Roll up, roll up to the Great Frost Fair,
Mind your step, come see my wares.
Don’t be shy, browse my books.
Go on, pick one up. Take a look.
Welcome to the annual Lancastrian Frost Fair on the frozen river Lune! What a relief. It’s hot back home in South Oz.
My name is Karen J Carlisle. I write steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. What’s your poison… I mean, preference? (Don’t worry I’ve got an antidote.)
Do you like something with a darker edge? Murder, mummies and mysteries, perhaps? Why not try The Adventures of Viola Stewart – steampunk Victorian mysteries, with a Gaslamp flavour?
The Adventures of Viola Stewart
Introducing Viola Stewart, a widowed optician with a penchant for detectiving, who stumbles upon a secret Society of Men in Grey. Viola finds herself entangled in murders and mysteries, helped by her friend, Doctor Henry Collins.
Each adventure features different Victorian gothic themes – Jack the Ripper, the threat of Bedlam, a mummy’s curse, illusions and conspiracies.
This series chronicles Viola Stewart’s adventures in the classic forms of short stories and novellas, made popular with the Victorian era Penny Dreadfuls, and is sold separately as ebooks, or in compilation form as three separate journals.
- Doctor Jack & Other Tales – Someone’s stalking the women of London… Again. What if Jack the Ripper was being controlled by a secret society, as part of their nefarious plans to take over The Empire?
- Eye of the Beholder & Other Tales – Murder… Mummies… Mystery. With the threat of Bedlam looming over her, Viola must solve the mystery before it is too late.
- The Illusioneer & Other Tales – Viola needs a holiday. But, even at the beach or while on The Grand Tour of Europe, there are things afoot.
Want to know more? Watch the book trailers at: https://karenjcarlisle.com/books/book-trailers-viola-stewart-adventures/
Read reviews here: https://karenjcarlisle.com/books/book-reviews/
The Aunt Enid Mysteries
If you prefer paranormal and fantasy with your cosy mystery, then try The Aunt Enid Mysteries. The first book, Aunt Enid: Protector Extraordinaire is set in present-day Adelaide.
Daemons, fairies, magic: it’s all real!
The Otherworld is bleeding through cracks into our world. And Adelaide is ground zero.
Something is coming. Something dark – trading souls for passage. And only one person now stands between the Dark and the fate of the world.
Aunt Enid is just your average seventy-something year old. She loves to cook, is a regular at bingo and spends hours in her garden, talking to her army of garden gnomes and fussing over the colour of her hydrangeas…
When people start disappearing, her great niece, Sally, is drawn into a secret world and soon discovers her great aunt is a Protector Extraordinaire.
You may have met Aunt Enid when she hosted Elevenses (link: https://blakeandwight.com/2018/07/10/elevenses-with-aunt-enid-protector-extraordinaire/) for Max and Collin.
Watch the book trailers and meet Aunt Enid’s gnome army at: https://karenjcarlisle.com/books/aunt-enid-mysteries/book-trailers-aunt-enid/ and read Reviews here: https://karenjcarlisle.com/books/aunt-enid-mysteries/reviews-the-aunt-enid-mysteries/
Don’t mind those strangers lurking in the back. They’re waiting their turn for a chat. Come here, you two. Meet Miss Mathilda Meriwether and Sir Avery Allington.
What’s that glinting around your neck, Tillie?
Oh, sorry. Ahem…
Not keen on mysteries? You prefer a rollicking adventure, with a dollop of intrigue? (It is steampunk, after all.) Then my new series is for you!
The Department of Curiosities
The Department of Curiosities series is set in the same alternate steampunk world as The Adventures of Viola Stewart, with events starting five years before Doctor Jack (1883). And all new characters. It’s a steampunk tale of adventure, a heroine, mad scientists, traitors and secrets. All for the good of the Empire.
Book one, The Department of Curiosities: For the Good of the Empire, is currently scheduled for release in May.
Miss Mathilda Meriwether has a secret. Actually, she has several. One of them has shaped her adult life. Another now controls it.
Her Majesty Queen Victoria has control of the Empire. She is the Empire – and creator of secrets.
Sir Avery works for The Department of Curiosities – the keepers of secrets, especially if they are useful to the Empire.
When Tillie finds herself in the employment of The Department of Curiosities, she realises this is the perfect opportunity to uncover the truth she’s been searching for.
But the Queen has other plans for her.
Want to know more? You can watch the book trailer here: https://karenjcarlisle.com/books/the-department-of-curiosities/book-trailers-the-department-of-curiosities/
Pre-order Information and Freebie!
Sign up here: (link: https://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/ ) for to my monthly newsletter, Tea & Tidings, for information on how to pre-order your copy of The Department of Curiosities, final release dates and more.
And when you sign up, you get your free ebook copy of ‘With a Twist of the Nib’, filled with steampunk, fantasy and science fiction short stories.
Where to buy my books:
You can find information on where to buy my books (paperbacks and ebooks) either from online bookshops or buy direct from me, on my webpage shop: https://karenjcarlisle.com/shop/
But, wait. There’s more!
Come closer… don’t let the others know. I have something special for you – another stall, out there in the aether…
While you’re waiting for The Department of Curiosities, why not acquaint yourself with my alternate steampunk world and Viola’s first set of adventures. Visit my Smashwords stall, hit the BUY button and use the voucher codes and get your copy of:
- Three Short Stories: free ebook.
Voucher code for 100% off (free): GC54Y
- Doctor Jack: 67% off ebook RRP.
Voucher code for 67% off (US$0.99): KT37L
Vouchers valid until 1st March, 2019.
What to chat more? You can follow me on:
- Twitter – https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle
- Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/karenjcarlisle/
- Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/KarenJCarlisle/
- Webpage/blog – http://www.karenjcarlisle.com/
- Support me on Patreon (new rewards coming for 2019): https://www.patreon.com/KarenJCarlisle
I hope you’ve enjoyed your time on the ice today. (Please, ignore those strange lights under the ice…)
And thank you for stopping by.
- Karen J
Good Morning! Welcome to the Annual Lancastrian Frost Fair on the frozen River Lune!
My name is Phoebe Darqueling and I write Steampunk and Gaslamp fantasy, plus I love fractured fairy tales. I’ve got a few books for your perusal, including a freebie for all you fabulous fair-goers.
The Steampunk Handbook is a collection of articles from my last six years of blogging. It covers topics such as the history of steam power, the philosophical roots of punk and punk literature as a whole, and the history and evolution of the Steampunk fandom. In addition, you will find information about the historical and cultural underpinnings behind twelve of the most popular tropes in Steampunk, and tons of book and movie recommendations.
Save his boy, uncover a conspiracy, and master opposable thumbs—a dog’s work is never done.
Buddy’s favorite thing is curling up for a nap at the foot of Ethan’s bed. Then he stumbles through a portal to a clockwork city plagued by chimeras, and everything changes… Well, not everything. Sure, his new human body comes with magic powers, but he’d still rather nap than face the people of Excelsior, who harbor both desire and fear when it comes to “the other side.”
He discovers Ethan followed him through the portal and underwent his own transformation, and it becomes Buddy’s doggone duty to save him. Buddy finds unlikely allies in an aristocrat with everything on the line, a mechanic with something to hide, and a musician willing to do anything to protect her. Using a ramshackle flying machine, the group follows the chimeras deep into the forest and uncovers a plot that could reshape the worlds on both sides of the rift.
No Rest for the Wicked
Other people just think they’re “haunted by the past.” In Vi’s case, it’s true.
Clairvoyant Viola Thorne wants to forget about her days of grifting and running errands for ghosts. The problem? Playing it safe is dull. So when a dead stranger begs for her help, Vi jumps at the chance to dust off her hustling skills. The unlikely companions are soon tangling with bandits, cheating at cards, and loving every minute.
Then she finds out who referred him, and Vi has to face both a past and ex-partner that refuse to stay buried. Though she betrayed Peter, his spirit warns her of the plot that cost him his life. Vi’s guilty conscience won’t let her rest until she solves his murder. Though she’s spent her whole life fighting the pull of the paranormal, it holds the key to atoning for the only deception she’s ever regretted—breaking Peter’s heart.
Coming Mar 28, but you can place your pre-order for a print copy through Black Rose Writing and use the promo code PREORDER2019 to get 15% off.
The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales
You can find my horror re-telling of Pinocchio in this fractured fairy tale collection.
“Once upon a time” is a phrase that immediately conjures images of enchantment. Royal balls, magical creatures, love at first sight… We are taken to a fantasy world where anything is possible. The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales brings together the magic of fairytale and the allure of cogs and gears. Within these pages, find dancing automatons, industrial age fairies, a mermaid with wind-up legs, heroes of the steam age, and more. Drawing from classic tales of the Brothers Grimm, Carlo Collodi, Charles Perrault, Hans Christian Andersen, and Homer, these original interpretations are sure to delight fans of steampunk and fairytales alike.
Army of Brass
When the mad conqueror haunting Elaina’s dreams invades her adopted homeland, the real nightmare becomes what she’s willing to do to stop him.
The dreaded Hunter Baron has landed on the shores of Mailderet, but Master Tinkerer Elaina Gable believes she has the solution. Giant automatons sit rusting in the valley, waiting for someone with the drive and ingenuity to bring them to life. But the king, swayed by the destruction his ancestors wrought centuries before, harbors a deep-seated fear of the machines. Though he will not allow the alliance of Tinkerers and Smiths to complete the work, Elaina resolves to bring the machines back to life in secret—with the help of a famous airship pilot. (Meet the character when he had a sit down with Max and Collin)
From the safety of the swamps, a woman with silver skin jealously guards the secrets of the automatons. Though the Silver Woman also wishes the past to remain buried, she must weigh the value of secrecy against the thousands of innocents her hesitation might send to the grave.
As they discover the link between the toxic valley and the inner workings of the automatons, Elaina and her allies are drawn into a web of deceit threatening the balance of power across two continents—and proving the truth behind the deadly legends surrounding the Army of Brass.
I hope you enjoy your time on the ice today, and thank you so much for stopping by. If you want to follow my antics, here’s where to find me around the aetherweb:
On Twitter: @Gearturns
Good morning! So, this is me taking over the review slots from Collin and Max … is it weird that I should feel inexplicably nervous about this? As though Collin is peering over my shoulder to make sure I get all my links in the right places and don’t get my tentacles in a twist over the spellchecker? (Perhaps not as he is in fact sitting in the armchair by the window contemplating the frost outside and hopefully not about to put his ice skates on again after the last fiasco.) If you are missing Max and Collin, they are still very much around and doing fun and you can catch up with them having that on Saturdays in our #rainbowsnippets posts. But for now you have me, hugging my mug of Lapsang in fingerless gloves to ward off the snow and bringing you our monthly book review…
Boston Metaphysical Society is a graphic novel series set in the late 1800’s in an alternate retro-futuristic America, where steam power has allowed rapid technological advancement along with rapid and, for some, alarming changes in the function of society. This socio-political upheaval and its affects on the collective consciousness have rent the fabric of time and space and a sinister creature has been able to pass through into this world.
Caitlin O’sullivan, Samuel Hunter and Granville Woods are The Boston Metaphysical Society and their individual expertise in science, detection and the spirit world must combine to destroy The Shifter once and for all.
This is a story which touched my heart in many ways. Firstly the illustrations (Emily Hu) are perfect; capturing the pace, emotion, mood and narrative perfectly in each scene and reminiscent of a combination of the weight and beauty of Sana Takeda and the vibrancy of Tim Yates in a style which enticed me before I had even read a word.
Secondly, the writing is exquisite and tight as tuned drumskin. The dialogue is an absolute joy to read at times, particularly the banter between Tesla, Houdini and the other members of the secret society B.E.T.H, and works in perfect harmony with the illustration to give a rich and immersive experience for the reader.
And lastly I loved the characters – from the machinating big-names who I fell in and out of love with all over again (having had to wrench their souls laboriously from dry history books and dull documentaries over the course of many years, to see them here given life in alternate and vibrant form which both captured and questioned their lives, personalities, motives and aspirations was an exciting and exhilarating experience.) to the Boston Metaphysical Society characters with their rich, diverse and engaging personalities and their complex and intriguing back stories (more about which can be found by reading the prelude to this series) .
This is bold, unflinching storytelling at it’s best and sits at that raw, uncomfortable heart of the Steampunk genre where the lives of the privileged and the poor jarr together and their stories and histories vie for our attention. This is the curtain – as subtle and subliminal as it ought to be – which gives the backdrop for this graphic novel series. Madeleine Holly-Rosing has built a seductive world filled with the classic steampunk staples of alternate science, technology, history and magic and laced through with sharp wit and subtle warmth, but our storytellers come from every corner of late 1800’s society and this, for me, makes the series particularly enjoyable.
The complete series of Boston Metaphysical Society installments can be bought as one paperback with a ten page bonus story ‘Hunter-Killer ‘ here:
Or kindle users can purchase the episodes separately in special editions here:
I hope you are all able to enjoy, or at the very least survive, the cold snap and I hope you’re enjoying our Frost Fair guest posts as well which will be going on throughout the rest of January and February, we’ve had some fabulous contributions and if you’d like to take part there’s still just about time to send me something so drop me an email for full details.
Blessings on your brew, Penny 🙂
“Oh my Goodness, please be careful Miss Plumtartt! The ice on this here frozen Lancastrian river is as hard as marble and slicker than silk sheets. It’ll drop you on your bustle quicker than a steam whistle.”
“Quite so, Mr. Temperance, though if the river were not frozen over, we would not be present at this delightful Frost Fair. I had no idea Lancaster produced such a wide variety of wonderful crafts and delicious treats. One notices that you have no inhibitions toward satiating your indulgences concerning sickly sweets, eh hem?”
“But I was assured that these treacle tooth-breakers are the last ones mined from these hills in thirty years!”
“I see. And did these treacle miners deplete your own allowance reserves?”
“It is just as well, sir, for I now have our own kiosk, cum stall, a’la merchant’s stand in place.”
“But I wanted to walk around with the books displayed on a board resting on my tummy and hanging from a strap around my neck!”
“No, we are going to cooperate with Miss Blake and sell our wares from behind this small table surrounded by colourful bunting. Did you really all eat the treats that I had prepared to entice prospective customers?”
“Never mind, I want you to remain here in the hopes that someone may wish to inspect one of your written adventures. The novels might require some explanation.”
“These books are of high adventure Miss Plumtartt! I can’t help it if they sometimes come across as whimsical!”
“Of course not, Mr. Temperance, and I’m sure your sprinkling of mild innuendo through these tales is completely accidental.”
“I reckon it would have to be, ’cause I don’t even know what that is.”
“Perhaps you could inform any potential readers that you have saved this, our blessed planet, from a number of global, paranormal threats in these themed adventures?”
“Oh, yes, Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am! There was the time that C’thuller tried to eat us all up, and then there was the time we had to beat back a Martian invasion. We’ve had run-ins with broods of Nosferaters, VooDoo zombies, and the mighty Zodgila. I’ve gotten to be pals with Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur, and even some gigantic dragons.”
“One must admit that these are an intriguing, and colourful collection of novels. Here is the link to your international Amazon page:
“My word, the treacle appears to have solidified to solid mass within Mr. Temperance’s mouth, locking his jaws. Might One say, on Ichabod’s behalf, what a delight it has been to visit lovely Lancaster on the frozen river Lune. Our very best to Penny, Max, Colin, and everyone else in this charming shire. Toodle-loo!”
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Max and Collin’s fabulously fangtastic parlour located somewhere along the seasonably chilled spine of the splendidly scenic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.
True some have called it a dreadful place inhabited by frightful fiends and plagued by the occasional bad tempered Wight, but we consider that such people are merely getting a little carried away with their seasonal shenanigans.
You find us this morning in haste, our paper bags empty, our turnips carved and our faces painted with… stuff… because it is never really too early to begin trick or treating is it? Certainly we were attacked by a group of urchins over the weekend dressed in panda masks and donkey heads and demanding sustenance and shelter and illegal sugar laden treats. So we are off now to see if we can score something for ourselves on that front…
But before we do, there is (always) just about time to kick our tentacles up on the table for a moment and enjoy a festival-fuelling brew of Hershel’s Tonic and some seaonally spooky and splendidly steampunkish fiction, which we fortunately happen to have right here…
This is the prequel to Madeleine Holly-Rosing’s series of graphic novels, Boston Metaphysical Society. It is our first foray into this series and we are now absolutely hooked and ready to follow these characters and their fascinating world through whatever paranormal encounters and mysterious adventures await them in the next few books.
The set of seven individual short stories includes The Secret, The Devil Within (which was our favourite) , The Demons Of Liberty Row, The Secret Of Kage House, Steampunk Rat, The Clockwork Man and The Way Home. All are set in a re-imagined Steampunk America where the paranormal is… ah… normal! … and it is the primary purpose of society’s commoners to ensure these ghostly goings on do not interrupt the peaceful existence of the wealthy elite.
There are plenty of thrills, mysteries and intrigues inside this rather delightfully gothic-feeling collection; historical references aplenty for those of you who, like us, just go gooey over mash-ups and hat-tips and the like, and it will certainly appeal to anyone who likes the focus of their Steampunk to be on the everyday working classes rather than the upper.
What attracted us most though was the obvious depth and heart pervading each tale and we really felt that if we could fall in love with the characters in such small glimpses, then following them on through the rest of their adventures was absolutely obligatory – we’re very excited to see where life will take them all next!
If you have already read and enjoyed the comics / graphic novels in this series then we are willing to bet you will love these short stories which will no doubt add colour and depth to both the characters and world you already know. If, like us, this is your first encounter with the series, then this little collection is a lovely introduction and, as it has a nice little preface to set the scene before you dive in, it is a perfect place to begin.
Now then, we must delay no longer, the candy calls, as they say – do they say that? Possibly, either way we wish you a splendiferously spooky build up to the big bad treat-fest (whatever you call it in your dimension) and until we see you again,
Please remain always
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s indeterrably intrepid and frabjously furry parlour located somewhere within the irritable bowels of the splendidly scenic city of steampunk’d Lancaster.
True some have called it a devilishly delinquent dive, frequented by only the most diabolical demons, but we consider that such people are merely getting a little carried away with the festive spirit.
This morning we are feeling far too warm and fuzzy inside to be entering into the Halloween / Samhain / All Souls / Candy-fest / Thing atmosphere because we have just finished reading two of the most delightful books ever written and we would like to share those with you over a spot of Galli-Grey Regeneration Tea ( because, New Doctor and, of course, Earl Grey…)
George is a small grey bear of adventurous inclination and these two books detail two of his intrepid adventures. He is also a Ghost Bear – which is something really quite marvelous indeed!
In book one, George and his chums are kidnapped by wicked pirate squirrels and are forced to endure scathing reviews of their performances of Gilbert and Sullivan and in the second book our little furry hero pits his wits against the some sweet-toothed skulduggerists on planet Mars!
These heart warming illustrated adventures are beautifully produced and an absolute joy from start to finish. The urchins we read them to were beaming with glee throughout and there many excited squeals of delight, particularly at ‘the end’ !
We actually shed tears and the urchins literally leap up and down with excitement when we discovered the story-related recipes in the back cover of each book (you know how emotional we get about cake…) We will definitely be baking these soon and when we do we will post pictures in our elevenses slot (but not the recipes! You’ll have to read the books for those because the recipe is given as a little story which is just too, too adorable to miss!
There is enough warm-hearted, gentle but highly witty humour throughout both books to keep both urchins and adults chuckling and engaged from start to finish and they immediately became firm bedtime favorites.
If your own little urchins are of the intelligent and discerning sort who prefer A A Milne, Kenneth Grahame, Edward Leah or Lewis Carroll to the average uninspiring mass produced picture books on offer, then these are a couple of gorgeous gems to add to your storytime treasure chest.
As for us, we are still plucking up the courage to have those stern words with Montmorency about the flooding in here – our pig has set sail for the land where the bong tree grows and I believe we may be heading that way soon ourselves if Max doesn’t bail out fast enough. Still tomorrow we will share with you our #inktober tea painting efforts and inky things and a little bit of story to go with them.
In the meantime stay dry and warm and do remain always
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Max and Collin’s Utopian underwater apartments located, at present, beneath the deluge of water overflowing from the river Lune and into the drainage systems of the splendidly scenic city of steampunk’d Lancaster.
True some have said that there’s always something fishy going on around here, but what exactly do they expect when one of us is an octopus and the other refuses to kowtow to public demands for personal hygiene … owch! It was a joke Max! My gentleman friend has no sense of humour at all…
Well our pig is still happy, although we have had to set him adrift in a little crate as the parlour is flooded with rainwater coming in through the floor and we are going to have strong (ish) words with our landlord about this, once we pluck up the courage… in the meantime I am going to perch on Max’s head while he ‘bails out’ and… hm? … you think I ought to be just fine in the water because I’m an octopus? My dear friends, there is a world of difference (at least there ought to be) between the waters of The Great Western Ocean and the excrement of the Lancastrian sewer system… a-hem… now where was I? Oh yes, perching on Max’s head about to open a marvelous book …
Selkie Cove is the next installment of Kara Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices series which we have become absolutely addicted to over the last few years. It is no secret at all that she has become one of our favorite authors and with very good reason – her writing combines diverse, complex and compelling characters embedded in gripping narratives which combine action, emotion and suspense in perfect balance.
If you are new to this series, it is possible to start here and still understand what has gone before, but much better to start at the beginning: The Earl Of Brass
If like us however you have been dying to know what happens next, you will not be disappointed…
With the horrors of the past seemingly far behind them, Immanuel and Adam are still feeling the after effects that dark magic has left on their lives. When a new mystery surfaces and magic invites itself into their lives once more, the couple are faced with some difficult choices that will affect the course of their future lives.
It was interesting to see how Adam and Immanuel’s relationship developed – and how they both grew and changed as individuals – when faced with the new challenges of life as a couple within the rigidity of Victorian society. This interplay gave the story warmth and depth and added to the emotional roller coaster that all the IMD novels offer. Overall this was a top notch adventure and we loved the interplay of myth, magic and science within this steampunk setting.
Now then, I’m afraid we don’t have any tea to offer you today because it is all being painted with – today is the first of Inktober and, just like last year, we are going to endeavor to do a little bit of tea painting each day in the hopes of producing one painting per week (or perhaps more but lets not got carried away!) we will post our first effort so far tomorrow so, until then
please remain always
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s marvelously mysterious and sublimely sleuth-tastic parlour located beneath the beating heart of te splendidly scenic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.
True some have said that its occupants couldn’t figure their way out of a paper bag and that the only mystery involved is their continued existence but we consider that such people are merely embittered that we are smarter than them.
You find us this morning with a happy pig swilling beer, and a new idea for making rent money – we are going to open a small private detective agency! Surely there is an abundance of crime here in Lancaster (much of which we are involved in ourselves and still more of which we are already acquainted with the perpetrators, so finding the villains should be a piece of cake!)
However we wanted to begin in an informed manner and so we have been reading A Study In Temperance by our good friend Mr Ichabod Temperance. It’s taken us rather longer than intended to review this book because when we read an exert of The Two Faces Of Temperance WE JUST HAD to read that one first, we couldn’t wait! So our review schedule got a little messed up as we didn’t feel we could review book 10 out of the blue without going back and doing books 4-9 first.. if that makes sense? So, without further ado, let us kick our tentacles up on the table, pour an excellent cup of Sherlock Holmes Tea from Victoria Mae Designs and take a look …
If you haven’t yet begun the riotous romp that is the adventures of Mr Temperance and Miss Persephone Plumtartt, you could easily start with this adventure but you would do much better (because otherwise you will have missed so much fun!)to begin at the beginning…
If on the other hand you have got to book three and been eagerly awaiting to get your hands (or indeed tentacles) on the next installment then you are going to be in heaven because this series just gets better and better!
This time Ichabod and Persephone are back in England and we also get to meet a rather famous fictional detective… this was so splendidly done, as always,the writer goes far beyond taking a literary character, plot or setting and lifting it into his own world – rather he utterly makes it his own with more parody and pastiche than even we could shake a stick at. Also, as the books are progressing, t Persephone and Ichabod are given less of the spotlight which is a very interesting approach and gives the comedy a lot more scope as well!
We really don’t want to give any spoilers on this marvelous tale, suffice to say, another laugh out loud, unpredictable and utterly delightful adventure from this chaotic couple.
And now we must busy ourselves with finding the right hats and pipes and business cards and all the other essential things needed for solving crime… we wish you all a delightfully delinquent morning and if you are personally involved in any felonious enterprises do please let us know so that we can cash-in won’t you?
And do remain always, utterly yourself.
If you are interested in reading our review policy please see the reviews section at the top menu.
Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Argonauts 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 Steampunk author, pillar of the Steampunk Community and all-round Accomplished Gentleman, Mat McCall! Thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, Mat! May I take your coat? Despite the deluge it is very warm here in Lancaster today…
Indeed. It’s wonderful to be here. Something smells delicious!
Ah yes I have been doing a spot of illicit baking this morning! Oh, could you leave your blunderbuss in the hat stand please, if you don’t mind?
Thank you, dear. I’m afraid weapons unnerve me somewhat. Now, why don’t you have a seat by the window there, how was your trip from your own dimension? I hope those wretched airship pirates didn’t give you any trouble?
Well, no. They are mostly me old mates.
Ah, that is good news indeed! And have you brought along some soup to share with us?
Cream of Dandelion Soup.
- 2 or 3 cups chopped dandelion leaves
- 1 cup dandelion flower petals, divided
- 1 cup dandelion buds
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onions
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup of cream
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon each: salt, dried parsley, dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon each; cumin, garlic powder
- Chopped spring onion or nasturtium flowers to garnish
- Bring a pot of water to boil, add the dandelion leaves and boil until tender, 3-5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking.
- In a heavy-bottom soup pot, sauté onion and garlic in butter or oil on medium heat, until tender.
- Add 2 cups water.
- Reserve some of the petals for garnishing, and put aside.
- Add dandelion leaves, flower petals, buds, and spices to the pot.
- Lower heat and simmer gently 45 minutes.
- Add cream and Parmesan cheese, and simmer a few minutes more.
- Serve immediately and garnish with flower petals and green onion.
- If you don’t have enough dandelions, or like a more peppery taste, you can use nasturtium leaves and flowers.
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 book The Dandelion Farmer? Have you brought a copy with you to show the orphans?
It looks marvelous, I must say! What inspired you to write such a unique tale?
I have always felt that a lot of Steampunk literature, if you can call it that, has always played to the audience with all the subtlety of a Brian Rix farce, nudge-nudge, wink-wink… and making virtually no contribution to Science Fiction as a genre. So I aimed to write a ‘Steampunked’ Science Fiction novel that was more Science Fiction than Steampunk whimsy.
Saying that, there are some amazing authors writing in the genre of Steampunk, authors that do not get the recognition they deserve, like Craig Hallam, Nimue and Tom Brown, Meg Kingston and Ceri-Leigh Harper, I think that is because Steampunk is not taken seriously as a legitimate branch of Science Fiction by publishers.
Steampunk often postures itself as the badly behaved and absinthe-sotted cousin of Sci Fi doesn’t it? Do you think that Steampunk has more to say on the world stage than “Oops Ma’arm where’s me cucumber sandwiches?” – If you’ll pardon the phrase; living in close proximity to a flirtatious Octopus and his Gentleman Friend tends to rub off on One I’m afraid!
Nothing wrong with that.
Thankyou! Of course we all like a good laugh and a giggle, I’m sure, but do you think that sometimes the flamboyantly flippant style of many Steampunk novels prevents some of those more serious issues, which are so prominent in science fiction works, from coming to light or being taken seriously?
I think you’re absolutely right. SF has always been the best literary medium for exploring issues; such as the nature of being human; from Frankenstein and I Robot to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? To the nature of sexuality and gender, The Left Hand of Darkness, to the subjugation of women in our societies, The Hand Maid’s Tale, even the nature of sanity, anything by Philip K Dick, and it predicts the future, sometimes with frightening accuracy, read anything by William Gibson or Bruce Sterling. I don’t see any attempt in most Steampunk SF to tackle similar subjects.
In Steampunk’s pseudo Victoriana there is little exploration of the moral or social issues of today, let alone what life was like for the vast majority of ordinary people in the late 18th, 19th and very early 20th century. Gender and racial inequality, Imperialism, war, deprivation and grinding poverty.
I think that Steampunk should be as willing to explore tough issues and ideas as much as the main body of SF does.
Do you think it is possible, appropriate or even necessary, for the more humorous side of Steampunk to be used to highlight more serious issues? – ‘Heavy words, lightly thrown’ as some would say? I am thinking in particular of Professor Elemental who was recently criticized by a minority of his audience for bringing politics into his stage show...
Oh god yes. I think Steampunk can and should play a powerful role in social commentary, both of the past and the present. And as my late Mum used to quote, Chaucer, I think; “Many a true word spoken in jest.”
My book was accused by some rabid Trumpite of being a left wing diatribe, he also complained because it had transgender and lesbian characters. He didn’t see any place in what he thinks is Steampunk for them, he even questioned having black characters in a neo-Victorian story. Well, I put his “review” up on Facebook and let the Steampunks decide, they supported me whole heartedly, as I support Prof. Elemental.
Steampunk in all its forms is, at its heart, ART, and art’s greatest power is to challenge our preconceptions.
I absolutely agree with you, Dear… Ah, now the kettle is boiling, what is your ‘poison’ , as they say, and how do you take it?
Tea, please. Milk, no sugar. It’s a mnemonic I use to get people to remember my name; Mat, one T, no sugar.
Oh dear me! You musn’t make me chuckle I shall spill the hot water all over the mechanical cat. There you are, now then, tell me, what made you choose Mars as the setting for The Dandelion Farmer? Do you think perhaps the human race may end up there one day?
Yes. Unless we extinguish ourselves first. The day a successful colony on Mars reaches true independence is the day our survival as a race takes one major step closer to certainty.
My Mars is probably more about the realities of colonialism. The historical parts of the background story, presented to the reader in the form of extracts from Beresford’s History of the Martian Colonies, is about the failure of imperial colonialism. This follows a clear historical pattern that we have seen, again and again, on Earth, except in this narrative it is accelerated.
Will such a thing happen if we colonise Mars? A struggle for independence from Earthly bound powers. Yes, probably.
Mars, real and fictional, is Science Fiction’s first great love. A hostile world where if you just dig a little below that red sandy surface you will discover a literary layer cake, a fictional geology, of several hundred years if not longer, laid down by writers and imagineers like Greg, Flammarion, du Maurier, MacColl, Wells, Verne, Wyndham, Robinson and Weir, to mention only a few.
I wanted to draw on elements of Verne and Wells, but also Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, Burroughs’ John Carter/Barsoom adventures, and little touches of Le Guin’s questioning of humanity, P.K. Dick high strangeness and Lovecraftian menace. There are elements of homage, but not cod plagiarism, and it gave me the opportunity to build, not only an alternative history but an entirely new world.
That big red dust ball has been the playground for SF fiction since the earliest stories. SF’s fascination with other worlds and space travel is at least as old as Lucian of Samosata’s True History, written in the second century.
So I wanted to play in that barren garden of delights, and leave my metaphorical boot prints in the red dust of Mars.
And Dandelions! Of course I use them for tea and coffee, but I’d never entertained the notion that they could be used as a botanical fuel crop! Such an elegant idea, was there a particular reason behind that too?
I was walking the dogs, one morning and at the end of the road where I turn into the park is a house, and that house’s front garden was awash with dandelions. I made a remark to my partner, Nikki, that it looked as if they were farming dandelions. And the idea stuck.
Dandelions are an amazing plant. Everything that Edwin does with them is being done today; liquid fuel, biomass, tea, even soup. Russian dandelions are the best. In a world without much in the way of fossil fuels, humans will have to grow their own fuel.
Did you know that the German bombers of WWII were flying on fuel made from dandelions? It’s not a new idea.
My goodness I had no idea! (Mind you, I am stuck here in the future 1840s and I’m afraid my soup-scrying does not always furnish me with a comprehensive picture of past-future events.. )
The Victorians were also very ingenious about using alternative fuel sources; they were using mummies to fuel the Cairo express at one point, they were cheaper than wood or coal and pretty plentiful.
Goodness! I had no idea!
The book contains an excellent mix of high action and intriguing plot development which adds to the tension, but, as a reader, I felt at all times in touch with the feelings and emotions of the characters because of the structure of using journal entries and letters to tell the story… Was this a very difficult balance to get right?
Very. I wanted the plot to move fast, and there is a lot of plot, several major interwoven themes, in fact, but I didn’t want to lose sight of the humanity of the characters involved. The tradition of using journals and diaries of course goes back beyond Victorian literature, but it has been a device Victorian writers used often.
I like to take the reader into the minds of the characters, to let them see the world through their eyes. To explore their passions, fears, motivations and ideals without bogging the reader down with long expositions by a third person narrator.
It’s also important, when exploring the frailties and uniqueness of the characters, to let them have their own voice. My characters are complex people. Edwin is wracked by self-doubt and worries, and that intensifies his stammer, Adam is on a journey to discover his origins, but everything he learns horrifies him, Aelita is discovering who and what she is, but to do so she has to throw off a lifetime of colonial Victorian culture, Charity is on a mission of vengeance but ends up finding love.
You are obviously a long standing fan of Science Fiction and Steampunk, are there any particular authors, books or events which have influenced your work?
I have always had an abiding passion for Science Fiction and Fantasy only equalled by my passion for Archaeology and History. I’m a big fan of Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Robert Aspin’s “Thieves World,” George Martin’s “Game of Thrones,” and Ursula La Guin’s “Earthsea.”
So I guess all those writers are conscious and unconscious influences on my writing. Specifically, La Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness, Shelly’s Frankenstein, Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, Borough’s Barsoom stories and, of course, Jules Verne and Lovecraft.
The story ends on a cliffhanger, please don’t say we have to twiddle our thumbs for long before the tale continues?
No, not too long, the second book, The Hourglass Sea, is already half completed.
And in the meantime, where can we stay in touch with you and your works in progress?
Anyone who wants to contact me is welcome to.
My web site is Doktormatas@weebly.com, where you can read the first couple of chapters for free.
On Facebook author’s page is Mathew McCall, author.
And I also have the FB page. Matas Corvus.
I am at Goodreads and the book is available, at the moment, from Amazon UK, and worldwide.
Marvelous, thankyou! But writing fiction is not the only string to your bow is it? When you are not penning works of Steampunk Splendidness what else can you be found doing?
I am very active in the British Steampunk community both online and in the real world. I’m an educationalist, specialising in Adult Education, I also work for the NHS presenting Diabetes Prevention courses. I’m a History and Archaeology lecturer, award-winning Steampunk artist and contraption maker, bulldog fancier, natural philosopher, gardener, Socialist, non-fundamentalist Christian and Fortean.
I believe very much in the idea of a worldwide Steampunk Community in which we are all part and so I started and run the FB pages; The Steampunk Community Bookshop and Steamcycle.
Steamcycle is the Steampunk’s Freecycle, which I and the inimitable Janine Marriott run so as to help foster that sense of community. Steamcycle has over 1500 Steampunks around the world swapping or giving away things for free to other Steampunks.
The Steampunk Community Bookshop was created to give Steampunk authors a platform to promote their own work to the Steampunk community and for Steampunks looking for a good book to browse through.
I also am a founding member of the Steampunks of Gloucestershire group and the Minimum Altitude Display Team, “MAD T’s,” that has featured at the Lincoln Asylum for the last 5 years.
Splendid! Well, thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Mat, it’s been wonderful chatting 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?
Shall I be mother?
Thankyou very much! – and thankyou to all of you for joining us today in the soup kitchen,
Blessings on your brew my dears!
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Max and Collin’s providentially propitious to porcine perfection parlour located beneath the seasonably sodden streets of the splendidly scenic city f Steampunk’d Lancaster.
True there was a little kerfuffle here yesterday with some animal rights activists getting hold of the wrong end of the proverbial stick and and trying to beat us to death with it, but never fear, such morally explosive coves will not be receiving another invitation.
You find us this morning much returned to the usual mill of things, the angry mob has dissipated, the furniture is recovering its dignity, Freddy is telling himself obscene jokes and we are feeling virtuous after feeding an entire town full of orphans their first taste of bacon. We have also stocked up on beer pending the arrival of our new pet and even made it a sort of ‘hutch’ …. hm? …. oh sorry Max says it’s called a sty… in the corner out of lemonade crates and the dismembered chaise. So, we are pig-ready and so forth.
Also, we have some news. News which I didn’t personally believe when Max first informed me of it. But, there it is, a box has arrived and now there is no doubting the fact – Max has written a book. And yes it is painted in tea. Of curse it is. How could it not be.
You may recall some time back that Penny put all her stories together into a book? Well if you remember that then you may also remember that Max got a bit shirty and said that he – or indeed we – ought also to be in a book. Some banter was exchanged and Max, being the precious kid he is, stormed out in a sulk and went to have a hairy coffee in The Squid and Teapot where he moaned and sulked and whined and recited a lot of embarrassing poetry until he passed out in a pool of his own sonnet. In short, he made such a damned nuisance of himself that in the end our dear friends Nimue and Tom Brown said that they would help him into a book if ONLY he would sod off back to Lancaster and leave them in peace with their demons.
So Max returned, joyfully coughing consumption over everyone but, nevertheless, with a box full of books. Somehow he persuaded Penny to do the words and pictures – I think a lot of Lapsang must have change hands there – and so here they are, available to buy on our etsy store, should you be inclined to do so…
Max may use the ironic handle of Very Quiet Gentleman but everyone who has ever Met Max knows that Very Quite and Gentleman are not accurate descriptions of our beloved tea fiend. Rumors abound about demonic rituals and medical malpractice and there is even a young lady in Bedlam who swears Max has tentacles…
So what the hell are you Max? – Man? Woman? Monster?
Join Max and Collin in this lovingly tea-painted Small Strange Book as they ask what it means to be any or all or none of these things and above all, do remain always, Utterly Yourself. “