Posts Tagged ‘steampunkapalooza2011’

First off, we have three copies of Tim Akers Horns of Ruin to give away. 

Gail Gray

Giada M.


Congrats!  Please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize.  Didn’t win?  We still have up for grabs a book by YA author Ren Cummins, a prize pack of goodies including a copy of Blameless and a fan autographed by Gail Carriger, and your choice of one of Leanna Renee Hieber’s Strangely Beautiful books. 

Today we welcome Steampunk author Philippa Ballantine. 

Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the co-author with Tee Morris of Phoenix Rising: a Ministry of Peculiar Occurrence novel coming out soon from Harper Voyager. It contains airships, archives and large amounts of derry-doing. Find out more at ministryofpeculiaroccurrences.com

 Steampunk and gadgets and gears. Oh my!

By Philippa Ballantine

One of my favourite quotes about our upcoming book is from Warp Core Sci-Fi If James Bond wore a corset and drank Earl Grey it might be something like the adventures in Phoenix Rising.

The joy of gadgetry that can be found in the Bond movies is something that my co-author Tee Morris and I wanted to include in our series—after all we too are writing about a government organization, even if it is one in the nineteenth century rather than the twenty-first. So the tech support that Q gave the secret agents in MI5 might well be found in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences—but powered by boilers and steam. Interestingly, since the term boffin wasn’t coined until much later, we invented a term for those that make gizmos—we called them clankertons.

Steampunk is a rising genre in fiction that can be dark and dystopian, or fun and optimistic. It can be set in the Victorian age, or on a distant planet—it doesn’t really matter. Steampunk is about many things, but above all its trademark is technology powered by steam—often fantastical and improbable. One thing that is constant however is the gadgets. Some are be used to keep humanity oppressed, others are just loads of fun.

For example a steam-powered listening device is in the Ministry’s arsenal. It’s larger than our own modern devices, but looks a lot more amazing, with valves and brass. It’s also far larger, which gives our agents some difficulty getting it into the opera.

A joy of working in steampunk as an author, is that you can get inspiration from things that might have been and imagining what might of happened if they had been made. A particular favorite machine in the genre is Charles Babbage’s difference engine. This device was made in the first half of the nineteenth century and was a mechanical calculator. However, one device that Babbage never got the funding to build was the analytical engine. This would have been a mechanical general-purpose computer, and could have been revolutionary for Queen Victoria’s empire.  Steampunk often takes this particular device and plays with what the resulting social and political change might have been. In our novel, it is used by the Archivist of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences to keep track of the files…and also to make a spiffing cup of tea.

Research into the time period often throws up remarkable inventions that you might not know even existed, and giving them just a little ramp up. Before setting forth on this adventure I was not aware that there was in fact something called a steam-powered motor-bike. The sequel to Phoenix Rising has our heroine racing through the English countryside on a souped up version of what actually existed. Indeed, the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang can be counted as steampunk because of that particularly amazing car.

Finally, as an author you can just let your imagination take flight in steampunk. Just create devices out of wild and fun imaginings. Automatons, of the clockwork or steam variety, are a staple gadget of the genre. For example Paul Guinan’s Boilerplate is about a steam powered robot and his adventures with famous people of the era. Inserting this comical looking robot into historical pictures eventually lead to it becoming a book and optioned by JJ Abrams to be a movie. Not bad at all for a collection of pistons and boilers.

Gizmos, gadgets, the wild and the possible all embroider the steampunk world of fiction. They provide a vital ingredient of ‘what if’ and twist the history of the Victorian era into all kinds of interesting shapes. They can also be jolly good fun!


 ~Philippa Ballantine


What are your favorite Steampunk gadgets?

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First, I’d like to announce the winners of George Mann’s Ghosts of Manhattan:


Elijana Kindel

Barbara Elness

Congrats!  Please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize. 

Didn’t win?  You can still win books by  Mike ResnickTim Akers,  or Ren Cummins, or a prize pack of goodies including a copy of Blameless and a fan autographed by Gail Carriger.

Today we welcome YA Sci-Fi author Beth Revis

Beth Revis‘ debut novel, Across the Universe, is out now. A former high-school English teacher, Beth can’t help but blog about writing, grammar, and publishing at Writing it Out. She is the founder of the new popular dystopian blog, the League of Extraordinary Writers and blows off steam by trying to come up with something witty in 140 characters or less, lusting after books on GoodReads, or wasting time on Facebook.   Beth Revis lives in rural North Carolina with her husband and dog, and believes space is nowhere near the final frontier.

The Top Five Things to Come from Steampunk and the Top Five Things I’d Like to See

 by Beth Revis

I’ll admit: I’m a noob when it comes to steampunk. Sure, I’ve read (and loved) Gail Carringer’s work, flirted with Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan, and I lust after the costumes, but as for seriously diving into the genre? I’ve worshipped from afar. That said, here’s the top five steampunk things that I adore…and the top five things that I want to see (so if all you steampunk-aphiles out there know of where I can find it, please let me know!).

First, in reverse order, the top five things I love from steampunk:

5. The “Punked” episode of Castle

I am a hardcore Fillionite, so, of course, I’m a fan of Nathan Fillion’s latest show, Castle. One of the very best episodes so far as been “Punked,” in which Beckett and Castle’s mystery takes them into the world of Steampunk NYC.

4. Steampunk Cakes

Cake Wrecks has a whole page dedicated to the awesome steampunk cakes that have been made over the years.  But I have to admit—my very favorite one is this little beauty:

I mean, come on! A cake that looks like a steampunk squid? Win.

3. Treasure Planet

I admit: I love me some Disney. And one of my all-time faves has to be the wonderful and under-appreciated movie Treasure Planet. A futuristic/steampunk/sci fi/awesome retelling of Treasure Island, this movie features not only a cool storyline, but an amazing soundtrack (don’t worry; it’s not a musical) and a great bad guy.

2. The Steampunk Mac

Let’s see how much of a nerd I can prove I am with this post. I love Nathan Fillion, Disney, and…I’m also a Mac FanGirl. But what would make me even more of a Mac FanGirl? If I could have this Mac:


Image credit: http://steampunkworkshop.com/daveveloz.shtml

1. The Costumes and Gadgets

Come on. Come on. The gadgets. The gadgets. And the costumes.


Image credit: http://steampunkcostume.com/

 Now, the top five things I’d like to see:

5. Steampunk Star Wars

Why can’t I have this? Holy wow, think of how cool it could be. Steam blasters instead of lightsabers. And dude! Think of it: Darth Vader Steampunk. Amazing. This has so much potential.

Image credit: http://www.oddee.com/item_96830.aspx

4. Roman Steampunk

There’s a lot of steampunk centered in Victorian times, but I think it would be cool to explore the Romans. In all honesty, it seems as if the Romans came pretty darn close to steampunk on their own. Push them a bit more in that direction—we could have a whole steampunk alternative history…

3. Steampunk not based in Europe/England

This is going to be my most serious request—does anyone know of some cool steampunk that’s not based in Europe, especially not based in England? I would sincerely love to read that…

2. Steampunk Fairytales or Superheroes

There’s a wide field of possibilities in this one. What if Tinkerbell tinkered with steampunk? Hansel and Gretl’s witch could be an automaton. Cinderella’s clockwork winds down at midnight.

Or take it another direction—what about superheroes? Gail Carringer blended paranormal with steampunk—let’s see superheroes blended with steampunk. Superman’s strong as steel because that’s what he’s made of. Or the X-Men—a wind-up Wolverine? Maybe even this…


Image credit: http://steampunkcostume.com/

1. More Steampunk YA

The number one thing I most want to see more of is steampunk for teens and kids. Scott Westerfeld  is doing great work with Leviathan, but I’d love to see more of this. Does anyone else have any steampunk YA or MG suggestions?


~Beth Revis



So, who’s got some suggestions for Beth?  I know you all do…

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We have a ton of contests ending soon, so make sure you enter –like  books by Mark Hodder, books from Andrew Mayer, a bag of swag from RT and The Vampire Dimitri.

Today we welcome YA Steampunk author Ren Cummins.  He’s giving away a copy of “Reaper’s Return” (with a copy of his CD, “Obsidian Bridges”) to one lucky commenter. 

Ren Cummins is a musician and author, having penned thus far the first four of the six books in the YA Steampunk Fantasy series “Chronicles of Aesirium.” Living in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, daughter, two dogs and a cat, Ren juggles his time around a full time Crisis Manager at a “leading corporate telecommunications corporation”. Though only published the past two years, he has been reading from the age of three (though, granted, only small words), and telling stories and writing them down soon thereafter. His young aspirations were to grow up to become Spider-man, but when he was at last convinced that this was simply never going to happen, he began to pursue writing – with only a brief deviation in pursuit of life as a rock star.
Somewhere along the line, he also spent approximately five years with a hobby of playing the doumbek (a middle eastern hand drum) for belly dancers. Seriously.
Presently, with his fifth book in his YA Steampunk series in edits, he is already working on book 6, with two additional anthologies in the works and another series (this time a contemporary paranormal series) in development. And, because clearly, he didn’t think he had enough on his plate, he is writing an anthology of children’s stories with his ten year old daughter.
He also regularly blogs at http://anachronologist.blogspot.com

Creating the Perfect Space; aka, Painting Over the Fourth Wall
by Ren Cummins

I was considering writing up something specifically tailored specifically towards Steampunk – clearly, this would have been the logical and appropriate thing to do – but the more I looked around me on Steampunkapalooza, I recognized that many of the things I might have had the notion to mention have already been said by writers far more eloquently than I might have managed. But I am not prancing about the woods with an emptied quiver, surely.

One of the things I hear a lot from new writers – and something I struggled with for a goodly while before finding a good balance – was about creating the right space, setting the mood, and just generally how to sit one’s posterior down and get to the writing.

First of all, let me be clear in that this process is going to be different for all of us – like raising children, we all have our own philosophies on just what is the perfect mix, and I wouldn’t presume to know one particular way that will solve all bouts of writer’s block. But there are several techniques I’ve either heard of, learned of or accidentally ran into which works quite well for me, and I thought this might be a nice time to share some of those.

And these, I break down into five parts, all loosely segmented off based upon the senses.

But before any of these, the key is the brain. There are a lot of things that stop us from writing, even before we get to the first word – doubt, distraction, fear of inadequacy, overconfidence, lack of focus, etc. And there are even more techniques of clearing one’s mind, be it meditation, routine, etc. Some of these should be practiced and employed even before sitting down to write. But I like to think of the writing process as really being one which takes up your entire life. Every moment, sleeping or waking, I believe, should be trained to the assimilation and sampling of words.

Many years ago, I went on a sort of vision quest into Zion’s National Park in southern Utah. On my last day there, I was sitting by the roadside, sketching and jotting down words, when a crow landed a few feet from me. He looked into my eyes and seemed to be waiting for my attention, and, once granted, began a process of picking up random things from the ground, tasting them and then either spitting them back out or swallowing them. After the area surrounding him was cleared, he’d hop over to a new area and repeat the process, each time looking back to me as if to say “You with me so far, dude?”

Suddenly, it occurred to me that there was a sort of wisdom in his actions. Sample everything, spit out the useless, take in the useful. I smiled at the crow and thanked him. He looked back at me, squawked, and flew off. Call it what you will, I call it a profound moment of realization. And that philosophy of “sample everything, and only take in the useful” has been my motto of life ever since. Live life, experience it all as best you can, and treat every moment like it has something to teach you.

That’s where stories come from, after all.

But once you have those thoughts all bunched up, the struggle is in putting them somewhere. I’ve got pads of paper all over my house, and in any bag I happen to carry with me, including one that is always beside my bed. Any ideas – no matter how random – get jotted down. I’ve sent myself emails or text messages (I used to leave myself voicemails, back when I wrote music), and I’ve got plenty of word documents all over my computer with assorted randomness. I don’t fuss about those things being coalesced into stories at first – – they all kind of sit around like spices in the cupboard, ready to be used at a moment’s notice. Regularly go about and keep this organized, review what you’ve jotted down, keep it fresh, and know where it all is. The last thing you want to do is lose a good idea. Trust me on that. I’ve lost plenty, and miss every single one of them.

And then we get to the actual work of it. The heavy lifting. Center stage.

Create a solid environment for your writing. I only half-jokingly think to the sensory deprivation chamber that Daredevil used in the movie a few years back. Just block out everything, and sigh contentedly. Except, well, that makes it so hard to write, also.

My advice? If you don’t have a desk, get one. Get a nice chair – not too comfortable, but comfy enough that your hindquarters will still be talking to you hours later. Set this table and chair up somewhere that is designated as a “Writing Space.” Let everyone else around you know that this is for writing, and if you’re there, stay away! Surround the writing space with non-distracting visual images – paintings, photo references, but do NOT put the television on. Light a candle or two, maybe some incense – – set the mood as you prefer. Find a nice comfort drink (I prefer root beer or white chocolate mochas) to sip away on (keep yourself hydrated!) and, lastly – and this is my personal preference – create a music soundtrack.

I use my iPod and create a playlist that I call “Writing”. I put on songs that inspire the mood I’m working on or the book I’m writing, and ONLY LISTEN TO IT WHEN I’M WORKING or am preparing to write. For steampunk stories, there are plenty of good soundtracks out there for various movies or television shows, I personally recommend anything that does NOT have lyrics – – or, if it does, they’re lyrics you can’t understand. The key is to leave your verbal centers of your brain free to express and not keep it busy trying to understand words being sung.

Some of the soundtracks I’m currently listening to on my present steampunk books are the Murray Gold “Doctor Who” soundtracks, the music from “Sherlock Holmes”, “Alice in Wonderland”, assorted albums by anime musicians Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno, and even Daft Punk’s “Tron” score.

Doing these things cover the senses – visual, audio, smell/taste and feel – and allow you to focus on the one trait which in the moment of writing, matters most: expression.

Especially when working in otherwordly genres like Steampunk, you need a space that will allow you to remain inside the world of your story, and give you nothing to draw you back until you’re done with your daily word count.

And, if that doesn’t do cap it all off for you, the best advice I’ve ever heard for writing is:

“WRITE. And when you’ve done that, write some more.”

~Ren Cummins

Do you have a favorite reading or writing space?  One lucky commenter will win a copy of “Reaper’s Return” (with a copy of his CD, “Obsidian Bridges”).  North American only, please.

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