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I went to a Lit-Con here in Houston at Write Space last weekend. What a great idea to mix cosplay with readings from local steampunk, sci-fi, and fantasy authors and a book signing. Writespace (2)

from zelda

Dugfinn of Dugfinn Cosplay

Entertaining and enlightening readings were presented by local authors. DL Young who writes edgy, dystopian sci-fiction read from his newest release, Juarez Square and Other Stories. Cassandra Rose Clarke, an author of YA and Adult fantasy and science fiction read from her adult novel, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. Rachael Acks, a Steampunk, sci-fi, and fantasy writer read a humorous horror short story she just sold. Dorothy Tinker writes high fantasy and she read from the latest in her Peace of Evon series, Lost King, which was released this week.

The award winning cosplayer Dugfinn of Dugfinn Cosplay gave a wonderful presentation on cosplay. She went over the four parts of cosplay: the wig, the costume, the shoes, and the prop.

Steampunk compasBedrock City Comics here in Houston donated the prizes which were prop swords and action figurines for the princesawesome cosplay contest they had at the Lit-Con. The categories were for best over roll play, best  Literary Costume,  Best Fantasy Costume
Best Steampunk Costume, and Best TV/Movie Costume.

This Lit-Con was great fun and I hope other people and organizations will do Lit -Cons. Write Space itself is such a neat place for writers, just like an art gallery but for authors. I want to say an auth-gallery.

While there, I gained great information and inspiration form one of the cosplayer/readers. She asked  about my costume and in the explanation my Egyptian steampunk books came up. So due to the emphasis tribble salesmanthe Egyptians put on the sun in their religion and their buildings she asked if I man about townknew about Sunpunk. I didn’t and needless to say I was so intrigued. It’s a perfect tie in  to Egyptian Steampunk books or as I say SteamGyptianPunk. Have you ever thought of how much cogs look like the sun? Here is a brief post on sunpunk and

Steampunk gothIf you have any comments  at  all especially on LIt-Cons or sunpunk please post them below.

princes

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 26 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

Percy Harrison Fawcett, born in 1867, disappeared into the Amazon jungle in 1925. He was one of the foremost and one of the last of the Victorian/Edwardian explorers.He graduated from a course at the esteemed Royal Geographic Society where he was a member. His studies included surveying, how to record and classify what was around him, and the fundamentals of mounting and executing an expedition. The society bred him as an explorer.

Fawcett’s first mission was a two year expedition to map regions of south america between Bolivia and Brazil. He successfully completed the mission, redefining the borders of South America and did it almost a year early. In 1916, the royal geographic society awarded him with the blessing of George V gold medal for his contributions to the mapping of South America.But most importantly, it was on that expedition that he fell in love with the wilds of the Amazon.

Fawcett returned to the dangerous Amazon jungle seven times. Some things he claimed to have seen on these expeditions were a 62 foot long anaconda, a double-nosed Andean tiger-hound (a rare breed of hound with a double nose), and a giant Apazauca spider (a black tarantula so big a plate can barely cover it). His accomplishments also include tracing the source of the Rio Verde, and travelling along the Heath River on the border of Peru, to try to trace its source. Fawcett found evidence on these expeditions that indicated there had once been a large, organized  and advanced civilization with what must have been a huge city deep in the Amazon. One example of his findings was that in several high areas of the Amazon just a bit of scratching into the dirt would reveal shards of beautiful quality pottery to rival ancient Greek relics. He grew more and more interested in discovering this city lost in the jungle. He even gave it a name…Z.

Fawcett and other explores of his day didn’t have the fancy gadgets and communication devices we have now. These adventures braved the unknown with a compass, a machete, and an uncompromising belief in themselves to succeed. This was before specialist so they had to have the skill set of an explorer, a geographer, an anthropologist, and archaeologist, an emergency medical technician, and a leader all in one, in addition to being exceptionally physically ft. Percy Harrison Fawcett was all these things. Even at age 57 when he embarked on what was to become his last expedition, his body was resistant to illness and ailments, and he could walk for days with little or no nourishment. What he and other explores faced in the Amazon jungle were jaguars, snakes including anacondas, wild pigs, even some frogs there are poisonous to the touch, mosquitoes which carried diseases from malaria to yellow fever and settled on the explorers in swarms biting every inch of their bodies, ticks that descended on them like clouds of black rain…and they were also subject to attack by hostile native tribes.

It’s said Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used Fawcett as his inspiration for Lord John Roxton in his 1912 book The Lost World. Also Fawcett’s older brother Edward was an adventure novelist and drew on his younger brothers private fantasies in his book, The Secret of the Desert, where an explorer finds an ancient abandoned temple laden with treasure.

Fawcett’s theories of the ancient abandoned city of Z were considered nonsense by his peers. In the Edwardian era it was a widely held belief not only that El Dorado was a false myth but that all the documentation of the conquistadors discoveries were fantasies. Fawcett’s colleagues believed the Amazon natives were incapable of having developed a complex civilization.There was a theory at that time as well that the Amazon itself was too inhospitable for anyone to have created a sophisticated society there.

Fawcett didn’t believe in El Dorado but he thought many of the journals of these early Spanish expeditions contained accurate descriptions of the Amazon before the natives were almost entirely wiped out by small pox and other European diseases. For  instance the 16th century Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana reported seeing many fine roads leading into the interior. A conquistador on another expedition wrote of seeing towns so large they he was astounded by them.

After studying the conquistador’s records and native myths Fawcett figured out the location of Z. He formed an expedition to uncover the lost civilization despite being considered a fool by his colleagues. It took him a long time to get funding, but at last he was ready to set out. In 1925, Fawcett formed a small team of only three – himself, his son Jack, and Jack’s friend Raleigh, because that was a small enough party that they could live off the land and three men wouldn’t pose much of a threat to hostile Indians.Their explorer outfits  included lightweight tear-proof pants, stetsons, 30 caliber riffles and machetes.The three men entered the Amazon in search of the lost city of Z, but they disappeared in the jungle never to be heard of again.

It’s know that Fawcett’s party crossed the Upper Xingu, a south-eastern tributary of the Amazon and got as far as the Suyas and Kayapos tribes and then planned to turn eastward and confront the Xavante, an inhospitable tribe said to usually kill anyone they could catch. Some members of the Kayapos remember warning Fawcett not to go east as the tribes there were so hostile. The Kayapos saw the smoke from Fawcett’s campfire for five days after they left them then it went out. It is still unknown happened to Fawcett and his son and Raleigh after that. Over the years the mystery of his disappearance grew. Many rescue missions followed as well as many ideas about what happened to Fawcett, including one theory that he found Z and stayed there to live in the ancient city in the jungle he so loved. .

Though Fawcett’s theories of Z were dismissed by most of his peers, it’s now known he actually saw things clearer than them. His theory of an advance civilization in the depth of the Amazon jungle, a city he named Z, had proven to be true. Anthropologist Michael Heckenberger, working alongside the local Kuikuro people,uncovered huge man made moats that once had palisade walls, as well as large circular plazas and a huge area where many dwellings once stood.These ancient people had also build roads up to a hundred and fifty feet wide as well as causeways canals, and there is even evidence of bridges built over rivers. The roads connected large settlements about two to three miles apart. Each settlement contained about two to five thousand people and they lived here between 800 to AD to 1600 AD before European diseases basically wiped most of the out.. All of the cities and roads an other construction were built with a sense of engineering and mathematics which rivaled anything happening in most of Europe at the time. Heckenberger calls it Kuhikugu and it was most likely created by the ancestors of the Kuikuro. As there wasn’t much stone in the jungle Kuhikugu was built with wood, palm, and earth mounds which decompose.And this ancient advanced civilization lay right where Fawcett determined Z was.

If your interested in writing a Steampunk adventure story, Fawcett and his expeditions offer great inspiration. One of the best nonfiction books and also a great, page turner read, about Fawcett and his expeditions is The Lost City of Z by David Grann.

STEAMED! | Writing Steampunk Fiction// //

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 26 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

Across the U. S.from 1896 – 1897, many newspapers reported unidentified flying objects, often described as silver cigar shaped airships with space alien crewmen and pilots thought to be from Mars. If you are looking for inspiration for a 19th century Steampunk UFO tale these reports from the great airship scare should help.

The Sacramento Bee and the San Francisco Call reported the first sighting on November 18, 1896. A witness named R. L. Lowery described an alien craft powered by two men exerting themselves on bicycle pedals. Above the pedaling men, under the main body of the dirigible lay a passenger compartment, Some witnesses reported the sound of singing as the airship passed overhead.

The November 19, 1896 edition of the Stockton, California Daily Mail reported Colonel H. G. Shaw claimed that when driving his buggy through the countryside near Stockton he came across what appeared to be a landed spacecraft with a metallic surface, with no features other than  a rudder, and pointed ends. He estimated the space craft was a diameter of 25 feet by about 150 feet in length. Three slender, 7-foot-tall space aliens emitting a strange warbling noise came out of the craft. The beings examined Shaw’s buggy then tried to physically force Shaw into their airship. The aliens were said to give up after realizing they lacked the physical strength to force Shaw onto the ship. They climbed back into their airship, which lifted off the ground and sped out of sight.

The Albion Weekly News reported two witnesses saw an airship crash inches from where they were standing. The ship suddenly disappeared, with a man standing where the vessel had been. The airship pilot showed the men a small device which had enabled him to shrink the airship small enough to put it in his pocket.

On April 10, 1897 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article reporting a witness, W. H. Hopkins, encountered a grounded airship about 20 feet in length and 8 feet in diameter near the outskirts of Springfield, Missouri.The spaceship was propelled by 3 large propellers and crewed by a beautiful nude woman and a bearded man, also nude.Hopkins attempted to communicate with the crew to ascertain their origins. Eventually they understood what Hopkins was asking and they both pointed to the sky and uttered something that sounded like the word Mars.

April 16, 1897 the Table Rock Argus reported a group of reliable witnesses saw an airship sailing overhead. It had a lot of passengers, including a woman tied to a chair and a man with a pistol guarding her.

The Center Farmer’s Advocate published the April 19, 1897 account of Alexander Hamilton of Leroy, Kansas, who along with his son and a tenant, sighted an airship hovering over his cattle pen. A red cable from the space ship lassoed a heifer, but got entangled in the pen’s fence. Hamilton’s attempts to free the cow were unsuccessful. He then cut a portion of the fence loose and the ship and cow rose off the ground and sailed away.

In 1897 the Washington Times speculated the airships were a reconnoitering party from Mars. The same year, the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch suggested these may be visitors from Mars, now fearful of invading the planet they have been seeking.

Here’s four sample of articles which appeared in the Chicago Tribune in 1897:

Mount Vernon, Illinois, April 15 — What appeared to have been the mysterious airship was seen here by more than 100 persons last night.

Carlyle, Ill., April 15 — The airship was spotted this evening travelling fast in a northwestern course.

Quincy, Ill., April 15. — The Wabash passenger train which arrived here at 10 o’clock tonight raced for 15 minutes with the alleged airship. They first sighted it near Perry Springs, 52 miles east of Quincy. All of the passengers saw it, but all they could see was two lights, one white, the other red.

Hillsboro, Ill., April 15 —the airship was seen in the western heavens by a number of reputable citizens last evening.

My favorite report is the UFO crash in Aurora Texas in 1897. A cigar-shaped airship plowed through a windmill, destroying it. The good folk of Aurora discovered a space alien inside, who died upon impact. They gave him a Christian burial. Someone stole the space alien’s tombstone but the state of Texas erected a historical marker at the cemetery, which reads, “This site is also well known because of the legend that a spaceship crashed nearby in 1897 and the pilot, killed in the crash was buried here.” The Dallas Morning News printed the story, stating an airship hit the tower of Judge Proter’s windmill, blew into pieces in a terrific explosion scattering parts of the UFO over several acres, wrecking the windmill and water tank, and destroying the Judge’s flower garden. The newspaper reported that the pilot, the only one in the spaceship, died upon impact and though his body was badly disfigured it was evident he was not an inhabitant of this world.

An interesting aspect of the Great Airship Scare was a rumor that the space ships were the invention of some genius who wasn’t ready to announce his creation to the public. Thomas Edison was widely speculated to be the mind behind the airships and in 1897, to quiet the rumors, he issued a statement denying all responsibility.

So start researching and writing some Victorian era UFO stories. I can’t wait to read them when they’re published.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 26 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

Here is the link to the previous interview.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 26 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

The Original Botch Up

As writers our tools are words so their meanings and origins are important and interesting to us. That is the case with the word botch. It means to bungle something or patch something up in a sloppy way. It’s origin can be traced to the Victorian era.

Thomas botchThe word botch comes from the name Thomas Bouch, a Victorian architect and railway engineer. At 26 years of age, he became Engineer and Manager for the Edinburgh and Northern Railway where he designed and introduced the first roll-on-roll-off rail ferry. He also helped develop the caisson, a watertight retaining structure where water can be pumped out, keeping the work environment dry. In addition, Bouch popularized the use of lattice girders in railway bridges

He reached his height of fame when he built the Tay Bridge to carry the Edinburgh to Aberdeen railway two miles high above the Firth of Tay. At the time it was open, it was the longest bridge in the world.. After Queen Victoria rode across the Tay Bridge she rewarded Bouch with knighthood for his great accomplishment.

Unrecognized by Bouch, there were some design flaws in the bridge. The iron piers supporting the lattice girders were narrower and the cross-bracing less extensive than then should have been. Also, since he’d gotten expert advice on “wind loading” when designing a proposed rail bridge over the Firth of Forth, he didn’t make any additional allowances for wind loading in the Tay Bridge. There were other flaws in detailed design, maintenance, and in quality control of castings.

The Tay Bridge disaster occurred during a violent storm with a wind force of 10 to 11 on the beaufort scale with gusts even higher.  The Tay bridge collapsed into the Firth of Tay and a train with all of it’s passengers and crew plunged to their deaths. There were no survivors. Bouch was hard hit by the disaster, became ill and died less than a year later.

William McGonagall, acclaimed’ as the worst poet in history, wrote the poem, The Tay Bridge Disaster in 1880.  It begins:
“Beautiful railway bridge of the silvery Tay. Alas! I am very sorry to say that ninety lives have been taken away on the last Sabbath day of 1879. Which will be remembered for a very long time.”

So now you know how the word botch came to be. And when you botch up something at least you have the comfort of knowing you didn’t botch it up as bad as Bouch.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 26 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

stoneagearchitecturalEspecially for my friends who are in the cold snowy parts of the world, while I am here in Hawai’i suffering with a fan on to keep my room cool enough to sleep in… :D

A quote from Godey’s Lady’s Book 1870 –

“A fireplace goes farther than anything else in giving to a room character and beauty. Every parlor, dining-room, and nursery, at least, should have one. In the cool weather of spring and fall, when the morning and evening air is a little sharp, or when a long cold rain-storm is making everything damp, moist, and uncomfortable, there is nothing more delightful, both for old and young, than a brisk fire upon an open hearth. With what beautiful rosy light and a gentle warmth, it fills a room, and how it laughs and dances and seems to say to every one, ‘be glad with me!’ And then, aside from its home-like beauty and good cheer, the depressing chills and miasma, the floating seeds of disease, will be seized by its friendly flames and whirled up the chimney before they have time to lay a finger on us.” – Sarah J. Hale

nadeausauctionWhat does a fireplace bring to a room in a novel. Do they gravitate toward it for warmth? Do they need the light to decipher a strange message? Perhaps they need to burn a document or piece of evidence?

Is it a stately marble creation with grand designs? Is there a dent in the copper plating? Would it benefit from some cleaning? What does that tell you about the occupants of the house?

Lighting a Victorian Life

lampKerosene gets it name from the Greek word Keros (meaning wax). Petroleum, related to the production of Kerosene, was discovered in Pennsylvania in the mid-1800s and helped fund a number of American industrial fortunes. Oil for the home lamps had a new source.

Kerosene was cheap and burned brightly. Lamp development was quick and kerosene lamps were one of the primary light sources in homes during the second half of the 19th century.

studentlampThe Student Lamp (not used widely in America until late 1870s) was a special type of lamp. Rather than the static construction of most lamps, a student lamp was based off of a ‘stem’ and the actual light could be ‘swung out’ or positioned over a book or paper that needed illumination.

In our modern world, light sources cast WIDE beams and can make a room bright and cheery. The Victorians had a different experience.

When writing your stories.. keep in mind where the light sources are.

When you’re in a room at night or in the center of a house where there are no windows, where is the light?

How much light comes from each source?

How does that change where people stand in a room?

How does it change their activities in the dark hours of the day?

Or, if a character lacks the funds or access to such conveniences… do they go to sleep with the sun or find alternative methods of producing light?

Facts from – A Style and Source Book – American Victorian by: Grow & Von Zweck

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