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Archive for March, 2014

Good things happening in my life: I’m lucky enough to be moving this week to an awesome, new-to-me house, built in 1972. A lot of original woodwork and even gas-to-electric light fixtures remain. This is really exciting for a history buff like me, especially since a good deal of the history of this house has been written down. Maybe that will be a blog for another day.

on State St

The bad: due to the craziness in my life, the eighth book of the Gaslight Chronicles has been pushed back. Ether & Elephants will be out in February 2015 instead of November of this year as planned. Sorry!

The sad: As I’m writing this on Tuesday, it’s the 103 anniversary of an event that changed the world in many ways. I’m talking about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, and the lessons that tragedy taught should never be forgotten. Check out this article for more information.

The kooky: Just for fun, here’s a glimpse of my first attempt cosplaying the automaton effigy of Her Majesty. Thanks to Matt Gwinn of Errant Knight Photography for capturing the image. (Yeah, I know, the makeup really needs a lot of work!)

V bot mark I a

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DELcover

Click on the bookcover image to visit the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Website

It was too good to be true… a copy of Dawn’s Early Light in my own hands… I had it for all of a few seconds before my son snapped it up out of my hands. With a stern demand in my tone and a promise to return it to his hands when I was done reading it, I soon had it back. And in my hands it stayed until I’d finished it. And smiled… and smiled… more.

The third book in the series, Dawn’s Early Light has been highly anticipated in my household and it did not disappoint! From the very opening, we are treated to action and adventure with our favorite duo, Books & Braun! Even in transit to the Americas they can’t seem to catch a break and have some peace and quiet. But if they did, they wouldn’t be our favorite agents… 😀

Arriving in America they make quick work of finding their American counterparts and getting to know one another. But of course for these two, the simple act of meeting “Wild Bill” and Felicity is entertaining and promises more fun before the end of the book. More than national pride separates the agents, competition is high, and there’s still the emotional confusion welling up within our Ministry agents. It’s all good!

Another exciting facet of the novel, the ‘tech’ in this new ‘Ministry’ book doesn’t disappoint. Wellington’s tinkering and inventive mind certainly make me smile. His continued interest, even so far away from home, was a joy! Add to it a number of other scientists we all know and love… and some perhaps on the other end of the spectrum, and the game is on!

I really appreciate the way the parallel story lines are presented. It’s easy to follow along with all the characters in the adventures covered in this volume. Even with the additional characters that are part and parcel with changing the setting in a series of books, no one seems left out or plays the part of an ‘extra.’ All the characters live and breathe within this brave ‘new world’ of Book Three!

The pacing of the book is another plus for me… the action moves things forward, the relationships and interactions of the characters move the plot along. It’s a satisfying read that clips along and builds excitement not just for the happenings in Dawn’s Early Light, but continuing on in the series.

That is one of the delights of this series. I always worry when the first two books of a series are great… I’ve been let down a few times before with other authors and other genres. So, I was very happy to read this book and know that this is a series that just keeps getting better!

Eager for more information on this amazing series, I sent a few questions to the author’s of the book.

TSD

click on this picture to visit their writing website

Q & A with the authors of Dawn’s Early Light

Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Q: Finally, the third novel in the series! What prompted the change to America instead of other places Books & Braun may have traveled?

A: Dawn’s Early Light picks up shortly after the end of The Janus Affair. Eliza has been reinstated as a Field Agent while Wellington has been “promoted” (at least on paper anyway) to be Eliza’s partner. They have been sent, strictly as advisors, to the Office of the Supernatural and Metaphysical who are on a case that has stumped the agents there. So we join our Ministry agents on a coast-to-coast adventure.

Q: Creating characters can be both exciting and stressful, taking the setting out of England, what challenge did those barbaric Americans create for you?

A: Our adventure invites the brave agents of the Office of the Supernatural and Metaphysical (OSM, or agents of “awesome”) along for the ride, and really, Felicity Lovelace and “Wild Bill” Wheatley were a joy to write against Eliza and Welly. Felicity and Bill are mirror reflections of the two of them, and sometimes Eliza and Welly don’t like what is staring back at them. It was a challenge digging deep into the American agents and poking fun at our own world personas. We had a blast mixing it up with our agents from opposite ends of the Atlantic.

Q:  Personally, I’m thrilled that Wild American West is the locale for your newest book. Wild Bill is a nickname given to a number of personages in that period of American History. Is your Wild Bill focused on one in particular, an amalgamation, or did you pull him from thin air?

A: The name “Wild Bill” I’m sure will conjure images of Bill Hickok but our “Wild Bill” is more of an appropriate reputation for a loose cannon in the Intelligence Community. Bill Wheatley is similar to Eliza in that he likes to make an impression with as much firepower as he can muster. I believe there is a bit of method to Bill’s madness, and in the end I think Eliza and Wellington both grow to like him…after a fashion.

Q: In our family, your Ministry books are shared between two generations. What do you think is key to your multi-generational appeal?

A: Spies are cool. Period. Whether it is James Bond, James West and Artemis Gordon, or the crew taking care of Warehouse 13, spies are appealing to all ages. It could be the gadgets. It could be the action and adventure. It could be the intrigue and the lifestyle, but there is something about spies that keeps all ages engaged. When you see the lines at the International Spy Museum, you really see all kinds of people anxious to see the toys and soak in the history. It’s the cloak-and-dagger that draws everybody in.

Q: Do you have plans for beyond book 4? Are there any hints you’d care to share?

A: I can’t go too much into what we’re working on with Book 4 but I will tell you this: bring a flashlight. We’re going dark.

Thanks to Pip & Tee for taking the time to answer some of my questions! Now… all I have to do is somehow WAIT for book Four.

Wait.  *tapping fingers* Hmm… *bouncing my knee up and down underneath my computer table*  “Is it done yet? Huh?”

From Ray Dean: Howdy from Hawai’i, folks! I’ve been a guest blogger on Steamed! on several occasions, but thanks to Suzanne who gave me the opportunity to do this on a regular basis. So the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month you will be subjected… err… entertained(?) by my blog posts… YOU WILL BE ENTERTAINED, I said… *cough*

Anywho… A hui hou (Until we meet again) – Ray Dean – www.raydean.net – My Ethereality

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A. D. Cruize

Arewe’ C. Thereyet

The 42nd Airship Battalion’s Chief Engineer/Sr. Navigator, A. D. Cruize and Sky Marshall, Arewe’ C. Thereyet ran a Make & Take panel at the Steampunk mini-con in Houston, Twisted Gears. They revealed how easily we can turn toy guns into shiny Steampunk weapons.

Cruize and Thereyet came armed with an assortment of plastic toy guns for us to conveniently purchase and make into steampunk weapons to take home. Since plastic is light weight, it’s favorable for steampunk accessories. Keep that in mind when planning your outfit. Metal isn’t light weight or comfortable, especially if you live in a hot, humid climate like Houston, Texas.

You can aquire guns like the ones we used at the dollar store, Goodwill, Salvation Army, flea markets, garage sales or your own home. If you buy a used item, give it a good general cleaning before you paint it.

For those who chose water guns, the first thing they did was pull out the stoppers. Then, Cruise and Thereyet handed out sharpies and markers.  Before we began painting, we used our choice of colored markers to outline anything on the gun we wanted to stand out or define. Then, ready for the Rub’ n Buff, we picked the colors we wanted. Taking just a dab on our finger, we smeared it onto our weapons in a rubbing motion.

Rub ‘n Buff feels smooth and light on your fingertips and is so easy to apply. Made of carnauba waxes, fine metallic powders and select pigments, it gives a metallic appearance to anything you rub it on.  The important thing to remember about Rub ‘n Buff is a little dab will do you. You can find it at your local craft store but you’ll get a better selection of colors online and may find them cheaper there as well.

We started with the intricate parts of the gun. Spreading Rub ‘n Buff on as evenly as we could, we rubbed it over our guns until we reached the desired effect we wanted.

Remember a little bit will go a long way. You can meld the colors together for an interesting effect. If you accidentally get Rub ‘n Buff on an area you don’t want to, just smear a different color of Rub ‘n Buff over it.

Once your gun is dry, take a soft, clean dry cloth and buff it. Just rub it until you bring out the shine. You may want to decorate your gun with gears, charms or feathers. Remember with plastic, you have to follow specific procedures to get stuff to stick to it. For the right paint and adhesive for plastic go to This to That.

Everyone at the Twisted Gears Make & Take did a smashingly brilliant job on their guns and were pleased as punch with the results.  You can make a steampunk gun just as easily. Find guns like the ones your characters use in your books and Steampunk them as props for your own outfits or as giveaways for your readers. Readers love to receive items their favorite authors actually made. Transforming these guns is also a lot of fun.

I love to hear from readers and my fellow Steampunk authors, please comment below.

~       ~        ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. 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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Project Runway’s Under the Gunn spin off had a Steampunk Challenge on the February 27, 2014 show. For those unfamiliar with this show, it was spawned from the glittery loins of Lifetime’s Project Runway. In this incarnation, notable mentor Tim Gunn (the fashion world’s silver fox) helps three Project Runway Alums to mentor their own designers… yes, it is just like that.

This week they open the episode at Travel Town in Griffith Park. If you are a Steampunk and in Los Angeles “GO THERE!” It’s just a hop, skip, & jump to the Autry Western Heritage Museum.. go NOW.

openingmaterials

Standing beside one of the steam trains at Travel Town, the designers are told they have an ‘avant garde’ challenge with the genre of fashion ‘Steampunk.’ Avant garde is the challenge that has stumped many a designer on the show, mainly because what is ‘fashion forefront’ to one person is not for another. Throw in the added concept of Victorian Retro-futurism and holy steampipes, Tim Gunn… you have some confused designers.

rawmaterialsThey’re given $300 dollars for fabric at Mood and TWO WHOLE DAYS to finish an outfit. (So far in the earlier six episodes they have not had such a luxury).

They’re set free on a table full of parts and clocks… to pull pieces to use in their designs.

wtfBut you can tell that earlier on, this may be a tough challenge for some of the designers. Some of them are excited about the challenge as they like the Steampunk ‘look’ and some have no idea.

One of the designers said they’d seen it before but just hadn’t known there was a name. Hey, that sounds like some of us… huh?

Early on, Natalia talks about ‘functional’ fashion and components and I’m happy. I know she’s going in a good direction.

During the middle of the show when they’re showing the construction and mentor critiques is confusing at times and sometimes my teeth are grinding together. I’m not sure that two days is enough. What I feared happening was the idea that oh look shiny stuff, throw this on! When I’ve talked to Steampunks about their outfits there has been a considerable amount of thought that has gone into their looks. And being part of the culture, they’ve had the chance to look around, research, play, experiment… stuff you just can’t do in two days, especially if you aren’t familiar with the source material.

When it’s time for the runway show, I’m confused about why they have the ‘same’ judges. Project Runway has had guest judges and celebrities before. The week prior they had the Costumer from “Pompeii” come in as a guest judge, but this week there is no such ‘extra’ judge sitting on the panel. No Steampunk fashionistas available? I highly doubt it, but then again, who to pick from the thousands of amazing Steampunk fans?

ashaOne of the judges likens the experience to Paris Couture. I’m not sold on it… but I’ll give you my takes on some of the outfits and you can let me know what you think… why not have some fun? What do you think?

Asha’s dress has some of the silhouette of Victorian fashion, but the neckline strikes me as odd along with the white lace-ish narrow skirt.

stephanieStephanie’s dress was called ‘costume-y’ and they mentioned that it looked like Disney, but here’s where I shrug…

Her belt looks like an exaggerated version of a Medici belt from the Civil War Era.

medicibeltSo really, is it costume or just the judges not really knowing historical fashion? It really comes down to (like every other week) the subjective POV of the judges. Especially when one calls the belt a ‘Mr. T’ belt.

oscarOscar’s outfit was panned earlier by another designer for looking too much like a Saloon Girl… okay, obviously they haven’t really seen much of the Wild Wild West… but we’ll pass on that for now. A judge mentioned that the clock at her center is a bit too spot on for them, but they loved the draping and the hat.

I totally agree that the man is fabulous in construction and I want the hat… NOW… err, please. But then again. I kind of like the clock where it is because Oscar mentioned how the shape and look of the dress was inspired by the train. And yeah… it kind of looks like the front of the train with the hardware there.

nataliaNatalia’s dress is inspired by the concept of a “Time Traveler’s Mistress” – the girl in me says.. Why can’t SHE be the Time Traveler? But that’s just me.

She has engineer’s for parents and something must have rubbed off on her because using clock parts she has literally created a workable pulley that lifts both sides of the front half of the skirt to reveal her underskirt. Way cool.

pulleyShe has now earned some points with her mentor and the head of the show. Go girl! I also appreciate her whole outfit. I like the shape of it that brings to my mind the silhouette of a Victorian Era outfit.

samThere was one outfit that confused me on the dress form, but once on the model, I think I got what he was going for…

the dystopian future that brought to mind Boneshaker’s fashions. 😀 Sam’s would have had more of my support if he’d chosen a different kind of goggle. But that’s just my personal choice.

nicholasI think this next outfit created by Nicholas was more suited to a Mad Scientist creation with the tubes and metallic fabric. The outfit brings to mind a lab coat patchwork that would make Tim Burton proud.

michelleAnother creation, this one by Michelle. I loved the stained glass look of the collar and the coat has a great flair to it in the back.

I do, however question the hair ‘tower’ they created for her head. Not quite sure I can forget that one. It must have given the model and horrendous headache. Poor thing.

blakeThe next design is from Blake, who described his inspiration as controlling time, wrapping around her.  The outfit looked like pieces of different items of clothing sewn together and a bunch of gears and metal pieces sewn or glued on.  I think with more time it might have become something with more ‘clarity’… is that the word I’m looking for? Yes, I think so.

shanThe last design was created by Shen. It is the outfit that WON the challenge. I’m not sure if I completely understand why it won. I was hoping to be more excited by the look of it, but perhaps its just not my idea of avant garde Steampunk fashion.

So… tell me… did you see the episode? What did you think?

Which outfits floated your dirigible? Which ones sank your submarine?

How many days would you think a Steampunk challenge should have had to create complete designs?

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Steampunk and gorillas, why not? An odd but interesting mix. Gorillas have a definite place in Steampunk. Apes are especially popular in Victorian literature. The most famous gorilla was Edgar Allan Poe’s mass murderer from his tale, The Murders In The Rue Morgue, published in 1841. It stands as the first detective story ever written.

One reason for the Victorians’ interest in these powerful creatures was the topic of evolution. Spurred by Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, evolution was a hotly debated topic of the era. Also Britain had colonies in Africa. Therefore, the Victorians had a particular interest in the unique continent and its magnificent creatures.

Now everyone loves a cowboy. And is there anything cooler than a western hero? Why yes, a six gun gorilla of course.

Set in the 19th century American wild west, Six Gun Gorilla is about a kidnapped baby gorilla brought from Africa to the United States. There, he ends up in Colorado with a kind prospector, Bart Masters. The gorilla, O’Neil, loved the prospector like a father. Bart taught O’Neil to dig, fetch firewood, gather water, cook, clean and of course load and fire a six shooter.

Unfortunately, Tutt Stawhan, head of the Strawhan outlaw gang, murders Bart Masters. And O’Neil’s cozy family life comes to an end. O’Neil vows to revenge Bart’s death. He straps a bandoleer across his broad, hairy chest and holsters two Colts. Then he sets out on a quest to track down, shoot and kill every member of the Strawhan gang.

Six-Gun Gorilla was published as a fifteen-part serial in the British Pulp, Wizard in 1939. The author is unknown. It’s now in public domain in the US and the UK. The original is online as a free download. Get it in PDF here:  tableofcontents.html

Rupert Cornelius is another favorite Steampunk gorilla.  I had the pleasure of meeting, this educated Ape, at Aetherfest in San Antonio, Texas a few years back. This brilliant gorilla answers such mind boggling questions as pirates vs ninjas, The borg vs the daleks, and what he would he do for a Klondike bar?  Rupert Cornelius can also be seen on YouTube as you would expect of any well educated ape. 

And of course last but not least is DC comics’ Gorilla Grodd, arch nemesis of the  Flash. Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, Grodd first appeared in Flash #106 in 1959.  The premise is that in the 19th century, the Victorian era, a spacecraft crashed deep in the heart of Africa in the Congo Basin. Grodd and his troupe gain super intelligence and Grodd and another gorilla, Solovar, are also empowered with telepathic and telekinetic abilities as well as mind control. With the alien pilot as their leader, the genius apes build Gorilla City where they live in a society far advanced from our own. The apes dwell in peace in this secret city hidden in the mountains, until they are discovered by explorers.

Grodd takes advantage of that, forcing an explorer to kill the alien, so he can rule Gorilla City. But Solovar and the Flash thwart Grodd’s evil plan. Many times through the years the Flash and his allies including Solovar save the world from Grodd. For more of Grodd and Gorilla City click on:  http://www.hyperborea.org/flash/gorilla-city.html#sthash.k9RP9r19.dpuf

As you can see there is something missing from the three examples above…a female gorilla. What’s up with that?  If you‘re looking for a fun character for a Steampunk novel, why not throw in an ape? Maybe a girl gorilla. It’s something to think about. It would be an intriguing change from the standard vampire or werewolf.

If you’ve read or written a book featuring a gorilla, tell us about it or comment on anything else regarding the post. I love to hear from readers and other authors.

~      ~      ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. 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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