Steampunk inspiration and resources

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Steampunk Writers, I WANT YOU! The Submission Window Opens NOW

Oh man, oh man, oh man! I am ecstatic to announce an exciting new opportunity for anybody who loves Steampunk and story-telling. I’ve been going back and forth about what sort of project I wanted to do to celebrate the anniversary of Steampunk, and once I discovered the Collaborative Writing Challenge I knew I’d found a match made in heaven.

(Please note: I am still interested in creating a collection of short stories in 2017 as well as this collaborative novel. Read more about it here)


The CWC runs projects to bring authors together to create a collaborative novel. I just had my submission accepted for their 6th Project, a fantasy called Esyld’s Awakening, and I was so impressed with the organization and the whole idea of collaborative fiction that I signed up to coordinate Project 7. I love the idea of pulling together several voices to celebrate Steampunk together, and I hope you will join me!

You can get all the details on the CWC website, but here’s the quick explanation for how it all works.

  • Writers submit a potential first chapter by Dec. 2 and the CWC staff chooses the three they think has the most potential to grow into a full novel. Anyone who signs up (see below) gets a chance to vote on which first chapter they think is the strongest.
  • Starting now, writers sign up to be a part of the collaboration and soon will be asked to sign up for chapters they’d be interested to write based on the schedule (first chance starts the week of Dec. 30). There are usually 4-5 people trying for each chapter, but lots of people sign up for more than one as well.
  • When it is their turn, each participant gets to read the first chapter, as well as the one the is right before the one they signed up for, and they get 5 days to attempt to write the next one. Everyone has access to chapter summaries, character profiles, and notes about places and objects to help them along.
  • At each step, I’ll choose my favorite chapter and handle the first round of editing for continuity to make sure the voice and flow of the narration all works together.
  • And eventually you’ve got a 30 chapter book written by dozens of people! You don’t have to be experienced, just eager to join in on the adventure🙂

Pinmart artI absolutely encourage anyone who enjoys the genre to give it a shot. It’s simple to sign up here, and you’ll be contacted soon about the schedule (which goes from Dec-Aug) and which chapters you’d like to try. Anyone who attempts a chapter, even if it is not chosen, gets a free e-copy of the completed book and a chance to buy 2 copies at cost. As a bonus, I am going to send one of my spiffy United We Steampunk, Divided we Fall pins to anyone who has their chapter chosen.

If you’d like to try submitting the first chapter, the submission window is open now! (See details in the graphic below) Remember, it will need to read like the opening chapter of a novel, not a standalone short story. So feel free to hint at things even if you don’t know all the details yourself to give your fellow writers different directions to go in. As we all know, Steampunk is a very wide genre, so don’t feel constricted by the Victorian era, the British Empire, or specific trappings of the aesthetic.


Feel free to connect with me on my Facebook author page or on Twitter (@GearTurns), or leave me comments and questions below.

Looking forward to building something great together!

Steampunk Movie Review: Gallowwalkers


I started writing a new book at the end of September, and the first part takes place in the Old West. I got a chance to beef up on California history last year when I lived near Sacramento, so my heroine is an ex con woman who is forced out of retirement when her last job comes back to haunt her. Literally.

So, it’s given me a hankering for some other “weird west” and freaky tales of the frontier, which led me to today’s film, Gallowwalkers. In a dusty, backwater recess, the dead just refuse to stay dead; at least, the ones killed by the mysterious gunman, Aman (Wesley Snipes). Now they are back and looking for revenge, and they’ve found out who he is and where he lives. With the help of a hired gun (Riley Smith), he must protect what remains of his family from the terrible fiends and live to ride another day. But Aman isn’t the only one with a family, and the ringleader of the dead (Kevin Riley) has a son who just refuses to come back to life, and needs a temple hidden in the desert to bring him back.

maxresdefaultThough it’s not much of a stretch to call this movie “Blade in the old West,” it wouldn’t live up to its namesake. The story was disjointed and a bit hard to follow, plus pretty gory to boot. The flesh of the undead continues to rot, so they have to find new faces and victims to skin on a regular basis, and they only way to kill them is to rip the spine from the body or obliterate the head, so you can imagine there’s quite a bit of blood.

I’ll hand it to them, this was an interesting premise with some scary villains, but I wouldn’t call it “good” by any stretch. It seemed to be working up to a big climax with the temple, but the writers just forgot all about it when it came time for something cool to happen. For me, the biggest reason to watch it is for Snipes’ badass dreadlocks, but no matter how awesome he looks as a cowboy, it’s not worth the 90 minutes of meh.


Weigh In! Is it Time for a Re-design?

I’m taking a few minutes out of our month of Halloween to reach out directly to readers. I will have been the proud owner and writer of For Whom The Gear Turns for three years as of Oct. 31, 2016. Running stuff on my own is both a boon and a bane sometimes, especially when it comes to making changes.

Personally, I love the look of this site. I think the stained concrete of the background fits in nicely with the “punk” and urban side of things, and proves you don’t need gears for a site to be Steampunk. Plus, white writing on a dark background is easier for people with visual disabilities to read. On the other hand, dark backgrounds are widely considered “unprofessional” among designers (and readers), and people with normal vision sometimes report that it is harder to read, so I’ve been thinking giving the site a facelift.

More than anything, I want to be a professional writer. I don’t do this blog for pay, but I do plan to use it to help support my paid writing career and act as a way to connect to other fans of the Steampunk genre. At the same time, I don’t want to do anything to lose the awesome folks who already follow me. For instance, making sweeping changes to website would mean closing For Whom The Gear Turns for a few weeks while I get everything perfect.

So this is where you come in. Please weigh in on the poll below and help me decide if it is time for a new look. Feel free to leave comments as well!

Thanks as always for reading, liking, and sharing my articles, and have a whimsical day!

Some Delightfully Creepy Collections of Music to Help you Celebrate Hallow-Steam

Whether you need some dark cabaret to get you into the spirit of the season, or some creepy vintage jams to help fuel your writing, YouTube provides a ton of wonderful mixes available for free. These are three of my favorites. Enjoy!


Steampunk’d Comes to Netflix

First Penny Dreadful, and now the world’s first Steampunk reality TV show has come to my favorite streaming service! I admit it, I watched half of the entire run of the show in one sitting because I can’t seem to get enough of watching brilliant and talented people making beautiful things🙂 And the timing is perfect as people everywhere turn their minds to crafting the perfect Halloween costume.

Plus, the show brings all the catty fun we all know and love from the reality competition genre, but rather than just sewing like Project Runway or just character design like Face-Off, these makers are challenged every week to create a functional Steampunk space with at least one matching costume. The judges give them extra tasks as well, like creating a Rube Goldberg machine that serves breakfast or giving the bedroom a mechanized way to go from day to night, so every assignment stands out and addresses specific needs and a range of talents.


“Extraordinary Tales” Packs 5 Classic Poe Stories into a Single Collection


I am an avid reader, but not much of a book collector. Personally, I tend to pass a book on if I enjoy it, especially since I started moving so frequently and didn’t want to slog box after box of books with me. Luckily, I’m living with the Mister’s folks right now, and they LOVE to collect books. One room is dedicated to biographies, the fiction dominates the family room, nonfiction lines the shelves of the music room, and the poetry section shares a space with children’s books in the living room.

I absolutely adored my Poe unit back in high school, but I wanted to refresh my memory of his tales as part of this year’s Halloween celebration. Given where I am staying, imagine my shock when I combed the shelves of every room and couldn’t find ANY of this fantastic author in the house. (I suspect someone just borrowed it and hasn’t brought it back) Luckily, Extraordinary Tales popped up on my Netflix recommendations a few days later.


Director Raul Garcia (The Lion King, Aladdin) brings together five amazing depictions of some of Poe’s scariest stories and pairs them with voice talent like Christopher Lee, Guillermo Del Toro, and Bela Lugosi (archive). I especially loved using Del Toro to narrate The Pit and the Pendulum because the story takes place during the Spanish Inquisition, and his accent helps add to the setting in a way that just reading it couldn’t.


The Masque of the Red Death always stuck out to me as a reader, and the sumptuous style and rich colors of the animation were spot on. The style of each vignette is totally different from the rest, so you get to see a real variety of animations and interpretations of these classic tales.


It might be the most accurate to say that Extraordinary Tales is actually a collection of six stories, rather than five, because each segment is introduced by a conversation between “the poet” in the form of a raven, and “Death” speaking to him through the statues in a grave yard. Though the aesthetic of folded paper used in these segments were probably my favorite stylistically, I felt these were actually the weakest. Granted, I am comparing them to stories written by a master and narrated by the pros, but that wasn’t the issue.


As a fan, I already knew a lot about Poe and his views, but whoever was responsible for the part that was supposed to be the poet talking about his own work didn’t do their homework. In the introduction to The Tell Tale Heart, for instance, “the poet” talks about how “justice prevails” in his stories, which was categorically NOT the point of that story.

Still, over all it is an incredible collection available just in time for Halloween this year!

Check out the trailer, or skip the wait and go over to Netflix streaming to see for yourself :) (Available for purchase on other platforms like, as well)

The Role of Madness in the Work of Edgar Allan Poe

(The following is based on notes I took at a session at the Steampunk World’s Fair by the same name and put on by the Edgar Allen Poe Museum)

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) and his acolytes had a big presence at the Steampunk Worlds Fair. This isn’t altogether surprising, given that Poe lived his life on the East Coast of the US. At the Fair you could visit a mini Poe museum and attend a few lectures on one of America’s most well-known (not to mention creepiest) writers. The one that caught my eye centered on the representations of madness in Poe’s fiction, and the historical context for his viewpoints and treatment of the mentally ill.

Poe experts point to 1824 as a vital year for young Edgar’s formation. At the tender age of 15, he found and lost his first love. The object of his affection was the mother of a friend, Richard Stanyard, and she unfortunately had some kind of mental breakdown and died that year. She was both an object of romantic love and a surrogate mother, Poe’s own mother having died when he was only two years old. With this sort of foundation, it isn’t surprising that much of Poe’s fiction centers on both the deaths of young women and his character’s descent into madness.

1869It’s important to remember that at this time, the study of mental illness was a new field. The first hospital that was designated specifically for the treatment of “mad” people was founded in 1780. Within a few decades, several different institutions were founded and offered a variety of treatments ranging from the simple rest cure to electroshock therapy and lobotomy. Exposes on the harsh conditions soon followed, and like so many others Poe got a glimpse at torture chamber-like restraints employed to keep “patients” quiet and cooperative.

During the early to mid-1800s, mentalists had classified a few different types of madness, many of which correspond with conditions recognized by today’s physicians. The practice of phrenology was also common, and involved the detailed study of the bumps on a person’s skull to determine their personality traits. As a newspaper man and curious individual, Poe was clearly up on the scientific trends of his time and included details in some of his best-known works that physicians of his day would have recognized.

For instance, monomania, a condition characterized with an obsession over a single object or person, appears as a central theme in a short story called Berenice published in 1835. The main character, Egeaus, is a man prone to fits of deep concentration. Even when his fiancée begins wasting away from some unnamed disease, he has trouble tearing himself away from counting shadows and other forms of obsession. Every part of her deteriorates, except for her perfect, pearly teeth, which becomes his newest focus. The story takes an even darker turn after she dies and he pulls all of her teeth to save as a keepsake. Too bad she wasn’t really dead at the time…


Poe also explored madness in The System of Dr. Tarr and Mr. Feathers. The narrator arrives at an asylum in order to study a new “system” of taking care of the mentally ill. He arrives too late in the day to meet any patients, but is invited to stay for dinner with the doctors and attendants. During the meal, his colleagues reveal stranger and stranger behavior, including acting like a chicken and suffering from the acute awareness that she was in fact a tea pot and not a lady at all. Meanwhile, the patients howl and carry on, and the medical personal shake their heads over the poor, mad souls. Eventually, the narrator finds out that the inmates had taken over the asylum and put the doctors in the cells, but the very idea of what it means to be crazy is called into question by the power of context.

Poe’s references to modern science were not limited to the plots of his stories, but found their way into character descriptions as well. In his infamous work, The House of Usher, Poe uses both a lengthy description and illustrations of the main character. Phrenology told people of that day it was possible to know that someone was generous or degenerate just by looking at their skulls and the shape of their eyes, and Poe incorporated these theories into his portrayal of the title character.

As the study of madness progressed, insanity became a plea that could be offered in court. Poe was especially interested in the notion of “temporary insanity” and the line between the sick and the well. As a reporter, he covered the murder trial in 1840 for a man named James Wood who killed his daughter. Though the plea of insanity was put forward and the accused was found not guilty due to insanity, Poe clearly questions the verdict. In his coverage, he notes that the accused had a very calm, serene nature, and that the person who sold him the gun reported the same serenity while on the witness stand. This hardly sounded like the portrait of a manic man, and yet his crimes were so heinous the jury seemed to find it easier to believe he was insane rather than capable of such a terrible crime without some other force at work.

via-ravenblackcat-websiteTwo of Poe’s most beloved stories are The Black Cat and The Telltale Heart. Both of these tales revolve around a murderer who believes they have gotten away with their crimes until some sort of reminder or madness of their own drives them to reveal themselves. In both of these stories, Poe skirts the question of whether the narrators have always been mad, were driven mad and have now recovered, or descended into madness and never return.  

During Poe’s day, many people speculated about his own sanity. He never passed judgment on the seemingly gruesome protagonists in his stories, which led many to question whether he had the same morality as they did. Instead, he reported the “facts” of his tales with beauty and an atmospheric weight and asked the reader to decide for themselves. Poe’s only concerns were beauty in all forms and the ability to illicit some sort of reaction from his readers. He was perfectly satisfied with their fear, disgust, and awe, he had no need of their approval or their love.

Two Years of Halloween Fun at your Fingertips

You probably caught my announcement that we’ll be celebrating Halloween all month long, but did you know this is my THIRD year of doing so? That means there are lots of articles from previous years that you may have missed! These are the links to my favorites.

Best of 2014

Tips for Makers Series

After attending Weekend at the Asylum in September 2014, I wrote up my notes from the sessions I attended for people who like to make their own props, costumes, and accessories. Over time, it grew to include other articles and resources as well. This series has tons of great advice that could help you with your Halloween costume!

Spiritualism: A Haunting Pastime

On the same trip as Asylum, the Mister and I also went to Fringe Fest in Edinburgh the same year. In addition to the fabulous performances we also went to a few lectures, including one at the headquarters for modern-day Spiritualists that is named for one of its most famous proponents, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This article explores the underpinnings of the movement.


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (movie)

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (movie)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (movie; not to be confused with the Robert Downey Jr film)

The Monster Hunters (book)

Best of 2015

How Did the Victorians Celebrate Halloween?

Some history about the games and parties enjoyed during the steam era.

Steampunk Sourcebook: Victorian Vampires

We all know Dracula, but what about all of the other vampires running around Victorian London? Get some history and insight into why they were so popular.

Steampunk Make-up Tutorials

Whether you want to be a full-on automaton for Halloween or just add some flare to your pirate or saloon girl, this collection of videos and links to photo tutorials should give you a great start.

How to Punk Your Steam Part 8: Make it Supernatural – Part 1, Part 2

(okay, this was written in September of 2015, but it still has some great info for Halloween)

How to Punk Your Steam Part 9: Make it Scary – Part 1, Part 2

Booze, Glorious Booze: Apple Cider

Hard cider is one of my favorite beverages for the fall (not to mention summer, spring, and winter…) so this article is a bit of history and context for this delicious drink.


Sleepy Hollow (movie)

Crimson Peak (movie)

Steampunk Book Review: The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber


Have you ever thought about living forever? Sounds pretty good, but what would it take?

The Eterna Files, Book 1 of the Eterna Files series, explores just that question. After the deaths of Abraham Lincoln and Prince Albert, both the UK and the US have assembled teams to try to unlock the key to eternal life with their government’s support.

The US team depends on Clara, a woman who is sensitive to the supernatural and remembers all of her past lives. The American team was killed in a terrible accident in the wake of their research, including Clara’s secret lover Louis. She mourns his death in secret and works from New York to untangle the web of lies that led to their mysterious deaths. Too bad she’s gotten so good at blocking out ghosts, because Louis still has important information and Clara’s the only one he can trust with it.

In London, Harold Spire is suddenly ripped from a compelling and heart-wrenching police case involving what looks like human sacrifices in order to head up England’s new team. The last group mysteriously disappeared, but Queen Victoria is determined to continue their work. Spire is a skeptic when it comes to the magic and supernatural elements of their research, but he doesn’t doubt the intel their double agent is sending them about the progress made by their competitors.

I definitely enjoyed this book, as well as meeting Ms. Hieber at the International Steampunk Symposium earlier this year. Seeing both sides of a spy game was really fun, especially when the secret forces moving against both governments are slowly revealed. Sometimes I got a little confused about who was working for who just because so many characters were involved between the two groups, but they were all interesting and fun additions to the story. The second book in the series, Eterna and Omega, was recently released, and I can’t wait to get my copy at next year’s Symposium!

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