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In just five short days, Avalon Revamped, the sequel (of sorts) to the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited, will be released to the public. For those of you who aren’t familiar with my first Steampunk Erotic Romance book, Avalon Revisited was not only a bestseller on Amazon, but it also won the Steampunk Chronicle’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Novel in 2012.

Author-signed copies are available for this long-awaited sequel until September 30th at 11:59pm PST. There’s only a limited number of author-signed copies going out, so get your order in quickly. Otherwise, you’ll have to meet me at a convention to get the book signed, and I only have one scheduled in 2014.

About Avalon Revamped:

Arthur Tudor, a vampire for nearly four-hundred years, finds himself bored with life and love, yet again. His tolerance for his newly-turned girlfriend Avalon wanes, and he’s on the prowl for fresh blood to drink and succulent flesh to pierce. While investigating a series of mysterious disappearances, the couple comes face to face with Constance, a succubus committed to exacting justice for violated women. The supernatural trio joins forces to stop a serial rapist and murderer. Set in Victorian London, this Steampunk horror novel is about justice, retribution, and redemption.

Let true justice prevail…

Here is what C. L. Stegall, author of The Blood of Others, has to say about Avalon Revamped:

Every once in a while I get the opportunity to read a piece of work that makes me think, “This is the one the will put this author on the map of the reading world.” Avalon Revamped is that book for O. M. Grey. It deals with some horrific truths and should be read by every person on the planet. It is a great adventure, with serious underpinnings that elevate it into a higher realm of genre literature.

How about them apples?

Order your author-signed copy via PayPal using THIS LINK. Otherwise, you can get your copy from Amazon.com or on the Kindle starting next Tuesday, October 1st.

Still haven’t read Avalon Revisited? It’s high time!  You can get your copy from Riverdale Ave Books, on Amazon.com, or on a variety of eBook formats. Or, if you prefer to listen to your books, there’s an audio version of Avalon Revisited available via AudioRealms.

Still not convinced? Read what others have said about my scribblings.

Find my other works for purchase, and even some for free, and view my complete works all on the pages of my blog.

Explore! Comment! Buy!

And, above all, share on your networks and with your friends.

May you all find peace.

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Ella Grey has always loved to write. As much as she loves being a mum and eating strawberry ice cream. She can’t picture her life without it. ‘Wings’ is her first story in the Steampunk genre and it isn’t going to be her last. Ella has tackled a lot of different genres and doesn’t plan on settling on any particular one. It makes life interesting and keeps it varied. The next project is still being decided but she’s leaning toward a YA trilogy that’s been bugging her to be written. Her family are used to seeing her bent over a computer and muttering conversations with the people in her head. It’s okay, since she’s perfectly happily with not being normal.

Fairy Tales and Steampunk: The Perfect Combination?

By Ella Grey

Clockwork_Tale-cvrI’ve always owned several fairy tale books as I was growing up. I still have a few on my bookshelf, both of them classics in their own way. The first in a collection by the Brothers Grimm, which has several brilliantly, told stories in it. The other is a collection by Angela Carter. I’ve always loved her collection of stories but neither collection is suitable to read to my son, he prefers dinosaur books anyway.

I started reading fairy tales from a young age and I even took a class in them during my short stay at University. It was my favourite class, showing the darker origins of fairy tales, originally used as morality tales to keep children in line.

Steampunk is a different story. I’ve always had some idea of it, H.G Wells and Jules Verne being the founding fathers so to speak but I’d never read it. I’m not sure why, I guess it had something to do with it being based in, some cases Victorian England, and I got flashbacks of trying to understand Charles Dickens. My first real introduction was a few years ago, right about the same time I got my first contract with Echelon. A friend of mine, Sean Hayden, wrote an eshort called Lady Dorn and after that first story I was hooked. From that moment I knew that I wanted to write a Steampunk story myself but what?

Last year I answered a submissions call from Echelon Press, after finding success with their pervious Steampunk anthology, a collection I loved, they wanted to do another one. This time Steampunk retellings of classic fairy tales. My brain nearly exploded with all the possible ideas I could use, thankfully my brain didn’t actually explode because that would have cut my writing career brutally short and brain matter probably isn’t that easy to clean up.

I believe that fairy tales are perfect for Steampunk retellings. The classics are constantly being retold in different genres, why not Steampunk? Fairy tales and Steampunk both have a fantasy element to them, in Steampunk it is the classic what if? So I believe that these two genres are a perfect fit and I definitely want to write more.

My story in the Once Upon a Clockwork Tale Anthology is based on The Wild Swans. I got the most vivid image of clockwork wings when I planned my story.

~Ella

http://www.ellagrey.wordpress.com

Once Upon a Clockwork Tale (Steampunk Anthology)

Wings by Ella Grey: Born into a world where the fairer sex hides coyly behind fans, Winifred is nowhere near the stereotype. She is fearless and passionate about her father’s scientific work. When the King summons him, Winifred is worried. The arrival of her six brothers and the mysterious Amelia and her silent brother offers distraction, but Winifred’s entire world is about to change beyond recognition and it’s up to her to save everyone she loves.

Hands and Grater by Robin Wyatt Dunn: Hands and Grater don’t understand their mother’s unique love for them. For how much love can a machine truly give? As Grimm originally intended, this is a bildungsroman, a tale of two young people coming of age in a time and place filled with danger and joy. The time has come for brother and sister to leave the nest, and learn their true nature, and the nature of their mother.

Bitter Cold by Katina French: Childhood friends, Kit and Greta, live in an extraordinary place powered by alchemical magic and mechanical wonders. Just when life might offer him favors, Kit is captured by the Snow Queen, a ruthless industrialist, bent on developing her Eternity Engine. Greta must risk everything to save Kit. Can a stubborn young lady best the most powerful woman in the world, with a little alchemy, a lot of luck, and a clockwork reindeer?

The Enchanted Bean by Matt Mitrovich: How do you reach a fabled land of giants without any magic beans? Build an airship, of course. A British adventurer takes to the skies seeking wealth and glory, instead he finds ancient gods ruling an oppressive flying kingdom. With the help of their allies, these former masters of men want to replant the World Tree and rebuild their war machines. To stop the sky from falling, our hero will have to do more than chop down a beanstalk.

 

 

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Today we welcome author Nick Harkaway. His new novel ANGELMAKER is a “blistering gangster noir meets howling absurdist comedy as the forces of good square off against the forces of evil, and only an unassuming clockwork repairman and an octogenarian former superspy can save the world from total destruction.”

Nick Harkaway was born in 1972, a distinction he shares with Carmen Electra (allegedly), a collection of indifferent wines, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album, and a company which makes guttering in Pietermaritzburg. He is tall and has a shaggy and unkempt look about him which even the best grooming products cannot entirely erase. His eyebrows were at one time wanted on a charge of ruckus and affray in the state of Utah, but this unhappy passage has now been resolved. He is the author of ANGELMAKER and THE GONE-AWAY WORLD, which was originally titled THE WAGES OF GONZO LUBITSCH– a name which still occasionally crops up on Amazon lists. The new title was adopted because no one could pronounce the old one, and because while he originally intended people to think of Gonzo the Muppet, it was apparent that a majority of readers defaulted to Hunter S. Thompson instead.

Hi Nick, welcome to STEAMED. ANGELMAKER sounds both fun and facinating. Where did you get the ideas for this story?

Nick Harkaway: Everywhere. I get ideas from everything around me, all the time. In this case there was my own criminal granddad and his bent mates, who were the subject of all manner of tall and hilarious tales when I was growing up (but who were monstrous in person and whose company in the real world I was mercifully spared). Then there was the broken clockwork toy on the café table in Primrose Hill, and – inevitably – Jules Verne’s submarine. There were Capra’s movies and my friend Tom’s observation that villains are more interesting than heroes because villains are always launching a revolution where heroes are proponents of the often-miserable status quo. There was Al-Mas’udi’s recounting of the history of Manfarqalas the war elephant of Mansura, and there was an article in the Independent about a despised and utterly blameless ethnicity in southern Europe.

Is ANGELMAKER more character-driven or plot-driven or both? How so?

Nick: The separation is a false one; in any story, you come to know the characters by what they do and feel in the context of the events which unfold. At the same time the more they become involved in those events the more they influence them and the whole thing unrolls together. Style is in there, too – the voice is derived from and partially constrains what can happen and how it can be told; it gives mood to the perceptions of the characters and determines whether we see them from within or without, whether we sympathize or mock. You can’t ultimately separate these things from one another – though it’s fashionable in some circles to try to snip one part away to look at it in depth, that approach inevitably misses a large part of what’s going on.

Here at STEAMED, we love to read book about awesome women. What kind of heroine do you have and how does she relate to the hero?

Nick: There are three central women in this story: Edie Banister, who when we first meet her is retired and 90-odd years old, but who in her youth was a full-blown James Bond-style secret agent for the British Government’s most clandestine service. Young Edie is dryly ironic, desperate to escape her boring existence, physical and smart. Old Edie is complex, her young self still burning inside her. Along the road she’s fallen in love, fallen out of love with her government and her previous profession, and won and lost a lot. I love them both: Young Edie would have broken my heart, Old Edie would inspire my delight and admiration.

Then there’s Frankie, the mathematician whose genius is at the heart of the drama, who is abrupt, wounded, and brilliant.

And finally there’s Polly the Bold Receptionist. Polly has the hardest job from a story point of view – she has to be a person despite having a lot of jobs in the narrative. She’s sexy, somewhat offbeat and unpredictable, dangerous and determined. I worried that she didn’t get enough time to show her colours in the book, but I got a tweet from someone this morning saying how much they wanted to be her, so I’m happy.

Since many of us here at STEAMED write romance, we tend to love a good HEA. How important is a happy-ever-after in your writing?

Nick: I like a story to come to an end in a way which doesn’t make you want to go out and throw yourself under a bus. I also don’t really get along with unresolved endings. I feel if I’m a reader I’ve invested a lot of time and emotional energy in a book and I’m owed some kind of payoff. I don’t really accept that doubt and angst are a payoff, though I know intellectually that some books are about those things and the ending must reflect that.

Even so.

So my stories have happy or happy-ish endings in general; I figure by the time they reach the end my heroes tend to have been through the mangle and they’ve entertained us and fought for us and made us care and they deserve a break. I don’t like things too pat, though, so it’s not so much happily ever after as happy now, more to do, which I think is all any of us gets.

That said, I don’t do sequels. I read a sequel once to a book in which the hero clearly died at the end of the first story, and the new book started ‘but he did not die’ and proceeded to mess up his life again for three hundred pages and I just thought: that’s mean. It’s just frankly unkind to the guy.

Do you have any villains? And how do they relate to your hero and heroine?

Nick: Oh, you’ve got to have a good villain. I have a couple, and they are villainous! The villain defines the action and the nature of the story at least as much as the hero. Who’s the main character in Star Wars? Luke Skywalker. Who defines the action? Darth Vader. He’s at the heart of it all.

So my villains are like that. They are the instigators, the hidden hands which must be revealed, the stalking scary bad which comes at you from the dark. How do they relate to my heroes? They hate them. They hate them with a burning, fiery passion.

It’s always so interested to hear about how people balance life and writing. Can you share with us your writing schedule?

Nick: Sure. It’s not complicated. My wife goes to her office at around 8am, and I write from then until when she comes home, with a break for lunch. I say “write”, but I don’t mean that I necessarily bang the keyboard all that time. It depends on how a book is working. Sometimes I read it back, edit with a pen, scribble ideas, stare into space, make tea… it’s all process.

Do you have any more projects in the work?

Nick: Of course! I always have more stuff in the works. I wrote a shorter novel while I was waiting for the edit on ANGELMAKER, so I have that to rework and sort out. Then I have a thriller in my mind which will be pretty scary. After that… there’s so much to do… we’ll see.

If readers want to know more about you and your writing, where on the web can they find you?

Nick: I am ubiquitous. The best thing to do is Google me and pick what you like. I’m on Twitter (@Harkaway) and Facebook – I have a professional Page there, I’m trying to wean people off my personal page because it basically doesn’t get used much any more and it doesn’t get the announcements and stuff – and tumblr (www.Harkaway.tumblr.com) and I have my own site, due for a revamp this summer – www.nickharkaway.com – and I’m on Google +. Heck, I’m on Diaspora* – I’d love to move all my social media stuff there, but it’s not quite ready yet.

So, yeah, not hard to find.

Actually, that’s a good thing for me to ask you – what’s your favourite way of interacting with an author? It drives me crazy that most author sites are basically like old posters at bus stations – they’re flat announcements of information with very little depth. That’s why I love Twitter – because it’s fully interactive. But maybe that just makes me a niche social media person. Where would you most likely look for an author?

Thank you so much for coming, Nick!

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Michael Rigg lives with his wife and children in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. He’s a social media writer and blognovelist, and self-described nerd. His Steampunk blognovel, Heart of Bronze, can be found at heartofbronze.wordpress.com. He also writes a regular column about roleplaying for the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic video game called “The RP XP with MJ” which can be found at swtor-life.com. If you’d like to learn more about the author or his work, as well as plans for an e-book and audio version of Heart of Bronze coming in 2012, you can email him directly at BronzeNovel@gmail.com. You can follow him @MichaelJRigg on Twitter, or check out his links at MichaelRigg.com.

Do you feel steamy, punk?

A blognovelist’s foray into the world of Steampunk

by Michael J. Rigg

I’ll admit it. The first time I’d heard the word “Steampunk,” I turned my nose up at it. I had heard of “Cyberpunk,” and I grew up in an age of “Punk Rock,” but steam?

Then I saw glimpses of it. Huge bronze engines, airships bristling with guns, bizarre pistols brandished by roguish men in top hats and brass goggles, beautiful women in corsets and bustles brandishing attitude, biplanes, steam-powered monstrosities, strange and mysterious glimpses of a reality that seemed all too real but not quite right, and I was intrigued enough to allow a seed to plant in the back of my mind.

Good thing. I would need it.

I am a writer and DIY author. My work is all free, mostly rough (because I’m more storyteller/writer than writer/editor), and available to anyone who doesn’t mind reading a novel on a computer screen. I  published poetry and short stories way back in my meager beginnings, but the long form had always appealed to me. If I was going to be a writer, I would write novels.

I studied filmmaking and philosophy in college, but it was one professor who pointed out to me that novelists don’t need to hire actors, build sets or pay caterers that steered me toward writing to tell my stories; truly “Do-It-Yourself Filmmaking on the Cheap.”

After several failed attempts and publishing a novel (I had no problems writing them. I wrote in just under three months, another during a mad dash through “NaNoWriMo”), I gave up. I had written a horror story, a science fiction novel, a fantasy set in an age of dragons and heroes, and I had received kudos and accolades from peers and even publishers. “Your manuscript passed our first round of reviewers and has moved on to our editorial board,” came from St. Martin’s Press on a first submission. Holy cow!

But I’m lazy when it comes to publishing persistence. The average number of submissions to get a hook from a publisher used to be 20-25. I’m sure it’s much higher in today’s economy. I didn’t have that kind of money for postage. And I couldn’t find an agent. This was decades ago, folks. We old-timers didn’t have no newfangled Internet Thingy.

Then I realized I didn’t want to be “published” per se. I just wanted someone to enjoy my stories. It had nothing to do with fame, fortune, or being an author. I was a story teller. If just ONE person read my work and it made their day, it would make my day. It would all be worth it.

In 2007 I “published” my first “blognovel experiment.” I started a blog, but—instead of entries about the funny things my dog does—I wrote chapters. I didn’t have an outline or even characters in mind. It was an organic experiment to see what would happen if I just started writing from a premise. It began with this thought: What if a serial killer, on the run, ducked into a fortune teller’s home at the precise moment the fortune teller realized she really could predict the future? Ninety thousand words later: August Winter.

Two years later I took another stab at it. An Angel For Sara Dawn began with a premise and an idea. I followed that up with an outline and some character bios, but I had no idea how it would end. The characters would decide that as the story progressed. The few readers I had collected for August doubled by the time I started Sara. What next?

For my third blognovel, I went back to an old favorite manuscript. I started to re-write a finished book as a blognovel, but stopped dead only five chapters in. Again, I gave up (Yeah, its’ a theme with me).

Something wasn’t clicking. I had written about angels and demons, aliens and mysterious government projects—all topics I loved—but the settings all seemed weak to me, stale.

That’s when my mind wandered to an alternate reality where airships and Victorian lifestyles reigned, where polite English butlers waxed their mustaches and ladies wore tiny hats with veils (and Derringers in their garters), where Nikola Tesla’s visions provided the fuel for a world. What was that called?

STEAMPUNK

Heart of Bronze began the same way as August Winter. I had an opening scene in mind, as well as a few others that would come later in the story, and a conclusion. All I had to do was let the characters connect the dots for me.

As of the publishing of this article, I’m a little more than half way through the story, with a new chapter publishing each Wednesday. Heart of Bronze, forgive the pun, has picked up steam as well as readers. Nearly four times as many people are following Heart than followed August and Sara combined, and I’m dedicated to putting it out as a free e-book and podcast book next year.

What makes the journey fun and interesting is the interactivity with my readers. Three of the main characters were named and designed by readers. Several other items, places or vehicles were named by readers. The book cover and web site banner were created by readers. One reader has even stepped up to create a Wiki for the book. And, as we near the climactic crescendo, I’ll be asking readers to decide which of the story’s two villains will die, and which will live on in book two.

I don’t claim to be an expert on Steampunk. In fact, I’m still a Steampunk virgin. I don’t classify Heart of Bronze purely as a Steampunk novel. I call it my Steampunk-Sci-Fi-Romantic-Thriller-Alternate History-Fantasy because it has elements of all (or most) of the above, though several of my most vocal fans lean toward “Steampunk Romance” and call it a day. Who am I to argue with my readers?

I think I can safely say I’ve come home. I’m learning a lot about this booming genre and can’t wait to create more stories and characters in the clockwork world of brass and steam. Heart of Bronze is a love affair for me. It has given me a playground to call my own, a world frozen in time and reality where anything can happen.

And does.

–Michael J. Rigg

MichaelRigg.com

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Jay Kristoff is an author, professional tall-scary person and is frequently mistaken for Dave Grohl in smoky, dimly lit pubs. His steampunk novel STORMDANCER sold at auction, and will be published in Spring 2012 through St Martin’s Press and Tor UK as the first part of a trilogy. He blogs here, and reduces the signal to noise ratio of the internet here.

Japanese Steampunk

by Jay Kristoff

Presuming I’m surrounded by an audience who’s nerd-quotient is sitting comfortably above baseline, this is my reply to that dreaded question “So what’s your book about?” So when the lovely folks at Steamed agreed to let me loose on their readership, I proposed to write a post about the same topic, because honestly, I feel like the God of Clumsy Online Promotion murders a kitten every time I come out and overtly plug my novel.

The origins of what we know as Steampunk lie in the fictions of the Victorian Age, and the minds of writers like HG Wells and Jules Verne. Awesome, Jay. Tell us something we don’t know.

OK. So around the same time Verne was laying the foundations for SP, across the other side of the world in Japan, the Tokugawa Shogunate was closing up shop faster than your average Borders outlet. A country that had remained isolated from the west opened itself to foreign trade and influence (ie, control), resulting in a rapid industrial expansion. And while Japanese writers and artists remained heavily influenced by classicism and weren’t to climb aboard the SF/F train for decades, it’s not hard to imagine a world where the Scientific Romances of Verne and Co could’ve been coupled with a Japanese aesthetic.

Certainly there’s anime that might be considered Steampunk: Last Exile, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, Steamboy, etc, but not many of these settings are even remotely Japanese, despite being penned by Japanese creators. And note that I’m not talking about so-called ‘Victorientalism’ (excellent essay about it here) or the Japanese annexation of Victorian fashion. I’m talking about telling poor Victoriana that we need to see other people, and seeding anachronistic technology into a historical setting that is distinctly Japanese.

Clockwork samurai. Chainsaw katana. Sky-ships sailing across a rising sun – Steampunk in Japan.

How would a traditionalist Shogunate evolve in a tech-heavy environment? How would philosophy and religion be impacted? How would the feudal caste system develop under a tech-empowered nobility? What would power the technology? What toll would it wreak on environment? And most importantly, would there be ninja, and exactly how much would they flip out?

For some indication of where I ended up, check out the art of Greg Broadmore and the fabulously talented Mr James Ng, who’s ‘Imperial Steamworks’ series sums up the aesthetic of my novel exactly.

Up to this point in its evolution, the vast bulk of Steampunk fiction is set in Victorian England or colonial America. But as artists, writers and creators, I feel it’s our duty to challenge tropes and expectations. Exploring the notion of Japanese SP coupled with traditional fantasy is enormously fun, and I hope as time goes on, more and more folks open themselves up to possibilities like it.

Fiction should never be limited by geography – it’s only limit is our imagination.

Six kittens were slain by the God of Clumsy Online Promotion during the making of this blog post.

~Jay Kristoff

http://misterkristoff.wordpress.com/

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

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

Writing Steampunk Romance–A Guy’s POV

by Matt Forbeck

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

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

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

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

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

–Matt Forbeck

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

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Today we have Jane George, author and illustrator of the YA book, The Mumbo Jumbo Circus. 

Sideshow, Burlesque and Circus

by Jane George

“STEP RIGHT UP! DON’T BE SHY. THAT’S RIGHT FOLKS, WHAT’S INSIDE MUST BE SEEN TO BE BELIEVED!”

As a kid, I was exposed to such imaginative oddities as The Wild, Wild West TV show and The 7 Faces of Dr Lao.

These kinds of cultural influences wax and wane, and now the lure of the mysterious, the impossible, and the forbidden is stronger than ever.  The resurgence of interest in circus arts, sideshow and burlesque theater may be part of the same cultural backlash to beige-box consumerism that spawned Steampunk. Humans crave color, imagination and creative freedom.

Poster: Gemini & Scorpio

Intense explorations of cabaret/burlesque, circus, sideshow and Steampunk have popped up all around the country, from one night events like The Lost Circus Circus Meets Dark Cabaret With a Steampunk Twist in Brooklyn last year to on-going performances and dinner theater.  Just to name a few:

In Austin, Texas, The East Side Show Room serves up gourmet cuisine and vintage cocktails with a side of cabaret in a steampunky-circus atmosphere. For a Tim Burton meets the circus experience, there is Cirque Berzerk   in Los Angeles. And in San Francisco you can have, “Love, Chaos & Dinner,” in a tent with Teatro ZinZanni

While the delights of classic roadside attractions like The Thing are now few and far between, there are performers who are carrying on the tradition of Sideshow and the Ten-in-One.

Austin, Texas is also home to Noel Benedetti aka Ballyhoo Betty, a sideshow performer who specializes in fire arts.

Noel is blogmistress of www.HeyRubeCircus.com , a fantastic celebration of all things circus and sideshow. She is affiliated with 999 Eyes Freakshow, The Invisible Man Corporation, and The Surreal Sideshow.

Noel says this about her experience as a sideshow performer, “Aside from musical acts, people are relatively sheltered from live entertainment today and so people are typically unaware of the very visceral chemistry that can exist between performer and viewer. During a live sideshow, there is an interaction taking place, unlike the unidirectional consumption of most mass media, such as television. This dynamic often takes people by surprise, and you can see their eyes light up in response to this confrontation.”

In contrast to the hybrid theater/circus/cabaret blends that are gaining in popularity, Noel says this about her art, “While sideshow is often considered a radical or fringe culture, it is also heavily steeped in tradition. There are relatively few genuinely novel sideshow acts around today; people have been eating fire, swallowing swords and displaying anatomical oddities for centuries and tipping the hat to performers of the past has become a norm in the business.”

Photo: Jason Black

Noel suggested I look up a visual artist and sideshow performer named Jason Black, aka The Black Scorpion.  Among the venues he performs at is Coney Island’s Sideshows by the Seashore

A poem by Black describes The Black Scorpion:

A winged, performance Anti-Artist.

He, born a naked baby boy with irregular hands, unlike any other.

When him you see, understand you will.

Witnessing his Anti-Act is the longest day you will ever live.

Remember he is breathing for something onstage, and living the rest for his life.

That last line stays with you, doesn’t it? I’ll bet his act does too.

Current circus and sideshow acts could be be said to be more about individualism and creativity than about “Hey, Rube” hucksterism. This is especially true in the modern world of burlesque. A revival in burlesque and the art of the striptease happened in the Nineties and has been gaining in popularity ever since. Partly driven by a nostalgia for old-time glamor, modern burlesque is also a feminine reclaiming of the “male gaze,” often in intelligent and hilarious send-ups of the medium. Burlesque is theater, cabaret and performance art rolled into one.

photo: RJ Johnson, Hot Pink Feathers

Hot Pink Feathers   is a renowned, award-winning San Francisco Bay Area troupe that performs World Cabaret Showgirl dance. Founder and head Feather, Kellita, told me why she feels burlesque is so popular, “The heart of the matter is that burlesque is an art and a craft that puts the woman front and center, as performer and as producer. Audiences today are more heavily female than they used to be. Content is almost exclusively created by a woman for herself, and it often parodies her personal insecurities, transforming them into mainstays of joy and inspiration.  Burlesque is an art form that deserves its due. When it’s done right, a lot of craft goes into the art of slf-expression.”

Hot Pink Feathers is performing a Sally Rand-type showgirl routine, with feather fans and dripping-pearl bikinis, in San Francisco’s Carnavale Parade on  Sunday, May 29.  Say hello to them at the staging area 9am-12 at Bryant between 21st & 22nd.  Parade starts at noon. They can also be seen on the 2nd Saturday of every month at Café Van Kleef, where they perform with the Blue Bone Express brass band. Next show is June 11.

For a while now, circus arts have been making their way back to the more intimate, single ring circus. When I saw an equine show produced by Cirque du Soleil called Cheval Theatre, I could practically reach out and touch the horses. I definitely felt the whoosh as they galloped past my seat.

Poster: Circus Flora

A circus dedicated to this connection between performer and audience is Circus Flora in St. Louis. Circus Flora weaves a theatrical storyline through their classical circus acts. From their site, “The artistry, magic and charm of Circus Flora’s performances have made it part of the vanguard of the “new circus” movement in North America.”The artistry, magic and charm of Circus Flora’s performances have made it part of the vanguard of the “new circus” The theme of their performances changes annually. This year it’s a Victorian-era riverboat theme entitled Vagabond Adventures.

“Circus Flora is about performance, not spectacle. Circus Flora concentrates on displaying the individual talents and personalities of human and animal performers highlighting their relationships to one another. It’s a circus about family, beauty, magic and inspiration.”  Ivor David Balding

That quote could have been written about my recently-released, young adult fantasy, The Mumbo Jumbo Circus. It describes the themes of my novel perfectly. One random commenter will receive a paperback of The Mumbo Jumbo Circus. Step Right Up! into the world of human possibility that is this writer’s imagination.

Freedom, creativity and individualism are hallmarks of modern sideshow, burlesque, cabaret, and circus arts. Just like the relationship between author and reader, the magic is in the point of connection. I like to think of a circus ring as a sacred circle of human possibility. Happy performing, in whatever you do!

 ~Jane George

What do you love most about the circus? 

Jane is giving away a copy of The Mumbo Jumbo Circus to one lucky commenter (North America only please).   Contest ends 11:59 PM PST  June 1, 2011.

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