Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “comics

Soup Of The Day With Madeleine Holly-Rosing

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 author Madeleine Holly-Rosing! Thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, Madeleine! May I take your hat and coat? It is seasonably chilly outside I know but warm enough here in the bakery.

Thank you so much for inviting me on this lovely day. And the smell in here is delicious.

Now, why don’t you have a seat by the fire here, how was your trip from your own dimension?

Traffic was horrendous as usual. Too many vehicles, steam-powered and otherwise, clogging the roads, but it was worth it just to be here with you today.

Splendid! And have you brought along some soup to share with us?

I actually don’t care for making soup, but I do love to bake! Which is why I brought along my version of Congo Bars. Though in some places they are referred to as Blondies. They are a type of chocolate chip cookie bar if you’re not familiar with them.

I’d be happy to share the Congo Bar recipe.  What I do differently is add semi-sweet chips, bittersweet chips, and butterscotch chips. Use either Ghirardelli’s or Guittard for the chocolate chips and Nestle’s for the butterscotch. Quality matters.

Congo Bars/Blondies

11 TBSP unsalted melted butter, cool
2 cups brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup semi, 3/4 cup bitter, 3/4 cup butterscotch chips (This is an imprecise amount, but close enough)

Oven temp 325 degrees.

Butter or spray 13 x 9 baking pan.

Mix butter, sugar and eggs making sure to break up any lumps. Sift flour, baking powder and salt and add to sugar mixture until blended. Add chips, mix until blended.

Spread evenly into pan. Bake 30-35 minutes if in metal pan. Longer if glass. Check at 30 minutes with toothpick to see if it comes out clean. Top should be light golden brown and edges a medium golden brown. Not too dark or it will be to hard and dry.

Cool for at least 45 minutes before cutting.

My goodness! What a treat – the orphans are going to be so excited! (Although I will just ask them to keep an extra vigilant look out in case The Good folk come and catch us with all this sugar and chocolate!)  Now while that is baking nicely, why don’t you tell us all a little more about your web comic  Boston Metaphysical Society?

The story of the original six issue mini-series is about an ex-Pinkerton detective, a spirit photographer, and a genius scientist who battle supernatural forces in late 1800s Boston. Our latest story, The Scourge of the Mechanical Men is a standalone continuation of the series featuring Granville Woods and Nikola Tesla.

It sounds marvelous! Have you brought some copies with you to show the orphans?

I most certainly have. J

Boston007 coverfinal2 [Recovered]Boston Scourge cover v2smallHolly_Rosing_Boston_Metaphsical_01prelude-for-print

They look marvelous! Now I do have some experience of the paranormal myself – afterall one of my closest friends is a ghost, but I’m guessing that the paranormal events your characters investigate are far more disturbing than a bad tempered Wight grumbling about his literary disturbances?

Just a bit. They deal with wraiths, demons, ghosts, and the occasional man-made beastie. While we were in production for the original series, I wrote a series of short stories and novellas which I put into an anthology called, Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude. Those stories range from straight steampunk (Steampunk Rat and The Clockwork Man) to gothic/paranormal (The Secret of Kage House) to supernatural (The Demons of Liberty Row). Steampunk Rat has been the fan favorite so far.

It all sounds terribly exciting! Rather makes me long for my own days of high adventure… although perhaps not just now, my rheumatism is playing up a little this morning. What with the damp… so tell me dear, what inspired these fantastical tales? Are they semi-autobiographical?

 I’m afraid not. They are tales from my imagination though I do integrate historical figures into the story like Bell, Edison, Tesla, and Houdini. And even Granville Woods was a contemporary of Tesla’s and an inventor himself.

  As an independent comics creator I suppose you have had to develop a vast array of skills and expertise beyond the obvious, is there any advice you would give to aspiring creators who are just starting out on that journey?

Arg, yes. Hone your marketing and sales skills, as well as embrace time management. Social media is important, but so is making time to create. Also, try to find a mentor. I was lucky enough to have had three mentors who educated me on the comics business and helped me be a better comic writer. Mentors are invaluable.

Marvelous advice … Ah now the kettle is boiling, what is your ‘poison’ dear and how do you take it?

Tea. Black, please.

There you are. Now then, do you have any works in progress or new releases that we can get excited about?

My goodness, yes.   I just sent off the script to my artist, Gwynn Tavares, for the new Boston Metaphysical Society story called The Spirit of Rebellion. It is also a standalone continuation of the original series and will be on Kickstarter in early 2019.

My first novel, Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets, was just released. The novel takes place five years before the start of the original graphic novel mini-series. You can purchase it here:  https://goo.gl/wWV8Nz

I also have two Boston Metaphysical short stories that will be published in 2019 by two different publishers, and I’m currently writing a four issue comic mini-series for Evoluzione Publishing called Kasai: The Homecoming. Issue #1 was just released and Issue #2 will be on Kickstarter in November 2018.

And in the meantime where can we purchase your wonderful comics and support your future endeavours?

Boston Metaphysical Society: The Complete Series and The Scourge of the Mechanical Men can be purchased at: https://www.storenvy.com/products/23967879-boston-metaphysical-society-trade-paperback-and-the-scourge-of-the-mechanica

Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude – https://www.amazon.com/Boston-Metaphysical-Society-Prelude-Collection/dp/0988312182/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_5?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=67YXBQ9G28JXPNPP1C32

Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets – https://goo.gl/wWV8Nz

Website: http://www.bostonmetaphysicalsociety.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BostonMetaphysicalSocietyComic/

Twitter: Http://www.twitter.com/mchollyrosing

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/mcholly1

Fabulous! Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Madeleine, 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 so much for inviting me. I’ve had so much fun! Let’s do it again soon.

Definately! Thankyou everyone for joining us in the soup kitchen today, do join me next week when I shall be cooking up something devilishly delightful for the spooky season!

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 


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!) …

 

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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!

 


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 Nimue and Tom Brown

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Pipe and slippers: The gospel of Agnes Day

Good evening my dears and welcome to Perilous Wight’s Lovely Library (which we are keeping safe for him until he returns from his ‘business trip.’) I am Mrs Baker (otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle) and Peril has kindly allowed me and my little street urchins to shelter down here from the flesh eating Liver Birds until he returns.

Tonight I will be reading to the orphans, once again, from The Child Gospels, (this time from the gospel of Agnes Day) which we discovered on our expedition to Siberia. The chronicles were chiselled onto ice tablets and had been preserved inside a lead lined soupophagus for centuries before we smashed it apart and salvaged them for all humanity to enjoy.

Sadly, our return journey took us through the heat of the Jentacular Jungle and so, as the ice tablets began to melt (and even though it was three o’ clock in the morning and nobody had any tea)  our quick thinking octopus, Collin, speedily copied their contents down onto banana leaves with his own ink, using only his tentacles for a pen.

This desperate act of heroism, he claims, should excuse the rampant spelling mistakes, technical inaccuracies and absence of all  artistic merit which glare out from the manuscript like the foul raisins  in that cookie you thought was chocolate chip.

Peril has of course preserved the banana leaves as only a pedantic book-fetishy ghost can, but Collin asks  that we all bear in mind the manner of their construction and the great suffering he endured and risks to his life and mental well being and so forth and send him extra packs of medicinal biscuits whenever he indulges in…I mean suffers from, a bout of psd over the whole affair. Poor Collin…

So, are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I shall begin…

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Hopeless Maine Blog Tour

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s perfectly piscean parlour. Today you find us in the role of ‘Baby Sitter’ (which is a hat not usually associated with an octopus, or his Very Quiet Gentleman Friend, but we are determined to prove ourselves the epitome of competence when it comes to caring for things other than ourselves)

The thing in question is a Mermaid and it belongs to our very dear friends, Tom and Nimue Brown – the  masterminds behind the gorgeously gothic graphic novel series ‘Hopeless, Maine’

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Hopeless is a strange, gothic island off the coast of Maine, cut off from the rest of reality for the greater part. The sea washes all kinds of things onto the coast of Hopeless. It’s an island that catches the debris of some unusual tides. Many of the residents are descended from people who washed ashore. Those who aren’t tend to be horribly inbred.

Now despite the fact that we have heard the terrifying tales about the evil creatures that inhabit the island of Hopeless, I won’t lie to you; both Max and I were tentacle-tremblingly excited when Tom and Nimue asked us if we would like to open our parlour to a Hopeless Mermaid for the afternoon. Max gets a little swoony over anything vaguely female (you may have noticed) and I haven’t tasted fish in…well, too long for an octopus, far too long indeed…

We were a very little suspicious when they hurried away leaving us to remove the tarpaulin from the tank ourselves, promising to be back to collect her ‘soon-ish’ but our hopes weren’t finally dashed until we peered into the murky water and saw this beauty looking back at us…

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And read the hastily scrawled note which was attached to the side of the tank:

“There are no family lines claiming any merfolk ancestry on Hopeless and this is for the simple reason that despite a repressive culture and limited opportunities to get laid, no one on Hopeless has ever been desperate enough to try and shag one of these creatures. It’s less a prejudice against appearances, (Hopeless Maine folk can hardly take issue with the beauty standards of others) more to do with not wanting to have your face bitten off. Cooking instructions: assuming you can get round the issues of having your face bitten off, the bottom half of a merperson is legally speaking, a fish. The top half however, is legally a person, raising issues of cannibalism. Devotees of bottom of the garden stew will of course know that it only counts as cannibalism if you don’t cut it up small enough to begin with.”

Hmm, it seems our friends know us far too well – damn.

But we can bear the disappointment of being cheated out of our fish supper because of the marvellous news that our beloved Hopeless Maine series is now published by Sloth Comics and available to buy from The book depository or to order from local book and comic stores.

If you are not familiar with Hopeless, Maine it follows the adventures of young Salamandra who is struggling to survive in a world of full of very personal demons.

 

“Sal is an ordinary orphan girl, just one of many other orphans on the island (come to think of it, where did all the grown ups go?). She faces the normal, everyday struggles of being a teenager- avoiding fell creatures of the night, trying not to get eaten by the aquatic fauna and finding something to do on a Saturday night. Like all young people, Sal can’t wait to get out of her dead end home. Unlike most teens, if she doesn’t get out she probably will wind up dead.”

 

We absolutely adore this series from the gorgeous gothic artwork to the beautiful melancholic prose. Salamandra is a character to die for, you cannot help falling in love with her combination of ‘cutesy big-eyed goth-girl all alone in the word’ and ‘independent strong willed power wielding demon slayer’ she is totally real and completely heart-capturing.

The story is rich and multilayered. Without giving away any spoilers, Hopeless is a place full of magic and mysteries and each new chapter hints at a history and mythology that we, and Sal, have yet to fully comprehend. This intrigue hangs about the pages like an island fog, wrapping us up in its tendrils and keeping as snared within its sinister thrall; where are all the grown ups? Who exactly are Sal’s parents? Why is the island so plagued by evil and where does Sal’s own power come from?

These are questions you will have to seek answers to yourself within the pages of Hopeless Maine…

As for us, we have our hands full of this…er…lovely creature… maybe we could feed it a cat or two to keep it happy…or perhaps persuade our unsuspecting landlord to take a dip in the tank… at any rate we hope that Tom and Nimue will be back soon to collect her, I really don’t like the way she is eyeing up the teapot.

Wish us luck and please, if we do get eaten before the Browns return, do remain always

Utterly Yourself.

 

 


Pipe And Slippers:The Gospel Of Betty Martin

Good evening my dears and welcome to Perilous Wight’s Lovely Library (which we are keeping safe for him until he returns from his ‘business trip.’) I am Mrs Baker (otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle) and Peril has kindly allowed me and my little street urchins to shelter down here from the flesh eating Liver Birds and Wizmas Witch Hunters until he returns.

Tonight I will be reading to the orphans from The Child Gospels, which we discovered on our expedition to Siberia. The chronicles were chiselled onto ice tablets and had been preserved inside a lead lined soupophagus for centuries before we smashed it apart and salvaged them for all humanity to enjoy.

Sadly, our return journey took us through the heat of the Jentacular Jungle and so, as the ice tablets began to melt (and even though it was three o’ clock in the morning and nobody had any tea)  our quick thinking octopus, Collin, speedily copied their contents down onto banana leaves with his own ink, using only his tentacles for a pen.

This desperate act of heroism, he claims, should excuse the rampant spelling mistakes, technical inaccuracies and absence of all  artistic merit which glare out from the manuscript like the foul raisins  in that cookie you thought was chocolate chip.

Peril has of course preserved the banana leaves as only a pedantic book-fetishy ghost can, but Collin asks  that we all bear in mind the manner of their construction and the great suffering he endured and risks to his life and mental well being and so forth and send him extra packs of medicinal biscuits whenever he indulges in…I mean suffers from, a bout of psd over the whole affair. Poor Collin.

So, are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I shall begin…

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Morning Cuppa: In need of a doctor…

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s predominately pristine and excessively existential parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some have called it a nightmarish landscape of unsavoury fancies and tasteless chinaware, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us on this, dark and sinister, Monday morning playing the knife game – which is a lot easier for Max than it is for me (five fingers, of course, being far easier to negotiate than eight tentacles). Of course we are using our beautiful new skull spoon from Wild and Violet instead of an actual dagger – daggers being horribly dangerous and un-gentlemanly things to go throwing about the tea table, all the same, a slip with a spoon can also cause the need for a doctor, and luckily we have one in the house today! (Albeit a rather deadly, knife-wielding one)

If you are not sure what the knife game is you can watch Bellabeth sing a lovely version of it here, also with spoons…

Bella will be joining our darling Kitchen Witch on the 26th October so  there is a splendid thing to look forward to!

And speaking of things to look forward to, I cannot wait to get my tentacles into our book this morning…

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Karen J Carlisle has created a captivating steampunk series with her heroine, Viola Stewart – a widowed optician with a talent for detecting.

This book has the same comforting familiarity of picking up a Conan Doyle or an Agatha Christie but enough uniqueness in terms of plot and character to keep us on the edge of our leather armchairs throughout – you know by the end of the second page that you are both ‘in safe hands’ and ‘in for a thrilling ride’ – Most of us have heard the tales of Jack The Ripper but this new version goes beyond the common knowledge to reveal a chilling world of Grey-clad conspirators in which Viola must keep her wits about her if she is going to uncover the truth and survive.

Karen will be helping in The Soup Kitchen on Wednesday so make sure you drop by for a taste of her lovely home cooking and to hear more about Viola and her adventures…

But for now, just while our marvellous teapot is brewing us a nerve-settling sup of Monkey Picked Oolong by the Kent Tea And Coffee Company, (gosh, what are they playing at getting monkeys to pick tea? Reminds me of all that hard labour harvesting seaweed in The Sunken City)  let us carefully place our oracular cephalopterois into his cup of hot water and see what futuristic fantasies it has to show us this morning…

Well, that is a little worrying to say the least…let’s hope that we never have such problems here in The New World, can’t have the tea plantations put into jeopardy! And think of the wheat! No wheat – no cake… now that is a spine-chilling thought!

But enough morbidity for now, the tea is brewed and it is time for us to say  ‘chin chin pass the tin open the book and let’s begin…’ We wish you all a perfectly perilous morning dusted with dastardly delights, and we invite you back to join us in the parlour tomorrow for elevenses so until then

Be always, utterly yourself


Pipe and Slippers: Herne’s Lady

Good evening and welcome to my alluring athenaeum of litigious librettos…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

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I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have blundered in here on the ill-advice of a cross-dressing witch and her soup-slurping orphans, let me assure you that you will find no noodle-ish nonsense or brothly behaviour here!  

Here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? La fée verte? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something; the day has, after all, been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps…

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This story is taken from the folk tale anthology Gather Around The Flame, the profits from which are donated to the homeless charity, Shelter. It is based on a ghost story from Windsor Forest, Berkshire.

HERNE’S LADY 

Once upon a wood, this wood in fact, this very wood we breathe into ourselves this eve. Its heavy vapours wind their fingers through our cords, into our minds, green and bronze, dripping with deer scent and dew, the divine musk of fern and mould-rich earth.

Ease into the night, friends, its cool breath a cloak to cradle us, breathe in its riches, deep into your soul.

Once upon this wood, there was a tree. A tree of terrors and angels, they say, monstrous giants and fantastical beasts. The essence of all the worlds, they say (the old ones, who would remember), is spun like moth silk through its branches.

A mythical tree, perhaps. And yet here it stands. Its branches upholding the weight of the evening sky; the mauving fabric of a tent above our heads. Feel that it is real, friends. Press your palms against its rough skin, deeply burst open with the glut of memories it strains to hold. Circle your arms around its trunk, press ear and cheek and hear the thrumming veins – up from the well of life, out from the marrow of the earth’s great bones it sucks the blood of warrior and priest, martyr and maiden and every other that has watered the ground with the crimson ink of their history and ever, ever will.

A mythical tree, perhaps. But here it stands. And you sit beneath it, very patiently, waiting for its story. For your story. Well, and so here it is, a story of hoof and horn for these darkling days of satellite and silicone.

Once upon this wood, upon this tree, there hung a man.

Ah, but as I’m sure you know, every tale that begins with a man on a tree must end with a woman. Or else it may be the other way around, right? Such is the way of our island stories, though other nations may mock us for it I’m sure. Still, there it is.

But let us start this tale at the beginning, as I say, with this particular man. And his name, my friends, is Herne.

Richard Horne was a gamekeeper, here in this wood, the greatest gamekeeper the wood has ever seen, so they say. But it wasn’t always like that, oh no. When Richard was a lad, of just around sixteen years, or so I’m told, he was here a-poaching. Not pheasant or hare as his friends would, oh no, Richard had his sights on greater game, and not for his pot but for his pride he walked the forest floor one night, in what he thought was silence at that time, stalking the scent of a young stag. But just as he had the creature in his sights, a hand he feels upon his shoulder, ah-ah! And young Richard quails, for young Richard is now caught and he knows what fate must have in store for him.

But when the poor lad turns to look his apprehender in the face he sees, not the keeper, nor one of his groundsmen, but a lady. A Lady of the Wood, or so she must be he thinks, for her skin is the green-gold of opening ferns, her hair is soft oak grey and birch silver and her eyes are dark and moon-licked like pools that collect in the folds of roots and earth. On her head she wears the curling antlers of a great stag and her clothes are laced up animal skins, scraped clean, worn soft and bleached pale.

“Leave him, Horne.” she whispers, her voice like rain in honey comb, secret and sweet. “Leave him go and I will teach thee something. Men eat deer flesh and they think this way they will become the beast. But they become only more themselves, more and more man. Come with me, Man, and I will show thee how to become Him. How to become the beast. Then you will hunt for me and your quarry will be man-flesh. Come with me, Richard Horne, and I will give thee a new name, and a crown and I shall be thy Lady.”

Well, what should young Richard do? What would any man do I ask you? He jumped to his feet and, cap in hand, he followed the green lady into the wood.

Well now, a time or two and a half went by and by again and there came a vacancy for the post of park keeper over there, up at the old lodge, you know, and the days became weeks and the weeks became a month and still no one was found who was able enough to take the post on. Meanwhile of course the lodge keeper was at his wits end, even as the poachers were in their element, and he vowed most earnestly to accept the very next applicant for the post, be he who it please God, he did not care.

Well then, close to the dusk of a day not unlike the one that we have just had, there came a man. He was dressed head to foot in animal hides, crudely laced together, worn soft and bleached pale. His skin was the puckered gold of walnuts after the frosts have bitten them brown and pinched them up and his eyes were the silver grey of island sky and rock and rain. On his feet he wore great boots of shaggy brown fur and from out his head of long wiry hair, two massive antlers curled like a warrior’s crown.

The lodge keeper was assuredly taken aback by the stranger’s appearance but, in some doubt of the man’s sanity, he refrained from conveying his astonishment and, being by now in desperate need, he agreed to give the man a trial of one week. If he could rid the park of its plague of, now flagrant, poachers, he could keep the job.

But when he tried to show the man his lodgings, outfit him with his uniform and acquaint him with the various traps and weapons he might employ to carry out his duties, the stranger quietly declined all that was offered, stating simply that he would have no use for them. Feeling now both bemused and intrigued, the lodge keeper shrugged and asked the man if he wouldn’t at least give his name?

“Herne.” was the reply. And with it the stranger walked with quiet confidence out into the gathering shades of night.

The lodge keeper scratched his head and damned himself for being an old fool in allowing a simple minded man to walk out to his certain death at the hands of the merciless poachers, with nothing to protect himself but a comical piece of headwear. Then he turned to his stove and his kettle and his pipe for an hour and, when no screams were heard or ill news brought up to him, he scratched his head again and went to bed.

The next morning the lodge keeper awoke and, curious to know what had befallen the new game keeper (for he was certain it could be nothing good), he took up his flask of brandy and his stoutest staff and strolled out into the dew-jewelled grounds, all hung about with a soft white veil of mist that was rising away fast to reveal the tender glow of a buttermilk sun in the soft grey sky.

He had not gone far when his curiosity was slaked for there, striding through the tall white grasses of the grazing land, was Herne himself. Well, you can be sure the lodge keeper was both amazed and relieved and he hailed the new gamekeeper at once and asked him how he had passed the night.

“Well enough.” was the reply “I met with ten who had no rightful business here, to one I dealt justice as the law of the wood decrees, perhaps only nine will come tonight.”

The lodge keeper was impressed and he scratched his head and said so. “And now” he continued “I suppose you are wanting your meat and your bed and well, it seems to me, you deserve it.”

But Herne merely shook his head “All the meat and rest I require” he said quietly “I have already taken.” and with that he nodded his great antlered head and continued his pace across the grass. The lodge keeper watched him go, until he was swallowed up by the curve of a high- brackened mound, and then he scratched his head and went about his own business for the rest of the day.

Well, the days that followed passed in an almost identical fashion, each morning the lodge keeper would take his constitutional before beginning his day’s work, each day he would, at some point, meet with Herne, and each day the game keeper’s remarks would be the same.

He had started work upon the Monday. On Tuesday he reported meeting “nine who had no rightful business here, to one I dealt justice, as the law of the wood decrees, perhaps only eight will come tomorrow.” By Friday eight had become six, come Monday again and the number was down to three and so, you see, the lodge keeper was well pleased, and he said so, for never had the park known such a keeper that could dwindle the number of poachers and bring them to justice so speedily and with such quiet confidence.

Well now, on Tuesday evenings ‘twas the lodge keeper’s habit of strolling out of the park grounds, down the lane to the village and a little further on to the White Hart, where he was wont to share his wages with the landlord in exchange for a fair portion of meat, a fair portion of ale and a fair portion of the gossip he had missed in the days since his last visit (for life up at the park, you must understand, was one of isolation from the comings and goings of the village itself).

On this particular Tuesday, he happened to be sharing the bar with the village constable and the lodge keeper could not resist singing the praises of his new gamekeeper, and was the constable not impressed with the regular flow of poachers this Herne was bringing his way down at the station?

To his dismay, however, the constable’s face darkened. No, he had never met this man, Herne. No, no poachers had been arrested, not his knowledge anyroad, but for the last few days his own hours had been occupied in trying to solve the mystery of a number of ‘well-known’ young men from the village who had, or so it would seem, vanished from their beds without anyone being able to say where or why they had gone.

Driven by intrigue, and a grim sense of foreboding, the two men hastily finished their drinks and, arming themselves against any possible violence, they made their way quickly to the park, hoping to tie the knot in the end of these uncanny coincidences.

The moonlit sweeps of the gently undulating parkland were, as they had expected, quiet and vacant but, as they made their way into the woods, they were struck instantly by a queer and unsettling sound. At first they took it to be the gentle knocking of the tree boughs above their heads but, as their foray took them deeper into the thickets, they were not so certain. Surely tree boughs did not sway so rhythmically, surely their resonance was not so hollow, their chime not so faintly melodic? But what, in a wood, if not tree boughs, could be knocking together to produce such an eerie symphony?

Their curiosity was soon satisfied when, to their horror, they turned the corner of a small earth mound they had been skirting and beheld the thing they had been seeking.

There sat Herne, cross legged on the bare earth, amid a small grove of dark, towering yew trees. His eyes were closed, his great antlered head was raised towards the stars and around the glade, from the boughs of every tree, hung seven human skeletons, each perfectly in-tact, stripped clean of flesh and swaying gently in the breeze like seven ghastly windchimes.

“Two walk this wood, who have no rightful business here,” Herne said softly, not bothering to open his eyes or make any other movement. “Perhaps tomorrow, there will be none.” and with that he leapt at them with gnashing teeth and a hunger in his eyes as that of a wild beast. He fell upon the lodge keeper first and his strength was immense, bowling him over into the dirt as a wolf might flaw a rabbit. But the constable was too quick for him and, drawing his cudgel, he struck the wild man across his temple, below the crown of horns. Blood spilled instantly and Herne collapsed, leaving the grateful lodge keeper trembling and breathless but unharmed.

The constable’s blow was not fatal but Richard Horne never regained his senses. They hung him from this very tree, or so I have been told, and before his breath could leave his body, a strange lady, dressed in green velvet, with a crown of gold upon her head, came and kissed his lips and drew his soul away with her, vanishing into the woods over there, from where, they say, she had first come.

Now on many a full-mooned night, such as this, Herne and his Lady walk the park and sit below this tree and talk and laugh and make merry beneath the stars. If you have business here, they will leave you to it so, let us leave them to theirs now, for it is well known in these parts that they who bring peace into a place, will find peace in it, but they who carry evil, will find evil waiting for them there with hungry eyes and sharp, sharp teeth.

 

 

Hmm? What’s that you say? Very real evil waiting for you outside in the form of flesh-eating Liver Birds? Well, you should have thought of that before you decided to break the curfew! No I am not reading you ‘just one more’ this is not some bedtime story hour I am running here! You can tell that lunatic witch, when you see her, to stop sending people down here to bother me with their ‘special requests’ I have serious work to be getting on with.  Good night.

Oh, er, leave the bottle though….

 

 

 

 

 

all images used with kind permission from http://www.freeimages.com

 

 


Tea @Three:Exciting Excavations

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome, once again, to Max and Collin’s  perhaps-not-so-private and extensively excavated parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.  

True, perhaps, some have called it a house of ill manners, ill health, ill-conceived fancies and illicit tiffin but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.   

We are taking tea on our new balcony this afternoon. It was immensely kind of our landlord, Montmorency, to put one in for us…sorry? Oh yes, well… Max says, “There are implements better suited to smashing holes in walls than the heads of Very Quiet Gentlemen”… well, yes, Montmorency does get a little over excited when we don’t pay up on time. But never mind about your injuries, Max, because it is Thursday afternoon and we are ‘all punked up with no place to go’ so, while our lovely werewolf butler makes us a reviving cup of  Slytherin Serpent’s blend from Friday tea , let us peruse the society papers and see where we should be heading to this weekend….

The Yellow Book in Brighton, Brittain’s first Steampunk Themed Pub is always a delightful hotspot for steam-themed shenanigans and on Saturday they are playing host to Victor and the bully…

Need we say more?

Or, looking further ahead, don’t forget The League of Splendid are planning another Splendid Day Out-  on the 22nd of October in Morecambe, Lancashire. It looks set to be a smaller but just as marvellous event with artisan market, tea duelling and entertainment from Cauda Pavonis, Professor Elemental and more.

And on the 24th of October the monthly Newark Steampunk Meet are holding their Halloween Event as well so, all good things to look forward to.

Ah, but now I think our tea is brewed and it is has just occurred to me that having an enormous hole in the wall is not perhaps the best of plans when the sun is about to set and hoards of carnivorous Liver Birds are about to descend upon the streets of Lancaster… perhaps Klapka can nail some planks over it…quickly…

Hopefully, we will survive the night and be back in the parlour on Monday! In the meantime, we hope you will join Perilous Wight for Pipe and Slippers in his lovely library tomorrow evening when he will be sharing something of ‘ineffable literary merit’…or so he informs us…hopefully it isn’t his sugartax returns…

So until then! Be always,

Utterly Yourself.