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Posts Tagged ‘Seleste deLaney’

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At a young age, Seleste deLaney discovered the trick to not being afraid of the monsters under the bed was to turn them into heroes. Since that time, she’s seen enough of human monsters that she prefers to escape to fictional worlds where even the worst demons have to play by the rules and the good guys might end up battered and bruised (or dead), but they always win. And really, isn’t that the way it should be 

She is in the process of relocating to southeast Michigan with her two kids (and a pair of fierce, attention-hungry slobber-monsters of her own) and is hard at work on her next book. In those rare moments when she isn’t battling terrorists, vampires, or rogue clockworks, she can be found all over the Internet, where she loves to interact with readers. To that end, you can find her at her WebsiteBlogFacebook ProfileFacebook PageTwitter, and Pinterest.    

The Big “What If?”

By Seleste deLaney

It’s been said that all the best stories start with “Once upon a time…”

Then of course, there’s the redneck version of that which says all the best stories start with “Hey, y’all, watch this…”

For myself, all the best stories start with a storyteller sitting back and thinking to themselves “What if?”

  • “What if vampires roamed Victorian London?”
  • “What if the Black Plague brought forth a mutant gene that turned nobles into monsters but let them live forever?”
  • “What if the monsters are us and a simple potion makes them come forth?”

SL_Badlands_250x400Sci-fi and fantasy are all based on the “What if?” And nowhere is this more true than with steampunk. It allows us to imagine a world where genetic manipulation, advanced prosthetics, and all sorts of wonderful things were created and perfected far before their time. More than that, though, it allows us, as readers, a glimpse of a world that might have been, if only tiny bits of history had changed and advancement had never been stalled.

When I first wrote Badlands, I knew I wanted a region run by women, but I didn’t know how it would have come about. Thoughts of Australia as an English penal colony came to mind, and I thought to myself, “What if the United States had done that? Sent all their criminals off to somewhere else?” For me, that question was the birth of Ever’s people. Criminals would be shipped across the Mississippi and their families would often follow. Eventually the wildness would need tempering, giving rise to leadership that wouldn’t automatically be distrusted by the Union—women. Not the criminals themselves, but their wives and daughters. (There were sons too, but with nameless and faceless criminals, they’d be more suspect.) Violence would spawn the need for control, resulting in the Border Guard.

The funny thing about questions is they tend to spawn more questions. Readers wanted to know more about the world Ever, Spencer and the Dark Hawk crew lived in, so I wrote more. The sequel, Clockwork Mafia, comes out at the end of the month, and I do hope you’ll all check it out.

But for me, the most interesting bit was how questions about the world that wasn’t led me (via questions from my children…go figure) to conversations about multi-verse theory and the possibility that all worlds imagined by authors exist in some other universe. And that led to time travel and dimensional rifts and…eventually it will lead to a new series very different from Badlands, but with that same heart of adventure and political intrigue.

That’s the joy of story telling—there are no limits but what can be imagined. And in the world of steampunk, the imagination has no limits.

More about Clockwork Mafia (coming April 29 from Carina Press):

Clockwork_Mafia_final

Inventor Henrietta Mason is retiring from airships and adventuring to return home to Philadelphia. Determined to erase all trails leading to her late father’s duplicity, she dismantles his lab and removes all records of the Badlands gold. While in the city, she can’t resist the lure of a charity gala but winds up regretting the whole experience. Well, everything except a heart-racing dance with a certain U.S. Marshal.

His career and vengeance on the line, Carson Alexander must prove a connection between Senator Mason and the mafia. He lucked out happening across Mason’s strikingly beautiful daughter, only to have her slip through his fingers. On a desperate hunt to track her down, he never expects his search to take him into the brutal Badlands.

With a mechanically enhanced enforcer after them, only Carson knows the extent of the danger they face. He’ll have to win over Henrietta’s trust, and her heart, before it’s too late…

Pre-order Clockwork Mafia at Carina PressAmazonBarnes & NobleAll Romance Ebooks, and Bookstrand.

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When we made berth along the river, I snuck back to the engine room and gathered my things. It was time. I couldn’t go on like this anymore, not with so much weighing on me. With a sad glance toward the engine that I’d put so much blood and sweat into, I hoisted my pack and set off toward the bridge.

Everyone else was off, doing whatever assigned chore the captain had set them on. Only she remained, standing on the deck, hands clasped behind her back as she stared out over the water. My toe caught on a raised board and I hissed in a breath, breaking the fragile quiet.

“Lolita Seleste, I wondered how long it would take before you came.”

Maybe it was the stupid pain in my stubbed toe, but I really didn’t understand her words. “Ma’am?”

“You’re leaving. I’ve known for a while.”

Oh. “It’s not forever. At least, not if you’ll take me back when I’m ready.”

She still hadn’t turned around, but her fingers flexed as if trying to hold onto something–something that wasn’t there. “It has to do with whatever you found when I sent you on shore leave with Lolita Cindy, doesn’t it?”

“How did you…” I winced at the admission.

Her sigh was heavy and full of the kind of disappointment I’d never hoped to hear again after I left home. “There are a great many things that happen on this ship, Lolita. Few occur without my knowledge. And of course we’ll be happy to have you back, whether as a permanent member of the crew or not.”

There was no way in the world she knew how much it meant to me to have a place I could come back to, one where I was welcome, appreciated even. “Thank you, ma’am.”

Finally, she spun on her heel, her eyes meeting mine. The glimmer of tears there made me stop breathing. “I always knew our paths would only travel together for a time, Seleste. It is my sincere hope that they cross again.” She nodded toward the corridor. “Safe journeys.”

A strange part of me wanted to hug her–an urge I’d never had in regard to our stoic captain, but she wasn’t my captain anymore. I nodded at the dismissal. “To you as well, ma’am.”

And then I strode down the corridor, past my beloved engine room, and departed the airship Steamed.

~~*~~

I love this blog so very much, and it was with great difficulty that I spoke to Suzanne about my need to pull back from posting. I’m at the point where I’m stretching myself too thin, and since I write more than steampunk, it was getting harder and harder for me to keep my posts here even remotely interesting and still stick with the genre.

So, I’m moving from regular Lolita status to guest/fill-in Lolita. That means I will be back, and maybe I’ll even manage to keep up the silly little story I’ve been building into the beginning of my posts, but I won’t be here every other week anymore.

I do hope if I’ve entertained you that you’ll check out my published work. Badlands  is out now, and the sequel (Clockwork Mafia) comes out in April. I’m also still (periodically) hanging out on Twitter and Facebook, and my e-mail “door” is always open.

Again, a huge thank you to Suzanne for having me. Another to all of you for tolerating and upon occasion even liking some of my ramblings. Safe journeys to each and every one of you, no matter where life is taking you 🙂

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The captain had called me to the bridge… again. Nothing good ever came of a summons like that.

As I stepped through the door, I swept my hat from my brow. “You asked to see me, ma’am?”

She spun on one hourglass heel and peered at me through the monocle she’d been using to survey the map. I must have looked rather odd through the lens because she dropped it so it dangled from a hook on her pristine navy blue corset. I tried not to think about the amount of filth and grime I’d brought with me from the bellows. She shone like the brass gaslamps on the wall, and I… looked like I’d just crawled out of a coal mine explosion. I twisted the hat in my hands and shifted my gaze to the floor. It wasn’t near as shiny.

“I did indeed, Lolita Seleste. I need you to build something for me.”

Building? I could handle building. I met her gaze again, nodding like my head didn’t want to stay attached. “Of course, ma’am.”

Smiling, she pulled me aside and whispered her plans. With every word, my heart sank further into my gut. I couldn’t do what she wanted. No… it couldn’t be done. She was asking the impossible. My heart started to thunder like someone had let a wild stallion loose in my chest.

“I’m sure you won’t let me down, Lolita Seleste.” Then, without waiting for a response from me, she turned on that perfect heel and strode back to her perfect bridge where her perfect crew stood ready to do the impossible.

But I couldn’t. As much as I scrubbed my palms on my breeches, they wouldn’t stop sweating. Or shaking.

I was poised to become the captain’s very first failure.

~~*~~

So, for those of you who don’t know the World Science Fiction Convention is going on right now in Chicago. And I’m there! A couple years ago, I attended World*Con when it was in Montreal. It was my first solo convention… and it was before I was published. A great time to fade into the woodwork and just watch things happen.

This time, I’m a multi-published author in a few genres, and I said to myself, “Seleste, you should try to get involved in some of the programming.” I figured it was no big deal, I’ve done panels and such at the Romantic Times convention for the past two years. I did a panel at World Steam Expo. Panels are old hat. And worst case scenario, if my nerves kick in, there are always other people there to pick up the slack.

Except…

Apparently someone at World*Con is convinced I’m a decent sized draw. Two of my three slots in programming are just me. Solo reading *gulp* (I’ve never actually done a public reading before.) Literary beers *gulp* (People are supposed to sign up to come talk to me.)

I got my schedule and went into a bit of a panic.

It took a while, but I’m no longer panicking (at least about that). I figure I have to learn to do this stuff sometime, so I might as well embrace it on a large scale to start off. And hey, at least one of the things will have beer… and we’re supposed to drink. Honestly, the only way that could have been better is if it had been “Literary Vodka Shots.”

So, if you’re going to be at World*Con in Chicago, please look me up. (Needless to say, I probably won’t be able to check back and comment here but, if you want to post confidence boosters, I won’t say no 😉 ) I’m on the “Why I Love My Editor” panel Saturday morning, doing the reading Saturday evening, and Literary Beers Sunday evening.

Otherwise, I’ll be the chick wandering around… trying not to panic.

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Free from duty for a few moments, I made my way from the mess to the cargo hold. At the moment, crates and boxes stacked higher than the top of my head filled it with only a meandering path left between them. I dropped into the hold, fully prepared to lose myself in the maze.

“Hold it right there.” The voice was far too deep to belong to one of the lolitas.

Keeping one hand on the ladder, I turned slowly and stared past the barrel of the gun pointed my way to the man behind it. He was young and quite handsome with his shadowed eyes and chiseled jaw. The badge pinned to his chest, however, gave me pause.

“Who are you?”

“I’m in charge down here, and if you have concerns about that, feel free to haul yourself back up to the bridge and ask your captain.” He didn’t drop the weapon, but he did step back, allowing me room.

Now I remembered that the captain had mentioned a passenger traveling with our cargo. If I’d known he was a lawman, I would have avoided the hold like the plague. Time for a hasty retreat to anywhere else. “I only came down to lose myself in the boxes for a bit. The hold has never been this full, and I couldn’t resist the lure of a few moments alone.”

He lowered the weapon at last and scrubbed at his jaw. “Apologies, miss, but I can’t allow that. This crap is intel destined for the task force that’s–”

“It’s what for what?” I blinked at him, his words nothing but gibberish. “No. Never mind. I should return to my duties. Good day, sir.” I raced up the ladder and back to my station where things made some small degree of sense.

 

A couple days ago I finished up line edits on Clockwork Mafia. It was a huge reminder of the fact that research doesn’t end with facts and dates and names. The number of anachronistic words and phrases that had slipped into my narrative was… Well, let’s just say I became paranoid on my read-through that there were more.

In many ways, steampunk is anachronistic–modern technology and attitudes shoved into an older society. But that doesn’t mean that anything and everything goes. For instance, there is a flamethrower in Clockwork Mafia and, while I don’t think its existence is a problem (even though in our world they weren’t used until WWI), I did change an instance of the point-of-view character thinking of it as a flamethrower. (The totality of that part in the scene is more complicated than that, but it was adjusted more than once to correct reality with Badlands-reality.)

There were a few of those instances where the real-world use of a word or phrase wasn’t that far removed (in time) from the events in Clockwork Mafia, but they were changed in order to keep as much of my alternate reality consistent with the known world as possible. It does, however, beg the question of how much leeway do readers allow for such things. The mob was not known as “the mob” until prohibition era. In a story about pre-prohibition mafia in an alternate reality, would that bother you as a reader? Task force didn’t come into use until WWII. So, where is the line drawn?

(Note: This is in no way a negative comment on my editor. I changed all the anachronistic words and phrases because I want my reality to be as realistic as possible. It just made me very curious how others felt about such things in general.)

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“Lolita Seleste!”

I snapped to attention as the captain strode toward the engine, her bustle sweeping through the soot on the floor. Soot I should have cleaned hours ago. “Aye, Captain!”

“I was under the impression you had some experience with steam engines when you requested to take up this post. Was I mistaken?”

My gaze darted to the left where turbines and pistons moved in much the same manner as they had when I arrived. Which meant they weren’t yet at full capacity. “No, Captain. The hitch in the works is a wee bit more complicated than I–”

“Excuses, Lolita I have no time or tolerance for them. We need to be at full power by nightfall. Get back to work.” Picking up her bustle as she spun around, she scowled at me. “And this place will be ship-shape by morning. Have I made myself clear?”

“Aye, Captain.”

As soon as she left the engine room, I kicked the offending turbine. “Work, blast you!”

When I said I could fix the steam engine, I’d anticipated a simple problem. Something quick. I’d been down here for three days, tinkering with the damned thing. By nightfall, she said. If I didn’t figure this out soon, I had a feeling my time on board might quickly be reaching its conclusion.

~~*~~

In other words, I am neck deep in revisions for Clockwork Mafia. They’re going fairly quickly (which is nice), but small changes have proved very invasive and have led to… a lot of changes. As I announced on Twitter last night, readers who felt Badlands was too short will be happy to know that this installment of the story is roughly twice as long. And… I got a release date last night! Clockwork Mafia will go on sale April 29, 2013. I know, I know, it’s a long way off, but I am hoping to have the third book out in 2013 as well. (As long as the writing gods cooperate at least.)

For now, however, I need to get back to Henrietta Mason and her rogue clockworks. I do promise a more infotaining post next time (that’s informational/entertaining for those who didn’t know :P)

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Lolita Cindy, Gail Carriger, and I

By the time Lolita Cindy and I made it back to the dirigible, we barely had energy to stagger to our berths. As excited as I’d been for the opportunity, I hadn’t anticipated the excursion to be quite so draining.

From the moment we’d stepped inside World Steam Expo, my heart sank. Though I could indeed blend in as Lolita Suzanne had suggested, my quest seemed impossible. How was I supposed to find one item in this sea of finery, frippery, and outright nonsense? As daunted as I was by the immensity of my task, I refused to shy away from the challenge. Lolita Cindy seemed quite at home so, as I’d been told, I accompanied her for much of the first day.

We learned of villains and heroes and damsels-in-distress (who I feel are all best put out of their misery, thank you very much). In addition, we learned both trickery and attacks with a variety of weaponry. As soon as I felt comfortable enough, I set out on my own.

The Bawdy Boys

Oddly enough, it didn’t take long before I set my eyes upon my goal. In mere moments, however, it was snatched from my grasp and lost once more in the crowd. I spent much of the evening searching for it, from the battle room of Aegis to the thrummingly violent strains from The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing–all for nought. I retired, exhausted and dejected.

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Lead Singer of TMTWNBBFN

After an unfortunate delay, I returned the next day to resume my hunt. When every avenue brought me nothing, I turned at last to the lure of wormwood and the hope of second sight. Once again, music called to me, the siren songs of The Bawdy Boys as well as the musical displays from Steam-Powered Giraffe hypnotized me, lulling me into a strange sense of security and innocence as the drink took hold of my brain. I danced in a haze of clockworks and corsets until I woke with the sunrise…outside on the grass.

No one was near, but beneath the expanse of my skirts rested the sapphire beauty I’d come to claim. How I’d taken possession of the thing, I’ve no earthly idea. What the wormwood and music did to my mind…

Blasted evil scientists…

It didn’t matter. I had what I’d come for. At once, I secreted it away from pirates, scientists, and that little slip of a girl who delighted in showing off with her pistol. None there could be trusted, not even my fellow Lolita. Still, appearances had to be maintained, so after securing my treasure, I made my way back to Lolita Cindy, staying demurely by her side until we returned to the ship.

Though I detest the idea that I had to leave my prize, I am confident none will find it. For certain things have a life of their own–the sapphire chose me as its keeper as surely as I chose it. And I will return. I must. For this adventure has only begun.

Bloody Pirate (aka my partner-in-crime Maureen’s favorite pirate, Thee Bluebeard) trying to blend in with Steampunk Chicago

Needless to say, I had a fantastic time at World Steam Expo, and I can’t wait for next year. Also, if you have a chance to visit Ms. Martha’s Corset Shoppe, I highly recommend her work. I got a beautiful blue corset from her at the convention and am kicking myself for only buying one.

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Puttering amongst my old berth in the back of the cargo hold, I stumbled upon a scrap of paper. Since I hadn’t had the chance to sneak into the captain’s library, I salivated over the opportunity to read something not written  in the log book. I examined that piece of paper so long and so hard that my head began to throb with the implications. Even as I rubbed at my forehead in an attempt to dull the ache, I continued to stare and plot.

It’s there. Right there. If only I could–

“Lolita Seleste! Why aren’t you at your post?” The captain, Lolita Suzanne, rounded the stack of crates that towered over me, anger writ in the pinching of her brows and the tight line of her lips. I was in trouble.

“I came here for my break and–”

She pointed toward the ladder, not deigning to speak until I started that way. “You specifically requested boiler duty. If you want to make yourself indispensable to this ship, you cannot shirk your responsibilities.”

“Yes, Captain.” I still clutched the paper in my fingers as I climbed. This was, by no means, the proper time to ask, but if I waited I would lose any chance. “Captain, I believe part of the reason for my daydreaming is that I’m unaccustomed to so much time confined. Some time on the ground would do my state of mind a world of good. Re-focus my attention.”

She tilted her head, eyeing me in a most discomfiting manner. “Aye, Lolita Seleste. I can see where that might be of some benefit. The ship will touch down tomorrow in order for the crew to participate in something called #steampunkchat. Foolish beliefs about romance and airships. Nonsense really, but it will provide you the opportunity you’re looking for. You may accompany Lolita Cindy on her errand.”

Not at all what I had in mind. “But, Captain–”

“She is attending the World Steam Expo. Surely, someone with aspirations such as yours could benefit from joining her.” The captain tilted her head toward the crumpled paper in my hand.

My lips twitched, and I had to fight the urge to smile. “Aye, Captain. I surely could.”

“Dismissed.” The instant she turned away, I raced toward the boiler room. Then her voice pulled me up short again, “Oh and, Lolita Seleste, do make sure you dress the part. I will not allow any of my people to present our dirigible or crew in a negative light.”

“Aye, Captain.” She’d as much as told me to blend in. Surely she wasn’t giving me permission to… No. Preposterous…

.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I will indeed be attending World Steam Expo in Dearborn, Michigan, this weekend, along with fellow Lolita Cindy Spencer Pape. If you happen to be there, I’d love it if you found me to say hi on Saturday or stopped by the Local Authors panel we’ll be part of on Monday at one. (I will have a limited supply of Badlands buttons and chapter books as well as postcards with discounts for ebooks at the Carina Press website.) In addition, don’t forget about the last #steampunkchat before the summer hiatus. It’s tonight at 9PM Eastern time. The topic is romance in steampunk, and I’ve heard rumors there will be book giveaways!

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