Monday, February 20, 2017

All Things Punk: Steampunk


Defining Punk: What is Steampunk?

steam·punk
ˈstēmˌpəNGk/
noun

  1. a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.

    • a style of design and fashion that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction.

    • Welcome, punksters! Hello and howdy to anyone who might not have a real handle on what punk really is. I stumbled upon steampunk by accident, really, when I read a marvelous book by Bec McMaster in the London Steam series. I was instantly smitten with the Victorian London setting and the mishmash of historical and science fiction elements that made the story fascinating. Along with the science, McMaster added in a vampire and a werewolf to keep me entertained (many steampunk stories would omit those, but it made me smile to see them there nonetheless). 
    • I still didn't know exactly what steampunk was, only that I liked it. So I began to read more books labeled in the genre and I joined a few groups on facebook dedicated to "punk" genres. I soon learned that there are many different types of punk to play with: from diselpunk to decopunk to cyberpunk. All of which have their own unique qualities and their own fun to be had. 

  2. Today's post is focusing on steampunk, and I'll get to the others in their own time. Steampunk really is that imagination playground for people who love history, science and the possibilities of alternate histories. I frankly adore the Victorian era, especially the fascination with the ways that science could be applied to the human condition. There was a darker side to that time period, as well, as we began to show an interest in the occult, magic and the forces that exert their will on human beings. This was the time in history that science and magic really began to overlap in the minds of many people, and that is a fertile playground for authors who want to explore that idea further. 

Imagine that the industrial revolution happened, just not in the way you remember learning about in high school history classes. Instead of electricity taking the primary role in mechanical engineering, steam became the energy of choice. What would the world be like? What changes would we see in the world if that really happened? These are the fundamental questions that steampunk lovers ask themselves. Authors delve into ideas about steam-powered machinery, mechanical devices that run on all types of "lesser known" energies, and how these inventions might affect the world. Put all of that wonderful science into the backdrop of Victorian Era England (or any other part of the world at that time, to be honest). History lovers get to describe the clothes, the ettiquette and the era they love, all within the context of a world they have created. Magical!

The Industrial Revolution was a time of great change throughout the world. History is built on moments in time, and if you change one, you can change many others. A ripple that could create a brand new world. A steampunk world! I invite readers to find steampunk novels and give them a try. Lovers of historical novels, sci-fi, and even literary classics like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea will find many of the same elements in these novels. 

When I wrote The Alchemist's Kiss I wanted world where magic was ordinary. What would happen? How would that change the world? Not that much, to be honest. By the time the novel opens during the Civil War in 1865, Alchemist Icarus Kane has had enough of war and killing. He's ready to return home to London and lead a peaceful life. He's as surprised as everyone else when he finds a protege among the dead and the dying on the battlefield at Gettysburg. When they return to London a few years later, Icarus discovers that the poor and "Lacking" (non-magicals) are tired of paying for the magic that lights their homes and moves their goods. A revolution is afoot. What's worse, a dark mage has appeared in London and he wants Icarus Kane dead. As the Warden of London, Icarus' job is to put a stop to the chaos and return his city to the peaceful one he remembers. Nothing would have prepared him for the battle he was about to face. 

So, join me and Icarus Kane on a magical steampunk adventure. I invite you to step into Victorian London, just not quite the one you recall reading about before. There's much to love about steampunk, and I hope The Alchemist's Kiss can trigger that love affair for you!

~ Best Wishes
Amy



Please stop by and let me know how you felt about Icarus and company. As always, reviews are appreciated!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Episode 019: BookChat about Ruby Lionsdrake's Stars Across Time





In which Elle and I discuss Ruby Lionsdrake's Stars Across Time. (With a few tangents about time-travel romance in general, of course.) Some good discussion with Author Paulina Woods about historical vs futuristic time travel.



To recap my discussion of the book-- I enjoyed it. The plot was fast paced and the romance was good once it got going. Refer to the podcast for more details!



Links are in the podcast information for anyone interested in purchasing the book.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Writing Characters No One Likes


Writing Characters No One Likes


Writers have a hard job. We sit down to write a story that we hope will appeal to readers, and that our readers will ultimately enjoy. But, sometimes we have to write about characters we know our readers won't like, won't identify with, and probably won't understand. It's not fun, but it's necessary. 

But, Amy, why do you have to write about characters I might not like?

Well, dearest reader, frankly, some people suck. It's a universal truth that spans all continents, all countries and all levels of existence. For every good, decent and amazing person you are blessed to know, there are those you wish you'd never met. But, you know what makes those people necessary? They help you grow. Learning to deal with them, interact with them, and overcome them is what helps to mold the person you are today, tomorrow and forever. The same is true of the character in the book that you might despise. Hate. Want to punch in the face. That character is important both to the reader and to the protagonist/main character. 

Amy, I can't think of any characters I don't like.

Well, let me help you with that. Readers of Stephen King novels might remember Andre Linoge from Storm of the Century. He was a bad, bad guy. Intriguing. Evil. Necessary. Readers might have hated him for what he did to the poor people of Little Tall, but he was necessary to propel the story and to force the other characters to evolve. This example is a bit of a cheat, because I chose the obvious villain of the story. You're supposed to hate him. 

Let's discuss another Stephen King work: The Gunslinger. While Roland Deschain is arguably the main character of the opus, he is also a wholly unlikable fellow. He is admittedly selfish, narcissistic and plagued by an obsession for his Tower that rivals the heroin addiction of his friend Eddie Dean. King did a masterful job of making Roland's flaws evident to the reader to the point where hating him becomes a second nature, but you're invested in him. You must see him through to the bitter end. 

Have you ever written a character that readers hate?

Well, reader, that's a question for the readers. I love all my characters, even the ones who are irredeemable. If you forced me to choose a character that readers might hate I'd have to say that Edge from An Enduring Sun might be a good fit for this category. The "man" literally has no redeeming qualities. He is about as appealing as bikini wax with a hive of African Hornets. In other words, he's a nasty fella. But, he is necessary. Edge and his cohorts appear in An Enduring Sun not as the villains (though they certainly are) but also as squalid memory of a past my heroes would much rather forget. Stomping them out is cathartic for the guys in Aeon Project, and so Edge and his nastiness is necessary for my heroes to evolve as they must. 

Ever want to redeem the irredeemable?

I LOVE villain to hero stories. Especially if the author can make the turnaround all the more surprising! My favorite book in ALL THE WORLD is Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh. She took a character that seemed downright evil in the first few books of her series, and she gave him a redeeming quality that turned that black-hearted devil into a hero that no reader could ever forget. I CRIED when his past and his reasons for his actions were revealed to the reader in the most masterful turnaround in all of writing history. It's a credit to an amazing writer who knows her characters so well that she could make him loveable. He's still not necessarily a "good" guy in the best sense of the word, but he's not evil and that's just swoon-worthy stuff for a romance reader. 

So, to sum it up-- writing a character no one likes shouldn't be reserved for the villain only. Don't get me wrong, we need villains, too. But your characters will have a bigger impact if their flaws can be used to create evolution in the story and the other players in the game. Being able to create worlds where mean-spirited, nasty people live will make it much more realistic than a world where everyone farts rainbows and sings in the choir. Sometimes, the bad guy wins, too. 

--From the desk of AR DeClerck, lover of all black-hearted rogues with secret hearts of gold. (But sometimes, a jerk is just a jerk!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Episode 018: Our Self Care





In which the first shot is one of me looking goofy---- but this is ME! Enjoy our discussion

on caring for yourself, because you can't take care of your readers if you don't take care

of you!