Monday, May 26, 2014

Off the Bookshelf: WRITING LOVE, by Alexandra Sokoloff

Yes, I know I'm breaking the chain of steampunk novels and novellas I've been reading and reporting on, but I've been reading a chapter of this book every morning and finally finished.

I advocate reading writing books on a regular basis just because they present writing principles and techniques from different angles and approaches. Somewhere in there, even if you're reading and re-reading things you already know and are already putting into practice with your writing, somewhere in there will be an "Ah HAH!" moment and you'll get a breakthrough. You'll find a tool you never had before.

The nifty thing about Sokoloff is that she approaches novel writing from screenwriting techniques. She analyzes a large handful of movies, pointing out the patterns they have in common, what makes them good stories, how they control the pace and flow of the story, the various types of characters, the elements of plot that are necessary, and adapts Campbell and Vogler and what they teach about the hero's/author's journey. She gives exercises and homework assignments that you can apply to your current work-in-progress. There's a lot of meat to this book, a lot of common sense advice. Well worth the time to read -- and maybe in a year when you've forgotten some of the principles and exercises, going back through to read again and refresh your brain.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Off the Bookshelf: ABIGAIL ABERNATHY by TR Goodman

Another Steampunk short read, this one has got me hooked on the clever, never-say-die heroine ... in only 19 pages!

The full title is ABIGAIL ABERNATHY: All-Night Analytical Engine Analyst, Volume I.

Analytical engine? Think steam-driven prototype computer, with punch cards and such. I've seen this in several other steampunk stories I've read, so I must assume this is a standard steampunk device.

In essence Abigail is defying convention by working for a living -- she's technically a member of the Geek Squad -- and the story chronicles her first day on the job, taking on a mismanaged analytical engine at a very messy, disorganized company. On top of everything else, she's contending with the attitude of the analytical engine analyst who just lost his job ...

Clever. Great character. Definitely going to look for more adventures of Abigail Abernathy ... as soon as I get this to-be-read pile down a few more inches ....

Monday, May 12, 2014

Off the Bookshelf: CLOCKWORK FAGIN

"Clockwork Fagin," by Cory Doctorow, is the first story in a collection appropriately titled, "Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories" edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant. Only the first story in the anthology was available in the free preview I downloaded on my Nook.

I'm gonna go back and get the whole anthology when I finish all the freebies and samples I downloaded.

What's it about? Well ... think Oliver Twist, but the orphans not only take over the orphanage, they manage to change their horrible servitude and abusive living conditions into a life that children should live. How? Well ... it's kind of gruesome, when you think about it. It starts with a murder -- justified, believe me -- and turns into a puppet show. It gives a fascinating look at what the Industrial Revolution would have looked like if computers and lots of techno-wizardry-gadgetry had been part of it, and all the children who wound up in the poorhouse/workhouse were the castoffs, injured on the job. But their brains remain, even more clever in the quest for survival.

That's all I'm going to tell you. Get the freebie, and then read the rest of the anthology when you get the chance.

Monday, May 5, 2014


The next book in my quest to soak up steampunk is actually a short story by Luke Monroe.

Crimson Overcoat is the former nom de guerre of the hero, Alexander, in this tale that mixes magic and revised history and unusual tech with a drastic revision of the Kris Kringle/Father Christmas mythos.

Alexander is enjoying the lull during the Christmas season, taking advantage of his boss being out of the office so he can indulge in some techno-wizardry work. Of course, that is interrupted when an elf named Holly comes knocking on the office door, looking for a champion. It turns out Kris Kringle isn't the jolly, lovable, benevolent old guy in red that we're used to. At least, not in this alternate history world. Alexander brings the Crimson Overcoat out of retirement and sets off for the North Pole to do battle and save an entire elf family from slavery.

Does he succeed? Does he survive? Read this novella -- free, when I downloaded it from B&N on Nook -- and find out for yourself.

I'm quite enjoying my education in all the many varieties and flavors of steampunk...