The Road to EuroSteamCon 2015

Yesterday, I did something I’ve never done before—a Google Hangout with steampunk readers from all over, hosted by the lovely Diana and Claudia in Portugal. Each month the EuroSteamCon folks interview a different steampunk author on the Road to EuroSteamCon, putting me in such august company as Jim Butcher and Cherie Priest ::fans self::

We had an hour-long conversation about everything from steampunk to writing the core story to why I don’t write in my office to the emotional lives of chickens. The interview has now been posted on YouTube. I hope you’ll stop by!

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Enhanced Editions with iBooks

Yesterday, fellow author Jennifer Skully and I met on the Apple campus to beta test some authoring software for the smart folks @iBooks. Neither of us knew what to expect … but we both came away madly excited!

Those of you who use iThings probably know about iBooks Author, a nifty product that allows you to lay out gorgeous books meant for reading on iPad and iPhone. But the iBooks folks are expanding far beyond fixed-page nonfiction texts like science books and cookbooks, and moving now into reflowable fiction templates for writers like Jennifer and me, with fabulous opportunities for enhancement.

What does this mean for the Magnificent Devices books?

Books can be enhanced with movies, audio files, and images. Just imagine what I can do with this:

  • I can record an intro welcoming readers to the book, and giving a little background information on how it came about.
  • I can include a little narration, either reading an opening paragraph myself, or including a small portion of the audiobook performed by the peerless Fiona Hardingham. Once I figure out how the licensing works for that.
  • A picture gallery might turn up showing the landscape through which the characters are moving. I’m thinking particularly of poor Gloria in Book 10, making her way through the Weird West.
  • Along with the excerpt for the next book, which you normally find in the back, I can embed a book trailer similar to the one I did for A Lady of Integrity.
  • And I can do a live author bio, either as a sound file or as a movie, talking not only about myself (which might put people to sleep), but also about the series in general and thanking my readers for joining me on the journey (which might keep them awake).

I can’t wait to get in and play around with this. The iBooks folks assure me that these files will also work on other tablets, which is different from the fixed-template books that are only viewable on iPad and iPhone. It’s an exciting step forward—don’t you just love technology?

Noch einmal–auf Deutsch!

Die Erfinderische Lady by Shelley Adina(Headline translation: One more time–in German!)

As I’ve mentioned before, Lady of Devices has been translated into German, and I’m preparing both the digital and print versions for publication as we speak. I recently got the cover art from designer Kalen O’Donnell, featuring art by Claudia McKinney at Phat Puppy, and was delighted with it.

But you will note this cover does not quite look like the English version. Before we went ahead, Kalen and I did some research into the differences between US and European covers. We noticed that in Germany, steampunk novels make what we call the “genre markers” very obvious. In my US versions, design elements that would indicate “steampunk” are so subtle that many don’t believe they’re there at all. But in the German edition, it soon became clear that we would need to include the “goggles and gears” markers that steampunk readers there expect to find.

So while one is doing that, why not make a wreath of them? After all, the Lady appreciates such homey touches, and quite likes a wreath.

Then there was the title, and the series name, which necessitated the translator educating me about the word devices. Apparently, in German Lady of Devices would be rendered as Lady of Appliances, which isn’t quite the image I want in people’s minds. Lady of Toasters simply does not conjure up the same je ne sais quoi. So we settled on a series name of “An Inventive Lady,” where the adjective erfinderische also connotes imagination along with inventiveness. Appropriate, ja? Book One (buch eins) is The Inventive Lady and we’re now working on titles for the rest of the books.

Such a fun process! I love learning new things, don’t you?

 

The Texican Territory

One of these days, I’ll apply myself to creating a map of the Magnificent Devices world, which as you may have deduced by now, does not look like the one we live in. One of the areas my characters travel through more than once is the Texican Territories, a vast landscape comprising what we modern folk might recognize as Texas, Oklahoma, Mexico, and the American Southwest.

Being so large and virtually unpoliced, the scope for weirdness (both of the imaginary and of the strictly human kind) is, happily, just what I’m looking for in a landscape.

My husband and I recently took a ramble in the Silver Zeppelin through the Four Corners area, and there was enough natural–stunningly beautiful–weirdness to make the creative side of my brain begin to bubble.

Lower Antelope Canyon, photographed by Shelley Adina

Lower Antelope Canyon, near Page, AZ

One enters the wonderland prosaically called Lower Antelope Canyon through a crack in the earth no more than two feet wide. What if one were evading pursuit and in desperation, slid sideways into such a crack?

Lower Antelope Canyon 2, photographed by Shelley Adina

Lower Antelope Canyon 2

What if one had been drugged? Or believed one had been? I became very disoriented in the canyon because there isn’t a single straight line in the place. The walls are made of stone, but they seem frozen in an undulation that–disconcertingly–still seems to move with every step.

Lower Antelope Canyon, photographed by Shelley Adina

Lower Antelope Canyon 3

Our guide, a young woman named Brianna, told us that 12 tourists had been killed in the canyon due to flash floods. Now there are escape ladders built in … but in 1894 there would not have been. Would such a flood have meant death … or delivery from it?

Lower Antelope Canyon, photographed by Shelley Adina

Ravens drinking after rain. Lower Antelope Canyon.

For there are always those who wait.

 

Open windows

Sadly, my screenwriter friend and I did not make the semifinals of “The Next MacGyver” contest, to wit:

Thank you for submitting your TV series concept(s) to “The Next MacGyver” competition. We received nearly 2,000 entries from around the world and each was carefully reviewed by numerous people with experience in both entertainment and engineering. The submissions have finally been narrowed down to 12 finalists, and those people have already been notified. We will make the finalist names and show concepts public at www.nextmacgyver.com in early July. If you have not been notified that you are one of the top 12, your entry is no longer being considered. Nevertheless, we very much appreciate your participation in this potentially historic contest to identify and develop a TV series starring an iconic female engineer as a main character.

Best,

Nicole Flores

National Academy of Engineering

I cannot imagine what they were thinking, but never mind. The Lady has other fish to fry! If she actually fried fish. I believe Grannie Protheroe has that privilege. To abuse another metaphor, when doors close, windows open, so we’ll keep an eye out for one of those, shall we?

In other news, I returned last week from a trip around the Southwest, in the Four Corners area. We were doing a photography safari for images to go on book covers … which means that Gloria Meriwether-Astor’s adventures in the Weird West are becoming more reality than possibility.

The only question I must ask myself is, “Will there be zombies?” In other words, how weird do I want things to get?

The Magnificent Devices series hasn’t really been notable for its weirdness, and I’ve had correspondence from some of you expressing your relief that this is so. (I suspect fear of zombies is behind it.) Being of a practical turn of mind myself, I like things to be rooted in, if not reality, then at least possibility. So this will require some more thought. I did buy a number of reference books in Taos, though, on supernatural occurrences and beliefs in the old Spanish West, so considering the stubborn entrenchment of the Royal Kingdom of Spain and the Californias upon the left coast of the Americas, this may become something Gloria is forced to deal with.

In an upcoming post I’ll share some of the pictures I took in the beautiful southwest desert. I hope you’ll enjoy them!

 

 

The Next MacGyver—digits crossed!

Many of you, being of a technical turn of mind, will remember the TV show MacGyver, where a spy with a lot of engineering talent got himself and others out of scrapes by putting together a piece of string, a paper clip, and who knows what else, and blowing up the bad guys. The character’s name has even passed into the popular vernacular (my husband refers to his multipurpose knife as a “mini MacGyver.)”

Now the folks connected with that show are looking for The Next MacGyver: “Thirty years ago, the original MacGyver created enormous interest around engineering with the exploits of Angus MacGyver, a spy who used his powers of engineering in every episode to solve problems. According to Lee Zlotoff, the show’s creator: “I literally could not tell you how many times people have come up to me and said, ‘I became an engineer, or I went into the sciences because of MacGyver.’” In the spirit of that show, in 2015, we are looking for TV ideas that will feature female engineers or female protagonists who will use their powers of engineering to solve problems.”

My goodness. Does this sound familiar to anyone?!

Screenwriter Carol Lee Hall contacted me and said that she believed the Lady might have a chance in this contest—she fit every single one of the requirements. It was a strange feeling to pair Lady Claire’s Victorian London with the words TV pilot, but this is Carol’s metier and she was up to the task.

We submitted our entry, and 12 semifinalists will be announced on Monday, June 1. Yes, two days from now.

Digits crossed!

A Gentleman of Means releases today!

I’m delighted to say that with over 300 preorders, A Gentleman of Means debuted at #9 on the Amazon steampunk bestseller list before it was even released! My grateful thanks to all those who leaped into the breach to get their copy, and to all of you who are planning to get yours today, release day! As I say in my note at the end of every book, you folks really are like the steam in Athena‘s boiler, keeping this whole enterprise in the air. Without you … well, without all of you, I’d still be at Hewlett Packard, and we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation!

Several have already asked me, “Is book eight the last in the series?” Which one might take a number of different ways… hm. Let me rephrase: “Surely this isn’t the last one, is it?” To which I may heartily reply, “Not if you don’t want it to be.”

I think Gloria Meriwether-Astor needs some life experiences to turn her into the woman I know she can be. All I’ve ever known about her future is that in my Glory Prep series of contemporary YA novels set in San Francisco, “Glory Prep” is student shorthand for the Gloria Stanford Fremont Preparatory Academy. Poor Gloria and her penchant for unwieldy surnames. On the bright side, her portrait hangs in the school entry hall and she is wearing a Worth gown. But, one must ask, how did she wind up in San Francisco founding a school? And acquiring that surname? And wearing such a dress?

I’m curious. And you know what happens when that happens …