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!

 

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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.

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.

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?

A Retreat and a Regrouping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

An Announcement

     This year is flying by way too fast. Summer is nearly over; there is a pleasant crispness to the morning air as I leave for now; and best of all, apple cider donuts are once again available for our enjoyment. Some people love their pumpkin spice; I love my apple cider.

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Can anyone resist a delicious donut?

     As we start the cooler fall season, I am once again reminded that I have fallen short of my writing goal. Over the course of this year I have officially:

-Started three stories
-Abandoned two of them
-Revisited an older abandoned project
-Started another new story

     Despite my best efforts, it is only recently that I have reached a point on any of my projects where I feel like I am actively moving forward. I have enough confidence in the progress that I am using this blog post to stage a little cover and title reveal. Without further ado I present:

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     There is still a bit more writing to be done, and of course some editing, so there is no set release date yet. But I will definitely keep up to date here, as well as on my Facebook page. For anyone interested, here is a little bit of info on the plot:

After defeating the Pirate Drayton, Captain Bernadette Durand and her crew are ready to collect their reward and take a well-deserved break. However, a run-in with a stingy member of Her Majesty’s Navy, Dette and her crew are left with little money and even less hope.

A crazy plan from a trusted confidant may just save the crew and Dette from financial ruin – if it doesn’t kill them all first. Can a strange map, broken compass, and a mysterious island-dweller help the crew of The Morning Star find Captain Drayton’s hidden treasure?

    
     I’m excited, and more importantly, motivated to finish this story, edit it, and make it available to everyone as soon as I can. I’m looking forward to getting it out there and learning what people think.
     Now, I’m craving a donut. Maybe three.

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What is everyone's favorite donut?