Dash my wig! Are you feeling unwell? – a guest post by Anna Humphrey

Also known as…a blog post on Victorian era medicine.

Why is that, you may ask? Because the current project (MIDNIGHT HOUR, a Victoriana horror/scifi with steampunk elements) involves a couple of doctors (among other things) and so I’ve been reading up on the Victorian age and come up with some interesting, fun little facts that a) are useful for the novel, and b) that you, dearest reader, can use to impress at cocktail parties.

You know you will. Don’t give me that look.

My major Bible for this project is this wonderful “Encyclopedia of Health & Home” from 1898.  And various places on the internet. So here are a few interesting things I’ve learned so far:

-Artificial respiration was in full-use, in much the same way as I was taught when I did my Bronze Medallion/Cross (I once thought I’d work as a lifeguard. I learned very quickly that this was a Bad Idea. 😛 )
-ice cream was a remedy for hiccups. So was a teaspoon of vinegar. Take your pick.
-if you are suffering from a cough and cold, try boiling together flax seed, dry hoarhound (strong-smelling hairy plant of the mint family, thank you Wikipedia), and water. Add lemon and licorice and there you go!
-witch hazel extract was used for cleaning wounds.
-if your nose is runny, try sniffing a mouldy sock. Conversely, you might also try drinking hot whisky. (Whisky, please)

So there you go. Short, sweet, hopefully mildly entertaining.

…and if you drink too much at that cocktail party, you might try warm milk mixed with fireplace ash for the hangover.

You’re welcome. 😉

Anna F. Humphrey can be found musing, riffing, dancing, etc at afhumphrey.wordpress.com

Building a City from the (Under)Ground Up – a guest post by Brooke Johnson

Over the past few weeks I’ve blogged about the basics of an ecosystem, the four simple needs of an ecosystem, and apex predators. Today, Brooke Johnson is going to kick off a series of guest posts about civilization building. She’s going to bridge the gap from basic ecosystem to flourishing civilization. 

Brooke Johnson_THE GUILD CONSPIRACY coverWhen I first sat down to write The Brass Giant, the first book in my Chroniker City series, I never could have expected that this simple idea that popped into my head one late night of insomnia would somehow develop into this vivid alternate universe, sprawling with characters and stories. All I knew was that I needed to tell this one story, about a young girl who wants something impossible for her time—and how she makes that dream possible. I never imagined that Chroniker City, the fictional city in which series takes place, would grow so far beyond my original idea.

The city sits twenty miles off the southern coast of Wales, built onto a small island of rock eight miles west of Grassholm. In our world, a remote lighthouse stands there, built in the late 1850s. However, in my alternate timeline, a wealthy German engineer by the name of Gumarich Chroniker instead chose the location in the early 1830s for his greatest engineering project—a mechanical, self-sustaining city that would eventually become the technological hub of the modern world.

What I didn’t realize, was that in the course of writing the novel the city would evolve beyond that original world-building. As I delved deeper into the setting, the city gained history and layers and several different dynamics that I did not expect.

And I love that the world came alive like that. I love that this city started as nothing more than a simple what if… and then became this multifaceted world—from the subterranean levels of engines and boilers beneath the city to the leading polytechnical university of the modern world.

But one aspect of the setting stands out from the rest: the subcity. In The Brass Giant, I spend a good number of pages beneath the streets of the city proper. My main character navigates the dangerous service tunnels and networks of pipes to sneak into a restricted workshop, she visits her brother in the subcity boilers, and even uses her knowledge of the subcity layout to escape prison and go into hiding when she’s accused of espionage by the Guild. There’s much less of the subcity in The Guild Conspiracy, the second book in the series, but that doesn’t diminish its importance.

It’s this colossal, subterranean engine room that drives power to the city above, recycling water from the surrounding ocean to fill the boilers beneath the city streets, using the high temperatures from the active machinery to separate the salt from the excess water so that it can be used for plumbing, selling the leftover brine as an export. Fishing is a large trade, being an island city, and because of its close proximity to the mainland, the city has access to farms for importing poultry, meat, and produce.

As for the rest of the city, it operates heavily on trade, labor, and public service jobs among the lower and middle classes, with the upper classes usually involved in international or imperial business, trade, and financial investments. The Guild, the elite establishment of engineers, employs scientists, academic professionals, and engineers in order to develop new technologies and meet imperial demand for their creations. There is a lot of money in Chroniker City, but most of it remains in the hands of upper society.

The unique ecosystem within the subcity is what brings Chroniker City to life for me, transforming what could have been yet another ordinary London-esque setting into a fully mechanized city, a character in its own right, with many secrets hidden in its deep, dark hollows. This city is alive, and I hope that some small hint of its depth and mystery reach readers as they venture through its streets so that Chroniker City comes alive to them in the same way it exists in my head.


Want to read more about Chroniker City? You can buy Brooke’s ebook for $2.99!
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Google Play | HarperCollins

 Brooke Johnson_ press kit author photoBrooke Johnson is a stay-at-home mom and tea-loving author. As the jack-of-all-trades bard of the family, she journeys through life with her husband, daughter, and dog. She currently resides in Northwest Arkansas but hopes one day to live somewhere a bit more mountainous.

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Using the Real World to Build a Fictional World – a guest post by S. A. Hoag

The Vista: Book 1 of The Wildblood revolves around the survivors of a world war that destroys civilization as we know it. Protecting The Vista is the core of the story, not just through the first book, but all of them. So I’m going to introduce you to some of the real places that inspired my writing.

This is Deer Lodge, Montana, the place I renamed The Vista.

(Photo by Sam Beebe – Deer Lodge, Montana, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9094066)

Beautiful mountain drives, epic scenery, brilliant sunsets. Montana is full of places like this. Yes, this is a travel brochure in disguise. I’ve been known to do some rockhounding, and Montana has produced more gem quality sapphires than any other place in North America. Yes, I have a precious vial of Yogo Sapphires. How’s that for some trivia?

Mt. Powell, Deer Lodge, Montana

I picked a place that I could visualize as being isolated. Not everything about The Vista is real for Deer Lodge, obviously. The beauty of this place is undeniable. I’m from the Rocky Mountains, and there’s nothing like waking up one autumn morning and seeing fresh snow on the peaks.

This is a picture, from Goggle Earth, of The Junction. An important event happens here, and it changes the course of lives.

The Junction

Then we head south. Manito

u Springs, from the Incline, at night. I’ve skipped more current pictures of the area, as the Waldo Canyon Fire destroyed a lot of places I remember, and I want to leave those memories intact.

The Manitou Incline, CofC

Other places my characters venture through, or to, include Cody and Casper Wyoming, and Estes Park Colorado. That would be a summer trip to remember. Start in Montana and just follow the roads, see what there is to see.

That’s kind of what my characters do, when they find out they can.

Here I am, stuck in the flatlands, with the Rocky Mountains just 60 miles away. I write, I dream. Welcome to my worlds. If you’d like to read one, I hope you enjoy it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The Vista: Book 1 of The Wildblood, by S. A. Hoag

(promo picture)

Note To Self – a post by Amy Laurens

This is post is shamelessly stolen (with Amy’s belated permission) from www.AmyLaurens.com

Dear Self,

Here’s the thing. You’ve been waffling back and forth over this thing called writing for a long time now, and really, we’ve all had just about enough. You say you want this, that it’s a life ambition, a goal, whatever; you say that it’s impossible to achieve with everything else you have going on in your life.

You’ve read the advice. You’ve read the books, the courses, the blog posts, the articles: Writers write. Whether they feel like it or not, whether they’re feeling inspired or not, they show up, they apply fingers to keyboard, and they write. Even if it’s junk. Because at least junk is practice.

Moaning in your head or on twitter or wherever that you don’t have time to write is not. Shocking, I know.

But seriously: remember what you read the other day in that glorious book of Liz Gilbert’s? No one cares! It doesn’t actually matter! If you can’t write during term time, then fine! Don’t write! But don’t then spend every waking minute berating yourself for not. Seriously. If you have energy to berate, you have energy to write.

Ultimately, this comes down to one thing, and one thing only: you either want it, or you don’t.

If you want it, don’t spend one-two-three-four-five hours procrastinating on social media or surfing the ‘net before you actually get to writing (and then wonder why you’re now too tired). Don’t stare blankly at the computer wondering what’s supposed to be happening (that’s what outlining is for, or at the very least, grab a freaking pen and do a brainstorm on some paper). And most of all, don’t angst back and forth, praying and wishing and hoping and wondering whether or not you’re “supposed” to be a writer or not. You’ve already had your answer there: Show up, and a career will too. Show up, and the magic will eventually happen.

Eventually. You know this ain’t happening overnight. You know the hours you have to put in for this to work. Either you want it enough to go for it, or it’s all too hard and you don’t want it enough – which, hey, that’s totally legitimate! You don’t need writing to put food on the table or pay the bills; you don’t need writing to help you sleep at night. This is, literally, the icing on the cake. You write because you like it.

You do like it, don’t you? Because if not, why are we even having this conversation? If you don’t like it, just stop already. No one’s going to call you a failure, a quitter, a loser. If you don’t like writing, then stop.

Oh, she says slyly. You don’t want to stop? You do like it after all? Well fancy that.

In that case, I have just one more question for you. Are you ready? Sure? Okay. Here’s my final question:


And remember, the whole point is that it’s fun, not work.

Love ya,