Steampunk Flavor

So there I was trying to write a straight romance novel for National Novel Writing Month in 2008, bored to tears because … well, I guess I’m just not made to write romance novels … when my friend suggested I make the story “steampunk.”

I had no idea what “steampunk” was at the time, but in the spirit of NaNoWriMo I took up his challenge. The world of Magnellum, where Witch-Born and Dead Magic take place, was given a distinctly “steampunk” flavor in all its trains and dirigibles and telegrams, but it does fall short of being an actual “steampunk.”

Real steampunk would focus more on the steam-powered technology and how it works and how it affects the characters and … you get it. Witch-Born and Dead Magic do not do this. They focus more on the magic in the world, thus detracting from the steam-tech on the page.

That being said,  I enjoyed the flavor. It opened me up to new possibilities within the novels like the dirigible — because who doesn’t love a good dirigible? And it gave me Valeda Quinlan.

Valeda is a newspaper reporter. The distinctly steampunk flavor of the novels sort of threw the concept of a reporter at me. I mean, if they have telegrams then they have newspapers. If they have newspapers then they have reporters.

Yes, Valeda is unabashedly a character trope. She’s as nosy and tenacious as they come. But she gets thrown into a situation where her talents as a reporter can’t help her, which is what makes her so fun. I do love “fish-out-of-water” stories.

Valeda is also more at home with the steam-technology prevalent in her world. Where the Witches of Magnellum tend to avoid mechanical contraptions, Valeda sees nothing wrong with them, so Dead Magic explores these things a trifle more.

The original draft even had a massive clock with all its gears and shifts for me to play with, but in the end that was edited out of the book. It distracted from the main storyline and had no real purpose than to blare “STEAMPUNK FLAVOR” at you.

In fact, there were many such instances like that one where I had to walk the tightrope between too much flavor and not enough. Perhaps one day I will make a revised edition of Dead Magic that puts all of that flavor back in, should Readers desire it and I feel so inclined. For now, however, the work will stand as it is.

 

About Dead Magic

That’s right … I have TWO books coming out next month. I’m not even sure what order they’ll be in. I do know I wrote Deviation first, which probably means Dead Magic will come out first … just cause that’s how things go most of the time.

Dead Magic is the sequel to Witch-Born. That’s my steampunky fantasy thing about … you guessed it … witches.

Well, not the sorts of witches you and I might be accustomed to. When I set out to write the book I was tired of the stereotypes witches tend to be sequestered to. You know; old, warty, pointed hats, eating children. I was even tired of the beautiful and misunderstood witch constantly having to hide who they were to avoid burning at the stake.

So! I made my witches nobility. Not only were they revered as the upper echelon of society, their magic had a purpose — sustaining the wards that kept the people safe.

Witch-Born was a joy to write. I wrote it for the 2008 National Novel Writing Contest and, funnily enough, it was the first year I won. (Brief shout-out, if you don’t know about NaNoWriMo then please, please click through. Go see what they’re about. Because they’re awesome.)

I had no intentions of making a sequel to Witch-Born, really I didn’t. Until one day I was fiddling with an old pocket watch and it broken in my hands. I know that seems like an odd reason to start a sequel but … hey, I’m a writer. I can’t explain why inspiration hits when it does. All I know is that I was staring at the little cog-work bits in my hands and Lord Winslow Agoston’s plight against the Wild began telling itself in my head.

As far as sequels go, Dead Magic was supremely difficult to write. I knew that I wanted it to conclude the story I began in Witch-Born, I didn’t want it to be a massive series like Sedition and Tapped are turning out to be. I wanted a pair of books that fit neatly together, but I also wanted to tell a fresh story.

So, while Dorian and Elsie have a major part to play in Dead Magic, this is mostly Winslow and Valeda’s story. Fans of Witch-Born will recognize Winslow’s name, but Valeda is a new creature entirely. She’s a newspaper woman hunting down the story of Magic’s disappearance. I fell in love with her from the first scene I wrote and I hope readers will feel the same way. She’s spunky and strong without being one of those overt-fighter-women that … ahem … I tend to write a lot of.

I learned a lot of things while writing Dead Magic but perhaps the most important aspect was the issue of time. Magnellum (the world in which Dead Magic and Witch-Born takes place) has changed in years between each book. There are new buildings and new people and new conflicts brewing throughout. Focusing on how Magnellum had changed helped me immensely as I was writing, but focusing on how those changes affected each character helped the world come to life.

About Deviation

Every writer has to ask themselves the question of what makes their book different from everyone else’s work. What makes their style stand out, or why should anyone get interested in the book they’ve written.

Bear in mind that I do not mean the internal critic that is always saying the work isn’t good enough. Every writer has this irritating voice in their head saying that their work is crap and needs to be burned in the nearest available metal container.

No, what I mean is the honest, professional question; What makes this story different?

Well, for Deviation I’m going to have to say the characters.

We have time travel and space travel and terraformed Mars and big beasties trying to eat people, but the core of this story is about two women. (That in and of itself might be different from the typical science fiction novels out there since much of science fiction seems to revolve around men and their exploits across galaxies. Or at least, that’s the science fiction I have encountered. I would be happy and excited if someone could point me to some stories that hedge outside of this stereotype.)

So what makes Reesa and Kate different from other science fiction heroines?

Well, they’re both kind of anti-heroes. Reesa is a novelist on the brink of a nervous breakdown and Kate is mother desperately trying to get home to her son. Neither wanted adventure, nor were they prepared for it, and yet they find themselves ripped out of time and space into a dramatically different world.

But if we’re completely honest then we can see that most books have anti-hero’s in them; people who did not go out seeking whatever trouble they happen to be in, but are dealing with it just the same. (That’s using a very loose definition of the word “anti-hero” and I know it, but you get what I mean.)

Still, even with character tropes and stereotypes I think it’s the characters on the page that make every story different. I hope that’s what sets Deviation apart in readers minds. There’s plot-stuff like the male versus female war going on, genocide, business morals conflicting with humanity, and the bottomless pit of grief in the book, but when push comes to shove it’s all about two women trying to get home.

So for any writers out there I would ask you the same question; What makes your story different? Are you concentrating on that aspect of the book? If not, I think you might be missing the whole point of writing it in the first place.

Science Fiction vs. Fantasy Take 1

My first official Science Fiction will be released next month through Double Dragon Publishing. (That’s Deviation, for those of you just joining us.) Also, the sequel to Witch-Born will be released next month as well through the same publisher. (That’s Dead Magic.)

One science fiction, one fantasy. (Yes, I count Dead Magic as fantasy even though it has steampunk tendencies in it. I mean, it deals with witches and magic, it just makes sense.)

It’s interesting to me to see the differences between Science Fiction and Fantasy. I know that you can find both right next to each other in the bookstore. They’re categorized as Speculative Fiction and in some cases you can find them all on the same shelf/shelves.

But they are very, very different to write.

That’s probably obvious since they’re also very different when you’re reading them. Still, there are unique challenges in both genres when you’re writing. For example, you have a little more leeway in Fantasy. Everything still has to make sense, you can’t just explain everything away through magic. Magic itself should have rules and everything in your fantasy world reacts to those rules.

However, the cultures, lands, people and other aspects of a fantasy world are primarily yours to decide. You just have to stick to your set of rules.

With Science Fiction — or at least the science fiction I found myself writing — there are already rules and parameters that you have to stick to. Such as our planetary system. I only visit one other planet, Mars, but trust me … the research involved in knowing that planet well enough to put people on it was astronomical.  (You can kill me for the pun later.)

Mars is a real place. It has terrain. It has features. (It has Mount Olympus. Seriously. Look it up. It’s this volcano that just kept erupting and grew to a major height. I totally swiped it for the book.) But because Mars is a real place all those features, all that terrain, had to be taken into account. I did terraform the planet to sustain life in the book, which altered the terrain a bit (aka — gave it plant life) but the mountains and the ridges and the canyons are all still there.

This isn’t to say that you can be lax in Fantasy. If you build a world and put The Lonely Mountain on one section of the map, you certainly cannot go relocating that mountain halfway through the book.

It’s more like this; in Fantasy you’re creating everything. In Science Fiction you’re finding ways to break or otherwise mold what already exists.

 

Life Sans Two Fingers

As pointed out in my previous post, I made a stupid mistake with an avocado and managed to cut the nerves in two of my fingers. Given my chosen profession, this has been problematic.

While I can hand-write everything still fine (because I’m right-handed and all that), I cannot type with the speed and duration that I used to. The Doctor said it would be six weeks to three months before I started to feel anything in those fingers.

(Yes, apparently I was really, really aggressive with that stupid avocado. What can I say? I was hungry.)

The plans I had to start serializing Residual Haunting on June 1st obviously didn’t work out. I’ve decided instead to begin serialization in October. Which, let’s be honest, is likely a better choice given the theme of ghosts and what have you.

Editing has been slow-going.

And I do mean slooow going. However, I am beginning to make progress again. All those lovely words I have on paper are coming to the screen. I have, in short, managed to train myself into typing sans two fingers. It’s been difficult, but I’ve managed it.

Here’s what else I’ve managed to train myself to do without two fingers;

1) Wash my hair.

Believe it or not, this is a very difficult process when you’re missing two fingers. I no longer have the full-on scalp massage during the soaping process and must compensate with the other hand in order to make sure everything gets clean.

2) Drive.

Now, let me explain that.

The location of the puncture wound was in my palm, about three-quarters of an inch below the two offending fingers. For a very long time I found myself having to use the heel of my palm to drive. More often than not I drove with one hand, but turning the vehicle became slightly more difficult.

3) Wrestle with my son.

He’s a boy. He’s active. He likes to play. For the first little bit I had to learn to wrestle one-handed since … you know … bumping a puncture wound kinda hurts. Now it’s a lot easier. I just can’t feel those fingers and have to be certain nothing untoward happens to them mid-play.

4) Carrying in Groceries.

Mhmn. This was a pain. But I worked out a system where I looped several bags on the left forearm and went from there.

5) … Type.

I already said it but it can be said again. This was the real kicker, after all. Learning to type without two fingers was quite difficult. There were moments where this really horrible ache would set in and I would have to sit back for a minute or two. That ache is mostly gone now, which is why I’m able to start working again.

So! This is me … halfway through 2014 and way behind on all my writing deadlines. But I think with a little determination and a couple dozen sleepless nights I might catch up again.

Deviation and Dead Magic will both be released in August. Persona still has a tentative release date of December 2nd, though for marketing purposes and what have you I might delay that release in 2015. (Hey, it’s my first self-published. I get to pick the time-frame.)

Usurper is in the middle of the editing process. Sorry, Trenna fans, you’re gonna have to wait a little bit longer.

And Tapped … Oh, my. Tapped is nearly finished with this latest round of edits. Once that is done, I’m sending it out on submission.

Yes, good old fashion submission. Because I love rejection. It’s like my favorite thing in the whole world and I can’t get enough of it.

Insult to Injury

I graduated last month with honors.

Family gathered. I walked the stage (even though I felt a trifle out of place since I’d conducted all of my schooling online).  And then I took the rest of May off from writing and responsibility. There was much Game of Thrones to catch up with (still working on that) and many nights of actual cooking (yes, cooking, and I didn’t burn the apartment down).

I knew when June started that I was going to have to hit the grind hard to catch up on writing deadlines and what have you, but I felt I deserved the break. And then … last week … I decided to knife myself in the palm while wrestling with an avocado.

Yes, you read that right. Me and an avocado had a bout and I lost.

Yes, I know the proper way to get the core out of an avocado. (And if I didn’t before, I certainly do now thanks to family and friends sending me instructional video links.) But for one reason or another I didn’t do it the proper way this time. I was in a hurry or something.

The knife slipped off the core and stabbed right into my palm. It hit the bones. I know because I felt it.

Yes, you really do feel that when it happens. Writers take note: it’s a funny reverberating sensation, like hitting a long steel bar and feeling the shock rumble through it.

I drove myself to the ER — because that’s just me — and they gave me fun medicine and serious instructions on how to care for it. (Along with several more suggestions on the appropriate means of coring an avocado.)

However, I cannot feel two fingers in my left hand. This makes typing a bit of a bear. (Not to mention the wound is still healing so there’s that lovely pain on top of things.) With my publication schedule this year, and the writing schedule I had divvied out for myself way back in December, I find myself behind.

I mean, really, really behind.

It’s insult to injury.

Not only am I in pain, my pride is taking a beating thanks to my new-content deadlines being missed.

And all because I was in a hurry with an avocado.

Take it from me … it’s worth the time to do it right. If you must, use a spoon. Those avocado’s will get you.