Review of the Riftmaker

Hello Lovelies:

The Steampunk world is filled with tried and true themes. Books are no exception. There’s plenty of alternate history mixed with science fiction: mechanicals/robots, time travel, mystery, airships, gunslingers, soldiers, spies, grifters, royalty, and contraptions of all sorts.

Riftmaker by Phoebe Darqueling, takes many of these archetypes and spins a unique tale of adventure. In Riftmaker, the reader meets an intriguing group of characters: a talented young musician, time travelers that sustain odd body transformations, a young woman masquerading as a male, people from the upper crust of a changed society, conflicted soldiers, and some horrifying monsters, all of which are dealing with their assigned roles in a futuristic world with a reimagined past.

As this large cast of characters collide, adventures ensue, roles change with struggles over greed and power, and some unlikely folk become heroes. Riftmaker has an immense cast that could’ve been easily lost on the casual reader, but Darqueling keeps the story moving along at a swift pace with plenty of action and plot twists.

I enjoyed the Riftmaker and give it 9 out of 10 stars. I would recommend it if you are a fan of epic science fiction adventures.

Right now Riftmaker is on sale for a limited time. The link here:

As always, thank you for reading,

Victoria

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No Rest for the Wicked Review

Hello Lovelies:

One of steampunk’s more popular storyline settings is the Western (often falling/crossing over into “weird west”). Phoebe Darqueling’s latest, No Rest for the Wicked, is a fresh interpretation of the classic Western.

In No Rest, the reader meets Viola, a tough as nails saloon owner who has acquired a knack for communicating with the undead, whether she likes it or not. While trying to help a bumbling accountant spirit make amends to his wife so he can crossover, Viola inadvertently tangles with other ghosts wanting her help, and a not so honest past that is quickly catching up with her. As Viola tries to deal with new threats, her old ways of surviving through the grifiting trade won’t suffice, and she must learn to hone her spiritual gifts in order to stay alive.

There are plenty of classic Western moments: bar brawls, train rides, and poker games mixed some great gothic turns. Darqueling’s scenes are well textured and rich with descriptions. Character’s conversations are crisp with snappy chatter and filled with emotion. Rarely do I give a book a ten rating, but No Rest for the Wicked, kept me interested to the point where I had to finish it. So a ten it is. I highly recommend it to the reader who likes a classic western with a little dark twisted side to it.

I rarely do book reviews on my own blog, but really enjoyed this piece. I hope you do too.

Information on the book here:

Thanks for reading,

Victoria

A Chat with Phoebe Darqueling

Hello Lovelies:

Last week I did an interview with Phoebe Darqueling. I just wanted to pass along an update from Phoebe:

There’s just one more day to pick up the e-book for the special $1.99 pre-order price. You can find it at the OWS website, Amazon and a variety of other e-book retailers.

We’re right in the middle of my digital book tour, so you can get more behind the scenes action by visiting my website and checking out the character spotlights, excerpts, reviews, and more. 

For people who want to learn more about Steampunk as a genre and stay up to date on you can sign up for my email list and receive a free copy of The Steampunk Handbook

 Phoebe on social media:

 Facebook group, on Twitter and Instagram.

The original interview here:

Hello Lovelies:

Over a year ago I met my online editor for Steampunk Journal. After some fast and fun messaging and emails, I found that Phoebe Darqueling and I had much more in common than just steampunk. Normally my blog is about my art and writing, but today, I wanted to share a little interview with Phoebe, to talk about steampunk and her writing. Her latest work, Riftmaker, comes out in about a week.

The Countess: Tell me a little bit about yourself? Family, educational background, places you’ve lived?

Phoebe: I hail from the frigid north (AKA Minnesota) and I stayed there through college at one of the many wonderful, small liberal arts colleges there. My major was Cultural Anthro, which I definitely feel has done a lot to shape my approach to both fiction and life in general. I also have a minor in Art History, and went on to receive an MA in Museum Studies from San Francisco State. Since then, I’ve moved a bunch of times, including just over a year see-sawing between Greece and Bulgaria, and now my current residence in Freiburg in Breisgau, Germany. I’ve got two older brothers, as well as gaining extra siblings through my awesome in-laws, who are some of my closest friends. 

TC: How did you become a writer?

P: It’s been a pretty crooked path, and the answer depends on how much you count nonfiction writing as part of the equation. My mom started a creativity competition for kids when I was really little, and around the age of 16 I started to help write challenges for the program. There were some short stories and some wretched poetry in there as well, but what I really liked doing for a long time was writing compelling essays. 

I found my way back to fiction mostly as a means of escape. The story of Riftmaker basically poured out of me at a time when my world had gone rather dark. (I wrote a whole article on the experience for people who want the gory details) I knew I had just over a year until The Mister and I were moving to Bulgaria for his PhD research, and I remember thinking at one point, “It’ll be a trudge, but no one can trudge like you.” Which horrified me, because who wants to think of themself that way? So, not long after, I became the primary curriculum writer/blogger for the creativity program, and dove headfirst into writing fiction. 

TC: Where does your inspiration for your pieces come from?

P: I really like what I lovingly refer to as “bad science.” These are concepts that make some semblance of sense, but turn out to be false. Or the phenomena are real, but the explanation is just plain wrong. I enjoy taking these concepts and creating stories around them. This can make what I do a little tough to classify sometimes because it is sits right where fantasy and science meet. 

I’ve also realized that the idea of worlds that are separate but overlap somehow, be they actual portals you walk through or the ability to see the dead among us, has a real hold on me. That is more like a common theme than inspiration though, because it seems to be where I end up but not necessarily where I start. 

TC: Let’s specifically talk about Steampunk. For some artists, musicians, authors, and creative folk, it’s been hard for them to nail down a description of the genre. What is your definition of Steampunk and what elements do you use in your work?

P: I usually say that Steampunk began as a literary genre that was influenced by the real and imagined setting of the Victorian era. This created an aesthetic that has since spread widely to all sorts of mediums. I tend to take the anthropological approach of looking for patterns in what people say fits into the Steampunk genre (descriptive) rather than drawing hard lines between things (proscriptive). 

There are definitely some people who would say what I do isn’t in fact Steampunk. I recently had a bit of an altercation with someone who said that if a story takes place in the present or future, it simply can’t be classified as Steampunk. Riftmaker takes place in the present, but in an alternate universe, and by his narrow definition, it wouldn’t count. But the Steampunk aesthetic trappings in the book are undeniable, and as the author who knows that is what influenced me as I wrote it, I can say it is definitely a Steampunk book. 

I actually tend to call No Rest for the Wicked Gaslamp fantasy instead, because at least in this first book of the series, there’s no significant tech to speak of and I don’t want people to go in expecting airships and mechanical beasts like I have in Riftmaker. It’s more like historical fiction with a paranormal twist.

In both cases, there is some kind of twist of trope or history, and that is central to what it means to write “punk literature” in general. 

TC: Do you do mash ups or blends? Like steampunk and Sci-Fi classics like space opera?

P: Steampunk is one of the most mashupable things out there. Which is why it’s kind of weird that I haven’t done anything like this yet, except that it’s safe to say that Riftmaker is a branch of second world/portal fiction. 

In my short stories, I’ve been doing some dabbling in mashing up classic fairy tales with other genres, such as my horror re-telling of Pinocchio in The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales and a noir Cinderella story where she’s a “cleaner” for the mob. So, that is really where my head (and my pen) have been lately in terms of mashups. 

TC: Tell us a little bit more about Riftmaker.

P: At its heart, Riftmaker is a twist on classic “a boy and his dog” trope, but uses a fantastical setting to explore the ideas of friendship, prejudice, and identity. The main character is Buddy, a dog who wakes up in a human body in a strange city on the other side of a rift in time and space. You can find out a little more about him as a character and read an excerpt at another stop on my blog tour. 

His boy follows him through the portal and undergoes his own transformation, becoming a dog himself. The world they land has magic and monsters, and people who hold a deep-seated prejudice against anything from “the other side.” These things have shaped their society and puts both Buddy and his boy in danger. Though not exactly the danger anyone expects…

TC: Lastly, they always say you’re only as good as your last performance. What do you have up next in your author arsenal?

P: I am in the strange but wonderful position of having had two publishers become interested in my two different books around the same time. So my next release is just around the corner! No Rest for the Wicked is coming your way March 28, just six weeks after Riftmaker drops on Feb 14. 

In terms of my writing plans, I have started the sequel to No Rest for the Wicked. I have a five-book arc planned for that series, so that should keep me busy for a while. I do also have another standalone book roughed out, which will take place here in the Black Forest of Germany and involves a horror film crew who accidentally awaken fairy tale creatures that have lain dormant for centuries. This one will be deliciously darker than my first books, and draw from the lesser-known Grimm fairy tales for inspiration. I’ve also got a writer pal named Kathrin Hutson, and we’ve been dying to write a novel together, so hopefully that’ll come together this year as well! 

TC: Thank you Phoebe for chatting with The Countess today!

I’ll be reviewing Riftmaker for Steampunk Journal in an upcoming edition. You can check out the review, and steampunk pieces that both Phoebe and I have contributed to the Journal at SteampunkJournal.org

As always, thank you for reading,

Victoria

Army of Brass Review

Hello Lovelies:

On my blog I don’t do a lot of reviews in general. However, I do like to share works that positively affect the Steampunk community. Army of Brass (a CWC novel) is one those pieces.

What is the CWC?

Brass is a Collaborative Writing Challenge (CWC) novel, which means a selected group of authors wrote individual chapters. An editor and story coordinator then finish the book. 10% of profits from CWC novels go to IBBY.org to fund children’s literacy programs for kids in challenged environments such as war and natural disasters.

But on with the book…

Army has an intricate plot of many characters and locations which would be a challenge to any writer, let alone fifteen plus authors. But this group pulls it together handsomely.

Our adventure starts as one of my favorite characters, Elaina, meets Jack, a dashing figure, during a heated discussion in the House of Lords in one of the fictional towns. Both Elaina and Jack want to stop an impending invasion from a Baron that killed Elaina’s husband.

And so begins a well woven tale of spies, double crossing villagers and hierarchy, and all kinds of people who want their hands on the Army of Brass. There’s even a few hints of sweet romance.

A great read

Considering the amount of authors, characters, plot lines, and the size of the book (over 400 pages), Army of Brass is a cohesive adventure with vivid worlds of an unknown time. You can feel the characters’ pain, struggles, and triumphs, in each chapter. This compliment extends to the story coordinator, Phoebe Darqueling.

I give it five stars (out of five) as I couldn’t put it down and read it within a few hours.

There is some violence that may not be suitable for younger readers, however it is not gratuitous and only furthers the theme of a need of harmony amongst of people trying to save their worlds. You can find the book here:

Right now kindle/digital copies are $.99.

As always, thank you for reading,

Victoria

Events

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BOOKS:

Vampires!!

-A vampire collection “The First Ten Bites” is here on Amazon and now on kindle too!:

The First Ten Bites, Black and White Edition: The Vampire’s Little Black Book Series, v. 1-10 https://www.amazon.com/dp/1978093241/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_kzm4zb0KAZABG

The kindle e-short stories will soon be gone forever. They are $.99 until then.

Steampunk!!!

THE LADY HAS ARRIVED AT HER DESTINATION-“Strax and the Widow”, its sequel, “Revenge and Machinery”, and the spinoff “A Long Reign” are on Amazon and Kindle. My amazon author page link:

amazon.com/author/victorial.szulc

Or buy on Etsy: -I have plenty of copies of “Strax and the Widow” and “Revenge and Machinery” and the Amazon bestseller “A Long Reign” in the Etsy store. To get an inscribed/signed copy, message me through the Etsy store. Books are $20 each or $35 for both.

Dogs!

-A Sleepy Book of Dogs is available on Amazon as well. Great for the pooch lovers!

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