Steampunk Hot Potatoes

At a number of steampunk conventions I attend, my friends David Drake and Katherine Morse run a programming item called the Hot Potato School of Writing. This is a method of collaborative writing where one member of the team writes to a cliff hanger, or a “hot potato,” and tosses it to the other writer to get the characters out of the jam. Unfortunately, I couldn’t participate at this past Wild Wild West Con, but I have used this technique with another writer in a story that I recently learned has been released in paperback.

Gears and Levers 2

Four years ago, Kurt MacPhearson and I tried our hand at collaborating on a steampunk tale. I introduced the brave Captain Penelope Todd of the airship Endeavor and immediately thrust the crew into a nasty storm from which there seemed to be no escape. Kurt took the idea and ran with it, sweeping the Endeavor and its hapless crew off to a strange new land called Halcyon along with the crew of a sea-going pirate ship. Kurt had Captain Todd taken prisoner with no apparent way of escape and left me to find a way out of the situation.

We had great fun writing the story and once we were finished, we passed it back and forth a few times and polished it up. We submitted the story to Phyllis Irene Radford for her Gears and Levers anthologies and she accepted it for the second volume. The anthology has been available for a while in ebook format at Amazon and Smashwords, but I just learned it’s also in paperback format. Gears and Levers 1 has been a bestseller for Hadrosaur Productions at our dealer’s tables, so we’re proud to say we now have some copies of Gears and Levers 2 to sit beside them.

Adventure and romance await in Gears and Levers 2. Travel to worlds that never were but should have been where magic and science blend together and authors explore the quest for all that makes up humanity. Battle pirates, walk with ghosts, fly in dirigibles, explore the wonders world, and walk with automatons in eighteen amazing tales set in Steampunk lands by masterful storytellers such as Alma Alexander, Irene Radford, Chaz and Karen Brenchley, Shawna Reppert, Larry Lefkowitz, Tina Connolly, Jeanette Bennett, Voss Foster, Frog and Esther Jones, and many more.

Fortunately, you don’t have to wait to see us at a convention to get a copy of the paperback. You can get the paperback from Amazon, or you can get them directly from Hadrosaur. If you send an email along with your order to Hadrosaur, I’ll be happy to autograph my story. I hope this finds you in your own world of Halcyon.

A Collaborative Adventure

Myranda and Fish

Today I’m in Albuquerque, getting ready to hear my daughter Myranda play bass in the New Mexico All-State Symphony Orchestra. She’s worked hard to be there. The last three years, she made the All-State Concert Orchestra. Making symphony is a step up in prestige for her and I’m proud she succeeded in this goal.

As a writer, I love symphonies. At the basic level, the music often inspires my writing, making me think of stories. At a deeper level, I think it’s fascinating to see how all of those instruments come together to make a piece of music. Hollywood director Nicholas Meyer once said, “The director is a bit analogous to the conductor of a symphony orchestra. It’s a collaborative adventure.”

Of course, writers often work alone, and the creation of a story or a novel doesn’t always feel very collaborative. However, at the fundamental level, a story is like a song and a novel is like a symphony. The writer uses the words like a composer uses notes. When the right words are used, its wonderful. When that doesn’t happen, the story or novel grates.

That simple analogy aside, I have to say my best experiences as a writer have come from genuine collaboration. They’ve come when I’ve worked with an editor to improve an outline or to make the words in a finished work shine.

I’ve also had great experiences working with artists illustrating my work. I know some writers who get very disappointed when an artist doesn’t interpret their writing exactly the way they imagined it. I actually find it fascinating when that happens. Sometimes it tells me I wasn’t as clear in my writing as I thought I was. Sometimes I see new things in my own writing that I had missed before. If I’m lucky enough to get the illustration before I’ve finished polishing a work, I’ve been known to go back and use elements from the illustration in the writing, making the process truly collaborative.

My only regret about being in Albuquerque this weekend is that it coincides with Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. I had an excellent time participating as a writer the last two years and I hope I’ll be able to return next year. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll drop in. You’ll see the magic of Dyno Staats, hear music from such fabulous artists as Abney Park, Unwoman, and Lee Presson and the Nails, and much more. Clearly, though, it was important to celebrate my daughter’s accomplishment and I look forward to seeing many of my Southern California friends at San Diego’s Gaslight Gathering this spring!