Monday, April 29, 2013

The Entire Universe

When any writer creates an alternate world in science fiction or fantasy, they know so much more about that world than can ever make it into a book. I suppose they could add it, but snippets about customs, economics, politics, food, clothes, geography, religion, etc would take away from the story.
That's one of the fun things about a blog. It can have all those deeper details that don't make it into the book, or authors notes about the books in general.

I love steampunk and initially envisioned Devil's Concubine as a steampunk novel. Most steampunk stories focus on competitive technologies (The Leviathan series by Scott Westerfield) or the inventors, or even just on the very cool machines and the exciting people who use them (the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist, and Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Johnathan Howard, to name some of my favorites). But in most of those worlds, which tend to focus on Victorian England or close substitutes for Europe, the societies have somewhat equal access to technology. What about the people who don't? That was a core question when writing Devil's Concubine.

In the United States, the wild west happened contemporaneously with early automobiles on the streets of Manhattan. Even now, citizens around the globe use smart phones, which are basically hand held computers, while there are still tribes using stone age technology. So while there is technology of a sorts on Ponong, the advanced gadgets will usually be something that they hear about but only a fraction of that technology will make it to the island. That's a more realistic portrayal of the way technology is distributed than showing it as universal. Besides, that way I get to show the frustrations of a population cut off from the cool toys, and how disruptive technology can be. But I'm still dreaming up cool toys, because who doesn't love a shiny new gadget? And air ships. Love those airships. Oooh, and goggles.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Map of Ponong

My publisher's husband was a really good sport. He took my horrendous drawing of the main island of Ponong and turned it into this.

The Devil's Concubine is set on a different world, where shape shifters and shift-less folk exist together, but not comfortably. The Ponongese have venomous fangs and reptilian eyes, but don't ever call them snakes! The Thampurians are a nation of powerful merchants from the continent. Thampurians can fully shift into sea dragons. They think that makes them superior to the Ponongese, who don't shift form. The Ponongese won't say what they think of the Thampurians. At least not in mixed company. Talk like that could earn you a one way trip to the fortress.

The main island of Ponong isn't the only inhabited island in the tropical Ponong archipelago, but it's by far the biggest. That isn't why the Thampurians colonized it. They wanted control of the Ponong Fangs which is the only deep water strait through the archipelago. While the Thampurians may cling to the idea that they rule Levapur, the sole town on the island, only the plantation owners dare venture over the Jupoli Gorge Bridge to the interior. They control the rest of the island in name only. So far, the Ponongese are humoring those Thampurian delusions, but their patience is wearing thin.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Revenge of Irene Adler

I love Sherlock Holmes now, but it wasn't love at first read.

I don't remember the first story I read when I was eight or nine, but I definitely remember being angry after I finished it. How on earth was I supposed to solve that mystery along with the detective? Did the writer expect me to know what a smear of brick dust meant? Well, no, Arthur Conon Doyle didn't expect anyone to solve the mystery. Anyone except Sherlock Holmes. And that was the point of his stories. You were supposed to sit back and marvel at how brilliant Sherlock was.

Well, Pffffffft to that.

However, I'd read almost every other mystery novel in the library and I was desperate for a fix, so I gritted my teeth and decided to give ACD another try. It was either fate or luck that the next Sherlock Holmes story I read was A Scandal in Bohemia. There wasn't much to solve, except where the picture was hidden, but it hooked me because of the character Irene Adler.

Irene was the first female character I met with a career. Better than that, she didn't behave properly, didn't play fair, and she got away with it. Oh, she was a lovely revelation. She was the smartest person in the room, and the smartest man - Sherlock - not only acknowledged she'd outwitted him, he admired her for it. Even Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime, couldn't manage that! That's what made her The Woman. How sad that she only existed in one short story, but I carried her as a silver of hope in my heart. 

While I'm a fan of  BBC's show Sherlock, the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey jr, and I'm even okay with Elementary, I have a huge issue with how they handle Irene Adler. Both BBC Sherlock and the movies for some odd reason decided to intertwine her character with Moriarty. Worse, they made her his subordinate. Irene isn't The Woman if she doesn't outwit Sherlock, but in both the BBC series and the movies, Sherlock and Moriarty outwit her. Wait! What? Oh no. (We'll see how Elementary handles her. I suspect that in their version, Irene is Moriarty. Not sure how I feel about that. We'll see if I'm right.) Here's a strong female character created by a Victorian gentleman, but modern (male) writers demote her to henchman? What the hell, guys? 

 I had already written Devil's Concubine and the first draft of Devil Incarnate before I saw the second SH movie or any episodes of the BBC series, so DC and DI aren't a rebuttal to them. I didn't even plan to write a character that could, in some light, be seen as Irene Adler fanfic. I simply wanted to write a story about an interesting woman. I'd already 'met' QuiTai, but as I filled in her background, the similarities between her and Irene were clear to me. So I asked, "What if Irene Adler were born on a different planet?" She'd have adventures that tested her brilliant mind. She'd be cunning and resourceful and never once apologize for being herself. She certainly wouldn't have to lose just to make Sherlock look good. Really, writer dudes, what is your issue with Irene?

QuiTai’s final words in The Devil Incarnate are, “I win.”
Yes, you do, because you are The Woman. 
Love, Me.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Devil's Concubine

I'm excited to announce the release of my science fiction political thriller The Devil's Concubine.(Wayzgoose Press)

"QuiTai, ruthless concubine of Levapur's mysterious crime lord, the Devil, receives an unexpected invitation to cocktails with disgraced Thampurian Kyam Zul. She doesn't trust Kyam enough to drink anything he pours, and won't help him no matter how hard he begs – or threatens. But when QuiTai's ex-lover is murdered, Kyam is the only one who knows the name of the killer, and he won't tell QuiTai unless she helps him first. 

The torpid back alleyways of Levapur's tropical colony hide more than lovers. There are things with claws, beings with venomous fangs, and spies lurking in the jungle. Most of them want to keep their secrets. One wants QuiTai dead."

The Devil's Concubine began as a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel, where people around the world try to write a novel in a month. It's a real challenge. I decided to write a novel that I'd like to read - science fiction with a strong female lead, a bit of humor, and lots of action.

I didn't like the novel I wrote that November, so I tossed it out and started again. the second attempt was better, but not what I was looking for. The third attempt was my last try, and it worked!