Having had a few weeks break from the stresses of getting Steam on the Horizon published, my mind is now starting to bend towards Clouds of War, Book Two. I just picked the draft up for the first time in months to discover that I have twenty-one chapters and 114,281 words written. This was all originally part of what I assumed would be Steam on the Horizon. That assumption disappeared once I hit about 188,000 words and realized that I was going to have a 600+ page book. A pitiless decapitation followed, slicing off the first three months of the tale to become Steam on the Horizon and leaving the following nine months to form the next book.
The draft for Clouds of War is completed from start to finish with a strong opening and a gripping ending. In the middle are a multitude of golden passages, silken phrases, and quite a lot of garbage that demands immediate removal. I already know a big scene that is going to get the chop because it is stupid. As a whole, I think the concept is good but there is an enormous amount of work ahead of me.
One element I have been mulling over is how much technology I want to incorporate into the Crimean War. Historically, most of the Crimean War happened in the bleak, desolate Crimean Peninsula. Cargo had to be shipped into the narrow, twisted Balaklava Bay, and supplies were hard to come by. The Horizon's main role will be supplying the army during the first winter of the Crimean War since she is fleet and agile enough to fly across enemy territory and quickly get supplies where they need to go. I think what I will do is have the military attempt to incorporate advanced technology into the war (heliographs, war airships, reconnaissance air balloons) with wholly unsuccessful results due to massive infrastructure problems, unforgiving terrain, unstable weather, and ongoing maintenance issues.
Another issue I am pondering is the use of actual historical figures. The draft for Clouds of War is full of real names: Florence Nightingale, the earl of Cardigan, Lord Raglan, and other key people during the Crimean War. However, I need to do some research about any potential legal issues for using real historical names. Since all of these people have long since shuffled off this mortal coil, I don't think it will be a problem, but I do need to check.
On other steampunk notes, I have been in discussions with people lately about this question: "Do you call yourself a steampunk?" Stylistically and grammatically, I have problems with the phrase, "I'm a steampunk." It sounds so awkward and ungainly, and the use of "steampunk" as a noun throws up a host of problems. Granted, steampunk is a noun in many cases: it is a genre, a subculture, a movement. The phrase "Steampunk is a subculture that is growing in popularity" is perfectly appropriate and stylistically pleasing. "Steampunk" as an adjective is also fine: "Her steampunk costume is amazing" is grammatically sound. Yet there is something in me that recoils about the idea of describing a person as a steampunk. I have no idea why: we refer to people as Goths or emos and there is nothing wrong-sounding about either word use. The alternate is not pretty either: while I have occasionally said, "I'm a steampunker" this sounds awful too.
I generally skip the issue by simply stating that I am "into" steampunk or I "do" steampunk. In the same manner, I have described myself as "practicing" martial arts without stating explicitly that I am a martial artist (which conjures up images in my mind of someone in white pyjamas wielding a paint brush while doing back flips). Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that while I am into a variety of hobbies that heavily color my life, I don't draw all my sense of identity from them. There are those who are fully immersed in the steampunk aesthetic and mentality and these people would probably be more likely to describe themselves as steampunk/steampunkers. I'm just not quite settled in my mind if I want to say, "I am a steampunk" verses, "I am into steampunk."