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Archive for January, 2013

Today we welcome author Jack Baillot.

Greetings! My name is Jack, more or less, and I’d like to thank Suzanne for asking me to guest post today.

I have recently published a book, titled Haphazardly Implausible. It is a Steampunk adventure story. This was the first Steampunk book I’ve ever written and when I first began it I didn’t even know what Steampunk was, I just wanted to write a story about Air Pirates and an airship.

Since finishing it, and the other three in the series, I’ve come to realize just how much I enjoy Steampunk. It has almost everything I love about stories. Airships – well, anything that flies – gears, very cool machines, and all kinds of impossibilities. Not to mention the costumes are fun to create and there is usually a great deal of clocks in Steampunk books.

This all leads to the fact of why I am now a Steampunk author. The other books I am working on now have Steampunk elements in them though not all take place in the Victorian era.

I love thinking up new machines and imagining the ways they will work. I get to put a new twist on the outfits the characters wear, which is always a lot of fun. And I get, for even a little while, to be a watch maker which is a job I would have taken up if I wasn’t an author.

I get to take history and change it, and really, who doesn’t love the idea of doing that? (Also, I get to spend most of my time flying around in airships, which makes it doubly worth it. Even if the Air Pirates can get a little grumpy from time to time.)

If you would like to learn more about my book, or my other writing projects, you can find my website, here!http://missjacklewisbaillot.blogspot.com/

Thanks again, Suzanne for allowing me to come by! 

~Jack

haphazardThree unlikely heroes. A world teetering on the edge
of war. A mad man who will stop at nothing to gain
complete power.

Peter Jones, an Aeropilot in the Scottish Royal Air
Force, has grown up believing his parents abandoned him.
Isidore Thaddeus Reichmann, a famous detective running
from his past, is trying to save the last person he cares
about. Singur, an inventor who has been forced to hide his
real name his whole life or risk being killed, holds an
important secret. These three have never met. They live in
different countries and have little in common.

Little do they know their lives are about to entwine and
that together they have the power to save the world from
complete destruction, or destroy everything.

Loyalties are questioned. Friendships are betrayed.
Trust is shaken. Who do you turn to when the friends
you’ve always relied upon become your worst enemies

HAPHAZARDLY IMPLAUSABLE

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Announcing my new Steampunk/Romance, Conquistadors In Outer Space, coming this Friday, February 1st. The subtitle is Ana’s Interplanetary Conquest.

Henri de Montaut, from De la terre à la lune (From the earth to the moon), by Jules Verne, Paris (Hetzel), 18??

In an alternate history of 1610 AD, the King of Spain commissions the creation of giant cannons, fashioned from Leonardo Da Vinci’s design, for the purpose of blowing the island of England to the bottom of the ocean. Since that country separated from papal authority, Spain has the approval of the church to separate England from the rest of Europe. Then, after an interrogation by priests with the inquisition, Galileo sees a faraway dot in the night sky with his new telescope. He shows the pope planet X, an actual New World Spain can claim and all the inhabitants can be converted to Christianity. Also all the gold and riches discovered there will belong to Spain alone. So they find a way to use the cannons to that end instead.

Thrown off the Spanish estate she worked at all her life, Ana, a milkmaid, seeks a new life. Disguised as a rich widow, she boards a rocket, to be blasted out of a huge cannon, and targeted for the newly discovered planet, X.  Sparks fly when she finds Ramon, the only man she ever loved, heir of the estate she worked on, is flying to Planet X as well. As the Spanish governor of Plant X searches for gold, the treasure Ramon seeks is Ana. His conquest is challenging, though he swears to protect and love her, as a noble he cannot marry a peasant. Ana cannot deny her desire for Ramon, but she will not be his mistress. Will his conquest of her heart succeed or will Ana make a life for herself alone amid the wonders and dangers of Planet X.

Excerpt:

In an instant the loudest boom and ka-chung noises he ever heard rattled his ears as the metal projectile shook violently. He clenched his teeth as every muscle in his body quaked with the blast.

“It is the Estrella. It is hurdling through space to planet X.”

He recognized the voice of the priest who strapped him in. Ana’s ship, De Nunez had told him. “Is all well,” he yelled out. “Did they lift off safely?”

Now that he had found her again, he needed to protect her. Once they arrived on planet X, he would seize this second chance to win her heart for she’d stolen his long ago.

“Si.” The priest’s tone held a tinge of awe. “In a blaze of light they blasted through the heavens. They are in God’s hands now.”

Ramon let out a long breath of relief. Ana was safe, shooting through space. The Estrella had cast off and the Juanita would soon follow. When his rocket blasted off in an explosion of light and fire, he wouldn’t hear anything.

He felt his mind loose itself in drowsiness. He shut his eyes under the power of this death like sleep and prayed in twenty years he would wake. When he did, he’d be on Planet X with the woman he’d always loved. He knew for the next twenty years of the voyage, he would dream of Ana.

Contest: Comment below to enter my new release contest to win a PDF Ebook of Conquistadors In Outer Space.

Maeve Alpin, Steampunk Romance Author

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Today we welcome Ray Dean! A reenactor and educator, Ray Dean has delved into many eras of the past, but Steampunk speaks to her in a retroactive futurism that opens so many possibilities. Her blog, My Ethereality(http://raydean.net), explores history, culture, war and love in eras and countries that might influence a Steampunk world.

Interview with Elizabeth Watasin

Ray Dean: Is The Dark Victorian: Risen your first novel?

RISEN_BookCover_Bowker copyElizabeth Watasin: Dark Victorian: Risen is my first long prose narrative, yes. Before, I’d only had published comic book scripts, like for Disney Adventures Magazine, and for my own created works, one being Charm School, which was published by SLG Publishing.

RD: You’re an artist in many ways. You’re the author of the novel, the illustrator… what other roles do you play?

EW: Since making the commitment to self-publish, I find myself also taking on the role of typesetter, which is the person who lays out a book for print format. This requires learning some basic aesthetics that we, as readers, all take for granted, like the measure for margins, the limits on font use, how to lay chapter titles and blocks of text aesthetically, and so forth. I have a great traditional typographer who hand designs my book logos, but I’m usually the one who lays out that lettering for the covers too, so I’m also doing some graphic design.

Then as publisher, I must do the business aspects, like acquire ISBNS, have the book properly entered at Bowkers, the Library of Congress, apply for copyright, and upload the book for sale to sites like Amazon and B&N.

I’m also the marketing person, which is a hat I’m not donning as often as I would like, because the other jobs take precedence, especially writing more stories. I’ve maintained some of the social media but the next step is promotion, which means drumming up more reviews and having giveaways.

Frankly, if the book were picked up by a publisher (which I’ve never pursued), I would not be the illustrator, and I would not have to do the other jobs except for marketing. But it is gratifying to layout a book myself rather than hand it off, and to see it and the illustrations and logos look as I want them to. I am pretty self-critical so I’d say I’m pleased with the current incarnation of Risen so far. My desire is to have a book in people’s hands that they will enjoy, keep on their shelves, and which delivers a solid and entertaining story. This is why I’m not the editor. For that job, I hire, and JoSelle Vanderhooft is well-credited in steampunk, LGBT, and feminine works.

RD: Where did the idea come from for this unique pair (Artifice/Dastard)?

bones-print-cover-FinalEW: Oddly enough, they are a mention, or a ‘one-off’ in my YA novel in progress, a modern speculative fiction called Wit’s World: Never Was. In it, Goth kids are known as Dark kids, and the kids of the novel happen to be members of a club called ‘The Dark Victorian Society’, where they affect gentility and enjoy works by favorite Dark authors and illustrators. I began haphazardly illustrating some aspects of Wit’s World: Never Was and the advertising poster for ‘The Dark Victorian Society’ was one of them. What kind of mythology would Goth kids like in such a poster? I came up with a ghostly Victorian woman holding a talking skull.

I’m not sure how it exactly grew into Artifice, who became a Quaker strongwoman, and Jim, who became quite an animated personality. I was very frustrated with the manuscript for Wit’s World at one point and looked at my poster illustration and thought about back-story for the two. I think it was meant to be a short story, like a little tale. And then it grew and grew into the obsession it now is, and I enjoy it!

RD: 
Your illustrations are very distinctive, where/how did you develop your craft?

dv_risen_illo3__webEW: Well, first I went to art school, earning a BFA in illustration, and developed traditional life drawing skills, there. My comic book work has several artistic influences, like Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets), Dan DeCarlo (Betty & Veronica), and shoujo manga (Japanese women’s comics) from the very early ’90’s. Separate from my comic book work, I did lots and lots of character drawings for traditional 2D films at Disney’s feature animation studio as an assistant animator, beginning with ‘Rescuers Down Under’ and ending at ‘Princess and the Frog’. Though I continued to hone my draftsman skills with animation work, I like to think my own work is less cartoony/caricature and more illustrative.

With the Dark Victorian illustrations, I hope I can evoke some of the spirit of turn of the century illustrations, with their beautiful pen and ink women. I love the old Punch illustrations, the work of Rackham, John R. Neil, Mucha, Gibson, etc. I don’t think I can go mad with a dip pen as I’ve gotten to the point where mere line is what says it all for me, but who knows. I’ve still time to learn.

RD: You produced Risen as an e-book and then a print version. What was the reason for that particular progression?

EW: Since I’m self-publishing and entirely new to the process, delivering an e-book was easier than figuring out how to do print, and in that respect, fulfill the particular requirements of print-on-demand. Also, I was paying heed to some hype–‘guru’ advice–that was going about the net about a year ago; that print was dead, digital was the future, and that was what people wanted. I didn’t want to spend time making actual print books if people really didn’t want them. But the hype was utterly false and I’ll no longer pay attention to ‘experts’ or news that’s probably designed to make certain interests profit from killing print. I’ve learned that readers WANT print books. An object held in the hands is still valued above digital matter, and continues to be enjoyed more.

RD: What did you do to help promote the novel release?

EW: Promotion is something I’ve not done seriously. I haven’t taken the time to switch hats from creating/publishing to trotting the book out to people, meaning getting press releases sent out, soliciting reviews, doing giveaways, and so forth. Because I come from an indy comic book background, one that had its heyday in the ’90’s, my natural inclination towards promotion is: make art for the story, make accessories and stuff with my art on it, go to conventions. I think this is not the traditional author route. It’s also an odd one because the comic book world is in flux. The old comic book world is becoming a multimedia one, and here I am bringing actual novels–books with lots of words and hardly any pictures–to media conventions.

It has worked for me to some degree because among the con attendees pursuing their own interests, whether it’s movies, cosplay, superhero, gaming, anime, Maker crafts like steampunk, etc, are the people who like to read. They tend to find me, so I guess I’m doing something right in terms of what’s on the table and what kinds of visuals catch their eye and make them realize: Hey! A book, and with a Victorian superheroine!

RD: 
You attend a number of cons, what are you hoping to do when you attend a con? What have been some of your successes with attending cons?

EW: I’ve ended up exhibiting at cons because that’s what I know to do. Everyone I know–who are mostly in comics, illustration, and animation–does it, so for me it’s a natural step. Again, had I been a traditional author from the get-go, this might not have been the accepted route of self-promotion. When I was making comics, first a self-published zine during the small-press explosion days, then getting published in Sarah Dyer’s Action Girl Comics and then getting my own title, Charm School, I sat behind a table or at my publisher’s booth at an event and sold my books.

And as I’ve said before, everything has changed just when I’ve changed my career from a visual one to one more of words. I like writing long fiction because the stories can come out faster than drawing them. So in answer to the question, what do I hope for when doing events, I hope to reach a new audience, sell people books, and make new longtime readers because my Dark Victorian stories are really good.

As to success at events, that’s all relative because each event has its quirks and can work out differently. We can’t control the state of our economy and the effect it has on people and their spending, the time of year, concurrent events going on, one’s placement inside the venue, and so forth. At one event I may sell well, at another I may not. We have to take from each event what we can learn and then figure out which kinds of events we do best at. I see every exhibitor practicing this, and despite the best laid plans or anticipations, exhibiting is always a gamble.

The consistent successes at events are things like meeting new readers and introducing my books to them, seeing other creators and talking shop–that part is really important, because then you’re sharing real field experiences in story-telling, publishing, online selling, and vending–learning a new trick or two from other exhibitors, making new professional contacts, doing filmed onsite interviews or arranging for further promotion, and experiencing surprises. Some surprises you might not like, but the very good ones are what keep you going.

RD: 
Have you learned any lessons to make your future cons a better success?

EW: Boy, I’ve had to learn a few things because the nature of events, the audiences, and so forth, have changed in the past decade. I will say that what is hot one year or for two years may not be for the next year, so if one is of a genre, it’s best not to be solely dependent on that niche or gimmick but have consistently interesting and worthwhile content to offer; the more immersive the better. Give the reader a world. Not as easy as it sounds, but it can be applied across the board, whether selling crafts, clothing, jewelry, art, toys, and comic books. Gaming, of course, already fulfills this. So mine are stories, worlds provided in fiction form, and the next most simple requirement is to offer those worlds in the easiest format enjoyed by readers, and that’s physical books.

RD: 
What is the progress on your next novel in the series?

EW: As I write this, Dark Victorian: Bones, which follows the first book, Risen, is being edited and once back in my hands I’ll polish it up, do a handful of illustrations, layout the print book, and have it published and in readers’ hands by early spring. I hope for sooner but this book is significantly longer than Risen, which means more to typeset and correct. With each book I’m learning, which means perhaps a more smooth and easier process, and should lead to a consistent output of some nice solid books.

RD: 
How many more novels are you planning for in The Dark Victorian series?

EW: There’s an outline, or timeline perhaps, of about 8 books, but we’ll see if it’s that many or less, as I’m wondering if one theme I wanted to tackle is even necessary, and whether a subplot becomes its own book. However it works out, I’ve the vision and direction down, with all kinds of supernatural themes and horrific foes along the way.

RD: 
Outside of this series, what other projects are you working on?

EW: There are several projects stewing, one of which is finishing the YA novel, Wit’s World: Never Was, which is about a girl from a magician’s family who loses her twin in a duplicate dimension’s theme park, and goes there to rescue her. There are quite a few readers waiting for that book.

Just as The Dark Victorian was an offshoot of Wit’s World, I have Fey Dently, Vampyre, meant as a series of storybooks, which also comes from Wit’s World. Fey Dently is an automaton–in Wit’s World’s vernacular, a ‘Puppetron’–who lives in a section of the Wit’s World park called Darque Towne. The storybooks are of her adventures and would be in the macabre vein of Edward Gorey.

Then I have the Charm School Collection to put together, wrap up (I’ve about 26 more comic book pages to draw), and publish. Charm School is about a cute witch, dragster vampire, and femme fatale dark fairy set in a 50’s style mixed with fairytale-style town called Little Salem, sitting on the edge of the twilight world.

And to top all this work off, I thought to do a Dark Victorian short story, which, at the suggestion of my beta-reader, I could base on many of the secondary characters who met untimely ends in Bones. But instead I center Sundark, the short in progress, on a new set of secondary characters, Mrs. Elle Black and her wife Mrs. Faedra White-Black, Elle being a woman gifted with the ability to see what we call ‘ghosts’ and to move objects with her mind. In Sundark, she must solve why guests are disappearing in a mechanical hotel. I’m really enjoying writing this story!

~Elizabeth Watasin

http://www.a-girlstudio.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethWatasinX

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20130119_174708One of the panels I was on last weekend at ConFusion was about mixing genres, and moving tropes from one genre into another. Since this is pretty much what I do, I was right at home on this one, despite it being distressingly early (noon) on Sunday.

While all the authors on the panel agreed that it was a lot of fun to mess with reader expectations by throwing our genres in a blender, another topic came up that is particularly relevant to steampunk. Why the heck is everything today dystopian? Steampunk as a whole is very much about the idea of a less-than-lovely past (or at least past-like setting. Dickens on steroids if you will. All the gloom of a coal-shrouded Victorian city without any of the pageantry. On the other hand, the bleak concept of the dystopian future is everywhere in fiction, not just in the punks. Turn on the TV or look at movie listings and you can find zombies just about everywhere, as well as the end of the world as we know it due to asteroids or plague or sentient machines or alien attack. So why are we all so fascinated with the dark side of fiction? Does the dark side really have cookies?

Well, truthfully, some of us aren’t. That’s the whole point of romance as a genre, really–the idea that happiness can win out in the end. But even in romance, we’re seeing a backdrop of misery in the conditions around our characters. And as one panel asked, why don’t we see utopian futures? Partly, we decided, because it’s awfully hard to set exciting conflict in a utopian world. All in all, utopia is kind of boring. Furthermore, the trend isn’t new. When the world gets scary, so does our fiction. We like seeing our hero(ine)s have to overcome tremendous difficulties to win out in the end–because maybe then, we see a little hope for ourselves.

***on a personal, and happier, note, Moonlight & Mechanicals was the runner up for Best Book of 2012 at Love Romances Cafe. Thank you to everyone who voted.***

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I, Maeve Alpin, stand on the dock of the airship, clutching my purple hat, as my hair streams in the blustering wind. Thrilled to meet Steampunk author, Heather McDougal and discover more about the intriguing contest she devised to celebrate the release of her new Steampunk novel, Songs For A Machine Age.

Her contests entrants created works of art depicting the Steam Beast, a mechanical character from Songs For A Machine Age. She opened the contest to various mediums, whatever the entrants were best at: sculptures, computer created, hand drawn, painted or mix-media. The artist sent in high-quality digital images one for 2-D work and 3 for 3-D work. The deadline fell on October 28, 2012.

“Welcome, Heather.” I shove my hat on my head and take her arm in mine. “Watch your step.” We stretch our legs in a long stride across the wide gap between the dock and the airship, to board. I lead her into the parlor.

Heather McDoural gracefully lowers herself onto the crimson settee, featuring elaborately carved lion head legs and claw feet.

I sink into the chenille upholstered armchair and lean forward. “I am fascinated by an art based contest. How did you come up with that idea?”

“Well, I  come from an art background with an MFA in sculpture.  Writing was something I wanted to do as a young person, I got distracted by other skills for a long time. I earned a degree in fashion design and worked in the garment industry for several years, and then went back to school to study textiles. Once you’re in the art department, it’s pretty hard not to try all kinds of things, so I ended up learning to blow glass and weld and so on, and finally ended up with this sculpture degree. However, my thesis won me extreme praise where my sculpture had only been reasonably good, and this made me revisit writing.

Also, this book is all about a culture of makers. Three hundred years before the narrative, they  were in the middle of an industrial revolution and someone invented a truly horrific manufacturing technology. I won’t tell you more about it, except that it was the catalyst for a revolution in which all machinery was banned, with the exception of handmade devices with purely aesthetic value. So as a result, skill in making things has become a highly-prized commodity.

It seemed appropriate, then, to  bring art-making into the promotion of Songs.”

The engine purrs and the blue willow teacups shake on the coffee table causing a clinking, rattling sound as the airship lifts off. “With your varied but strong artistic background, I can see why you were inspired to write a book with this wonderful premise of ‘all machinery was banned, with the exception of handmade devices with purely aesthetic value.’ Speaking of machinery, the subject of the contest is the Steam Beast, a mysterious, mechanical character. Tell us a little bit about him.”

“He was created by Pelle Vidersen, a woman who lived around the time of the Revolution, who had the unusual skill of being able to create Devices that have sentience, have life. This is a dangerous skill and she wasn’t supposed to use it, or even have the skill – and there were grave consequences. But that’s all in the prequel, which I’m halfway through writing. Suffice to say, you see a great deal more of him there, and get to know him pretty well. In Songs For A Machine Age, he is seen as much less of a person, more of a strange Device that no one could possibly recreate.” Heather grabs the settee with one hand as the airship rises.

“I can’t wait to read about him in the book.” Since the china cups ceased rattling, I picked up the tea pot and poured my guest and myself a cup of Earl Grey. Wisps of steam rose up rom the blue willow cups.“How did you come up with the Steam Beast? Did something particular inspire you to create him?”

“Interestingly, I came up with the name first! The world of songs first appeared in a project I started called Neddeth’s Bed, an experiment in blog storytelling. In it, the protagonist goes to sleep most nights and dreams she is in the body of someone else, someone who is writing on a machine. So she tells her story to that person, who writes it down (as a blog). It’s an exercise in world-building and in dual storytelling — you begin to understand the person she is occupying as the tale unfolds.

This is where the Steam Beast first shows up, as a sort of one-off device in the Midsummer Festival.  Somehow, he caught my attention, and when I started this book, he wouldn’t go away.  I grew more and more interested in him, wondering about his back-story, until I found myself writing the prequel, just to get him out of my system.” Heather reaches her slender fingers between the plate of fresh lemon slices and the cream pitcher. She picks up a white cube from the sugar bowl and plunks it into her tea.

“It’s interesting that once these characters latch onto our minds,they won’t leave us until we write their stories.” I hooked my fingers in the handle of my teacup and lifted it off the delicate saucer. “You sent the contest entrants a never before seen segment from the prequel to Songs For A Machine Age, in which the Steam Beast is worked on by its creator.Can you share that segment with us? Please! We’d love to read it.”

Rhea Ewing's winning Steam Beast

Rhea Ewing’s winning Steam Beast

“Of course! Here you go.”

“Pinzen,” said Pelle, “It’s time to grow.”

Pinzen came out from its nest among the plants in the corner, moving gracefully.  It was definitely ready for more synapses.  She squinted at it carefully, thinking that perhaps its carapace needed to be larger, after all.  She wasn’t sure how much longer she’d be around to keep wrapping its brain, so this installment might need to be a larger one than usual.  It was good she’d planned ahead and had the new carapace already.

She moved across to one of the boxes under the work-counter.  Lifting the lid, she inspected the contents carefully.  She’d been saving this material for years, since the days when she worked in the automaton factory and smuggled the threads out, piece by piece, in her shirt.

“Hello, Pelle.  Did you see my toy?  I fixed it,” said Pinzen.  “I took two toys and made a new one.”

“Hmm?” said Pelle.  “Good for you.”  She was inspecting the threads in the box, laying them out in careful skeins on a clean part of the counter.  It was essential that she keep them absolutely dust-free and straight or they could cause crossed connections, which could lead to insanity.  She had built Pinzen with great care, and was proud of how sane it was.

Pinzen moved its claws, impatiently.  “Pelle, did you see it?”

There was a long silence while Pelle went on examining the threads carefully, pulling out the occasional one.

“Pelle!”

“What?  What is it, Pinzen?”  The machine was acting strange, shuffling its limbs.  Pelle frowned, distracted by the task ahead of her.

“Did you see my new toy?”

“New toy?”  Pelle turned around.  “What do you mean?”

“I took apart two of the toys and made a new one.  And I’m working on that one over there,” its claw lifted to indicate an intricate sprawl of wheels and cogs on a sheet of paper in the corner behind the door.

The thing he’d made was completely unlike anything she’d seen before.  She pulled over a stool and sat down to look at it.  The fluted columns gleamed, and there were several keys or levers clustered together on one side.  She reached out and pressed one of the keys, and leaned away with an “Ah!” of surprise and pleasure when the steam-letter rose into the dimness of the room and hovered for a moment before wafting away.

“How did you know what shapes to make?” she asked, pressing another key.  Another letter came out, and she marveled at their perfection.

“I made them to look like the shapes in that package,” it said, pointing to a book that she had left on the counter.  “I noticed they repeated themselves, so I counted how many kinds of shapes there were, and made one of each.”

“It’s lovely,” Pelle said, fascinated.  She pressed several keys in a row and a floating nonsense-word hung in the air between her knees.  How did he do it?

“Did you use my tools?” she asked, suddenly.
The machine went very still, and there was a silence.  “I did use one tool, Pelle,” it said.  “I am sorry.”

She shook her head.  “It’s all right, Pinzen.  I am amazed at what you’ve done.  I should have explained to you why you weren’t allowed to touch my tools.  You see, they are very old, and if they break I won’t be able to replace them, ever.  So I need to be very careful with them, do you understand?”

“I understand, Pelle.”

“You clearly have a talent for making things.  If I could get more materials, I would let you make many more wonderful things.  However, I am old, and I can only get a few things, very slowly.  So you’ll have to keep yourself busy some other way unless I can find things for you to use.”

“May I use the same tool to reconfigure my other toys?”

“It depends.  Which tool was it?”

“The long thin one, with the green handle.”

“Yes, you can use that one.  If it breaks, I can get others.  But now, Pinzen, you’ll need to sleep, so I can help you grow.  All right?”

“Yes, Pelle,” it said, and went completely still.  After a few moments she put her hand on its carapace and felt it: it was growing slightly cooler.  Good.

She got the new carapace from its shelf and took it outside to wash it.  The trouble with this new society, she thought to herself, as she rinsed the dust away and dried it with a soft cloth, was the imprecision of everything.  It was so hard to make precise machinery when there were mice getting into everything and the water went unfiltered and there were no factories, making parts.  Everything had to be done from scratch, including, at times, the actual foundry-work of heating and mixing the metals.  You had to be truly dedicated to make anything.

Then she shook her head.  It didn’t matter now; they didn’t need the ability to make precise machinery. Those days were gone. Nobody wanted machines anymore, no matter how brilliant. It was only her own silly need to go on making things that got foiled.

Back inside, she wiped Pinzen down carefully, then spread out a clean sheet and laid the machine on it. It was completely cool by now, and she set to work opening its carapace and setting aside the pieces. The connections between the brain and the limbs were kept intact, and in the center of it all the power source remained, obscured by the network of brain all around it.  She disconnected the limbs and put in extenders, sealing the connection tightly so it would last as close to forever as she could make it. Slowly, carefully, she began laying the intelligence threads around and around, sheaf after sheaf of them, matching ends, tying and making careful selective clipping; layer by layer, its brain grew bigger like a ball of yarn.  As it grew she said the words which bound it all together, made it whole. It was dangerous, doing this.  She had not dared to speak over a machine other than Pinzen for many, many years.\

When she had used up the last sheaf of threads, she covered the whole thing with a fine gold filigreed network like a hair-net, snapping its two halves over the ball to hold it all in place.

Then there was a last round of clipping – creating the synapse points – all around the outside, through the holes in the filligree.

Now it was time for the carapace.  Would it fit?  With tired, shaking old hands she drew the pieces of the new carapace toward her and tried to fit it all together.  The limb-connections had moved a bit, and she had an exhausting fiddle trying to get them to come out in the right places; but eventually, worn out, she put in the last few bolts and the new Pinzen lay before her, much larger than before.  And hopefully more intelligent, too.

She shook off the fear she may have made a mistake and he would wake up insane.  It was too exhausting to contemplate.  Shakily, she got up from the stool and went out to get a cup of cha.” Heather picked up a demure spoon from the coffee table and dipping it into her teacup, she swished it side to side, taking care to not touch the sides.

“It must have been amazing to look at all these different depictions of a character you created in your mind? Did they capture what you imagined? Were some extremely different? Tell us a bit about that experience.”  I pinched a slice of lemon, picking it up, I breathed in the invigorating citurs fragrance as I squeezed a few droplets into my tea.

“Well, the first thing I found was a lot of the artists who heard about the contest simply sent me a picture of some previously-created artwork on the off chance that they’d win. A sort of “what can I lose?” attitude. I can understand that attitude, because a lot of artists don’t get much money or recognition for what they do; however, it really wasn’t what I wanted.” With a soft clink, Heather set the teaspoon behind her cup on the saucer. “I had to sift through those people, sometimes checking the portfolios on their websites, before I could get too excited. But then, some things would come in and it was clear the person had created it specifically for the contest. That was amazing. And when Rhea’s picture showed up it was very clear, hands down, she would be the winner. I waited until the deadline, of course, but I just didn’t see anything else that so perfectly captured that moment in the book.

Of course now that I’ve gone through the process, I can see things I would have done differently. For example, early on I would have posted the contest information in art departments in universities and art schools all around the San Francisco Bay Area, which is where I live. Art students are always looking for some money. They have time and they have talent, or at least most of them do. It would have been a good way to get a bunch more original entries!

Also, I would have started earlier, researching places to let people know about the contest. I think it would have been useful to get some personal contacts in those communities beforehand. Simply writing to places that seemed appropriate wasn’t enough; there was little response, and I suspect they couldn’t really vouch for the fact that I really would give the winner $200. If I had had the idea earlier, I could have spent some time getting to know them, so they would hear me when the time came.

Still, it felt truly marvelous to be able to give back to the art community. There was such a wide variety of entries, and the feedback was exciting – people who had never really read anything remotely resembling Steampunk or Clockpunk before, or who were trying new techniques. And Rhea was so excited to win, it really made my week! I still feel good, thinking about that.

Best of all, I think I reached an audience that maybe wouldn’t have heard about my book otherwise.”

I lift my teacup and breathe in the subtle, aromatic scent of the steamy tea. “So Rhea Ewing is your winner. Congratulations to her. What medium was the work in?”

Rhea Ewing created a  2-D piece, my guess would be charcoal and  pastel. You can see more of her amazing work on her website.”Heather picked up her dainty cup from the blue willow saucer.

I brought my teacup to my lips and took a sip. “Can we see the winning piece?”

“Yes!” Heather tilted her teacup to her lips and drew in a long sip, then set it on her saucer with a melodic clink.  “Here is the winning piece.” Heather Mc

I placed my cup back on its saucer and leaned toward Heather. “I know the winner received $200.00 and a signed copy of Songs For A Machine Age. What a wonderful prize. But you didn’t stop there, you picked three runner ups who received a signed copy of Songs For A Machine Age. Who are your runner ups? Can you describe their art submissions or can we see them?”

“One is a pen-and-ink drawing by Joanne Roberts,

Joanne Roberts’ whimsical drawing

Joanne Roberts’ whimsical drawing

another is a blueprint by Simon Forster,

Simon Forster’s Blueprint

Simon Forster’s Blueprint

and the last one is a small sculpture by

Ken Bessemer.

Ken Bessemer’s sculpture

Ken Bessemer’s sculpture

I feel lucky to have such a variety!”

As I’m perusing the art of the runner ups, I hear rattling and clinking. I glance at the coffee table. “I see the teacups are shaking. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for just a few more questions. Since this contest is about Songs For A Machine Age, what is the back cover blurb?”

“There is a place where fabulous clockwork devices fill festival streets with color and sound.

Where the Gear Tourniers, in their places of high learning, keep alive the memory of the cruel horrors of an industrial past, now overthrown.

Where skill of the hand and grace of the body are markers of true belief…

Elena Alkeson has been on the run for six years. Wanted by the fanatical Duke of Melifax for witchcraft, nowhere in Devien is safe, as her gift for sensing impending disaster comes with a price: she can’t keep her mouth shut.

…Until she meets Fen, who shares a similar gift: the gift of seeing inside mechanisms and knowing what they do. Elena and Fen must flee for their lives, going to the capital City of Helseve to seek asylum, and, perhaps, a life in which their gifts can be used for good. Amidst the machinery and brilliance of the Autumn Festival, Fen and Elena find friendship, danger, and some powerful allies.

But Melifax and his sect, the dour Browns, are determined to bring the people of Devien into a new age, an age of moralism, conformity and mass production, ensuring that the beauty and pageantry of Devien and its Devices will be lost forever.

I find most blurbs to be a bit over the top by nature, but this one’s not too bad.  I’ve also had a friend describe Songs as ‘A capital ‘R’ Romantic Clockpunk adventure, in the spirit of Dumas or the Scarlet Pimpernel, full of personal and political intrigue.’

Publisher’s Weekly said this about it: “Disagreement over technological progress drives social, religious, and political disorder in McDougal’s fantasy debut. Elena Alkeson is on the run from the Duke of Melifax’s followers, the Browns, after her talent for spotting the weak points in structures got her branded a witch. She finds kindred spirits in the Findswather family; the eldest Findswather son, Fen, has the ability to ‘see the workings of a thing.’ Browns support the Duke’s migraine-vision–fueled belief that people should work together in assembly lines to create larger works. Elena, Fen, and others fear this would bring back the awful
‘production-slavery’ of the Ancients as well as the loss of art, independence, and real craftsmanship. While Elena and Fen try to help the Gear-Tourniers and the Curator, a mysterious figure in charge of historic machines, the Browns, plot to bring down the rebels. A large cast of characters and complex world-building fuel the intrigue and action in this intricately plotted fantasy.”

“What a wonderful review.” I flashed Heather a broad smile. “I have to compliment you on the cover. I understand you actually created the cover art yourself.”

“Yes, since graphics is something I do for a living. I asked the publisher if I could submit a cover, and he said ‘Sure, but we might not use it.’ But he liked it so much he did use it, and in  fact I’ve done some other covers for him since then.” Heather holds on tight to the arm of the settee, bracing for the shaky landing.

“We’ll we’ve landed but before you go, please share your calling cards with us.”

“Here is the link to my longtime essay blog, filled with all kinds of things Steampunk and otherwise and my website.You can also find me on Facebook.Find the book on Amazon.One might also be able to order the book from one’s local bookstore’s website. I encourage people to try it.”

With the airship Steamed landed, Heather and I exchange goodbyes, but please comment or ask questions below.
~ ~
Maeve Alpin is the author or three Steampunk books, her forth, CONQUISTADORS IN OUTER SPACE, is coming Februay 1, 2013.

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Today we welcome author Steve DeWinter.

Steve DeWinter is an American born adventure/thriller author whose evil twin writes science fiction under the pseudonym S.D. Stuart. His latest novel The Wizard of OZ: A Steampunk Adventure will be available January 8th, 2013 in Kindle and Trade Paperback.

Don’t Cross the Streams

by Steve DeWinter

crossing-the-streams

If you are as old as I am (or have an older friend who has shared this wonderful movie with you) then you know what I am talking about.

If not, I do not want to spoil the movie for you, but the general idea is that the device the Ghostbusters used to capture ghosts could destabilize the entire universe if they crossed streams with another of the devices. The idea behind this was that each device’s stream alone was powerful, but if mixed with another device’s stream, the results would be disastrous.

So, lesson learned.

Don’t cross the streams.

Writing teachers (and other established authors too) give this same advice to young writers just starting out. Write what you know. Use the genre you already read and write in that. Don’t cross the genres. Don’t write in a genre you know nothing about. The list goes on and on for what writers should and should not do when choosing what to write.

I, however, ignore this advice on a daily basis with my writing. I am a cross the genres author. I have two primary genres of books that I love to read. Science Fiction and Thrillers. When I write, I mix in the best of both genres. I “cross the streams” in my writing.

Have I destabilized the universe of storytelling? I do not think so.

1619780038As I entered into the steampunk fiction realm for the first time to write The Wizard of OZ: A Steampunk Adventure, I knew going in I was going to “cross the genres” once again and create a rip-roaring science fiction adventure with a thriller quality villain in a steam-powered turn of the century world. Oh, and there had to be robots (or automatons as they were affectionately called in the late 1800’s), lots and lots of robots.

While Amazon categorizes my books for a specific audience for the purposes of searchable lists, I pull on the resources and story methods from multiple genres to create stories that entertain and thrill readers.

And if you have never seen Ghostbusters, go do something about that today!

–Steve DeWinter

www.stevedw.com

The Wizard of OZ: A Steampunk Adventure

Kindle E-Book Edition
http://amzn.to/TGJBhO

Trade Paperback Edition
http://amzn.to/RCcwDP

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This week maCTR-Button-Stmpnkrks the opening of a new webpage devoted to steampunk:

Coffee Time Romance has added a steampunk page to their website. Catch me blogging there today, and several of the other Lolitas sometime during this grand opening month. (Click on the image to check out the new site.)

Up in the Aether: The Convention:UITA

If you like your steampunk live and rowdy, come on out to Michigan Memorial Day weekend. You’ll get to meet Lolitas Seleste and Cindy, along with a bunch of other great authors, and some awesome steampunk musicians, along with airship races, a dueling society, costume and maker workshops and all kinds of other fun. Pre-registration is open now! Click on the image for more info.)

Nominat2012 - Nomineeions & Awards:

Moonlight & Mechanicals has been nominated for Book of the Year at Love Romances Cafe, and Photographs & Phantoms is nominated in the mystery/suspense/thriller category. Voting begins on January 10th  at NOON PM EST (USA) and goes to January 18th, 2013 on the LR Café yahoo group. Voting will be on the LR Café’s Poll page. The link to that main page is at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LoveRomancesCafe/polls No Early Voting will be allowed! Gem2012Anyone who votes ear ly before Noon EST on Jan. 10th will have their vote uncounted. One vote for each person and you must be a member of the LR Café Yahoo Group to vote. You can join at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/loveromancescafe. Also, the entire Gaslight series has been named one of Kathy’s Review Corner’s 2012 Gems.

Cards&Caravans_final Release Date and Blurb:

Book 5 in my Gaslight Chronicles series from Carina Press will be out March 18. Here’s the blurb:

Belinda Danvers isn’t a witch. But that won’t stop them burning her at the stake…

Connor McKay can tell at a glance that Belinda’s magickal powers are minimal at best. She can’t be guilty of murdering village children. There’s something suspicious about her arrest and lightning-quick sentence. Unfortunately, telling anyone how he knows would mean revealing his own powers. He’s been sent by the Order of the Round Table to help and he can’t just let her die.

Escaping from jail and running from vindictive villagers in her grandfather’s steam-powered caravan is more excitement than Belinda’s had in years. And despite the danger—or maybe because of it—she loves the time spent with her sexy rescuer. But there’s more to his magick than he’s letting on…

There’s something going on that’s bigger than the two of them. It’s time for good to make a stand.

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