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chocalte everything

Steampunk and Chocolate go together like tea and scones. After all modern chocolate was created in the Victorian era and steam power made the first mass production of chocolate possible. Not to mention when I think of chocolate factories, I think of Willie Wonka, which has a steampunk vibe.

I set up a Steampunk event to tour the Keggs Chocolate factory here in Houston Texas. It’s not quite Wille Wonka’s but it’s a lot of fun and full of freshly made chocolate treats. Yum yum! The choclate factory -Chocolate was first molded into solid form in 1847 by Francis Fry, who added melted cacao butter back into Dutch cocoa then added sugar, creating a moldable paste. He called it “eating chocolate” Two years later the Cadbury brothers were also selling “eating chocolate”. And in 1861 Richard Cadbury created the first heart-shaped candy box for Valentine’s Day. If you like milk chocolate like I do, you can thank Daniel Peter, who invented it in 1875  by using condensed milk his neighbor Henri Nestle developed. Then Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle formed the Nestlé Company.putting swirls on the choclate to tell which kind is which

In 1879 Rodolphe Lindt invented the conching machine to heat and roll chocolate to a smooth and creamy consistency so it melts on the tongue. In 1895 Milton S. Hershey sold his first Hershey Bar in Pennsylvania. He made it using modern, mass-production equipment he purchased at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

so hard to decide – it all looks good

So we can think the Victorian era for chocolate. After the scrumptious chocolate factory tour, we had lunch at Your Cup Of Tea, an English style Tea House. 

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus. Her latest Steampunk Romance is a re-release, As Timeless As Magic, the sequel to As Timeless As Stone and Brass Octopus is coming in September.

dictionaryI’ve been reading an annotated version of a Jane Austen book and while I find the book fascinating, the notes on the right-handed pages are even better. I’ve read my share (and then some) of books written IN or about Regency and Victorian eras, but we never truly know ‘everything.’ It’s only through continued reading and researching that we grasp a good and thorough understanding of these fascinating eras of time.

When I read the title ‘Sense & Sensibility’ – I read it as being ‘having good sense and being sensitive’ – referring to ability or inability of the characters to have the good sense to make decisions and be sensitive toward others… qualities that I felt Marianne lacked and Elinor had in droves… but wait a minute…

Sensibility – the ability to appreciate and respond to complex emotional or aesthetic influences; sensitivity [in the annotation it says that the meaning is 'strong feelings']

Strong Feelings? Not Sensitivity? Boy howdy have I been ‘off’ about this! I’m going to have to find an annotated version of Sense & Sensibility… *sigh*

Let’s take a look at a few other words -

Disgusting – arousing revulsion or strong indignation [in the annotation it says that the meaning is distasteful]

Character – the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual [annotation - reputation]

Interesting – arousing curiosity or interest, catching attention [annotation - important]

Years from now… when readers delve into the universes that we create… will their vocabulary be different than what we use today? Will they understand what we intended when we set the words down in print/ereader file?

Will they understand the difference based on the context of our words? Will they rely on annotations of our works? Or… will their altered understanding of the vocabulary be… just fine? Will they enjoy the story even more… or look to understand our creativity by broadening their knowledge of our ‘times’ and ‘vocabulary’?

Thoughts?

navajorug1** Please forgive the odd timing, we’ve been on hurricane alert in Hawaii and I admit prepping for the storm did take a little bit of my attention**

Last week we talked about continuing threads in story fiction… this week we get to continue the discussion.

I’ve been working on a story for Capes & Clockwork II – the follow up anthology to the popular Steampunk Anthology from Dark Oak Press – Author D. Alan Lewis is both an author in the anthology and the editor.

I had a conversation with him about a story in the anthology, Captain Amy and the Steam-driven Kittens of Doom.  In the story we are introduced to the intrepid Captain Amy as she struggles to defeat her arch-enemy, Professor Von-Dark… and then we are suddenly transported…

capesfcoverbigAmyLynn, a young girl needed at the dinner table, begs off for just a few more moments to finish the story…

What happened?

When I spoke with Alan, he was working on the follow up story to this one, and explained that AmyLynn’s family had experienced a loss and bringing these stories to life with her imagination is how Amy was working through her grief.

It wasn’t what he had in mind when he started, but the ‘twist’ was an inspiration that came to him while he wrote the story. AND, will carry on to more Captain Amy stories… perhaps a novel or collection. It sounds like a lot of great inspiration.

So, for more steam-powered superheroes and intriguing stories… keep your eyes open for more information on Capes & Clockwork II from Dark Oak Press!

At Apollo Con I attended the Amusements and Diversions in the Age of Steam – Magic Lantern show – by fantasy artist, Theresa Mather.

She showed us a photographic history of Victorian entertainment and oddities A popular fair attraction In the mid 19th century was the platform carousel with a circular floor rotating around a pole in it’s center and operated manually or by ponies. The carousel went steamed in 1861. Thomas Bradshaw created the first steam-powered mechanical carousel, (I call them Merry-Go-Rounds). That carousel and others of it’s day spun much faster than modern ones. It’s a wonder people were able to hold onto the horses during the ride. it was a thrill ride of it’s day. A high-point of early fairground art was the elaborate decorations created by Italian designers and craftsmen imported at the showmen’s expense and they even included lavish center organs.

The first Steampowered carousel inspired Frederick Savage to try his hand at making similar machines using the expertise at his agricultural engineering works at Kings Lynn.Savage’s first steam powered ride was a bycle carousel, the Velocipede. Savage also competed with several manufacturers to try to make carousel horses gallop and created their first platform galloper in 1885. The same year Messrs Reynolds and King designed the overhead crank system. By the end of the 19th century crank-action gallopers were a popular ride. The steam engine connected to a spinning top that in turn linked to the platform.One  variant used galloping cockerels rather than horses.

In 1880 the partnership of Frederick Savage and William Sanger gave birth to another novelty ride, Sea on Land. Replicas of seafaring vessels were pitched and tossed by mechanisms beneath their hulls. Then a patent taken in 1888 introduced the Steam Yachts the ultimate mechanized swing ride. William Cartwright of Bromwich first succeeded in building a set using upright cylinders. The Steam Yacht rides used huge boats able to carry 20 or more people at a time.They even named the ships after giant ocean-going liners like the Lusitania, Mauritania. Cymric, and Celtic, although Olympia and Titanic proved short lived names..These rides were gorgeous in full swing as the boats had lavishly painted bottoms.

Savage also created the Razzle Dazzle ride, with seats and an outter wall it tilted side to side as it spun around. By 1885 Savage made the ride Tunnel Railways, a locomotive pulled carriages on a circular track with a tunnel. Frederick Savage enjoyed prominence as the pioneer of the steam roundabout but several engineering firms  along with some amateurs. Robert Tidman of Norwich, Thomas Walker of Tewkesbury and William Howcroft, of Hartlepool, all emerged as competitive manufacturers of steam powered rides by the 1880s.

   ~          ~         ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

 

A Continuing Thread

navajorug*First, I am so happy to be back from my trip. My first Vacation in seven-ish years!*

I had the opportunity to spend some time within the Navajo Nation studying their history and culture. Spending four days living in a traditional Navajo Hogan on a family ranch in Many Farms Chapter. During my travels I visited the Interactive Navajo Museum in Tuba City. One of the many ideas that struck my interest was the idea of continuing inspiration. My tour guide, a young lady born and raised in the area, explained that rug weavers, eager to keep their creative muse excited and inspired would weave a continuing thread into their rugs.

There are different ways that they can do this…
1) Weave in a different colored thread along a side or border that literally leads off the rug
2) Design a path of color that also leads off the edge of the rug, like a pathway in a maze
… incorporating either method or a combination of the two gives a weaver ample ways of continuing their creativity into their next project.

So, how do we do this in our own works?

The most obvious method is to leave open a storyline that might inspire a sequel to a story/novel.

Leave an unanswered question in the story. Not every question posed by the characters will end up answered with a pretty little bow at the end of your story.

A supporting character might create that link to another story. Readers may fall in love or in hate with that character and clamour to know what happens to them in a future installment.

Where is your thread? Where is your pathway out from the maze? Maybe you have more than one… enjoy it, write it, and then share it!

Capes & Clockwork, an anthology of Steampunk Superhero stories published by Dark Oak Press, has its own continuing path… a second anthology is in the works and next week, we’ll discuss how the stories, authors, ideas from the first anthology are finding new life in the second!

I’d love to hear how you, as either readers or writers, have been inspired by THREADS in stories? Comment below and let me know!

We recently had a fun event in Houston for the local Steampunk community. The Brass Ball, a DJed dance with multiple musicians and vendors was held Sunday July 27 at Mimms Martini and Wine bar on Montrose. You can see photos of the Brass Ball here in the blog post.

This event had me thinking about Houston saloons in the 19th century. The main choice of drink in the saloon was whiskey, also called rotgut, sheep-dip, cactus juice, coffin varnish, and tarantula juice. In those days cowboys and western gents could partake of more than just a drink in a saloon. In 1839, a local Houston, Texas newspaper decried the town’s houses of ill repute. The newspaper was probably either The Houston Morning Star, a daily newspaper founded April 8, 1839, or the Telegraph and Texas Register, a weekly newspaper that included local, state, and national news, established July 10, 1839. The Houston Morning Star was actually printed in the office of the Telegraph and Texas Register.

In Houston Land of the Big Rich the author, Geroge Fuerman, statesbrass ball 2 that from 1880 to World War I Houston’s vice area was on old Howard Street. In the early 1900’s the brothels in Houston used a practical bookkeeping system based on towels. One was given to each customer and at the end of the night the madam counted the brass ball 5towels and paid the girls accordingly. There’s a story about a Howard street brothel in those days that caught on fire. The madam fled the burning house by taking the outside stairs but when she looked up she saw the porter jump form a second story window with his arms loaded with towels. She exclaimed, “Thank God. He saved the books.”

I did find some saloon information from other Texas towns. In the early 1870s in Lampasas Texas a gunfight broke out in the saloon between state police and outlaws. Three officers were shot to death in the saloon and a fourth was fatally wounded while trying to escape.

There’s even a Texas saloon story involving Jesse James. The brass ball 9outlaw lived for a time in the area of Granbury Texas. He fell in love with an 18 year old saloon girl and began to settle down. In those days if a saloon patron was upstairs with a saloon girl when his wife came to drag him home, the barkeep would send the man down the husband escape, which was the outside stairs. The saloon girl Jesse loved had to run down the husband escape one night but she wasn’t fast enough to escape a bullet in her back. Some people say the saloon girl still haunts the empty up stair rooms around the square in Granbury.

I’m glad to report the Brass Ball at Mims was old fashioned fun and great music without any wild west shenanigans or shootouts but there were some card tricks.

  ~          ~         ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

In the last year and a bit, I’ve been to a whole bunch of genre conventions. Starting with Up in the Aether (steampunk) last May, followed by Pandoracon (general fandom) in October, ConFusion (science fiction) in January, World Steam Symposium in April, Romantic Times in May, Steamtopia (a reboot of Up in the Aether) in June and now NASFIC’s DetCon1 in July. In short, I love cons, but I’m really burned out on them right now.

For each of these cons, I’ve been speaking, signing, and in general, trying to sell books. I’m kind of tired of that. I’m tired of hotel kerfluffles, mediocre food and packing tons of costumes. I’m tired of feeling like I’m missing something when I crash before the late-night parties. I’m tired of always being “on.” I’m also tired of my husband being dragged along as my unpaid assistant.

On the other hand, I love the costuming, the networking, and spending time browsing the vendor booths at cons. I love visiting with people who share common interests. I really do love genre fiction in all its forms, so I can’t say I don’t like going. I truly adored visiting New Orleans for Romantic Times this year. It’s one of the few conventions where I’ve actually spent time outside the convention hotel. And the highlight of DetCon1 was getting to sign and sell actual PRINT copies of Steam & Sorcery.

So what do you think? What are your favorite conventions, and how often do you go? What parts do you love or hate? And would you rather go as a Pro or just a fan? Both sides have their pluses and minuses. I’d love to know your thoughts.

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