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Happy Halloween. Many of our Halloween traditions began with the Celtic New Year festival, Samhain, (Sow wen). This was a day without time as if fell between the old year and the new. On this day the veil between Earth and the Otherworld was at its thinnest.

In my Steampunk Romance, To Love A London Ghost, Samhain comes up a lot. The heroine, Cerridwen, is a ghost of a Celtic warrior woman, who died fighting Julius Caesar. She comes back to earth for Samhain.

Here’s a short excerpt from To Love A London Ghost:

What type of evil had come over the land…her Londinium? Phantasms were to be honored and revered on Samhain. Her descendants should have greeted and welcomed her with a platterof food from the feast. No one laid out food for the ancestors anymore. Where was Ceridwen’s plate of food? Where was Ceridwen’s honey oat cakes? It had been hundreds of years since she came for Samhain. She’d been in eternal rest for many years, a long nap, but she woke up and journeyed all the way from the Otherworld, to visit her descendants and feast with them, yet there was no feast.

Here’s another:

“Algernon doesn’t know as much as I do and he’s not quite dead, not yet.” Ceridwen focused her energy on Charlie’s rifle and it slid across the floor, far out of his reach. “Celtic spirits can take another body any time they wish.” She floated in front of Sexton.

“It’s the reason we rub ash on our faces at Samhain, to look like ghost so the spooks won’t steal our bodies.”

“I’m not sure I quite understand, my dear. You may have to explain again and go a little slower for me, because it sounded like you just said you can take over Algernon’s body.” Sexton carefully stuffed the pistols back in his pockets.

A lot of changes took place in England between the times when the Celtic tribes ruled and the era when Queen Victoria ruled. Samhain became christianized into All Saints Day, November 1, also known as All Hallow Day. People began using the term Halloween as a contraction of “All Hallows’ Evening”

In the later part of the 19th century, the Victorians began to make Halloween less about spooks and more about parties. As we know, the Victorians loved a good party. These events included a harvest theme, dancing, romantic divinations and parlor games.

Predicaments was a popular game. Players gathered in a circle and they each whispered a predicament to the person on their right. Then, they whispered a solution to the person on their left. That’s where the fun came in. Someone would start the game off, mentioning the predicament given to them. For example, Miss/Mr so-and-so, what would you do if you had blood on your collar after you dreamed of kissing a vampire? The person asked, uses the solution they were given. Which might be something like, I would eat a turnip. The solution and the predicament were unrelated, which made them funny. It would go on like that until everyone in the circle was questioned.

halloween postcards- click to go to site

Apple paring games were quite popular. In one, single women peeled an apple, trying not to break the strip. They’d toss the apple rind over their shoulder. The shape of the letter the peel resembled most was the beginning of the name of the man they’d marry.

The Ouija board was also a popular Victorian board game and perfect for Halloween.  Also, telling ghost stories was always a big hit. No one can discount the fun of sharing ghost stories. It was on a rainy evening when Mary Shelly and others guests of Lord Byron’s were reading German ghost stories to each other. Lord Byron challenged everyone at the party to write their own ghostly tale. Shortly afterwards, Mary Shelly came up with the idea for Frankenstein.

Here from Steampunk Ghostly Tales is Ghost Hunting Steampunk Style. Halloween in Skeleton Bog  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8W-aG8SDQ8

Contest: As a Halloween treat, I’ll send one winner a PDF eBook of my Steampunk ghost story, To Love A London Ghost. It has a traditional romance heat level of three flames. Please comment below and include your email so I can contact you if you win.

~       ~      ~

Maeve Alpin, who also write as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 published books. 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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Carousel Horse(photo from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/)

The circus was a big part of British life in the mid-1800s. Much like the one run by Belinda’s great-uncle, traveling troupes featured side shows, trick riding, acrobats, clowns, and animal taming, along with early carnival rides. Some traveled by train, others by caravan, and my imagination has applied the steampunk elements. For a good article on Victorian circus, you can go here, to an article from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Here’s a tiny taste of what Connor and Belinda find when they go undercover in the circus: (excerpt ©2013 by Cindy Spencer Pape)

The morning of the circus opening was hectic, but Connor couldn’t help a sense of exhilaration. A crowd of people crowded around the fence watched anxiously as Nicky Smith, the owner’s nephew and mechanical army survivor, stoked the calliope, and performers scurried back and forth getting ready. The scents of animals and roasting peanuts filled the air.

Connor, in his role as assistant ringmaster, was meant to patrol the grounds, nominally overseeing all the workers, but mostly watching the crowd for their adversaries. Today’s goal was to establish that the magick in the circus as real and make sure it was impressive enough that word would spread. He’d spoke to Merrick and Fergus about the Builders’ Guild and the Architecture and Arts Association the night before, and Merrick would look into those today while the circus was busy here.

About half an hour before the gates opened, Connor ducked into the fortune-teller’s tent to make sure Belinda was ready to go. Rowan’s tail thumped as Connor walked in and the dog stuck his big head up for Connor’s scratch. Connor rubbed a wiry ear, but he only had eyes for Belinda. He’d grown used to her simple gypsy clothing of bright skirts and a peasant blouse during the last few days, but today she’d added to it, with brassy bangles on both wrists, big hoops in her ears and a red scarf covering the top of her head, while her dark curls spilled out from underneath. Even in layers of mismatched styles and colors, she still looked good enough to eat as she smiled up at him, her grandmother’s tarot cards in her hands.

“All set?” Willow and Rowan, sprawled on either side of her, shifted to make room for Connor.

Belinda nodded. “I remember my lessons on how to fake a reading in the crystal ball, and I’ve memorized what the various lines on a palm are supposed to mean. I practiced this week on most of our co-conspirators, so I think I’m ready.”

He slid into the chair opposite hers. “Show me.”

Belinda lifted an eyebrow. “You want me to read your fortune?”

“Exactly.” He winked.

“Very well, most honored sir.” She slipped into the persona he’d seen her practicing all week. “Would milord prefer the cards, to have his palm read or to plumb the mysteries of the crystal ball?”

“Oh, the crystal ball, by all means.” He settled into his seat, enjoying the show.

Her dark eyes twinkled up at him. “For the spirits to come, you must honor them with silver. Five shillings, if you please.” She held out her palm.

Connor handed her a five-shilling coin.

“You are most gracious, sir, as well as handsome.” Belinda laid both hands on the large quartz globe on a silver-plated stand in front of her and peered into it. “Think of a question, concentrate on the answers you wish the spirits to provide.”

“Very well.” He grinned back. “I have my question.”

He could feel her gaze dart to him when she wasn’t looking into the ball. “I see an image beginning to form,” she said. “A man? No, ’tis a woman. Her hair is dark, ah yes, but it isn’t your wife, no…she’s younger. A sister, perhaps? I see. Her eyes are just like yours—no, not in color, but the expression, the intelligence and humor, those are the same, are they not?”

“Give over,” Connor said, impressed by her acumen. “How did you know I was thinking of Melody?”

*****

Contest: In conjunction with the release of Cards & Caravans, Cindy is running a contest for a $25.00 gift card to the e-book distributor of your choice, plus the chance to name a character in the next Gaslight Chronicles story. To enter, visit the “Contact Cindy” page on her website and send her a note. Mention which blog you saw this on and some little detail about the post. One entry per person per blog post. The complete rules and a list of post locations and dates are available on the “Contest” page on Cindy’s site.

 *****

Cards&Caravans_final About the Book: Cards & Caravans is book 5 in the Gaslight Chronicles steampunk romance series, and releases from Carina Press on March 18. Find out more here.

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.

Review: 4 Stars from Romantic Times: “All the trappings of a good steampunk novel are here..but most enchanting of all is the love that develops between the hero and heroine.

*****

About the Author: Cindy S391766_509428429076163_422038333_npencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing. Award-winning author of 16 novels and more than 30 shorter works, Cindy lives in southeast Michigan with her husband, two sons and a houseful of pets. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book. Catch her online at:

Website: http://www.cindyspencerpape.com

Blog: http://cindyspencerpape.blogspot.com/

Newsletter group: http://yhoo.it/ni7PHo

Twitter: http://twitter.com/CindySPape

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/gjbLLC

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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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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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So…it’s here.  My fairytale steampunk young adult novel INNOCENT DARKNESS hits shelves Wednesday.  Then it will be officially “in the wild” which is exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

It’s actually already appearing in people’s mailboxes and in bookstores. (If you see it, would you mind Facebooking or tweeting it? If you let me know I’ll send you a bookplate. I’m going to be having a photo contest on my personal blog, so you can win more stuff there, too)

See–

Cute right?

So…who wants to win some prizes?  You know, like these?

So one grand prize winner will win a  fifteen dollar GC to Amazon, B&N OR the Book Depository + Zoe Archer’s SKIES OF FIRE and Nico Rosso’s NIGHT OF FIRE (both from the Ether chronicle series, because series that have “eather” or “aether” in them are awesome) + some buttons & swag in an INNOCENT DARKNESS tote bag.

Four other winners will each win one book + buttons + swag  (Karina Cooper’s LURE OF THE WICKED (signed), Dave Freer’s CUTTLEFISH, THE CLOCKWORK THREE by Matthew J. Kirbyand Kassy Tayler’s ASHES OF TWILIGHT (signed ARC).)

So, what do you have to do? We’re having a caption contest. Write your own caption to the sleeping baby with the book picture (Picture A) and post it in the comments below (or you can send me your altered version at suzannelazear (@)yahool

Or you could write a caption to photo B

Or Photo C

or Photo D

Don’t forget to tell us which photo the caption is for! Keep them clean please! Open internationally. Contest ends August 19th at 11:59 PM pst. One entry per person per photo please (so a max of four entries.)

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INNOCENT DARKNESS is full of literary references. Also, V and Noli like to read and discuss books. In celebration of their love of books and INNOCENT DARKNESS’ upcoming release, we’re going to have a Literary Reference Photo Scavenger Hunt.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will be to seek out the books and poems on the list and take pictures of them.  Each eligible photo will win you one entry – so, the more books you find on the list, the more entries you can get. Also, we have some slightly harder bonus items. These earn you not only a regular entry, but an entry for a special prize.

Prizes:

Grand Prize: An annotated copy of INNOCENT DARKNESS and Noli’s leather bracelet (from the cover) and a pair of goggles

1st prize: A signed and doodled copy of INNOCENT DARKNESS and Noli’s necklace

2nd prize: A signed copy of INNOCENT DARKNESS and the brass key from the secret garden at Findlay house

3rd-5th places: Captain Jules’ Extraordinary Telescope ring (from Think Geek) + INNOCENT DARKNESS goodies

Rules:

1)      Must be 13 or over to enter, if you’re under 18 please have your parent’s permission.

2)      Open Internationally, however, if the titles are not in English, please make sure I can see them in the picture so I can validate the entry.

3)      Limit one entry per person per book.

4)      Books can come from your home library, school library, book store, ect, – but please be courteous and if you’re in the book store, be very careful and you should probably buy a little something while you’re there.

5)      Books need to be paper copies, because as awesome as e-books are, they don’t exist in Noli’s world.

6)      People who work in bookstores and libraries are still eligible to enter, because you’re awesome.

7)      Each picture needs to have a book and a “marker” to be valid – this is very important because this makes your entry unique. Basically, something needs to be in the photo with the book. You could be the marker, it could be a stuffed animal, your hand (though it should be different from other hands – colored polish, a ring, etc), it could be a table or a vase of flowers or a funky hat, or a gear, whatever you want.  In fact, there will be a “Missy’s Choice” prize for most unique marker. You don’t have to have the same marker in every picture, feel free to shake it up.

8)      Email pictures to suzannelazear (@) yahoo with “scavenger hunt” in the subject. Please tell me your name as you’d want it announced if you win and make sure I have a valid email to contact you at. You can send the pictures one at a time or all together. If it’s for a bonus contest, please let me know. By sending me the pictures, you’re giving me the right to post my favorites.

9)      You don’t have to send me two pictures for the “oldest copy” contest, if you follow the instructions, you’ll be entered into the bonus contest and receive a regular entry.

10)  Contest ends July 24th, 2012 at 11:59 PM PST. Winners will be chosen at random from eligible entries unless otherwise stated.  Bonus prizes may not be awarded there are no eligible entries. Winners and awesome entries will be posted at http://www.suzannelazear.com

Book List:

Are you ready?  Remember, you don’t have to find them all, but the more you find the more chances you have to win:

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

“Fairies in the Wood” by Mother Goose (poem)  “Fairies in the Wood” by Mother Goose (poem) (Also called “My Mother Said” and “Pixies in the Wood”)

“Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti (poem)

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

“The Hosting of the Sidhe” by William Butler Yeats (poem)

Household Tales by Brothers Grimm

Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle

“The Stolen Child” by William Butler Yeats (poem)

Stories of Hans Christian Andersen by Hans Christian Andersen

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Bonus Contests:

These are super hard, but you’ll be entered for a chance to win an additional awesome prize. Make sure you ask permission before handling or taking photos of really old books—especially if you’re in an antique bookstore or library archive. To be entered in the special bonus content, your picture must include the publication date (and I need to be able to read it, also you still need to have a “marker” in these pictures for it to be eligible).

1)      A copy of Harper’s Bazaar from 1901 or before (can be a reprint or reproduction) – this gets you entry to win a steampunk fascinator and a steampunk nail polish.

2)      A botany book originally published before 1895 (the book you’re taking a picture of can be a reprint, but it must have first been issued before 1895) – this gets you an entry to win a Steampunk Wrist Monocular from Think Geek.

3)      The oldest copy of “Goblin Market” will win will a pair of goggles.

4)      The oldest copy of Nicomachean Ethics will win an aviator cap.

Missy’s Choice award for best marker – Missy (my daughter) will choose her favorite marker from all the pictures and award a prize of her choosing. Everyone is automatically entered into this special contest.

Good luck! Have questions? Email me. Suzannelazear @ yahoo

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Like YA?

Love Prizes?

The YAmazingRace with MGnificent Prizes starts today at 12 pm EST.  Over 50 YA and MG authors are going to be giving away a boatload of prizes.

INNOCENT DARKNESS is part of leg 5.  If you’ve wanted Noli’s necklace and haven’t won one yet, there is one up for grabs.

Rules will go up here at 12 pm eastern time when the race starts.  Good luck!

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