Happy Holidays! And Happy Holidays Contest!


The Holidays are upon us (first night of Hanukkah tonight!), and I’m determined to spread some holiday cheer.  So, I’m doing a little holiday contest.  I’ll be giving away a signed copy of All Men of Genius to whomever tells me the best Holiday gift they’d give to a character in the book.  And not one that is actually given to a character in the book.  An original gift.  Any character you’d like.  Just post the name of the character and what you’d give them in the comments below.  I’ll close the contest on January 20th and announce the winner shortly thereafter. I’ll personalize the book however you’d like, and will send it the winners way.  Spread the word – the more entires, the merrier, I say.  Plus, it’ll make a great late gift for someone you’ve forgotten.

Also in my quest to spread holiday cheer, I’ve posted a gift giving guide over at the Book Smugglers.

And finally, my favorite holiday music video (possibly NSFW due to language at the end): Happy Holidays!


On the Victorian Style

I wanted to talk a little about the Victorian Style today and how I used it in my book.  You see, I studied a lot of Victorian literature and when I set out to write All Men of Genius, I knew I wanted to emulate the style of the time.  Not to copy any one writers style specifically, but to make sure that my book, in tone if not content, would have blended in with the novels of the late 1800s.  So I used a lot of techniques that aren’t used very often today, and I wanted to run them down and talk about why they aren’t used today and why I used them.

The first would be the use of third-person omniscient voice.  This was the most common point of view used in writing until about 1900, when it started to change.  These days, you hardly ever see it.  Most work today is written in third person close, or “over the shoulder” or first person.  The difference between “over the shoulder” and omniscient is that “over the shoulder”, while third person, only stays in one persons mind.  Yes, it can change which person’s mind that is, from chapter to chapter, or after a scene break, but omniscient is when the voice freely bobs in and out of everyone’s head in a scene.  It’s extremely Victorian.  And today, most readers would complain about it, and refer to it as “head hopping.”  It’s one of the aspects of the book my editor was most concerned about, and we worked hard to trim the omniscience so it didn’t feel too jumpy.  But I did want to keep it – I think it helps to give the book a more authentic tone.

Then there’s the aspect of showing and telling.  Today any good writer or writing school will tell you to show, don’t tell.  The Victorians felt differently.  Many of their novels were long, flowery internal monologues – particularly the romances.  The shift in modern novels to a more cinematic approach, where it’s all about the action, gestures fit in for thought and there’s more distance from the characters, is one I appreciate.  I love it when a character can’t express how they feel, but the Victorians felt the best way to really show character was to explain how they thought.  I tried to strike a balance.  While Violet’s emotional state and thought process is always plainly on the page, I wanted to make it clear that there were parts of herself she didn’t fully understand, and I tried to show those, more than tell them.  But again, I wanted to stay true to the Victorian Tone, and so there’s a good deal of narration about characters feelings and goals.

And finally, there’s the focus on more minor characters.   This goes back to third-person omniscience, because in a third-person omniscient world, you can hop into anybody’s head, no matter how minor a character they are, for a brief moment.  And that was often done.  Sometimes you’d even get the ‘mass mentality’ of the crowd – something I tried to emulate in the scene where Violet and Ashton are leaving for the city and the servants all see them off.  I confess, this was a little harder for me at first, but once I got into the idea of giving voice to the more minor characters (the professors, in particular), I may have gone too far.  In Victorian novels, such characters are given mere sentences.  But I felt that if I was going to do this, I should give my characters not sentences, but lives.  Or at least paragraphs.  So, the professors all got tiny plots of their own – which, I’ve pointed out in a previous post, had some links between them.

These are all stylistic details you see very rarely today and I know for some readers the style is so foreign that they were actually turned off by it.  Which is fine – everyone goes into a book with different expectations, and everyone has personal taste.  I tried to really pay homage to the Victorian tone in All Men of Genius.  And I think that adjusting the style of the book was key to that.  If you’re interested in the Victorian Style, you should go and read some of the classics.  I’d start with Austen (technically Regency, not Victorian, but still key to understanding the Victorian tone), then go onto Jane Eyre and Mrs. Audley’s Secret.  Read some Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone and The Woman in White being the classics), make sure to read Dorian Grey and Frankenstein, of course, as well as some Hardy and Dickens.  Those are just the basics, in my opinion.  I hope to post an extensive Victorian reading list at some point, though.  I think reading Victorian literature, and understanding it, is one of those things you need to do to really call yourself an educated person.  So much was happening in the arts then, and so much of the work that came out of then is so brilliant.  So for the holidays, ask for a copy of a Victorian novel and read it over the break.  You won’t regret it.

I was away for a while…

I took a little trip recently, and while I was gone, all sorts of things happened.  The big thing that happened not to me, but to the amazing Cherie Priest was that her novel has been optioned!  I couldn’t be more thrilled for her.  Ms. Priest’s novels really revolutionized steampunk and I hope this signifies a surge of new steampunk film.  I hope they cast it right, too.

As for what happened to me, we’ll start with this:

That’s the cover to the German translation of the book, coming out in Germany sometime in the spring.  I really love this cover.  The purple shading and the font are a little more feminine than I’d expect, but I love the border with the pipes, and those gear-flowers are inspired.  Plus, they really captured Violet’s spirit.  She’s not quite how I’d picture her – I don’t think any drawing ever will be – but she looks fearless and mischievous and ready to smash the patriarchy in her own way, which is exactly what I want to see in Violet.  The translation of this title, according to google, is “The Invention of Violet Adams.”  I don’t know if invention has quite the same shades of meaning in German, but I really like the title.  I think it’s an amazing cover.  What do you think?

What else happened while I was away?  Well, I wrote a short piece on writing humor for Tor’s newsletter.  And I was sent a photo of this amazing display in the World’s Biggest Bookstore, in Toronto.

Gorgeous, no?  I love it being shown between the two inspirational works, and those pages on the sides are an interview I did with Jessica, who works at the store.  The interview should be up on her blog soon, so you can all read it.  UPDATE: It is up now!

Jessica also chose All Men of Genius as one of her favorite pieces of SFF Media of the year on SF Signal which is a pretty big deal.  It’s nice to make a ‘best of the year’ list, especially as I was published so close to the end of the year.

And speaking of, it is the beginning of awards season.  If you can nominate All Men of Genius for an award, and are inclined to do so, I would be thrilled.  While nearly all the buzz around All Men of Genius has been positive, and people seem to be really enjoying the book, the truth is, not many people seem to have heard of it.  So, please, think of Violet when you’re making your holidays lists and giving gift recommendations.  If you really love the book, tell everyone you know about it.  Tweet about it, blog about it, mention it on facebook – that’s how the book is going to get out there.  Reviews are great – but sales are better, and sales require people talking about the book and going to their local bookstores and asking for it.  So nominate the book, tell everyone you know about, get it out there.  That’s what’ll really make All Men of Genius a success, and it’ll make my holiday season very merry indeed.