Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Ministry Kickstarter Blog Hop

Written by Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series is a romping good read through an alternative Victorian London, where secret organisations hatch nefarious plots and the weird is investigated by an incendiary-happy New Zealander and a very proper British librarian.

Of course this mismatched pairing makes the story - Eliza Braun is suitably named while Wellington Books is the brains (not to say Eliza isn't clever, but she much prefers actions over words). Beyond their bickering and slow-blossoming friendship, there is a murder to solve and a mystery to uncover. And that's just in book one! (Phoenix Rising)

Now Morris and Ballantine are stretching their wings and taking the series even further.

The Ministry Initiative

Galileo Games and Imagine That! Studios have teamed up to bring you an ambitious steampunk project! The Ministry Initiative is a two-part creative endeavor that will not only premiere new fiction from the steampunk world of the Ministry but also present a brand new role playing game from the makers of Bulldogs! and the ENnie Award winning game Shelter in Place.

Thrill to the tales in Ministry Protocol anthology, or join in as an Agent in The Ministry Initiative RPG. Find out more about this endeavor and support the Kickstarter here:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Know how to use your tech.

Art by Internetnerdette
Some readers would argue they don't read punk fiction such as Cyberpunk and Biopunk because the read is so tedious it's not entertaining. Those readers were the victims of over-explanation, jargon and what I call "tech as a character."

Punk lit would be nothing without the technology weaved into the world created by the author. I would go as far as saying technology makes any punk world. While it may be the cogs and wheels of Steampunk, the neural connections of Cyberpunk or the recombined DNA strands of Biopunk - tech and the future of science is undeniably at the center of all punk genres.

Readers of punk fiction want to imagine the possibilities of future technology while being entertained; they want to believe humans will eventually be able to plug up their brain directly into virtual reality. But this cannot turn into an engineering manual. In order to buy it, the reader as to believe the tech has been mastered by the characters and is now completely organic to society, to the point where it is seen as an intrinsic element rather than just as an extrapolation. If it has been part of your character's world, your character won't feel the need to explain every detail of it.

You may be so brilliant that you would be able to explain your new tech to the minute detail, but beware that it may sound like a research report and thus break the believability of your concept. The reader will feel like you're trying too hard to explain your tech manipulation and be taken out of your story.

You want your story to be accessible to as many people as possible. You know what a precuneus is, you know everything there is to know about nucleobases or you could build your own steam engine in your backyard. While that is awesome, you don't need to show off in your story. Most readers won't know what you're talking about and they'll throw your book across the room or burn it.

You cannot use your tech as a crutch. You still need to instill your character's voice as well as a seamless plot. Don't forget you're telling a story, and for a story to happen you need well developed characters. Punk fiction is about a state of mind, a struggle, a point that is being made. If you focus so much on the technology and how cool it is, your characters will fall flat and the reader will wonder why they should keep reading? Technology is a tool to bring forth an atmosphere and plot twists, but in the end, the effects of it on your characters is what matters most.

You've got to weave the tech around the plot, weave the plot around the tech while injecting your character's voice. No easy task, but who said being a writer was easy?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Feature: Greaveburn by Craig Hallam

 A HERO MURDERED. A GIRL ALONE. A CITY OF VILLAINS. From the crumbling belfry to the citadel's stained glass eye, across acres of cobbled streets and alleyways that never see daylight, Greaveburn is a city with darkness at its core. Gothic spires battle for height, overlapping each other until the skyline is a jagged mass of thorns. Archduke Choler sits on the throne, his black sealed letters foretell death for the person named inside. Abrasia, the rightful heir, lives as a recluse in order to stay alive. With her father murdered and her only ally lost, Abrasia is alone in a city where the crooked Palace Guard, a scientist's assistant who is more beast than man and a duo of body snatchers are all on her list of enemies. Under the cobbled streets lurk the Broken Folk, deformed rebels led by the hideously deformed Darrant, a man who once swore to protect the city. In a darkened laboratory, the devious Professor Loosestrife builds a contraption known only as "The Womb". With Greaveburn being torn apart around her, can Abrasia avenge her father's murder before the Archduke's letter spells her doom?


Craig Hallam

By day, Craig Hallam is a Nurse. In the afternoons, he studies English Literature with the Open University.

But by night he writes works of Speculative Fiction. Tackling short stories since late 2008, his tales have graced the pages of the British Fantasy Society, Misanthrope Press, Pill Hill Press, and Murky Depths. He has managed to avoid winning a single award in this whole time and has decided to take that as an accolade in itself, whenever the tears stop falling.

His debut novel, Greaveburn, a Gothic Steampunk tale, is out now from Inspired Quill Publishing.

His short story collection, Not Before Bed, is also available HERE.


Craig, thanks for letting us feature your book! Could you tell everyone a little bit about yourself?Sure. I'm a qualified Nurse working in elderly rehabilitation. Since a young age I've always loved reading and that sparked off a vivid imagination. My main goal has always been to write a book and get it in a shelf so where and thanks to Inspired Quill I've been able to make that come true. The only problem is that I'm now bitten by the bug and just can't stop writing!

It looks like a lot of your writing background rooted is in horror and paranormal stories. What made you decide to develop steampunk?

It was a total accident. I had always loved the Victorian aesthetic and loved watching movies such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. I really wanted to use that at some point and the first time I wrote about Loosestrife, it just came out.

Afterward someone said it was Steampunk and I was like "what the hell is that?" Since then I've become addicted.
I loved the world you built, how Greaveburn seems to be an island unto itself without another city close by. Was that an intentional setting or did it come about organically?

In order for Greaveburn to work with such a claustrophobic atmosphere whole maintaining a grand scope, I had to come up with a balance. So, the city may be massive, ancient and crumbling, but there's nowhere else to go, so people are forced to stay. Cue mayhem!
Loosestrife. Where did this deliciously-mad scientist come from? He may be one of my favorite characters in the book.

He's a bit bonkers isn't he? The idea for Greaveburn was really about the grey area between good and evil. How good men can be driven to insane acts and how madmen can seek redemption. Loosestrife was my vision of a "classic" villain. Someone without any scruples whatsoever. In that way, I had a lot of fun writing him. That probably shows, now I think about it.

Will we be seeing more of the Greaveburn cast in the future (like Corwater? He’s…pretty awesome)?
Ooooh good question. I always said that I'd hate to get stuck writing a trilogy for the sake of it, and that Greaveburn would stand alone as a statement piece. But, God help me, I love that place. I have an idea for a sequel but it will be far from what you might expect. More on that in the future...hehe

There were a couple of unexpected character deaths (okay, several). Did writing these deaths affect you? One of them was pretty major.
This is the question I get asked most: "Why did you kill (whoever), they shouldn't have died!"
The answer is: "That's life"

My idea for Greaveburn was that there are no heroes, only normal, selfish people with their own agendas. I wanted the reader to look at every character and get that in a different way so that they could decide who to root for and get a different experience each time.

As for me writing the deaths, it just seemed right to do it that way. I hate stories where you'll know who will survive, who won't. That comes from my love of horror movies. And hopefully no one expects what happens with the Greaveburners.

What do you envision as a future for Chintz, Brigit, and Narelle? For Darrant?  
For Darrant, I think his story is over. He has had enough to go through without me hitting him again haha. As for the Broken Folk, you'll have to see in the sequel (if I ever get a solid enough vision for it). I'd hate to spoil anything :)

If you’d been caught in the middle of the Broken Ones war with the aristocracy, what would you have done? Joined them? Sided with the upper crust? Watch idly and take bets?
I'm a coward, really. I like to think that I'd join the Broken Folk, but probably in a quiet rebellion. Perhaps as Corwater's helper. I'm certainly no hero haha.

Anything you can tell us about future projects?
My next novel is currently being read by Inspired Quill. Called The Adventures of Alan Shaw, this time it's a more solid Steampunk story revolving around the eponymous character as he grows up from a street urchin in Victorian London having various mis-adventures along the way. Once again, the hero isn't quite as you'd expect. There is some elements of romance but only in a truly realistic way rather than sweeping fantasy love. Poor Alan is going to be run through the mill!
This project was going to be a single book but as I wrote it I got so into it, and had so many ideas for adventures, that its ended up as a two volume epic. Who knew? I really can't wait to see what you think of it.

Looking forward to it! Ooooh, I hope there's Corwater...

Greaveburn is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


After uncovering the mysteries of elfpunk, I wanted to delve into a few more of the lesser-known punk genres.

What I've found, ladies and gentlemen, is that I still have a lot of work to do, and some of these lesser-known punks are really flipping obscure. Which is half the fun.

*Cracks knuckles* So let's get started, shall we?


In case you're not familiar with Nikola Tesla, check out this incredibly informative and totally academic video:

Okay. Now you have a grasp on what made Tesla so awesome and why he got his own punk genre (you don't see Edisonpunk, now do you?).

Teslapunk is similar to steampunk, but in a lot of ways, not even close to it. The technology is based on Tesla's inventions (Tesla coil and whatnot) and is most of the time incredibly cheap or even free, like the scientist wanted. However, Teslapunk can also be mildly dystopian in nature in that the government or some other shady society often takes control of the technology, using it to manipulate the masses, thus explaining why we don't have this technology in present time.


From Fallout: New Vegas
The second of these mysterious punk genres is Atompunk or Atomicpunk (not to be confused with the Van Halen song). Considered a subgenre of cyberpunk, atompunk typically takes place between 1945-1965 and utilizes the political climes of those years--most notably Communism, the Cold War, and the Race to Space. Its technology is based on the atomic era, meaning--you guessed it--RADIATION. Well, nuclear power. Still. Awesome. The most notable examples of this awesome-sounding subgenre are the Fallout video game series (New Vegas, FTW!) and Destroy All Humans!

I do not own this awesome image

In the same vein as Atompunk is Dieselpunk. Dieselpunk is BIG. It's an amalgamation of everything awesome about the years between the 20s and 50s, drawing inspiration from artistic and genre influences. Pulp fiction (not the movie), serial magazines, pinup girls, you name it, and it's in there. As indicated by the name, Dieselpunk relies on diesel fuel. Probably the best known example of Dieselpunk is Scott Westerfield's Leviathan.

Or this one.
On the other side of the coin is Decopunk, a subgenre that spans the same decades as Dieselpunk. Decopunk is the stylish younger sister of the above-mentioned subgenre, relying more on the art deco aesthetic than its better-known predecessor. Decopunk is flashy and shiny, very stylized, and filled with chrome. Otherwise, it's not *that* much different from Dieselpunk. If you need a visualization, think Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow with Jude Law and Gweneth Paltrow.

I hope your interest in these fantastic--and somewhat underutilized--genres has been piqued. Go forth, do your own research, play some Fallout: New Vegas (it's awesome, guys, seriously), and impress your friends at parties. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Punk Attitude


Cyberpunk and steampunk. One takes place in the digital age, the other takes place in the industrial age. How can there be similarity, you wonder? Because of the word punk!

No, not the letters that spell out punk. The meaning of the word punk is what's important. The connotations it brings vary: rebellious, anti-authoritarian, unruly, individualistic, loud, do-it-yourself, unemployed, piercings, tattoos, colored hair, irresponsible, philistine, passionate, angry, energetic, fast music, cursing. Not all of these connotations are fair or justified; some are exaggerated, some are positive. They do, however, capture that punk means being apart from the status quo. The word isn't used to refer to a person just like everyone else.

In this sense, punk is an attitude. It is not doing something just because society, the government, or a corporation says so. It is life run independently, as opposed to simply following a script. It is being self-styled. As a genre, cyberpunk's most fascinating themes follow the meaning of punk.

Taking Neuromancer again, Case is trying to put himself on his own feet again, trying to escape the control of the mycotoxin preventing him from working in cyberspace. Molly has enhanced eyes and essentially works as a "street samurai". She even has an aura of being uncontrollable - she'll only act if she agrees with the objective. As a whole, the theme of Neuromancer is to become independent with technology serving as both a help and a hindrance. 

The Difference Engine, a fantastic example of steampunk, is just as punk. Much of the conflict is about obtatining punch cards to run a program for placing winning bets. Edward Mallory is a paleontologist, but he defends the cards in a near-reckless manner. During an inversion layer caused by pollution, riots break out in London, so Mallory is in real danger without extensive police protection. Running life independently becomes a necessity - even a scientist can be punk. Again, technology brings about punk possibilities. Early computers can promote personal possibilities even if through gambling. Technology also brings about strife in terms of pollution caused by industrialization, thereby leading to civil unrest.

Setting may vary in the punk genres, but there is a prevailing punk attitude.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cyberpunk Aesthetic

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." 

Few opening lines capture a complete aesthetic like the first sentence of Neuromancer. Cyberpunk would grow out of this emotionally gray projection of the future of a technologically connected world. The environment is not thought of in terms of adapting to an mysterious and untamable natural world, but in terms of adapting to the technological creations by mankind. The sky is disinterested, having no thoughts or emotion of its own. But television turned to a dead channel! That takes human will, which is filled with unknown motives and feelings. The sky, the world, is a result of the cumulative individual decisions of humanity manifested in technology. The channel can be turned off at any moment.

Such a powerful aesthetic even captures deep themes. Feeling trapped by a world created by the priorities of others. Breaking out by creating the world in one's own image, no matter how strenuous the process may be. For cyberpunk, this is expressed with the pervasive effect of technology in every facet of life. Dark, grimy, broken down environment. While this is already apparent in the earlier post introducing Neuromancer, there is a lot more to be found.

Case experiences the world around him as underground and behind the scenes, sometimes literally. The Finn provides black market tools in complete darkness, away from the public eye. Technology has become such a part of life that even run-down communities have become inundated with constant streams of bytes. Cyberspace goes beyond underground, beyond even any kind of ground. It is not described in earthly terms, but with shapes and abstractions, modes of thinking only enabled with advancing computers.

Cyberpunk aesthetic matures in Neuromancer's successors, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. Leaving aside critique of their plots, their environments are built precisely. Sprawling urban environments in the whole trilogy. Voodoo entities taking up home in cyberspace, and the graceful advancement of Paris in Count Zero. Dilapidated workshops of a junkyard, the technologically chaotic life of a pop star, and the cold environment of Britain as a foreigner in Mona Lisa Overdrive.

What genres in other mediums do you think fits the cyberpunk aesthetic?

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Landra Graf *of Rise of the Slush AND Indie Books R Us fame* has been kind enough to give us a reason to blog. She's awesome. Love her. You should love her too.

Landra nominated us for the Liebster Award!!!


....what is the Liebster Award, you ask?

The "Liebster Award" is for bloggers with under 300 folllowers. The rules of the award is that the nominee must link back to whoever awarded them, write 11 random facts about themselves, answer the 11 questions from the award giver, and then nominate another 11 bloggers and make up 11 questions for them to answer. It's a great way for new and undiscovered bloggers to meet new people, get more followers and find some blogs that they want to follow."- From fellow blogger Wayne who first gave the award to James.


... we're a team at Pen Punk Central, and since we like even numbers, we decided to up the list from 11 to 12, so we could split it among all four members .



...since it had to be as much fun for us as for our readers, we made it into a contest, with a $10 Amazon gift card up for grabs!!! All you have to do is guess which random facts goes with each Pen Punk member!Post your guesses as a comment to this post.

Bonus entries: guess which question answer goes with each member and get bonus entries for each one you get correctly!

The contest ends May 10th at midnight. Winner will be announced within a few days.

12 Random Facts

1. I am mortally allergic to nuts.
2. My secret dream is to be a ballerina, despite the fact that I'm too big to be one and I have zero flexibility. I also have never had formal training.
3. My least favorite book is Jane Eyre.
4. I played oboe in high school and college band. Sounded like a duck most of the time.
5. I once translated an entire novel from one language to another.
6. I prefer tangible books.
7. Most things with more than 4 legs are my enemy. I am deathly afraid of spiders, roaches....ect.
8. I broke my leg aged 3 by jumping off the sofa.
9. Misa is not my birth name (that's an easy one ;-)
10. I curse like a sailor (and trying to break the bad habit).
11. My favorite novel laureate is Richard Feynman.
12. I could make chicken and dumplins from scratch before I perfected the culinary feat of grilled cheese.

Landra's Questions to Us

1. What keeps you writing? What motivates the muse?
Some days I just can't stop. Some take sheer dogged determination.

2. Will ebooks take over the world?
I hope they'll one day be seen as important as print, but that is never going to go away. Nor do I want it to.

3. What genre do you think is on the rise or coming back?

Science fiction is on the rise. (And we're not biased at all on that one :-P)

4. Where do you get some of your best ideas? 

Reading about scientists and cutting-edge science research in cognition and physics.

5. Are you a sweet, savory, or salty fan?
I love em all, but I'm a sucker for sweet stuff. I'm pretty sure I have 32 sweet teeth. Though I will admit that a bag of chips after a Hershey bar is pretty much heaven.

6. What are the essential things you need before starting a writing session?
Music and no distractions. Spotify is the best thing ever, and if I can get absorbed into the music and the world I'm working in, I can get a TON accomplished.

7. Favorite Social Media site and why?
 Twitter, because you can connect immediately to people all over the world.

8. The best things about Social Media?
The opportunity to find support among other authors and the chances for networking.

9. The worst thing about Social Media? 
That it sucks you IN. OMG. Sometimes I get caught up in conversation, and the next thing I know, it's been three hours. O_O
10. If you were tasked with writing someones memoir (your pick) who would you write one on? 


11. Favorite book when you were 16 years-old
Dune by Frank Herbert

And the Nominees are ....

Katelyn Torrey
Ava Doran
Our Questions to our Nominees:

1. What is your biggest personal achievement?
2. Do you have a goal for this year? If so, what is it?
3. If you could pick any imaginary world (from novels/movies) to live in, which would it be and why?
4. If you could spend a day with any celebrity, whom would you choose and why?
5. What's the last book you read that surprised you?
6. What's your favorite game show to watch, and would you actually want to be a contestant on it?
7. If you could pick any novel besides your own to be made into a movie, which would it? Why?
8. What is your favorite YouTube Video?
9. What is a book you hate but wish you liked?
10. Who is one of your favorite philosophers?
11. Where do you do your best thinking about deep questions?