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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Punk Druids, Heretic Engineers, and Metal-Winged Horses

My name’s Susan Laine. I’m an author with Dreamspinner Press. In the spirit of writing outside the box, today I’m a guest on this blog to talk about writing outside the genre lines.
I’ve loved reading and writing since I was a kid. The best stories don’t let artificial literary boundaries get in the way of a good story. For authors who favor that approach, the tale comes first, the genre definitions later, or not at all.
On August 27th comes out my novella, Wishing Wings, second in the Isleshire Chronicles series by Dreamspinner Press. The first novella in the series is Lofty Dreams of Earthbound Men, and I talked about it on this blog on March 5, 2014, titled Magick, Engineering, and Flying Taverns, in case you wish to check that one out.
In the beginning, the world I created was pure fantasy, with elves and dwarves and elemental magick. But somewhere along the way steampunk features began to seep in, with floating inns, aerial cableways running on steam, and mad scientists in war with religious zealots. Now the series is labeled as steampunk first and foremost. Add to those two adventure, mystery, and gay erotic romance genres, and you’ve got a weird mesh on your hands.
Yet, I loved writing these stories. The odder, the better. And the first two stories are only the beginning of what I have planned….
Steampunk is a literary genre that’s quite under-appreciated. It’s a subgenre of science fiction, and is considered to be popular among only a small percentage of scifi readers. But that seems like an over-simplification in my opinion, considering the wide range of stories fitting this genre. I dare to predict a rapid increase in popularity and success of steampunk.
In my stories, I wanted faeries with metal wings, dwarves developing dangerous steam technologies, and a world where natural magick and steam tech are incompatible, and yet both are seen as antitheses to the rise of religious fanaticism. I wanted flying mansions, living plants that can bite your hands off, and sentient trees growing high enough to reach the clouds.
In essence, I had weird stories in mind, and specific genre lines impeded my telling of those tall tales.
Since the world-space of the Isleshire Chronicles was founded on fantasy, it was easy to simple move things forward technologically, such as the basic dwarf artisan types becoming the masters of steam tech. Progress for any civilization is inevitable as time goes by—and so is eventual downfall.
Crumbling cities, fading steam tech, and threats of war bring with them the chance for adventure, which is yet another genre to explore. Feudal kingdoms at odds with the Divine Theocracy, steam-powered pistols, and energy-charged blades. These are all features of my stories, and they expand beyond one genre to the next. What about abhorrent constructs used as predatory rippers or zealots looking down their noses at the common folk below from their fancy cloud cities? Attributing aspects of a story to a single category, well, that’s not always the favorable outlook, especially not for tales that refuse to fit inside narrow lines.
How about a rebel druid with tattoos and piercings and a pie-in-the-sky dreamer sage-engineer? How about falling in love while being hunted and used as pawns in a larger scheme they cannot see? Love is a subject fitting any genre, and that overwhelming emotion can be sweet or kinky, innocent or twisted, effortless or dangerous. How two men who are such polar opposites fall in love and keep that love alive, let alone allow themselves the freedom of sexuality in a repressed world? Read my stories to find out for yourself.
As my general advice to writers is, if you can imagine in, you can write it. Dare to dream, and don’t let limitations cloud or obstruct your fantasies. Besides, write-what-you-know is a cliché and so passé. Let your imagination soar.
Thank you kindly, Carson, for having me guest here today :)

“Two weeks after their encounter with a ripper, engineering sage Jules Sterling and Earth mage Obadai Bashim are surprised to learn Aelfric Fairburn, a bureaucrat from the Divine Theocracy, has arrived in County Isleshire to reward Jules for his courageous defeat of the ripper.
Fairburn’s visit couldn’t come at a worse time, as Jules is in the field-testing phase of his dream project—flying. But the Virtuist Church of the Spirit Gods views man’s pursuit of flight as heresy and a contemptuous abomination of the ultimate ambition of the faithful—ascension.
But Fairburn’s judgment is the least of Jules’s problems. While he struggles to work out the kinks of his flying apparatus, a mysterious figure operates behind the scenes.”

Jules turned to watch Obadai stare at the table where the wooden, metal-tipped wings lay, half-finished and firmly attached to their struts and harness. As usual, Obadai’s lilac gaze was a mix of apprehension, curiosity, and admiration. That look, above anything he might have said, assured Jules that Obadai still did believe in Jules’s work, even if he worried.
“Everyone wants to fly,” he argued with the devout faith of a believer in imagination being the herald of brighter things to come. He realized how odd that was for him to say when his recent experiences up at the Lofty Lodge had reminded him how much he feared heights. Would flying be any different, with still nothing but air between him and the hard ground below?
“Even horses?” Obadai sounded skeptical. “I find that concept, um, a bit hard to wrap my brain around.”
“The steam technology we’ve built and relied on for two centuries is becoming scarce and obsolete with the advance of the Theocracy among the common populace. We need something to replace our steam airships and cableways now that they’re not getting the regular maintenance they require. Reliable, swift transports.” Jules’s nonstop mind fired up with images of new possible creations, and to keep them fresh in his mind, he quickly began to scribble them down on a parchment by the workbench. “Just think of it. If we could attach floating carriages, like tiny airships, to winged horses… well, there’s no place on Nebulosia we couldn’t reach.” He wrote down initial schematics and rough plans while he spoke, his hand practically flying over the parchment. “Everyone, and every thing, wants to fly.”
“I don’t.”
Jules looked up and saw Obadai smirk and give him a meaningful, daring glare. Jules rolled his eyes. “You’re a mage, a druid with the seed of Earth magicks. You’re an exception. You and your fellow Earth mages.”

Wishing Wings is available for pre-order in e-book formats from: Dreamspinner Press

Author Bio:
Susan Laine, a multi-published author of GLBT erotic romance and a Finn through and through, was raised by the best mother in the world. She told her daughter time and again that she could be whatever she wanted to be. The spark for serious writing kindled when Susan discovered the gay erotic romance genre.
Anthropology is Susan’s formal education, but her long-term sights are set on becoming a full-time writer of sizzling hot man love. Susan enjoys hanging out with her sister, nieces and friends in movie theaters, bookstores, and parks. Her favorite pastimes include pop music, action flicks, chocolate, and doing the dishes, while a few of her dislikes are sweating hot summer days, tobacco smoke, and purposeful prejudice.
Visit Susan’s website at or join her newsletter or write her an e-mail at
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