Shooting Steam

Part of my steampunk project has been photographing my art, fashion and book covers. I love this outlet for my creativity. I rarely pass up the opportunity to be a chameleon or show my work.

When I first starting looking at steampunk as an art form, I had an iphone 4s. Previously I’ve had throw away cameras, a 35mm and a Kodak digital. The camera on my phone blew me away. The ability to edit on the spot, send pics instantly and a long battery life suddenly made shooting pics exhilarating.

The cover for “Strax and the Widow” is a good example of this process. I already had a good logo from a graphic designer, I just needed a decent image. I was going to “play” my main character Kate Church, but after a while I decided I needed something powerful. An pic that would demonstrate Kate’s strength and the antique setting of the Wild West. I finally settled on some objects that represented key plots in the book which were assembled on a repro Victorian chair. One of the props is an eight foot bull whip that I actually know how to use. And somehow lost in my 600 square foot apartment. Fortunately I work for a costume shop and picked up a replacement. I shot it in color and liked the composition, but it just didn’t click…


…until I filtered it to black and white. Then, magic:


Add the logo, a graphic background and voila, cover done:

Strax Book Cover

Another benefit to all this self portraiture has been a tremendous morale booster. I’ve never been the thinnest girl in the room, but expressing myself through the characters in my book has been liberating, to say the least. When I started “The Vampire’s Little Black Book” series, the covers had kind of cute illustrations of objects related to the book. As the series has progressed, I realized that the covers needed some sophistication. I had found a model/actor, Patrick Renfrow, to be Will, my vampire, and used him for a couple shots (one of which is Patrick’s own self portrait). Other than those two volumes that feature “Will” on the front, only one other “Svetlana Red and the Chevaliers” is not me. Yep, I’m on the remaining seven covers, or parts of me. Wigs (I’ve now added 2 new ones to my collection), make-up and some ham acting have resulted in some really nice shots.

This last couple of weeks, I had only three more covers to reshoot as I prepare to put all ten vamp stories in a compilation, “The First Ten Bites”.

First up, was “Emma” from “The Long Moonlight”. A week ago, on late Sunday eve, the lighting was perfect with dusk settling in with a mix of blue Christmas lights. Emma is a werewolf and the moon enchants her. She comes undone. I let my auburn hair fly. I really liked how this set came out, even with the light distortion. First the actual cover and cover shot, then other takes from this set:

1 The Long Moonlight

The Long Moonlight

Moonlight 1A Moonlight 2 Moonlight 4 Moonlight 5

Next up was a reshoot, just a couple days later, for “Mabel” and “Roarin’ 20’s”, two of the older stories in the series. “Mabel” became much more of a challenge than I thought. This episode of The Vampire’s Little Black Book is different from many of the others in that Mabel is not a raving beauty. She’s an older, plump woman, a shy and stubborn farmer in 1930’s. This character hits close to home for me.

Back in 2010, I hit an all time high with my weight. Despite working out and occasionally dieting, I was, quite frankly, enormous, bordering on morbidly obese. I started training harder. I did the trendy but effective Beach Body Insanity. I managed to keep most of what I lost off, but after a couple of back injuries I started to regain some of the weight. The good news is some of that weight was a non cancerous tumor/herniated umbilicle (I blogged about it here: ). After I had emergency surgery last year, not only am I lucky to be alive, but I am celebrating it by continuing to take care of myself and get more fit. I am almost 60 lbs. lighter than I was five years ago. Got a long way to go on getting super fit, but I’m on that road.

Mabel was easy to write. I’d been in her shoes. So back to the session and how to get that on film…

How do you shoot yourself, while not so pretty but still make a good cover? I thought that this would be easy. It wasn’t. I ended up taking about twenty shots until I was finally satisfied with one single piece. I didn’t save any others, here’s the winner:


I needed to feature a locket (a key component to the story) and show the essence Mabel as a good hearted, plus sized woman. I think I succeeded, here’s the finished cover:

4 Mabel

In stark contrast, I shot “Roarin’ 20’s” cover immediately after Mabel, and it was easy to get into character. I had gathered up my props and costume. I darkened my make up and did test lighting with some LED Christmas lights:


20s 1 20s 2

With a new super white wig, and multitudes of pearls, I was ready to cosplay “Sadie” the poor little rich girl flapper of “Roarin’ 20’s”. Well, I thought I was. Part of the props were two real cigarettes which I’d bought from a coworker. I haven’t smoked since my teens. A bad episode of strep at sixteen pretty much cured me of smoking anything forever. So with one cancer stick placed in the cigarette holder, I started shooting. But it wouldn’t stay lit (after three relights) and I couldn’t get the smoky club feeling I wanted. Down went the holder and I lit up for real.  The noir filter worked incredibly well. I actually got a little nicotine high, and the good pics came quickly and easily. Here’s a sample:

20s 6 20s 11 20s 14 20s 17 20s 22 20s 25

And the winning shot and cover:

Roarin' 20's

2 Roarin' 20's

My cover redos for the upcoming compilation are complete. Soon I’ll have autographed prints available in the Etsy store and standard prints of the photos and covers on FineArtAmerica. Here are all ten covers of The Vampire’s Little Black Book Series:

1 The Long Moonlight2 Roarin' 20's3 Esme4 Mabel5 Creating Anna6 Thirty Three Forever7 Can You Hear My Heart Beating8 Everyone Looks Better Undead9 Svetlana Red and the Chevaliers10 The Vamp Hit List

PLEASE DON’T FORGET! You can download all titles for FREE on 12/26 from amazon/kindle. This will be the last time I’ll offer them for free. Please share and feel free to critique and comment on amazon or goodreads.

A quick update, the steam trunk has found a home, a local steampunker bought it. My Etsy store is almost at 5,000 views! Thank you so much for your patronage.

And as always, thank you for reading.


The Vampire’s Little Black Book series is always FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited!

-A new photo/comic book/essay “The Heroine” is coming soon to Amazon/Kindle.

-THE LADY HAS ARRIVED AT HER DESTINATION-“Strax and the Widow” is an ebook on Amazon/Kindle. Please take a peek, enjoy and review on amazon and goodreads! The sequel, “Revenge and Machinery” is coming soon!


-Like on Facebook-The Countess, Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc

-Follow on Twitter-@TheCountessSP

-On Pinterest-Victoria Szulc (nee Schultz)




-Fine Art America-store coming soon




Last Call for a Steam Trunk

A little over a year ago I stumbled upon a most wonderful antique-see a previous blog “Gratitude and a Steam Trunk”, link:

I couldn’t believe my luck at this beautiful find. Yes, it needs work, but it’s a gorgeous piece of steam/Victoriana deliciousness. I debated keeping it, but put it up in my Etsy store. Well now, it’s been a year in the store and the trunk is lonely. It’s seeking a permanent home. I took it with me to a summer art show. I couldn’t help but notice it looked pretty lovely with art draped over it. And I did have space for a coffee table/storage piece in my living room….

I’ve reduced the price and have had several inquiries. So now it’s up for renewal in the store, only I won’t list it again. I had to make a decision. The trunk sells by 12/19 or I keep it and refinish it, end of story. So, if you should want to take a gander, the link is here:

Trunk 1 Trunk 3 Trunk 2

Upcoming events:

-The Vampire’s Little Black Book Series, v.1-10, will be FREE for one last time on December 26, 2014. Please share and comment on amazon/goodreads. The compilation of all ten stories will be available later this winter in “The First Ten Bites”.

-The Creating Anna Series spinoff is in the works and the first volumes should also appear in the New Year.

-The sequels to “Strax and the Widow” are also well underway. Be prepared for more steam adventures of Kate Church. More information and links are below.

Thank you for reading,


The Vampire’s Little Black Book series is always FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited!

-A new photo/comic book/essay “The Heroine” is coming soon to Amazon/Kindle.

-THE LADY HAS ARRIVED AT HER DESTINATION-“Strax and the Widow” is an ebook on Amazon/Kindle. Please take a peek, enjoy and review on amazon and goodreads! The sequel, “Revenge and Machinery” is coming soon!


-Like on Facebook-The Countess, Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc

-Follow on Twitter-@TheCountessSP

-On Pinterest-Victoria Szulc (nee Schultz)




-Fine Art America-store coming soon

Full Moon Fever

This past Friday was a rarity, a Full Moon on a Friday the 13th. So rare, they say it won’t happen again until 2049. We had beautiful weather in the Lou. Clear skies, a lovely wind and temperatures in the 70’s.

Most of the day had been frustrating for me; still filling out paperwork, applying for jobs and trying to get some creative work done. I wasn’t feeling my best (some “female” issues), I got a little burnt by a heating pad, my AC unit needed servicing and I was just beat up in general.

Being broke and restless, I headed to the lookout point on the roof of my apartment building to get a look this special lunar event. I even got a little Steampunked. What resulted was somewhat magical. Most of the following are photos include a hat that I did not make, but accessorized. The topper is the “Godfather” style from Scala Classico that I bought at Levin’s Hat Company here in St. Louis. So enjoy the photos. I unfortunately did not get any really good shots of the moon itself, but it’s in the background of a few shots. Still the night felt mystical.


I started out inside for some test shots. Below, eye and lip makeup.


Then I got a little sassy.


And then up to the roof top to enjoy the sunset. I started cosplaying a bit; who am I? The answer came as a gambler in the Steampunk West, perhaps taking a break after some winning hands.


The view and sunset were spectacular.

Image ImageImage

Above, the MLK and Eads bridges, the Gateway Arch, and the Edward Jones Dome.



Perhaps the ring was won after playing an incredibly good hand?




What a pistol, eh? Playing silly, then serious. Did the player get played? Then night fell…


Moon 33Moon 32

The Gateway Arch and the MLK and the Eads Bridge in the early eve.

The full moon rose like a plump juicy orange. And on a Friday the 13th, things could get a little, um interesting…

Moon 34Moon 35Moon 36

The player is unabashedly witty, then stern, even smirking. She knows how to throw them off their game.

Moon 37Moon 38Moon 40

With the moon to her back she has a knowing smile. Fierce determination came to the surface.

Moon 41Moon 42

The game is almost over. She’s ready to win.

My social media links are below. Thank you for reading,


The latest “The Vampire’s Little Black Book” series volume 8, “Everyone Looks Better Undead” by Victoria L. Szulc is now available on amazon/kindle.

Product Details

-A new photo/comic book/essay “The Heroine” is coming soon to Amazon/Kindle.

-“Strax and the Widow” will debut this summer on Amazon/Kindle.



-Like on Facebook-The Countess, Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc

-Follow on Twitter-@TheCountessSP

-On Pinterest-Victoria Szulc (nee Schultz)




-CafePress and Fine Art America-stores coming soon




Let Them Eat Cake, From St. Louis, Pt.1

During this adventure into Steampunk as an art form, I’ve been lucky enough to use it as a theme for some interesting public art projects. Last year I did the “Clockwork Cat” for The Harry and Hanley Project. A couple years ago, I did a steampunk corset and hat coupling for Soulard Art Market’s “Fashion Art” show. I featured both works in previous blogs.

Late last year, I was selected to participate in the “Cakeway to the West”. My hometown, St. Louis, MO, the city I love, is celebrating its 250th birthday this year. stl250 is the community group promoting different events surrounding the city’s anniversary. “Cakeway to the West” is the visual component of this project. 250 fiberglass cakes were supplied to artists for “decorating”. Artists provided a theme and worked with the Regional Arts Commission and the Contemporary Art Museum on execution and placement in the St. Louis region.

My love for the machinery aspect of steampunk led me to choose Charles Lindbergh’s flight over the Atlantic in “The Spirit of St. Louis” which also became the name of my cake. Not only is the wonderful airplane featured on the cake, but a portrait of Lindberg and two airlines which started in Missouri, Ozark and TWA, are featured as well.

The top of the cake is painted with a faux propeller. Painted clouds form the icing. An oversized pair of goggles rests on the backside, while a flight scarf is draped around the two layers of the cake. I used one of my favorite mediums, soft acrylics and medium gloss sealant, to complete “The Spirit of St. Louis”.

I hope you enjoy some of the “in process” photos. My cake was placed at Creve Coeur Lake in St. Louis County. I can’t tell you exactly where, as is doing a bit of a scavenger hunt. So please. feel free to look at the website to see the Cake Leaderboard and join in the hunt. And just like the “Clockwork Cat”, I’ll have a steam inspired photo shoot as soon as we have some better weather.


Please note: I had difficulties with my website in January and February. It is under reconstruction with a new host and I’ll let you know as soon as it’s back up. I’ll also have the new parts of the Mardi Gras mask series in the next couple blogs.

Thank you for reading and your support,



The latest “The Vampire’s Little Black Book” series volume 8, “Everyone Looks Better Undead” by Victoria L. Szulc is now available on amazon/kindle.

Product Details

-Like on Facebook-The Countess, Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc

-Follow on Twitter-@TheCountessSP -On Pinterest-Victoria Szulc (nee Schultz)



-Tuumblr, CafePress and Fine Art America-coming soon

Vanity Thy Name Is a Hat

I love hats, always have. Yesterday was National Hat Day in the U.S. I found out a bit too late about this special day to post this blog in time.  But I wanted to put it out to celebrate what the French call the chapeau and share how my collection has expanded to some fun Steampunk items.

I have a hat collection. It’s much reduced from the one I had over fifteen years ago, although I have started restocking. I’ve sold some at flea markets and others became just too beat up to even attempt repairs. My Cardinals baseball collection is embarrassingly massive, from the good old fashioned red and STL logo white to an odd space like silver (yes silver). Then to the others: top hats, fedoras, flat brimmed Andalusian’s (one is black like Zorro wore), cowboy hats and church lady like bonnets.  I like a wide range of fabrics: straw, wired lace, wool and satins. I definitely have a few favorites including my Indiana Jones “official” reproduction.

IndyBlueBrown Suede

I love to add to preexisting hats to make them more interesting or to celebrate a special occasion, like the ones here to celebrate the Kentucky Derby.


Horse Head Hat

The “horse head” paper-mache won a Derby Hat contest.

My latest work was part of last year’s Halloween Steampunk creation. I started with a basic black coachman’s satin top hat and added fabric, ribbons, lights, feathers and goggles to create what has become one of my favorites.  Enter vanity.

I liked it so much that I spent about an hour photographing it with my iPhone 4S. On Halloween, I must confess that I basked in a few compliments. I hope to be able to wear it again soon. But until then, enjoy the photos and please pardon my vanity.

SPSteam WhiteCountess  (480x640)

Tea Time and the Naughty Vicar

I’ve always been a bit of a Britophile, enjoying what the UK delivered to the US especially in terms of music. Many of my teen years were spent listening to the biggest British invasion since the Beatles during the 1980’s. My walls were plastered with Duran Duran posters and all my friends had their Brit favorites: Billy Idol, The Police, Culture Club, Wham and later New Order and the Manchester Rave scene. I wanted desperately to go to the UK and eventually spent two months in the Fall of 1990 going to school and living in London. I developed a fast friendship with a nice neighbor in my flat building and we had some interesting pub nights. I experienced some culinary errors and delights, especially chips (fries), and since then I’ve preferred eating them with mayo. I’ll touch more on this adventure another time, but it was during this experience that I was converted from drinking coffee and diet Coke to tea. Many Steampunk and Victoriana adventures talk of tea; mine included.

So I am here to sing the praises of tea. I had discovered Earl Grey in London, but essentially went back to the standard Lipton or whatever we had around the house upon returning home to the States. I then graduated to flavored bags, blueberry and the like and my mom turned me onto Celestial Seasonings. After working seasonally for a gourmet wine and cheese shop, I discovered loose leaf teas from Republic of Tea but at the time it was a little cumbersome and expensive. As I started my Steampunk journey a few months ago, it seemed proper to include my love of tea. I wanted to know more than just a few snippets from Dr. Oz about the benefits of tea. I was ready to become a tea connoisseur.

I had seen the local London Tea Room on several lifestyle shows and knew that this would be the obvious place to start. I thought I would just drop in, so I checked the hours on their website on a sunny Saturday and was pleased to find that they were having a tea class and tasting later that very week. I am lucky that they are just a few blocks away from my apartment, so I zipped on over and signed up. The staff was warm and the atmosphere was pleasant. I was starting to get the tea joneses.

This trip turned out to be a little two-fer; I stopped at Levine Hat Co. about a block down the street and found a nice Steampunkish fedora for 50% off and very affordable, the only one left, size small for my undersized melon. I went home feeling blessed by little Victorian cherubs.

When the class day arrived, I was ready to learn, mini notebook in hand and thirsty for tea goodness and warmth despite the blistering heat outside. There were about a dozen ladies who gathered promptly at 7pm at the London Tea Room. Each of us had a small cup and Tea Catalogue at the ready. The proprietors of this lovely establishment, Jackie and Anna began by educating us on the history of tea.

A brief recap here: all teas come from China, and like wines, they are affected by region, weather/climate, harvesting, and how it’s served. It spread from the ancient tea gardens to North East India. Around 700-800 during the dawn of the Samurai era, the elaborate tea ceremonies began. Tea became appreciated for its medicinal and calming benefits.

At this point in the history the tasting fun began. Anna began serving us varieties of teas in betwixt Jackie’s history and explanations. We passed around wonderfully delicate plates of the freshly steeped leaves. We tried a Jade Cloud first; it had woodsy, a spinach like smell, but tasted wonderful with no bitterness. Jackie continued by telling us that tea had become common in Britain via Indian trading posts, informing us of the botanicals of the tea bushes, about oxidized and non-oxidized teas, and how processing plays such an important role in what quality of tea you get. I don’t want to dip too far into detail here, other than to say that these ladies really know their tea and basically what you get in a grocery store tea bag is crap. They purchase the highest quality teas from organic and ecologically sustainable tea estates from reputable buyers. I have no idea how they ended up here in St. Louis, MO, but I at this point, I am sure glad that they are here.

We continued listening and tasting. We tried a White tea that was pink in color, little drier and sweet. Next was an Oolong which honestly smelt like um, the “happy weed” so to speak, but was rich in flavor and is well known for its health benefits. An Assam, the highest grade of tea followed; it’s often served with milk and honey and is a good variety for coffee drinkers. But it was the last tea we tried, the Cinnamon Plum that instantly transported me to what a Dickensian Christmas must have been like. It was sweet and spicy and my horrible Midwest allergies were soothed.

Jackie and Anna then opened the floor to questions.  We learned a bit more about steeping, why tea is better than coffee (on a caffeinated level, coffee will spike quickly and drop while tea has its own natural time release) and that tea actually can quench your thirst. For attending the class we were given a good sized sample of their Parisian Breakfast blend and also offered a 10% discount.

Enter the Naughty Vicar. As we perused the Tea Catalogue and the lovely display of pots and cups, this tea caught my eye. I decided I really didn’t need another cup or pot so I took a sniff of this tea. I had to have it. As I write this, I am sipping on a heavenly, relaxing blend of black teas, blackcurrants and vanilla that is widely believed to be an aphrodisiac. Although I am not inspired to call my boyfriend in the middle of the night for a little snogging, I am definitely in love with the Naughty Vicar and will be back to the London Tea Room for more.

If you happen to be in my fair city, you can visit them at 1520 Washington Ave., St. Louis, MO 63103 or you can order teas online Cheers!

*Just a note-I originally was going to post this on Friday July 20th, but the sad events in Colorado prompted me to blog something more fitting. For at least every other day posts, please “Like” my Facebook page The Countess.