The Enchanted City Preview

Tomorrow I will be attending an event that I’m VERY excited for: The Enchanted City III: A Brave New World. The Enchanted City is the annual steampunk festival in Troy, NY. Troy, being a city that was booming during the Victorian Era and has recently been going through a revival, is the perfect backdrop for this event.

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I’ll start the day off at Market Block Books, located near the Chamberlain’s Inventors’ Challenge, for a signing event for my novel, Grigory’s Gadget, from 11am to 1pm. During and after my signing, there will be a plethora of activities happening elsewhere in the Enchanted City! Check out the jam-packed schedule below:

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There’s something for everyone at this event! I’m particularly excited about the races, costume contests, cook-off, and the myriad of musical performances! Not to mention the vendors…alright, I admit, I’m excited for everything!

If you’re in the Capital District, I highly recommend you check out this awesome festival.

Meet the Characters: Nikolai Polzin

(Image source: Nappturality)

For this series, I’m going to delve into the characters of Grigory’s Gadget in the style of those fun/silly surveys that pop-up on social media from time-to-time. I’ll also include name pronunciation, because I know a lot of people have been asking about that! (That being said, you can pronounce the names of my characters however you like, I’ll just be listing the “official” pronunciation) This post will be about Nikolai Polzin.

WARNING: Mild spoilers for Grigory’s Gadget contained in this post!

Name: Nikolai Polzin (NEE-koh-LIE POHL-zihn)

Name Meaning: Nikolai – Russian form of Nicholas, meaning “victory of the people”; Polzin – occupational name designating a merchant who engaged in transactions for profit in Russia

Age: early 20s

Physical Appearance: Dark skin, long dreads, deep brown eyes, muscular

Hometown: Lodninsk, Morozhia (LOHD-ninsk, moh-ROHZH-ya)

Family: Mother died from a plague that swept through Lodninsk; father’s death is unexplained

Relationship Status: single

Education: studying archaeology

Religion: None

Greatest Strengths: Intensely loyal to his friends; sharp-witted and an analytical thinker

Greatest Weaknesses: Cynical to a fault; has a quick temper

Favorite Color: Orange

Hobbies: playing card games like Durak; considers archaeology a hobby/passion

Biggest Goal in Life: Go on an adventure, inspired by tales of ancient cities and artifacts

Book Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I finished reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman a couple weeks ago, and I’m posting this delayed review because I needed time to process!

Let me back up, and, oh yeah, SPOILER WARNING!

American Gods follows the story of Shadow, a convict who was just released from prison only to discover his wife died in a car accident while cheating on him with his friend. As if that wasn’t enough to handle, a certain ancient god inserts himself into Shadow’s life and brings him along for an adventure of epic weirdness.

This god, Odin from Norse mythology going by the alias Wednesday, brings Shadow to meet other gods and other mythological beings as he tries to rally forces against the new gods: gods of technology and pop culture, etc. He says a war is coming, and the old gods need to fight to survive.

A whole lot of trippy weirdness ensues, including but definitely not limited to the reanimation of Shadow’s wife via magical sun-coin.

Near the climax of the story, Wednesday is killed by the new gods, and Shadow agrees to hold his vigil. In this instance, holding vigil means being tied to a tree while naked for days and days. Shadow, being human (kind of, more on that in just a moment), dies. He travels the underworld/afterlife, and at one point chooses to walk a path that reveals truths about his life. One of these truths: Wednesday is his father. Shadow is a demi-god.

Some more weirdness ensues and Shadow is brought back to life by the goddess Easter. The war has started, Wednesday’s death spurring the old gods into action, and Shadow goes to play his part.

Shadow pieces together that Wednesday’s intentions were not very noble. He and fellow Norse god Loki (known to Shadow as his old prison buddy Low Key – come on, Shadow!) feed on wars fought in his name and chaos, respectively. They set the entire war into motion so that they could become stronger and more powerful, at the expense of the lives of all the other gods, old and new alike.

Those bastards.

Shadow, being a resurrected demi-god and all, alerts the other gods to this plan and effectively stops the war. Odin and Loki’s plan is foiled, and they die.

That is an extremely over-simplified breakdown of the events of this novel! It’s definitely a trip, and if you can keep up with all of the “real” world vs spirit world/otherworld/underworld/etc stuff, it’s a great story. It’s also great if you’re a mythology nerd. Some gods’ identities are spelled out for the reader, but some are not. If you’re a mythology nerd, it’s fun to pick up on which god is which.

One of the main themes of the novel is, of course, the battle between traditions and the old world vs technology and the way of the future. The moral of the story, it seems to me, is that it doesn’t have to be a battle. The old and the new can peacefully coexist.

Overall I really enjoyed the novel, and am beyond excited that it’s going to be a TV series! If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the trailer for that:

Plotting vs. Pantsing

Well, another Camp NaNoWriMo has come and gone. I did a slightly better job this time, but still failed to meet my word count. Rather than feel discouraged, this forced me to step back and analyze what I, and my story, really need right now. The answer: stop pantsing and start plotting.

For those unfamiliar with the terms, “pantsing” refers to a style of writing where the author writes “by the seat of their pants”. That is, they don’t plan what they’re going to write. They just write, and see where the story takes them. This method lends itself well to events like NaNoWriMo, where the core purpose is simply to get words on paper.

The other method of writing is plotting. This method involves planning a story ahead of time by outlining beats and story arcs. This is where stories can get nice and complex. Plotting lends itself to stories that involve a lot of world building, mystery/intrigue, etc.

In my own writing life, I find pantsing to be a lot of fun. It gives a sense of freedom and takes away the pressures of a complicated story. I can set my characters free to get into all sorts of trouble. It’s an exceedingly helpful method to break writers block.

However, when it comes to actually creating a cohesive story, I need to plot. I need to have a sense of where I’m going so that I can reel my characters back in and push them in the right direction. Plotting is what gives my characters their drives and purposes, and it ties together all the foreshadowing, easter eggs, histories, connections…

Especially considering my current project, Serafima’s Stone, runs concurrent to Grigory’s Gadget, I can’t have my characters cutting loose and running rampant. Some events are already set in stone. They’re like fixed points in time a la Doctor Who. I can’t change them, and I certainly can’t ignore them. I need to incorporate them, and the best way I know how is to outline, outline, OUTLINE!

And so, now that July has come to an end, I have opened up my Scrivener file and begun getting those characters in line!