Steampunk Sundays: Diamond Conspiracy by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris + Ministry Updates & Giveaway

Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences 4
Format: eGalley
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: ACE
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Steampunk

For years, the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences has enjoyed the favor of Her Majesty the Queen. But even the oldest loyalties can turn in a moment…

Having narrowly escaped the electrifying machinations of Thomas Edison, Books and Braun are looking forward to a relaxing and possibly romantic voyage home. But when Braun’s emergency signal goes off, all thoughts of recreation vanish. Braun’s street-wise team of child informants, the Ministry Seven, is in grave peril, and Books and Braun must return to England immediately.

But when the intrepid agents finally arrive in London, the situation is even more dire than they imagined. The Ministry has been disavowed, and the Department of Imperial Inconveniences has been called in to decommission its agents in a most deadly fashion. The plan reeks of the Maestro’s dastardly scheming. Only, this time, he has a dangerous new ally—a duplicitous doctor whose pernicious poisons have infected the highest levels of society, reaching even the Queen herself.

Once again the incredible team-up of Pip Ballantine and Tee Morriss wrote another unbelievably exciting and action packed novel. Whoever these two’s muses are, I thank them from the bottom of my clockwork heart! Just when I thought I’ve seen what Books & Braun can do, DIAMOND CONSPIRACY blows whatever expectations I have.
  1. Books & Braun: From the beginning, you know that Eliza Doolittle Braun and Wellington Thornhill Books are going to pair up soon. Behind the snarky banter and seemingly opposite qualities and interests, lies a strong attraction and admiration for the other. Seeing them now as partners in every way gave me the feels! No smut here, but the never ending flirtations and constant groping these two are doing while in each other’s company is enough to give me a good read on how deep their passion is. I mean, going through the Kama Sutra? Whew! Eliza on several occasions mentioned how awesome Books is in bed, and there’s nothing hotter IMO than a sexy geek.
  2. Phantom Protocol:  It’s here, in DIAMOND CONSPIRACY, where the brouhaha over the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, the department has come to a head. Queen Victoria has ordered a hit on Doctor Basil Sound and his crew but the agents aren’t going down easy. Sound’s agents might’ve gone rogue, but even if the Empire has turned on them, they remain loyal to Queen Vic, still trying to keep their monarch safe even if it means protecting her from herself.
  3. The Archives: If you’re following the series, you’ve probably wondered what’s in The Archives? It’s off limits to everyone, including Books and Braun, and Doctor Sound is always sneaking off to this forbidden room. Well, now you’ll know just exactly what’s inside The Archives and it’s a jaw dropping surprise.
  4. Bruce Campbell: is an anti-hero in the beginning of the series. I didn’t exactly hate him, I simply disliked him. However, Bruce turned me on my head here. Just when I thought he’d betray the Ministry once again, Bruce did the exact opposite and finally redeemed himself. Who can ever resist a good badboy redemption? I hope Pip and Tee does write that spin-off featuring Bruce.
  5. Icons: Aside from Queen Victoria, expect to cross paths with H.G. Wells and Dr. Henry Jekyll among others. Their roles in this series perfectly blended with the world.
If you’re not reading the series, I know this review is cryptic. Know this though, it doesn’t matter if you read Steampunk or not. The bottom line is if you like well-written adventures that features wonderfully fleshed out characters and carefully plotted arcs, conflicts, and resolutions, I urge you to try The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. The world building, though detailed, is wondrous and the dialogue snappy and funny. This series is very character driven so you won’t be encumbered by long narratives and descriptions that tend to weigh a fantasy novel down.
Bloggy Friends’ Reviews
Braine (B): Hi Pip & Tee! Welcome to Talk Supe and thanks for squeezing this Q&A in the middle of your New Zealand vacay! Much appreciated. Shelley’s here to help me pick your brains, let’s get this started!

Shelley (S): Welcome guys! So, what book(s) are you currently reading or what was the last book you read?

TEE: Reading has become something of a luxury for me as I’m working on two works-in-progress presently, three if you count the next title with Pip. Add to that The Diamond Conspiracy release (which included the shooting and producing of a book trailer), the development and writing of a social media guide for writers, my dance card is full. That doesn’t mean I’m not keeping an eye on books to read. I’ve yet to read Ready Player One, a book that comes highly recommended to me, especially with my rekindled interest in gaming.

PIP: The last time I had time to read, which was January, I finally got around to reading The Martian. I usually don’t read much science fiction, preferring fantasy, but I picked this book up on the way to the airport. Soon enough I was invested in one man’s struggle to survive on Mars. I don’t think I have ever cared so much about potatoes in my life!


S: LOL What’s up next for you after The Diamond Conspiracy?

TEE: We also have a book called Social Media for Writers, coming in the fall from Writers Digest. This is where we put in writing all the strategies and tactics Pip and I have culminated over the years. For myself, I’m working on an urban fantasy I would best described as Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Hannibal, and a space opera inspired by the video game Destiny. There are other ideas I am kicking around but these are my current priorities.

B: You’ve pretty much covered a few bases with those, Tee! How many more books are you planning to write for the series and do you know how it’s going to end?

TEE: Pip and I know that we have two more stories to tell with Wellington and Eliza. We’ve already started the fifth book in the series and it’s coming along swimmingly. We also know how Wellington and Eliza’s story will end. There are more surprises to come, rest assured.

PIP: We love writing in this world, and we have already talked about more books beyond Wellington and Eliza. So don’t be surprised if there are books centering around Sophia del Morte, and the dynamic duo of Brandon Hill and Bruce Campbell.


B: That’s great and exciting news. I fully support the Sophia book/series, I love her! And I never though I’d end up liking Bruce Campbell so I wouldn’t mind reading more stuff featuring him. 

Co-writing a book has always been fascinating to me. Can you share a behind-the-scenes anecdote or factoid about The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences and/or its characters?

TEE: The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, or at least Books’ and Braun’s part of the universe was spawned from a work-in-progress that I never finished. Book and Braun were originally intended to be a prequel that would have led to the release of this solo novel of mine…and that never happened.

PIP: The whole series actually began as a podcast-for-pay idea of mine. I thought if I could get Tee to help me write it, then I wouldn’t have to do all the work! The podcast-for-pay thing has also never arrived.


B: Ha! Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m glad it ended up the way it did. The world would be missing out on a LOT if Books & Braun weren’t here with us. If you can meet a real person of the Realm during the Victorian era, who would it be and what’s the first question you’ll ask him/her?

TEE: While you might guess H.G. Wells for me, I would really like to sit down and talk with Charles Babbage. His ideas for the analytical engine were incredible for the time. My first question: “So you made the difference engine, but why did you stop? Why not try to make your analytical engine?”

PIP: I would love to meet Kate Sheppard, the preeminent suffragette from New Zealand. She was quite the character and quite formidable. I am not sure what she would make of me, but I’d take my chances.

B: Kate is a great choice, Pip. I wouldn’t mind meeting her too. Your description of her is very, very curious.


S: Why Steampunk? Have you ever wanted to write dystopian, or contemporary, or another genre?

TEE: I have wanted to write a steampunk adventure ever since I saw the photography of J.R. Blackwell. She and her husband Jared Axelrod were my gateway into the genre. I’m attracted by the style, the feel, and the overall wonder of the genre. As mentioned earlier, I am exploring other genres (and I have been published in epic fantasy and mystery) but I do love steampunk.

PIP: I adore history, and steampunk gives me the freedom to play around with history and the people in it. It also allows me to look through lots of old photographs – my favorite activity while researching.

B: Steampunk, for me, is the greatest combo of history and fantasy. Where and how else can you turn Queen Vic into an automaton or something? 

Like I mentioned above, co-writing a novel is such a curious concept for me. For two people to come together with the same vision must be both blissful and challenging. What’s the best and worst part of writing a book together?

TEE: The creative process is always the best part of writing together. Pip and I have a blast. The downside? Editing. Sometimes it feels like we butt heads hardest in this part. 

PIP: I love brainstorming with someone else. I feel like it takes the plot to new and amazing places. The worst is probably when we argue about plot or character…which had happened maybe four times while writing four books. I don’t think that is too bad!!

S: If you weren’t a writer, what job would you love to try out?

TEE: I would love to know a lot more about computer programming. In particular, game design. When you play some of the games out there, it’s amazing what worlds and experiences are created there.

PIP: I’ve always been involved in different aspects of working with books; librarian, bookseller, writer, so I’d like to try something else. Maybe book binder or travel writer…

Tee Morris began his writing career with his 2002 historical epic fantasy, MOREVI The Chronicles of Rafe & Askana. In 2005 Tee took MOREVI into the then-unknown podosphere, making his novel the first book podcast in its entirety. That experience led to the founding of Podiobooks.com and collaborating with Evo Terra and Chuck Tomasi on Podcasting for Dummies and its follow-up, Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies. He won acclaim and accolades for his cross-genre fantasy-detective Billibub Baddings Mysteries, the podcast of The Case of the Singing Sword winning him the 2008 Parsec Award for Best Audio Drama. Along with those titles, Tee has written articles and short stories for BenBella Books’s Farscape Forever: Sex, Drugs, and Killer Muppets, the podcast anthology VOICES: New Media Fiction, BenBella Books’ So Say We All: Collected Thoughts and Opinions of Battlestar Galactica, and Dragon Moon Press’ Podthology: The Pod Complex.

In 2011, Tee returned to his first love—fiction—with the steampunk romp Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel, co-authored with Philippa Ballantine. This debut novel from Harper Voyager won the 2011 Airship Award for Best Steampunk Literature. Now the series includes The Janus Affair (Harper Voyager), Dawn’s Early Light (Ace Books), and the Ministry Protocol anthology (Imagine That! Studios). Find out more at ministryofpeculiaroccurrences.com.

When he is not writing, Tee enjoys life in Virginia alongside Philippa Ballantine, his daughter, and three cats.

Follow Tee
Website | @TeeMonster | Facebook | Goodreads

Pip Ballantine is a New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author with her husband Tee Morris of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, the Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice, and a Sir Julius Vogel. She currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a furry clowder of cats.

Follow Pip
Website | @PhilippaJane | Facebook | Goodreads

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Shelly’s Steampunk Sundays: Dawn’s Early Light by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences 3
Publisher: Ace Penguin
Released: March 25, 2014
Source: Amazon
Format: E-Book | 384 pages
Genre: Adult Steampunk

Working for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, one sees innumerable technological wonders. But even veteran agents Braun and Books are unprepared for what the electrifying future holds…

After being ignominiously shipped out of England following their participation in the Janus affair, Braun and Books are ready to prove their worth as agents. But what starts as a simple mission in the States—intended to keep them out of trouble—suddenly turns into a scandalous and convoluted case that has connections reaching as far as Her Majesty the Queen.


This post is going to be a bit different from my other review posts in that Braine and I discussed doing the top 5 reasons why I loved DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT. So, without further adieu, let’s get right to it!
  1. Eliza Doolittle Braun – Eliza is an agent with the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences and something of a rogue. She’s known as a colonial, having been born and raised in New Zealand before catching the eye of the Ministry. Eliza is the most kick-butt female heroine that you will read about in the Steampunk Genre. She loves to cause trouble, she loves guns, blowing things up, and is the furthest from a Mary Sue character that one can hope for. Eliza faces villain after villain with a grin on her face, and a snarky comment on her lips.
  2. I loved that Pip and Tee takes our intrepid heroes, Eliza and Wellington Books, to the US in the late 19th century where they meet their counterparts from the Office of the Supernatural and the Metaphysical. I think the newest setting is just what readers need instead of the same old same old. The authors take our heroes, plus new partners Felicity Lovelace and Wild Bill Wheatley, on a cross country journey from North Carolina, Detroit, Arizona, and finally ending in San Francisco where things come to an interesting head. The journey and the action will boggle the readers mind, and keep them from being bored.
  3. Wellington Thornhill Books, Esquire – Welly, as both Eliza and I like to call him, is the Archivist for the Ministry. He’s been with the Ministry for 8 years, and his entire world has been turned upside down by one Eliza Braun. Books is something of a mystery, but has now been elevated to the status of Agent thanks to his and Eliza’s actions against the Phoenix Society. I will say that part of the mystery surrounding Books is covered in The Diamond Conspiracy which releases March 31, 2015. Welly is a sharpshooter, inventor, and just wait until you get to reading his latest invention!
  4. I do love the fact that the authors don’t gloss over Thomas Edison’s participation, but makes him a legitimate villain who is working in conjunction with Eliza and Welly’s nemesis the House of Usher. I also love the fact that the authors added Henry Ford, as well as Nikola Tesla. Both of these gentlemen were ahead of their time, and created some amazing inventions that we are still using today.
  5. My only real hesitation about giving this book an even higher rating, is the unresolved issue between Eliza and Welly’s kiss in The Janus Affair. THIS issue forced me to bite my tongue several times throughout the book. THANKFULLY! This is easily resolved by taking 5 minutes to fix. I actually found the mix of Eliza and Wild Bill interesting. The two of them together are a thrill ride that just won’t stop.
In the end, DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT is a wild journey with plenty of action, twists, revelations, danger situations, romance, and a shocking ending that leads directly into the fourth installment called The Diamond Conspiracy which I shall be reviewing on Gizmos Book Reviews on Tuesday, March 31, 2015.

Read a more detailed review of 
DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT at Gizmos Reviews
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Steampunk Sundays: The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences

Format: eGalley 
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Publisher: Harper Collins Voyager
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Adult Steampunk

Certainly no strangers to peculiar occurrences, agents Wellington Books and Eliza Braun are nonetheless stunned to observe a fellow passenger aboard Britain’s latest hypersteam train suddenly vanish in a dazzling bolt of lightning. They soon discover this is not the only such disappearance – every case inexplicably unexamined by the Crown.

It’s SPRING! Finally, the bitterness of Winter is out (in my neck ‘o the woods at least) and it’s that time of the year where we’ll see bright colors, longer days, and sneeze til our eyes pop out! That said, I apologize if this post is late and brief. I got busy worshipping Mr. Sun and tending my garden beds. Without further ado:
5 Reasons why I loved THE JANUS AFFAIR
  1. Romance Shmomance: I don’t like love triangles HOWEVER, I’ll make an exception here. Why? Because our lovely heroes, Welly Books and Eliza Braun, are so dense! Obviously they got the hots for each other and sometimes it takes another dashing dude, like Eliza’s former suitor, Douglas Sheppard, to bring that attraction the forefront. Oh the tension!
  2. Ministry of Seven (or Eight): These street urchins that serves as Eliza’s eyes, ears, and cohorts when she’s out cracking cases are too cute! I don’t want to be their mark, that would horrible because they know how to pull a good con. It’s great being on their side though. 
  3. Badass Females: as Women’s Suffrage is the topic at hand, you can expect a lot of badassery from the female persuasion. Aside from Eliza there’s Kate Sheppard (Douglas’ mother), leader of the suffrage movement and current target of this sinister group who’s abducting members of her organization. Then there’s the villainess’, Sophia del Morte, whome we’ve met in Phoenix Rising, and Diamond Dottie, a sort of a gang leader who is tall, imposing, and has bad fashion sense. 
  4. The Empire Takedown: Aside from the episode plots, someone or something is plotting to take down the Empire. One would think this has been resolved in the previous book, obviously whoever or whatever this group is is far from finished. This is the overarching arc of Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, and it’s as exciting as Eliza and Welly’s adventures! As I mentioned before, I’m most curious what Doctor Basil Sound is up to as well as the double agents who are helping out the Maestro execute his planned anarchy.
  5. The Interludes: Oh I love the interludes! It’s a mix of different things like Doctor Sound sneaking into the archives, the Maestro meeting/threatening poms (aristos), etc. This gives the series a holistic feel, an expansion of the story in the sense that the world doesn’t revolve around Braun & Books.
I hope y’all have a good week ahead! As for me, I’m back to playing with dirt!

Bloggy Friends’ Reviews

Steampunk Sundays: Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences 1

Format: Hardcover
Release Date: April 26, 2011
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Bought
Genre: Steampunk

In Victorian England, Londoners wash up dead on Thames, drained of blood and bone. Clandestine Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences is forbidden to investigate. But Eliza Braun, with bulletproof corset, fondness for dynamite, remarkable devices, drags along timorous new partner Wellington Books, of encyclopedic brain, against Phoenix intent on enslaving Britons.

And because this brilliant and super fun novel by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris has been floating around for quite some time now, I’ll keep this short and lay out the reasons why I love PHOENIX RISING:
  1. No paranormals here. Just some jolly ‘ol bad guys out to get Queen Vic & topple her monarchy. I love villainous secret societies, you never know how vast and long their reach is. Just when you think you got them, they surprise you with more deviousness.
  2. Wellington Books, Archivist and a hunky one at that. You know I love geeks as much as I love them Alphas. Welly is a gentleman, learned, and resourceful. Don’t let his (hot) librarian demeanor fool you, this dude’s got some surprising skills up his sleeves.
  3. Which brings me to Eliza Braun. The anti-thesis of Books and the brawn of this duo. A native of New Zealand and fresh off a (jumbled) mission in Antartica, I can’t help but adore a girl who loves fashion and explosives in equal amounts. This girl is dynamite! Literally.
  4. The banter (verbal foreplay) between Books & Braun is too funny (sexy)! They might be an uncanny pair but they complement each other to a tee! Imagine Holmes & Watson, only imagine Watson as a gorgeous and vivacious woman who can (not) hold her liquor and knows how to kill you a million different ways. Also their love-hate relationship is so cute! They’re obviously in-love, I know it before they did.
  5. I thought PHOENIX RISING was going to be a serious and heavy read. Boy was I mistaken! I got a few solid laughs while reading this. Also it goes without saying that this is action packed with lots of clock & dagger missions. 
  6. Doctor Basil Sound, Ministry boss who reminds me of the Monopoly Man. Only Sound is stealthier and is always a few steps ahead Books & Braun.
As you can probably tell, I’m kicking myself for not picking up Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences sooner. Unbeknownst to me, I got Steampunk gold sitting on my shelf, ignored, and gathering dust for years now. Better late than never! The upside is I get to binge read the series and have a roaring good time while I’m at it. Books & Braun are a fantastic duo and I’m very happy that we’ve been finally introduced. On to the next!