Steampunk rocks

You know when you buy a new car and suddenly start noticing how many of the same colour or make are on the road? I own a Toyota IQ and would have sworn I had never seen one before I bought mine. Well, they aren’t all over the place, but I’ve seen several since. (The other ones are usually tidier. And cleaner.)

It was the same when I started writing my steampunk novella. It has pretty much grown organically, one of those books that wakes you up in the middle of the night with a must-not-forget idea, and I would have sworn there was hardly a book out there in the genre. Huh. Hundreds, that’s all.

The most frustrating thing about the genre is the number of people determined to put it in a box, label it, and give it rules. If I mention it, on Twitter especially, you may be sure at least two people will sternly tell me which guideline books I must read first.

Okay, my usual books are whodunits and there is most definitely a set of rules for classic detective fiction, but (a) that’s been hugely popular for a hundred years and more and (b) the rules are actually way more flexible!

Steampunk has to have Victorian clothing? Come on. Brass and clockwork? Surely optional. It just hasn’t been around long enough to have such dull restrictions. For my money, there is steam technology, there is exuberance, and there is an SF overlap that takes it out of the Victorian / historical era. THAT’s steampunk.  At its best it is absolutely joyful.

Anyway, Place is out with my wonderful, brilliant, long-suffering readers at the moment. So far so good, the feedback is very positive (albeit occasionally puzzled, especially with the regular whodunit beta readers).

Here’s the cover and the planned blurb. I’d love your comments. Just don’t tell me I broke the rules. I didn’t break my rules!

No Place like Place_kindleA laughing love affair was the very last thing Abby expected to enjoy on Place, an unfashionable planet with a tiny mining community. She’d been told the community had a decidedly retro lifestyle, the bugs were as long as your arm, the camels looked as though they were on steroids,  and the neighbours were stone-age goblins, but no-one had mentioned the rather yummy Brad. Her doctor had tried to offer a thread of hope when he recommended Place; life in a dead-and-alive backwater was her last hope of survival. Young, adventurous, not prepared to write off her only option without a fight, she reluctantly agreed. She hadn’t expected to find a life that would utterly delight her.

She also hadn’t been told about the Talia, because no-one knew about them. They were several thousand years away in space and time, and no-one in Place would ever suspect their existence, but the Talia were even more interested in Place than she was.

This light-hearted steampunk novel, first in a mini-series of three, introduces the eccentrics and absurdities of life set in a future our great-grandchildren will know, but lived in a way our great-grandparents would have found more familiar.  

The Talian story is entirely separate and the chapters headed with their spaceship can be skipped altogether without affecting the main story.  SF fans, though, should enjoy the double thread.

Learning curves

Experience may be cheap at any price but grab a bargain, learn from the mistakes of others instead.

I had set my heart on publishing for the first time on 1st January and publish I did. Some of the people who have bought my book have said really nice things (some were people I don’t even know). Some have pointed out errors quite tartly and, oh dear, most have said nothing at all. At ALL. That includes some friends and family.

Things I have learnt from this include, first and foremost, do not rely on self-editing.  I copy-edit for others and I genuinely believed I could do it for myself and I was wrong. The brain simply self-corrects familiar work. (There are some hard-learned editing tips in the next blog)

Do not get wildly excited by your first book cover and accept it if you have the single tiniest reservation. My artist was and is very good, and uncanny at picking things out of my mind, but we don’t agree on lettering.  First cover, I let her lettering stay. Now it has been corrected to what I like and even she thinks it looks better. (It so does)

Get the manuscript read by others.  The ideal is to get it read by a professional pre-edit reviewer, or critiquer, but it took me two months to find one whose style I liked, and in the meantime I had really useful feedback from the friends who, bless them, had bought the book. REALLY useful. Just one example, I’d referred in my book to ‘the old purple hat story’. I genuinely thought everyone in the world knew the old purple hat story. They don’t. They do now, because it is added in at the beginning. (Go read it in the sample on Amazon, it’s a good story.) (

Don’t rely on Kindle’s own HTML version of your Word document when you upload. They tinker with their software as often we tinker with our books and two or three changes down the line, your book will become peculiar.  Formatting will change and puzzled readers will find oddities, split paragraphs, centred text thrown all to blazes, and will think you are the idiot. Or that eBooks are rubbish.  I recently bought Jutoh EBook Converter and it is phenomenal. One unexpected bonus is that it creates the book exactly as it will be, in a format I can copy to my kindle.

So, nearly three months after the book was first released, it has been updated, the cover has been changed, but there are existing buyers out there who will think I am still the rankest of amateurs. I asked Kindle how I get the changes out to the earlier buyers.  They are going to review them (it will take four weeks) with one of the following outcomes –

  1.  If they consider the changes critical, they’ll send an email to every buyer to receive the update through the Manage Your Kindle page
  2. If they consider them cosmetic, they will activate the buyers’ ability to update the content on the above but not email them.
  3. If they deem the changes to have caused critical issues, they’ll remove the book from sale, notify me of the changes which need to be made so I can fix them, and then go via route 1.

Doing things the right way round will save so much trouble.  Book number two comes out this week – fingers crossed.