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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.

Except…

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.

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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:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Powells
All Romance eBooks
Books-A-Million

Zoë can be found here:
website
Twitter
Facebook
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NIGHT OF FIRE: The Ether Chronicles can be found here:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Indie Bound

Nico can be found here:
Website
Twitter
Facebook

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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

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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

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Drumroll, please…

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

Image

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…

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

 

THE RIFT WALKER

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.

~Vivien

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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.)

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