Sunday Musings: Outlining, Productivity

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Planning or pulling it out of my...

Scenario: I am sitting at my desk at work,  and the system has crashed. I am contemplating all of the things I could be doing. There are still taxes to be done (I know,  I am awful.  But it’s hard to get anything done when you work two jobs). I could be putting my hours and expenses together for my other job, but I left that information at home. Or I could be sitting at home,  staring at my computer monitor –  or as I like to call it,  writing.

So I am sitting here with my small notebook,  scribbling down ideas for my WIP.  I am not much of an outline,  but I am resigning myself to the reality of my situation.  I am dangerously close to writing myself into a corner. So now I am carefully going through the entire plot and actually outlining and plotting!  And I am finding that I don’t totally hate it.

I have been an improviser when it comes to writing. Most of the time my best laid plans get thrown to the curb the second I start writing.  My characters have this nasty habit of taking on a life of their own.  I want Character A to keep watch while Character B breaks into the villain’s office to hack into his Computer. Character A decides she doesn’t want to miss out on the action,  so now no one is keeping with,  and both protagonists are investigating.

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I am no outlining master

However,  there are merits to a basic outline.  Which is where I am now. Not specific actions,  but ideas for goals for each scene, and of course,  the end goal for the entire story.  It is allowing my characters the freedom to do as they please,  as long as they follow the bread crumbs to the final outcome that I want to occur. Because sometimes you have to show your characters who is the boss. Who knows, maybe they’ll do what I want this time.

I’m also revisiting ways to remain productive and motivated.  I was researching some apps to help me set,  and keep writing goals. There seem to be a lot out there,  and I am at a bit of a loss as to which ones are any good. I have downloaded a couple,  but none of them have really been too helpful.  For the writers out there,  do you use any software for keeping track of your Writing goals (writing time, word count goals,  etc.)? Which ones do you recommend?

My final thought of the day is, thank God I brought my Kindle today.  At least I can catch up on my backlog of reading. Maybe I can finish something and write up a review. That should make the day a little more interesting.

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Steampunk Weapons

     One of the many things that sets the steampunk genre apart from straight Victorian novels or from the average Science Fiction novel is the creativity required to place advanced technologies in the hands of people who historically had limited access to anything more advanced than a shotgun.
     Science Fiction allows for advancements based on Technology we have, and is usually set far enough in the future that one does not need to suspend too much disbelief in order to appreciate the technologies that are available.
with Steampunk, a little more effort may be required. You need a pistol for your hero to protect himself from an attacker? No problem, pistols and revolvers were available in the Victorian age? You need a laser blaster for your pirate to protect cut down a group of automatons? it is 1824? No problem, you just need to invent it, and make it feel believable within the reality you are creating.

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This, and a few other photos of steampunk pistols inspired me to create Zeus, an energy weapon used by one of the main characters in my Adventures of Mademoiselle Durand series.

     That is the beauty of the genre – you can make nearly anything you want happen in your story. The only thing that is truly necessary is to justify the existence of each outlandish item.
     I have been a bit obsessed with the weapons as of late, mostly because in Mademoiselle Durand and the Pirates, the main characters are under attack throughout the story, so weapons are necessary. Given the time period, pistols are more prevalent than other weapons, but I must admit I like swordplay as well.   

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   A combination gun/sword for fighting close range or from afar. An interesting idea that I’ve seen mentioned in a few different works.

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     A dagger that could easily be concealed, and looks sufficiently “steampunk”.

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     This combination axe/pistol is a new one for me. I actually like the design. I could easily see a wood cutter fighting off hordes of the undead with one of these. Or, your character can chop down a tree AND participate in a shootout!
     A common theme to many of the steampunk weapons you can see online is combining long range and close range into one item that could, in theory be equally efficient in both situations. While I question how effective they would be in a real fighting scenario, the creators all get an A for effort. Especially the creator of the Axegun.
     Not being much of a physical builder, I find these pieces to be quite inspiring. I wish I had the physical coordination to make some items like these. But I can admire them, and use them as inspiration for weapons in my stories.
     Sometimes, the weapons are more realistic, simply invented in the reality you are creating before they were actually invented in reality. Steampunk machine guns for the war effort, in an American Civil War entering its tenth year would be a bit fantastical, but entirely possible in an arms race to end a war that has torn a country apart. Or maybe a rocket launcher to bring those pesky Union airships out of the sky.

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     So, writers, do you have any fantastic weapons (Steampunk or not), that you like to include in your stories? I’m attempting to become more knowledgeable on the subject, myself. My search history must look awfully strange to the outsider. But, that is the life of a writer.

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.

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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.

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     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.

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Freshly Risen

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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.”

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     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.

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     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.

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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.

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     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.

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    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:

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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

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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.
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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.

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     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.

Fantastic Devices to Improve Your Steampunk Reality Part 4: Eye Enhancers

      I’ve been in the zone lately, while writing my current WIPs. As I have, I began to think about the fact I haven’t recently written about any “Steampunk” technology lately. Today I remedy that a bit.

                              Goggles

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A tinkerer's best friend.

     “Goggles, those are Steampunk, right?” I assume that more experienced authors and aficionados of the Steampunk genre are asked this type of question often, especially when speaking with new fans if the genre. I found myself asking this type of question as I first attempted to understand the genre.
     But, if you take a step back, take a deep breath, and actually think about it, the question is silly. With the right spin, anything can be Steampunk if you write it that way. It is like asking a horror writer, “is an umbrella horror?” It is if your antagonist is using it to murder people.
     Goggles can be Steampunk. They could be the simple eyepieces to protect an Airship eyes from the whipping winds high in the sky; perhaps they are intricate devices with
Magnifying capabilities. Perhaps an eccentric inventor uses this type of eyewear to better see the tiny parts of their newest Clockwork masterpiece.

     Beyond goggles, there are other pieces of technology that can be used within a Steampunk tale.

                            The Spyglass

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A sailor's best friend.

     The telescope, or spyglass can be indispensable whether your characters sail the high seas, or the friendly skies. Your airship captain stands on the deck of their ship, spyglass trained on the mysterious, foreboding rock formation on the horizon. Will it be a safe place to land while they hide from the Pirates chasing them? Or will there be dangers even more perilous than the buccaneers in pursuit?
     One of my favorite stories when I was first reading full length novels, was Treasure Island. For that reason alone, I suppose I have a soft spot for anything related to high seas adventure. Heck, I even watched Pirates of the Caribbean at least a couple dozen times (only the first one. The sequels make my dignity hurt).
     A versatile tool in bit reality and in fiction, the spyglass or telescope could also be used to observe the skies. Galileo made these tools famous in his exploration of the heavens, learning the secrets of the universe. Perhaps your hero discovers a fleet of ships coming from outer space, and must warn a disbelieving public of an impending invasion.
     In my own WIP, a spyglass is used a few times, while my protagonist scans the horizon, wary of the possibility of an attack.

                            Microscopes

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A scientist's best friend.

     Doctors and scientists can be the heroic protagonists in your dark, dystopian world. Your plucky biologist can discover that the cause of the recent rash of vampirism cases is a microbe attacking the red blood cells.
     A genius medical student discovers a new element while examining soil samples from the construction site of the newest air field. Using her trusty microscope she examines its structure, and sees how it reacts with air and water. It releases incredible amounts of energy when exposed to specific amounts of each. Her discovery introduces radiation into the age of steam.
     As I sit here, it is becoming increasingly apparent that as long as you can justify its existence within the reality of your Steampunk novel, you can make nearly anything Steampunk. Even a toaster.

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Never doubt the steampunk toaster. Never.

The Lady with the Lamp: Florence Nightingale

  

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Florence Nightingale, the lady with the lamp.

As a follow-up to my last post, I thought about highlighting individual 19th century women who made important contributions to society. There are many women who fit this description in the 19th century, and over time I plan to highlight as many as I can. Today I begin with my first subject.
   Picture yourself in the 19th century. You are a member of a family with means. Money will not be an issue in your life, you will have people in your life to take care of your needs, and you have the means to make any whim a reality. Imagine you wanted to use your means to do something to better your community, in the medical field. Imagine that you have the drive and desire,as well as the ability to achieve your dream.
     Now imagine you are a young woman. Even at the best of times, achieving the dream of working in any type of profession would be frowned upon by hour family. As a female in the 19th century the expectation is that you will marry and have children. Working, especially in a profession where you will be facing illness and death is unthinkable.
     For most women of the time, this was their reality, and they had no choice but to accept it. However, there was a small number of women that were not going to stand for that. The fight for equality between the sexes began with a small number of women that felt they should be able to determine how to spend their lives. Florence Nightingale is arguably one of the most recognizable names.
     Her determination was at odds with her family’s more traditional expectations for their daughter. She turned down a life of courting and marriage to pursue a career in medicine. As a nurse, she was able to directly affect the lives of others.
     In a time when medical procedures were almost as likely to kill you as cure you, due to infection, Florence set out to make changes. Hygiene is key to preventing infection. Knowing this, Florence worked to maintain a clean hospital. Her work ethic impressed her superiors enough to promote her.
    The outbreak of the Crimean War brought Florence to the gates of hell on earth. With thousands of British soldiers fighting, the number injured increased at an alarming rate. Florence and a contingent of nurses under her command arrived on the Crimean battlefront to help the injured heal.
     The state of the hospital when she arrived was deplorable. Vermin infested the hospital, many of the wounded were lying in their own filth. Infections ran rampant. The process was gruelling, but Florence and her crew cleaned the hospital, and administered proper care to the wounded.
     Though her initial attempts to offer aid were not entirely successful (The hospital had been built over a sewer, contaminating the water used each day).  Once the British government intervened and did a massive cleanup, the death toll dropped significantly.
     Following her participation in the was effort, Florence turned her attention to applying what she learned during her time in the war. With the discovery that bacteria and viruses were the cause of disease, her belief in hospital cleanliness was vindicated.
     The remainder of her life postwar was dedicated to improving the state of healthcare in England. The Florence Nightingale School of Nursing was founded. Her legacy lives on, as nurses received training and scientific education. Women were able to receive an education and gain employment as nurses, following in the footsteps of one of the first modern nurses.  These women were among the few that proved women could do much more than be a wife and mother. These first steps toward gender equality paved the way for the fight for women’s rights in the 20th century.

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Florence Nightingale's efforts resulted in well-trained nurses with the ability to administer care to the sick and injured.

If you would like to learn more, check out
this article from the BBC website.

Or this informative article.

The Florence Nightingale Museum Official Website