Guest Post #4 – Sfbell09 ‘Tales From Xira’

Today’s guest interview is with none other than Sfbell09 – aka Steven – over at Tales From Xira. His influences are Steampunk (which I had no idea about till I started following him!) so do go on over and visit his site – you can preview his WIP which is fantastic! I’ve followed his blog since the beginning and I always love reading his posts. Oh and ps…..loving the umbrella!

Ok, you ready? Let’s go!

1/ What Inspired You To Write Your WIP/Published book?

Well now, where to begin? Perhaps a simple appearing list:

  1. The Steampunk Genre.
  2. Cherie Priest (Clockwork Century Series).
  3. Fantasy History
  4. I wanted to pay homage to Harrisburg, PA, USA. Lived there for several years, walked through Front Street Park so many times. Just a beautiful region.
  5. Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s setup of short stories in a collection.
  6. Music: Beats Antique, Dan Black, The Witcher Soundtrack, Music Inspired by the Witcher, Flying Lotus.

I started my WIP with ‘Deliverance of Justice’.  This was a poorly structured, but beautifully written short story. My intent was to focus on introducing the protagonist and his two closest companions (as well as some of his staff.)

The dialog, characters, settings, descriptive details and conclusion (Protagonist going to jail) received a fair amount of positive feedback. The major problem was perhaps too much description, and the massive lack of story structure (beginning, middle, end.) I failed to provide a clearly defined conflict, and then muddied waters with some other information about the Protagonist.

It was a failure in a lack of planning and execution. I still hope to incorporate parts of it as flashback scenes in the current WIP.

I felt more than a little dejected. I poured out into the story what I felt were some of my best words. I took a break. Wrote a humorous holiday themed fantasy and an Anime/Manga flavoured short. Yet the notion of a Steam driven Harrisburg and Ignatius St. Eligius burned in my mind. Then the thought came to me as I blogged: Why not write a series of short stories? If it was good enough for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, surely it was good enough for me.

I have discovered that I am more likely to finish a shorter piece (novella/short story/flash fiction) than a full-length novel. I think that is because of time constraints. With a family and full-time job there is precious little time remaining for writing. A good day is being able to write anywhere from 1 – 1000 words. The shorter formats allow me to create more, polish more.

The current WIP is a series, which carries the umbrella title: ‘The Ignatius St. Eligius Chronicles’. The first story is ‘The Phlogiston Precariousness’. Next in the series will be ‘A Dirigible Disaster’.

I have a main plot that arches over at least six short story/novella length works, with some flash and short story fillers/extra content. Currently T.P.P. is sitting at 22,960 words. I expect it to crest over 24k. I am glad that it is nearly complete. Chapter 8 parts one, two, and an epilogue are all that remain. It gets published online, one scene (part) a week at my blog:

Now, I am not sure if that size will be the norm, I see the next story being more of a classical short story, somewhere in the 5k to 10k range. I think the difference is because of the introduction of the location, the characters and the world I am creating. Sometime just beyond the American Civil War, nearing Harrisburg’s height of glory if you will. It is in the 1870s, industry is booming, especially the railroad and iron works, a setting that is nearly perfect for the Steampunk genre.

Why did I choose Steampunk? It straddles some interesting notions and genre concepts. For instance, the introduction of Fae races (Gnomes, Orks, Dwarfs etc…) is all part of the flow. However, some would label that genre Gaslamp. Fantasy writing mixes with science fact and fiction, how can that not be attractive? As for the notion of Steam Power, try standing next to a working steam engine and not feel in awe of it. If you do not feel moved by the power, size and sensations of that, then perhaps another genre is better suited for you.

2/ If There Is Anything You Could Do Differently With Your Writing, If Given The Chance, What Would It Be?

Write better. I would go back and pay better attention to the technical aspects of writing. For instance, I get a lot of feedback on mixing passive and active voice. I have a tendency to sling words onto the screen/page and if it were not for the grammar tools in Word, I would be in Barney (love Cockney rhyming slang.)  My technical presentation of a story is constantly evolving, but I have so far to go.

Write Faster. If I could increase the number of words I put out in a giving writing session, I could produce more work. That seems obvious. My issue is not one of typing speed. Having worked on a computer keyboard since ’83 (no not 1883, 1983… sheesh) I am a fluent touch-typist.

I would like to be more habitual about writing things down in a notebook and organizing my thoughts. I am constantly afraid of losing good ideas, bits of dialog, story progressions etc. I have a notebook and pen with me almost all of the time (excluding the shower.)

3/ You Have An Auditorium Full Of Aspiring Writers – What Is The One Most Important Piece Of Advice You Would Give Them?

Start as soon as possible. Do not stop for any reason. I missed almost 16 years of productive writing time by sitting on the sidelines pissing around with other things that really, truly amounted to nothing. This was time when I had no essential responsibilities and could have submerged myself in the work. There is nothing to show for those years. Ok, really there is quite a lot (a marriage, a child, a career) however in terms of productive writing, I will never get that time back.

Daydreaming about writing does not make writing happen, committing to writing and doing it for real does. Daydreaming is outstanding for ideas. Just make sure you write them down.

Read, watch movies and TV, go outside, watch a sunset or sunrise, visit a museum or listen to a symphony orchestra. Check out writing communities online and in your local area. Get down deep into what inspires you, geek out about it. Wrap it around you like a Mantle of Heroic Prose +2 and KICK ASSES!

Oh yes, give back. Frequently! I would urge strongly against being the reclusive author. Engage with your readers and other writers. Grow and Learn with them. The Writing Community is a terrific thing. I would not have been able to grow so much without it. You learn, gain inspiration and find like-minded or differently minded folks to help you on your journey as a writer.

It does not matter overly much if the first thing you write is terrible. Pick out what you did well and congratulate yourself. Pick out what you did poorly, and make them a priority for  improvement. If the weak area is technical issues such as grammar, make it doubly important. You can regain so much time and effort in the editing/rewrite process if you have nailed the technical aspects. Oh, baby, if I could just fix that.

Most of all, write for the correct reasons. To express yourself, shed light on a situation or to effect change in yourself and/or others. Commercial success would be wonderful. Nevertheless, it should not be the sole reason you put pen to paper. This is not to say that you cannot do that, I am sure you can. I believe that writing is an artistic form comparable to sculpting, painting, music or any other traditional art form. When I go to my computer, notebook or pen and paper, it is the same as an artist picking up a pencil or brush.

Steven, thanks so much for being a part of this – I’m so pleased you agreed!

Please do go over and visit his inspirational blog, I can guarantee you it will be a learning experience.

Tomorrow’s victim is Chris Stocking. Come back to read what he has to say! 🙂


About Virginia

Writer, reader, crossword puzzler and conspiracy theorist.

6 Responses to “Guest Post #4 – Sfbell09 ‘Tales From Xira’”

  1. Virginia, thanks so much for the wonderful introduction. I appreciate the space on your blog and the chance to participate. The umbrella was necessary, as it was raining (surprise.) Off to my right is the Susquehanna River, you can see the view on my blog’s header banner. I did notice after sending the picture that the blue panels did tend to make me look a bit smurfish… Oh well. Two minor updates: I finished The Phlogiston Precariousness yesterday. And I am thinking about retitling ‘A Dirigible Disaster’. Anyway, thanks again!


  2. Hey Vee, I nominated you for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award!


  3. I loved having you on here Steven, thanks so much for agreeing! I didn’t think Smurf when I opened your photo 🙂 – still love the umbrella! 🙂


  4. Great guest post/interview! I follow Steven’s blog and he’s certainly got talent!


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