Archive for August, 2012

The captain had called me to the bridge… again. Nothing good ever came of a summons like that.

As I stepped through the door, I swept my hat from my brow. “You asked to see me, ma’am?”

She spun on one hourglass heel and peered at me through the monocle she’d been using to survey the map. I must have looked rather odd through the lens because she dropped it so it dangled from a hook on her pristine navy blue corset. I tried not to think about the amount of filth and grime I’d brought with me from the bellows. She shone like the brass gaslamps on the wall, and I… looked like I’d just crawled out of a coal mine explosion. I twisted the hat in my hands and shifted my gaze to the floor. It wasn’t near as shiny.

“I did indeed, Lolita Seleste. I need you to build something for me.”

Building? I could handle building. I met her gaze again, nodding like my head didn’t want to stay attached. “Of course, ma’am.”

Smiling, she pulled me aside and whispered her plans. With every word, my heart sank further into my gut. I couldn’t do what she wanted. No… it couldn’t be done. She was asking the impossible. My heart started to thunder like someone had let a wild stallion loose in my chest.

“I’m sure you won’t let me down, Lolita Seleste.” Then, without waiting for a response from me, she turned on that perfect heel and strode back to her perfect bridge where her perfect crew stood ready to do the impossible.

But I couldn’t. As much as I scrubbed my palms on my breeches, they wouldn’t stop sweating. Or shaking.

I was poised to become the captain’s very first failure.


So, for those of you who don’t know the World Science Fiction Convention is going on right now in Chicago. And I’m there! A couple years ago, I attended World*Con when it was in Montreal. It was my first solo convention… and it was before I was published. A great time to fade into the woodwork and just watch things happen.

This time, I’m a multi-published author in a few genres, and I said to myself, “Seleste, you should try to get involved in some of the programming.” I figured it was no big deal, I’ve done panels and such at the Romantic Times convention for the past two years. I did a panel at World Steam Expo. Panels are old hat. And worst case scenario, if my nerves kick in, there are always other people there to pick up the slack.


Apparently someone at World*Con is convinced I’m a decent sized draw. Two of my three slots in programming are just me. Solo reading *gulp* (I’ve never actually done a public reading before.) Literary beers *gulp* (People are supposed to sign up to come talk to me.)

I got my schedule and went into a bit of a panic.

It took a while, but I’m no longer panicking (at least about that). I figure I have to learn to do this stuff sometime, so I might as well embrace it on a large scale to start off. And hey, at least one of the things will have beer… and we’re supposed to drink. Honestly, the only way that could have been better is if it had been “Literary Vodka Shots.”

So, if you’re going to be at World*Con in Chicago, please look me up. (Needless to say, I probably won’t be able to check back and comment here but, if you want to post confidence boosters, I won’t say no 😉 ) I’m on the “Why I Love My Editor” panel Saturday morning, doing the reading Saturday evening, and Literary Beers Sunday evening.

Otherwise, I’ll be the chick wandering around… trying not to panic.

Read Full Post »

Today we welcome Zoë Archer and Nico Rosso!

Zoë Archer and her husband, romance author Nico Rosso, currently live in Los Angeles.  She and Nico share an office and get up periodically to take turns accosting the cats. When she isn’t writing or forcing herself to exercise, Zoë loves to read, bake, and tweet about boots and men in cravats (strictly as a service to her readers).

Nico: Thanks so much for having us today, Suzi! What a great way to wish my lovely wife, Zoë a happy birthday. Usually, I’d get her a pair of boots (which I did), but this year I also wanted to do something special for Zoë.  So I pulled a few strings and called in some favors from Her Majesty’s Aerial Navy and got us a ride along on a Man O’ War airship.

We were already in London consulting with Navy intelligence regarding their airship telegraph docking stations, so it was only a quick train ride to Newbury.  We arrived in the early morning, a low mist shrouding the giant hangars and scaffolds where the airships were built and repaired.  Captain Christopher Redmond was gracious enough to welcome us onto the Demeter and from there, we were off.

Zoë:  Having never been aboard an actual airship before, I was thrilled when Captain Redmond offered us a tour of the Demeter.  We were joined on the tour by his charming wife, Louisa.  It seemed unusual for a woman to be aboard a ship of war, but Mrs. Shaw seemed as much a member of the crew as anyone else—though her role on the ship was somewhat mysterious.  She gave us goggles to protect our eyes when above deck.

The cool air rushed around us as we stood upon the deck, seeing the patchwork of green below us and the wide expanse of cloud-dotted sky overhead.  The view, you can well imagine, took my breath away.  As I’m slightly afraid of heights, I made sure to keep my hand firmly within Nico’s while we took our tour.  But I’d never complain about having to hold Nico’s hand!

We saw the telumium panels bolted to various parts of the ship’s interior.  Captain Redmond’s telumium implants were hidden beneath his uniform, yet we knew that the panels drew his energy toward the ship’s central battery.  The captain pointed out the tanks that collected the ether, which is  a byproduct of the transferral of energy.  This ether permits ships like the Demeter to fly.  Both Captain and Mrs. Redmond seemed perfectly acclimated to the process.  What a remarkable era in which we live!

N: While flying over the rolling hills we spotted another Man O’ War airship practicing maneuvers.  It wheeled and turned in the air nimbly, and I almost felt sorry for anyone who might be the target of its various ether-cannons and Gatling guns.  Skimming along with the ship were three smaller crafts, roughly the shape of a horse with a single rider.

Captain Redmond explained that they were Sky Chargers, part of the US Army’s cavalry. Mrs. Redmond added that they were training with the Man O’ Wars, though there was little hope in refining the cowboys from the West to fight like proper British soldiers. Yet she did admit that what they lacked in propriety, they made up for with fighting spirit.

A table was brought on deck and we all sat to a birthday luncheon for Zoë.  Spanish wine, Italian cheese, English beef.  The horizon spread out all around us as we dined.  The conversation floated as easily as the clouds the ship sometimes passed through.  A brass cylinder about fourteen inches tall was brought to the table.  Captain Redmond cranked a small handle on the side and set the internal machine to action.  It boiled water, brewed tea, then poured the perfect cup for each of us through a discrete spout.  More amazing than the device were the French pastries we had for dessert.

Z: As a lover of all things sweet, I was delighted by the offerings. Once we’d finished dessert, the captain showed us the galley, where the cook proudly showed off a clockwork pastry-making device. One simply had to pour the flour, butter, and sugar into a bowl, wind the machine, and it not only mixed the ingredients into a dough, but rolled it out into the perfect thickness for an elegant pastry.  Mrs. Redmond confessed that it was she who urged the cook to obtain this device, showing her to be a woman of excellent character.

After this, Captain Redmond admitted that the Demeter would be setting off on another mission within the hour.  Our time aboard the airship had come to a close.  Nico and I thanked Captain and Mrs. Redmond for their hospitality, and thanked the crew as well for keeping the skies safe.  We rode back to solid ground in an ether-powered jolly boat, then watched as the Demeter flew west, chasing the setting sun.

It was a wonderful, steampunk birthday.

So, our question to you is this: if you could have a birthday steampunk adventure, what would it be?  One commenter will win digital copies of SKIES OF FIRE and NIGHT OF FIRE.

SKIES OF FIRE: The Ether Chronicles can be found here:
Barnes & Noble
All Romance eBooks

Zoë can be found here:

NIGHT OF FIRE: The Ether Chronicles can be found here:
Barnes and Noble
Indie Bound

Nico can be found here:

Read Full Post »

Ancient Egyptian culture has had a major influence on the Victorian era and also modern Steampunk. As indicated by the titles, two classic Steampunk novels include strong Egyptian influences: The Osiris Ritual by George Mann and The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers.

Pretty Miss with Parasol belly dancing at ComicCon’s Steampunk Ball

The Victorians were fascinated with Egyptian mummies and unwrapping parties were quite stylish. George Mann tied Steampunk with mummy unwrapping in a wonderful scene in The Osiris Ritual. Here’s an excerpt from a Victorian mummy unwrapping party in the Steampunk/ Romance, As Timeless As Magic: Heru peered within the sarcophagus, at a coffin shaped like a human figure, in a green headdress with a single yellow stripe and a jewel painted in the middle. His gaze lingered on the beautiful hieroglyphics in orange and blue, thinking of the power they held and the magic his mother created with them in her spells.

“Now, what we have all waited for.” Mister Mugrage opened the coffin. A gilded mask lay over a linen sheet wrapped around a human corpse.

Heru rubbed his brow, then fisted his hand, aching to punch Felicity’s father in the teeth.

Mister Mugrage removed the mask in the likeness of the mummy inside and held it up. “This mask is a wonderful treasure for the evening and I will do you all the favor of parting with it for the highest offer made.”

The crowd all sighed with “oohs” and “ahs.” Heru could tell by the gleam in several people’s eyes, they wanted to own it. This was all about money to Mister Mugrage. He had no love of the history, the art, or the spiritual significance his daughter seemed to understand. Heru vowed he wouldn’t blame Felicity for her father’s actions, but a throbbing surge of anger rose in him as she unwrapped the sheet from the mummy. The guests closed in like a mob and thrust forward. Heru could hardly breathe, the room felt void of air.

Mister Mugrage yanked a strip of linen wrapping, tugging it off as he circled the mummy, unraveling it. He withdrew an amulet from the linen gauze and held it up. “Our first party favor. Who wants this lovely turquoise scarab?”

A lady in a large hat and a blue gown fluttered her fan. “I do, Mister Mugrage.”

“Madame Mills, by all means, this little gem is yours. It shall bring you great luck.” Mister Mugrage placed the treasure in the woman‟s gloved hand as she giggled with glee.

Heru loosened his cravat before he gagged. The crowd‟s thunderous applause fueled his anger. These amulets protected the deceased, helped him find his way in the afterlife, and this ridiculous man handed them out as party favors.

Mister Mugrage continued unraveling the mummy until he came upon the next find, a small hawk carved from blue lapis. He handed it to a man with a protruding belly and white beard, dressed in black trousers, a gray coat, and a green cravat. Heru fought the urge to grab the amulet back from the man‟s chubby fingers.

No sooner had the other guests congratulated the man than Mister Mugrage yanked the wrappings again. “Here we have a hollow gold beetle.” He placed it in Felicity‟s hand. “What is this symbol on the top?“

Felicity peered at the golden insect, examining it closely. “Two crossed arrows over a shield, the symbol of Goddess Neith, deity of the hunt.”

“Who will have this fine beetle?” Mister Mugrage flashed a broad grin.

Heru wanted to yell for them to stop as he stood helplessly by, watching a corpse being violated for nothing but the fleeting pleasure of shallow people. He accidentally bit his tongue. He grabbed his jaw, and rubbed it.

A woman held up her dainty hand netted in a lacy glove. Felicity gifted the lady with the beetle amulet.

As Mister Mugrage unwound more linen gauze, he discovered a small statue with the body of a man and the head of a jackal.

“Anubis.” Finally, an idea struck. Heru swiftly stuck out his hand, almost grabbing the amulet. ”May I?” he asked in French.

“Oui.” Mister Mugrage handed it to him.

Heru knew this held the most powerful curse, for the priests who cast spells on the amulets wore the mask of Anubis. He flipped it over and read the hieroglyphic inscription. “You dare to touch this sacred mummy. You mortal man, whose flesh and skull will return to the desert sand. I curse you with the loss of your hands.” Heru clasped the amulet tightly, whispering the spell in Old Egyptian in the parlor just as he would have in the temple of Anubis. “Curse him, who disturbs the dead, who robs what the gods entombed. His hands should be severed if not his head, his cursed fingers doomed.”

“Give me that. Let me read it.” Felicity’s father reached for the amulet to grab it back from Heru. He gasped. His fingers fell limp. Mister Mugrage screamed, “My hands!”

Felicity rushed to her father and clutched his arm “What is it?”

“I can’t move my hands, not even to lift a finger. They are numb, I cannot feel anything.”

Steam Driven Belly Dancing

Even more than mummy unwrapping parties, the Victorians loved costume balls. Cleopatra influenced costumes were highly fashionable at these affairs. Steam Ingenious’ Steampunk Cleopatra fancy dress project is inspired by authentic Victorian fashion plates of Egyptian costumes. It’s a recreation of the Celopatra costume Lady Paget wore to the 1875 Delmonico Ball in New York City. The portrait and photo of Lady Paget in the costume along with several fashion plates of Cleopatra style gowns are pictured on the blog and the details of the pattern and the fabrics are included.

Another Egyptian influence on Steampunk is belly dancing, which has been big ever

Sword & Steampunkery

since Abney Park incorporated it into its live shows. Many belly dancers have been inspired to go steampunk adding goggles, corsets and pantaloons to their costumes. The extraordinary Steampunk Belly Dancers featured here are from the Osiris Dance Company. If they look familiar, they perform at the Steampunk Ball at ComicCon each year and they will also be performing at the Wild West Festival in Tucson next year.

A heroine who belly dances could add an interesting element to a Steampunk novel.

As you can see it’s easy to weave some exotic Egyptian influences into your Steampunk books.

If you liked the excerpt from As Timeless As Magic the novel is free as a kindle eBook from today until Friday, August 31st.

Maeve Alpin

Read Full Post »

Writing Steampunk? Come join me!

I know I owe you winners from the caption contest. Will post next Monday!

I’m teaching another online class on writing steampunk, I hope some of you can join us.

Writing Steampunk from Aether to Zeppelin

 —  Offered by Lawson Writer’s Academy

Instructor: Suzanne Lazear

Sept. 3 – 28;  Fee:  $30

Registration: Lawson Writer’s Academy

Writing Steampunk from Aether to Zeppelin

Are you still trying to figure out Steampunk?  Do you have an idea for a Steampunk story but aren’t sure what to start?

Are you in the middle of a Steampunk manuscript and need a little help?

Grab your brass goggles and parasols join us while we learn about Steampunk and the mechanics of a Steampunk story.

Topics covered include: What is Steampunk, Steampunk Subgenres, Worldbuilding and Ideology, elements of a Steampunk novel, Steampunk characters and archetypes, science and technology, the roles of women, the darker side of Steampunk, Steampunk across the genres, steampunk beyond the written word, and additional resources.  All genres from kidlit to Steamypunk and all levels of knowledge and manuscript development are welcome.


Suzanne Lazear writes the fairytale Steampunk series for teens “The Aether Chronicles.” Book One, INNOCENT DARKNESS, just released from Flux.   Visit her website at www.suzannelazear.com

Read Full Post »

Drumroll, please…

Here is the cover for Moonlight and Mechanicals, a Gaslight Chronicles novel, coming October 22 from Carina Press.


Now those readers familiar with the Gaslight Chronicles might wonder why Wink, who hates corsets with a passion, is not only wearing one of the infernal devices, but isn’t wearing anything else over it. While a lady who works with machines for a living might be seen in coveralls, she’s still too much of a lady to ever appear in public in her undergarments.

This, I think illustrates one of the problems with the label steampunk. In an alternate history world, there’s always the question of just HOW alternate everything is. In the Gaslight Chronicles, technology and certain social mores are more advanced than they really were in the 1850s, but fashion and most of society is fairly authentic. However, I believe for marketing purposes, the publisher has decided to use a more contemporary steampunk vision on the recent covers. I’m truly curious to see if this works. So any thoughts on this from the readership? Do you like to see your steampunk characters in Victorian ruffles, or modern daring? Something in between? I’d love to know how people feel about this.

In other news, I’ve sent off the manuscript for the fifth Gaslight story, Cards and Caravans which is scheduled for next March. Now I have to tear my brain out of this steampunk world and into another, to finish a partial manuscript for my agent. It’s always interesting and sometimes awkward to switch gears (pun intended) and remember what version of reality you’re righting. This new project is later than the Gaslight books, although so far the rules of the reality are pretty similar. With everything you tweak in a world, you have to think about what has changed in technology, and how that might have changed the people in the world. It’s a new challenge, and I think those are always exciting. So onward and upward…

Read Full Post »

Today I welcome back Visiting Lolita Vivien to guest review THE RIFT WALKER, book 2 of the Vampire Empire series.



Book 2, The Vampire Empire

Clay and Susan Griffith

PYR Books

Review by Vivien

After really enjoying the first book in this trilogy, The Greyfriar, I was very eager to sink my teeth into The Rift Walker. It immediately picks up exactly where The Greyfriar left off. So, if you don’t remember everything, I’d recommend a refresher.

While The Greyfriar was filled with technological advancements and a bloody war, The Rift Walker is more about political intrigue. The schemes and machinations of everyone involved is just utterly fascinating. It held my attention throughout. I can’t divulge any more without completely spoiling it all!

Getting a few different point of views this time around, The Rift Walker takes a slower pace than it’s predecessor. Having linear plot lines that all need to be told can seem tedious at times, but it really fills out the story. You need every bit of information that you’re given.

While the relationship between Adele and The Greyfriar wasn’t in the foreground in The Rift Walker, it still blossoms right before our eyes. Gone is the abrasive tension and replacing it is a more comfortable companionship. Towards the end I really felt their struggle as a whole with the world they live in.

A fascinating sequel to The Greyfriar. While some may not find The Rift Walker as engaging, I think it really adds to the depth of this trilogy. The Griffiths really built on the characters in this sequel. I am on edge for The Kingmakers, the last in the trilogy. I can’t wait to see how all the pieces that they have created, fit together to create one cohesive world.


Read Full Post »

Free from duty for a few moments, I made my way from the mess to the cargo hold. At the moment, crates and boxes stacked higher than the top of my head filled it with only a meandering path left between them. I dropped into the hold, fully prepared to lose myself in the maze.

“Hold it right there.” The voice was far too deep to belong to one of the lolitas.

Keeping one hand on the ladder, I turned slowly and stared past the barrel of the gun pointed my way to the man behind it. He was young and quite handsome with his shadowed eyes and chiseled jaw. The badge pinned to his chest, however, gave me pause.

“Who are you?”

“I’m in charge down here, and if you have concerns about that, feel free to haul yourself back up to the bridge and ask your captain.” He didn’t drop the weapon, but he did step back, allowing me room.

Now I remembered that the captain had mentioned a passenger traveling with our cargo. If I’d known he was a lawman, I would have avoided the hold like the plague. Time for a hasty retreat to anywhere else. “I only came down to lose myself in the boxes for a bit. The hold has never been this full, and I couldn’t resist the lure of a few moments alone.”

He lowered the weapon at last and scrubbed at his jaw. “Apologies, miss, but I can’t allow that. This crap is intel destined for the task force that’s–”

“It’s what for what?” I blinked at him, his words nothing but gibberish. “No. Never mind. I should return to my duties. Good day, sir.” I raced up the ladder and back to my station where things made some small degree of sense.


A couple days ago I finished up line edits on Clockwork Mafia. It was a huge reminder of the fact that research doesn’t end with facts and dates and names. The number of anachronistic words and phrases that had slipped into my narrative was… Well, let’s just say I became paranoid on my read-through that there were more.

In many ways, steampunk is anachronistic–modern technology and attitudes shoved into an older society. But that doesn’t mean that anything and everything goes. For instance, there is a flamethrower in Clockwork Mafia and, while I don’t think its existence is a problem (even though in our world they weren’t used until WWI), I did change an instance of the point-of-view character thinking of it as a flamethrower. (The totality of that part in the scene is more complicated than that, but it was adjusted more than once to correct reality with Badlands-reality.)

There were a few of those instances where the real-world use of a word or phrase wasn’t that far removed (in time) from the events in Clockwork Mafia, but they were changed in order to keep as much of my alternate reality consistent with the known world as possible. It does, however, beg the question of how much leeway do readers allow for such things. The mob was not known as “the mob” until prohibition era. In a story about pre-prohibition mafia in an alternate reality, would that bother you as a reader? Task force didn’t come into use until WWII. So, where is the line drawn?

(Note: This is in no way a negative comment on my editor. I changed all the anachronistic words and phrases because I want my reality to be as realistic as possible. It just made me very curious how others felt about such things in general.)

Read Full Post »

(M) Today I have an interview with Cherries Jubilee, who is not only a talented dancer but she also embellishes fabulous Steampunk designs on shoes, transferring them into wearable art, and some of the most gorgeous shoes you will ever see in your life.  “Welcome Cherries Jubilee, it’s so good to have you boarding the Steamed airship with us today. Let me ask you, how did you first get interested in Steampunk?”

Cherries Jubilee

(C) “I have been attending science fiction/fantasy/horror conventions almost since the phenomenon started, but I was finding it difficult to do interesting costumes after a while. I could not really pull off the “green slave girl” any more and I had done every female companion to Dr. Who, so I was looking for something else. I was looking for a more free form kind of costuming – not copying something that had already been done, but creating characters of my own in a style that I could wear into my 90’s if I wanted to.

About six years ago, I saw some Steampunk at Norwest Con and fell in love with the idea. They were already talking about creating a local Steampunk convention and I was really excited because I could bring in neo-victorian style and, to some extent, manners into a con culture that had grown more than a little crass. I saw an opportunity to bring couples dancing into the sci-fi culture and I got to wear corsets and really cool granny boots. My only thought was, “Sign me up!”

(M) “I love that, dancing into the sci-fi culture.”  I looked down and saw that big gap where we actually walk onto the ship. “Watch your step there?” I nearly gasped as I peered at her feet. “I love your shoes. Is that one of your most popular designs?” 

(C) “Yes. Designs I do on Victorian granny boots win most popular design hands down. Women love them because they are pretty and can be so easily converted to the steampunk style. They like them even better if they appear to button up the sides rather than lace up the front. Nearly everyone loves the pair called – Gothic Charm School.”

(M) “Absolutely exquisite, what inspired you to create Steampunk shoes?”

(C) “Thank you for saying so. I am still surprised by compliments. Well, I dance, as you know, and I wanted a pair of boots that I could wear to conventions that I could teach dance seminars and dance all night. There are lots of pretty ballroom shoes out there, but none of them could be mistaken for steampunk style, and I really wanted something that would make my students look at my feet. New dancers often look down at their own feet, not necessarily at the teacher’s feet. So, I painted up my first pair of tan Capezio mary janes with sharpie markers. Sharpies, however, look like what they are, namely markers. I wanted something that looked really professional. Other than that, I found the whole process was really fun. Then I started looking at costumes and realized that the right shoe could make a whole outfit! I searched out the right products and the right techniques and practiced on shoes in my closet and some willing guinea pigs from my friend’s closets. It took a while to learn how to create a design that would take the pounding that shoes do without cracking and peeling, but I got a lot of help and advice from people in the shoe industry. It was kind of like an addiction after that. I would wake up at night with these ideas in my head. I started leaving a sketch book next to my bed so I could get things down and go back to sleep.”

(M) Now that we are comfortably aboard the airship, and seated on the velvet sofa in the parlor, Cheeries opens her carpet bag and shows me another pair.

Among the Thorns2

(M) “I love that vibrant  hue. What are your favorite colors and materials to work with in creating these fabulous Steampunk shoes?”

(C) “Again, pretty easy…I love working on really well made leather shoes preferably Italian. I don’t really design shoes, so much as I use shoes as a canvas for my art work. I like boots best, especially granny boots with buttons, but these are hard to find. I usually upcycle good boots that I find in thrift stores when I am not working on commissions. Commission boots usually come out from the back of my client’s closet, which assures fit and comfort. I can work on man made leather, or pleather, but prefer leather.”

(M) She showed me another pair as she kept talking and as I poured us each a cup of steaming tea. 

(C) “I love putting together interesting color pairings. And I sort of go through periods where I really want to do a lot on a theme. Right now I just love stripes and I have done a lot of things in shades of blue over the last few months. I fell in love with indigo blue and pale yellow when I was working on the Tesla’s . I have done quite a lot in metallic…copper, steel, brass and bronze, but I like to present some surprises along with the metals, like pairing bright copper with brown and plum stripes. I absolutely love working with opalescent paints and glitter paints….and of course Swarovsky crystals. I will find a way to incorporate them on nearly every pair, even on mens boots. Gears and studs are also high on my list of fun things to use on projects.”  

(M) Shoes with swarovsky crystals and gears, I’ve got hot shivers just thinking about them. Yummy.  (M) “Have you always loved shoes?”

(C) “Always. I have always loved shoes because I have very small pretty feet. Shoes are great to shop for because you don’t have to take your clothes off and you never have to diet to get into that fabulous pair of boots you bought last year but you gained a few pounds since then ….whew that’s a run-on sentence if ever I wrote one. I have a good relationship with my feet, so I like to show them off in fancy shoes. I wish the same was true of my tummy, but that is what corsets are for.”

(M) “Well said. Let’s hear it for shoes and how did you learn this wonderful wearable art, were you self taught, went to design school, had a mentor?”

(C) “The short answer is yes, yes, and yes. Many years ago I took a nine month course in commercial art which grounded me in good design principles. I also spent much of my childhood playing around in theatrical costume shops. My mother was doing a lot of directing and producing in little theaters and she often had to take me with her to rehearsals. I NEVER got over playing dress up and the costumers taught me how to sew and design using my Barbie dolls and scrap materials around the shop.”

Cherries took a sip of tea. “When I moved on to shoes, I simply got on line to see if anyone was embellishing shoes. I found dozens but most were not producing the quality I was interested in. Then I discovered Margo Silk Forest of Sassyfeet. She had been using some very interesting paints and she was actually painting shoes and teaching others how to do this too. I bought her book and a starter kit and never looked back! For anyone who would like to try, they can get her starter kit for about $35 from http://sassyfeet.com/.”

(M) “Wonderful and what do you find to be the most challenging aspect of designing Steampunk shoes?”

(C) “The most challenging thing is finding well made, affordable, shoes and boots that fit the aesthetic. This is why I haunt the thrift stores and garage sales and especially estate sales. Finding shoes with an interesting heel that a human can walk around in for several hours without being crippled in the process is sometimes difficult.

Another difficulty, of course, is size. My shoes are wearable art and when I am working on a pair it is always questionable as to whether they will fit someone who would want to buy them. This is why I like to do commissions. The client knows that the shoe fits and they give me great ideas by letting me know what they plan to wear with them. I am currently working on a commission for a lady in a wheel chair. She sent me an amazing pair of high heeled boots and I can go crazy embellishing the heels because she will never walk on them!”

Bunished Bronze Beauties heels

(M) “I can’t wait to see the heels of those boots. Let me ask, what advice would you give to help people pick out the best shoes to compliment their Steampunk costumes?”

(C) “Other than a corset, the most expensive part of your costume may well be your shoes. If you don’t have someone like me around who can alter them, consider buying the shoes first and building the outfit around them. Be sure that they are a good fit and that you can do everything in them that you want to do. That may mean standing for hours at a concert or strolling through a garden to dancing or playing croquette. Then remember you can always change out the laces for matching ribbons, or sew brass buttons up the sides to steam or punk them up a bit.

The most important thing to remember about all fashion is; you can get away with almost anything as long as there are repeats in your costume. That means you can get away with green boots if there is even the tiniest degree of green in your skirt or bodice. If your costume sports brass or copper elements, add some interesting brass gears or buttons to your shoes or boots. Black does NOT go with everything (even other blacks) and not all browns complement each other so, when you are trying on footwear, bring a piece of your costume with you. Lay the shoes you are considering next to the fabric and step back six feet. If they don’t look right together, don’t waste your money.”

(M) “Marvelous advice and what about flats, is it possible to wear a comfortable style of Steampunk shoe and still look chic?”

(C) “Absolutely YES! Now we all know that heels are sexy. I recently came across a photo of a pair of white lambskin fetish boots with 12 inch platform heels made around 1880. Men just love heels, but short heels and no heels can be just as flattering. 

I recently completed a commission on a pair of boots with a 1/4 inch heel called Miss Copperpot’s Fancy. These little ankle boots prove that one can be supremely chic regardless of the heel. I tend to like some heel, but I am only a smidgen above 5 ft tall. I can certainly appreciate the charm of a spike heel, however I favor a curved french heel, or a spindle heel which is steady enough to walk on all day. Wedges are also fantastic, since they have a lot of room to embellish and they are a steady platform for walking while giving one height.

Miss Copperpot's Fancy

Miss Copperpot’s Fancy

In shoes as in everything else, fashion is fleeting but style…personal style can be worn for the rest of your life. If your style is street steampunk, invest in a good pair of Doc Martins that appeal to your steampunk self. You will wear them with everything, for years. I have some beautiful black ankle boots that I have been wearing for years. They are excellent quality,I take good care of them because I love the radically curved french heels and I may never find another pair.

“Chic” is putting on your personal style and wearing it effortlessly. There is nothing quite the antithesis of chic as some beautifully dressed steampunk tottering along on heels so high that a pretty girl is turned into a graceless marionette. Those shoes were never meant to become acquainted with the floor. It is best to leave them in the bedroom where they belong.

Beautifully embellished ballet flats can make a large foot look petite and have the added advantage of imparting a graceful walk to the costume. A graceful walk will reflect more chic than anything you wear.”

(M) I then noticed she’d taken out some of her Steampunk styles for men. “Those are nice, quite dapper. Do you have a preference between designing men’s shoes or women’s?”

(C)”I enjoy doing shoes for men, because they really don’t get to wear fancy shoes. But men are conservative and really picky about the image they project. Mostly they find straps and chains and studs in brown and black acceptable, but little else. The shapes in men’s shoes are pretty limited and heels are uninspired. Sadly, elegance has fallen almost entirely out of fashion for men, for the most part. I am starting to see an improvement among Steampunk gentlemen though, which gives me hope. A kilted man in a waistcoat, and a bowler simply sets my heart aflutter. (Oh and boys, wearing your pants so low we can see your unmentionables, or shudder, other parts, is not attractive.)

With women’s shoes though, there are absolutely no limits. If I can think it up, someone will love it. Though many women only wear black and brown and maybe white shoes, they still lust after that red Ferregamo, or teal Tommy Choos. This leaves me so much room to design something unique that I have to say I enjoy designing for women more than men.”

(M) I droped two cubes in my tea and stirred while I thought of my next question. “I have to ask, what is the strangest or funniest thing that has happened to you regarding designing and selling Steampunk shoes?”

(C) “I think one of the funniest things that has ever happened is when a young woman on the street stopped dead in her tracks and looking down said, “OMG! where did you get those shooooooes?!!! They are HOT!” At which I replied, that they were my own work. By this point the woman was practically on her knees in front of me on the public sidewalk staring at my shoes. I felt a little like the high priestess of the shoe goddess receiving obeisance from a worshipper. When I told her that the work was freehand, she gushed some more and even reached for my ankle. Well that was quite enough and I helped her up and handed her a card letting her know, yes I do do wedding shoes and boots too.”

(M) “I know that when you are not designing shoes or teaching dance, you edit novels for your beloved beau and write articles on Steampunk culture. What differences do you find between the art of shoe design and the art of writing?”

(C) “Well, writing doesn’t involve paint. But really the biggest difference is that you see a finished result pretty quickly. Writing is hard – I don’t care what anyone says, for me, its a slog. I often don’t know if what I have written is any good.

Designing is easy. I know when something works and when it’s dreck and I can always paint over mistakes. While I might have to look at a pair of shoes for several weeks, I can usually complete the project in a week or two. There is something very satisfying about looking at something and knowing it is finished and it is good.

But in one way at least, the two things are very similar. Each design is essentially a character sketch. They each describe a steampunk character and they are not stereotypical at all. They have unique histories and personalities. I have designed for steampunk goths, for Lolitas, for dandies and aristos, for mad scientists and airship captains, all in my imagination. But the majick happens when someone else takes them and wears them, because often people transform before my eyes. Usually footwear is that last little detail that takes them from being someone “dressing up” and playing pretend to someone who is literally walking in that character’s shoes. Sometimes, I see a whole new character emerge when I see them on someone completely costumed for the first time. Hummm…I feel a short story coming on.”

(M) “I know exactly what you mean about that feeling of a story coming on. You must like to read then? What are your favorite Steampunk books or authors?”

(C) “I like to read so much that I don’t own a tv and haven’t owned one in more than a decade. I guess my first steampunk fiction was Tim Powers “Anubis Gates” which I read as a teenager. I think Tim Powers was the first author I really became attached to and I have read every book he has written since then. I read everything from light romantic comedy like Gail Carriger’s “Parasol Protectorate”(I was very sad to see this series end and I am even doing a couple of pairs of boots in honor of the characters) to the quite literary kind of steam punk such as Neil Stephenson’s Diamond Age, and the very dystopian Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. I enjoyed Mark Hodder’s “The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man” and I am really enjoying a series set on another planet, Tim Akers’ ” Veradon books. I am currently reading a series called The Ministry of Peculiar Events by a team, Pip Ballentine and Tee Morris. These are amusing in an “Odd Couple” sort of way. I also read a lot of non-fiction, primarily history and science, which informs both my writing and my artwork.

(M) “I have to say I’m crazy about Anubis Gates, loved it.” As crew members are rushing to and fro, I noticed the airship is landing once more. “Well it looks like we are ready, but Cherries, before you go, one last question, what are some things you’d like to say to your fans/customers and future fan/customers?”

(C) “In the spirit of a steampunk maker, you could do this too. Try new things, it doesn’t have to be brown and black and gray. Let your shoes and your clothes express who you are, or who you want to be. But be fearless and play. Get dressed every day in a way that makes you smile and that will make others smile too. This is a trick I learned years ago a well dressed person of any age or any size can make the world a little bit better just by causing another person to smile. This is what my art work is all about, small witticisms and a big does of whimsy. Making people smile without ever saying a word.”

With a contagious smile that lit up her whole face, Cherries Jubilee departed the Steamed airship, but before she left she invited everyone to visit her showroom for more of her Steampunk shoe designs. Also you can leave your calling card with Cherries Jubilee at misscherriesloves@gmail.com and if you want to commission shoes please write – I have a pair of shoes for you  – in the subject line.

Feel free to post questions and comments below.

Mave Alpin

Read Full Post »

I wrote this for I Read to Relax but I wanted to share it with you all.

Also, don’t forget to join me, Seleste DeLaney, and Cindy Spencer Pape on Friday at 6 pm PST for #steampunkchat on twitter.

Steampunk’s Place in YA’s Future

By Suzanne Lazear

Young Adult books push boundaries. That’s what many teens do, why shouldn’t some books do the same? When someone says “you can’t do that in YA”, much like a teen, it juts out its jaw, meets the challenger’s gaze defiantly, and mutters “watch me.”

Steampunk, by its very definition is respectfully defiant. Its roots in innovation (and rebellion), Steampunk, especially as a written genre, is constantly changing, discovering, seeing if it is possible to go places no Steampunk has gone before.

That’s partially why all of these discussions on what Steampunk isn’t or shouldn’t be irk me. To me, this seems adverse to the very ideals of Steampunk itself. Sure, like all genres, there are establishing parameters, but Steampunk, like YA, is a genre grounded in exploration. Perhaps we should focus more on what Steampunk is. After all, we do that in YA, focusing on all the great and wonderful things the genre is instead of nitpicking and compartmentalizing.

So much about the very nature of Steampunk (rebellion, identity, hope, innovation, adventure) lend itself quite naturally to young adult stories. YA steampunk writers aren’t afraid to stretch the limits, borrowing and mashing up genres until perhaps it’s not even steampunk anymore yet still has that spark and spirit that make steampunk such an attractive genre to writers. My book, INNOCENT DARKNESS, is “fairytale steampunk”, a mashup of faeries, fairytales, and steampunk. Jay Kristoff’s upcoming novel STORMDANCER is set in Japan, and SHADOW AND BONE, by Leigh Bardugo is what she coins “Tsarpunk.”

I foresee Steampunk and Steampunkian tales (or those with Steampunkatude) as becoming a mainstay of YA. Because both genres have similar guiding principles. Because in both genres, when someone says “you can’t do that”, we say “why not?”

Because YA and Steampunk is.

Suzanne Lazear writes steampunk tales for teens. They have faeries in them. Her debut novel, INNOCENT DARKNESS, book one of The Aether Chronicles, is now out from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.

Read Full Post »

Today we welcome Sally-Ann Livingston of The Navigatrix.

Serendipitous Adaptations

by Sally-Ann Livingston, Creatrix and Owner of The Navigatrix


I always loved stories. …and making things. That’s how I ended up with a Degree in Design Representation (modelmaking) in 1996. Hoping to break into SFX modelmaking, I spent three years doing various work in the fields of product, advertising, museum display (I made half a Hindenburg for Singapore) and, mostly, architectural models. The world of film was so hard to break into and so, inevitably, came the stress-induced crunch. I left modelmaking to retrain as a Montessori pre-school teacher. Along the way, I also learned to be a Reiki Teacher Practitioner. I left teaching to set up my holistic practice full-time, then became a mother in 2008.


Funny thing, change. We resist it and yet it is so necessary to our survival. I think one of the things that draws me to Steampunk is the adoration of an age in which huge changes were made, the human survival skill of adaptation blossomed in a very materialistic as well as spiritual way. I can now appreciate, from my meandering career path, how important it is to creatively adapt to whatever is happening around you today.


So, I found myself in a new house, settling into motherhood, beginning my Reiki Practice business all over again. My brother (another modelmaker) moved in nearby and began to set up an Etsy shop. Through talking to him and a friend, I began to get really interested in Steampunk to the extent that I began to put a costume together. I made a couple of accessories and suddenly had the thought that I could sell them. I asked Matt if I could put them in his shop and his reply was the spark that re-ignited my creativity: “Why not make your own shop?”.


I have gone by many names in the past. Well, that’s what happens when one of your hobbies is Live Roleplaying. My most recent pseudonym, however, is my first Steampunk character and also the first I have created without following rules or guidelines. You may recognise the name Sophia Cardea if you’ve heard of Brass Goggles. She is the guiding concept behind The Navigatrix, an independent woman who has a skill at find her way through life, both geographically and metaphysically. From a practical point of view, I started this shop as a mum on low income, making what I could with what I’ve got. Having started by buying my materials through local charity shops, I soon realised that this was a good way to run a business. Each of my designs are one off creations due to the limitations of my materials. I do use a few new elements but for the most part, I upcycle second-hand, found and remnant materials. My items are inspired by Steampunk and the Neo-Victorian movement. Even the quotes I use are from founders of new age popular metaphysics (that have lead to books like The Secret and the ideas of Louise Hay).


My intention is to create a successful business that as well as providing a gratefully received stream of income for my family, also supports local charities regularly and encourages others who, like me, begin with not much more than a good idea, a steaming kettle and a heart full of enthusiasm. When change stumbles over you, take the opportunity to become inspired! Wishing you all Happiness, Health and all kinds of Wealth,




The Navigatrix and Arcane Armoury will be sharing a stall outside Lincoln Castle for Weekend at the Asylum, Europe’s largest Steampunk event, Trading on the 8th-9th September 2012. http://steampunk.synthasite.com/


Shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheNavigatrix

Blog: http://thenavigatrixatetsy.blogspot.co.uk

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Navigatrix-Steampunk-inspired-Original-Crafts/239246576161938?ref=hl

Brother shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ArcaneArmoury



Read Full Post »

I’d hoped to do a cover reveal today, but that hasn’t shown up in my mailbox yet, (pout) leaving me with very little in the way of steampunk-ish goodness to talk about. I CAN say that Moonlight & Mechanicals, the fourth story and second full-length book in the Gaslight Chronicles will be out from Carina Press on Oct. 22.

Anyway, since I don’t have much of anything else to say about my own books or steampunk in general, I thought I’d sneak in another non-Monday book review, if it’s okay with the Lolita-in-Chief. These two stories are gaslamp fantasy rather than steampunk, but they really captured my imagination. The author, Christian Klaver, grew up about a mile from where I did, but we’ve only met recently, through the SF world, and I think the speculative fiction crowd is going to really love his voice once more readers find him. Maybe there’s something about us Detroiters that really gets into the gritty vibe of steampunk and gaslamp. I do believe these are Kindle exclusives, but with Calibre’s free conversion software, they can be read on any kind of e-reading device.

Sherlock Holmes and Count Dracula: The Adventure of the Solitary Grave (The Supernatural Casefiles of Sherlock Holmes) is Holmes like you’ve never seen him before. And by that I *do* mean that Holmes isn’t a vampire. That, I’ve seen. This blending of two major Victorian characters is written in a style so seamless you can almost believe it was found in the attic of one of Doyle’s editors. Yes, it’s a little darker than I usually read, but I honestly couldn’t put it down. The nuances of Holmes, Watson, and yes, Count Vlad Dracula himself are layered and well-drawn. You’ll hold your breath, I promise. It’s quite simply the most believeable Holmes/fantasy crossover I’ve ever read, and I’m a Holmes geek from way back.

Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Innsmouth Whaler (The Supernatural Casefiles of Sherlock
 combines Holmes with another great mythos: H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu, and proves once again how well Klaver can weave disparate universes into a single, and unique blend. This isn’t light and fluffy Cthulu, it’s got some gore and some darkness, but again, I really fell into the universe and could completely see Holmes and Watson in the unhappy seaside village of Innsmouth dealing with Deep Ones.

My Take? Klaver is definitely an upcoming author to watch. Here’s the cover for the upcoming third story, coming soon to a Kindle near you. I know I’ll certainly be waiting for it. I think Klaver is one of the next big discoveries in the world of Spec. Fic. And yeah, it doesn’t hurt that he’s a Detroit guy. 🙂

Read Full Post »

So…it’s here.  My fairytale steampunk young adult novel INNOCENT DARKNESS hits shelves Wednesday.  Then it will be officially “in the wild” which is exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

It’s actually already appearing in people’s mailboxes and in bookstores. (If you see it, would you mind Facebooking or tweeting it? If you let me know I’ll send you a bookplate. I’m going to be having a photo contest on my personal blog, so you can win more stuff there, too)


Cute right?

So…who wants to win some prizes?  You know, like these?

So one grand prize winner will win a  fifteen dollar GC to Amazon, B&N OR the Book Depository + Zoe Archer’s SKIES OF FIRE and Nico Rosso’s NIGHT OF FIRE (both from the Ether chronicle series, because series that have “eather” or “aether” in them are awesome) + some buttons & swag in an INNOCENT DARKNESS tote bag.

Four other winners will each win one book + buttons + swag  (Karina Cooper’s LURE OF THE WICKED (signed), Dave Freer’s CUTTLEFISH, THE CLOCKWORK THREE by Matthew J. Kirbyand Kassy Tayler’s ASHES OF TWILIGHT (signed ARC).)

So, what do you have to do? We’re having a caption contest. Write your own caption to the sleeping baby with the book picture (Picture A) and post it in the comments below (or you can send me your altered version at suzannelazear (@)yahool

Or you could write a caption to photo B

Or Photo C

or Photo D

Don’t forget to tell us which photo the caption is for! Keep them clean please! Open internationally. Contest ends August 19th at 11:59 PM pst. One entry per person per photo please (so a max of four entries.)

Read Full Post »

We have something special for you–an ARC giveaway for THE KINGMAKER the final book in the VAMPIRE EMPIRE trilogy.

A Steampunk Toaster Should Still Make Toast

by Clay & Susan Griffith


THE KINGMAKERS, the concluding book in the VAMPIRE EMPIRE trilogy, comes out in about a month. We’re very excited to be offering an Advanced Reader Copy a few weeks before publication. We are gratified that the first two books in the series – THE GREYFRIAR and THE RIFT WALKER – have received a very kind reception. The books seem to have found accepting homes among readers of various genres including fantasy, paranormal romance, young adult, and of course, STEAMPUNK.

We didn’t set out to write a steampunk series. We wanted an exciting story with interesting characters set in a neo-Victorian world. We never tried to make our series “steampunk” by forcing genre tropes that didn’t develop organically.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the series, the basic premise of VAMPIRE EMPIRE is that, in the year 1870, vampires destroy the industrial world of the northern hemisphere. Human survivors flee south to the heat of the tropics where vampires cannot follow due to their peculiar biology. These northern refugees bring their technological skills, and over the next century, they clash and blend with the indigenous cultures of the south.

The trilogy actually begins with THE GREYFRIAR in the year 2020 when human states around the equator are now primed to invade the north to destroy the vampire clans. These human states have achieved a level of technology that is similar to the late Victorian Era. The primary reason why technology is at that level is because the vampires control the northern hemisphere where most of the world’s coal is found, and coal is the beating heart of the Industrial Revolution. With only limited reserves of that fabulous fuel, human technology has been retarded or even shifted into other areas such as chemical power.

THE KINGMAKERS is a good example of how we approach “steampunk” technology in our series. In this book, there is a world war raging between humans and vampires in Europe and North America. The level of military technology is basically that of World War One. Humans are just beginning to produce infantry weapons of mass destruction like repeating rifles and machine guns, and the men in the trenches of France are very recognizable as late Victorian/early 20th century soldiers.

However, since technological development did go down different paths than in the real world, we do create some unique and exciting steampunk tech. This includes such things as airships (both sailing and ironclad), Fahrenheit blades coated with burning chemicals, sound-based weapons called shriekers, rockets loaded with atmospheric combustibles, and walking land tanks dubbed Galahads. And we use them not just because they’re cool (which they are!), but because they have a rational purpose when facing an enemy with the logistics and biology of vampires. We certainly wanted lots of cool stuff around, but we also kept it reasonable to preserve the atmosphere of a “slightly” off-kilter late Victorian world, rather than launching the reader into a pure fantasy realm, which we didn’t think would serve our series well.

In our version of a steampunk world in VAMPIRE EMPIRE, it’s better if your toaster is awesome and also makes toast.

~Clay & Susan Griffith

One lucky commenter will win an ARC of The Kingmakers. Open Internationally. Content closes Thursday, August 9th, 2012 at 11:59 PM PST.

Read Full Post »

Dark Things II: Cat Crimes

Juli has long been in love with writing, a love built by devouring everything from the Arthurian legends, to the works of Michael Moorcock, and the classics. Her short fiction has been published in Dark Things II: Cat Crimes, The Scribing Ibis, Eternal Haunted Summer, Twisted Dreams Magazine and Luna Station Quarterly. Her debut novel, The ARTIST’S INHERITANCE, will be released soon.

Dark Things II: Cat Crimes

Juli D. Revezzo

Thanks, Suzanne, for inviting me here. So, you want to know a little about our—excuse the pun—pet project Dark Things II: Cat Crimes, do you?

Well, back in 2010 a compilation of short stories released, by Patty G. Henderson, the award winning creator of gothic romances and the Brenda Strange Supernatural Mysteries. The title was Dark Things, and she had the notion that the stories should involve cats, in some sort of dark and supernatural mischief. Being a cat lover, she decided to donate the proceeds from the sale of Dark Things to a cat–related charity in California, as well as to one here in Florida.

Cats are still on the most abandoned and abused list and so she thought to release a second volume. So, Dark Things II: Cat Crimes was born. She put out a call for dark and sinister short stories involving cats. Patty herself wrote a sinister and charming tale, “Room Service”, about a hotel maid and a vicious little kitty who has had just about enough of her owner’s coddling.

When Patty told me about the collection, I had the perfect idea, my own twist on the cats and criminals theme with an ancient priestess beholden for millennia to a vengeful goddess:

“What Sekhmet Keeps”

Betrayed by a false lover, cat shifter priestess Onfalia Mau lost her lioness soul and freedom to her lover’s treachery and Sekhmet’s wrath. Now, after three thousand years, Donquar has returned with one thing in mind: to steal the goddess’s scepter. Onfalia knows that to do so means to unleash Sekhmet’s unholy, bloody Slaughter on the world and she’ll stop at nothing to foil Donquar’s plans.

And I held my breath and hit send. To my delight, my little kitty was welcomed alongside the many other fine authors who donated stories to the collection.

Dark Things II: Cat Crimes:

A collection of tales featuring feline mayhem, murder and dastardly deeds. Vampire cats. Scoundrel cats. Daring cats. Killer cats. Cats you don’t want in your worst nightmares and cats you might want on your side against evil. Authors include Mary V. Welk, Patty G. Henderson, Patricia Harrington, Jim Silvestri, Ken Goldman, Shanna Germain, Anna Sykora and dozens more. Intro by Robert W. Walker. All proceeds from sales go to several cat sanctuaries across the USA. Enjoy over twenty-one “cat tales” and support a cat charity!

The proceeds from this volume will go to the Cat House on The Kings no-kill Cat Sanctuary in Los Angeles. If you’d like to check it out, and help a worthy cause, Dark Things II: Cat Crimes is available at Amazon, and Lulu.

And that’s the story. I hope you enjoy the collection, and thanks so much, Suzanne, for allowing me to visit today.

~Juli D. Revezzo

Good Reads
Her books are currently available at Amazon

Read Full Post »

Showing Vs. Telling

Today we welcome Maxwell Drake!

Showing Vs. Telling

by Maxwell Drake

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

– Auton Chekhov, 1860 – 1904.


Showing vs. telling is one of the hardest things to master as a creative writer. At least, that is what I was told. To me, it has never been that hard of a subject to grasp. Where I do feel the difficulty lies is in the teaching. For, if you are trying to learn the subject, and someone tells you, “You are telly. Be more showy.” That helps you out about as much as trying to teach you how to make alligator skin boots by dropping you into a pit full of alligators.

So, to that end, I created the following seven steps to help writers try and understand the concepts behind how to be more showy. Now, these steps are not all there is to this subject. But, they are a great start. If you can grasp the following, and apply it to your writing, you will be well on your way to being less telly.


Step One: Use Stronger Verbs.


The English language was created by steeling from most of the western languages. It is the reason we have so many words that all mean basically the same thing. So, take advantage of this. Because, your choice of verbs can dramatically change the feel of your sentences. Case in point:


The cowboy put his gun back into its holster and walked from the room.


Not a bad sentence. However, “put” and “walked” are very weak verbs. If we just change these two words:


The cowboy slammed his gun back into its holster and stormed from the room.


We now have a different cowboy. Or:


The cowboy slipped his gun back into its holster and tiptoed from the room.


Again, we have simply changed the two verbs. Yet the sentence is dynamically changed.


Step Two: Let the reader feel it. Don’t tell the reader what to feel.


Emotions are the next big area most writers can improve. If you are telling the reader how the character feels, you are not showing.


The monster lunged unexpectantly at John and he was scared.


Going back to Step One, “scared” is a weak verb. If we change that to “terrified,” we have a stronger sentence. Plus, “was” is a weak linking verb. So,


The monster lunged unexpectantly at John and he felt terrified.


Still, we are simply telling the read what John is feeling – terrified. Hence, it is a tell. To show this emotion, we want to be more descriptive.


When the monster lunged unexpectantly at John, terror washed over him and the blood drained from his face.


Step Three: Make the reader witness the action, don’t tell them what is happening.


The same thing goes for action. If you are telling the reader what is happening, or what to feel, you are telling. So, in our above example, telling the reader the monster “lunged unexpectantly” is telling the reader that the event was unexpected.


John took another step back, and again the monster did not move. Letting out a shuddered breath, he forced himself to calm down. I just need to keep moving away and I’ll be fine, he thought. Shock stabbed into him as the creature lunged, claws bared.


Step Four: Let the reader see it, don’t tell them what they see.


Another thing that showing does is eliminate ambiguity. You can write, There was an old shack sitting in the back yard. But, do you see the same shack as I do? Probably not. Instead, by writing the following, I now force you to see what I see.


An old shack slumped in the backyard like a broken weed, its pale white paint faded and flaking. The door hung limp on its hinges, swinging in the gentle breeze.


Step Five: Let the reader hear how things are said, don’t tell them what they hear.


Dialogue is a powerful writing tool if used correctly. You can really convey a lot with very little. Let the spoken words convey the feelings of the speaker.


“We have to get out of here!” John said, fearing for their lives.


“If we don’t leave now, they are going to kill us!” John said.


Also, don’t waste what can be shown by telling in your speech tags.


“Let’s go,” John said anxiously.


“Let’s go,” John said, trying to glance in all directions at once.


Step Six: Kill your adverbs!


Adverbs, especially ly adverbs, are overused in today’s writing. They are lazy, telly, and most of the time, redundant.


Keeping low, John quickly raced to the other side of the room.

– There is no way to race other than quickly. Removing the “quickly” from the sentence does not change the sentence one bit.


Keeping low, John raced to the other side of the room.


When the plane tilted sideways, John was thrown completely out the open door.


– Really? Is there a chance that some reader will read this sentence and wonder if John left a leg or an arm inside the plane when he was thrown out? I doubt it.


When the plane tilted sideways, John was thrown out the open door.


Look for adverbs within your manuscript that you can cut without changing the sentence.


Not wanting to sound totally stupid, John completely changed what he was about to say.


Not wanting to sound stupid, John changed what he was about to say.


Do you really need the “totally” or the “completely”? Do they add to the story? Strengthen the sentence? No. They just add words, and weak ones at that.


Knowing the boy was exceptionally smart, John expected no less from him.


Knowing the boy was smart, John expected no less from him.


Again, the “exceptionally” is not needed. If you want to stress the brains of the boy, use a stronger verb! This will stress the intelligence of the boy, while not falling back on a weak writing style.


Knowing the boy was brilliant, John expected no less from him.


Step Seven: It is O.K. to tell sometimes.


Keep in mind, writing is a balancing act. A novel that is one big “show” might be the worst thing ever written. There are times when you may need to tell.

If one character is telling another something the reader has already read, you would not want to “show” the character telling the tale again. Using a sentence like: “Then, John told Mary of the monster attack.” will suffice and move the story forward.

If the reader needs to know something, but not the details, such as moving the characters from one place to another: “They then traveled to Chicago.” If nothing happens during the trip, don’t waste a chapter showing me the characters getting on the train, traveling across country, and arriving in Chicago. Just get me there and continue with the story.

–Maxwell Drake

Have any questions or comments? Chat at me on facebook/Maxwell-Alexander-Drake or on Twitter @MaxwellADrake.

For more information about me, or to see the class notes from this class, or my others, please visit my official website at www.maxwellalexanderdrake.com.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: