Birthdays Are Relentless – And Some Music

So this last week I had a milestone birthday, which I am surprisingly okay with – probably because all year long I never told anyone I was 39. I kept saying, “I’m going to be 40!” so when the dreaded day finally arrived, I was just over it already. And it was awesome because my parents went all out with the decorations and I GOT CAKE which is a huge deal for someone who’s not quite but almost given up sugar.

Take a look at the purple suckers in the cup on the table. There’s a story to follow.

Okay, there were only 12 candles, but it took me FIVE TRIES to blow them all out! You don’t realize the meaning of “restrictive lung disease” until you actually really try to use those weak lungs. (I am totally making an excuse for “just getting old.”)

My awesome step-dad painted this beautiful picture of Anya, and I got a print with a custom-made frame.

So about the purple suckers. They were root beer-flavored. I got in trouble for chomping down on mine (I don’t have any patience with hard candy), because my mom said they were supposed to make a fart noise when you lick them. Lia and Emily patiently licked theirs, waiting for a fart that my mom assumed was due to the suckers’ design. When everyone started to express their disappointment that no raspberry sounds were forthcoming from their pops, my mom took out the package to try and figure out how they were supposed to work. I grabbed my phone to look up reviews, and discovered the fart wasn’t in the design – it was in the ingredients! And the reviewers all gave the suckers 3 to 5 stars. -_-

I’m more than okay ripping some good ones in the comfort of my own home, but not in front of my sister and my step-dad! And I quickly found out that if I didn’t walk around all clenched, I sounded like a bag of popcorn in the microwave.

That’s the story of my 40th birthday party.

Now for musics. I’ve been obsessed with the following songs lately:

Lia’s already laid claim to the beautiful Russian actor in the Woodkid video. Sorry, ladies.

Hooray for the League of S.T.E.A.M. and their awesome props! Also – there’s just something about a guy in guyliner. MMM.

I am really getting into chap-hop lately, which is saying something because I hate traditional hip-hop and rap. Mr. B is one of the quintessential chap-hop blokes over in England, and I’ve been overplaying this song like crazy. Which is cool, because we just put up our interview with him over at Behind the Steam!

And earlier today we talked with some more lovely fellows from England – our first non-music related interview, with some filmmakers who are working on an indie steampunk webseries project. (Geek alert, one of the actresses was a former Doctor Who companion!) But they’re in need of funding for the project, which can be found here. We found them all so charming and friendly that we promised to get the word out to help them make their project come true. Our interview with them is set to release on Monday.

Now here’s a couple of funny pictures because I need to get them off my hard drive! :B

This time last year:

Monday Sickie – Yeah. I’m getting over another flu. I’m always sick on my birthday! And I’m appalled that a whole freaking year ago I thought I was within weeks of being done with Cobalt. That’s it, I really need to get strict with a fiction schedule.

When Nerds Go Out On Errands

I love playlists! Well, I could say it’s themed blog playlists I love, because I don’t really make book playlists and there are no organized playlists in my phone, all the music is just crammed in there.

I was thinking the other day as I was driving to the grocery store and I started to slide out of control on the icy road, while one of the following songs was playing on the iPod, that it was freaking epic. Much more than a shopping trip was occurring; the particular soundtrack playing at the time had caused us to cross over into Nerd Adventure territory. (No worries, I didn’t crash, and yes I really was thinking while sliding that it was super epic, and the kids got a lesson on anti-lock brakes while we were at it.)

Anyway, I have a small list of the type of tunes in our music library that can turn the simplest of food runs into Epic Nerd Quests. I really do sit up straighter and drive differently whenever a track from Pirates of the Caribbean comes on. Suddenly my messy mom van becomes a stately pirate ship, navigating the unplowed roads of Boise with ponderous grace. Until I crash into a parking lot snow mountain. But then I just Fus Ro Dah all that dirty snow away!

Any of the following tracks make our routine errands much more fun:

On the subject of playlists and music, over at Behind the Steam we just released our Top 10 Steampunk Songs for the new year! Go check it out. Most of it is epic enough for nerd adventures!
One of the bands featured in the top 10 list is The Cog is Dead, currently my most-obsessed-over steampunk group. They’re releasing their second album soon, and this is one of their catchy new songs:

Do you have any playlists that put you in an adventurous or happy mood? What about playlists for your books or general writing?

This time last year:

The Sims Saga – The kids and I will never forget these “family” stories as long as we live.

Fatty Catty, An Adorable Baby, and An Adorably Weird Husband – One of my old “funny pictures” posts!

P.S. Right now I’m seriously procrastinating on 13 law blogs and 10 landing pages…

There are Steampunks in Reno!!

No funny last Monday because EVERYONE IS GETTING MARRIED and EVERYONE IS IN TOWN, so I’ve been a busy mama. But I wanted to share a fun thing the kids and I did last Friday. My friend Erica Mulkey (known by her performing name as Unwoman, and she’s playing with Amanda Palmer in San Francisco this week, epic squee!) was in Reno, and she put on a lovely show for the local steampunks. So I dusted off my corset, the kids borrowed some of my clothes, and off we went… There really need to be more of “my people” here to attract more talent like Erica; on the other hand, I kinda like us being a rarity, as the shows are so affordable whenever they do happen to drift this way.

I got a few clips of her playing, although most of it had to be edited out because of my phone camera’s bad sound quality. Oh, look at my little dorks jumping around in the background!

And then we went to Walmart afterward, and a little bit of this happened:

So speaking of Unwoman, Alyssa and I interviewed her a while back on Behind the Steam, in case you missed it…

And speaking of Behind the Steam, we just put up a review for Abney Park’s newest album Ancient World, which is one of the last podcasts with crappy audio (I think we still have one more recorded with our old equipment) since I have a new mic and Alyssa has better recording software. We recently did a really fun (meaning bugshiz insane) interview with an overseas steampunk personality, and another one with one of my favorite bands, and we have a few more scheduled that have me fangirling all over the place!

Listen to two of my favorite songs off Ancient World and you’ll see why I was so excited to review the album!

Oh, what’s that…? I have to go make dinner now? I have to do laundry and clean the house? But I was so happy here! *sigh* Real life calleth. I’m going to be in Boise next week seeing my mom’s new house, so I probably won’t be blogging until I get back. Until then, give mama some comments! Done anything weird lately?

The Unveiling!

Okay y’all, I did promise to divulge Alyssa’s and my super-secret project today! We launched it a couple hours ago, and we couldn’t be more excited! So basically, you pretty much know by now that I won’t shut up about steampunk. I met Alyssa at an Abney Park concert, and a couple months ago she sent me an email along the lines of, “You write and have a cool blog. Wanna go in together and make a blog about steampunk music?” And then I did some kind of fangirl happy dance because the thing I freak out over the most, next to books, is music. Especially steampunk music!

So our plans for the blog are pretty simple: We interview musicians of the steampunk genre and put the podcasts up for our followers on Twitter (@BehindTheSteam). We’ll also post articles and reviews of music, cons, and other steampunk things we geek out over, and as we gain experience and learn new ways to make the blog shine, I think it’s just going to get better and better!

Our first podcast, a fun interview between just the two of us, is already up on Behind the Steam’s very first post! It’s available to everyone, not just Twitter followers. I have to apologize in advance for the audio on my end. I didn’t realize my laptop’s mike is so crappy. Half the time I’m bellowing, the other half my voice is just garbled. But it’s still a pretty cool interview, I think! I will be investing in a much better microphone before our next interview.

Something I think is really super geek-out-worthy is our opening music, written and recorded for us by none other than Nathaniel Johnstone! I love it; it’s kicky, fun, and goofy. (It’s also going to be my ringtone if I can figure out how to set ringtones on my phone.) And speaking of that guy who plays stringed instruments like some kind of weird, be-kilted angel, check back with our blog on Thursday, where we’ll unleash our interview with him upon the world! MUHAHAHAHAAA!!!

That’s right. This guy. Awesome, right?

So here is our site: Behind the Steam. Bookmark it. Share it with your friends who might be interested in steampunk music. Share it with your friends whom you’d like to scare with steampunk music. And heck, if you lose the bookmark, not to worry! Because I’ll freak out on this blog anytime we have something new coming up. There is no escape! (Unless, of course, you choose to un-follow me but please don’t do that!)

And there’s not much news on the writing front, other than that I’ve queried a few more small press publishers, and will probably stop my search after that and go indie if the answer’s no from all of them. I’ve been doing my research, I’ve looked at the covers from some of the best of these publishers, and I think, “I can do that.” I can also do the marketing and promoting on my own as well. I’m thinking this is shaping up to be a pretty exciting year, creatively!

Monday FUN

I’m going to do something a little different today, since Lia hasn’t punked my WIP lately and my funny pictures have temporarily run dry. I do have a funny to share. The other day, I re-posted this video when my friend Josh put it on his Facebook, which led some of my friends to think I’m goth. That gave me a little bit of a giggle, because knew it would create panic and confusion amongst my friends (yes, I’m exaggerating). I was sort of goth in high school, except at that time I was way too shy to deviate very much from the norm. Mostly I was just really awkward, wore black all the time, and listened to a lot of music goths liked. But I avoided any type of social scene that would force me out of my comfort zone and make me talk to people I didn’t know very well!

The same is true of me today, except I’ve traded the black clothing for brown and tan, stripes, and gears. I still listen to strange music, and I’d much rather stay at home with my face in a book than engage in the scary act of talking to people I don’t know well. The ironic thing is, I’ve been thrust into the steampunk scene more than I’d ever expected would happen, and it’s exciting as well as scary, but it’s a secret that you won’t find out any more about until next month!

Anyway, Josh is from Vernian Process and a San Francisco-based DJ, and he and some friends put together this humorous video for a goth show there. I died when I saw Josh’s disdainful facial expressions; everyone wondered how they could film this without bursting into laughter; my kids took notes and gleefully practiced the “step over your dead friend” moves.

And another funny to share: A delightful bit of fun called Steam Powered Giraffe. My 13-year-old Emily found out about these guys a couple weeks ago and they’re now her favorite group. This is when I start to question my involvement in the genre and feel like I really suck as a steampunk: I’ve been into it for years, but there are still groups and authors I’ve never heard of! And how could I not have heard of these talented guys before now?

My boys could watch these videos over and over, wondering if they’re really robots! They don’t believe me when I tell them they’re just regular guys who’ve attended mime and theater classes to learn their moves.

They’re from San Diego and have done shows at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Fair, Legoland, and many other events and locations. If you’re from the San Diego area and have seen these guys out and about, let me know. I’ll try to control my jealousy!

Oh looky, I did find a few funnies after all! You made it all the way through my post, so you get a prize…

This is totally me when my laptop gives me that notification. Totally me. Gotta run off and find my power cord!

Okee, I’m going to go be crazy somewhere else now. Maybe get in a bit of writing sometime today…Oh, and go check out my post on ANWA’s blog about this little movie that’s just come out. You might have heard of it…

Music For Writing: Book Soundtracks!

I always thought the idea of a soundtrack for your WIP was kind of funny, because I usually listen to the same playlist no matter what I’m writing. Then I realized, I actually do unconsciously put together a small soundtrack for each of my WIPs. Usually it’s just a few songs that I end up listening to more than the others in my playlist, that hold some special kind of significance to me while I’m working on a particular project.

I was on a huge Evanescence kick when I was writing The Moongate. Not because I thought the band matched the book, but because Lia had just discovered them, and when she discovers new music, she saturates the house with that music for weeks. (Right now it’s Florence and the Machine that I constantly have stuck in my head thanks to Lia – not that I’m complaining or anything!)

So when I started listening to this song by Evanescence, I was surprised at how well the lyrics match Nissa’s predicament.

And then for a while, I thought this song worked for The Moongate too, but after I’d written the sequel, Blood Moon, I felt it fit that book better.

And with the steampunk Cobalt, I’m enjoying a lot of instrumentals that evoke the feel of flight or old-fashioned sci-fi. Like Vernian Process’ instrumental version of Unhallowed Metropolis:

And, since there’s a strong dark fantasy theme, I think this spooky, atmospheric one from Myst fits:

This is a current favorite. I listened to it over and over again while writing an airship battle scene. You can’t hear it and not feel epic with whatever you’re doing. At one point I just sat there and picked my teeth with this song playing in the background (an unconscious activity when I’m stuck on a sentence, hehe), and it was the most epic tooth-picking I’ve ever done.

Do you listen to music while writing, or do you find it distracting? Do you make playlists for your WIPs?

A Rather Picture-Heavy Post on What Steampunk Is To Me

I get asked this question a lot when I tell people I’m working on a Young Adult steampunk novel. Steampunk fiction, along with other aspects of steampunk, is getting pretty popular these days (just look up Justin Bieber’s steampunk Christmas video, ugh). More often than not, people will at least have heard the word Steampunk, but not know exactly what it entails – or how devoted true steampunks are.

My short answer to the question, What is steampunk? is: Victorian or Wild West sci-fi, in a time when steam technology ruled. A slightly more informative answer is that it’s a sub-genre with roots in literature from writers such as Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, but the term steampunk didn’t start popping up until the late 80’s. Steampunks have widely varied opinions on what exactly their passion entails, from those who wear gear-encrusted goggles as an item of fashion, to those who believe every gear, light, and lens should be functional or at least hypothetically functional. (You mean to tell me your hydraulic laser gun arm extension with the time-travelling wristwatch doesn’t actually work?! You’re not a true steampunk!)

I’m kind of in the middle. A piece of jewelry with artistically placed, glued on gears will make me drool, but I don’t incorporate goggles into my outfits. (Lia has a vintage pair of WWI soldier’s goggles though, that I put on my cat for my profile picture. He is totally a steampunk kitty.)

Totally drool-worthy!
Even more drool-worthy
Lia’s steampunk-ish pendant made from watch innards;
a gift to her from my mom. Coolest grandma ever? I think so!

I’m not going to expound in detail what I think steampunk should be (articles like that already abound on the interwebs), but I’d like to tell you a little bit of what it means to me and how I discovered it, while bombarding your eyeballs with lots of cool pictures (some pictures are embedded with even more informative links).

Yep, Victorian sci-fi: It doesn’t get much cooler than the Neverwas Haul, a gorgeous Victorian house on wheels. Most likely runs on gas, but in a real steampunk world it would, of course, be steam powered.

And you can hardly have a steampunk story without an airship in it.

Fashion is a huge deal for most steampunks. This picture freaked me out because of the super-cool gear-encrusted goggle the model is wearing like a pirate eyepatch. (Didn’t I mention one of those before?) What I really love about this is that my character Kate in Cobalt has an injury to her left eye that renders it sensitive to light, and she has a goggle like the one in this picture, with little gears and levers that shade her eye from the light and enhance her vision. I swear I’ve been writing the story for months, but I only stumbled across the picture tonight! Awesome!

A steampunk gentleman might look like this dapper fellow. Your outfit can be as simple or elaborate as you want it to be.

Many of you will have seen the steampunk episode of Castle. In this picture he’s wearing a very expensive variation of the kind of gadget some steampunks add to their personas.

In the mid 90’s I started playing a PC puzzle adventure game called Myst. I was drawn into the beauty of the scenes, and the contraptions and clues you had to solve that were steam powered. The storyline of this game series is so rich that it all stuck with me, and when I discovered steampunk not too much longer after that, I was immediately reminded of Myst.

In the game Myst, the main character Atrus sends you on a journey to solve
puzzles from steam powered contraptions and machines he’s built himself.

A really fun aspect of steampunk is the music. Since music is so important to me, it’s what formally got me into the genre. Although there are many steampunk bands that I love, I’ll just share my two favorites, Abney Park and Vernian Process, since I’m trying to encompass a wide variety of steampunk aspects in this post.

Vernian Process’ sound varies from industrial and 80’s-inspired, to theatrical cabaret-style, to orchestral – with soaring, dark instrumentals, chimes, and bells. (Click here for an amazing example.)

About the genre as a whole, Vernian Process’ Josh Pfeiffer told me: “As an artist, I couldn’t be happier that Steampunk is getting more recognition, and attention. As a fan of the aesthetic, I am mixed on this recent surge of interest. It makes me kind of miss the days when I would stumble upon some cool Steampunk piece of media, and get all excited, like I just discovered a lost treasure.”

Click on the picture for their circusey song inspired by
Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Abney Park’s sound is inspired by widely varying ethnic music and soul-wrenching ballads. Basically, you could listen to one song that’s a simple pirate shanty, and the next is a wild gypsy tune that dares you not to dance to it.

If you click on the picture, then on the greenish icon labeled “Coming 2012,”
it’ll play one of their new songs from their upcoming album!

And finally, the part about steampunk that most fans will agree is pretty awesome, are the inventions. Some amazingly creative and talented people have gone beyond gluing gears to pendants, to add vintage beauty and a sci-fi spin on modern day gadgets.

I hear it’s not as expensive as you’d think to convert an ordinary Nerf gun into something that looks like it could shoot lasers. Something like this, or the phone above, is on my to-do list – if I ever suddenly develop a skill for leather and metalworking, that is. 😉

For some truly amazing and functional steampunk artwork, Datamancer turns PCs, laptops, keyboards, and other devices into beautiful, unique treasures. If you only check out one link in this post, make sure that’s the one. Because yes, something that looks like it could be functional is cool enough, but when it actually is functional, like Datamancer’s work, that’s the true spirit of steampunk.

In response to Josh’s comments, I think discovering steampunk really is, for the mainstream, like finding treasure in the mundane, mass-marketed, easily broken merchandise of the present. But, like a lot of treasure that’s not exactly new, but is tarnished from time, and still generally viewed as “weird” by the mainstream, interest will eventually move on to newer fads – and the true fans will still be here. And maybe we will have added to our ranks of talented, wacky, and creative steampunks. 🙂

And lastly, on a more personal level: Take a painfully introverted mother of six, who’s never quite fit in with any group all her life, can’t even do mainstream right, and is getting into middle age and not liking it one bit. She’s had post-partum depression for years and feels like she’s lost her identity, but above all, has never let go of her dream to write. She already has one novel under her belt and is well into the second one, and has always loved the weird, the magical, and the less-beaten path. She finally finds something fun to wake her up again, and for the first time in longer than she can remember, the depression lifts. Best of all, her kids think their weird mom is the coolest thing ever, not an embarrassment. And when she takes them to a few shows and is embraced by the steampunk community and makes some awesome new friends, she knows she finally belongs somewhere.

This is what steampunk really is to me.