The Next Big Thing

So there’s this thing going around a bunch of people’s blogs where we talk about our current writing projects. I got tagged, and after blowing it off for a week or two, I finally got around to making my post. It’s a long one, but hopefully it sounds interesting. Really hopefully, cause I’ve been slogging away on it for a while now! Stick to the end and I will link back to some other blog posts by other authors, and I will also tag some new folks. IT COULD BE YOU!

Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing


1. What is the title of the work-in-progress that you’re hoping will get you Rowling/Meyer/King money?

Chiaroscuro (also sometimes goes by The City of Light and Shadow)

2. Where did you steal this idea?

So there’s this song, Nara, by E.S. Posthumus, that has been used as the temp track for, like, every epic movie trailer ever. The first time I recall hearing it, I got an image in my head of a Venetian-style harbor. I think I might have come off a recent viewing of Dangerous Beauty, and I had Veronica Franco on the brain. But unlike the flat, marshy landscape of Venice, the port city I saw was carved into these Andean-style cliffs, giving the entire city a vertical geography. Because of that vertical geography, I imagined not only merships coming into a merport, but dirigible aeroships coming into an aeroport, with the city as a linchpin of trade between the two.

That first image of the city (now named Benechiaro, with the lower slums called L’Scuro) got me thinking about the geography and history that would go into the making of that kind of settlement, and something about gold rush era San Francisco felt right. Someone found a rich lode of unobtanium in the mountains (called teled, a slightly radioactive substance that can be used as a clean-burning fuel, but also refined into a billion other products. Think oil and rubber combined). Settlement in the little harbor of Benechiaro happened quickly, lots of people got rich, and the trading port sprang up because the forbidding coastline offered few natural harbors.

From there, I started thinking about social structures and economics, politics, the history before settlement, religions, traditions, and how they all interconnected. Y’know… anthropologist stuffs. While the original idea for Benechiaro was based on Venice, I knew this was a marginal/periphery city, with the centers of civilization being more like the Middle East, India, and China (some might argue that this isn’t actually a change at all).

I was also reading a lot on alchemy and early Enlightenment humanism at the time (especially Spinoza’s Ethics), which seemed to mesh well with the Venetian décor, so alchemy and humanist philosophy ended up being the basis for a secular sort of belief system based on the hierarchy of metals and the belief that spiritual change took place in the imminent through self and social improvement. This stood in contrast to the theist religions of the original Al Azsharan, Denkali, and Qi Zhuan prospectors who came to Benechiaro.

From those underpinnings, I started laying out a social order based not on our understandings of race/class/gender, but on a structure of Materia (with people divided as Terrans/Aerisians/Ignans/Aquans, according to their family lifeways and geography) and Caste (with different orders in the Caste system legally allowed to engage in different kinds of economic and social behaviors while being restricted from others). The idea here was to show the constructedness and yet the historic and social embeddedness of race/class/gender as identity categories.

So I had a world, but not a story to put into it. On a long drive from Texas to Indiana, my partner and I were talking about this world I’d been noodling over, and he said the thing I needed to hear: “If this were a game, how would you run it?” That question got me thinking in terms of story and characters and plot, rather than worldbuilding. From there, I kind of went a ‘disaster movie’ route. A threat is introduced early in the story, and the impending threat lurks under the everyday doings of the various p.o.v. characters as they go through their day-to-day lives and suffer ‘normal’ complications, but all the while, you know this thing is coming to destroy the people and the city that I’ve hopefully made you fall in love with.

3. What genre does your manuscript wear like a coat, and what’s the shockingly skimpy & alluring genre that shows up once you open the book?

Contemporary Fantasy, I guess? But really, it’s like China Miéville and the Wachowski siblings had a love child. It’s all Marxist economics and philosophy and genderfuck under the hood. I have also discovered that when other writers get bored, they throw in a plot twist or an action sequence. When I get bored, I throw in another romance.

4. Which actors would you kidnap and force to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Like any good disaster movie or epic fantasy, there are a bunch of different p.o.v. characters with a bunch of different storylines that come together in the climax. However, because I’m working with a smaller geographic area, the storylines are much more intertwined. This means that the p.o.v. characters knock boots a lot more often than they do in, say, Song of Ice and Fire or Wheel of Time (which means you don’t have to go a hundred pages without running into your favorites, and that while a scene might progress Plot A, I can also make Plot B run streaking through the scene to show a little progress on other fronts). It also means that I get to show contrasting viewpoints on the same issues and events, where a poor sailor might have a very different interpretation of something like the Caste system than a rich nobleman.

Narrowing down from the cast of thousands, here’s my main eight and a few of their close buddies.

Signore Matteo Trujillo
Materia/Caste: Terran Piccola Aristo
Details: Exiled former aristocrat, sailor on the run, in a developing romance with Amedea
Special power: Constantly gets recognized
Played by: Michael Ealy

Conté Sebastian di Adami
Materia/Caste: Terran Grande Aristo
Details: reluctant heir to the Principe, sarcastic political commentator, Pippa’s brother, Kate’s lover, Giules’ betrothed
Special power: will become Principe no matter how hard he tries to avoid it
Played by: Justin Hartley

Materia/Caste: Terran Rietto
Details: Crossdressing spy, Commedia Fool, Badass, Antonio’s twin sister, in a developing romance with Matteo
Special power: Can talk her way out of just about anything, has an awesome brother
Played by: Greta Gerwig

Fideo Antonio
Materia/Caste: Terran Maestro
Details: Priest of Sanno Argenta, Generally good guy, Amedea’s twin brother, in a developing romance with Scarlotti
Special power: Tolerates Amedea’s snark, has true faith in people
Played by: Ryan Gosling

Belladona Pietralina “Pippa” di Adami
Materia/Caste: Terran Grande Aristo
Details: Financier, budding abolitionist, Sebastian’s sister, in a developing poly romance with Giules and Visri
Special power: Economically and politically savvy, can overcome a crippling fear of heights
Played by: Ellen Page


Belladona Giuliana ‘Giules’ Trinchero
Materia/Caste: Terran Grande Aristo
Details: Aeronaut, abolitionist, Sebastian’s betrothed, in a developing poly romance with Visri and Pippa
Special power: Getting Pippa into trouble, flying aeroships
Played by: Jessica Williams


Rigger Visri
Materia/Caste: Aerisian Maestro
Details: Aeronautical engineer with wings, in a developing poly romance with Giules and Pippa
Special Power: Infinite patience. Wings.
Played by: no clue. Someone exceedingly androgynous, preferably male


Sadaz (aka, Kofi)
Materia/Caste: Ignan Schiavo
Details: Transgender clockwork golem, escapee from justice, revolutionary abolitionist
Special power: is secretly a pretty princess trapped in the body of brutish barbarian
Played by: No clue. My mental image is kind of a young Daniel Day Lewis.


Giacomo Scarlotti
Materia/Caste: Terran Maestro
Details: Heretical painter, in a developing romance with Antonio
Special power: really good at art, knows everyone
Played by: My friend Ray


Ekaterina “Kate” Dubynich
Materia/Caste: Terran Maestro
Details: Composer, former ‘La Citta’, Sebastian’s lover
Special power: Political powerhouse, knows everyone
Played by: Kate Winslet



5. When someone demands to know about this brilliant project, what’s the one sentence you give them?

Clockworks and courtesans, rapiers and repartee, Dumás meets Dangerous Beauty

6. If it doesn’t get repped/bought by an agent/editor, are you going to trunk it or self-publish?

Self-pub. I don’t really believe in trunk stories. If I loved it enough to put this much into it, someone else might find something in it for them. No story ever changed the world by sitting in a trunk.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The worldbuilding and the first 15k I wrote a few years ago. That sat around for a while. I started working on this in earnest back in January 2012-ish. I just broke 100k, and I anticipate the final first draft will be around 150k.

8. What other books in the same genre do you hope people will compare your story to?

Song of Ice and Fire, Perdido Street Station, Kushiel series. Hey, dream big, right?

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Sources of inspiration include:
An Honest Courtesan, by Margaret Rosenthal
Ethics, by Spinoza
Undoing Gender, by Judith Butler
The Chemical Choir: A History of Alchemy, by P.G. Maxwell-Stuart
Globalization and its Discontents, by Joseph Stiglitz
The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld, by Herbert Asbury
The Deryni series, by Katherine Kurtz

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Dude! Clockwork golems! Aeroships and merships! Androgynous bird people and cthulian merfolk! Transgender romances, gay romances, straight romances AND poly romances! Pseudo-Italian enlightenment stuff! Alchemy! Economics, globalization, humanist philosophy, gender, race, and class critiques AND the promise of a disaster!

No seagulls will be killed onstage. Promise.

Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

My CW2012 classmate Carlie St. George tagged me, and several of my C-dub cohorts have posted. See all below for some awesome projects.

Cory Skerry

Helen Marshall

Kim Neville

Blythe Woolston

For my tagging… um… let’s poke one CWest person and some of my favorite non-CWest writing buddies:


Georgina Kamsika

S.L. Knapp

Marie Brennan

Mike Underwood

Alec Austin

Aight, Cory. I want my art like you promised!

45 thoughts on “The Next Big Thing”

  1. I ambled over to this page by chance. Loved the fic. It’s just what I needed after watching Doomsday yesterday. I love that you brought back nine because even though I love ten, I still miss the intensity of nine.

  2. Oh! I had almost forgot about this fic. Thanks for updating! Wonderful ending. They’re just so god damn cute together. Would have been nice to read more about Rose saying goodbye to her family and Jackie slapping the Doctor, though. That amuses me. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed the read!

    1. Thanks so much! Sorry I glossed over the confrontation with Jackie. I was trying to rush back to the TARDIS for the angry console sex that eventually got scrapped. I’m glad that you liked the cute instead (and yeah, they really are just too cute)

    1. Thanks so much. And yeah, you really need to come visit soon, or I need to come visit you soon (I’m teaching in Indy on Mondays and Wednesdays now, so it’s only a little jaunt to come up for the evening). I just got the BBC Casanova with Tennant, and I must show it to you for it is good. It’s actually what helped me to finish this.

      1. an am intregued…

        and now that wally has a job we’ll be able to afford going on little jaunts without so much worry.

        Look for me on late Feb. after a paycheck has arrived.

  3. I’ve really loved this story. I adore Ten, but I do miss Nine, and I love how you brought him back, and the Rose/Nine scenes were lovely.

    Ten working up his self-righteous fury might be the cutest thing ever.

      1. Casanova was seriously cool. I watched it, oh ages back now, and I can still remember some of his great expressions. He was so perfect for that role.

        *makes note to get the DVDs of that*

    1. I think you’ll appreciate the sequel, when I get around to writing it. Right now though I have some interpenetration anthropology pron to write for Scat Hardcore.

  4. Oh, yes, the perfect finish. 🙂 Really liked it.

    The farewell with Nine was so poignant, and yet at the same time just right. I loved this:

    “Careful. You’re going to hurt my future regeneration’s feelings.”

    “Tough,” she continued to smile, “He gets around to telling me what those feelings are, and then he can have the moral high ground. Me not wanting this you to go doesn’t mean I love future you any less.”

    That’s absolutely right – and I assume Ten now remembers her saying that to him? 😉

    Ten remembering Rose and Nine ‘ditching him’ was great – typical Doctor, getting jealous of himself 😉 What I liked most about this story isn’t the smut, though it’s damn good, but it’s that you told a story along with it, a story with character development and real poignancy, and some terrific Nine. 🙂

    Now what was that about rescuing Jack? 😉

    1. Wow. Thank you for all of this! Yeah, Ten now remembers (I originally had him reference having the moral high ground, but it didn’t flow with the rest of the dialogue).

      And I think there will be a Jack sequel, and probably also a Nine/Ten out-take at some point, but now that I’m finished with this I’m finally going to be getting back to writing my S2 Nine/Rose AU fic! Which means I can finally return some DVD’s to Netflix. Hooray!

      1. A Jack sequel? YAY!!! *will haunt T&C looking for it* 😉 And I’m looking forward to the Nine/Ten out-take too. I was sorry we didn’t get to see the two of them saying goodbye to each other.

        BTW, I hope you don’t mind if I point out a grammar error you make a lot – it’s really easy to fix, so if you know what the rule is it’ll be simple in future. It’s to do with punctuation around dialogue. You do this a lot:

        “Hey,” she smiled shyly, reaching out a hand to him. Relief flooded his face with an answering smile.

        “Hello,” he took her hand.

        Dialogue should only be followed by a comma and a continuation of the sentence where the verb following the dialogue is a speech tag (such as he said, or she shouted, for example). Where there’s no speech tag, the narrative is a new sentence. So the above quoted text should be like this:

        “Hey.” She smiled shyly, reaching out a hand to him. Relief flooded his face with an answering smile.

        “Hello.” He took her hand.

        Hope this helps! 🙂

      2. As I said, it might be a while, but it’s definitely on my list of stuff I want to do (I haven’t seen any Torchwood yet, so it will probably wait until then).

        And thank you, thank you, thank you for the grammar correction. It’s been so long since I’ve written fiction with dialogue that I’ve forgotten some of the basic rules (hangs head in shame), but I know how distracting even little errors like that can be. Probably why I should get myself a beta (along with my tendency to start sentences with conjunctions, and to abuse and overuse commas).

      3. isn’t Netflix just awesome?!

        too bad all of the 1st disc of season 2 was so srewed up. they all cut out of “New Earth” about 3/4 through and suddenly yor watching Texa Chainsaw massacre. It was odd.

  5. Oh noes, it’s over! The lovely Doctor duality is no more! Well, while all my fanfic-reading-personas are off crying (smut fiend, squeeing fangirl, etc.), I’ll say that this is one of the best 9/10 team ups I’ve ever read. And the tons of Rose love makes it a favorite! Thanks very much for such a fantastic story!

    One question though: any chance of a reunion with Jack? ^_^

  6. A wonderful finish to a fantastic series. 😀 You have me liking Nine more than Ten in your series, and I’m definitely a Ten girl. I love how they can be romantic, but still be the people they always were, always going on the adventures. That’s important to the core of both the Doctor and rose. I’m glad that the Doctor was able to get those memories back and not just for the comedic fun of him muttering about being ditched. *L* Yay for ending on ‘fantastic’!

  7. This was gorgeous. Wonderful smut and, even better, a fantastic angsty story that wraps around it. The emotions, the interactions between characters and, yes, the jealousy between the two versions of the Doctor was perfect. Thank you so much for sharing… and I look forward to any possible sequels! 🙂

  8. Got here through a vague circuitous route of whofic and I am so glad I ended up on your gorgeous fic – oh so fabulous, the whole way through! And then that last line … Beautiful!

    And did someone say let’s find Jack? *perks up ears* I’d love to see what you do with that … !

  9. re: Pair of Docs

    This was fantastic!

    I’m very new to the Who-fandom (as in discovered the Doctor this past weekend), and am now obsessively reading fic. My favorite of the two is Nine, and always will be, but I loved this with both of them. I loved seeing the differences – and similarities – between the two.

    And OMGHot!!! Oh, to be Rose…

  10. Hugggnnnhhhhhgguuurrrhggghhh (*drools and feels like a dirty old woman*)
    Which is excactly how I feel every time I think of a Weasley twin sandwich.

    You get the idea. 😉

  11. I want somebody to make a gorgeous drawing of the city. It sounds so utterly awesome: the kind of wildly imaginative thing that fantasy could be doing more often, but rarely does. And the Materia and Castes! So much good stuff. 🙂

    1. Yeah. If only I knew any artists *cough*AVERY*cough*CORY*cough*

      Although I still have half a novella also set in this world, about two years before the book, that I want to hire an artist to help me make into a graphic novel.

      Novel first. Novella afterwards. Graphic novel… shyeah, I have that kind of money right now.

      Kickstarter, I guess…

  12. I continue to be super-excited about this project, and can’t wait to read it. 🙂

    Also, I now have something to do during lunch — I’ll be posting for Metaphysical Fencing Academy. Though finding pictures may take a while.

    1. Woot! I love the Metaphysical Fencing Academy idea so much!

      So does that mean you’ve finished the sequel to Geekomancy? Also, glad to see you haven’t washed away with the rest of New York!

      1. We came through the storm just fine — lost internet for a couple of hours, that was it.

        I am in fact done with the first draft of the Geekomancy sequel (which will probably but not definitely be titled Celebromancy) — I finished on Sunday afternoon, before holing up in the apartment for a day and a half to wait out the storm.

  13. There is the jealous hater in the back of my head going: you will never be as smart, as thorough, or draw from as many influences as . GIVE UP NOW.

    That is… impressively thought out.

    I do like political stories in fantasy, there are not nearly enough of them.

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