When it came to the Clockwork Empire , I wanted to do something similar. The trouble is, I had an overarcing story that made it difficult. Additionally, readers always forget some details--they read Book I many months ago, and they forget, say, that Alice met Gavin when he was only 17, or that Gavin's best friend died in an air pirate attack. I needed to remind returning readers of key details and give new readers a chance to slip into the story, and I didn't want to do it by trying to sneak in all kinds of exposition into the book itself.
And then I hit upon "The Story So Far."
TV shows do it, after all. How many shows can you count that start with, "Previously on . . ." to remind you what happened a few episodes ago? And why couldn't my novel do the same?
So I started THE IMPOSSIBLE CUBE with a sort-of prologue called "The Story So Far." It was supposedly written by the book's editor, and he enthusiastically welcomes back old readers and heartily greets new ones. Then he tells everyone quite pointedly that if you already remember everything from THE DOOMSDAY VAULT, you can skip right ahead to Chapter One, but if you need a quick orientation, feel free to read this prologue. I deliberately wrote the material as fast and funny--no reason a big hunk of blatant exposition can't be interesting! Then I held my breath.
Reviewers loved it. A great many reviews and blogs mentioned how much they liked a section that reminded them of details from the previous book, and one blogger said the information let him read THE IMPOSSIBLE CUBE without getting THE DOOMSDAY VAULT first. So I started THE DRAGON MEN and THE HAVOC MACHINE the same way, to equal success.
Now I've become a fan of it. BLOOD STORM has just come out, and it includes a "Story So Far" section of its own. If you missed IRON AXE, don't be shy! Jump right in--we'll make sure you understand everything you need to know. Though of course you can buy both. They're perfect for all your gift-giving needs.
The anthology has already been reviewed favorably by Publisher's Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-
The fun began when I arrived for check-in. All the desk clerks, male and female, were wearing false mustaches in honor of the con.
As a featured guest, I was introduced at the opening ceremonies, along with Pip Ballantine, Tee Morris, David Nelson, and Cindy Pape, who had taken her life into her own hands and volunteered to program the literary track. (A fine job she did, too.) And then the programming began!
On Friday, we had a meet-and-greet for the authors, which was great fun. Pip and Tee are fun and funny to panel around with, and we discovered that we share not only a publisher, but also a table contents in the upcoming CLOCKWORK FAIRY TALES anthology. (It comes out Tuesday, folks!)
Saturday was for sleeping in, and then a whirlwind of panels, along with Much Shopping. Oh, I spent money. Too much money! See, here I have a weak spot. For all that I've written four steampunk novels and two steampunk novellas (more than any other genre I've done), I haven't actually assembled much of a steampunk costume. This is mostly because of time--my books had six month deadlines, and I just didn't have spare moments to assemble costumery. But now I had the time and a bit of spare money. I got some delightful goggles with different colored lenses, a bottle that glows different colors, a pair of syringes and a leather belt clip for them (the syringes are actually pens in disguise--just the thing for an author signing), and a new wristband.
We also dressed Darwin.
Darwin is a new person in my life, and he came with me to the con as a total newbie. (A moment here while we applaud his bravery.) Darwin's wardrobe was totally steampunk free, and we decided to rectify that. As it happened, he had a nubby brown shirt that could pass for a Victorian workman's shirt. That and a pair of khakis provided the base. We got him a nice bowler hat with goggles attached, and he also found a pair of smoked-lens glasses that he liked very much and wore the rest of the weekend. An antique pipe wrench in a belt clip completed the picture.
There was a guy in the hotel lobby who was selling tintypes--actual tintypes taken with an old-fashioned camera. We had one made of us in costume. It looks like the caption should be, "The day after this tintype was taken, the notorious criminals McClary (left) and Harper robbed the Second National Bank of Deadwood. They were shot to death in their canyon hideout by a posse three days later, though the money was never recovered."
Darwin later confessed that he started off a little nervous, especially once he saw all the oddly-dressed people. "But once I talked to a few of them, I saw they're really very nice," he said.
Late Saturday afternoon, the hotel set up a wedding smack in the middle of the lobby. It wasn't part of the con. A bit of asking around turned up the fact that the bride's mother had been married in the same hotel lobby, and the bride wanted to be married there, too, con or no con. The steampunkers quite nicely stayed out of the way and avoided photo bombing (though if it had been =my= wedding, I'd've grabbed a few of the more elaborately costumed people and put them into some of the photos so I could just have them in my album without comment to see if anyone noticed and to confuse future generations).
Right after the wedding came the author signing. Unfortunately, a book vendor wasn't able to come to the con, so we authors sold our own books. I ended up at the table with to Pip and Tee, and much hilarity ensued. Also many photographs. By now, Darwin was really into the swing of things. When he learned that it was perfectly acceptable, even encouraged, to say, "What a great costume. May I take a picture?", he assembled quite a collection of photos. One con-goer was named Charles. I was required to take a picture with the two of them next to each other: Charles and Darwin.
Dearie, dearie me.
I also swapped books with Pip and Tee. We had fun with that.
Sunday was more sleeping in and one more panel. There was more con left, but I had to get home. It was an enormously fun time. Very glad to have gone!
I'm guesting over at Gail's place, where you can learn more about me and my teatime proclivities than you really wanted to know. Check it here:
THE HAVOC MACHINE is available May 7!
And, of course, The Dragon Men is still available, along with all the other Clockwork Empire books.
"[I]t does have a Gosh-and-Golly quality that can be attractive, with dashing heroes and heroines that see a bright future in their inventions…if they don’t blow up the world. Hey! It’s more fun than watching the news…and sometimes, more believable."
They're also doing a giveaway so you can win a copy of the book. I just found out about it. How cool is that?
She also accepted the rewrites for The Havoc Machine, which is scheduled for May. Hooray! I've seen an early cover and should be able to share it soon. It looks fantastic.
Their prequels The Impossible Cube and The Dragon Men are selling, too. The first three books (which make up a a full story arc) make great gifts. (Am I shameless? Yes. Yes, I am.)
I just got back from World Fantasy Convention where I learned, to my surprise, that the next installment of my Clockwork Empire books was out a little early. (!) So I thought I'd take this opportunity to introduce . . . The Dragon Men.
As China prepares to become the ultimate power in an era of extraordinary invention and horror, Alice Michaels’ fate lies inside the walls of the forbidden kingdom….
Gavin Ennock has everything a man could desire—except time. As the clockwork plague consumes his body and mind, it drives him increasingly mad and fractures his relationship with his fiancée, Alice, Lady Michaels. Their only hope is that the Dragon Men of China can cure him.
But a power-mad general has seized the Chinese throne in a determined offensive to conquer Asia, Britain—indeed, the entire world. He has closed the country’s borders to all foreigners. The former ruling dynasty, however, is scheming to return the rightful heir to power. Their designs will draw Gavin and Alice down a treacherous path strewn with intrigue and power struggles. One wrong step will seal Gavin’s fate…and determine the future of the world.
It's available at all major bookstores and, starting November 6, at on-line venues as well. If you missed The Doomsday Vault and The Impossible Cube, don't worry--I wrote The Dragon Men to stand alone, though the editors would like to encourage our highly discerning readers to peruse the other stunning and exciting volumes in the series.
And, since you're here, why not a sampling?
"I still think this is a terrible idea," said Alice.
Gavin spread his mechanical wings, furled them, and spread them again. He shrugged at Alice's words and shot a glance across the deck at Susan Phipps, who set her jaw and tightened her grip on the helm. Her brass hand, the one with six fingers, gleamed in the afternoon sun and a stray flicker of light caught Gavin in the face. The world slowed, shaving time into transparent slices, and for one of them he felt trillions of photons ricochet off his skin and carom away in rainbow directions. His mind automatically tried to calculate trajectory for them, and the numbers spun in an enticing whirlpool. He bit his lip and forced himself out of it. There were more important--more exciting--issues at hand.
"I completely agree," Phipps said. A brass-rimmed monocle with a red lens ringed her eye. "But he's the captain of the ship, and he can do as he likes, even if it's idiotic."
"Captains are supposed to listen to common sense," Alice replied in tart British tones. "Especially when the common sense comes from someone with a decent amount of intelligence."
At that Gavin had to smile. A soft breeze spun itself across the Caspian Sea, winding across the deck of the Lady of Liberty to stir his pale blond hair. He started to count the strands that flicked across his field of vision, note the way each one was lifted by teamwork of gas particles, then bit his lip again. Dammit, he was getting more and more distractable by minutiae. More and more individual details of the world around him beckoned--the drag of the harness on his back, the creak of the airship's wooden deck, the borders of the shadow cast by her bulbous silk envelope high overhead, the sharp smell of the exhaust exuded from the generator that puffed and purred on the decking, the gentle thrumming of the propellered nacelles that pushed the Lady smoothly ahead, the shifting frequency of the blue light reflected by the Caspian Sea gliding past only a few yards beneath the Lady's hull. Sometimes it felt like the world was a jigsaw puzzle of exquisite jewels, and he needed to examine each piece in exacting detail.
"Gavin?" Alice's worried voice came to him from far away, and it yanked him back to the ship. "Are you there?"
Dammit. He forced the grin back to full power. "Yeah. Sure. Look, I'll be fine. Everything'll work. I've been over the machinery a thousand times, and I've made no mistakes."
"Of course not." Alice's expression was tight. "Clockworkers never make mistakes with their inventions."
Gavin's grin faltered again and he shifted within the harness. She was worried about him, and that both thrilled and shamed him. It was difficult to stand next to her and not touch her, even to brush against her. Just looking at her made him want to sweep her into his arms, something she allowed him to do only sporadically.
"Alice, will you marry me?" he blurted out.
She blinked at him. "What?"
"Will you marry me?" Words poured out of him. "I started to ask you back in Kiev, but we got interrupted, and what with one thing and another, I never got the chance to ask again, and now there's a small chance I'll be dead, or at least seriously wounded, in the next ten minutes, so I want to know: will you marry me?"
"Oh, good Lord," Phipps muttered from the helm.
"I . . . I . . . oh, Gavin, this isn't the time," Alice stammered.
He took both her hands in his. Adrenaline thrummed his nerves like cello strings. Alice's left hand was covered by an iron spider that wrapped around her forearm, hand, and fingers to create a strange metal gauntlet, and the spider's eyes glowed red at his touch. Gavin had his own machinery to contend with--the pair of metal wings harnessed to his back. They flared again when he shifted his weight.
"The universe will never give us the right time." Gavin's voice was low and light. "We have to make our own."
"Dr. Clef tried to make time," Alice said, "and look where it got him."
"He wanted to keep it for himself." Gavin looked into Alice's eyes. They were brown as good clean earth, and just as deep. "We'll share it with the world. I can't offer you more than the open sky and every tune my fiddle will play, but will you marry me?"
"There's no minister. Not even a priest!"
"So you're saying you don't want to."
She flushed. "Oh, Gavin. I do, yes, I do. But--"
"No!" He held up a hand. "No yes, but. Just yes. And only if you mean it."
"Ah. Very well." Alice, Lady Michaels, took a deep breath. Her dress, a piece of sky pinned by the breeze, swirled about her. "Yes, Gavin. I will marry you."
With a shout of glee, Gavin leaped over the edge.
Air tore past his ears and his stomach dropped. The Lady's hull blurred past him, and only two dozen yards below, the calm Caspian Sea shimmered hard and sharp and a little angry. Gavin spread his arms, moved his shoulders, and the wires attached to his body harness drew on tiny pulleys. The wings snapped open. The battery pack between his shoulder blades pulsed power, and blue light coruscated across the wings with a soft chime like that of a wet finger sliding over a crystal goblet. A matching blue light current glowed through a lacy endoskeleton underneath the Lady's envelope above, giving her a delicate, elegant air. The endoskeleton and the wings were fashioned from the same alloy, though the wings consisted of tiny interwoven links of metal, much like chain mail. And when electricity pulsed through the alloy--
Gavin dove toward the water a moment longer, until the glow and the chime reached the very tips of his wings. In that moment, the alloy pushed against gravity itself, and abruptly he was swooping back up, up, and up, by God he was rising, climbing, ascending, flying and the wind pushed him higher with an invisible hand and the deck with Alice and Phipps upon it flashed by so fast Gavin barely had time to register their surprised expressions and then the Lady's curli-blue envelope plunged toward him like a whale falling onto a minnow and the wind tore his surprised yell away as a sacrifice, giving him just enough time to twist his body and turn the unfamiliar flapping wings--God, yes, they were wings--so that he skimmed up the side of the envelope so close his belly brushed the cloth and with dizzying speed he was above the ship, looking down at her sleek envelope and her little rudder at the back and the fine net of ropes that cradled the ship like soft fingers and his body stretched in all directions with nothing below or above him. Every bit of his spirit rushed with exhilaration, flooded with absolute freedom. His legs in white leather and his feet in white boots hung beneath him, deliciously useless. His muscles moved, and the wings, made of azure light, flapped in response, lifting him into the cool, damp air, with bright brother sun calling to him, lifting body and soul. A rainbow of power gushed through him, and he was part of the heavens themselves, a whole note streaking through infinity, cleansed by wind and mist and shedding worries like grace notes. Gavin yelled and whooped and his voice thundered across distant clouds as if it might split them in two. This was what he'd been born for. This was home.
He hung in the blue nothing for a tiny moment. His wings glowed and sang softly behind him. The clouds spread a cottony pasture far away, and he could almost--almost--see gods and angels striding across them. A calm stole over him. It didn't matter how many trillions of particles held him aloft or how gravity failed to function. It didn't matter that a disease was coursing through his body and killing him bit by bit. Here was blessed nothing. His mind slowed and joined the stillness. The wind sighed and Gavin hummed a soft note in response as the breeze curled about his white-clad body. Harmony. Peace. How perfect it was here.
A shadow below caught his eye. The Lady was still hovering just above the surface of the calm Caspian Sea. This was at Phipps's insistence--if Gavin's wings had failed, he wouldn't have fallen far, and the ocean would have provided a more pleasant landing than hard ground. Perhaps five miles ahead of the ship lay a sliver of an island, and just beyond that, a rocky coast. The shadow was moving beneath the water, growing larger and larger beneath the Lady as whatever cast it moved up from the bottom of the sea. The thing was nothing natural. Unease bloomed quickly into concern and fear. Gavin tucked and dove, his wings pulled in tightly. He didn't dare dive too quickly--he didn't know how much the harness could take, even though his mind was automatically calculating foot pounds and stress levels. He shouted a warning to Alice and Phipps and felt the vibration of his vocal chords, sensed the compression of air, knew the sound would scatter helplessly long before it reached Alice's eardrums, and still he shouted.
Half a mile below him, a pair of enormous black tentacles rose from the shadows and broke the surface of the water.
The Impossible Cube is the second book in my Clockwork Empire series, but if you missed The Doomsday Vault, don’t worry–you can still snag a copy. Also, Cube is written so you can read it even if you didn’t pick up the previous volume.
And isn't the cover fantastic?
The back cover reads:
In an age where fantastic inventions of steam and brass have elevated Britain and China into mighty empires, Alice Michaels faces a future of technological terrors…
Once, Gavin Ennock sailed the skies on airships and enchanted listeners with his fiddle music. Now, the clockwork plague consumes his intellect, enabling him to conceive and construct scientific wonders—while driving him quite mad. Distressed by her beloved’s unfortunate condition, Alice Michaels sought a cure rumored to be inside the Doomsday Vault—and brought the wrath of the British Empire down on them.
Declared enemies of the Crown, Alice and Gavin have little choice but to flee to China in search of a cure. Accompanying them is Dr. Clef, a mad genius driven to find the greatest and most destructive force the world has ever seen: The Impossible Cube. If Dr. Clef gets his hands on it, the entire universe will face extinction.
And Gavin holds the key to its recreation…
Since you took the trouble to drop by, have an excerpt:
( Read more... )
Here's how it works:
Amazon makes recommendations based on the number of reader reviews a book gets. When a book reaches 20 reader reviews, Amazon's computer starts recommending it. The content of the reviews doesn't matter--only that the book got reviews.
THE DOOMSDAY VAULT has ten reader reviews so far. Ten more will get Amazon to recommend it, just in time for THE IMPOSSIBLE CUBE to come out. Here's where the contest comes in.
Go to Amazon and write a review for THE DOOMSDAY VAULT. The link is here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Doomsday-
(Please note: I'm not pushing for good reviews. You won't hurt my feelings if you post a bad review or a short one. Do be honest in whatever you say. I definitely don't want to be accused of begging for good reviews. I stand by my work, in any case. Thanks!)
When you've posted a review, come back here and put a comment in letting me know which one is yours. If you've already already reviewed it (thank you!), put a comment here to say which earlier review is yours. Each reviewer will be entered in the contest.
Can we get ten reviews in ten days? If we do, I'll choose one of the reviewers at random to receive the prize above.
(And if the winner wants to post a review of THE IMPOSSIBLE CUBE to start the cycle over again, well that would be awesome!)
Ten reviews in ten days with a prize at the end. What could be better?
We have 14 reviews now. That's so great!
In the mail today, I got my author copies of THE IMPOSSIBLE CUBE. So instead of an ARC, the contest winner will receive an actual copy (unless the winner would =prefer= an ARC). Perfect timing!
A number of writing blogs have already commented on the speed of writing these days, how just a few years ago, I would have received a big pile of paper in the mail with red marks all over it, and after I went though it, I would have had to make a trip to the post office. Now I read and upload a file, yada yada yada.
I just want to add that it feels wrong. For steampunk, I mean.
Check out Deborah's excellent blog for the rest and leave a comment to let her know you stopped by!
And what a tour! Thanks to everyone who followed me around Ye Olde Internet!