Monday, February 23, 2015

Steampunk Hands Around the World 2015

Steampunk: Our Playground, Our Classroom, our Workshop

Probably the simplest definition of steampunk I can come up with is: It’s an artistic movement based on retro-futuristic elements.

Steampunk is a reimagining of the past and the future that never was. Generally speaking, it’s a mish-mash of the Victorian Period, the Industrial Revolution, and the speculative aspect of technology common in science fiction.

But for many of us, steampunk is more than a mere visual art, fashion statement, or aesthetic (although all of that is VERY important to the genre). Steampunk can be such a fun playground. Visually, steampunk is just so striking and beautiful.

As a writer, I use steampunk to explore many of the major societal-historical issues existing out of the 19th century world. Think about it…the 19th century saw such tremendous growth in intellectual, technological, and sociological expression. Like anything else, such growth and prosperity came at a tremendous cost.

19th century history is also riddled with all kinds of oppression: racial, sexual, social, and economic inequality. European Imperialism might have started in the 15th century, but there was an explosion of colonization in Asia, South America, and Africa by the European powers.
Here in America, our country struggled with slavery, the industrial revolution, and social upheaval. Globally, conflicts arose from the British, French, Dutch, Russian empires extending their reach beyond their borders.

It’s easy for an artist to pull from history and find all kinds of profound conflict to explore. Along with all this global upheaval came the intellectual boom. People began to apply science to society in its attempt to understand the human condition. Marx, Comte, Darwin…these were just some of the big thinkers to propel the social sciences.

Literature in the 19th century gave birth to the Realism Movement. They were a sharp contrast to the Romantics. These new writers tried to portray the world not as they wished it would be like, but as it truly was. Life could be unfair, brutal, and filled with strife.

Steampunk is such a powerful platform to explore all of these themes, yet have some fun in the process. On the surface, all the cool steampunk aesthetics might seem pretty and otherworldly. But if you dig deeper, you’ll find that the steampunk movement is:

* An exploration of where we’ve come from (history)
* The imaginative expression of “what if” (speculative)
* Where we might going (future)
* A reflection of our society today (contemporary)

Steampunk has served as a way for many of us to learn more about ourselves, yet stretch our imaginations in the process. We can still tackle the profound societal ills that still plague us in the 21st century, but we can do so in a way that is appealing, fun, and interesting.

Jay Noel, author of The Mechanica Wars series can be found at www.jaynoelbooks.com

Monday, February 16, 2015

Time To Toot

My book sales are anemic, at best, but there's been a lot of good things that have happened. At this point in my writing career, I have to celebrate my little victories when I can. Otherwise, this blog would become one big IWSG website.

Writers are an insecure bunch.

I feel a need to toot my own horn.

So here's three things I can celebrate:

1) My author visit to a local middle school went so great, several students want to form a writer's club. How cool is that? They want me to come in whenever I can, after school every other Friday, and help them hone their craft. There's a lot of young talent out there, and I'm excited to help these 14 and 15 year olds find their voices. They have named their club The Write Place, and their first meeting is this Friday.

2) Around the holidays, I had a reader actually modify an action figure in honor of my main character in my steampunk series. Although I don't know much about the craft of action figure modification, I know this reader put a lot of effort into it. It always makes me happy when someone who has read my stuff actually likes it. And to have someone do something like this...wow.

Action Figure!

3) The book trailer for my third book in The Mechanica Wars series is done. It's titled, Iron Warrior, and I'm really proud of this book. I always tell people that I write these stories to entertain. My writing is an escape. But there's a layer of some deeper, more profound stuff in my writing. And Iron Warrior, beneath it's kick ass steampunk awesomeness, has some depth to it.

Here's the trailer. If you have time, take a quick look-see and tell me what you think. Again, thanks to Enggar Adirasa's artistic superpowers.





How about you? What's something that you need to celebrate? 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Review of Woven, by Michael Jansen and David Powers King


I've been blog-buddies with David Powers King for almost four years now, and I even had the pleasure of meeting him and his family when they were making a trek over in my neck of the woods in Missouri. So, I know I'm pretty biased about his long-awaited book, Woven.

That doesn't matter. Why? Because this book is amazing. The best read I had in 2014.

If I had to describe Woven in one sentence, it would be: Combine The Princess Bride and the movie Ghost, add a healthy-serving of unique magic, and you'd end up with a masterpiece.

Woven's story is about Nels and Princess Tyra - two characters who are not only very different from one another, they almost repel each other like oil and water. Nels dreams of being a big hero, and all Tyra wants is to marry Knight of AvĂ«rand, Arek. But their destines intertwine when Nels is murdered.

I know. You're thinking SPOILER. But sure as heckfire, the bit about Nels dying and becoming a ghost is in the book's official blurb, so calm down.

Anyhoo, Tyra is the only one who can communicate with Nels' ghost, and after some convincing, she helps him in a dangerous quest against an evil dark force threatening the entire kingdom. I think many readers won't really like Tyra in the beginning. She's a big-time snob, and she's extremely hostile towards Nels. But dyanimc characters help make a book engaging, and Tyra undergoes quite a bit of changing and growing up throughout the course of the story.

The magic system in Woven draws the reader in. Fabrication magic is just so cool! It reminds me of other kinds of magic systems in other fantasy epics (Mistborn particularly), yet Fabrication magic is still unique and its intricacies are quite profound. The reader can understand the magic for what it is, and for those who like to dig deeper, there's some philosophical meanings as well.

Even though Fabrication is the focus in Woven, you do get a very brief glimpse of the two other forms of magic in this book. I'm hoping to explore those in future stories!

Woven is full of adventure, strong characters, magic, and a tale that is sure to pull you in and never let go. Congratulations to Michael Jansen and David Powers King!

Check out the links below, and enter to win a copy of Woven, signed by Michael and David.


Available now wherever books are sold

iTunes             

About the Authors:

Photo credit: Michael Schoenfeld
Michael Jensen is a graduate of Brigham Young University’s prestigious music, dance, and theater program. Michael taught voice at BYU before establishing his own vocal instruction studio. In addition to being an imaginative storyteller, Michael is an accomplished composer and vocalist. He lives in Salt Lake City with his husband and their four dogs.

Links:


Photo credit: Katie Pyne Rasmussen
David Powers King was born in beautiful downtown Burbank, California where his love for film inspired him to become a writer. An avid fan of science fiction and fantasy, David also has a soft spot for zombies and the paranormal. He now lives in the mountain West with his wife and three children.

Links:



Rafflecopper Giveaway Link (One of 5 copies of Woven – signed by both authors):
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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

February 2015 IWSG - Help! I've Written Myself Into a Corner!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time.


Happy February. The month of love and, on this fine first Wednesday of the month, insecurity.

Right now, I'm waiting for feedback from beta readers on my third book in my Mechanica Wars series, Iron Warrior. In the meantime, I continued working on a couple other projects. However, in the middle of all that, I had an epiphany about my main protagonist in Iron Warrior.

It was literally like a lightning bolt out of a clear blue sky. I had made a HUGE mistake with a major plot point. It's one of those deals where I completely missed an important element. When I wrote it all out (thank God for Evernote. Love Evernote) on my phone, I felt relieved that I had realized what the missing piece was in this very vital plot point.

So I go back to my manuscript, find the pivotal scene, and begin to write it out and fix it. Except...it's not such a snug fit. I had only partially found that missing piece, but I'm still left with a jacked-up puzzle. In essence, I had written myself into a corner.

To me, this is every writer's Bermuda Triangle. You're chugging along...plot and characters and going great. You eventually finish your 100,000 word masterpiece. And upon the return trip home, your book sinks into the Ocean of Unforgiveness.

Luckily, I don't need to rearrange and completely re-write whole chapters or anything. I guess I'm fortunate in that respect. But now I'm totally stuck. Like my foot is trapped in a dried concrete block kind of stuck. I've got this big gaping hole in my manuscript, waiting for me to tie-off and finish this revelation of writing genius I thought I had found.

I slept on it. Meditated on it. Mulled it in my head while driving home from a short business trip for almost two hours today. And whatta I got?

I gots nuthin'.

I hope lightning strikes twice.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Reading Does a Body Good

From 78 degrees to 35 degrees
The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane was the sharp, cold air that filled my lungs. Yup. I was back in the Midwest. I was already missing the warm Orlando sun.

I had a good trip. Even though I was working, I did get to have a little fun. Plus, I watched the rocket take off from Cape Canaveral. Very cool! Every yin must have a yang, however. And to counterbalance the awesome time in Florida, I had to deal with a gnarly injury.

I will spare you the details and just say that I needed a bunch of stitches on the bottom of my foot. Luckily, the sight of blood doesn't affect me. Believe me, there was lots of it. Yeah, that made walking hard. So I needed to get crutches from the hotel. By the way, crutches suck.

So I'll be recuperating the next few days, working on a presentation I'm going to be giving to a bunch of middle school kids. I'll be talking about storytelling and why everyone should be reading fiction. I've already spent a little time doing some research, and I found some fascinating stuff about reading and its benefits.

Reading fiction:

- Stimulates the central sulcus of the brain - the region of the brain responsible for movement
visualization. Readers immersed in their books were able to experience movement and motion in the brain's motor cortex. This is especially useful for athletes.

- Stimulates the left temporal cortex, which in charge of language. It's obvious that people who read have much better language skills.

- Fiction readers had a much stronger "theory of mind" than non-readers. Reading fiction helped people develop better empathy. Readers are much better at seeing things through other peoples' point of view and reading/interpreting non-verbal cues.

- Reading brought test subjects to a much more relaxed state faster than listening to music or even walking. Blood pressure, heart rates, and muscle tension were measured, and readers not only were able to relax faster, but they slept better.

- Just 30 minutes of reading fiction a day = 68% reduction of stress

I wonder if reading fiction will help my stitched up laceration heal faster. Maybe I should go grab a book!