I know they’re out there. I see their numbers, and their numbers grow. Every now and again something, somewhere pops up and assures me that yes, people are listening.

It’s occurred to me that podcasting is quite a different bird than blogging. Oh, they’re related. But, consider this: I have never recieved a comment on a podcast (other than once, from a local friend… which of course counts, but… well, you know what I mean). I have tried adding little identifiers to the podcasts, experimented with mentioning the address a few times here and there, but when it comes down to it, podcasting vs. blogging is a very thankless job.

But the odd thing is I have lots and lots of subscribers. People are listening, they’re just not responding. There’s a blank wall between what I read and what I’m writing.

It’s part of my Internet Consumable Theory. Yes, CC licensing is great; yes, it gets your work into the hands and minds of people who would never be able to otherwise; yes, it puts power back on the writers’ plate. But, it’s out there. And people can just take it. They don’t have to register (and if you ask them to, they might write some hate mail), they don’t have to pay, they don’t have to comment.

And it seems, at least from perusing the majority of podcasting blogs and my experience, that commenting isn’t the norm. People don’t generally write a review of the podcast.

I realize I’m also podcasting a whole novel; people are going to be judging the book as a whole, and I’m sure folks who haven’t found it up to their liking have dropped me. That’s cool. I’m honestly not out here for adulation. The whole point of Alderpod is to open up my writing process and shed some light into the creative process, which I thought would be a neat way of doing things.

I’m not saying I’m stopping. To the contrary, my subscriber list keeps growing and growing. But I think this also extends to short stories. I have one little short story up on the site that has been viewed or downloaded over three hundred times. Three hundred times! And I’ve had all of a handful of comments. It’s just… well, curious. Clearly since I’m selling fiction to publications, the cause is not lost… but I wonder about the psychological impressions of free craft, free writing, free podcasts. Do we cheapen ourselves by doing it? Do people view us as desperate? Unpublishable? Not worth the time? If my name doesn’t have Tor next to it, is it a lost cause? (Though, that begs the question: when I read a short story in a magazine, or even online, do I contact or comment? Not usually…)

After almost a year of blogging here, I’ve discovered that YES, there is an audience–lots of people will read, lots of people will listen. But if you’re looking for reponse, for reply… well, the jury’s still out on that one.

(As a note, I recall this has been a similar problem for BoingBoingTV–Xeni had mentioned a few months back that there were just a smattering of comments over the whole length of the show’s duration, at that point, a whole year… rather fascinating!)

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I am on the search for a job.

I want to be posting something meaty, meaningful, and moving (ahh, alliteration) but I am finding that rather difficult at the moment, swamped as I am with letters of intent and resumes.

The good news is that the NaNoWriMo project has a name: Pilgrim of the Sky, after Wordsworth’s “To a Skylark”–one of my favorite poems. Wordsworth is often forgotten for his contribution to the Romantic poetry movement on account that he was, well, hardly as much of a personality as Coleridge and Byron, nor nearly as much of a heartthrob as Shelley and Keats. But, all aside, Wordsworth and Keats are tied neck and neck for me, as far as poems that make my heart and soul sing.

At any rate, Pilgrim of the Sky is a departure from a clear fantasy/steampunk world, and a trip into sci-fi/alternatite history/Neo-Victorian. It has steampunk elements, but leans much more heavily on actual fact, historical figures and events, and technology than The Aldersgate. In fact, it begins in the present day, in New England; or, more precisely, in Amherst, MA at the University of Massachusetts, where I spent the first 20 years of my life. Write what you know and all that. Both of my grandparents taught as said university, and I attended it for a year before running away to Baltimore. There’s something odd about that part of the world that you can’t quite put your finger on… but hey, it’s no coincidence that Lovecraft wrote about New England, let’s just say.

Things that are different? It’s a standalone book. It’s also a single point of view, that of Maddie Angler. There are elements of horror in it, elements of crime and mystery, and even elements of romance. But then there’s the whole alternate universes/mathematical stuff, that just makes it a bit odd. Even for me.

Come NaNoWriMo, I’m going to put up a page here where I’ll be updating, as well as posting progress, etc. I’m excited, admittedly, to be going in this new direction; I think the AGC will do well with a months’ worth of hibernation.

Other than that, I wrote a short story in my brain while on our trip this weekend. It has to do with herons. That’s about all I have for you at this point.

Anyway, back to the grind.

I’ve been scribbling short stories like crazy the last few weeks, with little work on the actual novel. Not a complaint, rather an observation. The one I’m excerpting here is from “Dead’s End to Middleton” which borders between steampunk and weird west. I just like this bit from the beginning.

_ _ _

“Mary Mother of Jesus.”

Up until that moment, I had no recollection of my mother swearing. A proud, quiet, Catholic woman, she navigated the majority of her life with cool, calm reserve. It was my father who swore, adhering to that form of expression not unlike my mother to her rosary–repetitive, quiet, and a cadence unto itself.

“Christ almighty on a donkey.”

That was my brother Jack. Six years my senior, he was the one steering the covered wagon as we made our way from Dead’s End to Middleton, a near three day’s ride through the desert. We were on our way to Middleton to visit my father, who’d been working there for the better part of a month while the rest of us were left to the ranch, being at it was, time for the cows to birth. But most of that business was done, and my two oldest brothers Hector and William stayed back with my younger sister Bettany.

Mother let me along with her and Jack since it was my birthday in a week, and she reckoned seeing my father would be good for me. She said I’d been ornery, and that I needed a good sitting down with Father. I suspected it had something to do with the steam gal rags she’d found under my bed a few weeks past, but I couldn’t be sure. Hector had given them to me, and said that they’d help me calm myself. Whatever that had meant. All the pictures and stories had done was made me feel wound up as a spindle, though I couldn’t put a finger on quite why.

Still, on my way to becoming a man or not, I could make no more sense out of what I’d just seen than anyone else. Mr. Stein, Father’s business partner, shuddered next to me, and held a handkerchief over his mouth, gagging back blood and snot. He had the consumption, and the lights had just about scared his soul right out of him. It was to my great dismay that I had to sit next to him and, on the order of my mother, attend to his whims.

“What do you suppose—?” he asked, his voice gritty and low, wet from coughing.

I’d only emerged from the back of the wagon when my mother had screamed. The horses had been startled, too, but that wasn’t uncommon. I’d figured it was a snake, as had been the case a day ago.

But due to my late entrance, I only caught the last few moments of the event. A black streak in the sky, fire, and an explosion. Now, whatever had landed was smoldering on the horizon, long tongues of green and orange flames intermittently flaring and quelling. Smoke rose, too, casting gray puffy streaks into the sky, dissipating as they reached higher, but not going out entirely.

There was a sound, too. A low crackling–inconstant, and yet familiar. Like dry logs in a hot fire, but louder. Like distant thunder.

“Don’t reckon we can go around,” Jack said, wiping his eyes. He looked back at me. “Jess. Get back in the wagon.”

After getting two rejections on short stories in just about two days (okay, three maybe now that I think about it–I’ve been under the weather) and twittering a bit back and forth with Paul Jessup, the concept of rejection is certainly on the brain.

What’s my reaction? Well, I’ve had rejections before. Used to that. Doesn’t make me happy to get rejections–I mean, who would, right? But it does make me mad, in a way. In a good way, I think. It gets my gritty determination going, my resolve. Makes me want to write more, and better, and cooler, and weirder…

And that’s good.

Michael linked a great interview with Ira Glass talking about storytelling, and how you get better–and how, many people, when they’re still in the growing stages, give up on their work because of a few rejections. They never move past the crappy/mediocre into something great. I highly recommend you watch.

It’s not easy for anyone to get published, not even seasoned writers (unless you’re from a select few who are Untouchables in the industry). Thing is, you have to keep at it. Or you don’t. Either you decide that you’re in it, or you’re not. For some, there’s a breaking point. For others, there isn’t. You just keep moving along in the hopes that somewhere along the way your little baby of a story will resonate with the right editor for the right issue for the right publication.

Anyway, polishing up a new one, contemplating homes for it. Then back at it again.

“You’re the first to rise,” says the voice at the intercom, surprised. Brother Bell thinks this may be Brother Fesu, judging by the slight northern twang to his voice, though he can’t be certain. There are too many monks to memorize by face let alone by voice. “Demons in the dreams?”

Brother Bell tucks his hands into his opposite sleeves, the metallic fabric catching a moment on a hangnail, but he ignores it. “Memories of my father, is all,” he says softly.

“Ah, well, someday—soon I hope—you’ll find yourself rid of such distractions,” says the presumed Brother Fesu.

“Gods be it,” replies Brother Bell automatically.

“If you will, we’ve got a new arrival we were hoping you could take care of.”

“Monastery or Asylum?” asks Brother Bell.

There is a pause, the sound of the surveillance equipment beeping, then says Brother Fesu: “We aren’t entirely sure yet. A bit of a puzzle. Arrived just ten minutes ago—I had thought of waking Father Altercan, but seeing as you’re up—”

“Of course,” says Brother Bell. “Gods be it.”

“Gods be it indeed. Your passcards and directions should arrive momentarily.”

“Thank you.”

The slot in the wall near the sink buzzes, and then prints out two plastic passcards and a data sheet. The cards he slips into the deep pockets at his waist, and the data sheet he holds, pressing his thumbs into the boxes at the corners. It’s a paper-bioplastic, so that as soon as it reads his print, the writing swirls into appearance, followed by pictures and background on the new arrival.

More zombies. Strange birds. Something called aetherspore.

—Della.

—Birdies, said Anton.

—Good evening, Doctor Henrickson, I said.

He did not look up at me, but held up a hand and beckoned me forward.

I inhaled briefly, as I always did, when trying to prepare myself for the next few moments. These were always the hardest.

—I was right, you know, he said. Terribly right. And I’m sorry for that.

—For? I asked.

—Birdies, insisted Anton.

—There was a problem, continued the Doctor. There is a problem, I should say. You see, they don’t know I can see them, of course, and I’ve deduced that they do not understand our language in the least. Though I imagine it won’t take long. They are remarkably smart!

He still did not look up at me, and instead flipped one of the pages he was reading, then slid the glass magnifier over it to both weigh it down and make it easier for him to read.

Now I could see what he was looking at: a book on optics. That made sense of course, this being the Celestial Collection. Astronomy was at the heart of such studies and with it, the acquisition of better and more powerful lenses.

—You see, of course, I was right in my thinking as, you know, I most always am.

He did look up now, and his gaze slipped quickly from me to Anton who said:

—Birdies.

Adventure! Intrigue! Airships!

I’ve been playing around with the idea of for a steampunk short story serial for a while, and decided to take a break from the hefty novel editing, and do a little fun writing. Sure it’s a little campy, but it was fun to do.

James Castledeck is a somewhat minor figure in the novel itself, and his short stories can be read independently of the novel, or in concert with. This first adventure is called “Castledeck and the Arabella” and takes place partially in the skies above Hartleigh City.

Read, enjoy, share, comment!

You can read the .html or .pdf version below: I’m working on a pretty .pdf version I’ll post a little later.

Castledeck and the Arabella

Castledeck and the Arabella – .pdf