Monday, July 6, 2009

Part five of when a story doesn't work.

For the past few weeks I've posted the synopsis and first three chapters of my post apocotlypic romance that I shopped around to some different houses the end of 2008. One editor called it a MadMax/Matrix mix. I liked that reference. Still no one bit. No one even came close. They just could not identify with the characters.

So what was I to do? I had a concept that I thought was a good one. The greatest power is the mind. My overall story arc was pretty much typical. Guy meets girl, guy falls for girl, bad guy wants girl, bad guy takes girl, guy rescues girl and they live happily ever after. My world, as I envisioned it was complex and would need at least three books to tell, maybe four. Most important, I had two characters and names that I loved. Dax and Merritt.

I think one thing that went against me was the time of year. I sent out a dark, desperate and depressing world at Christmas time. That really should not influence it but deep down I think it did. Christmas is a happy time as it should be. But mostly I think the market was to blame. sci/fi romance is a very narrow niche and its hard to take a risk on something that does not have the potential for making a lot of $$$.

Publishers had taken a hit along with everyone else in 2008. A major book distributor went under. Returns were up, book stores were not buying as many titles as before but buying more of sure things. It was a hard time to sell period.

I took a long hard look at the market. I needed to come up with something new and fresh. Something that did not have vampires since I feel the fur and fangs market is way over done. I also felt as if urban fantasy might be overdone as well. Something well written in a new market sells, it becomes popular and suddenly every publisher in the world wants the same thing. They buy it up in hopes that they can cash in on the sudden craze and the reader gets tired of it. I am a firm believer that the reader wants a well written book in any genre instead of mediocre books in their favorite genre.

So thinking, new and different. Something that I could do well. Something in my writers wheelhouse. Somthing with strong characters, and great world buildling. I'm known for writing historicals and scifi. What blends those two genre's together?

Steampunk.

It wasn't as if I had a lightbulb moment. I'd read a few articles, thought about it, watched some movies with some elements of it, then a friend called me up and said. "I think you should try writing Steampunk. Its' perfect for you."

But I still had this proposal with elements that I liked and characters that I adored. Could I turn it into a steampunk story?

Here's the synopsis. You tell me.

Prism by Cindy Holby
A Steampunk Romance

Cindy Holby, award-winning author of historical and scifi romance, blends both genres together with Prism, a steampunk romance featuring a cowboy, a psychic heroine and a diabolical plot to take over the world using imaginative technology in Victorian England. What’s a proper British lady to do when a mad scientist is after her brain and an American cowboy is after her heart?


London, England 1887

David Alexander Conrad, AKA Dax, is a cowboy. But he's not just any ordinary cowboy—he's one of the famed performers with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show who, in the summer of 1887, travels to England in order to give those stuffy Victorians a jolt of good old American showmanship. He is a renowned sharp shooter and trick rider with skills honed when he worked as a scout for the US Cavalry in the American Southwest during the Apache Wars with Geronimo. At twenty-seven, he’s the youngest star of the show and something of a celebrity in a London unaccustomed to his type. It is while Dax is on the party circuit that he meets a woman unlike any he has ever known.

Merritt Elizabeth Chadwyke is the daughter of Member of Parliament, Lord Pemberton She lives in a society bubble because she is subject to spells and needs the constant monitoring of a nurse. During her “spells” Merritt has been known to make outlandish comments about things of which she should have no knowledge. There is also evidence that during these spells, objects appear to move on their own. Merritt’s parents are very protective of her since they have already lost a son to a tragic accident. What her parents do not know is that at ten years of age, Merritt had a vision of her brother’s death but was afraid to say anything because of her parents reactions to her visions. She did try to warn her brother, who was fourteen when he died, but he ignored her. He realized he should have paid attention to her and said so as he died in his father’s arms. At their wits’ end over her strange illness, her parents send her to the Paranormal Research Institute run by Baron Edmond Von Swaim, who has become a society darling himself by using his powers of hypnotism to charm the upper crust. As Von Swaim performs test upon test on Merritt, he comes to the conclusion that she is something so unique and rare, he wasn't even certain it existed. Merritt is a Prism. And more importantly, she is exactly what he needs to complete his plot to overthrow the British Monarchy and take what he feels is his claim to the throne.


Von Swaim does everything to encourage Merritt’s family to turn her over to his care to cure her “spells.” His research into the study of the human mind has led him to believe that it is the greatest power upon earth. Through the use of his brilliant inventions and the enhancement of crystal prisms he plans to harness Merritt’s mind. Merritt, true to the nature of her spells, has a bad feeling about Von Swaim and refuses to go with him, despite her parents’ belief that it is the perfect solution to her strange illness. It is also during this time that Dax and Merritt have met each other and find that they are unable to stop thinking about each other. He finds it’s a bit more difficult to track a young woman through Victorian London than it is to fight Indians in the American west. Still he manages to find her, at parties, at the park, even in an exclusive tea shop. The feelings they share grow stronger with each passing moment and they go to great lengths to spend time together when they realize there is something special between them. As they pursue their romance Dax finds Merritt’s strange sense of things more of a gift than an illness and Merritt knows that Dax truly loves her for who she is, not what society or her parents expect her to be.

Frustrated with the constraints her family and society have put upon her, and unable to escape from Von Swaim’s constant presence, Merritt sneaks out to see a final performance of the Wild West show. Dax is happy to see her in the crowd and pulls her out to do some trick shooting. Meanwhile, Von Swaim, who has had Merritt watched ever since he’s treated her, is told of her escape from her home. Von Swaim sees this as the perfect opportunity to take her and sends his men, who wear armor and carry weapons that shoot lasers and electrical currents after her. Dax and Merritt manage to escape and spend a romantic night together in hiding. The following morning Von Swaim’s army finds their hiding place and chase Dax and Merritt through the streets of London. Dax is well armed but his trick shooting has no effect upon the special armor Von Swaim’s soldiers wear. Dax and Merritt are finally captured when Von Swaim uses a zeppelin to run them down in Hyde Park. He takes both of them prisoner, Merritt to be his weapon, and Dax, who is wounded in the leg to be brain washed and become a soldier in his army. They are taken by zeppelin to Von Swaim’s hidden castle in the Swiss Alps.

Dax finds there is no torture or brainwashing powerful enough to erase Merritt and his feelings for her from his memory. He manages to befriend a doctor in Von Swaim’s employ who has repaired Dax’s wound using Von Swaim’s invention of brass fittings and joints. After some time in which his injury heals and with the doctor’s help Dax manages to escape, only to find himself alone in a country where he knows no one and does not speak the language. To makes matters worse, Merritt is now under Von Swaim’s control and he has taken her to away for “treatment” with her parents’ permission. Fortunately for Dax, the Wild West Show is now touring Europe and he is able to find his friends who welcome him back with open arms. Dax is desperate to find Merritt but has no idea where to look.

Merritt, who is under Von Swaim’s control, cannot forget Dax either. Even though her memories of him are supposedly erased by Von Swaim’s hypnotism, her Prism abilities guide her back to Dax at one of the performances of the Wild West Show. Dax knows that he may never have this chance with Merritt again. With the help of his friends from the Wild West Show he is ready to use Von Swaim’s weapons against him. Dax and Von Swaim enter into a battle for her mind, but Von Swaim does not realize that Dax is also fighting for Merritt’s heart and soul. Dax will stop at nothing to free her from Von Swaim so that Merritt may make her own choices for her own life. Dax can only hope that once he frees her from Von Swaim that Merritt will choose him because he loves her just the way she is. Neither technology nor mind control, no matter how powerful, are any match for the strength of their love.

2 comments:

Leah Hultenschmidt July 8, 2009 at 11:59 AM  

Great title! And that's all I'll comment on because I'm the only one at Dorch who's *not* your editor. ;-)

Have you read TERRITORY by Emma Bull? It's a fantasy Western (Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp as symbiotic sorcerors - yeah...). I think you might like it.

Cindy Holby July 9, 2009 at 2:36 PM  

Yes Leah, an editor who shall not be named needs to get busy and read this proposal. You'll never guess where I got my inspiration for the title.

I haven't read Territory but I'll put it on my list for sure.

Cindy Holby

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