Sunday, 24 January 2016

Full Steam Ahead with The Brazen Shark by David Lee Summers

In my continuing attempt to promote other authors, rather than just give you updates and waffling about my own tales, it is my honour to welcome David Lee Summers whose latest book in the Clockwork Legion series, The Brazen Shark, is now available on Amazon. His guest post is an enlightening insight into steam under the waves.
Full Steam Ahead with The Brazen Shark by David Lee Summers

My love of steampunk should come as no surprise since I’ve been in love with nineteenth century technology as long as I can remember. It all started when my dad introduced me to steam locomotives. Their operating principal was simple, but they were powerful and capable of traversing continents. As early as the 1850s, steam locomotives had been built with top speeds around 80 miles per hour. My dad started his railroading career as one of the last generation of steam locomotive machinist’s apprentices.

In 1983, I took a job as a research assistant at Maria Mitchell Observatory on Nantucket Island. There my appreciation of nineteenth century technology increased. We observed variable stars on a telescope built by Alvan Clarke and Sons, the premier telescope builders of the nineteenth century. On that telescope, which had a windup clock drive, I collected data on distant stars, which I published and ultimately presented at Harvard College Observatory. Not only did I work with the telescope, but I maintained the observatory’s chronometers, which were nineteenth century windup clocks which kept more accurate time than my digital watch.

As a fan of nineteenth century technology, it will probably come as no surprise that I enjoy the works of Jules Verne who in turn liked to explore the technology of his day and imagine what it could accomplish. As a child I remember watching Disney’s version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and marveling that Verne imagined a nuclear powered submarine way back in the 1800s. Then about five years ago, I read a good translation of the novel and discovered that Disney’s Nautilus is not the same as the novel’s. In the novel, Captain Nemo’s vessel is driven by batteries and actually had no air supply other than what was in the cabin when it dove below the waves. Other than its size, the Nautilus was actually a rather ordinary submarine of its era.

If you want to see submarine technology at its height in Verne’s time, you have to travel from his native France to neighboring Spain. There in 1864, an engineer named Narcís Monturiol i Estarriol built a submarine powered by a chemical-reaction steam engine that vented directly into the cabin. Zinc, manganese dioxide and potassium chlorate heated the steam engine’s boiler and breathable oxygen was released as a by-product. The result was a practical submarine that could remain submerged as long as it had a fuel supply. However, Estarriol received no backing from the Spanish government and had to abandon his submarine for lack of funds.

In my Clockwork Legion series, I imagine a Mexican engineer in 1876 who takes Estarriol’s design and expands on it. When we first meet Captain Cisneros in Owl Dance, he wants to sell such a submersible to a government as a warship. The healer Fatemeh Karimi convinces him that there are more interesting commercial and scientific uses for such a craft. When we meet Cisneros again in The Brazen Shark, he’s given the submarine the arms of an automaton so it can repair ships. Because it looks a little like a squid, he gives the submarine the Spanish name Calamar.

So, how does Captain Cisnero’s Calamar stack up to Captain Nemo’s Nautilus? Read The Brazen Shark and find out!

The Brazen Shark is available in paperback at (US) and (UK)

The Brazen Shark ebook is available at (US) and (UK)

Find David Lee Summers on his website:

Monday, 4 January 2016

An Interview with Steve Moore, the author of Royal America

Today it is an honour to welcome Steve Moore to my blog. He describes himself as the 'old English author' of the Steampunk/alternative worlds genre novel, Royal America. He is also recruiting sergeant for the Scribblers' Den in The Steampunk Empire. I managed to catch him lounging in his favourite red leather chair by the fireside in the Den, and quiz him on his work and influences.
What if any influence does your day job have on your writing?

Well I only considered writing due to being friends with a very successful author; Craig Cabell who happens to work with me in the UK Trade and Investment department. I had been speculating 'What if..?' (Like one does.) What if the British kept the Americas? Would they have bothered with India? What if the experiences of India translated into the Americas; would the Native Americans have been recruited and formed into regiments? Might they be better off? After all the British could not beat the Ghurkas so they recruited them and they have been the bravest and loyalist troops for better or worse, married to the UK, ever since. I admit I achieved very poor grades at school for English and it was only as a seventeen year old that I began to learn a tad more, when I started work.

How much research did you do before creating the alternative history in Royal America?

Well, I had some prior knowledge, but to be honest I have never travelled any further West than Donegal in Ireland and so just the basic geography was a challenge - I studied maps of the USA. Then I needed a spark or a tipping point in history and the fact that King George the third was born premature is the peg that I hang my story on. He dies and a whole different quantum universe is revealed. It is true that I had met a Native American at my school in Lewisham in South London in the 1970s. This was a Cree gentleman from Montana who provided cultural insights to South London school children. I was also aware of Native American art due to the Horniman's Museum in South London where I spent my not-so-misspent youth. Horniman’s museum was a free gift to the Citizens of London via the London County Council and it had a children’s art club in my day. I must admit Wikipedia was a wonderful resource and I learned a lot there with facts like the Pawnee human sacrifice ritual, that did not endear them to the Sioux. I did read Geronimo’s autobiography and it makes very sad reading. The amazing images in Edward S Curtis’s The North American Indian the complete portfolio also inspired me.
Were you inspired by an event or a historical figure in writing Royal America?

African history in particular gave me pointers to how history sometimes unwinds. For example not many people know that Khama the Great travelled from Southern Africa to see Queen Victoria and he asked for the British to set up a protectorate for Bechuanaland. This is now modern Botswana, which is a political oasis as the borders are natural unlike Zimbabwe where the Shona and Matebele who were for centuries enemy tribes were thrown together by British Imperialism and the drawling of lines on the map. I substituted Sitting Bull for Khama the Great and moved Rhodes (my villain) to America with a mercenary army. Lincoln is shot for genocide as his record of behavior, in respect of the Native American peoples, was despicable.
Have there ever been any adverse reactions to a Brit rewriting American history?

Surprisingly none to date. I suspect that when I ever try to gain entry into the United States of America, I might be on a list as a Red Coat counter revolutionary along with Benedict Arnold. I have sold reasonably well in the United States and I go out of my way to express admiration for the United States in this version of existence. They saved Europe on at least two occasions lest we forget the sacrifice of their young people for our freedom, today. Not very fashionable, but it is the truth. (At one point only the United Kingdom and Greece stood against fascism – the memorial of which is Ochi day as I recall).

You recently changed the cover of Royal America, why was that?

Well I got a really nice review and a slight negative comment that an original cover would be nice and so I listened to that comment. Then when an artistic fellow Denizen of the Scribbler’s Den of the Steampunk Empire, Katie Alford said she would design me an original cover, because my first one was more suited for a travel guide in her opinion, I leapt at the chance. I think she is right an original cover does help.     

I get the impression you have travelled quite a bit so I ask this: Have your travels influenced your stories?

I have been very lucky to travel as far south as Johannesburg South Africa, as far north as Stockholm, Sweden as far East as Seoul, South Korea but only as far West as Donegal in Ireland. I have been mostly on business trips but there have been times when I have appreciated some free time to 'simply stand and stare' to quote WH Davies the Supertramp poet. The deserts of the Middle East and the rainforests of the east, have all had an influence. Even when I lived in Athens for a week or so, I enjoyed commuting on the trolley bus. Horniman’s museum in South London meant I did not need to travel too far to get that overseas influence. For a writer everything is an influence. Sit in the coffee bar and open your eyes. But you know that already.     

Is Steampunk your preferred writing genre or do write in other genres too?

Yes, I love Steampunk. Alternative history and technology set in an extended Victorian era lends itself to Steampunk genre and I am very comfortable with this label. Strangely Steampunk is a genre where every other genre can thrive and it is enlightened and free. You can play with alternative history and dress up a bit if you like. I once said to the Scribblers’ Den ‘Steampunk is where you are sexier with your clothes on!!’ Nice hats and corsetry, ooo-er! Plus there are Steampunk subgenres where I tend towards the Pith helmet and khaki of the Victorian explorer. Where are you happiest in the Steampunk Empire?

Saying that, I have a short story that I might develop into a novella called Café Diablo which is an Arizonan Bikers Gothic Horror of sorts. I also have a Steampunk sci-fi Squidgy Aliens story on the go. Plus a Russian Western!

You say you have several short stories coming out in 2016. What are they and where can we find them?

I have a Steampunk romance called After the Khareef' in the first Rambunctious Rambling Inc Anthology coming out very soon. I came second to a much more gifted author called Lady Naomi!! Craig Cabell’s Bellack Productions have five of my stories in the First Bellack Anthology coming out in April in time for the Horror Convention. I am not a horror fan but 'Café Diablo' the short story is included plus Disturbing exhibits; A, B and C and Exhibit E the Holy Mabkara.     

Could you tell us a bit about your latest work in progress?

Steam Powered Camel was a flash fiction in the Scribbler’s Den tea party anthology Denizens of Steam and I plan to expand this to do more with Tinsley Engineering and the Imperial Camel Corps in the Middle East. I have a story called After the Catastrophe; The Lady of Castle Rock based on a fellow Steampunk Empire friend’s page which is inspiring. I have permission to write about her persona. That should be my offering for the second Scribbler’s Den anthology. As I mentioned I have a Steampunk squidgy alien story called You Again with lots of space and time travel. I am planning to write an alternative history called Imperial South which I think is under wraps for the moment. I also have a Soviet western planned called The Kremlin Kowboy. I discovered Stalin was a western fan and that got me thinking. Royal America 2 is also being worked on as is a deep edit of the original Royal America.

What advice would you offer those considering independent publishing?

Steampunk is a great place to start. It is really free society where imagination is prized. My mate Craig Cabell talks about an urge to write that once you start you cannot stop. So to quote the sports brand just Do it ! That sounds a bit glib but how’s this; do you have a story you wrote ages ago or an essay you did for university? Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing pays you a 70% royalty and provides all you need to get set up as an Author. I started with non-fiction essay Maritime Security: The Port of Singapore which I did for a course, at work. Then I wrote a story about my Border Collie called Mab, namely: Mab the Urban Collie and then Mab the Urban Collie: Part Two. If I can create a canon of work so can you. I have even made some money as I sold enough to offset the cost of my website.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

The future is a blank slate...

Or is it?

I can see the future and it looks something like this:

1. I'll be writing and (hopefully) publishing more short stories/poetry/blog posts.
2. There is a book lurking in the wings tentatively wondering if it'll brave it out in public view.
3. I'll be hosting other writers on my blog this year. I'd like to say on a monthly basis but I cannot make promises like that just yet. (Although I do have a few surprises lined up!)
4. I intend to add reviews too - this will be tied in with my Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge for this year. I've upped the stakes to 30 for this year from last years 26. I know what free time I have available!
5. I will be continuing the Write1 Sub1 Light Ray Challenge (1 story written and subbed per month rather than the formidable Ray Bradbury's weekly output) even if the blog sadly dispanded with the passing of 2015.

Enjoy the read!