Dog Days of Summer

This was a busy week. My writer’s existence was quite at odds with my day job existence. For one of my jobs, we had a major update that was going to go through on our system At noon today. So I had to get about six days worth of work done in about four and a half days. I managed to finish up with about an hour to spare, so I had a free afternoon. I thought I might find a nice shady spot and spend some time writing on my laptop. I went outside, and immediately said to myself, “No, not happening.” We were well into 90+ degree weather today, and my muse was apparently burned to a crisp on the pavement.

Instead, I opted to find a quiet, air-conditioned environment to spend some quality writing time. Writing time, quality or not, has lately been scarce in my life. Summer always seems to throw a bunch at me at once. But I won’t complain. I know that I am lucky to have steady work. It’s work that I enjoy, to boot. And if there are a couple of weeks here and there where writing time is scarce, then I will make do with what time I do have. and today I was able to get in about an hour and a half before I had to punch in for job number two.

Although I haven’t had much time to write, I am still trying to maintain some level of creativity and entertainment in my life. I spent the majority of the last rainy weekend reading, writing, and binge-watching Stranger Things on Netflix. I think I may have a new favorite show. I may even do a review in a couple of weeks. I definitely need to sit down and watch it again before I attempt that, though.

My reading list has been woefully neglected since my vacation. I finished reading A Game of Thrones, which I enjoyed quite a bit.I then learned, while looking at my recommendations, that Cherie Priest’s Chapelwood the sequel to Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches  has come out. I loved that story, so I will be purchasing and reading the new book as soon as I can. But I think I may need to reread the first book, just so that I can be fully prepared.

And, of course, I’m back into my writing. After hitting a few walls, realizing that a few of my plotlines just do not work, I am finally in a place where things are back on track. Dette and the crew of the Morning Star are back on their adventurous, peril-filled track, A long-dead Sci-Fi story is back, reshaped, and less exposition-angsty, and I’m working on an outline for another story. I must be inspired, because I abhor outlines. I generally find it too difficult to stick to the outline once I begin writing. My characters do not like to listen once I’ve begun the writing process. It is a battle to not let them completely take over the story.  Of course, there is always the chance that the exact same thing will happen with this story. I am the worst at reining my characters in. But that is ok. they usually do a better job at advancing the plot than I do, anyway.

 

 

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Steampunk and Monsters Part 2: Vampires

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Maplecroft the Borden dispatches

Today I thought I’d try my hand at a review. As a near constant reader, I tear through books pretty quickly. The downside is that I don’t always give myself the opportunity to leave a review for the author. As a writer myself, I know how frustrating it can be to not receive a review on your work.  I’m hoping that this blog can help me to improve on that.  So my first review on this site is going to be for Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches by Cherie Priest.

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Ok, so I’m going to preface this review with an apology. I love to read, however, my reading addiction has resulted in a to be read list that is miles long. Due to the sheer size of my reading list, a number of books have yet to be touched. Up until recently, this book was on that list. This book ended up on my to be read list for two very important reasons: first, Cherie Priest is an awesome writer; second I find the history of the Borden case to be fascinating. So to combine the two elements, I was going to end up either elated, or highly disappointed.

Luckily I was elated. Cherie Priest has been able to capture the location and time of the crimes, mix in some Lovecraftian elements, and create a dark and foreboding atmosphere.  I may face some backlash for saying this, but i was pleasantly surprised to learn that Ms. Priest is better at the lovecraftian elements than the master himself.

The people of Fall River are under attack by a mysterious force. Some are drawn to the sea, watching and listening. Those affected begin to change. We witness this change through the eyes of several characters. First and foremost, we see through the eyes of Lizzie Borden herself. We see that she did use the axe to end the lives of her father and stepmother. But we also learn why.

The story is made up of first person accounts from Lizzie, her sister Emma, and the town doctor. Added into this are a number of ties to the works of Lovecraft – including Miskatonic University.

The sense of dread permeates the pages of this story. The residents of Fall River are becoming aware that something is not quite right in their town, but there is a sense of futility to solving the strange mystery at the heart of the terrifying transformations.

If you like a horror story with strong female leads, Maplecroft is an excellent choice.