Indie Author Day Update!

Next Saturday, October 8th, is the inaugural Indie Author Day! During the Inaugural Indie Author Day, libraries from all across North America will host their own local author events with the support of the Indie Author Day team. In addition to these local programs, each library’s indie community will come together for an hour-long digital gathering at 2 pm Eastern featuring Q&A with writers, agents and other industry leaders.

I will be vending at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library Downtown Central Location that day from 10am to 3pm. In addition, I’ll be giving a presentation on the self-publishing process titled “Taking Publishing Into Your Own Hands”!

If you’re in the Buffalo area, come by and say hi! If you’re anywhere else, find out if your local library is holding their own Indie Author Day event! Go forth and support your local library and authors!

Book Review: Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger

Last week, I participated in the #SteampunkReadathon hosted by Whole Latte Books. For this readathon, I chose Gail Carriger’s novella, Poison or Protect.

This novella is a snarky romance following a character from Carriger’s Finishing School series, Preshea Villentia neé Buss. It takes place several years after that series, when Preshea is an adult. She is hired by the Duke of Snodgrove, via their mutual acquaintance Lord Akeldama, to stop his daughter from marrying her current suitor, Mr. Jackson. Preshea, an assassin-for-hire, is cynical about this task, as it doesn’t fit her usual business. When the Duke leaves, Lord Akeldama explains that the Duke’s life is being threatened, and Preshea’s other task is to protect him.

The Duke throws a house party (which apparently, in Victorian times, is something that went on for over a week). En route to his house, Preshea meets Mr. Jackson (aka Jack) along with his friend, Captain Gavin Ruthven. Preshea and Gavin are instantly interested in each other, though they worry they’re on different sides where the Duke’s life is concerned (it turns out, however, they were both hired to protect the Duke).

Lots of witty banter and shenanigans ensue as the romance between Preshea and Gavin unfolds. This is a good time to mention that there are explicit (100% consensual) sex scenes in this novella.

I really enjoyed this novella. I’m not usually one for romance, but this story was filled with enough other plot (an attempt on the Duke’s life, shenanigans involving other guests of the house party) that it kept me interested and gave the romance plot more depth. As always, Carriger’s characters are charming and funny, as well as sincere and relatable. The romance is a very positive one, with an emphasis on mutual respect and consent.

As I mentioned, the story takes place in the same universe as the Finishing School Series (which is the same universe as the Parasol Protectorate, The Custard Protocol, and a few others of Carriger’s stories). I would recommend having read at least one of those before diving into this novella, if only to have prior knowledge to how this supernatural steampunk world works. While they aren’t very prominent in this novella, this world is one in which vampires, werewolves, and ghosts exist in (relative) harmony with humans. The hows and whys of this are better explained in Carriger’s other stories.

Overall, I gave this novella a 4 out of 5.

In Anticipation of Autumn

The first day of autumn is less than a week away!

Yes, I am one of those fall-loving girls, and I have no shame. The summer here in Buffalo, NY was especially brutal this year. We had eight 90+ degree days (it felt like more!) and a strange combination of high humidity and a summer-long drought. It was too gross to be outside unless absolutely necessary, especially since I don’t have a pool. So yes, I am very much looking forward to autumn!

It also just-so-happens that a lot of autumn tropes are also writing and reading tropes. Curling up with a good book, sipping tea, experiencing the existential crisis that results from equating the coming winter with our own looming mortality…

It really gets those creative juices flowing!

Speaking of tea, I’ve created custom-blended Grigory’s Gadget-themed teas at Adagio Teas. Each tea is inspired by a character or place in the story:

All Tea Labels.jpg

Zoya Orlova: Berry Rooibos Tea; Lilia Alkaeva: Masala Chai Tea; Anya Filipova: Yerba Mate Tea; Nikolai Polzin: Gunpowder Green Tea; Demyan Volkov: Almond Oolong Tea; Dream of Mirgorod: Tropical White Tea; Lodninsk: Pu Erh and Chestnut Tea

5% of the sales for each of these blends is donated to Amnesty International. (I don’t receive anything from the sales; I just made them for fun!)

So grab some tea, cuddle up with a book, and enjoy the cooler weather!

Steampunk Readathon

The blog Whole Latte Books is hosting a Steampunk Readathon starting tomorrow (September 10th), which is absolutely amazing!

The Readathon will take place online, using the hashtag #SteampunkReadathon. It begins Sept 10, 2016 at midnight and ends Sept 16, 2016 at 11:59 PM. You can sign up between now and anytime during the readathon here. Read as little or as many books as you want. Read just one and still participate! Books started before the readathon will not count. No cheating! Books must be from the steampunk genre or related genres including dieselpunk, biopunk, and so on. For a full list of related genres see here. Books may be fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, art books, or children’s books.

Whole Latte Books has some great suggestions on their page. Of course, I would highly recommend my own steampunk novel, Grigory’s Gadget (wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more, say no more). If you’ve already read that, here are some of my favorites, as well as books on my own to-read shelf:

  • The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger
  • Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynn Jones
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  • His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
  • The Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest
  • The Yellow Hoods series by Adam Dreece
  • The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy by Jacopo della Quercia

I personally will be reading Gail Carriger’s new novella, Poison or Protect. See you on Twitter!

Music That Influenced My Novel: Grigory’s Gadget

Music has a place in pretty much every aspect of my life. I listen to music in the car, I often listen to music at work, I’m a dancer…even if I’m not actively listening to music, I’m probably singing along to something-or-other in my head. I also frequently experience musical frisson – that rush of chills you get when music gets AWESOME.

So, of course, music has a place in my writing as well.

I touched on this topic a bit back in December, but that was before Grigory’s Gadget was published, so I wanted to revisit it.

The music I listen to while actively writing is often instrumental. If there are words to a song, I’ll just wind up listening to those words instead of my story’s. Usually this music consists of soundtracks. While writing Grigory’s Gadget, I tended to listen to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks, along with a little Lord of the Rings,Game of Thrones, and Lindsey Stirling.

Along the way, I also discovered a new favorite genre of music: electro-swing! This genre takes jazz and swing songs and remixes them. This blend of old and new fits wonderfully with steampunk! My favorite album was Jazz Goes Steampunk! Electro Swing Invasion. It does break my rule about instrumental-only music while writing, but it didn’t seem to be too much of a problem. Now, if we want to be technical, the fact that most of these songs are from the 1930s would suggest they’re more appropriate for dieselpunk, not steampunk. Grigory’s Gadget already blurs those lines, what with all the communist and fascist dystopian undertones, so I still consider it appropriate!

SPOILERS AHEAD! You’ve been warned!

Grigory’s Gadget was also influenced by music when I wasn’t actively writing. Songs I hear on the radio often influence plot or characterization. For example, the song “From Finner” by Of Monsters and Men helped set the tone of the story. The chorus of the song –

We are far, far from home, but we’re so happy;
Far from home, all alone, but we’re so happy

– became a sort of mantra for my characters. The juxtaposition of the forboding sound of the song with the smattering of hopeful lyrics set the tone as well.

The song “Gangway” by Guster influenced Anya’s characterization: she’s energized by being at sea, and quickly took a liking to being a pirate.

If I could make a wish, if I could right a wrong,
If I could plot a twist we wouldn’t be here long,
I’d lean in to each turn, seeking evermotion.
Soon, the walls, the house, the sky starts shaking,
The clouds, the land, the sea,

By far the most influential song I listened to while writing Grigory’s Gadget was “Hero” by Family of the Year. This song actually caused me to make some characterization adjustments and major changes to the climax of the story. Namely, this is the song that led to Demyan being killed.

Let me go
I don’t wanna be your hero
I don’t wanna be a big man
Just wanna fight with everyone else

This song actually led to my discovery of foreshadowing I hadn’t realized I had planted. At the beginning of the story, the friends play a card game called Durak (Russian translation: fool) and Demyan loses. Throughout the story, Demyan is the one who is the least adaptable to their situation (getting seasick, getting frustrated by their situation, etc.). He also lacks the rebellious streak of his friends, preferring to keep his head down and do as he’s told. He doesn’t want to be a hero.

The original ending of Grigory’s Gadget saw Demyan live, and he felt like a dead weight (pun intended, sorry). I couldn’t put my finger on what the problem was until I heard “Hero”. That song resonated with Demyan’s character so much. Then it clicked: I had been foreshadowing Demyan’s death this entire time! And of course, his death was an act of bravery and heroism: he helped Zoya start to come back to herself at the cost of his own life. He wasn’t a dead weight character anymore. He had done something; he saved the woman he loves and their friends.

Moral of the story – don’t underestimate the power of music! It can be lethal…