So Many Books, So Little Time

I just returned from a week-long trip to Maine on Sunday. After weeks of 80+ degrees, it was nice to pass the time in the woods by a lake where, at best, the temperature barely broke 65 degrees. It was heaven!  I was even able to get a little writing done. I would have gotten more done, but I made the massive mistake of bringing my Kindle.

I feel bad for her. I’ve downloaded who knows how many hundreds of books and short stories, yet I rarely have time to sit down and do any significant amount of reading. But I decided I would make my way through my “novels I’ve been dying to read, but due to my short attention span, will probably never get to” list.

The first order of business was finishing The Scarlet Letter. It was a bet I made with myself over a year ago. The book, to me at least, is tedious. But I finally made it through. After that, I decided to treat myself with something I’ve wanted to read. After years of waiting, and watching some of the T.V. series, I cracked open (figuratively) the Song of Ice and Fire series. As of This afternoon during my lunch break I am a two-thirds of the way through A Game of Thrones. I was worried, because my last attempt to read epic fantasy was The Wheel of Time novels. That did not go so well. I am pleased to report that I am eagerly anticipating finishing the first book by next week, and shortly thereafter beginning book 2. Alright, GRRM, bring it on, I can take it.  By the way, for the fantasy fans, have you read these books? If so, what are your thoughts?

On the writing front, both of my major projects are humming along…slowly (I know, huge shock, right?). I’ve also been working on couple of short story ideas when I am having trouble, creatively. They are two Sci-Fi shorts, and are wonderful for getting the creative juices flowing. Whether they will ever see the light of day, or be expanded upon, I cannot say, but they let me put some of my crazier ideas down, get them out of my system, so my projects don’t get too silly.

I’ve been playing around a bit with some of the settings in Scrivener, which is my writing platform of choice, and I think I may have it customized nearly to where I like it. While I love a lot of its features, I miss some of the other features I had with my previous writing software, WriteitNow. I have the newest version of WriteitNow (WriteitNow5) in the shopping cart, and have been contemplating making the purchase, just to see what the new version offers, and if it is worth the switch back. I may do a compare/contrast post in the future, should I decide to make the purchase. For those of you that use either/both pieces of software, what are your thoughts?

It has been a long first day back to work, but I figured that while I still had a little energy, I’d put a post up. It has been a little while, and I miss updating the blog. I have another update planned in the next couple of days, so check back soon.

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A Quick Break from Steampunk.

I’ve devoted a lot of time on this blog to my interest in alternate histories and steampunk. But I have other genres that interest me.  I even have pieces of written in those other genres. They are terrible,  and will likely never see the light of day,  but I have written them.

My major interests trend toward science fiction and fantasy,  which is a reason why steampunk appealed to me in the first place. Melding historical and fantastical, and a dash of science… Yes, please. My true magnum opus (if I can ever get the courage to do something more ambitious) is a space opera style story. I’ve got the characters,  the basic storyline,  and a few fun ideas. 

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Science fiction grants a writer the opportunity to literally create new world’s on the page for their readers –  alien world’s filled with creatures and dangers beyond our wildest imaginations. Then, flip the story,  make it personal,  relatable, allowing the reader to see that it doesn’t matter how my heads you have,  whether you are solid or vapor,  or what color your skin is, we all have hopes,  dreams,  fears,  and a will to survive. Plus,  I really love writing and reading about epic space battles.  I can’t help it,  I am basically a 12 year old in a 35 year old body.

In the interest of giving equal time to science fiction,  I thought about some of the things that I have done in my science fiction projects, and the rules I set for myself as a writer.

I try to make any technology in the story relatable to the reader. It’s purpose and use should be plausible,  given the level of technology in the story.  You shouldn’t have a race of primitive cave dwellers that have the ability to travel through space –  or perhaps you can –  as long as you can justify it within the confines of the story in a plausible way. Although, I don’t feel that it is always necessary to go into extreme levels of detail in the story as to the inner workings of a transmat device,  for example.  As in the real world, I imagine the majority of people would use such devices without knowing a great deal about the technology –  just a basic knowledge of how to operate it,  and what the desired outcome of using the device should be. Too much technical detail can bore the reader.

I try to stay consistent with the physics in your story. Is FTL travel a possibility?  Have other means of interstellar travel been invented?  Perhaps travelling through wormholes,  or the implementation of warp drives in your characters’ ships allows the travel between two distant stars. I have opted for the latter technologies in my project,  as I find travelling faster than the speed of light to be too much of a stretch of the imagination.

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With alien species,  I try to keep it diverse.  Sure,  there are lizard-like species in my story, grays, and even a small squirrel-like species,  adept at crawling through ductwork and repairing ships.  But all of those species are fairly humanoid; two arms,  two legs,  a head,  eyes, nose,  and mouth.  I have tried to add some newer elements.  I have a race of living electrical current., which has no physical form,  but can interact with the rest of the universe. I also have several silicon-based life forms I’m toying with. Since these are written works,  I don’t have to worry about special effects.  So the more out there,  the better.

In all seriousness,  I try to make them relatable. Fear of death unites us all. Working against a common enemy is another great uniter. However,  at the end of the day I try to do what all authors do: show the readers that despite our differences,  we have much in common.

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.

World Building – Rules Part 2: Characters You Love to Hate, or Hate to Love?

I’m glancing back and forth between this post, and my WIP. It is the long, long, LONG in process sequel to Mademoiselle Durand and the Pirates. Just when I think I’m making progress, something inevitably gets in my way, and I set my writing down for far too long. Pfft. No more. Well, at least until the next crisis comes up.

I am reacquainting myself with the world I have created. The rules of how the technology works seems to be firm in my mind. The introduction of some paranormal, or magical elements seems to be developing nicely (although I think some more research on traditional magical beliefs of the time may still be in order. I want there to be at least a minimum amount of believability to exist. So now, I am examining my characters. Are they likeable? Are they horrible, easily hated? Are they even interesting?

There are some benefits as well as some drawbacks to stepping away from a writing project for a little while. It always makes me see what I have written in a slightly different way. I can sit here and say, “I really like that line,” or (which is more often the case) “Good lord, what were you thinking, Jason?” I seem to be saying that to myself quite a bit with this story.

The first story in this series was short. about 8,000 words or so. This story will be a tad longer. So far I am at a little over 16,000 words. There was not a lot of time to develop characters too much. So everyone in the story became a sort of archetype. Mercier was the wise older mentor; Bertrand was the naive young protegé; Drayton was the evil pirate; and Dette turned out to be a little more ‘Mary Sue’ than I would have liked.

I have a difficult time with characters. I either make them too good, and there is never any question as to whether they will succeed, or I make them too unlikable, so you actively want them to meet their maker. But, with the length of Mademoiselle Durand and the Pirates, that didn’t seem like too big of a problem. The shorter the story is, it seems to make more sense to distill the characters into certain archetypal roles.

When I came up with the idea for Mademoiselle Durand and the Dead Man’s Map, I knew that it would be a longer story. Knowing this, I set out to flesh out the characters that I had written about in the first story, and to expand the cast, at least a little bit, so that there would be more going on in the story.

My rules for my characters in longer projects are simple, but help me stay away from creating characters that I cannot stand:

  1. No perfection is allowed – I bent that rule beyond recognition in the first story. Dette was a little too ‘good’ for my taste. So I am trying to rectify that within this story, without making her unrecognizable to those who might have read the first story.
  2. Make characters that are unlikable – Now, that doesn’t mean I want a story full of detestable jerks, but even the good guys should have unlikable qualities. Dette, for example, is developing a strong disregard for authority as I go in the new story. So, some of her less ‘ethical’ actions throughout make sense.
  3. Give everyone their moment to shine – I tried to do this in the first story. The third person story telling style gives an author opportunities to explore the world they have created. I do not stick with just one character. I enjoy telling different parts of my stories through different points of view. It feels less stagnant that way.
  4. Expand existing characters – This was both easy and insanely difficult to do. In the first story there were five characters that played a significant role in the story. Two died by the end. I knew immediately that there would be many new characters this time. There were a couple of background characters that get their chance to shine this time around. and one of them is definitely not the most likeable character in the story (See #2).
  5. Every character should serve some sort of purpose – As a reader, this one has always felt like a no-brainer. Why create a character, bring them to life for several pages, and then do nothing more with the character. I have read far too many stories recently where a character is introduced, described in detail, then wanders off the page, never to be seen again through the rest of the book.

So that is my list; the short version, at least. If I don’t follow these rules, then my characters end up being too obnoxious to write for. Aside for a few small factual changes, I think I have avoided creating truly obnoxious characters.

Writers – What are your rules for characters while you are working on your projects? Or do you let your characters develop themselves as you write? I’d love to hear about your processes

World Building – Rules part 1: Magic

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Magic can have a place in many genres. Does it have place in yours?

The pitcher of lemonade hovered in mid-air, rotating Ina a lazy circle a foot above the table. Mademoiselle Bernadette Durand stared,  her eyes wide,  as the woman before her stared placid at the pitcher. If it were not for the light sheen of sweat on her forehead and the tiny circular movement of her index finger,  it would have appeared as though she was staring intently at the proceedings.  But she was not just a bystander.  She was a witch.  And the hovering pitcher was her doing.

She was younger than Dette had expected.  The image of a witch that filled her head was that of an old crone,  bent and twisted with age and corruption,  sitting at a cauldron brewing a vile potion.  But the woman was far from old.

She was no more than 10 years Dette’s senior.  Her long hair was still a lovely honey color, piled high upon her head.  Only a few strands showed signs of gray, only the faintest of lines crinkled the corners of her lips when she gave one of her ready smiles. More than once Dette’s had been tempted to return one of Lady Nathalie’s smiles –  only to remember her mother’s warning; never smile at a witch.  To do so is to invite them to take your immortal soul.

“You must forgive me Mademoiselle Durand,” the witch said, placing a hand to her forehead.  A display of my talents  often leaves me a bit thirsty.” She lifted the pitcher,  this time with her hands,  and poured a large glass of lemonade, taking three large,  and undignified sips. “For any exertion  of magical force,  there is a cost.”

Dette kept her icy blue eyes on the older  woman. ” And what,  Lady Nathalie, is the price you pay? “

Lady Nathalie Bingham smiled, a sad curvature of her lips. ” Only my life, Mademoiselle,” She responded,  “nothing important at all.”

From the outset,  I knew that I wanted to include some more magical elements in my books.  Monsters are a staple of many steampunk stories,  so I figured  could magic.  But like monsters,  magic needs to have an in-universe logic.

Even in stories where anything is possible with magic (such as the Harry Potter series),  there is a logic that was put into place to not only explain and display its possibilities,  but also to make clear its limits.

Some stories make magic a type of exertion on the part of the user.  Energy is used each time a spell is cast.  Some magic drains so much that the practitioner must rest after they complete their task. Others are drained of their life force as they use their magic,  rapidly aging as they grow more powerful,  ultimately facing the difficult choice of quitting magic,  or finding some way to prolong their life.

I chose a hybrid option.  The magic in the world of Mademoiselle Durand is draining on the user in both energy and a bit of their life energy. It will not make you older,  but it will make you more vulnerable to physical attack and illness.  Both remedied by more magic,  but equally risky to the well-being of the magic user.

I toyed with the idea of the use of some sort of charmed item,  like a wand or staff,  but with Lady Nathalie in particular,  I felt a physical item would be too distracting for me as the writer. 

I like the idea of setting these rules into place early on.  Lady Nathalie makes it clear that there is a limit to what she can do. She knows that every time she uses her magic,  she loses another piece of herself.  So parlor tricks are not something she enjoys. But to convince poor Dexter,  she chose to make an exception.

For the writers out there,  do you use magic in your writing? If so,  do you have hard and fast rules,  or do you let your characters wield greater control and power.  I’d love to hear what people think.

Happy New Year!

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I want to start by saying Happy New Year to all of you reading this post.  2015 is actually over (although it seems like it only started a few weeks ago).As I sit here writing this, I am reflecting on where the last year has taken me,  and where I want to be as we enter a new year.

I made some decent progress on not one,  but three writing projects.  One is basically done,  the other two are well under way.  My goal is to finish up the first drafts and start editing at least one of them by mid January. Then hoping further changes and edits on the most complete story will be done by February; then I can get it published and focus on marketing,  which I freely admit,  I’m terrible at.

So,  if I was one to make resolutions,  I would say that I want to go from just writing occasionally to getting these projects completed and out there for people to hopefully read. But,  I am not good at staying with my resolutions,  so all I will say is the I am going to keep writing,  but hopefully with more consistency than I managed last year. 

To that end I am going to sit down tonight and write up a writing schedule.  Everything else gets scheduled in my life,  why should writing have to be fit in around my brief breaks in my day?

I have a couple ideas for topics to use for the blog as well.  I think a couple are kind of neat,  so I need to do a little research into the lose topics and put together some ideas.  I’m looking forward to 2016 in a way I haven’t in the past.  There is a lot to do,  and only 364 days left in the year.

For the other writers out there I want to wish you all a productive and successful new year! 

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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.

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 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:

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     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

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

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     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.
    

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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.