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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Steampunk has come to embrace so many varied arts, well beyond just fiction. I’d like to introduce you to a couple of the artisans who make the stuff that makes us all look so good.

 ***

 Shoptroll: (aka Peter Vanslyke)

 

Where can shoppers find your products online?

www.shoptroll.net (but realistically I update the Shoptroll Facebook page way more regularly.)

 

What do you make? 

Riveted seam (no sewing) leather clothing. Mostly skirts, kilts, and pocket-belts.

(Note from Cindy: he also makes bodices, bracelets, gloves, shelves, benches, and just about everything you can make with wood, nails, rivets and soft leather. That’s me and the spouse in SP invasion of RFall our Shoptroll finery.)

 

Do you do this full time or is it a side job? 

Full time. 24-7.

 

How did you get into steampunk, personally and as an artisan?

I think, for me, the two’re inseparably linked. I love non-traditional construction methods (example: to make a skirt, I use rivets instead of thread). I see a great deal of the above in the overall steampunk aesthetic. Descriptions and images of things that at the first seem over-built, stylized, or overly ornamental can too be taken as, say, a plumber’s take on a message-delivery system. Using your knowledge or trade to solve situations that they may not at first seem applicable to…I love seeing that.

 

What’s the hardest thing about being a steampunk vendor?

Not going to panels when you’re at a con.

 

What is your very favorite thing about steampunk and the people involved?

If there is a defining aspect of steampunk, I’d call it creativity. No, really, bear with me as I “define” steampunk here. Every single steamo out there brings something to the table. Every. Single. One. At a comic or sci-fi convention, you have some great artists, writers, actors, cosplayers, etc., but for every one of those folk, there are at least a dozen fans or collectors. (Which, by the way, is great.) In steampunk, that ratio is reversed. Participants create their own character, or their own costume. They all add to the ambiance. most of us have *some* project or other we are working on, be it a light-up Nerf mod, a hover pack , a moving picture, a moving piece of poetry, an airship crew, a presentation, a new novel, knitting, we are all working on things, and most of us will happily enthuse, and share ideas to inspire and encourage one another. That, the building of this thing that we all enjoy together, that is probably my favorite aspect of steampunk.

 ***

 Matt Sabins, of Sabins Gadgeteering Lab, LLC

 matt

Where can shoppers find your products online?

www.sabinsgadgeteeringlab.com

What do you make?

Custom costume props, accessories, and jewelry. My style tends towards Tesla-tech, usually with small glowing light effects to simulate strange energies of the Aether.

(note from Cindy: His wristbands and firefly necklaces are out of this world!)

 

Do you do this full timIMG_3955e or is it a side job?

Full-Time, my own business. I’ve tried pursuing conventional means of employment; it never really worked out for me.

 

How did you get into steampunk, personally and as an artisan?

My first exposure to steampunk was the tabletop role-playing game, “Mage: The Ascension” by White Wo Studios. There’s a Tradition of mages called the Sons of Ether whose mad devices and eccentric style were steampunk even before the term had really caught on, and they were my fast favorite. I really love the strange mélange of mysticism and technology that they represent, and I began to try making Etheric devices of my own to use as props. That was more than 10 years ago, and I’ve been refining my methods with what I could afford ever since.IMG_3667

 

What’s the hardest thing about being a steampunk vendor?

The hardest thing about being a vendor is coming up with product ideas that are original enough not to infringe on other copyrights, but that have sufficiently recognizable value to customers who migIMG_2985ht want to buy them. I often have to restrain myself from exuberant creativity and focus on making everyday stuff with a just a hint of mad science in them.

 

What is your very favorite thing about steampunk and the people involved? 

My favorite thing about steampunk is that it is primarily fan-driven. There isn’t a lot of popular source material in films and television with steampunk as the main focus. There’s plenty of room to get in on the ground floor as it picks up steam, so to speak. As for the people involved, I’ve found most are quite friendly and well-mannered, and they seem to really like my creations.

***

 So now that you’ve met these two awesome creators, don’t forget to check out their work! Hopefully, these interviews will be a recurring feature, so if you’re an artisan, or know one who ought to be interviewed, send me an email at cindy@cindyspencerpape.com.

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I shake John Carney and then Christine Carney’s hands. “Happy New Year and welcome aboard Airship Steamed. Watch your step,” I call as I stretch my short legs in a leap across the wide gap between the dock and the airship. John and Christine, the owners of Thick and Thin Designs, follow me into the parlor.

I gesture towards the crimson settee, which features curvy lion head legs and claw feet. John and Christine take a seat there. I sink into the large armchair across from them. I raise my voice to speak over the clang and grind of the airship as we take off. “Cupcake toppers are wonderful and they take a cupcake to a whole other level. What drew you to the fascinating art and business of creating decorative acrylic cupcake toppers, jewelry and ornaments?”

Christine glances at the blue willow teacups, shaking and rattling on the tea table between us. “John’s an MFA student at the University of Maine and had been working as a tech in the new Innovation, Marketing, Research and Commercialization Center (IMRC) on campus and fell in love with the laser cutter. We knew that machine would allow us to produce what previously only existed in our wildest dreams. One night while I was cooking dinner, we envisioned a massive zombie horde placed upon dozens of cupcakes and the idea to produce unique, quirky cupcake toppers was born. We always knew that we wanted to be in business together and this was our opportunity.”

“How can you not love any business inspired by the vision of a zombie horde on cupcakes.” The dainty china cups cease rattling on the tea table as our airship glides smoothly pass the clouds. “Several of your Thick & Thin creations have a Steampunk appeal:  gears, mustaches, tentacles and hot air balloons. Do you have an interest in Steampunk?” I pick up the teapot and pour my guests a cup of Earl Grey.

John and Chrisitne pick up their teacups. “We love the Steampunk genre! We love the combination of beautiful clothing, dirty industrialization and the whimsical nature that threads through it all. Steampunk and those who love it are always an inspiration for us when we’re creating new designs because we know that there are great number of people out there who love it and not many products to support it.” Tendrils of steam rise from their teacups as they each take a sip.

I pour myself a cup of tea. “How do you get your inspiration for your creations?” Lifting and tilting my teacup to my lips, I take a long sip.

John reaches for the sugar bowl, picks up a white cube and plunks it into his tea. “We’ve always been fans of the obscure, geeky and cute so we often find inspiration in our hobbies. When we’re deciding what to put on our shop we think of things that we would want and can’t find anywhere else. We have a very diverse group of friends, sometimes thinking about what they might want can lead to innovative designs that we wouldn’t necessarily think of for ourselves. The tentacles for instance were created specifically for one of our Cthulhu loving friends who had just moved to the US from Spain. Obviously they had to be shared with the world, and now they are one of our top sellers.” He dips a silver teaspoon into his cup and swishes it gently from side to side.

Reaching for the dish on the table, I pinch a slice of lemon and inhale the invigorating citrus fragrance as I squeeze a few drops into my teacup. “Since this is Steamed, I have to ask do you like Steampunk fiction?  If so, what are some of your favorite Steampunk books or authors?”

iChrisitne leans back in the setee and takes another sip of tea. “I’m a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft and have loved the His Dark Materials trilogy by Pullman since it was first published. I love science and enjoy Steampunk fiction especially because of its, often positive, view of mechanics and its favorable portrayal of women in the field. It’s inspiring to women young and old to not let anything stop you from doing what you love, especially public opinion.”

I bring my teacup to my lips. As the steam from the cup blows warm on my face I finish the last of my tea and set the cup down. “As a husband and wife team, do you both design the cupcake toppers? If so, are some of the designs collaborations?”

Christine sets her teacup on its saucer on the table as John  does the same. “All of our pieces are collaborations. We will bounce ideas back and forth off of one another during the initial phases of a design. I will often check for scientific accuracy while my husband checks to make sure the piece will be interpreted visually. After the first rendition is finished in Illustrator, we’ll print a few test prints off and discuss how we feel about the piece and whether it’s successful before putting it up on the store. When looking at our shop line-up any design that is animal related or cute can be attributed to me and anything mechanical or figurative can be attributed to John.”

Hearing rattling and clinking, I glance at the tea table, the cups and saucers are shaking.”I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for one final question. What is your favorite cake or cupcake topper?”

Christine grasps hold of the arm of the settee, bracing for the landing “My favorite toppers are the tentacles! They were a blast to design and always go over well at a party! John’s partial to the ninja toppers, it was one of his first designs. He’s always thought that they perfectly represent our style and aesthetic, while showcasing the fine detail we are capable of in our pieces.”

The airship steamed has  landed and John and Christine Carney must get started on making cupcake toppers for all the parties in 2014, but they left their left calling cards for us.

Website, Online StoreFacebook

~      ~      ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes 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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Kat and Tentacle Kitty

Kat and Tentacle Kitty

“Welcome, to airship Steamed.” I shake the president and creative director of Tentacle Kitty, John Merritt’s hand. “Welcome aboard Airship Steamed.” I reach over to Tentacle Kitty, who he’s holding in the crook of his other arm, and shake one of her pink tentacles. “Watch your step,” I call as I stretch my short legs in a leap across the wide gap between the dock and the airship. John Merritt, with Tentacle Kitty in hand, follows me into the parlor.

I gesture towards the crimson settee, which features curvy lion head legs and claw feet, hoping John’s kitty is not offended that they’re not tentacles instead. He sits on the cushioned seat and places Tentacle Kitty beside him.

“Tentacle Kitty is so cute.” I plop down onto the chenille cushioned armchair across from them.  “I just love her.” I reach forward to pet her fluffy head. “How long did it take you to come up with the design?”

“About an hour. I was in a Sharies, similar to Denny’s, waiting for my wife, then fiancé, to get out of work across the street. I wanted to make her something cute that combined my love of cats, and her love of tentacles: octopus, cuddlefish, HP Lovecraft.” He glances at the blue willow teacups, shaking and rattling on the tea table between us.

“Any piece of art that springs from a love of cats, cuddlefish and HP Lovecraft is alright by me.” I have to raise my voice to speak over the clang and grind of the airship as we take off. “How many prototypes did it take to purrfect Tentacle Kitty?”

“Twelve or thirteen total.” Mr. Merritt grabs the settee with one hand as the airship lifts off. “The whole process took about a year.”

“How did you first get involved in the art and design of stuffed toys?” Since the china cups cease rattling, I pick up the tea pot and pour my guest a cup of Earl Grey.

“Well TK started with the character. After our friends wanted us to post her online, her fans grew and they begged us for plushies. So we obliged.” He picks up the teacup with tendrils of steam rising from it.

I lift the creamer and pour a bit onto a saucer. I place it on the settee beside Tentacle Kitty, in case she wants a drink as well. “Speaking of it starting with the character, how did the character itself begin?”

“She was originally created with Vector Graphics rather than using pen and paper or photoshop.” Picking up a sugar cube, Mr. Merritt plunks it into his tea.

“What about an artist notebook, do you keep one to jot down ideas like Tentacle Kitty that may come to you, day or night?” I lift the teapot and as I fill my own cup, I breathe in the subtle, aromatic scent of the tea.

“Not usually, but when things do come to mind, I have a tablet phone with a drawing pen, I can sketch up my ideas quickly.” John Merrett picks up a polished silver spoon and stirs his tea, creating a tiny maelstrom in the cup.

“What are some of the challenges of creating stuffed toys?” I take a sip of my earl grey.

“Everything. Learning the ins and outs of creating plush toys is very difficult. Everything from the design, finding a manufacturer that is high quality and honest, to learning to ship from overseas and complying with all of the legalities and certificates needed to sell in the US.”

Picking up a slice of lemon, I breathe in the sunny, citrus scent as I squeeze a drop of its juice into my cup. “Does Tentacle Kitty have her own character back-story of the world she lives on?” I slip the yellow slice into the light brown tea. “Does she live in the sea and breathe underwater?”

“She in fact comes from another dimension! She lives in a forested area and doesn’t care for the water much at all. We have a comic coming out soon that will show a lot about her world.”

“That makes a lot more sense, cats don’t like water. The tentacles confused me.” I lift the teacup  to my lips and draw in a long sip. “A Tentacle Kitty Comic sounds wonderful. She’s obviously a very special tentacle feline, does she have any super powers?“

“There are a couple different abilities she has that people do not know about yet, but keep an eye on the comic and you will see!”

“How and why did you settle on the color pink for Tentacle Kitty’s fur?”

“While all other colors are perfectly acceptable, Pink was the least likely to invoke fear and instead promote her cuteness. And it helps, sometimes, to indicate she is in fact a girl.” Mr. Merrett takes a few more sips of steamy tea.

“She is the cutest. If I had to guess I’d day you are a cat lover, is that right? What are the names of your own kitties and cats?”

“I am.” He sets his teacup on its saucer on the table with a soft clink. “Though I have had many cats in the past, I have none at the moment. My last cat’s name was “Tali Vas Banana” After Mass Effect… and Harry Belafonte.”

“What a unique name.” I down the last of my earl grey. “Since this is Steamed, I have to ask, do you like Steampunk literature?” I set my empty china cup on the tea table.

“I love the steampunk culture, and though I have yet to read alot of books related to the subject, one of my favorites, that to my understanding is steampunk-y, is The Time Machine. And naturally Cthulhu mythos.” He places the untouched saucer of cream on the table.

Upon hearing rattling and clinking, I glance at the tea table and see the cups and saucers shaking. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for three quick questions. “What advice would you give to any artists interested in creating their own stuffed toys?”

“Unless you have a fan base, and investors, family and friends if need be, it can be a very dark and costly road.” Mr. Merrett clutches one arm of the settee as the airship clangs and rattles.

“Is there anything you or Tentacle Kitty would like to say to your fans?” I hold on to the armrest of my chair as we dock.

“No matter what people say, keep being you.

and

Never judge a monster by her tentacles.”

“What wonderful advise and so true. You can be warm and fuzzy and still have tentacles, especially if you are from another dimension.” The airship has landed but before I bid John Merrett and Tentecle Kitty farewell, I squeeze in that last question.  “What workshops, convention appearances or shows do you have coming up? What are the dates, places, times, and websites? And for all those wanting to give a Tentacle Kitty a good home, where is she available?”

“There are several conventions that we are planning to go to this next year, but right now none are official. Keep track of us on Facebook for all of our conventions and events.

You can find Tentacle Kitty in many places. The best places to find her is at http://www.tentaclekitty.com/shop/ and Thinkgeek at http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/ef4f/

~   ~   ~

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

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Toy Maker Workshop

Toy Maker Workshop

Even though the airship has just docked, I feel like I’m floating, so excited to be on the airship when it has flown across the pond. We’ve just arrived in England. I wave my hand enthusiastically, to artist, Doktor A. “Welcome aboard the airship.” I hike up my skirt and stretch my short legs in a leap across the wide gap between the dock and the airship. “Watch your step,” I call to Doktor A as he follows me into the parlor. I gesture towards the chenille armchair with claw feet. Doktor A sinks into the large cushioned chair.

Then I plop down onto the crimson settee across from him. Enthused, my heart’s racing like a toddler ready for her favorite story at bedtime as I plead, “Please tell us the story of

your Mechtorians.”

Elder

Elder

Doktor A nods his head and begins the tale. “It was during a Cricket match, one balmy afternoon in the summer of 1897, that Professor Maximillian Whistlecraft was informed of England’s forthcoming destruction. His friend and fellow tinkerer at the outer boundaries of science and engineering, one Herbert Wells, had just returned from a brief jaunt into the near future through the use of his Extraordinary Temporal Conveyancer, and had a shocking tale to relate. In only a few short years hence the green and pleasant land of good old Blighty would be overrun by a dastardly Martian invasion force, the likes of which could barely be comprehended. As part of the invasion, Herbert had witnessed the razing of his friend’s own residence near Horsell Common and had hastened at the earliest opportunity to warn the good fellow to the impending danger.” Doktor A raises his voice to speak over the clang and grind of the airship as we take off.

Amnesia

Amnesia

Self Made Man

Self Made Man

“Professor Whistlecraft had several years to make safe his home and family before the interplanetary scourge descended. He considered simply moving house, but could not bare to pass his doom to another poor unsuspecting soul. And from this initial conviction he vowed to save not just himself but the whole of the English populace. He concluded the best way to achieve this was not to engage the wretched invaders in battle but simply move everybody out of their way.” As he continues the story, Doktor A grabs the armrests with both hands, while the airship lifts off.

“Luckily his previous scientific researches and engineering dabblings had uncovered a way to instantaneously move objects and persons from one place to another. He concluded that with a Translation Engine of a suitable size and power he might move everything in England out of harms way. He consulted books, talked with eminent Astronomers, Geologists and Botanists and decided that the best destination would be a small blue green planet circling a star at the edges of the visible galaxy. He was assured this would be a world much like the Earth we know, but with the additional bonus that due to a peculiarity of its orbit it would have two tea-times.

He realized that he could not expect the good people of England to abandon all they knew for some strange new world on the strength of a single man’s word, no matter how honorable the gentleman. So he concluded that a mechanized workforce should be sent ahead to build all that the future inhabitants would expect of a decent English society, in order to ease their transition.

Shutterburg

Shutterburg

To this end he re-fitted a number of his automated servants, built some new ones and gave them all careful instructions on what to do at their destination. He also tutored his mechanical creations in methods to create more like themselves, to fit whatever purpose was required of them. He sent them off on the eve of the new century to build a new Empire among the stars and await his arrival.

He never came.

Two hundred years later they have never known the fate of their creator and his people. But they go on doing what he instructed. Building a bigger and better and more decent society for all Mechtorians and for all those who may, some day, still arrive.”

“I love that.” I have to ask does this

Asphyx Engine

Asphyx Engine

small blue green planet circling a star at the edges of the visible galaxy exist in your head from time to time, do you find yourself thinking about some of the Mechtorians you’ve created, do you wonder about what they’re up to?”

“I never stop thinking about Mechtorians. They are always alive in the back of my head. Their daily going on ticking away moment by moment. Sometimes they interrupt my life in ways that lead to new ideas for artworks.”

The dainty china cups cease rattling on the tea table as our airship glides smoothly pass the clouds. “What happened to Professor Maximillian Whistlecraft? He worked so hard to set up this wonderful world on another planet so all his fellow Englishmen could be saved.” I pick up the teapot and pour my guest a cup of Earl Grey. “Do you have any idea of his fate and that of his fellow countrymen?”

Lilies On Stage

Lilies On Stage

“The Martian invasion was famously unsuccessful so the plan to relocate everyone to a new home became redundant.” Doktor A reaches out to take the cup of tea resting on its saucer. “I suspect the professor may have received a knock to the head at some point during an escape from a Martian war machine or something and this made him forget what he had set in motion…or possibly the transmat machine in his studio was destroyed in the last days of the invasion thus making travel to the new homeward impossible. Good job it wasn’t needed after all.” He takes a sip of steamy tea then sets it and its saucer on the tea table.

“I love the names you’ve given your characters, such as Montague Grimshaw, Amnesia Primm, and Baron Von Bosch, as well as the bios you’ve created about each one. I know this is a difficult question to answer, but which character is your favorite?”

“I don’t have any favorites really. I like many different characters for different aspects. Some of the earlier ones like Stephan LePodd I think I may never match in their surrealness. Others like “The Self Made Man” or “Harry K. Nidd” represent leaps in technical achievement for me so become important milestones in my body of work.” Doktor A reaches between the plate of sliced lemons and the spouted creamer of milk to the sugar bowl. Picking up a white cube, he plunks it into his tea.

Perambulator

Mr. Pumfrey and his Astounding Mechanized Perambulator

“Please tell us more about one of your newest toys, Mr. Pumfrey and his Astounding Mechanized Perambulator. What is the inspiration behind it? What does Mr. Pumfrey actually do with his Mechanized Peramblator?” I brim my teacup full and as the tendrils of steam rise, I take a dainty sip.

“The origins of the toy came from two roots. I did a painting called “Mr. Pumfrey takes a Midnight Jaunt”. Which had a small fellow riding a large tripodic type machine with worm like tentacles in the front of it. Later I did an ink drawing which was a bit of a riff on one of Jeff Soto’s infamous walkers. The drawing became a small run print edition for Dragon Con in Atlanta. Munky King toys in L.A contacted me to see if I was interested in producing an art-toy with them. They were particularly interested in doing some sort of robot driving another robot. I showed them the drawing and they loved it so I drew up some blueprints to make it possible as a three-dimensional object.” Doktor A picks up a silver spoon and dipping it into his teacup, swishes it side to side. “The original painting had the tag line ‘Mr. Pumfrey is looking for a wife. Anyone’s wife will do!’ so you may attach sinister connotations to that…Mr. Pumfrey may be up to no good.”

“Oh my, that does sound quite sinister. It would be a great opening line for a book.” I lift my teacup from the blue willow saucer as the aromatic scent of Earl Grey billows around me. “I have found such strong similarities in the way visual artist and literary artist think and work though the mediums seem so different. Have you ever put your characters and stories into a literary form or do you have any desire to do so in the future?”

Blackwood

Blackwood

“I haven’t really intended to do that, however each character has their own small biography written about them and over the years (I started making them in 2005) the back stories have cross referenced each other and woven a quite intricate patchwork picture of life in Retropolis. Maybe someone will one day take those snippets and expand them into a more formal narrative.”

“You work in different art mediums: drawing, painting, sculpture and toys, in 2D, and 3D art. What challenges do you find in working with such different mediums and what is your favorite medium to work in?”

“I get bored easily doing one thing all the time to like to switch things out now and then by working in different mediums. It keeps things interesting for me. I feel most at home doing dimensional work. I was trained as an Industrial Modelmaker, so this sort of think is what I feel I do best.” Doktor A lifts and tilts his teacup to his lips as he takes a long sip.

Harry Full Door

Harry Full Door

“How young were you when you first became involved in models or in art?” I take a long swallow of my tea, savoring the taste.

“The first thing I can recall sculpting was a Zygon from Doctor Who, in Plasticene when I was about 5 years old. I have always made models and robots and monsters.”

“Did model making and art always run together for you in some way or was there a period of time in which you went from model or toy maker to artist?” I set my cup back on it’s saucer on the tea table with a soft clink.

“I don’t see the difference. I do what I have always done. It’s just now other people call what I do Art.”

Maxwell & Hugo

Maxwell & Hugo

“Speaking of art and your art, it’s amazing how many brilliant artists in the Steampunk community are drawn to unusual mediums for their serious art such as snow globes and water globes, stained glass, dolls, and in your case toys.” Picking up a slice of lemon, I breathe in the sunny, citrus scent as I squeeze a drop of its juice into my cup. I slip the yellow slice into the light brown tea. “What drew you to the medium of toys to create whimsical yet serious art?”

“I was trained as an Industrial Modelmaker. I worked in the mainstream toy world for many years as a “Ble-sky” designer and prototyper for the big toy companies. I have always loved and collected toys and models. It was a natural outlet for my artistic leanings and one which, luckily for myself, has in recent years been accepted as a legitimate art form.” With his tea now cooled, Doktor A took a generous sip.

Bella Snow Standoff

Bella Snow Standoff

“Do you usually sketch your art out before beginning your sculptures, paintings and toys? What is your creative process?”

“My characters are generated in one of three ways. I either come up with the written biography of the character and then work out what they look like in rough sketches or ink drawings and then build them. Or I sketch a character and then start to piece together the physical sculpture, all the time altering and refining, at this stage the personality of the piece starts determining their story. Or I find a particular item or piece of junk which inspires the whole creation, look, story and all.”

“It’s always interesting to learn about the artistic procesess for different artist. What about an artist notebook, do you use one to sketch ideas at odd moments of the day or night?”

“My sketchbooks are a mess. Nothing like finished drawings. Just thinking on paper. Notes and snippets to remind myself of ideas, or scratchy little diagrams working out ways to physically achieve something.. They are not really meant for other people’s eyes.” He sets his teacup on it’s saucer on the tea table.

“Sounds a lot like my rough drafts.” I lean forward. “This may be hard to answer but in each piece of your art work, especially in your 3D work, sculptures and toys, you are able to convey an emotion people can connect with, do you have any idea how you do that?”

“No idea. I think it’s the Japanese Shinto philosophy that says an artist or craftsman puts a little piece of their soul into each thing they make…that’s the nearest I can come to an answer.” With his forearms on the cushioned armrest, Doktor A leans back, getting comfortable.

“I fully agree with that philosophy.” I drink the last of my tea. “For any artist interested in taking their art in a toy direction what advice would you give them?”

“These days I would say do it yourself. Teach yourself how to make silicone rubber moulds and cast in resins and make some toys yourself. Show them around. Put them online, photos on social media sites and the resins on Etsy or Ebay. Take a booth at a convention like Designer Con in L.A. or Dragon Con in Atlanta and shout about what you do… and keep doing it, a lot! It’s the only way to get better at it. Show your work to toy companies, if they like it you may get something produced by one. But self made toys are just as legitimate these days as company produced pieces. The art-toy world is a very “grass roots” type of place. If you are good you will find an audience. If you are not good, then stick with it until you are good.”

“Great advise.” I set my teacup on the table. “Since this is Steamed, I have to ask, do you read Steampunk fiction and if so what are some of your favorite books or authors?”

“Not really. I have read H.G.Wells etc of course. I read “The Difference Engine” when it was originally published. Other than that it’s only really the “Larklight” trilogy which I actually picked up on the strength of the illustrations. Although does Hellboy count?”

“Hell yes, Hellboy counts.” I couldn’t resist that little play on words.” I lace my fingers together and rest them on my lap. “What are somethings you’d like to say to your fans and prospective fans about your art?”

“I am jolly pleased and perpetually thankful that what I do resonates with so many people. It’s because of the support of my collectors that I can do what I do in a full time capacity. I hope each new thing I create makes people all over the world smile. And that some of the pieces make the odd person stop and think about the ways we see and do things in today’s “society”.

I hear rattling and clinking. I glance at the tea table and see the cups and saucers shaking. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for three short questions. “When you’re not creating art what is your favorite leisure activity?”

“I don’t have much time for leisurely activities. I watch movies when I can. I occasionally take time off making my model robots to relax by making a model robot (or monster) kit from someone else…Hmmmmm?”
Doktor A grasps hold of the armrests, bracing for the shaky landing.

“That makes sense, since that’s what you love to do. Let’s go from leisure to another favorite activity of mine, eating. You’re from England but you come to the states fairly often for shows. When in America, what is your favorite American style food?”

“That would be Root Beer. You can’t get it in the UK. Not the real, good, small brewery stuff.”

“Perhaps I should have served root beer rather than tea. Next time I’ll know.” I hold on to one arm of the setae as we dock again. “What workshops, convention appearances or shows do you have coming up?”

“Monsters & Misfits III on September 13th – 26th, and Circus Posterus Group Show at the Kusakabe Folk Museum in Takayama, Japan. Also feel free to click here for all show and event information.

Though Doktor A must go, he has left calling cards for us.

website

Online store http://www.spookypop.bigcartel.com/
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Forum
Instagram: Doktor_A

~                                           

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

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I’m waving my arms enthusiastically, to artist, Michele Lynch. “Welcome aboard the airship.”

Her mix media art, art dolls, tree toppers, ornaments, jewelry, paintings and so much more are incredible. Not only the art itself, but I also love what she writes about them.”The soul sucker mix media dolls or sculptures started after I took a full time job with the soul sucker corporation. I find myself still running from the soul sucker even though I no longer work for that corporation.”

Michele Lynch's Steampunk Souls

Michele Lynch’s Steampunk Souls

Michele jumps across the gaping space between the dock and airship, landing onboard, facing me with a sunny smile.

“I and all the Lolita’s of the airship steamed are also devoted to escaping the soul suckers, so we had to have you aboard.” I show her into the parlor where she eases onto the cushioned settee with lion head legs and claw feet.

I plop down on the chenille upholstered armchair and lean toward her. “You also wrote, ‘Our story begins in a far away land where a steampunk princess ruled her kingdom with creativity and kindness, but a soul sucker invaded her kingdom feeding off the souls, and letting loose his Shoulds and Regrets. Enslaving the people and holding the princess prisoner in his tower, the castle of corporation.’ And your art work tells the story from there. All of us here on the airship Steamed love stories and it fascinates me when they are told in means other than words, such as with your fabulous art. Why did you choose this particular art?” What draws you to mix media, especially art dolls?”

Red

Red

Michele laces her fingers together as she rest them on her lap. “I think it chose me. I had a long drive to the castle of corporation every day, and time to think about how evil the Soul Sucker was. I began to imagine a rebellion and what those souls would look like. I could clearly see them in my mind, until I knew I had to create them. I love mixed media because it’s not limiting. I can incorporate all the different skills I’ve learned over the years.”

The engine purrs and the china teacups on the coffee table rattle as the airship begins lift off. “What inspired you to take your art in a Steampunk direction?”

Michele grabs the settee with one hand as the airship gains altitude. “When I envisioned the steampunk soul rebellion, I saw them with mechanical parts to them. I’m not sure where that inspiration came from! But I have always loved movies that had that slight Steampunk feel to them.”

Nevermore

Nevermore

Now that the tea cups cease rattling, I lean toward the coffee table and lifting the blue willow tea pot, I pour Michele a cup of steaming tea.“In addition to being an exquisite artist you are a genuine muse. I can’t imagine any author looking at your art dolls and art and not having them trigger story premises and plots. I have to ask you the question that is always asked of writers, how do you come up with your ideas?”

She lifts the porcelain teacup and takes a dainty sip. “A movie plays in my head with these characters and for some reason they come to me and tell me their story. After that it’s up to me to give them life. I try to live up to that task!”

“That is exactly what a writer experiences when they create characters, from that point on we are committed to tell their story. To bring them to life. Your dolls do an incredible job of bringing these characters you create in your mind alive. How did you learn this amazing type of art?”

“I am self taught. I have always had a passion for learning new techniques and trying different medias.” Michele reaches her slender fingers between the plate of sliced lemons and the spouted creamer cup of milk to the sugar bowl. Picking up a white cube, she plunks it into her tea

I brim my tea cup with steamy tea. “Of all your wonderful creations, which is your favorite?”

Rose Red & Snow White

Rose Red & Snow White

“I think it’s always the current one that I’ve just finished! So right now it’s Rose Red & Snow White.” Michele picks up a polished silver spoon and stirs her tea, creating a tiny maelstrom in the cup.

I took a sip of my earl grey. “Is it hard to part with your dolls when someone buys them, it seems it would be?”

“Actually it’s not for me. I usually make a connection with the person buying the piece and I know they are going to a wonderful home where they will be loved.”

“I ‘m sure that’s the case. It’s hard to look at your art dolls and not fall in love with them.” I place the cup on my saucer with a soft clink. “Do you usually sketch your art out before beginning your work? What’s your creative process?”

“I do usually sketch out the pieces, however most of the time it is a loose sketch and I know things will change as I go along.” Michele sets the teaspoon behind her cup on the saucer. “I figure out most of the piece in advance so I know how to begin constructing it. Also the clay I work with dries pretty quickly so I need to know the direction I’m going before I begin sculpting. Although like I said that can change along the way.”

“The similarities between literary and visual art are so intriguing. To put your process in writing terms it’s like you plot the work out but leave room for an element of surprise like a combination of a plotter and a panster.” I pick up my cup and saucer and breathe in the subtle, aromatic scent of the tea. “Do you sketch or doodle your ideas in an art journal to as they come to you?”

Michele brings her teacup from her saucer to her parted lips and draws in a long sip. “I use a basic recycled sketch paper book. I usually date the page and also put the name of the file I use from my computer that is the finished photo of the piece. I keep all of the books and it’s fun to look back on the original sketch and how it evolved. Besides the sketches I also jot down ideas in the book.”

“You work in all these different artistic areas jewelry, dolls, paintings and more. What is your favorite?”

Wanted

Wanted

“My favorite depends on my mood lol, which is why I do so many different expressions of the Steampunk Souls. I never get burnt out on doing the same thing!”

Picking up a slice of lemon, I breathe in the sunny, citrus scent as I squeeze a drop of its juice into my cup. I slip the yellow slice into the light brown tea. “Are there different challenges between creating the sculptures of art dolls and creating jewelry or paintings? What are some of the challenges?”

“I think the dolls are more challenging, the armature needs to be able to support the doll and the pieces that I incorporate. Since there isn’t usually any symmetry the doll has to balance. There is also always the challenge of making the doll pose-able.” Michele set her empty cup on her blue willow saucer.

“It can imagine there is a lot of hard work involved in sculpturing the art dolls, especially since they have to be pose-able.“ I lift the tea pot and pour her a fresh cup. “How long have you worked as an artist?”

Liza - Octopus Girl

Liza – Octopus Girl

“Oh wow, I think at least 10 years? Maybe longer. But it wasn’t until 2010 that I found my true style. It was this year, 2012, that I was able to make the leap to full time artist.”

“How wonderful. Working as a full time artist is quite an accomplishment. How long does it usually take to create a Steampunk art doll?”

“This is a tough question because it depends on the piece I’m doing. Some simmer in my mind for a while, and some come to me fully formed and demanding to be created immediately. From there it takes me anywhere from 3 days to a week to complete a doll.”

With my tea now cooled, I take a generous gulp. “I can appreciate what hard and steady work it takes to create your art dolls in such a prompt time period. What advice do you have for artist interested in working with art dolls and mixed media?”

“Do what is in your heart, don’t try to mimic someone else. When you do this your true style will emerge and your creative heart will sing!”

“Wise and heartfelt advice.” My cup makes a soft clinking sound as I set it in its saucer on the mahogany coffee table. “What do your family, your children, and your husband think of your art?”

Don't Tell

Don’t Tell

“LOL, they think my imagination is a very scary place!”

“I think so too. I love it. Speaking of family and children, how young were you when you first became involved in art?”

“I have been involved with art since I can remember. My mom always bought me paints, clay, crayons, etc…there was no other gift that I loved more, besides books!”

I lean back and set my forearms on the cushioned armrest, getting comfortable. “Speaking of books, do you like Steampunk literature, if so what is are some of your favorite books or authors?”

“I have to admit I’m new to reading Steampunk literature, and would love to know everyone’s favorite books and authors!”

“Yes, everyone please post your favorite Steampunk books in the comments for Michele Lynch, also the Lolita’s of steamed have written some interesting books, and we have a Steampunk reading list in the airship’s library . Michele, what are some things you’d like to say to your fans and prospective fans about your art?”

Fortune Teller

Fortune Teller

“I hope my artwork evolves some type of emotion in you and you can feel the characters personality in each piece, when that happens there is a connection between me and the person who purchases the artwork, and that is pure magic! There is nothing I love more!”

“You do an amazing job at creating an emotional connection to your art dolls, you truly bring them alive.” I glance at the coffee table at the sound of rattling and clinking. “I see the teacups are shaking. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for one last question. What workshops, convention appearances or shows do you have coming up? What are the dates, places, times, and websites with further information on them?”

Michele grasps hold of the arm of the settee, bracing for the shaky landing. “I’m teaching at two national doll conventions in 2013. Artistic Figures In Cloth & Clay in Ohio April 25-28 www.CyndysDolls.com, and All Dolls Are Art July 25-28 Austin, Texas www.alldollart.com. You can also find my artwork at these galleries, http://www.popsantafe.com/works/search/183 , http://www.swoongallery.com/ , http://www.augusteclown.com/original-art.html , http://www.dollirium.com/ and I have two shows coming up at Tasty gallery in March and May http://www.shoptastyart.com/#/home/

The airship Steamed has landed so we say our goodbyes. But you can visit Michele Lynch anytime at her Website Etsy Blog Facebook Pinterest Please comment or ask questions below and please post list your favorite Steampunk books  for Michele Lynch,

Maeve Alpin, Steampunk/Romance author 

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As the Steamed airship lands in Phoenix, Arizona, I go to greet my two guest. They step across the gaping space between the dock and airship to board, with a graceful, fluid glide. Both are dancers of

Diosa with sword & Katara in top hat

the Osiris Belly Dancing Company, Diosa, the director and her co-dancer, Katara.

I show them into the parlor where they ease onto the cushioned hand carved settee with lion head legs and claw feet. I sit across from them in a chemille upholstered arm chair.

“Welcome aboard Steamed. It’s so good to have you.” I lean toward Diosa as she sets her sword on the marble top coffee table.  “I love your dance company’s name, Osiris. Of course he’s the Egyptian god of the dead. Also, George Mann wrote a well known Steampunk novel titled The Osiris Ritual.  Why did you chose the name Osirus?”

Diosa flashed a bright smile. “I chose the name Osiris as a result of a series of my own personal experiences through belly dance. Enthralled by dancing with double veils, I later aspired to dance with seven veils, attributed to the myth of the “Dance of the Seven Veils”. After researching the history of Inanna and Ishtar and their descents into the underworld, I thought it fitting to use Osiris, also known as the keeper of the underworld. The name became a symbolic transformation of spirituality, where a dancer could abandon inhibitions and masculinity, empowering her feminine expression, as if to shed the facades created to hide her true self.”

“How intriguing.” The engine purrs and the china teacups on the coffee table rattle as the airship lifts off. I rub my lips together as I think of my next question. “On your website you say the Osiris Dance Company has its roots in Egyptian Cabaret. As I and some of our readers may be unfamiliar with the term, can you tell me more about what that means?

Diosa with the Osiris Dance Company

Diosa with the Osiris Dance Company

Diosa nods. “Our roots are bound to a more refined style with ballet and jazz influences with arm positions and traveling movements. Body movements are smaller, intricate muscular movements lending to a more intimate venue like night clubs or in this day and age, at coffee shops. Costumes also tend to be more intricate with a two piece sequined, beaded, and rhinestone bra and belt. The music style may have more dramatic orchestral elements with lavish musical styles.” 

I poured  Diosa a cup of steaming tea. “How old were you when you started belly dancing?”

Disoa picked up both cup and saucer, holding them in her lap.  “I began belly dancing when I was 28. I was entranced by the majestic and fluid belly dancers at the Aladdin in Las Vegas with their glitzy costumes and the wonderful live music.”

I brimmed Katara’s porcelain teacup full. “What drew you to this beautiful, exotic genre of dance?”

Katara took a sip of tea. ” I took my first belly dance class at the beginning of my senior year of high school – I was seventeen. It was  the embodiment of grace, beauty, sensuality and womanhood. So I found a studio, and my first teacher – who happened to be Diosa!”

I picked up my own teacup, took a hot, refreshing sip, then shifted my gaze onto Katara. “Tell me, When did you first fall in love with belly dancing?” I dropped a cube of sugar into the teacup. “Also , when did you first fall in love with Steampunk?”

Katara set her teacup  on the marble table top and leaned back against the red settee. “I first saw belly dancing when I watched one of our local belly dance legends, Yasmina’s, public access show once as a little girl. I was fascinated! Then, I saw another local legend, Jasmine, perform in a cultural week at my high school and decided I had to find classes in the dance style. Steampunk, I first found several years ago. I was completely intrigued with the way Steampunk blended historical fashions with modern designs. And it gave me an excuse to break out the corsets and bustles.”

Leaning forward I picked up a sliver spoon and stirred my tea as I asked Diosa, “What intrigues you about Steampunk? Why did you decided to blend it into your belly dancing performances?”

“Our group is always intrigued by doing something new and off the beaten path. We’ve done marionette pieces, Alice in Wonderland, and tough girl themes. We trained so much in traditional styles, that I think we all just wanted to do something completely different. ” Diosa picked up the teapot and poured more of the steaming brew into her gold rimmed china cup. “When we started dancing at Comicon, we were actually thrown into the Steampunk genre when we were invited to perform at the Steampunk Ball. I consider our dance style to be belly dance fusion, but we blend steampunk into our costuming for those specific venues.”

Katara leaned forward to pick up her teacup.  “Personally, alternate histories always fascinated me, and the way Steampunk blends science fiction with Victorian themes intrigues me.” She took a dainty sip of her tea. “But, really, it’s the opportunity to play with historical fashions and blend them into something interesting and modern. As far as adding it into my dancing, it seemed a natural progression. A new way to tell interesting stories with dance and some really fun costumes.”

I shifted my back against the soft, cushioned  arm chair  “Why do you think steampunk and belly dancing blend together so well?”

Diosa with fan

Diosa with fan

With a flick of her wrist, Diosa snapped her fan out and fluttered it in front of her face. “Steampunk and belly dancing blend together so well because they both thrive from innovation, whether it’s creative choreographies or outrageous costumes.”

Katara with fan

Katara with fan

Katara set her teacup down and flicked her fan open as well. “Belly dancing has always been seen as an exotic, mysterious art form.  I believe that speaks to steampunk – it allows a blend of ethnic and intrigue that melds well with the mixing of sci-fi and history that makes up so much of steampunk. And it brings in a new kind of cultural interest – which was a big part of victorian life.”

I grab my own fan from the coffee table and open it with a flick of my wrist as I ask Diosa, “What are some major challenges of choreographing Steampunk Belly dancing performances?”

“Like any choreography, picking the right music and costuming are a couple of the major challenges. The music is my muse, so if I find an inspiring song, the choreography comes pretty easily.”

Katara of Osiris Belly Dancing Company

Katara rests her fan on her lap. “A major challenge is to bring elements of the steampunk world into a middle eastern artform. Personally, I’ve always leaned toward a more fusion style that blends the traditional dance with different styles (anything from theatrical to jazz to modern), so it wasn’t -too- much of a stretch for me, but being able to embrace that science fiction/period element was definitely a challenge.”

I fluttered my fan and leaned back, fixing my gaze on Diosa. “What Steampunk bands, in addition to Abney Park, do you  think play music which fuses well with belly dancing?”

Diosa set her fan beside her sword on the marble table top. “Music reminiscent of the time period can lend itself to that specific style, especially when blended with the theatrics and costuming. I’ve seen dancers perform to music I considered fusion, though their costuming style was steampunk. I haven’t really figured out what categorizes a band or music as being ‘steampunk’ other than the fact that they specifically note themselves as such or the artists are wearing steampunk apparel.”

Katara brought her teacup to her red lips and took a slow sip. “Well, Abney Park is one of my favorites. I also have performed to a Professor Elemental piece or two. A good many of the steampunk bands utilize instruments that are good for dancing to. Beats Antique is fabulous, as well, it’s a band that is a ‘belly dance band’ that works great with steampunk.”

I point my fan at Diosa. “Do you have a favorite steampunk song for belly dancing?”

Diosa rest her hands in her lap. “I don’t necessarily have a favorite steampunk song, but I would lean more towards songs by Beats Antique, Bass Nectar, or Beirut. I love the ‘carni’ influences as well as the fusion of dub-step.”

Katara - comicon

Katara – comicon

Katara set her teacup on her porcelain saucer with a soft clang. “I love dancing to Hans Zimmer’s “Discombobulate” from the first ‘Sherlock Holmes’ soundtrack. I’ve done a really fun ‘Hyde’ piece to it.”

“A Hyde piece sounds amazing.” I dropped my fan onto my lap and grasped the carved arms of the chair as the airship rocked slightly.  “You have performed at the Wild Wild West Steampunk convention and Comicon. What differences have you found in belly dancing at those types of steampunk/sci-fi/fantasy cons rather than other venues?”

Diosa answers first.  “We have found styles vary and interpretations of the dance is very different. We have observed some burlesque styles that lend to more of a strip tease, where others are theatrical and humorous. Some groups still hold true to their own traditional styles, whether it be tribal or cabaret, but I have not observed a specific style that would be considered ‘steampunk belly dance’.”

Katara adds, “The biggest difference, to me, tends to come from the audience. It’s refreshing to have a group of people who are new to belly dance reacting to the performance  as well as appreciating that someone could blend something like that with what they themselves love: steampunk.”

I snap my fan shut and lean back as I nod at Diosa.  “What do you like most about performing at steampunk/sci-fi/fantasy cons?”

Diosa tilts her head. “What I love most about performing at these different venues is the invitation to create from an entire fantasy world, whether it be super heroes, manga characters, cult television show favorites, or even our own made up characters.”

Katara reaches up to adjust her top hat.  “I love being able to take belly dance and make something new with it. Being able to combine this beautiful art form with a style I already enjoy, be that steampunk, pure sci-fi, or fantasy, is great for me. And being able to share it with the community that completely embraces it is amazing.”

I lean back in my chair, relaxing and enjoying the company of my guest. “What do you think is the status of Steampunk belly dancing in the United States? Is it growing, changing?”

“From what I have seen, it is a small light in a world of dancing.” Katara spreads her hands as she speaks. “The belly dance community is aware enough of Steampunk to love it, but may not have quite ‘gotten it’ yet. It is definitely finding its niche though, and starting to get a following. An example: about a year ago I performed in a belly dance show completely themed ‘Steampunk’, people loved it, and the community really came out for it.”

Diosa

Diosa

Having picked up my teacup and drinked the last of my tea, I set it on the table. “I have to say the steampunk costumes of the Osiris Dance company are perhaps the best I’ve seen. Exquisite. Who makes the costumes for your dancers?”

Diosa smiles as she answers. “Both Katara and I create our own costumes. Sometimes we’ll make our own individual costumes or design/make costumes for the troupe. I made the ‘western-influenced’ costume pictured here, though I’ve made Domba-inspired tribal costumes made with tassels and kutchies for our troupe. Katara also designed and created her ‘Victorian-influenced’ costume posted in this interview. She is also a professional seamstress and takes on the bulk of our costuming, such as our marionette doll pieces (I love my ruffles!).”

Katara flashed a broad smile. “First – thank you! Because, I actually make a good percentage of them. My ‘real job’ is as a professional costumer, so it just made sense for me to help the troupe out in that sense. Diosa also does a lot of the work, making a lot of her costume pieces. So, we have almost complete control of our designs.”

I leaned forward in my chair, toward Diosa. “Did you find choosing dance as a career a hard or easy choice?”

I was a hobbyist at first, but eventually it lead to dancing full-time. Dancing inspired me to get my Associate’s in Exercise Science, as well as certification as a personal trainer. It’s not an easy career, as dance becomes hard on the body, just like any athlete. You need to be knowledgeable in muscle work, nutrition, history, and aware of new styles and moves. You constantly need to be on your A-game. When you are dancing upwards of 15 to 30 hours a week, your body can easily become overworked and more prone to injury. I danced full time for over a year, and as much as I love the dance, I was exhausted. I believe awareness of the dance and culture here in Arizona is sparse, so paying venues are difficult to find. Presently, I am a full-time school teacher, but I continue to perform in my spare time, and I also find joy in teaching belly dance 2-3 times a week.”

Katara nodded. “It sort of crept up on me. Granted, it’s not my only career, but considering how much of my life ended up being dedicated to dance, it just made sense.”

Katara & Diosa - comicon

Katara & Diosa – comicon

I laced my fingers together. “What advice can you give to anyone interested in becoming a professional belly dancer?”

Diosa cocked her head. “Be consistent—find a local teacher you can study with weekly and progress your training by attending master teacher workshops and/or online videos. Do your research—is this career for you? Can you support yourself financially in your area? Dance, dance, dance—find venues you can perform at to get your name out into the community and connect with your audiences. Abandonment—get rid of all your inhibitions. Your audience can clearly see if you’re embarrassed, fearful, or preoccupied. Let loose in your dance! Teach—there’s no better way to improve your own technique than to teach others.”

Katara tilted her head toward me. “Take every class you can find. All kinds of styles – every kind will help your overall dance ability. And take every opportunity to perform you can find. Get as comfortable in front of an audience as possible and learn how to perform to them. Your technique is important, but if you can’t connect to the audience, you’ll lose them.”

I see the teacups are rattling on the coffee tale. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for one last question. “What future aspirations do you have for the Osiris dance company?”

Diosa inclined her head toward me. “I would love to continue challenging ourselves with choreography and storytelling. We have learned a lot working with each other all these years, from staging to personal space, I hope one day we can specialize a class teaching duos our choreography and how to dance with each other.”

Katara tilted her head in a nod. “I want to keep improving and creating some of the most interesting performances around. I really love the more theatrical pieces Diosa and I have been coming up with lately. It’s the sort of thing I’ve always wanted to do! And I do hope to compete out of state again.”

Well maybe I can squeeze in one more question as I clutch both arms of my chair for the airship landing. “Speaking of competitions, what dance competitions or live performances do you have coming up, when and where?”

Diosa grasps hold of the arm and back of the settee, bracing for the shakiness of the landing. “Our upcoming performances are the Tucson Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention on March 8th and the Phoenix Comicon Labyrinth Masquerade Ball on May 24th.”

The ship has landed so we say our good byes. Diosa picks up her sword and fan and dances off the airship along with Katara, but you can visit them anytime at their website. Please comment or ask questions below.

Maeve Alpin

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I have a special treat for everyone today, and I don’t mean the drop of whiskey I put in the tea, Camryn Forrest has boarded the airship today. She is a Steampunk artist, who works with  the enchanting, whimsical and technical art of water globes and snow globes. We take our seats on the crimson settee in the parlor just in time for tea. The engine purrs for take off.

Airship One

Airship One

“Camryn, we’re so pleased to have you aboard the Steamed airship today. Your Steampunk globes are fascinating. Why did you choose this particular art?” I lean toward her. “What draws you to water globes and snow globes?”

 “I am drawn to small items. As a child, I made my own dollhouse furniture – carving little legs for my chairs, making a clay bird in a wire cage, covering tiny books with strips of leather and painting titles on the bindings. Over the years, I’ve collected tiny chairs, souvenir buildings, bone china animals, Micro Machines, Little Kiddles and painted lead soldiers. I loved Hot Wheels and anything small enough to be in a vending machine. Once, I helped my mother with a dollhouse, embroidering tiny bits of cloth for bedspreads and framing postage stamps for wall art. My father use to pour and cast his own toy soldiers and I helped with the tiniest painting details.

Birdcage Gramaphone

Birdcage Gramaphone

A family member repairs and makes snow globes, which has always fascinated me. I always looked for them at fine arts shows, and never saw any. Not a one.  I’m not a pink and purple Disney princess kind of person. I longed for snow globes made for grownups, with the quality and depth of the artwork I loved from other artists. I wanted to see snow globes that made me think and feel the way I do about other art.

Rough Sailing

Rough Sailing

So I took my love for tiny things and my appreciation of snow globes and put them together. It wasn’t easy … I knew I didn’t want ‘snow’ – the crushed white pieces in most snow globes – so I thought it would be cool to use tiny watch gears as glitter. Well, it doesn’t work. I kept that first test globe and the metal gears have disintegrated into a little pile of rust. Shake it and you see nothing but brown.

I had no idea about the types of objects and items which could handle submersion in liquid. There was no guidebook. So it’s been a labor of love, trial and error. I’ve talked to guys at the hardware store about sealants. I’ve tested items for weeks, letting them sit in liquid. The family snow globe repairman, who I sometimes call my snow globe engineer, is my patient mentor. His do’s and don’ts are invaluable. From seeing the workings of hundreds of broken globes he’s fixed, he knows what will work and what won’t. He lets me know when I head too far down the wrong path. You can torture me all you want, but I’m not giving up his name – at his request.”

“Oh, no, dear, I wouldn’t think of it, here on Steamed, we reserve torture for enemies of the Queen, but a snow globe engineer, I like the sound of that, whimsical and technical, heavy and light, just the way I like my steampunk. Speaking of which, why Steampunk?” I poured a cup of tea and offered it to her.

“I love the contradiction of steampunk and snow globes. One of the first times I told anyone what I was doing, he said ‘That doesn’t make any sense. Those two things do not go together.’ And that egged me on: I loved the challenge of proving it could work.” Camryn took a sip of tea then set the saucer on the round, marble top coffee table.

“An early comment that stuck  with me, about my first series, came from another friend. In a puzzled voice she told me, ‘They are so masculine.’ I took it as a compliment. I love the contrast of machinery and hardware, and the dark colors of steampunk metals and rich wood in a snow globe, an object that is often sweet and cloying, pink and pretty. I wanted power, not pretty.

I don’t consider myself purely a steampunk artist. I’ve thought about it every which way, and the truth is my notebooks of sketches and designs for snow globes precede my awareness of the Steampunk movement, which is fairly recent. (Here is where I must give credit to two people who brought Steampunk to my attention, John S. and Max G., who are much hipper than I will ever be, introduced me to the genre.) The first time I saw something called Steampunk, I felt a huge connection. Steampunk appealed to me in a deja vu kind of way; it made so much sense to me. I felt at home. The craftsmanship, the appreciation of detail, the willingness to take the time to make something by hand … it all calls to my sensibilities.

Raygun Shaken

Raygun Shaken

On the other hand, I was already making artwork that looks like the work I do now, long before the term “steampunk” entered my experience. I admit that I’m very influenced by Steampunk icons and images –  obviously I would not likely have airships and ray guns otherwise – but some of my work, such as the Escheresque staircases, and the glass heart series, are simply sculptures I wanted to make, regardless of the style. Steampunk purists, if there is such a thing, can argue amongst themselves what makes artwork steampunk or not. I’ve been called a Steampunk tourist, and I accept that with a chuckle. I’m grateful the steampunk “natives” allow some of us to visit their world now and then, and soak up the culture. When I contribute, it’s my own vision, and if someone appreciates it, I’m glad, but I would have made it either way; that’s how my mind works.”

“Believe me, when I look at these globes I see you, their creator, more as a tour guide then a tourist. They are Stempunk to me. In my opinion your passion to contribute your own vision is the essence of Steampunk.” I dropped two sugar cubes into my cup and stirred. “A lot of work must go into making your vision real. How long does it take you to create a Steampunk water globe or snow globe?”

Camryn leaned against the velvet cushioned back of the settee. “You can measure that two ways: how long it would take to make a snow globe if I knew exactly what I was going to make, and how long it takes when I go through trial and error, mixing different elements, sculpting/molding/remolding pieces to the right size and shape, and getting distracted, leaving pieces half-done to work on something else. The simplest answer is, I might produce one completed snow globe every two weeks.

Uncharted Skies

Uncharted Skies

Last spring, I wanted to make a metallic hot air balloon — not much more than an inch tall. I worked on this concept for several months. I made balloon shapes too large to fit in a globe or too ornate or too simple. They just didn’t look right. I wanted a feeling of adventure, not a circus ad. Finally one day I completed two balloons that came out well. Then I went through another process to decide what to put below the balloons. One has a wire basket, with more nautical details such as an anchor and ship’s wheel. The other is a tiny clay sailing ship with metal sails. Then, I installed the balloon sculptures with each raised a little. One is carried on wispy tendrils, intentionally vague – they might be ocean waves or they might be the tentacles of a sea creature reaching up. The other has cloud-like shapes below the ship. So those globes, from start to finish, took all spring – several months. I hope the next time I’m inspired to make a hot air balloon, I’ll be able to use what I have learned to streamline the process a little, but I don’t know.

Circular Logic

Circular Logic

I timed myself once, to answer the question, ‘how long does it take?’ Another globe, Circular Logic is basically a Ferris Wheel-inspired curious invention of spinning gears. The entire family went away for a weekend and I stayed on task with that one sculpture, working 18 hours with almost no breaks to complete the intricate machine. With no one home to tell me it was time to go to bed or I should eat,  I kept working on it, having a great time. I survived on Mountain Dew and pretzels. That gives you an idea of the range of time I will spend on any one globe. Usually I’ve got five or six sculptures partially begun and will work a little here, a little there, so it’s hard to know how long any one can take.

Love Complicated

Love Complicated

I rub my lips together. “My next question may be as difficult to answer as how long does it take. Which is of all your wonderful creations, which globe is your favorite?”

“Tough question, it depends on my mood. I thought Love, It’s Complicated and the Always heart were very simple and beautiful. Deadline featured a tiny antique typewriter, which is one of my favorite items, and now belongs to a former journalist, so I have great memories of that one.  It has a lot of details, such as copy editor’s notes and a message hammered into metal “paper” curling out from the typewriter platen, that only the owner can see now, making it cool in its own way. Ray Gun One was a challenge to myself to make a believable raygun, and it always makes me smile.

Rain Gear

Rain Gear

But actions probably speak louder than words. The only one I have on my desk, is Rain Gear. I absolutely LOVE the jaunty little step from my headless robot stomping in rain puddles. I am intrigued that a pair of metal galoshes can project emotion. So I can babble all day about which ones I love, but Rain Gear is the only one I’ve kept for myself so far.

Snow Globe Array

Snow Globe Array

I glance at some of her snow globes , arranged on the crisp white table cloth on the round table at the side of the settee. “Rain Gear is  intriguing. Actually, they are all incredible, but as a writer the one you just described, Deadline, fascinates me. Speaking of writing, when any author looks at your globes, I’m sure your creations trigger a slew of story premises and plots. I just have to ask you the question always asked of writers, how do you come up with your ideas?”

“I am both a writer and a visual artist, and while I have occasionally dealt with writers’ block, so far I have never had artist’s block. Case in point: by just writing the phrase ‘artist’s block’ I thought of a way to illustrate that in a globe, maybe with a cube with six different archetypes shaken like a die. Perhaps a Magic Eight Ball for creative types. But I digress …)

Images and ideas tumble around my brain like a shaken snow globe, whirling and spinning, balancing precariously atop one another. One weird thing is, I keep notebooks where I dash off snow globe ideas as they come to me, sketch little scenes, capture a pun to name the globes, but I rarely go back and look at the past ideas. When I’m in the workshop, the materials themselves suggest new shapes and landscapes.

I recently got up at about 3 or 4 a.m. whirling with ideas I wanted to capture and I spent an hour or so dashing them on paper. Then I turned the page BACK to see the previous entry and it said ‘Drink deeply from the stars.’ I don’t know what I was going for with that phrase, but I want to ponder it and make it real.

There are so many snow globes I’d like to make. I will get inspired by a word I hear, or a shape, a shadow, a snippet of a song or the way someone repeats a phrase. The nose of an Elmer’s glue container, the little orange cap, inspired one of my first airship sculptures.  I ‘saw’ the glue bottle for the first time, clearly, and thought, ‘that’s the nose of a zeppelin.’ I have no idea where that thought came from; I’d only seen Elmer’s Glue a thousand times before. That flash of inspiration prompted me to sculpt a shape that would pass for an airship.

Any small thing can capture my attention, such as a piece of twisted metal in the street, a broken toy, the way a stack of coffee stirrers is displayed at a shop. I love wandering through hardware stores, looking at random pieces of plumbing pipe, nuts and bolts, repair kits for garbage disposals. Recently, the back of my office chair fell off. Instead of inspecting the damage to the chair or putting it back together, I spotted a strange gear that had come loose, and thought, ‘Where can I can more of these?’

Shoes Your Weapon

Shoes Your Weapon

I am also a word person. Words can start a chain-reaction of images in my brain. When I heard the old Gene Autry song, I began to mentally sketch a man climbing down a ladder through a manhole opening into a dark and murky place. Back in The Sad-Hole.

I love verbal and visual puns, such as Shoes Your Weapon – which is a cannon made from a Victorian laced-up boot. I’m working on one called Too big for his bridges. I love merging words and shapes, and twisting tired clichés so they are fresh. I crack myself up, and I pretty much create everything selfishly because it inspires or amuses me. The ideas bombard me constantly. I’ll be reading a book (Cloud Atlas, at the moment) and suddenly I’m reaching for my notebook to capture a passing thought.”

I pick up my porcelain cup and take another sip of sweet, warm tea. “I can feel your creative energy as your talking. Exhilarating. Speaking of globes sure to inspire writers, your airship voyager water globe is another work of art sure to trigger story ideas.

Airship Voyager

Airship Voyager

I blame a writer named StoshK for that one. StoshK wrote a short, complimentary blog about my snow globes and included a note that I should realize more airship snow globes were needed – just a little joke in the article. But, it stuck with me for some reason, in a positive way.

Then, a museum asked for several pieces for a special exhibition, and one was my original airship StoshK liked, which had sold. I couldn’t get the original back to be loaned for the museum exhibit, so I thought, ‘well, I’ll just make a new one.’

The new airship refused to be a duplicate of the first. It felt darker and richer, and I wanted it to be more powerful in a way. I wanted the ship to have gone places, done things, survived hardships, led adventures.  I had seen Steampunk images of great airships carrying sailing ships below a zeppelin and dismissed them as too intricate for something as small as a snow globe. And as I sat in the workshop trying to remake the first airship, I kept creeping toward the idea of a sailing ship below.  It just felt right to go that direction.

I loved the idea of taking a ‘ship in a bottle’ and making it an airship in a bottle (snow globe), both balance and contradiction. Once the idea got stuck in my head, the only way to release it was to make it real. I  worked on it until I solved all the technical problems that made it seem impossible.  When I look at Airship Voyager now, I am sure it has been places and seen things, it feels real to me.”

Point of View

Point of View

After setting the cup back on its saucer, I clasped my hands together. “It’s incredible, I love it. You mentioned your interest in phrases such as ‘point of view’ and your globe by that name is pure genius. An incredible piece of art. I can’t imagine the time and  work that went in to creating such a marvel. I often find life is like climbing a staircase sideways. Then, when you turn the globe upside down or on its side you get a different view. It’s like several globes in one. I could look at it all day.”

“I’m glad you mentioned Point of View.  It’s a departure from what most consider pure Steampunk – but again, I make what interests me and try not to edit myself by sticking with a single style. I’ve always loved Escher, but I didn’t set out to make that globe consciously as a tribute. It snuck up on me. While working on a tiny Plexiglas escalator for a postponed project called Reincarnation, I briefly set the stair sculpture on its side. Suddenly, looking at the stairs from a different direction, reality shifted sideways. I realized the stairs went up,  down, and sideways depending on where I placed the figures.

Crossroads

Crossroads

From there, I was obsessed for a while, with Point of View and a similar globe, called Corporate Ladder (I may be the only person who finds the idea hilarious.) Then I put a family of fishermen on a criss-crossed stairway, and added poles, and called it Fishing the Black Hole as the fishing lines broke different planes in the design.

But my favorite in  the series is Not a level playing field in which I put football players into Escher’s uneven, gravity-defying world, and had the wide receiver at one angle, the quarterback throwing into hyperspace, and would-be tacklers reaching into a new dimension. I think I’ll go back to that idea again sometime, because it was fascinating to realize in a snow globe, I am in charge of the law of gravity. It’s a heavy responsibility, running around breaking the laws of physics.

I’m working on a new stairway series now, but instead of plexiglas, I am using old computer circuit boards to make the stairs – still with little figures breaking the plane of perception and ignoring the laws of gravity. It has a ‘Tron’ feeling to it, being inside the machine. I always sensed  little figures inside my laptop ran around retrieving files and saving my work, so I am comforted to see them.”

I shift one arm to my side, while resting he other on my lap. “Speaking of breaking the laws of physics, I have to ask you about Tesla.  I love that you appreciate his scientific work for its artistic quality as well as its contributions to modern day life and our future. What artistic qualities do you see in his inventions?”

Tesla Coil Copper

Tesla Coil Copper

The shapes used in Tesla’s inventions and machines are so beautiful. They are meaningful to scientists, but even if they produced nothing, I would be inspired. I love his wrapped copper coils and the visible bursts of light and energy. The proportions of the upright Tesla coil are like a man-made flower, a blossom of energy. I’m drawn to the straight lines, the encircled columns and the unpredictable element of electricity. The copper and brass is stunning. Simply beautiful. He blended symmetry and balanced assymetry in an unspeakably gorgeous and inspiring way.

I think, at some place beyond my understanding, Tesla’s work tapped into the very nature of the universe. In the way that an insect’s wings or a cross-section of a tree or the Grand Canyon is perfect, there is something perfect about the shape of Tesla’s inventions, pared down the essence of what works.

Tesla Mends A Broken Heart

Tesla Mends A Broken Heart

I shut my eyes a moment as I think about it. “Art and science merged as one. Incredible.” Blinking my eyes open, I see the tea cups are rattling on the coffee tale. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I lean forward and ask Camryn my last question. “What water globes and snow globes are you working on now?”

“I’ve been toying with one called I Love Sho, an homage to footwear, which I seem to collect in real life. The interior has about a dozen tiny shoes in an abstract sculpture: boots, heels, slip-ons … it’s just something fun, and I’m addicted to visual puns.

I also just combined the horn of a tiny gramophone with a glass heart. In contrast to some of my intricate sculptures, it is simple and yet very appealing. I had a long and complicated title for it, but then I shorted it to one word, Listen. When I look at it, I get a pang. It will be hard to part with it.

On a lighter note, I am working on rocket ships and space themes. I have a rocket ship going into a black hole and another with a decked-out Steampunk flying saucer hovering over what might be the moon. I wanted to make a special globe for TeslaCon, with rows of flying saucers at a drive-in movie, watching ‘Trip to the Moon’ (the 1902 movie), with the rocket-in-the-moon’s eye image popping off the screen in 3D. I’ll do it someday, but I couldn’t work out the technical details yet. The drive-in screen was only about ¾” wide, for example, which gave me about a half inch for the rocket. But it will happen in some form. It’s too appealing not to try.

A recent breakthrough for me is the double-tiered globe. I made the first one for a display for the Sacramento Steampunk Society, after an inspiring conversation with one of the members, Doug Hack (perhaps better known as Alexander Watt Babbage.) The water globe sits above a columned base and has liquid-filled pieces as well as air-filled space in the tier below. By breaking the plane of the glass globe, and continuing the design into the open space, it opens a new frontier for my work.”

“The airship has landed, drawing the interview to a close. But before you go back to your studio, I want to share your calling card with all our readers.”

http://camrynforrest.com/
Camryn Forrest Designs

Also five of her  pieces are on display at the Glass Museum in Sandwich,MA, from November 19 to December 30, 2012, as part of a special event on the history of snow globes.

Readers if you have any questions are comments on Camryn and her globes, please post them below.

Maeve Alpin

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Artist Michael Treat

Artist Michael Treat

The airship just landed in Minnesota at the twin cities. I’ve loved Minneapolis and St. Paul ever since the Mary Tyler Moore show and today we’re here to welcome aboard Steampunk Artist Michael Treat. “This way, “ I say and we are soon in the parlor and he’s sits on the  hand carved, chenille upholstered settee.

I slide down into the matching cushioned side chair and offer him some freshly brewed coffee rather than tea. “ I notice you’re known as a coffee snob and you created a fabulous collection of wine and coffee art. Since most writers are heavy coffee drinkers and people love to go to coffee shops to read, the literary world also considers coffee to be pretty important, so I have to ask, what is your favorite coffee or coffee shop?”

Holding the porcelain coffee cup, he takes a sip. “My favorite coffee is most definitely light roast. Ideally, I prefer something above a New England roast and a tad under a Full City roast. I usually prefer beans from Latin America; Guatemalan, Bolivian and Peruvian beans are some of my favorites. Lately I’ve been brewing coffee from the Dominican Republic. I also enjoy coffee with African origins. Rwandan coffee is fabulous. I’ll only drink dark roast if I roast the beans myself. I produce a really nice Italian roast all my dark roast friends love.

Whenever I can get them, there are beans from the Yemeni Republic that are limited to a few harvest weeks in the summer months that are THE BEST I’ve ever tasted. The soil and altitude they grow at are unique and the quantity is extremely limited. I like to sit and watch the beans change colors inside the glass roasting chamber with a new, brilliant color about every fifteen seconds or so. Now that I made my previous artistic hobbies into my job, home roasting coffee has become a hobby of mine that I truly enjoy.

As for going out for coffee, Minneapolis is full of great coffee shops. My neighborhood has a few that I frequent including Fire Roast Mountain, The Riverview Café and the Blue Moon. There is also a wonderful biker themed coffee shop in Uptown Minneapolis that is open late called Bob’s Java Hut. One of my new favorite haunts is in St Paul called Quixotic where they handcraft each cup you order.”

“How  yummy. Apparently coffee goes as well with art as it does with reading and writing.” The coffee cups rattle slightly as the airship lifts off. “I’ve been wondering, what inspired you to take your art in a Steampunk direction?”

He set his cup down on the mahogany coffee table and leaned back against the deep red cushioned seetee. “For me, I think it all started when I began working with materials that are dominant in the Steampunk genre including leather, unbleached fabrics, lace, grommets, eyelets, tack and  wood. Oh–and of course all of those metals! I very much enjoy working with brass, copper, wrought iron and rusty steel with all of their tarnish and patinas. I enjoy working with each material individually, and combining them in new and different ways.

As I learned more and more about the genre, and researched what it was about,  I realized I had found a place to incorporate those elements and the styles into just about anything I could imagine. I love the Steampunk genre because of the modification process that Steampunk allows, and often even demands!

I also really feel a sort of kinship with the American Old West. I admire the optimism that came along with all the hardships and uncertainties of that time period. I also enjoy how that unique creativity, optimism and sense of possibilities and vision is reflected in those who live the Steampunk lifestyle today.”

We both set our cups down and I refilled each with the steamy dark brew. “It’s wonderful you were drawn to Steampunk with your art for the same reasons most writers are drawn to the genre.  In fact you are a writer yourself as you write comics, what similarities and differences do you find in the creative process between literate and visual art?”

“Drawing is a skill that is incorporated into just about everything I do. Whether it’s technical or totally expressive, being able to draw has served my creative process well. I’m a fan of graphic novels because they challenge writers to present the fundamental elements of a  story to the artist to then fill in the visual needs of the piece. I still enjoy text based novels as I like to create my own images in my mind to complement the story. It’s also fun to see someone else’s interpretation of a writer’s ideas or to be the person who gets to share your images with others and help create the story for that new audience.

I took a class with Allyson McGhee (NY Times best seller and Pulitzer Prize Nominee for Shadow Baby) in 2004 and completed an alternative assignment: a comic page with two or more characters discussing a pair of broken glasses. I chose that assignment over an essay about my job; at that time I was a corrections officer in a maximum security prison.

The next day I showed it to the class and Allyson and my fellow writers received it with unexpected praise and enthusiasm. At the end of the course, she told me, “I know you want to write novels, but you should really consider doing something with your cartooning and your ability to draw well.” That advice stuck with me and I began to seriously study cartooning and comics. In 2005, I even ended up creating a comic strip versions of the chronicles of Gary “The Walkingman” Hause on his website.  Walkingman Cartoons

He showed me The Adventures of The Walkingman. “This is better than my favorite Penney Dreadful. Indeed, you ar quite a talented writer as well as an artist. Keep it up and you can’t go wrong with advice from award winning, best seller author Allyson McGhee.” We both set our cups down on the coffee table and I brimmed them full of more strong coffee. “You work in all these different artistic areas comics, jewelry, sculptures, collages and paintings. What is your favorite?”

“While I enjoy each artistic area in it’s own right, I think I enjoy comics the most. I get to make one thing and technology does the rest – thank you Mr. Guttenberg and your printing press. I also like that it’s the first art form that I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with other artists/writers and not do all the work on my own. I also enjoy working on projects that defy one clear category.”

“Your comics are soo good, I can certainly see why you enjoy that medium but all your art is fabulous. I especially find your Bonzo sculpture intriguing. Tell me about it?”

“Bonzo was a 1/6 scale scratch figure I started without any clear picture in mind. At that point, I was just learning how to work together the brass, copper, and wood bits you see in the piece. His creation covered two projects for me: making a from-scratch steampunk-themed robot figure and creating a vehicle in the same scale/size. He has a driver/partner whose a cyborg that has some fun accessories I made totally from scratch as well.

Bonzo, an original steampunk creation of Michael Treat

Bonzo, an original steampunk creation of Michael Treat

Bonzo and his driver, B Scott Quigley, are a delivery and conveyance team. Basically, they’re like a Victorian era version of FedEx and your local cab company combined into one.

I learned a lot from creating these two including metal and wood working, leather craft, basic mechanics, and image reduction, a technique which I used for making tiny gages on the instrument panels.

People who see Bonzo are most impressed with his head sculpt but it was actually the easiest part of the piece to complete. The hardest part was his core. Putting that together was tough! And his hands. They’re totally functional. But a whole other story.”

After another sip of the rich, smooth coffee, I set my cup down. “A Victorian era FedEx, I love that. You mentioned you began Bonzo without any clear picture in mind.  Do you usually sketch your art out before beginning your sculptures, jewelry, and paintings? What is your creative process?”

“I do a lot more of that now. I like to have as clear of a plan of what it is I’m trying to accomplish before I execute the creation process. However, there are times when I just have to pick my material and my tools, and just allow a piece to manifest.”

I grabbed my fan off the table and with a flick of my wrist I spread it, fluttering it in front of my face. It gets a little stuffy in the airship. “You are so talented.  I was wondering how young you were when you first became involved in art?”

“My talent was first noticed in third grade when I got a drawing published in a school paper . I drew an armored car that I used to see driving by the school yard daily. Drawing for me was just something that happened, until I decided to take art seriously and pursuit it professionally, most of the art I created just sort of happened. Now, I work in such a way that I regularly create a space for my creative process to happen on a daily basis.”

I shut my fan and placed it in my lap. “You put that so beautifully. It’s the same process for writers, at first we write when in the mood but to write professionally you have to make your own mood. It’s hard to explain that sometimes to non-writers or beginner writers but you said it so well. Apparently that’s another way in which visual art and literary art are similar. Speaking of your art, your wonderful creations, what are your personal favorites and why?”

“Generally, I don’t get too attached to my own work. While I’m proud of what I produce, for me it’s sort of like being a chef who prefers to cook for the enjoyment of others and have someone else prepare a dish for him or her at the end of the day.

I do have one specific coffee collage that I created that I do really like. It has an old west/Victorian/Steampunk feel to it.

Kitchen Art: Coffee Mug Collage No. 5

Kitchen Art: Coffee Mug Collage No. 5

More recently, I’ve been doing some cityscape work, for the LoLa Art Crawl, an event by a group to which I belong called the League of Longfellow Artists, I created two cityscapes. I was inspired by Checo Diego’s “You Are Here I” and “You Are Here II” drawings. With that inspiration, as well as being inspired by the skylines of the Twin Cities, I created a pen and pencil sketch of each skyline and transferred those drawings to 40″ x 60″ canvases. I find that I can look at those two pieces and feel happy with how they turned out. I also very much enjoyed talking with people about those pieces, and I really enjoyed going through each skyline with natives to the area and picking out points of interest that I incorporated into the drawings.”

LoLa Art Crawl, Site 14: Merlin’s Rest: Mike Treat, Smirking Tiger, with St Paul Cityscape and 2 wine paintings.

The cups began to rattle again. “We are landing. Let me ask just one more question. It’s about your Etsy gallery, I love the name Smirking Tiger and your logo is so simple yet stunning, what inspired you to come up with that name and logo?”

“The name of my Etsy shop, and my business, is a good example of how my artistic skills can benefit others, but not necessarily my own immediate needs. My wife, Brenda Peterson, and I brainstormed to come up with a name for my business. After deciding on Smirking Tiger, it was definitely a challenge to determine how to draw a relatively simple representation of a smirking tiger for the logo. It was tough!

I probably sketched two full pads of ideas out with hundreds of rough images and ideas, eventually getting to the point of doing some decent finished works of tigers, but it still didn’t seem quite right. I was missing the mark on  my goal of creating a simple, eye catching image that evoked curiosity and piqued people’s interest in what this whole “Smirking Tiger” thing was all about.

That’s when my wife showed me the Chinese symbol for king, and a description that said the following: “Facial markings on the tiger’s forehead resemble the Chinese character for King (and interestingly enough, the Korean character for Queen), therefore, the Chinese see the tiger as the King of Beasts.”  Here is the picture that she originally showed me.

King Tiger

King Tiger

Since my astrological sign is also the tiger, my wife then suggested I modify this symbol to incorporate the smirk where the straight lines originally were. I was approaching a deadline when I needed to finalize my new logo. I put aside my perfectionism and went with her idea. I worked in the smirking expression form and a couple of physical characteristics of what a smirking tiger might look like.  From there, my new logo was born. What I originally considered my “temporary” logo, I’ve now adopted as my personal brand and avatar.”

 Smirking Tiger logo.

Smirking Tiger logo.

He grasped onto his settee and I onto my chair as the ship rocked slightly. “What a wonderful story, it makes the logo even more interesting. I hate to say it but we have landed. I must bid you farewell so you can return to your studio and create more stunning Steampunk art.

Michael Treat creating a wine painting at the LoLa Art Crawl

Michael Treat creating a wine painting at the LoLa Art Crawl

But I and all the Steamed readers can always visit you at  Smirking Tiger on  Etsy,  Smirking Tiger on  Pinterest and your Smirking Tiger Steampunk Figures on Pinterest as well as Smirking Tiger Steampunk Jewelry on Pinterest plus Smirking Tiger on Facebook & Smirking Tiger on  Twitter

~

Maeve Alpin

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Today we have guest blogger Ramon Fagan.

Ramon Fagan, LCSW (aka “Admiral” Ramon Leon del Mar) writes articles and reviews for Convention Fans Blog Magazine and for 6 different online Steampunk magazines as well as for his own personal blog at http://artofsteampunk.blogspot.com

Interview With Airship Isabella: Their Past, Present, and Future

by Ramon Fagan

Airship Isabella has become quite a sensation as a Steampunk Performance Art Airship in Texas, the surrounding states, and at many conventions throughout the country. This has happened in an amazingly short amount of time through hard work and consistent effort to perform and spend time with fans at all the conventions. They also are willing to go to conventions too remote to generally receive a visit from say, “The League of Steam”. Airship Isabella has built a great fan base and has risen to the point where they can expect to be welcomed as one of the Guest Celebrity Groups at any convention or event they choose to attend in little over a year. They state in a “You tube” video their intention to help others that want to break out of the chains on people’s minds and lives that are imposed by large corporations set to make a profit at any cost. In spite of how well known and popular they have become there are still many questions that remain unanswered about where they came from and where they are headed, so this blogger set about to put before them a rather lengthy list of questions that focus heavily on the character acting aspects of their work. Most groups would simply use such a list as an unusually guest friendly situation where there were enough questions to answer the ones that were most comfortable and ignore the rest, but in their usual fashion, Captain Whittaker and his other half Amelia answered every question put before them quite candidly. I learned that they gathered many or most of the Airship family about them, (including Captain Delacru and the crew of their sister ship the Neo Dulcimer) to read the list of questions and get general feedback and suggestions before writing an answer to each. The list is long enough that it will be offered to several Steampunk Magazines as smaller topographical groups of interview questions with answers, but the interview will appear in it’s entirety only on the Convention Fans Blog Magazine website.

 1. What was your first exposure to Steampunk as an actual subculture. (as opposed to say Steampunk movies or fiction books)

Ikkicon IV, officially. But even then we didn’t necessarily see it as a subculture, but more as an aesthetic movement. Events of that weekend did, however, cement in our minds that there was a definite attitude about steampunk, specifically that it was a snobby, elitist white movement that we wanted nothing to do with. We also realized that weekend that there were many people in the steampunk movement that wanted to see that change. As we started talking to people, we made it our personal mission to change that attitude and belief. A lot of our personal philosophies of what the steampunk subculture is and should be developed out of that convention and grew as we realized there were many other groups with the same ideas.

2. When did you first encounter people in steampunk attire that was distinctive enough to really draw attention and what effect did it have on you?

In the Summer of 2008, we had a friend who called us and said “I found your people!” She told us to look up steampunk on the internet, and we were immediately enthralled. I had been wearing the Victorian “goth” style since the 80’s and hadn’t really given it up. Steampunk was a natural evolution and was beautiful. We were members of the Burning Flipside community at the time, and decided to do a steampunk-based theme camp, specifically, we decided to build a two story “airship” dance camp. It eventually wound up in my front yard as a 50’ X 20’ two story structure that appeared at Flipside 2009, and we called it Airship Isabella.

3. When did you first decide to develop a fictional Steampunk Character Personae, and what do you think motivated you to do so.

We first decided to build characters after Flipside 2009. Originally, it was just and extension of the inspiration that the steampunk aesthetic had infused within us. Then it developed into who we would be within the crew, and grew from there.

4. What prompted your choices in development of your personal character?

We based most of our characters on the people portraying them. It’s always easier to act as someone you truly understand. So most of the characters are bigger than life versions of ourselves. We have our vampires and a clockwork doll, but mostly it’s just us on steroids.

5. At what point did this Steampunk Personae become more than just a guide for wardrobe development and begin to be a character you acted out or used as a personality pattern to guide your responses or behaviors in a public setting.

From the very beginning. The personae were developed specifically for crowd interaction and performance, so it’s always been our goal to have them be dynamic characters. Before we started the circuit we had about two months of twice a week character building and acting classes. It wasn’t enough. But the characters are always growing. It was last summer that they started having a life of their own.

6. As you and your crew are best known for expertise in the creation of fabulous Steampunk Ensembles, accessories, and weapons, and for running panels/teaching classes about these skills, what would you like to share about background or previous experiences that you think helped you to develop these talents in steampunk design and fabrication?

Captain Whittaker apprenticed as a leather worker and chainmailler as a teenager and young adult in the SCA. Most of the skills he uses in building his armor come from there. He just recently began apprenticing again with an armorer. Amelia started sewing doll clothes at 4 and it has been a lifelong passion. We have quite a few incredibly talented artists. Amarante, Lulu, Captain Delacru and of course, Jonsey, have backgrounds in art. Mostly, though, all it takes is a desire to learn and create, and a willingness to practice and keep trying.

7. When and with what basic plan did you decide to make character acting in a public setting a significant part of your steampunk existence? Or if you do not do character acting much at this point, what other roles do you most often perform in the crew.

We have always wanted to have character play an important part in our crew. The biggest issue you are going to have, and we did have, in performing original characters is that it takes time for people to get to know your characters. We generally don’t have an hour or two with people in seats to build character and storyline. So, you have to do the leg work in advance and have distinctive appearance cues to help people enter that suspended reality.

The full article can be found at http://conventionfansblog.com

Learn more about Airship Isabella. 

–Ramon Fagan, http://artofsteampunk.blogspot.com

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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 the elusive and mysterious Dr. Fantastique who runs the Steampunk Zine Dr. Fantastique’s Show of Wonders which features Steampunk stories, art and culture. Today he is accompanied by writer Matt Delman who is going to try to keep the Good Doctor on topic.


The Tale of the Show of Wonders

When first the darling Lolita Suzanne contacted us to write for her fine periodical of the aether, we were at a loss for the proper verbiage to communicate our delight. Then once the initial euphoria departed us, we were left with the insidious difficulty of determining what to compose for such auspicious an occasion.

What the good doctor means to say is that he couldn’t think of anything to talk about. It’s always a surprise to see him dumbstruck, so I suggested he talk about himself. In true Doctor Fantastique fashion, he immediately panned the idea.

We have informed Monsieur Delman on numerous occasions that we do not pontificate on the topic of ourself; not when so many other fine performers in the Show of Wonders have not had their opportunity in the spotlight.

And there you go being modest again. You’ve spent your life with the Show of Wonders to keep it running, and the performers and I appreciate everything you do. There’s absolutely no harm in talking about yourself once in awhile, especially considering how fascinating your life story is.

We do not appreciate this harassment, Monsieur. It has ever been our policy to not speak of our past, and we do not intend to countermand this under such pressure as yours.

Your name is spreading around the Internet, Doctor. Why not give the people a taste of the man behind the Show of Wonders. Your name’s on the marquee after all, so why not give the people what they want? Isn’t that what being in the traveling show is all about?

We do not reveal our secrets. This is a fact you have heard before.

Yes, I know. “A good showman never reveals his tricks.” Suzanne’s counting on us to make this interesting though, and what better story is there than your own?

Clearly you cannot be dissuaded from this course of action. If we must tell our story, then we will tell it the way we desire to.

That’s perfectly fine, Doctor.

We were born outside the City of New York in the summer months of 1827. We are not certain of the exact date; our mother died in labor and our father spent much of his time in the bottle during our first years of life. We ran away from home at age eight — or perhaps it was age nine or ten — we do not recall the precise time.

We came upon the traveling show of Professor Astounding outside Tarrytown some time later. We had lived on the road for nearly a year; stealing from coaches and campsites along the way for sustenance and clothing. By the time we discovered the traveling show, our original clothes had turned to rags and we swathed ourselves in accoutrements too big for our small body. Winter had come on with a frigid snap that year, and we spent much time huddled in caves and under tree branches for warmth.

Professor Astounding took us captive when one of the barkers caught us trying to steal bread from the kitchen wagon. We do not know what he saw in us, but rather than turn us into the authorities, the kindly old Professor took us in as a stableboy for the horses. We traveled with the Show of Wonders all around the Northeast in the intervening years. We cared for the horses, did errands for the Professor, and helped the performers wherever we could.

Professor Astounding discovered in us a facility for juggling one day when we were caring for the horses. We believe it was in our fifteenth year that we joined the Show of Wonders in a showman capacity. The kindly old Professor offered us a space in the juggling show, and we gladly accepted if it meant no longer caring for the horses. The jugglers accepted us as a son among their band, and showed us their secrets in how to throw the flaming torch so you never caught the burning end, how to juggle well with knives, and how to throw things at your partner quicker than the eye could see. We watched, and listened, and learned all that we could.

Until one day the lead juggler took ill, and Professor Astounding asked that we take his place on center stage. Nerves twisted our stomach tighter than any vise, but we took the stage in the jester’s garb with bells on our head and feet. We wowed the audience in Fishkill with our skill at blades and flames, and lead the show with what the Professor termed “vim and vigor.”

His pride in our performance made us joyful. We moved throughout the Show of Wonders from that day on, learning everything we could from all the performers. From the barkers we learned to be heard, from the acrobats we learned flexibility, and from the rest of the performers we learned about life and how to put on a fabulous show.

When did the Professor tell you his secret?

We are getting to that, monsieur. A spinner of tales such as yourself knows one does rush the climactic moment of one’s narrative.

True, but we’ve got a set amount of space here. And Professor Astounding’s secret is the really fascinating.

Since you are insistent on ruining the cadence of our prose, we shall move forward to the event you so wish to hear us relate. It was the summer of our thirtieth year, and we had camped near the Ohio River, when the good professor invited us into his tent one evening after a performance. He told us then that he was not a kindly man of eighty-seven as we had originally believed. Nay, he was much, much older than that. In point of fact, he had been born in the sixteenth century! We goggled at this news, as he continued to speak of working a traveling show with his mentor, the Wandering Magister.

Then, in the summer of his thirtieth year, the Magister brought Professor Astounding into his tent and informed him that it was time to enter the Professor into the Brotherhood of Wanderers — an ancient group that led traveling shows all over this world of ours. Part of the conditions for joining this fraternal organization was to accept a gift bestowed on the first Wanderer by the natural philosophers of Sumeria. This gift was one of a much-extended lifespan; the Magister was 600 years old when Professor Astounding met him.

As of the time of our meeting in the summer of 1857, Professor Astounding had already turned 400. Once he related this story to us, we watched him open an old steamer that he kept in his tent. From within, under a heap of old blankets, he withdrew a massive gearwork mechanism of copper and brass and steel. Professor Astounding flipped a switch on the rear of the device, and the gears began to spin. We stared as the gears revolved ever faster around the vertical and horizontal.

The mechanism exploded with a cacophony of light and sound. We dove in the seconds before a gear struck us in the face. When the light faded and our hearing returned, we looked up to the visage of our mentor. Professor Astounding sat on his folding chair serene as he ever was. He looked us over, and smiled wider than we had ever seen.

“Now you are a Wanderer,” he told us. “Now you are truly part of the Show of Wonders.” He placed the mechanism back in its trunk, and locked the machine away.

We took the name Doctor Fantastique after an intensive course of study we partook of in Paris. Professor Astounding would not allow us to use the appellation until we completed our studies at the University of the Fantastic. We were surprised that such an institution existed, but Professor Astounding insisted that was where all Wanderers received their monikers.

Professor Astounding retired the week we completed our matriculation. He gave us leadership over the Show of Wonders, and we have traveled the countryside with the Show for more than a century. The players in the Show of Wonders may change from year to year, but we are ever in mastery over it. We guard the mechanism ourselves now, waiting for the day when we may pass the secret on to the next member of the Brotherhood.

I met the good Doctor three years ago on Cape Ann in Northeastern Massachusetts. My car stopped on Route 128 South as I was driving home. I saw the lights, and thought maybe they’d have some jumper cables or something to help me get back home. Instead, I meant a man who called himself Doctor Fantastique and, upon hearing that I was a writer, decided to tell me a story. A very fascinating story, and one I thought made-up … until he showed me the mechanism.

I founded the magazine after much deliberation with Doctor Fantastique, who had shown a surprising love of science fiction. He wanted to see more pieces that dealt with the era of his birth, the Victorian Age, and so we agreed to start the website with the name of his traveling show attached to it. A bit of a cross-branding idea on my part. And that’s where we stand today.

——————————————————————————————————————-

Matthew Delman is the Editor/Founder of Doctor Fantastique’s Show of Wonders, the Founder of Free the Princess, co-founder of The Secret Archives of the Alliterati, and an aficionado of Steampunk in all its forms. You can also find him on Twitter at @mattdelman, @docfantastique, and @FlyingPenPress (where he is the Marketing Director).

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 Today, I want to welcome Nick Valentino the author of Thomas Riley to Steamed! I met Nick at the World Steam Expo, he was holding down a booth selling his books, as busy as he was he had time to chat with me. He is seriously one of the nicest people ever! If you are ever at one of the bazillion cons he does, make sure you stop by and say hi! He was nice enough to indulge me a few questions and he is also going to be giving away a copy of his book, Thomas Riley! So without more random ramblings from me…here is the interview with Nick!

Lolita Elizabeth: So I know you have your fabulous book, ‘Thomas Riley’ out and right now you are working on the sequel right? Tell us all about both books and where we can buy ‘Thomas Riley’!

Nick Valentino:Thomas Riley is book one in a trilogy. It’s about two weapon designers that do some bad alchemy and the only way to undo that alchemy is to kidnap the only man that has the knowledge. That same man happens to be their arch nemesis and the genius behind an enemy nation’s weaponry. Thomas Riley 2 is currently called “The Olympus” and revolves around a revenge bent ship, larger than a modern day aircraft carrier that can control the weather. Muhahaha! The book is available just about everywhere, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Joseph Beth, Davis Kidd etc… Online it’s at Amazon.com (which it’s currently on sale): http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Riley-Steampunk-Novels-Valentino/dp/1590807006/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1273528435&sr=8-1 my

website: http://www.sirthomasriley.com

LE: You also just had a steampunk anthology you are a part of release…what can you tell us about that? And where can we buy it?

NV: Last week the steampunk anthology “Dreams of Steam” was released by Kerlak Publishing. It has a ton of great writers in it and I’m very excited to have a story included. My story is called “Engine 316” which is sort of a re-telling of the Rube Burrow’s gang with a steampunk flair. Basically, Rube and his gang members rob a train with something on board that should never exist in they’re time. From there, the boys run into a problem that turns life upside down. You can get it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon or if you want to come see me at an event I’ll have copies as well. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/e/9780982374559

LE: I know you’re very busy with well, everything. So what’s a day in the life of Nick Valentino like?

NV: It depends on the day really. Every day is a chaotic adventure and really I have no set schedule. Nine out of ten times I write late at night so that’s just about the only thing that has some order to it.

LE:  How do you write? Do you need silence? Do you write to music? Tell us a little about your process.

NV: I need to be alone and I write to music. I usually literally blast whatever I think fits the scene and I just start typing away. So basically, every part of the book has a soundtrack. I wrote a lot of Thomas Riley while listening to a band called Made Out of Babies. Yeah, I realize that sounds a bit odd but they seemed to fit nicely to me with all the action. The second Thomas Riley book is much darker and has been written to faster bands. I wrote a lot of the action scenes to a band called Wolves in the Throne Room.  I’m really enjoying act two of the trilogy because I love the creepy and dark stuff the most.

LE: How do you find a balance with writing and promoting your books?

NV: Honestly it’s really difficult. I’m on the road almost all the time so I find myself writing in hotel rooms. I’m to the point where I have to be pretty mean to myself and make sure I sit down and write. Basically the schedule is a constant barrage of promotion and marketing so it’s very easy to get caught up in that.

LE: While we’re at it, what conferences, book fests, etc will you be attending around the country?

NV: Wow… There’s a ton. Here’s what’s on the books for quite some time:
– 8/5/ -8/8 – Gencon (Indianapolis, IN)
side note from lolita Elizabeth-I’m going to this con too…so excited! *grin*

– 8/14 – Hastings (Memphis, TN)

– 8/15 – Books A Million (Southaven, MS)

– 8/27-8/29 – Fan Expo 2010 (Toronto, ONT)

– 9/2-9/5 – DragonCon (Atlanta, GA)

– 9/11 – Bookmarks Book Fest (Winston-Salem, NC)

– 9/21-9/22 – NAIBA (Atlantic City, NJ)

– 9/24-9/26 – Baltimore Book Fest (Baltimore, MD)

– 10/2 – Books By the Banks (Cincinnati, OH)

– 10/8-10-10 – Southern Festival of Books (Nashville, TN)

– 10/16-10/17 – The Texas Book Festival (Austin, TX)

– 10/22-10/23 – Georgia Lit Fest (Statesboro, GA)

– 11/7 – New Orleans Book Fair (New Orleans, LA)

– 11/13 – The Kentucky Book Fair (Frankfort, KY)

– 11/19-11/20 – SteamCon (Seattle, WA)

– 1/7/11- 1/8/11 – Shadowcon (Memphis, TN)

LE: What’s been your favorite Con and why?

NV: They seriously all have a special place in my heart. I’ve never been to a bad one exactly. They’ve all been really great in some way. Besides the obvious choices of San Diego Comic Con and Dragon Con, I have to say that I had a blast at CONvergence in Minneapolis. I was on some amazing panels and sold the most books for one event for the whole year. I don’t want to discount any of the others though because every one of them has been great.

LE: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you at a signing or Con?

NV: This was pretty awesome. I met a girl at MidSouthCon in Memphis TN that bought the book the first day and stayed up all night to finish it. That’s pretty awesome considering it was one of my first cons.

LE: Besides writing, what are some of your hobbies?

NV: Haha now I travel for the book so there isn’t much time for hobbies. I love to do stencil art although I haven’t had much time for it lately. I do reviews for a yet to be produced proletariat beer review site. I’ve also been toying with modding steampunk guns which is a lot of fun. I’m also a big ice hockey fan.

LE: What are some of your favorite steampunk books to read? Any recommendations?

NV: There are a lot of steampunk books out there and while I’ve enjoyed a lot of the more popular ones, I’m really interested in the new and underground books with great stories. A lot of the really fresh authors are coming up with stories that push the boundaries of steampunk, which I’m really enjoying. Chenda and The Airship Brofman by Emilie P. Bush is a really great example. There’s also quite the spicy author of a short called “Love In A Time Of Steam” that I just finished that was really great as well. Butt kissing = accomplished. *blush* Nick, you are so sweet, even if you were just trying to get on my good side. *giggle*

LE: We want to hear more! Please let the readers know about your website, where they can get your books, your facebook and Twitter… what anything else you may want to say.

NV: It’s funny, I feel like I have a million sites so here we go with a few:

Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Riley-Steampunk-Novels-Valentino/dp/1590807006/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1273528435&sr=8-1

Barnes & Noble http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Thomas-Riley/Nick-Valentino/e/9781590807002/?itm=1&USRI=Thomas+Riley

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=lf#!/?ref=home

Twitter http://twitter.com/SirThomasRiley

Thomas Riley http://www.sirthomasriley.com

Thank you so much for the time on Steamed! I hope to see you all out on the road soon!

Thank you Nick!!

Now, I bet you all want to know how you can win your copy of Nick’s book! It’s easy comment here to be entered! If you want more chances to win post this on twitter, facebook, myspace, etc, 1 entry for each place you post this! A winner will be drawn next Thursday! So go forth and comment and post! ~Lolita Elizabeth

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I had the opportunity to interview Ben Winters, author of such mashup novels from Quirk such as Android Karenina and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

Here’s the book trailer for “Android Karenina.” In case you missed our recent book review, it’s a “mashup” where Ben has taken the text of Tolstoy’s classic and Steampunked it.

Q&A with Author Ben Winters

Lolita Suzanne: Hi Ben! Thank you so much for agreeing to visit us.

Ben Winters: Oh, my pleasure! Thanks for having me!

LS: So, Ben, have you always wanted to be a writer?

BW: Oh, sure, although my original ambitions were mostly geared writing for performance. I was always in bands, writing lyrics, and after college I spent some time doing mostly mediocre standup comedy; eventually I ended up as a journalist, and spent half a decade or so writing for the theater. These days my primary focus is on fiction.

LS: How did you get into writing mash-ups? What are the unique challenges to this particular genre that you wouldn’t find in say…urban fantasy?

BW: I got into mash-ups by the most wonderful serendipity imaginable. I was living in Philadelphia for one year, about four years ago, for reasons having to do with my wife’s career. Our little apartment in Old City, on Church Street, was across the street from a small publisher called Quirk Books.

I pitched one thing they didn’t take; edited a book for them that never got published, and finally ended up writing a bunch of the Worst Case Scenario Survival Guide books for them. So when Quirk needed a writer to follow up on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, they brought me in to do Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. It was such a blast to write, I was delighted when they were interested in having me do another.

LS: But Steampunk Tolstoy? Really? How did you come up with that? They seem to be worlds apart. What came first–the Steampunk or the Tolstoy?

BW: Actually, Tolstoy is more steampunk than you might think. At least, his work is obsessed with the ways the new technologies of his time were changing the landscape of society. Interestingly, at one point in Anna Karenina, Anna refers to her cold, uncaring husband as “a machine.” So all I did was amplify an existing theme of the book: how technology is this powerful, violent force, which can make our lives vastly easier and/or destroy us all.

LS: Are you a Steampunk fan? A Tolstoy fan? What research did you have to do in writing this book?

BW: Oh, I’ve always loved Tolstoy. I first read Anna as well as War and Peace while in college. My favorite is a smaller book, one of his first, called Childhood, Boyhood, Youth. It’s one of those books where you read it and feel like everything he’s describing — about growing up, about family, and first love, all of it — he somehow got into your head and plucked out directly.

Before this project, i was familiar with steampunk more as an sartorial/design concept, rather than as a literary genre, but I’ve now had ample opportunity to study and appreciate the whole incredible culture. I went to the Steampunk World’s Fair to do a reading, and I was just blown away by the range of imagination on display, from the gleefully silly to the grim and dark. I’m a big fan of speculative fiction in general — the idea of tugging on one strand of history and seeing how the tapestry is altered.

LS: How long did it take you to write Android Karenina?

BW: Oh, about a year. Including months of — sorry, this was actually your last question — reading: reading and re-reading the original text a lot, but also immersing myself in great sci-fi, everything from Isaac Asimov to Philip K. Dick to Iain Banks to Battlestar Galactica.

LS: Can you tell me about how (and why) you conceived the “Iron Laws of Robot Behavior?” I have to say those made me very happy. 🙂 Did you come up with them before you wrote the story? Or did they emerge as you crafted it?

BW: Hmmm — I think they emerged as I was writing. The Iron Laws are obviously an homage to Asimov, who was (like Tolstoy!) deeply interested in the relationship between man and technology.

I was interested, as legions of sci-fi writers have been before me, in the question of how we can create super-intelligent, human-like machines, without running the risk of rebellion. With all the corollary questions such as, How do we treat them humanely? How much responsibility can we give them? What does it do to our own “humanness” to rely on human-like machines? And etc.

LS: So…how much has Asimov influenced you? What other authors do you admire? What sort of books do you read?

BW: Allow me to be totally obnoxious and answer with a link; I did this blog post for Quirk about my influences in writing the book

LS: Can you tell us what’s next? Cyberpunk Dickens perhaps?

BW: Well, I know Quirk has plans to continue the series, but I’m taking a breather from mash-up land. My next book is a young adult novel about a punk-rock Band and a Chorus teacher.

LS: Congrats on the YA book. It’s always nice to have other young adult writers on.

BW: And for the record, I wouldn’t mash-up Charles Dickens with a ten foot masher-upper stick. His work is already so heightened in so many ways, it would be foolhardy to add a new, over-the-top concept to it.

LS: Hmmm….I keep having visions of Fagin and his thieves with green mohawks, motorcycles, and bionic limbs….

Thank you so much for visiting Steamed!, Ben. We appreciate you taking the time to visit us.

BW: Happy to be here! Please let your readers know how much I’ve enjoyed getting to play in the steampunk universe.

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Today I am pleased to welcome Jodi from Simply Willow! She makes the most gorgeous steampunk pieces! So join me in welcoming her!

 First off I want to say thank you for joining us here at Steamed! and take a moment to gush over how fantastic your jewelry is. It is delicate and bold and combines nature with mechanical and I think it is fabulous!

Lolita Elizabeth: I will ask the age old question I am sure you are tired of, what got you started making your lovely jewelry? 

Simply Willow: As a young single mother of 4 boys, I needed an activity that provided some alone time for me, something that I enjoyed and allowed me to explore my creativity.  I was watching a craft show with a friend that featured a beader….she bet me that I couldn’t sit still long enough to bead.  I may be high energy and easily distracted, but I’m also highly competitive.  I won the bet and found my creative outlet!  13 years later, my style has developed and grown into the unique steampunk and Victorian styles you see on my website.

LE: Did you start out making steampunk pieces or did they make an appearance later in your designing? 

SW: Steampunk came  much later!  I started beadweaving, moved to stringing.  My designs were very spiritual and off-beat.  I became interested in earthy Victorian styles and was soon hooked.  This style morphed into steampunk.  Steampunk jewelry pieces…fueled by the cogs and gears that are so often used..have an energy and a life of their own.  I often feel like my pieces create themselves!!!

LE: Do you enjoy steampunk in other aspects of your life? Or just your art? 

SW: I have always enjoyed steampunk books and movies, even though I didn’t know it was steampunk.  This was a new term to me when I first “discovered” it on etsy.  When I researched the term…i knew I had to go there.     I’m hoping to attend a con or steampunk ball sometime soon, I’ve already started working on my outfit!!!

LE: What is your biggest inspiration for your art?   

SW: I want whoever is wearing my jewelry to celebrate being female in a unique way, to see the future of a past that never was and embrace the romance of it.

LE: Do you do commission work? Have you gotten any requests for an impossible or off the wall piece?  

SW: I do limited commission pieces, I often find it a challenge to translate their vision into mine.

 I had one request for a necklace that contained a vial of liquid in the middle that gears would turn around as the liquid shifted.   Even though I had studied physics and engineering at one of the best engineering schools in the country…I had a hard time with this one and eventually had to turn down the piece.

LE: Any exciting new pieces in the works?      

 SW: My steampunk sculpture pendant line is my favourite!  Gears, cogs, winders, birds, crystals, keys…you never know what will make its way into one of these unique creations.

LE: Any favorite steampunk movies or books that inspire your work?  

SW: The His Dark Materials books have been among my favourites for many years!   I love the worlds that Mr Pullman has created and often re-read the books for inspiration.   I am looking for new steampunk authors to read and can’t wait to immerse myself in their worlds…

Thank you so much for joining us and I look forward to seeing what you create next!!

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Today we welcome the extraordinarily talented Leanna Renee Hieber, author of  The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker and the newest book in Percy’s saga The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker, which comes to bookstores April 27, 2010.  Also, Percy Parker is now going to be a musical!  Isn’t that amazing?

Lolita Suzanne: Hi Leanna, thank you so much for dropping by and helping us celebrate Steampunkapalooza! Your second book is released at the end of the month, how excited are you?

Leanna Renee Hieber: Hello Suzi and esteemed Steamed followers! Thanks for the opportunity to be here! Oh, I am SO excited for the Strangely Beautiful saga to continue I can hardly stand it! The first novel isn’t complete without this one, and I’m thrilled for the pair to be out in the world.

LS: Where did the idea for the “Strangely Beautiful” series come from? What came first, Percy or her world?

LRH: Percy came first. Like an angelic herald, and nothing else would ever be the same.

I’ve always been captivated by the mythos and archetype of the brooding, dark, Gothic hero and what it would take to get inside his head, his heart, and open him up, like shining a ray of sunlight inside. Percy was the answer to that question and to that experiment. Percy is the exact opposite of that Gothic hero archetype and is instead, his foil, and the traditional Gothic heroine (though she contains a few of my own inventions along the way). The first element of Strangely Beautiful came to me in a delirious vision, one night after play rehearsal while I was working terribly long hours as an acting intern for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, nearly 10 years ago.

The 19th century, since childhood, has been my mental playground. So into that familiar setting stepped a death-pale, ghostly, eerie young woman. She walked into Professor Rychman’s grand, richly-appointed office, stared achingly across the room at her brooding professor lit by candlelight. The tension between them was so distinct and so powerful, I was obsessed with them immediately. I was so busy that I didn’t have time to write down any notes, however while driving to rehearsal I recorded a voice memo that began with: “My life has just changed.” And then I described these two characters, and started daydreaming.

I knew from the moment I met Miss Percy that my life would never be the same because of her. I knew she would be the one to launch my career as a novelist. I didn’t know when, how, and I couldn’t know how terribly long it would take, but I knew she was the one.

LS: You mentioned to me once that “Percy Parker” was a labor of love some nine years in the making. Can you tell us a little about the whole process? It’s such a unique blend – a little gothic romance, a little adventure, a little magic…did the story’s uniqueness impact your ability to find a home for it? How would you classify the series, genre-wise, anyway?

LRH: Indeed. It was a long, hard road. I could have likely sold this story more quickly had I made it one genre rather than several, and reconciled the adult with the YA cross-over appeal, but it simply wouldn’t be my style. From agents and editors, I got a lot of “it’s good, but we don’t know what to do with it. We don’t know where to shelve it.” And so I had to wait (after more rejection letters than I care to recount) for an agent and a house who would find my cross-genre nature a strength rather than a hindrance. Dorchester is known for taking chances on distinct new voices, and I landed an agent who was looking specifically for the magical and lyrical voice my book(s) offers. And so I’m living proof that as long as you “know thyself”, and how to brand, even if the branding is cross-genre, you can find a good fit, so long as you persist and stay true to it.

However I must also say that you have to be flexible. The manuscript had countless revisions under my own hand, and then I had two revise-and-resubmit situations, one for my agent, one to gain my contract with Dorchester. These revise-and-resubmit revisions dealt with structure, pacing, and made the book a better book. These revisions did not compromise the book because both agent and editor loved the ideas, characters and tone, and that’s the true identity of a book. So as an author, knowing what can and can’t be changed is important, and being able to be flexible will make you easier to sell and keep selling during your career.

If I could pick one word by which to describe the first Strangely Beautiful, I would call it a Gothic novel. Gothic novels have a precedent for dramatic stories, for the supernatural and paranormal, as well as the fantastical. However in order to let readers know just what they’re in for, and will be in for as the series progresses, I also use all those above adjectives you used. Now it might seem at first like it’s a nonsensical jumble, but what makes these disparate elements work is the Victorian Era itself.

The Victorians were ardent spiritualists, loved ghost stories and the supernatural. Look at the literature of the time, which remains my direct source and inspiration for my work. In addition to the supernatural elements, I use Greek Mythology in my work (while taking great liberties with it). The Victorians were ardent Neo-classicists and referenced mythology in their art, architecture, literature, theatrical revivals, etc. This is the era that birthed the classic “Bulfinch’s Mythology” a standard Greek Mythological enthusiasts continue to use today. And so I pull my themes right from the fascinating Victorian psyche.

I would recommend to anyone looking to genre-blend that they see what precedent might already exist for those disparate elements coming together under a thematic whole.

LS: What’s with the long titles?

LRH: Heh, that’s all my agent’s doing. He suggested a long and descriptive title for the first book to really ‘sell’ the book from word one. And it worked, it got editors’ attention. So now it’s a matter of maintaining the brand with similarly long, descriptive titles. The marketing department both loves and hates this and my titles end up written out in-house as TSBToMPP and TDLFFPP and such.


LS: In the past decade there’s been an explosion of sub-genres. Has this growth made it easier or harder for “out of the box” stories to find homes? Are you excited with the whole movement towards genre-blending? How do you think this will influence the types of stories we’ll see on the shelves?

LRH: I’m so thrilled by the expansion of the genres. It’s an exciting time to be in the industry. I can attribute the sale of the Strangely Beautiful series to the growth of sub-genres and thank all my genre foremothers and forefathers for charting brave and wondrous new territory.  I do think the industry, readers and authors are all getting more adventurous. I love weaving genres together into a work I find stronger for the various aspects included, and I think the trends are following that desire. And I’m grateful, because frankly I don’t know how to write a book that isn’t in some way ‘cross-genre’. I think the influence will result in more and more cross-over between genres, which I think is a great thing; so long as authors still stick to the types of stories they themselves love and believe in, and don’t just cross genres haphazardly.

LS: Was “Darkly Luminous” easier or harder to write than “Strangely Beautiful?” Can you tell us anything about what happens in this next installment?

LRH:  Darkly Luminous was easier, in many ways. I was a far more disciplined writer than I was during the process of the first novel. I had the momentum of selling book 1, though it came with the pressure of expectation (and writing a book on deadline for the first time).  There are strange new nerves and neuroses with every new project, so there’s always something different to face and every book will have its obstacles.

But I knew the characters so well that they sort of poured themselves onto the page. We ‘settle in’ to all the characters more in this second installment and see much more of them all, but they don’t get any rest – it’s a high-stakes and high-passion novel. Allowing Percy and Alexi to begin a life together was a special, delicious, sweet, sometimes funny and often difficult exploration. I am endlessly compelled by their dynamic. Darkly Luminous picks up exactly where the first book leaves off and introduces us to Beatrice Tipton, who factors strongly into Strangely Beautiful #3, a prequel. The action rouses to a huge, epic, spectral battle, and where everyone goes from here will be an interesting journey for me to write.

LS:  “Strangely Beautiful 2 ½” comes out in an anthology in the fall, right? Can you tell us a little about it? When will book three be released? How many books do you have planned in the series?

LRH: Indeed! “A Christmas Carroll” (Strangely Beautiful #2.5) will be included in Dorchester’s A MIDWINTER FANTASY (October) and stars Headmistress Thompson and Vicar Michael Carroll.   While Darkly Luminous picks up exactly where the first book left off, so does the novella pick up where Darkly Luminous leaves off, and fills in the gap between the last chapter of Darkly Luminous and the epilogue of Darkly Luminous (which needs some explaining as it’s a bit too tidy without the novella to put those two characters through the necessary ringer to really earn their story).

Book 3 will be a prequel shifting from 1860s Cairo to 1860/70s New York and will feature Beatrice Tipton’s Guard passing the torch to Alexi’s Guard and preparing for Prophecy in ways Alexi and his Guard never know. I deal with “The Goddess” and Phoenix directly as they nearly (and painfully) lose their grip on their plan. Writing the teenage Alexi Rychman (and a teen Elijah Withersby) is proving to be great fun. Book 4 will continue forward in time, crossing the 20th century, focusing on the Rychman family legacy. I don’t have any more Strangely Beautiful books planned after that, though I’d like to give Elijah and Josephine their own novella like Rebecca and Michael have been allowed.

LS:  Do you have any non-Percy projects in the wings?

LRH:  My agent is currently shopping around my Historical Paranormal YA series set in Victorian NYC. *crossing fingers* I’m also doing some neat Fantasy fiction work (with a touch of horror) on a gaming project that’s still in development.
LS:  You’re an actress and a playwright, how does that influence the way you write stories?

LRH:  Absolutely. My process is entirely theatrically related. I think of books like a Cinematographer thinks of setting up a shot, like a Director thinks about making choices about movement, structure and point of view and as an Actor when I think of getting into my characters and their dialogue. I teach a workshop called “Direct Your Book: Theatrical Techniques to a Blockbuster Novel” because I realized I have a unique theatrical perspective to offer in the way I literally see my books and create them.

LS:  Did you always want to be a writer? When was that defining moment, when you sat down and said, “I’m going to do this, no matter what anyone says?”

LRH:  I’ve been writing and telling stories since I can remember. I began my first novel (a Gothic novel, actually, my themes have long been with me) when I was about 12, and tinkered with it for nearly a decade. I earlier described how once I met her, I knew Miss Percy would change my life, but I kept her on the back burner for years as I worked as a professional actress. I moved to New York City to see whether theatre or my books would win out. One day I was in the middle of a Broadway callback and all I could think about was Percy and Alexi. I was terrified to walk away from what I was “trained” to do. Yet I refocused, stopped auditioning and dared a homecoming to what had been that first childhood love-affair; writing books. My contract certainly didn’t happen overnight, as I’ve said, but I knew when I started taking my writing seriously that I made the right decision.


LS:  What sort of writer are you – a pantser? A plotter? Do you write in spurts or slow and steady? Do you like to write to music or in silence. Do you work at a desk or on the couch? (etc…)

LRH:  Cert-i-fied Pant-ser. I plot rough outlines because I (well, and my editor) need some vague idea of where I’m going. As for how to get there, the characters tell me as I go and as I daydream. I need music in the background – something atmospheric, classical, evocative (no words). And I write where ever I have my laptop and the ability to concentrate. Non-negotiable ritual: must have cup(s) of tea on hand.

LS:  Is there anything else you’d like to share?

LRH:  Do you like a good ghost story? Please join me for my Darkly Luminous Haunted London Blog Tour where I’ll be talking about all the real ghost stories I use in my books! All the ghosts in the Strangely Beautiful series thus far, save for the ghostly residents of my fictional Athens Academy, are all documented London haunts. Learn all about them on the tour, starting the day before release day – April 26th – and running release week! Schedule is here: http://www.leannareneehieber.com/haunted-london-blog-tour/ Not only will you hear a neat ghost story and get excerpts from the book, but you can enter to win books – there’s a new giveaway included on every tour stop!

And then, on April 27th, release day, join me via the contest page of my website (http://www.leannareneehieber.com/contests ) to see the neat Darkly Luminous contest I’ll be running through May!  I’m giving away a necklace featured in the book as well as a Barnes & Noble gift certificate – all you have to do is answer an easy Darkly Luminous pop quiz question to enter to win!

I’d love to see you on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/leannarenee

And on Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/sbsfan
LS:  Do you have any upcoming appearances/signings?

LRH:  Yes! I have a ton, I’ll be everywhere this year!  Release day for Darkly Luminous, April 27th I’ll be at my hometown Barnes & Noble in West Chester Ohio, then I’ll be at the RT Book Lover’s Convention, readings in NYC, a Guest Author at the Steampunk World’s Fair, at the Phoenix Comicon, DragonCon and many more – check out my schedule at http://booktour.com/author/leanna-renee-hieber

Lolita Suzanne: Thank you so much for coming by, we really appreciate it, and congratulations on your upcoming release.  I can’t wait to read it.  I’m still squeeing over the idea of you getting to turn your book into a musical, that is just so amazing.  I hope I get to see it one day.

Leanna Renee Hieber: Thanks so much Suzi, fellow Lolitas et al! Strangely Beautiful blessings!

*~*~*~*

I have the results for the Clockwork Couture ensemble contest and will announce the finalists and winner on Saturday, April 17th.  On Saturday we also welcome EJP Creations, who makes Clockhand Tiaras (among other things.  Sunday, April 18th we’ll learn about upcycled designs with Creative Habits.  Monday kicks off an amazing week with John from Steampunk Tales.  Hold on to your fishnets, the Smuttketeers invade Steampunkapalooza on Tuesday, April 20th.  Artist Simply Willow stops by on Wednesday, April 21 and young adult author Scott Westerfeld joins us on April 22, as the guests, prizes, and mayhem continue all month long.

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