Monday, August 30, 2010

Upstate Steampunk Meetup

There's nothing like the local steampunk meetups of Upstate Steampunk to get me inspired.  This was another fun meeting at the gorgeous hotel where they are holding the Con in November and it's a Victorian Dream.  We sat in the lobby for a while, then adjourned to the wine room throwing out all sorts of ideas.  It was such a variety of people, Gypsey, Marla, Elsa, Ophelia, Sarah and her sister (I can't remember but I think her name is Debbie) many in steampunk gear - we all tend to shop at goodwill or other thrift stores and now have too many really cool outfits to wear at just one con.  I love it, we have the same kind of talks my family has at Christmas on how little we paid for really cool stuff.  This month's highlights were boots- especially Sarah Madison's witchy pointy toe boots.  I found a killer corset for $4.25, new with the tags still inside, just the day before, only because it was hanging on the end of a rack.  I wasn't shopping for clothes, but was hunting for items to use in the art journals - no luck on that score, but did do some early Christmas shopping, found an organzier for all my art journal supplies which previously end up spread out on my bed. 
Another Sarah and Braxton from the brilliant band, Valentine Wollfe handed out free a CD, Five Nocturnes,  which actually, by my count, has eight of their songs.  And it's amazing.  Sarah has a beautiful operatic voice and Braxton plays double bass in the Greenville Symphony/ On the Valentine Wolfe CD's he makes his bass do incredible things (I love the Romney style melodies he plays) and he also does electronica music.  I can't wait to see them live at the Con - and in addition they are really cool and intelligent people. They have a new CD coming out at the con called Crimson Masquerade, so I can't wait to hear that one as well. Plus Sarah makes the most amazing mini top hats, tricorn hats and Steampunk garments - very original and available on her Etsy. 
I brought my Steampunk Art Journal and it made the rounds, from established steampunk friends to newcomers just learning about the genre.
There were so many interesting conversations - Vendors who will be at the con, discussing their wares, such as Ophelia from Studio Clocktower,  handed out our business cards.  Gypsey taught us how she makes her copper walking sticks with glow in the dark handles - and we also had  a chance to talk to a lot of the people who were at the hotel with other groups.  So many folks asked us all about steampunk and we enjoyed telling them.  A girls' soccer team even wanted their pictures taken with us.
So if you are thinking of coming out and joining us, don't hesitate. Brandon and Jennifer were there talking about some of their plans for the gaming activities (which is in another stunning room) and we requested that the bartender ask the higher ups to stock absinthe for the Con weekend.
I am so inspired that a couple of my chapters in Foxglove Broadsides will be set at a hotel modeled on the Greenville Marriott, Pelham Road.  I'm probably going to move the hotel to Paris because my characters don't leave Europe, but I have to use it now.  The setting is just too perfect for espionage and a meeting of my revolutionaries.

Five Yea Hurricane Katrina Anniversary

Hard to believe it's the five-year anniversary of Katrina.  The storm that took 1,835 lives and caused an estimated $81 billion in property damage. The city lost New Orleans lost 595,205 people prior to and shortly after Katrina. While much has been done in New Orleans, thanks to the strong spirit of the city and it's inhabitants, there's still so much to be done.  The parishes which were leveled, such as The Lower 9th Ward and even Lakeview, where some of my novel, Shaman Circus, takes place still have a long way to go.  For every house that's been built since the hurricane, thanks to people like Habitat for Humanity and Brad Pitt's Make it Right foundation, five houses are either demolished or left standing  in lots full of six foot weeds.  Thee are few local businesses in the area, no food stores, no restaurants.  The idea of a community is gone, although those who loved their neighborhood and had the courage to return hang in there. 
A lot of grassroots councils have been established as well to rebuild areas such as one near Lake Pontchartrain, where recovery has come a long way due to survivor's efforts.
Treme has seen some improvement, thanks to its musical heritage, but even there, houses still remain abandoned, the markings left behind by search and rescue faded, but still there to tell the story every time someone walks by.
The schools are fewer but better - same with the hospitals.  And while New Orleans resilience is amazing, the fact that we haven't come much further in the government's role of handling such tragedies, is unacceptable.  No one has been held accountable for the lack of support and mismanagement of funds and equipment, necessary for survival, which never reached the Gulf Coast.  Two years after Katrina, I saw for myself in Lumberton, Miss., thousands and thousands of FEMA purchased trailers which were just dumped on acres of land, never reaching those needing homes, even though they were only an hour and a half away.  People were still living in tents in their drive ways.  I'll never get over my anger at that sight, knowing how people were suffering, let alone the waste of taxpayer's money where what we paid for some trailers would have been enough to rebuild a small house.
So it, was with a heavy heart, and tears that I watched some of the newscasts this weekend.  Wishing we had wised up on a national level. Especially since the area is being hit with another massive blow form the oil spill, when recovery form the first tragedy isn't anywhere near complete. For tourists, life is good in New Orleans.  The French Quarter is intact, the Saints are bringing hope to the city, but for many families, it's still a nightmare to get beyond.  I give credit to the people of the area - they have pushed on through the miles of red tape and the years of struggling.  I hope they can continue on setting an example for the rest of the country, teaching us, we can't take anything for granted.  Everyday is a pivotal day we should cherish, a day which could change in a matter of hours - as it did for them.  

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Magic Formulas -the rituals of writing

Coffee, peaches and writing, writing, writing - too much coffee and a handful of peaches in honor of my writing buddy, B. Miller who goes to Killercon this week to pitch her novel,  Blood in the Orchard, set in South Carolina. 
Writing is a lonely job, we need the alone time to get it done, but it's also daunting, when hours, days pass by and you haven't spoken to any human beings except your characters.
But maybe that's what needs to happen, so the characters speak to you, grab your typing fingers and lead you on to adventures you'd never imagine on your own.
This just happened to me this weekend.  I've been writing on The Foxglove Broadsides, at a steady pace, in between lots of learning about steampunk, reading Conan Doyle, reading submissions for Steampunk Fissure, laying out the mag, taking care of my granddaughter and working.  But this weekend the characters (including The Orchid Collector, who features in a short story of mine)  grabbed me, just like Jacob LaGuerre did in Shaman Circus and off we ran.  Besides putting in more than 13 hours on Steampunk Fissure, I've written over 5,000 words this weekend.  I'm up to 18,800 words, twelve chapters and the whole story is so alive, I can't sleep. 
I've even managed to read about a fifth of the way through Foucault's Pendulum and watch Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes again, for about the 25th time. Foucault's Pendulum is part of the reason why I'm writing so fast.  It's a fast-paced novel and goes all over the place, just the way I like them.  I owe a huge favor to  another pivotal writing buddy, Brian K. Ladd, not only for getting me into steampunk, but also because he couldn't stop praising Foucault's Pendulum.  It's a bit Fowlesian and a bit not.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Steampunk Fissure final cut

A busy morning already!  In between working in my garden, I've been making the final decisions after re-reading all the submissions for the final cut for Steampunk Fissure to be released November 19th.  Boy, has it been tough.  The submissions are so good and so varied, I'm having a really hard time - a lot harder time than I've had with the last seven issues of Fissure magazine.
I love the ingenuity and creativity of steampunk authors.  They continuously amaze me.  Within the week, I hope to have notified all of the authors and will announce the final stories, poems and non-fiction articles to be included in Steampunk Fissure here, on the Shadow Archer Press site, on the Fissure magazine page, on my space, twitter, facebook.  
If you are an author who submitted something and did not hear back from me, please email me at  I had a computer crash a few months ago and lost the entire Steampunk Fissure folder.

Friday, August 20, 2010

NIN for 50 cents!

Yeah - you read it right.  Nine Inch Nails for 50 cents!  1994-1995, The Self Destruct Tour - that was my best find at the advance sale of our annual library book sale (we were invited for an hour,  because we work at McAlister Square where they hold the sale).  NIN on VHS - but I still have the machine!  Two tape video footage, backstage, concert, crazy stuff, a young stage diving crowd-surfing Trent Reznor, way different from the man he is now, bus crash, bandmate's tip of finger cut off, Marilyn Manson, Jim Rose Circus,NIN on cello, DAvid Bowie and Trent in a duet.  Never thought I'd tear up watching a NIN video. Courtney Love skulking in the background as she should be, if you ask me. Funny how something likes this can kick you right back.  This was the mid-time of The Howling, everything in flux, The Crow and Gargoyles, Andy Tapeworm and Kieth Winchester working on the mag.
And the NIN set wasn't the only find, came home with a whole shelf of first edition hard covers by magical realism author, Isabel Allende and whoa, first edition Foucault's Pendulum, each one only a buck. All hail Rosicrucians and Freemasons, Kabbahalists and inventors, industrial music, Tesla, Bowie, Mesmer, and the late Kurt Cobain. How's that for some weird synchronicity?
Great week coming up:  brain seminar in Columbia and Upstate Steampunk meeting at the Marriott on August 28th.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

oh! the delights of a wicked garden!

As I sip a glass of Duplin Scuppernog wine bottled in North Carolina, I work on my art journals for deadly and wicked gardens.  I love growing poisonous plants - they truly amaze me, their beauty,  their disguise, their quiet powers.  Even plants I didn't grow on purpose in my garden are poisonous, such as azaleas, daffodil and hyacinth bulbs.  There are many more than you would believe.
So to coordinate with my steampunk stories involving dangerous plants, The Orchid Collector, Marquette de Fleur and The Foxglove Broadsides,()a novel)  I listen to the languorous and atmospheric goth/steampunk band, Life's Decay,  from France, (how appropriate!) as I create Deadly Garden journals... a smattering of botanical prints, a bit of explanation, various embellishments and handmade papers, a warning here and there, with plenty of room for wicked gardeners to write of their own fascinations and experiments.
I've been cultivating poisonous plants for over 29 years, ever since I had a tiny garden in Dracut, Mass. near the shores of Lake Massacuppic and was curiously surprised when a rogue plant sprouted and grew to about 3 feet.  Research led to discover it was Deadly Nightshade and I've been hooked on deadly plants since. I've only been able to have gardens off and on, but Foxglove is my mainstay. (If we ever meet, ask me about my own Digitalis Purpura rush to the emergency room).
I'd already been inspired to make a  poison or deadly garden journal when the Widow Kate Next of Steampunk Empire told me about Amy Stewart's amazing book, Wicked Plants.  I still don't own a copy but will after reading portions and hearing Amy's delightful talk on her book. Like me, she takes a wicked pleasure in the macabre.  Amy has a wildly humorous side but is also a highly knowledgeable horticulturist with many books for the care of normal plants and  flowers under her belt. 
As I write this,  a frightful dark and threatening storm is blowing in, thrashing the trees, darkening the sky to dusk, even though it's only 5:00 pm, as if nature would chastise me for exploiting her decadent darlings.

Shaman Circus art/signed copies available

I've decided to offer autographed copies of my book with buy it now on ebay for those readers who don't live nearby and would like an autographed copy.  Straight signed copies will go for the cover price for the time being.
  Signed copies which come with your choice of a matted 81/2 by 11 inch print of the oil paintings I created while writing Shaman Circus will be on ebay auction starting later today. 
I decided to do this when I discovered booksellers  were selling new and used copies, unsigned, on Amazon for more than the cover price!  One was even $26.00 and the cover price is $18.99.
  They didn't even state if they were signed.  So why would someone buy them for more than the cover price when they can get them on amazon for $18.99?
 Take note, the only copies I have signed have been those I put directly in the hands of my friends or people who came to my book signings. If someone is selling a signed copy, let me know and I'll put a photo of my signature up so you'll know you rec'd an authentic autograph.  Don't believe every book seller you find on ebay.  I purchased a copy of Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite, autographed, on ebay, only to receive it with a fake autograph.  I have other books of hers which are signed and the signatures were not even close.  So there are folks out there just ready to rip you off.
Go straight to the source when you can.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Have any other authors had jumps in foreign sales?

I'm wondering if any authors have noticed big jumps in their Amazon sales?   All I know is that my novel, Shaman Circus, in its trade paperback edition (Kindle is a whole different deal and they just dropped to Kindle price to $3.19), Shaman Circus went up 50% in rankings the past two weeks since it was released on Amazon UK.  Part of that may be due to the fact I may have a huge following in Europe, thanks to all the folks I've worked with and published through my small press, Shadow Archer Press and my magazine, Fissure Magazine or and/or the fact that the cover was designed by Steve Viner, in my opinion an artists in the running as the next Dave McKean of Sandman fame and Neil Gaiman's  good friend and collaborator.  
I stand in amazement.  There hasn't been such a big jump I don't know whether to attribute that to it's recent  release in trade size paperback in the UK (and possible Germany and France) I know I have a lot of follows on an international level from all the authors I've published through Shadow Archer Press and Fissure Magazine.  But this jump is a staggering surprise.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Shaman Circus available in the UK

Phil and Deb Harris from All Things That Matter Press have just informed their stable of authors that all the books they publish are now available in the UK as both print and kindle editions!  I'm so excited that my dark fantasy magical realism novel, Shaman Circus, is among this list!  Especially since the cover was designed from a series of paintings and digital artwork by Steve Viner, a resident of Britain.  Finally its available on his shores.
I'm also pleased because so many of the Shadow Archer Press authors and Fissure magazine contributors hail from the UK and Europe.  Never in my wildest imagination did I think my writing might be sold in book form in the country of my mother.  I only wish she were alive to see it.  She was a great reader and supporter of my let's say unconventional writing.  I'm really touched and want to say thanks yet again to Phil and Deb for their tireless efforts to support their authors.  They are amazing!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Steampunk Fissure still seeking art

Submissions for poetry and fiction have closed for the Steampunk Fissure but I'm extending the deadline for art. This special issue will be released at the Upstate Steampunk Con
on Nov. 19 & 20th.  I'm reading at the moment.  We've had some great subs both in fiction and poetry - a wide variety, however, we could still use some artwork so if you know any steampunk artists out there, send them my way.

A listing of the acceptances so far will be announced soon.   Although I'll still be reading for a couple more weeks.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Nick Valentino in Dreams of Steam

Good news in the publishing and Steampunk worlds!  A new steampunk anthology has just been released,  Dreams of Steam and is available at Barnes & Noble.  What makes it even better is it features a story by my friend Nick Valentino.  Engine 316 is  a story where he takes a weird west steampunk angle.  I can't wait.  I've been looking for a new steampunk anthology which features contemporary writers with new works as opposed to reprints. Although I love what the Van Der Meers did for the genre in their anthology simply titled,  Steampunk,  I wish there had been more from new writers. Although, on the other hand, someone did need to set the historical precedents all in one place and they were the perfect pair to perform such a feat.

I met Nick at The South Carolina Literary Conference and discovered he was a great guy as well as a steampunk author of note.  His book, Thomas Riley, is a rollicking steampunk ride - inventive, quirky, full of  technological marvels, alchemy, airships and action!  It's available both in print and on kindle at Amazon and you can get a signed copy at a variety of Cons. He travels all the time and I'm looking forward to his panel at Dragon Con in Atlanta. I don't know if I mentioned this before. but I'm even more pleased because a few weeks ago Nick notified me that I'd won a pair of goggles from him in a Twitter contest.
And as a fan of steampunk, who is currently writing steampunk short stories and novels, including: Foxglove Broadsides, The Orchid Collector and Marquete de Fleur, and also building a character or characters (steam printer, botanist obsessed with poisonous plants and hot air balloonist) I was in dire need of goggles, not knowing how to make them and not having procured them yet.  I focused a bit too much on the "pretties" of the genre and neglected the necessities, as I am wont to do often, I'm afraid.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Gardens, Murder, Sea and Secrets

The skies are dark and threatening, much like the skies one often sees of the shore of  Hampton Village, New Hampshire where I was living four years ago.  The Atlantic Ocean there, a three minute walk away from my mother's tiny cottage to Rocky Beach or North Hampton Beach, is dotted with a string of islands from the brief 19 miles of NH to Maine, The Isles of Shoals, were settled in the 1600's and named by John Smith of Pocahontas fame.
From the shale and wet sand cove littered with massive rocks, you can see beyond the vigorous waves to the ragged humps of rock, reaching out like an animal stretching it's spine, as if it they would claim the space occupied by a restless sea.  The thigh high waves tug at my ankles, threaten to tumble me backwards or pull me out on rip tides. The peninsula, Great Boars Head hulks and broods to the right, inviting only because of the Victorian cottages hanging on it's cliff edges or nestled in the center. To the left of the small beach, Plaice Cove sweeps away to Rye Beach displaying the few ancient fishing shacks not washed out to sea in a nor'easter several years back.  Whalers were launched from this beach. A number of three masted schooners ran aground here, some with their masts and timbers slowly rotting over decades.
The islands incliude:  Star, Malaga, White, Appeldore and Smuttynose, the site of Blackbeard's honeymoon, the shipwreck of the Sagunto, and double murders, ... so it's not surprising that in the northeast, these names conjure stories not only of literature, art and gardens but also of  tragedy and  death.
Appledore was the home to the late Victorian poet, lighthouse keeper, gardener and botanist, Ceila Thaxter, who helped run her father's hotel where she played hostess to many literary and artistic figures of her time. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Whittier, Sarah Orne Jewett.  Artist Childe Hassam painted many aspects of her garden and a few with her tending her plants. She found the body of her painter friend, William Morris Hunt    drowned off the coast of her island.
As the most popular female poet of the 19th century, Ceila gained respect for her poetry in a highly competitive literary realm, slightly less so for her paintings. But this New England writer attracted the most international interest with her account of the rescue of  Maren, a friend who survived the brutal attack of an axe murderer after he killed her sister and sister-in-law. Celia tells the tale of how the terrified woman was rescued aboard a tiny boat from the bloodied Smuttynose to the safety of Appledore.  Two years afterwards,  The Atlantic Monthly printed Celia's first hand accounts of the aftermath of the murders in their May 1875 issue.
But even beforehand, Ceila's poems were not the innocent, pretty pieces one would expect of a Victorian female writer who spent her entire life in New England.  Instead she is a writer of paradox from the spirited flight of sparrows to the sinking of ships, from descriptions of her riotous bank of poppies to men mouldering in dank jails.  Celia's work is dark and foreboding, observant of both the natural world and human nature in both it's beauty and dark extremes.
So to honor her, I worked in the rain in my own garden today, accompanied by a writing spider nestled in his zig-zag trap, mummy-wrapping a Japanese Beetle in shiny silk.
Despite the off-kilter lifestyle at those northern beaches, I miss the place with a longing which is never sated. This morning's downpour washes my tears into southern soil, but failed to rinse away the memories, a sad absolution, cleaning and polishing my own experiences and secrets of the strange string of events I experienced along that shoreline. Smatterings have turned up in my 2nd magical realism novel, nearly finished, Shaman in Exile; others are wrapped in poems and letters, elaborated in art journals and painted on canvas.  Perhaps the brooding atmosphere instills a macabre creative streak or breeds a nature which looks beyond the sun and pleasures often associated with the coastline, to view or write the tales of tangled human lives and nature's capricious offerings: gifts or trickery, one never knows.
Web Analytics