Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “artists

Soup Of The Day: With Nimue and Tom Brown


Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

My guests this morning are our good friends Nimue and Tom Brown who have sailed in on a strange tide from their mysterious gothic island of Hopeless, Maine . Welcome to Lancaster Nimue and Tom, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?

We have brought some soup, but it’s probably awful. It’s the traditional Hopeless Maine dish – Bottom of the Garden Stew, which involves whatever you think might be edible, cut up really small so as not to be too alarming, and cooked for a long, long time. So it’s more for demonstration purposes than actual eating. Although it is mostly what urchins on Hopeless subsist on.


Oh my goodness! That is… quite eye watering… indeed…um, let us just set it over there for a moment, perhaps near the window? Or is it likely to try to run away? There. Now then, why don’t you have a seat over here by the fire, how was your journey?

Aside from the anxieties caused by hefting a large jar of ominous gloop without breaking it, and thus releasing the contents, the journey was quiet. Nothing tried to eat us, and there was absolutely no unspeakable dread, which is pretty good for a train journey I tend to think.

Oh marvellous, travelling in the morning through Ire is always more advisable than travelling at night. That is a different story altogether! Now, while the kettle is boiling, why don’t you tell us a little more about the island of Hopeless?

Hopeless is an island off the coast of Maine – cut off from the coast of Maine, to be more precise. It is a place of strange magic, uncanny creatures, unwholesome sea airs and troubling miasmas.

And is it true that the pair of you are documenting its strange history through a series of graphic novels?

We have been doing this for some years now, first as a webcomic, and now in book form (thank you Sloth Comics).


We have to channel the voices of the islanders – we don’t dare actually visit because while getting in is easy (insofar as being shipwrecked is easy) getting out is notoriously difficult. Fortunately, Salamandra is quite good at doing things through the ether, and my scrying skills aren’t too shabby either.

Oh I see! Now when I last saw Collin he was nursing a severed tentacle and this was apparently the result of an unprovoked attack by one of your Hopeless Mermaids? Goodness, are there any other strange or vicious creatures inhabiting the island?

Harsh landscapes tend to produce determined survivors with sharp teeth, I’m afraid. I’m not sure anything or anyone on the island would fail to fall into either the strange or the vicious category, human populous most certainly included! It does tend to drive people (and others) a bit mad after a while.

Goodness me it sounds like a very dangerous place to be living! Perhaps that is why, like us, you have a bit of an orphan problem? Does anyone do anything to try and help?

‘Help’ is such an interesting word, isn’t it? There’s lots of help. Doc Willoughby likes to help people who are ill. He helps them very diligently right up until they become dead. Reverend Davies likes to help people spiritually, and he’ll do that right up until they go entirely mad. Frampton Jones helps people stay informed of what’s going on, although there are some who feel that ignorance might be better. Annamarie is very good at helping people recover from the kinds of problems that seem to have been caused by witchcraft in the first place… And then there’s Owen, who really is quite a nice lad and really does mean well, but hasn’t the faintest idea what he’s doing.

Hm, you know I WAS thinking of visiting Hopeless for my holidays next year (Next time they decide spring Wizmas on us and things round here become a bit hot) but now I’m not so sure… if I were to go, what vital things would you advise me to take?

Well on the plus side, it is a fairly witch-friendly space, the witch-burning to witch-ratio is better than average at any rate. Take sugar, spices, anything that keeps well and does not mostly taste like mud or seaweed and you will make a lot of friends, which is often key to survival.

And would they welcome a witch do you think? Magic isn’t forbidden is it, as it is here?

There are always a few people who want to ban magic – or at least, magic that works in a different way to their own. The occultists and the cultists don’t get on so well with each other or the Reverend, or the witches, opinions remain divided as to whether the island’s inventors were really sorcerers, the magic in the underground community is not looked upon favourably by those who are less dead, and going into the graveyard at night is really taking your afterlife into your own hands… But other than that, it’s all fine and friendly on the magic front.

Hopeless does sound rather cut off from the rest of the universe, is there a newspaper or radio broadcast, anything where concerned citizens can keep up to date with what is happening on the island?

There have always been a few islanders with the means to get information about the world – demons have been used for this, along with other equally unreliable occult means. Most news come from those who survive the shipwrecks – usually a few each year. On the island, the only sources of news are The Hopeless vendetta – a very small newspaper run on recycled paper by the ingenious and slightly deranged Frampton Jones. He also has a big notice-board where people leave each other messages. Some evidence of this can be found at

Oh Splendid. Now that kettle is singing away merrily, can I offer you both a hot beverage? Which would you prefer and how do you take it?

We’re both seething coffee addicts so ‘in a cup’ and strong enough to do your central nervous system an injury, for preference!

Coffee? Hm, let me see, I do have a little of that strange dark powder somewhere in a jar…yes, here it is! I hope you have had time to visit our little Frost Fair while you are here, does Hopeless have any regular celebrations or festivals? It sounds like the island folk could do with a little spirit-raising now and then!

The biggest annual event on Hopeless is Founders Day, when islanders gather together the things the founders found when they landed, and look at them mournfully – a feast of the inedible.  The annual church picnic is not terribly well attended, the hiring fair at the orphanage tends to be a lively affair though. The people of Hopeless love rituals and traditions, and tend to keep making up new ones, it’s the only way to keep themselves amused, and everyone likes an excuse to wear an outlandish hat.

Oh yes indeed! Hats are marvellous aren’t they? Much better than toupees at any rate. Well it has been so good to see you both today Nimue and Tom, thankyou so much for helping in my soup kitchen today, and for bringing your…er…bottom of the garden stew to share with the orphans….

I feel slightly troubled that we’re feeding this to them, their bellies being largely innocent of the kinds of things that go into Bottom of the Garden Stew. Are you going to be terribly upset if any of them are changed as a consequence… ?

Sadly, my dear, the only other food available to the poor street folk of Lancaster is a slightly toxic purple seaweed  – you may have noticed the extraordinary tint of the children’s’ hair? – but perhaps you are right… I know, I think I have some potatoes and onion hidden away somewhere that are not too bad, and I will save this …delightful brew…for Montmorency next time he calls, hopefully that will stop him calling quite so often, he is disturbingly persistent. Well now here are your hats and coats it was so lovely to see you!

Thank you for having us. Did you want us to take the mermaid away now? We brought a pole and the extra thick gloves just in case…

Oh yes I think Max and Collin would appreciate that very much indeed!  I think you will find them down by the river, or rather in it, clinging to a printing press and being pelted with oatcakes.

Now then, I hope you will all join me next week when Steampunk Author Kara Jorgensen will be dropping in to give me a hand,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

Soup of the day: With Lynn Cecil

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

Helping me this morning is talented artist and writer Lynn Cecil. Good morning Lynn, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?

Good morning, Mrs. Baker. Thank you so much for inviting me to your kitchen. I have brought along ingredients for my favourite soup: cheddar bacon potato. The recipe is fairly simple:

  • 4 large white potatoes
  • ½ large white onion, diced
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • Pinch of dried dill
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ tsp of pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 6 strips of crispy bacon
  • 1 ¼ cups of grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 ½ cups of milk (2% works well)

Boil peeled and cubed potatoes until a fork goes through (firm, but not too soft). Cook diced onion in a pot until clear. Add chicken broth, flour, and spices, stirring well.  Add lightly mashed potatoes to broth mixture. Add milk and half of the cheese. Bacon may be added here, and/or saved as a topping. Cook for approximately 10 minutes. Serve in bowls and top with remaining cheese and crumbled bacon. Enjoy!

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us all a little more about your amazing artwork? Your illustrations are beautifully detailed, what inspires you when you sit down to create them?

Thank you for your kind words! This past year I was very inspired by flowers, butterflies, gardens, and garden objects as I created The Butterfly Garden: A Coloring Book in Four Seasons, with 72 illustrations. I use a Staedtler Pigment Liner 0.05 and the tip is so fine that I can create intricate patterns and designs that I could never achieve with my oil paints. I’m also inspired by the steampunk genre, forests, geometric shapes, and patterns. Here is one of my illustrations entitled “(Spring) Magnolia with Eggs, Keys, and Locks.”




That is stunning Lynn! And where can we see or purchase the book and your other artwork?

You can find images of my artwork on my website,, under “Illustrations,” and “Artwork,” then search the subcategories for specific styles. Since moving, I haven’t signed on with a new art gallery, so people can contact me directly by e-mail (on my website) to purchase artwork.

I published The Butterfly Garden: A Coloring Book in Four Seasons with Kyte-Lost Books, a small company that I started in order to publish my artwork, and the book is available through Amazon sites around the world, and at select Indigo stores in Canada.

You’re not only a talented artist, but a writer as well, tell me, how did your interest in writing develop?

I started ‘writing’ when I was two. I would sit at my little desk and scribble on paper, and when my parents asked me what I was doing, I would answer, “I’m working on my tesis.” My dad was working on his doctorate at the time, so I guess I just thought that’s what people do—they write. I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and at five, I decided I wanted to be an artist, as well. I started writing stories and poems in elementary school, but it wasn’t until grade 8 that I had a teacher who assigned fiction writing as part of her class, and encouraged me to be a writer. I love language, the way it sounds, the meanings of words and their history. Writing, like painting and drawing, is such an integral part of my life, that I find I am almost always thinking about my current story or book, or what my next painting or drawing will be.

Outside of Ordinary is a marvellous collection of women’s travel stories, which you co edited with Catherine Bancroft, would you like to tell us a little more about that project?

Outside of Ordinary is an anthology that gave women an opportunity to write about how travel had impacted their lives, made them see themselves and the world differently. We were very fortunate to have so many women submit such diverse stories about their travels around the world, and to have Second Story Press publish the book.

You also have a  fascinating Steampunk series growing online which combines your amazing artwork and your fabulous writing skills, would you like to tell us about Beauty and Phin and Their Unusual Correspondence?

I am so glad you like this series! I started drawing postcards a few years ago. I hadn’t really illustrated anything in years, because I mostly painted in oils, often on very large canvases. The postcards became a way for me to work on a smaller scale, to develop my drawing skills again, and soon I had several hundred cards. Inspired by Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine series in which two characters that have never met communicate through postcards, I decided to have ancestors of characters from my YA fantasy book series write to each other through postcards in Their Unusual Correspondence.

In Book 1, Beauty Ether and Phinneous Finn are heartbound, but as Beauty is a Silken and Phin is a Raiven, they are forbidden to be together. Their correspondence begins when eighteen-year-old Beauty ethers to Paris, France in 1819, leaving Phin behind in Chillon, on their home planet of Airthe, which is like a steampunked Earth. As Beauty explores early nineteenth-century France and other parts of Europe, Phin becomes obsessed with analyzing the Silken strand in an effort to find a way to defeat the dragon clades that have invaded and taken control of Chillon.

I haven’t posted any new images for a while on my blog, as I am changing the format of the layout and I hope to publish the stories one day. Here is the new version of Beauty’s first postcard to Phin, using art paper for the background.


Elementography 001: Hydrogen

001b Elementography small size.jpg

Beauty Ether to Phinneous Finn


I’m also working on Book 4 of 5 of The Inkmarked Chronicles, my YA fantasy series, which connects to Book 1 of Their Unusual Correspondence. I have many more postcard books planned, including one in which Beauty corresponds with a young man named Poe who is fascinated with ravens.

Ah, we love a good bit of Poe-Punking here in Lancaster, Lynn, how marvellous! The artwork on the postcards is captivating and the story concept is so intriguing, do you have plans to publish the series and, if so, would that be as a book do you think, or as sets of individual postcards?

I would absolutely love to have Their Unusual Correspondence published as a series of books along with The Inkmarked Chronicles. I would also like to have the image portion of the postcards published with blank backs so they could be sold as actual postcards that could be mailed and/or collected. Each of my characters has his or her own style of illustration and own series of postcards. Some of the series are over 100 cards long, others only around 30. The longer series would probably have to be separated into two or three books to keep them a similar length.

I really hope you do achieve that goal Lynn and when you do you must come back and tell us about it! And do you have any new projects planned for the coming months?

Yes—too many, as is always the case! I am working on several projects at once, right now. During the day, I’ve been working on small oil paintings of birch trees (6” x 6”) and of single shells from the South Pacific on a black background (4” x 4”), which will be on my website, soon, and am planning out my next series of larger canvases. When I’m not painting, I’m writing. Evenings I’ve been working on my next hand-drawn colouring book, one that is steampunk-themed. Here is one of the illustrations that is fitting for today, entitled “Tea Cup and Teapots.”


063 Tea Cup and Tea Pots small size.jpg


Oh that is stunning! Max and Collin would love it! Which brings me onto the all important question – which do you prefer, coffee or tea? (and how do you take it?)

Coffee in the morning with milk and a little sugar. Chai tea with milk in the afternoon or evening (please tell Collin, I’m sorry about the milk).

I’m sure Collin will forgive you!  (albeit with an affected shudder, Octopi are very good at those!) Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Lynn, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

Yes! But, before we do, I want to thank you so much for inviting me into your wonderful kitchen and for your kind interest in my writing and art. It has been such a pleasure to meet with you this morning and prepare this soup as we talk.

So, shall I ask the little ones to come in for some soup?

Marvellous, thankyou my dear, it has been an absolute pleasure!

I will be back in the soup kitchen next Wednesday with a very special steampunk assistant – Shannon from Bone Shaker Boxes. Max and Collin will be back in the parlour tomorrow with more Tea @ Three and of course Peril will be reading some fabulous fiction from his Lovely Library on Friday.

Blessings on your brew my dears!