dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

Gears of BrassIn honor of the release of Gears of Brass, a steampunk anthology published by Curiosity Quills, I am bringing you an interview with S.A. Larsen  (aka Sheri) on the craft of writing in the genre of steampunk …

  1. Sheri, how did you come to be involved in the Gears of Brass anthology?

I was approached by another author, who heard that Curiosity Quills was interested in putting together a group of young adult stories with a steampunk edge. This was an area I’d never worked in before, which gave me pause. But growth as a writer comes from leaping into what we’re less familiar with and learning. That’s what I did.

  1. For those readers who are uncertain about the term, how would you define steampunk?

Ooh, Susan Kaye Quinn explained it wonderfully in the forward she wrote for the book, but I’ll give it a try. I see the world of steampunk  as science fiction meets gadgets and gears powered by steam all weaved in mystery, intrigue, and romance. And lots of times lace, corsets, and some really cool boots. 😉 Steampunk is a form of world a story grows up in and how that world affects the characters and storylines—a unique battery with which to tell a tale.

  1. I know from your post on the cover reveal that you did a lot of research into steampunk before beginning your story. How does one go about researching a technology that doesn’t exist?

Great question! Initially, I searched for images dealing with already existing steampunk. These photos or drawings gave me visual insight into the world of steampunk and the Victorian age. From there, my imagination took over. I began comparing what I saw to today’s world of clothing, transportation, food, gadgets, social behaviors, architecture, and employment.

The idea of a spinning wheel producing more than mere yarn has always fascinated me. Call it a writer’s twitch that would never leave me alone. So when I saw all the time pieces within the steampunk images I found, I just had to somehow relate time to a spinning wheel. That led me to some cookie baking to entice detailed terms out of my husband about how car engines, stereo systems, and other electronics of today work. The rest I simply plucked from the far reaches of my brain.

  1. The closest I have come (so far) to writing steampunk is my Tesla-punk manuscript based on the science of Tesla’s inventions – the real ones, the ones he envisioned but never made, and the ones that conspiracy theorists think he did make but were covered up.  What kind of science is your short story based on, and did you have to coordinate with other authors – or is each story independent?

Each story is independent. It would be fun to coordinate them, though. Steampunk elements were our only criteria, though it was suggested that takes on fairytales or folktales would be great.

Honestly, the story is loosely based on the workings of time and most of that I stretched to meet my story goals. I actually incorporated elements from a young adult story idea I had a while back. It was a take on Rumpelstiltskin—thus, the spinning wheel. And then, as I began developing the story, my female lead became one whose way of life had been stolen from her, making survival a struggle—thus, my Cinderella elements. When I began writing TIME SPUN SOULS, I never intended to lean on any fairy tales. But the more I wrote, the more these fit.

5. Can you give us a logline for your story?

Trapped in the clutches of her step-mother’s quest to marry wealthy, a girl is thrust into the underground of forced labor, where yarn is not the only thing she spins.

Sheri LarsenBio:

S.A. Larsen is a wordsmith, book cover designer, and avid reader. Her quirky view of life urges her to create unique worlds for exploring the joys and angst of the young adult years, the awkward middle grade years, and the curious younger years of picture books. She is represented by Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary.

Her vineyard-set YA novel, MARKED BEAUTY, has received multiple offers of publication and currently remains on submission. She lives in the land of lobsters, snowy winters, and the occasional Eh’ya, with her husband of over twenty years, their four children, a playful pooch Gracie, and two kittens Chloe and Molly.

 

 

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Welcome! You are following the Cemetery Path, and if you’ve never visited me before, feel free to look around. I’m the author of two YA historical novels, We Hear the Dead and The Caged Graves, and a MG fantasy series about a boy who discovers a secret day of the week hidden between Wednesday and Thursday.

HBT14-The-CemeteryIf you’re one of my regular blog visitors wondering what the heck the Cemetery Path is, you can check out the Halloween Book Trail (and its multiple paths) HERE.

And now, for the Cemetery Path questions:

1. If your MC went trick or treating, what would they dress up as and why?

The main characters of We Hear the Dead (Maggie) and The Caged Graves (Verity) lived in the mid-1800’s, before the era of trick-or-treating. So, I’ll pick Jax, the main character of The Eighth Day.

Jax has recently discovered that his ability to experience the secret day of the week comes from his lineage. He’s a descendant of one of the Knights of the Round Table. Clearly, Jax would dress up as a knight for Halloween! Jax might even choose King Arthur himself – which would annoy Jax’s 18-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare. (A plus for Jax! Annoying Riley is one of his favorite things to do.)

2. What is the most haunted place you’ve ever been to?

I don’t know if it’s haunted or not, but the creepiest place I’ve ever been is the abandoned cemetery in Catawissa, Pennsylvania where the caged graves of Sarah Ann Boone and Asenath Thomas are located. I’ll let the photographs speak for themselves.

 Asenath Thomas grave

 Sarah Ann medium size

I knew as soon as I set foot in this cemetery that I would write a novel about these graves. You can find more pictures of these graves on my Pinterest Board.

3. Please share a photo of your favorite Halloween costume you’ve worn.

This is my husband and I dressed in steampunk attire, at Dorian’s Parlor in Philadelphia, a semi-regular steampunk ball held at the DoubleTree Hotel in Center City.

 ready for Dorians

4. If the zombie apocalypse happened (and it will), what would be your weapon of choice?

A long distance weapon, please – to keep them as far away from me as possible! Daryl Dixon’s crossbow is pretty cool, but probably too heavy for me to lift. So I would like a high-powered rifle that fires lots and lots of rounds!

5. What is your favorite sentence/paragraph from your novel?

I’m going to choose the passage from The Eighth Day where Jax discovers the secret day for the first time. He’s riding his bike through a deserted town, wondering what happened to all the people …

He thought about zombies.

He thought about alien abduction.

He thought about Spongebob Squarepants and the episode where everybody took a bus out of town to get away from Spongebob for a day.

He thought about the old movie where Will Smith and his dog were the last creatures left on earth.

“Oh, crap!” Jax yelled, braking.

Will Smith and his dog had not been alone in that movie. There’d been other creatures that lurked in dark places and came out at night to kill …

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I hope you enjoyed this stop on the Cemetery Path of the Halloween Book Trail. Please continue your journey at the blog site of Sarvenaz Tash, author of The Mapmaker and the Ghost, by clicking HERE.

Today Eden Unger Bowditch is here as my guest to share her discovery of the wonderful — and eccentrically fashionable — world of Steampunk, as well as her experience at the Steampunk World Fair. (I want to go!!!!)  Eden is the author of The Young Inventors Guild series:

Before Eden’s post, a word about her books …

It is 1903. Thirteen year old Faye from India is passionate about science and afraid of showing weakness; ten year old Wallace from Long Island is fearful, but an expert with magnets; twelve year old Noah from Toronto loves food and practical jokes; and siblings Jasper and Lucy round out the group with Jasper serving as the protector and Lucy shining with her knack for language and a photographic memory.

In The Atomic Weight of Secrets, the children are whisked away from their homes to Sole Manner Farm, an abandoned farmhouse outside Dayton, Ohio, and put to work on an invention that will change the word forever and that challenges their very distinct talents and personalities. In The Ravens of Solemano, the children embark on a journey to Solemano, Italy, where they gradually learn more about the origin of the mysterious men in black.

YIG books

Now, I’ll turn over the blog to Eden:

***

I discovered the world of STEAMPUNK by accident. It was like wandering into a party where everyone is wearing your style of clothes! Before starting the Young Inventors Guild books, I had never heard of ‘steampunk’ or the likes. Yet the Young Inventors Guild books take place around 1903/1904 and, well, they clearly have a lot to do with invention. Steampunk was a place my books could call home.

It was artist, Steve Parke, who first said the word to me. He was working on the cover of The Atomic Weight of Secrets… and said how ‘steampunk’ the book was. I had to look it up. Yep. It certainly seemed like a fit. As soon as the book came out, various steampunk publications (not YA or kids, even, just steampunk) contacted my publisher, wrote reviews, offered giveaways of the new ‘steampunk’ novel. I was invited to be a panelist at the Baltimore Book Festival with Kelly Link, Gavin Grant, and Matt Kirby. Kelly and Gavin had published the Steampunk Anthology so they were in the know. Matt and I were still not so clear on what steampunk was but had been told our books fit into that genre. In September, I was speaking at a National Women’s Book Association event in LA with authors Maria Lennon and Cecil Castellucci. Cecil gave me an excellent description of Steampunk. She basically said that it was Victorian Sci-Fi. And it is.

edeng steampunk 1

 Armed with a clear understanding, I felt much more at ease in Morristown, NJ at the International Steampunk Convention in October of last year. There were inventors and blacksmiths and wonderful performers. Everyone said this was a small version of what was to come- The Steampunk World’s Fair. That event is what most of the serious steampunk community folks look forward to all year. I was thrilled to be invited! By May, I was ready for the Steampunk World’s Fair in Piscataway, NJ.

eden steampunk 2

The Steampunk World’s Fair was an incredible spectacle! There were two hotels connected by a large parking lot. The entire place was turned into a turn-of-the-century (I mean the last one!) invention party! There were over eight thousand people at the event! There was a robot made out of a train! I kid you not! There were automatons aplenty, goggles galore, and fabulous feats of physics. There were lots of science professors and lovers of science, as well as artists with a Victorian flare. The ground floors of both hotels were turned into marketplaces where one might find top hats, corsets, goggles, automatons, spyglasses, handmade games, and antique items from old science labs. There were fashions shows and music concerts and pieces of theatre. I was on a panel of Steampunk authors and I brought inventions from both books to share with visitors. It was wonderful to see people from the International Steampunk City event and meet tons of new readers, too! My own kids all had a blast. There were maker stations, science labs, and games everywhere.

Eden steampunk 3

From what I have learned, there are Steampunk events around the country. What a fun way to get some history and make some of your own!

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Eden, thanks so much for sharing your experience and these gorgeous photos! Yes, there are Steampunk events all around the country, including Dorian’s Parlor, a bi-monthly ball in Philadelphia which I once attended as a guest reader. HERE’S my post about that.

You can find the wonderful Young Inventors Guild books on Amazon and B&N and your favorite indie stores. You can also learn more at the YIG Facebook page.

Today, I have revisions due for a manuscript, and tomorrow my second book releases (although it’s already out in some book stores as seen here). It is also the last four weeks of the school year, and somehow it has managed to become “report card” time again, when I SWEAR I just did report cards.
I’m excited about my manuscript and my book and the promise of summer vacation, but right now I notice that excitement and anxiety are very similar.
I’m having trouble sleeping, and I burst into tears rather easily.
I love, love, love the revisions I’ve made to THE EIGHTH DAY. I’ve fallen in love with this manuscript all over again, but once in awhile (aka, once a day) I have an attack of insecurity and wonder if my editor will feel the same way. I planned a book launch party for THE CAGED GRAVES, but now I’m wondering why I did, because – while I want my book to get lots of attention – I’m nervous when the spotlight falls on me. And since the third trimester of our school year was mostly composed of spring break and 3 weeks of state testing, I don’t know how I’m supposed to have enough new grades to justify a trimester grade.
As for this blog, I’m determined that the content will not change into a vehicle for self-promotion during the book launch. I want to keep blogging about the craft of writing, the journey of publication, teaching, and life. So, if I get swamped and can’t produce a post worthy of reading, I’ll just skip. Okay?
I’ll visit your blogs when I can. I’ll have more time after June 11. I hope you guys will still be out there, since I know some bloggers take a summer hiatus – just when I finally get time off work to play …
Anyway, wish me luck on all my stuff. I keep reminding myself that I’ve already done things I never thought I could do: live radio shows and an on-stage reading of my book, dressed in steampunk costume, in front of the strangest audience ever. (Walking up on stage, I actually thought I might pass out from nervousness – although it might have been the corset.) Compared to that, anything the next few weeks might hold must be a cinch.
Right?

Some people ought not be allowed into home improvement stores. Alarms should go off when these people cross the threshold, and security guards should escort them from the premises.

The original owners of our home were Do-It-Yourself-ers. They bought the house partly finished, and completed it themselves, with the help of a lot of friends, cut-rate materials, and (we suspect) a lot of beer.

They built the deck, but didn’t ground the posts in concrete, so eventually they began to rot away. Consequently, we had to have the deck torn down and rebuilt.

We don’t know who they got to pour concrete for the pool deck, but whoever it was didn’t have the formula right. The concrete began to crumble, and we had to pay people to jack hammer it up and replace it. (The jack hammers were overkill. The construction crew kept picking up chunks and crumbling it in their hands, laughing and making comments like: “Look at me! I’m Superman!”)

They finished the kitchen, too – with cheap cabinets, a tile countertop they laid themselves – YIKES – and Pepto-Bismol-pink flowered tile floor that only an old lady could love. They felt that grout could fill in any mistakes they made with the tiling, and they must have bought buckets of it!

Plus, they built their own island. It’s heptagonal. How many of you have a 7-sided island in your kitchen? I wonder if they thought it was lucky.

We can’t afford to replace the cabinets, so we’re painting the ones we have. We started a steampunk-sort of theme when we installed counterweight lights, so I’m continuing the idea by putting a different and unusual knob on every single cabinet.

The picture above is a peek at our newly painted, multi-knobbed cabinetry. Here’s a few more of the knobs we’ve purchased! My daughters (unsurprisingly) are fond of the gargoyle.

I’m also considering this clock. (Okay, I already bought it.)

I plan on staying in this house for a good long time, so hopefully nobody can come along behind me and call me a Decorating Vandal.


Shortly after arriving at Dorian’s Parlor on Saturday night, we had the chance to chat with one of the founders, Gil Cnaan, who described the event as catering to “anachronauts – people who travel between times that never existed.” That pretty well sums up what we saw there, as we chatted with people dressed in everything from medieval capes and jerkins, to tails and waistcoats, corsets and fishnet stocking, wings, silver contact lenses, and sometimes fangs.

Everybody was fascinating. This was a highly intelligent crowd, with interests in history, science, music, art, literature, and clothing. Vendors displayed artwork, jewelry, steampunk accessories, hats, corsets, and even some replica 19th century surgical equipment: “For when it absolutely, positively HAS to come off in the next 30 seconds!”

The organizers kindly allowed my daughters to sit at my booth, outside the main ballroom. I worried that some of the attendees might be unhappy with their presence, but everybody took it in stride. “I approve of your minions!” said one gentleman, eyeing them up through his steampunk eyegear. And one of the vendors offered Gabbey a discount on a hairpiece she liked, just because she was wearing a Zelda hat.

One of the highlights of the evening for me was when I met Kyle Cassidy and Trillian Stars, who brought their copy of High Spirits, the original version of We Hear the Dead. Turns out Kyle is an aficionado of Elisha Kent Kane, and we had a grand time dishing about Elisha and Maggie, bashing Elisha’s mother, and speculating on whether he would have ultimately manned-up and done the right thing if you-know-what hadn’t happened.

I was so busy talking to people, I didn’t get to see much of the show, but there was a fan dancer, an opera singer, Katie Kat, a showing of the animated short The Tesla Experiment, and performances by Ego Likeness. Oh yeah, I was part of the entertainment, too. They showed my book trailer, and I did a brief reading.

A gentleman came up to me towards the end of the evening to get a book from me. He said he was sorry he’d missed my reading, since he got in late at the airport. But he’d caught it on the webcast. I just blinked at him. “What webcast?” Turns out, the whole event was broadcast live on the Dorian’s website. I’m really glad I didn’t know that at the time!

Overall, this was a blast, and I really want to go again! I was eyeing up the costumes, getting some ideas, and I know my husband was, too. I think I might be an anachronaut at heart, too!