Finished Edits – And Title Change!

This has taken longer than it would have if I were just working, rather than working and flying, but my planned revisions on the novel I had been calling The Eyelet Dove are done. I’m pretty happy with it overall, though revisions have a tendency to take the shine off of things.

I’ve been considering changing the title for quite some time though, despite The Eyelet Dove being a phrase that nicely rolls off the tongue. The thing is, it makes it sound more like a novel aimed at female readers, and it’s really not. Not at all. I mean, there’s female characters, but they like to blow a lot of shit up, you know? Which is not to say women won’t enjoy it – I just want to make sure it doesn’t sound like something that only women would enjoy.

At the time I came up with the title, I hadn’t come up with a call sign for the character Michel. When I finally realized that I had subconsciously cannibalized my very first novel (practice novel – will never see the light of day – I can’t even look at it without cringing) for a lot of the themes in this one, I decided I might as well use the same theme for call signs as I had for code names in that old novel. Which was songbirds, and Michel’s call sign became “Redwing.”

Redwing makes a much better title, I think. The feel of it reflects the type of story it actually is, so I’m going with that.

Anyway, I’ve revised my query letter, and I’ve sent out a couple queries. And I’m done that in time for NaNoWriMo to start. Those who know me know I do that every year. I don’t know how well I’ll do this year – I’ve made it to 50k the last four years, but not the three years before that when I was going to school while working. Now I’m in school again, so that has to come first, but I’m hoping I’m prepared enough to be able to make it again. After all, I have a 20 chapter outline already. But I’ll post more about the next project closer to November.

In other news, I’ve posted a review of Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer on the Punkettes Blog – go check it out – the book was everything I was promised and more. I think I’d call it the best steampunk related work I’ve ever read. Book two just came out yesterday, so I’m off to go pick up an e-pub copy.

Safe landings, all!

Thoughts On Women In Geekdom, Cosplay, And Steampunk (and Dieselpunk) As A Response

Ok, so a dickhead made a dick move the other day, and made a dick post on facebook.

Ok, I don’t need to reiterate everything that’s being said all over the internet, but John Scalzi had some great snarky tweets about it. He’s awesome for defending women in geekdom and women in general. My husband has the same feelings, and it’s one of the many reasons I love him, of course. And anyway, the internet is kinda coming down on this poor dipshit’s head anyway, so I don’t think I even need to. The internet’s good that way.

But it got me thinking about women, and how women are wedging their way into the world of geekdom that has traditionally been a haven for white males. I recall friends in my D&D group walking into 7-11 with PHBs in their bags and one of the other customers going “Hey, you guys play D&D? You should come play with us, we have a girl in our group.” And my friends, who are a bit more mature than the typical geek crowd, perhaps, going, “Good for you, we have three of them.”

I’ve never been in cosplay. I love dressing up in costumes, but never saw myself as a character in a book, or comic or movie. So when I started going to cons, I made costumes like a medieval princess, and when I wore my wedding dress with the white cloak, I called myself The Snow Queen.

Last week I went to Comic con for the first time ever. Won’t go again – lineups were far too long, and it was far to crowded for me to enjoy it. But there were some awesome costumes, and yeah, there were some attractive girls dressed in some revealing stuff. Those are the brave ones who are comfortable enough with their bodies to do that.

But there was also something else, that I wasn’t expecting. There were multiple women dressed as Batman. Women dressed as Robin. Women dressed as Superman. I didn’t see one single Princess Leia in her metal bikini, I swear to all the gods, but I did see one woman dressed as Han Solo.

A few months ago, I discovered that one of my cousins, who I live too far away from to know very well, is into cosplay. She has an amazing FFVII cosplay costume. She cosplays Cloud.

I think what this is saying is that we women are trying to tell the comic book and gaming industry that we’re not happy with the female characters they’re creating. We don’t want to dress up like sluts in order to conform to your fantasies, but look what you’re giving us to work with.

Then there’s Steampunk. There were a couple of Steampunk tables, and they were dressed up. But with Steampunk, there isn’t as much material where there’s definite images of the characters to cosplay. And within the Steampunk community, it seems to be more the norm to make up your own character or alter ego. Which results in something far, far more friendly to women. A woman going Steampunk can go anywhere from a corset an bustle, to a lab coat and safety goggles, to a geisha kimono with a clockwork fan, to coveralls, flight jacket and flight goggles. And none of it needs to look slutty. In fact, the victorian and edwardian times that the look intends to anachronize (if that’s not a word, it is now), is all about the prim and proper, girl’s-got-to-protect-her-reputation sort of feel.

That and the Steampunk and Dieselpunk communities have never, to my knowledge, been the exclusively male community that geekdom at large has been. There’s never been that attitude that we have to keep the girls from taking over what he have here.

I’ve seen lots of women into Steampunk these days, but it’s not a girl’s thing either. I’m not sure what the numbers would be, but I’d bet the involvement rates of both genders to be fairly close to 50/50, and that’s something you don’t see in a lot of communities.

Which is really cool.

Punkettes Blog Launch Today!

Come one, come all! The Punkettes blog officially launches today, so come tune in, follow the blog if you’re so inclined, to win prizes, and check out what we’ll be posting and reviewing. There’s already 50 people following the blog, and tons more on the Facebook page, so this is great so far.

The Early Bird prize has been drawn, but there’s tons more, books, art and accessories.

I don’t know if there’s anyplace before this to go to find reviews on just Steampunk books – maybe there is, and I just haven’t seen it. But I think the balance of the three of us is going to make it a very eclectic combination. I love my social upheaval, intrigue and adventure, but romance is always a hard sell for me, but we’ll have the other two for that. Plus it’s not just Steampunk – we have the Clockpunk and Dieselpunk going on too, so quite a bit of variety, considering we’re trying to focus on a small set of niche sub-genres.

So, for authors looking to have your book reviewed, we should be able to find one of the three of us who would enjoy your book, be it romance, adventure, or what have you. (As long as it’s either Steampunk, Clockpunk, or Dieselpunk, of course.) Just contact any one of us with a review copy, and we’ll figure out who to review it.

 

The Punkettes, Grande Opening Announcement

Would have announced this a few days ago when they set a date for the blog launch, but I’ve been on a long string of shifts on the day job. I have now negotiated with the cat for approximately half the rocking chair, so that I can sit while I write a blog post. This picture captures said feline’s personality fairly well, so you know what I mean.

So there’s a new blog starting up, called The Punkettes. Steampunkette, Erin Latimer will be blogging there about Steampunk, Clockpunkette, Rebecca Sky will be blogging about Clockpunk, and yours truly will be appearing there as the Dieselpunkette.

I’m pretty excited to have been invited to join them in their adventures in blogging. We’ll be reviewing books in the genre, and I hope to be also reviewing other media as well – music, movies and TV shows, as well as blogging on other genre topics, such as costuming and gadgetry, and anything else related that we think other lovers of the genre might be interested in.

Anyway, we’ve got tons of stuff lined up for giveaways for new followers and anyone spreading the word, so stop by on sept 1st and find out all the ways you can enter, and wish us luck!

Defining Steampunk (and Dieselpunk)

Someone tweeted this article today – it’s old, but it’s awesome and I agree with everything it says.

Also, someone on goodreads.com was looking for non-Victorian Steampunk, and someone *actually* answered “Why non-Victorian? I think that’s a positive element in Steampunk. There are some wild west stories that are Steampunk and I started reading one based on Alice in Wonderland that was alternative American history based but I can’t say that I was enjoying it. I’m primarily looking for good Steampunk that *is* Victorian England now.”

*headdesk*

I just finished one book a couple of days ago, and was today skimming through my ebooks to see what to start next, and decided I’d try out Gail Carriger’s Soulless, which I got on sale for 99 cents a couple months ago. I read about 5 or 6 pages of the main character beating etiquette into a vampire with a parasol, and stopped. It’s not a bad book, or poorly written or anything, it’s just not my *kind* of book. But it seems that has become the definition of Steampunk lately, and I dislike the whole idea that Steampunk is becoming pigeon-holed into this, and people are starting to say if it doesn’t have X,Y, or Z elements, it’s not Steampunk.

That resentment comes from my main reason for writing Dieselpunk in the first place. Which is, quite frankly, that I’m bored with traditional medieval fantasy. I wanted a setting that’s fresher and not done to death. So I have a setting a little farther ahead, tech wise, for the hell of it. I could set it in a medieval fantasy world. Easily – my character’s could ride dragons and their giant base could be more blatantly magic, rather than the magnetic handwavium powered gimmick I’m going with. Magic items could serve the roles of radios and radar, and my orphans could live in the “dark forest” instead of the sewer. But my way is more fun for me.

I just write what I write though, I’m not writing to a definition. Dieselpunk is just the closest definition there is for what I write, so I use it. So what happens if a book doesn’t fit into a particular category? Should the author be forbidden to pick the closest thing? Or worse, be forced to introduce elements into the story to solidify it’s placement in a genre category? Don’t think it doesn’t happen – I’ve seen discussions online where people insist that there be magic in a story for it to be classified as fantasy, so if that’s true, then where do you categorize secondary world fiction that doesn’t have magic? Because the Literary section sure doesn’t want it.

I say just relax, and let writers write what they write. If that means taking a little bit more time to describe what a book is like, then so be it. If it makes it a bit more difficult to write a pitch, then that’s the author’s problem. 😛

Review: Blightcross, by C. A. Lang

This was my first ARC, so I was pretty excited to get the l from the publisher, offering a review copy. My little blog is all growed up! And hey, it’s Dieselpunk secondary world fiction, so I was sold on it from the get go.

The cover is very true to the book – the braid, the eye colour and hair colour, the red cravat, the necklace with saphires, all mentioned in the book. The clock tower in the background too. It’s nice to see a cover with a female main character not being over-sexualized, which is doubly appropriate, since there’s no romance in the book. Nice to see an author not trying to shoe-horn it in where it’s not needed.

It’s a very plot driven book, so if you’re a reader who likes a good adventure, this is an Indiana Jones style story. Capra is a Valoii deserter from Mizkov, having abandoned her people and their war against the Ehzeri, and with her military background, she’s a great butt-kicking heroine to center the story around. She’s also found herself in a part of the world where men don’t respect women, and it grates on her terribly. Also, since there’s no romance in the story, she doesn’t suffer from being rescued by the male lead constantly, and ending the story being the trophy girl for the male lead. It reminds me a bit of the Holly Vesper series, by Lloyd Alexander – adventuring heroine without the need for there to be a male love interest to make her interesting.

One thing I really liked was the fact that the plot was well foreshadowed. Things early on in the book matter later, and the hints were subtle, yet the promise was clear. The Archon that Vasi must be sure to keep in check, the giant unseen thing beneath the tarp in the armoury, visible from all over, the Sevari family memorial that the characters don’t have time to check out the first time you see it. All promises that there’s something cool there, and we’ll get to see it later. And then the author follows though on them, and that goes a long way for me, especially when a lot of debut authors forget the foreshadowing.

The other main characters are fairly well developed. There’s Vasi, an Ehzeri, who’s main drive is also not finding someone to fall in love with, but protecting her younger (twit) brother who’s intent on getting himself into the maximum amount of trouble possible. She’s not quite as kick-butt as Capra, but she has more of a quiet, come up from behind kick-assery, being a magic wielder.

Ironically, Lang being a male author, it was more the male characters that I thought could have used a bit more character development, though even there, it’s not that they’re not developed, it’s more that the development doesn’t get in until after the halfway point. Alim, being the exception – an old friend of Capra’s from the military, sent to execute her for desertion, who blames Capra for the death of his wife.

The worldbuilding was fresh. The story takes place in a city built on the oil industry, as mechanization quickly replaces magic in this world. I’ve always been a sucker for worlds where magic and technology are being mixed, so I love the world. Even the oil itself has the background story of being the blood of the fire giants after their legendary figure cast them down into a pit.

The one world building thing that disappointed me though, was the hand cannons, and lack of detail on them. I kept wondering, are they match-lock, wheel-lock, flint lock? The term historically refers to a hand-held version of what looked like a miniature cannon, dating at least 500 years earlier than the time period the rest of the worldbuilding invokes. The weapon in the story was described as having a wooden stock, though and machined barrel, which sounds more like a pistol. There was mention of the long loading time, but little description of how it was loaded and fire, for all that they were used frequently through the story. Nary a mention of cloth or ramrod.

The bit that really made me twitch though, was when a character dropped the shot into the barrel and then the powder.

But I’ll refrain from ranting, because that was a relatively small thing, and overall I liked the book and it’s themes. There’s the background environmental theme, with the chemical output of the refinery, of labour, and treatment of workers and women. I was particularly intrigued when I realized that the Valoii and the Ehzeri are an allegory for Israel and Palestine, and was impressed with the delicate handling of the emotions of that conflict. It’s an allegory that could so very easily be done very badly, but the author didn’t demonize either side. Instead, he presented characters on both sides of the conflict, and made their feelings towards the conflict, and towards one another feel real as individuals, treating them like people, not stereotypes, and not representations of all of their people. Neither side’s characters were presented as “bad guys”, and I think it was respectfully handled.

It ended with a couple loose ends, but I took that to be hooks for the next book. Where things will go from here, I don’t know, but there are some secrets in Capra’s past that haven’t been told yet. I will definitely be looking out for the next book, whenever that comes out.

Book Review: Mechanique: a Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, by Genevieve Valentine

I glanced over the nebula award nominees for this year to see if anything piqued my interest, and saw this one. Steampunk, set in a post apocalyptic setting – I was sold. It’s a circus of undead performers, enhanced with hollow bones for the acrobats to make them light as birds, a human trapeze, a strong man with a steel spine, and his brother saved from fever with mechanical lungs. Once there was a man with wings, like a bird, until he fell.

I went into it not knowing what to expect, so I’m not sure what I expected. It’s very experimental, style wise (literary, some might say). The Steampunk is more a veneer over the top, an aesthetic choice, which I love. Genre wise, I would call it magic realism, because there is magic, but the way magic works is never explained, but used in more of a free-form way.

The story made me think of Peter S. Beagle or Neil Gaiman. I don’t think I’ve read anything so subtly creepy since The Innkeeper’s Song. It’s about beauty and love and death, and the writing itself is beautiful too.

I normally find things this experimental to be annoying, but I think that’s often because “literary” authors sometimes think that the writing is everything, and they don’t have to have a story to tell. Miss Valentine has a story to tell. She doesn’t tell it in chronological order, and the point of view is all over the place, running from first to third person and not skipping second person, and yet, the confusion at first didn’t bother me. It was obvious fairly quickly that it was told out of order.

Also, I liked the scene openings she had sometimes, the ones that start with “This is what happens when (insert framing phrase to tell me where she’s jumping into the story.)” It was as unsubtle as a slap in the face, maybe, butso much less annoying than the author using dates to tell you when something’s taking place. I can’t stand that, I can’t keep track of the numbers in the dates, so they might as well not be there. This? This was effective and efficient.

Overall, I loved it, it was beautiful.