In Which our Heroine Starts the Next Phase

I have returned from my holiday type break. In-laws have been visited, in laws have visited and my house is relatively back to its normal equilibrium. There is a small stack of read books in my office (and yet the Book Monster is still a dominating force of 80+ volumes or so), and new books have been acquired (yay new books). I am also the very proud owner of an increasing collection of awesomely geeky Funko POP Vinyl characters, a fuzzy Avengers blanket, and Agent Coulson’s Captain America Trading Card Collection. I did watch the Leverage series finale. Not only to I understand what Wil Wheaton meant about feels (ZOMG THERE WERE FEELS!), but I stand by my declaration that the episode was meant to be a series ender and should stand as such even though I will miss what for me was the Parker & Hardison & Elliot Show. On the subject of feels, Dallas comes back in just a few weeks. There will be backstabbing and feels aplenty!

So, on to the writing portion of this blog. I just sent off my e-mail to join my RWA Chapter’s Critique group for Death by Dragon and it’s a little nerve wracking. It’s a good group from what I have been told and has seen lots of first sales to publishers. It’s still unnerving to turn my baby over to a group of writers I don’t personally know, even if I should get a better story coming back. I guess I should take some confidence in the fact a lot of people in my writing classes thought I was on to something story wise but I most certainly am not entering this arena with any swagger in my step. Crossing my fingers, we shall see how this goes.

In Which Our Heroine Gives an Update

I hate being ill, but my sinus infection hit the fever point last night. November and December are horrible illness months for me. Just horrible. However, I get a 2 week break starting next Friday. I look forward to this.

I’m working on the last two chapters of my draft. In the meantime, I’m posting what my query letter for my current manuscript will look like. Not only does it give a summary of my project but I hope that in giving it a page of it’s own, it can be a way to show potential agents and editors what projects I am offering for consideration.

So, here it goes: The Case Involving the Death by Dragon

The Next Big Thing

I was very kindly nominated by for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop by Dreampunk Geek. Thanks for the shout out!

What is the working title of your book?

The Case Involving the Death by Dragon

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America and I was searching through the upcoming class listings when I ran across a class being offered in Western Steampunk by Beth Daniels. By the time I finished reading the class description, the voices inside my head that become characters had already gone off plotting antics and shenanigans. I signed up for the class and quickly decided this work in progress was stronger than my previous.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA Romantic Western Steampunk

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

High society witch Viviene Kingston seeks to discover the truth behind her brother’s suspicious death with the help of the handsome Matt Sawyer whose mysterious past stands to jeopardize the investigation.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Ooo, that is a tricky one. Given the ages of the characters involved, I suspect I would be most likely forced to use the CW line-up to begin my casting search. I do have a personal rule that if you’re closer to thirty than twenty, you should not be playing a teenager though.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m a firm believer that if you want your book to end up in a bookstore, you should go the traditional route even though it’s quite time consuming.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I reached the halfway point yesterday. The first draft will have been about 2-3 months total.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Part of what attracted me to Western Steampunk is it hasn’t been done so much in YA. In my current writing class, the instructor looked at the outline and called it Wild, Wild west meets Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel. I haven’t actually read Cassandra Clare’s Steampunk series so I can’t tesify to that.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It has fisticuffs, magic, snogging and pretty bustle skirts. Also at least one character with some background as an outlaw. Really, you can’t go wrong with that. Literary boys of questionable and mysterious backgrounds for the win.

For the Next Big Thing Blog Hop, I nominate:

Kirsty Stanley and Melananie D Sokol

In Which Our Heroine Discusses More Victorian Things…

An engagement ring, circa 1880s.

I get to look up really fun things when I write historical fiction.

I’m writing Western Steampunk so I get to do research into the American Victorian era and the Wild West. For anyone out there who might be interested in such things, I highly recommend these books for everyday life information (food, clothing, hobbies, slang, furnishings, courtship, mourning, etc): Everyday Life in the Wild West and Everyday Life in the 1800s. They are out of print but you can still find used copies through the Amazon Marketplace or Half.com.

Sometimes, I end up poking around the internet for things the book can’t cover. I was curious as to what engagement rings of the period looked like as my recollection of the whole “Diamonds Are Forever” marketing campaign being later. For the records, diamonds were used but not as the default gem like today. I found a gorgeous ring poking around for 1880s engagement rings and thought it was rather pretty. I also found references to engagement rings coming in silver boxes upon purchases which I thought was a neat detail. Apparently some people collect those boxes.

Tabor Grand Opera House was first opened in 1881 in Denver.

I also had cause to look up opera houses of the time. I was lucky that the time period I had picked including the building of a lot of things I can fit into my story. While Steampunk lets me make the setting a little alternate, I do like to drop in those real historical tidbits for flavor. It does help make the world building easier when I can play with what already existed.

The interior of the Tabor Grand Opera House. So pretty!

The opera house that matched my time period is the Tabor Grand Opera House, which was funded by a very prominent member of the city. The Tabor Grand Opera House no longer exists (it was taken down for good in the 1960s), but the surviving pictures show that it was a stunning building and I think it’s a shame it’s no longer standing. The interiors were just gorgeous and no expense was spared when it was created.  Thank heavens the Denver Public Library has an online photo archive for historical purposes. Makes my research easier. Note to writers, sometimes it’s really nice when your period of choice includes photograph as painting are not as greatly available and could be manipulated a bit more.

In Which Our Heroine Struggles on Titling Her Book

Titles are tricky, tricky things. there was a time I was better at this. Back in high school. Even in college. You know, when I was writing things that I have since shelved as earlier attempts to write where I learned a lot but those things should sit and simmer for much longer if I ever do anything with them.

For my current work in progress, my YA Romantic Steampunk, I am struggling with not only a series but a book title. I want it to feel very steampunky which means I’m very much looking at the diction end of things. Part of my struggle is also that I learned that marketing departments often get the final call on your title. You go through all that trouble so someone else can name your book. While it makes sense to me, and I do tend to think marketing departments likely know more than I do, it still makes me grumble a little. Especially since I also hear that agents and editors look for titles that catch their attention.

Sigh.

Grumble. Grumble.

In Which Our Heroine Discusses Steampunk Fashion

I really love Steampunk clothing.

Last year at Phoenix Comic Con, I saw some gorgeous Steampunk outfits and I would love to make one for myself. Luckily, as a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, I do have the sewing skill set. I also have embroidery and some basic sword play, for the record.

Simplicity Pattern 2172.

Since Steampunk is based off of Victorian-era fashion I don’t need things to be historically accurate the way they do for the SCA. In poking around online, I ran into some Steampunk patterns of interest. The first, 2172 may be my favorite. 2207 is also in the running and then there’s some fun pieces in 1819 as well. The trickiest thing is a corset and if I want to do that, I have to make the corset first and then fit the dress to the corset. So complicated, lol. But so pretty!

Of course, my next question is what fabric I would use and let me warn those who have never looked into it, fabric does not come cheap. Many awesome costumers will tell you that there are three traits and you can pick two: price, quality and speed. If you want it quality and fast, prepare to pay. If you want it cheap and quick, don’t expect quality. If you want it cheap and quality, it won’t come quick because you will be really searching for the materials on the bargain (and you still might not get them).

I look at the first two patterns I see and but them in blue of green, maybe black and I can see my heroine wearing one of them. Add in her steampunky jewelry and you really have something going there.

My pattern hunting at the fabric store could get dangerous this weekend.

In Which Our Heroine Reflects on Historical Fashion

A 1880s bustle dress. Please click the image for more shots of this dress and others in the 1880s section.

I have a confession to make.

Bustle skirts determined the setting of my story.

I love the Victorian period for fashion and even though my Western Steampunk takes place in Denver, Colorado, the year corresponds with the British Victorian Period and many fashions traveled to America. Once I realized this meant my story was taking place during the 1880s, I checked out the other details I had at my disposal about those years in Denver. Luckily most of the events that occurred at this time really worked for my story – Huzzah!

Bustle skirts are sort of fabulous, but I sometimes wonder how one didn’t knock things around. Although I found pictures of walking dresses without such things, I figure I can get in at least one of two bustle jokes if I’m really lucky.

One of the other things I looked up was embroidery of the time period. A lot of bolder female characters in books reject pastimes like embroidery. I have a lot of tomboy tendencies myself, but I actually really like embroidery so I thought it would be fun to rebel against the stereotype and let the heroine master one “feminine art” that she was insanely proud of because I like quirks. Why shouldn’t a heroine be tough, capable and wickedly creative with a needle and thread? By golly, this is Steampunk and one can do it all

This embroidery could be found on clothing (OMG, so detailed and pretty!) or household items like linens, table clothes, handkerchiefs and so forth. In fact, I am so in love with this 1880s White Cotton Polonaise with Black Embroidery dress, it isn’t even funny. If you think some of that is gorgeous, take Google for a spin and check out the beadwork. Drool…