A New Year, Another Chance

blue-happy-new-year-2017

2016 has finally come to a close, and I cannot say that I am upset about that. There were some great highs to the year, but there were some unbelievable lows. I look forward to a fresh start for the coming year, and all of the opportunities that may present themselves.

I have decided that this year, I will not be making any resolutions. For me, they do not work. Every year I promise to lose weight, work a little less, spend more time with family and friends, and write more. The unfortunate truth is that I work two jobs, so doing any of the above is difficult. However, in the past, I simply lamented that they were nearly impossible and moved on after a few days. This year I am accepting that they are difficult; but each of them is achievable, if on a smaller scale than I would l like. So, tonight, I write.

Bernadette Durand peered out the window of her mother’s estate. Well, her mother called it her estate. In reality, it was a tiny villa outside of Verona. It was small, housing three small rooms. Those rooms were filled to capacity by Madame Durand and her four children. As the eldest, Bernadette occupied the central room that served as bedroom to both her and her mother, as well as serving as kitchen, dining, and bathing area. Papa had left, long ago, taking any job that he could find. Any money he made was sent directly to Mama.

A hand rested on her shoulder. Bernadette turned her head and smiled at her mother. “Are the boys sleeping?”

“Yes, my sweet. You should be, too.” Mama gave her a stern look, which worked well with her younger brothers. It had once worked on Bernadette as well.  But that was long ago. At ten years old, she had outgrown the childish fears of her mother’s wrath. That was simply because Louise Nicolette Durand was incapable of exhibiting wrath. The best she could muster was mild annoyance. She was a lady, after all. A true lady is never wrathful.

Bernadette sniffed, and returned her attention to the window. “I’m not tired, Mama.”

Madame Durand sighed. “Dette, you are the most difficult of my children. I don’t know why I allow you to misbehave so!”  She gave up any remaining pretense of disciplining her daughter and walked away. Left to herself, Bernadette glanced at the clock ticking away on the mantle.

Mama returned with a chair from the dining table, and sat beside her daughter. “It is a beautiful night.” She looked up, the night sky spread above the tiny villa, a giant purple-black canvas, painted with swirls of cloud, and points of light. The cold of winter had chased much of the traffic in the skies away. She had heard, long ago, that airship crews would freeze to death, if they did not take a southerly route during the winter months. She was certain that couldn’t possibly be true, but the sky was unblemished by  any man-made device.”

“My sweet,” she said, turning her attention to her daughter, “Why are you awake so late this evening?”

Little Dette faced her mother. Her eyes shone brightly, with both tears and wonder. “Mama, can you not know?”

Madame Durand thought. There was something. It was tapping away at the back of her mind. There was something about the evening…but she could not remember what it was. “No, Dette, my sweet. I do not know.”

Bernadette shook her head, her blonde curls bobbing about her face. “Mama, you are so silly. At midnight, it will be the new year!”

Madame Durand threw her head back and laughed. It was a beautiful, and all too rare sound these last several months. There was once a time when Mama laughed freely. Everything changed when they moved to this place, so far from their large home in France.

Mama calmed herself, and said, with a smile, “My goodness. I cannot believe that I forgot the day! Dette, we must do something special for you and your brothers in the morning. It is a special occasion.”

“Oui, Mama,” Dette said, her little face beaming. “We must. The new year is a chance to start fresh.” She crawled into her mother’s lap, much to the surprise of the both of them. Madame Durand overcame her surprise and embraced her daughter.

“And what do you wish for the new year to bring, My sweet?” She kissed the top of her little girl’s head, gazing dreamily out the window.

“I want Papa to come home.”

Madame Durand frowned. Although that was her fondest wish, she knew that what her daughter wished was not possible. Her dear husband was so far away, sailing to locations unknown. She could not promise this to her daughter, no matter how much she wished it.

“Unfortunately, Dette, that is one wish I cannot guarantee. He must travel to find work. It takes him far away from here. It may take him some time to return.”

Her daughter pondered this. She possessed her father’s shrewd mind. Finally, she smiled and said, “I will give him one year to return home. If he does not come home by then, I will go find him!”

Madame Durand laughed for the second time that night. “Oh, my dear girl. I almost believe that you would go and search the entire world, just to find Papa.” Dette looked up at her and scowled. “Dette,” she said, her voice soothing, “Papa will be home as soon as he can. And when he does return, we will have a wonderful party. We will invite all of our friends, and we shall have a grand feast. This past year will be a distant memory; It will be like a bad dream, soon forgotten.”

Dette laid her head against her mother’s bosom. As she drifted off to sleep, she whispered, “One year. If he is not back by then, I am going to search for him.” Madame Durand remembered that moment, her daughter sleeping quietly in her lap, when a year later, her daughter left the villa in the middle of the night, making good on her promise to find her beloved Papa.

Steampunk Gadgets: Enhancements

 

Having spent the better part of the last three years reading, researching, and writing steampunk, I have seen a LOT of interesting steampunk themed gadgets. Everything from steampunk styled computers and USB drives, to ornately designed costumes and props. Many of them have given me some ideas, not just for stories, but for some creative projects, should I ever get some free time to begin pursuing hobbies.

I am focusing on devices that enhance, or replace, body parts. My first attempt at capturing this type of device on paper was with a pirate that had only one eye. The other was replaced by a device that was able to sense movement, and body temperature. The idea at the time was that the technology was still new, and was not without its problems. If someone moved too quickly or too slowly, the eye had trouble registering it. The idea came to me while doing some research online, and coming across several photographs like this:

mechanical-eye

While not strictly Steampunk, photos like this inspired me to give Captain Drayton a dodgy artificial eye.

 

In a traditional historical adventure, my pirate would either wear an eyepatch, or simply allow the world to see his empty eye socket. But in a steampunk, or science fiction adventure, there are so many more options.  I am writing about a character in my WIP that ran afoul of some dangerous men, and lost a hand to them. Rather than accept a life without a hand, she now has an elaborate device that allows her close to full functionality of her old hand. The idea for that was inspired by the numerous costumes incorporating steampunk, or clockwork, prostheses. Depending on how the history of the world you create has developed, there is potential for some exciting replacement body parts for your characters.

steampunk-arm

Just about everyone has seen this photo floating around online. It was one of my inspirations for a character in my newest project.

In another project, elaborate prostheses inspired one of my characters to develop advanced automatons, which then leads to questions about the morality of creating machines that closely resemble humans. Is it right? Do automatons think and feel? If one is destroyed, is it a murder, or destruction of property?

Tying into my last post, photographs can be a great jumping off point when coming up with ideas for writing projects. just putting yourself into the mind of the person in the photo, imagining what they are thinking. Perhaps figuring out the logistics of how the prosthesis functions. Does it operate through the muscular contractions of the remaining portions of the limb? Is it powered via other means, such as clockwork? Or does it require the owner to operate buttons and switches for it to work properly?

With a goal to do more than just create steampunk prosthetics, I wanted to learn more about how they work and what the actual abilities and limitations of the devices are. Below are a couple of the websites I found while researching. Hopefully those interested in the topic will find them as informative as I did.

http://science.howstuffworks.com/prosthetic-limb.htm

https://www.humantechpando.com/how-does-a-prosthetic-leg-work/

Autumn and Catching Up

I left the apartment this morning, and the chill in the air told me that without a doubt, fall has finally arrived. After a sweltering summer, it is nice to finally have that crisp fall air hit me as I go out each morning. Between work and apartment hunting, my late summer and early fall look to be keeping me on my toes. As I put my laptop in the back and hustled into the front seat, I sat back and planned my day. I knew that more than anything today, I wanted to get in some solid writing time. First on my agenda is a blog post; then I will get back to Victorian times and deal with a certain captain and her loyal, if not completely law-abiding crew.

I intended to get some blogging done last week, as I spent three days in Rochester and Buffalo New York for the yearly manager’s meeting that my manager sets up. Although we were in meetings all day, my evenings were free, without my other job. My original goal was to post a bit each evening after the day’s work was done. Well, that did not pan out. I was so exhausted when I got back to my hotel room that I promptly passed out. So three days, and no new blog posts.

That said, I was able to sit down and do a little work on my various projects when there was some downtime. I didn’t make a ton of progress during that time, but I had a few ideas, and was able to get them down on paper, and into my computer before they flew completely out of my head. Thankfully.

The ongoing theme in my life is trying to complete that which I have started. To that end, I have branched out a little bit. I gave myself a little birthday present in the form of the iOS version of Scrivener, which is now downloaded onto my iPad. Between that and my sorely underused Dropbox account, I am now completely mobile with my writing!  I played around with it a little bit over the course of those three days, and after a little bit of a learning curve, I think I have the syncing down pat.

This last weekend I was able to close out three chapters that have been bugging me on a couple of my projects. I am now just past the half-way point in Mademoiselle Durand and the Dead Man’s Map. While I enjoy the project, it has been causing me grief since I first typed the sentence “The falcon circled the mast of the Morning Star, keeping a watchful eye on the deck below.” I also spent some time working on my untitled science fiction project. That one is fun to write, but I am having a few issues getting my characters to where they need to be for the climax of the story.

So now I leave you, readers, so that I may continue with my creative writing pursuits. Until next time!

 

My WIP – Who’s Who Part 2: New Faces

Age of Brass and Steam

When you write a short story, you occasionally find yourself with too much plot or too many characters. You are left with two options:  Either you expand the story so you can include the plot or characters, or you cut those elements out entirely.  As I was reaching the finish line for my first draft of Mademoiselle Durand and the Pirates, I opted to cut out some of the extra plot at the end of the story, as it would have made my short story much longer. The spot where I ended the story felt more natural, so I cut the extra out, and pasted it into my “ideas” document, for possible use at a later date. As a result, a plot idea and a couple of characters were left to sit in obscurity until I brought them back.

For Mademoiselle Durand and the Dead Man’s Map, I…

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Progress, at Last

Moving my story-specific posts here.

Age of Brass and Steam

Spring is here, the weather is nice…r, and inside the vast desert that is my mind, a tiny stream of creativity has just broken the surface. I have been dealing with a case of writer’s block of late, and only within the last couple of days have I been able to get some words on paper in one of my WIP.

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Outlining seems to be the key for me. Over the last week I have spent a massive amount of time working on Mademoiselle Durand and the Dead Man’s Map, from reading through what I’ve already written, outlining the story from the beginning, and now writing my way through the rest of the story. I’ve added about 3,000 words to the story,as well as trimmed some of the fat, so to speak. All told, I am now at almost 18,000 words, and I think I’m just about at the…

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Humour and the Steampunk Genre

I have always felt that humor (or humour, for my European readers) is important in fiction. Even the most serious stories have traces of levity. No humor at all equals a long, arduous read.

Cogpunk Steamscribe

Grim men with rocking horse. Horsing Around

For some unknown reason, we tend to look back at the Victorians and consider them rather grim. I put this attitude down to the black & white photographs from the era. Even the brightest colours are reduced to dreary shades of dust and charcoal in B&W photography, and the unsmiling expressions were an artefact of the length of exposure time to obtain a clear photo. As an example, study the image above. The uniforms of the men could be scarlet for all we know, and the presence of the ‘smoking’ hobbyhorse, balancing baby doll, and toy cannon suggests this image was taken in jest. I would love to know the full story behind this image; I suspect this might be a bachelor party.

Logical progression from 'headless' photographsPhotoshop in the Victorian era

Most humour is ephemeral. But there are several strong suggestions that the Victorians enjoyed a good laugh: the success of Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, and Gilbert & Sullivan; the…

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Revisiting My Alternate Histories

Apologies must be made. It has been far too long since my last post. But as with this time of year, too much was happening all at once. Life and work got in the way, and my writing took a back seat, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask).

But now it appears that work has calmed down, we are fully staffed for now, and I received a little promotion for the effort. Now that the holliday season is behind us, i can get back to doing what I love – writing.

I have taken the last couple of days to go through my myriad of works in progress to look at them with a fresh eye. It feels like I’m reading another person’s work. From a distance of a month’s time, I can safely say, past me is a hack.

Perhaps the sentiment is a bit strong. I am my own harshest critic (as far as I know. no one has personally informed me that my writing sucks, so I have that going for me). But one thing I did notice, was that despite my first draft mistakes – telling rather than showing, a little too much purple prose – there are elements in each of my WIPs that I do enjoy.

I have been trying to create a world that feels real in each of my stories. I suppose that is one of the reasons that I have only one finished project out there for people to read. It was a short story, and a challenge to myself to finish something. The result is okay, but I know that I can do better. So, for each of my projects, I am trying to improve upon the mistakes I made with my first project to make it onto Amazon.

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I’m starting, once again with the worlds in each story. Revisiting the worlds in each of my projects was eye opening. I was able to see things a little differently now, than when I was first putting the words to the page. For example, in my sequel to Mademoiselle Durand and the Pirates, I have begun to ask myself how the history I created for my world resulted in the settings for my stories. Did the Industrial Revolution lead in a different direction because the United States did not have a civil war, never becoming a major world power; Europe and the United States embrace steam power, while the Confederacy tries finding its way with the power of oil (yet cannot seem to harness the power in a meaningful way).

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In my sci-fi story, years in the making, the galaxy that serves as the setting is in a state of turmoil. An aging, failing hegemony slowly collapses in on itself as its sheer size makes it impossible to sustain, economically. Several smaller powers see it as an opportunity to overthrow the outmoded government. But is it even possible to overthrow a regime that massive, regardless of bloat, if they have soldiers everywhere? And what about the little people? Wage earners, day laborers; the average citizen with no real money or power to speak of. Can a nobody (or nobodies) living like that rise to become a hero in a space opera? Well, yes, I suppose they could. It is a space opera, so there are certain expectations to be met.

In each situation, the world building has begun weighing on my mind. I started each of these stories as a novice, never really believing that I would ever let anyone read my work. So, now, I am going back and trying to fill in the blanks a little  bit, in the hopes that I can make the realities I’m creating make sense to those reading.

As far as my newest project, I have covered that before I ever even put word to paper…or, fingers to keyboard. This was my NaNoWriMo project for my first participation. A nice little dieselpunk world where the American Revolution resulted in a U.S. monarchy. King George I, leading through to the setting of my first story, which takes place in the mid 1920s. I spent some time on the history and back story for this project, and I feel a lot more at ease with this one, than with my other projects.

I am moving closer to a place of peace with each of my WIPs.  By early 2016, I think most of my worries will be addressed. Then of course, will come the editing. And the rewrites. And the obsessive rereads of those rewrites. And then some day, before I die, I will publish another story. I hope.

NaNoWriMo update: End of Week 1/Start of Week 2; Also, More General Updates

First post on my blog devoted specifically to my writing for the Age of Brass and Steam.

Age of Brass and Steam

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So, the first week of National Novel Writing month is complete, and we are beginning week 2. I am pleased with my initial effort. Week one I finished at 10,631 words, with a little more than that as a possible add-in, should I decide to follow that particular plot thread. Either way, I am excited, the challenge to write the 50,000 word minimum has kept me motivated to keep going.
My usual when writing is to write a few pages, then obsess over them, rewriting and revising unitl I am pleased enough to move on. Knowing that there is a deadline to reach the required word count has left me no choice but to soldier on. But, is this truly a good thing? or does the push to hit a word count goal lead to a substandard end product?
For me, the answer is no, it isn’t going to be…

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