Monday, February 18, 2013

New Costume!

Last Saturday, I happily donned my latest steampunk creation and sashayed off to the Steampunk Society of Nebraska's annual Valentine's Day Social. Here are a few shots of my finalized costume.

The last picture is a work shot - I decided to wear my costume to work for kicks and giggles. As I strode around the com floor, coworkers raised their eyebrows, gaped, and smiled to see what I was wearing. I got a few, "What the &%#@ are you doing?" and several, "Ohhhh! That is so lovely!" A few coworkers had heard of steampunk before, and it was fun talking about the genre to everyone. I wandered around for a few minutes, then changed, much to the dismay of several people who hoped I would keep wearing the costume. I declined, since sitting in a corset for several hours is not an experience I wish to repeat.

The only regret I have is that I was not able to make the teardrop had I had planned - time and finances conspired against me, and I made do with a mini bowler hat I had in my steampunk lair/craft room. However, I have full intentions of donning this costume again, so my next steampunk project is making the hat. The completed outfit will be perfect for upcoming steampunk cons.

On the writing front, I met with my graphic artist today to discuss cover art for "Steam on the Horizon". We have tentatively settled on a date of April 15th for everything to be completed. This gives me slightly under two months to finish revising and editing, have other people give their input, then format the book and arrange for other issues before making it available. Hopefully, I can have everything ready sooner than that but I am learning that the process of writing and publishing a book is a long and arduous one that requires far more time than one might expect. Years ago, a family member of mine outlined a book idea he had and then idealistically stated that he could probably write it in one weekend. Even then, I knew enough to laugh hysterically, and I would laugh all the more maniacally now.  

A dear friend of mine just sent me a round of suggestions she has for the draft, so the next day or two will see me plowing through these ideas and applying them to "Steam on the Horizon". Currently I feel quite good that my current draft is strong. However, it is so easy to overlook gross mistakes and obvious plot holes in your own writing, so I have no doubt my comitatus of beta readers will point out an abundance of problems in dire need of rectifying.

On the non-steampunk front, I'm down to 152.8 lb. thanks to the Candida Diet! A week or so should see me below 150 lb for the first time in more than two years. I have not been 100% faithful with the diet (today I happily scarfed down Panera's creamy tomato soup with croutons and a baguette) but I did end up eating three salads yesterday and I have been so consumed with my many creative activities that food has been a minor priority. In the past, I've always scoffed at people who say they are so busy that they forget to eat, disbelieving that such a fundamental human necessity could so easily slip one's mind. Now as a more experienced adult, I am occasionally seized by fits of creative absorption which so enthrall my mind and senses that they serve as an internal energy reserve I can use as fuel.

When I donned my corset Saturday, I was pleased to see that the bottom portion nearly touched when I pulled the laces tight. I may be needed a new corset, which is cause for both celebration and sadness. While I am glad for the weight loss, I don't relish having to break in a new corset, especially when this one is finally comfortable! At least I will soon be able to match the measurements of my dressmaker's dummy!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Gluten-Free Steampunk

Okay, not really. I highly doubt people of the Victorian era persuasion were knowledgeable of gluten intolerance or had access to quinoa, coconut milk, brown rice, and other celiac-friendly items. However, I am still choosing to blog a bit about my newest health endeavor: following The Candida Diet. In a nutshell, it is a gluten-free, mostly dairy-free diet which purposes to rebalance the bacterial content of your body, aiding in weight loss and reducing several ailments such as poor sleep, skin rashes, and digestive issues. My mother is following a stricter version of the diet, and in solidarity (and frustration of my inability to lose weight while still eating bread), I have joined her in this venture.

The bad news is that many things I love (kiwis, Mom's homemade bread, Red Mango yogurt, ham) are verboten for awhile. The good news is that I lost 2.6 pounds the first week on the diet, I feel full of energy, my digestive system is much happier, and I have been busily experimenting with creating tasty goodies, such as this lovely Vanilla Cream Smoothie I invented yesterday.

To make it, assemble these ingredients:

1 TB coconut oil
1 TB almond butter
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup almond milk
1 Stevia packet
1 dash cinnamon
1 splash of vanilla

Throw everything into a blender and blend for several minutes, then drink!

So far, The Candida Diet has been nicely tolerable, and I have not been bothered overmuch with cravings. I have, a few times, given into my unsatiated desire for QuikTrip's sausage, egg, and cheese on a biscuit breakfast sandwiches and a side of ice tea, perhaps the most primaly delicious breakfast pairings on the planet. Yet, I have managed to keep my burgeoning love for QT's offerings fairly restrained, and my jeans are obliging by growing looser by the day. Whoopie!

On a more steamy note, I have much of Part 1 of Steam on the Horizon revised. Thanks to my earlier conversation with Dad, I need to add in some things to prior chapters, but as of now, I am on Page 72 of 110 pages to revise of Part 1. I had toyed a bit with getting Part 1 out on Amazon before Part 2 (or Parts 2 and 3 if that is how it works). However, I read an excellent article months ago that said it is better to post several things to the internet at once than one at a time. The idea is that if someone lights upon your video, chapter, picture, etc. and likes it, they will eagerly look for more and you should be able to capitalize on their initial interest. If the person has to wait for the next installment, their excitement will wane and you will lose their interest. Thus, I will not make Steam on the Horizon ready for the reading public until it is completed.

So far, I still anticipate Steam on the Horizon will be broken down into at least two parts. However, I have been paring away adjectives and descriptions with resolute determination, so I may possibly whittle it down to 150,00 words or less. We shall see!

Speaking of length, I was amused to read in this article that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was rejected by several publishers for being too long. Apparently savvy adults determined that 320 pages was far too taxing for the average child's mind to tackle, until one publisher tossed the manuscript to his 8 year old daughter and was surprised at how voraciously she devoured it.

Well, time to start revising Chapter Nine! The Horizon and crew are currently berthed in Larne, Ireland after delivering a load of flour and grains and will be heading back over the Irish Sea where a skirmish with a menacing airship awaits them. Here is a little teaser for you:

   Hold on to something!” Roberts ordered. “And for God's sake, stay the hell out of the way!” Bloomberg retreated several feet and wrapped his arms around a sturdy rope, his eyes gleaming with a queer sort of excitement. “And get down!” Roberts added sharply. “You want to be a target, man?” They were growing closer to the other ship, and the bullets would soon be flying. 
        Thirty-two knots. The crew of the Horizon was a welter of frantic activity as Roberts' hands clenched on the wheel, poised to jerk Horizon's nose up into the air to break through the thick clouds and climb her upwards into the heavens. Air battles were lost and won by altitude: once an airship was above another's bloated envelope, it was a hard target to shoot. If the Horizon kicked up enough speed quickly, they could hopscotch over the attacking vessel and then outrun her as she turned around to pursue. It was a matter of charging forward to close the distance, then quickly kicking up into the air before the other ship had a chance to gain superiority of height. Picking the right time was crucial – too close and it put you in danger of a boarding harpoon and too far would give the other ship enough time to climb upwards with you.
         Through his telescope, Roberts saw that the attacking ship was a light bird, build for speed and maneuverability. But she wasn't the Horizon, and Roberts highly doubted that the pirate vessel could top twenty-five knots. All his airship had to do was stay out of range of any shots or harpoon snares, and they'd make it out unscathed.
          Thirty-four knots. The Horizon was rapidly approaching the point of no return, directly on course to collide with its attacker, and through the darkening air Roberts could see men rushing about on board the other vessel which was already rising up sharply. He gave the wheel a vicious jerk, sending the Horizon's prow screaming up into the heavens and leaving the other vessel below as it fought to keep pace with the rapidly ascending Horizon.
          They punched through clouds fat and heavy with rain, dampness soaking Roberts' clothing as he wrestled the wheel to keep her nose upwards. The clouds below and the darkness of a threatening storm were throwing everything into shadows and as the Horizon breached the cloud bank, nothing was visible except fitful sunlight. Underneath the Horizon was a vast expanse of sluggish clouds, but the attacking airship was somewhere underneath their feet and would find its prey eventually: Roberts could faintly hear the engines of the pirate ship, louder and deeper than the Horizon, growling in anticipation of its quarry.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lift, Weather, Dew Point, and Math!

My father, who is one of the most intellectual and knowledgeable people I know, has been my technical adviser for this whole "make steampunk as scientifically accurate as I can" endeavor and today's topic of conversation focused on psychrometrics: Wikipedia has this helpful definition:

Psychrometrics or psychrometry or Hygrometry are terms used to describe the field of engineering concerned with the determination of physical and thermodynamic properties of gas-vapor mixtures. The term derives from the Greek psuchron (ψυχρόν) meaning "cold"[1] and metron (μέτρον) meaning "means of measurement".

The main connection with steampunk is the operation of an airship: a steam or gas-powered airship deals directly with psychrometry because of what lifts it off the ground. Dad explained that a hot air balloon flies much better in cold air because it has much more lift capability and if it is a very hot day, the balloon may not even get off the ground. Yesterday I was writing this into Chapter Seven of Steam on the Horizon:

          "Halloway, Jenkins,” Roberts commanded. “We're running low on time. Increase her to thirty knots.” He didn't want to run her at maximum speed less he burn out her engines on her first official run, but it was difficult to tell just how hard and fast he could push her considering the load she was carrying. Calculating how much cargo an airship could carry and what speeds she could fly was part math, part guesswork, and Roberts knew that it would take several full runs before he had a fairly precise understanding of just how much weight the Horizon could carry at what speed without incurring undue stress. 

Dad pointed out that Roberts would be doing a lot of temperature measurements of the inside of the envelope and the air temperature in order to calculate how much deadweight tonnage the Horizon could lift at one go. During the first year Roberts has the Horizon, he and the crew rebuild her during an unseasonably hot summer, and according to psychrometrics, airships might not even be able to fly in those conditions because they couldn't get enough lift.

The Horizon spends much of the second part of the book freezing her cogs off in the Crimea, so I think I am going to work in that she can lift more and fly a little faster in these colder temperatures. Dad said that very cold is the best temperature for a plane to fly in because the molecules slow down and the air is denser so it holds the plane up better, somewhat like how it is almost impossible to sink on the Red Sea because its high saline content (33.7% salt) gives a human body incredible buoyancy.

Between my dad and my new work as a medical helicopter dispatcher, I am learning an incredible amount of steampunk-related information that, if all incorporated into the book, would make it 1,431 pages long. At work, I am constantly scribbling down ideas for later revision. One revelation was that, in the absence of steampunk NVG (night vision goggles) for her crew, the Horizon needs excellent lights on board for nighttime flying. The general rule of thumb for a helicopter pilot is that if he does not have NVG and is flying via VFR (visual flight rules), he should be able to see three miles during the day and a mile during the night, otherwise, he needs to plant his bird on a helipad until flying conditions improve.

The Horizon, however, cannot simply land wherever she chooses: without skids or other landing apparatus, she has to stay in the air until she can find a berth. Or......I could always make it so that she could indeed land on a level patch of ground if needed. That, however, would require rewriting large sections of the book, so I think I will keep it as is.

Excellent news! InConJunction XXXIII will be hosting Cheri Priest for this year's con! (happy dance!). A friend of mine told me about this con, and I do believe I will need to haul my steampunk-costumed self out to Indianapolis for this particular shindig, particularly since there appears to be a movie version of Boneshaker in development, according to Miss Priest herself.

Did I mention that yesterday, I imbibed 16 ounces of straight espresso in one sitting? I don't recommended it: I reeked physically from all the sweet, I was giggling as if tipsy, and I was smelling colors at one point. But still:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Vampire Diaries

I write this at 2:48am in a tolerable state of alertness. This has something to do with the two cups of tar-like coffee I consumed a few hours ago but mostly due to my new schedule as a nightshift worker. Monday morning, I was awake until 6:05am before I could crawl into bed with the ardent longing of the most passionate of lovers. Once I hit the sheets, I wouldn't have climbed out for the apocalypse.

This new Nightwalker schedule is tolerable so far, and I foresee an impressive amount of creative work in these wee hours. Since most mortal souls are peacefully asleep at this time, I must devise my own amusements. So far this night/early morning, I've edited two chapters, cleaned my craft room, and added some extra touches to my Valentine's Day steampunk costume.

A friend of mine suggested draping the pearls across the front, and I quite like the effect. The pearls have a claps, so I can undo them on one side to facilitate putting the corset on. And of course one must have a pocketwatch for steampunk! Next on the list is a hat - I need to make one in the next two weeks. All I really need to do is buy the hat form, then it should be fairly easy to put together.

I didn't accomplish much writing last week due to my new work schedule and a death in the family: my maternal Grandma suffered for nearly a week before passing on, and our family had a noisy funeral on Saturday. In the midst of it all, a new nephew was born, and my parents and I were watching my two year old nephew during the week. However, the madness of the week has finished, and I can refocus on Steam on the Horizon.

General evisceration has been the name of the writing progress as of late - I have been ruthlessly ripping out paragraphs at a time while cursing myself for my incurable wordiness. Part One has already shrunk by a couple thousand words, and several thousand more are in dire risk of the chopping block. Good thing too - there are too darned many of them hanging around cluttering up the draft.

One particular steampunk inspiration is this song by artist Thea Gilmore. It is entitled "Pirate Moon" and while its style is not along the lines of Abney Park or Steampowered Giraffe, I cannot help but think of airships drifting across a bank of clouds under a full moon whenever I hear this song.

Last morning, several vital steampunk revelations hovered on the edge of my subconscious but sadly most of them fled with the approach of the sun, leaving me with nothing but the vague recollection that I had a slew of awesome thoughts that I can no longer remember. However, one piece of information I took away was that my engineers for the Horizon are most likely hard of hearing since they spend all their time around droning engines. My only hope is that I recall the other revelations later, because they were particularly useful and need to be integrated into Steam on the Horizon.  

Oh yes, I remember another revelation: I talk about "tons" of weight in Steam on the Horizon, and it wasn't until last morning that I hazily recalled that the Brits have a different weighting system. Here is what the Online Conversion webpage has to say about that:

The British ton is the long ton, which is 2240 pounds, and the U.S. ton is the short ton which is 2000 pounds.

Both tons are actually defined in the same way. 1 ton is equal to 20 hundredweight. It is just the definition of the hundredweight that differs between countries. In the U.S. there are 100 pounds in the hundredweight, and in Britain there are 112 pounds in the hundredweight. This causes the actual weight of the ton to differ between countries.
To distinguish between the two tons, the smaller U.S. ton is called short, while the larger British ton is called long.
There is also an third type of ton called the metric ton, equal to 1000 kilograms, or approximately 2204 pounds. The metric ton is officially called tonne. The SI standard calls it tonne, but the U.S. Government recommends calling it metric ton.

Also, there is the confusing use of "tonne" vs "ton" which the Grammarist says:

In American English, a ton is a unit of measurement equaling 2,000 pounds. In non-U.S. measurements, a ton equals 2,240 pounds. A tonne, also known as a metric ton, is a unit of mass equaling 1,000 kilograms.

So, I am currently not exactly sure if I should use "ton" or "tonne" when talking about how much weight the Horizon can carry. Quite frankly, the dialogue I have for my characters in Steam on the Horizon is fairly Americanized: I've been to England twice and spent a month studying at Oxford, but I don't pretend any competency in "the Queen's English". However, I should at least get the main words right. Come to think of it, I think I also refer to pounds in weight when I really need to use stones. I think I have the currency correct, but I am not sure.

I am, however, sure that I am babbling incoherently and for all I know, I could be writing in Sanscrit. I think it is time to walk around a bit and count off the next 42 minutes. I promised myself a 4:00am bedtime, and I need to hold on until then.