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Archive for August, 2013

An answer to a puzzle

I think I have figured out why steampunks don’t read as much as some other variety of geeks.

Costuming.

Costuming is the one overlapping interest of everybody who hangs out in the steampunk world. You can be a writer, but you still want a good look. You can be an engineer or a lawyer or a mechanic who loves steampunk for the movies, or dancing, or art, but your costumes are still what gives the hobby its appeal. You can sell hats, or corsets, or neat little laser guns, but you still need coats and pants or skirts, etc. You can be the steampunk cook or bartender, and still…Get the point? Since making things yourself is the preferred way to obtain a killer costume, that means having a knockout look takes a lot of time.

Over the last few months, I’ve watched on facebook as one after another, my friends have posted things like:

  • Only one more garment left to sew before…
  • Two last skirts to make for….Con…
  • Just one more layer of paint and then…
  • I should get all the cutting and sanding done this week…
  • I have enough fabric/hide/wood/resin/metal for ONE  MORE PIECE…
  • I should have everything done before …Con this weekend…

Add to the fact that steampunk overlaps audiences with Rennies (Renaissance festival folk) reenactors of just about every war known to man, pirates, and who knows what else, you not only need a costume, you need LOTS. And lots of each of you go to week-long events in every season.

So here’s the answer to my confusion in my last post. It’s not that steampunkers don’t want to read. They don’t have time! 🙂

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Photo by Richard Alois

Photo by Richard Alois

Gothic London, its varied history, and just getting to and from places has kept me so busy and exhausted over the past month that I’ve shirked my duties as guest blogger for STEAMED. My apologies. Even now as I write this, I’m on a bus to the train station to see the editor of Gearhearts Steampunk Glamour Revue, Patricia Ash. Unlike most places in the USA (and even many in the UK), traveling in London can be an all-day affair. If I’m out of the flat (and not indulging in a frothy mocha at a Starbucks), I’m either on a bus, on the tube, or walking up to 10 miles a day exploring this glorious city. I’ve even hired a Barclay Bicycle and tooled around a bit. Great fun. It’s not unusual that I get totally lost walking from here to there, even with my Mini A to Z, discovering many wondrous things along the way. Things, of course, that I would unlikely ever be able to find again.

I highly recommend going on guided walks in London on your visit, but not through London Walks. Although they have a varied menu of walks, it’s really hit or miss with the guide and crowd. It’s not unusual for them to have 50-100 people on a walk, and then it’s a big mess. You can’t hear the guide and your constantly moving with a huge crowd. Not fun.

For you Gothic Ghost Story fans, I can’t recommend the walks hosted by Richard Jones enough. He came highly recommended to me by my writerly colleague Leanna Renee Hieber. Richard has written something like twenty-three books on haunted London. Leanna used some of his ghosts in her fabulous Strangely Beautiful series.

Last week I had the great pleasure of meeting Richard and talking about publishing and marketing with him between the stops on the Sweeney Todd Haunted Walking Tour, which I thoroughly enjoyed. His dramatic presentation of ghost stories and history is fabulously entertaining. On his walk, I learned that many of the churchyards throughout London are higher than the rest of the city. This is because in the early 19th century, they were quite literally burying people on top of one another. The gravediggers would dig up a grave, move the existing bones out of the way, wait until after the current mourners were done saying their goodbyes, and then they’d slip the bones back in the new grave.

In the 1830s, a law was passed that closed many of the overrun graveyards in The City of London, including the Cross Bones Graveyard, on which I wrote about in June 2013. At this time, cemeteries were set up around the perimeter of London, like Kensal Green Cemetery, close to where I stay while in London. I’ll be visiting Kensal Green Cemetery shortly, and I’ll hopefully have a report on their catacombs! Seven of these cemeteries were built, known affectionately as the Magnificent Seven.

There was also a practice called “fishing” among grave robbers. Grave robbing could be a lucrative business at ÂŁ12-15 per body (a considerable amount of money then), but it was also against the law. Grave robbers had to get in and out quickly before the cemetery security watch made their way back around. Family members would arrange things on the fresh grave in a particular way so they’d know if the grave had been disturbed. Thus, the grave robbers would first take note on how things, flowers and tokens and such, were arranged on the grave. Then they’d dig a thin notch across near the top of the grave, crack open the coffin with their shovel, and lower a rope down into the coffin and around the corpse. They’d pull the body out of the grave, strip it of it’s clothes and jewelry, for it was death if caught stealing personal property. A dead body, however, just carried a hearty fine. They’d put everything back the way they found it and then sell the corpses to doctors and medical schools for research.

There are hundreds of thousands of graves all over London, in the many churchyards as well as in larger cemeteries like Brompton Cemetery, also one of the Magnificent Seven. I visited Brompton Cemetery my first week here because it appears in my book Avalon Revisited. I rode a Barclay Bicycle through the ancient grounds in awe. This is where my characters Arthur and Avalon discovered the resurrected Pembertons.
O. M. Grey in London

O. M. Grey in London

I’ve had a lovely time visiting historical places, Harry Potter filming locations, and all the places in my books. I’ve made a preliminary map for readers interested in seeing the settings themselves. Perhaps 2014 will bring a proper O. M. Grey and Leanna Renee Hieber tour of London.

For now, I’ll take my leave until (hopefully) two weeks from now when I’ll have more Gothic Goodies to share. Until then, more mochas, more exploration, more walking and then even more walking.

-_Q

Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist, like the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies, like SNM Horror Magazine and How the West Was Wicked. Ms. Grey also blogs and podcasts relationship essays covering such topics as alternative lifestyles, deepening intimacy, ending a relationship with love and respect, and other deliciously dark and decadent matters of the heart and soul.

Read more by O. M. Grey on her blog Caught in the Cogs, http://omgrey.wordpress.com

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Maeve Alpin at the Weird West Fest booth at Space City Con 2013

Maeve Alpin at the Weird West Fest booth at Space City Con 2013

Who doesn’t love a good western romance, add Steampunk to the mix and you have a real winner. AMC’s hot T. V. show, Hell On Wheels, is now in it’s third season, set during the Victoria era at the end of the Civil War. Cullen Bohannon is it’s tall, dark bad boy hero, played by Anson Mount. Many women consider him one of their favorite male characters on TV. The popularity of this show leaves no doubt that 19th century American men, in well fitting jeans and well worn cowboy boots, make hot heroes. There are great westerns like Hell on Wheels and there are also great westernpunk shows.

The greatest example of a  westernpunk television show is The Wild Wild West. All the 19th century high tech spy gadgetry made it Steampunk. Even though James West and Artemus Gordon didn’t fly on an airship, they lived in the luxury compartment of a steam powered train.

Nineteenth century locomotives were bigger than life with huge grills in front and towering smoke billowing out. Their long, powerful iron bodies were adorned with decorative brass, gleaming in the hot western sun as they cut across the wild, spacious west. They emitted an orchestra of musical sounds, including the steam whistle and the chuffing noise of the train. All of these things add to the ambiance and settings of Westernpunk stories.

There are several western states Steampunk stories are set in, Texas is one.  As a Texan I can say lots of weird, fantastic, and strange things occurred in Texas in the 19th century and are great inspiration for Westernpunk tales. You may not know but it was a Texan, Jacob Brodbeck, who built and flew the first flying machine. The first take off occurred in 1866 in Gillespie County, Texas. It ran off a powerful clockwork motor and a series of gears. This large motor didn’t build up enough power for the airplane to take off on its own. Brodbeck built a ski-jump type ramp on the side of a hill near Fredericksburg, he’d take his flying machine to the top of it, and as it gained speed sliding down he’d start the motor. He could fly for three or four minutes with power, then he’d glide to a landing.

Comicpalooza 2013

Comicpalooza 2013

Another weird piece of Texas history is the alien UFO crash of 1897 which took place in Aurora Texas.  A cigar-shaped UFO plowed though a windmill, destroying it. The good folk of Aurora discovered a space alien inside, who died upon impact. They gave him a Christian burial. Someone stole the space alien’s tombstone but the state of Texas erected a historical marker at the cemetery, which reads, “This site is also well known because of the legend that a spaceship crashed nearby in 1897 and the pilot, killed in the crash was buried here.”

The Dallas Morning News printed the story and it can be read online. It stated an airship hit the tower of Judge Proter’s windmill, blew into pieces in a terrific explosion scattering parts of the UFO over several acres, wrecking the windmill and water tank, and destroying the Judge’s flower garden. The pilot, the only one in the spaceship, died upon impact and though his body was badly disfigured it was evident he was not an inhabitant of this world. That sighting and crash was part of the airship scare of 1896, in which UFOs of similar descriptions were reported throughout the U.S. including in Ohio, Iowa, Texas, Arkansas, and California.DSCN0372

Also Texas was its own country for a while, with its own president and its own money. Texas wanted to join the U.S. but what if it didn’t? What if Texas stayed a country? As for that idea, think of all those places in the U. S. originally owned by Spain and France. It reminds me of the Steampunk book, The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming.

Then there’s the shoot-em-up wild west. Would the addition of Steampunk weapons make it more lawless or less?  Obviously it would depend on who had the biggest, baddest guns. What if Native Americans had high-tech weaponry?

DSCN0531As you can see the American west makes as good a setting for Steampunk as Victorian London does. Cherie Priest (Boneshaker) and Devon Monk (Dead Iron) have had great success with using the west for their Steampunk takes. For a Steampunk romance with a hot, western bad boy, I recommend Wilder’s Mate by Moira Rogers, it’s a fun, steamy westernpunk read. Please leave comments on westernpunk romances or western romances that you’ve enjoyed and recommend.

~                                             

Maeve Alpin, who also write as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 18 published romances. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter and her cat, Severus.

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Ten Things…

Ten Things I’ve Learned
Since I started Writing Steampunk
And Venturing into the Steampunk Community
1. Detroit teais a rocking awesome city for steampunk. Something about the urban decay around us, really promotes the steampunk/diesel punk feel. Also, most of the people I’ve met are generous, fun and really come together to help one another out.

2. Steampunk is welcoming to all ages/races/lifestyles/professions and incomes. The spouse and I even get to hang out with our grown kids, which is all kinds of cool. Moreover, if you’re not model-thin, young, and breathtakingly lovely, you’ll feel like it in a well fit corset and crinoline. Seriously. I was a major camera-phobe before I started garbing. Now I mug for the camera with the best

of them. Sure, I avoid certain styles, like corset-mini-leggings-stiletto boots, and opt for clothes with more coverage, as suited to short, round, and middle-aged. But I still feel so good in my favorite garb. It’s really revived my flagging confidence.

3. Steampunk is a big sandbox. One of my favorite things so far as I journey into the steampunk world is discovering that the fandom is full of intelligent adults who understand that their steampunk adventures are for fun. Life is hard. Recreation shouldn’t be. They’re playing, and they want you to have fun too. The best folks I’ve met are fine if your costume is a different era from theirs, or your ideas of the technology or aesthetic are different. They understand that there’s room for everyone to have their own kind of fun.
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4. Steampunk may have started as a fiction genre, but it’s become a primarily cosplay fandom. In other words, lots of people who identify as steampunks, don’t read. (I don’t mean they’re illiterate—I mean they don’t read speculative fiction for pleasure.) So the steampunk community and steampunk readers don’t overlap as muchas one might hope.
5. There is a bigger crossover in the community between Steampunk and Renaissance faires than there is between steampunk and SF con fandom. Costuming seems to be the link, more than the fiction. Find steampunkers at your local Ren Fair, SCA event, belly dance troupe or LARP, if you’re looking for folks who know their goggles from their ray guns.
6. Steampunk fiction is able to break the rules of history, but you still need a consistent timeline. My most important tool is the concept of the butterfly effect. Once you’ve made changes to the basic timeline of the world, you have to look at every element you create and decide how those elements are modified (or not) by the differences between your universe and the one we live in.
7. That means I do a LOT more research than you’d think for someone who essentially makes stuff up for a living. I have to know exactly how things work before I can m971769_3211778430045_1861533162_nuck with them. That’s sometimes big, easy stuff (When was Queen Victoria on the throne?) to little stuff like the newspaper descriptions of the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851, to legal matters, like Scottish witchcraft laws and when women were allowed to own property.
8. Steampunk requires mixing punk into your steam. Seriously. If you just add tech to your Victoriana, it falls a little flat.

Without a subversive, even tongue-in-cheek element to the feel, it’s still alternate history, or gaslamp fantasy, or any number of related things, but to really get the feel, you need the punk. Often, this means adding modern social consciousness, such as civil rights and environmentalism—and sometimes devastating effects of ignoring those two. Think about WHY you’d need gas masks in an even more coal-powered 1890s London.

 9. In an era when diversity was considered bad etiquette at the very least, it’s easy to write about snowy white characters and ignore everyone else. This is particularly true if your book is set in Britain or New England. Even if your world-building doesn’t provide a reason for introducing unexpected diversity, do it anyway. It’s not like gays didn’t exist—they were just closeted by force. But why not be open within their families and friends? Also, folks did move around. Bring other races in, but be sure not to make them all servants, etc. It may not be strictly period, but it will make your story a whole lot more interesting.
10. Finally, I’ve learned to let my imagination soar. Nothing is entirely out of the question in a steampunk/fantasy crossover world, so anything I can imagine is feasible, if I can figure out how to work it in. This has truly made steampunk more interesting than anything else I’ve ever written. It may not be the bestselling genre on the market, but I remain convinced that it’s the most fun.
 981656_613954288623576_410594702_o
*****
Cindy Spencer Pape is the author of the award-winning, best-selling Gaslight Chronicles. For more information on Cindy or her books, visit her website or find her on Facebook or Twitter (@CindySPape).
***
Photo/Artwork Credits:
Covers: Harlequin Enterprises.
George  original art: John R. White, commissioned by CS Pape.
All photos of Cindy are her personal property, except the white umbrella portrait, by Sergio Mazzotta
For Costume Credits, please contact Cindy

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CHARMED VENGEANCE in the wild photo contest!

Send me your pictures of CV in the wild — you with your copy, in the bookstore, etc. There will be prizes for the most creative, silliest, most steampunky, and cutest. Use your imagination (but be kind if you’re in a public place and you should know the people in the pictures.) Email them to suzannelazear@yahoo.com with PHOTO CONTEST in the header. Contest ends August 30, 2013. If your under 18, please have your parent’s permission.

Come join us on August 13 at Coffee Time Romance for an online release party with prizes!

Have a great week everyone.

~Suzanne

Suzanne Lazear is the author of the YA steampunk fairytale series THE AETHER CHRONICLES. Book 1, INNOCENT DARKNESS and Book 2, CHARMED VENGEANCE are out now from Flux wherever books and ebooks are sold. For more information on the series please visit www.aetherchonicles.com

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Dresden Files’ author, Jim Butcher is going Steampunk with his new series, Cinder Spires.

Mr. Butcher came to my corner of the world last weekend at Space City Con in Houston Texas. Not only is he a great writer, he also gives back to the writing community by sharing the basics of the wordsmith craft at convention and conference panels. He reminded us of the saying attributed to Michelangelo, which I found brilliant as a way to describe the need to learn the craft of writing and revisions to aspiring authors. How do you make a statue? You carve away from the stone, everything that is not the statue. As Michelangelo said, “You just chip away at the stone that doesn’t look like David.” That’s exactly what the revisions I do feel like to me.

Speaking on writing in a way that makes people care about your characters, he used the terms scene and sequel to describe what I happened to have learned as action and reaction. The elements of scene and sequel are emotion, logic and review, anticipation (what’s going to happen next) and choice. Mr. Butcher stressed the importance of keeping them in that order. Though sometimes you may not use all of them, which is fine, you need to keep to that order for the ones you do use. If you use any internal dialogue, keep it in the sequence or reaction part only. The best place to end chapters is in the action part, when the crisis or major event of that scene occurs or when the character is in an emotional state in the reaction part of a scene.

What I have often heard described as – start the story at the last possible place you can where it still makes sense, he explains as starting the story when something happens to change the status quo. Of course, it’s the exact same concept just as action/reaction is the same as scene/sequel, still his terminology may be easier for some to follow.

Mr. Butcher explains all books use the story question—Your protagonist sets out to accomplish a goal but will he succeed when the antagonist gets in the way and tries to stop him? Every story is all about getting from the question at the beginning to the answer at the end. Jim Butcher adds the basic protagonist information and his goal and basic antagonist information and how he tries to stop the lead character to the story question. He uses this for synopsises, pitches, and back cover blurbs.

When asked about describing characters, he advised writers to choose specific words to go with the characters. For example, for Murphy in Dresden Files he uses the character tags of short, cute, and blond. Do that for each character. You can also use tags to describe places in the story. I have to say that is the first time I heard the term character tags. So I learned something new. I will definitely utilize this technique in my work.

When asked how to avoid stilted dialogue, Mr.Butcher said, “Try writing dialogue in five words are less as it’s the way people really talk.” That will help you bring the dialogue alive. He also advised per characters, the one thing you can never do is have a character wallow in self-pity. It will drive the reader away.

Regarding his beta readers, Mr. Butcher asks these three questions of them. What did you like in this chapter? What did you not like in the chapter? Do you have any questions in the chapter?

As far as authors whose books inspired him, he stated his single biggest inspiration was Laura Hamilton’s earliest books. When asked if he had any interest in co-authoring and if there was any one he would like to write with, he answered, “There is no one I hate that much. I’m not going to put myself on someone else professionally, I’m that much of a diva.” That brought loud laughter from the audience.

He spoke of when he had to work full time and said writers should look on writing as a part-time job that isn’t going to pay you for a long time. Personally, I consider it is an additional full-time job that isn’t going to pay you for a long time.

Then he moved to Steampunk, answering the question, what got you into Steampunk? His face broke out into a wide grin as he said he wanted to create a character with a cool steampunk cos  play outfit people could dress up in. He saw a captain’s coat at Comiccon that fit him. So he has to change the character because he really wants to wear that coat. The steampunk fantasy series also includes lots of airships, crystals, and goggles. It’s been said the Cinder Spires series is a kind of league of extraordinary gentlemen meets Sherlock meets Hornblower. The first in the series is titled The Areonaut’s Windlass. He’s working on that book now. He’s starting to build and pull his Steampunk world together with everything he wanted. Among other things he really wanted to include cats that speak. One of his characters is a talking cat.

Jim Butcher – Cinder Spires Reading

I love the idea of a talking cat, it reminds me of one of my favorite books and one of my favorite aliens in a book, Rejar by Dara Joy.  I will definitely read The Areonauts Windlass when it comes out, the release date has not yet been announced.

Also please feel free to share your favorite writing advice to give to newbies in the comments below. Mine is never stop writing no matter what and finish the rough draft.

~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 18 published books, including four Steampunk Romances. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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I have an online class on writing the punk genres that starts today and runs until September 1.  You should check it out, it’s not too late to join.

I’m super excited because CHARMED VENGEANCE, book 2 in my Aether Chronicles series releases on Thursday — and the book will be available wherever you like to buy your books and ebooks. 

If you’re in SoCal, please drop by one of my signings!

Friday, August 9th — Vroman’s, Pasadena, CA 7 pm,
Wear your steampunk or faery best. There will be prizes, swag, and cake!

Saturday, August 10th–Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego, CA 2 pm
Wear your steampunk or faery best. There will be prizes, swag, and cake!

Also, there’s a great CHARMED VENGEANCE giveaway at YA Book Central.

The Book 2 Blues

by Suzanne Lazear

CHARMED VENGEANCE is book 2 of my Aether Chronicles series. Writing a second book in a series is very different from writing the first book.

Charmed Vengeance 1Book 1 is new and shiny. The sky is the limit. You can do anything. Say anything. The endless possibilities are part of what makes a new book in a new series so appealing and exciting.

Book 2 is different.  Where book 1 is an empty canvas, book 2’s canvas is already started. You can take it in new and different directions, and do exciting things, but it still has to coordinate with what was started.

That’s where the challenge lies.

The world has already been established and what was an amazing idea or a throwaway line in book 1 could hinder book 2, causing you to rethink your plotline, since you can’t undo what has been written in a published story the way you can in a draft.

It can be hard to build on book 1 and expand on the previous world while leading up to book 3 while making it a story in itself, one that stands alone and is compelling and interesting in its own right. A story that’s even better than book 1.

That’s quite the challenge, right?

But wait, there’s more.

For me, book 1 was written at my own pace, in my own time, for my own amusement. I could take as long as I wanted to make it compelling, perfect.

For book 2 I didn’t have the luxury. Book 2 was on contract. I was writing it on a schedule, and I had to deliver, on time. This can be a challenge if you’ve never written on deadline, and even if you have, staying on task while writing an entire book can also be a challenge. Where I’m used to deadlines, I also can get distracted, not to mention I’m not a stay-at-home writer.

But for all the challenges, there’s something unique about writing a sequel because it’s harder.  It’s another accomplishment in the life of a writer. Finishing it is an exhilarating accomplishment in itself, just like finishing a jigsaw puzzle and it actually resembles the box.

Where book 1 is a discovery as you create new characters and new worlds, book 2 is a reunion with old friends.  You’re reunited with the old crew for a new advenute and that’s thrilling and exciting in itself.

Writing book 2 can be a challenge, but it can also be amazing, because it’s harder, because it’s a continuation and there are expectations. You have readers, people who want this story, who are invested in your characters.

You have a second book.  Tell the story that needs to be told.

I know personally, I love CHARMED VENGEANCE even more than INNOCENT DARKNESS.  I hope you love it, too.

~Suzanne

Suzanne Lazear is the author of the YA steampunk fairytale series THE AETHER CHRONICLES. Book 1, INNOCENT DARKNESS is out now and Book 2, CHARMED VENGEANCE releases 8-8-13 from Flux. They’re available wherever books and ebooks are sold. For more information on the series please visit www.aetherchonicles.com

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