Phoebe Darqueling is creating Books for Fans of Steampunk and Uppity Women
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Mistress of None is a series of books about a con woman who is forced out of retirement when her past comes back to haunt her...literally. Fans of Steampunk and uppity women will love following Viola Thorne and her friends from shore to shore and back again in gaslight America.

The first book, No Rest for the Wicked, finds our anti-heroine enjoying the good life. She's left behind her days of grifting and running errands for the dead, and is happy just to soak in her hot spring on the edge of 1871 Sacramento. But the dead stranger on her doorstep won't let her forget her abilities and talks her into digging up buried gold to pay his debt and save a life. Vi isn't as interested in the gold as she is in finding out who has been blabbing about her "special talents" and why someone seems determined to flush her out of hiding...

I describe Vi as the female love-child of Han Solo and Jack Sparrow. She doesn't always do what is "right," but she always does what is right for her, and her sharp tongue can sometimes get her into trouble.

But Vi wouldn't be the only one traveling! In order to meet other awesome Steampunk fans, I hope to visit a series of conventions to sell my books in person and give talks about my favorite fandom and its roots.

Thanks so much for stopping by my Patreon page. Enjoy Chapter 1 of No Rest for the Wicked on the house, and if you pledge just $1/month you are guaranteed a behind the scenes look and a download of the finished e-book BEFORE it is released to the public!

No Rest for the Wicked: Chapter 1

Viola Thorne couldn’t pinpoint the reason she preferred to bathe by moonlight. Perhaps it was the quiet chirps of the crickets, or the splash of stars above her head, but something about the nights here at the end of the world called out to her.

Sulfurous steam rose off the water and eddied around her head and shoulders while the rest of her luxuriated in the gentle currents of heat under the surface. It had taken weeks of aching muscles to reinforce the natural pool with stones from all over the ranch, but now she’d carved out and built up the perfect niche for soaking.

A half-empty bottle of whiskey sat near a waxed paper parcel on the rim. She reached inside and pulled out a fragrant hunk of soap. This was the last of what she’d brought from back East, and there was no telling when she’d be able to get more, but she worked the bubbles through her hair and scalp with gusto. The smell of lilacs rose from the lather to combat the reek of rotten eggs and she breathed it deep into her lungs as she closed her eyes against the tide of foam.

A gentle sensation as light and dangerous as hornet wings fluttered on the back of her neck and slowed her hands. Miles away from anywhere anyone might possibly want to go, she should have been safe from prying eyes in the hot spring even in broad daylight, and yet she could feel someone watching her. Unwilling to let the peeping Tom know she was on to him, Vi went back to washing her hair but listened for the telltale crack of a twig or the whisper of cloth to give her an idea of the infiltrator’s approach. If it came down to it, she could always reach out with her other sense, but only as a last resort.

She leaned her head back to rinse, the lather tinged a dull red from the henna she used to muddy her identity. The chance of being recognized way out here was remote, but she still preferred to distance herself from her old life where she could, and her chestnut hair was a small sacrifice for obscurity.

The frontier night stretched out quiet and undisturbed before her, yet the prickling awareness spreading across her shoulders told her the presence somehow drew nearer. Her fingers brushed against the knife she always kept strapped to her ankle for just such an occasion. Having a jack rabbit for a stalker was far more likely than encountering some poor soul wandering the prairie, but naked and alone (and if she was being honest, more than a little inebriated) out in a distant corner of her ranch, she couldn’t really take that risk.

With a deep breath, she reached into herself and quested for the feelings that always tickled at the edges of her awareness. After spending the past four years pushing the sensations away they felt dull and distant, like the embers of a fire banked and left to be rekindled in the morning. She let her mind reach out, washing through the waiting coals of her long-repressed senses. They instantly flared to life hot and sharp, despite her years of denial.

Her audience stood behind her, his decidedly unrabbitlike outline burning an incandescent blue inside her skull. In one fluid motion, her blade flashed moon-bright and hurtled toward the place he stood. A hollow thunk told her it had hit the tree behind him without looking, just as she’d expected from the color of his aura.

“Are you crazy? Throwing around knives without looking!” the ghost cried in alarm and patted his chest where the knife had passed straight through him. “You could kill someone like that!” He took a few noiseless steps away from the offending blade as if it was going to jump out of the tree and bite him.

Vi’s mouth curved up in one corner. “You’re already dead,” she mocked. “What are you so worried about?”

“What if I wasn’t?”

With a shrug and a few splashes she made her way over to the makeshift stone bench and settled in. “I knew what I was doing.”

“Then what, pray tell, did you hope to accomplish with your little trick?” The insubstantial form crossed his arms and peered at her from under the brim of his transparent bowler hat. Even in death, the fine cut of his clothes marked him as an outsider the same way his accent marked him as a New Englander.

Vi twisted her hair into a coil at the top of her head before breathing out a contented sigh and resting against a pillow of moss. “I was hoping it would make you go away. So, if you don’t mind?” Her fingers fluttered in a gesture of dismissal and she closed her eyes.

A few silent seconds ticked by and she dared to hope he’d leave, but his voice shattered the quiet with his curiosity. “Where did you even pull that knife from?” He craned his neck as if he could see beneath the silver ripples of the pool.

Vi’s head snapped forward, face red from more than the heat of the spring. “It was strapped to my leg, you degenerate! Now, go away. I want to finish my bath in peace.”

He removed his hat and tried his best to mollify her. “Please, I must speak with you.”
“No. What you must do is move on and stop bothering the living. I’m out of the business of running errands for the dead, thank you very much.” Her hands traced shallow furrows in the water.

“But you don’t even know what I want.”

“No.”

“It’s my wife, you see—”

“Still no.”

“There are these men and—”

“Definitely no.”

“We owe them some money.”

“I can keep this up all night,” she warned.

“But, they’re going to—”

“No.”

“Please!”

She raised her hands out of her bathwater and moved them like a conductor as she sang to the tune of a new song that had been making the rounds. “I’m not interested in helping, all the live-long day.” Her hands dropped back into the water with a splash.

If he could breathe, the ghost’s chest would have been heaving in anger, but in his current state he had to settle for pulling a face sour. “Well, I had to try. My wife is—was—my whole life.” The ghost donned his spectral hat and turned to leave with a final mumble to himself. “He warned you she wouldn’t help.”

“Yep, he was right,” she called lazily, then the water surged as she sat forward with sudden interest. “Wait. Who warned you I wouldn’t help?” After the lengths she’d gone to disappear, there shouldn’t be anyone for hundreds of miles who knew about her “special talent.”
“Will you help me if I tell you?” the ghost asked, hope written in the lines of his gently glowing face.

Vi narrowed her eyes. “I can guarantee I won’t help you if you don’t tell me.”

He smiled and waved his hands in imitation of her earlier display. “I’m not interested in telling, all the live-long day.”

She looked away in a huff. Not knowing the identity of the referrer was going to eat at her, but the information alone wasn’t worth the price of dealing with this guy.

Hat in hand, he tried again. “Aw, shucks ma’am. I promise. I’ll tell you the whole sorry tale of how I found out about you as soon as you agree to help me.”

“No wonder you’ve gotten yourself in trouble,” she said with disgust. “You shouldn’t offer to pay someone up front, you need to hold onto whatever it is for leverage.”

“Alright. Then I promise to tell you after you help me.”

“Nope. Still not interested. It would take a lot more than that to get me out of this tub.”

His face fell for a moment before he brightened. “Well, there’s always the gold.”

Vi’s half-smile returned. “You didn’t say anything about gold before.”

“You didn’t let me get that far!” The ghost took a few eager steps back in her direction as he began, but his restlessness kept him pacing as he spoke. “I owe money for my prospecting equipment, but I wasn’t having any luck panning. When they came around to collect, I told them
I’d go out again and try farther up the river. They gave me until noon tomorrow to pay my debt, but I don’t think anyone really expected me to find anything.”

“Of course they didn’t.” She shrugged. “The big strike in these parts happened when I was a girl.”

He stopped walking for a moment and even in his insubstantial state, greed glinted in his eyes.

“But I did! I found enough to pay them back and make up our losses from the trail.”

“And then you died,” she stated flatly. “That’s a poor stretch of luck.”

“Yes! I was jumped a few hours’ walk from here by some bandits.” The ghost pointed out into the distance behind Vi and her hot spring. “They took my equipment and my mule, but they didn’t take my gold.”

She chuckled. “They must not have been very good bandits, then.”

“No, you see, I buried it,” he said with a hint of satisfaction. “I knew there might be people like them roaming around, so I dug a hole before I went to sleep and stashed it there.”

“And we see how well that all worked out for you.”

“Well, yes, they were rather unhappy with me when they saw my equipment but I didn’t give them any gold.” He allowed himself a small laugh, but the next memory sobered him again. “They beat on me for a spell trying to get the information, but I knew if they took the gold that was the end for me anyway. You see ma’am, if I don’t get that gold to Salty somehow, they said they’d kill her. They’re going to kill my wife!”

“Ugh, of course. Another man, another woman caught in the crossfire.” With a groan, she gave the water a final, contemplative splash. “That sounds like Salty alright.”

“You know him?”

“He thinks he’s some sort of businessman, but I know real business and it doesn’t look much like Salty’s way of doing things.” She wrung the final drops of water out of her hair before letting it spill loose across her shoulders.

“So you’ll help me?”

“No.” She stood abruptly, water streaming down her torso. “But I’ll help your wife.”

The ghost turned away in a flurry of embarrassed splutters. No surprise there—the frontier always ate up and spat out the honorable ones like tobacco. If he were an ordinary man, she’d have been more self-conscious about her nudity, but as ghosts are generally limited to looking and nothing more, she tended to treat them like furniture. All the same, the air was cool after her long soak in the spring, and she climbed onto the bank to retrieve her clothes.

“Well, if we’re going to be working this job together, I suppose introductions are in order.” The final button fastened, she grabbed her whiskey and took a swig. “I suppose you know I’m Vi, and you are…Oh sorry. And you were…?”

He whirled back, a pained expression on his face. “I don’t see what is so funny about all this.”

“Sorry,” she mumbled, making a show of shoving her foot into an oversized boot to explain her averted eyes. “This isn’t my first time talking to a ghost, but I suppose this is the first time you’ve died.”

“Obviously,” he retorted, a giggle bubbling up and receding into weary sigh. An uncomfortable silence followed and Vi cleared her throat as a reminder. “Ah yes, my name. It’s Tobias.”

“Okay, Toby, this ‘buried treasure’ of yours, it’s marked with an X or something?”

“Not exactly…I’ll have to lead you there.”

She pulled on her second boot and straightened. “When do we leave?”

Become a Patron to find out what happens next!


Tiers
Behind the Curtain
$1 or more per month 1 patron
  • Download of No Rest for the Wicked for your favorite platform (when complete)
  • In the meantime, I'll post one chapter per week so you get the story even SOONER
  • Sneak peeks at cover art
  • Access to early drafts of selected scenes and articles
  • Patron-only polls and Q&A thread
  • Your name listed on PhoebeDarqueling.com
  • Exclusive discount codes and giveaways for patrons on future projects
Early Bird Special
$3 or more per month 0 of 10 patrons
  • Signed print copy of No Rest For The Wicked before it is released to the public.
  • Mistress of None bookmark
  • Plus all previous rewards
Signed copy
$5 or more per month 0 patrons
  • If you missed the "Early Bird Special" don't fret!
  • Signed copy of No Rest for the Wicked
  • Plus all previous rewards
Let's Get Digital
$10 or more per month 0 patrons
  • Downloads of ALL Mistress of None books funded through Patreon before they are released as e-books.
  • Downloads of all short stories associated with the Mistress of None series.
  • Plus all previous rewards
Let's Get Physical
$25 or more per month 0 of 20 patrons
  • Physical copies of ALL book in the Mistress of None series as they are completed, but before they are released to the general public.
  • Plus all previous rewards
Arts Appreciation
$50 or more per month 0 of 5 patrons
  • Get all of the print and digital rewards, plus a piece of custom artwork!
My altered canvas shadowboxes are one of a kind and made out of archival-quality materials. I will create one large canvas or two coordinated small canvases for you.

Check out some examples at https://phoebedarqueling.com/original-artwork/
Goals
1 of 5 patrons
Swanky cover art!
Let's face it, people do judge books by their cover. But with 5 awesome patrons, I can get a professional cover made for No Rest for the Wicked, and hopefully all of the series.
1 of 8
Mistress of None is a series of books about a con woman who is forced out of retirement when her past comes back to haunt her...literally. Fans of Steampunk and uppity women will love following Viola Thorne and her friends from shore to shore and back again in gaslight America.

The first book, No Rest for the Wicked, finds our anti-heroine enjoying the good life. She's left behind her days of grifting and running errands for the dead, and is happy just to soak in her hot spring on the edge of 1871 Sacramento. But the dead stranger on her doorstep won't let her forget her abilities and talks her into digging up buried gold to pay his debt and save a life. Vi isn't as interested in the gold as she is in finding out who has been blabbing about her "special talents" and why someone seems determined to flush her out of hiding...

I describe Vi as the female love-child of Han Solo and Jack Sparrow. She doesn't always do what is "right," but she always does what is right for her, and her sharp tongue can sometimes get her into trouble.

But Vi wouldn't be the only one traveling! In order to meet other awesome Steampunk fans, I hope to visit a series of conventions to sell my books in person and give talks about my favorite fandom and its roots.

Thanks so much for stopping by my Patreon page. Enjoy Chapter 1 of No Rest for the Wicked on the house, and if you pledge just $1/month you are guaranteed a behind the scenes look and a download of the finished e-book BEFORE it is released to the public!

No Rest for the Wicked: Chapter 1

Viola Thorne couldn’t pinpoint the reason she preferred to bathe by moonlight. Perhaps it was the quiet chirps of the crickets, or the splash of stars above her head, but something about the nights here at the end of the world called out to her.

Sulfurous steam rose off the water and eddied around her head and shoulders while the rest of her luxuriated in the gentle currents of heat under the surface. It had taken weeks of aching muscles to reinforce the natural pool with stones from all over the ranch, but now she’d carved out and built up the perfect niche for soaking.

A half-empty bottle of whiskey sat near a waxed paper parcel on the rim. She reached inside and pulled out a fragrant hunk of soap. This was the last of what she’d brought from back East, and there was no telling when she’d be able to get more, but she worked the bubbles through her hair and scalp with gusto. The smell of lilacs rose from the lather to combat the reek of rotten eggs and she breathed it deep into her lungs as she closed her eyes against the tide of foam.

A gentle sensation as light and dangerous as hornet wings fluttered on the back of her neck and slowed her hands. Miles away from anywhere anyone might possibly want to go, she should have been safe from prying eyes in the hot spring even in broad daylight, and yet she could feel someone watching her. Unwilling to let the peeping Tom know she was on to him, Vi went back to washing her hair but listened for the telltale crack of a twig or the whisper of cloth to give her an idea of the infiltrator’s approach. If it came down to it, she could always reach out with her other sense, but only as a last resort.

She leaned her head back to rinse, the lather tinged a dull red from the henna she used to muddy her identity. The chance of being recognized way out here was remote, but she still preferred to distance herself from her old life where she could, and her chestnut hair was a small sacrifice for obscurity.

The frontier night stretched out quiet and undisturbed before her, yet the prickling awareness spreading across her shoulders told her the presence somehow drew nearer. Her fingers brushed against the knife she always kept strapped to her ankle for just such an occasion. Having a jack rabbit for a stalker was far more likely than encountering some poor soul wandering the prairie, but naked and alone (and if she was being honest, more than a little inebriated) out in a distant corner of her ranch, she couldn’t really take that risk.

With a deep breath, she reached into herself and quested for the feelings that always tickled at the edges of her awareness. After spending the past four years pushing the sensations away they felt dull and distant, like the embers of a fire banked and left to be rekindled in the morning. She let her mind reach out, washing through the waiting coals of her long-repressed senses. They instantly flared to life hot and sharp, despite her years of denial.

Her audience stood behind her, his decidedly unrabbitlike outline burning an incandescent blue inside her skull. In one fluid motion, her blade flashed moon-bright and hurtled toward the place he stood. A hollow thunk told her it had hit the tree behind him without looking, just as she’d expected from the color of his aura.

“Are you crazy? Throwing around knives without looking!” the ghost cried in alarm and patted his chest where the knife had passed straight through him. “You could kill someone like that!” He took a few noiseless steps away from the offending blade as if it was going to jump out of the tree and bite him.

Vi’s mouth curved up in one corner. “You’re already dead,” she mocked. “What are you so worried about?”

“What if I wasn’t?”

With a shrug and a few splashes she made her way over to the makeshift stone bench and settled in. “I knew what I was doing.”

“Then what, pray tell, did you hope to accomplish with your little trick?” The insubstantial form crossed his arms and peered at her from under the brim of his transparent bowler hat. Even in death, the fine cut of his clothes marked him as an outsider the same way his accent marked him as a New Englander.

Vi twisted her hair into a coil at the top of her head before breathing out a contented sigh and resting against a pillow of moss. “I was hoping it would make you go away. So, if you don’t mind?” Her fingers fluttered in a gesture of dismissal and she closed her eyes.

A few silent seconds ticked by and she dared to hope he’d leave, but his voice shattered the quiet with his curiosity. “Where did you even pull that knife from?” He craned his neck as if he could see beneath the silver ripples of the pool.

Vi’s head snapped forward, face red from more than the heat of the spring. “It was strapped to my leg, you degenerate! Now, go away. I want to finish my bath in peace.”

He removed his hat and tried his best to mollify her. “Please, I must speak with you.”
“No. What you must do is move on and stop bothering the living. I’m out of the business of running errands for the dead, thank you very much.” Her hands traced shallow furrows in the water.

“But you don’t even know what I want.”

“No.”

“It’s my wife, you see—”

“Still no.”

“There are these men and—”

“Definitely no.”

“We owe them some money.”

“I can keep this up all night,” she warned.

“But, they’re going to—”

“No.”

“Please!”

She raised her hands out of her bathwater and moved them like a conductor as she sang to the tune of a new song that had been making the rounds. “I’m not interested in helping, all the live-long day.” Her hands dropped back into the water with a splash.

If he could breathe, the ghost’s chest would have been heaving in anger, but in his current state he had to settle for pulling a face sour. “Well, I had to try. My wife is—was—my whole life.” The ghost donned his spectral hat and turned to leave with a final mumble to himself. “He warned you she wouldn’t help.”

“Yep, he was right,” she called lazily, then the water surged as she sat forward with sudden interest. “Wait. Who warned you I wouldn’t help?” After the lengths she’d gone to disappear, there shouldn’t be anyone for hundreds of miles who knew about her “special talent.”
“Will you help me if I tell you?” the ghost asked, hope written in the lines of his gently glowing face.

Vi narrowed her eyes. “I can guarantee I won’t help you if you don’t tell me.”

He smiled and waved his hands in imitation of her earlier display. “I’m not interested in telling, all the live-long day.”

She looked away in a huff. Not knowing the identity of the referrer was going to eat at her, but the information alone wasn’t worth the price of dealing with this guy.

Hat in hand, he tried again. “Aw, shucks ma’am. I promise. I’ll tell you the whole sorry tale of how I found out about you as soon as you agree to help me.”

“No wonder you’ve gotten yourself in trouble,” she said with disgust. “You shouldn’t offer to pay someone up front, you need to hold onto whatever it is for leverage.”

“Alright. Then I promise to tell you after you help me.”

“Nope. Still not interested. It would take a lot more than that to get me out of this tub.”

His face fell for a moment before he brightened. “Well, there’s always the gold.”

Vi’s half-smile returned. “You didn’t say anything about gold before.”

“You didn’t let me get that far!” The ghost took a few eager steps back in her direction as he began, but his restlessness kept him pacing as he spoke. “I owe money for my prospecting equipment, but I wasn’t having any luck panning. When they came around to collect, I told them
I’d go out again and try farther up the river. They gave me until noon tomorrow to pay my debt, but I don’t think anyone really expected me to find anything.”

“Of course they didn’t.” She shrugged. “The big strike in these parts happened when I was a girl.”

He stopped walking for a moment and even in his insubstantial state, greed glinted in his eyes.

“But I did! I found enough to pay them back and make up our losses from the trail.”

“And then you died,” she stated flatly. “That’s a poor stretch of luck.”

“Yes! I was jumped a few hours’ walk from here by some bandits.” The ghost pointed out into the distance behind Vi and her hot spring. “They took my equipment and my mule, but they didn’t take my gold.”

She chuckled. “They must not have been very good bandits, then.”

“No, you see, I buried it,” he said with a hint of satisfaction. “I knew there might be people like them roaming around, so I dug a hole before I went to sleep and stashed it there.”

“And we see how well that all worked out for you.”

“Well, yes, they were rather unhappy with me when they saw my equipment but I didn’t give them any gold.” He allowed himself a small laugh, but the next memory sobered him again. “They beat on me for a spell trying to get the information, but I knew if they took the gold that was the end for me anyway. You see ma’am, if I don’t get that gold to Salty somehow, they said they’d kill her. They’re going to kill my wife!”

“Ugh, of course. Another man, another woman caught in the crossfire.” With a groan, she gave the water a final, contemplative splash. “That sounds like Salty alright.”

“You know him?”

“He thinks he’s some sort of businessman, but I know real business and it doesn’t look much like Salty’s way of doing things.” She wrung the final drops of water out of her hair before letting it spill loose across her shoulders.

“So you’ll help me?”

“No.” She stood abruptly, water streaming down her torso. “But I’ll help your wife.”

The ghost turned away in a flurry of embarrassed splutters. No surprise there—the frontier always ate up and spat out the honorable ones like tobacco. If he were an ordinary man, she’d have been more self-conscious about her nudity, but as ghosts are generally limited to looking and nothing more, she tended to treat them like furniture. All the same, the air was cool after her long soak in the spring, and she climbed onto the bank to retrieve her clothes.

“Well, if we’re going to be working this job together, I suppose introductions are in order.” The final button fastened, she grabbed her whiskey and took a swig. “I suppose you know I’m Vi, and you are…Oh sorry. And you were…?”

He whirled back, a pained expression on his face. “I don’t see what is so funny about all this.”

“Sorry,” she mumbled, making a show of shoving her foot into an oversized boot to explain her averted eyes. “This isn’t my first time talking to a ghost, but I suppose this is the first time you’ve died.”

“Obviously,” he retorted, a giggle bubbling up and receding into weary sigh. An uncomfortable silence followed and Vi cleared her throat as a reminder. “Ah yes, my name. It’s Tobias.”

“Okay, Toby, this ‘buried treasure’ of yours, it’s marked with an X or something?”

“Not exactly…I’ll have to lead you there.”

She pulled on her second boot and straightened. “When do we leave?”

Become a Patron to find out what happens next!


Recent posts by Phoebe Darqueling

Tiers
Behind the Curtain
$1 or more per month 1 patron
  • Download of No Rest for the Wicked for your favorite platform (when complete)
  • In the meantime, I'll post one chapter per week so you get the story even SOONER
  • Sneak peeks at cover art
  • Access to early drafts of selected scenes and articles
  • Patron-only polls and Q&A thread
  • Your name listed on PhoebeDarqueling.com
  • Exclusive discount codes and giveaways for patrons on future projects
Early Bird Special
$3 or more per month 0 of 10 patrons
  • Signed print copy of No Rest For The Wicked before it is released to the public.
  • Mistress of None bookmark
  • Plus all previous rewards
Signed copy
$5 or more per month 0 patrons
  • If you missed the "Early Bird Special" don't fret!
  • Signed copy of No Rest for the Wicked
  • Plus all previous rewards
Let's Get Digital
$10 or more per month 0 patrons
  • Downloads of ALL Mistress of None books funded through Patreon before they are released as e-books.
  • Downloads of all short stories associated with the Mistress of None series.
  • Plus all previous rewards
Let's Get Physical
$25 or more per month 0 of 20 patrons
  • Physical copies of ALL book in the Mistress of None series as they are completed, but before they are released to the general public.
  • Plus all previous rewards
Arts Appreciation
$50 or more per month 0 of 5 patrons
  • Get all of the print and digital rewards, plus a piece of custom artwork!
My altered canvas shadowboxes are one of a kind and made out of archival-quality materials. I will create one large canvas or two coordinated small canvases for you.

Check out some examples at https://phoebedarqueling.com/original-artwork/