Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “books

Frost Fair: With Stephen Palmer

S Palmer Factory Girl Penny

Good morrow, and well met! Welcome to the Annual Lancastrian Frost Fair on the frozen River Lune.

My name is Stephen Palmer and I write alternate history novels with a heady steampunk flavour. Sit down if you will… You can see my novels displayed here for your perusal, please feel free to browse at your leisure.

My work ranges from Tommy Catkins in the Great War, back through the Edwardian era in the clockwork, steampunk Factory Girl trilogy and The Conscientious Objector, to the surreal Dodgson-esque Hairy London, which ranges from Victorian times to WW1…

Enjoy! Be mystified! Then enjoy once more! 

S Palmer, Tommy Catkins

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tommy-Catkins-Stephen-Palmer/dp/0995752265/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=tommy+catkins&qid=1572459244&s=books&sr=1-1

S Palmer Factory Girl Penny

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Two-Souls-Factory-Trilogy/dp/1539980529/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-One-Friend-Factory-Trilogy/dp/1539980553/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-No-Soul-Factory-Trilogy/dp/1539980588/ref=bseries_lb_1539980588

S Palmer, TCO

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Conscientious-Objector-Stephen-Palmer-ebook/dp/B082T1QZNY/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+conscientious+objector&qid=1580203719&s=books&sr=1-1

S Palmer, Hairy London

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hairy-London-Stephen-Palmer/dp/1495995224/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

But wait just one heartbeat before you skate away. In these days of social media there are links to be had – fine links! And here they are for you…

 

https://stephenpalmersf.wordpress.com/

 

https://www.sffchronicles.com/forum/stephen-palmer/

 

https://vimeo.com/stephenpalmer

 


Frost Fair: With Zakarrie Clarke

Good Morning! Welcome to the Annual Lancastrian Frost Fair on the frozen River Lune!

 My name is Zakarrie and my stories are a rollercoaster ride of lust, laughter and all-consuming love. Even at their most contemporary, i should p’raps tag them #quirky #mmromance and (more often than not) #ownvoices. 

You can see my wares displayed here for your perusal, please feel free to browse at your leisure…

Amazon Author Page: 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Zakarrie-Clarke/e/B07D7JQ32N/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Novels:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07RKPLGJ6/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07BBNJHZB/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i6

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07HW2Q2LD/ref=series_rw_dp_sw

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07NJCXX8Q/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i1

I hope you enjoy your time on the ice today, thank you so much for stopping by. 

*

If you’d like to read a free, full length shapeshifter novel, I’ve been serialising my latest story on my blog:

The Beast of Bodmin Moor

Two years ago, Jake McCain met an irresistible stranger at the Glastonbury festival. A few days later his life, as he knew it, was over.  Enter Jack. The ‘two’ of them have…cohabited ever since. Much to Jack’s dismay, Jake is relentless in his bid to be the most bloody minded human a jackal ever had the misfortune to manage.

Phin Finley has set off on a magical mystery campervan tour of south-west England. Having flown the family nest for the first time, he is determined to prove to his parents that he can manage just fine, despite being a bit too…Phinnish for most folk’s comfort, his mum’s peace of mind and dad’s constitution.

This is the story of his misadventures. Of finding your (happy) place in the world, making (foxy) friends and the fabled Beast of Bodmin Moor. 

Full storyhttps://zakarrie.com/tag/beast/  

Ch 1: https://zakarrie.com/2019/10/29/happy-halloween-week/

 


Representing Rromani People in Fiction

Happy Sunday folks! I don’t usually do a Sunday post but I was fortunate enough to be invited to do a guest post on Stephen Palmer’s blog on the subject of Rromani representation in fiction so I thought I’d share it at the weekend so that it doesn’t get trampled by Collin and his Frost Fair shenanigans! XD

Here’s the link to the guest post: http://www.stephenpalmer.co.uk/

Stephen Palmer writes a variety of diverse fiction including Sci fi and Steampunk. You can find his authour page on amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stephen-Palmer/e/B0062Z5R78?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1581086881&sr=8-1

 


Elevenses: With Stephen Palmer

rainbow keeper, put the fairy rainbow on the sky, magic ship in the dreamland, scene from wonderland,

image copyright Nadiaforkosh

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s rambunctiously raucous and chi-chi to the core parlour located high above it all on board our beautiful rainbow-sailed ship, The Harlequin Ladybird.Our tentacles are all of a quiver this morning and our china cups are chattering because we are honoured to have Stephen Palmer joining us for elevenses this morning.

Do please have a seat,  (Max, get off the chaise and let him sit down … hm? … no he can’t sit on your lap, just move aside.)

Would you like tea? Earl Grey? Lapsang? Assam? Darjeeling? ( We are all out of Oolong Max so don’t even think about making that joke again)

 

Definitely Darjeeling. Nothing else will do! But I’ll just cross my legs and place this pocket abacus on my lap so that Max is stymied…

 

That is very kind and unnecessarily accommodating of you Stephen, here is your tea. Now then, do tell us more about yourself and your latest books.

 

Well… it’s a long story. Many years ago I was taken off the slush pile by Orbit Books, which started my time as a published author. Since then my career has scaled some heights and descended into some depths, though recently it’s been on a bit of a high. At the end of 2016, my steampunk/alternate history trilogy Factory Girl (The Girl With Two Souls / The Girl With One Friend / The Girl With No Soul) was published, to a very positive reception. Earlier this year we decided to relaunch it with covers designed by famed steampunk illustrator Tom Brown (he of Hopeless, Maine), with a fourth, supplementary novel – not published with the original trilogy – also set for publication. This latter novel is set in 1914-15 and is called The Conscientious Objector.

 

Oh that does sound like an intriguing series! We very much admire Tom Brown’s artwork too and did you hear that Max? That last book sounds like just your cup of tea! ( Many people find Max objectionable, I’m sure you can see why.)  What inspired you to write the series?

 

The entire plot, characters and structure of Factory Girl came to me one evening during a two hour blitz of ideas. That this happened means it was waiting in my subconscious ready to appear. The overarching theme is whether or not souls exist, an area explored via Victorian-style automata, though also through the life stories of the main characters. Of these, the main ones are: Kora Blackmore, an illegitimate mulatto (used here for historical accuracy) girl imprisoned in Bedlam Mental Hospital; Erasmus Darwin, grandson of Charles; Dr Spellman, an entirely mysterious benefactor; other members of the Darwin family; an enigmatic automaton who can speak and understand; and Sir Tantalus Blackmore, Kora’s father, the greatest industrialist of his age and owner of the Factory in Sheffield, where all the Empire’s automata are manufactured. The story takes place over all three novels during 1910-11.

 

I see, it sounds most enticing… er, no Max we do not need to hear about your experiences in Bedlam thankyou… nor why there is a young lady there who swears you have tentacles… I’m so sorry Stephen I’m afraid he has been at the sugar again this morning. Moving swiftly on, what would you say most influences your writing in general?

 

I’m known in the genre world for rarely reading fiction. Most of my influences are non-fiction. For instance, I recently read: Mama’s Last Hug (the emotions of animals), Novacene (James Lovelock’s new one, celebrating his 100th birthday), and The Hare With The Amber Eyes (an extraordinary memoir about netsuke).

 

How interesting! But if not any fiction then are there any authors who have particularly inspired you?

 

In my earlier days I was influenced by authors such as Jack Vance, Gwyneth Jones and Gene Wolfe. These days there aren’t many authors of fiction who inspire me, but in the steampunk world I much enjoyed the YA novel Cogheart.

 

Hm. Excellent. (No he does not want to hear your poetry Max, that is not in least bit inspiring, stop interrupting)  Battenburg?

 

Do you have any parkin? I understand they make it in Leeds.

 

We certainly do have some Parkin – left over from a tea party with the Brown’s in fact! – although this was made in Lancaster. You know, writing is something I’ve always fancied turning my talents to – having so many tentacles I imagine I could be quite productive as an author. Tell me, what was your own road into fiction writing like?

 

It was an extraordinary stroke of luck. I had been sending sample chapters and the like to various London publishers, but without much by way of reply. Then, mere days before I moved house (never to return for reasons best not mentioned), I received a letter from Orbit asking me to send the full MS of a novel I’d sent them over a year before. I was surprised! So I sent it off, but then, because of various life-events getting in the way for me and for them, I didn’t hear anything for a while, during which time I wrote a third version. This version was eventually accepted, to be published in 1996 as my debut Memory Seed.

 

I see, what marvellous good fortune! And do you have any plans for new projects in the near future?

 

When I do writing events or author appearances I usually mention writer’s volcano – the opposite of writer’s block. So, yes, I have lots of projects on the go! This winter I’ll be writing the final volume of a steampunk trilogy set in an alternate Shrewsbury (my home town) and in London. Set in 1899 and 1900, it follows the fortunes of a couple of orphans.

 

Ah, we are well acquainted with a small army of orphans so can easily see how that subject could provide ample plot-fodder – in fact Max often wishes he was an orphan. So, where can we get our tentacles on your work?

 

My novels are available in all the usual places online, both as paperback or ebooks. Infinity Plus have most of the ebooks of my back catalogue.

 

Splendid. And can we find you online?

 

My blog: https://stephenpalmersf.wordpress.com/

On amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stephen-Palmer/e/B0062Z5R78?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1569234616&sr=1-1

On amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Stephen-Palmer/e/B0062Z5R78?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1569234674&sr=1-1

At Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5625764.Stephen_Palmer?from_search=true

 

Wooooah! Dear me I do apologise, the airship must have slipped and I seem to have landed in your lap I hope I haven’t covered you in octopus slime?

 

It’s no problem! I’m wearing Dr Avebury’s Secret Trouser Improver, from which liquids dissipate.

 

What a marvellous invention, perhaps we should invest in some ourselves. But Are you sure you’re alright? Can I perhaps tempt you with another cup of the hot stuff?

 

If it’s my usual poison, yes indeed… but I must away. A Nigerian automaton has just leaped from my blazer pocket and told me the time. Farewell!

 

Oh dear, Max I do believe your menacing threats of mostly awful poetry and ill-concealed amorous advances have scared off yet another of our guests. You really must learn to behave yourself ‘In Company.’

Thankyou, friends for joining us this morning on board our beautiful  rainbow sailed ship The Harlequin Ladybird and until we see you again, please remain always

Utterly Yourself


Lovely Library: A Wizard’s Quandary

Good evening and welcome to my awe inspiring athenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets – or as that ridiculous octopus calls it, my ‘lovely library.’

old-library-1571043

I am the ghost of Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect, catalogue and review every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler of the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

 

But I have not always been a bad tempered ghost in charge of an underground library. Once upon a time I was a bad tempered gentleman who had devoted his life to the collection of evidence which might perhaps one day bring about the downfall of our oppressive overlord, Wiz.

 

Not to be put off by death, I have struggled to find a way to continue my work and I have indeed found a method by which I can sporadically leave this library, to which I am otherwise bound, and travel abroad.

 

This method is known as The Opprobrious Pith Helmet.

 

By securing the services of a less than reputable Wizard I have had my soul partially bound to an ancient piece of explorational headwear and am therefore able to possess the wearer for short periods of time, with their consent…hm? Did I have to drug them first? Well how very rude of you of course I did not have to drug them…I mean the very idea!

 

So, this evening I am most honoured to be occupying the form of  authour Guy Donovan and I… no those are NOT blood stains on his shirt. It is red paint. I may have had a very minor altercation with a disgruntled barge woman who mistook my innocent enquiries about leather bound tomes for something else entirely, but I managed to set her straight in the end… after I’d clambered out of the canal and removed most of the pond weed.

 

Anyway I do not have time for an interrogation on the moral use of other people’s bodies, can you not see that I have just returned from a most important business trip? I have new books everywhere and I must review and catalogue them  and… what’s that? What are you wittering about? Help? You’d like to help me transcribe? You’ve brought along some single malt to keep out the chills as we work?

Oh.

Well, I suppose that puts a very different slant on things doesn’t it? Very well then, I will dictate a short extract of each story and a review, and you can pour…I mean type… a-hem…

A WIZARD’S QUANDARY BY JAQ D HAWKINS

The story concerns the wizard Lesana, who is employed by her local king to keep him in potions that preserve his youth. She lives alone in her tower far from the capitol, unless of course you count the small, green dragon in her keeping that she found as a hatchling and named Khadri. No one but Lesana knows about Khadri, and they both intend to keep it that way. If the king found out about him…well, you can guess what would happen, right?
Then one day, a soldier comes from the capitol with orders to take Lesana to the king and teach him how to make her magic potions for himself. Naturally enough, Lesana isn’t very interested in doing anything of the sort, so she and Khadri abscond, with the soldier pursuing them into the mountains—the same mountains in which Lesana found Khadri. The mountains where the dragons live.
What I liked most about the story is the relationship between Lesana and Khadri. It’s very playful and touches on maternal without ever getting cloying. The below sample shows that very well, I think.
*****
Lesana peered carefully into the crucible, closely observing the swirling, black mass within.
“If that pops, you could lose an eye.” Khadri, Lesana’s miniature green dragon companion, hopped onto Lesana’s shoulder, causing her to brace herself against the weight of an animal the size of a full-grown wolverine. He glanced at the churning elixir.
Lesana pulled her head back a little, but continued frowning at the crucible.
“Your eyes see more colours than mine,” she stated aloud. “Can you see any hint of vermilion?”
Khadri danced around on his shoulder perch, pretending not to notice when Lesana steeled herself against the new claw punctures in her partially healed, damaged skin.
“I see the red glowing crystals forming rapidly, as always. You’ve never failed in your efforts to make the Philosopher’s Stone to my knowledge.”
Lesana smirked.
“You should have seen my early efforts, when you were just a hatchling,” she replied. “It’s more by luck than judgement that I never blew up the entire tower.”
“It’s a dangerous business,” Khadri acknowledged. “I don’t see why the king doesn’t just send you to Egypt to retrieve the cinnabar from mummy wrappings.”
Lesana guffawed, pushing herself away from the table where the crucible continued to send sulphuric vapour into the close space of the uppermost tower room where she kept her laboratory, just in case. Fire and explosions tended to travel upwards.
“I can just see the Egyptian Department of Antiquities allowing a foreign wizard to help herself to the preservatives in their precious national tourist industry. Last I heard they didn’t even know the nature of the red ochre. I’d rather not be the one to explain that they’ve had the key to immortality within their relics all this time.”
She wandered to the arched window that looked out over the dead forest to the north. The elevation provided by the fifth level tower room allowed Lesana to see the Crystal Mountains in the distance. A wistful note entered her voice.
“Besides, if I ever leave the king’s employ and travel somewhere, I’d like to go back to the Crystal Mountains.”
“Where you found me?” Khadri gasped. “The dragons would eat you!”
“Perhaps,” Lesana admitted. “But they didn’t before. I felt something while I was there. Something…magical.”
*****
Being a writer of dragon tales myself, (I grew up reading Anne McCaffrey’s fantastic Pern series and the influence shows) I think it’s very important that they be treated as characters in their own right, rather than simply bestial antagonists. Now that’s not to say that dragons can’t be the bad guy! I just think that they’re better storywise when they are presented as more than mere powerful animals. Besides, being that us humans are so good at being bad, I prefer stories where the dragons are more noble. Jaq D. Hawkins did that very well.

 

And I think we had better leave it there for this evening don’t you? The bottle is dry and I must be getting this body back to its rightful owner… hm? What’s that you say? You don’t think I should give it back in this state? Well we’ve only had a few haven’t we? It is hardly my fault if Guy can’t hold his liquor… hic…

 

MANY THANKS TO AUTHOUR GUY DONOVAN FOR BEING A FABULOUS SPORT AND SHARING HIS REVIEW IN PERIL’S LOVELY LIBRARY! YOU CAN FIND GUY HERE

AMAZON AUTHOUR PAGE

FACEBOOK PAGE

AND YOU CAN READ THE REST OF A WIZARD’S QUANDARY IN THE DREAMTIME DAMSELS ANTHOLOGY HERE:

 

library image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com


#IndieThursday: Mapping The contours

This #indiethursday I’m sharing my love of ….

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/641871660/mapping-the-contours-poetry

Mapping the Contours  Poetry image 0

 

Blurb:

A small, self-published poetry book written by Nimue Brown, with cover by Tom and Nimue Brown, printed by Stroud Print.

Poetry exploring landscape and the relationships between humans and place, inspired by life along the Cotswold Edge and the Severn Vale.

Human bodies are much like landscapes.
We have our contours and crevices,
Signs of weathering, history written
Into soil and skin alike.

Some of us are flat land formations
Others are complex, curving hillscapes
Verdant forested or marble smooth.
Clay and bone and watercourse.

The places we are inhabiting
Inhabit us in turn, as we move
These bodies through localities, as the
Shape of them shapes or motions.

 

To compensate for my lack of time to do long reviews just now, I’m using the #indiethursday hashtag to share the indie love and point at some fabulous indie books I’ve enjoyed reading 😀

So, what fab indie fiction are you reading / writing this month? Blessings on your brew and best of luck with all your indie endeavours, lets keep flying the flag for indie writing!

 


#MythpunkMonday: Tree Punk

Happy MythpunkMonday! A while back in September, we looked at the mythology and folklore of trees and I shared an extract of some of my tree-based mythpunk Opre! I promised then that I would spend another post looking at working trees into our Mythpunk, so here we go…

As comfortably as trees sit within the heart of many world Mythologies, they don’t lend their image so readily to the realm of punk, at least not at first glance.

We tend to associate trees with the countryside, with high fantasy or historical settings, they might be used in writing to create the feel of tranquillity or terror but we seldom see trees being used to create a gritty urban backdrop for a dystopian situation, or being the catalyst for a postmodernist plot. Fictional trees that speak, tend to speak like old men and women, or very occasionally naive young girls. I would like very much to see a Mohawk sporting, forty-something, jaded Willow Tree hurling cans at litter louts in a psuedo-park in central New London…

That’s an extreme and slightly comical example of course, but I think it’s a good hammer with which to smash our preconceptions about trees in mythic fiction. Trees are, to my mind, too often portrayed as benign life givers, old fonts of wisdom and healing, sources of magic, resources to be used and abused. But they have other faces too ; they can poison, choke, harm, barb, wound, unbalance, tear down and destroy … I mentioned Tolkien’s Ents in the last post in relation to anthropomorphism, but I do very much like their verve!

Our historic abuse of trees and their land surely has enough fodder in it for gritty, feral, subversive voices to rise up from the asphalt and the concrete, the timber frames, furnace and cellulose packaging and bite back so, here is a little list of tree-mendous (had to be done) tree-punk to give us some inspiration, click on each title to follow the links and feel free to share your own ideas, examples and gawd-awful tree puns in the comments! XD

BLADES IN THE DARK

I very much like the trees described in Blades In The Dark ; Jayan Park in the Charterhall district is full of beautiful alchemical abominations in a sunless world, deadly to touch and utterly useless for supporting life, but still revered.

“The great alchemist for whom this park is named contrived to formulate soil and seeds that could produce real, growing trees, without sunlight or radiant energy. They are horrifically toxic to all living things and must not be touched but they still grow beautifully here, over 100 years later.” – Blades In The Dark P262.

Evil Hat Productions EHP0030 Blades in The Dark RPG, Multicoloured

WHEN WE ARE VANISHED

In a world not so different from our own, a vigilante group of techies have shut down all the computer systems on the planet in an attempt to put an end to the war and destruction orchestrated by technology. But where there’s a will, there will always be a way and a new ‘cellulose tech’ has now been developed. But using living plant cells in communications technology leads to some disturbingly sentient systems… and then the people begin to vanish…

 

A POISON TREE

This poem by William Blake is, of course, not actually about a tree but I find the imagery and metaphor strongly evokes a punk sense of proactive subversion; the vengeful gardener, the poisoned fruit / the bright lure to death – in many ways the song of technology to the heart of human kind;  the two fingered punk salute at the end…

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.
And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

 

THE LAST TREE

Here’s a suckerpunch one for you, this one got me right in the windpipe when I saw it so I’m only going to post the link in the title and you can follow it to the picture. It’s inspiring my WIP at the moment!

WIND TREES

This broke my heart, appalled and held me enthralled with grim fascination when I first saw it a few years back. The video gives one side of the coin, click the title link for the other…

 

PUNK TREES

And just as a fun note to end on – Yes they do exist!

 

I hope you enjoyed this #MythpunkMonday post, do feel free to join in and share your own work or that of others, using the hashtag and post your own thoughts and tree-punk wisdom in the comments 🙂

 

 


#indiethursday: How To Successfully Self-Publish Your Steampunk Book on Amazon (Guest Post by Desiree. J. Villena)

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to this special “how to” edition of your favorite blog for all things steampunk! Gather ‘round the virtual fire — particularly those of you who’ve penned your masterpieces but have no idea what to do next — because today we’ll be talking about how to self-publish and sell your very own spectacular steampunk book on Amazon.

The gargantuan online retailer maintains a variety of reputations, from cutthroat marketplace and notorious Borders’ assassin, to a veritable land of milk and honey (if you know the right tricks). And though we as a self-respecting literary faction might want to turn our backs on Amazon, the fact is that it’s one of the easiest platforms for self-publishing authors to use, offering a simple upload process through its Kindle Direct Publishing unit and a range of exciting promotional options for authors.

On top of that, you simply can’t beat the consumer reach: Amazon controls roughly 80% of the ebook market in the US and UK, and significant portions in every other book-buying country too. Everyone knows Amazon, and most people use it, even if we may also shake our fists at the sky and scream “Damn you, Bezos!” whenever we hear about the latest Amazon travesty. Cognitive dissonance, economic convenience, willful ignorance — call it what you want, but Amazon’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

I mentioned “knowing the right tricks” in order to find success on Amazon, and it’s absolutely true that you can’t just waltz into the marketplace (metaphorically) and expect to make millions. Indeed, self-publishing a book is far from a glamorous business; you get more creative freedom and royalties than you would if you published traditionally, but you also have to put in about ten times the work. That said, if you’re courageous enough to put your book out into the world and you’re determined for it to succeed, you’re probably not the type to be dissuaded by hard work.

So with my slightly diatribical intro out of the way, let’s dive into the reason why all of us are here: presenting my most practical tips for self-publishing your book on Amazon and becoming the steampunk sensation you’ve always dreamed of being!

1. Build a devoted following

The most critical move toward successfully self-publishing almost any kind of book on Amazon is, unfortunately, the hardest. This is because it’s not about the publishing process itself, but what you do in the weeks, months, or even years leading up to your book launch: steadily building your following.

Imagine that each of your readers is a feral cat you are trying to tame; if you try to put a collar on it right away, it’ll claw and hiss at you. But if you leave some food out, coo at it, provide it a warm bed and maybe even a few toys, the cat will grow to trust you. By the time you go to slip a collar over its head, it won’t even notice — in fact, it’ll probably purr at the offer, happy to oblige. (This may be a little optimistic for a cat, but I digress.)

Basically, if you try to promote something to a new follower right away, they’ll unfollow you quicker than you can say elevenses. But if you ply them with interesting material, like interviews and reviews of other steampunk authors, they’ll stick around. You might get them to subscribe to a newsletter where you share your personal thoughts on the tropes and trends of the steampunk genre… and which you can eventually segue into talking about your own self-published book.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a steampunk blog or newsletter but you are active in relevant social media circles, try to capitalize on that! Engage in dialogue surrounding new releases and quintessential classics, squeal over fashion and fanart, and share cool and interesting images with your followers (I’ll talk more about this next). Maintain a friendly yet authoritative persona — this is helpful for any author, but especially in a niche like steampunk, where knowledge runs deep even among casual fans.

The point of all this is for other people to enjoy what you have to offer, trust that your content is high-quality, and believe that you are a talented person worthy of their support in the future. This method is known as “give, give, give, take,” and it’s highly effective in tight-knit communities like those of steampunk, where reputation is everything.

Speaking of ways to cultivate a strong reputation…

2. Create striking visuals

Steampunk has a very distinct aesthetic in both the literary genre and subculture as a whole. Even someone who knows very little about it can still hear the word and immediately envision clockwork and corsets. Of course, there’s often a difference between what people think of as “steampunk” and actual steampunk, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of popular perception to promote your book with some amazing art!

By far the most important aspect of this is your book cover design. In the publishing world, we like to joke about how “don’t judge a book by its cover” is totally backwards advice for authors; while it works as a philosophical adage, it’s simply untrue when it comes to actual books. Readers will inevitably judge a book by its cover, and decide whether to “look inside” or even buy based on the quality of the design. Which, to be fair, is sort of logical — if the author didn’t bother making an effort with the cover, why would the inner contents be any better?

This doesn’t mean you need to go to art school just to sell your book. However, you should put some serious thought and probably money toward your cover design, whether that means commissioning a friend or hiring a professional. As you’ll learn throughout this process, this is just one of many times when it’s helpful to have a community — you can ask other steampunk authors what level of quality they’ve gone for with their covers, as well as how they managed to afford it and/or if there’s a particular designer they’d recommend.

Don’t forget to look at other bestselling steampunk books on Amazon, too! Again, there’s a distinct dark-and-metallic aesthetic that universally indicates steampunk. But trends can change, and you want to ensure your book cover is clearly associated with this particular genre, both for your personal promotional purposes and on Amazon itself.

Finally, when it comes to visuals, don’t stop with your cover. If you have the budget for it (or some artistically inclined friends to help you out), you should absolutely get a few additional illustrations for your book. Steampunk is one of the most inventive genres out there, and while there’s something to be said for allowing your readers’ imaginations to run wild, it can also be incredibly powerful to provide some visual aids.

What’s more, you can tease these images alongside text previews from your book in order to give your followers a taste of what’s to come. Remember: give, give, give as much as you can before you take. Even something fairly simple (like, say, a tongue-in-cheek “wanted” poster) can make really fun bonus material for your fans.

3. Test out KDP Select

Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of self-publishing on Amazon. For those who don’t know, all self-publishing authors on the platform use Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP, to upload and publish their books.

However, within that all-encompassing process, you also have the option to enroll in KDP Select — a program that allows you to run various price promotions through Amazon, put your book on Kindle Unlimited, and earn higher royalties in certain territories. It’s free to enroll, but it requires 90 days of Amazon ebook exclusivity, meaning you cannot go through any other digital distributors for the first three months of your book’s release.

This is super-condensed summary of everything that KDP Select actually entails, but for our purposes, that’s all you need to know. Your conundrum now is: is it worth it?

The best thing about KDP Select is how easy it is to use. You can start promotions (either free or discounted) with the touch of a button, and then simply direct your fans to your Amazon page. Plus your book will automatically be discoverable on Kindle Unlimited, where subscribers will read it and you’ll get a payout based on how many pages they get through.

The worst thing about KDP Select is, obviously, the fact that your book is restricted to Amazon — despite its far-reaching dominion, it can be unnerving to feel like you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. And if you live in one of those countries where Amazon isn’t quite so totalitarian, you may even be missing out on significant distribution and marketing opportunities. While you will be able to digitally distribute to other places once the 90-day enrollment period is over, you’ll be staking most of your early-launch momentum on Amazon alone.

I can’t tell you outright whether KDP Select is the right choice for you. However, I can tell you which factors to consider: How much help do you want with implementing promotions? Do you have followers who are willing to pay for your book at full price, or will they need a promotion to entice them? How important is wide distribution to you personally? Are you writing a steampunk series? (Series tend to do well on Kindle Unlimited.)

The one aspect of KDP Select that probably appeals to almost all steampunk authors is that there aren’t too many steampunk books currently on Kindle Unlimited. Not only is this a unique selling point for your marketing, but the steampunk-starved SFF readers who subscribe to KU will rush to your book like flies to honey. Of course, there’s no way of knowing how many people will end up read ingyour book through KU, but at least it’s free to get into their library.

4. Experiment with more promotions

Whether or not you decide to enroll in KDP Select and run an Amazon-sanctioned price promotion, there’s still plenty more you can do to externally promote your self-published steampunk book! There are oodles of book review blogs and promotion services that you can explore, not to mention advertising on your own blog and social media — though with relative restraint, since you still don’t want to scare your followers away (remember the cat lesson).

One hot tip for steampunk authors is to aim for quality, not quantity, when reaching out to potential reviewers and third-party promoters. By that I mean: don’t click on those directories and then send a canned email to every single contact on the list! Take the time to comb through your options and select 3-5 reviewers who you think could really help out your book, then write a personalized inquiry to each of them. Off the top of my head, I’d recommend The Kindle Book Review and BookDoggy for first-time authors. And of course, you can always ask for a review or interview from a steampunk-specific blog like this one.

You can do so much more with your own personal connections, too: ask a popular mutual follower about a cross-promotion, encourage your newsletter subscribers to leave a review, and maybe even offer a larger giveaway to increase engagement. The prize doesn’t have to be your book; the giveaway could be for anything steampunk-related, and indeed your followers might be more excited by the prospect of a cool clothing item or small piece of furniture than a book.

Whatever path you take, I certainly hope you’re in a better position to succeed than you were about 2,000 words ago. Steampunk is such a singular genre with an incredible community behind it, and every author’s  voice matters — so get out there and make yours heard.

 

Many thanks from all of us at Blake and Wight to Desiree for this fabulous guest post this morning! Here’s a little more about the author…

“Hello folks! My name is Desiree Villena and I’m a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace and resource hub for self-publishing authors. In the course of my work, I’ve become incredibly passionate about independent publishing and I hope to help as many aspiring writers as possible reach their dreams! I’ve also become a fan of steampunk over the past few months, which is what inspired me to write this particular post. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!”

#MythpunkMonday: Arise!

Photograph by Kovacs Orsi from www.freeimages.com

Happy #Mythpunk Monday!

Today I’m going to talk about trees! I find few things more inspiring than walking through a forest where the trees seem anthropomorphic. Coming from a spiritual tradition which taught me from the earliest age that all trees were living sentient beings with their own spirits and personalities, I find it interesting that people seem to be drawn more to commune with trees like oak and hawthorn who twist their trunks more readily into gnarled semblance of faces or limbs than, say, the linden, ash or birch who mostly grow straight up to the sky. Of course there are stories of slender-limbed, silver-skinned birch dryads; pretty young maidens dancing lithe and beautiful in wooded glades, but why do we only seem drawn to trees if we can view them as being in some way like ourselves? Even Tolkein’s Ents had a human-likeness about them…

The phenomenon of Pareidolia may be in some way to blame here – the inherent nature of the brain to seek familiar patterns (particularly those of faces) in dissociated stimuli ; fire, clouds, tree bark, wall paper, rock surfaces, waves … it is a natural survival mechanism developed even before we are born to help us seek out our care givers, our kin and our kind.

But even as we grow older and are able to reason beyond our instinctive drives, wondering and questioning whether a tree spirit would or could or should look anything like us in order to be taken seriously and communed with… I know I am sometimes still guilty of being drawn to those tress who do.

Having said that, the tree spirit I have had the deepest relationship ever was a beautiful, strong, generous and resilient beech tree with little to no anthropomorphic qualities whatever – so perhaps there is a lesson for me eh?!

On the other hand, perhaps it depends on your tradition. Mine, as I say, teaches that trees are beings in their own right and unrelated to humans, although communion can and should be sought with them, but perhaps other pathways view things differently? Perhaps trees twist themselves into human like faces in order to try and communicate with us? Who knows? I’d be interested to hear other thoughts on this if you have them 🙂

What we do know and can say for certain is that we have worked trees into the heart of our mythologies and spiritual traditions since we first began imagining the beginning of ourselves and our world. Without trees we wouldn’t have the planet as we know it and we seem to have been aware of this long before it was scientifically proven.

Many religions incorporate the idea of a World Tree, stretching its branches into the heavens and its roots down into the underworld, for example  égig érő fa in Hungarian Mythos, the Norse Yggdrasil, Ağaç Ana in Turkish Mythology, The Slavic oaks which even today form the Zapis tree-temples, the Hindu Ashvattha and the Chinese Jianmu.

Leaving aside the great and the grand of world religions and moving in to a more local level, trees have always played an important part in folklore too. Cloutie trees (as we call them here) can be found all over Europe ; trees where folk can leave a small offering in exchange for the tree’s protection, blessing, healing or as a sign of thanks or respect.

My family made a great thing of visiting one of these shrines and leaving a rag of clothing and the story went that an old man was resting one day in his cloak when a poor child came by with none. The man took of his cloak – his last scrap of clothing – and gave it to the child. The tree saw the kindness of the man and sheltered him from the elements that night so no harm came to him. Then in thanks the man returned next year and tied a piece of his cloak to the tree and now all folk thanks the tree for it’s kindness, but anyone who robs the tree will be cursed! I remember my little sister being too scared to go into the shrine in case she touched a rag and it fell!

Another tradition is to hammer pennies into the trunks of trees in exchange for wishes. This tradition has always rather angered and confused me as it must harm the tree, but a few years back, while visiting a fairy tree near Scar Fell, I was happy to learn the roots of one such tradition – it started some time around the 17th century during times of great famine when there wasn’t enough work and many poor people were going hungry. Rich people in the area were encouraged to hammer coins into felled tree logs and wish for better times to come, then after dark (to spare their pride) the poor were encouraged to come and take the coins. The rich either believed or (more likely) played along with the notion that the fairies and taken their offering and were granting their wish and so things began to slowly improve. Of course it wasn’t a solution to the problem but it is still a nice story about communities working together to help one another.

If you’re interested in some really excellent research on the subject, look out Ceri Houlbrook’s ‘Coining The Coin Tree’ here: https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/files/54558281/FULL_TEXT.PDF

 

We’ve talked a lot of myth today, soon I’m going to have a good look at how we incorporate tree Mythos into Mythpunk, because at first glance it’s not an easy fit. But for now, I’ll leave you with a little extract from my own tree-punk endeavours…

This extract is from Opre! which means Arise! It was written for Romani Family History Month and the Opre Roma! movement and it draws parody between the Romani people, (caught and enslaved both literally throughout history as in our enslavement in Eastern Europe and almost complete annihilation during Baro Porajmos (in some cases still today such as Italy ) and metaphorically today where many of us are still unable to live full lives with basic human rights simply because of who we are) and the trees which our ancestors, and still many of us today, revere in a spiritual way (caught and butchered and poisoned and ‘put to use’ by humanity)

But there is a hopeful beauty here too – the roots which push up the paving stones, the seeds which find root in the cracks between tarmac, the branches and leaves which coil over boundaries and fences… so our people have not been destroyed because we shoulder what the world throws at us and we carry on, we find a way to survive, and one day I believe we will arise, not to conquer or steal or enslave others but just to stand on equal ground as all people should…

 

OPRE

Our splintered marrow guards your precious ground

Not bought in blood, but taken in the twilight

When ‘taking’ was a thing we did not understand

Now sentinels bound, subservient you think we stand

Down inside those ringlets blacked by damp

Not the wind—kin to your own cur breath—

But the jewels it carries, diamonds, our inheritance,

We feel

Touching, unveiling in our stripped-bare bones

Kali …

 

If you liked this extract you can read the rest of it here on Vocal: https://poets.media/opre

Or in my Mythpunk collection Mahrime: Mythpunk For Monsters

 

Thanks for joining me for another #MythpunkMonday!  Feel free to leave me your own thoughts on trees, mythology and mythpunk in the comments and to join in and share your own Mythpunk, or someone else’s that you’ve enjoyed, using the hashtag or in the comments below 🙂


#DreamtimeDamselsAnthology blog tour: Elevenses with Benjamin Towe

rainbow keeper, put the fairy rainbow on the sky, magic ship in the dreamland, scene from wonderland,

image copyright Nadiaforkosh

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s rambunctiously raucous and chi-chi to the core parlour located high above it all on board our beautiful rainbow-sailed sky ship, The Harlequin Ladybird.

Our tentacles are all of a quiver this morning and our china cups are chattering because we are still taking part in the Dreamtime Damsels blog tour and we are honoured to have another of its contributors, Benjamin Towe,  joining us for elevenses this morning!

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says 'Dreamtime Fantasy Tales authors are proud to DREAMTIME present their anthology & FATAL FEMMES With stories by: Greg Alldredge Penny Blake Nimue Brown Leslie Conzatti Guy Donovan Johan Klein Haneveld Jaq D Hawkins Marc vun Kannon Nav Logan Paul Michael Morgan Smith Benjamin Towe Expected Nils Visser Mary R. Woldering SEPTEMBER 2019 Thomas Woldering A.M. Young'

Do please have a seat, Benjamin (Max, get off the chaise and let him sit down … hm? … no the floor does not do wonders for peoples posture, just move aside.)

Would you like tea? Earl Grey? Lapsang? Assam? Darjeeling? Oolong? (Max don’t be rude)

I brought my own. It’s Enhancing Root tea. The Teacher of the Drelves harvested the tubers in Green Vale during the Dark Period on Parallan, the World of the Three Suns. The circle of Thirttene Friends oversees affairs in the vale, one of the rare green places on Parallan. It’s quite good. Drelves use the tubers in many recipes. The most promising of each generation accompanies the Teacher on the annual quest to harvest the root tubers.

 

My goodness, how exotic! Do let us all try some! Now then , won’t you please tell us more about your contribution to this Dreamtime Damsels anthology we keep hearing about – the aether is buzzing with the hype but we still haven’t managed to cajole any of our associates into slipping us an illicit copy – sigh – what is the point of rubbing tentacles with the likes of smugglers and pirates if we cannot persuade them to part with their contraband fiction?  

 

Lyana Rikmon, warrior of Donothor. Lyana is a character from my first trilogy, the Donothor series. She is sheriff of the hamlet Knottington and a loyal subject of the Kingdom of Donothor. I’ve written 12 novels, but I’m new to the short story. Damsels has been a learning experience for me. Lyana’s story was written in collaboration with Nils Visser. I’m very excited about it! 

 

Oh did you hear that Max? I love the sound of those place names and we’re all big fans of Nils Visser’s books too. What inspired you to write it?

 

In 1982, I was Dungeon Master and created campaigns for a group of friends, who challenged me to put the campaign to prose. The result was my first novel Deathquest to Parallan. It was written as part one of a trilogy in 1982. I published it in 2005, after my children scanned the old manuscript to a data disc and presented me my first laptop. I rewrote the story. In the first version I killed almost everyone off. I beat George RR Martin to the punch. The rewrite was kinder and gentler. I then completed the second novel, the Orb of Chalar, and then the conclusion of the trilogy, Death of Magick. Lyana Rikmon is introduced in Death of Magick. The Chalice of Mystery followed, then a prequel Dawn of Magick. Since then I’ve written “prequels.” My Elfdreams series includes Lost Spellweaver, First Wandmaker, Wandmaker’s Burden, Emerald Islands, and Mender’s Tomb. Thirttene Friends is a prequel to both the Donothor and Elfdreams series. My most recent, Unwonted Spellweavers bridges the series. I’m currently working on a sequel to Orb of Chalar. 

 

Marvellous! We are all avid players of D&D (although Penny did manage to fracture her hand a few weeks ago at the gaming table which has been the cause of much amusement) and we will certainly hunt out your series to add to our library! Now,  what would you say most influences your writing in general?

 

My years as Dungeons and Dragons player and Dungeon Master. I enjoy creating worlds and filling them up with characters. I love all things Magick. 

 

Ah, alas Magick is banned here in our world but we are fighting the revolution to try and win back our right to wield balls of fire in public. Any authours who have particularly inspired you? (Max put your poetry book away, no one wants to hear that drivel) 

 

Certainly JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Piers Anthony,  Damsels has given me the privilege of collaborating with one of my favourite authors, Nils Visser. I’ve become nigh a permanent resident of the Wyrde Woods. I’ve enjoyed Guy Donovan’s masterful Dragon Treasure series and WC Quick’s quirky elves. 

 

Oh you’ve definately listed some of our favourites there as well (No he really doesn’t want to hear your poetry Max, stop interrupting)  Battenburg?

 

I prefer “octameter”  to iambic pentameter. 

 

As do I! How nice to find someone who shares an appreciation for all things octical! But moving on from poetry (for sanity’s sake), you know, writing is something I’ve always fancied turning my talents to – having so many tentacles I imagine I could be quite productive as an authour. Tell me, what was your own road into fiction writing like?

 

As I mentioned, I wrote my first novel in 1982 and published it in 2005. Writing has been a great escape for me. I encourage young people to read and write… and persist. 

 

Oh well you must meet some of Mrs Baker’s Lancastrian orphans then! Peril does his best to teach them to read and write and they are certainly persistent in many of their other occupations (although I recommend you hold onto your pocket watch if you do venture down there.)  And do you have any plans for new projects in the near future?

 

I’m currently working on a story that will again bridge my brace of fantasy series. It expands on events in Orb of Chalar and will ultimately be a sequel to Death of Magick. It features a powerful red-haired elf named Ravenna, the daughter of a sorceress and assassin. Her father Tigarn Nocerre commissioned the Arch-Lich Achymm to create the cursed sword, the Death of Magick.

 

Marvellous! So, where and when can we get our tentacles on a copy?

I hope to have it finished by end of year. 

 

And what about your other work, where can we find more of that?

 

My 12 fantasy novels are available at Amazon, Authorhouse, Barnes and Noble, and some at Kobo and Apple Books. I have signed copies available. My Facebook page is Benjamin Towe books. Benjamintowe.com has excedpts from my stories. I’m on Twitter @bftowe

 

Marvellous I…. Wooooah! Dear me I do apologise, the airship must have slipped and I seem to have landed in your lap I hope I haven’t covered you in octopus slime?

 

In Wandmaker’s Burden, the residents of Vydaelia battle a triskaidekapod. 13 tentacles and legs and a nasty disposition. Being hugged by eight arms isn’t so bad. 

 

Well how very kind of you to say so, most people get a little skittish at octopoidal contact, it’s a terrible prejudice and makes for a very lonely life….  Hm, what’s that? Time you were going? Are you sure, why it feels as though you just got here!

 

My Dreamraiders have the power of Translocation, which enables them to traverse space and time. A bit of Whovian influence I suppose. Escape to an Elfdream… 

 

Oh dear, Max I do believe your threats to commit poetical atrocities and your lack of appreciation for a man’s personal space have scared off yet another of our guests. We are doomed never to get our tentacles on a copy of this Dreamtime Damsels Anthology and it is all your fault. Besides which you have eaten all the french fancies again.

 

Thankyou, friends for joining us this morning on board our beautiful  rainbow sailed sky ship The Harlequin Ladybird, you will find all the blog posts so far on the Dreamtime Damsels blog tour listed below and until we see you again, please remain always

Utterly Yourself

Mary Woldering hosts the first round of character interviews 

Leslie Conzatti presents an excerpt from one of the stories in the anthology: Red, The Wolf

Mary Woldering hosts the second round of character interviews

Our own kitchen witch interviews Nav Logan

Nav Logan joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Leslie Conzatti presents an excerpt from one of the stories in the anthology: Dangerous by Morgan Smith

Mary Woldering hosts the next round of character interviews