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Archive for November, 2014

paperbeadsI have some great friends.. old friends, but we won’t get into ‘how’ old… ’cause I’m NOT telling! Anywho, this old friend gave a beautiful necklace a long time ago made of paper beads.

Recently as I was talking to him about this series of posts he brought up the beads. His grandmother had made them as a child and had learned the craft from her mother, so he knew it was from the ‘right’ era. A little searching on the net brings up a love link for those who would like to make the beads for themselves.

Guide to Making Paper Beads

So here’s the crazy thought…

I’m one of those that sees crafts made of old books… and I wince. I love the idea of recycling, but I hate the idea that writing from another era might be lost forever when the book is consumed by the craft…

But, if you’re a writer (and most of us are) why not make these beads with your printed drafts?

Now, I know the concern may be someone opening up all the beads to read your work, but that’s a lot of unrolling… so don’t do it with your printed drafts if you’re worried, but I think it might be a nice way to recycle… or use those left over scrapbook papers!

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STEAMPUNK FAQ

green gold

photo by Candice Wilmore

What to ask (or not to ask) your friendly neighborhood steampunk author. Here are some of the mostly commonly asked questions, how I usually answer, along with what I’d sometimes like to say.

What the heck is steampunk, anyway?

This is the big one—the one we hear ALL the time. My answers range from snarky (Jules Verne on crack) to oversimplified (science fiction set in Victorian times)For folks my age and over, I sometimes reference the old Wild, Wild West TV show. The long answer, which I never say, is that steampunk is a blend of historical feel and advanced technology. It’s not just a fiction genre, although it certainly is that, but it’s also a mood, a feel, and a thriving social phenomenon. It embodies futuristic technology, sometimes fantasy elements, and a rebellious attitude, along with a return to pride in manufacturing and craftsmanship. Most of all? It’s a whole hell of a lot of fun.

Why write steampunk? And why do you mix fantasy and/or romance elements into your steampunk stories?

Again, because it’s fun. I like writing books that I’d like to read. I love mixing history, SF, fantasy and romance. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s what I enjoy.

What’s the coolest gadget you’ve invented for your books?

Gee, I’ve had cybermen and networked computers in Victorian London. Typewriter, telephone, germ theory and dirigible are all there ahead of their real time. Rings that eject poison darts and clockwork powered artificial limbs. Beyond all of that, however, the coolest creation in the Gaslight Chronicles world is George, the mechanical dog. George is kind of like Mr. Data on Star Trek. He’s exceeded his components and programming to the point where he’s really more or less a living creature.

How much research do you do, or do you make it all up?

Short answer: Quite a bit. Long answer: I do a surprisingly heavy amount of research for my steampunk stories. I very carefully take the key incidents that changed my world from the one we live in, then I follow those changes and decide how they would have effected everything else in the world where the characters live. In my case, the tipping point is twofold: 1) Magic has always existed and been acknowledged, and werewolves, vampyres, etc. DO exist. Therefore the Order of the Round Table was never disbanded in England and still exists, Knights with extraordinary powers who protect England from supernatural threats. 2) The computer was invented in the 1840s, by a man called Babbage, and is called an analytical engine. (There’s history behind this. Babbage in fact, did design this machine, but it was never built in our world.) Since a woman wrote the code for this machine, women in the sciences were catapulted ahead of where they were in our world. I also do a lot of research on clothing, settings, historical events and figures. In Cards and Caravans, I had to tweak the Scottish legal system, since they weren’t really burning witches in the 1850s. But that means I had to know it before I could tweak it. And maybe, in a world where magic was a known reality, those laws might have been a little different.

Have you read… (insert your list of other people’s books that are or may be close to my genre)

Yes, no, maybe. Much steampunk is YA, and I don’t read a lot of that. I also don’t read a lot of hard SF, where it’s all about the technology and the world. I like my character-driven stories and my romance, so that’s most of what I read. I have read William Gibson’s The Difference Engine, which is one of the seminal works of SF. Also, since steampunk is so maker-driven, there is a lot of self-published and web-original work out there. I read some, but may not have had time to read all of it.

Who are your favorite steampunk authors?

LOL, besides myself? Snark. I love MelJean Brooks, Gail Carriger (except for the book where the main couple breaks up at the end—HATED that one) Kate Cross and Seleste Delaney. There are so many more I need to read, but haven’t yet.

Where can I buy your books? Are they at WalMart?

My steampunk series, so far, is only in e-book, with the exception of Steam & Sorcery, which is available in print, exclusively through Amazon. That’s kind of awkward in a community that wants everything to look like it’s 1885. So yes, you can get them at Amazon, or B&N, or the Carina Press website. You might catch me at a con with a few copies of S&S to give away. Most of them are also on Audible.com. No, you can’t get them at the grocery store. Sorry. I wish that wasn’t the case, believe me.

How many more books will there be? When is the next one coming out? Which characters are in it?

Truthfully? I don’t know. It depends on a lot. Mainly, sales. That’s the hard reality of the fiction business. The more they sell, the more there will be. A girl’s gotta eat, you know? There are two more on the table with my publisher. That’s all I know at the moment. The characters? Well, that’s up to the publisher, too. Let’s just say there’s a whole bunch of Hadrians who still need happy endings.

Where do you get all your cool steampunk clothes?

Thrift shops. (I’m short, so a lot of skirts are floor-length on me, so I cheat there.) Renaissance festivals. The vendors there tend to be awesome, but pricey, so build your wardrobe a few pieces at a time. Catalogs and online companies like Victorian Trading Co., Pyramid Company, Corset-Story and Holy Clothing. Finally, there’s the custom vendors. That’s where things get really pricey, but really, really, cool. I’m not very crafty, but honestly, if you can sew, you have it made.

Last question: How do you come up with the ideas for all this far-out stuff?

Usual answer: No idea. I just have a wild imagination. Snarky answer #1: I’m just twisted like that. Snarkier answer: The idea fairy leaves them in my shower and under my pillow, so I find them when it’s least convenient.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends in the US!

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Steampunk Group Art Exhibition at East End

Last weekend I attended the Steampunk Group Art Exhibition at East End Studio Gallery in Houston.

It was a marvelous collection of paintings sculptures, even a moving sculpture, and other 3D art. There was an amazing sculpture of an octopus created by Nik Burns, titlted Copter Octopus. It features a patinated Copper body and Steel legs. The eyes were created from parts of a Brass water tap and Burr Oak was used for the top of the head. The combination of nature with machine is a common theme of Nik Burns’ one of a kind sculptures that he creates working from the beautiful Shropshire hills in England.

Hanging The Moon

Deborah Hill’s sculptures were extraordinary. This artist records the ‘story’ or metaphor with a subconscious interpretation rather than what is physically seen with the eye. She’s from the Appalachian foothills of Alabama, and has been in Texas since 1992. She works from her studio in Cypress, Texas.

Here is more amazing art work at the exhibition. The quill from the peacock feather hat and her bright copper hair sprang from the canvas into 3D work.This is by Blue 130.

Blue 130 is  Jennifer “Blue 130” Corletto.  Her art is heavily influenced by her Puerto Rican/Dominican roots, comic books, pin up art, graffiti, horror icons, storybooks, and music. Her work incorporates textile elements, and layered cutouts. She now lives in Houston. Her colorful work can usually be seen at the East End Studio Gallery and she’s shown at House of Blues, Artopia, Summer Street , Hardy & Nance, and Pushing the Limits.

Blue 130 - click on the art above to go to her FB page

Blue 130 – click on the art above for the link to The art of Blue 130’s Photos FB page

SDteampunk LadySteampunk Owl

This is a stunning steampunk portrait. The mix of colors and the lady’s expression are so striking. The purple adds a bit of mystery to the black and the red a sense of daring. I want to know more about his woman (this piece is great inspiration for writing).

The clockwork owl painting is so enchanting. I love his cog eyes. I wonder…is that the key to time in his claws.

If you are in the Houston area, drop by East End Studio Gallery, the quality and variety of this Steampunk exhibit is thrilling. The exhibit will be open until Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.

 ~           ~            ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 22 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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Military in Steampunk

981656_613954288623576_410594702_oIn honor of Veteran’s Day yesterday, I’m thinking a bit about the popularity of military and pseudo-military uniforms in the steampunk cosplay world and also about the prevalence of military themes in steampunk fiction.

One reason I can think of for the cosplay aspect is that a number of steampunkers come out of a background of military reenactment. Pop on your uniform, add some goggles and gears and it’s an instant costume. Or for the more serious reenactor, the challenge of finding and finishing a more esoteric uniform can be quite a coup. It also provides an excuse for cool props like ray guns and laser swords, like the deck gun crewI’m modeling with here. Finally, I think, a lot of it is from the airship concept. Here’s the crew of the Airship Defiance, with the spouse, Retired Fleet Admiral Pape and me, Lt. Commander Pape, Ship’s Naturalist, in the back behind the gun.

In stories, I think it’s mostly because the military aspect provides adventure. And it gives us heroes we can root for and be proud of. Happy Veteran’s Day (a day belated) to one and all, and a warm thank you to all those who’ve served in other ways than on an imaginary Airship.

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I began writing historical romances, Celtic ones, set in the Bronze ages,  Iron ages, and Dark ages. I moved from history to alternate history with Steampunk. The move into Steampunk was a natural one for me. In To Love The London Ghost I even combined Victorian history with ancient Celtic history as my heroine is a ghost who died on the banks of the Thames fighting Julius Ceasar.

I always loved the Victorian era, I think because of all those western shows I use to watch growing up: The Riffle Man, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Bonanza, The Virginian, and Wagon Train. When I was eight, I discovered the Little House On The Prairie books, those page turners were the first series I ever read and historical fiction has been one of my favorite genres ever since.

Around the age of six on up to about eight, I use to daydream what I called TV in my head and except for one series of mine – fan fiction based on Flash Gordon – all the others were westerns. In one daydream series my hero road a buffalo – I was six or seven and it made perfect sense at the time.  The heroine of those daydreams, the buffalo rider’s wife, always wore a blue and white print frontier style dress. I should find some fabric like that and have a prairie dress made for myself. I can tell people I’m cosplaying a character form my daydreams when I was seven. Why not?

I was eight or nine when The Wild Wild West show began on TV and I was crazy about it. With that in mind, click on the Wild Wild West video for some background music for the post.

I know now that The Wild Wild West was Steampunk.

DSCN0086 (2)Though I haven’t written any western themed Steampunk yet, I live in an area where western Steampunk costumes and personas are popular. I live in Texas. Here are some Western themed photos from members of Houston’s local Steampunk community.

Now that I’ve shared my childhood inspiration with all of you, feel free to comment below on what inspired you to write Steampunk. I’d love to hear about it.

 

wester

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 22 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

 

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An All Hallows Wager

Yes, I know Halloween was a few days ago. I wrote this as part of the Halloween Book Trail and now that it’s over, wanted to share this with all of you. Enjoy.  

An All Hallows Wager

An Aether Chronicles Story

© Suzanne Lazear 2014

 

Noli pulled her cape a little closer to her against the cold Los Angeles night as she and V walked down the street. Many houses were decorated with lanterns carved from gourds and pumpkins, walkways lined with candles, and other such things as costumes adults and children went to and fro attending parties and gatherings. Often more than one.

 

“Why do we have to do this?” Noli whined, waving around the paper list in her hand. She hated society parties. At least this one had games.

 

A flying car, a dragon model by the wings, swooped past. Noli waved out of habit. They honked in reply.

 

“I thought you wanted to play the game? At least we were paired up.” Steven Darrow, or V, as she called him, looked dashing as usual. He was dressed as a prince, complete with a sword. The green and brown velvet, heavy with gold embroidery brought out his green eyes. A thin, golden circlet rested on his messy, golden hair.

 

The funny thing was that V was actually a prince. Well, an exiled prince. An exiled prince of the earth court from the realm of faerie, or the Otherworld, as they called it.

 

“True.” There were worse things than being alone with V in the dark on a scavenger hunt. “Still, it’s cold. And I’m hungry.” In the light of the gas streetlamps she peered at the ten items on the list.

 

“We have five already,” a voice sneered. “How many do you have?”

 

Noli sighed and looked over at the taunting form approaching them. Missy Sassafras’ costume was blinding, covered in spangles and sparkles. She practically leaked feathers and beads. What was she supposed to be? Certainly, it wasn’t flattering. Missy was mousy and a bit round. Also, that shade of orange suited very few completions. Hers wasn’t one of them.

 

“Five? Good for you, Missy.” Noli pasted a fake smile on her face. She didn’t like Missy much. Certainly she wasn’t going to admit that they had none. First team to return won. What, she wasn’t sure.

 

How had Missy gotten so many so quickly? The game just started.

 

A spindly form skulked behind. One in a Gladiator costume, carrying a small sack. Will was Missy’s partner for the game.

 

“V,” he nodded, ignoring Noli.

 

“Will,” V nodded back. Ever the gentleman, V gave Missy a little bow. “Miss Sassafras.”

 

Missy gave a little giggle that sounded a bit like a pig being tortured. She waved her fan in front of her face.

 

“Mr. Darrow, your costume is exquisite.” She moved a little as if trying to show off her own costume, probably hoping for V to compliment her in turn. “But Noli I really have no idea what you’re supposed to be.” Her thin lips curved into a sneer.

 

“A princess, right?” Will said softly. “He’s the prince and you’re the princess. Clever.”

 

“You’re right, Will.” Noli smoothed the fabric. It was an Otherworld dress of dark green velvet, heavy with gold embroidery, smooth and flowing without the bustles and crinolines so popular in Los Angeles. Her crown was made of roses from her garden and green and gold ribbons. V’s little sister Elise had helped her with it.

 

“A princess?” Missy laughed so hard she held her sides. “Noli a princess, sure. The dress isn’t even fluffy. I’m not even sure why she gets invited to parties. It’s like inviting the help.”

 

Noli bit her tongue to keep herself from saying what she really thought. Missy was naught but a social climbing dollymop. However, new money or not, Missy, and her parents, weren’t people to aggravate, especially when Noli’s own social position was so precarious.

 

Still, ire rose within her and her hands fisted, the list crumpling.

 

V frowned. “Miss Sassafras, that doesn’t seem like a very nice thing to say.”

 

It wasn’t a very nice thing to say, but Missy didn’t have very nice manners.

 

“It’s true.” Missy waved it off with her hand, then sniffed. “I don’t know why you even bother associating with her.”

 

She said what?

 

“What do you know, Missy Sassafras?” Noli retorted, cheeks blazing as she took a step forward. “I’ll let you know that we’re going to win that scavenger hunt.”

 

“Care to wager?” Missy sneered.

 

“Sure,” Noli replied, even though she had no money to wager.

 

“Fine. If I win the game, Mr. Darrow escorts me to the next ball.” Missy shot her a triumphant look.

 

“Fine, and if you lose then you give me ten dollars,” Noli retorted. It was the first thing that popped into her head. There was quite a bit she could buy with that sort of money.

 

“Deal.” Missy held out her hand.

 

“Deal.” Noli shook it.

 

“Wait a moment.” V tried to separate them with his body. “Don’t I have a say in this?”

“No.” Missy shook her head. “See you soon. By the way, Mr. Darrow, I like posies.” She waggled her fingers and flounced off, leaving a trail of spangles.

 

“Girls are barking mad, I tell you.” Will sighed and gave V a sympathetic look, then trotted off.

 

“Noli, what did you do?” V’s green eyes went wide. “I don’t want to go any ball, let alone one with her.

 

“I know. Me and my big mouth.” Noli sighed. “What did I just do? But ten dollars! And she just makes me so mad.

 

“I know.” V looked at the list. “I have some of these, and so do you, but the problem is time, especially if they actually have five.”

 

“I don’t think they do.” Noli started to walk toward V’s house.

 

“We can’t risk that.” A resigned look crossed his face. “Come, now, we haven’t much time.” V’s arm linked hers and they ran down the street. They passed more people playing other games or simply out enjoying the evening. They waved as another neighbor drove passed in their steam-powered auto.

 

They stopped in front of an old oak tree in a nearby park. A ring of mushrooms encircled it and flowers grew around it. The twisted trunk thrummed with energy and magic.

 

But it was. Not only was this a “fairy tree”, but little wood faeries actually occupied it. As if summoned, tiny balls of light appeared. A yellow one landed on Noli’s shoulder. The light was actually a glowing tiny person with yellow wings.

 

“Hi there,” Noli greeted. She couldn’t understand them, but they could understand her.

 

“We need your help,” V told them. “We need all these things and we only have a few moments.”

 

Noli watched as V made assignments. He could talk to them just fine.

 

V grabbed her hand. “They’re meeting us at my house, let’s go.”

 

“We’re asking the faeries for help, isn’t that cheating?” Noli laughed as they ran. She didn’t care about cheating, as long as Missy didn’t win. However, V was usually a fussy old bodger about things like this.

 

He grimaced. “It is, and I don’t like it. But I’m not about to be her escort. Only you, Noli.”

 

Those three words held so many meanings, but he was right.

 

At least he wasn’t angry. She’d be angry if she’d been in his shoes. “I’m sorry, V. I shouldn’t have done that. Missy brings out the worst in me.”

 

He squeezed her hand. “It’s all right. I forgive you. She is a bit…much.”

 

They ran up the steps to his house, which was always so neat and orderly, even though there was no mother. Compared to her own house, which no matter how much work she and V did always looked worn and ramshackle compared to the others on their block.

 

“You get the items from the kitchen, I’ll get the book and what’s upstairs,” V told her as they went inside.

 

The house was empty, since his little sister Elise was at a children’s party. Noli wasn’t sure where James was. However, he liked parties even less than Noli. Also, Mr. Darrow didn’t approve of them courting. After all, one day V would take back his family’s court and restore his family’s good name.

 

No matter what, Noli was just the girl next door.

 

They gathered the items and ran out to the backyard. The fairies there, items in tow.

 

Noli put them in the sack as V checked everything off the list. A biscuit. A novel by dickens. A handbill for a moving picture. A clockwork bird. A stocking. She laughed as she put the very fancy stocking in the bag.

 

“Do I even want to know where you got this?” she teased the faeries.

 

A blue fairy said something to V and his cheeks pinked. “No, you don’t,” he replied, eyes on the floor.

 

She could imagine quite well. The rest of the items went into the bag. “All set.”

 

V gave the faeries a little bow. “I appreciate your help. I’ll leave your reward by the tree.”

 

Noli watched as they flew off. “What did we promise them?”

 

“Treats.”

 

“That’s easy enough.” Noli slung the sack over her shoulder. “How are we on time, should we hoverboard back?”

 

“Do you think we could?” He looked torn. “They never said we couldn’t….”

 

That was good enough for her. “Let’s go.”

 

They grabbed his small, brown wooden hoverboard from the back porch. She held on to him tight, as she adjusted her position, trying to account for the weight of the sack. As they rose into the air, her loose hair whipped around her face and she wished she had goggles—and a cap.

 

They took off down the street and she craned her neck, hoping to spot Missy–and make sure they got there first.

 

Technically, hoverboards were one person conveyances. Also, the law forbid girls from hoverboarding. Once, Noli wouldn’t let it stop her, but now she was trying to stay on the right side of the law. So, she’d simply practiced until she could figure out how to properly balance so they could both fly on his hoverboard.

They landed in the backyard of the Vincent’s, who were hosting the party. Missy wasn’t in sight—and Hope Vincent, dressed as a Grecian goddess, still waited in the gazebo for the first team to come back.

“I didn’t know you could do that,” someone remarked.

“That’s not fair,” Missy’s voice screeched from across the yard.

Leaving the hoverboard on the grass, V and Noli took off for Hope, bag in hand. Must. Finish. First.

“Winner!”  Hope called just as V and Noli raced up the gazebo stairs.

Winner? Noli’s heart fell to the floor. She never should have opened her mouth. Do not engage. How many times had her mother told her that.

“Noooo.” Missy came up behind them, face flushed and crestfallen.

Wait. If Missy was behind them, who won?

James Darrow stood there triumphantly, in nothing but a bed sheet. He was the younger brother, though not by much, and looked older. A girl named Violet was at his side, dressed like a fairy, complete with fabric and wire wings. Noli used to take dance classes with her. Once. Back when she had the time and money for such things.

“James and Violent are the winners,” Hope declared. “V and Noli are second and Will and Missy are third, pending you all have the correct items.” She held out her hands for everyone’s sacks.

“Where did you come from?” Noli blurted. “I didn’t even know you were coming.”

James grinned, raking a large hand through his dark blonde girls. “I’m full of surprises.”

“Oh my,” Missy hissed. “Mr. Darrow the younger certainly has filled out.”

Hope looked though each sack. “The winners stand as stated. Here you go.”

She handed out the prizes. A cake shaped like a pumpkin for the winning team and candied apples for everyone else.

“You cheated.” Missy turned to Noli. “I’m not giving you ten dollars.”

“You don’t have to. I didn’t come in first. It was if I won, not if I beat you.” Noli shrugged, though part of her wanted to rub the candy apple in Missy’s hair. How did James win? She could really have used that ten dollars.

“Actually,” Will interjected, “you actually do owe her. The wording was that if you lost then you had to give her ten dollars.”

V nodded. “Actually, Will’s right.”

Missy’s face screwed up as if she’d eaten something bitter. She reached into her décolletage and pulled out a ten-dollar bill. “Here.”

Noli just stared at it. Ten dollars was a lot of money for someone their age to have on hand. Also, that was an odd place to keep money. Should she even touch it?

James yanked the money out of her hand, as if he didn’t care where it came from, which, he probably didn’t. “That was quite gracious of you. Here you are, Noli.”

Ten dollars. All hers.

She shook her head. “You…you can have it back, Missy.”

An eager look crossed her face.

“Missy, a wager is a wager, you should play fair,” Will scolded.

“Fine. You’re something, Noli Braddock.” Missy turned around in a huff and marched down the stairs of the gazebo.

Will just stood there. He shook his head. “Girls.”

James put a hand on Vs shoulder. “On to the next? I hear that Ginny’s party has a fortune teller.”

“I suppose. Though I need to grab a few sweets,” V told them.

“They can have my apple. I prefer caramel apples to candy,” Noli replied.

V nodded. “Very well then.”

“Here, take this.” James handed her the money.

Not sure what to do with it, she tucked it into her stocking. “That was unexpected.”

“That is what,” James agreed.

Violet rushed after them. “You’re not staying, James? Don’t you want half the cake?”

“Keep it.” James didn’t even turn around.

The three of them thanked Hope and walked down the street toward the park with the oak tree.

“How did you do it?” Noli asked. “I didn’t even think you came to the party.”

James grinned. “Cheaters never win, though I have to say, I was very tempted to help Missy just to see V take her to a ball.”

V’s face flushed. “You wouldn’t dare!”

“I can’t believe you would cheat. It’s so unlike you. She cheated too, you know. I got bored so I decided to join you and I saw her and Will cheat, then I heard you to, so I grabbed Violet and…” James shrugged. “We won. Clever, Noli, to word it like that so you got the money regardless. Not that I ever meant to begrudge you of that. I know you can use it.”

They entered the park.

“Then why bother then?” Noli frowned. Though the Darrow boys, not being human did have an odd sense of fun. “Also, I never meant to cheat her out of it.”

“I know.”

“I feel bad though. You’re right, cheaters don’t win. Even if they’re cheating a dollymop like Missy. But how did you win? It makes about as much sense as you trying to beat us, even though you gave the cake to Violet and I still won the money.” Noli placed her apple in front of the tree.

V put his down as well. “That’s what I’d like to know.”

James grinned and pulled a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts out of his bed sheet and placed them at the base of the tree. “That’s for me to know and you to find out.”

Noli looked to him and shook her head. She just didn’t get it. Boys. “Now, can we please go to a party with food? I’m hungry.”

The End

Suzanne Lazear is the author of the Aether Chronicles series, where Noli, V, James and company have lots of adventures. Some of them include flying cars and faeries. Books 1-3 are out now.

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