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LARP September 24, 2017

Posted by bobv451 in alt history, conventions, fantasy, ghost towns, New Mexico, science fiction, sense of wonder, steampunk.
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The Steampunk Spectacular NM 6 was held in Madrid, a former coal mining town amid a touch of rain and a lot of enthusiasm. The subtheme was OZ, giving the usual steampunk cosplay an added dash of whimsy. I’m not too good estimating numbers but I’d guess that about 100 people showed up for the daylong celebration of … having fun. This is the thing that pleased me most. Everyone was smiling, enjoying themselves and no one complaining that others weren’t PC. This will change as it has in sf fandom, I am sure, but for now it is a wonderful escape.

Part of the festivities included a LARP (Live Action Role Playing) detailing how an evial French spy killed off a mine full of robber barons using a coherer (a device to remotely trigger the explosion) and steal a special time crystal. I wanted to play and wandered in, only to be asked if I wanted to be the killer. Well, yes, of course, I said. I became Edward Branley, mass murderer and railroad clacker. And French spy who killed his entire revanche. Of all those taking part, some 30 people, I could lie during questioning. Typecasting, I am sure. After being interrogated by this living theater, I was exposed as the villain. Curses, foiled again. The winner got a nice prize and I was awarded a book detailing nifty 19th century mechanical devices. The LARP was a great way of mingling and seeing others, though the interacting tended to be in role playing of role playing. Great work writing the scenario and fun working through it.

After a day of enjoyment, I started the 50 mile drive home. Sunset, crimson fire to the west over coal black mountains. Far south, cumulonimbus clouds still caught in bright sunlight. In the rearview mirror, lightning from a storm overtaking me. Ahead, empty road, dark as a desolate shot from LOST HIGHWAY and Pink Floyd’s “Time” playing on the radio. High beams cast along two hundred yards, reflecting back nothing but markers on either side of the winding road. It was surreal.

The writers and purveyors of the Steampunk Spectacular Murder Mystery LARP 2017. Thank you!

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All Around the (New) World May 28, 2017

Posted by bobv451 in alt history, e-books, steampunk, VIPub, weird westerns, westerns, writing, zeppelin.
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It’s all yours when you write.  The world you create.  What do you put in, what do you ignore (since you can’t touch on everything)?  Choose what makes for a good story that challenges the characters and then go pedal to the metal (or meddle or medal or mettle, depending on what type of story you’re writing).

A couple years back I worked up details of an entire steampunk world slowly filling with holes in the fabric of space that lead to a world consumed by oxidation.  Oxygen was at a premium there and rust ate away at everything once great.  My hero becomes intrigued by these holes to a different world while the heroine is off fighting wars brewing in Europe, many of those conflicts over and about the curious holes because some allow instant transport from one part of the world to another.  The story has clockwork, pneumatically powered robot dogs (more in a second about Fulton) and zeppelins and a villain caught up in a maelstrom of evil even he cannot control.

My world, but I opened it to others to play in, introduce characters I’d never consider, poke about in corners of history and geography I simply had no time to explore.  Sarah Bartsch wrote Unforeseen  set in 1915 Japan where the Shogun rules and being a (lady) samurai includes airships.  Steve Sullivan took a different tack and gave use sexy female Russian spies in Heart of Steam and Rust.  Continuing exploration of this world (and the rust world) award-winning steampunk author David Lee Summers gave us a look at Pancho Villa, the Mexican Revolution and the rust world in Revolution of Air and Rust.

This steampunk world continues to expand.  Interested in joining in?  Drop me a line and let’s see what shakes out.

Oh, yeah, I’d mentioned the steamdog Fulton.  He’s in this world, which is set later than the upcoming Air Pirates of the Golden West.  That tale will be included in a monthly magazine with free weekly installments, starting with Millard Fillmore, Master of Steam.

EmpireS&R

Empires of Steam & Rust: The First Passage

The First Rule of Fiction May 7, 2017

Posted by bobv451 in alt history, e-books, fantasy, ideas, steampunk, writing, zeppelin.
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Entertain. Keep the reader moving from page to page and always wondering, always wanting more. It’s hard for me to find a book that I admire because I need to get lost in the story and forget I am reading. All too often I dissect what the writer is doing, either good or bad. That stops the immersion in the world and sometimes turns what might be a good book into one less … entertaining.

I was delighted to find Jim Butcher’s Aeronaut’s Windlass. Somehow I had missed his work, though I occasionally watched Desden Files on TV (I had pictured Butcher as looking like Paul Blackthorne–Butcher’s picture was something of a surprise, but imaginings like this are best left for a different discussion). What drew me to AW was its steampunkedness. I was in the mood and had exhausted all of Cherie Priest’s titles. The book surprised me on a lot of levels.

I enjoyed it. ie, it entertained immensely. I also tore it apart as I read and still enjoyed it. The book might well be a master’s course in what to do right in a book. The world is clever and imaginatively constructed. It is both alien and understandable. The characters are ones you know and love–or feel uneasy about but still understand. Butcher’s development of their character arcs is wonderful. The action scenes are visual and well realized (and I am a sucker for airship fights, anyway). The plot is straightforward and compelling. The culture and, indeed, the entire world has a feel of reality to it, in spite of not being ours.

Read the book for pleasure, read it to learn. I’ve done both. Best of all from the author’s standpoint, the ending left me angry…because there wasn’t more. I hope there will be lots more in this series. Until then I’ll have to check out his legions of other books.

Getting Weird…But It Always Has Been April 2, 2017

Posted by bobv451 in history, robot rights, science fiction, serial fiction, steampunk, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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I am talking about weird westerns, of course. Writing has taken me on a curving path the past couple years, but weird westerns have always been there along the way. Awhile back I looked into the history of WW and found, to my surprise, that they have been around almost as long as western fiction and, more than once, have saved the traditional western from extinction.

Back in 1860 Beadle’s Dime Novels ran a story, “Captives of the Frontier” by Seth Jones. Straight ahead western–and it sold 400,000 copies. The appeal of the frontier, the Wild West, the freedom offered by endless vistas (and the dangers, such as being kidnapped by ferocious savages) proved to be a big hit with Eastern audiences starving in rat-infested tenements. But even such derring-do and fraught-with-danger tales can pale. In 1868 Edward Sylvester Ellis perked up the field with what is likely the first WW: “The Huge Hunter or The Steam Man of the Prairies.”
Even better (for me) it’s got a robot in it!

Tale tales in the West (or anywhere else) are hardly unique. Paul Bunyon and Pecos Bill and La Llorona and…lots. Creepy and funny, outrageous and maybe hinting at what it was like to be an explorer, the stories were told around the campfire. But the Dime Novels gave a new dimension–the printed word. As the western rose, WWs languished, but as the traditional western fell out of favor, WWs flourished in many forms. Today the traditional western (published in NYC) is on the wane. Indie publishers are taking up the slack but WWs are proliferating (and along with them steampunk stories set in the Wild West). A forthcoming WW anthology has some of the best sf writers around in it but very few western writers–that’s good for cross-pollination. It’s hard these days to find such an anthology of only traditional western writers (and if you know of a new one, let me know. I missed it.)

Of Alien Worlds…and Adjectives and Nouns January 12, 2014

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, history, iPhone, movies & TV, sci-fi, science fiction, steampunk, Wild West, writing.
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I have mentioned before that writing westerns is now equivalent to writing sf. Science fiction envisions new and different worlds filled with characters unknown or unimagined by the reader. The traditional western set in the post Civil War era through 1890 and the closing of the frontier is now the same. Growing up, my oldest relatives lived at the edge of that time. Now that the WWII generation is shuffling off its mortal coil, firsthand stories are lost. With iPhones, 3D printers and wifi our everyday reality, the 1880s is completely unknown to modern readers through personal experience of family story. That means the same techniques we use to bring sf alien worlds alive are now necessary for westerns. We need to take the reader to a time and place completely beyond their ken with vivid description–and explanation of why the world is as we write it with “alien” elements like horses and cattle drives.

The style of writing has changed immensely in the last 25 years, where idea driven stories have fallen out of favor to ones with character driven plots. Westerns need to gear up, too, but a lot of writers already understand this and are working to give depth and motive (other than “revenge”) to their characters.

Along with this change is the broadening (I hesitate to say diluting, but that is part of it) with so many cross-genre stories. The noun is always the dictating form. For instance, ranch romance is a romance with all those conventions set in the west. If you happen to come across a romance western, you will have found a rare entry. Most all “…” romance is above all a romance. Paranormal romance. That’s romance with creepy happenings. Historical romance. A romance set in some other time period. And so on.

One interesting backwater is the western steampunk story. It can as easily be steampunk western. Adjective defining the type of western. Or the weird western. There aren’t many other sub genres that let us do a western with different overtones (there might be western mysteries like Longmire but check the adjective and the noun) but to maintain the structure, the very world of western lore requires us to understand what we are writing.

I love traditional westerns, but they were/too-often-are action driven with little regard to the characters. The best in the field like Elmer Kelton either consciously or unconsciously realized a western becomes more vital with living, breathing characters doing things the reader can identify with. With this additional writing technique, we now have to describe a world so far removed in time and space that it has become science fictional.

For your perusal, check out this Western Fictioneers series centered on individuals in the Old West. My Jackson Lowry title The Artist is an example of what I have been rattling on about. It is set in the Old West with a real character with a history, motivation and depth to bring him alive to today’s readers. It’s on sale right now, so you won’t be out that much to see what I mean. You won’t go wrong with the other novels in the West of the Big River series, either.

Happy trails, buckaroos.

A story of Charles Russell

A story of Charles Russell

Welcome to the New Mayan Long Count December 22, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, End of the World, Free, sci-fi, science fiction, steampunk, VIPub, writing.
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Survived the last 5125 and unfortunately the new page on the Mayan calendar doesn’t have any of those frisky Mayan maidens with cavorting jaguars, either. Next time.

For those of you looking forward to the next end times but unsure what to do until then, let me remind you I’m having a super duper post-apocalyptic sale in my store on all sci-fi titles. Only a couple more days so hurry hurry hurry.

Today’s Lio cartoon sums up so much so well so quickly in 2 frames.

lio121222

You Only Live Twice…Things Done 2x May 24, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, charity, conventions, fantasy, iPad, steampunk, writing.
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Thanks to Mike Stackpole for letting me sit in for him again (even though he was there) at his office hours last night. But the title of this blog is things done twice. I will be reading in Second Life (second time in 2 days) tonight for Relay For Life. Which is the second time I have participated. Come by at 6PM SLT for my reading of a short story, “Memory of Wind.” Maybe even contribute a few pennies for cancer research.

In response to my “Strategy and Tactics” blogpost of a few days ago, I received this from Copyblogger. Sonia Simon has written an article on “the difference between ‘work’ and work that moves you toward your goals.'” Good stuff in the article and in general on Copyblogger.

For some reason the term “sprocket watch” keeps rattling around in my head. Sounds rather steampunkish. Might just be in anticipation of Steve Sullivan posting his entry into Empires of Steam and Rust–this will be passage two.

Also my second gig at Albuquerque Comic Expo is coming up fast. Get your tickets now!

The burdens of work hardly qualifies as 2x since it is pretty much constant. I need to get the story I’ll read tonight all gussied up and into epub format so I can read it off the iPad and not drop pages like I did last time I read. On this note I leave you with a Calvin and Hobbes that seems especially appropriate

Calvin the writer, waiting for his Muse

Packing Up, Moving On Down the Road April 22, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, fantasy, sci-fi, science fiction, steampunk, writing.
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I’ll be away from the blog posting for a while as I venture into Tornado Alley. I hope there are no “stories” to tell when I get back. I don’t want “adventures” or “thrills” due to dodging F5s or being pummeled with grapefruit-sized hailstones. If all goes as planned, I’ll be delivering a big screen TV and that’ll be as exciting as it gets.

Until then I’m leaving you with a bunch of links. While I’m gone, buy my books. Help me pay for $4/gal gasoline out on the road. My online store has lots of great stuff. Some free stories, a couple novels under $3 (in the case of Lord of Death and Life, only until I return) and super fantasy, sf and other genres. Sign up for the newsletter and be eligible for a promotion after I change hosts in a couple weeks.

You like sexy spy books? Hot Rail to Hell is what you’re looking for.

Steampunk? You can’t go wrong with the initial story in the Empires of Steam and Rust series.

Great fantasy? You can read the complete Accursed trilogy, which has never been published in the US before (only in the UK).

Or here is the entire 9-book series, Swords of Raemllyn.

SF? Space opera? Give the complete Weapons of Chaos a read.

Or the entire Biowarriors trilogy.

Check out the comprehensive catalog on the Kindle or the Nook

And I’ve done some editing. Want a sampler of some mighty fine writers? Try this one…

Career Guide to Your Job in Hell

Report from the Frontlines January 13, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, fantasy, Free, science fiction, steampunk, VIPub.
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I tried out the Amazon freebie promo route on anthology Career Guide To Your Job in Hell and my standalone sf novel Moonlight in the Meg. The former was put up for three days, Moonlight on January’s full moon for one day. Question was if giving away copies somehow increased visibility and sales.

After almost a week here is how it comes down. But first the number given away and where.

Career Guide:
US(924), UK (28–and one poor soul actually returned a free copy, maybe thinking he could get $4.99 or Brit pound equivalent refund in the confusion?), Germany (21)

Moonlight in the Meg:
US(315), UK(37), Germany (4), Italy (1)

Since then each book has been loaned out once (which is a good thing since the lending pool has been increased to $700k. Prior $500k pool equalled about $1.70 per loaned copy.)

Breaking into the Italy market is good though this is not a sale (and so far I have sold only 1 book, Hot Rail to Hell in Germany)

I have sold 3 copies of books since the end of the promotion. I’d say nothing moved the sales needle with the giveaway, since the books sold were part of the Swords of Raemllyn series and reducing the first book (until Feb 1) to 99cents as a different promotion.

That seems to have worked better, since I saw a slight uptick in sales on that series.

Summary: the free promotion doesn’t work. Possibly reducing the price for a limited time on the first book in a series does. Still to be determined: whether giving Amazon exclusive listing for 90 days into their lending library will be worthwhile compared with combined sales on Nook, iTunes and my own store. That will be reported later, my droogies.

I leave you with a glimpse at a new project.

Empires of Steam & Rust: The First Passage

Are You Being Undercheesed? January 1, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, End of the World, movies & TV, sci-fi, serial fiction, steampunk, VIPub, westerns, writing.
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That’s what an ad for a pizza joint asked me. I had never considered life in those terms, perhaps because I drop in on Cheese Magnet regularly. But “undercheesed?” If so, I need to watch more cheesy sf movies. (I did watch This Island Earth last night and no, it is not a cheesy movie. It’s pretty decent and one year Santa will bring me an interocitor.)

I doubt the world will end, but watching Dick Clark’s Rockin’ NY last night made me think it is possible. Poor ole Dick looked like a zombie. Any year that begins with Lady Gaga and Michael Bloomberg co-pressing the lever to drop the ball already has 2 strikes against it. My option was watching “Hair Removal at Home” on Ch 2. Or watching metaluna monsters menace Faith Domergue.

The year is already filling with projects. Have 2 westerns under contract, have agreed to take part in a Western Fictioneers project of a story collection set in Dogleg, Kansas and have lots of other projects begging to be done. No lack of work. Now all I need are sales, so pitch in, everyone, do your part, feed those e-readers you got for Christmas.

I have a small window of opportunity to work on the first of the Empires of Steam and Rust stories so will cut this short. Already up to 15k words in the “First Passage” and just getting into the plot after introducing the situation, the bad guy and the two good guys. And the compressed-air powered dog, Fulton.

Off to see if yet another brick and mortar bookstore has bitten the dust. I leave you with this snarky cartoon hope for 2012.

F-Minus by Tony Carrillo