2018 releases

Hell's Bell
Scent of the Jaguar
His Outback Nanny
The Queen's Game
366 Days of Flash Fiction
On the Horizon: Simple worlds of speculative adventure
Lusting the Enemy

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Bite of...Wanted: One Scoundrel

For this fortnight's A Bite Of... I'd love to introduce the wonderful Jenny Schwartz, and her tale Wanted: One Scoundrel.

Can you, in less than five words, describe “Wanted: One Scoundrel”?
Steampunk, fun, flirtatious, Australian

What inspired you to write it?
Steampunk is the perfect way to mis-use my history and sociology degree. I get to re-imagine history, while placing the story in a setting people can walk through today. With “Wanted: One Scoundrel” that setting is Fremantle, Western Australia. I had so much fun writing it. The working title was “Support Your Local Suffragette” as homage to the Western spoof movie, “Support Your Local Sheriff”.

And here's the snippet!

 Swan River Colony, Australia
June 1895

“I need a scoundrel, Uncle Henry.” Esme Smith’s gloved hands tightened on her reticule. Behind her, the gangway swayed from her fast-paced boarding. “Urgently.”

Captain Henry Fellowes grinned and spat tobacco over the side of his skimmer-boat.

“But he has to be a convincing scoundrel,” she added. “Handsome, even. Someone the ladies will sigh over and the men will slap on the back and call a ‘good fellow.’”

Henry leaned back against the ship wheel with its stylized anchor center and squinted at the storm clouds rolling in from the west. “You can’t beat the Indian Ocean for winter storms. The Athena can ride them out, but it’s good to be in harbor. Good to be home.”

“Uncle Henry,” Esme said impatiently. She put a hand on the railing and leaned from the bridge, checking. From the hold she could hear male voices, a snatch of laughter. All too soon, Old Mark, the customs officer, would finish processing the passengers and they’d surge up, out and on their way. She needed to capture one first. “The matter is vital. I need a well-dressed, well-spoken man to front my political party and do as he’s told.”


“I’ll pay him.”


“The thing is, I have to iron out the terms of his contract before he sets foot in the colony. From the get-go he must impress everyone as an earnest, aspiring politician. He must be respectable.”

“A respectable scoundrel?”

“Yes!” She frowned at two seagulls squabbling over a fish head from the trawler anchored nearby. “I know it’s a lot to ask...but, Uncle Henry, don’t you have one passenger who might fit the bill?”

“Well now.” He adjusted his cap, tugging it down against the freshening wind. “I reckon as maybe I do.”
Esme whirled around. “You do?”

“What has me puzzled is why you suddenly want a man. When I sailed two months past, you were aiming to head the party yourself. What’s changed?”

“Nicholas Bambury the Third.”

Uncle Henry raised a greying eyebrow. “Who’s he when he’s home?”

“An Easterner.” She made it sound a disease. “From one of the gentry families in Sydney. He’s here to give us the benefit of his lordly advice. Arrogant toad. Bambury has convinced people like the governor that high-level political discussions should be held in the men’s clubs—no women allowed. I’m working on changing it, but until then, I need a man to be there and put my side of the argument.”

“Women’s rights and equality for all. Uh-huh. You know, your mother, God rest her soul, has a lot to answer for.”

“Take some credit, yourself. Father, too. He’s always going on about a person defending their rights.” She smiled. “’Course, he was talking mining rights, but voting rights for women are just as important. So many women can’t fight for themselves, but I can and I will.”

“Like a moray eel. Once you get your teeth into a cause, you don’t let go.”

“Absolutely.” Being compared to a fierce, relentless sea creature didn’t bother her a whit. “Though they are ugly. Now, about your scoundrel...”

“Tenacious.” Uncle Henry sighed. “He calls himself Jedediah Reeve. Decent bloke, but poncy clothes.”

“Coming from you.” She studied his worn and stained dungarees, the faded and torn pullover, the oilskin discarded on a hook. “Poncy clothes could be as terrible as a clean shirt.”

“None of your cheek, girl. I’ll shave and scrub up when I’m on land.”

“I know. Maud has the boiler going, so you’ll have plenty of hot water.”

“A good woman, Maud.” He rubbed a hand over his stubbled jaw. “What does she think of you buying yourself a man?”

“I’m not buying him for myself.” She checked her watch. She’d had the delicate gold instrument modified so she could wear it on a leather strap around her wrist. So much more convenient than pinned to her gowns. And it was just as she’d suspected: time was a’wasting. “Tell me about him. What makes you think this Jedediah Reeve is a scoundrel, apart from the poncy clothes?”

“Flowered waistcoats. Hummingbirds, even. Picked out in gold thread. And he shaved every day aboard the skimmer. T’aint natural.”

But Esme knew when her uncle was kidding her. She’d had twenty-two years’ experience of it. She folded her arms and waited. The wind whipped up and flicked an emu feather from her bonnet over the side where it floated on the water.

Darn. She’d have to get another one. Those feathers were very handy with their tiny pencils cleverly fitted into the quill. You never knew when a good political slogan might strike. She’d scribbled any number of notes-to-self on crisply ironed white handkerchiefs, much to the ire of the laundry woman. And much to her own annoyance when her notes were washed out before she’d transferred them to her notebook.

“Reeve is a card shark.” Henry cut a plug of tobacco. “Took money from the other passengers every night.”

She refused to feel pity for the fleeced passengers. If you traveled skimmer-boat, you weren’t poor. Skimmers might look like overgrown water beetles, but their combination of wind and steam power plus their light design meant the journey out from England was a matter of weeks rather than months, and their speed enabled them to outrun the pirates off Africa’s west coast.

“He’s American, ’bout thirty. Don’t know what he was doing in Europe. Probably some confidence game.” Henry chewed his tobacco. “Jed’s a talker, affable. No ladies aboard this trip, so I don’t rightly know how he does with them, but I’d put money they’d call him charming.”

Esme nodded thoughtfully. “If he took money off the other men every night and they continued to play with him, he probably does have charm. Did he say why he wanted to come here?”

“I figure he’s like all the fools, lured by the gold.”

“Hmm. Do you like him, Uncle Henry? Can I trust him?”

“A man’d be an idiot to cross you, darlin’. Jed’s not an idiot.”

She stepped forward and hugged him, filthy dungarees, stubbled face and all. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“Yeah, well.” He hugged her back awkwardly, a big tough man, appreciative but embarrassed by open affection. “I’ll call Jed to my cabin. You can meet him there.”

If you loved the sound of Wanted: One Scoundrel, you can buy books at these addresses;

Carina Press: http://bit.ly/WantedScoundrel

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Wanted-Scoundrel-Steampunk-Christmas-ebook/dp/B005Z1CFSE

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wanted-jenny-schwartz/1106954732?ean=9781426892844&itm=1&usri=jenny+schwartz

...and if you'd like to check out Jenny's other works, you can find her here;

Website: http://authorjennyschwartz.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Jenny_Schwartz
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjennyschwartz
Google+: https://plus.google.com/100071314542033042636/posts
Tumblr: http://jennyschwartz.tumblr.com/


  1. Jenny I'm late to the party - but LOVED your excerpt! The steampunk-ness fairly leaps off the page! =)))

  2. Thanks, Mel :) I so loved writing this story -- so much that I've gone on to write another one (hopefully to be pub'd in October) and am working on a third! I think I've fallen in love with steampunk :)

  3. Sorry, I'm late. Can't wait to read this story, Jenny!

  4. Eleni, with all you do, you put me to shame finding time to comment. I've got to do better at supporting other Darksiders ... or the yowies will eat me! ;)