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Posts Tagged ‘steampunk

Today is Thanksgiving Day, and so, in the spirit of writers everywhere, as they ponder all the myriad blessings of their lives this past year, I am not going to do a Thanksgiving post.

Anyone can do a Thanksgiving post. True originality comes from not doing a Thanksgiving post.

So instead of reflecting on the deep gratitude I owe to my publisher, Echelon Press, for taking yet more chances on me and my work (6 this year, I think, one novel and five short stories), I’m going to watch the next episode of Witchblade.  Or maybe re-watch the last episode of Chuck, with Sarah conquering half of Thailand single-handed, or whine in frustrated impatience for the next episode, the Thanksgiving episo–No, no Thanksgiving.

We’re talking about, um, all my friends, on Twitter and Facebook and WordPress.  The people who read my tweets and blogs, who visit my website and hopefully buy my books, even if only to fill in their Christmas shopping list with a book they can rest assured no one has ever heard of before.  It’s not easy being a new author, even if I have been at it for over a decade.  Let me tell you, though, if you tell me what you’re recipient likes, I can tell you which Echelon book to get for him her that person.  I’ve read them all.  Go on, tough guy, push me. I dare you.  Don’t expect me to ramble on and on about the joy and happiness your friendship brings me considering I’ve only been active on the social networking thing for a few months, because I’m not going to.

My wife, of course, knew better than to push me to displays of saccharine sentiment, instead challenging me to come up with a blog post filled with holiday buzz words that didn’t actually talk about any of them. Just look at that tag cloud!  Was there ever a more perfect spouse?

Fortunately, the pies my wonderful children made last night are out of my direct view, and the turkey in the oven, with its real handmade sage stuffing, has not yet begun to perfume the air with the aroma of its baking, which leaves me free to think about my next story, Ghostkiller, or maybe my last story, Steampunk Santa, and how I hope it will receive an audience when it comes out pre-Christmas.  There, you see how I didn’t even mention Thanksgi–

Ha! Better luck next year!


I’ve got two, count ’em two, holiday stories for you. (You didn’t really think I was going to do some post about the Christmas season, did you?)  Both times my publisher made the mistake of asking for stories at around the Christmas season, with a seasonal slant, of course.  We all know how that turns out.

My take on a ‘seasonal slant’ is about as slanted as it can be and still be seasonal.

A couple of years back she asked for a story to be used for an anthology to raise money for charity.  “Make it about fire,” she says.  She asked this in, like, November, looking to get the book out just before Christmas. Surprisingly, she made it, all 20 of the authors she asked got something done, in a mere 2 weeks, because we’re all nice people like that.

I had a story idea in mind for Christmas, which I discussed at length over on another blog, so I won’t repeat myself here. You should go over there and read those posts, because they’re all about some really good stories, some of which were even written by me. The funny thing is, she also requested stories for a special Christmas project, and I didn’t send one in for that.  Some of the stories that were submitted are still up, though. She’s been transferring them to her new Amazon store.

This year, she asked on Twitter for Steampunk stories, or holiday stories.  I asked her if she wanted steampunk holiday stories, and she’s like, “It’s all good.” Well, needless to say, in about 6 hours I had a brilliant idea for a steampunk holiday story.  I love it when that happens. A few years back I was given some biographical data for a lady who won a contest, and the prize was to be written into a story. I may have gone overboard, since I not only wrote her into the story, she was the star, with the whole story crafted around her likes and dislikes. I had the same cascade of ideas for the story then that I did for Steampunk Santa, only worse.  Not that Steampunk Santa stayed where I put it, no sir.  It almost immediately took a sharp turn and headed off its own way, dragging me along behind it.  Which is a good thing, by the way.

For some reason my Christmas stories seem to have a touch of Halloween included, not sure why.  ‘Bite Deep‘ is a vampires at Christmas story that has more to with evil, sacrifice, and redemption than it does about trees and presents.  There are plenty of religions in the world that connect those things with the shortest day of the year, and it’s not really my fault that Christmas got piggy-backed onto one of them.

Steampunk Santa is a bit different. I deliberately fashioned it on the model of the Rankin-Bass specials, with the nice narrator and squeaky-voiced elves. As I was writing I read the lines in the proper voice just to stay in character.  Unfortunately I don’t do a good Fred Astaire impression, but the squeaky-voiced elves came out just fine.

When you read holiday stories, are you looking for the tried and true, or something a bit off from the beaten path, and if so, how far off? If the latter, I know a place where you can get some good ones.

As a bit of a follow-up to my previous post, I have been reading up on steampunk as a genre recently.  I found this handy-looking little website that gave me all sorts of ideas about the kind of things they should have, they way they should talk, that sort of thing.  This story I’m working on is sort of a ‘Jules Verne meets Rankin/Bass and they beget a Hallmark Special’ sort of story, complete with the stop-motion animation and the squeaky voices, and I have to get it right, since my wife has threatened to introduce me to Mr. Baseball Bat if I mess up.

If that’s not loving support I don’t know what is.

To some extent I’m a little uncomfortable with SF as a genre to write in.  There seems to be such a predisposition to focus on the science, i.e., the setting, and I’m a character-driven guy.  One of the reasons I write fantasy is that I can make up the setting as I go along.  There are details, but fewer of them and I don’t have to worry about keeping them all straight in a single book.  Steampunk as a genre seems to be all about such little details.  Even Girl Genius, the brilliant steampunk webcomic, with all its wonderful characters, turns on an ever-expanding world of strangeness and new toys.

Gizmos.  The Gizmo Effect is when the author becomes so in love with his gizmos that the story becomes about them, and not the character using them.  So far it hasn’t ever happened to me, but I’ve read books where it’s clear the author had nothing else in mind.  Surely you’ve read a few yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like gizmos.  Hell, read my books.  (Please.)  They’re full of gizmos, from one end to the other.  But always because the story needs them.  People using gizmos to do things.  Sure Tarkas has a wondrous sword, but his culture has no word for sword.  Or weapon, for that matter.  And when the Demi-God comes along and ‘educates’ him, via a dose of Triple-Distilled Elixir of Warrior, the story benefits, because now Tarkas has to deal with reflexes, skills, and even thoughts he’s never held before and what do you do with them?  My gizmos tend to have an effect on the man, and it’s the man I’m interested in.

Tomparasil is so in love with his gizmos he’s forgotten what it means to be an elf, and it’s the elf I’m interested in!  This time I’ll have to use his gizmos to explore him from the outside in, rather than from the inside out.  What can I say, I’m stretching myself.  Wish me luck?

Most of my life I’ve been a reader of fantasy or SF type novels, a consumer of those types of fictions generally.  Just read my bio, it says so right there, and we all know that if it’s on the InterWeb it must be true.

So it follows rather logically that when I found myself wanting to express myself creatively that I would use fantasy and SF stylings to do it.  Well, fantasy, really, SF requires too much research of matters that were irrelevant to my story ideas.   The closest I’ve come to SF is my latest novel, a futuristic paranormal.  As a fantasy author I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it.  I haven’t taken a single creative writing class or joined a group, but I read a lot and I pay attention.

Then came publication and marketing of my books, about which I had read nothing and knew nothing.  I’ve blogged about these nightmare experiences elsewhere, but the important part for my purposes here is that I formed a bookstore.  It was a logical progression.  None of the bookstores that existed would put my book on their shelves, so I created my own and put my book there.  Except that a lot of people who read books don’t necessarily read fantasy books.  Fortunately I happened to know a publisher…

In order to sell a book I found it’s really helpful to have read it first.  Even the larger bookstores know this, although finding employees with a good knowledge of the subject matter and decent people skills sometimes defeats them.  For me the subject matter was limited, and my people skills weren’t really an issue.  Some other blog post.  Anyway, one of the good things about Echelon Press books is that they are all character-oriented just like mine.  I was reading mysteries, romances, paranormals, even Westerns, and I was enjoying the experience.

As a result, my writing began to change.  A Warrior Made has a great deal more mystery and romance to it than Unbinding the Stone ever did.  (I invite you to get them, read them, and make the comparison yourself.)  St. Martin’s Moon even more so.  My short stories show even more variety.  Compare ‘Chasing His Own Tale’ with ‘Chasing His Own Tale 2’ (when ‘Chasing His Own Tale 2’ comes out, that is) , ‘Off the Map’ to ‘Ex Libris’, or ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ with ‘Undermind’.  Of course not all of these stories are out yet but that just means that you can read the others so that when they do come out you’ll be ready!  All I’m saying is that the more you read, the more you’ll know.  And the more you know, the more you can and will find yourself writing about.   My publisher asked me to write a steampunk holiday story, and right away I got an idea.  Now I intend to read a few steampunk stories to see how it’s done!

Hasn’t this ever happened to you?


Unbinding the Stone

A Warrior Made

A Warrior Made

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St. Martin’s Moon

St. Martin's Moon

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Chasing His Own Tale

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Struck By Inspiration

Struck By Inspiration

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Steampunk Santa

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Bite Deep

Christmas among the vampires!

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Cyber-pirates. Sort of.

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Off the Map

Reality TV...without the Reality!

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