Well, since finishing Alderpod a few months ago, it’s been a little quiet around these parts! I’ve been very much in writing mode and, until about a month ago, I’d been working on a variety of projects that had little or nothing to do with steampunk (or, else, they do, but my reasoning for thinking of them in such ways is as long and convoluted as possible, not the sort of thing to lend itself particularly well to the blog).

But now, back into the fray. First and foremost, I’m working on The Ward of the Rose, the sequel to The Aldersgate, as we speak. But I should point out that I’m working slowly and steadily. It’s been absolutely thrilling to return back to the setting of the story, and I promise to post some snippets of the story as it progresses. I recently scrapped about 30K of the original sequel, finding that I started much too late in the book and was skirting some rather important issues. That’s been resolved.

Also, I’ve noticed a recent uptick in Alderpod subscriptions. Thanks to those out there listening to the story, again or for the first time. I think all the technical issues are finally resolved! Also thanks to the reviewers, too. I don’t know what the future of the book is, but I promise I’ll keep you posted. The support and encouragement from readers of the last two years has been absolutely remarkable. I certainly never anticipated that my little podcast would do much, but I’m so glad it’s introduced me to some of you.

I’ve also been writing quite a bit of weird west stuff lately, in short story form, and I’ll let you know if and when you can find them. While not always steampunk, they’re all definitely Neo-Victorian, since they take place in a fictional alternate Arizona of the 1880s. You can get a glimpse of that world in “The Brass Pedestal” which was in Steampunk Tales #4 (which isn’t in Arizona itself, but what’s now Missouri… but it’s not called that since… well, I won’t get into that just yet!).

At any rate, expect more in this space in the weeks to come. I’ve got lots of ruminations on steampunk to share, and am definitely looking forward to the year, and the words, ahead.

From Chapter One of The Ward of the Rose

“It is your decision to make,” Cee said with a sigh, matching that of her grand-niece’s almost tone for tone. She folded her hands and leaned on the railing, gazing across the slope into the fog. “Let no one make it for you, dear Coralie. Gem will be with you always, and Professor too, I think. For as difficult as your journey here has been, you are standing at a crossroads of fortune.”

“Fortune?” asked Cora, almost laughing.

“As you said. There is war, there is discussion, there are decisions to be made. And you are not alone in this. While Maelys is concentrating on the Ardesian threat, and the growing Soderon force, the fact that one Alderclass girl has escaped her grasp will likely pale in comparison to what she must do. For now you are safer than you were before. Though I fear Renmen and Gawen do not agree on the course of the Order of the Asp… they will likely both try to win you to their sides.”

“Because of what I can do,” Cora said, staring down at her hands. She flexed her fingers, then curled them against her palms.

“You are a boon no retinue would want to let go—a key to health and restoration,” Cee said, dropping her voice. “But listen well to their arguments, and make your own choice, whatever it will be.”

“I wish you could come with me,” Cora said, turning to Cee. Tears came, and she tried to hide them, but Cee saw and put her arm about her shoulders.

Cee squeezed Cora against her. “I’m an old woman, Cora. My adventures are at an end. For now, I will pick up the pieces of my ranch here, help those servants and workers I have left put the fragments of their lives back together again. My place is here.”

“It must be good, in a way, to have such a place,” Cora said.

“You may yet someday, Coralie. You may yet.”

Alas, I am very, very busy. I was busy last week working on edits for Queen of None, but then I ended up in the middle of another, unexpected project, that is going to take up most of my time for the next few days. And my “most of my time” I really mean every waking moment that I’m not chasing around my two-year-old (which really isn’t as much time as it seems). A little cryptic, but a girl is allowed a little mystery, right?

So, that means no Alderpod for right now, unfortunately, and few posts here and at Writing Across Worlds. But I’m putting together something special for next week as soon as I get everything together and sorted out. So hopefully that will make up for the delay!

Your webmistress and writer is currently under the weather. It appears that not only did my family return from California, but so too did some microbes. The kiddo is ill, and now, after spending two days with him, I am ill. Currently forcing myself to drink some godawful protein drink, because I’m not hungry but need some kind of nutrition, and lounging, coughing, and sputtering here in my armchair.

In the mean time, I’m back in the Nithings, writing some of my favorite parts of the book again (ah, my editing process… slash, slash, burn, bleed, light afire… rewrite). I liked this bit, but I’ve always been a fan of scenes where heroes get cool schwag.

“I gave Emry a gift,” Nesme said. “I figured you should have one as well. Gem, too. But I think you possess greater powers of deduction than you might imagine.”

Cora hated making decisions. She felt the weight of it on her now, like a thumb pressed to the middle of her forehead. What would Nesme think of her if she were to choose something small and simple, like the silver pocketwatch on the second shelf? It didn’t look to tell time in any numerical system she knew, but it was fascinating. Or perhaps she should select the wind instrument, the one made of mahogany with silver filigree down its sides; surely Emry could teach her how to play…

But no, there was something else. As she looked and looked, it continued to hold her attention, to wrest her gaze back to it: it wasn’t that she wanted the gun, exactly, it was only that she could not ignore it. About a half larger than her father’s guns, this was a pistol of an older pedigree, from perhaps a hundred years past; she had read enough books to recognize it. It would be difficult to fire, and not good at close range, but still…

Before she could think further, she picked it up. It was heavy, and cool to her fingers. The weapon was composed of curves, not lines, and every detail had been attended to, from the embossed barrel, to the ivory inlaid grips. She squinted, trying to make out the design, and her heart skipped as she recognized it.

“Stags,” said Nesme, surprised. “The symbol of House Grey, is it not?”

“Yes, but how did you—”

Nesme turned to Cora. Hea was close to her, but nearly a head taller, heas dark eyes rimmed in white lashes as hea stared down into her face.

“Not all of us choose to leave everything behind,” the Sib said, reaching out and touching Cora’s cheek. Heas hands were soft, the skin slightly papery. As hea reached out the cloth from heas robe fell down to heas elbow, revealing an intricate tattoo that ran from wrist to elbow and, presumably, further. The design was a stag with magnificent horns that intertwined up the Sib’s arm, dotted every now and then with a black flower or star.

“I, too, was born into House Grey,” said Nesme, and Cora thought hea sounded sad, almost regretful. “This gun… it did not come with me, no, but with another of my kin, another of our houses.”

Nesme’s voice cracked, and Cora looked up into heas eyes.  She regretted her decision immediately. “You—you’re crying… I don’t have to take it, I—”

“No, no—I cry because, Coralie dear, I see parts of your path before you. Steps you must take. You choose a weapon of war, a weapon of death. You can feel the storm coming, too.”

I said it before–major props to Tor for the free ebook program it recently launched in conjunction with their new website (which will be taking to the skies on th 20th of this month). I’m a staunch believer in the power of the internet, and how important accessibility is to the future of the publishing industry.

Simon Owens over at Bloggasm posted a great article/interview (which has consequently been picked up by BoingBoing among others) about some of the authors involved in the project and how it’s boosted their sales. You can read the full article (which I recommend) “Did Tor’s Free ebooks affect sales?”. I liked the section about how Tobias Buckell was approached by Patrick Nielsen Hayden at a SF convention, too. Not every author out there is a Doctorow, of course, but many are learning that it can make a huge impact on sales to give before you get.

Buckell told me he was asked to participate in the ebook giveaway by Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who approached him about it at an SF convention.

“Patrick and I were at Boskone and Patrick was buying me a drink and asking if I’d be interested in having the book in one of the giveaways to get my name out in front of lots and lots of people,” he said. “I had the paperback of Ragamuffin about to come out soon, and I figured it was a good idea to get my name out there — it couldn’t hurt. I love the idea of giving the first book in a series away. It was an easy ‘yes’ for me. So I checked with my agent to make sure he had no objection. Theoretically Tor owns the electronic rights to it, so they can do whatever they want. But Patrick did check with me and pretty much everyone else was on board with the idea.”

The theory that free ebooks released online will boost print sales is not a new one. Information radicals like Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross have been releasing their books under creative commons licenses — which allow readers to freely pass around the texts without fear of copyright infringement — for years, but it’s only recently that most major publishers have dipped their toes into the pool (though incidentally many of Doctorow’s books have been published by Tor).

Why do some people resist this sort of freebie exposure? I think it goes back to Writing Workshop #1 and my Gollum Theory.

You see, for many writers, what they do is precious. Too precious. And publishers often fortify that, because it makes sense from a business perspective (or at least, it used to). But the more I write, the more I realize that writing is not precious. Words, images, stories: yes, these are precious to a certain extent. And I feel immensely connected to my characters and stories. But most of what you read is a retelling of something else. The copyright cops of our age are putting ownership above creativity, restricting and restraining what we can and cannot say (and where and when we can or cannot say) to the point that the entire idea behind storytelling is being compromised.

It goes back to the whole barding analogy I’ve been using. Bards were storytellers. But their audiences were expected to remember the stories, and to tell them again.

And you know what? Stories changed. A lot. If it weren’t for the changes in storytelling over the centuries, there’d be only Arthur, Gawain, Guenevere (or two or three depending on what poem you read) and a very prominent Cai and Bedevere. No Lancelot. No Tristan. No Elaine. No Round table. No Holy Grail. Yeah, you read that right. We owe all of those to the French, who told and retold, molded, changed, messed with, and altogether revamped the entire Arthurian tale–so much so, that by the time we get back to England with Malory, villains are heroes, and heroes are villains (see: Gawain).

… this is longer than I meant for it to be. And I have digressed entirely into a vague Arthurian tangent. I do this. I apologize.

Tangents aside, Owens article is, I hope, the first of many that explore the fact that “Free” and “profitable” can go hand in hand. We “rebels” of the internet age aren’t going quietly…  and thankfully, big names like Tor and Forge are helping us out, too.