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Posts Tagged ‘Steampunk’

Today, November 6,  is a historical day. On this day, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States. Then, one year later, on this same date, November 6, in 1861,  Jefferson Davis became president of the Confederate States of America. So what better day to mention a part of actual Civil War history that would work well with Steampunk? I’m speaking of the Balloon Corp, also known as the Aeronautics Department.

Would you like to ride in my Union Corp balloon
Would you like to ride in my Union Corp balloon
We could float above the war together, you and I
For we can fly, we can fly

What could be more Steampunk than a balloon air force? This innovative department fell under the command of Professor Thaddeus Sobieski Coulincourt Lowe. The balloon corp soon led to the creation of the first aircraft carrier. Chief Aeronaut, Lowe, had a coal barge converted by covering the hull with a flat deck for inflating and launching balloons. Also the first aerial telegram ever sent was from one of the balloons to President Lincoln. In a demonstration for the President, while Lowe flew his balloon, the Enterprise, over the armory lawn across the street from the White house, he sent Lincoln a telegram, describing the aerial-view of Washington D C. All of this also led to the invention of a portable gas generating device that could be used anywhere. Professor Thaddeus Lowe invented a copper-lined wooden tank, mounted on a wagon filled with water and iron filings. When sulfuric acid was added, lighter-than-air hydrogen gas was produced. That hydrogen was then fed through a hose to a cooler before pumping it into the balloon. So the balloons could be inflated near any battlefield. The horse-drawn wagons were large and rectangular, each weighting about 1,000 pounds. They built twelve of these wagons to service the balloons.

That is one of the great things about Lowe as a Steampunk character or secondary character, he was not only a famous aeronaut, he was quite a scientist. The portable gas generators that filled his balloons and the compression ice machine that introduced “artificial” ice to the world are among his inventions. He’ was also known to be quite a showman and he wrote his own memoirs, Memoirs of Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, Chief of the Aeronautic Corps of the Army of the United States During the Civil War: My Balloons in Peace and War.

Maeve-with a confederate solder’s gun at a historic reenactment area at Dickens On The Strand in Galveston TX
“Give me your silk dresses or I’ll shoot.”

Not to be outdone, the Confederates made their own balloons. In 1862, 21-year-old, confederate  Captain, John Randolph Bryan piloted a hot-air balloon near Yorktown, Virginia. They inflated the balloon with the heat and smoke of burning pine knots soaked in turpentine. However, the hot air quickly cooled and grew denser so the South’s flights were of short duration. In the summer of that year, 1862, the Confederates got there own gas balloon. Known as the “Silk Dress Balloon”, it was a patchwork affair. Here is a link to view the fabric from one of the confederate balloons.

Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, in a letter published in Century magazine, wrote: “We longed for the balloons that poverty denied us. A genius arose for the occasion and suggested that we send out and gather together all the silk dresses in the Confederacy and make a balloon. It was done, and soon we had a great patchwork ship of many and varied hues.” It turns out this  fanciful tale was not true. The Silk Dress Balloon was sewn together from 40-feet of  purchased, multicolored dress silks. Inflated with city gas and moved to desired locations by railroad, the balloon made several flights A second dress silk balloon was constructed that summer and remained in operation until it was lost during the siege of Charleston. The rebels inability to generate gas in the field was their balloon corp’s biggest obstacle.

Another Steampunk vibe to the Balloon Corp is a slight Zeppelin connection. Ferdinand Von Zeppelin came to the U.S. in 1863, during the civil war, as an official observer of  Union troops in Northern Virginia. Before he returned home, he wanted to see more of the U. S.  He journeyed to New York City,  then up the Hudson, and across the state on the Erie Canal, then across the Great Lakes and out into Minnesota. There, he met  John Steiner, one of Lowe’s aeronauts, who had returned to his pre-war occupation of an exhibition balloonist. As Zeppelin flew with him, Steiner shared his dream of a navigable airship. The count credited the experience with marking the beginning of his own interest in aeronautics.

Please feel free to leave comments or questions.

~      ~      ~

Maeve Alpin, who also write as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 published books. 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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Happy Halloween. Many of our Halloween traditions began with the Celtic New Year festival, Samhain, (Sow wen). This was a day without time as if fell between the old year and the new. On this day the veil between Earth and the Otherworld was at its thinnest.

In my Steampunk Romance, To Love A London Ghost, Samhain comes up a lot. The heroine, Cerridwen, is a ghost of a Celtic warrior woman, who died fighting Julius Caesar. She comes back to earth for Samhain.

Here’s a short excerpt from To Love A London Ghost:

What type of evil had come over the land…her Londinium? Phantasms were to be honored and revered on Samhain. Her descendants should have greeted and welcomed her with a platterof food from the feast. No one laid out food for the ancestors anymore. Where was Ceridwen’s plate of food? Where was Ceridwen’s honey oat cakes? It had been hundreds of years since she came for Samhain. She’d been in eternal rest for many years, a long nap, but she woke up and journeyed all the way from the Otherworld, to visit her descendants and feast with them, yet there was no feast.

Here’s another:

“Algernon doesn’t know as much as I do and he’s not quite dead, not yet.” Ceridwen focused her energy on Charlie’s rifle and it slid across the floor, far out of his reach. “Celtic spirits can take another body any time they wish.” She floated in front of Sexton.

“It’s the reason we rub ash on our faces at Samhain, to look like ghost so the spooks won’t steal our bodies.”

“I’m not sure I quite understand, my dear. You may have to explain again and go a little slower for me, because it sounded like you just said you can take over Algernon’s body.” Sexton carefully stuffed the pistols back in his pockets.

A lot of changes took place in England between the times when the Celtic tribes ruled and the era when Queen Victoria ruled. Samhain became christianized into All Saints Day, November 1, also known as All Hallow Day. People began using the term Halloween as a contraction of “All Hallows’ Evening”

In the later part of the 19th century, the Victorians began to make Halloween less about spooks and more about parties. As we know, the Victorians loved a good party. These events included a harvest theme, dancing, romantic divinations and parlor games.

Predicaments was a popular game. Players gathered in a circle and they each whispered a predicament to the person on their right. Then, they whispered a solution to the person on their left. That’s where the fun came in. Someone would start the game off, mentioning the predicament given to them. For example, Miss/Mr so-and-so, what would you do if you had blood on your collar after you dreamed of kissing a vampire? The person asked, uses the solution they were given. Which might be something like, I would eat a turnip. The solution and the predicament were unrelated, which made them funny. It would go on like that until everyone in the circle was questioned.

halloween postcards- click to go to site

Apple paring games were quite popular. In one, single women peeled an apple, trying not to break the strip. They’d toss the apple rind over their shoulder. The shape of the letter the peel resembled most was the beginning of the name of the man they’d marry.

The Ouija board was also a popular Victorian board game and perfect for Halloween.  Also, telling ghost stories was always a big hit. No one can discount the fun of sharing ghost stories. It was on a rainy evening when Mary Shelly and others guests of Lord Byron’s were reading German ghost stories to each other. Lord Byron challenged everyone at the party to write their own ghostly tale. Shortly afterwards, Mary Shelly came up with the idea for Frankenstein.

Here from Steampunk Ghostly Tales is Ghost Hunting Steampunk Style. Halloween in Skeleton Bog  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8W-aG8SDQ8

Contest: As a Halloween treat, I’ll send one winner a PDF eBook of my Steampunk ghost story, To Love A London Ghost. It has a traditional romance heat level of three flames. Please comment below and include your email so I can contact you if you win.

~       ~      ~

Maeve Alpin, who also write as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 published books. 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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GoS_WebBetween now and October 31st I’m giving away several Kindle copies of my works, including the new Avalon Revamped, the eclectic collection Caught in the Cogs, and the teen romance The Zombies of Mesmer. The last is in preparation of The Ghosts of Southwark (its sequel) release on November 1st.

A few of these giveaways have already come and gone. Those who “like” my FB Fan Page were the only ones in the know, so go “like” that page now. You wouldn’t want to miss out on future freebies!

For the others, stay tuned to my Amazon Author Page to see what’s free when between now and Halloween. You’ll get hints as to when the next free book is available on my FB Fan Page.

Additionally, I’ve put up several new, never-before-seen short stories on the Kindle, all for under $2. Steampunk readers will especially be interested in “The Clockwork Heart,” written in the style of H. G. Wells. Here’s what one reader says about it.

This author has captured the feel of a period piece and still engaged the reader in the manner of a modern piece of fiction. Very engaging, her writing casually sneaks in and demands your attention. I enjoyed this story thoroughly.

Here’s a list of all the short stories recently listed on Kindle:

“The Clockwork Heart” – Written in the style of H. G. Wells, this Gothic Steampunk story will make your heart bleed and your skin crawl. $1.49 (FREE with PRIME, as are the rest below)

Inevitable Enlightenment.” Trace the existential thoughts of a zombie after the apocalypse. $0.99

Come to Me.” Jason’s boring Monday turns into one full of adventure and horror when his mother’s strange affliction takes him and his sister around the world. Based in Scottish Mythology. $0.99

The Handy Man.” After losing his hand in a work accident, Linus Cosgriff adapts a new invention to please women and relieve them from symptoms of hysteria. Adult Content. $1.99

Heart of Stone, Flesh of Ice.” Several men mysteriously disappear after a night of passion during a ski vacation. Based in Japanese Mythology. $1.99

Hannah & Gabriel.” Dark Fantasy Steampunk retelling of Hansel & Gretel. $1.99 (This story is also available along with 11 others, poetry, and articles in the collection Caught in the Cogs: An Eclectic Collection for only $2.99.)

-_Q

OMG_2013Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist, like the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited and its sequel Avalon Revamped. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies, like SNM Horror Magazine and How the West Was Wicked. Ms. Grey also blogs and podcasts relationship essays covering such topics as alternative lifestyles, deepening intimacy, ending a relationship with love and respect, and other deliciously dark and decadent matters of the heart and soul.

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

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Gail Carriger at Lone Star Worldcon 2013

Gail Carriger at Lone Star Worldcon 2013

About a month ago, at /LoneStar/WorldCon in San Antonio, I attended the “I Married A Werewolf” panel on Paranormal/Romance. The panel was made up of authors: Darlene Marshall, Carrie Vaughn, Charlaine Harris,  and also two authors with Steampunk credentials, Gail Carriger, well known author of the The Parasol Protectorate and the Finishing School series, and Jean Johnson, who in addition to her paranormal and sci-fi books wrote, Steam, a Steampunk short story in the The Mammoth Book of Time Travel Romance.

The label of paranormal romance came up and Gail Carriger mentioned that Orbit struggled with how to label her first book, Soulless. The label on the spine read – Fantasy/Horror.  Jean Johnson said, “I considered my book The Sword to be a Fantasy/Romance, but I don’t deal with labels, that’s the marketing department. The publisher labeled The Sword as a Paranormal/Romance.”

Gail Carriger explained that she played with actual genres in Victorian literature in her five books in the Parasol Protectorate series. The first was based on Gothic Romance, the second on Gothic Cozy, the third on an American Boy’s Adventure, the 4th on a Sherlock Holmes Cozy, and the fifth is in a Travel Journal style.

In another LoneStar/WorldCon panel I attended, Gail Carriger spoke about world building. Along with Gail Carriger — Bryan T. Schmidt, Amanda Downum, and Robin Hobbs made up the “Intricate Worlds Panel”. The first question the panel addressed was what are some of your world building pet peeves?

Bruan T Schmidt’s answered, “Things that get overlooked.”

Amanda Downum’s said, “A static world or a world that hasn’t evolved. Where things have always been this way. For example, they have always used swords and horse drawn carts and nothing will change.”

Robin Hobbs said, “Cities that have no reason for being there. Cities that are hard to get to, so the characters have difficult challenges in reaching them but there doesn’t seem to be any other reason for the location of the city.”

Gail Carriger mentioned her pet peeve was not making use of objects representative of the characters’ culture. “Don’t discount objects your characters own or have with them as they can be very telling to the readers about those characters.”

Steampunk at World Con 2013

Steampunk at World Con 2013

Ms. Carriger also gave advice for research and world building: “Call your local university. They are one of those untapped resources. Also, one of the secrets of world building is to piggy back on a culture that is little known or pick and choose and meld two cultures that never did blend in actual history.” She further advised, “You are the god or goddess of your own universe – you just have to explain the rules of your universe properly. You’re drawing up your own laws for this universe, so you can’t break those.”

The panels at LoneStar, WorldCon in San Antonio were great, full of interesting information and advice for my writing. Feel free to comment below with your own world building pet peeves or world building advice.

~   ~   ~

Maeve Alpin, who also write as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 published books. 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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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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Kat and Tentacle Kitty

Kat and Tentacle Kitty

“Welcome, to airship Steamed.” I shake the president and creative director of Tentacle Kitty, John Merritt’s hand. “Welcome aboard Airship Steamed.” I reach over to Tentacle Kitty, who he’s holding in the crook of his other arm, and shake one of her pink tentacles. “Watch your step,” I call as I stretch my short legs in a leap across the wide gap between the dock and the airship. John Merritt, with Tentacle Kitty in hand, follows me into the parlor.

I gesture towards the crimson settee, which features curvy lion head legs and claw feet, hoping John’s kitty is not offended that they’re not tentacles instead. He sits on the cushioned seat and places Tentacle Kitty beside him.

“Tentacle Kitty is so cute.” I plop down onto the chenille cushioned armchair across from them.  “I just love her.” I reach forward to pet her fluffy head. “How long did it take you to come up with the design?”

“About an hour. I was in a Sharies, similar to Denny’s, waiting for my wife, then fiancé, to get out of work across the street. I wanted to make her something cute that combined my love of cats, and her love of tentacles: octopus, cuddlefish, HP Lovecraft.” He glances at the blue willow teacups, shaking and rattling on the tea table between us.

“Any piece of art that springs from a love of cats, cuddlefish and HP Lovecraft is alright by me.” I have to raise my voice to speak over the clang and grind of the airship as we take off. “How many prototypes did it take to purrfect Tentacle Kitty?”

“Twelve or thirteen total.” Mr. Merritt grabs the settee with one hand as the airship lifts off. “The whole process took about a year.”

“How did you first get involved in the art and design of stuffed toys?” Since the china cups cease rattling, I pick up the tea pot and pour my guest a cup of Earl Grey.

“Well TK started with the character. After our friends wanted us to post her online, her fans grew and they begged us for plushies. So we obliged.” He picks up the teacup with tendrils of steam rising from it.

I lift the creamer and pour a bit onto a saucer. I place it on the settee beside Tentacle Kitty, in case she wants a drink as well. “Speaking of it starting with the character, how did the character itself begin?”

“She was originally created with Vector Graphics rather than using pen and paper or photoshop.” Picking up a sugar cube, Mr. Merritt plunks it into his tea.

“What about an artist notebook, do you keep one to jot down ideas like Tentacle Kitty that may come to you, day or night?” I lift the teapot and as I fill my own cup, I breathe in the subtle, aromatic scent of the tea.

“Not usually, but when things do come to mind, I have a tablet phone with a drawing pen, I can sketch up my ideas quickly.” John Merrett picks up a polished silver spoon and stirs his tea, creating a tiny maelstrom in the cup.

“What are some of the challenges of creating stuffed toys?” I take a sip of my earl grey.

“Everything. Learning the ins and outs of creating plush toys is very difficult. Everything from the design, finding a manufacturer that is high quality and honest, to learning to ship from overseas and complying with all of the legalities and certificates needed to sell in the US.”

Picking up a slice of lemon, I breathe in the sunny, citrus scent as I squeeze a drop of its juice into my cup. “Does Tentacle Kitty have her own character back-story of the world she lives on?” I slip the yellow slice into the light brown tea. “Does she live in the sea and breathe underwater?”

“She in fact comes from another dimension! She lives in a forested area and doesn’t care for the water much at all. We have a comic coming out soon that will show a lot about her world.”

“That makes a lot more sense, cats don’t like water. The tentacles confused me.” I lift the teacup  to my lips and draw in a long sip. “A Tentacle Kitty Comic sounds wonderful. She’s obviously a very special tentacle feline, does she have any super powers?“

“There are a couple different abilities she has that people do not know about yet, but keep an eye on the comic and you will see!”

“How and why did you settle on the color pink for Tentacle Kitty’s fur?”

“While all other colors are perfectly acceptable, Pink was the least likely to invoke fear and instead promote her cuteness. And it helps, sometimes, to indicate she is in fact a girl.” Mr. Merrett takes a few more sips of steamy tea.

“She is the cutest. If I had to guess I’d day you are a cat lover, is that right? What are the names of your own kitties and cats?”

“I am.” He sets his teacup on its saucer on the table with a soft clink. “Though I have had many cats in the past, I have none at the moment. My last cat’s name was “Tali Vas Banana” After Mass Effect… and Harry Belafonte.”

“What a unique name.” I down the last of my earl grey. “Since this is Steamed, I have to ask, do you like Steampunk literature?” I set my empty china cup on the tea table.

“I love the steampunk culture, and though I have yet to read alot of books related to the subject, one of my favorites, that to my understanding is steampunk-y, is The Time Machine. And naturally Cthulhu mythos.” He places the untouched saucer of cream on the table.

Upon hearing rattling and clinking, I glance at the tea table and see the cups and saucers shaking. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for three quick questions. “What advice would you give to any artists interested in creating their own stuffed toys?”

“Unless you have a fan base, and investors, family and friends if need be, it can be a very dark and costly road.” Mr. Merrett clutches one arm of the settee as the airship clangs and rattles.

“Is there anything you or Tentacle Kitty would like to say to your fans?” I hold on to the armrest of my chair as we dock.

“No matter what people say, keep being you.

and

Never judge a monster by her tentacles.”

“What wonderful advise and so true. You can be warm and fuzzy and still have tentacles, especially if you are from another dimension.” The airship has landed but before I bid John Merrett and Tentecle Kitty farewell, I squeeze in that last question.  “What workshops, convention appearances or shows do you have coming up? What are the dates, places, times, and websites? And for all those wanting to give a Tentacle Kitty a good home, where is she available?”

“There are several conventions that we are planning to go to this next year, but right now none are official. Keep track of us on Facebook for all of our conventions and events.

You can find Tentacle Kitty in many places. The best places to find her is at http://www.tentaclekitty.com/shop/ and Thinkgeek at http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/ef4f/

~   ~   ~

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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Dresden Files’ author, Jim Butcher is going Steampunk with his new series, Cinder Spires.

Mr. Butcher came to my corner of the world last weekend at Space City Con in Houston Texas. Not only is he a great writer, he also gives back to the writing community by sharing the basics of the wordsmith craft at convention and conference panels. He reminded us of the saying attributed to Michelangelo, which I found brilliant as a way to describe the need to learn the craft of writing and revisions to aspiring authors. How do you make a statue? You carve away from the stone, everything that is not the statue. As Michelangelo said, “You just chip away at the stone that doesn’t look like David.” That’s exactly what the revisions I do feel like to me.

Speaking on writing in a way that makes people care about your characters, he used the terms scene and sequel to describe what I happened to have learned as action and reaction. The elements of scene and sequel are emotion, logic and review, anticipation (what’s going to happen next) and choice. Mr. Butcher stressed the importance of keeping them in that order. Though sometimes you may not use all of them, which is fine, you need to keep to that order for the ones you do use. If you use any internal dialogue, keep it in the sequence or reaction part only. The best place to end chapters is in the action part, when the crisis or major event of that scene occurs or when the character is in an emotional state in the reaction part of a scene.

What I have often heard described as – start the story at the last possible place you can where it still makes sense, he explains as starting the story when something happens to change the status quo. Of course, it’s the exact same concept just as action/reaction is the same as scene/sequel, still his terminology may be easier for some to follow.

Mr. Butcher explains all books use the story question—Your protagonist sets out to accomplish a goal but will he succeed when the antagonist gets in the way and tries to stop him? Every story is all about getting from the question at the beginning to the answer at the end. Jim Butcher adds the basic protagonist information and his goal and basic antagonist information and how he tries to stop the lead character to the story question. He uses this for synopsises, pitches, and back cover blurbs.

When asked about describing characters, he advised writers to choose specific words to go with the characters. For example, for Murphy in Dresden Files he uses the character tags of short, cute, and blond. Do that for each character. You can also use tags to describe places in the story. I have to say that is the first time I heard the term character tags. So I learned something new. I will definitely utilize this technique in my work.

When asked how to avoid stilted dialogue, Mr.Butcher said, “Try writing dialogue in five words are less as it’s the way people really talk.” That will help you bring the dialogue alive. He also advised per characters, the one thing you can never do is have a character wallow in self-pity. It will drive the reader away.

Regarding his beta readers, Mr. Butcher asks these three questions of them. What did you like in this chapter? What did you not like in the chapter? Do you have any questions in the chapter?

As far as authors whose books inspired him, he stated his single biggest inspiration was Laura Hamilton’s earliest books. When asked if he had any interest in co-authoring and if there was any one he would like to write with, he answered, “There is no one I hate that much. I’m not going to put myself on someone else professionally, I’m that much of a diva.” That brought loud laughter from the audience.

He spoke of when he had to work full time and said writers should look on writing as a part-time job that isn’t going to pay you for a long time. Personally, I consider it is an additional full-time job that isn’t going to pay you for a long time.

Then he moved to Steampunk, answering the question, what got you into Steampunk? His face broke out into a wide grin as he said he wanted to create a character with a cool steampunk cos  play outfit people could dress up in. He saw a captain’s coat at Comiccon that fit him. So he has to change the character because he really wants to wear that coat. The steampunk fantasy series also includes lots of airships, crystals, and goggles. It’s been said the Cinder Spires series is a kind of league of extraordinary gentlemen meets Sherlock meets Hornblower. The first in the series is titled The Areonaut’s Windlass. He’s working on that book now. He’s starting to build and pull his Steampunk world together with everything he wanted. Among other things he really wanted to include cats that speak. One of his characters is a talking cat.

Jim Butcher – Cinder Spires Reading

I love the idea of a talking cat, it reminds me of one of my favorite books and one of my favorite aliens in a book, Rejar by Dara Joy.  I will definitely read The Areonauts Windlass when it comes out, the release date has not yet been announced.

Also please feel free to share your favorite writing advice to give to newbies in the comments below. Mine is never stop writing no matter what and finish the rough draft.

~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 18 published books, including four Steampunk Romances. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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With the Victorians’ fascination with death and mourning, ghosts blend in so well with Steampunk stories. When I think of ghost, I often think of a haunted Victorian mansion, lit by candlelight or flickering gas lights, secret passage ways draped with cobwebs, slits cut in the eyes of a potrait  where someone or something spies on the gents and ladies in the grand manor.

DEBUNKING:

The first thing all ghost hunters do is try to find logical causes for reported paranormal activity.

  • Animals:

Look for small, furry, scurrying creatures. Sneaky varmints like mice are good at hiding. They cause strange noises and knock things down without being seen. Victorian London had a lot of mice and rats and such. Also ghostly noises in walls, attics, and basements are often caused by varmits of some type.

  • Houses:

Victorian homes had hardwood floors which cause house popping noises to often sound like phantom footsteps. Also air trapped in water pipes cause loud banging at random times. Doors opening or closing by themselves can be attributed to a house which has a good seal. Opening or closing an exterior door can create suction, so an interior door will move when the exterior door moves. Having two or more windows open can have the same effect on interior doors. Also if a gush of wind enters through one window and exits through another, the reduced air pressure may cause doors to open or close.

  • Food, Drink…Sunspot:

Cynical or logical Victorians often cited sunspot and strong drink as causes of ghost sightings.  In Dickens’ The Christmas Carol, Scrooge questioned if the ghostly vissage of Jacob Marley was caused by what he’d eaten earlier that day. “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are.”

Victorian Ghost

Victorian Ghost – Aetherfest

  • Modern:

Compass – The simplest piece, which fits in perfectly with Steampunk. During any type of paranormal activity, a compass will spin wildly.

KII Meters – read electromagnetic fields. If the meter spikes on these small, handheld devices, it reflects a change in the magnetic field, which along with other evidence can give proof to paranormal activity.

Mel Meters – measure both EMF and temperature. They allow paranormal investigators to record the temperature right where it’s at. After Gary Galka lost his oldest daughter Melisa, in a car accident, he created the Mel meter, named after her, to communicate with her after death as it helped his healing process. The model numbers in the Mel-8704 are the year of her birth and the year of her passing.

Recording Devices – to pick up EVP, electronic voice phenomena (White Noise). EVP began in the 1950’s when Fredrich Jurgenson, a bird watcher and retired opera singer, recorded bird calls near his home in  Switzerland on a reel to reel. When he listened to the tapes he heard voices on them, though no one else had been there. An ancient Viking burial ground happened to exist in the area he recorded at. After discovering this he continued EVP research and wrote the book, Voices From the Universe.

  • Victorian & Steampunk Alternatives:

Recording Devicesto pick up EVP prior to 1950:

Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville – invented the phonautograph in 1860 –Records Sound, but Doesn’t Reproduce It  – you’d have to fix that in your story.

Thomas Edison invented the Phonograph,  1877 when he made his first sound recordings on sheets of tinfoil. In 1888, he developed a solid wax cylinder record.

Victorian Ghost Hunting Gear:

Ectoplasm Kit – In the Victorian era, ectoplasm was defined as a substance exuded from a medium while in a trance. Ectoplasm formulated into the shape of the spirit the medium was in touch with at the time. Ghost hunters carried a collecting set and chemistry equipment to gather and test any ectoplasm.

Electroscope –  Electroscopes, which pick up static electricity have been around for centuries and could have been used in placce of an  EMF meter, which along with other evidence could prove paranormal activity.

Victorian Ghosts - Comicpalooza 2013

Victorian Ghosts – Comicpalooza 2013

Victorian alternatives to communicating with the dead:

Seances – Engrossed in spiritualism and Gothic novels, many Victorians, haunted by ghost, held table rapping séances

Ouija Board – a popular board game, patened in 1890 http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/WebOuija.html

Steampunk Ghost Hunting:

Steampunk Ghost Hunting Gear

Steampunk Ghostly Tales

And last but not least – GHOSTLY STEAMPUNK READS:

4105jhfVChL__The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker
by Leanna Renee Hieber

There is no unusual machinery in the story so I would not call it steampunk but still if you like steampunk you will like it. It’s set in Victoria England in London and involves ghost and gods. The characters are strong and haunting. It is a strangley beautiful paranormal/romance that I loved and I highly recommend it.

untitledGhost by Gaslight – edited by Jack Dann & Nick Gevers

This collection of seventeen Steampunk ghost stories, one has mummies, is outstanding. The authors are representative of some of the best speculative fiction authors of our modern time. It offers quite a variety of superb steampunk ghost stores. There is something for everyone in this anthology and you will be sure to claim a few as your favorite steampunk short stories. I loved it.

ToLoveALondonGhost_200To Love A London Ghost by Maeve Alpin

When Queen Victoria orders Sexton Dukenfield, premiere phantom hunter, to track down England’s missing ghost he stumbles into Ceridwen, a phantom warrior woman of an ancient Celtic tribe. Not only does he find her intriguing as a piece of the puzzle of the missing spirits, but he’s also haunted by her sultry sensuality. Though they both burn with desire, it’s difficult to quench their fiery passion since Ceridwen is so translucent. Every time Sexton touches her, his hands pass through her misty body. On a mission through the bustling narrow streets of London, to a dreary match factory, and even to the Otherworld and back, to stop a genius scientist and his phantasm debilitater machine, the ghost and the ghost hunter also seek the secret to freeing the boundaries of life and death.

If you live in Houston Texas, I wanted to share that I will be at one of my favorite haunts this weekend, Space City Con. Friday night, 08/02/13, I’m presenting a Steampunk Ghost Hunting panel from 7pm – 8:30pm. Please drop by if you can.

~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 18 published books, including four Steampunk Romances. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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1860RickettSteamCarriage_zpsf033c0ee

As promised last month, meet another piece of historical Steampunk technology: The Rickett Carriage. This steam-powered car was made in 1860 by Thomas Rickett, a Castle Foundry manager in Buckingham. His impressive work with steam engines inspired the Marquess of Stafford to order a steam carriage. It had a maximum speed of 19mph. Here is how Wikipedia describes it:

This vehicle had three wheels, the single wheel at the front, and a rear-mounted coal-fired boiler and two-cylinder engine. The boiler pressure was 110 psi, and the cylinders had a bore of 76 mm and stroke of 178 mm. Transmission was by chain to the right-hand rear wheel. A maximum speed of 19 mph was claimed. A boilerman was seated at the rear, and three passengers could sit side by side at the front with the one on the right operating a tiller steering and the regulator, reversing lever and brake. The wheels had iron “tyres”, with the brakes operating on the rear wheels.

Rickett made a second model with a slightly different style for an Earl who used the car to drive an astounding 146 miles in Scotland!

Historically, the machine was short-lived and not terribly many sold, even for the low, low price of £200, but in my novel, Nickie Nick the Vampire Hunter reads about them in the paper and even sees one for herself!

This magnificent machine made it into my teen paranormal romance novel in a chapter called “Nickie Nick Sees a Rickett.” My description of a Rickett in The Zombies of Mesmer:

The alley was quiet this time when I emerged, and the smell of the blood was fading in the freshly falling snow. I went up to the mouth of the alley and stood just out of the light from the nearby gaslamp. The night had barely begun and the streets were rather busy with carriages and full of the sounds of clopping hoofbeats. My mind went back to the beautiful stranger. Where had he come from? Where had he gone to? One hears stories about how something very bad could be happening in an alleyway just adjacent a very busy street, but no one comes to help. I found that hard to believe before tonight.

Yet he had come to help. He had probably saved Conrad’s life.

And he knew vampires existed, that was a definite benefit.

Then the strangest contraption caught my eye. It was a carriage without a horse, clattering down the street with the rest of the carriages. Being the daughter of industrialists, I certainly was not ignorant of modern machinery. After all, mother and father had some quite impressive steam machines that facilitated production in their textile factory. Even Franklin himself came up with truly ingenious inventions just from assembling junk and such, but this was like nothing I had ever seen up close. It looked every bit like a carriage, only instead of four wheels, it only had three, two large ones in back and a smaller one in front. From the large back wheels, chains ran from gears on the wheels to other gears extending from an axle beneath the carriage’s floor. A man sat on the right, fully dressed for the evening in a top hat and fine overcoat, holding onto the steering rod with his left hand and another lever with his right. A woman wrapped in a fur stole and earmuffs sat beside him.

Stepping up to get a closer look as the thing puttered by, I saw that there was a mechanism beneath the carriage floor that turned the gears, which in turn, turned the wheels. I stooped down to get a look of the thing from beneath, but it had already passed. There on the back sat the engine. It looked like a coal boiler and a long pipe extending up from it belched out steam.

“Interesting, no? A far cry from a penny-farthing,” a smooth voice above me said. I stood up quickly to find that it was none other than my beautiful stranger.

“Yes. It is a Rickett Carriage. I read about them, but I have never seen one before. Simply amazing,” I responded calmly, although some rather large fluttery things had taken up residence in my stomach.

“You read, do you? Also interesting. This evening is just full of surprises, is it not, Nick?”

“How do you know my name.” It came out as a whisper, for I was breathless. He filled my world. It was as if all of London fell away from my vision, and there was only him. Black eyes twinkling in the gaslight. One side of his cinnamon lips curled up in a half-smile. Pale skin covered in soot and jaw-hugging sideburns. I shivered, and it was not the cold December night that caused it.

“Your friend said it before. It is beneficial to pay attention to the details in life, don’t you find? I am called Ashe.” He offered a gloved hand. “We were not properly introduced before.”

I took his hand and gave it a manly shake, which was not too difficult with my new strength.

“Strong, too, for such a young lad,” he said, putting his hand back in his pocket.

I felt my brows furrow at this. He thought me a boy, and a kid at that. I was no kid. I was The Protector, after all.

“I’m not all that young.” I deepened my voice perhaps a little too much. My cheeks suddenly felt very hot and flushed, so I turned my face into the cold wind and let the snowflakes cool my no-doubt-rosy-cheeks down. “Bet I’m as old as you.”

Great. That sounded quite mature, Nicole.

“Do you now?” he said. “Thought I told you to stay safe and inside. This is no place for children. Where is your friend. Is he all right?”

I bit my lip to stop from scolding this infuriating man, and I turned back to him, ready to do so anyway. As soon as I caught his eyes again, however, I was unable to speak. Literally. The ability to form words completely escaped me.

Read the rest of the Chapter, or even more of the book, for free on my blog, Caught in the Cogs, or get your very own copy from Amazon.

Return again in two weeks to learn more about real history in fiction.

-_Q

 

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

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

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Since CHARMED VENGEANCE releases 8-8-13, I’ve been trying to make more (awkward) videos. Here’s me talking about INNOCENT DARKNESS.

Also, there are copies of CHARMED VENGEANCE up for grabs on Goodreads. You should enter.

Haven’t read INNOCENT DARKNESS yet, or perhaps you’d like to read it again? Join the INNOCENT DARKNESS read-along! (There are prizes.)

Have a great week, everyone.


Suzanne Lazear is the author of the YA Fairytale Series The Aether Chronicles. INNOCENT DARKNESS is out now. CHARMED VENGEANCE releases 8-8-13. Learn more about the series at www.aetherchronicles.com

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I get asked to explain Steampunk all the time. So, I finally made a video. An awkward video. Because I am technologically awkward.


Suzanne Lazear is the author of the Aether Chronicles Series. INNOCENT DARKNESS is out now. CHARMED VENGEANCE releases 8-8-13. For more information visit www.aetherchronicles.com

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The lovely Lolitas of STEAMED! have asked me to contribute twice a month, and I am quite honored to do so. Initially, at least, my articles will revolve around the interesting historical tidbits of the Victorian Era that appear in my novels and stories.

One my favorite things about writing Steampunk is the research. It’s fascinating, really. So often in my fiction, I incorporate historical people or events or places or even technology. My imagination for technology is rather limited, I’m afraid, as my strengths as a writer are characterization, emotional depth, and dialogue. Technology and world-building are far down the list, so I work with what’s already there, although much of what I incorporate into my work has been all but lost to history. These little-known facts and events and gadgets find new life in my work. With that splendid thing known as creative license, I embellish and bend historical events and 19th century technology to fit the needs of my story.

Today, I’ll focus on The Air Loom: The Human Influencing Machine, something devised in 1810, even before the Victoria’s Reign began in 1837. While doing research on the notorious Bedlam (Bethlehem Hospital, aka Bethlem) Asylum for a guest post called “Lunatics in London” for Bitten by Books during a blog tour, I watched a fascinating documentary on the infamous hospital. Within, they introduced one James Tilly Matthews, the first documented paranoid schizophrenic. I was immediately fascinated by this person and his concept of The Air Loom, so I vowed to work it into my next novel.

In my Steampunk teen romance The Zombies of Mesmer, we visit the horrible Bethlehem Asylum. Although set in 1880, my Bedlam’s halls contain the misery and pain seen in the hospital in Matthews’ time there. After being released from a three-year stint in a French prison for suspicion of being a double agent, Matthews returned to London and proceeded to accuse the Home Secretary of treason in a rather dramatic and publicly disruptive way. Matthews was committed to Bethlem Asylum in 1797 as a lunatic. Fortunately for Matthews, a resident of the hospital for over a decade, he had a relatively cushy room there and ended up drawing plans for the renovation of Bethlem Hospital among many other helpful things. In 1810, he wrote a book called Illustrations of Madness in which he illustrated the influencing machine in great detail both in design and description of purpose. Matthews believed that scientist spies, experts in “pneumatic chemistry,” had set up near Bedlam and was tormenting him by means of rays emitted from The Air Loom.

The Air Loom was a piece of advanced technology, but in the early part of the industrial age advanced technology often meant enormous machinery, rather than the increasing minutarisation that characterise the 21st century. The Air Loom was enormous. The mechanism stood seven metres tall and occupied a footprint of nine square metres, and it was constructed from oak with machined brass fittings.

It was surrounded by barrels that fed noxious gases through oiled leather pipes into the main body of the machine. The gases were derived from substances including ‘gas from the horse’s anus’, ‘seminal fluid’, ‘putrid human breath’ and ‘effluvia of dogs’. (Source)

The machine’s rays exacted such horrendous tortures onto Matthews’ mind like “kiteing,” where ideas were forced into his brain; “thought-making,” where thoughts were removed and replaced by others of the scientist’s choosing; and Lobster Cracking, where “the external pressure of the magnetic atmosphere surrounding the person assailed was increased, ‘so as to stagnate his circulation, impede his vital motions, and produce instant death’.” Other torments included “lengthening of the brain,” “thigh talking,” “fluid locking,” and “bomb bursting.”

Read more about this fascinating machine and see images of The Air Loom, built by artist Rod Dickinson using Matthews’ illustrations at http://www.theairloom.org.

An altered version of The Air Loom appears in my forthcoming novel The Ghosts of Southwark, the sequel to The Zombies of Mesmer: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel which is available on Amazon, Kindle, and serialized on my blog for free, either in print or via podcast.

-_Q

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

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

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Dawn Donati

Dawn Donati

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s so wonderful to hear how childhood experinces at art and craft fairs helped shape you into this amazing artist.” I glance at the coffee table at the sound of rattling and clinking. “I see the teacups are shaking. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for one last question. How did your first become interested in Steampunk?”

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

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

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

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

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

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Steampunkapalooza2013sm (1)

Seleste steampunk bustle

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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Today we welcome Lady Jane Summers from the Airship Vindus.

Lady Jade Summers is both a person and a character on the Airship Vindus, part of the Steamworks & Shadows universe. The observations she makes are her own and does not necessarily reflect on the Vindus crew as a whole.

 

Zero Budget Film Making, Or, How To Tell Stories On Film With Not Very Much At all

By Lady Jade Summers of the Airship Vindus

_DSC3830I’ll begin with a disclaimer here: Steamworks & Shadows, the 9-episode webseries telling the story of the Airship Vindus versus the Veritas Academy (and assorted characters), has not been made yet. That’s being produced this summer. So even as I write authoritatively here about zero-budget film making, there is still much we have to learn. It may be even more interesting and instructive to read a blog post from me on the same topic in a few months’ time.

However, we haven’t been idle – haven’t been idle since last August, in fact. We’ve gone from a motley group of strangers to an up-and-coming name in the Midwest (successfully running a fundraising campaign for our films) and we have produced several webisodes, shorts, vignettes, trailers (and one rickroll). We are deep into the pre-production for our 9-episode webseries.

None of us have had any formal training in making films or videos.

Here is what we have learned, in three parts.

1. Story

2. People

3. Execution

Let us begin with:

STORY

If you’re anything like me, your main experience with the process of film making came from watching the making-of documentaries for big Hollywood movies and sometimes the director’s commentaries on the DVDs. I’d fast-forward through all the actors talking and plot recaps to get to the good stuff – the filming part (preferably with explosions) and the special effects (also often concerning explosions.)

It’s true that it’s not as much fun to watch a bunch of people sitting around a table with a bunch of paper. But I know now that that is arguably the most important part of making a film of any size: the story and characters, and the writing of. It doesn’t matter if you’re dreaming of a one-person monologue in front of a webcam or a full cast production like we’re about to attempt. Without a compelling story and characters people care about, you’re sabotaging yourself from the starting gate.

This is absolutely key. You can’t skip this step to get to the explosions. (Otherwise Michael Bay would be hailed as an auteur.)

Fortunately for the zero budget aspect of this, imagination and paper don’t cost much. Free tutorials and writing guides abound on the Internet. You’ll be swimming in a sea of well-meaning advice from friends and family, too. Things like Pixar’s 22 Rules of Writing  make the rounds when you’re not even looking for them. I won’t go much into the finer points on crafting story and character, as those writing guides do a much better job of it (suggested reading: Stephen King’s “On Writing” ). You’ll also find plenty of tutorials and free script software to help you transform your story into standard script format.

Three observations, however:

– Inspiration comes from everywhere.

I’ll go ahead and assume you’re a steampunk and therefore a bit of a geek. You’ll have been steeped in examples of your favorite authors’ writing, and your favorite films, your whole life. Reread and rewatch them, but pay attention this time as a student, not a consumer. Study how the masters practice their crafts – pacing, timing, dialogue, exposition vs. action, camera angles, framing, and on and on.

Find other books and films within the genre of your production and study them. It’s cheaper than taking classes.

– For a first-time production, try to write characters within your comfort zone (and your actors’ comfort zones).

It’s tough enough trying to make a film on zero budget without taking the kinds of risks that could cause problems for even experienced filmmakers. Unless you happen to have friends/castmembers who have vast previous experience with avant-garde material, it’s easier to write characters that your cast can get along with in their heads. They’ll come out much more naturally.

– SHOW, DON’T TELL.

You must remember that the characters living in your head are much more fascinating and interesting to you, the creator, because you know them intimately. You know their secrets. Your intended audience does <i>not</i> know them intimately and so you must assume them unimpressed unless you “sell” them on the universe you’ve been dreaming about. Do not assume your characters are cool. You have to show them that your characters are cool.

The crew of the Airship Vindus has been living with our characters in our heads for anywhere between a few months to two or more years. We’ve lived with the Vindus universe for over six months. We’ve developed whole pages of backstories and inside jokes between all of us that you’ll find us giggling madly about if you catch us at the right (or wrong) moment. None of this matters if it doesn’t make it into the writing in a convincing way.

But now we come to a stumbling block – suppose you’re not a writer. Suppose you are talented in all respects except writing. This leads us into the next part of zero budget film making:

PEOPLE

It’s extremely tempting to take every single rein of control as you frantically try to nurse your dream production into fruition. Writer-director-editor-producers aren’t that uncommon on indie projects, and even lauded. Especially on a zero budget, as you have to ask people to work for you for free, it’s often just easier to do everything yourself.

This, taken too far, is a genuine mistake. Our Steamworks & Shadows director, Ben Watkins, has a story to tell about his first ever Star Wars fanfilm from years ago – he tells it better than me, so you’ll have to ask him when next you see us – but it generally goes something like this: he tried to take every single rein of control, the film is now locked away very deep where none of us have seen it, and Ben has since embarked on a saner mode of operation.

The advice runs thus: surround yourself with people smarter than you.

As the creator(s), micromanaging is going to come very easily, but you have to know that you cannot be all things to all people. Rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel, find someone who already has a wheel or already knows how to build it.

To that end, mine your contacts list and your friends groups. If you’re already a member of other geek subcultures and scenes, so much the better – you’ll be starting with more than zero. Geeks tend to come with all sorts of varied background knowledge ranging from writing to costuming to construction to photography to acting to marketing, all useful skills. And if you’re friends, they’ll be more willing to work for you for free.

Stage32.com is a good resource for when you need to cast your net wider. It’s sort of a social network for theater/movie people, though, of course, the catch is that you’ll have to find people willing to work for free. (A note: asking people to work for free is not as galling when you offer to pay for their gas and also provide food.)

Once you’ve got people working with you, here are two more observations:

– Maintain clear, open lines of communication.

This is a kind of universal piece of advice applicable to anyone who has worked on any kind of project for school, work, or a hobby. Insert any other knowledge you have for managing groups of people. Make use of Facebook or Google Docs/Calendar (or preferred communicating tools of choice) to keep everyone up-to-speed and organized.

– Treat your production as WORK.

Friends are awesome, and you benefit from already having some rapport rather than starting from scratch with strangers, but the biggest pitfall of working with friends is that you don’t have clearly agreed-upon boundaries and expectations. This may lead to excuses, missed deadlines, lowered standards, hurt feelings over miscommunications, and a muddled workflow that will hinder your project.

Though not everybody needs one, sometimes it helps to have a written contract. It’s useful to have a clear delineation between “right now we are friends” and “right now we are coworkers.” And the other unpleasant part is deciding what to do when someone just is not pulling their weight or flaking one too many times. It’s easiest to treat it the way you’d treat a situation at work – conflict mediation, action plans, or ultimately removing them from the project if it comes to that.

Now that we’ve got a story and people – now we get to the bit of the making-of documentary with explosions in it (sort of):

EXECUTION

We’ll divide this section into three parts: Equipment, Filmcraft, and Publicity. I’m not going to write step-by-step tutorials, because there are much better tutorials out there for just about everything, and you’ve already got the expertise of your friends and crew to rely on.

EQUIPMENT:

judgefilminggarageThe biggest hit to your nonexistent budget will come from equipment, depending on how high-quality you want the final product to look. If you want to do a Paranormal or Blair Witch-style production (or the aforementioned monologue in front of a webcam), you won’t have to scrounge up quite as many dollars in equipment – but make sure you have a solid grasp of style before you try that, as amateur shakeycam is not a substitute for genuine suspense. (Story, people!)

Generally speaking, for HD-quality, film-quality production, you’ll need:

– A good camera.

This is where you need to research, ask your friends/crew, and make some hard decisions. The cheapest option? Borrowing from someone who already has gear. Otherwise, the typical DSLR will start at $700 and keep going up. I’m a big fan of Canon DSLRs because I have prior training from journalism school.

BorrowLenses.com is a fantastic resource for people without the budget to buy a full-blown film-quality camera. The site allows you to rent camera bodies, lenses, and other equipment for up to 4 weeks for a fraction of the cost of buying. However, figuring out what to rent takes a bit of specialized knowledge, so crowdsource your research and ask your knowledgeable friends.

For learning how to use a DSLR camera, Vimeo’s series of tutorial videos are invaluable.

– A tripod.

For steadying your shots, and one of the most important differences between a production that screams “amateur” and a production that doesn’t scream “amateur” quite so loudly.

– Audio equipment.

Good, clean audio is also one of the key differences between amateurs and pros. Find tutorials for rigging up boom mikes (the microphone on a long stick that you see in the making-of documentaries). You can record into the camera, or scrounge up a field recorder, which start around $100.

Substitutes, tricks, cheats, and tutorials for improvising more complex equipment (steadicams, glidecams, cranes) are just a Google away. Lighting is also important, but again, you’ll find plenty of suggestions for cheaper alternatives to the professional stuff.

FILMCRAFT:

Filmcraft is more than yelling “Quiet on the set!” and “Action!” (Though both are extremely useful phrases.) There is a reason why people go to film school to learn it, but as you might be beginning to suspect, there are now tons of resources online for learning good camera angles, how to compose a fight scene, making a shotlist, and so on.

Indymogul is a good start. Make sure to check out all of their Friday 101 videos.

Five observations:

– Analyze films and TV shows.

As you begin to learn the vocabulary of filmcraft, start analyzing all of the media that you consume. Take note of how many shots a single dialogue scene is composed of. Notice how cinematographers frame their subjects to create a mood or atmosphere. Analyze when directors choose to use wide-angle shots and when they use close-ups. Like in most art forms, copy your favorite directors. As you copy, you’ll improve your own skill.

– Set a schedule.

And stick to it.

– Scout locations.

With your cinematographer(s), go out to as many of your chosen locations as you can before the shoot day(s). The better you know the lay of the land, the better you can plan your shotlist, visualize your angles, and make backup plans for when you inevitably improvise. Otherwise, you may waste hours setting up on the day of, and you’ll almost certainly run into surprise Dumpsters or other eyesores you weren’t expecting.

Also, make sure your permits are in order.

– Make a shotlist.

This was one of the biggest timesavers for us when we filmed “Doomsday.” It cut a potentially 8-hour shoot day down to five hours, simply because we could just move along down the list instead of improvising angles on the spot. This is basic preparation.

Vimeo tutorial

– Delegate.

Trust your crew to do the jobs you chose them to do.

These observations are not intended to be comprehensive, just helpful tips that might speed your production along. And while I’ve emphasized the importance of research quite a bit here, I have to add that the best way to learn and practice is to simply pick up the your camera and do it. Don’t wait for your big masterwork – make plenty of small, short, practice projects to improve your techniques and make all your mistakes <i>before</i> you pour your soul into the Dream Project.

PUBLICITY

With the internet, you can publicize your production far and wide. Take copious notes from professional and amateur productions that you admire.

– Choose a platform to host your videos on.

Options include YouTube, Vimeo, and Blip.tv. Most people choose YouTube because it’s the most common, has a huge existing community, and has the potential for monetization. Vimeo is regarded more as “the artist’s” platform and does handle HD video beautifully. I don’t have any experience with Blip.tv, but hey, it may turn out to be the one for you.

– Social media.

The most common advice I’ve gotten is to build your fanbase even before you open your fundraising campaign or publish your production. To this end, it’s almost requirement nowadays to have at least a Facebook and Twitter presence. Register your username, spend some time on those accounts exploring the existing genre/film communities there, and get your name out there. Other social media include Tumblr, Pinterest, and (for steampunks) The Steampunk Empire.

– Be consistent.

The fastest way to lose your fanbase is to go on hiatus or become inactive for a while. Keep your fans updated on your progress, even small ones – we like to know how you’re doing.

– Crowdfunding.

This is the route we chose to try to get to a not-quite-zero budget. The most popular sites are Kickstarter and Indiegogo. You’ll have to consider timing very carefully – if there are too many crowdfunding projects going around your subculture, you may get lost in the noise. In any case, here are two articles to help you along.

http://johntrigonis.com/2011/06/27/the-tao-of-crowd-funding-three-ps-for-a-successful-film-campaign/

http://blogs.indiewire.com/tedhope/john_t_trigonis_on_the_tao_of_crowdfunding_twitter_tips_for_crowdfunders

Whew, I think that’s everything. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail us at info@airshipvindus.com (or Google us, we’re pretty contactable).

~Lady Jane

 

 

 

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