Steampunk Summer: Bestseller Lindsay Buroker on Snow, Courting, and Creating a Series

A couple months ago, I read a great steampunk novella called Flash Gold.  I have to admit, I didn't know how steampunk was going to work in the snow of the Yukon, but it proved pretty quickly that it can and does work, at least when it's written by Lindsay Buroker.  Fresh plot, creative technology, believable action sequences, and enjoyable, relatable characters.

I knew immediately I had to get Lindsay Buroker to answer a few questions for Steampunk Summer.  Running on adrenaline and excitement, I sent her a message with my request and sat back to wait.

Then some interesting things happened.  Lindsay was named one of nine self-publishing authors to watch by marketing expert Jason Kong.  I saw Lindsay's name again, putting her in the spotlight for treating her fans to such cool things as character interviews.

Lastly, I saw Lindsay's name in a little place you might've heard of called the Amazon bestseller list in the steampunk category.  Adding all this to the only two things I knew about Lindsay - that her Facebook following is 100 times mine and she's an imaginative, talented writer - I wondered if my hopes of an interview were pure fantasy.

But like my other guest authors, Lindsay was thoroughly professional and unspeakably gracious to give up some of her free time to answer my questions on her highly successful Flash Gold Chronicles.  A huge thanks to Lindsay and away we go:

How did you decide to set a steampunk story in the Yukon snow?

I was almost in high school before I discovered fantasy as a genre. As a kid, I read tons of American historical fiction (especially if it had an animal in it) and found my way to Jack London (because, hello, wolves and sled dogs… so cool!). I read White Fang, Call of the Wild, and a number of his shorter works, and I guess the Yukon stuck in my mind. When I was thinking up Flash Gold, I knew I wanted to try something set on Earth, and for steampunk that tends to mean the 1800s. I’d always enjoyed frontier stories more than urban settings for my historical fiction, so I guess it was natural to do more of a Western (though maybe something set up there should be a Northern? :D).

(You can see why her stories have a great sense of humor - so does Lindsay.)  I liked Jack London growing up, too.  Did you start Flash Gold as a series, or did it grow into one?

I did have a series in mind, though I wasn’t sure how novellas would do, so I tried to make each one feel like a complete story, too, in case I didn’t get back to the setting for a while.

Do you have the whole series mapped out, or are you following it one novella at a time?

No, it definitely wasn’t mapped out. I figured things would end when Kali finished building her airship and when Cedar’s hunt for his nemesis ended (one way or another!), but I didn’t have a clear path laid out for the heroes to get from A to B.

Your characters have a very real feel to them in their emotions and the way they interact and relate to each other.  How fun was it to write characters who don't fall into the traps of making an instant connection or effortlessly falling for each other?

Thank you. I prefer a love story that develops over time — something that’s necessary, I suppose, if you’re going to make the relationship continue to evolve over a series. I do think it’s more interesting when there’s internal and external conflict that keeps the heroes from getting busy right away. As an author who enjoys sprinkling in humor, I find the awkwardness of the courting ritual fun to play with too. ;)

And fun to read.  In five words, what do fans of Flash Gold have to look forward to in the following installments of The Flash Gold Chronicles?

Five words? Uhmm. “Airship" (seeing Kali’s finished) and a "happily ever after" (or at least happily for now) for the heroes. :) I’m counting that as four words. With explanations. :P 

Just enough of a teaser.  Well played.

I highly recommend checking out Flash Gold, which is only the beginning of Kali's and Cedar's adventures.  (Don't knock the names - you'll fall in love with these characters faster than they fall for each other.)  Lindsay has several other series as well, all with striking covers and very fair prices, I might add.

To learn more about Lindsay and the numerous projects she's working on, visit her Facebook page.  She has links to free books there, too.


Steampunk Summer: Clothes, Costumes, and Fashions

One of my favorite parts of the Victorian era has always been the inherent contradictions in everyday life.  Nowhere is this more obvious than in the way they dressed, especially women.

You can see this on the Steampunk Carnival cover, too:

Every inch of skin from their necks to the tips of their toes is covered.  This is in keeping with the Victorian ideas of modesty and decorum.  (We're talking about a time when people didn't say "legs" in mixed company - it was considered much more polite and acceptable to say "limbs."  Victorians were so self-conscious about body functions, the first toilet paper wasn't printed with the company's name on it, avoiding an uncomfortable association, until the product became a success.)

But Victorian clothes and layers of underwear weren't completely designed with hiding the body in mind.  Women's figures weren't just clung to or gently padded, they were greatly enhanced into giant hourglass shapes.  Corsets and optional padding on top; cinched waists in the middle; big, bell-shaped skirts on the bottom.  It creates a thinly veiled version of sexuality that always seems like it's about ready to pop.

Steampunk clothing, on the other hand, isn't always about the silhouette.  It's oftentimes about adventure, creativity, uniqueness, and pain-staking details.  I came across a brilliant list of the 6 rules of steampunk fashion as set down by the one-of-a-kind writer GD Falksen.  (If you haven't looked into his books, I'd recommend him.)

For amazing pictures of how sewing and steampunk collide, check out this fantastic blog post by Leila Breton on her blog, the Three Dresses Project.  This lucky lady got to show off her hand-made outfits at a steampunk weekend in a beautiful Victorian-looking hotel (lovely pictures of that, too, if you like period furniture and buildings).

For fellow seamstresses in search of a pattern or more fashion inspiration, I recommend the Simplicity product line.  It has men's and women's costumes, coats, and underthings.  It runs the gamut from the saloons of the wild west to wedding dresses to airship captain-worthy waist cinchers, skirts, and jackets.  (Don't let the prices scare you.  Craft stores put patterns on sale on a regular basis.  Wink, wink.)

Have you thought about making a steampunk outfit?  Did you actually make one?  Tell me about it here or on Facebook.


Steampunk Summer: Let's Get Crafty!

Hooked on gears and machines and clock parts yet?  Here's your chance to get in on the action.  There's no shortage of inspiration and how-to's for making steampunk crafts and accessories, so feel free to delve beyond what I share here.  There are just some of my favorite places to get started.

Steampunk Style Jewelry: Victorian, Fantasy, and Mechanical Necklaces, Bracelets, and Earringsby Jean Campbell has more than meets the eye.  Jean walks you through rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces, but she also includes a lot of not-to-be-missed information on steampunk culture.  In numerous sidebars, she provides lists of steampunk bands and movies as well as commentary on various topics from steampunk couture to mainstream usage.  It's easy to get lost in this book, and the photographs are beautiful.  If you're new to jewelry making, don't worry - Jean gives a clear explanation of jewelry parts and even how to pick "found" objects from the world for your own purposes.

Remember how I said steampunk was hard to pin under a simple, all-encompassing explanation?  This book is a perfect example of why: Steampunk Emporium: Creating Fantastical Jewelry, Devices and Oddments from Assorted Cogs, Gears and Curios by Jema "Emilly Ladybird" Hewitt.  She offers 20 designs, 4 each in 5 very different but very steampunk categories: the sunken city of Atlantis, sky pirates, the absinthe fairy, the adventurer, and the tea party.  Jema goes beyond basic jewelry to include cuff links, a hat pin, and a chatelaine.  (Chatelaines were popular in the 1800's for keeping a variety of small but useful tools or keys close at hand.  You can read more about them here.)  What makes Jema's book so delightful to flip through, aside from the gorgeous, colorful photos, are her whimsical introductions to each section.  If you like a little fiction with your crafting experience, this is the book for you.

I found both of these at my local library, so remember to look at your library for steampunk books if you're interested in learning more about vintage and science fiction-inspired crafts.

For the embroidering/sewing set and those looking for an even bigger variety of visual inspiration, I recommend Urban Threads.  Their website sells machine and hand embroidery designs that are affordable, detailed, and highly creative.  They have 11 design packs of different steampunk motifs ranging from nature and snowflakes to carousel animals and the wild west.  There are steampunk letters so you can spell out whatever you want in gear-infused words along with dozens of stand-alone designs.  Click here for machine (and to see the designs filled in with colorful thread) and here for hand (just the designs, not filled in).

What's your favorite book or crafting website for steampunk gear and accessories?  Share it here or on Facebook.  I'll also be sharing some of my crafts on Facebook and Pinterest this week.


Steampunk Summer: The Cat, the Bartender, and Gone with the Wind

My birthday has the stand-out distinction of falling on the Fourth of July.  (It's more common than you think, but it's still pretty awesome.)  Josh and I headed to a local park for a spectacular fireworks display that was pretty well attended.

Somewhere between the opening bursts and the gorgeous purple weeping willow tipped in gold, I started thinking about my upcoming book, Steampunk Carnival.  The park that night had every element of the carnival in my book - the chattering crowd that leaves a heavy silence of anticipation when it quiets, the unrivaled spectacle, the freedom of fun, and so many different people uniting for that one purpose.  The beauty I saw and the awe I felt are exactly how my heroine, Katya Romanova, connects with the carnival where she works.

But how Katya and her best friend, Magdalene, came to be characters in that book is probably the weirdest back story I have.  I didn't create them for Steampunk Carnival.  They were both characters I cut from Demonslayer, which I've mentioned a little about.  In addition to moving them from the 2010's into the 1880's, they needed a few extra changes.

Katya used to be a bartender with blue hair and witty wisdom.  She was in a single scene, and when I cut it, I wrote her name down to reuse her in another story.

Magdalene underwent a bigger change.  She started her story life as a cat - tortoise shell, to be exact.  After I erased her as the main character's pet, her name ended up on the same piece of paper as Katya's.

I didn't doubt they belonged in the same story, but I had to figure out how to link them together.  Enter my lifelong obsession with the movie version of Margaret Mitchell's novel, Gone with the Wind.  I've always been intrigued by the way feisty Scarlett and humble Melanie found a way to work together despite different backgrounds, personalities, and strengths.  That was the kind of different-but-alike relationship I wanted between Katya and Magdalene but on much friendlier terms.

I dreamed up the idea for a steam-run carnival about the same time, so I merged it with my new versions of Katya and Magdalene.  You can still see the original influences in the book.  (Katya's a brunette now, but she's still heavily identified with blue.  Magdalene's cat past is harder to find, showing up subtly in her watchfulness, proactiveness, and quiet independence.  As for their Gone with the Wind inspirations, Katya and Magdalene make great echoes of self-absorbed, lovestruck Scarlett and modest, quick-thinking Melanie.)

I was ecstatic to bring them to life on the cover, where they're proving you can solve mysteries and look good at the same time:

You can learn more about Steampunk Carnival on the Steam World page.  You can also join me next week for more steam-powered fun.


Steampunk Summer: Bring on the Bands

I have a dark confession to make.  Although writing has been my passion for almost 25 years, there's one thing I've loved even longer:  music.  I don't come from people who stay up all night reading.  I grew up learning that music can provide the perfect backdrop to any activity.  Music can change and craft your mood.  It can cement you in the moment or take you far away.  Music is something to be shared, enjoyed, and - if you have the time, money, connections, or willpower - hoarded.

So today is all about music, how artists create the sounds of an age that never existed.  Unsurprisingly, I've been listening to a few of these bands for a year or two, never imagining I'd be sharing them here.  Others I discovered through a fabulous website, Steampunk-Music.com, where you can find interviews, get updates, and listen to samples from dozens of bands from around the world.  Without further ado, here are the varied sounds of steampunk:

 If I had to describe steampunk music in a single band, I'd pick Abney Park.  Sometimes driving, sometimes melancholy, always interesting.  It's the kind of music you'd imagine air ship captains living to or pickpockets employing their trade to.  The mechanical sounds, string instruments, and impassioned backup vocals unite with the pop/rock you're used to and create something both masterful and mesmerizing.

If you want more strings, a lighter sound, and a fun yet gothic sensibility, you can't go wrong with Rasputina.  Music moods include everything from coy hopelessness to tongue-in-cheek assertiveness.  Rasputina provides the soundtrack for such diverse locations as a state fair, a hoop skirt factory, and an orphanage.  Their songs represent a wide variety of experiences from days gone by when one might turn to eating rats for dinner out of hungry desperation or be raised by an opium smoker.

For pure fun and more familiar acoustic guitar sounds, I offer Frenchy and the Punk.  Of course, there are tambourines and castanets, too.  Strong, gently husky female vocals carry you through silent movies, the circus, and the cabaret - and that's just on the pictured album, Hey Hey Cabaret.  Catchy song warning:  you will get these stuck in your head.

Unwoman is a new artist to me, but she's pretty hard to ignore.  The album I'm referencing here, Lemniscate, is a collection of covers done in her cello-heavy, electronically tinged style.  If you're new to steampunk music and just want to get your feet wet, here you go.  Familiar songs in a brand new, unique style.  Who else is singing "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes backed predominantly by strings and a basic drum?  And rocking it, I might add.

The Two Man Gentleman Band wouldn't directly equal "steampunk" to me, but since I enjoy their style and they're listed on Steampunk-Music.com, I'll include them here.  I know I've tossed the word "fun" around, but for unadulterated, quirky, make-you-laugh-til-your-stomach-hurts comedy, look no further.  I imagine bohemian types crashing an uptight garden party to this music.  Heavy on the banjo with all the vintage themes you've come to expect: drinking, playing croquet, falling in love, and singing to a police officer to evade arrest (or try to).

I'd call these my top five steampunk music picks.  I'm adding a widget here so you can give them a listen if you like - it's not supported if you're reading this on a mobile device, unfortunately.  You can listen directly from the Amazon website by selecting the album cover of your choice.

Tune in next week for more steampunk folly!  If you've got a favorite steampunk band and I missed them, share about them in the comments or on Facebook.