Love in Army of Brass (or Steampunk With A Side of Romance, Please)

It wasn’t so long ago that I sought an answer to the question, What exactly is Steampunk? All fingers, pistols, and parasols pointed to H.G Wells and Jules Verne as a reference point: The Time Machine, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Okay. That gave me the general idea about Steampunk, but I wondered what the genre looked like today. Enter author Gail Carriger and her Parasol Protectorate series. Carriger has a knack for combining the Steampunk world with the supernatural and romance. I was hooked, but whether or not I had a knack for writing in the genre, that was still the question.

Serendipitously, I discovered the Collaborative Writing Challenge and that their newest project just happened to be a Steampunk novel. Being newbie to the genre didn’t stop me from jumping on board the locomotive (steam-powered, of course) destined to carry a mad group of writers to create CWC’s seventh project: Army of Brass, released this April.

Each writer who participates in one of these challenges gets a crack at writing the novel’s first chapter and is then assigned a few chapters to attempt for the rest of the novel. None of us really know where the story will take us. Based on the relevant information and summaries for previous chapters supplied for us by the story coordinator, we try to shape the road ahead together. It’s the story coordinator who decides which of the submissions for a given chapter bests fits with the overall concept and plot as the story starts taking shape. She also gives feedback to all the writers on their attempts as to why their chapters weren’t chosen. For me, it seemed like a great way to get my feet wet in a new genre.

My submission for Chapter 1 was not chosen. Ah well. My next chance was to take a crack at Chapter 7 of the original draft and this time—success!—my submission was chosen (and ended up as Chapter 11 in the completed novel). By the end of Chapter 6 the story was really rolling. We had a military incursion, political intrigue, and a mysterious, derelict army of brass automatons that might help to save the day. Most exciting to me was one of the main characters: Elaina Gable, Master Tinkerer, a strong woman character at the heart of the action. She had already joined forces with Captain Jack Davenport, a dashing pilot from the Cartographers Society, who believed in her plans to revive the brass army and who was—let’s face it—a very convenient romantic interest for Elaina. Phew, I thought, because romance is a genre I’m very familiar with both as a reader and an author. (I’ve had three paranormal romance novellas published under the pen name Kat Duarte.) A bit of my trepidation for writing in a new genre subsided. At least I had a comfortable jumping off point to try to advance the story.

A widow, Elaina had already experienced heartbreak. With Captain Jack in the picture a hint of joy in the future had emerged, but seeing as she was such a dynamic and special woman, I felt she deserved to have romantic options. And there he was: Tom Drubble, another skilled member of the Tinkerers’ Guild, someone who had worked closely with Elaina for years. And, yes, I just had to create the foundations for a love triangle. I decided that Tom has secretly been in love with Elaina but has been biding his time. With the threat of Jack, of whom he becomes immediately jealous, Tom has to step up and compete for Elaina’s attention. Voila! We move along nicely with romantic side-dish number one in Army of Brass and add more plot tension. And with two men vying for Elaina’s affection, their perspectives on her actions as Master Tinkerer and the sometimes dark choices she makes to solve the military conflict take on more poignancy. Print

Army of Brass romantic side-dish number two is served up with the secondary characters of Rose and Bernard. Rose Tippenwolf, the Forgemaster’s daughter, shows great promise as an apprentice smith as well as a growing affection for fellow apprentice Bernard. Although Rose’s mother is worried that she’ll never “find a husband looking like a grease monkey” she should have no fear. Bernard’s budding love for Rose comes from not only his attraction for her, but from their friendship and a mutual respect for each other’s technical skills. They are made for each other in more ways than one. Their bond as a couple is forged through the adversity they face on the Smith Guild’s journey to join Elaina in to help revive the automatons as a tool to defeat the brutal warlord who has invaded the realm. For my small part in developing this secondary romance, I wrote a scene where Bernard finds a deep, intuitive understanding of the automations’ inner workings. As other writers further developed the story, the dovetailing work of Rose and Bernard become integral to the awakening of the army of brass.

Although the main plot of Army of Brass revolves around gadgets dangerous gadgets, an evil warlord, and heated warfare, I believe the element of romance adds interest and raises the stake for many of the main characters as well as the reader.

Is there a happy ending for the young, innocents Rose and Bernard? Does Elaina choose to give her heart to dashing Jack Davenport or fellow tinkerer Tom Drubble? Or does she end up going her own way? If this were a romance novel, you could be fairly certain of the odds, but in this novel’s dangerous world all bets are off—and I’m not telling. You’ll have to grab your own copy of Army of Brass to see how it all turns out.



As for me and Steampunk? I found out that I do like writing this genre. Eventually, I want to get back to the story I started in my submission for Chapter 1. I also found out that complex plots with war, espionage, and political intrigue are definitely not in my comfort zone. By the time I got my third crack at writing a chapter for Army of Brass, I had to face the fact that I had absolutely no idea of how to weave the various plot lines together. I’ve ended up with an even greater respect for writers who succeed at complex world-building on such a grand scale.

For more thoughts on Army of Brass from other contributing authors, check out the entire blog tour:

4/13 – A Sneak Peek at Chapter 1 by Jason Pere

4/14 – Launch announcement

4/15 – Interview with contributor Jason Pere

4/16 – Memes in the Making

4/17 – Excerpt by Jim O’Loughlin

4/18 – The Pros and Cons of Collaborative Writing

4/19 – Interview with contributor Jean Grabow

4/20 – Collaboration is the Future by Kathrin Hutson

4/21 – Excerpt by Michael Cieslak

4/22 – Excerpt by Dorothy Emry

4/23 – Review by Penny Blake

4/24 – Character interview of Captain Jack Davenport

4/24 – What’s in a Name? Steampunk Before “Steampunk”

4/25 – Steampunk: The First 10 Years

4/25 – Interview with contributor Jeremiah Rickert

4/26 – Steampunk: The Second Decade

4/27 – Steampunk: The Last 10 Years

4/27 – Excerpt by Phoebe Darqueling

4/30 – Review by Victoria L. Szulc

5/1 – Prim & Proper? Not These Steam Age Murderesses by Phoebe Darqueling

5/2 – Excerpt by E.A. Hennessy

5/4 – Interview with contributor Johnny Caputo

Posted in Army of Brass, a Steampunk novel, Steampunk, writing | Tagged , , ,

Army of Brass Preview!

Army of Brass comes out on April 27th and is on pre-order now at Amazon, but why wait to get a taste of exciting steampunk adventures? For your reading pleasure, here’s an excerpt: AOB Mock up-2

Elaina sighed, stopping under the slanted ceiling. “Still no word from Fairport. We have no idea whether or not they’ll sue for peace. The city guards have been mustered to begin drilling, but no royal troops have been deployed. Lord Rotterdam insists that an advanced force, even of such small numbers, would ruin any chance of peaceful negotiations.” She said the last words in disbelief.

Jack’s voice rose up behind her, and his face soon joined it as he crested the stairs. “I thought you agreed to save your energy for the more important tasks ahead and not on the follies in the House of Lords,” he teased, then turned his attention to Tom. “Speaking of which, I am rather eager to get underway. If you can bear to tear yourself from your garret, Mr. Drubble.” Jack gave a flourish and bow fit for the king.

Tom didn’t give the Cartographer the satisfaction of receiving a reply. He tightened a final screw inside his device, snapped the cover closed, and stood to offer it and its companion to Elaina. The little box could fit into her palm and sported an array of dials, switches, and a miniature variation of a telegraph key on the top. The second cube, too large to be comfortably carried in hand, had a leather strap long enough to loop over the shoulder. A series of tumblers and small, colored crystals glinted from within its surface.

“What’s this?” Jack asked, stepping up beside Elaina.

“Nothing yet.” Tom couldn’t keep the annoyance from his voice. When the time came, he’d always imagined he and Elaina would share the triumph alone, not in the company of someone without the capacity to appreciate it. He picked up a device from his workbench—a duplicate of the smaller one she held. “If you’ll take up a position downstairs?”

Elaina’s eyes gleamed, and she nodded in understanding. When Jack made as if to follow her, she gestured for him to stay put. “This won’t take long.”

The two men stood together as her footfalls grew fainter and stopped. Tom felt the curious glare of the swaggering journeyman boring into him. The Tinkerer pointedly ignored him and tapped out a short code on his handheld device. Then he glued his eyes to the larger device lying on his workbench—the counterpart to Elaina’s. Jack tapped his foot impatiently until the crystals began to glow. The lights flashed on and off in a sequence Tom knew well. He held his breath as the flashing stopped and tumblers ticked into place. He entered another code—waited. The lights repeated their show, the tumblers clicked, and a very unladylike whoop carried up from below.

Elaina fairly galloped back up the stairway. She paused in the doorway, flushed with excitement and exertion, hugging both devices to her chest. “You got it got to work!”

“Got what to work?” Jack asked.

Tom only had eyes for Elaina’s elated grin. “At least over short distances.”

She swept past the confused mapmaker in a flurry of excitement and threw her free arm around Tom’s neck to pull him into a kiss. When she leaned away, Tom stared, her expression a mirror of his own surprise. Then she laughed, breaking the spell. Elaina turned back to Jack, and for better or for worse, the explanation came bubbling out of her.

“This transmitter. This is how we’ll send the signal to the antennae on the automatons.” She held first one of the devices out to Jack, then the other. “These are a smaller version than those we’ll need, but…

For an instant, it had been as Tom had imagined it­—he and Elaina sharing a glorious moment. The heat hadn’t even left his lips yet, but he felt his heart breaking as the secrets of their discovery tumbled from her. Jack couldn’t really appreciate any of it, and the tone of affection in her voice filled the Tinkerer with a bitterness he hadn’t expected. He shoved it down and replaced the tools in his kit, then stuffed it and his set of prototypes into his pack waiting by the door.

banner with date

Pre-order your ebook copy of Army of Brass for $.99 and receive it on Friday, April 27!

Want more excerpts? Read Chapter 1 in full or get a sneak peek at Chapter 3. If you’d like to meet more of the CWC writers, you can find an interview with writer Jason Pere, who wrote the starter chapter, and an interview with Jean Grabow, who helped to end the story, as part of our blog tour, now until May 13. Plus, Join us on Facebook April 28-29 to get to know some of the writers writers, participate in giveaways, and more!

Speaking of giveaways, we’ve got one going on for the entire blog tour, so between April 13-May 13, enter to win ebooks from our writers.


Posted in Steampunk, writing | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

New Steampunk Novel: Army of Brass

Long time, no post, but now I’ve finally got something to post about. The collaborative Steampunk novel I helped write last year is coming out this month! My small contribution to the book amounts to one chapter (somewhere in the first half) and the name of one of the cities in the book’s vast landscape. It’s my first foray into Steampunk and a good one; I learned so much from the many other writers on this project. I’m really looking forward to read how the story turns out!  The book comes out on April 27th and is available for pre-order now. Get all the facts about that below in the launch release written by our noble leader, the ever hard-working and phenomenal editor Phoebe Darqueling…

Steampunk celebrates its 31st birthday on April 27, so join in the festivities with the high-flying adventure, Army of Brass.

“Steampunk” began as a literary genre, but has expanded to include fashion, music, art, and live events all over the world. During 2017, in honor of author K.W. Jeter coining the term in 1987, Steampunk Journal editor Phoebe Darqueling and the Collaborative Writing Challenge joined forces to create an amazing work that blurs the line between science and magic. Twenty international authors contributed chapters to this story full of gadgets, romance, and political intrigue set against the backdrop of a fantasy world informed by the culture of the 19th century.

What is Army of Brass About?

When the mad conqueror haunting Elaina’s dreams invades her adopted homeland, the real nightmare becomes what she’s willing to do to stop him.

The dreaded Hunter Baron has landed on the shores of Mailderet, but Master Tinkerer Elaina Gable believes she has the solution. Giant automatons sit rusting in the valley, waiting for someone with the drive and ingenuity to bring them to life. But the king, swayed by the destruction his ancestors wrought centuries before, harbors a deep-seated fear of the machines. Though he will not allow the alliance of Tinkerers and Smiths to complete the work, Elaina resolves to bring the machines back to life in secretwith the help of a famous airship pilot.

From the safety of the swamps, a woman with silver skin jealously guards the secrets of the automatons. Though the Silver Woman also wishes the past to remain buried, she must weigh the value of secrecy against the thousands of innocents her hesitation might send to the grave.

As they discover the link between the toxic valley and the inner workings of the automatons, Elaina and her allies are drawn into a web of deceit threatening the balance of power across two continentsand proving the truth behind the deadly legends surrounding the Army of Brass.

Read Chapter 1 NOW on Steampunk Journal

Pre-order your ebook copy of Army of Brass for $.99 and receive it on Friday, April 27!

Plus, Join us on Facebook April 28-29 to meet the writers, participate in giveaways, and more!

Speaking of giveaways, we’ve got one going on for the entire blog tour, so between April 13-May 13, enter to win ebooks from our writers.

Collaborative Writing Challenge:


Launch contact:


Posted in Steampunk, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Great Cover Art for YA Fantasy

I’m spoiled for choice. Having just received the German and Czech editions of The Lost Realm, my fantasy novel for young readers, I just can’t decide which cover I prefer. Do you have a favourite? The Lost Realm is the second volume in the ongoing Crown of Three series, written under the pseudonym J.D. Rinehart. The final […]

via The Lost Realm Cover Choice — Graham Edwards

Posted in Uncategorized

The Art of Procrastination

Last Tuesday (when I intended to post this) I had a full day to write.

I did not write. Except for this, which is an after thought after not writing all day.

The fact is (i.e. my excuse) is that it was not a restful day conducive to writing. The roofers were here at 7:30 (necessary repairs after wind damage last month). I took a day off from work to be home for the pets—one dog, one cat—and to be here in case anyone fell through the roof (an improbable scenario, which did not occur, but would have made for an interesting day and another excuse not to write).

Once the pets had begun to cope, I made a light breakfast and decided to settle down to write—right after watching the episode of Lucifer I had DVR’d. When I finally turned on my computer, I decided that my files needed a spring cleaning. I commenced reorganizing and deleting files, then moved on to organizing the paper notes, drafts, and scrapes of stories that had piled up for the last few months, give or take a year. Intent: a cleaner, well-organized work space would make a better environment in which to write.

I broke out the new box of file folders I recently purchased. (Truly productive procrastination requires preparation.) Next I had to decide what the different pastel colors would signify. I settled on yellow for to do/new ideas; blue for working/drafts and revisions; green for stories written and ready to submit, and pink for anything in the romance genre. I read, sorted, labeled folders. I got hungry, fixed lunch, ate it while watching and old movie called Cottage to Let with John Mills and Alastair Sim—a British WWII spy/sleuth story, which was quiet silly. So, of course, I needed something more satisfying before settling down to write.

Two PBS specials later, the roofers had finished and gone. I swept the driveway for stray nails to avoid a flat tire, then went out grocery shopping. On the way home, I decided to write a post about procrastination. This is not it. I have not written it yet. These notes simply record the events that gave me the idea to write such a post, but notes were all I had time to write. By the time I got these down, it was late and time for my daily thirty minutes on the treadmill before dinner. Then there was making dinner, eating dinner, watching The Flash, Agents of Shield, Limitless, and the pilot for Containment. By then, it was time for bed.

Thus ended a day of successfully not-writing.

My next post (or perhaps the one after that), some time or another, possibly next week: Productive Procrastination.

Posted in Procrastination, writing

The Zombie Cafe is almost open…

Today I finally finished my novel about the zombie apocalypse, Zombie Cafe and Other Stories.

Well, almost. I’ve done final edits from feedback given to me by my friend and very good editor Sarah Hunter, run another spellcheck, and printed out a hard copy for a last proofread. Now I’ll get right down to doing that proofreading. Or maybe watch an episode of The Walking Dead and then get start in on it. I’m nothing if not an expert at balancing bouts of productivity with procrastination.

The fact is I’ve stopped beating myself up over not meeting my own deadlines. I still set them and work toward the finish line until the task is done, but I’ve come to understand that there’s this little thing called life that I can’t control.

I started Zombie Cafe back in 2010 for NANOWRIMO, worked on it steadily in the months after. At first it was just a collection of short stories, but then some of the characters started taking over, popping up in other stories. The more I wrote, the more the stories became linked together by the reoccurring characters, the locations, and my version of the zombie infested apocalypse. It started looking more and more like a novel, so…back to the drawing board to figure out the overall plot and fill in the gaps. Which is, I know, working backwards to create a novel. And a real bear of a task.

Meanwhile, life happened. My mother’s health declined and I became her caregiver. After her death, I struggled to recover emotionally, physically, and financially (There’s a high cost to care giving. I can attest to that.) Then, I had to have an operation. And recover from that.

Along the way, I didn’t give up on the writing, though. I found bits of time where I could write, rewrite, and edit. As the years slipped by, I admit I thought of chucking the whole thing. But I didn’t. I’m stubborn, steadfast, determined — whatever you want to call it  — about things I love and through all the rewrites, I find I still love the characters in Zombie Cafe.

2010 to 2016 is a long haul for one novel. I can tell you it’s definitely not a literary gem, but I hope it will be entertaining for readers when and where ever it gets published. (I’m hoping that doesn’t take another six years.) So, what did I get out of this? Right now, I’ve got a nice sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I started something  — a big something  — and finished it. Plus, all this time after starting it, I still like it. Then there’s this: I feel free again. To do what? you ask. Why to start the next novel, of course.

If you’re out there ready to give up on a manuscript you’ve been working on for years, I’m writing this for you. If you still love the story, the characters, the world you’re creating, don’t give up. Keep putting the words together. Work at it until you’re done. It’ll be worth it.

Posted in writing, Zombie Cafe

Mark Alpert’s New SF Thriller: The Orion Plan

One of the books I’ve been waiting to read is Mark Alpert’s The Orion Plan, due out on February 16th. My friend Todd Jepperson was lucky enough to get to review and adanvce copy and I’m lucky enough that he’s asked me to present it here on Nerdwrites.


by Todd Jepperson

In Mark Alpert’s The Orion Plan, available Feb. 16, 2016 from St. Martin’s Press, Earth finally makes contact with an alien species, and it’s not pretty. When a strange, meteor-like object is observed travelling at unbelievable speeds on a direct collision course with earth, NASA scientist Dr. Sarah Pooley makes what she thinks is the most difficult phone call of her life. She contacts the United States Air Force to warn them of the impending destruction of all of New York. The object is 34 meters wide and traveling at 83,000 miles per hour; it’s big enough to punch a hole right through the shell of our planet, and possibly even destroy it.

Except it doesn’t.

Dr. Pooley watches as a large part of the object is ejected, and only a small part changes course and heads for a hillside in the park. A full-scale military search is launched, but they’ve got the landing site completely wrong. Dr. Pooley tries to show them the error of their plans, but who is she to be smarter than military scientists?

Enter Joe. A homeless former Doctor of medicine who happens to be sleeping on the hillside the night the probe slams into it. He sees a second shot at life in the gleaming black sphere. Afterall, wouldn’t someone pay large amounts of money to recover such an expensive piece of technology? So, he does what anyone down on their luck would do. He hides the probe, and tries to locate someone who will pay big money for it. Too bad he’s not the only one on the hillside that night.

A couple of street tough “homeboys” also come to investigate who might be making noise in their part of the city. They expect rival gangs, but find poor old drunk Joe sleeping in his box in the mud, so they stomp him out pretty good. They try to take the probe, and that’s when things get strange. The probe bites, and when it does, the bite leaves a mark in a bad way.

What begins as a somewhat slow introduction to the wide range of characters accelerates into a wild ride of Earth’s last stand against otherworldly invaders. Although there are a few seemingly random detours along the way, Alpert has brought to life a species that is so vastly different from the “little green men” cliche that you won’t soon forget it. “Naomi” is a literary wonder in her own right, and Alpert has definitely done his homework. The characters are extraordinarily developed, with the exception of the hispanic gang of boys, and the way Alpert envisions interplanetary encounters is incredible.

The Orion Plan is a smart, creative work of Sci-fi art that will reward the patient reader with several new ideas and a whole new crop of fears. Pick it up on,, or wherever it is you prefer to shop for books.

Posted in book reviews | Tagged ,

Long Time, No Post

Forgive me, Word Press. It has been 2 years since my last post.

Life happens, time passes, and some things must fall to the wayside. My tale of woe? In brief: My mom passed away. Then my dog died. (Yes, it is beginning to sound like a country western song.) Then I had to have surgery. (All better now.)

It took me about two years to grieve, heal, and get back to a place where I almost recognize myself again. I have started to look around the landscape and pick up some of the dropped balls, one of which is this blog.

At least, I have been writing during this unplanned hibernation. I’m giving my novel of the zombie apocalypse one more polish and then it will finally be done. And I have a few new shorts stories ready to send out into the world. One of them has been sold to Odd Tree Quarterly. (More about that when I have the pub date.)

So…time to get back in gear.

One brief post today.

Tomorrow, a special treat. My friend Todd Jepperson has written a review of what looks to be a great new book by Mark Alpert, which I promised to post here on Nerdwrites.

And now, after a long work day, it’s time to make dinner and watch Arrow, Supernatural, and the iZombie episode I dvr’d yesterday.

Posted in Supernatural, TV shows, writing

Supernatural: Angels, Demons, and the temptation to be human

Just a quick note after watching tonight’s episode of Supernatural

Yep. ***SPOILERS*** so if you haven’t watched it yet don’t read farther.

At the end of last season Castiel became human. Tonight in “Heaven Can’t Wait” we saw that Crowley seems bent on completing the hand that Sam had almost dealt him right before the angels fell to Earth: becoming human.

It made me wonder if we’re not headed to a new theological cocktail where demons and angels trade places, first becoming human and then transitioning to fill the shoes of their opposites by season nine’s end. Is there a halo in store for Crowley? Stranger things have happened. And—it does follow a certain logic: if an angel can become a devil as Lucifer did, why can’t a devil become an angel?  There are certainly enough vacancies to fill in Heaven right now thanks to Metatron’s spell that a determined ex-demon might be given wings for some really good behavior and a healthy dose of redemption doing good deeds to help the Winchester boys and Kevin.

But more importantly: what TV theme song will Cass sing next? (For those too young to be in the know, that was the theme from Greatest American Hero that Cass sang as a lullaby tonight. And, yes, nerd that I am, I still know all the words by heart.)

Posted in Supernatural, TV shows | Tagged , , , , ,

LOTR MOOC: better late than not at all

Due to circumstances beyond my control (c’est la vie), I have been forced to take a few weeks of vacation. This does not mean I have 14 days I can devote to sitting in the grass under a large tree in the Shire and waiting for Bilbo’s birthday to arrive (which as all good LOTR fans know is September 22). I have not even had time to delve into writing mode because of the important business (not at all party business) needing attention in my life right now. However, I do need to do something for diversion and bit of relaxation for the sake of maintaining my sanity. Or more accurately, for maintaining my usual nerdy, yet still socially acceptable, insanity.

Therefore: I signed up for the MOOC offered by Vanderbilt University through Coursera called “Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative.” It’s “a university-level English literature class—a multi-genre, multimedia tour of how literature, film, and games engage in the basic human activity of storytelling” that covers the literature of Tolkien, Spenser, Keats, Browning, and others, Peter Jackson’s movie The Fellowship of the Ring and the Lord of the Rings Online game.

When I first heard about the course through Kathryn E. Darden’s Middle Earth Times, I told myself that I really did not have time for it and I despaired over the missed opportunity to delve into the literature and films I love along with fellow nerds (at least 40,000 at last count for the enrollment).

The course started on September 9th.

I avoided reading articles about it that first week. Why torture myself?

By the weekend, I had gone to the site and read the course description at least twice. Inner voices nagged at me. The main culprits: J.J.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson. Not to mention hobbits – four hobbits – and a cast of other characters never far from my imagination.

So, here we are with the course well into its second week. I enrolled today. My poor olde laptop won’t support LOTRO, so I won’t be able to do the “Distinction Track” of the course, but there’s plenty to do in the general track, especially now since I’m such a late starter. Still, it feels good to finally give in and get started, much as Bilbo must have felt as he ran down the path after Gandalf and Thorin’s company.

Posted in Fantasy, Lord of the Rings | Tagged , , , , ,