April 30, 2016

Steampunk Sundays: The Golden Owl by Lana Axe

The Golden Owl
Clockwork Calico Book 1
Lana Axe
April 21, 2016
AxeLord Publications
Steampunk Adventure | Middle-grade to Adult

Calico Cogg is a cat like no other. Rescued from the streets of Ticswyk by esteemed inventor Lionel Cogg, she has been fitted with implants to enhance her natural feline abilities. When Lionel is kidnapped, Cali must put her skills to the test to free him.

Dark schemes are in the works—a plague of tiny clockwork spiders are wreaking havoc on the city’s inhabitants. Only Cali, with help from her trusted mouse friend Emmit, can get to the bottom of it all. With a criminal mastermind planning a major heist, Cali must race against time to unravel his plot before he escapes with the city’s greatest treasure.

I thought I'd chill this Sunday and let the super adorable Calico Cogg take over the blog for me.

Calico Cogg’s the name. Cali for short. Am I superior to other felines? In a word, yes. But don’t let that intimidate you. I’m friendly enough if you’re friendly to me. We might even become great friends. Though, the position of best human friend is already filled. Lionel’s his name.

Ah, Lionel. He found me when I was just a wee kitten, struggling to survive on the harsh streets of Ticswyk. These fine implants you see were his gift to me. With them, I can jump higher, run faster, and see farther than any other cat. Together we traveled to Exhibition Center where I delighted crowds of hundreds. I was the highlight of the exhibit! Yes, he certainly treats me well. He’s constantly showering me with affection and providing me with plenty of my favorite meals.

Speaking of meals, I often set aside a bite or two to share with my good pal, Emmit. He’s a mouse. You find that strange? Well, a cat and a mouse being friends isn’t all that odd. Although, I did try to eat him the first time we met. Hey, you can’t blame a cat for trying! Luckily I didn’t succeed. Emmit has proved himself a genuine friend and a good mouse to have around in a sticky spot.

Ticswyk isn’t always the safest place to be. I remember the time Lionel was kidnapped by that vile man, whose name I’d rather not mention. It leaves a bad hairball taste in my mouth. Anyway, that was the start of my life as an amateur sleuth. Lionel’s rival was up to no good, sending his clockwork creations to wreak havoc all over town. It took quite a bit of digging, and a lot of help from Emmit, to figure out what was really going on. And boy, did we ever get into some scrapes!

Imagine me and my soft calico fur shoved inside a tiny box and hidden away for hours on end while menacing windup spiders are running loose. I shudder every time I remember it. Oh, and let’s not forget the time we were pursued by a rampaging automaton with a serious ax to grind. Emmit and I were nearly blasted to bits!

Taking down criminals isn’t easy work, but it takes a cat of special talent to accomplish it. And make no mistake, my talents are many. Emmit’s pretty talented too, for a mouse. We’ve had loads of adventure together. I could even tell you about our trip to the museum or our flight in Lionel’s airship, but those are stories for another day. Right now it’s time for my nap. Even an enhanced feline like myself needs her beauty sleep. Until next time, adieu, my friend.

Clockwork Calico Book 1 – The Golden Owl - Excerpt

Lionel placed his hands behind his back and waited patiently while the spectators assembled around his booth. All walks of life were present, everyone dressing as finely as they could. Those of lower standing were sent to the back, but they were as eager to hear about Cali as the richer folk up front. Children clung to their mothers’ skirts, unsure of the strange goings-on at the exhibition. Bouts of applause sounded across the room as a tall grandfather clock heralded the hour. It was time.
Clearing his throat, Lionel drew in a deep breath before starting his speech. “Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the one, the only, Clockwork Calico!” With a gesture of his hand, he signaled Cali to show herself.
Delighted to make her appearance, she hopped up onto the platform, her nose held high, whiskers pointing forward. Taking in the scent of the crowd, she was pleased to find so many in attendance. Not all could be seen, but they couldn’t escape her keen nose.
“Ooh,” many of the attendants vocalized, impressed at the sight before them. Lionel had done well designing his booth. Cali stood directly beneath an overhead lamp that glowed a deep yellow, projecting its light on her brass enhancements. She shone with a brilliance that allowed even those in the back of the crowd to see her.
Children, and a few adults, shoved their way to the front, determined to get a closer look at the fascinating cat. The rest kept their distance, scrutinizing the feline from afar. Cali scanned their faces with her mechanical eye, zooming in and out among the crowd. Mostly smiles, she noted, as the spectators gazed upon her. One man caught her attention, the brim of his top hat pulled low over his brow. Dark eyes peered beneath the hat, piercing and analyzing every inch of her, a sinister smile on his face. Realizing that he might be trouble, Cali saved his image to memory.
Sitting proudly at attention, she listened with satisfaction as Lionel ran down the list of her implants.
“You see here that Cali has a number of brass implants,” the inventor explained. Running a finger along the metal, he said, “Her tail is included of course, augmenting her natural balancing skills. The implant allows her more stabilization and control.” He paused a moment to allow the crowd to take in the information.
Cali spun around, waving her grand tail for all to see. One, two, three flicks, and she spun back around, curling her tail around her body. The audience applauded, and she dipped her head in appreciation.
“The implant running along her spine allows for higher flexibility, and it also gives her more strength.”
Cali lay down on her pedestal, allowing Lionel to run his hand along her back. With a nod from her designer, she stood and stretched herself low, almost to a pounce position.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, please direct your attention to Cali’s hind legs.” Cali turned sideways, allowing the crowd a view of her left hind leg. “These enhancements allow her to jump far higher than the average cat. They also soften the landing when she gets where she’s going.” He gave a nod that said, Show them, Cali.
With pleasure, she indicated with a flick of her tail. In a fluid hop, she dropped from the raised pedestal to the ground, right at the spectators’ feet. Many of them stepped back in surprise, some of them gasping at her sudden appearance.
“Note the flexibility of her spine as she jumps down,” Lionel said. “And now the power of her legs as she returns to her pedestal.”
With those words, Cali leapt, her enhanced legs carrying her from the floor, past the stage, and up to the top of her pedestal. The audience erupted in applause.
“A full ten feet from a standstill!” Lionel announced, adding some applause of his own. “The average housecat can jump only about five feet without running.” A wide grin spread across his face. “Now, who’d like to see Cali run?” He rubbed his hands together in anticipation.
The children in the crowd squealed their excitement, and the men and women cheered. Everyone was eager to see what else Cali could do.
Feeding off their excitement, Cali made herself ready. Jumping from her pedestal, she landed once again at their feet. The crowd parted allowing her the freedom to run. Taking the opening, she bolted past the crowd, sprinting toward the nearest wall. Instead of stopping, she leapt and turned midair, her hind legs bouncing from the stone wall and feeding her momentum. In less than a second, she was back among the crowd, but she didn’t stop there. Once again she leapt, this time flying high in the air. With a twist of her enhanced spine she somersaulted above her pedestal and brought her feet back beneath her. Landing softly on her perch, she raised a paw and bowed to the audience.
“Bravo!” the men cried. The ladies followed suit, crying “Encore!” The children laughed and squealed, delighted by the phenomenal cat’s showmanship.
“There’s more to her than that!” Lionel announced, eliciting more applause. “She has enhanced claws on her right paw, making her a deadly foe to mice.” This was one selling point that Lionel considered adding to other cats. It would improve the skills of mousers everywhere.
Cali raised her right paw, which appeared almost ordinary at first. When she unsheathed the claws, the audience jumped back in surprise. They weren’t prepared for the razor-sharp knives Cali displayed. Though very small, they were terribly sharp and deadly to mice. Cali turned her wrist left and right, allowing the light to hit her enhanced claws. After a moment, the crowd moved forward again, the spectators eager to examine this miniature weapon.
“Don’t worry,” Lionel reassured them. “Cali is in full control of her claws, and no human will be harmed. I can’t say as much for mice, though.” He gave a quiet laugh, and many in the crowd echoed him. “Of course, Cali could use these for defense as well, should she be attacked by a large rat or some other vicious creature.”
Cali almost grimaced, but caught herself. She didn’t like the sound of that. It was best to be on the offensive rather than the defensive, but Lionel was correct. The claws could be used in either case. She could extend or retract them as easily as her true claws on her left paw.
Lionel held up a small sheet of paper and presented it before the crowd. “A demonstration,” he said.
Cali swiped her paw at the paper, shredding it in four neat strips. Generous applause followed. Before the crowd quieted down, Lionel tossed the paper into the air, and Cali pounced after it. Slicing her claws through the air, she struck the paper repeatedly. As she landed on her platform, a shower of confetti rained down on the crowd. The children raised their hands, hoping to catch a piece or two, giggling with delight. The women laughed and brushed the paper away from their hair, the men applauding before removing their hats to brush the paper bits away.
“And finally,” Lionel said, “we’ve come to Cali’s mechanical eye implant. I’m sure the large purple lens hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice. Don’t worry, Cali’s true eye remains intact. I’ve only added to it and given her the ability to see far better than the average cat. With this eye, she is able to magnify her target, seeing it more clearly. She can also detect heat signatures, meaning no mouse can escape her. Cali will always know where it’s hiding.”
Cali tilted her head left and right, allowing the light to dance off the implant. The spectators looked her over, wondering what it must be like to possess such an enhancement. Most of the children brought their fingers to their eyes, their mothers stopping them before they could hurt themselves. Cali would have laughed, but this was a serious moment.
“Now, you might ask,” Lionel began, “how do these implants work? What is their power source?” Cali spun on her pedestal. “You’ll see she has no outward gears or windup mechanisms. Cali is powered on the inside, by a system of tiny gears. Her power source is her own beating heart.”
The crowd gasped, instantly shocked.
“That’s correct!” he went on. “Cali’s own heart and blood vessels are incorporated into the enhancements. She cannot wind down, nor does she require any special rest.” With a glance at Cali, he added, “Well, no more than any other cat.”
Polite laughter came from the audience. Most of them knew how much cats enjoyed their rest. From his pocket, Lionel drew out a small device, no bigger than the average pocket timepiece.
“This device allows me to alert Cali if she’s away, calling her back home.” When he pressed the button, a tiny red light illuminated on the tip of Cali’s tail. If she were away, she would know that Lionel needed her to return home, most likely for her dinner.
“If I could have complete silence for one moment, those in the front row might be able to hear the soft ticking sound associated with Cali’s gears.”
Cali bounced down to the edge of the stage, a hush falling over the crowd. Everyone in the front row leaned in close, some cupping their hands to their ears.
“I hear it!” a boy shouted.
“Yes, yes—I hear it too!” a man announced. Others joined in, agreeing that they could indeed hear the ticking of Cali’s clockwork components, though they were no louder than a whisper.
“You see, ladies and gentlemen,” Lionel said. “Cali is far from the ordinary cat. She is one-of-a-kind, a true masterpiece of modern engineering. Some of these enhancements will be available for your own mouser, should any of you wish to discuss the matter.” He would never make a cat quite like Cali, but he would be happy to add certain features to other cats for the right price. Many areas of Ticswyk were plagued with mice and rat infestations, and he could certainly make a difference to the community while still making a tidy profit for himself and Cali.
Turning to Cali, Lionel said, “How about one more run for the children?”
With a nod of her head, Cali obliged, leaping from her pedestal and dashing across the room. Twisting and turning, she leapt through the air torpedo-style, much to the delight of the children. Not only did they laugh and point, they clapped their little hands as fast as they could. The adults applauded as well, elated to see the charming Cali repeat her best stunt. She was a marvel. Far more interesting than machines and gears, she was a living, thinking being, made spectacular by the hand of man. She was what this age of industry was all about.

Lana Axe lives in Missouri near the edge of the woods. She is inspired by her love of nature to write about elves, magic, and adventure. Growing up in Mark Twain’s backyard inspired her love of fiction from an early age. She grew up an avid reader and went on to study literature in college.

Follow Lana
Website | Facebook | @LanaAxe | Goodreads

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  1. I don't know if this is for me since it's middle grade, but it does sound interesting.

  2. I don't know if this is for me since it's middle grade, but it does sound interesting.

    1. Thanks, Grace! The first three chapters are available for free on my website if you'd like to take a closer look:

  3. This is such a cute post! Cool cover, too!

  4. What an interesting sounding story.

  5. I love that the story is from Calico's POV. Fun to have animals tell the story and this sounds pretty good. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Sophia! Cali loves telling her own stories. :)

  6. I don't read a lot of books like that but why not one day. thanks for the post

  7. This really does sound interesting! Thanks for sharing!!

  8. This sounds so cute. The cat and mouse. Not usual friends really (I can totally see it) but so cute!!

  9. Hey everyone! Thanks for checking out the post.
    Lana- thanks for helping me moderate.
    Calico - much gratitude for the take over, I needed the break :)

    1. Thanks for having us! Cali loves the attention. :)

  10. Hi Cali! Oh this sounds lovely. And a great way to start the younger readers into the magnificent world of steampunk. ;)

    1. Thanks, Melissa. It's never too early for kids to start loving steampunk. :)

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