Archive for November, 2011

Welcome to the holidays! Now that we’ve passed Thanksgiving, it’s time to think about decorating for the holidays. So what can you do to add a little steampunk flair to your decorations? More than you think!

A Steampunk Christmas Tree

Christmas trees lend themselves well to steampunk! After all the Victorians loved celebrating Christmas. Try decorating the tree with a mixture of old-fashioned Victorian elements. For example cameos, watch parts, gears, rusted springs, snowflakes made out of bent copper wire, well-dried gingerbread with hard icing details, tassles, scrolls of old sheet music or old keys hung using thin velvet ribbon rather than wire hangers. Consider using ribbon, lace, twine or thin copper colored chain as garland, or even go back to the very basics and make a paper chain or popcorn and cranberries strung on a string! Add color with bits of holly, or scent by tying little bunches of cinnamon bark with ribbon to the tree.

To give a tree a more mad scientist feel, use larger lights or put candles in test tubes and beakers.  It’s easy to decorate a traditional tree with a mixture of old-fashioned Victorian ornaments such as candles and steampunk accessories – bunches of keys, watch parts etc. For a mad scientist look, stick the candles in test tubes and beakers and use clear glass ornaments or even small glass canning jars filled with various objects (silk flowers, artificial insects) for a more “naturalist” appearance as if you are keeping the little things for observation.

If you really want the more industrial steampunk look, go ahead and paint an artificial tree copper or gold, or construct one out of copper piping, using dials and gauges for ornaments and threading wire through the pipes so you can still light it up.

And of course you can always choose steampunk ornaments for additional flair.

Bring out the Victorian Naturalist Christmas Display

It was incredibly common to have displays of items from ones experiments and travels housed beneath domes of glass or inside a glass-in shadowbox. For Christmas, consider making a Victorian Naturalist Display of your own featuring anything from the silly to the sublime. Create a display from things such as holly, bits of fir boughs. An artificial cardinal or other song bird. A string of pearls, a Christmas cookie, or gingerbread man. A lump of coal from Santa for bad little boys, a feather from a Christmas angel, or even a reindeer antler.

Create a Steampunk Advent Calendar

One of the things children love best (and really, aren’t adults just big children at Christmas?) is an Advent Calendar. Create a steampunk version for you and your family. There’s lots of options. Create little felt pouches with a number on each pouch (1 to 24), string them along a bit of twine and tie ribbon or red and white gingham bows in between and, then put a treat in each pouch and string it along a banister, mantle or wall. If you’re looking for a more mad science approach, arrange a series of 24 glass containers (jars, beakers, vials) on a surface such as a mantelpiece, or bookshelf and tuck a treat inside each (such as a small hard candy, peppermint, or individually wrapped chocolate – I personally love the Giradelli chocolates for this.) Use fir boughs, Christmas ornaments, gears, watches, small bird cages, chains, etc. to decorate around the glasses. You can either hang a label on each container with the numbers or get those brass house numbers at a hardware store and prop them up or hand them on the containers.

Steampunk Your Christmas Wreath

Sure you can use your regular green wreath and steampunk it the same way you did your tree, but you can also go bolder. Create a wreath from “gears” by brushing gingerbread cookies with metallic food paint. Wrap it with wire, or put in a few glass bulbs of different types. Use old typewriter keys to spell out “Merry Christmas” or cut out letters from different large fonts and “paste” it together for a more typeset look. For a more naturalist look, consider finding a wreath create from grapevines, or similar twigs. Add holly or berries, or a gingerbread man. Perhaps a small ornamental song bird. Scrolls of Victorian sheet music, and rich velvet ribbon.

Don’t Forget the Stockings!

Victorian’s loved their Christmas stockings! In fact, some times, there were no presents beneath the tree, they all came in the stockings “hung by the chimney with care”.  If you don’t feel like searching out for a stunning Victorian boot stocking of your own, or an elaborately long striped stocking for fun, you can always make one as well. Buttons, lace, gears, keys, tassels. There’s no end to what you can do.

Decorating for a steampunk Christmas is no different than the attention you put into your costume or the artwork you create. Just take what you know, what you love, and add a dollop of imagination.

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I hope everyone who celebrated Thanksgiving had a nice one. 

How’s everyone’s NaNoWriMo projects coming?  Who hit 50k over the weekend? (or before) Tell us in the comment box so we can happy dance with you.

If you’re doing my NaNo Challenge I’ve got the next check-in up and winners listed

I’m going to be doing a scaled down version of the challenge in December, called NaNoFinMo.  Deets announced Thursday at SuzanneWrites

My progress…well…

Day 21 997
Day 22 1981 — hit 50k
Day 23 1000

and then I hit a stall. Yep, I have not written a word on my sequel since the 23rd.

Bad writer.  No cupcake.

I am having a lot of trouble and I think it’s all in my head.  I’ve heard so many writers complain that book 2 is the worst that I think I feel that I have to struggle with it, too.   Also, I am uncomfortable at how many brackets I’m using and bare spots I’m leaving in an attempt to keep up the momentum.  I also wrote a section, a big one, that I’m not sure works — the idea of ripping it out hurts, yet at the same time, if I rip it out it changes the story, so if I do rip it out after I continue on then I’d have even more to change.

Ah, the glamorous life of writers. 

However, I am not one to be idle, even with holiday madness. So, while working out that snag in my head…

Day 24-27 22,306 on a brand spanking new project I’m not telling you about.

But I will return to the sequel soon (or I’ll have an unhappy editor).

Oh, so any of you design WordPress templates?  I need to overhaul my website and was thinking of going WP. 

Have a great week and write on!


Suzanne Lazear writes steampunk tales for teens.  Her debut novel, INNOCENT DARKNESS, book one of The Aether Chronicles, releases August 2012 from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.

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My apologies for getting this up today instead of Monday.

My week was….well, it was okay. I had hoped to reach 50k by the 20th and didn’t. I’m just not getting the time and the words just aren’t coming as quick as I’ve reached the point in my sequel where I no longer know exactly what’s going to happen next in the story. 

I’m a puzzler, a strange combo of a pantser and plotter as I try to fit everything. Often I’ll know specific points I need to hit in a story but won’t know how I’m going to get there.  I have an outline but it’s bare bones and I’m unhappy with it. I have had a lot of surprises this week as I write including the appearance of automatons, an airship detour, and a visit to a museum. (I like it when my stories surprise me).   A lot of what I’ve been writing is skeleton and I know I’m going to have to go back and do research and change a lot of my cities and destinations and fix all those [insert proper name here] brackets I’ve been leaving myself so I don’t lose valuable writing time to look things up.   I’ve never written quite like this before and I’m not sure I like it, but I’m just not getting in the writing time, so every moment counts. 

Some of the big challenges I’ve had in the past week are that some POVs (I have three) are just more fun to write than others, so I may drag in one section because I’d rather write in another. (Sorry, I just can’t skip around and write the fun scenes first, I just don’t work like that.) Also, keeping the three timelines straight  is *hard*. I really hope they all meet up soon.

Wordcount for the week:

Day 14 762
Day 15 1774
Day 16 2419
Day 17 2577
Day 18 705
Day 19 1167
Day 20 1417

Week total: 47,192

So, how are you doing? What have been your challenges this week?


Suzanne Lazear writes steampunk tales for teens.  Her debut novel, INNOCENT DARKNESS, book one of The Aether Chronicles, releases August 2012 from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.

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Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium and Masquerade Ball

Within the luxury of an amazing venue, Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium and Masquerade Ball will have Steampunk aficionados feeling more than transported while strolling the decks The Queen Mary, in Long Beach, California.  Built by the Cunard Line in the early 1930’s, our lady maintains the grandeur of a transatlantic ship of the line which is easily seen above and below deck.  Its ballrooms are decorated with vast murals and polished walnut burl.  Its original decking, engine rooms, bridge, radio rooms and other historical areas are dream photo opportunities.  Its staterooms are a step back into the future as art deco meets modern amenities.  Challenge your friends in the shuffleboard tournament, a bit of a scavenger hunt or a game of shuttlecock.  Did we mention that she’s haunted?  Feel free to tour the ship at www.queenmary.com.

Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium and Masquerade Ball. Yes, that is the whole name. What a mouthful! And what a phrase to live up to.  The name was the easy part, the rest was just too damn much fun.  We’ve been having a blast putting together the most immersive west coast Steampunk experience to date.   Lectures, roving entertainment, a bit of whimsy and steamy cocktail or two make the environment inviting and when you add some very talented vendors, renowned Steampunk authors, games, roll playing and a midnight ghost tour…it’s just not something that you can miss! 

Now let’s talk about some entertainment over and above the rest.  Steam Powered Giraffe, 6 String Samurai, Jon Magnificent, Lee Presson and the Nails, Unwoman, Veronique Chevalier, Thee Bluebeard, Mr. Saturday and Sixpence, Professor DR Schreiber, Dino Staats, Alchemy Belly Dancing Troupe and more.  Musicians, Pirates and Burlesque, Oh My!  Comedy, Magic and Mayhem, Oh No!  Something for everyone, no disappointed attendees here!

Original to Her Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium is our theatrical element.  We have multiple opportunities for those aspiring actresses and actors to join our thematic roll-playing events.  Assisting us in our thespian endeavors are; The Court of Steam (Featuring Queen Victoria herself), The League of Supremely Evil Revolutionaries (LOSERS), Mike Young (Improve Now and New England Interactive Literature), and Aaron Vanek (Interactive Live Game Designer and HP Lovecraft LA Film Festival Organizer).  But this list is not complete as more events continue to be bid and reviewed.   Opportunities can be convention-long, or of a simpler setting such as the Murder Mystery or Inventor’s Contest.  Any event will hone your skills or tickle your funny bone, and most will test your deductive reasoning.

Come One, Come All!  See and Be Seen!  We’ve commandeered the entire vessel this January 13 – 16th, 2012, and are awaiting your reservation.  Please visit our website for rooming, ticketing and further event information. www.hrmsteam.comDon’t forget to “like” us on facebook to keep up with the latest news and additions.  Any and all questions may be answered by thequeen@hrmsteam.com.

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Thanksgiving use to be celebrated as a bigger holiday than even Christmas. They even had Thanksgiving cards! Victorians loved to celebrate the feast day with a traditional Thanksgiving meal, including turkey and all the trimmings.

The tradition of serving turkey (rather than venison, duck or other wild game) for the holiday mean began almost as soon as Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln.

The turkey was served in memory of the early settlers and Pilgrims who found wild turkey to be a primary source of game. The earliest recipes for turkey dinners usually involved using what one had on hand including stale bread, cornmeal and seasonings mixed with the roasting pan juices of the bird.

But Victorians, being Victorians, became more creative and lavish. Stuffing for the Thanksgiving turkey might include sausage, chestnuts, various dried fruits, such as cranberries or apples, oysters and other flavorful items. What became included depended greatly on what was fresh and local, since refrigeration was still a luxury few could afford.

For the most authentic recipes from the era, look into your grandmother’s recipes or find those in cookbooks from the era. Here’s one from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook originally printed in 1896:

Sausage and Sweet Potato Dressing

Cook until brown

1 pound pork sausage meat


6 cups dry bread cubes (1/4 inch)

2 tablespoons minced onion

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons minced parsley

1 cup finely cut celery

5 cups mashed sweet potatoes

Stuff and cook in bird. Makes enough for a 14-16 pound Turkey

Serve it with fresh local vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, turnips or carrots. (Personally I like my carrots cooked with butter, honey, ginger and just a touch of salt. Very yummy.) And of course, don’t forget to top of your dinner with another very Victorian favorite – a delicious pumpkin pie! If, however, you are in the mood to try something decadent and equally delicious, consider an Amish Cream Pie (the recipe is up today over at my regular website www.theresameyers.com on the blog).

Just like we enjoy our leftovers today, so did the Victorians. They were frugal enough to ensure that the meals following Thanksgiving used Turkey in lots of different ways including “Turkey Pot Pie”, “Deviled Turkey” and “Turkey in Savory Jelly”. My family likes just digging into the leftover stuffing, mashed potatoes, turkey and gravy, but you could also try Turkey a la King or Turkey Tetrazzini.

Whatever you do for your Turkey day, be grateful for those you have around you and enjoy!

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Today we welcome the Ladies of Mischief

Textile Arts — A Fascinating Frontier that Weds Form to Function and Design to Desire

By Blue Stocking-Reads For The Ladies of Mischief

From the shimmer of a fine silk to the rough heft of homespun wool to the smallest and laciest of unmentionables, textiles bind our lives together. And not just ours: Human beings have been weaving and stitching, spinning and sewing, for millennia, back to prehistoric days and up to today. The Egyptians had their thin, fine linen shifts, and the Romans their bulky, urine-bleached wool togas (imagine that overwhelming smell on a hot day!) — although they only wore them on special occasions. And the Byzantine and Chinese courts dazzled with all the pageantry that legions of cloth artists could provide. From hundreds of types of tassels at the height of the French court to the intricate lace of Holland, textile arts had already reached an incredibly high level when “just” done by hand. By the time of the French Revolution, industrial-style factories with huge looms already existed to feed the ever-growing needs of the mercantile class. The march of the machine only intensified through the true age of steam and beyond.

But factory-issued doesn’t spell the end of handmade! The ladies of the Victorian era were indefatigable crafters, knitting and crocheting and tatting lace, creating dresses from patterns found in popular magazines like Peterson’s. (Go ahead and look through a recent issue of Cosmo to find a pattern for a handmade morning dress with lace collar. Go ahead. We’ll stay right here and wait for you to get back.)

Imagine reading an instruction for a knitted piece that said, simply: “cast on sufficient stitches for piece, knit in pattern to completion, bind off in pattern.” That’s the rawest pattern you may ever see!

Yet if a lady knew what she was doing — through years of expertise and practice — she could take that minimalist pattern and create something useful and beautiful.

The ladies of Mischief is a collective of knitters, crafters, artists, and steampunk enthusiasts who are creating a book to explore the amalgamation of knitting and steampunk. We are working hard to have this work completed by the spring.

The patterns in our book are more like the most fantastic, intricate creations the Victorians could dream of — complicated and delicate, beautiful and fine. Don’t worry — we will walk you through each step, row by row and line by line.

You won’t need a hand-cranked home sock machine, as some Victorian ladies used (although don’t let us discourage you from getting one… and modifying it to according to own designs, of course!).

All you need are the same forthright spirit of adventure that rises up to meet the call: “I am a puzzle to be solved, a pattern to be plumbed and understood, a challenge to be met!”

Join us in new adventures and let’s make textile history together!

~The Ladies of Mischief


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It’s Day #14 of NaNoWriMo. As of last night, most should be around 22k to stay on track word count wise. Anyone hit 30k yet? 40k?

If you need some inspiration the Happily Ever After Blog over at USA Today is checking in weekly with romance writers doing NaNo.

Amazing news on the book front.  Innocent Darkness popped up for pre-order on Amazon. If you have a moment, could you please go tag it with “steampunk”? Pretty, pretty please with cupcakes on top? Also, if you want to read it on Kindle, make your you press the little button to tell my publisher that there’s interest.

I’ve also crossed over to the darkside and gotten a Facebook author page.  Like it for book news and such, if you wish. 

The NaNo Cheater Challenge is still going on my personal blog and it’s not too late to join in the fun.

So how is everyone doing on their goals? Here’s my wordcount so far as I chip away at book #2 in my Aether Chronicles series (sequel to Innocent Darkness).

Day 7     2467      
Day 8     1662      
Day 9     1195      
Day 10   2200      
Day 11   4750      
Day 12   1324      
Day 13   5152      
Grand Total so Far: 36305

Some days are good, some days aren’t. There were a few days I was just too tired to write at night, so I only had my lunch time counts. I just do what I can each day and try to make up for it on the weekends.

I’ve hit a huge road block in this WIP. I’ve written myself a character who would actually know and care how an airship works. Right now, she’s on an airship, which means *I* need to know how my airship works right down to the repairs she’s making on the engine. This has been quite the challenge for me (and I’ve spent a lot of time complaining about it on Twitter.) I just don’t know enough about airships — and yes, it’s steampunk, I can and will make things up, but at the same time, I like to know what the rules are so I can break them — and there is *so* much to learn I’m getting overwhelmed. I need to decide how much fantasy I will have in my world (versus something very realistic), and even then I want it to be somewhat plausible (maybe) — or at least fit within what I’ve built in book 1.

I’ve been using a lot of [insert proper name here] and the like, but at the same time, that only works for some details, the big things, like what the ship looks like, what runs the engines, where they’re located in the ship, the ship’s layout, what keeps the ship afloat–those things I need to know so I can actually write the story. When you don’t have much writing time, this research can slow you down. Because in this point of the story these things are so important I’ve had to look up a lot of things, and ask a lot of questions, and ponder a lot of things. So I’ve just had to suck it up and do what I can, though I know I’m going to have to do a lot of fact-checking and detail adding in re-writes. The reason why I’m having to take so much care in all this is because it’s in character with my MC. Noli likes to fix things, so her not knowing these things, asking about these things, or caring about these things, would be very much out of character for her, not to mention, some things are plot points. If she didn’t care about these things, I wouldn’t need to care about them so much either. (Why did I write myself an MC who likes to fix things, again?)

Thanks to everyone online so far who’s explained things to me, sent me links, etc. I’m still looking for more links and *really easy to understand* explanations. All of this is a little out of my comfort level, and I am getting overwhelmed and bogged down, which I can’t do, since this is NaNo. Must. Get. Wordcount.

Even with all my progress, I think December is going to be “Novel FInishing Month” and January is going to be “Novel Editing Month.” Anyone game?

So that’s where I am in my NaNo progress.

How are you doing? What have been your trails and triumphs this week?

Also, we have our winner of DARKER STILL by Leanna Hieber:

What The Cat Read

Please contact me to claim your prize. 

Until next week, write on!

Suzanne Lazear writes steampunk tales for teens.  Her debut novel, INNOCENT DARKNESS, book one of The Aether Chronicles, releases August 2012 from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.

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Heather Hiestand is the author of seven novels and numerous novellas and short stories. Her latest release is a steampunk romance novella, Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas.

Airships on my Mind

by Heather Hiestand

Thanks for allowing me to visit today, Steamed!, and discuss one of my favorite topics.

Gadgets are a perpetually exciting part of writing steampunk and the airship is one of the most durable elements. Some authors have them drifting across the sky, providing a backup, some have characters travelling on them in casual fashion, and some of our characters have to get a bit more up close and personal with these lighter-than-air machines. There are as many variations to the airship as there are writers to imagine them.

Here is the first view of an airship in my novella, Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas:

Linet dashed back to the window. Yes, a rope ladder, just like the ones she’d climbed thousands of times to her father’s dirigible, the Christmas, dangled outside, a little lower now. Ladders had been the staircases of her life until she was seventeen, carrying her from earth to sky, larceny to freedom.

Who had found her? Her father had enemies, to be sure, but no enemy would be visiting her on Christmas Eve. No one from her old life had crossed her path in all this time. Perhaps her sister Terrwyn had finally reappeared?

She reached through the window and grabbed the ladder, then frowned. That knot with a gash on the left side looked familiar. One rung was painted red, the next, green. Her gaze rose, unbelieving.

The Christmas tossed gently, grandly, merrily, on the wind, the green and red-striped balloon over the deck radiating holiday cheer. She watched the propellers turn for a minute, dumbfounded.

When I wrote Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas, I didn’t have to know too much about airships, but as I write the sequel, Captain Fenna’s Dirigible Valentine, I’m having to understand them a bit more. Lots of sky battles in the new story! I’m far from an expert, but I’m making use of some excellent websites.

Here is my list:

To start, Wikipedia always has great information. http://www.wikipedia.org. Just search on whatever term you are wondering about, like dirigible or zeppelin.

I use Mapquest to figure out travel routes for my airships. http://www.mapquest.com

If you need to understand the basic parts of a dirigible, here is a good site:  http://history.howstuffworks.com/world-war-i/dirigible1.htm

Fantastic real world information:  http://www.airships.net/

Need some help with air acrobatics? http://www.greenharbor.com/fffolder/questions.html#anchor1234506

I use actual ships to figure out layout and size of the ship part of my flying contraptions. Sales sites for ships, versus aircraft, are very handy for that. One site I use, that has slideshows of actual boats, is:  http://www.boatquest.com.

This is a discussion on Steampunk Empire about building steampunk airships and models:  http://www.thesteampunkempire.com/forum/topics/building-an-actual-airship?xg_source=activity&id=2442691%3ATopic%3A569797&page=2

~ Heather Hiestand

Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas links:









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I’d like to wish a Happy Release Day to fellow Steamed Lolita Leanna Renee Hieber — her YA debut Darker Still releases today. 

Goodreads description: 

The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

New York City, 1882. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart’s latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing…

Jonathan Denbury’s soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.

I am very, very excited about this book and can’t wait to read this. 

Normally, I’d have a review or a contest or something.  But a) I haven’t read it yet.  B) I have no pretty ARC to give you. C) I’ve been busy with my own edits/sequel and haven’t had the time to think of something clever.

Lame, I know. 

However, I’m going run a contest anyway, because you must read this book.  I adore Leanna and I know it’ll be just as good (or better) as her Percy Parker series. 

So one lucky winner will get a copy–and Leanna will even sign it. 

All you have to do is leave me a comment telling me how much you want to read it (or how you’ll read it) — be creative.  This will not be random.  I will pick the entry that makes me snort coffee out my nose the hardest, makes me cry, or go awww, or, well, you know. 

Because the book will be shipped to the winner directly from Word this contest is US only (I am so sorry, you international readers rock.)  Contest ends Sunday. November 13th, 11:59 PM, PST.

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So, who’s doing NaNoWriMo?  How are you all doing?  Anyone hit 10k? 15k?  20k? 

Anyone haven’t started yet?  🙂

I’m running a “NaNo Cheater Challenge” on my personal blog.  It’s for those who what to harness the energy of NaNoWriMo, but can’t play by their rules.  All you need is a goal.  There are prizes, including pretty steampunky ones.  It’s not too late to sign up. 

If you’re writing Steampunk for NaNoWriMo go graffiti the forum over at Steampunk.com — it’s lonely. 

For National Novel Writing Month I am attempting to write book 2 in my Aether Chronicles Series.  Here’s my progress so far:

Day 1 925
Day 2 1504
Day 3 3430
Day 4 3438
Day 5 3894
Day 6 3654

Total words: 17555

Thus far I have killed someone off, broken hearts, made someone do something they didn’t want to, gotten someone drunk, and left someone stranded in a far off city.  I’ve had carousels, hoverboards, burnt cooking, and tree houses.   I’m in chapter 5.   This is a raw no-holds-bard rougher than rough draft.  Any and all of this could change.  Especially the opening two chapters.  Book 2 started off a little slow, since with my day job I don’t always have time beyond my meager lunch break to write, but I worked up quite the momentum, carried it through the weekend and now have a nice bank of words as a hedge against lean writing days.   Usually I reasearch as I go, but I don’t always have time for that, so I’ve been leaving myself notes unless it’s a quick Google, which has been hard for me.  fortunately, I haven’t had to create anything brand spanking new yet, but this week will take my characters someplace they didn’t go in book 1 , so we’ll see how long the notes and brackets hold up.

If you need some motivation, the Happily Ever After Blog checks in with some authors doing NaNoWriMo.

I’m going to continue to chip away at this book scene by scene and take the days as they come, high wordcounts and low.  That’s my plan for the week.  What’s yours?

Also, we have a winner for the Secret Scents locket giveaway…

Catherine D.


Congrats, contact me to claim your prize. 

Until next week, write on!

Suzanne Lazear writes steampunk tales for teens.  Her debut novel, INNOCENT DARKNESS, book one of The Aether Chronicles, releases August 2012 from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.

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Today we welcome Natalie Zaman.

Natalie Zaman is the co-author of Sirenz (out now) and Sirenz Back In Fashion (2012)  with Charlotte Bennardo.  Her work has appeared in various magazines, newspapers, e-zines and anthologies for adults and children. She’s currently plotting disasters for the characters of Sirenz and working on a Victorian steampunk fantasy for teens. Natalie lives in central New Jersey with her family and several fine looking chickens.

The Mourning After

by Natalie Zaman

The thing that drew me to attempt to try writing Steampunk—or, considering my MS, Steampunk-lite ;)—was its Victorian sensibility. There’s something about 19th century life, minus the cholera, questionable standards of cleanliness, mortality rate…

Our forebears who lived in the previous-previous century were more closely connected to death than we are today—in ways that can seem, well, almost morbid. And they’ve left lots of fascinating clues to that connection in their ephemera and trinkets and clothing and customs. If loss is a part of your WIP, consider incorporating some details of Victorian mourning into your story to bring in a romantically dark aesthetic. Here are three of my favorites…


Hair is at once the most delicate and lasting of our materials, and survives us, like love.– Godely’s Lady’s Book, 1855

The good folks at Godely’s were quite right—hair lasts. And the Victorians, those sentimentalists, took it to heart. Another thing about hair—just about everyone had some (apologies to those with bare heads!). Not everyone could afford the more elaborate trappings of mourning, but hair weaving was a skill that anyone could master. For some it became an amusing parlor art, but for others, it was a means to pay tribute to a loved one.

Hair could be incorporated into jewelry—in the form of watch chains fabricated from lengthy braids…

An intricately braided watch chain made of human hair. Photo credit, sonnetofthemoon, flickr

… or plaits and portraits preserved under glass…

This image is made completely of human hair. The artist clipped the hair into tiny pieces and painted the picture with it

Hair could also be used to create larger, three dimensional pictures…

Mourning wreathes were usually horseshoe shaped (open to heaven). Flowers were formed by wrapping hair around wires and then shaping them into flowers and leaves. These often represented families rather than one single person. New elements were added to the wreath as people passed away

It’s important to note that not all hair jewelry and/or art was specific to mourning. I remember being showed a school-girl’s journal at an antique store with a section devoted to hair weavings for each of her friends, her remembrances of them. Sometimes large scale hair sculptures could be representative of communities or families with new elements being added with each new addition, rather than exit; births, marriages and adoptions.


Victorians were masters of the accessory. Just as they had specific attire for funerals and mourning, they had appropriate jewelry to compliment those shadowy suits and gowns. While some of the jewelry was certainly black—not all of it was. Symbolism was far more important in mourning jewelry than it being made out of black material—the most common being jet or the more affordable gutta percha (a natural form of rubber) or vulcanite—a substance created by the Goodyear company.

A brooch made of vulcanite. This material made it possible for jewelry to be massed produced. There are material tests that can be done on jewelry to determine whether it’s jet or vulcanite (as in tests for Bakelite)—but if a piece looks like it was molded rather than carved, it’s probably vulcanite.

Jewelry paid homage to the life of the person who passed. The story of their life and profession or vocation was told through symbols—and they weren’t always the associations that we have today…

Far from being a symbol of deception or evil, the snake was considered a symbol of eternity—all things considered, this could be quite comforting. But the sentiment transcended mourning. Snake jewelry could also be a love token. Prince Albert gave Victoria a snake engagement ring!


Post Mortem Photography.

Do you remember the film, The Others? Grace Stewart, played by Nicole Kidman stumbles upon a photo album that both disturbs and fascinates her—all of the pictures are of dead people. Not everyone could afford a painted portrait of a loved one. Photography made it possible for more people to keep images of those who were important to them. But this was an age where the mortality rate was high and disease could carry off anyone—old, young, generally healthy or otherwise—at any given time. Sometimes the post mortem photograph would be the only image a family would have of their loved one, especially if the person was young.

Mourning photos weren’t only taken of the dead—but those who mourned them. Sometimes the mourners would be captured with their loved ones, lying beside them or holding them. Or they would be alone, as in this image

Post mortem images can be beautiful, haunting, and let’s be honest—disturbing. Still, once viewed, it stays in the mind, a memory veiled with the mercurial haze of an old tintype. What would your character say or think if he was holding one of these in his hands?

Victorian Mourning Resources…

(Mourning art and jewelry) http://artofmourning.wordpress.com/

(Jet and Jet Jewerly) http://www.whitbyjet.co.uk/

(Hairwork) http://www.victorianhairartists.com/

(Post Mortem Photographs) http://burnspress.com/

(Post Mortem Photographs) http://thanatos.net/

(Victorian Rituals—mourning and otherwise) http://home.kendra.com/victorianrituals/vic2.htm

~Natalie Zaman


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Release day is a big deal for a writer. I mean, think about it. We work YEARS for this. Seriously. Today is particularly special because I have not one, but TWO, shiny brand new books out. But I’m only going to share my steampunk birthday book with my fellow steampunk lovers here at STEAMED!

The Hunter is my cowboy steampunk story from Zebra, and more or less what would happen if you mashed the television show Supernatural together with Wild Wild West and added a dollop of Indiana Jones. There’s action, adventure, supernatural nasties, danger, and romance.

The idea for the three brothers, all named after their father’s favorite guns, actually popped into my brain in 1998, when I was contemplating writing an entire linked family series. Winchester, Remington and Colt were the American cousins in the family. I knew the youngest, Colt, was an outlaw bent on being just like his outlaw father, while the oldest, Winchester was a law man determined to be the opposite of dear old dad and a law man. The middle brother, Remington, like so many middle kids, wasn’t like either one of his brothers and is an attorney, able to dabble on both sides of the law.

What I didn’t know about these guys for a long time was what held them together. It wasn’t until I started writing paranormals, that I realized why the idea had been put on the back shelf of my brain for so long, waiting for that little magical key to unlock the story for me. I realized they were paranormal Hunters. These brothers were so different, and yet they shared a common goal, a common history – that of being raised in the ways of the Legion of Hunters, protecting people from monsters they didn’t even know were real. Things like demons, vampires, werewolves, dark fae, ghosts, skinwalkers, and shapeshifters.

But having roots in romance meant that each brother was going to have to come up against an equally difficult opponent. One he would be attracted to and yet honor-bound to kill. So each brother got a Darkin to deal with. For Colt, who’s very much a ladies’ man, it was only fair I give him a succubus to deal with – the firey Lillith (Lilly) Arliss. Only Lilly isn’t like any demon he’s come up against and could be stone-cold about. She’s got a desire to become human again. If she helps him recover his father’s missing piece of the Book of Legend, she wants him to free her from being a demon. But there’s a high price. Higher than either of them anticipate.

And there are lots of people celebrating the book along with us, giving it reviews as presents!

Livre d Amour

Book Lovers Hideaway

All Things Urban Fantasy

Gutter Minx

Intense Whisper

Publishers’ Weekly

RT Bookreviews

I had a lot of fun developing such my steampunk world and can’t wait to share Winchester and Remington’s stories with you too! But for now I need to celebrate. There’s very few times of celebration between a whole lot of work when it comes to writing. So Happy Birthday to The Hunter!


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