Saturday, November 16, 2013

Win a Free Copy of "Steam on the Horizon"

Care for a free steampunk book? Well, if you would like a chance to win an autographed copy of "Steam on the Horizon" delivered to your doorstep, then check out the new giveaway I am holding on Facebook through November 24th. To enter, 1) be a US citizen 2) like my SteamyGirl Publishing page on Facebook. That's it! Check out this link for more details!

More exciting news: the official SteamyGirl Publishing newsletter is now operational! Check out the first edition here to meet the graphic artist who created the coverwork for "Steam on the Horizon" and delve into some interesting steampunk-related info. You can sign up for the newsletter here to get lots of cool steampunk tidbits, updates on The Aether Saga series and other fun stuff.

Today, I will be wandering over to the house of Kira Gale, the CEO and almighty potentate of River Junction Press, an independent book publisher. After much sharing of ideas and investigating of books, Kira and I have decided to merge talents and interests, and her publishing company will be carrying The Aether Saga. That is right, I have a publisher! Kira is a long-term veteran of the publishing trenches and knows far more about the business than I do. I have full confidence that with her assistance, I can become far more of a successful author and reach the international steampunk community.

However, as anyone in the publishing business knows, getting a book out takes copious amounts of time and energy. Kira and I will be packaging and producing two books at once: both "Steam on the Horizon" and "Clouds of War". During the months that this project will entail, "Steam on the Horizon" will still be available on Amazon and Kindle as it currently is and I will still be running around hawking it at conventions and other venues. However, Kira and I will be repackaging it and putting it through a more more comprehensive and widespread distribution platform.

One of the most exciting aspects of working with Kira will be that she is very much pushing for The Aether Saga to be available as a series of interactive enhanced ebooks. Trying to explain these via text rather than a visual demonstration is quite difficult, and when Kira first talked about this books, I initially dismissed it as frippery. Then she hauled out her IPad and showed me an interactive ebook, and I was instantly hooked. The particular book was "History of a Pleasure Seeker" - essentially the ebook had the normal text like you would expect, but there were all sorts of other additions: extra notes and descriptions from the author, music, video files, etc. As I looked over some of these enhanced ebooks, I realized that The Aether Saga was a perfect fit for these books: I could incorporate so many awesome elements: voice readings from actors, sounds of engines and other mechanical noises, sidebars with historical and cultural information, pictures from the countries where I have traveled, etc.

So in a nutshell, the plan is that The Aether Saga will be offered under River Junction Press both as print and ebooks but Kira and I will also have the series available as interactive enhanced ebooks. I am particularly excited about the last part; enhanced ebooks are amazing! They are also cutting-edge technology and right on the cusp of publishing innovation - here is an article about these books.

Well, Captain Roberts and I have work to do - when I last left him, he was being talked into taking a shipment of cavalry horses from Balaklava Bay to the British camp. Now, anyone who has worked with horses before knows that they are fragile, dumb creatures that actively fling themselves towards peril, so putting a bunch of them on an airship is not the easiest or practical of tasks. Captain Roberts may find himself in a situation like this poor soul here:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

TeslaCon Part Deux

The good folks of the Steampunk Society of Nebraska have a rather odd tradition for every TeslaCon event: a post party on Sunday that is best captured in this image:

Yes, in case you were wondering, that is not tea in those cups. I believe most of the people in this picture are imbibing absinthe or other brews of an alcoholic nature. Because nothing says classy like a group selfie in a Jacuzzi. If our group continues to grow and our TeslaCon caravan continues to expand, we will need to find a hotel room with a bigger tub.

Since standing fully clothed in a bathtub with a teacup full of whiskey is not amusing enough, the post-party was capped off by a rousing session of group karaoke to Disney songs. My mother would no doubt be proud to know that four years of college French allowed me the ability to belt out "Le Poisson" from The Little Mermaid with rousing gusto and a near-perfect French accent. Another member of our group happened to have a fine pair of suspenders to act out "The Lumberjack Song" and a Phantom of the Opera mask for "Music of the Night".

While much of the con is somewhat of a muddle in my head at this time owing to fatigue and system overload, I have fine memories of Frenchy and the Punk delivering yet another wonderful concert, costumes galore, and hundreds upon hundreds of people. I had a panel scheduled on Thursday at 7:00pm entitled "The Pen and the Cog: Writing Steampunk" and I cherished few hopes that more than one or two souls would attend, owning to the day and time. To my surprise, about ten people showed up and we had a fine time talking about cliches in steampunk, character development, and self-publishing. For those who asked, here is a copy of my powerpoint presentation that I displayed during the panel.

Thus far, TeslaCon has been, by far, the best steampunk con and best con I have yet attended and I eagerly await to see if next year's con tops this one.

Back at the ranch, the Horizon has been cooling her heels in Constantinople waiting for me to get back to writing. When I last left off, she was undergoing a thorough winterizing to prepare her for the harsh weather that she will face as a military supply airship during the Crimean War. She will spend a nice portion of Clouds of War sailing over this:

Today I was out putting air in my tires in the face of a drizzling cold rain, enough to numb my hands and send me scurrying back into my car after a few minutes exposure. It was such a brief encounter with discomfort, but it made me think of how little most of us in the modern world fully understand deprivation and hardship. I briefly envisioned how my pilots of the Horizon, Barking Jack and Bloomberg, must stand on deck in the open air, steering the airship forward despite freezing rain, hail, tearing winds, and other weather conditions. The Horizon and crew are facing a bitterly cold winter of grinding work, chronic shortage, hazardous war conditions, and very little sleep: hard, tough men in a brutal world that chews up the weak and only leaves the strong alive.

While my characters struggle to stay alive, I think I shall leave them to their work and go have a cup of tea and curl up with a good book!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

TeslaCon and Some Musings on Gender Roles in Steampunk

I'm typing this in the middle of what appears to be a clothing store explosion: four women managed to cram at least twenty-five costumes into one hotel room. From my position on the couch, I spy eight hats, an enormous bottle of Advil, a box of my books, several packs of half-opened cookies, two hat boxes, a half-full cup of tea, seven boots, a corset, and the furled flag of the Steampunk Society of Nebraska, just to name a few.

If you have the slightest interest in steampunk at all, you simply must attend TeslacCon next year. In my years of con-going, I have yet to attend an event that can top it. The amount of intricate corsetry, the leatherworks, the gears, the hats. Sensational! Plenty of folks were strolling around in thousands of dollars worth of costuming.

I, alas, missed most of it as the majority of my time was spent at a vendor's booth. I think my face in this picture captures my general demeanor after eight hours in a booth on Saturday.

Note the waxy skin, the glazed eyes, the blank expression of utter fatigue, the mouth incapable of smiling, the brain floating blearily in a haze of exhaustion. Thankfully, not too long after this picture was taken, I was decked out in my River Song fatigues while riding a luggage trolly down the hallway at 2:30am so fun was had, just after the vendors room closed for the night.

The gentleman with the impressive gun goes by the handle of Jessie, and he and I partook of an interesting conversation based on my observations of the men and women of TeslaCon. In my two years of steampunk, I have come to the conclusion that the male of the species is more theatrical than the female. Steampunk gentleman take their steampunk personas with devoted sincerity and dramatics that is not often matched by the women. One stellar example was the head of security during TeslaCon. A former military man himself, this gentleman marched through the halls of the hotel with a squadron of impeccably dressed officers, all ramrod straight and spitting out commands into their lapel mics. Other gentleman strutted about proudly in their finest garb, their voices resonant and commanding, and every inch vibrating with theatrical pride and manliness.

As Jessie and I were discussing this, he commented that steampunk is one of the few realms where it is socially acceptably for men to comport themselves with assertive masculinity. Overtly masculine man are not often widely embraced in our current culture, but steampunk is a unique environment where it common (if not generally expected) to see a clear delineation between the sexes. For Jessie, and for other men, this seems to be much of the appeal of steampunk: the genre allows them to be the men that our culture has worked to suppress.

In a neat parallel, this also works to lure women into steampunk. One of the great appeals in steampunk to me as a woman is being surrounded by well-dressed, courtly gentleman who are men of action, not passivity. Military uniforms are in abundance, and the men carry themselves with pride and dignity. For the ladies, steampunk is the romance of lovely dresses, delicate social graces, and the freedom to let the men take the lead and free us from the burden of always being in charge, forthright, and assertive.

As much as our modern society works to eradicate gender roles, the growing appeal of steampunk is incontestable proof that we still find great allure in a world where men are men and women are women. In many ways, we are desperately hungry for this world, and steampunk is where we can exercise these desires and find the freedom to be the men and women we are born to be.

Meanwhile, this woman is happy back in jeans and sneakers and is agitating for a real meal after having survived mostly on grilled cheese sandwiches and cookies all weekend. For someone who is almost obnoxiously healthy, con life is a catastrophic dive into poor nutrition, even worse sleep, and sporadic grooming practices. My legs have not seen a razor in days, my teeth are clotted with the crumbs of random fried objects, and my digestive system is in catatonic shock. A three day juice fast awaits me back home to repair some of the nutritional damage wrecked on my exhausted frame.

For now, dinner at a German restaurant where I will drink about six gallons of water and hopefully track down something of the salad variety.

More TeslaCon updates to follow!

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Steampunk Author Cosplays a Steampunk Author

For MetaCon this week, I am putting together a steampunk author costume, which will allow for many amusing double-entendres and allow me to shamelessly market myself. In preparation for MetaCon and a photoshoot I am doing tomorrow, I decided a genuine quill pen and ink were required for this steampunk author costume. I procured a pack of turkey feathers, some pen nibs, parchment paper, and a bottle of ink and set to work.

Alas, turkey feathers do not come with metal grooves that fit pen nibs so I adhered one in place by that tried-and-true steampunk method of gluing.

The end result was a functional dip pen ready to be put into use. As I scratched my way across the page, I felt very proper and elegant despite the fact that I was slobbing about in old shorts and a t-shirt and was about to head out into 90 degree heat to go running. Several minutes of work produced the following:

In the best of circumstances, my handwriting resembles what you would get if you dropped a caterpillar in ink, then allowed it to squirm across your page. Needless to say, results with a dip pen were less than optimal and resulted in uneven tracks of printed letters wavering across the parchment, some near invisible and some etched with heavy, thick lines.

Writing with a quill is also surprisingly hard on the hand: a turkey feather's dimensions along the shaft are significantly thinner than a standard ballpoint pen and much less amiable to squeezing. Thus you must hold it carefully, which puts a significant strain on your fingers.

This, however, is nothing in comparison to the sheer amount of manpower hours needed to compose a single page with a dip pen. I believe that over five solid minutes passed during the writing of this above page, a paragraph I could bang out in thirty seconds on a computer or under two minutes with a pencil. I momentarily envisioned how long it would have taken me to write Steam on the Horizon with a dip pen and paper, and the sheer overwhelming magnitude of the proposition was staggering. No wonder authors by tradition were drunkards: it was a defense mechanism against only having a dip pen to call books into being.

Captain Roberts is currently making a few new acquaintances in my office. The framed pictures are those novelty "face cut out" frames that one sticks one's head through a hole to make an amusing picture. These (and Captain Roberts) are bound for MetaCon where they will be part of a steampunk room party my assistant and I are hosting.

Erasmus is currently under my desk watching all the packing with a suspicious eye - he knows quite well that suitcases mean I will be leaving for an extended period. Today, he did me the supreme favor of nudging my brother off my computer and downstairs: Seth kept insisting on showing me videos of some seriously disturbed Russian man blowing up various objects with military-grade weapons while I had work to do. After several minutes of pleads on my part to regain my computer, Erasmus came to my rescue by farting lavishly in that noxious cluster-bomb that only a Basset Hound can produce. Seth took to his heels and escaped to the basement, leaving my computer alone.

Farting dogs aside, tomorrow I am hieing myself off to Lincoln for a photoshoot with a photographer who put out a call for steampunk models. I am desperately hoping the shoot will happen indoors as there is a head advisory tomorrow, but knowing photographers, the shoot will involve full sun for several hours. In a corset. And long skirts.........Oh well, I get free pictures out of it!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Updates and More Cool Steampunk Stuff

As I type this out, I am surrounded by a stack of hastily scribbled notes regarding the upcoming MetaCon in Minneapolis at the end of the month. Notes to myself include such things as "buy food for the room party" and other notes such as "schtum the drudam in pooga" or so it seems to read (I have terrible handwriting and cannot spell to save my soul. How did I end up as a writer?) Alas, I discovered that I could attend MetaCon too late to obtain a vendor's table, so I am exploring other ideas for marketing "Steam on the Horizon" while I am up there. Mainly I will be walking around talking to people and handing out marketing material, which should be sufficient.

On an exciting note, Steam Powered Giraffe will be playing at MetaCon and while I would personally rather see Abney Park in concert again, SPG is certainly well worth the showtime and should be a fun event.

Work on "Clouds of War" continues: much of the original draft is either staying where it is or being refitted into other areas while other ideas, plans, and schemes are springing to life afresh. As I write, I find myself continually irritated by my own lack of practical knowledge on so many elements that make their way into my writing: using a sextant, food storage without refridgeration, flying an airship, casting bullets, keeping sanitation without having much water, the list continues. Life on board the Horizon, as indeed life for most people pre-21st century, was brutal, dirty, and brief, and it is hard to truly appreciate this when you are surrounded by more food and comfort than you can possibly use.

As I have grappled with gears and words, the ever-present question of "what is the appeal of steampunk" constantly comes to my mind. What, precisely, is the thrust behind what I am doing? On the surface, my tale is fairly mundane: an airship captain struggling to pay a debt to a tyrannical man, the day-to-day workings of a merchant airship moving cargo about, and mundane issues such as coal, repair work, and food. My story is not filled with chiseled abs, impossibly coiffed heroines fighting off ravening hordes of monsters, buried treasure, and the stuff that makes Hollywood. However, there is an appeal in the ordinary, an excitement in the struggle of the daily grind, and I think the appeal lies in it being vastly different than the world of ease, leisure, and comfort we have today.

A quick google search of "the appeal of steampunk" brings up a variety of different articles, and I was particularly attracted to this lengthy exploration by author Nick Harkaway:
 Steampunk, on the other hand, repurposes, scavenges, remakes and embellishes in an arena where embellishment is seen as decadence, never mind the inherent decadence of creating the sheer amount of computing power our society now possesses in order that most of it should sit idle or be used for email and occasional games of Plants vs Zombies. Steampunk appeals to the idea of uniqueness, to the one-off item, while every mainstream consumer technology of recent years is about putting human beings into ever more granular, packageable and mass-produced identities so that they can be sold or sold to, perfectly mapped and understood.

The original article is well worth a read. For myself, I have been meditating on the question of why steampunk is appealing, and I have the beginnings of a manifesto percolating to life in my brain. For now, I have had quite enough computer time for the day and will sign off for now.

Happy cogs to all!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

OSFest and River Song in Full Force!

Shaky from too much caffeine? Check. Room full of discarded costuming badly in need of washing and repair? Check. A folder of business cards from people I only vaguely remember talking to? Check. Ankles aching from spastic dancing in full River Song costume? Check. Fun times had at Osfest? Check and double check.

This weekend's con was a rousing success and many good times were had by all. I sold a nice handful of copies of Steam on the Horizon, enough to fully recoup the cost of the con plus a whopping $10 profit which made me exceedingly happy. It was a great chance to get my name out there, and I do not believe I stopped talking for three days straight. 

For all you authors out there, I highly recommend hiring an assistant. Below is Megan who cheerfully schlepped loads of books everywhere, ran the laptop, fetched water, and kept track of everything for three days, and I could not have done it without her. She also incidentally was helpful in attracting me to our table. I will here state that neither of us lacked for male attention all weekend. Wonder why?

Besides being superlatively helpful and nice, Megan made me an authentic, gosh-darned awesome River Song waist belt and gun holster out of real leather. I happily donned it and received many flattering comments on the full ensemble.

River Song had a great deal of fun on Saturday, including a guest bellydance appearance at a room party (accompanied by a guitar and author Keith R. A. DeCandido beating out percussion on a plastic trash can)

River Song also gamboled about on stage during the Steampunk Steerage Ball, happily kicking up her heels until realizing, a shade too late, that the song "Time Warp" from the Rocky Horror Picture Show has actual dance moves that she did not know at all. As a result, River bumbled along a beat behind everyone and making the wrong steps.
River Song later marginally redeemed herself by swing dancing with a local fellow and repeatedly beaning herself in the face with her necklace. Boots are not the best choice of dancing footwear, and her ankles are hurting today. 

Other highlights of the con include
- the Steampunk Society of Nebraska taking on the Klingon Federation at a Nerf gun battle and winning
- hosting a panel "The Pen and the Cog: Writing Steampunk"
- hanging out with the Zombie Research Institute
- shooting a Dalek on stage during the costume contest
- questioning "Does that dude have a penis on the back of his top hat?" (it was a tiny Elmo)
- dancing with a ten year old girl at midnight who squealed every two seconds
- being hit on by a Klingon
- free drinks from the bartender (an English expatriot)
- cosplaying a steampunk version of River and The Doctor with Matthew the Northern Poet
- getting new signatures in my River Song diary, including some Klingon writing

And if anything could have made it better, it would have been Loki showing up. Sadly, I wasn't at Comic Con this year, so I will leave you with this.

Monday, July 22, 2013

OSFest and More!

Gearing up for OSFest 2013! (we interrupt this blog for a brief reminder that OSFest is a sci-fi fantasy con held in Nebraska and Ozzy Osbourn will not be in attendance. Thank you). This weekend I will be awake for three days straight to run around Omaha's Ramada Inn with a bunch of cosplayers and live off caffeine and free Tootsie Rolls (which is pretty much what I did at my last con). Note: Tootsie Rolls are not an acceptable meal replacement, no matter how many of them you eat. 

However, this will be a working con for me, as demonstrated by my schedule below: 

   4:00-5:15   Book signing in Author Alley
   5:30-6:00 Book reading event 

   12:00-1:30 Book signing in Author Alley
    2:30-4:30  Present workshop "The Pen and the Cog: Writing Steampunk"
    4:30-6:00 Book signing in Author Alley 
   1:00-2:30 Book signing in Author Alley

I am quite looking forward to the writing panel and am planning on filming it to make a YouTube video for instructional purposes. I haven't taught a class for over a year, so this will be tons of fun! The workshop will cover some of the tidbits of steampunk writing I have gleaned through my experiences, such as:
   - the practical implications of steampunk technology (aka just so how exactly does that airship fly?)
   - why corsets do not equal combat
   - steampunk archetypes and why they should be avoided 
   - top ten writing sins

Extra excitement: steampunk author Gail Carriger will be a guest of honor and I am thrilled about the chance to yak with her a bit about London, tea, and steampunk writing (and not to mention treacle tart). I read Souless several years ago, which was probably my first introduction to steampunk fiction, and it will be delightful hanging out with Gail for the weekend. 

In the bustle of preparation for OSFest, I have sorely neglected the Horizon and her good crew, but fear not, plots are afoot! When I last left off, the good airship had "liberated" a cannonade cannon from a fallen Spanish airship which had crashed off of Gibraltar. The Horizon is now legging it across the Mediterranean to Tangier, Morocco to refurbish and refit the cannon. 

Both Gibraltar and Tangier are near and dear to my heart as I visited both of these places last April. Here are a few of my favorite shots from that trip. 

Grumpy camel gets his picture taken in Tangier

View from Gibraltar

View of the ocean in Gibraltar

Such  fun times! Well, must run and get ready for OSfest, so much to do!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Valleys and Peaks

As I write this, I've just managed to finally pull myself out of about a two week slump: mentally, spiritually, creatively. The creative well developed a crack and dried up, my spirits plummeted, and everything seemed bleak and flat. In my earlier years, this probably would have triggered a slide into dull depression but now that I've reached my thirties, I've come to recognize and embrace the ebb and flow of the creative process, to understand that the high of finishing a project is usually followed by a period of low, that feeling down and dull is just that, a feeling. Eventually it will go away. The muse will return, ideas will bloom to life again, and soon words will start flowing on the keyboard. 

So, with recovered energy, I am back at work on Clouds of War, a process that has involved liberal applications of Wikipedia. So far, my research topics have included:
- grades of bituminous coal
- coal mining equipment 
- types of coal mining
- water desalination techniques
- Gibraltar's position in the 19th century
- smuggling
- Spanish tariffs
- types of cannons (long gun, cannonade)
- 19th century period clothing for marine captains (On this particular note, most captains at this time period wore breeches and stockings, which Captain Roberts doesn't like - see following

Although he had been master of the Horizon for over three months now, Roberts had yet to look the part and was reluctant to do so, both out of parsimony and a deeply abiding conviction that he'd be damned if he was going to wear stockings every day. At times during his tenure as first mate of the Lucky Lady, he had reluctantly donned a formal uniform, but Captain Albert had usually been too drunk to much care what his first officer was wearing. As a result, Roberts had long gotten away with workman's clothing and he wasn't eager to give them up for breeches and epaulets even if such items unmistakably marked him as an airship captain.

Happily for Captain Roberts, by the 1850's, the tricorn captain hat had fallen out of style. I can't imagine Captain Roberts in a tricorn and I think if I tried to put him in one, he would stride off my laptop and refuse to cooperate until he could go back to practical clothing again. And no silly pointed hats with feathers. 

In this past week, I've been part of a lively discussion on The Steampunk Empire thanks to a blog post I created that outlines a gripe I have with much steampunk fiction: that is the overabundance of SFC (strong female character): the gorgeous, brainy woman who knows everything, can throw a mean punch, and leaves males in her dust trail. Dozens of people chimed in their ideas, and the result was a great deal of intelligent, meaningful debate about gender roles, character development, and plot twists. Several people argued that the problem wasn't so much the SFC overkill in steampunk but the problem of badly written, one-dimensional characters. 

One character problem I've encountered in too many books (steampunk or not) is where most of the characters share the same basic speech patterns and word choice so it is impossible to tell through dialogue alone who is talking because they all sound the same. In contrast, when writing Steam on the Horizon  I labored hard to give each character his/her own unique speech rhythm so they have marked differences in how they talk. 

Another problem, and this does occur in steampunk fiction, is overly stylized and formal speech, particularly when it is not warranted. I recently read a review of Boneshaker on The Steampunk Empire, and the writer complained that the characters often talked in long, formal sentences during tense, dangerous situations. Another steampunk book (whose name escapes my attention) had these exceedingly tedious, drawn out dialogues between the male main character and his female protagonist that, while most likely period and keeping with Victorian style, were a booger to wade through. After all, why bother using ten words when seven hundred would do?

A final character development problem I see (and this is one prevalent in most SFC) is the prevalence of the uber-competent: the wave of characters that are all abundantly skilled in various areas (fighting, engineering, navigation), never make mistakes, and are fantastically talented. This is neither realistic nor particularly interesting to read, and goes a good way towards creating one-dimension characters. 

With that, I think I will go back to some character development and turn my attention back to Clouds of War

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Moving Forward

Having had a few weeks break from the stresses of getting Steam on the Horizon published, my mind is now starting to bend towards Clouds of War, Book Two. I just picked the draft up for the first time in months to discover that I have twenty-one chapters and 114,281 words written. This was all originally part of what I assumed would be Steam on the Horizon. That assumption disappeared once I hit about 188,000 words and realized that I was going to have a 600+ page book. A pitiless decapitation followed, slicing off the first three months of the tale to become Steam on the Horizon and leaving the following nine months to form the next book.

The draft for Clouds of War is completed from start to finish with a strong opening and a gripping ending. In the middle are a multitude of golden passages, silken phrases, and quite a lot of garbage that demands immediate removal. I already know a big scene that is going to get the chop because it is stupid. As a whole, I think the concept is good but there is an enormous amount of work ahead of me.

One element I have been mulling over is how much technology I want to incorporate into the Crimean War. Historically, most of the Crimean War happened in the bleak, desolate Crimean Peninsula. Cargo had to be shipped into the narrow, twisted Balaklava Bay, and supplies were hard to come by. The Horizon's main role will be supplying the army during the first winter of the Crimean War since she is fleet and agile enough to fly across enemy territory and quickly get supplies where they need to go. I think what I will do is have the military attempt to incorporate advanced technology into the war (heliographs, war airships, reconnaissance air balloons) with wholly unsuccessful results due to massive infrastructure problems, unforgiving terrain, unstable weather, and ongoing maintenance issues.

Another issue I am pondering is the use of actual historical figures. The draft for Clouds of War is full of real names: Florence Nightingale, the earl of Cardigan, Lord Raglan, and other key people during the Crimean War. However, I need to do some research about any potential legal issues for using real historical names. Since all of these people have long since shuffled off this mortal coil, I don't think it will be a problem, but I do need to check.

On other steampunk notes, I have been in discussions with people lately about this question: "Do you call yourself a steampunk?" Stylistically and grammatically, I have problems with the phrase, "I'm a steampunk." It sounds so awkward and ungainly, and the use of "steampunk" as a noun throws up a host of problems. Granted, steampunk is a noun in many cases: it is a genre, a subculture, a movement. The phrase "Steampunk is a subculture that is growing in popularity" is perfectly appropriate and stylistically pleasing. "Steampunk" as an adjective is also fine: "Her steampunk costume is amazing" is grammatically sound. Yet there is something in me that recoils about the idea of describing a person as a steampunk. I have no idea why: we refer to people as Goths or emos and there is nothing wrong-sounding about either word use. The alternate is not pretty either: while I have occasionally said, "I'm a steampunker" this sounds awful too.

I generally skip the issue by simply stating that I am "into" steampunk or I "do" steampunk. In the same manner, I have described myself as "practicing" martial arts without stating explicitly that I am a martial artist (which conjures up images in my mind of someone in white pyjamas wielding a paint brush while doing back flips). Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that while I am into a variety of hobbies that heavily color my life, I don't draw all my sense of identity from them. There are those who are fully immersed in the steampunk aesthetic and mentality and these people would probably be more likely to describe themselves as steampunk/steampunkers. I'm just not quite settled in my mind if I want to say, "I am a steampunk" verses, "I am into steampunk."


Sunday, June 16, 2013

First Book Signing!

Yesterday, I dragged myself and an entire car full of stuff to FairyTail Costumes for my first book signing.

The event was helped tremendously by the generous goodwill and creative energies of my friend Barb who took it upon herself to go to the store during her lunch hour and set up everything for me. She had two tables arranged, a blown up copy of the book's cover, and several steampunk themed hanging pictures, here amusingly modeled by my friends Nicole and Matt.

I was almost moved to tears by Barb's generosity: she made the entire event much easier for me, and it was wonderful to simply show up at the store and not have to worry about arranging a table and making space in the store for my display. Barb fittingly put everything in the steampunk section of the store and I could not have asked for a better place to hold my first book signing.

In attendance were several people from the Steampunk Society of Nebraska, many who strolled around the mall in costume attracting attention and directing people towards the signing. I also had the assistance of Whitney (center below) who stationed herself outside with a sign to attract passerbyes. Whitney was also much envied for her corset dress, and I am going to have to get my hands on one of those.

Also in attendance were several people who had wandered into the costume store and gravitated our direction. I sold some books, marketed myself, and had a wonderful time with some dear friends. Thank you all!

Captain Roberts is now supervising the comings and goings in my office, his magnified presence replicated in paper format and adhered to the wall next to the closet containing one vacuum cleaner full of dog hair and a wedding dress I have owned for seven years of a fruitless hunt for a husband.  

If I'm tempted to shirk or whine in any area of my life, I know that Captain Roberts will look upon my nonsense with furrowed brow and stern admonishment to pull myself together and act like an adult. As I turn my attention towards the next book, I'll be writing away under Captain Roberts' constant gaze. I only hope I can write worthy of him. 

Ah yes, the second book. The age-old question plaguing every writer, "So when is your next book coming out?" I have not looked at the draft for the second book in months and am not even sure what its title will be. Opium Skies is the title of the third book, but I have not settled on a title for the second book. Since it will be about the Crimean War, something appropriately battle-like would be good for the title. 

Another question I have been chewing over for Book Two is just how much technology will play a role in my version of the Crimean War. While a typical steampunk novel would set a war scene full of mechas, enormous laser guns, and other technology marvels, in reality the soldiers of the Crimean War were lucky if they had food to eat, let alone medical supplies, bullets, and bandages. Twenty ton mechanical war elephants are well and good, but how do you ship them across the Black Sea and how well would they fare in two feet of mud? 

These are just two of the many questions facing me in the upcoming weeks. I plan on taking a few more weeks to work on promoting and marketing Steam on the Horizon, then turn my attention towards Book Two and the clouds of war. Hmm. Clouds of War might not be a bad title.......

Monday, June 10, 2013

Last Month in Recap

So it has been at least a month since I have last blogged, mainly because I was too busy getting Steam on the Horizon available for sale. The good news is that it is available on Amazon for a paltry $2.99 (Kindle version) and $14.99 for the paperback. I also have a contest running on Goodreads where five lucky people can win a paperback copy of Steam on the Horizon

Speaking of paperback books......

Saturday from 2-5 I am running my first booksigning event for people in Omaha (or anyone who feels like trekking in for the event). I have two boxes full of exactly 72 books (why they shipped in multiples of 36 per box, I do not know) and need to spend this week getting media ordered, arranging for refreshments, and preparing for other things. I'm not sure what precisely one should offer at a book signing event (keychains? a dancing bear?) but luckily the event will be at FairyTale Costume so attendees will be poke through racks of wigs and bowler hats for amusement. 

Just today I got my first review on Amazon for Steam on the Horizon, and I had to chuckle when I read:

   A good read that has me wanting to know what happens next. Melissa Ann Conroy is now on the list of authors I will be very mad at if they die without finishing the series. Robert Jordan already let me down. Melissa, I'm counting on you and George R. R. Martin!

Okay, I have my orders: no dying until the Aether Saga is completed. I will endeavor to fulfill that directive. 

July 12th will see me wending my way towards Urbana, IL for An Eclectic Affair where I will present a two hour steampunk writing panel and workshop and have some scheduled book signing events. A few folks from the Steampunk Society of Nebraska and one of my coworkers Maria is going along: Maria has never been to a con before, and I have been filling her head with tales of how wonderful cons are: three days of no sleep and constant noise and distraction. Urbana is also unique for containing the base of one of the helicopters I dispatch for at work. If I have time, I plan on stopping by the base to say hello to the good crew of the (helicopter) airship Airlife, perhaps talking them into taking me out for a ride. 

Speaking of airships, I am in the middle of crafting a song about an airship. A few weeks ago, I encountered this passage in the opening chapter of Terry Pratchett's book Going Postal. 

"The flotillas of the dead sailed around the world on underwater rivers. Very nearly nobody knew about them. But the theory is easy to understand. It runs: the sea is, after all, in many respects only a wetter form of air. And it is known that air is denser the lower you go and lighter the higher you fly. As a storm-tossed ship founders and sinks, therefore, it must reach a depth where the water below it is just viscous enough to stop its fall.

In short, it stops sinking and ends up floating on an underwater surface, beyond the reach of the storms but far above the ocean floor. It’s calm there. Dead calm.

Some stricken ships have rigging; some even have sails. Many still have crew, tangled in the rigging or lashed to the wheel.

But the voyages still continue, aimlessly, with no harbor in sight, because there are currents under the ocean and so the dead ships with their skeleton crews sail on around the world, over sunken cities and between drowned mountains, until rot and shipworms eat them away and they disintegrate."

As I read this passage, my mind conjured images up of an airship that dared fly higher than the others, so high that it broke the chains of gravity and now sails eternally in space. I've been working on lyrics for a few days now: I'm not much of a song writer, but I have a tune, an idea, and some good lines. Here is the chorus: 

Aether and Clouds 

For brave Captain Nolan was seized with a fever
To sail to the highest an airship had flown.
The crew, in their loyalty, followed their captain
Over the mountains of aether and clouds. 

In a few weeks, I should have the song completed and will be posting a video. Acappella for now but I know some musicians with recording studios, so maybe we can do a studio version. 

Another wonderful change in my life is that I started biking to work every day. I follow a lovely bike path that meanders past the Missouri River and offers a splendid view of Council Bluffs. The sun is rising when I leave work in the morning and glorious sunrise follows me as I bike back home. Inevitably, I keep on going, following the bike path as it leads to a lovely park. Deer scatter at my approach, their white tails flapping in alarm and the clamor of a thousand frogs croak in indignation as I pedal past their marshes. The scent of clover and grass fill the air and the woods are full of that rich, throaty scent of green growing things. I absolutely adore my daily commute and am exceedingly happy that I have such a wonderful trail to bike on. 

So, yeah, that has been my life. I am incredibly busy but I have never been happier before in my life. Things are just so very, very good right now. I am so happy that my oldest brother Seth lives with me and we have so many good times together: biking, gardening, or simply sitting around talking. I am blessed with an abundance of friends, I have a steady job, my family is happy. I finally have a published book with more to come. God has been exceedingly, abundantly extravagant and I am overflowing with blessings and happiness, almost more than I can bear. 

And with that, I will sign off for now. More to come!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

And Yet More Proofreading

Sadly, my blogging time as of late has been superceeded by both work demands and a myriad of tasks involving preparing the finalized manuscripts for both the e-book and the print book. I now have a profound and wondrous regard for book editors and all those hardy souls whose careers revolve around taking typed words in a Microsoft document and converting them into artistically gifted, visually pleasing pages in a book.

As I noted in the last post, preparing the manuscript version for the e-book was a testy process, mainly involving setting up an active Table of Contents. However, this was a trifling feat in comparison to the madness of formatting the print book pages. E-book pages are not meant to be that pretty and as long as the words line up correctly and chapters and paragraphs are clearly delineated, you are golden. Print books, however, require chapter headings, page numbers, graphics, and an assortment of formatting goodies, all which seem easy but a Word template is never an easy task to handle.

Lucky, Amazon's CreateSpace offers free templates for print book pages. I decided on a book size of 5.5X8.5 and downloaded the appropriate template. This pops up in Word with two pages side by side, so you can see what the general layout of your book will be. The template has gutters (the margins close to the book binding: these are deeper than the margins on the opposite side of the page) so the paragraphs are a bit askew in the program, but they will look fine in print.

On the right-side pages, I decided to have the title of the book and the page number on the top right hand side. On the left-side pages is my name and the page number. However, I have a few pages of information (copyright, acknowledgements, title page) before the story starts, so I tried to get the page numbers and headings to start on a specific page. Word, most infuriatingly, kept putting everything at the beginning of the document, and it was several hours of work and some research before I finally got the headers and page numbers to start where they should be.

Once everything was formatted, I created a PDF document that shows what all the print pages will look like, and I am currently looking through them one last time for errors and formatting mistakes. I have made some minor word changes, particularly since I found two "widows" (a widow is a single line on a page). Chapters 2 and 9 ended with widows, so I went back through the chapters and cut out a few words to get rid of the widows. I also kept an eye out for "orphans" (a one word line ending a paragraph).

Also, as I was going through everything, I realized that I needed more use of Captain Roberts' first name (Gavin) in conversations. I have a number of conversations where he is talking with an old friend and they constantly refer to each other by their last names. In review, I realized that this seemed to give the conversations a flavor of disrespect, so I edited some of these to make more liberal use of first names.

In all retrospect, it is a good thing that I had a disappearing graphic artist. The last posting I made showed an updated cover for "Steam on the Horizon". However, the artist of the cover simply dropped off the face of the earth and I had to scramble to find a new one. By a stroke of luck, I came across the artist Brent Schreiber: his work is phenominal, and you should take yourself straightaway to his website to see some examples of his work. When Brent and I first started talking, he sent me some examples of his work, and this particular piece caught my attention as being pretty steampunk-looking

Brent puts such amazing detail into his work! I can't wait to see the final cover for "Steam on the Horizon", We have been exchanging a flurry of emails and I just got to see the inked drawing today. Brent is setting to work on the painting next and is working hard to get the cover done.

Because there has been a delay in the cover, this has worked to be a blessing in disguise because it has forced me to take yet another read over the manuscript and make sure it is as perfect as possible. I am so ready to get this book done that I just want to throw it out there. However, I don't want to make mistakes and since I am waiting for the coverart to be finished, I have no excuse not to go through the manuscript again. Just yesterday, I realized that I had forgotten to justify the paragraphs and made a quick scramble to rectify this mistake. I don't want the book to come out and then I realize an abundance of errors I should have corrected!

It looks like I will be headed to OSFest 6 in July: I have no excuse since it is in Omaha, the lovely and talented Omaha-based singer Ally Rhodes will be there, and I will be able to meet Gail Carriger, author of "The Parasol Protectorate". Also, OSFest will be offering an Authors' Alley where authors can be available for book signing. Best of all, Authors' Alley will be open to the public, so anyone in Omaha can drop by to get a copy of "Steam on the Horizon". More information forthcoming!

And now, off to more proofreading. Oh dear, what grievous writing mistakes await me?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Editing, Formatting, Cursing

Things are rapidly heating up in Writing World - I had a few wonderful souls come over last week to help me read through Steam on the Horizon for typos, grammatically awkward sentences, periods meandering where they shouldn't go, and all other matter of boo-boos:

Featured: my mom, my oldest brother Seth, and my friend Matt, all studiously at work. Erasmus is filling in as Editor in Chief and helping by whining a lot because he is not getting enough attention.

Because I wanted everyone to focus on sentence structure and punctuation, not plot and organization, I took my manuscript and made a spectacular mess on the floor.

Then I had everyone pick up random sheets of paper to read them out of order. I also advised them to read each page backwards, starting with the last paragraph and working up from there. My mom amused us by occasionally reading the last line of one page, then the top line of the next page she had in her stack, the resulting sentence usually comically mangled.

Once this was done, I set to work correcting all issues and making a final copy. However, there is no rest for the weary for I had to set to work at formatting the manuscript for Kindle. Kindle has a clear formatting guide and the work was tedious but not difficult: I mainly had to take out the manual indentations and replace them with automatic ones. All was going fine and dandy until I turned my attention to the table of contents: for Kindle, you need to have an active Table of Contents that is hyperlinked to each chapter heading. Kindle thoughtfully provided this Microsoft guide to making active Table of Contents, and I urge you to look at this link and see if you can pull any moiety of sense out of it. I hazily stumbled through it for almost an hour, making no progress but a lot of mistakes until in desperation I turned to this extremely helpful thread on the Kindle Publishing Community page which explained the process. Boom - about ten minutes of work and I have a correct table of content!

I am currently waiting for my graphic artist to color in the cover - here is the latest version he sent me. Pretty awesome, huh?

My goal is to have the Kindle e-book available by the end of the month! Basically, I need to get the cover finished, buy an ISBN number, finish any editing to the manuscript, then get it up on Amazon. Exciting, exciting!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Publication and Steampunk Rap

I was hoping that today would end with a pile of paper lovingly scribbled over with corrections, courtesy of some trusted friends who were primed to look over the final draft of Steam on the Horizon and hunt for egregious spelling errors, comma splices, appalling grammar, and other irksome impediments to silken prose. However, the Fates and the dear Lord himself saw fit for other plans, so another week will pass before I can have a collection of eyes look over the manuscript in a final hunt for boo-boos. Luckily, two good friends have already scoured it fairly thoroughly, so I am fairly confident that few mistakes exist, but just today, I spotted at least three that had escaped my eyes in the last several readings, so I am sure that more still lurk in waiting. As small consolation, I have caught at least two errors in every e-book of the estimable Terry Pratchett, and if he can get away with it, I can as well.

A friend of mine at work is putting me in contact with an editor who can format the e-book version, a task I had assumed was relatively simple but after talking with my friend, I see the merit in forking over $150 for someone else to do it. If all goes well, the e-book version of Steam on the Horizon should be available before April is over. Oh, how exciting!

Cover art is being constructed as we speak, and here is a rough draft of what is happening so far:

I sent my artist some things I wanted changed, such as the Horizon scooting over to be on the front cover more, but so far I am very pleased. I love the way the artist captured the city of London at the bottom of the book.

And, as if I didn't have nearly enough with which to occupy myself, I have decided to make a steampunk/gaslamp costume from this pattern:

I have a hat I adore:

but alas an overly pastel theme does little for my complexion except wash it out. Therefore, I am thinking of a black and white skirt (fold the pleats so that one side is black and the other white and they will "pop" as you move) and a pink jacket. Or I may spy some fabric at the store that I passionately adore and will have to adjust my plans accordingly.

If I had no job and no need for sleep, I would also be auditioning for a choral part in Opera Omaha's upcoming Carmen: I took voice lessons in college and although I have not formally trained in opera, I have a fighting chance of landing a part, but without a wibby wobbly timey wimey machine, there is no way I can work (48 hours a week twice a month), publish my book, exercise, and maintain some sense of sanity.

On a parting note, I am begging some creative soul to create a steampunk version of "Thrift Shop Feat" - minus the swear words, this practically defines steampunk. "I'll wear your grandfather's clothes. I look incredible" and digging through second-hand stores for cool broken stuff: how can this NOT be steampunk??     (here's the clean version of the video)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Modern Airships and Final Edits

Yesterday afternoon, I trundled into work to find a helicopter sitting on the lawn outside the building. One of our Omaha helicopters had just finished a mission, and the crew decided to drop by company headquarters. Upon spotting the aircraft, I burst into delighted squeals like a teenager girl meeting Justin Bieber. My brother, who had come along for the ride, obligingly snapped a few pictures as I clambered inside the helicopter, grinning like a fool.

This particular rotor wing is an A-Star which means the interior is about as big as what you'll find inside a Volkswagon. I am sitting behind the pilot seat (where the nurse would sit) and besides me is a seat for the medic. To the left of the pilot's seat is the patient's gurney. Needless to say, this is not a job for the overly tall or big-boned: I met the medic and he was maybe my height, if not shorter, and no heavier than 140lb with a brick in both hands. How they manage to get four people inside this A-Star is beyond me, but somehow it works!

Next step: getting to ride in one of these things. My work has a "ride along" program where I would go to the closest base and hang out with the crew for a shift. If they get a flight, I get to ride along. Hopefully in the next few months I can do this!

This week, my goal is to finish a final run-through of Steam on the Horizon in preparation for turning it over to a band of trusted friends to edit it for me. I know there are spelling errors, slightly confusing sentences, extra spaces, and little things scattered here and there which need correcting. In all reality, I could easily spend the next six months fiddling with areas, adding in extra details, and seeking the advice of others, but there comes a point when a piece of writing needs to be released from further tampering. When I taught writing, I advised my students, "A piece of writing is never truly finished: you can always do something more to it, so you just eventually need to let it go." I have gotten some wonderful feedback and assistance from people and have truly appreciated all the phenomenal people who have helped me. At this point, I feel like more assistance or advice would start moving the story out of my control, so it has come time to publish.

I am sure that in five years and several more books, I will look back on this first one and think, "Oh geeze, what was I thinking?" Writing is such a developmental process that I am interested in seeing what I will put together in ten years and how much my writing style will change. However, for my first book, I am pleasantly pleased with it and hope that others enjoy reading it.

Another task for this week is finalizing the summary and my bio. I have chosen this picture from the talented Guy Rish  to accompany my bio. Guy and I did a photoshoot at Joslyn Castle several months ago: this is a wonderful Victorian mansion in Omaha. You can see more pictures from this shoot on Guy's Flickr page.

So, the publishing date is drawing to a close, and I am becoming quite excited! The e-book will be relatively easy to put together: Amazon has a fairly simple layout for the e-book version that I should have no problem completing. The print book, however, has much more rigorous standards, and I will probably pay Amazon to format the book for me. Amazon's CreateSpace has several different packages for self-published authors, and the more you pay them the more work they will do for you. Since formatting the print book will be such a tricky process, I think it is worth the time and money to have Amazon do it for me.

It will be a momentous occasion when I finally hold a copy of Steam on the Horizon in my hands. However, I am cognizant that this is only half the battle and the next task of self-promotion will begin. In my work with my Indiegogo campaign, I discovered that Facebook ads worked the best. Using a variety of factors, I had a Facebook ad with a target audience of eight million people. For this next Facebook ad, I am thinking that a graphic picture of the Horizon and the tagline "99 cent steampunk novel!" would grab attention.

I also plan on doing a couple book signings around Omaha and will be canvasing independent bookstores to see if they will be willing to carry the book. Fairy Tale Costumes is one of our Omaha costumes stores that is quite popular with the steampunk group is open to holding a book signing, and it helps that I know Linda the owner. I have a general plan in mind for marketing, but for now my main focus is on getting the book done. Then, I figure out how to get people to buy it!  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Steampunk Hat, Part Deux

My first foray into hat-making has been an interesting creative journey. Thankfully, the second part of making my steampunk hat has been much smoother and easier. When I last left off, I had a simple red band that had taken over an hour of work to create. However, this was not nearly fancy enough. Clearly, tulle was needed and I found two yards of lovely red tulle with a slight shine to it that I wrapped around the hat. 

I quickly discovered that the tulle needed to be tacked down in some way, otherwise it would easily slip off. I solved this problem by sewing the tulle to the band, since the band is quite snug and it securely anchors the tulle in place. 

Thus finished, I slipped the hat band back on the hat and saw that it fit just fine! To form a cute little "poof" at the back of the hat, I put in a few stitches and pulled them taut to gather up part of the tulle. The result is a little tail of sort that looks quite fun. 

The resulting tulle effect looked good - I arranged it to be asymmetrical and pulled tulle over the top part of the hat on the right side. This was accidental in the beginning, but I liked the way it looked.  

Next, feathers! The local Hancock Fabric store had these lovely, fluffy beauties, just perfect for a proper steampunk ladies hat. Some experimenting proved that I had to trim them down to size, which is the reason my craft room looks like it was the epicenter for a mass parrot molting session. Little feathers are liberally scattered around the rest of my house, and I found a few of them floating in the toilet. 

Even with some trimming, the feathers still stuck out in a way that was not aesthetically pleasing. Nice, but not quite there yet.  

The answer? Some tacky glue. I ran a bead of glue along the spine of the feathers, then held it in place with a ribbon around the hat. I let it dry overnight and was gratified to find that the feathers adhered nicely and now curve pleasantly around the hat. 

A final steampunk touch! As of now, I haven't quite figured out how I will attach the watch. Ideally, I would like to have a clasp system that allows me to remove the steampunk embellishing at will. I am a member of both a steampunk and a gaslamp society, and this hat is suitable for gaslamp minus the watch. I shall have to experiment with fasteners and see what I come up with. 

I spent a few hours today tidying up Chapter 12 and working on some minor issues. I've decided that the Horizon's selling price is 15,000 pounds. However, I need to track down some exact shipping costs for items such as flour, coal, nails during this time period. Based on my research, this will not be an easy task as prices varied wildly during this time. Today I found an excellent article about the shipping industry during the 19th century. Apparently 1854-1855 was a peak shipping time, thanks to the Crimean War. Information about shipping indexes was tracked during this time; however, the focus was on highest and lowest prices, so it is difficult to find out average prices for commodities. Also, there were a huge amount of variables such as the type of ship, the distance traveled, weather conditions, etc. I have a feeling that it is going to be quite hard for me to track down solid numbers!

My hopes are that in two weeks, I can have a proofreading party to polish up the final draft. However, I am plagued by "writer's fatigue" and assaulted with a deep-seated desire to just get the damned thing done and published. Keeping strong unto the end is proving to be enormously difficult, and I will be ruthlessly honest in admitting that I hate this stupid book right now. I know that all this is a perfectly normal part of the writing process, but I honestly want to just shove the manuscript in a drawer and not look at it for a few years. Although his name escapes me, I know there was one ancient Greek scholar that advised you should set aside a piece of writing for seventeen years before revising it again. As this point in time, that option sounds unbearably attractive! 

However, I will soldier on and get this book published as promised!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Steampunk Crafting Woes

Yes, I have not blogged for exactly a month. I shall make up for it with an amusing post which was almost entitled, "It Should Not Take An Hour To Make a Simple Hatband." This essentially sums up my evening: an attempt to take this plain little number and jazz it up with a snazzy red hatband.

My first problem is that apparently my hat was in dire need of a priest and some holy water, for it bore this label on its brim.

Hoping that merely removing the offending label and burning it was sufficient, I removed the tag and set to work crafting a simple red hatband. I had some leftover silky fabric from a blouse I chopped into a bolero and was looking forward to an easy ten minute crafting project. It started promisingly, and I was moving along quite fine...

...until I belatedly realized that my iron was set on maximum heat...

...which melted and warped the fabric, leaving the band too short to fit around the hat. Irritated but not undaunted, I sewed two pieces of red fabric together to make another band, realizing that I had sewed one inside to one outside. More irritated, I ripped out the seam, sewed the pieces together correctly, then realized...

..I had incorrectly sewn lengthwise. I muttered a few choice words, then ripped the seam out and managed to put together a decent hatband that fit all the way around the hat... 

...that sadly is not even and also has a funny lump on one side from an inside seam. However, enough decorations should cover up those minor problems. Next was time to delve into my "box 'o steampunk goodies" and dig out some gears. 

A friend of mine had given me an assorted box of steampunk odds and ends, and I was particularly happy to find a watch with a cracked face to add some nice roughness to the overall effect. Although all good steampunks should avoid the temptation to "glue some gears on it", I nevertheless reached for my superglue because my last attempts at soldering were completely ineffective, mainly because I had mistakenly grabbed my dad's woodburning kit instead of the soldering iron. 

Currently, the glue is setting and I will soon be wending my way to the local fabric store to buy a few yards of red tulle to hang off the back of the hat. Then I will have a completed costume for the next steampunk event. 

The writing process is ticking along nicely - I had a few more adjustments to make to the final chapter and some research to track down. Currently, I am searching for some specific examples of wooden ships circa 1850's and their costs for building and/or their sale costs. I tentatively set the Horizon's price at 20,000 pounds, but I have absolutely no idea if this is an accurate representation of what a comparable wooden sailing ship would cost in 1854. I also want to find some information on shipping prices during the 1850's: however, there are an abundance of variables which make it exceedingly difficult to know exactly how much one could expect to pay to send a ton of flour from England to Ireland. 

In the next few weeks, I expect to have the final draft ready for a final round of proofreading before it moves into the publishing stage. Artwork is being arranged, and then there is the fun process of setting up the manuscript via Amazon's specifications for publishing. The e-book format will not be a difficult process; however, setting it up for print copies will be challenging enough that I am seriously considering paying Amazon to do so for me. Amazon has a variety of packages for self-published writers, and if you are willing to fork over enough money, they will do much of the work for you. 

I have to admit, though, that I waver between excitement, frustration, and outright hatred of this novel of mine. Such varied feelings are perfectly normal, I am fully aware. However, there is that small but persistent voice that yowls, "Your book sucks and no one will enjoy it." On one hand, I wish I was back to writing full-time and not in the workforce. On the other hand, writing full-time means that I have to be at it hours every day. 

It will be interesting to see what kind of reception I receive post-publication. I could struggle to sell a hundred copies, or it could capture quite a bit of popularity. Since this is a series, I'm committed for the long-haul and I know my writing will develop and improve as the series progresses. We shall just have to see!