As writers, Mel and I are keenly aware of how much the support of our community is needed. No matter the genre or your personal taste, magic happens when we come together to support our fellow writers.
The founder and creator of this super awesome magazine approached us and kindly offered to feature our new release Iron Heart. Now we’d like to return the kindness.
So without further ado the BookBaybZ would love to introduce you to …
As you may know, Melanie Page and MC D’Alton are the Bookbaybz, and have been writing together for a little over 2 years.
By day, Melanie is a High School English Teacher and by night she is a published author of Regency Romances. Her first novel, “An Affair of Honour” was released in 2014 while “Sweet Revenge” and “A Twist of Fate” both came out in 2016. In conjunction with her own publications, Melanie has also been selected to be published in A Serenity Press Anthology, “Destination Romance”.
Michelle is a Registered Nurse and Mum to triplet boys, writing under the pen name MC D’Alton & Michelle Dalton. While her first novel, “Epona” was published in 2019, Michelle has been writing seriously for the last 6 years. Michelle’s other works include “Simple Truths,” and “Forget me Not,” due for publishing later this year through Serenade Publishing, she has also had the honor of having her short story “The Curry Tree,” published in an anthology – A Discovery of Writers. Ladies, we are so excited to be here to celebrate the launch of your first collaborative novel, Iron Heart!
New photo of us here!
Q. Where did the idea for Iron Heart come from?
Mel: Michelle was whinging about how she wanted to write a story about a monster. She had been watching Penny Dreadful (note to self… just no!) and had fallen in love with the dark monsters. So she had a brainwave… ‘We should write a story about a monster falling in love!’
MC: Mel, pedantic, difficult Mel said… ‘But you can’t fall in love with a monster.’ So then of course we started batting ideas back and forth, by email… lots of emails. She set up a planning document based on Michael Hauge’s stages of story that she learned about at the Adelaide Conference and proceeded to outline a possible story.
Q. This was your first collaboration, how has this writing process been different to your normal process?
Mel: I created an outline and MC, of course, went off on a tangent. But, long story short…, it was a great exercise and we did end up using a lot of the plan. It also raise a lot of questions that formed the backstory. Then we worked out where the story would start and MC wrote the first draft chapter.
MC: Mmmm, that was fun! I dashed down a sketch of the opening events at light speed and pressed send. A couple of hours later, I got the detailed, polished version back. And I was blown away. Let me show you what I mean. Here is what I wrote: ‘Galena raised her arms in defence as she lost her balance and fell over onto the cobble stoned road, knocking the wind from her lungs.’ And here is what Mel edited it to look like. ‘Galena picked up her striped skirts and fled, pushing through the heavy oak doors that separated the enclave she had left forever from the rest of Edinburgh society. The cobbles were slick and putrid, but the tears swimming in her eyes made it hard for Galena to discern where she was going.’
Mel: It wasn’t just about rewriting. It was about giving depth and dimension to the characters.
Q. Where their challenges in working together to create Iron Heart?
MC: Of course it wasn’t all tea and cakes. There were differenced of creative opinion. I would see the story and put it down on paper; and then Mel would send it back looking very different. Which threw me. But this is where we; as rational, enlightened, peace-loving friends, were able to sit back and reflect, and work out the best path forward. At one point, I plateaued. I sent the next chapter and Mel sent it back, with a dozen questions. That was not a good moment (understatement). But, as we found answers to the questions, the story moved forward again.
Mel: One of the challenges of not having sole creative control over a story is the different perspectives that come into play. There were a couple of characters who we saw quite differently. Example; MC wrote a detective to come in and investigate the assault. So I wrote him as I saw him, a sort of steampunky Murdoch, from the Murdoch Mysteries. And then when I sent it back, MC was all… ‘But I saw him as Benedict Cumberbatch.’ Oops.
Q. Why a Medical Steam Punk Romance?
MC – Because I wanted a monster and steampunk just kinda sorta happened.
Q. Your Hero, Beauden, is not your stereotypical romance Hero. How did you come up with the idea for this character?
Mmmm…. I wanted a monster, a believable and loveable monster and with Melanie who asked all the right Q’s Beauden came to life
Q. Tell us about your heroine, Galena. What was your inspiration for this character?
Mel: Suffragettes and Bluestockigs for me. A woman who was both stubborn and gentle at the same time.
MC: To be honest with you, I think subconsciously, I saw a lot of my mom in Galena! A lot! So perhaps in a weird kind of way my mom was my inspiration?
Q. What kind of research did you do when writing Iron Heart? Michelle, did your medical background play a big role in developing the story?
MC: Loads of heart transplant research. Yes my background was an absolute bonus. But I will also say that building both the iron heart, the gold heart and the steampunk life support machine was where I had the most fun with this collaboration.
Q. And finally, what was your favourite part in writing this book ?
Here’s to love, joy, and blessings flooding your homes and filling your lives. No matter your beliefs, The BookBaybZ wish you all the best for this holiday season and 2020! Our wish is that Santa delivers many many books and worlds full of adventure and romance.
Building an Iron Heart – Steampunk Fun and Artistic License
By MC D’Alton
So, one of the most important questions I had to ask myself (and one which Mel reminded me of a lot) was how far are we allowed to speculate within our universe, (the one we have created for the characters in our book) when it comes to the impossible in the real world?
As it turns out, if you’ve managed to build a kick-ass believable world, it will become your oyster!
This is where a writer is allowed a wee bit of creative leeway. It’s not that hard to imagine once you’ve been sucked into our Victorian-Age Edinburgh with its dirigibles and mirror messengers, steam powered unicarriages, and dynamo driven electricity, not to mention the delicate invention of a heart lung machine, which Galena Tindale our heroine has built.
This bring me to the core of our plot; a man with a soul of gold, but a heart of iron. Ah, the heart, or hearts, for there are two. The rotting, corroded iron beast devouring our hero from within, and the beautiful golden heart which was needed to replace it.
I had so much fun returning to my anatomy and physiology books. Add the freedom of imagination to the perfect creation of God, and voila! Magic! I spent hours imagining, sketching, planning, building (in my head) the heart which had saved Beauden the first time and the one needed to save him the second time.
To accomplish this feat, I read up on a great hero, Dr. Chris Barnard, a South African surgeon who achieved the unbelievable. His ground-breaking scientific and medical explorations and transplantations combined with research which led to actual medical procedures using swine and bovine tissue. He replaced the sickly diseased parts of the human heart and inspired me to build the golden heart.
So with a teaspoon full of imagination and a sprinkle of faux engineering we created…
The iron heart, like a biological human heart, has four chambers and valves which separate each chamber through which the blood passes.
By using speculative science based on modern medicine, where prosthetic hearts have been implanted, we are able to convince the reader that Dr. Augustus Somerton, our hero’s father, has discovered how to fuse metal and human tissue. Therefore, Beauden’s Aorta and Inferior Vena Cava are able to connect to the iron monster in his chest.
But there was the problem of his immune system rejecting the large foreign body, but this is not an anatomy and physiology tome, it is a Steampunk Romance. So I decided to imagine, or really stretch my artistic license and allow this to not to be a problem.
So how did this iron colossus work?
“Her eyes and her finger followed the intricate lines which connected the four chambers of the heart…”
Now what we did not have, which a biological heart does, is tissue which expands and contracts, nor do we have awesome little biological batteries which excite these muscles, and in so doing pump the blood.
So we created the possibility that the electrical conduction, which takes place within a real heart, can also occur in our man made heart. We accomplished this by showing the reader that Beauden was confined to sleeping on a large magnetic bed, which eased the strain the iron heart put on his body, and also recharged his heart, so to speak.
So how did we fit this piece of metal genius in Beauden’s chest? We made it clear that the heavy iron heart remained within our heroes’ chest cavity, by means of a boned support system built by the ribs removed from Beauden’s chest. Dr Somerton, his father, then designed a whale boned corset for him to wear continually.
Then we had to make sure to answer all the questions connected with a human carrying a lump of metal inside their body. Metal corrodes. How would this corrosion affect Beauden? Iron poisoning was our solution. We wanted a monster, by allowing the iron heart to reach the end of its life, we gave our hero his monstrous appearance. His skin is cyanosed, his eyes have an accumulation of iron in the sclera, he is constantly weary and incapable of exertion. His heart has betrayed him and he is dying.
How to restore him…. The golden heart is shaped similarly to the real flesh and blood pulmonary pump found in humans. It is essentially an exo-skeleton for the bits of sinuae (swine) tissue which have implanted on the inside walls of the heart. Now you may ask how is this possible?
We have previously mentioned, Dr. August Somerton’s experiments and the fact he had implanted an iron heart into his son already proving this science to be plausible, within our universe. We further substantiate this theory by showing you Beauden’s workshop and his own inventions, creating limb for amputees, and a hand which would eventually use his father’s medical advancements to connect metal to tissue.
Differing mixtures of gold were researched and a certain creative flair added to show that this heart would not corrode, was not too heavy and of course who could ignore the old cliché, ‘A heart of gold’, which hinted subtly at our hero’s true demeanor. And then to keep it where it belonged … a sling to hold the heart in place, inside his chest cavity was designed and so too a filigree rib cage to replace the removed bones.
So, there you have it, the speculative medicine and science of how we built the Iron Heart. We hope you will enjoy the journey with us.
As I type these words, brave Australian volunteers and Firefighters are battling blazes across Queensland and New South Wales, with warnings of more to come in South Australia. Many have already lost their lives and their homes in this traumatic start to spring and summer. The BookBaybz have decided to put up 20 copies of their first edition of Iron Heart for sale, and all proceeds are donated to the rural fire fighters. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for your copy and support today!
When my elder son started swanning around in tight fitting pseudo-Victorian, Steampunk attire, wearing retro leather goggles, I hoped he was just going through a phase. Little did I imagine that, a few years later, I would be publishing a novel in the Steampunk genre.
For the uninitiated, Steampunk is a relatively recent offshoot of the Sci-Fi branch of the literary family tree. It gets its name from the use of anachronistic, often steam powered technology that features prominently in it. It is a melange of speculative – or alternative – historical fiction, fantasy and others such as horror, romance or crime. The name was coined in the mid-eighties by a science fiction author who needed a way to distinguish works like his from those of traditional Victorian Era authors like Jules Verne.
When MC D’Alton and I set about writing Iron Heart, we didn’t just need characters and a plot, we needed to build a whole world, a steampunk world, for them to live in. That was, for me, the most fun. We looked on the internet, that cornucopia of knowledge for the fertile mind, and came up with some images which gave us a springboard.
One such element was the unicarriage. In the first scene, Galena Tindale, fleeing from the angry mob (sans pitchforks), is accidently hit by the hero in his unicarriage.
We envisioned it as the body of a hansom cab, as one might find in Sherlock Holmes, with the head and neck of a brass horse as the cab, for the driver. The engine would be beneath it, steam powered of course, so he would need to top it up with water and slow burning fuel. Steam would pour artistically from the nostrils of the horse… We imagineered a single wheel in the middle of the front part with a dozen whirling hooves on it. That was awesome fun. There is such freedom in letting your imagination run away with you.
Of course, the main piece of retro-futuristic invention was the Iron (and later the other) Heart, but I would spoil MC’s fun by describing that. My other favourite invention was the Pocket Messenger. Just as today everyone would be lost without their smart phone, so in the Victorian Edinburgh of my fantasy, everyone has a small, elegant case, not much bigger than a cigarette case, into which one inserts a role of silvered paper. When the glass screen is inscribed using a black wax stylus, and the lid is closed, a chemical reaction, similar to old fashioned photography, instantly sends the writer’s message to the receiver. Simple, logical and oh, so cool.
And finally, there was the dirigible. They of course were and are quite real. But I did make a few changes. I used steam powered fans to propel them, making them more manoeuvrable and faster. They are also larger. Real dirigibles of the period would not carry my passengers in any kind of luxury.
Writing Iron Heart was the most fun I’ve had writing for a long time… And the nifty gadgets (worthy of James Bond’s Q, if I do say so myself) were largely responsible for that. If you happen to read Iron Heart, let me know what you think.
There is nothing like taking a leap in to the unknown to get the adrenal glands pumping copious amounts of RUN into your blood stream. That’s how Melanie and I have felt these last 2 weeks.Continue reading “Signing, Publishing and OMG!”
Q. Did any of your previous work influence the story you wrote for the anthology? If not, what was your inspiration – If so – how?
I haven’t written anything like ‘Broken Karma’ in the past. My inspiration for this story partially came from my own life and going through a separation after being married for 27 years. I reflected on the path I have taken over the past year and captured some of the emotions I felt during that journey. Although it is a work of fiction, I think everyone has felt at one time in their life that their karma was broken. Deep down, they know they are a good person, but everything in their life is working against them – Their home life, their work life, their social life, nothing seems to go right. In the end, my character discovered that it wasn’t his karma that was broken, but the people around him and their choices were not working toward his goals. He made some changes to better his life and became a stronger person. My main message came at the end of the story where he invited to a party all the people in his life, good or bad, to share in the success of his new life. He didn’t hold any anger or animosity toward them. He discovered that they each helped him become stronger and achieve this point in his life. Once I reached this point in my own life, things started turning for the better. I forgave, but understood the role others played in my life. I fit them in, even with their deceit. I quit my job and found a place to work where I am happier. And, I found a group of friends that support me for who I am. I felt that was worth sharing with the world.
Gary Little – Ring Around the Rosie
Q. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
My answer to that question is a palette of multiple characters. I chose a little bit from my wife, some from my sister (she always thinks she’s smarter than me) and wives I have known through Barbershop. I do have to admit I may tend towards the masculine, though. Oh yeah, and there is this author I know that I may use to add an accent to a character. 🙂
D.A. Steen – Praenuntia
Q. Do you hide any secrets in your books/ stories that only a few people will find?
Killing Lee My best friend growing up (and still), is a guy named Lee. For fun, (and with his enthusiastic approval) I try to find a new way to kill off a “Lee” character in most of my projects. Let me add here that I don’t use gratuitous violence in my stories, but if, in writing my preferred genres of fantasy, sci-fi, and suspense, the plot requires a dark turn here or there, I usually try to kill off a version of Lee. I’ve used the names Lee, Leeman, Leland, Liam, Leo, and Lenny and have so far had the pleasure of drowning him, shooting him, pushing him off a cliff, burying him in the sand, and sending him forever tumbling through a rip in deep space. Good times, right? It sounds a little dark but it’s all in fun and has served as a long-running source of entertainment and laughter between my friend and me.
As for the novel I’ve been writing, The Tumultu, I’m on the 3rd to 4th draft. After four years, it is a heckuva tale. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is the value of outlining. I wish I’d planned better from the beginning.
I’m working on a few short stories, as I figure out the story to my novel. One of the stories I’m working on a horror story about a person trapped in a town, and the other is a sci-fi short story about a society of clones.