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Steampunk! — My Opinion…

Woo… I am about to share my opinion with you. It’s something I don’t do a lot of. When I do, this sort of thing happens, so I tend to keep quiet, since I’m no fan of confrontation (in real life, anyway).

Anyway, I picked up the book Steampunk!, an anthology edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant, as a replacement Christmas gift (my husband did really well: he decided to buy me a Discworld novel for Christmas and, after reading the backs of a few, picked the one he thought I’d most enjoy… he was right, I love “Going Postal”, but I also already own it… ah well, nice try).

I knew I wanted to include a little science in my fantasy novel, and my antagonist began turning into a bit of an inventor. When I learned of the existence of steampunk, I knew I had to learn more – I’m tinkering on the edges, why not dive in and tinker some more?  So, the second I saw this book on the shelf at the book store, I knew it was the one for me.

No, I haven’t finished it already (oh, to have that much time), but I thought I could comment on the stories as I go through.

The book opens with “Some Fortunate Future Day” written by Cassandra Clare. The first thing I will say is that if you are like me – you love the concept of Steampunk but have yet to be immersed in it enough to find your own inspiration along that path – this book, in general, is a good start. There are ideas galore, here. I usually read as a way of chilling before sleep, but this story (and the following) only served to fire up my brain. Sleep was a long time coming after this.

The first couple of paragraphs, after the Shakespeare sonnet, were about what I expected – a nice little opening passage that gave a little back story without overloading us readers (well, it has to, it’s a short story, afterall).

And then I was taken by surprise. The story changed to present-tense and, suddenly, I was no longer in the story. I don’t know why this is so, but it just seems to be the nature of present-tense – or, perhaps it is just me.

The story follows the daughter of a talented inventor after her town has been flattened in an airship attack and her father is most likely dead (she doesn’t know for sure). Her mother died several years earlier. She finds an injured airship pilot in her garden and sets about healing him, with the help of her mechanical doll assistants, in the belief that if she does so, he will fall madly in love with her. As the pilot learns about her world, so do we. She has a chef-robot, which now only makes soup, a gardening robot, and, of course, the robotic dolls. Her father also invented a time-travel device, which proves to be of some import to the tale.

On the whole, it’s a pleasant tale, and it opens the door into the Steampunk genre nicely – the possibilities are endless.

I have made a start on “The Last Ride of The Glory Girls” by Libba Bray, and am liking that in this case the genius tinkerer is a girl (so far, she doesn’t seem to be an inventor, but that’s OK). The language of the entire piece is written to reflect how the main character speaks and thinks. It is a little jolting at first, but you settle into it. I’m not sure of the exact influence of the language, perhaps lower-class, industrial London? e.g. “were” instead of “was” (“It were …” and “give” instead of “gave” (“He give me a choice …”). I find it interesting, since, in another setting, it could easily be the other way around – “was” when “were ” should have been used “We was just …” – which just happens to be the setting I have chosen for my own tale.

“Last Ride” is first-person past-tense. I’m more comfortable with that style, so it’s going down a bit of a treat. It has fewer crazy inventions than the first tale, so far, but that just goes to illustrate the scope of this genre (or, dare I say “sub-genre”, since I can see it being an extra label to attach to fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, etc tales … although, there is no doubt it could soon fill its own section of shelves in a store).

Anyway, so far, so good from me. If you have a passing interest in this genre, a collection of short tales such as this could be just what you need to develop a deeper understanding.

5 Common Writing Hazards

Hey fellow writers, check this out 5 Common Writing Hazards.  Handy stuff.

And now to go completely off topic… thought I’d take the time to share my experience of Boxing Day morning.

I own a miniature horse who, unfortunately, has to live elsewhere. I try to get there as often as possible, it’s just a touch tricky with a small non-walking child. Anyhoo, I do insist on keeping up with basic foot care (for everything else, he does live on a property where the property-owners also live, so he survives okay). So, yesterday that was my task – hoof-filing.

Topaz, the other mini I look after for part of my paddock rent, was the easiest to find, so I did his feet & a good grooming first.  He’s older & pretty well behaved, so all was well. To get to Chino (my mini) I had a choice…  I could go back to the closed gate I had come through, followed by another  closed gate.   Or, I could cross the paddock I was in and loop up through the open gate between the paddocks.  All I had to do was cross a wet patch where water from two or three springs flow down the paddock.  I wear boots when I work with the horses, so all good. Open gate won.

& the result?

Spring 1 Deb 0

I headed across the paddock, assessed the wet patch to find the driest-looking part and put my foot down… & down.  Luckily my jeans bunched over the top of my boots, keeping my foot dry, cos I was in it up to a little below my knee. My left foot didn’t go quite as deep, but its boot, too, was well stuck.

First step:  throw all my gear onto some dryish ground.

Step two: Pull left boot free, as it was the closest to somewhat firm ground.  This required gripping the top of the boot with my fingers, since there was no way it was coming with my foot of its own accord.

Step three: With left hand offering some balance on the soft, soaking ground, & right hand under water & pulling boot, I managed to, eventually, pull my foot  (boot still attached!) free & clamber onto dryer ground.


I even managed to keep my temper in check.  I was pretty peeved through the whole process (esp as the property-owner watched the whole process. But there wasn’t anything he could do to help, anyway –  I think it was just embarrassment temper).  My jean leg was soaked through with mud, but so be it. Nothing a washing machine can’t take care of.  But, I did still have four hooves to file, & a disagreeable horse on the other end of them, albeit small.  Ah, such is life.  A couple of scraped knuckles later, (I forgot my gloves the rasp is SHARP)  & a bruise on my thigh from Chino getting away on me once, I returned to motherhood – the land of dirty nappies & food everywhere.  Joy.

Well, if nothing else, I hope this gives someone a chuckle.

OK, you lot, go learn writing stuff…

A starting point…

This is my first drawing on my tablet PC. I think it is an improvement on the original, but I still have work to do.

I did Llew’s eyes a little manga-like before deciding to go a more normal size for Jonas (thanks Ian Somerhalder for being a fab eye/eyebrow-model). I now need to work on Jonas’ -tattoo (it is important to the story) and, of course, his knife- I have less experience drawing inanimate objects, particularly shiny ones…  As for the horses, however… (I spent my entire childhood drawing horses)

J & L

Anyway, I work best with visual cues, so am in the process of setting myself up a highly visual version of my story in LibreOffice. Not that I don’t still love yWriter, but I need stuff just to be there in front of me , so I think a doc making high use of text boxes & pictures will be the ticket for me.

For those wanting the technical details, I drew this in GIMP 2.6 on an Asus Eee slate. The original image was composed in DAZ 3D, just so I could set up the pose for myself (I haven’t done enough people-drawing to be able to draw from my head well).

Summertime @ 45° 56’ S and 170° 12’ E…

… with a baby.

It’s tricky. I’ll tell ya that. At Summer Solstice (~21-22-Dec) it doesn’t get 100% dark. Sure, the sun goes down & the moon comes up (“& long ago somebody left with the cup… ” – sorry, music is never far from my brain), but the sky only gets so far as a dark blue.

BabyJ’s bedtime is 8pm – I think that’s too late for a 1 yr old, but it’s what we’ve managed to settle on, so far. Only, it’s getting tricky to even enforce that. And I get it. I remember being a kid & not getting the fact that it was still light outside & I was in bed. But a post 8pm bedtime followed by a 4.30am wake up. Ah, no. That doesn’t work for me. It’s bad enough that my tired brain is ready to switch off by 8pm, doing me out of some good writing time – assuming there aren’t other distractions, like dishes & washing & baking & those other things that come with keeping a household ticking.  Hence my dull blog posts of late. Creative processes die off in the evenings. I tend to use the few morning moments I get to work on WotW. And, that is coming along quite nicely, thank you. OK, so I haven’t added to its wordcount in a week, but I have been thinking about it, and those thoughts have led to some pretty solid ideas, if I do say so myself. I’m hearing my characters talk again, which is nice. For a while there they’d gone rather quiet. I blame the odd tangent I was taking. They didn’t want to go that way. Ooh, now I’m starting to sound like a crazy writer –  “I just sat back & my characters wrote themselves. No, really.” Honestly, though, there is certainly room for gut instinct in this writing game.

OK. That’s all you’re getting from my tired brain this evening.

Any parents got any hints for bedtime? Or at least some words of encouragement so I don’t feel like the meanest mother in the world for enforcing a bed-time. In all honesty, I think I’d feel better about it if I could say it was strictly in his best interests. But, no, by the time evening rocks around, I am hanging out for child-free time.There. I said it. Turn me in. Lock me up. I crave ‘me’ time.

Read more…Summertime @ 45° 56’ S and 170° 12’ E…

Merry Christmas

Since I am working on my Christmas cards during my son’s morning  sleep today, I thought I might extend my Christmas wishes to anyone who happened by here. So, if you were getting a card from me this year, it might look something like this:

Baby J wishes a Merry Christmas to all.
Baby J wishes a Merry Christmas to all.

It’s pretty tough getting the perfect pose from a one year old, so I thought I was quite lucky getting this one.

Last year was far easier. I had a baby I could place on his back, or tummy, & he would pretty much stay put.

I get the feeling that next year will be a little easier, as I suspect I will have a willing participant. Of course, he could prove me wrong…