Wednesday 19 June 2013

A Trip to the Time Traveller's Reunion-Part Three

A Trip to the Time Traveller's Reunion-Part Three

Sunday was a busier day than Saturday, with more activity as people flitted around Sherbrooke Village to tour the town and see the steampunk workshops. And there is much to see in the Village, including the well-stocked General Store, St. Mary's Printery, the Sherbrooke Drug Store (where they demonstrate the making of Sherbrooke Village Rosewater Hand Cream) and one of the favorites of the weekend, the Ambrotype Photography Studio.

The studio is on the second floor of the General Store, run by two charming ladies, where visitors can learn about photographic techniques of the 1800s and have their ambrotype picture taken with the 1905 AGFA Camera (ambrotype photography was invented by sculptor Frederick Scott Archer in 1852, and is a unique form of photography in which pictures are taken on glass.). The end result is an amazing old-fashioned photographic treasure.

I was back at the vendor booth on Sunday morning, and then at noon I hosted a workshop on writing in the steampunk genre that was terrific fun. There were great insightful questions and discussions from the people that attended the workshop, and I enjoyed it very much.

After my workshop, I managed to catch the last few minutes of the costuming tutorial, (alas, I had to miss most of the talk as it was scheduled at the same time as mine, but I still got to see a bit about the history of bustles). Then I attended the Mad Medicine and Strange Surgeries presentation, a thoroughly fascinating and entertaining discourse about Victorian medicine and surgery. Other workshops that happened on the weekend included Steampunk 101, Steampunk Songwriting, Phantastical Contraptions & Steampunk Curiosities and an Open House at the Sherbrooke Village Wardrobe Department.

My Sunday wrapped up back at the vendor room, and then a quick, early supper at the What Cheer Tea Room. As my friends and I had several hours of driving ahead, we left Sherbrooke Village before the closing ceremonies unfortunately (although we did see a bit of the Promenade), but it was a wonderful weekend nonetheless.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

A Trip to the Time Traveller's Reunion-Part Two

A Trip to the Time Traveller's Reunion-Part Two

As promised, here’s the next thrilling installment of my steampunk adventures at the Time Traveller’s Reunion.

My first stop upon arrival was the vendor building, located in Sherbrooke Village’s Temperance Hall, to set up my book table for Mechanized Masterpieces. That room fairly burst with a wonderful eclectic mix of artisans and merchants with an astounding spectacle of Victorian style clothing, steampunk jewelry, leather goods, crafts and contraptions.
A Steampunk Wii Remote

Exhibits ranged from The Monkey’s Paw Curio Shop, with its delightful array of trinkets and gewgaws, to The Graces’ Attar Natural Perfumery (where I bought some Airship Pirate Soap), the Tandy Leather Factory, and the Steampunk Montreal table with an amazing presentation of steamed-up gadgets, just to name a few.

Most of my Saturday was spent in the vendor room, though I did venture out for my Q and A in the afternoon, where I sat in the Village Courthouse and answered questions from my eager public.

In the early hours of the evening, everyone sauntered down to the What Cheer Tea Room for a delicious supper (and I highly recommend their desserts, so tasty). To end Saturday evening there was an entertaining cabaret, featuring the talented band, Eli August and The Abandoned Buildings and a showing of short movies from the Silent Film Era.

So ends today's installment of my steampunk adventures. Come back tomorrow for more on the workshops and Sherbrooke Village.

Monday 17 June 2013

A Trip to the Time Traveller's Reunion-Part One

A Trip to the Time Traveller's Reunion-Part One

This past weekend I took a steampunk step back in time when I attended the Time Traveller's Reunion in historic Sherbrooke Village, Nova Scotia.  The event was a wondrous Victorian occasion, organized by the Jules Verne Phantastical Society and the Sherbrooke Village officials. I was kindly invited to be a guest speaker in my capacity as one of the authors in the book, Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology.

The event location, Sherbrooke Village, is nestled in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, and is a museum town of living history, depicting a typical Nova Scotian village from 1860 to pre-WW1. It has, among many fascinating buildings, a working woodturner shop, blacksmith, pottery shop, and printery. And this past weekend of June 15th-16th, it hosted a barrage of ever-so elegant steampunk enthusiasts.

The weekend was a grand affair, a fashionable, mechanical (steam-powered of course) and highly Victorian
celebration, with workshops, vendors, musicians, and strange contraptions. An impressive array of costuming and other steampunk paraphernalia was on display, as well as the entertaining workshops and guests, some evening cinema on Saturday, and even Garden Party with music and cucumber sandwiches to end out Sunday. For two days, the parasols twirled, gentlemen tipped their hats, and marvellous inventors demonstrated their amazing gadgets.

I’ll be discussing everything (including my guest appearances) in more detail, in A Trip to the Time Traveller's Reunion-Part Two. So stroll back tomorrow, if you please for more delights and wonders.

Saturday 8 June 2013

Interview with Author Matt Langford

Today we're joined by writer Matt Langford, who stops by to talk about his books.

Interview with Matt Langford

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself. 

I’m a 39 year old ICU nurse and sometime author growing older on an almost annual basis. I have two small children who shout at me rather a lot. I find shouting back to be of almost no use whatsoever. But I do it anyway. My wife is about to return to full-time education in order to complete an MA in social work. Money and stress will be fighting like pigs for priority. So what better time to embark on a campaign of authorship?
I like being outside, either on my mountain bike or finding new and interesting places to smoke. I also enjoy playing the guitar, but other will disagree. I wrote my first novel in 1998, and as yet only two people have read it. They haven’t thanked me. I have written several novels and have plans to write many more. Hopefully the world will endorse my efforts anytime soon...

Can you tell us a bit about your book, The Watchman?

The Watchman is a literary fiction novel told through the eyes of Adam, a young man with a learning difficulty. He describes his life from his very enclosed perspective as he comes to terms with the changing dynamics of his family. His younger siblings grow up and move away, his loving but distant father becomes ever more estranged, and his devoted mother moves closer to implosion on a daily basis.
Adam is an endearing, engaging boy who enjoys very simple needs. He loves his family and terrorizes them in equal measure. Especially his brother Jake, a troubled adolescent trying desperately to balance himself after an, at times, criminally led childhood. But the person who receives the full front of Adam’s unique sense of humor is his Gran, who one Christmas is subjected to a barrage of love, affection and practical jokes. Yet Adam’s inability to communicate gradually drives an inner rage to the fore, culminating in an horrific breakdown which destroys his family forever.

Why did you decide to write a “coming-of-age” story?

I think the story chose me, to be honest. I know this sounds corny, but I really feel this is a story that needs to be told. I grew up with a brother who had a learning difficulty, and to say our relationship was stormy barely touches the surface of how we lived together. He fascinated me and left me permanently exasperated. Never have I met a person capable of such class and beauty, yet left me spitting with frustration on a daily basis. I've seen him bring grown men to tears with his effortless charm and unprejudiced affection. I've seen him tame wild, uncontrollable teenagers. I witnessed a succession of people left stunned by his unique ability to make you feel warmed and special. But amongst all this he lived with a very short fuse and immersed in sea of frustration. Most of the time his inability to vocalize went unregarded. But as he grew older and stronger he found this fundamental difference too hard to bare, and he suffered a breakdown that lasted well into his 20s. Thankfully he recovered and enjoyed a very happy, fulfilled life until his tragic death in 2009.

You've also written a collection of short stories, The Burning Man Prophecies with an eclectic mix of genres. Can you tell us about the stories in that book?

I still haven’t settled on a style or genre I can safely say is ‘the one’ for me. Maybe I never will. And The Burning Man Prophecies is testament to my itchy feet. The opening story, Amelia’s Box, is an out and out horror/nightmare scenario with ghosts and cannibalism at the heart of the plot. I've very little interest in the horror genre. I’m not altogether sure where the idea came from, but it remains one of my favourites. The story I enjoy the most is The Mr Benn Paradox (choose your hat), a real twisty turny thriller with deaths and twists all the way. Again, I wouldn't say I normally write this type of thing – but the idea struck me and I just had to write it down.
The genre I love the most is dark humor laced into gentle fantasy ... taking the very recognisable world around us and adding rules or scenarios that are clearly impossible. The story that comes closest to this genre is The Rashness of Mr Young, a Christmas fable with blood and bones.
I’m also fascinated with older people’s stories and how they fit into the modern world. The Carpet Washer and The Star are my favourites, despite not being entirely happy with how they turned out. Elderly people who contributed more to the world than we will ever begin to appreciate adequately, suddenly left lonely and unvalued in a world driven my phones and money. It’s a sad, tragic dichotomy and one I’d like to explore again one day.

Do you feel more comfortable writing genre fiction or the more general fiction?

Genre fiction seems to be my preferred choice. But it all depends on the idea. I find it difficult to add a category to my work. When I released the Watchman I trawled Amazon for similar titles to check on their genres for the purposes of categorisation.

Did anything surprise you during the process of writing your books?

I’m surprised at how patient I am in the writing process and at how meticulous I can be. These are qualities I usually abandon in everyday life. I’m quite happy to retype and rewrite entire manuscripts, then sit down over a many months and read every word with careful diligence. In most other areas of my life, however, I’m generally pretty slap-dash and bull-like in my approach. My wife is confused by my ability to paw over a paragraph for hours on end, yet devote only 3 minutes to the hoovering.

Who has inspired you as an author?

My favorite author is Douglas Adams. His ability to create a unique, hilarious world and then dismantle it with a single phrase was extraordinary. The world is a duller place without him. Graeme Greene is another particular favorite of mine and inspires me create strong characters. Almost every character he ever wrote was flawed and disastrous on some level. Yet he managed to convey their qualities with effortless ease. I’m not quite sure how he did it – the man was a genius.
We are lucky to live in a world filled with talented authors. Kasuo Ishiguro is one such person. Sarah Walters is another. Again, both are able to set off highly explosive character bombs. Marina Lewycka is another effortlessly brilliant writer.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Ride my mountain bike or play my guitar. Generally though I’m either working as an ICU nurse or covering my ears as my children shout at me.

Are you working on another book?

Several. I’d like to write a series of dark humor/fantasy novels set in the mythical twin town of Minus, a place at the very heart of GB that you will not find on any maps. Set either side of mighty river Minus, Major Minus and Minor Minus exist within very different rules of time and physics, allowing the inhabitants all manner of abilities and treats. The first in the series, Finding Zoe Dawes, is undergoing a final rewrite and will hopefully be released this year.
I also have another complete novel entitles The Honeytree Flock. This is much more in the mould of The Watchman. It’s currently being read by a couple of friends to ensure it’s not rubbish. Which it may well be. The subject matter is a huge gamble which, I predict, will either be a masterpiece or toilet paper.

Matt's Website:

The Watchman on Amazon (UK):

The Watchman on Amazon (US):

Thursday 6 June 2013

Time Fall: A Chat with Tim Ashby

Today we are joined by Tim Ashby, author of TIME FALL, who stops by for a chat and a Q & A as part of his virtual book tour...

Hello! I enjoy writing and reading historical fiction; and both my books -- DEVIL'S DEN and TIME FALL --center on historical events. In my new book, TIME FALL, I gave myself the job of creating realistic characters from two different time periods who must interact with one another. This task turned out to be both challenging and fun! I had a time-traveling WWII soldier falling in love with a modern day medical student, and I had to make it all believable. Many readers have asked me questions about the process, and why I choose to write historical fiction, so I hope you’ll enjoy this Q & A.

In TIME FALL six US Army soldiers are sent, in 1945, on a mission to hit Nazi targets behind enemy lines. They parachute into a crazy electrical storm and disappear, officially Missing in Action for almost 70 years. In fact, they are pulled out of their own time and into ours. They land in deeply forested Germany, still believing it is 1945, and begin to attack.
I hope this work keeps readers on the edge of their seats as they are torn between rooting for these brave men, and knowing that the targets the men seek to destroy are innocent.

Q. TIME FALL is an interesting hybrid -- a novel set in the present day, but featuring soldiers who accidentally "time travel" to today while on a mission during WWII. Would you consider this work historical fiction? 
A.  All of my novels have strong historical elements, but I don’t consider TIME FALL to be historical fiction.  Only the opening scenes in the book actually take place in the past – April 1945.  The remainder of the novel happens in the present day, and there’s plenty of action packed into just the 48 hours in which those scenes are set!  My other books, such as the “Seth Armitage” series set in the 1920s, are historical mystery thrillers.  My approach as a writer is to take a factual historical mystery and build a seamless fictional plot around it.  The “time travel” plot device is TIME FALL is based on an actual incident that took place during the Vietnam War – the disappearance of a helicopter and its crew.

Q.  What prompted your interest in writing works with a strong historical fiction component?
A.  I’ve always had a keen interest in history, particularly the US Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the 1920s.  I enjoy the historical research that adds authenticity to my books.  I've actually published several non-fictional “academic” historical works, including an article about a British military campaign in the Caribbean.

Q.  Do you think writing historical fiction is more or less challenging than contemporary fiction might be, for you, and why?
A.  I think writing ANY fiction is challenging!  However, for historical fiction, the author has to ensure that EVERY detail is correct because so many readers are experts in their own right.  For example, in TIME FALL, I had to research every detail of weapons and equipment that would have been carried by US Army Rangers in combat in 1945.  I even had to get the wording on their “dog tags” right, as patterns changed during the course of the war. I also spent time learning how American soldiers spoke in the 1940s (WW II veterans alive today actually use different expressions than they did in their youth), and I learned about the culture of the 1930s and 1940s – the movies, songs, news events that soldiers in the Second World War – both American and German – would have grown up with.

Q. Your first book, DEVIL'S DEN, is set in 1920, with flashbacks to the mid-1800s. You seem to enjoy writing books involving two or more time periods. What attracted you to this interesting technique?
A.  I've always been fascinated by the relative shortness of time.  For example, the Battle of Gettysburg took place 150 years ago, but I knew an elderly relative raised by her grandfather, Captain John Ashby, who had been an officer in a Virginia regiment during Pickett’s Charge during the battle.  Her grandfather lived to a great age and told her many stories about his service in the Civil War, which she relayed to me.  Some of the scenes in DEVIL’S DEN are based on Captain Ashby's reminiscences.  My own grandfather was born during the “horse and buggy” days, yet lived long enough to watch television, drive cars, fly in jet planes, etc.

Q.  War factors prominently in both your books. Can you talk a little about that, in terms of your own experience?
A.  Throughout my life I've been both intrigued and repelled by war.  I’m very sympathetic to military veterans, and my books always have prominent characters who are veterans.  IN TIME FALL, an American Vietnam veteran and a German WW II Luftwaffe veteran – both physically and psychologically damaged by their wartime service – interact with the US Army Rangers who jumped from 1945 into the present.  I have not served in the military, although I held two Top Secret security clearances, worked in Latin America with the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), served as a “hostage” during a training exercise of the British Special Air Service (SAS) regiment, and spent my 21st birthday in the British Army’s Jungle Warfare Training School in the Maya Mountains of Belize – but those are stories for another time!

Q.  What do you find particularly gratifying about writing historical fiction?
A.  Immersing myself so deeply into the research that I literally (no pun intended) begin dreaming about the historical eras I depict in my books.  I become a virtual actor in put myself in my characters’ minds and bodies so they become real personalities on the printed (or electronic) page.

Q.  Your first novel is set in the 1920s, and the second book in the present day, but with characters for whom it is 1945. What are you working on now? If it is historical fiction, why have you decided to stick with that genre?
A.  I’m currently working on the second book in the “Seth Armitage” series of historical mystery thrillers, a novel titled IN SHADOWLAND which is set in 1925.  Seth, who has returned to the Bureau of Investigation at J. Edgar Hoover’s request, is investigating the mysterious disappearance of Quentin Roosevelt – son of President Teddy Roosevelt – a WW I pilot shot down behind German lines in 1918.  The 1920s provide a rich vein of characters and events to mine for writers.  The period is fascinating, as it was transitional in so many ways.  The era is also perennially popular – note the new film version of THE GREAT GATSBY, as well as BOARDWALK EMPIRE, DOWNTON ABBEY, etc.

Filled with historically accurate details, Time Fall is a complex tale that keeps readers riveted through every surprising twist. To read an excerpt and to enter to win a FREE copy of Time Fall, visit To get your copy now, visit (print) and (digital). You can also get your copy at all major book retailers. 

Author Planet Press 
June, 2013

Lt. Art Sutton’s team of six US Rangers parachute into Nazi Germany…  but they vanish in 1945.  They land, a few minutes later, in 2011. The Rangers are unaware of the passage of time all around them and the valiant, misguided soldiers begin to attack “enemy” targets.

They face the age old question - What is good? What is evil? 

About Tim Ashby:

Timothy Ashby's life has been as thrilling as one of his action/adventure novels. Visit his author blog at 

An international lawyer, businessman and writer, Tim Ashby worked in Washington DC as a counter-terrorism consultant to the U.S. State Department, and then as a senior official - the youngest political appointee of his rank - at the U.S. Commerce Department, responsible for commercial relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. He held two Top Secret security clearances and worked with a number of colorful characters, including members of the U.S. military's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). He has lived in the Caribbean and Europe as well as various places in the United States. An avid historian, he published widely on military history, archaeology, business and international relations. A licensed attorney in Florida and the District of Columbia, Tim Ashby has a PhD degree from the University of Southern California, a JD from Seattle University Law School, and an MBA from the University of Edinburgh Scotland.

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