ReginIt occurs to me that during yesterday’s very early morning post (this was before I even started work, people!) I missed out on a really fantastic comparison.

How could this be? Me, the writer? Missing a simile!?

Well, I should say, duh.

Yesterday during my Runes class (yes, I take a class on ancient Runes… and yes, that is super awesome) and we were talking about Regin and Sigurd, and how the sword Regin smithed was indeed the best EVAR, but it also took him three times to get it perfect (and good enough to slay a dragon, no less!).

So I realized, then, that gosh–the parallels in writing a novel and smithing are incredible. Yes, I’ve written novels before. And yes, they’re far from perfect. They would indeed “shatter” if used. But taking the time to edit, that’s like tempering the metal, refining it, making sure that it holds up.

And yes, it’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. It’s physically and mentally exhausting. But in the end, the final product will be that much more durable, because I took the time to do it.

Sure, some people can learn a craft and do it flawlessly each time. But most of us mortals have to work really damn hard to get it right. Because if you care at all about your work–whether it’s swordsmithing, portrait painting, novel writing, or invention tinkering–you have to be willing to make it better. You have to be able to say, “I wrote this, but it’s okay if I delete it, because it’s not good enough.”

I suppose in a way, I have my own characters to thank for this insight, as obvious as it might have been. Brick and Cora appeared to me in a flash of clarity almost a year ago to the date, their faces as vivid as if I’d seen them across the room. And since then, they’ve taken me on quite a surprising journey. I’ve learned more writing The Aldersgate than any other work to date, and not just about the story, either. Working on The Aldersgate has given me new insight into myself, my soul, my work; I feel like I know myself better having gone through the process.

So maybe it’s not just the sword that gets tempered, but the smith, too.

The AlderpodI present Alderpod #4 which contains lots of babbling and chattering on my behalf, and relatively little in the way of story (and is listed as #3, but is really #4… or the fourth… if you count the first as zero). I’m hoping to record Alderpod #5 tonight tomorrow night (way too much drama with the nearly two-year-old) which will be Chapter Three, and the introduction of Emry Roy, the Bard, to the story. I’ve been re-editing the chapters I read aloud, which, on top of editing/writing the rest of the book as it is, adds for another fun level of work (that, at this moment, there isn’t a whole lot of “free” time to do).

At any rate! Listen, enjoy. 🙂

The FuriesEditing a novel can be, pardon the language, a major bitch.

I think I could edit this book for a millennium and still never be happy with it. It’s like a plague–you start, you edit a few things, and then you realize: “Oh crap! I should go back and fix that, too!”

It’s cyclical. The more I edit and rewrite, the more I change, the less I’m happy with my own work. The more I doubt myself. The more I question, the more depressed I feel about the whole process.

Two weeks ago, I visited family up North and I had a lot of time to contemplate writing. Most of this was done in bed since I had a terrible time falling asleep. The idea occurred to me that I should do some major restructuring. As it is, this multi-POV is kicking my ass. I thought about putting the first book into a Book I and Book II, sort of in the way Tolkien did to manage his characters as they flitted around Arda. The first half could deal with the story from the POV of the Territories characters (Brick, Emry, and Cora, respectively) and the second half would be the Queensland contingent (Kaythra, Denna, Sylvan, and Ellin).

The idea of restructuring this again makes me feel slightly faint. But I think it’s the only way to a) keep the reader’s attention and b) keep my brain from overloading going back and forth from chapter.

I’m also thinking that my editing method might do better if I abandoned the way I wrote the first draft. Instead of writing by POV, I wrote by chapter without regard. But in order to keep continuity smoother, it’s may work better if I edit by character instead, that way I can make sure the overall plot and arc of each character’s journey is at its best.

So, it’s going to be a hell of a lot of more work. And it doesn’t help that I’ve been thinking about another book I started writing about five years ago, to boot. And all these short story ideas.

Ah, for a modicum of focus!

Anyway, it’s high time for a new podcast. I seem to focus better after podcasting… go figure!

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

the Anthology

I couldn’t help posting this. Though, certainly, anyone who follows BoingBoing at all will already have read this. Still–I ordered a copy on Amazon. Squee! Looks so good.

From BoingBoing and Cory Doctorow:

Last month, I mentioned Ann and Jeff Vandermeer’s Steampunk anthology in passing, but the book deserves better than that. I’ve just spent several highly entertaining hours with my advance review copy and I’m knocked out. What a great piece of work this is, from the fascinating triumvirate of essays that recount the history of steampunk in literature and describe its contemporary appeal to the top-notch works of fiction inside, from forgotten proto-steampunk gems by Michael Moorcock and James Blaylock to contemporary pieces from Neal Stephenson, Jay Lake, Ted Chiang and Paul Di Filippo (among many others). Summer’s almost here — time to do some leisure reading, and what better place to start than here? Link

Edit: Although, I’ve got to say–where are the ladies on this list? No steamy ladies. Alas.

Edit #2: I have my book in hand and it differs from this cover; it does in fact feature Mary Gentle. 🙂

William MorrisFiction is curious. In the last century or so, it’s seen more movement and change than ever before, morphing and shifting as culture, philosophy, religion, and expression continue to influence writing.

I mean, fiction wasn’t even a viable means of writing at all for many centuries. Sure, there’s allegory and myth, legend and religious writing–but the concept of alternate worlds, horror writing, romance novels, these are all concepts we’ve accepted now as fairly standard.

So, I’ve been wondering about steampunk writing. In fact, I posted about it to the Brass Goggles forum last week, wondering what people thought: is steampunk writing an offshoot, or its own genre? I tend to think it’s growing into its own genre, even as a subsidiary of its cousin cyberpunk. It either will represent a new genre, or it will prove that, perhaps, genre writing is dying itself.

Why do I say this? Well, I think that, more and more, books are failing to adhere to the expected. Horror blends with fantasy blends with mystery blends with science fiction. Take something as mundane as Harry Potter–it’s part mystery/part fantasy/part bildungsroman. Take away any of those elements, and you make for a boring, unmarketable piece of writing that surely wouldn’t have spawned a multi-billion pound empire. Even big “fantasy” writers like George R.R. Martin adapt history, intrigue, mystery, to come up with something else entirely.

No, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a glossy “Steampunk” section pop up at Barnes and Noble any time soon. But I don’t think compartmentalization is the right way to approach any emerging writing. When Tolkien published his Rings books, many people simply didn’t know what to do with them. But he wasn’t the first! In fact, William Morris was at it half a century before (if you’re really intrigued, you can read the whole text of The Well at the End of the World online), writing “fantasy” worlds. It just didn’t catch on in his time.

I guess I’m just cautiously optimistic about where steampunk is going to go in the next few years. Will it go the way of Tolkien? Or a less-traveled? As an internet phenomenon, and already at the brink of the digital text age, it’s an intriguing question. Already, magazines like Steampunk Magazine are available completely in digital format.

So, I wonder: what do you think?

WhistlerOne of the most recognizable aspects of modern-day steampunks is their impeccable taste in fashion. I myself come from a long line of fashion-conscious, but I cannot claim to be anywhere near as dapper as many of the folks who go far beyond the call of duty in steampunk fashion. I mean, truly, it’s an indelible well of inspiration for me. I might get stuck with a chapter, and more than once I’ve been roused out of writer’s melancholy by a cursory Google image search for steampunk fashion.

Wikipedia has this to say on the subject:

The most immediate form of steampunk subculture is the community of fans surrounding the genre. Others move beyond this, attempting to adopt a “steampunk” aesthetic through fashion, home decor and even music. This movement may also be (more accurately) described as “Neo-Victorianism“, which is the amalgamation of Victorian aesthetic principles with modern sensibilities and technologies.
“Steampunk” fashion has no set guidelines, but tends to synthesize punk, goth and rivet styles as filtered through the Victorian era. This may include Mohawks and extensive piercings with corsets and tattered petticoats, Victorian suits with goggles and boots with large soles and buckles or straps, and the Lolita fashion and aristocrat styles. Some of what defines steampunk fashion has come from cyberpunk, and cyberlocks have appeared being used by people adopting a steampunk look.

The fact of the matter is that steampunk fashion is downright inspiring. Always a stickler for the Victorian myself, it takes it a step further, imbuing the lines and shapes of the time period with awe-inspiring details and lots and lots of shininess. I make no apologies for my raven-like behavior when it comes to thinks that sparkle.

I use Scrivener to compose which has, literally, changed the way I go about writing. Although I’m going to write another post devoted entirely to that most magical of software programs, for now I’ll say that for visual people–like me, I’m saying–Scrivener is a must. Not only does it force me to be organized (Professor’s ability to “make even the most disorganized rooms messier” is written from my own experience with myself) it allows me to integrate photographs into my work. I can stare at people who remind me of my characters, I can stare across prairies, and contemplate the doohickeys at the Victorian museum.

For my intents and purposes the fashion of the 1880s has been just the ticket. Of course, since my world isn’t our own, really, I could broaden more than that. But I feel, somehow, that sticking with a certain fashion “feeling” makes the rest of the narrative feel more realistic, in spite of the fact it’s completely fabricated. (Oooh… I just made a pun.)

On a visit to Charleston recently I was able to see some of these gowns in person. And although the quality of the images online has been by and large incredible, seeing the intricacy of the fabric and detail was another story altogether. Not to mention the shoes!

My favorite Victorian clothing website, hands down, is VintageTextile.com. The photographs and details are simply awe-inspiring. And of course, as far as steampunk clothing repositories you can’t get much better than the Aether Emporium’s wiki on the subject.

Now, I’m lost in the links again… oooh, shiny!