Steam in the Gears Steampunk Anthology

Here’s our latest speculative fiction treat for authors and readers alike!

Our first Steampunk anthology, Holly and Ivy, was such a rousing success that we are putting together a summertime steampunk collection!

Write your tale of High Victorian highjinks with a summertime bent: how to beat the heat in the Raj; a very midsummer mystery- let your imagination and gears soar!

Stories must be between 3000-9000 words, sent in .odt or .doc format. Please include an author bio and links to your sites, so our readers can get to know you more!

Contest closes June 18, 2016.

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Steve Stanton in the Spotlight

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By Virginia Carraway Stark from Starklight Press

Steve Stanton’s post-graduate training in accounting led him to volunteer as the financial administrator of SF Canada. He served on the Board of Directors for seven years, including three years as President from 2011-2014. SF Canada was started in 1989 in the pre-internet era to sponsor a sense of community among Canadian Authors.

Steve Stanton is the author of The Bloodlight Chronicles Sci-fi trilogy. His stories have been published in sixteen countries in a dozen languages.

His latest book is FREENET, a novel of interplanetary intrigue: A pretty girl falls from the sky, a handsome boy rises from the underground, and a popular newscaster dares to tell the real story.

Coming April 2016, available for pre-order today!

Hi Steve! Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed for StarkLight Press! We tend to get a little informal in our questions, so please have fun with them.

When did you first begin to suspect that you were a writer?

Hi Virginia! Thanks for your interest at StarkLight Press. I love the idea of grassroots publishing!

I think creative people are just born that way. When I was a teenager in the ’60s, I wrote poetry and song lyrics inspired by Bob Dylan and the folk-rock music of that era. After graduating from university, my wife and I had three daughters, and raising a family became our primary concern. It wasn’t until I was thirty that I began to write seriously. I re-enrolled at U. of Toronto to take a course in Creative Writing and was influenced by the postmodernism of the ’80s. I was thirty-three when my first stories began to appear in magazines and literary journals.

Did you find your background in accounting was helpful to you when you ‘left your day job’ to become a full-time writer?

Not really. Novelists usually don’t make enough money to need an accountant. I suppose I developed great respect for money along the way, seeing the ups and down of various clients and dealing with death and bankruptcy. I had my house paid off, which is the biggest thing for most people. I learned how to live frugally on the financial fringe. I use free phone, free TV, free internet, free website. I borrow books and movies from local libraries for free. I hardly ever go to restaurants or bars, or buy clothes in an actual store. I live a bohemian lifestyle.

What first drew your interest to the sci-fi genre? Was it always important to you or something you developed as you grew in your interests?

I was always into sci-fi. I used to think I was from the future. When I was a kid, comic books cost 12 cents, and all you had to do to buy one was find six empty pop bottles and bring them to the counter. So while my brother was reading Archie and watching Hogan’s Heroes, I was going from Legion of Super Heroes to paperbacks by Isaac Asimov.

When you sit down to write, how do you get into ‘the zone’? Do you have a ritual, set times, or do you just sit down and do it?

I generally prefer to write first thing in the morning, especially if I have been awake in the night rehearsing scenes. If I am left alone with no wife or grandchildren, I usually fall naturally into writing mode. Sometimes I screw off work completely, especially between rewrites, because I know my subconscious keeps working in the background. The rare times that I find myself in a breathless panic writing a vivid and meaningful scene are the rewards that keep me going year after year, because writing a novel is a slogging task.

What is the funniest question that anyone has ever asked you about being a writer? How did you respond?

Someone once asked me about kitchen utensils. 😉

How do disruptions affect your writing? Even though you have some buffering from ‘real life’ interfering in your work with the power of writing being your full-time pursuit, how do you deal with the intrusion of life? What is your advice to authors juggling day jobs and writing?

I hate disruptions when I’m trying to work. I find it difficult to get back inside my imaginary world if I get pulled out to answer the phone or stop to eat. Real life sucks. The best thing I ever did as an artist was to drop out of society. All the novels I wrote while I was working in the real world were crap, but some of my short stories from that time are still being published and translated. Based on that limited experience, I would advise young authors to concentrate on short stories, which often arise “full blown” in the imagination and can be worked out quickly with great personal satisfaction. Novels take a huge investment of time and energy. In some of the top short-fiction markets, you can make just as much money as you will get for a royalty advance on a novel these days.

What song best describes your work ethic when it comes to writing?

“Taking Care of Business” by Bachman Turner Overdrive, because I love to work at nothing all day.

If you had to be a kitchen utensil, what utensil would you be? Why?

I would be a butcher’s knife, capable of trimming fat, cutting to the bone, and plunging deep into the heart of a metaphor.

If you could switch bodies with anyone on the planet for the day, who would you pick and what would you do?

I would pick an attractive woman, probably middle-aged, someone with a vast life experience for me to cannibalize for my next novel. That way I would “know” both sides of the interpersonal coin and could represent the genders equally. I would have sex, eat fatty food, drink fine champagne, go dancing, and spend all her money.

What frustrates you? In writing, in love or in life in general?

I find humanity frustrating. I can’t understand on a visceral level why someone would deliberately do evil to another person or racial group, or why a culture would distribute resources in an inefficient or wasteful manner. Watching the news is painful for me, and reading a horror novel is out of the question. I can barely sleep as it is.

Tell me something you’ve never told anyone else.

I’ve never told anyone any of this stuff. 🙂

What do you wish that other writers could understand or know?

Well, I’ve never had commercial success as an author, so I’m probably not the best person to dole out advice, but I think writers have a great privilege and responsibility. Many people in the world cannot read, and many choose not to learn how to spell, even in so-called civilized societies. Literature can elevate both authors and readers. Writers have a duty to educate the future, and an obligation to represent the truth in their fiction. Your words will be the only thing you leave behind.

Thanks for taking time out to talk to us, Steve!

You can find Mr. Stanton at his webpage  http://stevestanton.ca/

There you can find more information about his upcoming book, FREENET.

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Will Norton is Emerald Green

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William Norton grew up in Vancouver B.C. And has spent the past few years working in the oil industry north of Fort Saint John. He usually writes stories that are uniquely and specifically from his perspective, his characters often share his name. He writes when he has time but spends most of his time working and being filthy. His hobbies include sleeping to catch up with sleep when he’s not working. Based off the current trend he suspects he will soon have more time for writing and social media than in the past which would be great if he didn’t have truck payments.

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Here’s an excerpt from Will’s most Irish of stories, about a young man in Boston in the 1950s who teams up with a canny leprechaun:

 

He watched me turn away from him. I walked crouched over, leaning against the line of houses. I had nicked something when I had stood up. Frothy pinkish blood dripped onto the cobbles from my mouth that gasped, never seeming to be able to capture enough air.

I heard his light footfalls behind me, “You still could have tried to capture me. It wouldn’t take more than a minute and it looks to me like you’re going to die.”

I rested while he approached me and regained my breath. I managed to speak again, “When I was a boy I dreamed of Ireland. I thought it was Ireland, but later on my Ma and my Da told me that all the trees in Ireland were gone now. Chopped down to grow potato crops so they’d get the blight and we’d all end up in Amerikay. That wasn’t where I dreamed of, the place I dreamed had trees. Beautiful trees of emerald green.”

I continued, I was dying now and I could see the pictures in front of me more clearly than the rows of housing and the cobbles of Boston, “There were ladies done up in miniature but with wings and flowers in their hair, there were the men who were taller than me and had eyes the color of the sea and fair hair and pointed ears, and there were the little people. Some of them like you, some of them less like you, but all belonging to that place and to that world. What’s the point in hanging on here another day if I have to make a slave out of one of those from that land. I’d rather die and go there, see my Da again, see the little ones who didn’t make it then be a slave master. I won’t try to catch you. Not even my own Ma’s life or the life of little Grace is worth that to me, that’s not the way I want to be.”

Will took the time to tell us a bit about his St. Patrick’s Day experiences:

  1. What’s your most prominent memory of St. Patrick’s Day?

    Green beer. Someone said something and we got into a fight. Black out. Abstaining from alcohol for about a month as a favour to my liver. My girlfriend at the time was convinced that raw steak would fix black eyes and bruises but we only had hamburger so she covered me in that and I think I got e-coli or something. Maybe it was the DT’s. Whatever happened that I don’t remember, it was memorable.
    2. Name the part of Irish culture you are most happy to lay claim to and why- is it Guinness? Irish music? The Book of Kells? The Fighting Irish?

    I like hitting things and getting drunk. I also like kissing. I’m not sure how much Irish I have in me, I think I’m a complete North American mongrel but I’m willing to commit some cultural appropriation for the hitting and the drinking and the kissing.
    3. What are your thoughts on working with this sort of writing exercise, fueled by prompts? How did seeing the prompts of your fellow authors and chatting online together with them about the work affect your process?

I was working most of the time and didn’t get much time to talk. I had a lot of radio silence on my end when I was out of internet range. When I was in touch it was fun. The authors are cool people, there was no negative crap, no stupid games. Everyone was always posting these fun Irish memes and even a dancing parrot at one point. Fun was had.

 

Virginia Carraway Stark and Queen Maeve

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Virginia Carraway Stark has a diverse portfolio and has many publications. Getting an early start on writing, Virginia has had a gift for communication, oration and storytelling from an early age. Over the years she has developed this into a wide range of products from screenplays to novels to articles to blogging to travel journalism. She works with other writers, artists and poets to hone her talents and to offer encouragement and insight to others. She has been an honorable mention at Cannes Film Festival for her screenplay, “Blind Eye” and was nominated for an Aurora Award. https://virginiastark.wordpress.com/about/

https://www.facebook.com/Virginiacarrawaystark/?fref=ts

Where to find more about Virginia

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Virginia took some time to answer our interview questions:

  1. What’s your most prominent memory of St. Patrick’s Day?I spent one St. Patrick’s Day in Boston and that was pretty awesome.
    2. Name the part of Irish culture you are most happy to lay claim to and why- is it Guinness? Irish music? The Book of Kells? The Fighting Irish?The happiest part is the saddest part. I long for the land of Ireland before the great Oaks and other trees were cut down. I feel a tug in my heart for what was and what will never be again. It’s been hundreds of years since the trees were cut down to make room for potato crops. Trees like Hazelnuts that provided sacrifice were burned by the grove and this resulted in the over-proliferation of potatoes and then the potato famine and the expatriation of so many of the Irish. This resulted in yet more discrimination as America did not welcome the Irish and its fondness for the Irish is a modern invention that replaced the ‘No Irish’ signs.

    I would lay claim to a language that I only ever learned a light spattering of, an oral culture eradicated mercilessly. I would lay claim to all that was stolen and long gone and the sorrow of knowing that for everything I suspect was lost there are a thousand things that I don’t have an inkling that I even lost them.
    3. What are your thoughts on working with this sort of writing exercise, fueled by prompts? How did seeing the prompts of your fellow authors and chatting online together with them about the work affect your process?

I love working on the anthologies in groups. Having feedback from other writers negates the vacuum that exists between the creative act and the reception of the anthology. Having gotten into the habit of having a writing community I would be sad to lose the inspiration and excitement that we share through this process together.

The prompts were an experiment to challenge writers to get truly creative and reach outside their comfort zone. A lot of us were neck deep in research and I know we all learned at least one new thing from having a directed prompt. It was a great way to stir up my creativity and I think we all got to know more about each other and our respective creative processes. Seeing where everyone went with the prompts was a real adventure!

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Here’s an excerpt from Virginia’s Story, The Stone Circle, which appears in Shamrocks, Saints and Standing Stones:

Kiona looked around herself, bewildered, leaning back on her elbows. The land was lit with the twilight light of stars hundreds or perhaps thousands of times closer than what the girl was used to. The circle of stones was healed and unbroken. The land that had been cut barren of trees around the stones was surrounded on all sides except for the side with the sea by oaks and hazel trees.

Where she was standing in the center of the stones was at the crossroads of four paths. One went towards the cliffs of the ocean, one lead behind her and was, in the other world at least, the direction of Aunt Alba’s cabin, the third lead into the grove of trees opposite the ocean and the fourth lead through sparser trees and in the distance, Kiona could see a white city with silver rooftops that glimmered palely under the starlight.

Maeve was already walking towards the city, the path lead up and down hillsides and the city was further away than Kiona had thought at first. Maeve quickly and Kiona had to run to keep up, her running seemed to annoy Maeve somewhat and she gave the girl a surreptitious glare or two on the way.

Finally Kiona, who usually could run for ages, realized that she was exhausted and couldn’t keep up the pace, “Please, Queen Maeve, could you slow down a little?”

Maeve was gone in a blur, down the path and Kiona could make her out at the edge of the city that towered above them, built into a mountain that didn’t exist in the land Kiona had come from. In an equally fast blur Maeve returned to Kiona’s side, she was cool and fresh as though she had barely moved, “As you see, I have slowed down for you, quite a lot really. Honestly, I don’t know why I try with your kind.”

“I can’t keep up,” Kiona exclaimed, desperate not to anger Maeve but even breathing the air was different here and she was exhausted.

“That isn’t my problem, now is it?” Maeve asked as though speaking to a very small child. She rolled her eyes at the girl, “I can’t spend all day waiting for you to try to walk, I’m going home. Make your way to the Star Palace and tell them the Queen sent for you.”

Maeve vanished down the road in a blur and Kiona started to cry. It wasn’t that the Queen was mean, not exactly, her expectations of her were beyond her capability. She trudged down the road the Queen had whizzed down.

Shamrocks, Saints and Standing Stones is Available!

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Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, that most Irish of celebrations, StarkLight Press is happy to announce that our Shamrocks, Saints and Standing Stones anthology is available!

Visit the StarkLight Press Bookstore

to get your e-copy tonight- physical copies will be available shortly!

 

Leanne Caine’s End of St. Patrick

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Leanne Caine is one of the edgiest authors at StarkLight Press. For Shamrocks, Saints and Standing Stones, she was given the prompts of 2075, St. Patrick himself and ‘in space’. She has written us a truly chilling tale of how magic and technology can combine to wreak a pagan revenge. Here’s an excerpt:

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The space he was in was small. He sat in a comfortable chair and he could touch the walls on either side of him by spreading his arms wide. The front of his floating crypt was even closer and it seemed the point of the chair he was in was for examining the stones. Behind him there was room to lie down if he moved the jumble of equipment that was completely mysterious to him.

He touched another button and he was pushed backwards against the soft seat, the stars moved more quickly outside. He pushed another and the ship started to turn, gently spinning in the great infinity of space that he found himself in. But how?

He remembered the ring of faces over him. They had tied him to one of their great stone alters. They had spoken their prayers, raising their hands above their heads, overlapping their palms. Then the King Ryan and come forth.

Leanne took some time to answer our interview questions below:

  1. What’s your most prominent memory of St. Patrick’s Day?Drunk off my butt at a party at college wearing a sexy leprechaun outfit that was so short I had to wear little lycra green shorts to save some of my dignity. Obscurely at midnight we all did a countdown. I don’t know, I was that drunk, we got confused between new years and St. Patrick’s day.
    2. Name the part of Irish culture you are most happy to lay claim to and why- is it Guinness? Irish music? The Book of Kells? The Fighting Irish?

    I like the ‘Kiss Me, I’m Irish’ t-shirts. I like to wear them and then ‘forget’ that I’m wearing them and whallop anyone who tries to kiss me. Then I act like it was a big misunderstanding and laugh it off.
    3. What are your thoughts on working with this sort of writing exercise, fueled by prompts? How did seeing the prompts of your fellow authors and chatting online together with them about the work affect your process?

    I was happy with my prompt. I loved giving St. Patrick a rough time. I was the first one to post so I didn’t get a lot of time to chat or watch other people work off of their prompts but I enjoyed all the Irish memes that everyone posted. Everyone clearly had a ton of fun and it’s clear when you read these stories that we all had a blast.

Van Fleming’s 1880’s St. Patrick’s Day Story

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Van Fleming is an author from Texas who is in the middle of a fascinating novel based on his short stories, Knights Loss and Mercenary’s Loss, published in our StarkLight Anthology series. His first novel is set for release in 2017; in the meantime, Van has taken some time out to write for Shamrocks, Saints and Standing Stones.

Van’s prompts were 1880s, old west saloon and lollipop :-0 He wrote a truly original tale based on these very evocative prompts!

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Here’s an excerpt from Van’s story, Time Clover:

He dug into the meal with gusto having not eaten in 15 hours. He hated such quick mission turnarounds. They never gave him time to fully recover so that he was fit and ready to take on the next. As he devoured the food, he looked up to see the curtain on stage opening and a young woman wearing a tight green corset tinged in darker green and differing shades of green skirts flowing from her thin waist swayed onto stage. Her skin looked slightly tan and long black hair fell down her back. All eyes followed her slender yet shapely form as she moved across the stage to the center. On the belly of her corset, a four leaf clover had been sewn into the cloth, yet is merged into a pattern so that it wasn’t very noticeable to most. Darien only saw it because the pattern software picked it out and highlighted it as something that was not common to this era. Her legs were lightly tanned and showed off to great effect by the green playing around and behind them as her skirts swayed. From her calves down, her legs and feet were hugged by a pair of boots so dark a green they appeared black until hit by the light in the right way.

Van took some time to answer our interview questions:

  1. What’s your most prominent memory of St. Patrick’s Day? 

    I really have never cared much for St Patties day except to ensure I wore green. No pinching here.
    2. Name the part of Irish culture you are most happy to lay claim to and why- is it Guinness? Irish music? The Book of Kells? The Fighting Irish? 

    My mother always claimed there was no greater temper than that of an Irishman bred indian woman. And believe me, that temper breeds true!
    3. What are your thoughts on working with this sort of writing exercise, fueled by prompts? How did seeing the prompts of your fellow authors and chatting online together with them about the work affect your process?

    We actually had quite a lengthy conversation on line with the prompt I was given. It turned quite hilarious and I almost went with it. But as I sat to my keyboard and words poured out, the story you see before you developed and the rest faded to a very memorable and somewhat hilarious conversation.

Kathrin Hutson’s Magic Mirror

Kathrin Hutson adds a story to Shamrocks, Saints and Standing Stones based on her prompt of 1918, a ship and a mirror. With her usual flair, she has penned us a great tale!Brass Hand-Mirror

Kathrin  has been writing fiction for fifteen years, editing for five, and plunging in and out of reality since she first became aware of the concept. Kathrin specializes in Dark Fantasy and Sci-fi, and the first novel in her Fantasy series, Daughter of the Drackan, was published in 2015 and is available on Amazon and in the Kindle store. The sequel, Mother of the Drackan, is due to be out Spring 2016.

Kathrin runs her own independent editing company, KLH CreateWorks, for Indie Authors of all genres. She also serves as Story Coordinator and Chief Editor for Collaborative Writing Challenge. Needless to say, she doesn’t have time to do anything she doesn’t enjoy.

www.kathrinhutsonfiction.com

www.facebook.com/kathrinhutsonfiction

www.klhcreateworks.com

www.facebook.com/klhcreateworks

Twitter: @KLHCreateWorks

Old Woman

The old woman grinned, showing maybe only four teeth amidst the black, gaping hole, and held out a crooked finger toward Nuala. “Ye heard me, lass. And I can help ye see him, I can. But I be needin’ something from ye in exchange.”

I have hardly a thing to offer,” Nuala said, wondering now if this was some parlor trick meant to scam her out of her hard-earned wages—though the woman had known her Georgie’s name and seemed to read the inside of Nuala’s heart like a book.

Even the poor have something useful,” the crone replied, wheezing for a few seconds when her words cut off in a fit of choking hacks. She shuffled a few steps closer, if that was even possible, and reached out a bony finger to tap Nuala three times in the hollow of her throat, right between her collarbones. “Ye have a bonnie voice, dearie, and I’d like to borrow it from ye for a while, if I may.”

The noxious stink of rotting cabbage overwhelmed Nuala’s senses for a minute, and she parted her lips only a little to breathe through her mouth. The woman seemed insane, but she wasn’t about to be rude. “How in the world could you borrow my voice?” she asked.

Ye just have to say the word and accept my gifts.” The old woman brought her hands out from the folds of her putrid rags and held them up to Nuala. In one hand she held a brass hand-mirror, her other hand poised above it a few inches. “I promise ye it works.” She tapped a ragged fingernail on the glass of the mirror three times, and a muted flash of light reflected off the mirror’s surface.

 

1. What’s your most prominent memory of St. Patrick’s Day? 

I always remember elementary school during St. Patrick’s Day. I spent grades 1-7 in a Catholic school, where we went to church every morning and had to wear uniforms every day—the whole shebang. So holidays like St. Patrick’s Day were pretty awesome just for the fact that we got to wear anything other than our boring navy and khaki uniform, as long as it was green. So everybody took advantage of that.

I also thought for the longest time that the basement of our tiny little catholic school was haunted by leprechauns every March. My friends and I would find those gold-wrapped chocolate coins in the strangest places in the basement, where we’d get to hang out after Girl Scouts or when we stayed after school in daycare.


2. Name the part of Irish culture you are most happy to lay claim to and why- is it Guinness? Irish music? The Book of Kells? The Fighting Irish?

I’m not sure there’s any part of Irish culture I can ‘lay claim to’, other than the fact that it’s in my blood. My family names on my mom’s side are Dougherty and Kuebel…there’s a lot of Irish there. I got the red hair, glowing white skin, and freckles—plus a little bit of the Celtic mysticism, I think. My second tattoo (out of the gobs I now have) is an entirely green rendition of the symbol or Cerridwen, the Celtic goddess of creativity and inspiration. She’s also known as a pretty tricky, powerful witch-woman, which is a little ironic, both for my own personality and for the characters I’ve written into this anthology story, Nuala’s Mirror.

 
3. What are your thoughts on working with this sort of writing exercise, fueled by prompts? How did seeing the prompts of your fellow authors and chatting online together with them about the work affect your process?

I love getting prompts like this. It’s a lot easier for me to work with prompts that have extreme specifics—mine were 1918, magic mirror, and a ship. That’s it. The possibilities are endless on that one, but it’s narrowed down a little bit because I have to incorporate all these things. It’s a lot better than getting a prompt with a super generalized theme. I think that lacks the larger spark of inspiration and how to ‘work around’ said prompt.

It was incredibly fun to watch all the other authors in this anthology discussing what they were thinking about their stories and their own prompts, about how the stories took on completely different personalities and lives of their own. I know I wasn’t the only author who ended up with a story completely different than what I’d originally planned. I’m a firm believer in a ‘writing community’. Yes, most of us write complete pieces on our own, and writing itself can be very isolated. But the simple exposure to other writers who like to discuss their work—their difficulties and successes—is a huge tool for my own motivation and inspiration with my own work.