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Today we welcome Zoë Archer and Nico Rosso!

Zoë Archer and her husband, romance author Nico Rosso, currently live in Los Angeles.  She and Nico share an office and get up periodically to take turns accosting the cats. When she isn’t writing or forcing herself to exercise, Zoë loves to read, bake, and tweet about boots and men in cravats (strictly as a service to her readers).

Nico: Thanks so much for having us today, Suzi! What a great way to wish my lovely wife, Zoë a happy birthday. Usually, I’d get her a pair of boots (which I did), but this year I also wanted to do something special for Zoë.  So I pulled a few strings and called in some favors from Her Majesty’s Aerial Navy and got us a ride along on a Man O’ War airship.

We were already in London consulting with Navy intelligence regarding their airship telegraph docking stations, so it was only a quick train ride to Newbury.  We arrived in the early morning, a low mist shrouding the giant hangars and scaffolds where the airships were built and repaired.  Captain Christopher Redmond was gracious enough to welcome us onto the Demeter and from there, we were off.

Zoë:  Having never been aboard an actual airship before, I was thrilled when Captain Redmond offered us a tour of the Demeter.  We were joined on the tour by his charming wife, Louisa.  It seemed unusual for a woman to be aboard a ship of war, but Mrs. Shaw seemed as much a member of the crew as anyone else—though her role on the ship was somewhat mysterious.  She gave us goggles to protect our eyes when above deck.

The cool air rushed around us as we stood upon the deck, seeing the patchwork of green below us and the wide expanse of cloud-dotted sky overhead.  The view, you can well imagine, took my breath away.  As I’m slightly afraid of heights, I made sure to keep my hand firmly within Nico’s while we took our tour.  But I’d never complain about having to hold Nico’s hand!

We saw the telumium panels bolted to various parts of the ship’s interior.  Captain Redmond’s telumium implants were hidden beneath his uniform, yet we knew that the panels drew his energy toward the ship’s central battery.  The captain pointed out the tanks that collected the ether, which is  a byproduct of the transferral of energy.  This ether permits ships like the Demeter to fly.  Both Captain and Mrs. Redmond seemed perfectly acclimated to the process.  What a remarkable era in which we live!

N: While flying over the rolling hills we spotted another Man O’ War airship practicing maneuvers.  It wheeled and turned in the air nimbly, and I almost felt sorry for anyone who might be the target of its various ether-cannons and Gatling guns.  Skimming along with the ship were three smaller crafts, roughly the shape of a horse with a single rider.

Captain Redmond explained that they were Sky Chargers, part of the US Army’s cavalry. Mrs. Redmond added that they were training with the Man O’ Wars, though there was little hope in refining the cowboys from the West to fight like proper British soldiers. Yet she did admit that what they lacked in propriety, they made up for with fighting spirit.

A table was brought on deck and we all sat to a birthday luncheon for Zoë.  Spanish wine, Italian cheese, English beef.  The horizon spread out all around us as we dined.  The conversation floated as easily as the clouds the ship sometimes passed through.  A brass cylinder about fourteen inches tall was brought to the table.  Captain Redmond cranked a small handle on the side and set the internal machine to action.  It boiled water, brewed tea, then poured the perfect cup for each of us through a discrete spout.  More amazing than the device were the French pastries we had for dessert.

Z: As a lover of all things sweet, I was delighted by the offerings. Once we’d finished dessert, the captain showed us the galley, where the cook proudly showed off a clockwork pastry-making device. One simply had to pour the flour, butter, and sugar into a bowl, wind the machine, and it not only mixed the ingredients into a dough, but rolled it out into the perfect thickness for an elegant pastry.  Mrs. Redmond confessed that it was she who urged the cook to obtain this device, showing her to be a woman of excellent character.

After this, Captain Redmond admitted that the Demeter would be setting off on another mission within the hour.  Our time aboard the airship had come to a close.  Nico and I thanked Captain and Mrs. Redmond for their hospitality, and thanked the crew as well for keeping the skies safe.  We rode back to solid ground in an ether-powered jolly boat, then watched as the Demeter flew west, chasing the setting sun.

It was a wonderful, steampunk birthday.

So, our question to you is this: if you could have a birthday steampunk adventure, what would it be?  One commenter will win digital copies of SKIES OF FIRE and NIGHT OF FIRE.

***
SKIES OF FIRE: The Ether Chronicles can be found here:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Powells
All Romance eBooks
Books-A-Million

Zoë can be found here:
website
Twitter
Facebook
Tumblr

NIGHT OF FIRE: The Ether Chronicles can be found here:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Indie Bound

Nico can be found here:
Website
Twitter
Facebook

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Have you entered the gadget contest yet?  Thanks to everyone who’s sent in creative entries so far.  We’d love even more.

Oh, I’m running an online writing class called “Punked” about writing across the punk genres in May.  It’s only $16.  Details are here.  It’s a brand new class and I’d love to “see” some familiar faces.

Now, as promised, here’s an open-internationally giveaway of some signed steampunk  books I picked up at RT.  Skies of Fire by Zoe Archer and Blood of the Wicked by Karina Cooper — and they’re SIGNED.  Just leave a comment below telling me what steampunk book you’re going to read next. Open until 11:59 PM, PST 4/30/12. Open internationally.

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Today we welcome Author Zoë Archer She will be giving away a copy of SCOUNDREL to one lucky commenter. Contest closes Sunday, October 24th, 2010 at 11:59 pm PST.

Zoë Archer is an award-winning romance author who thinks there’s nothing sexier than a man in tall boots and a waistcoat. As a child, she never dreamed about being the rescued princess, but wanted to kick butt right beside the hero. She now applies her master’s degrees in Literature and Fiction to creating butt-kicking heroines and heroes in tall boots. Her BLADES OF THE ROSE series—featuring dashing men and fearless women—is available now. Zoë and her husband live in Los Angeles.

Technology in Blades of the Rose

When I started writing my BLADES OF THE ROSE series, my goal wasn’t to write steampunk romance. What I planned on writing, what I wanted to write, were books that defied romance categorization. I set out to create romances that I always longed for but never saw on the shelves. The BLADES books would have action, adventure, exotic locations, magic, history, and a healthy amount of hot love scenes.

I conceived of the Blades of the Rose as a secret organization of men and women who travel the globe seeking and protecting the world’s magic from theft and exploitation. In essence, they are a spy team acting on behalf of magic rather than the interests of any one nation. To make things interesting—and difficult—the Blades cannot use magic that isn’t theirs by gift or right. Of course, the villains of these books have no qualms about stealing and using magic to further their goals of world domination. Which leaves the Blades at a distinct disadvantage.

Thinking about the spy team model, I decided that the Blades needed a Q. If you remember, Q supplies James Bond and other members of the British Secret Service with diabolical gadgets to aid them in their espionage. Some of Q’s awesome inventions include car ejector seats, dagger shoes, rings concealing cameras and deadly pens, just to name a few. In the Bond films, 007 stopped by Q’s lab, and an exasperated Q would demonstrate the latest in gadgetry, followed by a stern admonition for Bond to please not destroy the merchandise. Of course, Bond always used the gadgets and they almost always were destroyed during the course of the mission. Poor Q.

I wanted the Blades to have their very own Q. But instead of a research and development team headed by a single man, the Blades had the Graves family—several generations of scientific and mechanical geniuses who utilize the current technology to assist the Blades in their work. The key there is current technology. Why? Because the first four BLADES OF THE ROSE books are set between 1874 and 1875.

Here is where the steampunk element comes into play. Catullus Graves, the current scion of the Graves family, does not use any magic when inventing devices. Nor does he have difference engines, robots or any other advanced technology. He is limited solely to what is available in the mid 1870s. Not only that, but because the Blades take his inventions out into the field, the devices he builds must be portable and easy to use at a moment’s notice. To put it plainly, steam-powered mechanisms are out. It would be far too cumbersome for a Blade to haul around a steam engine when adventuring in the wilds of Mongolia (as they do in WARRIOR), sailing the Aegean (SCOUNDREL), trekking through the rugged Canadian Rockies (REBEL), or journeying to undiscovered lands (STRANGER).

I’m going to straight up own right now that I had my own scientific genius helping me in the conception and design of Catullus Graves’s diabolical gadgets: my husband. He and I would brainstorm ideas for cool devices that could only use late Victorian technology, with my husband’s scientific understanding helping to fill in the gaps of how something worked. Liberties were taken. I don’t know if the implements created by Catullus could actually work. But they are, at least, plausible. Sometimes, the idea for the gadget came first, and then we’d think about a scenario in which the gadget could be used. Sometimes, a situation in the plot would arise and the challenge came to see what kind of device might be useful. Both approaches were a blast to write and add a cool element to each book.

Catullus even gets his own book—and I knew, without a doubt, that I would have to put him in a scenario where he needs to “MacGyver” his way out of a tough situation using only items on hand. What kind of things does Catullus invent and what do the Blades use in the field? I don’t want to spoil the enjoyment in discovering these gadgets, so you’ll have to read the books to find out.

It’s been suggested that the BLADES OF THE ROSE books are steampunk. That might be overstating the case too much. If you’re looking for airships, clockwork robots and ether-guns, you won’t find them in my series. But what you will find is adventure, magic, danger, hot romance and very fun gadgets, which I think is a blueprint for a rollicking good time.

— Zoë Archer

www.zoearcherbooks.com
http://twitter.com/Zoe_Archer
http://www.facebook.com/#!/zoe.archer1

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