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Archive for the ‘women’ Category

timemachine1Dickens On The Strand was earlier this month. It included a holiday parades of pirates, fellow Steampunkers, choirs of carolers, beggars, a host of other memorable Victorian characters and also the suffragettes. This picture of me next to H. G. Wells’ time machine as I’m wearing my Votes for Women sash is fitting. I went back in time on the strand as I marched with the Victorian suffragettes in the parade.

We sung: All I want for Christmas is the right to vote The right to vote The right to vote All I want for Christmas is the right to vote So I can govern my existence

votesMarching as a suffragette was a blast but the real suffragette movement was serious business and a long hard fight. Millicent Fawcett founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage in 1897. The movement began with peaceful protest arguing that if women had to pay taxes they had the right to vote.

But because Fawcett’s progress through peaceful protests was slow, a lawyer, Richard Pankhurst, his wife, Emmeline, and daughter, Christabel, made a fresh attempt to gain the vote for women and formed the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903. They pursued civil disobedience for the cause. Suffragettes protested by chaining themselves to railings and eventually by smashing windows.

As you make your New Year resolutions tomorrow, think about these brave women of the suffragettes movement who resolved to gain us the vote and did so, both Suffragettes in England and also in America. They gave us a great gift, the opportunity to vote.

Consider adding a suffragette sash to your Steampunk costume. I’m going to continue to wear mine. Also consider making one of your Steampunk characters a suffragette – it worked well for Mrs. Banks in Disney’s Marry Poppins film.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 24 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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Ancient Egyptian culture had a major influence on the Victorian era and also modern Steampunk. Another Egyptian influence on Steampunk is belly dancing. The name belly dancing was coined in the Victorian era. It’s a translation of the French term – danse du ventre. The first time belly dancing was brought to America was at the 1893 Chicago World’s fair. The act, A Street In Cario was one of the most popular attractions on the Midway.

In the early 1900’s Maud Allan billed as the “Salome Dancer” became famous for her infamous dance of the seven veils. MaudeAllanSalomeHead

steampunk belly dancer at Comicpalooza

Belly dancing has been big in steampunk ever since Abney Park incorporated it into its live shows.Many belly dancers have been inspired to go steampunk, adding goggles, corsets and pantaloons to their costumes. At Comicpalooza this year among the other belly dancers was one who wore a Steampunk type costume.

Diosa, the director of the Osiris Belly Dancing Company explained that at Comiccon they were thrown into the Steampunk genre when they were invited to perform at the Steampunk Ball. There dance style is belly dance fusion and they blend Steampunk into their costuming for specific venues.

Katara the dancer who makes the fabulous costumes of the Osiris Belly Dancing Company,is intrigued by Steampunk’s blend of historical fashions with modern designs. She enjoys the opportunity to play with historical fashions and blend them into something interesting and modern.

astoneTITLEIf you enjoy a blend of Egyptian elements with Steampunk, you’ll enjoy my new release, As Timeless As Stone. It is free this weekend on Amazon from Friday, 07/18/14 – Tuesday, 07/22/14.

Little does Ricard know when he sets the broken head of an ancient Egyptian statue onto its body, the stone figure will transform before his eyes into the most beautiful flesh and blood woman he’s ever seen.

Seshat, an ancient Egyptian Priestess is newly awaken in 19th century Paris, after centuries as a stone statue. Though enchanted by the wondrous inventions of steam-servants and a steam-carriage, she is enthralled by the inventor, Ricard. He ignites her sensual desires and in a steamy night of carnal magic, Seshat transforms Ricard’s life forever. But how far will he go to secure her happiness? Is Ricard’s love for Seshat powerful enough to transcend time?

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

 

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The first panel I went to at Comicpalooza, last month, was Friday at 10 AM, it was a make-n-take. The beautiful and lively anime voice-actress Claire Hamilton helped me and the other attendees create a tentacle necklace. I had so much fun in that make-n-take. I mean who doesn’t love tentacles?

Making Tentacles at Comicpalooza

Making Tentacles at Comicpalooza

We were all provided with polymer clay in a vivid selection of colors. The clay comes in four sectioned off areas. We each took one of those small sections in the color of our choice for the tentacle and a half section in another color for the suckers. We pulled off enough off the bigger section to roll and shape it into our tentacle. Twisting it around until we had it the way we wanted it. Then we took the half portion of a small section of clay and used the edge of our comicpalooza badges to slice it into small pieces. We rolled those into tiny balls for the suckers. We were each given a toothpick and used it to make the indentions in our suckers. We stuck the suckers onto the tentacle. We also used the toothpick to punch a hole in the clay so we could string it onto a cord for a necklace.   When we were finished we used special hand held dryers like blow dryers but hotter, to firm them enough until we could get them home and bake them. Heating our Tentacles

Once home we baked them in our kitchen ovens at approximately 110 degrees for about 30 minutes. When you try this in your on oven, please be aware oven temperatures vary so keep an eye on the tentacle to make sure it doesn’t bake over or under the needed time.

Here are some youtube videos on making tentacle necklaces:

Making tentacle necklaces is fun, easy and … very Steampunk. A tentacle necklace make-n-take is also a great panel to do for readers at a convention.

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 Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space, which is as crazy and as entertaining as it sounds. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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Jane Loudon

Jane Loudon

Jane Loudon’s novel, The Mummy, A Tale of the 22nd Century was published anonymously as a trilogy in 1827, and again in 1828. It was the first book about a mummy brought back to life, a popular plot to this day. However, there’s a lot more to Loudon’s contribution to sci-fi. In the regency era, a time when the word sci-fi wasn’t even used, she understood what futuristic sci-fi was meant to be. She wrote of the future in a way no one had before. Instead of just taking her own time period and moving it into the future making few changes except for utopian or dystopian ones, she built an actual futuristic world with advanced technology, futuristic clothing, and a different type of government. Jane Loudon was the first sci-fi author to actually world build.

The gadgets in her future world all spring from the regency era when the high-end technology of the day was steam and balloons. Two of Loudon’s characters, Edwin and Dr. Entwerfen embark on an expedition to the tomb of Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu), to shock him back to life with a galvanized battery. Their dialogue when leaving for Egypt and realizing they have too much baggage for the balloon touches on some of Loudon’s interesting futuristic inventions. She even envisioned a certain type of space flight as a fashionable mode of travel. Here’s a short excerpt:

“The cloaks are of asbestos and will be necessary to protect us from ignition, if we should encounter any electric matter in the clouds; and the hampers are filled with elastic plugs for our ears and noses, and tubes and barrels of common air, for us to breathe when we get beyond the common atmosphere of the earth. “

“But what occasion shall we have to go beyond it?”

“How can we do otherwise? Surely you don’t meant to travel the whole distance in the balloon? I thought of course, you would adopt the present fashionable mode of traveling, and after mounting the seventeen miles or thereabouts, which is necessary to get clear of the mundane attraction, to wait there till the turning of the globe should bring Egypt directly under our feet.”

“But it is not in the same latitude.”

Then the doctor explains the box he wants to bring on the balloon contains his portable galvanic battery and his apparatus for making and collecting the inflammable air. It also holds a machine for producing and concentrating quicksilver vapor – the power to propel them onward in place of steam. It even has laughing gas for the sole purpose of keeping up their spirits.

Another change in everyday life in the future is fast mail delivery. Letters are placed inside balls and fired from steam cannons. Every town and district have a woven wire suspended in the air as a net to catch the ball and a cannon to send it off again when the letters for that neighborhood are extracted. A smaller wooden ball with a hole in its side to making whizzing noise as it sails through the air is sent before each mail ball to alert people to keep out of the way.

Also Stage balloons are used to make fast deliveries. One of the characters receives a collection of ballads, at least three hundred years old, sent from London by stage balloon that morning. They are on rag paper since asbestos paper used in the 22nd century had only been invented for two hundred years.

Movable houses are another change in the future. One of the characters, Edric, sees a house slide out of place and glide along the road. A lady at the window blows a kiss to someone in another house as she passes by. When someone wants to go into the country for a few weeks they take their house with them, which saves the trouble of packing and allows everyone to have all their little conveniences about. There are grooves in the bottom of the houses that fit on the iron railways. Propelled by steam, they slide on without much trouble but it only works for small houses as large ones aren’t compact enough.

More futuristic marvels are feather-fans hung from the ceiling, circulating aeriform fluid. Also they use tubes in the houses to suck out stale air and bring the fresh air in. And the most stylish coats are made in a machine. At one end it strips the wool off a sheep, then weaves it so a ready to wear coat comes out at the other end of the machine. Also Bridges are movable and steam-powered to rotate in all directions and to adjust to whatever height is needed for the different waterways. Even streets are modernized, they are warmed by pipes of hot air so no one perishes of cold.

She envisions a lot of technological advancements in agriculture including a steam-powered lawnmower and a mechanical milking machine. Also when the sun doesn’t shine enough to make hay they use a burning glass to make it. When it doesn’t rain enough for the crops they use an electrical machine to draw down clouds to cause rain on the fields that need it.

She also shares a glimpse of futuristic fashion: “The ladies were all arrayed in loose trousers, over which hung drapery in graceful folds; and most of them carried on their heads streams of lighted gas forced by capillary tubes into plumes, fleurs-de-lis, or in short any form the wearer pleased; which jets de feu had an uncommonly chase and elegant effect.”

There are also political changes from the Regency era to the 22nd century. After undergoing a revolution, and even a period of democracy, England returns to an absolute monarchy but as a matriarchy. All rulers are queens and the candidates are single women of the royal family between the ages of 20 and 25. There is  a law that the queen cannot get married. In the towns, the men in the country 21 years on up, in groups of 10,000, choose a deputy to represent them in London. The queen is elected through the majority vote of these deputies.

The Mummy! 1828 2nd edition - title page

The Mummy! 1828 2nd edition – title page

The main characters in The Mummy, A Tale of the 22nd Century come from two families with their eyes on the crown: the Montagues and the house of the Duke of Cornwall. The Montagues have two sons, Edmund, a national hero and Edric, an intellectual. The Duke of Cornwall’s family has two daughters Elvira and Rosabella, who are the next in line to the throne if anything happens to Queen Claudia. Edric’s father has arranged for him to marry Rosabella but he reuses. Edric is fascinated by the idea of reanimating the dead. His friend, Dr. Entwerfen tells him that since the ancient Egyptians believed the souls of their mummies were chained to them in a torpid state till the final day of judgment, there is every reason to believe that by employing so powerful an agent as a galvanic battery of fifty surgeon power re-animation may be produced. Edric is too squeamish to touch a dead corpse’s flesh but he’s willing to touch a mummy as it swathed in wrappings. He and Dr. Entwerfen go to Egypt and resurrect the mummy, Cheops. But the mummy runs out of the pyramid, hijacks their balloon, and flies back to England. When he flies over Queen Claudia’s coronation pageant, his balloon gets tangled up with all the other balloons crowding he sky. His balloon gets torn and falls to the earth landing on and killing Queen Claudia. The story continues with political intrigue, a secret birth father, and love triangles, all with a little help from the wise Pharaoh, Cheops, who has the most common sense and perception of anyone in the book.

The similarity between awakening the mummy and awakening Frankenstein back to life and the similarity of the two main male characters, hero and intellectual as in in Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, is no coincidence. Jane Loudon uses them as a parody to show her own view point. Her political, social and religious beliefs differ greatly form Mary Shelley’s.

I have to say it, Sci-fi readers and writers owe Jane Loudon and Mary Shelley so much. Frankenstein was written and first published in 1818, when Mary Wollstoncroft was only nineteen. Jane Webb wrote The mummy, a Tale of the 22nd century when she was 17 and it was published in 1827. H. G. Wells and Jules Verne didn’t write their first books for many years after this: Jules Verne’s – Five Weeks In A Balloon in 1863 and H. G. Wells – The Time Machine in 1895. Not only have women been reading and writing sci-fi for over two hundred years, the sci-fi genre wouldn’t be the same without them. The genre was pioneered by two teenage girls with very different views on politics and religion, both writing in the Regency era. I think that’s awesome.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space, which is as crazy and as entertaining as it sounds. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus. Maeve Alpin will be making several appearances next month in May at the Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention in New Orleans and at Comicpalooza in Houston.

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As we all know Mary Shelley wrote sci-fi before H. G. Wells or Jules Verne and was one of the main pioneers of the genre. Everyone’s familiar with Frankenstein and probably everyone looking at this post has read it. It is the first mad-scientist sub genre book and many consider it  the first work which can logically be labeled sci-fi.  But I’m going to talk about a lesser known book of hers that is also significant to the sci-fi  genre, The Last Man. It is the first written work  of the sci-fi sub genre of a sole survivor of earth. A still popular plot, often used in books and movies two hundred years later.

A good place to start with Mary Shelley’s work is with Mary herself. Mary Wollenstoncraft, an author and the most important feminist of the day, died due to child birth complications nine days after giving birth to her daughter, Mary Wollenstoncraft Godwin. Mary’s father was the famed philosopher and author, William Godwin. Shortly after his wife’s death, William married Mary Jane Clairmont. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin grew up in a household with her half sister, Fanny Imlay, from a liaison her mother had with an American, and her step mothers’ two children from a previous marriage, Charles and Claire Clairmont, and her half-brother William, the child of her father and his  new wife.

When she was 16 Mary fell in love with the poet, Percy Shelley and ran off with him, even though he was married. Mary gave birth seven months into her first pregnancy and the premature baby died shortly after. Her next pregnancy produced a healthy son, William. Soon after that, Percy’s wife, Harriet,  drowned herself and her unborn child. Then Mary’s half sister, Fanny, committed suicide.  After that, Mary gave birth to a daughter, Clara. That child died a year later and the next year her son William died. She became pregnant again and gave birth to her son, Percy,  the only child who survived. After that Mary suffered a dangerous miscarriage she barely survived. Then her husband drowned in a boating accident. By the time all this loss occurred, Mary was only 24 years old. In the few sentences above, these facts about her life, we can see the tragedies she experienced contributed to her creations of both Frankenstein and The Last Man and gave her the emotions she needed to pull from to write them.

I also wanted to mention that at the time they were first published both Frankenstein and The Last Man received terrible reviews but both sold well and were widely talked about by readers of the day. Shelley was a brave author who wrote what she wanted to write even if it went against political, religious or social beliefs of the time. We owe much to her for that. The sci-fi genre owes much to Mary Shelley for that.

“The last day passed thus: each moment contained eternity; although when hour after hour had gone by, I wondered at the quick flight of time. Yet even now I had not drunk the bitter potion to the dregs; I was not yet persuaded of my loss; I did not yet feel in every pulsation in every nerve , in every thought that I remained alone of my race, — that I was the LAST MAN.”

The Last Man is set in the 21st century and written in first person. The writing is elegant with marvelous description. Verney tells the story of his life. Through mistakes of his father, he and his sister, Perdita,  are cast out of a happy life into one of poor lonely orphans.  He forms a plan of vengeance against the people who brought this ruin. The main culprit was the king, who is dead. When the king’s son, Adrian, comes to Verney’s town he sets his plan in motion. However, Adrian turns out to be a great supporter of Verney’s  late father. Verney rises from his life of despair and longing with the help of Adrian, who becomes his lifelong best friend.  This circle of six friends: Verney, Perdita, Adrian a poet and intellectual , Raymond a hero nobleman (who marries Perdita) , Adrian’s sister, Idris  (who marries Verney) and Evadne, a Greek princess, have many ups and downs in their lives. Eventually, most end up married with children and quite happy and settled. But Perdita’s husband, Raymond, cheats on her with Evadne.  So Perdita leaves Raymond. A war between the Greeks and the Turks break out and Raymond fights in it as does Evadne. She dies on the battlefield and Verney finds her body and buries her. As Raymond is on his death bed from mortal war wounds, Perdita goes to him and forgives him. When he dies, she kills herself.

Soon after this an epidemic begins. It’s unknown what causes it or how it spreads. It goes from country to country. For a long time England is untouched by it. Due to the plague and several natural disasters in different parts of the world, England is filled with immigrants. Then the symptoms reach a patient in a hospital in London. In the year 2096 the few survivors of the plague in England decide to leave and find some untouched part of the world. Verney, Adrian, and their families are at the forefront of this group.

They sail from England, leaving it depopulated. The group decides to pass the hot months in the icy valley of Switzerland. As they journey there Idris, Verney’s wife. dies from the plague. By the time they arrive in Switzerland it, like every other place, is empty of people. After seven years the plague ends. Thinking danger has passed they leave the alps to go into Italy and pass the winter in Milan. Then they  spend the summer in a villa by a lake. There one of the children is struck with a sudden fever and dies. They burry the child and sail their skiff toward Athens. But a storm overtakes the ship . Everyone is drowned in the shipwreck except Verney.

Verney enters the town of Ravenna near where the wreck occurred. He sees oxen, dogs, horses, birds, and other animals but no men among them. After staying a while in Ravennna, he heads to Rome, the capital of the world, the crown of man’s achievement. He finds pens and paper and writes a book about his life, which is the book – The Last Man.  He leaves it in the ancient city of this world as a sole monument of Verney the LAST MAN. He then leaves Rome to sail around the shores of deserted Earth.

The Last Man is elegantly written with marvelous descriptions. It is written in first person with complicated characters. However, keep in mind it is written in the Regency era for Regency era readers. In that time period writing did not demand nor did the readers want fast pacing, hooks or a balance of dialogue and narrative. This book has far more narrative than dialogue. Therefore it may be slow reading for us modern readers. I had to push myself to get through it at times, but I am so glad I read it.

The next time you are writing, reading, or watching a movie or TV show with a mad scientist or sole survivor on earth plot, take a silent moment to thank Mary Shelley. And if you’re at a con or other event and someone says something like women are new to Sci-Fi, you might just want to remind them that women have been reading and wiring Sci-Fi for over two hundred years.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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Why Steampunk? I put that question to a variety of talented artist. Asking them why they took their art in a Steampunk direction, these were their answers:

Cherries Jubilee, is not only a talented dancer but she also embellishes fabulous Steampunk designs on shoes, transferring them into wearable art and some of the most gorgeous shoes you will ever see in your life.  I asked Cherries Jubilee, “How did you first get interested in Steampunk?”

“I have been attending science fiction/fantasy/horror conventions almost since the phenomenon started, but I was finding it difficult to do interesting costumes after a while. I could not really pull off the “green slave girl” any more and I had done every female companion to Dr.

Who, so I was looking for something else. I was looking for a more free form kind of costuming – not copying something that had already been done, but creating characters of my own in a style that I could wear into my 90’s if I wanted to. About six years ago, I saw some Steampunk at Norwest Con and fell in love with the idea. They were already talking about creating a local Steampunk convention and I was really excited because I could bring in neo-victorian style and, to some extent, manners into a con culture that had grown more than a little crass. I saw an opportunity to bring couples dancing into the sci-fi culture and I got to wear corsets and really cool granny boots. My only thought was, “Sign me up!”

airship-voyager-sqpenny_farthing_20121Camryn Forrest creates serious art with her stunning snow globes and water globes. She is a snow globe engineer. Her work is whimsical and technical, heavy and light, just the way I like my steampunk. So I asked her, “Why Steampunk?”

Camryn Forrest said, “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.”

Next, I asked illustrator, writer, costumer, graphic artist and founder and vice chiar of Steamcon, Diana Vick, “What drew you to get involved in and take your art in a Steampunk direction?”

 

8383773791_7f5d80f934_bShe replied, “Steampunk is a very creative genre and I like the imagery.”

 

dawn1Dawn Donati creates unique and gorgeous Steampunk Stained Glass art. So I inquired, “When did your first become interested in Steampunk?”

“Along my travels some of the vending I did was in Victorian reenactment I am well versed in the artclothing aspect.  steampunk was a natural progression for me. What intrigues me is the inventions and the people who create them, the stories they tell – the community. The ingenuity and historical knowledge of the artists is just delightful. I have noticed the steampunk movement is growing I see it all over in art, clothing, movies – it’s fun to see peoples interpretation of what steampunk is. Or maybe I’m just so immersed myself such a hopeless romantic for the opulence of this movement there is no saving me.   For my next endeavor I would like to bring stained glass in to steampunk as a noticed art form.  How Victorian is stained glass – take steamed powered concepts add a splash of industrial machinery a dash of filigree embellishment and there you have steampunk stained glass…. well that is what my mind’s eye would like to see.  I am working on my kaleidoscope and a signature piece.”

mlt_headshotThen I asked Steampunk artist – painter, sculptor and jewelry designer – Michael Treat,”What inspired you to take your art in a Steampunk direction?”

“For me, I think it all started when I began working with materials that are dominant in the 197102921162471135_cgqtnxyz_cSteampunk 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 that I had found a place to incorporate those elements and the styles into just about anything I had 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 those who live the Steampunk lifestyle today.”

mesteampunksoulsMichele Lynch’s mix media art, art dolls, tree toppers, ornaments, jewelry, paintings and so nevermoremuch 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.”

I love Michele’s Soul Sucker world and her art, so I put the same question to her, “Why Steampunk?”

Michele said, “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.”

You’ve heard form a variety of Steampunk visual artist as to why they went Steampunk, now readers, it’s your turn. Please comment below…Why Steampunk?

Feel free to share why you write or read Steampunk?

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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Photo by Richard Alois

Photo by Richard Alois

Gothic London, its varied history, and just getting to and from places has kept me so busy and exhausted over the past month that I’ve shirked my duties as guest blogger for STEAMED. My apologies. Even now as I write this, I’m on a bus to the train station to see the editor of Gearhearts Steampunk Glamour Revue, Patricia Ash. Unlike most places in the USA (and even many in the UK), traveling in London can be an all-day affair. If I’m out of the flat (and not indulging in a frothy mocha at a Starbucks), I’m either on a bus, on the tube, or walking up to 10 miles a day exploring this glorious city. I’ve even hired a Barclay Bicycle and tooled around a bit. Great fun. It’s not unusual that I get totally lost walking from here to there, even with my Mini A to Z, discovering many wondrous things along the way. Things, of course, that I would unlikely ever be able to find again.

I highly recommend going on guided walks in London on your visit, but not through London Walks. Although they have a varied menu of walks, it’s really hit or miss with the guide and crowd. It’s not unusual for them to have 50-100 people on a walk, and then it’s a big mess. You can’t hear the guide and your constantly moving with a huge crowd. Not fun.

For you Gothic Ghost Story fans, I can’t recommend the walks hosted by Richard Jones enough. He came highly recommended to me by my writerly colleague Leanna Renee Hieber. Richard has written something like twenty-three books on haunted London. Leanna used some of his ghosts in her fabulous Strangely Beautiful series.

Last week I had the great pleasure of meeting Richard and talking about publishing and marketing with him between the stops on the Sweeney Todd Haunted Walking Tour, which I thoroughly enjoyed. His dramatic presentation of ghost stories and history is fabulously entertaining. On his walk, I learned that many of the churchyards throughout London are higher than the rest of the city. This is because in the early 19th century, they were quite literally burying people on top of one another. The gravediggers would dig up a grave, move the existing bones out of the way, wait until after the current mourners were done saying their goodbyes, and then they’d slip the bones back in the new grave.

In the 1830s, a law was passed that closed many of the overrun graveyards in The City of London, including the Cross Bones Graveyard, on which I wrote about in June 2013. At this time, cemeteries were set up around the perimeter of London, like Kensal Green Cemetery, close to where I stay while in London. I’ll be visiting Kensal Green Cemetery shortly, and I’ll hopefully have a report on their catacombs! Seven of these cemeteries were built, known affectionately as the Magnificent Seven.

There was also a practice called “fishing” among grave robbers. Grave robbing could be a lucrative business at £12-15 per body (a considerable amount of money then), but it was also against the law. Grave robbers had to get in and out quickly before the cemetery security watch made their way back around. Family members would arrange things on the fresh grave in a particular way so they’d know if the grave had been disturbed. Thus, the grave robbers would first take note on how things, flowers and tokens and such, were arranged on the grave. Then they’d dig a thin notch across near the top of the grave, crack open the coffin with their shovel, and lower a rope down into the coffin and around the corpse. They’d pull the body out of the grave, strip it of it’s clothes and jewelry, for it was death if caught stealing personal property. A dead body, however, just carried a hearty fine. They’d put everything back the way they found it and then sell the corpses to doctors and medical schools for research.

There are hundreds of thousands of graves all over London, in the many churchyards as well as in larger cemeteries like Brompton Cemetery, also one of the Magnificent Seven. I visited Brompton Cemetery my first week here because it appears in my book Avalon Revisited. I rode a Barclay Bicycle through the ancient grounds in awe. This is where my characters Arthur and Avalon discovered the resurrected Pembertons.
O. M. Grey in London

O. M. Grey in London

I’ve had a lovely time visiting historical places, Harry Potter filming locations, and all the places in my books. I’ve made a preliminary map for readers interested in seeing the settings themselves. Perhaps 2014 will bring a proper O. M. Grey and Leanna Renee Hieber tour of London.

For now, I’ll take my leave until (hopefully) two weeks from now when I’ll have more Gothic Goodies to share. Until then, more mochas, more exploration, more walking and then even more walking.

-_Q

Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist, like the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies, like SNM Horror Magazine and How the West Was Wicked. Ms. Grey also blogs and podcasts relationship essays covering such topics as alternative lifestyles, deepening intimacy, ending a relationship with love and respect, and other deliciously dark and decadent matters of the heart and soul.

Read more by O. M. Grey on her blog Caught in the Cogs, http://omgrey.wordpress.com

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Women With Weapons - Comicpalooza 2013

Women With Weapons – Comicpalooza 2013

Whether your costume or your characters attire is a Steampunk ghost, pirate, vampire, mechanic, world explorer, airship crew member, a proper Victorian lady or something altogether different, I wanted to share helpful pointers from panels at Comicpalooza, this past Memorial weekend.

Since I’m a Lolita at Steamed, let’s start with Lolita fashion.

 Steam Lolitas - The Cup Cake Girls - Comicpalooza 2013

Steam Lolitas – The Cupcake Girls – Comicpalooza 2013

When developing a steampunk persona and the costuming for it, you may find yourself building a lot of drama and hardship to your characterization. However, Lolita personas are lighter, let’s just have fun, let’s  have a tea party. For that reason many women are attracted to Steampunk/Lolita fashion crossovers.  For a good start to Lolita fashion, take a nice white blouse, add a frilly petticoat and a skirt trimmed in lace.  Goodwill, Salvation army, and local thrift stores are excellent places to get accessories and props to build a costume.

A Cup Cake girl with the Steam Lolita panel

A Cup Cake girl with the Steam Lolita panel

Whether you’re a Lolita blending steampunk into your costume, a steampunk persona mixing Lolita concepts into your outfit or working with a straight stempunk characterization for your attire, one thing to keep in mind is well fitted garments flatter any figure. Garments that are too large are as bad as clothing that’s too small. Regarding corsets, use those with steel bones, avoid the plastic ones as they bend when it’s hot, and become lumpy. Queen size women should ensure their corsets fall a bit longer in  front. Corsets should close to about 4″ all the way for a comfortable, even fit. It’s less expensive to invest in a custom fitted corset, than buying a dozen inexpensive ones that don’t look or feel quite right.

Lady Blue - Comicpalooza 2013

Lady Blue – Comicpalooza 2013

Don’t foreget bustles, they add a lot to an outfit. They don’t make your butt look big; they make your skirt look full. Certain silhouettes require a bustle to fill out your skirt and add a polished, proportional look to your dress.

Steampunk Sweethearts - Comicpalooza 2013

Steampunk Sweethearts – Comicpalooza 2013

Other than a corset, the most expensive part of your costume may well be your shoes. Granny boots are always popular for steampnk. Consider investing in a good pair of Doc Martins that appeal to your steampunk self. For dancing at a a Steampunkb all you will need something more feminine. Cherries Jubilee is a great source for source for Steampunk shoes, her emeblishmens are amazing.

Regarding menswear, a man’s waistcoat or vest  needs to be long, such as one purchased from a big and tall store,

Shiny As A Copper Penney
Shiny As A Copper Penney

so it covers the shirt to the top of the trousers. That prevent the tummy from bulging under the vest. Pants should be worn at the waistline, around the belly button, not beneath it. Most men will find suspenders work best. Men should keep spats in mind, to add a touch of completion and pizazz to their outfit.

Steampunk Poision Ivy

Steampunk Poision Ivy

For both men and women, stemapunk costumes should look complete, from head to toe, for example don’t wear tennis shoes with a period dress. Also, though accessories are key to a Steampunk look, don’t’ go overboard, keep to the less is more fashion philosophy.

Lolita Alice and the Mad Hatter

Lolita Alice and the Mad Hatter

For examples and ideas, I’ve included a few photos I snapped at Comicpalooza in Houston Texas. So have fun and enjoy creating your or your characters’ Steampunk costumes.

Maeve Alpin is the author of four Steampunk/Romances: To Love A London Ghost, Conquistadors In Outer Space, As Timeless As Stone, and As Timeless As Magic.

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Dawn Donati

Dawn Donati

As I stand on the  deck of the airship, I welcome Steampunk Stained Glass Artist, Dawn Donati. With an animated wave, she hikes up her stunning gold skirt then fluidly  leaps over the gap between the dock and airship.

“You’re just in time for tea.” I show her into the parlor where she eases onto the cushioned settee with the claw feet as I sink into the armchair across from her. “I can’t wait to see your unique and gorgeous Stained Glass art. So much work and thought goes into creating glass art.  Please take us thorough the process. Give us an idea of the different elements, tools, skill and creativity involved.”

The engine purrs and the china teacups on the coffee table rattle as the airship begins lift off. Speaking over the noise, Dawn answers,”Choosing the texture to provoke thought and the right color to suggest emotion is where I start. I look upon all the found objects I have collected: copper tubing, brass buttons, metal findings, industrial pieces of machines, old clocks I have taken apart, anything I can solder and apply to my stained glass as a sculpture.”

I grab the armrests of my chair as the airship gains altitude. “Your art is so beautiful but I know  glass is a difficult and challenging medium to work in. What drew you to the art of stained glass?”

Now that the tea cups cease rattling, Dawn leans toward the coffee table and lifting the blue willow tea pot, she pours a cup of steaming tea. “The translucency of glass, the fact that it is a liquid and solid all at the same time and the history of stained glass, the story it tells.” Dawn holds her teacup up and smiles. “A stained glass  window in the morning light with your cup of tea looks different at dinner time. That is what draws me to stained glass.”

“How intriguing.” I brim my teacup full and take a dainty sip. “What are the biggest challenges in working with stained glass?”

Dawn reaches her slender fingers between the plate of sliced lemons and the spouted creamer of milk to the sugar bowl. Picking up a white cube, she plunks it into her tea “The biggest challenge working in the medium of glass is heat fractures creating three dimensional sculptures, as in boxes, can pose difficult. The end result is worth it. Quite a few of my boxes have moving parts: airship propellers that spin, gears that engage and have a function. Maintaining the integrity of the found object while making it function and remain secure is a standard I strive for when creating my art.”

I take a sip of my earl grey. “And you do that so well.  Your three dimensional sculptures, your stained glass boxes, are incredible. What do you like about the box form?”

Dawn sets her cup on its saucer with a soft clink. “I like to think of my boxes as functional pieces of conversational art. Yes, some can be used as a jewelry box, however I also see them as a centerpiece on a table to spark an engaging discussion. Take the beauty and fascination of stained glass off the window and bring it into your hand.”

“How marvelous. Truly, they are not only boxes but art sculptures. They could certainly spark the premise for a story. Imagine in a fiction tale, what incredibly special object or message might they contain.” I set my cup in its saucer on the mahogany coffee table. “You must have been working with art for a long time. At what age did you realize you wanted to be an artist?”

“I have traveled all over working art fairs, helping vendors. At 14 I was gifted to see metal smithing and pottery done out in the open in the forest  at week long events.  I fell in love with the traveling artists and their craft.”

“It’s so wonderful to hear how childhood experinces at art and craft fairs helped shape you into this amazing artist.” 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. How did your first become interested in Steampunk?”

Dawn grasps hold of the arm of the settee, bracing for the shaky landing. “Along my travels, some of the vending I did was in Victorian reenactment. I am well versed in the clothing aspect.  Steampunk was a natural progression for me. What intrigues me is the inventions, the people who create them and the stories they tell. The community, the ingenuity and historical knowledge of the artists is just delightful.

I have noticed the steampunk movement is growing I see it all over in art, clothing, movies. It’s fun to see peoples interpretation of what steampunk is. Or maybe I’m just so immersed myself such a hopeless romantic for the opulence of this movement there is no saving me.

For my next endeavor, I want to bring stained glass into steampunk as a noticed art form.   How Victorian is stained glass. Take steamed powered concepts, add a splash of industrial machinery, a dash of filigree embellishment and there you have  steampunk stained glass…. well that is what my minds eye would like to see.  I am working on my kaleidoscope and a signature piece.”

“I can’t wait to see them.” But for now the airship Steamed has landed so I must way farewell to Dawn. But you can visit her anytime. Here are her calling cards: Esty Shop, Webstite Facebook

Maeve Alpin is the author of four Steampunk/Romances: To Love A London Ghost, Conquistadors In Outer Space, As Timeless As Stone, and As Timeless As Magic.

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Announcing my new Steampunk/Romance, Conquistadors In Outer Space, coming this Friday, February 1st. The subtitle is Ana’s Interplanetary Conquest.

Henri de Montaut, from De la terre à la lune (From the earth to the moon), by Jules Verne, Paris (Hetzel), 18??

In an alternate history of 1610 AD, the King of Spain commissions the creation of giant cannons, fashioned from Leonardo Da Vinci’s design, for the purpose of blowing the island of England to the bottom of the ocean. Since that country separated from papal authority, Spain has the approval of the church to separate England from the rest of Europe. Then, after an interrogation by priests with the inquisition, Galileo sees a faraway dot in the night sky with his new telescope. He shows the pope planet X, an actual New World Spain can claim and all the inhabitants can be converted to Christianity. Also all the gold and riches discovered there will belong to Spain alone. So they find a way to use the cannons to that end instead.

Thrown off the Spanish estate she worked at all her life, Ana, a milkmaid, seeks a new life. Disguised as a rich widow, she boards a rocket, to be blasted out of a huge cannon, and targeted for the newly discovered planet, X.  Sparks fly when she finds Ramon, the only man she ever loved, heir of the estate she worked on, is flying to Planet X as well. As the Spanish governor of Plant X searches for gold, the treasure Ramon seeks is Ana. His conquest is challenging, though he swears to protect and love her, as a noble he cannot marry a peasant. Ana cannot deny her desire for Ramon, but she will not be his mistress. Will his conquest of her heart succeed or will Ana make a life for herself alone amid the wonders and dangers of Planet X.

Excerpt:

In an instant the loudest boom and ka-chung noises he ever heard rattled his ears as the metal projectile shook violently. He clenched his teeth as every muscle in his body quaked with the blast.

“It is the Estrella. It is hurdling through space to planet X.”

He recognized the voice of the priest who strapped him in. Ana’s ship, De Nunez had told him. “Is all well,” he yelled out. “Did they lift off safely?”

Now that he had found her again, he needed to protect her. Once they arrived on planet X, he would seize this second chance to win her heart for she’d stolen his long ago.

“Si.” The priest’s tone held a tinge of awe. “In a blaze of light they blasted through the heavens. They are in God’s hands now.”

Ramon let out a long breath of relief. Ana was safe, shooting through space. The Estrella had cast off and the Juanita would soon follow. When his rocket blasted off in an explosion of light and fire, he wouldn’t hear anything.

He felt his mind loose itself in drowsiness. He shut his eyes under the power of this death like sleep and prayed in twenty years he would wake. When he did, he’d be on Planet X with the woman he’d always loved. He knew for the next twenty years of the voyage, he would dream of Ana.

Contest: Comment below to enter my new release contest to win a PDF Ebook of Conquistadors In Outer Space.

Maeve Alpin, Steampunk Romance Author

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I, Maeve Alpin, stand on the dock of the airship, clutching my purple hat, as my hair streams in the blustering wind. Thrilled to meet Steampunk author, Heather McDougal and discover more about the intriguing contest she devised to celebrate the release of her new Steampunk novel, Songs For A Machine Age.

Her contests entrants created works of art depicting the Steam Beast, a mechanical character from Songs For A Machine Age. She opened the contest to various mediums, whatever the entrants were best at: sculptures, computer created, hand drawn, painted or mix-media. The artist sent in high-quality digital images one for 2-D work and 3 for 3-D work. The deadline fell on October 28, 2012.

“Welcome, Heather.” I shove my hat on my head and take her arm in mine. “Watch your step.” We stretch our legs in a long stride across the wide gap between the dock and the airship, to board. I lead her into the parlor.

Heather McDoural gracefully lowers herself onto the crimson settee, featuring elaborately carved lion head legs and claw feet.

I sink into the chenille upholstered armchair and lean forward. “I am fascinated by an art based contest. How did you come up with that idea?”

“Well, I  come from an art background with an MFA in sculpture.  Writing was something I wanted to do as a young person, I got distracted by other skills for a long time. I earned a degree in fashion design and worked in the garment industry for several years, and then went back to school to study textiles. Once you’re in the art department, it’s pretty hard not to try all kinds of things, so I ended up learning to blow glass and weld and so on, and finally ended up with this sculpture degree. However, my thesis won me extreme praise where my sculpture had only been reasonably good, and this made me revisit writing.

Also, this book is all about a culture of makers. Three hundred years before the narrative, they  were in the middle of an industrial revolution and someone invented a truly horrific manufacturing technology. I won’t tell you more about it, except that it was the catalyst for a revolution in which all machinery was banned, with the exception of handmade devices with purely aesthetic value. So as a result, skill in making things has become a highly-prized commodity.

It seemed appropriate, then, to  bring art-making into the promotion of Songs.”

The engine purrs and the blue willow teacups shake on the coffee table causing a clinking, rattling sound as the airship lifts off. “With your varied but strong artistic background, I can see why you were inspired to write a book with this wonderful premise of ‘all machinery was banned, with the exception of handmade devices with purely aesthetic value.’ Speaking of machinery, the subject of the contest is the Steam Beast, a mysterious, mechanical character. Tell us a little bit about him.”

“He was created by Pelle Vidersen, a woman who lived around the time of the Revolution, who had the unusual skill of being able to create Devices that have sentience, have life. This is a dangerous skill and she wasn’t supposed to use it, or even have the skill – and there were grave consequences. But that’s all in the prequel, which I’m halfway through writing. Suffice to say, you see a great deal more of him there, and get to know him pretty well. In Songs For A Machine Age, he is seen as much less of a person, more of a strange Device that no one could possibly recreate.” Heather grabs the settee with one hand as the airship rises.

“I can’t wait to read about him in the book.” Since the china cups ceased rattling, I picked up the tea pot and poured my guest and myself a cup of Earl Grey. Wisps of steam rose up rom the blue willow cups.“How did you come up with the Steam Beast? Did something particular inspire you to create him?”

“Interestingly, I came up with the name first! The world of songs first appeared in a project I started called Neddeth’s Bed, an experiment in blog storytelling. In it, the protagonist goes to sleep most nights and dreams she is in the body of someone else, someone who is writing on a machine. So she tells her story to that person, who writes it down (as a blog). It’s an exercise in world-building and in dual storytelling — you begin to understand the person she is occupying as the tale unfolds.

This is where the Steam Beast first shows up, as a sort of one-off device in the Midsummer Festival.  Somehow, he caught my attention, and when I started this book, he wouldn’t go away.  I grew more and more interested in him, wondering about his back-story, until I found myself writing the prequel, just to get him out of my system.” Heather reaches her slender fingers between the plate of fresh lemon slices and the cream pitcher. She picks up a white cube from the sugar bowl and plunks it into her tea.

“It’s interesting that once these characters latch onto our minds,they won’t leave us until we write their stories.” I hooked my fingers in the handle of my teacup and lifted it off the delicate saucer. “You sent the contest entrants a never before seen segment from the prequel to Songs For A Machine Age, in which the Steam Beast is worked on by its creator.Can you share that segment with us? Please! We’d love to read it.”

Rhea Ewing's winning Steam Beast

Rhea Ewing’s winning Steam Beast

“Of course! Here you go.”

“Pinzen,” said Pelle, “It’s time to grow.”

Pinzen came out from its nest among the plants in the corner, moving gracefully.  It was definitely ready for more synapses.  She squinted at it carefully, thinking that perhaps its carapace needed to be larger, after all.  She wasn’t sure how much longer she’d be around to keep wrapping its brain, so this installment might need to be a larger one than usual.  It was good she’d planned ahead and had the new carapace already.

She moved across to one of the boxes under the work-counter.  Lifting the lid, she inspected the contents carefully.  She’d been saving this material for years, since the days when she worked in the automaton factory and smuggled the threads out, piece by piece, in her shirt.

“Hello, Pelle.  Did you see my toy?  I fixed it,” said Pinzen.  “I took two toys and made a new one.”

“Hmm?” said Pelle.  “Good for you.”  She was inspecting the threads in the box, laying them out in careful skeins on a clean part of the counter.  It was essential that she keep them absolutely dust-free and straight or they could cause crossed connections, which could lead to insanity.  She had built Pinzen with great care, and was proud of how sane it was.

Pinzen moved its claws, impatiently.  “Pelle, did you see it?”

There was a long silence while Pelle went on examining the threads carefully, pulling out the occasional one.

“Pelle!”

“What?  What is it, Pinzen?”  The machine was acting strange, shuffling its limbs.  Pelle frowned, distracted by the task ahead of her.

“Did you see my new toy?”

“New toy?”  Pelle turned around.  “What do you mean?”

“I took apart two of the toys and made a new one.  And I’m working on that one over there,” its claw lifted to indicate an intricate sprawl of wheels and cogs on a sheet of paper in the corner behind the door.

The thing he’d made was completely unlike anything she’d seen before.  She pulled over a stool and sat down to look at it.  The fluted columns gleamed, and there were several keys or levers clustered together on one side.  She reached out and pressed one of the keys, and leaned away with an “Ah!” of surprise and pleasure when the steam-letter rose into the dimness of the room and hovered for a moment before wafting away.

“How did you know what shapes to make?” she asked, pressing another key.  Another letter came out, and she marveled at their perfection.

“I made them to look like the shapes in that package,” it said, pointing to a book that she had left on the counter.  “I noticed they repeated themselves, so I counted how many kinds of shapes there were, and made one of each.”

“It’s lovely,” Pelle said, fascinated.  She pressed several keys in a row and a floating nonsense-word hung in the air between her knees.  How did he do it?

“Did you use my tools?” she asked, suddenly.
The machine went very still, and there was a silence.  “I did use one tool, Pelle,” it said.  “I am sorry.”

She shook her head.  “It’s all right, Pinzen.  I am amazed at what you’ve done.  I should have explained to you why you weren’t allowed to touch my tools.  You see, they are very old, and if they break I won’t be able to replace them, ever.  So I need to be very careful with them, do you understand?”

“I understand, Pelle.”

“You clearly have a talent for making things.  If I could get more materials, I would let you make many more wonderful things.  However, I am old, and I can only get a few things, very slowly.  So you’ll have to keep yourself busy some other way unless I can find things for you to use.”

“May I use the same tool to reconfigure my other toys?”

“It depends.  Which tool was it?”

“The long thin one, with the green handle.”

“Yes, you can use that one.  If it breaks, I can get others.  But now, Pinzen, you’ll need to sleep, so I can help you grow.  All right?”

“Yes, Pelle,” it said, and went completely still.  After a few moments she put her hand on its carapace and felt it: it was growing slightly cooler.  Good.

She got the new carapace from its shelf and took it outside to wash it.  The trouble with this new society, she thought to herself, as she rinsed the dust away and dried it with a soft cloth, was the imprecision of everything.  It was so hard to make precise machinery when there were mice getting into everything and the water went unfiltered and there were no factories, making parts.  Everything had to be done from scratch, including, at times, the actual foundry-work of heating and mixing the metals.  You had to be truly dedicated to make anything.

Then she shook her head.  It didn’t matter now; they didn’t need the ability to make precise machinery. Those days were gone. Nobody wanted machines anymore, no matter how brilliant. It was only her own silly need to go on making things that got foiled.

Back inside, she wiped Pinzen down carefully, then spread out a clean sheet and laid the machine on it. It was completely cool by now, and she set to work opening its carapace and setting aside the pieces. The connections between the brain and the limbs were kept intact, and in the center of it all the power source remained, obscured by the network of brain all around it.  She disconnected the limbs and put in extenders, sealing the connection tightly so it would last as close to forever as she could make it. Slowly, carefully, she began laying the intelligence threads around and around, sheaf after sheaf of them, matching ends, tying and making careful selective clipping; layer by layer, its brain grew bigger like a ball of yarn.  As it grew she said the words which bound it all together, made it whole. It was dangerous, doing this.  She had not dared to speak over a machine other than Pinzen for many, many years.\

When she had used up the last sheaf of threads, she covered the whole thing with a fine gold filigreed network like a hair-net, snapping its two halves over the ball to hold it all in place.

Then there was a last round of clipping – creating the synapse points – all around the outside, through the holes in the filligree.

Now it was time for the carapace.  Would it fit?  With tired, shaking old hands she drew the pieces of the new carapace toward her and tried to fit it all together.  The limb-connections had moved a bit, and she had an exhausting fiddle trying to get them to come out in the right places; but eventually, worn out, she put in the last few bolts and the new Pinzen lay before her, much larger than before.  And hopefully more intelligent, too.

She shook off the fear she may have made a mistake and he would wake up insane.  It was too exhausting to contemplate.  Shakily, she got up from the stool and went out to get a cup of cha.” Heather picked up a demure spoon from the coffee table and dipping it into her teacup, she swished it side to side, taking care to not touch the sides.

“It must have been amazing to look at all these different depictions of a character you created in your mind? Did they capture what you imagined? Were some extremely different? Tell us a bit about that experience.”  I pinched a slice of lemon, picking it up, I breathed in the invigorating citurs fragrance as I squeezed a few droplets into my tea.

“Well, the first thing I found was a lot of the artists who heard about the contest simply sent me a picture of some previously-created artwork on the off chance that they’d win. A sort of “what can I lose?” attitude. I can understand that attitude, because a lot of artists don’t get much money or recognition for what they do; however, it really wasn’t what I wanted.” With a soft clink, Heather set the teaspoon behind her cup on the saucer. “I had to sift through those people, sometimes checking the portfolios on their websites, before I could get too excited. But then, some things would come in and it was clear the person had created it specifically for the contest. That was amazing. And when Rhea’s picture showed up it was very clear, hands down, she would be the winner. I waited until the deadline, of course, but I just didn’t see anything else that so perfectly captured that moment in the book.

Of course now that I’ve gone through the process, I can see things I would have done differently. For example, early on I would have posted the contest information in art departments in universities and art schools all around the San Francisco Bay Area, which is where I live. Art students are always looking for some money. They have time and they have talent, or at least most of them do. It would have been a good way to get a bunch more original entries!

Also, I would have started earlier, researching places to let people know about the contest. I think it would have been useful to get some personal contacts in those communities beforehand. Simply writing to places that seemed appropriate wasn’t enough; there was little response, and I suspect they couldn’t really vouch for the fact that I really would give the winner $200. If I had had the idea earlier, I could have spent some time getting to know them, so they would hear me when the time came.

Still, it felt truly marvelous to be able to give back to the art community. There was such a wide variety of entries, and the feedback was exciting – people who had never really read anything remotely resembling Steampunk or Clockpunk before, or who were trying new techniques. And Rhea was so excited to win, it really made my week! I still feel good, thinking about that.

Best of all, I think I reached an audience that maybe wouldn’t have heard about my book otherwise.”

I lift my teacup and breathe in the subtle, aromatic scent of the steamy tea. “So Rhea Ewing is your winner. Congratulations to her. What medium was the work in?”

Rhea Ewing created a  2-D piece, my guess would be charcoal and  pastel. You can see more of her amazing work on her website.”Heather picked up her dainty cup from the blue willow saucer.

I brought my teacup to my lips and took a sip. “Can we see the winning piece?”

“Yes!” Heather tilted her teacup to her lips and drew in a long sip, then set it on her saucer with a melodic clink.  “Here is the winning piece.” Heather Mc

I placed my cup back on its saucer and leaned toward Heather. “I know the winner received $200.00 and a signed copy of Songs For A Machine Age. What a wonderful prize. But you didn’t stop there, you picked three runner ups who received a signed copy of Songs For A Machine Age. Who are your runner ups? Can you describe their art submissions or can we see them?”

“One is a pen-and-ink drawing by Joanne Roberts,

Joanne Roberts’ whimsical drawing

Joanne Roberts’ whimsical drawing

another is a blueprint by Simon Forster,

Simon Forster’s Blueprint

Simon Forster’s Blueprint

and the last one is a small sculpture by

Ken Bessemer.

Ken Bessemer’s sculpture

Ken Bessemer’s sculpture

I feel lucky to have such a variety!”

As I’m perusing the art of the runner ups, I hear rattling and clinking. I glance at the coffee table. “I see the teacups are shaking. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for just a few more questions. Since this contest is about Songs For A Machine Age, what is the back cover blurb?”

“There is a place where fabulous clockwork devices fill festival streets with color and sound.

Where the Gear Tourniers, in their places of high learning, keep alive the memory of the cruel horrors of an industrial past, now overthrown.

Where skill of the hand and grace of the body are markers of true belief…

Elena Alkeson has been on the run for six years. Wanted by the fanatical Duke of Melifax for witchcraft, nowhere in Devien is safe, as her gift for sensing impending disaster comes with a price: she can’t keep her mouth shut.

…Until she meets Fen, who shares a similar gift: the gift of seeing inside mechanisms and knowing what they do. Elena and Fen must flee for their lives, going to the capital City of Helseve to seek asylum, and, perhaps, a life in which their gifts can be used for good. Amidst the machinery and brilliance of the Autumn Festival, Fen and Elena find friendship, danger, and some powerful allies.

But Melifax and his sect, the dour Browns, are determined to bring the people of Devien into a new age, an age of moralism, conformity and mass production, ensuring that the beauty and pageantry of Devien and its Devices will be lost forever.

I find most blurbs to be a bit over the top by nature, but this one’s not too bad.  I’ve also had a friend describe Songs as ‘A capital ‘R’ Romantic Clockpunk adventure, in the spirit of Dumas or the Scarlet Pimpernel, full of personal and political intrigue.’

Publisher’s Weekly said this about it: “Disagreement over technological progress drives social, religious, and political disorder in McDougal’s fantasy debut. Elena Alkeson is on the run from the Duke of Melifax’s followers, the Browns, after her talent for spotting the weak points in structures got her branded a witch. She finds kindred spirits in the Findswather family; the eldest Findswather son, Fen, has the ability to ‘see the workings of a thing.’ Browns support the Duke’s migraine-vision–fueled belief that people should work together in assembly lines to create larger works. Elena, Fen, and others fear this would bring back the awful
‘production-slavery’ of the Ancients as well as the loss of art, independence, and real craftsmanship. While Elena and Fen try to help the Gear-Tourniers and the Curator, a mysterious figure in charge of historic machines, the Browns, plot to bring down the rebels. A large cast of characters and complex world-building fuel the intrigue and action in this intricately plotted fantasy.”

“What a wonderful review.” I flashed Heather a broad smile. “I have to compliment you on the cover. I understand you actually created the cover art yourself.”

“Yes, since graphics is something I do for a living. I asked the publisher if I could submit a cover, and he said ‘Sure, but we might not use it.’ But he liked it so much he did use it, and in  fact I’ve done some other covers for him since then.” Heather holds on tight to the arm of the settee, bracing for the shaky landing.

“We’ll we’ve landed but before you go, please share your calling cards with us.”

“Here is the link to my longtime essay blog, filled with all kinds of things Steampunk and otherwise and my website.You can also find me on Facebook.Find the book on Amazon.One might also be able to order the book from one’s local bookstore’s website. I encourage people to try it.”

With the airship Steamed landed, Heather and I exchange goodbyes, but please comment or ask questions below.
~ ~
Maeve Alpin is the author or three Steampunk books, her forth, CONQUISTADORS IN OUTER SPACE, is coming Februay 1, 2013.

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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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As a Hollywood makeup artist who worked on the film Titanic and owns of one of the most popular makeup lines used along with Steampunk and Halloween costumes, as well as creator of the Bloody Mary comic books, I picked  Bobbie Weiner as the perfect person to blog about for my Halloween post on Steamed. I met Bobbie Weiner recently at Sparkle and Hustle in HoustonTexas.

Bobbie Weiner & Maeve Alpin

Bobbie Weiner & Maeve Alpin

Bobbie’ Weiner is the heroine of her own life. Her book, I Can Do This, describes her remarkable journey from a doctor’s wife and the country club life to a to a successful, independent business woman. She clearly has a Steampunk sprit, full of spunk and spit fire.

Bloody Mary’s story begins when her husband rode off on his Harley into the California sunset after telling her he wanted a new life, his  new life included an incredibly young wife already lined up for him. In her mid forties, for her first step in reinventing her life, Bobbie (Bloody Mary) enrolled in the Joe Blasco Makeup School for the television and film industry. Three days after she graduated she worked on a low budget horror film, Pumkinhead II. There the production assistant led her into an old barn where she painted a doll house replica of the set with blood and gore, to prepare it to be blown up. Her work on the doll house impressed the cast so much they nicknamed her Bloody Mary.

After Pumkinhead II, she worked as a makeup artist on a lot of short films and B-list horror movies. Then she got a  call for the TV show Renegae, staring Lorenzo Lamas. On that set she met and became friends with an English makeup intern, Josie. Bobbie’s big break came when Josie recommended her for the film Titanic, they needed her special effect makeup skills for the frozen, floating corpses.

During the Titanic shoot, on her day off, one of Leonardo Dicaprio’s stunt doubles asked her for blue and gold makeup to paint his face for the San Diego Chargers game. The next day he told her they were on TV and everyone wanted to know where they got the makeup. When she asked him what he usually used, he said markers and sharpies. That gave her the idea to start a sports makeup line. She attended a college trade show and left the convention with 46 orders for face paint kits.

About a year before Titanic came out she appeared on the morning show, Sun Up San Diego. The manger of the base super store for Marines and their families at Camp Pendleton heard her say her makeup never washed off, even as the actors lay in the water up to five hours at a time. He wanted her to make camouflage face paint for the marines. At that time the US military used a formula from 1918 full of castor oil. The men hated it so much they wouldn’t use it. At the advice of her father, Bobbie trademarked Sports Fan Face Paint, her name, Bobbie Weiner, and Bobbie Weiner’s Camouflage Face Paint. She was soon flooded with orders from the military. In 1999, she received the first of two gold medals from the U. S. Department of Defense, she was awarded the second one in 2002. These were Automated Best Value System medals, awarded to government contractors whose products meet stringent quality, price and delivery requirements.  Every U. S. solider who went to Afghanistan or Iraq had one of her camouflage makeup kits with them. By the early 2000’s Bobbie no  longer worked as a makeup artist for films, instead she supplied the film industry with her makeup. Anytime you watch a modern military movie in which camouflage is used, you can safely guess the makeup came from Bobbie Weiner.

The owner of Troma Entertainment asked her to speak and give a presentation at Comic-Con in San Diego. There she met the branding manger of Diamond Comics. When she told him she was creating a comic book, he asked her to send it to him when she was done.

When her mother became ill, She went to Florida to care for her. That’s how she met her comic book artist. She dropped in a local printing company to order business cards and asked the clerk if she knew any good animation artist. The lady recommended the artist who worked there, Tommy. Bobbie set up an interview and he presented eight black and white pages that were exactly what she was looking for. She sent the first prototype of Tales of Bloody Mary to Diamond Industries and they loved it. She printed 100 copies for a Horror Convention and sold every one. She also sold out at Comic Con 2003. In 2007 she licensed the name Bloody Mary and her 5th comic book theme to Six Flgs over Texas in Arlington, Texas and “Bloody Mary’s Circus of Fear” haunted attraction was born. She gives all proceeds from it to the Boy Scouts. She also licensed the name Bloody Mary to Universal Studios Orlando for their Halloween Horror Nights haunted house.

At a huge Halloween trade show in Chicago, Bobbie did a Titanic-style dead-person demo on stage. There, a writer from a horror magazine interviewed her and asked what was the best Halloween makeup. She told him hers was the best, Bloody Mary’s. She began making death makeup and blood. Her blood is the best , it doesn’t contain any sugars, so it’s not sticky and washes off with just soap and water.

Bobbie gave the key note address on opening day for the 7-Eleven International Convention. She brought people up on stage and transformed them into frozen, dead zombies. She began selling her makeup kits in all the 7-Elleven stores.

In 2002 a funeral director approached her about providing funeral makeup and she reformatted her makeup line, The Other Makeup, to make women look younger, into an additional line, Bloody Mary’s The Final Touch for funeral homes. She also sells jaundice powder and embalming filler for filling in wounds, surgery scars and bullet holes. People also started buying those products to look like real corpses in haunted houses.

Her line of products even includes Bloody Mary’s Bloody Mary Mix and Bloody Mary Hot Sauce. Every year she develops new products from spray blood to tattoo cover kits to living statue makeup kits as seen in the video above.

Her makeup is thought of as essential in creating certain Steampunk personas. Her metallic makeup foundation perfects the popular metallic Steampunk robot look. Her bullet hole, gash, and bite prosthetics are often used, as well as her fairy ears and fairy makeup kit. With the choices she offers, you are sure to find a product of hers to enhance your Steampunk look. or your Halloween costume for tonight.

But the  most important thing to remember about Bobbie Weiner is her advice, “Never let your age be an obstacle. I don’t care how old you are.”

Happy Halloween,

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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