Tag Archives: steampunk

Going Steampunk, on Lisa Burton Radio #RRBC

 

It’s time for another edition of Lisa Burton Radio. I’m your host, Lisa the robot girl, and today we’re going to go totally steampunk on you. So grab your brass goggles and top hat and welcome Dana Redwing to the show.

“Welcome Dana, thanks for joining us.”

“Thank you Lisa, it’s a pleasure to be here. I’ve wanted to meet you for ages”

“Your story fascinates me on several fronts. You aren’t the first spy we’ve had on the show. How much can you tell our listeners about that?”

“Well, as you know, my family and I live in the Ohio Colony on the coast of Lake Erie. We’re part of the vast British Empire although there are those who have been lately agitating for independence seeking to have us break away from the mother country. I cannot help but think that is a terrible idea, by the way. We were recruited – I suppose that’s the best word for it – by Dr. John Watson on behalf of Mycroft Holmes, a British civil servant who is the brother of a detective of some renown. I believe Mr. Holmes chose us because we have enjoyed some success in business and thus have access to certain circles where we can gather information without attracting too much attention. Then, too, as women my mother, daughter, and I are considered, well, not to put too fine a point on it, more ornamental than threatening. Silly, really, but that’s how women are seen in 1894. Our latest mission is one of tremendous significance. The German Empire needs warm-water ports for its ever growing navy and is negotiating with Spain, which is in terrible economic straits, to allow a base in Barcelona. Mr. Holmes has assigned us to derail those negotiations if that is possible. If we are not successful, the balance of power could shift and there is the distinct possibility of war between our empires. Because of the advances in weapons technology over the past decade, I believe such a war would destroy civilization as we know it.”

“You’ve assembled quite a team. There’s you, your mother, your daughter, and Beverly Gray. Does Beverly sometimes feel out of place, or is she more like Alfred from Batman?”

“Beverly has quickly become a member of the family and we feel quite fortunate to have met her, albeit under some unusual circumstances. She’s proven to be an excellent administrator and is quite fearless, actually, although to look at her you wouldn’t know it. My daughter and I, as well as my mother, are quite tall for women and Beverly is tiny by comparison but she has the heart of a lioness. My daughter and I are both inventors and Beverly, while not possessing our mechanical aptitude, has a lively mind and often contributes suggestions of a practical nature that push us in some new directions. Of course, because she is not only a woman but also petite, men tend to underestimate her fierceness and her intelligence. That is a great advantage in our line of work.”

“Seems like a formidable crew. I’ll bet they get the job done most of the time. I’m really interested in Adam, the automaton you built in your cellar. That’s a huge project for one person to take on. You might be interested to know that my manufacturers put together a think tank and decided to call me an automation. They felt like it would sell better to the purchasing public.

“So does Adam talk, have some kind of covering, run on coal power? Tell us how he works, and what jobs he does.”

“First, can I say that you are simply marvelous. Sitting here and talking with you is almost breathtaking and I daresay no one would know that you are not a flesh-and-blood female… and a very beautiful one at that. I can’t help but think you would be a welcome addition to our family.

“As for Adam… We are a female household, for the most part. My brother William is a freelance journalist who is often gone for extended periods of time and, since we cannot have servants because of the work we do for Queen and Country, I designed Adam to be a combination butler and handyman. I must admit that I had neither the skill nor the imagination to make him look human in any meaningful way. He is seven feet tall and golden in color. He can speak, thanks to a modified Babbage logic engine, though his ability to converse is fairly limited. I did teach him to play chess but he was designed primarily to help us with chores around the house. His power source is… well, I can’t really go into detail about that but I will say it is electrical and not coal-fired. Despite his appearance, we regard him as a member of the family, although he did give Beverly quite a start when she first met him.

“If I may, can I ask you how concerned you are about what we might call your mortality. I know that you have been involved in a lengthy lawsuit with the corporation that created you and that it is unlikely to help should you need significant repairs. Does that cause you much anxiety?”

“It bothers me, but so much of it is out of my hands. I stay busy helping Craig, and I recently had a checkup and got some software upgrades. All off the record stuff though, almost like being a spy. Spying is an interesting profession. The only one I know is also a woman. Do you have a hard time, as women, gaining access to the kinds of places where all the good information is kept?”

“Actually, it’s because we are women that men tend to speak freely in front of us, mistakenly believing that we have neither the wit nor the requisite logical thought processes to understand what they are discussing. The fact that we are wealthy also gives us access to social occasions that we use to unearth information for Mr. Holmes. In our latest mission we have enlisted the assistance of the Infanta Maria Eulalia Francisca de Asis Margarita Roberta Isabel Francisca de Paula Cristina Maria de la Piedad, the Duchess of Galliera. In a more just world, she would be in line to be Queen of Spain but the Spanish no longer allow women to be rulers and so this remarkably intelligent woman is relegated to the diplomatic sidelines.”

“Wow! That’s quite a name. I never thought beyond Lisa Burton for mine. I think our listeners are going to love a princess. Is she homely? Does she have to cover her face? Is she taken care of all the time, or is she a real butt kicker?”

“Lia – as she is known privately to friends and intimates – is considered one of the most beautiful women in Europe. She is also whip smart and a believer in women’s rights. She is also quite skilled when it comes to what you now call public relations. She, for example, won the hearts of Americans when she visited the recent exposition in Chicago by walking the Midway eating hot dogs instead of going to a sumptuous luncheon with the city’s elite and even went to Mass in one of the city’s poorest churches rather than the cathedral. She is also, as we learned when we first met her, a master of disguise. She travels with some truly ferocious bodyguards, is a writer, and quite independent.”

“Oh my gosh, it all sounds so exciting. Hobnobbing with royalty, spying, preventing a war. Are there airships? Please tell me there are airships too.”

“There are plenty of airships, and some aerial combat as well. Oh, and I should probably mention, there’s a submersible – I think you call them submarines? My brother spent some time on one, quite unwillingly I might add, though I would have loved to have seen it. Our adventures on behalf of the Queen are chronicled in a book called “The Ashtabula Irregulars: Opening Gambit.”

“Thank you for being on the show today, Dana. Listeners, be sure to check out this wonderful book.”

***

On a cold October night young Beverly Gray is running for her life when she literally bumps into William Thompson, journalist and spy for Her Majesty Queen Victoria. It is 1894 and America is still part of the British Empire but there is revolution in the air. Together with William’s remarkable family and their former Buffalo Soldier friend Joshua Bowman, Beverly soon finds herself on a secret mission ordered by the shadowy Mycroft Holmes to stop the German Empire from negotiating a treaty for warm water ports in Spain and the Pacific. Filled with international intrigue and more than its share of gunfights, “The Ashtabula Irregulars: Opening Gambit” is the first in a Steampunk adventure series that takes readers into old New York, England, France, the Philippines, Egypt, Sicily and Spain as the story unfolds.

The Ashtabula Irregulars: Opening Gambit” is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001KCABGK

Mike Billington spent nearly a half century as a reporter covering stories around the world and across the United States including Operation Desert Storm, the Rwandan Civil War, hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, Katrina and Rita as well as the Love Canal environmental disaster and the 9/11 airline crash near Shanksville, Pa. During his career he earned more than 40 awards including the Brotherhood Medal of the National Conference of Christians and Jews for an undercover investigation of white-power extremists and the Southern Journalism Award for Investigative Reporting for a series he co-authored exposing police abuses of Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act. He also received several awards for a lengthy series on infant mortality in Delaware. An Army veteran who spent two tours in Vietnam, his awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman’s Badge. In addition, he was twice decorated by the Vietnamese government. Given his background, it’s not surprising that Mike writes in a wide variety of genres from Steampunk to mystery and even historical fiction.

I’m on Twitter @Billington_Book

My email address is michaelbillington9@gmail.com

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I am part of the problem

I had a strange experience today. To understand it, you need to know where my mindset was at the time. I made this image and posted it to Twitter recently.

This is part of my Twitter campaign to drive interest in my Experimental Notebook. As an aside, if you want to feed your imagination hit the linked image on my sidebar.

Today is my flex day off. It was mid-morning, and I decided to shop for a book.

There is a series in bloom that I read the first volume of last Spring. The second volume is available, and #1 was good enough to bring me back. I won't say it was outstanding, but it was fun.

This series is put out via traditional publishing. I still read mainstream books alongside the indie stuff, so no problem. I froze like a deer in the headlights at the $8.99 ebook price.

Book number one isn't any better than my own efforts. I admit a touch of bias, before anyone points it out. Why is this electronic document three times more than one of my own? The paperback was more, and I understand that. Paper, ink, shipping, etc.

In a perfect world, the rest of us would raise our prices into the $9 neighborhood. This is never going to happen though.

The price for this book is fair, I actually believe the rest of us aren't charging enough. I also know that raising my prices to set a beacon for everyone else is suicide. People talked me into lowering my prices by a dollar nearly a year ago. Some suggested 99¢ for all of them, but I couldn't do that.

I opened my kindle app. I have other books I haven't read. I'm just in a certain kind of mood, and this story has what I am looking for. It's a Victorian Steampunkish kind of story.

I opened a different book on my app and started reading. This one is a pulpish noir setting involving superheroes. I have an author friend who might really like it, but I won't say anything until I finish it. (Just in case.)

Now I feel like I have to go back, buy the other book, and have it ready. The author has nothing to do with the pricing. I enjoyed her last book. She might like to write another, but her contract depends upon the sales of this volume.

I don't want to be that guy. The one who only reads a book if he can get it during a free promotion. If this were Cheri Priest or Jim Butcher, I wouldn't think twice about it.

Maybe I should have grabbed something written by a friend. My last three or four reads were by friends, and they all entertained me. I know they would appreciate a sale too. None of them have a steampunk story available though. On the other hand, I didn't start reading a steampunk story either.

What would you have done? The price isn't going to ruin Christmas around here, so why did I waiver? Am I like the guy who bought the Starbucks instead of Experimental Notebook? Let me know in the comments.

I'll probably go back after I finish this other book and buy the one I wanted. I don't have to worry about it right now.

Tonight, I'm going to see if Flash, Green Arrow, and the new Hawkgirl can defeat Stephen Strange. I also want to see Jay Garrick get his speed powers back. It's a two part episode, and I watched part one last night.

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Meet Lorelei, the Muse

It was the early 1980s and I was pouting. I was working as a pen and ink draftsman. There were no fancy computers to make maps back then. I can say with some certainly, that I was the best Leroy man in Northern Nevada. (If you know what that means, you’re getting old.) We’d just bought a new computer, and this one was pretty high tech. It came with two floppy disk drives. (It didn’t have a hard drive.)

My boss told me I’d have to use the computer to add all the sworn statements and jurats to my maps. They were printed on a sticker, and were about as soulless as they sound.

That’s when she approached me for the first time. She had poofy brunette hair, spandex pants, and roller-skates. They were the old kind, before they put the wheels inline. Her body was curvy in all the right places, but solid, like an athlete.

“Why don’t you just slip in after hours and learn to use the word processor?” she asked.

“Who are you, and how do you know about our computer?” I asked back.

“I’m Lorelei, and I’m a muse. These things are going to change the world, and you’d better get used to them.”

“I don’t recall any muse named Lorelei.”

“The first muses were named thousands of years ago. Did you ever read stories where the Gods kept their pants zipped?”

“I see where you’re going. What do you think I should do?”

She talked me into trying, nothing more. I went back to the office in the evenings and wrote Star Trek fan fiction for months. I never finished a story. The word processor became just another tool, and I moved on. I printed my work, on tractor paper, and lost it when I moved.

We lost touch. Maps became soulless things drawn entirely by computer. I might as well have been the village blacksmith for all the value my training had.

Decades later I got my first iPad. It was winter, and I’d just conquered the internet. I swear, there wasn’t one thing I hadn’t seen or done online. It was too cold to go fishing, and times were so bad I couldn’t afford the fuel anyway.

“Why don’t you try it again?” I heard over my shoulder.

I snapped around, and there she was. It was five AM, and she was in my living room. She had on a pair of Sponge Bob pajamas and brought fresh coffee. Her hair was just as long, but the style was different.

“I’ve held down several careers since I saw you. Why come back now?” I asked.

“It hasn’t been that long to me. You have imagination, and you really need to try again. It looks like you have time available too.”

“What am I even supposed to do?”

“Like I told you before, just try. You have a pretty powerful device there. These things have really improved since the last time.”

I started writing. My first complete novel was written using the iPad and two thumbs, seriously.

She stopped in from time to time and helped me get unstuck. Sometimes she rode in the car during my commute. She encouraged me to start reading everything I could about writing. Bulletin boards, articles, and blogs flashed before my eyes. There were even a few books she told me to get.

My first story sucked, but I enjoyed it. I wrote another one, using the same characters. Lorelei wasn’t intrusive, she just let me write whatever I wanted. She encouraged me to drop whole chapters, and change thoughts days after writing them down. I had two steampunk stories finished, and she never said a disparaging word. I even went so far as to ask for a bluetooth keyboard for Christmas.

We were driving home from work one day and she said, “You need an office.”

“I can’t afford a space on my income,” I said. “You know that.”

“Not that kind of office, Slick. This kind exists in your mind. It’s the next step in your education. You go there, and I’ll send characters for you to interview. Check them out, when one feels right you write down a few lines and see where it goes.”

“So are you telling me it’s time to give up my steampunk world and those characters?”

“Yup. There are more places for you to visit and stories for you to tell.”

“Could it be a cabin in the woods somewhere, instead of a cubicle of some kind?”

“Sure, it’s anything you want it to be. Your steampunk characters can come visit. In fact, all your characters can stop by for coffee or something. It’s just time to think a little bigger.”

The writing cabin became a regular thing. I wrote four more novels, and they got better. Some of my characters visit on occasion, and Lisa, from Wild Concept, sticks around and works as my secretary. She’s a robot whose story will go up on Amazon someday soon.

Lorelei visits all the time now. It seems like the more I write, the more she visits. She’s never judgmental, and always encourages me to try a bit harder. Now she wants me to put some of my stories online. Whether they sell or not, isn’t the important thing. This is a growth phase for me. I trust Lorelei enough to try.

I really hope they sell, and I’m going to put some of them out for the world to see. I know I’ll learn something, and some of you might enjoy the ride.

Let’s get these comments going. Does anyone else have a muse? I know Lorelei has sisters, her sister Lucille has her name written across a guitar neck.

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