Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “coffee

Elevenses: #inktober tea painting

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! I hope you are all feeling extremely eleven o’clockish because the time is, of course, eleven o’clock and we are up to our elbows in tea! (Tea is an ink? Yes?) Yes that’s right, here is our weekly offering for inktober…

Miss. Scarlet Skarry Chibi painted using tea and coffee (apologies the photo is a little shaky).

 

01b06c92f274dec0e4b71f98ee5275a7729a5b5811

She was built up with layers of rooibos and then rooibos blended with blackcurrant (darker brown tones) and rooibos blended with turmeric and ginger (lighter brown/gold tones) The pinky red , blue and green tones are blueberry and apple and the very darkest tones are strong brewed coffee. A huge amount of learning took place during this one!

If you don’t know who Scarlet Skarry is, well, here is an excerpt from the ‘possibly some day to be published’ novel in which she features… (with some much better accompanying artwork from Robin Eisenberg!)

 

Mercurio laughed and knelt down beside the thief. Gently, he lifted the white fingers from the floor and coaxed the spider-like thing out from under them. Gingerly, he turned it over and examined it, ever careful to keep his fingers clear of the needle-sharp fangs.

“Amazing,” he mused. “This is an incredible piece of machinery! It appears our young thief here, is a master of devices.” Curious, he lifted the enormous cowl, which hid the boy’s face from view, and pulled it back. At once, a cascade of crow- black hair spilled out over the floor, framing the delicate, pale features of a young woman. The area around her right eye was covered by an intricately engraved metal plate, studded in glorious designs with tiny jewels of every description. The plate fit perfectly around her eye socket, following the smooth curve of her high cheekbone, but the socket itself was empty.

“Mistress of devices,” he corrected, his voice the thoughtful glide of the barn owl above its moonlit hunting ground.

5-scarletfinal.jpg

“Scarlet!” Skarry exclaimed.

The woman stirred and, as if this were some telepathic signal, the mechanical spider suddenly sprang to life once more, wrenched itself from the wizard’s hand and scuttled back to its owner. Mercurio gazed in rapt fascination as the creature clambered carefully onto the woman’s face and nestled down into the eye socket, its legs forming delicate rows of golden lashes above and below. The woman groaned softly and uttered something unprintable which caused Mercurio to grin and Skarry to roll his eyes.

“Scarlet!” Skarry hissed again. “What are you doing here?”

“John?” The abdomen of the eye-spider suddenly flew open to reveal a stunning mechanical replica of a human eye, complete in perfect mimicry of the original. The only perceptible difference was in the colour of the iris, which was a deep claret red, and the pupil – composed of a spiral of overlapping golden plates that, even now, were dilating in a curious, almost hypnotic motion as the woman leapt to her feet, glaring defiantly from one wizard to the other.

“John!” She spat furiously. “What’re you doing ‘ere? You’ll ruin everythin’! Why aren’t you in Lichfield?”

“Why aren’t you in London?”

Mercurio raised his eyebrows expectantly, “Introduction?”

Skarry gritted his teeth. “Scarlet, this is Mercurio Smith, a fellow student of magic, from Lichfield.” He turned to his friend. “This is Scarlet Skarry, my sister.”

“London?” Mercurio mused thoughtfully. “The pirate city…oh, I see!” He peered curiously into Scarlet’s face, trying to get a better look at her mechanical eye. “So it’s true then. The Pirate King, Billy Blythe, really has created a host of ‘tons to crew his Land Ships.”

“Scarlet is NOT an automaton,” Skarry growled. “Every pirate who wishes to join Blythe’s fleet is required to… sacrifice… a part of themselves. In return, the Pirate King has his Tinkers make them a new body part to replace it.”

“I see, a part which not only replaces the lost member but enhances its function through the wonders of Tinker Technology,” Mercurio mused. He chuckled, “And you gave your right eye, Miss Skarry? How very clichéd!”

“You needn’t tarlk t’me about clichés, yer mincing fool!” Scarlet spat. “What in the name o’ Wiz are yer clowning around at? Y’gonna get us all killed!”

“Dear, dear me!” Mercurio shook his head, his eyes dancing with amusement. “Which of you two was the cuckoo’s child, I wonder?”

“We don’t ‘ave time for this, John!” Scarlet hissed, her voice an urgent growl between gritted teeth. “We…”

The door suddenly opened and the Last Witch of Pendle swayed unsteadily into the room, clutching a half-empty decanter of brandy in one hand and steadying her toupee with the other.

lastwitch.jpg

“Oh! Oh dear, you’re all awake. Well…”

Whatever The Witch had been about to say was smothered by a sudden sound. The ominous sigh, scrape and grind of metal bulk against metal sinew, followed by the heart-stopping thud of impacting weight upon a militia of snail’s shells, which splintered and shrieked beneath it.

The old timber-framed town house shuddered to its bones in fright and released a pent-up century’s worth of stagnant dust into the air like a scream.

“What was that?” The Witch whispered, clutching the bottle like a comforter.

Scarlet rolled her eyes, “It’s the Agro,” she groaned, her fists balled in frustration. “It’s Jack. Oh the numb-skull I knew he’d never wait.” She rounded on her brother, malevolence pulsing through her aura. “Now look what y’ve done!” she shrieked. “If you witless wizards hadn’t minced in here with yer clown costumes and yer wretched Cat O’ Nine Lives, I’d have got the Wyrd Web an’ been back on the Agro in a wink. Now, look! My Jackie said he’d wait thirty minutes and if I didn’t return he’d come n get me. Blasted fool, he’s waited less than ten!”

The Witch’s eyes were wild with terror. “Th- the Chronic Agro? Pirates? Coming here? Oh no! No, no, no! A Land Ship cannot fit down this street, it will tear us to pieces!”

Now from the opposite end of the street, even as the Agro continued to make its laboured progress felt against the cobbles and the mortar, another sound struck up. This time, the whirr and fizz of high-speed motors and wind straining through a bellow of brass pipes. There was a sudden lash of air, followed by a crack and the rumble of mortar slumping into the street below. Scarlet threw up her hands in resignation. “And that’ll be The Plunder Bus!” she sighed. “They’ve been threatening trouble all night. Take down yer shield here, Lady, we’ve a fight comin’ fast upon us and we best be aboard the Agro before it kicks off.”

“But what about the crew?” The Witch exclaimed. “Won’t they… well, you know, capture us or slaughter us or something?”

“Aye, they might. But, as you’ve rightly guessed, my Jackie won’t rest ‘till he tears this place apart lookin’ for me and unless you want t’be torn apart with it, we’d best get aboard the landship quick sharp.”

“But couldn’t we just run? Run away somewhere and hide?”

“Oh sure! Y’d be caught in the cross-fire between the Agro and the Plunder Bus, and the Brothers Crim don’t take no prisoners, Lady.”

“But aren’t you all on the same side?” The Witch protested.

Scarlet snorted in disgust.

“I believe what Miss Skarry is trying to convey, is that there is ‘no honour amongst thieves,’ “ Mercurio said smoothly.

“Do you mind sparing us all these clichéd little proverbs?” Skarry growled. “They mean absolutely nothing and do even less to help the situation.”

Mercurio narrowed his eyes venomously, and muttered something under his breath.

An almighty blast shook the house once again and the exposed lintels above them began to warp and splinter in protestation.

“Guard down, Lady!” Scarlet bellowed.

“Oh!” The Witch screamed, as the floor began to tilt beneath their feet. Skarry’s boots tried for purchase on the smooth wooden floorboards and failed and he skidded into Mercurio, who clutched at him in a frantic manner which neither of them ever felt it appropriate to recall in the years that followed.

There was another crack, a flash of blue light as The Witch released the containment spell, a gleam of silver as Scarlet pulled something from her belt.

“Scarlet, no!”

And then everything went black.

 


Morning Cuppa: For The Love Of God Marie!

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s religiously ravishing and piously precocious parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!

True, some have called it a festering Hull-hole filled with demonic fiends,  tentacled terrors and irreverent imbeciles, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us this morning deep in philosophical discussion. Our delightful landlord, ever the entrepreneur, has given us an ultimatum – either we make enough money to meet our next rent by selling his filthy lemonade (a feat which is becoming ever more difficult as The Good Folk have increased their street patrols now that the warmer weather has set in) OR we join the chorus line at his (even filthier) burlesque club across the Docks Road and earn the money in tips. The question is, would anyone really want to see a Very Quiet Gentleman and his Octopus pole dancing in their suspenders? Would it be coins and wolf whistles, or glass bottles and death threats that were flung at us from the stalls?

These are all serious matters to consider. Max has done a lot of artistic modelling in Litchfield, mostly for Michael Biscotti, but he assures me it is hardly the same thing at all. He also assures me that going back to Litchfield is not an option, well, we have until Friday to make our Hobson’s choice.

Ah well, let us take our minds off these tribulations with a nice cup of tea  and this morning we’re filling our pot with cranberry rose from melysteashop and to accompany it we must of course have something splendid to read, like this…

marie

 

For The Love Of God Marie! by Jade Sarson (also creator of the fabulous comic Cafe Suada, of which we are huge fans) is a heart-warming, heart-breaking, masterpiece with bold, gutsy,lovable characters who held us spellbound throughout – we laughed, we cried, we forgot we were reading a graphic novel as we became so emotionally invested in Marie, Will and Annie’s lives.

This is a book we have now read many times! The story follows catholic schoolgirl Marie on her journey from daughter to mother and as we voyage those stormy seas along with her we see the changing attitudes of society towards issues of sexuality both on macro and micro level. 1960s school girl Marie just wants to love people – what’s so wrong in that? Well, plenty according to her parents and teachers who both manage to present a highly prescriptive yet utterly confusing ideal of what love is.

By the 1990s Marie is now both teacher and mother but instead of being able to make up for the mistakes of her elders, Marie finds herself just as alienated from the wants and needs of her own teenage daughter.

There are lots of laughs, some really joyful love scenes and a fair few teary heart-breaking moments along the way but the book ends on a beautiful, sassy, optimistic note (which we won’t divulge for fear of ‘spoilers’) and left us with a lovely warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

And speaking of things which feel fuzzy, it is time to lift our oracular pet into his cup and see what its far seeing tentacles have plucked from the aether for us this morning…

 

Oh my goodness that is marvellous! I know Penny has an old singer I wonder if she would make us a tea machine? Perhaps if we ask very sweetly…

We wish you a very splendid afternoon filled with only the finest fancies and we will see you back in the parlour tomorrow for elevenses so until then please be always

Utterly Yourself

 

 


Soup of the day: With Charity Tahmaseb

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.

Helping me this morning is one of my favourite authors, Charity Tahmaseb, writer of ‘Coffee and Ghosts’ which Max and Collin recommended to us all on Monday. Good morning Charity, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?

“I do have some soup, although my husband is the soup expert in our house. That being said, my daughter’s favorite is the matzo ball soup I make (and to be honest, I use a kit–still, she loves it). “

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 series, Coffee and Ghosts?

“Coffee and Ghosts revolves around the adventures of Katy Lindstrom and her business partner Malcolm Armand in which they use coffee (and sometimes tea) to catch ghosts.

The first season begins with Katy and her grandmother using coffee to catch ghosts and storing them in Tupperware containers, an idea which I (and probably most of your readers) found instantly adorable, where did the inspiration for such a brilliant idea come from?

A long while back, I wrote a mystery from the point of view of a ghost. While the novel never went anywhere, during my research, I came across an anecdote about people catching ghosts in jars.

That idea percolated for years until I saw the call for submissions for Coffee: 14 Caffeinated Tales of the Fantastic, and I used that to write a short story about catching ghosts with coffee. Glass jars seemed too dangerous for that task, so I substituted Tupperware containers.

That story, Ghost in the Coffee Machine, became the pilot episode for Coffee and Ghosts. Early this year, The Drabblecast produced the story in audio. It’s so much fun. It even has sounds effects! It’s not very long and you can listen to it here:”

http://www.drabblecast.org/2016/01/01/drabblecast-375-ghost-coffee-machine/

And have you ever seen a ghost?

“I have not. Can you believe it? I even did a “haunted London” tour when I went to England several years back. No cold spots, no slamming doors. Nothing. I was so disappointed.”

Well, never mind my dear, you must be sure to pop along and visit our own resident ghost, Perilous Wight, in his Lovely Library some time! Now then, several readers have commented on the beautiful coffee pot illustrated on the front of your books, do you have a special coffee pot or other piece of chinaware that inspires your writing?

“The samovar that Malcolm uses is based on the one my in-laws have, as is the tea he brews. I love incorporating a little piece of their heritage into the story.”

Oh that is wonderful to know! I must say I did love the samovar description and the gorgeous smell of the tea he brews, how wonderful! Malcolm is a splendid character and Katy is a very lovable character who I think most readers can identify with but, if you had to chose, who is your personal favourite in the first series?

“Although he doesn’t get a lot of page time in season one, I do like Police Chief Ramsey. He changes a lot over the next two seasons, and has his reasons for being so grumpy. But there will always be a generation gap and some antagonism between him and Katy.”

Hm, reasons to read on then and discover more! Each series is made up of fairly self-contained ‘novelettes’ which makes them very convenient reading for a busy witch like me, rather like a biscuit tin which can be dipped into during sneaky tea (or indeed coffee) breaks! Did you set out to write like this or was it more of a ‘happy accident’?

“It’s a little bit of both. When I started, I thought I would write a handful of self-contained stories. But as I was writing, a larger story arc appeared, one that encompassed the entire season. Then, it evolved into a multi-season arc.

I make a point to wrap up each story (even if not all threads are resolved) and try to make each one a satisfying read. It’s a fun way to write. It’s more flexible than a standalone novel, and I can take time in various episodes to explore subplots and secondary characters.” 

And do you have any plans to write another season?

“Seasons one and two are already out, and I’m getting season three ready to go, with the first episode available on or about Halloween. I recently released both seasons on all vendors, so you can find the series on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.”

Coffee and Ghosts has totally captured my heart as a reader and I really hope you will continue to write about Katy’s adventures but what other projects are you working on right now? Do you have any new releases we can look forward to

“Certainly! Season three of Coffee and Ghosts is almost ready to go. This season wraps up all major story threads and was a blast to write.

For 2017, I’m hoping to launch two new series, a fairy tale one and another paranormal one.”

Wonderful news! Well I will be sure to keep an eye out for those next year and perhaps when they are out you’ll come back and tell us a little more about them. But now the all important question, on which the fate of the universe may very well hinge,…you are obviously passionate about hot beverages but which do you really prefer, coffee or tea?

“I must–must–have my coffee in the morning, and I take it with half and half, no sugar (in fact, I dislike sweet coffee so much, I don’t even like coffee ice cream).

In the afternoon? Well, that’s a different story. Then I’m all about tea. I love all sorts of teas, but generally drink green tea and the hot cinnamon spice tea from Caribou Coffee. (My go-to drink when I’m writing at the coffee shop.)”

Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Charity, 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?

“Thank you for having me! I’ve enjoyed our chat. Let’s eat!”

I will be back in the kitchen next Wednesday with another helpful guest, Karen J Carlisle who will be telling us all about her steampunk series, The Adventures of Viola Stewart, but Max and Collin will be back in the parlour tomorrow with some tremendous Tea @ Three.

Blessings on your brew my dears and if you’d like to read Charity’s lovely series for yourselves you can find her books by following the links below…

https://www.amazon.com/Coffee-Ghosts-Complete-Season-Seasons-ebook/dp/B015VOROGM

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/coffee-and-ghosts-charity-tahmaseb/1122728290

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/coffee-and-ghosts-the-complete-first-season

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/coffee-ghosts-complete-first/id1151183045

 


Morning Cuppa: Haunting Beauty

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s perfectly paranormal and extensively exorcised parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some have called it a haunted hovel located within a  hideous high-rise that is harangued by demonic presences and liable to be sucked into the jaws of the abyss at any moment, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us on this, bright but blustery, Monday morning debating a piece of local legend with our beautiful friend and Milliner, Miss Belle Otis. We were just showing off our new Tea Cake Or Death teapot, and my matching tattoo, when Miss Otis told us that she herself was saving up for a similarly splendid pot…

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This beautiful, hand painted raven six-cuppa from Tattoo Tea Lady! Isn’t that just gorgeous? And of course talking about teapots got us talking about haunted teapots…

I well recall visiting a bookshop in Kent where the teapots were haunted and Miss Otis remarked that when her aunt had stayed at The Three Mariners in town (an Inn well known for its ghostly goings on) the teapot brought to her room one evening had undoubtedly been laced with spirits.

Apparently, as the old lady reached across to take the handle of the pot, it rattled ferociously at her until she pulled her hand away. This happened repeatedly until at last she rang the bell and ordered a second cup be brought for her invisible guest. This seemed to resolve the issue and once two cups of steaming chai were poured, Miss Otis’ aunt and the spectral presence enjoyed a peaceful evening’s sup.

Well the Three Mariners is the place where criminals from The Castle are allowed to pause on their way to the gallows in order to taste one last cup of Devonly Tea before the ‘short drop and sudden stop’…something we tea fiends don’t like to think about too often…perhaps one such felon enjoyed his tea so much he has returned post-mortem for a second helping?

Which reminds me, we haven’t yet had our first helping! This morning we are calming our nerves, after all this talk of ghosts and gallows, with the mellow, earthy flavours of Birt and Tang’s Pure Pu ‘er tea (mainly because it is going to be terribly humorous to try saying ‘pure ‘pu er’ as fast as we can after eight cups)

And in keeping with our conversation about possessed beverages, our book this morning is:

coffee-and-ghosts

This really is a delightful book! It begins with Katy and her grandmother and their unusual methods for catching ghosts…using coffee! But when Katy’s grandmother dies and a new ghost-catcher moves into town things begin to get tricky. Malcolm, you see, uses tea to catch ghosts and his stylish shirts and shiny teapot are stealing all Katy’s customers. But Malcolm has a bit of  problem…and he needs Katy to help him deal with it…

Coffee and Ghosts really is as fun and charming a read as it sounds, packed with witty lines, belly laughs and crazy adventures, and we highly recommend it. What is more, Charity has kindly agreed to help our darling witch, Mrs Baker, in her soup kitchen on Wednesday, so  there is a splendid thing to look forward to!

And now, just while the pot is still brewing, let’s see what our oracular cephalopterois has to show us this morning…

Well, as usual that makes little sense to us here in The New World but hopefully it has inspired some of you out there in your own dimensions…

As for us, there is little left to say except ‘chin chin pass the tin open the book and let’s begin…’ We wish you all a hauntingly beautiful morning full of pu’er perfection and we invite you back to join us in the parlour tomorrow for elevenses so until then

Be always, utterly yourself