Archive for September, 2012

“The captain said everyone, so hold on to the blasted door and quit yer whining!”

Lolita Lynnette obviously wasn’t going to listen to a word I said. Which meant the only recourse I had was to listen to her. I gripped the doorframe, my filthy nails digging tiny crescent moons into the wood. For her part, Lynnette yanked and tugged until I was forced to let out the breath I’d sucked in. And then she yanked and tugged some more. She couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds in full battle gear, but the woman had strength hidden deep in those tiny bones.

By the time she stopped torturing me, I was certain I’d die of asphyxiation. “I can’t breathe,” I eked out.

She huffed out a sigh and loosened the ties so infinitesimally I couldn’t be sure she hadn’t just pretended. “That’s all you’ll get. You look fabulous.”

Her tiny hands swooped over my sides as if to make sure I could feel just how much smaller my waist had become. I had no clue what the captain had in store for this landside excursion, but the inclusion of corsets served to define the phrase “hell on earth” for me.


Contrary to the story above, I love corsets. Correction. I love good corsets. Sometimes I still like the less-than-good ones though.

In fact, my first corsets fell very much into the latter category. Frederick’s of Hollywood. Plastic boning. Minimal waist reduction. And they held up for shit. On the flip side, they were cheap and I didn’t know for sure if I’d like wearing them.

It wasn’t until several months later that I got my first steel boned corset. I bought it from a friend and wore it for some of my author photos. Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like being cinched up tighter than I’ve ever been in my life out in the desert around Vegas wearing five-inch heels. Did I mention that the corset was completely black and it was very, very sunny.

Crazy thing about that photoshoot. All the sweating? Totally made my skin glisten. Honestly, my skin has never looked as good in pictures as it did those. And the corset? Dear gods, that was when I fell in love. No, I didn’t suddenly look like a size 2, but holy hourglass, Batman!

That corset led to another (underbust this time, which I personally love less). And that led to my first ever custom corset… which I hate. I’m not sure what it is about that one but it… let’s just say it fits fine, but it’s quite painful to wear and it makes the girls look like a shelf–and not in a good way. After that debacle, I was leery about buying anymore. Surely I could make do with my cheap Freddie’s corsets and the two good ones I had?

Then I discovered Ms. Martha’s Corset Shoppe and learned what a really good corset feels like. As a well-endowed lady, a good corset does more than cinch my waist, it takes the pressure off my back from hauling the girls around all the time. I swear, I learned what it must feel like to be a B-cup… without losing my cleavage. In that corset, I understand how heroines can kick some butt in the steampunk novels we know and love, even when tied up securely.

Sadly, my every day life is less than corset-friendly, but I’m very much looking forward to my next opportunity to wear them–specifically the beautiful blue one that feels so amazing. Ms. Martha, if you happen to be reading, thank you and I hope to see you again soon.

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Jenny Schwartz is an Australian author in love with living in the suburbs. What could be nicer than chatting to your neighbour over the back fence? She’s currently mis-using her history degree to write steampunk and can be bribed with TimTams.

Steampunk Australia
by Jenny Schwartz

I’m so thrilled to be visiting STEAMED! Thanks, Lolitas 🙂

And because I am so thrilled to be here, I feel really bad about bringing up a complaint. Just a tiny one. Why do your dirigibles never fly down to the Antipodes?

I know. You’ve heard strange stories of kangaroos and venomous snakes. You’re worried about wombats and concerned that Hugh Jackman isn’t actually the standard of all Aussie guys.

But there are lots of steampunk opportunities in Australia. Our history includes convicts, bushrangers, gold rushes, camel trains and you could even use us as a launching pad for an Antarctic expedition — Yes, New Zealand, I can hear you shouting “No! That’s us!”. There’s a bit of Antipodean rivalry in our corner of the world 😉

I’m one of the world’s worst traveller’s, so I’d love for everyone to visit me, here in Australia. So to lure you all south, I’m going offer one digital copy of “Courting Trouble”. Just leave a comment at the bottom of this post for your chance to win.

I defy you to read “Courting Trouble” and not immediately book your dirigible ticket to the Antipodes!


The Bustlepunk Chronicles #2

Swan River Colony, Australia, 1895

All suffragette Esme Smith wants is respect. Her beau, American inventor Jed Reeve, may be more enlightened than most men, but lately his need to protect her is at odds with her need for independence. Esme begins to wonder if a modern woman can share her life with a man without losing some of herself.

With his courtship of Esme stalled, the last thing Jed needs is the pressure of saving the Prince of Wales. But when blueprints for a sonic destroyer fall into his hands, he uncovers an anarchist plot that could have deadly consequences.

While investigating the threats, Jed is determined to keep Esme out of harm’s way, despite her protests. But when the terrorists capture Jed and demand a priceless emerald in exchange for his life, it’s Esme who must draw on all her strength to save the day.


You can catch up with Jenny at her website, on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblring about steampunk.

Amazon B&N

Read the reviews at Goodreads

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Where’d you get that?

One of the things steampunk fans and authors are always getting asked (and asking each other) is “Where did you get that?” Costume geeks love finding that next great source. While I strongly recommend hitting your local thrift store for starters, (Seriously I have $1 skirts, $8 boots and a $6 jacket I use all the time.)sometimes you just have to cave in and find something really special. I’ve been doing a lot of Renaissance festival stuff this summer, and as I’ve mentioned here before, there’s a lot of artisan and fan overlap. So while I’ve been out partying like it’s 1599, I’ve also been indulging my newest addiction, steampunk fashions.

Now I’ve been a steampunk clothing fan from way back before there ever was such a thing, having always favored lacy blouses, long skirts and retro jewelry. Now, however, all the stuff I’ve always liked has a genre, and I have more excuses to wear the brooches and hair combs that have been in my drawer for 20 years. Of course, you can never have too much, so here’s a few of my favorites and new finds.

Fossil: Mainstream, but they were making funky vintage-style items before anyone knew there was a market for it. I have a 20 year old Fossil watch with exposed gears. And it still runs. Score.

1928 Jewelry: What Fossil did for watches, 1928 has always done for jewelry. Awesome faux-vintage costume stuff that’s inexpensive and easy to find. Again, I’ve been collecting this for something like 2 decades.

Corset-Story.com: Another vendor that you don’t find at fairs, but it’s the best place for finding inexpensive, decent-quality corsets. I have several. Also nice is that most of their wares go up to quite generous sizes without special-ordering.

Crimson Chain Leatherworks: A good, all-purpose leather shop with all kinds of goodies at very reasonable prices. I have bought very small stuff (belt mug-hanger for ten bucks) from them and very big stuff (My sweet new leather demi-cape. ) It kept me so warm and toasty I’m planning on it being my new fall jacket.

Mad Girl Clothing: This is the steampunk side of my favorite leather clothing vendor, Pendragon Costumes. (They make fabric items too, on both sites.) I can’t recommend their quality and style enough. They’re pricey, but worth it.

The Blonde Swan: These hats just make me swoon. I’m definitely saving up for one or more of their millinery wonders. Hand crafted and beautifully designed. Not inexpensive, but of a quality to wear for a lifetime.

The Silk Road: Scarves, hats, blouses and skirts in the most gorgeous silks, handmade in Michigan.

Spectra Nova: Steampunk and military-type insignia, jewelry, etc. A fun shop to check out!

Seventeen17Jewels: Original jewelry and beadwork. She’s an up-and-comer, but her stuff is VERY cool.

Fiona’s Fineries: At first I didn’t linger in this shop, as they’re also a Corset-Story retailer, and I knew I could get the same merchandise online. Then I wandered back into the other part of the shop, where original pieces were displayed. BINGO! I found a killer bustle-skirt that had been perfectly made to match a blue-and-lilac corset from C-S–conveniently, one I already had. Needless to say, that skirt is now a permanent part of my steampunk wardrobe.

Well, I hope this is helpful to some of you. Care to share any of your secret sources?

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It’s Book Monday. One lucky commenter will win a copy!


by Dave Freer

Copy provided by PYR

The smallest thing can change the path of history.

The year is 1976, and the British Empire still spans the globe. Coal drives the world, and the smog of it hangs thick over the canals of London.

Clara Calland is on the run. Hunted, along with her scientist mother, by Menshevik spies and Imperial soldiers, they flee Ireland for London. They must escape airships, treachery, and capture. Under flooded London’s canals, they join the rebels who live in the dank tunnels there.

Tim Barnabas is one of the underpeople, born to the secret town of drowned London, place of anti-imperialist republicans and Irish rebels, part of the Liberty—the people who would see a return to older values and free elections. Seeing no farther than his next meal, Tim has hired on as a submariner on the Cuttlefish, a coal-fired submarine that runs smuggled cargoes beneath the steamship patrols, to the fortress America and beyond.

When the Imperial soldiery comes ravening, Clara and her mother are forced to flee aboard the Cuttlefish. Hunted like beasts, the submarine and her crew must undertake a desperate voyage across the world, from the Faeroes to the Caribbean and finally across the Pacific to find safety. But only Clara and Tim Barnabas can steer them past treachery and disaster, to freedom in Westralia. Carried with them—a lost scientific secret that threatens the very heart of Imperial power.

(summary from the Barnes and Noble website)

I love how you can take one small thing (like synthetic ammonia not being invented) and use it as the catalyst to create an entire new world. This fast-paced YA tale is filled with submarines, smugglers, death-defying adventure, and a dash of romance. Freer’s nautical aesthetic and use of submarine pirates provide a fresh and imaginative take on steampunk. This was a fun, satisfying read.

One lucky commenter will win my hardcover copy of CUTTLEFISH. Open internationally, contest closes Sunday, September 30th at 11:59 PM PST.

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Today we welcome author Kaitlin Branch.

Kaitlin Branch is from Omaha, Nebraska. She enjoys things such as running, dancing, singing, writing, and Patrick Stewart pontificating about the letter ‘B’. Her first e-book,Valeria,comes out November 5th, 2012 from Lyrical Press. You can find her (and her husband) at http://www.kaitlinandmichaelbranch.com on facebook at “The Athele Series” or on twitter, @theatheleseries.

Steampunking Fairytales
by Kaitlin Branch

For every fairy tale there are hundreds of adaptions. Movies, book, spoken word stories, cartoons, costuming, even visual art. Fairy tales are woven into the very fabric of their respective culture and they show up again and again, in varying states of adaption.

Cinderella for instance, has all of these. To give you an idea, there’s more than fifty listed, including Opera, Ballet, Verse, Pantomime and an Ice Show. That’s not even looking at the other classics, just Cinderella.

But why all these adaptions? Why don’t we keep on writing original stuff? Why should you consider, even knowing that there arehundredsof competitors, adapting your own fairy tale?

#1 These stories are fundamentally easy to alter.

Here are the key important points of Cinderella:

  1. Girl is housekeeper under step-mother’s evil eye.
  2. Girl goes to huge party with chance to marry a powerful person with help of mystical power.
  3. Girl loses important and identifying item with which powerful person finds and marries her.

Notice how these things are really general. It doesn’thave to be a ball. It doesn’t haveto be a prince. It can be an airship soiree with a grand Admiral. It doesn’thaveto be a slipper. Heck, it can be a mechanical hand or fake eye! The point is that once you have these key ideas in place, you can go anywhere with the story. Side-trip at a slurpee-stand on the way to the ball? Sure, why not? Steam-powered talking robots? Disney had mice, you can certainly have robots.

#2 These stories are easy to understand.

This sort of stems from fairy tales being easy to adapt. Because the key points are so simple, they are also easy to understand. This is important because in Steampunk, the technology can sometimes boggle the mind. In order to have an good story, you need a good base theme. Fairy tales make a really great base theme, which allows you to spend a little more time on style. As an author, we need to make the story easily understandable and yet still exciting. An adapted Fairy tale allows us to go out on a limb with our telling of the tale. Throw in a complication! Add in an extra character. Because there’s that easy-to-understand base, we’ll catch on quicker but still have just as much fun!

#3 These stories are important to us.

Fairy tales express some extremely basic ideals no matter which form they are in. Romance, love, betrayal, honor, sadness, they’re all in there. Not only that, but their history in our culture (and their parallels with the stories of other cultures) make them incredibly important to us. So the fact that fairy tales are so endlessly adapted shouldn’t be surprising.

Don’t be afraid to capitalize on that. It’s a super cool tradition which you are completely welcome to take part in.

My first published novelette, Valeria,is a riff on the fairy tale of Rapunzel, one which most spectacularly was adapted by Disney lately in Tangled. Disney did an amazing job with it. I’m hoping you’ll like my Steampunk version as well!

~Kaitlin Branch

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Artist Michael Treat

Artist Michael Treat

The airship just landed in Minnesota at the twin cities. I’ve loved Minneapolis and St. Paul ever since the Mary Tyler Moore show and today we’re here to welcome aboard Steampunk Artist Michael Treat. “This way, “ I say and we are soon in the parlor and he’s sits on the  hand carved, chenille upholstered settee.

I slide down into the matching cushioned side chair and offer him some freshly brewed coffee rather than tea. “ I notice you’re known as a coffee snob and you created a fabulous collection of wine and coffee art. Since most writers are heavy coffee drinkers and people love to go to coffee shops to read, the literary world also considers coffee to be pretty important, so I have to ask, what is your favorite coffee or coffee shop?”

Holding the porcelain coffee cup, he takes a sip. “My favorite coffee is most definitely light roast. Ideally, I prefer something above a New England roast and a tad under a Full City roast. I usually prefer beans from Latin America; Guatemalan, Bolivian and Peruvian beans are some of my favorites. Lately I’ve been brewing coffee from the Dominican Republic. I also enjoy coffee with African origins. Rwandan coffee is fabulous. I’ll only drink dark roast if I roast the beans myself. I produce a really nice Italian roast all my dark roast friends love.

Whenever I can get them, there are beans from the Yemeni Republic that are limited to a few harvest weeks in the summer months that are THE BEST I’ve ever tasted. The soil and altitude they grow at are unique and the quantity is extremely limited. I like to sit and watch the beans change colors inside the glass roasting chamber with a new, brilliant color about every fifteen seconds or so. Now that I made my previous artistic hobbies into my job, home roasting coffee has become a hobby of mine that I truly enjoy.

As for going out for coffee, Minneapolis is full of great coffee shops. My neighborhood has a few that I frequent including Fire Roast Mountain, The Riverview Café and the Blue Moon. There is also a wonderful biker themed coffee shop in Uptown Minneapolis that is open late called Bob’s Java Hut. One of my new favorite haunts is in St Paul called Quixotic where they handcraft each cup you order.”

“How  yummy. Apparently coffee goes as well with art as it does with reading and writing.” The coffee cups rattle slightly as the airship lifts off. “I’ve been wondering, what inspired you to take your art in a Steampunk direction?”

He set his cup down on the mahogany coffee table and leaned back against the deep red cushioned seetee. “For me, I think it all started when I began working with materials that are dominant in the Steampunk genre including leather, unbleached fabrics, lace, grommets, eyelets, tack and  wood. Oh–and of course all of those metals! I very much enjoy working with brass, copper, wrought iron and rusty steel with all of their tarnish and patinas. I enjoy working with each material individually, and combining them in new and different ways.

As I learned more and more about the genre, and researched what it was about,  I realized I had found a place to incorporate those elements and the styles into just about anything I could imagine. I love the Steampunk genre because of the modification process that Steampunk allows, and often even demands!

I also really feel a sort of kinship with the American Old West. I admire the optimism that came along with all the hardships and uncertainties of that time period. I also enjoy how that unique creativity, optimism and sense of possibilities and vision is reflected in those who live the Steampunk lifestyle today.”

We both set our cups down and I refilled each with the steamy dark brew. “It’s wonderful you were drawn to Steampunk with your art for the same reasons most writers are drawn to the genre.  In fact you are a writer yourself as you write comics, what similarities and differences do you find in the creative process between literate and visual art?”

“Drawing is a skill that is incorporated into just about everything I do. Whether it’s technical or totally expressive, being able to draw has served my creative process well. I’m a fan of graphic novels because they challenge writers to present the fundamental elements of a  story to the artist to then fill in the visual needs of the piece. I still enjoy text based novels as I like to create my own images in my mind to complement the story. It’s also fun to see someone else’s interpretation of a writer’s ideas or to be the person who gets to share your images with others and help create the story for that new audience.

I took a class with Allyson McGhee (NY Times best seller and Pulitzer Prize Nominee for Shadow Baby) in 2004 and completed an alternative assignment: a comic page with two or more characters discussing a pair of broken glasses. I chose that assignment over an essay about my job; at that time I was a corrections officer in a maximum security prison.

The next day I showed it to the class and Allyson and my fellow writers received it with unexpected praise and enthusiasm. At the end of the course, she told me, “I know you want to write novels, but you should really consider doing something with your cartooning and your ability to draw well.” That advice stuck with me and I began to seriously study cartooning and comics. In 2005, I even ended up creating a comic strip versions of the chronicles of Gary “The Walkingman” Hause on his website.  Walkingman Cartoons

He showed me The Adventures of The Walkingman. “This is better than my favorite Penney Dreadful. Indeed, you ar quite a talented writer as well as an artist. Keep it up and you can’t go wrong with advice from award winning, best seller author Allyson McGhee.” We both set our cups down on the coffee table and I brimmed them full of more strong coffee. “You work in all these different artistic areas comics, jewelry, sculptures, collages and paintings. What is your favorite?”

“While I enjoy each artistic area in it’s own right, I think I enjoy comics the most. I get to make one thing and technology does the rest – thank you Mr. Guttenberg and your printing press. I also like that it’s the first art form that I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with other artists/writers and not do all the work on my own. I also enjoy working on projects that defy one clear category.”

“Your comics are soo good, I can certainly see why you enjoy that medium but all your art is fabulous. I especially find your Bonzo sculpture intriguing. Tell me about it?”

“Bonzo was a 1/6 scale scratch figure I started without any clear picture in mind. At that point, I was just learning how to work together the brass, copper, and wood bits you see in the piece. His creation covered two projects for me: making a from-scratch steampunk-themed robot figure and creating a vehicle in the same scale/size. He has a driver/partner whose a cyborg that has some fun accessories I made totally from scratch as well.

Bonzo, an original steampunk creation of Michael Treat

Bonzo, an original steampunk creation of Michael Treat

Bonzo and his driver, B Scott Quigley, are a delivery and conveyance team. Basically, they’re like a Victorian era version of FedEx and your local cab company combined into one.

I learned a lot from creating these two including metal and wood working, leather craft, basic mechanics, and image reduction, a technique which I used for making tiny gages on the instrument panels.

People who see Bonzo are most impressed with his head sculpt but it was actually the easiest part of the piece to complete. The hardest part was his core. Putting that together was tough! And his hands. They’re totally functional. But a whole other story.”

After another sip of the rich, smooth coffee, I set my cup down. “A Victorian era FedEx, I love that. You mentioned you began Bonzo without any clear picture in mind.  Do you usually sketch your art out before beginning your sculptures, jewelry, and paintings? What is your creative process?”

“I do a lot more of that now. I like to have as clear of a plan of what it is I’m trying to accomplish before I execute the creation process. However, there are times when I just have to pick my material and my tools, and just allow a piece to manifest.”

I grabbed my fan off the table and with a flick of my wrist I spread it, fluttering it in front of my face. It gets a little stuffy in the airship. “You are so talented.  I was wondering how young you were when you first became involved in art?”

“My talent was first noticed in third grade when I got a drawing published in a school paper . I drew an armored car that I used to see driving by the school yard daily. Drawing for me was just something that happened, until I decided to take art seriously and pursuit it professionally, most of the art I created just sort of happened. Now, I work in such a way that I regularly create a space for my creative process to happen on a daily basis.”

I shut my fan and placed it in my lap. “You put that so beautifully. It’s the same process for writers, at first we write when in the mood but to write professionally you have to make your own mood. It’s hard to explain that sometimes to non-writers or beginner writers but you said it so well. Apparently that’s another way in which visual art and literary art are similar. Speaking of your art, your wonderful creations, what are your personal favorites and why?”

“Generally, I don’t get too attached to my own work. While I’m proud of what I produce, for me it’s sort of like being a chef who prefers to cook for the enjoyment of others and have someone else prepare a dish for him or her at the end of the day.

I do have one specific coffee collage that I created that I do really like. It has an old west/Victorian/Steampunk feel to it.

Kitchen Art: Coffee Mug Collage No. 5

Kitchen Art: Coffee Mug Collage No. 5

More recently, I’ve been doing some cityscape work, for the LoLa Art Crawl, an event by a group to which I belong called the League of Longfellow Artists, I created two cityscapes. I was inspired by Checo Diego’s “You Are Here I” and “You Are Here II” drawings. With that inspiration, as well as being inspired by the skylines of the Twin Cities, I created a pen and pencil sketch of each skyline and transferred those drawings to 40″ x 60″ canvases. I find that I can look at those two pieces and feel happy with how they turned out. I also very much enjoyed talking with people about those pieces, and I really enjoyed going through each skyline with natives to the area and picking out points of interest that I incorporated into the drawings.”

LoLa Art Crawl, Site 14: Merlin’s Rest: Mike Treat, Smirking Tiger, with St Paul Cityscape and 2 wine paintings.

The cups began to rattle again. “We are landing. Let me ask just one more question. It’s about your Etsy gallery, I love the name Smirking Tiger and your logo is so simple yet stunning, what inspired you to come up with that name and logo?”

“The name of my Etsy shop, and my business, is a good example of how my artistic skills can benefit others, but not necessarily my own immediate needs. My wife, Brenda Peterson, and I brainstormed to come up with a name for my business. After deciding on Smirking Tiger, it was definitely a challenge to determine how to draw a relatively simple representation of a smirking tiger for the logo. It was tough!

I probably sketched two full pads of ideas out with hundreds of rough images and ideas, eventually getting to the point of doing some decent finished works of tigers, but it still didn’t seem quite right. I was missing the mark on  my goal of creating a simple, eye catching image that evoked curiosity and piqued people’s interest in what this whole “Smirking Tiger” thing was all about.

That’s when my wife showed me the Chinese symbol for king, and a description that said the following: “Facial markings on the tiger’s forehead resemble the Chinese character for King (and interestingly enough, the Korean character for Queen), therefore, the Chinese see the tiger as the King of Beasts.”  Here is the picture that she originally showed me.

King Tiger

King Tiger

Since my astrological sign is also the tiger, my wife then suggested I modify this symbol to incorporate the smirk where the straight lines originally were. I was approaching a deadline when I needed to finalize my new logo. I put aside my perfectionism and went with her idea. I worked in the smirking expression form and a couple of physical characteristics of what a smirking tiger might look like.  From there, my new logo was born. What I originally considered my “temporary” logo, I’ve now adopted as my personal brand and avatar.”

 Smirking Tiger logo.

Smirking Tiger logo.

He grasped onto his settee and I onto my chair as the ship rocked slightly. “What a wonderful story, it makes the logo even more interesting. I hate to say it but we have landed. I must bid you farewell so you can return to your studio and create more stunning Steampunk art.

Michael Treat creating a wine painting at the LoLa Art Crawl

Michael Treat creating a wine painting at the LoLa Art Crawl

But I and all the Steamed readers can always visit you at  Smirking Tiger on  Etsy,  Smirking Tiger on  Pinterest and your Smirking Tiger Steampunk Figures on Pinterest as well as Smirking Tiger Steampunk Jewelry on Pinterest plus Smirking Tiger on Facebook & Smirking Tiger on  Twitter


Maeve Alpin

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In Research Mode

(Sorry, no bit of the fictional world of the airship Steamed! and my role as sometimes thief stow-away turned engine-monkey. The past few weeks have gotten the best of me and I’m more than a little behind. Next time, though, I promise.)

For those of you who aren’t aware, Clockwork Mafia (aka “Badlands 2”) is coming out next spring from Carina Press. That story… took a while for various reasons. However, I really don’t want there to be a huge gap between number 2 and number 3 (or number 4 for that matter), so now that my schedule is clear for a minute, I’m trying to work on book 3 (which has no title, not even a working one, which makes me sad).

Since I just spent a decent chunk of August working on Clockwork Mafia edits, it would seem like it’d be easy to dive back into the world since I have all the characters and settings fresh in my mind. There’s only one problem with that: yes, I have the characters, but this new one is set almost entirely in a place I didn’t touch in the first two stories.

Which means I need to go into research mode. Now, I’m not the steampunk author who freaks out about getting every detail correct (it is an alternate history after all), but I need to get the feel right. This summer when we were on vacation, we were supposed to make a side trip so I could get some research in. Sadly, the presence of an infant and a two-year-old (nephews) killed that plan like a crossbow bolt through the eye. So, once again, I’m having to immerse myself in the world of the interwebs. If it gets too sticky, I may never make it out again.

But in, I shall go, to trudge through swamps and climb mountains and generally wish I was somewhere else. You see, each book in the series “belongs” to a different heroine. Book 3 belongs to Mahala, and neither one of us wants to go where it’s going to take us. But it’s her story, and it can only be told there.

Wish us luck.

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Today we welcome Edrie from the Army of Broken Toys!

Raised on a farm in North Dakota, Edrie never thought her Lawrence Welk accordion skills would come in handy. Now from heifers to the Hynes Convention Center and everywhere in between; follow Edrie as she tells you about her life and her Army of Broken Toys.

Steampunk Theatre

by Edrie

For the past couple of years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in the making of a steampunk theatre piece with my band Walter Sickert & The ARmy of BRoken TOys. The piece started out as a SteamCRUNK radio play called “28 Seeds: The Last Radio Show” created for the RPM Challenge (if you are at all into AWESOME music – you should check RPM out!) which you can listen to for free on our Bandcamp page.  After hearing the radio play – a Boston based experimental theatre company Liars & Believers convinced us to go in on a huge experiment with them – bringing 28 Seeds to the stage, steampunk style!

After a year of script writing by a very talented writer (and our band’s Mandolin and Mustache) Meff and collaboration, and work-shopping and previews and begging for money  – we premiered the play on 4/20/12 at the Boston Center for the Arts . There were accolades, and a behind the scenes video, and we generally sold out each of the 16 performances to a very appreciative crowd, but what, my dear readers, made this a steampunk play?

Well, I’m not sure actually. It might be funny for me to admit this, but really steampunk is so many things to so many people that it’s awfully hard to pin down a definition that makes everyone happy. It’s not all gears and cogs (though to be sure we had plenty of that on set) or even the kind of costuming used (it certainly ran the gamut) or even the music (really no one can agree about what steampunk music sounds like – and frankly I like it that way).

For us it was much more the collaborative, inclusive nature of the production. The roll-up-our-sleeves-and- get-it- done-together attitude that everyone from the band, actors, and production staff to the theatre, producers and audience had.  For me, steampunk is really more about community than accoutrements. The latest ray gun is cool and all, but only when shared with others who have equally cool new monocles, spats or a steam-powered typewriter.

It’s the community that makes the experience and that is what steampunk theatre is; an experience rooted in community!


(One of the BRoken TOys)

28 Seeds tells the story of how greed and ignorance destroyed the world. This is H.P. Lovecraft meets rock music, steam power, and 1000 channels of TV beamed directly to your head; it’s government conspiracy, burlesque, ray guns, and tentacles; it blends a live rock show, science fiction, dance, theatre, video and sound into an immersive performance experience.

“Over 25 Boston artists and performers are involved in this unique collaboration. We’re bringing together innovative theatre, with all its story-telling tools, and the wild music of a live steampunk band. We have musicians, actors, dancers, video artists, sound artists, graphic artists and more. All are sharing in this wild collaborative work… ”

28 Seeds (the SOUNDTRACK) out NOW – st(r)eam it free HERE

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Last weekend I went to my first steampunk dance party.

This might not make a lot of sense if you know me. I don’t dance much–too many old injuries to the hips, knees & ankles. Plus I have NO rhythm. They hubster’s bad knees make the idea of dancing the night away even more unlikely. It was hot and sweaty, and crowded, plus I was in a corset. But I did have a lot of fun.    There was a huge crowd of total strangers, and, other than the spouse, exactly one person I’d met one time before. By the end of the night, I’d gotten to know people I look forward to meeting again. Some of them were in costume, others weren’t. Overall, there was this wonderful, wonderful sense of coming home. I was among my people.

Or, as the spouse happily put it, the place was a nerdfest. That’s not an insult, coming from him. He sang along to the “Time Warp” as loudly as anyone. Apparently, that’s a tradition at midnight at Up in the Aether gatherings. Yes, there were a few business-related moments. I talked to people about author participation in the Up in the Aether, the Convention, coming next spring. I handed cards with book info to a few interested people. I picked up cards from jewelry makers and costumers, looked at one guy’s gorgeous steampunk Tarot cards and had a taste of bacon brownie pie. Mostly, though, we just chatted with other people, ranging from the ages of our offspring, to significantly older than us. Steampunk, unlike some other movements, is very accepting of all ages, shapes, and sizes. I can’t wait for next month.

For anyone in the Detroit area, here’s the info: Up In The Aether‘s monthly gathering is held at a cool little place called The Phoenix Cafe. It’s 5 dollars admission, and you bring your own food and beverages, though a lot of sharing goes on. Next month’s meeting is Oct. 19. I’d love to see some more familiar faces there!

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Today we welcome back Vivien. She’s going to review THE KINGMAKERS, book three of the Vampire Empire series.

Book 3, Vampire Empire
Clay and Susan Griffith
ARC provided by PYR
Review by Vivien

The Kingmakers is the third book in the thrilling Vampire Empire trilogy. A fast paced action adventure filled with war, vampires and political machinations. In a world that could mirror our own, it stands out with the heavy doses of steampunk woven throughout.

The third book takes off immediately where The Rift Walker (book 2) ends. There is no down time in this book. It starts off with a bang and keeps you on your toes until the very end. Every scene plays an important role in weaving the plot together. The Griffiths found the perfect way to fool the reader into thinking that you knew what each character’s motivations were. Only to tweak the plot lines a little to leave you not knowing who to root for.

The characters are by far my favorite aspect of this series. While the world building and technicalities play their role, they aren’t what kept me invested in this series. Over the course of the trilogy, you get to see many sides to each character. Some selfish, some stubborn but most of all they were all very passionate in their beliefs. It’s invigorating to be able to glimpse these…human characteristics.

Adele finally emerges as the mature woman she was meant to be. She holds her power well and stands by her decisions both good and bad. The Greyfriar/Gareth really lets his soft side show through. He becomes more vulnerable in the realization of his feelings for Adele. Their relationship grows more intimate in the few moments that they are able to steal away. There aren’t many, but they draw strength from their trust in each other.

A very satisfying ending that leaves me wanting more. This conclusion was a very explosive novel. The action starts off with an explosive battle and ends with a victory. But who will win in the war of humans versus vampires? Who will be crowned King? How many will be left standing in the end?


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Today we welcome author Karina Cooper.

Karina Cooper broke into the scene with her Dark Mission series, a gritty post-apocalyptic romance set in Seattle. One part glamour, one part complete dork, she’s the author of dark and sexy paranormal romance and historical urban fantasy. When she isn’t writing, Karina is an airship captain’s wife and Steampunk fashionista. She lives in Washington with a husband, four cats, two rabbits, the fantasy of a dog and a passel of adopted gamer geeks.


The Literary Steampunk: A Market Defined

by Karina Cooper

I’m going to stick my parasol in an open wound once more and wiggle it around for effect: I’m going to define steampunk.

Since I can already sense the phantom pangs of a collective knot of knickers twisting, let me clarify the hook a little. I’m not going to try and define the whole of steampunk in one fell swoop. That’d be like trying to define a sub-set of humanity by the color of their skin or their sexual preferences or what they like to read. (See what I did there?) The argument over what is and is not steampunk is so pervasive and such a part of the structure that for many steampunks, the only common thread they have is the argument over what steampunk is or is not.

Instead, I’m talking about steampunk as a literary genre: a sub-set of the community that tends to be easily confused with the community as a whole, but whose rules cannot by very nature be applied to everyone within the greater sub-culture. Why? Because a literary genre has rules that make it a genre (rules that keep us from call The Hobbit science-fiction, for example, or To Kill a Mockingbird a fantasy). Business, industry, and readers demand that such rules, tropes, exist.

People are somewhat more complex.

The Breakdown: Steampunk

While some say that the creation of the word came about with a poorly timed and prophetically cynical William Gibson quote (something to the tune of “I just hope they don’t call it steampunk”; original sources are difficult to come by in this age of gossip and failed provenance), others claim that the term actually originated with author K.L Jeter in a 1987 letter to Locus magazine. (Fun fact: Jeter and his contemporaries wrote works usually set in the Victorian era and included much of the speculative science-fiction that current steampunk works are expected to have today.)

“Steampunk” emerged as a historical-oriented version of “cyberpunk”. Both words have “punk” as a suffix, which tells us a lot about the genre as a whole, but let’s ignore that for the moment. Instead, let’s take a look at the first word and see what it means. I bet it’s not as simple as you think.

“Steam” and “cyber” tend to be indicators of the level of tech. That’s the most obvious and common launching point. Steam seems to be somewhat less obvious than “cyber”. According to the historical knowledge of Miss Rose Trusham, a milliner in London, the “Age of Steam” is characterized as a period of industrialization between 1770 and 1914. We suspect that the reason steampunk as a literary genre is usually characterized by the Victorian Era is because of the collected works of H. G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Jules Verne—who wrote their pieces predominantly in this era and were the first to romanticize the time. (As Miss Trusham says, “An ‘ah ha!’ moment!”)

While electricity and the motor engine were garnering more and more support and popularity, it wasn’t until the very end of the Victorian Era that such devices became commonplace everywhere. This meant that quite a few devices were still powered by steam, coal and manual labor at the very height of the Industrial Revolution—which went hand-in-hand with the Victorian Era, the Belle Epoch in France, and America’s Gilded Age. Thus, “steam” came to represent the upsurge in gadgets, modes of transportation. Tied to the sudden and extremely brilliant surge in inventions, and it’s ripe fodder for any setting where brilliance must play as much a part as characters themselves.

But what else does it mean?

We Are Our Technology

Have you ever noticed that our level of technology affects our community ties and behaviors? These days, with a smartphone in nearly every middle-class pocket and a TV in every house, we’re more connected than we’ve ever been—and even more disconnected. As we lose ourselves to the constant flood of information, we lose our ties to each other in small, fundamental ways.

Each major leap in technology has caused a shift in societal values. I’m sure there’s a perfectly brilliant anthropological and psychological explanation for it, but I’m not an expert in either field. Instead, as an observer, it can safely be surmised that each “era” of technology takes with it a societal contract. In cyberpunk, it’s often characterized by a dystopian, disconnected and often de-sensitized populace, often ruled over by “Big Brother” style corporations or entities. Once more, the people of a cyberpunk story tend to be connected through technology in ways we are only just beginning to develop and perfect, yet pay the price of the ultimate “rat race”.

 In a steampunk world, correlating the society with the uptick in industrial effort creates the deep and heavily punctuated schism between the upper class aristocrats and the working class. The Victorian Era saw the struggle to control the world even as industry spiraled out of it. Society women were societally locked away, unable to be anything more than wives and home-makers. The undesirables were kept out of sight, ignored or used and discarded. America and France each had their own societies, their own “way it is”, colored by what kind of technology came to pass. The Wild West, most pointedly, saw the beginning of the end as technology brought more and more people, workers, war, to the once pristine and untamed land.

What does this mean? In short, it means that the prefix of the genre, “steam”, doesn’t just apply to the technology, but for the societal contract that goes with that technology. No society has one but not the other. As far back as the Stone Age, technology creates societal restriction—and progress.

Tear it to the Ground

And that’s where “punk” comes in. At the very heart, a “punk” is someone who wants to take the societal contract and rip it to shreds—for good reasons or otherwise.

No book is complete without a conflict, and in many cases, the most obvious and most beloved character is one who is fighting for or against the status quo, and causing waves wherever he or she goes. In steampunk, much of the conflict stems from the struggle against the defined structure. In Tarnished, Cherry St. Croix is a Society miss who wants to be anything but. Cherry fights to be her own woman—she is, albeit lacking in mohawks, a punk.

To sum up very briefly, a steampunk story fundamentally has these things: a level of technology characterized by the use of steam and similar- and appropriately-timed apparatuses, a societal contract that mirrors the progress or restrictions that technology has created or allowed, and those who fight the status quo with that technology.

I want you to look very closely at those things. Look again. Did I say “Victorians” in it? Did I say it had to be historical? What about the word “goggles”, “airship” or “accurate”? Did I say that the inventions had to be fantastical? That science had to trump magic?

Did I say it couldn’t?

There’s a reason for that.

A Caveat

Every literary genre—from the many shades of romance to hardcore science-fiction to fantasy and beyond—has rules. Tropes. Every single genre has a starting point, and every single genre has a foundation.

Not every book follows them.

In many cases, we as writers are no more responsible for laying down the rules than children are of parenting themselves. Tropes are made by communal understanding; by society, and the consumers that voraciously read what is placed out, and make known their tastes—and by doing so, shaping the industry that then dictates what books that we write will see the light of day. Yet there are always exceptions to these rules, books who don’t follow the format, writers who take a risk into the creative.

Some are rewarded by the adulation of consumers, and in so doing, shape the foundation a little bit more.

As with all genres, however—steampunk, cyberpunk, horror, romance, science-fiction, zombie apocalypse, urban fantasy, whatever—the onus is on us as authors to know the rules first. If we choose to break them, then we should know what we’re breaking and why.

That’s why steampunk literature can travel from the Victorian Era to futuristic fantasy worlds. That’s why the purely made-up world of Girl Genius —which launched before steampunk ever went mainstream and helped shape the genre—can share shelf-space with alternate-history and steampunk predecessor The Difference Engine; why the collected oral stories of the music industry’s time-traveling, steampunk-apocalypse Abney Park and Nico Rosso’s Wild West romance Night of Fire are both considered steampunk.

And why my own alternate-history with alchemy and light gadgetry is just as much steampunk as Cherie Priest’s stunningly invention-heavy, zombie-ridden, alternate-history Boneshaker.

Steampunk is so very much to the community at large. Another time, I’ll broach that much, much more complex topic. To the literary world, however, it’s just as expansive. Even the rules it claims aren’t as restrictive as many seem to think they are.

So if you’re feeling spiky, go out and write some steampunk. You may be surprised how easy it is to naturally develop the three rules that characterize the genre—even without trying. After all, we know what makes good story, and we know what makes sense. The rest is Turkish delight.

~Karina Cooper


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Nautical Steampunk Attire

Nautical Steampunk Attire

Airships and Trains weren’t the only steam powered transportation the Victorians used, steam driven ships were a big part of the era. Keep in mind the nautical theme of one of the, if not the, most famous Victorian sci-fi books, Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Perhaps the greatest historical steamship episode of the Victorian era is the battle of the  Ironclads during the American Civil War, the southern Merrimac and the northern Monitor,  shown in this youtube video:

Ironclads was the name given to steam powered warships protected by iron or steel armor plates.  By the 1880’s ironclads were equipped with the heaviest guns ever mounted at sea and more sophisticated steam engines, these ships developed into modern day battleships.

Another interesting steamship episode from Victorian history is the steamers that tugged the cigar shaped container ship, known as Cleopatra, which held the obelisk, called Cleopatra’s needle, all the way from Egypt. There were three steamers in all, the Olga beset by a storm rescued the survivors of the Cleopatra crew, six drowned, then they had to abandon the container ship, leaving it to drift in the Bay of Biscay. The Fillitz Morris rescued the cylinder and towed it to Northern Spain. From there the Anglia towed Cleopatra to Gravesend. Five days later Cleopatra was pulled up the Thames. On September 13, 1878 the obelisk was erected on a pedestal on the banks of the Thames. The names of the men who drowned due to Cleopatra’s journey are commemorated on the pedestal. The pedestal is also a time capsule representing Victorian Britain, it contains British coins, a railway guide, some daily newspapers, several bibles in different languages and a dozen prints of the world’s most beautiful women. You can see the obelisk here.

Here’s a fictional excerpt of the arrival of Cleopatra at London, from the Steampunk Romance, As Timeless As Magic:

The ship towed a long cylinder, about 200 hands long and about 30 hands wide, across the rippling blue water as the sun peeked through the clouds in the blue–gray sky. Heru was sure it was a royal boat when the whole crowd cheered at its approach.

“Oui, I’m dressed like an ancient Egyptian to commemorate the obelisk.” Now he understood. He fit in with the occasion. That ship hauled something important from his country to be erected along the bank of the river.

His eardrums ached with the bang of the soldiers’ sticks, weapons that blasted into the air, again and again, in praise and fanfare to the long white ship puffing steam out of the tall black pipe and tooting a loud horn. He clamped his hands over his ears.

Men in tall, black, pipe-like hats rushed forward with tools in hand and cracked open the lengthy cylinder. Using a cable from a towering machine, shaped like a barrel with wheels and cogs spinning and rocking, the men hoisted free what lay inside. The crowd all stepped back. As the tall machine clanked, rumbled and puffed steam, it lifted the obelisk to a standing position. The throng cheered.

Heru recognized the type of monument at once. “Oui, what you call obelisks are built in pairs to stand on either side of a temple, the priests use them to tell time by the shadows cast, but there is no temple and there is only one.” Confused, he shook his head.

“Egypt gave it to England in 1819, but neither Parliament nor the king, later the queen, could cover the expense of shipping it, until General Alexander took up the cause.” She cocked her head. “Sir Wilson, who, not to be crude, but honestly, is as rich as they come, paid all the costs of its voyage. They shipped the other one, its twin, to America.”

“America?” It must be another country that didn’t exist in his time, and now they too had an obelisk from Egypt. “Amazing.” The column carved out of a single piece of stone tapered into a pyramidion at the top. He peered at the beautiful hieroglyphics engraved on it.

“Not as amazing as all poor Cleopatra has been through.”

“Cleopatra?” Who or what was Cleopatra? Since he didn’t know anything or at least very little about the future he’d landed in, he shrugged as he watched her lips curve into a smile.

“The watertight cylinder. The first ship that towed her got caught in a storm and six men drowned. Cleopatra drifted in the ocean alone, until a different ship rescued her and brought her to a Spanish port. Then,“ Felicity pointed to the barge in the river, “that ship, the Anglia, brought her and the obelisk she carried, which everyone is calling Cleopatra’s needle, here.”

“This Cleopatra’s needle’s journey to England is almost as unbelievable as mine.”

“I doubt your adventure is more exciting than the obelisk’s.” Felicity set her hand on her small but defined hip.

“You would be surprised.”

Maeve Alpin & Pirate - Space City Con

Maeve Alpin & Pirate – Space City Con

Keep steamships, sea ports, and nautical settings in mind for your Steampunk tales. Also, if you live in the Houston Texas area there’s a great opportunity for maritime research and fun, Saturday, September 15that the Houston Maritime Museum. Here’s a invitation to all who can come.Please join me for an afternoon of nautical Steampunk fun at the Houston Maritime Museum, tie down the date of 09/15/12 at 3:00 PM. Don steampunk attire if you wish, in the fashion of a day at a Victorian yacht club or airship pirates may feel free to become maritime pirates

Captian Jack at Dickens On The Strand 2012

Captian Jack at Dickens On The Strand 2012

for the day, or a member of the Nautilus crew. All Steampunk garb and characters are welcomed as well as modern garb. Board the guided tour of over 150 model ship exhibits, spanning the age of exploration to the modern merchant marines and several models of steam powered ships from the Victorian age. Free parking is a shore thing at the large lot beside the museum. Museum admission is $5.00 per age 12 up, $3.00 for children 3 -11 and children under 3 are free.

Maeve Alpin

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Caption Contest Winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered the caption contest! There were some amazing entries. Here are the winners!


Winner #1 – Karina Cooper’s LURE OF THE WICKED (signed)

Penelope @ The Reading Fever

She was too lost in her own world to notice the stuffed animals moving in closer–curious to see what happens next.

Winner #2 – Dave Freer’s CUTTLEFISH


Alright Mum, where did you hide my Ornithopter?

Winner #3 – THE CLOCKWORK THREE by Matthew J. Kirby

Sarah M

All that time spent at Build-A-Bear trying to find the perfect hat, and you didn’t grab me any pants?!

Winner #4 – Kassy Tayler’s ASHES OF TWILIGHT (signed ARC).

Heather Smith Meloche

Baby batteries low. Losing…consciousness…

Missy’s Favorite Award — surprise prize


 Grand prize winner!




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