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Archive for July, 2012

One of the greatest things about the Steampunk community is that as an adherent to our modern throw-away culture, they make treasure from trash. At a panel recently at Comicpalooza on Steampunk Show and Tell, I saw and heard some examples of costuming accessories made form trash or garage sale finds.

Steampunk Rifleman

Steampunk Rifleman

Pictured here, Steampunk Riffleman holds his creation fashioned from an old bb gun and a garage sale erector set find.  Also the Lady Airship Captain on the panel made a period style hoop skirt out of coat hangers for under $5.00. Click here to see the hat, I found online, made out of a cereal box, with directions on how to make it.  Click here to see a wicked top hat with goggles made from can tabs, two beer cans, and two soda pop bottles.These pictures and these show and tell type panels and exhibits throughout the world at various conventions and conferences celebrate the amazing art and creativity that is Steampunk.

Never forget, it began as a literary movement. So many things begin with literary, with a book and then the movie or TV show springs from it and so many people forget about the book. Many of us who write Steampunk also have personas and create costumes and many of us are poor and need everything on the cheap so many of us have created our costumes from thrift store finds or from what’s already in our closet. I certainly have. But also we can apply the directive – when you can’t get what you want use creativity – to our writing.

Coming into Steampunk from writing historical, which I researched well by keeping up with the latest archeological finds and newest historical theories, and with years of studying the ancient Celts, I had to keep pushing my guilt aside when writing alternate history. I don’t think I should have felt guilty, instead I should have celebrated my creativity in finding a way to make my story better by changing history a bit. It’s similar to the directive of making what you can’t afford to buy. If we can’t make the history work then we create new history for the story. In Steampunk it’s not only history we are creative with, we often have to do the same thing with Science.

 

Victorian Ghost, watch out for my ghost debilitater machine

Victorian Ghost, watch out for my ghost debilitater machine

In To Love A London ghost I had to introduce a machine, a ghost debilitater, the entire plot rested on, and to invent this machine, knowledge of protons and neutrons had to be available, even though they hadn’t yet been discovered in the time period of my story. Of course I had my mad scientist turn out to be a genius who discovered protons and neutrons but never announced his discovery as he meant to keep if for himself and get rich off of it.  Then I had to describe them in a way that most people would understand without using the words protons or neutrons. To be honest, I had a moment of guilt and feared someone criticizing the way I fudged the science. Knowing this machine wouldn’t actually work to change a ghost into a human, at that part in the story I had three things going on, beams crossing on my machine, a druid chanting to the gods, and a witch casting a spell, so when the heroine is suddenly alive, more than 1500 years after her death, even my characters aren’t sure if it’s due to the science or the magic or the combinations of both. Instead of fearing someone will say that is the silliest thing they’ve ever heard of, I and all authors should take a lesson from the Steampunk community and celebrate our amazing creativity. Sometimes we can’t make our stories work in the actual world, with real science or real history, just like sometime Steampunks can’t afford to buy things they want for their costumes, but still they are proud of what they are able to make on their own that is usually better than what they wanted to buy.

Maeve Alpin

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Hi everyone!  INNOCENT DARKNESS releases in a week and a half — in fact, pre-orders are already starting to ship!  I’m busy, busy getting everything ready for the blog tour, virtural launch party, launch party, etc. So, I invited Vivian to guest review The Greyfriar for me.  

The Greyfriar, Vampire Empire, Book 1
by Clay & Susan Griffith
PYR 2010
Review by Vivian

The Greyfriar is a standout in the steampunk genre. Set in an alternate world, vampires have taken over much of
the world. In 1870, they emerged as a vicious outbreak and dominated the humans. These vampires aren’t your
friendly sparkling variety. They are omnipotent and diabolical. Having invaded the Northern territories, the
human survivors were forced to move South. The fight for territory would be bloody and deadly.

Princess Adele of Alexandria is set to marry the American Senator Clark. An arrangement the would unify their
people so they can engage is an all out war against the enemy. As her ship is attacked by vampires, Princess
Adele is rescued by a mysterious stranger. The Greyfriar is her savior, but soon the masked crusader is overtaken
and unfortunately, she is kidnapped by the infamous Prince Cesare.

The world building was just magnificent in this novel. There is a lot of it, but it really sets the scene. You can
just visualize the death and brutality in every page. Incorporating airships and weapons to give it a steampunk flair,
The Greyfriar becomes a refreshing vampire novel.

This book really surprised me. I just fell for the Greyfriar. He was mysterious and enigmatic but vulnerable at
times to really draw you in. He is a very complex man and I can’t wait to get past his more of his layers. Adele goes through
her own transformation. She starts off as a naive Princess who grows some spine towards the end of the novel.

The Griffiths really hooked me in creating a world that could mirror our own. Captivating from the start, the action and
adventure will keep you riveted until the end. Blending a budding romance, political conspiracies and vampires, The Greyfriar
is unforgettable.

~Vivian

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Today we welcome author Nick Harkaway. His new novel ANGELMAKER is a “blistering gangster noir meets howling absurdist comedy as the forces of good square off against the forces of evil, and only an unassuming clockwork repairman and an octogenarian former superspy can save the world from total destruction.”

Nick Harkaway was born in 1972, a distinction he shares with Carmen Electra (allegedly), a collection of indifferent wines, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album, and a company which makes guttering in Pietermaritzburg. He is tall and has a shaggy and unkempt look about him which even the best grooming products cannot entirely erase. His eyebrows were at one time wanted on a charge of ruckus and affray in the state of Utah, but this unhappy passage has now been resolved. He is the author of ANGELMAKER and THE GONE-AWAY WORLD, which was originally titled THE WAGES OF GONZO LUBITSCH– a name which still occasionally crops up on Amazon lists. The new title was adopted because no one could pronounce the old one, and because while he originally intended people to think of Gonzo the Muppet, it was apparent that a majority of readers defaulted to Hunter S. Thompson instead.

Hi Nick, welcome to STEAMED. ANGELMAKER sounds both fun and facinating. Where did you get the ideas for this story?

Nick Harkaway: Everywhere. I get ideas from everything around me, all the time. In this case there was my own criminal granddad and his bent mates, who were the subject of all manner of tall and hilarious tales when I was growing up (but who were monstrous in person and whose company in the real world I was mercifully spared). Then there was the broken clockwork toy on the café table in Primrose Hill, and – inevitably – Jules Verne’s submarine. There were Capra’s movies and my friend Tom’s observation that villains are more interesting than heroes because villains are always launching a revolution where heroes are proponents of the often-miserable status quo. There was Al-Mas’udi’s recounting of the history of Manfarqalas the war elephant of Mansura, and there was an article in the Independent about a despised and utterly blameless ethnicity in southern Europe.

Is ANGELMAKER more character-driven or plot-driven or both? How so?

Nick: The separation is a false one; in any story, you come to know the characters by what they do and feel in the context of the events which unfold. At the same time the more they become involved in those events the more they influence them and the whole thing unrolls together. Style is in there, too – the voice is derived from and partially constrains what can happen and how it can be told; it gives mood to the perceptions of the characters and determines whether we see them from within or without, whether we sympathize or mock. You can’t ultimately separate these things from one another – though it’s fashionable in some circles to try to snip one part away to look at it in depth, that approach inevitably misses a large part of what’s going on.

Here at STEAMED, we love to read book about awesome women. What kind of heroine do you have and how does she relate to the hero?

Nick: There are three central women in this story: Edie Banister, who when we first meet her is retired and 90-odd years old, but who in her youth was a full-blown James Bond-style secret agent for the British Government’s most clandestine service. Young Edie is dryly ironic, desperate to escape her boring existence, physical and smart. Old Edie is complex, her young self still burning inside her. Along the road she’s fallen in love, fallen out of love with her government and her previous profession, and won and lost a lot. I love them both: Young Edie would have broken my heart, Old Edie would inspire my delight and admiration.

Then there’s Frankie, the mathematician whose genius is at the heart of the drama, who is abrupt, wounded, and brilliant.

And finally there’s Polly the Bold Receptionist. Polly has the hardest job from a story point of view – she has to be a person despite having a lot of jobs in the narrative. She’s sexy, somewhat offbeat and unpredictable, dangerous and determined. I worried that she didn’t get enough time to show her colours in the book, but I got a tweet from someone this morning saying how much they wanted to be her, so I’m happy.

Since many of us here at STEAMED write romance, we tend to love a good HEA. How important is a happy-ever-after in your writing?

Nick: I like a story to come to an end in a way which doesn’t make you want to go out and throw yourself under a bus. I also don’t really get along with unresolved endings. I feel if I’m a reader I’ve invested a lot of time and emotional energy in a book and I’m owed some kind of payoff. I don’t really accept that doubt and angst are a payoff, though I know intellectually that some books are about those things and the ending must reflect that.

Even so.

So my stories have happy or happy-ish endings in general; I figure by the time they reach the end my heroes tend to have been through the mangle and they’ve entertained us and fought for us and made us care and they deserve a break. I don’t like things too pat, though, so it’s not so much happily ever after as happy now, more to do, which I think is all any of us gets.

That said, I don’t do sequels. I read a sequel once to a book in which the hero clearly died at the end of the first story, and the new book started ‘but he did not die’ and proceeded to mess up his life again for three hundred pages and I just thought: that’s mean. It’s just frankly unkind to the guy.

Do you have any villains? And how do they relate to your hero and heroine?

Nick: Oh, you’ve got to have a good villain. I have a couple, and they are villainous! The villain defines the action and the nature of the story at least as much as the hero. Who’s the main character in Star Wars? Luke Skywalker. Who defines the action? Darth Vader. He’s at the heart of it all.

So my villains are like that. They are the instigators, the hidden hands which must be revealed, the stalking scary bad which comes at you from the dark. How do they relate to my heroes? They hate them. They hate them with a burning, fiery passion.

It’s always so interested to hear about how people balance life and writing. Can you share with us your writing schedule?

Nick: Sure. It’s not complicated. My wife goes to her office at around 8am, and I write from then until when she comes home, with a break for lunch. I say “write”, but I don’t mean that I necessarily bang the keyboard all that time. It depends on how a book is working. Sometimes I read it back, edit with a pen, scribble ideas, stare into space, make tea… it’s all process.

Do you have any more projects in the work?

Nick: Of course! I always have more stuff in the works. I wrote a shorter novel while I was waiting for the edit on ANGELMAKER, so I have that to rework and sort out. Then I have a thriller in my mind which will be pretty scary. After that… there’s so much to do… we’ll see.

If readers want to know more about you and your writing, where on the web can they find you?

Nick: I am ubiquitous. The best thing to do is Google me and pick what you like. I’m on Twitter (@Harkaway) and Facebook – I have a professional Page there, I’m trying to wean people off my personal page because it basically doesn’t get used much any more and it doesn’t get the announcements and stuff – and tumblr (www.Harkaway.tumblr.com) and I have my own site, due for a revamp this summer – www.nickharkaway.com – and I’m on Google +. Heck, I’m on Diaspora* – I’d love to move all my social media stuff there, but it’s not quite ready yet.

So, yeah, not hard to find.

Actually, that’s a good thing for me to ask you – what’s your favourite way of interacting with an author? It drives me crazy that most author sites are basically like old posters at bus stations – they’re flat announcements of information with very little depth. That’s why I love Twitter – because it’s fully interactive. But maybe that just makes me a niche social media person. Where would you most likely look for an author?

Thank you so much for coming, Nick!

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I’m kind of jumping on Lolita Seleste Delaney’s genre-mashing bandwagon here. I’ve been hanging out at a new steampunk group on The Consolidated Organization of General Steampunk Writers on Facebook this week and the question came up, “How much magic/paranormal do you like in your steampunk?” The same question came up last Friday on Twitter during #steampunkchat, so it seems to be weighing heavily on people’s minds.

This is a question I’ve thought about a lot since I started writing the Gaslight Chronicles, which are pretty close to a 50/50 blend of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy, along with a hefty dose of romance. I’ve had some readers complain its not steampunk, since there are werewolves and vampyres, while some historical romance or fantasy readers get confused when the tech exceeds what was actually available in the mid-1800s or the social structure is a bit more…evolved. As author Richard Asplund, Jr. so brilliantly put it, it’s like the Reese’s Argument: “You got your fantasy in my steampunk,” vs. “You got your steampunk in my fantasy.”  That seems to perfectly sum up the debate.

Me? I’ve always been of the “throw it all in and shake it up” variety when it comes to genres. Before I wrote gaslamp/steampunk/fantasy romance, I was writing paranormal/fantasy/suspense/sf romance. For me, fiction is fiction, and there aren’t any hard and fast lines. Well, I do have a thing about happy endings, but that’s about it. I’ve never had the slightest qualms about mashing up fantasy and tech. I think that makes things more fun. You never know what to expect.

It turns out, though, that there ARE people, readers and authors, who do have very definitive opinions on just how much hocus-pocus ought to be allowed in steampunk. Others consider steampunk more of an aesthetic, and anything with the right “feel” can be considered steampunk, not just tech-only alternate history. One thing I would suggest to other authors–and I say this as both a reader and writer of spec fic–is whatever you decide, make sure your world is internally consistent. In other words, have your magical system grounded in some sort of science or folklore and have your divergence points for your advance technology clearly delineated. If the two flow together for you as the author, odds are they will for the reader.

I’m curious to know what you think. I’m offering a download of your choice of my steampunk/fantasy mash-up books to one random commenter.

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I owe you some winners!

 

Winners of an e-book copy of Prehistoric Clock

Widdershins

TansyBradshaw

 

The bracelet from Steamheat Designs

Mina Gerhart

 

Book 2 edits are keeping be busy, so today I asked Ray Dean to do a guest book review.

 

 

Book Review by Ray Dean
“Way will open.”
She is Artifice. 
A resurrected criminal and agent of HRH Prince Albert’s Secret Commission.
An artificial ghost.
A Quaker.
 
He is Jim Dastard.
The oldest surviving agent of the Secret Commission.
An animated skull.
A mentor to newly resurrected agents.
 
It is 1880 in a mechanical and supernatural London. Agents of Prince Albert’s Secret Commission, their criminal pasts wiped from their memories, are resurrected to fight the eldritch evils that threaten England. Amidst this turmoil, Jim Dastard and his new partner Artifice must stop a re-animationist raising murderous dead children. As Art and Jim pursue their quarry, Art discovers clues about her past self,  and through meeting various intriguing women—a journalist, a medium, a prostitute, and a mysterious woman in black—where her heart lies. Yet the question remains: What sort of criminal was she? A new beginning, a new identity, and new dangers await Art as she fights for the Secret Commission and for her second life.
*** ***
Review:
There is a finely-honed edge to The Dark Victorian: Risen. Ms. Watasin’s wit and imagination shine through the world of dark shadows and eldritch power and one quickly finds a home within the pages of this story. It would be appropriate to note at this point that you should have some time on your hands when you begin reading this book or you may be forced to give your loved ones a glare of annoyance when they interrupt your reading.
The pace and promise of this book are delightful! Weaving the world of this London effortlessly in with the plot shows the reader the level of talent and artistry of the author. We are quickly drawn into the world of Prince Albert’s (Not-so-)Secret Commission and marvel at the way that a disembodied skull is able to create a larger presence than a man with all his various and sundry limbs.
The bleak streets of London are a maze of well-crafted characters and dastardly doings that drive the plot and reader forward through the twists and turns of the plot.  One of the points that struck my fancy was the way the action sequences were crafted. I’m used to hit and miss action in novels and I was pleased to find that the deft pugilistic skill of Agent Artiface was easy to follow and entirely enjoyable.  When one considers the ‘proper’ manner that was expected of a Victorian woman these ‘outlandish’ displays of physical prowess and sharp skill will tickle the fancy of many a reader.
I should admit that the first thing that drew me to Ms. Watasin’s work was the elegance of her illustrations. Should anyone worry that her art might outshine the text, rest assured that both are even more delightful together and enrich the experience of reading Risen.
I hope that Volume Two will soon be available for our reading pleasure, although I believe my family may not be so eager! This book was such a distraction for me, taking my attention away from them for a few stolen hours of entertainment. I hope they’ll forgive and forget before the second volume is released.
 ~Ray Dean

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“You can’t do that!”

I scowled. Another Lolita–I never bothered to learn her name–had joined me in the engine room. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who wanted to be the ship’s mechanic.

“I’ve done it before. If you mix the components…”

“You can’t do that!”

God, this girl would drive me to something rash, and I valued my position on the ship far too much to let that happen. No. I needed plausible deniability if anything happened to her. For now though, I needed to do my job–which meant getting rid of her, at least temporarily. I gritted my teeth into what probably didn’t look anything like  a smile, but it was the best I could do. She’d been down here with me for five hours–it was about six too many.

“You know, the captain was talking about getting some new tools at our next stop. Why don’t you go make sure she knows what we need. Seems kind of pointless to spend the coin on the wrong stuff.”

She narrowed her eyes at me and pointed to the boiler. “You won’t mix the fuel while I’m gone?”

“If you’re back soon enough, I won’t need to feed the engines at all.”

Huffing a sigh, she flounced out of the engine room, taking her attitude with her. Her boots tapped an annoying rhythm on the wooden planks of the corridor as she moved toward the bridge.

I made a less-than-polite gesture toward the engine room door then picked up a piece of coal and a hunk of wood and chucked them both into the boiler.

~~*~~

I’ve read some reviews lately that complain about genre mash-ups that include steampunk. This one is too much romance, not enough steampunk (or the reverse). That one is too much paranormal, not enough steampunk (or vice versa). The list goes on and on.

Here’s the thing… I don’t understand the mentality that all forms of steampunk must be pure. It smacks a little too much of the pure-bloods only thing in Harry Potter. Maybe I’m too big a fan of genre mash-ups, but I am not a fan of only eating one thing at a meal too. I want to taste all kinds of flavors, and I want to see what happens if I mix them together. Sometimes they taste like crap, but sometimes… oh my goodness but they are yummy.

This isn’t to say that steampunk aficionados can’t dislike a given book for whatever reason their little clockwork hearts desire, but I’d really like people to stop saying something isn’t steampunk because it isn’t steampunk enough to fit their definition. Say it has steampunk elements if you prefer–I don’t think most authors would have an issue with that–and you can even say the steampunk elements fit or didn’t or… whatever.

But I’ve met a fair number of steampunks now. As a group, the people behind the genre are very friendly and welcoming. It’d be nice to see that attitude extend to how steampunks as a group react to books/movies/music/etc within the genre as well.

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As a mom, I love the idea of mother-daughter writing teams. Today we welcome my favorite, Belle and Nancy Holder. They decided to interview each other for this guest article.

New York Times bestselling author Nancy Holder (Wicked, Teen Wolf: On Fire) and her daughter, Belle, have written two stories in a Victoriana-steampunk universe starring Lightning Merriemouse-Jones, a time-traveling mouse who devours the works of Jules Verne (literally.) Lightning appeared in Pandora’s Closet and Furry Fantastic, both edited by Jean Rabe and others. They’ve expanded their love of steampunk into cosplay, costuming, and appearing on steampunk panels. Nancy will moderate the steampunk panel at the Big Orange Literary Festival at Chapman College in September, and is writing several steampunk short stories for various anthologies. Belle has been creating a line of steampunk accessories featuring astrolabes.

 

 In Which Belle and Nancy Holder Quiz Each Other on the Subject of Steam

by Belle and Nancy Holder

Nancy’s Interview

Belle: What got you interested in steampunk?

Nancy: I went to the Adventurers Club at Disney world.  Now sadly gone, the Adventurers Club was a gathering of various eccentric characters from the 1930’s who were returning from their exciting travels to spin yarns.  I loved the costumes and the immersive experience. The night was full of whimsy. Steampunk is like that.

Belle:  What is your dream steampunk outfit?

Nancy: A maroon velvet fitted jacket over a black skirt with red lace. I’d like a proper big bustle, high button shoes, a small black and maroon hat, and my own private clockwork carriage.

Belle: Do you see steampunk as a long-lasting fad, or a permanent genre?

Nancy: A permanent genre. It is too fun to lose.

Belle: Whose steampunk world would you live in?

Nancy: Jules Verne’s.

Belle: Is writing steampunk harder or easier than any other genre?

Nancy: Easier, because it is so fun!

 

Belle’s interview

Nancy: Will you outgrow steampunk?

Belle: It’s not something you outgrow, but something you grow into. So, no.

Nancy: What is the appropriate place to wear steampunk clothing?

Belle: Obviously steampunk events and conventions. Really, anyplace you would be allowed. My school doesn’t allow hats, and huge skirts wouldn’t fit in the narrow doors. It really depends on the outfit.

Nancy: Do you see steampunk as a fad or new genre?

Belle: A fad, but a long-lasting one, like being a hippie. It will probably fade out of the public eye, get brought back, and I think then it will slowly transform into something else, sadly.

Nancy: Who is your steampunk persona?

Belle: She’s like Kaylee from Firefly, but with zeppelins instead of space ships.

Nancy: What is the best thing about steampunk?

Belle: It’s such a broad idea, there really isn’t a limit to the things you can do.

 

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