Battling Aggressive Writer’s Block

Apologies for being silent on my blog lately! I meant to post this on Friday *oops*. I’ll be resuming my schedule of posting every Friday again starting this week!

Recently I’ve been fighting a new breed of writer’s block that I hadn’t really experienced before. Usually, when writer’s block hits, it’s more passive. It’s a lack of inspiration, or a lack of motivation. Lately, however, the writer’s block has been more aggressive. It’s been an active force insisting my writing isn’t good enough, that my plot doesn’t make sense, that my characters are horrible and not relatable.

I’ve determined that this now comes with the territory when writing as a published author.

Before I published Grigory’s Gadget, writing was purely a hobby. I did it for myself to exercise creativity. It was fun and amusing. I couldn’t have cared less if the plot would make sense to anyone else, or if the characters were well-written. That wasn’t the point, before.

Now that I published a book, however, those things do matter. As I write the first draft of Serafima’s Stone, I’m acutely aware that my goal is to publish it, and that the book therefore has to be worthy of publication. When I wrote the first draft of Grigory’s Gadget in 2010, I didn’t care if it was good. I allowed it to be bad. And allowing it to be bad meant that I allowed myself to keep writing. Fixing the bad parts comes with editing and rewrites. The first draft shouldn’t have to be good. The first draft won’t be good. It just won’t.

So here I am, struggling to believe the statements I just typed. I need to allow the first draft of Serafima’s Stone to be bad. That’s the only way I’ll finish the first draft. The only solution to this breed of writer’s block is to just keep writing, in spite of the critical voices in your head. Keep writing, even if you don’t particularly like what you’re writing. It can be fixed later.

#SteampunkHands Around the World 2017: Making Life Better -Perspective

*artwork by MrXpk*

Steampunk Hands Around the World 2017- Making Life Better is a month long event in February 2017 showing and sharing the great steampunk people, events, and things around the world that other people should know about. Through these means, we come together as a community to forge new connections and friendships, inspire and be inspired by each other, and create realities from the stuff of dreams.

This year, we will share and explore the ways in which steampunk can and has made life better, for ourselves and for others. How does steampunk make life more fun and enjoyable, how does it expand our horizons and help us define who we are, or who we want to be? How does steampunk inform us about ourselves, others, and the world around us? How does it help us find solutions for real life problems, and find ways to make changes for the better?

Airship Ambassador

This week’s discussion will take a look at how steampunk allows us to analyze the past to prepare for the present and future.

Steampunk is sometimes criticized for romanticizing a period of history that was wrought with troubling and problematic issues (colonialism, orientalism, the suppression of minorities and women, rampant disease, etc.). I say this is a fair criticism. I also say it’s a wonderful opportunity that is unique to steampunk.

Steampunk is not the same as historical fiction. Steampunk allows us to change things, fudge facts, rewrite history. We can use this to challenge the past, and the legacy we still feel today. That’s what the “punk” in “steampunk” is all about. Challenge the system. Turn it on its head.

Steampunk can become a excellent tool for social commentary if used correctly. Sure, we can write a pleasant story that simply ignores the problems in Victorian society. There’s nothing wrong with pleasant stories – we all need those from time to time! But steampunk also has the potential to be much deeper, to examine human nature and to face cultural issues we still come across today.

So go forth, my fellow steampunks! Take aim at the establishment and dismantle it in that gentlemanly/lady-like way like only you can! And don’t forget to break for tea and biscuits.

#SteampunkHands Around the World: Making Life Better – Maker Culture

*artwork by MrXpk*

Steampunk Hands Around the World 2017- Making Life Better is a month long event in February 2017 showing and sharing the great steampunk people, events, and things around the world that other people should know about. Through these means, we come together as a community to forge new connections and friendships, inspire and be inspired by each other, and create realities from the stuff of dreams.

This year, we will share and explore the ways in which steampunk can and has made life better, for ourselves and for others. How does steampunk make life more fun and enjoyable, how does it expand our horizons and help us define who we are, or who we want to be? How does steampunk inform us about ourselves, others, and the world around us? How does it help us find solutions for real life problems, and find ways to make changes for the better?

Airship Ambassador

Today’s contribution to Steampunk Hands Around the World focuses on the “maker culture” of steampunk. One of the primary draws of steampunk is the tangible nature of anachronistic technologies. You can see how the gears move, how pulling this lever activates motion here or there. It’s so entirely different from modern, “black box” technology.

“Maker culture” calls back to these tangible technologies. Makers create their inventions from scratch, with wood and brass and copper, or by re-purposing existing items. Makers work with their hands, get their hands dirty.

A lot of this is considered a “lost art” these days. Most people don’t build or fix things themselves anymore. You bring your car to the shop, you hire a plumber or an electrician. You bring your broken gizmo or gadget to a store where it’s simply replaced with a shiny new one. Maker culture is fighting this trend.

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Image from The Enchanted City

I attended a steampunk festival in Troy, New York this summer – The Enchanted City III: A Brave New World. This festival included events, such as the Inventor’s Challenge and the Mini Maker Fair, that encouraged participants to don their lab coats and goggles and get to work. The Mini Maker Fair, targeted toward kids, is especially important in my eyes. This is where steampunk goes beyond a whimsical genre of books or movies and becomes a force of real tangible good for young people. It encourages their creativity and challenges their problem solving skills. It builds a familiarity with mechanical and technical objects and ideas that will stay with them for years. Steampunk is helping to encourage the next generation of scientists and engineers.

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Image from The Enchanted City

#SteampunkHands Around the World 2017: Making Life Better – Aesthetics

*artwork by MrXpk*

Steampunk Hands Around the World 2017- Making Life Better is a month long event in February 2017 showing and sharing the great steampunk people, events, and things around the world that other people should know about. Through these means, we come together as a community to forge new connections and friendships, inspire and be inspired by each other, and create realities from the stuff of dreams.

This year, we will share and explore the ways in which steampunk can and has made life better, for ourselves and for others. How does steampunk make life more fun and enjoyable, how does it expand our horizons and help us define who we are, or who we want to be? How does steampunk inform us about ourselves, others, and the world around us? How does it help us find solutions for real life problems, and find ways to make changes for the better?

Airship Ambassador

To kick off my contribution to Steampunk Hands Around the World 2017, I’ll be discussing the aesthetic of Steampunk. Things like art, fashion, and architecture bring so much joy to people, it seemed like a good place to start!

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art by Vadim Voitekhovitch

Steampunk art and crafts often center around taking mundane, every-day items (a phone, a light switch, a table) and transforming them into steampunk gadgets. There are also brilliant examples of steampunk cityscapes. 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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Image from Artfire

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.

Steampunk architecture is often Victorian, or 1800s-style architecture from other parts of the world. What makes it steampunk is, like in steampunk art, the addition of elements such as leather, brass, copper, gears, levers, and patina. Take a grand, Victorian mansion and add some grime, some grit, and some whimsy.

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Image from Airship Flamel

(Note: the image above depicts a real Victorian house in Irvington, NY. On the one hand, that means it is not steampunk, but simply Victorian. However, because it is on the more whimsical end of the Victorian architecture spectrum, it is a great example of the type of historical architecture steampunk draws from.)

What’s your favorite part of the steampunk aesthetic?

Morning Cuppa: Grigory’s Gadget

I’m so happy you enjoyed Grigory’s Gadget!

The Curious Adventures Of Messrs Smith And Skarry

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s delightfully diluvian parlour located within the splendidly slippery-when-wet city of Lancaster!

True some have called it a soggy slop house full of wet blankets but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find me this morning balancing precariously on lemonade crates and sheltering under parasols whilst Max attempts to plug the holes in the roof, walls, widows and doors with histrionic napkins. Yes that’s right, the frost is thawing all over the parlour, the biscuits are soggy and the tea set is afloat… on the plus side Montmorency is unable to get in and terrorise us into paying rent because scarecrows and water don’t get on apparently.

You may be wondering why an octopus like me is desperately trying to keep his tentacles dry during this deluge  but please take…

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Meet the Characters: Snezhana Krupina

(Image source: Already Pretty)

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 Snezhana Krupina.

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

Name: Snezhana Krupina (sneh-ZHAH-nah KROO-pee-nah) née Sokoll (soh-KOHL)

Name Meaning: Snezhana – from the Slavic word for “snowy”; Krupina – from the West Slavic word for “barley”; Sokoll – Slavic word for “falcon”

Age: in her 50s

Physical Appearance: Light skin, short brown hair, blue eyes, wears an eyepatch

Hometown: Unknown

Family: Her brother is the pirate Captain Edmund Sokoll of the Ocean’s Legend; her nephew is Alexi Sokoll

Relationship Status: she is married; her husband was not discussed in Grigory’s Gadget

Education: unknown

Religion: None

Greatest Strengths: great fighter and leader, keeps her sights on the larger picture

Greatest Weaknesses: her morality has become skewed after living as a pirate and being betrayed by her own brother

Favorite Color: Blue

Hobbies: reading up on mystical artifacts, helping to start revolutions

Biggest Goal in Life: Destroy the Bronnerush and get revenge on her brother

The Importance of Copyrighting Your Work

Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.

United States Copyright Office

Copyright is very important for authors. It’s what protects us from having our work stolen. In the United States, all work is “under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device” (US Copyright Office).

This, however, has gotten quite a few authors into some trouble.

Lately, I’ve read a good number of “horror stories” about authors who’ve had their works removed from Amazon and other retailers because they – the authors – were accused of copyright infringement of their own work. Someone – a former publisher, a rival, a scammer – flagged their work as copyright infringement, and because of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Amazon has to respond by removing that work. The author is contacted and prompted to supply proof that they are the copyright holder.

But how the heck do you do that?

I read about authors sending Amazon their original, date-stamped manuscript, screen shots of the upload process, confirmation of their email address, their identity, etc.

But the best way to prove you hold the copyright to your own work is to register that copyright with the Copyright Office.

Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?

Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.

-United States Copyright Office

If you’re an author with a traditional publishing company, the publisher usually deals with the copyright registration. However, if you’re a self-published author, you need to register yourself. The process is relatively simple. You fill out a form with the details of your book, pay $35, and send a copy (physical or digital) to the Copyright Office.

That $35 fee is annoying, but it is worth it. Self-published authors are more often the target of DMCA attacks like those described above. The reason for that is so many self-published authors have not registered their copyright, and therefore lack the solid legal standing to fight back. Sure, you can hire a lawyer to fight your case, and maybe you’ll win, but that lawyer will cost a whole lot more than $35.

So, please, writer friends, copyright your work!