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Archive for the ‘Guest Thursdays’ Category

My apologies for the radio silence.  I do have some epic news for you…but you’ll have to wait until Monday. 

Until then, here are the winners I owe you:

The winner of The Faerie Ring is:

Jessie Ball

The winner of the toy airship is:

Mina Gerhart

Congratulations!

Today we welcome author Maureen O. Betita!

Rules? I Don’t Need No Stinking Rules!
by Maureen O. Betita

I love that about steampunk. I’ve been to several big steampunk conventions and one thing most everyone agrees on…we don’t want rules. We don’t want a definition; we don’t want to be hemmed in.

Yes, steampunk roams free across the plains of the ‘what if’. It almost seems, as a genre, it’s more about a feeling, an aesthetic, than a strict interpretation of anything. This is one of the reasons it’s one of my favorite new genre mutations. (I know it isn’t really new-new, just new to the greater world.)

Because, I, too, want to roam free. I’m one of those writers who didn’t know about the rules, or the concept of format. All those silly acronyms were like hieroglyphs to me. I just wrote. And if I crossed POV or head hopped or used too many adverbs or… Well, you get the picture. Obviously, at the rate I worked, I would never see anything published.

So, I learned some of the rules. The basic rules. About grammar and punctuation and POV and head hopping… I still tend to use run on sentences. (Notice?) But mainly for the effect of effective babble.

Yes, effective babble.

In many ways, this is one way to look at steampunk. Effective babble. It wanders and roams and plays with words and inventions that boggle the mind. Not the purely high-minded scifi inventions created by luminaries such as Arthur C. Clarke, penning the concept of satellites before the idea was more than a gleam in the eye of communications specialists all over the world. Or Isaac Asimov and the Three Laws of Robotics.

Nope. Steampunk creates…oh…mechanical wings with gears, powered by steam. An earth mover that undermines an entire city, or a blend of mechanical and biological…hence an airship created from a whale. See? Effective babble!

Open any page of the Girl Genius comics and you’ll see inventions and innovations that defy every law of gravity, mechanics, physics…and yet…they aren’t magic! Which is one of those weirdly wonderful things about steampunk. Seldom is magic part of the mix.

And I say seldom because being the free roaming spirit it is…sometimes magic is part of things.

I love it!

For those of us who see ourselves as closet anarchists…steampunk is our wetdream.

When I began to create the world of The Kraken’s Caribbean, I wanted elements of steampunk, without the steam. I wanted magic and I wanted some technical toys. But mainly, I wanted pirates. So, no steam. But pirates. Hence, piratepunk was born. My personal name for the genre of The Kraken’s Caribbean.

The Kraken’s Mirror introduced a pirate haven of Tortuga, roundabouts 1690, where there were blenders at the bar and margaritas! My pirates do their work with an iPod strapped to their belts, heads bobbing to the music of the internet. A corner juggler may be using rubik’s cubes to amaze his audience. There’s ice to keep the drinks cold. And sanitation. Vampires act as the defense system for the island. Werewolves wander the forest and zombies gather in the swamp.

Oh, and time travelers stroll the streets while a matchmaking albino kraken stands guard over the entire world.

Yes, pirates inhabiting a world I could see steampunk would find interesting.

So, in the second volume, The Chameleon Goggles, I have Tortuga under attack from a very nasty steampunk world, intent of harvesting all that is profitable from the Kraken’s haven. Novan has come for its escaped citizen, but Captain Jezebel isn’t going easy and with the help of the chameleon goggles and a swashbuckling Mick March, Tortuga will force Novan to regret their actions! (coming October 20th!)

Bwah ha ha!

I have a third in the works involving a pirate circus…

Would I have felt so free to create this world without the example before of Gail Carriger? And Scott Westerfield? Cherie Priest? I don’t know. Maybe, but maybe not.

Steampunk. Piratepunk. Effective babble…what wonderful worlds!

Is there a favorite bit of fantastical babbling you’d like to see slip into the steampunk universe? Tell me about it (include your e-mail addy, please)  and I’ll set one of you up with an e-copy of The Kraken’s Mirror AND The Chameleon Goggles when it’s released!

Yup, I’m Maureen O. Betita and I write along the shores of the beauteous Monterey Bay in California. I walk my dog along the bluffs where I study the waves, watch the dolphin teach the surfers a thing or two and dream about pirates. When I’m not at pirate festivals, renaissance faires, scifi/fantasy conventions or steampunk gatherings…

Explore my worlds at
www.maureenobetita.com
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Maureen-O-Betita-Author/155907664465540  
Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/maureenobetita
and www.romancewritersrevenge.com (Where I babble as 2nd Chance, the bartender of a ship full of writing pirates.)

Contest ends at 11:59 PM PST 10/19/11.

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Today we welcome Steampunk author Stella Price

Stella Price writes Steampunk as Dagmar Avery and runs the Authors After Dark convention. Her new Airship, the PenNInk, will debut November 2011 online. Watch for it. You can check out all her work at www.stellaandaudra.com

Airships. You know them, you lose them, you even write them into all your books of steamy goodness. But did you know that airships are real? No not in the “Duh, zeppelins and dirigibles…” way.

A lot of people outside of the steam community don’t know this but Airships are popping up all over the country. Airships, or groups or troupes with a common goal in the steam community, are responsible for conventions, events and performances. Think of them as non union unions. I personally know of 4 “official Airships” that do everything from Setting up events to performing at conventions and traveling to do panels.

So shall I introduce you?

The Airship Archon, from Ohio, is the premier steam group. I met the majority of them at MARCon this year and was greatly impressed. They work as a unit, and are committed to keeping the steam community an open and welcoming place for people to explore. You can see more about them at their website, www.airshiparchon.com

If you check the website for the Airship Isabella, their mission is much the same as Archon, as they are also populated by performers, Artists and visionaries, and they are committed to helping people create characters to get into the real spirit of steampunk.

The A.S.S. Titilus, the Northeast answer to the Archon, is all about performance, information, and fun. As Im personally close with the Captain, A Count Named Slick Brass, I have been able to see both on the forefront and behind the scenes what this Airship does. For those of you at AAD this year, the Crew of the Titilus came to wreak havoc on the con floor for Saturday, and they were the MC’s for the Steamball. They are staples of the East Cost Steam events and like most airships… are completely for Hire.

Now the 4th? Im proud to say Im part of the 4th, and we are affiliated with the Titilus (loosely… LOL). The Airship PenNInk, So named because the majority of our crew are writers, goes live via the web soon! Our mission is to bring the new horizon of steam literature to the masses of the steam community, as well as a unique fashion sense and sexiness the community is missing. And remember, just because your not showing a little leg, doesn’t mean it aint sexy!

I’m the Captain of this rag tag ship, along with my amazing crew: PJ Schnyder (Weapons expert), A.L. Davroe (our Anthropologist), Leanna Renee Hieber, Our perpetual passenger,  Lia Hable, Lady of All things pretty and tentacle driven (she hides them under all her voluminous skirts its quite frightening…) and Marilyn Hacket, our first mate and bringer of Airshanties.

But You know a crew doesn’t live on ink alone… And we have our support crew who must always be mentioned. Our Steamstress, Brandi, Mercenary Mandi, Madame Kelly, Our Barrister Kayleigh And Ladies James and Sandy… Without them the PenNInk would cease to function.

 

An Airship is easy to put together, and more airships out there I think is a good thing. You have a common goal? You enjoy the lifestyle, and dressing up and having a good time? Are you always in a group anyway? Start your own airship. It’s a great way to get known… or join an existing one… Most take crew all year long. It’s a great way to get into steampunk…


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Tee Morris began his writing career with his 2002 historical epic fantasy, MOREVI The Chronicles of Rafe & Askana. In 2005 Tee took MOREVI into the then-unknown podosphere, making his novel the first book podcast in its entirety. That experience led to the founding of Podiobooks.com and collaborating with Evo Terra and Chuck Tomasi on Podcasting for Dummies and its follow-up, Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies. He won acclaim and accolades for his cross-genre fantasy-detective Billibub Baddings Mysteries, the podcast of The Case of the Singing Sword winning him the 2008 Parsec Award for Best Audio Drama. Along with those titles, Tee has written articles and short stories for BenBella Books’s Farscape Forever: Sex, Drugs, and Killer Muppets, the podcast anthology VOICES: New Media Fiction, BenBella Books’ So Say We All: Collected Thoughts and Opinions of Battlestar Galactica, and Dragon Moon Press’ Podthology: The Pod Complex.  When he is not writing, Tee enjoys life in Virginia alongside Philippa Ballantine, his daughter, and five cats (3 female, 2 males). Considering the male-to-female ratio in his house, Tee understands how General Custer felt near his end.

 

Foggy Goggles:  The Problem with Steampunk Sub-genres

by Tee Morris

When reading a recent blogpost from the Parasol Protectorate’s Gail Carriger, I felt my hackles rise. They stood a hint taller when I followed a link to The Steampunk Scholar who gives an in-depth look at what I believe to be the silliest trend currently running amuck in steampunk. The gist of both posts is that Gail’s New York Times bestselling series really shouldn’t be considered “Steampunk” but a softer cousin of the genre — “Bustlepunk.” Gail, as she is a class act, opens her commentary on this as follows:

I tend to not weigh in, Gentle Reader, on the controversial subject of bustlepunk, and prefer to let the experts argue amongst themselves as to whether my books are officially steampunk… Since Soulless came out in 2009 I have obeyed to the letter the old Internet adage “do not engage.”

I admit—I’m a new kid in the community. I know this. It was only in March of this year when I (with Pip Ballantine) stepped fully into the fray. Our first steps into steampunk were with the launch of a steampunk podcast anthology. We followed this first step with our second step — the book, Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel, now just over two months old.

And yet, reading both of the earlier cited columns, I’m asking the same question:

Bustlepunk?

Seriously?

Seriously?!

With the accomplishments Gail has achieved with the Parasol Protectorate series, I’m stunned that there are Steampunk SMOFs (Secret Masters/Mistresses of Fandom) who believe she doesn’t write steampunk on account of — as described by Gail herself — her books being unabashedly frivolous and fun. “Of course that can’t be steampunk!” these SSMOFs trumpet from pulpits on high. “We must give it its own classification — bustlepunk! Yes! That’s it! Bustlepunk! The softer side of nitty, gritty, icky, grimy, and dirty steampunk!”

Yes, I’m the new guy, but I’m just going to say it — Enough with the sub-genres!

It’s not just bustlepunk (and yes, every time I say that word, a kitten dies) that I speak of. It’s all of these contrived sub-genres that are cropping up in order to distinguish themselves from “true” steampunk. I first discovered this segregation when explaining to a curious bystander what steampunk was. When asked for some examples from film and television, I went with a favorite example: Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang.

One of the steampunks in our group turned to me and said:

 “Well, Tee, Chitty Chitty, Bang Bangis more dieselpunk.”

Not only was the steam-curious furrowing his brow at that, so was I. Dieselpunk? What the hell is dieselpunk?

The hair-splitting continued, particularly at WorldCon 68, when I heard bandied about the other “just-like-steampunk-but-different” sub-genres:

  • Sailpunk
  • Sandalpunk
  • Ricepunk
  • Atompunk
  • Teslapunk
  • Stonepunk (No kidding — Stonepunk. Think The Flintstones.)

To those in the mainstream struggling to understand what steampunk is, dropping sub-genres like these only muddy the boiler’s water, making for a really poor performance and a bad stink coming from your analytical engine’s exhaust.

So if this rule of “a case of the whimsies” applies and Gail Carriger therefore doesn’t write steampunk, then you better tell Kaja and Phil Foglio they aren’t writing steampunk either. And someone call The League of S.T.E.A.M. They are having their steampunk card revoked, regardless of their delightfully witty writing and artistic direction.

And while you’re at it — best proceed with caution when reading Phoenix Rising. Between the explosions and intrigue, our whimsies are strong.

Part of what appeals to me (and, I imagine, outsiders of the steampunk circles) with this Science Fiction sub-genre is the passion, wit, and downright cleverness and creativity of “what could be.”  From the possibilities K.W. Jeter, Tim Powers, and James Blaylock first envisioned back in the late-1980’s came a “future-that-never-was” along with a wide definition of what steampunk is all about. When Pip and I attended The 2011 Steampunk World’s Fair, we were struggling not to gawk and gape at what people defined as steampunk, but never did I hear anyone describe someone’s outfit as being a great ricepunk outfit or how their elaborate cannon and teapot was an amazing dieselpunk creation. And when I saw rayguns of Grordbortian inspiration, never did the term retropunk ever bandy about people’s lips. What we were a part of was a celebration of ingenuity and do-it-yourself technology with style. It wasn’t about the niche you fit into, but what you as an artist were defining as steampunk.

Now as steampunk begins to approach mainstream in its appeal, we as writers, costumers, and artisans of various media should stop and ask ourselves how wise it is to search for that magic genre we fit in. If we are not edgy enough are we merely writing bustlepunk? (And there goes another kitten…) If we decide to set our steampunk in Calcutta, have we ventured into currypunk? What if our steampunk traces its true origins back to the earlier era of the Restoration? Do we dare explore the possibilities of powderpunk?

How silly can this hair-splitting get?

Steampunk is more than an era, more than Victorian London, and far more than the technology of Babbage taken to a higher plane. Steampunk is a celebration of what you can accomplish when your heart and your imagination is behind it. It is adventure. It is wonder. It is, as Nathan Fillion’s Richard Castle so eloquently puts it, “…a subculture that embraces the simplicity and romance of the past but at the same time couples it with the hope and promise and sheer super coolness of futuristic design.”

Not ricepunk.

Not retropunk.

And certainly not bustlepunk.

This is steampunk.

Let’s keep our sights on what we do together, not searching for our own little niches. That way, we are better artists, a stronger community, and an artistic movement that changes perspectives.

-Tee Morris

http://www.ministryofpeculiaroccurrences.com

http://teemorris.com/

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Today we welcome comic book artist Joe Benitez, who does the *awesome* Lady Mechanika comics. 
 
Joe Benitez is an American comic book artist who has worked on such titles as “JLA”, “Superman/Batman”, “Detective Comics”, “Supergirl”, and “Titans” for DC Comics and “The Darkness” for Image Comics. He also co-created and penciled the sci-fi series “Weapon Zero” and the dark fantasy mini-series “Magdalena: Blood Divine” for Image. In 2005, Joe published his first creator-owned mini-series “Wraithborn” through Wildstorm.  In 2009, he stepped in to finish up Michael Turner’s run on “Soulfire”. Joe is currently working on a new creator-owned book, “Lady Mechanika”, published by Aspen Comics.  For more info on Joe Benitez or Lady Mechanika, please visit www.joebenitez.com.
 
Lady Mechanika #2 is scheduled for release July 13th, and a collected edition including the sold out #0 and #1 issues will also be released the same day.  Lady Mechanika books can be found at your local comic book store, or online at www.aspenstore.com.
 
Hello all!
 
My name is Joe Benitez and I am a comic book artist.  A lot of people associate comic books with men in tights, mwa-ha-ha villains, and outrageous plotlines.  While these elements can sometimes be found, comics have evolved to encompass so much more, giving me a perfect medium for expressing my love of steampunk!
 
“Steampunk”, to me, is about re-imagining history, combining the elegance, mystery, and superstitions of the Victorian Era with more advanced inventions and technology.  While this can all be effectively incorporated into a well-written story, there’s one thing traditional novels can’t explore, the most appealing aspect of the steampunk genre in my humble opinion:  the visuals.
 
Corsets and cogs, airships and automatons!  Written descriptions simply don’t do them justice!  I was first inspired to create a steampunk comic book by all the visual possibilities.  For the last several years, steampunk cosplayers have been flocking to comic conventions with their brass goggles, intricate timepieces, and clockwork rayguns.  This piqued my interest so I began researching steampunk online, which steered me into a new world of amazing crafts men and women with their own spin on the genre.  The more I looked into it, the more amazed I was by all the cool steampunk artisans.  I was very taken by the genre, loved the idea of combining Victorian elegance with the retro future tech look.  I wanted to be a part of this phenomenon, to show my artistic take on “steampunk”, so I began working on my own steampunk comic, eventually titled “Lady Mechanika”. 
 
After the spark of inspiration was lit, I had to work on the actual story.  I was doodling and sketching, designing the look I wanted for this world I was creating, but I also wanted to create compelling characters and intriguing storylines.  From the get go, I knew the main protagonist would be female and British (there’s just so much more you can do with female fashion).  I wanted to have a strong female character in a very male  dominated era.  Then I gave her mechanical limbs.  This, for me, was the ultimate steampunk character:  an elegant, classy Victorian woman with mechanical parts.  It also automatically gave me an interesting story:  discovering how she came to be.  At the start of the story, Lady Mechanika has no memory of her early years, so she doesn’t know where she came from or how she got her mechanical limbs – she doesn’t even know her real name.  Finding the answers to her past is a driving force for her character. Though she hasn’t been able to unravel that mystery yet, her search leads her to investigate other unusual or supernatural cases, giving me the opportunity to place her in various adventures that explore the visuals of my fictitious steampunk world.
 
-Joe Benitez
www.joebenitez.com
 
 
 

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Heather Massey runs The Galaxy Express, a blog devoted to sci-fi romance. She’s also an author in the subgenre. “Steambot Rampage” (Dreamspell Steampunk, Volume 1) is her latest release. For more information about her work, visit heathermassey.com.

[Stay tuned for details about a giveaway.]

One of These Days, We’ll Get a Steampunk Romance Movie

By Heather Massey

 

DearHollywood,

Everyone loves a good redemption story, and if any institution needs one, it’s you—specifically, Warner Bros. Pictures, the studio behind WILD WILD WEST (1999). You had a chance to introduce mainstream audiences to the wonderful world of steampunk and frankly, you blew it.

I avoided that film for years. I knew it was going to be bad, but the intrepid steampunk fan in me had to discover just how bad it could be. Yes, WILD WILD WEST was bad, but what cut me to the quick was its rampant silliness. It was obvious inside of a minute that the suits behind the production went out of their way—to the moon and beyond, it seemed—to avoid taking that project seriously.

While the film contained a few interesting ideas, overall it was very painful to watch. And I’m a fan of steampunk. I can’t imagine what the experience felt like for viewers new to the genre. In fact, the comedic elements had an unintended effect: You were inviting audiences to laugh at both the film and the genre. For shame.

Well, I’m writing to let you know that now, nearly twelve years after that debacle, the time is ripe to revisit a big budget live-action steampunk film. I realize that risk-averse isHollywood’s middle name, but think about it: One among you could be the first to greenlight such an innovative project. Blatant ego-stroke: you could make cinematic history!

Here’s my pitch:

Make it a steampunk romance

I know how much you gravitate towards releasing films that deliver an upbeat ending. Your experience has shown that’s where the profit is. Traditional steampunk, while utterly amazing and thought-provoking, isn’t always about tying everything up with a neat little bow. However, a steampunk romance film, with its universally appealing Happily Ever After, would have the built-in structure of an upbeat ending.

The romance aspect would also be a draw for untold numbers of women—the segment of the population you are currently in denial about when it comes to marketing films in general. See where I’m going with this redemption angle?

Load it with action-adventure

Drawing upon steampunk’s Edisonade roots, a steampunk romance would lend itself very well to an action-adventure story. Throw in a yummy mystery, too, while you’re at it. Plus, you can market it as an alternate history action adventure film if you still lack the cojones to tell potential audiences what it really is.

And who wouldn’t love a dynamite airship battle? Preferably with lots of explosions.

Think of the trailer! If you played your cards right, news of the film could go viral before the director has even shot a single frame!

Gadgets, gadgets, and more gadgets

While I don’t suggest including every steampunk element under the sun in your steampunk romance film, some of the popular mainstays include airships, automatons, and brass goggles. Oh, and don’t forget the steam! Steam-powered contraptions figure prominently in the steampunk genre, and I don’t have to tell you how striking the visuals for those would be. Or maybe I do—they’d be striking beyond measure!

Steampunk machinery ranges from bright and colorful to dark and atmospheric. Gadgets come in small, medium, and large sizes. Take your pick—the sky’s the limit.

And don’t forget the merchandising. Victorian-era style—whether applied to fashion, gadgets, or accessories—is a classic look that’s also retro-cool. If you do the film right, merchandising is an area where you could really cash in. Seriously—I don’t mind you profiting off of me if you show me that you “get it.”

Take advantage of the current CG and 3D technology for some fabulous eye candy

Steampunk, as I’m sure you don’t know, is heavy on the aesthetics (in Hollywood-speak, that means “pretty” and also “shiny”). In other words, steampunk looks fantastic, especially on film. I can understand why you largely ignored the genre in the past. Filmmaking technology just hadn’t progressed enough.

Now, however, it’s a different story. While such an undertaking would undoubtedly take great effort, bringing the steampunk aesthetic to life is affordable these days. Current technology would cut the labor time in half or more compared to decades past. So yeah, it’s time to get with the program—I mean, clockwork.

Whatever you do, don’t make a dumb steampunk movie

There are times for “lowest common denominator” films that yield an easy profit.

This isn’t one of those times.

Remember, we’re talking about a chance at redemption. Steampunk is a complex and venerable genre. It has a rabid hardcore following whose members will support your efforts if you make a film that respects and validates their interest. Doesn’t mean the film can’t be exciting—far from it. But you must take it seriously.

Hollywoodhas actually been generating decent sci-fi movies recently. Why not continue the trend with a steampunk romance film? You could end up with a bona fide phenomenon on your hands.

Take your time. Think it over. I’ve waited years for such an event; I can wait a little longer. In the meantime, I’ll spend my hard-earned money on the steampunk romances that publishers are currently releasing (especially digital-first publishers—gotta love their visionary attitude, eh?).

At least authors and their publishers understand I have steampunk romance needs. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to fork over my cash in exchange for a big-budget theatrical spectacle that does steampunk romance right.

In fact, here’s a list of some steampunk romance/erotic steampunk romance titles in case you’re looking for inspiration:

Clockwork Heart (Dru Pagliassotti)

Here There Be Monsters (Meljean Brook, from the Burning Up anthology)

The Iron Duke (Meljean Brook)

Sky Rat (Angelia Sparrow)

Steamed (Katie MacAlister)

Full Steam Ahead and Mechanical Rose (Nathalie Gray)

Island of Icarus (Christine Danse)

The Miraculous Lady Law (Robert Appleton)

Like Clockwork (Bonnie Dee)

Tangled In Time and Steamrolled, and Steam Time (Pauline Baird Jones)

Clockworks and Corsets (Regina Riley)

Silk, Steele, and Steam (Samhain Publishing’s anthology)

Hot and Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance (DAW Books anthology)

Dreamspell Steampunk, Volume 1 (L&L Dreamspell anthology)

Yours truly,

A concerned fan

***

Now for a giveaway! I’m going to give one person a digital copy of Dreamspell Steampunk, Volume 1. Winner chooses the format (PDF, Mobi, or ePub).

Entering is simple: leave a comment for this post by12 midnight ESTon Sunday, June 26. Tell me your idea for a steampunk romance movie, or what kind of elements you’d like to see.

Here are the story blurbs:

Steambot Rampage by Heather Massey

On the eve of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, a no-nonsense secretary and an intrepid reporter join forces to battle a bizarre automaton on a rampage.

Steam Time by Pauline B Jones

The man formerly known as Tobias Smith hadn’t planned to ride along with Dr. Everly and his Medicine Show. Grifters gave him a pain their elixirs couldn’t heal. But he was headed to Marfa, too. And Everly’s son turned out to be a really fine looking damsel—one in distress when the ghost lights of Marfa bump them into an alternate reality complete with an automaton gang and airships. Could he be the good guy? Be the hero, save the day and get the girl? 

The Prometheus Engine by Chris Samson

When an airship is shot down over the desolateKashmirlandscape, seven survivors of disparate backgrounds must band together to escape. As a swarm of marauders approaches, the survivors’ only hope lies in the untested Prometheus Engine.

Angelina by Linda Houle

Valerie is fascinated with an antique ruby and diamond pendant. Where did it come from and why was it hidden in a makeshift wall safe? An old log cabin on her new husband’s ranch holds the answers and a lot more, but once Val goes through a secret door will she ever find her way back home?

Thanks for reading!

~Heather Massey
www.heathermassey.com
The Galaxy Express

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I adore crafting.  I do.  But I’m domestically awkward and most things wind up, well…you all remember the glue gun ball gown fiasco.  When I got this book on Steampunk jewelery, Steampunk Emporium, I fell completely in love with it and I want to try to make something from it[s glossy pages–which will end in laughter, paint on the couch, and beads all over the floor, I’m sure.   Today I’ve asked the author, Jema Hewitt, to come on and talk to us.

Jema Hewitt is a jewellery and costume designer living and working in the rolling hills of Derbyshire in the United Kingdom. Her love of all things steampunk gradually evolved through a passion for Victorian costume and an insistence that her friends dress up in bustles and go on picnics in castles with her.

Her steampunk Alter ego is Miss Emilly Ladybird, an adventuress who travels the world on behalf of her employers Dickens and Rivett auctioneers, looking for unusual artefacts and getting into mischief. Visit www.steampunkjewellery.co.uk for lots of stories about the pieces.

Steampunk Emporium is Jema’s latest jewellery making book, taking you on a rip roaring adventure with unusual characters and stories to accompany the crafting. Thrill to the daring adventures of zeppelin pirate “Andromeda Darkstorm” then make her storm bringer device, or take tea with the clockwork dolls then make a pretty chatelaine. This is a book to inspire the steampunk in everyone.

You can follow Emilly Ladybird’s adventures on twitter “emillyladybird” and join her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/emillyladybird for more fun and frolics.

In search of the perfect “cog”

by Jema Hewitt

One of the questions I’m asked most as a steampunk jewellery artist is “but where do you get your cogs?” As the genre of Steampunk rises in popularity in crafting circles, so has the enthusiasm for all things “cog” shaped, but what exactly is a cog? And why is it so important to Steampunks?

Firstly, what is steampunk? Well in a nutshell it could be summed up as Victorian style science fiction, it’s a creative movement which encompasses, art, literature, fashion and music, all inspired by airships, robots, submarines etc with lovely Victorian style in natural materials like brass and wood, with cogs, lots of cogs….

Now, to be pedantic, a cog is in fact just the little tooth part on a gear wheel, a gear wheel is the shape we normally call a cog, a moving part which meshes with another moving gear wheel as part of a larger piece of machinery. Just to confuse the issue further, A sprocket looks very similar to a gear wheel, but it only interacts with a chain or something like that, never another sprocket. (So a bicycle has sprockets, a pocket watch gearwheels)

There are hundreds of types of gear wheels, radial, helical, crown and worm, all of which get engineers terribly excited. This is all far too complicated for most people, so that lovely spiky shape is just called a “cog” for craft and steampunk purposes.

Its rise as a steampunk icon is directly related to its use in Victorian steam powered machinery, in which of course it was an integral moving part. Some Steampunks insist that a cog should only be used in this original form, as a true moving part in a larger functioning machine or artwork, while others are happy to stencil it onto a t-shirt, or embroider one onto a bag for instant recognition as belonging to part of the steampunk tribe.

I like to sit somewhere between these two camps, whilst I always try to make my cogs look functional, intersecting and if possible moving, in the devices and jewellery I create, there is also just no getting away from the fact that a cog is a gorgeous object in its own right. Those delicate little cut out teeth and interior are every bit as pretty to me as a piece of filigree, and I am happy to use them as purely decorative items in my art.

A cog stands for something small but important that is part of a greater whole.

So yes, I use cogs in my work, lots of them, and I mostly get them from watch and clock menders, who, if you pop round with a thermos of tea and some biscuits, show an interest in horology (that’s the posh word for clocks and watch making) will usually let you have a handful or two of old “cogs” (or gear wheels..) You can also purchase packets of new watch parts; teeny tiny shiny bits from specialist watch maker’s suppliers. Then there are the “craft” cogs, specially manufactured by companies like Ranger for use in scrapbooking and jewellery making, these are readily available from craft stores.

I do use cogs in my book quite a bit, but I also tried to find other interesting motifs that are integral to steampunk. Corsets, Keys, zeppelins are all fun, but not components in their own right. Cogs are like beads, totally addictive. You start stashing them, then not wanting to part with them, wondering what they were once part of, what they could be part of again, then it’s out with the wire and rivets and a new piece begins to take shape…..

~Jema Hewitt/Emilly Ladybird

www.steampunkjewellery.co.uk

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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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The romance genre is dominated by women writers, but guys can write romance, too. 

Matt Forbeck is an author and game designer and happily married father of five, including a set of quadruplets. For more on his work, please visit Forbeck.com.

Writing Steampunk Romance–A Guy’s POV

by Matt Forbeck

Last fall, Jean Rabe — editor of Steampunk’d — asked me for a story for her next steampunk anthology, Hot & Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance. I’ve written in a lot of genres over the years and have fifteen published novels under my belt, with four more under contract. Despite that, I’d never veered toward writing romance as such. Sure, I had romantic relationships in my books, but when people read my stories they tend to plug them into categories like fantasy, science fiction, horror, or thriller and call them action-packed roller coasters of adventure and fun. The romance bits come far enough down the list that you might give up looking for them before you get there.

Still I’ve known Jean for years and respected her judgment. If she thought I could write a steampunk romance, who was I to argue? The steampunk part I knew I had down solid. Earlier in my creative career, I served as the president of Pinnacle Entertainment Group, a tabletop game publisher best known for the roleplaying game Deadlands, which hit shelves back in 1996. It’s billed as a western horror game, but it also features a massive dollop of 19th century weird science, the kind of thing we can all recognize as steampunk these days.

The romance I had to think about, but after a bit of reflection I relished the challenge. I came up with a fun premise that featured a good measure of my trademark action but centered around the romance between a couple of slaves living on a plantation owned by a Confederate mad scientist at the height of the American Civil War.

Honestly, I never would have thought of writing such a story if I hadn’t been asked, and I enjoyed stretching myself out into a new genre. It forced me to figure out what the tropes of romance stories are and then wrap my head around how I could use them in a tale that intrigued me. That’s the kind of thing that can affect your development as a writer for years to come. 

So, if I haven’t done it enough by now, I’d like to publicly thank Jean not only for coming up with the anthology and lining up so many other great writers for it, but also for daring me to break out of the kinds of stories I’ve already done and try something new. That turned out to be worth far more to me than any money the story might earn.

–Matt Forbeck

Hot & Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance, edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg, officially hit shelves and e-readers on June 7.

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Okay, Jane Eyre isn’t a new release, nor is it steampunk, but it’s a classic and the new movie does feature lots of pretty dresses.  Also, I need to re-read it for a project.  Anyway, I have asked the super-fabulous Nicole from WORD For Teens to come and guest review it for me. So, how many times have you read it?

Nicole runs the successful YA book blog WORD For Teens. When not reading books or watching Doctor Who, she’s studying for her double major in journalism and English.

 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Review by Nicole of Word for Teens

What can one say about Jane Eyre that hasn’t been said already?

I adore Jane Eyre. I adored it when I first listened to the musical version in ninth grade; I adored it when I watched the amazing four hour BBC version in tenth grade; I adored it when I finally picked it up and read it in eleventh grade.

And even now, it’s something I reread and get excited for. I’ve seen the BBC movie Jane-knows-how-many times; I’ve read the book again and again; I’m more than excited for the new movie version that just came out. (Seeing it soon, eek!)

There’s just something about it. Yeah, it’s not written like most modern lit – either young adult or adult – is. It’s a very slow set up until the part of the novel I like best. A good third of the book, I think, is dedicated to Jane’s childhood. You really get in her head and see the miserable sort of situation she was in and why she grew up to be the way she was.

Normally, I’d hate that. I love being launched straight into the action, into the romance, into the real story. (I think that was one of the reasons it took me so long to finally read Pride and Prejudice; who cared what the Bennett sisters were doing? I just wanted to go to the first ball with Darcy, damn it.) But it’s so eloquently written that I still love it.

And don’t even get me started on my love of the characters themselves. Jane? Best heroine ever. Okay, maybe not best, but damn, I do love her. She refuses to change who she is and sticks to her guts. And Rochester? You really shouldn’t fall in love with a man who [SPOILER ALERT!] keeps his wife locked up in the attic and who[/SPOILER ALERT] makes you believe that he’s in love with another woman for a good chunk of the book. And yet…

Honestly, this is one of these classics I think everybody needs to read and form their own opinion on. Strong woman? A hunk of a man? An interesting plot? I mean, it’s got everything. (Including a fantastic modern version – Jane by April Lindner. I highly recommend reading that, too, but only after you’ve read Jane Eyre, or some references will be lost on you.) In my opinion, it’s much better than her sister’s Wuthering Heights and on equal terms with some of Austen’s works.

Oh, and there’s this.

~Nicole
http://www.wordforteens.com/

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Today’s Visiting Lolita is author Cindy Spencer Pape who’s new release Steam & Sorcery is now available from Carina Press.

Author of over forty popular books and stories in paranormal, historical, and contemporary romance, Cindy Spencer Pape is an avid reader of romance fantasy, mystery, and even more romance.  Cindy firmly believes in happily-ever-after. Married for more than twenty years to her own, sometimes-kilted hero, she lives in Michigan with him, two adult sons & an ever-changing menagerie of pets.  Cindy has been, among other things, a banker, a teacher, and an elected politician, but mostly an environmental educator. Her degrees in zoology and animal behavior almost help her comprehend the three male humans who share her home.

Steampunk Lite?

By Cindy Spencer Pape

One of the tenets that you often hear about Steampunk is that it has to be a dystopian, bleak setting, a worst-case scenario of the Victorian or Edwardian eras.

Oops. Now they tell me. I fell in love with the idea of Steampunk early on, but never quite managed to write a world as dark as I’d planned. Sure, in Steam & Sorcery, the slums of London are rife with poverty, prostitution, black lung disease and vampyres, (yes, vampyres—the nasty, smelly, evil kind!) but there’s also progress toward women’s rights, fascinating scientific advancements, and a glittering high society. Those of the upper class work diligently, of course, to pretend the bad stuff doesn’t exist. Even when it’s right under their noses. Just like they ignore the chambermaid and her automated sweeper. If they don’t acknowledge it, it can’t be there, right? To me, that’s not so much dystopian as simply the way things were (and are.) Mostly I don’t want to talk about the politics, I want to talk about the vampyres and robots and governesses and sex.

So there you go. Steam & Sorcery is a mash-up of steampunk, fantasy, and mostly romance. My working title for this book was Mary Poppins meets Van Helsing—with robots. That pretty much sums it up. A wealthy, titled vampyre hunter, the Order of the Round Table, a bunch of street urchins with automaton pets, and a plucky, not-quite-human governess. Add some steamy sex, some horrible villains, and shake well. Voila!

If you want to take a walk on the lighter side of Steampunk, I’d love for you to stop by the Carina Press website and check out Steam & Sorcery, the first in my new Gaslight Chronicles series. I’d like to thank Suzi for having me here today and letting me share the fun. To celebrate the new release, I’m running a contest. Comment on any (or all) of the blogs I visit on my blog tour this week. One entry per person, per blog stop. You can visit my blog to find the other stops. After the final stops on Sunday, March 13, I’ll draw one winner for a free download of Steam & Sorcery, or their choice of my other available titles. Happy Reading!

~Cindy Spencer Pape

http://www.cindyspencerpape.com/

 Steam & Sorcery, Gaslight Chronicles #1

Sir Merrick Hadrian hunts monsters, both human and supernatural. A Knight of the Order of the Round Table, his use of magick and the technologies of steam power have made him both respected and feared. But his considerable skills are useless in the face of his greatest challenge, guardianship of five unusual children. At a loss, Merrick enlists the aid of a governess.

Miss Caroline Bristol is reluctant to work for a bachelor but she needs a position, and these former street children touch her heart. While she tends to break any mechanical device she touches, it never occurs to her that she might be something more than human. All she knows is that Merrick is the most dangerously attractive man she’s ever met—and out of reach for a mere governess.

When conspiracy threatens to blur the distinction between humans and monsters, Caroline and Merrick must join forces, and the fate of humanity hinges upon their combined skills of steam and sorcery…

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Today we welcome Jon Heartless, author of Romanticism Lost. 

The “Greying Down” of Culture

by Jon Heartless

Is anyone else worried about the ‘greying down’ of culture which seems to be increasing all around us? Society does it by scorning anything outside the conventional. Our employers do it by demanding that we wear their uniform, use their methodology, and even use their word forms when dealing with customers. Governments do it by promoting bland manifestos, even blander politicians, and only supporting media-friendly, populist policies which can all be measured and quantified. The UK Government is especially target-obsessed, and exhibits the belief that everything can be fed into a spreadsheet of tick boxes which will yield statistical data on every part of our lives. “Real life doesn’t comply with forms AH139 to VT9735 inclusive? Then reality is wrong. We have the paperwork to prove it…”

In short, we are being homogenized in a variety of ways, usually by having bits chopped off so we fit a pre-determined shape, and I’m rather peeved about it. It’s at times like this that I truly understand why a diabolical mastermind wants to create a death ray and zap everyone. It’s not an insane desire to take over the world; it’s just table-chewing frustration at the way we’re treated by those who have power over us. Give me a death ray and I would quite happily point it at the Houses of Parliament. Or corporate employers. Or the tabloid press, with its insular attitudes and hatred of anything unlike.

This got me thinking one day on what the Sherlock Holmes stories would be like if Conan Doyle were writing today. We’re used to the idea of Holmes and Watson receiving a telegram pleading for help, dashing off in a hansom cab to Waterloo, the luxurious railway carriage, the hiring of a dog cart at the rural station, the investigation, the deduction, and the unmasking of the villain. Can you imagine what that would be like in the modern world? Holmes would be prosecuted for breaching health and safety laws after lighting his pipe, while the criminal, after being unmasked, would be able to sue the consulting detective for slander, emotional belittlement, loss of confidence etc etc. And this pre-supposes Holmes could get anywhere near the crime scene at all with our modern rail companies, who seem to view the transportation of passengers as being a distraction from their true calling of taking our money in ever increasing amounts in return for an ever decreasing service.

From all this was born my novella, Romanticism Lost, and only after I’d written it did I realise that I had something a bit ‘steampunkish’. (Please note I hesitate to label it as a definite steampunk work, though it does feature a nineteenth century setting and a Calculating Man made from glass, brass, and clockwork). And this, finally, leads to the point of today’s blog: when we create something that doesn’t fit into a preconceived set of values or opinions, do we create something more imaginative, something more enjoyable, something ‘better’?

After all, if we sit down and say, ‘I’m going to write a western,’ we immediately limit ourselves to a certain set of rules; cowboys, the sheriff, high noon etc.  Even in a wider context we still do this – consider the British Empire. Immediately, our thoughts are channelled into a few well-established streams; it was good/bad, it did this, it caused that etc. So when we sit down to write steampunk, do we similarly limit ourselves to predetermined rules and thus a predetermined outcome?

I am in no way a steampunk expert, but I do know that it is now a genre, and genres often feed off themselves and in doing so they can lose originality. Witness the ‘steampunkiness’ of Doctor Who over the years, in which the past was represented by the Doctor with his Victorian/Edwardian clothing and old fashioned heroism, while the TARDIS was the new world of technology. Together they were incongruous, yet they worked. Now compare that to the modern day version, where deliberate quirkiness is forced into the concept, and you can see quite a shift in our creativity; we are retro-eccentric for the sake of it, rather than because it just happens to fit the artistic demands of the story.

Does this sort of thing limit us? And if so, is this true to the spirit of steampunk, which theoretically has no limits other than being set in an alternative, tech-heavy past? Are we now creating steampunk rather than creating something that can be labelled (often retrospectively) as steampunk? If we are starting with the intention that there will be warlords, airships, unconventional heroines, modern technology enclosed in Victorian aesthetic design etc, does this mean that we are sealing ourselves into a self-replicating loop?

I’m guilty of doing exactly this, incidentally, in that I’m writing a story inspired by Charles Stross’ blog complaining that the genre isn’t realistic enough about the horrors of the Victorian era. From this infamous rant, an idea lodged in my head about creating a steampunk story that does show the appalling social conditions of the Victorian age, and hence was born my work in progress, Steampunk Imperialism. However, I fear I am working to Mr. Stross’ agenda as to what the genre should be. I also fear that in trying to create a recognisable steampunk story I am heading through the door marked ‘Conventional’ rather than the door marked ‘Innovative’.

Given the individual artistic craft that goes into creating a steampunk-style computer, dress, or ray gun, it would be ironic indeed if we are succumbing to a rigid mindset on what is, and isn’t, acceptable. Is steampunk’s success going to be its downfall? Would it really make a difference if you could buy steampunk off the shelf in a supermarket? Is Steampunk really in danger of becoming SteamcorporateTM?

Of course, even is this is true, and I do emphasise I am only speculating here, you may well think it doesn’t matter, and you could be right. Some great things can still be achieved within the well-defined parameters of a genre, and in any case, it depends on what you want to do; are you writing a Dickensian tale of misery designed to show the inequality of Victorian life, or are you creating an adventure romp, or something which can inspire young readers, or something else again? There’s no law on this, just personal likes and dislikes.

Is Romanticism Lost a better work for not being bogged down in the minutiae of being a particular type of fiction? Or will Steampunk Imperialism be superior for having a definite genre and philosophy? (It certainly helps that I am interested in the Victorian age, although I am out of my comfort zone in setting the story at the start of the Victorian era rather than the fin-de-siècle). In the end, I suppose it all depends on the individual. And if that isn’t steampunk, I don’t know what is.

Speculation over, and I still haven’t reached a conclusion, but I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and, more importantly, I also hope you continue to enjoy steampunk for many years to come, no matter what guise is presents itself under.

Romanticism Lost can be purchased direct from Double Dragon Publishing, or from third party retailers such as Kindle. My YA werewolf tale The Wolves of Androcolus will be available from BloodMoonPublishing.com shortly, under my pen name Barnabas Corbin. Steampunk Imperialism will hopefully appear one day, assuming it doesn’t depress me to the extent that I give up on it.

–Jon Heartless

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First off, there’s still time to register for my writing YA class, which starts Feb. 14th. Details here.

Second off, I have the winners of the two copies of The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book 1. The winners are…

Alden Ash and Heather Hiestand

Alden and Heather please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize. Winners of Anya Bast’s Raven’s Quest will be anounced Monday.

Today we welcome Middle Grade Author David Burton who’s going to tell us about his new steampunk adventure for kids, Scourge (and giveaway some copies, too.)

ScourgeFirst, can you tell us a little about yourself and your latest steampunk creation?

Gladly! I was born in Windsor, Ontario (just across the river from Detroit) to parents who encouraged me to read from a very young age. I graduated from the University of Toronto with a major in Biology and a minor in Classical Civilization. I currently live near Toronto with my same-sex partner and our three boys (we adopted three brothers three years ago). And we have one basset hound that keeps us all in check. 🙂

Scourge is a middle-grade (ages 9-12) novel that is the first in a series. It centers around a young boy and his family that travel to the world of Verne. Naturally, there are dirigibles, goggles (my favorite part!), and absinth.

Here’s the blurb and the book trailer:

Two dads, five siblings, and goggles!

Grim Doyle has always known his life was not exactly “normal”, and things get even more curious when he discovers a set of stones that sweep him and his family to the fantasy, steampunk world of Verne – a place they had escaped from years ago. Now that they’ve returned, Grim and his siblings hide from the evil Lord Victor and his minions. And while learning about Jinns, Mystics, and the power of absinth they try to discover who is trying to kill them with the deadly Scourge.

Why did you choose steampunk as a genre?

For most of my life I would have considered myself more of a fantasy reader/writer. But looking back, prior to adopting our children I was a Final Fantasy addict for two decades, so a steampunk influence has been in my life a long time. In fact, that’s probably the greatest influence when it comes to this book (other than my boys, that is!). When we adopted our boys I watched what really got them hooked and that’s when I realized that I should go back to my roots and not focus solely on fantasy as a genre. Incorporating steampunk with fantasy was the perfect mix and it really allowed me to stretch my imagination for this series.

Why did you write it for middle grade?

There are great works out there in the YA category: Boneshaker, The Windup Girl, Leviathan, Soulless (and thankfully because of these, I think the steampunk genre is really taking off), but there isn’t as much in the middle-grade arena. Pullman’s His Dark Materials series is wonderful, but I thought there needed to be more. Fortunately, the voice of the narrative seemed to come out in a middle-grade format when I started writing it, so it worked out well.

Can you share with us a scene from Scourge?

Here’s a scene when Grim takes it upon himself to try to find a cure for the Scourge:

The streets were bare. The lampposts gave off a bluish-white light that reflected off the slickened streets. The moisture in the air settled into Grim’s bones. There were no moons or stars in the sky. The thick cloud cover had taken care of that. Yet despite the lack of life on the street, Grim couldn’t help but feel that there was something there, watching him. He looked for the strange bird that he had seen across the street, or the cloaked man.

There was nothing.

He stopped. A couple of sewer rats scampered across the road behind him. An alley cat, or maybe it was Pringles, was perched upon a steel railing. It paid him no heed, more interested in the rats.

Grim moved on, determined to make haste. He pulled his jacket about him to ward off the night’s chill. Three small dirigibles sped overhead.

He looked at the street signs, one at a time, yet none were Absolution Street. And none of the buildings had signs that read The Green Fairy.

Grim ducked into an alley at the sound of something coming up the street. One pair of boots and a walking stick that tapped the ground at a hurried pace. He stuffed himself between some old crates that smelled like bad cabbage and waited.

The footsteps turned into the alley towards him, and Grim shuffled back, trying to catch a glimpse of whoever was coming. All he could see were shiny boots and a pointed walking stick.

Grim turned and ran, twisting and winding through alleys. The footsteps continued behind him.

The passageways funneled Grim between large buildings, yet never seemed to lead him anywhere, or at least not to any street. It became a maze of darkened laneways and slippery cobblestone corridors. He tried various doors.

All locked.

The footsteps quickened. Grim ran, his feet sliding.

Until finally he came upon a door. On it was a metal emblem of a girl with emerald wings.

He yanked on it, and it opened.

Then a large, meaty hand reached out and tugged Grimwald Doyle inside.

Billy BonesSo what’s next for you?

Currently, I’m working on another children’s novel that I’m posting live at my blog as I write it called Billy Bones: Beyond the Grave. I’m also releasing a paranormal romance novel in the spring titled Broken, and I have a dark fantasy novel I released last year called The Second Coming. Naturally, I’m trying to work in the next of the Grim Doyle series as well. 🙂

You’re offering to do a giveaway. Can you tell us about that?

At my site, I offer an electronic version (ebook) of my novels with a dedication page, addressed to the purchaser, that is autographed by me. I also substitute the name of one of the minor characters in the book with the name of the purchaser. It makes for a unique version of the book for those that want it. So I’ll be giving away 3 of these for Scourge. I’ll let you handle the rules for the giveaway. 🙂
Good luck to those that enter, and thanks so much for having me here!!

Cheers!

David
http://davidhburton.com

Want to win one of three of these unique ebooks (for you or someone else)? Just comment here and three lucky people will be chosen at random. Open internationally. Contest closes Sunday, Feb 20th. 2011 at midnight PST. Good luck!

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Today we welcome Lia Keyes.

Lia Keyes is a British expat Young Adult writer,represented by Laura Rennert (Andrea Brown Literary Agency). She’s the founder of The Steampunk Writers & Artists Guild, co-editor of a Steampunk Shakespeare anthology to be published by Flying Pen Press in 2011, and is currently assisting in the production of four non-fiction books to be published over the next two years. She lives in California with her son, two cats, an Irish Red & White setter with a fondness for smoked salmon, and over 5,ooo books.

By Lia Keyes

Steampunks are an affable lot. They don’t lurk in dark corners, bemoaning their fate in the world. They get out and party. They’re outgoing, rollicking networkers—gregarious, eccentric and fabulously dressed.

So how does that work if you’re a writer of Steampunk fiction, a profession which demands many hours spent alone, dreaming up wild worlds? How do writers make time for conventions, balls and exhibitions when there’s a deadline to meet? This was something that frustrated me until I started The Steampunk Writers & Artists Guild (S.W.A.G) in early November 2010, and invited the party into my study. Now, I have only to log in to S.W.A.G to participate in fascinating debates, network with other Steampunk writers, ask for help with knotty writing problems, and share news when something cool happens. Our members come from all over the world, from notable Brazilian writers to talents from the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Our flying start wouldn’t have been possible without the passionate support of our members and we’re grateful for all the Steampunk community has done to promote the Guild. The Airship Ambassador and Steampunk.com are tireless, and Tor Steampunk, Pyr Books, and Flying Pen Press have all put their shoulders into getting the word out across the aethernet.

We’re currently collaborating with Flying Pen Press on an anthology of Steampunk adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. The first submissions have delighted us and we’re looking forward to reading many more before the May 1st deadline.

We are also dedicated to the promotion of our members’ work via author panels and social media.

All this is well and good, but it’s the generation of a close relationship between writers, illustrators and publishers which is the true gold of the Steampunk Writers & Artists Guild, providing an opportunity to support each other through the process of writing, from conception to marketing. It not only provides an open dialogue about what Steampunk actually is, but the chance to shape what it becomes.

A recent forum discussion asked:

“Many books have been declared Steampunk that one might argue would more comfortably fit into other speculative fiction genres. Which do you think are the elements that define a Steampunk novel?”

David Major kicked off the debate:

“There needs to be some consideration of a dislocation or tension between humans and their environment, and this dislocation must be addressed in some way by technology. So, the air is bad? Your character wears a pressure suit, or mask, the more unwieldy the better. Communicating over distance? A clunky, oversized, clockwork-powered radio. Want to write something down? A pen that requires several actions just to get started, preferably with some hissing of gas-powered components.

So, the relationship between humans and their world becomes a complex field in itself, in which all manner of technology-based solutions and experiments can knock themselves out.

Gail Carriger’s Soulless had less of it (but it was still there to some extent) — Soulless was more a story of vampires, golems, and general (and glorious) Jane Austenesque excesses, and it was so well written that whether it was classic steampunk was beside the point. Soulless could be described as ‘parasolpunk’, I think…

The Halfmade World, which I’ve just finished, was totally based on this idea of tech vs environment, and it was done brilliantly. Probably the best steampunk novel I’ve read so far. Great characters, solid writing, and a relentless plot. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”

Gail Gray, author, artist, and editor of Fissure Magazine:

“David, I agree with your concept of the tension and dislocation between humans and their environment, but as an author who may fall more into the area of “parasolpunk,” (I really like your term), I do feature technology in my work, but focus more on how characters react to the use of the technology and it’s effects when in unethical hands. I may be considered one of those writers who use the “trappings of the technology” to elaborate on character interaction, so my work doesn’t really fit into the Sc Fi approach. In my personal reading, I prefer a less intensive look at the mechanics. I’ve purchased too many books where I got bogged down in the mechanical descriptions.

On a separate note, I’d be curious to see how the group looks at the overuse and detailed descriptions of violence. As the editor of Fissure magazine, a venue for experimental writing, I received an overabundance of submissions where the writers considered extreme violence to be their experimental angle. This was not only disturbing, but I also saw it as a way of the writer’s bailing out on using their imagination. That’s why I turned to steampunk. There are so many imaginative ways to treat the genre. Recently, in a few of the novels I’ve purchased, the violent descriptions overtook the plot line and technology. Yes, there should be room for everyone’s tastes, but in the lack of reviews on many steampunk books. I’d love to see more see more “categories” so we purchase the books we enjoy reading, as opposed to those we put down early in the story.

In my personal steampunk writing, I am more influenced by the darker psychological side of tales set in the Victorian era, such as Daphne Du Maurier’s, as opposed to the more scientific approach, yet I don’t consider myself a romance writer. (I continuously check with my writer’s critique group to assure I don’t go there.) I’ve previously written dark urban fantasy and magical realism and I’m sure some of that bleeds over into my work. So I’d like to see the genre stay open to interpretation and leave room for readers and authors of all inclinations.

I’d love to hear more about authors on the Steampunk Writers Guild as to their ideas on this subject, since at this time, it all seems so wide open.”

Paul Marlowe:

“There’s a natural tendency to want to pin down things into exact categories that can be defined by certain characteristics, but I think that’s more useful for publishers’ marketing committees (and for literary critics) than it is for writers. Writers start with ideas that excite and interest them, and then later might attach labels to what they’ve created.

Broadly speaking, I think Steampunk is speculative fiction connected to the era dominated by steam technology, and that should include many things: alternate history, science fiction, fantasy, the paranormal, and so on. But it needn’t concentrate on steam technology. The Steampunk label was invented to describe Victorian-set fiction written by people with a taste for Victorian literature who created stories that had an off-beat, non-realistic angle to them, making them not really historical fiction. Since then, it has gone on to include other things too.

To say that any particular theme needs to be present in a story in order for it to qualify as Steampunk would, I think, be unnecessarily restrictive.”

Meg Winikates:

I essentially ended up sliding sideways into the world of steampunk from the world of historical fantasy (Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, Susannah Clarke’s books, Sorcery and Cecilia, etc.) so it’s quite likely that those books have influenced my preferences where steampunk stories are concerned. I find that the elements which really categorize the idea of steampunk for me include 1) an underlying sense of optimism in the ingenuity of humanity to solve problems even in what may seem a dystopic society 2) good old-fashioned ‘adventure’ 3) unusual, not to say anachronistic technology 4) some kind of kinship with (despite departure from) Earth’s actual history. I like best the sorts of stories which incorporate recognizable historic figures or events and then take an interesting tangent off from what we know.

That said, one of my current projects is a steampunk Sleeping Beauty, so clearly I’m not into restricting the genre either. *wry grin*

Andrew P. Mayer (author, Pyr Books)

“[Insert]Punk Genres generally are, I think, punk because of the DIY aesthetic. Looking at Cyberpunk for example, it’s about what happens when powerful technology falls into the hands of the masses. It’s not just what it *is*, it’s what you *do* with it.

In the case of Steampunk in particular that’s driven it’s an idealized “never was” world, where we take elements of the past and filter them through our own cultural perceptions. IE, we are putting our methods of production into the hands of the people of a previous world. (More or less, depending on the author.)

One other thing I’m trying hard to get into my books is what I call “the quest for authenticity”. If you look at the maker apsects (costumes and craft projects) you’ll see that a great deal of what makes Steampunk resonate for people is the idea of something handcrafted and personal in a world of mass-produced items. It also has an obsession with materials that are far less easier to manipulate and craft than plastic such as brass, leather, and steel.”

Gail Gray responded:

Authenticity, Andrew, that’s the word I’ve been looking for and it hadn’t come to mind, despite my 20-year long study of Carl Jung. I’ve been asked to write an article on the psychology of steampunk, and after a few drafts am getting close, but I kept missing something, could see a void, but couldn’t figure out what it was. I needed a word that encapsuled the human need that drives us to such things as steampunk – and that’s it. Thanks!”

The Guild’s site isn’t the only way you can interact with SWAG members. The Guild hosts a weekly Friday chat on Twitter using the #SteampunkChat hashtag. Our latest chat, hosted and introduced by @jhameia, discussed Steampunk and Revolution, and if you’d like to hear what author Scott Westerfeld had to say, the transcript is available on the chat’s website.

As fun as these get-togethers are, it is this kind of ongoing dialogue between writers, illustrators and publishers that will encourage Steampunk’s growth, evolution, and staying power in a society with a short attention span, all too given to moving on to the next hot thing.

~Lia Keyes

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Today we welcome  Clay and Susan Griffith authors of THE GREYFRIAR: VAMPIRE EMPIRE Book1, which came out from Pyr Books, in November of  2010.  Yes, Steampunk Vampires.  (I need a little fanged smiley face to put here.)  TWO lucky posters (yes, two) will win a copy of the book (US only please)

So You Wrote a Steampunk Novel?

By Clay & Susan Griffith

Yes.

Well, no.

Sort of.

First of all, Hello. We are Clay and Susan Griffith, authors of The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book 1. Thanks to Suzanne for inviting us to submit a guest blog. We’re frequent visitors here, and we want to take a few minutes of your time to talk about how we came to publish a steampunk novel when we didn’t really write a steampunk novel.

Since the time The Greyfriar was released in November 2010, it has been placed in a lot of categories and genres. Vampire. Fantasy. Paranormal romance. Pulp. Adventure. Alternate history. Young adult.

And, yes, Steampunk.

It seems like almost every reader starts with different assumptions about the book’s genre based on the title or the cover or what they’ve heard about it. Countless reviews begin with –

“I was tired of vampire novels, but…”

“I don’t read young adult, but…”

“Romance isn’t my thing, but…”

“I’d never heard of steampunk, but…”

Fortunately, the vast majority of those reviews have ended up at the same spot – with a book that surprised and pleased the reader. However, the category confusion over The Greyfriar is not surprising. The book was never intended to be just a vampire novel or a romance novel or a young adult novel, or even a steampunk novel.

The genre blending in The Greyfriar was purposeful. We did it because we love all those genres and wanted to work with those story elements. We’ve been very fortunate that it has been well received. It’s been gratifying that so many readers have found what they sought in our book (action, romance, horror, politics, cats, etc.), but they also discovered things they didn’t know they liked before (action, romance, horror, politics, cats, etc.), and particularly steampunk.’

We originally conceived Vampire Empire many years ago before the term “steampunk” was quite so well known as it is now. We didn’t set out to plot a “steampunk” story back then. Our book was meant to be an alternate history rooted in the Victorian Era. We were huge Victoriana buffs, and that was the period that best served the story. While writing, we always referred to the book as “neo-Victorian.” However, over the years, steampunk reached genre consciousness and, by the time we pitched the novel to agents in 2010, steampunk was not just a subgenre buzz word, it had become a bona fide target demographic.

So, just as we were finishing our neo-Victorian vampire romance pulp adventure novel, the neo-Victorian subculture became part and parcel of steampunk, and that genre achieved social critical mass.

So how does The Greyfriar qualify as steampunk? The book is set in a recognizable, but altered “Victorian” world. We were careful not to just write a fantasy novel and throw goggles on characters and darken the skies with airships. Never fear, there are airships and goggles, but they serve a purpose based on function, technology, and economy. We extrapolate new global technologies and geo-politics, given the realities of our vampire-altered world.

Here’s the background on the plot: In the 1870s, vampires destroy the industrial states of the northern hemisphere. Human refugees flee to the tropics (vampires abhor constant heat) and struggle to integrate with the indigenous societies they encounter there. The tropics experience more than a century of cultural tumult as cultures collide and coalesce and recreate themselves. The Greyfriar actually begins 150 years after the Great Killing, when the new human states of the equatorial regions have finally built their technology and societies to levels equivalent to the late 1800s. They are now prepared to wage war on the vampire clans of the north. Or so they think.

The Greyfriar is very much a neo-Victorian fantasy. But it is also a vampire novel. And a romance. And a pulp adventure. And, apparently, young adult.

We didn’t set out to write a steampunk novel. We wrote The Greyfriar, and the steampunk happened.

So, what’s the take-home message of this blog? One, if you like steampunk fiction (or adventure, vampires, romance, etc…), we certainly hope you’ll pick up The Greyfriar and give it a shot. Two, if you’re a writer, don’t write a “steampunk novel” by taking your detective story, or monster story, or romance story and throwing in all the brass gizmos and be-goggled archetypes you can think of. It won’t ring true. It’s like putting a cape on a cowboy and calling him a “superhero.”

Steampunk can give you a rich and marvelous worldview. It has a lot to offer setting, story, and characters. But let your world rise organically from the story you want to tell, and the characters you create. It may end up being as steampunkish as you’d hoped, and you’ll create some great steampunk police procedurals or steampunk horror or steampunk romance.

But, who knows, it may go in directions you didn’t expect, and you’ll have to come up with a new genre label.

With that in mind, what genres would you most like to get a steampunk treatment? And what are your favorite types of genre blending in general?

~ Clay & Susan Griffith

http://clayandsusangriffith.blogspot.com
http://twitter.com/clayandsusan

 

Two lucky posters will win copies of The Greyfriar (sorry, US only please.)  Contest closes Sunday, February 6th.  Winners will be announced February 7th, which will also kick off Fantastic February…More about that Monday.  

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Today we welcome author Sheryl Nantus.

Sheryl Nantus was born in Montreal, Canada, and grew up in Toronto, Canada. A rabid reader almost from birth, she attended Sheridan College in Oakville, graduating in 1984 with a diploma in Media Arts Writing.
She met Martin Nantus through the online fanfiction community in 1993 and moved to the United States in 2000 in order to marry. A firm believer in the healing properties of peppermint and chai, she continues to write short stories, poetry and novels while searching for the perfect cuppa.

“Wild Cards and Iron Horses” is her third published title and is currently available in ebook form from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. A print edition from Samhain Publishing will be released in the summer of 2011.

Riding the Rails in New Babbage

by Sheryl Nantus

One of the hardest things to do as a writer is immerse yourself in the culture you’re writing about. Sometimes it’s difficult to work on stories about living in a Victorian age where machinery rule the skylines while you’re hammering on your computer keyboard or trying to quit the newest games app cold turkey. Getting your mind into the game can be almost impossible with all of the current-day distractions offering tempting alternatives or just killing the creative drive.

When I started out writing “Wild Cards and Iron Horses”, my American steampunk novel set in the Old West, I already had a great place to sit and work – my virtual home in New Babbage in Second Life. There my avatar, Sheryl Skytower, could meander around the virtual town and trip over various steampunk devices and settings while chatting in-character with other steampunk fans using New Babbage for their own virtual get-aways.

But wait… let me show you a bit about what New Babbage is. Come take a quick Christmas tour!

Second Life is a virtual world free to anyone who wants to sign up – you can spend real money buying Lindens to purchase what you wish to wear or use but many residents get along just fine picking up the free clothing and items offered by friends and retailers. Visit New Babbage.

Once inside Second Life you can find a variety of sims to visit, from vampire-themed areas to jazz clubs to Zen gardens. Almost three years ago I discovered the small and grimy steampunk town of New Babbage and decided to make it my home. That’s me there, the little clockwork dragon.

Once there I settled down and enjoyed all the usual small town activities. Evil scientists trying to take over the town, Martian invasions, zombie invasions, Christmas parties and, of course, airship races. I also discovered a wonderful little café where I could sit and write while my real-life identity did the same. It was during this time that I did the majority of work on “Wild Cards” because it was so easy to fall back into the steampunk world on the page while experiencing it on the computer screen.

Roleplaying is common in many steampunk areas of Second Life, but not mandatory. If you want to create another persona for yourself with a mechanical arm or even entire body, it’s perfectly acceptable. As for myself, I chose to be a human trapped in the body of a clockwork dragon due to my grandfather doing some rather unorthodox experiments. Think Walter Bishop from “Fringe” and you’ll get an idea of what I’m referring to.

Spending some time in a steampunk virtual world is a great way to get the creative juices flowing and to enjoy some time away from the real world. Visit a Victorian-era carnival and see the mechanical beasts on the carousel! Attend a dance overseen by a loud noisy smoking robot putting down some radical tracks over the airwaves! Take an airship tour of the many libraries in Caledon and see the original (or so I’ve been told!) Time Machine donated by Mr. Wells!

I have to credit my time in New Babbage for the success of “Wild Cards and Iron Horses” and for inspiring me for the future. Between the people and the setting it’s easy to imagine a steampunk world when you spend some time living in it!

If you’re looking for a way to interact with fellow steampunk aficionados and am unable to get out to the conventions or meetings you might want to consider visiting Second Life and all of the Steamlands in the virtual world. You never know who or what you might find in your steampunk Second Life!

~ Sheryl Nantus

 

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