Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.

My Oldest Story Redux

Picking up from my previous post about the oldest story I still have (but have no recollection of), I want to go through the exercise of fixing it up for the 21st century.  Your thoughts, opinions, and suggestions for anything we should glue onto the side are always welcome.

Today I am going to fix up the setting, the oh-so-bad names, and some glaring outline errors in MILITARY PRINCESS (not the actual title if I planned to publish it, but more of a code name for reference’s sake).  I am hoping by the end of the week to take the storyline to the next level with some fresh twists, character growth, and a satisfying ending.


MILITARY PRINCESS needs a setting facelift.  “Middle Age setting near winter in the rain” sounds so blah, and “castle on top of a hill with town ringing hill” hasn’t been innovative since Camelot.  Instead of this being set in a “small island country,” let’s have some fun.


Stay with me a moment here.

Floating cities are always fun.  It is an easy way to showcase the technology level by showing how people get up to the city as well as how they move around the city.  Also, from a military perspective, floating cities are tough to get to, like islands in the sky.  This gave me the idea for Oresalt, which is crystalized aether (bringing in the steampunk element).  The Oresalt mine would be strategically valuable because it is used for alchemical magic as well as keeping the city afloat.  Now we have the basis for our magic system.  As for traveling between the ground and the sky, I’m seeing elevators on chains with clockwork gears, a skybridge linking the two parts of the city, and also probably griffons.

Why Greek mythology?  To be honest, I don’t want to put time into completely building a world for this story, and Greek mythology is cool and familiar to most readers.  Setting it in Western Europe has been waaaay overdone, unless it is in a small, unique area (I’m thinking something like Assassin’s Creed Italy).  Greek Golden Age still has some room for innovation, and I’d like to use some of the myths like fairytales to add flavor.  I don’t think I’ll have cameos of Hercules, but maybe name-dropping some of his trials as passing gossip would be cool.  I also have an idea for the king’s three bodyguards to be Cerberus guards, where they either have three heads or three faces on their helmets.  I haven’t decided yet.

And as for the steampunk, I’m envisioning huge clockwork machines and alchemy factoring into daily life.  As I said up above, Oresalt will be critical for supporting the city (literally).  Since we have a floating city, windmills and wind power can be easily incorporated too.


Hellenistic (Greek Golden Age) setting + Steampunk elements, near winter (rainy season)
Country – Aeras Chora, west side of the island, primarily mountains and forests
Capitol – Chorapoli, the Chained City – floating city chained to seven anchors (trains griffons)
Port – Hydromos, the Old Capitol (trains hippogriffs)
Volos Salt Mines – alchemical salt used in magic and to keep the city floating

Warring against Nea Anchalos, who broke away from Aeras Chora years ago
Nea Anchalos, the Tower City (trains wyverns), east side of the island, primarily farmland
Zagora, the Swamp Port (trains hydras)
Island of the Colossus, across the harbor from Zagora

On the island of Imbros, Nea Anchalos split away from Aeras Chora 50 years ago; however, relations since then have not been smooth.  Nea Anchalos controls most of the farmland and charges high prices to trade food to their neighbors.  Aeras Chora controls most of the mines and forests and charges high prices for wood and metals.  Both countries horde their supply of Oresalt.

The two countries tried to reunite 20 years ago, but King Nikodemos refused to enter into a political marriage. Instead he married a woman he found shipwrecked on the beach. She was a siren and had a beautiful voice. She had a daughter, but missed the waves too much, so she left Aeras Chora and returned to the sea.

The strong winter winds have exacerbated the situation in recent years. The winds are pushing the floating city of Chorapoli closer to the tower city of Nea Anchalos. On a clear day, people can see the other city on the horizon. The cities are too close to each other, and the militaries often clash. With the death of Nea Anchalos’s crown prince during a skirmish last year, the two countries declared outright war.


Nikodemos – militaristic king of a small country, bald, wanted a son, not a  daughter
Cassander “Cass” – independent princess wanting to stop the war, father gave her a boy’s name, dark and curly hair
Linos – a weaver’s apprentice who dreams of being a hero
Argyros – dishonored knight turned mercenary cursed to wander and never return home
Euphrasia – king’s bodyguard, beautiful and vicious, creepily cheerful, long braid
Straton – king’s bodyguard, old and noble, salt-and-pepper beard
Philon – shepherd friend of Linos, knowledgeable about mountains and mythology
Hagne – Cassander’s maid, loyal to King Nikodemos, broad and stout
Myron – rat-faced man, spymaster for King Nikodemos
Timotheos – young soldier in the Aeras Chora military, recently deceased, friend of Cass
Kallisto – alchemical apprentice, she has a hawk-like nose, more fierce than beautiful, wants to find Panacea
Hilarion – the cheerful colossus
Platon – the broad-shouldered colossus


  1. A festival is taking place in Chorapoli, the Chained City, to celebrate a victory over Nea Anchalos
    1. Cass discovers that her friend Timotheos was killed in the battle
    2. She has an argument with her father, the king, about continuing the war
    3. She complains about her father to Straton, a royal bodyguard and old confidant
  2. Cass slips away during the victory parade
    1. While wandering, she is followed by a Myron, King Nikodemos’s spymaster
    2. She ducks into a weaver’s workshop and meets Linos
    3. Cass changes out of soldier’s clothes and into a dress
    4. She loses her father’s dagger, a family heirloom, which is found and recognized by Linos
  3. She enjoys not being a princess and goes to a tea house
    1. Waitress gossips that the princess has run away
    2. Cass leaves, followed by rogues after waitress becomes suspicious
    3. A chase scene over rooftops ensues
  4. She loses the rogues who want to kidnap and ransom her by climbing a windmill
    1. Cass tries to steal a griffon but is unsuccessful
    2. Gerad finds her and gives her the dagger
    3. He knows who she is and says he won’t tell anyone if he can leave Chorapoli with her
    4. He helps her pawn her jewelry so they have money, then take the elevator down
  5. Cass and Linos head towards Port Hydromos over the mountains
    1. They spend the night with Philon, who tells some forshadowing stories
    2. They are chased by a company of soldiers and Spymaster Myron
    3. They are hidden by members of the Alchemists Guild
    4. Cass and Linos meet Kallisto, a young apprentice who wants to find the formula for Panacea
  6. They travel towards Port Hydromos with the Alchemists
    1. Cass begins to teach Gerad how to use a sword and bow
    2. Kallisto is looking for ingredients and stumbles into a basilisk den
    3. They kill the basilisk but Cass is wounded and falls unconscious
  7. They take Cass to the Asclepion of Trikos to be healed
    1. They witness Argyros inquire about how to remove his curse
    2. Cass has a vision about how to save Chorapolis
    3. Kallisto is given advice by the Priestess of Trikos to follow Cass and learn a secret about Panacea
    4. Linos uses his weaving and tailoring skills to be helpful
  8. Cass is kidnapped by Myron
    1. She is rescued by Argyros, not Linos, which causes the two boys to dislike each other
  9. Cass, Linos, Kallisto, and Argyros head out on a quest to find the Island of the Colossus
  10. They have adventures as they cross the countryside and learn valuable lessons
    1. Cass learns that a person’s worth doesn’t matter if they are a boy or a girl
    2. Linos learns that being a hero does not mean being famous
    3. Kallisto learns that it is okay to not know everything, everyone makes mistakes
    4. Argyros learns how to not be selfish and rude
  11. They cross the water to the Island of the Colossus
    1. They discover there are two colossuses who are brothers and having an argument
    2. They solve the argument and convince the colossuses to help them
    3. The colossuses carry them to Chorapolis
    4. There is a fight with the king’s bodyguards, who somehow profit from war, not peace
    5. The colossuses drag the anchors of the city and move it away from the border with Nea Anchalos
  12. Conclusion
    1. Cass saves her people, stops the war, and earns her father’s respect
    2. Linos becomes a hero when he stops trying to be one
    3. Kallisto finds some hints in the Chorapolis library that the formula is in the Library of Alexandria
    4. Argyros sees how much Cass loves her home, and by being selfless he is able to break the curse

I had to start summarizing the story, otherwise I would have been sucked into it and spent what little writing time I have on it.  As you can see, I ended up taking a week working on this idea.  I ended up rereading half of Edith Hamilton’s MYTHOLOGY too.  (Wow, flashback to high school!)  The adventures in the middle would need to feature a good mix of mythology, steampunk tech, and good action and story progression.  I didn’t have enough time to come up with all the fresh ideas that I wanted for this.

I didn’t like the Journey and Return story, so I thought that The Quest would be more fitting for the YA story this turned out to be.  Four young protagonists go out and have an adventure, learning about themselves and the world.  Ultimately, through their good deeds they are able to come home and solve the original problem, which is the ongoing war.

I really do like this idea and might try to do something with it one day.  But if you like this idea, hey, take it and run with it.  I’m sure the story I would write would end up being nothing like yours.  I’ve never felt the need to protect my ideas; those are a dime a dozen.  It’s the execution that is the really tough part.  Just remember me when you become famous.  ;)

What do you think of the changes I’ve made?  Does this make the story more interesting or completely unreadable?  All suggestions are welcome.  :D

2 comments on “My Oldest Story Redux

  1. Hannah
    July 2, 2014

    This sounds really interesting! I agree completely that fantasy has used up certain parts of Europe (something I’m trying to come to terms with in my own WIPs). I like the idea of combining mythology (Good old Edith) and steampunk–sounds like you’ve got a really good handle on where things are going and I look forward to seeing more!

  2. ericjbaker
    July 4, 2014

    I think you found a good mix of traditional mythological elements and cool imagery. I’m not knowledgeable about the genre, but the wind element seems clever and new to me. It’s hard to tell from an outline whether a story will be intriguing or not (one of the reasons I don’t use them for my writing), but the surrounding elements would probably support the events well. Just a note about your outline: In 4.2, Linos has changed to Gerad.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on July 2, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .

Posting Schedule for 2014-15

Monday through Friday I will be posting about writing as business and craft, the science of creativity, all things steampunk, and progress on The Dreamless City.

Weekends are reserved for my Music Playlist.

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About the Author

Tracy Cembor attempts to juggle a preschooler and a baby, a full-time job, random geekery, and the writing life. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a steampunk urban fantasy novel. Come join the adventure.
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