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Sad news that I should have been clear about sooner: Musa Publishing, the small publisher that took on my steampunk mystery series, is closing down. Which means that my novellas will no longer be available.

The good news is, that’s only for now. I’ve got plans on the horizon for the triumphant return and continuation of Captain Ramos’s adventures, and I will tell you more once I’ve got the details all hammered out.

But for now, you have a few hours left that you can use to grab the Captain Ramos collection for $1.20. If you don’t have chance to do so, well… good things do come to those who wait.

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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So… it’s a book! An anthology, more exactly, of the five Captain Ramos novellas. Just in time for more new novellas to come out. (Soon. Very soon.)

I’ve been working on this for a while, coming up with some new material to go with the five novellas. And a title as ridiculous and awesome as Sausages, Steam, and the Bad Thing: a compendium of (mis)adventures both dashing and dire of that most infamous pirate, Captain Ramos is not just going to write itself.

And it may or may not include an extra little story about everyone’s favorite, face-eating, tiny dog, Chippy. (It totally does.)

Go! While the cake book is still fresh and warm from the oven! It’s at the Musa Publishing site!

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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ladyjanshisacolyte-200
When I talk to some people, the word steampunk conjures images of comedies of error and high society members speaking loftily of their exploits and adventures, the latest in airships and steam-cars and gossip. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s certainly far from encompassing the full breadth of the genre.

Several years ago, on a guest blog on Jeff VanderMeer’s blog, Catherynne Valente had a post about steampunk, urging writers not to forget the punk part of the name. Punk, for her at least, meant a focus on those outside of power and a distinct distrust of authority.

I’m a generation too young to have any real identification with punk music, and I wasn’t into alternative music, its successor in many ways, when I was in high school, but her post definitely resonated with me. At the time I was already deep into the first draft of Spire City, Season One, and I saw that her points matched with what I was writing. Spire City focuses on a group of outcasts who have been infected by a mad scientist’s serum. To most of the city, and especially those in charge, that scientist isn’t seen as mad in the least, but a prominent member of society. So their story, by definition, must focus on the characters’ position outside of power.

When I think about it, this focus extends to other things I’ve written, as well. There was a time when what I wrote fit more clearly in the high fantasy category. Always on the margins of that, but more that than anything else. My focus was never on kings and queens, though, not on famous generals or powerful wizards or great knights. I wrote about commoners. Commoners who found themselves embroiled in the events of the realm, no doubt, who might come into some measure of power, but it’s always from an outsider perspective.

It feels, without trying to be melodramatic, like a valuable perspective, especially when so much of the online conversations I’ve had of late center on the same issues of power and privilege and the sense of injustice and anger.

So steampunk, to me, always at least has a foot in the underside of society. The soot-chugging factories no less than the gleaming brass boilers, the street urchins no less than the dashing sky pirates. And all the real-world tensions of privileged elites and overworked classes, often immigrant or colonized or both.

I absolutely despise any attempts to make grand statements of “this is steampunk and that isn’t” or anything of the sort. Often the best stories are found just beyond the edges of any sort of definitive border people try to create (around steampunk, around fantasy, around SF). This is not a manifesto calling everyone to write the same as I do. I do, though, believe strongly in the power of stories to help us see the world around us better. So whether I’m writing steampunk or something else entirely, it’s where I stake my place. Maybe others will come and pitch their literary tents nearby.

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Spire City is home to mighty machines of steam power and clockwork, and giant beetles pull picturesque carriages over cobbled streets, but there is a darker secret behind these wonders. A deadly infection, created by a mad scientist, is spreading through the city, targeting the poor and powerless, turning them slowly into animals. A group of those infected by the serum join together to survive, to trick the wealthy out of their money, and to fight back.

A new episode of Spire City is published every three weeks by Musa Publishing. The episodes of Season One: Infected are collected in two bundles, Contagion and Epidemic. Season Two: Pursued began publication on November 28, 2014 with “Lady Janshi’s Acolyte.”

Daniel Ausema (@ausema) has a background in experiential education and journalism and is now a stay-at-home dad. His fiction and poetry have appeared and are forthcoming in many publications, including Daily Science Fiction, The Journal of Unlikely Stories, and Strange Horizons. He lives in Colorado, at the foot of the Rockies. (Amazon)

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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I have a new story out today from Crossed Genres: The Heart-Beat Escapement

Please read and enjoy!

This story is one that went through a lot of drafts–nine in total. It started out about 1500 words longer than it is now.

Something about the way Greensmith says but grates. “I already know that,” Owen snaps. The baby, abandoned in an alleyway and dying; the doctor and the engineer who found him and replaced his malformed heart with one crafted of delicate gears. It was his favorite fairy tale, growing up.

Most of those 1500 words I ended up cutting out of the story were the fairy tale Owen refers to here. Bits of it were interspersed throughout the story to act as section breaks. It ultimately didn’t work right and slowed the story down way too much, which is why I cut it, but I’m still pretty fond of those words. So I thought I’d share those sections (plus a bit extra to make them more coherent) with you as a little bonus–Owen’s bedtime story.

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

Octopodicon

Nov. 6th, 2013 12:06 pm
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Octopodicon was my first every Steampunk convention, and I admit that I was kind of nervous. I absolutely love the steampunk aesthetic, but I am not a very fancy person myself. On of my life goals is to be a very dapper sir, but I prefer my dapperness to be a bit more… understated. Plus I’m utter crap with crafts, which doesn’t help. I went in feeling a bit intimidated, to be honest.

I don’t know what I expected–perhaps the steampunk fashion police to swoop down and judge me insufficiently punked out? Silly, in retrospect. Everyone was absolutely lovely and I never felt out of place. Rather, I was unquestioningly welcomed, and I appreciate that so very much.

Plus, I found the hats I’ve been needing all my life. YES HATS.  I now have everything I could want for all my dapper needs.

I had such a good time at this convention. The highlight of it for me was actually Saturday night. There were dance lessons, and I decided to go because I actually really like dancing even if I’m terrible at it. For a little while I thought I’d be the odd woman out, but then I ended up getting partnered with Sherry. I got to be the man because I had trousers and an awesome hat, and we waltzed and waltzed and waltzed. And then danced in a little competition and won it for Team Steampunk.

That was honestly one of the coolest moments of my life. Yes, it was just us against one other couple. But I won a dance competition. I won a freaking dance competition.

Man, I love dancing. I wish I could do it more often! But there was more dancing that day, since then there was all sorts of live performances and I danced to Darwin Prophet‘s music. [WARNING: Autoplaying music WHY DO YOU DO THIS]

Sunday was my working day; I did two panels and had a reading. I was excited that I got to do a panel with John Dee again–I got to be on a couple with him at FenCon. WE ARE AN EFFECTIVE TEAM. (You can tell because John also hates that movie.) The reading was small but went well–everyone who was there seemed to like what I read! So that was good. I also got to meet Patricia Ash of Gear Hearts Magazine–I’m hoping to write a little story for them soon.

So for a first Steampunk con, this was definitely a success. I’m looking forward to going to another soon!

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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As promised for any Octopodicon person who might wander by, here’s links to what we talked about during Steampunk in Space.

Books/Comics

  • Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel was recommended by a member of the class. Be warned, there’s a lot of flash on this site and it makes sounds.
  • Airship Enterprise

RPGs

  • Space 1889 - Which has been fully funded on Kickstarter
  • Mage: The Ascension – Drive Thru RPG link to the core tabletop book. MtA isn’t strictly a steampunk RPG, but one of the traditions (Sons of Ether) is very steamunk – Aether ships!
  • Spelljammer

Movies/TV

  • Cowboys and Engines – Richard Hatch movie, very steampunk west. And involves Malcolm McDowell with some fabulous facial hair.
  • A Trip to the Moon/Le Voyage dans la lune – the 1902 film
  • Firefly - This was brought up often as an example of a show with a very steampunk ethos, though not necessarily the aesthetic. Though it very much has the wild west angle covered.
  • Treasure Planet - Aesthetically steampunk?
  • War of the Worlds: Goliath – Arguably dieselpunk, animated movie, looks very cool

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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Yes, the next novella (and the last one for this year) now has a cover! I’m really pleased with how this one turned out, and had a lot of fun writing the novella. It’s coming soon–November 1! GET READY!

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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Coming 9/6/13: Blood in Elk Creek - This is the longest novella I’ve written to date – 36K words of adventure, mystery, and snark for Captain Ramos, Colonel Douglas, and a horse named Dolly. And if you’ve been wondering about the Infected, they’re coming for you now.

I’m really excited to share this one with you guys and I hope that you like it. Less than two weeks away!

Once called the Great Plains, the Dead Plains are a place in which no sane citizen of the Duchies dares set foot. The Infected roam the lands in starving packs and rare is the man who returns alive from an expedition. But when one of the regiments of the Grand Duchy of Denver disappears into those wilds under false pretenses, Colonel Geoffrey Douglas dares the Dead Plains to investigate. And Captain Marta Ramos, infamous pirate and thorn in his side, is not far behind.

Foul events are afoot in the Black Hills: Lakota hunting camps leveled, and the Infected move as an army in purposeful, terrifying ways. Captain Ramos and Colonel Douglas must form an uneasy truce and venture deep into the hostile terrain of the Black Hills to discover what has prompted this invasion and how to stop it.

If the Infected don’t kill them first.

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Marta looked upstream, but the view was occluded by rocks and more pine trees. There was a loud splash, followed a moment later by another surge of clouded water.

She levered herself to her feet, then drew her machete. The heavy blade felt strange and clumsy in her left hand. Feeling a bit drunk on adrenalin, she made her way around the rock with exaggerated care.

The stream took a sharp turn on the other side of the rocks, widening. Two corpses were laid neatly out in the shallow water. A coyote stood over one, worrying at its arm—the source of the splashes and the gouts of old, coagulated blood.

Blood.

Hand still clutching the machete, Marta bent over and retched, forcibly ejecting all of the water she’d just drunk from her stomach. She wiped her mouth with a handful of grass and looked up to find the coyote now staring at her, a profoundly unimpressed look on its face and a forearm and hand dangling from its jaws.

Marta’s stomach cramped again. Stop that, she mentally commanded herself. It was a reaction entirely in her mind, nothing but fear.

Tail at a cocky angle, the coyote trotted off with its prize, though the animal did give her a wide berth.

Marta approached the bodies with more trepidation than she had ever felt when faced with any number of corpses. Neither of the corpses had heads; each simply had a stump blackened with blood and rot. She recognized the look of the cuts, knew them before she’d even pulled her goggles properly on and snapped in one of the surviving magnifying lenses.

They’d each had their head removed with two or three strikes from a machete. She’d had to make similar cuts herself before, more times than she cared to consider. Each corpse wore the tattered remains of leather clothing, just trousers and no shirts, feet yet covered with moccasins. A few decorations partially obscured with muck and blood were made from colored porcupine quills; this was not the clothing of those who resided in the duchies.

All of these small details, building readily into a disturbing picture in Marta’s mind, felt curiously beside the point. Her left hand shook as she raised it to her goggles again, flipping through the loupes until she found those of treated calcite. The delicate lenses had cracked and crazed into a thousand tiny rhombic shapes, but even through that she saw the telltale glow that oozed from the bodies, that swirled through the water that touched them and confirmed her worst terror.

The corpses and stream, the stream she’d so greedily drunk from, were alive with Infection. Bright flecks showed on her left hand, which she’d used to scoop water to her mouth. A horrible sort of laugh squeezed from her throat.

She’d survived the most impressive aeroplane crash of her career just long enough to kill herself.

Preorder now! 

#SFWAPro

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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curiouscaseofmissclementinenimowitz-500Marta spied a curved white shape under one of the little tables, thanks to the new angle of perspective. Curious, she bent to retrieve what turned out to be a china teacup, mate to the one Simms had found on the end table, a brown stain dried on its bottom and side. Marta took a curious sniff, only to detect something bitter, hinting of almonds. “Oh my.”

“I’m still not going to let you shoot the dog,” Simms grumbled.

Marta crouched down, looking from table to corpse. It was too far for the cup to have rolled there on its own unless Miss Nimowitz had flung it in some final seizure, and that seemed unlikely since a few drops of tea had remained within. But perhaps it had been prodded by an unwary foot and sent skittering aside. More importantly, she somehow doubted that Miss Nimowitz would have prepared tea with two cups if it was just a final drink for herself.

Interesting, that.

“I’m less inclined to shoot it now,” Marta said, rising back to her feet. “The dog is a witness to murder.”

Simms gave her one of those looks at which he seemed to excel, his expression caught somewhere between disbelief and resignation. “Did you really just say that with a straight face?”

“I’ve rarely been more serious in my life.” Marta waggled the teacup at him. “Miss Nimowitz was poisoned.”

“And shot.”

“Tough old bird.” Marta smiled. She checked the teapot on the end table, but could detect no hint of poison in the liquid still within. “Unless our little friend there has developed opposable thumbs, she had outside help with at least one of those activities.”

“Murdered twice and then robbed. Not a good week for her,” Simms commented, but his expression had become markedly less grudging. While the man wasn’t averse to firefights and throwing the occasional security guard off a train, his feelings about murder were generally in line with Marta’s—it was the sort of thing that gave honest criminals a bad name.

I loved writing this novella. I loved it. I do so hope you love it too.

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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Coming 3/15/13!At long last, my steampunk murder mystery novelette is available for pre-order from Musa Publishing! The phrase “unspeakably excited” doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel about this. The novelette will be released on April 5th! Get it while it’s hot!

Here’s a taste of what it’s about:

When theft turns to murder, retired Colonel Geoffrey Douglas knows only two things for certain. The Air Ship Titania carries 300 passengers and crew. And any one of them could be the murderer…

In the wake of global Infection and hard-fought wars to drive the disease out into the wilds, the survivors have slowly rebuilt a polite society that relies upon airships and steam engines to travel safely between the remaining Grand Duchies. In times of peace, old war heroes must find new ways to make themselves useful. But where there are ships, there are pirates, and darkness waits in the most unexpected places…

After years at war, retired Colonel Geoffrey Douglas tries to accustom himself to a more tame career as the Grand Duke’s chief of security, but he can’t seem to let his guard down. He sees danger around every corner. Worst of all, he’s often right. And when a simple mission to deliver precious cargo for the Grand Duke goes wrong, Geoff finds himself in a race against time to find a murderer before the Air Ship Titania lands and the murderer can escape.

But there are 300 passengers and crew aboard, and the murderer could be any one of them. When Geoff discovers a second murder victim, he realizes this isn’t just a fight to prevent the murderer from escaping: it’s a desperate race to stop him from killing again.

I had a lot of fun writing this and hopefully you’ll have just as much fun reading it. As you can tell, Colonel Douglas is a very serious investigator with a very serious mustache, and he’s not about to let a murderer get away with a crime under his watch. Technically if you’ve read The Jade Tiger you’ll have one over on poor Geoff for most of the story, so enjoy your advantage!

Here’s an excerpt so you can get a feel for my writing:

Geoff sat up with a gasp, for a moment disoriented in the darkness, recognizing neither the bed nor the thin strip of light leaking in under the door. He heard only snapping tree branches, the crack of distant guns, shouts, and screams as the Infected slammed into his company’s defensive lines. No, he realized, those sounds were in his mind, mixed with someone pounding frantically at his door, rescuing him from a thoroughly unpleasant dream. He took three deep breaths to calm himself, then felt along the wall to find the lamp and turn the power back up.

“A moment,” he shouted. “A moment if you please. I’m awake. Let me make myself decent.” He slipped from bed and quickly dressed. His shirt was rumpled, collar and cuffs undone, and his tie nowhere to be found, but he deemed it good enough for the ungodly hour.

There was a young officer other side of the door, face pale, ginger hair disheveled. His uniform had a lieutenant’s stripes on the shoulder.

“What is so important that it couldn’t wait for a decent hour?” Geoff demanded.

“Something awful’s happened, sir. Captain told me to fetch you quick as I could—”

“Is it my luggage?”

The lieutenant shook his head, swallowing hard. “No, sir, it isn’t. It’s much worse.”

Geoff nodded, then dug his lorgnette from his traveling case. The little device was rather battered and showing its age, but still serviceable. “Then you’d best show me the way, Lieutenant…?”

“Collins, sir.”

Geoff followed Lieutenant Collins along several hallways and down two flights of stairs. Soon they were at the top of another set of stairs, these ones plain metal that led down to the crew quarters.

There was a small crowd gathered at the bottom of the stairs, most of the people dressed in the uniforms of the crew or servants. More to Geoff’s interest, there was a body sprawled untidily across the deck plates, a pool of dark red spread out in a halo from the back of its head. The head itself was turned at an unnatural angle, far back and to the side.

It took only a moment for his sleep-muzzled mind to place who it was at the bottom of the stairs: Lord Caraway. It made little sense for the man to be in this area of the ship, but the truth was inescapable: he was very much there, and very much dead.

And now I’ll get back to work on writing the third novella for the series – because that’s right, there will be at least four more after this one!

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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