Friday, March 28, 2014

YA Steampunk

Last weekend I was on a panel at MidSouthCon 32 about YA Steampunk. The panel description was “How to use/write steampunk in YA”, with an additional comment that “Steampunk is huge, especially in YA.” Panelists were Missa Dixon, Jennifer Mulvihill, Sharon Rawlins, Kimberly Richardson, and Kathryn Sullivan (me). Three authors of steampunk stories, a YA librarian and an editor (also author) of steampunk anthologies brought several different outlooks to the panel.

Like YA, Steampunk can cover so many other genre: alternate history, science fiction, mystery, romance, pirates, adventure, thriller, or Westerns. Even fantasy can be steampunk. I’ve read both those with a magic versus machines theme and those with just magic elements or beings. Dragons as well as elves and dwarves appear often in both versions. (Just to mention that I have a short story, “The Taste of Treasure” in Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells which has a competition between an elf and the Dwarfking’s children) Steampunk is usually associated with the Victorian age, but the stories don’t always have to be set in that time period.

The appeal of Steampunk is that the science is understandable. Steam power and electricity are not as complicated as, say, nuclear power, and much easier for do-it-yourselfers to figure out how things work and visualize how to construct things (and I’m not just referring to the costumes, though the panel did get slightly distracted on that point). Materials needed to construct a steam-powered or electric-powered machine are also easier for the average person to obtain or make, rather those in modern day science fiction stories (which requires the character to be a millionaire or backed by the government of a small country at the very least). The heroes of a steampunk story (both male and female) can be not only the good fighters and adventurers, but also (depending on the story) the engineers and the inventors, the MacGyvers and the Teslas, the people who “fix things”.

Sharon Rawlins provided a handout of YA Steampunk titles, which included Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series, Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series, Kenneth Oppel’s Airborn series, Philip Reeves’ Larklight series, and Tiffany Trent’s The Unnaturalists, just to name a few. The panelists mentioned other titles they could recommend. The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress and The Jupiter Pirates series by Jason Fry are ones I can add to the list. Girl Genius is an example of a steampunk webcomic of interest to many ages.

There have been television shows that embodied steampunk before the term ever existed: The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne with Michael Praed, Legend with Richard Dean Anderson and John de Lancie, and even The Wild, Wild West with Robert Conrad and Ross Martin. A example of a show today that has steampunk elements is Warehouse 13.

Writing YA Steampunk means focusing on both YA and Steampunk. Good YA (and Middle Grade) has characters that do things rather than just letting things happen to them. No matter how dark things became in A Series of Unfortunate Events, one panelist pointed out, she could always count on Violet rolling up her sleeves and taking charge to put things right.

All three authors as well as Kimberly Richardson (editor and author) are published with Dark Oak Press, so we all had experience with one publisher that publishes Steampunk. Anthologies allow for more varieties of approaches. Kimberly Richardson mentioned what she looked for in stories submitted to her, both in terms of believable technology and characters.

What YA and Middle Grade Steampunk stories have you enjoyed?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Sometimes the writing life is exciting. New books coming out. Tours to take. Book Blasts for fun.
Sometimes writing is a lot of work. Drafting a new story. Revising an old one. Editing for the editor.
Then sometimes writing is waiting. Waiting for final edits. Waiting for a cover. Waiting for reviews, and so on and so on. Today, I'm in all of these stages.
Ah! What a life!
In the meantime, since my mind is on overload already, I'm cross posting a little more about the writing life from my BlogSpot, which I cross posted from the MuseItYoung and MuseItUp blog. Enjoy.
First, here's my desk where my creative mind goes to work. Or doesn't.

How I write!

I seldom make an outline. When a little voice whispers in my ear, telling me his/her story, I sit down at the computer and start writing. I let the character(s) show me the way. I ask them questions, and hopefully they give me answers. Sometimes I jot down what I think will happen next or in a later chapter. Sometimes the story happens that way; other times not.

I work better when I have a schedule. Since I usually write more than one story at a time, each day I plan which story to work on that day. On a yellow tablet I list my goals for the day. I do not always reach them. No problem. I circle the ones I did not accomplish to work on the next day.

Writing brings me joy. When the final two words, THE END, are written, I've accomplished my goal. Then the revisions start. In the meantime, I may be editing a forthcoming story for my editor. If that's happening, I set aside time to edit.

Writing is also stressful at times. When I spend all morning on one paragraph, and it still isn't right, frustration sets in. Time to put the story aside for another day. Also, waiting to hear on a submission can have me biting my fingernails. Does the publisher like the story? Does it stink? Should I give up and go back to teaching? All sorts of doubts about my ability as a writer surface.

Do I quit? No way. I suck in a breath and face my characters, hoping they have wonderful ideas for me today.

Happy Writing!


Monday, March 24, 2014

Life at 900 Miles Per Hour

It's been pretty busy around these parts of late. Not really with the new book, though we've sent out some electronic galleys to writers in order to gather some cover blurbs.Giving them time to read the book while they do all of THEIR own writing stuff. I thank them for whatever effort they can give.

I've been writing, of course, though it seems to be going slowly. And I've been doing a lot of other stuff for book promo, all the pre-pub stuff that needs to be done. Mostly booking appearances. My May looks like a maniac's calendar. So far I am booked at the following places:

May 10-11: Maryland Faerie Festival
May 17-18: Steampunk World's Fair
May 24-26: Balticon

If this isn't enough, there's also a chance of my heading up to BEA the weekend after Balticon, just to hang out with other Strange Chemistry people and maybe meet my editor, Amanda. We'll see if that happens. These events above, I'm mostly doing promo for the book -- handing out postcards and bookmarks, and maybe some other goodies if I can get my crap together. I need something really cool. But since the cover isn't ready yet I can't quite do that. Hopefully soon!!! Once that cover comes out, I'll be doing a cover reveal at YABC and all over the place!

Oh, and at Balticon I'll also be launching GASLIGHT AND GRIMM, a Steampunk anthology coming from Darkquest Books, where I have a story, as well as (hopefully), Alma Alexander's new YA book RANDOM, and the new Steampunk YA, ALI BABA AND THE CLOCKWORK DJINN, both coming from Palomino Press.

THEN, I'll be on faculty for the NJSCBWI conference at the end of June. And finally, I'll be at CONvergence July 3-6. Or mostly July 4-5, since the 3rd and 6th will be travel days. Now, at THAT convention I WILL be signing ARCs of the new book, stationed at the Strange Chemistry book in the dealer's room. There may even be some kind of SCB reception/meet-the-readers kind of thing. Not sure yet.

Yes, the schedule is packed. And somewhere in there I will also be working on the launch party for A CURSE OF ASH AND IRON, which looks like it will probably be in a Haddonfield, NJ in September, and then booking up some signings after that, before I go to the Baltimore Book Festival at the end of Sept.

And, if that that wasn't enough, in the middle of all this...I got a new job. I haven't really been talking about it too much because it sort of happened in Slo-Motion. First I sent a resume, then I had an interview, then another...then I got the offer, then I had to wait for their school board to approve me, then I had to submit my resignation at my old job and give my notice. Now it's all paperwork to be finished.

I am really happy about the new job. I will miss the people and the kids where I am now, but in the end it's the right choice for me for about a million reasons. Older kids and older kid books (its a K-8 school). Structure. Dependability. All kinds of other things that would take another ten pages to explain. It's not any closer to my house, the money is slightly less, but in the end it's what I need to do.  And, of course, the timing is terrible. I'll be starting right in the middle of state testing, right at the end of the year...and right before my writing life goes from 0-60mph in about 2 seconds. I start April 30.  I know, I must be an idiot, but this is the way it had to go.

I WILL make it. I won't bail, or fall. And in July, I will sleep. And sleep. And hopefully have enough of the new books done that I can spend the summer revising and turn them in in the Fall. Sigh.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring is Right Around the, really!

For those of you who live in Southern climes perhaps you don't anticipate Spring in much the same way we do who have been battling snow and cold all winter long. I think I can speak for most people in the Northeast when I say, we are ready for Spring.

Besides warmer temperatures and open windows and lack of snow on the road, Spring is a time of new beginnings. A time to see things fresh again. We revel in the flowers and green grass and we feel ambitious and start Spring cleaning.

Or Spring editing as the case may be. I've been busy working with my publisher on edits for Honestly, Ali, the third book in the Ali Caldwell series. At the same time I'm going over the first draft of book four of the series and revising and fixing that. It's rather invigorating. It's time to throw out what doesn't work and polish what does - just like we go through our closets and get rid of clothes we no longer wear.

So, while I wait for actual spring-like weather to show up, I will look at old pictures of flowers (like the one above) and let my editing bring Spring's newness and freshness to me.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Yes, I'm a Marshmallow and Proud of it!

I admit it. I'm a huge Veronica Mars fan. Fellow YA authors told me I had to check out the TV series. I was able to Netflix them.

For those of you who aren't familiar with all the Mars excitement, here's a little backstory from

Veronica Mars is a student who progresses from high school to college while moonlighting as a private investigator under the tutelage of her detective father. In each episode, Veronica solves a different stand-alone case while working to solve a more complex mystery. The first two seasons of the series each had a season-long mystery arc, introduced in the first episode of the season and solved in the season finale. The third season took a different format, focusing on smaller mystery arcs that would last the course of several episodes.

I loved seasons one and two. What really stood out for me had to be the dialogue and oh, yes, Logan.

When I heard that they were doing a Kickstart program to help fund the movie? Yes, I was totally all over that!

I got my own Veronica Mars t-shirt, stickers, and also the digital script to the movie!

The movie takes place ten years later. Veronica has graduated from law school when she gets a call from her ex-boyfriend Logan asking for help. He's been accused of killing his pop star girlfriend.

Loved when she first sees Logan!

And omg on this:

I watched and loved!

And a Veronica Mars book is coming out on the 25th:

And here's a teaser on the movie. You can download the digital movie on iTunes and Amazon.


And this weekend another movie based on a YA series I loved is coming out--Divergent:

Friday, March 14, 2014

My Aching Writing Life!

Greetings, all!

It's my turn once again to post.

I almost didn't make it. Even with the multiple reminders that pop up to warn me ahead of time. But I have reasons.

I'd read back in January that 2014 was going to be a very chaotic year. And is it EVER!

I'm always mentioning in my newsletters how busy I am. But 2014 has punched 'busy' in the face and made him step up his game. Life since January has been Super Busy! (Just when I thought I'd had my fill of it, it raised the stakes on me!)

Busy is not a bad thing. Beats being bored any day. But there are limits. And while I've been doing writer type things as part of all the 'busy', I've not gotten any actual writing done for months. :(

My day job is in accounting. And for the last two years, my company has been working to get in line with audits, systems, processes, and all sorts of other things. Overtime has been plentiful...and ongoing. Then I added more - Inner Demons was picked up by Mundania Press late last year. Hadn't expected to hear from them for months as getting a contract is a fabulous thing, but also normally means you've now been put in a long cue and will need to do more waiting before your book rolls into the editing phase and beyond. Well, imagine my surprise when they assigned me an editor right away and we got cracking!

So overtime at work, overtime at home. Then having to go over the final version for that last pass for finding last minute mistakes before the book hits print. (Water heater broke and we were without electricity for over half a day during the weekend so they could fix it - best blessing ever! I made sure to charge the batteries on my laptop so I could do my last pass while they shut the power down - 6 hours straight I would not have gotten otherwise! Booyah! (The kids were twitching from 'lack of internet' withdrawal though.) Heh heh)

A month goes by, overtime waxes and wanes but does not go away. I do some side web work for one of my publishers and their host has been hacked. Been battling changed files and other issues for MONTHS. I swear there's something major getting mucked over there almost every week!

Inner Demons is RELEASED! Now I've got to juggle work and promoting a new book! (Been doing abysmally at the second part. Wah!) Convention season starts. More overtime at work.

Noooooo! Edit sessions for Jewel of the Gods (no web page for this one yet) comes up and smacks me in the face! (Another novel I'd already been contracted for but this one is with Zumaya Publications. I'd put some edit sessions on the editor's calendar for Feb thinking all my year end accounting stuff would be done by then but... HAH!)

So here's how the last 3 weeks have run... 9 to 10 hours doing accounting work, come home, shove dinner down my throat, 2 hours online editing sessions, 1.5 hours of TV to detox, go to bed and sleep. Rinse and repeat. Throw in 3 day conventions and taxes coming due, and I've plenty to keep me off the streets and out of trouble. lol.

This is what I've felt like lately.

 Heh heh heh.


(Yes, step away from the nice writer lady. Do not make eye contact. She can smell your fear.)

Have an awesome weekend!!!!! (I'll be working...:P)