Monthly Archives: May 2015

What to do after a rejection.

I’m reblogging this from nearly a year ago.

Cogpunk Steamscribe

Yesterday, I got the sweetest and kindest, most encouraging rejection letter ever. However, I’ve received my fair share of  ‘not what we are looking for’ form rejections. When I first started out as a writer, every rejection hit like an arrow to my heart. These days, I have learnt several useful copy mechanisms.

1/ They are not rejecting you as a person or as a writer. They are just rejecting the item you submitted. This could be for a multitude of reasons, and most of them don’t reflect on your ability to write or you as a person. They might have just published a similar piece. They might have limited space and just can’t publish everything they like. Yes … you might have sweated blood over that story, and chances are that they are aware of that and sympathetic, but circumstances just haven’t worked in your favour.

2/ Don’t Get Angry and…

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My latest article for Paper Droids: A Missing Link Found on the Ocean Floor

Loki's Castle

Loki’s Castle

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The Clatter of Dishes – a #FlashFriday story

Andrew Knighton writes

DSC_0152 - Copy“That was delicious.” Isabelle McNair placed her cutlery carefully on the empty plate and peered around the flat. “Should I call for a servant?”

“You’d be lucky.” Dirk Dynamo leaned back and lit a cigar off a wall mounted gas lamp. “Once they’ve experienced a couple of Tim’s inventions going wrong, staff never stick around.”

“I’m afraid Dirk’s right.” Blaze-Simms grinned as he looked at his guests. “But I have turned the problem into a solution.”

He took a box from the bureau behind him and pushed a button on the top. With a hiss of steam, a mechanical arm extended from the cabinet and took hold of the nearest plate. More followed it, grabbing wine glasses, leftover pudding and empty plates.

Isabelle applauded. It was one of the most marvellous machines she had ever seen.

“Wait for it…” Dirk raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t know what you-” Blaze-Simms was…

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The Dead Assassin (The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) by Vaughn Entwistle

Steampunk Journal


1895. England trembles on the verge of anarchy, terrorist bombs are detonating around the capital, and every foreigner is suspected of being an enemy agent. In the midst of this crisis Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle is summoned to the scene of a gruesome crime that has baffled and outrage Scotland Yard’s best. A senior member of Her Majesty’s Government has been assassinated and the body of his attacker lies several streets away – riddled with the bullets that inexplicably failed to stop him from carrying out his lethal mission. More perplexing, the murder is recognised as man hanged two weeks previously…

Conan Doyle calls in his friend Oscar Wilde for assistance, and soon the two authors find themselves swept up in an investigation so bizarre it defies conventional wisdom, and puts the lives of their loved ones, the nation, and even the monarch herself in dire peril…

Vaughn Entwistle grew…

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Word of the day


Steampunk – a genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology; a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy—also in recent years a fashion and lifestyle movement—that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery; tomorrow as it used to be.

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Review: TIMELESS – Gail Carriger

Space and Sorcery

11324166The last book in the Parasol Protectorate series is a good advertisement for the rule about leaving the game while you’re winning: the story is still strong, the characters as entertaining as ever, and many new threads hint at possible developments for the future. Yet Gail Carriger decided to consign Alexia Tarabotti Maccon & Friends to history, so to speak, letting them go to make room for new players. If it was a planned choice to avoid having the characters overstay their welcome, it was indeed a brilliant one, even though I know I will sorely miss these characters and their adventures.

The action starts a couple of years after the birth of Prudence, Alexia and Conall’s daughter and Lord Akeldama’s adopted child: Prudence turned out to be a metanatural, i.e. she can acquire, through touch, the characteristics of a supernatural creature, rendering them mortal once again – only…

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Of Book Launches, Blog Posts and Radio Interviews.

News from the Antipodes…

Karen J Carlisle

What a busy week!
I sat biting my nails and refreshing the web browser, following my shipment of books as it worked its way across the entire continent of North America, the Pacific Ocean and had a little holiday in Honolulu.I prepared myself for various celebrations leading up to the weekend?s festivities.

Firstly, my guest blog post at Steampunk Coffeetime Romance or More.  The post was scheduled almost a week ago but, silly me, forgot to ask what US timezone the blog resided in. More nail biting. Eventually the post popped up on my feed.

radio interviewNext came an invitation, quite out of the blue. Did I was to be co-interviewee for the Steampunk Festival on ABC radio on Friday night ? talking steampunky stuff? Was that opportunity knocking, or what? Yes, I said. I just had to figure out to slip in a plug for my book.

More refreshing of…

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A Range of Decorative Hair Combs for the 19th Century Gentlewoman.

Tortoise shell hair comb, circa 1860.

Tortoise shell hair comb, circa 1860.

Victorian hair comb, circa 1860, decorated with high-karat gold and diamonds in fleur-de-lis pattern.

Victorian hair comb, circa 1860, decorated with high-karat gold and diamonds in fleur-de-lis pattern.

Victorian decorative hair comb, circa late 1800s, natural horn with a pressed design.

Victorian decorative hair comb, circa late 1800s, natural horn with a pressed design.

Dr Scott's Electric Hairbrush

Dr Scott’s Electric Hairbrush

Hair Comb with pearls

Jet Hair Comb for use during mourning.

Victorian Algerian comb.

Victorian hair comb

19th Century Tortoise shell carved cameos hair comb

19th Century tortoise shell hair comb with carved cameos

Antique Victorian Bohemian Garnets Crescent Shaped Hair Comb Tiara | eBay

Antique Victorian tortoiseshell hair comb with garnets

No article, just a bunch of pretty pictures for inspiration.


Filed under Bling, Fashion, Jewellery, Steampunk Genre, writing

Blonde, Brunette or Blazing Red: A Steampunk Perspective of Victorian-era Hair (Part Two)


Mary Ingalls

Her beautiful golden hair was gone. Pa had shaved it close because of the fever, and her poor shorn head looked like a boy’s. Her blue eyes were still beautiful, but they did not know what was before them, and Mary herself could never look through them again to tell Laura what she was thinking without saying a word. – Laura Ingalls Wilder “By the Shores of Silver Lake”

This image of a shorn Mary Ingalls stayed with me for years. In a lot of Victorian-era novels, you read of girls with a fever having their hair cut, as their hair was ‘draining their strength’. Anna Karenina has her hair cut while she has a fever, and it marks the change in her fortunes from respectable woman to ‘hysterical’ mad woman. There is the dramatic hair cutting scene in Jane Eyre, with poor Julia made to cut off her natural curls. The various types of symbology relating hair is a goldmine for a writer.

 This is how Alice should look.

Because long hair was the fashion for the 19th century, the cutting of a woman’s hair was a big deal. It was shocking to see a woman with short hair, as glorious long hair symbolised a woman’s youthfulness, femininity, and health. It would only be cut off for illness, including ‘brain fever’ or madness, or as a terrible punishment, because it was physically destroying her beauty and femininity. It could have a greater impact as seeing a woman today with her head shaved bald. This was why Anne Shirley, from Anne of Green Gables, was kept at home after she cut her hair after the dreadful dye experiment. This was why Jo from Little Women was making such a great sacrifice when she cut her hair to make money for her mother’s trip to see Jo’s father. Both Anne and Jo regretted the loss of their hair, their ‘one beauty’.


As she spoke, Jo took off her bonnet, and a general outcry arose, for all her abundant hair was cut short.

Your hair! Your beautiful hair! Oh, Jo, how could you? Your one beauty. My dear girl, there was no need of this. She doesn’t look like my Jo any more, but I love her dearly for it!

As everyone exclaimed, and Beth hugged the cropped head tenderly, Jo assumed an indifferent air, which did not deceive anyone a particle, and said, rumpling up the brown bush and trying to look as if she liked it, “It doesn’t affect the fate of the nation, so don’t wail, Beth. It will be good for my vanity, I getting too proud of my wig. It will do my brains good to have that mop taken off. My head feels deliciously light and cool, and the barber said I could soon have a curly crop, which will be boyish, becoming, and easy to keep in order. I’m satisfied, so please take the money and let’s have supper.”

“Tell me all about it, Jo. I am not quite satisfied, but I can’t blame you, for I know how willingly you sacrificed your vanity, as you call it, to your love. But, my dear, it was not necessary, and I’m afraid you will regret it one of these days,” said Mrs. March. – Louisa May Alcott

With hair seen as a woman’s ‘crowning glory, it isn’t hard to imagine that hair was something of a Victorian obsession. I’ve mentioned hair jewellery before, but it is worth mentioning again. Hair was often used to create keepsakes, particularly of the deceased. Locks of hair were given out for friends and family to treasure, often at the request of the dearly departed. Or the living would give up a precious lock to create a love token.

Woven Hair Jewellery

Woven Hair Jewellery

Mourning locket, gold,  hairwork, seed pearls, made by John Wilkinson Jeweller & Silversmith, Leeds, England, circa 1826. In the collection of the Powerhouse Museum.

Mourning locket, gold, hairwork, seed pearls, made by John Wilkinson Jeweller & Silversmith, Leeds, England, circa 1826. In the collection of the Powerhouse Museum.

Bouquet Brooch made with the hair of 15 individuals including 2 men and 7 children.

Bouquet Brooch made with the hair of 15 individuals including 2 men and 7 children.

Hair was a large part of a woman’s public persona, which was another reason why cutting it short was so shocking. When women started bobbing their hair in the 1920s, it was a public signal of their freedom from the restrictions society had placed them in. When Victorian women criminals entered prison, their hair was shorn, it was claimed for reasons of ‘cleanliness’, but it was also the quickest way of shearing away a woman’s confidence, making her docile and compliant to the prison’s discipline. Women fraternizing with the enemy had their head shorn as punishment, ruining their allure and making their shame public. Shorn hair was a very public way of highlighting a statement (or showing you were a bit over enthusiastic with the curling iron and have burnt off all your hair).

Long hair

In my own Steampunk narrative, my main character has unfashionable red hair … and a calm and rational temperament. Alice is a deliberate break from the stereotype of the short-fused Scottish redhead, but her hair is long and glossy. I am toying with the idea of her deliberately cutting her own hair as part of a disguise. It will need to be a much more emotional scene than if a girl was to cut her hair today. But I can use the cutting of her hair as a symbol of cutting away her restrictions within a Patriarchal society. 

If you are a Steampunk Enthusiast, I also have a site on Facebook where I share articles and images:


Filed under Analogy, Author, Fashion, Historical Personage, History, Jewellery, Metaphors, Steampunk

Blonde, Brunette or Blazing Red: A Steampunk Perspective of Victorian-era Hair (Part One)

The Sutherland Sisters

The Sutherland Sisters

Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair

Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen

Give me down to there, hair, shoulder length or longer…

Lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot

 Long hair

We tend to think the Hippie Era was all about hair, but they had nothing on the Victorians. They were very serious about their hair, as it was considered one of the great beauties for both men and women. There was a great deal of marketing of hair care products, and there were personalities famous for their amazing hair that were used to ‘brand’ these products.

The American Seven Sutherland Sisters were probably the best known of these celebrity spruikers. The sisters were a singing group, but they were much more famous for their incredible long and luxuriant hair, and the hair tonics and scalp cleansers marketed in their name. All seven women did have remarkable hair, with the second oldest sister, Victoria, had over two metres length of hair and the fifth sister, Naomi, had hair so thick she could ‘wear it like a garment’ (in the words of some of the advertising of the time). Make no mistake, such hair was considered very sexy. They toured the world with their singing act, with local newspapers falling over themselves to print images of the sisters’ hair.


Thanks to lots of different historical invasions, Britain has the whole range of hair colour from platinum blonde to inky black, with Scotland being the most likely place on this planet to find a natural redhead. Red hair occurs naturally in 1–2% of the population, while in Scotland, 10% of the population have red hair and approximately 35% carry the recessive redhead gene. Alas, I have the red-headed skin without the benefit of having beautiful red hair, thanks to my Scottish ancestry. It may be this Scottish connection that gave rise to the myth that redheads have a fiery temperament.

In the Victorian era, red hair was often associated with sexually licentious behaviour, as many soiled doves dyed their hair red. It wasn’t considered a fashionable shade for most of the era, and generally was considered ugly and unlucky, and associated with bad tempers. However, the Pre-Raphaelites favoured red-haired models, even though red hair was not in favour. The Pre-Raphaelite artists depicted glorious, luscious, and romantically-flowing red locks; who wouldn’t want hair that fabulous?

My youngest child and my brother had platinum or flaxen blonde as a babies. Blonde hair tends to turn brunette with age, so adults with natural blonde hair are rare and make up approximately 2% of the world’s population. In the Victorian era, particularly in literature, blonde hair was associated with beauty and goodness; it is only in recent times that blondes are considered dumb or that gentlemen prefer blondes. In fairy stories written in the 19th century, fairies tended to be blond and blonde, and fairies also stole way children and maidens with fair hair. In Britain, fair hair is usually linked to fair skin; this isn’t the case worldwide, where blonde hair crops up nearly everywhere.

    It seems that in olden days (those happy olden days!) there were many more blondes than there are now. Do you wish to know why, even in northern countries, the hair becomes darker century after century? “Heaven,” says a humourist, “sent a great many golden-haired women on the earth to charm the other half of humanity. Seeing this, the devil, who hates man, sent us cooks: they with their sauces and ragouts have disordered the human hair, and these disorders manifest themselves outwardly by the sombre colour of the hair.” Some grain of truth may perhaps lie hidden under this absurdity. – The Lady’s Dressing Room, by Baroness Staffe, translated by Lady Colin Campbell, 1893 – Part II

Brown and black hair dominates humanity, with black hair being the most common hair colour. However, in Victorian-era Britain, brown dominated, rather than black. The most common colour was ‘mouse’ brown – a light brown with no red or golden highlights, often greying. Luxuriant, glossy brown hair was considered one of a woman’s great beauties, and there were many hair products marketed to keep one’s hair healthy, and to improve its colour without the use of dyes. A rinse of water steeped in rosemary or chamomile would add shine and colour to hair, as well as adding a pleasant perfume.

Hair Keepers

Hair Keepers

The fashionable Victorian women did not have an equivalent of modern shampoo and conditioner, but they did want to keep their hair clean and fresh. Modern shampoo tends to strip away all the natural oils in hair, so Victorian women could get away with washing their hair once a week or longer. Then they used mild soap, or black tea, or apple cider vinegar. In one article, it was suggested that some women used rum to wash their hair … which I would have thought would be impractical as alcohol would be very harsh and expensive, unless it was used greatly diluted. And – of course – there were a multitude of hair tonics available. If you were too poor to afford tonics, a good brushing was recommended to keep your hair healthy.

An engraved silver hand mirror, engraved silver backed hair brushes,  and a comb, together with a pair of silver backed clothes brushes

Girl children wore their hair down, while an adult woman put her hair up. Because not every woman was blessed with thick hair, women often collected the hair on their brushes to make hair pieces; which isn’t cheating, when you think about it. When a woman claimed ‘it is all my own hair’, she was being completely truthful (if not actually honest). Hair keepers were part of the toiletry items used by fashionable women.

Teenage girl not yet 18. Shorter hems and her hair is neatly braided up not in an up-do.

Teenage girl not yet 18. Shorter hems and her hair is neatly braided up not in an up-do.

This young lady has the long skirts and the upturned hair that marks her as an adult woman.

This young lady has the long skirts and the upturned hair that marks her as an adult woman.

This is the first part of a two-part article

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