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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