Saturday, November 16, 2013

Win a Free Copy of "Steam on the Horizon"

Care for a free steampunk book? Well, if you would like a chance to win an autographed copy of "Steam on the Horizon" delivered to your doorstep, then check out the new giveaway I am holding on Facebook through November 24th. To enter, 1) be a US citizen 2) like my SteamyGirl Publishing page on Facebook. That's it! Check out this link for more details!

More exciting news: the official SteamyGirl Publishing newsletter is now operational! Check out the first edition here to meet the graphic artist who created the coverwork for "Steam on the Horizon" and delve into some interesting steampunk-related info. You can sign up for the newsletter here to get lots of cool steampunk tidbits, updates on The Aether Saga series and other fun stuff.

Today, I will be wandering over to the house of Kira Gale, the CEO and almighty potentate of River Junction Press, an independent book publisher. After much sharing of ideas and investigating of books, Kira and I have decided to merge talents and interests, and her publishing company will be carrying The Aether Saga. That is right, I have a publisher! Kira is a long-term veteran of the publishing trenches and knows far more about the business than I do. I have full confidence that with her assistance, I can become far more of a successful author and reach the international steampunk community.

However, as anyone in the publishing business knows, getting a book out takes copious amounts of time and energy. Kira and I will be packaging and producing two books at once: both "Steam on the Horizon" and "Clouds of War". During the months that this project will entail, "Steam on the Horizon" will still be available on Amazon and Kindle as it currently is and I will still be running around hawking it at conventions and other venues. However, Kira and I will be repackaging it and putting it through a more more comprehensive and widespread distribution platform.

One of the most exciting aspects of working with Kira will be that she is very much pushing for The Aether Saga to be available as a series of interactive enhanced ebooks. Trying to explain these via text rather than a visual demonstration is quite difficult, and when Kira first talked about this books, I initially dismissed it as frippery. Then she hauled out her IPad and showed me an interactive ebook, and I was instantly hooked. The particular book was "History of a Pleasure Seeker" - essentially the ebook had the normal text like you would expect, but there were all sorts of other additions: extra notes and descriptions from the author, music, video files, etc. As I looked over some of these enhanced ebooks, I realized that The Aether Saga was a perfect fit for these books: I could incorporate so many awesome elements: voice readings from actors, sounds of engines and other mechanical noises, sidebars with historical and cultural information, pictures from the countries where I have traveled, etc.

So in a nutshell, the plan is that The Aether Saga will be offered under River Junction Press both as print and ebooks but Kira and I will also have the series available as interactive enhanced ebooks. I am particularly excited about the last part; enhanced ebooks are amazing! They are also cutting-edge technology and right on the cusp of publishing innovation - here is an article about these books.

Well, Captain Roberts and I have work to do - when I last left him, he was being talked into taking a shipment of cavalry horses from Balaklava Bay to the British camp. Now, anyone who has worked with horses before knows that they are fragile, dumb creatures that actively fling themselves towards peril, so putting a bunch of them on an airship is not the easiest or practical of tasks. Captain Roberts may find himself in a situation like this poor soul here:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

TeslaCon Part Deux

The good folks of the Steampunk Society of Nebraska have a rather odd tradition for every TeslaCon event: a post party on Sunday that is best captured in this image:

Yes, in case you were wondering, that is not tea in those cups. I believe most of the people in this picture are imbibing absinthe or other brews of an alcoholic nature. Because nothing says classy like a group selfie in a Jacuzzi. If our group continues to grow and our TeslaCon caravan continues to expand, we will need to find a hotel room with a bigger tub.

Since standing fully clothed in a bathtub with a teacup full of whiskey is not amusing enough, the post-party was capped off by a rousing session of group karaoke to Disney songs. My mother would no doubt be proud to know that four years of college French allowed me the ability to belt out "Le Poisson" from The Little Mermaid with rousing gusto and a near-perfect French accent. Another member of our group happened to have a fine pair of suspenders to act out "The Lumberjack Song" and a Phantom of the Opera mask for "Music of the Night".

While much of the con is somewhat of a muddle in my head at this time owing to fatigue and system overload, I have fine memories of Frenchy and the Punk delivering yet another wonderful concert, costumes galore, and hundreds upon hundreds of people. I had a panel scheduled on Thursday at 7:00pm entitled "The Pen and the Cog: Writing Steampunk" and I cherished few hopes that more than one or two souls would attend, owning to the day and time. To my surprise, about ten people showed up and we had a fine time talking about cliches in steampunk, character development, and self-publishing. For those who asked, here is a copy of my powerpoint presentation that I displayed during the panel.

Thus far, TeslaCon has been, by far, the best steampunk con and best con I have yet attended and I eagerly await to see if next year's con tops this one.

Back at the ranch, the Horizon has been cooling her heels in Constantinople waiting for me to get back to writing. When I last left off, she was undergoing a thorough winterizing to prepare her for the harsh weather that she will face as a military supply airship during the Crimean War. She will spend a nice portion of Clouds of War sailing over this:

Today I was out putting air in my tires in the face of a drizzling cold rain, enough to numb my hands and send me scurrying back into my car after a few minutes exposure. It was such a brief encounter with discomfort, but it made me think of how little most of us in the modern world fully understand deprivation and hardship. I briefly envisioned how my pilots of the Horizon, Barking Jack and Bloomberg, must stand on deck in the open air, steering the airship forward despite freezing rain, hail, tearing winds, and other weather conditions. The Horizon and crew are facing a bitterly cold winter of grinding work, chronic shortage, hazardous war conditions, and very little sleep: hard, tough men in a brutal world that chews up the weak and only leaves the strong alive.

While my characters struggle to stay alive, I think I shall leave them to their work and go have a cup of tea and curl up with a good book!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

TeslaCon and Some Musings on Gender Roles in Steampunk

I'm typing this in the middle of what appears to be a clothing store explosion: four women managed to cram at least twenty-five costumes into one hotel room. From my position on the couch, I spy eight hats, an enormous bottle of Advil, a box of my books, several packs of half-opened cookies, two hat boxes, a half-full cup of tea, seven boots, a corset, and the furled flag of the Steampunk Society of Nebraska, just to name a few.

If you have the slightest interest in steampunk at all, you simply must attend TeslacCon next year. In my years of con-going, I have yet to attend an event that can top it. The amount of intricate corsetry, the leatherworks, the gears, the hats. Sensational! Plenty of folks were strolling around in thousands of dollars worth of costuming.

I, alas, missed most of it as the majority of my time was spent at a vendor's booth. I think my face in this picture captures my general demeanor after eight hours in a booth on Saturday.

Note the waxy skin, the glazed eyes, the blank expression of utter fatigue, the mouth incapable of smiling, the brain floating blearily in a haze of exhaustion. Thankfully, not too long after this picture was taken, I was decked out in my River Song fatigues while riding a luggage trolly down the hallway at 2:30am so fun was had, just after the vendors room closed for the night.

The gentleman with the impressive gun goes by the handle of Jessie, and he and I partook of an interesting conversation based on my observations of the men and women of TeslaCon. In my two years of steampunk, I have come to the conclusion that the male of the species is more theatrical than the female. Steampunk gentleman take their steampunk personas with devoted sincerity and dramatics that is not often matched by the women. One stellar example was the head of security during TeslaCon. A former military man himself, this gentleman marched through the halls of the hotel with a squadron of impeccably dressed officers, all ramrod straight and spitting out commands into their lapel mics. Other gentleman strutted about proudly in their finest garb, their voices resonant and commanding, and every inch vibrating with theatrical pride and manliness.

As Jessie and I were discussing this, he commented that steampunk is one of the few realms where it is socially acceptably for men to comport themselves with assertive masculinity. Overtly masculine man are not often widely embraced in our current culture, but steampunk is a unique environment where it common (if not generally expected) to see a clear delineation between the sexes. For Jessie, and for other men, this seems to be much of the appeal of steampunk: the genre allows them to be the men that our culture has worked to suppress.

In a neat parallel, this also works to lure women into steampunk. One of the great appeals in steampunk to me as a woman is being surrounded by well-dressed, courtly gentleman who are men of action, not passivity. Military uniforms are in abundance, and the men carry themselves with pride and dignity. For the ladies, steampunk is the romance of lovely dresses, delicate social graces, and the freedom to let the men take the lead and free us from the burden of always being in charge, forthright, and assertive.

As much as our modern society works to eradicate gender roles, the growing appeal of steampunk is incontestable proof that we still find great allure in a world where men are men and women are women. In many ways, we are desperately hungry for this world, and steampunk is where we can exercise these desires and find the freedom to be the men and women we are born to be.

Meanwhile, this woman is happy back in jeans and sneakers and is agitating for a real meal after having survived mostly on grilled cheese sandwiches and cookies all weekend. For someone who is almost obnoxiously healthy, con life is a catastrophic dive into poor nutrition, even worse sleep, and sporadic grooming practices. My legs have not seen a razor in days, my teeth are clotted with the crumbs of random fried objects, and my digestive system is in catatonic shock. A three day juice fast awaits me back home to repair some of the nutritional damage wrecked on my exhausted frame.

For now, dinner at a German restaurant where I will drink about six gallons of water and hopefully track down something of the salad variety.

More TeslaCon updates to follow!

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Steampunk Author Cosplays a Steampunk Author

For MetaCon this week, I am putting together a steampunk author costume, which will allow for many amusing double-entendres and allow me to shamelessly market myself. In preparation for MetaCon and a photoshoot I am doing tomorrow, I decided a genuine quill pen and ink were required for this steampunk author costume. I procured a pack of turkey feathers, some pen nibs, parchment paper, and a bottle of ink and set to work.

Alas, turkey feathers do not come with metal grooves that fit pen nibs so I adhered one in place by that tried-and-true steampunk method of gluing.

The end result was a functional dip pen ready to be put into use. As I scratched my way across the page, I felt very proper and elegant despite the fact that I was slobbing about in old shorts and a t-shirt and was about to head out into 90 degree heat to go running. Several minutes of work produced the following:

In the best of circumstances, my handwriting resembles what you would get if you dropped a caterpillar in ink, then allowed it to squirm across your page. Needless to say, results with a dip pen were less than optimal and resulted in uneven tracks of printed letters wavering across the parchment, some near invisible and some etched with heavy, thick lines.

Writing with a quill is also surprisingly hard on the hand: a turkey feather's dimensions along the shaft are significantly thinner than a standard ballpoint pen and much less amiable to squeezing. Thus you must hold it carefully, which puts a significant strain on your fingers.

This, however, is nothing in comparison to the sheer amount of manpower hours needed to compose a single page with a dip pen. I believe that over five solid minutes passed during the writing of this above page, a paragraph I could bang out in thirty seconds on a computer or under two minutes with a pencil. I momentarily envisioned how long it would have taken me to write Steam on the Horizon with a dip pen and paper, and the sheer overwhelming magnitude of the proposition was staggering. No wonder authors by tradition were drunkards: it was a defense mechanism against only having a dip pen to call books into being.

Captain Roberts is currently making a few new acquaintances in my office. The framed pictures are those novelty "face cut out" frames that one sticks one's head through a hole to make an amusing picture. These (and Captain Roberts) are bound for MetaCon where they will be part of a steampunk room party my assistant and I are hosting.

Erasmus is currently under my desk watching all the packing with a suspicious eye - he knows quite well that suitcases mean I will be leaving for an extended period. Today, he did me the supreme favor of nudging my brother off my computer and downstairs: Seth kept insisting on showing me videos of some seriously disturbed Russian man blowing up various objects with military-grade weapons while I had work to do. After several minutes of pleads on my part to regain my computer, Erasmus came to my rescue by farting lavishly in that noxious cluster-bomb that only a Basset Hound can produce. Seth took to his heels and escaped to the basement, leaving my computer alone.

Farting dogs aside, tomorrow I am hieing myself off to Lincoln for a photoshoot with a photographer who put out a call for steampunk models. I am desperately hoping the shoot will happen indoors as there is a head advisory tomorrow, but knowing photographers, the shoot will involve full sun for several hours. In a corset. And long skirts.........Oh well, I get free pictures out of it!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Updates and More Cool Steampunk Stuff

As I type this out, I am surrounded by a stack of hastily scribbled notes regarding the upcoming MetaCon in Minneapolis at the end of the month. Notes to myself include such things as "buy food for the room party" and other notes such as "schtum the drudam in pooga" or so it seems to read (I have terrible handwriting and cannot spell to save my soul. How did I end up as a writer?) Alas, I discovered that I could attend MetaCon too late to obtain a vendor's table, so I am exploring other ideas for marketing "Steam on the Horizon" while I am up there. Mainly I will be walking around talking to people and handing out marketing material, which should be sufficient.

On an exciting note, Steam Powered Giraffe will be playing at MetaCon and while I would personally rather see Abney Park in concert again, SPG is certainly well worth the showtime and should be a fun event.

Work on "Clouds of War" continues: much of the original draft is either staying where it is or being refitted into other areas while other ideas, plans, and schemes are springing to life afresh. As I write, I find myself continually irritated by my own lack of practical knowledge on so many elements that make their way into my writing: using a sextant, food storage without refridgeration, flying an airship, casting bullets, keeping sanitation without having much water, the list continues. Life on board the Horizon, as indeed life for most people pre-21st century, was brutal, dirty, and brief, and it is hard to truly appreciate this when you are surrounded by more food and comfort than you can possibly use.

As I have grappled with gears and words, the ever-present question of "what is the appeal of steampunk" constantly comes to my mind. What, precisely, is the thrust behind what I am doing? On the surface, my tale is fairly mundane: an airship captain struggling to pay a debt to a tyrannical man, the day-to-day workings of a merchant airship moving cargo about, and mundane issues such as coal, repair work, and food. My story is not filled with chiseled abs, impossibly coiffed heroines fighting off ravening hordes of monsters, buried treasure, and the stuff that makes Hollywood. However, there is an appeal in the ordinary, an excitement in the struggle of the daily grind, and I think the appeal lies in it being vastly different than the world of ease, leisure, and comfort we have today.

A quick google search of "the appeal of steampunk" brings up a variety of different articles, and I was particularly attracted to this lengthy exploration by author Nick Harkaway:
 Steampunk, on the other hand, repurposes, scavenges, remakes and embellishes in an arena where embellishment is seen as decadence, never mind the inherent decadence of creating the sheer amount of computing power our society now possesses in order that most of it should sit idle or be used for email and occasional games of Plants vs Zombies. Steampunk appeals to the idea of uniqueness, to the one-off item, while every mainstream consumer technology of recent years is about putting human beings into ever more granular, packageable and mass-produced identities so that they can be sold or sold to, perfectly mapped and understood.

The original article is well worth a read. For myself, I have been meditating on the question of why steampunk is appealing, and I have the beginnings of a manifesto percolating to life in my brain. For now, I have had quite enough computer time for the day and will sign off for now.

Happy cogs to all!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

OSFest and River Song in Full Force!

Shaky from too much caffeine? Check. Room full of discarded costuming badly in need of washing and repair? Check. A folder of business cards from people I only vaguely remember talking to? Check. Ankles aching from spastic dancing in full River Song costume? Check. Fun times had at Osfest? Check and double check.

This weekend's con was a rousing success and many good times were had by all. I sold a nice handful of copies of Steam on the Horizon, enough to fully recoup the cost of the con plus a whopping $10 profit which made me exceedingly happy. It was a great chance to get my name out there, and I do not believe I stopped talking for three days straight. 

For all you authors out there, I highly recommend hiring an assistant. Below is Megan who cheerfully schlepped loads of books everywhere, ran the laptop, fetched water, and kept track of everything for three days, and I could not have done it without her. She also incidentally was helpful in attracting me to our table. I will here state that neither of us lacked for male attention all weekend. Wonder why?

Besides being superlatively helpful and nice, Megan made me an authentic, gosh-darned awesome River Song waist belt and gun holster out of real leather. I happily donned it and received many flattering comments on the full ensemble.

River Song had a great deal of fun on Saturday, including a guest bellydance appearance at a room party (accompanied by a guitar and author Keith R. A. DeCandido beating out percussion on a plastic trash can)

River Song also gamboled about on stage during the Steampunk Steerage Ball, happily kicking up her heels until realizing, a shade too late, that the song "Time Warp" from the Rocky Horror Picture Show has actual dance moves that she did not know at all. As a result, River bumbled along a beat behind everyone and making the wrong steps.
River Song later marginally redeemed herself by swing dancing with a local fellow and repeatedly beaning herself in the face with her necklace. Boots are not the best choice of dancing footwear, and her ankles are hurting today. 

Other highlights of the con include
- the Steampunk Society of Nebraska taking on the Klingon Federation at a Nerf gun battle and winning
- hosting a panel "The Pen and the Cog: Writing Steampunk"
- hanging out with the Zombie Research Institute
- shooting a Dalek on stage during the costume contest
- questioning "Does that dude have a penis on the back of his top hat?" (it was a tiny Elmo)
- dancing with a ten year old girl at midnight who squealed every two seconds
- being hit on by a Klingon
- free drinks from the bartender (an English expatriot)
- cosplaying a steampunk version of River and The Doctor with Matthew the Northern Poet
- getting new signatures in my River Song diary, including some Klingon writing

And if anything could have made it better, it would have been Loki showing up. Sadly, I wasn't at Comic Con this year, so I will leave you with this.

Monday, July 22, 2013

OSFest and More!

Gearing up for OSFest 2013! (we interrupt this blog for a brief reminder that OSFest is a sci-fi fantasy con held in Nebraska and Ozzy Osbourn will not be in attendance. Thank you). This weekend I will be awake for three days straight to run around Omaha's Ramada Inn with a bunch of cosplayers and live off caffeine and free Tootsie Rolls (which is pretty much what I did at my last con). Note: Tootsie Rolls are not an acceptable meal replacement, no matter how many of them you eat. 

However, this will be a working con for me, as demonstrated by my schedule below: 

   4:00-5:15   Book signing in Author Alley
   5:30-6:00 Book reading event 

   12:00-1:30 Book signing in Author Alley
    2:30-4:30  Present workshop "The Pen and the Cog: Writing Steampunk"
    4:30-6:00 Book signing in Author Alley 
   1:00-2:30 Book signing in Author Alley

I am quite looking forward to the writing panel and am planning on filming it to make a YouTube video for instructional purposes. I haven't taught a class for over a year, so this will be tons of fun! The workshop will cover some of the tidbits of steampunk writing I have gleaned through my experiences, such as:
   - the practical implications of steampunk technology (aka just so how exactly does that airship fly?)
   - why corsets do not equal combat
   - steampunk archetypes and why they should be avoided 
   - top ten writing sins

Extra excitement: steampunk author Gail Carriger will be a guest of honor and I am thrilled about the chance to yak with her a bit about London, tea, and steampunk writing (and not to mention treacle tart). I read Souless several years ago, which was probably my first introduction to steampunk fiction, and it will be delightful hanging out with Gail for the weekend. 

In the bustle of preparation for OSFest, I have sorely neglected the Horizon and her good crew, but fear not, plots are afoot! When I last left off, the good airship had "liberated" a cannonade cannon from a fallen Spanish airship which had crashed off of Gibraltar. The Horizon is now legging it across the Mediterranean to Tangier, Morocco to refurbish and refit the cannon. 

Both Gibraltar and Tangier are near and dear to my heart as I visited both of these places last April. Here are a few of my favorite shots from that trip. 

Grumpy camel gets his picture taken in Tangier

View from Gibraltar

View of the ocean in Gibraltar

Such  fun times! Well, must run and get ready for OSfest, so much to do!