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CampNaNo: Silk and Steel

Ahoi! I hope this finds you still safe and well and enjoying life as best you can! I am trying to do Camp NaNo so I thought I would start sharing snips of what I’m writing for that 🙂 It’s not that organised into chapters yet so I hope the ‘parts’ will make sense! XD And still very much in the drafting stage so all criticisms welcome! 😉

This is a Mythpunk, dystopian, LGBTQIA+, monster-friendship novella based around a combination of Hungarian, Rromani, Hindu and Polish Mythology so I will try and get organised and post some more about the background myths on Mondays.


“The world ended, the angels and the devils took who they wanted, but some of us were left behind… so we opened an antiques shop…”

Soundtrack / Playlist:


Passing through the black curtain, they wound their way through the familiar maze of corridors crammed floor to ceiling with books, paintings, statues, clothing and other curiosities. Silk and Steel would buy and sell most things, no questions asked. ‘Though not Demonsong, apparently,’ Xander frowned, and he subconsciously balled his fists in vexation.

He had never intended they should be strutting around with bottles of the foul, lethal stuff in the first place. Had never expected to find such a dangerous treasure trove in a run of the mill up market town house. And although he had not had time to prevent Vraxi stuffing them into his shirt, as they ran for their lives with the unexpected security system showering them with hexes and corrosive acid, he was damned if he was going to hold onto them any longer than he absolutely had to.

The momentary flare of shock and anger on the Yag’s face had told him much. Vraxi had most likely known the bottles were there, and most likely had a buyer lined up for them somewhere in advance. But if the Yag wasn’t going to be candid about his plans, Xander told himself, then he couldn’t expect them to play out the way he intended. He allowed himself a small smile; doubting the Yag was under the illusion that his plans meant much to Xander at the best of times.

He nodded briefly to a child with short, dark curly hair who was dressed in velvet breeches and a matching frock coat and stood hovering in the doorway of one of the side rooms.
Vraxi paused and grinned at the wide-eyed girl. “Hello Ziga,” he said, planting his hands on his knees and bending down to her level, “want to see a magic trick?” The girl smiled and nodded enthusiastically and Vraxi reached behind her ear and pulled out a red and white striped candy. She gave an excited little skip as he dropped it into her hand. “Eating with us?” he asked, but Ziga shook her head once, popped the sweet into her mouth and skipped off into the maze of books and antique furniture.

The cosy kitchen at the back of the shop could not have been more discrepant with the company it held, Vraxi thought with a grin as he accepted the chair Spyro offered him and wriggled gleefully with anticipation, crinkling his nose at the delicious sights and smells around him.

“I defy even the Duke himself to revel in better company or cuisine than does Vraxanthrin Bane tonight,” he declared, suddenly jumping out of his seat and rearranging the platters of cooked meats and stewed vine fruits to make way for a large pot of richly flavoured stew.

Rosamund Noir, second half of the Silk and Steel partnership, smiled indulgently at the Yag as she set down the terrine and Xander frowned as he saw their hands linger just a little as they brushed past eachother. The petite, dark haired woman was in many ways more dangerous than her partner, Xander reflected, being careful to smile gratefully at her as he seated himself beside the Yag.

Silk and Steel had risen from obscurity in ten short years to become a pivitol hub in the city’s underground activities. If something or someone needed to disappear, Silk and Steel could make that happen and Xander was well aware that at any given moment that contingency could apply to himself and his ostentatious companion.

‘Whether it is in our interests to disappear, or in someone else’s interest that we do – that will be the rub.’ He thought grimly. Certainly they had made enough of a nuisance of themselves over the past few years for either eventuality to be possible.

“Stone the crows!” All eyes turned in Spyro’s direction as the plate he’d been holding clattered to the floor and smashed and every hand in the room went instinctively to a concealed weapon.

Vraxi suppressed a chuckle, and made a mental note to use a similar trick next time he was in a room full of cutthroats – it was always good to know from whence the daggers may be about to fly.

The enormous individual, who had caused the commotion by simply entering the room silently and standing quietly behind Spyro with his arms folded, showed no amusement however. “I thought those plates were your mother’s.” he said gruffly, “I should take better care handling them if I were you.” The alchemist – for that is what he was; a Ghani of imposing stature and even more imposing reputation – crossed to the sink and washed his hands, turning the water and the white porcelain red with blood in the process.

Spyro clenched his jaw and ground his teeth.

Interesting, thought Vraxi, for these two seemed in a constant state of imbalance and the Yag was ever anxious to know who currently held the upper hand. He had no doubts at all that his life, if it could be called such, could one day hang upon that tiny but vital piece of knowledge.

CampNaNo: Silk and Steel

Ahoi! I hope this finds you still safe and well and enjoying life as best you can! I am trying to do Camp NaNo so I thought I would start sharing snips of what I’m writing for that 🙂 It’s not that organised into chapters yet so I hope the ‘parts’ will make sense! XD And still very much in the drafting stage so all criticisms welcome! 😉

This is a Mythpunk, dystopian, LGBTQIA+, monster-friendship novella based around a combination of Hungarian, Rromani, Hindu and Polish Mythology so I will try and get organised and post some more about the background myths on Mondays.


“The world ended, the angels and the devils took who they wanted, but some of us were left behind… so we opened an antiques shop…”

Soundtrack / Playlist:


Their agreed meeting place was on the other side of the Red River which cleaved the city in two. Each took their own round about route in getting there but Xander, quite certain that this time he had chosen the quicker route, did well to hide his surprise at seeing the Yag already leaning with one elbow against the glass counter of the little shop, chatting animatedly with the proprietor.
He turned and grinned as his companion entered, causing that faint fiery glow to dance beneath his skin again.

“Ah, you favour us with your presence.” The Yag teased, but Xander ignored him, locked the door behind himself and pulled down the blind. His eyes slid to the leather sofa in the centre of the shop, and the young man stretched out on it, apparently asleep.

“It’s alright,” Vraxi said, “he’s invited.” That last quip drew a sidelong smile from the man behind the counter and Vraxi’s grin and eyes widened with pleasure – the more so as he noted his companion’s frown darken dangerously. Better not push him too far, he told himself wisely, and quickly changed the subject.

“The cat is already out of the bag, you know.” He said chidingly, patting his bulging purse. “I could quite easily have been home abed an hour ago…” he chewed this over for a second and then added with a lewd grin, “…or somewhere abed at least.”

Xander glared at him and Vraxi quickly changed tack. “Only the thought that some terrible fate might have befallen you, has kept me at my post.” He said solemnly, though the tiny incandescent sparks dancing deep within his black eyes did not go unnoticed by his companion.

‘That and the lure of a handsome face and a hot meal’, Xander thought to himself, suspecting that if some ‘terrible fate’ did ever befall him, the Yag’s only interest in it would be to ensure that he was in no way likely to suffer the same.

“I am shutting up for the night,” the man behind the counter said. Spyro Mendicci, co-proprietor of Silk and Steel Antiques, had the curious talent of making every sentence sound like both a death threat and an invitation to his bedchamber.
Xander favoured neither but he wasn’t stupid enough to let it show. “I have something more,” he said, ignoring the ill-concealed alarm which flitted across Vraxi’s face, just for a heartbeat, before vanishing again in a well-practised smile that was utterly unreadable.

Spyro raised his eyebrows expectantly and Xander stepped forwards to the counter, not meeting Vraxi’s eye, as he reached inside his vest and pulled out four bottles of Demonsong. He could feel the Yag seething inwardly beside him; this wasn’t the plan they’d agreed, but Xander Dumarrle had never been the type to stick to one plan when another would serve him better.

The antiques dealer drummed his fingers on the glass counter. “And what am I to do with these?”

Xander carefully suppressed a wave of anger. He hated games. Even when he was the one playing them. The more simple and straightforward the world could be, the happier was Xander Dumarrle.

“Not your cup of tea?” the Yag asked, innocently. “Ah well…” and he reached delicate fingers to take the vials, fully aware that he’d left the ‘I’m sure we’ll find someone who’s interested’ hanging heavily in the air.

Spyro let him take them and place them inside one of his many concealed pockets before smiling – and again, Xander couldn’t quite fathom if he was considering slitting their throats or propositioning them – and softly bringing his hands together in a silent clap. “As I said, I am shutting up for the night, and as you can see,” he tipped his head towards the sleeper on the sofa, “we have company, so, if you aren’t intending to stay for dinner…”

“A true gentleman never turns down an invitation to dinner.” The Yag said, gravely, pressing delicate fingers to his chest to emphasise the notion.

‘Nor an insatiable little fire djin, it would seem’ Xander thought to himself in disgust. But Mendicci’s sinister smile told him that the Yag had sealed their fates.

“We are going home tonight.” Xander growled to his companion as Spyro vanished through a black velvet curtain at the back of the shop.

“Yes, yes, of course.” The Yag hissed back, flapping a hand dismissively. “But that being the case, it is going to be a long night, is it not? And I must have sustenance first, I simply must.”

Xander grimaced, noting of course that Vraxi had chosen the ambiguity of ‘sustenance’ over ‘food.’

Aether Eggs: With Karen J Carlisle

Good Morning! Happy Chocolate Fest or whatever fabulous festival you happen to be celebrating at this time of the year!
My name is Karen J Carlisle and I write steampunk, Victorian mysteries, fantasy, and the occasional cosy mystery with a fantastical twist.
Here in Steampunk’d Lancaster we are enjoying the annual Aether Egg Hunt – a chance for authors to connect with their readers and give a little gift of thanks for all their support in the form of an Aether Egg or Small Gift linked to the fictional world they have created.
And here is my contribution to the fun! …

Need Quarantine Reads?

Even though we’re all stuck in isolation or quarantine, we can still have adventures, meet new friends and discover new worlds. It’s all there in books. This year, I’m sharing a few Aether eggs because, let’s face it, we all need a little pampering at the moment.
I’ve just finished a short story (actually a novelette) heralding the return of one of my most requested characters, Doctor Jack. You’ll be able to see what he’s up to later in the year… but why not introduce yourself to him now?

Aether egg #1: Download a free eBook copy of Doctor Jack (valid until 1st May, 2020) at Smashwords. Follow this link:, and use the voucher code: WQ76W to get your preferred format copy.

I’m now working on the second book in the Aunt Enid Mysteries, A Fey Tale. This is a cosy fantasy mystery series (not steampunk).

You may have met Aunt Enid here before; she’s dropped by for Elevenses: ).

This time, there’s a vague steampunk-ish connection: Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, meets the Protectors in this adventure. Current scheduled release is end of September, 2020.
Aether egg #2: You can get the first book in the series, Aunt Enid: Protector Extraordinaire, for only 99c, until 1st May (Via Smashwords – Use the voucher code: NF83R)

AUNT ENID SMASHWORDS-1600X2466_FINAL COVER_copyright2017KarenCarlisle

Aether egg #3: When you sign up to my email list ( ) you get a free ebook copy of my short story collection, With a Twist of the Nib: A collection of ten speculative fiction short stories. Dwarves, vampires, time travel, detectives, steampunk adventures or supernatural events – take your pick. (and you get sneak peeks, info, video links and more, every month.)


Aether egg #4: And if you’re a voracious reader, and love short stories and articles:
there are more free original short stories on my webpage –
And research articles and book stuff at:

I hope that keeps you pleasantly entertained for a while. Until next time, eat chocolate, drink tea, practice social distancing and stay safe.
You can find my books here:
For information on other places to buy my books (including paperbacks) and book related merchandise:

And connect to me on the internet here:
Or support me on Patreon at:
Wishing you a Springtime filled with Splendid Shenanigans! Do remember to keep an eye out this month and hunt down all the Aether Egg surprises that will be appearing each week until May!

KJCarlisleicon2S (1)

Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. She is currently writing a cosy fantasy mystery set in Adelaide. Her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.
Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.
She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.

#Mythpunk Monday: Spiders, Wizards and Giant Cocks

Happy Mythpunk Monday! That’s a lot of promises in one title isn’t it? (wicked giggles) let’s see if I can deliver then…

In the introduction to Silk and Steel (My CampNaNoWriMo project this year) we meet the main protagonist Spyro Mendicci and one of the running themes through the entire story is ‘Who the hell is this guy?’

He doesn’t seem to fit in with all the others, who have a very obvious reason why their souls could not ascend to heaven or descend to hell at the end of the world.
So who is Spyro Mendicci? Well, only read on if you don’t mind the spoilers!



Spyro Mendicci is the sidekick friend of the Polish sorcerer Pan Twardowski whom Pan turned into a spider when he met him in a tavern.
Spyro was running for his life from someone and Pan promised to save him if in return he became his faithful servant.
He told the spider that he wanted him to change the deal he had made with the devil Zcerneboch to say that Zcerneboch could only take his soul when he was in Rzym (a far off city).

Pan then turned Mendicci into a spider which hid him from his enemies and let him sneak about and change the contract.
Pan had made a deal with the Zcerneboch many years ago and this had enabled him to do many wonderful things, including raising spirits from the dead. Because of how the spider had changed the contract, Pan was able to make fool of Zcerneboch many times as well!
But in the end the cunning devil arranged to meet him in a tavern, concealing from Pan the fact the this particular tavern was called Rzym.
Zcerneboch thought he now had him cornered but Pan managed to escape by praying as hard as he could to the great godesses of life and death – Kyselica and Vesna – who loved him dearly.

They answered his prayers by summoning a giant rooster (See, I promised you a giant cock, don’t you just love the randomness of old folk lore!?!) to fly him away to the moon with his spider friend.
So Pan Twardowski is the original ‘Man In The Moon’ and sometimes lets his spider friend down on a silver thread to earth where he turns back into human form to plot and scheme and spy.

But when the world ended Spyro wanted to come down to earth and be human again and see what opportunity he could make of it, so he cut the silver thread back up to the moon and this angered Pan who vowed he would one day come down and get his revenge.

The word Pan means Sir and this is why Spyro always refers to his old master as My Good Pan / My Good Sir.
This is the blend of myth and mischief that sits at the core of our little tale Silk and Steel. Next Monday I will look at the actual myth of Pan Twardowski and its variant forms as this is just my punk’d version of it.

Penny’s Reviews: The Hands We’re Given by O E Tearmann


Aidan Headly never wanted to be the man giving orders. That’s fine with the Democratic State Force base he’s been assigned to command: they don’t like to take orders. Nicknamed the Wildcards, they used to be the most effective base against the seven Corporations owning the former United States in a war that has lasted over half a century. Now the Wildcards are known for creative insubordination, chaos, and commanders begging to be reassigned.
Aidan is their last chance. If he can pull off his assignment as Commander and yank his ragtag crew of dreamers and fighters together, maybe they can get back to doing what they came to do: fighting for a country worth living in.

So, I’m usually more of a Steampunk / Gothic / Fantasy chic but when I DO go for Sci Fi, THIS is the kind I go for – the 1984 / Banksish / Kafka-esque Distopian kind where corporate and governmental control make the lives of those who don’t or won’t ‘fit the mould’ unbearable and misfits are pushed to an almost liminal existence.

Despite this grim backdrop, the story told here is pervaded by warmth, tenderness and passion thanks to the gorgeous characters, their backstories and relationships, emotions, hopes, fears and insecurities which make them each so unique and lovable I found myself swiftly invested in their future, not only the main character, Aidan, but also the secondary characters as well.

This is the tale of a lovable, awkward little band of rogues just perfect for anyone who likes serious Sci Fi with a credible MM love story at its heart. It’s also the start of this series so if , like me, you finish this book and are dying for more you won’t be disappointed.





CampNaNo: Silk and Steel

Ahoi! I hope this finds you still safe and well and enjoying life as best you can! I am trying to do Camp NaNo so I thought I would start sharing snips of what I’m writing for that 🙂 It’s not that organised into chapters yet so I hope the ‘parts’ will make sense! XD And still very much in the drafting stage so all criticisms welcome! 😉

This is a Mythpunk, dystopian, LGBTQIA+, monster-friendship novella based around a combination of Hungarian, Rromani, Hindu and Polish Mythology so I will try and get organised and post some more about the background myths on Mondays.


“The world ended, the angels and the devils took who they wanted, but some of us were left behind… so we opened an antiques shop…”

Soundtrack / Playlist:



“That was fun.” Vraxi panted as he landed lightly on his feet, one hand on the cobbles, steadying his slight frame, and rose to lean back against the damp wall of the dark snicket, catching his breath. The Yag shot a sly grin at his companion, knowing that he could see it, despite the complete darkness which enveloped them.

Xander considered telling the little cock not to crow until the sun came up, but instead he ignored him and pulled out his Dark Lens. A quick scry told him the main street ahead was clear; unsurprising at this hour, and without a word to the Yag he pushed off from the wall and swung silently out of the alleyway, turning right and keeping to the shadows.

Vraxi chuckled, knowing his flippant assessment of their near disastrous house-break had irritated his companion heartily, and for a brief second his translucent skin flared with the warm glow of orange flame, illuminating his usually black almond eyes.

The Yag waited a few moments and then exited the alleyway to the left, ducked down another snicket and swung himself nimbly up and over an outhouse wall, taking to the rooftops. True that wasn’t quite the plan they’d agreed to he relented, as he skittered silently across the slates and down another drainpipe, but Vraxanthrin Bane had never been the type to stick to one plan when another would serve him better.



CampNaNo: Silk and Steel

Happy Wednesday! Gosh I am floundering here I know, but I am trying not to fall under the cart wheels and to do Camp NaNo so I thought I would start sharing snips of what I’m writing for that 🙂 (I’ve had to put the cities of cloaks and daggers on a back burner because it got so wild and unruly! XD )

This is a Mythpunk, dystopian, LGBTQIA+, monster-friendship novella based around a combination of Hungarian, Rromani, Hindu and Polish Mythology so I will try and get organised and post some more about the background myths on Mondays. I feel like I’m cheating here a little because this started life as a Home Brewed RPG I wrote three years ago which had a finite story arc, it played out so well and some of the NPCs were so adorable that I’ve been dying to write it up as a little novella ever since. I thought it would make a good camp project though as the plot and characters are already completely in place, all I need to do is write it down, lol!


“The world ended, the angels and the devils took who they wanted, but some of us were left behind… so we opened an antiques shop…”

Soundtrack / Playlist:


I promised I would raise a glass to you my good Pan, every time the dying sun sets below the city skyline and the moon rises.
I know it is your great blind eye looking sightless down on us all, and sometimes I wonder if you are still as livid as you were the night I cut the silver cord that bound me to your little finger and became myself once more.
No longer your little spy, no longer your eyes among the comings and goings of the mortal world, but my own true self, walking in my own skin, feeling the bite of the wind and the caress of flesh and relishing each sensation.
Still your parting words haunt me like a shade; you said you would come after me some day and though I know your power wains, and I can see no logical way for those threats to come to pass still I know you, Pan.
Good Pan who sold his soul to Zcerneboch.
Good Pan who saved me from my enemies.
Good Pan who tricked the gods themselves.
Good Pan who Kyselica favours, who Vesna loves dear.
Good Pan who I have served all my many, many lives.
If you say you will come, my heart says you will, and so I am ill at ease, always watching my back, always sleeping with one eye open, always listening for the footfall soft behind the door.
I raise my glass to you this night, and I wonder if I keep this ritual as a ward, for if I toast your presence in that silver orb, is it not there, and will it not remain so? Does my mortal intention hold such power? To manifest the truth it asserts daily? Or is there still a little magic lingering in these bones yet – some remnant of your wyrdwork that held me so long in another form; far more slight and subtle than this one I wear now.
I have so much changed since the day we bound our fates together – two tricksters each caught fast in his own cunning web, each needing the other to escape the trap.
But we are different now. For all that you did eventually escape your death Good Pan, still I live on here in that place you love so well, free, alive, in the hands of the fates once more while you sit cold alone outside of everything on your silver island, floating by, too far away to see my glass raised up to you each night, too far away to hear my words.
That is what I hope; and if any god still lives to hear me, that is what I pray:
– the moon for you, Good Pan, and there to stay.

– Spyro Mendicci


There you go, I’m sorry I haven’t got a cover image yet but I hope you liked the intro. Very best of luck with all your writing endeavours whether you are doing NaNo camp or not. Do feel free to share your progress / procrastinations in the comments! XD 😀 😉


Penny’s Book Reviews: Seven Tricks by K S Trenten


Some say a mouse king has seven heads. Hah, trust a human to get our legends wrong.

A mouse prince must perform seven tricks before the twelve days of Christmas are up. It’s how he wins his crown, but the prince has whiskers set on something else. A stiff beauty with a magnificent jaw, waiting for him under the holiday shrub. He caught his scent in a dream, which he’s been sniffing after ever since.

Scamper with him through his adventures and misadventures, dodging traps, cats, and giants, while he wins a steadfast nutcracker’s heart.



Oh Mousetrick! What an absolute JOY it was to share in your mischievous misadventures!

This is undoubtedly one of my favourite books ever – the ultimate in witty, hilarious, heart-warming festive fun – my only (Christmas) wish is that there were more Mousetrick adventures to indulge in!

Penny’s Book Reviews: The Recruit by Addison Albright


Albert Manlii has walked this earth for more than two thousand years, but survival on his own was never easy. Now he leads a faction of highly organized vampires who carefully guard the secret of their existence. Unlike the old days, potential recruits are carefully selected and presented with an offer.

Phillip Brewer has weeks to live — if he lets his disease run its course. He doesn’t want to die, but given a choice, will his desire to live outweigh his concerns about the vampires’ ethics?

When the new recruit’s missteps are cause for concern, can Albert control the fallout, or will Phillip’s life once again be torn apart?


I have to confess I actually came to this book having read snippets from the next book in the series via the Rainbow Snippets facebook group and so I had already fallen in love with the character of Albert and seen flashes and hints of how their story plays out in the future.

I’m a sucker for vampire stories but can’t stand the ‘Twilight flavour’ so many now seem to carry, so I delighted in the fresh feel of this series and loved the combination of appealing characters and engaging plot.

I fell more in love with Philip than I thought I would – he is a beautiful character without being at all delicate or whiny or precious which I think is over-done in vampire novels.

Overall, I loved the characters and their world, especially Albert, and I would recommend the series to anyone looking for a modern vampire series with lovable characters and a fresh, unique feel.

Penny’s Book Reviews: Shafter by Margaret McGaffey Fisk


Born in the abandoned subway shafts beneath First City, Trina measures life in the coin she steals from her wealthy father’s people living above. She gives little weight to her dying mother’s fairy tales about how her father will rescue Trina and her twin sister, taking them away from this planet. Yet the stars catch her attention every time she goes to the surface.

Trina is the protector, a role she created more from heroic tales in books her father gave them than anything in a shafter’s life. When she sees drunken aristocrats harassing laborers, she can’t turn away even though attacking them carries a death sentence. Her paternal grandfather discovers Trina before the enforcers can and offers everything she has ever desired—safety for her family and a way off Ceric.

Can she trust their family connection, or will the price of her dreams be more than Trina is willing to pay?


I fell in love with Margaret’s wonderful story weaving skills through her Steampunk series The Steamship Chronicles. This was my first encounter with her Sci-fi series and, as someone who tends to steer away from space-based Sci-fi and more towards Fantasy and Steampunk I was taken aback at how instantly I was drawn into this world.

Once I had pulled my head out again at the final page and re-orientated myself to reality, I realised that what had pulled me in and held me there so firmly was the characters – not just the focal two, but even those who only featured in one or two scenes were so intricately and lovingly portrayed I cared deeply about all of them at once.

I won’t mention the plot because it is marvellous and can’t be mentioned without spoiling the marvellousness but there is a lot to chew over in here – darkness and light, love and bitter hatred, intention and risk and an overall sense of ‘the human condition’ as being well intentioned but sadly often painfully fallible.

There is great love here in many forms – some of them dangerous – there is pain, yes, but at the end, thankfully, there is immense hope.