My Steampunk Melody T-Shirts!

Nicole Campos, from We Love Fine, a really neat online t-shirt seller, approached me with a very awesome and very cute design: a steampunk My Melody.  The lovely rabbit from Sanrio ditches her usual pink hood and replaces it with a super-funky aviator cap, complete with goggles and utility belt.  An awesome finishing touch features a hot-air balloon in the background, perhaps used by the bella bunny to travel the world with.

The t-shirt is designed by Liz Acosta, and is available in three different colours for mens, two colours in juniors.  They can be found here!

I’ve been told there may be more in the series.  I’ll keep you posted if anything else comes up.  Thanks, Nicole!

Anime and Steampunk

There is no greater contributor to my interest in Japanese Alternate History than my love for Anime.  Today is an excellent time to post this, since it helps explain my absence from the blog.  Guardian is going through some bumps in the editing process, and as such, I put it on the backburner for a different project; getting ready for an anime convention that starts tomorrow!  This weekend, I will be at Anime North, one of Canada’s largest anime conventions.

Oh, and it was my birthday this month, so I treated myself to some time off.

Anyway, I mentioned this because this month, I had become so keen on anime, manga, and light novels, that I had seriously re-thunk the approach that I took to my novel.  In all honesty, the plot, characterization, and writing style is comparable to Samurai Champloo, a widely popular, anachronistic anime about samurai in Edo Japan.  During NaNoWriMo, I had essentially marathoned this series as a means of inspiration for my writing, and should you get your hands on my manuscript, you would probably see the similarities.

Other than the historical element in Japanese media (period dramas being widely popular in 1960’s Japan), there are excellent series from anime and manga that have strong steampunk elements as well.  To name a few, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Last Exile, and Steamboy are my candidates for representatives of their genre in the medium.  However, while the aesthetic is there, the attitude and ethos is widely European in content.  Steamboy, in particular, takes place in Victorian England itself.  There is hardly any anime out there that pertains to an alternate history of Japan affected by technology.  The closest would probably be Samurai Seven, which is an adaptation of the period movie of the same name, but containing more futuristic Mecha, instead of more archaic mechanical walkers or steam-powered suits.

Thus, I’ve come to think harder about what I could possibly bring to this anime community that I wish to also bring to the steampunk community as well.  The anime and manga crowd have recently reveled in a developing literary trend towards Japanese light novels, a serialized form of novella that contains manga-style illlustrations.  Considering that I may find it difficult to expand the wordcount of Guardian, it could very well end up being a novella series with mangaka illustrations.  It would definitely be something to look into.  A Leviathan of sorts, except with spikey-haired protagonists and moe damsels in distress.

After all, if I modeled one of Guardian’s main characters (Hanako) after the Genki Girl archetype, it would seem natural for the project to evolve as such.  It seems more niche than this steampanku genre already is, but I can see the appeal in it for those who would be interested.  Oh well.  Something to think about while I put my finishing touches on my cosplay for this weekend.  Have a good one!

Learning From the Pros: Leviathan

Scott Westerfeld makes his Steampunk entry with the YA heavyweight, Leviathan.  Bestselling author of the Uglies novels, Scott creates a gripping alternate history based in Europe, shortly before the start of World War I.

The most notable history alternating that takes place in the novel is easily the differentiating the Central and Entente powers by way of their speculative technology.  The Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary are termed ‘Clankers,’ users of your typical steampunk war machines, such as mechanical walkers, spider-shaped tanks, and Zeppelins.  On the other side of the conflict, the ‘Darwinists’ represent the Triple Entente of Britain, France and Russia.  The Darwinists are the result of Darwin’s biological research resulting in the discovery of not only evolution, but DNA as well.  The Biopunk ramifications of such a discovery leads to the bio-engineering of micro-organisms for wartime uses, particularly the titular Leviathan airship itself.

Plot-wise, alternate history is also evoked by setting the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand at night, allowing the initial inciting event to take place the same night, allowing the setting increase the effect of tension.  Likewise, the existence of Archduke’s son, Aleksander, is completely fabricated, but by being an only child allows for the importance of royal inheritance to drive the conflict between Alek and the Clanker forces that pursue him.

The pacing is tense and frantic, but somehow manages to conjure a reasonably sizable word-count for a Young Adult novel.  How he manages to do this is through managing a multitude of scenes of intense pace, but spacing them in such a way that the main characters get only a brief time to react and deal with each tight situation before they are thrust into another.  Secondly, he employs a two-pronged plot, each revolving around the two main characters, runaway prince Alek and the Darwinist GI Jane-type protagonist, Deryn Sharp.

Their stories intertwine with each other, up to the point where their paths cross, and the story truly takes off from there.

Leviathan is a great example of a well-written novel from which I can draw certain methods and techniques for my own novel.  After a nice re-read of my own manuscript, I can already see a few glaring differences between my story and Westerfeld’s.  The first glaring comparison I made was in my word count and pacing.  As I’ve already mentioned, the author manages to squeeze out a reasonable length from a relatively fast-paced read by incorporating multiple plot threads, but fleshes each one out with the proper detail and pacing so that each side feels like an independent novella on their own.

Guardian has a whopping three plotlines, centered around the three protagonists.  However, the characters themselves overlap with each other and interact with each other more often that I seem to like.  Perhaps it’s due to the quick pacing that I gave to each plotline that they seemed to meet each other at every turn.  I think I will keep them more separated from each other, not only to assist with the development of the characters themselves, but also to build the tension that grows between each character whenever they meet and separate.

This will probably require the incorporation of more secondary characters, fleshing out their respective secondary antagonists further (they are all set up against a common enemy, but there are other obstacles that they should overcome first), and treating each line as its own story, weaving through each other with great importance, to the penultimate point where they are all united at once to make their stand against the common enemy, making for an increased climactic effect.

If I follow these guidelines, I’m sure to increase my anemic word count to something more  marketable to literary enthusiasts of the steampunk genre.

New Theme! New Banner! New Draft!

*beams*  A short post this week, but a sweet one!

Firstly, at 54,445 words, I finally finished the first draft of the first installment of my Steampanku Trilogy, Guardian.  I look forward to editing it and rewriting in January.  I’ve gotten a lot of people interested in what I have to show, so I will try my best to get it out there as soon as possible.

Secondly, I created a new banner for the site, since I have yet to make one up until now.  This was a bit of an oversight on my part, since I was quite busy with getting everything else on the blog organized.  Regarding the Banner itself, I created it in MS Paint, and it took me relatively little time to make.  Essentially, I took the Rising Sun flag, and drew a solid white line cutting off parts of the rays from the sun.  Next, I whited out part of the middle, so that the sun would look like a cog.  Finally, I put the title of the blog in the middle, using a font called Shogun’s Clan, designed by Chris Hansen.  The result?  Steampanku, at it’s finest.

Thirdly, due to the colour scheme of the banner, I have changed the wordpress theme to Neo-Sapien, which I feel compliments the banner amazingly well.  I hope you enjoy your stay in the newly upgraded Steampanku!

NaNoWriMo – Week 2

I won. I hit 50,011 on Friday evening, and up until now, I’m yet to add any words to that total. The story is still wrapping up, and will take a few more chapters to resolve the plot arc. Overall, I certainly enjoyed the experience; the best part of it all is that I have a workable project to edit and rewrite come December. And even though NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month) doesn’t come until March, I will try to take it upon myself to personally put in those 50 hours of editing, minimum. Besides, having written a novel in only 2 weeks, there are sure to be some aspects of the novel that will require rewriting or complete exclusion from the Novel.

On top of crossing the finish line, I have settled on a title for my novel.  The way the plot wraps up, it can certainly stand alone as its own novel, but it leaves the ending somewhat open, allowing for serialization via a trilogy or something else.  Considering the focus of the novel primarily on the three characters, I feel that having a novel’s title focus on each of the main characters is a good way to thematically tie them together through the trilogy.

Plans For The Future

I want to take it a bit easier this week, since I have to worry about JET applications.  Having finished this project well ahead of the due date, I certainly have the time available to finely tune this application so that I can maximize my chances of acceptance.  As for the novel itself, I will finish the rest of the book by the end of the week, and begin preparations for editing and second drafts.

The nice guy that I am, I will probably post the raw draft online on this blog.  There are a number of sections in it, so I’m not sure how I will split up the posts without spamming the entire blog with nothing but the novel.  I really want to talk about other things pertaining to Japanese Steampunk, and I don’t want those posts to get lost in a sea of nothing but Steampanku novel posts.  Perhaps I will put it up on fictionpress or something.  Not sure.

As for the editing process itself, I have downloaded ywriter and plan to use it for the editing process.  This software will allow me to flesh out all the details of the novel in an organizable format, and will allow me to make my content-based decisions from there.  For sure, there are continuity errors that I will remove, and entire chapters will be deleted.  It will be my first go at editing a novel, and it will be something I look forward to doing.

As I’ve said before, I don’t want to spoil the plot for everyone, but it would appear that while all the characters are involved in their own storylines, I would like to think that Hanako has been given the spotlight in terms of action and screen time.  In fact, she is the common thread between the other two characters, even though they themselves have interactions with each other that lead to important plot points.  This is the reason why I settled on naming the title based on Hanako’s specialty with guardians.

Closing Thoughts for Week 2

Considering that I’ve already won, I am quite convinced that this is the last time I will refer to NaNoWriMo.  From this point on, I will let the novel exist in its own right as an individual work in progress.  Either way, I’m glad to have experienced the rigors of novel writing.  I have an appreciation for the novel-writing profession and all the rewards and pitfalls that come with the lifestyle.

As an unemployed science graduate, I can see myself doing pursuing this profession in the meantime until the job market opens up for work opportunities.  Or at least until after I find out my fate regarding the JET programme.  Until next time, see you later!

Steampanku, Wordled!

As you can see from the widget that I put on the side, I’m already at 44k words for NaNoWriMo.  I’m on the home stretch of my novel, and it’s shaping up really nicely, for a first draft at least.  Amidst the continuity problems from the first few chapters of the story, as well as certain names that I’m considering changing, I was intrigued by the prospect of wordle-ing my novel.  Here’s what we have so far.

Wordle: Steampanku

Pretty cool! I’ll see you on Monday! Hopefully, the novel will be done by then, and I can discuss where I can go from there, whether it be editing/rewriting and sending it out to an editor/agent/publisher/etc. There’s also the possibility of sharing draft with you guys to see what the general shape of the story is about!

NaNoWriMo – Week 1

I’m already at 30,000 words.  See the graph for yourself.  Even I’m amazed at the progress.  Check out the graph below:

dailycount

Today’s the 9th, so the orange bar on the far right will be higher at the end of the day, but check it out!  I started off quite modestly, getting ahead of the daily word goal of 1,667.  However, with the story world and characters so vivid in my head, the plot just seemed to write itself for a good amount of the time.

In this time, I also had the wonderful benefit of being linked by Seventh Sanctum and Brass Goggles, just a handful of my favourite sites.  I send them both my deepest thanks, for they have encouraged me to really stick with a genre that just seems so interesting.

What I Have So Far

Plotwise, I really don’t want to spoil anything, since I anticipate that either I will put the raw draft version out on the blog, or edit it later and try to get it published.  Seriously, I absolutely love my characters and the world that they live in, even though it’s stock full of corruption!

What I will give you though, is a taste of the characters themselves, and the setting too!

Nagasaki – Instead of basing the story in the heart of Japan in the ‘new’ capital city of Edo, I decided to centralize the action in Nagasaki in Kyushu island, far isolated from the main world.  This gave me freedom to really make Nagasaki its own city, unique from whatever I may have in mind for Edo, which will be absolutely ridiculous when it gets introduced later in the series.

Yes, I said series, meaning that I have novel ideas for this universe beyond the novel that I’m currently writing about.  In the absolute BEST case scenario, that this book gets published with a multi-part deal, I have freedom to create a far-out Edo that will blow expectations out of the water after being exposed to Nagasaki.  In the worst-case scenario, I will turn this universe into a serial fiction on this blog, and I have an awesome Edo idea if and when the main characters travel there, for whatever plot reasons.  In either case, the readers win!  *does a little jig*

Here are a few maps of Nagasaki from the Edo period that I’ve been using for reference and inspiration:

nagasaki1

nagasaki2

Shown above are two maps that were created in the late 19th century using woodblock printing, the first maps of its kind in Japan, done in a European style.  Circled in red is Dejima, the center of the Rangaku movement.  It is major location of importance, since one of the main characters, Hanako, lives there!

Hanako is the character in my main cast that embodies the essence of what I loved about anime and manga: fighting spirit, limitless energy, naivety, hope, idealism, and the hot-blooded temperament that seems to get her into all sorts of trouble.  She’s the Japanese interpretation of Genius Girl, but instead is given the moniker of Tensai-Onna, which is my best literal translation of the term.

The best part about her?  She pilots a steampunked version of a gundam called a guardian.  Guardians in the Steampanku universe are mechanical constructs that are powered by steam, and are capable of surreal hand-to-hand combat.  In a world without space travel and infinite ammo (and automatic machine guns for that matter!), guardians are the prototypical version of Japanese Mecha, and Hanako is a master of building and piloting them.

She is hoping that her guardian, Sakura-2, will win the guardian games, an annual competition that pits the best minds and hands against each other, in a guardian-versus-guardian battle that has now replaced sumo as the national spectator sport!

Closing Thoughts For Week 1

At 30k, I’m quite confident that I will be able to finish this novel long before the due date, but I will be slowing down this week, due to my priorities set on finishing my application to the JET programme, a teaching exchange program that may potentially net me a gig working as an assistant language teacher at a high school or elementary school in Japan.  I really hope I get accepted, and I hope the experience will give me a more profound appreciation for the culture and its ins and outs.

See you in week 2!