Category Archives: Blather

WIPJoy Community Fun: Nathaniel Cannon and the Majestic Affair

Bethany Jennings, an author of young adult SF&F, does this thing called WIPJoy, where we authors talk about a work in progress over the course of September. Find other authors on social media using the hashtag #WIPJoy.

We’re wrapping up this week with community fun!

If you could choose any other work to mashup with your own, which would it be?
Obviously, it has to be the fine folks over at Decoder Ring Theatre. Their particular brand of pulpy radio drama would be a perfect fit for the Skypirates universe. Cannon and company in cahoots with Jack Justice or the Red Panda would make for fun reading. (Or listening, as the case may be.)

Shoutout to this work’s most encouraging fan!
I have a few names to name: my pal Rob, who plays tafl with me under the name Nasa (have a look at our annotated tafl game!), and who may be publishing some translated Old English literature here in the coming months. (Look for a formal announcement later.) My wife/editor gets a mention here, for her support (and red pen), and everyone else to whom I’ve sent pre-release stories for feedback, too.

Does your work in progress contain any inside jokes?
Only the usual references to Panama. I waffle on whether I’ll actually decide what happened there to any great level of detail.

Share a line that made someone feel FEELS
This one is hard: Skypirates stories to date have not had a lot of negative emotion in them. Maybe someday.

For things you can read today, my editor still hasn’t forgiven me for a certain crucial passage in my already-released e-book We Sail Off To War. You can find a link to buy that, at a reduced price of 99 cents this week only, behind the ‘books’ link on the page header.

Shoutout to writer friends who inspire you.
My dear wife, for one: the current better-than-average pace at which I find myself writing these days is due to her example.

What’s your work in progress about again? And what are your favorites elsewhere from WIPJoy?
Nathaniel Cannon and the Majestic Affair is a tale of daring and enterprise set in the skies over southeast Asia. Thrill, as our heroes, the Long Nines gang, face off against an old foe—and a new one they never saw coming.

As for my favorites, I’m sorry to say I haven’t been paying very close attention. Getting a story ready for magazine publication, as well as keeping up here, plus writing most of these posts on my Thursday (or Friday, as the case may be) lunch breaks means that I’ve had very little time to follow the rest of the community working on WIPJoy posts. That said, I just poked around at the synposes on Twitter from today’s question (the very last one), and I saw a bunch of fascinating ones. You should do the same: go have a look!

Finally, thanks to the regular readers here for your ongoing support, and to Bethany Jennings, the mind behind WIPJoy, for a nifty event. I’m looking forward to the next one!

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Late update update

Tomorrow’s update will be coming later in the day: I spent my evening on getting email sent from the Many Words webserver properly authenticated (Google has been bouncing them lately, it turns out). Less productively, I also watched the Presidential debate, and am strengthened in my convictions that nobody is qualified. C’est la vie.

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WIPJoy Deep Stuff: Nathaniel Cannon and the Majestic Affair

Bethany Jennings, an author of young adult SF&F, does this thing called WIPJoy, where we authors talk about a work in progress over the course of September. Find other authors on social media using the hashtag #WIPJoy.

Share a line that hints at your theme.
This is difficult: if I have a theme, it’s that adventure is cool, and the whole story illustrates that point.

What’s one big reason you’re writing this story?
SF&F these days is full of what I like to call ‘message fiction’: that is, a story written to make some broader point. I’m not going to claim that message fiction necessarily sacrifices story, but I do think that we lose something when the big authors in the field are concerned first with saying something. Sometimes a story should just be a story.

What kind of reader desperately needs this book?
If you agree with the previous answer, you’ll probably like all of my stories.

What’s been your biggest challenge with this WIP?
That’s a great question. It might be my continued insistence on writing with pen and paper—I’ve assumed, in the past, that pen and paper and its free editing pass when I type improves the quality of my drafts, but my last few drafts may have put that theory to bed. I guess we’ll see.

Describe your work in progress with a single image.

What aspect of this book is the most unique?
I hope it’s my commitment to scientific and historical plausibility even in the midst of stories about ancient mystical artifacts. The zeppelins designed for Skypirates stories are within about 10-20% of being plausible from a lifting capacity standpoint, the performance characteristics of the airplanes are more or less accurate, and of course the firearms details are pretty spot-on.

Share a line that’s a fantastic example of your writing voice.

It had started a week ago, in Australia, when Pietro di Giacomo, one of his mechanics, received a telegram.

“From my cousin,” di Giacomo explained. “He read of your venture in Panama several years ago, and he thinks he has a problem you can solve. He says he can pay, but mio capitano, he is a monk, a man who has taken vows of poverty.”

Cannon had given him the third degree, and decided that most monks weren’t of the type to lie outright. Inconstant was due for a trip to Europe in search of spare parts anyway, so Cannon rounded up his crew from Darwin’s bars, gambling halls, and houses of ill repute, and set his course for Istanbul by way of Arabia. It had been an uneventful crossing until the HMS Sparrow turned up.

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WIPJoy Protagonist Takeover: Nathaniel Cannon and the Majestic Affair

Bethany Jennings, an author of young adult SF&F, does this thing called WIPJoy, where we authors talk about a work in progress over the course of September. Find other authors on social media using the hashtag #WIPJoy.

Good morning. I’m Nathaniel Cannon, captain of the pirate zep Inconstant, and it looks like I’m here to answer your questions.

Share a deep regret.
I’d rather learn from my mistakes than dwell on them.

What’s that? You won’t let me weasel out of this one that easy? Fine. I’ll name two. First: Panama. I lost friends there, and almost lost everything. Enough said. Second: my early years with Inconstant. Look, in my line of work, there’s no room for soft people, but you don’t have to be a brute to be tough. It took me too long to learn that lesson. I owe my friends more than I can say for sticking around while I did.

How do you really feel about a character closest to you?
That’s Joe Copeland. We first met in the skies over Dayton: he was flying for the Rebels back then. I came in on his four o’clock and put a burst into his engine. Turned out he wasn’t that steamed about it. For a slave pilot, crash-landing alive on the Union side of the lines was about the best thing that could come of a forward patrol. I stopped by the field hospital and met him face to face, and we hit it off. He’s been around ever since, even when he had a good excuse to leave. He’s as good as a brother.

Weapon of choice?
That would be the Mauser Broomhandle you see on my belt. I took it from a Rebel pilot during the war, after I brought him down east of Cincinnati. It’s served me well ever since, for ten years now. Another decade like the last one, and I’ll have to have Iseabail knock together a new barrel for me.

How do you feel about romance?
Put me down for ‘yes’. No, I won’t say any more. A gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell.

How do you feel about your author?
Who, Lachapelle? The little Frenchy sold us out in Panama, but ended up stuck in it right with us. It took us a while to get past that, but now—

Oh, that author. Well, I’ll tell you this: if he weren’t around, our lives would be a whole lot duller.

Any words for future fans of you?
I hear there’s a fan club out of Columbus, but they aren’t affiliated with me. Keep an eye on the newsreels and the papers, that’s my advice. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for our author to get the stories done, and we all know what a wait that can be.

Do you make faces in the mirror when you’re alone?
For the record? No.

Between you and me? You bet I do.

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WIPJoy Background Week: Nathaniel Cannon and the Majestic Affair

Bethany Jennings, an author of young adult SF&F, does this thing called WIPJoy, where we authors talk about a work in progress over the course of September. Find other authors on social media using the hashtag #WIPJoy.

Since this one asks for a few lines from the work in progress, and this work is not yet that far into ‘in progress’, I’ll be pulling lines from prior Cannon stories.

What emotions do you evoke with your setting?
I have two in mind. First, nostalgia: the Skypirates universe harkens back to a time when the world was bigger and wider, more full of mystery. It’s a world where lost temples in the jungle are just over the next hill, where the Far East is so remote that pirates roam the skylanes, where a new adventure always awaits. The modern world lacks that same feel; we’re all but out of new frontiers here on Earth, and I miss that. I imagine other people do, too.

Besides that, I also aim for excitement. The Cannon stories do, after all, fit into the action-adventure genre. If I write a snoozer, I haven’t done my job.

Share a line with a detail about your protagonist’s past.

“Nathaniel Cannon,” said Masaracchia wonderingly. “Of the Famous Fighting Fifty-First—I volunteered in the Aviation Section during the war.” Nonplussed, Cannon exchanged a look with Joe, and Masaracchia hurriedly added, “Before I found my true calling.”

It did explain his nearly-flawless English. “That was a lifetime ago,” Cannon said.

“I remember reading about you and your squadron in the papers. I thought you were a different Captain Cannon—how did you come to air piracy?”

“That was a lifetime ago,” Cannon repeated.

What does your antagonist love deeply?
I can’t really answer this one without giving away some of the surprise. I’ll leave it at ‘his country’.

Which two characters have the most interesting history?
Our hero Nathaniel Cannon and one of his crew, Emma Foster, come to mind. Emma is the most recent entry to Cannon’s inner circle, though they first became acquainted in the early 1920s. They encountered each other several times over the years, ordinarily on opposite sides of some dispute or another.

In early 1927, as Cannon was finding his sea legs as an independent pirate, he and his nascent Long Nines gang raided a mercenary hideout in the Solomon Islands, mercenaries who had happened to employ Ms. Foster. In the firefight, Emma was wounded; the mercenaries retreated from the island, and the Long Nines prepared to leave. Cannon had every intention of leaving Emma for dead, but a few strong words from his second-in-command changed his mind. Cannon went back for her, and while she recovered under the care of Inconstant‘s doctor, he offered her a job.

Now, they’re fast friends, their relationship the least collegial and most familial out of any pair in Cannon’s inner circle, which is why Emma can get away with the merciless ribbing she delivers to Cannon on a regular basis.

Name something experienced with each sense in your work in progress.
Sight: the billowing red-orange heights of thunderheads at sunset over the South Pacific.
Sound: the scream of aircraft overhead, and the chatter of machine guns.
Smell: the oppressive sweetness of exhaust fumes filling the hangar deck just before planes launch.
Taste: the coppery jolt of blood.
Touch: the saltwater-slickened railing of a narrow companionway on a ship at sea.

Is any part of the backstory inspired by your own life?
Unfortunately, no. My life has not, to date, been so adventurous as this.

Share a line you love about a setting.

Two thousand years ago, Nicomedia had been a vibrant port city and a key stronghold in the eastern Roman Empire. The centuries had not been kind to it. A fire, the great Roman schism, and a hundred years of war between the crumbling Byzantine Empire and the ascendant Ottoman Turks had reduced it to ruins. Izmit, the city the Ottomans had established in its place, had never grown out of nearby Istanbul’s shadow.

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WIPJoy Intro Week: Nathaniel Cannon and the Majestic Affair

Bethany Jennings, an author of young adult SF&F, does this thing called WIPJoy, where we authors talk about a work in progress over the course of a month. Seems as good a time as any to talk about the next Nathaniel Cannon story, so here we go!

The low-down on the work-in-progress
Following Nathaniel Cannon and the Panamanian Idol, I intend to return to the Skypirates universe for another entry in the Cannon series. We’ll go back to late 1927, the earliest of the Cannon stories to date, and follow the Long Nines in a tale of piracy and intrigue in the Far East. Expect excitement, adventure, pirate politics, and a new location!

How far in on this job are you?
I haven’t gotten much past the brainstorming. Ordinarily, when I’m working on a Cannon story, I come up with the title first. This time, I found my inspiration in the pages of Jane’s Fighting Ships, 1919 edition, and to avoid spoiling the story, I’ll leave it at that.

Describe it in five verbs
Five verbs? Oof. Let me see.

  1. Flying: as a Cannon story, The Majestic Affair will feature feats of flying skill not seen since the days of the barnstormers.
  2. Avenging: easy though it is to forget, given the stories I usually write, Cannon and his Long Nines are pirates. Cross them at your own peril!
  3. Investigating: mysterious happenings in the East Indies send our heroes to the books.
  4. Igniting: suffice it to say that things will go down in flames.
  5. Convening: the East Indies is the center of piracy in the modern age, and when a council of pirates must be assembled, it’s the natural place.

There you are! This was fun. Check back every Thursday (I guess) in September for more.

P.S. Opentaflvecken, a weeklong series of blog posts on tafl games, is currently running over at the Soapbox. Go have a read! That’s what I’ve been up to over the last few days.

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“Your author is not a lazy bum” update

I swear. I’ve been working hard on: 1) OpenTafl and 2) a roughly 4,000-word series of blog posts on OpenTafl changes. The former will see a new release soon. The latter will run next week, during a Soapbox event we’re (well, I’m) calling Opentaflvecken. (I think that’s Swedish for the week of OpenTafl. Maybe it should be Opentaflvecka, to get rid of the article. I dunno.)

Anyway, story updates will return next week or the week after, depending on whether OpenTafl’s puzzle feature pulls me in. Keep an eye on the Soapbox in the interim, and don’t forget to grab the latest podcast.

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Week off update: OpenTafl, other stories

Well, ‘week off’ isn’t altogether accurate. I’m up to my elbows in finishing a major OpenTafl feature (stay tuned; updates coming to the Soapbox on Thursday) and a short story I’m going to try to sell. It is, however, a week off from story updates here.

Keep an eye on the Soapbox for all your defense commentary needs, and for news on the next OpenTafl release. We’ll be back with regular story updates in one week’s time.

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Late update update

Today’s story update will end up being tonight’s story update, because I’ve been playing around with Second World War British web gear all night, and my fingers hurt from loosening the snaps. Have a great day. See you tomorrow night.

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