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coverA few days ago, a new small press and a new Steampunk anthology took their first breaths… To help launch this new endeavor, I’ve put together a post to introduce the press and then the authors who have stories in the anthology. – Ray

 

First, a few words from the head of Witty Bard Publishing  about the company and the new anthology: 

My name is Anna Victoria Jones, I prefer to go by Victoria or V. I have been working in Marketing at a Fortune 500 company for about 3 years, prior to that I received 2 degrees in IT. I am back in college, pre-law, at the moment. I have always loved to read and write and I have stumbled into a lot of terrific indie authors over the years. I was shocked, however, that no one else that I knew had heard of them. I have also had a few friends go through a traditional publisher and they are seeing pennies of the profits and are not really seeing much in the way of promotion either. I looked around at publishing options and there really isn’t a middle ground.
I started Witty Bard Publishing, LLC (WBP) to bridge the gap between a total self-published author and a traditional large corporate publisher. I use my marketing knowledge and business skills to promote the authors that, otherwise, may go unnoticed by so many willing readers. WBP focuses on promoting and rewarding quality writing no matter the writer. The competitions we host are one way to do that very thing. My judges do not know the names of the stories or the authors while they are judging. This way there is no author bias on the part of my judges; they grade the writing on its own merits. My plans for WBP include continuing to host competitions, while also offering many other author services, including editing/proofreading, publishing, promotion, etc., more information on those services can be found on our website www.wittybardpublishing.com. My main goal is and will always be to help authors receive the notoriety they deserve.
WBPLogoI am very new to the Steampunk genre. It is something that has always interested me, but I have never become that involved with it. After I decided that I wanted to do competitions I was trying to decide where I should start and a friend suggested Steampunk. I started learning more about Steampunk and I found it super interesting. I have enjoyed reading all the amazing stories that were submitted. I am super excited to see so much interest from the Steampunk crowd! If there is enough interest so soon, I may do another Steampunk anthology with the next set of competitions.
I think that this anthology has turned out very well! I was super excited by the amount and quality of entries and all the interest within the community. There is such a huge amount of diversity between the stories and I think that everyone can find something they love in the anthology. I cannot wait to publish it!
I am always looking to meet new people and I would appreciate any suggestions for future contests. I am also accepting applications for future judging spots, feel free to contact me. 🙂
Happy Writing!
V

 I also had the opportunity to ask the other authors about their stories and writing…

 (the images below will give you an idea of where our authors hail from)authorsmap

1. Author Name – Website

Lee Parry – www.themire.co.uk

John Walton – www.facebook.com/john.walton.927543 

Seamus Sweeney – www.nthposition.com/author.php?authid=217 or scarfaceproject.blogspot.com

Ross Baxter – www.amazon.co.uk/Ross-Baxter/e/B0041DO99U/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_3

Nicole Lavigne – http://www.nllavigne.wordpress.com

Liam Hogan http://happyendingnotguaranteed.blogspot.co.uk

Ray Dean www.raydean.net

 

2. The first – Your story is published in the first “Witty Bard” Publication – how excited are you to be a part of this inaugural event?

Lee: Very excited. It’s the first competition I had entered and I was thrilled to have won.

John: Very, It’s always good to get in on the ground floor then you become part of the history

Seamus:  It is an honour to be considered worthy of inclusion. It is an exciting development and I am extremely impressed with Witty Bard’s professionalism and enthusiasm.

Ross: Very excited, its always great to get a piece published and even better when its with an outfit like Witty Bard.

Nicole: Very excited. It’s a fun theme and I am looking forward to reading the other stories in the anthology. Doubly excited because this is also my first publication.

Liam: It’s always lovely to see one of my stories find a home, and being part of a “first” makes it extra special, hopefully Witty Bard can go on to many more anthologies, and I can say I was there at the start.

Ray: Love the energy of it all. Our publisher was so on the ball and things just kept rolling along. I hope to keep a strong working relationship with Witty Bard!

3. Is this your first Steampunk story?

If yes – what prompted your foray into the genre?

If no – did this story take you in a new direction within the genre?

Lee: No — I had previously self-published a novel that had significant Steampunk elements. It was more tongue-in-cheek and straight-up comedic than my novel. The novel had similar elements (as the short story’s protagonist was a supporting character in the novel)  but was far heavier and dramatic than the short story.

John: I am currently busy with a series The Voyages of the Black Thistle No1. This is a back story of one of the devices and some of the characters. Which will eventually form a companion volume. So to answer your question, not a new direction but an opportunity.

Seamus: Not really, but it is my first published one. Various threads in Irish history have acted as my inspiration. One is a chap called Henry Joy McCracken, who was one of the United Irishmen who, inspired by the French Revolution, rebelled in 1798. McCracken was a Presbyterian mill owner in Belfast. It is one of the ironies of history that the movement for Irish independence was initially led by Ulster Presbyterians, who would in later times be the bulwarks of Unionism. Reading about that period in history and subsequent events, there are many other roads that things could have gone down. There was much sympathy between Catholic communities and “dissenter” ones, well into the 19th Century we read of the communities helping each other to build churches and meeting houses. Also, as someone raised and educated in the Republic of Ireland, little of the industrial heritage of the whole Island was taught to us. I was also inspired by a book called “Jacquard’s Web” which essentially described how the loom invented by Jacquard in the early 19th century was a form of early computer. So, somewhat in the spirit of Gibson and Sterling’s “Difference Engine”, I postulate mass computational technology arising much earlier, but using spinning/weaving technology. I retain, at least in broad terms, the social structure of those industries, with cottage-based spinning giving way to industrial processes as the 19th Century continued. And also it is very much a muscle-power based industry.

I’ve written three of these “flaxpunk” stories so far, of which “An Honest Ulster Spinner” is the middle story chronologically. The first story deals with Henry Joy McCracken with various other twists. It probably has more exposition than the other two, and another speculative fiction element which I won’t give away here. In “real history” McCracken was executed  after the 1798 rebellion; that doesn’t quite happen in my timeline! The third follows Caroline, the daughter in “An Honest Ulster Spinner”, many years later. I’ve submitted both to various outlets so we’ll see what happens. They are standalone stories but with some overlap.

Ross: No. I’ve got a Steampunk Novella published with Phaze.com, available on Kindle. However, it’s Steampunk with a difference – it is erotic Steampunk written for a (very) mature audience (!)Writing erotic Steampunk pays well, but is a very narrow genre. The story in Witty Bard is more mainstream, and has allowed me to play a bit.

Nicole: It is the first Steampunk story that I have completed. I’ve read a few Steampunk stories and really enjoyed the juxtaposition of technology with history. Plus, it’s fun and the costumes look cool.

Liam: Ahem. I may have squeaked in by the narrowest of margins in definition terms. But that’s okay. I seem to have predated steam by (quite) a bit, and it’s rather less punk than others in the anthology! I tend to write all sorts of styles, depending on the seed-idea for the story – some horror, some sci-fi, some urban fantasy. And now, a little bit of Steampunk.

Ray: My first published story was Steampunk and so are a few of the other stories that are published or in the process of publication. This story is the first one that I’ve written that was set in my ‘hometown’ – The Hawaiian Kingdom/Sandwich Islands.

4. Hopefully your muse has continued to draw upon more Steampunk inspiration, are you planning to write more Steampunk stories? Short or novel length?

Lee: I am writing another short story set within the same universe for a similar competition, and I am also working on a second novel — again, set in the same universe.

John: Oh Yes – both

Seamus: I would like to explore this flaxpunk world more. I would see it developing as a series of vignettes and episodes, getting a sense of everyday lives lived in a specific world. At the start of 2014 I had notions of writing a story a month along these lines but things haven’t gone entirely to plan!

Ross:  If the right idea comes along, then yes. I find it very hard to write Steampunk, and need a great idea to help me carry it.

Nicole: I have another Steampunk short story in the works right now that will be quite different from Stolen Cargo.

Liam: Absolutely. I’m going to try my hand at a proper Steampunk short story, for Steampunk Trails – Steam punk meets the Wild West. Lets see if they like it.

cover

Ray: Have a bunch in the process of publication and I’m always working on more… both short and novel-length.

So… how do you get your copy???

1. Use any of these links to find a format to order:

2. Reply to this post and I’ll select a random participant to receive a KINDLE copy of the anthology 

– to be considered, please have your ‘comment’ completed by end of  Monday May19, 2014

 

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Writing a series is a lot of fun, but the task isn’t without its pitfalls. The most obvious is continuity. After half a dozen books, it can be hard to keep track of every character and remember exactly what they look like, how old they are, and what they like for breakfast. Good record keeping can help that, of course, but even then–how much detail do you write in a series bible? Especially about characters who initially seem relatively minor, like servants or a friend of a friend?

Furthermore, the thing about records is you have to remember to USE them. In the Gaslight Chronicles, I didn’t think I needed to check up on the coloring of Wink, one of my major characters (heroine of book 4) because I’ve always had a very clear view of her in my mind. However when I was preparing to write her story, Moonlight & Mechanicals, I read through two previous books, where she was a secondary character and found, to my chagrin, that her eyes had changed from brown in book 1 to green in book 3. Both were compatible with her darkish copper curls, so I solved the problem by giving her changeable hazel eyes, that shift tone depending on clothing. It seems to have worked–at least I haven’t had any readers or reviewers call me on it yet.

Another problem that can crop up is that as the series continues, each protagonist has to remain unique. This is also something I’ve struggled with. Having just turned in book 7 last week, I’m starting to see personality types duplicate. It was particularly awkward with book 7, because the heroine was Melody, who is Wink’s best friend, fellow adventurer and fellow engineer.  It took a fair bit of work to give Melody her own quirks, but when I really pondered it, she’s not the same person. Wink is the oldest of the Hadrian brood, Melody is the youngest MacKay. Wink lived on the street for many years, Melody has always been wealthy and loved by a large extended family. So of course those differences in background would be reflected in their personalities, even though their temperaments and careers are a lot alike. Melody’s story, which is scheduled for March, 2014, will show you a young woman who loves designing and building airships, but has a weakness for pretty gowns and sensational novels.

The trick with heroes is that even in a series, they all have to be, well, heroic. Brave. Strong. Handsome(ish), Loyal, dependable, and smart. So keeping them from being generic is a tough trick. It’s a skill I’m certainly still honing, and I’m really grateful to have an editor who will say, “He sounds an awful lot like… Make him different.” You can thank her for Connor’s playfulness, Liam’s troubled past, and one of my favorites, Sebastian, from the upcoming Ashes & Alchemy (Jan 6, 2014), whose quiet strength was a challenge to write, but well worth the effort.

Lastly, I’m going to mention time. There are series of books I remember from my childhood, where the characters never age, even though they have adventure after adventure. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys come to mind. That always bugged me. I do keep very detailed charts of when characters were born, so I know how old they are in a certain book.

In steampunk, or any alternate history, you particularly have to keep track of not only how the characters change and grow with time, but how the world around them changes, both with respect to the actual history of the time period, and to the ways in which your fictional technology will grow and change, and change society. In the first Gaslight books, the splitting point from the real world is about ten years back. Because computers were invented in the 1840s, by 1851, there are wonders the Victorians didn’t really have. By the third book, in 1859, there are more things, like telephones and even a budding LAN network, but there is also a smog problem in London so dire that everyone walks around in gas masks. (Don’t worry–Wink is working on air scrubbers!) 🙂

I don’t think the Gaslight Chronicles will run forever. But if they do, even I don’t know for sure what’s in store down the road. I do know 2 things: 1) they will never become so powerful as to overwhelm their world. Someone will rise up to put them back in their place among the rest of humanity.  and 2) Their world will be ever-changing. Just like a real one. 🙂

What do you think? Do you like series that take place in a short span of time or over years? And how long is too long? When’s it time to pack things in and create a whole new reality?

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A couple weeks ago, I got to do something cool–I went to the inaugural event of a brand new steampunk group.

In Michigan, there has long been a lot of steampunk activity in the Detroit area, and a number of people who attend the Detroit events do so from around the state and even into Ohio. There’s been some attempt made to get a group going in Grand Rapids, but until recently, the Lansing area was devoid of organized steampunks.

Not any more. Introducing, Capital Steam, which is largely, at this point, a Facebook group. Something I’ve learned about the steampunk community is that there are both formal and informal organizations. Formally, you have the smaller groups, predominantly airships, where informally, you have all the steampunk fans in the region who show up for various events. For instance, in Detroit, the Detroit Steampunk Consortium, Up in the Aether, and the Ann Arbor-based Woodruff’s Grove Steampunk Society all have pretty much overlapping members, as does Steampunk Michigan and Survivors of the Great White North. Now, many of us have also joined up with the fledgling Capital Steam. Since I live about equidistant from Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Lansing, I have no qualms about this.

The first event came off beautifully. In the afternoon, small groups met, in garb, at various local attractions. I was at the R. E. Olds (yes, as in Oldsmobile) Museum, and both fun and education abounded. I met some new friends I can’t wait to see again, and saw some really cool old vehicles as well as other accoutrements of the era.

In the evening, we all met for a lovely dinner in the restored railroad dining car at Clara’s Lansing Station. A few of the Detroiters showed up to lend their support, and a number of totally new recruits arrived as well to start things off right. There was good food, excellent company, wonderful clothing, a fair bit of booze and enormous amounts of laughter. Following dinner, some of the crew retired to a local coffee house/pub to end the evening.

The next event, scheduled for October, is tea at a Lansing mansion, the Turner-Dodge house. I’m looking forward to this eagerly, and already planning my wardrobe.

It was just about a year ago that I discovered southern Michigan had an active steampunk community and went to my first event. It’s been a wonderful, busy, crazy 12 months. A meme I’ve seen on social media says “Happiness is finding other people who are the same kind of crazy as you.” Yeah, that applies to my experience with the steampunk community over the past year.  Can’t wait for year #2.

In other news, I will be appearing at PandoraCon in Cincinnati, Oct. 9-11. If you’re in the area, come look me up! I’ve also been approved for a steampunk panel at the Romantic Times Convention in New Orleans next May, and will be one of the hostesses for the steampunk tea. Finally, my January Gaslight Chronicles novella, Ashes & Alchemy is up for pre-order on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Drumroll, please…

Here is the cover for Moonlight and Mechanicals, a Gaslight Chronicles novel, coming October 22 from Carina Press.

Image

Now those readers familiar with the Gaslight Chronicles might wonder why Wink, who hates corsets with a passion, is not only wearing one of the infernal devices, but isn’t wearing anything else over it. While a lady who works with machines for a living might be seen in coveralls, she’s still too much of a lady to ever appear in public in her undergarments.

This, I think illustrates one of the problems with the label steampunk. In an alternate history world, there’s always the question of just HOW alternate everything is. In the Gaslight Chronicles, technology and certain social mores are more advanced than they really were in the 1850s, but fashion and most of society is fairly authentic. However, I believe for marketing purposes, the publisher has decided to use a more contemporary steampunk vision on the recent covers. I’m truly curious to see if this works. So any thoughts on this from the readership? Do you like to see your steampunk characters in Victorian ruffles, or modern daring? Something in between? I’d love to know how people feel about this.

In other news, I’ve sent off the manuscript for the fifth Gaslight story, Cards and Caravans which is scheduled for next March. Now I have to tear my brain out of this steampunk world and into another, to finish a partial manuscript for my agent. It’s always interesting and sometimes awkward to switch gears (pun intended) and remember what version of reality you’re righting. This new project is later than the Gaslight books, although so far the rules of the reality are pretty similar. With everything you tweak in a world, you have to think about what has changed in technology, and how that might have changed the people in the world. It’s a new challenge, and I think those are always exciting. So onward and upward…

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Having spent all day today (Tuesday) working on the final edits for Moonlight & Mechanicals, coming in October of this year, I’m definitely in a steampunk state of mind. Earlier this week I drafted proposals for two new steampunk romance novels, so I’m on a roll, which feels awfully darned good!

I’m also excited to be attending and speaking at the World Steam Expo in Dearborn, Michigan this weekend, and have been mulling over my costume options for days. (okay, maybe weeks–I love playing dress-up!) There are some wonderful main author guests, including Gail Carriger, but I’m delighted to be part of a local author panel on Monday, with the fabulous Seleste DeLaney, Steven Harper, and David Erik Nelson. Hopefully we can show the world that southern Michigan is a force to be reckoned with in the steampunk world. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll think about dropping by and saying hello. I hope to have a full report from the Con for my next blog.

The icing on my steam-covered cake, however, is the upcoming release of Book 3 of my Gaslight Chronicles series, Kilts & Kraken from Carina Press. The book releases on Monday, June 4, but you can preorder it now at Carina, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. It’s also available as part of Carina’s anniversary collection: Editor’s Choice: Volume I.

Here’s the blurb, for your enjoyment, and a tiny little excerpt to whet your appetite. (Calamari, anyone?)

Kilts & Kraken

by Cindy Spencer Pape

Blurb: Magnus, Baron Findlay, longs to bring the wonders of the steam age to his remote island home, but his hands are full fighting the vicious kraken ravaging the coast. When he’s swept to sea during battle and washes up on the shore of an isle in the Hebrides, he is near death.

 Struggling to establish herself as one of the first female physicians in Edinburgh, Dr. Geneva MacKay is annoyed when The Order of the Round Table sends her north to care for an injured highlander. To heal him, Geneva escorts the handsome warrior home, just in time to defend the villagers from another onslaught.

As the attacks escalate and they work together to fight off the threat, neither Geneva nor Magnus can resist the overwhelming attraction between them. But as their relationship deepens, a new threat arises – from within the village itself…

(PG excerpt: book is hard R)

The darkness tried to drag Magnus back into its depths and he had little will to fight. It was comforting, this darkness, warm and free of pain. You’ve struggled enough, it seemed to whisper, let go.

He would have, but for another voice, one not as subtle but far more sweet. “Come now, sir. Open your eyes for me.”

Magnus tried. The rich, feminine voice held the soft burr of a lowlander, with educated overtones. How had such a one come to his island? How had he not known? He was laird of Torkholm, and all who came here had to be approved by him.

“Who are you, sir? Won’t you at least wake and tell me your name?” Soft, cool fingers stroked Magnus’s forehead.

He moved his lips to answer the lass. From the silkiness of her touch and the sweet scent of her leaning over him, he might have thought her an angel, but he knew better. Dead in battle or not, he’d have never ended up in Heaven. A valkyrie, perhaps? The Valhalla of his Norse ancestors was a far more likely fate for him than the vicar’s pearly gates.

“His heart rate and breathing are weaker,” the sweet voice said. “I’m worried, Alice. He didn’t wake at all last night. Though his wounds haven’t festered, he seems to be losing strength.”

“He’s in God’s hands,” said another female voice, a little older, a little deeper, and oddly familiar. A door opened and closed, but he still felt the touch of strong, feminine hands, the fingers laced with his own.

At long last Magnus was able to unglue the lashes on one eyelid. The light in the room blinded him for a moment, but his vision adjusted and soon he was able to see. A woman sat by his bedside, her flowing hair the color of his favorite roan stallion. Her fingers tightened on his as she realized he’d woken. “T-Torkholm,” he gasped between lips as cracked as a mud path on a hot day.

The lass—pretty in a strong, country sort of way—pressed him down when he tried to sit. “Your hip is injured. Don’t move.” With her other hand, she held a water-filled sponge to his lips. “Only a little to start with.”

The cool liquid felt wonderful on his parched lips, but a single sip was all he could manage. He blinked again, this time both eyes focusing on her. “Magnus Findlay.” His name seemed to be dragged from his lips. Pain seared through him from more places than he could name, and he’d never once felt this weak. What was wrong? Why hadn’t the island healed him, as it always did?

He blinked again and the answer swam into focus, for a moment at least. This was a strange room—one he’d never seen before. Magnus sagged back against the woman’s arm, and let her ease him down to the pillows. The darkness began to close in again. One thought registered, ringing through his brain.

He wasn’t on Torkholm. He was going to die.

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It’s Book Monday. For those of you new to the blog, Book Monday is an occasional feature where I talk about books I really love that I think you’d enjoy as well.

The Girl in The Steel Corset
by Kady Cross
Releases May 24th 2011 from Harlequin Teen  (ARC provided by Harlequin Teen)

The Girl in the Steel Corset is steampunk YA by debut YA author Kady Cross (who’s written historical romance for adults under the name Kate Smith)

I love this book.  I love this book so much it’s hard to come up with something beyond hot damn, this book kicks ass.

Which it does. 

Why do I love this book so much?

Let’s start with the cover.  Can I tell you how much I love this new cover trend with the girls in amazing dresses.  I want that dress.

One of my favorite things about this book is how there’s a collage of cogs and gears on every chapter page.  It’s such a neat detail that adds to the ambiance
of the book.

The gadgets and tech are seamlessly woven into the worldbuilding (as it should be).  The story is fun, fast-paced, and original, yet pulls from classics.  I love that we have the “Jekyll and Hyde” mythos with a female protag.  Findlay Jane is a badass, and I do love me a strong, unusual heroine.

But this is far, far more than a classic retelling.  That’s just one thread that makes up the rich tapestry that is this story. 

Findlay Jane is only one of the teen characters in this story and most of them have unusual abilities, like X-Men, only set in an alternate version of Victorian London with automatons and my personal favorite, the aethernet.  There’s Griffin, the handsome leader, and patron of the bunch.  Sam, his best friend, and Emily, the inventor of the bunch who makes much of the gadgets–including Findlay’s steel corset. Together the four of them must work to catch the Machinist, who’s seeks to use automatons to further his dastardly scheme–with a little help from an American Cowboy named Jasper, and Jack Dandy, lord of the underground.

Aside from the mystery and adventure, there’s a bit of romance as Findlay is torn between Griff and Jack.   You want to root for Griff, because he is this kind and loyal lord who tries to control his own abilities, protect his friends, and do due diligence to his father’s legacy.  But at the same time Jack is so tempting, because who doesn’t love a rogue with a sensitive side?

All and all, this was a great read full of twists and turns.  Kady Cross has her Steampunk worldbuilding spot on.  Though this is YA, I think adults will enjoy this just as much and it will appeal both to Steampunk fans and those new to the genre.

So, when do I get to read the next one?

I have an ARC of The Girl in the Steel Corset to give to one lucky reader.  Just comment in the box below.  Contest ends Sunday, May 8th at 11:59 PM PST.  Open internationally. 

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This month on the STEAMED! blog we’re going to declare it Fantastic February. We’ll be looking at the fantasy element in fiction. However, this post is where real life intrudes. There is no doubt that the wonders of the Victorian age were splendid, but there was one thing that did take time and wasn’t so very progressive – the mail. In this one instance alone (ok, that and perhaps dental hygiene) I am so very grateful for the wonders of the modern age, including the Internet and email.

Let me say, you don’t know what you have until you lose it.

My case in point is today’s blog on behalf of fellow Harlequin author Oliva Gates who is currently living in Egypt without Internet or cell phone access who has a book out starting today, Feb. 1, titled To Tempt a Sheikh (which now that I truly consider it, might indeed be the fantasy of some of you – so it still fits with this month’s blog theme.)

Here’s a tasty bit about Oliva’s story:
He rescued hostage Talia Burke from his royal family’s rival tribe and swept her into his strong embrace. But Prince Harres Aal Shalaan soon discovered there was more to the brave beauty than he knew. Talia held information vital to protecting his beloved kingdom…and she had every reason not to trust him.

Marooned together at a desert oasis, Talia couldn’t resist Harres. Yet even as his sizzling seduction entranced her, his loyalty to his family and country would always make them enemies. Falling for the sheikh would be her heart’s greatest mistake…but she feared it was already too late….

As I mentioned the book is out TODAY and available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Books A Million and bookstores everywhere. Also available at eharlequin both in print and as an ebook.

If you’d like to take a mini-fantasy vacation of your own, you can even read a first chapter and visit Olivia’s webpage, click here.

With best regards to our esteemed STEAMED! readers,

Lolita Theresa

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