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So…it’s here.  My fairytale steampunk young adult novel INNOCENT DARKNESS hits shelves Wednesday.  Then it will be officially “in the wild” which is exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

It’s actually already appearing in people’s mailboxes and in bookstores. (If you see it, would you mind Facebooking or tweeting it? If you let me know I’ll send you a bookplate. I’m going to be having a photo contest on my personal blog, so you can win more stuff there, too)

See–

Cute right?

So…who wants to win some prizes?  You know, like these?

So one grand prize winner will win a  fifteen dollar GC to Amazon, B&N OR the Book Depository + Zoe Archer’s SKIES OF FIRE and Nico Rosso’s NIGHT OF FIRE (both from the Ether chronicle series, because series that have “eather” or “aether” in them are awesome) + some buttons & swag in an INNOCENT DARKNESS tote bag.

Four other winners will each win one book + buttons + swag  (Karina Cooper’s LURE OF THE WICKED (signed), Dave Freer’s CUTTLEFISH, THE CLOCKWORK THREE by Matthew J. Kirbyand Kassy Tayler’s ASHES OF TWILIGHT (signed ARC).)

So, what do you have to do? We’re having a caption contest. Write your own caption to the sleeping baby with the book picture (Picture A) and post it in the comments below (or you can send me your altered version at suzannelazear (@)yahool

Or you could write a caption to photo B

Or Photo C

or Photo D

Don’t forget to tell us which photo the caption is for! Keep them clean please! Open internationally. Contest ends August 19th at 11:59 PM pst. One entry per person per photo please (so a max of four entries.)

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Guess what everyone, it’s nearly time for Steampunkapalooza 2011, our annual month-long online Steampunk Birthday Bash!  We have an incredible lineup for you this year with some great people and giveaways and we’re still adding new things.  (We still have a few weekend days open if you have a suggestion/recommendation).   As you can see we have a lot of new faces and some of your favorites.  During April stop by every day for great guests, prizes, mayhem, and more.   Hold on to your fishnets, it’s going to be one heck of a party.

Also, the great folks at Tor have given us five, yes, five, copies of Stephen Hunt’s book The Rise of the Iron Moon to help kick everything off.  Want to win a copy?  Just tell me which guest you’re looking forward to the most and we’ll pick five commentors at random. 

Steampunkapalooza 2011 Tentative Schedule

April 4 Caitlin Kittredge

April 5 Saundra Mitchell

April 6 Dru Pagliassotti

April 7 GD Falksen

April 8 Felix Gilman

April 10 Mystic Pieces Jewelry Design

April 11 Mark Hodder

April 12 Andrew Mayer

April 13 George Mann

April 14 Mike Resnick

April 15 Tim Akers

April 16 Ren Cummins

April 18 Gail Carriger

April 19 Jaymee Goh

April 20 Beth Revis

April 21 Leanna Renee Hieber

April 22  Philippa Ballantine

April 25 Kady Cross

April 26 Crista McHugh

April 27 Marie Harte

April 28 Christine Bell

April 29 Cindy Spencer-Pape

 

It’s an exciting list, isn’t it?  So, who are you most looking forward to?  Contest closes April 1, 2011 at 11:59 PST.  Winners announced April 4, 2011.

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First off, there’s still time to register for my writing YA class, which starts Feb. 14th. Details here.

Second off, I have the winners of the two copies of The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book 1. The winners are…

Alden Ash and Heather Hiestand

Alden and Heather please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize. Winners of Anya Bast’s Raven’s Quest will be anounced Monday.

Today we welcome Middle Grade Author David Burton who’s going to tell us about his new steampunk adventure for kids, Scourge (and giveaway some copies, too.)

ScourgeFirst, can you tell us a little about yourself and your latest steampunk creation?

Gladly! I was born in Windsor, Ontario (just across the river from Detroit) to parents who encouraged me to read from a very young age. I graduated from the University of Toronto with a major in Biology and a minor in Classical Civilization. I currently live near Toronto with my same-sex partner and our three boys (we adopted three brothers three years ago). And we have one basset hound that keeps us all in check. 🙂

Scourge is a middle-grade (ages 9-12) novel that is the first in a series. It centers around a young boy and his family that travel to the world of Verne. Naturally, there are dirigibles, goggles (my favorite part!), and absinth.

Here’s the blurb and the book trailer:

Two dads, five siblings, and goggles!

Grim Doyle has always known his life was not exactly “normal”, and things get even more curious when he discovers a set of stones that sweep him and his family to the fantasy, steampunk world of Verne – a place they had escaped from years ago. Now that they’ve returned, Grim and his siblings hide from the evil Lord Victor and his minions. And while learning about Jinns, Mystics, and the power of absinth they try to discover who is trying to kill them with the deadly Scourge.

Why did you choose steampunk as a genre?

For most of my life I would have considered myself more of a fantasy reader/writer. But looking back, prior to adopting our children I was a Final Fantasy addict for two decades, so a steampunk influence has been in my life a long time. In fact, that’s probably the greatest influence when it comes to this book (other than my boys, that is!). When we adopted our boys I watched what really got them hooked and that’s when I realized that I should go back to my roots and not focus solely on fantasy as a genre. Incorporating steampunk with fantasy was the perfect mix and it really allowed me to stretch my imagination for this series.

Why did you write it for middle grade?

There are great works out there in the YA category: Boneshaker, The Windup Girl, Leviathan, Soulless (and thankfully because of these, I think the steampunk genre is really taking off), but there isn’t as much in the middle-grade arena. Pullman’s His Dark Materials series is wonderful, but I thought there needed to be more. Fortunately, the voice of the narrative seemed to come out in a middle-grade format when I started writing it, so it worked out well.

Can you share with us a scene from Scourge?

Here’s a scene when Grim takes it upon himself to try to find a cure for the Scourge:

The streets were bare. The lampposts gave off a bluish-white light that reflected off the slickened streets. The moisture in the air settled into Grim’s bones. There were no moons or stars in the sky. The thick cloud cover had taken care of that. Yet despite the lack of life on the street, Grim couldn’t help but feel that there was something there, watching him. He looked for the strange bird that he had seen across the street, or the cloaked man.

There was nothing.

He stopped. A couple of sewer rats scampered across the road behind him. An alley cat, or maybe it was Pringles, was perched upon a steel railing. It paid him no heed, more interested in the rats.

Grim moved on, determined to make haste. He pulled his jacket about him to ward off the night’s chill. Three small dirigibles sped overhead.

He looked at the street signs, one at a time, yet none were Absolution Street. And none of the buildings had signs that read The Green Fairy.

Grim ducked into an alley at the sound of something coming up the street. One pair of boots and a walking stick that tapped the ground at a hurried pace. He stuffed himself between some old crates that smelled like bad cabbage and waited.

The footsteps turned into the alley towards him, and Grim shuffled back, trying to catch a glimpse of whoever was coming. All he could see were shiny boots and a pointed walking stick.

Grim turned and ran, twisting and winding through alleys. The footsteps continued behind him.

The passageways funneled Grim between large buildings, yet never seemed to lead him anywhere, or at least not to any street. It became a maze of darkened laneways and slippery cobblestone corridors. He tried various doors.

All locked.

The footsteps quickened. Grim ran, his feet sliding.

Until finally he came upon a door. On it was a metal emblem of a girl with emerald wings.

He yanked on it, and it opened.

Then a large, meaty hand reached out and tugged Grimwald Doyle inside.

Billy BonesSo what’s next for you?

Currently, I’m working on another children’s novel that I’m posting live at my blog as I write it called Billy Bones: Beyond the Grave. I’m also releasing a paranormal romance novel in the spring titled Broken, and I have a dark fantasy novel I released last year called The Second Coming. Naturally, I’m trying to work in the next of the Grim Doyle series as well. 🙂

You’re offering to do a giveaway. Can you tell us about that?

At my site, I offer an electronic version (ebook) of my novels with a dedication page, addressed to the purchaser, that is autographed by me. I also substitute the name of one of the minor characters in the book with the name of the purchaser. It makes for a unique version of the book for those that want it. So I’ll be giving away 3 of these for Scourge. I’ll let you handle the rules for the giveaway. 🙂
Good luck to those that enter, and thanks so much for having me here!!

Cheers!

David
http://davidhburton.com

Want to win one of three of these unique ebooks (for you or someone else)? Just comment here and three lucky people will be chosen at random. Open internationally. Contest closes Sunday, Feb 20th. 2011 at midnight PST. Good luck!

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It’s Fantastic February.  Today we have an amazing special guest for you.

Writing  a Believable World

by Anya Bast

My name is Anya Bast. If you’re not familiar with me, I write across many different subgenres of romance. My two best known series are the Elemental Witches series and the Dark Magick series, which are both what my publisher terms “urban fantasy romance.” I would call them paranormal romance. I write strong heroines who are paired with difficult, dangerous men. My worlds generally contain some kind of magick.

As well as paranormal romance, I write a little historical fantasy and a bit of horror. Basically, if it’s fantastical in some way, I probably dabble in it. I’m not much for non-fantastical stuff, not in my writing and not in my personal choices for entertainment, either.

Raven’s Quest, my latest release, is historical fantasy. Raven’s Quest was one of the first books I ever wrote and it’s a pure fantasy romance, weaving a tale of love through a world rich with magic. It’s set in a faux European Renaissance-type world.

In the Raven’s Quest world, magick is controlled by a tyrant who understands its influence. Although rebellion is brewing, led by the rightful heir to the throne and a powerful woman who comes from a distant magick-drenched country.

For this world I used history mostly just for underlying flavoring, like a base for a soup.  The rest of the world—the religion, system of magick, government—all came from my imagination.

Worldbuilding is my favorite thing about writing. I love creating a new world and fleshing it out. Sometimes I’m asked by writers for advice on how to create effective and believable worlds. Here’s what I tell them:

Make specific notes about the world before you start writing. It will help you avoid inconsistencies that confuse the reader and/or ruin their sense of place. If you continue to world build as you write, make sure you note all the changes or additions you make. That helps lots during the editing phase.

Make sure you cover all the bases. In our world/reality, we have religion, a political structure, philosophy, a rich history, social customs, a criminal/judicial system, a business community, military, fashion, great historical figures, influential books, ect…. I could go on for a while. Your fictional world should have all these to make it seem real. The devil is in the details when building a believable world.

I try to avoid writing scenes where the whole purpose is explain something about the world. It’s much better to weave the required information seamlessly into the story. You can do that simply through the storytelling or dialogue, but avoid dialogue between characters that is unnecessary to character or plot development. Dialogue that has as you know anywhere in it is usually a red flag. If the characters already know what you’re revealing, find a different way to convey it to the reader.

Study history and other cultures to gain ideas. Studying the French and Russian revolutions once gave me an idea for an entire world, one of my favorite worlds to date. So, get geeky, dive in and see how you, too, might be able to find some historical facts to mutate to your advantage.

Thanks for reading!

Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win an autographed copy of Raven’s Quest.

~Anya

http://www.anyabast.com/

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We posted the last batch of author invasion winners.   Did you win?

Today we welcome Middle Grade Author J.S. Lewis, co-author of the popular Grey Griffins series. The Grey Griffins are a group of kids who become monster hunters. In their newest adventures, The Clockwork Chronicles meld Steampunk with adventure and magic. “The Brimstone Key” is the first book in this new series featuring the Grey Griffins. We have a copy of “The Brimstone Key” and and some amazing posters up for grabs.

J.S. Lewis is an American novelist and comic book writer. His novels include Invasion (coming December 2010), as well as The Brimstone Key (from the Grey Griffins Clockwork Chronicles), and the original Grey Griffins trilogy: The Revenge of the Shadow King, The Rise of the Black Wolf, and The Fall of the Templar (co-authored by Derek Benz). Lewis also wrote a twelve book comic book series based on Sony’s virtual world phenomenon, Free Realms.

A graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Broadcasting, Lewis has explored a career that includes news reporting, radio production, animation, graphic design, web development, mural painting, speech writing, video game development, voice over work, and marketing. He currently resides in Arizona with his wife and children.

Introducing a New Generation to Steampunk
by J.S. Lewis

I have a love/hate relationship with Harry Potter. Initially I refused to read the series because of the hype. Like most people, I have a rebellious streak. If you tell me how much I should love something, more likely than not I’ll despise it. Why? I wish there was a good explanation, but I can’t come up with one outside of stubbornness.

Years after its release, I finally picked up the first Harry Potter book. I was going to prove that the sensation credited for single-handedly bringing kids back to reading wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. I couldn’t wait to tell the world that J.K. Rowling was a hack. But there was a problem. I got hooked from the first chapter and now I’m a fan.

I truly am thankful that Rowling re-introduced kids to the wonders of books. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that in many ways I owe my writing career to her. Without Harry Potter, the Grey Griffins likely wouldn’t exist. Neither would Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Artemis Fowl, Fablehaven, The Spiderwick Chronicles, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Eragon, Charlie Bone, and a slew of other titles geared toward kids.

There is one problem, though. Any book with children and magic is in danger of being judged as derivative, whether it’s true or not. Is Percy Jackson simply Harry Potter with Greek gods? What about Eragon? Harry Potter on the back of a dragon?

In our latest release (The Brimstone Key) the Grey Griffins transferred from an average elementary school that would exist in just about any town in the United States, to Iron Bridge Academy, a special school for Templar youth where they learn to fight the monsters that go bump in the night.

Now if I were in Las Vegas, I’d bet the house that the word “Hogwarts” just popped into you head. I can’t blame you. Harry Potter is an enormous part of pop culture, so the comparisons are inevitable. That didn’t stop us from trying to make it different, though.

So if Rowling owns magic, we had to find our own niche if we didn’t want to be seen as derivative. Was that going to be science? Not likely. I can watch nature shows on television all day long, but I’m not a scientist and I don’t find the minutia of science interesting enough to become an expert. What about technology? Now there’s something I’m fascinated with. And is there any technology – real or imagined – more interesting than Steampunk?

We wanted to find a way to introduce a generation of young readers to the Steampunk subculture in the same way that Rowling introduced them to magic. We took our favorite elements and fused them with a secret society that lives in the shadows of today’s modern world. It gave us an exciting blend of today with the romantic qualities of an alternate history where Charles Babbage was Bill Gates, and clockworks served as nannies, butlers and soldiers.

We’re not alone in our quest, either. Thanks to books like Boneshaker and Dreadnought by Cherie Priest and Leviathan and Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, Steampunk is becoming a household name – and that’s exciting!

–J.S. Lewis
http://www.jonslewis.com

 

 

How would you introduce a new generation to Steampunk? Buy your kids brass goggles? Hand out gears instead of candy next to the neighborhood kids next Halloween? Give everyone on your holiday gift list Steampunk books?

Two lucky commenters will win a great prize.

One commenter will win a copy of The Brimstone Key and a bookmark.

The other will a set of the following amazing posters (these are beautiful and suitable for framing):

* Sprig (a Welsh Faerie)
* Max (the hero of the story)
* Natalia and Brooke (the female leads)
* Tundra Troll

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Happy Halloween! Today is the very last day of the Halloween Author Invasion. I hope everyone had a good time and thank you for helping to make the event a success. A few contests are still open.

To end our festivities we welcome Urban Fantasy Author Jeanne Stein, author of the Anna Strong bounty hunter vampire series. She’ll be giving away two books to a lucky poster, a copy of her latest book Chosen and a copy of Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker.

Jeanne Stein is the bestselling author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Anna Strong Chronicles. She lives in Denver where she is active in the writing community, belonging to Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. In 2008 she was named RMFW’s Writer of the Year and last year, her character, Anna Strong, received a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best Urban Fantasy Protagonist. The sixth in the Anna Strong series, Chosen, will be released in August 2010. She has numerous short story credits, as well. The most recent, The Ghost of Leadville, is included in the Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance, Vol. II. (Running Press Books) and Elizabeth and Anna’s Big Adventure included in A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Monsters (DAW Books). She is also one of the editor’s of RMFW’s award-winning anthology, Broken Links, Mended Lives.

Happy Halloween
by Jeanne Stein

Thanks to the Lolitas of Steamed for inviting me though I find it odd to be posting on Halloween on a steam punk blog!! For two reasons, actually. I don’t write steampunk though I love the ideas and love to read it. The second reason is that I’ve never been a big fan of Halloween.

Oh, when I was a kid, we did the costumes and trick or treat thing. And in high school there were the parties. In college, I was much too “serious” a student to join a sorority. I was engaged to a military man so campus life for me consisted of attending classes and the occasional civil rights demonstration (this was the sixties, after all).

Then it was onto life on various military posts. Again, there were parties, but I can’t ever remember wearing a costume to one. When I had my daughter, we did fun things with her. But in the way of the world, she grew up and wanted to do her own Halloween things with her own friends.

So it was back to ignoring the holiday.

Then I started writing vampire stories. In formulating one story line, I discovered that Halloween had an interesting history rich in plot possibilities. What was that history?

1. Present day Halloween traditions can be traced to the ancient Celtic Day of the Dead.

2. Wearing costumes and giving out food were protection from, and an offering to, the souls of the dead, believed to be out and about on that day. Dressing like fairies, witches and demons and performing antics in exchange for food is the genesis of trick or treating.

3. The customs of bobbing for apples and carving pumpkins go back even further to the holiday of Samhain (pronounced sah-ween), a celebration of the harvest.

4. Samhain was the biggest and most important holiday of the Celtic year. It was the day the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld. People sacrificed animals, fruits and vegetables and lit bonfires to aid the dead on their journey and keep them away from the living.

5. Christian missionaries were responsible for changing the practices of the Celtic people. In 601 AD, they assigned November 1st as All Saints Day, a substitute for Samhain, to replace the Celtic’s own holiday. But Samhain never died out completely. The evening before was (and is) still celebrated as the day of the traveling dead.

Of course, I’ve simplified and abbreviated the history. There’s a wealth of information on line if you want to learn more. The point is on October 31st, the dead are thought to be able to walk the earth. I used it as the chance for a witch to call up a demon. There are countless other possibilities.

Halloween takes on a much more exotic and dangerous element if you look at it as an ancient people once did. Maybe that’s why I’ve never liked the holiday. The little kiddies in the cute witch or devil costumes look harmless. But what about the adult in that Jason mask? Or that spooky figure dressed up like a demon? This is the one night of the year that you can’t always trust your eyes.

So, how about you? Do you love Halloween? Do you dress up and set those inhibitions free? What costume have you worn that was (or is) your absolute favorite? Or are you like me, sulking in the dark on Halloween, lights out, waiting for the night to be over? Send a comment and you might win a prize (treat, not trick). I’m offering a signed copy of Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker (because this is a steampunk blog, after all) and to tempt you to the dark side, a copy of Chosen, my newest vampire novel.

~Jeanne Stein
http://www.jeannestein.com/

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Welcome back for day #5 of the Steamed! Author Invasion. We hope you’re having a good time with all the great Halloween posts and prizes. Keep coming back every day through Halloween for more great stuff.

October 28 — Young Adult Author Simone Elkeles
October 29 — Paranormal Romance Author Maggie Shayne
October 30 — Young Adult Author Ednah Walters
October 31 — Urban Fantasy Author Jeanne Stein

Today we welcome YA Author Simone Elkeles, who’s written seven books for teens including How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, Leaving Paradise, and Perfect Chemistry. She’ll be giving away a copy of one of her books to one lucky poster–your choice!

Simone Elkeles is the NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of over seven teen romance novels. She has won various awards and recognition for her books, including the coveted RITA award from the Romance Writers of America for her book Perfect Chemistry and being named Author of the Year by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. She was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. Simone writes about teens because she was a teen in the 80’s (when spiked hair and blue eye shadow were “rad”) and she loves writing about those exciting teen relationships and romances.

The Scary House
by Simone Elkeles

Halloween is fun for kids, but do you remember “the scary house?” You know, the one you and your friends were afraid to go ring the doorbell because they might actually make you close your eyes and reach into a bowl of “eyeballs” in order to get your “treat?”

We had one of those houses in my neighborhood where I grew up. I can’t say I ever had the nerve to actually ring the doorbell. I just stood by the sidewalk all bug-eyed hearing the nervous chatter and fear coming from the kids who were brave enough to venture to the door and say “trick or treat” without knowing what was to come next.

I like my candy to come easy. Go to door, say, “Trick or treat!”, reach inside a huge bowl and pick my favorite choice. Then say, “Thank you!” and I’m on to the next house. It’s the no-hassle, no-fear Halloween for me.

Now that I’m a mom myself, I take my kids trick-or-treating in my neighborhood every year. Lo and behold, we have “the scary house” in my neighborhood, too. (it’s even dubbed “the scary house” all year long by every kid in school). But my neighbors (who I don’t know personally) have taken scary to the next level. The adults recruit their friends and they all dress up in scary costumes. They stand or lay down scattered on the lawn…one is laying inside an open casket (you don’t know he’s alive until you get close and he suddenly reaches out for you and freaks you out)…one is dressed as the Grim Reaper with a very real-looking weapon…one with fake blood dripping down his face with a real chainsaw buzzing.

I laugh when the young kids clutch their parents on the sidewalk. Most trick-or-treaters actually cross the street to avoid “the scary house”. Then you get “the brave trick-or treaters” – the older kids who puff up their chest and mock these dressed-up adults. They say these parents can’t scare them with a ten foot pole no matter how scary they look…well, until The Grim Reaper and Chainsaw Guy slowly start following them to the next house, and the next…those “fearless” kids run like heck away, screaming and laughing because they truly are scared…and they know next year they’ll try again.

If you’re brave enough to reach the front door (after passing yet another “corpse” who reaches out at you or witch who says you’re the perfect specimen for her next stew – they do have a big black pot of boiling water with smoke coming out of it), they have a plethora of great candy in a bowl to choose from since few people actually reach the front door.

I never went up to the scary house in my neighborhood when I was a kid. Now I’m older and know better. Nobody is going to hurt me. Nobody is going to hurt my kids. I laugh at the other scared trick-or-treaters…of course I do it at a very safe distance on the other side of the street.

Do you have “the scary house” in your neighborhood? Are you living in “the scary house?” Got any pictures to share?

~Simone Elkeles
www.simoneelkeles.net

One lucky commenter will win their choice of one of Simone’s books!

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