A Gentleman and a Scholar (Tales of the Captain Duke #3) is NOW AVAILABLE!

Archives: Musings

Five Years of the Tales of the Captain Duke: An Author Anniversary!

Five Years of the Tales of the Captain Duke: An Author Anniversary!

Origin of the idea for the Tales of the Captain Duke series

Five years ago, at 3:31 AM on October 20, 2012, I saved a little snippet of a story idea that would go on to change my life.

What’s remarkable is how unremarkable it is. The file is one of dozens in the folder that year. There were other ideas that were better developed, some that I had been working on for months or years already. But this one, this little seed of an idea, it grew into a whole series of steampunk novellas.

Best of 2016 – Rebecca Diem’s Recommended Reads

In between all the writing and touring and tweeting, I actually managed to make more time to read this year! As per usual, I am terrible at keeping track of the exact number, but I’d say it averages out to 3-4 per month, and more when I find a series I love.

So, while I begin my winter writing season and the rest of you wait for Book #4 of the Tales of the Captain Duke, I wanted to share some of my favourite reads of 2016. Books that captured my imagination and sent me scrambling to find the author on Twitter. Or, actually, a few I met on Twitter, who sent me scrambling to the bookstore find everything they’ve ever written.

I’m pleased to present my Best of 2016!*

#AmEditing: First Drafts and Book Launch Planning

First Draft of the Tales of the Captain Duke #3: A Gentleman and a Scholar

First Draft of the Tales of the Captain Duke #3: A Gentleman and a Scholar

It’s done! The first draft of Tales of the Captain Duke #3: A Gentleman and a Scholar is in my hands. It’s ready to be torn to pieces and reformed before I send it off to my darling crew of editors and beta readers.

I find it thrilling, always, to see the book at this stage. When I read through, it’s exciting to see the parts I’ve forgotten and how they all fit together. It’s funny to find all the duplicate words or expressions, those quirks and bad habits of writers everywhere. Editing is the part where you begin to shape and polish what you’ve made. I get to see the areas that still need work and the parts that make my heart sing.

Editing the first draft of the Tales of the Captain Duke #3

Editing the first draft of the Tales of the Captain Duke #3

I’m especially pleased, because I sent a couple chapters I was particularly proud of to a beta reader and disability advocate, and her feedback was exactly what I was hoping for. Readers anxiously waiting to hear of Trick’s fate will not be disappointed, and I’m more excited than ever for you to meet Professor Sewell!

This book took longer than the first two. I had various reasons for this – the pressures of a day job, a terribly annoying vitamin deficiency – but really, I wanted it to be perfect. The stories of Clara and the Captain are beginning to intertwine. Cat and Mouse are growing up. Nessa is out for revenge, and Trick is, well, he’s not very happy at the beginning of Book 3. But I feel like I’ve managed to weave the plot threads together in a really beautiful and exciting way. And everything is coming together for Book 4, which will be the final chapter in this saga. (For now!)

It’s going to be a busy few weeks while I finish editing the book and begin the formatting. I’m also in the midst of coordinating the book launch tour for this September! I’ll also be appearing at the Coldwater Steampunk Festival on August 6 – and I’ll have a few ARCs on hand! Stay tuned for upcoming dates and giveaways, which I’ll be announcing in next month’s Airmail newsletter and through social media.

Until then, I’ll be right here:

Rebecca Diem at Early Bird coffee shop

Rebecca Diem at her new favourite writing spot

Rebecca Diem


  • / Comments Off on May the 4th Be With You! Celebrating Star Wars Day as a Geek Girl
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May the 4th Be With You! Celebrating Star Wars Day as a Geek Girl

May the 4th Be With You! I think it might have been my Grade 3 teacher who first spoke those words to me. Mrs. Dinsmore had that kind of humour, and she was a Star Wars fan. I do remember thinking it was hilarious, and repeating it to everyone. I was a geek girl from the start.

At Toronto ComiCon this past March, I decided to focus on getting pictures with all the Rey cosplayers. And oh. wow. They were spectacular.

#AmWriting: The Search for the Perfect Cafe Writing Spot

A café orphan finds her new home…

A few months ago, I was coming off of a really intense period of events, interviews and travel while promoting the second book in my steampunk adventure series Tales of the Captain Duke, looking forward to writing Book 3 at my favourite café, Dark Horse Queen West. As I waited for my Americano-for-here-with-room-for-milk, my barista and I chatted about the lovely fall weather, the book tour, their classes…and then they dropped this on me.

“Yeah, I’m really going to miss this place. But the one I’m going to will be closer to school anyway.”
“Oh no, you’re leaving!?”
“Oh…this location is closing.”

Writing the Tales of the Captain Duke at Dark Horse Queen West

Farewell to thee…

It’s hard enough when one’s favourite baristas move on, but to lose them all at once? To miss my daily walks down Queen St.? To let go of this perfect little café where there’s just enough busy and just enough quiet and the space is filled with happy, creative vibes? My heart was shattered. I was in shock.

It was a common reaction among patrons of this particular café. But the realities of Queen St. West is that rent is pushing out many of the spaces cherished by our neighbourhood. But I’m not here to discuss the gentrification or whether it’s truly necessary to have ten eyeglass shops in a three block radius, I am here to discuss the terrifying dilemma of finding a new café.

NaNoWrimo, Writing Updates and Interviews, Oh My!

Dear Reader,

After a positively overwhelming month+ of events and happenings of varying degrees on the scale of “thrilling” to “OMG! I die”, I have returned to some semblance of normalcy. The primary difference being that there are many more of you encouraging me on my quest to finish Book 3! Delightful! (Current word count of the first draft is around 8,000 words and coming along nicely). 

Print Anniversary for The Stowaway Debutante

Exactly one year ago I was standing in the back of the Ginger Press Bookstore in Owen Sound for my first book launch party. I was wearing a red dress and the heirloom amethyst necklace I inherited from my grandmother. The books were arranged beautifully around a portrait of Queen Victoria by my sister and cover artist, Sarah, and all my family was there to celebrate with me on a chilly Saturday afternoon.

I was only going to print 50 books. I had launched the eBook edition of The Stowaway Debutante in August and they hadn’t sold well. Mind you, I was half terrified that people would read my book at that time. But my mother insisted I print at least 100, and I had a tidy little tri-city book tour planned for my hometown, university town, and the city I’ve fallen in love with.

There were maybe twenty people in the bookstore when MaryAnn introduced me. And I had not yet mastered my explanation of what exactly “steampunk” was. But then I settled onto a tall stool, opened my first book, and began to read.

Owen Sound Book Launch - The Stowaway Debutante

I remember the moment so clearly. I could hear the bell above the front door chiming as I wove the tale of Clara and her discovery of the gunpowder on the airship.

ding…ding…ding ding…..ding 

And the next time I looked up from the page…the bookstore was full. Packed. Standing room only, as people shuffled to the sides to make a little more room, and a little more room, as my community filled the space.

My heart beat faster, and I stumbled over a word. But I kept reading, and everyone clapped as the Captain Duke entered the scene.

I had no idea what to expect back then of releasing my little story into the world. I certainly didn’t expect to be here one year later, one thousand books later, typing this story for you.

Steampunk Fashion at Fan Expo Canada

I had an incredible time at Fan Expo Canada this weekend! I promise a longer post (or many) on the subject soon, but first I wanted to share the guest post I wrote for She Does the City on steampunk fashion and crafting your own steampunk style.

Author Rebecca Diem models a steampunk lookbook

A steampunk lookbook by Rebecca Diem

It’s been a wonderful year getting to know the steampunk community in my city and the folks at the Toronto Steampunk Society are some of the most welcoming, creative and inspiring people who I’m happy to call friends now. I was worried too when I first started to come out to events, and for any and all newcomers to the genre, my advice is to put yourself out there and join in the fun! The borders of steampunk are expansive and all are welcome.

Indie Publishing: Everyone Has a Story

I was so happy to share my experience with indie publishing at Toronto’s Small Talk 4.4! The theme was writing, in all its forms, alongside journalist John Chidley-Hill and poet Fan Wu.

My talk was about breaking down the barriers to publishing your own story, many of which are internal in this day and age. With the advances in self-publishing platforms, aspiring authors have more options than ever to share their work, and social media allows for a direct, open connection with readers.

I just celebrated my first year as an author. That night I finally hit *publish*? Abject terror.

My chest was gripped in a wave of anxiety as I questioned whether I was crazy to put my little story, The Stowaway Debutante, out into the world. Thankfully, I had friends and family to help me through that first day and all the rest.

Neil Gaiman on How Stories Last

Many thanks to my friend Tim for sending this my way. I spent the morning walking around, in transit and running errands, listening to Neil tell me stories about stories.

Let’s be real, I would be quite happy to spend days listening to Neil Gaiman tell me stories.

But this one is particularly beautiful and worth a listen when you have the time.

On Beginnings…



Four years ago I wrote these words: “There are stories I need to tell.”

Reading the pages of this moleskin notebook now, it feels like watching your own baby steps. The pacing is erratic, the tone is rather grandiose, and I’d clearly just read something of Kerouac’s. But it’s fascinating to see what happened once I began to take my writing seriously, how I started to learn to distill all of these emotions and experiences into words. To see how much neater my handwriting used to be.

There are parts that are funny and embarrassing to read now that I’ve grown as a person and a writer, but there are also parts that are powerful, that sent shivers down my spine. The way I wrote about friendships changing, the beautiful nostalgia for people and places about to be lost, my struggle to figure out who I was and what made me happy now that I’d graduated university.

Four years later, I’m about to publish my second book. But those books, all my books it seems, they began in the pages of a moleskin notebook.

“There are stories I need to tell.”

Write Now. Finish It. Publish It.

There’s a great interview with Max Brooks (Author of World War Z) over at SF Crows Nest. He discusses his work as a writer, but also gives some great advice for aspiring authors and touches on something I feel very strongly about: Regret.

SFC: Is there anything about your writing career that you would do differently, if you had the chance?

MB: Yes. I would have had the courage to publish earlier. The big problem with writing a novel is there’s nobody to blame or hide behind. It’s purely you and the audience and I think that’s very scary. When I was writing for ‘Saturday Night Live’, if a sketch didn’t work, we writers could blame the cast or the audience. As a novelist, you have none of those defences. I wish I had had the courage earlier in my career, because I’ve been writing since I was twelve, but I didn’t want my stuff to get out. So that’s a regret.

THIS. This is why I chose to publish my own work. My stories won’t be perfect, but I know how many of you enjoy them and I want you to be part of my journey as I grow and develop as an author. I love the Tales of the Captain Duke as they are, but I’m thrilled to see what I’ll be writing in ten years, twenty years, fifty years!

Many, many, many people have asked me about self-publishing and how I chose to do it myself. Many have told me of their own unfinished tales. Well, there is no alchemical transformation for aspiring writers to become successful authors. It takes writing your story, page by page, for as long as it takes, until it is done. It takes courage to cross that threshold of letting others read your work. It takes acceptance that everyone needs a good editor, that perfection is something you may strive for but are unlikely to attain (and you may find you prefer imperfection after all). Start now. It may take months, years, or decades, but one day you will have a story in front of you.

Most authors will tell you some variation of this theme. I leaned on their words of wisdom while developing my own voice. When I felt like giving up, I would remember the time when Neil Gaiman told me to finish things and said I would do just fine. I would research advice from authors and try to learn from the best. And in the end, I had to hit that big, scary button: “Publish.”

No regrets.

Everyone has a story. I will say this a thousand thousand times. Everyone has a story. I’m so excited to share my books with you, and I can’t wait to read yours one day.


Check out the rest of the interview with Max Brooks with more about his new work over at SF Crows Nest. S/O to the great folks at i09 for bringing it to my attention!

The Airships

Ever wanted to know more about the airships of our timeline?

In the steampunk universe of the Tales of the Captain Duke, the technological advancements are driven by the sudden influx of female scientists, engineers and inventors working with their male counterparts thanks to a proclamation that unintentionally permitted greater gender equality in Great Britain in 1864.

In our universe it happened quite differently, but the marvels of lighter than air travel are just as spectacular to see. There’s a three-part documentary on airships produced by the Australian film board that you can find on YouTube. Part 1: The Airships – Lift Off (1890-1922) is linked here.

Look to the skies!

Rebecca Diem

Ada Lovelace Day!

Ada Lovelace Day!

Today is Ada Lovelace Day! A day to celebrate and commemorate the work of female scientists and engineers. Ada Lovelace is considered to be the first person in history who made the conceptual leap about the potential for Charles Babbage’s analytical engine. Her work is the progenitor of our modern day computer coding. And yes, she was a real woman, the estranged daughter of Lord Byron, who lived only to 36 years of age from 1815 to 1852.

To celebrate, I want to share the origins of the science in my steampunk fantasy series, the Tales of the Captain Duke.

In the steampunk history of the Captain Duke, a royal declaration by Queen Victoria in 1866 intended to secure her hold on the throne after the death of her husband had the unintended consequence of legitimizing gender equality years before it actually happened in ours.