Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Who Was She?

This year Ada Lovelace Day is today! In celebration, sites around the world are spotlighting women in math and science. To learn more about this and read some amazing stories, visit the site Finding Ada.

I thought I’d instead revamp a blog post I did last year on just who she is and give a round up of awesome Ada news that happened this past year.

If you’re a new visitor to the site, you might first be wondering why I care about Lady Lovelace? Well, besides thinking she was made of awesome, she’s my main secondary character in my time travel romance MUST LOVE BREECHES, for which I just found an agent, so it will be on submission with publishers soon. I purposely picked 1834 as the year my heroine time travels to so she could meet Lady Lovelace when she was still single (and known as Miss Byron).

So, who was she?

Steampunk lovers know her as one of the character’s in William Gibson and Bruce Sterling‘s alternate history novel The Difference Engine, where Charles Babbage finishes his invention and the computer age is ushered in much earlier.

Computer programmers might have heard of her, because she’s credited as being the world’s first computer programmer. In fact, the United States Defense Department named their new computer language, unveiled back in 1980, ADA.

Want to really understand the power and importance of Lovelace and Babbage’s work? Watch this great video giving the background and also plans to build the Analytical Engine.

Did you know, though, that she was the only legitimate daughter of that bad boy of English poetry, Lord Byron?

Another cool fact: she actually, as a child, tried to invent a steam-powered horse! She was so steampunk! She had her scientific pen pals send her dead birds so she could measure wing span to body mass. I’m not making this up.

Besides The Difference Engine, she’s also a main character in this novel: Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land (P.S.). I came across this at a library sale, talk about serendipity! It’s an imagined novel of Byron’s but set within two different story frames: one present day emails of a researcher who has ‘discovered’ this lost novel, and ‘notes and letters’ written by Ada about her attempts to recover the novel and hide it from her mother.

She’s a main character of a webcomic by Sydney Padua called 2D Goggles, or The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. This past year they announced the comics will finally be in book form! The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage- BOOK!. They also now have a Lovelace & Babbage app for the iPad!

And someone made a LEGO mini figurine!

Are you now scratching your head wondering why you’d never heard of her? (If you already have, yay!).

This last year in Lady Lovelace land:

Totally sold? Halloween’s coming up! Here’s a page on Lady Lovelace and how you can make an Ada Lovelace costume for Halloween

Blog/News posts and other cool linkages:

Biographies:

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Stormtrooper Hygiene

Song playing right now on my playlist: “Begin the Begin,” by R.E.M.

NEWS: I will have some awesome news to report next week about MUST LOVE BREECHES (re: status in Query Land) and STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY finaled in its first contest (and the first one it entered), The Golden Pen, ironically beating out MUST LOVE BREECHES by less than a point (.7)

Writing and the Writing Life:

Browncoats:

Ada Byron Lovelace

  • This recently came across Publisher’s Marketplace: “James Essinger’s ADA’S THINKING MACHINE, exploring two interwoven human stories – the story of a man, Charles Babbage (1791-1871) and that of a woman, twenty-four years his junior, Ada Lovelace (1815-1851) and their involvement in the Analytical Engine, to Gibson Square, for publication in July 2013 (world).” SQUEE!!! (that last part was me of course, not PM) Now if only publishers would be convinced that MUST LOVE BREECHES could tie in with this :)

In Geekdom:

Six Sentence Sunday – 4/8/12

Today is #sixsunday where writers share six sentences from their work. I’ll share a snippet from my time-travel romance WIP tentatively titled MUST LOVE BREECHES, which is now out in query land! (You can see the other entries here.)

I am currently looking for Beta readers. If you’re interested, let me know. I’ve stopped querying to see how this batch takes and so this new round of Beta reading will be to help me tighten up what problems will have come to light.

Here’s my pitch/logline: When a thoroughly modern girl finds herself stranded in 1834 London, she must find a way home while navigating the pitfalls of London society, resisting her attraction to a hunky lord, and ultimately having to decide when her true home lies. 

Continuing with the party at Charles Babbage‘s, we’re skipping ahead a page and everyone is staring at the Silver Lady, his dancing automaton:

“I rescued this fair lady from the sale at Weeks Museum only this year,” continued Babbage. “I show this to you not only as a marvel of man’s ingenuity, but as a lesson in the decline of Britain’s industrial spirit. This wonder, ladies and gentlemen, was created by that genius John Merlin at the end of the last century, and what advances in this sphere have we made since? I ask you, what if Mr. Merlin had been supported financially? Would we today have automata in place of butlers, serving us our drinks?” A chorus of chuckles came from the obliging crowd.

As always I welcome constructive feedback. Thank you!

To see snippets from others who are participating or to sign up yourself, visit here.

Thank you to everyone who comes by and comments each week! Have a great Easter/Passover!

Six Sentence Sunday – 4/1/12

Today is #sixsunday where writers share six sentences from their work. I’ll share a snippet from my time-travel romance WIP tentatively titled MUST LOVE BREECHES, which is now out in query land! (You can see the other entries here.)

Here’s my new pitch/logline: When a thoroughly modern girl finds herself stranded in 1834 London, she must find a way home while navigating the pitfalls of London society, resisting her attraction to a hunky lord, and ultimately having to decide when her true home lies. 

I thought I would focus for the next couple of weeks on the scene where she meets the historical figure Charles Babbage. This is the start of the scene:

“And this, ladies and gentlemen, is my Silver Lady.” Charles Babbage swept his arm toward a mahogany table.

Isabelle shuffled forward with the fifty or so other guests at Charles Babbage’s home on Dorset Street. She bounced slightly on her toes. To see not only the precursor to the modern computer, but to meet the man himself and anyone else here? That would be an awesome memory to take back with her.

As always I welcome constructive feedback. Thank you!

To see snippets from others who are participating or to sign up yourself, visit here.

Thank you to everyone who comes by and comments each week! Have a great Sunday!

Polishing my Pitch for the FF&P Fantasy on the Bayou Conference this weekend

funny pictures-RAWR! Iz I doin it rite? RAWWWR!!!I’ve had a nervous stomach since last Wednesday when I realized this conference was only a little over a week away. Now it’s only a couple of days. Eeep!

Been hitting the Chamomile Tea pretty hard to calm the ole stomach….

Reason I’m nervous? Not only is it my first writer’s conference, but I’ll be pitching to three agents. Never done it before. For the non-writers who might be reading this, I basically have about 8 minutes to verbally infuse that agent with a hot, burning need to read my manuscript. Can I say ‘Eeep’ again?

They say you should memorize about 3 to 4 sentences to pitch and that the agent will ask questions. Is that about right?

So I thought I’d indulge myself by running several by y’all. They say it also needs to sound conversational… So here it goes, FWIW:

A) MUST LOVE BREECHES is a completed 98,000 word time-travel romance. When a thoroughly modern American girl finds herself stranded in 1834 London, she must find a way home while navigating the pitfalls of London society, resisting her attraction to a hunky lord, and ultimately having to decide when her true home lies. 

or:

B) MUST LOVE BREECHES is a completed 98,000 word time-travel romance. It’s about a quirky modern American who has finally met the man of her dreams. There’s only one problem–he lives in 1834. She has sworn off ever doing the follow-the-boyfriend move again. But when she’s accidentally transported to 1834 London, she has a hard time resisting the hunky lord known as the Vicious Viscount. She wants to find the silver case that transported her through time so she can return to her carefully crafted life in the present, but when he asks her to pose as his fiancée for his own scheme of revenge, she ultimately has to decide when her true home lies. One of the fun things about it, besides the yummy hero, is that she is befriended by Ada Byron, Lord Byron’s daughter, and meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the Difference Engine. I’ve tried for a light, humorous touch, while also exploring aspects of 1830s London that’s not typical: the scientific.

I know mentioning other characters in a pitch is usually bad, but the thing is, Ada Byron Lovelace is a major secondary character. She is one of the “high concept” things about the book. Whenever I mention she’s in it to someone who asks me what my book is about, they perk up with that bit. Also, it’s timely–Steve Job’s biographer’s next subject will be her. Folks into steampunk love Lovelace and Babbage.

I’ve tried to get my goal, motivation and conflict in each, my theme, and (B) also includes the Act One turning point.

I see (A) as my elevator/cocktail bar pitch and (B) as my actual pitch? Will I have enough time for B?

Some resources I found, if you’re faced with doing a verbal pitch session soon:

I’ve done my research on the agents, now I just need to nail down my pitch and memorize it. I’m also going into it with the attitude that the agent will know I’m nervous, it’s to be expected. Hopefully that will make me less nervous. I’m going to go in positive…

How about you? Do you have any advice? Are you going to the conference? Do you have any funny pitch stories to share?

First stab at a query letter – whatcha think?

This past Sunday, I posted about my struggles to boil my novel down to one sentence: the dreaded logline. Since then I’ve researched some more and have discovered that I’ve conflated the hook for a query letter with the logline. According to Janet Reid at Query Shark, the logline should not be the hook. So, since I’m wanting to work on perfecting my query, I’ve been working on the hook and the rest of the letter. My goal was to write in the tone of the novel (hers and his). Here’s what I have so far:

Isabelle Rochon has finally met the man of her dreams. There’s only one problem: he lives in 1834. Talk about a long-distance relationship!

A dorky Southern gal, Isabelle works at the British Museum. She just wanted to know what it was like to live ‘back then.’ But not really. Stranded back in time, she must navigate the pitfalls of a stiffly polite London on the cusp of the Victorian era, find out how to get back, keep her origins a secret, and, oh, resist her growing attraction to Lord Montagu, the Vicious Viscount so hot he curls her toes.

To Lord Montagu nothing makes more sense than to keep his distance from the strange Colonial. However, when his scheme for revenge reaches a stalemate, he needs someone to masquerade as his fiancee. Who better than Miss Rochon? A bargain is struck. What he did not bargain for was the irresistible attraction that flares between them. Now, nothing makes more sense than to make their engagement official. Except to Miss Rochon.

As Isabelle searches for the silver case that transported her back in time, she is drawn to a man whom she cannot have. And his enemies want the case for their own purposes. If Isabelle can’t find and keep the case out of their hands, the future could be their playground. And she’ll be stuck in 1834 where they haven’t heard of toilet paper or women’s lib. The fact that she’s falling in love with Lord Montagu isn’t helping either. When she triumphs and gains the case, she’s faced with an awful choice: return to the comforts of the modern age, or do the ultimate follow-the boyfriend move and stay in 1834.

TO OUR FUTURE, is a 95,000 word completed time travel romance. I envision this as a prequel to a series of steampunk romances, since Isabelle befriends Lord Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace (who many consider to be the first computer programmer) and created an alternate timeline whereby Charles Babbage completed his Analytical Engine and ushered in the computer age 100 years earlier than it really did.

What do you think? My next goal after getting this query sharpened is to come up with a better title!

Some links I’ve found since Sunday in case you’re also struggling like me (bless you!):

My takeaway this week is that when you do your research on the agents you want, see what styles they prefer as well. Janet Reid definitely didn’t like certain things that Kristin Nelson did, etc.

Are you in the process of querying? Have you written a successful one? Do you have any advice for us?

Who Was Ada Lovelace?

I’m going to go all fangrrrl on this lady, so beware!

This past Friday was international Ada Lovelace Day, where bloggers all over the world celebrated women in science and technology by spotlighting a specific woman in the field. I chose to highlight Dr. Janet Whitson. But who was Ada Lovelace?

Steampunk lovers know her as one of the character’s in William Gibson and Bruce Sterling‘s alternate history novel The Difference Engine, where Charles Babbage finishes his invention and the computer age is ushered in much earlier.

Computer programmers might have heard of her, because she’s credited as being the world’s first computer programmer. In fact, the United States Defense Department named their new computer language, unveiled back in 1980, ADA.

She’s a main character of a webcomic by Sydney Padua called 2D Goggles, or The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. And someone made a LEGO mini figurine!

Did you know, though, that she was the only legitimate daughter of that bad boy of English poetry, Lord Byron?

Another cool fact: she actually, as a child, tried to invent a steam-powered horse! She was so steampunk! She had her scientific pen pals send her dead birds so she could measure wing span to body mass. I’m not making this up.

Besides The Difference Engine, she’s also a main character in this novel: Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land (P.S.). I came across this at a library sale, talk about serendipity! It’s an imagined novel of Byron’s but set within two different story frames: one present day emails of a researcher who has ‘discovered’ this lost novel, and ‘notes and letters’ written by Ada about her attempts to recover the novel and hide it from her mother.

Are you now scratching your head wondering why you’d never heard of her? (If you already have, yay!). She’s downright amazing. I thought I’d do a little round-up of fellow bloggers who’ve gotten their geek on about Ada as well as some biographies you can get to learn more about this amazing woman.

Blog/News posts and other cool linkages:

Biographies:

Monday Grab Bag: Critiques, Babbage and Nerds!

Some articles, tweets and sites I ran across this morning that I thought others might be interested in.

Tabitha makes an excellent point on her post today Writer Musings: How To Get The Most Out Of A Critique, Part Three: if you don’t know the heart of your story, you are not ready for feedback.

On the twitterfarm, John Graham-Cumming (@jgrahamc) posted a picture of punch card program written by Charles Babbage for his Analytical Engine. His tweet:  On this stack of punched cards sits a program written by Charles Babbage and never executed. Time to fix that.

To fellow geeks, some UK folks have created a Nerdy Day Trip website. To see the potential, see the sites in England and read the About page. If you just look at the US you will not truly appreciate it. So, my nerdy and geeky US friends, let’s add some cool places!

To Our Future – a time-travel romance

time travelOkay, so about the novel I’m working on. I’m really excited about it as I’ve always been a sucker for the time travel story. It’s such a fun way to see history and I love the juxtapositions of modern sensibilities with whatever past the protagonist is in. 
 
So, when it came time to come up with my NaNoWriMo 2010 project, I thought, why not? I knew I wanted to go back to the 1800s, but I wasn’t quite sure when. After doing some preliminary research, I ran across a Wikipedia article on Ada Byron Lovelace and I knew I had to have her be a supporting character. I initially conceived that Charles Babbage would play a larger role (even toyed with him being the romantic lead!) but decided to let Ada’s light shine on her own — it seems she’s always coupled with Babbage. So the one year where she was “out” (having her London debut as a marriageable young lady) was 1834, so that’s when my story takes place.
 
Here’s the back cover blurb for it so far (any advice on improving it would be totally welcomed!)
 

Isabelle Rochon is an American museum curator working for the British Museum. When she finds a mysterious silver card-case, she thinks it a perfect accessory for a reenactment ball. But what she thought would be an exciting lark, fulfilling her desire to “live a little history”, becomes more than she bargained for when she realizes that the attendees are a little too realistic: she is truly in 1834 London, England. There she meets Lord Montagu, who’s so hot he curls her toes. A thief steals her silver case, stranding a feisty, modern American in a stiffly polite London on the verge of the Victorian age. She finds it hard to resist her growing attraction for Lord Montagu, known even to his relatives as the Vicious Viscount.

Can their love overcome the biggest barrier of all – time? And what difference will a working model of the Difference Engine make to the next two centuries?

I’m currently on the third draft and hoping to have that wrapped up soon so I can have some folks I trust read it through and help find all the slips in logic, continuity errors, bad grammar, uneven pacing, bad plot decisions, the usual stuff. Meanwhile, I will post soon some lessons I’ve learned this summer while revising this, plus excerpts from this working draft.

What are some of your favorite time travel books?