Thankyou, friends, for joining me this morning on board the Harlequin Ladybird, do pull up a cat.. er, sorry, I mean a cushion… and make yourselves comfortable as I, Collin The Octopus, read to you all from my marvellous journal of extremely exciting adventures… a-hem…
Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome once again to Max and Collin’s splendidly Siberian – themed parlour located within the spectacularly frosted-over city of Lancaster.
True, some have called it a frigid flophouse belonging to chilling individuals whom you would not wish to meet down a dark alley, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find me this afternoon feeling a little foolish, a little sorry for myself and a little disappointed that ice skating isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Certainly ice skating with tentacles is not a thing I shall ever be attempting again. I’m afraid I got a little over excited at the Street Pageant … the Masala Chai punch…you know…
So here I lie, my tentacles in splints, attempting to suck chips of frozen tea through a straw while Max reads to me and the cats do their best to irritate me to distraction. Mrs B has kindly made up some foul smelling brown goo to rub into my wounds but it does nothing for my pride, I’m afraid; I am a fallen creature indeed….oh do shut up Max I am in no fit state to suffer your dubious wit.
Fortunately our soothing tea this morning is a beautiful and gentle blend of Sencha with sea buckthorn, spearmint and lemon verbena which reminds me of my ocean home and a lesson learned that not all forms of water provide an octopus with his element!
Still we did manage to take something of a stroll around the fair this morning.
I say stroll, which implies a leisurely pace, but my Very Quiet Gentleman Friend was doing an embarrassing amount of huffing and puffing and gasping for breath which was quite off putting I can tell you and leads me, once again, to question exactly what constitutes ‘Very Quiet’ in the realm above the waves.
I say stroll, but perhaps that is a misnomer for the exercise as in fact my tentacles were, as I said, all in splints from the ice skating affair and so Mrs B kindly rustled up an old wheelchair from somewhere and we strapped a couple of floor board planks to the wheels so that Max could push me through the snowy cobbled streets and over the icy river with ease.
Oh the joy! I cannot tell you how immeasurably more enjoyable it is to experience a winter’s walk from the cozy comfort of an armchair…there were fire eaters and jugglers, oh my goodness they even had an elephant! I’m amazed the ice does not crack! Mind you, they were roasting spit an ox with impunity over near the centre and I am certain it is going to lead to disaster.
There were so many things for sale, most of which are double the price one would expect to pay for them because they have the word ‘souvenir’ and a date scratched onto them. Luckily Max is a bit of a Finger Smith and we managed to procure some excellent spiced buns and treacle toffee before slipping away into one of the ‘fuddling tents’. These are made of the barge sails propped up haphazardly with poles and inside you will find some of the most lethal chai-cocktails to be mixed this side of a Tiffin Den.
We sampled ‘Purl’ (a steaming black brew made with lapsang and wormwood) which the vendor told us would have a man gibbering for days, and ‘The Spiky Mother’ (A pungent Assam with chilli and dark chocolate) which had apparently already hospitalised a crowd of eight, but we must be candid and say that, even after four or five cups of each, Max still had the wherewithal to hot foot it out of the tent and away before the angry vendor could catch up with us an extract his payment. (no mean feat pushing an octopus in a make-shift sled)
He almost cornered us but luckily Max employed a pocket full of escapological marbles (if you are naive to the uses of escapological marbles to thwart a pursuer just ask the nearest five year old) and we left him cursing in the gutter.
So here we are again, back in the parlour, and eager to tuck in to our sticky treats – once Max has got his breath back.
Ah yes, I still suffer a little with rheumatism in my tentacles after that terrible episode – nevermore! Is now my mantra when it comes to the ice skating, but I do so love watching you humans go about the business, all the same. So I’ll leave you with this lovely lady doing a far better job of it than I did and until we meet again, tread with care and remain always,
Thankyou, friends, for joining me this morning on board the Harlequin Ladybird, do pull up a cat.. er, sorry, I mean a cushion… and make yourselves comfortable as I, Collin The Octopus, read to you all from my marvellous journal of extremely exciting adventures… a-hem…
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen! You find us some what in haste this tea time as we are getting ourselves all dressed to impress and not just for larks or some nefarious landord’s scheme to make money, no, this time we actually do have somewhere swish to go!
Courtly Masques have been a traditional part of New Year celebrations here in The New World for centuries and the public version The Street Pageant is something that accompanies the Frost Fair here in Lancaster every year.
Some of the most outstanding lunatics, parlour-poets, tea fiends and self proclaimed ‘artists’, in the full intensity of their creative insanity, have devoted themselves to producing these Pageants (despite the earnest efforts of various New World Puritans to abolish them) and the infamous Garish Theatre producer Joyce Jameson recently proclaimed it to be “the highest art form in The Scattered Isles.”
To give the balance however we should also quote journalist Pomona Squash of the Tiffindependent Newspaper whose scathing review of last years’ revels read:
“The entertainment went forward, and most of the presenters went backward, or fell down, wine did so occupy their upper chambers. The actress playing the Queen tripped over the steps of the throne, sending her gifts flying; Hope and Faith were too drunk to speak a word, while Peace, annoyed at finding her way to the throne blocked, made good use of her symbolic olive branches to slap anyone who was in her way” (click here to tut at our rampant quote theft)
So that is where we abscond to this evening, to paint the town of Lancaster (revolutionary) red and utterly get away with it because we shall be masked up and totally unrecognisable… we hope…
We wish you all an equally jubilant evening and we will let you know how we got on on Monday so, until then, please throw on a mask be whoever the Hull you wish (for one night at least!)
Hm, yes I remember those pageant nights getting somewhat out of hand… in fact (voices hushed please) perhaps this extract wasn’t such a good one to have been reading out loud at all – Max once spent some time in Lancaster Castle prison, rather beaten up and waiting to be hanged (whether or not they managed to hang him in the end I really couldn’t say, he has an annoying knack of defeating death which really makes me wonder if he isn’t some sort of demon afterall…)
Ah but I digress; the point is he had some sort of delirious vision while he was there about a Cheese Ball… or a Cheese Masque… or some such nonsense, (I believe some nefarious conspirator from the island of Hopeless, Maine – mentioning no names – slipped him a hairy coffee at visiting hour) and it would be well not to set him off on a blasted recital of the Mostly Awful Poem he wrote about the…
Sunken Hull Max! Are you trying to frighten the life out of us sneaking around like that? …. no nobody mentioned cheese, or Masques, or indeed anything of the kind and we certainly have not got time for… will you get down off the table… oh dear, it seems there is no dissuading the wretch, cover your ears or run good people – preserve your sanity!
HISTORY IS MADE AS MAX SPEAKS TO THE ROOM AT LARGE RATHER THAN JUST COLLIN FOR THE SECOND TIME IN PARLOUR HISTORY…
Friends, Tea Fiends, Revolutionaries, Poets, Painters, Hex Slingers, Technomancers, Goddess Worshippers, and Octopussies, I humbly (sort of I mean, one can’t be too humble with a face like this -wink- ) present to you all …
“En Route To The Fromagian Ball”
(A Political Poem Of The Mor Irate Revolution By Eightcups Max)
As I waited for the Tyburn Tree
To spread its limbs and welcome me
To its embrace eternally
I dreamed I journeyed long, to thee
(To dance The Masque at Caerphilly)
I met Morbier on the way
He wore a masque of silver grey
Very smooth he looked, yet grim
And seven rats did follow him
Fat they were, and no surprise
For, despite his mournful sighs,
And as I feasted with my eyes
Yet they with sharp teeth took their prize.
Next came Roqufort and he had on,
All speckled with viridian,
A gown so tattered, holed and frayed
I wondered not he looked dismayed
“Can you sir, really, thus arrayed,
Be going to the masquerade
To dance at Caerphilly?”
And the little cats, who round his feet
Did lip and lap and even eat
The scroobius crumbs which from him fell
And each grew fat and fine and well
Clothed with Her Majesty’s revenues bright
Glittering gold through the grim twilight
Mild Camembert, smiling, sauntered by
And by her side, strode Manouri
And my heart sank to see the sly
Reflections in each gleaming eye
Of all the host that by me strayed
Towards the marvellous masquerade
To dance at Caerphilly.
A mighty troupe of cheeses round
And as they rolled they shook the ground
Waving each a blunt hooked knife
And in their wake came grief and strife
And yet with glorious triumph they
Rode through The Scattered Isles so gay
Drunk as with intoxication
Upon the wine of unfair taxation
Through Crumbia, past The Once Was Sea
Caroused the pageant, fat and free
Pounding flat and crushing down
Each village, hamlett, temple, town
Until they came to Caerphilly
And each guest of that monstrous ball
Did gasp and gape and stand in thrall
As tearing down their revelry
The fromagian host advanced with glee
And, to my horror, out there came
To meet the host and so to claim
Their glory, friends and family
All singing odes to Sbrinz and Brie
“Oh we have waited, hungering
For the mighty curd-coming”
And on their knees each one bent down
And for each cheese, proffered a crown
Then each took fork and knife and spoon
And there below the blood red moon
They rat-like, cat-like all did feast
And, eating so, became the beast
And wild, rapacious was the eye
Of every one who passed me by
Behind each masque that greeted me
As I came to Caerphilly
But as I felt myself besieged
By comrades now themselves in league
With lovers lost and rampant cheese
As gazing, lost, at all my foes
A vapour from my teacup rose
Faint and fragile as the dew
All silver grey the image grew
This Maiden, mailed, before me stood
With spork blade bright and shimmering hood
My Lady, Silverneedle, stands
Her teapot held in mighty hands
And above the roar of cheese
Her voice rings o’re the land and seas:
“Sions of Ire, scions of glory
Heroes of unwritten story
Suplings of one mighty pot
Rise and slice the Gordion knot”
“Rise like Silver Needle’s steam
Swift and to fulfil the dream
In the heart of every slave
The late of birth, the late in grave.
The dream of every treacle miner
No notion simpler or sublimer”
“Rise as one to take with might
The final bag of flour, white,
For you are many, they are few
And all they gorged was meant for you!”
With step as soft as wind she passed
O’re my head so swift and fast
And though I sought to find her there
Still all I saw was empty air.
But lingering in the morning grey
Some muse stirred in my memory
The scent of bergamots’ faint leaves
Which soothed my soul to thoughts of thee
As I waited for the Tyburn Tree
To spread its limbs and welcome me
To its embrace eternally
Still in my dream I danced with thee
(We danced The Masque at Caerphilly)
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s splendiferously space-tastic parlour located high above it all on board our beautiful rainbow-sailed skyship The Harlequin Ladybird!
Those of you who’ve been with us for the long haul will know how hard we have fought against exploitative scarecrow landlords, vicious flesh eating Liver Birds, machinating girlfriends and obsessive beat-nik poets to reach this point of well-deserved bliss, living the life of sky-pirate luxury and finally able to be Utterly Ourselves without someone trying to kill us or steal all our tea.
But upon this cloudless, blue sky morning as we drift lazily through the last departing tendrils of dawnish haze and Lancaster’s frozen River Lune lies below us like a glittering white ribbon and I see the stall holders of the annual Frost Fair setting up their gaily coloured tents and carts I must confess to being overcome with nostalgia… well, perhaps not overcome, I wouldn’t go back to that miserable life for all the tea in Ire…
But nostalgic enough that I thought I might hunt out my journals and perhaps spend the next few weeks reading over some of our memories from Frost Fairs past… (Max don’t be rude, of course our guests are eager to hear me read at length from my memoirs, look at them, they are on the edge of their seats already! … No it is not because the cats are taking up every other available space, it is because they are excited to hear me pontificate about my all-over-interesting life… no they do not want to hear any more about YOUR life Max, you’ve already had more than your fair share of lives, no wonder you like cats so much, perhaps you in fact part cat after all.
Anyway, now that my Very Quiet Gentleman Friend has finally shut up, I can invite you all to join us over the next four weeks as we weigh anchor in Lancaster, stroll the current Frost Fair and look at all the delights on offer from some wonderful Steampunk and LGBTQIA+ authours and look back at some fun and frolics from Frost Fairs of the past.
In the meantime I shall kick my tentacles up on the table here and ring the bell for tea. Hopefully you will join us again soon and until then, please remain always,
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Max and Collin’s fabulously fangtastic parlour located somewhere along the seasonably chilled spine of the splendidly scenic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.
True some have called it a dreadful place inhabited by frightful fiends and plagued by the occasional bad tempered Wight, but we consider that such people are merely getting a little carried away with their seasonal shenanigans.
You find us this morning in haste, our paper bags empty, our turnips carved and our faces painted with… stuff… because it is never really too early to begin trick or treating is it? Certainly we were attacked by a group of urchins over the weekend dressed in panda masks and donkey heads and demanding sustenance and shelter and illegal sugar laden treats. So we are off now to see if we can score something for ourselves on that front…
But before we do, there is (always) just about time to kick our tentacles up on the table for a moment and enjoy a festival-fuelling brew of Hershel’s Tonic and some seaonally spooky and splendidly steampunkish fiction, which we fortunately happen to have right here…
This is the prequel to Madeleine Holly-Rosing’s series of graphic novels, Boston Metaphysical Society. It is our first foray into this series and we are now absolutely hooked and ready to follow these characters and their fascinating world through whatever paranormal encounters and mysterious adventures await them in the next few books.
The set of seven individual short stories includes The Secret, The Devil Within (which was our favourite) , The Demons Of Liberty Row, The Secret Of Kage House, Steampunk Rat, The Clockwork Man and The Way Home. All are set in a re-imagined Steampunk America where the paranormal is… ah… normal! … and it is the primary purpose of society’s commoners to ensure these ghostly goings on do not interrupt the peaceful existence of the wealthy elite.
There are plenty of thrills, mysteries and intrigues inside this rather delightfully gothic-feeling collection; historical references aplenty for those of you who, like us, just go gooey over mash-ups and hat-tips and the like, and it will certainly appeal to anyone who likes the focus of their Steampunk to be on the everyday working classes rather than the upper.
What attracted us most though was the obvious depth and heart pervading each tale and we really felt that if we could fall in love with the characters in such small glimpses, then following them on through the rest of their adventures was absolutely obligatory – we’re very excited to see where life will take them all next!
If you have already read and enjoyed the comics / graphic novels in this series then we are willing to bet you will love these short stories which will no doubt add colour and depth to both the characters and world you already know. If, like us, this is your first encounter with the series, then this little collection is a lovely introduction and, as it has a nice little preface to set the scene before you dive in, it is a perfect place to begin.
Now then, we must delay no longer, the candy calls, as they say – do they say that? Possibly, either way we wish you a splendiferously spooky build up to the big bad treat-fest (whatever you call it in your dimension) and until we see you again,
Please remain always
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s indeterrably intrepid and frabjously furry parlour located somewhere within the irritable bowels of the splendidly scenic city of steampunk’d Lancaster.
True some have called it a devilishly delinquent dive, frequented by only the most diabolical demons, but we consider that such people are merely getting a little carried away with the festive spirit.
This morning we are feeling far too warm and fuzzy inside to be entering into the Halloween / Samhain / All Souls / Candy-fest / Thing atmosphere because we have just finished reading two of the most delightful books ever written and we would like to share those with you over a spot of Galli-Grey Regeneration Tea ( because, New Doctor and, of course, Earl Grey…)
George is a small grey bear of adventurous inclination and these two books detail two of his intrepid adventures. He is also a Ghost Bear – which is something really quite marvelous indeed!
In book one, George and his chums are kidnapped by wicked pirate squirrels and are forced to endure scathing reviews of their performances of Gilbert and Sullivan and in the second book our little furry hero pits his wits against the some sweet-toothed skulduggerists on planet Mars!
These heart warming illustrated adventures are beautifully produced and an absolute joy from start to finish. The urchins we read them to were beaming with glee throughout and there many excited squeals of delight, particularly at ‘the end’ !
We actually shed tears and the urchins literally leap up and down with excitement when we discovered the story-related recipes in the back cover of each book (you know how emotional we get about cake…) We will definitely be baking these soon and when we do we will post pictures in our elevenses slot (but not the recipes! You’ll have to read the books for those because the recipe is given as a little story which is just too, too adorable to miss!
There is enough warm-hearted, gentle but highly witty humour throughout both books to keep both urchins and adults chuckling and engaged from start to finish and they immediately became firm bedtime favorites.
If your own little urchins are of the intelligent and discerning sort who prefer A A Milne, Kenneth Grahame, Edward Leah or Lewis Carroll to the average uninspiring mass produced picture books on offer, then these are a couple of gorgeous gems to add to your storytime treasure chest.
As for us, we are still plucking up the courage to have those stern words with Montmorency about the flooding in here – our pig has set sail for the land where the bong tree grows and I believe we may be heading that way soon ourselves if Max doesn’t bail out fast enough. Still tomorrow we will share with you our #inktober tea painting efforts and inky things and a little bit of story to go with them.
In the meantime stay dry and warm and do remain always
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Max and Collin’s Utopian underwater apartments located, at present, beneath the deluge of water overflowing from the river Lune and into the drainage systems of the splendidly scenic city of steampunk’d Lancaster.
True some have said that there’s always something fishy going on around here, but what exactly do they expect when one of us is an octopus and the other refuses to kowtow to public demands for personal hygiene … owch! It was a joke Max! My gentleman friend has no sense of humour at all…
Well our pig is still happy, although we have had to set him adrift in a little crate as the parlour is flooded with rainwater coming in through the floor and we are going to have strong (ish) words with our landlord about this, once we pluck up the courage… in the meantime I am going to perch on Max’s head while he ‘bails out’ and… hm? … you think I ought to be just fine in the water because I’m an octopus? My dear friends, there is a world of difference (at least there ought to be) between the waters of The Great Western Ocean and the excrement of the Lancastrian sewer system… a-hem… now where was I? Oh yes, perching on Max’s head about to open a marvelous book …
Selkie Cove is the next installment of Kara Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices series which we have become absolutely addicted to over the last few years. It is no secret at all that she has become one of our favorite authors and with very good reason – her writing combines diverse, complex and compelling characters embedded in gripping narratives which combine action, emotion and suspense in perfect balance.
If you are new to this series, it is possible to start here and still understand what has gone before, but much better to start at the beginning: The Earl Of Brass
If like us however you have been dying to know what happens next, you will not be disappointed…
With the horrors of the past seemingly far behind them, Immanuel and Adam are still feeling the after effects that dark magic has left on their lives. When a new mystery surfaces and magic invites itself into their lives once more, the couple are faced with some difficult choices that will affect the course of their future lives.
It was interesting to see how Adam and Immanuel’s relationship developed – and how they both grew and changed as individuals – when faced with the new challenges of life as a couple within the rigidity of Victorian society. This interplay gave the story warmth and depth and added to the emotional roller coaster that all the IMD novels offer. Overall this was a top notch adventure and we loved the interplay of myth, magic and science within this steampunk setting.
Now then, I’m afraid we don’t have any tea to offer you today because it is all being painted with – today is the first of Inktober and, just like last year, we are going to endeavor to do a little bit of tea painting each day in the hopes of producing one painting per week (or perhaps more but lets not got carried away!) we will post our first effort so far tomorrow so, until then
please remain always
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s marvelously mysterious and sublimely sleuth-tastic parlour located beneath the beating heart of te splendidly scenic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.
True some have said that its occupants couldn’t figure their way out of a paper bag and that the only mystery involved is their continued existence but we consider that such people are merely embittered that we are smarter than them.
You find us this morning with a happy pig swilling beer, and a new idea for making rent money – we are going to open a small private detective agency! Surely there is an abundance of crime here in Lancaster (much of which we are involved in ourselves and still more of which we are already acquainted with the perpetrators, so finding the villains should be a piece of cake!)
However we wanted to begin in an informed manner and so we have been reading A Study In Temperance by our good friend Mr Ichabod Temperance. It’s taken us rather longer than intended to review this book because when we read an exert of The Two Faces Of Temperance WE JUST HAD to read that one first, we couldn’t wait! So our review schedule got a little messed up as we didn’t feel we could review book 10 out of the blue without going back and doing books 4-9 first.. if that makes sense? So, without further ado, let us kick our tentacles up on the table, pour an excellent cup of Sherlock Holmes Tea from Victoria Mae Designs and take a look …
If you haven’t yet begun the riotous romp that is the adventures of Mr Temperance and Miss Persephone Plumtartt, you could easily start with this adventure but you would do much better (because otherwise you will have missed so much fun!)to begin at the beginning…
If on the other hand you have got to book three and been eagerly awaiting to get your hands (or indeed tentacles) on the next installment then you are going to be in heaven because this series just gets better and better!
This time Ichabod and Persephone are back in England and we also get to meet a rather famous fictional detective… this was so splendidly done, as always,the writer goes far beyond taking a literary character, plot or setting and lifting it into his own world – rather he utterly makes it his own with more parody and pastiche than even we could shake a stick at. Also, as the books are progressing, t Persephone and Ichabod are given less of the spotlight which is a very interesting approach and gives the comedy a lot more scope as well!
We really don’t want to give any spoilers on this marvelous tale, suffice to say, another laugh out loud, unpredictable and utterly delightful adventure from this chaotic couple.
And now we must busy ourselves with finding the right hats and pipes and business cards and all the other essential things needed for solving crime… we wish you all a delightfully delinquent morning and if you are personally involved in any felonious enterprises do please let us know so that we can cash-in won’t you?
And do remain always, utterly yourself.
If you are interested in reading our review policy please see the reviews section at the top menu.
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s exuberantly experimental and improbably porcine parlour located beneath the grimy streets of the splendidly scencic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.
True some will call our flamboyant descriptions of our subterranean safe-house ‘Hogwash’ but we consider that such people are merely swine.
You find us this morning with a dead pig on the rug. This is entirely the fault of Nimue Brown and we take no responsibility for the matter whatsoever. (As Max says, “A True Gentleman never takes responsibility for anything, if he can help it, least of all his own actions.”) We have done some research and ordered a new pig and some beer and a couple of Conservative MPs and hope the thing will go better next time… What?
… Max says I am painting a very suspect and inaccurate picture of events and he would like me to make it clear that a) Max was not in any way involved with the pig , b) the purpose of the pig in the parlour was completely innocent and c) all we did was feed the pig substandard black-market tea which likely consisted of a large amount of brick dust and asbestos and this caused it to keel over and die. d) Max was in no way involved with the pig…
What? … no I don’t think that by making point d) a repetition of point a) it makes it sound as though you were involved with the pig Max… and I’m sure none of our dear friends here would think that of you in any case, I mean, I know you’re shackled to a regrettable romantic history but… owch! … right. Fine. I see cruelty to animals is not beneath you afterall. I shall say no more about it.
Anyway, you didn’t come here to listen to us bickering over a dead pig, you came to enjoy some marvelous tea and some splendid steampunk fiction. So, let us kick our tentacles up on the table, and do just that… Our tea this morning is Dandelion and Burdock brew by Muddy Boots (we are not usually fans of Dandelion, as you know, but coupled with Burdock here it is quite sweet and delicious) and to accopany it, what better than this…
The Dandelion Farmer is a magnificently crafted steampunk’d science-fiction novel that could easily stand alongside any of the sci-fi classics, and indeed should be considered essential reading for anyone keen to expand their collection to include modern gems alongside the familiar old.
Humans have colonised Mars and the Dandelion Farmer is trying to grow plants for bio-fuel while fending off the underhanded tactics of his land-grabbing adversary. But when a stranger appears on the farm needing assistance events rapidly spiral into a dark and thrilling journey through a twisted labyrinth of past and present with some very real demons.
McCall’s Mars has an 1800s American Western feel and holds a critical mirror both to that colonial era here on Earth, and to our current socio-political climate. It is an exceptional work of science fiction with a steampunk flavour and we look forward to reading and reviewing the next book in the series , The Hour Glass Sea, when it is released.
And now that appears to be the door … hopefully it is either the butcher or our new pet… hm? You’ll call who? The R.S what? Well there’s really no need to be like that you know… why don’t you calm down, put that dueling parasol away and stay for lunch? We’re having bacon sandwiches… OWCH! … Max stop cowering behind the sofa and protect me, our guests have been inexplicably incited to violence!…
Note from Penny: No pigs, octopuses or Very Quiet Gentlemen were actually harmed during this tea party. Well, not much… certainly no more than they deserved…
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back at last to Max and Collin’s scrupulously sinful and magnificently meretricious parlour located somewhere in the bowels of the splendidly scenic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.
True some have called it the slightly sinister cellar of a maniacally minacious monster, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us this morning feeling slightly sorry for ourselves – the lemonade selling season is at an end, Lord Ashton’s delightful curfew begins again tonight and with it will come his flesh eating Liver Birds, ridding the Lancastrian streets of unsightly vagrants and orphans. If my Very Quiet Gentleman Friend and I do not find ingenious ways to pay our rent we will be cowering below the skyway rails with the best of them so, things really are as thick as government-standard-issue porridge, as they say.
But never mind all that for now, you didn’t come here to listen to an octopus bemoan the hand that a life of relentless roguery hath dealt him, you came to enjoy a splendid cup of tea and some excellent fiction, so let’s kick our tentacles up on the table and do just that…
This is the third book in the graphic novel series and if you haven’t already dipped your tentacles into this divine cauldron of delicious gothic delights we suggest you begin at the beginning …
If however you are already a fan and have previously devoured The Gathering you will no doubt have been gnawing your knuckles to bone waiting to find out what happens to Sal, Owen, the islanders and the ‘other islanders’ ( of whom so far there had only been hints and teasing glimpses through the mist) … if this is you, then in Sinners you will not be disappointed. The same glorious amalgam of wordcraft and illustration that is the hallmark of this enchanting series endures and the intriguing plot thickens – what is the eldritch presence that pervades the island of Hopeless Maine? And in what way are Sal and her, markedly absent, parents embroiled in it? The Doctor thinks he knows… The Reverend thinks he knows too… Owen hopes they are wrong but Sal’s inexplicable powers undoubtedly come from somewhere and the disembodied voices of demons in the mists claim they know as well. To make matters worse, an epidemic of consumption is sweeping the island and the delightfully demonic Durosimi and his underground followers think they have a very elegant solution ; should the islanders set their differences aside and take the controversial route to salvation? Or are there really worse things than being dead…
Flying boats, skeleton dogs, folk with tentacles … an absolute joy from start to finish.
Now then, but what tea could possibly accompany such an epic read? We think it HAS to be Seven Deadly Sins by Sugarmoon Teas (which is actually rather virtuous but shhh, don’t let on)
We very much hope you will join us for elevenses tomorrow when we will be talking treacle with impunity, until then please remain always
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the sultry summer streets of stemapunk’d Lancaster! You find us not at home this morning but peddling our home made Lemonade on street corners, trying to catch the eye of corruptible young ladies and avoid the attention of Her Majesty’s police force because, as you already know, Lemonade (along with every other sweet treat) is illegal here in the land of Ire.
But we’ve a lot to be cheerful about because although custom is slow this morning and the threat of not making the rent money looms over us like an enormous sinister landlord with a large stick … a-hem… the lull in foot traffic has given us time to kick our tentacles up on a soap box and enjoy a delightful book in the early morning sunshine…
There are so many things to love about the first book in Karen J Carlisle’s new series of cosy paranormal mysteries.
The detailed description drew us straight into the story and kept us there, fully immersed on a sensory level – obviously we humble Lancastrian tea fiends have never actually been to Australia but right from the first page we felt we were there, feeling the intense heat, the buffeting and scorching winds and the scent of eucalyptus and lemon butter, hearing each chink of china or enamel in Aunt Enid’s quaint kitchen and dated bathroom.
Sally is staying with her aged Aunt Enid when the sudden death of Enid’s dearest friend, Olive, hints at events which may put the safety of the entire world in jeopardy. As Enid and her friend Agnes begin to investigate, the secrets which Enid has been keeping from Sally are forced into the light – fairies, daemons and magic are real, so is The Dark ; an inter-dimensional force that is hungry for human souls, and so are the treasured gnomes in Aunt Enid’s garden…
We really loved the fact that the main characters in this series are mostly in the 50 – 80 age range and all multidimensional, feisty and streetwise with no aversion to high speed driving and late night poker sessions, or a spot of romantic intrigue!
Fans of Carlisle’s Viola Stewart series will lap this up like cream – it has the same delightful mix of thrilling suspense, heart-in-mouth action and charming characters and settings that we have all come to adore.
We shall be out here selling Lemonade throughout most of July and August but don not fear, we have invited some of our very favourite authors to come and give us a hand, some will be helping us sell Lemonade, some will be minding the parlour, and those who cannot be here in person will be sending in picture postcards from their exciting inter-dimensional travels!
Tomorrow Aunt Enid will be hopping in from Australia and minding the parlour for us so do please pop in and have a scone with her and until we see you again, please remain always
In the interests of Transparency, a note from Penny : I have the potential to earn a small amount of income through the Amazon Associates program should visitors to this site choose to purchase Aunt Enid – Protector Extraordinaire via the featured links in this article. This has not affected my review, I only review and recommend products which I genuinely think others will enjoy – Penny 🙂
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s delicately dazzling and glamorously glitzy parlour located somewhere in the dark and desperate heart of the city of Steampunk’d Lancaster!
True there are those who will say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us this morning in mourning for we have lost the heart of our beloved Captain Jack Davenport forever but all is not lost I suppose, there are plenty more fish in the sea as they say. And plenty more hearts to be won – like this brass heart for example! And with an excellent tea on the brew (Most Ardently – a delightfully fresh citrus blend from Wick and Fable) and an excellent book to read, what have we really got to be grumpy about?
Felicity Banks is a new author for us and we have to say we were absolutely delighted with Heart Of Brass which is the first in her steampunk series ‘The Antipodean Queen.’
While our own hearts are forever entombed within the marvellous emerald isle of Ire, we do LOVE the amount of awesome Australian Steampunk fiction that lines our parlour shelves and Felicity Banks is yet another amazing Australian author to add to our growing collection!
Although the novel begins in Victorian England, our heroine, Emmeline Muchamore, soon encounters difficulties when her steam powered heart malfunctions. Emmeline makes the difficult choice to steal the parts she needs to repair it but she is discovered and finds herself transported on one of the famous prison ships to Australia. Here she grows immensely as a character, going from spoilt aristocratic lady, to independent and altruistic woman who uses her unique skills to aid and strengthen herself and her friends.
This book is a wonderful voyage of discovery on so many levels; there’s the coming of age aspect, the awakening sexuality of the main characters and also the opening out of the historical backdrop which mirrors the characters’ on a grander scale.
All in all a beautifully crafted and engaging LGBTQ+ Steampunk novel and a fantastic start to a series which we plan to see through to the end!
We hope you will join us tomorrow for elevenses when we will be mixing up a little magic with a parlour full of steam wizards! Until then, please remain always
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s brazenly brassy and aggressively amorous parlour located somewhere beneath the bustling city of steampunk’d Lancaster.
Our tentacles are trembling with excitement to be back in the parlour, after so many calamitous adventures, and also to be part of the Army f Brass blog tour this week so without further ado let us hand you cup of tea, kick our tentacles up on the table and take a look at this marvellous book.
Army Of Brass was written by the Collaborative Writing Challenge with a different author writing each chapter. This gives the text quite a unique feel. On the one hand there is an inescapable sense of each chapter being its own ‘unit’ or ‘micro-story’ and on the other the neat plot development and consistency that speaks of the tight orchestration that must have taken place behind the scenes in order to bring a novel like this together, couple this with a cast of fully developed and likeable characters and you get an exciting, fast flowing steampunk adventure with just the right amount of romance, technology and political intrigue. It’s an amazing accomplishment and we’re all-over impressed by it.
Master Tinkerer Elaina Gable has settled into her new life after escaping her home country which was attacked by the blood thirsty conqueror The Hunter Baron. When the Baron’s warmongering threatens to destroy her new life as well, Elaina is certain she knows a way to stop him; by reviving the ancient automaton army, the Tinkerers and the Smiths believe they can defeat the Baron, but the automatons harbour a deadly secret linked to the toxic valley in which they now sit rusting away. Only the mysterious silver skinned woman seems to hold the key, but will she decided to help or hinder Elaina and her friends as the Baron’s army draws nearer…
This is a nice, straightforward, old fashioned steampunk adventure full of automatons and airships and some really likeable characters (It was really lovely to see an older, mature heroine for once!) Excellent plot with a few carefully crafted twists and turns and overall a nice smooth read for existing steampunk fans or a perfect entry-point for newcomers to the genre.
Tomorrow we continue the Army of Brass blog tour and have the very great pleasure of entertaining Captain Jack Davenport of the Capital Cartographer’s Society for elevenses and so we must now ask you to excuse us while we race about trying on ludicrous amounts of bombazine and lace…. unless that is you’d like to stay and help a poor floundering octopus with his corset?
Well, until next time then, please remain always,
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, we ask that you be gentle with us this morning, no raised voices or glaring candle light please, we are very much sore-headed and delicate after a long weekend of carnival capers and masked-up mayhem and now want nothing more than to curl our aching tentacles around a marvellous piece of fiction and a steaming mug of tea…
The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones is one of our favourite books ever in the history of books. It is a love story of the most unique, raw and daring kind and at the same time it is an extremely dark fairy tale with all the exploration of psyche and self that hallmark a classic work of Gothic fiction. As a historical novel it explores the boundaries of class, affluence, education, mental health, culture, sexual and perceived moral behaviour to admirable depth making it a graphic, challenging and breathtaking read that will not suit everyone’s taste. This is not a book for the faint hearted but it is heart breaking and absorbing and utterly, utterly wonderful with characters who leave us weeping every time we step back into these dark and beautiful pages.
Tristan Hart is obsessed with understanding and preventing pain, at the same time he is addicted, enthralled and excited by it.
Nathaniel Ravenscroft is delightfully delinquent, exciting and enigmatic and everything that Tristan would like to be. Possibly. Or possess. But something isn’t quite right, there is a darkness lurking around that demonic smile, a secret or two that no one wants to talk about and when Nathaniel vanishes, does the key to his whereabouts lie in this world, or in the realm of fairies, daemons and an ancient half-remembered myth?
Katherine Montague is a troubled soul, beautiful and fragile, in need of Tristan perhaps as much as he is need of her… but is their love tonic or poison? Is their mutual obsession the key that will eventually help them both to find themselves, or is it a perversion that will eventually be their downfall?
An intensely compassionate, emotional and tormented soul, Tristan sees beauty where others see the grotesque and his days are a tense and brittle ice-path between the relationships of his physical world and the strange-woven mythology that inhabits the hearts and minds and landscapes that surround him. Who is this Raw Head? Who is Bloody Bones? Who, really, is Nathaniel Ravenscroft? Who is the monster and who the redeeming angel?
We wish you a perfectly restorative afternoon and swear we will be on better form to guide you around the frost fair tomorrow so, until then, please be always
Good morning Ladie and Gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s splendiferously spoontastic parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.
True some have called it an unfulfilling place of half baked fancies, bad eggs and drastic measures, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
This morning you find us about to engage in the noble art of the festive spoon duel. We understand that in your dimension you settle your disputes by duelling with tea but, frankly, we find it hard to understand the mechanics of such a thing – do you hurl the tea at eachother? Or are the cups somehow used as foils?
Here in the New World we settle our disputes with a series of Parlour Affairs, one of which is spoon duelling (or Spuelling if you are feeling lazy). Spoon duel challenges are usually reserved for the Wizmas period.
In case you are not familiar with the art and history of the spoon duel let us enlighten you:
Spoon duelling began during the Ancient Egyptian era and was reserved for religious ceremonies in honour of The Goddess. Ornate spoons made of wood, flint and ivory were carved with hieroglyphs pertaining to tea, cake and magic.
Archaeological evidence suggests that it was in Ancient Greece that spoon duelling moved from being a religious ritual to an event used by the upper classes to settle disputes in a sophisticated fashion. Silver and bronze spoons were used during this period and spoons in the British Museum can still be seen which bear the scars of spoon duelling.
By 1259 CE (Cakeless Era), spoons had become a symbol of power. Royal monarchs were anointed with a special spoon to mark their coronations. The wealthy displayed the many battle-mangled weapons of their defeated opponents while the peasants were left spoonless to slurp soup with their bare hands and stir their tea with their burnt and blistered fingers.
Discontent began to stir the soul of the general populous and The Great Spoon Uprising of the Renaissance period lead to greater equality in cutlery which in turn lead to a greater diversity in spoon design. In joyous celebration of the noble spoon, artisans sprang up in every town, flooding the market with an array of spoons for every occasion.
Soon there were Caviar spoons (made of mother of pearl), Dessert spoons, Tea spoons, Fruit spoons, Runcibles (Max’s favoured weapon), Iced tea spoons, Jolly Long Spoons, Demitasse spoons, Chinese spoons, Bouillon spoons, Parfait spoons, Rattail spoons, Salt spoons, Seal-top spoons, Bar spoons, Caddy spoons, Slotted spoon, Mote spoons, Mustard spoons, Cheese scoop spoons… not to mention the cochlear ritual and anointing spoons, ear spoons, nose spoons and new born spoons (for ladling out babies)…
By the time Queen Vic came to the throne The Good Folk were screaming for regulation and one of the first papers to pass through parliament was the Standardisation Of Kitchen Utensils Act which introduced the standard issue spoons, tea cups and other tableware permitted for use today.
Obviously underground artisans linked to the Arts and Crafts Movement have sprung up across the scattered isles to produce illegal cutlery of the most impractical and extravagant artistic merit …
Hm? Sorry? Oh yes, Max says I should stop the history lesson and get on with the thing… you know for a Very Quiet Gentleman Max does interrupt an awful lot…
So, the noble art of spoon duelling :
Each competitor sits opposite the other at a tea table. (Historically, spoon duelling was a standing affair and opponents would attempt to crack eachother over the top of the head with a battle cry of ‘bad egg!’. After hats became fashionable the aim then became to knock the opponents’ headwear to the ground. This type of spoon duelling was outlawed by King George in 1721 CE. Of course there are those who claim to have revived it in some sort of secret- society- boys- club- thing… but we’re not sure we believe them…)
A point (or hit) is scored when one competitor taps the centre knuckle of their opponents’ spoon-hand with the back of their spoon. Three hits are needed to win the duel.
A hit is established thus; each spoon is moistened (traditionally with cold water but some vulgar persons lick their spoon and spiteful ones have been known to stir their scalding tea) and then dipped into coloured chalk. The chalk mark left on the back of the hand makes it easier for adjudicators to judge whether or not a hit is legitimate.
The spoon hand or wrist must remain in contact with the table at all times and the other hand may be placed behind the back, on the hip or above the head as preferred but never upon the table, knee or chair.
The winner takes the spoon of the defeated competitor as a trophy and many people choose to display their hard won spoons upon their hats, waistcoats, parasols, bed posts and parlour walls.
So we will soon be packing our runcibles into their leather holsters and heading into town to witness, and hopefully take part in, some festive sport. But before we do that we must tighten the belts on our dressing gowns, pour ourselves a morning cuppa and see what our little dust sucking friends have been up to in the night…
Hm, Gnii fishing eh? I’m not terribly fond of fishing now, having done so very much of it in the sunken city of Hull. Fish – delicious, but the getting of them? I would much rather visit the local monger rather than run the dispiriting odds of catching other ocean debris., the things you humans throw into the ocean sets my tentacles shuddering. Anyway… let us forget all that and dip our tentacles into our seasonally spicy tea which should give us plenty of zest for the morning is this superb ginger rooibos from craftteacompany…
Splendid, and now we must button up tight and head out into the cold dark alley ways of Lancaster and find ourselves a shady little tavern where we can lay a few bets on a spoon wrestling match (it’s similar to the duelling but for Ladies only and so there are less rules, more name calling, eye gouging, spork scratching, hair tangling etc and it all gets a little rougher and therefore more interesting, especially when the wigs come off…)
We wish you an utterly ineffable morning chockablock with spoonfulls of fun and we invite you back to join us for elevenses tomorrow so, until then
please be always
Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s fabulously festive and expertly extravagant parlour located within the spledidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.
True, some have called it an offensively ostentatious affair, filled with frivolous flamboyancy but we consider that such individuals are tasteless and we would never consider having them for supper.
You find us this morning turning the parlour into a veritable Wizmas Wonderland…
Apparently the final battle between Wiz and The Goddess took place on the snowy peaks of Siberia. (Having visited Siberia ourselves recently we are, to be candid, a little sceptical of this assertion.) and so it is traditional to cover one’s self and immediate surroundings in as much snow as possible throughout the Wizmas season. The more snow you are seen to sport, the more you likely to convince The Good Folk of your allegiance to our supreme ruler.
Of course there is always the small problem that snow in The Scattered Isles is not the most common meteorological phenomenon. Still there are ways to fake snow and we have pushed the iceberg out this year on that front!
We have carpeted the entire floor in sheets of cotton wool batting (We did try white crepe paper initially but it wasn’t nearly as messy, irritating or difficult to remove, this cotton stuff soaks up the water from the cellar floor beautifully too!).
The strange chains (which hang from the walls and do not invite us to ask our landlord their purpose) we have piled high with a mixture of baking soda, white and blue glitter, a few drops of vanilla and peppermint oil and a tsp or two of water just to get it to hold together. As Freddy is also chained to the wall we have simply wrapped him in tissue paper to keep him out of sight.
Upon the tea table, we have carefully sculpted a pyramid from ‘snow balls’. These were made by mixing glitter (again) with coconut flour and a little cold water.
Sadly we no longer have any windows, this being a cellar afterall, otherwise we could have stuck baking parchment over them to make them look ‘frosted.’
As for our own attire, we have given eachother a fairly good dusting with white glitter and talcum powder and can safely say we look perfectly abominable.
We simply can’t wait to see the look on Montmorency’s face when he sees the effort we have gone to…true it is difficult to read the facial features of a psychotic scarecrow, but we tend to guess that when his head is leaning to the left he is in a better mood than when it is leaning to the right, he looks a little friendlier like that you see.
And our furry pals the Dustcats seem to have got into the mood as well!
Anyway, now that we have enough snow to infuriate our landlord we can sit back with a nice cup of tea and begin writing our Wizmas cards. Fortunately, our fabulous friends over at Hopeless Maine have brought out several sets of ‘alternative festive cards’ this year to bring a massive helping of Steampunk Splendidness to the season! ‘Steamed Pudding’ , ‘He Hears His Master’s Holiday Message’ and ‘A Hopeless Holiday’ are available from the Hopeless Maine etsy shop (click the image to go straight there) and can be bought as separate designs or as a multi-pack! So if Robins and Penguins and fat men in red suits are putting you off reminding your loved ones that you still exist and would appreciate cash or brandy this year rather than socks or arrest warrants , no more excuses eh? …
Now all that is needed is some suitably seasonal audios to usher in the afternoon so let us tune in our Tesla Radio and ….
Marvellous! We wish you all a very splendidly snow filled afternoon, and we invite you back to join us soon for more festive fabulousness. So, until then please be always,
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s Wonderfully Wizard parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.
True, perhaps, some have called it a house of ill manners, ill repute and illicit tiffin, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us this morning in something of a panic-fuelled frenzy.
Wiz being the usual, run of the mill egomaniacal dictator that he he is, has decreed that for at least six weeks of the year every New World citizen must drop what they are doing and spend every waking moment celebrating his rise to power and general magnificence.
And of course being the paranoid loon that he is, the date that this ‘Wizmas’ is to be celebrated changes every year, nobody knows when it will strike or who exactly decides on the date but Wizmas cards and wrapping paper will suddenly appear in shops over night and then the mad rush to buy presents and arrange parties will begin because if The Good Folk or The Watchers catch anyone displaying a ‘Lack Of Wizmas Cheer’ …well…
So, as we’re both rather fond of our necks, we will, over the next few weeks, be celebrating Wizmas with all the flamboyant flare that only an octopus and his Very Quiet Gentleman Friend can muster. So, if the Turkeys and Nativity Plays, the Tinsel and the Wassailing of your own world is driving you insane, you can rest assured that The Parlour will remain, throughout December, a veritable haven of sanity.
Hm? Oh, Max says ‘There is a phrase that is not likely to be heard again.’
Here you will find only witch hunting, spoon duelling, spurtle wielding, soup reading and other New World shenanigans as we attempt to push subversion, parody and insubordination to the limit…without being arrested and hanged.
But before we begin rampaging about wrapping eachother in foil and wotnot, we must take a moment to introduce you all to a couple of pests…er…I mean PETS who have appeared in the parlour yesterday afternoon. They are Dust Cats, usually residents of our favourite gothical island Hopeless Maine and we are at quite a loss to know exactly how they got here, however we put them quietly to bed on the mantle piece last night and in the morning we woke to find they had created absolute havoc with the tea and left us a rather sinister note…
Hm, we are going to be keeping an eye on these little chaps over the festive season and any further shenanigans will be posted here!
And Now we really ought to start this holiday thing in ernest and that means a cup of tea (if we have any left!) and a fabulous list of splendid Steampunk books to keep you glued to the chaise throughout December…
And our tea this morning is something rather special and splendid – gunpowder and ginger from We Are Tea
This smokey, spicy blend reminds us of our recent adventures in The Temple of Heaven and how lucky we are to have survived all that and be safe and snug here in our lovely cozy parlour…hm? …. oh, sorry, Max says ‘Don’t go too far old man’ … was I going too far? Well…
As I am apparently being censored this morning, there seems nothing left to do except consult our oracular cephalopterois (who has been notably quiet these last few weeks – probably the move has unsettled it) and see if it has any Wizmas cheer for us this morning…
Thankyou Mr Colin Furze. Ah, how enlightening! So that is how you do this ‘Christmas Dinner’ thing in your dimension? Well it puts our hum drum Wizmas Salmon to shame indeed.
And on that slightly warped note, we had better pour a nerve-settling brew, kick our tentacles up on the table and not lift a finger to clean up the dust in case we upset our dear little guests.
We wish you an utterly splendid morning, filled with tranquillity and calm, only dust if you absolutely must! And we invite you back to join us tomorrow for elevenses so, until then,
please be always, Utterly Yourself
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s pristinely punked-up and ruthlessly rebellious parlour located somewhere near the grumbling appendix of that splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.
True some have postulated that we are an inconvenient truth which our landlord has sought to bury in his darkest and most inhospitable dungeon, but we consider that any below ground level abode is vastly preferable to one with windows in a city that is overrun by flesh eating birds. In short, we couldn’t be happier with the arrangement. ish.
You find us immensely apologetic that we have not been ‘at home’ the last few days – we honestly swear that we have been up to a lot of very good things and Penny will tell you about them shortly but for now all we can do is humbly offer an appeasing teapot overflowing with splendid keemun xiang luo, an epicly proportioned slice of sticky ginger cake, and two excellent books…
The first of which is….
This book came into our hands via the eminent procurer of curiosities via the historical Suffolk ‘free trading’ system – steampunk author Nils Nisse Visser , and fans of his excellent book ‘Amster Damned’ will be happy to see another splendid smuggler’s tale ‘The Rottingdean Rhyme’ featuring the series’ central character Alice Kittyhawk (as her much younger and frankly adorable self).
The collection is a gleaming treasure trove of subversive, twisted, re-imagined and perfectly punked-up versions of classic tales from a wide variety of genres and time periods;
Our personal favourite was ‘A Connecticut Rigger In Kings Court’ not only because we are utterly besotted with anything to do with Ada Lovelace but because it was challenging and heartbreaking and had that exquisite but very subtle tension between beauty and abomination that pervades all good Gothic tales, but presented in a refreshingly original way.
We also loved The Red Headed Mob by Anthony Stark which, although not quite as ‘punk’ as some of the other tales, was a strong, well written and altogether utterly enjoyable tale that set Holmes and Watson amid the political and social tension of the 1980s.
There really is something for everyone in here from ‘Aurelia Awakes’ by Andrea Hintz giving Pinocchio a delightful Steampunk make-over to ‘Of Folly And Fallibility’ by Amber Cook who skillfully manganese to take Jane Austin to ‘new heights’… “If an ordinary woman is to become a heroine, she cannot allow the unremarkable state of her life to prevent it. She must and will do something, anything, to throw adventure her way…” Or from Rachel A Brune’s ‘Bea Wolf’ to Jeffery Cook and Katherine Perkins’ ‘Consolidated Scrooge’ and plenty more besides but we won’t list them all – you need to have a peek at this chocolate box for yourselves…
Our second book this morning is also from Writerpunk Press and (only because of our obsessive compulsive penchant for punking Poe) was our favourite of the two and longstanding followers will remember we did feature it in our Poevember month last year – but it’s such a fantastic collection we’re sure you won’t mind us singing its praises once again…
Here in the parlour we have read lots of Poe, we have punked lots of Poe, we have read lots of attempts at punking Poe and we therefore, rather egotistically, consider ourselves to be quite the connoisseurs of the genre. So when we say that “this collection of short stories is a splendid spectrum of Gothic gorgeousness that takes a hearty cross section of the Poevian gamut, distils each essence into scintillating glass vials and then creates a series of new and wonderful word-creatures in which the marrow of Poe lives on” you can take us at our word.
The macabre, the melancholy and the madness that we all expect from Poe are here in abundance but the ‘punk’ aspect is very skillfully executed throughout to give a collection that is inventive, refreshing, exciting and unpredictable. Steampunk seems to marry well with Poe for obvious reasons but we hadn’t anticipated how well his themes would be translated here into Cyber, Bio and Diesel as well.
Sandwiched between two vibrant and enthralling versions of The Fall of The House Of Usher, we have another gem from the world of Alice Kittyhawk ‘The Oval Skyroom’ , the beautiful ‘To Helen’, the sinister ‘Envy Of Angels’ and ‘Silence, Stillness, Night’ , the pure insanity of ‘Ticker’ and so very many more treasures that we often find ourselves dipping into on a rainy afternoon or long skyrail journey. This is an indispensable addition to the library of punk and Poe fans alike.
And now the teapot is empty and we are quite breathless from all this talk so I hope you will excuse us as we retire for a little snooze? We wish you a devilishly delightful afternoon and until we see you again, please be always
A Post Script From Penny – I’ve started using the ’embed’ version of sharing amazon titles because it’s easier and quicker than authors having to send me cover files and also hopefully easier to find the book if you want to sample or buy it. I haven’t signed up to the affiliate amazon programme though, if I ever do I will make that clear in the posts. If anyone would strongly prefer me to go back to the old method of posting just the cover file and links let me know 🙂
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s frightfully fancy and remorselessly ravishing parlour located somewhere around the grumbling appendix of that splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.
True our psychotic landlord may have banished us to this sinister cellar, but anyone who would be crest fallen by such a turn of events has obviously never stood on their rooftop in their suspenders fighting off flesh eating Liver Birds with nothing but a canister of Aerosol Tea.
You find us this morning basking in that cozy glow that can only come from coming to the end of a magnificent masterpiece of fabulous fiction (or escaping with your life from a predicament you had thought was genuinely ‘the end’) …
Threats is the second (or if you count the marvellous prequel, the third) book in Margaret McGaffey Fisk’s Steamship Chronicles series and although it can be enjoyed as a stand alone story we very much recommend that you start with the prequel in which we meet and fall in love with the heroine, Sam, her devoted sister Lilly and their adorable champion, Henry. (warning series-summary and possible spoilers ahead)
Sam is a ‘Natural’ – someone with the dubious gift of being able to communicate with machines. They speak to her subconscious, pressing their needs, dreams and desires into her waking thoughts and trying to manipulate her into shaping them to function the way they would prefer.
Sometimes this is a wonderful thing – a malfunctioning engine can tell Sam exactly where the missing cog has come lose, or which piston isn’t firing and why… other times a machine is hell bent on out-performing itself; it wants more power, it wants to go faster, it wants to break its restraints or become something completely different … and then disaster can occur if Sam is not strong enough to resist the smooth talking mechanical.
Rather than see the potential that Naturals have for benefiting the advance of science and technology, the government of Sam’s world treats them as a dangerous foe to be rounded up and imprisoned for then safety of themselves and others. Lilly and Henry managed to keep Sam hidden and safe for many years but as she becomes older it is clear that she is missing out on a life of freedom and independence.
Fortunately, after much searching, Henry is able to locate a ‘Safe Haven’ where Naturals are living together in peace, freedom and safety and so Sam sets out as a stow away on board a Steamship in search of her Utopia.
But the threat of discovery is never far away – struggling to steal food and resist the call of the ship’s engine, Sam soon begins to learn that her actions can impact hugely upon the life of others and that her precious ‘gift’ can sometimes be more of a curse. Her new friend Nat is determined to keep her safe, but will he be so eager to defend her once he learns who she really is?
This next episode is even more thrilling than the last; tense and emotional with danger never more than a breath away and the slow tease of fragile friendships which can never be taken for granted, Threats nevertheless keeps that beautiful warmth at its heart which, we feel, is characteristic of this wonderful steampunk series.
There has been a lot of character growth so far, both in the main characters and the ‘supporting cast’ , and we can’t wait to dive into the next book and see what new adventures await them!
And now that must be the kettle boiling… or did you just sit on a cat? No? Must be the kettle then! Won’t you join us in a festive cup of something from 3rd coast kitchen’s Vampire Tea Collection?
We wish you a very safe and cosy afternoon, free from threats of any kind (especially the kind our Landlord issues when we forget to pay the rent on time) and until we see you again please, be always,
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s deliciously dark and relentlessly romantic parlour located somewhere in lower intestine of that splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.
True our psychotic landlord may have banished us to this dank and miserable oubliette, but anyone who would be crest fallen by such a turn of events has obviously never stood in their pyjamas fighting off flesh eating Liver Birds with nothing but a frying pan and a will of steel.
You find us this morning bleary eyed after being kept awake all night by the screams of the dying (and very possibly the already dead for sometime) as Lord Ashton’s Liver Birds rampaged the streets devouring all those too poor or too witless to abide by the curfew. Thank mercy we were snug and cozy down here in our damp and cat infested little cellar 🙂
But what a dreadful night, some neighbours have no consideration for the nerves of others, we are now in desperate need of a good book and some splendid tea to accompany it and if you are too, then you have come to the right place!
This is the third book in the Ichabod Temperance series and, honestly, this is a series that just gets better and better and, to our mind, certainly deserves cult status.
An absolutely biscuit-taking combination of adorable characters, tongue-in-cheek humour, subtle and witty social commentary, historical and literary parody, geeky inventions and intergalactic mayhem with enough twists and turns to keep the reader constantly on their toes right up to the last page.
This time the talented Miss Persephone Plumtartt and her devoted side-kick Mr Ichabod Temperance are faced with an alien invasion from Mars! In this fast paced, hilarious and utterly gripping adventure their team of chums, both old and new, will be taxed to the limit of their creative genius to save the planet from the usurping Martian empire.
If you are new to the series you can still enjoy this adventure as a stand alone but we very much recommend you begin at book one because it is ineffably marvellous. On the other hand if you have been with us for a while and have read the two books previous to this one then you will not be disappointed by this episode in the manic adventures of Ichabod and Persephone! An absolute must for steampunk fans who prefer the more humorous side of the genre.
And now that is the kettle boiling… or is it our landlord taking out his angst on another helpless tenant? … no, no it’s alright, it is the kettle! Won’t you join us in a festively frightful cup of ZOMBIE HUNTER TEA from fandom teas?
We wish you a devilishly delightful afternoon with far more treats than tricks, and hope you will join us tomorrow for elevenses so until then, please be always
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s salubriously sweet and succulent parlour, located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.
True some have called it a pithy affair, frequented by fiends who are rotten to core, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
What is it about this time of year? Who, I would like to know, came up with the cunning plan of arming autumnal street urchins with small, unreasonably hard, green and red missiles to pelt at innocent Gentlemen out for their morning stroll?
Max and I put this question to our dear witchy friend Mrs Baker just last week as we sheltered in her soup kitchen, attempting to remove the smears of rancid fruit and sticky, slobbered over toffee remnants from our attire.
Mrs Baker informed us that, at this time of year Her Majesty’s apple orchards (all orchards in Ire belong, officially, to the queen) are often over flowing with such a glut of fruit that the rate of consumption by the rich Tea Time Lords cannot match the rate of production. Mounds of rotting fruit are not anybody’s cup of tea and so the Wizards have devised a Social Health Development Scheme in order to rid the rich of their rancid excesses. Free barrels of ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ apples are delivered each October to inner city slum areas like ours on a special day called ‘Apple Day’ and posters have appeared (beside the usual ones threatening death and destruction to anyone caught in possession of tea, sugar or homemade soup) sporting the maxim ‘an apple a day keeps the flesh eating Liver Birds away..’
In an attempt to make the fruit more palatable to the poor starving orphans, Mrs Baker had the ingenious idea of dipping them in candy syrup. This may have seemed like a cunning plan indeed except that the orphans were yet more cunning and simply seem to be nibbling off the sticky candy coating and then using pedestrians as target practise for their resulting revolting fruit bombs.
Max and I have decided not to venture forth until all this fruity business has calmed down. Instead, let us kick our tentacles upon the table and eclipse our sorrows with some exelent fiction and splendid tea (of course, as usual, we have both…)
The prose that flies from the spinning wheel of Catherynne M Valente is utterly delicious. Every sentence is ‘to die for’ as though she she sees the hidden face of things, as though she looks at the moon and says ‘what is the moon like, that no one has ever said it is like?’ and so a tale is woven that is both ancient and familiar and yet incredibly fresh and unexpected and enthralling.
Six Gun Snow White is the heart-shattering story of a young girl of mixed race fighting her way through the harsh and unforgiving world of the Western Frontier, where anyone who is not white and male is considered little better than property or animal – often worse. The story opens with her father’s horrendous treatment of her Native American mother, Gun That Sings, who eventually dies in childbirth, and then it moves through Snow White’s own heartbreaking experiences at the hands of her step mother.
As a re-telling of a well known fairy tale, this story succeeds in offering a fresh and enticing new version, intensely and intricately rooted in both the mythology and history of its setting. As a work of fiction in its own right, it is a beautiful, challenging and uncomfortable story with no easy endings , two dimensional archetypes or happy ever afters. Fans of mythpunk and folk tale connoisseurs will find plenty here to be delighted with.
And now that must be the kettle singing… or is it the screams from our Landlord’s latest rent-shy victim? …er…no, no that definitely is the kettle! Please, won’t you join us in a delicious cup of FAIRYTALE SNOW WHITE TEA from FRIDAY TEAS?
We wish you a most fruitful afternoon and hope you will join us tomorrow for, if all goes well, some more inktober tea-painting.
Until then, please, be always,
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s deliciously dark and delightfully delinquent parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.
True some have called it the dingy , disused cellar of an abandoned fish factory but we consider that such people have no imagination.
You find us this morning surprisingly glad of our relocation to this veritable fortress of subterranean artisan workmanship – having endured the screams of the poor unfortunate souls who were unable to find shelter from the flesh eating Liver Birds last night we are now counting our blessings! But, as ever, we are in need of a good cup of tea and something excellent to read whilst we sip it…
We are utterly besotted with the writing of CM Blackwood, but after being thrilled by the horror and suspense of ‘Who Murdered Dr Damien’, we were not sure what to expect from this first book in her new floral romances series. Slowly, slowly, page by page we were ensnared by this intensely dark and heart breaking novel. Nothing is two dimensional here, nothing can be taken at face value as the layers of character and plot depth built until we felt that same psychological intensity that is the hallmark of good horror writing… but this is a romance novel isn’t it? Yes, yes it is, but it is a romance novel for fans of deep, dark, psychologically thrilling fiction.
The power imbalance between Adette Salazar , desperate and vulnerable assistant, and her new employer, the infamous and alluring author Dahlia Frobisher , is stark but both women are strong, passionate and determined to succeed in the post-war London that is still a male dominated playing field.
Cautious friendship develops slowly and awkwardly into a strained but passionate romance between the two women as guards are lowered and raised in an enthralling emotional interplay between two desperately lonely women, whose horrific pasts sit like grim ravens upon their shoulders. Will Adette and Dahlia be able to leave their demons behind them and lose themselves in the loving relationship they both crave? Or are the ghosts of the past too powerful to be forgotten?
This novel left us exhausted, exhilarated and ravenous for more – we can’t wait for the next book in the floral romances series.
And now that is the kettle singing, won’t you join us in a refreshingly delicate brew of Jasmine White Tea from Rosieleatea?
We wish you a most satisfying afternoon and hope you will join us again tomorrow for elevenses, when we will be showing you our first #inktober instalment,
So, until then, please be always
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Thankyou for joining us in the parlour this morning. Our fish-oil lanterns are still burning well, as you can smell…er…see for yourselves and so we laugh in the faces of those who mentioned the impracticalities and health risks of such a venture, at least we would if we could see their faces through the haze of fish-funk and sooty black smoke, ah-hem – ugh – hem..
But all that aside, please, pull up a lemonade crate and a cushion, perhaps even a cat or two, kick your tentacles upon the table and let us treat you to something rather splendid because today we are hosting a leg (tentacle?) of the book tour for the release of Karen J Carlisle’s fabulous new Viola Stewart ebooks – ‘From the Depths’ and ‘Tomorrow, when I die.’
We first fell in love with Viola Stewart almost a year ago when we read Doctor Jack and we have been devoted fan-boys ever since. These next titles in the series did not disappoint, if you are already a fan you can expect the same thrill and excitement of these delightful steampunk mysteries coupled with a cast of much loved characters (and a few new ones to boot!) If you are not familiar with Viola yet then have no fear, you can still enjoy these novellas as stand-alones so, what are we waiting for? Let’s dive in…
FROM THE DEPTHS
Doctor Viola Stewart, a widowed optician with a penchant for investigating, is recuperating after her last adventure ; a relaxing holiday on the Scottish coast, a spot of sea bathing and fossil hunting… but Viola hasn’t been there long before she hears rumours of a mysterious sea monster that is plaguing the local coastline, attacking bathers and fishing boats. At first Viola, woman of science, isn’t taken in by the tales, but when her bathing machine is attacked, it seems that something certainly is haunting the waters around the bay. Determined to investigate, Viola soon stumbles into a web of murder, intrigue and an enigmatic stranger… who is this mysterious Mr Peabody? Who exactly is he working for? And why is he so interested in Viola?
TOMORROW, WHEN I DIE
Viola’s friend , Sir Archibald, physician to the queen, is in danger – he will die tomorrow unless Viola can save him. But as Viola begins to investigate his strange assertions she begins to unravel a fantastical plot involving time travel , secret societies and curious devices that ought only to exist in science fiction! Will Viola’s rational understanding of space and time be forced to accommodate the incredible? Is time travel really the only way to save Sir Archibald? And with her beloved Henry out of action, the dashing Mr. Peabody back on the scene and The Men In Grey lurking in the shadows, just who can Viola trust?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen J Carlisle is an imagineer and writer of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition and published her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, in 2015. Her short story, Hunted, featured in the Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’. 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. Her favourite tea at present is a local specialty (special tea – ha!) called Roman’s blend – Assam and Darjeeling combination – named after a friend of hers. He worked with local tea cafe, Kappy’s, to develop the brew. It sold so well, they named it after him.
And there’s the kettle boiling so please do join us in a cup of Roman’s Blend while we tell you about Karen’s free ebook competition…
For a chance to win a free Viola Stewart ebook visit www.karenjcarlisle.com and answer the daily question in the comments below the post. (See Karen’s blog pages for full terms and conditions. ) You can enter once. No purchase is required. To enter, answer the day’s question in the comments below on the corresponding post at www.karenjcarlisle.com Begin your entry comment with ANSWER: (to make it clear you wish to enter).One winner is chosen randomly from those with the correct answer posted in comments below and will be announced at www.karenjcarlisle.com Prize is one Viola Stewart eBook and cannot be redeemed for cash. Prize is redeemed via Smashwords. The winner will be advised to email Karen to receive Voucher code and instructions on how to redeem your prize.
MORE TO LOOK FORWARD TO…
The final ebook in the series is due out early October and the paperback is due later in October. sign up for Karen’s Tea and Tidings newsletter to get all the latest info. http://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/
Where to find Karen on the aether web:
And you can find hints of current research threads on her Pinterest page: https://au.pinterest.com/riverkat42/
We wish you an exceedingly scrumptious afternoon and hope you will join us in the parlour tomorrow for more tea-based adventures, until then,
please be always, Utterly Yourself
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s sublimely subterranean, yet lavishly luminescent parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.
True there may be some rather odd noises coming from our landlord’s ‘rumpus room’ next door, but we ask that you ignore the screams of those poor unfortunates who couldn’t pay their rent, and pull up a cat, or a cushion, and make yourselves at home.
Do you like what we’ve done with the place? We discovered that marvellous little lanterns can be made by filling our empty lemonade bottles with fish oil (there are barrels of the stuff lying around at the docks), sticking a wick of rope in the top and setting fire to it! Genius eh?
Hm? A bit of a smell, you say? Well the cats seem to like it… black smoke? No no that must be your imagination…now look here, did you come to give us a health and safety inspection or to enjoy a cup of tea and some excellent fiction? Right then, let’s begin…
Desiree is an inventor of unparalleled skill – a wealthy heiress with the luxury of time and money to spend in doing what she loves best. But her father is worried; keenly aware of the fragility of a woman’s freedom in Victorian society, he dreads his beloved daughter being forced to bend her will beneath the yolk of misogyny. This is why he dislikes her fiancee, Claude.
Claude (Oxford Dean, wealthy and influential) loves Desiree as well. He loves her exotic beauty (provided her dress does not become too flamboyant), he loves her intelligence (although of course her views on Darwinism are heretical ), he loves her inventions (but of course that will all have to stop when they have children) and he loves the idea of taming such a creature and bringing her under the protective wing of his care and instruction.
Into this furnace of social and emotional tension strolls Lord Tyrell, the enigmatic Irish Gentleman who casts his charismatic spell over all and soon the little family are transported to his country estate for a weekend of hunting and fine entertainment. Despite all this, Claude is certain that something is not quite right about their host – but are his macabre suspicions and fears for Desiree’s safety founded on reason, or fantasy?
This is a beautifully written short story, heartbreaking and tense with the leash-tight interplay of well-crafted characters and a plot that is both surprising and moving. If you are looking for a steampunk read that is both satisfying and short then we thoroughly recommend this one.
And is that the kettle boiling? I think it is, please do join us in a cup of cat-inspired tea from Contours Albion
Yes it was a house warming gift left without a note on the doorstep this morning. Some people find themselves very amusing don’t they? I don’t suppose you would like to take a cat with you when you leave? They make very good foot-warmers, if you have feet…?
Anyway, we wish you a deliciously delinquent afternoon and hope you will join us for elevenses tomorrow. Until then, please, be always,
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s brilliantly brute-proof and cunningly-concealed parlour located within the somewhat-invisible-from-here but nonetheless scenic city of Lancaster!
True, some have called it the cat-infested oubliette of a psychotic-scarecrow-landlord, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us on this bright, sunlit morning struggling to read by candlelight and failing to find cushions to sit on that are not occupied by damp cats. The water doesn’t drip from the roof down here, it rises up through the floor instead, at first we thought there was a tasteless carpet on the floor, but after a few licks it turned out to be some sort of softly luminescent purple fungus…
Anyway, you didn’t come here to eat mushrooms (or did you?) No – you came to enjoy a nice cup of tea and to hear some excellent steampunk fiction and that, dear friends, is what you shall have –
You want Steampunk that’s ‘Beyond Victoriana’? You want airships, aliens, pirates and samurai? Then look no further than The Brazen Shark…
Welcome to the third book in the Clockwork Legion series! The concept and motives of the alien life form Legion, who can read and control the human mind, continue to grow and intrigue – at times we felt sympathy, and at others fear and awe at the scope of their involvement in the affairs of planet earth – as Fatemeh and Ramon find themselves taking an active role in world affairs once more, this time in Japan, where a group of Samurai are planning to overthrow the emperor, sparking conflict with Russia in their purloined airship!
We have already enjoyed the earlier adventures of Fatemeh and Ramon Morales but The Brazen Shark is by far and away our favourite book of the Clockwork Legion series and, to be honest, even if you have not read the previous Owl Dance or Lightning Wolves, you can still start the series here and become thoroughly enthralled with David Lee Summers’ epic host of engaging characters in this brilliantly paced, world-spanning Steampunk adventure.
And no reading session is complete without an excellent tea to go with it, so please join us in a cup of ‘kiss goodbye to summer’ Peach Cobbler from Friday Teas
Now then, to make up for the dreadful fiasco this week we will be in the parlour Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week as we are taking part in Karen J Carlisle’s fabulous book tour for the new titles in her Viola Stewart series (tentacles writhing in excitement!)
In the meantime, we wish you all a very dry and witty weekend and until we see you again, please be always,