2017 Reading Challenge.

2017 Reading Challenge

I always love these challenges!  Maybe one year when I’m not working on a novel (or 3), I’ll be able to commit to them.

In case you’re looking for some matches with the above list, might I offer the following?

  • A book by an author who uses a pseudonym.  Look no further than Ann Benjamin (I also publish under my real name, Courtney Brandt).
  • A book involving travel.  While technically Room 702 stays in one place it could count, but Life After Joe is all about a road trip, so I think it definitely ticks the box.
  • A book that’s published in 2017.  The Queen of England: Coronation is definitely coming out next year.  Actual release date: TBD.
  • A book involving a mythical creature, kind of a 2 for 1 with above.  There is a unicorn involved.
  • A steampunk novel.  Yay, this makes the Queen 3 for 3.
  • A book with a title with title that’s a character’s name.  See, Life After Joe.
  • A book set in a hotel.  Room 702 is completely set in a hotel.

And there you have it!  Lots of good choices this year.

Did you complete the challenge in 2016 or another year?

Understanding My Genre: A Further Look at Gaslamp Fantasy.

The more I got into working on the Queen (and reading Steampunk), the more I realized I wasn’t a true fit for the larger genre.  Not wanting to upset potential readers, I’ve decided to market The Queen more as a gaslamp fantasy and less a steampunk novel.  In reading the definitions below, I knew I had the right genre for my book.  That isn’t to say that fan of steampunk won’t enjoy Queen Juliette’s adventures, it’s more about a correctly defined genre.

So, what is Gaslamp Fantasy? (Source).

Gaslamp Fantasy is a genre-bending sub-genre that belongs to both Fantasy and Historical Fiction and borrows tropes, themes, and even characters from Gothic fiction—the supernatural features heavily in sub-genre. Gaslamp was coined in order to separate works from the ever-growing Steampunk sub-genre because Gaslamp works are not ‘punk.’

The term was first used by Kaja Foglio to describe her comic series, Girl Genius. Sometimes called Gaslight, the term refers to lamps fueled by gas. Gaslamps have a particular ambiance—worthy of literary use and great for creating that atmosphere so important to Gothic fiction.

The first public lighting was in 1807—Gaslamp Fantasy takes place in the Regency, Edwardian, or Victorian era England (or a place with heavy British cultural influences). Gaslamps are a distinctive part of the setting because they were a relatively short-lived technology and provide a sense of nostalgia and historical authenticity. The ambiance of gaslamps is also a big part of the sub-genre’s visual appeal. There is a strong community of visual artists interested in Gaslamp Fantasy. Indeed, comics and graphic novels have a strong and defining presence within the sub-genre.

Gaslamp Fantasy Characteristics

  • Level of Magic, Moderate. Gaslamp Fantasy has strong associations with the supernatural, none of which are particularly inventive because the sub-genre draws so much from the conventions of other genres. However, magic does have a somewhat unique application, as compared to more traditional fantasy. The magic of the Gaslamp world is often intertwined with technology, or mechanical objects and as such must be a well developed system.
  • Level of Grand Ideas and Social Implications, Variable. Anytime the setting is an alternate history of some sort there is great potential for social commentary. Alternate histories allow readers to re-examine, not just historical events, but the societal and political structures that surround those events and to see them in a new light—in the case of Gaslamp Fantasy, with a bit of the magical and supernatural woven in.As always, not all authors will take advantage of its potential or, at least, of its furthest potential.
  • Level of Characterization, Moderate. Gaslamp Fantasy draws on several literary traditions and updates them for a modern audience. In so doing, the sub-genre will often use stock characters to populate its world, but the sub-genre also has the power to reinvent characters.
  • Level of Plot Complexity, Variable. There isn’t a standard plot for Gaslamp Fantasy and because the sub-genre draws from so many other traditions, the types and complexities of plots varies greatly. A plot may be a tangled web of social interactions, or a twisty-turny, page-turner uncovering clues and solving mysteries, or a historical retelling where the outcome is predetermined (or is it?).
  • Level of Violence, Variable. Gaslamp Fantasy crosses genre and sub-genre lines, and these other influences define the level of violence better than the term Gaslamp. For example, Gaslamp Fantasy that crosses with the Horror genre have higher levels of violence. Whereas stories in the Fantasy of Manners sub-genre have very little violence, instead focusing on wit and social intrigue.

Gaslamp Fantasy Isn’t For You If…

If you aren’t in the mood for all things British. Gaslamp is particularly associated with British history and culture—so even in an alternate history or setting, British influences are significant. So, if you’re looking for a story with a truly new, creative, and fantastical world, Gaslamp is not for you.

If you want a story about driving someone mad. Gaslighting, very similar in name to Gaslamp (a.k.a. Gaslight), is in fact a different term that means to purposefully alter a person’s environment in order to make a person believe s/he is going crazy, until s/he actually does. If you’re expecting a story about psychological tampering, this is not for you.

See more at: http://bestfantasybooks.com/gaslamp-fantasy.html#sthash.A1ImuqQA.dpuf

On the topic of patience.

So, I currently have the final draft of The Queen of England: Coronation.  And it’s complete.  Finished.  Khalas.  Yesterday, I was feeling weird about it.  After all, the (original) whole point of this year off was to produce something.  Y’know, like a book.  Which I’ve done.  And I’ve been struggling with whether or not it is ‘ready.’  As I’ve written 10+ books, I know there is a specific feeling when a book is done.  For whatever reason, The Queen is not ready to be shared with the world.  Even with lots of wonderful and supportive comments from readers.  Even with a cover.  Even with paying an editor.  I don’t have the feeling.

I was chatting with wonderful Elena, and realized (duh!): I can wait.  There is no publisher demanding the book.  To my knowledge, there is no audience demanding the book.  So, I kind of let all that sink in yesterday and woke up feeling much better about the whole situation.  As I reviewed my notebook (which includes pages of ideas to include in the series), I realized my next step is not publication, but instead editing the second book.  I have a feeling that the changes I make in the next draft of The Queen of England: Grand Tour will have a direct impact on the events of the first book.

Sure, I could make changes after publishing, but that doesn’t seem fair to me or the readers.  I want to get this right the first time.  So, as soon as I can get the 200 pages printed (damn, not having access to printers anymore), I’m going to roll up my sleeves and get to work on making the second manuscript better (believe me, this is going to take some effort).

I know Juliette is waiting, but when it’s time for her debut, I want her to move forward with the strongest possible launch.  While I wait, I may opt the manuscript in to NetGalley, but we’ll see.


For those who know me, patience is one of the adjectives I would least use to describe myself.  It feels strange.  The voice in me that loves to tick things off the to do list is frustrated, but the author voice is louder and it’s saying, clearly, it is not the time.

Here’s to waiting!


Sunday Sentence.

Note from the Author:  This novel is a work of alternate history. Adding magic to the mix meant that events didn’t play out the way they appear in history books. Some things are entirely different, and some things are happening at different times or in different places. Figuring out where the real history might fit in is part of the fun.

Rebel Magisters (Rebel Mechanics Book 2) by Shanna Swendson

As I close in on finishing the Queen (and still lacking any motivation to actually share it with the rest of the world), I really liked this intro at the beginning of the sequel to Rebel Mechanics.  While I enjoyed the second book, it didn’t reach the highs the original novel did for me.  I’m still invested in the characters, but I thought the story moved a bit too slow.  That being said, I appreciate Ms. Swendson’s world building and would read any future books in the series.

I’m alive…and editing.

Hey gang — one of my goals for October is to get back to something approaching a more dedicated posting schedule on this blog.  In the meantime, I’ve been busy traveling (Bali!) and eating (everything!) and editing (The Queen of England: Coronation!).  I was very excited to get my notes back from a new editor (thanks, Mandy!) and have been hard at working making final tweaks to the book.  I’m 106 pages in out of 236 pages and would like to make even more progress before we leave for our next trip (next week — Nepal!).

Although I haven’t touched the cover artwork since forever, I have enlisted Hubs to try and help.  While this is in no way the final version, there are some elements I like in the image.  From previous takes on the cover, I never thought there was enough of a steampunk element and I think the details below help.  While I like the less cluttered earlier options, I’m hoping we’re closing in on the final (final!) version.


What have you been up to?

Sunday Sentence.

I was not a damsel in distress, I was more a damsel with no place to go, a heavy dress, and too much jewelry.”

Courtney Brandt, The Queen of England: Coronation

I was going through for a final(ish) draft last week (before sending off to the editor — yay!) and found a sentence I loved.