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An Evening With Ceejay Writer: Interview of Nika Thought-werk at Fantasy Faire 2019

What follows is a transcript of the interview of Nika Thought-werk conducted by Miss Ceejay Writer for Fantasy Faire’s Litfest 2019. To view a sample of the upcoming book discussed by Miss Writer and Miss Thought-werk during the interview (The Clockwork’s Orange: Tales of the Robot Nika, Volume Two), please click on the following link:

The full version of this children’s novel will be available for sale from as of May 7, 2019. Special Thanks go out to Miss Ceejay Writer, Miss Saffia Widdershins, and the entire Fantasy Faire staff for the countless hours they have volunteered to make this event and the ones to come happen. Nika says she had a great time.

Nika standing beside a book cart with her next book at Fantasy Faire 2019
Nika standing beside a book cart prior to her interview. Picture courtesy of Ms. Ceejay Writer


Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  waves

Ceejay Writer: Nika, feel  free to find a cozy seat!

Ceejay Writer: Saffia! Our special guest is here, and all ready to go.

Saffia Widdershins: Hi! I can’t stay … as it’s 3am but shall I send a notice?

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  folds her hands quietly and waits to begin

Ceejay Writer: So polite!

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  smiles at Miss Edda

Ceejay Writer: Please, if you could Saffia?

Jimmy Branagh: Aren’t the speaker’s seat up here?

Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly)Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly) finds a comfy place to sit, “Hi, everyone”

Ceejay Writer: They are, but I gave Nika the choice to be anwhere she likes.

Philip Underwood (pilipo.underwood): Hey everbuddy!

Jimmy Branagh: Ah okie

Ceejay Writer: Hi Philip!

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  waves to Mister Underwood and to the others present.

Jimmy Branagh: Hoy Mr. Philip!

Saffia Widdershins: Hello Mr Philip and Jimmy.

Ceejay Writer: We will start in a few minutes, let’s give people fighting the lag monsters time to slay them.

Nika Thought-werk  nods “I know about fighting monsters a little.”

Ceejay Writer: If you wish, you could tell us about that tonight.

Jimmy Branagh: An’ Hoy Miss Saffia!

Philip Underwood (pilipo.underwood): Hullow Jimmeh

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  nods

Jimmy Branagh: An’ Miss Edda!

Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly)Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly) waves!!!

Nika Thought-werk : So … there was a time … when I fought a troll … it was a big one, see?

Ceejay Writer: Ohhhh. Was it as big as this one we are inside of?

Nika Thought-werk : No … I think it was smaller. He was on a bridge. Trolls like bridges. Did you know that?

 Ceejay Writer: I’ve read a few stories about trolls under bridges! And I met one, in Seattle. That’s a mythical city where it never stops raining.

Jimmy Branagh: Do they?  Oy know Billy-Goats Gruff do

Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly): what kind of bridges do they prefer?

Nika Thought-werk : Well, wood or stone work well for them

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks

Saffia Widdershins: goodnight all

Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly): ooooh, I always had wondered about that

Jimmy Branagh: Night!

Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly): night 🙂

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  waves to Miss Saffia

Saffia Widdershins: Nika … I’m sorry I can’t stay 🙁

Ceejay Writer: Let’s all wish Saffia a good night, and then I will introduce our very special guest for those who have not met her!

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  smiles “I know … it’s ok.”

Blair Andrews (blairandionrivalionis): g’night Saffia

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks and waits quietly.

Ceejay Writer: Welcome to Trollmouth, everyone! Take a seat anywhere, and never mind the curves, we are on a tongue. 🙂

Ceejay Writer: We will be in text today, so give your ears a rest.

Jimmy Branagh: Let’s hope the swallows don’t return

Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly): do trolls eat bats?  this would be a BIG bat cave!

 Ceejay Writer: Miss Nika Thought-werk, here on the couch near me, is many things.  A postal worker, a soldier, a very good poet though she says clockworks can’t write poetry, and along with her ghost in the other world, an author.

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks and turns her head to face the audience “Trolls eat many things. So bats … maybe?”

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks and smiles.

Ceejay Writer: She has also recently created a new way of printing books in Second Life.

Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly)Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly) applauds Nika, but quietly

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  smiles quietly.

Jimmy Branagh: A very efficient way

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks “Miss Writer … big words?”

Ceejay Writer: Being a clockwork, she cannot understand words of more than two syllables. So if she says ‘La-la-la?’ she’s just stuck on a long word.

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks

Ceejay Writer: So, let’s learn more about what makes her tick!

Ceejay Writer: And tock.

Jimmy BranaghJimmy Branagh applauds

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  giggles “Me? Well, I am a clockwork. So … oh! You mean, questions, yes?”

Ceejay Writer: Let’s start at the beginning. Er, start at the start. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  raises her hand “Do I have to raise my hand to answer questions?”

Ceejay Writer: No, we can excuse you from that tonight.

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  nods and puts her hand down “Clockworks cannot write, you know. But, when I met E.P. … I tell the stories, see, and she writes them down …”

Jimmy BranaghJimmy Branagh waves at Fitch

Fitch Lekvoda: *wavewave* 🙂

Fitch Lekvoda: mew!

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  looks at Miss Fitch and stiffles a giggle

Fitch Lekvoda: told ya 😉

Ceejay Writer: E.P. must really believe in your stories to do all that writing!

Ceejay Writer: Does it take you two a long time to write a book?

Nika Thought-werk : So … when I … (mffff) met E.P. … well, she is very kind to me. And she says my stories might bring joy to

Nika Thought-werk : Well, it can … sometimes I do not recall things well. There has been a lot that’s happened … and I am a bit old … even if I do not look like it. I’m … well … eight?

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks

Ceejay Writer: Eight is not so old, I think. If you were human you’d be an urchin!

Nika Thought-werk : Like Jimmy?

Jimmy BranaghJimmy Branagh fingerwaves

Ceejay Writer: Yes, like Jimmy. *waves at Jimmy*

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  nods “Or a hobo?”

Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly)Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly) grins

Ceejay Writer: Some hobos are young. Wasn’t there a hobo in your first book?

Jimmy Branagh: A hobo is not an urchin

Jimmy Branagh: An urchin has learned to game the system

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  nods quietly “Haywire. He saved me …”

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  smiles quietly “Well, hobos can play games too, Mister Jimmy.”

Ceejay Writer: That books is Do Clockworks Dream of Geartoothed Sheep, correct?

Jimmy Branagh: Errrr … yes.

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  nods “Yes. That was my first book … of how I came to be.”

Fieger Difference: (no sound?)

Ceejay WriterCeejay Writer glances back at the book table, at a mossy green book.

Ceejay Writer: Chat only, Fieger!

Fieger Difference: ok

Ceejay Writer: Did you learn anything surprising about yourself while writing that book?

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  points “If any wish it … it’s there. There is a smaller, free copy too … for this place.”

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks and cocks her head “Surpris-lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala?”

Jimmy Branagh: Oopds

Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  frowns

Ceejay Writer: thing you didn’t know before and it was fun to learn about?

 Fitch Lekvoda: no break the nika, jimmy!

 Ceejay Writer: My bad! I said a long word!

 Nika Thought-werk : Oh! Well, did you know … I think that you cannot get to China by falling down a well

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks and smiles

 Ceejay Writer: REALLY? Well. Heh. I said well. Well, I wasn’t sure of that.

 Fieger Difference: unless it’s a well in China.

 Ceejay Writer: Or a well made of china.

 Fieger Difference: or well made china

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  thinks a moment “That may work. I have never tried that.”

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  smiles

 Ceejay Writer: Or a well in Wales leading to a well in china? Okay, stopping now

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  smiles

 Fieger Difference: do you write for a particular age group usually? (Sorry I missed the beginning intros)

 Ceejay Writer: (no worries! We didn’t get into that yet.)

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks “Partic-lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala?”

 Ceejay Writer: certain, Nika.

 Ceejay Writer: She cannot understand long words.

 Nika Thought-werk : Certain?

 Ceejay Writer: A certain age group.

 Nika Thought-werk : Oh!

 Fieger Difference: how old are your readers?

 Nika Thought-werk : Well, I have heard other eight year-olds might like my books. I am eight, you know?

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  smiles

 Fieger Difference: ok.

 Ceejay Writer: I wonder if I am eight, I liked your book.

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  checks her rez date and nods

 Nika Thought-werk : Miss Writer?

 Ceejay Writer: Yes?

 Nika Thought-werk : Do you think my books have an age limit?

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks and listens

 Jimmy Branagh: No age limit to good stories

 Ceejay Writer: I don’t think so. The books work on many levels. Children get an exciting story. They might also get some sneaky lessons or even comfort in recognition.

 Ceejay Writer: REcognition means they know what they see, Nika.

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks “Big words …”

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  smiles quietly and looks down.

 Ceejay Writer: Older readers will marvel at the allegory threads woven along. I enjoyed thinking about what everything meant.

 Ceejay Writer: And really, it’s old-school, old-timey fun and adventure.

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  struggles “You know … if I may say something?”

 Jimmy BranaghJimmy Branagh nods

 Ceejay Writer: Well, it is your inter view. Please do!

 Nika Thought-werk : I am entered into view? Thank you. But really, my eyes and my thoughts do not work so well … so I do my best … and …

 Nika Thought-werk : I often wish I could think like the rest of you … but if you might glean something from my stories … that makes me happy.

 Ceejay Writer: Right now, you gave a lesson. Always try your best.

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  smiles and nods “I like to think all creatures might do so.”

 Dis (alvildadis)Dis (alvildadis) drifts into Trollsmouth, moaning quietly “….undone……undone……………all is lost……”

 Jimmy Branagh: Your stories have a view that we might not otherwise enjoy.

 Jimmy Branagh: Being clockwork and stuff.

 Ceejay Writer: True. I have never read stories like yours.

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks “Well, Miss Fitch has clockwork stories.”

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  smiles at Miss Fitch.

 Ceejay WriterCeejay Writer eyes Miss Fitch and smiles

 Fitch Lekvoda: many of mine involve getting lost in tall grass…..

 Ceejay Writer: I will buy you a lawnmower!

 Nika Thought-werk : I have a story about me and Miss Fitch, if I may?

 Jimmy Branagh: At least not a cornfield

 Ceejay Writer: Please! We love stories.

 Blair Andrews (blairandionrivalionis)Blair Andrews (blairandionrivalionis) nods.

 Nika Thought-werk : So … people might think we are the same … but we aren’t at all

 Fitch Lekvoda: oh a cornfield would be like a forest to me, jimmy!

 Nika Thought-werk : Miss Fitch can eat ice creams

 Fitch Lekvoda: and chocolate!  and candy!

 Nika Thought-werk : I cannot

 Jimmy Branagh: Do you get ice cream headaches, Miss Fitch?

 Dis (alvildadis)Dis (alvildadis) looks about slowly as if lost, weeping “….undone……….undone……” as she drifts onward.

 Fitch Lekvoda: to those i am immune, jimmy 😉

 Jimmy Branagh: Ah

 Ceejay Writer: Somebody do up that ghost!

 Jimmy Branagh: An advantage!

 Nika Thought-werk : Miss Writer?

 Ceejay Writer: No ice cream head ache! A marvel.

 Ceejay Writer: Yes?

 Nika Thought-werk : A question, please?

 Ceejay WriterCeejay Writer raises hand, then looks sheepish

 Ceejay Writer: Yes?

 Nika Thought-werk : So … you have read both Books One and Two?

 Nika Thought-werk : All the way through?

 Ceejay Writer: Yes I have! And am needing book three.

 Ceejay Writer: Book two was very exciting. Edge of my seat stuff.

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  smiles “I am working with E.P. … which book do you enjoy more?”

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  looks and frowns

 Ceejay Writer: Well. The first one was fun because it was a new world to me. But I will admit I like the second one because I couldn’t stop wondering what happens next.

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  mumbles “Big words?”

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly)Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly) shyly raises her hand

 Ceejay WriterCeejay Writer nods at Edda

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  looks over and waits

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly): Thank you….but if I was to write a story, where would it need to stop?  sometimes I just ramble and ramble…

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  nods “May I answer with my thoughts?

 Nika Thought-werk : “

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly)Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly) nods

 Ceejay WriterCeejay Writer listens

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  nods “Well, I think, being a thought-werk … it’s what I do …”

 Jimmy BranaghJimmy Branagh nods at the logic of it.

 Nika Thought-werk : The best place to stop is when the story is over … my story has a very set stopping point … I do not want to spoil the end …

 Nika Thought-werk : Though Miss Writer knows it … Miss Edda, how does your story end?

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks and listens

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly)Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly) thinks and squints and ponders some more, “Well… I don’t think it ever does!”

 Nika Thought-werk : May I suggest a course of action?

 Ceejay Writer: no matter where a story ends there’s a name for it, too! Drasbble, essay, novella, novel, George RR Martin, War and Peace.

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly)Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly) nods!

 Jimmy BranaghJimmy Branagh chuckles

 Jimmy Branagh: There is a saying I adopted early –  “Start with the ending, then proceed to the beginning.  The middle will take care of itself.”

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly)Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly) grins

 Ceejay Writer: I need to try that myself.

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  nods “I like to say – just write … and with a good friend … or friends … like at Tall Tales to share it with …”

 Nika Thought-werk : What’s to worry if the stories end or not?

 Jimmy Branagh: Point

 Ceejay Writer: Oh, and there is a Tall Tales event right here tomorrow night at 9:30.

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  giggles

 Nika Thought-werk : Miss Writer?

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly)Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly) giggles, “I wondered how you made your stories so good!”

 Ceejay Writer: Yes?

 Jimmy BranaghJimmy Branagh scribbles a reminder

 Ceejay Writer: I’m a pantser! I write by the seat of my pants. I don’t know my endings until my characters tell me.

 Nika Thought-werk : Who is your fave’rite person in my story so far?

 Nika Thought-werk : And why?

 Ceejay Writer: Not a person! A… dog. 🙂

 Jimmy Branagh: Not a depantser then?

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly): oooh!

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  giggles

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  nods “I love her so much … though …”

 Ceejay Writer: Loyalty, trust, love, bravery, all in a companion that smells vaguely like lanolin. Er, Lan’lin.

 Nika Thought-werk : I love Meri a lot too.

 Ceejay Writer: Her name is Postage. 🙂

 Ceejay Writer: Meri is a dear soul. She’s deep.

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks and cocks her head before nodding

 Philip Underwood (pilipo.underwood): Mss Underwood and I are collaborating on a story as it happens

 Nika Thought-werk : She’s a miner. They like the deep.

 Ceejay Writer: Nika, before our hour is up, be sure to tell the folks about the wagon you dragged in! The one next to the book table.

 Nika Thought-werk : Oh!

 Fitch Lekvoda: *snickers a little*

 Ceejay Writer: Underwoods! That’s great!

 Nika Thought-werk : So … here is my wagon

 Jimmy Branagh: Pile o’Books!

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  moves to behind the sofa

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly)Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly) looks over, “A wagon full of books!”

 Ceejay WriterCeejay Writer points at Nika back here

 Nika Thought-werk : If you wish a copy of my book … Number two …

 Nika Thought-werk : This is a small copy … first three chapters.

 Fitch Lekvoda: we’re small, a back pack of books for us would only be 2 or 3 books

 Nika Thought-werk : You …

 Philip Underwood (pilipo.underwood): The third one is “Orange Clockwork”?

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  nods

 Nika Thought-werk : No

 Nika Thought-werk : The Second – The Clockwork’s Orange

 Philip Underwood (pilipo.underwood): Oh okay

 Ceejay WriterCeejay Writer grins

 Nika Thought-werk : The Third is The Ship Who Loved Lolli Pops

 Ceejay Writer: And her first one, poke the green book on the table and you will be taken to more information on it, and a chance to buy.

 Nika Thought-werk : Airship

 Jimmy Branagh: Miss Nika graciously gave me copies earlier.  I will attend to them tomorrow.

 Nika Thought-werk : One more thing, if I may?

 Ceejay WriterCeejay Writer stifles the urge to sing and dance.

 Ceejay Writer: Please, one or three more things!

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  nods

 Nika Thought-werk : So … even if I gave a copy to you before … the copies here have up to the end of chapter three

 Jimmy Branagh: What does my copy have?

 Nika Thought-werk : So … if you do not have it … you may wish it … the … take a new copy, Mister Jimmy?

 Fitch Lekvoda: sadly, nika, i must meander now, i must be off to innsmouth…

 Jimmy Branagh: It says I already have it

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  offers Miss Fitch a hug

 Jimmy Branagh: Night Fitch!

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  nods

 Fitch Lekvoda: *hugsanika* :)(

 Ceejay Writer: Thanks for coming, Fitch!

 Nika Thought-werk : Thank you, sis!

 Fitch Lekvoda: 🙂

 Nika Thought-werk : Also, Underwoods?

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly): hmmm?

 Nika Thought-werk : Truly try to come to Tall Tales?

 Nika Thought-werk : Even just once?

 Nika Thought-werk : It may help very much.

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly): I have come, but just listen. 🙂

 Ceejay Writer: You are in a safe place sharing with other writers and people who love to read. Tall Tales is that!

 Jimmy Branagh: Tall Tales id fun.  Scary sometimes

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  nods and smiles

 Ceejay Writer: Only scary when Emerson is there!

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly): Thank you for that 🙂

 Ceejay Writer: Nika, will you be with us again tomorrow for Tall Tales and Outright Lies?

 Jimmy BranaghJimmy Branagh chucklesw

 Nika Thought-werk : I can … may I share a new chapter from Book Three?

 Ceejay Writer: Sure!

 Jimmy Branagh: Yay!

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks “When?”

 Ceejay Writer: And anyone here is also cordially invited, to share a bit of writing, or just listen and encourage.

 Jimmy Branagh: I’ll be caught up

 Ceejay Writer: 6:30 to 8:00 slt, right here.

 Nika Thought-werk : Tonight?

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  blinks

 Ceejay Writer: Tomorrow!

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly)Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly) giggles

 Nika Thought-werk : Tomo-lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala?

 Ceejay Writer: Then next week it goes back to New Babbage. We are having a special Tall Tales day-after-today

 Jimmy Branagh: After today

 Nika Thought-werk : Sure!

 Nika Thought-werk : I can be here after today.

 Nika Thought-werk : When?

 Ceejay Writer: Won Der Ful!

 Nika Thought-werk : OH!

 Jimmy Branagh: The day that follows today

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  nods

 Ceejay Writer: Yus!

 Nika Thought-werk : Sorry … I have trouble sometimes

 Nika Thought-werk : Oh!

 Jimmy Branagh: Don’t we all!

 Nika Thought-werk : One last thing?

 Ceejay Writer: Thank you all for coming and I hope you give little Nika’s books a look-see. Encouraging authors gains you all sorts of karma points, and gives you better posture, too.

 Ceejay Writer: Bring it on home, Nika!

 Jimmy Branagh: lol

 Nika Thought-werk : So … I have a dog named Postage … we have a comic strip …

 Jimmy Branagh: Keeps ya regular!

 Nika Thought-werk : Would any of you like to read it?

 Jimmy Branagh: Yes

 Ceejay Writer: Yes! Share where we can find it?

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  nods and runs to get an address

 Nika Thought-werk :

 Ceejay Writer: Also, Miss Saffia asked if you could leave your wagon here for the rest of the faire.

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  smiles “Sure! Any other things?”

 Jimmy Branagh: B’marked

 Ceejay Writer: Your book will stay on the table the whole faire, too.

 Ceejay Writer: Thank you Miss Nika! This was fun.

 Philip Underwood (pilipo.underwood): Thank you Nika!

 Nika Thought-werk : Thank you … thank you all for coming … and please enjoy the Faire!

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly)Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly) applauds happily

 Jimmy Branagh: Yes, thank you Miss Nika

 Ceejay Writer: I think that’s all the things I can leave, pigeons come in here at night and pick at little things.

 Jimmy Branagh: ?me appaluds

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  smiles and waves happily.

 Jimmy Branagh: Applauds too

 Ceejay Writer: Thank you everyone! Hope to see you at Tall Tales and Outright Lies tomorrow – more Nika!

 Philip Underwood (pilipo.underwood)Philip Underwood (pilipo.underwood) notices that Jimmy has that Young James Dean thing workin’

 Jimmy Branagh: I was in the 50s earlier, and had no time to change.

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly): it’s cool

 Ceejay Writer: That hairstyle is called a duck’s… duck’s something….

 Jimmy Branagh: Duck’s ass

 Ceejay Writer: Made you say it!

 Jimmy Branagh: heehee

 Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly)Edda Underwood (edan.borrelly) laughs

 Nika Thought-werk Nika Thought-werk  giggles at Mister Jimmy and Mister Philip … “Now I have a new comic to draw … may I be excused now?”

 Ceejay Writer: You may. Work happy, Miss!

**** THE END – FOR NOW ****

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The Pig-Keeper’s Assistant: A Steampunk Take on The Swineherd

When planning out my week last week, I knew I was going to be busy. I am deep in illustrating for my second book in The Tales of the Robot Nika book series and up against a deadline. That means I have to crank out pictures for it whether I like the pictures or not (and I don’t have much room to slow down). I had another Postage Stamps strip to plot out and draw (which is oddly enough turning into a gag-a-week strip. Given how heavy most of my writing is, the comic is a nice change). I had an online game to write in an html framework called Sugar Cube. I had a newsletter to produce for the week. I also had to reach out and follow up on a number of publishing tasks. I knew I would not have a lot of time for reading.

So, in order to keep with book review schedules. I chose a short story to review for today. The Pig-Keeper’s Assistant is a recent addition to the Amazon library. It is a short story that I could read in an hour. It is a steampunk take on a classic fairy tale.

What’s not to love – about love?

The characters and the setting evoke the flavor of period pieces like the Poldark series and Little Women. The author, listed as E. Long, beautifully weaves the romantic characterizations of women in love as they were often depicted in Victorian times with steampunk tropes – all squeezed into the framework of a Hans Christian Anderson classic. I would almost love it. I love the story itself – but there is a downside. The author nails so many high points in this retelling – and I can’t wait to read more from them. If they are a young author, as the story’s acknowledgements suggest, I think they may have a very bright future ahead.

The downside to this gem is grammar. The author is amazing (in my opinion). However, it was impossible for me to let myself go and lose myself in this story (I truly wanted to) due to the number of grammatical mistakes and misused words (sediments in place of sentiments, for example). Things like this happen to any of us – and this is nothing a good editor can’t fix. That said, I hope the author gives things another go soon – just with a solid proofreader at their side.

They are displaying a real talent here.

This is Victorian-era romance at its finest, and if you can look past grammar to enjoy a nice, quick little dose of story, this may be just what the doctor ordered. You can find The Pig-Keeper’s Assistant for sale in the Amazon Kindle store here.

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A Mouse Divided: A Book by Jeff Ryan

Anyone that knows me knows I am a huge fan of the 1910s-1930s. I love the work of Charlie Chaplin, Clarence Ashley, Washington Phillips, and Elsie Segar more than I will probably ever like Tom Cruise, Lady Gaga, or Robert Kirkman. Not to say anything bad of artists and actors from this day and age – just … we all have our preferences. I knew about Elsie Segar, George Herriman, W.W. Denslow, and Winsor McCay prior to trying to learn to draw. Ub Iwerks was a different story. I discovered Ub through diving into a study of Walt Disney (specifically early-Disney). It’s through that study – and discovering Ub – that I discovered the book A Mouse Divided: How Ub Iwerks Became Forgotten and Walt Disney Became Uncle Walt.

This story is gripping – and I would suggest it for anyone who is a fan of Disney, animation, art, or who is trying to start a business. Why? Throughout its pages, Mr. Ryan builds a story of two men who would build one of the largest companies in world history. Their destinies would be intertwined whether they wished it or not. Walt Disney is shown as very much a man who started from nothing and never gave up. Because of his perseverance, his string of bankruptcies would lead to the creation of a multimedia powerhouse. This was not something he could do alone. At his right hand in his early days was Ub Iwerks – an animation and technical genius.

It’s at this point that the book resonates for me. For anyone just starting out on a new path in life, self-doubt can be a constant companion. Recognizing and playing to one’s strengths is essential. In A Mouse Divided, Jeff Ryan presents the strengths and personalities of Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks – and how these two men were essential in the rise of the House of Mouse. And, when it becomes time for Ub Iwerks to decide if he will stay with Disney, the book makes it understandable why he wouldn’t. Here though, is the rub.

Walt Disney pressed on through the 1930s – and Disney the company survived. Disney played to his strengths. Ub didn’t – at least not initially. Disney would keep pressing on, and he would go on to build a team to give to his company what Ub had before. The character study is immense, intense, and informative for anyone trying to start a business – or trying to start over. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You shouldn’t expect it to be. And more often than not, the two strongest determinants to success are recognizing and playing to your strengths – and simply pressing on when everyone else thinks it would be mad to keep going.

If one is merely seeking a book on Walt Disney, Ub Iwerks, the early history of Walt Disney Studios, or animation, this has you covered. You won’t go wrong adding this book to your library. Here, for me, the fact that Jeff Ryan is able to include as thorough a picture of Iwerk’s studio (for the time it is in existence) as he does and what went on there is a bit of a gem.

There is one last point in the book that Mister Ryan makes that – in retrospect – almost brings me to tears. The author explains the almost seeming absence of Mickey from the movies as Disney progresses on to today. The movies, America, and the world are not what they were when Mickey Mouse first debuted in 1928. In so many ways, I wish they were. Optimism is never, ever a bad thing. At its heart, optimism keeps us going when the world tells us to do everything but that. That optimism, coupled by sheer small-town niceness and decency characterized Midwestern boys made good.

That niceness and optimism would become the hallmark of their most famous creation – in a world that first embodied – and then sorely needed – niceness and optimism more than ever. Walt Disney Studios, in this world of ours, I wonder if Mickey Mouse isn’t needed now as much as he ever has been.

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Review – The Flight to Brassbright

This sweet coming-of-age story by Lori Alden Holuta is the second installment of stories dealing with the fictional land of Industralia (the first being the short-story The Steamkettle Kids Save The Day). In a number of ways, this outing is superior to the other works of Miss Holuta’s that have been reviewed so far – which is to be expected (it is, after all, approximately ten times longer).

Miss Holuta uses that extra space to focus on the development of her characters – and her main character. The reader becomes acquainted with Constance quickly. From there, no matter who she might run into or whatever she might face, there is no doubt that this is her story. The depth of care that Miss Holuta invests in her writing pays huge dividends, too. Whether one is prowling the bookstore with Constance after hours, knee deep in circus life, riding alongside a new friend on a junk wagon, or booking a one-way ticket to a new home, the twists and turns are developed nicely and insure the reader wants to find out what happens next.

One criticism of the story itself is that the plot (at times) moves a bit too smoothly. Constance almost always seems to have help at hand exactly when she needs it – which might be off-putting to some. Still, the imagery and the characters bring to mind recent movies such as Big Fish and Dumbo. I can almost see Constance spinning the tale as a yarn that is mostly true (and that glosses over the rougher bits of her tale). Even were this not the case and the story happened just as it is presented, this is a fine story for young adults – or a not-so-young adult searching for a bit of wonder and a pick-me-up in the here and now.

The Flight To Brassbright is available on Amazon, Second Life, and wherever fine books are sold (if you ask the booksellers to carry it).

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Legends and Adventures of Industralia #3 – A Life Invented

Lori Alden Holuta serves up an extra helping of Industralia with her third novella in the series – A Life Invented. As with the previous two installments, the story is aimed at young adults – but it is something that can be enjoyed by someone of any age. The story focuses on slices in the life of Gerard Liddle, a character first introduced in the novel A Flight To Brassbright.

Enough of an introduction – what about an actual review?

As with her previous outings, Miss Holuta presents a happy little world where the conflicts are quickly resolved and – at their best – lead to learning opportunities for all involved. It’s also refreshing to see a family – and parents – working to understand a child on the child’s own terms. The glimpses that the author provides of Gerard’s life like this are sweet, refreshing, and – for the children and young adults reading them – must be affirming and hopeful.

If one might level a criticism to this type of story, though, is that it is short – and presents numerous events (in a very short space). Out of the three stories in this series so far, the first (Steamkettle Kids) seems to be the strongest.


All three stories are short (no more than 35 or so pages apiece). The Steamkettle Kids Save The Day excels compared to the other two stories because it uses this space to present the readers with a believable and small roster of characters. In the space of the story, the author then presents the reader with a concise story and a central conflict. This type of storytelling is as old as storytelling itself. It works because it invests the reader in the characters (who seem not so different from themselves). It lets the readers care – and want to know what happens next.

In comparison, both A Life Invented and The Legend of the Engineer are a little less refined – for different reasons. In The Legend of the Engineer, there is a central conflict (will there be enough coal for the Engineer?). Still, the central character in this conflict (Margaret) is presented in a very short space of the story’s short space. More could have been done to develop the conflict and the characters – and this would have helped pull readers in, keep them focused, and make them yearn for more. Still, the reader has a conflict. The reader has a character. The story has all it needs from which to grow from a good story – to a great one. The focus just needs to be there.

In A Life Invented, the reader has a central character (Gerard). There are conflicts (tons of them). Still, short spaces and a lack of focus can lead to an uneven story. A central conflict in the short space of story would help focus Gerard, help readers invest themselves in him, and help readers keep coming back for more.

There is a ton (of bricks of good – not being tossed by a trebuchet) good in A Life Invented. It’s optimistic. It’s warm. It presents a picture of parenting done right. These are things young readers need to … read. Still, focused stories help younger readers focus. Focused stories help focus characters (which help all readers care about them). And characters readers care about help readers keep coming back and wanting more.

Just my two cents. Feel free to share your feelings in the comments below. A Life Invented is available both on Amazon and in Second Life.

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The Legends and Adventures of Industralia #2: The Legend of the Engineer

So, you are having a bad day. Or a bad week. Maybe even a bad month.

If you are having a bad year – sorry, that. The year is nowhere near finished, yet. Things can get better?

While you wait (or to help stave off the bad day blues), there is always The Legend of the Engineer: The Legends and Adventures of Industralia #2, by Lori Alden Holuta. This perfectly packaged story connects to the world of Industralia (first presented in The Steamkettle Kids Save The Day – see last week’s post) and to characters first presented in The Flight to Brassbright (which has a review on this site yet to come). Miss Holuta gives to her readers a charming tale of the holidays – gone right. No real mishaps. There is a lot of love between all the characters. Were I to try and pinpoint a focus or ‘main story’ in this weaving in and out of the lives of the five or so characters the story presents over thirty pages (not counting the Engineer or the Tikkerbots or any of the kids except Margaret) is Margaret (for me).

This is a holiday story – and the gem of it all is the anticipation that the children seem to have waiting and hoping for the Engineer. Margaret captures this feeling of hope perfectly. When she is present, the story works for me.

She’s not the only character, though, and I can’t feel right in calling Margaret the main character. There are none (I don’t think). Like its predecessor, this is a beautiful and poignant story fit for all ages. It is also short. The writing brings to mind many of the stories I loved as a kid – especially ones written (yet again) by Robert Newton Peck. Still, for all its charm, I wish Miss Holuta had focused a bit more on one character – or had lengthened the end to show (more than tell) the truth behind the ‘Legend.’ I would have paid more for this happily – especially as nicely as she writes.

Still, it was a nice little story – and it leaves me looking forward to reading (and reviewing) A Life Invented next week.

The Legend of the Engineer is available both on Amazon and in Second Life for those in the know – and with a little change to spare!

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Starting Posts Again In Earnest: The Steamkettle Kids

As Nika’s Bazaar Books is rebranded in Second Life to Werks from the Iron Road, I am dusting off the blog and the Werks from the Iron Road website to get it moving again. Stan and Ollie have come and gone. Do Clockworks Dream of Gear-Toothed Sheep? has moved into a second edition. It’s been a while.

Still, for as much as things have changed over the past few years, some things haven’t. I still haven’t written a promised review of the works of Lori Alden Holuta! I wrote one way back in 2015 – and in an effort to things moving again, I am going to reprint my 2015 review of The Steamkettle Kids Save The Day below in its entirety. If, after reading the review, you want to give the story a try, you can find it on Amazon and in Second Life.


The Steamkettle Kids Save The Day

Type: Short Story

Author: Lori Alden Holuta

Available At: The Brassbright Chronicle


The story concerns the budding world of Industralia.  For the uninitiated, this is a land that first appears in print with this story, however, it will be expanded in the book “The Flight To Brassbright.”  The story concerns two children and their attempts to thwart a group of ne’er-do-wells bent on a scheme that will hurt the working people of their city gravely.


To me, this tale evokes images, characters, and the general feel of other tales for preteens and teens that I’ve read growing up – such as “Soup” by Robert Peck, “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O. Henry, and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain.  Generally speaking, I liked it a great deal.

When Positives and Negatives Collide:

The setting, for the story’s size is well-detailed.  However, I went into the story not knowing that it wasn’t a full book.  I quickly identified with the heroine, a Miss Paisley Pockets.  For the size of the story, the author does a very good job of telling the reader about her – just enough about her – to move the story forward and make the reader want to connect with her.  She seems like “Little Orphan Annie Meets Huck Finn.”

The other characters are good, but Paisley steals the show.  I don’t feel as much of a connection with them.  That could just be me.  It could be that we are only dealing with a short story.  Who knows?  As the universe of Industralia expands, however, I think the residents we find in Miss Holuta’s freshman work will each find their own time to shine.

All in all, this was right up my alley.  I loved it.  It’s fun, and innocent, and good – in style and otherwise.  The only real negative is that I feel cheated.  I want more story, because when the story ended, I wasn’t expecting it.  I guess if I want more, I have to “buy the book.”  Shrewd marketing ploy, Miss Holuta!  For you and your publisher, and I think I just might bite.

At 99 cents, why not buy your own copy of “The Steamkettle Kids Save The Day”, and tell me what you think?

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A Clockwork’s Critique: The Works and World of Lori Alden Holuta, Part One

Dear Reader:

Herein, I shall attempt a series examining the (both existing and upcoming) works of author Lori Alden Holuta.  The series starts with the first published review (I think!) of her short story The Steamkettle Kids Saves The Day.  From there, I will work through the rest of her works in order of publication.  I hope to end the series with an interview with the author about her writings, her influences, and her hopes – not only for her writings but for the world she has created.


E.P. Isaacs


The Steamkettle Kids Save The Day

Type: Short Story

Author: Lori Alden Holuta

Available At: The Brassbright Chronicle


The story concerns the budding world of Industralia.  For the uninitiated, this is a land that first appears in print with this story, however, it will be expanded in the book “The Flight To Brassbright.”  The story concerns two children and their attempts to thwart a group of ne’er-do-wells bent on a scheme that will hurt the working people of their city gravely.


To me, this tale evokes images, characters, and the general feel of other tales for preteens and teens that I’ve read growing up – such as “Soup” by Robert Peck, “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O. Henry, and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain.  Generally speaking, I liked it a great deal.

When Positives and Negatives Collide:

The setting, for the story’s size is well-detailed.  However, I went into the story not knowing that it wasn’t a full book.  I quickly identified with the heroine, a Miss Paisley Pockets.  For the size of the story, the author does a very good job of telling the reader about her – just enough about her – to move the story forward and make the reader want to connect with her.  She seems like “Little Orphan Annie Meets Huck Finn.”

The other characters are good, but Paisley steals the show.  I don’t feel as much of a connection with them.  That could just be me.  It could be that we are only dealing with a short story.  Who knows?  As the universe of Industralia expands, however, I think the residents we find in Miss Holuta’s freshman work will each find their own time to shine.

All in all, this was right up my alley.  I loved it.  It’s fun, and innocent, and good – in style and otherwise.  The only real negative is that I feel cheated.  I want more story, because when the story ended, I wasn’t expecting it.  I guess if I want more, I have to “buy the book.”  Shrewd marketing ploy, Miss Holuta!  For you and your publisher, and I think I just might bite.

At 99 cents, why not buy your own copy of “The Steamkettle Kids Save The Day”, and tell me what you think?



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Of “Stan And Ollie”

The next book in Nika’s adventures touches on vaudeville theater.  Like many small town kids of my generation, I grew up watching two comedy acts on Saturday morning television that got their start in  vaudeville.  These comedy acts were The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy.  It seems that a movie of the latter act will be coming to light – hopefully soon.

There are many reasons to despair any time a movie like this surfaces.  Who is making the picture?  How involved is the subject’s estate?  Who will be writing and directing?  Who are the stars?  How invested are they in making sure that they get the roles they’ve been given ‘right’?  In 2000, a movie chronicling the rise and fall of The Three Stooges was made.  It is the only post-mortem biopic of the comedy trio of which I am aware.  It was watchable, but it didn’t carry the same weight or polish as a movie like 1992’s Chaplin.  Where will Stan and Ollie fall compared to these two?

For now, I am optimistic about the project.  The BBC was responsible for developing it, and stars Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly will play the leads.  The meat of capturing and crafting Coogan and Reilly’s work seems like it has been assigned to capable hands.  I hope so.  Until the movie comes out, I (and you, dear reader) can be content watching and reading about Laurel and Hardy at the official Laurel and Hardy website.

Happy Monday, one and all!


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A Clockwork’s Critique: A Study In Steampunk – Choice By Gaslight

Type: Interactive Novel
Author: Heather Albano
Where Found: Google Play, Choice of Games, iTunes, The Steam Store


An army surgeon in a time and place vaguely similar to Britain in the 1880s-1890s (and yet not Britain) works to preserve his homeland against the machinations of those who oppose his queen and country. By the end of the story, his actions (guided by you, fair reader) have unforeseen implications on all those he holds dear.


Choice of Games does not disappoint. I have read many of their titles. I have yet to find one I do not like. The author has done a superb job at melding a number of steampunk tropes into this work. You want airships? Check. Disaffected and disgruntled labor movements? Check. Steam-mechs? Sure! Sorcery and intrigue? Yep! All of these elements are woven into a coherent narrative.

The story starts a bit clumsily for my taste. The main empire (Mercia) is a bit too much like Britain – without being Britain – and I initially bogged down trying to understand whether or not the author intended a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure historical novel with steampunk overtones. Once the author’s intent became clear (extremely early on), my enjoyment of the work picked up markedly (within the first page or two).

By the end of the first read-through, I was silently cursing myself at the choices I had made, primarily the one that led to the death of my spouse. I didn’t finish the first read-though, instead opting to start over from the beginning. Despite the problems I had with the opening of the book, I did enjoy it, and I would readily recommend it to others that appreciate interactive novels and steampunk literature.

Where Positives and Negatives Collide:

As I stated, I thought the story was compelling enough to read through a couple of times. It held my interest, and by the end of the story both times I felt extremely world-weary and tired. The author’s writing is solid, and it allowed me to connect with what my character was experiencing at a depth that I am not used to in titles that use the Choice of Games engine.

That being said, I think the story borrowed a bit too much from familiar steampunk conventions without presenting anything particularly new or memorable. As well, I wish that the author had included the ability for the main character of the novel to be either gender. The Victorian Age (in which many steampunk stories find the roots of the cultures they present) was a time of male-supremacy, to be sure. Still, the Victorians were not without women ready to challenge convention – from Susan B. Anthony to Nellie Bly to women like those that fought and died in engagements like the United States Civil War. Granted, the story HAS strong and important female characters. You just can’t be one even if you wanted to.

Allowing the character to be female would have possibly opened up the protagonist to the complex illusions women in combat roles in Victorian societies had to undergo to stay where they thought they should be. Introducing the possibility of a female main character could have exposed the reader to blackmail, unwanted (or wanted!) advances by members of their same biological sex, and made attempts to court characters in the story infinitely more difficult. For me, this element or a host of other changes that could have been tried would have made a good story such as this that much better. I also wish there were more romance choices. Why? Because, it’s romance. Who doesn’t need more romance in their lives?

Just adding this writer’s two cents to a tale already worth far more than its $3.99 price tag. Keep calm, and read on!