12/30/14

Help Me Give You Free Books

I want to give you the ebook download of Demonslayer #1, Every Hero Has Demons, for free.  And I worked hard over the holidays to publish it in more online bookstores than I've ever reached before.

You could go to Kobo or Smashwords right now and snatch it up free of charge.  A couple dozen readers have already downloaded it without this announcement.  And I encourage you to give my free speculative fiction read a try.


The problem is that I can't list it for free with Amazon to start with, so anyone who sees it there will find the ugly price of $0.99.  I want it free.  You want it free.  We all want it free!

So could you help me out?  All you have to do is follow this link to Amazon and click the blue words halfway down the page inviting you to tell them about a lower price.  Insert one of these URL's as the place to find it for free:

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/every-hero-has-demons
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/505332

Then put zeroes in for the price and shipping price.  (You can double check before you do it to make sure it's true.)

I'd really appreciate it, and with a little of your generous help, Every Hero Has Demons should be free for all everywhere it's listed.  Yay!

A huge THANKS to everyone for helping and for downloading the serial.  I hope to share more about it soon, but I also have a lot of work to do on the next installment.  Until then, enjoy the free serial and trying to guess where it goes from here.

12/23/14

Beast of Burden Tour Stop and Interview



http://www.amazon.com/Beast-Burden-Hidden-Blood-Book-ebook/dp/B00QBDTG32

BEAST OF BURDEN 

(Book Two in The Hidden Blood Series)

By A.Z. Green


Genre: Dark Fantasy




Pack Leaders who were allies at the time of the Vikings had rings made to remind them of who they were and what they stood for. Weremen of peace, justice and loyalty. We try to stand by that principle.

After the attempt on Nik's life, he and Jaz leave Deer Creek to escape the dangers and judgements on both their heads. But many are determined to find them and drag them back.

Curs are creeping out of the woodwork and making themselves known by the increase of deaths, kidnappings and rapes but it seems the Head Council are looking the other way.

Jaz and Nik put their differences aside to begin her training in self-defence and controlling her ability to Change. Jaz allows herself to trust him again despite their rocky start, and in doing so, she soon understands the true reasons behind his past actions.

Things aren't what they seem.

Packs are stirring, enemies are coming out to play, humans will be caught in the crossfire, hybrid Weres must fight for their survival and sides must be picked.

Which side are you on?

 

Add to Goodreads

Buy from Amazon



ABOUT THE AUTHOR




A.Z.Green was born in 1989 and raised in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. She met the love of her life aged 16 and moved to London, finally settling down near Brighton.

She has written various novels and short stories in her lifetime but has only recently decided to publish. She writes a wide range of genres such as Dark Fantasy, Romance, Thriller, Historical Fiction, Dystopian, Horror and Paranormal. Her books tend to fit better into the New Adult genre as they usually have a more mature theme.

Besides writing she also loves designing blogs, websites, covers for others' books as well as her own and various graphics. She has four blogs/websites and counting. Pinterest and Tumblr keep her busy, as does reading, drawing, painting and watching films. That's if she gets time to do any of these things with a three-year-old jumping around.

When asked in an interview, 'What books have inspired you to write?' she replied, 'I write books I wish existed, not because I'm inspired by a book that already exists.'

AUTHOR INTERVIEW


1. What's next for The Hidden Blood Series?

I’m going to take my time developing book three. I have more plans for characters that have been introduced in Beast of Burden. There will be more human involvement now that the Curs are wanting to come out of the woods - see what I did there? - so it may contain more blood than book two. Jaz and Nik will truly develop and grow, individually and together. I want more Alf! And I want more from everyone, so to save it from being too confusing, I must plan! *runs into lair with pen*

2. Are there any other novels that are in the process of being written or published?

I have three books I’ve started. I switch between them, depending on my mood. They’re all different - genres included - so it will be fun to try new things. It’s quite scary and thrilling to go outside the paranormal romance genre I started with, though I never viewed myself as a PNR writer. Beasthood isn’t a typical PNR. It falls into several genres, but doesn’t quite fit into any one of them. I have a feeling the other books will be just as awkward.

3. Tell us one thing about yourself that your readers would find interesting.

How about if I said which characters I would snog, marry and avoid? Okay here goes… I would SNOG Nik, MARRY Alf and AVOID Leif. That guy needs to stay the hell away. Oh and I’d PUNCH Sunhild.
 

GIVEAWAY




http://www.bitnbooktours.com/

12/9/14

Demonslayer: Every Hero Has Demons Cover Reveal

I love cover reveal days!  You get to see what I've been working on, but it's not out yet, so there's just a bit of tension to carry us through to release day.

I love Demonslayer.  The story and its characters have really grown into something I'm proud to share.  It burrows down into our souls because we all have ways we feel lesser than the people around us, but we all have ways we can help that no one else can.  I've been working on this story on and off for about half my life - about 15 years - so it's awesome to see the story on the page finally meet my best vision for it.

Here's the cover and summary for serial #1, Every Hero Has Demons!


Is it better to lie that you’re good or be honest you’re bad?

As Demonslayer, 8th-grade counselor Joshua Thompson helps people get over the memories that hurt them the most.  But it doesn’t mean his life is perfect or that he knows where his psychic power came from.  Meeting someone with her own unexplained ability could rekindle Joshua’s hope in humanity, or trying to be like her could leave him wrestling with a whole new choice.

I still plan on releasing it for FREE by the end of the year.  If you're interested and want to make sure you find out when Demonslayer's available, sign up for my newsletter.  You get access to my free book sampler, too.

11/20/14

The Only 2-Year-Old Who Should Get Bling

2 years ago, I announced I was restarting my publishing career with a short story called My Best Friend's Diary.”  I gave it the best cover I could, being fairly new to graphic design and not knowing what else to do.  (Just as we don't learn to read in a day, we don't learn to write or publish that quickly, either.)

Since it's one of my most popular titles, I decided it deserved a more interesting, stylish cover.  It just happened to coincide with the 2-year anniversary of pushing my story out into the world.

So here it is, bling and all, already updated on Amazon:


If you'd told me I'd one day publish a book with this much pink and sparkle on the cover, I never would've believed you.  But it works for the story, and my tomboy side is definitely strong enough to handle my girly days.

To check out the story and see if you qualify to read it free, click over to Amazon here.  If you already own it, I've contacted Amazon about giving us all the update.

10/31/14

I Can Scare You With 26 Words

For Halloween, I wanted to share one of my all-time favorite scary stories.  It's incredibly short and over a hundred years old, but it's good enough that it stuck in my head for years.  I had to Google it until I found out who wrote it and where it came from.

It's called "A Woman Alone With Her Soul," which is already creepy enough, written by Thomas Bailey Aldrich:

A woman is sitting alone in a house. She knows she is alone in the whole world: every other living thing is dead. The doorbell rings.

Gives me chills every time!  For more, even shorter horror stories that are variations on this one, here's an interesting discussion thread you can check out.

If you want a story about a more everyday kind of scary (struggling to accept yourself for who you are), you can download my short story, "Harlequin," for free through November 1.


Happy Halloween!

10/23/14

Why Should You Read Steampunk Carnival?

With the blog tour almost officially over, all that's left is to plug the ebook giveaway one last time and share some interview questions there wasn't room to post before.

Here's one more chance to get yourself (and 4 friends!) free ebooks of Steampunk Carnival:


And because some people are interested in why they should read my book, who I am, and where the Steam World series will go, here are the final 3 interview questions of the tour:

Why did you choose a carnival as the book's main setting?

The earliest idea I had for this book was of a carnival where the rides and attractions were powered by steam.  I didn’t have a clue what story could take place there. Around that same time, I developed the characters of Katya and Magdalene.  I knew I wanted them to be close friends despite their different personalities, and I pictured them standing back to back, ready to take on the world.  When I decided to mix the setting with the two young women, the story took off from there.

In the end, I’m glad I staged most of the action at a carnival.  Because of its size, I packed a lot of interesting people and thrilling rides into it.  But the rides and buildings also provide shadows, niches, and secrecy, where some of the darker moments of the book take place.  Especially for the scene where Katya and Maddox enjoy some of the carnival attractions, I relied on all the summers I spent on spinning rides and smaller coasters at Six Flags, Indiana Beach, and the La Porte County Fair.  Memories that were always a lot of fun became really useful.

Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

Steampunk Carnival is great for adults who are young at heart or like a good mix of romance and mystery in the stories they read.  I wrote this book with one intent: to make the Victorian era as easy to relate to and understand as the world we’re used to now.  So you don’t have to be a history buff or a steampunk enthusiast to dive into my book and feel comfortable in Katya’s world.  It’s perfect for people intrigued by the story who are new to the genre and also for people looking for something new who already embrace it. 

As Steampunk Carnival is part of the Steam World series, will we see more of Katya and the Carnival?

Actually, no.  Katya and the success of the carnival set some things in motion for the rest of the series and get mentioned in other books, but I picked the title Steam World because that’s where the other books will take us.  Most of them will probably take place in the United States, but some will journey to other countries around the world.  I won’t spoil too much about book 2, but I will say the innovative technology powering the carnival inspires interesting leaps forward for air travel.  The heroine is Katya’s opposite in many ways, and her story centers around pulling off a heist instead of solving mysteries.


A huge thanks to anybody and everybody connected with my tour!  It was my first, and a pretty good one, and I'm excited to see what future tours will hold.  Join my mailing list on the right or from the Connect With Me page to stay updated on Steampunk Carnival (print version still to come!) and the rest of the Steam World books.

10/22/14

Ice's Review: “A Cute Little Gem” Plus Excerpts


Last two stops of the Steampunk Carnival blog tour.  A short, sweet promo on Lilac Reviews and a great, well-said review from Ice of Bit'N Tours.  She does a wonderful job of summing up the story, why Katya gets involved with the danger of what's happening, and includes some memorable excerpts from the book.  I couldn't have picked them better myself to show Katya's fiery side and her more devious nature.  So if you're still on the fence about Steampunk Carnival or want to enter the giveaway for 1 of 5 ebooks, hop on over to Bit'N and help yourself to the book buffet!


10/21/14

Love On a Roller Coaster

Day 9 of the blog tour!  Almost there - only 2 days left to win the free ebooks of Steampunk Carnival, and more entries get added every day.

Today, I'm being hosted by Moonbeams Over Atlanta, a book blog with an eye toward love, romance, and erotica.  You can read an excerpt of my book there - of Katya getting to know Maddox better while they ride the carnival together - as well as some interview questions I answered.  (What's the best comment a reader ever gave me?  Where do I like to write?  And what's the hardest thing I've ever done?)  My excerpt might focus on the growing romance between Katya and Maddox, but to find out where that goes (hint: a little closer to the erotica side), you'll have to read the book.


So get hooked on that excerpt and make sure to enter the giveaway!

10/20/14

How Immigrants Took Over the Steampunk Carnival

Good morning, steampunk fans!  It's day 8 of the tour.  Every day gathers more entries into my Steampunk Carnival ebook giveaway.

Today, my book is featured on Book Troll's Real Escape Book Blog and Creativity from Chaos.  Each stop shows a different graphic for my book, the last quote pics of the tour!  I already shared the one on Book Troll's here, so I'll post the other here:


I love this quote!  It's one of the most facetious lines in the whole book.  Mr. Warden is such a fun character to love-hate.  Of course, as the book goes on, Katya - and the reader - switch from one emotion to the other.  (Enter the giveaway for that free ebook and the chance to experience it for yourself.)

I'm also sharing a guest post I wrote for the tour that hasn't been put up.  It gives some more insight into why and how I wrote Steampunk Carnival beyond what I've already said.

The Inspiration Behind Steampunk Carnival

My husband, Josh, was the first person to mention steampunk to me. He thought it’d be a great fit.  I love anything that’s limitlessly creative, and the Victorian era has fascinated me for years.  The idea of mixing steam-powered gadgetry with the conventions and silhouettes of the 1800’s intrigued me, but it took me some time to delve into it since I was working on contemporary projects at the time.

Steampunk Carnival started with one simple idea: what if there was a carnival where the rides ran on steam instead of electricity and gas?  I knew I wanted to make it as realistic as possible even though a place like that holds a natural kind of magic in it.  (Magic along with plenty of grease, sweat, and dirt to keep it grounded.)

I based the coasters and rides on the ones I liked growing up.  My family spent numerous summer days at places like Six Flags, Indiana Beach, and the La Porte County Fair.  My brother and I loved anything that spun, so I made sure the Steampunk Carnival had one attraction specifically for that.

But my story needed more than a setting, and characters are my biggest passion.  Since I wanted to stay true to the Indianapolis of the 1880’s, I looked into what immigrant groups settled there at the time. This led to a wealth of inspiration for the book, which follows quite a few immigrants and first-generation Americans. The backgrounds, languages, and accents of my book were taken directly from that time and place: English, Russian, German, and Irish with a sprinkling of Italian and Danish. This research coincided with my digging into my own family history, which gave me a new appreciation for both.  My book characters came to life for me, and I gained a profound respect for my ancestors who traveled to the United States from Europe and the UK.  It was an honor and a pleasure to represent the city the way it might’ve been - not to mention a lot of fun.

I hope that Steampunk Carnival, with its many sources of heart-felt inspiration, will touch others.  Learn about your family.  Learn about the places you’ve called home or traveled to or only dreamed about.  Find the parts of history that make you dream, and share those dreams with other people.  Like the carnival, it’s physical, it’s intense, and it takes work.  But it also contains undeniable, inescapable magic.

10/19/14

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Weekend Edition

Sorry for not posting yesterday, but I needed a day off.  I've been working hard on the second book in the Steam World series, partly because of everyone's enthusiasm about book 1, Steampunk Carnival.  So let's see what's been on the menu for the blog tour this weekend, shall we?

Yesterday, my guest post about the ways steampunk inspires me went live on the Ink Of My Heart blog.  It also shared the 2nd graphic of the tour:


The murder of Mr. Lieber scares and haunts Katya for a good part of the book.  As head of carnival security and a brusque, hotheaded German, he's pretty intimidating.  It would take someone big and strong to kill him, right?  (You'll just have to read the book and see.  Enter the giveaway to win one of the 5 ecopies I'm giving away!)

Today, I'm spreading the love by being in two places at once.  I have a brief interview posted on The Invisible Child.  What was the hardest part of writing my book?  What did I learn from it?  And what's my advice for other writers?  Find out at The Invisible Child.

If you'd rather just see a nice, short promo of my book on the dark background of a multi-genre book blog, check out Ashley's Paranormal Book Blog.

10/17/14

Hellvis' Review: “I Absolutely Loved Steampunk Carnival”

Have I mentioned how much I love it when readers connect with my work?  Because I totally do!

It's day 5 of my blog tour for Steampunk Carnival, and the mysterious, bewitching force that is Hellvis has graced my book with its second great review of the tour.  She talks about the mystery, the characters, the way I use steampunk elements.  I won't spoil it all - she's amazingly entertaining and gutsy in everything she does, so head right over to The Hellvis Compendium and read her amusing take on my book.

As always, enter the giveaway for a free ecopy - especially since you'll know other people enjoyed it, right?

10/16/14

The Good, the Bad, the Fun, and the Beautiful

My character biographies for Steampunk Carnival are on the menu for my blog tour today!  Along with a fabulous graphic created by Ice at Bit'N Tours.

Visit the Sunshine Book Promotions blog to find out who's working against whom and of course enter the giveaway for a free ebook.

The graphic shared there is from one of the more tense moments of the story:

10/15/14

History and Alternate History Through a Woman's Eyes

Day 3 of the blog tour, and we're still racing around the internet talking about writing and books.

Today, Steampunk Carnival is being featured at a pretty cool blog called History from a Woman's Perspective.  It's got all the usual fun stuff of the tour - the trailer, the giveaway, the soundtrack - but I'm especially proud of the guest post I wrote for it.

It's my first official guest post, letting me open up about my writing process, why Steampunk Carnival turned into such a personal project, and what I hope the book will inspire others to do.

Hop on over to History from a Woman's Perspective.  Find out what history and steampunk can do for you, then enter the giveaway to win a free ebook - only 8 days left!

History From a Woma's Perspective.com

10/14/14

Steampunk Sparrow Loves Steampunk Carnival

I'll admit it.  As an author, I've gotten some mixed reviews in my day.  Some people love my books - others don't get my style.

I was a bit nervous to read Steampunk Sparrow's review of Steampunk Carnival, but it was better than I could've hoped for.  She really understood what I was trying to do with the story and its characters.  To find out what she loved so much, visit her blog here.

To go directly to the giveaway for 5 free ecopies of Steampunk Carnival, go here.  Only 9 days left for you and 4 friends to grab them all up!

Here's a graphic with one of my favorite quotes from the book to keep you toasty until then:

10/13/14

Tons of Goodies Kick off Blog Tour


The official Steampunk Carnival blog tour is up and running!  Check out our first stop at the La La Land of Books.

What's there?  A book excerpt from the beginning of the story to get you started, a short interview with me about writing, the Steampunk Carnival book trailer, and a playlist of songs from the book's soundtrack.  You can enter the 5 ebook giveaway at the bottom of the post or go straight to it here.

Share this with your friends - plenty of ebooks to go around!

10/12/14

Free Books, Reviews, and Interviews - Oh, my!

BitnBookToursAuthor

It's official!  For 10 whole days starting tomorrow, you can choose your own fun ways to participate in the Steampunk Carnival blog tour hosted by the amazing Bit'N Book Tours.

I'll be featured on a different blog each day, and every host will have something different to share about my book.  I've answered their most pressing interview questions, written a few guest posts, and shared some of the songs I think describe the story.  Ice, Bit'N's graphic designer, even turned some of my favorite book quotes into cool pics.  (Pinterest lovers, get your Pin It buttons ready!)

Most of all, what every blog will have in common is the chance to win 1 of 5 ebook copies I'm giving away of Steampunk Carnival.  So make sure you enter and let your friends know so they can enter, too.

I'll be starting out at The La La Land of Books tomorrow with an interview and book excerpt.  Enjoy the ride!

10/8/14

Spotlight on One of my Favorite Steampunk Etsy Shops

Back in September, I hosted a list of my top 5 favorite steampunk-related shops on Etsy.  (I'll link to the post later in case you missed it, but first I want you to check this one out.)

Alison of Velvet Mechanism has very graciously given me some of her time to answer questions about her shop and our common obsession with steampunk.  Without further ado, here's a well-timed throwback to Steampunk Summer:

The Shop: Velvet Mechanism
What Will Wow You:  Jewelry, accessories, cufflinks, corsets, and harnesses

Alison had some amazing insight into her love of the genre:  "One of the things I find most inspiring about steampunk are the fine details that you see in the costuming and jewelry - there's often a lot of layering, and complex mechanisms with very intricate parts. I also really enjoy the creativity that you see in the scene. Right now it feels like there's a lot of energy going into exploring the bounds of what can be done with the genre, mixing and matching various time periods and geographic regions. It's really inspiring!"

Photo courtesy of Velvet Mechanism
When I asked Alison if she had a favorite item in her shop, she answered like most passionate artists would: "Honestly, this is going to be difficult for me. I end up keeping for myself a number of pieces that I make, because I like them so much! I really enjoy taking non-working vintage materials and giving them a new life - a new chance to be seen and appreciated. Necklaces, as a category, are some of my favorite creations in my store, but I don't think I can narrow it down to just one favorite style, so I'm going to go in a completely different direction and choose a pair of cufflinks for my answer. In particular, this pair (pictured).

"I really like how this pair turned out! Finding perfectly matched vintage watches is a difficult feat - you have to go through so many watches in order to find even a vague match. I enjoy encouraging more men to wear cufflinks. They look so stylish and sophisticated. My husband owns, and wears, several pairs of my cufflinks. I have a range of cufflink styles and prices in my store."

Consider me sold on cufflinks and pretty much everything else in Velvet Mechanism (a perfect name for the store, by the way).  The wide selection of necklaces covers art nouveau, filigree, sea monsters, gothic, and other gorgeous themes.

A huge thanks to Alison for her participation in this project!  The rest of my top 5 shops are featured here.  Stay tuned for more steampunk adventures - I'll post details about the Steampunk Carnival blog tour and giveaway by Sunday.

9/24/14

Reader Appreciation Week: Best 7 Places to Find Free Books

After 3 months of Steampunk Summer, you either have 1 of 2 reactions right now.  You miss it, and you're ready for the next one.  (Yes, there will be more!)  Or Victorian steam talk wasn't your thing, and you're ready to move on.  I understand you all completely.

So I thought this first post of fall should be for readers of all kinds.  Fiction and nonfiction.  Paperback and ebook.  And definitely for those on a budget.  Let's say a budget allowing only free books.

Here's a list of the best 7 places I know of to find free books online.  (And by the end of the year, I'll have a free offering for you as well.  Sign up for my newsletter on the right or under Connect with Me so you don't miss out!)

Photo courtesy of Kondoros Éva Katalin

Amazon has numerous free ebooks available in every category under the sun.  The 100 bestselling free ebooks are here, but you can find the most popular free ebooks in any category from there.  You can also do a keyword search for whatever interests you and sort the results to start with the least expensive (i.e., free).

One Hundred Free Books posts multiple free ebooks every day in a wide range of categories.  It's a free, useful service for readers who don't want to spend time combing through Amazon.  Every book they share is free - just double check before you buy to make sure a special deal hasn't ended.  You can sign up for email alerts through their website as well as follow them on Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media sites.

Freado is an interesting site.  The books shared here are an eclectic mix of genres as well as offerings from independent and traditionally published authors.  You can play games to earn points and use them to bid on ebooks and paperbacks, but some giveaways cost nothing.  Other books are automatically won by those who excel at the games.  Find out about current giveaways here.

Smashwords is a publishing site for independent authors that, like Amazon, has thousands of free ebooks to choose from.  (Over 45,000 right now!)  Click here to look at the newest free ebooks.  You can also search by bestsellers, highest rated, book length, and other options.

LibraryThing lets authors and publishers give away free ebooks and paper books.  You can maintain virtual bookshelves there, connect with other readers, and rate/review the books you've read.  With over 674,000 books already handed out, why wait?  Join LibraryThing here and get started browsing the available books - some have dozens of copies available, some only have 1.

Goodreads operates on the same principle as LibraryThing.  Stock a virtual library of books you've read, let others know what you thought of them, and enter to win giveaways.  Goodreads at this time only lists giveaways for paperback books not ebooks, so for the page-turning crowd, this is perfect.  Here are the giveaways ending soonest.  You can also search for those most requested, written by popular authors, and most recently listed.

BookBub is another ebook promotion site in the spirit of One Hundred Free Books.  What's great about BookBub is that you can customize what genres they email you about.  They pride themselves on only sharing high quality ebooks. To sign up and get started, go here.

Feel free to share this list and comment on where you like to get free books!

9/17/14

Steampunk Summer: Award-Winning Author Ginn Hale on Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Steam-Powered Imagination

2 1/2 years ago, when I got my first ideas for Steampunk Carnival, I had to admit I knew next to nothing about steampunk.  I knew it relied on steam power and the Victorian era, but that was about it.  So I searched the internet to find books that could teach me about the genre.  A list of steampunk books on Wikipedia led me to Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale.  The premise and characters intrigued me, so I bought the paperback and sat back to set off on my new adventure.


“Hooked” explains how I felt by the end of the first page, but “spellbound” is closer.  I fell in love with the main character, demon Belimai Sykes, and his gritty, grimy world.  I’ve never been so invested in a literary love triangle as I tried to figure out which man (yes, Belimai’s gay, only adding to his allure) he belonged with:  the man who’s his polar opposite or the being Belimai once gave up everything to save.

I started the book pacing myself, treating myself to one delicious chapter a night.  Somewhere near the middle, though, this wasn’t enough, and I devoured the rest of it.  The fast but natural pace of the plot inspired the way Steampunk Carnival flows - no stops until we get to the final destination of that last, haunting page.

So it's my greatest honor and pleasure to introduce this guest post Ginn Hale wrote to cap off Steampunk Summer:

Ginn Hale in some seriously inspired goggles.

In a time before steampunk.

Sometimes it’s easy to think of steampunk as little more then a feisty heroine in a leather corset, sporting a pair of goggles while she tinkers with some clockwork device. However I believe that steampunk has had a far greater effect on speculative fiction than just promoting pocket watches and dirigibles.

Not so long ago both science fiction and fantasy were realms of rather rigid definitions— at least as far as publishers were concerned. Science fiction took place largely in space or on alien worlds of the far future. Fantasy novels more often than not were expected to fit a mold cast by JRR Tolkien decades before: wizards, elves, and dwarves battling some terrible—often painfully generic—evil.

Ginn Hale's favorite goggles.
Despite the limitations good books came out of those decades and there were authors who broke the definitions and pushed limits, but the overarching idea of what both genres could be remained largely stagnant.

But then came cyberpunk and steampunk. Between them they expanded not just the cosplay options for us all but also dissolved the line between science fiction and fantasy and reset what speculative fiction could be. While cyberpunk redefined much of the attitude of science fiction, I think steampunk in particular expanded both genres immensely.

Where once science fiction had been defined as stories of our modern age projected forward, now suddenly it could also encompass the futuristic imaginings of ages past. Steam-age space races took off and clockwork robots rumbled to life.  At the same time in the realms of fantasy, mechanical dragons took flight and the arcane magics and spiritualism, which fascinated the Victorians, gave rise to new embodiments of the fantastical.

But beyond that steampunk opened a floodgate for alternate definitions of science fiction and fantasy. If steam powered computers could get folk to the moon then why couldn’t Song Dynasty rockets soar through the skies? If Spring-heeled Jack can return to us from the yellowed pages of Victorian true crime then why shouldn’t the semi-mythic Detective Dee reclaim his mantle as near mystic judge? 

It’s no longer a given that if you’re penning a fantasy novel you’ll be kitting yourself out with forty pounds of elf-chow for the long quest your characters will doubtless undertake. Nor are you bound by the definition of science fiction to set your story in the year 2525 on some desolate moon colony. Breaking the narrow parameters that defined both genres has made room not just for cogs and clockwork but also for countless alternative stories to be heard.

Heck you might even be able to get a book about a drug-addicted, gay demon and his tangled relationship with a corrupt inquisitor published. ;)     



- - -
(Thank goodness, too, because it makes for one of my favorite books of all time.)  Ginn also has several other series and books available, and they all look as good as Wicked Gentlemen.  You can also check out Ginn's website for fan art and other cool stuff.

A huge thanks to Ginn Hale for this brilliant post and to all of my guests and readers.  This is the last official post of Steampunk Summer, but the vintage, alternate history adventures will continue through the fall.  Steampunk Carnival will be on tour in the blogosphere in mid-October, so sign up for my newsletter to get updates on that.  Hint:  There will be a giveaway!

Enjoy the last days of your summer!

9/10/14

Steampunk Summer: Top 5 Steampunk Shops on Etsy

So far this summer, we've looked at the do-it-yourself side of steampunk.  Make your own jewelry.  Sew your own outfits.  Adorn your own hats.

But maybe crafting isn't your thing or you don't have time.  That's where Etsy comes in.  Since everything on Etsy is either handmade, vintage, or supplies you can use for your hobbies, it's a goldmine for steampunk wearables and gadgetry.

There are numerous shops selling everything from gears and clock hands to goggles and waist cinchers.  These are my hand-picked top 5.  My judging criteria?  Creativity, quality, visual interest, and how well the pieces represent steampunk.  Some of the shop owners were even willing to tell me a little about what they do.

The Shop: Seamstress of Steam
What They Carry:  Clothing, hats, jewelry, accessories, decor, and spats

Here's what Katherine at Seamstress of Steam had to say about the genre: "Steampunk for me is all about those small details. I'm always attracted to the shiny copper and buttons like everyone, but it is the ribbon and lace and other small trimmings that put it over the top."

Photo Courtesy of Seamstress of Steam
Her favorite item? "I love everything I make and put a great deal of myself into each and every one of my creations. If I had to pick a favorite, I guess I would say my classic black spats. They are so cute and playful and easy to work into almost any outfit."

Katherine also told me what kind of experience we can expect when visiting her little piece of the world: "When you purchase anything from my shop you are getting a handcrafted, one of a kind item. One of the reasons so many people are enamored with Steampunk and the Victorian era is the attention to detail and craftsmanship that comes from handmade items. I embrace that ideal wholeheartedly with Seamstress of Steam. I love the little details and finishings that make an item one to treasure for years to come. Any item from Seamstress of Steam is professionally crafted, made to last, and will come carefully wrapped in tissue and string like you just picked it up at a Victorian seamstress's shop."

I'm quite fond of Katherine's selection of spats and several of the jewelry pieces.  For classic, classy steampunk - and some items that are modern but retain the vintage/punk vibe, check out Seamstress of Steam.

Photo Courtesy of EDM Designs
The Shop: EDM Designs
What They Offer: Jewelry, cufflinks, goggles, and glasses

Although my path crossed a little too briefly with Ricky, the jewelry designer/artisan for EDM Designs, due to time constraints, her passion for steampunk is obvious.  She's endlessly creative and strives to be unique in more than just her creations.  I'm completely fascinated by the different colored glasses and goggles in her shop.  Her jewelry carries the same aesthetic of metal and shine, complexity and simplicity.

For some serious conversation starters and statement pieces, browse Ricky's handiwork at EDM Designs.


Photo Courtesy of JK Steampunk Design
The Shop: JK Steampunk Design
Their Specialty: Jewelry, cufflinks, and tie tacks

What makes JK Steampunk Design such an intriguing shop is the heavy use of clock and watch parts.  All of the jewelry and accessories have a feeling of movement, industry, and solidness.  These designs would look great on any time traveler, antique dealer, or animal aficionado.
Photo Courtesy of Catherinette Rings


The Shop: Catherinette Rings
What They're Known For: Rings, watches, tie tacks, and sculptures

I've had my eye on Catherinette Rings for over a year.  Their rings have a unique, striking style.  Some of them feature an animal eye motif.  Others have owls, watch parts, and painted buttons. Their metal insect sculptures are gorgeous - perfectly suspended between gothic, terrifying, and beautiful.

I know I promised my top 5 picks, but since the 5th shop is temporarily closed, I'll feature it separately when it reopens.  If you want to bookmark it or save it as a favorite until then, go to Velvet Mechanism.

There's only one week left in Steampunk Summer!  Award-winning author and queen of steam Ginn Hale wrote an amazing piece for us for next week.  Sign up for my brand new newsletter (to the right or on my Contact Me page above) to make sure you don't miss it!

9/3/14

Steampunk Summer: THIS is Alternate History; A Book Review

I dabbled in creating an alternate 1880's for Steampunk Carnival.  Electric lights aren't on the way yet. Neither is the telephone. And someone assassinates a public figure who in real life lived another 21 years and passed away 900 miles from where he meets his end in my book.  But much of the book is historically accurate down to clothing, accessories, and certain phrases of speech.

This is certainly not the case for The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder, which I've been devouring this summer.  His characters don't just live in an alternate world full of historical figures, some recognizable and some unfamiliar.  The main character, Sir Richard Francis Burton, becomes increasingly aware that two timelines exist.  In one, the real one, he marries his girlfriend Isabel, accepts a post abroad, and continues his writing and translating work.  However, as Burton investigates a string of attacks on teenaged girls by a bizarrely costumed phantom, he diverges from history into a wild, fantastic adventure.

Click to learn more about Mark Hodder's steampunk epic.

It's incredibly interesting to read this book as an American since it's deeply steeped in British history.  I get to enjoy the characters strictly by the information given to me, that Burton's meant to settle down with Isabel (relatively speaking - he is an explorer with numerous real-life adventures mentioned on his Wikipedia page).  But certain names - and futures - are wider known.  The young paper delivery boy who turns out to be Oscar Wilde.  Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution turn up. Queen Victoria, who actually survived numerous assassination attempts, succumbs to one early in the book, the reader's first clue that alternate history is definitely on the table.

But what of the other half of the characters Burton & Swinburne mentioned on the cover as being the major players in this story?  Algernon Charles Swinburne quickly emerged as my favorite character.  With red hair aflame on his head, this skinny young poet moves excitably and spontaneously through a life of alcohol and whimsy.  His libertine sensibilities, especially his tendency to follow in the pain-as-pleasure footsteps of the infamous Marquis de Sade lead to some of the most uproarious moments in the book.  (Trying to punish a masochist with a physical beating just isn't going to work!)  You can read about the real poet Swinburne here.  (The Wiki pages are worth checking out for the pictures alone, each man exactly as described in the book.)

There are so many beautiful things about The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack.  You don't have to know anything about any of these people to enjoy it.  Mark Hodder sets up everything you need to know and integrates it seamlessly into the storytelling.  Even the elusive villain, Spring Heeled Jack, is a long-known urban legend in the UK, and Mark Hodder makes the myth his own with this book. Every scene, character, and steam-driven contraption is described in creative but believable detail.  Each chapter opens with a quote from a character, figure, advertisement, or propaganda literature, adding even more depth to an already full-bodied world.  There's no "just getting your feet wet" with this story - it's all in or not at all.  And if you like it, the adventures continue as the series goes on.

The ending wraps up nicely with plenty of room to move forward into the sequels. If you're looking for steampunk in the form of a rollicking, action-packed adventure peopled by mad scientists and roguish personalities, look no further.

8/27/14

Steampunk Summer: Yes, You Can Live in a Clockwork World!

In case you had any doubts that the steampunk genre has expanded into almost every medium, check out the successful and popular video game, Dishonored.  As a steampunk enthusiast, this game intrigued me when it came out two years ago.  Now that it's offered free (for a limited time, so go grab it!) with my Xbox Live Gold membership, I finally got to play it for myself (and watch my husband play for hours as he got completely sucked in).

Click to learn more about Dishonored.

What does Dishonored mean for steampunk?  It's total immersion from the get-go.  There's no mistaking the influences in a world driven by ingenious machines and basic power sources.  Gears, gadgets, and old-school weapons are close at hand.  Factories pumping massive clouds of pollution into the sky fill the horizon.  Just to make sure you're getting the full Victorian/sci fi experience, your path often includes flesh-eating rats that are best avoided.  The costumes blend everything from the high collars of the Elizabethan age (16th century) to more familiar 20th-century suit coats.  (They're fascinating from a historical standpoint, add depth to the in-game world, and show quite nicely that steampunk doesn't have to be restricted to one time period.)

What does this steampunk-infused game mean for gamers?  Why do I think it's worth your time?  Dishonored benefits from doing everything right that makes a game memorable, unique, and addictive.  It starts with the story - you play Corvo Attano, bodyguard (and possibly more) to the empress, who is murdered in front of you.  Her daughter's kidnapped in the same attack, you're set up to take the blame, and six months later, it's escape or be hanged.  Steampunk, industry, gadgetry, and technology are seamlessly blended into the gameplay.

Although set in a world all its own, Dishonored feels like home because it shares elements with other much-loved games.  Horde food, snatch coins, and read notes a la Elder Scrolls.  Sneak up on enemies, knock them out, and hide their bodies like in Thief.  Upgrade your powers, mask (see game cover picture), and weapons reminiscent of Deus Ex.  The unsettling, dreamlike encounters will take you straight back into the nightmare sequences from Max Payne (OK, maybe not that bad).

I don't know if any other steam-based games are out there, but Dishonored sets the bar pretty high.  Nothing feels "old" or "new," it just is, as if the world created is real and all you have to do is traverse it.  It's a fun, interactive take on a genre that's expanding and reinventing itself all the time.  This is just one more way to enjoy it.

If you're more of a video person than a video gamer, you can take in the look and sound of steampunk in my new book trailer for Steampunk Carnival.  The ebook's available for download (including the first 5 chapters free), and the paperback is coming along fantastically, so expect that in the next month or so.

8/20/14

Steampunk Summer: Author Nicholas J. Ambrose on Legos, Swords, and His Upcoming Series

In preparing for Steampunk Summer, I looked at 2 dozen steampunk books, trying to decide which authors to ask for interviews to post here.  Lindsay Buroker was one I liked (her interview is here), and Nicholas J. Ambrose was the other.


Ruby Celeste and the Ghost Armada promised several things I couldn't walk away from that hooked my interest.  Tons of adventure (sky pirates! sky ports!).  A great, real-feeling human element to the characters and their situation (the crew, the unwilling ride-along).  And of course Ruby Celeste herself, the captain of the airship Pantheon, with an attitude and a flourish of the sword to match her fiery red hair.  (Anyone who's known me for a long time will remember I got my publishing start 10 years ago with a spunky, red-headed heroine, but that's a story for another day.)

Nicholas was generous enough to spare some time from his various projects to answer some of my most pressing questions.  His answers, like his books, are honest, open, and hilarious.

The most up-to-date photograph of Nicholas J. Ambrose.

How did you get started writing?  What’s your origin story?

I don’t think there has ever been a time when I didn’t like writing - which, really, is quite an unexciting origin story. So, let’s try jazzing it up a little.  

Come with me. I’d like to take you on a journey to a summer’s day. I’m on the floor in my bedroom, playing with Legos.

Preceded by the smell of off-brandy, Mother walked up the stairs.

“Nick! Would you stop playing with those bloody toys all the time?!”

“But I’m having fun!” I protested.

“You’re twenty-six! God, do something with your bloody life.”

“But Mu-um!”

“Get rid of them!” This, a shriek. She took a long swig of brandy. “This is why your father left, damn it!”

She went then, but not without sowing the first seed of my shame. Yet - these Legos. I could not simply abandon them! Their tales were incomplete!

I continued this play for five months. Finally, one morning I woke to discover the house cold. I had no clue how to work the heating, and went to find Mother for her help. But she was gone, and my Legos with her. Only a misspelled note remained, vapours so pungent they drew actual lines in the air, ready to explode at even the word ‘spark.’

You have broke this family, so I have sold your modles and gone away to find your father. Do not loke for us. You are no son of mine.

Without my toys, I did the only thing I know how: I began telling stories, in hopes to one day have the money to travel west, to America - where, finally worthy of their love, I will reunite with my family.

(I still have not figured out the heating.)

I understand the obsession with Legos.  They unlock creativity - or at least, that's what I tell myself. What genres do you write in, and what do you like about them?

Although most of my output is genre fiction of some kind, I do have a deep-seated love of general fiction. Character stories are the sort that have always struck me most powerfully, and I try to carry that into all my work in some way. Genre is secondary, and chosen either because some aspect of it allows me to put a different spin on a literary story, or more simply because the genres I pick are hella cool.

Well said. Which are your favorite characters in your book and why?

If I had to pick, I would probably go for ALL OF THEM. Assuming that’s not allowed (it’s probably not), Brie Channing, introduced in Ruby Celeste #2, is my favourite. She’s a living oxymoron: endlessly nervous, and really somewhat quivery, but also possessed with endless reserves of naïve ballsiness. She’s really fun.

What does your cover tell us about your book?

There is at least one sword.

I love that Ruby's weapon of choice is a sword instead of a gun, dagger, or crossbow.  It's different and makes great action scenes.  What are you working on now?  How is it similar to or different from Ruby Celeste and the Ghost Armada?

I’m taking a little break from Ruby at the moment to work on something a bit different. ‘They Call Me Storm’ is the first part in an urban fantasy series launching toward the end of this summer. I’m not saying much more just yet, but if you check out my swanky website Regarding THE HIVE (www.regardingthehive.co.uk) I’ll begin talking in more depth very soon.

 (I see red hair, so I'm excited!  Also, Nicholas has an easy-to-find mailing list option right on the front page of his site, so that makes a nice option for keeping up with his projects.)

Click to learn more about the Ruby Celeste Collection on Amazon.

The first 3 books of the Ruby Celeste series are now available as a gorgeous and very well-priced box set.  So if you like steampunk, air pirates, or want to see if you will, I'd jump on that deal.

To follow Nicholas J. Ambrose on Twitter, click here.

To find the Ruby Celeste Collection off-Amazon, you can find it on Smashwords here and Kobo here.

8/13/14

Steampunk Summer: The Carnival Has Arrived!

As my Facebook fans already know, Steampunk Carnival is now available for download as an ebook.  (I've started the process of turning it into a paperback as well.  I'll update you as I go along.)  Remember, you don't need a Kindle to read my ebooks!  All you need is the Kindle app - click here if you want to get it for the device (or computer) you have.

It's hard to believe that just over 2 years ago, I sat on vacation with Josh in a Victorian bed and breakfast and read him the first chapter, rough and unedited.  I was working on the first draft at the time, and it was amazing to spend a few days in the environment in which parts of the book take place.

The fireplace in our room - converted to electric for convenience (and safety).
Katya and Magdalene, my heroines, live as many Victorians did - in a boarding house where the boarders shared a common dining room.  That's how the DeLano Mansion Inn in Michigan, where we stayed, is set up.  Josh and I ate breakfast alongside colorful characters from several different states - fellow Hoosiers, a spitfire of a woman from Texas, and a family from somewhere else down south.  (Boarding houses with common eating areas were eventually replaced with the independent, separate living offered by the apartment buildings we know today.)  In my book, shared spaces give many great opportunities for personalities to clash and mingle.

You can read the first 5 chapters of Steampunk Carnival for free on Amazon or download the sample to your device.  I'm posting the first chapter here for your enjoyment, just a little different than it was 2 years ago.  (Katya and Magdalene haven't come into the story yet.) Let me know what you think!  Thanks for reading.

Steampunk Carnival


1884

Naperville, Illinois 


Chapter One

     The journal has become my lifeline, the only thing I live for. If I could, I would carry it with me everywhere – to work at the factory, on my strolls through the memorial park, on my visits to Saints Peter and Paul Church. As it is, I leave it here, buried in the bottom of the drawer beside my bed, beneath newspaper articles and whatever scraps of paper I can find.
     I guard it as my greatest secret, and it haunts me during the day like nothing else. When sweat drips into my eyes, when my hands smear grease across the legs of my trousers, I envision its pristine pages before me. I wish they were there so I could fill them, even if oil and moisture bled the pencil’s smooth lead across their surfaces. When I close my eyes against the repetition of the machines and the men I work with, I imagine turning the pages, glancing at what I’ve written to arrive at the first white sheet.
     No matter what happens during the hours of my day, I focus solely on finishing the journal. When my boss drops my wages into my hand, I rush to buy new pencils. When the weather turns warm, I want to take it outside and make notes in the shade of the mighty oaks. When I feel abandoned and alone, I long to hold it. When the sunlight finds a clean spot on the grimy factory windows and pierces my eyes, I wish I could picture the way it streams through the boarding house windows and falls across the bed where I scribble in the lamplight every night.
     Whatever greets me when I arrive home from the factory, I draw out the journal. While a fight rages in the street or someone whistles in the hall or I’m stuffing a roll from my supper into my mouth, I fish a pencil out of the drawer and set its tip to the page. I don’t let myself hesitate, and I don’t need to. Whatever ideas grew in my head throughout the day fly across the paper. This stolen hour at night is never wasted sitting and thinking. I write without stopping, sheet after sheet until I worry I will run out of paper before my ideas are done.
     If I didn’t need sleep, I would write through the night, but I make myself stop. I jot down my final thoughts in a flurry and fold the book closed. I fling the pencil in the drawer, nestling the journal in the bottom and concealing it again. In the turmoil of sleep, I dream about it, finishing it, marking that last blank page with lines of lead. The grey strokes intertwine and thicken and twist into a mass until there is nothing recognizable as paper left.
     My heavy boots stomp up the wooden stairs of the boarding house. The journal looms closer with every clomp and creak. I follow the hall to my door and turn the knob. I can feel the pages in my fingers, thick and dry, before I have even touched the book. I ease the door closed behind me. I forget my boots on my tired feet as I drop to sit on the edge of the bed and reach for the hanging drawer pull. I dig out a pencil and shift the loose pages aside.
      No matter what I do or how long I look, there’s no mistaking it. I cannot find it. Even when I tear the drawer out of the bedstand and shake its contents all over the floor, growling through gritted teeth, no sign of it announces itself. The journal is gone.

Click the cover for more on Amazon.

8/6/14

Steampunk Summer: Horsepower, Hair Curling, and the Evening News

Writing Steampunk Carnival, I got to make up some cool technology.  Steam-powered roller coasters.  Miniature water pumps for the outdoor bathrooms that offer the convenience of modern faucets.

But one thing that struck me about the research I did into the 1880's was how much great technology our Victorian ancestors already had.  I won't go into all of it here, but the next time you're surrounded by traffic, doing your hair, or reading the news, you might see it a little differently.

It's no secret that horses provided transportation power before the invention and wide-spread usage of cars.  But as individual, family-owned carriages could be expensive, horses also served as the muscle for public transportation.  Before buses and streetcars, there were horse-drawn streetcars.  Before there were UPS trucks and semis hauling everything from produce to televisions, horses pulled wagons full of the necessities of the day - ice, kerosene, freshly farmed food.  (You can see a sleek, shiny example of a kerosene-carrying tank wagon here.  For my fellow South Bend, IN, crowd, I dug up this 1906 ad from Studebaker, catering to farmers with their sturdily built wagons.)

For those of us who've become dependent on our personal vehicles or those who rely on buses and trains to get around, we know how it feels when that technology is suddenly out of order.  Do we call someone to get a ride?  Do we walk?  Do we wait until it's fixed to travel?

Now think of those sci-fi movies where modern society grinds to a halt.  No cars work.  No buses.  No trains.  No way to effectively and efficiently transport goods, people, or medicine.  That's what equine influenza did in 1872, starting in Toronto, Canada, and ravaging horses across the United States until it reached Cuba.  It's estimated that 80-99% of horses in those areas were affected, and 1-10% died from it.  Without horses to pull the fire engines, the Boston fire in November of that year had to be put out by hand and on foot.  Streetcars had to be stopped for lack of horses.  Reports of wide-spread panic filled the newspapers every day.  I'm not sure how the outbreak ended - suddenly or by dwindling - but all it took was 90 days to bring civilization to a halt.  (You can read about it in more detail here at the Heritage Restorations blog with great pictures and here at Wikisource if you want to see if your area was affected.)

I never would've thought to look up Victorian versions of curling irons for my book, but luckily, they weren't hard to find.  Victorian women's hair commonly had two things - curls and frizz - and they both came from the same place.

1880's Ad for Curling Irons (Courtesy of Hairdressers Journal International)
Today, using a curling iron is relatively easy.  Plug it in, wait for it to heat up, and find a good speed at which to set but not fry your hair.  Back then, not so easy.  Women heated their curling irons on the stove top, where finding the right temperature was a skill they developed at best or it remained a guessing game at worst.  Overheating the iron and leaving it on their hair too long resulted in the frizziness that's almost synonymous with Victorian hair.  Damaging or singeing hair was also a real danger (so common, it was featured in this vintage sonnet).  Hurray for electricity and controlled heat settings, huh?

Even if you're not familiar with the technology of the 1880's, you're probably aware of what they didn't have.  No TV, no Facebook, no radio.  All that time we spend before and after work catching up on the news, entertainment, and gossip, they had to fill another way.  We still have a lot of morning newspapers and even some that print in the afternoon, but what we lost over the years was the once-popular evening newspaper.

It might not be technology in the sense that transportation or personal care gadgets are, but evening newspapers served several purposes.  They contained local, society news (like Facebook for Victorians).  They offered jokes for entertainment.  Local and world news for education.  Opinions and editorials.  Classifieds and ads.  Pretty much everything we're used to now.

But somewhere between the rise of television and Americans wanting their news earlier in the day, evening newspapers passed into oblivion.  In Steampunk Carnival, the boarding house's newspaper of choice is the Indianapolis News, which ran from 1869 to 1999, providing evening news for 130 years.  (So when you read the book, you'll know Mrs. Weeks, the boarding house's owner, isn't far off the mark when she says if everybody buys the morning papers, it'll put the evenings ones out of business.)

In a nutshell, that's where some modern technology stood when it was "modern" over a hundred years ago.  If you missed reading my hand-picked excerpt from Steampunk Carnival featuring some of the steam-powered rides I created, you can read it on Girl Who Reads.