Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas! My Christmas gift to you is a FREE AUDIOBOOK of my short story from this year's Christchurch Writers' Guild anthology, REFLECTIONS.
AT THE WATER'S EDGE is an 11 minute audio story about a mermaid who is drawn to the land. It is narrated by the author (that's me!)
Between Christmas and New Year, you can download it for free here at my website. Let me know if you enjoy it!
I had a great time in Wellington at The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales Book Launch!
What a delightful location at The Children's Bookshop in Kilbirnie.
It was fantastic to meet keen readers and many of the other contributors to the anthology.
The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales is now for sale as a print and ebook on Amazon and in its print form at several New Zealand book stores (in Christchurch, get it at The Children's Bookshop on Blenheim Road). It's a perfect read for Christmas!
With Christmas fast approaching, keep a lookout for my story of Christmas cheer in Phantom Feather Press's Best of Christmas Twisty Tales, a New Zealand anthology for children.
Originally posted on Phantom Feather Press:
We have fantastic news! We received so many amazing Christmas stories that we’ve expanded our anthology.
From the outset, we had anticipated accepting 25 stories, but now 27 wonderful authors have 31 quirky stories in The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales. We’d like to thank all of our our writers—including iconic NZ authors Joy Cowley and David Hill, and best-selling Australian sci-fi author Dave Freer.
For a full list of Twisty Christmas Tales authors, see below.
Our illustrator Geoff Popham has been doodling since he was tiny. Now he’s not so tiny and he’s still at it, working as a freelance graphic designer, illustrating books when no one’s looking. He’s been working hard to create twisty illustrations for our stories. Stay tuned to see more of Geoff’s great twisty Christmas art.
Santa over Auckland by Geoff Popham
In the meantime, join us on our sleigh as we whip across NZ pastures, scattering fairy dust, heading for a Christmas BBQ!
This Christmas, you can read Twisty Christmas Tales by these authors:
Shelley Chappell , Michelle Child, William Cook, Debbie Cowens, Joy Cowley, Denise Cush, Marion Day, Simon Fogarty, Dave Freer, Peter Friend, Jan Goldie, David Hill, Tim Jones, Charlotte Kieft, Lyn McConchie, Eileen Mueller, Jeena Murphy, Lee Murray, Robyn P, Murray, Lorraine Orman, A.J. Ponder, D.M. Potter, Dan Rabarts, Darian Smith, Kerrie Anne Spicer, Anne Wilkins, Sophie Yorkston.
The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales is available on Amazon from late October.
Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant's (ed) Steampunk! an anthology of fantastically rich and strange stories (2011): A Review
My reading group reads around themes rather than specific novels, and one of our themes this year was 'Steampunk.' I'd seen and admired the fashion so had a vague idea of the genre itself, but my forays into a few recommended texts left me baffled (Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines, Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel, and Scott Westerfield's Leviathan). Were these really steampunk, I wondered? None of them felt quite like they represented the genre.
So I found myself in a moment of genre confusion — right where an anthology like Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant's Steampunk! comes in handy. A genre anthology is surely the best way into a broad overview of a genre, and even though the editors note in their introduction that their focus for this collection was the continuing reinterpretation of steampunk, still it gave me a very good sense of the genre itself – a better sense, perhaps, than any single novel could ever do. The editors note that Jeff and Ann Vandermeet's anthologies Steampunk and Steampunk II are definitive of the genre, but their own collection was both functional and entertaining in this respect. Their introduction was also useful, delineating '[g]aslit alleys, intrepid urchins, steampowered machines, [and] technologies that never were' as 'the basic accoutrements of steampunk'. All of those motifs featured in their collection, although I could also see the truth to their claim that 'steampunk has gone far beyond these markers'.
Perhaps the most apparently traditional of the stories in the collection, if setting is to be awarded a strong defining factor, was Cory Doctorow's "Clockwork Fagin" which is a Dickensian tribute. Although, if my memory serves me correctly, it may have a New World setting, it had a very Victorian London feel, being set in a city home for children injured by their apprenticeships with heavy machinery. The narration is vivid, the characters memorable, and the plot clever. These children with their serious injuries and metal limbs are certainly 'intrepid urchins' – entrepreneurial in the extreme.
Holly Black's "Everything Amiable and Obliging", Garth Nix's "Peace in our Time", Cassandra Clare's "Some Fortunate Future Day" and Delia Sherman's "The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor" also felt like they might be useful markers of 'traditional' steampunk (if such a short-lived genre can claim the term).
Black's story has the feel of a Regency romance, complete with a drunkard father who has to be dragged from gaming hells, an orphaned heiress, and a Lady in love her dancing tutor. What was steampunk about this setting was the surplus of automatons and the advent of a sentient house. Black asked hard questions about human's treatments of automatons as servants and their mistreatment of them as slaves and objects to be tortured and discarded. She also raised a favourite theme of mine since my teenage reading on robots – could automatons ever feel? — but her question has a tidy twist.
Garth Nix's steampunk story of a retired despot was amusing and clever. I chuckled at beginning and end. The characters were finely drawn and the mechanistic setting unfolds slowly like a rose to the sun – perhaps the plot therefore mirrors its setting, as it opens in a rose garden and ends with a big bang.
Cassandra Clare's tale was more chilling than amusing, but was also quite clever. I've always found the idea of independently moving children's dolls creepy (I was possibly scarred by Chucky as a child…) and Clare's dolls have something of that quality about them. But I'm perhaps overstating the case here. The story was pleasant enough – what really chilled me was that the protagonist is stuck in a solipsistic cycle and there seems little possibility of her maturing beyond this and coming to interact with other people as individuals rather than reflections of her own needs. But that makes the story thought-provoking, so it achieves its ends.
Delia Sherman's story of a teenage girl's desire to be more than a maid appears a perfect model for romance but this is no Cinderella story. It details a young girl's love for an old manor house, a young man's obsession with science and mechanical creatures, and a brave female ghost's desire to see her family do well.
I'll segue from the traditional to the quite different with the anthology's two graphic stories, "Finishing School" by Kathleen Jennings and "Seven days beset by demons" by Shawn Cheng. Jennings' story is a fun little piece set in a nineteenth century girls' boarding school and focusing on defining intellectual freedom and embodying physical freedom; Shawn Cheng's explores the seven deadly sins experienced by a young man who keeps a market stall and falls for the wrong girl. It had potential but a loose ending, leaving me wanting some kind of clever resolution.
But if a clever resolution is what you are after, Ysabeau Wilce's "Hand in Glove" will satisfy. I daren't say too much about the plot without giving away its amusing oddities, but Wilce has a distinctive and unusual voice and the setting is certainly refreshingly different. Is it steampunk, however? I'm not so sure.
Another story which pushes the limits of the genre is Kelly Link's own, "The Summer People". It's set in the modern world and features a few small inventions but these are limited to one owner and attributed to non-human creation, which is where things perhaps become a bit blurry genre-wise (to my admittedly limited understanding of it at least), as the more traditional stories seem to represent settings with fairly widespread technical differences to our own. I really enjoyed Link's story all the way until the final few paragraphs when the plot twists (not unexpectedly), but the characterisation seems to fizzle out and there is no clear resolution. I felt I missed out on some ultimate revelations and that a strong character washed out.
Another story set in modern times was Dylan Horrocks' "Steam Girl" which is metafictive and reminded me a lot of the movie The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (2005), although the male narrator of this story is not the one with power over fact and fiction. Like the movie, in many ways, this is a story about bullying - with all the darkness a serious exploration of that theme entails; I feared a dark turn near the end but Horrocks didn't disappoint; he affirmed the power of fiction to offer ways out of darkness.
Christopher Rowe's "Nowhere Fast" took us from the present into the future, exploring life in a post-apocalyptic world in which small, far-flung communities are eco-dedicated and noisy things like machines and cars are forbidden. I felt a bit torn about this one as it raised some interesting questions about the disjunction between progress and development and a love and protection of the Earth, and I wasn't sure these questions were answered in ways I agreed with.
Which leaves us with three stories to discuss, all unique in their own way. M.T. Anderson's "The Oracle Engine" was set in an alternative (steampunk!) Ancient Rome, the bleakness of its plot offset by the medium (told in the format of an ancient historical text, as if one was reading Herodotus). Elizabeth Knox's 'Gethsemane', which took steampunk into a possibly Caribbean slave-era setting, had some deep and meaningful messages but some disturbingly grotesque descriptions. Finally, Libba Bray's 'The Last Ride of the Glory Girls' took steampunk into the wild west. Her narrator had a strong, memorable voice and a history worth knowing about; the plot was fairly adventurous and satisfying. And, best of all, it reminded me that perhaps I first encountered steampunk in 1999 when I watched The Wild, Wild West, starring Will Smith and Kevin Kline. Now that crazy movie finally makes sense.
So, to conclude: if you're looking for an introduction to and overview of the steampunk genre, you need look no further than Link and Grant's anthology. Suggestions, anyone, of a definitive steampunk novel?
My anthologies are available in paperback and hardback forms at Amazon.com. If you've read one of my stories, please leave me a rating and/or a review.
Smashwords is where you can find my free-to-read stories. For more details on my stories, see Shelley's Stories above.
Come and find me on Goodreads! If you've read one of my stories, please leave me a rating and/or a review. Follow me as an Author to be kept up-to-date with my latest blog posts and releases.
Like looking at pretty pictures?
Follow me on Pinterest to see my boards of fairy tale illustrations and fantasy art.
You can email me at shelley.chappell