Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"The Bridge of Lok-Altor" in SQ Magazine

One last short story publication to round out 2013. "The Bridge of Lok-Altor" is quite an older story, one I initially wrote almost a decade ago. In fact, I believe it was around the same time that I wrote "Scolyard's 'The Constructs Foresee Their Doom,'" which was published this past summer and has an entirely different aesthetic.

When I was an undergrad, a local publisher came to a writing class I was taking, and one of the things she said stuck with me. She said that every story begins with a stranger--either the stranger is our main character or the stranger comes to disrupt things where our character is. That stranger need not be human--it could just as well be an idea or a technology or whatever, but it's always the stranger that begins things.

So I remember that being at the front of my mind when I started writing this (several years later). Where would a stranger be the last thing you'd expect? This island that has deliberately removed itself from the world was what came of that question, and the story came from that, very traditional fantasy feel in some ways with glimmers and hints of deeper oddness.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Faux ad #3

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all who celebrate any or all of them. Spire City has its own celebrations, of course, at different times of the year, including this one:

(See the earlier posts for an explanation of these pretend ads)

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame release day!

Today is the release day for my Darkside Codex novella

"Addiction and mad science come together beneath the poisonous Dark Cloud of Southwatch"

 The city of Southwatch is plagued by a poisonous cloud that cuts the city in two, vertically. Beneath the Cloud, Mellia fixes the gas masks and filters that are necessary to survive the foul air.

There should be an interview coming up sometime on the Darkside Codex blog, as well as other little tidbits about the story and about working in a shared world in future posts here.

Note that this is not a Spire City story at all. It's secondary world, fantasy steampunk, which does tie them together in a way, but it stands completely alone separate from that. And quite separate from the other Darkside Codex stories that will continue to be released, though hopefully there's some good synergy there among them all.

In addition to the publisher, you can purchase this ebook from Barnes & NobleAmazon, and Smashwords (and likely others to be added later).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My post at Nyki's blog

In our blog swapping, my post has now appeared over at Nyki's blog as well.

What's in a Genre - The Treason of Memory

Today my friend Nyki Blatchely is guest blogging with us. He's the author of, among many things, the novella "The Treason of Memory," published by Musa. He has a blog where he frequently posts in depth pieces about writing in general and secondary world fantasies in particular.

What's in a Genre? The Treason of Memory
Nyki Blatchley

There are certain very predictable questions writers get asked about their stories. The top one has to be "What's it about?" and I sometimes succumb to the temptation to give that one to the traditional answer — "It's about three hundred pages." Another common question, though, especially from fellow-writers, is "What genre is it?"

Genres are both useless and essential. Ideally, every story that makes any attempt to be original (whatever precisely that means) should be its own unique genre, a blend of concepts and techniques that no-one's ever achieved before in the history of fiction. It should climb out of the well-worn rut and strike off down the road less travelled by. It should be the story by which later, lesser stories define themselves.

Even if this is actually possible, though, a story like that could have difficulty getting published. While editors and agents, not to mention readers, don't normally want clich├ęd fiction, it's better if they can define what a story is. Even if it's not simple, they want to be able to say, "This is a blend of sword & sorcery and urban fantasy, with a touch of steampunk in the middle. Ah, yes, I have just the place for that."

This means that, in practice, an author needs to put thought into what it is they're writing — or, preferably, what it is they've just written. I had this issue with The Treason of Memory, published last December by Musa Publishing. I didn't have any preconception, when I started writing, "what kind of story" it would be. This was partly because it started as a one-hour writing exercise, so I was just writing what came into my head as quickly as I could. In fact, the scene I wrote in that hour ended up "on the cutting-room floor", though it's referenced in conversation, but it set the tone and plot for the whole long piece I eventually wrote.

It wasn't till I'd finished that I started trying to define it. One way of describing a story is to compare it to something else — most fantasy novels used to be "in the tradition of Lord of the Rings", although publishers have found other models to play with now. Consequently, I came up with the description that The Treason of Memory is a cross between Conan, The Three Musketeers and The Bourne Identity.

But what exactly does that mean in terms of genre? It has a hero fighting against ancient evil, as in sword & sorcery. It has intrigue, rapiers and flintlocks, like a historical swashbuckler (though have you noticed how rarely the Musketeers actually fire muskets?). And it has the twists and turns, the paranoia and the low-life of a modern spy thriller whose hero doesn't drink martinis shaken, not stirred.

It's broadly part of a genre usually called flintlock fantasy, but this tends to refer particularly to a more epic style of fantasy, with seventeenth century technology being used for quests and major wars. Not to a more intimate, single-adventure approach, nor to a dark, urban feel. So what would be a more precise genre for this?

My first thought was flintlockpunk. The story certainly has a lot of the "punk" aspects (the paranoia, and the blend of high politics and low-life) but it lacks the retro-futuristic aspect. The pistols are just pistols, not some super-developed form of flintlock weapon, and the society isn't a historical one anyway, but an other-world culture that shares many features with late-seventeenth or early-eighteenth century Europe.

I abandoned that label, although it did more recently inspire me to write a "flintpunk" story, perhaps best described as a dystopian equivalent of the Flintstones. I thought I might actually have invented a genre there, but a bit of research showed that there's a similar, though rare, genre called stonepunk.

What I've settled on for The Treason of Memory is flintlock and sorcery. While this doesn't quite cover the gritty, urban aspect of the story, it does suggest that the story is essentially a traditional piece of adventure fantasy, but in a setting and a stage of civilisation not usually associated with that kind of fiction.

That's an approach I'm increasingly coming to enjoy, by the way, applying traditional fantasy styles to a less explored period of my fantasy world's development, although I still enjoy writing in my "comfort zone" (roughly resembling a cross between Classical Greece and Renaissance Europe). Besides the flintlock period, I've covered a Victorian-style era, an early twentieth century equivalent, and even "contemporary" other-world fantasy, complete with computers and mobile phones. Maybe someday I'll take my fantasy world into space.

So what does this genre-defining actually achieve, besides giving me one difficult question I'm able to answer about The Treason of Memory? Most importantly, I suppose, it helps me to define what I was trying to do with this story, and to measure to what extent I've succeeded.

It could also help me if I try this particular approach again — which I might. Although The Treason of Memory ends conclusively enough, it's set up so that a sequel (or even a series) isn't entirely out of the question. I may not ever write them, but if I do, at least I'll know what I'm supposed to be writing. Flintlock and sorcery.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Episode 2, Batan's Caper

Episode 2 is available today!

There's a bit of an episode-1 spoiler in the description of episode 2. So fair warning if that kind of thing bothers you, make sure you finish reading episode 1 first. Not much of a spoiler--the title of episode 1 always made it clear that someone was going to get infected. So now as the band deals with this new infection, Batan realizes they need some sort of distraction, and two wealthy brothers who are looking for workers in the neighborhood prove just the right kind of distraction. With Williver's help, he comes up with a con game that could earn the band a good deal of money, if all goes well. All never goes well...

Available again from Musa, Amazon, and B&N. I'm told there are more online bookstores coming, but because of how they work, some take longer to post, and some will have to wait until the full season is available.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Seven Ways of Bringing Down the Regime

As I mentioned yesterday, the new (and final) issue of Electric Velocipede is out now and available from Amazon, B&N, and Weightless.

There will be a mini interview of sorts showing up online at some point where I talk about the story a bit. I mention the painting The Third of May by Goya as an inspiration for the story. Here's that painting:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A second faux ad from Spire City

In honor of Electric Velocipede's final issue coming out today (more on that in another post later today or else tomorrow), here's a Spire City velocipede.
This is the second in a series of in-world ads I designed for fun a few years ago, using grunge fonts and free-to-use clip art. So picture this running in the center of the column of a cheaply printed newspaper. It's the scene break between when Chels leaves the train-yard and newly arrived beetles and when she arrives in the dark room of the Weave to speak with Marrel. Or perhaps one of the scene breaks in episode 2, which comes out on Friday, when we go from Batan's scheming to Williver's acting out his role in the group's latest caper.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The first Darkside Codex novel

My Darkside Codex novella doesn't come out until the end of next week, but remember that it's a shared world, so there are other novels and novellas coming out as well that flesh out the city and the surrounding land. Being among the first writers to play in the Southwatch playground, my story will help define the setting for future writers, which is a lot of fun to imagine.

But I can say more about that later. For now, the thing I wanted to mention is that the first novel has come out, Storm Angel by C. A. Chevault. It looks like it takes a very different look at the city, which is of course the idea with a shared world like this. You can check out updates on the Darkside Codex blog, including information on the first book and an interview with the author.

My novella will be the second release, and I know of one more that's currently in the editing process. So those three will form the first wave of stories with future releases building on them. It will be fun to watch how it goes from there.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Meet Orgood, the Wizard of Piley Court

We're at the midpoint between episode 1's release and episode 2's. "Batan's Caper" comes out next, but in the meantime, here's another introduction to a character within the story.

Orgood isn't mentioned in episode 1. He hovers in the background, but his name isn't mentioned until episode 2, and he becomes a larger presence throughout the course of the series.

Orgood is first an inventor, a Thomas Edison sort of person, but with a strongly amoral streak to his pursuit of new inventions. His work has had a huge impact on Spire City over the past decades, with new steam engines and clockwork constructs transforming life for many in the city. He's seen as a wonder worker, called the Wizard of Piley Court because of the location of his laboratory. He isn't as wealthy as he maybe could be, but he's certainly wealthy by the standards of Chels & gang, and he moves among high society and is welcomed even by the most exclusive, old-wealth sorts who live on the bluff overlooking Spire City's harbor.

Twenty years or so before the story begins, some of those super wealthy people were fretting about the numbers of poor people coming to live in the city. The industrial revolution, not least because of Orgood's own inventions that allowed for rapid changes in the factories of the city, drew in many people from the countryside inland from Spire City and from other nations as well. From what these rich people saw, though, too many of them weren't working. The numbers of beggars and immigrants were too much. What could you do, though? You couldn't just go around shipping them off somewhere.

That was when Orgood had his idea. When rats became a problem, no one complained that you couldn't kill them. They just hired more rat catchers. What if he could find a way to target those people who weren't working in the factories or other productive jobs, and simply turn them into common pests? The rat catchers and other vermin hunters would have more work, and the infestation would ease up quickly. In theory. A dozen years after the first infections, the serum he created has never worked perfectly, so Chels and those like her might survive for years after infection instead of turning quickly into animals. And no matter how many people they cleared off the streets, factory closings and the realities of the industrial revolution mean there are always more people who end up on the streets, offending the senses of the wealthy elite.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Faux ads from Spire City

One of the images I've always had in mind as I worked on the Spire City episodes is of them actually appearing in period newspapers or magazines, like Dickens' novels. So, several years ago, as I was working on initial edits for season 2 of Spire City, I amused myself by throwing together ads that would appear in the same newspaper as the episodes. They were supposed to look hastily designed and somewhat distressed, so it was fun to combine various grunge fonts and free clip art, sometimes admittedly haphazardly, into period ads.

Over the coming weeks, I'll be posting a bunch of them, perhaps one a week. There's already been the PSA warning from the city over at the Spire City page ever since I put that up. Here's a second one: