Steampunk and Monsters Part 6: Cthulhu

     For my Halloween  post,  I wanted to finish up my look at monsters in the Steampunk genre with just one more.  Having read up on zombies,  vampires, werewolves,  mummies,  and ghosts,  I sat down and tried to figure out what else I could include.  It struck me that one of the more influential creatures on Steampunk as a whole is one of the newest,  comparatively.  The face of the Great Old Ones, himself.  Cthulhu.
     Lovecraft’s octopus-headed god was never the most powerful of of his creations,  but given the description of his appearance, he became the Lovecraftian monster. And for good reason:

image

     Mankind’s fear of the unknown,  coupled with our general lack of knowledge about what lies at the greatest depths of our oceans has long fuelled our love-hate relationship with them.  In some ways we know more about what is going on in outer space than we do about what is going on beneath the waves.
     Lovecraft,  as a writer of horror,  or weird tales,  knew this, and exploited that knowledge to create one of the more memorable monsters in modern horror. A giant creature, with a head resembling an octopus, tentacles flowing about the area of his face where a mouth would be; a massive, scaly body with deadly claws at the end of each limb.  Reptilian and cephalopod combined

image

There is something unnerving about the octopus. Especially knowing it can survive outside of the water for brief periods of time.

.

     Though many authors tried to expand on Lovecraft’s mythos, not many were able to match his style. His stories were rarely about meeting the monsters. More often than not,  it is the sense of dread, the foreboding feeling that no matter what you do,  no matter how hard you try,  when the Great Old Ones rise again,  there will be no stopping it,  there will be no salvation.
     Steampunk authors,  especially those dealing with more dystopian settings,  frequently reference Lovecraft’s work. It may be in the form of extreme dread and hopelessness,  or more direct use of locations and creatures. Perhaps your hard working police officer is investigating a series of strange disappearances,  and comes to discover the existence of a cult that worships an ancient sea God. 
     A young student from a prominent New England university has discovered an old book in the archives. Upon touching said book,  he sees visions of someone,  something on the ocean floor,  trapped in a sunken city,  waiting. He researches the book,  uncovering it’s use. An ancient holy book,  dedicated to the worship of something called  The Great Old Ones.  His hunt for the truth leads him to the Pacific Ocean,  an airship dropping him on a rickety old trawler.  It is here he learns the ultimate truth,  before losing his mind.
     A young woman is haunted by strange dreams,  of voices in her head, telling her that his slumber will soon be over.  She does not know what it means,  but she knows that it is important, that the world might just end if he wakes up. Her efforts to warn the King of the American Union are in vain.  She goes into hiding,  posing as a boy and working as a Porter aboard a giant luxury airship. During her time in hiding,  her visions become clearer,  more real. Finally,  the high priest of the Great Old Ones arises from the sea during a climactic storm.  As he unleashes the first of his terrible judgements upon the human race, the young woman hears in her head, I am awake. Serve me,  and live forever. I am life. I am death. Come with me,  my child.
    

image

I'm coming for YOU!

     What is everyone’s favorite Lovecraftian work? Do you enjoy the aesthetic when combined with steampunk?  As always,  I’d love to hear what you think.

Steampunk and Monsters Part 5: Ghosts

The scene has played out in many Victorian settings. A cast of characters gathers around the table, their hostess instructing them to join hands. The lights dim, everyone closes their eyes. The hostess begins by asking everyone to focus. She begins by asking the spirits for permission to communicate. At first, there is no response; the skeptics in the group chuckle. Clearly, this is all a ruse.

Then, a knocking. The location is unclear, but a loud knocking sound echoes through the entire house. Everyone, including the skeptics, are quiet. Suddenly, the hostess enters a trance. She moans, rocks back and forth. She chants. A voice emanates from her – but it is different. The voice is too deep, it has a different rhythm. She claims to be the Gatekeeper; this spirit allows the dead to interact with the hostess. With its permission, The hostess can communicate with the dead. She opens her eyes, and she points and says, “I have a message for you. It is your husband.”

In the real world, seances are the stuff of badly produced horror movies and a Saturday night out with your friend, the believer. But in the 19th century, the belief, or more likely, the desire to speak with departed loved ones was strong enough that mediums could make a living of the suffering of others. A few well placed props, and even more well-placed employees, could help to make a small-time medium appear legitimate.

Perhaps calling them wasn't such a good idea...

Perhaps calling them wasn’t such a good idea…

As long as humans have understood what death is, we have wondered what happens after we die. Whether it is wondering where the soul goes when we breathe our last, or wondering if reincarnation works, we wonder. From the first loved one that passes on, we wonder what will happen when we, too, pass away.

The idea that the spirit can remain on earth and interact with the living has existed since ancient times.  Hamlet’s father appeared to him as a  ghost, to warn him of his Uncle’s treachery; Stories of haunted houses prisons, and hospitals have been told to scare the younger generations into behaving themselves. Whether a ghost is able to interact with the world, or whether they are just an echo of the past, repeating to the end of time is unclear; but to a true believer, a spirit can haunt a location for centuries.

One of the most common notions about ghosts is that they have died tragically, violently, or before their time. For this reason, their spirits roam the earth, until such time as their demise has been resolved. Perhaps their murderer is still running free, and they wish that person brought to justice; maybe they were to be married, but passed away before their wedding, and want to say goodbye to their one true love; perhaps they were unable to achieve a lifelong dream, and fulfilling that dream will put them to rest.

In a steampunk setting, I could see a story about people using steampunk technologies to track ghosts. Do they hunt them and dispose of them, a la Ghost Busters? Or perhaps their goal is to use the technology they have developed to communicate with the dead. Maybe they can help the dead pass on to whatever awaits them on the other side.

Maybe an ill-intentioned scientist has found a way to harness the spirits of the dead, and can torment the living by setting the ghosts to instill fear into the hearts of the masses. It is up to a band of unprepared individuals to learn how to track and stop the ghosts, before they can do permanent harm to society at large.

I have yet to create any ghosts in any of my stories. While I find the idea interesting, I am not sure I could do them justice. Like Zombies, there have been a number of twists to ghosts, making some of them more frightening than I could ever write them. But, even I can admit that there is nothing quite like a good ghost story. The idea of a being that can enter your home, interact with you or your loved ones without your permission is a scary notion. That is one of the reasons that shows like American Horror Story and films like Crimson Peak have become so popular, or at least discussed.

She is watching you - and there is nothing you can do about it.

She is watching you – and there is nothing you can do about it.

Has anyone read any good ghost stories? Or written any? One of my favorites has always been The Haunting of Hill House for a slightly more modern take, Drawing Blood, by Poppy Z. Brite is an excellent choice (But, fair warning, that is a dark story with some rather graphic violence). I do love a good ghost story, so please, share any novels on your must-read list.

Steampunk and Monsters Part 4: Mummies

   Because it is the Halloween  season,  I am only too happy to continue with my posts about monsters and how they could be used In a steampunk setting.

image

 

Philip and Doris padded down the long corridor toward the King’s chamber.  Philip held the torch, pointing it at the door.  It had been over an hour since they had heard from Eduardo and Gerald. Doris slipped her arms around Philip’s bicep. “Do you think they are inside?
     Philip’s face darkened. “Professor James told them to stay away until we were certain it was safe.” He moved faster,  every footstep taking him closer to the darkened King’s chamber.
     Except,  it wasn’t dark anymore.  There was a flickering light in the chamber,  a flame casting an orange glow. Doris took a sharp breath.  “They went in!”
     Philip groaned.  “Idiots!”  he turned,  gripping Doris’ shoulders. “Listen, Dee, I want you to go back up to camp. Find Professor James and tell him he might have been right after all.
     Doris wiggled free of her brawny protector and slapped him. ” Listen to me,  buster. There is no way I’m gonna wander of by myself and disappear like Rosie and Zeb.  Now Eddie and Garry are missing – have you flipped your lid?  I’m sticking with you.” Reluctantly, Philip nodded and offered her his arm.  She grasped it and moved closer.  As they approached the door,  he looked at his pretty companion.  Her expression was determined, shoulders squared; but he noticed Doris had a tighter grip on his bicep than before.
     Inside the King’s Chamber,  a torch illuminated the room. The two looked about for any sign of the four missing archaeologists,  but saw no one.  Philip felt Doris loosen her grip on his arm,  and step forward. Phil sighed.  Maybe the Professor was wrong.
     “Uhm, Philip?” Doris said,  pulling Philip away from his thoughts.
     “What’s wrong,  Dee?” He asked. Looking up,  he noticed that the young blonde was peering into the King’s sarcophagus.  She looked at him.  Her blue eyes were wide,  lips trembling. 
     “It’s not here,  Phil. The mummy is missing.”
     Philip ran to her side and peered inside the stone sarcophagus.  It was empty,  save for a small pile of linen wrappings.  He stumbled backward,  falling to the floor. 
     “Where did it go,  Dee?”  he whispered. “A mummy can’t just disappear.”  Doris’ answer was a scream.  She wasn’t looking at him.  She wasn’t paying him any attention.  Her gaze was focused behind him.  He turned his head.
     Standing in the doorway they had just entered was a figure.  It’s face was a picture of grotesque features. Partially wrapped in decaying ribbons, the face was desiccated, sunken in upon itself.  The eyes were closed, sewn in place.  The body was gaunt,  skin an unhealthy gray.  It opened its mouth,  but no words issued forth; all that came out was a dry exhalation, the ghost of a moan.  It shuffled forward,  it’s limbs stiff,  unyielding.  It was the mummy, and he looked angry.

image

     It seems that mummies have been underutilized in the steampunk genre. Though I’ve only been reading steampunk books for three or so years,  I can only think of a couple of uses of mummies,  and the mummies had not been reanimated. Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series uses mummies in an inventive way,  but again,  they are still just dead bodies.
     I think part of the reason is that in appearance they are rather close to zombies. Older,  admittedly less gooey zombies. Of course,  in most ‘mummy’s curse’ stories,  the mummy’s are out to exact vengeance, not eat their victims. But mummies make an intriguing villain.  Their goal is single minded.  And sometimes,  as in the 1932 version of The Mummy, Boris Karloff’s Imhotep not only rises from the sarcophagus to exact revenge,  he infiltrates his victims’ group to do so.

image

Freshly Risen

image

Only slightly less terrifying.

    
     In a steampunk setting,  I could see this type of monster used in a few different ways. The Victorian Era saw a renewed interest in Egypt.  Victorian took the opportunity to exploit and destroy ancient artifacts.  Mummies were often found and used for such things as pigments for paint,  as well as unwrapping parties,  where the wealthy and trendiest would witness the unwrapping and examination of the mummy in question. 
     Considering the destruction and lack of respect for the deceased,  a story of revenge could easily be written as a mummy hunts down those that disturbed his tomb.
     Perhaps a well meaning scientists studying the embalming techniques of the ancient Egyptians,  or learning how the mummified body was wrapped and laid to rest.  Inadvertently,  the scientist raises the creature,  who then goes on a rampage, bringing all this that wronged him to justice. In order to sustain his own life,  the mummy could make use of steampunk technology.
    Perhaps,  a contraption strapped about the body,  hydrating it’s body.  Or a machine that helps rejuvenate the body,  giving the mummy a more human appearance.  The drawback is that the machine only restores a lifelike look for short periods of time,  forcing the mummy to return and use the machine again. All of the work making it difficult for the mummy to do much more than murder.  No matter how hard he tries,  the mummy will never be anything more than a vengeful monster.
     Had anyone read any good steampunk novel’s featuring Mummies? If so,  I’d love some suggestions.  And for the writers,  have you utilized this monster in your a story?

Steampunk and Monsters Part 3: Werewolves

    

Halloween is just a few days away,  and I’m ecstatic. I’ve loved Halloween since I was little.  When else can you dress up in costumes and drive around town without getting arrested? In honor of my favorite holiday,  I’m exploring another monster from mythology and folklore  –  the Werewolf.
    

Tracking the beast had proved easy. Silas found the tracks easily enough, boot prints spaced evenly in the snow. The distance between them began shirt,  indicating a walking pace; but after a mile,  the space between the footprints grew further apart,  indicating the person had begun running.    
      Through the underbrush,  Silas followed the prints, losing them occasionally,  but finding them again in the clear snow. Finally,  the prints led to a clearing.  Silas reached their end in the middle.  There,  the snow had been thrown up,  as if a struggle had occurred in that spot. The tracks of an animal led away from the location.  But no boot prints.  There was no indication of a body be in dragged,  nor was there even the slightest trace of blood.  
     The moon illuminated the clearing,  casting an otherworldly glow. It was bright enough in the clearing to see that aside from the sign s of struggle,  no other clue as to the whereabouts or wellbeing of the creator of the footprints could be found.
     Ahead,  the sound of a low growl caught Silas’ attention. The noise came from in the stand of trees directly in front of him.  He pulled his goggles over his eyes,  activating the night vision filter. He could see the bulk of an animal.  Large, shadowy,  it lurked in the wooded area.  It’s eyes glowed in the goggles,  a light,  eerie green.  There was an intelligence on those eyes; a sly understanding of who Silas was,  and why he was in the King’s forest. The Beast stepped into the clearing.  A wolf,  larger than any Silas had seen before.  It stood in the open,  snarling at the human.  Silas pulled his pistol,  and aimed at the creature. “I’ve been following you for a long time,  my friend.” his finger on the trigger,  he identified the creature. “I am here for you, werewolf.”

image

     As monsters go, werewolves are an interesting concept.  Humans most of the time,  they are cursed with the ability to change their form.  Sometimes their change is voluntary,  and controlled; often the werewolf is at the mercy of their emotions, or the phases. of the moon.  In both novel and film,  they are often depicted as having a bipedal humanoid body with a head that appears to be a cross between a wolf and Bigfoot.
     Sometimes,  the curse of Lycanthropy is depicted with the cursed human turning physically into a wolf,  but much larger and more powerful ; it somehow  retains some remnant of their human psyche,  usually forced into a state of submission by their animal instincts. I prefer this type of werewolf.  The look is altogether more dangerous and frightening.

image

    
     One thing going about werewolves that varies in the stories,  is how much of the human remains while in wolf form.  Dies the human retain any memories of their time as a wolf?  Does the wolf recognize the people and world around them?
     Of the monsters featured in literature and film,  werewolves seem to take a backseat to vampires,  zombies,  and ghosts. However books like The Howling, and it’s subsequent film adaptation create an atmosphere of dread and fear.  Strange noises in the night,  the monster stalking it’s prey –  all done by a being that wears both the skin of an animal and a human.
     The werewolf is interesting as a monster because the werewolf is a human. Sometimes painted as a victim,  with no control over its horrific transformation. The human lives in fear of losing control,  realizing the harm it has inflicted on others,  the lives taken.
     A steampunk based werewolf story could see werewolves working with humans in exchange for help to control their condition.  Tinkering scientists develop devices to control the change,  or at least allow the human mind to remain  intact after the change. Maybe the werewolves in your steampunk story are used to hunt down other supernatural creatures, using their innate abilities to “sniff out” those nonhuman creatures terrorizing the populace.

image

And come on, this guy is just cool!

     The tragic nature of the werewolf make them equal parts terrifying and sympathetic. You find yourself rooting for the werewolf to survive, and for the humans they hunt to get away.  Well,  unless the true villain is being hunted,  then I say “Dinnertime!!!!”
     What is everyone’s favorite werewolf story/film/TV series?  Have any of you that write used werewolves in your story?

Steampunk and Monsters Part 2: Vampires

     So, I have made some good progress on my “short” story. As of yesterday, I have surpassed the 15,000 word marker. I suppose at this point, it is no longer a short story, but I still view my baby as a little page turner. Seriously though, for something that started as an image in my head that I wanted to get down on paper (Or on my computer’s hard drive), it has turned out to be a much bigger story than I originally thought possible. That said, Iam still having a blast telling the story, and seeing what my characters are getting up to.
     I am attempting to add a little bit of the supernatural into this story. Within the context of this story, it seemed to make sense. It was actually the reason that I wrote about zombies in my last post (No, there are no zombies in this story. I feel others have written about that particular brand of supernatural baddie much more effectively than I could ever hope to in my stories). I like the freedom in this setting to  experiment a bit, and try something a little different. 
     I am still deciding on the ‘rules’ of the supernatural in the little world I have created. Just like researching the historical aspects of my alternate reality Victorian Era England. I had some obstacles to overcome to make my world ‘work’. For example, I had to do a little research to learn more about radio communication, seeing as radio communication had not yet been invented in the real world 1860s.  I’ve been doing some research to learn some more about the supernatural beliefs that existed during this same time period. Then, I can exploit them and create some fun supernatural horrors to terrorize my unsuspecting victims – I mean characters.

image

     Another one of the supernatural creatures I have been researching are vampires. Probably just barely edging out zombies in the history of representation in pop culture, vampires are quite possibly my favorite supernatural creatures. I’m not talking about the vampires as romantic heroes or objects of lust (but I have no problem if that is the type of vampire anyone else enjoys), I am talking about the vampires as horrifying monsters. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was my introduction to this type of monster, and from the admittedly too young age of 8, I was hooked.
     Although I have not yet included vampires in my stories, in a steampunk novel, they are an ideal monster. They reflect many of the base instincts and desires that humans have. They are, ironically, an excellent way to hold a mirror up to human society and show us the worst in ourselves.  They have been extensively used in horror, comedy, and romance, that they might be more cliched in the hands of inexperienced authors. In the hands of an expert, however, a new life has been breathed into them.

image

    In Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula series, for example, vampires have taken over society. While they haven’t destroyed the human race, they are definitely in control of the destinies of the masses. humans become vampire groupies, essentially, offering their bodies and their lifeblood to the undead that have suddenly become popular. Newman’s vampires are mostly creatures that fulfill their every selfish desire. There is an air of gluttony about their feeding, their dealings amongst their own kind is often murderous. The few ‘good’ vampires spend most of their time attempting to  distance themselves from their desires. Their need for blood often treated like an addiction. Newman made vampires scary again in his books, allowing them to commit some truly heinous acts both against humankind, and against each other.
     On the other hand, Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series also shows vampires as the monsters they should be. She writes them as beautiful, but their hunger reveals their true, dark nature. Their dark, voracious appetites put those humans that serve under them in constant danger. Carriger’s smart and snarky heroine, Alexia Tarabotti matches wits with the vampire queen in her city, and is good friends with another, despite his monstrous nature, he exists as an outsider within his own kind, much like Alexia.
     Vampires, like zombies, tap into our fear of death. To be sentient and aware of being buried. To be a human attacked and fed upon by a creature that looks like us, talks like us. As humans killed their way to the top of the food chain, they soon found that there were no more monsters out there to kill them. what could be more frightening to a primitive culture than a creature that looked just like your loved ones, but needed to kill humans to slake their thirst for blood.
     While a steampunk vampire wouldn’t look too different from a vampire in any other genre, I could see a whole line of vampire hunting tools that could be inspired by the genre. a quick internet search showed some promising items:

image

The child within me is begging for this for Christmas. The adult me is wondering my parents didn't have a tighter rein on me...

    I can picture a seriees of stories about a group of monster hunters using steampunk-inspired weapons and gear to hunt and kill the bloodthirsty monsters attacking their community.  I’m sure this has been done, probably frequently. But I know that Iwould love to write a story like this at some point in the future.  Perhaps Mademoiselle Durand and her crew run afoul of a group of vampires, Or vampire pirates. Or, more likely, a new set of characters could discover an ancient coven of vampires have recently moved into their quiet little village. It will be up to the local blacksmith, the clockmaker, and a handful of locals to defend the village from the oncoming bloodbath. 
    For the writers out there: If your genre of choice is steampunk, do you include supernatural elements? Do vampires, zombies, or witches play a role in any of your stories? Or do you keep your stories strictly about the alternate history and the fantastic steampunk devices that are a staple of the genre? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Steampunk and Monsters: Zombies

image

The reanimated corpse of a Union soldier advances on a young woman.  She cowers in fear at the well,  a bucket of water lying on its side where she dropped it. She glances around,  looking for an escape route.  She is pinned between the revenant and the well,  with the farmhouse wall to her left,  and a tall fence,  intended to keep the undead out,  to her right.  As the creature approaches,  it’s arms outstretched,  the young woman does the only thing she can think of –  she let’s out an ear-piercing scream…
The paragraph above could be found in any one of hundreds of horror stories available for purchase in your local bookstore or online. The imagery is clear and conveys the terror felt by the young woman,  the hopelessness of her situation. It shows that the very feature that was meant to protect her (the border fence) has her trapped,  and,  quite possibly,  the next meal for the zombie shuffling toward her.
Horror follows a specific set of rules, and in all likelihood the young lady will a. Be eaten,  b.  Turn into a zombie herself,  or c. Be rescued or escape at the last minute. Straight horror offers a small number of outcomes, two of them  bleak.
Supernatural creatures, zombies in particular, have become a staple of the steampunk genre. And somehow,   they usually fit much more believably in the steampunk realities that we get to read,  than they do in straight horror stories. From the strange,  flesh-rot  victims of Cheri Priest’s Clockwork Century series (which I totally need to read again,  FYI) to the creepy steampunk zombie artwork all over the Internet, this particular brand of monster has become a bit cliché in film and television.  But in the steampunk setting,  zombies can,  and often do get a steampunk twist.
image

The young woman in this scenario mat employ the use of a piece of steampunk technology,  such as a tiny, high powered pistol, or flame thrower that will destroy the zombie.  An airship arrives on the scene,  dropping a ladder for the young lady to climb.  As the ship flies high above the fenced in outpost, the young lady thanks the dashing young pilot and they fly off toward a new adventure.
     Perhaps your zombie isn’t fully reanimated,  and is simply a shell to some sophisticated clockwork device; or maybe there is a plague that isn’t outright killing people and turning them,  but instead,  the plague causes necrosis, increased strength,  and eventually rage filled attacks on others,  before an eventual horrifying death; or maybe,  there is the use of more folklore-accurate zombies in your story (cue the research potion of my post) :
Once upon a time, a zombie was a part of Haitian folklore. Fear was struck into the hearts of the public at the notion that a bokor, or practitioner of Vodou, would turn their deceased loved ones into zombies. These zombies were not of the flesh eating variety,  rather,  according to the folklore, they were supposedly used as personal slaves to the bokor. They existed somewhere between life and death,  with no free will.  Death was the only release.
Earlier than this,  the ancient people’s around the world told tales of the dead Rising from their graves and feasting upon the flesh of the living. The causes were invariably magical in nature. The person may have been punished by a powerful magician,  or committed evil acts in life.  Ultimately,  they would die,  only to rise from the dead and carry out gory rampages.
The twentieth century saw a decline in humanity’s belief in magic,  so the true belief in zombies dissipated. The Cold War and ensuing nuclear arms race led to the fear that radiation could lead to horrible transformations.  Thus came a series of giant monster movies, and eventually, with George
A.  Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. The modern concept of the zombie was introduced.  Gone were the days of cursed souls,  instead radiation and contaminated waste acted as catalysts for the rise of the flesh eating menace. These new zombies showed how modern technologies changed us as people.  We would appear as monsters to our ancestors from thousands of years ago.  These zombies have become the standard: World War Z and The Walking Dead have become the modern face of zombies,  for better or worse. For the writers out there: Do you write zombies into your stories?  If so,  what type of zombie are they?

Writing About What You (Don’t) Know

    
     Write what you know. The cliché every budding author hears. Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, at some point some helpful individual will share this pearl of wisdom with you, thinking it will somehow make you a better writer. Some defend this cliché by saying it doesn’t mean to just fictionalize your life, but to write about the emotions, the atmosphere, or mood you have personally experienced.

image

     Rubbish. For inexperienced writers, this can be a bit of helpful advice to get the creativity flowing. But it soon too easily becomes a crutch. Writing characters and transposing your thoughts and feelings onto them is lazy writing; and worse, your writing will often not read true. If you want to have believable, relatable characters, obeying this “rule”
     Strive to write what you don’t know. Write from perspectives that differ from your own. Staying within the safe cocoon of what you know may make you feel comfortable, but if you want to become known as a writer, this will not likely help you get noticed. “But how do I write what I don’t know?” One might ask. The idea of writing from the perspective of someone whose emotions and life experiences have differed from your own is daunting. The solution is simple.
     Go outside your comfort zone. Don’t think about maybe doing it one day, once you have a little more writing experience. Do it now. Talk to people that have different views from your own. Create characters that challenge your viewpoints. Create a pacifist who opposes all acts of aggression. Create a devious liar who is hiding amongst your heroes, plotting to destroy them from within. Then, just as you are really starting to hate the character, give the reader insight into the character’s psyche. Show them why this antagonist is trying to sabotage the heroes. Research for your story. Learn about your topic. If you have a wild west gunslinger in your story, learn how a gun works. Learn what types of firearms were in use during the time period.
     This is one of my longer term goals. I have stayed within my comfort zone for too long. My challenge is to make a likeable villain. I am trying to get inside the head of someone willing to lie, cheat, steal, and kill to achieve their desired goal. It is easy to create an over the top villain. I want to make the character believable, and on some level, a little sympathetic. I’ve been brushing up on my psychology, learning more about the way the mind works. Research is a rough, tedious,and completely necessary part of the writing process.
     So, challenge yourselves. Don’t write cookie-cutter characters who all think, feel, and react in the same way. Make your cowardly confidante, your acrophobic hero. Defy the well meaning nay sayers that think writing what you know will help you be a better writer. Tell the stories you want to tell – but tell them believably.

A Retreat and a Regrouping

image

Sitting in a cabin in the middle of the woods, writing my heart out. I'm loving every minute of it!

We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.

                         – Henry David Thoreau
                            Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

I am on a mini escape from the struggles of my daily existence. Running from one job to the other, attempting to find time to sit down and breathe, much less get any writing done is a difficult reality for me lately.  Things seem to be simultaneously looking up and depressing. The bad: my car was totaled in an accident two weeks ago. I’m fine and the car wasn’t in too bad shape, but the cost versus value if the car made it clear to the insurance adjuster that it wasn’t worth trying to fix. So now I am on the hunt for anothwritten

The good: I am taking a few days to regroup and think about some of the changes in my life. I have two challenging jobs. One I love, the other is not too bad. There is the possibility of upward movement in the job I love. That could mean fewer hours for the other job. That would lead to more free time for writing, the job for which I have passion.

A lot of things happening now, some of which have been a cause for anxiety. But overall, I’m feeling a little better. I’m spending the weekend in New Hampshire in a quiet little cabin. I have some wonderful ideas (I think) for both works in progress, as well as some new project ideas. With a little refinement, I think I might have a couple of enjoyable stories on my hands.

My novella, Mademoiselle Durand and the Dead Man’s Map isn’t as close to being finished as I had thought. My characters keep surprising me. I am trying not to do too much revising as I write, but I am guilty of doing a little bit. But I am trying not to do too much. I wanted to create a little more of an adversarial feeling between Dette and her new foe, Captain Vernon. I want for it to make sense for her to decide to do something potentially illegal to help her crew.

I’ve already written 1000 words today, and am looking forward to at least another thousand or more words before we head back home. Back to reality. Yuck.  Until then, I fully intend to enjoy myself. And write.