My short story, “Dead’s End to Middleton” is available at Crossed Genres–as of yesterday, in their Steampunk themed issue. It’s got steampunk, and guns, and aliens, and explosions. Should be entertaining, anyway! With the moving and whatnot, I’m a little delayed, I’m afraid! Ah, well. There’s some great stories in the group, and Crossed Genres is well worth taking a look. Exciting to finally see this story go live, that’s for sure.

(cross posted from Writing Across Worlds)

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but since starting Alderpod, I really haven’t taken a look at iTunes. When I opened it up yesterday I realized how awful it looked, how silly the paragraph explaining the novel was, and how unprofessional it was! I could never find Alderpod in iTunes, and that’s because–for some reason–it’s not listed as Alderpod. Add to that the fact that half of the podcasts weren’t showing up well… I’m a bit red-faced.

I will defend myself by saying that I’ve been just too wrapped up in a) being a mom b) dealing with family issues c) writing my posterior off and d) trying to podcast in my spare time. I am not a podcast junkie myself–I just don’t have time to sit in silence and listen. It’s unfortunate, but true. I’ve learned a great deal by trial and error and this was a huge error. That anyone has followed along this far at all is astonishing to me.

So, first: apologies. Alderpod is a labor of love, not a means of making big bucks or getting “discovered”. It’s a public draft, and the feedback I recieve is absoultely instrumental in my novel polishing process (which is what I’m referring to it as these days). That I’ve been a little sloppy in the actual implementation is not a surprise.

Secondly, if you have tried in the past to subscribe to Alderpod, and found a) messiness and b) missing podcasts, I would ask you to revisit the feed. You’ll find the missing chapters, and an updated explanation of the book. It’s part western, part fantasy, part adventure, part steampunk.

And lastly, as a friend of mine recently inquired: no, this is not a kissing book. The first chapters sound a little like a romance, but, if you wait it out you’ll see that I have a rather skewed perspective on romance. If you get through the first three chapters you’ll soon learn that nobody gets what or who they want, and most everything is more complicated than at first glance. And, in fact, though the first draft of this book had quite a few um, extended scenes in the bedroom, the podcasted draft version (technically the third draft) does not. It’s odd. I certainly hadn’t intended to cut the scenes out, they just didn’t fit the feeling of the book the second time through, and didn’t make the final cut.

A sincere thanks to those of you who have stuck by. I can’t offer much in the way of thanks except that I can let you know I’m working on a wiki for the world (to answer questions I’ve recieved about other cultures/history, etc) that even includes a fancy map! Ah, yes. No fantasy is complete without a map.

“Nothing’s impossible, Brick. It’s only our thinking that makes it so.” – Sir Gawen of Fenlie (by way of Shakespeare, perhaps)

I discovered steampunk not by way of Great Britain, which is a more familiar flavor (and surprising because, honestly, I’m quite an anglophile at heart), but by way of the American West. This certainly is an unusual way to go about the whole steampunk angle, but it makes complete sense. Sure, the Old West seems far removed from the genteel ways of Victorian England, but I don’t think they’re necessarily exclusive. Of all the periods of US History, my favorite has always been the post Civil War era. Something magical happened in those ensuing years, and it’s particularly ripe for steampunk musings.

What’s most enticing about American steampunk is its quirkiness. It’s the ability to shove off the class distinctions that hold a lot of Victorian tales together, and embrace the working man, the tinkerer, and the home-brew blacksmith. Toss in the element of the vast spaces, and you get something that really shakes.

The American West had its own societal structures, of course. But it also gave power to those who sought it, not just those who were born into it. A particularly good example, I think, that demonstrates this best is “Deadwood” the short-lived and incredible series on HBO. Sure, there’s a lot in the way of cussing–but the entire show is about power, power in the unexpected places, power in relationships, power in actions. It’s the kind of thing that Joe R. Landsale explores, too, in many of his short stories (not for the faint of heart, these). You see glimmers of it in Stephen King’s Dark Tower books, too, certainly.

What I think American steampunk benefits from is a distance from the heart, the monarchy, the tight-lacing. I think I like it better, too, because it makes it all that more possible for a gal to take up a gun or a wrench herself. Sure, most of my own steampunk wanderings aren’t from this world that we live in, but my love of the American West informs lots of the decisions I make. There’s a bit of Doc Holliday in Sir Renmen, quite a dash of Calamity Jane in Sally Din, and admittedly some Wyatt Earp in Sir Gawen (the mustache, of course).

Sure, there’s folks who believe that steampunk can’t be steampunk without Victoria, without Great Britain, etc. I beg to differ. I think people in general ought to expand their conceptions of the genre to understand that the application of steam technology and the environs of Victoriana can be stretched to a myriad of applications. In the coming years, I think we’ll see many more windows into just how flexible and far-reaching steampunk can be. And we’ll be better for it.

Spurs as gears? That’s what I’m talking about.

medievalscribe1You know, words matter. Sure, it’s good to see you’ve written quantity. But, honestly, I think many people working on NaNo take the whole word count thing a little too seriously, and I think it freaks some people out. 50K is a valiant goal, but it’s not quite long enough for most genres to be considered a whole novel, and it’s especially hard to do in November. I mean, November? Really? That pretty much eliminates anyone working in retail, or anyone with a family. I know this week will be extremely challenging through Thanksgiving…

At any rate, I’ve been approaching my word count with caution. Because, let’s face it: I’m not exactly a novel newbie. Sure, I’m not published. But I’ve written books before, in spite of school, and having babies, and working. I get that part. So I don’t want to just write for the sake of writing. It’s got to mean something to me; it’s got be good.

So, this morning I opened up Scrivener and took a look at the word glut from last night. I never went over it; I just fell asleep, completely mentally spent. I wasn’t expecting much, because the green-tea fueled write-a-thon from last evening really is an anomaly. I’ve never written that much that fast before.

Funny thing is, it’s actually some of the best writing in the novel to date, shocked as I am to admit that. Don’t know what sort of sweet spot I hit, or what kind of stars aligned but for someone, like me, who is insanely (and I mean, without reason or sanity) critical of her writing, I found very little to complain about. The scenes were vivid, the descriptions clear, the dialogue particularly strong (even when I interspersed the dialogue in Maddie’s head with the actual, talking conversations… writing dialogue when two women share one body… is a challenge).

Anyway, in the next few days I have to eke out 10K. It won’t finish the book, but it’ll finish NaNo. I’m a bit torn as to what to do when NaNo is over, because I know Pilgrim of the Sky is much more marketable than AGC is in its current state. So I might write a bit more while it’s fresh on my mind, finish the draft, and then set it aside to work on AGC until I can go back and edit again. I don’t want to lose the moment, in other words.

As I’ve read some recent postings of people on NaNo boards saying everything from “How can I even write 20K” to “I’m writing 200K because 50K is not a challenge” consider one of my favorite quotes from Mr. Shakespeare: “When words are scarce they are rarely spent in vain.” Don’t just write for writing’s sake if you can help it. Tell your story, and tell it as best as you can. Make the words count; don’t just count words.

But, consider this, too. Discipline is important. The ACT of writing is just as essential as the word count; that’s what I think NaNoWriMo is so good at demonstrating. It helps aspiring writers get a window into a life where writing is what you do; it’s what you do every moment when life allows. When you don’t have a typewriter or a pencil, you do it in your head. You dream it, you sing it. You are the story. But great stories don’t materialize, or at least rarely do they, in unpracticed people.

In the excellent words of Mr. Ray Bradbury (I figured someone said it better than me, and I was right.)

It simply follows that quantity produces quality. Only if you do a lot will you ever be any good. If you do very little, you‘ll never have quality of idea or quality of output. The excitement and creativity comes from a whole lot of doing; hoping you‘ll suddenly be struck by lightning. If you only write a few things, you‘re doomed. The history of literature is the history of prolific people. I always say to students, give me four pages a day, every day. That’s three or four hundred thousand words a year. Most of that will be bilge, but the rest … It will save your life!

Apologies for the scarcity as of late. NaNoWriMo really is taking every effort from me, trying to maintain the word count. I’m just barely on target, hovering somewhere around 32K at the moment. Hoping to make up for lost time this weekend, where my husband won’t be away!

Anyway, a little snippet in the mean time, from Pilgrim of the Sky.

They had now arrived by the Roth’s black carriage; the single golden wheel at the front had been recently cleaned by one of Mrs. Hildebrandt’s servants, and it stood gleaming in the chilly winter light. It was striking in its simplicity, that simple circle, and she stared at it a moment in wonder before letting Randall help her into the carriage. She nestled into her seat, pulling her stole around her shoulders.

“I’ll be happy to take you by home,” said Randall, swooping up beside her, and closing the door in one swift movement. He did move well, she thought. So unlike Randy, so deliberate—almost as if he’d had instruction as a dancer. “But would you permit me just one detour? It’s something I think you’d find fascinating—I know your love of cathedrals, and well, we have our own. It’s called the Church of the Weeping Lady, and it takes up nearly two entire blocks downtown. You can see some of the domes and spirals from here.”

“Oh?” said Maddie. She felt Matilda there, suddenly, like someone peeking over her shoulder, except from within her. A very strange feeling. But she just shuddered and clenched her teeth, waiting. No, Matilda wasn’t saying anything at the moment. Maddie had the sudden impression that she was just listening, waiting.

“It’s the gem of our city,” he continued. “Designed by William Morris himself, if you’ll believe it.”

“William Morris? As in–he’s got some art there, or–”

“No, he was the chief architect. Every detail is his; every inspired detail.”

“And here I had him pegged as one of those Pre-Raphaelite socialist sorts with thoughts bent on saving the world one hand-pressed tile at a time,” Maddie said, thinking herself quite clever for the near mini-lecture she’d delivered in the space of a sentence. “Didn’t think he’d have undertaken a whole church.”

Randall nodded, “Indeed, that’s Morris in your world. In this world, he was one of the most devoted Marian priests—and his talent, well, I say it flourished here even greater than it did in your time. There is a certain indelible well of inspiration for some, when it comes to the Great Mother.”

“Great Mother,” said Maddie. “You sound like a neo-pagan.”

He shrugged. “Not much of a difference, in some things, I suppose.”

398px-ferc-fish_ladderThis NaNoWriMo experience has been… well, intriguing, to say the least. If anything it’s teaching me to write more habitually. That’s kind of expected though, you know?

What’s got me lately are the unexpected turns the book takes. I haven’t had so much time to sit and type, to plan to plot, and that’s sort of the idea, I guess. So it’s writing in the dark even more intensely than usual. It’s sitting in a pitch black room and waiting, and then, when something stirs, chasing it down, putting a light to it, and describing what I see.

Last night was… intriguing. I made up for my deficit on Saturday (my husband’s leaving town for a week, so I’m forgiven!) by quite some, and am just below the 15K mark.

But let me tell you, half of what happened last night… um. I don’t honestly even know where to start. Everything just took such a different turn, such a curious turn. And it’s nothing that had to do with setting, which is steampunkified Boston, or the research I was doing in to the shape and formation of the town itself in the 1880s.

Well, apparently I have something of a villain. And she’s my heroine, as well. And… yeah, I’m as confused as you. I’m going to stop now. Hopefully this all makes more sense in the end.

Yes, I promise, by the end of today you will have something completely unrelated to NaNoWriMo and, hopefully, lacking in any tone that could be construed as whiny, annoyed, agitated, pathetic, or irritating. It’s the least I can do, after all.

But… But! Stay with me!

I wanted to report that I am indeed still on track for NaNo. In spite of my better attempts to the contrary, I sat my derriere down last night and coughed up (that’s a milder word for the term I used last evening to my friend Karen, but hey… I’ll be nice) enough to bring me up to date and then some by a few hundred. Why this sudden ability? This fortress of strength?

It’s my husband. While I wouldn’t say that Michael hangs on my every word–which would be, let’s face it, kind of annoying–he’s consistently there when I need him most. I had a crappy day. A Crappy Crappy Day (capitals intentional). And I was admittedly feeling sorry for myself, which is a state I generally don’t suggest.

So, after dinner I informed Michael that I Was Not Under Any Circumstances Writing in the NaNoWriMo Book Because–and I Reiterate, BECAUSE–I Want to Kill it With Fire and, After Today, I’m Just Going To Play a Video Game.

Michael is a handsome guy, though he doesn’t believe this. He looked up at me with his tousled hair, blinking through his dark glasses, and raised an eyebrow over those remarkably blue eyes. “You signed up for this, you know,” he said. “It’s not like you’re not capable.”

Me: “But I don’t wanna!” (Or something to that effect; I do spend most of my time with a two year old, so it rubs off, y’know?)

Michael, shaking his head and smiling a little. “Well, it certainly could help you; you can work to a schedule, and that’s important.”

Me: “But I can make up for it all tomorrow! I write really fast!”

Then, just a look. A look that said: No, that’s not what this is about. This isn’t about Natania sprinting to the end at day 28 with 10K to go, and three hours to do it in. It’s about keeping the ideas fresh in your mind and plowing through because it’s discipline. And you’re not going to magically be able to discipline yourself if you give up on the fifth day.

So, I went downstairs. I capered around Albion a little while, belching, farting, and seducing various inhabitants (in Fable II, by the way, in case you think I’ve gone completely off my rocker). Then, I dutifully wen to the computer and finished my writing, and then some, just to say HA!

The writing is coming more easily now, as I’m shifting from the present-day our world stuff, which I think I’m just hideous at writing (I spend way too much time in worlds that aren’t real), and into the other-world portion. But it’s like someone turned a light on, for last night any way. Because Michael is completely and utterly right. It’s about doing it, even if you don’t feel like it, because you ought to. Sure, I’ve written a novel before, but never in a month. And I’m just not giving up.

I was thrilled to find out that The Aldersgate was reviewed (what’s been podcasted so far) on the Forgotten Classics podcast, episode 59; you can find it here. The review is so kind, and so… well, it certainly has me smiling from ear to ear!

The folks over at the Willows sent out an email yesterday for calls for submissions for an upcoming archaeology issue. I thought I would share! (And should mention that my short story “Dr. Adderson’s Lens” will be in one of the upcoming issues, too!)

“Throw those chisels in the motor-car, gentlemen…we’re off to Mesopotamia!”

In February 2009, The Willows will be publishing a special Archaeology Issue, full of tales related to one of our great passions: the early histories of civilized humanity. To date, we have secured two featured tales for the issue, from Steven Shrewsbury and G. D. Falksen. And if you can conjure a thrilling, ghostly image of civilized antiquity, your work could join theirs! And Mesopotamia, though ever-popular in archaeological tales, is not the limit. Weave us an historically accurate ghost story, in 5500 words or less, of vanished Knossos, or of the strange Mississippian culture, or of Copper Age Ireland… so long as your vision is one of pre-Hellenic civilized history viewed through the lens of the Victorian or Edwardian culture.

We are also looking for a cornucopia of original artwork and poetry to accompany these tales, as always!

No Steampunk this issue, please.  Take care to eliminate all post-Great War style language and jargon, televisions and other things nonexistent previous to WWI.  And yes, historically accurate means historically accurate; Google and Wikipedia are free for everyone.  Enough said.

Good luck to all, and feel free to spread the word!

You ought to check this out over at Paul Jessup’s website. It’s Ghost Technology from the Sun from PostScripts 12. It’s free! And CC!

From the Review at the Fix Online:
In “Ghost Technology From The Sun,” if she were luckier, Marybeth might be one of the children skating in that Old Master poem, as the adults await the miraculous birth. Instead, when we first see her, she is wishing for a blessing of her own, like the ones her mother and many of the other women of God’s Foot carry in their swelling bellies. She is an innocent magician, a conduit for terrifying words and images from the hungry dead that the Master seeks to propitiate, offering them worship and dark tithes. Her cornhusk dolls rustle with voices, and like Donnie Darko, she is visited by a disturbing rabbit with ambivalent desires and access to gateways which wishes to take her away from her home. Jessup uses beautiful (but not overwrought) language to build a febrile, surreal fantasy world as symbol-laden as a fairy tale and as sensual as a waking childhood nightmare, whose narrator sounds like a little girl rather than a mystic or a philosopher. Its farm setting and moonshiner’s brew of folkloric and Lovecraftian elements is only too appropriate for the harvest season, when holidays like Halloween glut our hunger for horror, and the Day of the Dead and Samhain bring departed spirits to the homes and hearts of the living.
[read the review]

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