Book


Oh, yes, another metaphor. This time, to writing and woodworking. Usually I go blacksmithing, of course but today I’m feeling like woodworking is best. It’s the whole grain/stain thing. You pick out a good piece of wood (ideas, first draft, etc). Then you shape it and sand it; and at first glance, that piece is beautiful. The curves and lines are there, the form is right. But the details are off.

I remember as a kid I was riveted whenever I saw this one infomercial about some random varnish or stain that you put on wood. It would make the most hideous, scratched, stained, boring piece of lumber into a magnificent work of art. And although no woodworker would ever admit to the process being as simple as that, I still hold that a finished book is like a finished piece of wood. When you apply stain, the natural details in the wood just pop. It’s why when you select a piece of wood you dampen it, to see what the deeper colors and grain will look like with the application of stain and varnish.

Of course, I’m just finishing off with the stain. That’s the second draft, and the Big Edit. Which, honestly, for all intents and purposes was a complete rewrite. Sure, the characters are the  same, and some of the premise is the same. But I went after my selected piece of wood with a hatchet when I should have chosen a chisel. Or something.

I am hovering around the 135K mark at the moment, about 15K from the end of this book. And as always I feel a little like a kid poised at the top of an icy hill in a snow tube. It’s going danged fast. When I emerge at the other side, which may be in a few days if the speed is any indication, I’ll dance around and celebrate and likely buy a bottle of expensive wine and some Brie. I’ll record it so you can share in my revelrie. (The last draft’s celebration–nearly a year to the date–was a tattoo.)

Thanks for bearing with me as I finish this. I’m excited, and thrilled, and can’t wait to hear the response when the last podcast goes live. I’ve got some surprises that even I was taken by; it’s so mind-boggling when the gears all move into place as if moved by some pre-destined hand.

Back to Home Depot, then, to pick out the last bits of inlay and contemplate the right varnish.

I am determined to finish this edit in a week, and so, I’m up now, and I have a dizzying scene in my head, trying to weave in my ends (to use a knitting metaphor).

As you know, The Aldersgate is told in a multiple-POV. Every chapter, a different POV. This, of course, can’t last forever. I’m not as clever as George R. R. Martin, and I need to bring them together, and shift perspectives now and again within one chapter.

But boy, is this hard. I’m in the pre-climax. The chapter before the Big One, and all of these characters are coming together, and it’s like a thunderstorm; hot air, warm air, hail and rain. Toss in a gunfight between three factions with a fourth there for good measure, and you’ve made for one exciting little maesltrom.

I have geared bullets that bore holes into you, and keep boring, unless you get them out (and someone is currently working on getting said bullet out of someone elses’ thigh). I have blood and fear, I have betrayal and anger. I have a demon (of sorts) on the loose. I will not say more at the risk of being a total spoiler for those of you following along, but let’s say this… I’m juggling a lot of things. And some of them are knives, or fiery brands, or whatever dangerous things jugglers throw into the air. I started this chapter this morning, and I’m at the halfway point as we speak.

It’s 11:30, but I feel like I’ve got days of work before me if I ever want to get to sleep.

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Alderpod #16 – Chapter Fourteen: The Nithings

Yes, I totally say “fifteen” and “thirteen” at the beginning of this. I will fix. Numbers confuse me even when my mind is running at full capacity. – Yay fixed!!

After a lengthy, and unintentional break, Alderpod is back! Coughing, sputtering, and sneezing are hardly conducive to a successful episode, so I do hope you forgive me.

Notes on this episode: More about the Nithings, and back to Cora. While this isn’t an action-packed episode, I think it’s important to have a little lull. I like the dialogue, and love the Cora/Emry/Ezz dynamic going on in this chapter. It’s more of a character building chapter, I suppose, setting up some important facts for later on in the story. But I like characters! So, there.

And, we’re back to original music, and a new piece. It’s the first music that I imagined playing as Emry, and it’s done with the tenor guitar I acquired a little before the holidays. I finally strung him up, and got him ready to play–I’m happy with the final result, and even managed a string of melody (as I’m a rhythm guitarist!).

Gosh, it’s hard to believe, but about a year ago I decided to get serious about writing my blog and sharing my work, The Aldersgate Cycle through a podcast.

Now, nearly 23,000 views and countless connections later, I came to a big realization.

I’m about a lot more than one book!

In fact, as we speak, I’ve got about four books either finished or in progress. I’ve published a short stories, and have more ready to go out there in the world.

What’s the big problem, then? Well, this website was created to be a hub for The Aldersgate Cycle and steampunk related goodness, with occasional quips about writing and fantasy, etc. But the more I write, the more I realize that aside from the first two in that list, the other contributions really belong on a blog about, well, uh… me?

Yeah, so. Enter nataniabarron.wordpress.com. I’ll still be updating here, of course (with a concentration on Alderpod, etc), and hopefully cross-posting most of what goes on from here to there. But if you’re intersted in discussions about writing in general, poetry, randomness, and the daily doings of a stay at home/write at home geek mom, well, that’s the place to go. It’s very much in… um its nascence at the moment, but I promise there will be coolness soon.

Thanks to all who’ve made this year so incredible! Here’s to another.

I was given two copies of the Tales of Beedle the Bard for Christmas, attesting to the fact that my family knows me quite well. I hadn’t explicitly asked for it, but people often think of me and think of magical worlds, and well, the book makes sense (especially since you can find it everywhere from Wal-Mart to your neighborhood gas station, I’ll warrant).

I didn’t crack it open for a few days, just because I had other books to read. But when I did, I wasn’t expecting much. I must say I was a little disappointed by the end of the whole Potter series, though undeniably still attached to the characters. This book appeared to me as well, a little reaching. Sure, I knew that it was going to be for charity which is good. But the whole debacle between Rowling and the Harry Potter Lexicon has made me a little wary of the lady. Sure, we’re all entitled to our opinions on the subject, but I have a much freer definition of creative license than she does.

What’s surprising to me about the book is how genuine it feels. Even as a purported children’s book, it’s very, well, medieval. And it’s supposed to be. (Beedle and Bede? Yes, there’s got to be a connection there.) I think the least effective of the tales is the one from the books, “The Tale of the Three Brothers”–and yet it rings particularly medieval, due to its characterization of Death, etc. I suppose I was waylaid by the silly names, like “Babbity Rabbity and her Cackling Stump” and “The Wizard’s Hairy Heart”–but what struck me was how these stories are, like many medieval tales, a bit on the gruesome side. There’s little candy-coating there (not that Rowling does that much to begin with, but I assumed she would here).

And of course, there’s the whole frame of the book; that it is, in fact, edited by Hermione Granger with commentary by Albus Dumbledore. I thought this would be distracting, but I was surprised to find that, reading Dumbledore’s commentary, I found I actually missed the guy quite a bit. As for Ms. Granger’s presence, there really isn’t any detectable. Which makes sense for an academic like she is.

All in all, it’s a surprisingly good read. Certainly nothing on par with the whole series, but a great little supplement. And certainly a treat that gets a chuckle from those of us with medieval leanings. I think Rowling certainly did her homework on this one.

When people describe steampunk, they often do so in relation to science fiction. “It’s like science-fiction from the Victorian period,” or “Neo-Victorian technology”. And certainly, yes. This is a large component. But I think that the relationship between steampunk as a literary genre and fantasy as a literary genre is too often overlooked. One of my goals with The Aldersgate Cycle was to create a steampunk fantasy world, where technology and a Victorian “feel” were part of the world itself, but not necessarily the defining factor.

The thing is, the steampunk aesthetic is as preoccupied with the tinkerer as with the alchemist, as invested in the blueprints as the spellbooks. Our Victorian and Edwardian ancestors embraced ideas of magic, the occult, an the otherworldly, perhaps moreso than any period before them.

Part of my argument rests on the whimsy inherent in the steampunk aesthetic. It’s not just about pipes and brass, it’s more than that. It’s making art that moves, that has a life of its own, that seems to impart its own power instead of just exist. The best objects I’ve seen, whether by Jake von Slatt and the Steampunk Workshop, or Datamancer, or any of the dozens of other makers out there, is when the creation is finished it looks like it should be magic. It looks worthy of magic, of mystery. (I think much of this dates back, from an art historical perspective, to the practice of making reliquaries… but that’s a whole other post in and of itself…)

The other side to my obsession with making steampunk fantasy is that I don’t think technology is that far away from magic at all. Of course, this is far from my own argument. But I think the line is blurred even more in the age of Steam, because technology is, at that point, such a well of fascination rather than a true science. From a historical perspective, you might say that the pursuit of technology was in some ways the pursuit of magic. I mean, if you go back to Newton, for example, one of the fathers of science, he was brilliant, yes; but Newton also was devoted to alchemy, and believed that he could find a way to turn metals to gold. That he and others failed in their attempts doesn’t mean it was any less noble to explore–simply that some things, in this world any way, do not seem to be possible.

It has to do with imagination, with invention. Steampunk is about reinventing the past, taking what we know and shaping it into something that it could have been. Take the whole concept of aether, for instance. It’s taken on a new, quasi-magical life in steampunk as something that’s hybridized science and fantasy.

I guess I just hate genre definitions in general. The reason SF and F are spoken in the same breath so frequently is because they stem from the same concept: “If  ___ is possible, then  ___” — it’s exploring capabilities, whether by magic or technology, and seeing what influences those capabilities have on greater societies, cultures, and universes. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the “past” or the “future” (or future present, past future, wormhole)–it’s an imaginative exploration of what is possible.

Some people prefer proton bullets to magic missles, of course. But at the heart, it’s important to remember that the blacksmith is just as ancient as the thunder god: in some ways, magic and technology have lived hand-in-hand since the beginning.

I have lots of interesting things to say, and would very much like to get the next podcast out. However, this virus will not end. On top of that I seem to have a bad reaction to every medication they put me on, so I’m giving up that route and going back to straight ibuproven. Once I can speak again, I’ll hunker on down again and do some real podcasting!

I am still awfully sick. Like, possibly the worse cold I’ve ever had, barring the time I got pneumonia in college. I sound raspier than Kathleen Turner… so, in spite of my best efforts, I cannot record the podcast. I am writing, so there’s that, but not sure how long it’ll last. Husband is sick, too, but the two-year-old is in full force. Such fun…

Anyway… hopefully I’ll be able to speak in a few days, and post something of more substance. It’s a New Year, and there’s lots to be excited about. I’ll just be excited as soon as I a) sleep through an entire night b) can hear/yawn/taste and c) can get through a sentence without sounding like a pubescent boy.

A moment’s reflection on the hard numbers of The Aldersgate as it stands right now.

  • Total completed chapters in current draft: 22
  • Total chapters in original draft: 30
  • Total current word count: 119,115 (not a word less)
  • Total P.O.V.’s: Cora, Brick, Emry, Ellin, Sylvan, Kaythra (six even; half gals, half gents… listed in order of ages)
  • Total chapters expected in final draft: 30
  • Total chapters podcasted: Twelve (thirteen counting the prologue)

Just in case you were curious. Suffice it to say I’m ten chapters ahead of where the podcast is. As the New Year approaches I want to start getting the podcasts out every week to week-and-a-half, and try to keep it on a more strict schedule. I have some other projects brewing, including finishing my NaNoWriMo book but I’d like to see the next eight chapters written as soon as possible. We shall see. This “Editing” section is the most difficult, as the end of the novel is vastly different than the original–such things happen.

But I can do this. The end is in sight. I tend to pick up my pace a great deal when I know the end is near. Last time I finished (the first draft, that is) I printed it out at Kinkos, double sided, and read the thing to myself over a couple of days. I plan to do the same this time. Then, comes a resting period. Then, more editing. Then? Well, hopefully we’ll have made some good progress, and I’ll have something ready to submit.

Movin’ right along. Footloose and fancy-free.

I am coming up for air to update you. Currently I am making sugar cookies, gingerbread, peanut butter chocolate kiss cookies, and shortbread. All with a two-year-old in tow. I am not, suffice it to say, cleaning the house until Christmas Eve morning (the day I’m hosting a par-tay) in light of the fact that it’s most likely to be utterly destroyed between today and tomorrow.

Writing? *maniacal laughter*

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