Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Antediluvian Steampunk

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, traditionally featuring steam-powered machinery–as in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen–but not always as in Back to the Future. The key element of Steampunk is anachronism.

Anachronism is an perceptional error in chronology, especially a misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other.

Still don’t get it?

That’s okay.

Not everyone of the 60 million watching understood Elvis when he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956.

Ed Sullivan said, “I can’t figure this darn thing out. He does this and everybody yells.”

Elvis didn’t invent Rock and Roll. As early as 1942, the term was used in Billboard magazine to describe Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s Rock Me recording. While some folks find that trivia interesting, you don’t have to know that to like Rock and Roll music.

Science fiction author, K.W. Jeter is credited with using “Steampunk” in the 1980s as a variant of cyberpunk (postmodern science fiction genre noted for its focus on high tech and low life). Since then, the Steampunk awareness folks have realized many classic anachronistic science fiction conveniently fit into this genre.

Like Rock and Roll, Steampunk is here to stay. You don’t have to like it, but pretending it doesn’t exist makes you look silly.

Classic Steampunk is set in the British Victorian era or the American “Wild West” with enhanced steam-power technologies seasoning the characters interaction within the plot. Examples include: Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Steampunk expanded beyond those classic works via speculative historical, fantasy and horror works.  Along with the explosion in literature, you see it in games, television and film.  Creative tribute is given to Jules Verne in Back to the Future Part III not only by the mention of the patriarch of Steampunk, but also by adapting the time-travel technology to a steam-powered train with protagonist Emmett Brown as the engineer.

With THE DRAGONEERS, yet another expansion of Steampunk’s web of influence arrived for interested readers.

No, we didn’t call it Steampunk at first. In all honesty, I was quite ignorant of the term. I’d merely written the story inside of me, and it just came out that way.

Before it was published, it placed well in a few contests under the misguided genre of “historical fiction” then “young adult fiction” then “Fantasy,” all of which didn’t properly describe the novel.

I should have figured it out when Publishers Weekly said, “This novel defies conventional classification…”

When it showed up for public consumption, THE DRAGONEERS was listed under Epic/Religious Fantasy at Amazon back in late November 2011. A fan on C. D. Sutherland’s FaceBook Fan Page   commented it was a new genre. While I was deep into writing the sequel, I let the idea percolate for a while. Looking at it now, I agree Antediluvian Steampunk fits better than anything else.

Antediluvian refers to the novel’s setting. THE DRAGONEERS opens eighty years prior to the flood described in the seventh chapter of Genesis. Just about everybody is familiar with the old story of Noah building the ark and the forty days of rain, but when we look in Genesis to get all the details, we’re left hanging, relying on our imagination, or that of the Church Lady, to fill in all the grey area between the black and white on the page.

Exactly what THE DRAGONEERS and THE LOST DRAGONEER go about doing–that is filling in the grey area. After you read these books, you might revisit some of those Sunday School lessons you’re familiar with and rethink them. For instance, why does the image of Noah seem to be one that would fit in with the New Testament times? Are we really supposed to believe God created a nearly-perfect race of humans but they couldn’t figure out anything new for the first several thousand years? And what’s with those pyramids? How did they built those things anyway? Then somehow–they forgot how to build them! What’s up with that?

The Chronicles of Susah series is fiction, but after you read it, you can’t help but wondering if some parts of it is more reasonable than the image painted on the nursery walls at your local church daycare.

Got you thinking yet?

Well, that’s what puts the “punk” in Steampunk. Stepping out of “acceptable” thought and looking at things with a different point of view.

Why should you have to accept somebody else’s interpretation of the way things were, especially when they don’t have any evidence to support it? Let them prove your interpretation wrong, if they can. No more free rides from folks who got it wrong.

Don’t worry, these novels don’t try to redefine God. God is real–we’re not disputing Him or His power at all. We’re not even disputing the smallest dot or tittle in the Bible.

But when it comes to Antediluvian Steampunk, the rest of it is up for grabs. We’ll proudly hide behind the “fiction” deflector-shield as we take you on an adventure of epic proportions in the antediluvian world. That world has forever been lost to us due to catastrophic events beyond our control.

After you’ve tasted THE DRAGONEERS and especially the sequel, THE LOST DRAGONEER (available on Kindle in time for a Christmas read), you’ll find yourself wondering if that amazing world where they had technologies as good as, or in some ways even better than ours, is really that far off the mark. Even if our version is wrong, there has to be more of the story.

It just makes sense.  

Reading for Fun

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

“Do you do any recreational reading?” said I to two teenage girls, one the granddaughter of my step-brother and the other her close friend.  They both shook their heads, looking at me as if I had asked them if they like liver.

Since the advent of social media and texting, today’s teenagers read all the time.  Literacy is common place in 21st century America, but I wasn’t asking if they could read, I was asking if they read for entertainment.  The answer to that question was an unequivocal, “No.”

As an author, especially of a novel that comfortably fits into the Young Adult (YA) category, I feel something much like a cross between disappointment and guilt when I meet teenagers who don’t read for fun.  Disappointment because naturally I believe my literature would not only entertain them but would also teach them something about the world outside of the book’s cover, which would not only make them smarter but also happier as they grow into adults.  Guilt because of my selfish feelings of disappointment and also that I am one of the myriad authors who have failed to convince the upcoming generation about the joy of reading.

I looked at two copies of THE DRAGONEERS, which I held in my hands.  Just minutes prior, one of the girls’ grandmother had told me they didn’t have time to read as school kept them plenty busy.  They already had too much to read and they’d never be interested in reading for entertainment.  Those are cold, biting words, challenging words, to an author.

Since THE DRAGONEERS had passed the 10,000 copies sold mark, I’ve become comfortable calling myself an author.  Previously the novel had placed increasingly well three years in a row in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest.  Of course the book didn’t win, or it would have been published by Penguin, which was the grand prize.  Getting close in a writing contest is a two-edged sword, an ordeal which often come with a small whisper saying, “Nice try, your book is okay, but face it, you’re just not that good.”  Many a promising author allowed that devil’s breath to invade their muse, eat away at them, eventually to bury their hopes in a shallow grave of despair.  In order to resurrect themselves, authors need to edit that foul whisper, like so:  “Nice try, your book is okay, but face it, you’re just not that good yet.”

One word makes all the difference.

The author’s journey requires you to collect those critiques then educate yourself as required so you can filter them, and return to the page with elixir.  Out of the ashes of a nice try and an okay start, a great story can arise.  This is pretty much what happened with my debut novel, THE DRAGONEERS.

Published by Narrow Way Press in November 2011, it rapidly rose to the top of the charts with customer reviews.  Currently it is the #1 top-rated Epic Fantasy book and the #1 top-rated Religious Science Fiction book at Amazon.  The novel has a Facebook fan page with over 214 followers and almost 100 reviews at Amazon, the vast majority of them are the highest rating, giving it an over 4.8 out of 5 stars.  The few initial reviewers, as with most books, were from people who either knew the author, me, or knew someone who knew me, but after several weeks, more than a score of people I’d never heard of were also saying how much they enjoyed reading THE DRAGONEERS.  Eventually the book collected a few negative comments, which I understand now as the normal course of book reviews.  Search at Amazon for any book you believe to be a great book, even the best book ever, and you’re sure to find a small percentage of people who hated it.  That’s just the way it goes.

In the marketing of THE DRAGONEERS, four trailers were developed and posted on YouTube and on the Facebook Fan page.  Hundreds of people have viewed the trailers and many people have told me how much they enjoy them and the book.  I’m convinced THE DRAGONEERS is a good book, yet I know it’s not perfect.  If I were writing it today, I’d do somethings differently, as I’m continuing learning better ways to write–perfecting my craft.  I’m putting that knowledge to work in Book Two.  Anyone who enjoyed THE DRAGONEERS, Book One of the Chronicles of Susah, is going to be very pleased with Book Two.

But my challenge was to interest two young girls in Book One.

I said, “I’ll like you to help me with an experiment, then I’ll leave you alone.”  They nodded in agreement, anything to get rid of the old guy talking about reading for fun.

“Please read the first sentence of this book.  When you get to the end of the first sentence you can stop.”  I handed the open book to them and they huddled around it.  Their eyes fell to the page and they read.

Pain, gnawing emptiness, hunger so loud it dominated all thoughts, not mine—even though I could feel it—it came from them.

They whispered something to each other and I took the book back.

“What do you think?”

One of them said, “Well, we’d kinda like to know what happens next.”  The other sheepishly nodded in tacit agreement.

“Well, if you want to–if you’d like to read it–I’ll give you each a copy.  I’m not forcing this on you, but it you want it, you can have it.”

They both smiled and eagerly nodded their heads.  I left them each with their own copy of THE DRAGONEERS and returned to the adult filled room next door.

While we adults talked politics, finance, guns, and religion in the dining room, I kept wondering if the teenagers had just patronized me, you know, took the books to get rid of me.  It’s not a crime.  Had they argued with me, I would have been able to counter and parry, but with passive acceptance, there was nothing left for me to do. Wondering if they laughed at my sincerity after I’d left them, I hoped they would someday read the story.  After all, I was certain they could find something in there to relate to, something they would like.

While the title sounds like just another dragon-book, it is really a coming of age story about Susah, a talented young woman, who refuses to join her three brothers in helping her father advance the family business. She wants to do something exciting with her life. While this story could have been set in any time, the fantastical world she lives in amplifies each step nearly beyond the bounds of imagination.

Against her parents’ wishes, Susah leaves home on a quest to become one of the dragoneers—an elite fraternity of warriors sworn to defend the ancient garden of Eden against all trespassers.

Meanwhile, deep in a lair inside of Sethopolis’ roughest neighborhood, an evil giantess dreams of seizing the secrets of immortality and other powers, which she believes are hidden within the walls of the forbidden garden. Realizing she can’t achieve her dream with just her own resources, she joins forces with a fallen angel, nearly as old as time itself.

Seemingly unaware of the dangers awaiting her, Susah faces the greatest of all challenges. With the fate of the human race depending on their performance, will the dragoneers succeed in defending the garden of Eden against the forces of evil? And even if they succeed, will Susah survive the pivotal battle of good verses evil?

The adventure builds on the little we know about the antediluvian world and overlays it with a blend of technology, supernatural powers, fire-and-ice-breathing, flying dragons, giants, and martial arts to begin Susah’s adventure to discover herself.

THE DRAGONEERS is advertised as a 100,000 word, Genesis-based epic fantasy, which will attract those interested in speculative fiction, especially about the antediluvian world, and will also appeal to readers of contemporary fantasy as well as military fiction.

But what about young people who haven’t developed a love for reading?  Even the terms “speculative fiction” and “antediluvian” may be foreign to them.  Accustomed to reading only school-assigned books, often followed by a test and a grade, which could easily be interpreted as work or even punishment–how do they even know what they’ll like?

I tried to introduce them to the wonderful world of fiction by convincing them to read the first sentence, but would that be enough?  Time would tell.

As the social event came to a close, and it was time to rally young and old alike from throughout the house, I stood against a wall near the kitchen watching as the two young girls filed out of the living room, headed to the car.  As they walked, their eyes scanned slightly left to right and their noses were buried into roughly the first quarter of THE DRAGONEERS.  I smiled.

That was a good day.

Reading can be fun, but you have to try it before you realize it.

It just makes sense.