Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Space 1889 And Beyond Update

Here is the cover for K. G. McAbee's Vandals on Venus, the second installment in the Space 1889 and Beyond first season. I've read the draft and I like it a lot, particularly the writing style. 

She writes steampunk, fantasy, horror, science fiction, pulp and YA, plus a few more genres from time to time just to keep her hand in. She’s had seventeen books and over ninety-one short stories and novellas published so far, and she has from five to seven underway at any given time; she also has a passion for prime numbers. She’s the author of the Lady Abigail steampunk short story series at Untreed Reads, and she is co-author of the steampunk series The Brass Chronicles; the first book, Brass and Bone, will be released soon from Carina Press/Harlequin. She’s a history geek who once spent an hour lying in a stone vault in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid, and she lives in a 217-year-old log cabin in the woods of upstate South Carolina, near an ancient stone quarry used by some of her ancestors, the Cherokee. Look for it in September.

Speaking of September, the special advanced buy offer from Untreed Reads ends tomorrow. Here's the link to the deal. s.

Finally, here is a rundown of the main characters in the first series, courtesy of the Space 1889 And Beyond Facebook page.

Nathanial Stone; 26-year-old Nathaniel is from Putney, London, originally. He has two elder brothers, an elder sister and a younger brother. Only his younger brother, Edwin, maintains any level of contact with Nathaniel, since his elder siblings are highly jealous of the special treatment he received due to his status as ‘child prodigy’ of the family. He was borne of the Honourable Reverend Ronald Stone and his wife, Elspeth, and was raised a firm believer in God. Nathanial excelled at all the academic classes in school, and was soon moving on to bigger things, quickly earning himself a place at More House College, Oxford. While there he found in himself some strange desires. He resisted his urges, and over the following years came to believe that somehow God had made him wrong, a fact he confided to his dean (one Reverend Earnest Matthews). His path of science brought him into conflict with his father, who could not understand how science merely explained the how of God’s Creation, and thus lead to better understanding of God. By the time we catch up with Nathaniel he is well-respected in the fields of science, something of a genius, known for his work in physics and chemistry. He has a very deductive brain, and often makes great intuitive leaps in his experimentations. Nathanial has joined the Naval Construction team, and has perfected a more delicate Aether Propeller Governor with the help of the Director of Naval Construction, Sir William Henry White, which has been installed in the new prototype Sovereign Class Aether Flyer, the HMAS Sovereign

Annabelle Somerset; The young niece of Cyrus Grant, and the only daughter of his sister, Joan, and her husband, Ezekiel Somerset. At the age of twelve, Annabelle’s parents were killed near Silver City, Arizona, and she was captured by Geronimo and his band of Chiricahua Apaches. She lived with Geronimo’s band for the next two years until she was released. Since that time she has lived with her uncle, to whom she has become extremely devoted. She carries with her a well of grief and guilt over her parents’ death, still blaming herself to some degree. This guilt often drives her into being over protective towards those she loves; it can be both a strength and a weakness. Annabelle is a very strong woman, an adventurer at heart, very much a woman ahead of her time. She can hold her own against most men and refuses to be beaten into submission, falling into the role of servant like so many other women of her time. But she is not adverse to using her feminine wiles to get her own way, and often leads Nathanial into some trouble of other. Her two years of life with the Apaches have left her courageous and self-reliant, with little patience for men who consider her weak or incapable of looking after herself. Although she is loathe to admit it, initially, Annabelle is developing a soft spot for Nathanial, and the enforced companionship soon develops into a mutual friendship based on respect and trust

Doctor Cyrus Grant; Private inventor from Arizona. A cranky man of sixty-one years, with wild hair sprouting from the sides of a mostly bald head. Given to wearing spectacles on account of his short sightedness. Grant’s contraptions gained him quite the reputation among the rancher’s he helped out in his native Arizona, and those who have followed his career. No one was quite prepared to believe that he’d actually created a device which would allow acrobatic manoeuvres close to the lunar surface. His initial design was faulty and failed to work at all, and he barely managed to escape Luna’s low gravity. Upon returning to Earth, in January 1888, he was contacted by a British scientist, Nathaniel Stone, who worked with Grant to develop the aether propeller governor. They both thought they were working in secret, but the British Empire became aware of their activities, and watched them from afar. Grant did not like the closeness developing between Annabelle and Nathanial, and so sent Nathanial packing and Annabelle off east to college, finishing off the governor on his own. He assembled a team to help pilot the newly refurbished aether flyer, which he christened the Annabelle, and set off for Luna, unaware that his niece had secretly returned to Arizona and smuggled herself aboard. He soon got over his anger at her, and she became a fully pledged member of his team.

Captain Jacob Folkard; Forty-seven years old, Folkard is captain of the prototype aether battleship, the HMAS Sovereign. He is well-liked by all who serve under him, previously having been commander of the aether frigate, the HMAS Raleigh, and he is highly regarded by his superiors. His staunch patriotism and exemplary career in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy have led him to his appointment to several key positions. His latest is a result of a very high recommendation from Rear Admiral Herbert Cavor. Captain Folkard is undaunted by the perils of aether travel, and has a thirst for adventure, and is known for his wicked sense of humour. A rare thing for captains, who are known for their straight-laced behaviour. He makes a point of learning all the names of his crew, and will often put them in difficult positions to test their character. He takes his role as captain of the most advanced aether flyer very seriously, and will not allow anyone onboard who does not show some strength of character. Only the best are granted the privilege of stepping on his ship

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Interview With Andy Frankham-Allen

Journey To The Heart of Luna, episode 1 of the first season of Space: 1889 and Beyond, has been proofed and edited. A little bit of formating and it will ship . . . or transmit, I guess. Old mindsets die hard. Look for the release by mid-week.

In honor of the release, I interviewed Andy Frankham-Allen, the author of the first novella as well as the series editor. He interviewed me at about the same time and you can read it here.

Here is my interview with him.

FRANK: Andy, I’m always interested in what drew people to Steampunk in general and Space: 1889 particular, as well their early experiences with it. Yours are pretty unique, as I recall, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the full story. Would you mind sharing that?

ANDY: My introduction to Space: 1889 came very much out of left-field. Role Playing Games, or gaming of any kind (beyond card games and such things as Monopoly), have never really held any interest for me. I remember in the late ‘80s a friend of mine would pretty much force me into playing Warhammer, but I got bored of that game very quickly. Loved the miniatures, though! I’d been aware of steampunk (although not by name) for some time; having grown up with Doctor Who the idea of merging Victoriana with science fiction was a well-known concept, and one I have always enjoyed. To this day I absolutely adore 19th century literature, in particular the scientific romances of that era.

In 2005 I was at the birthday party for Big Finish Productions, having contributed to one of their Doctor Who short story anthologies (more came later), and I got talking with producer John Ainsworth about working on a new series of audio dramas based on the ever-popular Doctor Who companion, Sarah Jane Smith. The task set before me, writing a series of four audio plays, was quite daunting at the time so I enlisted the help of another budding author. We produced some test scripts, and planned out a series of stories... Things were advancing very well, but our plans got abruptly curtailed when Elisabeth Sladen (who played Sarah) decided she no longer wished to do the kind of series we had in mind. And so that was, essentially, the end of that. John, though, having experienced how quick my co-author and I turned around a script, thought we would be suitable for something else and asked us instead if we’d like to work on a ‘stand by’ script for this series he was making for his own audio company, Noise Monster Productions. The series in question was Space: 1889. We immediately said yes, and then looked at each other with worried frowns on our faces. Neither of us has heard of the property!

So, what followed was some hasty research, including my co-author purchasing the game book (as it was quite a hefty tome we decided only one of us would purchase it, and then photocopy and send the other the relevant material). Evidently this worked out quite well, as we soon knocked up an outline based on the game story, ‘On Gossamer’s Wings’, which got approved, contracts signed, and the script written. This all happened quite quickly really, in less than three months as I recall, but the gestation period between finishing the first draft of the script and recording took a hell of a lot longer.

And thus I became exposed, and ultimately enticed, into the universe of Space: 1889! Although I came into the property knowing nothing, I left the audio project with a desire to do more. For a few years I had in the back of mind an inkling that it would work so well as a series of books. So, naturally, when the opportunity to turn that into a reality came, I jumped on it. But more about that later.

FRANK: Aside from the gadgetry, which all of us love, what do you see as the defining elements of Steampunk? I’m not as interested in what all Steampunk may or may not have in common, but rather what you think it ought to have in common, or be about.

ANDY: For me, steampunk is more about the adventure. About taking Victorian values, the whole mindset of that time, out into the vastness of space. It has endless possibilities, of which the universe of Space: 1889 is but one. I love that in steampunk we get to downgrade all the science fiction ideas we now take for granted, break them back down to their most basic levels and play with them as if they’re brand new once again. The gadgets interest me less than the ideas that you can play with in the steampunk genre. Once we’ve established the universe of Space: 1889 in series one, we’ll then get to explore the ideas behind steampunk a whole lot more; really break the mould a little.

FRANK: You're the editor of the Space: 1889 & Beyond EBook series, but that understates your role. You were really at the center of the project from its genesis forward. Since how the EPublishing world works is a mystery to about 99% of folks, I bet they would be interested in hearing how the project came into existence.

ANDY: Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I’ll begin... To fully respond I need to go back to 2006, when it finally came time to record my Space: 1889 audio play, The Lunar Inheritance.

Quite a few months had passed between the initial drafts of the script and recording; by the time Noise Monster was in the position to proceed with the play I had been involved with a couple of other writing projects; thus my head was no longer in the Space: 1889 game. For me it was an old project, and so my co-writer took up the majority of the initial rewrites. We had big plans for that story (plans we didn’t share with anyone, not even our producer!), setting up a bigger story-arch that would play out in a later story, explaining the origins of the Moon Men, which we called Silanteans. Their home world was the planet we know as Vulcan, the remains of which form the asteroid belt just beyond Mars. This we were going to link to the mystery of Atlantis, which would be revealed as another colony of survivors from Silantis, hence the similarity between the name Silanteans and Atlanteans. Alas, these plans came to nothing due to the fact that Noise Monster’s involvement with Space: 1889 ended with The Lunar Inheritance, and as a result I’ve always felt sorry for that story, since it’s now looked on as something of an adventure-by-numbers. It’s good, does what it needs to do, but it’s not the big story it was supposed to be. Ever since I’ve always been convinced that more could be done with the fictional world of Space: 1889, and have always wanted to somehow become involved in a prose series.

In the last few years I have sounded out a few authors about the potential of a series of books, but very little came of those enquiries, until mid-way through 2010. By this time I had become involved with Untreed Reads Publishing; an independent ePublisher with the best distribution of any ePublisher. Editor-in-Chief, Jay Hartman, sent out an email asking for steampunk stories. We have all seen the emergence of steampunk as a very popular sub-genre, and Jay knew that as a publisher at the forefront of e-commerce, his company needed to release steampunk stories. This was, for me, the perfect opportunity. Even as I sent out the initial email to Jay about Space: 1889 I knew I was about to step on a path that could potentially lead to something big. It was a daunting prospect, but as Jay always says about me, I don’t believe in failure.

Jay was very much up for the idea of a series based on Space: 1889, and so he left it to me to sound Frank out, after all I was known to Frank via my work on the audio series. Frank was very interested in the ideas I presented to him, and so I put him and Jay in touch. The legal side of things were little to do with me, as my purview was the creative side of the project. My contract was signed first, and so away I went, plotting out the series and developing the main characters. My intention was create a series that would go beyond the year 1889, and thus the title of the series was born, basing it initially on the gaming stories found in the original game books. I was, and am, keen on making the series familiar enough to the old guard who have remained loyal to the property while at the same time creating something fresh and new, pushing the boundaries on the established universe created by Frank. Once Frank and I had agreed on the direction of the series (and I want to point out that I have it planned out, in broad strokes, right up until the end the third season, and possibly even beyond that), it was down to me to find the creative team to work on series one with me.

It’s been a tough old path to get where we are now, and I have lost several authors along the way, due to commitments elsewhere and, in one or two cases, because it has been discovered that the universe of Space: 1889 is difficult to get into from a creative point of view (at least at this juncture. I anticipate this will improve as the series progresses). Of course, I have now got my full team in place, and 90% of series one has been written.

One thing I thought was essential from the off was to re-design the logo, since the logo had been the same for a good twenty years, and I felt it was time to say “here we are, with something a little different”. Again Frank was up for it (one thing I can say about Frank throughout the development of this series, he’s always been open to my ideas, no matter how wild they may be), as long as he got to approve the final design. We went through about twenty-six possible versions! Curiously Frank and I were drawn to the same elements of two particular designs, which our designer duly merged together to create the now official logo. To me this a big big deal, as it shows people from the outset that we’re not simply creating an addition to the established property, but we’re branching out with something that hasn’t quite be seen by the loyal followers of Space: 1889. Not only that, but everyone involved, all the way up from Frank, Jay and I right down to the contracted authors and designers, totally believes in the future of this series. We’re taking it very seriously, and are committed to its success, but that’s not to say we won’t be having some fun along the way.

FRANK: You mentioned making the property more creatively accessible, which is an interesting concept. It’s probably not a hurdle which would even occur to most readers when thinking about putting writers together with an existing world. Would you like to elaborate a bit?

ANDY: Something we’ve found (and I think I speak for most of the writing team) while working on series one was the difficulty in changing a game into an ongoing narrative. The 1889 world created by yourself and others over the years is quite precise, but a lot of it is written in shorthand, in much the same way as, say, the alien worlds of Star Trek are. A race of warriors is indicative of an entire planet. Nonsense of course, since as we know from our own world how varied are the people who, ah, people it. So our task has been to bring it past the shorthand, make it into a universe that is alive. The characters, especially those already featured in the game books, need to breathe. Take Annabelle, for instance, in the game book her profile would lend itself to a stereotypical Victorian Adventuress, very gung-ho and a strong feminist (not that such a term would have been used in the 19th Century), but we need to make her more well-rounded, with flaws and all. As I said, Annabelle needs to breathe, the readers need to relate to her emotional journey throughout the series. No longer will you be able to predict her reaction; no role of the dice will determine her path any more. That’s an example of what I mean by making the property more creatively accessible. By time we come to series two, the universe will be quite well established, a murky world of contradictions, inhabited by real people with real drives.

FRANK: In November of last year, for the first time ever, more eBooks were purchased in the USA than traditional paper books. Within the last month, Borders Book Sellers, on the of the largest book retail chains in the US, closed its doors for good. The book market is evolving very rapidly. As a writer who has been published, and had enviable sales, in both formats, you are ahead of the curve of most authors. Writers tend to focus on the effect of this change on the marketability of their work, and understandably so, but how do you see this affecting readers?

It’s interesting, and a conversation I have had with many people since joining Untreed Reads, this whole print vs. electronic thing. I’m not seeing that it’s having much affect on readers, since the ones who moan about eBooks (from those who says, ‘I prefer to hold a book in my hand’, to the more simply-stated, ‘I hate eBooks!’ right up to a comment I heard today, ‘eBooks won’t last long; it’s just a fad’) have never actually tried to read an eBook. Recently a friend of mine, who was holidaying overseas, posted on Facebook how he was finally ‘getting’ eBooks, like they’d been some big mystery to him previously. EBooks are merely a more efficient way of getting access to your favourite reading material; it’s much convenient to download five books onto an eReader than pack five books into a case when you’re going away for some time, and I think most hardened readers understand that. We live in a world of convenience, and the growth in digital publishing is another example of that. That all said, though, I have found from some people that there’s almost a stigma about eBooks, as if, perhaps, they’re not viewed as real because they’re not in print. It’s a nonsense, of course. Mind you, the ease behind getting published electronically does mean that a lot of authors, who otherwise are not of a standard that they can get a publisher, are getting stuff out there. But that’s a whole different topic...

FRANK: As series editor of Space: 1889 & Beyond you have a lot of influence over where the series goes from here. Without giving any spoilers away, what are your hopes for the series?

ANDY: Well, I can certainly reveal that I have the series planned out for the first three seasons; it’s not an intricate plan – loads of space for the writers to bring new things to the table along the way. What I wish to achieve is, initially, to put all the old guard (those who have followed the property for twenty years) at ease, show them that this is still the same property, the same core universe. But by the second season I have every intention of shaking things up somewhat. I also want to see the series taking all these popular and now-common science fiction ideas, and breaking them back down to their base level, turning them on their heads, and making them something a little new and fresh. The joy of writing in the past! And finally, at least in answer to the question (I have loads of objectives which I won’t reveal!), I want to explore the 19th Century views on sexuality, a theme that’s never too far from most peoples’ minds.

FRANK: Thanks very much, Andy. I thuink I speak for a lot of folks when I say I'm looking forward to what comes next.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Two More Figures from Highlander Studio

Here are two more wilderness adventurers in 15mm from Rod at Highlander. I like these a lot because they are based, directly or indirectly, on historical characters.

This first figure is an explorer, and a fine confident fellow he is. The figure is based on the American Henry Morton Stanley, sometime journalist, explorer, soldier of fortune, and eventually empire-builder in the employ of King Leopold of Belgium. He made his name finding the missionary/explorer Dr. David Livingstone, supposedly greeting him with the now-famous words, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Stanley also made his name "rescuing" Emin Pasha near the headwaters of the Nile , although Emin Pasha did not think he particularly needed rescuing, and later complained that Stanley's arrival destabilized a situation Emin already had well in hand. Certainly Stanley's lasting accomplishment, if you care to call it that, was the brutal conquest of what became the Belgian Congo, a place which arguably has not recovered to this day.

Rod says this next figure, a hunter, is loosely based on Alan Quatermain, who of course is a fictional character from the pen of H. Rider Haggard. What Rod probably didn't know is that the fictional character Quatermain was based on a real-life adventurer, an Irishman named Charles Stokes, who went down in history as Bwana Stokesi. Explorer, hunter, ivory trader, and scoundrel, he certainly inspired the darker side of Quatermain's character, along with his physical courage, thirst for adventure, and at least some of his roguish charm.

There's an interesting historical intersection between these two figures: Stokes was hanged in 1895 in the Congo by a Belgian colonial official for illegal trading, so indirectly his demise was a product of Stanley's handiwork.

Well done again, Rod. Keep 'em coming.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Transactions of the Royal Martian Geographical Society

The Heliograph, Inc. has prduced, under license from me, facsimile versions of the original Space: 1889 game line for a number of years. Before that Mark Clark published Transactions of the Royal Martian Geographical Society (TRMGS), a wonderful magazine devoted to Space: 1889, and in about 2000 The Heliograph took over the magazine. Each issue contained a broad mix of articles -- historical weaponry, technology,and social mores,  historical characters, Space: 1889 short fiction, campaign reports, and additional world background.

Here are the feature articles found in issue six of TRMGS

The Syrtis Star
Tsarist Mars
Raum: 1889 – Germans in the Ether
Tools of Ill-Omen
The British Honour System
Martian Thunder Jugs
Gatling Guns and Camels
The New French Ether-Cruiser
Xavier Crumb and the Black Gang
The Trap Door Springfield
Death From Above: Units for Steampunk 1920
The Absent-Minded Inventor
The French on Mars

Every issue was like that -- full of little nuggets and gemstones. If you missed it the first time around, you should give yourself a treat. These are available as collections -- each volume has four issues -- and are available in hard copy or electronic PDFs. I just picked up a couple of the PDFs because when I'm working on Space: 1889 stuff it's a lot more convenient to have all the reference material on my hard drive than it is to haul around a bunch of books and still never have the one I need when I need it. You know what I mean.

Check out the Heliograph link.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Journey to the Heart of Luna Preview

The first installment in the Space: 1889 and Beyond saga will release within a week. As you remember, that opening installment is Andy Frankham-Allen's Journey to the Heart of Luna. I just got permission to post a sample, so here's the opening passage from the story. Enjoy!


By Andy Frankham-Allen



It was impossible! Aether flyers were not, by definition, designed for a crew of one, a fact that Annabelle Somerset felt with ever increasing dismay as she raced from the control to the navigation station. Just getting the Annabelle (yes, God bless her uncle, he had named the flyer after her) out of the gorge had been hard work. Starting up the boiler single-handed, then rushing the length of the flyer to the control room to check the instruments to make sure the water was creating enough steam, then back to the engine room at the rear of the flyer to set out the rocket engines her uncle had designed especially to combat the awkward gravity of Luna.

She cursed Tereshkov once more, and squeezed her eyes shut for a brief moment.

 I have to do this, she continued to tell herself. She had survived much worse. Annabelle almost laughed at that. Living for two years amongst Geronimo’s band of Chiricahua Apaches had tested her when she had been a mere slip of a girl. She had survived that, and she was certain she would survive this. That she had no choice was beyond question; there was no other left who could get the message to Earth. Uncle Cyrus’ life was in the balance and she could not allow herself even a moment of weakness in her endeavour. She had let her parents down, and she refused to let history repeat itself with her uncle.

She was not a little girl anymore, and the Russians be damned!

Instruments were laid out before her on the navigation station; some of standard design like the orrery, a mechanical analogue of the Solar System, and an astrolabe which allowed precise measurements of the planets positions; others were of her uncle’s making, and these she did not even know the names of. They were recent creations of his, and her decision to join the expedition had transpired late in the day, ill affording her the time to study these new inventions. Annabelle was no expert at reading the standard instruments, but she understood enough from having watched Blakely at the station to ascertain the current position of the Annabelle. The flyer was barely a kilometre from attaining a low lunar orbit.

She scrambled across to the control station once more, almost colliding with the bulkhead as the flyer shook around her. The damage sustained to the aether propeller by the Russians was too much. When she had first set her eyes on the propeller she had been certain she would never be able to navigate the flyer, despite the relatively unscathed nature of the aether propeller governor. She was fortunate the Russians did not recognise the governor for what it was, or they most certainly would have found a way to remove it from the Annabelle, and if not the whole apparatus then certainly they would have taken the diamond that served as the aether lens. Without it the governor would have been less than useless.

She gripped the aether wheel, a small ratchet-operated wheel that controlled the aether propeller at the rear of the ship, and turned it slightly. Annabelle looked out of the window and was elated to see the distant shape of the Earth, and before it, barely a speck in the depth of space, Her Majesty’s Orbital Heliograph Station Harbinger.

When she had first happened upon this plan with K’chuk she had hoped to be able to pilot the flyer to Earth; it was a difficult task, one fraught with many dangers, but the odds were not insurmountable. Upon seeing the damage rendered by the Russian okhrana, Annabelle knew she would have to adapt her plan. Obtaining a lunar orbit was the best she could hope for, but it would be enough to put the Annabelle in a position relative to the Harbinger. It was operated by the British Empire, and that served her purposes perfectly, as the help she required was located in England and not her native America.

She turned to the heliograph apparatus and was just about to start tapping in her coded message when her eyes espied a most terrible image through the port window. Annabelle’s finger paused over the key, and her eyes stared wide. Its iron clad surface reflected the light from the Sun, rising from Luna like the Great Beast of Hell.

“No,” Annabelle hissed. “This cannot be the end.”

So, she determined, it would not be. The Russian flyer was closing in, its gun ports no doubt opening as she looked, her mind trying to catch up with the increasing beat of her heart. Uncle Cyrus’ flyer was not a warship; he was an inventor, and his flyer echoed that. It was designed for exploration, not for battle. Any armaments it did have were minimal, and even if Annabelle were able to get to them in time, she doubted greatly their effectiveness against a fully armed Russian ironclad.

Annabelle turned away from the approaching flyer and focussed her attention on the heliograph before her. She began typing out her message, praying that the orbiting station would pick it up and relay the message with haste.

Space: 1889 © & ™ Frank Chadwick 1988,2011

Logo Design © Steve Upham, 2011

‘Journey to the Heart of Luna’ is © Andy Frankham-Allen & Untreed Reads LLC, 2011

Space: 1889 & Beyond is published by Untreed Reads Publishing, and the first series begins late August 2011. You can now buy the season pass, and save 25% directly from;

Sunday, August 7, 2011

More Higlander Studio Miniatures

I just got three more pictures of sample sculpts from Rod at Highlander Studios. These are unpainted, but they are too cool not to share.

This is the third (of four) American adventurer. I look at this and I see Buffalo Bill Cody with ray guns. Look at the face and the fringe on the jacket!

This is the fourth of four American adventurers. Nice to see a female figure without a bustle dress. Now, don't take that wrong, Steampunkers. I like a bustle dress as much as the next guy, but I'm not sure it's the best idea out in the wilderness.

Nice shotgun, too.

And here's a nice kitty-cat. I'm glad Rod is doing animals as well. Most of the time they're nice-looking but not much use in a miniatures game. In Mars Needs Steam! they are almost always a big part of the game. Well-done, Rod!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Space 1889 And Beyond Season Pass

Untreed Reads is launching the first season (yes, there will be more!) of Space 1889 And Beyond with a nice promotion, The first series consists of six books total; five novellas and then a novel-length final installment, all of which will be out by the end of the year. You can buy a season pass for $15.00, which gets you all six books as they come out, which is about a 25% saving off the list price. The season pass is only available direct for Untreed Reads, however, and is only available for purchase until September 1, 2011. Passholders will receive a coupon code via email upon release of each title to download their copy.
Authors for this series include Andy Frankham-Allen, J.T. Wilson, K.G. McAbee, Mark Michalowski, L. Joseph Shosty and , of course, yours truely, Frank Chadwick.

For the Season Pass, all titles will be available in HTML, PDF, EPUB and MOBI formats

Here's the link to the Space 1889 and Beyond Season Pass page.

I'm pretty new to the EBook field, but these base prioces ($2.99 for a novella and $4.99 for a full-length novel) sound very reasonable to me, compared to the price of EBooks I've seen from other sources, and that's before the Season Pass discount.

We've been getting good advanced coverage in Steampunk Tribune (see the link section), and I'm getting very excited about the launch.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Surviving Steampunk Conventions

This is a subject about which I am shockingly ignorant, never having attended a full-blown steampunk convention. That is a reflection of the troll gene which most writers have. In some writers it is more recessive than in others, but most of us find ourselves most comfortable when we are within 10 yards of our word processor, preferably in a dark cave or under a bridge. However, I expect I will end up going against nature and attending one or more steampunk events over the course of the next year, so I had better bone up on this stuff.

For those of you flirting with the idea, here is a link to a Steampunk Convention Survival Guide on the steampunk site Parliament and Wake, which has other interesting bits as well. Worth a look.

On the other hand, I watched LA Story again the other night and it may have the best advice on this subject: "Let your mind go and your body will follow."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Slope of Curiosity

I just finished A Prince of Mars and sent it off to the editor. The manor in which I finished it put me in mind of something Tam Mossman wrote about a number of years ago – The Slope of Curiosity. It is perhaps the single most important piece of thinking on the story-telling process I can recall reading, and the experience of finishing this manuscript drove it home with power.

First some background. I’ve read lots of books on writing over the last fifteen years. People trying to learn the craft of writing read books about it, in addition to doing a lot of other things, and just about every one I’ve read has had something useful to say. Three books remain my favorites, however, because all three of them are so packed with useful insights on almost every page that they are too much to absorb in one, or even a dozen, readings. These are the three books I always go back to whenever I hit a bare spot, whenever the words coming out seem lifeless, the scenes dead, the characters all of a type. These are the books with lots of turned down page corners and underlined passages. They are:

James Scott Bell, Plot and Structure

Donald Maass, Writing The Breakout Novel

Tam Mossman, Seven Strategies in Every Best-Seller

As I mentioned, Mossman writes of “the slope of curiosity,” by which he means using the reader’s curiosity to draw him through the story at an accelerating pace, like a skier on a downhill run. The slope may be steeper at some points, and more gentle at others, to vary the pace of the story, but it always has to draw the reader forward, it always has to slope downhill toward the end of the run. As the story draws near its conclusion, the slope must grow steeper, the pace accelerate, until the story rockets to the climax at a speed which takes your breath away. That’s the part of a good story where, as a reader, you just do not put the book down. You ignore the growling of your stomach. You take the book with you into the bathroom. 

What I rediscovered about the slope of curiosity with A Prince of Mars is that it works on the author as well.

Although my publisher’s deadline for manuscript turnover was September 15, and my editor’s was a slightly less formal August 15, I set a personal deadline of August 1. That wasn’t me being a show-off; it was recognition that things can go badly wrong and it’s good to have some slack in the schedule. Also, the nature of this project and its timeline is such that what I’d be turning in was essentially a slightly polished first draft, and I wanted to leave as much time for an editor-directed rewrite as possible.

The project is a novella: 30,000 to 50,000 words. My synopsis was approved in late May and I began writing in June. Well, I began outlining and fleshing out the synopsis in June, but by the end of the month I had only 4,500 useable words, and July had a lot of travel booked. Although I end up doing a lot of thinking and outlining while I am on the road (or in the airport), I find I don’t get any actual writing -- as in word count -- done while traveling, so after subtracting the ten travel days from July, I had twenty-one actual writing days. Okay. Fifteen-hundred words per day and I’d end up with about 35,000 words. Lots of people write more per day than that, and I’ve certainly written more when I am in the groove. In this case, I couldn’t wait for the groove to come to me; I had to make the groove.

Easier said than done. The truth is, I had a hard time making 1500 words a day early on. Without a lot of time for a rewrite at the end, the words had to be reasonably good words coming out the front end. I also did a fair amount of rewriting as I went, but I only count “net words” for my daily tally: final manuscript word count at end of day, minus word count at start of day equals net words.

On July 7, when I left for my first major trip of the month, I had about 10,000 words. Not quite on schedule, but about one third through the month and one third through the manuscript, so still alive.

When I got back, my first day at the keyboard was not very productive (325 words) ,due to travel fatigue, but I had a lot of ideas bouncing around and trying to get out, so the word count picked up after that.

July 14: 1706
July 15: 2131
July 16: 1520
July 17: 287
July 18: 1235
July 19: 2834
July 20: 1783
July 21: 1625

That put me at 23,000 words when I left for my second trip and I felt good about being able to finish up when I got back. I did a lot of work outlining the climax of the story while waiting in airports for delayed connections, had a pretty good handle on the scene structure, and came up with a bigger climax than in the original synopsis. The sense that something bigger at the end was needed had been gnawing at me for a while, and finally having it was what I needed to make that last sprint.

Travel fatigue was a near-killer this time, because of bad weather, missed connections, running from gate to gate, then waiting seven hours for, literally, the last plane out of Atlanta – and with an airport full of desperate, haggard travelers, carry-ons clutched to their breasts as if they contained all their worldly belongings, it felt a little like the last chopper out of Saigon.

Well, no, not really.

But I wasn’t worth much the next day and I got exactly zero words written. The day after wasn’t a lot better (410 words), so after those two days I was, by my reckoning, down 2,000 words. I needed to write 2,500 words a day for the next two days to get me even and make my target word count of 30,000. I didn’t quite, but I came close. Then I exploded. Here are my word counts for those last six writing days:

July 27: 410
July 28: 2381
July 29: 2264
July 30: 3208
July 31: 3576
August 1: 6667, the last two of which were “the end.”
Final word count: 41,500.

What happened?

The slope of curiosity.

At the end, I found myself on that wild down-hill run, drawn forward by the momentum of the story, racing toward that big climax up ahead.

What a ride!