A Very Sad Story About Something You’ve Never Heard Of

originally published December 1, 2013

First, I Fell in Love

I fell in love with Steampunk when a good friend opened the door to the 1800s, pushed me in and shut the door.

But, like so many affairs, it was short-lived. Steamy, mystifying, intense and then over.


It all started when I met Lily Stargazer, Lord Byron’s lover, before her debut in Melanie Karsak’s Chasing the Star Garden

Melanie had contacted me not long after she self-published The Harvesting, a zombie apocalypse story with a strong heroine but a convenient plot. She asked me if I could read/edit a beta version of her new novel; she wanted it pristine before shopping it out to agents. She said it was “Steampunk.” I had no idea what that meant, but I said yes.

Four hours and a book later, I was as addicted to Lily Stargazer as Lily Stargazer was addicted to opium. (For those who know me, the fact that I was reading a book with heavy drug use – an “addiction story” – was in and of itself a complete miracle. I hate drugs in life and in fiction.)

This new “genre” – Steampunk – was giving me everything I’d been yearning for as a reader. Adventure. Historical information, both fiction and fact. Excellent characters who challenged my beliefs and made be believe in humanity. And so I was in love.

I loved Chasing the Star Garden. But did I love Steampunk?

I went looking for more Steampunk the next morning, but I wasn’t impressed. I read a few first chapters here and there from small presses and self-pubbed authors, and I found nothing equaling the little taste I’d gotten. Was this love affair over?

Empty Speech Bubble

I decided to ask some trusted readerly friends and trend connoisseurs I knew for their version of Steampunk. This is what I got:

“You think it’s up and coming? It’s actually outdated…”

“Yeah, it’s an old trend from the ‘90s,” my husband said. “You can see some of its influence in Firefly, but it never really went anywhere.”

From the 90s? Old trend? I thought it was a rising star. Apparently not.

“The cult following will annoy you.”

“Oh god. My sister won’t stop talking about it. Add Hans Solo and goggles, and it makes a story ‘steampunk,’” my friend Michael ranted.

I quickly learned that some steampunkers are ex-gothers – the type always “committed to a cult.” As Michael’s comment suggested, I soon found the main audience for steampunk was a tad annoying to me.

“I’d never heard of it before, but here’s some awesome Steampunk jewelry I just found!”

“Nope, never heard of it. But funny you should bring it up,” my friend Vanessa said. “The open house at Oregon Kitchen this coming Thursday has a Steampunk jewelry artist coming in from Soho. She’s got some cool stuff.”

I went to Oregon Kitchen, a local consignment shop, and indeed found some cool jewelry. But no evidence of awesome literary Steampunk.

I kept looking

I kept researching, but I found no evidence of a viable Steampunk market at early glance. And the corners of the interwebs dedicated to Steampunk, to me, were cold and culty. I started to feel I’d been duped. The Stargazer series might be the only Steampunk I like.

And then this happened

I wasn’t sure how to talk to Melanie about this, but I soon after received from her more validation that I wasn’t the only one who’d never heard of Steampunk and who was confused by my first little taste.

A prominent – and very good – literary agent provided Melanie with a reader’s report after sadly delivering a rejection. It was a glowing report about how much the reader loved the story and how easily she fell into and devoured it because of excellent pacing and character development. But. Was it YA? Too much drugs and sex. Was it adult? Too fantastical. (How can she mash up a real historical character with fictional characters, and technologies that don’t belong in that time period? The report said.) Clearly, the reader had never heard of Steampunk either.

Bottom line of the reader’s report: the book doesn’t know what it wants to be and so doesn’t have a market. Reject.

I told Melanie the world just wasn’t ready for Lily’s story, that it was ahead of it’s time. She wrote back, sadly, she thought not. She said there was plenty of other stuff out there that was Steampunk and good. Since then, I’ve seen a few things come out that are promising, but they certainly weren’t available back in June.

Back then, I hadn’t found anything Steampunk that a) the general public knew about and b) I can truly say is as good of a story as Chasing the Star Garden. My experience working on this book with Melanie is what inspired me to start this blog. It’s meant to break down the silos that have naturally built in publishing (traditional and self) because we as readers needed genres to help define what we like. Well, maybe we don’t need genres anymore. We just need good stories. And who knows… maybe my love affair isn’t finished after all.

Since I first drafted this post, I was most humbly honored and surprised to learn that Melanie dedicated Chasing the Star Garden to me. It’s beyond an honor to have a writer that I respect so much tie me to her book in such a way. I will forever be humbled and grateful.

Buy Chasing the Star Garden on Amazon.

A Family of Three

Question Unanswered
“Mommy,” Jake said. “Why did you put gasoline in the watering can?” She shrugged. Later that night, her husband said, “Garden’s on fire,” and kept flipping papers.

No Response
“Why did you put gasoline in the Brita filter?” Jake asked. She shrugged. That evening from the den, she said, “Kitchen’s on fire” and kept clicking her needles.

After Dinner
Jake snuck out in the dark and found the garbage can filled with gas. His mother’s reading light glowed. His father’s office dimmed. He lit the match and walked away.

Good Morning to Good Night

Good Morning

Hot oil. Early in the morning. Sugar, butter. Sprinkles. Cream. Chocolate drips into the smell of coffee, and I open the windows to let the fragrance out, to lure you in.

I line the trays with jelly-filled, powdered sugared, glazed rings and holes. Custard peaks from golden frosted dough. My sugar white hair is tucked under my sugar white cap, and I mix the dough in a bowl the size of a tub.

The cash register curls out its totals in little blue numbers. Ready for the day, quarters in change wait for my fingers to slide them out and drop them in your hand.


They come. Father and son. One barely sees, bleary eyed in the morning. The other barely talks, but smiles and points from his perch in Daddy’s arms.

“Which kind would you like?” The father says, arms around his boy. Sprinkles. No, maple. No, sprinkles. They take a half dozen. I pour the dad a coffee. He laughs and says “Yes, thank you!” and drinks a sip right away.

One by two, six by ten and a baker’s dozen leave on plates or in paper boxes, my little fried friends. They’ll never go stale or dry. I won’t let them.

I’m not your grandfather. I’m not your dad. I’m not your neighbor. I’m not your lawyer, your dentist now retired. That’s you, there, though. Yes, you, just over there. You’re a teacher, determined in your ways. A musician out the night before. A grandfather yourself. A friend. Your own best lover. You can’t say no. You shouldn’t say no. Eat your salad. Eat your beans. But on Saturday morning, celebrate the day, eat me, eat my cakes, made for your delight.

Good Evening

Old Greeko comes in the window in the late afternoon. He sits with me as I sip my tea. He scavenges my muffin, pecking at the crumbs.

“Why do you come here Greeko?” I say. He hops along the table’s edge and cocks his head. Sunlight glosses the fine black feathers across his breast.

“Caw-aaaww,” he says, leaving his beak ajar.

He hops a few steps and looks out toward the garden.

Jonathan was out fishing. I could see him, in my mind, his boat atop the bay, Jonathan looking down through the cold clear water to the bottom. Little fish swirling near the surface, larger fish coming up to glug them, whole or in pieces. Jonathan, the whale from outside the sea, his fingers his teeth.

We’d eat well for dinner that night.

“Come Greeko,” I say and reach out my forearm. He hops on and up to my shoulder. We walk through the kitchen, and I nudge his talons, lift him to the sill. His legs skip across the long pot of soil and herbs, and I watch him skewer, swallow a worm, fast and whole.

I reach out to the vine to pick a feast. The tomatoes are firm and blood red, and I pluck two that are perfect together. My thumb pierces the third; pulp flows to my wrist. My lips embrace the gaping wound and I suck; seeds and rich red leak at the corners of my mouth. Greeko turns away.

After dinner we would stroll under the moon, our memories our servants, our stomachs our slaves.

Yes, we’d eat well for dinner that night.

Good Night

The spider’s web swelled with midnight dew, and the orb weaver spread her legs. Bugs fingered her sticky candy thread, slick with water, until they could no longer move.

What would she see if she could see in a mirror? With one of her eight eyes and then the next? What would she see by looking down her slim polished leg, before she pulled close her prey?

I curled inward, tucking my head into my knees. One shoe fell and flopped on the ground. My eyes pressed against boney joints, and nails bored into my flesh. My right palm wrapped my shoe, waiting, fearing.

I could feel her hugeness next to me. I could feel her unwrapping me from her web, her teeth sinking in to drain me dry. She would come into my house. I could feel her coming into me. I exploded outward and smashed her with the force of a million enemies, ripping apart her sticky weave, and I smashed her again and again and again until I knew without question she was dead, and I was saved from being eaten.