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Archive for the ‘Weird West’ Category

I began writing historical romances, Celtic ones, set in the Bronze ages,  Iron ages, and Dark ages. I moved from history to alternate history with Steampunk. The move into Steampunk was a natural one for me. In To Love The London Ghost I even combined Victorian history with ancient Celtic history as my heroine is a ghost who died on the banks of the Thames fighting Julius Ceasar.

I always loved the Victorian era, I think because of all those western shows I use to watch growing up: The Riffle Man, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Bonanza, The Virginian, and Wagon Train. When I was eight, I discovered the Little House On The Prairie books, those page turners were the first series I ever read and historical fiction has been one of my favorite genres ever since.

Around the age of six on up to about eight, I use to daydream what I called TV in my head and except for one series of mine – fan fiction based on Flash Gordon – all the others were westerns. In one daydream series my hero road a buffalo – I was six or seven and it made perfect sense at the time.  The heroine of those daydreams, the buffalo rider’s wife, always wore a blue and white print frontier style dress. I should find some fabric like that and have a prairie dress made for myself. I can tell people I’m cosplaying a character form my daydreams when I was seven. Why not?

I was eight or nine when The Wild Wild West show began on TV and I was crazy about it. With that in mind, click on the Wild Wild West video for some background music for the post.

I know now that The Wild Wild West was Steampunk.

DSCN0086 (2)Though I haven’t written any western themed Steampunk yet, I live in an area where western Steampunk costumes and personas are popular. I live in Texas. Here are some Western themed photos from members of Houston’s local Steampunk community.

Now that I’ve shared my childhood inspiration with all of you, feel free to comment below on what inspired you to write Steampunk. I’d love to hear about it.

 

wester

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 22 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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We recently had a fun event in Houston for the local Steampunk community. The Brass Ball, a DJed dance with multiple musicians and vendors was held Sunday July 27 at Mimms Martini and Wine bar on Montrose. You can see photos of the Brass Ball here in the blog post.

This event had me thinking about Houston saloons in the 19th century. The main choice of drink in the saloon was whiskey, also called rotgut, sheep-dip, cactus juice, coffin varnish, and tarantula juice. In those days cowboys and western gents could partake of more than just a drink in a saloon. In 1839, a local Houston, Texas newspaper decried the town’s houses of ill repute. The newspaper was probably either The Houston Morning Star, a daily newspaper founded April 8, 1839, or the Telegraph and Texas Register, a weekly newspaper that included local, state, and national news, established July 10, 1839. The Houston Morning Star was actually printed in the office of the Telegraph and Texas Register.

In Houston Land of the Big Rich the author, Geroge Fuerman, statesbrass ball 2 that from 1880 to World War I Houston’s vice area was on old Howard Street. In the early 1900’s the brothels in Houston used a practical bookkeeping system based on towels. One was given to each customer and at the end of the night the madam counted the brass ball 5towels and paid the girls accordingly. There’s a story about a Howard street brothel in those days that caught on fire. The madam fled the burning house by taking the outside stairs but when she looked up she saw the porter jump form a second story window with his arms loaded with towels. She exclaimed, “Thank God. He saved the books.”

I did find some saloon information from other Texas towns. In the early 1870s in Lampasas Texas a gunfight broke out in the saloon between state police and outlaws. Three officers were shot to death in the saloon and a fourth was fatally wounded while trying to escape.

There’s even a Texas saloon story involving Jesse James. The brass ball 9outlaw lived for a time in the area of Granbury Texas. He fell in love with an 18 year old saloon girl and began to settle down. In those days if a saloon patron was upstairs with a saloon girl when his wife came to drag him home, the barkeep would send the man down the husband escape, which was the outside stairs. The saloon girl Jesse loved had to run down the husband escape one night but she wasn’t fast enough to escape a bullet in her back. Some people say the saloon girl still haunts the empty up stair rooms around the square in Granbury.

I’m glad to report the Brass Ball at Mims was old fashioned fun and great music without any wild west shenanigans or shootouts but there were some card tricks.

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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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DELcover

Click on the bookcover image to visit the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Website

It was too good to be true… a copy of Dawn’s Early Light in my own hands… I had it for all of a few seconds before my son snapped it up out of my hands. With a stern demand in my tone and a promise to return it to his hands when I was done reading it, I soon had it back. And in my hands it stayed until I’d finished it. And smiled… and smiled… more.

The third book in the series, Dawn’s Early Light has been highly anticipated in my household and it did not disappoint! From the very opening, we are treated to action and adventure with our favorite duo, Books & Braun! Even in transit to the Americas they can’t seem to catch a break and have some peace and quiet. But if they did, they wouldn’t be our favorite agents… 😀

Arriving in America they make quick work of finding their American counterparts and getting to know one another. But of course for these two, the simple act of meeting “Wild Bill” and Felicity is entertaining and promises more fun before the end of the book. More than national pride separates the agents, competition is high, and there’s still the emotional confusion welling up within our Ministry agents. It’s all good!

Another exciting facet of the novel, the ‘tech’ in this new ‘Ministry’ book doesn’t disappoint. Wellington’s tinkering and inventive mind certainly make me smile. His continued interest, even so far away from home, was a joy! Add to it a number of other scientists we all know and love… and some perhaps on the other end of the spectrum, and the game is on!

I really appreciate the way the parallel story lines are presented. It’s easy to follow along with all the characters in the adventures covered in this volume. Even with the additional characters that are part and parcel with changing the setting in a series of books, no one seems left out or plays the part of an ‘extra.’ All the characters live and breathe within this brave ‘new world’ of Book Three!

The pacing of the book is another plus for me… the action moves things forward, the relationships and interactions of the characters move the plot along. It’s a satisfying read that clips along and builds excitement not just for the happenings in Dawn’s Early Light, but continuing on in the series.

That is one of the delights of this series. I always worry when the first two books of a series are great… I’ve been let down a few times before with other authors and other genres. So, I was very happy to read this book and know that this is a series that just keeps getting better!

Eager for more information on this amazing series, I sent a few questions to the author’s of the book.

TSD

click on this picture to visit their writing website

Q & A with the authors of Dawn’s Early Light

Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Q: Finally, the third novel in the series! What prompted the change to America instead of other places Books & Braun may have traveled?

A: Dawn’s Early Light picks up shortly after the end of The Janus Affair. Eliza has been reinstated as a Field Agent while Wellington has been “promoted” (at least on paper anyway) to be Eliza’s partner. They have been sent, strictly as advisors, to the Office of the Supernatural and Metaphysical who are on a case that has stumped the agents there. So we join our Ministry agents on a coast-to-coast adventure.

Q: Creating characters can be both exciting and stressful, taking the setting out of England, what challenge did those barbaric Americans create for you?

A: Our adventure invites the brave agents of the Office of the Supernatural and Metaphysical (OSM, or agents of “awesome”) along for the ride, and really, Felicity Lovelace and “Wild Bill” Wheatley were a joy to write against Eliza and Welly. Felicity and Bill are mirror reflections of the two of them, and sometimes Eliza and Welly don’t like what is staring back at them. It was a challenge digging deep into the American agents and poking fun at our own world personas. We had a blast mixing it up with our agents from opposite ends of the Atlantic.

Q:  Personally, I’m thrilled that Wild American West is the locale for your newest book. Wild Bill is a nickname given to a number of personages in that period of American History. Is your Wild Bill focused on one in particular, an amalgamation, or did you pull him from thin air?

A: The name “Wild Bill” I’m sure will conjure images of Bill Hickok but our “Wild Bill” is more of an appropriate reputation for a loose cannon in the Intelligence Community. Bill Wheatley is similar to Eliza in that he likes to make an impression with as much firepower as he can muster. I believe there is a bit of method to Bill’s madness, and in the end I think Eliza and Wellington both grow to like him…after a fashion.

Q: In our family, your Ministry books are shared between two generations. What do you think is key to your multi-generational appeal?

A: Spies are cool. Period. Whether it is James Bond, James West and Artemis Gordon, or the crew taking care of Warehouse 13, spies are appealing to all ages. It could be the gadgets. It could be the action and adventure. It could be the intrigue and the lifestyle, but there is something about spies that keeps all ages engaged. When you see the lines at the International Spy Museum, you really see all kinds of people anxious to see the toys and soak in the history. It’s the cloak-and-dagger that draws everybody in.

Q: Do you have plans for beyond book 4? Are there any hints you’d care to share?

A: I can’t go too much into what we’re working on with Book 4 but I will tell you this: bring a flashlight. We’re going dark.

Thanks to Pip & Tee for taking the time to answer some of my questions! Now… all I have to do is somehow WAIT for book Four.

Wait.  *tapping fingers* Hmm… *bouncing my knee up and down underneath my computer table*  “Is it done yet? Huh?”

From Ray Dean: Howdy from Hawai’i, folks! I’ve been a guest blogger on Steamed! on several occasions, but thanks to Suzanne who gave me the opportunity to do this on a regular basis. So the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month you will be subjected… err… entertained(?) by my blog posts… YOU WILL BE ENTERTAINED, I said… *cough*

Anywho… A hui hou (Until we meet again) – Ray Dean – www.raydean.net – My Ethereality

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Steampunk and gorillas, why not? An odd but interesting mix. Gorillas have a definite place in Steampunk. Apes are especially popular in Victorian literature. The most famous gorilla was Edgar Allan Poe’s mass murderer from his tale, The Murders In The Rue Morgue, published in 1841. It stands as the first detective story ever written.

One reason for the Victorians’ interest in these powerful creatures was the topic of evolution. Spurred by Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, evolution was a hotly debated topic of the era. Also Britain had colonies in Africa. Therefore, the Victorians had a particular interest in the unique continent and its magnificent creatures.

Now everyone loves a cowboy. And is there anything cooler than a western hero? Why yes, a six gun gorilla of course.

Set in the 19th century American wild west, Six Gun Gorilla is about a kidnapped baby gorilla brought from Africa to the United States. There, he ends up in Colorado with a kind prospector, Bart Masters. The gorilla, O’Neil, loved the prospector like a father. Bart taught O’Neil to dig, fetch firewood, gather water, cook, clean and of course load and fire a six shooter.

Unfortunately, Tutt Stawhan, head of the Strawhan outlaw gang, murders Bart Masters. And O’Neil’s cozy family life comes to an end. O’Neil vows to revenge Bart’s death. He straps a bandoleer across his broad, hairy chest and holsters two Colts. Then he sets out on a quest to track down, shoot and kill every member of the Strawhan gang.

Six-Gun Gorilla was published as a fifteen-part serial in the British Pulp, Wizard in 1939. The author is unknown. It’s now in public domain in the US and the UK. The original is online as a free download. Get it in PDF here:  tableofcontents.html

Rupert Cornelius is another favorite Steampunk gorilla.  I had the pleasure of meeting, this educated Ape, at Aetherfest in San Antonio, Texas a few years back. This brilliant gorilla answers such mind boggling questions as pirates vs ninjas, The borg vs the daleks, and what he would he do for a Klondike bar?  Rupert Cornelius can also be seen on YouTube as you would expect of any well educated ape. 

And of course last but not least is DC comics’ Gorilla Grodd, arch nemesis of the  Flash. Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, Grodd first appeared in Flash #106 in 1959.  The premise is that in the 19th century, the Victorian era, a spacecraft crashed deep in the heart of Africa in the Congo Basin. Grodd and his troupe gain super intelligence and Grodd and another gorilla, Solovar, are also empowered with telepathic and telekinetic abilities as well as mind control. With the alien pilot as their leader, the genius apes build Gorilla City where they live in a society far advanced from our own. The apes dwell in peace in this secret city hidden in the mountains, until they are discovered by explorers.

Grodd takes advantage of that, forcing an explorer to kill the alien, so he can rule Gorilla City. But Solovar and the Flash thwart Grodd’s evil plan. Many times through the years the Flash and his allies including Solovar save the world from Grodd. For more of Grodd and Gorilla City click on:  http://www.hyperborea.org/flash/gorilla-city.html#sthash.k9RP9r19.dpuf

As you can see there is something missing from the three examples above…a female gorilla. What’s up with that?  If you‘re looking for a fun character for a Steampunk novel, why not throw in an ape? Maybe a girl gorilla. It’s something to think about. It would be an intriguing change from the standard vampire or werewolf.

If you’ve read or written a book featuring a gorilla, tell us about it or comment on anything else regarding the post. I love to hear from readers and other authors.

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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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Maeve Alpin at the Weird West Fest booth at Space City Con 2013

Maeve Alpin at the Weird West Fest booth at Space City Con 2013

Who doesn’t love a good western romance, add Steampunk to the mix and you have a real winner. AMC’s hot T. V. show, Hell On Wheels, is now in it’s third season, set during the Victoria era at the end of the Civil War. Cullen Bohannon is it’s tall, dark bad boy hero, played by Anson Mount. Many women consider him one of their favorite male characters on TV. The popularity of this show leaves no doubt that 19th century American men, in well fitting jeans and well worn cowboy boots, make hot heroes. There are great westerns like Hell on Wheels and there are also great westernpunk shows.

The greatest example of a  westernpunk television show is The Wild Wild West. All the 19th century high tech spy gadgetry made it Steampunk. Even though James West and Artemus Gordon didn’t fly on an airship, they lived in the luxury compartment of a steam powered train.

Nineteenth century locomotives were bigger than life with huge grills in front and towering smoke billowing out. Their long, powerful iron bodies were adorned with decorative brass, gleaming in the hot western sun as they cut across the wild, spacious west. They emitted an orchestra of musical sounds, including the steam whistle and the chuffing noise of the train. All of these things add to the ambiance and settings of Westernpunk stories.

There are several western states Steampunk stories are set in, Texas is one.  As a Texan I can say lots of weird, fantastic, and strange things occurred in Texas in the 19th century and are great inspiration for Westernpunk tales. You may not know but it was a Texan, Jacob Brodbeck, who built and flew the first flying machine. The first take off occurred in 1866 in Gillespie County, Texas. It ran off a powerful clockwork motor and a series of gears. This large motor didn’t build up enough power for the airplane to take off on its own. Brodbeck built a ski-jump type ramp on the side of a hill near Fredericksburg, he’d take his flying machine to the top of it, and as it gained speed sliding down he’d start the motor. He could fly for three or four minutes with power, then he’d glide to a landing.

Comicpalooza 2013

Comicpalooza 2013

Another weird piece of Texas history is the alien UFO crash of 1897 which took place in Aurora Texas.  A cigar-shaped UFO plowed though a windmill, destroying it. The good folk of Aurora discovered a space alien inside, who died upon impact. They gave him a Christian burial. Someone stole the space alien’s tombstone but the state of Texas erected a historical marker at the cemetery, which reads, “This site is also well known because of the legend that a spaceship crashed nearby in 1897 and the pilot, killed in the crash was buried here.”

The Dallas Morning News printed the story and it can be read online. It stated an airship hit the tower of Judge Proter’s windmill, blew into pieces in a terrific explosion scattering parts of the UFO over several acres, wrecking the windmill and water tank, and destroying the Judge’s flower garden. The pilot, the only one in the spaceship, died upon impact and though his body was badly disfigured it was evident he was not an inhabitant of this world. That sighting and crash was part of the airship scare of 1896, in which UFOs of similar descriptions were reported throughout the U.S. including in Ohio, Iowa, Texas, Arkansas, and California.DSCN0372

Also Texas was its own country for a while, with its own president and its own money. Texas wanted to join the U.S. but what if it didn’t? What if Texas stayed a country? As for that idea, think of all those places in the U. S. originally owned by Spain and France. It reminds me of the Steampunk book, The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming.

Then there’s the shoot-em-up wild west. Would the addition of Steampunk weapons make it more lawless or less?  Obviously it would depend on who had the biggest, baddest guns. What if Native Americans had high-tech weaponry?

DSCN0531As you can see the American west makes as good a setting for Steampunk as Victorian London does. Cherie Priest (Boneshaker) and Devon Monk (Dead Iron) have had great success with using the west for their Steampunk takes. For a Steampunk romance with a hot, western bad boy, I recommend Wilder’s Mate by Moira Rogers, it’s a fun, steamy westernpunk read. Please leave comments on westernpunk romances or western romances that you’ve enjoyed and recommend.

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

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Nautical Steampunk Attire

Nautical Steampunk Attire

Airships and Trains weren’t the only steam powered transportation the Victorians used, steam driven ships were a big part of the era. Keep in mind the nautical theme of one of the, if not the, most famous Victorian sci-fi books, Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Perhaps the greatest historical steamship episode of the Victorian era is the battle of the  Ironclads during the American Civil War, the southern Merrimac and the northern Monitor,  shown in this youtube video:

Ironclads was the name given to steam powered warships protected by iron or steel armor plates.  By the 1880’s ironclads were equipped with the heaviest guns ever mounted at sea and more sophisticated steam engines, these ships developed into modern day battleships.

Another interesting steamship episode from Victorian history is the steamers that tugged the cigar shaped container ship, known as Cleopatra, which held the obelisk, called Cleopatra’s needle, all the way from Egypt. There were three steamers in all, the Olga beset by a storm rescued the survivors of the Cleopatra crew, six drowned, then they had to abandon the container ship, leaving it to drift in the Bay of Biscay. The Fillitz Morris rescued the cylinder and towed it to Northern Spain. From there the Anglia towed Cleopatra to Gravesend. Five days later Cleopatra was pulled up the Thames. On September 13, 1878 the obelisk was erected on a pedestal on the banks of the Thames. The names of the men who drowned due to Cleopatra’s journey are commemorated on the pedestal. The pedestal is also a time capsule representing Victorian Britain, it contains British coins, a railway guide, some daily newspapers, several bibles in different languages and a dozen prints of the world’s most beautiful women. You can see the obelisk here.

Here’s a fictional excerpt of the arrival of Cleopatra at London, from the Steampunk Romance, As Timeless As Magic:

The ship towed a long cylinder, about 200 hands long and about 30 hands wide, across the rippling blue water as the sun peeked through the clouds in the blue–gray sky. Heru was sure it was a royal boat when the whole crowd cheered at its approach.

“Oui, I’m dressed like an ancient Egyptian to commemorate the obelisk.” Now he understood. He fit in with the occasion. That ship hauled something important from his country to be erected along the bank of the river.

His eardrums ached with the bang of the soldiers’ sticks, weapons that blasted into the air, again and again, in praise and fanfare to the long white ship puffing steam out of the tall black pipe and tooting a loud horn. He clamped his hands over his ears.

Men in tall, black, pipe-like hats rushed forward with tools in hand and cracked open the lengthy cylinder. Using a cable from a towering machine, shaped like a barrel with wheels and cogs spinning and rocking, the men hoisted free what lay inside. The crowd all stepped back. As the tall machine clanked, rumbled and puffed steam, it lifted the obelisk to a standing position. The throng cheered.

Heru recognized the type of monument at once. “Oui, what you call obelisks are built in pairs to stand on either side of a temple, the priests use them to tell time by the shadows cast, but there is no temple and there is only one.” Confused, he shook his head.

“Egypt gave it to England in 1819, but neither Parliament nor the king, later the queen, could cover the expense of shipping it, until General Alexander took up the cause.” She cocked her head. “Sir Wilson, who, not to be crude, but honestly, is as rich as they come, paid all the costs of its voyage. They shipped the other one, its twin, to America.”

“America?” It must be another country that didn’t exist in his time, and now they too had an obelisk from Egypt. “Amazing.” The column carved out of a single piece of stone tapered into a pyramidion at the top. He peered at the beautiful hieroglyphics engraved on it.

“Not as amazing as all poor Cleopatra has been through.”

“Cleopatra?” Who or what was Cleopatra? Since he didn’t know anything or at least very little about the future he’d landed in, he shrugged as he watched her lips curve into a smile.

“The watertight cylinder. The first ship that towed her got caught in a storm and six men drowned. Cleopatra drifted in the ocean alone, until a different ship rescued her and brought her to a Spanish port. Then,“ Felicity pointed to the barge in the river, “that ship, the Anglia, brought her and the obelisk she carried, which everyone is calling Cleopatra’s needle, here.”

“This Cleopatra’s needle’s journey to England is almost as unbelievable as mine.”

“I doubt your adventure is more exciting than the obelisk’s.” Felicity set her hand on her small but defined hip.

“You would be surprised.”

Maeve Alpin & Pirate - Space City Con

Maeve Alpin & Pirate – Space City Con

Keep steamships, sea ports, and nautical settings in mind for your Steampunk tales. Also, if you live in the Houston Texas area there’s a great opportunity for maritime research and fun, Saturday, September 15that the Houston Maritime Museum. Here’s a invitation to all who can come.Please join me for an afternoon of nautical Steampunk fun at the Houston Maritime Museum, tie down the date of 09/15/12 at 3:00 PM. Don steampunk attire if you wish, in the fashion of a day at a Victorian yacht club or airship pirates may feel free to become maritime pirates

Captian Jack at Dickens On The Strand 2012

Captian Jack at Dickens On The Strand 2012

for the day, or a member of the Nautilus crew. All Steampunk garb and characters are welcomed as well as modern garb. Board the guided tour of over 150 model ship exhibits, spanning the age of exploration to the modern merchant marines and several models of steam powered ships from the Victorian age. Free parking is a shore thing at the large lot beside the museum. Museum admission is $5.00 per age 12 up, $3.00 for children 3 -11 and children under 3 are free.

Maeve Alpin

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

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

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

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

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