Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “authors

Steampunk Summer Postcards with Phoebe Darqueling

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… oh it’s addressed to Penny and it’s from our dear friend Phoebe Darqueling…

 

Hey Penny!

Life is good here in Freiburg, Germany. After about six months of spatzle, pilsner, and watching the sun set over the Schwarzvald, I think it’ll take a team of wild horses to drag us away. Luckily for me, I can write from just about anywhere, so I probably won’t have to commit equinocide to keep the status quo.

This spring, I finally got to publish Army of Brass after over a year of working with the 20+ international authors who helped bring this collaborative novel to life. People are calling it a perfect “gateway to Steampunk” for people unfamiliar with the genre, as well as good fun for long-time fans. The launch went really well, and I had a great time writing guest posts for other Steampunk bloggers.

Just this month, my horror retelling of Pinocchio was featured in The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales, and it’s a great anthology that I am proud to be a part of. Right now, I’ve got some publishers interested in my Gaslamp fantasy novel, No Rest for the Wicked, so hopefully that will be out sometime in 2019. I’ve got excerpts and news on my blog if you want to find out more.

I’m still editing SteampunkJournal.org, and our team of contributors is growing. We’re always looking for guests, so if you or your readers have any ideas for articles, we’d love to host you!

Wishing you were here,

Phoebe

 

Well that’s marvelous, I’ll make sure Penny gets it! Well we’re coming to the end of summer now my dears, I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday yourselves and enjoyed our series of steampunk summer postcards, as the weather starts to turn again and the Lemonade Trade begins to fizzle out for another year Max and Collin will be found fending off Liver Birds and Landlords in their subterranean parlour once more so do pop in and join them for their monday morning cuppa and tuesday elevenses, I will be opening up my soup kitchen again and looking out for some marvelous steampunk authors to help me dish up tasty soup and share their new books with our little Lancastrian street urchins, and of course our grumpy ghost Perilous Wight will be back in his lovely library with some splendid steampunk fiction to share with you all so, until then

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Steampunk Summer Postcards: Grigory’s Gadget

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… Ah, it’s a lovely postcard from my dear friends E. A.  Hennessey…

 

 

Ubesk is absolutely as beautiful as they say it is! The city center is filled with buildings in every color, housing shops and taverns with exquisite goods and delicious food. The people here are so warm and welcoming, too. I hear a marvelous sideshow is coming to town soon as well. There’s just so much to see and do!

 

There is one unfortunate circumstance, however. My timing in visiting this beautiful city is not ideal. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the Crown Princess Rozaliya is missing. How exactly does a princess go missing? There are all sorts of rumors buzzing around. I’ve heard she was kidnapped by spies, that she ran away with a secret lover (scandalous!), that she never existed in the first place…every new rumor is crazier than the last!

 

In fact, my trip may be cut short, as the whole country of Starzapad seems to be preparing for war. I’d like to be safely on my way back home before that happens, but the next ship out doesn’t leave for a couple more days. Perhaps the princess will be found before any of that happens.

Meanwhile, it seems that pirate activity has increased on Glavny Strait. As if travel wasn’t dangerous enough with a war looming…

 

I’d say I wish you were here, but with all of this excitement it’s certainly safer to stay at home. If you want a taste of pirating adventure, why not read Grigory’s Gadget? And then stay tuned for the sequel, Serafima’s Stone, to find out what exactly has happened to the Crown Princess. You can stay up-to-date on these adventures and more by signing up for my newsletter.

 

I have to be off now. I’m going to meet with the Detective Inspector, who invited me to his husband’s lovely tavern. Perhaps they’ll give me some more ideas of things to do while I’m here, to take my mind off the war!

 

Your dear friend

E. A. Hennessy


Steampunk summer postcards: Karen J Carlisle

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… why it’s a beautiful postcard from our dear friend Karen J Carlisle…

 

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GroundZero Message_Karen J Carlisle_2018

 

Goodness yes it was a scorching summer for Aunt Enid, why I’m sure I was sweating just reading about it … although that may well have been the tension as well! If you haven’t yet delved into this new paranormal mystery series you can read the first book here:

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Blessings on your brew my dears!


Author Postcards: Jennings and Jennings

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… why it’s a postcard for me from my dear friend Miss Henderson!
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Hello Mrs Baker,
I hope you are well.

We are all in Paris now, myself, Mr Bosch and Morag. We all came here on what was supposed to be a holiday for Sir John and Marie Jennings, but it has all gone horribly wrong again. Those fiends, Clackprattle and Pook are also here and are up to no good trying to find a magical weapon. Also, the food is almost all French, which is rather difficult to digest, and has caused Mrs Jennings to have an unusual mood yet again.All in all it is rather unpleasant and our so-called holiday is mainly taken up with trying to solve magical clues to prevent a catastrophe and avoid sauces that are too rich, which is most of them in my opinion.

Having said that they have something nice called Petty Fours which are like cakes but much too small.We are staying with some local people, a pleasant gentlemen called Emile and his lady friend, who is very modern if you get my drift. She is not really my sort, but I am being polite and not letting it show.We have also been able to spend some time sight-seeing in Paris.

Everyone says it is a romantic place, but I have to agree to disagree. I find it a little bit ‘flash” and “showy” and not really my idea of romance. I would rather spend a pleasant evening at the dog races with my special friend Detective Symonds.We went to the Eyeful Tower, which is well named because it is an eye-full. Also we spent a day looking at paintings in the Loos, which no-one found funny apart from me.

And then we went shopping on the Shampy Sleazy. I suppose that was alright if you like that sort of thing.All in all, I would rather be back in England having a warm pie and beer with my special friend the Detective.

Hopefully, we will be back soon and the world won’t have been destroyed by Pook and Clackprattle. The whole thing is being written about in some paper called “The Benthic Times”. The writer doesn’t seem very good, but the story might be interesting.

All the best,Your very good friend

Miss Felicity Henderson

PS If you get a chance, can you send a packet of Colbert’s Patented Washing Salts, Sir John has an embarrassing red wine stain on his dinner jacket and I feel the salts will help.

Oh dear! Poor Miss H it doesn’t sound like Paris suits her does it? I will certainly send her the salts and also a little potion I have tucked away for stain removal (although I won’t let on as to it’s true magical properties!)

If you would like to find out what happens to Miss Henderson, Sir John and Marie on their adventures in Paris you can read the entire story in THE BENTHIC TIMES.  And if that gets you hooked (and I’m certain it will!) you can read more of their adventures in their book ‘Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators Case Book 1 ..

You know when I was dusting Peril’s Lovely Library for him I came across a rare Jennings and Jennings story, and took it home to browse by the fire, would you like to hear it? It’s called The Nouveaumancer…
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The Nouveaumancer – by Paul Michael

 

I was awoken at the godforsaken hour of two o’clock by the butler. I guessed at the time by the angle of the sunlight streaming into the lounge window.

 

“There are two gentleman to see you,” said the butler, “from the constabulary.”

 

I sat up on the chaise longue that I had been sleeping on and wrapped my kimono around me.

 

“Well, show them in!” I said. The butler looked pointedly in the corner wherein was my latest art project. It was a nude of a girl. Also in the corner was the girl from the picture, still nude and fast asleep.

 

“I’m sure they have an open mind,” I said and the butler left. Shortly after, the two men appeared. The first was in his early 30s with a light suit and clear blue eyes. The second was in his 40s wearing a bowler hat, dark brown suit, and an enormous moustache. It twitched at the sight of my room. I’m not sure if was the general air of debauchery, the aforementioned painting, or the gently snoring girl that provoked that response. In fact, I had met the second gentlemen before, during an unfortunate incident the previous year. I won’t bore you with the details. In fact, I couldn’t; they’re really rather racy.

 

“Constable Blowfly!” I said. “How nice to see you again. Who is your young acquaintance?”

 

“It’s Detective Constable Blowry, Lord Hollingbury,” he said, gruffly. “This is Detective Inspector Hampton.”

 

“Enchante!” I said. “How may I assist you gentlemen this fine spring morning?”

 

The moustache twitched as I’d hoped, and the younger superior spoke.

 

“Lord Hollingbury, we’ve come because we need your specialist skills.” said Hampton. “Something unusual has happened … a man has died.”

 

“I would have thought that was fairly commonplace,” I said. The policeman looked confused.

 

“I mean, rather, that the circumstances of his death are unusual. There is the suggestion of … occult forces. You are, I believe, a … magician?”

 

“That’s rather an old-fashioned term,” I said. “I prefer something more in keeping with the modern times. I call myself a Nouveaumancer.”

 

“I see, well, whatever we call you, we think we need your help,” said Hampton.

 

I was about to speak when Blowry interrupted. As he spoke he stared straight ahead with a look of smug amusement on his face.

 

“Chief Inspector Mouslecomb wishes to be remembered and reminds you that he still has the photographs.”

 

“And I’m sure he finds them most delightful viewing on cold winter nights,” I said brightly, Blowry’s expression clouded and the moustache twitched.

 

“Still, I understand your inference. Let me put some more clothes on and you can show me what you have.”

 

Hampton looked a little perturbed. He glanced in the corner.

 

“What should we do with the young lady?” he said.

 

As I wandered to my dressing room I called back.

 

“You’re all consenting adults, you can do what you like!”

 

I could almost hear the moustache twitching down the hall.

 

***

 

Suitably attired, I travelled with the two members of the constabulary from my humble seaside abode on the Steine to an imposing looking house in Preston Park. The gentlemen escorted me down to a basement where there was a most interesting scene. A large circle and a triangle were inscribed on the floor with various symbols and hieroglyphs. Inside the triangle was an Egyptian sarcophagus with the lid pushed aside and a dead man dressed in a robe with a sheet over his face.

 

“What makes you think there is an occult influence?” I asked innocently. That’s always rather a struggle.

 

“The, eh, circle, triangle and robes really,” said Hampton, looking confused. I inferred humour wasn’t his strong suit.

 

I walked around the circle, first reading the hieroglyphs.

 

“These are Old Kingdom,” I said. “Not my speciality, but I can more or less read them. These are pleas to various deities imploring them for protection and assistance.”

 

I walked around a little further until something caught my eye.

 

“This is interesting,” I said, looking at the marks on the floor.

 

Hampton came over to look. He glanced down then looked at me.

 

“Is it some manner of demonic curse?” he said earnestly.

 

“No,” I said, “it’s a recipe for fish soup. I think whoever wrote this copied it from a book, and rather inexpertly at that. There’s far too much salt in it.”

 

I looked back into Hampton’s earnest blue eyes. It wasn’t an entirely unpleasant experience.

 

“Did the gentleman have some sort of book with mysterious and eldritch symbols?” I asked. “They usually do in my experience.”

 

Blowry shoved a grave looking tome between me and his superior with a quiet grunting sound. I looked at the book and flicked through the handwritten pages.

 

“How tiresome,” I said. “It’s written in some manner of code. I’ll have to look at that a bit later.”

 

I moved to the sarcophagus then and started to read the hieroglyphs on the lid.

 

“Dedelion,” I said. “Well, that’s a name to conjure with.”

 

“Who is he?” asked Hampton.

 

“A Fourth Dynasty magician,” I said. “He was said to have the power to create demons into physical form. He would assemble body parts of humans and animals and evoke the demon into the form, bringing it to life. It’s the sort of thing that Mrs Shelley or Mr Wells might write about.”

 

“Is this his sarcophagus?” asked Hampton.

 

“No,” I said, “but it’s something that belonged to him. Let me look at this book. Now I have a name, I may be able to crack this code.”

 

I looked in the book and skimmed for the name of the ancient magician in code.

 

“Good heavens!” I cried out.

 

“What is it man?” said Hampton, sounding panicked.

 

“This code is so simple a schoolboy could crack it … ah, I see now what he was trying to do.”

 

I looked again at the sarcophagus lid.

 

“Oh dear,” I said.

 

“What is it?” said Hampton.

 

“I think I know what happened here. May I see the corpse,” I said.

 

“Yes,” said Hampton, “but I must warn you, the man has some terrible injuries. The sight may be very disturbing.”

 

We walked around to the front of the sarcophagus and stood over the body. Hampton knelt down and looked up at me for confirmation, and I nodded gravely. He removed the cloth and looked away himself. I gasped and put my hands to my mouth.

 

“My word!” I said. “That haircut is two seasons out of date!”

 

“Good God, man!” exclaimed Blowry. “Have some humanity, a man has died!”

 

“Yes, and a man that was as foolish as he was unfashionable,” I countered. “If Mr Darwin’s theories are to be believed, and I think they are, this man has done the world a service, assuming he hasn’t bred. And with that haircut, I imagine he has not.”

 

“You said he was foolish,” said Hampton. “Was that because of the ritual he did.”

 

“Indeed,” I said, walking in front of the sarcophagus, “for this man has attempted, and I believe succeeded, in summoning to this world one of Dedelion’s most ferocious demons. A creature of immense power and utter cruelty. A creature that exists only to maim and kill. Unfortunately, because this idiot had only a passing knowledge of ancient Egyptian, he has managed to bring this beast into the wrong body.”

 

“What do you mean,” said Hampton.

 

“From his book he mistranslated this word here,” I said pointing to the sarcophagus. “He has translated this section as ‘within here is contained Master Dedelion’s most beloved and treasured demon.’ This is inaccurate by exactly one word. The word he has as demon is, in fact, … cat.”

 

“Then he has evoked a demon of immense power…” started Hampton.

 

“Yes,” I said, “into a mummified cat.”

 

There was silence as both men tried to comprehend what had happened. I took the advantage of the pause to turn to show my best side.

 

“The creature would have awakened in rage and confusion, hence the scratches on the fool’s face, and then gentlemen … it will have left to hunt.”

 

“To hunt what exactly,” said Blowry.

 

“A more fitting form,” I said.

 

***

 

“Follow me,” I said to the policemen as we left the house in Preston Park. “We need help and I know where we can find it.”

 

“Can’t you somehow track the creature?” said Hampton.

 

I stopped to face him.

 

“What would you like me to do, get on all fours?” I asked.

 

Hampton looked flustered, and Blowry’s moustache started twitching which provided me some light relief.

 

“I’m not a magical dog,” I said, “but I know where we might find one.”

 

We rode down to St James Street and knocked on the door of my old friend’s house. Presently, a butler with a pale, waxy face came to the door.

 

“Good day, sirs,” he said in a monotone voice. “May I take your names?”

 

“I am Lord Hollingbury, and these are two gents from the constabulary, namely Hampton and Blowry,” I said. “May we speak with the Maker.”

 

The butler nodded and walked down the entrance hallway. About halfway round he stopped suddenly, jerked and turned round and came back to the door.

 

“Good day, sirs,” he said in a monotone voice. “May I take your names?”

 

“Lord Hollingbury,” I said, “and acquaintances.”

 

The butler walked back into the house as before. Halfway down the hall he stopped and turned again. Suddenly, from behind him a short and plump figure with a welding mask appeared. It made an anguished sound before hitting the butler around the side of the head with a metal wrench. There was an unexpected clanging sound.

 

“Good God, man!” shouted Hampton. “What have you done!”

 

The policeman pushed past me into the corridor. The butler was lying on the ground and twitching as the short figure stood over him.

 

“I am going to have to arrest you, sir,” said Hampton.

 

The figure flipped up the welding mask to reveal a young woman’s face. She leant over the butler and opened his suit. A mass of wires and clockwork formed his upper chest.

 

“Bloody thing,” said the woman with a Scottish accent. “The short term memory is always a problem.”

 

“My God, it’s …”

 

“An automaton? A woman?” I asked stepping in. “Clarissa, darling, how are you?”

 

We embraced briefly, as I didn’t want to get engine oil on my suit.

 

“What are you doing with the peelers?” asked Clarissa the Maker. “Have they finally nabbed you for something? What was it – animal, vegetable, or mineral?”

 

“Nothing so mundane,” I said. “There’s something more than a little sinister on the loose in Brighton, and I need your help.”

 

I explained my requirements and discovered that Clarissa, bless her, had more or less what we needed. So in no time at all we were back at Preston Park with the nice gentlemen from the police and an automaton dog.

 

“It can trace the magical scent of the mummified cat,” explained Clarissa, “but it can get stuck behind complex objects. I’ll tag along to make sure it works.”

 

We let the automaton lose, and after running in circles it started off down Preston Drove.

 

We continued for some time with Clarissa adjusting the dog as we went, as it became thwarted by a plethora of everyday objects. We were heading down Millers Road when it first dawned on me where we may be going.

 

“You know, chaps,” I said to all and sundry, “call it intuition, but I think I know where the demon went. What would you think was interesting if you were a dead cat?”

 

“I don’t follow?” said Hampton.

 

“Dead birds,” I said.

 

***

 

When I got to the Booth Museum things weren’t as bad as I thought. They were much, much worse. Inside the foyer was one dead mummified cat and two dead museum staff, with a multitude of scratches on their bodies.

 

The Booth Museum has, of course, one of the largest collections of stuffed bird specimens in Europe. There are all sorts of shapes and sizes, from vast eagles to tiny sparrows. The demon had obviously had some difficulty choosing which bird to possess, as all the glass cabinets were smashed. It was clear though which form he had decided on in the end. The cabinets were completely empty; he had chosen to be all of the birds at once.

 

Having successfully managed to think like a mummified cat, I wondered what it would be like to be hundreds of dead birds. It was a difficult thing to do, even for me, so I waited for my companions. They had decided to follow the automaton dog in case my intuition was wrong. No, I don’t know why they did that either.

 

“There’s good news and bad news,” I said as they arrived. “The good news is that we have found the mummified cat. The bad news is we are now looking for several hundred reanimated dead birds.”

 

“The dog’s nae use then,” said Clarissa, “if yon beasties can fly.”

 

“Quite,” I said. “I imagine the birds will try and find a place where they can cause as much havoc and mayhem as necessary. So maybe we should look for somewhere visible from the air where people gather. Oh, and Blowry, I need you to pass a message on for me.”

 

I handed the policeman a slip of paper with a name and address. He looked at it with immense suspicion.

 

“It’s alright,” I said, “there’s no chance of contracting moral lassitude from it. It’s a note for someone who may help.”

 

I turned around to find Clarissa gone and Hampton gawping up at the sky. I followed his gaze and saw Clarissa had shinned up the nearest tree and was looking through a pocket telescope.

 

“I think I see where they went,” she said.

 

“How can you tell?” I asked.

 

“I can see people running,” she said. “Lots of them.”

 

***

 

 

As we headed to the seafront, we saw people running, too. They were shouting and screaming, which seemed to disturb Hampton but just reminded me of an interesting evening I’d had a few months back.

 

When we got to Hove Lawns, we saw the full extent of the chaos. By now, it was early evening and people were perambulating on the seafront. A nice turn around the lawns would be a natural thing to do, as one could enjoy the sea, the greenery, and look at the West Pier. Unfortunately, this evening’s promenade was being ruined by hundreds of dead birds: flying and running, biting and pecking. Couples ran for their lives, and fashionable young gentlefolk had their clothing ruined. It was hard to bear.

 

“Right, I’ll be back in a bit,” said Clarissa and headed off. “I may have something that will help.”

 

Hampton decided to be a hero and attack some of the birds, but that sent more flying at him. I stood at a short distance on Brunswick Terrace and viewed the scene. I drew a little circle to protect me from the demon. I had also seen the demon’s sigil so I knew I could trap it into a triangle at least. Hampton came to where I was, his clothes torn and scratches all over him.

 

“How can we defeat this?” he said. “It’s too powerful.”

 

“Well, first we need to contain it. Traditionally it should go in a triangle. The West Pier can form one side of it, and the Kingsway road the second. Then we would just need somehow to connect the end of the pier to – say about here, and we could trap the demon in that space. So we need someone to trot along the Kingsway muttering a special incantation, then keep going out to the pier and then somehow get back here.”

 

I looked at Hampton.

 

“Are you game?” I asked. He nodded gravely and I leant closely into his ear and whispered the words.

 

He headed off down the road whilst I tried to figure out how to get him back and close the loop. Just then Blowry arrived. He looked red-faced.

 

“What were you doing there with Detective Hampton,” he said accusingly.

 

“Nothing untoward,” I said, “just teaching him a powerful demonic incantation.”

 

I suppressed a smile as the moustache twitched. Just then a giant mechanical angel flew down onto the lawns.

 

“Thought it might help,” said Clarissa, who appeared next to us. She was holding a circular object that I inferred controlled the automaton. I was about ask how when it breathed fire.

 

“Oh, very good,” I said as burning birds fell to the ground. “Maybe we won’t need my plan after all.”

 

The angel span round emitting fire in all directions and soon large numbers of birds fell onto the lawns. If the sight of mad dead birds and screaming people hadn’t driven people away then a fire breathing angel did. The lawns were pretty empty and it seemed like the fight was all but over.

 

“Well done, old girl,” I said slapping Clarissa on the back. I turned to walk towards my local club. They would be serving cocktails by now.

 

“Wait,” said Blowry. “Look.”

 

The burnt birds had started to get up. They pulled themselves up onto their feet and slowly, awkwardly walked again. Then some started to flap charred wings, and they flew into the air.

 

“Oh dear,” I said. “I guess we can’t kill them if they’re not alive. Back to plan A, then. Clarissa darling, can you fly onto the West Pier and pick up Detective Hampton. We’re just trying to make a giant triangle to trap the demon in.”

 

“Of course,” said Clarissa and the angel flew over to the pier. Unfortunately, the birds had rather got the hump with it and flew across as well. As the angel landed on the roof of the pier it was forced to contend with birds diving at it from all angles. The angel breathed more fire, but the birds had learnt and were thinly dispersed. Worse, the pier caught fire in the mayhem. Clarissa took out her telescope again and could just see Hampton as he grabbed onto the angel’s legs. She piloted the device back to the lawn and away from the burning pier. He ran back up to join us in the circle.

 

“Good work,” I said. “Now we have them trapped as long as we are here.”

 

“Is that the plan then?” asked Blowry witheringly. “We stand on this step forever.”

 

“Well … we need a finishing touch, I suppose.” I said.

 

“Excuse me, Lord Hollingbury,” said a man with a cello. “We’ve arrived.”

 

“Oh, splendid!” I said. The man and three others with stringed instruments arranged themselves in semi circle.

 

“Debussy, I think,” I said to the quartet. I turned to look at the other three in the circle.

 

“I simply can’t think straight without music. I have this quartet on a permanent retainer. Thank you for fetching them, Blowry.”

 

As the warm, rich harmonies of the French genius wrapped around us I felt myself transported from the less fashionable end of Hove into a world of art and magic. The warp and weft of colours and sounds circulated in my mind, and freed from reason and rationale, I hatched a plan.

 

“We need the sarcophagus,” I said, “Good fellows of the constabulary, if you could arrange to bring that, it would help enormously. Clarissa, would you be able to keep the birdies entertained whilst that happens.”

 

Clarissa shrugged. “No problem,” she said.

 

“You see, the problem is there’s nothing physical to tie this demon to. He came in the wrong vessel so to speak, so he’s able to reanimate any dead thing. I can trap him into the sarcophagus, as that was his entry point, but then that leaves us with a very dangerous box. If the box opens with even a tiny crack the demon can escape and posses anything that is dead.”

 

“I see,” said Clarissa, “I think.”

 

An interesting thing had occurred whilst I explained the plan to Clarissa. The charred birds, now trapped and deprived of victims, had united into a giant creature. It was roughly humanoid, a shape I suppose the demon liked and around the same size as the angel. The two were trading blows on the lawn.

 

“Gentleman,” I said to the quartet. “I think this requires some Wagner.”

 

Clarissa and I watched the mechanical angel and the composite bird demon fight as an adaption of “Ride of the Valkyries” was played by the quartet. It made quite a spectacle.

 

The policemen arrived with the sarcophagus on a wheeled trolley. We pushed it into the triangle and onto one end as I started my incantations to trap the demon. The bird demon heard the words and came heading toward me. I chanted as quickly as I could as the creature got closer and closer. I uttered the last syllable to trap the beast, and I stepped out of the way as the birds were sucked into the sarcophagus. The two policemen maneuvered the lid into place. I used the control that Clarissa had given me to bring the angel onto the end of the sarcophagus and pressed the button to turn it off.

 

I turned to leave then saw the weight of the mechanical angel was too much for the sarcophagus. A crack had appeared along the edge.

 

“Oh, no!” I said. “The demon can escape!”

 

The demon’s essence flowed out of the sarcophagus. With the angel turned off, it was able to take over the giant automaton. The demon-angel leaned down at me so I flicked on the on switch and tried to move the angel away from me. The mechanical angel jerked and spasmed as the demon and I fought for control of it.

 

“I bet you’d rather like this,” I said to the demon holding up the circular controls. The angel leaned forward to reach for them but I threw them high in the air.

 

“Catch!” I said and the angel-demon’s hand reached out and caught the controls.

 

At that point the electric charge that Clarissa had just now fitted into the control triggered. Electricity surged through the angel-demon. It shuddered a little as its joints fused together. Finally, it stopped still. The demon was caught.

 

The policemen, Clarissa, and the string quartet walked over.

 

“Beethoven,” I said to the quartet. “Something pastoral.”

 

“You know,” said Clarissa, “I didn’t think it would work.”

 

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” I asked Clarissa,

 

“No, of course not. I have hoards of giant angel automatons at home,” she said sarcastically.

 

“That’s the spirit!” I said.

 

“Can we move this now?” said Hampton.

 

“That might be … inadvisable,” I said. “The demon is still there, it’s just stuck in that angel. If it comes into contact with anything it can reanimate, there may be trouble.”

 

“What should be done with it, then?” asked Hampton.

 

“I’d cover it with a nice layer of metal so it can’t accidentally touch anything and then I’d leave it there, call it a statue,” I said, “for peace, or something disinteresting like that.”

 

“It’s a shame about the pier,” said Hampton looking at the smouldering wreck.

 

“Oh, I’m sure they’ll do something about that,” I said. “No one would be crazy enough to leave a rotting wreck on the promenade.”

 

With the job complete, I turned to leave for my club. Those cocktails weren’t going to drink themselves.

 

***

 

It was a little after midnight when I got back to my house. And by a little, I probably mean five hours. I’d rather lost track of time, but I think sunlight was starting to appear. My butler came and brought me a cup of cocoa with a splash of rum. I thanked him and topped it up with rather more rum when he left. My nude model had vanished, which was unfortunate as the picture was half finished, and in truth, I could recall neither where I had met her or even her name.

 

So, unusually for me, I managed to get to my own bed, and equally unusually, I got to it on my own. As my eyes closed I thought I would probably sleep the sleep of the just. And I wondered what that was going to be like.

 

 

 

 

 


Steampunk Summer Postcards: Ichabod Temperance

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, lets see now what have we got in the letter box today… Why it’s a postcard from my dear friend Mr Ichabod Temperance and Miss Persephone Plumtartt! …

 

A Post-Card of Temperance

or,

Wish You Were Here in Sunny San Monique!

 

“Do you wish to remain a Virgin, Mr. Temperance?”

“Oh my Goodness, Miss Plumtartt! I’m a good boy!”

“I was referring to your ‘Pina Colada, sir. One had hopes that you might indulge a splash of San Moniquan spiced rum into your fantastical fruity concoction, eh hem?”

“I don’t think I oughter, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. I want to have all my senses operating at peak efficiency since I plan on communicating with our friends in the distant futuristic year of 2018. Thanks to my trans-dimensional, temporal scripto-rator, we can tell our friend Mrs Baker and her pals about our adventures here in 1877 on the island.”

“Delightful, Mr. Temperance, please detail the skinny on our dip into the Caribbean pool.”

“Yes Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. Well, you see, what happened was, a big, mean, VooDoo bigwig named Sku Le’Bizzare done up and kidnapped a pal of ours; the Right Reverend Alonzo Dolomite, and whisked him off to his secret island with the intention of instigating a global cadaver-awakening catastrophe. Well what do you know, this island is hidden by magic and our rescue party must seek passage on a ghost ship to visit the shark-infested waters of this tropical isle of terror.”

“One might make note, sir, that you and I were in the midst of heretofore unseen tribulations within our own relationship. I must say, your having taken up an unseemly friendship with that dance-hall floozy has left me uncharacteristically unnerved.”

“But you started running around with that handsome and dashing Kit Eppington first!”

“Be that as it may, our primary purpose here on San Monique is to free our friends and prevent an undead apocalypse, eh hem?”

“Yes, Ma’am, but things sure have not gone as I might think they would.”

“One cannot imagine how One would preconceive such an event. Never mind, sir, and listen. I detect the approach of shambling feet and dirge-like, though rhythmic, chants. One suspects that our gratefully undead waiter returns with delicious refreshments.”

shuffle, shuffle,

shuffle, shuffle,

Thoughts are fixed,

no need to think.

Plodding ahead,

without pause or blink.

Around and round,

like a skating rink.

Chop the fruit,

Prepare the drink.

Mix it up,

in the kitchen sink.

Especially for,

this Lady and Fink,

shuffle, shuffle,

shuffle, shuffle.

“Mmm! These are some yummy drinks, that VooDoo zombie dead feller brought us, Miss Plumtartt!”

“Just so, I quite agree, Mr. Temperance. I say, his curious song reminds me. This adventure we are upon, ‘The Measure of Temperance’, is your sixth of ten publications. Each of our previous five novels contain but a small amount or rhythm and song, yet this book and the subsequent four have music from end to end, do they not, eh hem?”

“Yes, Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. I reckon they are a bit Dr. Seuss-like in that regard, but I don’t see anything wrong with writing kids’ books for grown-ups, Ma’am.”

“One is not quite sure how to respond to that statement, Mr. Temperance.”

“Ain’t no response necessary, Ma’am. Let’s just say goodbye to Mrs Baker and her wonderful friends in Lancaster. I wonder if my little pal Collin the Octopus will read this? Let me know if you need any adjustments on your above-water breathing apparatus, little buddy!”

“Thank you, ever so much, Mrs Baker darling, for allowing Mr. Temperance and myself to send greetings from Sunny San Monique. Ta ta! We do so truly wish that you and your kind readers were here.”

 

 

Oh how splendid, I’m so glad they are umm… enjoying themselves! I hope they make it back in one piece though, having had my own encounters with zombies I can vouch for their ferocity! I’ll be sure to pass this postcard on to Max and Collin when they come in from their hard days’ work, I think Collin may be keen to approach Mr Temperance upon their return on the subject of a tentacular cooling system for this hot weather…

If you’d like to find out what happens to Mr Temperance and Miss Plumtartt in this their 6th adventure you can do so here:

Or if you’d rather start at the beginning (and I highly recommend that you do as it is a splendidly entertaining steampunk saga!) you can find the first book here…

 

Bon Voyage and blessings on your pina coladas my dears!

 

 

 

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 books via the links in this article. I only review and recommend products which I genuinely think others will enjoy – Penny 🙂 


Steampunk Summer Postcards: Greetings from Hopeless Maine!

 

 

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… Why it’s a postcard from our dear friends on the island of Hopeless Maine, our favourite gothical place to be! (As long as one is armed with a sturdy rolling pin to ward off the night potatoes that is!) …

 

Postcard (1).jpg

Of course you are all aware that the latest installment in the Hopeless Maine body of tentacular awesomeness, Sinners, is now available …

sinners

And you can follow the building body of island intrigue in their pan-dimensional newspaper The Hopless Vendetta  

I certainly hope to pay another visit very soon, as soon as I have strengthened some of my shielding spells and re-enforced my cauldron that is, the plant life are disturbingly sentient there you know and seem to resent being turned into soup!

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 


Steampunk Summer Postcards: Felicity Banks

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… Why it’s a postcard from the world of Steampunk Author Felicity Banks…

 

 

 

To Miss Venture,

 

I had not expected to find such pleasure in your company, nor to accomplish so much so quickly as we assist Miss Muchamore in her martial endeavours. Yet now I find myself longing to once again find myself beside the sea—and therefore beside you.

 

Here in the countryside the Australian heat is somewhat blunted by the surrounding hills. There are also several convenient river-side trees behind which a young woman like myself can take the waters in a relatively discreet manner. It is strange to think that this serene valley will soon be over-run by Her Royal Majesty’s troops.

 

Has Miss Muchamore told you she is writing an autobiography, beginning with the strange history of her magic-infused anatomy? Truly the 1860s are a wonderful time to be alive. Given that the first volume of her intended trilogy is entitled Heart of Brass it seems you and I will soon have one less secret to keep. In fact her trilogy is almost complete, which I confess makes me a little nervous, as the end of Miss Muchamore’s military campaign also draws to its climax. Does she think she is going to die?

 

My life has been somewhat different to hers. I imagine if I told my own story it would have to be written entirely in letters, rather than in the manner of a regular novel. Perhaps I should compile it, after all! I could call it Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s Empire after Miss Muchamore’s small holding. But letters would not be enough. There would be pictures too, including your beautiful painting of Miss Muchamore’s sister, and a tiny model of our fort for the attentive reader to build, joining our rebellion by proxy. And jewellery, since it is both lovely and small enough to fit in an envelope. Perhaps a tiny heart made of brass.

 

Or perhaps all this is all a foolish dream. Who would want to read the letters of ordinary women like you and I? We are both of us side characters, not heroines.

 

And yet.

 

I think foolish dreams are the most interesting kind, don’t you?

 

With love from your friend,

Xiong

 

You can purchase all three books in Felicity Banks The Antipodean Queen series here:

http://felicitybanks.wordpress.com/store

 

And read Max and Collin’s review of the first book Heart Of Brass here: Morning Cuppa Heart Of Brass

 

 

 

 

 

Follow Felicity Banks to find out more about the world of Antipodean Queen and her interactive fiction games…

http://felicitybanks.wordpress.com

 

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

 

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 books via the Amazon links in this article. I only give promotional space to products I genuinely think others will enjoy – Penny 🙂 


Soup f The Day: With Army Of Brass Author Jeremiah Rickert

 

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 Army Of Brass author Jeremiah Rickert, good morning Jeremiah and what a beautiful sunny one it is! Here, let me take your coat and hat and you can have a seat here by the window and put your feet up while I make the soup for the orphans.

There now, I have heard so much about the Collaborative Writing Challenge and your marvellous book Army Of Brass, tell me how did you first get involved with the CWC?

I believe I saw a solicitation on the CRWOPPS listerv and was intrigued by the idea of both collaborative storytelling and the idea of writing some steampunk fiction.

And what is your favorite part of working collaboratively?

It takes a lot of pressure off of worrying about macro-storytelling.  You get to focus a lot of energy on just your chapter.

Yes I imagine that must be a refreshing and unique experience. Who is your favorite character?

I had the most fun with Captain Davenport.  I like the idea of a gentleman swashbuckler with a strong well of pragmatism inside of him.

Oh yes I believe he made quite an impression on Max and Collin yesterday! Did you have a favorite setting in the story?

I usually would be seated at the keyboard with a goofy grin on my face whenever the characters were on one of the airships.

Ah yes, airships – I have seen some of my visitors arriving in those although we haven’t quite reached that level of technological advancement here in Lancaster. Did you have a favorite gadget or technology?

The airships with their gas bags and propellers have always been my favorite aspect of Steampunk.  They are a ubiquitous in the genre, but they are pretty cool, so I can see why.

Indeed! Did you have much experience with Steampunk before the collaboration?

I had read a few books, but I’m not super dedicated to the genre.

I see, would you mind passing me that sack of onions, Dear? Thankyou, goodness I’ve so much to do today! How often do you sit down to write?

Not with any regularity.  I write when I feel like I have something to say.

And what is your ideal setting for writing? 

I did most of my writing for this project at a local all-night diner.  I have headphones on, but often they are just there to filter the noise a bit.  After two hours, I would pause and have a snack, then write until I started getting sleepy.

Oh that sounds marvellous! What is your favorite genre to write?

I like all genres.  The key to me is just to have fun characters to play with, no matter what the setting.

Perhaps the reason you write such strong and memorable characters! Are there any genres you haven’t tried but would like to?

I have been sitting on an idea for a pulp-style Space Opera story for a long time.  This project has loosened up a lot of the machinery inside me that feels compelled to create.

That certainly sounds like a project that should see the light of day! Who is your favorite character that you’ve created?

I have a finished novel about a noir-style detective who happens to dress like a clown when he’s on the job.

Oh marvellous, perhaps he would like to meet our own anchorite clown Freddy Payne some time! Where do you get your inspiration for these wonderful characters?

Being observant and people watching typically serves as my inspiration.  I tend to take a lot of notes with snippets of conversations I’ve overheard or thoughts that have occurred to me.  A particularly fertile period for me was when I worked a graveyard shift in a 7-11. I saw a lot of people and things that I am still mining for inspiration to this day.

And are there any writers who inspire you?

The first that comes to mind is Mark Helprin, author of A Winter’s Tale, Soldier In The Great War, and others.  I don’t know how he produces such beautiful, descriptive prose, that never seems like a slog to read through.  It is sorcery. I am also a huge fan of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, particularly the recent translation by Edith Grossman.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

There are two tips that come to mind:  First, read everything you can, as much as you can stand, across all genres, and don’t be afraid of the classics.  Second, get yourself some deadlines. The one thing I missed most about college after I graduated was having deadlines.  They are highly motivating.

Yes indeed! And speaking of deadlines, our soup here is nearly done and I can hear the urchins clamouring in the street outside so we had better start serving this up. But before we do, where can we find more of your writing?

Most my print and online material appeared in the late 90s/early 2000s and is no longer accessible unfortunately.  The Army of Brass collaborative project has re-awakened the urge to write, however, so I anticipate more material appearing soon.

Well I hope you will come back to the soup kitchen some other time and tell us about your next work when it is published! 

Thankyou everyone for joining us in the kitchen today and if you would like to find out more about Army Of Brass or purchase your own copy you can follow the links below.

Blessings on your brew my dears! 

 

Order your ebook copy of Army of Brass for $.99 and receive it on Friday, April 27!

 

Take a sneak peek at the full Chapter 1, read an exclusive excerpt, or check out another interview with writer Jason Pere or Jean Grabow as part of our blog tour, now until May 13. If you want to find out more about collaborative writing, Army of Brass contributors and CWC veterans Crystal MM Burton and Kathrin Hutson shared articles for the tour about the pros, cons, and rewards.

 

Plus, Join us on Facebook April 28-29 to meet some awesome writers, participate in a giveaway that includes a $25 Amazon gift card, and more!
Speaking of giveaways, we’ve got one going on for the entire blog tour, so between April 13-May 13, enter to win ebooks from our writers.


Soup Of The Day: With Author Jack Wolf

 

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 Jack Wolf – author of The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones, which Max and Collin reviewed a short time ago with their Morning Cuppa.

Good morning to you Jack! Thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, may I take your coat and hat? It is certainly very frosty out there today but the fire here in the bakery is lovely and warm.  How was your journey here from your own dimension?

Not too bad – the skies were fairly clear and the traffic was ok.

I’m very glad to hear that! This cold snap seems to have the Skyway Men clinging to their fires which is a mercy! And have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

I make something called Bungitin Vegan soup, which is basically a load of chopped veg – 1 onions, 2 carrots, 1 tin’s worth of tomatoes, 1 pepper, half to a whole tin’s worth of chick peas and/or other legumes, and anything else I can find in the kitchen fridge – 1-2 courgettes are good. Add at least one clove of garlic or a teaspoon of garlic paste – this is really important – and a mix of herbs and spices to taste. The italian herbs are good for this, so oregano, basil and sometimes a little black pepper. I don’t usually add salt, but you can, if you want. To cook, brown the onions and begin to soften the carrots by stir-frying in vegetable or sunflower oil for about 4-5 mins, then add everything else and about 3/4 pint of vegetable stock, and let it all simmer until everything is soft and it tastes really rich. Don’t let it burn or get too dense, as this can make the flavour too strong – you have to keep tasting it.

 

Oh vegan soup recipes are always here, what with the dairy rationing and such, thankyou very much! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire and tell us about your book The Tale Of Raw Head and Bloody Bones, and its main character Tristan Hart? I see you have brought a copy with you to show the orphans..

full cover rawhead.jpg

 

 

The cover art is stunning! I confess to very much enjoying the book myself, not least because of the cunning use of magic, folk lore and the world of faerie to support the narrative – tell me, have you always had an interest in the relationship between our own everyday ‘stories,’ and the magical and mythological frameworks we use to make sense of our ‘real world’ experiences?

I’ve been drawn to faerie tales, and faeries in general, for a long time. I’m also fascinated by human psychology, and the idea that humans create our own conceptual worlds out of the stories – and I use that word extremely broadly – that we tell ourselves. To an extent, the ‘real world’ of our experience is something we invent – a story we tell ourselves every moment of every day.

 

And the story of Raw Head, that is a real British folk tale isn’t it?

 

Yes and no. It’s a recorded folk belief, but I haven’t found any complete tales concerning it – with a beginning middle and end, and so on. It’s likely that the original RH&BB is more a general bogeyman than a character, in the way that, say, the Wolf in the Three Little Pigs is a character. I think he was a personification of the threat of drowning in a culture where only a tiny minority of people knew how to swim, and nobody knew how to perform cpr on a drowning victim. The idea was, I think, that the fear of RH&BB would keep the kids away from the waterways in a way that a simple explanation of the danger would not. References to the figure seem to peter out in the UK after the 18thC, so I guess superstitions moved on.

But oddly enough, in the US the image seems to have persisted, and mutated – there’s a legend in the Ozarks of RH&BB where a creature by that name appears as a monstrous pig. It may be co-incidental, of course. But I drew on this alternate image a little bit as well in the novel; Tristan’s dread of Joseph Cox becomes focused on the fact that Cox works as a pig-keeper.

 

Ah yes! I didn’t recognise that wonderful little twist but that certainly makes sense!  I had also thought it reminded me of the La Lorona mythos and more localised ‘Maggie O Th’Well’ tales. Tell me, what particularly drew you to use that tale as the focal point for Tristan’s story?

 

I’m fascinated by bogeymen, and the idea that one of the tools we use to keep ourselves safe is actually terror. But the name “RH&BB” is also a wonderful metaphor for what a human being is – mind and body brought together in this messy, contradictory way – and trying to make sense of that conundrum is Tristan’s most prevailing obsession.

Raw Head is by no means the only myth you reference in the book, what other prominent faerie figures feature in the narrative?

Well, I also draw heavily on the idea of the Glanconer – the Irish Faerie seducer – or as we might now acknowledge, rapist. He’s the dark Faerie who lies at the bottom of the myth of the Elf Knight, or as I call him in the book, the Goblin Knight. In numerous folk songs such as The Outlandish Knight and Steeleye Span’s The Elf Knight (which was the first place I encountered him) he is a seducer and murderer of young women who lures them to their doom sometimes by drowning, like RH&BB, or more simply by stabbing or strangling them. But of course as a Faerie Knight he’s also part of the court of the Faerie Queen, so she had to come into the book as well – and the image I’ve used to represent her is that of the shapeshifting barn owl. I’ve called her Viviane, of course, which is a nod to the Arthurian tradition. 

Of course, and very nicely done indeed! Now, in some modern / mythpunk re-workings, the world these tales and archetypes belong to is something that is a step removed from the protagonist’s reality but in your book the world of faerie doesn’t just run alongside Tristan’s human world does it?

Well, I don’t see the worlds as being separate in the way that a lot of modern fantasy does. I’m much more drawn to the Alan Garner or Susan Cooper school of world building in which the two realms are in constant communication with each other. It’s much closer to the way I experience the world, as well.

Well, I for one can certainly identify with that, Dear! I very much liked the way that, by giving each of the main characters both a human identity and, simultaneously, a faerie-self, you seemed to re-imagine (or perhaps ‘release’) some of those ancient beings in a way that made encountering them a very fresh, real and emotive experience.

Do you think that it is important to keep exploring these tales and releasing these characters into the collective consciousness?

 

Yes. I think it’s vital, actually. In the last couple of hundred years, we have built an  industrial society that demands that we deliberately reject older, deeper ways of thinking, and more intuitive ways of experiencing ourselves and the world around us, in order to be considered full, ‘rational’ individuals. It’s a form of madness, I think – cutting off a very ancient, nourishing, and protective part of the psyche. We need to find stories that allow us to reconnect with who we really are as a species. I think faerie stories do have the capacity to do this.

 

I certainly think you are right on that point!

The book is set at an important liminal moment in British history – revolutions in the worlds of medical science and industrial technology are bringing a ‘great awakening’ of so called rational thought, but at that same time, aspects of the collective consciousness seem still to be slumbering in the ‘dream world’ of spiritual / magical understanding and superstition. Did you deliberately choose this time period as one that would reflect the turmoil within Tristan and some of the other key characters?

 

Absolutely. The period stands exactly on the cusp of the modern world – and Tristan, in particular, is a character who represents – even embodies – the confusing contradictions inherent in that historical moment. 

 

The character Katherine Montague uses the story of Raw Head And Bloody Bones to communicate and cope with her traumatic life experiences and Tristan uses it to understand and make sense of his own fragmented reality… do you think that, to some degree, we are all prone to using the language of faerie / magic to feel secure and form an understanding of our often confusing or frightening world?

 

I think there is a human tendency to perceive the world through stories – and as I said above, I think that, right now, we need better ones than we currently have. It is a form of magical thinking, in a way – constructing one’s own reality through images, words and ideas. But we don’t all draw on the language of faerie to do this: we all construct our own stories out of whatever conceptual material we have to hand. In Katherine’s case, this happens to be the language of faerie tales: the abused girl, the wicked mother, the stolen child, etc are all common tropes in the folk-awareness of her time. A modern character in her situation would most probably use different stories to try to make some sense out of the dreadful things that have happened to her, and around her. But a modern character would hopefully have more psychological support… Katherine literally can’t speak about what she has gone through unless she displaces it onto a faerie tale – which both enacts and subverts another faerie trope, the magical silence. For her, magical thinking really is a survival mechanism.

For Tristan the situation’s slightly different, because the whole thing goes so much farther – for him, the worlds of faerie, story and rationality collide in a way that is quite traumatic in itself. He may be using the story, but there is also a sense in which he is also being used – and abused – by it. 

 

While this ‘magical toolkit’ for understanding the world may be useful to the individual utilising it, it can lead to fear, suspicion and ultimately persecution of individuals who are seen as liminal themselves – the ‘outsiders’ if you will, whose lifestyle or beliefs set them apart as ‘abnormal’ can’t it?

 

We still don’t live in a particularly tolerant society – even though in many ways it is, of course, much more accepting than it was in Tristan’s time. But it’s true that standing out from the crowd in ways that the crowd don’t understand, or even fear can bring about terrible persecution – I’m thinking of Sophie Lancaster’s murder here, but there are other examples.

When it comes to holding a magical or otherwise ‘fringe’ understanding of the world in some way, I have found that intolerance has tended to manifest as ridicule, rather than fear or violence. I am a panpsychist, for example (a highly unusual position here, but actually one that was most likely the norm throughout most of human pre-history, and which is still common in certain non-westernised societies), and most educated Westerners simply cannot grasp the principles behind it. So they mischaracterise and then dismiss it. The author Emma Restall Orr went through exactly this experience years ago on BBC Radio 4 with Michael Gove. She responded by writing The Wakeful World, which is a fairly decent introduction to the concept, I think. 

 

Viviane, for example, is a character whose ‘otherness’ allows Tristan to see her as quite unreal and therefore excuse and ‘explain’ his misconduct towards her using the framework of faerie mythology. This use of faerie / magical lore against women (and often, as you highlight marvellously in the book, against Rromani women) is a very real phenomenon isn’t it?

 

It was very much a problem in the 18thC, where it did become, in addition to other things, a cloak for racism against the Romani (not that the concepts of racism, or even sexism, existed then). It’s less obvious now, and here, of course – that’s thanks to the Enlightenment convincing the populace that magic is not real – but it still endures verbally in slurs – “Witch” etc – and in cultural assumptions about the overwhelming sexual allure of women’s bodies. “She put a spell on me, your honour” isn’t really that far from “she was wearing a short skirt,” in my estimation. Both rely on the belief that a female body – a woman in a body – somehow exudes some sort of mystical aura that overcomes a man’s ability to control himself, and provides him with the excuse to, as you say, explain away his misconduct.

 

But Tristan isn’t deliberately demonising Viviane in order to take advantage of her, is he? He is genuinely grasping at the threads of, what for him is, a confusing multilayered reality and this manifests to those around him as a form of madness – demonising him, in turn.

 

Yes, Tristan is completely oblivious to the cultural programming that’s going on beneath the surface; and he’s certainly not demonising Viviane on purpose. As far as he becomes concerned, she is wholly the Faerie woman of his dreams and nightmares – if she ever had a real, human self, he can’t acknowledge that.

 

Again, the demonization of those ‘outsiders’ who come to be labelled ‘mad’ is something that has always been a frighteningly real occurrence hasn’t it?

 

Yes, it has – and it is still going on today. When I was writing Tristan I was very conscious of the stereotyping that leads to people with severe schizophrenia, or similar disorders, becoming objects of fear. People have been taught to expect the mad to behave like monsters. It’s dehumanising – demonising. if you like. it’s also statistically untrue.

 

Perhaps especially unsettling is the fact that what is termed ‘madness’ to one particular culture or at one point in history, can later come to be understood as a natural phenomenon  – the hormonal surges of menstruating or pregnant women, for example, and those whose sexuality is anything other than heterosexual…

 

Absolutely – the boundaries of what is considered ‘sanity’ are shifting all the time. I really do believe that in a couple of hundred years – assuming any humans are still left by then – a lot of the beliefs and habits we hold to now will be seen as dangerously crazy. I don’t, of course, know which ones these will be. I have my hopes, but I don’t see history as  an inevitable march of “progress”, either technologically or culturally, so it may be that some very dark definitions of sanity/insanity will come to dominate. Hopefully we won’t go back to a time when women were locked up for being disobedient, but it could happen.

 

 

I suppose it all comes down to who has the cultural upper hand at the end of the day? Here in Ire, for example, a person is considered dangerous and ‘mad’ if they crave a cup of tea or a slice of cake!

 

Now, you see, I think anyone who doesn’t drink tea or like cake must be completely crazy.

 

Power is certainly a theme that you explore rigorously in the book isn’t it? – The power we may have over the people, animals and natural world around us, the power others may have over us and that which we have over ourselves, our actions and our perceptions…

 

Yes, it’s one of the major themes of the novel. It’s connected with the idea of disconnection and displacement – that the less integrated we are as beings with each other and the natural world, the more our relationships become aligned along power lines: power over, rather than power with. Katherine’s and Tristan’s relationship is really an example of mutual power in flux, rather than power over, on either side, although it may not look like that superficially. The dynamic between them is nothing like, for instance, Jane and Barnaby’s marriage, or the sibling relationship between Tristan’s father and his sister.

 

The power that women have over their own bodies is something that you explore in a number of ways through the different female characters in the story, is this something you feel strongly about?

 

I’m very passionate, actually, about the right of a woman to inhabit and control her own body. It is still a shocking truth of our society that women aren’t always accorded physical autonomy – look at the abortion debate, for example.

 

Looking at the #metoo phenomenon in your own dimension recently, it seems as though we are still very much in need of stories which explore this issue?

 

Very much so. We need, as a culture, to reclaim and then rewrite the ballad of the Elf Knight. I think we actually are trying to do something like that, in this historical moment, at least. I was delighted to read that in the latest production of Carmen, in Italy, Carmen shoots Don Jose, not the other way round – and there’s also that new prize for Crime Fiction that doesn’t focus on dead female bodies. There are other stories that can be told. When I started writing RH&BB, several of my early readers imagined Tristan was going to kill Katherine. Er, hardly! But that tells me how deeply embedded some of these unhealthy cultural assumptions about what love is, and what women can and should expect from men who love them, actually are. I was writing against those expectations then, and I will continue to write against them.

 

 

Such important subjects but oh my goodness! I do ramble on don’t I? I must apologise, the kettle has long been singing at us and I haven’t offered you a cup of tea! What is your poison, dear, and how do you take it?

 

Builders’, soya milk, no sugar. Thanks!

 

Here you are. Now then, moving away from The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones for a moment, what can you tell me about your own involvement in the world of faerie and the enigmatic character of Lord Crow?

 

That’s an interesting question. Of course, being bound by the laws of Faerie, I can’t tell you very much! But I suppose in one way Lord Crow is an idea; in another he’s a being-in-himself. I want to explore the possibility of writing from the point of view of the non-human, and he is my voice and my persona when I do that. I guess there are similarities here with the faerie co-walker, who is a figure I’ve come across occasionally in various modern “guide to faerie” books – though to be honest, I don’t tend to read those sorts of books. The older stories speak to me much more clearly – and also, there’s a tendancy in more modern writings to try to group faeries into species, or even races – which is a hangover from the Victorian obsession with scientific classification. The faeries I know – so to speak – would wet themselves at the thought that any human being should be able to classify them into any sorts of types – especially along such spurious lines as ‘light’ and ‘dark’. They would also probably explode at the notion that they should show any real interest in helping human beings. Faeries are wild. Humans, on the whole, are not. Faerie, as I understand it – in a modern sense, moving away from some of the ways it has been perceived historically as a concept, place, or whatever – has its essence in the flow of energy through complex systems – it can’t be fixed into any stable form. The best way I have found to get to know it is to get to know the natural world, and really fall in love with that – truly, madly, deeply, without reservation, fear, or any desire for power-over it.

I think Lord Crow is quite unlike me, personality wise, though other people disagree. He’s wilder, darker, cleverer, less forgiving, and much less patient. Given the current state of our relationship to the natural world, I don’t find this in any way surprising.

 

‘Re-wilding’ is an important concept that is, happily, growing in popularity as regards our physical relationship with the land isn’t it?

 

Yes; it’s a wonderful development, but it has a long way to go. I’m hoping that it represents the beginning of a tectonic shift in the terms of that relationship towards integration and respect and away from exploitation and power-over. It’s great that people here are slowly becoming accepting of the idea that we should live alongside beavers and – to an extent – wild boar, but I also want to see lynx in every suitable habitat across the UK, and I think some research should be done into reintroducing the wolf in Scotland, to balance the red deer population and give the Caledonian forest regrowth a fighting chance. (And besides: wolves! Wow!) Just as importantly, I want to see a new ‘wilding’ of cities. Bath, where I live, is an ideal habitat for peregrine falcons, because of the many urban pigeons. It’s also a breeding site for herring gulls, which are now in serious decline. People love the peregrines and loathe the gulls. I want to see the gulls welcomed alongside the more charismatic falcons. Urban foxes, too. For one thing, more foxes can mean fewer urban rats; and it’s not so hard for the city to provide fox and gull-proof bins. For another, there’s a moral case, I think, for opening up cities to creatures that can safely live alongside us.

Humans are a bloody invasive species. They need to learn to share.

That’s Lord Crow, now, interrupting. I knew once he heard the conversation he’d be unable to resist joining in with it.

And a very warm welcome to you Sir!

Space-invaders! Manspreaders!

All right, Crow.

 

Do you think that it also concerns our spiritual or psychological relationship with the land as well?

 

I don’t think one is achievable without the other. If we don’t change our overall attitude toward the land, then we will never effect meaningful changes in our behaviour. This whole “man must overcome nature” narrative has got to change.

 

Or it will be changed.

Is that a warning, Crow?

Just an observation.

 

 

Well thank you so much, both of you, for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Jack, it’s been wonderful to chat with you!

I know you are probably eager to be off and explore our wonderful Lancastrian Frost Fair that is just coming to an end at the moment but, before we start dishing up this wonderful-smelling soup, would you like to tell us about any of your current projects and where we can find more of your marvellous work?

 

I’ve got several projects on the go at the moment. I’m working on something with Lord Crow, of course, but obviously I can’t say too much about that, especially now he’s sitting in the kitchen with us. Faerie law. We’ll see what develops. I’ve also finished my second novel, which is currently looking for a publisher. I’m actually quite strongly drawn to the idea of putting it out via Unbound, as I like the idea of having full editorial control over my own work, and Unbound looks like exactly the sort of model I think both writers and readers want and need – grassroots, down to earth, writer and reader-centred publishing, which doesn’t have to pander to the rather limited tastes of the big London houses. But again, we’ll see what happens. Watch this space!

 

We certainly will! And I hope that you will come back and talk to us about your marvellous work again soon. Well now, I must say that soup really does smell delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins are starting to get fidgety so shall we start serving it up?

 

It’s been lovely to visit! Thank you for the conversation, tea and cake!

 

And thankyou to you all for joining us in the soup kitchen today! If you would like to read more of Jack’s wonderful works and keep up to date with his new releases, do visit his website and blog at: https://jackwolfauthor.wordpress.com/

 

 

 


Soup Of The Day: With #Steampunk author Michelle Lowe

Helping me this morning is steampunk writer Michelle Lowe, author of Legacy. Good morning Michelle, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! I hope your journey here from your own dimension was a safe one?

…Thank you for having me! Yes, the journey was very lovely. The wormholes of the Bermuda Triangle are the smoothest around. I flew in on an actual Spanish galleon airship and we only hit a bit of turbulence coming through.

Oh my goodness! Is that your beautiful craft parked outside?! How marvellous my dear, although I wouldn’t leave it there too long ; you really can’t trust some of the apparent pedestrians in these parts.  Now then, let me take your coat for you, the fire is quite cosy this morning, and have you brought along some soup to share with us?

I did indeed! I wanted to make an impression, so I brought the recipe to my mama’s famous Across the Universe stew. It’s called that because all the ingredients come from various parts of our known galaxy. Potatoes plucked from the seabed of a far away water planet, things that look like fern leaves but taste like carrots unearthed from the forests of one of Saturn’s moons, mushrooms that grow in deep underground caves near the Earth’s core, beef from cows specially engineered by aliens, and thawed out ice chunks from Halley’s Comet to used as the broth. 

 

Well! That is certainly an incredible recipe! It smells delcious,  would you mind if I copy the ingredients into my Kitchen Grimoire? Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire and tell us a little more about your marvellous steampunk series Legacy, I see you have brought a copy of the second book to show the orphans……

Legacy the reunion FRONT Book cover.jpg

I did, and it’s yours to keep if you like. This is actually the second instalment of my six book fantasy/steampunk series, titled Legacy-The Reunion. The story starts off in England, 1843, with our protagonist and famous thief, Pierce Landcross, being taken back to London to face trial after his arrest in France. Along the way, he escapes the royal guards but not before he finds out that his long lost nomadic parents are imprisoned in Newgate Prison. With the help of an old smuggling friend of his, Juan Fáng, who now operates her own opium den, Pierce manages a jailbreak by the skin of his teeth. He soon learns from his folks that there is an inheritance left to the family, but the only way to collect it is to follow clues throughout the Netherlands to its location. Pierce goes to retrieve this inheritance for his parents, and is joined by a beautiful young woman named Taisia Kuzentsov, who had been travelling with his folks. But they’re not alone. Tailing them is a bounty hunter aiming to get his hands on the loot, and when he discovers just who it is he’s following, he makes additional plans to bring back the famous fugitive to collect on his head as well as claim the inheritance.    

 

It sounds thrilling, and I know that Max and Collin are going to be reviewing both the first and second books shortly with their Morning Cuppa, but tell me my dear, have you always been interested in writing?

…….In a way, I have. I used to draw a lot and come up with little stories to go with my pictures. It really wasn’t until I was nineteen that I truly realized writing was something I wanted to pursue, and for years I have studied the art of storytelling and strive to improve my skill with every story I write.

And how did you first become interested in Steampunk in particular?

………Adventure stories have always appealed to me and a few years ago, I began noticing steampunk artwork more closely and read what steampunk was actually about. I was drawn to how easy this genre can cross over into other genres. Steampunk/fantasy, steampunk/horror, steampunk/science fiction, I mean there seems to be no limit to the types of storytelling this genre brings. I really like the style of steampunk and the whole idea of it, and since I already had a story that was Legacy (vol.1) already sort of dancing around inside my head, I decided to take a crack at it and write out my very first steampunk book.

Well, I hear it is marvellous! And when do you plan to release the next book in the series?

…..Legacy-The Reunion is set to be released on Christmas Day of this year.

I will certainly be getting a copy! Do you have any other projects, appearances or releases that we can get excited about?

…..When writing the Legacy series, I actually spent a year and a half writing out each book before the first was even published. With that being said, I plan to have each book edited and released only months apart. The third Legacy instalment, Legacy-The Underground, will hopefully be released in the spring of 2018 and the rest of the books (including the standalone) out before 2020. I have also just submitted an application to next year’s Gaslight Steampunk Expo in San Diego, California, to sell and sign copies of Legacy one and two, and if I’m real lucky, I’ll be at WonderCon in March also signing books.

Oh how exciting! I hope that some of our friends gathered here to day will be able to swing by and say hello! And where can we find your books for sale?

.…..Amazon-http://amzn.to/2bNh8WQ, Smashwords-http://bit.ly/2rzbm1v, Nordland Publishing-http://bit.ly/2gM9RX7, and Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2h6sPrt

 

Marvellous – oh! now that is the kettle boiling! What is your hot beverage of choice, my dear, and how do you take it?

……..Do you have any summer snowflake tea?

Of Course!

Oh, good! I like it with honey, please.

Thank goodness for that, I confess I am all out of sugar this week I’m afraid. Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Michelle, 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?

Absolutely! And thank you for having me. It’s been a real pleasure.

Thankyou all for joining us in the kitchen today, I’m afraid I am closing my doors now for the Wizmas season (I must be carefull to avoid the festive witch hunts you see) but Max and Collin have assure me that they and the dustcats will continue to hold the fort and I will be back in January to welcome the annual frost fair. Until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!