Archive for April, 2011

Today is the last day of Steampunkapalooza.  Thank you so much for your participation, for your comments, for entering our contests, and your continued support.  This blog wouldn’t keep on if it wasn’t for each and every one of you. 

There’s still room in my May steampunk online writing workshop.  It’s different from the last one and I’d love for you to join us.  Info here.

We still have some contests going on.  Don’t forget that each day you comment during Carina Press week you’ll be entered to win a Carina Press prize pack of the four Steampunk e-books featured.

You can still win a $10 GC to Amazon or B&N, a Twisted Tale of Stormy Gail mug and trading cards,  or another swag and book bag from RT.

Today we welcome back Steampunk author Cindy Spencer Pape.

Author of over forty popular books and stories in paranormal, historical, and contemporary romance, Cindy Spencer Pape is an avid reader of romance fantasy, mystery, and even more romance. Cindy firmly believes in happily-ever-after. Married for more than twenty years to her own, sometimes-kilted hero, she lives in Michigan with him, two adult sons & an ever-changing menagerie of pets.  Cindy has been, among other things, a banker, a teacher, and an elected politician, but mostly an environmental educator. Her degrees in zoology and animal behavior almost help her comprehend the three male humans who share her home.

Research vs. Reality in a Steampunk World

By Cindy Spencer Pape

When Carina Press asked me to write a novella that tied into my Gaslight Chronicles series, I was thrilled. I loved writing the first book, Steam & Sorcery, with its blend of steam technology, Arthurian legend, urban fantasy, and uptight Victorian society. What I needed though, were characters to hang the story on. I didn’t want to skip ahead to any of the street children from Merrick and Caroline’s story. I wanted something that would bridge the gap between the generations.

Since I had the whole Order of the Round Table to work with, I decided on the young Marquess Lake. (Does the name du Lac ring any bells to tell you who he’s descended from, LOL?) But he needed a strong heroine. Someone who wasn’t impressed by his title or his powers. Someone with a career of her own. Then the title Photographs and Phantoms clicked in my brain and I knew she was a photographer, a savvy career woman, troubled by ghosts, or something like them. And just like the click of a shutter, it all came together.

Now came the tricky part. Much of the steam technology in my world is made up, my own version of alternate history. But in the late 1850s, photography was already thriving and evolving as both a science and an art. So I decided to leave it alone. Gasp. Yep, the only difference is that Amy has a clockwork cart to carry her equipment when she goes down to photograph tourists on the beach. The rest of her techniques are authentic to the era. I figured why mess with something that was already in place? Thus began a couple weeks of reading books and websites on Brighton Beach, England, photography in the 1800’s, fashions, and even the invention of fire escapes on buildings came into play. I think adding the factual details when possible helps set the tone for the clockwork pets and steam-powered zeppelins.

All of this was during the last couple months of last year. Then, as serendipity would have it, at Christmas, my in-laws passed on to us a big pile of family photographs. Imagine me grinning as I picked out cartes-de-visite, wedding photos, death photos (ick!) glass-plate albumin negatives, and Daguerreotypes, not to mention guessing years by the presence of hoops or bustles. I guess research is never wasted, is it? (grin)

To find out a little about my plucky Canadian photographer and her very British Knight, check out Photographs & Phantoms, a FREE download from Carina Press, to help celebrate their Steampunk Week.

Photographs & Phantoms

A Gaslight Chronicles Novella

Available as a Free Download from Carina Press

Click here to order, or here to read an excerpt.

Blurb: Brighton, 1855

As a member of the Order of the Round Table, Kendall Lake is overqualified to be investigating strange phenomena at a seaside photography studio. But since the photographer is related to the Order’s most powerful sorcerer, Kendall reluctantly boards a dirigible to Brighton.

Amy Deland is haunted by a shadow that appears in some of her recent portraits. In each case, the subject died within days of the sitting. Does she have her grandmother’s gift of foresight, or has she somehow caused the deaths?

As Kendall and Amy search for answers, their investigation draws them together in a most improper way. But it seems the evil presence in the studio is determined to keep them apart…

~Cindy Spencer Pape


Comment for a chance to win a Carina Press e-book prize pack.  Grand prize contest is open internationally.  One entry, per person, per blog post during Carina Press week (so, if you comment all four days, you get four entries).  Enter by leaving a comment in the comment box.  Contest ends May 8, 11:59 PM PST.

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Carina Press Week continues during our last week of Steampunkapalooza.  Don’t forget to comment every day for a chance to win a prize pack of Carina Press Steampunk e-books.

First we have the winner of one of Leanna Renee Hieber’s Percy Parker books:


Congrats!  Email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize.  Didn’t win? You can still win a $10 GC to Amazon or B&N, or another swag and book bag from RT.

Speaking of Steampunk goodies, there’s an epic contest going on right now at the ARe Cafe sponsored by our friends at the ARe Steam Society.  They’re giving away twelve different Steampunk e-books  and steampunk hair stuff (and who doesn’t want steampunk hair stuff.)  Check it out.

Today we welcome Christine Bell.

Christine Bell is one half of the happiest couple in the world. She and her handsome hubby currently reside in Pennsylvania with a four-pack of teenage boys and their two dogs, Gimli and Pug. If she gets time off from her duties as maid, chef, chauffeur, or therapist, she can be found reading just about anything she can get her hands on, from Young Adult novels to books on poker theory. She doesn’t like root beer, clowns or bugs (except ladybugs, on account of their cute outfits), but lurrves chocolate, going to the movies, the New York Giants and playing Texas Hold ‘Em. Writing is her passion, but if she had to pick another occupation, she would be a pirate…or, like, a ninja maybe. She loves writing fun and adventure-filled romance stories, but also hopes to one day publish something her dad can read without wanting to dig his eyes out with rusty spoons. Christine loves to hear from readers, so please feel free to get in touch with her via the Contact Page.

The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale
by Christine Bell

First, let me say that I am SO excited about Steampunk Week at Carina Press! There is a great line up of books and authors, and I’m honored to be a part of it. The covers have all been gorgeous, and Carina made this cool video trailer so this has been a really fun month so far.

What I love the most, though, is the spread we’ve got. While all of this week’s books have steampunk elements, they also run the gamut of sub-genres. From erotic to paranormal, from western to time travel romance, the bases are covered.

Now, I know some purists who like their steampunk EXTRA steampunk-y, with nuttin’ else mucking it up. I’m not one of those people. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy straight steampunk. I truly do. But, as a reader, I also love seeing it mixed with other sub-genres to come up with something new and fresh. And, as an author, I like the freedom of taking the things I enjoy most when I’m reading and mashing them together.

When I was writing The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale, I knew I wanted it to be a time travel romance with a steampunk feel. I also had a loose outline of the plot. What I didn’t know was that my main character, Stormy, was going to be sarcastic and really funny. Since the tale is told from her point of view, I let her dictate the tone of the book. Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with my character and, even though I knew I was veering a bit from the traditional, dark-ish, dystopian vibe that is so often present in steampunk, I couldn’t bring myself to change it. So, while there is a bit of grit (think medieval torture chambers and sanitariums) and it’s chock full of characters living on the fringe of society (think street urchins, fortune tellers and time pirates) my world is actually pretty much like real-world London and real world New England during the Victorian Era.

Instead, I chose to “get my steampunk on” through the invention of time travel complete with gears and goggles and wormholes, which only my characters are aware of. At the end of the day, I tried to deliver a really fun adventure story that both satisfies the steampunk craving, while still capturing a feeling of hope and happy-ever-after. I hope I succeeded!

So, how about you? Are you a purist, or do you like to see a mix of genres? Are there facets of steampunk you feel are integral to the genre that you just can’t live without?

One commenter will win an awesome mug featuring my book cover, plus a set of my Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale romance trading cards (which, I must say, are drool-worthy)!

~Christine Bell


Oh, there’s still room in my May steampunk online writing workshop. This one will be really hands on to help you develop and finish your ms.  We may even get into pitching… Info here.

So how do you like your steampunk?  Straight up or mixed up? 

One lucky commenter on today’s post will win a “Stormy Gale” mug and romance trading cards.  Contest open until May 4th, 11:59 PM PST.  Grand prize contest is open internationally.  One entry, per person, per blog post during Carina Press week (so, if you comment all four days, you get four entries).  Enter by leaving a comment in the comment box.  Contest ends May 8, 11:59 PM PST.

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Carina Press week continues here at Steamed!  Don’t forget to comment on each post this week (Tuesday-Friday) for a chance to win a prize pack of all four featured Carina Press Steampunk e-books.  We still have other contests going on including a copy of one of Leanna Hieber’s Strangely Beautiful books , a $10 GC to Amazon or B&N, or another swag and book bag from RT.

Today we welcome Carina Press Steampunk Author Marie Harte.

 Marie Harte has been writing for as long as she can remember. Interest in the written word, no doubt spawned by her English teacher father, continues to this day. She’s a voracious reader, boggling everything from romance to horror to fantasy and more. She’s in love with the art of putting pen to paper…so to speak.  Marie currently has nearly fifty titles with Amber Quill, Carina Press, Ellora’s Cave, Loose Id, Samhain, Total E-Bound and Whispers Publishing.  Journeyman’s Ride is available now from Carina Press. 

The “Steam” in Steampunk

by Marie Harte

Steampunk is such a great representation for the kind of book I’ve always wanted to write. The rules are vague, the lines confining the genre full of gaps and crumbling mortar. Here, creativity rules.

There are certain tropes when one thinks of steampunk. Goggles, gas lanterns and steam locomotives, for example. Or Victorian ladies running amuck in London trying to avoid dastardly villains, who always seem to have a zeppelin at hand for some nefarious purpose.

The aforementioned are some of the images I envisioned when I heard the word steampunk, and that’s only after I researched the term. I’d heard of cyberpunk, but steampunk? Yet this niche genre is growing, and so are its strictures.

In my story, Journeyman’s Ride, I felt free to create wonderful inventions that shouldn’t exist where steam—and not electricity—is a major source of power. I used a steam locomotive to ground myself in the genre.  But take note: the train crashes early on, and my story is set in the West, a growing trend among alternative novels. I didn’t mind going there, as I’m a sucker for a good Western.

I’m also a huge fan of Norse mythology. And cannibals.  And mechanical monsters. I love the idea of juxtaposing civilization against raw wilderness, where both environments exist yet neither overrides the other. Where else but in fiction can you find a world teased with civility that isn’t overcome (or tainted) by it?

Ideas swirled, and my story became much more than just a romance with a steampunk backdrop. Was it less steampunk and more fantasy? Too much erotic fiction, not enough danger?  Where did I need to draw the line, or did I need to draw one at all?

When is steampunk not so much steampunk? 

When does fantasy or creativity test the boundaries of the genre?  I honestly don’t know, and I don’t think it’s an easy answer. My book has so many descriptions it’s dizzying. It’s erotic, romantic, Western, steampunk, and contains the mythic element of Norse gods.

All this might seem like a lot to throw into a novella, but it’s all just background. The real story centers on two protagonists who need to resolve conflict and grow together. That they do amidst a retro world that glues together several genres into one anachronistic story is half the fun.

This first foray into steampunk has addicted me, and I plan to delve into this world again in the future. More gods, more steam and gaslight tech, and more romance. I don’t claim to be the foremost authority on steampunk as a genre, but I do know romance. A splash of danger, a hero’s journey, and a rich world are nothing without memorable characters.

I’d like to think I—and my Carina contemporaries—have added to the steampunk experience from a romance perspective.  We’ve taken this gaslight/steam world, added a dash of love, and mixed it up to produce adventures that keep a reader turning pages.  Sexy, retro, and romantic. Think of it as even more “steam” in your steampunk.


Journeyman’s Ride now available at Carina Press

What do you think of the intersection of Steampunk and romance?  Anything you’d like to see? 

Grant prize contest is open internationally.  One entry, per person, per blog post during Carina Press week (so, if you comment all four days, you get four entries).  Enter by leaving a comment in the comment box.  Contest ends May 8, 11:59 PM PST.

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Thank you so much for making Steamed, and Steampunkapalooza, a success.  We’ve surpassed 300 posts and 2,000 comments (and 135,000 hits) in the two years this blog as been around.  Please keep visiting, commenting, and suggesting new guests and topics. 

It’s Carina Press Week as Steampunkapalooza draws to an end.  At Carina Press it’s also Steampunk week, where they’re promoting all their fab Steampunk books and authors and giving away a free Steampunk read.  Carina Press is part of Harlequin and they’re as excited about Steampunk as we are here at Steamed. 

This week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday), we’ll have a different Carina Press author on each day.  Each day you comment, you’re entered to win a prize pack from Carina Press, which includes e-books from all four of the Carina press authors featured this week. 

Today we welcome author Crista McHugh 

Crista McHugh grew up in small town Alabama, where she relied on story-telling as a natural way  to pass the time and keep her two younger sisters entertained.  She’s been a barista, bartender, sommelier, stagehand, actress, morgue attendant, and autopsy assistant.  Currently lives in the Seattle area with her husband and daughter, maintaining an alter ego of mild-mannered physician by day while writing on nights and weekends.  For the latest updates and answers to any burning questions, please check out her blog.

How Bruce Campbell Inspired My Steampunk Western

by Crista McHugh

I have a confession to make. I loved The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr when I was younger. Bruce Campbell played the title character, a lawyer turned bounty hunter with a perchance for great one-liners. I was so bummed when Fox cancelled it, but thankfully, I can still download episodes on You Tube when I need to get my fix.

The great thing about this show (besides Bruce) was that it combined westerns with touch of the paranormal. It was Cowboys & Aliens before Harrison Ford was ever cast for the film. So when I started plotting for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2008, I naturally thought it would be fun to write something like Brisco County. But instead of using Sci-Fi elements, I veered more toward Steampunk.

Like The Adventures of Brisco County Jr, the world of The Alchemy of Desire is part Wild West and part Wild, Wild West. It’s about two brothers on a quest to find the White Buffalo (not a golden orb) with a gang of bad guys (and their steam-powered inventions) hot on their tails and woman who has her own agenda for them. And there’s even a slightly roguish character that’s great with the one-liners.

You can buy The Alchemy of Desire from Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other ebook retailers.

Where do you draw your Steampunk inspiration?

 ~Crista McHugh


In addition to being entered into our week-long drawing for a Carina Press Steampunk Prize Pack, one lucky commenter on today’s post with also win a $10 GC to Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  Contest closes May 1st at 11:59 PM PST.  For grand prize drawing, one entry per commenter per blog post during Carina Press Steampunk Week.  Contest for grand prize closes May 8th at 11:59 PM PST.

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This is the last week of Steampunkapalooza.  Thank you so much for participating.  We have some good stuff for you this week.

First off, we have some winners to announce.

We have a copy of Ren Cummin’s Reaper’s Return:


Now we have the Gail Carriger prize pack, which includes a copy of Blameless and and autographed fan.

Elmo Adams

Congrats.  To claim your prize please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail

Didn’t win?  Win a copy of one of Leanna Hieber’s Strangely Beautiful books or another swag and book bag from RT.

Today we welcome YA author Kady Cross.

In her other life Kady Cross is a USA Today bestselling author of more than 20 books. She is lucky enough to have a husband who shares her love for the slightly twisted, and all things geek, and a houseful of cats with whom she shares her darkest secrets.  When she’s not listening to the characters in her head she’s either trying to formulate the perfect lipgloss or teaching herself to solder. She has a weakness for all things girly, sugar skulls, and boots. Her love of books and makeup borders on addiction – from which she never, ever wants to be cured.

Steampunk Tech and Teens

by Kady Cross

First of all, I just want to say thank your for having me here today!

My book, The Girl in the Steel Corset (Harlequin Teen) comes out on May 31st of this year. It’s a Steampunk young adult novel about a girl named Finley Jayne, who has extraordinary abilities that often land her in deep trouble. This time is no exception, as she flees her job after beating up her boss’s son. She runs straight into the path of Griffin King, Duke of Greythorne and his friend Sam Morgan. Both young men as every bit as extraordinary as Finley, though in their own ways. There’s also Emily O’Brien, the technological genius of the group, and cowboy Jasper Renn, who can draw a gun faster than most people can blink. Together the five of them will uncover the plans of a criminal mastermind named The Machinist, while Finley seeks Griffin’s help in becoming less of a danger to herself and those around her.

One of the key elements to any Steampunk story is the technology. It’s simply not Steampunk if you don’t have some kind of science or machines. What I wanted to do with The Girl in the Steel Corset is create technology that today’s savvy teens can relate to, but still stay true to the Victorian ‘feel’ of the story. When we first meet Griffin King, he’s riding a velocycle at night. A velocycle is basically a motorcycle — a big, fairly heavy motorcycle with lots of brass and sometimes wood. However, they’re steam-instead of having a gasoline engine. It’s a somewhat plausible mode of transportation, plus it’s a lot cooler than a horse — unless it’s an automaton horse, of course.

A third piece of tech is the Aethernet — a computer built out of an old type writer, a mirror and some other bits of scrap — is a tongue in cheek reference to the internet. This is what Griffin uses to research the ‘cases’ he undertakes. He’s able to patch into Scotland Yard and look at their records, which comes in very handy when looking for info on villains, or doing Aethernet dating. 🙂

I also have such things as mechanical hearts, automatons, metal body parts and a life-size steel panther. There are dirigibles too. In fact, Griffin owns his own airship — the equivalent of a private jet.  There are many more gadgets in the book, and certainly much more science and technology, but I don’t want to give it all away.

The Girl in the Steel Corset is set in a world where innovation runs wild and anything is possible. It’s also a world being changed by evolution. The wellspring of life has bubbled up from the center of the earth and slipped to the surface, taking some humans to the next stage of development. These people have amazing and often terrifying abilities that they don’t understand themselves. For me this is the quintessential them of being a teenager — that of feeling like an outsider, or that people (especially adults) don’t understand  or respect you. My characters are figurative freaks, and literal ones as well.

So now I have a question for you: what kind of technology would you like to see in a Steampunk novel? If you’re not certain, how about telling me how you would evolve if you lived in Finley Jayne’s world.

~Kady Cross


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I am happy to say that Steampunk was everywhere at the recent Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, which was held in Los Angeles, April 6-10, 2011.  Yes, I am finally just getting around to writing about it.  Do you know how much time Steampunkapalooza takes?   

RT was amazing, I’d never been to one before and had a few reservations.  There were several Steampunk panels — I was on one Steampunk panel and one about writing historical fantasy (with Gail Carriger, squee).  One of the publishing houses, Samhain, had a Steampunk high tea. 

Then, of course, there was the Steampunk Social that I was in charge of along with Kady Cross, Kassy Taylor, Deb Schneider, and Seleste deLaney.

I volunteered to make about 250 cakepops for the social–because you all know I’m a huge slacker and have nothing else to do than spend 10 hours baking.  Per hotel rules, every cakepop had  to be individually wrapped, too.  Good thing I was local and didn’t have to fly them in my suitcase. 

I’d also picked up all the clothes from the fashion show from Clockwork Couture, who graciously lent us all the beautiful fashions our models wore.  RT involved a lot of me schlepping things from my car to Kady’s room, since I had the clothes, the cakepops, the centerpieces, the fans, several door prizes, and a lot of things for the swag bags.  Kady also volunteers her room for us to put all 100 of the swag bags together.  (Did you know we work very, very hard to put these socials together?)

Also, I was in full Steampunk dress most of the time.   Since Leanna Renee Hieber couldn’t make it I even wore (nearly) all black one day in honor of her, since usually she’s the one in black and I’m the one in pink. 

The social itself went really well.  Close to 100 people gathered for Steampunk swag, cake and tea, a fashion show, a costume contest, and lots of door-prizes. 

But you really want to see gratuitous pictures of Steampunk clothing, not hear me babble about party planning. 

Here’s Kady Cross, the Steampunk track captain. 

And here’s the fab Kassy Taylor. 

Here’s Deb Schneider, along with the winner of our costume contest (the one in the sash).  She *made* her costume on a treadle sewing machine.  Wow.

I don’t have a close up of Seleste deLaney.  (Seleste, why don’t I have a picture of you?).

Since this was tea and cake, I wore pink and a large hat for the occasion.  Not that I need a reason to wear a large hat. 

The fashion show was a smashing success and everyone loved the pretties from Clockwork Couture

Here’s Beth and Erin (same dress, different color). 

Here’s Erin and Zoe Archer.

Here’s Marcella. (I love this dress.)

And, for some reason I don’t have  a close up of Kristen Painter.  (Can you tell my camera died, so I had to gather pictures.  Thanks to everyone who I begged, borrowed, and stole pictures from.)

We had several people come to the social in costume, so we had a costume contest.   Here’s me getting the crowd to help us pick a winner.  Can anyone identify these lovely ladies?  We never got their names. 

Over all, the social was a smashing success.  Despite the hard work, I’d plan another one of these in an instant.  Here’s everyone in costume (except for Kristen. She’s somehow escaped all of my pictures.  Anyone have any pics of her in costume?)

Do you have a favorite outfit?  A favorite flavor of cakepop?  A random comment on Steampunk or Steampunk fashion?  I have one more bag of swag and books from RT, including the *very last* swag bag left over from the party.  I’ll give it to one lucky commenter.  Contest closes April 30 at 11:59 PM PST.

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First off, we have three copies of Tim Akers Horns of Ruin to give away. 

Gail Gray

Giada M.


Congrats!  Please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize.  Didn’t win?  We still have up for grabs a book by YA author Ren Cummins, a prize pack of goodies including a copy of Blameless and a fan autographed by Gail Carriger, and your choice of one of Leanna Renee Hieber’s Strangely Beautiful books. 

Today we welcome Steampunk author Philippa Ballantine. 

Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the co-author with Tee Morris of Phoenix Rising: a Ministry of Peculiar Occurrence novel coming out soon from Harper Voyager. It contains airships, archives and large amounts of derry-doing. Find out more at ministryofpeculiaroccurrences.com

 Steampunk and gadgets and gears. Oh my!

By Philippa Ballantine

One of my favourite quotes about our upcoming book is from Warp Core Sci-Fi If James Bond wore a corset and drank Earl Grey it might be something like the adventures in Phoenix Rising.

The joy of gadgetry that can be found in the Bond movies is something that my co-author Tee Morris and I wanted to include in our series—after all we too are writing about a government organization, even if it is one in the nineteenth century rather than the twenty-first. So the tech support that Q gave the secret agents in MI5 might well be found in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences—but powered by boilers and steam. Interestingly, since the term boffin wasn’t coined until much later, we invented a term for those that make gizmos—we called them clankertons.

Steampunk is a rising genre in fiction that can be dark and dystopian, or fun and optimistic. It can be set in the Victorian age, or on a distant planet—it doesn’t really matter. Steampunk is about many things, but above all its trademark is technology powered by steam—often fantastical and improbable. One thing that is constant however is the gadgets. Some are be used to keep humanity oppressed, others are just loads of fun.

For example a steam-powered listening device is in the Ministry’s arsenal. It’s larger than our own modern devices, but looks a lot more amazing, with valves and brass. It’s also far larger, which gives our agents some difficulty getting it into the opera.

A joy of working in steampunk as an author, is that you can get inspiration from things that might have been and imagining what might of happened if they had been made. A particular favorite machine in the genre is Charles Babbage’s difference engine. This device was made in the first half of the nineteenth century and was a mechanical calculator. However, one device that Babbage never got the funding to build was the analytical engine. This would have been a mechanical general-purpose computer, and could have been revolutionary for Queen Victoria’s empire.  Steampunk often takes this particular device and plays with what the resulting social and political change might have been. In our novel, it is used by the Archivist of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences to keep track of the files…and also to make a spiffing cup of tea.

Research into the time period often throws up remarkable inventions that you might not know even existed, and giving them just a little ramp up. Before setting forth on this adventure I was not aware that there was in fact something called a steam-powered motor-bike. The sequel to Phoenix Rising has our heroine racing through the English countryside on a souped up version of what actually existed. Indeed, the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang can be counted as steampunk because of that particularly amazing car.

Finally, as an author you can just let your imagination take flight in steampunk. Just create devices out of wild and fun imaginings. Automatons, of the clockwork or steam variety, are a staple gadget of the genre. For example Paul Guinan’s Boilerplate is about a steam powered robot and his adventures with famous people of the era. Inserting this comical looking robot into historical pictures eventually lead to it becoming a book and optioned by JJ Abrams to be a movie. Not bad at all for a collection of pistons and boilers.

Gizmos, gadgets, the wild and the possible all embroider the steampunk world of fiction. They provide a vital ingredient of ‘what if’ and twist the history of the Victorian era into all kinds of interesting shapes. They can also be jolly good fun!


 ~Philippa Ballantine


What are your favorite Steampunk gadgets?

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First we have three copies of Mike Resnick’s The Buntline Special to give away.

David mark brown

Riva Laughlin

Joan Gallo

Congrats!  Please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize. 

Didn’t win?  We still have books by Tim Akers,  or Ren Cummins up for grabs and a prize pack of goodies including a copy of Blameless and a fan autographed by Gail Carriger.

Today we welcome back one of my favorite people, author Leanna Renee Hieber. She’s also giving away a copy of Strangely Beautiful 1 or 2 (your choice). 

Award winning, bestselling author, actress and playwright Leanna Renee Hieber grew up in rural Ohio inventing ghost stories.  She graduated with a BFA in Theatre from Miami University, a focus in the Victorian Era and a scholarship to study in London. She has adapted works of 19th Century literature for the stage and her one-act plays such as Favorite Lady have been produced around the country. Her novella Dark Nest won the 2009 Prism Award for excellence in Futuristic / Fantasy / Paranormal Romance. Her debut novel, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, first in her Strangely Beautiful series of ghostly, Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels, landed on Barnes & Noble’s mass market and overall Bestseller Lists. The book was named a favourite of 2009 by 14 genre book review blogs including Publishers Weekly’s Beyond Her Book and Smart Bitches/Dear Author’s book tournament, won two 2010 Prism Awards for Best Fantasy and Best First Book, the 2010 Orange County Book Buyer’s Best Award (Young Adult category) and option rights have been sold for adaptation into musical theatre production currently in development with a team that includes talent that brought Tony Award winning shows like Memphis, Wicked, Tarzan and more to the Broadway stage. In November 2011 Leanna launches Magic Most Foul, a new Gothic Paranormal Young Adult series with Sourcebooks Teen Fire.

My Non-Traditional Heroines: The Joys and Struggles of Being Different
by Leanna Renee Hieber

Firstly, thanks Suzanne, I am thrilled to return to this festival of awesome.

This topic is one of the most near-and-dear subjects to me and to the books I write, it also a subject I’ll be presenting several times this year at conventions and conferences. It’s also a topic that goes really well with the themes of Steampunk.

One of the great values of this genre: You get two fantasy worlds in one; a historical setting/world we do not live in yet have some sort of touchstone to, and yet different from what you’d see in a textbook or on the History channel. That being the punk part – and I think that’s what draws people to alternate history, taking known historical facts and asking ‘what if’ – it’s a wonderful challenge to the imagination that so many wonderful writers have risen to. Disclaimer: In regards to my work, I have to be careful saying Steampunk straight up, though I’m happily active in the Steampunk community, my books are technically Gaslight Fantasy as I’ve no tech or gadgets in my story; i.e my ghost-busting Guard uses holy fire, not contraptions. For me, what I love most about Neo-Victorianism and Gaslight Fantasy is re-envisioning it, but yet still putting my characters in a ‘realistic’ Victorian world. There were so many issues and injustices inherent in the Victorian age, and I’m not interested in writing books where those conflicts are not present, but rather how my characters must deal with them. And while we have some ‘advances’ in our society, we can’t cast stones today. There are just as many present injustices and social issues taking different sheeps’ clothing. But by presenting a fantasy world – we can present an enjoyable rather than didactic way of examining what we find troubling, interesting, or needing fixing about the past or present society. We can also challenge the normative.

The thing that draws me time and again to storytelling are tales of underdogs and outcasts struggling to find a community, working to find a place where they belong and where their particular gifts and talents are valued. The heroines of my two series, The Strangely Beautiful and forthcoming Magic Most Foul series are examples of this.

About Miss Percy Parker:

18 years old, Miss Percy is entirely without colour. She surpasses pale, she’s without colour. She looks, for all intents and purposes, exactly like a ghost. She can see and speak with ghosts, and feels often as if she belongs more with them than the mortal world. She’s lived clinging to the belief that her abilities and crippling visions mean she’s fated for something specific, and the series is about finding out that purpose,.

Speaking just about Percy, solely, as a character, I suppose every author hopes her heroine will be loved and adored, so when my awkward, timid Percy is loved, I rejoice more than anyone. But I’ve also discovered that my books are not for everyone, not everyone is ready to go on the ride that the Gothic novel style requires, nor is everyone ready for Miss Percy. Perhaps they think she should be stronger. If you were told you were a freak every day, if people shuddered and started when they looked at you, would you feel very confident? You might, like she did, think yourself the freak the world thinks you are. It’s a brave act for her to face the morning every day, and to interact with the world at all. Still, I’d never write a story where a character simply stays in the uncomfortable place they’re in, and Percy goes on quite the growth journey in the series. And it’s growth she as a character and we as readers can take joy and pride in.

Some aren’t exactly sure what to do with Percy, how to think about her. Far from typical, she looks shockingly different than your average person. I’m not sure people quite understand that on a visceral level, even though I describe her often. One reviewer who rated the book poorly mentioned that she didn’t understand how a pale girl with blue eyes would be treated poorly in Victorian England – evidently she simply did not internalize how different Percy is and what that truly, realistically would have meant for her. Still, I want her not to be criticized for her difference but accepted regardless. I’m so grateful so many readers do just that; accept her and champion her. But for those who may wonder, it’s why I have the picture of her on my website, for reference. Personally, I think she’s beautiful but in no way could someone say she’s ordinary. This is a distancing quality for some readers; we’re used to seeing ourselves as the protagonist in some ways, relating to her, rooting for her on a deeply personal and relatable level. I think her sweet nature, her awkwardness and passion is something everyone can relate to, but visually it’s hard to capture that same relational quality. And yet, I think we should challenge ourselves to relate.

She is the woman she is because she came into my mind just as she was, and I was captivated by her from the start. I felt presented with an exciting opportunity to make us all think about beauty and its limitations through the character of Percy, through the eyes of us; the beholders. The Victorians had a very strict notion of beauty, and it was limiting to women. Present day is no exception. Yet there are plenty of ways to go against the grain. I’m a Goth girl, I think a lot of things are beautiful that other people might think are strange, and I find it a freeing and envigorating way of life. It may be a bit lofty, but I’d love for the character of Percy in the Strangely Beautiful series to encourage us to redefine beauty, as the narrow definition of beauty is so limiting from past to present, it is confining and damaging to so many people in the world. Let’s find something we might once have dismissed as strange, in fact, beautiful.

Miss Natalie Stewart:

17 years old, Natalie lives in 1880New York City, lost her mother as a child, the trauma of which led her to suffer from Selective Mutism, a condition where she does not speak. She communicates through a mixture of Sign Language and note-writing. The story is told through her diary.

I’ve always been interested in giving a voice to the voice-less. So much of Victorian society muffled most women, speaking for them and speaking about them, never did the society really interact with them and their best interests. The society stifled their sexuality, their intellect, their abilities and their rights, across all classes, and far worse treatment was offered to non-white races.

I wanted to think about a girl who was still subject to the rules of this muffling society having to exist further muffled. With a sharp wit, a fiercely intelligent mind, but this frustrating condition that wasn’t one that she could simply ‘snap out of’, Natalie is additionally oppressed. Though the book does see her speaking by the end, thanks to supernatural circumstances, it isn’t an ‘easy out’ for Natalie. She has many social and physical constraints to overcome as she struggles to regain something she lost. Yet, like Percy, there is such pride in overcoming her battles, all the more fierce pride for having been written off as an ‘unfortunate’ and pigeonholed into nothingness, to then rise to heroic heights no one would have expected of her. In my world, I empower Natalie with a few awesome and open-minded helpers along the way. The reality for a girl like Natalie in that time period, though, was much less optimistic. I make Natalie aware of this so that we, the reader, may be aware of her particular advantages amidst her struggles.

I’m not interested in non-traditional heroines as novelties or plot points. I’m interested in them as people. I’m interested in all persons being able to see themselves as heroines of fiction, no matter their body type, mental type, physical type, etc.

Beauty for the freaks, a voice to the voice-less. These are my small, tiny hopes for love in a world full of difficulty and pain.

Something that I have not mentioned yet is something that must be mentioned: Multi-culturalism in our work and the work of our genre. The ‘traditional’ heroine in our Western fiction is just that, traditionally Western. I don’t personally have an example otherwise, though my upcoming Strangely Beautiful release, The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess, has an Egyptian hero and several Egyptian characters from several different religious backgrounds. For greater, ongoing discussion on the multi-cultural front as it is always an ongoing discussion, I’d like to turn you to two of my very favourite resources in all the world: Beyond Victoriana http://beyondvictoriana.com/ and Silver Goggles – http://silver-goggles.blogspot.com/ – Please do yourselves a favor and have these sites on your radar and check them often.

I’m giving away a copy of either Strangely Beautiful book 1 or 2, winner’s choice, to a random commenter chosen by the Steamed! Staff – So tell me, What about you? Please share your favourite non-traditional heroines!

~Leanna Renee Hieber





The Strangely Beautiful series: The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess (A Strangely Beautiful prequel) arrives May 3 in trade and digital

The Magic Most Foul series: Darker Still  (Magic Most Foul #1) arrives November 8 in trade and digital from Sourcebooks Fire

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First, I’d like to announce the winners of George Mann’s Ghosts of Manhattan:


Elijana Kindel

Barbara Elness

Congrats!  Please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize. 

Didn’t win?  You can still win books by  Mike ResnickTim Akers,  or Ren Cummins, or a prize pack of goodies including a copy of Blameless and a fan autographed by Gail Carriger.

Today we welcome YA Sci-Fi author Beth Revis

Beth Revis‘ debut novel, Across the Universe, is out now. A former high-school English teacher, Beth can’t help but blog about writing, grammar, and publishing at Writing it Out. She is the founder of the new popular dystopian blog, the League of Extraordinary Writers and blows off steam by trying to come up with something witty in 140 characters or less, lusting after books on GoodReads, or wasting time on Facebook.   Beth Revis lives in rural North Carolina with her husband and dog, and believes space is nowhere near the final frontier.

The Top Five Things to Come from Steampunk and the Top Five Things I’d Like to See

 by Beth Revis

I’ll admit: I’m a noob when it comes to steampunk. Sure, I’ve read (and loved) Gail Carringer’s work, flirted with Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan, and I lust after the costumes, but as for seriously diving into the genre? I’ve worshipped from afar. That said, here’s the top five steampunk things that I adore…and the top five things that I want to see (so if all you steampunk-aphiles out there know of where I can find it, please let me know!).

First, in reverse order, the top five things I love from steampunk:

5. The “Punked” episode of Castle

I am a hardcore Fillionite, so, of course, I’m a fan of Nathan Fillion’s latest show, Castle. One of the very best episodes so far as been “Punked,” in which Beckett and Castle’s mystery takes them into the world of Steampunk NYC.

4. Steampunk Cakes

Cake Wrecks has a whole page dedicated to the awesome steampunk cakes that have been made over the years.  But I have to admit—my very favorite one is this little beauty:

I mean, come on! A cake that looks like a steampunk squid? Win.

3. Treasure Planet

I admit: I love me some Disney. And one of my all-time faves has to be the wonderful and under-appreciated movie Treasure Planet. A futuristic/steampunk/sci fi/awesome retelling of Treasure Island, this movie features not only a cool storyline, but an amazing soundtrack (don’t worry; it’s not a musical) and a great bad guy.

2. The Steampunk Mac

Let’s see how much of a nerd I can prove I am with this post. I love Nathan Fillion, Disney, and…I’m also a Mac FanGirl. But what would make me even more of a Mac FanGirl? If I could have this Mac:


Image credit: http://steampunkworkshop.com/daveveloz.shtml

1. The Costumes and Gadgets

Come on. Come on. The gadgets. The gadgets. And the costumes.


Image credit: http://steampunkcostume.com/

 Now, the top five things I’d like to see:

5. Steampunk Star Wars

Why can’t I have this? Holy wow, think of how cool it could be. Steam blasters instead of lightsabers. And dude! Think of it: Darth Vader Steampunk. Amazing. This has so much potential.

Image credit: http://www.oddee.com/item_96830.aspx

4. Roman Steampunk

There’s a lot of steampunk centered in Victorian times, but I think it would be cool to explore the Romans. In all honesty, it seems as if the Romans came pretty darn close to steampunk on their own. Push them a bit more in that direction—we could have a whole steampunk alternative history…

3. Steampunk not based in Europe/England

This is going to be my most serious request—does anyone know of some cool steampunk that’s not based in Europe, especially not based in England? I would sincerely love to read that…

2. Steampunk Fairytales or Superheroes

There’s a wide field of possibilities in this one. What if Tinkerbell tinkered with steampunk? Hansel and Gretl’s witch could be an automaton. Cinderella’s clockwork winds down at midnight.

Or take it another direction—what about superheroes? Gail Carringer blended paranormal with steampunk—let’s see superheroes blended with steampunk. Superman’s strong as steel because that’s what he’s made of. Or the X-Men—a wind-up Wolverine? Maybe even this…


Image credit: http://steampunkcostume.com/

1. More Steampunk YA

The number one thing I most want to see more of is steampunk for teens and kids. Scott Westerfeld  is doing great work with Leviathan, but I’d love to see more of this. Does anyone else have any steampunk YA or MG suggestions?


~Beth Revis



So, who’s got some suggestions for Beth?  I know you all do…

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Before we get to today’s guest I have some winners to announce.

First we have the bag ‘o swag and books from RT.

Elaina Watler 

Next we have the copy of Colleen Gleason’s The Vampire Dimitri. 

Joelle Walker

We have two sets of The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack and The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man by Mark Hodder.


Riva Laughlin

Finally, we have four copies of Andrew Mayer’s The Falling Machine.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Legends of Fantasy


Heather Hiestand

Congrats on  winning.  Please email me at suzannelazear(@) hotmail to claim your prize.

Didn’t win?  You can still win books by George Mann, Mike ResnickTim Akers,  or Ren Cummins, or a prize pack of goodies including a copy of Blameless and a fan autographed by Gail Carriger.

Today we’re going to touch on a very important subject.  A lot of people think “Steampunk” means Victorian.  But that’s not true, Steampunk doesn’t need to feel or be Victorian at all.  The great thing about Steampunk is that you can include people from all cultures and walks of life, Steampunk stories can be in any genre,  any place. 

But I’m not the best person to talk about this, so I’ve asked Jha Goh of the blog Silver Goggles to tell us more about race and Steampunk.

Steampunk Postcoloniality

by  Jha Goh

Hello, I’m Jha, and I’m a steampunk postcolonialist.

I talk about race and steampunk a lot.

I’m asked to talk about multicultural steampunk a lot too.

I’ve written about my problems with the term multiculturalism before. Namely, that I don’t think I’ve really seen it exist without a single dominant culture that overwhelms the non-dominant ones. This is not to say nobody tries (and in fact, promoting it is fairly integral to my work, so here is a site you should read!)

So today, I don’t really want to talk about those things. I’m a steampunk postcolonialist, and I want to talk about steampunk postcoloniality.

Steampunk, from the outside, looks like it’s all about Empire, you know? Charles Stross, famous very important science fiction literary figure, had a rant about it, which I think really points to two things: the ignorance of someone who’s not involved deeply in steampunk, and the impression steampunk is giving outsiders.

The first is easily ignored, or would be, if it wasn’t for the fact that shit like Stross’ rant makes us look bad, no matter how into steampunk we are. Steampunks glorify Empire, and Stross has the clout to spread this impression far and wide. We should be concerned about this.

We should also be concerned about the fact that this impression is one of the first that strangers and newcomers to steampunk get. Ask any one steampunk to define the genre, what do we get? Very often, the following words are part of the phrase: “19th century,” “Victorian,” “England.”

And there are, of course, purists who genuinely believe this. Amal El-Mohtar, whose story To Follow the Waves appears in Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories, received the criticism that her story wasn’t steampunk. Why? Because it’s not Victorian. (It’s set in a technofantastic Syria.)

Terminology matters. As much as I believe in being able to pin down specific boundaries and awesome easy terms, I also believe that many steampunks do not have an inclusive language that acknowledges the breadth and depth of steampunk—unless we’re talking about how far back our influences go (and many will cheerfully admit 19th century science fiction to the term, despite the fact that steampunk is a particularly modern concept).

And the current popular terminology used—“19th century,” “Victorian,” “England,”—signifies a very particular kind of steampunk: the steampunk associated with the glorification of Empire, a time of ruthless colonization, great poverty, gender inequality and burgeoning industrialization. At least once a month I see a comment that points to the imperialism that steampunk seemingly celebrates—it matters that this is what people immediately see when they come to steampunk. I don’t blame them. I resisted participating in steampunk for a long time too, because I just didn’t see a place for myself in it.

The work of postcolonialism is to examine the effects of colonialism, even after dominant powers have supposedly seceded. Through this work, we bring to light how colonialism has been embedded in the psyche of colonized peoples, so ubiquitous we don’t notice. We don’t notice when a developing country lionizes a First World country, passing it off merely as natural that of course, one would idolize the higher standard of living present in a First World country, without questioning where these standards come from, and why we think it’s a good idea to pursue those ideals in the first place.

My work in steampunk is two-fold: examine the effects of colonialism as it appears in steampunk, particularly white Eurocentric steampunk, and find little rupture points for those of us who have cultural histories of colonization.

Because, make no mistake, colonialism is present everywhere in steampunk: it’s when you go costuming and you find mostly English fashions with corsets and bustles; it’s when you go to a convention and you find mostly white people; it’s when you find that non-Euro steampunk is being performed by white people. Colonialism is present in the fact that the majority of high-profile names are white, or present as white.

Colonialism is also present in the fact that, when a person of color wants to represent his/her/hir own culture, the representation is blithely, thoughtlessly thrown up in accordance to and reinforcing the stereotypes that have permeated our understandings of racialized groups for so long. Commodification of your own culture does not get any more special meaning just because you’re a minority doing it, if it’s done for white people’s consumption.

Colonialism is also present in the fact that, when another person of color tries to do something more original, more true to one’s own culture, a white person can say, “actually, you’re getting it wrong,” without an inkling that this is microaggressively racist, ignoring the pain that comes along with knowing that one’s own culture is so devalued, one cannot do anything original with it without a powerful outsider saying, “you got your own culture wrong”.

Colonialism is present in the minds of people who will think, while reading this post, “you have a chip on your shoulder, dwelling on the past like that.” It’s also present in the minds of people who genuinely believe colonialism was a good thing, because it brought civilization (because, after all, there is only one standard by which to measure civilization).

Colonialism is present in the fact that I didn’t use to think like this, and that I wrote predominantly white people in my fantasy and science fiction since it just never occurred to me to write people who look like me (except in wuxia settings).

Nobody escapes it just because they’ve decided to adopt a fictional persona of a past that never was. That some folks think that so is magical thinking. It’s self-serving and delusional. Also, it hurts us who don’t get to leave behind our skin colour and other such ubiquitous problems with our personas.

I don’t expect steampunks to constantly be thinking about this issue while going about their fun. I certainly don’t myself. This shit is depressing. But I do expect more thoughtfulness about this issue. I want to see fewer dichotomies about how “other cultures are so much more interesting than mine” (I know you’re trying to be positive, but Other-ing is still Other-ing) and less explorers of the uncharted wilds (because, really, whose uncharted wilds are we talking about?). I want to see more panels and talks about historical landmarks like the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Opium Wars and the Sepoy Mutiny and the genocide of indigenous peoples that highlight the conflicts that Empire imperialism to the world. I want to see more people whose lived realities are affected by such events invited to speak and listened to.

More than that, I do not want anyone to stop there.

Thanks, Suzanna Lazear, for letting me have this space.

~Jha Goh


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Today we welcome back the incredible Gail Carriger.  One lucky commenter will win a prize pack including a copy of Blameless and a fan autographed by Gail.

Gail Carriger is the New York Times Bestselling author of the Parasol Protectorate series. She began writing in order to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. Ms. Carriger then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She now resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported directly from London. The Parasol Protectorate books are: Soulless (Oct. 2009), Changeless (March 2010), Blameless (Sept. 2010), Heartless (July 2011), and Timeless (March 2012).

How to Make a Proper Pot of Tea
Being an Essay based on Hearsay, Family Tradition, and Opinionated Preferences
By Gail Carriger

Let us talk about tea. That great and fateful, that wonder of all
wonders, that calmest and most civilized of drinks. I have been
pleased to note, of late, it is making a comeback at steampunk events
in particular. At Nova Albion the ConSuite consisted of nothing but
tea and biscuits – as it should.

Let us not discuss the travesty that is iced tea, the mockery that is
Long Island iced tea, or that Thing that they do with all the sugar in
the South (you can’t see it, but I shudder at the very idea). Let us
not delve in to the wondrous exoticism of those foreign notions,
primordial and progenitive as they may be: white, green, oolong. Lets
us not even think about decaf, for oh, it really does taste
every-so-slightly of fish. Oh no, let us discuss the truth in tea, the
tea of my people, the dark, the honest, black tea.

My mother is an ex-pat, who brought with her very little, stayed for
40 odd years, and retains even less. However, she still has her
accent, and she still has her tea – every day at 4 pm, sometimes 5,
rain or shine. She has done this my whole life. When I was little, I
was permitted milk and a dash. Now I take it stronger than she, and I
have to reminder her, every time, to let it sit a bit longer for her
strangely evolved daughter.

I dabbled briefly in coffee during my rebellious college years and I have, upon occasion, tested my own will power by giving tea up
entirely, but I always returned to it. My safe haven. It is the taste
and the peace and the joy that draws me ever back, but it is also the ritual.

I brought a gentleman caller home to my mother’s several years ago. A
fine upstanding young man, large and Greek in appearance but very
American in sensibilities. In an effort to impress, after the tea was
finished he began to wash the dishes. My mother and I, chatting away
almost missed it. Almost. I saw him out of the corner of my eye. Mum
must have guessed, from the horror on my face, what he was about to

He was going to wash the teapot!

It was like one of those slow motion cartoon moments. Mum and I, arms
pin wheeling out, agonized drawn out cries of “Noooooooo!” as we dove
towards him.

He didn’t drop the pot in surprise at our behavior, but it was a very
near thing. Fortunately, the soap covered scrubbing brush never
touched the vaunted and scared interior of that well cured teapot.
Thank goodness, for it was the work of decades.

A teapot should never be washed. You may swish it out with boiling
water. But it should never ever be washed. This is a teapot, by the
way, that is only used for black tea. You want to drink that appalling
herbal tisane stuff, use a different pot.

So how, in fact, does one brew a perfect cuppa?

My training is specific to my mother, as hers was to her grandmother, and so forth back as far as any of us can remember. It is not the
training of every tea drinker. And there have been, dare I say it, studies showing that not all the steps are necessary for taste, but who would trust scientists on such a religious matter as tea?

Here is how I do it.

Select a pot, a good china one, with a spout that does not drip, and a
lid that stays on. Most pots these days produce four mugs worth of
tea, but one should measure to see how many it takes.

Boil enough water for the pot and then some. Boil it! Boil. Swish a
dollop of the boiled water around inside the pot to heat it.

Choose a good quality loose leaf black tea. I prefer Twinings English
Breakfast Gold Label from England (not the red box American swill).
The quality of a tea can be determined by the smell (not too spicy)
and the taste (not too bitter) and the color (for EB a rich dark
chocolate brown with hints of rust when seeped) and the size and shape
of the leaf (generally larger is better).

Place a heaped tablespoon into the pot, one for each mug. If the pot
is a 6-er or larger, also include “one for the pot.” One learns the
quirks of each tea and each teapot and what relationship works best.

Add the recently boiled water. Fill the pot all the way, but not so
far it will spill when poured. Do not use one of those teapots with
the immersion cages. They do not allow for proper blending. Stick the
handle of a spoon in and give it a good couple stirs. Cap and cover
with a tea cozy.

Those who are to immersed it the culture of green teas will allow only
a three minute seeping. Those fancy tea timers are equally
precipitous. I have even had proprietors of tea shops, who should know
better, try to poor for me ahead of schedule. Oh, no no. I prefer a
five at least, but I like my tea strong.

Now, we move on to teacups instead of mugs. Tea always tastes better
out of a teacup, I feel, and allows one to drink it entirely before it
gets cold. Choose your cups and saucers with care, you want a nice
delicate rim, in makes sipping much more enjoyable.

Put the milk in first. Good quality whole milk, organic if possible,
un-pasteurized if risk is appealing. Lemon is only for the truly
quirky. Then poor the tea in after through a strainer. No sugar
please. A tea that requires sugar is not a very good tea. A person who
requires sugar is not a true tea drinker, they should be excused onto
something more banal. Raspberry cordial, perhaps?

A few words on etiquette.

The hostess always pours the tea for herself first, unlike most other
endeavors. This is because she should test the strength and quality upon her own pallet, and not subject her guest to weak tea, over-brewed tea, or spoiled milk.

To drink, one picks up both the cup and saucer, then raises the cup to drink with the free hand. No, the pinky is not stuck out. The cup is returned to the saucer without clinking.

Never dunk anything into your tea. All you end up with is crummy tea.

And one last moment of comedy. Should you over-brew your tea, my
friends and I refer to this as: strong enough for a mouse to run

~Gail Carriger


What do you love most about tea?  A favorite ritual?  Memory?  A love of teacups?  One lucky commenter will win a prize pack including a copy of Blameless and a fan autographed by Gail.   Open internationally, contest closes at 11:59 PM PST April 25, 2011

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We have a ton of contests ending soon, so make sure you enter –like  books by Mark Hodder, books from Andrew Mayer, a bag of swag from RT and The Vampire Dimitri.

I’m going to be teaching another online Steampunk Writing Class.  This one focuses more on building your manuscript than the last one I taught, which was more of a Steampunk overview.  Class runs  May 2nd- May 27th 2011  and is $25.  Details here.

Today we welcome Shelly Brooks from Mystic Pieces jewelry Design.

Art and its creation has been my life since the tender age of seven. After majoring in Art History during college; I was blessed with the opportunity to work at The Laguna Art Museum, which was fabulous!   My true passion is creating jewelry. It started about 12 years ago and now consumes my life. Themes in my jewelry explore the dimensions of both art and history itself, traveling through time, inspired by the Victorian Era, Roaring 20s and Industrial Age. Tinkering with vintage watches, and finding that perfect juxtaposition of old and new is the part of the puzzle that keeps me going.   My ultimate creative goal is to inspire and beautify the world with my timeless, MYSTIC PIECES; providing enjoyment and style for all those who appreciate unique creations.


Why jewelry, Why Steampunk?

by Shelley Brooks

Creating started at the age of 7 which I started dabbling in painting with oils and watercolor.  In college, black and white photography found my heart and followed me for several years.   However, being the wise college student (ha ha), I decided to finish my degree in Art History and later worked for an Art Museum – oh, I had such grandiose ideas of working for The Getty Museum.   But as I’m sure for most artist, creating comes and goes throughout a lifetime.  So after, the museum, I went on to the Advertising world and spent many years in corporate America and small businesses selling ad space.
Jewelry making found it’s way into my life about 13 years ago, after feeling a burning need to create again.   Eventually, I started selling my work to local boutiques in Phoenix, Az and then found Etsy.   About 4 years ago, I wanted to make my living by creating full time.  That opportunity and dream presented its self, about 2 years ago, when I was laid off from my advertising job.   Since, taking the plunge into entrepreneurship and becoming a full time artist, I’m loving the different challenges.   However, being the only person behind Mystic Pieces, the creating part comes in spurts as the business keeps expanding to new frontiers.
The name Mystic Pieces came from a collaboration of several different thoughts winding its way through my brain.  I guess the first one, I wanted a name that was easy to remember, then came Mystic Seaport in Connecticut (which I had traveled to when I was in my teens), then Mystic Pizza (the movie) then I wanted to create a name that just wasn’t incorporating one creation such as jewelry, hence the “Pieces”.    The word origin or history of “Mystic” is defined by “spiritually allegorical, pertaining to mysteries of faith” which seems quite fitting these days.
Three years ago, as we all wonder, Steampunk found me and my fancy.  I’ve always been fascinated by the Victorian Era; it’s romance, elegance, detail to workmanship and the simplicity of another time.  The beauty too about the Steampunk genre, it has so many intertwining aspects.  One can easily travel through time with touches of Gothic, Dieselpunk, Industrial, Futuristic and combinations of all the above.  In my jewelry, I love the detail of the watch movements, like little pieces of artwork themselves.  Yet, Steampunk gives me the creativity license to play with Victorian and Gothic touches.
My inspiration comes from wanting to succeed on this entrepreneurial journey.  I love the freedom, challenges and creativity of my artistic lifestyle.  Lately, I feel my brain are gears themselves on a never-ending rotation of new ideas and things to accomplish for Mystic Pieces.
As far as the future holds, I’d like to start creating mixed media again or dabble in wind chimes, but for now I’m content on taking Mystic Pieces as far as the dirigible will take me.

~Shelley Brooks

Face Book www.tinyurl.com/yb7r4gq

Stores featuring Mystic Pieces: 

Work of Artists – Scottsdale
Evermore Nevermore – Mesa
Level 9 Gallery – Cave Creek
Paris Envy – Phoenix

What sorts of things do you like (or want) to create?

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We have a ton of contests ending soon, so make sure you enter –like  books by Mark Hodder, books from Andrew Mayer, a bag of swag from RT and The Vampire Dimitri.

Today we welcome YA Steampunk author Ren Cummins.  He’s giving away a copy of “Reaper’s Return” (with a copy of his CD, “Obsidian Bridges”) to one lucky commenter. 

Ren Cummins is a musician and author, having penned thus far the first four of the six books in the YA Steampunk Fantasy series “Chronicles of Aesirium.” Living in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, daughter, two dogs and a cat, Ren juggles his time around a full time Crisis Manager at a “leading corporate telecommunications corporation”. Though only published the past two years, he has been reading from the age of three (though, granted, only small words), and telling stories and writing them down soon thereafter. His young aspirations were to grow up to become Spider-man, but when he was at last convinced that this was simply never going to happen, he began to pursue writing – with only a brief deviation in pursuit of life as a rock star.
Somewhere along the line, he also spent approximately five years with a hobby of playing the doumbek (a middle eastern hand drum) for belly dancers. Seriously.
Presently, with his fifth book in his YA Steampunk series in edits, he is already working on book 6, with two additional anthologies in the works and another series (this time a contemporary paranormal series) in development. And, because clearly, he didn’t think he had enough on his plate, he is writing an anthology of children’s stories with his ten year old daughter.
He also regularly blogs at http://anachronologist.blogspot.com

Creating the Perfect Space; aka, Painting Over the Fourth Wall
by Ren Cummins

I was considering writing up something specifically tailored specifically towards Steampunk – clearly, this would have been the logical and appropriate thing to do – but the more I looked around me on Steampunkapalooza, I recognized that many of the things I might have had the notion to mention have already been said by writers far more eloquently than I might have managed. But I am not prancing about the woods with an emptied quiver, surely.

One of the things I hear a lot from new writers – and something I struggled with for a goodly while before finding a good balance – was about creating the right space, setting the mood, and just generally how to sit one’s posterior down and get to the writing.

First of all, let me be clear in that this process is going to be different for all of us – like raising children, we all have our own philosophies on just what is the perfect mix, and I wouldn’t presume to know one particular way that will solve all bouts of writer’s block. But there are several techniques I’ve either heard of, learned of or accidentally ran into which works quite well for me, and I thought this might be a nice time to share some of those.

And these, I break down into five parts, all loosely segmented off based upon the senses.

But before any of these, the key is the brain. There are a lot of things that stop us from writing, even before we get to the first word – doubt, distraction, fear of inadequacy, overconfidence, lack of focus, etc. And there are even more techniques of clearing one’s mind, be it meditation, routine, etc. Some of these should be practiced and employed even before sitting down to write. But I like to think of the writing process as really being one which takes up your entire life. Every moment, sleeping or waking, I believe, should be trained to the assimilation and sampling of words.

Many years ago, I went on a sort of vision quest into Zion’s National Park in southern Utah. On my last day there, I was sitting by the roadside, sketching and jotting down words, when a crow landed a few feet from me. He looked into my eyes and seemed to be waiting for my attention, and, once granted, began a process of picking up random things from the ground, tasting them and then either spitting them back out or swallowing them. After the area surrounding him was cleared, he’d hop over to a new area and repeat the process, each time looking back to me as if to say “You with me so far, dude?”

Suddenly, it occurred to me that there was a sort of wisdom in his actions. Sample everything, spit out the useless, take in the useful. I smiled at the crow and thanked him. He looked back at me, squawked, and flew off. Call it what you will, I call it a profound moment of realization. And that philosophy of “sample everything, and only take in the useful” has been my motto of life ever since. Live life, experience it all as best you can, and treat every moment like it has something to teach you.

That’s where stories come from, after all.

But once you have those thoughts all bunched up, the struggle is in putting them somewhere. I’ve got pads of paper all over my house, and in any bag I happen to carry with me, including one that is always beside my bed. Any ideas – no matter how random – get jotted down. I’ve sent myself emails or text messages (I used to leave myself voicemails, back when I wrote music), and I’ve got plenty of word documents all over my computer with assorted randomness. I don’t fuss about those things being coalesced into stories at first – – they all kind of sit around like spices in the cupboard, ready to be used at a moment’s notice. Regularly go about and keep this organized, review what you’ve jotted down, keep it fresh, and know where it all is. The last thing you want to do is lose a good idea. Trust me on that. I’ve lost plenty, and miss every single one of them.

And then we get to the actual work of it. The heavy lifting. Center stage.

Create a solid environment for your writing. I only half-jokingly think to the sensory deprivation chamber that Daredevil used in the movie a few years back. Just block out everything, and sigh contentedly. Except, well, that makes it so hard to write, also.

My advice? If you don’t have a desk, get one. Get a nice chair – not too comfortable, but comfy enough that your hindquarters will still be talking to you hours later. Set this table and chair up somewhere that is designated as a “Writing Space.” Let everyone else around you know that this is for writing, and if you’re there, stay away! Surround the writing space with non-distracting visual images – paintings, photo references, but do NOT put the television on. Light a candle or two, maybe some incense – – set the mood as you prefer. Find a nice comfort drink (I prefer root beer or white chocolate mochas) to sip away on (keep yourself hydrated!) and, lastly – and this is my personal preference – create a music soundtrack.

I use my iPod and create a playlist that I call “Writing”. I put on songs that inspire the mood I’m working on or the book I’m writing, and ONLY LISTEN TO IT WHEN I’M WORKING or am preparing to write. For steampunk stories, there are plenty of good soundtracks out there for various movies or television shows, I personally recommend anything that does NOT have lyrics – – or, if it does, they’re lyrics you can’t understand. The key is to leave your verbal centers of your brain free to express and not keep it busy trying to understand words being sung.

Some of the soundtracks I’m currently listening to on my present steampunk books are the Murray Gold “Doctor Who” soundtracks, the music from “Sherlock Holmes”, “Alice in Wonderland”, assorted albums by anime musicians Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno, and even Daft Punk’s “Tron” score.

Doing these things cover the senses – visual, audio, smell/taste and feel – and allow you to focus on the one trait which in the moment of writing, matters most: expression.

Especially when working in otherwordly genres like Steampunk, you need a space that will allow you to remain inside the world of your story, and give you nothing to draw you back until you’re done with your daily word count.

And, if that doesn’t do cap it all off for you, the best advice I’ve ever heard for writing is:

“WRITE. And when you’ve done that, write some more.”

~Ren Cummins

Do you have a favorite reading or writing space?  One lucky commenter will win a copy of “Reaper’s Return” (with a copy of his CD, “Obsidian Bridges”).  North American only, please.

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Our giveaways for a bag of swag from RT, and The Vampire Dimitri are wrapping up, have you entered yet?

Today we welcome our last Pyr author, Tim AkersThe Horns of Ruin is out now.  We have three copies to give away.

Tim Akers was born in deeply rural North Carolina, the only son of a theologian. He moved to Chicago for college, where he lives with his wife of thirteen years and their German shepherd. He splits his time between databases and fountain pens. You can visit Tim’s Web site at shadoth.blogspot.com.

How I Write

by Tim Akers

In his recent interview with Locus, Daniel Abraham talked briefly about the two kinds of writers. He did this by contrasting his style of writing with that of George Martin. George, he said, is a gardener. He likes to get into the world and nourish it and watch it grow. In contrast, Daniel describes himself as an architect. Outlines, word count fetishes, strict narrative discipline. This got me to thinking about how I write, and how my style of writing impacts what I write.

I’m an incredibly self-analytical writer. I stopped using beta readers while writing my first novel, at least partially due to time constraints and the general chaos that is my daily life, so I’ve had to develop a very keen sense of what I’m doing and whether it’s working. That said, I had never really thought about it in the sort of terms Daniel was talking about, so I took a step back and thought about what I was doing, and why. I came to the conclusion that I’m not a gardener or an architect. I’m sort of an architectural gardener. How’s that for a cop out?

Seriously, I form very sketchy outlines of what I want to do, then I go through and develop a number of anchor points for the narrative. These are generally points of confrontation or revelation that help define the narrative, or the characters. I develop those anchor points in my mind, usually sketching out who will be there, why they’re in place, what motivations they bring to the scene, what they hope to get out of the encounter, what I as the writer hope to get out of the scene, and finally what the reader will hopefully get out of it. I might write snippets of the scene, but usually I just ghost together an outline in my head. Then I work toward that point, and from that point to the next anchor point, and eventually I have a narrative. Sounds very architectural, yeah?

The gardening comes in with the characters, and with certain elements of the plot. I’ll admit to being one hell of a geek. I learned most of my storytelling skills by running tabletop roleplaying games. When I was doing that, I didn’t follow hard and fast narrative structures for my games. I never created a problem and then created a solution to the problem. That was the players’ job. In fact, I rarely created specific problems. My goal was to create a cast of non-player characters with their own ambitions and machinations, wrap them in an environment that’s conducive to conflict, and then introduce the players into that environment. Things always happen. Based on the character’s backgrounds and ambitions, I would maybe drop a hook or develop some kind of integration into the NPCs business, but mostly I waited for the players to bump into trouble. Then I would make the trouble worse, and let the players work their way out of it. I did a lot of improvising, never really sure how this development or that clue was going to work out for the overall story, but always sure that it was making things more complicated for the game. And complicated is good.

In novels I have to dial this sort of thing back, but only a little. It’s good to keep your eyes on those anchor points, but don’t be afraid of making chaos on the way there. Garden, but garden with a structure in mind. Play with the environment, but remember that part of gardening is pruning. In the same way, part of architecture is the joy of the unexpected discovery, the unplanned development. There must be serendipity, and there must be form.

~Tim Akers

What kind of writer (or reader) are you?  We have three copies of The Horns of Ruin to give away to three lucky posters.   Open internationally.  Ends April 22, 2011 at 11:59 PM PST.

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Happy Teen Lit Day!  To celebrate young adult books, there’s something happening today called “Rock the Drop.”  Basically, take a teen book and leave it in a public place for someone to find, take home and enjoy.  What better way to spread a love of reading (and Steampunk.)  Details here.  If you rock the drop steampunk style, please email me pictures!  If I get at least FIFTEEN pictures TODAY, I will give away my authographed galley of Gail Carriger’s HEARTLESS (which isn’t out yet, and aparently these babies are rare).  The galley will be given to one of the people who shared the love of reading by “rocking the drop.”  The winner will be chosen by the tot.   But I need at least fifteen enteries, so tell your friends.  Since there’s not a ton of Steampunk YA/MG, any Steampunk book will work, open internationally.   You don’t have to live in the US to spread the love of reading.  In fact, there may be an extra prize for furthest drop…

Today we welcome author Mike ResnickThe Buntline Special is out from Pyr now.  We’re also giving away three copies. 

Mike Resnick has won an impressive five Hugos and been nominated for twenty-nine more. He has sold sixty-three novels and more than two hundred short stories. He has edited fifty anthologies. His work spans from satirical fair such as his Lucifer Jones adventures, to weighty examinations of morality and culture, as evidenced by his brilliant tales of Kirinyaga—which, with 67 major and minor awards and nominations to date, is the most honored series of stories in the history of science fiction. Visit him at www.mikeresnick.com .


Writing the Weird West

 by Mike Resnick

   I had sold more than 60 science fiction novels and 250 short stories, but I had never written any steampunk when Lou Anders, my editor at Pyr, asked me to do a Weird Western with steampunk overtones back in late 2009.

          All my adult life I had wanted to write a novel about Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo, bitter rivals who happened to be the only two college-educated gunslingers in the West (Ringo majored in the classics, Holliday minored in them), and while this wasn’t quite the novel I’d had in mind, I couldn’t pass up the chance to write about them in The Buntline Special.

          But of course, nothing about Holliday and Ringo was the least bit steampunkish. (By the way, I’m using the word “steampunk” because that’s the accepted term. I don’t think I agree with it, since any punk who shows up in a Resnick story dies young and unmourned.)

          So I needed a justification to insert the steampunk elements, and since this was a Weird Western, as much fantasy as science fiction, I came up with the premise that the United States as a nation stops at the Mississippi River in 1881, its western expansion halted by the magical power of the Indian medicine men.

          Who would the United States government turn to in order to come up with some methodology to combat the magic? Given the dates of his major breakthroughs, it had to be Thomas Alva Edison.     

          So I moved Edison out to Tombstone, Arizona in 1880 at government expense. Then I asked myself: what would Tombstone look like after he’d been there for awhile?

          Well, for one thing, the streets would be illuminated by electric lights as night. So would the houses, the saloons, the dance halls, and just about everything else. But what else would Tom – he’d never be called “Thomas” in a town like Tombstone – do?

          Well, for one thing, most of my principals lived by their weapons. Historically Ned Buntline commissioned the Colt Company to make the Buntline Special – but with a genius like Edison out there, why wouldn’t he go to Tom instead? After all, a Colt pistol, even with the 12-inch barrel Buntline ordered, just fires bullets. But what could an electrical genius design in the way of a hand weapon?

          Then there would be primitive (by our standards) but wildly advanced (for 1880) security systems. Step on a porch that was properly wired and a cowboy or gunman would set off alarm. And Tom did a lot of work with photography in the 1870s, so he’d probably add a hidden camera or two that would be activated by an electrical impulse caused when an unwanted visitor put his weight on a hidden wire.

          The days of Billy the Kid or Doc Holliday being broken out of jail by their confederates would be relegated to works of fiction. Tom would rig an electric charge into the metal bars of the jail. Try to free your criminal cohort and you’d still have one hand left to sign your name.

          Because this was a work of imaginative fiction, I felt I could get just a little far-fetched and esoteric, having Tom design some very lifelike and functional prosthetic limbs, since many arm and leg wounds required amputation at that time — and eventually he designs some fully functional robotic prostitutes, which lead to some moral (but non-electronic) dilemmas.

          He’d have to team up with someone who could construct a horseless stagecoach to his specifications, but Tom certainly was enough of an electrical genius to create a motor to power one once it was built.

          More? There’d be electrified wires around a corral to give cattle or horses a mild shock if they tried to get out. (I had the same thing when my daughter had a horse while she was growing up.  One little jolt and he learned instantly.)

          Because this was a novel about Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo, I never got into the wonders Tom could bring to the frontier kitchen of the 1880s, but there’s no question that he would have revolutionized it. The photograph was a fait accompli, and so was the phonograph, so there was no need to expand upon them. Ditto his very early work with the fluroscope.

          Because steampunk seems to require a lot of brass to appeal to its readership, I had Tom form a partnership with Ned Buntline, who historically was just a self-promoting dime novel writer and publicist, but in this universe has created a form of super-hardened and impenetrable brass, and brought many of Tom’s creations off the drawing board and into actual physical being. And having changed Buntline’s occupation, I had Tom design lightweight body armor for Doc and the Earps before the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which Ned then created.

          Nothing except the robots was extrapolated that wasn’t at least theoretically possible, given the amazing Mr. Edison’s historical accomplishments, and it gave a very different and steampunkish flavor to a town that has lived a lot longer in fact and in legend than any of the participants could have imagined.

— Mike Resnick


We have three copies of The Buntline Special to give away to three lucky posters (open internatually).  What component of the Wild West would you like to see most in a Weird West story?

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