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Archive for November, 2012

Today we welcome O.M. Grey as she drops by on her blog tour…

O. M. Grey Blog Tour: Steampunk ParaRomance and Tiara Giveaway

Photo by Greg Daniels

Thank you so much for hosting me today, Suzanne, and all the Lovely Lolitas at STEAMED! It’s so great to be back!

Today I’d like to give all STEAMED readers a chance to win my YA Steampunk Paranormal Romance novel, The Zombies of Mesmer, along with this lovely tiara/necklace made by EJP Creations. I’m wearing it in this picture from my Gearhearts Steampunk Glamour Revue photo shoot. This was my favorite picture without the red hair, but it didn’t make it into the final issue, although several other lovely pictures did. But before we get to the contest portion, please enjoy my short story “Hannah & Gabriel,” a Steampunk retelling of the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel.”

Hannah & Gabriel

“Gabe! Gabe, wake up!” Hannah urged her brother in a desperate whisper, shaking him.

“What?” Balled fists rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.

“Listen. Come here and listen.” Before Gabriel could find his bearings, Hannah was yanking him across the room. “Listen,” she whispered again.

Through the wall, Gabriel could hear his parents talking in hushed tones. His own breathing drowned out their words, so he held his breath and listened.

“No.” It was his father’s voice. “I will not, woman. There must be another way.”

“You know there isn’t.” Gabriel’s step-mother did not speak as softly. “There is no work, Oscar. No work means no food. Do you want us all to die?”

“Of course not, but they are only children.”

“Exactly, they will probably be found by someone who will care for them. We’ll dress them in their best and send them on their way. They’ll be better off.”

“What are they talking about?” Gabriel asked his sister.

“Shhhh. They’ll hear you.” Hannah climbed back into her bed and pulled her knees in tight. All was suddenly silent. The voices in the adjacent room had quieted, and all Gabe heard was the sounds of the night. Then bare feet padding across the wooden floor. Gabriel dove back into bed and pulled the covers up to his chin just as the door opened. His last sight before clamping his eyes shut was his sister feigning sleep.

“See.” His step-mother’s voice. “Sound asleep. You worry too much.” Her fading footfalls told Gabriel she had returned to her room, but he never heard his door close. He chanced a peek through his eyelashes and saw a blurred version of his father standing in the doorway, just watching them. After what seemed like forever, his father brushed the back of his hand across his cheek and closed the door.

“Hannah,” Gabe whispered after all had been quiet for awhile, but there was no answer. “Hannah!” Nothing. His eyes started to burn and the fear filled his chest, suffocating him. Covering his face with the covers, he muted the sounds of weeping and tried to tell himself everything would be all right. His lips formed the words over and over again. “Everything will be all right. Everything will be all right.” The mantra mixed with his emotional exhaustion finally lulled him to sleep.

A loud clanging noise startled him from his dreams. Gabe sprung up, his hands covering his ears against the offensive racket. His step-mother stood in their doorway, banging a wooden spoon on an iron pot. “Wake up! Wake up! Important day today, my doves. Put on your finest, for we are going on a journey.”

After he and his sister dressed in silence, they made their way into their father’s workshop. They found him as he always was in his waking state: hunched over a clock or pocket watch, peering through his special work glasses, each side held three separate magnifying lenses affixed to tiny arms fanned above the frames like bizarre eyebrows. Some of the very tiny watch parts could only be properly seen with magnification.

“Father?” Hannah began in her small voice. “Where are we going today?”

Oscar looked up from his work, and Gabriel had to suppress a laugh. One of his father’s eyes looked four times as big as the other through his work glasses. It felt good to smile, but Gabe’s smile quickly turned into a sinking feeling. He wished he had laughed out loud instead of holding it in, for that might be his final feeling of joy for quite some time.

“Your mother is taking you for a special treat! A picnic in the forest, just the three of you. She’s even made a fresh pie to enjoy,” he said, removing the glasses. His eyes were rimmed red, as if he hadn’t slept all night. The bottom lid filled with tears, reflecting Gabriel’s own eyes. He turned to his sister and saw her tears streaming down her cheeks, so Gabe bit his lip and swallowed hard, determined to be strong for Hannah. Whatever was going to happen today, they would be together.

Their father gathered them up in his arms and squeezed them tight. Upon seeing his father’s small bin of extra and broken watch gears, Gabriel suddenly had an idea. While still grasped desperately by their father in his farewell embrace, Gabe reached out and grabbed a handful of small brass cogs and pocketed them.

“Children!” Their step-mother’s shrill voice entered the room just before she did. “Time to go. Come on. It will be a fine treat. I’ve packed some little morsels for a nice picnic. It’s a lovely day, but it will take us much time to get there, so we must leave now.”

“Why are we dressed up for a picnic in the woods? Won’t we get our fine clothes dirty?” Gabriel knew exactly why, but he just couldn’t resist saying something.

The hard woman clenched her jaw and her eyes glared at them for a moment before softening. “It is a game, my duck. We are going to enjoy the day like we are rich and have not a care in the world. It shall be like a holiday.” Although her voice was pleasant and her expression gentle for a change, when her bony hand clamped down on Gabriel’s and Hannah’s shoulders, her fingers dug in deep, urging them along without another word.

As they followed their step-mother into the woods, Gabriel held his sister’s hand, squeezing it affectionately every time he heard her sniffle. With his free hand, he held the watch gears, dropping one every ten steps. One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten, drop. One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten, drop. This helped keep his mind focused and the fear at bay, for he knew his horrid step-mother meant to leave them alone in the woods. But he’d show her. They would follow the path of cogs back home, and their father would be so glad to see them that he will hug them and kiss their heads. Then he would throw that horrid witch out on her oversized bustle. One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten, drop.

But the time came that Gabe ran out of cogs and they kept walking. He watched his step-mother’s determined gait just ahead of them, and he tried to pay attention to his surroundings, but all the trees looked the same after awhile.

They came to a clearing in the woods, and their step-mother stopped short. She told them to spread out the blanket she had carried under her arm while she went to find some firewood, for the air was a tad nippy and stung the sweat gathering around Gabriel’s collar.

“I’ll go with you,” Gabriel said.

“No, you stay here with your sister. Here–” She pulled a small parcel wrapped up in a napkin out of her basket and handed it to Gabriel. “Share with your sister.”

Gabe unwrapped it, expecting to see the fresh pie Father had spoken of, but it was just two crusts of bread spread with some congealed honey. Same as usual. The crusts that no one else wanted, this was her treat for them.

“Please don’t go, mummy,” Hannah said through her tears. Gabe knew she was really scared if she was calling that witch ‘mummy.’ She was not their real mother, for no mother would abandon her children out in the forest. Father married this harpy a year after their real mother had died. Didn’t make it through the winter because she gave most of her share of the food to her children. Although Hannah is too young to remember much of her, she still knew this hard woman before them was no nurturing mother. Hannah was terrified, and for good reason. She hadn’t stopped crying the entire way there. For hours they had walked, and now her fear was also mixed with exhaustion.

“Why are you crying, Hannah? Here. Let us play a game before I gather wood. We’re still warm enough from the walk, but the air is chill. We will cool down soon enough, and you will wish for a fire. But no matter, we shall play a game first. How about Hide & Go Seek?”

“Yes!” Hannah exclaimed, smiling. “Let’s! You can be ‘IT,’ and me and Gabe will hide.”

“Gabe and I,” their step-mother corrected.

“Yes, Gabe and I will hide.”

“That would be no fun, for I am much more clever than you are. It would be harder for you to find me, besides, I wouldn’t want you two to get lost in the woods while hiding.”

“You’re really not going to leave us here?” Hannah said.

“Silly child! Where did you ever get such an idea? Now, be a good girl and close your eyes. You, too, Gabriel. Close them tight. That’s right, put your hands over your eyes. No peeking!” Gabriel felt her bony hand on his shoulder and she began turning him around and around until he thought he might fall down. “Now, count to thirty while I hide. No peeking!”

“But–” Hannah said between her wrists.

“Fret not, my duck. I shall keep you both in sight. Count to thirty.”

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven….” Gabriel listened closely to the sound of her footsteps as they got further and further away. He did not count all the way to thirty. When he could no longer hear her rustling in the fallen leaves, he uncovered his eyes and looked all around.

They were alone.

Please read the rest of the story on my blog, Caught in the Cogs.

You can also listen to “Hannah & Gabriel,” as well as other stories on my fiction podcast at Caught in the Cogs.

Book & Tiara Giveaway

But before you go read the rest of the story, please enter the contest to win an author-signed copy of The Zombies of Mesmer and this lovely clock-hand tiara (pictured above) by leaving a comment and asking me a question below. In addition to this giveaway, I’m running several more this week during my blog tour, so please visit my blog for the full schedule and links.


O. M. Grey
Author. Poet. Romantic.
http://omgrey.wordpress.com
http://twitter.com/omgrey

About AVALON REVISITED~
Arthur Tudor has made his existence as a vampire bearable for over three hundred years by immersing himself in blood and debauchery. Aboard an airship gala, he meets Avalon, an aspiring vampire slayer who sparks fire into Arthur’s shriveled heart. Together they try to solve the mystery of several horrendous murders on the dark streets of London. Cultures clash and pressures rise in this sexy Steampunk Romance.

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NOTE: Lolita Cindy is an idiot who can’t read a calendar and thought today was the fourth Wednesday! Please scroll down for Lolita Maeve’s post, which is today’s REAL article. Lolita Cindy is presently hiding under a well deserved rock. Thank you.

“Hey, did Lolita Suzanne bring the pumpkin cupcakes?”

“Of course. And a pecan pie and carrot cake pops.”

A series of low moans of anticipated ecstasy fill the crew dining room.

“Well, then who’s got the turkey? Lolita Seleste?”

“No, I brought the drinks. Anyone want Sex with Captain Tightpants?”

All hands go up, of course. Then we realize Nathan Fillian really isn’t here, and she’s talking about the actual mixed drink. The fingers sag a bit, but most of us all take a glass.

“Lolita Cindy, did you bring the turkey?”

Snort. “Not if you want to, you know, actually eat it. Remember, I’m not allowed to play with stove tops or sharp knives. I did bake some bread.”

“Oh, right.”

Eventually Lolitas Maeve and Maureen sort out who brought what. There’s still no turkey, but there’s plenty of potatoes and vegetables and fruit and fresh-baked bread, not to mention all the sweets. Lolita Teresa gets out the clockwork lazy susan and Lolita Cindy helps load it up with food. Ray guns and sword canes are set aside, and we all swish around in our hoopskirts or tail coats and take our seats. Lolita Seleste raises her glass, and we all follow.

Each of us toasts the things we’re thankful for: friends, family, steampunk publishers and people who make really good corsets. Even the dogs are howling along, except for George (the clockwork mastiff), who is far too dignified. The cats, of course, are studiously ignoring us.

Finally the scents of the food have driven us to the point of shutting up and eating–after one final toast. “Happy Thanksgiving,” we all boom.

“And many more,” comes a mysterious voice from just beyond the door…

Who is it? Hopefully we’ll all be together long enough to find out. Happy thanksgiving to you and yours, from all of us here at Steamed!

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As the Steamed airship lands in Phoenix, Arizona, I go to greet my two guest. They step across the gaping space between the dock and airship to board, with a graceful, fluid glide. Both are dancers of

Diosa with sword & Katara in top hat

the Osiris Belly Dancing Company, Diosa, the director and her co-dancer, Katara.

I show them into the parlor where they ease onto the cushioned hand carved settee with lion head legs and claw feet. I sit across from them in a chemille upholstered arm chair.

“Welcome aboard Steamed. It’s so good to have you.” I lean toward Diosa as she sets her sword on the marble top coffee table.  “I love your dance company’s name, Osiris. Of course he’s the Egyptian god of the dead. Also, George Mann wrote a well known Steampunk novel titled The Osiris Ritual.  Why did you chose the name Osirus?”

Diosa flashed a bright smile. “I chose the name Osiris as a result of a series of my own personal experiences through belly dance. Enthralled by dancing with double veils, I later aspired to dance with seven veils, attributed to the myth of the “Dance of the Seven Veils”. After researching the history of Inanna and Ishtar and their descents into the underworld, I thought it fitting to use Osiris, also known as the keeper of the underworld. The name became a symbolic transformation of spirituality, where a dancer could abandon inhibitions and masculinity, empowering her feminine expression, as if to shed the facades created to hide her true self.”

“How intriguing.” The engine purrs and the china teacups on the coffee table rattle as the airship lifts off. I rub my lips together as I think of my next question. “On your website you say the Osiris Dance Company has its roots in Egyptian Cabaret. As I and some of our readers may be unfamiliar with the term, can you tell me more about what that means?

Diosa with the Osiris Dance Company

Diosa with the Osiris Dance Company

Diosa nods. “Our roots are bound to a more refined style with ballet and jazz influences with arm positions and traveling movements. Body movements are smaller, intricate muscular movements lending to a more intimate venue like night clubs or in this day and age, at coffee shops. Costumes also tend to be more intricate with a two piece sequined, beaded, and rhinestone bra and belt. The music style may have more dramatic orchestral elements with lavish musical styles.” 

I poured  Diosa a cup of steaming tea. “How old were you when you started belly dancing?”

Disoa picked up both cup and saucer, holding them in her lap.  “I began belly dancing when I was 28. I was entranced by the majestic and fluid belly dancers at the Aladdin in Las Vegas with their glitzy costumes and the wonderful live music.”

I brimmed Katara’s porcelain teacup full. “What drew you to this beautiful, exotic genre of dance?”

Katara took a sip of tea. ” I took my first belly dance class at the beginning of my senior year of high school – I was seventeen. It was  the embodiment of grace, beauty, sensuality and womanhood. So I found a studio, and my first teacher – who happened to be Diosa!”

I picked up my own teacup, took a hot, refreshing sip, then shifted my gaze onto Katara. “Tell me, When did you first fall in love with belly dancing?” I dropped a cube of sugar into the teacup. “Also , when did you first fall in love with Steampunk?”

Katara set her teacup  on the marble table top and leaned back against the red settee. “I first saw belly dancing when I watched one of our local belly dance legends, Yasmina’s, public access show once as a little girl. I was fascinated! Then, I saw another local legend, Jasmine, perform in a cultural week at my high school and decided I had to find classes in the dance style. Steampunk, I first found several years ago. I was completely intrigued with the way Steampunk blended historical fashions with modern designs. And it gave me an excuse to break out the corsets and bustles.”

Leaning forward I picked up a sliver spoon and stirred my tea as I asked Diosa, “What intrigues you about Steampunk? Why did you decided to blend it into your belly dancing performances?”

“Our group is always intrigued by doing something new and off the beaten path. We’ve done marionette pieces, Alice in Wonderland, and tough girl themes. We trained so much in traditional styles, that I think we all just wanted to do something completely different. ” Diosa picked up the teapot and poured more of the steaming brew into her gold rimmed china cup. “When we started dancing at Comicon, we were actually thrown into the Steampunk genre when we were invited to perform at the Steampunk Ball. I consider our dance style to be belly dance fusion, but we blend steampunk into our costuming for those specific venues.”

Katara leaned forward to pick up her teacup.  “Personally, alternate histories always fascinated me, and the way Steampunk blends science fiction with Victorian themes intrigues me.” She took a dainty sip of her tea. “But, really, it’s the opportunity to play with historical fashions and blend them into something interesting and modern. As far as adding it into my dancing, it seemed a natural progression. A new way to tell interesting stories with dance and some really fun costumes.”

I shifted my back against the soft, cushioned  arm chair  “Why do you think steampunk and belly dancing blend together so well?”

Diosa with fan

Diosa with fan

With a flick of her wrist, Diosa snapped her fan out and fluttered it in front of her face. “Steampunk and belly dancing blend together so well because they both thrive from innovation, whether it’s creative choreographies or outrageous costumes.”

Katara with fan

Katara with fan

Katara set her teacup down and flicked her fan open as well. “Belly dancing has always been seen as an exotic, mysterious art form.  I believe that speaks to steampunk – it allows a blend of ethnic and intrigue that melds well with the mixing of sci-fi and history that makes up so much of steampunk. And it brings in a new kind of cultural interest – which was a big part of victorian life.”

I grab my own fan from the coffee table and open it with a flick of my wrist as I ask Diosa, “What are some major challenges of choreographing Steampunk Belly dancing performances?”

“Like any choreography, picking the right music and costuming are a couple of the major challenges. The music is my muse, so if I find an inspiring song, the choreography comes pretty easily.”

Katara of Osiris Belly Dancing Company

Katara rests her fan on her lap. “A major challenge is to bring elements of the steampunk world into a middle eastern artform. Personally, I’ve always leaned toward a more fusion style that blends the traditional dance with different styles (anything from theatrical to jazz to modern), so it wasn’t -too- much of a stretch for me, but being able to embrace that science fiction/period element was definitely a challenge.”

I fluttered my fan and leaned back, fixing my gaze on Diosa. “What Steampunk bands, in addition to Abney Park, do you  think play music which fuses well with belly dancing?”

Diosa set her fan beside her sword on the marble table top. “Music reminiscent of the time period can lend itself to that specific style, especially when blended with the theatrics and costuming. I’ve seen dancers perform to music I considered fusion, though their costuming style was steampunk. I haven’t really figured out what categorizes a band or music as being ‘steampunk’ other than the fact that they specifically note themselves as such or the artists are wearing steampunk apparel.”

Katara brought her teacup to her red lips and took a slow sip. “Well, Abney Park is one of my favorites. I also have performed to a Professor Elemental piece or two. A good many of the steampunk bands utilize instruments that are good for dancing to. Beats Antique is fabulous, as well, it’s a band that is a ‘belly dance band’ that works great with steampunk.”

I point my fan at Diosa. “Do you have a favorite steampunk song for belly dancing?”

Diosa rest her hands in her lap. “I don’t necessarily have a favorite steampunk song, but I would lean more towards songs by Beats Antique, Bass Nectar, or Beirut. I love the ‘carni’ influences as well as the fusion of dub-step.”

Katara - comicon

Katara – comicon

Katara set her teacup on her porcelain saucer with a soft clang. “I love dancing to Hans Zimmer’s “Discombobulate” from the first ‘Sherlock Holmes’ soundtrack. I’ve done a really fun ‘Hyde’ piece to it.”

“A Hyde piece sounds amazing.” I dropped my fan onto my lap and grasped the carved arms of the chair as the airship rocked slightly.  “You have performed at the Wild Wild West Steampunk convention and Comicon. What differences have you found in belly dancing at those types of steampunk/sci-fi/fantasy cons rather than other venues?”

Diosa answers first.  “We have found styles vary and interpretations of the dance is very different. We have observed some burlesque styles that lend to more of a strip tease, where others are theatrical and humorous. Some groups still hold true to their own traditional styles, whether it be tribal or cabaret, but I have not observed a specific style that would be considered ‘steampunk belly dance’.”

Katara adds, “The biggest difference, to me, tends to come from the audience. It’s refreshing to have a group of people who are new to belly dance reacting to the performance  as well as appreciating that someone could blend something like that with what they themselves love: steampunk.”

I snap my fan shut and lean back as I nod at Diosa.  “What do you like most about performing at steampunk/sci-fi/fantasy cons?”

Diosa tilts her head. “What I love most about performing at these different venues is the invitation to create from an entire fantasy world, whether it be super heroes, manga characters, cult television show favorites, or even our own made up characters.”

Katara reaches up to adjust her top hat.  “I love being able to take belly dance and make something new with it. Being able to combine this beautiful art form with a style I already enjoy, be that steampunk, pure sci-fi, or fantasy, is great for me. And being able to share it with the community that completely embraces it is amazing.”

I lean back in my chair, relaxing and enjoying the company of my guest. “What do you think is the status of Steampunk belly dancing in the United States? Is it growing, changing?”

“From what I have seen, it is a small light in a world of dancing.” Katara spreads her hands as she speaks. “The belly dance community is aware enough of Steampunk to love it, but may not have quite ‘gotten it’ yet. It is definitely finding its niche though, and starting to get a following. An example: about a year ago I performed in a belly dance show completely themed ‘Steampunk’, people loved it, and the community really came out for it.”

Diosa

Diosa

Having picked up my teacup and drinked the last of my tea, I set it on the table. “I have to say the steampunk costumes of the Osiris Dance company are perhaps the best I’ve seen. Exquisite. Who makes the costumes for your dancers?”

Diosa smiles as she answers. “Both Katara and I create our own costumes. Sometimes we’ll make our own individual costumes or design/make costumes for the troupe. I made the ‘western-influenced’ costume pictured here, though I’ve made Domba-inspired tribal costumes made with tassels and kutchies for our troupe. Katara also designed and created her ‘Victorian-influenced’ costume posted in this interview. She is also a professional seamstress and takes on the bulk of our costuming, such as our marionette doll pieces (I love my ruffles!).”

Katara flashed a broad smile. “First – thank you! Because, I actually make a good percentage of them. My ‘real job’ is as a professional costumer, so it just made sense for me to help the troupe out in that sense. Diosa also does a lot of the work, making a lot of her costume pieces. So, we have almost complete control of our designs.”

I leaned forward in my chair, toward Diosa. “Did you find choosing dance as a career a hard or easy choice?”

I was a hobbyist at first, but eventually it lead to dancing full-time. Dancing inspired me to get my Associate’s in Exercise Science, as well as certification as a personal trainer. It’s not an easy career, as dance becomes hard on the body, just like any athlete. You need to be knowledgeable in muscle work, nutrition, history, and aware of new styles and moves. You constantly need to be on your A-game. When you are dancing upwards of 15 to 30 hours a week, your body can easily become overworked and more prone to injury. I danced full time for over a year, and as much as I love the dance, I was exhausted. I believe awareness of the dance and culture here in Arizona is sparse, so paying venues are difficult to find. Presently, I am a full-time school teacher, but I continue to perform in my spare time, and I also find joy in teaching belly dance 2-3 times a week.”

Katara nodded. “It sort of crept up on me. Granted, it’s not my only career, but considering how much of my life ended up being dedicated to dance, it just made sense.”

Katara & Diosa - comicon

Katara & Diosa – comicon

I laced my fingers together. “What advice can you give to anyone interested in becoming a professional belly dancer?”

Diosa cocked her head. “Be consistent—find a local teacher you can study with weekly and progress your training by attending master teacher workshops and/or online videos. Do your research—is this career for you? Can you support yourself financially in your area? Dance, dance, dance—find venues you can perform at to get your name out into the community and connect with your audiences. Abandonment—get rid of all your inhibitions. Your audience can clearly see if you’re embarrassed, fearful, or preoccupied. Let loose in your dance! Teach—there’s no better way to improve your own technique than to teach others.”

Katara tilted her head toward me. “Take every class you can find. All kinds of styles – every kind will help your overall dance ability. And take every opportunity to perform you can find. Get as comfortable in front of an audience as possible and learn how to perform to them. Your technique is important, but if you can’t connect to the audience, you’ll lose them.”

I see the teacups are rattling on the coffee tale. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for one last question. “What future aspirations do you have for the Osiris dance company?”

Diosa inclined her head toward me. “I would love to continue challenging ourselves with choreography and storytelling. We have learned a lot working with each other all these years, from staging to personal space, I hope one day we can specialize a class teaching duos our choreography and how to dance with each other.”

Katara tilted her head in a nod. “I want to keep improving and creating some of the most interesting performances around. I really love the more theatrical pieces Diosa and I have been coming up with lately. It’s the sort of thing I’ve always wanted to do! And I do hope to compete out of state again.”

Well maybe I can squeeze in one more question as I clutch both arms of my chair for the airship landing. “Speaking of competitions, what dance competitions or live performances do you have coming up, when and where?”

Diosa grasps hold of the arm and back of the settee, bracing for the shakiness of the landing. “Our upcoming performances are the Tucson Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention on March 8th and the Phoenix Comicon Labyrinth Masquerade Ball on May 24th.”

The ship has landed so we say our good byes. Diosa picks up her sword and fan and dances off the airship along with Katara, but you can visit them anytime at their website. Please comment or ask questions below.

Maeve Alpin

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Today we welcome Bec McMaster.

Award-winning author Bec McMaster lives in a small town in Australia and grew up with her nose in a book. A member of RWA, she writes sexy, dark paranormals and steampunk romance. When not writing, reading, or poring over travel brochures, she loves spending time with her very own hero or daydreaming about new worlds. For more information, please visit http://www.becmcmaster.com/ or follow her on Twitter, @BecMcMaster.

What’s in a name?

 by Bec McMaster

Thanks to Suzanne for inviting me here! Today I wanted to talk a little bit about how my novel, Kiss of Steel, came to be.

One of the things that makes me smile since release is how many readers see Kiss of Steel in a different light. It’s paranormal. No, it’s steampunk. Its listed in the horror section. Um, someone put romance in it… So I’m here to clear up precisely what Kiss of Steel is.

Here’s the thing. I write the story that comes to me and worry about the genre specifics later. The one constant in my stories that it will have romance in it and belong in some sort of spec-fic world, whether that be paranormal-based, dystopian or urban fantasy. I didn’t actually know what Kiss of Steel was until I’d nearly finished myself. There was never a definite, “I’m going to write a steampunk or a paranormal romance”, though I do appreciate that it can fit in both camps and hopefully draw readers in who might not otherwise read it.

When the story and the world hit me (does anyone else get these movies-in-their-head too?), it was almost fully formed. It had vampires and a vague precursor to werewolves. It also had a ruling elite who were infected with a virus that made them crave blood (No, they’re not the vampires. Yet.). In order to protect themselves from the masses after the French turned on their blood-driven aristocracy, they turned to technology to create an enormous automaton army and weapons.

The world was definitely Victorian. I needed a time period when technology was coming to the forefront and certain medical theories were already in place. That was probably my first indication that I was heading down the steampunk path.

The thing with paranormal worlds is that I see them as based on some sort of magic or curse-driven mechanic. There is no magic or paranormal platform in Kiss of Steel, though I appreciate that I’m taking a paranormal-trope and running with it. My vampires are scientific-based, with a virus causing all of their ‘supernatural’ abilities. I had more interest in the craving virus being of a biological nature, rather than a magical one. Perhaps it’s my interest in the whole Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type stories or Frankenstein. Mad doctors, experiments, monsters…

So as you can see, this is why I refer to Kiss as steampunk romance. There are no dirigibles (not in this part of the world or the first book) but technically there are no paranormal elements either by the definition I’ve provided. And the point is… that none of it matters. From what I can tell my readers come from diverse camps and enjoy different aspects of the story.  Some come just for the cover (seriously, you would not believe how many readers follow famous cover model Paul Marron!). As a writer the only time I truly needed to categorise was when it came to shopping to agents or editors.

One of the things that I love about the genre as a whole is that it can be so fluid and genre-bending. I’ve read steampunk with strong horror elements and enjoyed it. I’ve also read it with paranormal or fantasy highlights. The idea that the sky is the limit is incredibly appealing to me and that whole sense of adventure is what I love the most about steampunk.

So what about you? Any great steampunk stories out there with a dash of something else thrown in? Which genre mash-ups do you like best?

~Bec McMaster

http://www.becmcmaster.com/

KISS OF STEEL BY BEC MCMASTER – IN STORES SEPTEMBER 2012

A brilliantly creative debut where vampires, werewolves, and clockwork creatures roam the mist–shrouded streets of London…

When Nowhere is Safe

Most people avoid the dreaded Whitechapel district. For Honoria Todd, it’s the last safe haven. But at what price?

Blade is known as the master of the rookeries—no one dares cross him. It’s been said he faced down the Echelon’s army single–handedly, that ever since being infected by the blood–craving he’s been quicker, stronger, and almost immortal.

When Honoria shows up at his door, his tenuous control comes close to snapping. She’s so…innocent. He doesn’t see her backbone of steel—or that she could be the very salvation he’s been seeking.

 

 

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One of the things I’ve discovered about steampunk fans is a very strong do-it-yourself ethic. When you go to a steampunk event, the first thing you hear is often, “Oh, I love that! Did you make it yourself?”

My answer is usually, “I’m afraid not.” I’m not particularly crafty and I can’t sew for beans. But I love handcrafted and unique items. The raven pendant I’m wearing here is cast bronze by one of my favorite jewlers, Randy of Knotty Jewels. This gorgeous skirt was made by a very talented man named Peter, of Shoptroll. I suppose, with a pattern and the right tools, I *could* have made a reasonable facsimile myself. Maybe. Probably not.

Honestly, I’d much rather patronize a great local craftsman, doing what he does best, than to make a bad imitation on my own. I’m also a huge fan of thrift shops and I’m not bad at adaptive reuse. But…I do feel a little weird about having NOTHING in my steampunk garb that I made myself. So do I need to take up leather working or welding? Probably not. Maybe I’ll find a craft that suits me and run with it. Or I might just stick to crafting stories and practicing creative shopping. 😉

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Today we welcome author Candance “Candy” Havens.

Bestselling author Candace Havens has written six novels for Berkley and now writes for the Blaze line of Harlequin.  She is the also the author of the biography Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy and a contributor to several anthologies. She is one of the nation’s leading entertainment journalists and has interviewed countless celebrities including Tom Hanks, Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise, and George Clooney. Candace also runs a free online writing workshop for more than 1800 writers, and teaches comprehensive writing class. Find out more at http://www.candacehavens.com

A funny thing happened on the way to writing a Steampunk novel
by Candace Havens

A funny thing happened on the way to writing a Steampunk novel. I love reading them, but didn’t think I’d ever write one. That is, until one day, out of the blue, one of the coordinators for Dallas’ Fen Con asked if I would contribute a short story to their program for the fall con.

When I asked what the theme would be, he told me Southern Steampunk.

I didn’t know what that was.

Luckily, I was at another con in Oklahoma City, and there were several panels/classes about Steampunk. That’s when an idea for a female Sherlock Holmes flashed through my mind. She was on the run, and on the hunt. Boom! Dr. Maisy Clark was born. Her story begins in a cemetery just outside of Fort Worth, Texas, where’s she’s hunting down a paranormal killer. It’s kind of Sherlock Holmes meets the Wild Wild West, with a little Buffy thrown in. She’s tough, kick butt and she always gets her – um, creature.

The story was published in the con program and then a few months later I happened to see a tweet about someone looking for Steampunk stories. I answered back to see if the editor might like to see my short story. She said yes. About an hour later I had a deal to make the story into a novella. Then the next morning she wanted to know if I could do a four-book series with the character.

I’m Candy Havens, so of course I said, “yes.”

Never in my life have I done so much research. Luckily, I’m a big fan of science and gadgets. Some of the items in the book come from real sources – others are ones I made up that I thought might be appropriate for the time. And I’m learning to be a fan of that time period of history. So much happened in the 1890s and it’s fun to weave those facts into the fiction.

Maisy is a scientist, and has her lab on a steam powered train called The Iron Witch. I love trains, and she needed a fast way to get from one state to another. (The first full-length novel takes place in New Orleans.) I loved the fact that she’s searching for these paranormal creatures, and at the same time is a respected scientist. I may have thrown in a handsome U.S. Marshal for her to save. Oh, and there is Barnes, a Scotsman who is her trusty sidekick and former manny. The train is also her home, so each car has a purpose. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you like a paranormal mystery with some steampunk, you might want to check it out.

Iron Demon, the novella will be out in January. I hope you’ll give it a look.

I’d like to know some of your favorite steampunk gadgets, jewelry and stories.

And for the record, I’m now a steampunk addict. Don’t get me started on the steampunk clothing and jewelry on Etsy. (Smile)

~Candy Havens
http://www.candacehavens.com

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I have a special treat for everyone today, and I don’t mean the drop of whiskey I put in the tea, Camryn Forrest has boarded the airship today. She is a Steampunk artist, who works with  the enchanting, whimsical and technical art of water globes and snow globes. We take our seats on the crimson settee in the parlor just in time for tea. The engine purrs for take off.

Airship One

Airship One

“Camryn, we’re so pleased to have you aboard the Steamed airship today. Your Steampunk globes are fascinating. Why did you choose this particular art?” I lean toward her. “What draws you to water globes and snow globes?”

 “I am drawn to small items. As a child, I made my own dollhouse furniture – carving little legs for my chairs, making a clay bird in a wire cage, covering tiny books with strips of leather and painting titles on the bindings. Over the years, I’ve collected tiny chairs, souvenir buildings, bone china animals, Micro Machines, Little Kiddles and painted lead soldiers. I loved Hot Wheels and anything small enough to be in a vending machine. Once, I helped my mother with a dollhouse, embroidering tiny bits of cloth for bedspreads and framing postage stamps for wall art. My father use to pour and cast his own toy soldiers and I helped with the tiniest painting details.

Birdcage Gramaphone

Birdcage Gramaphone

A family member repairs and makes snow globes, which has always fascinated me. I always looked for them at fine arts shows, and never saw any. Not a one.  I’m not a pink and purple Disney princess kind of person. I longed for snow globes made for grownups, with the quality and depth of the artwork I loved from other artists. I wanted to see snow globes that made me think and feel the way I do about other art.

Rough Sailing

Rough Sailing

So I took my love for tiny things and my appreciation of snow globes and put them together. It wasn’t easy … I knew I didn’t want ‘snow’ – the crushed white pieces in most snow globes – so I thought it would be cool to use tiny watch gears as glitter. Well, it doesn’t work. I kept that first test globe and the metal gears have disintegrated into a little pile of rust. Shake it and you see nothing but brown.

I had no idea about the types of objects and items which could handle submersion in liquid. There was no guidebook. So it’s been a labor of love, trial and error. I’ve talked to guys at the hardware store about sealants. I’ve tested items for weeks, letting them sit in liquid. The family snow globe repairman, who I sometimes call my snow globe engineer, is my patient mentor. His do’s and don’ts are invaluable. From seeing the workings of hundreds of broken globes he’s fixed, he knows what will work and what won’t. He lets me know when I head too far down the wrong path. You can torture me all you want, but I’m not giving up his name – at his request.”

“Oh, no, dear, I wouldn’t think of it, here on Steamed, we reserve torture for enemies of the Queen, but a snow globe engineer, I like the sound of that, whimsical and technical, heavy and light, just the way I like my steampunk. Speaking of which, why Steampunk?” I poured a cup of tea and offered it to her.

“I love the contradiction of steampunk and snow globes. One of the first times I told anyone what I was doing, he said ‘That doesn’t make any sense. Those two things do not go together.’ And that egged me on: I loved the challenge of proving it could work.” Camryn took a sip of tea then set the saucer on the round, marble top coffee table.

“An early comment that stuck  with me, about my first series, came from another friend. In a puzzled voice she told me, ‘They are so masculine.’ I took it as a compliment. I love the contrast of machinery and hardware, and the dark colors of steampunk metals and rich wood in a snow globe, an object that is often sweet and cloying, pink and pretty. I wanted power, not pretty.

I don’t consider myself purely a steampunk artist. I’ve thought about it every which way, and the truth is my notebooks of sketches and designs for snow globes precede my awareness of the Steampunk movement, which is fairly recent. (Here is where I must give credit to two people who brought Steampunk to my attention, John S. and Max G., who are much hipper than I will ever be, introduced me to the genre.) The first time I saw something called Steampunk, I felt a huge connection. Steampunk appealed to me in a deja vu kind of way; it made so much sense to me. I felt at home. The craftsmanship, the appreciation of detail, the willingness to take the time to make something by hand … it all calls to my sensibilities.

Raygun Shaken

Raygun Shaken

On the other hand, I was already making artwork that looks like the work I do now, long before the term “steampunk” entered my experience. I admit that I’m very influenced by Steampunk icons and images –  obviously I would not likely have airships and ray guns otherwise – but some of my work, such as the Escheresque staircases, and the glass heart series, are simply sculptures I wanted to make, regardless of the style. Steampunk purists, if there is such a thing, can argue amongst themselves what makes artwork steampunk or not. I’ve been called a Steampunk tourist, and I accept that with a chuckle. I’m grateful the steampunk “natives” allow some of us to visit their world now and then, and soak up the culture. When I contribute, it’s my own vision, and if someone appreciates it, I’m glad, but I would have made it either way; that’s how my mind works.”

“Believe me, when I look at these globes I see you, their creator, more as a tour guide then a tourist. They are Stempunk to me. In my opinion your passion to contribute your own vision is the essence of Steampunk.” I dropped two sugar cubes into my cup and stirred. “A lot of work must go into making your vision real. How long does it take you to create a Steampunk water globe or snow globe?”

Camryn leaned against the velvet cushioned back of the settee. “You can measure that two ways: how long it would take to make a snow globe if I knew exactly what I was going to make, and how long it takes when I go through trial and error, mixing different elements, sculpting/molding/remolding pieces to the right size and shape, and getting distracted, leaving pieces half-done to work on something else. The simplest answer is, I might produce one completed snow globe every two weeks.

Uncharted Skies

Uncharted Skies

Last spring, I wanted to make a metallic hot air balloon — not much more than an inch tall. I worked on this concept for several months. I made balloon shapes too large to fit in a globe or too ornate or too simple. They just didn’t look right. I wanted a feeling of adventure, not a circus ad. Finally one day I completed two balloons that came out well. Then I went through another process to decide what to put below the balloons. One has a wire basket, with more nautical details such as an anchor and ship’s wheel. The other is a tiny clay sailing ship with metal sails. Then, I installed the balloon sculptures with each raised a little. One is carried on wispy tendrils, intentionally vague – they might be ocean waves or they might be the tentacles of a sea creature reaching up. The other has cloud-like shapes below the ship. So those globes, from start to finish, took all spring – several months. I hope the next time I’m inspired to make a hot air balloon, I’ll be able to use what I have learned to streamline the process a little, but I don’t know.

Circular Logic

Circular Logic

I timed myself once, to answer the question, ‘how long does it take?’ Another globe, Circular Logic is basically a Ferris Wheel-inspired curious invention of spinning gears. The entire family went away for a weekend and I stayed on task with that one sculpture, working 18 hours with almost no breaks to complete the intricate machine. With no one home to tell me it was time to go to bed or I should eat,  I kept working on it, having a great time. I survived on Mountain Dew and pretzels. That gives you an idea of the range of time I will spend on any one globe. Usually I’ve got five or six sculptures partially begun and will work a little here, a little there, so it’s hard to know how long any one can take.

Love Complicated

Love Complicated

I rub my lips together. “My next question may be as difficult to answer as how long does it take. Which is of all your wonderful creations, which globe is your favorite?”

“Tough question, it depends on my mood. I thought Love, It’s Complicated and the Always heart were very simple and beautiful. Deadline featured a tiny antique typewriter, which is one of my favorite items, and now belongs to a former journalist, so I have great memories of that one.  It has a lot of details, such as copy editor’s notes and a message hammered into metal “paper” curling out from the typewriter platen, that only the owner can see now, making it cool in its own way. Ray Gun One was a challenge to myself to make a believable raygun, and it always makes me smile.

Rain Gear

Rain Gear

But actions probably speak louder than words. The only one I have on my desk, is Rain Gear. I absolutely LOVE the jaunty little step from my headless robot stomping in rain puddles. I am intrigued that a pair of metal galoshes can project emotion. So I can babble all day about which ones I love, but Rain Gear is the only one I’ve kept for myself so far.

Snow Globe Array

Snow Globe Array

I glance at some of her snow globes , arranged on the crisp white table cloth on the round table at the side of the settee. “Rain Gear is  intriguing. Actually, they are all incredible, but as a writer the one you just described, Deadline, fascinates me. Speaking of writing, when any author looks at your globes, I’m sure your creations trigger a slew of story premises and plots. I just have to ask you the question always asked of writers, how do you come up with your ideas?”

“I am both a writer and a visual artist, and while I have occasionally dealt with writers’ block, so far I have never had artist’s block. Case in point: by just writing the phrase ‘artist’s block’ I thought of a way to illustrate that in a globe, maybe with a cube with six different archetypes shaken like a die. Perhaps a Magic Eight Ball for creative types. But I digress …)

Images and ideas tumble around my brain like a shaken snow globe, whirling and spinning, balancing precariously atop one another. One weird thing is, I keep notebooks where I dash off snow globe ideas as they come to me, sketch little scenes, capture a pun to name the globes, but I rarely go back and look at the past ideas. When I’m in the workshop, the materials themselves suggest new shapes and landscapes.

I recently got up at about 3 or 4 a.m. whirling with ideas I wanted to capture and I spent an hour or so dashing them on paper. Then I turned the page BACK to see the previous entry and it said ‘Drink deeply from the stars.’ I don’t know what I was going for with that phrase, but I want to ponder it and make it real.

There are so many snow globes I’d like to make. I will get inspired by a word I hear, or a shape, a shadow, a snippet of a song or the way someone repeats a phrase. The nose of an Elmer’s glue container, the little orange cap, inspired one of my first airship sculptures.  I ‘saw’ the glue bottle for the first time, clearly, and thought, ‘that’s the nose of a zeppelin.’ I have no idea where that thought came from; I’d only seen Elmer’s Glue a thousand times before. That flash of inspiration prompted me to sculpt a shape that would pass for an airship.

Any small thing can capture my attention, such as a piece of twisted metal in the street, a broken toy, the way a stack of coffee stirrers is displayed at a shop. I love wandering through hardware stores, looking at random pieces of plumbing pipe, nuts and bolts, repair kits for garbage disposals. Recently, the back of my office chair fell off. Instead of inspecting the damage to the chair or putting it back together, I spotted a strange gear that had come loose, and thought, ‘Where can I can more of these?’

Shoes Your Weapon

Shoes Your Weapon

I am also a word person. Words can start a chain-reaction of images in my brain. When I heard the old Gene Autry song, I began to mentally sketch a man climbing down a ladder through a manhole opening into a dark and murky place. Back in The Sad-Hole.

I love verbal and visual puns, such as Shoes Your Weapon – which is a cannon made from a Victorian laced-up boot. I’m working on one called Too big for his bridges. I love merging words and shapes, and twisting tired clichés so they are fresh. I crack myself up, and I pretty much create everything selfishly because it inspires or amuses me. The ideas bombard me constantly. I’ll be reading a book (Cloud Atlas, at the moment) and suddenly I’m reaching for my notebook to capture a passing thought.”

I pick up my porcelain cup and take another sip of sweet, warm tea. “I can feel your creative energy as your talking. Exhilarating. Speaking of globes sure to inspire writers, your airship voyager water globe is another work of art sure to trigger story ideas.

Airship Voyager

Airship Voyager

I blame a writer named StoshK for that one. StoshK wrote a short, complimentary blog about my snow globes and included a note that I should realize more airship snow globes were needed – just a little joke in the article. But, it stuck with me for some reason, in a positive way.

Then, a museum asked for several pieces for a special exhibition, and one was my original airship StoshK liked, which had sold. I couldn’t get the original back to be loaned for the museum exhibit, so I thought, ‘well, I’ll just make a new one.’

The new airship refused to be a duplicate of the first. It felt darker and richer, and I wanted it to be more powerful in a way. I wanted the ship to have gone places, done things, survived hardships, led adventures.  I had seen Steampunk images of great airships carrying sailing ships below a zeppelin and dismissed them as too intricate for something as small as a snow globe. And as I sat in the workshop trying to remake the first airship, I kept creeping toward the idea of a sailing ship below.  It just felt right to go that direction.

I loved the idea of taking a ‘ship in a bottle’ and making it an airship in a bottle (snow globe), both balance and contradiction. Once the idea got stuck in my head, the only way to release it was to make it real. I  worked on it until I solved all the technical problems that made it seem impossible.  When I look at Airship Voyager now, I am sure it has been places and seen things, it feels real to me.”

Point of View

Point of View

After setting the cup back on its saucer, I clasped my hands together. “It’s incredible, I love it. You mentioned your interest in phrases such as ‘point of view’ and your globe by that name is pure genius. An incredible piece of art. I can’t imagine the time and  work that went in to creating such a marvel. I often find life is like climbing a staircase sideways. Then, when you turn the globe upside down or on its side you get a different view. It’s like several globes in one. I could look at it all day.”

“I’m glad you mentioned Point of View.  It’s a departure from what most consider pure Steampunk – but again, I make what interests me and try not to edit myself by sticking with a single style. I’ve always loved Escher, but I didn’t set out to make that globe consciously as a tribute. It snuck up on me. While working on a tiny Plexiglas escalator for a postponed project called Reincarnation, I briefly set the stair sculpture on its side. Suddenly, looking at the stairs from a different direction, reality shifted sideways. I realized the stairs went up,  down, and sideways depending on where I placed the figures.

Crossroads

Crossroads

From there, I was obsessed for a while, with Point of View and a similar globe, called Corporate Ladder (I may be the only person who finds the idea hilarious.) Then I put a family of fishermen on a criss-crossed stairway, and added poles, and called it Fishing the Black Hole as the fishing lines broke different planes in the design.

But my favorite in  the series is Not a level playing field in which I put football players into Escher’s uneven, gravity-defying world, and had the wide receiver at one angle, the quarterback throwing into hyperspace, and would-be tacklers reaching into a new dimension. I think I’ll go back to that idea again sometime, because it was fascinating to realize in a snow globe, I am in charge of the law of gravity. It’s a heavy responsibility, running around breaking the laws of physics.

I’m working on a new stairway series now, but instead of plexiglas, I am using old computer circuit boards to make the stairs – still with little figures breaking the plane of perception and ignoring the laws of gravity. It has a ‘Tron’ feeling to it, being inside the machine. I always sensed  little figures inside my laptop ran around retrieving files and saving my work, so I am comforted to see them.”

I shift one arm to my side, while resting he other on my lap. “Speaking of breaking the laws of physics, I have to ask you about Tesla.  I love that you appreciate his scientific work for its artistic quality as well as its contributions to modern day life and our future. What artistic qualities do you see in his inventions?”

Tesla Coil Copper

Tesla Coil Copper

The shapes used in Tesla’s inventions and machines are so beautiful. They are meaningful to scientists, but even if they produced nothing, I would be inspired. I love his wrapped copper coils and the visible bursts of light and energy. The proportions of the upright Tesla coil are like a man-made flower, a blossom of energy. I’m drawn to the straight lines, the encircled columns and the unpredictable element of electricity. The copper and brass is stunning. Simply beautiful. He blended symmetry and balanced assymetry in an unspeakably gorgeous and inspiring way.

I think, at some place beyond my understanding, Tesla’s work tapped into the very nature of the universe. In the way that an insect’s wings or a cross-section of a tree or the Grand Canyon is perfect, there is something perfect about the shape of Tesla’s inventions, pared down the essence of what works.

Tesla Mends A Broken Heart

Tesla Mends A Broken Heart

I shut my eyes a moment as I think about it. “Art and science merged as one. Incredible.” Blinking my eyes open, I see the tea cups are rattling on the coffee tale. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I lean forward and ask Camryn my last question. “What water globes and snow globes are you working on now?”

“I’ve been toying with one called I Love Sho, an homage to footwear, which I seem to collect in real life. The interior has about a dozen tiny shoes in an abstract sculpture: boots, heels, slip-ons … it’s just something fun, and I’m addicted to visual puns.

I also just combined the horn of a tiny gramophone with a glass heart. In contrast to some of my intricate sculptures, it is simple and yet very appealing. I had a long and complicated title for it, but then I shorted it to one word, Listen. When I look at it, I get a pang. It will be hard to part with it.

On a lighter note, I am working on rocket ships and space themes. I have a rocket ship going into a black hole and another with a decked-out Steampunk flying saucer hovering over what might be the moon. I wanted to make a special globe for TeslaCon, with rows of flying saucers at a drive-in movie, watching ‘Trip to the Moon’ (the 1902 movie), with the rocket-in-the-moon’s eye image popping off the screen in 3D. I’ll do it someday, but I couldn’t work out the technical details yet. The drive-in screen was only about ¾” wide, for example, which gave me about a half inch for the rocket. But it will happen in some form. It’s too appealing not to try.

A recent breakthrough for me is the double-tiered globe. I made the first one for a display for the Sacramento Steampunk Society, after an inspiring conversation with one of the members, Doug Hack (perhaps better known as Alexander Watt Babbage.) The water globe sits above a columned base and has liquid-filled pieces as well as air-filled space in the tier below. By breaking the plane of the glass globe, and continuing the design into the open space, it opens a new frontier for my work.”

“The airship has landed, drawing the interview to a close. But before you go back to your studio, I want to share your calling card with all our readers.”

http://camrynforrest.com/
Camryn Forrest Designs

Also five of her  pieces are on display at the Glass Museum in Sandwich,MA, from November 19 to December 30, 2012, as part of a special event on the history of snow globes.

Readers if you have any questions are comments on Camryn and her globes, please post them below.

Maeve Alpin

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