Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

Once again, someone published an article disparaging a genre and all those who read it. In this case it was an article about how adults who read YA should be ashamed for themselves. (These sorts of articles seems to pop up about once a year.) It’s unfortunate when articles like this happen, since they’re usually sweeping in judgment, often saying that “adults” should read “real books” blah, blah, blah.

But it’s not just YA that this happens to. Romance. Chick-Lit/Women’s Fiction. They, too, are subject to haters. (It seems to me that a majority of these are dominated both reading and writing wise by women, but that’s a (very important) conversation for another day.)

Someone is always judging and dismissing those who read (and write) x or y genre, which is usually not the preference of the one doing the judging. The readers in question are told to read “real books.”

This is what I say:

shut up and read

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and they’re allow to not like certain types of books, but that doesn’t mean they’re should dismiss or disparage entire readerships or genres.

Also, the “real” book argument really gets to me. As a YA author (and a Steampunk author) I get the “when are you going to write a real book” question all the time.

What exactly makes a book “real” anyhow? How is writing a book for teens, or with kissing, or paranormal creatures, so hoverboards any less real?

Um, heck no. These books aren’t lesser. The readers aren’t lesser. The authors aren’t lesser. No less work going into crafting these stories than any other book.

There are plenty of merits to reading YA. Lots of people enjoy them. Lots of people write them. They make lots of people happy. This could be said for any other genre.

Read whatever you want. Read what makes you happy. Write whatever you want. Write what makes you happy.

Life is too short to not read (and write) whatever you like, so why limit yourself? Why not go all over the bookstore to find those books? Who knows what gems you’ll find? Why not write a story the way it wants to be written?

Every book, every story has value. Everyone is different. That is the beauty of having so many different types of books–so everyone can find a story that resonates with them.

So, be proud, adult readers of YA, readers of romance, readers in general. Books are awesome. it's ok to read YA


Suzanne Lazear is the author of the YA Steampunk dark-fairytale series “The Aether Chronicles.” INNOCENT DARKNESS and CHARMED VENGEANCE are out now. FRAGILE DESTINY releases 8-8-14. She runs with cupcakes, plays with swords, likes cupcakes, and thinks adulthood is over-rated.

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Writing Through Greif

This is something I’ve wanted to write about for a few months. While this topic isn’t steampunk, this is also a blog about writing.

imagesBy “writing through grief” I’m not talking about journaling as a way to process your feelings. I’m speaking more about how to keep writing when something awful is happening, something that saps your mojo and makes you unmotivated to write, even if you have the time (and deadlines.)

My father died in October, it was sudden, but not totally unexpected. Still, it wasn’t something I was expecting to happen now.

One of the first things that hit me was Dad never got to read book three. The book had been finished, edits had been turned in weeks before. My dad had just gotten a Kindle, so I’d planned on putting the e-arc on it for him when it came out in March. Which, never happened.

This thought really impacted me. My dad was a huge fan of the Aether Chronicles books. He liked INNOCENT DARKNESS better than CHARMED VENGEANCE (I’ve only met one other person who agrees.) He shipped Kevighn and Noli so hard.  “Why should the good guy always get the girl?” he told me. He read the kissing scenes out loud to my mom.

After reading INNOCENT DARKNESS, he asked me for more steampunk, so I gave him Scott Westerfeld’s LEVIATHAN. When he gave it back to me he said “I liked your book better.”

There are…choices…in FRAGILE DESTINY, choices I wanted to hear his thoughts on.

Thoughts I’ll never hear.

Suddenly, it got difficult to linger in Noli’s world. I didn’t want to promote the story–blog posts, events, even facebook, because it was too hard.

That Aether Chronicles story I was going to write for NaNoWriMi 2013?

Didn’t happen.

I couldn’t do it. I just didn’t have the willpower.

It was difficult to write other things, too. Usually, I’m a writing machine.

The words wouldn’t come. The ideas weren’t there. Even if I knew what was happening next, it was easier to read through old things than write new ones.

And it hurt.

I don’t have the answers, more than six months later, the words are just barely starting to come back. I’m just getting back to a place where I can write in Noli’s world and promote book three.

There are days the words still don’t come. Many days.

Here were a few things that worked for me, though other people will be different:

1) On the days the words came, I wrote. It didn’t matter what project it was, as long as it didn’t interfere with deadlines. Focus can come later. Sometimes that act of writing for yourself is rejuvenating.

2) I was lucky in that I didn’t have any deadlines through many of those months. When the deadlines finally came enough time had passed in that it was time to put on the big girl pants and do them. Sure, it was hard to go back to Noli’s world, but it had to be done. So I did it. And you know what? It helped me.

3) While I didn’t have any hard-and-fast deadlines, my reluctance and inability may have put me behind opportunity-wise in regards to a specific project, one that I should have finished in December and is barely done now. But you know what? It’s not worth it to beat myself over the head about it. Should I have sucked it up and done it? Probably. But I can’t get that time back. Also, publishing is not a race. It’s probably better to hand in something that was crafted well, in the right headspace, than something sub-par I wrote because I felt like I had to.

That’s all I’ve got. This is still a process for me.

What worked for you when writing through times of grief? I’d love to hear your own thoughts.

Suzanne Lazear is the author of the Aether Chronicles — a YA steampunk fairytale series. INNOCENT DARKNESS and CHARMED VENGEANCE are out now. FRAGILE DESTINY releases 8-8-14.



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Grabbing time by the clock hands

“It’s so nice that you have the time to write.”

“I wish had time to write.”

Statements like this make me cringe. Recently, I’ve seen a lot of this online, which makes me want to go ranty mcrantypants. (But I don’t.)

I don’t have time to write. I make time to write. Like many writers, I have a job, aclock family, commitments. Writing time is precious. It’s not going to smack me upside the head and go look, writing time. (And if it does, you bet I seize it.)

No. I have to grab time by the clock hands and wrestle it into submission. I cram writing into nooks and crannies. I give up other things (like TV and a really clean house) to write.  I write on the couch with animated movies in the background. I write on my daughter’s bed. I write outside. I write late at night or early in the morning. CHARMED VENGEANCE was written almost entirely in one-hour intervals during my lunch break at work.

I don’t have the time more than anyone else. I make time.


Because writing means something to me, so I give up things in order to find time for it. It’s just like anything else — you make time to watch that TV show you like, or spend time on twitter, or make a quilt, or practice an instrument, or play a sport.

If you want to write (or do anything else — paint, dance, etc.) don’t wait for the time to wave at you. Make the time. (It might not be easy, I give you that. Also, you might have to wait out something, I get that too. Life happens. I know that far too well.)

However…you don’t have to make lots of time. Even writing for five minutes means you have more words than the day before.

So do it.

Figure out where you can squeeze in a few minutes — during commercials, cutting back social media by a few moments, getting up ten minutes earlier.

Grab time by the clock hands and make it your bitch  create time. I dare you.

Suzanne Lazear is the author of the Aether Chronicles — a YA fairytale steampunk series. INNOCENT DARKNESS and CHARMED VENGEANCE are out now. FRAGILE DESTINY will be released 8-8-14.

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The doubt monster.

It gnaws at in the back of your mind. I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. 

It can make you hide your writing, dabble at it (you can’t fail if you don’t commit), or simply put it off.

Or it can just haunt you. Taunt you. I can’t hack it. I will fail. Why even bother?

Sometimes it’s not a voice in your head, it’s other people –friends, teachers, parents. Other people who say you’ll never make it as a writer, it’s a terrible idea, quite now while you’re ahead.

As much as we’d like to say things like this don’t matter, sometimes they do. Sometimes they stay with us for a long time.

I have a few instances in my life that stayed with me–and affected me taking writing seriously for a long time. A high school guidance counselor who told me I’d never be an author. An elementary school friend who said I couldn’t be an author because she was going to be one and I was “copying.”

You are also not alone.

Pretty much every writer I’ve ever talked to has felt this way.

It happens when you’re considering writing.

It happens when you’re an aspiring writer.

It happens when you’re a published writer.

I’ve had plenty of these moments myself, and this fear of failure–and being told you can’t do it. My personal favorite (it makes me more angry than anything) is my ex-sister-in-law’s parents who told me that “people greater than you” have tried and failed to write a book. I also had a former boss say “it’s nice that you’re trying to write…things” when I had a book coming out (but that whole “A YA isn’t a real book” is a topic for another day.)

As one author said to me once “don’t let the jackwagons get you down.”

Publishing is full of ups and downs. The one thing you can control is your writing.

Even on those bad days, I knew that if I failed I didn’t want it to be because I didn’t try. So I did. It was hard in the beginning — to commit, to get serious, to put myself out there. It was a process.

It’s still a process. I still have those doubty days.

And it’s okay.

Still, I keep writing and carry on. This is my dream. My writing. And I’m not going to let doubt–from myself or others stand in my way. I keep writing. Keep learning. Keep growing.


My friend A.C. Gaughen  did a TEDx Talk on this very topic of doubt.

One of the things that really resonated with me was that you have to be brighter than a spark.

To me this means that if you’re going to do it — DO IT. Go for it 110%. Don’t just shine like a diamond, burn like a bonfire.

I can do it.

You can do it.

Whether you’re just considering writing, or you’ve written many books —you can do it.

Because you know what?

You’re good enough. You’re smart enough. And gosh darn it, air pirates like you.

Suzanne Lazear is the author of the Aether Chronicles — a YA steampunk fairytale series. INNOCENT DARKNESS and CHARMED VENGEANCE are out now. FRAGILE DESTINY releases 8-8-14.

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I’ve been deep in edits for Fragile Destiny, Book 3 of the Aether Chronicles series and it’s made me think about all the work that goes into getting a book ready for publication. Steps I wasn’t aware of when I first started seriously writing.

Back when I first started writing, I thought I was done when I wrote “the end. Revisions? What was that? I was lucky if I remembered to run spell check.

As I learned (and wrote several really bad manuscripts that will never see the light of day), I discovered all that you put into revisions–which is far more than spellcheck. It has to do with flow, pacing, making sense.  Not to mention all that research.

And those gosh darn word counts.

I made synopsis and queries and finally, sold a book.

Done right?

Fragile Destiny (1)No…there’s so much that goes into making a story ready for your readers that happens after you sell your story — or turn it into your editor. Things I wasn’t necessarily aware of (um, what are first pass pages?)

Every publisher is a little different, but here’s the time line for Fragile Destiny which releases 8-8-14.

August 2012 — Started to write Fragile Destiny during Camp NaNoWriMo

October 2012 — Turn in proposal

December 2012 — Get go ahead to write entire book

April 2013 — Turn in full draft (which has been beta read, edited, ad nauseam)

July 2013– Get edit letter

September 2013 — Turn in edits

October 2013 — Cover is released

February 2013–See back cover copy

March 2014 — ARCs come out

Late March 2014 — Get line edits

April 2014 — Turn in line edits

Late April 2014 — Get copy edits

beginning of May 2014 — Turn in copy edits

May 2014– Get and turn in first pass pages (last chance to change anything)

June 2014 — Book goes to printer

August 8-8-14 –Book is released

I’m sure I’m forgetting things (and I may have gotten some of the dates wrong, also, for the other books in my series sometimes things were a little different. Don’t forget, every publisher has a different process.) Also, there are lots of things that go on behind the scenes that I’m not necessarily a part of.

Happy Writing!


Suzanne Lazear is the author of The Aether Chronicles series, which is YA Fairytale Steampunk. Book 3, Fragile Destiny releases 8-8-14. Innocent Darkness and Charmed Vengeace are out now.


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dark-duetsI went to a book launch at Murder by the Book for the dark-fantasy anthology Dark Duets by a renowned group of fiction authors. Each story is collaboration between two or more authors. In the introduction, the editor, Christopher Golden, writes, “Collaboration in general is harder than you’d think. Logic would suggest since you are halving the number of pages that you, yourself, are responsible for, you are halving the work involved. In truth, collaborative fiction is more work than writing something by yourself. But the work, and the relationships that may spring from it, and the magic that sometimes results, are their own rewards.”

The contents of Dark Duets are Trip Trap by Sherrilyn Kenyon & Kevin J. Anderson, Welded by Tom Piccirilli & T. M. Wright, Dark Witness by Charlaine Harris & Rachel Caine, Replacing Max by Stuart MacBride & Allan Guthrie, T. Rhymer by Gregory Frost & Jonathan Maberry, She, Doomed Girl by Sarah Maclean & Carrie Ryan, Hand Job by Chelsea Cain & Lidia Yuknavitch, Hollow Choices by Robert Jackson Bennett & David Liss, Amuse-Bouche by Amber Benson & Jeffrey J. Mariotte, Branches, Curving by Tim Lebbon & Michael Marshall Smith, Blind Love by Kasey Lansdale & Joe R. Lansdale, Trapper Boy by Holly Newstein & Rick Hautala, Steward Of The Blood by Nate Kenyon & James A. Moore, Calculating Route by Michael Koryta & Jeffrey David Geene, Sisters Before Misters by Sarah Rees Brennan, Casandra Clare, & Holly Black, and Sins Like Scarlet by Mark Morris & Rio Youers.

Also the story, Renascene by Rhodi Hawk & F. Paul Wilson, is included. Renascene is a Steampunk piece. E. Paul Wilson is an award-winning New York Time bestselling author of nearly fifty books and many short stories. He’s also written for the stage, screen and interactive media. Rhodi Hawk won the International Thriller Writers Scholarship for her first work of fiction, A Twisted Ladder. Their tale is a fresh take on the intriguing Victorian theme of bringing the dead back to life. It’s set in 19th century New York City with two quirky characters that I loved.

Rhodi Hawk was one of the authors at the Murder By The Book signing. I asked her if it was she or Paul Wilson who initially wanted to write a Steampunk story, and she said, it was Paul. Another interesting tidbit is that to celebrate her Steampunk story, her husband actually bought her a live octopus. It’ll be kept in an aquarium at her house where she keeps a hosts of critters. Having a pet octopus is so steampunk. When asked what she was going to name it, Rhodi said she was thinking of calling him Sigmund after the children’s TV show, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. I got confused about that, because I was thinking of the old cartoon show, Beany and Cecil. Cecil instead of Sigmund. That was way back in the early 1960’s.  I use to watch it so I’m showing my age. I even use to have a stuff toy of Cecil the seasick sea serpent. It was one of my favorite toys. But either way Sigmund and Cecil are both great names for a sea monster, a  sea serpent, or an octopus.

The authors at the Dark Duet’s book signing spoke of their thoughts and experiences on collaboration. There is an adrenaline rush from having the opportunity to bounce ideas off another writer and this increases creativity as well. It’s important in a collaboration that both authors understand the other’s creative vision, do an equal share of work, work well together, and keep their own author voice, therefore adding ta unique flair and perspective to the story. Methods writers use for collaborative work vary. Many use a sharing method, one author starts the story off and the other revises that then writes the next pages,which the first author revises them then adds more and so on until the first draft is complete. Then they work it into a cohesive flowing story. I heard a successful husband and wife team, who write romances together, speak at a conference. They developed  a pattern of collaborating where she wrote the scenes set in the heroine’s point of view and he wrote those set in the hero’s point of view. It worked wonderful for them, they write under a pseudonym  combination of their two names together.

Though collaborations can be frustrating at times they can also be fun and rewarding. Many steampunk fans are strongly familiar with the basic idea and practice of collaboration because it’s followed in role playing games, which are so popular in steampunk. Also Some writing such as screen plays and  music is routinely done through the collaboration process.

Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts and experiences on: writing collaboration, fantasy anthologies including at least one steampunk story, having an octopus as a pet, old sea monster children TV shows or anything else you’d like to comment on.

~      ~      ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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Dresden Files’ author, Jim Butcher is going Steampunk with his new series, Cinder Spires.

Mr. Butcher came to my corner of the world last weekend at Space City Con in Houston Texas. Not only is he a great writer, he also gives back to the writing community by sharing the basics of the wordsmith craft at convention and conference panels. He reminded us of the saying attributed to Michelangelo, which I found brilliant as a way to describe the need to learn the craft of writing and revisions to aspiring authors. How do you make a statue? You carve away from the stone, everything that is not the statue. As Michelangelo said, “You just chip away at the stone that doesn’t look like David.” That’s exactly what the revisions I do feel like to me.

Speaking on writing in a way that makes people care about your characters, he used the terms scene and sequel to describe what I happened to have learned as action and reaction. The elements of scene and sequel are emotion, logic and review, anticipation (what’s going to happen next) and choice. Mr. Butcher stressed the importance of keeping them in that order. Though sometimes you may not use all of them, which is fine, you need to keep to that order for the ones you do use. If you use any internal dialogue, keep it in the sequence or reaction part only. The best place to end chapters is in the action part, when the crisis or major event of that scene occurs or when the character is in an emotional state in the reaction part of a scene.

What I have often heard described as – start the story at the last possible place you can where it still makes sense, he explains as starting the story when something happens to change the status quo. Of course, it’s the exact same concept just as action/reaction is the same as scene/sequel, still his terminology may be easier for some to follow.

Mr. Butcher explains all books use the story question—Your protagonist sets out to accomplish a goal but will he succeed when the antagonist gets in the way and tries to stop him? Every story is all about getting from the question at the beginning to the answer at the end. Jim Butcher adds the basic protagonist information and his goal and basic antagonist information and how he tries to stop the lead character to the story question. He uses this for synopsises, pitches, and back cover blurbs.

When asked about describing characters, he advised writers to choose specific words to go with the characters. For example, for Murphy in Dresden Files he uses the character tags of short, cute, and blond. Do that for each character. You can also use tags to describe places in the story. I have to say that is the first time I heard the term character tags. So I learned something new. I will definitely utilize this technique in my work.

When asked how to avoid stilted dialogue, Mr.Butcher said, “Try writing dialogue in five words are less as it’s the way people really talk.” That will help you bring the dialogue alive. He also advised per characters, the one thing you can never do is have a character wallow in self-pity. It will drive the reader away.

Regarding his beta readers, Mr. Butcher asks these three questions of them. What did you like in this chapter? What did you not like in the chapter? Do you have any questions in the chapter?

As far as authors whose books inspired him, he stated his single biggest inspiration was Laura Hamilton’s earliest books. When asked if he had any interest in co-authoring and if there was any one he would like to write with, he answered, “There is no one I hate that much. I’m not going to put myself on someone else professionally, I’m that much of a diva.” That brought loud laughter from the audience.

He spoke of when he had to work full time and said writers should look on writing as a part-time job that isn’t going to pay you for a long time. Personally, I consider it is an additional full-time job that isn’t going to pay you for a long time.

Then he moved to Steampunk, answering the question, what got you into Steampunk? His face broke out into a wide grin as he said he wanted to create a character with a cool steampunk cos  play outfit people could dress up in. He saw a captain’s coat at Comiccon that fit him. So he has to change the character because he really wants to wear that coat. The steampunk fantasy series also includes lots of airships, crystals, and goggles. It’s been said the Cinder Spires series is a kind of league of extraordinary gentlemen meets Sherlock meets Hornblower. The first in the series is titled The Areonaut’s Windlass. He’s working on that book now. He’s starting to build and pull his Steampunk world together with everything he wanted. Among other things he really wanted to include cats that speak. One of his characters is a talking cat.

Jim Butcher – Cinder Spires Reading

I love the idea of a talking cat, it reminds me of one of my favorite books and one of my favorite aliens in a book, Rejar by Dara Joy.  I will definitely read The Areonauts Windlass when it comes out, the release date has not yet been announced.

Also please feel free to share your favorite writing advice to give to newbies in the comments below. Mine is never stop writing no matter what and finish the rough draft.


Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 18 published books, including four Steampunk Romances. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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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 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 twisted the wrench, securing the new equipment in place. The gauges and dials all read in the green. The ridiculous machine that shouldn’t have even been possible was working perfectly.

Another Lolita–I didn’t know her name, to me she has always been “the annoying one”–stepped up and frowned, tapping the instrument. “This isn’t right.”

A heavy sigh escaped me before I could stop it, but once it was out I felt better and vowed not to stifle my exasperation again. “The captain told me to make it work, and it works.”

“But it’s not right,” the annoying one insisted, tapping it again. “Anyone who knows engines will question not only its purpose but its effectiveness and–“

Calmly, I wrapped my fingers around her wrist and pulled her hand away from my invention. I might have applied a bit more pressure than necessary, but I was done playing nice with her. “And anyone who knows this ship will see that it works and, at the end of the day, that is what the captain wants. Why don’t you go about your business and do your job. I’m sure you will perform it exactly right.”

Scowling, she spun on her heel and stalked out of my engine room.

Before the door hit her skinny backside, I muttered, “I’m sure you’ll remember where to find me when you break something else.”


When writing steampunk (or any fiction for that matter), there is an issue of terminology. Often there is a proper term and a common term that an author has to decide between. When writing non-fiction, of course one should err on the side of the “correct” word. But, with fiction, an author isn’t necessarily dealing with an expert. Not everyone who enjoys science fiction is a rocket scientist (or even understands any math beyond–hopefully at a minimum–some basic algebra). Not everyone who reads historical fiction is necessarily an expert in that era or even a history buff at all. Most people who are drawn to fiction are drawn to the story. Therefore, when choosing terminology, it’s often in an author’s best interest to select things that are recognizable to a general audience.

Take, for example, Clockwork Mafia. The history of organized crime in the United States traces back to Italy and Sicily where “The Black Hand” operated. It was essentially an extortion racket wherein the group would offer “protection” for a fee. This is similar to what most people know of the early mob in America. The name traveled with the “business.” The term mafia came into use in the late nineteenth century and was used in the US, but didn’t become popular until prohibition. 

Now, in the world of the Badlands, history has been tweaked. To that end, when organized crime came into the story, I had no problem whatsoever with using the word mafia. (My editor did cut “mob,” but I was okay with that.) I honestly would have argued had it been suggested that I change “mafia” to “The Black Hand.” Granted, the latter has this dramatic flair that speaks of dark evil and all sorts of foul deeds, but to the average non-history-buff, the term would have been meaningless. Everyone knows what the mafia is, and since these are steampunk romances we’re talking about the focus is supposed to be on the couple.

Anyone who knows my work knows that I aim for balance but, at the end of the day, I could either slow down the pacing of the book to explain to the average reader what The Black Hand was, or I could let the word mafia speak for itself. I chose the latter because it works and serves the purpose. 

And, considering the word was used often in print by 1891 in the states, it’s actually not wrong either. 


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The Shadow City : Putting the Punk Back into Steampunk

by The Catastaraphone Orchestra

New York is two cities sharing the same island. One of Light and the other of Shadow .”

Boss Tweed


                The Catatsraphone Orchestra is a collective of steampunk authors who have written collectively and published stories, non-fiction and novels for the past 6 years. Our style owes as much to Charles Dickens as it does Jules Verne. We are endlessly fascinated with the horrors and heroes of those often left out of steampunk fiction or relegated to color but are seldom the protagonists.  We are talking about the everyday people who struggled to make a living in the great 19th century cities. For every ingenious scientist there were thousands of men who kept the boilers fed while their children went to bed hungry. There seem to be endless stories of air-pirates but what about the all women gangs that prowled the East End of London and New York’s Soho? We do not believe that gentlemen’s clubs or opera houses are as interesting settings as Chinatown’s opium dens or the workhouses for the poor. A lady coughing blood into her silk handkerchief is less tragically romantic than a factory girl disfigured by the glowing phossy jaw, a fatal and gruesome disease caused by too much exposure to white phosphorous. The intricate fashions of the chimney sweep are as beautiful to us as the splendor of Beau Brummel’s suit. Many great stories can be found in the blind tiger taverns and teeming tenements if one only has the courage to explore.

Airships, goggles and clever clockworks are not only the property of the fabulously privileged but can also be appropriated by the punks of the 19th century.  Street urchins are not just sidekicks of clever detectives but have their own stories, heroes and villains. We all know that Fagin and the Artful Dodger are a hundred times more exciting than Oliver Twist. How about a story with a protagonist that is a shoulder-pusher for Boss Tweed instead of a special agent for Queen Victoria? A picket-line holds as much drama as any author could hope for. What we all love about steampunk –  the history, the mechanical speculations, the outrageous fashion, the mad adventure and danger, can be found in breathtaking abundance in the shadow city. The 19th century’s promise of progress was not the reality for the vast majority of Victoria’s subjects and it’s time we told their stories too, without pity or disdain.

Putting the punk back into steampunk is not just a matter of taste or style for us. Steampunk, with its alternative histories, has always kept an eye on the present. Retrofuturism is not just a gimmick to sell books but can be a serious and hopefully engaging attempt to learn from the mistakes of the past to better understand our present and shape our future. Fiction has the power to move us and open up new possibilities. The reality is that most of us will never be geniuses or fabulously wealthy but that doesn’t mean we don’t have stories that are just as important and meaningful. Steampunk can, and probably should be exploring more than corsets and clockworks, but a deeply problematic past that looks very familiar to our present.


–The Catastaraphone Orchestra has just  published a collection of stories and writings at Combustion Books.  Learn more at www.combustionbooks.org


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I’ve turned book 2 into my editor.  ~launches cupcake cannon~

Book 2 has been very interesting. I’m not sure if it was any harder to write than book 1, other than feeling like it *should* be harder because everyone told me book 2 is harder. (PS, there’s nothing wrong with you if it’s not harder).  Both book 1 and book 2 had their own unique challenges.  Really, the toughest part in Book 2 was consistency, making sure the characters still sounded like themselves, used the right slang, had the right eyes, and in one case, had the right name.  (oops).  Well, that and writing my airships…

I wasn’t on Twitter during book 1, and it’s interesting to see what effect social media and twitter had on book 2.  A random question spans a DM chat that births a subplot, a joke spans a character, a guest blog post also adds a subplot. 

I’ve been writing these characters since 2009 and I love when they surprise me.  In my final read through I learned something about a character that’s been there from the beginning, something I’d never known before which, while a surprise, will help me in book 3 (which I should probably write soon). 

Hopefully my editor will like it, and hopefully (when you read it in 2013) you will, too.  Until then, Book 1 is up on Netgalley and is everywhere for preorder.  (Pssst…it’s only $5 at B&N.)

ARCs and such for book 1 are going out…which is exciting and fearsome at the same time and a blog post in its own right.

Anyway, I’m going to go buy some chocolate.  I just got book 1 copyedits. 

Suzanne Lazear writes steampunk tales for teens.  Her debut novel, INNOCENT DARKNESS, book one of The Aether Chronicles, releases August 2012 from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.


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Kim Lakin-Smith, author of Cyber Circus – shortlisted for this year’s British Science Fiction Association Best Novel award.  Her new work, Queen Rat is published by Murky Depths and is available from Amazon.co.uk, or order direct from the author’s website for a personalised, signed copy.  For more information about Kim and her latest news, visit www.kimlakin-smith.com or follow Kim at www.twitter.com/kimlakinsmith


The Real Inspirations for My Fictional Characters

by Kim Lakin-Smith

 Philip Reeve, luminary author of the Mortal Engines series, kindly described my novel Cyber Circus as “…definitely some kind of ‘punk’: violent, grungy, transgressive and bristling with attitude,” adding, “Compared with it, most Steampunk that I’ve read needs to be reclassified as ‘Steam-Easy-Listening’ or Steam-Middle-of-the-Road’.” Such descriptions from my favourite author left me humbled – also newly aware that while my writing is heavy on the mechanics, it is the ‘punk’ aspect of the steampunk genre which really gets my juices flowing. From my debut novel, the dark fantasy Tourniquet, to my recent short stories – The Harvest, The Killing Fields, Field of the Dead… – I’ve always been drawn to the rebel and the outcast. In Tourniquet, I focused on the punkish aspects of the gothic and rock music scene. In Cyber Circus, I concentrated on a dust-punk world where the freaks of the circus provide welcome relief from the drabness of existence. In my latest story, the Young Adult novella, Queen Rat, it is the teenage protagonists who add a punkish flavour.

                                     Queen Rat is set in the underwater world of the Free Ocean where 14-year-old Princess Ratiana Clementine Saint John of the submersible Victoriana is to wed Prince Simeon of the Aesthetes. Neither is keen on the match. Princess Ratiana – ‘Rat’ for short – is the Victoriana’s acting captain, given that both her parents are borderline senile. She is used to her rough tough people and, in spite of her personal tutor’s best efforts to refine her, has adopted their wild ways. In contrast, Prince Simeon is an orphaned Aesthete who is more likely to be found with his head in a book in the royal library than playing dodge with a cloud of jellyfish. They are an unlikely match – and desperately young to be forced into the constitution of marriage. But for a long time, the notion of a small pool of suitable partners combined with marriage at a young age was notorious among royal families across the globe. 

 In creating Rat, I wanted to pay homage to her most famous ancestor, the real life British monarch, Queen Victoria. While Victoria is often associated with the strict morality of the period, her actions as a young woman reveal the sort of spirit, strength and passion which underpins the character of Rat.

Victoria was raised under the Kensington System, a strict and complex set of rules devised by her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and her attendant and rumoured lover, Sir John Conroy. Reacting against the presence of the then King William’s illegitimate children at court, the duchess banned Victoria from any hint of sexual impropriety. Consequently Victoria shared her mother’s room every night, was not allowed to descend the staircase unattended, spent her days isolated but for her beloved King Charles Spaniel, Dash, and was consistently badgered to make Conroy her private secretary. Given the restrictions of her childhood, it is fascinating that, on inheriting the throne at age 18, Victoria banished Conroy from her presence. It wasn’t long before her mother too was evicted from the palace. Victoria remained distanced from the duchess for the rest of the latter’s life.

Someone who noted Victoria ’s feisty personality was her future husband, Prince Albert , who wrote “(She) is said to be incredibly stubborn and her extreme obstinacy to be constantly at war with her good nature…(She is said) to enjoy sitting up at night and sleeping late into the day.” Apparently the future queen’s quirks did not put Albert off – on the15th of October 1839, he accepted Victoria ’s proposal of marriage. The success of their union, which produced 9 children, alongside Victoria ’s extreme mourning for her husband when he died at the age of 42, reveals that she was not only spirited but intensely romantic.

There is also an essence of Prince Albert about my character Prince Simeon. Like Simeon, he was a foreign royal who combined intellectual pursuits such as the study of law, political economy, philosophy, art history and music, with physical prowess in gymnastics, fencing and riding. Notably, Albert was heavily involved with the organisation of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Similarly, he was gifted with a very clear sense of right from wrong. Over time he adopted many public causes including educational reform and a worldwide abolition of slavery, as well as running the Queen’s household, estates and office.

To my mind then, the ‘punk’ side of my steampunk novella Queen Rat lies in the ghosts of the monarch and her consort prince who inhabit my main characters. Rat and Simeon have to fulfil several life-threatening Grand Rites together before the knot can be tied; in order to survive they must learn to work together and utilise body, mind and soul. It’s a fairly useful analogy for a happy marriage, and one which served their famous ancestors well.





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My apologies for the lateness of this post.

And the sequel adventures march onward…

I’ve spent the last week taking that completed draft and attempting to make it fit for human consumption. 

This included putting in the proper names for ship parts, adding a few literary quotes/references, adding in some proper Victorian terms, and fixing any errors I came across.

The draft is by no means perfect or finished, but off to the beta readers it goes.

Some of them were quite excited about it.  The day after I tweeted that I finished the draft I got an email from a beta going, “Saw it’s done, where is it?”  LOVE LOVE LOVE such enthusiasm.  I hope everyone likes it. 

The synopsis has also been written.  Often I’ll work off at the very least a skeleton of a synopsis, but this story has been so wonky in so many respects that I had to actually finish the draft because I *didn’t know how it ended*.

I’m still not sure if the first chapter works, we’ll have to see.  I listened to “Through Glass” by Stone Sour on endless loop through much of my December drafting (with a dash of Emilie Autumn for Steampunk-spiration) and I think it shows. 

Now, to get those first three chapters and the synopsis off to my editor….

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Ding Dong the Draft is DONE!

Yesterday I typed THE END for book two of my Aether Chronicles series.


I was really afraid I wasn’t going to make it.

Well, technically I didn’t since my self-imposed goal was actually December 31, but Jan 2 isn’t too shabby.

91k in 2 months and 2 days isn’t shabby at all.

However, I’m not anywhere near done.

For the sake of vomiting out this draft and getting it on paper I glossed over some things….mostly the technical aspects and proper part names of the airships.  I will be spending this week researching all the things I didn’t research and filling in all the blanks I left.  I’ve never done that before and I’m not sure I liked doing it.  Certainly it took me out of my comfort zone.

I also need to clean up all the errors.  I am really bad about leaving out words, writing the wrong words, and the like. 

Then, it’s off to a couple of betas. 

Book 2 was tricky for me, mostly because I had to take it in a direction other than I’d originally intended and I really, really, really pantsed it.  Usually I know how a book begins and ends and just have to pants the middle.  Not so with this book…

It also didn’t end where I wanted to, and took some twists and turns I hadn’t planned on. 

We’ll see how it all goes.  Hopefully it’s for the better. 

Now…back to filling in those blanks. 

Suzanne Lazear writes steampunk tales for teens.  Her debut novel, INNOCENT DARKNESS, book one of The Aether Chronicles, releases August 2012 from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.

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Did you know Steamed has a facebook group? 

If Steamed has helped you at all with writing your Steampunk novel (or any novel) could you please nominate us for “Write to Done’s” top 10 blogs for writers? 

So, I won NaNoWriMo with my whopping 51,109 words I wrote on Aether Chronicles #2.

Of course, I’m nowhere near finished.  I’m probably about the halfway mark, plus there’s all that editing and revising and stuff to do.


I did get  32,703 written on the “project that hijacked NaNo” but that’s not due soon.  I’ve given it a cookie and shoved it in the drawer to take a nap until *after* I finish my sequel.

Did I get a bajillion words written on the sequel over the weekend? 

Um, no.  I’ve been doing edits on the Eflpunk for my agent for the past few days, but those should be done shortly.

Then, it’s back to the sequel.

This time I’m bringing my raygun just in case those airpirates continue to misbehave. 

How are your projects going? 


Suzanne Lazear writes steampunk tales for teens.  Her debut novel, INNOCENT DARKNESS, book one of The Aether Chronicles, releases August 2012 from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.

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