Making Leonardo’s Lion

An artistic acquaintance of mine has been making 3D printed models of vehicles and gadgets from my stories. Today I’ll introduce another one she made, the mechanical clockwork lion from my book “Leonardo’s Lion.”LeonardosLion5

It’s a modification of the one available on Thingiverse here, designed by YahooJapan. She added a cutout section showing gears inside. I painted the model myself.Lion 1

According to some accounts, Leonardo da Vinci made a working, mechanical lion. It was toward the end of his life when he was living in France. Records aren’t clear, but the newly crowned King of France, Francois I, met Pope Leo X in Bologna on December 19, 1515. Either the lion was presented at that event, or was commissioned then and given to the king at a party two years later.

Lion 2The lion could walk, move its head from side to side, and open and shut its jaws. It then sat on its haunches; its chest cavity opened, and a bouquet of lilies fell out. The lion was the symbol of Pope Leo X and lilies symbolized France, so this mechanism represented the strong bond between the two.

Lion 3

 

 

 

 

 

In our modern world of automated gadgets, it’s difficult to imagine the effect such a lion would have at a party in the early 16th Century.

Lion 4I got to wondering what might have happened to that lion afterward. My story, “Leonardo’s Lion,” takes place some fifty years later. The lion stands forgotten in a storeroom, hidden among numerous other gifts presented to previous kings.

A ten-year-old boy named Chev comes upon the lion after escaping an orphanage. He’s able to get the automaton working, and is small enough to ride on its back. Inside the lion, he finds a message Leonardo had meant for King Francois I to discover, and a clue to a world-changing secret. Thus begins Chev’s ride on the lion’s back, through a country torn apart by warring religions.

In potential future improvements to this model, I’d love to have movable legs, a swaying head, and a seam for the chest cavity.

I welcome your thoughts about my model. Leave a comment on this post for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

The Votes Are In

predlogoTheCometeers72dpiTimesDeformedHand72dpi

 

 

 

 

 

I owe a great big thank-you to those who voted for my stories in the Critters Workshop Annual Preditors and Editors Readers Poll for 2014.

My story “The Cometeers” came in 3rd of 7 among Steampunk Short Stories, and “Time’s Deformèd Hand” tied for 3rd out of 25, in the All Other Short Stories category.

Thanks again for voting for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

January 17, 2015Permalink

Vote for Your Favorite Story of 2014

Happy New Year! That must mean it’s time for the Critters Writers Workshop to conduct their Preditors and Editors Poll (the 17th annual one this time) to see which newly published e-book readers prefer.

critters_headerYou can vote for your favorite book in a wide variety of categories. It’s not really a scientific poll, but winning it (or landing in the top ten) gives each author some bragging rights.

TheCometeers72dpi Someone has entered two of my own stories in the poll. “The Cometeers” is in the Steampunk Short Story category and is currently running 2nd out of 6 in the poll. Also, “Time’s Deformèd Hand” is in the All Other Short Story category and is currently running 3rd out of 22 in the poll.TimesDeformedHand72dpi  The links in this paragraph and the story cover images take you straight to the correct poll category to vote.

If you wish, you could vote for my stories. All you do is click the button beside your favorite story’s title (for example, “The Cometeers” and “Time’s Deformèd Hand”), then scroll to the bottom, enter your e-mail address, and type an author’s name from a book cover image to prove you’re not a spam robot. Then you’ll get an e-mail to confirm your vote; just click the link in the email and you’re done. Please vote before January 14, when they close the polling.

Once again, our good ol’ Earth has reached the beginning of its orbit and started another elliptical swing around the Sun. That’s worth celebrating! The astronomers and calendar manufacturers have declared we get to start a new year, so that’s not a bad deal. Happy 2015, everyone, from—

Poseidon’s Scribe

The Story behind “Time’s Deformèd Hand”

You were wondering about this new story of mine, “Time’s Deformèd Hand,” so I’ve written this blog post to answer all your questions. It’s the least I can do to satisfy your curiosity. Luckily for both of us, the post contains no spoilers.

Q: What’s the book about?

A: Here’s a short book blurb: “Time for zany mix-ups in a clock-obsessed village. Long-separated twins, giant automatons, and Shakespeare add to the madcap comedy. Read it before it’s too late!”

Q: What’s with the weird title, and why is there a grave accent mark in the word ‘deformed?’
A: The title is stolen from Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors.” In fact, I pretty much ripped off the Bard’s whole play. The story has many, many references to time, clocks, and calendars, and all the sorts of errors associated with time measurement, so the title is appropriate. The grave accent mark (`) means to pronounce that usually-silent ‘e’ as you would in ‘scented,’ to make the poetic rhythm come out right.

Q: What made you think of writing it?

A: I got the idea, somehow, to combine Shakespeare and clockpunk. I wanted the tale to be lighthearted, so I picked one of Shakespeare’s comedies. Having raised a set of identical twins myself, I was drawn to “The Comedy of Errors” due to all its mistaken-identity gags. Rather than two sets of identical twins separated at birth, I thought I’d have just one set, but each young man has a clockman, and all clockmen are identical.

Q: What are clockmen?

A: In my story, clockmen are clockwork automatons, invented by Leonardo da Vinci a century before my story. They’re eight feet tall, with an outer shell of wood covering the metal gears, ratchets, and cogs. They display a clock on their chest, and have a large, wind-up key protruding from their back. Due to a special property of a certain kind of wood, clockmen are sentient, though they seem dull-witted.

Q: What are the story’s strangest characters?

A: First, I’d have to say the town’s Wachmeister, or constable. Wachmeister Baumann is pompous, and also overconfident, considering he can’t seem to correctly pronounce any policing terms. Then there’s the proprietor of the city’s clockman repair shop, a certain William Shakespeare. Herr Shakespeare had moved from England to this Swiss village. For a repairman, he has the rather odd habit of speaking in iambic pentameter, and a deep understanding of human nature.

Q: What do you mean by ‘many references to time?’

A: The setting of the story is a Swiss village called Spätbourg (“late-town”). It is shaped like a clock, with twelve streets radiating out from the center. It contains the Tempus Fugit Restaurant, the Oaken Cuckoo Tavern, and the Sundial Inn. In addition, the story includes several clock jokes, clock mix-ups, as well as clock and calendar paradoxes.

Q: When and where can I buy it?

A: Thought you’d never ask. The book is launching today! You can buy it here, here, and here, and soon it will be available at Gypsy Shadow Publishing and other places.

What? You have more questions about “Time’s Deformèd Hand?” Better leave a comment for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

November 16, 2014Permalink

The Reviews Are In, and It’s About Time

My new story, “Time’s Deformèd Hand,” is starting to garner some interesting praise from reviewers. Here’s just a sample:

  • “I laughed, I cried, I winced, I snorted my milk in my cereal.”

Houston Chronometer

  • “If you read only one book set in 16th Century Switzerland…well, if you read only five, this should be one of them.”

New York Timer

  • “In ‘Time’s Deformèd Hand,’ Steven R. Southard manages to take Shakespeare’s ‘A Comedy of Errors’ and update it all the way from 1594 to 1600.”

Baltimore Sundial

  • “Your book, ‘Time’s Deformèd Hand,’ is a completely inaccurate portrayal of Switzerland. There is no such town as Spätbourg and never has been. The Swiss people are not as obsessed with clocks as you describe. You will be hearing from our lawyers.”

Swiss Ministry of Tourism

[Note to self: Not a book review. Remember to delete before publishing post.]

  • “It’s like Shakespeare meets the Marx Brothers, in a clock factory, and they’re all on a caffeine high.”

Greensborough Watchman

  • “One character in the story uses da Vinci wings to fly. Really cool! I want those wings. Second, I’ve got to have one of the eight foot tall clockwork automatons. I really want both of ‘em, but I’m not gonna be greedy.”

Allthingsclockpunk.com

Remember, the book is scheduled for launch in two days, on November 15th. With reviews like those, nothing more need be said by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

November 14, 2014Permalink

Time for a Story to Launch

I just learned my next story, “Time’s Deformèd Hand,” is scheduled to be launched by Gypsy Shadow Publishing in just three days, on November 15th. It’s the 12th book in that What Man Hath Wrought series everyone’s talking about.

Here’s the blurb: It’s 1600 in an alternate Switzerland, a world where Da Vinci’s mechanical automatons and human-powered flight almost work, thanks to magic trees. Long-separated twins, Georg the reluctant groom and Georg the clock thief, roam the clocklike village of Spätbourg, beset by more time and date errors than you can shake an hour hand at. Will Georg get married after all, and repair the town’s central tower clock? Will Georg—the other one—purloin more timepieces, or give up his pilfering ways? Will William Shakespeare lend a hand, and some iambic pentameter poetry, to reset the cogs and gears of this zany comedy? Only time will tell…or maybe not, in this ultimate clockpunk tale of mistaken identity and temporal mix-ups.

I’ll be sure to let you know when “Time’s Deformèd Hand” is launched and where you can buy it. You know if there’s one person who’d never leave you uninformed, it’s—

Poseidon’s Scribe

November 13, 2014Permalink

Meet the Punk Family

If you’re into science fiction, particularly alternate history or speculative fiction, there are some interesting sub-genres to be aware of.  They all have -punk in their name:  cyberpunk, clockpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk, and atompunk.

Punk FamilyI’ve blogged about steampunk before, but here I’ll step back and introduce the Punk family.

  • Cyberpunk. This term describes fiction involving a world of the near future where computer technology has made life miserable and degraded society.  Author Bruce Bethke is credited with coining the term in 1980 in connection with his short story “Cyberpunk.”  Major writers of cyberpunk include Pat Cadigan, William Gibson, and Bruce Sterling.  Some cinematic examples of cyberpunk are 1984, Blade Runner, Mad Max, the Terminator movies, and Tron.  In my graphic I’ve depicted it as the parent of the Punk Family since it came first.
  • Clockpunk.  This refers to fiction set in a time when metal springs are the primary technological energy storage mechanism, an era prior to the invention of the steam engine.  A player of the Generic Universal RolePlaying System (GURPS) invented the term.  Clockpunk authors of note include Jay Lake, S. M. Peters, and Terry Pratchett.
  • Steampunk.  This subgenre depicts settings with steam-powered mechanisms, often in time periods similar to the nineteenth century.  Author K. W. Jeter invented the term in 1987.  Early giants of steampunk literature include James Blaylock, K. W. Jeter, and Tim Powers, though there are many, many writers continuing in their footsteps.  Movie examples of steampunk include Atlantis: The Lost Empire, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Prestige, Sherlock Holmes, Van Helsing, and Wild Wild West.  I think it’s fair to say this child of cyberpunk has surpassed its parent and all its siblings in popularity.  It has spawned a culture all its own with jewelry, clothing, art, music, and dedicated conventions in addition to books.
  • Dieselpunk.  In Dieselpunk we see the gasoline-based technology of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.  Game designer Lewis Pollak came up with the term in 2001.  Authors of dieselpunk include David Bishop, Robert Harris, Brian Moreland, and F. Paul Wilson.  Some examples of dieselpunk movies are Rocketeer and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.  As with steampunk, dieselpunk also comes with its own visual style — art deco.
  • Atompunk.  This refers to fiction set in the exuberant post World War II age, the Atomic Age.  I couldn’t find anything about who coined the term.  Some atompunk authors are Adam Christopher and Dante D’Anthony.  I don’t know of any atompunk movies made since the sub-genre emerged, but many science fiction movies of the 1950’s can be thought of as proto-atompunk.  There are associated visual styles with atompunk, too:  Googie Architecture, Populuxe, and Raygun Gothic.

There are other, lesser known, members of the Punk family:  Decopunk, Biopunk, Nanopunk, Stonepunk, Nowpunk, Splatterpunk, Elfpunk, and Mythpunk.  Perhaps if these attract sufficient readers, I’ll blog about them too.

The ‘-punk’ aspect of each of these is meant to convey that these are not celebrations of the technology in question.  The idea in these stories is to convey dark and disturbing faults in the societies driven by the technology, and by extension, to point out analogous problems with our own modern society.

My steampunk stories include “The Steam Elephant,” “The Wind-Sphere Ship,” (call that one Iron Age steampunk), “Within Victorian Mists,” “A Steampunk Carol,” “The Six Hundred Dollar Man,” and the upcoming “Rallying Cry.”

I’ve written a couple of clockpunk stories too:  “Leonardo’s Lion” and “A Tale More True.”

Perhaps you’ll enjoy getting to know the Punk Family.  They’re an odd bunch, but they’re getting more famous every day.  Leave a comment and explain what you think about them to the world and to—

                                                        Poseidon’s Scribe

November 24, 2013Permalink

The Seed and Twist Revisited

I’ve mentioned a couple of times before (here and here) my method of coming up with story ideas.  I call it the seed and twist.  The seed is some humdrum, everyday thing.  The twist is where you look at the seed in a new way, give it some novel alteration.

By way of illustration, I’ll discuss the seed and twist for each of the stories I’ve had published to date.  Don’t think of it as a glimpse into how my mind works; you don’t want to know.  Think of it as a jumping off point for coming up with your own story ideas.  Sometimes my seed ideas aren’t very everyday things.

  • Target Practice
    • Seed:  a prison
    • Twist:  It’s a prison of the future, underwater, and prisoners are made to drive weaponless mini-subs to serve as targets for the country’s submariners.
  • Alexander’s Odyssey
    • Seed:  the legend that Alexander the Great descended in a diving bell
    • Twist:  How would the sea-god Poseidon react?
  • The Sea-Wagon of Yantai
    • Seed:  some obscure references I found that someone had made a submarine in China around 200 BC
    • Twist:  make it a tale pitting war against peace
  • Blood in the River
    • Seed: your standard vampire
    • Twist:  This is an Amazonian vampire-fish known as a candiru, that shape-shifts between human and fish forms.
  • The Finality
    • Seed:  the disaster to come in the year 2012 foretold by the Mayan calendar
    • Twist:  The disaster is the universal end of time itself.
  • The Vessel
    • Seed:  a ship and its crew returning home
    • Twist:  It’s a ship from Atlantis, and their home has sunk beneath the seas.
  • The Steam Elephant
    • Seed: the huge, mechanical elephant from a Jules Verne story set in India.
    • Twist:  Take the same characters, with a newly built steam elephant, and set them in African in 1879, in time for the Anglo-Zulu War.
  • The Wind-Sphere Ship
    • Seed:  the little steam toy invented by Heron (also spelled Hero) in 1st century Alexandria
    • Twist:  What would happen if he’d used steam to power a ship?
  • Within Victorian Mists
    • Seed:  a steampunk romance
    • Twist:  Lasers and holograms get invented early, in the late 1800s.
  • Seasteadia
    • Seed:  a story of young love between opposites
    • Twist:  The story is set against the backdrop of the world’s first permanent sea colony, or seastead.
  • A Sea-Fairy Tale
    • Seed:  a man learning that the world must have some fantasy in it
    • Twist:  He learns this from an oceanid, a mythological sea fairy.
  • Leonardo’s Lion
    • Seed:  the life-size clockwork lion built by Leonardo da Vinci in 1515
    • Twist:  It’s about fifty years later and the lion is found by a small boy who finds a secret hidden inside the lion.
  • Against All Gods
    • Seed:  a journey to visit all seven wonders of the ancient world
    • Twist:  The gods of Greek mythology are angry with a pair of mortal lovers and will stop at nothing to ruin their love for each other.
  • A Steampunk Carol
    • Seed:  Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
    • Twist:  The story is played out using the characters of “Within Victorian Mists.”
  • The Six Hundred Dollar Man
    • Seed:  the 1970s TV show, “The Six Million Dollar Man”
    • Twist:  It’s set in steampunk times.
  • A Tale More True
    • Seed:  the notion of man travelling to the moon
    • Twist:  The story is set in a time even before steam power, when the most powerful man-made source of energy was the metal clockwork spring.

It’s one way of coming up with story ideas.  So far, it’s worked for—

                                                        Poseidon’s Scribe

October 27, 2013Permalink

The Truth About “A Tale More True”

Gypsy Shadow Publishing just launched my newest story, “A Tale More True” and I’m excited about it. Here’s the blurb:

History’s greatest liar, a colossal clockwork spring, a fantastic trip to the Moon…in 1769. Read it, but don’t expect truth.

What made me write a clockpunk alternate history story about an 18th Century trip to the moon? As both of my many fans know, I’m a great admirer of Jules Verne, who wrote a classic tale called From the Earth to the Moon.

One day I was searching the web about fictional trips to the moon and discovered Verne was a bit of a latecomer to that topic. Here are some of his predecessors, and the methods they used to get their characters to the moon, according to this website:

ws-images-reading-09-jan-im01-lucian-true-story-tm• Lucian of Samosata, True History, 2nd Century A.D. Carried to the moon by a waterspout/whirlwind, and Icaromenippus, 2nd Century A.D. Flew to the moon in an aerial carriage.
• Johannes Kepler, The Dream, 1634. Transported to the moon by aerial demons.
• Bishop Francis Godwin, The Man in the Moone, 1638. Pulled to the moon godwin001by trained geese.
• Cyrano de Bergerac, Comic History of Estates and Empires of the Moon, 1650. Launched to the moon by firecrackers.
• Daniel Defoe, The Consolidator, 1705. Rode an ‘engine’ called The Consolidator.
• Vasily Kevshin, Newest Voyage, 1784. Flew to moon in a self-constructed flying apparatus.
• Wilhelm Kuchelbecker, Land of Acephals, 1824. Flew in a balloon.
• Edgar Allan Poe, The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall, 1835. Flew in a balloon equipped with an air compressor.

I was struck by the fact that no one had written about going to the moon using spring power. During the 1600s and 1700s, they knew about the energy-storage properties of springs, the driving force in most clocks, so I thought someone should write that story.

During the research I also happened upon the interesting historical figure, Baron Hieronymus Carl Friedrich von Münchhausen, well known for his fanciful fibs, including tall tales about making two trips to the moon. In one trip he climbed a tall beanstalk, and in the second a hurricane lifted his ship up to the moon. I wondered if a rival of the Baron might be upset by these lies and might set about to prove Münchhausen wrong.

That’s how “A Tale More True” was born.

Subsequently I happened upon this website, and learned that David Russen had written A Voyage to the Moon in 1703, in which a giant spring is used to reach the moon. Oh, well, I wasn’t the first after all!

For you engineers and realists out there, yes, I know a human would not survive the acceleration of being ‘sprung’ to Earth’s escape velocity. However, it might be possible to construct a huge spring within a cylinder, have the spring drawn down in compression, draw a near vacuum in the cylinder, and launch a solid, unmanned projectile to escape velocity. Why you’d want to do that, I have no idea, but it might be possible.

Still, it’s fun to imagine someone building a giant spring in 1769 and travelling to the moon two centuries early. And as long as I was changing history anyway, I figured I’d also change the moon. In most of those early space-travel stories, (except Verne’s), the moon was inhabited. So why not populate the moon in my story?

And, though it’s outside my normal line, why not make the story humorous?

Anyway, enough said. The book has been sprung upon an unsuspecting world, and is available at Gypsy Shadow Publishing, Amazon, Smashwords, and other outlets as well. You’ll enjoy it, thinks—

                                                           Poseidon’s Scribe

Blog Hop – The Next Big Thing

Many thanks to Charlotte Holley who tagged me to participate in The Next Big Thing blog hop.  I didn’t know what a blog hop was but it seems like fun.  In this one, authors answer questions about their Work in Progress (WIP) and people can follow the links along and see what various writers are working on.  That way readers can anticipate and check back later to buy the books they’re interested in.  It’s possible that one or more authors in this chain may really be working on The Next Big Thing!

When you’re tagged for this particular blog hop, you post your answers the following Wednesday and tag five other authors for the following Wednesday.  Here are my answers:

1. What is the working title of your book?  “A Tale More True”

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?  If I recall correctly, I was thinking about fanciful trips to the Moon in early literature.  I’m a fan of Jules Verne, but he’s actually a latecomer to that topic.  While researching, I came across references to Baron Münchhausen.  My story then sort of sprang into my head.

3. What genre does your book fall under?   It’s alternate history, in the subgenre of clockpunk.  I’ve not written much clockpunk, my story “Leonardo’s Lion” being the exception.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie renditionThere are three characters of interest.  The protagonist is Count Eusebius Horst Siegwart von Federmann.  Count Chris HemsworthFedermann could be played well by actor Chris Hemsworth.  He’d have to speak English with a German accent, but doesn’t have to do it well, since it’s a comedy.  Count Federmann is a brooding character, angry at and jealous of Baron Münchhausen.  The Count is intelligent, determined, and optimistic, but lacks sense.

 

Shia_LabeoufThe Count has a young French servant named Fidèle, and I’ll select Shia LaBeouf for that role.  Mr. LaBeouf would have to speak English with a French accent, but not an especially good one.  Fidèle is full of life, but has the sense to fear danger, though he’s always respectful of nobility.

 

 

The character Baron Hieronymus Carl Friedrich von Münchhausen only appears briefly at the beginning and end of the story.  Since it’s a cameo role, I’ll splurge and pick Robin WilliamsRobin Williams.  I need an older character of plain appearance who’s able to speak English with a German accent and captivate an audience with his words alone.  Robin Williams played the part of the King of the Moon in the 1988 Movie “The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen.”  

 

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your bookA man is so angry about the self-aggrandizing lies of Baron Münchhausen that, just to prove the Baron wrong, he constructs a gigantic metal spring and launches himself to the Moon, where he learns about the nature of Truth.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  I will offer it to Gypsy Shadow Publishing to be included in my What Man Hath Wrought series.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  I’m not done with the fist draft yet.  I researched, planned, and outlined the story for about a month.  First and second drafts will take another month.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  It’s a light-hearted clockpunk tale, so there aren’t many comparable stories.  Perhaps the closest thing is that movie, “The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen.”

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?  The muse speaks.  I listen and write it all down as fast as I can.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  Come on—intense jealousy, a space voyage in 1769, and weird Moon creatures.  What more do you want?

At this point I should mention which authors I’m tagging next in this blog hop, but I was unsuccessful in getting any to participate.  I think the hop has been going for about thirty weeks now, with most authors tagging five others.  If you do the math for such a chain, you’ll see how, theoretically, we’d pass the population of the earth in Week 15, and by Week 30 there would be over 2 with 20 zeroes participants.

There only seems to be that many budding authors in the world.  So much for theory.  As Yogi Berra said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice.  In practice there is.”

So I won’t be tagging anyone else.  This strand of the chain ends here, with my alter ego, a guy I like to call—

                                                       Poseidon’s Scribe

 

December 19, 2012Permalink