On my bookshelf – Adult Victorian Fantasy

Hello gentle reader,

I’ve recently read a couple of Adult books, all set in Victorian London and with some fantasy elements…

Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

Title: The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack (Burton & Swinburne #1)

Author: Mark Hodder

Genre: Steampunk/Alternate History

Blurb:

London, 1861.

Sir Richard Francis Burton—explorer, linguist, scholar, and swordsman; his reputation tarnished; his career in tatters; his former partner missing and probably dead.

Algernon Charles Swinburne—unsuccessful poet and follower of de Sade; for whom pain is pleasure, and brandy is ruin!

They stand at a crossroads in their lives and are caught in the epicenter of an empire torn by conflicting forces: Engineers transform the landscape with bigger, faster, noisier, and dirtier technological wonders; Eugenicists develop specialist animals to provide unpaid labor; Libertines oppose repressive laws and demand a society based on beauty and creativity; while the Rakes push the boundaries of human behavior to the limits with magic, drugs, and anarchy. The two men are sucked into the perilous depths of this moral and ethical vacuum when Lord Palmerston commissions Burton to investigate assaults on young women committed by a weird apparition known as Spring Heeled Jack, and to find out why werewolves are terrorizing London’s East End.

Their investigations lead them to one of the defining events of the age, and the terrifying possibility that the world they inhabit shouldn’t exist at all!

What I thought:

I enjoyed this book, although it became clear quite quickly this was an introductory book to a series. It has its own plot, but many aspects of the world and a lot of characters are just introduced to us and not fully developed. I’ll probably pick up at least Book 2 to see where this goes.

Mayhem

Title: Mayhem (Mayhem #1)

Author: Sarah Pinborough

Genre: Historical mystery with supernatural elements

Blurb:

A new killer is stalking the streets of London’s East End. Though newspapers have dubbed him ‘the Torso Killer’, this murderer’s work is overshadowed by the hysteria surrounding Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel crimes.

The victims are women too, but their dismembered bodies, wrapped in rags and tied up with string, are pulled out of the Thames – and the heads are missing. The murderer likes to keep them.

Mayhem is a masterwork of narrative suspense: a supernatural thriller set in a shadowy, gaslit London, where monsters stalk the cobbled streets and hide in plain sight.

What I thought:

I really liked this book. I loved that it focused on a (real) series of murders that happened at the same time as the Jack The Ripper murders. I also really enjoyed the supernatural twist. The second book in this duology will come out in April and I’ll definitely check it out.

Elijah's Mermaid

Title: Elijah’s Mermaid

Author: Essie Fox

Genre: Historical/Gothic with fantasy elements

Blurb:

Since she was found as a baby, floating in the Thames one foggy night, the web-toed Pearl has been brought up in a brothel known as the House of Mermaids. Cosseted and pampered there, it is only when her fourteenth birthday approaches that Pearl realises she is to be sold to the highest bidder.
Meanwhile, the orphaned twins, Lily and Elijah, have shared an idyllic childhood, raised in a secluded country house with their grandfather, Augustus Lamb. But when Lily and Elijah go on a visit London, a chance meeting with the ethereal Pearl will have repercussions for all of them, binding their fates together in a dark and dangerous way…

In this bewitching, sensual novel, Essie Fox has written another tale of obsessive love and betrayal, moving from the respectable worlds of Victorian art and literature, and into the shadowy demi-monde of brothels, asylums and freak show tents – a world in which nothing and no-one is quite what they seem to be.

What I thought:

This book wasn’t what I expected. It’s slow-paced, and written in the style of a 19th Century novel. The two main characters are very passive, which I don’t really like, especially when they are female characters. And all in all, it was quite predictable. Maybe it just wasn’t for me.

What have you been reading lately? Any Victorian book you’d recommend?

Feel free to leave me a comment below!

New Project Reveal – Part 6: Why did I write this book?

Hello gentle reader,

this week again I’m taking part in the Thursday’s Children meme hosted by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez. It is “a weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them.”

thurschilbadgejpg

In these posts, I share a little bit more about what I’ve been working on, a YA Historical Fantasy entitled LILY IN THE SHADOWS.

LILY is currently in the hands of its first beta readers, and this week I’ve asked myself “why did I write this book?” “What was the writing motivation behind it?”

Then I came across the answer in an anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy short stories I have been reading…

Queen Victoria's Book of Spells

“The enthusiasm for Steampunk has produced some marvellous, incisive writing, and some gorgeous pieces of art. But it has also glamorized the Victorian era and too often ignored the exploitation and immiseration of the working class of England as well as the inhabitants of the lands England sought to rule. The fiery, corseted heroines, the eccentric but brilliant inventors, the rakish and charming younger sons — the wealth and comfort of these few depended on the suffering of many, many people. Even the wealthy of the 19th Century suffered, of course, in an era prior to antibiotics and most of the vaccinations we take for granted today. (…) It’s easy to forget how the people who indulged in afternoon tea rituals, admired clockwork-powered inventions, and wore shapely and beautiful corsets and bustles profited from the death and suffering of others every time they lit a candle. (…) And it’s easy to wonder how those people, who considered themselves so civilized, could have accepted the price others paid for their comfort and wealth.”

Veronica Schanoes, “Phosphorus” in Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

This is EXACTLY why I wrote Lily In The Shadows. I wanted to write the story of an obscure flower girl, with no special power or talent, who tries to save the city of London from chaos and destruction. Lily lives in East London, she is partly deaf and she has no hope of ever marrying a king and becoming a princess in a fairy tale. But to me, it doesn’t mean her story shouldn’t be told. Every girl has a story to tell, even in the shadows.

So what made you want to write your Work In Progress? What inspired you this week? Feel free to leave me a comment below, and to visit the other Thursday’s Children posts here.

Book of the Week – 19

Hello gentle reader,

I have been so busy researching and writing Lily In The Shadows I haven’t read a book in ages! This week I decided it was time to read for fun again, and I picked up Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (published on 19th March 2013 by Tor). I figured short stories would help me ease back into my reading habits…

Queen Victoria's Book of Spells

From Goodreads:

“Gaslamp Fantasy,” or historical fantasy set in a magical version of the nineteenth century, has long been popular with readers and writers alike. A number of wonderful fantasy novels, including Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and The Prestige by Christopher Priest, owe their inspiration to works by nineteenth-century writers ranging from Jane Austen, the Brontës, and George Meredith to Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and William Morris. And, of course, the entire steampunk genre and subculture owes more than a little to literature inspired by this period.

Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells is an anthology for everyone who loves these works of neo-Victorian fiction, and wishes to explore the wide variety of ways that modern fantasists are using nineteenth-century settings, characters, and themes. These approaches stretch from steampunk fiction to the Austen-and-Trollope inspired works that some critics call Fantasy of Manners, all of which fit under the larger umbrella of Gaslamp Fantasy. The result is eighteen stories by experts from the fantasy, horror, mainstream, and young adult fields, including both bestselling writers and exciting new talents such as Elizabeth Bear, James Blaylock, Jeffrey Ford, Ellen Kushner, Tanith Lee, Gregory Maguire, Delia Sherman, and Catherynne M. Valente, who present a bewitching vision of a nineteenth century invested (or cursed!) with magic.

The Line-up:
“The Fairy Enterprise” by Jeffrey Ford
“From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvelous, Scheduled for Premiere at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire)” by Genevieve Valentine
“The Memory Book” by Maureen McHugh
“Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells” by Delia Sherman
“La Reine D’Enfer” by Kathe Koja
“Briar Rose” by Elizabeth Wein
“The Governess” by Elizabeth Bear
“Smithfield” by James P. Blaylock
“The Unwanted Women of Surrey” by Kaaron Warren
“Charged” by Leanna Renee Hieber
“Mr. Splitfoot” by Dale Bailey
“Phosphorus” by Veronica Schanoes
“We Without Us Were Shadows” by Catherynne M. Valente
“The Vital Importance of the Superficial” by Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer
“The Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown” by Jane Yolen
“A Few Twigs He Left Behind” by Gregory Maguire
“Their Monstrous Minds” by Tanith Lee
“Estella Saves the Village” by Theodora Goss

What are you reading this week? Feel free to leave me a comment below!

My Week In Review – ROW80 Check-In 5

Hello gentle reader,

It is already time for the fifth check-in of this round! I hope you had a good and productive week…

ROW80 Check-In

ROW80 Logo

My goal for this round is to write every day. This week, I managed to write

4/7 days

Word Count of the Week

I’m currently trying to keep the Camp NaNoWriMo momentum and this week I added 7000 words to my Work In Progress. I’m very pleased with this, especially since I edit as I go. This word count means I’m *nearly* done with this novel…

TV Show of the Week

doctor-who-the-crimson-horror

This week’s episode of Doctor Who was set in Victorian England! It started off as a Gaslamp Fantasy, which I was thrilled about, but ended up being a sci-fi episode. I had a great time watching it nonetheless!

Links of the Week

This week I wrote a guest post on Aimee L. Salter’s blog about Writing Rules.

On my blog, I discussed How To Make The Most of a Novel Writing Month When You Don’t Have Time For It.

There And Draft Again now has over 100 followers and this week, Mara posted about Creating Fantasy Creatures and Rachel shared her Top Ten Fantasy Movies.

Meanwhile, The Write Stuff for Boston Auction is still in full swing and I suggest you check what’s being auctioned every day. Whether you’re a reader or a writer, there’s something for you there!

Finally, in case you missed it and if you need to smile… here is a Channing Friday post. I promise you it’s awesome.

Next Week

Next week I shall finish Lily In The Shadows. There’s no going back, now.

How was your week? Make sure to share your writing progress and what inspired you this week in the comment section below!

The 7 Line WIP Game & WIPpet Wednesday

Hello gentle reader,

A few weeks ago I was tagged by the lovely Rachel Horwitz in the 7 Line WIP Game meme (thanks Rachel for thinking of me!). I have also wanted to take part in the WIPpet Wednesday Blog Hop hosted by K.L. Schwengel for a while, so I thought today was a good day as any to share with you an excerpt from my Work In Progress LILY IN THE SHADOWS.

M.LIN Lights

LILY IN THE SHADOWS is a YA Historical Fantasy. Here is the pitch:

When all the flowers die in Victorian London, a streetwise flower girl with a love for books and a gift for getting into trouble investigates before the city descends into chaos and she loses everything.

In the following scene, Lily is coming home after a somewhat exciting day in London, but she is not made to feel as welcome as she was expecting…

Excerpt (unedited):

“So listen to this…”

Wes’s face darkened dangerously and my smile died on my lips. I realised his anger might be directed at me after all, and I didn’t finish my sentence, turning around to reconsider Elsie’s behaviour. Motionless, she was looking at us with wide eyes. In fact, the flat was so quiet I could hear the coal sputtering in the stove, the rain splattering against the tin roof and the neighbours having an argument next door.

I took a tiny step back from Wes, still unsure of what was wrong. His jaw was clenched and his lean body tensed. He scowled, his dark eyes fixed on me. My heartbeat quickened slightly, but my brain still refused to process the obvious: he was angry at me.

This is a blog hop! Visit the other participating blogs here.

New Project Reveal – Part 5: Genre

Hello gentle reader,

this week again I’m taking part in the Tursday’s Children meme hosted by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez. It is “a weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them.”

thurschilbadgejpg

In these posts, I share a little bit more about what I’ve been working on, a YA Historical Fantasy entitled LILY IN THE SHADOWS. Today’s theme was inspired by a Twitter chat hosted by Tor Publishing yesterday under the hashtag #torchat

Inspired by a genre: Gaslamp Fantasy

M.LIN Lights

 So until now, and in order to make these posts as accessible as possible, I have been saying my Work In Progress is a “Young Adult Historical Fantasy set in Victorian London”. And it isn’t wrong, except there is an actual name for this genre, coined in 2006 by webcomic artist Kaja Foglio to differentiate her work from steampunk fiction. It is the “Gaslamp Fantasy” genre.

What is “Gaslamp Fantasy”?

Gaslamp Fantasy (also known as Gaslight Fantasy or Victorian Fantasy) designates stories set during the 19th Century, from the Regency to the end of Queen Victoria’s reign. It is a sub-genre of both Fantasy and Historical fiction, and it comprises elements from both genres.

How is it different from Steampunk?

The main difference between Gaslamp and Steampunk is that Steampunk is technology-focused and Gaslamp is magic-focused. Also Steampunk will often favour adventure when Gaslamp will focus on a mystery.

What books are examples of Gaslamp Fantasy?

Jonathan_strange_and_mr_norrell_cover

The classic example is Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004). Other examples include The Magic Most Foul series by Leanna Renee Hieber (2011-now), The Rook by Daniel O’Malley (2012) or Temeraire (aka His Majesty’s Dragon in the US) by Naomi Novik (2006).

How is LILY IN THE SHADOWS Gaslamp Fantasy?

LILY takes place in London during Queen Victoria’s reign. It is a Historical novel, because I have been very careful to re-create 1862’s London and to double-check every historical detail. But it is also a Fantasy, because magic infiltrates every part of the novel. I want this story to combine this magic with an industrial age that was changing England, its people and the world along with it. 19th Century England was an era of scientific discoveries, of exploration, changes, where common people sought and found answers and explanations for the first time in centuries. But it was also the time pollution, poverty and crime got out of hand.

Writing Gaslamp Fantasy allows me to explore all these interesting aspects of that moment in time.

So are you ever inspired by a genre? Or do you write your novel first, then find which genre it belongs to? Feel free to leave me a comment below, and to visit the other Thursday’s Children posts here.