So, last July, I created my first outline for an alternate history/steampunk novel, which eventually was titled The Chocolate Smuggler's Notebook. (Blurb and cover here.) Because I have been rather busy doing the final few months of edits of Becoming Brigid and getting the first physical proof copy of The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay ready for my first gamma readers (who come even before the beta readers), all I've done thus far on Chocolate Smuggler's is a prologue, chapter one, and at least 17 different plot outlines.
Then, last February, I had a new idea. What if I did a series of short stories -- parallel chapters, if you will, done in the rambling, not-quite-a-plot style in which Alexander McCall Smith writes the 44 Scotland Street series -- set in the same alternate history world as The Chocolate Smuggler's Notebook, but told in a different style and featuring minor characters and parallel plots happening in a different part of the continent, plots which will affect what happens to Olivia in the main book? I'd publish the stories in e-book form individually, and then all in one POD volume later. It'd be a fun way to promote the main new book.
I had my 9GT students help create characters' personalities for the series of short tales, but it wasn't until today that the ideas all clicked into place and I figured out how everything will all work together. But now, I'm ready to announce my plans.
The entire group of works will be called The Chocolate Chronicles. The main novel will be YA (because the story won't work if Olivia is any older than about 16, I've decided) and will retain the title of The Chocolate Smuggler's Notebook and the main setting of the State of Deseret (which was, in real life, the very short-lived territory Brigham Young set up for the Saints; it was to be not-quite a part of the US, but the US government squelched that idea about 3 seconds after they became aware of it and pared down the area to Utah Territory). The parallel tales will be called The Chocolate Chronicles: Scenes From New Penzance and will be set northwest of Deseret, in the town of New Penzance, in the country of Pacifica (which never existed, but will be somewhere east of the real town of Astoria, Oregon, along the Columbia River). The titles of the individual tales are (so far) as follows: 1) The Tale of London Sunday, 2) The Tale of Lady Agnes Breathwright, 3) The Tale of Ellen Andersson, 4) The Tale of Camilla and Oscar, and 5) The Tale of Captain Annie Lovelark.
If all goes as planned, the tales should be steampunk and feature a gypsy merchant boy, a missing balloonist, a steamcowboy, investigative reporting, two sets of illegal identical twins, one set of legal fraternal twins, a sky pirate, a woman who prefers younger men, a revivalist preacher with some pretty strange ideas, a steampunk KGB, a battle of the sexes for power, herbal medicine, an alchemist, some Mormon mysticism from the early 1800s, ancient buried treasure, phrenology, a young man who reads Mary Shelley, some good, old-fashioned, Shakespearean cross-dressing, and -- of course -- illegal chocolate and those addicted to it.
Story inspirations thus far include the aforementioned 44 Scotland Street, Nellie Bly, Shakespeare's 12th Night, ABBA, Wicked Plants by Amy Steward, the Pulp-o-Mizer, a very strange dream I had a few years ago, The Pirates of Penzance, Jack Sparrow, a trip down the Oregon Coast, the story of the Brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon, a line I had to edit out of a draft of All in the Half-Vampire Family, and the Beatles' movie Yellow Submarine. (I'm sure you can see all the connections immediately, of course!)
I hope to have time to begin writing it all soon, but right now, it's nothing more than scribbled lists in two notebooks and a Pinterest page.