Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin.

Gail Z. Martin writes epic and urban fantasy, steampunk and short stories. She is the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series, the Fallen Kings Cycle series and the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga series of epic fantasy books, as well as the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy world and coming in 2015, Iron and Blood, a Steampunk novel, co-written with Larry N. Martin. Gail is a frequently contributor to US and UK anthologies. She also writes two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

Find her at www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com, www.AscendantKingdoms.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com. She leads monthly conversations on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartin and posts free excerpts of her work on Wattpad http://wattpad.com/GailZMartin.

GUEST POST: Hell with the Lid Off — The Perfect Setting for Steampunk

By Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin

Our new series for Solaris Books, Iron and Blood, is set in an alternative history Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1898, at the height of the Victorian period and at time when Pittsburgh reigned supreme as a U.S. hub of heavy manufacturing and invention. The sooty skies and flaring fires of the steel mills led one nineteenth-century journalist to dub the city ‘Hell with the Lid Off.’

Now really, how can you resist setting a steampunk action series in a place like that?

We lived in Pittsburgh for ten years, so it’s a city that’s close to our hearts. Our extended families are near that area, so we go back frequently. And for the new Jake Desmet steampunk series, we decided that a few alterations of Pittsburgh’s history needed to be made in order to create the setting we wanted for our books.

So here’s a glimpse of the history that never was, but that creates the setting for Iron and Blood:

New Pittsburgh in the 1890s, where the soot of industry turns the air black at midday. In the steep surrounding hills, neighborhoods teem with recent immigrants, many of whom brought their superstitions and age-old ethnic grudges with them from the old world. In the thousands of miles of abandoned mine tunnels that run beneath the city and far into the countryside, vampires make their home. Organized crime, political machines, and local gangs own the neighborhoods named for the countries of their residents’ origin.

New Pittsburgh rose from the ashes of the Conflagration of 1868 and the Great Pittsburgh Flood of 1869 which leveled much of the city and led to chaos. Pinkertons and the private police force of industrialists like Andrew Carnegie put down the unrest, temporarily placing the city under a period of martial law. When the dust settled and martial law was lifted, New Pittsburgh’s industrialists had insinuated their players at every level of government, solidifying their hold on government to create the most favorable conditions possible to extend their manufacturing empires. This shadow government, known as The Oligarchy, propelled New Pittsburgh to become the unrivaled leader in steam-powered technology. Empowered by the financial gains of the post-Conflagration monopoly, The Oligarchy invested heavily in aluminum, accelerating the commercial success of the great airships, air trains and land schooners which doomed the budding railroad industry to limited usefulness carrying heavy freight. Twenty years later, a resistance is growing to the unchecked industrial power, but dissenters and unionists remain outlaws and efforts to unseat The Oligarchy’s men have met with limited success.

When horrific explosions at the oil fields at Drake’s Well and elsewhere resulted in massive loss of life, the commercial exploitation of petroleum was considered far too risky and volatile, further cementing the ascendancy of steam. Rumors abound that The Oligarchy may have had a hand in the sabotage of the oil fields, but details are sketchy and witnesses have gone missing.

The Quake of 1872 created a drop of 100 feet in the river bed of the Ohio River below the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, creating the Weirton Falls with a capacity equal to Niagara Falls. The Quake also exposed massive coal seams in West Virginia that were previously thought to be too expensive to excavate, and made it possible to tap into new reserves of natural gas. The combination of a huge new source of coal along with cheap water power makes steam the inexpensive engine of industry and gives gas lighting the advantage.

New Pittsburgh is the hub of invention, fueled by the fortunes of the great robber barons like Carnegie, Frick, and Mellon. Industrialists such as George Westinghouse bring visionaries like Nikola Tesla to the city to seek answers to the mysteries of electricity to build fuel cells for powering airships and air trains. Steam turns the gears that move the city’s great railroads, river barges, land sloops, and airships. But New Pittsburgh is also a magnet that draws the undead, the mystical, and the supernatural. From its invisible Fourth River to its palatial and mysterious cemeteries to the city’s long history of supernatural activity, New Pittsburgh is a good place to be dead.

Jake’s father, Thomas Desmet, is a partner with George Brand in Brand & Desmet, an extremely successful inport/export business dedicated to meeting the needs, whims and collections of New Pittsburgh’s wealthy elite. Jake and his team are sent to acquire the treasures and unusual collectibles sought after by the wealthy patrons who retain him to complete their collections, stock their museums, one-up their competition, and indulge their nostalgia for places they have visited.

Jake travels the world, frequenting the bazaars, crumbling estates, and archeological digs that yield the treasures his father seeks. A lifetime of travel and tutors provided Jake with an eclectic education. His good looks and wit enable him to pass with ease in the highest levels of society, while the training with weapons and martial arts his father demanded make it possible for Jake to take care of himself.

The treasures Thomas and George supply to their buyers are prized enough to lead to betrayal, murder, even war. Some of the items have contested history, and past owners are willing to do anything to get them back. Rich men who don’t like to lose at any cost can see the squabble to attain these treasures as the ultimate challenge. And some of the items have turned out to be haunted, cursed, or supernatural. George also lets Jake in on a secret: a few of their wealthiest patrons are undead.

If you’re intrigued, hang in there—Iron and Blood will be out in bookstores Summer, 2015!

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for stories and books by author friends of mine. And, a special 50% off discount from Double-Dragon ebooks! You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here:

Trick or Treat: Enjoy an excerpt from my story Airship Down, my story in the Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens anthology here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/short-stories-and-more/anthologies/clockwork-universe-steampunk-vs-aliens/excerpt-from-airship-down-in-steampunk-vs-aliens/

And a bonus excerpt from my friend David B. Coe’s short story, The Witch of Dedham here: http://www.dbjackson-author.com/assets/Samples/TheWitchofDedham.pdf

Plus a second bonus excerpt from my friend Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s story At The Crossroads here: http://www.sidhenadaire.com/books/BAFCrossroads.pdf

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