A Clockwork’s Critique: The Works and World of Lori Alden Holuta, Part One

Dear Reader:

Herein, I shall attempt a series examining the (both existing and upcoming) works of author Lori Alden Holuta.  The series starts with the first published review (I think!) of her short story The Steamkettle Kids Saves The Day.  From there, I will work through the rest of her works in order of publication.  I hope to end the series with an interview with the author about her writings, her influences, and her hopes – not only for her writings but for the world she has created.

Sincerely,

E.P. Isaacs

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The Steamkettle Kids Save The Day

Type: Short Story

Author: Lori Alden Holuta

Available At: The Brassbright Chronicle

Whatsis:

The story concerns the budding world of Industralia.  For the uninitiated, this is a land that first appears in print with this story, however, it will be expanded in the book “The Flight To Brassbright.”  The story concerns two children and their attempts to thwart a group of ne’er-do-wells bent on a scheme that will hurt the working people of their city gravely.

Thoughts:

To me, this tale evokes images, characters, and the general feel of other tales for preteens and teens that I’ve read growing up – such as “Soup” by Robert Peck, “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O. Henry, and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain.  Generally speaking, I liked it a great deal.

When Positives and Negatives Collide:

The setting, for the story’s size is well-detailed.  However, I went into the story not knowing that it wasn’t a full book.  I quickly identified with the heroine, a Miss Paisley Pockets.  For the size of the story, the author does a very good job of telling the reader about her – just enough about her – to move the story forward and make the reader want to connect with her.  She seems like “Little Orphan Annie Meets Huck Finn.”

The other characters are good, but Paisley steals the show.  I don’t feel as much of a connection with them.  That could just be me.  It could be that we are only dealing with a short story.  Who knows?  As the universe of Industralia expands, however, I think the residents we find in Miss Holuta’s freshman work will each find their own time to shine.

All in all, this was right up my alley.  I loved it.  It’s fun, and innocent, and good – in style and otherwise.  The only real negative is that I feel cheated.  I want more story, because when the story ended, I wasn’t expecting it.  I guess if I want more, I have to “buy the book.”  Shrewd marketing ploy, Miss Holuta!  For you and your publisher, and I think I just might bite.

At 99 cents, why not buy your own copy of “The Steamkettle Kids Save The Day”, and tell me what you think?

 

 

Of “Stan And Ollie”

The next book in Nika’s adventures touches on vaudeville theater.  Like many small town kids of my generation, I grew up watching two comedy acts on Saturday morning television that got their start in  vaudeville.  These comedy acts were The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy.  It seems that a movie of the latter act will be coming to light – hopefully soon.

There are many reasons to despair any time a movie like this surfaces.  Who is making the picture?  How involved is the subject’s estate?  Who will be writing and directing?  Who are the stars?  How invested are they in making sure that they get the roles they’ve been given ‘right’?  In 2000, a movie chronicling the rise and fall of The Three Stooges was made.  It is the only post-mortem biopic of the comedy trio of which I am aware.  It was watchable, but it didn’t carry the same weight or polish as a movie like 1992’s Chaplin.  Where will Stan and Ollie fall compared to these two?

For now, I am optimistic about the project.  The BBC was responsible for developing it, and stars Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly will play the leads.  The meat of capturing and crafting Coogan and Reilly’s work seems like it has been assigned to capable hands.  I hope so.  Until the movie comes out, I (and you, dear reader) can be content watching and reading about Laurel and Hardy at the official Laurel and Hardy website.

Happy Monday, one and all!

 

A Clockwork’s Critique: A Study In Steampunk – Choice By Gaslight

Type: Interactive Novel
Author: Heather Albano
Where Found: Google Play, Choice of Games, iTunes, The Steam Store

Whatsis:

An army surgeon in a time and place vaguely similar to Britain in the 1880s-1890s (and yet not Britain) works to preserve his homeland against the machinations of those who oppose his queen and country. By the end of the story, his actions (guided by you, fair reader) have unforeseen implications on all those he holds dear.

Thoughts:

Choice of Games does not disappoint. I have read many of their titles. I have yet to find one I do not like. The author has done a superb job at melding a number of steampunk tropes into this work. You want airships? Check. Disaffected and disgruntled labor movements? Check. Steam-mechs? Sure! Sorcery and intrigue? Yep! All of these elements are woven into a coherent narrative.

The story starts a bit clumsily for my taste. The main empire (Mercia) is a bit too much like Britain – without being Britain – and I initially bogged down trying to understand whether or not the author intended a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure historical novel with steampunk overtones. Once the author’s intent became clear (extremely early on), my enjoyment of the work picked up markedly (within the first page or two).

By the end of the first read-through, I was silently cursing myself at the choices I had made, primarily the one that led to the death of my spouse. I didn’t finish the first read-though, instead opting to start over from the beginning. Despite the problems I had with the opening of the book, I did enjoy it, and I would readily recommend it to others that appreciate interactive novels and steampunk literature.

Where Positives and Negatives Collide:

As I stated, I thought the story was compelling enough to read through a couple of times. It held my interest, and by the end of the story both times I felt extremely world-weary and tired. The author’s writing is solid, and it allowed me to connect with what my character was experiencing at a depth that I am not used to in titles that use the Choice of Games engine.

That being said, I think the story borrowed a bit too much from familiar steampunk conventions without presenting anything particularly new or memorable. As well, I wish that the author had included the ability for the main character of the novel to be either gender. The Victorian Age (in which many steampunk stories find the roots of the cultures they present) was a time of male-supremacy, to be sure. Still, the Victorians were not without women ready to challenge convention – from Susan B. Anthony to Nellie Bly to women like those that fought and died in engagements like the United States Civil War. Granted, the story HAS strong and important female characters. You just can’t be one even if you wanted to.

Allowing the character to be female would have possibly opened up the protagonist to the complex illusions women in combat roles in Victorian societies had to undergo to stay where they thought they should be. Introducing the possibility of a female main character could have exposed the reader to blackmail, unwanted (or wanted!) advances by members of their same biological sex, and made attempts to court characters in the story infinitely more difficult. For me, this element or a host of other changes that could have been tried would have made a good story such as this that much better. I also wish there were more romance choices. Why? Because, it’s romance. Who doesn’t need more romance in their lives?

Just adding this writer’s two cents to a tale already worth far more than its $3.99 price tag. Keep calm, and read on!

Back In The Saddle: It’s 2016, And I Am With A Doll Named Vengeance

Dear Reader:

The new year is upon us. What will you do with it? What are your resolutions? I know what mine are. I’m going to share them with you so that I am more likely to meet them. When we tell others our hopes, dreams and goals, we are more likely to strive for them. It’s like we expect them to hold us accountable or something. I’m not sure why, but it’s true. It works.

So, what are my goals for 2016? Become better at illustrating, have a book of poetry and the second book of Nika’s tales in print, and finish Nanowrimo 2016 as a winner with the third book in Nika’s series. By the end of the year, if I do this, I want to start Ghisling’s tale, too. I plan to have a new blog entry once a week, and the entries will alternate between personal updates, book progress updates, reviews of steampunk or clockpunk media, and commentary on transgender issues worldwide.

I’ve kicked off my goals today by sifting through GIMP’s tutorial sections and some online galleries of some of my favorite artists. L. Frank Baum had W.W. Denslow and John Neill. All Nika has is me. Not saying her story is as grand as Oz, but it’s her story. It’s the only one she has. And it deserves something. So, for any of you that might have an eye for late 1800s-early 1900s eye candy, I’ll include a few links. W.W. Denslow and Winsor McCay were all about lines. Their drawings were simple, and beautiful, and whimsical and breathtaking (to me …). If you don’t know either of these men, who knows? Their drawings might catch your eye too.

And with that, I am off to work on the outline of my second book. Wherever you are and whatever you do on this first day of 2016, may your New Year be a good one, dear friends!

Sincerely,

E.P. Isaacs

On The Horizon: Nanowrimo And Book Two

Dear Friends:

E.P. Isaacs here.  The month of November is almost upon us.  During that month, there is a writer’s event called Nanowrimo.  Yeah, you already know about it?  Most people do.  Especially insane writerly-types.

During November, I hope to lay down the framework of Book Two.  I already have a title.  I’m also sketching out the plot structure and main characters.  The story opens with Patience watching a movie with her mother. It ends with a little girl taking off with a lost little boy in search of her best friend.

There are moments that send me into fits of laughter. There are two moments that almost bring me to my knees. There will be more world-building, and the Witch Queen will begin to rise in her full glory.

We will understand WHY human children are taken by the fey … and readers will meet the little girl that the mother lost at the beginning of Book One. The story will be darker than the first, as the reader begins to see more of this world. It’s not a pretty world – but it is beautiful. And when the light shines through it, it shimmers.

I will do my best to have the book done – in a finished form – by April of 2016.  I am studying illustration, so I hope the drawings and cover for Book Two will be better than what I could offer for Book One.

In the lead-up to Book Two, I am planning to retire the first printing of Book One from production.  I will have an updated, crisper second printing available by January.  I also plan to step up my marketing game – but right now, I have other things to contend with that are grabbing my attention.  Nika is a grand girl, and she has a great story.  Unfortunately, she tags me with typing the story, drawing the pictures, and editing it.  Now, she’s asking me about marketing.

I’ll do my best, dear readers – for you and for Nika.

Sincerely,

E.P. Isaacs

The ‘nited Clockwork Postal Service Seeks Workers

What happens when Nika gets control of a keyboard?  This …


Are you ready to do what it takes to give people faith in the mail?

Are you of a most steady and sure make and model?

Are you good with a side-arm (if you have them) or front arms (if you don’t have a side arm)?  Do you have arms?  If not, care’ying the mail may be hard.  You may want an other line of work.

If you are a fan of steampunk, role-play, and civil service, the UCPS now seeks workers to staff its post office branches in New Babbage and Mar’kesh.  Please send a note to the Post-Mistress of the UCPS showing you have an int’rest in playing a clockwork mail servant – or that you have questions about doing so.

You are welcome to discuss this further with Nika.  Working with her, you will create a clockwork mail-servant, complete with backstory, purpose – and your own clockwork key.  You will work with Nika to spearhead new and wondrous ways to serve the Steamlands of Second Life – and to improve roleplay for one and all.

To learn more about Nika and the UCPS, please visit http://werksfromtheironroad.com – or just drop her a note.  Thank you for your time – but it’s time to run.  After all, the mail never sleeps, and neither do we.


If you wish to visit the UCPS Headquarters, follow the link for it on the UCPS page.  If you have any questions about Second Life, the UCPS, or the life and times of a little clockwork mail-girl, please send a note to me or Nika using the ‘Comments’ form also on the UCPS page.

To learn more about Second Life, please visit: http://www.secondlife.com .

Most Sincere We Remain,

N. Thought-werk & E.P. Isaacs