Monthly Archives: July 2015

Today is a Special Day

Brynne at Preschool

My youngest child legally becomes an adult today, able to vote and drink. Happy Birthday, darling girl.

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Is it worth it?

This post is dedicated to a writing friend of mine, Ged Maybury. I recently read this post on his blog:

https://steamedup.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/not-another-inspirational-blog-about-writing/

Ged and me by James Niland at Capalaba Library 19th 10 2013 - fluffing the chops.

Ged and me; photo by James Niland, taken at the Capalaba Library 19th of October, 2013 – I am fluffing Ged’s mutton chops.

Ged is one of the most talented men I know. He writes, is an artist, has been an architect, and is a genius designer and maker of Steampunk cosplay outfits and gadgets. And yet his post was a bucket of cold reality for writers, newbies or otherwise.

Writing rarely pays a living wage. This is what happens when you work in creative industries in Australia in the Twentyteens. You often have to make the choice between surviving and writing. Or have a spouse who is prepared to support you, which is unfair pressure on them even when they have faith in you. You have become used to budgeting and doing without.

And yet … writing has allowed me to become friends with some of the most interesting and talented people in the world. Most of the rewarding moments in my life – apart from time spent with my family – are due to my writing obsession. I am not living a beige life. Fewer regrets. Greater joys. Brighter colours. I wouldn’t have that if I wasn’t writing.

I know there are a LOT of writing-related blogs. But I see this blog, my cheery, cheeky little blog, as a way of paying it forward. So many greater writers than I – Ged among them – have shown me great kindness and encouragement. I want to emulate them. This blog also lets me feel more connected to the worldwide writing community, and the the worldwide Steampunk community. I hope people read it to be entertained and educated.

Ged is correct. A writing career isn’t for everyone. But I will persist in calling myself a writer,and trying to get published. And I hope most of you will too. Because – as Neil Gaiman said:

“Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.”

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Filed under Australian Steampunk Author, Ged Maybury, Personal experience, Writing Career

The Professional Writer’s Dilemma

http://observer.com/2015/07/tenthingsnottosaytoawriter-hashtag-has-famous-authors-venting-and-bonding-on-twitter/dan-poynter-quote

Note the clever wordplay on ‘waiter’.

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Your Darlings MUST DIE!

Editing. Slash and burn is probably just as correct a term where I am concerned. A first draft isn’t a proper story, as it is too random and erratic to make much sense to anything but the writer. The second draft should be the point where a beta reader can be given the manuscript and can make suggestions. It is taking me a long time to move my first draft of my Steampunk Work-in-Progress into this second phase. Why might it be taking me so long?

Perfection: We all know there is no such thing as perfection, yet I am constantly trying to achieve it. However, everything you read or hear about submitting work says to send the very best/most polished manuscript you can manage.  Sometimes this feels like a no win situation, where I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. The only person who can really make the call on whether or not my manuscript is ready for beta reading is me. And it is isn’t ready.

Lack of Confidence: Am I obsessing because of feelings of inadequacy? I really don’t know the answer to this one. I have completed a university course in creative writing, have achieved top marks in my grammar courses, have collected half a bookcase of ‘How to Write’ books, and still have days when I wonder if I’m just going through a lengthy bout of mental masturbation. Most days, I believe it is a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ when it comes to my dreams of being published. Other days, I am living in a pit of dark despair. Not getting my draft finished might just be displacement behaviour…

(Excuse me while I go put George Michael’s ‘Faith’ on continuous play.)

Depression: Well, yes, I suffer from clinical depression. So do a damn lot of other talented writers. I deal with it on a daily basis. Thanks to the love and support of my family, friends and the fine people of the medical profession, I beat back the black dog most days. In fact, there are days I can easily believe that my depression was just a phase I’ve grown through. But I’m not going to stop taking my medication, because I am delusional. Actually, I believe my depression gives a better insights into creating tension within a story, and making suffering believable to a reader.

Laziness: I write everyday. Some people might be surprised when I list this. However, but I have my lazy days. This is when the house actually gets cleaned, so it is a different kind of laziness.

Those are my personal flaws. What are yours?
Now, it is time to return to the salt mine, comrades…

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Filed under Editing, Personal experience, Steampunk, Steampunk Genre, Steampunk Work-in-Progress, writing, Writing Style

5 facts you should know about women who shaped modern physics

ideas.ted.com

Featured image: Austrian physicist Lise Meitner, who first developed the theory explaining the process of nuclear fission.

Theoretical physicist (and TED Fellow) Shohini Ghose has two great passions: physics, and advocating for gender equity in the sciences. “There are still relatively few women in physics – and the higher up the ladder in academia or industry you go, the fewer women you find,” says Ghose. “Yet the laws of physics themselves are gender neutral, and the beauty of the universe is equally accessible to everyone. So why so few women, and how can we change that?”

Recently, we asked Ghose to share five of her favorite facts about women and their contribution to physics. Here they are:

1. Marie Curie is the only person to have won Nobel Prizes in two different scientific disciplines.
First, Marie Curie won in 1903 for her studies of radioactivity. She shared the prize with her husband Pierre…

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Annie Londonderry; a Steampunk Feminist Persepctive

Annie Londonderry

“I am a journalist and a ‘new woman’, if that term means that I believe I can do anything that any man can do.”

Annie Cohen Kopchovsky  was born into a Jewish family in (or around) 1870, and her family emigrated to the United States when she was a child. She married Max Kopchovsky in 1888 and soon had three children under four years of age. She was all set to be an ordinary wife and mother, but Annie was obviously turned from a different mould. In June 1894, she set of on a bicycle, a change of clothes, and a pearl-handled revolver, to make an epic around the world ride.The Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company paid her $100 to carry its placard on her bike.As part of the marketing promotion, Annie changed her surname to Londonderry.

Not everything went according to plan. During the journey, Annie found her skirts tiresome and converted to wearing bloomers. As well, she found her woman’s 19kg Columbia bicycle too cumbersome, and swapped it for a much lighter men’s Sterling bicycle that weight just under 10kg. She switched her route. However, she managed to ride around the world in 15 months.

Of course, Annie’s feat of endurance had several repercussions. She became one of the first women athletes to earn a living from her physical endeavours. She make bicycling fashionable among adventurous young women, particularly suffragists and suffragettes. She popularised the idea of the ‘New Woman’, writing for the New York World under the name of ‘The New Woman’; the New Woman was a pro-feminist ideal of an independent woman with the same rights and liberties as a man.

Sad to say, Annie wasn’t able to keep her fame alive. However, her achievements did have a lasting impact on our culture, particularly in proving women were just as adventurous and athletic as men. With her as inspiration, any Steampunk female protagonist should be a keen cyclist, if nothing else.

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Filed under Characterization, Historical Personage, History, Steampunk Feminist, Steampunk Genre

Midnight Inspiration

Writer's Clock

I have a tendency to get good idea just as I am falling asleep. I know I should get up and write them down, but most of the time I convince myself the idea is so good that I can’t forget it. Then I will wake up in the morning knowing I had a great idea … and won’t be able to remember it.

Last night was NOT one of those occasions. I actually managed to drag myself awake enough to write the ideas down.

This morning, I was not disappointed. The two ideas I wrote down are relevant to the Steampunk novel I am writing, and both ideas are useful (one is nearly clever). One idea about the characterisation of a secondary character, and the other idea is about using correspondence between characters to foreshadow a major plot point. Yay for me and my muse!

I wonder if those ideas you get before going to sleep are like dreams. If you don’t write them down and make an effort to remember them, they fade away like snow on a stove. I kept a dream diary for a while, about fifteen years ago, simply to get some insights into my subconscious. (I was having a lot of nightmares.) I can still remember the dreams I wrote down in the diary, but I have no idea what I was dreaming about last night.

See

I sometimes have been woken up at night with inspiration so strong I can’t get back to sleep. Does this count as a dream? Or is it just my subconscious working overtime on a problem until it comes up with a solution.

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Filed under Personal experience, Steampunk, Steampunk Genre, writing, Writing Career

Avoiding the Mary Sue; A Steampunk Feminist Perspective

A Mary Sue character is a character too perfect to maintain verisimilitude with the audience. She (or he, the male version is the Marty Stu) is strikingly beautiful, talented in a multitude of unrelated skills, is always on the side of right, and lacks any real personality flaws – her ‘flaws’ tend to be disguised virtues. She is often the protagonist in amateur fanfic, as she is often an author avatar or proxy. She gets the dramatic back story, saves the day, and if she doesn’t have a heroic death then she wins the love of one of the main characters in the universe the fanfic is set in.

So, you suspect one of your characters might be a Mary Sue/Marty Stu … how do you go about recognising the type?

One Note: Is your character all ‘one note’ emotionally? Is she always brave and optimistic, always wins an argument, and never suffers from a bad hair day. Is everyone her friend, and if they aren’t her friend, do they admire and respect her anyway – or are envious.  This is a typical Mary Sue and simply awful characterization, and is the sign that a one note character is poor writing. This is a flat characterization and often an audience grows weary of the Mary Sue’s lack of flaws and lack of a realistic emotional life. Such a character never really comes alive to an audience, because they are are cardboard cut-out with no individuality. A well rounded character wins through by overcoming their flaws, or in spite of their flaws, not by being flawless to start with.

Good At Everything: Oh no, the first violinist is sick, but Mary Sue just happens to have a talent for playing the violin and knows the score. And, gosh, the hyper-link has gone down but Mary Sue can fix it with a hair pin even though the chief engineer was stumped. And Mary Sue is the only one with the rare blood type need to cure the sudden illness of the Intergalactic Ambassador. About now, you might be thinking that Mary Sue should be cracking under the pressure, but the little dear just soldiers on. (Mind you, the second violinist and the chief engineer probably hate her.) Again, this is rather dreadful characterisation, because it is hard for an audience to relate to someone so perfect. You might argue that such a character is perfect for a genre like Steampunk, because it is escapism. But you can stretch the verisimilitude to breaking point and lose an audience when the protagonist never actually suffers any real problems. Where is the tension when we know Mary Sue is going to always overcome?

Cliché Girl: At this point, I’d like to stick my fingers in my ears and hum, because I have been guilty of this – though in my defence, I was twelve. I wrote a horse story that was a direct rip-off of The Silver Brumby series by Elyne Mitchell, and I included every cliché from those books. My main character, Allinta, was an equine Cliché Girl, or, in this case, Cliché Filly. It was a fanfic before I even knew what fanfic was. This Mary Sue happens when you stay very close to your original inspiration, and the protagonist tends idealise everything that you love about that inspiration. Forty years on, I can’t reread Allinta, the Flame without groaning and laughing in equal measure.

Steampunk_goves_black_purple_by_Estylissimo

As you might guess, I have worked very hard to make sure that my characters are well-rounded and are not Mary Sues, Mary Stus, or even Anti-Sues. I have to mention Anti-Sues … this is what happens when you try your hardest to avoid Sue-ness, and fail. You’ve made your character ugly and clumsy and a sad little loser …but all the other characters still love her and the plot still twists itself into pretzels to give her a happy ending, this is an Anti-Sue. My Anti-Sue was a Goth chick who was secretly a Pollyanna do-gooder. Thank goodness I abandoned her in the planning stages when I recognised the signs.

A good writer can write escapism without resorting to the use of a Mary Sue character. The major problem with a Mary Sue as a protagonist is the lack of real tension or conflict in your narrative. However, if you want to write a humorous parody, a Mary Sue or Marty Stu character is a marvellous place to start. Look at Captain Carrot from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld; he most certainly started life as a Marty Stu parody. Pratchett’s genius was turning Carrot into a complex and nuanced personality while remaining true to the original stereotype.

In my Steampunk novel, my main villain hides behind a Marty Stu persona for a couple of chapters. Because when somebody is too good to be true, I get suspicious. I hope my audience feels the same way.

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Skirting the Issue: A Steampunk Feminist Perspective

Woman's Dinner Dress, Bodice and Skirt Made in Paris, France c. 1868 Designed by Emile Pingat, French, active 1860 - 1896. Worn by Mrs. William Carver, American, 1836 - 1912.

Dinner Dress made in Paris, France, circa 1868. Designed by Emile Pingat.

I can generally count on one hand the number of times I will wear a skirt in a month. I feel safer and more comfortable in jeans or trousers, or shorts, than I do in a skirt. I tend to trip on a skirt when walking up or down stairs. It may be due to the fact I suffer from Duck’s Disease (short legs) or my own innate clumsiness, but I often feel skirts are out to kill me.

The Scottish Engineer's Work-kilt

The Scottish Engineer’s Work-kilt

Which makes my adoration of men in kilts rather ironic.

David Tennant in a Kilt!

Wait … what was I talking about again? Oh yes … skirts. The woman who didn’t where skirts in the Victorian era was considered scandalous. However, there were bloomers and culottes and all sorts of bifurcated skirts for women who rode bikes, went bathing, or partook of other forms of vigorous exercise. So a woman wearing pants is allowable in the Steampunk Aesthetic.

As you can see from the pictures above, the female bloomer was still a voluminous item of apparel. The excess cloth would have still have had a tendency to get caught in bicycle chains. The Steampunk version need not be so bulky.

Stiped bloomers from Etsy

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Dangerous Curves: A Steampunk Feminist Perspective

Cogpunk Steamscribe

Aleta Pardalis Aleta Pardalis

Once upon a time, not that many years ago, I was considered too thin. These days, I would consider myself rather voluptuous for my height. The great thing about Steampunk cosplay is that it can be adapted to any shape or size or age of womankind. Not every cosplay genre can be worn by a mature woman.

Ivy Doomkitty - cosplay queen Ivy Doomkitty – cosplay queen

You can be elegant in a Steampunk-inspired outfit, or sexy, serious, adventurous, or dainty … whatever you want. The best part is experimenting to see what works best for you. It isn’t had to throw together an outfit if you want to try the Steampunk Aesthetic out, particularly if you are unsure if you want to make a big commitment in money or time.

Dorothy Winterman's Asian-influenced Steampunk outfit by Luisa Ana Fuentes Dorothy Winterman’s Asian-influenced Steampunk outfit by Luisa Ana Fuentes

Start off with a fairly full skirt, and put another full skirt over the top. Pull…

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