Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chapter 1 Part 1

I'm going to be regularly posting segments of Chapter 1 (and maybe 2) of my book on this blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Because of how Facebook and Twitter is set up, I had to take a screenshot of my Word document and post the text as a picture. However, for you fine readers of my blog, you get the text as part of a blog post! Please enjoy and feel free to toss comments my way. I have solid drafts for Chapters 1 and 2 and am working on 3, but a piece of writing is never done and there is much room for improvement. Feedback from others is an excellent way of realizing what I need to work on and what gross grammatical manglings I have committed. Thanks for reading!

Steam on the Horizon
by Melissa Conroy

Chapter 1, Part 1

The Horizon bobbed and swayed, tugging at her mooring lines like a rebellious horse pulling against its halter. From his position on the wharf, first mate Gavin Roberts eyed the bloated canopy of the airship critically as he approached the vessel. Tight as a woman's corset, the airship's envelope was straining to hold back cubic yards of agitated steam from bursting loose and the seams of the airbags were visible underneath their rough canvas cover as they stretched desperately outward in futile attempts to find more space. On the crowded, noisy wharf, other airships were snugly strapped down in canvas-cushioned berths or tied up at the wharf in preparation for takeoff, but they were all sedate and restrained in comparison to the Horizon's erratic dance across the sky. The airship was hissing in impatience, and Roberts' feet quickened, carrying his broad-shouldered frame through the press of crowds roving up and down the length of the wharf.

Idiot Silverman's ignoring the pressure gauge again, Roberts thought to himself darkly as he irritably shoved his way past an airman overloaded with gunnysacks. The airman staggered out of the way, barely avoiding a collision as the taller man plowed through the crowd with nary a glance at who might be impeding his path. I'm gone a half hour and it all goes to hell, Roberts added, his gray-green eyes fastened intently on the airship, seeking any evidence of an imminent catastrophe.

Cursed ship. They all said it about the Horizon, too many burst valves and men falling to their deaths to encourage an onslaught of eager volunteers every time there was an opening on the ship's roster. But Roberts knew better; sure, the Horizon was a fussy little bird, apt to sulk or threaten a crash if mishandled, but she was as light as a cloud and damned fast, capable of racing a scant twenty hours from London to Edinburgh on a good run if she had the right crew to baby her.

But Captain Albert Smothers was not the type of man to get the most out of an airship like the Horizon or any airship, truth be told. When he wasn't boozing it up in his quarters, the captain was apt to be barking out orders that changed by the hour or fighting with the engineers or sometimes leaning over the edge of the ship spewing his guts out over whatever landscape they happened to be crossing due to chronic airsickness combined with too much alcohol. More than once, some doxy had come wandering sheepishly out of the captain's cabin after the Horizon had docked in a port, and then there had been the care and feeding of the unexpected passenger until the airship could land somewhere and see the girl off with enough money to get back home.

It was Roberts ran the show, had to, otherwise God knows where they would have ended up on this last run, what with the Captain demanding a change of course halfway through their flight to Liverpool that added an additional three hundred miles to the trek. Roberts had been flying under Captain Smothers' unskilled leadership (if it could be called that) for nigh on two years now, and if the captain had any discernible attributes, predictability was one of them. By this point, Roberts had grown reasonably skilled at tactfully redirecting his superior away from the worst of his idiotic ideas and mitigating damages if the Captain Smothers insisted that his harebrained schemes be enacted. Now, worriedly observing the Horizon's bloated envelope straining to keep from bursting, Roberts knew that his brief absence had allowed yet another magnificently stupid decision to manifest. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How Much Coal?

A little over 24 hours have passed since I became officially unemployed and I have already done so many things that I am a little surprised I had the time to get anything done at all when I was working! One of the activities of the day was establishing a new page on Facebook - please "like" SteamyGirl Publishing so I can do my happy author dance whenever I get a new follower. Several wonderful friends liked it within minutes of creation, and I am so extremely grateful for all the support I have from friends and family. 

If you Twitter, I can now be found @Melissa_Conroy 

I just posted this fabulous link on Facebook and Twitter   It goes into excellent detail about how much coal a steam engine would require and how that would equate to knots/mph. From several moments of punching calculator buttons, I factored that if my airship Horizon were to travel from Liverpool to Beijing at a speed of 8.7 knots (10 mph), it would reach its destination in approximately 20 days and require 75 tons of coal. However, this calculation was based on a sea-going vessel, not one suspended several hundred feet above the ground. Air is mercilessly non-buoyant, and 75 tons of extra weight are going to be exceedingly hard to keep aloft. 

Thus I am currently pondering the practical mechanics of just how much fuel the Horizon can carry and still get airborn. This is greatly dependent upon what type of boiler it has (fluid bed vs superheated) and this link has been helpful too 

Of course this brings me back to what the good folks at honestly admitted: an airship as we envision it via steampunk is, in all practical reality, not possible. But do not be daunted, fair readers! I will endeavor to make the Horizon as realistic as is interesting (and keep the technical details to a minimum). This means that I am turning into a techno geek wherefore prior I had been strictly a literature/writing geek. The math and science lessons I long thought I had happily forgotten will be coming into play again. When I start memorizing the periodical table of elements, you can all collectively slap me. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gears, Gloves, and Unemployment

I am now officially an unemployed, starving artist! Today, I put my resignation in at my full-time job in order to take the plunge and branch out as a full-time writer and novelist. In a few weeks, I will be launching a project on that will have chapters of my upcoming novel and info about how you can help this unemployed, starving artist get her trilogy from brain to computer and from computer to Kindle/paper form.

In the meantime, I am planning on presenting a steampunk-themed writing workshop at Octopodicon down in Oklahoma City October 5-7 and possibly SteamconIV in Bellevue, Washington October 26-28th. If any of you fine folk will be wandering those ways, I will see you at the cons! And I will also keep everyone posted if I am presenting or not. Even if I am not presenting, I think I will head that way to get my name out, network, and enjoy the chance to waltz around in a corset.

Particularly since I have these fine steampunk gloves I just constructed, thanks to some lace gloves from Claires, a few random gears, and matching ribbon. (by "constructed" I mean "swap out the ribbon with a different color and attach gears)

Please forgive the definitely not steampunk-esque attire of cargo pants and a polo shirt below.

The gloves (and most certainly not the pants and shirt) will be part of what will be my fanciest steampunk getup yet - the Steampunk Society of Nebraska has a paid gig at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha for a huge conference Hyatt Hotels is doing, and I have been working on a costume for months. Apparently this is an international shindig, so we may be greeting visitors from around the world who will probably wonder why Americans like dressing up in boots and corsets in 92 degree weather. I know for one that I will be sweltering under a crinoline, underskirt, and bustled overskirt, not to mention that the gloves are surprisingly warm. The delicate lace fan I am carrying will not be of much help, I can guarantee that.

In the meanwhile, I am luxuriating in air-conditioning and percolating plots. Captain Gavin Roberts is currently dealing with an airship that has a blown boiler and a massive hole in its hull and trying to convince his mad scientist of an old childhood friend to repair it. I left them squabbling irritably, so I suppose I should check on if the issue is resolved and if the good airship Horizon will be aloft soon. She'd better because Roberts has a blood debt to pay off in three short years or he's a dead man in a very literal way. So I'd best avail the gentleman of my writing skills to get him out of the fix he is in - an action which will require explosions, high-speed air chases, drug smuggling, quite possibly samurai, and a lot of other adventure.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Narcotics and Bathrobes

If one were to browse my search history from the past few months, one would encounter quite a bit of hits on drug-related sites as I scour the annals of the internet (mostly Wikipedia) for information about opium, cocaine injections, Turkey's role in the Victorian drug trade, and other topics related to substances people have abused over the centuries to alter reality. This is because the crux of one of my fanfiction stories and my steampunk trilogy is the Victorian drug trade, which sadly was an extremely vibrant and influential aspect of the 19th century. When you have a culture that enthusiastically markets cocaine drops as a cure for fussy children, you know you are dealing with people that had little clue about the devastating effects of drugs. I just hope that my cyber activities do not capture the attention of a vigilant member of the DEA and result in an unpleasant visit from somber, dark-suited fellows who will commandeer my computer.

Even more so as I am doing my research happily ensconced in a bathrobe. Today, I do not need to drag my rear into work until after lunch, so I have had a lovely morning of researching and writing in various states of dishabille and quickly falling into patterns so easy to succumb to when one works from home: namely getting up for a snack every thirty minutes, thoughtfully picking your toenails while thinking about the next sentence, punctuating sessions of writing with various cleaning activities, dragging the laptop around the house to try out different work station such as the couch, and in general engaging in the types of activities one only does when one is home alone.

News announcement - I may be doing a writing workshop/seminar at OctopodiCon, a steampunk con which will be held October 5-7th in Oklahoma City  On a whim, I wrote to the chair of the con and introduced myself and my writing credentials, then asked if they would be interested in having me present a panel or workshop on writing with a steampunk theme. I intend for this to be a good session of how to become a better writer and make the focus on steampunk writing. They responded with enthusiasm, so we are corresponding to discuss details. This will be a tremendously fun activity, informative for the con-goers and helpful for me as I will be able to promote not only my upcoming novel but my Kickstarter project which will be going on at this time.

I will soon be offering some podcasts of my book available for free on Itunes - today I downloaded Audacity which is a free audio editing program, and I have been fiddling with it to learn its mechanics. Sadly, I do not have the best of voices with which to record. Perhaps a male of my acquaintance with a deep, growly voice would be willing to narrate for me since Morgan Freeman is currently unavailable.

Stay tuned - actual chapters will be appearing for your reading and listening delight!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Audio Blues

I do not have a proper voice for reading steampunk fiction. The genre demands a deep, steady male voice with a slight growl lurking below the surface, and you simply cannot ask for more than Captain Robert's voice of Abney Park and the perfection of his reading The Wrath of Fate.

I, alas, am neither male nor possess a British accent so my reading of Chapter One of my book was predictably insipid. No matter how firm and pleasant my voice sounds to my ear, hit the play button and out comes a mushy, slightly nasally string of sentences as if I was subconsciously pinching my nose and breathing in shallow breaths during my recitation. Then there was the small matter of recording said voice in my friend's sweltering hot house which is buried in a very bad part of our town where were were lucky the camera did not pick up any distant gunshots. The small, irritating cat twirling around my ankles and mewing for attention also did not help matters much, nor did the roaring thud of gansters rolling past the house blaring rock music from their low-slung vehicles.

The disheartening sound of my own recorded voice was somewhat abated when I got to view some footage from last week and saw just how tiny my waist can be with a proper corset. At certain angles, my waist looked about the same circumference of my head, which was a tremendous ego boost and helped me gleefully ignore the fact that this shoot was before I decided to buy two boxes of Magnum ice cream bars and steadily plow through them. My voice may sound stupid, this entire bookwriting venture may go nowhere, but at least I looked skinny. Females can put up with a surprising amount of defeat and trauma if they have at least a few good skinny pics lying around for moral boosting.

And now, it is time to stop writing about my book, video shooting about it, and thinking about it, and actually sit down to a practice session. After another Magnum bar, of course.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Attack of the Crinoline!

This fluffy apparition is neither a narcoleptic polar bear that has decided to take a nap on my bed nor a flock of roosting swans: it is actually an enormously full crinoline a friend of mine purchased at the Goodwill for a steampunk costume. I tried it on today and had fun walking around the house sweeping small objects off my bookshelves and getting stuck in door frames. Then I layered over it an underskirt with a ruffle and an overskirt with a thin underskirt layer, then a satin topping that bustled in the back. Since the crinoline was much wider than the underskirt, I had to tuck and tug into place and ended up wads of compressed fabric hindering my legs and making a pronounced swishing sound with every movement. When it comes time to purchase a crinoline of my own, I will search for something much less copious!

I spent last week running around downtown in steampunk gear with a friend of mine who is a documentary producer: she is helping me produce a promo film for the steampunk-themed project I will soon be posting on to raise funding for my steampunk novel. It was exceedingly fun doing the shoot, but my friend did not quite appreciate the lack of range produced by wearing a tight corset. Low obstacles that I would normally traverse with ease became insurmountable, and small tasks like leaning against a post holding a book without moving for a few minutes were exercises in muscular endurance. Some of the best shots required poses that grew exceedingly unbearable after a few seconds passed, and I kept quietly muttering between motionless lips, "I can't hold this much longer," to which my friend cheerfully ignored.

History tidbit of the day: the crux of the third book in my steampunk trilogy is set to revolve around the Indian Rebellion of 1857 when the sepoys (Indian soldiers) decided that they had had quite enough of the British empire and revolted. Britain responded with swift and crushing wrath and the end result was a high body count. My main character, Gavin Roberts, will find himself in the thick of this rebellion trying to help innocent native Indians to escape the conflict and at the same time putting himself at grave risk of being labeled a traitor to the crown.

Which means, I have a lot more history to catch up on. Wikipedia is not going to cut it, so back to the library for me!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Steampunk Jewelry

Annnddd, voila! Necklace is done! I have to treat it very carefully as it is held together with thread and elfin magic, but since it is steampunk jewelry, it gets a special place of honor in my basement/steampunk costume factory instead of suffering the fate of my normal jewelry which is to get wadded up inside my jewelry box to form impressive, Gregorian knot tangles.

I'm also working on these guys here.....

They are theoretically supposed to clip onto regular glasses but in fiddling with them today, I've discovered that "clip on" is a fairly loose term and the darn things will not clamp on securely. Plus, the clip looks pretty clunky as it.  I think I shall have to remove the lenses from their clip on base, then solder them to a pair of theatrical glasses in order for them to be securely fastened and look appropriately steampunk. I got these here lenses at Harbor Freight, a huge "big boy toy store" as my father would deem it, and I was directed there by my eye doctor. During a checkup, I spotted some individual lenses like this on the table and asked him if he had any spare he could give me. He instead told me about the ones at Habor Freight, and I got to give him a summary of what steampunk is. His receptionist had seen an episode of "Castle" that featured a steampunk group, and I am running into more people today that have heard of the genre.

However, quite often I get completely blank looks when I mention steampunk, and my ham-fisted efforts to explain the genre usually degenerate into me saying, "Steampunk is an excuse for grown adults to dress up in funny costumes and run around in public being exceedingly silly. Go Google steampunk and that will give you a really good idea of what we do."

Ask 50 steampunks to define "steampunk" and you will get a variety of answers. What do you all say when people ask you to explain what steampunk is?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sledgehammers and Telescopes

My job takes place at a facility with many old buildings, and I spent much of today gutting the basement of one with a sledgehammer. Since my brain was incapable of producing anything of merit, I happily abandoned my normal desk duties for a chance to spend several hours obliteration drywall and framing. In the proccess, I nearly beaned myself in the head numerous times and stepped on two nails only to have them pass within a millimeter of my skin. After several hours of work, I was thoroughly coated with dirt and had inhaled enough dust and mold that I probably will develop some lung infection even though I was wearing a mask. Needless to say, it was an awesome day at work, even better for the fact that smashing things with a sledgehammer requires little thought, leaving the mind free to ponder at will, and my thoughts naturally drifted towards my steampunk novel. Speaking of which, check out this lovely beauty I purchased yesterday at Hobby Lobby for $35. 

Sadly, it does not have the functionality I would like - it does magnify but objects in the glass are fuzzy and indistinct, so this will have to be for costuming purposes only. Then again, if one decides to hold a telescope up to one's ear as Captain Robert of Abney Park does on some of the cover photos of the Ophelia crew, this particular device would work splendidly and the viewing end is specially treated to resist earwax stains (okay, just kidding. Sorry about that, Captain Rob!)

I was actually fiddling with my new toy yesterday while sitting inside my car in the parking lot of a Walgreens waiting for a friend to call me back. I kept sweeping it back and forth along 72nd street seeing if I could get a clearer picture when it dawned on me that considering our country and our hyper-vigilance about anything that could be possibly construed as danger, perhaps pointing a long, vaguely barrel-shaped object at the main street of Omaha was not the most strategic of actions. Granted, if I actually garnered the attention of an alert policeman and the newspapers happened to pick up on the event, I could get some awesome publicity for steampunk in general and my upcoming novel. Hmm.....add to my to-do list, "Get arrested while wearing steampunk garb because police noticed suspicious behavior." 

This time, I avoided arrest which was a good thing since I had an appointment with a friend to work on a costume. Said friend actually solicited my assistance, which caused me no end of hilarity. This is because I have zero fashion sense when it comes to day-to-day clothing. No one has ever (nor probably will) begged me to accompany them on a trip to the mall because I have such excellent taste in clothing. The only reason I know the name "Dolce and Gabbana" is because when I taught ad analysis in writing classes, my students inevitably brought in ads from this brand. Clothes shopping is one of my most hated activities. Yet, for some befuddling reason, I love putting costumes together and apparently do so well enough that my expertise is consulted on the occasion. 

Speaking of which, on the list tonight - make a necklace for a video shoot I am doing with a friend tomorrow. The necklace will be composed of a cameo, tiny keys, gears, and black velvet ribbon. I will post a picture when it is done. 

That is, after I have finished grownup, non-steampunk activities such as replenishing the bare fridge and determining just how much paycheck is left after the mortgage has gulped down its share. But most importantly, deciding just how much I can budget for steampunk costuming this month and still maintain financial solvency.