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If you don’t have access to ShowTime and you’ve wondered what Penny Dreadful is all about, let me clue you in. I enjoy the show and recommend it. Ethan Chandler a Wild Bill Cody type is hired by Sir Malcolm Murray and Vanessa Ives to find and rescue his daughter, Mina Hunter, kidnapped by a vampire. Dr. Frankenstein teams up with them as well. And Dorian Gray is added to the mix. In honor of Penney Dreadful and Halloween month, October, my three post this month are on Bram Stoker who gave us Dracula, Mary Shelley, who gave us Frankenstein, and Oscar Wilde who gave us Dorian gray.

Dorian’s turn was two weeks ago so it’s Frankenstein’s turn today. In Penny Dreadful, Victor Frankenstein creates a monster who stalks him and kills people who are important to him, including a newer creation that looks and acts more human then the first one. The monster works in the theater handling all the back stage special effects. He threatens to kill everyone Victor cares about unless he makes him a bride, a companion who can love him. In the book Frankenstein’s monster doesn’t work in or even attend the theater but he he does threaten to kill everyone Frankenstein loves unless he creates a bride for him. He is shunned by all and the loneliness and need for friendship drives him to become the monster everyone believes him to be.

Mary Shelley. Reginald Easton(d.1893) Courtesy of The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Shelly relics(d).

We emotionally connect with the monster as we have all been lonely at times and felt like an outcast. Though we care about the hero of the story, Victor Frankenstein, and his innocent bride and family members, we all are also concerned about the bad guy, the monster. The way he looks is not his fault, he didn’t ask to be born.

Great writing is timeless. Without question, Mary Shelley was a great writer. She tells the story through letters a sea captain/scientist writes to his sister about a man they rescued. Writing in first person through these letters allows the suspense to steadily build into a nail biting intensity as Victor Frankenstein’s remarkable and horrid tale is unveiled. Her writing is also fabulous due to the emotion she embeds in it. Mary Shelley pulled from her own raw pain to write that emotion. The authors of Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Picture of Dorian Gray all drew from their own intense pain to create those master pieces.

Mary transferred the loss and guilt she felt over her mother’s death into Frankenstein. Her mother was famous, Mary Wollestonecraft was the leading feminist of her day, the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women, published in 1792. She died eleven days after giving birth to Mary due to complications form the birth. Mary Wollestonecraft was a believer in free love and had one daughter, Fanny, born out of wedlock from an affair with an American. She only married for the good of her unborn child, Mary, when she was four months pregnant. Upon her death her two daughters were raised by her new husband, Mary’s father, William Godwin, a famous journalist, philosopher and novelist. Mary gained a step-mother when her father remarried when she was four. The woman had two children from a previous marriage, but she did not treat Mary or Fanny like her own children. She did not even allow Fanny or Mary to go to school although her own children did. It has been said she showed feelings of jealousy toward Mary. Mary was educated at home by a governess and she spent much of her childhood alone, reading at her mother’s grave.

Mary was further outcast when at 16 she fell in love with a married man, the famous poet, Percy Shelley. Mary became pregnant  and her father refused to help her. Mary gave birth seven months into her first pregnancy and the premature baby died shortly after. She and Percy faced ostracism and constant debt. Mary and Percy left for Geneva in 1816 to spend the summer with Lord Byron. That is where she wrote Frankenstein. More heart ache came to Mary when she and Percy returned to England and both her haft-sister, Fanny and Percy’s wife, Harriet, committed suicide.

So a baby whose mother dies due to complications from the birth grows into a a lonely, outcast child often reading alone by the grave of a mother she never knew. She then grows into a teenager who has an affair with a married man, looses her  first child shortly after giving birth and has to deal with the suicidal deaths of her lover’s wife and her mother’s only other daughter. It’s easy to see the similarities between Mary’s life and the story of Frankenstein.

The guilt, pain, and shock Mary carried contributed to her creation of Frankenstein. It’s the raw pain of the author that makes the story so great and so timeless. This pain, this intense emotion transferred from Mary into the characters of Frankenstein and his monster is what makes the story real to us. The emotion creates an unbreakable connection between us and the characters.

~           ~            ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 22 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus. Her latest Steampunk Romance is The Brass Octopus, a romance novella for ages 18 on up which is free today 10/15/14 – 10/19/14 on Amazon. .

Life has been a little crazy in my corner of the world, so I thought I’d repost a blast from the past. his was my first post on Steamed! I was a guest for Steamapalooza. A few things have been updated. :)

A World of Gaslight and Gadgets

Steampunk, to me, began not as a lifestyle or cosplay, but in fiction. I’d read it, loved it, and couldn’t wait to write it. The freedom the genre offers for an author is limitless. Any technology, any magic, any social commentary you want to use can all be fit into a steampunk world. Then I met some other steampunk folks. Finally, I understood why I’d saved vintage hankies and antique jewelry, loved lacy blouses and sturdy boots. I’d been waiting for steampunk all my life, as well as for all my career in fiction.

In March of 2011 Carina Press launched a book that was very near and dear to my heart. Steam & Sorcery, first book in the brand new Gaslight Chronicles hit the shelf, and it’s been a roller coaster ride of fun ever since. Earning a 4.5 Star Review from Romantic Times and the EPIC award for Science Fiction Romance, it’s been, by far, my most successful book to date. In April of that year, we released a Gaslight Chronicles novella, Photographs and Phantoms, which is a FREE download from all major e-tailers.

Later, a longer novella, Kilts & Kraken, takes the Chronicles to Scotland in June. It will be available in print as part of Carina Press’s second anniversary celebration, in the Editor’s Choice anthology. Next, a second full-length novel, Moonlight & Mechanicals, and for anyone following the series, told Wink and Liam’s story. Ashes and Alchemy is a shorter story, looking a little more at the middle class in my world, and Dragons & Dirigibles is a novella that has a touch of the Gothic in it. The eighth book, Ether & Elephants, will release in autumn 2015.

When I set out to build a world for the Gaslight Chronicles, I knew a few things. I wanted to start early in the steampunk era, and build the technology over the successive books. Therefore in the first, we’re only a decade or so after the introduction of Babbage engines changed the world, and event a lot of traditional SF alternate history also hinges on. Computers, or engines, are still big and bulky and limited. By book 4, you’ll start seeing terminals connected to a larger machine—sort of where we were in the 1980s. Transportation and communications—airships, steam cars and telephones, are also changing, and as the series progresses, the difference from reality and my steampunk world becomes greater. Other aspects of the Victorian world haven’t changed. Dickens’ London is still a dark, bleak place to be poor. The gap between wealthy and poor is still enormous. Women are still forced into wearing corsets and hoops, and being chaperoned wherever they go. By book 3, though, we’re starting to see some changes as the first few classes of women graduate from Lovelace College, a school my fictionalized version of Lady Lovelace established at Oxford for women in the sciences. The air in London has gotten worse due to all the coal smoke, and now those who can afford them wear gasmasks when they walk outdoors. The poor often die of black lung disease.

I knew my first hero, Sir Merrick Hadrian, had to be part of a secret government organization hunting vampyres and other supernatural threats to the Crown and its people. The exact structure of that organization was one of the biggest hang-ups to writing the book. It was my husband who said, “Well if it’s in England, the logical group for paranormal enforcement is the Order of the Round Table.” Then it clicked and the entire series came together. I’d already used several names in the book that traced back to the original Knights. The MacKay family is obviously derived from Sir Kay. The Lakes? From Lancelot, of course. Devere from Bedivere. The Round Table mythos snapped into place and a series was born. George the mechanical mastiff quickly emerged as a fan-favorite character and makes at least a cameo appearance in each of the books.

As the series has continued, I’ve become more and more lost in the world of alternate history romance. I have a couple projects underway for other publishers, set in different worlds, but I think my first love in steampunk will always be a book I originally called “Mary Poppins meets Van Helsing—with robots.”

The Gaslight Chronicles are available in e-book format from Carina Press and all the major e-tailers, and in audio book from audible.com. If you’d like a risk-free taste of my Gaslight world, don’t forget Phantoms & Photographs is available for free. Book 1: Steam & Sorcery, is also available in print, exclusively from Amazon.com.

As an amusing postscript, I was signing at a local steampunk event this weekend and a young woman came up to me. “I didn’t know there were steampunk books now,” she said. “I thought it was just a fashion movement.” Headdesk. Somewhere, William Gibson is sobbing.

Moments of Distraction -

peterson1888Fun without a television? *GASP* Horrors, you say?

In the Victorian Era, where much of Steampunk is set, entertainments in the home were very much a DIY experience.

Part of what I love about Historical Fiction and Speculative Fiction is research… love it… nerd-like love… oh, who am I kidding! NERD LOVE…

So, I thought I share some of the home entertainments discussed in my Peterson’s Magazine from 1888. Why this issue? ‘Cause It’s at my desk and I’m LAZY tonight :D

Anywho… this is from pages 178-179 FIRESIDE GAMES

Games for Winter Evenings – We give a game or two more, for amusement on winter evenings. The “Magic Answer” is a game much liked. There are two ways of playing it, and it requires two confederates; one leaves the room and the company decides upon the name of any person they please; on being recalled, the other confederate puts the question, and asks “Is it So-and-so?” naming a different person each time. The answer is “no,” until the right person has been named, when it is “yes.”  The simple trick consists in always naming a person with white hair before the name of the person agreed upon. The correct answer creates much surprise as to how it has been arrived at.

- they say there are two ways of playing it… but um… they only gave us one way… *tsk tsk*
– the other thing is that they may not have explained it fully… the ‘company’ doesn’t know it’s a trick… needless to say the ‘tell’  changes depending upon the company… a room full of people with white hair will need something different

“Birds” is a rather fun game, if it is well played. Four or five ladies out of the company each choose the name of a bird, and whisper it to the gentlemen who is to sell them. Any of the company offers to buy a bird, and asks for the one he wants; the amusement consists in the badinage which passes between the birdseller and the purchasers, and the guesses as to which of the ladies is intended by the birds described; children and young people enjoy this game, and the description of the birds are made as apropos as possible. 

- I wonder how much flirting went on with this game… would the ladies choose their birds for a reason? What if it was a bird that had special meaning for the object of their affections.  Would they choose the bird hoping that he will ask for that very bird? Ah… romance… or frustration as may have happened!

 

More from the home entertainments of Victorians… NEXT time :D

 

 

If you don’t have access to ShowTime and you’ve wondered what Penny Dreadful is all about, let me clue you in. I enjoy the show and recommend it. Ethan Chandler a Wild Bill Cody type is hired by Sir Malcolm Murray and Vanessa Ives to find and rescue his daughter, Mina Hunter, kidnapped by Dracula. Dr. Frankenstein teams up with them as well. And Dorian Gray is added to the mix.

In honor of Penney Dreadful and Halloween month, October, I’m writing my three posts this month on Bram Stoker who gave us Dracula, Mary Shelley, who gave us Frankenstein, and Oscar Wilde who gave us Dorian Gray.

This post is for Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. “There is no such thing as an omen. Destiny does not send us heralds. She is too wise and cruel for that.”- from The Picture of Dorian Gray. It first came out as a serial story in July 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly, a literary and science magazine published in Philadelphia.

In Penny Dreadful, Dorian is the sexy character. No one, male or female, can resist him. Oscar Wilde wrote him as the corruptible sort that ruins many young men and young women’s lives. Many things can be said about Mr. Wilde, the main one is he could write. He was well skilled in the craft. As soon as I began to read Dorian Gray I noticed Oscar Wilde’s brilliant dialogue tags.

Lord Henry elevated his eyebrows, and looked at him in amazement through the thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful whorls from his heavy opium-tainted cigarette. “Not send it anywhere? My dear fellow, why? Have you any reason? What odd chaps you painters are! You do anything in the world to gain a reputation. As soon as you have one, you seem to want to throw it away. It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. A portrait like this would set you far above all the young men in England, and make the old men quite jealous, if old men are ever capable of any emotion.”

Great writing is timeless. Without question, Oscar Wilde was a great writer. As shown above, he begins the story with a secret. The artist, Basil Hallward will not exhibit his exquisite painting of Dorian Gray. Later in the book it’s revealed it’s because he’s so obsessed with Dorian he fears people looking at the portrait will be able to detect his love for the man.

Dorian is incredibly attractive, easy going, and innocent. He falls in love with an actress in a second rate theatre who performs in several Shakespearean plays. When Dorian takes his friends to see one of her performances, her acting is off. She didn’t put her usual level of passion into her performance due to that fact that she’d fallen in love with Dorian and acting wasn’t important to her any more. Only Dorian was important to her. So he dumps her. He loved her because of her talent. When he comes home he finds the portrait has changed – there is a line of cruelty at the mouth. He recalls the day the picture was finished he thought it unfair the painting would always be so beautiful but he would age. He’d wished it could be the other way, he’d stay young and the portrait would age. Then Dorian discovered the actress committed suicide because of him and things slide downhill from there. The picture changes not only with each mark of age but with each sinful act he commits while Dorian appears as young and innocent as when he sat for the painting.

There is a quote from the book, “Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.” The intense raw pain of the author is something all three books: Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Picture of Dorian Gray have in common. In The Picture of Dorian Gray readers share the emotional split Oscar Wilde endured just like the two Dorian Grays: one a picture and one a man. The hidden picture is more real than the man. In the Victorian era homosexuality was not only considered repulsive by society it was a crime. While reading Dorian Gray we feel Oscar Wilde’s pain in having to hide his real self, the guilt he felt and the confusion of having desires considered at the time to be horrid and unnatural. The Picture of Dorian Gray was banned and also used against Oscar Wilde in his trail in 1895. Convicted of gross indecency, he was sentenced to two years of hard labor.  The intense pain embedded in the story is one of the main things which make the book so timeless and so great.

~           ~            ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 22 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus. Her latest Steampunk Romance is The Brass Octopus.

A Matter of Mourning

asadmomentNavigating the intricate social rules of Victorian Society wasn’t easy. The strict regulation of conduct for everyone within society must have been oppressive to say the least. To know that along with your sorrow and grief, you were responsible to the entire community to do ‘right’ must have been a heavy burden for anyone to bear.

Researching Victorian Society is always fun… this subject matter is more interesting than it is ‘enjoyable.’ I did want to share some of the inspiration

mourningWife for Husband:
First Mourning – 1 year, 1 month: bombazine covered with crape; widow’s cap, lawn cuffs, collars
Second Mourning – 6 months: less crape
Ordinary Mourning – 6 months: no crape, silk or wool replaces bombazine; in last 3 months jet jewelry and ribbons can be added
Half Mourning – 6 months: colours: grey, lavender, mauve, black-and-grey

Mother for Child:
First Mourning: 6 months: black with crape; no linen cuffs and collars; no jewelry for first 2 months
Second Mourning: 4 months: less crape
Ordinary Mourning (there is no period for this)
Half Mourning: 2 months: colours: grey, lavender, mauve, black-and-grey

Parent for son- or daughter-in-law’s parent: (yes, it goes into THIS much detail)
First Mourning: (nothing mentioned)
Second Mourning: (nothing mentioned)
Ordinary Mourning: 1 month black
Half Mourning: (nothing mentioned)

halfmourningDaughter for Stepmother:
First Mourning: 12 months, as for mother if still at home: 6 months if not living at home (Black with black or white crape (for young girls); no linen cuffs and collars; no jewelry for first 2 months
Second Mourning: (nothing mentioned)
Ordinary Mourning: (nothing mentioned)
Half Mourning: (nothing mentioned)

The list is extensive…

How would you fare under these rules? Would you be able to alter your entire wardrobe and dressing style for these periods of mourning?

The ugly duckling is a favorite fairy tale of mine. I’ve seen the ugly duckling plot in a lot of books and films. I use it in The Brass Octopus.brass octopus

The so called duckling was always beautiful,l she was just with the wrong family. If she’d been with a family of swans no one would have ever used the word ugly. That’s what happened to my heroine Piety. Her verbally and emotionally abusive mother called her ugly. As she grew up, Piety protected herself by trying not to bring attention to herself – dressing drably and throwing herself in to her work. She’s the head librarian at London’s library. The story is set in the Victorian era. So a  prim and proper Victorian librarian transforms to an enticing beauty. What makes my version different?

I’m going to get to that. First, let me tell you about the hero. Blake Blackmore is a bad boy, a rich rogue who spends his nights gambling and womanizing. I’m sure you’ve already guessed, once he meets Piety he’s willing to give all that up for her.

Now, back to the earlier question. What makes The Brass Octopus different is – in The Bras Octopus, Piety lives in an alternate dimension in which inventions depicted in Jane Loudon’s book the Mummy have been created. So even though it’s Victorian London, there is some advanced technology for the era, woman wear pants, and tinkering or inventing gadgets is a favorite pastime for proper Victorian ladies along with decoupage, scrapbooking, and hand painting china. Piety’s sister, Polly, has  created a beauty machine called The Brass Octopus.

Blurb: Spinster Librarian Piety Plunkett is happy alone with her books, until her sister Polly transforms her with a bras octopus beautifying machine. With her new look, the librarian catches the lusty attentions of London’s most notorious rogue. Blake Blackmore enjoys the favors of beautiful women from the brothels of London to high society’s most fashionable debutantes but only the spinster librarian consumes his mind night and day. Piety insists she will not wed but devote her life to her position as head librarian, but Blake will stop at nothing to win her. He takes matters into his own hands and tutors her in carnal pleasure in three passion filled lessons. Now that she is sharing her body, instead of just her books, Piety is shocked yet pleased at how naughty she can be under Blake’s personal tutelage. But if anyone finds out about what goes on in the library after closing time, her reputation would be ruined. Is that Blake’ ultimate plan?

Excerpt:

“That is why we cannot waste a moment more.” Polly dropped her arm from Piety’s shoulders and grabbed her sister’s hand, pulling her into the dressing room. “Wait until you see my latest invention.” She pointed to a large brass octopus standing in the corner.

Held on a brass stand, its bottom was fashioned in the shape of an x, with a thin straight pole to the back of the head jointed to another rod so it could be adjusted. Two molded eyes on the side of its head stared at her. Eight long arms reached out from the tiny body beneath its gleaming head, and directly underneath stood a brass stool.

“This will make you even more beautiful than you are.” Polly walked over to the brass sea creature and reaching up, she patted its large head.

“Is it the pregnancy? Is that what has caused you to lose your mind?”

“This machine is fabulous.” Polly gestured to her to sit on the stool. “Try it.”

Piety scratched her head. “It’s good the Queen encourages all housewives to develop their creativity by crafting gadgets like the ones in Loudon’s book, to make life easier for them and their families, but I fear you’ve taken it too far.”

Each of the eight burnished arms held something in the suction cups attached on the end, where hands would be on a human. An open tin of rouge in one arm, the second, grasped a cosmetic brush and powder puff, in the third lay a tin of powder, an unwrapped silk paper container of red lipstick in the fourth, the fifth arm clutched a small bottle of hair oil, the sixth held a hairbrush, while the seventh grasped a fancy glass container of French perfume and the eighth arm lay empty.

Polly took Piety’s spectacles off.

“I need those.”

“For reading. You don’t need them right now or at the ball. You’ll be dancing, not reading books.”

She sat on the stool with the octopus behind her. “What is this?” Her upper back rested against its small, brass body.

“You will see. Just sit still so the machine can work its magic.” Polly pressed the ruby button on top of the octopus’s head.

The clanking, churning sound caused an on-edge sensation in Piety. As the hand holding the oil moved toward her, she grew shaky. She braced her toes on the floor, ready to lunge off the stool and make a run for it. The hand holding the oil reached her head, tilted slightly, then straightened after pouring some of its contents on her hair. Her scalp tingled from the warm liquid.

“It tickles, but feels quite nice. What does it do?”

The hand clutching the brush in its suction cup moved toward her. Piety grimaced, fearing it might hit her. She let out a pent up breath, relaxing her neck and shoulder muscles as the brass octopus brushed her hair, spread the oil to her roots and through the strands, and then swept her hair into a pile on top of her head.

“It helps it curl.” Polly grinned as she shoved a wayward blonde strand of her hair out of her face.

The octopus’s hollow head, which ran along the brass pole in back, rose, separating from its body, then swung forward, hovering over Piety. It lowered, inch by inch, until it dropped over her head, covering her hair and forehead.

“This is daft. It has swallowed me.” She cringed as tiny things, she didn’t know what, gripped sections of her hair and twirled it. “What is happening?”

“It curls hair better than any lady’s maid.”

“I do not want my hair curled by a brass octopus.“

“It’s guaranteed to bring out the beauty in everyone. Isn’t it marvelous?”

Before Piety could answer, the arm clutching the powder puff dipped it in the large round tin held in another arm. She had to shut her mouth as the octopus powdered her face.

From inside the octopus’s head, it squirted liquid on her scalp. “It sprayed me.”

“I have always liked your hair, but you say it’s drab. Now it will be a different color. That should make you happy.”

The octopus seemed to be baking her scalp. “Why is it hot?”

“It’s battery-powered rather than clockwork. I needed it to heat to curl hair fast and tight.”

“A battery. Like the galvanic one in The Mummy that resurrected Pharaoh Cheops?”

“Smaller and not as strong. It’s just a lead-acid battery. Remember when Father took us to the seashore for holiday and we flew in the balloon-coach? It’s the same type of battery that powered the lights on in the carriage at night.” Polly flashed a toothy grin at her sister. “It doesn’t bring anything alive except your hair.”

“How fabulous,” she said with full sarcasm. “My head itches.” She wished this would all be over soon. “What color will it be?”

“We won’t know until it’s finished, but whatever it is will be the best color for you.”

“Of course, everyone knows if you need beauty advice, just ask a brass octopus. Polly, my only sister or not, I shall kill you when I escape the clutches of this confounded contraption.”

Contest: Win a trade size copy of my Steampunk Novel, To Love A London Ghost. Sexton Dukenfield, premiere phantom hunter, stumbles into Ceridwen, a phantom warrior woman of an ancient Celtic tribe. Not only does he find her intriguing as a piece of the puzzle of the missing spirits, but he’s also haunted by her sultry sensuality. On a mission through the bustling narrow streets of London, to a dreary match factory, and even to the Otherworld and back, to stop a genius scientist and his phantasm debilitater machine, the ghost and the ghost hunter also seek the secret to freeing the boundaries of life and death.

~           ~            ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 21 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus. Her latest Steampunk Romance is The Brass Octopus.

Museum Junkie

I think the seeds to my writing steampuMotor Musternk were sown very early in my life. My parents did a lot of car travel, and I would loudly demand to visit every museum we passed along the way. Most of them were small, historic houses and such, and even as a child I wallowed in learning about how everyday life worked in different time periods. Moreover, I wanted to experience everything I could. Yes, I whined until I got to ride in the carriage. I was the schoolkid who volunteered to churn butter. I wanted to see and feel and touch. Only now is some of this early experience coming in handy as I write.

My two local steampunk groups are big on museum visits. With Capitol Steam out of Lansing, I’ve invaded the Michigan Historical Museum and the RE Olds (as in Oldsmobile) museum as well as having tea in a historic mansion. With the Detroti area Steampunk group, we annually visit the Henry Ford Museum and its outdoor counterpart Greenfield Village and we’ve also dropped in on (in costume, of course) the Detroit Historical Museum. Not only are these adventures a load of fun, but every single time, I still learn something new.

So any favorite museums? Or other fun methods of research?

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