Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “fantasy

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…

img_5920

 

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!

IMG_5713.jpg

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.

img_5742


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?

img_5821

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!

img_5907-darqs-shoe-collection

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.)

img_5715

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!

img_5719

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.

cem-writer

 

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! 


Morning cuppa: Frost Fairs and Atonement

Good morning ladies and gentleman, welcome to Max and Collin’s spectaculously sparkling and frostulously – friggin – bloody – frozen – solid parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!

True, some have called it an icicle-bedecked hovel where only the most heroically hardy or horrendously hard up would dare to venture, but we laugh in the face of such yellowism and defiantly spit lumps of frozen tea in their general direction.

Yes we’re back, rent in hand, and having trudged through a carpet of disgruntled cats to reclaim our comfortable arm chairs (true some have called them rotting lemonade crates but our mendacity on this front knows no bounds) we are ready to fling wide the parlour doors once more and welcome you all, dear friends, back to a place of incomparable company and incomprehensible conversation…

You find us this morning with our teeth chattering.

This is partly from the indomitable cold which is so tenacious it has even laid claim to our morning cuppa. It is also partly due to the exhilaration of running fifteen miles cross-country trying to throw off a band of (quite unnecessarily determined) Morecambe lemonade dealers. And lastly our teeth are chattering with excitement because it is so so cold that The River Lune has frozen solid and that can only mean one thing –

A FROST FAIR!

Frost fairs have been a wintertide tradition here in the new world for centuries. The merry bands of barge traders whose colourful water-wagons traverse the rivers of the scattered isles carrying food and other saleable items from one city to the next are obviously unable to trade when the river freezes over. Not to be put off, however, they cunningly decided to open stalls on the frozen river itself and charge citizens an entrance fee to enjoy the ice. It wasn’t long before they began charging other sales folk to do the same and breaking the legs of anyone fool enough to challenge the legality or ethics of their enterprise.

Well, as you know, we are certainly not in the habit of scrutinising anybody’s morals or ethics, least of all our own, and so we intend to spend the next few weeks out on the ice scoffing illicit tiffin with impunity and attempting ingenious schemes for keeping warm and making the rent.

But before we venture out of our frozen parlour and into the winter wonderland which Lancaster ha become, we must begin the whole thing properly with a nice cup of tea and a good book and fortunately we have both!

Our tea this morning is something extra specially delicious to try and mirror our extra specially excited mood aaaaaand fortunately for us it also tastes delicious iced! It’s this Devonly blend of chocolate fudge chai from Post Tea now if we can just use our runcibles to chisel it out of the pot…

And to perfectly compliment such a delectable brew our book this morning is….

Atonement, Tennessee by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

atonement tennessee.jpg

This urban fantasy is an interesting blend of the everyday and the magical told through the eyes of focal character Ralda Lawton and her captivating feline companion Lillith. Geneviene successfully weaves mythology, mystery and hum drum everyday life together into an intense and original narrative. If you like your fantasy firmly embedded in the real world then we think you will enjoy Atonement Tennessee.

And finally we just have time to defrost our oracular pet and see what its far seeing spines have plucked from the aether for us this morning…

 

Ah, so it seems that you have this frost fair tradition in your own dimension too? Well now, we must muffle-up and get out there and see what fun we can get up to on the ice. We wish you a very dazzling morning filled with adventures of the most sparkly and whimsical kind and we hope you will join us for elevenses tomorrow but until then pleae, be always,

Utterly Yourself

 


Elevenses: Wizmas Witch Hunt Wagonettes

 

Wizmas! Hurrah! The jolliest, snowiest, most expensive and pointless day of the year is just around the corner: The day all citizen MUST (that is, LOVE TO) celebrate the victory of the awesome ruler of the universe, Wiz, over the inferior, primitive powers of the green goddess and all her ridiculous minions. (Are we doing well? We think we are doing well)

 

This morning you find us sketching plans for our Wizmas Witch hunt Wagonette. Every Wizmas, up and down the country, locals band together in fantastical contraptions and chase down any suspected witches, capture them in cages or sacks and lock them in the stocks where they are pelted with hot plum pudding until they confess. They are then transported to The Witch Holes in Slakeland.

 

So, poor Mrs Baker, we’re no sure what she is going to do – hopefully not try to disguise herself as Albert again, that caused untold difficulties last time…

 

But enough of the worries of others, we have our own necks to consider! So, on with the show…

 

Our Witch Hunting Wagonette Design…

IMG_0047.JPG

As for the engine it is a simple four stroke powered by gunpowder tea which we saved from our recent visit to the Temple Of Heaven on the Jentacular Landmass.

But of course we wanted something that looked and sounded beautifully complicated and fabulous so we opted at first for the Daimler 1889 V12 design …. but then we got carried away and modded it up a bit to look a little more like the 1914  V8 because well, being an octopus eight seemed more natural…

But before we hoist on our goggles and roll up our shirt sleeves…sorry? Well how very dare you, of course an octopus may have shirt sleeves!… we simply must have a little music to tap our tentacles to as we tuck in to the delighful treats that our lovely werewolf butler Klapka has nosed out for us this morning… Oh my goodness! Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake made by Ashley at Baker by Nature click on the picture to go to her recipe…

salted-chocolate-caramel-cake

 

 

 

 Wish us luck! We wish you all a very exhilarating morning and hope everything you catch brings you good fortune and plenty of cake. We invite you back to join us for Tea @ Three on Thursday so until then please be always,

Utterly Yourself


Morning Cuppa: Earls of Brass and Spurtles Of Gold

You find us this morning in a state of oaty bliss after a weekend spent at The Annual Wizmas Golden Spurtleglove Oatcake Championships (we understand you have something similar in your own dimension?)

 If you are not sure what spurtle gloves are let us enlighten you – the spurtle glove is an oversized oven mitt used for oatcake flipping and a golden one is made in Lancaster every year and given to the contestant who can faultlessly flip the most oatcakes in six minutes.

 The judging is conducted by three highly trained oat flip observers and presided over by Lord Ashton himself but there are also smaller prizes for the most original oatcake creations and these are voted on by the general public.

 This year some of the winners in the Innovative Oatcake Recipe section included Chorizoat Cakes, Plum Compoat and Chocoloat pudding.

 The best part by far, though, was the riot which began when the voted winner of the Oatcake Sculpture section (a truly gargantuan oatcake with a smiley face put on with raisins) was declared by Lord Ashton to be “An offensive and infantile attempt at subordination and mob-rule.” He then proceeded to disqualify the oat face and award the prize to a detailed oatcake sculpture of Lord Battenberg, the noted explorer, instead.

 Lord Battenberg’s donations to Ashton’s extensive collection of arthropods is no secret and the furious crowds stormed the stage, seized the judges and began hurling lumps of the hated Battenberg into the River Lune. In the end Ashton had to call his man eating Liver Birds and we all fled for our lives… but it was worth it. All jolly good fun!

 

But now we are quite exhausted and simply dying to kick our tentacles up on the table with a nice pot of tea and a good book and, fortunately we have both…

 earl-of-brass

The Earl Of Brass (Ingenious Mechanical Devices #1) by Kara Jorgensen

We very much enjoyed this fast paced book. Lord Sorrell is a free thinking adventurer but when he loses his arm he risks having his wings clipped and becoming trapped in the hum drum life he hates. Hadley is a strong minded young woman who is struggling to keep her prosthetic business afloat but when she meets Sorrell she is suddenly caught up in adventures beyond her wildest dreams.

This is a gripping and very original steampunk adventure story, well written with just a splash of romantic sub plot; enough to engage without becoming too heavy. It’s the first in the series and we will definitely be getting our tentacles into the second one shortly.

 Now then, I suppose we really ought to have an extra special Earl Grey to accompany our Earl Of Brass and here it is…

 duchess earl grey.jpg

 

Duchess Earl Grey from Junkicreations – we cannot praise this divine tea highly enough, more than just your average Earl Grey, The Duchess combines cornflower, rose petals, citrus peel and lime leaves with luxurious bergamot oil to make this a cup that sets out tentacles trembling at just the very thought of it.

 Hm? ….Max says ‘steady on old chap’ … I have no idea what you are talking about Max I am perfectly steady. Steady enough to pop out Oracular Cephalopterois into his cup and see what wizmas cheer it has to offer us this morning….

 

 

 

Oh that’s marvellous, how we wish we had been able to sing that at our Spurtle riots!

Ah well, the tea is brewed and there is nothing left for us to say except ‘chin chin pass the tin open the book and lets begin.’ We wish you a spurt-tacular morning filled with wholesome delights and we invite you back to join us for elevenses tomorrow when we will be souping up our wagon and heading for some dreadful wizmas shenanigans so, until then please be always,

Utterly Yourself


Soup Of The Day: Steampunk Adventuring With Bone Shaker Boxes

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 Shannon, creator of the steampunk adventure boxes at Bone Shaker Boxes. Good morning Shannon, 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?

Here is a simple Bean Soup made from an old Ham Bone you can get at the local butcher!

  • 2 tablespoons bacon grease
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 potatoes, diced
  • 8 cups hot water
  • 8 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 1 ham bone
  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 (16 ounce) package frozen corn
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

  • Melt bacon grease in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in hot bacon grease until vegetables are slightly tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Stir potatoes into onion mixture; cook and stir until golden, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir hot water and chicken bouillon together in a large pot until bouillon is dissolved; add onion mixture, ham bone, diced tomatoes, corn, tomato sauce, black pepper, and salt.
  • Cook soup for 4 to 6 hours. Remove ham bone from soup and let rest until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from ham bone and stir meat into soup.
  • Serve hot with biscuits

 

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we take a look at these amazing boxes that you make, have you brought some along to show us today?

Yes I did! I brought along the Tea for One box, the Radio Box, Father Mike’s Vampire Kit, and the Traveling Tea Set so we could share a pot or two, and it serves 6 so if anyone else is about they can join us!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Oh yes please a cup of tea would be marvellous and I’m sure the urchins would like some to! It is such a brilliant and original concept, do tell me, what inspires you when you begin to create a new box?

I am a very practical person and usually a need is what starts the process. An example would be the Tea for One boxes I make. When you travel, especially here in America, hotels cater to coffee drinkers and if you are a tea drinker you usually have very poor, if any, choices for teas. I decided to make a portable box that if you can get 8 oz. of water you can make a pot of tea anywhere (as long as they allow open flame), so the Tea for One box was born. It comes with its own teapot, cup, stove, and fuel. Then I have created areas to keep tea, sugar, spoons, strainer, and everything else you need to make the perfect pot of tea. Once you set the pot on the flame it takes about 10 minutes for it to reach 185° (F) or 85° (C), the perfect temperature for tea.

I have also created boxes from the story I have about Queen Victoria’s Secret Service. I create the boxes they would need to protect her and her family. The Radio Box and Father Mike’s Vampire Kit is from that series. You can read all about it and the stories that go with the boxes on my website http://www.boneshakerboxes.com/ and go the “About” section.

I try to make the boxes as practical as I can. The radio box has an MP3 player in it and you can listen through the headset or the built in external speakers. Other boxes have been portable bars, backpacks, and lap desks, just to name a few.

My boxes are usually very functional and are built to a quality standard that I expect you to use them and with a minimum of care should last you a lifetime. I want these passed down to your children so they can create their own character or use the same box they grew up watching you use.

I’m sure there are many adventurous souls out there who are already imagining the splendiferousness of toting around their very own Bone Shaker Box! Tell me, do you make each box as a custom order and, if so, how do you work with your clients to get a box that’s ‘just right’ for their Steampunk alter ego?

All of my boxes are one of kind! I will not repeat them, I built it once, why would I want to do it again? Now with that said, I will keep a good design idea (Tea for One boxes), but I always change something including the theme. So you never have to worry about someone having the same item as you. I started out making boxes for myself or for friends and now it is about 50/50 on original design (mine) or custom box for a client’s specific design/need.

I work very close with the individual, I provide pictures and feedback all through the process. Customizing the box to the individual is what makes it fun for me because it usually adds a level of complication. “How am I going to fit this into the box and make it look like it belongs there?” is a question I have asked myself many times.  It all works out in the end and I usually get to see tears when I present the finished project because the person was involved throughout the process and seeing their personal items displayed how they imagined (or close) just brings out all the emotion, and that can’t be priced into any box. Seeing the person fall in love with something that I made, is just the greatest thing.

Besides the boxes themselves, are there other Steampunk props and curios that you create?

Yes, I started out with a jewellery line as well. It was very popular and I got a bunch of complaints when I dropped it, but it was tough to get raw materials in the quality I wanted and keep pricing down. I also do leather work, and have made leather armour, belts, flask holders, restraints. I am a reasonably competent seamstress and have made a few costumes, but the boxes are my passion, I just love making them.

And besides your online store where else can we find your work displayed, featured or for sale?

I do have an Etsy shop, and I have been a featured artist at DragonCon’s Altered History Museum for the last 4 yrs. My work has been in multiple blogs and online magazines, plus I was featured in “Just Steampunk” magazine last year. I just filmed an episode of Ghost Finders (My first TV show) that will feature a new box called the Clairvoyant’s Box based on Georgiana Eagle the Queens Clairvoyant. She reportedly did upwards of nine readings with the Queen to try and contact Albert, so I made a box that she could have used during these readings.

I also travel the Southeast U.S. doing different conventions every year and just love meeting people and seeing the reactions when I show them the boxes are actually functional. Plus I have the usual social media sites as well:

https://www.facebook.com/BoneShakerBoxes/

http://boneshakerboxes.tumblr.com/

https://www.pinterest.com/boneshakerboxes/?etslf=8756&eq=bone%20shaker

 

And now the all-important question, on which the fate of the world may hang…  which do you prefer, coffee or tea? (and how do you take it?)

I am a mood person when it comes to hot beverage. If I want to relax or I am feeling a little blue I prefer tea (English Breakfast is my favourite). However I do start every day with a cup of coffee, and both are with cream and sugar.

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

Thanyou so much for having me here and I am so glad I could help with the children. Hopefully you will have me back again and we can talk more about The Queen’s Secret Service and I may even have a tale or two for the urchins while they eat.

Oh that would be wonderful Shannon, thankyou I… but wait a minute I think… is that an octopus hurrying down the street towards us? Why yes it’s Collin! It’s not like him to leave the parlour without Max I wonder what could be the matter?

Oh dear! Collin informs me that Wizmas – the season of Witch Hunts and ill will to all women over the age of thirty  – has begun! I had no idea! I must find my toupee and false moustache at once, please excuse me, I have a lot of arrangements to make and a large bottle of brandy to buy…. 

blessings on your brew my dears!

 


Pipe and Slippers: The Painters’ Daughter

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

old-library-1571043

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

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a drag-dressed octopus and its dribbling Tea Fiend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by the promise of strange fruit. 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? Amontillado? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps…

body-painting-festival-5-1526143.jpg

 

The painters’ daughter

 

Once upon a time, when you and I were naught but pips in the core of the great cosmic apple, there lived a painter. You might chance to meet him still, wandering the shore line as the sun rises over the blushing surf, counting the grains of sand or shuffling the streets at dusk, studying the cracks in the paving stones, calling down and listening for a voice.

Back in his studio, his tumbledown beach hut, he paints each grain, each echo. He paints the light and the shadow, the rising and the setting, the dance and sparkle and the soaking up and the deep. His eyes are full of dreams and his dreams are full of shades and glamour.

One day, the painter’s daughter bare-foot tip-toed into that secret space.

And gazed at all the many muchness of towers of tins of tangy turpscented rainbows.

And wondered what it would be – to touch, to taste, to take in and become such wonders.

One drip.

One lick.

In goes a flinger, smooth and slick.

Gloopy and gorgeful.

Smick  smuck  smack.

Blue, yellow, indigo,

Purple,

black.

She tasted blue – A taste of salt sea and pillow cases, stained glass and new slippers, skinned knees and berryjams and Monday mornings and shaggy hillsides damp in November fog.

She tasted yellow – A taste of custard of course. And a taste of bathrooms and tiled floors and a caravan holiday in 1975, old stiff newspapers and curled up cats, the dust that gathers on lampshades and dims the whole room and a taste of skin and bone and the streets of Rome in July.

She tasted green – A taste of coal and iron, old sandals and ploughed up earth, toadstools and pine woods and rain low down in the valley of the Dove.

Every colour in the universe she drank it down. She gorged on glamour and shade, on dances and sparkles, on things soaked up and deep. She swallowed down the soul of every colour until her limbs felt clogged and cloyed with the weight of them.

One small pot of black she saved for last, – a taste of burning and drowning, of being squeezed out and sucked up and exploded into stars, a taste of being held for eternity and the aching emptiness of an eggshell cracked too soon.

 

This black, she smuggled it away in her pocket, off to her little box bed beside the woodstove. There, when she was feeling dizzy with the reel of the rainbows spinning through her veins, she would sip

Sip

Sip

At the comforting black.

From that day on, every time the painter’s daughter opened her mouth, out spilled thick , oily paint in puddles and spewks that stained the folks and the things all around her in violent assaults of crimson,  viridian, amaranth and egg yolk.

She stopped opening her mouth.

Her limbs dragged heavy as a rag doll and every breath, every step, every heart beat was a drudge and a drain. So much colour inside. So much sparkle and depth. So much echo and shade.

Walking, talking, even breathing seemed mountains too steep to climb with all this weight inside.

She sat on her bed, day in day out, and sip

Sip

Sipped

At the comforting black

Until it spilled out of her eyes in puddles that pooled upon the patchwork quilt and cast back mocking rainbows.

That is how the little bird found her one day. He hopped upon her window sill and cocked his shining eye – the way the bird folk do – and then he fluttered down onto the eiderdown and whistled.

“Go away,” the painter’s daughter hissed, “do you think I care to see your coloured plumes? Do you think I am impressed? What if I told you that I am so full with the light and dark of every colour in the universe that I ache with it and to look at you does not fill me with joy or wonder, only regret and fatigue until I am sick of it.”

The little bird cocked his eye again – infuriating it is when they do that, y’know? – and he reached his yellow bill in deep amongst his tail feathers and plucked out a needle sharp quill the colour of every blue-green under the sea.

The painter’s daughter shrugged in scorn of him and made to turn away when

Ouvchsh!

The little demon jabbed the quill spike hard into the soft, pale flesh of her arm.

Out leapt a tiny spurt of paint.

Then slowly, and with the girl in thrawl,

He dragged the rainbow colours out

In swirls and spirals, tree cassyn pathways to guide the flow of all that weary weight into traces of beauty and scope.

Here was a dream in flesh.

Here was pointillised pain.

Here was inside out for all to see and staining no one but herself; surely, no words would be needed now . The world would smile and nod its head at her, as they knocked shoulders in the street, and whisper

‘ah, so, that is how it is with her, mm, we understand now why she walks so slow and dares not speak. How could a child do otherwise, with so much colour inside?’

So she stepped out.

Stained.

With the bird quill tucked behind one ear

And bold, without fear,

Into a forest of fingers who pointed and blamed and waggled and shamed and prodded and poked and jostled and joked and fat cold palms that pushed her far away.

The painter’s daughter ran.

She ran on and on.

She began to feel very proud of her running.

One dark night, she came to a cave, above a river, above a pool, beside a village and into that cave she crept and lay down to sleep.

When she woke up the smell of sweet meat cooking down in the green valley filled her with hunger and the longing for all the things that human company ought to bring but seldom does.

So she spent the morning gathering leaves,  the afternoon stitching them together and by evening she had made for herself a fine long cloak that hid the patterns on her arms, and a hat with a broad brim to cover her face.

Under the stars, she took out the bird quill from behind her ear and dug it deep into her skin until it was slathed in colour, then she found a broad, flat stone and she began to paint

In swirls and spirals, tree cassyn pathways to guide the flow of all that weary weight into illuminated forms both wild and wonderful.

Here was a dream on stone.

Here was pain projected, disembodied, disowned.

Here was inside out for all to see and staining nothing but this unfeeling earth. And the world would smile and nod and never know where all the colours came from.

As the sun rose over the valley, the painter’s daughter stepped down from her cave, down and down and into the village and by that afternoon the tongues were wagging like wild fire flames; who was the stranger in the cloak of leaves who traded her marvellous paintings for table scraps? Some had seen her return to the cave – a hermit then? An anchorite? A holy one, certainly, a wise healer, a cleric, a teacher, a goddess in the flesh… ?

Every day, more and more villagers made the trek up to the painter’s cave. They wondered at her work – colours and patterns that seemed to describe the deepest parts of themselves. The parts they never let show. How? They asked, with tears in their eyes, how can she know?

They bought canvases. They paid in gold.

Inside her cave, hidden from sight, the painter took her feather quill and emptied herself out for them.

Day after day.

Night after night.

Slowly, as time went by, she began to grow old and paper thin. She had to coax out the paint in crusted oozes from her gummed up veins. Sometimes finding the strength and the will would take hours. Often there was not enough. Not enough colour, not enough energy and too much pain of the flesh and the bone to finish the work. ‘One day,’ thought the painter, ‘one day I will dry up. There will be no way of getting these crusted up colours out of my dried up body any longer. And what will happen then? Will the world understand when I can no longer paint their pain for them?’

The painter smiled and shook her head. She stuck the feather quill behind her ear and pulled off her cloak and hat of leaves. Clotheless under the silver moon, she walked down to the lake pool and stepped right into the comforting black.

The next morning, when the people came up to the cave the painter was gone, but the waters of the lake below, as they looked down into the valley, were snaked with rainbows.

 

Hmph well, yes, at least we may thank our stars that this pathetic Poevember pranking is at end and speaking of stars they are all out and I must get back to my work and you must get back to whatever it was you were doing before you decided to pester me… GOOD NIGHT!

 

 


Tea @Three: All Punked up with no place to go

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s punktasticly poe-etic parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some have called it a rotting refuge filled with remorseless rogues, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us, as is usual for a Thursday afternoon, All Punked UP With No Place To Go so without further ado, let us kick our tentacles up on the table, pour out our delightful Poe inspired brew from Owen’s Acres, and peruse the society papers and see where we ought to be heading to this weekend…

Of course we have The Crewe Winter Steampunk Convivial which, if you haven’t already bought tickets for you can pay on the door.

Or if you are in the Brighton area, then “Lock up your daughters, your drinks cabinets and your heirlooms … ” because the Yellow Book Room (Britain’s first Steampunk themed pub) is hosting The Filthy Spectacula on the 26th!

All utterly marvellous things to look forward to. We hope you have enjoyed celebrating Poevember with us in the parlour this month and we hope you will join us again for our morning cuppa on Monday when we will be twiddling our thumbs and pondering what mischief to get up to next… or perhaps mischief will find us first? Who knows, or dares to dream eh?

So until then please be always,

Utterly Yourself

 


Soup of the day: With Lynn Cecil

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 talented artist and writer Lynn Cecil. Good morning Lynn, 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?

Good morning, Mrs. Baker. Thank you so much for inviting me to your kitchen. I have brought along ingredients for my favourite soup: cheddar bacon potato. The recipe is fairly simple:

  • 4 large white potatoes
  • ½ large white onion, diced
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • Pinch of dried dill
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ tsp of pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 6 strips of crispy bacon
  • 1 ¼ cups of grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 ½ cups of milk (2% works well)

Boil peeled and cubed potatoes until a fork goes through (firm, but not too soft). Cook diced onion in a pot until clear. Add chicken broth, flour, and spices, stirring well.  Add lightly mashed potatoes to broth mixture. Add milk and half of the cheese. Bacon may be added here, and/or saved as a topping. Cook for approximately 10 minutes. Serve in bowls and top with remaining cheese and crumbled bacon. 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 tell us all a little more about your amazing artwork? Your illustrations are beautifully detailed, what inspires you when you sit down to create them?

Thank you for your kind words! This past year I was very inspired by flowers, butterflies, gardens, and garden objects as I created The Butterfly Garden: A Coloring Book in Four Seasons, with 72 illustrations. I use a Staedtler Pigment Liner 0.05 and the tip is so fine that I can create intricate patterns and designs that I could never achieve with my oil paints. I’m also inspired by the steampunk genre, forests, geometric shapes, and patterns. Here is one of my illustrations entitled “(Spring) Magnolia with Eggs, Keys, and Locks.”

 

015-spring-mandala-magnolia-with-eggs-small-size

 

That is stunning Lynn! And where can we see or purchase the book and your other artwork?

You can find images of my artwork on my website, www.lynncecil.com, under “Illustrations,” and “Artwork,” then search the subcategories for specific styles. Since moving, I haven’t signed on with a new art gallery, so people can contact me directly by e-mail (on my website) to purchase artwork.

I published The Butterfly Garden: A Coloring Book in Four Seasons with Kyte-Lost Books, a small company that I started in order to publish my artwork, and the book is available through Amazon sites around the world, and at select Indigo stores in Canada.

You’re not only a talented artist, but a writer as well, tell me, how did your interest in writing develop?

I started ‘writing’ when I was two. I would sit at my little desk and scribble on paper, and when my parents asked me what I was doing, I would answer, “I’m working on my tesis.” My dad was working on his doctorate at the time, so I guess I just thought that’s what people do—they write. I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and at five, I decided I wanted to be an artist, as well. I started writing stories and poems in elementary school, but it wasn’t until grade 8 that I had a teacher who assigned fiction writing as part of her class, and encouraged me to be a writer. I love language, the way it sounds, the meanings of words and their history. Writing, like painting and drawing, is such an integral part of my life, that I find I am almost always thinking about my current story or book, or what my next painting or drawing will be.

Outside of Ordinary is a marvellous collection of women’s travel stories, which you co edited with Catherine Bancroft, would you like to tell us a little more about that project?

Outside of Ordinary is an anthology that gave women an opportunity to write about how travel had impacted their lives, made them see themselves and the world differently. We were very fortunate to have so many women submit such diverse stories about their travels around the world, and to have Second Story Press publish the book.

You also have a  fascinating Steampunk series growing online which combines your amazing artwork and your fabulous writing skills, would you like to tell us about Beauty and Phin and Their Unusual Correspondence?

I am so glad you like this series! I started drawing postcards a few years ago. I hadn’t really illustrated anything in years, because I mostly painted in oils, often on very large canvases. The postcards became a way for me to work on a smaller scale, to develop my drawing skills again, and soon I had several hundred cards. Inspired by Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine series in which two characters that have never met communicate through postcards, I decided to have ancestors of characters from my YA fantasy book series write to each other through postcards in Their Unusual Correspondence.

In Book 1, Beauty Ether and Phinneous Finn are heartbound, but as Beauty is a Silken and Phin is a Raiven, they are forbidden to be together. Their correspondence begins when eighteen-year-old Beauty ethers to Paris, France in 1819, leaving Phin behind in Chillon, on their home planet of Airthe, which is like a steampunked Earth. As Beauty explores early nineteenth-century France and other parts of Europe, Phin becomes obsessed with analyzing the Silken strand in an effort to find a way to defeat the dragon clades that have invaded and taken control of Chillon.

I haven’t posted any new images for a while on my blog, as I am changing the format of the layout and I hope to publish the stories one day. Here is the new version of Beauty’s first postcard to Phin, using art paper for the background.

001a-elementography-small-size

Elementography 001: Hydrogen

001b Elementography small size.jpg

Beauty Ether to Phinneous Finn

 

I’m also working on Book 4 of 5 of The Inkmarked Chronicles, my YA fantasy series, which connects to Book 1 of Their Unusual Correspondence. I have many more postcard books planned, including one in which Beauty corresponds with a young man named Poe who is fascinated with ravens.

Ah, we love a good bit of Poe-Punking here in Lancaster, Lynn, how marvellous! The artwork on the postcards is captivating and the story concept is so intriguing, do you have plans to publish the series and, if so, would that be as a book do you think, or as sets of individual postcards?

I would absolutely love to have Their Unusual Correspondence published as a series of books along with The Inkmarked Chronicles. I would also like to have the image portion of the postcards published with blank backs so they could be sold as actual postcards that could be mailed and/or collected. Each of my characters has his or her own style of illustration and own series of postcards. Some of the series are over 100 cards long, others only around 30. The longer series would probably have to be separated into two or three books to keep them a similar length.

I really hope you do achieve that goal Lynn and when you do you must come back and tell us about it! And do you have any new projects planned for the coming months?

Yes—too many, as is always the case! I am working on several projects at once, right now. During the day, I’ve been working on small oil paintings of birch trees (6” x 6”) and of single shells from the South Pacific on a black background (4” x 4”), which will be on my website, soon, and am planning out my next series of larger canvases. When I’m not painting, I’m writing. Evenings I’ve been working on my next hand-drawn colouring book, one that is steampunk-themed. Here is one of the illustrations that is fitting for today, entitled “Tea Cup and Teapots.”

 

063 Tea Cup and Tea Pots small size.jpg

 

Oh that is stunning! Max and Collin would love it! Which brings me onto the all important question – which do you prefer, coffee or tea? (and how do you take it?)

Coffee in the morning with milk and a little sugar. Chai tea with milk in the afternoon or evening (please tell Collin, I’m sorry about the milk).

I’m sure Collin will forgive you!  (albeit with an affected shudder, Octopi are very good at those!) Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Lynn, 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?

Yes! But, before we do, I want to thank you so much for inviting me into your wonderful kitchen and for your kind interest in my writing and art. It has been such a pleasure to meet with you this morning and prepare this soup as we talk.

So, shall I ask the little ones to come in for some soup?

Marvellous, thankyou my dear, it has been an absolute pleasure!

I will be back in the soup kitchen next Wednesday with a very special steampunk assistant – Shannon from Bone Shaker Boxes. Max and Collin will be back in the parlour tomorrow with more Tea @ Three and of course Peril will be reading some fabulous fiction from his Lovely Library on Friday.

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Elevenses:The Poe-fect gift?

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

True, perhaps, some have called it a run-down, rodent riddled room in a crumbling riverside tenement building but we consider that such fools have no imagination.

You find us running a little late this morning and for that we most humbly apologize, although we do have an excellent excuse –  last night The Parlour suffered yet another savage Liver Bird attack.  (Exactly why our so-called oracular cephalopterois failed to warn us of this impending disaster is still a mystery)

The great oaf took up a perch on our ill-equipped roof (sack cloth not being the ideal fabric to support such a large beast). We tried pelting it with crumpets – plain, buttered, jammed and even creamed – but all to no avail. At last, when we had used up every last crumb of our illegal tiffin hoards, Max was finally able to get rid of it by reading from our treasured collection of Mostly Awful Poetry by our arch nemesis Christina Biscotti. (For a Very Quiet Gentleman Max does have a surprising number of arch enemies…hmm..)

Still, we are not so faint hearted as to let a little thing like no roof stop our elevenses and thankfully our delightful werewolf butler (who was conspicuous by her absence last night despite our shrieks for assistance) has found us some marvellous treats to round off our Poevember celebrations…

poe cookies.JPG

 

These stunning cakes were made by Ashley’s Sweet Bytes and she sketched each design before transferring them to the cookies  – visit her blog by clicking the picture and see if you can guess which tale is depicted on each cookie!

In other excellent news we have managed to pay our rent this month and solve our surplus cat problems all in one go! We have cunningly dressed each cat in a suit and tie, popped them into a Hippo’ton Cab and shipped them off to a better life in Whitehall where we suspect they will blend seamlessly in amongst the other politicians and possibly even do the country some good. They in turn have promised to send us any bribe money they receive to cover our rent and tiffin expenses… we’re certain we can trust them to uphold their end of the bargain…

But enough of our catastrophes, yesterday we promised you an array of Poe inspired goodies and so we have  urged our oracular pet to scour the whole of time and space and pluck from the aether some Poe-fectly delightful treats for us all, and here they are…

Edgar Allan Poe printed tights (also suitable for tentacles) from The tights Shop

https://www.etsy.com/listing/182390923/tights-woman-clothing-edgar-allan-poe

This stunning hand made leather raven journal from The Diary Shop

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/210348179/handmade-leather-journal-diary-pagan?ref=market

Beautiful ‘No Beauty without some strangeness’ bracelet from Strangeness Charms

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/200964952/hand-stamped-no-beauty-without?ref=market

‘The Raven’ printed fingerless writing gloves from Storiarts

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/158002026/the-raven-writing-gloves?ref=market

Hand made to order – Edgar Allan Poe Lunch Bag from Sammo

https://img1.etsystatic.com/026/0/5155644/il_570xN.555835299_qav1.jpg

Have Your very own Poe-In-The-Parlour with this digital download and print Poe paper doll from Artwolf

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Artwolf?ref=l2-shopheader-name

But our favourite of all the picks is this unique Madeline Usher art print from Leilani Joy Art, we much prefer this rendering of her than the traditional ‘ghoul-in-bandages’ version.

https://img1.etsystatic.com/050/1/5589015/il_570xN.662297355_7drx.jpg

 

Now then, all that is required is some utterly audacious audios to usher in the afternoon and fortunately we happen to have some! We don’t know if Victoria and the Vaudevillains are still gigging but if you do have the opportunity to go see them then you most definitely ought to do so!

There, and now our tea is ready so, we hope you have an utterly ineffable afternoon and we invite you back to join us in the parlour on Thursday when we will be taking a look at where the steampunk action is this weekend.

So, until then, please be always

Utterly Yourself