Why I'm writing Labyrinth of Souls (LoS)

Labyrinth of Souls is one of those stories that you don't intend to write, and then you realize you are doing it.  

While I was working on the back stories for several characters and groups, I just started writing more and more about them and their back stories.  At a certain point, I realized, I was really making an outline for a series about them and their history.  It had all of the drama and twists and turns I like to put into a story, so I asked, why don't I just write this real quick?

It hasn't been easy to set Dragon in the Snow aside while I write this novella, but they will both benefit from the project.

With Labyrinth of Souls, I'm testing out a few new ideas about how to tell the story and especially how I want to get into the characters themselves.  The result has thrilled me, and I hope you enjoy it too.

Jodhaa is one of those characters who has wandered around in the back of my head for years. I've tried to find her story for all that time.  When I started work on Dragon in the Snow, I knew this was the story for her.

So Why write Labyrinth of Souls?

Raih and Jodhaa are such fresh characters for me.  They each have qualities I admire, and that scare me a little.  Most importantly, I haven't read anything with characters like them. They are more vulnerable than the typical fantasy character, and have such different personal histories. That makes them even more interesting together.

My biggest concern about writing this story is that I cannot stop comparing Sunsuulyn Academy to Hogwarts, and since I am making those connections, I know other people will too. Magic in Ash Dancer is so different from Harry Potter, as is the history of the world. That makes these two magic schools so different from one another. That comparison falls apart quickly.

The real reason I chose to write Labyrinth of Souls is that I love to write, and I want this world to be so much bigger than just a novel, or series of novels.  So many stories are swirling around in my head, and I want to tell them all.  That isn't realistic, but I want to tell as many as I can.

This world is so full of life, I only hope I can do it justice and bring it to life in a way that people will enjoy reading. Welcome to the world inside my head. Let's have some fun.

You can read Labyrinth of Souls as I write it on Wattpad.

Is Decopunk separate from Steampunk?

The problem with genres based on aesthetics is knowing where to draw the lines.

Decopunk is considered a subgenre of Dieselpunk set in a more 1920's diesel powered world.  The problem comes in trying to get to the definition of what actually defines a genre.  

I know I am obsessed with literary theory, but these are important questions if we are going to define a genre.  In November, I resolved on a working definition that I am going to use to define steampunk as a literary genre.

A literary subgenre of fantasy featuring a neo-Victorian industrial world where steam and clockwork are the primary sources of power. Technology is retro-futuristic, with a special focus on Repurposing items for uses other than their original intended use. Romanticism and Mysticism form the basis for art, religion, and social values.
No, Seriously, What is Steampunk?

The question is, if steam and clockwork mechanisms power the world, but it has an Art Deco style, does that invalidate a work as steampunk?

Since there are so many pieces of Steampunk Art Deco art on the net that have not met with a cavalcade of criticism and hate, I am inclined to believe that they are aesthetically compatible at least in the way steampunk is drawn.

That is the real problem with trying to pin down this genre.  When something is primarily visual, it is like reading tea leaves to pull out the qualities that would make a story steampunk.

Beyond that, steampunk has been adapted to many visual styles such as Art Nouveau, but yet again, we are looking at the mode in which art is produced rather than the qualities that make it one genre or another. This problem keeps peaking up at me, and makes me question exacting what makes something steampunk.

While steampunk was born out of a neo-Victorian aesthetic, to limit a fantasy subgenre to a terrestrial time period feels overly artificial and pointless.  An art deco building or a flapper girl in a steam powered speakeasy feels as steampunk to me as an adventurer in a bustle, but maybe that is just me.

Taking time to make maps

I've taken the last month to work on a world map.  While I am not sure all the rivers and lakes are in their final positions, it is finished enough for me to move forward on the next phase: a push in on the main story location.

I am so excited about how this has turned out.  So much of this map is hand sculpted and painted.  I didn't expect it to take so long to get to this point, but the world kept revealing little secrets to me from the Ashkelon desert to the great salt seas.  I really feel like I understand the world better than I would have if I hadn't taken the time to make the map.

While none of them are marked on this version of the map, many of the nation states have resolved themselves too.

Building this world is different from others.

Ash Dancer isn't the first world I have built, but it has been a very unique experience so far.  I feel less like I am crafting a setting than I am recording a world.  It is a strange experience.  I can't really explain it all too well, but it feels like they want their stories told.

I fell in love with this story when it first jumped into my head, but I have never experienced anything like this in all my years of writing.  I have read accounts of other writers who have had this sort of thing happen to them.  I never thought it would happen to me, though I have always hoped that it would.

This story is so near and dear to my heart.  I can only hope that I can share it in a way that you love too.  More draft chapters of the book should be posted soon.  Let me know what kind of features and story elements you want me to explain more.  Together, we can bring this world to life.

No, Seriously, What is Steampunk?

So the story and world have taken an interesting turn in the last couple weeks.

I want to make sure I am doing respect to the genre of Steampunk, only to discover that there really isn't a genre, only an aesthetic... so if I am going to do this right, I feel like I need to define what I mean by steampunk so I have a guide for myself.


A literary subgenre of fantasy featuring a neo-Victorian industrial world where steam and clockwork are the primary sources of power.  Technology is retro-futuristic, with a special focus on Repurposing items for uses other than their original intended use.  Romanticism and Mysticism form the basis for art, religion, and social values.

The above definition takes in many of the definitions of steampunk, Victorian era, and neo-Victorian I have found in my research.  When  written together like that, they make a basic genre definition to keep me on track.  While I tried to keep the definition open enough to include as much steampunk as possible, I am not actually trying to promote this as the only definition available.  I am just trying to give myself some guidelines to follow, a lens to focus my creativity through.

This definition is open enough to accommodate the music of Abney Park, The Pillars of Reality books by Jack Campbell, and even the applicable Final Fantasy games.  That is a pretty wide spectrum, while being distinct enough to do its job.

I chose to say it is a subgenre of fantasy rather than science fiction because science fiction would require the technology to be feasible or at the very least not to violate known science.  That is not a required element of the genre as I have experienced it, though there may be some who write that way.  I am not an engineer, so I cannot do that.

What do you think of that definition?

I wanted to include elements of gothic fiction, which hit its heights in the Victorian Era, but didn't because while a story may include those qualities, it isn't a requirement of the genre.

Did I miss anything?  Should I add anything?  Let me know in the comments.

Meet the Mage Tyrese the Seer

I always wanted to write a story with a character named and inspired by Tiresias from Greek Mythology.  When I started writing Dragon in the Snow, Tiresias popped up again.

I've never used Tiresias because the name is not an easy one to fit into a story.  That is when the character stepped forward and Tiresias became Tyrese, the Blind Mage who sees more than anyone with sight.

Tyrese is a member of the Order of Nabu Saa.  I really want him to be a different kind of wizard, and that is going to be a challenge in execution as much as concept.  We've all read so many different stories about magic users, and I want to try something else with him.

What will that look like?  I'm really not sure, and that excites me.  I have a few ideas about where I want this to go, but I will say the there are two songs I can't get out of my head when I think about Tyrese and the Mages of Nabu Saa.

If you haven't heard Eppic and TeraBrite's version of Dark Horse, listen to it.  Eppic rewrote the rap and made it a more prominent part of the song.

I would love to get your ideas about what you would like to see.  Remember, the book is still taking shape.

When a story sneaks up on you, write it

I didn't expect to be writing today, but here I am.  The idea was a simple one, Wuxia King Arthur with Dragons, Magic, and a Twist.  That idea was so high concept that I didn't expect it to start crystalizing as fast as it did.

Test image to try to inspire more story.

Test image to try to inspire more story.

Throughout the day, I probed the idea and even made a test cover to see if I could find any inspiration in what I can only call a notion.  That is a very generous way for me to describe this wisp of an idea that I had by midnight.  But I really wanted to write something, anything.

At about 1 am, I sat down in my office to start writing and the words and images started flowing.  The characters and world came alive to me.  I can't remember a story that flowed out of me so easily.

This isn't the book I was planning on writing.  This isn't even the setting I thought I would be writing in, but the story presented itself so aggressively I had to give it a try.

Fascination is more important to me than than inspiration.  I really need to be captivated by an idea for the images to form easily.  I can write when I am not in love with a story, but the stories are harder to do, and I find it hard to get into the character's head.  Fascination is a funny beast.

I hope Dragon in the Snow continues to flow this easily, but I know it will have challenges like every story does.  The best part is, I don't know how the book will end, but I have a funny feeling it does.  

If you want to read along with the draft, check it out here.