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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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FRAGILE DESTINY, Book 3 of the Aether Chronicles Series releases in less than one month!!! That means it’s time for a pre-order giveaway!

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Have you pre-ordered FRAGILE DESTINY? Email in your proof of purchase to aetherchroniclescontest@gmail  to receive a PDF of 4 free Aether Chronicles stories! One of which has never been seen before.

Everyone who pre-orders can get this! The pre-ordered copies can be paper or e-book and can be pre-ordered online or the store. Feel free to black out sensitive info, I just need to know you ordered it.

Thanks for helping to support the Aether Chronicles Series. Remember…Destiny is Coming!  8-8-14!

Suzanne Lazear is the author of the Aether Chronicles series. INNOCENT DARKNESS and CHARMED VENGEANCE are out now, FRAGILE DESTINY releases 8-8-14. Find out more about the series at www.aetherchronicles.com

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In honor of the birthday of my character Noli Braddock, (which was October 25), I’d like to share this short story with you. I originally wrote it for the YA Scavenger Hunt. Enjoy. 

Happy Birthday Noli

An Aether Chronicles Story

© Suzanne Lazear 2013

This story takes place between INNOCENT DARKNESS and CHARMED VENGEANCE.

Steven Darrow woke before the sun. Today was Noli’s birthday—and he wanted it to be perfect. He dressed, grabbed her present, shoved the letter from Noli’s brother in his pocket, and went downstairs. Just as he’d asked, the milkman had delivered a few special things so he could make Noli breakfast.

Gabbing the basket, he darted out the back door, across his backyard, and through the loose board in the fence which separated their backyards. The fall air was chilly and he hadn’t brought a coat.

As always, the backdoor to her house was unlocked.

Quickly and quietly, he lit the stove and put the kettle on for tea. The kitchen was very dark and the Braddock’s didn’t use their gaslights, given the expense. Noli and her mother didn’t have much money since Mr. Braddock had disappeared, though they tried.

They were also very proud.

He looked around the sparse, but fairly tidy kitchen. One of Noli’s books and a wrench sat on the table, along with Mrs. Braddock’s sewing basket.

Now…breakfast.

He took everything out of the baskets. This morning he was going to make all of Noli’s favorites–poached eggs and asparagus, fried potatoes, bacon, and tea. Later, he’d take her to the Otherworld and they’d have cake and presents with James and Charlotte.

Hopefully his brother had things handled on his part. It felt so strange that James wasn’t here in Los Angeles. Steven understood why he’d chosen to stay in the Otherworld with Charlotte, but that didn’t mean he missed him any less.

It also meant more of their father’s disapproval was focused on Steven. Between everything that had happened in the Otherworld and the fact he and Noli were courting, there was a lot of disapproval. Noli might not be mortal anymore, but his father still didn’t think she was fit for a prince.

Today, none of it mattered.

He frowned at the ingredients. How exactly did one poach an egg…or cook bacon? Steven didn’t know how to make anything more than tea and toast. Someone had always done the cooking for him.

It couldn’t be that hard. Poaching eggs involved water, right?

Trying to be quiet, he filled a pan with water, cracked two eggs, and let it boil. Then, he put some bacon on to fry. Yes, this would be easy.

The kettle whistled and he made tea and set the table, clearing off the wrench and other such things. What he’d really like to do was bring her breakfast in bed—but her mother might object.

Steven stood back and admired his handiwork. Her present sat at her seat. He should have brought roses for the table, since those were Noli’s favorite. Perhaps he could cut some from her backyard? A few were still blooming.

Yes, he’d do that. He ducked outside and cut a few roses. The smell of something burning caught his attention as he returned inside. The bacon!

Steven ran to the stove, flowers dropping to the floor. The eggs were boiling over—they also looked…well…not pretty.  The bacon was also burning. He reached out and grabbed the handle of the pan. Pain seared his hand and the pan dropped to the ground, grease and bacon flying everywhere.

Flying figs. He turned the burners off and ran his hand under cold water in the sink.

The bacon was ruined, so were the eggs. He hadn’t even gotten to the potatoes or the asparagus. There were a couple more eggs—and some more bacon.

But what if he ruined that as well?

There were footsteps on the back stairs. “Mama, is everything all right?”

Noli. Steven froze.

She came down, in only her nightdress. When she saw him, she froze, her steel eyes going wide. “V. What are you doing?”

Caught.

Embarrassment consumed him. “I was trying to make you breakfast, but all I haven’t ruined so far is the tea.”

Who would have thought cooking could be so difficult?

“Oh.” Her gaze flickered from the tea on the table to the roses and bacon on the floor.

His stomach knotted. The sun was barely up and already he’d ruined her birthday.

“Would you like some help?” Her smile lit up her face.

Steven drooped. “It’s your birthday; it wouldn’t be fair to ask you to cook.”

Noli laughed, making the entire room come alive. “I’d say it was fair—you brought the food, I cook it. I’ll dress, you clean up.”

Without another word, she ran back up the stairs, taking them two at a time.

This wasn’t precisely what he’d hoped for, but he put the roses in a vase and set them on the table, then cleaned up the floor. Already the pain in his hand was lessening. Maybe everything would be all right after all.

Noli came back down, dressed for school in a blue skirt and a white blouse with a blue ascot. She dumped her schoolbooks on the table he’d just cleared, and tied an apron around her waist. Her chestnut hair was in a braid.

“Now, what are we making? I don’t suppose there’s more bacon?” she asked, hope on her face. Noli loved bacon.

“A little. I’m sorry I ruined it. I think I ruined the eggs, too.”

“There’s still more.” Noli kissed him. “I think it’s sweet that you even tried to cook.”

His heart sped with that kiss. “I just wanted to give you a nice birthday.”

“It’s already nice. You’re here. Here, let me show you how to poach an egg, just in case you ever need to know. But first, you should wear an apron.”

Steven let Noli tie a pink apron on him and watched as she showed him how to fry bacon and potatoes, cook asparagus, and poach an egg.

“What a feast. I really appreciate it.” She leaned in and gave him a lingering kiss.

The backdoor flew open and they jumped apart.

“Oh my, what do we have here?” Mrs. Braddock stood there, already in a blue work dress.

Unlike his father, Mrs. Braddock approved of them courting, but he still couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty being caught kissing in the kitchen.

His eyes fell to the market basket on her arm. Mrs. Braddock must have had the same idea he had. Hopefully he hadn’t ruined everything.

“I taught V how to make breakfast,” Noli told her, chest puffing up slightly with pride.

Mrs. Braddock’s eyes lingered on his pink apron and she put a hand to her lips, blue eyes shining. “I see. How lovely of you to bring Noli’s favorites.”

“I didn’t ruin anything, did I, Mrs. Braddock?” he stammered. “There’s enough for everyone.”

There he went, messing things up again. Often he felt like he couldn’t do anything right.

“Of course not.” She smiled, putting him at ease. “Unless you think you won’t have enough room for these delicious pastries.” Mrs. Braddock held up the basket. “They’re still warm.”

“Oh, Mama.” Noli gave her mother a hug. “Let’s eat everything!”

His stomach rumbled in agreement.

The three of them sat down to breakfast and sang to her.

He handed her his gift, which he’d wrapped himself.

“Hmmm, let me guess, it’s a book?” She tore open the paper.

“Yes, but which one?” he teased. They both loved to read—and talk about books.

Her mouth formed an “o” of surprise. “Nicomachean Ethics you silly old bodger, if anything I should buy you a copy.”

The copy he’d lent her had been ruined.

“I…I wanted you to have it.” It was one of his favorites. Perhaps he should have bought her another Dickens novel instead. There must be one she didn’t have yet.

“I love it.” She leaned in as if to kiss him, remembered her mother was there, and pulled back. But her eyes still glimmered and he relaxed a little.

It seemed that Noli liked the present—and breakfast. Good.

“Noli, let me get your present.” Mrs. Braddock went upstairs.

“I’m guessing it’s a dress.” Noli shoved a piece of bacon in her mouth.

“It probably will be,” he replied. Her mother was a very skilled dressmaker. “Oh, I have a birthday letter for you from Jeff.” Steven fished the letter out of his pocket. Her brother was an air pirate and she hadn’t seen him in ages, but they wrote back and forth.

Noli tore open the letter and bills floated out. “That’s quite the present.” Her eyes lit up. “I need a part for the steam-powered sewing machine—and there’s a book I’d like to buy.” She tucked the money in the pocket of her skirt and read the letter.

There were footsteps on the stairs and she tucked the letter away.

“Happy Birthday, Noli.” Mrs. Braddock presented Noli with a blue dress.

“It’s wonderful, Mama.” Noli gave her a hug and the three of them finished breakfast.

Afterward, Mrs. Braddock left for her dress shop.

Noli gave him and expectant look as they cleaned up the kitchen. “We’re not actually going to school today, are we?”

Steven laughed. “Not today. James and Charlotte are expecting us. Charlotte’s baking a cake. But you might want to hide your school books, so it looks like you went.”

“A day with you, Charlotte, and James instead of school? And cake, too? I can’t wait.” She grinned. Noli liked cake almost as much as she liked bacon. “This is the best birthday I’ve had in a long time.”

“I’m sorry I burned breakfast,” he apologized as he dried the dishes. “I wanted everything to be perfect.”

“There was still enough bacon for everyone,” she laughed.

His fingers grazed her jaw. Steven kissed her, long and sweet, glad they were alone.

They’d been friends for so long, and now they were more. Every day he thanked the Bight Lady for it, for her. Sure, not everything was perfect, but maybe they didn’t always have to be. One thing they had was time. Something he’d also learned not to take for granted.

“Happy Birthday, Noli.” He tangled his hand in her hair.

She gazed into his eyes. “Birthdays don’t need be perfect, as long as I have those I love. Now, let’s go eat some cake.”

THE END

 —

Suzanne Lazear is  the author of the Aether Chronicles series. INNOCENT DARKNESS and CHARMED VENGEANCE are out now, FRAGILE DESTINY releases in 2014. Find out more about the series at www.aetherchronicles.com 

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Being published has led to the requisite notifying of former teachers — the ones who encouraged me to follow my childhood dream of being a writer, the ones who taught me to write, the ones who had a major impact on me as a person and who I grew up to be.

Now, I have *really* been tempted at times to send a former (mis)guidance counselor a copy of my book signed with “suck it”, but well, that would be a waste of a perfectly good  copy, right?

I can trace my goal of wanting to be a published author back to the third grade (though my mom says it goes back earlier.) I distinctly remember wanting to write books that you could buy in book stores. (Most specifically, Changing Hands Bookstore, the bookstore I literally spent most of my youth in.)

There was nothing quite like my third grade teacher coming to my book signing for INNOCENT DARKNESS in my hometown (yes, at Changing Hands bookstore. Talk about childhood dream fulfilment.)  He told me he always thought of me as a wordsmith, and that where his students had grown up to be many things, I was his first author.

Then…one of my high school English teachers came to another book event I did in my hometown several months later. I had three really amazing English teachers and was able to track down two of them. This particular one…well, he was probably the toughest teacher I had in high school. And the one I learned the most from (though I don’t think I realized it until graduate school). I had him for math, for Honors Sophomore English, then he “retired” from teaching to be the head library, and I was his TA my senior year. Talk about a Renaissance Man.

We talked, he bought my book, I very nervously signed it (To “Mr.” of course, I just can’t bring myself to call him by his first name), part of me hoping he never actually read it. Not only is there kissing in it (and who wants their high school English teacher to read that), but he was a tough grader. That inner-fifteen-year-old feared it wouldn’t be worthy of an “A.”

“This book is all your fault,” I told him, trying to get over my nervousness. Was everything grammatically correct? Had we found all the errors? Did I use parallel structure properly?

He looked at me, in that English teacher way. “How so?”

I told him.

It was sophomore year. I was reading a lot of romance novels, mostly because there wasn’t the YA selection when I was a teen that there is now.  I can’t quite remember what we were doing in English. I think we may have been reading Encounters with the Archdruid or perhaps it was Plutarch.  Either way, it wasn’t nearly as interesting as what I was reading. (I think it was a pirate romance novel.) So, I did what I’d done many, many times over the years, even though I knew it was wrong.

I read my book under my desk instead of paying attention.

This time, he took it away from me.  After class he told me that romance novels were “garbage.” If I was going to read garbage, then I should read good garbage. He gave me a Piers Anthony novel (I think it was Ogre, Ogre.)

I’d read fantasy before, but this started a period of about a decade where I only read good garbage Science Fiction and High Fantasy. I laughed at all the puns in the world of Xanth, went into space with Sassinak, flew dragons in Pern, wished I lived on Darkover, traveled with a space suit, and went to many, many far off places. I read books that later I’d learn were “Steampunk” and became obsessed with faeries and fairy tales. This binge of SciFi and Fantasy really impacted me as a person and a writer.

It also left me terrified of romance novels.

No, seriously.

In hindsight, I think he was joking, but as a young teen, I really took it to heart.

When I began writing seriously in 2007, it took me well over a year to work up the nerve to join my local chapter of the Romance Writers of America. It took me longer to actually buy (and read) a romance novel without feeling like a traitor to the cause. It took me even longer to acknowledge the fact that I liked writing romance.  Romance mixed with Fantasy, SciFi, Paranormal, or all of the above.

In many ways, The Aether Chronicles series in a culmination of those events. There’s SciFi, Fantasy, and a dash of romance, (okay, maybe more than a dash), all rolled up in a YA book. I’m not sure I ever would have written that (or anything else I write), without that particular set of experiences. Experiences set into motion by my high school English teacher.

When I told my teacher, he nodded. “I’d totally forgotten about that.”

But he seemed to smile in a way that meant that perhaps he liked the idea of a book being his fault.

He didn’t make it to my signing for CHARMED VENGEANCE. But he did send me a very nice email, wishing he could come. He also told me that he’d really enjoyed INNOCENT DARKNESS and to let him know if I’d like to hear his thoughts.

Part of me went ‘Yes, please” wondering what he’d think of my strange little book.

Then I remembered what I tough grader he was.

Nevertheless, I’m glad he read it–and, where I’d been really mad that day in high school, now I’m glad he took that book. Otherwise, who knows what stories I’d be writing now.

~Suzanne

Suzanne Lazear is the author of the Aether Chronicles Series (YA Steampunk Faeries). Innocent Darkness and Charmed vengeance are out now. Learn more about the series on the series website.

 

 

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CHARMED VENGEANCE in the wild photo contest!

Send me your pictures of CV in the wild — you with your copy, in the bookstore, etc. There will be prizes for the most creative, silliest, most steampunky, and cutest. Use your imagination (but be kind if you’re in a public place and you should know the people in the pictures.) Email them to suzannelazear@yahoo.com with PHOTO CONTEST in the header. Contest ends August 30, 2013. If your under 18, please have your parent’s permission.

Come join us on August 13 at Coffee Time Romance for an online release party with prizes!

Have a great week everyone.

~Suzanne

Suzanne Lazear is the author of the YA steampunk fairytale series THE AETHER CHRONICLES. Book 1, INNOCENT DARKNESS and Book 2, CHARMED VENGEANCE are out now from Flux wherever books and ebooks are sold. For more information on the series please visit www.aetherchonicles.com

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I have an online class on writing the punk genres that starts today and runs until September 1.  You should check it out, it’s not too late to join.

I’m super excited because CHARMED VENGEANCE, book 2 in my Aether Chronicles series releases on Thursday — and the book will be available wherever you like to buy your books and ebooks. 

If you’re in SoCal, please drop by one of my signings!

Friday, August 9th — Vroman’s, Pasadena, CA 7 pm,
Wear your steampunk or faery best. There will be prizes, swag, and cake!

Saturday, August 10th–Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego, CA 2 pm
Wear your steampunk or faery best. There will be prizes, swag, and cake!

Also, there’s a great CHARMED VENGEANCE giveaway at YA Book Central.

The Book 2 Blues

by Suzanne Lazear

CHARMED VENGEANCE is book 2 of my Aether Chronicles series. Writing a second book in a series is very different from writing the first book.

Charmed Vengeance 1Book 1 is new and shiny. The sky is the limit. You can do anything. Say anything. The endless possibilities are part of what makes a new book in a new series so appealing and exciting.

Book 2 is different.  Where book 1 is an empty canvas, book 2’s canvas is already started. You can take it in new and different directions, and do exciting things, but it still has to coordinate with what was started.

That’s where the challenge lies.

The world has already been established and what was an amazing idea or a throwaway line in book 1 could hinder book 2, causing you to rethink your plotline, since you can’t undo what has been written in a published story the way you can in a draft.

It can be hard to build on book 1 and expand on the previous world while leading up to book 3 while making it a story in itself, one that stands alone and is compelling and interesting in its own right. A story that’s even better than book 1.

That’s quite the challenge, right?

But wait, there’s more.

For me, book 1 was written at my own pace, in my own time, for my own amusement. I could take as long as I wanted to make it compelling, perfect.

For book 2 I didn’t have the luxury. Book 2 was on contract. I was writing it on a schedule, and I had to deliver, on time. This can be a challenge if you’ve never written on deadline, and even if you have, staying on task while writing an entire book can also be a challenge. Where I’m used to deadlines, I also can get distracted, not to mention I’m not a stay-at-home writer.

But for all the challenges, there’s something unique about writing a sequel because it’s harder.  It’s another accomplishment in the life of a writer. Finishing it is an exhilarating accomplishment in itself, just like finishing a jigsaw puzzle and it actually resembles the box.

Where book 1 is a discovery as you create new characters and new worlds, book 2 is a reunion with old friends.  You’re reunited with the old crew for a new advenute and that’s thrilling and exciting in itself.

Writing book 2 can be a challenge, but it can also be amazing, because it’s harder, because it’s a continuation and there are expectations. You have readers, people who want this story, who are invested in your characters.

You have a second book.  Tell the story that needs to be told.

I know personally, I love CHARMED VENGEANCE even more than INNOCENT DARKNESS.  I hope you love it, too.

~Suzanne

Suzanne Lazear is the author of the YA steampunk fairytale series THE AETHER CHRONICLES. Book 1, INNOCENT DARKNESS is out now and Book 2, CHARMED VENGEANCE releases 8-8-13 from Flux. They’re available wherever books and ebooks are sold. For more information on the series please visit www.aetherchonicles.com

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I used Grammarly to grammar check this post so I’d have more time to bake cupcakes.

Adventures in Alternate History: Steampunking the Mormon Battalion

By Suzanne Lazear

One of the things I enjoy most about writing steampunk is the ability to play around with history. For me, it’s fun to find odd facts from the past, exploring the what-ifs and never-wases and moving things around in order to create a new history–and a good story.

Charmed Vengeance 1In CHARMED VENGEANCE I really got a chance to play with history because a bulk of the story takes place in the mortal realm–on an airship. One of my favorite creations is The MoBatts. 

I remember when it started. I was teaching my very first online class on writing steampunk.  Someone in the class was from Arizona, which was where I grew up.  We started talking about little known bits of history, which led to a discussion about the the Mormon Battalion and how it could be neat to steampunk it.

“I know where I can put that,” I told her. I wish I remembered which student she was, because I’d like to thank her for the idea.

The Mormon Battalion was the only the religiously based military unit and they served from 1846-1847 during the Mexican-American war. Their march secured much of the Southwest and opened a southern wagon route to California. From a purely historical POV it’s actually quite facinating.

CHARMED VENGEANCE book 2 of my Aether Chronicles series takes place in an alternate version of 1901, where there is advanced technology such as airships and hoverboards.

In my alternate reality after the war the Mormon Battalion eventually became the private security for Deseret territory.  In my world, Deseret, (a state that never was) is now an accepted territory, roughly the size and placement of Utah. (The original proposed state of Deseret was much bigger). I include Deseret, because it’s also an odd bit of history which pairs well with my MoBatts–after all, they need to protect something, right?

The MoBatts protect the skies of Desert, especially against air pirates. They are fierce and vigilant. The air pirates fear the MoBotts more than the air patrol.  For the most part, they try to avoid flying over Deseret. When they can’t they engage decoys — small, fast ships that draw the MoBatts away so the other ship can pass unharmed.

It was really fun researching both the Mormon Battalion and the state of Deseret so I could figure out how to mold and change things to suit my story. It was even more fun writing the scenes where my characters get chased by (and shot down by) MoBatts.

For my intents and purposes I left religion out of it (the MoBatts were a very small plot thread) and there really is no discussion as to how you become one, nor do we meet any. We don’t know much about Desert either other than it’s a territory, anyone can settle there, drinking and gambling are illegal, and they have little tolerance for air piracy.

Maybe one day I’ll write something where I can develop the MoBatts a little further. As exciting as being an air pirate is, I bet chasing down air pirates for a living is exciting as well, not to mention, as a writer it’s always interesting to create societies and organizations.

Would you rather chase air pirates or be one?

CHARMED VENGEANCE releases 8-8-13 from Flux, and is available wherever books are sold and as an e-book.

Learn more about the Aether Chronicles on the series website. 

~Suzanne

Suzanne Lazear is the author of the YA fairytale steampunk series, the Aether Chronicles. Book One, INNOCENT DARKNESS is out now. Book Two, CHARMED VENGEANCE, releases 8-8-13.

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