The Old Shelter

Dieselpunk Roaring Twenties. Sarah Zama's Author Blog

Archive for the month “August, 2014”

8 Sentence Sunaday on Dieselpunks #13

dieselpunkssquarelogoSo, I couldn’t resist taking you to the Old Shelter. But as you’ll know if you’ve read my welcoming post, I love this place and I poured a lot of effort in depicting it as best I could in terms of historical details, of course, but also in terms of mood and atmosphere.

If you had read my first draft (and I’d do anything to prevent such an occurrence) you wouldn’t recognise the place. It was a long journey of discovery and research and of finding details in the most unlikely places. It was fun.

This is the beginning of a three-chapters long episode, the first set inside the Old Shetler.

The peephole opened and two grey eyes stared out at him.

“The dog is hungry,” Michael said.

The doorman’s eyes colored with curiosity. This had to be quite a little place if the doorman knew most of the customers.

The peephole closed, the door opened, and he could see the dim room inside, with spotlights on the bandstand just opposite the door. Little red lamps on round tables on one side, a polished bar along the opposite wall, a dance floor packed with dancers between him and the band. Jazz music. Smoke.

——————————————————————————–

Did you enjoy my snippet?

If you didn’t, I’m sorry (shed one tear), I’ll try better next time, so don’t give up on me.

If you did, here’s a few things you might want to do.

  1. If you are a dieselpunk or steampunk writer, you might want to join the 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks‘challenge’.  Head over to Dieselpunks, sigh up and look for the 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks And join the fun!
  2. If you are a dieselpunk or steampunk writer and you have a blog, you might want to post eight sentence from your work on Sunday and share it. Make sure to leave a link in the comment box below and I’ll be sure to visit.
  3. If you are a historical writer and you have a story or more sent in the Twenties too, you might want to post eight sentence from your work on Sunday and share it. Make sure to leave a link in the comment box below and I’ll be sure to visit.
  4. If you are a dieselpunk or steampunk writer, or if you are a historical writer writing in a Twenties setting or if you are just a reader, by all means leave a comment below. I’ll never oppose to that.

Thusday Quotables – Dulce et Decorum Est

The hideous miasma rolled along the shattered landscape. The Germans tried to outrun it, but they were too slow. The mist enveloped them. They floundered, limbs waving, their twisted, mannered figures reeling through it, the sound of their screaming voices growing more and more distant, until they disappeared.

“You told me that’s a German secret weapon,” Kelsey said.

“Yes.”

“So why are they killing their own troops?”

Blake stared ahead, thinking. He’d been wondering the same thing himself. “The wind must have changed.”

Kelsey gave a quizzical look.

“Now look. Over there,” Blake said.

In No-Man’s Land, materializing at the heart of the swirling yellow cloud, was the figure that haunted Blake and his men. Shining metal, barely recognizable as human. It seemed to be composed of metal surfaces, moving in small jerks, grouping together, then splitting apart and reforming, diminishing and enlarging, forming columns and lines. The armored shape was surrounded by a brilliant glow that illuminated the churned-up mud.

“Good God,” Kelsey whispered.

quotation-marks4This is my favourite passage from Ducle at Decorum Est, the most haunting episode of the entire story. We see the unimaginable, and still we don’t see it, and the ambiguity is what evokes the stronger feeling for me.

In other passages, you get a very vivid impression of what the life in the trenches must have been, a very realistic portrayal of it. Here, you get a transfigured image of it, but the impression is just as strong. This is the power of speculative fiction, for me. Giving reality a new form, so that it speaks more freely about itself.

—————————————————————————————————————————

Did you like this quote? Here’s a few things you might want to do.

  1. Head over to Bookshelf Fantasies, who sponsors the Thursday Quotables, and join in the fun.
  2. Post a quote on your blog and make sure to leave a link in the comment box below. I’ll be sure to visit and comment.
  3. Maybe you’ve read this author too and would love to share your opinion. By all means do it in the comment box below. I’ll never object.

Dulce at Decorum Est

One morsel review: a dieselpunk story set right on the fields of WWI, with a great atmosphere, a definitely noir mood, but maybe too distant characters.

91t9Sx50cJL._SL1500_

Dulce et Decorum Est

John Paul Catton

————————————————————-
Genre: dieselpunk
————————————————————-
On the fields of WWI, an unexpected, mysterious and deadly enemy appears, changing everything. The soldiers call them Angels.
————————————————————-

If you have ever read anything dieselpunk, or watched any dieselpunk film or enjoyed any diesepunk art, you’ll know: WWI setting is the classic of classics for this genre.
This story is set right on the fields of WWI, in a wasteland that resembles Hell more than any place on earth, where angels walk.

Angels. This is how soldiers call the mysterious enemy they face. Supernatural beings that changed war and the people involved in it.
There’s a strong sense of foreboding about these angels. Nobody knows what they are, where they came from, or why they are here. Everybody knows their destructive power. All the story revolves around the mystery surrounding them, which kept me reading. But, if I may be honest, I found the resolution a bit too cryptic. Well, at least for me. Which may or may not be a problem, since the ending stays in the same mood as the rest of the story. I just felt there was more I could (and should) have grasped.

The characters are also right into the tradition of noir disillusioned characters. Their sense of disempowerment invest the entire story. This is particularly true for Captain Blake, the main character, who’s a men who feels trapped and unable to save the men he’s responsible for.

I had kind of an issue with Captain Blake, though. He’s the main character, still I could never come close enough to him to really identify. I live all the story through him. I see the trenches though his eyes, I feel the foul, sticky air through his senses, I can read his every dark thoughts on what’s happening to him and his man. The narration is very vivid. And still, there is always a distance between me and Captain Blake, as it seems to be a distance between him and the story unfolding before his eyes. It’s like he’s a witness more than an actor, as if the actual story happened to someone else.
So, because of this distance of the main character from the story, I also felt detached, which in a way didnt’ allow me to become involved as deep as I could have.
Bit of a shame, because all the other elements – atmosphere, historical details, dark mood – are very vivid. It was still an enjoyable read.

This is part of a collection of stories. Each story had been available individually, but a collection is coming out now gathering all of them, Tales From Beyond Tomorrow – Volume 1
Keep an eye out for it.

8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks #12

dieselpunkssquarelogoThe episode where Sinéad chances to meet Blood and Michael again and ends up going with them to the Old Shelter is among my favourite and was a great fun to write. The entire episode is four chapters long and is an introduction to so many important story elements… Sinéad and Michael’s attraction to each other being one of these.

I also introduce a lot of new characters and of course one of the most important setting in the story. I’ll say the truth, it was hard to write and it went through multiple rewritings, but I still love it a lot.

They looked so different, Blood and Michael. Especially Blood, with his ice-grey suit and the matching long coat and fedora in place of the jumper and flat hat he wore the first time she met him. But even Michael, who wore a suit and just the same long coat and fedora he had wore that day, looked different, although she could not say where that sensation came from.

She was trying to figure that out, when she realised her eyes were sliding down Michael’s strong neck and rested then on his wide shoulders. Her face warmed up. She was glad Susie spoke again, “Where are you heading?”

Sinéad’s red mouth curled in a small smile. “The Old Shelter.”

——————————————————————————-

Did you enjoy my snippet?

If you didn’t, I’m sorry (shed one tear), I’ll try better next time, so don’t give up on me.

If you did, here’s a few things you might want to do.

  1. If you are a dieselpunk or steampunk writer, you might want to join the 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks‘challenge’.  Head over to Dieselpunks, sigh up and look for the 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks And join the fun!
  2. If you are a dieselpunk or steampunk writer and you have a blog, you might want to post eight sentence from your work on Sunday and share it. Make sure to leave a link in the comment box below and I’ll be sure to visit.
  3. If you are a historical writer and you have a story or more sent in the Twenties too, you might want to post eight sentence from your work on Sunday and share it. Make sure to leave a link in the comment box below and I’ll be sure to visit.
  4. If you are a dieselpunk or steampunk writer, or if you are a historical writer writing in a Twenties setting or if you are just a reader, by all means leave a comment below. I’ll never oppose to that.

 

Anything Goes into a Prohibition Era Cocktail

No one knows when cocktails were first invented, but we do know why they were: to make the taste of liquor bearable.

Sure we don’t have the exact date of the invention of cocktails, but it was sometimes between the XVIII and the XIX century, most likely in America. At that time the consumption of spirits in the US was very high, apparently because water was so unhealthy that drinking liquor was safer. Just a shame that the quality of liquor was so poor that it tasted pretty bad. That was why people started to add flavours to it, to mask the bad taste of the liquor. In the early 1800s cocktails were mixed with a base of spirits (whatever available), a bit of bitter, enough sugar to make it palatable and water (Not ice. Cocktail were unlikely to be chilled at that time).

But soon cocktail became so popular that mixing them turned into an art. At the end of the century, the most fashionable bars and restaurants employed professional bartenders mixing cocktails, people who had studied the art and were very particular about the row material they used. The quality of liquors had also improved over the century.

All of this came to an end with Prohibition.

After the Eighteen Amendment was passed, dealing in spirits became a hugely profitable business, one mostly ran by the underworld, for whom the higher the profit, the better. This means the quality of spirits dropped drastically.

During Prohibition these were the kind of spirits you would be likely be served:

  1. Denaturated alcohol, which was one of the very few exception to the prohibition to producing alcohol. The law permitted to produce this alcohol specifically for the industry and it was denaturated so to make it undrinkable, usually adding poisonous wood alcohol. Bootleggers would divert huge amount of this alcohol from stockhouses and transportation, renaturated it, diluted it, flavoured it with some juniper oil and sell it on the market for people to drink.
  2. Bathtub gin, Moonshine, any home-made spirits. The law permitted to produce a little amount of alcohol for personal consumption. This also became a huge profit for the underworld and a small extra income for thousands of families. People would distil spirits in their homes and then sell them to bootleggers. The quality of this kind of liquor was anything but good, because seldom people really knew how to do it. Corks would often pop out or the bottles would explode before the content was mature enough to be drinkable and even when the process was completed, you then had a mud-brown, foul smelling, horribly tasting liquid as a result.
  3. Smuggled liquor, which came mostly from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and some all the way from Europe. This was quality liquor, but because bootleggers tried to make the most money out of it, what ended up on the market was a hugely diluted version. What little did get on the market intact cost a fortune.

So most of spirits available during Prohibition were at best undrinkable and this is the reason why cocktails became even more popular. Adding juices, sugar, bitters, then diluting with ice was a way to just get the thing drinkable. But because the whole business of illegal drinking was so huge and because most of the places where you could drink alcohol just wanted to profit the most from it, the quality of cocktail sank. Not only was the liquor used of very poor quality, so were also all the other ingredients. Besides, people didn’t drink to savour a cocktail, they drank to get as drunk as possible.

So yes, a lot of cocktails we drink today were born during Prohibition, but what people drank at that time was a far cry in terms of quality to what we are used today.

—————————————————————————–

Resources

Okrent, Daniel, Last Call. The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Scribner, New York, 2010
Kobler, John, Ardent Spirits. The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Putnam, New York, 1973
Hess, Robert, The Essential Bartender’s Guide. Mud Puddle Books, New York, 2008

 

8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks #11

dieselpunkssquarelogoAlthough most of the story happens in a speakeasy which is also a jazz club, and so I had plenty of occasions to describe the Black Belt night life throughout the novel (and the whole trilogy, actually), this chapter where Sinéad goes out cabareting was my first occasion to delve into the excitement so strongly connected to the Jazz Age night life.

Honestly, I think there is still a lot of room for improvement (and if anybody has any suggestion, you’re welcome to the comment box below), but yeah… this is my current attempt.

Thrilled, Sinéad opened her eyes and her senses wide trying to take everything in. Why hadn’t she come for such a long time?

The Black Belt throbbed with music, with life, with colours, with light in the heat of the night more so than during the day. Couples walked the streets hand in hand or hugging each other, holding tight while squishing their way in among the crowd. Large groups of young people moved everywhere, moving their feet at the rhythm of the jazz music spilling in the street from small, unremarkable basement doors or back alleys. Gangs of white schoolboys and girls, went around sporting smart dresses and showing off an air of experience they probably lacked. Gangs of black guys hang around at the corners, joking and calling at groups of smartly dressed black girls, showing off fake disinterest. Not many were alone like she was, but well, you never stayed alone for long in a place like this.

——————————————————————————–

Did you enjoy my snippet?

If you didn’t, I’m sorry (shed one tear), I’ll try better next time, so don’t give up on me.

If you did, here’s a few things you might want to do.

  1. If you are a dieselpunk or steampunk writer, you might want to join the 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks‘challenge’.  Head over to Dieselpunks, sigh up and look for the 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks And join the fun!
  2. If you are a dieselpunk or steampunk writer and you have a blog, you might want to post eight sentence from your work on Sunday and share it. Make sure to leave a link in the comment box below and I’ll be sure to visit.
  3. If you are a historical writer and you have a story or more sent in the Twenties too, you might want to post eight sentence from your work on Sunday and share it. Make sure to leave a link in the comment box below and I’ll be sure to visit.
  4. If you are a dieselpunk or steampunk writer, or if you are a historical writer writing in a Twenties setting or if you are just a reader, by all means leave a comment below. I’ll never oppose to that.

Thusday Quotables – Chicago Stories

They crossed the sidewalk to stand in front of the new Ford. The space to its left was vacant, and a Chrysler, driven by a tall, burning blonde in purple, was driven into it. She sat by the wheel, powdering her nose. Replacing her powder puff in her bag, she lit a cigarette with a nickel cigarette-lighter.

“She’s got what I call meat,” Jack said, surreptitiously back-glancing at her.

“And class,” Don said.

“It’s just meat!”

“She makes most of them out here today look like pikers,” Don said.

A dark-haired girl in black bathing suit strode boyishly by them. She was long, supple, and tanned; her tights, and she was flat-chested.

“Oh! Oh!” exclaimed Don-

“She’s jail bait,” Jack said.

“Know her?”

“I know who she is. She goes to St. Paul’s. All the boys around the beach here have a feel-day with her, and she doesn’t mind it.”

“Piggly-wiggly girl, huh?” Don said, his mind inflamed.

“Well, now, I think that Monk Sweeney made the grade with her over on the Jackson Park golf course one night. I wouldn’t say for sure, but that’s my suspicion.”

I can’t say anythquotation-marks4ing clicked between me and James Farrell. I wanted to read his work because he wrote Irish- American stories in Chicago between the early 1930s and the late 1940s, so it’s relevant to my story, but honestly I can’t relate to his aesthetics. He thought stories should just mimic life, and so most of them don’t really tell a story at all, but just depict a vignette.
Not really my stuff.

But this particular story, Looking ‘Em Over, from his collection Chicago Stories, was different… at least for me. It is a vignette, so it doesn’t tell a story anyway, but it depicts the life of youths in that period. It was interesting seeing the dynamics from the eyes of someone who lived it rather that someone trying to recreate it. Youths’ life what going through a huge change in the Twenties, especially life of young women. Sometimes I think their life was like ours a lot more than we think.

So this was fun. Hope you enjoy it too.

———————————————————————————————–

Did you like this quote? Here’s a few things you might want to do.

  1. Head over to Bookshelf Fantasies, who sponsors the Thursday Quotables, and join in the fun.
  2. Post a quote on your blog and make sure to leave a link in the comment box below. I’ll be sure to visit and comment.
  3. Maybe you’ve read this author too and would love to share your opinion. By all means do it in the comment box below. I’ll never object.

Wherever the Steel Track of Night Brings Me

wherever-the-steel-track-of-night-brings

8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks #10

dieselpunkssquarelogoSo, what’s this? A character looking herself in the mirror? Dah…

I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but I don’t really like this kind of devise to describe a character, although it seems to be very popular with everyone because it allows to stay more firmly in the character’s POV. I usually prefer giving descriptions of characters though another character’s eyes.
But this passage just slipped into the story because there was an occasion. I mean, Sinéad looks into the mirror because she’s preparing to go out and I had basically never described her before (although there will be a few descriptions later through Michael’s eyes), so I just did it. I didn’t even realised I did it before now.

What about you? Do you use this mirror-trick often, or do you prefer other forms of description?

While she was adjusting her dress, her eyes wandered over her face and  her brows knit. Had she always been that thin and sharp? Her cheeks seemed to be a little hollow, while her chin seemed to be pointier. She didn’t remember herself being like this. Her eyes were also sunken, she thought. Was that tiredness or something deeper? She didn’t allow herself to ponder it. And, oh goodness, her freckles stood out like anything all over her face.

——————————————————————————–

Did you enjoy my snippet?

If you didn’t, I’m sorry (shed one tear), I’ll try better next time, so don’t give up on me.

If you did, here’s a few things you might want to do.

  1. If you are a dieselpunk or steampunk writer, you might want to join the 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks‘challenge’.  Head over to Dieselpunks, sigh up and look for the 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks And join the fun!
  2. If you are a dieselpunk or steampunk writer and you have a blog, you might want to post eight sentence from your work on Sunday and share it. Make sure to leave a link in the comment box below and I’ll be sure to visit.
  3. If you are a historical writer and you have a story or more sent in the Twenties too, you might want to post eight sentence from your work on Sunday and share it. Make sure to leave a link in the comment box below and I’ll be sure to visit.
  4. If you are a dieselpunk or steampunk writer, or if you are a historical writer writing in a Twenties setting or if you are just a reader, by all means leave a comment below. I’ll never oppose to that.

Interview with my character Sinéad O’Flanagan

SineadLyssa from Lyssa Layne gave me a wonderful opportunity. My first interview, which sounds pretty amazing, right? Even more so if you think the interview wasn’t with me, but with one of my characters,  Sinéad O’Flanagan, who’s one of the main characters from my first novel, Ghostly Smell Around.

I had never done a character’s interview before and I have to admit, it was a ton of fun. Interviewing your own characters is an experience like no other, because you’d think you know everything about them, and still they manage to surprise you. I thank Lyssa for this opportunity.

If you’d like to read Sinéad’s interview, head over here. Enjoy.

—————————————————————————————–
Photo by myakmysia

Post Navigation