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!