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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sex, drugs and rock and roll.

One of my favorite things to do is create a rock star who isn't really a rock star. (Given that the Victorian era hadn't exactly discovered electric guitars yet.) Steampunk begs you to create a leading male who's practically Criss Angel. It makes sense. They wear lots of jewelry, leather or velvet, and usually have longer hair and/or piercings. Plus, it's ideal if the hair is a "different" color. This makes it fantastical since Victorian people probably wouldn't be caught dead with chunky red or purple streaks through their mop. All the vintage-cut threads keep it relevant.

My main male is a lot like this. He's heavily tattooed, has dark tussled hair, but wears frocks, top hats and trousuhs. And you can never have too many black boots.

Facebook turned me on to this website:

They've got some Steampunk stuff in there with the madness and it got me thinking about Steampunk's close correlation with rock and roll. You know, the mentality. DUDE, check this guy out to my left, man.

You know what else is super sexy and tends to be used in this genre? EYELINER ON MEN. I swear, I don't know why more males don't utilize eyeliner in general. I know it's a ton of work and there are all sorts of social stigmas associate
d with man makeup, but you really can't beat it.

This supports my sexuality theory, which is in favor of men being more colorful and showy. Peacocks, man. Peacocks. With the animal kingdom, the males are the exhibitionists while the females are normally cloaked in subdued colors. Human beings, of course, tend to be opposite when it comes to that which is socially acceptable. Men wear blacks, grays and don't do up their faces or have exorbitant hairstyles. Women have to be every color of the rainbow, with lipstick shadow and blush, hair highlighted,
lowlighted and bumped. I'm in favor of the rock star man, with roached hair, crazy fashion and eyeliner for days. Of course, as a teenager and a young college student I was deeply into the Japanese visual kei movement, so as you can imagine, I'm a tad on the biased side. Still, in terms of visual stimulation and outlandish fashion, you can't beat the Japanese. In some ways, Anime nurtures Steampunk, as does the video game industry.

I feel as though I've digressed quite a bit from the original point. What was the original point? Steampunk men are sexy? I think what I was TRYING to get across was that it's iconic to the genre to paint up the men and make them rock stars. I'm excited to introduce my main character, especially his bad-ass tattoo and of course... his top hat.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Three Musketeers

Greetings. Soon, I'm hoping to have a blog about Mackinac Island over there in Lake Huron in Michigan. Cars aren't allowed on the island! It's all horse-drawn carriages. So freaking cool. My aunt and Grandma went there a little bit ago, and I'm hoping to have some inside information that has a Steampunk flavor. So I guess this is a spoiler alert?

So, I may be a bit behind, but has anyone looked at the new Three Musketeers movie? It's outrageously Steampunk. I'm not sure how they did it, but they managed to put warship hot air balloon zeppelin things in it. Watch the trailer:

Like all Steampunk endeavors, it could either be stupid as hell or awesome. I mean, being a child raised in the eighties/nineties, I have a definite soft spot for Charlie Sheen, Oliver Platt, Chris O'Donnell and Kiefer Sutherland. (1993 Charlie Sheen. His flavor of insanity is a little too bitter for me nowadays.)

But I'm willing to give this one a whirl just because it's relevant and might be helpful. Looks like it has some super cool gadgets!

Happy Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


My mentor and amazing writer (see interview below) Bonnie Hearn Hill taught me this particular phrase. It means "It's only a day job." I have it on a post-it just behind the ninja. Sometimes, when I get really stressed out about things here, I have to glance at that and remind myself that this isn't my real gig. Being a locksmith is awesome. Don't get me wrong. It's the perfect day job for somebody who is trying to break through into the Steampunk world. But working for the state of California, being at work by 7:00 AM, dealing with the whining masses who demand that which they don't understand...I'm thinking that's all temporary. I mean, I think most of us hope that the grueling 8-5 junk goes away after a bit. I plan on making it go away faster.
Sometimes, you really do get caught up in the boring traffic. I know I do. You lose sight of your true destination and end up sightseeing, getting lost or running errands when you're supposed to be somewhere else. That's how I feel about fiction writing. It's the ultimate destination. It's the goal. It's me walking off into the sunset while the end credits roll and an epic 80's hairband rock ballad plays.
I apologize for not posting lately. I got distracted. Actually, if you want the real truth of it, I've been revising and re-writing things that actually ARE productive, so if my fingers were moving across the keys and Steampunk science fiction wasn't coming out, I felt as though I was running in place. But I think I'm back. Ready to stay focused and not lose track of the real reason I'm alive.
I.O.A.D.J. It's only the thing that provides me food, shelter and a place to sleep so that I can write without allowing rain to smear the ink or pass out from anemia. A means to an end. :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Guest blog, Bonnie Hearn Hill

Please extend a very warm welcome to my friend and mentor, Bonnie Hearn Hill. Bonnie worked as a newspaper editor for twenty-two years, and has written several thrillers for MIRA, as well as the young adult "Star Crossed" series. Her newest book, GHOST ISLAND, is available now.

SL: You followed six international thrillers by three young adult astrology novels, and now, a paranormal young adult. Why GHOST ISLAND and why now?

BHH: I wanted to write a love story. More than that, I wanted to explore what we’re willing to do and willing to believe for love. Although it is a young adult book, I have heard from many adult readers who say they relate to it. The story question is: Will Livia and Aaron get together, even though she can only see him in her dreams, and even though he may well be a ghost?

SL: The book is set during a storm on Catalina Island, which is kind of spooky anyway. Must have been fun researching.

BHH: I spent time there many years ago, and the moment I sailed into Avalon Harbor, I knew I would write about it one day. Many believe the island is haunted, but I learned that only after I had written the book.

SL: You have been teaching writing since 1990. How many authors have you helped break into print?

BHH: Hundreds, and I’m talking books and articles, not letters to the editor. That means only that I’ve been doing this a long time. In my first eight-week class back in 1990, one of the students sold a magazine article, and I knew that I was meant to teach as well as write. I started with The Tuesdays, most of whom are published now. My private group, the Fridays, include humorous astrology writer Hazel Dixon-Cooper, psychologist Dennis C. Lewis, and Christopher Allan Poe, whose thriller, THE PORTAL, will publish next month. I now lead a small group known as The Mondays, and they/you are a talented bunch.

SL: We are certainly grateful to have you. What attracts you to teaching?

BHH: You, Stacy, and other talented writers such as the ones in your family. They give me hope, and working with them makes me a better writer. Twenty-two years passed between the writing of my first novel and the signing of my two back-to-back, three-book contracts. I had the passion and the dedication, but I lacked a mentor. If I have a strength as a teacher, it’s the ability to see what the writer intends, not what I would do if this were my story.

I don’t leave editorial fingerprints. If a writer is willing, I can show her or him what’s left out. I call it the missing 5 percent, and I don’t mean that literally, only that it’s probably something small. Maybe it’s point-of-view control. Maybe it’s scene structure. Maybe it’s the ability to create honest characters. It may be one thing, but until you know what it is, you will not be able to write believable fiction.

SL: *Blushes* Thank you Bonnie, you are a wonderful editor who has taught me a thing or two. What is the most important thing you can give a writer?

BHH: Time. The ones who are going to do it—and I have to tell you, the percentage is small—will do it anyway. I can help them save the years I wasted.

That leads me to an important question, what’s the biggest mistake writers make?

Dishonesty, at a soul level. If you can’t be honest with you about you, there is no way that you can create honest characters. Plot problems are almost always character problems, and dishonesty is at the root of most of them. I have never met a dishonest person, regardless of how talented, who could write compelling fiction.

SL: What’s the second-biggest mistake?

BHH: They give up too soon. Most of that is ego and a need for instant gratification, and believe me, I understand that. I must have had a hundred rejections before I found my agent. Maybe more. You can’t let rejection stop you. You have to be open to input. You have to believe in yourself. And you have to know that if you are serious about what you are doing, your time will come—and it will be the right time.

Very wise and timely words. What is the state of the industry right now, and how is that affecting writers? Are e-books really the next step?

The Big Machine of mainstream publishing is broken. It has been for some time, but with the success of e-books, it’s clear that the filter is no longer the Big Machine, but the reader. Some successful authors have turned down large advances in order to go with independent publishers. Why should they give up most of their profits because of the publisher’s investment in distribution? E-books are distributed 24-7, at no charge. Be assured that what I just said is not an excuse to cop out and self-publish just because you can’t find a publisher. You still need editors, and if you are lucky, you need an agent who understands the importance of editing and promotion. You’ve been in my home, Stacy, and you know that it is wall-to-wall books. I’m not throwing them out because I own a Kindle. I’m not throwing out the Kindle because I own and love books. Poetry books, art books, photography books, special books. They will always be part of our lives. I have been a published writer since I was 19 years old, and I have never experienced anything as positive and profitable for writers as what I am witnessing right now.

SL: Okay, Bonn, we’re friends. Tell me something that most people don’t know about you. Tell me something I don’t know about you.

BHH: I wear a lot of purple.

SL: Sigh. Try again.

BHH: I was one of the first six readers—and the first woman—on KVPR’s Valley Writers Read first broadcast in the 1980s. I am a community correspondent for KMPH Great Day with Kim and Kopi. I write an occasional short story. And I wear a lot of purple.

SL: You can pull it off. What’s next?

BHH: More books. I’m editing a thriller right now. I’m intrigued about the possibility of another novel about Livia and Aaron.

SL: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. What should I be doing right now to further my own writing career?

BHH: Four things, Stacy, and they can change your writing and your life. 1. Get up an hour early every morning, and give that best part of the day to your work. In other words, write every day, at least six days a week. 2. Read every day, even if for only thirty minutes. 3. Get out of your comfort zone. Do something you wouldn’t usually do, even if it’s driving across town to a different grocery store. 4. Put a sticky note in a visible place in your office. IOADJ. It’s only a day job. Do it, Stacy, and report back to me in a month. Deal?

Deal. Thanks again for chatting with us, you are a fabulous mentor.

Bonnie will be signing copies of GHOST ISLAND this Saturday, October 1, at the Barnes & Noble in Fresno, from 2-4 p.m.

You can check out the trailer for the book here:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pressing Send

Meredith recently posted about diving into the querying pool, and I especially liked how she described it as positive forward motion. She said that querying means you’re a finisher, and I agree.

Over the last few months, I made some revisions after getting feedback from agent submissions. It ended up being a summer break from querying, but I must admit, it felt good. Like Meredith said, querying is a little soul crushing. But after my vacation, I’m ready to jump in (I think.)

How do you know when your manuscript is ready to send out? It’s not an easy decision to make. My advice, for what it’s worth:

1. Revise, revise, revise. Your first version isn’t ready, no matter how much you want it to be. Get as many beta readers as possible, and take their advice seriously. Even after several reads by different people, I was making adjustments. And it is better for it.

2. Do your homework. Know what genre your book is, and which agents are accepting queries in that genre. I believe in querying widely, but it makes no sense to me to send a historical romance to an agent accepting only YA. Learn how to write a query letter, for that matter. (Hint, it shouldn’t be three pages long.)

3. Join a critique group, and go to conferences. Keep your finger on the pulse of the industry. Things are changing all the time, and none of us can afford to be out of touch.

4. Finally, have a good system of keeping track of where your at. Query Tracker is great for tracking the queries you sent out, but a good ole’ pen and paper will work too. Just don’t make the mistake of sending it to an agent twice, or *gasp* spelling their name wrong or calling her “Mr.” Although, I’m sure it has happened to all of us *blush.*

A wise person once said, the only way there is through it. Even though some days are hard, I know it will all be worth it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Passion, Naps, and Jane Austen

Wow, I haven't been around very much on this blog. Sorry! Life has been getting in the way, alas. On a good note, I had been really having a hard time getting into my new WIP. I'd been switching between three projects I'd been working on, a little bit here, a little bit there. Every page felt forced while I was writing. Can anyone relate? Ugh. Such an awful feeling.

One day, I was racking my brain about what was important to me, and what would be important in a book I write.

--Issue-driven fiction for one. Especially topics concerning teens in foster care, kids suffering abuse, kids who are marginalized.
--Romance, number two (good kissing scenes!).
--Passion, three. And watching characters overcome large personal obstacles. I thought long and hard about the books most beloved to me, the stories that I held most dear, some being: each and every Jane Austen masterpiece, Wuthering Heights, Les Miserables, The Lord of the Rings triology.

And then, I promptly took a nap. When I woke up, I came up with the best idea I've had yet and can't stop writing about it. (so exciting) I'm not going to say anything just yet, but here are some hints: it's YA, it's a love story about a boy and girl who have been friends since childhood, and to describe it, at this point, I'd say it's a mash up of Peter Pan meets Romeo and Juliet meets Wuthering Heights meets The Outsiders.

Confused yet? Hopefully more later.

In the meantime, enjoy this old promo for The Complete Jane Austen put on by PBS a few years back. If these guys don't get your heart pumping, then I don't know what else will!


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