Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “fantasy

Soup Of The Day: With Addison Albright

 

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 Addison Albright! Thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, My Dear! May I take your parasol, it’s unseasonably sunny today isn’t it?

Thank you! I’m thrilled to be here today. Yes, it is, but sunny days make it easier to be cheery, so I won’t complain.

How was your trip from your own dimension? I hope you did not run into any hostile vampires or space pirates on your way?

No space pirates, but I did run into a few vamps. Thankfully they weren’t particularly hostile, just a mite hungry. I might want to partake of a bit of this soup to help offset the blood loss.

 

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

Yes, I have. I used to make this regularly back in the day, but I haven’t thought to do so since all the kids grew up and moved out. I thank you for reminding me of it.

I’d be happy to share my recipe, such as it is. I’m afraid that outside of baking, I’m not big on measuring ingredients, so folks will need to “wing it” right along with me.

Chicken (or Turkey) and Noodles

Regarding the poultry portion of the recipe, I was in the habit of making this recipe using leftover chicken or turkey, so I generally started with something like “Better than Bouillon” for the broth. But, if you’re making it completely from scratch, you can boil up some chicken pieces and go from there (use approx. a gallon of water, boil the chicken for a ½ hour, remove meat from bones, then continue to boil bones for added flavour while prepping the rest, removing the bones prior to adding the veggies).

Dice up however much you want of carrots, celery, and onion. Add them to the (now boneless) broth. Add back the diced up poultry now if you want, too (or wait until after adding the noodles…doesn’t much matter), and add spices like salt (unless you’re using purchased bouillon/stock, which is often very salty already), pepper, and thyme (if you use fresh, put in whole branches, then fish out the stalks before adding the noodles). Let all that simmer for 10-20 minutes or so.

Then add egg noodles. You can use the store-bought frozen noodles (like Reames), but it’s pretty easy to make your own. Basically use 1 cup of flour and 2 eggs per serving you wish to make. That’s it for ingredients. Mix together and knead the heck out of it, sprinkling flour as needed to your hard surface, until the dough is smooth and “pliable.” Then roll it out thin (sprinkle with more flour as needed) and cut it into strips about ¼” wide and 3-4” long. I usually do this first and store the bowl in the freezer while preparing the rest.

Be sure to stir well when adding the noodles so you don’t end up with big noodle clumps. Boil with the noodles for about 10 minutes or until they pass your taste test.

Enjoy!

Mmm, it smells delicious! I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat by the fire here and tell me a little about the types of fiction that you write?

So far I’ve written romances or love stories featuring two men. Usually the stories are contemporary, but I’ve recently branched out into light fantasy and paranormal (a vampire series in progress and a Big Foot story in my WIP pile).

Heat levels vary, but even with the shorter and more erotic stories I try to make the story surrounding “the scene” be the primary focus. Especially with my longer works, I want the story itself to be the focus.

And  have you brought some of your books with you today to show the orphans?

Hahaha…I’m not sure how appropriate my books would be for the young’uns. Even the stories without any onscreen sexy times usually have a reference or two that might be best glossed over if sharing with the kiddies. Even my short, Déjà Vu, which I don’t think has any sexual references at all, might give the kiddies nightmares with the dark humor scenes it contains. How about we share these with their caregivers, instead?

Oh of course! Yes, um… perhaps I’ll save these to share with Max and Collin then, I wouldn’t call them ‘care givers’ as such… more, ‘organisers of the troops’ I suppose. Although I must have a good look myself first you have a lovely stash there indeed!

Of Rats and Cats & Deja Vu - Covers & Review Snips - 690x690 copyVows Series - 4 Book Covers - 690x289

For readers who like longer books with a nice dose of drama, I’d recommend trying my Vows Series, featuring 2 novels with a novelette and a very short story sandwiched in-between. These stories range from low to medium heat levels. The first book in the series, ’Til Death Do Us Part, is a novel featuring a couple who are torn apart when one is thought to have died in a plane crash. The second book, From This Day Forward, is a novelette featuring the same couple and gives them a small dose of drama to deal with together and solidifies their HEA. The short story, Okay, Then, also features that same couple and takes us back to their earliest days together, so it can be looked on as a prequel. It can be, but by no means needs to be read before the novel. It’s a bit of a bonus story. The last book in the series, To Love and To Cherish, is a novel featuring a different couple. One MC was an important side character in the first novel who deserved to find his own HEA.

For readers looking for short, fun stories to see how they like a new-to-them writer’s style might want to try Of Rats and Cats (comedic with zero heat, but still not entirely appropriate for young children), or Déjà Vu (holiday story with some dark comedy, zero heat, and HEA for all despite early indications to the contrary).

Marvellous! Ah, now that is the kettle boiling, what is your ‘poison’ dear and how do you take it?

I’ve never acquired a taste for tea, but that’s mostly from lack of interest in giving it much of a try. So I’ll drink whatever you recommend for a novice tea drinker. I’d like to try it straight up before modifying it with cream or sugar, please.

My goodness, not given tea a try? Well, here you are my dear a cup of my very best contraband Lady Grey unsullied by milk or sugar but do help yourself to a slice of fresh lemon or lime to go with it if you wish.

Now tell me, My Dear, what do you look for in a good story?

First off the writing itself (both style and editing) are important, because it’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey getting there, and entertaining writing can make the difference between a bad, good, or great story. So I prefer an engaging style. I don’t object to the occasional grammatical slip up. There’s a meme I’ve seen that has fun joking about the odd tenacious error that makes it through all the read-throughs, beta readers, edit rounds, etc. Heck, we can pick them out in mainstream books. But it does bother me when a finished story is utterly riddled with bad wording choices and outright poor grammar.

I like good pacing (boo to filler), and especially if it’s a romance, I want characters I can like and/or relate to. Flawed is fine—good even—but justify it. Make me understand what’s driving their choices and actions. Otherwise I enjoy a wide variety of story genres and tropes. Sometimes I’m in the mood for total fantasy, other times for something real world. Regardless, I want the drama to be believable for that world and not obviously fabricated by unjustified eye-rolling character actions.

And do You have any favourite authors who inspire your writing?

Absolutely.  A couple of my favorite M/M authors who are also popular in general are Josh Lanyon and JL Merrow. They both have engaging writing styles and write wonderfully entertaining stories. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a sucker for hurt/comfort and most of Josh’s have an element of that, and my favorite JL Merrow series (The Plumber’s Mate) does too.

A couple more authors that are recently new-to-me and have impressed me enough that I’ll be looking for more from them are C.H. Clepitt (I Wore Heels to the Apocalypse and the followup story Everything is Better with a Cape are hilarious), whom I discovered via the Rainbow Snippets group on Facebook, and Zakarrie Clarke (I’m in the middle of reading Hangover from Hell, and look forward to enjoying Hangover and Out, too).

One of my favorite people, who’s also a fantastic M/M author is Nell Iris. I have the pleasure of getting to beta read her fabulously emotional stories. I’m inspired by the charm of their stories, whether it be the appealing characters/storylines, the comedic flair, or the high level of feelings they elicit.

And do you have any new publications, appearances or upcoming projects we can get excited about?

Heh. I wish I had something scheduled in the near future, but everything I’ve submitted is already published. The story I’m working on and hope to finish next is The Best-Laid Plans, which is a sequel to my fantasy novelette, The Contingency Plan. I was perfectly happy imagining the happy couple traipse without issue into their HEA after the intriguing story of how they got together, but the common refrain from readers was…but, but, it was too short, and I want more! And of course, I can’t just write nothing but happy times for them, so now I’m putting them through a little hell (political intrigue, murder, and kidnapping, oh my). I’m in the planning stages of a Big Foot shifter story, and a possible shared universe story with another writer where we each write our own stories, but they’re related and might have some scenes that intersect. I’m also working out the details of the projected third story in my vampire trilogy and thinking about what I might do for a third story for my fantasy couple.

As for recent publications, the past few months have seen several releases from me. Mostly short stories like the aforementioned Of Rats and Cats in November, and Déjà Vu in December. The super short in the Vows Series (Okay, Then) released as a “hot flash” single in February (although it had previously been included in several collections). I also had a novella, The Choice, come out in January. It’s the second book in my vampire trilogy, following The Recruit, which came out last June. I’m a detail-oriented and pedantic person, so my goal in writing my own vampire world was to address all the picky little things that I’m often left wondering about when I’ve read other paranormal stories. I love the world I’ve come up with, and I’m reluctant to let it go. After the currently planned third story, I might write more with another couple in the same world, but that might depend on whether or not sales for this series pick up enough to make it worth the effort.

I can be found around Facebook now and again participating in group takeover events with giveaways. I do have one a week from when I’m writing this, but I expect that might be in the past once this is posted. I don’t have any in-person events planned. I did my first GayRomLit in Denver a couple years ago, but the big in-person events are so expensive I don’t know when I’ll be able to do another.

And where else can we find you on the aether web?

Website/Blog: https://authoraddisonalbright.com

Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/addison.albright.profile

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AddisonAlbright

Twitter: http://twitter.com/AddisonAlbright

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/addison-albright

Newsletter (New Release Notifications) Signup: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/addison-albright

Marvellous! Well thankyou so much for joining me in the kitchen this morning, Addison, that soup smells as if it is ready, would you give me a hand dishing it out to the orphans?

I’d be happy to. I hope they enjoy eating it as much as I did making it.

Thanks so much for having me. I’m delighted to have discovered this site and your sidekick Penny’s writing on Rainbow Snippets. Each week I look forward to getting my Jack & Marjory fix and anticipate the day when I can read their completed story.

Thankyou so much Addison, and thankyou all of you for joining us in the soup kitchen today! Penny will be back on Saturday with her Rainbow Snippets post and then at some point this month we will have her March Book Review slot to look forward to before our April Aether Egg Hunt kicks off. 

Until I see you again, blessings on your brew my dears!

 


Morning Cuppa: Army Of Brass

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s brazenly brassy and aggressively amorous parlour located somewhere beneath the bustling city of steampunk’d Lancaster.

Our tentacles are trembling with excitement to be back in the parlour, after so many calamitous adventures, and also to be part of  the Army f Brass blog tour this week so without further ado let us hand you cup of tea, kick our tentacles up on the table and take a look at this marvellous book.

army of brass

 

Army Of Brass was written by the Collaborative Writing Challenge with a different author writing each chapter. This gives the text quite a unique feel. On the one hand there is an inescapable sense of each chapter being its own ‘unit’ or ‘micro-story’ and on the other the neat plot development and consistency that speaks of the tight orchestration that must have taken place behind the scenes in order to bring a novel like this together, couple this with a cast of fully developed and likeable characters and you get an exciting, fast flowing steampunk adventure with just the right amount of romance, technology and political intrigue. It’s an amazing accomplishment and we’re all-over impressed by it.

Master Tinkerer Elaina Gable has settled into her new life after escaping her home country which was attacked by the blood thirsty conqueror The Hunter Baron. When the Baron’s warmongering  threatens to destroy her new life as well, Elaina is certain she knows a way to stop him; by reviving the ancient automaton army, the Tinkerers and the Smiths believe they can defeat the Baron, but the automatons harbour a deadly secret linked to the toxic valley in which they now sit rusting away. Only the mysterious silver skinned woman seems to hold the key, but will she decided to help or hinder Elaina and her friends as the Baron’s army draws nearer…

This is a nice, straightforward, old fashioned steampunk adventure full of automatons and airships and some really likeable characters (It was really lovely to see an older, mature heroine for once!) Excellent plot with a few carefully crafted twists and turns and overall a nice smooth read for existing steampunk fans or a perfect entry-point for newcomers to the genre.

 

Tomorrow we continue the Army of Brass blog tour and have the very great pleasure of entertaining Captain Jack Davenport of the Capital Cartographer’s Society for elevenses and so we must now ask you to excuse us while we race about trying on ludicrous amounts of bombazine and lace…. unless that is you’d like to stay and help a poor floundering octopus  with his corset?

No?

Well, until next time then, please remain always,

Utterly Yourself

 

 


Pipe and Slippers: Army Of Brass Book Tour

 

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of  praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

I am the ghost known as 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 wandered in here on the ill-advice of that incorrigible octopus and its unnerving  Gentleman Friend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by strange creatures promising  sweet delights. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down 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? A bottle of the old Green Fairy eh? 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, not least because the city of Lancaster here has been getting ready for the eagerly anticipated launch of the latest offering from the Collaborative Writing Challenge – Army Of Brass.

 

Steampunk celebrates its 31st birthday on April 27, and Phoebe Darqueling and the Collaborative Writing Challenge invite you to  join in the festivities with their high-flying adventure, Army of Brass.

“Steampunk” began as a literary genre, but has expanded to include fashion, music, art, and live events all over the world. During 2017, in honor of author K.W. Jeter coining the term in 1987, Steampunk Journal editor Phoebe Darqueling and the Collaborative Writing Challenge joined forces to create an amazing work that blurs the line between science and magic. Twenty international authors contributed chapters to this story full of gadgets, romance, and political intrigue set against the backdrop of a fantasy world informed by the culture of the 19th century.
What is Army of Brass About?

 

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 and a famous airship pilot resolve to bring the machines back to life in secret.

 

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.

 

And if that sounds just like your cup of tea… or even your glass of sherry… you can Read Chapter 1 now on Steampunk Journal!

Or even Pre-order your ebook copy of Army of Brass for $.99 and receive it on Friday, April 27!

You are also cordially invited to Join us all on Facebook April 28-29 to meet the writers, participate in giveaways, and more!

Ans speaking of giveaways, they’ve got one going on for the entire blog tour, so between April 13-May 13, enter to win ebooks from the writers involved

 

Now then, the hour is getting extremely late, I really must insist you go, I have important work to be getting on with, not least making sure the front door is Liver-Bird proofed again, true I have no flesh to devour but they do make a dreadful mess of the books if they manage to get in …. what’s that? You’re not sure your parasol is Liver-Bird -proofed either? Well I’m sorry you should have thought of that before you decided to break the curfew! It’s certainly not my problem! Good Night!  

Oh, er…leave the bottle though…I mean, if you don’t make it home it’ll be a terrible waste…

 

 


Steampunk Gypsies: The many names of the Rromani People

If you’ve been following this blog for a while now you’ll know that the word Gypsy (especially with a lower case g ) is a highly offensive word to most Rromani people. What you might not know is why it is so upsetting. You might also want to know the correct term to use instead and a google search might well leave you even more baffled on that score! So, hopefully this post will be a good resource for this subject and of course if you have any questions (or if you’re fed up with me banging on about all this) feel free to leave your comments  in the … er… comments section 🙂

In order to understand this subject clearly, you first need to understand a bit about our language and history…

The Rromani People are a displaced diaspora of India. Back around  the time of the crusades, Rajput military units were formed to protect different regions of India from invading Muslim armies. As these soldiers and their families and attendants all spoke different dialects /  languages, a military language had to be formed which all could understand. This language formed the basis of what is now the spoken and written language of Rromani people worldwide.

When we refer to the way we speak might say ‘Romanes.’ But that is not the name of our language. The word Rom (s) / Roma (pl) means ‘a person / us / the people / (one of) the group / the family / ‘ so to speak Romanes means to speak ‘in the way of the group / the family / the people / us / to speak in our way … it is not the name of a language and, strictly speaking therefore, ‘Rom / Roma’ is not the name of our people.. it just means ‘(one of) the people.’ (It can also mean husband but not in this context – like the word ‘man’ can mean ‘a man’ or ‘people in general.’)

So, if you refer to Rromani people as The Roma or a Rromani person as ‘A Rom’  (which a lot of people do) you are saying ‘The People’ / ‘The Group’ / ‘The Family’ or ‘One of the people / the group / the family’.  That is absolutely fine, many Rromani people speak in that way, most don’t mind it even if they don’t use it themselves. It’s certainly a polite, respectful way to speak to or about Rromani people.

Getting back to the Rajputs again, two groups were defeated by the Muslim armies and forced to leave their lands. Some were captured by Turkish armies and forced to join as slaves, those who escaped into Eastern Europe were immediately captured and enslaved for hundreds of years, those who fled west were unable to find a place to settle but continued travelling through Greece and eventually into the rest of Europe, using their military skills, skills in metal work and horse trading (as well as trades they learnt along the way such as entertaining, dancing and fortune telling – more about that in another post I think? ) to make money.

Obviously during this time The Group was forced to split many times. As each new splinter group moved through different countries, new words were added to the military language they all spoke – thus each clan now speaks a slightly different version of that first ‘Language of The Group.’ They also began to refer to themselves by different names, names that for the most part described their skills and trades  much in the same way as surnames do the world over.

I belong to the Petulengros (Smiths) who are of the English clan known as Romanichals (which literally means ‘Rromani Chaps’ ) and the Kalderash (The cauldron makers /  copper-smiths who turned their pots on fat posts hammered into the ground). Often a Rromani family have kept their clan name (or a version of it). Sometimes though they have had to change it in order to hide the fact they are a Rromani person and so allow them to avoid persecution and live an integrated, peaceful life with the rest of society.

So, some Rromani people don’t like to be called Rom or The Roma – you can understand that now right? They don’t want to be called ‘One of the group’ or ‘The People’ … they want to be called by their clan / family name (Like you might say ‘I’m a Jones’ or ‘I’m a McGill’) they prefer to identify as something related to who their family is and what they do / did.

If you think at this point that Rromani people seem incredibly fussy and it is all terribly difficult to know what to call them please look at it this way…

You might call yourself ‘English’ or ‘American’ defining yourself by your location.

If you do so / have ever done so, please take a moment to consider that it is a privilege to be able to claim a geographical location as an aspect of your identity. It implies that you are an accepted member of that place, you belong there, it is a part of you, it’s your home.

Rromani people do not have that privilege, have not been permitted to join another nation and call it home, they have been refugees for hundreds of years and so they must find different ways of defining themselves. (And, I feel, this is food for thought for all of us when we consider the long term impact of our treatment of refugees and immigrants today.)

(It has been suggested that Rromani people reclaim their Indian connection and that is ‘all well and good’ but as many of us now have fair skin and hair and look anything but Indian, that idea seems a little laughable really! So we continue to be ‘The Family’ / ‘That Group that left India together’ because no other nation has welcomed us and we cannot now go back.)  

There are so many Rromani clans in the world today (Wikipedia has a quite dreadful map showing a very few in simple blocks which can only act as a rough guide) many, as I say, call themselves Rom / Roma and some prefer their specific clan name.

 

So, there you have it – When referring to a Rromani person or people you can say…

Rom – One of the people

Roma – The People

Romany (/ Romani / Rromani / Rhomani ) person – A person who is of the group (spelling is dependant on dialect)

Romany (/Romani / Rromani/ Rhomani) people – The people who belong to the group

Or you can use the specific name of the clan the person / people belong to eg: Sinti, Kalderash, Kale, Romanichal etc…

My advice is to just be clear about what word / spelling you are using, what it means and why you are using it.

 

“But why not gypsy?” I hear you say … well, again we need to look at history and language…

 

The word is a shortening of ‘Egyptian’. When Rromani people first fled into Europe their dark skin and hair caused people to mistake them for Turkish invaders and later either for Egyptians or people from Little Egypt (sources are unclear as to which). They were nick named ‘gyptians’ which soon became ‘gypsies.’ Obviously a homeless refugee population are powerless to dictate what they ‘should be called’.

The word gypsy became so far removed from the word Egyptian that, rather than describing the mistaken place of origin of a group of people, it instead took on its own bizarre set of definitions. Various leaders including Vlad The Impaler, Henry The Eighth and Hitler, all used the word gypsy to justify the de-humanisation and murder of thousands of Rromani people. Rromani people were burnt with the ‘gypsy brand’ on their skin which marked them as belonging to animal rather than to human kind and having no right to existence. They were then tortured, sterilised or simply murdered.

At least 250,000 Rromani people were murdered during the Holocaust alone, at least 85% of Germany’s Rromani population were branded ‘gypsies’ and exterminated because they were seen as sub-human.

During the industrial revolution, the notion of ‘being a gypsy’ was seen as a desirable alternative to the horrors of factory and inner city life. The dehumanisation of ‘gypsies’ at this time took a different turn as they were seen as wild, free, close to nature or at one with it, romantic, mysterious, magical, desirable, roguish, care free… writers, poets and artists failed to see the poverty and persecution suffered by a people who were not nomadic or ‘free’ , but shackled to a seasonal circuit of a few safe ‘atching tan’ (‘stopping places’) where seasonal farm work could be found, not allowed to own property, speak their own language or step foot inside shops. The Gypsy Law Society epitomised the attitude when they declared membership of their elite ‘research group’ required that the gentleman must first ‘bed a gypsy.’

You can, I hope, see why nobody would want this label. Why it is distasteful, sickening and upsetting for a Rromani person to be called a gypsy. Is it any different with a capital G? I don’t think so.

 

So, as writers and readers and steampunk enthusiasts who write and read and cosplay in an era where Rromani people were very visible and were habitually branded ‘gypsies’ how can we include the experiences of Rromani people of that time period without perpetuating the ongoing prejudice?

It might seem like a challenge but it’s really a no-brainer – look at other oppressed groups of the colonial period. How should they be referred to / treated / spoken about in historical or punk fiction? You might for example have a racist or ignorant English character refer to an African character using the N word, but you wouldn’t use the N word in the main text of the narrative to refer to that African person would you? You also wouldn’t call them ‘The N….’ , you would use their name. Just consider the G word, exactly the same as the N word. Because, to Rromani people , it is the same.

( Some Rromani people do use the word Gypsy – either because they are trying to re-claim and re-shape it as a form of empowerment or because the word Rromani is so often met with confusion from non-Rromani people. Many cultures take words that have historically been used against them and turn them into a form of personal power – that, surely, is their prerogative. )

If we couple the respectful use of language to talk about Rromani people, with an accurate portrayal of their history and culture, hopefully we can move the image of Rromani people away from the fantastical / de-humanised ‘gypsy’ and back into reality.

 

I really hope this info has been helpful – I’m by no means a linguistic scholar or historian though so if you think that I’ve made a mistake anywhere do please forgive me and feel free to discuss it, we are all learning together afterall 🙂 And of course if you have any questions or want me to cover any more topics on this subject let me know,

Big blessings, Penny 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Morning Cuppa: The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody bones

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, we ask that you be gentle with us this morning, no raised voices or glaring candle light please, we are very much sore-headed and delicate after a long weekend of carnival capers and masked-up mayhem and now want nothing more than to curl our aching tentacles around a marvellous piece of fiction and a steaming mug of tea…

 

The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones is one of our favourite books ever in the history of books. It is a love story of the most unique, raw and daring kind and at the same time it is an extremely dark fairy tale with all the exploration of psyche and self that hallmark a classic work of Gothic fiction. As a historical novel it explores the boundaries of class, affluence, education, mental health, culture, sexual and perceived moral behaviour to admirable depth making it a graphic, challenging and breathtaking read that will not suit everyone’s taste. This is not a book for the faint hearted but it is heart breaking and absorbing and utterly, utterly wonderful with characters who leave us weeping every time we step back into these dark and beautiful pages.

Tristan Hart is obsessed with understanding and preventing pain, at the same time he is addicted, enthralled and excited by it.

Nathaniel Ravenscroft is delightfully delinquent, exciting and enigmatic and everything that Tristan would like to be. Possibly. Or possess. But something isn’t quite right, there is a darkness lurking around that demonic smile, a secret or two that no one wants to talk about and when Nathaniel vanishes, does the key to his whereabouts lie in this world, or in the realm of fairies, daemons and an ancient half-remembered myth?

Katherine Montague is a troubled soul, beautiful and fragile, in need of Tristan perhaps as much as he is need of her… but is their love tonic or poison? Is their mutual obsession the key that will eventually help them both to find themselves, or is it a perversion that will eventually be their downfall?

An intensely compassionate, emotional and tormented soul, Tristan sees beauty where others see the grotesque and his days are a tense and brittle ice-path between the relationships of his physical world and the strange-woven mythology that inhabits the hearts and minds and landscapes that surround him. Who is this Raw Head? Who is Bloody Bones? Who, really, is Nathaniel Ravenscroft? Who is the monster and who the redeeming angel?

We wish you a perfectly restorative afternoon and swear we will be on better form to guide you around the frost fair tomorrow so, until then, please be always

Utterly Yourself.

 


Morning Cuppa: Spoon Duelling for beginners

Good morning Ladie and Gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s splendiferously spoontastic parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True some have called it an unfulfilling place of half baked fancies, bad eggs and drastic measures, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

This morning you find us about to engage in the noble art of the festive spoon duel. We understand that in your dimension you settle your disputes by duelling with tea but, frankly, we find it hard to understand the mechanics of such a thing – do you hurl the tea at eachother? Or are the cups somehow used as foils?

Here  in the New World we settle our disputes with a series of Parlour Affairs, one of which is spoon duelling (or Spuelling if you are feeling lazy). Spoon duel challenges are usually reserved for the Wizmas period.

In case you are not familiar with the art and history of the spoon duel let us enlighten you:

Spoon duelling began during the Ancient Egyptian era and was reserved for religious ceremonies in honour of The Goddess. Ornate spoons made of wood, flint and ivory were carved with hieroglyphs pertaining to tea, cake and magic.

Archaeological evidence suggests that it was in Ancient Greece that spoon duelling moved from being a religious ritual to an event used by the upper classes to settle disputes in a sophisticated fashion. Silver and bronze spoons were used during this period and spoons in the British Museum can still be seen which bear the scars of spoon duelling.

By 1259 CE (Cakeless Era), spoons had become a symbol of power. Royal monarchs were anointed with a special spoon to mark their coronations. The wealthy displayed the many battle-mangled weapons of their defeated opponents while the peasants were left spoonless to slurp soup with their bare hands and stir their tea with their burnt and blistered fingers.

Discontent began to stir the soul of the general populous and The Great Spoon Uprising of the Renaissance period lead to greater equality in cutlery which in turn lead to a greater diversity in spoon design. In joyous celebration of the noble spoon, artisans sprang up in every town, flooding the market with an array of spoons for every occasion.

Soon  there were Caviar spoons (made of mother of pearl), Dessert spoons, Tea spoons, Fruit spoons, Runcibles (Max’s favoured weapon), Iced tea spoons, Jolly Long Spoons, Demitasse spoons, Chinese spoons, Bouillon spoons, Parfait spoons, Rattail spoons, Salt spoons, Seal-top spoons, Bar spoons, Caddy spoons, Slotted spoon, Mote spoons, Mustard spoons, Cheese scoop spoons… not to mention the cochlear ritual and anointing spoons, ear spoons, nose spoons and new born spoons (for ladling out babies)…

By the time Queen Vic came to the throne The Good Folk were screaming for regulation and one of the first papers to pass through parliament was the Standardisation Of Kitchen Utensils Act which introduced the standard issue spoons, tea cups and other tableware permitted for use today.

Obviously underground artisans linked to the Arts and Crafts Movement have sprung up across the scattered isles to produce illegal cutlery of the most impractical and extravagant artistic merit …

Hm? Sorry? Oh yes, Max says I should stop the history lesson and get on with the thing… you know for a Very Quiet Gentleman Max does interrupt an awful lot…

So, the noble art of spoon duelling :

Each competitor sits opposite the other at a tea table. (Historically, spoon duelling was a standing affair and opponents would attempt to crack eachother over the top of the head with a battle cry of ‘bad egg!’. After hats became fashionable the aim then became to knock the opponents’ headwear to the ground. This type of spoon duelling was outlawed by King George in 1721 CE. Of course there are those who claim to have revived it in some sort of secret- society- boys- club- thing… but we’re not sure we believe them…)

A point (or hit) is scored when one competitor taps the centre knuckle of their opponents’ spoon-hand with the back of their spoon. Three hits are needed to win the duel.

A hit is established thus; each spoon is moistened (traditionally with cold water but some vulgar persons lick their spoon and spiteful ones have been known to stir their scalding tea) and then dipped into coloured chalk. The chalk mark left on the back of the hand makes it easier for adjudicators to judge whether or not a hit is legitimate.

The spoon hand or wrist must remain in contact with the table at all times and the other hand may be placed behind the back, on the hip or above the head as preferred but never upon the table, knee or chair.

 The winner takes the spoon of the defeated competitor as a trophy and many people choose to display their hard won spoons upon their hats, waistcoats, parasols, bed posts and parlour walls. 

So we will soon be packing our runcibles into their leather holsters and heading into town to witness, and hopefully take part in, some festive sport. But before we do that we must tighten the belts on our dressing gowns, pour ourselves a morning cuppa and see what our little dust sucking friends have been up to in the night…

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Hm, Gnii fishing eh? I’m not terribly fond of fishing now, having done so very much of it in the sunken city of Hull. Fish – delicious, but the getting of them? I would much rather visit the local monger rather than run the dispiriting odds of catching other ocean debris., the things you humans throw into the ocean sets my tentacles shuddering. Anyway… let us forget all that and dip our tentacles into  our seasonally spicy tea which should give us plenty of zest for the morning is this superb ginger rooibos from craftteacompany… 

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Splendid, and now we must button up tight and head out into the cold dark alley ways of Lancaster and find ourselves a shady little tavern where we can lay a few bets on a spoon wrestling match (it’s similar to the duelling but for Ladies only and so there are less rules, more name calling, eye gouging, spork scratching, hair tangling etc and it all gets a little rougher and therefore more interesting, especially when the wigs come off…)

We wish you an utterly ineffable morning chockablock with spoonfulls of fun and we invite you back to join us for elevenses tomorrow so, until then

please be always

Utterly yourself

 

 

 


Soup Of The Day: With Mythpunk Author Amy Kuivalainen

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 Amy Kuivalainen! Good morning Amy, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Can I take your parasol?

Absolutely, but do be careful…it bites. Lovely to be here with you today.

Oh! My goodness, what a disturbingly sentient promenadial accessory – although I imagine it comes in extremely useful! How was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you were not waylaid by any skywaymen or vampires en route?

The journey was long and only one minor altercation with a storm demon over the South Atlantic. It’s their breeding season and it makes them surly. The trick is to shoot a projectile of cayenne, gunpowder and myrrh into the clouds. It’s enough for them to think twice about getting lovesick over the dirigible.   

Indeed! I’m sorry to hear you had difficulties but what an ingenious deterrent, I must write that recipe down myself, it may come in handy against the Landlord. Ah, marvellous, I see you have brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

I have bought a soup with me today. It’s called ‘Lohikeitto’ and it’s a soup from the northern lands of Karelia where night hags and magicians still roam. Its very easy to make and salmon is a staple in the colder Nordic countries:

  • Tbsp Butter (you can use Olive Oil as an alternative)
  • 1 Brown or Yellow Onion, finely chopped
  • 4-5 Potatoes (buy a firm variety as they need to retain their shape through cooking)
  • 25 litres Fish Stock
  • 1/2 kg Fresh Salmon Fillet, cubed
  • 100-200 ml Cream (or Milk, if you prefer a thinner soup)
  • 1 cup Fresh Dill, finely chopped
  • 5 pieces Bay Leaf
  • Dash of sea salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • Dash of Allspice

Finnish Salmon Soup (Lohikeitto) – Instructions

Fresh Dill (Tilli)

  • Cut the potatoes roughly into 1-inch cubes, and keep in water to prevent discolouration
  • In a large saucepan, simmer the chopped onions in the butter over medium heat until soft
  • Add peeled and diced potatoes and then enough water to just cover the potatoes. Turn up the heat to high, cover the saucepan with a lid, bring to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are just soft, adjusting the heat down as necessary
  • Add the cubed salmon to the pot and cook until it is mostly opaque (this will take about 5 minutes, if that). Do not stir the soup so as not to break up the salmon
  • If you want to keep the Salmon cubes looking like cubes, once the salmon is cooked, remove from the soup and set aside
  • Add the fish stock and cream, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste, with just a dash of Allspice. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
  • If you prefer a thicker soup, as I do, add cornstarch slurry (mix 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 Tablespoon of water, stir to dissolve the cornstarch) to the soup and simmer until the soup has thickened
  • Take off the heat and stir in the fresh dill
  • (If you removed the salmon cubes, transfer the cooked salmon into individual bowls and ladle the soup over
  • If you want to add a touch of artistry to the presentation, place a small sprig of  dill on top of the contents of each bowl

Serve with rye bread and butter

(Recipe from Alternate Finland)

Thankyou! What a marvellous recipe! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell me a little more about your books, I see you have brought some along with you to show the orphans?

I have indeed! I have brought my Firebird Fairytales a few of my others with me. In my travels it always is a good idea to carry a few just to hand out when you get talking to people. There is also my newest story Wylt – a gothic tale that ties in with Arthurian legends in unexpected ways.

 

Marvellous! I confess to having already fallen in love with your Firebird series, I very much enjoyed the way you wove the ancient mythologies into your plot. Have you always had a passion for folklore and myth?

I have always enjoyed the dark and mysterious fairy tales and mythologies. There is something so primal about them, like they say proudly, “We have seen the earth move and change and humans will come and go and still we will be here to outlast you.” Finnish folklore and mythology are my special passion, a rich body of stories I hope to do more with in the coming years. I do love the Arthurian and Celtic legends and am thoroughly enjoying weaving these into modern tales.

You know I struggle to get these young  street urchins to listen to and remember the old tales, I do try but they don’t seem to be able to relate to my old yarns about The Goddess, do you think it is important that we continue to develop new versions and twists to our old mythological stories?

Stories change, are retold, adapted and meddled within each generation like one continuous Chinese whisper. It’s important, I believe, to keep this tradition alive. Mythology endures because it hits a part of your heart and soul and mind that isn’t always awake. It’s a way of expressing the big truths that continue to plague mankind and attempt to find some form of illumination. In a time when truth is so important I think there is a great resurgence of these stories happening. People try and go back to find the answers their ancestors always knew. Mythology doesn’t belong to one group of people but are, like kindness, a universal currency.

Now I saw Max and Collin reading your excellent steampunk short story ‘women in men’s waistcoats’ , would you like to tell us a little more about that?

Women in Mens Waistcoats came about when I saw a publishers advertiser for steampunk vampire cross over stories. The publishers didn’t survive but the story did. We don’t have many steampunk stories based in Australia so I wanted to create an alternate Victorian Sydney and see what I could dredge up. It was a tricky piece of work in the research department but well worth it.

And will there be any more adventures for the vampire slaying Sisters?

The second instalment is called ‘Guns in Garters’ but it hasn’t been written yet. It’s still rolling about in the back of my brain palace but Agnes Broadshield will return and I can guarantee her final showdown with her nemesis will be epic. 

And do you have any other new releases planned this year?

I do have a few kicking about. Eastern Gods, an epic fantasy story, is currently available for nomination on Kindle Scout that will hopefully be released in the next few months. I have some Wyrd and Wonderful short stories as well that will be seeing the light of day.

Well that does sound like some lovely things to look forward to! And where else can we find your writing?

All of my writing can be found with the wonderful chaps over at Amazon. They are also available worldwide so any one interested can find them. I do journal some of my adventures on my blog as well if people are interested in what I am up to and what will be coming out soon.

Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, my dear, it’s been wonderful to chat with you! 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 having me, it’s been splendid having a chat. If any of the urchins or anyone else wish to get a hold of me they can find me lurking around the corners of social media, and please tell them to check out a preview of Eastern Gods here, it’s a cracking adventure.

 

Marvellous! Well thankyou all so much for joining us in the soup kitchen today, I hope you will join me again next week and until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Soup Of The Day: With Liz Hennessey

 

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!

liz

Helping me this morning is Steampunk Author E. A. Hennessy, aka Liz, author of Grigory’s Gadget. Good morning Liz, 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 did! I recently made this delicious Roasted Red Pepper and Gouda Soup. It’s just the thing for a cold, dreary winter’s day!

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 have a seat here by the fire and tell us a little more about your marvellous book, I hear that Max and Collin enjoyed it very much indeed……

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I’m so glad they enjoyed it! Grigory’s Gadget, which is Book 1 of the Gaslight Frontier Series, follows Zoya Orlova and her friends as they try to escape their oppressive life in Lodninsk. On their way to their new home, they are kidnapped by pirates and forced to join the crew. What’s more, the pirates seem to have a particular interest in Zoya’s family heirloom – a small gadget of compacted wires and gears.

It sounds thrilling, you know I was kidnapped by pirates myself not so long ago, but they were awfully nice really… but have you always been interested in writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. I remember writing all sorts of stories, from mysteries to sci-fi and fantasy. I always knew I wanted to publish a book someday! I’m so happy to share my stories with the world.

And how did you first become interested in Steampunk?

I believe the first steampunk thing that really caught my eye was the Studio Ghibli movie Howl’s Moving Castle. I was obsessed with that movie, though at the time I didn’t know exactly what “steampunk” was. Gradually over the years, I noticed I was drawn to the Victorian aesthetic and to retro and anachronistic technology. Eventually I was able to give a name to those interests – steampunk!

Now I promised Collin I would ask you… when do you plan to release the next book in the series?

I am working on the rough draft right now. My plan is to finish the rough draft in the next month or two. After that, I like to utilize beta readers to gain some feedback. After a lot of self-editing, I’ll send my manuscript off to my wonderful professional editors at Writership! All in all, I would say that the sequel, Serafima’s Stone, should be out sometime next year!

Oh how exciting, I do hope you’ll visit us again when it is released. And, in the meantime, do you have projects, appearances or releases that we can get excited about?

In addition to working on Serafima’s Stone, I am participating in the Collaborative Writing Challenge Steampunk Project, titled Army of Brass! This is a really cool project where dozens of authors work together to create a single novel. It’s written chapter-by-chapter, with 4-5 submissions from different authors for each chapter. It’s a really fun challenge!

Ah yes, I have heard of it,  it sounds wonderful! And where can we find your books for sale?

Grigory’s Gadget is available in ebook form on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iTunes, and Kobo. It’s also available in paperback form on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you’re ever in the Troy, New York area, there are signed copies available at Market Block Books!

And now the all important question, upon which the fate of the universe may hinge –  what is your favourite hot brew and how do you take it?

I’m currently obsessed with the cinnamon tea from Adagio Teas. It’s a Ceylon black tea with cinnamon sticks and cinnamon flavor. No milk or sugar needed! Alternatively, if I don’t want caffeine, I love making hot chocolate with real melted chocolate.

Oh splendid, always good to have a caffeine-free substitute on hand for if The Good Folk show up!

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

That sounds like a great idea! Thank you so much for your hospitality. Let’s eat!

Marvellous, I hope you will all join me next week when Margaret McGaffey Fisk, author of The Steamship Chronicles, will be helping me to dish up some more delicious soup so,until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

 

 

 


Elevenses: Thin Ice

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, we hope you are feeling extremely eleven o clockish because the time is indeed eleven o clock and you find us desperately clinging to a printing press, screaming for help (and cake) in increasingly agitated tones. Here is what happened –

We decided that before the frost fair ended we ought to do one more round of the fuddling tents and then get our names printed on one of those souvenir flyers by one of the many presses which have sprung up across the frozen river.

I think we may have become a little too fuddled however, as by the time we reached the printers Max was no longer content on having our merely our names on the thing but had begun composing a lengthy treatise against tea rationing, sugar tax, dairy alternatives, the monarchy and poets in general… the poor printer was struggling to arrange her wooden blocks as this tirade of caffeine fuelled wrath drew curious punters from all over the river.

The crowd listened in awe for around five minutes until the part about the cats and then, as one, they turned and fled, screaming in terror. It took a few seconds for myself, Max, and the printer to realise that it was not the cats but the breaking ice which had sent them scurrying and, too late, we found ourselves adrift on one of many small ice islands which were rapidly breaking free and speeding off on the mischievous currents of the thawing river.

One, bearing a cargo of serving maids, ploughed into the side of a barge and shattered, sending the girls flailing into the icy water. Sadly I could do nothing to help as my tentacles are still out of action but Max did valiant things with a histrionic napkin – wafting it at them in a most heroic and undoubtedly helpful way – until they all managed to clamber up onto our island and choke themselves puce (don’t worry, we perched on the printing press to avoid any embarrassment involving vomit and shoes) .

And so we were stuck – we tried to punt our way to the other side using a parasol but once we got there, some thugs tried charging us to set foot on the bank. None of us had a bean and our offers of throwing them a sopping serving maid did not go down well at all.

Not with anyone.

The maids turned savage and pitched the printing press – with us upon it – into the water (who’d have credited them with such strength?) and so here we are, desperately in need of elevenses, and assistance. If you happen to have either, please do not hesitate to hurl them in our direction.

In the meantime we will wish all a very uneventful morning and attempt to endear ourselves to passersby by busking along to this…


Soup of the day: With Darq ‘the doll with a blog’

Oh my goodness! Um…Greetings my dears! Do please excuse me…if you could just avert your eyes for a moment, I am just changing back into my usual attire…

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Wizmas is a very dangerous time to be a witch. That’s  why I have had to put on my false moustache and toupee and pretend to be my non-existent husband, Albert, to avoid awkward questions!

Nevertheless, to celebrate the fact that Wizmas is now over we’re cooking up a secret feast for all the little orphans here in the soup kitchen. Helping me this afternoon is a lady of extraordinarily adventurous inclination and impeccable fashion sense…

IMG_5711.jpg

My guest has a most unusual name—Darq. No last name, but she’s a titled lady on her homeworld. Those titles are—

– Princess of the Misted Moon
– Warrior-Huntress of the Mayahi Dyn
– First Daughter of Pyhanni of the White Grasses
– Granddaughter of Zukaltay of the Octal-Ute Dyn, and an esteemed Naren (a chieftain)

Darq is also the twenty-fourth daughter of the late (deceased) statesman of the Chimalli Ishi Nation. His name was Gidwi. Definitely Darq is a lady not of our world but of the Wysotti nation, a matriarchal planet in a distant solar system. Darq is also a much-decorated Wysotti starfighter pilot, the heroine of her homeworld, and it is her avatar who is my guest today! Please welcome— Darq, the doll with a blog!

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Hello Darq, it is so marvellous to have you here in Lancaster today, have you brought some cake to share?

Hello, Mrs. Baker, and yes, I’ve brought you my Fruity Cake.

darq-fruit-cake-12-15-2015

Fruit Cake? Oh, my dear, no, surely not fruit cake!

(Darq chuckles.) No, no. Fruity Cake. It’s nothing like that atrocious stuff you Earth people make at Christmas and Wizmas, which is only good for use as a fighter plane’s stop-block. Here, look at the recipe and you’ll see.

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Darq’s Fruity Cake
by Author Catherine E. McLean @2012   http://www.CatherineEmclean.com

4 eggs
1 stick of butter (softened)
one 14.5 oz can of Delmonte “no sugar added very cherry fruit mix” – not drained
one 8 oz. can of pineapple tidbits, drained
3/4 cup chopped nuts (pecans preferred)
1 carrot cake mix (cake can be made from scratch)

Into a bowl, pour in the cake mix, then add all the other ingredients and beat until well blended. Pour into a greased bundt pan or bundt mold. Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 45-55 minutes (or until knife comes out clean). If using a 9×13 cake pan, bake for approx. 30-40 minutes.
Serve warm with ice cream or pudding.
May be cooled and coated with confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar) or Cream Cheese Frosting with a fresh fruit topper (mandarin oranges, sliced strawberries, blueberries, etc.)

Oh, yes, I see. Simple, quick . . . sweet . . . fruity . . . Shall we make some for the orphans?

(Darq chuckles again.) Yes. The MIBs said you liked to cook with your guests, so I brought my apron.

Lovely, now while that bakes, let’s sit and have a spot of tea. Do you have a favourite blend my dear?

I do. It’s called Xaaykop.
Xaaykop? I’m afraid I’ve never heard of it…

It’s from my home world. As a friendship gift, I brought you some.

 

Oh, my, such a lovely tea chest! Thankyou!

The artificial flowers on top of the chest are just like the real ones on my planet. Like the leaves, when the seed pods ripen, they are so dark a green they appear black. You grind and brew the tea like any regular Earth tea…

But? I hear a but.

I have to warn you, the longer you brew it, the higher the caffeine content.

Yes we do have to be careful, caffeine is strictly rationed here in The New World! Although, I have never been one to abide by rules and dictates so, how long do you like yours brewed my dear?

Until it’s darkest mahogany, and I take it with six sugars.

Hot, highly caffeinated, and sweet?

(Darq nods.) Some say the caffeine at that darkness has a kick is as powerful as a Ky starfighter at full throttle.

Well, I’ll have to take your word for that since I’ve never ridden in any starship. Now, my dear, as we have a little time while that is brewing, you can tell me about your home planet. Is it similar to ours?


In many ways. It’s what you humans call a Class M Planet. Thankfully, it’s still orbiting its sun-star.

I heard rumours of some type of doomsday curse your people were under.

That’s right. One of my ancient ancestors visited Earth and destroyed the Mayans. For that we Wysotti were cursed so that when the five thousandth year of the Mayan calendar ended, our planet and all its people were to be annihilated.

But you’re here. Alive and all is well.

And the tale of how that came to be can be found in the novel JEWELS OF THE SKY, by author Catherine E. McLean.

jewels-of-sky-frnt-preview10. BOOK

http://www.catherineemclean.com/jewels-of-the-sky.html

And what of these mysterious men in black you mentioned earlier? They’re not Wizards are they?

No. But the weapons the Men In Black have, and the alien beings they monitor, well, sometimes the technology and science seems like magic. If you are able to peer into the future, their story is accurately portrayed in the movies, which are titled Men In Black.

My, my, you lead such an interesting and exciting life. Can you tell us a little about your latest adventure?

(Darq laughs.) I’m now a doll with a blog, who is also considered a fashionista! And before you ask, the premise of my being on Earth is to act as an ambassador at large for my homeworld. My very first outing on your planet had me traveling to a cave in Mexico to be interviewed by Father Dragon (a very old Fire Dragon) who’s elves were quite the video crew.

In other words, I stay with the JEWELS OF THE SKY author, and periodically I go to events, like parties.

Parties! I’ve heard about some of those parties. Particularly this October’s Halloween party at Dracula’s Castle.

(Darq nods.) Yes, that was fun, particularly my steampunk costume. But, Mrs. Baker, parties are actually social events where more diplomacy goes on than one realizes. Yet, there are also dangers. One is that I cannot make headlines. And the paparazzi are a constant threat, so I’m always accompanied by a team of Men In Black who whisk me to exotic and clandestine locations.

Lancaster can be a dangerous place, too, what with the flesh-eating Liver Birds Lord Ashton employs.

Liver Birds!?

Yes, they keep the streets free of what the Tea Time Lords would call ‘vagrants’. If you are travelling home late tonight or planning to visit Peril again in his Lovely Library, I hope you have brought something to protect yourself with?

(Darq grins, and then, from her apron pocket, produces a small pistol)

 

Mrs. Baker, meet the Noisy Cricket.

That tiny thing? Oh, no, my dear, that will never, never do!

Don’t let the size fool you. This weapon has more power, and one helluva mule-kick when fired, than The Jackhammer, a tri-barrel plasma gun, which is a staple in the MIB arsenal. The Jackhammer is a type of raygun. So is this Noisy Cricket.

 Oh, yes, well, a raygun! Of course, Max has something similar which seems to work perfectly well. Yes, that should certainly put pay to any nocturnal attackers, be they Liver Birds, Lemonade Dealers, or Skywaymen! I now have no fears of you reaching the Skyway station in safety. More tea, my dear?

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Now then,  moving on to more pleasant things, I greatly admire those wonderful outfits you’re photographed in at your blog. Do you have any favourites?

If you asked me that before Halloween, I would have unequivocally said my top pick was the witch Evenora emerald green dress. Followed by Catherine’s favorite, the white and silver 1920’s Erte gown.

But now? Some other outfit is now your favourite?

Yes. The Steampunk Halloween Costume I wore in October.

And, my dear, I hear you have a bit of a passion for shoes as well?

(Darq laughs.) You could say I’m a shoeaholic!

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That is certainly an impressive collection my dear! You must drop by and see Max and Collin while you are in town. Max can show you the infamous ‘spot of bother boots’ and Collin will be so envious of your shoe collection as, of course, tentacles do not lend themselves readily to footwear!

So, the MIB have told me!

Ah, I believe it is time for the cake to come out…


 

There now, that’s the cake ready, we’ll just let that cool.

(Darq looks at her hat’s timepiece, then at Mrs. B.) The hour grows late. I can’t stay but a quarter of an hour more or the MIBs will come pounding on your door to get me. The time portal doesn’t stay open forever.

So true. Well, my dear, thank you so much for helping me prepare this wonderful Fruity Cake for the orphans and for the tea and chat. As soon as the cake cools, I’ll slice it up and serve it to the orphans.

And don’t forget the ice cream.

Ice Cream, my dear? What Ice Cream?

(Darq grins.) The barrel of vanilla ice cream that I brought and which the Men In Black, with Collin and Max’s help, were hefting into your cold cellar so the ice cream wouldn’t melt. Not that it would melt with the frigid night air, but we couldn’t let a barrel just set on your doorstep, now could we?

No indeed! If The Good Folk of Her Majesty’s Revenue thought I was serving Ice Cream they’d have my head! I..oh, wait, what is that?

(There comes the sound of the door knocker rapping and a voice calls “Good Folk on patrol Mrs B, thought you’d like to know!”)

Oh, dear me . . . Darq, you had better fly and I must hide all this evidence! But my dear, you surely cannot run in that skirt!

Never fear, Mrs. Baker, I came prepared for all contingencies, including ninja stars disguised as gears on my sleeve cuff and daggers sheathed in the key-holders on my unmentionables.(Darq hugs Mrs. Baker.)

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Thank you so much for inviting me to cook for the orphans. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

It is I who thank you for stopping by, Darq. And I look forward to seeing your Valentine’s Day outfit and reading your blog, we must certainly do this again some time, but now farewell and blessings on your brew my dear!

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Oh my goodness, I must quickly hide all this sugar…and the tea! Do please excuse me my dears, and do please join me here next week when Captain Piper and her trade ship The Mischief will be dropping in to help me with the soup kitchen.

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

A note from Penny…  All of the amazing photographs, dolls clothes and accessories used in this blog post were put together by Catherine E Mclean, I use them here with her kind permission.

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http://www.Catherineemclean.com

Mrs Bakers script was written by myself and Darq’s speach by Catherine. I have never interviewed  a doll before! Thankyou Catherine for a heartily enjoyable and amusing experience!