It Gets Better – Together!

This is a rather unusual blog entry, as it’s not an update on any of my writing projects, nor is it an excerpt of a forthcoming book. Instead it’s a call out to you… yes, you!

I’m sure most of you have heard of the ‘It Gets Better Project’, but those of you who haven’t, here’s the lowdown.

“The It Gets Better Project was created to show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach – if they can just get through their teen years. The It Gets Better Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone — and it WILL get better.

Growing up isn’t easy. Many young people face daily tormenting and bullying, leading them to feel like they have nowhere to turn. This is especially true for LGBT kids and teens, who often hide their sexuality for fear of bullying. Without other openly gay adults and mentors in their lives, they can’t imagine what their future may hold. In many instances, gay and lesbian adolescents are taunted — even tortured — simply for being themselves.

Justin Aaberg. Billy Lucas. Cody Barker. Asher Brown. Seth Walsh. Raymond Chase. Tyler Clementi. They were tragic examples of youth who could not believe that it does actually get better.

While many of these teens couldn’t see a positive future for themselves, we can. The It Gets Better Project was created to show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach – if they can just get through their teen years. The It Gets Better Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone — and it WILL get better.”

Joe Glass (creator of GLBT superhero comic book, The Pride) and I are putting together a collaborative novel to be published by Untreed Reads to raise money and awareness for the ‘It Gets Better Project’. A coming together of every spectrum of sexuality – everything from straight to gay and transgender, and all those grey areas in between. We’re calling on testimonies from those who have found it difficult in dealing with their sexuality, in particular we’re currently looking for people who are still living ‘in the closet’, who are frightened, for whatever reason, to publicly announce their sexuality. You can tell us your names, or not, it is entirely up to you, as long as you tell us your story so we can put it in the novel.

If this sounds like something you want to be part of, and feel it’s time to share something of yourself you have thus far found difficult to share, then please drop me an email;

frankhamallen@untreedreads.com

– your anonymity is ensured.

Thank you, in advance, for your time.

In other news, the nominations for the Steampunk Chronicle Readers Choice Awards 2012 are now open. So please do pop by and nominate your favourite steampunk works of 2011 (I hear that Space: 1889 & Beyond is kind of cool).

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All-New, All-Official Website Launched.

And finally it’s happened. Space: 1889 & Beyond has an official website!

Within the ‘portal to all things Space: 1889’ you will find blurbs and extracts (never released beyond the books) for every book in the Space: 1889 & Beyond series, plus character biographies, detailed information on the inner planets, interviews with the creative team behind the series, background information on the Space: 1889 property, exclusive artwork… and much much more coming soon!

Pop by The Space: 1889 Portal and don’t forget to sign the guestbook.

Steampunk Chronicles Awards

Not much to report in the worlds of Space: 1889 & Beyond, The Garden or The Scattered Earth. So, instead, allow me to direct you to the forthcoming Steampunk Chronicles’ Readers’ Choice Awards. The doors for nominations are opened on January 20th, and, naturally enough, I would love your votes for any of the Space: 1889 & Beyond stories. It doesn’t have to be mine, it can be either McAbee’s Vandals on Venus or Michalowski’s The Ghosts of Mercury. Alas the recent book doesn’t count, since it wasn’t released in 2011. I’ve no idea what other categories are going to appear, but I’m sure there’ll be plenty of opportunity to show your support for Space: 1889 & Beyond.

And, as a thank you, here’s a very rough version of the prologue from my forthcoming Shattered Earth novel, Cast From the Heavens.

Ω

Days had passed since Hefina ferch Gwynfor had left Coeden, but she was determined to succeed. She gripped the harness that was tightened to her adar cluk’gwin, and surveyed the land far below.  Finally the trees had given way to a moor of grass and rock, empty of people, as was to be expected. The thraeeg gok was said to live in these lands, although to the best of her knowledge, no one had laid eyes on such a dragon. Hefina would not have been surprised if it was a rumour started by the Lords of Tir themselves, a deterrent for the criminals sent to Coeden and the other small villages of Claunoboble. The moors were close to the seas that separated Claunoboble and Deegonoboble, the two land masses that made up the world of Avunar, and it would serve the Lords well to keep the criminals as far from the seas as possible. Fearful of the wrath of the thraeeg gok, they would remain in the villages, no longer a concern of the Lords. And a continued strain on the land of Claunoboble.

Cover Mock-Up

Hefina sighed, all her sadness erupting in one spurt of air. Her own people had been driven to the trees a long time ago, the only way to remain safe from the madness that reigned on the land below. That was why her village was now called Coeden, the village of trees. The land below, filled to bursting with criminals expelled from Deegonoboble, no longer had a name, at least as far as Hefina was concerned. It did not deserve one.

Her reverie was disturbed by an unusual sight miles below. She spoke to her adar cluk’gwin.

“See that?”

The adar cluk titled its head and its red eyes blinked.

“Take me to it.”

Immediately the great bird darted to the moor below. Hefina let out a whoop of joy as the wind blasted her hair back. This was real freedom. Away from the land.

The adar cluk’gwin landed gently, its giant talons gripping the grass. Hefina patted its coarse feathers, and dismounted. “Keep watch,” she said. She did not believe in the rumour, but she was no fool. If the thraeeg gok really did live on the moor then she would have to take to the air quickly. As she approached the object that had caught her attention, Hefina idly wondered if her adar cluk would be a quicker flyer than the thraeeg gok.

The object looked like a tree, only this one seemed to be made partly of metal and glass.  It was thicker than any tree she had seen before, at least a hundred spans in diameter, and fifty in length.  She walked the length of it, careful not to step to close. The grass around the fallen tree was scorched, burned by a great fire. Perhaps the thraeeg gok had brought it here? Hefina knew the thraeeg gok was supposed to breath fire.

She stopped.

At the top the tree was hollow. A piece of metal, almost gold in colour, hung from the top of the tree. It was the same size as the hole, as if it was some kind of door.

Hefina stepped closer, her curiosity overriding her sense. She pulled back quickly, glanced around, then stepped ever closer.

Yes, she had seen true.

Covered in metal shaped to fit its body, was a man.

Hefina had never seen the like. But she did know her beibal.

She looked up to the skies, and what existed beyond.

This tree had come from the Heavens, and the person inside was not a man at all. He was a god.

Abattoir in the Aether – Out Now!

Today is the day! The brand new Space: 1889 & Beyond adventure is out; Abattoir in the Aether by L. Joseph Shosty.

L. Joseph Shosty

From Beaumont, Texas, where he lives with his wife and son, Shosty is the author of nearly fifty short stories, as well as numerous essays, articles, book reviews, and poems.  A novel, Sign of the Hanged Man, was serialised on the web in 2000 and 2001, and his story collection, Hoodwinks on a Crumbling Fence, was published in 2000.  His second novel, a mainstream work titled The Return of Baldheaded Johnson, has recently been completed.

Interview

AFA: What interested you in Space: 1889 & Beyond in the first place?

LJS: It’s hard to explain without a little history first.  I came to storytelling mostly through roleplaying games.  I played my first game of Red Box D&D in second grade.  By third grade I was running a campaign.  That same year I became a voracious reader, and in doing so I discovered comic books.  By early fourth grade I received TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes RPG, which had very basic rules, including a clear and detailed reasoning behind each power level.  With this system I got a crash course in creating characters from the ground up, as it gave me hard numbers upon which to hang strengths and weaknesses, a mathematically quantifiable way of comparing them.  Using a rough numerical concept of my own devising, I began creating my own superheroes and writing stories in my head as a way of falling asleep at night.

By junior high, I knew I wanted to write for a living.  My earliest dream was to do a tie-in for TSR, especially their Forgotten Realms line.  Jeff Grubb, Douglas Niles, and R.A. Salvatore were likes gods to me as a teen.  I wanted to be like them and write a fantasy trilogy of my own.  That dream ended when Wizards of the Coast bought the company, but I’ve always harbored a desire to do a tie-in for some franchise.

When I was approached to do the Space: 1889 book, I jumped at it.  I’d seen a copy of the RPG when I was a teenager.  I hadn’t quite understood it at the time, but I’d thought the idea was intriguing.  Years passed, and I independently cultivated a love of Victorian fiction, specifically the scientific romances.  Seeing the gaming system again, I better understood what Frank Chadwick had done, and was thrilled.  It’s a nod to the aforementioned romances, and, believe it or not, it finally gave me an answer to a question I’d been asking for about two years:  what the hell is steampunk?  I seriously didn’t know, nor did I know that I’d been reading its predecessor in Victorian fiction.  Now, I’m in love with both the social and literary movements, and it certainly suits my sensibilities better than writing about Dragonborn the Oathsworn mowing down orcs by the busload.

AFA: What difficulties did you face in converting a Role-playing Game scenario into a fully-fledged prose novella?

LJS: None.  Stocking a dungeon with monsters and NPCs is all about character, plot, and pacing.  I wrote Abattoir in the Aether like I write adventure modules for one of my campaigns.  The setting comes first, then come the maps, and then I stock each room with NPCs, combat scenarios, hidden rooms, treasure, etc.  The only difference here was that I had to use pre-generated characters, if you will, in Nathanial and Annabelle.  They were my PCs, and I had to run them through the adventure rather than have players do it for me.  There was nothing at all difficult in adapting the scenario in prose form.  The problem was in “playing” the two characters correctly.  That was tough, but I’ll save that story for another day.

AFA: Who are you favourite characters?

LJS: Dr. Matthew Holmes is merely a sketch of my actual physician, Dr. Mike Holmes.  I enjoy his company so much, it’s almost exciting to get sick so I have an opportunity to talk with him.  A visit to his office is usually something like, “Well, chief, you have tuberculosis.  We’ll want to keep an eye on that.  So, did I ever tell you about the time I treated a geologist friend of mine, and he said…?”  And the next thing I know, I’m hearing about The Burgess Shale Formation, and I’m actually interested in hearing about it.  Wonderful guy, and I’m afraid I didn’t really have the space to do him justice.

I also love Jasperse, the earnest ex-soldier who came to Peregrine Station to do the sweeping up, only to end up in a role as a security man.  I modeled him partially in the rough-and-tumble mold of Danny and Peachy from The Man Who Would Be King and added something of my father-in-law in for good measure.  Like Kipling’s characters, he’s an adventurer himself, only on a smaller scale.  He’s been everywhere and done everything.  Going out into the aether is the next logical step in his long life.  No job is too small or too dirty for him, yet he has dignity and pride in what he does.  He’s honest enough, and he speaks plainly, but he’s got a dangerous curiosity to him that leads him into some trouble.

AFA: Your three favourite moments in Abattoir in the Aether are…?

LJS: There’s an old saying among writers:  murder your darlings.  And it’s true that the best things you write often end up getting cut because they simply don’t fit.  In this case, I had enough material to possibly fill a trilogy of books but only had time and space (and a contract) to write one.  In the end it came down to deciding what parts of the story wanted to be told and what parts needed to be told.

Of my favorite things cut from the novel, the first is Nathanial discovering a chess board and moving a piece.  When he comes back later, he sees that someone has moved a piece on the opposing side. The game progresses through several chapters.  Being that his personal guard, Jasperse, is an avid chess fan, he believes it’s him, but later, Nathaniel makes a rather chilling discovery:  the phantom that is haunting Peregrine Station has been moving the pieces, which was such a clever parallel that I almost left it in.

Basically anything about Nathaniel and his mates Dr. Holmes, Fullbright, Provost, and Jasperse that was cut makes the list, especially the tale Holmes spins of an imaginary grouse hunt where he makes each of them characters.  It was such a sweet ode to friendship that I’d hoped to share with my close friends, but it never saw any eyes but mine.

Many parts with Annabelle faced the axe, much to my despair, her visit to the greenhouses chief among them, which I removed when I ceased having Uriah Provost as a potential suitor.

I hope this answer doesn’t confuse readers or make anyone believe that I don’t enjoy what I’ve written.  Quite the contrary, but I felt an honest answer was in order.

AFA: What’s coming next from you?

LJS: Ha!  Get comfy, and I’ll tell you.  First up, I pitch a television pilot to a production company in January.  Big excitement there, but I’m afraid I can’t provide too much on information on that just yet.

I’m also trying to get my comic book company up and running.  I’m partnering with several friends of mine to write scripts and brainstorm characters, design a website, and learn the ropes of digital comics.  A superhero RPG is in the works to support it.

As we speak I’m in edits on Ataraxia and Aponia, a mainstream (non-genre) novel I wrote earlier this year (2011) about a science fiction writer and Epicurean writing his first major work.  If it finds an agent by the end of 2012, I’ll be happy.  Speaking of novels, I’m also kicking around the possibility of working directly with fellow Space: 1889 author, K. G. McAbee, on a mystery novel.  I love her and consider her my mentor, but we’ve never written anything together.  That should be a heckuva journey, as our personalities and approaches to the craft are about as different as night and day.

As for what’s on its way, I’m slated to appear in a number of magazines and anthologies, which you can track on my website, http://themadaccount.blogspot.com.  Untreed Reads will also be publishing one of my short stories, “One of Us, Old Boy”.  I’m especially excited about that, as I consider it to be one of the best stories I’ve ever written.  Busy, busy, busy!

Exciting stuff indeed! So, to a brand new excerpt from Abattoir in the Aether

The cutters were small ships, smaller even than Esmeralda, equipped for crews of five, though as many as ten or even twenty could be housed comfortably for short journeys. Such flyers were not long-range vessels, which left Nathanial wondering where they were headed. Unless he missed his guess, they were deep in the aether, with no planets for days or even weeks. A larger ship, perhaps, like Sovereign, could be patrolling the aether, yet, as he’d noted earlier, these men were not Royal Navy. And what was this foolish business about restricted space?

A storeroom was cleared and turned into a makeshift prison cell, with two armed guards posted outside. Nathanial sat on the floor, scratching an itch on the back of his head. Annabelle paced the tiny bit of floor available to her. She was dressed much the same as she had been when Nathanial had last seen her, but he knew from experience that she had her derringer and knife secreted in places beneath her skirts that would be improper for a man to search. The gunshot he had heard earlier had come from one of the men sent to fetch her. She had leapt on his back suddenly, and the man had squeezed off a shot before the others, the big Irishman included, had wrestled her to the ground.

Now she looked more like a caged animal. Gone was the generosity and industry he had witnessed in their journey from Mercury. Truly, the old Annabelle had returned, and, he had to confess, much of his old vigour was returning as well. The veil of doom was lifting from his shoulders just as the twin stones of anxiety and boredom were crashing down on her, as they often did when she had no external incidences to engage her.

“Where do you think they’re taking us?” she asked for the eighth time.

“We won’t know until we get there,” he said.

Annabelle clearly did not like this response. “What if they decide to kill us?”

“They could have done that already. They have a specific destination in mind, and I, for one, am curious to see what it may be.”

“Even under arrest?”

Nathanial shrugged. Unless they had fallen into the hands of the Germans or the Russians, he was certain he could talk his way out of their predicament. His importance to the interplanetary efforts would be currency enough to buy his and Annabelle’s freedom, regardless of what phantom law they might have inadvertently broken. If they had broken any at all. Briefly, he wondered if perhaps groups independent of sovereign nations had gotten their hands on liftwood supplies or found a way to build an aether propeller, but he quickly discarded the line of thought. The notion of it made him want to laugh. Aether pirates! Sounded like some fanciful bit of dribble for the penny dreadfuls.

His musings were interrupted by a sudden shaking of the hull. At first it was merely a vibration, but before he could think two thoughts in a row the vibration had become a rumble. Annabelle lost her footing, catching herself on the storeroom wall. Shouts from the crew rang out. Nathanial could hear them scrambling to keep the cutter on course.

“What’s going on?” Annabelle shouted above the din.

“Aether vortex!” he replied. “A very big one, from the feel of it!”

In his time on HMAS Sovereign he had experienced just such an anomaly, where the aether streams of Earth and Venus had met and reacted violently. The resultant “storm” could have destroyed Sovereign had it not been for his improvements to the design of the aether propeller governor. He recalled being afraid then, even though the chaps under Folkard had been particularly adept at navigating its outer edge. Still, the buffering the ship had received was nothing compared to what he was feeling now. Part of that had to do with the overall size of the ship. Sovereign had carried two cutters roughly the same size as this one in her belly, but that was only a portion of his concern. This vortex was definitely larger, and by turns more violent.

The roaring became a screeching. Annabelle clapped hands over her ears and screamed, though the noise she made was drowned. Visions filled Nathanial’s head of the cutter ripping apart and their bodies floating free with the debris. He closed his eyes and drew his knees to his chest, where he sat with his head covered by his arms. His insides felt gelatinous, sloshing about inside his abdomen.

Abattoir in the Aether (Artwork by David Burson)

Fresh from their adventures on Mercury, Nathanial Stone and his ward, Annabelle Somerset, are limping through the aether in a dilapidated flyer when they unwittingly stumble upon a heliograph station in solar orbit between Earth and Mars.

Now in the sinister clutches of Dr Henry van den Bosch, a hulking nightmare of a man with a penchant for destroying those who cross him, Nathanial must race against time to prevent the station from falling into a massive aether vortex or risk van den Bosch’s wrath.

But unseen forces hold sway on Peregrine Station, and before the two can even settle in, an attempt is made on Nathanial’s life. Annabelle investigates, and in doing so sets off a chain of events that could destroy the station before it ever reaches the vortex.

Abattoir in the Aether is now available from the following e-stores;

The Untreed Reads Store (http://bit.ly/sGWqDu)

Amazon.com (Amazon Canada, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon UK)

Scribd

DriveThruFiction.com

OmniLit.com

Barnes and Noble

Apple iBookstore (32 countries)

Lightning Source (a distributor, primarily North America)

… and will soon be available in every other e-book stockists out there.

Abattoir in the Aether © 2012 L. Joseph Shosty and Untreed Reads Publishing.

Space: 1889 & Beyond © & ™ 1988/2012 Frank Chadwick.

All Rights Reserved.

Comic Guru TV Enters Another Galaxy… Four.

William Hartnell (centre) as the Doctor in 'Galaxy Four'

Mid December something quite significant happened in the world of Doctor Who. No, they didn’t hire me to write an epic steampunk reinvention of the Cybermen! Yeah, sorry to be a downer. But they did discover two previously ‘lost’ episodes of the classic series. Part three of Galaxy Four, starring the original Doctor, William Hartnell, and part two of The Underwater Menace, starring the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton. They were lost during the massive clear up of the BBC Archives in the ’70s. Still 106 episodes are missing from Doctor Who during 1964 and 1969, and for a long while hope of ever finding them had also disappeared among the higher echelons of Doctor Who fandom. Now that hope has returned… as witnessed by episode four of Comic Guru TV!

And so it begins…

Totally Gratuitous Shot*

Welcome, dear reader, to 2012. It looks to be a pretty amazing year for me, with many projects on the go and quite a few being lined up for later in the year (including one potential project I simply cannot talk about now – but if it works out, trust me, you’ll all love it). I have set many goals for the following year, and one of those is to conquer America! Well, not through some massive invasion, but merely to get my works out there in the American market. I’ve already got all my eBooks out in the States, of course, but I’m an old fashioned guy and I want to be all over the US in print. And, by jove, 2012 WILL see it happen. Yes, I am determined.

For the first few months I will be very busy with writing. I’m currently working on a new novel, Cast from the Heavens, which will be a book in the ‘Scattered Earth’ series, published by Crossroad Press (yes, an American publisher! It begins here). This one will be quite a departure for me, no sense of the macabre, no supernatural, and very little science fiction. It will be a fantasy epic, in the same mould (hopefully!) as Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series of novels.  As soon as I finish this book, I shall be moving on to my half of Conspiracy of Silence, the series two opener for Space: 1889 & Beyond which I am co-writing with Frank Chadwick. I can’t say a lot about that one, really, since anything I say will only give away the end of series one, and that doesn’t happen until March. Needless to say, it will shake the universe of Space: 1889 & Beyond and the lead characters (Nathanial Stone and Annabelle Somerset) to their very core. And, if that’s not enough, co-currently with these projects, I shall continue to work on Augury, the second book of my Garden series. Oh, and of course, editing the first few stories of Space: 1889 & Beyond series two.

Issue #1 of THE PRIDE

So, I think that’s enough to get 2012 off to a good start. Needless to say, that’s not all I’m working on, or have going on around me, but it’s all I can talk about. Therefore, let me share with you a few other related things instead.

Seeker gets it’s first review for 2012 (well, it was written right at the end of December, but that’s close enough), which you can read HERE.

Space: 1889 & Beyond continues to hold its own at Untreed Reads, remaining in the Top Ten Bestsellers for four months in a row. To see the full list, click THIS.

And now something a little less connected. It’s all over Facebook, but I want to share it here. A short while ago, a few friends of mine released the first fully-fledged LGBT superhero comic, The Pride. The comic book and its creators have been nominated for various Eagle Awards. Please do pop by and support this wonderful comic by voting HERE.

For those of you interested in my person life – tough! No, just kidding.

I spent the Christmas period with my maternal family (and when I say maternal I really mean maternal – there’s so few males on my mother’s side), and the New Year with my paternal family. I’m no fan of Christmas particularly, but I do feel that spending time with those you love is important. Even more so this past year, ever since I lost my father in December 2010. Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with the long and complicated story of my clichéd relationship with my father, but it’s one of those moments that you know you’ll never be able to go back and fix. So, being with my family is important now. More than ever.

Real Life Comics = Awesome!

Okay, got a little serious there. Let’s liven this post up, by sharing a few other things. Right now I’m reading Max Ehrlich’s The Edict, as well as a book on British myths and legends (the former is purely for my own fun, the latter is research for the book I’m currently writing). I’m also immersed in the usual DVD marathons; right now it’s Torchwood, Battlestar Galactica and Blake’s 7 (interesting to note, I love science fiction on TV and film, but not a huge fan of sci-fi in print). I am also highly distracted by Real Life Comic. I came across it a few weeks back, only to discover it’s been running for over TEN YEARS! Eek! Still, not to be deterred, I started at the beginning and have read seven years worth of daily comics in three weeks! Check me out. Or is that sad? Dunno. I suggest you all go and check it out HERE and see how long until you become addicted. Greg Dean is a genius! (Although Tony might not agree. Yeah, that’ll make sense when you read the comic.)

So, there you have it. A rather random post to start the year.

See you out there! 🙂

*sex sells! If this is popular I may just include a gratuitous pic in every post.  😉