Monday, December 13, 2010

Going With Your Gut

When writing, I'll often hear a tiny voice whispering to me.  It may tell me that there's something not quite right with a scene or character, or perhaps it would be best if I changed a certain aspect of what's happening.  It's just a little niggling feeling, that is actually quite easy to ignore, but the problem is it never goes away.  And the even bigger problem?  That voice is usually right.

After having the wonderful opportunity of editing my manuscript with my agent, I realized that those little whispers were there for a reason, since too often, the changes made to the manuscript coincided with one another.   All I had done was delay the inevitable changes-- changes that would have been easier to take care of early on, and most importantly strengthened my manuscript.

So now I know.  I listen to my gut.  And if my gut's telling me a scene should be cut or changed-- whatever it happens to be whispering in my ear-- I take care of the matter, then and there.  Might as well, right?  The issues sure aren't going to go away just because I ignore them.

So, how about you?  Or am I the only one hearing voices?

Monday, September 6, 2010

On Writing Accents

"Ye hae a guid Scots tung in yir heid,"  is a Scottish saying which means, "You have a good Scots tongue in your head." In other words, "You can speak up for yourself." 

Could you imagine an entire book where one or several characters speak in such a heavy accent?  It would break the flow of your story each time one of those characters spoke, since the reader would have to stop and try to figure out what's just been said.  No doubt, a trying and tiring excercise for the reader.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I love writing accents, whether they're due to a location, a time period or schooling.  I think they can add character and voice, however, there's a balance that you as the writer need to find, if you choose to actually write out the accent.  There's always the option to mention the character has an accent, and leave it at that, but if you choose to show it on the page, then here are a few things I've found helpful.
  • Pick just a few words that you'll change, or pick a "rule", such as dropping the "g" off -ing words.  You'll get the voice and impact you're looking for, but without sacrificing readability.
  • Try and use phrases or particular words specific to an area.  Every country or locale has it's own way of saying things, and this can be an easy way to get across the person's place of language, without spelling out an accent.
  • Try and find the rhythm of the language.  Each language has it's own rhythm and if you can, through your word placement, capture that, you'll immediately get a feel of that place.  Unfortunately, this might be the hardest thing to nail if you haven't lived in the area (or been in regular contact with someone from there).  One option is to try and find books, articles, movies or shows from the area, and pay close attention to the rythm of the language and placement of words.  Another option is to find a writer who has managed to write the accent, and has done an excellent job of it.
For me, the last two are particularly key if writing a different time period.  Writing steampunk, my story is usually set in the late 1800's, and the language would not only be more formal with a different rhythm, but would also use different words. But again, it's important to find a balance so that a modern reader, used to twitter and text messages, isn't having to wade through wordy, flowery prose.

Have any of you attempted to write accents?  How do you approach it?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When the Pieces Fall into Place

Sorry it's been so long since my last post, but it seems like things tend to get away from me during the hot summer months.  Luckily, I've still managed to get a fair amount done.  I'm happy to say I've wrapped up edits on my manuscript, Devil on a Sparrow's Wing, and have now moved on to a new story-- a story I'm crazy excited about. 

I had this idea for a story a few years back, but every attempt to write it immediately fizzled out on the page.  I didn't quite know why.  It was a great story idea (No. Really!!), but once I sat down to write it, time and again the words would slow and stop. 

About six months ago, as I started to give the story some more thought.  I knew the idea was a good one, but it was missing something.  I changed the time period from modern day to Victorian.  That certainly helped things, but it was still the same story and I worried that when I sat to write it once again, I would have the same problem. 

Then it came it to me.  As I discussed the storyline with a few critique partners (can NOT live without them!) the story took on a new life, morphing and evolving as the ideas all fell into place to form a new story.  Something unlike anything else out there, though it was an old story told from a different perspective. It still had the original story idea at the heart of it, but with a new twist--an incredible twist!! 

Perhaps my muse had kept me from writing the story all along, knowing it had not yet evolved into what it needed to be.  And this time, when I sat to write it, the words flowed effortlessly.  All the pieces fall into place.

Now granted, this is still the honeymoon stage for me-- the first 10K words are always the easiest and the sweetest.  Just like that first kiss, when everything is new and shiny and exciting.  I'll eventually come down off the clouds around 20K words, but that's ok.  I'm in it for the long haul.

Do you have a method you use to try and brainstorm your story ideas?  For me, jotting down notes helps, but talking and writing out the story concept is where I'm most successful in working things out.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ready to Query?

After slaving away for months—years even—you’ve finally completed your first novel. You’ve given it to your friends and family to read, and they all LOVE IT! You do a happy dance with visions of a massive advance on a multiple book deal and a movie—make that movies!—starring your favorite actors. Ready to get that contract, you put together that list of agents and get ready to query.

But are you REALLY ready? Maybe. Maybe not. And I won't even comment on the massive advance or the movies.

There are so many things that need to be done before you query, and it’s very easy to either overlook something or not even be aware that you’ve missed a crucial step. Like anything, it’s all a learning process. When I finished my very first manuscript, I didn’t even know what a query was, and was woefully unprepared for the reality of querying agents.

So before you query, here’s a checklist to help make sure you truly are ready.

• Have you edited your COMPLETED manuscript?—Yes, for fiction you need to have a completed manuscript. And by “edited” I don’t just mean doing a read through. Of course, you need to make sure you’ve checked spelling, grammar and tense. But have you edited for info dumps, unnecessary words, words and thoughts that echo. Does your first page grab the reader and keep them turning the page? Have you made sure your first page doesn’t start with a dream sequence? Does your plot capture the reader’s attention? Does your plot make sense? Are there holes in your plot? Has your point of view remained consistent? Does it have voice? Is there too much description? Not enough? Are you showing versus telling?

• Is your word count appropriate for your genre?—This is very important. You don’t want to stray too far outside the norm. Yes, there are books that break the rules, but I’d argue that for every agent willing to overlook word count, there are another ten that won’t. You don’t want word count to be the reason an agent rejects your query.

• Have you had your manuscript critiqued?—Family members and friends do NOT count. It’s like asking your husband if your arse looks fat in the jeans you’ve been gushing about. In addition, most non-writers won’t have the skills needed to figure out what is wrong (please see points in editing your manuscript). For me, finding good critique partners was crucial to my development as a writer. You’ll likely have to don some thick skin, but honesty is critical, and it’s also why your friends and family do not make good beta readers and critique partners. Need a crit partner? Find one HERE.

• Write a query—There are a ton of great sites that address how to write a good query letter.  The forums on Agent Query Connect  and Query Tracker are great.  You may also want to have your query critiqued. However, you should be careful about editing the voice and character out of your query. Too often, over-revisions can lead to a query that’s technically perfect but bland as baby food. You’ll also need to make sure each query is individualized for the agent it’s going out to. No mass mailings!! When you’re ready to query, it’s wise to query in small batches, in case your query isn’t working and needs to be tweaked. You only get to query the agent once per project.

• Write a synopsis.—Wait! Make that—“Write multiple synopses.” Some agents will request or require a synopsis of a certain length and that can vary from agent to agent. You’ll want to write a short one and a long one, though you may find you need an extra short one in addition to the other two.

• Edit again!—It’s best if you let your manuscript sit for a few weeks (or even months) between edits. This allows you to look at the manuscript with fresh eyes.

• Research agents—There are some great sites for this. I like using Agent Query and Query Tracker. I’d recommend sorting agents into you’re A-list, B-list, etc. and then when you query, select a few from each group so that you don’t burn through you’re A-list only to find you have a query that doesn’t work.

• Prepare your manuscript, query, synopsis—Make sure any tracked changes and comments have been removed and your formatting is correct. It’s also a smart move to send yourself a test query to make sure things aren’t getting jumbled in translation.

NOW you’re ready to query. Or should be. There are a few more things you may want to consider. Do you have a dedicated email for querying? Please make sure the email you’re using sounds professional—your name is fine, but a humorous email that may turn off an agent is not. Also make sure you don't have any weird filters on your email, and that your email does indeed work.  Do you have a website or blog? Not exactly necessary at this stage, but it might be a consideration in the near future since it’s important to start building a platform.

When you do start querying, make sure you track things—Note the agent, the agency and the date you sent it. Note the query version you sent. Did you send a synopsis? Did you send pages? How many? And then when (if)you hear back, make sure you note that also.

It may seem like a lot, but being prepared will help you get through querying, which is never easy. I wish you the best of luck!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Home is Where the Steampunk Heart Is


I came home the other day after a morning at the restaurant, only to find that my husband decided to be proactive on the bathroom renovation we'd discussed by demo-ing my tub surround.  Now, there's a reason it was in the discussion stage, with the most important reason being that it is the ONLY bathroom in the whole house.  There are no pretty little powder rooms, nor is there a jacuzzi tucked away in the master, since there is NO master.  This is a 1200 square foot 1960's ranch, with no bells or whistles unless the girls manage to find the instruments I've hidden away. 

So, if we take our bathroom apart, we better be prepared to put in a new one quick.  Which brings us to the other reason I hadn't tackled the bathroom before this-- plumbing is not something I have a ton of experience with.  Neither does my husband.  Don't get me wrong.  We've done a ton of stuff around the house, and I'll happily lay the new tile and put in the new lighting and cabinets.  Even the plumbing fixtures and the toilet won't be a major issue, but I've got to admit the tub-thang is scaring me just a little.  Anyway, at least the current tub still works, and with the addition of several shower curtains, the shower is still usable as long as you don't mind being attacked by multiple swirling sheets of vinyl sticking to your naked body.  Yeah.  Needless to say, the bathroom reno has been bumped up on the to-do list. 

Now, it'd be incredibly tempting to steampunk my bathroom-- get an amazingly deep tub and all sorts of cool plumbing and lighting fixtures.  I'm amazed at just how much is already out there that could pass as steampunk in it's aesthetic value.  With classical yet modern designs being an easy way for homeowners to update their home without dating it, the selection is quite good.

One of the finest examples of steampunk incorporated into everyday life is the steampunk home of Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum of  ModVic Home Restoration in Sharon, MA. I've included several sites that have pictures, because it is truly that remarkable. Be sure to check out the 360 degree views available of some of the rooms here--

By blending natural elements, such as wood, copper, brass, and iron, with more decorative and whimsical touches reminiscent of the Victorian period, a steampunk feel starts to emerge.  If you keep in mind certain aspects of steampunk, such as exploration and technology, and blend it with the Victorian aspects of nature and discovery, you'll start to capture the feel of it. Personally, I love anything that looks like it would belong in a turn of the century apothecary.  Also, joints and moving parts, tend to be reminiscent of the mechanical and industrial aspect of steampunk. And though so much of it can be created if you're good with your hands and are so inclined, there is also a fair amount that can be readily purchased. 

Restoration Hardware has some great pieces if you can afford them.  This is a curious looking chair, and though it's not blatantly steampunk, it does remind me of a hot air balloon or dirigible. 

They also have these great looking gears.

And who can say no this knob from Anthropologie of a Kracken pulling down a ship, or this chronograph knob.  Love it!!

And though I'm not one for knick knacks, I can't resist this mechanical raven.
I must say I also have a soft spot for fixtures, since I think they always have such a huge impact on the aesthetic feel of a room. Conant Metal and Light have an amazing site loaded with original and reproduction lighting (amongst other cool and interesting things), like this carriage house harp light.  And once again, back to Restoration Hardware for this industrial double pulley pendant.

If you're at all interested in steampunk design for your home, then you must also check out The Steampunk Home blog.  They always find the most amazing things. 

As for my bathroom, I'm afraid I'll be limited to something basic and modern for my tub and surround, since I don't want any major plumbing issues.  However for the rest, I most certainly hope to steampunk the room, even if it is just a little.  I'll be sure to post pics if it's ever completed.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Things I learned going to the Steampunk Festival

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending (and was actually a featured artist) at the first annual Steampunk Festival, held at the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation in Waltham, MA.  There was a huge turnout for the event, especially when one takes into consideration it was the first year for the event-- over 1300 people attended.  Hats off to Christine Gill for the excellent job she did in putting the event together.

I wish I'd had a bit more time to get a more steampunk outfit together, but unfortunately, after many  difficulties, most of my time was spent constructing the leather corset from hell.  Here were a few things I was reminded of, since it had been a while since I'd last strapped myself in to a corset of considerable stiffness. 

First of all, be sure to dress the lower half of your body before you put the corset on, since getting on shoes, socks, pants/skirts, etc. usually involve bending at the waist.  I, of course, did not remember this little tidbit of information, and I'm sure you can all just imagine the contortions involved in getting the rest of my clothes on.

When I designed my corset, I did not use a busk because I decided it would be neat if I could make the corset reversible to the red brocade.  As a result, I needed another set of hands to lace me up, and since I was going to the event alone, I went fully dressed. 

This brings us to the next thing I quickly figured out.  Driving in a corset is far different to driving without one on.  When the gods decided to scramble my genetic makeup, they decided to be generous in the area corsets are designed to restrain.  With a corset, there is only one place for those curves to go, and that is up.  It wasn't much of a problem until I decided to sit down and attempt driving.  Sitting only shifted the corset further up, and all that had already been pushed to the heavens, got pushed up even further, practically drowning me in my own cleavage.  Funny? Okay, maybe a little.  However, cruising down the highway at 80 mph, when you no longer have the stability of resting your arms by your side, is a little precarious-- athough I can only imagine the image from passing vehicles had anyone bothered to look over.  I'm just glad I didn't get pulled over or get a flat, though my dear husband had the sense to ask if I had anything stashed in the car that I could potentially cover myself with should the need arise.

The event itself was great, and the musuem was the perfect setting for a steampunk event.  Though not everyone was dressed up, the steampunk outfits there were all amazing, and it has definitely motivated me to complete a few more articles of clothing.  I think next on the to do list will be a bustled skirt, and underskirt.  And maybe another corset, complete with steel boning and a busk.

Though I did love the snug feel of the corset while at the event, I must admit that it felt so incredibly nice to get out of it for the ride home, especially on such a hot day.  And that brings me to my final point, though this was not figured out until the day after, when I awoke to sore muscles around the ribs and back.  I guess wearing a corset involves using muscles you don't normally use-- perhaps in keeping you so terribly upright and pulled in.  Still, a small price to pay, don't you think?

Here are some more pictures from the event...

Monday, March 29, 2010

A New Look

You may have noticed that A Steampunk Reverie has gotten a makeover. I've often thought that it's very important to have not only a cohesive image to market, but also one that immediately represents what I write.  Though I liked the previous setup, it felt a little plain and ordinary, so I started searching for a new background that would fit into the theme I have going with my website, blog, business cards, etc. 

There really are some great backgrounds and designers out there, though some backgrounds were far more difficult to install than others.  The simplest setup was a small bit of code that was easily copied into an html window within the blog.  Some of the designs out there are amazing.  To find these sites, simply do a search  for BLOG BACKGROUND MINIMA and you should come up with some great sites.  MINIMA is the Blogger template that these backgrounds work with.  I'll admit I don't know if these would work with Wordpress, but code is code, so I'd think it might.  

Though there were some great backgrounds, none really had the feel I was looking for, but I soon realized that the code was more or less the same, with the only difference being a link to an image. That got me thinking that I could make my own background for my blog. It did take some finagling but I finally got it down.

In case anyone else is interested in creating their own unique background to their blog, I figured I'd include the steps here.  Now I will warn you that I know nothing when it comes to code, but I'm a pantster by nature, and not only when it comes to my writing. So I experimented, until things seemed to work.

First you want to alter the size of the image you're going to use to approx. 1600 x 850. Many images can be found on and can be used through Creative Commons, so that you're not overstepping into copyright issues.  Just make sure to check that the image is free to use.

Keep in mind that your text will be running down the middle so you may want to add a solid section in that area through a photo or paint program, like . That section should be around 7.5-8 inches wide. You then need to upload it to a website that allows you to store files that size. will allow it if you pay for the upgrade, however, is free. Once uploaded, just make sure you zoom in to the maximum size, right click, select properties and then copy the URL. From there, you want to copy it into this script with your URL fitting in between the " " as indicated below...

<style type="text/css">
body {background-image: url("YOUR URL GOES HERE"); background-position: center; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-attachment: fixed; }
<div id="tag" style="position:absolute; left:0px; top:30px; z-index:50; width:150px; height:45px;">
<a href="" target="_blank">

Once you have copied in your URL, you then copy the script into a HTML box in the layout section of your blog.  You will also need to make sure that your blog template is set to one of the MINIMA templates.

That should be it!!  I hope you'll find this helpful if you do indeed attempt to give your blog your own personal look.

P.S.  Here are a few of the sites that have some great premade backgrounds that are easy to install.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mythos and the Muse

Does anyone else cringe when they hear a story is about vampires?  I'll admit to doing just that, not because of the story itself (I'm sure they're fantastic), but because I don't understand why someone would choose to go down such a worn path when there are so many more interesting trails one can venture down.

I've heard it said that there are no new stories, only new ways to tell them, and I think this is true.  So why not embrace the old and make it new again?  I've often found myself paging through an encyclopedia of mythology as my imagination races through the posibilities.  There are so many mythological creatures to pick from, and so many amazing stories waiting to be retold in a new and fresh way that's relevant to our time.

Here are a few sites on mythology and mythological creatures to help you guide your muse down that path less traveled.
I hope you find these links useful!  Please let me know of any others.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Elusive Plot

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I tend to wing it when it comes to my storylines-- in other words, I'm a pantster.  I thoroughly enjoy the freedom it allows, and my characters always surprise me, often taking the plot where I would not have thought to go.  There have been rare occasions when I've tried to work with an outline, however my characters have a tendency to misbehave and it usually results in a deviation from my original plans.

And yet, there are times when I just cannot figure out where my story is going.  Sometimes it's because I've taken a wrong turn.  These are the easy issues to correct-- I backtrack to that fork in the road, and go a different way.  However there are times when I feel like I don't have a very good grip on my plot and it goes beyond taking a wrong turn.  These are the times when I find myself rewriting and tweaking the first hundred pages of my manuscript several times, hoping I'll find that magical combination. 

But no matter how bleak things may look at times, I always try and write through it.  There is no other option for me.  Not writing won't change the problems with my story, so I might as well get on with it and deal with the matter at hand.

Here are a couple of things I like to try to help me find my way.  Maybe they can help you too.

*  First determine if it's something as simple as "The Wrong Turn".  If you think that's the case, determine where your story veered off the right path, and simply back the story up to that point.  You may have to delete a fair amount of pages, but it'll be well worth it.

*  Brainstorm some ideas with loose outlines.  I find this helps solidify my thoughts and the plot.  Even if I follow a vague outline for a short while, I can always let the story go where it wants afterwards, once it's picked up a bit of speed.

*  Raise the stakes.  And then raise them again.  What does your protagonist have to lose if she/he fails? What if their failure will affect far more than just their life?  By raising the stakes, we raise the tension, and the tension can help strengthen the plot.

*  Make your protagonist's life miserable.  If something can go wrong, it should.  Pile on the hurt, and when you think they couldn't possibly take anymore, pile on some more.  However, in between all the misery I like to sprinkle moments of hapiness, which only adds to what could be lost when it all goes wrong.

*  And when all else fails, a dead body always helps to move things along.  *mwa ha ha*  I'd like to say I'm kidding, but really, dead bodies do wonders for raising the stakes, the misery and the tension.  Granted, not every storyline can carry off a dead body, but you'd be surprised.

The very last thing to keep in mind is once you're done, there is always the editing phase where you can tweak your story, strengthen your plotlines and rein in those loose threads.  So, what about you?  Any tips for finding that elusive plot?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Results are In!

I just wanted to thank all who participated in the contest. Every entry was a fantastic read, and I cannot tell you all how impressed I was, especially given the fact that most of the writers had not written romance before and in many cases had not written steampunk.  Many of the writers stepped out of their comfort zone to participate, something I admire greatly.

A huge thanks also goes out to those that took the time to read the entries and vote. We had a total of 37 votes!! That's just amazing.

The winner of the contest with 12 votes was Entry 6, Keep Going by Samuel Briggson. Congratulations! I will be in touch so that I can send you your prize.

The votes were as follow...

Entry 1- Love, Lace, and Gears by Cheryl L-G Trent- 3 Votes
Entry 2- The End by James Pollard- 1 Vote
Entry 3- Untitled by Jenny Martin- 1 Vote
Entry 4- Evangeline by Robert K. Lewis- 4 Votes
Entry 5- Breaking Barriers by K. L. Townsend- 1 Vote
Entry 6- Keep Going by Samuel Briggson- 12 Votes
Entry 7- Mutual Admiration by Don Pizarro- 3 Votes
Entry 8- (Withdrawn after contest)- 8 Votes
Entry 9- The Envoy by Bibliovore- 3 Votes
Entry 10- Untitled by Renée Belliveau- 1 Vote

I did want to apologize for the slight glitch, and hope the next contest will run problem free. Also, for the contestants, if I don't have your name as you would like it displayed, just let me know.

Again thank you to all who participated. We'll have to run another one soon.