Archive for June, 2012

First I have a winner to announce.  BBS Used Book Buyers  you have won a copy of Jana Oliver’s The Demon Trapper’s Daughter. Please email me to claim your prize. There’s still time to win God Save the Queen by Kate Locke.

Now, on to today’s guest. Today we welcome Coleen Kwan, who’s first steampunk romance Asher’s Invention just released from Carina Press on Tuesday! ~launches cupcake canonon~

Coleen Kwan has been bookworm all her life. At school English was her favorite subject, but for some reason she decided on a career in IT. After many years of programming, she wondered what else there was in life — and discovered writing. She loves writing contemporary romance whether it’s sweet or sensual. She lives in Sydney with her partner and two children. When  not writing,she enjoys avoiding housework, eating chocolate, and watching The Office. Visit her at http://www.coleenkwan.com


A Greek Inventor and a Famous Chef

by Coleen Kwan 

Thanks for having me on your blog today!

 When I started writing steampunk, I found I had to do a lot more research than I realised. Now, research is a great way to put off actual writing, and it can also be fascinating.  As I trawled through the internet I stumbled upon some intriguing tidbits which I’d never known about.

Take the steam engine, for example. From my school days eons ago I assumed that the steam engine was invented around the turn of the eighteenth century by a Scottish engineer. Turns out an ancient Greek is credited with inventing the world’s first steam engine. Hero of Alexandria lived in the 1st century AD. He built the aeolipile, a steam-powered turbine.


 The aeolipile consists of a sphere which can rotate on its axis and has nozzles bent in opposite directions. Water is heated, either inside the sphere or in a boiler below, and the resulting steam shoots out the nozzles, which creates torque and drives the sphere which then starts rotating. It’s not known whether Hero’s aeolipile was put to any practical use, or whether it was just an interesting curiosity, but it’s definitely a steam engine.

 The aeolipile wasn’t Hero’s only invention. He also created automatons which he used to mount a fully automated play complete with special effects like fire and thunder. He also invented a vending machine which dispensed holy water when a user deposited a coin into a slot! This man was seriously gifted.

 From steam engines to food. How much food did the average 19th century epicure eat? In Alexis Soyer’s ‘The Modern Housewife’ (published 1849) he details a list of average daily meals:

“BREAKFAST.––Three quarters of a pint of coffee, four ounces of bread, one ounce of butter, two eggs, or four ounces of meat, or four ounces of fish.
“LUNCH.––Two ounces of bread, two ounces of meat, or poultry, or game, two ounces of vegetables, and a half pint of beer, or a glass of wine.
“DINNER.––Half a pint of soup, a quarter of a pound of fish, half a pound of meat, a quarter of a pound of poultry, a quarter of a pound of savory dishes or game, two ounces of vegetables, two ounces of bread, two ounces of pastry or roasts, half an ounce of cheese, a quarter of a pound of fruit, one pint of wine, one glass of liqueur, one cup of coffee or tea; at night one glass of spirits and water.”

It’s also interesting to note the huge variety of food that was eaten in those times. They ate pigeons, partridges, grouse, plovers, teals, peacocks, deer, eels, turtle, hares, and a huge variety of fish.

Soyer was one of the most celebrated cooks in Victorian England. During the Great Irish Famine of 1847 he invented a soup kitchen in Dublin which dispensed soup for free to thousands of starving poor people.

So, a Greek inventor and a famous chef — just two of the interesting tidbits I uncovered during the writing of my first steampunk romance.

 ~Coleen Kwan



Asher’s Invention

Five years ago, Asher Quigley broke his engagement to Minerva Lambkin, believing she was an accomplice in a scheme to steal his prototype for a wondrous device. Minerva swore she was innocent, though the thief—and Asher’s mentor—was her own father.

Now, sheer desperation has driven Minerva to Asher’s door. Her father has been kidnapped by investors furious that he’s never been able to make the machine work. Only Asher, now a rich and famous inventor in his own right, can replicate the device. He’s also become a hard, distant stranger far different from the young idealist she once loved.

Despite their troubled past, Asher agrees to help Minerva. He still harbors his suspicions about her, but their reunion stirs emotions and desires they both thought were buried forever. Can they rebuild their fragile relationship in time to save her father and their future together?

Purchase Asher’s Invention at

Carina Press http://bit.ly/KEP0io

Amazon http://amzn.to/IpClNx

Amazon UK http://amzn.to/Id8RZq

Barnes & Noble http://bit.ly/IavZXG

iTunes http://bit.ly/M2VD0C


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Renaissance Overflow

This photo isn’t exactly an example of what the term has come to mean among my acquaintances, since the assets it shows are all tucked into the wearer’s corset, but it’s the closest I have. Anyone who’s ever been to a Renaissance event knows what I mean–the well-endowed woman whose bodice is a couple sizes too small and gets sort of a forward-muffin top. Mind you, the term wasn’t meant to be used as derogatory. The males I hang out with are more than happy to view feminine assets any way they can.

The phrase, Renaissance overflow actually originated among my circle of friends at an SF con. Near the corset booth in the vendor room, big surprise. Mr. Cindy and another friend were enjoying the sights, as it were, and the friend remarked that it was interesting how much overlap there was among the things one saw at an SF con and the things one saw at a Renaissance faire. Mr. Cindy immediately dubbed it Renaissance overflow, and the term almost immediately took on a double meaning–the too-snug bodice and the commonality one finds at Renaissance events and SF or steampunk gatherings.

I’ve been pondering this. Why so much overlap? The more I look, the more I see. I’ve watched the same groups performing at both World Steam Expo and  Renaissance faires (shout out to The Theatrical Combat Network, The Bawdy Boys and Thee Bluebeard.) I’ve shopped from the same vendors, my favorite being Pendragon/Mad Girl costumes. I have corsets from them in both my steampunk and Renaissance boxes. I see steampunk jewelry and hats for sale at Renaissance faires and Elizabethan items at SF cons. Clearly they appeal to the same group of people to an unexpected degree.

Or is it unexpected? Steampunk as a fiction genre grew largely out of the aesthetic, not the other way around. A lot of the early adopters of the aesthetic were grown ups who already liked to play dress up for fun and/r profit–meaning reenactors of one kind or another. Civil war reenactment probably has a bit of crossover as well, I just haven’t seen it since I don’t do that one. I’d also guess there’s some overlap with the serious medieval reenactment crowd, aka SCA. One thing I can see that might be awkward there is that serious historical groups tend to be sticklers for period accuracy and steampunk is all about NOT being historically correct.

And that would be why I think the biggest crossover crowd is the casual costume and any-period-works-for-me fan. We (because I do include myself here) enjoy immersing ourselves in another world, whether or not that world ever actually existed. I love steampunk events, and I dress accordingly but I also love medieval or Renaissance faires and whatever other cool things I can go to. (FYI, there are always a few sticklers who glare at my elf ears if I wear them with a period costume, but there are always a bunch who adore them.) I’m hoping a Ragtime Street Fair is in the plans for July, though real life may get in the way. The thing is, when I go to something, I love feeling like I’m part of it, even if I’m paying for my ticket at the gate and not part of the cast or crew. I think there are a lot of us like that. Many of us probably also read, and maybe even read across a variety of genres, because reading gives us that immersion experience we crave. Are we really a bunch of overly tall children playing dress up? Probably. Do I care? Not in the slightest. Life is too short not to take your fun where you can find it.

That’s the deal for me. Renaissance faires and steampunk are both FUN. So is reading. So garb up or grab a book and have a ball! If you’re doing so in Michigan this summer, look for me when you do. 😉



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It’s book Monday!  Today I’m gushing about God Save the Queen.  One lucky commenter will win my ARC and I got it *signed* by Kate Locke over the weekend for you.  Open internationally, closes July 1, at 11:59 PM PST. 

God Save the Queen by Kate Locke
Book 1, The Immortal Empire
Orbit, July 3rd, 2012
ARC provided by Orbit

When Orbit asked me if I wanted to read this new steampunk urban fantasy series, I was like, um, heck yeah.  The basic premise of God Save the Queen had me intrigued immediately.  It’s 2012 and Queen Victoria is still in power–and is a Vampire.  Told from the point of view of 22 year-old Xandra Vardan we’re taken on a wild romp through an alternate history where the British Aristocracy are paranormal and technology has evolved in a very steampunkian sort of way.  They have many of the same types of devices we have (cars, cell phones, etc), but they run on different technologies.  Xandra Vardan is a “halvie” — her father is a Vampire, her mother human.  The halvies often act as protectors to the paranormal aristocracy and Xandra is an elite guard.  When her sister goes missing, she’s plunged into a darker side of society, and once she starts digging for the truth, nothing will ever be the same. 

I love Xandra, because she’s a badass.  She’ll also go to great lengths for her family, especially her missing sister.  She’s resourceful, intelligent, and can kick ass in a ball gown.  What’s not to love?  In addition to the action and intrigue, there’s also romance.  Oh, Vex.  Yes, Vex is a sexy werewolf, and an alpha, but he’s also very supportive, which was a great twist from the usual grabby alpha male.

Her world is incredible, weaving in technology, alternate history, and myth and legend. It’s gritty and dark, despite the balls and parties of the aristocracy, which Xandra often attends due to her position in the guard.  In addition to Vampires and Werewolves, we also meet the Goblins, which add a great twist to the many-layered culture Kate has created.  Like any good “punk” there’s plenty of rebellion, especially among the humans, who feel oppressed by, and are a bit afraid of, the paranormal aristocracy.  I have a feeling that war may break out in future books…

God Save the Queen is a great romp through alternate London, a fun and exciting read that’s hard to put down.  I actually had to stop myself from reading it and wait until I had an opportunity to read uninterrupted, because once I got about 5 chapters in I didn’t want to stop, and literally stayed planted on the bed reading while my child watched cartoons and ate cookies for the rest of the afternoon.  The ending left me wanting for more and I love how she has explanations and a glossary in the back.

Seriously, I loved this book and had a hard time formulating a review that was more than “crazy good shit” and “this books kicks ass.”  If you’re a fan of the Parasol Protectorate books, I’d recommend checking this out.  I can’t wait for book 2 to see what happens to Xandra next.  Can’t I have it now?


Suzanne Lazear writes about steampunk faeries.  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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“Lolita Seleste!”

I snapped to attention as the captain strode toward the engine, her bustle sweeping through the soot on the floor. Soot I should have cleaned hours ago. “Aye, Captain!”

“I was under the impression you had some experience with steam engines when you requested to take up this post. Was I mistaken?”

My gaze darted to the left where turbines and pistons moved in much the same manner as they had when I arrived. Which meant they weren’t yet at full capacity. “No, Captain. The hitch in the works is a wee bit more complicated than I–”

“Excuses, Lolita I have no time or tolerance for them. We need to be at full power by nightfall. Get back to work.” Picking up her bustle as she spun around, she scowled at me. “And this place will be ship-shape by morning. Have I made myself clear?”

“Aye, Captain.”

As soon as she left the engine room, I kicked the offending turbine. “Work, blast you!”

When I said I could fix the steam engine, I’d anticipated a simple problem. Something quick. I’d been down here for three days, tinkering with the damned thing. By nightfall, she said. If I didn’t figure this out soon, I had a feeling my time on board might quickly be reaching its conclusion.


In other words, I am neck deep in revisions for Clockwork Mafia. They’re going fairly quickly (which is nice), but small changes have proved very invasive and have led to… a lot of changes. As I announced on Twitter last night, readers who felt Badlands was too short will be happy to know that this installment of the story is roughly twice as long. And… I got a release date last night! Clockwork Mafia will go on sale April 29, 2013. I know, I know, it’s a long way off, but I am hoping to have the third book out in 2013 as well. (As long as the writing gods cooperate at least.)

For now, however, I need to get back to Henrietta Mason and her rogue clockworks. I do promise a more infotaining post next time (that’s informational/entertaining for those who didn’t know :P)

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Today we welcome Jana Oliver.  One lucky commenter will recieve a signed copy of The Demon Trapper’s Daugther.  (Open internationally, contest closes 6/27/12 at 11:59 pm PST).

Jana Oliver is the author various alternate history novels, including the award-winning Time Rovers Series. Folks are always welcome at her website (JanaOliver.com) or at her Facebook page.

Why Steampunk is like a TARDIS®?

by Jana Oliver

I am extremely fond of all things steampunk, but that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise since I’m writing a post for a blog dedicated to the subject. So bear with me as I explain why the steampunk is a lot like a TARDIS. For those of you who are not Dr. Who fans, this is a TARDIS. One of the cool things about this handy machine, besides being able to travel through time, is that it is bigger on the inside than on the outside.

In many ways, that’s exactly what steampunk has become. Once a quiet niche for a few enthusiasts, it now encompasses a variety of expressions and has gone worldwide. Today there are a myriad of steampunk activities available: artwork, music, literature, technology and various types of social interaction.

The original concept for steampunk, the curious marriage of technology and love of Victoriana, have given us such fine offspring as Cherie Priest’s BONESHAKER, Clay and Susan Griffith’s THE GREYFRIAR, Abney Park and The Extraordinary Contraptions, Hugo and countless steampunk conventions.

So what is it about this “movement” that is so compelling? What lures new folks into its web (steel-plated of course) and holds them in thrall? Could it be that very TARDIS-like feature I mentioned earlier, that the inside of steampunk holds so much more room for innovation than other pursuits?

I would argue that steampunk’s very open architecture is what has made it as powerful as it is. There is no one steampunk, no rigid rules that all must adhere to. If you can’t sing or convert existing items to a new form, maybe you’re great at costuming or creating digital artwork. Maybe you’re good at putting words together and can tell a great tale of adventure or a delightful children’s story.

That’s one of the reasons I’m so fond of steampunk. Within its big tent, there is room for everyone, room for all forms of human expression. Innovation and creativity flow within steampunk’s metallic veins where one is not confined to the “we’ve always done it that way” mentality. Which is why steampunk will continue to evolve as those within its “walls” take it in new and interesting directions.

For an author, that means the steampunk I know today may be completely different in a year. Such fluidity allows for creative change which will flow into other parts of the participants’ lives. Already steampunk is affecting the “mundane” world in terms of design, entertainment choices and beyond.

We need creative and imaginative people and that’s what steampunk provides: a ready source of intelligent, unique and curious folk who are very happy to color outside the lines. The ability to look beyond the ordinary, to dream of new technology, outlandish solutions and workarounds is what put us on the moon and created such marvels as the Internet. Is it not possible that steampunk can also improve our chances of survival as a species?

At the very core of every steampunker is the echo of one of the masters of such innovation and I’m sure that Leonardo da Vinci smiles a little every time another cog is designed or another airship launched.

So don’t worry, there’s plenty of room inside this steampunk Tardis. We can go wherever we want, see new worlds or create them, for that matter. That is what steampunk is all about: there are no boundaries.

 ~Jana Oliver

Comment below to be entered to win.  One lucky commenter will recieve a signed copy of Jana’s YA The Demon Trapper’s Daugther.  (Open internationally, contest closes 6/27/12 at 11:59 pm PST).

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Westernpunk Fun

I have seen different terms, cowpunk, weird west, and westernpunk, but I prefer the later. One of the greatest examples of Westernpunk is the old television show, Wild Wild West. Though a western, all the 19th century high tech spy gadgetry made it Steampunk. Even though James West and Artemus Gordon didn’t fly on an airship, they lived in the luxury compartment of a steam powered train. That wasn’t the only western that had Steampunk influences before Steampunk was cool. In the 1967 movie, The War Wagon, with John Wayne and Kirk Douglas, the duke drove a stage coach with metal sides and a Gatling gun mounted on it as they crossed the wild, dangerous west. The perfect vehicle for a westernpunk story.

Giant prehistoric Armadillo

Giant prehistoric Armadillo

Keep in mind people wore goggles in the west on wagon trains to keep the dust out of their eyes. And of course trains run on steam. Nineteenth century locomotives were bigger than life with huge grills in front and towering smoke billowing out. Their long, powerful iron bodies were adorned with decorative brass, gleaming in the hot western sun as they cut across the wild, spacious west. They emitted an orchestra of musical sounds, including the steam whistle and the chuffing noise of the train. All of these things add to the ambiance and settings of Westernpunk stories.

Wild West Soldier

Wild West Soldier

There are several western states you can set a Steampunk story in but you might want to look at Texas. As a Texan I can say lots of weird, fantastic, and strange things occurred in Texas in the 19th century and are great inspiration for Westernpunk tales. You may not know but it was a Texan, Jacob Brodbeck, who built and flew the first airplane. He called it a flying machine. The first take off occurred in 1866 in Gillespie County, Texas. It ran off a powerful clockwork motor and a series of gears. This large motor didn’t build up enough power for the machine to take off on its own. Brodbeck built a ski-jump type ramp on the side of a hill near Fredericksburg, he’d take his flying machine to the top of it, and as it gained speed sliding down he’d start the motor. He could fly for three or four minutes with power, then he’d glide to a landing.

Steampunk Riffle Man

Steampunk Riffle Man

Another weird piece of Texas history is the alien UFO crash of 1897 which took place in Aurora Texas.  A cigar-shaped UFO plowed though a windmill, destroying it. The good folk of Aurora discovered a space alien inside, who died upon impact. They gave him a Christian burial. Someone stole the space alien’s tombstone but the state of Texas erected a historical marker at the cemetery, which reads, “This site is also well known because of the legend that a spaceship crashed nearby in 1897 and the pilot, killed in the crash was buried here.”

The Dallas Morning News printed the story and it can be read online. It stated an airship hit the tower of Judge Proter’s windmill, blew into pieces in a terrific explosion scattering parts of the UFO over several acres, wrecking the windmill and water tank, and destroying the Judge’s flower garden. The pilot, the only one in the spaceship, died upon impact and though his body was badly disfigured it was evident he was not an inhabitant of this world.


saloon girl

Then they’re the ghost lights of Marfa Texas. Ghost lights occur around the world, with orange the most common color. The Marfa lights are usually orange, red, white and yellow, but green and blue have been reported. In addition to numerous sightings, the lights have been documented many times in photographs and video images. Several videos of the lights can be viewed on YouTube. Every night, onlookers, hoping to spot the lights, stop by the circular viewing center, located about eight miles east of Marfa, it includes a picnic area, restrooms, and a parking lot. A recorded sighting of the ghost lights in Marfa Texas was first published in 1957, but many claim observations of the lights go back at least to the 1800’s. Some say the Apaches who lived in the area spoke of them though there is no hard evidence of that.

western moustache

western moustache

Also Texas was its own country for a while, with its own president and its own money. Texas wanted to join the U.S. but what if it didn’t? What if Texas stayed a country? As for that idea, think of all those places in the U. S. originally owned by Spain and France. I know when my Fife ancestors originally came to Mississippi in the late 18th century they had a Spanish land grant. What if some of those areas never became part of the U. S. You could have Spanish or French territories surrounded by U. S. states. That would make for a good Steampunk story. It reminds me of the Steampunk book, The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming.

Then there’s the shoot-em-up wild west. Would the addition of Steampunk weapons make it more lawless or less?  Obviously it would depend on who had the biggest, baddest guns. What if Native Americans had high-tech weaponry?

Saloon Gal

As you can see the American west makes as good a setting for Steampunk as Victorian London does. Cherie Priest (Boneshaker) and Devon Monk (Dead Iron) have had great success with using the west for their Steampunk takes. I wish the same success to any Steamed readers setting a Steampunk story in the wild west.

~ Maeve Alpin

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Yeah, so I know Maeve already reviewed Timeless but I love these books so much, I’m going to gush about it anyway.  I also haven’t done “Book Monday” in awhile (where I gush about books I love, for those of you who don’t know).  So…here’s today’s book:

Timeless –Book #5, Parasol Protectorate
by Gail Carriger

(copy provided by Orbit)

All good things must come to an end, and Timeless is the last book Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series.  Sure, she has two new series coming out, but alas, Lord Maccon and Alexia’s story has come to an end. 

I love these books – their charm, wit, humor, and ability to make me laugh out loud in undignified ways while on airplanes.  Book #5 was no exception.

In this book Alexia and company travel to Egypt in an adventure that doesn’t disappoint.  Prudence cracks me up, and Carriger accurate portrayal of life with a toddler (especially bathtime) had me rolling. 

Though I was a tiny disappointed not to get the full Alexia origins story, this story did not disappoint overall.  There was plenty of Ivy and her hats, Akeldam’s wit, Madame Lefoux’s intrigue, and the amazing love and respect shared by Lord Maccon and Alexia (which always makes me swoon).

And Biffy!  I was pleasantly surprised by darling Biffy.  I hope we haven’t seen the last of him.

I know we haven’t seen the last of Prudence and I look forward to reading about her in her series, Parasol Protectorate Abroad.

Have you read it?  What did you think?


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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