop by Bittersweet Enchantment today to talk about my new steampunk novel, Chasing the Star Garden. The novel is the first in a new series which chronicles the life of airship (think hot air balloon) racer Lily Stargazer. Moments after Lily loses the London leg of the 1823 Airship Grand Prix, a harlequin thrusts a kaleidoscope down her pants. He tells her to fly to Venice before throwing himself off her airship tower. Lily’s lover and co-opium eater, Lord Byron, encourages her to make the trip. Lily soon finds herself thrust (reluctantly) on an adventure that has her chasing the stars and true love.
For my guest blog today, I wanted to find a way to introduce you to the characters in my novel. Like many of you, I am in the belly of the best in terms of holiday shopping. What defines the perfect gift? Oh gosh, shopping is a nightmare for me. This gave me an idea. Sometimes gifts say a lot about their recipients, right?
For my guest blog today, I give you Lily Stargazer’s Holiday Shopping List! Get to know that characters of Chasing the Star Garden, a steampunk novel set in an alternative 1823, as we shop with Lily Stargazer!
Shopping for George Gordon, Lord Byron
Lord Byron is not the kind of man for whom you buy a gift. He is a man who thrives on the thrill of experience. While he loves luxury items, he generally enjoys, consumes, then moves on. Lily looked at fine silk scarves, a pocket watch, a bottle of cologne, and even a new writing instrument, but she realized that Byron wouldn’t find that much value in these things. Instead, Lily hit up all her contacts until she procured a nice bottle of absinthe. Then, hopping the first airship transport out of London, she headed abroad to meet her lover for a hot weekend!
Shopping for Sal
Salvatore Colonna is one of Lily’s closest friends and another of her more regular lovers. Salvatore is a tinker by trade. He keeps a stall in the Hungerford Market where he creates inventions ahead of their time. Lily and Sal have a unique relationship. Lily appreciates Sal’s intellect and feels like he is a true companion. Though he is twice her age, she has always felt a special spark with him. This year, she wanted to give him something unique. While in Malta, she uncovered an antique astrolabe, a mechanism used for determining latitude and longitude based on the position of the planets. She knows this is one device Sal is sure to love.
Shopping for Celeste
In Chasing the Star Garden, Lily will travel from London to Venice. In Venice, she will meet a courtesan by the name of Celeste. Celeste’s role in the novel is an important one, so important that I can’t tell you too many details, but Celeste is looking for something and she needs Lily’s help. Lily knows that Celeste, someone who is a professional in the art of love, would truly appreciate the words of a master. For her, she has selected a collection of poems by Sappho, including the Hymn to Aphrodite.
Shopping for Angus and Jessup
Comfortable pants for Angus
A warm coat for Jessup
Last, Lily needs to buy gifts for her crew members, Angus and Jessup. The two men are like brothers to her, so of course she will buy them something practical: clothes! When we think of steampunk clothing, we often focus on steampunk women, but there are some great outfits out there for steampunk men as well. Lily wants to make sure Jessup stays warm as he manages the balloon basket and that Angus is comfortable as he works the gear galley of their airship, the Stargazer. Lily headed into London and returned with these outfits for her adopted brothers!
Just like us, after a long day of shopping, Lily would have to look for a little R&R. Let’s leave her to her devices! I hope you enjoyed taking a shopping trip with Lily. Thanks again to Beckie for having me drop in to talk about Chasing the Star Garden! Happy Holidays, everyone! Cheers!
About The Author: Melanie Karsak
Find Melanie @
Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Pinterest
Melanie Karsak grew up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania where there was an abysmal lack of entertainment, so she turned to reading and hiking. Apparently, rambling around the woods with a head full of fantasy worlds and characters will inspire you to become an author. Be warned. Melanie wrote her first novel, a gripping piece about a 1920s stage actress, when she was 12. A steampunk connoisseur, white elephant collector, and caffeine junkie, the author now resides in Florida with her husband and two children. Melanie is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.
Tour Wide Giveaway
1) Grand prize is a Kindle Fire HDX Table and an autographed copy of Chasing the Star Garden
2) Second place, an autographed copy of Chasing the Star Garden (5 winners)
3) Third place, 20 ebook copies of Chasing the Star Garden (20 winners)