Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “fantasy

#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

Happy Wednesday! I’m using Wednesdays to share some short bursts of the stories I’m working on… because that way, I figure, I’ll be motivated to keep working on them

Right now (besides the Smith and Skarry adventures, which get quite enough attention in my other posts) I’m working on an LGBTQIA+ Mythpunk standalone novel called In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers whose central themes are identity, voice and power.

It’s based in a world where Time grows like grass and is harvested, where people of the four cities – Gnarl, Ash, Slain and Caligari – wear their whole lives on their backs in the form of patchwork story Cloaks. Those who don’t have a Cloak, have no clue as to who they are. Those who have Cloaks guard them jealously for fear of the desperate Daggers who would steal them for themselves.

The novel is divided into four books – The Book Of Bujo (which btw is a complicated word whose closest meaning would be heist/ joke/ prank/ trick), The Book Of Scales, The Book of Feathers and The Book Of End – but in the opening the reader finds themselves in a burned down library where the pages of all these books have been scattered, charred and disarrayed across the floor so the narrative has to be pieced together in fragments and the time line dawns slowly rather than being obvious from the start.

It’s ambitious, I’m scared about failing at the vision I’m aiming for, but I love pushing the boundaries of what I can do and I’ve done similar things with short stories so I really hope I can make it work, let’s see… This is the next extract, you can find the previous part here:#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

Victorian Steampunk Plague Doctor Assassin

 

 

The Duchess felt the wooden boards behind her bow beneath The Magon’s measured gait, felt the cautious weight of their rough, scaled hand on her shoulder and the glass vial they pressed into her mechanical fingers.
She nodded and slipped it into her pouch, where it knocked gently against five or six others nestled there, and then she reached back, unfastened the buckle of her mask and let it slide away, revealing her warm olive skin and the black silk bandages which veiled her empty eye sockets from the elements.
The Kite stuttered over the rolling waves of compacted sea glass, now dry as sand-licked bone, and The Duchess felt the resonance of each frosted bead like a rosary drumming through her frame.
The Magon stayed, leaning idly against the mast, and let the wind blow back their long crest of silver hair and feathers from their dusk dark skin.
A comfortable silence slipped and settled down between them as The She Wolf slept and The Dragpie sulked and the Navigator steered and The Kesili strained and The Grass Temple begged and the twisted arches of Gnarl rose up ahead of them like a crouching spider on the edge of everything.

 

There you go, I hope you enjoyed reading the next little extract and thankyou so so much for taking the time to read along and for all your kind ‘likes’ and words of support and encouragement- they keep me going! 🙂 What are you writing at the moment? Feel free to share links to your own works in progress or Writing Wednesday posts in the comments 🙂

Blessings on all your writing endeavours!


Guest Post by Stephen Palmer: A Diverse Dilemma?

A Diverse Dilemma? – A Guest Post By Stephen Palmer

 

A few years ago, the well known scientist Tim Hunt caused a media storm by suggesting that women scientists in laboratories were distractingly sexy and prone to fits of tears. He was rightly lambasted and mocked for having such an old-fashioned attitude. This incident caused a particularly interesting tea break conversation in the staff room of the college where I used to work, between myself, two sociology teachers (for whom racism and much else is on the curriculum), a biology teacher and a psychology teacher. We covered sexism, racism, the youth of today – ie our students – and a few other related topics, and the conversation really made me think afterwards, not least about the use of offensive words in literature.

 

In 2014, Keith Brooke at Infinity Plus Books published my surreal, alternate-history fantasy Hairy London, a novel not to be taken seriously, but which has a couple of really serious themes – the nature of love, and the treatment afforded by white men of what used to be called the Establishment to non-British people, the “lower” classes and women. As somebody who is appalled by racism and sexism, and who has happily used a full human range of characters in his novels, I wanted to make use of some of the excesses of times gone past in order to allow two of my main characters – both of them men from wealthy English families – to learn from their experiences. To do this, I used the term darkie. I used it for no other reason than to make the point that the racism of the time was shameful and inhumane. I felt my use was appropriate.

This use of the word was noted in one of the novel’s reviews: … there is a boldness echoing the New Wave experimentalism of British SF in the 1960s. Bold to the extent that elements of the depiction of racism may prove controversial, not least some historically accurate language…

So, I asked myself: is it ever acceptable to use this term? And if so, what about the N-word?

 

In 2016, the first volume of my ‘Factory Girl’ trilogy, The Girl With Two Souls, whose main character Kora is a fourteen year old of mixed racial descent, was published. Technically, Kora is a mulatto. This word has its origin somewhere in the sixteenth century and comes from the Spanish mulato, meaning mule (the offspring of a donkey and a horse, ie mixed heritage). Interestingly, the N-word is not much younger – a few decades perhaps.

You will note I haven’t actually spelled out the N-word here. But I did use it in full in The Girl With Two Souls to enhance the sensation received by the reader that my main character was being treated with crude inhumanity. I felt that, because the word was used in an appropriate social context, not to mention an obvious historical context, it was right to use it.

Some people today think the word shouldn’t be used in any context; they say it is always wrong and always inappropriate. I think this is misguided, and often unhelpful. To censor the attitudes of people in the past by not using their dialect is to ignore or conceal their deeds.

 

Recently I finished reading Discoveries, Nicholas Thomas’ excellent survey of Captain Cook’s three voyages of discovery in the late 1700s. What was particularly interesting was the attitude of the British sailors to various Polynesian races. In fact, at this very early stage, Cook at least was comparatively enlightened, though in a particular way; he had a concept of peaceful interaction with “natives,” though only for the purpose of trade. And he used his own metaphor to describe them, not the Polynesians’ metaphors. He and other officers also used the difference in status of women to judge Polynesian societies, assuming that polygamy was primitive and monogamy the norm, ie the Christian norm. And of course Cook and others distinguished between the “European” straighter hair of the Australian Aborigines and the “woolly” hair of what they called Negroes, presuming that “woolly” hair was like animal hair. In this manner, and in others, they were able to present themselves with justifications for slavery.

 

I suppose we’re all guilty of making unthinking mistakes though, mistakes based in the norms of our own culture. The tea break conversation mentioned above turned to the use of the word ethnic, which I’ve regularly used as an umbrella word – for example to describe my collection of musical instruments – to mean non-British. The sociology teacher pointed out to me that the word was meaningless, since everybody has an ethnicity, a point which had escaped me, even though I’m of Welsh extraction and have received anti-Welsh mockery (from an Indian – oh, the irony). Ethnic… it shows how we accidentally slip into unhelpful terminology sometimes when describing the wider world.

The sociology teacher went on to explain that the acronym BME is used by British police and other organisations to cover black and minority ethnicities, thereby collecting everyone under one label. But it is a meaningless label, and hardly helpful, not least when for example non-British refugees (eg from Somalia) are all housed together when they are from groups who in Somalia are at one another’s throats.

One other issue we have is of making blanket identities, for example that of “African.” In my novel Muezzinland I wanted to write about the intricate and sophisticated cultures of Western and Northern Africa, which I did via folklore. It was a novel with racism as a theme – eg that of people from Northern Africa upon Western Africans – which did not mention race.

 

As an interesting addendum, none other than President Obama used the N-word during a podcast on 21 June 2015, showing that, in some circumstances, and from some people, there is a place for it.

And in a thought-provoking piece in today’s Independent, Ben Elton describes what he learned, much later, from his use of the epithet “spasmo” in 1982 in ‘The Young Ones,’ which went on to become a playground taunt. He regrets it deeply now, and has greatly contributed to disabled charities such as Scope, but the fact remains: the word was of its time. We can see that it’s wrong, but we have to use that word now in order to examine the sociological context of 37 years ago.

It turns out we are all human, with individual circumstances of gender, race, culture, background etc. I think it would be good if our society reflected that fact.

 

Many thanks for this thought provoking guest post Stephen. You can find Stephen’s blog here:

https://stephenpalmersf.wordpress.com/

And the first book in his Factory Girl series here:


#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

Happy Wednesday! I’m using Wednesdays to share some short bursts of the stories I’m working on… because that way, I figure, I’ll be motivated to keep working on them

Right now (besides the Smith and Skarry adventures, which get quite enough attention in my other posts) I’m working on an LGBTQIA+ Mythpunk standalone novel called In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers whose central themes are identity, voice and power.

It’s based in a world where Time grows like grass and is harvested, where people of the four cities – Gnarl, Ash, Slain and Caligari – wear their whole lives on their backs in the form of patchwork story Cloaks. Those who don’t have a Cloak, have no clue as to who they are. Those who have Cloaks guard them jealously for fear of the desperate Daggers who would steal them for themselves.

The novel is divided into four books – The Book Of Bujo (which btw is a complicated word whose closest meaning would be heist/ joke/ prank/ trick), The Book Of Scales, The Book of Feathers and The Book Of End – but in the opening the reader finds themselves in a burned down library where the pages of all these books have been scattered, charred and disarrayed across the floor so the narrative has to be pieced together in fragments and the time line dawns slowly rather than being obvious from the start.

It’s ambitious, I’m scared about failing at the vision I’m aiming for, but I love pushing the boundaries of what I can do and I’ve done similar things with short stories so I really hope I can make it work, let’s see… This is the next extract, you can find the previous part here: #WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers 

Victorian Steampunk Plague Doctor Assassin

 

The Grass Temple had to take care ; the winds that swept across The Sea Glass Isle were perfect for high speed Kiting but when you were made of grass, wind was never going to be your ally. 

‘Weave me,’ The Grass Temple thought with all her strength, “weave me stronger my little ones, my wee, wee priests and priestesses who scuttle through my hollows and who build and mould and create and destroy and create me new again, weave me firm against this gale.” 

The Grass Temple had no idea whether the creatures who dwelt inside her heard her thoughts. Sometimes it seemed they did her bidding; seemingly miraculous coincidences once or twice had almost convinced her to adopt an unshakable faith in that fact… but more often they wove and snipped and clipped and trimmed and embellished and refurbished and went on about their days seemingly oblivious to her attempts at communication. 

The Grass Temple was certain that they were oblivious right now to her – and their own – impending doom at the hands of the violent gusts  which tugged and teased and threw the long multicoloured tendrils of her form every way they pleased. 

‘Weave!’ The Grass Temple pleaded, looking desperately around the Kite for shelter. She had not been with the others long, they had rescued her from a group of Daggers who, not content with cutting off her Cloak, had begun to pull her apart just for the fun of it. 

She treasured that day in her memory; The swift blades of The Duchess, the bellow of The Magon’s rage as they chased the last of her assailants off into the knotted city walkways, the dashing Kesili as they lifted her in strong arms to safety and the mocking wit of The Dragpie whose scathing curses followed The Daggers’ heels off into the gloom. 

She had known who she was before that… at least, she had known what Her Cloak said about her, and she had believed it. The Grass Temple was one of the lucky few who had grown a Cloak from her shoulder blades when the sky had shattered and the voices had all been sealed away by The Alchemists, for the protection of The People.

No one with a cloak doubted that the embroidered patches of words and pictures told the story of who they were, what they had done and what they would do in the future. They immediately began adding to them, recording their daily escapades and  achievements and each patch they added became an intrinsic part of their own, true self. 

The Grass Temple remembered all this, she remembered the thrill of adding each new segment of fabric to her frame … but nothing else; whatever those pictures and words had said about her was now gone, all except a few tattered fragments that still clung to her back… a black and white bird … a dragon… a windmill… a seed… a tree… and one beautiful golden eye…  

That was what Daggers did – having no Cloaks of their own and no clue to their own identity or purpose the people of The Four Cities were left with several choices ; Daggers chose to cut the Cloaks of others and steal a history for themselves. Of course the Cloaks didn’t graft onto their flesh and truly become their own, but no one would know the difference unless they looked closely. The Dragpie had said that there were even Daggers who cut Cloaks into fragments and traded them on, and that some Daggers actually had Cloaks themselves but coveted and stole more illustrious or exciting parts of the stories of others. 

The Grass Temple didn’t have a mouth to smile with just now, but she felt the smile rise inside her all the same ; she was safe, the crew of The Land Kite had welcomed her like a sister and, they had promised, they would help her recover her lost Cloak – piece by piece if necessary – from the Daggers’ who’d stolen it.

 

There you go, I hope you enjoyed reading the next little extract and thankyou so so much for taking the time to read along and for all your kind ‘likes’ and words of support and encouragement- they keep me going!  🙂 What are you writing at the moment? Feel free to share links to your own works in progress or Writing Wednesday posts in the comments 🙂

Blessings on all your writing endeavours!


#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

Happy Wednesday! I’m using Wednesdays to share some short bursts of the stories I’m working on… because that way, I figure, I’ll be motivated to keep working on them

Right now (besides the Smith and Skarry adventures, which get quite enough attention in my other posts) I’m working on an LGBTQIA+ Mythpunk standalone novel called In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers whose central themes are identity, voice and power.

It’s based in a world where Time grows like grass and is harvested, where people of the four cities – Gnarl, Ash, Slain and Caligari – wear their whole lives on their backs in the form of patchwork story Cloaks. Those who don’t have a Cloak, have no clue as to who they are. Those who have Cloaks guard them jealously for fear of the desperate Daggers who would steal them for themselves.

The novel is divided into four books – The Book Of Bujo (which btw is a complicated word whose closest meaning would be heist/ joke/ prank/ trick), The Book Of Scales, The Book of Feathers and The Book Of End – but in the opening the reader finds themselves in a burned down library where the pages of all these books have been scattered, charred and disarrayed across the floor so the narrative has to be pieced together in fragments and the time line dawns slowly rather than being obvious from the start.

It’s ambitious, I’m scared about failing at the vision I’m aiming for, but I love pushing the boundaries of what I can do and I’ve done similar things with short stories so I really hope I can make it work, let’s see… This is the fifth extract, you can find the fourth part here: #WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

 

Victorian Steampunk Plague Doctor Assassin

 

The Duchess listened to the wind screaming protest against the canvas of the Land Kite sail. There was no other obstacle to its passage across the Seaglass Isle for another six or so kilometers ; then it would shatter into gusts against the buttresses of Gnarl and howl, fragmented and broken as the citizens, through the twisted streets, biting flesh in ire at the city’s presence here in its domain.

She frowned beneath her black leather beaked mask ; Nav had indicated that this would be their last foray into Gnarl and while the others had all made at least some progress here, The Duchess would be heading to Caligari with no further clue as to who, or what, she was, or might once have been. It was a vexing situation and beneath her black lace gloves her mechanical hands bawled unconsciously into fists, betraying her frustration.

 She could sway them to stay a little longer ; even The Magon, with all their great strength, was no match for her bladecraft… but that wasn’t the way this worked. The Navigator could see things hidden in The Shattered Sky ; patterns and signs encrypted in the miasma of scales and feathers which rolled above the land in prismatic clouds – a denundated landscape of shifting grains. 

The Navigator knew exactly where they should go next and what they should do when they got there and they’d all learnt the hard way that following her guidance was always the sensible option ; The Grass Temple had been a mistake but it wasn’t ever going to be repeated, if The Navigator said it was time to move on, then that was what they would do.

 

There you go, I hope you enjoyed reading the next little extract 🙂 What are you writing at the moment? Feel free to share links to your own works in progress or Writing Wednesday posts in the comments 🙂

Blessings on all your writing endeavours!


#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

Happy Wednesday! I’m using Wednesdays to share some short bursts of the stories I’m working on… because that way, I figure, I’ll be motivated to keep working on them 🙂

Right now (besides the Smith and Skarry adventures, which get quite enough attention in my other posts) I’m working on an LGBTQIA+  Mythpunk standalone novel called In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers whose central themes are identity, voice and power.

It’s based in a world where Time grows like grass and is harvested, where people of the four cities – Gnarl, Ash, Slain and Caligari – wear their whole lives on their backs in the form of patchwork story Cloaks. Those who don’t have a Cloak, have no clue as to who they are. Those who have Cloaks guard them jealously for fear of the desperate Daggers who would steal them for themselves.

The novel is divided into four books – The Book Of Bujo (which btw is a complicated word whose closest meaning would be heist/ joke/ prank/ trick), The Book Of Scales, The Book of Feathers and The Book Of End – but in the opening the reader finds themselves in a burned down library where the pages of all these books have been scattered, charred and disarrayed across the floor so the narrative has to be pieced together in fragments and the time line dawns slowly rather than being obvious from the start.

It’s ambitious, I’m scared about failing at the vision I’m aiming for, but I love pushing the boundaries of what I can do and I’ve done similar things with short stories so I really hope I can make it work, let’s see… This is the third extract, you can find the second part here: #WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

 

The Dragpie smiled, preened their beautiful head of mingled short dark hair and purple-green feathers and drew a corked vial from a concealed leather pouch within their waistcoat. They shook it and scrutinised its contents with anthracite eyes in the dagger wounds of light and shadow that scarred the swaying boards of the rolling Land Kite. “Hm, and who will speak for me today? Or who will I speak for? Who is really controlling who in this game I wonder? Who…”

“Who ever said it was your turn to talk, dick?” The Magon’s own voice was little more than a whisper but their mountain of scale-covered flesh invited no protest as they snatched the vial from their stunned and indignant companion. 

“But, but, but… I haven’t finished! And my voice is running out…I can feel it…listen!”

“You stole the last two turns, dip-shit, you speak more than the rest of us put..pu…” the last word was lost in silent breath and the Magon glowered and tried again ; the strain visible in beads of sweat on their flushed temples.

 

There you go, I hope you enjoyed reading the next little extract 🙂 What are you writing at the moment? Feel free to share links to your own works in progress or Writing Wednesday posts in the comments 🙂

Blessings on all your writing endeavours!


Lovely Library: A Wizard’s Quandary

Good evening and welcome to my awe inspiring athenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets – or as that ridiculous octopus calls it, my ‘lovely library.’

old-library-1571043

I am the ghost of 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, catalogue and review every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler of the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

 

But I have not always been a bad tempered ghost in charge of an underground library. Once upon a time I was a bad tempered gentleman who had devoted his life to the collection of evidence which might perhaps one day bring about the downfall of our oppressive overlord, Wiz.

 

Not to be put off by death, I have struggled to find a way to continue my work and I have indeed found a method by which I can sporadically leave this library, to which I am otherwise bound, and travel abroad.

 

This method is known as The Opprobrious Pith Helmet.

 

By securing the services of a less than reputable Wizard I have had my soul partially bound to an ancient piece of explorational headwear and am therefore able to possess the wearer for short periods of time, with their consent…hm? Did I have to drug them first? Well how very rude of you of course I did not have to drug them…I mean the very idea!

 

So, this evening I am most honoured to be occupying the form of  authour Guy Donovan and I… no those are NOT blood stains on his shirt. It is red paint. I may have had a very minor altercation with a disgruntled barge woman who mistook my innocent enquiries about leather bound tomes for something else entirely, but I managed to set her straight in the end… after I’d clambered out of the canal and removed most of the pond weed.

 

Anyway I do not have time for an interrogation on the moral use of other people’s bodies, can you not see that I have just returned from a most important business trip? I have new books everywhere and I must review and catalogue them  and… what’s that? What are you wittering about? Help? You’d like to help me transcribe? You’ve brought along some single malt to keep out the chills as we work?

Oh.

Well, I suppose that puts a very different slant on things doesn’t it? Very well then, I will dictate a short extract of each story and a review, and you can pour…I mean type… a-hem…

A WIZARD’S QUANDARY BY JAQ D HAWKINS

The story concerns the wizard Lesana, who is employed by her local king to keep him in potions that preserve his youth. She lives alone in her tower far from the capitol, unless of course you count the small, green dragon in her keeping that she found as a hatchling and named Khadri. No one but Lesana knows about Khadri, and they both intend to keep it that way. If the king found out about him…well, you can guess what would happen, right?
Then one day, a soldier comes from the capitol with orders to take Lesana to the king and teach him how to make her magic potions for himself. Naturally enough, Lesana isn’t very interested in doing anything of the sort, so she and Khadri abscond, with the soldier pursuing them into the mountains—the same mountains in which Lesana found Khadri. The mountains where the dragons live.
What I liked most about the story is the relationship between Lesana and Khadri. It’s very playful and touches on maternal without ever getting cloying. The below sample shows that very well, I think.
*****
Lesana peered carefully into the crucible, closely observing the swirling, black mass within.
“If that pops, you could lose an eye.” Khadri, Lesana’s miniature green dragon companion, hopped onto Lesana’s shoulder, causing her to brace herself against the weight of an animal the size of a full-grown wolverine. He glanced at the churning elixir.
Lesana pulled her head back a little, but continued frowning at the crucible.
“Your eyes see more colours than mine,” she stated aloud. “Can you see any hint of vermilion?”
Khadri danced around on his shoulder perch, pretending not to notice when Lesana steeled herself against the new claw punctures in her partially healed, damaged skin.
“I see the red glowing crystals forming rapidly, as always. You’ve never failed in your efforts to make the Philosopher’s Stone to my knowledge.”
Lesana smirked.
“You should have seen my early efforts, when you were just a hatchling,” she replied. “It’s more by luck than judgement that I never blew up the entire tower.”
“It’s a dangerous business,” Khadri acknowledged. “I don’t see why the king doesn’t just send you to Egypt to retrieve the cinnabar from mummy wrappings.”
Lesana guffawed, pushing herself away from the table where the crucible continued to send sulphuric vapour into the close space of the uppermost tower room where she kept her laboratory, just in case. Fire and explosions tended to travel upwards.
“I can just see the Egyptian Department of Antiquities allowing a foreign wizard to help herself to the preservatives in their precious national tourist industry. Last I heard they didn’t even know the nature of the red ochre. I’d rather not be the one to explain that they’ve had the key to immortality within their relics all this time.”
She wandered to the arched window that looked out over the dead forest to the north. The elevation provided by the fifth level tower room allowed Lesana to see the Crystal Mountains in the distance. A wistful note entered her voice.
“Besides, if I ever leave the king’s employ and travel somewhere, I’d like to go back to the Crystal Mountains.”
“Where you found me?” Khadri gasped. “The dragons would eat you!”
“Perhaps,” Lesana admitted. “But they didn’t before. I felt something while I was there. Something…magical.”
*****
Being a writer of dragon tales myself, (I grew up reading Anne McCaffrey’s fantastic Pern series and the influence shows) I think it’s very important that they be treated as characters in their own right, rather than simply bestial antagonists. Now that’s not to say that dragons can’t be the bad guy! I just think that they’re better storywise when they are presented as more than mere powerful animals. Besides, being that us humans are so good at being bad, I prefer stories where the dragons are more noble. Jaq D. Hawkins did that very well.

 

And I think we had better leave it there for this evening don’t you? The bottle is dry and I must be getting this body back to its rightful owner… hm? What’s that you say? You don’t think I should give it back in this state? Well we’ve only had a few haven’t we? It is hardly my fault if Guy can’t hold his liquor… hic…

 

MANY THANKS TO AUTHOUR GUY DONOVAN FOR BEING A FABULOUS SPORT AND SHARING HIS REVIEW IN PERIL’S LOVELY LIBRARY! YOU CAN FIND GUY HERE

AMAZON AUTHOUR PAGE

FACEBOOK PAGE

AND YOU CAN READ THE REST OF A WIZARD’S QUANDARY IN THE DREAMTIME DAMSELS ANTHOLOGY HERE:

 

library image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com


#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

Happy Wednesday! I’m using Wednesdays to share some short bursts of the stories I’m working on… because that way, I figure, I’ll be motivated to keep working on them 🙂

Right now (besides the Smith and Skarry adventures, which get quite enough attention in my other posts) I’m working on an LGBTQIA+  Mythpunk standalone novel called In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers whose central themes are identity, voice and power.

It’s based in a world where Time grows like grass and is harvested, where people of the four cities – Gnarl, Ash, Slain and Caligari – wear their whole lives on their backs in the form of patchwork story Cloaks. Those who don’t have a Cloak, have no clue as to who they are. Those who have Cloaks guard them jealously for fear of the desperate Daggers who would steal them for themselves.

The novel is divided into four books – The Book Of Bujo (which btw is a complicated word whose closest meaning would be heist/ joke/ prank/ trick), The Book Of Scales, The Book of Feathers and The Book Of End – but in the opening the reader finds themselves in a burned down library where the pages of all these books have been scattered, charred and disarrayed across the floor so the narrative has to be pieced together in fragments and the time line dawns slowly rather than being obvious from the start.

It’s ambitious, I’m scared about failing at the vision I’m aiming for, but I love pushing the boundaries of what I can do and I’ve done similar things with short stories so I really hope I can make it work, let’s see… This is the second extract, you can find the first part here: #WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

Victorian Steampunk Plague Doctor Assassin

 

THE BOOK OF SCALES

 

Across The Sea Glass Isle

The Dragpie held the purple-black beetle between their slender, smokey, claw-like fingers and studied its jewelish iridescence in the deep, bleeding light. 

Somewhere a sun must be setting to cast such refracted shadows across the Marrow Roads, but that meant nothing ; the Dragpie’s mouth twisted upwards in a bitter smile – as if time were a thing that could be measured by the fickle motions of celestials from beyond The Shattered Sky.

‘So pretty,” The Dragpie sighed, contemplating the bug once more, “Soooooo, soooo pretty,” and then they squeezed; spilling black insectine blood in a thick ooze over their fingertips. 

“But,” The Dragpie cocked their head on one side as they smeared the khol-dark liquid under their eyeline and swept it up to their temples in what they considered a ferociously artistic motion, “this is war, and if you are going to persist in biting my arse all night, little bastards, then I am going to have to make your moral education my highest priority,” they wiped their fingers on dark leather trousers that were several decades past their prime, “consider this exercise less ‘corporal punishment’ and more ‘ascending to a higher realm of utility..” they mused, examining the effect in the distorted glass of a broken blue bottle. 

 

There you go, I hope you enjoyed reading the opening 🙂 What are you writing at the moment? Feel free to share links to your own works in progress or Writing Wednesday posts in the comments 🙂

Blessings on all your writing endeavours!


Lovely Library: Muliebral The Bald… oops, I mean Bold, sorry!

Good evening and welcome to my awe inspiring athenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets – or as that ridiculous octopus calls it, my ‘lovely library.’ 

old-library-1571043.jpg

I am the ghost of 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, catalogue and review every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler of the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

 

But I have not always been a bad tempered ghost in charge of an underground library. Once upon a time I was a bad tempered gentleman who had devoted his life to the collection of evidence which might perhaps one day bring about the downfall of our oppressive overlord, Wiz.

 

Not to be put off by death, I have struggled to find a way to continue my work and I have indeed found a method by which I can sporadically leave this library, to which I am otherwise bound, and travel abroad.

 

This method is known as The Opprobrious Pith Helmet.

 

By securing the services of a less than reputable Wizard I have had my soul partially bound to an ancient piece of explorational headwear and am therefore able to possess the wearer for short periods of time, with their consent…hm? Did I have to drug them first? Well how very rude of you of course I did not have to drug them…I mean the very idea! 

 

So this evening, I most honoured to be occupying the form of  authour Jaq D Hawkins and I… yes her hair is supposed to look like that. I think. Well, alright there may have been a very minor altercation with a disgruntled Bar Keep who mistook my innocent enquiries about leather bound tomes for something else entirely, but I managed to set him straight in the end… no, no those are not bruises on her knuckles, I didn’t hit him that hard. 

 

Anyway I do not have time for an interrogation on the moral use of other people’s bodies, can you not see that I have just returned from a most important business trip? I have new books everywhere and I must review and catalogue them  and… what’s that? What are you wittering about? Help? You’d like to help me transcribe? You’ve brought along some cherry brandy to keep out the chills as we work?

Oh.

Well, I suppose that puts a very different slant on things doesn’t it? Very well then, I will dictate a short extract of each story and a review, and you can pour…I mean type… a-hem… 

 

Nav Logan has an undeniable talent for comedy. I first came across this author when we were both invited to submit stories for the Dreamtime Dragons Anthology. I was well impressed that he was able to make getting eaten by a dragon funny!

 

Muliebral the Bald (or Bold) has compounded my opinion that Logan could give Terry Pratchett some serious competition in the area of human observation comedy, while setting the story within a believable historical fiction context. He can even do the accents while keeping them understandable, no small feat!

 

The story is about a king who has two daughters whom he feels he must marry off to generate heirs in the old Medieval patriarchal system. However, the girls are good fighters, being descendants of Boudicca and all, and Muliebral, more than her sister Chastity, sees no reason why they need a man to protect them or fill the role of heir to the kingdom.

 

Her basic attitude is summed up in a quote from her maternal grandmother, who clearly never approved of her daughter’s choice of husband, king or not:

 

Todhmhii’s (Tommy) one regret was that he had no sons to pass his kingdom on to. His wife, Hayleigh, had given him two daughters: Chastity and Muliebral, and they were as different as chalk and cheese. His mother-in-law, Lannau, regularly and publicly scorned him for his inability to produce any male heirs. 

“If I  told our Hayleigh once, I must have told her a hundred times,” the old hag would mutter to anyone who was daft enough to heed her, “You need to marry a strong virile Iceni man and you’ll be blessed with godlike children, not go gallivanting off with a worthless bog-trotting Briganti brigand who can’t tell the difference between a ewe in heat and a tavern wench! My grandmother, Queen Boudicca, would turn in her grave at the shame of it. Her last surviving kinswoman marrying a foul-mouthed, crotch-dribbling, goat fondler!”

How Mulibral goes about getting around her father’s insistence on following tradition not too subtly reflects a trope popular in Classical stories about strong women, but it is delivered with Logan’s characteristic ribald humour and is entertaining from start to finish. The quality of writing is superb and the characters come to life from the page with seemingly no effort.

 

This is definitely one of my own favourite stories from the collection!

 

And I think we had better leave it there for this evening don’t you? The bottle is dry and I must be getting this body back to its rightful owner… hm? What’s that you say? You don’t think I should give it back in this state? Well we’ve only had a few haven’t we? It is hardly my fault if Jaq is a light weight… hic… 

 

MANY THANKS TO AUTHOUR JAQ D HAWKINS FOR BEING A FABULOUS SPORT AND SHARING HER REVIEW IN PERIL’S LOVELY LIBRARY! YOU CAN FIND JAQ HERE

:https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jaq-D-Hawkins/e/B0034P4BFI?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1570617386&sr=8-1

 

AND YOU CAN FIND MULIEBRAL THE BALD / BOLD IN THE DREAMTIME DAMSELS ANTHOLOGY HERE…

 

library image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com by Johnathan Adrianzen


#DreamtimeDamselsAnthology: Elevenses with Marc Vun Kannon

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s rambunctiously
raucous and chi-chi to the core parlour located high above it all on board our beautiful
rainbow-sailed ship, The Harlequin Ladybird.
Our tentacles are all of a quiver this morning and our china cups are chattering because
joining us for elevenses this morning we are taking part in the Dreamtime Damsels blog
tour/ internet blitz and we are honoured to have Marc Vun Kannon.
Do please have a seat, (Max, get off the chaise and let them sit down … hm? … no floor cushions are not ‘all the rage’ Max, and that is not a floor cushion it is a cat, just move aside.)

I do apologise, Marc, would you like some tea? Earl Grey? Lapsang? Assam? Darjeeling? Oolong? (Max you have definitely exhausted that comedic avenue)
Earl Grey, please. I love the smell of bergamot in the morning. Well, anytime,
actually.
Marvellous, there you go. Now then , do tell us more about your contribution to this Dreamtime Damsels anthology which are excited to be able to supply the pre-order links for here:

Mine is the story of Sarah Mack, who may turn out to be a fatal femme, but is most
definitely a dangerous damsel. Taken as a baby from her parents shortly after the
Night of Echoes, when magic returned to the world, her parent, mentor, and boss –
known only as Mr. Tom – has trained her in the gentle arts of magic and thievery,
usually in combination. One of the few who possess psychic talents as well as
magical ones, she is sent to Glastonbury Tor in search of a certain, special
something, but what seems a graduation exercise of sorts is really the first step on
a slippery slope of love, revenge, and redemption. I’m just not sure for whom, yet.
Oh did you hear that Max? Doesn’t it sound exciting. What inspired you to write it?

This story is set in the world of my novel Ghostkiller. This story will be the first
chapter of the sequel, when I get around to writing it. The Night of Echoes changed
the world in just so many ways.

I see, how marvellous. And what would you say most influences your writing in general?
No one thing, in particular. While I am willing to take inspiration from any source, I
prefer to blaze my own trail when it comes to the actual telling of the story. My only
rule of writing is, I’ve seen it done once, don’t do it again. I have a huge stash
of material from books, films, TV, and even music in the back of my head, but when
the story brings it forward, I take that as a sign to do something a little different.
Splendid idea! Any authors who have particularly inspired you?
A few, negatively. I’ll do them a favor and not mention them by name. On the
positive side I suppose I could mention L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson,
creators of the Oz books. I grew up with those.
Hm. Excellent. (No he does not want to hear your poetry Max, we had quite enough of that yesterday) Battenburg?
Certainly. Never tried that before.
Well, it doesn’t usually have as many hairs in it as this slice but the galley cats are incorrigible gluttons. You know, writing is something I’ve always fancied turning my talents to – having so many tentacles I imagine I could be quite productive as an author. Tell me, what was your own road into fiction writing like?
Unplanned. It started with some dreams. I don’t normally remember those. When I
mentioned them to my wife she said, that sounds like it make a good book. A few days later I had a sentence in my head. I wrote it down and said now what? With no
writing classes or experience to speak of, I developed my whole technique based on
the books I’d read, and what I did and did not like about them. Basically, the story
came up to me and said ‘you will write me!’ Ever since, it’s been one story after
another.

Excellent! It sounds like fate! And do you have any plans for new projects in the near future?
Oo, well, ‘plans’ is a hard word. I’m a total pantser, I have no plans for anything, not
even the book I’m in the middle of writing. Inspiration can come from anywhere,
though, all you have to do is pay attention to your life. My stories are always growing, too. ‘Sleeping Dragon’ is an example of that.
So, where can we find your work?
All of my work is available on Amazon. I’ve recently taken to self-publishing, and I’ve also had my stories appear in a number of magazines lately as well. I’ve got a link around here somewhere…
https://www.amazon.com/Vun-Kannon-Marc/e/B0076OUKWQ
Oh thankyou… Wooooah! Dear me I do apologise, the airship must have slipped and I seem to have landed in your lap I hope I haven’t covered you in octopus slime?
Not at all, not all. (brush, wipe) What’s a little octopus slime between friends?
Are you sure you’re alright? Hm, what’s that? Time you were going? Are you sure I can’t
tempt you with another cup?
Sorry, but there’s octopus slime in my bergamot. Maybe another time…
Oh dear, Max I do believe the rumours of your awful poetry and your clumsy antics at the tea table  have scared off yet another of our guests. You really must learn to behave yourself In Company.
Thank you, friends for joining us this morning on board our beautiful rainbow sailed ship,The Harlequin Ladybird, you will find all the blog posts so far on the Dreamtime Damsels blog tour listed below and until we see you again,

please remain always,

Utterly Yourself

Mary Woldering hosts the first round of character interviews 

Leslie Conzatti presents an excerpt from one of the stories in the anthology: Red, The Wolf

Mary Woldering hosts the second round of character interviews

Our own kitchen witch interviews Nav Logan

Nav Logan joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Leslie Conzatti presents an excerpt from one of the stories in the anthology: Dangerous by Morgan Smith

Mary Woldering hosts the next round of character interviews

A.M Young joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Benjamin Towe joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Cover reveal from The Benthic Times

Cover reveal from Collin on The Harlequin Ladybird

Mary Woldering hosts the next round of Character interviews

Jaq D Hawkins helps Mrs Baker to dish up some tasty soup

Paul Michael joins us for elevenses

#Twitterinterview with the authours

Guy Donovan joins us for elevenses

Nimue Brown causes havoc with her tentacles


#DreamtimeDamselsAnthology blog tour: Elevenses with Nimue Brown

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s rambunctiously raucous and chi-chi to the core parlour located high above it all on board our beautiful rainbow-sailed ship, The Harlequin Ladybird.

Our tentacles are all of a quiver this morning and our china cups are chattering because we are still taking part in the Dreamtime Damsels blog tour and we are honoured (and not even slightly alarmed) to have our very dear friend the infamous lunatic and cheese fiend Nimue Brown joining us for elevenses this morning.

Do please put down that lethal looking collection of cutlery, My Dear, and have a seat, (Max, get off the chaise and let her sit down before she takes off a tentacle with that spoon… hm? … no she can’t sit on your lap, just move aside.)

Would you like tea? Earl Grey? Lapsang? Assam? Darjeeling? Oolong? (Max that joke is wearing decidedly thin now)

Earl Grey is my tea of preference, very strong and with no milk in it. Thank you!

I have never understood this human penchant for putting dairy products into hot beverages, there you go my dear, one Naked Earl. (Max get up off the floor I don’t know what you are finding so amusing)

Now then , do tell us more about your contribution to this Dreamtime Damsels anthology which we are now happily able to provide the pre-order links for here…

 

Well, it is a Hopeless Maine tale, in essence the aftermath of a tragic love story between a giant tentacled sky beast and a hot air balloon. We probably don’t have enough stories about the sort of mopping up other people have to do when love gets out of hand.

Ah, alas, those of us with tentacles have perhaps the most tragic tales to tell… was this story semi-autobiographical?

I was colouring on the Hopeless Maine graphic novel series, and a conversation between Sal and Owen popped into my head in which she was complaining bitterly about his wet hair slapping her in the face, and as I pulled back from this scene, I could see what they were dealing with and it was large, and messy and there were tentacles and bits of rope everywhere….

Max don’t be so rude it does NOT sound like my bedroom on a Sunday morning! Let us just ignore his idiotic remarks – what would you say most influences your writing in general?

Coffee. Tom Brown. Not being able to afford therapy. Being allowed to kill people with absolutely no consequences… I should probably stop there.

I see… Nimue I’m so sorry, I have just noticed that these cake knives seem to be tarnished, I will just put them away out of reach… er, I mean, sight… a-hem… Any authours who have particularly inspired you? (Max put your battered old notebook away, you are not an authour.)

A the moment I am particularly in love with the work of Penny Blake, Carol Lovekin, Alan Garner, Meredith Debonnaire, Margaret Attwood, Robin Treefellow Collins, Adam Horovitz, Nils Nis Visser, Mark Lawrence, Ursula Le Guinn, I could go on listing for pages, I read widely and a lot and am fairly omnivorous…

Hm. Excellent. (No she does not want to hear your dreadful poetry, Max, even if it is about cheese, stop interrupting) Battenburg?

Splendid! Would it be a terrible time to mention how much I like poetry? And also very bad poetry. The worse the better, in fact.

Oh gods above and below, woman, what have you done?

[HISTORIC MOMENT AS MAX SPEAKS OUT LOUD FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER TO ANYONE BUT COLLIN, LEAPS ON THE TABLE, KICKS OVER A TEAPOT AND BEGINS TO READ A TERRIBLE POEM ABOUT CHEESE]

En Route To The Fromagian Ball”

(A Political Poem Of The Mor Irate Revolution by Eightcups Max)

As I waited for the Tyburn Tree

To spread its limbs and welcome me

To its embrace eternally

I dreamed I journeyed long, to thee

(To dance The Masque at Caerphilly)

I met Morbier on the way

He wore a masque of silver grey

Very smooth he looked, yet grim

And seven rats did follow him

Fat they were, and no surprise

For, despite his mournful sighs,

And as I feasted with my eyes

Yet they with sharp teeth took their prize.

Next came Roqufort and he had on,

All speckled with viridian,

A gown so tattered, holed and frayed

I wondered not he looked dismayed….

MAX THAT IS ENOUGH!! STOP, DESIST, HALT, MY DELICATE SENSIBILITIES CANNOT TAKE ANOTHER CHEESY SYLLABLE!

Good grief, I had forgotten what a terrible influence you are on him, I am certain the world needs no more dirges on the evils of cheese and more sonnets to folk with slime and tentacles, it quite makes me think of taking up the quill myself. Tell me, what was your own road into fiction writing like?

I started out with some notions about being a serious novelist – I was young, and foolish back in those days. By the age of 23 I had been rejected by every major publishnig house in the UK. Then I discovered both the internet, and smut – they both got moving at the same time in an entirely connected way… and I wrote weird, gothic filth for a while, and weird fantasy ebooks, and then I met Tom online and he persuaded me that a weird, gothic graphic novel series was something I should write. Since then I’ve ambled into steampunk, and non-fiction. In essence, I will do almost anything for money, and absolutely anything that strikes me as amusing at the time!

Yeeeees, I shall never quite recover from that street corner encounter a year or so back… and do you have any plans for new projects in the near future? Writng-wise I mean and not in anyway involving cheese or street corners…

There’s more Hopeless Maine graphic novels on the ways and an illustrated prose book in the setting – New England Gothic. I want to get into light novels and I want to write about darkness in a way that deconstructs that racist light/white/good stuff.  I’m working on content for the Hopeless Maine role play game, I want to write a murder mystery evening event script, and I’m working on poetry that explores the wildness and naturalness of human bodies… 

Well, if you’re looking for something wild and natural to do a project on, I would be happy to offer my services as a subject for study… no? Oh well, no pleasing some folk I suppose. So, where can we get our tentacles on your own work?

Much of it can be bought from anywhere selling books – I work well in search engines, you can find me with relatively little pain!

 

And can we find you online?

www.druidlife.wordpress.com

www.hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/Nimue_B

https://www.facebook.com/nimue.brown

https://www.instagram.com/nimuebrown/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2iAnLZ1JJzOfltGrnS0P8Q

And again, for the dedicated stalker, there’s always a search engine…
Wooooah! Dear me I do apologise, the airship must have slipped and I seem to have landed in your lap I hope I haven’t covered you in octopus slime?

Being a filthy urchin, it would be hard to tell fresh slime from anything else that has happened to my clothing at this stage. 

Are you sure you’re alright? Hm, what’s that? Time you were going? Are you sure I can’t tempt you with another cup?

Well, I have an… assignation with a …. poet…. it’s a full diary here most of the time and I have to spread myself about rather carefully. Which probably sounds at least as bad as it actually is…

Well the best of luck with your Poet Assassination, goodbye! Oh dear, next time she comes I shall lock the cheese in the pantry… and perhaps Max too…

Thank you, friends for bravely enduring the madness this morning on board our beautiful rainbow sailed ship The Harlequin Ladybird, you will find all the blog posts so far on the Dreamtime Damsels blog tour listed below and until we see you again, please remain always

Utterly Yourself

 

Mary Woldering hosts the first round of character interviews 

Leslie Conzatti presents an excerpt from one of the stories in the anthology: Red, The Wolf

Mary Woldering hosts the second round of character interviews

Our own kitchen witch interviews Nav Logan

Nav Logan joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Leslie Conzatti presents an excerpt from one of the stories in the anthology: Dangerous by Morgan Smith

Mary Woldering hosts the next round of character interviews

A.M Young joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Benjamin Towe joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Cover reveal from The Benthic Times

Cover reveal from Collin on The Harlequin Ladybird

Mary Woldering hosts the next round of Character interviews

Jaq D Hawkins helps Mrs Baker to dish up some tasty soup

Paul Michael joins us for elevenses

#Twitterinterview with the authours

Guy Donovan joins us for elevenses