Tag Archives: steampunk

Author Interview: Michelle E Lowe

It is always a pleasure to feature local authors on my blog. I ran into Author Michelle E Lowe at WonderCon and thought she had a beautiful booth. Naturally, I had to invite her for an interview. Please welcome this steampunk author extraordinaire to No Wasted Ink.

Author Michelle E LoweMy name is Michelle E. Lowe. I’m Georgia born native who has spent most my life near the Atlanta area before pulling up stakes and moving clear across the country with husband, Ben, and our two daughters. History piques my interests, especially European history. I’m a big nerd at heart. I love reading science-fiction and fantasy stories, and I enjoy old B horror films. I also get a kick out of playing classic Atari video games and I oil paint as a hobby.

I’m a daydreamer and animal lover. I have a very old kitty named October, and one very demanding guinea pig. I took up writing as a serious career choice twenty years ago, learning a lot and sharpening my skills along the way.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve written small stuff throughout my life. Short stories, poems, things like that. When I was nineteen and in college for graphic design, I was alone, grieving in my dorm room. I’d just lost my older brother, Jimmy, in a motorcycle accident. To occupy my mind, I decided to write out this story that had been playing around inside my head for a while, and once I started, I couldn’t stop! I swear, it happened in a snap. As hokey as it sounds, in a split second I’d found my calling. I like to think Jimmy was telling me something.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I received my first positive review for my book, The Warning. Writing a book and putting it out there is a huge accomplishment. And while we go through the process of writing and publishing, we don’t know whether all our hard work will be well received by readers or not. We don’t even know if we know what we’re doing! Then something happens. Someone you’ve never met has not only read your book but has posted a glowing review. After I began receiving positive reviews for my books, it got me thinking that, hey, maybe I do know what I’m doing.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Legacy-The Reunion is the second installment to my steampunk/fantasy series. It basically picks up where the first book leaves off, but with a completely different storyline. In this story, Pierce Landcross discovers that his long-lost parents are imprisoned in Newgate Prison and goes in to rescue them. He soon finds out that there has been an inheritance left to the family and when Pierce goes to the lawyer to collect it, he discovers that in order to claim the fortune, he must first follow a series of clue throughout the Netherlands to its location. Pierce is also accompanied by a beautiful and clever young woman, Taisia Kuzentsov, and together they seek out the loot. Their quest isn’t without risk. A dangerous bounty hunter who has his eye on the inheritance and on the price on Landcross’s head is tailing them, waiting for the right time to act.

What inspired you to write this book?

The Legacy series as a whole was something I wanted to get into because steampunk seemed like a creative and exciting genre to write. What truly inspired me, though, was the characters. I had a whole host of characters in my head and I had no real place to put them until I decided to make a go at steampunk writing.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I like a story that keeps moving, so I write in a fast-paced manner that keeps readers engaged and entertained. I like my writing style to be meaningful and even thoughtful, but also fun and enticing.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Legacy has to do with characters and how they’re related to one another, even one character who has lived a former life. Legacy-The Reunion pretty much means a reunion of characters.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

There is a certain message that is woven into these books. In elementary school, my class once played this game where a teacher told one student a short story in secret and then that student had to whisper it in the ear of another student and then that student would whisper it, and so on. When the last student was asked to recite the story told to them, it was a completely different tale then what the teacher said. As a story goes on they begin taking on other versions, which in most cases is harmless, but for others, it can be deadly.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know or events in your own life?

Not really, no. I wish I lived an adventurous life like my characters, but alas, I’m merely a storyteller, locked in a dark room all day. 😉

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I do read a lot. It’s hard for me to say who is has influenced me more, considering that I read different books from different authors. I’m a great admirer of Neil Gaiman’s style of writing. I’ve been a fan of his since I was a teenager, reading his Sandman graphic novel series. I also enjoy Anne Rice’s work and her beautiful ways of describing her characters and the world in which they live in. Chris Wooding’s work is something I’m very fond of. His world-building skills are something I’m truly jealous of. That man knows how to write fun and exciting stories made for television, and who also has a great knack at bringing the reader right into the world he has created.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Catherine Rudy. You may know her, but I would choose her as a mentor because she was my mentor. She runs a nonprofit online writer’s workshop class called Wolf Pirate that I was fortunate to find many years ago. She allowed me into her program and helped me learn how to write! Before, I was just telling a story, but she taught me the rules of writing and because of her and Wolf Pirate, I’m the writer that I am today.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

With the first Legacy book, my publisher designed it. Now that I’m moving forward as an independent writer, I’m doing it all on my own. For the second, Legacy-The Reunion, I did the artwork. I was nervous about doing so, for I read how frowned upon it is for writers to make their own covers, but it actually turned out pretty well I think.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I once read that you can make anything by writing. And it’s true! Writing opens minds, introduces new perspectives, and brings people into worlds they never knew existed. Writing is an art form that is beautiful, tragic, complex, stunning and horrifying. My best advice for writers is to develop a thick skin. Take constructive criticism with a grain of salt and learn from what others tell you. Trust me, you’ll grow as an author that way. And read! Read! Read! Read! When a writer is reading, it’s different from non-writers. We’re not just reading, we’re studying! We’re finding out new ways to describe things, broadening our vocabulary, and learning how these other authors thread their stories together. Whatever genre you write, reading will help significantly when you put your own pen to paper. Don’t concern yourself about getting that first rough draft just right, either. First drafts are meant to be free spirits and very ugly ones too. You only need to get your story out of your head and onto paper or in a Word document. Worry about making it look pretty later during editing. And don’t rush. It’s so easy nowadays to toss out stories for the whole world to see. Yet the ease to publish shouldn’t mean that the art of writing needs to be forgotten or ignored. It doesn’t matter how good the story is, if readers are distracted by poor writing and grammar flaws, you’ll lose them quick!

All in all, read more, write with passion, but edit with care and devotion toward the craft, and learn from others. Most of all, write what you love.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you! Thanks for taking the chance on a little ol’ unknown writer like me when you decided to read my books.

Legacy the reunion front book coverMichelle E. Lowe
Lake Forest, CA

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Legacy-The Reunion

Publisher: Nordland Publishing 

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Author Interview: Laurel Anne Hill

Author Laurel Anne Hill is an award-winning author of science fiction, fantasy, steampunk and horror. Many of her stories inspire readers to choose the way of worthiness.  Laurel is a fellow Broad Universe member and costumer with whom I’ve shared many a rapid fire reading with.  Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Laurel Anne Hill for EWL Back CoverHello, I’m Laurel Anne Hill, author and former underground storage tank operator. Really! My day job for many years included environmental health and safety at a pharmaceutical research and development facility. I grew up in San Francisco with more dreams of adventure than good sense or money. My close brushes with death, love of family, respect for honor and belief in a higher power continue to influence my writing and my life. I’m blessed to have a loving husband and four wonderful children.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing before I could read. Stories created themselves within me I’d tell them to my older sister and she’d write them down. I’d illustrate my tales with pictures from comic books and magazines. My sister loved to write her own stories, too. I admired her and still do.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I was very young, I don’t think I understood the concept of being a writer. At some point in elementary school, I knew writing was what I wanted to do. I had a story published in the children’s section of a major San Francisco newspaper when I was eleven years old. Then I knew I’d become a real writer. The story, “Nancy Saves the Day,” was horrid, or course. Heck, I didn’t know the conventions for creating quality prose. I still read the piece every once in a while, to laugh and remind myself of how far I’ve progressed.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

A Life-Saving Mission

A mystical vision of an airship appears to fifteen-year-old Juanita in 1894. The long-dead captain commands her to prevent California’s thrown-away people—including young children—from boarding trains to an asylum. That institution’s director plots murder to reduce the inmate population.

Spirits watch over Juanita. But who is she? A mystic in love who holds life sacred? Or a ghost-possessed railroad-saboteur?

To save innocent lives Juanita must take lives of the corrupt. How can she reconcile her assignment with her belief in the sacredness of all human life? And will she survive to marry her betrothed?

Juanita sets out despite inner trepidation to sabotage the railroad. Her ancestor, Billy, guides her. Then bit by bit, she discovers the gut-wrenching truths all of her dead family neglected to reveal.

Ghosts, Goggles, Guns and Grit

Come visit Juanita’s world—an alternate nineteenth-century California—where spirits meet steampunk, where both love and anger emanate from beyond the grave.
What inspired you to write this book?

In the early 1990s, I had a dream about an elderly woman riding a train. The train headed toward a disreputable asylum where inmates died of neglect or even by euthanasia. The attendant placed an abandoned baby in a basket on the adjacent seat. The woman realized the baby was her great-granddaughter and escaped the train. With a broken foot, she carried the infant many miles. This dream became the basis of a short story, never published.

Where had the dream come from?

First of all, when I was a teen in the 1950s, my beloved maternal Swedish grandmother had paid the hospital bill for the birth of one of my sister’s sons. The bill had cost Grandma much of what she’d possessed. Grandma had died in 1989. In the early 1990s, my memories of her remained close.

Next, a month before I birthed my daughter in 1979, I’d fallen and broken my foot as I left work in San Francisco. My husband, David, had expected to meet me on the other side of the bay. Cell phones as we now know them didn’t exist. I hadn’t wanted to worry David by not showing up when expected. I’d walked on a broken foot, taken public transportation and traveled thirty miles to reach the train station near our home.

Third, and quite important, before I’d married David, I’d worked for him in a hospital laboratory. The hospital performed lots of abortions, including many late term. I’d believed in the right to choose, and still do. Yet stacks of plastic specimen containers containing pickled babies left a sour taste in my mouth. After all, I’d hoped to birth a child of my own someday.

That fateful night of dreaming, my pro-choice beliefs had gone head-to-head with a pro-life type visualization. In the story that emerged, a woman who’d married into a Mexican family declared her own opinions. I had no choice but to accept her challenge to tell the tale of the baby she saved. Only years later did I discover the inspiration and tragedy associated with my paternal Mexican great-grandmother’s life. I’d never met her. She’d died over twenty years before I’d been born.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My stories tend to be plot driven, although I try to stay close to my point-of-view characters. I like to “show” rather than “tell” whenever I can.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

I’d gone through a number of potential titles during the writing process. When I sent my manuscript to Sand Hill Review Press, I’d entitled the novel “Woman of the Light.” That title hadn’t worked for the editor, so I chose The Engine Woman’s Light. I wanted potential readers

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

What we do can make a difference in the world.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life? Some experiences are based on events in my own life, as explained above. Also, I’ve hiked, camped, run rapids, ridden horseback and operated a steam locomotive.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring? I love the work of many authors, such as Neil Gaiman and Graham Joyce. I think, however, the work of children’s authors have had the biggest impact on my life. For example, Elizabeth Foster, author of Gigi: The Story of a Merry-Go-Round Horse, showed me the magic created when blending imagination with the reality of world conditions and history.

If you had to choose, is there a writer you consider a mentor? Why?

My mentor is Charlotte Cook, a writer, editor and dear friend. She has the ability to read a story and determine with ease what makes the piece work and what doesn’t.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator? Julie Dillon,

Julie Dillon, winner of the Hugo and Chesley awards, designed the cover of The Engine Woman’s Light. I love the vibrancy of her art, and her breathtaking ability to portray diverse women protagonists.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If you love a story that’s not working, don’t give up on it. Put it away for a while then take a fresh look. Read each page, then ask yourself if the text invites a reader to turn the page, and why?

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you for reading my work! All the characters living in my head thank you as well.

EWL cover proof 2 RGB (4)_001Laurel Anne Hill
Orinda, California

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Author Interview: E. A. Hennessy.

As a writer, E.A. Hennessy tends to focus on two main things: exploring the personalities and relationships of her characters, and sending them on exciting adventures. All the things you would wish in a fantasy author.  Please welcome Liz to No Wasted Ink.

Author Liz HennessyMy name is Liz and I publish under the name E. A. Hennessy. By day I work as an environmental engineer, and by night I’m a dancer and a writer! I love to balance my very technical job with creative pursuits. Writing has been a necessary part of my life since I was a kid, and I’m excited to share my stories with the world.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing since I was in elementary school. I always had an active imagination, and loved coming up with fictional versions (from aliens to elves!) of myself and my friends. I wrote about our imagined adventures.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think I always considered myself a writer. My thinking has always been: I write, therefore I’m a writer!

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My debut novel, Grigory’s Gadget, is Book 1 of my Gaslight Frontier Series (Book 2 is in the works!). The story follows Zoya and her friends from the bitter, hostile nation of Morozhia who set out to start a better life. On the way to their new home, they’re kidnapped by pirates. What’s more, the pirates have a particular interest in Zoya’s family heirloom: a small gadget of compacted wires and gears. Unsure what power the gadget holds, Zoya knows she must protect it with her life.

What inspired you to write this book?

I started writing the first iteration of this novel over 10 years ago, when I was going through a pirate-obsession phase. The original story involved time travel, and a necklace instead of a gadget, but the plot and characters were otherwise very similar.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I try to write in a very conversational way. I love writing dialogue, as it seems to be what comes most naturally to me. I also like to keep some levity in the story, to balance out when a scene gets a little dark.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

I knew I wanted the word “gadget” in the title. I also tend to gravitate toward alliteration. The name Grigory, which is the Russian form of Gregory, jumped out at me. I felt the combination of “Grigory” and “Gadget” set the tone for the setting of my story: a Russian-inspired steampunk world.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

There is a strong theme of friendship and loyalty throughout the novel. I would say the main message is to seek out those true friends who deserve your loyalty, and not to be fooled by false friends.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know or events in your own life?

Some characters were originally based on friends of mine, though I have taken many liberties since their original creation. There are also a couple scenes inspired by stories I’ve heard, such as my high school Russian teacher’s story about how she narrowly escaped the Soviet Union as it collapsed in the early 1990s and her experiences upon arriving in the United States as a refugee.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I had to think about this question a lot, and feel like I might be cheating a bit with my answer. A lot of authors have had a huge influence on my writing, but what about my life overall? I think that honor would have to go to story collectors and anthropologists! I’ve always loved mythology, and learning about different mythologies from around the world definitely influenced my worldview. I also used to read a Grimm’s fairy tale every night before bed (no wonder I tend to have weird dreams!).

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of writers who have influenced my writing. I have to acknowledge R. L. Stine and his Goosebumps books, because reading those books lead to my passion for reading and, by association, writing stories. As for my current writing style, I would say it is most influenced by Clive Barker, Kurt Vonnegut, and Gail Carriger (odd combination, I know!). I love Barker’s vivid descriptions, Vonnegut’s humor and satire, and Carriger’s overall take on the steampunk genre.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

My cover was designed by Deranged Doctor Design. I shopped around a lot, and the covers by DDD really impressed me. They have a great range, and every cover is gorgeously done. They also have straightforward and affordable pricing, which is great for a self-published author like me.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t let yourself get discouraged – I know that’s easier said than done! Remember that you are your own worst critic, and that a first draft will always be far from perfect. Don’t let these things stop you from writing!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

As a first-time, self-published author, I am so grateful for the support I’ve received so far! Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this crazy writing adventure, and I hope you enjoy my stories!

Grigorys Gadget Book CoverE. A. Hennessy
Buffalo, NY

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Author Interview: Elizabeth Crowens

I met Author Elizabeth Crowens at World Con in Kansas City.  We are both members of Broad Universe.  Her Time Traveler Professor series is an alternate history/spooky steampunk published out of London.  Please welcome her here on No Wasted Ink.

author-elizabeth-crowensHi, I’m Elizabeth Crowens. Why do I use a pen name? Because back in the 80’s I wrote for Ninja Magazine and a bunch of other unusual publications. This was when Hollywood and Hong Kong were churning out a lot of over the top films on the tail end of the Bruce Lee craze. I actually had a blackbelt in ninjutsu that I received from the top masters in Japan, but I knew the reality behind the façade and felt I needed a bit of anonymity from my professional life working at a publishing company at the time. The last headache I needed was to have someone plan a surprise attack to see if I could really do a triple backflip and throw ninja stars in my defense. I didn’t need the hassle. So I just came up with a pen name.

When and why did you begin writing?

In the 70’s when I was in college I thought my career path was going to be screenwriting. Back then I didn’t have a very realistic view of how the film industry worked. My head was in the clouds with wildly creative ideas, and my teachers weren’t the best influences because they came from the avant-garde and Andy Warhol schools of artsy indie filmmaking. However, my goals were commercially oriented. New York film schools were like that back then. Unfortunately, I was young, naïve and didn’t know any better and flying by the seat of my pants until I finally moved out to Hollywood in 1990.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Back in the 80’s when I was writing articles for magazines and working on the first draft of this manuscript. However, I wasn’t making enough money to make a living out of it. My degree was in Photography and Film studies, but I found out the hard way that in journalism people were paid more for writing articles in magazines than they were for the photography that accompanied them. So I thought to myself, “Hey, I was always good at English in school. I’ll write the article, as well, especially since I’d get paid more for it.”

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Silent Meridian is a 19th century X-Files meets H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his paranormal enthusiast partner, John Patrick Scott, the Time Traveler Professor. It’s a delightful mash-up blending those elements with hints of Doctor Who, Tim Powers, and Nicholas Meyer. Contrary to people’s first impression it is not a Sherlock Holmes story.

What inspired you to write this book?

That’s a stranger than fiction story. I’ve always had a passion of collecting antiques and antiquarian books. Very similar situations that occur in the book, sometimes finding a strange book or an unusual item can inspire a whole flood of ideas.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I try to mimic a Victorian first-person point of view although I tone it down for modern readers. Authors such as Henry James and Arthur Machen can get incredibly wordy. Editors today are always hopping on our backs about word count.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

In the book, I refer to two similar metaphors, i.e. the sfumato effect and the Verdaccio technique of underpainting. These are both art terms from the Italian Renaissance referring to the methods used by Leonardo da Vinci as to how he depicts seamless and invisible edges in paintings such as the Mona Lisa. However, it alludes to the often-indistinguishable transition from dreams to reality to jumping back and forth in time.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

“The key to the future lies in clues from the past.” That’s from a quote in the novel. It’s very much tied into resolving karma and moving forward and any conflicts you experience now most likely can have their roots traced back in history—therefore the justification of traveling through time.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Shush! That’s a secret.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I’d rephrase that by asking the question, “What books or media have been the most influence?” I’ve gone through spurts with reading, but I’ve always been a film buff. My answer? Stanley Kubrick, Harry Potter and Star Wars. Kubrick and Lucas were the reasons why I got involved in the film industry. I remember being blown away by A Clockwork Orange, especially in its art direction and cinematography, when I was in high school and Star Wars just at the time I was graduating college and about to spring out in the job market working in film production. Harry Potter didn’t come around until many years later.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

If I can resurrect someone from the dead it would be Arthur Conan Doyle, because his Sherlock Holmes stories are so damned clever. One that is living now? Tim Powers. I’m amazed as to how he puts everything together in his plotting.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

This was an unusual situation where I, as the author, had a significant amount of input in the cover design. After I signed my contract with my publisher, he hooked me up with the graphic designer that handles most of his covers. The graphic designer asked me if I had any ideas since this was basically a steampunk novel and not the typical Sherlock Holmes pastiche that comprises most of my publishing company’s catalogue.

“Do I have any ideas?” I thought to myself. “Boy, am I going to surprise everyone!”

Little did they know that I’ve been professionally trained as both a graphic designer and photographer and have had over 20 years experience with Photoshop. Previously in my career, I used to art direct and shoot movie posters in Hollywood. Since I had full intentions of pitching the Time Traveler Professor series (Silent Meridian is the first of approximately seven books) as either a film series or a cable television series, I had already composited a one-sheet or sell sheet mini-poster as a leave behind. The background photo on the cover is one that I took at the University of Edinburgh Medical School where Conan Doyle received his medical degree.

Brian Berlanger, MX Publishing’s graphic designer, and I worked together refining some of the images. I took a back seat and allowed him to get all the credit just because I was so thrilled to have as much input as I did.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

To quote Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, “Never give up. Never surrender.”
silent-meridian-book-coverElizabeth Crowens
New York, NY

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Silent Meridian

Art Director: Elizabeth Crowens
Cover artist: Brian Berlanger.
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The Blurry Boundaries of Historical Fantasy by S.A. Bolich

alternate history

Whether they know it or not, fantasy and science fiction fans loooove history. The genre is riddled with it, from stock pseudo-medieval settings to warped Victorian-age steampunk to alternate histories such as Harry Turtledove’s long speculation about what would have happened if the South had won the American Civil War. From the study of history and clashing cultures we can draw plausible conclusions about what life might be like in the future or on distant worlds, where human needs and human nature will be tested by new technologies, new environments, and new cultural constructs.

With so broad a playground to romp in, how do you tell if what you are reading (or writing, for that matter) falls into the category you think it does? Various fan groups thrive on infighting over “proper” labels for various works. Tags such as steampunk, historical fantasy, and alternate history raise certain expectations in readers hunting through bookstore catalogs. Disappointing those expectations can result in the reader tossing the book and never reading that author again. That is a shame, because the overlap between subgenres using historical settings is real and often fuzzy.

Steampunk is all the rage just now, sparking elegant trends in convention attire and wildly imaginative takes on steam-based technology. This genre fails without that technology; the best of it goes far beyond the near-obligatory airships to imagine the profound impact of these steam inventions on society. The setting is generally Victorian, usually pre-World War I. That war, of course, may never happen in steampunk worlds, where individuals and governments seize on the steam-powered tools that have reshaped 19th century society to bend history in new directions. Alternate history is often, therefore, a major element of steampunk.

Alternate history envisions a whole new reality, which requires a good shove at a critical historical juncture. This often involves time travel, either planned or accidental. Eric Flint’s 1632 uses alien intervention to displace an entire West Virginia town into the middle of Germany at the height of the Thirty Years War. L. Sprague deCamp’s Lest Darkness Fall sends a witness to Mussolini’s Italy from 1938 back to ancient Rome, where his intervention prevents the Dark Ages. Sometimes the new version of history grows organically from actual history. In Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy stories, England’s King Richard I (Lionheart) survives the siege of Chaluz, thus eliminating at a stroke the reign of King John, Magna Carta, the Wars of the Roses, and the entire sweep of British, French, and European history. Change can be also sparked by the introduction of new technology, as when Turtledove provides Robert E. Lee’s army with AK-47 rifles against the Union army’s muzzle-loaders.

To count as alternate history, the change must be lasting and sweeping. Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court fails this test because, while Hank Morgan’s arrival at Camelot certainly affects Arthur’s mythical court, it does not affect “actual” history in the long run. This brings us to historical fantasy, which offers limitless choices for writers and readers. Garrett’s Plantagenet Europe uses magic, which, to an alternate history purist, blurs the lines quite a lot. Fortunately, history has room for a nearly infinite list of subgenres, from gaslight fantasy (Victorian era that combines “straight” history with a magical overlay, much like urban fantasy) to Weird Westerns, which can combine science fiction, magic, or steampunk with the Old West, to the SF of Connie Willis’s time-traveling historians. While the bulk of such stories use western history as the catalyst, writers such as Futaro Yamada, Ryo Hanmura, and Hiroshi Aramata have “altered” Japanese history and imagined all sorts of magical historical mayhem.
The one immutable rule of using history to drive a story is that it must be plausible. The ramifications of changing a critical moment in time must be logical and hold together as a construct across economic, cultural, and geographic boundaries. Changes large enough to alter the course of one town’s history must necessarily affect the region, the country, and eventually the world, because a town does not exist in isolation unless it is some version of Brigadoon. Even the most magic-laden “straight” historical fantasy needs to get the setting right, because true history lovers will cry foul when writers get it wrong.

We can argue about the lines between historical subgenres, but in the end, it all comes down to: is it a good story? Vampires in the Old West, Mongols in London, persecuted witches plotting their own Reformation—why the heck not?

Author SA BolichS. A. Bolich’s books often open quietly—but don’t be fooled. By page 10 you may be hooked so thoroughly you’ll forget to get off at your bus stop. Her worlds are lived-in, magical, sometimes mind-bendingly exotic, always historically accurate, and inhabited by people who reach out and grab us by the throat and make us care about their problems. A historian, former military intelligence officer, and lifelong horsewoman, she writes everything from “straight” and alternate history to fantasy and science fiction, filled with characters who remain in your heart long after the book is closed. Her novel, “In Heaven’s Shadow,” well illustrates the blurred lines between “straight” history, magic realism, and paranormal, blending a poignant ghost story with the struggle of a living magic-wielder to find acceptance in a straight-laced Virginia village at the height of the Civil War. She is currently working on an alternate history/fantasy series that uses a fresh twist on the Salem witch trials to spark a fascinating and arcane version of the Civil War. Find out more about S. A. Bolich and where to find her work at www.sabolichbooks.com, or follow her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/s.a.bolich or www.facebook.com/sue.bolich).