Monday, May 24, 2010

Victoria: A Steampunk Exploration

Victoria: A Steampunk Exploration

Welcome, my friends old and new. Allow me to regale you with the story of my wondrous excursion to the Victoria Steam Expo, a gathering of the greatest scientific and cultural minds on the planet, working in harmonious unison to tackle the world’s most perplexing problems, and of course, to enjoy the creature comforts of Victoria, British Columbia. During my sojourn to this wild country, I participated upon an expedition, enjoyed the finest cuisine, and met the most incredible individuals—including a mad scientist, an evil genius, a fellow scribe, and of course, the most splendid and charming ladies I have ever been privileged to encounter.

My journey began in the wee hours of 21 May, when I boarded the impressive Victoria Clipper. Imagine my surprise when I discovered neither paddle wheel nor steam engine powered this sleek craft. Instead, some remarkable “turbine,” an incredibly inventive motive force propels this ship across the waters at an impossible 35 knots. However, upon the promenade deck, I felt nary a dip of motion, so smooth was her sailing. I sipped tea and biscuits provided by wonderful hosts while the dark waters of Puget Sound slipped by. In almost no time I stepped off the boat into a foreign and mysterious country known as Canada.

2010-05-21 Clipper 002The wondrous Victoria Clipper IV

Facing a day of tedium before the official start of the Exposition, I chartered a lorry to the fabled Butchart Gardens, a horticultural wonderland tended by the magnanimous Butchart family. After a short ride through the fir-graced hills of Vancouver Island, during which our talkative escort related thrilling tales of Victoria lore, I stepped off into a riotous land of bounteous beauty. For decades, the Butchart Gardens have been meticulously cultivated to produce a breathtaking mastery of the botanical arts. I enjoyed my expedition immensely, and was rewarded with the observation of several hitherto secreted varieties of plants and flowers. Alas, it ended far too soon, as I had reserved a spot at a sacred tea ceremony.

2010-05-21 Butchart Gardens 030A poignant statue amidst the beauty of the Gardens. 

The Empress Hotel is steeped in history and tradition. Built after Queen Victoria’s passing, it is an homage to her reign and dedicated to her memory, architected in the purest Victorian style and preserved with the grandest Victorian manners. I attended their legendary Tea Ceremony whereupon my gracious hosts procured the finest tea blends and sumptuous finger sandwiches while I observed the maritime activity out on the bay. Kudos to the chefs at The Empress; their culinary creations are spot-on.

2010-05-23 Victoria Steam Expo Day 2 040 The Magnificent and Historic “The Empress” Hotel

Afterwards, I retired to my room for some well-earned relaxation. However, the call to adventure that runs through my blood could not be suppressed, so I ventured out upon the grand streets of Victoria in search of a hospitable tavern. And what did I find? A pub called “Bard and Banker.” Well, a tavern with the name “Bard” could not be ignored, and I was not disappointed. I sampled the finest ales of Victoria, indubitably impressed with their fine craftsmanship while enjoying the company of the curious but hospitable natives of Canada, who proved most charming to strangers in their midst. Ales are a source of their national pride, and it is well earned. I returned to my room most satisfied but with an incurable anticipation for the start of the Exposition.

Tea at the EmpressTea at the Empress Tea Room. Most delightful. 

My first order of business on the dawn of May 22 consisted of a minor expedition in search of my favored Italian beverage. Whilst I enjoy tea immensely, my body craves the jolt provided by java. I returned to my room and donned my finest, then proceeded to the Exposition in the glorious Crystal Ballroom. My mouth gaped at the wonder within. Ladies and Gentlemen from all walks of life congregated in the ballroom, garbed in handsome suits and dresses. Inventors, craftsman, and seamstresses displayed their wares while masters of modern thought and expression took the stage. For two days I absorbed this elevated atmosphere, and shall hereby summarize a few of the highlights.

Victoria Steam Exposition Day 1 2010-05-22 013 Several most excellent Exposition attendees 

The Mad Scientist

Whereupon Professor Whovianart’s more preposterous claims—such as the ability to time travel—appear dubious at best, I could not argue with the results: incredible objects with mysterious powers, fascinating mechanisms, and enjoyable conversation. I purchased a few trinkets from this curious fellow, and shall examine them at length when time permits.

Victoria Steam Exposition Day 1 2010-05-22 025 Professor Whovianart adjusting one of his creations.

The Evil Genius

Despite his boyish charm, the man known as Tommy Wlasichuk is not to be trusted. I have on good authority that he runs a secret society known as VSteam with the sole purpose of world domination. This silver-tongued devil was most charming, but a closer examination revealed his evil purposes. I pray that the tender ministrations of his companion Miss Phoenix Black may curb his predilections and return him to proper society.

tommy mad Beware of this man.

A Gentle Scribe

I enjoyed my conversations with Mr. Nick Valentino immensely, finding him a fellow with which I shared my literary propensity. He shared his masterpiece of fiction Thomas Riley with the audience, which proved to be a romping adventure tailored towards youths, imparting them with a story of consequence and morality. I shall endeavor to promote his work at every opportunity.

2010-05-22 Victoria Steam Exposition Day 1 009 Mr. Valentino claims he in no way inspired the cover character design but I beg to differ. 

The Elegant Ladies

What might a man say when surrounded with such beauty and grace? I felt both humbled and appreciative of their finery and magnificence. I could script pages upon their glory, but pardon my piteous neglect as I only highlight the most inspiring.

2010-05-23 Victoria Steam Expo Day 2 028An exemplary model of today’s youth. Now just how did she catch that critter she so boldly displays? 


A most charming and delightful minstrel, Unwoman entertained us with a haunting and compelling performance upon her famed cello. A budding talent, I encourage one and all to seek her music and performances if she journeys to your town.

Victoria Steam Exposition Day 1 2010-05-22 047 A performance for the ages.

Miss Charlotte and the Burlesque Dancer

Ahh,, how could one forget Miss Charlotte, the most beautiful and alluring creature to grace the Exposition. A Victoria native, she is no mere gentle lady, in fact, she is the sole proprietress of an outfitter of the finest clothes of bygone eras—an entrepreneur of the first order. I enjoyed her exquisite company in the exclusive Bengal Room over hearty ales and divine spirits along with her intriguing friends Mr. and Mrs. Bob and Denise Pearson, highlighted by a visit by the voluptuous Miss Rosie Bitts, a burlesque dancer of the first order. I most certainly shall seek Miss Charlotte’s counsel when outfitting myself for future excursions.

Victoria Steam Exposition Day 1 2010-05-23 The devastating Miss Charlotte caught in a lighter moment.

Victoria Steam Exposition Day 1 2010-05-22 051Miss Charlotte, Mr. Pearson, Miss Rosie, and Mrs. Pearson. Camera up here, Bob.

How could a night conclude more fittingly? Well, with a visit to one of Victoria’s more bawdy establishments known as the Sticky Wicket, where I cornered evil genius Tommy and his coterie of Vancouver associates, but they politely declined to reveal their evil aspirations. Many an ale was consumed, but the night ended too quickly and I bid my fellows adieu.

Victoria Steam Exposition Day 1 2010-05-22 035A weary Iapetus999 calls it a night. 

Groggy from a night of revelry, on the morning of May 23 I once more wandered the streets of Victoria and discovered a fine eatery. Joined by my fellow Seattle natives, we enjoyed our repast of eggs and bacon before returning to the concluding day of the Exposition. Once again I engaged in hearty intercourse with the many participants, exchanged cultural and scientific ideas, and uncovered many secrets of the universe. I shall not bore you with the details of my return journey, but I arrived home happy and satisfied from the experience.

Victoria Steam Exposition Day 1 2010-05-22 019Rock-a-bye Steampunk baby, in the test tube… 

I encourage one and all to visit my pictorial galleries upon Picasa.

Victoria Steam Exposition, I salute you! See you next year!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Logline/Hook Line Blogfest – Steam Palace

Logline/Hook Line Blogfest – Steam Palace

Book Hook Logo 1.png Thanks to Bryan for hosting the Logline/Hook line Blogfest! Follow the link to read all the other entries!

Since I’m out of town this weekend, I’m posting this up today. I won’t be able to look at the other entries or reply to comments until Monday.

Here are my five (well, six, but 2 aren’t serious) hooks from my WIP Steam Palace:

  1. Simple one:
    A milkmaid can save her country by marrying the man responsible for inviting evil invaders, but her heart belongs to another.
  2. Now for a wordy one:
    In a backwards world where New England never joined the Revolution, a former noblewoman seeks to restore her family name by journeying to the Steam Palace, a den of lawlessness and sin, and attracting the one man who can fulfill her wishes—but only by destroying her country—and her heart—in the process.
  3. Another:
    Torn between her country and her heart, an ambitious milkmaid seeks to restore her family’s name but is caught in a web of intrigue when her fiancé plots her nation’s destruction—and she discovers she is in love with another.
  4. I’m not sure how accurate this one is, but it’s different.
    When an ambitious milkmaid discovers her hitherto unknown identical twin trapped in a morass of sin and degradation, she risks her country’s future and her own heart to rescue her sister from the depths of ignominy and start a new life.
  5. Now for the lamest possible hook:
    Steam Palace is a really kewl book about this girl Sophia who like goes to the Steam Palace thing which is this big boat that’s like a Western lawless town and she meets this chick Viola who tries to turn her into a prostitute but Sophia is too smart and so she forms a band and they play for the Duke who’s like tots into Sophia but he’s doing Viola and they’re identical twins so it’s really messed up and the Nazi-esque Reichlanders want to take over New Britannia but Sophia has to stop them because she really digs the Queen and so the book is about Sophia trying to attract the Duke, not piss off Viola, save the country, and hook up with Thomas who’s this awesome ex-Sky Captain but he’s like a dope fiend so he’s gotta work on himself first so it’s all really complicated and stuff but you’ll love it.

    Now to Steampunkify the lame hook:
    “Steam Palace” is a most excellent novel pertaining to a young maiden named Miss Sophia Stratton who travels to a most quaint and extraordinary vessel known as the aforementioned “Steam Palace” which resembles nothing less than a fearsome Western outpost drowning in lawlessness whereupon she encounters another fair maiden known as a Miss Viola Willamante who endeavors to matriculate young Miss Sophia into a most unfortunate profession—indeed the world’s oldest—however, Miss Sophia cognates on Miss Viola’s prevarications and instead assembles a wondrous set of musicians who capture His Grace the Duke’s attentions so he requires their ministrations at his gala Ball during which he becomes infatuated with the beauty and talent of Miss Sophia—whilst still secretly courting Miss Viola (who bears a striking—no, an identical resemblance to Miss Sophia)—where was I—oh yes, during this gala Ball the horrid and altogether reprehensible Reichlanders reveal their plot to steal New Britannia from her people but Miss Sophia cannot let such terrible threats stand, for she loves her Queen dearly, so my fine readers, if you are still digesting my litany, let me summarize: to save her dear country, Miss Sophia must win the hand of the reclusive Duke, keep doppelgängerous Miss Viola at arm’s length, and oh did I mention that her heart has become irretrievable entangled with ex-Sky Captain Thomas Putnam of the Third Aeronautium who himself is entangled in the dreaded thicket of opium addiction, so poor Miss Sophia is most torn between all these competing and conflicting notions? Now I must breathe.

Well? Any jump out at you? Any suggestions or ideas on how to make these better? Thanks for any feedback.

Revision Forever!

Revision Forever!

pedal-to-metal Okay, that’s just short for saying, “this revision is taking forever!”

I started revising Steam Palace in December. Six months later, I have Part One revised. Umm…this is not acceptable. Yes, I spent a lot of time working on an online revision course, deciding what to keep and what to throw out and designing a new plot and new characters. Then I decided the course was taking too long and I started revising the story a couple months back. I was really hoping by now that I’d have something to take to publishers.

Here’s the thing. I really think Steam Palace is good. Publishable, even.  Yes, I know I’m still weak in areas. I’ve successfully navigated all the common writing pitfalls, made my writing strong, improved my story structure and characterization, but how close am I? I have no idea. Even if I’ve improved my writing 200% in a year, how much more do I have left to improve? (to be publishable)

For me, drafting is the easiest thing in the world. I can whip up 4-6K words a day on a draft. But editing—that’s super slow. I’ve literally spent this entire week working on a single chapter (granted it’s the most important chapter of the book so far—basically the climax of Part One that sets the entire rest of the book in motion—and it’s grown to over 6K words in four mini-scenes). At this rate I won’t finish by the end of the year---and there’s still NaNoWriMo! No matter what, I have to be finished on Steam Palace by September 1. Mostly because as great as Steam Palace is, The Immortals is ridiculously better. We’re talking Terry Goodkind good.

So the question is how to get this thing done in three months. Obviously I can work better, stronger, faster. I have the technology. I have nine chapters(40+scenes) to write in fifteen weeks. Gulp. So basically it’s go-time, heads down, full-throttle, and pedal to the metal. But without clichés of course. Which means I’m going to have to start cutting back on blogging, blogfesting, blog reading (notice a trend here?), until this thing is ready to go out the door. Is one fully edited chapter a week doable? If I could finish by Aug. 1 I would be ecstatic, then I could start sending out queries while I do final full-ms edits.

Sigh. Well enough talk and now time to do it. Wish me luck!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The “Let’s Talk” Blogfest – Steam Palace

The “Let’s Talk” Blogfest – Steam Palace

letstalkblogfest[1]Thanks to Roni Griffin for hosting The “Let’s Talk” Blogfest. Click to check out all the other entries. The idea is to post your most “sparkly” dialog. Well, I think I used my most sparkly dialog for the Baking Scene Blogfest, but I’ll try to find something worthy.

For those who have read bits of Steam Palace, in this scene, “Bad Girl” Viola is helping fit Sophia into a dress. Beatrice, Sophia’s aunt, has left them to their own devices. I’ve edited down the original for length.

Steam%20Palace%20Cover%20Art%202%5B6%5D[1] The humor left Viola’s face. “Give me that.” She yanked away the corset without as much as a please and tossed it away. “Turn around.” Her eyes burned black, daring Sophia to disobey.

Sophia pirouetted and returned to face the woman, arms covering her chest.

Viola placed her long-nailed hand on her chin, a vulture savoring her prey. “Inconceivable. A perfect figure. Unlike me. I’m a little too—saucy. The downside of ale, as they say.”

Viola manipulated delicate fingers that worked through the lacing of a red and black sateen corset she retrieved from a pile.

She wrapped Sophia into the corset and then used her foot as leverage against Sophia’s back and hind quarters to tie the laces. She stuffed Sophia into the blue Cobbs dress, stood back, and nodded. “You’re almost a lady now.”

Sophia stared down at her protruding bosom and bustle. “I feel like a peacock on display. I dread to consult the looking-glass. Shouldn’t my chest be covered?” She placed her hand on her bare sternum.

“You are so precious! You look most ravishing, darling.” Viola led Sophia to the glass.

Sophia sucked in a breath upon seeing her reflection. Her hand flew to her mouth. Indeed, a lady stared back. “Oh my. Yes, I do.” A smile flicked her lips. A smile which descended into sadness. “But I have no means to finance such finery. I lost the full sum of my savings upon my journey.”

Voila laid an arm on her shoulder and her face appeared next to hers, a leering grin slashing her visage. “You don’t say, you poor thing. You know, I might have just the opportunity for you. If you allow me, I shall pay for everything. The dress, the corset, and while we’re at it, how about some boots, a hat or two, gloves, undergarments, and a coat? And I know of a fine jeweler nearby.”

Sophia shook her head. Accept money from this woman? Never.

Viola examined a slick pair of black boots. “I suspect we wear the same size, too. We could be such good friends, me and you. And with my help, you could earn the money back in no time.”

“Doing what?”

A hand crept along Sophia’s face and turned her head so they stood eye-to-eye. “Well, you enjoy the company of refined gentlemen, correct? And Beatrice mentioned the other day that you were seeking a husband. Well, I know the perfect form of employment for you. I manage an exclusive gentlemen’s club, and it just so happens we have a new opening for someone with special qualities. If you possess a strong intellect and excellent conversation skills, you’d fit right in. You already exude the beauty we desire. These men pay handsomely for attentive escorts.”

Sophia couldn’t imagine a more charming snake. But…men of refinement? Conversation? All things she longed for.

“You look so beautiful—and desirable, my sweet Sophia,” she continued, turning back to the glass. “You want to be sought by men, fought over, even. You didn’t come to Hartford to be ordinary, did you?”

Sophia bristled. “Of course not. If I wished for ordinary I would have married some pig trapper in Podunk.”

Viola grinned wide, her canines flashing. “Well then. I believe we are in agreement, yes? I can provide you with a life that is far from ordinary, full of wealth and beauty and everything a beautiful woman could desire. And if in the process you secure a match—so much the better. Let’s choose a few more items, if we can find any worthy of your beauty. Leave the bargaining with the store wench to me. You are going to love the Steam Palace.”

Sophia froze. “What!? The Steam Palace? My friend elucidated me upon what transpires on that wretched floating city—gambling and harlotry.”

“Filthy lies! Listen, Miss Podunk. Tell you what.” Viola leaned close. “I like you. I really do. You’re a strong, independent woman. You’re no simple country girl. Someone has taught you culture, a love of the finer things. All I ask is one night. If you don’t love it, then walk away, and keep everything I buy you. One night. One night can’t corrupt you, can it? Look at how pretty you are. With my makeup artistry, you will become irresistible. Think of all the fine things you could afford. Dresses. Shoes. Fine dining. Servants. Your own residence. Just by engaging in pleasant conversation with the cream of New Britannian society. Don’t you deserve the better things in life?”

Yes. She did deserve fine things after seven years of hard labor with nothing to show for it. She had sacrificed everything to get here, her job, her mechohorse, perhaps even her final moments with her mother. This strange woman with her silver tongue spoke true—what harm could one night do to her soul? Viola was right—Sophia was strong, she was independent, and she was not one to turn down such an opportunity.

“I shall require a matching parasol or two, a fine riding cloak, a wristwatch, new brass goggles, and I want Lady Beatrice’s larder fully stocked. Is that acceptable?”

Viola snickered. “Whatever you want, my dear, whatever you want. Shall we?”

For more Steam Palace, check out the first few chapters now up Authonomy.

Character Archetypes Part I – The Hero

Well I’ve been dragging my feet on starting a new writing series, but here it is. This series will explore the 8 main character archetypes in western fiction, and probably some other character types as well. Note that there are literally thousands of types of characters, but they all share some component of these basic types. No literary character is of only one type; they share many features of all 8 archetypes given the situation, but think of this as the dominant feature set of a given character. A Hero will be Heroic, a Villain will be Villainous, etc, but once in a while, a Hero can also be villainous. It’s not intended to be a box, but a guideline.

Part I –The Hero

drag_warrior This is perhaps the best understood of all the archetypes. Almost every story has a Hero. Generally stories are written around the activities of a single character known as the Protagonist, and almost by definition, that character is the Hero. This is the character the reader roots for, the character that saves the day. I could list the qualities of a hero all day, but here are a few distinguishing characters of a hero:

  • Drive/Motivation – Well any character can be driven, but almost all Heroes have the drive and motivation to alter their circumstances, and this drive pushes them towards success. This drive can be all-consuming, and propels them forward when others fall.
  • Self Sacrifice/Community – Heroes want to improve their world, and are willing to sacrifice everything, up to and including their lives, to help others. If your Hero does not risk death to achieve their goals, then you are leaving something on the table. But this self sacrifice must be for the greater good, and not a pitiful escape from reality.
  • Courage – Heroes are not fearless. But they must face their fears…in fact…they must face their worst fears in order to succeed. This fear could be their biggest motivating factor…but it eventually takes a dose of faith and courage to overcome their biggest obstacles.
  • Mutability/Transformation/Redemption – This is a fancy way of saying that Heroes must be willing to learn and change, and in fact, this may be the one feature that distinguishes them from the Villain—that they can learn from their mistakes and make good next time. In addition, they must change to achieve their goals, otherwise they would have achieved their goals in Chapter One. This is how they achieve redemption, where their crimes or misdeeds are forgiven or excused.
  • Resonance/Empathy – This isn’t as much about the Hero as about the reader. A Hero must face problems that resonate with the reader. A Hero solving a difficult crossword puzzle may not generate as much empathy as a Hero who was fired from his job. Not to say that crossword puzzles aren’t hard but it’s not as big a deal as losing one’s job. Even if your Hero is fighting the hordes of Mordor, it’s really just an allegory for fighting rush-hour traffic on some level, and people can relate to that.
  • Morality – Heroes have a higher sense of morality than the rest of us. After all, it’s through hero stories that we impart the sense of right and wrong to our youth. A Hero eschews dirty tactics and tricks, and won’t utilize human shields etc. He must fight the Villain using his own set of rules and keep to a higher standard. It’s what separates him from the Villain. A Hero would never poison a village just to kill one person. The Villain would.
  • Intelligence/Skill – Many Heroes have an innate intelligence and/or a skill set above and beyond most of us. We live vicariously through them, and aspire to possess even a fraction of their ability. They may use wit and cunning to defeat their enemies, but they keep collateral damage to a minimum.
  • Loyalty – Heroes are essentially people persons, and would rather die than let a friend down.

Hero Traps

  • Mary Sue – A Mary Sue is a Hero without significant flaws and with incredible powers. Imagine Superman without kryptonite. Make your Hero struggle. Give him flaws. Serious flaws. Achilles has his heel. Spiderman had allergies. Wolverine has no memory of the past and can’t fight Magneto. Luke Skywalker had little training and an inherited Dark Side. Your Hero cannot win every fight.
  • Who’s the Hero? – Don’t disguise your Hero, and then surprise! it was Joe all along. Sometimes you might write a Band of Brothers type story but the Hero is usually the one who faces the biggest crisis and must undergo the greatest transformation. Maybe during your draft, the Hero turned out to be someone else than you intended…so revise the story to focus on that character.
  • The Cavalry! – A Hero must solve his own problems. Avoid calling in the Cavalry to save the day. Or fairy godmothers. And if the Cavalry does arrive, it’s just to take the defeated Villain into custody.
  • Stupid Brave – Yes, a Hero has courage, but every Hero has fears, otherwise they become Mary Sue’s. Without fear, your character is a robot, and it also shows that he really doesn’t care about anything, since he doesn’t fear losing anything.
  • Anti-Heroes – Yes, the “bad guy” can be the Hero. You’ve stacked up so many flaws that the character is really a Villain. But if a Villain encompasses those qualities listed above, he can still come across as a Hero. It’s a fine line. However, the “protagonist” of the book need not be the Hero, but it’s usually the case.

What other qualities make a character a Hero?

Friday, May 14, 2010

How to Host a Writer’s Blogfest

How to Host a Writer’s Blogfest

blogfestSo, you want to host a writer’s blogfest. What’s wrong with you?? Seriously, it’s a bit of work. This post describes what you need to know.

Choosing a Topic

A great topic can make or break a blogfest. Too specific, and no one enters. To obscure, and no one has anything that applies. Too general, then you’re flooded with entries and spend six days reading them all. Here are some general areas to consider (definitely not exhaustive, use your imagination):

  • Writing Skills – Dialog, description, exposition, POV, characterization, blurbs
  • Story moments – Romantic moments, challenges, ordeals, beginnings, ends, reversals, surprises, conflict
  • Characters – Good guys, bad guys, demons, angels, lovers, haters, the young, the old
  • Topical – Fighting, kissing, mentoring, self-sacrifice, sex, settings (kitchen, bar, beach are recent examples), props, drinking, cheating
  • Concepts – Specific moods, emotions, words, feelings, relationships

I would stay away from anything genre-specific like “Urban Vampire vs Zombies Blogfest.” Leave it open-ended enough that you don’t exclude tons of people. But it can be a little bit restrictive to make it challenging and fun.

One thing I did was that I created a poll asking people which blogfest they would like to see, which helped me choose the most interesting idea.

Setting a Date

So you have a great blogfest idea and can’t wait, so you make it next Tuesday. Don’t. You want to give yourself enough time to publicize your blogfest. I would suggest a minimum of a month from the time you announce it and open sign-ups.

Also, various blogs (including mine) maintain lists of upcoming blogfests. People get worn out! Try to schedule yours at least a week away from any others. You want your blogfest to be special, don’t you?

I’d also suggest avoiding early in the week when people are swamped with work. But I don’t have any empirical evidence to support this. I guess figure out a day that will allow you to spend the day reading everyone else’s entries (which as the host is part of your responsibility).

Create the “Blogfest”

You will need a way for people to “sign up” for your blogfest. Personally I don’t sign up until the day-of because
  a) I want to make sure I actually get to do it and
  b) I want to add the actual link to my entry.
But you want people to sign up right away if they want to. I’ve seen
Mr. Linky and Simply Linked be used, but I don’t love either.

When you create the announcement post, stick to the point. “Here’s my blogfest. These are my general guidelines. Here are the rules [which I’ll address below]. Here’s the sign-up form.” I’ve seen blogfests that don’t even have the word “blogfest” in their title. Then it rambles on for two pages about their kid’s rabbit before getting to the point. Lame. This is the entry that people will link to in their own blogs. Make it somewhat professional.

Creating Rules

Rules? We don’t need no stinking rules!
Yes, you do. Here are the required rules:

  1. Bloggers must sign up by or on the date of the blogfest.
  2. Their blogfest entry must link back to the signup post so people can find the other entries.

Everything else is up to you. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Word count. Encourage people to keep their entries short, because people generally shy away from long entries, no matter how good they are.
  2. Commenting. Encourage people to comment on everything they read, good or bad. Honesty helps each blogger way more than empty praise.
  3. Ask for people to help publicize the blogfest [more below]. Or demand it.
  4. Ask for followers! Don’t be shy!
  5. Encourage people to submit an entry even if it isn’t that good. The more the merrier.
  6. Blogfest-specific rules. Any words they must use? Any types of characters or specific props? A specific setting or mood?


The best way to publicize a blogfest is by having tons of followers on your social network. This post does not cover how to accomplish that. But given your social network, here are some things to do:

  1. Create badges so people can put them on their blogs and web sites.
  2. Put links all over your blog and websites so people can’t possible miss the sign-up form.
  3. Make sure people who maintain blogfest lists (like me) are notified. A comment on their latest post is sufficient.
  4. Create a Facebook event. Tweet the event announcement. Repeatedly.
  5. Make your “announcement” post appealing and clear, with easy-to-follow rules and requirements.
  6. Participate in other blogfests, and comment on as many entries as you can. People who participate in one blogfest are likely to participate in others.
  7. Mention it whenever you can (without being annoying). Or be annoying. People will forgive you. (please forgive me).
  8. Guest blog, write a series of posts about your blogfest topic, send out invitations, whatever floats your boat.
  9. Rewards! Turn your blogfest into a contest or sweepstakes, where you either choose the best entries or conduct a random drawing so that a few people are rewarded for their efforts. Personally I consider this cheating, people should want to participate because it’s fun, but it does add a bit of drama to it.

Whatever you do, remember that hosting a blogfest is all about having fun and meeting a lot of other writers. On the day of the event, make sure your entry is up, then start commenting! A personal comment from the host is wonderful!

And of course, the wonderful Lilah Pierce essentially made the exact same post as this one a few days ago but I tried not to read it. I still want to give her credit for posting her guidelines first, and you should definitely check her ideas out as well.

Good luck, and happy blogfesting!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Internal Conflict Blogfest – Steam Palace

Internal Conflict Blogfest – Steam Palace

Thanks to Jessica Bell at the Alliterative Allomorph for hosting The Internal Conflict Blogfest. Click to see the other entries! She says, “I want to know what's going on in your characters' minds.” Well, maybe we really didn’t want to know this much, as you shall see:

In this scene, Thomas is suffering from a hangover, opium withdrawal, and a gunshot wounded knee. All this suffering has awoken his baser desires, which must be fought…

Internal Conflict The last thing Thomas wanted was to speak of was flying, but he demurred to her wishes. “It was more work than thrill, and dirigibles have this unhealthy habit of dropping out of the sky or exploding. Frankly, I should have explored the Cavalry where I could have ridden mechohorses for a living.”

“And then this,” she said, nodding to his knee. “Well then, we both are in similar straits. We are starting our lives over. Isn’t it thrilling, Thomas?”

She turned around in the saddle. Her lips inadvertently touched his as he slumped. Her face turned red, her eyes went wide, and she whipped back around. A hand covered her mouth.

“Oh! I am so sorry Thomas! I had no intent—I didn’t mean—I could never kiss—”

He thrilled to see her squirm. Her small, lithe body caressed him with each step of the horse. In his mind, he grabbed her and covered her face and neck with hot kisses, plunged himself into her essence, and drank from her depths. But his broken body stayed. “You could never kiss a cripple?”

“What? No! I mean—yes, I—” She balled a fist and then relaxed it. “I fear you play with me, Mr. Putnam.” She rubbed her brow. “Which I am most grateful for, I confess. You strike me as a man with intellect balanced with humor, rare qualities in these times. I am eternally thankful it was you who came to my aide.”

She relaxed just a trifle against him. If she only knew the battle raging inside him. Her manner quieted his urges. Perhaps that had been his baser motive in trailing her—to capture her. She had always been so haughty, so distant and mean. A prize to be taken, not lured. Something to distract him from his pain, from the termination of his career and life, a quick moment of escape from hard reality.

Something about her soothed his raw desires. She was strong, and had set out alone into hostile country. She battled the wolves, unafraid, then challenged the airfleet. Sophia was no longer this thing, this creature. Yes, he desired her, to push her from the horse and have his way with her like a brute, but more than that, he wanted to protect her. Strong as she was, she was woefully unprepared to face the world. He opened his mouth to offer his support.

“Look,” she cried, “the Ferry! It departs!” The forest cleared to provide a view down to the wide Connecticut River, where a long white paddleboat waiting against a dock. She forced the animal into a gallop. Pain knifed from his wound as it banged against the horse’s flanks. Sophia waved. Fortunately, the ferry had barely begun to untie. She directed the horse over a plank and into the hold of the ship.

I hope that didn’t cast too bad a light on Thomas. He’s going through a really hard time right now…

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bad Girl Blogfest Wrap Up

Bad Girl Blogfest Wrap Up

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Thanks to everyone who participated. We wound up with 41 enthusiastic entries, with bad girls of all shapes, sizes, and dispositions from the mildly annoying to the insanely cunning. I read through each and every one of the entries and was impressed by all of them. You are all wonderful writers and I had expected no less. Thank you so much for making the Bad Girl Blogfest a success!

Special Thanks!

Special thanks goes to those intrepid individuals who actually read and commented on all six of my Bad Girls (and probably most of the other entries as well). You guys are amazing. Please check out these dedicated commenters:

  1. Roland D. Yeomans –
  2. Eric W. Trant –
  3. Tara
  4. Just Another Sarah
  5. Donna Hole

Extraordinary Entries You Might Have Missed

Here are some of my favorite entries. They didn’t receive as many comments as others but they completely rock. Go read them now!

  • Ian Thomas Healy – His Angel from “Troubleshooters” entry was a great intro to a bad girl assassin. Now maybe the problem is that it’s hard to register for his site, but he has a ton of great material up there.
  • F – She is a writer from Nigeria! I don’t know if she still lives there. Her Bad Girl Aisha is a Goldigger Extraordinaire.
  • Kiah via Charity – This is an entry from a twelve-year-old girl! Her unnamed 5th-grade Bad Girl is super mean. And it is awesome! Kiah has a bright future. Check it out!
  • Stu's Place – This one had me ROTFLMAO. Livia will go to any lengths to…well you have to read it. Very funny, with a wicked twist.
  • Haley – Bad Girl Opal has her way with men. What I liked is that Haley had the guts to put up graphic material. Some of you cut the scene off right before the good bits but Haley went for it! Nice!

And there’s more that I loved, but I can’t remember right now. You know who you are!

My Next Blogfest…?

This was fun, but a lot of work. I do hope to host another blogfest at some point. I may announce something in July and host it in August. I promise it will be at least as fun as this one, so keep tuned.

I hope to keep up with blogfests, but they are so close together now that it’s hard to keep up.

Deleted Scene Blogfest Today!

Since I didn’t have any time to come up with my own scene for the Deleted Scene Blogfest, I’m going to post my favorite “deleted scene” of all time…the newly discovered real ending to Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

See you next blogfest!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Welcome to my Bad Girl Blogfest!

The Bad Girl Blogfest

Bad Girl Blogfest

Okay. Maybe I’ve gone a little bit Bad Girl Crazy. After all, I’ve had a month to prepare. I present to you six of my baddest Bad Girls, ranging from one I created during the Summer of 1985 to one I created for last year’s NaNoWriMo in the order I created them. Don’t feel you have to read them all. For your convenience, I’ve created a summary of each one, so if one character is of particular interest, go ahead and check out her entry. But if you only have time for one, scroll down to the bottom and check out Viola from my current WIP Steam Palace. I will give special recognition to anyone who reads and comments on all six next week on this blog.

BTW, the girl on the left of the banner is Cassandra “Cassie” Hack from the Hack/Slash graphic novels, and the middle is Callisto from Xena: Warrior Princess. They are both very bad girls. Trust me.

I hope everyone had fun creating their entries for this Blogfest, and I’ll be checking out each and every one of them. Now here come the Bad Girls!


And then leave me lots of comments! :)

BIO – Alexandra

  • IJM_6998Large_thumbName: Alexandra Toykalelova
  • Novel: New America, Book One, Part One
  • Role: Ally, Love Interest
  • Created: 1985
  • Setting: 2015, Martian Empire
  • Aliases or Nicknames: Alex, A. Toy.
  • Nationality: Martian, previously Russian
  • Position: Major, Martian Imperial Army
  • Age: ~30
  • Synopsis: Alexandra is an ex-Russian super-spy with two special abilities. The first is emotional enhancement, where any attraction you feel to her is multiplied many-fold until she become irresistible. Second, she can heal like Clair Bennett on Heroes but over the course of weeks. She wants out of the futuristic KGB, but needs the help of an honest and reluctant enemy to sever her ties with the past.
  • Excerpt: Alexandra closed her eyes and stretched…READ MORE

BIO – Mary

  • wildmary1_thumbName: Mary of Archa
  • Novel: Wild Mary’s Way
  • Role: Main Character, Hero
  • Created: 1998
  • Setting: Future post-apocalyptic wasteland.
  • Aliases or Nicknames: Wild Mary; Mary, Warrior of Archa
  • Nationality: Citizen of Archa, Kingdom of Calph
  • Position: Warrior
  • Age: ~18
  • Synopsis: Wild Mary was brought up in a military academy by her father, and far surpassed his abilities by a young age. She holds her sword in her left hand, and refuses to fight with her right. A deep-seated anger runs through her veins, and woe be to anyone who crosses her path. But sometimes, in the heat of battle, a Weakness overcomes her, leaving her feeble and sick.
  • Excerpt: The sun shone grand, warming Mary’s naked limbs…READ MORE

BIO – Elena

  • agentellie_thumbName: Elena Galistina
  • Novel: 30 Days: The Infinity Event, The Singularity Matrix
  • Role: Ally, Love Interest
  • Created: 2007
  • Setting: Modern Day San Francisco
  • Aliases or Nicknames: Agent Ellie
  • Nationality: Dual Russian/Chinese Citizenship
  • Position: General in People’s Secret Army
  • Age: ~26
  • Synopsis: Elena (“Agent Ellie”) started her assassination career in a young age as a Russian immigrant to China. She turned upon her masters, and rose high in the ranks of the People’s Army secret service. Tiring of that life, she moved to San Francisco to take up simple corporate espionage where nothing is as simple as it appears.
  • Excerpt: Ellie surveys her prisoners in front of the cabin…READ MORE

BIO – Carrie

  • angrygirlshowingmiddlefinger_thumbName: Carrie Park
  • Novels: 30 Days: The Infinity Event, The Singularity Matrix
  • Role: Villain
  • Created: 2007
  • Setting: Modern Day San Francisco
  • Aliases or Nicknames: Shelly White
  • Nationality: American
  • Position: Director of Software Development, Infinitae Corporation
  • Age: ~25
  • Synopsis: After spending years in hospitals reconstructing her body after a devastating car crash, Carrie has changed her face, changed her name, and now plots revenge against the perpetrators of the wreck. Her stranglehold on the world’s financial system nearly brought down the economy and contributed heavily to the recent financial crisis.
  • Excerpt: Now to find Carrie. She’s going to pay…READ MORE

BIO – Amelia

  • airgoddess1_thumb3Name: Amelia (surname unknown)
  • Novel: The Immortals
  • Role: Supporting Character
  • Created: 2009
  • Setting: America 2400 to the year ~5300
  • Aliases or Nicknames: The Sky Goddess, Amy, Ames, Sky
  • Nationality: American
  • Position: Sky Goddess, one of the Twelve Immortals created by Death Angel
  • Age: yes (she doesn’t age…hence the “Immortal” tag)
  • Synopsis: REDACTED
  • Excerpt: REDACTED

BIO – Viola

  • Viola 1 Name: Viola Willimante
  • Novel: Steam Palace
  • Role: Ally, Mentor, Sidekick
  • Created: 2009
  • Setting: Alternate History New England, 1901
  • Name, Aliases or Nicknames: Vi
  • Nationality: New Britannian
  • Position: Dome Girl on the Steam Palace
  • Age: 23
  • Synopsis: Viola carries a secret that links her to a woman whom she has never before met. She plots that woman’s ultimate destruction: to bring her into the horrid sorrow of Viola’s life, a quagmire of humiliation, self destruction and abuse, and soul-crushing wickedness.
  • Excerpt:  Viola eyed the poor woman hiding under the bench…READ MORE

Various rankings of these women, which is probably only of interest to me.

Now if I had to rank these from Baddest Bad Girl to not-so-baddest, it would be:

  1. The Sky Goddess – She’s a genocidal maniac with god-like powers.
  2. Carrie Park – No morals, and the financial means to carry out her evil plans
  3. Alexandra Toykalelova – She has the power to bend men to her every whim
  4. Viola Willamante – She doesn’t care who she hurts, but she longs for a normal life.
  5. Elena Galistina – She wants to correct the mistakes of her past and start fresh.
  6. Wild Mary – She has a strong moral code.

Now who is the most skilled?

  1. Wild Mary – She’s been trained in martial arts since birth.
  2. Elena Galistina – She’s a trained assassin. But not since birth.
  3. The Sky Goddess – No training, just massive power.
  4. Alexandra Toykalelova – Just basic training.
  5. Viola Willamante – What she lacks in skill she makes up for with pure cat-like aggression.
  6. Carrie Park – She couldn’t fight her way out of a paper bag. But she could hack up a remote air-strike on your house.

Who is the prettiest?

  1. Alexandra Toykalelova – She’s been billed as “The Most Beautiful Woman in the History of Mankind”
  2. The Sky Goddess – She has the power to change her own appearance.
  3. Elena Galistina – Exotic looks coupled with a fit body.
  4. Viola Willamante – The Queen of makeup and corsets.
  5. Wild Mary – She wants to look masculine but she can’t hide her assets forever.
  6. Carrie Park – No amount of cosmetic surgery can fix her ugliness.

Thanks for listening! Be sure to check out each Bad Girl’s blog post!

Bad Girl Blogfest – Alexandra

Bad Girl Blogfest – Alexandra

IJM_6998LargeBIO – Alexandra

  • Name: Alexandra Toykalelova
  • Novel: New America, Book One, Part One
  • Role: Ally, Love Interest
  • Created: 1985
  • Setting: 2015, Martian Empire
  • Aliases or Nicknames: Alex, A. Toy.
  • Nationality: Martian, previously Russian
  • Position: Major, Martian Imperial Army
  • Age: early 30’s
  • Synopsis: Alexandra is an ex-Russian super-spy with two special abilities. The first is emotional enhancement, where any attraction you feel to her is multiplied many-fold, until she become irresistible. Second, she can heal like Clair Bennett on Heroes but over the course of weeks. She wants out of the futuristic KGB, but needs the help of an honest and reluctant enemy to sever her ties with the past.


Mars Tithonium Base, 2015. Alexandra has a prisoner to interrogate.

Alexandra closed her eyes and stretched, inhaling through her nose. Hmm…need to kick some heads about that sour odor in the air filtration system. She opened her eyes to the distant sun which hung low in the ocher sky and cast a bloody pall to her office. No more delaying the inevitable—it was time to make the prisoner talk. She honestly preferred the mundane tasks nowadays—sifting through requisition sheets, coaching new personnel—well, the female personnel. The male recruits crumpled at her feet and became useless lumps under her aura. Yes, her days of espionage were mostly behind her. She texted her assistant to join her and secure a weapon…just in case. The woman was a post-op tranny whose unique physiology proved immune to Alexandra’s power.

She checked her look in the cam. The image revolved while she adjusted her long black hair. She fingered a few commands and the nanostrings relaxed. Her hair straightened and lengthened, and then she ran a comb through it. A wipe of lipstick and dash of mascara completed the look. She adjusted her black uniform, nodded, and unbuttoned it down to her navel, revealing the black lace push-up bra underneath. Not that she needed such props.

“You go, girl,” said Gary-now-Geri from the door, winking. She followed Alexandra down to the brig.

The man in the holding cell actually impressed her. He had a fine physique and thick salt-and-pepper hair, and crouched in the corner like a hungry tiger. His eyes didn’t waver when she arrived. Good, he’s a tough one. Maybe he’ll be a challenge for once. Geri stood guard just outside the cell. Alexandra left the gate open behind her, daring the man to make a mad dash—to where, she couldn’t fathom. This base was as secure as any. The chase might just break up the monotony—and provide her with a week’s worth of exciting paperwork. She raised her eyebrows to the man and turned up her aura a notch…just enough to tingle.

“Please, sit. Ve have no reason to be unsociable, no?” Alexandra extended her hand to the metal bench. He nodded and sat as far away as possible. She pulled out her reading glasses and examined her iPad. She glanced over the materials, swiping through the various charges and the information he reputedly possessed. A gleam of sweat graced his brow and he clenched his teeth. “Oh, come now, General Taylor, relax. I like you.”

She made eye contact and turned her aura up. He bent at the waist and growled. His hands trembled and clenched.

“You are really trying to fight me, aren’t you? Vell, you’re doing better than most.” She opened her jacket a bit more and leaned forward. His gaze fastened on the curve of her cleavage. “Yes, good. You vant to touch me, to run your hands over my body.” He forced his eyelids shut but then they popped open, teary. His hands crept towards her. His tongue lolled from his mouth.

“Please,” he said in a husky whisper. “Please, stop. You don’t know…”

She snatched his hand. He gasped. “You tell me what I vant, then you can have this. All of this.” And she meant it. How long had it been since she held a worthy prisoner? She would give him the pleasure he sought—that they both sought. His will wavered. She glanced over at the iPad. “All you have to do is one little thing for me. Just give me those silly little passcodes to the Norad-Cimeria connection—”

His brain changed. His face grew slack, his pupils dilated. Alexandra had heard of it—an implant, triggered by a combination of duress and certain keywords. “Geri!”

Two hundred pounds of machine-articulated fury slammed into her assistant. The thing in the room was no longer human. It snatched the gun from Geri, fired a slug into her brain and two in Alexandra’s chest and ran off. Alexandra staggered against the wall, blood pouring down her belly, pain exploding from the wounds. The room spun and she collapsed into unconsciousness.

So this is a modern update of something I wrote literally 25 years ago. Somehow I don’t see us colonizing Mars in five years. The original was omniscient so the reader could see both of their POV’s but I changed it to hers. It was also almost completely telling instead of showing. Writing a 30-something woman as an 18 year old kid is a lot different than writing her as a 43-year old adult. I hope I did a better job this time.