Happy Halloween!

Well, okay, today isn’t Halloween, but since actual Halloween is on a Monday, a lot of people are celebrating today and tomorrow. I’ll be attending a Halloween party tonight with the dance troupe I’m in. We’re dressing up as elves from The Lord of the Rings!

I’ve got some exciting things happening in the next couple of months. First, I’ve revamped (haha, pun intended) my website. It now has a store where you can buy signed copies of Grigory’s Gadget, candles, teas, and Steamship Pirate t-shirts!

I’ve also got some things up my sleeve for the holiday season – sign up for my newsletter to be the first to hear about them! You won’t want to miss out!

In November, I’ve decided to commit to doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I actually wrote the first draft of Grigory’s Gadget for NaNoWriMo 2010, and overhauled that draft for NaNoWriMo 2014. Now, I’m going to utilize NaNoWriMo to churn out my first draft of it’s sequel, Serafima’s Stone. I’ll be doing short live videos on my Facebook page every day in November with updates on my progress!

Finally, beginning in December, I’ll be participating in the Collaborative Writing Challenge – Project 7: Steampunk! This challenge will produce a unique steampunk novel written by up to 30 different authors! Each week, four or five writers will submit a chapter of roughly 2000 words, and one will be selected as part of the story, until we get to 30 chapters. I’m very excited to participate in this project!

What is Steampunk?!

I realized recently, much to my chagrin, that I’ve never written a dedicated post about what “Steampunk” actually is. I get asked about it all the time; even though steampunk has grown a lot in recent years, it’s still a lesser-known genre that leaves a lot of people scratching their heads. Part of the confusion comes from simple unfamiliarity, but part comes from the fact that “steampunk” can be difficult to define.

So, first, I’ll try to explain steampunk in a few succinct ways. Then I’ll elaborate more on the history of the term and where it seems to be going as we move into the future.

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Art by Rowena Wang

The Short Answer

In short, steampunk can be described as:

  • Retro-futuristic, Victorian science fiction
  • Alternative history, wherein the technology of the Victorian era advanced much more quickly
  • Any fiction wherein steam is the primary source of power
  • Fiction set in an alternate universe that features anachronistic technology and/or Victorian aesthetics

There are some common elements to these descriptions: influence of the Victorian era and a focus on technology.

Here are some steampunk examples you may be familiar with:

  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (comic and movie)
  • The Difference Engine (book)
  • Infernal Devices (book)
  • Wild Wild West (movie)
  • Van Helsing (movie)
  • Castle in the Sky (movie)
  • The Golden Compass (book and movie)
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Art by Vadim Voitekhovitch

The Long Answer

To better understand what steampunk is, you need to look at its history and influences. The term itself, “steampunk” originated in the 1980s as a variant of “cyberpunk”. As defined by Wikipedia, “cyberpunk” is “a subgenre of science fiction in a future setting that tends to focus on society as ‘high tech low life’ featuring advanced technological and scientific achievements, such as information technology and cybernetics, juxtaposed with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order”.

That’s a complicated definition, but you’re probably pretty familiar with cyberpunk. Examples include Blade Runner and The Matrix.

Steampunk takes the genre of cyberpunk and, instead of using the setting of the near-future, uses the setting of the 19th century. Steampunk draws from actual Victorian influences such as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, H.P. Lovecraft, and Mary Shelley. The genre also goes well beyond book or movie genres. It extends into fashion, DIY crafts, music, home decor, etc!

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Steampunk fashion is easily identifiable, as it combines Victorian fashion with gadgets and the “punk” aesthetic. Common elements of steampunk fashion include corsets, bustles, waistcoats, top hats, spats, goggles, parasols, mechanical limbs, and post-apocalyptic elements.

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Steampunk crafts often center around taking mundane, every-day items (a phone, a light switch, a table) and transforming them into steampunk gadgets. This often involves elements such as leather, brass, copper, gears, levers, and patina. The craft and maker aspect of steampunk has helped transform it from a genre to a subculture.

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Abney Park

Steampunk music can take a variety of forms. Influences include Victorian music (e.g. pieces by Tchaikovsky, Liszt, and Rachmaninoff), industrial dance, world music, rock and punk, opera, and more. Overall, steampunk music combines elements of the “old” with the “new”.

Part of the issue with defining steampunk is that it’s a very new genre. As such, with each passing year it grows and evolves within the community of writers, artists, makers, musicians, filmmakers, and fans. I think that’s one of the reasons steampunk is so appealing: everyone involved can make their mark on the genre.

Hopefully that helps explain the genre to anyone who was less familiar with it. Feel free to leave questions for me in the comments! What’s your favorite part of steampunk?

Taking Publishing Into Your Own Hands – My Indie Author Day Presentation

“On October 8, 2016, nearly 300 libraries across North America invited thousands of local writers in their communities to join them for a day of celebration and inspiration devoted to indie authors. During the inaugural Indie Author Day, libraries big and small hosted events where local authors connected, networked, shared experiences and offered advice to one another, while also featuring locally-written books to library patrons in their communities.” – Indie Author Day

I attended Indie Author Day 2016 at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library downtown location. In addition to connecting with local authors and publishers, I also had the privilege of giving a presentation on the self-publishing process titled “Taking Publishing Into Your Own Hands”.

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I received a wonderful response from the attendees of Indie Author Day; everyone seemed to really like my presentation and some requested a copy of the presentation. So, I obliged!

A PDF of the slides is available here: taking-publishing-into-your-own-hands

In the presentation, I go over the differences between traditional and self/independent publishing, pros and cons, expected costs, and some lessons learned. I also included links to my favorite indie publishing resources:

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Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!

In other news, I’m currently in the process of revamping my website by moving from Wix to Bluehost/Wordpress. The transfer will take a bit of time, as will setting up the new site. You can find updates regarding my website by following me on Facebook and Twitter, and I’ll try to keep you posted in my weekly blog posts as well!

Spooky Reading Suggestions

It’s October! In the spirit (ba-dum-chhh) of this month, I thought I’d compile a list of spooky book suggestions. Some of these books are ones I’ve read and enjoyed, others are on my own TBR list.

For younger audiences:

  • Any Goosebumps book. These books were staple for me growing up!
  • The Thief of Always by Clive Barker. This book was the first I read by Clive Barker when I was in Junior High School. It instantly sealed Barker as one of my favorite authors!

Young Adult and beyond:

  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. Yes, the musical was based on a book, and the book is amazing! It delves deeper into the past and psyche of the titular Phantom and the games he plays.
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. A classic, and regarded to be the very first science fiction story ever published!
  • Anything by Edgar Allan Poe. That should be self-explanatory 😉 I specifically enjoyed “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Masque of the Red Death”, and, of course, “The Raven”.
  • The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. While Clive Barker is one of my favorite authors, I still haven’t read what is arguably his most famous book, on which the movie Hellraiser was based. It’s high-up on my TBR!
  • The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. This is a great choice if you want some spook/supernatural elements, but aren’t interested in horror. These books are light-hearted and funny!

Feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments, or to talk about what you’re reading this month!