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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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I have a deliciously exotic post for you for Steampunkapalooza. Today, April 12, is national licorice day. Those amazing ancient Egyptians were the first to discover the wonders of licorice. Generous amounts of licorice were found in King Tut’s tomb and the use of licorice in an ancient beverage is recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Victorians loved licorice. It’s a perfect candy for a tea party. You can place a stick of it in your tea to stir it. Also a crystal dish filled with colorful Licorice Allsorts, a favorite English candy since 1899, will liven up your tea table. Of course licorice was just one of many ancient Egyptian influences on Victorian culture.

Constance Collier as Iras in Ben Hur, 1902

Constance Collier as Iras in Ben Hur, 1902

The Victorians loved costumes and Cleopatra influenced costumes were quite fashionable, used in the theater and to wear to balls. Of course actual Ancient Egyptian clothing and the Victorian idea of it were two different things. Pictured here are actresses Constance Collier, Sarah Bernhardt, and Maud Allan.

Sarah Bernhardt as Cleopatra in the 1890 production of Victorien Sardou’s Cléopâtre, and on the right, above, Maud Allan as Samone, 1910

Also, Inspired by authentic Victorian fashion plates of Egyptian costumes, the Steam Ingenious Cleopatra fancy dress project is recreating the gown Lady Paget wore to the 1875 Delmonico Ball in New York City. The portrait and photo of Lady Paget in the costume along with several fashion plates of Cleopatra style gowns are pictured on the blog.

The Egyptian Revival period also influenced Victorian furnishings.This chair belonged to Empress Josephine.

Victorians were fascinated with Egyptian mummies and unwrapping parties were quite stylish. George Mann tied Steampunk with mummy unwrapping in a wonderful scene in The Osiris Ritual. Here’s an excerpt from a Victorian mummy unwrapping party in the Steampunk/Romance, As Timeless As Magic.

Mister Mugrage yanked a strip of linen wrapping, tugging it off as he circled the mummy, unraveling it. He withdrew an amulet from the linen gauze and held it up. “Our first party favor. Who wants this lovely turquoise scarab?”

A lady in a large hat and a blue gown fluttered her fan. “I do, Mister Mugrage.”

“Madame Mills, by all means, this little gem is yours. It shall bring you great luck.” Mister Mugrage placed the treasure in the woman’s gloved hand as she giggled with glee.

Heru loosened his cravat before he gagged. The crowd’s thunderous applause fueled his anger. These amulets protected the deceased, helped him find his way in the afterlife, and this ridiculous man handed them out as party favors.

Mister Mugrage continued unraveling the mummy until he came upon the next find, a small hawk carved from blue lapis. He handed it to a man with a protruding belly and white beard, dressed in black trousers, a gray coat, and a green cravat. Heru fought the urge to grab the amulet back from the man‟s chubby fingers.

No sooner had the other guests congratulated the man than Mister Mugrage yanked the wrappings again. “Here we have a hollow gold beetle.” He placed it in Felicity’s hand. “What is this symbol on the top?“

Felicity peered at the golden insect, examining it closely. “Two crossed arrows over a shield, the symbol of Goddess Neith, deity of the hunt.”

“Who will have this fine beetle?” Mister Mugrage flashed a broad grin.

Heru wanted to yell for them to stop as he stood helplessly by, watching a corpse being violated for nothing but the fleeting pleasure of shallow people. He accidentally bit his tongue. He grabbed his jaw, and rubbed it.

A woman held up her dainty hand netted in a lacy glove. Felicity gifted the lady with the beetle amulet.

As Mister Mugrage unwound more linen gauze, he discovered a small statue with the body of a man and the head of a jackal.

“Anubis.” Finally, an idea struck. Heru swiftly stuck out his hand, almost grabbing the amulet. ”May I?” he asked in French.

“Oui.” Mister Mugrage handed it to him.

Heru knew this held the most powerful curse, for the priests who cast spells on the amulets wore the mask of Anubis. He flipped it over and read the hieroglyphic inscription. “You dare to touch this sacred mummy. You mortal man, whose flesh and skull will return to the desert sand. I curse you with the loss of your hands.” Heru clasped the amulet tightly, whispering the spell in Old Egyptian in the parlor just as he would have in the temple of Anubis. “Curse him, who disturbs the dead, who robs what the gods entombed. His hands should be severed if not his head, his cursed fingers doomed.”

“Give me that. Let me read it.” Felicity’s father reached for the amulet to grab it back from Heru. He gasped. His fingers fell limp. Mister Mugrage screamed, “My hands! They are numb, I cannot feel anything.”

Another fun fact, the coolest thing about Steamgyptianpunk is Heron (also called Hero) the Egyptian, in first century AD, invented the steam engine. His aeolipile was the first working steam engine in history.

Along with my  Steamgyptianpunk books, As Timeless As Stone and As Timeless As Magic there are several other steampunk books in my home library with Egyptian influences:  The Osiris Ritual by George Mann, The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, Timeless by Gail Carriger, and Empire of Ruins by Arthur Slade.

My Contest to celebrate Steampunkapalooza is a giveaway of a pdf eBook of As Timeless As Stone. Leave a comment below and I’ll choose two winners. Please include your email so I can reach you if you are selected.

Here is a book trailer of As Timeless As stone:

Maeve Alpin

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I’d hoped to do a cover reveal today, but that hasn’t shown up in my mailbox yet, (pout) leaving me with very little in the way of steampunk-ish goodness to talk about. I CAN say that Moonlight & Mechanicals, the fourth story and second full-length book in the Gaslight Chronicles will be out from Carina Press on Oct. 22.

Anyway, since I don’t have much of anything else to say about my own books or steampunk in general, I thought I’d sneak in another non-Monday book review, if it’s okay with the Lolita-in-Chief. These two stories are gaslamp fantasy rather than steampunk, but they really captured my imagination. The author, Christian Klaver, grew up about a mile from where I did, but we’ve only met recently, through the SF world, and I think the speculative fiction crowd is going to really love his voice once more readers find him. Maybe there’s something about us Detroiters that really gets into the gritty vibe of steampunk and gaslamp. I do believe these are Kindle exclusives, but with Calibre’s free conversion software, they can be read on any kind of e-reading device.

Sherlock Holmes and Count Dracula: The Adventure of the Solitary Grave (The Supernatural Casefiles of Sherlock Holmes) is Holmes like you’ve never seen him before. And by that I *do* mean that Holmes isn’t a vampire. That, I’ve seen. This blending of two major Victorian characters is written in a style so seamless you can almost believe it was found in the attic of one of Doyle’s editors. Yes, it’s a little darker than I usually read, but I honestly couldn’t put it down. The nuances of Holmes, Watson, and yes, Count Vlad Dracula himself are layered and well-drawn. You’ll hold your breath, I promise. It’s quite simply the most believeable Holmes/fantasy crossover I’ve ever read, and I’m a Holmes geek from way back.

Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Innsmouth Whaler (The Supernatural Casefiles of Sherlock
Holmes)
 combines Holmes with another great mythos: H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu, and proves once again how well Klaver can weave disparate universes into a single, and unique blend. This isn’t light and fluffy Cthulu, it’s got some gore and some darkness, but again, I really fell into the universe and could completely see Holmes and Watson in the unhappy seaside village of Innsmouth dealing with Deep Ones.

My Take? Klaver is definitely an upcoming author to watch. Here’s the cover for the upcoming third story, coming soon to a Kindle near you. I know I’ll certainly be waiting for it. I think Klaver is one of the next big discoveries in the world of Spec. Fic. And yeah, it doesn’t hurt that he’s a Detroit guy. 🙂

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I know Monday is book review day, but I just had to tell you about this short story that will make your mind boggle and your brain fall out. “Tucker Teaches the Clockies to Copulate” by David Erik Nelson is a surreal, hysterical, and dead-serious look at the nature of life, sex and robots.

Yeah, I said hysterical and dead serious. It’s both. I can’t explain how, but it is. Nuff said. You just have to read it.

Nelson’s steampunk world follows the long Civil War, where the mechanical Union troops stomped the south and then, after the war, the clockies, like all the other soldiers, had to find something else to do and somewhere else to live. Tucker is a drunken farmer in the west and gets it into his head to teach the robots how to do simple tasks like open doors and climb stairs. You can guess where it goes from then. Add in a Japanese doctor and a rabbi-slash-shopkeeper, and you have a fascinating town in the never-was.

Nelson’s take on steampunk is unique, and if you want to see something totally different from anyone else out there, this is well worth the read. On the other hand, if you like your worlds neat, tidy, and more or less happy (yeah, like mine, LOL) then it might not be your cup of tea. One way or the other it will make you think, and isn’t that what a good story is supposed to do?

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“Lolita Seleste!”

I snapped to attention as the captain strode toward the engine, her bustle sweeping through the soot on the floor. Soot I should have cleaned hours ago. “Aye, Captain!”

“I was under the impression you had some experience with steam engines when you requested to take up this post. Was I mistaken?”

My gaze darted to the left where turbines and pistons moved in much the same manner as they had when I arrived. Which meant they weren’t yet at full capacity. “No, Captain. The hitch in the works is a wee bit more complicated than I–”

“Excuses, Lolita I have no time or tolerance for them. We need to be at full power by nightfall. Get back to work.” Picking up her bustle as she spun around, she scowled at me. “And this place will be ship-shape by morning. Have I made myself clear?”

“Aye, Captain.”

As soon as she left the engine room, I kicked the offending turbine. “Work, blast you!”

When I said I could fix the steam engine, I’d anticipated a simple problem. Something quick. I’d been down here for three days, tinkering with the damned thing. By nightfall, she said. If I didn’t figure this out soon, I had a feeling my time on board might quickly be reaching its conclusion.

~~*~~

In other words, I am neck deep in revisions for Clockwork Mafia. They’re going fairly quickly (which is nice), but small changes have proved very invasive and have led to… a lot of changes. As I announced on Twitter last night, readers who felt Badlands was too short will be happy to know that this installment of the story is roughly twice as long. And… I got a release date last night! Clockwork Mafia will go on sale April 29, 2013. I know, I know, it’s a long way off, but I am hoping to have the third book out in 2013 as well. (As long as the writing gods cooperate at least.)

For now, however, I need to get back to Henrietta Mason and her rogue clockworks. I do promise a more infotaining post next time (that’s informational/entertaining for those who didn’t know :P)

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Although I may be familiar to many of you from my guest posts on Steampunkapalooza for the last two years, today marks my debut as a regular contributor. I recently had the delightful opportunity of meeting several of my fellow Lolitas at the Romantic Times Convention in Chicago, and I couldn’t be more excited about joining their number. For any gentle readers not acquainted with my name or work, my name is Cindy Spencer Pape (three words, no hyphens) and I write the Gaslight Chronicles from Carina Press, along with a variety of other, non-steampunkish, romances, though we won’t be talking about those here.

In the real world, I’m married to a wonderful man who indulges my love of dressing up in silly costumes and can maintain his equanimity when I muse out loud about how to describe the sound of a cudgel striking a human head, how one would build a steam-powered ice maker, or what to call a secret order of vampyre hunters in Victorian London. Being something of a mad scientist himself, he actually encourages me. Furthermore I have two college-aged sons who remain remarkably unembarrassed by their mother’s occupation, which is really as much as one can hope for. As I write, two spoiled-rotten dogs lounge at my feet and an iguana who considers humans his personal servants is glaring at me from across the room. It appears his luncheon is a few moments late. Beyond that, I live a deceptively ordinary suburban life in southern Michigan, and survive by passing amongst the others unnoticed.

My Gaslight books are a willy-nilly mix of steampunk, gaslight fantasy, mystery and romance. As a child I was told that my too-vivid imagination would get me in trouble one day. Instead, it gives me the opportunity to have endless amounts of fun, writing fantastical stories about a world that might have been. One of my favorite plotting techniques is to take as many disparate ideas as I can, toss them in a mixing bowl, bake and see what comes out. Ultimately, those end up being madcap tales populated with oddball characters against a backdrop of fantasy, science and history.I’m certain I’ll be talking more about the series as time goes on.

You can find out more about me and my books by visiting my website. I also love to meet new friends on Facebook and Twitter. I’m charmed to meet each and every one of you, and hope that if anyone has any particular requests for future posts, you’ll let me know. Toodles!

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Today we welcome Shelley who writes under varies and sundry alter egos, writing YA as Shelley Adina, adult inspirational under Shelley Bates, and Amish fiction under the name Adina Senft.  I’ve asked her to come on today because after having written numberous books for major publishers, some award-winning, she has decided to self-publish her latest work, a Steampunk YA entitled Lady of Devices, which came out last week.

Award-winning author Shelley Adina wrote her first teen novel when she was 13. It was rejected by the literary publisher to whom she sent it, but he did say she knew how to tell a story. That was enough to keep her going through the rest of her adolescence, a career, a move to another country, a B.A. in Literature, an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction, and countless manuscript pages. Between books, Shelley loves traveling, playing the piano and Celtic harp, making period costumes, and spoiling her flock of rescued chickens.

A whole new meaning for DIY

By Shelley Adina

First of all, thank you to the lolitas for inviting me to post today!

We all know how important the makers are to the steampunk world. Without them, where would we get mechanical arms, cool clothes, and temporal decay monitors? I’m a maker myself when it comes to costume, whether it’s a full Victorian ballgown or a steampunked-out day costume that I wear to work. But when it comes to my books, I create the manuscript and then I leave it to my publisher to make the final product.

Until now.

Last year, as part of my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program, I wrote a YA steampunk story called Lady of Devices. Since I wasn’t under contract at the time, I pulled out all the stops and just had fun with it. Why shouldn’t the British Mail be delivered by vacuum tube? Why shouldn’t housework be done with automatons? And why can’t a well-bred young lady be an engineer? That last one is a stumper for my heroine, which is why she gets this story.

Anyway, my agent sent it out all over New York, and we waited for someone to love it as much as we did.

And waited.

And waited.

Then the replies started coming in. “Love the story. Can’t market it.” “Beautifully written but where do we shelve it?” “Love the story. Can we make the heroine 22?” Did they not know how hot steampunk is right now? Don’t they get it? Crestfallen, I retreated back into my office and the Lady resigned herself to netting me a degree instead of a publishing contract. Until we both had an idea.

Self publishing.

After all, I’m a maker and she is a creature of intellect and resources. I contacted Amanda Hocking’s cover artist, who gave me a stunning cover that was exactly right for the book. I hired a designer to do the lettering, as well as to create the back cover for the print edition, published through CreateSpace (amazon’s POD arm). I formatted the book myself, edited it myself (it’s what I do in the day job) and posted it … et voila, Lady of Devices is available in print and digital form, at your service on amazon.com.  

My agent is very supportive—after all, she reads the blogs and knows what’s going on in the world of self publishing. And the response from readers? Let’s just say the book has been selling five copies a day since I put it up, which for a newbie at this, is pretty good. It debuted at #39 on the historical fantasy bestseller list—two below The Mists of Avalon and one above Naomi Novik’s latest! And that was with no marketing at all other than an announcement on my Facebook page. I plan to do just what I do for my print books—let people know via my newsletter and Facebook, hand out bookmarks, and then let the writing appeal to readers who enjoy it and might want to talk about it with their friends.

Makers. When all else fails, we do it ourselves.

~Shelley Adina

http://www.shelleyadina.com

Thanks Shelley for sharing with us.  We all know what a hot topic self publishing is.

What’s your take on self publishing? 

Shelley will be giving away one paper copy of Lady of Devices to one lucky commenter.  North American only please.  Contest ends June 15, 2011 at 11:59 PM PST.

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