Posts Tagged ‘Steampunk’

My Favorite Bit: Beth Cato Talks About THE CLOCKWORK CROWN

My Favorite Bit iconToday Beth Cato joins us to talk about her new novel, The Clockwork Crown. Here is the publisher’s description:

Narrowly surviving assassination and capture, Octavia Leander, a powerful magical healer, is on the run with handsome Alonzo Garrett, the Clockwork Dagger who forfeited his career with the Queen’s secret society of spies and killers—and possibly his life—to save her. Now, they are on a dangerous quest to find safety and answers: Why is Octavia so powerful? Why does she seem to be undergoing a transformation unlike any witnessed for hundreds of years?

The truth may rest with the source of her mysterious healing power—the Lady’s Tree. But the tree lies somewhere in a rough, inhospitable territory known as the Waste. Eons ago, this land was made barren and uninhabitable by an evil spell, until a few hardy souls dared to return over the last century. For years, the Waste has waged a bloody battle against the royal court to win its independence—and they need Octavia’s powers to succeed.

Joined by unlikely allies, including a menagerie of gremlin companions, she must evade killers and Clockwork Daggers on a dangerous journey through a world on the brink of deadly civil war.

So what is Beth’s favorite bit?


When I decided to work gremlins into the plot of my novel, The Clockwork Dagger, I had no idea that one gremlin would result in my book selling to Harper Voyager.

In early 2013, my agent called with the happy-happy-HAPPY news. Her basic information was 1) An editor wanted to buy The Clockwork Dagger and one more book, and 2) Everyone who read Dagger fell in love with Leaf the gremlin.

Therefore, I can’t help but be fond of Leaf and the rest of the gremlin menagerie. They continue to win over readers. I can’t say how many times I’ve had folks tell me, “I LOVE LEAF,” or “I want a Leaf of my own!” or ask if there are gremlin plushies in the works (I wish!).

Gremlins–Leaf included–play an increasingly important role in the second book of the set, The Clockwork Crown.

The genre is steampunk fantasy based on the World War I-era, though not set on Earth. My gremlins are very steampunk creatures, biological beings created out of science and magic. They are green-skinned and bat-winged, most of them about cat size. The first generation of gremlins was cobbled together with bits of cats, dogs, and other small animals, though gremlins now breed on their own.

Gremlins are hideous in an adorable way. They have round black eyes, smushed faces, and tapered ears. They meow, chirp, and purr, and say a lot without utilizing human speech. My heroine Octavia learns that young Leaf the gremlin is incredibly bright. He quickly becomes a beloved friend.

Octavia and Leaf’s relationship is an exception in their world. Most everyone else despises gremlins. They are creations out of the technologically-superior city-states to the south and have a reputation as flying vermin. They horde silver and food. On top of that, they’re regarded as a perversion of science and magic. Some people question if they are truly alive at all.

Octavia is well aware that gremlins are living beings because she’s a highly skilled medician. Her healing magic enables her to hear the life songs of any surrounding bodies, human or animal. She initially befriends Leaf as the rest of his flock is massacred as a menace on board an airship. In the second book, Octavia learns more about the nature of gremlins and meets their creator. Readers wanted more gremlins, and by golly, they get more gremlins.

I never could have anticipated the importance of gremlins within the full storyline, or in the plot of my life. They stole more than cheese and silver–they also stole hearts from readers at Harper Collins and around the world. For that, gremlins will forever be among my favorite bits.


@BethCato on Twitter


Barnes & Noble




Beth Cato is the author of The Clockwork Dagger steampunk fantasy series from Harper Voyager. Her short fiction is in Urban Fantasy Magazine, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.

The Kowal Portable Typewriter & Adding Machine #4

You know how this sort of things goes. My keyboard was failing so I had to install a new one. Then, since the rest of my computer had been modified to be a sort of Art Deco steampunk, I needed to mod the new keyboard. And then it looked so shiny next to the rest of the computer that I needed to upgrade the modifications on the rest.

So…. Here is the Kowal Portable Typewriter & Adding Machine #4.

I’ve got to say that I was really not happy with the quality of the stickers that I used on the Kowal #2. 

The resolution was poor, and they tore and scuffed easily.  They also had a tendency to peel which was less than optimal.

This time, I decided that I would use the same technique I used on the #3 and on my folding keyboard. It seems lowbrow, but works suprisingly well. Decoupage.

That’s right. I printed stickers on my home printer, cut them out and pasted them on with ModgePodge. In really hot and humid weather, it will get slightly tacky to the touch, but the in that sort of weather, I’m slightly tacky as well. Sweat, bleagh.

I used a wood veneer for the space bar and enter key. I’m not yet happy with the enter key. It is such an odd shape that I’m having a little trouble getting the veneer to take some of the angles.

For the space bar, double-sided sticky tape is more than sufficient, but the enter key may require actual glue.

The bandaid on the side is because the side panel keeps popping off. I need a solution that’s a little more attractive, but I’ve lost two screws and once the entire panel so… bandaid. Maybe I’ll uncover our gaffer’s tape someday.

I also wish I could do something about the red dot in the middle, but I know from the last keyboard that there’s not much I can do to it.

The tutorial that I did for the first Kowal Portable applies mostly to this, with the obvious alterations in printing on sticker paper.

Here are the other things to know:

  1. Let the sticker paper dry thoroughly before applying it to the machine. It may be dry to the touch but still have residual moisture inside. On the front sticker, I put it on straight away and ModgePodged. I had some slight bleeding from the red. This is the only time I’ve had this happen. So, let it dry at least half an hour to be safe.
  2. Apply the ModgePodge in a thin coat with the softest brush possible. Brush strokes will show. Vertical strokes will catch the light less than horizontal. I use a gloss, but that’s personal preference. Wait half an hour, then apply a second coat.
  3. Clean the excess off before it dries.  After it’s dried, it can be scraped off like rubber cement, but it’s a pain.
  4. This is not an easily reversible modification. You can clean things off, but it’ll involve a lot of scrubbing and elbow grease. If you want to be able to undo it easily, use the method I did for the Kowal #1 and order from

My steampunk netbook is for sale!

I have an Asus EEE PC which I modded to be steampunk. I wrote swathes of Glamour in Glass on it while riding the subway in NYC and a bunch of other shorts. These days, I don’t need the little thing and it is sadly neglected. It wants to be with a new writer who will give it the attention it deserves. Is that you?

It’s up for auction on ebay.

Oh, and I’m including an unpublished short story on the hard drive.

My theory on the appeal of Steampunk as a writer

I have this theory about Steampunk’s appeal from a writer’s standpoint. Or at least, from my standpoint. I think there are two things working in concert.

  1. There’s the aspect of beautiful utility. Typewriters and the like used to be functional technology that was also built to be attractive.
  2. It gets me out of the black box of technology.

Item one is easy to understand. Steampunk looks cool. Really, really cool. Awesome. Sexy. Stylish and at the same time, gets stuff done.

Item two requires some explanation. Right now, when I want to write SF I have to break the technology that my characters have access to in order to allow them to surmount the obstacles facing them by using their wit. Most of the technology I use in real life is in a “black box” which means that I don’t have an understanding of what is going on inside. How does an smart phone work? It’s a magic rock.

Steampunk resets the technology level.

It takes me back to a world where I press a key, which moves a lever, which strikes a platen. The causality of technology is restored to understandable levels. Once again, it is possible to have inventors who create something new, something that world has never seen, in order to triumph. So if I want to write old school SF with inventors, steampunk opens a door to do that.

Also, did I mention that it looks really good?

Steampunk theory

While I’m travelling…

Steampunk. A subcategory of science-fiction or fantasy?  Discuss.

What Would a Steampunk Gibson Chair Look Like?

The Steampunk Gibson Chairio9 covered our panel on steampunk design.

One of the most interesting panels at this year’s Readercon was an exploration of the steampunk design movement, as it emerged into the mainstream with May’s New York Times Style article. Writer/puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal, YA fantasy novelist Holly Black, Tor editor Liz Gorinsky, and speculative fiction writer Sarah Micklem gathered to show off their steampunk creations, discuss steampunk’s literary origins, share their favorite steampunk websites … and, of course, to design a Gibson chair for the fannish masses.

I told someone that I had been tempted to take an easel and pad and draw the chair as we designed it, using a Morris Chair ((The title of the panel relates to Gibson Girls, William Gibson and the Morris Chair)) as the base. Ha! Like I’d have been able to do that and participate in the discussion at the same time.

But… I did do it this morning over breakfast, after a commenter in the thread at io9 suggested that such a thing might be made if only there were a design.

Page 123, Fifth sentence

Jayme Lynn Blaschke has tagged me with the page 123 meme.

To participate, you grab the closest book, go to page 123, find the fifth sentence, and blog it. Then tag five people.

So, the closest book is Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti, from Juno Books.

“The rest of the evening’s guests were trickling into the room, their faces flushed from the chill night air.”

I picked this up at WisCon because a steampunk romance sounded great, but I haven’t started it yet.

I’m tagging Jeff Richards, Elizabeth Barrette, Joe Sherry, Beth Wodzinksi, and Alethea Kontis

Modding my wireless keyboard

Sometimes, a girl needs a break from things she has to do and takes it by doing something she wants to do, which uses exactly the same skill sets as the things she’s taking a break from. For instance, I’ve been doing a lot of book binding and work with marbled papers for the show Prisoner of the Crown.

As noted elsewhere, I have a weakness for paper and it wasn’t really possible for me to handle all of these papers without coveting. Especially since I had them scanned and was printing them onto giant sticker sheets for work anyway.

Giant sticker sheets… hm. And I’ve just gotten this new $10 folding keyboard.

Bottom of closed Palm keyboard mod
So, while I was waiting for something else to dry, I made this.

Palm keyboard modFrom the outside it doesn’t look that much different from a makeup case or small book. In fact, I thought about putting lettering on it, but decided I liked the cleanness of the lines.

Palm Keyboard mod openingWell, that and everything on this moves as it opens.

Open Palm Keyboard modThe keys are a slightly modified version of the Kowal Portable keyboard. I used a different paper for the interior. I thought about doing brass cogs instead, but decided that I liked the idea of playing with book motifs instead, so went with a contrasting endpaper. I may swap this endpaper out though for something more interesting.

At the moment the infrared wand is painted bronze, though I might change it to a red gloss, like a silk ribbon bookmark. Alas, there’s not enough space for another layer of thickness in here, so it can’t be actual silk.

That’s also why the space bar is not wood. I cut the pieces but even paper thin wood was too thick for this to handle.

Closeup Palm Keyboard modBecause the keyboard has much snugger margins for fit the whole thing is done with laser printed regular sticker paper (instead of the schtickers I used on the Kowal Portable) and coated with ModgePodge. Yep. This is a decoupage keyboard.

It’s a little stiff, opening it, but I think that’ll loosen up.

Back of palm keyboard modAnd this is what people sitting across from me will see.

I wonder how long it will take before I feel compelled to bronze my Palm Pilot?


In a moment of procrastination, I played Google Imager. One of the images was this one and it had the URL Radiant Kestrel 19

Sure enough, it’s a blog devoted to steampunk legos.

It looks like it hasn’t been updated since last summer, but there’s some darn cool stuff on it.