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Light In The Lantern: With Karen J Carlisle

Greetings!

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster. My name is Karen J Carlisle, and I’m a writer and illustrator of Victorian mysteries, steampunk and fantasy.

Strange times have struck the Isles of Ire – Flesh eating Liver Birds plague the skies and Sugar-Zombies roam the streets spreading their curse like a plague…

So some of us have decided to re-kindle the old beacon in the city watchtower and keep its flame burning each night as a way of giving hope to those being hunted down by terrifying monsters, or evil scarecrow landlords…

Tonight is my shift and never fear, I am well armed to protect myself with my re-enforced steel-armoured corset, night-stalker goggles, and sharpened nib pen (for the pen is mightier than the sword, they say), so I think I will manage to keep the beasts at bay.

Now then, since I’m here I thought I would share some of my work with you all…

2020 began as usual, researching for my current work-in-progress, the second book in The Aunt Enid Mysteries (set in 1920) for a throw-away comment about the ‘Great Picnic’, a euphemism used for the quarantine tent city at the Jubilee Oval, Adelaide, South Australia in 1919. After reading accounts of mental health issues related to the epidemic and its aftereffects, I was moved to write ‘Spanish Flu’. The lyrics were originally written in February, 2020.

Little did I know we were destined to experience such times ourselves.

You’d think writers would love enforced lockdown? More time to write. Quite the contrary. Many of us have been overwhelmed, just when the world needs words of hope.

So I lit my watchtower beacon:

When times are dark, fiction can whisk us away to other worlds to find new friends and have fantastical adventures. Quarantine Reads: Escape to Adventure was released in April, and is a collection of short stories of a lighter note, to inspire and transport you beyond four walls. The fantasy, steampunk and fairy tale fiction was created to entertain those in isolation or quarantine, or anyone needing to escape the worries of the world for a while.

But I can only keep those flesh eating Liver Birds and Sugar-Zombies at bay for so long, for they know their time is at hand. Join me to hunt them down in my Halloween-read offering: Another Twist of the Nib: short tales with a darker twist. Here be ghosts, vampires, apocalypse, and humans with nefarious intent. Help me bring their stories into the light, so we can diminish their power.

If you’d like to purchase any of my wares you can find them here:

Spanish Flu – original (steampunk) music – https://karenjcarlisle.com/product/song-spanish-flu/ )

Quarantine Reads: Escape to Adventure – https://karenjcarlisle.com/product/quarantine-reads/

Another Twist of the Nib: short tales with a darker twisthttps://karenjcarlisle.com/product/another-twist-of-the-nib/

For more info on A Fey Tale: https://karenjcarlisle.com/books/aunt-enid-mysteries/ and paperback pre-orders (Australia): https://karenjcarlisle.com/product/a-fey-tale-pre-order/

If you’d like to connect you can find me here:

Website: https://karenjcarlisle.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karenjcarlisle/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenJCarlisle

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4LiXU6uVL_g4MT5ykMIUzw

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle

Thankyou for joining me to keep the light in the lantern burning. I’m afraid that’s my shift over for the night. Thank goodness it was a quiet one! I’ve heard some authors have had their spines ripped to pieces up here by those Liver Birds and there was tell last week of an artist who fell foul to a horde of sugar zombies and is now best avoided… although his artwork apparently is better than ever–

Shh, did you hear that? I’ll just take a quick peek…

There it is again. Did you hear a scraping sound? What was that in the shadows?

What the–?

Quick, light the torch!

Phew, that was close.

Stay safe friends, whatever assails you, and when times are dark, look for the light in the lanterns of others and treasure the light in your own….

Silk and Steel

Hugest apologies for not posting last week! Our internet dies and even now we have had the engineers out it is still being unpredictable – apparently the old phone line is to blame but I suspect it is the dirt cheap internet as well, lol. Ah well, beggars can’t be choosers as they say! XD I hope you all had a wonderful week and that your weekend is filled with fun and festiveness as we head towards the spectacular spooky season! 😀 I’ll leave you with Vraxi again as he continues his quest to find some demonsong…

There were two churches in Ryzym.

Vraxi stepped out of the tin bath, cranked up the phonograph, draped a feather boa around his shoulders and shimmied around the room, rolling his shoulders a few times as if he was psyching up for a bizarre fancy-dress boxing match.

The first church was the one everyone new about and most people attended. Still. Even though the gods and goddesses had made it abundantly clear they wanted nothing more to do with the world or anything in it.
He hummed to himself and swayed his hips as he fished studiously through his meagre but utterly fabulous wardrobe and selected his very most beautiful shirt and a pair of stunningly iridescent moth-scale leather trousers.

Then there was the Other Church. The one nobody had ever heard of and absolutely nobody went to at all ever.
And yet some people must surely go – because it was definitely a real thing. A thing which caused neighbours to eye eachother sideways and wonder…
Vraxi did not go to either church.

Ever.

Due to the ‘circumstances of his birth’ he had not even been permitted to set foot in the graveyard to put flowers on the paupers’ mound for his mother.
But he had made a great many ‘deliveries’ to the Other Church on Spyro’s behalf and so he knew exactly how to get there.

The first trick was to find a street preacher. The Other Church didn’t have a building of its own and so it moved around, holding services in a different setting each night – perhaps a disused warehouse or abandoned town house, perhaps a welcoming tenement building or the cellar of a sympathetic tavern. This had the benefit of making it almost impossible for any one to find out where the next service was going to be. But for those ‘in the know’ it was a very simple matter.

“You look down, brother,” the street preacher said, after Vraxi had spent a good few minutes loitering around his turf, listening intently to his rabid ramblings about fate, the philosophical musings of dust, the wrath of candles and various omens which indicated the indisputable omnipotence of clocks.

The yag heaved a heavy sigh. “More morose, really.” he said, emphasising what he knew was today’s password, based on the preacher’s leading remark.

“Morose? Oh dear, dear me, we can’t have that. No no no, we certainly can’t have that at all.” The preacher shook his head and stroked his long, braided beard. He laid a hand on Vraxi’s shoulder. “If I were you, brother, I would seek solace in the Rusalka’s Arms,” he whispered, leaning in close with a theatrical wink. “I promise you it will sooth your soul.”

“Many thanks, wise one.” Vraxi said, placing his hands together and offering a little bow of respect as he he backed away.

The preacher nodded and turned back to his rant and Vraxi spun on his heel and strolled off in the direction of the Rusalka’s Arms.

He knew where it was; off a quaint little cobbled backstreet in The Spires. He had made deliveries to the back door many times but had never been inside and, despite his anxiety about how his first foray into the realm of religious fanaticism might go, he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of excitement.

Inside, the place was frantic. Poets, artists, writers and radicals sat alone or in small groups, sketching, scribbling, smoking and bantering belief systems with eachother. It was a curiously pleasant and invigorating atmosphere and Vraxi wondered if if he ought not to just linger a while and enjoy it. He had no idea how things worked from this point on – would it be obvious where he should go to attend the service, or would he have to ask?

“Hoi! You! You in the shirt!”

Vraxi looked about him. Lots of people were wearing shirts.

“You! Hoi! You in the shirt and the boa!”

Ah, that was more to go on. Vraxi gave another glance around the bar, he did seem to be the only one sporting such an accessory and he took a second to congratulate himself on outshining even the most pious devotees in the city.

“Me?” he mouthed uncertainly, pointing to himself.

“Yes! You. You’re from Pav’shma, am I right?” The young man rose and crossed the room as he spoke, ending his sentence at the bar beside the yag. “I’ve two bonecoin riding on it” he whispered. “Be a sport about it and I’ll split it with you?”

Vraxi grinned hugely. “The trousers are from Pav’shma, if that helps?” he smirked, “So tell your friends I’m half pav’shmian and neither of us has spun them a yarn?”

The young man laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “Come tell them yourself, join us for the evening, do – we have a thirst for the exotic and you outdo all our feeble aspirations.” He ordered a round of coffees and shots from the bar. “I’m Mateo – Matti if you like – my friends there are Klauda and Vitchiento – we call him chi-chi because he hates it.”

Vraxi laughed, nodded his thanks and gave a hand transporting the drinks to a table at the back of the tap. Of course he really ought to be getting on with his plan but a true gentleman, he told himself, as he settled comfortably into a chair beside his new friends, should never turn down an invitation – and Vraxanthrin Bane should never be accused of not being a true gentleman.

They talked Pav’shma’s silk road, Ryzymian politics, the rising unpopularity of the duke and the push to legalise roccana as a medicinal substance, then they talked philosophy and art and ancient literary symbolism and Vraxi quite surprised himself with the breadth and fervour of his own opinions on subjects he had barely even contemplated before.

“They’re preparing the sacrament,” Chi Chi observed, nodding to where rows of pewter tumblers were being lined up along the bar.

Matti turned to Vraxi with a wry smile. “Are you seeking solace for your soul tonight?” he asked.

“Oh, I certainly am,” Vraxi grinned; feeling glad at the prospect of spending longer in such pleasant company.

“Is it your first time?” Klauda asked, her voice dripping innuendo like honey from a needle’s tip.

“At church.” Vraxi smirked back, just to be clear.

Matti laughed, “Then we’d better take care of you, hadn’t we?” he said, taking Vraxi’s hand and leading him back to the bar. “Here,” he handed Vraxi one of the pewter tumblers, passed two to the others and took one for himself. A dark red liquid sat like treacle inside.

“Drink and remember,” he said, giving the yag a reassuring smile.

“Drink and remember” the others chorused, and they knocked their tumblers together and downed them in unison, Vraxi following suit.

It was sweet and sour and metallic and almost too sticky and stringy to gulp down. Vraxi’s eyes watered as he swallowed repeatedly to free his throat of the last of it. “What is it?” he asked hoarsely, shaking his head to clear his vision, but it didn’t clear. Instead the world around him seemed to be melting like candle wax; all colour a veneer that had been washed over a grey, grainy substrate… “What..?”

“You’re seeing things the way they really are, brother,” Matti said, laying an oddly insubstantial hand on his shoulder. “You’ve drunk blood, from the red river, and now your body remembers the flesh it used to be, what this world used to be, and your mind can’t trick it anymore… see? It’s nothing but dust! All of us, look, we’re just dust!” He laughed and looked into Vraxi’s face and the yag’s eyes widened in disbelief.

“You’re… you’re made of dust…” he whispered, marvelling at the tiny glittering grey grains that now seemed to compose everyone and everything around him. Even his own hands when he looked at them were the same.

“That’s right, come on, let’s go down to the service.”
Matti took his hand again and they went through to the back of the bar, down a flight of stairs and into the cellar.

Into the cellar?

Pah!

They might as well have stepped into another world.

“Remember why you are here, Vraxanthrin.” he told himself sternly as layers of sound and light and motion washed over him in waves of ecstasy. “Somewhere in this place there is demonsong – lots of it – and you must not leave without at least four bottles of the stuff or this whole insanity-laden evening will have been for naught.”

Light In The Lantern: With Elen Sentier

Greetings! Welcome to to Steampunk’d Lancaster! My name is Elen Sentier and I teach and write books about British native shamanism.

Strange times have struck the Isles of Ire – Flesh eating Liver Birds plague the skies and Sugar-Zombies roam the streets spreading their curse like a plague…

So some of us have decided to re-kindle the old beacon in the city watchtower and keep its flame burning each night as a way of giving hope to those being hunted down by terrifying monsters, or evil scarecrow landlords…

Tonight is my shift and never fear, I am well armed to protect myself with my Top Hat and witchy black cat is my familiar spirit who is really a sabre-toothed panther but shrinks herself down to mini-cat size so as not to frighten the neighbours. She eats Liver Birds for breakfast so I think I’ll manage to keep the beasts at bay.

Now then, since I’m here I thought I would share some of my work with you all…

Like I said, I write books about the old ways of Britain. We never did lose them you know, despite what iggerant Liver Bird Lovers may tell you. we just learned to keep our heads well down below the parapet for the past 2000 years so we’re seriously good shapeshifters, and that’s part of what I teach. My Mum and Dad, most of our relations and quite a few folks in the villages where I grew up all followed the old ways, we even got our local vicar into it so he let us use the church for some of our ceremonies like the Night of the Mothers. Our ancient patroness, a well maiden from thousands of years back, had her shrine under where the Normans built their church, it was great to be able to use it again. He was a good bloke, that vicar.
I teach through a website – the Deer Trods Tribe – you can find it at http://www.deerttrods.com and on Facebook. The courses start really easily, from the beginning, and you can do them all online once you become a member. And there’s out old teaching tales there, and the weekly bog my colleague, Fiona Dove, and I do, sometimes with one of our shaman friends from around the world. We have a book of the month, videos we enjoy including our own, and the seasonal Newsletter. And then there’s all the Members’ courses, some are quite short and others can last the whole year – you choose.

If you’d like to purchase any of my wares you can find them here: http://www.deertods.com and you can find my books on Amazon.

If you’d like to connect you can find me here: Deer Trods Tribe website

I’m on Facebook at Wye’s Woman Shamans and Deer Trods Tribe

Well thankyou so much for joining me this evening as we keep the light in the lantern burning. I’m afraid that’s my shift over for the night, thank goodness it was a quiet one! I’ve heard some authors have had their spines ripped to pieces up here by those Liver Birds, (hope to goodness my cat can protect me!) and there was tell last week of an artist who fell foul to a hoard of sugar zombies and is now best avoided… although his artwork apparently is better than ever…

Oh and I went out for a walk last full moon up here in the Wild Hills of Shropshire and got scooped up by Wild Edric and the wild Hunt, they’re always out around then. Ye gods it was a wild ride! But we did spend the end of the night together in his lovely lodge up in the Long Forest … say no more! Say no more! But I did come home with a smile on my face LOL. I tell you following the deer trods is quite some fun 😊

Stay safe friends, whatever assails you, and when times are dark, look for the light in the lanterns of others and treasure the light in your own….

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Light In The Lantern: With Imelda Almqvist

The Imagination is more important than knowledge
-Albert Einstein

I dwell in possibility
―Emily Dickinson

A Big Hello to you all and also a big thank you to Steampunk’d Lancaster for inviting me to write a guest blog!

My name is Imelda Almqvist. The word ‘creator’ sums up nicely what I am all about but I will give you the long and more tedious version as well: I am an international teacher of Sacred Art and Seidr/Old Norse Traditions, an Author of three published books (and two more in the pipeline), a painter and a Forest Witch. I am also a mother of three gorgeous young men (the most important creation in my life!)

This blog series is dedicated to re-kindling old beacons and keep the flames burning. To my mind that begs the question: which flames? In this piece I will try to answer that!

The twin flames I actively keep burning, and which I think all of us need to keep burning, are those of Creativity and Imagination.

When our creativity is in flow – other areas in our life flow too. There is a divine spark in this process, we step closer to our own Creator (however we perceive or name this cosmic force, this Power Greater Than Ourselves) and we understand how creativity is deeply embedded in all that surrounds us.

On October 30th my third book will be published by Moon Books and the title is: Medicine of the Imagination: An Impassioned Plea for Fearless Imagination.

Essentially this book explains how the human imagination married to innate creativity is a most powerful force, which shapes the world as we perceive it. However, we often perceive those things as nebulous: we don’t reflect too closely on how/what we create and how we use our imagination. This really means that a lot of mis-creation occurs (yes truly, we create unwanted things that we don’t even like or want!) Not only that, but by not healing settings or imprints from childhood (and that is before we even look at karmic imprints and settings!) the astonishing thing is that we keep dysfunctional reality going, even contribute to it, and we don’t even realise it!!

Take a moment to absorb that, it is not a comfortable thought!

The basic premise of my third book is that we are all born with the gift of the human imagination, but most of us do not harness this gift. The default setting for many people is to use ‘the muscle that is their imagination’ in a rather mindless way.

Jack D. Forbes, author of Columbus and Other Cannibals, wrote: “It is always very difficult to live in this life so as not to be a damaged person or one who damages others”. This is one of Life’s greatest ontological dilemmas (the other one is that “other life forms must die, if I am to eat”). Without harnessing and honing our imagination, we stand little chance of not living as a damaged person who damages others.

The human imagination gives rise to the most beautiful man-made structures and creations on Earth: architecture, literature, theatre, music, art, humanitarian initiatives, moon landings and space exploration, mythology, science – they all require a large dose of imagination. We are all surrounded by the results of the imagination of our peers and ancestors.

Without imagination there is no compassion, no moral compass and no progress. Without imagination there are no fear of Death and no magic (either “black” or “white”) but no premeditated murders or terrorist attacks either; all rely on the human ability to imagine, to call up images and test-drive possible scenarios in the human mind. Once we get out the magnifying glass, we discover that the imagination is a double-edged sword indeed.

The human imagination can both ignite and misfire! The Holocaust started as a concept in people’s imagination before it became an irreversible reality.

All of us together, humanity as a collective, are creating very confused and mixed outcomes right now: world peace remains elusive, wars rage and children starve. Division (Us and Them thinking) and projection (making others carry our disowned shadow material for us) remain the norm. Addictions and pollution proliferate.

Wetiko (Windigo in Objibway) is a Cree term for a mindset that cannibalises other people and earth’s resources for ever greater gain and ego-inflation. The human desire for excess drives military expansion, imperialism, colonialism and any kind of advancement or again at the expense of other people and beings: more-more-more, me-me-me. Whales choking on plastic show us where this mindset leads. We can choose to heal our addictions and the larger human field becomes healthier for every person who commits to recovery. The whole cosmos exists within ourselves – any healing we do for ourselves benefits the whole Web of Life.

The development of morality in human beings owes a lot to the imagination. The same thing is true for key qualities such as empathy and compassion. To fully understand those, this book takes a close look at their opposites: narcissism, psychopathy (and in a very different category: autism).

We can all learn a lot from studying minds that are not wired the “neurotypical” way. At times we even need a homeopathic dose of “psychopathic medicine”!

C. G Jung wrote that “We do not become enlightened by “imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Humankind has a long way to go in making darkness conscious! Here is the bottom line: we cannot create what we cannot imagine – and we cannot eliminate things by pretending that they don’t exist. The shadow of human existence will not go away if we ignore it. It is deeply wired into the human psyche (and human condition) and it will unfailingly return through the backdoor, wearing a new outfit. Therefore, it is our moral duty to find safe and acceptable expressions for our shadow selves and shadow material.

I will go one step further and suggest that it is equally so our moral duty to engage our imagination in service to other people, especially vulnerable people – if we are to transcend religious wars, homophobia and medical “cures” worse than the diseases we face. This book also looks at dreams, personal and collective karma and the balancing of opposing forces in a balanced human psyche.

Every chapter in this book ends with an activity that allows people to engage personally and directly with the material presented.

I wrote this book in the months before Covid-19 washed over us and we all had to adjust to a new ‘pandemic lifestyle’. Only now do I realise how this book truly addresses some key issues of our time. Meaning that the delayed publication, (due to various editorial reasons), actually has given this book the perfect date of publication: October 30th, 2020.

I hope that you will check it out!

I also invite you to have a look at recent paintings:

Lockdown Paintings
http://www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk/info2.cfm?info_id=235589

Forest Studio Paintings
http://www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk/info2.cfm?info_id=236179

Fall 202 Paintings
http://www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk/info2.cfm?info_id=236185

I have a YouTube Channel where I present my treasure trove of art videos:
https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Youtube+imelda+almqvist&qpvt=Youtube+imelda+almqvist&FORM=VDRE

If you are in need of some healing, I especially recommend:

Menglöð and the Nine Maidens of Lyfjaberg 2017 Imelda Almqvist Art Film

So that is a small selection of the fires I keep burning – and doing so saves my life! Let’s keep the twin lanterns of Creativity and Imagination burning, all of us – and have FUN doing it!!

Every once in while I get attacked by shadows: my own repressed material, other people’s shadows, all the dis-owned shadow material of our collective… so I stay safe by harnessing my creativity and imagination and I hope you do too!

You can buy my paintings through my website and all information about courses I teach is there too!

If you “do social media” and would like to connect, you can find me here:

Website: http://www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk/
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/imelda.almqvist/
Twitter: @ImeldaAlmqvist

Wild Blessings – Imelda Almqvist

#RainbowSnippets: Jack and Marjory

Ahoi! Hope your weekend is treating you fabulously!

Here’s my #RainbowSnippets post for this week – if you’re new to this, Rainbow Snippets is a chance to read and share 6 sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction every Saturday. There’s a huge variety from Steampunk, like mine, to Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Comedy and everything in between. You can join the fun and read all the other fabulous snippets at the wonderfully friendly and supportive official facebook group here 

It’s been ages since I posted from J&M so to recap – Jack and Marjory have been hired by the revolutionary leader, Max, to retrieve a stolen priceless tea set. They failed and Max is now going to get hung. The tea set is in the hands of a group of beatnik poets but J&M have a plan to steal it back. All they need now is a buyer… enter Montmorency, the disturbingly animate scarecrow…

“Kitty’s closed The Angel? Why?”
He stopped rummaging in his desk drawer and stared at us. “Why? Why? You dozy clot, where’ve you been the last couple of days? Planet mars?”
“Yorkshire”
His eyes narrowed, “Whatcher bin doin there then?”
“Bird watchin.”

Jack and Marjory

Being an entertaining and informative piece of travel writing by a couple of rogues on the run as they attempt to avoid the machinations of wizards, monarchs and a ruthless band of beatnik poets, deflect a civil war and deliver a priceless historical teaset before the owner finds himself at the gallows.

Wishing you all an utterly fabulous autumnal weekend and don’t forget to visit the offical fb group and see all the other Rainbow Snippets as well 🙂

Silk and Steel

Happy Friday! I hope you’re all well and good and enjoying the spooky season 😀

In this next bit we go back a smidge and find out what Vraxi has been up to while Spyro and co have been having fun and games in The Cross Keys… (I’ve put two bits together here because the second one is so very short 🙂 )

“You killed my brother.”

Vraxi had nothing to reproach himself for here. He had done exactly as Spyro had told him, dropped off the money to Bartzak’s mother in law and given her the message verbatim.

And then, having been given no further instructions, to his recollection, he decided to attend to some rather pressing business of his own.

Agathri had been disappointingly clear that the demonsong was a loan, that it would need to be returned before the Colonel missed it and that under no circumstances was she going to cover for him on that front.

Four bottles he had, and at least two of them (possibly all four) he was going to have to use in his plot to free Xander and his demon from eachother. Ideally he needed four replacement bottles to sneak back to Agathri and there was only one place he could possibly hope to obtain such treasures without actually having to pay for them. It was a favour he had hoped he would never actually have to call in…

“You murdered my brother.” the Sapani woman said again, her reptilian heritage flaring to the surface of her skin and eyes as she glared at him from across the table where they sat in the back room of The Valkyrie’s Nest.

There was a reason Vraxi had chosen the scarlet Hunter’s shirt that morning, and for once it had almost nothing to do with looking fabulous. Only skyship crews were permitted to drink in The Valkyrie’s Nest and the person he needed to talk to -Kejyaana Valstrom – was a Skyship Captain, of sorts.

He could, of course, have dressed as one of the many unobtrusive deck-swabs… but where would have been the fun in that?

“I prefer to reflect on that tragic incident as your brother having fallen foul of the fickle whims of fate, Kejya.” he said, laying his delicate fingers upon his chest and bowing his head slightly in a regretful manner.

“You cut him out of existence with your soul-blade,” Keyja hissed, balling her great tattooed fists upon the table.

“I prefer to consider the matter as a chain reaction, with myself at one end and Markov, unfortunately, at the other.” He waved a hand dismissively. “And at any rate the blade was not mine, it was on a loan so…”

“So… you are not responsible?”

“If you like.”

“I don’t like, Yag. I don’t like none of it and I like your presence here now even less.”

Vraxi shrugged helplessly, “then the sensible plan would be to appease me as swiftly as possible and be rid of me, would it not?”

“Or to slit your throat mayhap?” the captain snarled, but she made no move to do so.

“If you like.” the yag repeated, shrugging as if it mattered little. “No doubt that would make an interesting story for the ears of Mendicci. I expect it would make no sense to him at all, seeing as you were the one to tip us off that your brother had gone rogue.”

“My brother was loyal to Mendicci until the day he died.” Keyja spat.

“Strange then that he was taking a cut of Roccana for himself before mixing the rest with brick dust and passing it on to Silk and Steel as pure.” the yag said with a shrug. “Either way, if you kill me now Keyja, I am certain Mendicci would smell a rat and come hunting for it, aren’t you? And we both know what he would find, don’t we?”

Kejya slammed her fist on the table, rattling the tankards of kvass, “I never asked you to cover my back, you little street rat.”

“Oh, I know. And I hadn’t intended to, believe me – Mendicci wanted every one of your double-crossing crew dead from the top to the bottom but,” he took a long draft of his drink and grinned impishly at her when he set it down again, “it is as I always say – why should I stick to one plan, when another would suit me better? And it struck me in the heat of the moment that it might suit me better for you to stay alive. That is all.” He added an impudent wink to the grin and for a second wondered if he had pushed the captain too far as she looked ready to leap across the table and throttle him.

But instead she glanced around at the shadowed eaves above them; for who knew where Mendicci’s little army of urchin spies might be lurking? She steadied her nerve and took a swig of her own drink, wiping her mouth on the back of her hand. “Where did you get the shirt?”

The yag grinned broadly, “Does it suit me?” he asked – genuinely interested in the answer.

“Yes and no. So. What do you want?”

“Four vials of demonsong, please.”

Keyja laughed out loud and took another drink. “Who have you been crib-crackin,’ the duke? You couldn’t afford one, never mind four.”

Vraxi smiled pleasantly and sipped his own drink a little. “Oh I don’t intend to pay for them.” he said, his eyes twinkling with tiny sparks of flame. “You are going to get them for me, Keyj – or I will suddenly realise that I was misinformed and that you were, not only involved in your brother’s cream-skimming operation, but are still carrying it on, in his memory.”

“You wouldn’t dare…”

“Oh I, so would!” he grinned, his eyes dancing with flames of mischievous delight as he watched the hulking smuggler captain wrestling with the urge to rip him limb from limb.

“This shipment’s all counted for,” she said at last, “you’ll have to wait.”

“Pff, crates get dropped all the time!” he scoffed with a nonchalant flick of his hand.

But at this Keyja shook her head and smiled. “It’s not that simple. Leave it with me, Yag, I’ll send you word when I’ve got it but it’ll be a while yet.” She drained her tankard and stood up.

Vraxi frowned, “How long? I need it soon – time is of the essence…”

“Is it?” Keyja raised an eyebrow and smirked at him, “well then mayhap it’s in my interests to wait and see how that plays out for you? Huh?” She laughed nastily and headed for the door. “I’ll send word when I’ve got them. Hope you keep yourself safe in the meantime…”

Vraxi frowned and poured himself another drink from the jug. He toyed with his tankard a while as he turned over what he might do next. This was not playing out the way he had hoped. But he couldn’t see another option.

A knock at the door snapped him out of his thoughts and the barman, who looked far too pretty a rose to be wasted in a dive like this, Vraxi thought sadly, stuck his head round the door.

“Sorry, was wonderin’ if you’d done in here and wanting the, er, you know, the jug ‘n’ that cleared away?”

Vraxi gave him a sidelong smile, “unless you want to help me finish it off?” he asked, indicating the half-full jug and extra tankard.

The barman laughed, “I wouldn’t mind but the battleaxe who runs this gaff would skin me!”

“Ah, alas.” Vraxi sighed and gave a rueful little smile.

“I… finish early tomorrow…” the barman said, throwing a perfectly mischievous little smirk of his own into the mix.

“Oh do you…” Vraxi began, and then remembered his promise to Edmund and his hopes that the half demon would be able to help him. “… ah, but alas again, I’m afraid I have a prior engagement.”

He necked his beer and stood up. “You can find me at the Cross Keys most nights though,” he added, with a wink which set the barman grinning again.

He left a sizable tip on the table and slipped quietly out of the back door and into the little back alley that ran parallel to the docks.

He should have checked.

He always checked.

Why the hell didn’t I check it was clear? He thought miserably as two jeering dock-rats held him by the arms and a third delivered Keyja’s ‘message’ by means of a series of slugs to his chin, chest and stomach while the sapani captain looked on.

“You wanna learn not to corner a snake, Yag.” Keyja laughed, her reptilian heritage gleaming to the surface as she leant back against the alley wall, enjoying the show. “But you’re right, I do owe you a favour, so I’m gonna let you walk out of my skydock with nothin but a bit of a bruised ego and the wind knocked out of you.”

She waved for her crew to let him go and they dropped him to the cobbled ground, shoving him forwards so that he fell hard on his hands and knees in front of the captain.

“Well, your kindness is incomparable,” he managed, struggling to catch his breath and get himself upright again.

“But if I see your trouble makin little face around here again,” she continued, “Or hear you’ve breathed one whisper to Mendicci about my business, I’ll turn you inside out and hang you on a flagpole and Mendicci can ask all the questions about it he likes, savvy?”

Vraxi brushed the dirt off his trousers and scowled briefly at the snags and creases in his shirt. Then turned and grinned impudently at the smuggler captain. “Can you fault me for trying?” he asked, spreading his palms in a brash and roguish gesture designed to perfectly mask the fact hat he was shaken to the core.

Keyja snorted and turned her back on him, motioning for her crew to follow her. “Folks talk, Yag.” she said, not looking back at him. “word is, Mendicci ain’t that happy with you right now, mayhap he’ll think kindly towards someone who puts you out of his misery?”


*


Vraxi sucked in a deep breath, balled his fists to his temples and tried not to panic. He had nothing left in his hand. Keyja was his last card. Spyro was already on his back about the business with Agathri, Ros seemed out of sorts with him as well. Xander was… being impossible as usual… and soon he expected the Colonel would show up with his harpoon gun and demand recompense for his demonsong…

Calm your fears, do, he chided himself, your back has been against the wall enough times to know that there is always one more place to run to… think… what have you not tried? What have you not dared to even think about trying?

And then he had it. Oh dear. He really wished he didn’t, but he did and it was likely the most desperate, distasteful and foolhardy idea he had ever had in his life… and death.

“Oh well, in for a penny in for a pound,” he muttered to himself as he smoothed the creases from his shirt and headed towards home. He would have to get changed; he couldn’t possibly go to church looking like this!

Light In The Lantern: With Madeleine Holly-Rosing

Greetings! Welcome to to Steampunk’d Lancaster! My name is Madeleine Holly-Rosing and I am the writer/creator of the steampunk supernatural prose and graphic novel series, Boston Metaphysical Society.

Strange times have struck the Isles of Ire – Flesh eating Liver Birds plague the skies and Sugar-Zombies roam he streets spreading their curse like a plague…

So some of us have decided to re-kindle the old beacon in the city watchtower and keep its flame burning each night as a way of giving hope to those being hunted down by terrifying monsters, or evil scarecrow landlords…

Tonight is my shift and never fear, I am well armed to protect myself with my flaming magical sword so I think I will manage to keep the beasts at bay.

Now then, since I’m here I thought I would share some of my work with you all…

If you’re not familiar with Boston Metaphysical Society, it’s about an ex-Pinkerton detective, a spirit photographer, and a genius scientist who battle supernatural forces in late 1800s Boston.

It took a while to find the right title for the series as I wanted to evoke the time period within the title. Obviously, Boston is where most of the stories take place. I use the definition of the word “metaphysical” as it was used back then, which was to describe supernatural or paranormal activities. It’s taken on a more philosophical and spiritual meaning today. “Society” was also a word commonly used back then to describe a team, club, or an organization.
If you are new to the series, the best place to start is the trade paperback which includes the original six issue mini-series and a bonus story from Source Point Press! You can order it directly from them, your local comic book store or from me!

To help stave the evil spirits, my award winning novel, Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets is 50% off over at Smashwords until OCTOBER 15 by using this coupon code – SN34N.

I love the cover and I hope you do too. I didn’t want your standard steampunk cover with the same stock images you see all the time. So while I was on Facebook, I saw Luisa’s painting for a steampunk novella and loved it. I contacted her, but my budget could only cover one character. I decided that I wanted to have the main female character on the cover with a specific kind of style/fashion that is discussed in the book. I also love the color hunter green, so that part was easy. Also, the triquetra (Celtic Knot) medallion she is holding is an element in the book as well.
Luisa then did a rough sketch which I approved. Afterwards, she painted it and I gave her a few minor notes for changes, but pretty much she knocked it out of the park. Kudos to Anke Koopman who came up with the title graphics.
It’s such a big world that I wrote three sequel graphic novels, a novel, an anthology, and our very first COLORING BOOK. You can find my books on all ebook platforms as well as Amazon and my own webstore.

Here is a list of reading material to keep you occupied on those dark and stormy nights:

Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets- https://www.amazon.com/Boston-Metaphysical-Society-Storm-Secrets-ebook/dp/B07HCP9SW5/ OR at Smashwords (50%) off. (Coupon Code – SN34N)

Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00XB5U82Q/

Boston Metaphysical Society: The Scourge of the Mechanical Men-https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0996429247/

Boston Metaphysical Society: The Spirit of Rebellion – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0996429271/

Boston Metaphysical Society: Ghosts and Demons-https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1734615605/

Boston Metaphysical Society: The Coloring Book- https://boston-metaphysical-society-comic.square.site/

If you’d like to purchase any of my wares you can find them here:

https://boston-metaphysical-society-comic.square.site/

If you’d like to connect you can find me here:

Website: http://www.bostonmetaphysicalsociety.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BostonMetaphysicalSocietyComic/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mhollyrosing
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/mcholly1

Well thank you so much for joining me this evening as we keep the light in the lantern burning. I’m afraid that’s my shift over for the night, thank goodness it was a quiet one! I’ve heard some authors have had their spines ripped to pieces up here by those Liver Birds and there was tell last week of an artist who fell foul to a hoard of sugar zombies and is now best avoided… although his artwork apparently is better than ever…

Stay safe friends, whatever assails you, and when times are dark, look for the light in the lanterns of others and treasure the light in your own….

#RainbowSnippets : Jack and Marjory

Happy Saturday! (Although I’m having to edit this now to Sunday as the weekend has got away from me as usual – eep, better late than never maybe? XD ) I’m over the moon that things are now calming down here enough that I can start taking part in Rainbow Snippets again – I’ve so missed our lovely group and reading all the marvellous array of offerings each week, and I really hope that for all of you things are going smoothly and that the madness in the world is affecting you as little as possible. Hugs all round.

So here’s my #RainbowSnippets post for this week – if you’re new to this, Rainbow Snippets is a chance to read and share 6 sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction every Saturday. There’s a huge variety from Steampunk, like mine, to Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Comedy and everything in between. You can join the fun and read all the other fabulous snippets at the wonderfully friendly and supportive official facebook group here 🙂

Kari Trenten is responsible for this one 😉 – she stirred up my Scarecrow Landlord last week with her mischievous kittens and they haven’t stopped pestering me to post more of their story since! It isn’t really THEIR story of course, it belongs to Jack and Marjory… but try telling the scarecrow that – tsk!

It’s been ages since I posted from J&M so to recap – Jack and Marjory have been hired by the revolutionary leader, Max, to retrieve a stolen priceless tea set. They failed and Max is now going to get hung. The tea set is in the hands of a group of beatnik poets but J&M have a plan to steal it back. All they need now is a buyer…

Exactly how and when and why a scarecrow became so disturbingly animate is the subject of many late night conjectures but nobody knows, or dares ask, exactly who Montmorency is or where he came from.

Of course we know, now. But we didn’t that September afternoon in 1824 and frankly I think we slept sounder untroubled by the history.

What we did know, what everyone knew in Lancaster, was that Montmorency owned the old fish factories along the docks and had turned them into tenements which he rented to the most desperate and destitute citizens in exchange for ‘rent-in-kind.’ That usually meant brewing and selling Lemonade or smuggling tea and cake in and out of the city but Montmorency was a far-sighted, entrepreneurial cove and would turn his eye to anything that might bring in the glim.

 In truth, he was the only person we knew of who would be able to find us a buyer for the Newell with very little trouble or indiscretion.

“Not anover bleedin’ hex slinger,” the scarecrow wheezed, as he pulled the belt buckles tight around a heavy looking travelling case and felt around in his pockets for the key, “I gots no work goin’, I gots no rooms, I’m shuttin’ th’ole place down, gettin’ me head outta th’ noose now, shuttin’ shop an’ gettin’ out and Kitty’s right t’ do th’same.”

Jack and Marjory

Being an entertaining and informative piece of travel writing by a couple of rogues on the run as they attempt to avoid the machinations of wizards, monarchs and a ruthless band of beatnik poets, deflect a civil war and deliver a priceless historical teaset before the owner finds himself at the gallows.

Wishing you all an utterly fabulous autumnal weekend and don’t forget to visit the offical fb group and see all the other Rainbow Snippets as well 🙂

Silk and Steel

Happy Friday! I hope your weekend is a gentle and cosy one 🙂 Here is the next instalment of Silk and Steel… 🙂

Zariya Myshkin managed to keep smiling, managed to keep her hands from shaking, managed to keep any hint of fear from her countenance, until she had delivered the fresh round of drinks and retreated to the safety of the Cross Keys’ kitchen.

Then she buried her face in her hands and silently wept.

She didn’t regret her actions.

Spyro Mendicci had saved her family from the workhouse when her husband had been killed in an accident at the skydocks. He had secured her the waitressing job here at The Keys in a matter of hours, and gave regular work to her five children – small unimportant things; carrying messages and the like, things he paid handsomely for but could no doubt easily accomplish himself… and he often sent them home with a brace of crows or a basket of mushrooms t’boot…

But then that was the sort of man he was. An unassuming, everyday sort of hero. Always putting himself out for others, always standing up for those in need.

And now he was in need. She had seen The Doctor slip something into his drink at the bar – and everyone knew exactly what The Doctor was like. If Mendicci had got on his bad side…

Well, but Zariya had done the right thing; she had saved him. And now she only hoped that she had made it seem enough of an accident not to draw the volatile dusk djin’s wrath in the process.

He had not seemed vexed, but she knew the fact meant nothing where that one was concerned.

There were enough rumours of the cold and monstrous murders he had committed and would never stand trial for.

There was recent talk of him smiling pleasantly as he reached across the table and cut out that half-demon’s heart just a few days ago!

The thought of it brought a wave of cold clarity fuelled by adrenaline.
She must get home at once. She must get the children and go. Somewhere safe. Out of the city.

She had a few coins saved against a rainy day – no idea if it would be enough for a skyship ticket to anywhere, but she was a good cook, and the children were hard workers, perhaps…

Her mind continued to race as she hung up her apron, fastened her bonnet and shawl… she checked the landlord wasn’t looking as she slipped out of the back door and into the alleyway.

Crows chittered and chattered as they peered down at her from the rooftops with their hungry eyes.

Her cloth-bound boots, stuffed with straw, slid and stumbled on the cobbles as she hastened her pace towards the kadasa.

If the children were not on an errand, they would be lined up on the curb outside the antiques shop.

Zariya prayed to any gods still listening that they would be there.

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