Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “geek

Festive Friday Filk: Dr Who Regeneration Carol

HAPPY FRIDAY! Yikes, sorry I fell off the Friday Filk wagon the last two weeks – having realised that the majority of my filk lyrics are on Handles (If you’ve been with me long enough you’ll know that Handles is the name of my old laptop who died and regenerated so very many times before he finally gave up the ghost, taking with him many of my files) XD

But it’s festivish time and so I have decided instead to share some of the tons of festive filk that is out there to bring some quirky cheer the the tinselly season! 😀

 

 

 


Steampunk Aether Egg Hunt!

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Greetings! Spring has sprung here in Steampunk’d Lancaster, the mechanical blossoms are opening, the drone pollinators are buzzing, the street corners are once again populated by pestilent urchins selling lemonade… what better way to celebrate spring in steampunk style than with an Aether Egg hunt?

An Aether Egg (similar to an Easter Egg in the world of Gaming) is a small gift to the reader in the form of a freebie / extract /  lesser-known information or inside-joke as a way of saying thankyou for their support.

Throughout April, a host of fabulous steampunk authors will be sharing their Aether Eggs each week as part of our Awesome Steampunk Aether Egg Hunt  – there are free book extracts, original artwork, online games and giveaways to look forward to and I really hope you’ll enjoy hunting them all down!

So, pop on a large pair of bunny ears, grab your basket and let’s begin! (Be warned though, many things can pop out of eggs besides cute fluffy spring chickies… perhaps pack that blunderbuss as well eh?)

Happy Hunting! – Penny 🙂

 

 

Aether Egg image courtesy of Irum Shahid http://www.freeimages.com


#RainbowSnippets: Jack and Marjory

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Happy Saturday! Here’s my #RainbowSnippets post for this week – if you’re new to this, Rainbow Snippets is a chance to read and share 6 sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction every Saturday. There’s a huge variety from Steampunk, like mine, to Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Comedy and everything in between. You can join the fun and read all the other fabulous snippets at the wonderfully friendly and supportive official facebook group here 🙂

So, here is the next snippet from Jack and Marjory – my novella-in-progress which gives two of my Bi-Gendered characters a chance to tell something of their own little side-adventure, which actually had a massive impact on the history of Ire in a ‘behind-the-scenes’ kind of way.

If you missed last week’s snippet you can catch up here: #RainbowSnippets: Jack and Marjory

If you want to start from the beginning you can do so here: https://blakeandwight.com/2018/09/29/rainbowsnippets-jack-and-marjory/

Jack and Marjory are trying to remain inconspicuous as they traverse the Lancashire countryside to rescue the smuggled teaset for the leader of the revolution… I’ve skipped a few bland paragraphs in which they almost fall asleep, forget the time and have to run for the station like a bat out of hell before they miss their train to bring you to this point here…

 

The one train that passes through here is a treacle carrier, bringing black gold up from Crumbria to York, but it has a couple of carriages too, just enough seats for the odd commuter, travelling business man or visiting aunt. Or the occasional teaset smuggler.

We steamed into the station just as our gleaming stallion was steaming in himself. Nothing – stone cold nanty – could have prepared us for the noise and the heat, the cock-sure venting of power all over the by-standing populous, the smokey breath, the hot sweat beading on his bulging muscles, the oiled up masculine beauty of this incredible beast … Marjory caught her breath.

Never ceases to impress me!” The body who rudely broke our reverie was plain, something almost contrived about its ambiguity, but for one small detail ; a powder blue bowler perched above his amicable and instantly forgetable face.“The power of steam, eh ?” He smiled pleasantly, the way no stranger ever does to a young gentleman travelling alone, and offered us his hand,“The name’s Markham, Henry Markham.”

 

 

JACKANDMARJORYCOVER

being an entertaining and informative piece of travel writing by a couple of rogues on the run as they attempt to avoid the machinations of wizards, monarchs and a ruthless band of beatnik poets, deflect a civil war and deliver a priceless, historical tea set before the owner finds himself at the gallows.

 

Wishing you all a most splendiferous week and don’t forget to check in at the #rainbowsnippets facebook group for more fabulous snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction 🙂 

 

rainbow flower image courtesy of mariah22 at http://www.freeimages.com

book cover image by Renphoto 


#RainbowSnippets: Jack and Marjory

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Happy Saturday! Here’s my #RainbowSnippets post for this week – if you’re new to this, Rainbow Snippets is a chance to read and share 6 sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction every Saturday. There’s a huge variety from Steampunk, like mine, to Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Comedy and everything in between. You can join the fun and read all the other fabulous snippets at the wonderfully friendly and supportive official facebook group here 🙂

So, here is the next snippet from Jack and Marjory – my novella-in-progress which gives two of my Bi-Gendered characters a chance to tell something of their own little side-adventure, which actually had a massive impact on the history of Ire in a ‘behind-the-scenes’ kind of way.

If you missed last week’s snippet you can catch up here: #RainbowSnippets: Jack and Marjory

If you want to start from the beginning you can do so here: https://blakeandwight.com/2018/09/29/rainbowsnippets-jack-and-marjory/

 

Jack and Marjory are beginning to appreciate allure of Madame Nature ‘in the flesh’ as they trudge the their reluctant way along the picturesque Way Of The Roses en route to  pick up the smuggled teaset for the leader of the revolution…

Cormorants and Goosanders were pottering about now in the river but we left them to it, castin’ a last wistful glance towards Caton Moor and the warm Inns and Coffee Houses of that cosy little white-washed town.

There’s a tree there, beside The Ship, what the landlord calls ‘The Druid Tree’; he’ll charge you a penny to tell you that ‘back in the time of Queen Elizabeth’ the townsfolk used to catch shellfish in The Lune and sell them on the sandstone steps in front of that tree. Then he has the audacity to beam at you, like he’s just taught you something.

We’ve heard whisper of a few lads an’ lassies what’ll sell yer somethin’ delightful on those steps under the old Druid Tree n’all, but It’d cost you more than a penny, Pal.

Still the delights of Caton weren’t for us that day. Our plan was to press on hard to Cracoe and pick up the Treacle Train to York, then hire a Hippo’ton Cab to Beverly, arriving around supper time, keep out of trouble ’til nightfall and then walk the last hour or so to Cottingham.

JACKANDMARJORYCOVER

being an entertaining and informative piece of travel writing by a couple of rogues on the run as they attempt to avoid the machinations of wizards, monarchs and a ruthless band of beatnik poets, deflect a civil war and deliver a priceless, historical tea set before the owner finds himself at the gallows.

 

Wishing you all a most splendiferous week and don’t forget to check in at the #rainbowsnippets facebook group for more fabulous snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction 🙂 

 

rainbow flower image courtesy of mariah22 at http://www.freeimages.com

book cover image by Renphoto 

 


January Book Review: Boston Metaphysical Society

Good morning! So, this is me taking over the review slots from Collin and Max … is it weird that I should feel inexplicably nervous about this? As though Collin is peering over my shoulder to make sure I get all my links in the right places and don’t get my tentacles in a twist over the spellchecker? (Perhaps not as he is in fact sitting in the armchair by the window contemplating the frost outside and hopefully not about to put his ice skates on again after the last fiasco.) If you are missing Max and Collin, they are still very much around and doing fun and you can catch up with them having that on Saturdays in our #rainbowsnippets posts. But for now you have me, hugging my mug of Lapsang in fingerless gloves to ward off the snow and bringing you our monthly book review…

 

 

Boston007 coverfinal2 [Recovered]

Boston Metaphysical Society is a  graphic novel series set in the late 1800’s in an alternate retro-futuristic America, where steam power has allowed rapid technological advancement along with rapid and, for some, alarming changes in the function of society. This socio-political upheaval and its affects on the collective consciousness have rent the fabric of time and space and a sinister creature has been able to pass through into this world.

Caitlin O’sullivan, Samuel Hunter and Granville Woods are The Boston Metaphysical Society and their individual expertise in science, detection and the spirit world must combine to destroy The Shifter once and for all.

This is a story which touched my heart in many ways. Firstly the illustrations (Emily Hu) are perfect; capturing the pace, emotion, mood and narrative perfectly in each scene and reminiscent of a combination of the weight and beauty of Sana Takeda and the vibrancy of Tim Yates in a style which enticed me before I had even read a word.

Secondly, the writing is exquisite and tight as tuned drumskin. The dialogue is an absolute joy to read at times, particularly the banter between Tesla, Houdini and the other members of the secret society B.E.T.H, and works in perfect harmony with the illustration to give a rich and  immersive experience for the reader.

And lastly I loved the characters – from the machinating big-names who I fell in and out of love with all over again (having had to wrench their souls laboriously from dry history books and dull documentaries over the course of many years, to see them here given life in alternate and vibrant form which both captured and questioned their lives, personalities, motives and aspirations was an exciting and exhilarating experience.) to the Boston Metaphysical Society characters with their rich, diverse and engaging personalities and their complex and intriguing back stories (more about which can be found by reading the prelude to this series) .

This is bold, unflinching storytelling at it’s best and sits at that raw, uncomfortable heart of the Steampunk genre where the lives of the privileged and the poor jarr together and their stories and histories vie for our attention. This is the curtain – as subtle and subliminal as it ought to be – which gives the backdrop for this graphic novel series. Madeleine Holly-Rosing has built a seductive world filled with the classic steampunk staples of alternate science, technology, history and magic and laced through with sharp wit and subtle warmth, but our storytellers come from every corner of late 1800’s society and this, for me, makes the series particularly enjoyable.

I am very much looking forward to reading the next books in the series ; The Scourge Of The Mechanical Man and A Storm Of Secrets and will be reviewing both over the next few months.

The complete series of Boston Metaphysical Society installments can be bought as one paperback with a ten page bonus story ‘Hunter-Killer ‘ here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Boston-Metaphysical-Society-Madeleine-Holly-Rosing/dp/0996429220/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1548232812&sr=1-2

 

Or kindle users can purchase the episodes separately in special editions  here:

 

I hope you are all able to enjoy, or at the very least survive, the cold snap and I hope you’re enjoying our Frost Fair guest posts as well which will be going on throughout the rest of January and February, we’ve had some fabulous contributions and if you’d like to take part there’s still just about time to send me something so drop me an email for full details.

Blessings on your brew, Penny 🙂


#Rainbowsnippets: Jack and Marjory

 

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Happy Saturday! Hope you’re all getting into the festive spirit and yet artfully managing to avoid the insane highstreet crushes! Lancashire is mostly soggy just now but in a cheery sort of way we’re ‘hugging the yog’ as they say and keeping the hot soup flowing!

Still posting  from the novella I’m working on. It’s called Jack and Marjory and it gives space for two of my  bigender characters to tell something of their own side-adventure (which played a massive part in the history of Ire in a behind the scenes sort of way.) If you want some world background, check out the Introduction page above 🙂

To see all the other fabulous rainbow snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction for this week check out the rainbow snippets facebook page 

The previous snippets from Jack and Marjory were posted here:

Snippet 1

Snippet 2 

Snippet 3

Snippet 4

And here’s snippet 5, (just a tiny bit over six lines so I could work in the tease at the end)… Jack and Marjory have been innocently minding their own business (sort of) when they catch the eye of the notorious trouble maker Eightcups Max…

 

It ain’t that Max is a bad sort, quite the opposite really – the most notorious tea fiend in all of The Scattered Isles, a fugitive from Hull and, along with Christina and Michael Biscotti, one of the foremost figureheads of the revolution. No, that ain’t our problem, it’s that a gent like that attracts too much attention of the wrong sort, and hex slingers like us need to avoid attention wherever possible ; magic, like tea and cake, being illegal in The Scattered Isles, unless you’re rich enough to rise above the law – which we ain’t.
Still he comes swanning over with that dumb grin on his face, his octopus clinging to his shoulder and his bowler hat jammed down tight, covering the worst of those gawd awful scars… “Good evening Jack,” he says, “where’s the lovely Marjory tonight? Not out to play?”
“Not just now.” We hug our teacup and keep our eyes on the steam.
His brow furrows under his hat brim and his purple eyes fill suddenly with concern, « You alright ? Look, I was only playing, you know, I didn’t mean… »
« S’alright, we know, we just had a bad night – one fat monkey an a flippin’ big stick, y’know ? »
“Yes. Yes indeed. Right, well, listen, I’ve got something – something quite big actually, something that might just cheer you up and I need someone I can trust…”

 

JACKANDMARJORYCOVER

 

being an entertaining and informative piece of travel writing by a couple of rogues on the run as they attempt to avoid the machinations of wizards, monarchs and a ruthless band of beatnik poets, deflect a civil war and deliver a priceless, historical tea set before the owner finds himself at the gallows.

 

rainbow flower image courtesy of mariah22 at http://www.freeimages.com

book cover image by Renphoto 

 

 


Soup of the day: With Ceri Harper-Leigh and George Shorttail

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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 I am extremely honoured to welcome Admiral Ceri Harper-Leigh and George! Thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, me Dears! May I take your hats and coats? We may be over St Michael’s Little Summer but here in the kitchen the fire is nice and warm

Thank-you, its splendid to be here. George and I feel quite at home sat  by the fire.

How was your trip from your own dimension? I hope you did not run into any hostile skypirates or alien life forms on your way?

Fortunately the Sky Pirates and aliens stayed away.  Luckily we managed to cadge a lift from the Regius Professor of Chronology at St. Cedd’s college, who just happened to be passing by your time/space co-ordinates.

Oh that’s marvellous, how convenient for you! And  have you brought along some soup to share with us?

I think we should have Georges favourite meal of “Magical Soup” – basically a mixed vegetable recipe with a star shaped toasted cheese crouton to float on top..

Mmm, it smells delicious, what a lovely idea! I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now George why don’t you stand on a stool beside me here and as I chop the vegetables you can put them into the cauldron for me?

oooo, thank-you Mrs. Baker

You are most welcome my Dear, It’s so nice to have a little helper in the kitchen! There, now while the soup is simmering away,  why don’t you tell us all a little about how the two of you first met?

We first met when we (The Royal Steam Navy) rescued George and his family from the pirate Red Tail and his dastardly crew of grey squirrels when they unsuccessfully tried to sell the bears into “showbiz”.

Oh my goodness! What a dreadful scoundrel! George have had many adventures, haven’t you dear?

I have, thank-you. Not only pirates, but also martian mice, and my latest adventure which is yet to be published with queen Victoria.

Indeed! And Admiral you have begun documenting them in a series of beautifully illustrated books, have you brought some with you to show the orphans?

 

Is it an easy task to keep up with the adventures of such an intrepid young bear?

Yes, they a very easy to write down as I keep a personal journal of my travels, and I can assure the fans of the “bear that dares” that his adventures will continue for at least three more books, bringing the total to six.  So when you place them in order they will portray the colours of the rainbow flag.

I think that is a very beautiful idea! And which has been your favourite adventure so far George? (I know that Max and Collin have enjoyed reading all about your trip to Mars!)

oooo, tough question, but I think I have to say it’s my latest adventure with queen Victoria.

We are all excited to read about that when it is available! And will you be having any other adventures in the near future?

Most certainly, Mrs Baker. I love having adventures

Splendid! Good for you, Dear! But the life of a small grey bear cannot only be about adventuring, surely you have a loving home and family George where you spend most of your time?

Sometimes I can get a little sad when I’m away from my mums and my cat, spot.  but I sing my “happy bear” song and I feel so much better. would you like to hear it?

Oh yes please! We love a good sing-song!

(ahem) # i’m a happy little bear, i never try scare.  i always am polite and i never like to fight. i love my mums and spot so i never ever stop from be-ing a hap-py little bear…#

Oh that is marvellous! Well done indeed! Ah now the kettle is boiling, what can I offer you my dears? – I have contraband tea of all descriptions and a very little coffee saved for special guests (assuming you don’t want the government-standard-issue-decaff?)

Thank-you, tea for me, milk and no sugar please, and a baby-bear-o-ccino for George please.

There you are, now where can we purchase copies of your small grey bear adventures?

Funnily enough you can find us on Facebook as “Small Grey Bear Adventures”

Marvellous! And will you be making any public appearances in the near future?

We are planning to return to the “Festival of Steam and Transport” at Historic Dockyard Chatham next Easter as part of the “Steampunk Village”

Well perhaps we will see you there! Thankyou so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Admiral, and for bringing young George along to help as well! It’s been wonderful to meet and chat with you both and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

 

Thank-you Ma’am for inviting us to your cosy cottage. Sadly we have to return to our own dimension now as I believe I’m needed back on the bridge of my flagship HMS Essex, and George has school in the morning and we wouldn’t want to upset his teacher Mrs. Shorttfur.

No indeed! Thankyou all for joining us in the soup kitchen today, you can find George’s adventures by following the links below – Blessings on your brew my dears!

George books LINK: http://www.smallgreybearadventures.yolasite.com/

Umbrella publishing group LINK: http://ghostbearpublishing.yolasite.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


#inktober : 50 shades of tea

Or we could have said 50 shades of EARL grey but that sounded a bit prejudiced against all the other lovely teas out there – we are a pro-diversity site remember!

So what is this diabolically titled post all about?  Celebration of course! Celebration of tea and diversity and difference and similarity and community and preferences and peculiarities and did I mention tea? I don’t pretend to be an artist, just a sad old tea-sot who’d like to improve!

So this year my teabies are going to bring you ’50 shades of tea’ starting with a group hug… because that’s the way all things should begin isn’t it? Feel free to snigger, or groan as you see fit 😉

  1. EVERYONE’S A LITTLE DIFFERENT:

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Here’s Max, Collin and Christina (I hate-love-hate drawing Chrissy and Max together but, that’s the history.) Very unhappy with the shakiness of my damn hands but, hey, start at the bottom and climb upwards right? That’s the plan anyway..

And from today here’s a lil sketch of Chrissy on her own wearing the teabag dress with all Joyce Jameson’s wise words written on the teabags (“whoever has the last bag of flour will win the war…the limits of the diaphane…the soul of the commonest object…the poem in the heart of the treacle miner..” etc etc ) which she wore when she went to see Max get hung in Lancaster.

2. CHRISTINA TAKES IT IN THE BACK PASSAGE:

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Tomorrow, Thursday and Friday I’ll try and do Chrissy in tea and Max in ink…  blessings on your brew, and all your inktober endeavors 🙂

 


Morning Cuppa: Selkie Cove

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Max and Collin’s Utopian underwater apartments located, at present, beneath the deluge of water overflowing from the river Lune and into the drainage systems of the splendidly scenic city of steampunk’d Lancaster.

True some have said that there’s always something fishy going on around here, but what exactly do they expect when one of us is an octopus and the other refuses to kowtow to public demands for personal hygiene … owch! It was a joke Max! My gentleman friend has no sense of humour at all…

Well our pig is still happy, although we have had to set him adrift in a little crate as the parlour is flooded with rainwater coming in through the floor and we are going to have strong (ish) words with our landlord about this, once we pluck up the courage… in the meantime I am going to perch on Max’s head while he ‘bails out’ and… hm? … you think I ought to be just fine in the water because I’m an octopus? My dear friends, there is a world of difference (at least there ought to be) between the waters of The Great Western Ocean and the excrement of the Lancastrian sewer system… a-hem… now where was I? Oh yes, perching on Max’s head about to open a marvelous book …

 

Selkie Cove is the next installment of Kara Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices series which we have become absolutely addicted to over the last few years. It is no secret at all that she has become one of our favorite authors and with very good reason – her writing combines diverse, complex and compelling characters embedded in  gripping narratives which combine action, emotion and suspense in perfect balance.

If you are new to this series, it is possible to start here and still understand what has gone before, but much better to start at the beginning: The Earl Of Brass

If like us however you have been dying to know what happens next, you will not be disappointed…

With the horrors of the past seemingly far behind them, Immanuel and Adam are still feeling the after effects that dark magic has left on their lives. When a new mystery surfaces and magic invites itself into their lives once more, the couple are faced with some difficult choices that will affect the course of their future lives.

It was interesting to see how Adam and Immanuel’s  relationship developed – and how they both grew and changed as individuals – when faced with the new challenges of life as a couple within the rigidity of Victorian society. This interplay gave the story warmth and depth and added to the emotional roller coaster that all the IMD novels offer. Overall this was a top notch adventure and we loved the interplay of myth, magic and science within this steampunk setting.

Now then, I’m afraid we don’t have any tea to offer you today because it is all being painted with – today is the first of Inktober and, just like last year, we are going to endeavor to do a little bit of tea painting each day in the hopes of producing one painting per week (or perhaps more but lets not got carried away!)  we will post our first effort so far tomorrow so, until then

please remain always

Utterly Yourself


Pipe and Slippers: Tales From Steampunk’d Lancaster

 

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

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

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of that incorrigible octopus and its unnerving  Gentleman Friend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by strange creatures promising  cake. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here;   here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

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

like this perhaps… I have been tirelessly working over the summer, interviewing, stalking … I mean studying… the Hex Slingers of Lancaster, compiling an anthropological study of the lives of those who use magic illegally in the curated back-alley fight clubs – why and how have they come to their present situation? What are their stories? Well, here at least, is one of them…

TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER

SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS 

TALE THE FOURTH:  by ALLISON SHEPHERD

 

“My brooch!” I yelled as Mariah’s twinklepuff slam hit me full force in the chest

and sent me hurtling backwards into the wooden crates at the makeshift

gayelle’s edge. I hadn’t anticipated Mariah’s last pattern and was now

scrambling to catch my breath and get back on my feet. My brooch had ripped

off my bolero as the twinklepuff spell had infused the fibres of the old velvet.

My grandmother had made that brooch for me from the cogs of a broken toy

train and an old yuletide ornament. She’d fashioned the cogs into an owl tying

them together with copper wire, and using tiny emerald crystals pulled off the

bauble for the eyes. Every afternoon after school I’d go to her rag-and-bone

shop tucked away down a narrow cobblestone alley to wait for my parents.

She’d make a pot of Earl Grey with leaves from her “secret supplier” and tell

me stories of when her mother baked double-layered sponge cakes with

strawberry jam filling, and lighter-than-air profiteroles filled with sweet gooey

cream. “Earl Grey.” “Strawberry jam.” “Profiteroles.” I hadn’t heard those

words in almost a decade. My owl brooch had become my talisman, my

connection to my past.

I tried to stand but sat down quickly as my vision blurred. Mariah? This

powerful? I couldn’t understand; she was a third-rate slinger at best, over

estimating both her charms and her spells. Something was different. The

sophistication of the twinklepuff weavings and glitter were not her. Someone

was helping raise the level of her usually amorphous, sloppily put together

concoctions. Who? And why?

It was odd when Mariah had drawn the wildcard for our slingoff but I had

missed a few of the preliminary fights when I had gone out of town. Maybe

she’d improved and been bumped up a couple garnets, I thought. This was my

livelihood, and sometimes it’s better to shut up and sling. Now, as I sat

befuddled trying to clear my head and weave my threads, I saw a glint of silver-

black emanating from Mariah’s perfectly poised hands. Mariah who could

barely make a pattern for a pink-and-gold unicorn spell slinging an

onyxmirrorpearl? With advanced finger positions? I sat spellbound and the

omp smacked me flat. Blood gushed out of my nose, ruby red against my white

pin-tucked shirtwaist. Before I lost consciousness, I saw Emily, the bookie,

collecting from the disgruntled gamblers.

Gill found my brooch, the emerald crystals winking in the twilight-find spell he

cast. The healers had tried to revive me right away but the omp had proved

beautifully formed and knocked me out for hours. I lost my deposit and got

nothing for the night. According to Gill, Emily had been apologetic but could do

nothing as an unexpected large bet against me had her scrambling for gilt. Gill

had taken me home and tucked me up in bed with a hot water bottle, three

pillows and my favourite fluffy wrap. I was still in bed when he came back with

my brooch. I tried to sit up but the wave of nausea had me lying back gingerly

on the pillows. I closed my eyes clutching my owl, my fingers tracing the

notches along the cogs, and started to cry.

My parents were wizards, of course, fighting for Queen and country. They truly

believed that magic should be controlled and out of the hands of ‘ordinary’

people. My parents were strong weavers but by the time they disappeared (of

course) my abilities were rudimentary at best. I’d become a trope: orphan,

living with my grandmother, no magic. But as with my favourite fairy tales, this

was simply the beginning of the story.

My parents had taken an assignment to escort our Queen to Boss Town for a

diplomatic sojourn, or that was what the official correspondence claimed. We

knew better: an excuse for the elite to sample new-fangled sweet marvels and

magiscience tea twists. Mum and dad couldn’t say too much but they were

more tight-lipped than usual as they hugged me goodbye and dropped me off

at Gran’s. We never saw them again. I was fourteen.

Gran moved in with me. I finished school at sixteen and tried out for the

apprentice wizard programme. I didn’t qualify even though my parents had

been senior civil servants. Apparently, according to the report, I didn’t have the

“right attitude, and my spells were nonexistent.” Gran and I eked out a living

from the shop. I met Quelin her “tea supplier,” a jovial smuggler who was able

to find the choicest leaves for us, and sometimes, just sometimes, the tiniest

silver-sprinkled cupcakes. He’d never tell where he got them but always

tapped the side of his nose with his forefinger, “It’s best you don’t know, my

darling,” he’d say, “because if anything happened to me, you might be running

for your life from some nasty bits.” He’d glance across at Gran, who would

pretend to be engrossed with a length of glitterwool handicraft, or checking

her numbers in the accounts book. They thought I never noticed but I always

did.

I had turned seventeen the year of the Youshallnevereatcake Spring, a short-

lived, half-hearted coup d’etat by a handful of boisterous youngsters. It was

quashed by the wizards within hours, the rebels marched through the streets

to the palace courts. I rushed home to tell Gran only to find her in the garden,

sitting in her favourite chair under the willow tree, a cold cup of Earl Grey in

her lap. She looked as though she were taking an afternoon nap, the breeze

ruffling her mop of curls. I clasped her inert hands, and wept.

I started hex slinging in the underground circuit soon after.

Of course my latent abilities eventually showed up, stronger than either of my

parents but without proper training and guidance, it was a mess. My early

slingoffs were either a triumph of a knockout, or me vomiting an endless

stream of bile in a dank corner, a side-effect of using pure, raw magic. Through

practice, and more practice, and much much more vomiting, I learnt to control

and weave almost beautiful hexes. I found a circle of friends who helped me in

the nine years since Gran died: Gill, Emily, Jendra. And I still ran the shop. It

didn’t make much but had become a safe place for us to meet to try out new

patterns and concoctions, catch up on gossip and, yes, of course, find a way to

bring back tea, cakes and magic: we’d been denied our right to a free life for

too long.

***

As I clutched my brooch in my hand, tears streaming down my face confusing

Gill to no end, I realised that Mariah’s win tonight had shifted our timetable. It

hadn’t been subtle, literally a punch to my gut. Someone had wanted our

attention. No longer was our light-hearted, drinking-after-a-slingoff chant of

“Tea, Cake, Magic For All!” a someday cake-in-the-sky dream; someone, or

someones, wanted us ready now. And I was terrified.

 

Allison Shepherd enjoys reading and writing speculative fiction, especially paranormal romance. She teaches at the medical school at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, and has had her work published in bmj Medical Humanities, Tales From the Fluffy Bunny, and is upcoming in Lycan Valley Press Publications “Darkling’s Beasts and Brews”. https://mh.bmj.com/content/43/3/e33 https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Fluffy-Bunny-Various-Authors/dp/1942450699

 


Pipe and Slippers: Tales From Steampunk’d Lancaster

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

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

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of that incorrigible octopus and its unnerving  Gentleman Friend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by strange creatures promising  cake. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here;   here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

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

like this perhaps… I have been tirelessly working over the summer, interviewing, stalking … I mean studying… the Hex Slingers of Lancaster, compiling an anthropological study of the lives of those who use magic illegally in the curated back-alley fight clubs – why and how have they come to their present situation? What are their stories? Well, here at least, is one of them…

TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER

SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS 

TALE THE THIRD:  by PENNY BLAKE

We wasn’t always called Jack and Marjory. But then again we didn’t always live in Lancaster. We didn’t always own these boots. We didn’t always work for Kitty Flynn.

Kitty’s coffee house, The Angel, is always full, always bustling, always respectable and everything above board.

They serve government standard issue coffee – the lifeblood of the workforce and the would-be well-to-do alike.

Chicory, acorn, dandelion … the great copper pots of brown liquid sit simmering in the seventeen fire places all day long and Kitty’s daughters run to and fro serving it out in pewter tumblers on silver trays.

The rules are framed in mahogany on the white washed wall: no foul language, no char-latin, no anti-royalist, anti-religious or anticlimactical notions, no games of chance, no business dealings, no magic.

Yes indeed, The Angel is a perfectly respectable place. It must be. The patrons run the great societal gamut from the lowliest mill worker, to dockers, street traders  and Sho’vani barge folk; from town Tinkers like The Time Keeper and The Spoon Smiths, to landlords like Montmorency and Clitheroe, even true aristocrats like Lord Ashton and Lady Grace and wizards like that so-called ‘Dr. Smith’…

The Angel is always full, never a spare room in the place. Kitty rents rooms alright but you’d be damned if you could ever get one. Very particular is Kitty Flynn about who she’ll let a room to and once she gets a tenant in, they tend to stay for a very long time.

We, certainly, intend to stay for a very long time.

Because once you’re in, like us, there’s only one way out – and it ain’t pretty. No, indeed, it really ain’t.

There are seventeen chimney’s in The Angel. Seventeen chimneys and each has an inglenook bookcase.

On a certain evening, at a certain time, after the doors are locked and barred and only a few select patrons are still at table – presumably having booked lodgings for the night and enjoying a late supper – Jack and Marjory might suddenly take into our heads the fancy of reading a particular book titled The Winchester Mystery which is located on the seventh shelf of the bookcase in the seventh chimney.

It is a favourite of almost every patron and tenant and no one  bats an eyelid as the whisper of well oiled cogs heralds the opening of a hidden door and we slip through, and down into an entirely different world below.

Here the air is tight, charged with electricity, close with the heat of many bodies and breaths and damp with sweat and mildew. Arachnid threads of green sphagnum and lichen trace along the limestone walls and arched tunnel ceilings and our footsteps echo among the cheers and jeers, shrieks of pain and laughter and flesh hitting stone.

There are rats down here, snails, reptiles, cats and dust but we don’t need them. When you work for Kitty Flynn, you keep things pure. Just the magic, that’s what Kitty wants. That’s what Kitty gets.

Kitty’s house is always full. All the tenants fight down here. It’s how we earn our keep, of course, and more than that as you can see ; no Hex Slingers in Lancaster are togged out finer than us who board at The Angel, well and truly minted is what we are because Kitty looks after her own…

But you knew that already, right? That’s why you came, that’s why you asked if there was a room and when we saw your hands, bandaged up in strips of kid leather to hide the scars and that high collar pulled up close under your chin, when we saw the hunted look in your blood shots eyes, we knew you’d fit right in…

 

 

 


Soup Of The Day : With Katherine McIntyre

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

 

Helping me this morning is author Katherine McIntyre! Thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, Katherine! May I take your hat and cloak? It is still very warm here in Lancaster today although the season is undoubtedly on the turn!

Thank you for inviting me!

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

Breezy! Flew on in by airship ; )

I had quite the quick trip from the suburbs of Philadelphia!

 

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

Absolutely! I’ve got a penchant for potato soup 😊  

This is one of my favorite soup recipes: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/13218/absolutely-ultimate-potato-soup/

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 Steampunk series Take to The Skies?

My steampunk universe isn’t set in Victorian England like a lot of them tend to be—instead, I brought anachronistic elements to a sci-fi future where the landscape has changed and airships dominate the skies. It’s a swashbuckling adventure series akin to pirate novels, which fans of Treasure Island and Firefly are sure to enjoy.

 

It sounds marvellous! But you don’t only write Steampunk, you have two other series if I’m not mistaken?

I do! I primarily write paranormal romance. I’m currently working on the second book in my Discord’s Desire series, which is about a fae rock band who get embroiled in the middle of a war between hunters and their own kind.

The shifter series I just completed writing the third book of is the Tribal Spirits series. It revolves around the wolf and mountain lion packs in central PA and the politics that descend upon the region with the arrival of a dangerous renegade.

 

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

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Your web-mantra is “Strong Women. Strong words.” I must say I like that very much indeed! What inspired you to choose that phrase?

I have a natural inclination to write women in places of power in my books, whether it’s female captains or alphas. I love the complexity that strength involves, whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional, and I’m determined to represent women in a realistic way that honors their flaws, strengths, and struggles.

 

Women have always had a voice in science fiction, from it’s very beginning, and today sci-fi enjoys a huge female fan-base and many excellent female content-contributors, do you have any favourites in particular either past or present day?

One of my particular favorites is Madeline L’Engle, whose intelligent book, A Wrinkle in Time, and its sequels captured my attention from an early age. Despite it being young adult, she never tried to dumb down the concepts and the book expanded my horizons in a wonderful was as a kid.

 

Despite the consistent  contribution of women to the  sci fi genre, the stories told still often portray women as the victim, the villain or the supporting role to a male hero, do you think there is a reason for this?

I think a lot of it revolves around societal expectation and what’s considered the norm. Even now, there exists a struggle to get stories out there which feature women in a different light. I’ve faced rejection for featuring a female alpha who they deemed too masculine. A lot of places aren’t willing to take the risk to push forward the change, which is a reason I will relentlessly push for it myself.  

 

Do you think we need more stories where the capacity and depth of female (and indeed male) characters is expanded and explored in greater detail – or do we perhaps have these tales already and they are simply not given the spotlight they deserve?

I think we have some of those tales, which do deserve the spotlight, but I also think we need many more. A lot of the characters prescribe to a definitive gender divide when the reality isn’t quite so clear. I would love to see more depth in both men and women, instead of the tendency to shy away from any traditionally ‘masculine’ tendencies in women, or ‘feminine’ qualities in men.  

 

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

 

Always coffee, which I take with cream and sugar.

 

You are in luck! We don’t farm traditional coffee here in Ire but I do have a little canister down here that one of my guests kindly left behind some time ago… There you are, now then, diversity and representation are big issues for us here in Ire and they are for you as well is that correct?

Absolutely. Reading teaches empathy, and if we’re only presented with limited options of who to empathize with, we’re missing a broad mark of how to promote acceptance of one another. I’ve been making an active effort to push past my own experience to explore others, whether it’s including characters of different races and sexualities than my own, or exploring characters who struggle with mental or physical disorders.

 

Do you think that the sci fi and fantasy genres are representative enough of the diverse realities of our little blue planet, or do you think there is still ground to be won in that area?

I think there’s a lot of ground to be won. While some wonderful examples exist, I think in the past a lot of science fiction and fantasy represented a very white and heterosexual viewpoint, as well as a lot of Eurocentrism in fantasy. I am loving the new array of stories emerging from so many different perspectives than the ones we’ve seen in the past, and I hope that trend continues.

 

Do you have any works in progress or new releases that we can get excited about?

I’m currently writing the second Discord’s Desire book, and I’ll be starting the fourth Tribal Spirits book soon! As far as new releases, the first two books in the Tribal Spirits series are coming out with Totally Bound in January and February of 2019. I’m also participating in a steampunk Christmas anthology, Bustles and Bells, which will be coming out later this year.

 

And in the meantime where can we purchase your wonderful works of fiction?

My books can be found on

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Katherine-McIntyre/e/B00J8U4VNU

Website: http://www.katherine-mcintyre.com

As well as many other online retailers!

 

 

Fabulous! Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Katherine, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

 

Thank you so much for having me! I absolutely enjoyed the visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Soup Of The Day: With Mat McCall

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Argonauts 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!

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Helping me this morning is Steampunk author, pillar of the Steampunk Community and all-round Accomplished Gentleman, Mat McCall! Thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, Mat! May I take your coat? Despite the deluge it is very warm here in Lancaster today…

Indeed. It’s wonderful to be here. Something smells delicious!

Ah yes I have been doing a spot of illicit baking this morning! Oh, could you leave your blunderbuss in the hat stand please, if you don’t mind?

Carefully.

Thank you, dear. I’m afraid weapons unnerve me somewhat. Now, why don’t you have a seat by the window there, how was your trip from your own dimension? I hope those wretched airship pirates didn’t give you any trouble?

Well, no. They are mostly me old mates.

Ah, that is good news indeed! And have you brought along some soup to share with us?

Cream of Dandelion Soup.

  • 2 or 3 cups chopped dandelion leaves
  • 1 cup dandelion flower petals, divided
  • 1 cup dandelion buds
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup of cream
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon each: salt, dried parsley, dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon each; cumin, garlic powder
  • Chopped spring onion or nasturtium flowers to garnish

 Instructions

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil, add the dandelion leaves and boil until tender, 3-5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking.
  2. In a heavy-bottom soup pot, sauté onion and garlic in butter or oil on medium heat, until tender.
  3. Add 2 cups water.
  4. Reserve some of the petals for garnishing, and put aside.
  5. Add dandelion leaves, flower petals, buds, and spices to the pot.
  6. Lower heat and simmer gently 45 minutes.
  7. Add cream and Parmesan cheese, and simmer a few minutes more.
  8. Serve immediately and garnish with flower petals and green onion.
  9. If you don’t have enough dandelions, or like a more peppery taste, you can use nasturtium leaves and flowers.

 

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now, while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us all a little more about your book The Dandelion Farmer? Have you brought a copy with you to show the orphans?

I do.

It looks marvelous, I must say! What inspired you to write such a unique tale?

I have always felt that a lot of Steampunk literature, if you can call it that, has always played to the audience with all the subtlety of a Brian Rix farce, nudge-nudge, wink-wink… and making virtually no contribution to Science Fiction as a genre. So I aimed to write a ‘Steampunked’ Science Fiction novel that was more Science Fiction than Steampunk whimsy.

Saying that, there are some amazing authors writing in the genre of Steampunk, authors that do not get the recognition they deserve, like Craig Hallam, Nimue and Tom Brown, Meg Kingston and Ceri-Leigh Harper, I think that is because Steampunk is not taken seriously as a legitimate branch of Science Fiction by publishers.

Steampunk often postures itself as the badly behaved and absinthe-sotted cousin of Sci Fi doesn’t it? Do you think that Steampunk has more to say on the world stage than “Oops Ma’arm where’s me cucumber sandwiches?” – If you’ll pardon the phrase;  living in close proximity to a flirtatious Octopus and his Gentleman Friend tends to rub off on One I’m afraid!

Nothing wrong with that.

Thankyou! Of course we all like a good laugh and a giggle, I’m sure, but do you think that sometimes the flamboyantly flippant style of many Steampunk novels prevents some of those more serious issues, which are so prominent in science fiction works, from coming to light or being taken seriously?

I think you’re absolutely right. SF has always been the best literary medium for exploring issues; such as the nature of being human; from Frankenstein and I Robot to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? To the nature of sexuality and gender, The Left Hand of Darkness, to the subjugation of women in our societies, The Hand Maid’s Tale, even the nature of sanity, anything by Philip K Dick, and it predicts the future, sometimes with frightening accuracy, read anything by William Gibson or Bruce Sterling. I don’t see any attempt in most Steampunk SF to tackle similar subjects.

In Steampunk’s pseudo Victoriana there is little exploration of the moral or social issues of today, let alone what life was like for the vast majority of ordinary people in the late 18th, 19th and very early 20th century. Gender and racial inequality, Imperialism, war, deprivation and grinding poverty.

I think that Steampunk should be as willing to explore tough issues and ideas as much as the main body of SF does.

Do you think it is possible, appropriate or even necessary, for the more humorous side of Steampunk to be used to highlight more serious issues? – ‘Heavy words, lightly thrown’ as some would say?  I am thinking in particular of Professor Elemental who was recently criticized by a minority of his audience for bringing politics into his stage show...

 

 Oh god yes. I think Steampunk can and should play a powerful role in social commentary, both of the past and the present. And as my late Mum used to quote, Chaucer, I think; “Many a true word spoken in jest.”

My book was accused by some rabid Trumpite of being a left wing diatribe, he also complained because it had transgender and lesbian characters. He didn’t see any place in what he thinks is Steampunk for them, he even questioned having black characters in a neo-Victorian story. Well, I put his “review” up on Facebook and let the Steampunks decide, they supported me whole heartedly, as I support Prof. Elemental.

Steampunk in all its forms is, at its heart, ART, and art’s greatest power is to challenge our preconceptions.

I absolutely agree with you, Dear… Ah, now the kettle is boiling, what is your ‘poison’ , as they say, and how do you take it?

Tea, please. Milk, no sugar. It’s a mnemonic I use to get people to remember my name; Mat, one T, no sugar.

Oh dear me! You musn’t make me chuckle I shall spill the hot water all over the mechanical cat. There you are, now then, tell me, what made you choose Mars as the setting for The Dandelion Farmer? Do you think perhaps the human race may end up there one day?

Yes. Unless we extinguish ourselves first. The day a successful colony on Mars reaches true independence is the day our survival as a race takes one major step closer to certainty.

My Mars is probably more about the realities of colonialism. The historical parts of the background story, presented to the reader in the form of extracts from Beresford’s History of the Martian Colonies, is about the failure of imperial colonialism. This follows a clear historical pattern that we have seen, again and again, on Earth, except in this narrative it is accelerated.

Will such a thing happen if we colonise Mars? A struggle for independence from Earthly bound powers. Yes, probably.

Mars, real and fictional, is Science Fiction’s first great love. A hostile world where if you just dig a little below that red sandy surface you will discover a literary layer cake, a fictional geology, of several hundred years if not longer, laid down by writers and imagineers like Greg, Flammarion, du Maurier, MacColl, Wells, Verne, Wyndham, Robinson and Weir, to mention only a few.

I wanted to draw on elements of Verne and Wells, but also Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, Burroughs’ John Carter/Barsoom adventures, and little touches of  Le Guin’s questioning of humanity, P.K. Dick high strangeness and Lovecraftian menace. There are elements of homage, but not cod plagiarism, and it gave me the opportunity to build, not only an alternative history but an entirely new world.

That big red dust ball has been the playground for SF fiction since the earliest stories. SF’s fascination with other worlds and space travel is at least as old as Lucian of Samosata’s True History, written in the second century.

So I wanted to play in that barren garden of delights, and leave my metaphorical boot prints in the red dust of Mars.

And Dandelions! Of course I use them for tea and coffee, but I’d never entertained the notion that they could be used as a  botanical fuel crop! Such an elegant idea, was there a particular reason behind that too?

I was walking the dogs, one morning and at the end of the road where I turn into the park is a house, and that house’s front garden was awash with dandelions. I made a remark to my partner, Nikki, that it looked as if they were farming dandelions. And the idea stuck.

Dandelions are an amazing plant. Everything that Edwin does with them is being done today; liquid fuel, biomass, tea, even soup. Russian dandelions are the best. In a world without much in the way of fossil fuels, humans will have to grow their own fuel.

Did you know that the German bombers of WWII were flying on fuel made from dandelions? It’s not a new idea.

My goodness I had no idea! (Mind you, I am stuck here in the future 1840s and I’m afraid my soup-scrying does not always furnish me with a comprehensive picture of past-future events.. )

The Victorians were also very ingenious about using alternative fuel sources; they were using mummies to fuel the Cairo express at one point, they were cheaper than wood or coal and pretty plentiful.

Goodness! I had no idea!

The book contains an excellent mix of high action and intriguing plot development which adds to the tension, but, as a reader, I felt at all times in touch with the feelings and emotions of the characters because of the structure of using journal entries and letters to tell the story… Was this a very difficult balance to get right?

Very. I wanted the plot to move fast, and there is a lot of plot, several major interwoven themes, in fact, but I didn’t want to lose sight of the humanity of the characters involved. The tradition of using journals and diaries of course goes back beyond Victorian literature, but it has been a device Victorian writers used often.

I like to take the reader into the minds of the characters, to let them see the world through their eyes. To explore their passions, fears, motivations and ideals without bogging the reader down with long expositions by a third person narrator.

It’s also important, when exploring the frailties and uniqueness of the characters, to let them have their own voice. My characters are complex people. Edwin is wracked by self-doubt and worries, and that intensifies his stammer, Adam is on a journey to discover his origins, but everything he learns horrifies him, Aelita is discovering who and what she is, but to do so she has to throw off a lifetime of colonial Victorian culture, Charity is on a mission of vengeance but ends up finding love.

You are obviously a long standing fan of Science Fiction and Steampunk, are there any particular authors, books or events which have influenced your work?

I have always had an abiding passion for Science Fiction and Fantasy only equalled by my passion for Archaeology and History. I’m a big fan of Philip K. Dick,  Ray Bradbury, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Robert Aspin’s “Thieves World,” George Martin’s “Game of Thrones,” and Ursula La Guin’s “Earthsea.”

So I guess all those writers are conscious and unconscious influences on my writing. Specifically, La Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness, Shelly’s Frankenstein, Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, Borough’s Barsoom stories and, of course, Jules Verne and Lovecraft.  

The story ends on a cliffhanger, please don’t say we have to twiddle our thumbs for long before the tale continues?

No, not too long, the second book, The Hourglass Sea, is already half completed.

And in the meantime, where can we stay in touch with you and your works in progress?

Anyone who wants to contact me is welcome to.

My web site is Doktormatas@weebly.com, where you can read the first couple of chapters for free.

On Facebook author’s page is Mathew McCall, author.

And I also have the FB page. Matas Corvus.

I am at Goodreads and the book is available, at the moment, from Amazon UK, and worldwide.

Marvelous, thankyou! But writing fiction is not the only string to your bow is it? When you are not penning works of Steampunk Splendidness what else can you be found doing?

I am very active in the British Steampunk community both online and in the real world.  I’m an educationalist, specialising in Adult Education, I also work for the NHS presenting Diabetes Prevention courses. I’m a History and Archaeology lecturer, award-winning Steampunk artist and contraption maker, bulldog fancier, natural philosopher, gardener, Socialist, non-fundamentalist Christian and Fortean.

I believe very much in the idea of a worldwide Steampunk Community in which we are all part and so I started and run the FB pages; The Steampunk Community Bookshop and Steamcycle.

Steamcycle is the Steampunk’s Freecycle, which I and the inimitable Janine Marriott run so as to help foster that sense of community. Steamcycle has over 1500 Steampunks around the world swapping or giving away things for free to other Steampunks.

The Steampunk Community Bookshop was created to give Steampunk authors a platform to promote their own work to the Steampunk community and for Steampunks looking for a good book to browse through.

I also am a founding member of the Steampunks of Gloucestershire group and the Minimum Altitude Display Team, “MAD T’s,” that has featured at the Lincoln Asylum for the last 5 years.

Splendid! Well, thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Mat, it’s been wonderful chatting 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?

Shall I be mother?

Thankyou very much! – and thankyou to all of you for joining us today in the soup kitchen,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Elevenses: Utterly Myself

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Max and Collin’s providentially propitious to porcine perfection parlour located beneath the seasonably sodden streets of the splendidly scenic city f Steampunk’d Lancaster.

True there was a little kerfuffle here yesterday with some animal rights activists getting  hold of the wrong end of the proverbial stick and and trying to beat us to death with it, but never fear, such morally explosive coves will not be receiving another invitation.

You find us this morning much returned to the usual mill of things, the angry mob has dissipated, the furniture is recovering its dignity, Freddy is telling himself obscene jokes and we are feeling virtuous after feeding an entire town full of orphans their first taste of bacon. We have also stocked up on beer pending the arrival of our new pet and even made it a sort of ‘hutch’ …. hm? …. oh sorry Max says it’s called a sty… in the corner out of lemonade crates and the dismembered chaise. So, we are pig-ready and so forth.

Also, we have some news. News which I didn’t personally believe when Max first informed me of it. But, there it is, a box has arrived and now there is no doubting the fact – Max has written a book. And yes it is painted in tea. Of curse it is. How could it not be.

You may recall some time back that Penny put all her stories together into a book? Well if you remember that then you may also remember that Max got a bit shirty and said that he – or indeed we – ought also to be in a book. Some banter was exchanged and Max, being the precious kid he is, stormed out in a sulk and went to have a hairy coffee in The Squid and Teapot where he moaned and sulked and whined and recited a lot of embarrassing poetry until he passed out in a pool of his own sonnet. In short, he made such a damned nuisance of himself that in the end our dear friends Nimue and Tom Brown said that they would help him into a book if ONLY he would sod off back to Lancaster and leave them in peace with their demons.

So Max returned, joyfully coughing consumption over everyone but, nevertheless, with a box full of books. Somehow he persuaded Penny to do the words and pictures – I think a lot of Lapsang must have change hands there – and so here they are, available to buy on our etsy store, should you be inclined to do so…

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“Description

Eightcups Max and his Octopus friend Collin feature in their first book together – Utterly Myself –

Max may use the ironic handle of Very Quiet Gentleman but everyone who has ever Met Max knows that Very Quite and Gentleman are not accurate descriptions of our beloved tea fiend. Rumors abound about demonic rituals and medical malpractice and there is even a young lady in Bedlam who swears Max has tentacles…

So what the hell are you Max? – Man? Woman? Monster?

Join Max and Collin in this lovingly tea-painted Small Strange Book as they ask what it means to be any or all or none of these things and above all, do remain always, Utterly Yourself. “

We are very much back to normal now here in Lancaster – Mrs Baker will be in her soup kitchen tomorrow and do please stop in and pester Peril in his Lovely Library on Friday, he does so hate to be interrupted in his vital work and we do so love annoying him.
We will of course be back in the parlour on Monday with some more excellent fiction and tea so until then
Please remain always, Utterly Yourself

Morning Cuppa: The Dandelion Farmer

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s exuberantly experimental and improbably porcine parlour located beneath the grimy streets of the splendidly scencic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.

True some will call our flamboyant descriptions of our subterranean safe-house ‘Hogwash’ but we consider that such people are merely swine.

You find us this morning with a dead pig on the rug. This is entirely the fault of Nimue Brown and we take no responsibility for the matter whatsoever. (As Max says, “A True Gentleman never takes responsibility for anything, if he can help it, least of all his own actions.”) We have done some research and ordered a new pig and some beer and a couple of Conservative MPs and hope the thing will go better next time… What?

… Max says I am painting a very suspect and inaccurate picture of events and he would like me to make it clear that a) Max was not in any way involved with the pig , b) the purpose of the pig in the parlour was completely innocent and c) all we did was feed the pig substandard black-market tea which likely consisted of a large amount of brick dust and asbestos and this caused it to keel over and die. d) Max was in no way involved with the pig…

What? … no I don’t think that by making point d) a repetition of point a) it makes it sound as though you were involved with the pig Max… and I’m sure none of our dear friends here would think that of you in any case, I mean, I know you’re shackled to a regrettable romantic history but… owch! … right. Fine. I see cruelty to animals is not beneath you afterall. I shall say no more about it.

Anyway, you didn’t come here to listen to us bickering over a dead pig, you came to enjoy some marvelous tea and some splendid steampunk fiction. So, let us kick our tentacles up on the table, and do just that… Our tea this morning is Dandelion and Burdock brew by Muddy Boots (we are not usually fans of Dandelion, as you know, but coupled with Burdock here it is quite sweet and delicious) and to accopany it, what better than this…

 

 

The Dandelion Farmer is a magnificently crafted  steampunk’d science-fiction novel that could easily stand alongside any of the sci-fi classics, and indeed should be considered essential reading for anyone keen to expand their collection to include modern gems alongside the familiar old.

Humans have colonised Mars and the Dandelion Farmer is trying to grow plants for bio-fuel while fending off the underhanded tactics of his land-grabbing adversary. But when a stranger appears on the farm needing assistance events rapidly spiral into a dark and thrilling journey through a twisted labyrinth of past and present with some very real demons.

McCall’s Mars has an 1800s American Western feel and holds a critical mirror both to that colonial era here on Earth, and to our current socio-political climate. It is an exceptional work of science fiction with a steampunk flavour and we look forward to reading and reviewing the next book in the series , The Hour Glass Sea,  when it is released.

And now that appears to be the door … hopefully it is either the butcher or our new pet… hm? You’ll call who? The R.S what? Well there’s really no need to be like that you know… why don’t you calm down, put that dueling parasol away and stay for lunch? We’re having bacon sandwiches… OWCH! … Max stop cowering behind the sofa and protect me, our guests have been inexplicably incited to violence!…

 

 

 

Note from Penny: No pigs, octopuses or Very Quiet Gentlemen were actually harmed during this tea party. Well, not much… certainly no more than they deserved…


Pipe and Slippers: Tales from Steampunk’d Lancaster

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

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

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of that incorrigible octopus and its unnerving  Gentleman Friend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by strange creatures promising  cake. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here;   here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

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

like this perhaps… I have been tirelessly working over the summer, interviewing the Hex Slingers of Lancaster, compiling an anthropological study of the lives of those who use magic illegally in those curated back-alley fight clubs – why and how have they come to their present situation? What are their stories? Well, here at least, is one of them…

TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER

SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS 

TALE THE FIRST : Siggy And Me

 

Sigmund Ignatius Newburger doesn’t hear his full name used often. Smite me down, I never even knew that was his full name until I heard it bellowed through the steam-filled Tiffin Den one Monday afternoon in late September. The fella bawling it was a sight. Mind you, smite me down if Siggy ain’t a sight himself. Guess we all are here though ; handling raw magic takes its toll, any hex slinger will tell you that for nothing, long as you ain’t the law o’ course!

The damage starts with your fingers, for most, just a tingling sensation at first a bit like pins and needles and if you stop then and there I dare say you’ll be alright after a fashion. But we didn’t stop, did we? Siggy and me. And now we have to hide our black veined hands and arms beneath long coat sleeves and leather gauntlets ; one look at that scorched, stained flesh and everyone knows what you are and we can’t have that now, can we?

This fella, anyways, he wasn’t a slinger. I could see his arms right up to his elbows, shirt sleeves rolled up and thumbs stuck in his braces like he meant business. “Sigmund, Ignatious Newburger!” he’s bellowed and Siggy jumped clean out of his seat like he’d just seen a flesh eating Liver Bird through the window.

It didn’t take long, a brief altercation and the fella left looking ‘Most Put Out’ as the Garish Set would say. Plenty of them in the Den that day as well but we don’t mix with that sort, revolution’s all well and good when you’re just spitting daggers about the Queen across the tea table, but smite me down if some of these Theatre Lot aren’t a bit too serious for their own safety, if you know what I mean.

Anyhow, I got the savvy over a custard tart and a pot of chajo. Clarence is the fella’s name, Clarence Aloysius Newburger and he’s Siggy’s own cousin. Siggy now spills his guts all over our elevenses and it ain’t pretty ; his old man works for Lord Ashton up at the Silk Mills, he’s some sort of overseer there, right high up and fancy which is how they got the coin  to send The Young Sigmund to school and then, later, to the Wizards’ Collegium in Litchfield.

I never knew all this about Sig before but it all makes sense to me as he says it ; there are three sorts of people who end up here in the back-alley hex rings of Lancaster and smite me down if it probably ain’t the same in all the big cities of Ire : there’s those who ran away because this was their dream, and I guess you’ve got me pegged now too coz I’m certainly one them, then there’s those who are down and out anyhow and looking at any way they can to make ends meet, hex slinging can be the end of you, WILL be the end of you if you stick at it, but if you’re good at it, really good, and me and Siggy, smite me down if we ain’t pretty damn good, you can pretty much make your fortune at it. Or so the ring bosses will tell you. Anyhow then there’s the last sort, Siggy’s sort as it now turns out, and that’s the fallen wizards.

When a wizard gets disillusioned or disgraced – I don’t know, maybe he suddenly realises that The Almighty Wiz ain’t as benevolent and loving as all his holy texts make him out to be or maybe he develops a Tiffin habit or a taste for Lemonade, we all have our vices eh? – whatever the reason for him leaving Litchfield he doesn’t have many options open to him; everyone hates magic users and if you ain’t carrying an official licence from the Collegium you can’t legally practice it anyway. Chances are he’ll end up in one of two places; The Gutter Wizards or The Hex Slingers.

We don’t get many of Siggy’s sort down here, as you can imagine.

But I’m getting off the point again. Siggy said he never like Litchfield. He loved magic but he says they don’t teach you real magic up there, only their own limited and feeble understanding of how the world is put together and how a man can influence and exert his limited and feeble will over bits of  it.

Not like us, we stretch our soul out of our fingertips and into the aether, grasp the threads that hold the world together and force them to obey. It’s incredible, raw, adrenaline-fuelled ecstasy and once Siggy tried it( in a back alley behind the Burlington Arcade with a Youth who wore the scarlet leather of the Cameo Libris Scribes and claimed his mother was witch) he knew his Collegium days were over.

He came home to Lancaster but his old man didn’t want to know about it. That’s when he met me and I got him his Beauty and we started this whole lark together.

“Haven’t a friend in the world, Erik,” he kept saying – Erik Wise, that’s me in case you didn’t figure it out – “Haven’t a friend in the world now.” He’s one of those comic-morose types y’know? All Over with the Rueful Smiles and Languid Glances, the Heavy Sighs and such.

So I got him one. In a matchbox. Docklands are crawling with mice you see and they’re good for the fight if you know how to use them. You can use anything to boost your game if you know how, but Siggy likes mice ; smite me down if he can’t stand in a hex ring with Beauty on his shoulder and whistle and every mouse in every garret and gutter will come and swarm on him like a second skin. You can really do a lot with a skill like that and it drives the crowds wild and terrifies the wits out of any newcomers I can tell you.

We always go in for the doubles, Siggy and Me. I like the dust, it listens to me now and I can use it to bring physical form to the magic, which is terrifying in its own right, even without the Myomancer beside me. But we’re a great team and I wouldn’t go solo for any common price.

So this Clarence fella, he’s come to Lancaster looking for help and Siggy’s father won’t give it to him. Clarence is all set to solve his problems some other way when he hears on the ground that Siggy is still in Lancaster and fighting for coin in the hex rings. This suits Clarence’s plan even better ;  seems that some rogue relation – Harvey Hilarius Newburger, whoever he may be – has gotten himself into a scandal and needs to be gotten rid of sharpish before he lands the whole family in hot treacle. Seems Clarence thinks a hex slinger ought to be able to sort this little problem out a treat.

But Siggy’s a decent sort and he won’t have a part in it so old Clarence goes off to do the dirty work for himself and smite me down if I didn’t pity this fella Harvey-Whoever-He-Is on account of the murderous look on Old Clarence’s face as he left the Tiffin Den that day.

We never heard from him again and smite us both if we ain’t glad about it. We’re doing alright, Siggy and Me, we make enough in the rings to keep us in ‘Tops, Tails n Tiffin’ as they say round here. Maybe one day we’ll make that fortune we were promised, or catch the eye of some well to do Patron, then we’d hit the big time and no mistake. But we’re doing alright for now…

 

So there you have it, the first in this little series of snap-shots of Lancastrian street-life.

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

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


Soup of the day with Suna Dasi of Steampunk India

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 Suna Dasi of Steampunk India ! Good morning Suna, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, there is a weapons cache in the bread bin there by door if you’d like to leave your… what do you call that piece of dispachorial equipment, I have never seen anything like it!?
It’s my Aural Induction Oscillator, also known as the Earwig…and I shan’t need it while enjoying the hospitality of your kitchen! I’ll lean my pneumatic crossbow against the wall if that’s alright?
Of course! How was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you were not waylaid by any skywaymen or land pirates en route?

Well, I was hoping you were receiving my ship’s dispatches, as I very much wished to arrive on time. Unfortunately we had some temporal flux issues – putting us about eight months off-course! – but we made it in the end. As far as pirates and other skyjackers are concerned, I’d like to see them try! My airship The DevaDasi is perfectly well equipped to deal with such situations and my pilot, Captain Gita Rohini is a force to be reckoned with.
Well you don’t look at all ruffled my dear, your outfit is amazing, did you make it yourself?
I wish I were skilled enough with my hands, but no. I’m a Pengineer, so I’m most at home in the inkwell, not the sewing kit….my saree was hand spun in Varanasi, the blouse custom fit to match. Only the embellishments are mine, which reminds me, I should have taken off the bandolier belt that holds my crossbow bolts, my apologies.
That’s quite alright! And have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?
No soup, I had hoped your orphans might be adventurous enough to try some South Indian kitchree? This is the original dish that Scottish kedgeree is a derivation off. So a base of fragrant stock with ginger, galangal, some chilli, turmeric and coriander, thickened with basmati rice, chopped carrots, chickpeas, okra and green beans. My own version; you’ll find many varieties and the ‘right way’ to make it in several regions of India. I have added crumbed eggs and dried caramelised onion flakes on top. I do hope it’s not too outlandish!
 

Oh what a splendid idea! Thankyou! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire and tell us what attracted you to Steampunk in the first place?

My passion existed before I discovered the word.
As a child I was fascinated by aspects of history like the Age of Sail, the history of global trade and the Age of Steam. I had a hankering for objects behaving like more than what they were designed for. I’ve always loved classic adventure novels (Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard, et al may be problematic to modern sensibilities but their books are also ripping adventure stories!), vintage sci-fi, Victorian poetry, weird fiction, mythology, folklore and pantheism. I’m hugely interested in applied sciences, neuroscience and robotics. I’ve never grown out of preferring costume-type clothing incorporated in daily attire and because of my heritage I was very focused on blending in Indian elements. Corsets combined with tweed trousers, riding boots, a sash and a jacket made of saree material and a turban, or better yet, a traditional Indian saree or salwar kameez suit with Steampunk accessories are so much more enjoyable than modern Western fashion! All these things and many more besides, seemed to suddenly fall into the same category called Steampunk, or aspects of my interests were used in the world-building of Steampunk fiction.
And have you found that your own cultural heritage has influenced your participation in the genre?

Absolutely. I am less active at events and cons, but if I do, my costumes are always based on Indian dress. Mostly, though, it expresses itself in writing and that is because I wasn’t reading characters I wished to see. 
When we read, we want an escape and an anchor at the same time. We want to escape into worlds beyond our own and we want a character we can anchor ourselves to, a way of sailing through the narrative.
Aside from a very few dusky damsels in distress or a few crudely drawn male martial sidekicks or stern warrior types, there was a dearth of actual Indian characters with developing stories. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’s Nemo is great because we follow him through the second half of his adult life, all the way to the very end; after he dies, his daughter takes the relay baton as the protagonist. It’s almost unheard of for a non-Western character to have such a narrative run in Steampunk.
On the other hand we have the fact that the Victorian Age transformed society and made it what is today; one of the biggest ingredients of that transformation was British rule in India.
It can perhaps be understood why I felt underrepresented within the genre once I started reading the fiction on offer. India during the British occupation is a prominent and influential chapter in history, a chapter that has a deep political and cultural resonance to this day. It is really quite odd to completely ignore it as a part of the Steampunk genre. What makes engaging in Steampunk so wonderful is the re-creation of an era in history in a different mould – an era that has the Empire running roughshod over other cultures. Why not make alternate history truly alternative? Instead of writhing in post-modernist angst about what is ‘correct’, which seems to be the going trend, we should grasp the creative nettle, as it were. It is fiction: the creativity that builds alternate history must be allowed to run unimpeded or the trap of self-censoring is a very real and dangerous one. And humour. Humour is so important!

I confess to very much enjoying your writing, would you mind telling the little urchins here a little about the wonderful Steampunk world you have created?
My India has seen the Mutiny come and go, but the outcome is very different indeed. India has essentially been split into three enormous regions and the British are more or less integrated in society, depending on the region.
For my stories I have taken certain things as read: though there are traditional elements to my alternate India, it is a given that women can study, work any kind of job, have sexual relationships with whomever they please, including other women, and lead independent lives to a reasonable degree. This is not a glorious, golden army of amazing accomplished saints, however; there are thieves, cowards, degenerates and murderers among them… They are people. I have moved certain elements from Victorian Britain to the Indian setting, such as children’s workhouses, though they may not be what they seem at first glance…Mostly, it is important to me to think through of what might be in such a society. The added mythological and slightly supernatural elements, which are sparse but present, are pure fun.
 
Empowerment of women is a strong theme running through your fiction isn’t it? Is that something you feel particularly passionate about?
It fuels everything. I work in the creative industries, I’ve done some acting for theatre and film and I currently earn my living as a singer. The glass ceiling for women within the creative disciplines is an ever present beast. I wish this wasn’t so and there is a massive sea change occurring as we speak, in the film industry, the music industry. In fiction, I contribute in my own way by writing women (and men) in reversed roles, unexpected situations in which their reactions aren’t restricted to classic, outdated heteronormative expectations of how men and women are. (I’d like to say that I’m pretty politically incorrect in all areas however; I may not satisfy. I am satisfying me.)
At the moment, I’m actually digressing from specifically Steampunk into speculative poetry and harder Sci-Fi, both excellent formats for expanding similar ideas and great vehicles for turning some classic tropes on their head. Similarly, I’m exploring ancient Indian myth and folklore for writing fiction. 

You have some wonderful, strong female characters, I particularly fell in love with the idea of the Temple Priestesses with their secret double lives, would you tell us a little more about them and how their creation come about?
It comes from the very popular and often loudly vocalised idea that all sex workers are always downtrodden doormats who had no choice and that there is no woman on the planet who would enjoy doing that kind of work. That no woman would make the autonomous choice to give the gift of sex to paying customers and actively enjoys it.
Yes, there are women who fall under this category, especially in impoverished countries. But nuance is vital. There is a history of sacred sexuality in many cultures, of ecstatic pagan worship involving orgiastic rituals and yes, of sacred prostitution as a lauded, accepted and valid path for a woman to pursue (cadres of historians and feminists serving a certain agenda will loudly naysay this, whatever I say or do) So I am writing about two strong willed, happy, sex positive, kick ass temple dancers, whose patron deity is Vajrayogini (an emanation of Chinnamasta, a left hand path Tantric goddess). They use everything in their considerable arsenal of feminine autonomous strength to solve crimes and political intrigues. The underlying reasons for them being who and what they are sound quite heavy, I know, but it will make for quite the adventure. 
No one is black and white in my universe, people are complex creatures, they have flaws and foibles and they make stupid choices when they’re emotional. No one is exempt. 
I am working on a short SciFi story that goes deeper into the morals and values that surround this topic, including certain strands of current sex-negative feminism.

Your writing takes the viewpoint of characters who are often looked over in society, those who come and go unnoticed but without whom 19th century society would have ground to a halt, was that a pre-meditated decision?
It was! It seems preposterous to me that worlds are built without those strata of society, especially as, when they are incorporated, it is usually in an antagonistic setting, or a classic ‘frowned upon romance across different societal layers’. Surely there can be more outside of those contexts! It’s a big part of any culture’s struggle away from restrictive caste systems, to this day many cultures only marry into families of their own social milieu and many cultures have class wars that are still ongoing – but there were far more ‘odd couple’ groups and pairings in history than recorded history lets on. In Science, in Music, in Romance….
I must say, we don’t see many Chimney Sweeps or Night Soil Men walking round Steampunk conventions do we? Do you think Steampunk would benefit from more diversity in it’s central characters, settings and themes?
I think Steampunk, like any genre or subculture, would benefit most from accepting that everyone has different ways of expressing their passion for said genre or subculture and make sure there is enough room, without being snotty or judgemental about somebody else’s enthusiasms.
With common sense and some self awareness, everyone should be able to enjoy their favourite genres. 
I understand that some Steampunks especially love the etiquette and sense of inherent poshness that goes with Victoriana, but I imagine they may conveniently forget that some of the most retentive politeness in Victorian society covered up some of the most hedonistic behaviour behind closed doors, the Victorian criminal underworld was something to behold and some of the most inventive smut ever written comes from the 1800s. I should know, I’ve read quite a bit of it.
And as Steampunk is about alternate worlds and universes, what a great opportunity to incorporate everything, bloomers out and all – including the peoples and cultures of all those wondrous, far flung continents that made up the Empire.
If I may deviate from Steampunk for a moment, I have just seen Deadpool 2 and straight up loved it. One of my favourite characters is Dopinder, the starry eyed cab driver who wants to be a superhero. I’ve heard from many different directions how he is seen as a problematic character.
I thought he was hilarious and everything relating to his race was pure, unalloyed, wicked irony, especially as (spoiler alert!) he actually pulls through in the end and gets his kill in.
If I listen to most of the indignant people, apparently I should be offended. I am Indian and I wasn’t. I’ve asked fellow Indian, Pakistani and Sikh people what they thought and they all without fail thought he was great. 
By the same token, there was a great outcry when the other Avengers ranted at Thor about how his brother attempted to level New York, to which Thor hastily responds: “He’s adopted”.
I was howling with mirth in my seat at that. I am also adopted. I was not offended in the least.
(I’m also very invested in the Marvelverse – I’ve been reading X-Men since I was 14 – so I will stop digressing or we’ll be here forever.)

You describe the Victorians as ‘dodgy’ my dear, which I confess did make me chuckle, do you think that, as Steampunks, we stand, at times, on slightly thin ice and have a duty to make sure that we challenge rather than glorify that ‘dodgyness’?
No, I think we should absolutely glorify the dodgyness! I think a lot of Steampunk is way too politically correct. Be the cads, scoundrels and perverts some of them were, openly and with pride. It’s the glorification of stilted manners and stuffiness that gets on my nerves. You can be a sophisticate and a thorough sexual hedonist, an autodidact scientist, mathematician and musician and a wheeler dealer in the London underground crime scene.
It’s what makes Gordon Dahlquist’s Glass Books of the Dream Eaters such an exquisite symphony of politics, science, intrigue, cultishness and sexual deviance. For me, those books are the perfect Steampunk; quite literary but not eschewing the underbelly of life and it still involves airships, steam-trains and afternoon tea. Just perfect. 

And what about challenging prejudice within the genre, that’s not always easy to tackle head-on is it?
The only prejudice that continuously gets my goat is ‘more Steampunk than thou’ attitudes. Everyone is here to have a good time, whether they wear a dress with clockwork print or a full suit of armour with actual working, ticking clockwork. MAKE ROOM. YOU’RE NOT LOSING ANYTHING. 
*cough* 
Apologies, I hope I didn’t startle you.
What would you say to those here today who might want to express their own culture and history through their Steampunk writing and costuming?
Do it. Be proud.
And what about those who might want to explore and express aspects of cultures that are not their own?
Do it. Be not an idiot about it.
Now then, I must apologise, the kettle has long been singing at us and I haven’t offered you a cup of tea! What is your poison dear and how do you take it?
Masala chai without sugar, please!

Ah, one of my favourites! There you are. Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, it’s been wonderful to chat with you! I know you are very busy at the moment, would you  like to point us to where we can find out about your current projects?

Please could I refer to my website and Twitter account for listed projects and some free fiction?
http://www.steampunkindia.com and http://www.twitter.com/SteampunkIndia

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Some of my work includes:

A Day in the Life or, What The Tiffin Saw, Steampunk fiction, February 2014, Brown Girl Magazine, USA

Those Dark Satanic Mills, Steampunk Novella for the Tales From the Archives anthologies, edited by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, May 2014

The Steampunk User’s Manual by Jeff VanderMeer & Desirina Boskovich, (nonfiction contribution), October 2014

The Tinku Diaries, Steam/Clockpunk fiction for The Clockwork Watch Transmedia Project & the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK, November 2014

UnMade, Steampunk LGBT romance for the Steampunk Writers Around the World anthology, Luna Press, August 2017

Internal Devices, Steampunk LGBT romance for the Steampunk Universe anthology, Alliteration Ink, January 2018

 

Marvellous! Well now, I must say that kitchree smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins are starting to get fidgety so shall we start dishing it up?

Let’s! I have been baking some roti’s and garlic naan to accompany the food and I have brought some jars of my homemade courgette chutney.
Splendid, thankyou so much all of you for joining us in the kitchen today – blessings on your brew my dears!


Elevenses: The Politics of Post-Brexit treacle

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, thankyou for joining us for elevenses this morning! Today you find us burning the candle at both ends. We have just returned from laying bets on a splendid spot of hex-slinging over at The Angel where we ran into a very dear friend of ours, Jack and Marjory, who used to work in the treacle mines over at Chobham (before we liberated them and the other orphans who had been enslaved there that is)

We should probably explain to any non-UK residents that, here in Britain, we mine our treacle out of the ground. This has been the case for centuries and  William Cobbet, recently visiting Crumbria in 1816, wrote:

“This place I found to be a fair and healthy place, the women and children well fed and happy. Most menfolk were at work upon the Land but that evening in the excellent Crown and Thorns Inn I was surpassingly surprised to see many men brown of hue. On enquiry I determined that these were miners of Treacle and what a jolly crew they turned out to be. That night I repaired to my bed thanking our maker that there was at least one happy parish in the land.”

 

You see, when rain water falls over Birch forests any residual sap on the sides of the tree trunks becomes dissolved in the rain water and is carried down under the ground. The rainwater seeps into the bedrock where it pools and eventually evaporates, leaving behind the black sticky birch sap , or treacle. Over thousands of years the treacle hardens into veins which can be mined out of the rock in the same way as coal. Occasionally, the pressure of large deposits  causes the rock to crack and the treacle to ooze, or sometimes rocket,  to the surface, in fact this is how the treacle hot spot in Chobham was discovered – much to the embarrassment of the courting couple who were caught in the explosion.

Treacle mining has, in the past, controversially employed boggarts to retrieve the ‘black gold’ (as we call it over here) but the government now ‘employs’  street children to do the dirty work as the boggarts, along with all other magical beings,  disappeared after the goddess was defeated.

Of course Max and I are communicating with you via the wonders of aether-technology from the year 1842 but Penny tells us that in fact the last known treacle mine in Britain closed in 2012, which begs the question…if you are still eating treacle, where is all your treacle coming from? Hm? Because if you are depending on the one and only European Treacle Mine in Bergues, you may find your post-Brexit  desserts have come to a sticky end.

The Bergues Treacle Mine was founded when Frittenden pit boss Harrold Gray was forced to close his mine after a plague-like  infestation of Fritts (small insects which live below ground and destroy the wheat crops of neighbouring farms). Gray decided to take a trip down to the cliffs at Dover and reflect on which direction his life now ought to take. Gazing out to see he happened to glance down and saw a gentleman of similar age standing perilously close to the cliff edge. Harry called out to warn the fellow but in doing so alarmed him and the young man slipped, falling into the waves below. Without thinking, Harry leapt after him and, clinging to eachother for dear life, the two were quickly swept out to sea. Fortunately they were picked up by a schooner running buns out of Calais but as the smugglers were on their return trip they could only agree to drop the two men in France. Stranded with no means of getting home, Harry and his new chum Herbert made their way by happenchance to Bergues where they discovered that the local forester, Majolica Luneville, had recently struck a treacle gyser and had no idea how to exploit the vein. Harry stepped in with his expertise and together the three treacleteers opened the first and only ever French Treacle Mine. Since all the British mines are now closed, we can only assume that all the world’s treacle now comes from there.

Still it is possible that the British monarchy have already forseen this problem and made the first move – The Prince Of Wales has apparently recently laid claim to the treacle mining rights in the Duchy of Cornwall, much to the anger of Talskiddy Treacle Mining Corporation.

Luke Bazeley, the mine boss at Talskiddy said  “Although it’s said that nothing will come of this, I think that as the current climate is cold as far as Talskiddy treacle’s market value is concerned, this worried some local employees.”

Talskiddy residents first heard about the claims in a letter sent to them by the Land Registry. It said the registration did not mean it had any intentions of mining the land but residents and workers are naturally concerned.

Mayor of St Columb David Swindells said: “The Duke of Cornwall is trying to claim the land and minerals of the people of Talskiddy, but this is a Mad Hatter idea. This isn’t Alice In Wonderland and if he continues, he might find himself in a sticky situation.”

A Cornwall Council spokesman said they would try “ to keep the local community sweet”

So there you have it, will there still be treacle after Britain leaves the EU? Will the crown seize the day and cash-in by re-opening  the mines of old Blighty? Or will treacle deposits be discovered elsewhere and instigate world war five? Who knows. In the meantime here are some interesting articles exploring the plight, decline and politics of the treacle industry in Britain , you know, in case you thought we were making it all up… oh ye of little faith…

 

Treacle Mines Of Britain: http://www.treacleminer.com

Treacle Tax: Dunchideok Mine Treacle Tax

Trevithick re-opnes – https://trevithick-society.org.uk/cornish-treacle-mine-re-open/

Miners convention: http://www.treacleminer.com/

Kent closures: http://www.treacleminer.com/

Saben mine closure: https://www.duedil.com/company/gb/02159301/sabden-treacle-mines-limited

 

Mrs Baker will be talking Steampunk India with Suna Dasi in her soup kitchen tomorrow and Peril flings wide the doors of his Lovely Library on Friday to bring you his latest piece of anthropological research – ‘Tales From Steampunk’d Lancaster Part 1: Tales Of The Hex Slingers’ . And of course Max and I will be back on Monday with some more excellent fiction and tea so, until then please remain always,

Utterly Yourself

 


Back From Weekend At The Asylum / The Naming Of Wyverns…

Greetings! What a fabulous and utterly breathtaking time was had by all of us at Lincoln Asylum weekend last week.

We had the very great pleasure of spending time with the most amazing authors, artists and creators in The Assembly Rooms where we had our little book stall and wyvern-hatchery, including Nimue and Tom Brown of Hopeless Maine , Nils Visser author of the Time Flight Chronicles, Jade Sarson of Cafe Suada, Francesca Dare creator of Penny BlackfeatherSpec Fiction author Craig Hallam , Ingenius Steampunk creator Herr Doktor, transmedia producer Yoms, Dr Porridge and Chris Mole of Professor Elemental Comics 

We met so many fantastic and friendly folks who came to litsen to our storytelling sessions and play with our puppets – Collin was there of course shaking tentacles with folk and sipping his many cups of tea which he had lined up along the window sill, as were the story spirits who took part in the storytelling sessions and of course Kyril our evil crow!

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But stealing the show I’m afraid was The Wyvern, our animatronic Steampunk demon who attracted so much attention we have had to take orders to make more of them (see our shop links at the top if you’d like one too) and are debating a Wyvern Tea Party at some point in the future!

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Sadly our own wyvern was without a name but thanks to the enthusiasm of his new friends we managed to gather an enormous box load of suggestions and today we will draw out one of those names at random and that shall be his name for evermore …

Drumroll ….

 

…. HUZZAH! : We can now happily announce that the name of our Wyvern, submitted by Lyssa Lopez Wain, is … JULES WYVERN!

We love that name so much! But there were so many gorgeous, cute, witty and well thought out names that were suggested over the weekend we’d like to thank everyone who took the time to interact with Jules and lend their ideas to our little game.

And thankyou to everyone who came and said hello and made the whole event such a wonderful experience to be a part of, here are some of our fave pics from the weekend and Jules would like to say a particularly big hello to his new friends Jelly Bean the dog, and Gresley Dragon …

 

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Steampunk Summer Postcards: Elen Sentier

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… oh it’s from my dear friend Elen Sentier…

 

Lady’s Window

Well, here I am, two hundred and fifty feet above the sea, on the edge of a vertical cliff. Gulls and jackdaws call overhead, a few kittiwakes perched on the cliff opposite, a seal playing down in the water below. Oh how inviting that water looks, all I have to do is step off the edge and I’d been down there, in the water, swimming with her. Well, actually, no – I’d bounce off a whole bunch of scary-looking pointy rocks on the way down, minced nicely for shark food, expect the basking sharks hereabouts are plankton-eaters. Hmmm! Perhaps I won’t do that then!

I adore this place up on the cliffs of North Cornwall. I love that it’s hidden too, you can’t see it as you come up the path and in fact the path goes right on past, you have to deliberately turn off, go a different way, when you get to Firebeacon Hill. I did and sat awhile on the bench at the top, then slithered and skidded my way down the steep slope on the baked earth and slippery dry grass. Breathless, I sat in the cool shadow of the cliff for a few moments, it always gets my heart going doing that skid-walk! Then there’s climbing through the hole …

Lady’s Window is a huge hole in the rockface that stands up at the edge of the cliff. I don’t know enough about geology to tell you why or how it does this, it looks incredible. From the top you think if you climb through you’ll just crash down the rocks and into the sea below, but you don’t. you can climb through the hole onto a path, quite a wide path considering, where you can walk out along the outer side of the cliff for twenty or thirty feet. Ha! Walk! No, I crawl. I have a lousy head for heights but a complete fascination with them.

So I creep through the hole, clutching at the rock, and out crawl onto the path. I go a little way along and sit down with my back to the rock wall. That feels safe, my heart calms down and I begin to be able to take in the views.

Only the sounds of nature out here, birds, the wash and thud of the sea on the cliff below, the wild mewl of a seal. A small sail-boat scuds along the horizon, looks like a little fishing boat, not fancy enough for a holiday-maker’s yacht, maybe he’s out for lobster pots.

The sun is going down, falling down the sky to go to bed in the sea. This is what I came for. Not long now. Down and down he goes until he’s just sat on the edge of the horizon, sending a red-gold pathway back to Lady’s Window and the cliff where I’m sat. It’s so tempting to step out and walk that sun-path.

Later the full moon will rise and, later still, she will set out there in the west following the sun down into the sea. As she goes she too will make a pathway across the water, a moon bridge across to West-Over-the-Sea, our fairy lands and the Isles of the Dead, the lost lands that only emerge out of the sea at certain times. They will be there tonight. Will I walk the moon path? I don’t know but, for now, I pull the quilt over me and stuff myself inside the bivi-bag. It’s good to sleep in the sound of the sea. Wish you were here …

Elen Sentier

Lady’s Window features in Moon Song, Elen’s 2nd novel. It’s where Isolde, the protagonist, sets out from to find the dead Tristan and bring him back so he can finish his magical songs. It’s a really magical place where Elen spends some time every year.

Moon Song is a magical-realism mystery novel set in modern-day Cornwall. Isolde must find folk singer Tristan who killed himself before he finished a set of magical songs that help people heal. She succeeds but when she takes him back to the Isles of the Dead, where he can now rest in peace, she gets trapped there herself. Only courage and the willingness to literally jump of a cliff will save her.

Find Elen at www.elensentier.co.uk and on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Facebook, and all her books are on Amazon.

 

How delightful! Well we’re coming to the end of summer now my dears, I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday yourselves and enjoyed our series of steampunk summer postcards, as the weather starts to turn again and the Lemonade Trade begins to fizzle out for another year Max and Collin will be found fending off Liver Birds and Landlords in their subterranean parlour once more so do pop in and join them for their monday morning cuppa and tuesday elevenses, I will be opening up my soup kitchen again and looking out for some marvelous steampunk authors to help me dish up tasty soup and share their new books with our little Lancastrian street urchins, and of course our grumpy ghost Perilous Wight will be back in his lovely library with some splendid steampunk fiction to share with you all so, until then

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Steampunk summer postcards: Karen J Carlisle

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… why it’s a beautiful postcard from our dear friend Karen J Carlisle…

 

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Goodness yes it was a scorching summer for Aunt Enid, why I’m sure I was sweating just reading about it … although that may well have been the tension as well! If you haven’t yet delved into this new paranormal mystery series you can read the first book here:

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Blessings on your brew my dears!


Author Postcards: Jennings and Jennings

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… why it’s a postcard for me from my dear friend Miss Henderson!
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Hello Mrs Baker,
I hope you are well.

We are all in Paris now, myself, Mr Bosch and Morag. We all came here on what was supposed to be a holiday for Sir John and Marie Jennings, but it has all gone horribly wrong again. Those fiends, Clackprattle and Pook are also here and are up to no good trying to find a magical weapon. Also, the food is almost all French, which is rather difficult to digest, and has caused Mrs Jennings to have an unusual mood yet again.All in all it is rather unpleasant and our so-called holiday is mainly taken up with trying to solve magical clues to prevent a catastrophe and avoid sauces that are too rich, which is most of them in my opinion.

Having said that they have something nice called Petty Fours which are like cakes but much too small.We are staying with some local people, a pleasant gentlemen called Emile and his lady friend, who is very modern if you get my drift. She is not really my sort, but I am being polite and not letting it show.We have also been able to spend some time sight-seeing in Paris.

Everyone says it is a romantic place, but I have to agree to disagree. I find it a little bit ‘flash” and “showy” and not really my idea of romance. I would rather spend a pleasant evening at the dog races with my special friend Detective Symonds.We went to the Eyeful Tower, which is well named because it is an eye-full. Also we spent a day looking at paintings in the Loos, which no-one found funny apart from me.

And then we went shopping on the Shampy Sleazy. I suppose that was alright if you like that sort of thing.All in all, I would rather be back in England having a warm pie and beer with my special friend the Detective.

Hopefully, we will be back soon and the world won’t have been destroyed by Pook and Clackprattle. The whole thing is being written about in some paper called “The Benthic Times”. The writer doesn’t seem very good, but the story might be interesting.

All the best,Your very good friend

Miss Felicity Henderson

PS If you get a chance, can you send a packet of Colbert’s Patented Washing Salts, Sir John has an embarrassing red wine stain on his dinner jacket and I feel the salts will help.

Oh dear! Poor Miss H it doesn’t sound like Paris suits her does it? I will certainly send her the salts and also a little potion I have tucked away for stain removal (although I won’t let on as to it’s true magical properties!)

If you would like to find out what happens to Miss Henderson, Sir John and Marie on their adventures in Paris you can read the entire story in THE BENTHIC TIMES.  And if that gets you hooked (and I’m certain it will!) you can read more of their adventures in their book ‘Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators Case Book 1 ..

You know when I was dusting Peril’s Lovely Library for him I came across a rare Jennings and Jennings story, and took it home to browse by the fire, would you like to hear it? It’s called The Nouveaumancer…
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The Nouveaumancer – by Paul Michael

 

I was awoken at the godforsaken hour of two o’clock by the butler. I guessed at the time by the angle of the sunlight streaming into the lounge window.

 

“There are two gentleman to see you,” said the butler, “from the constabulary.”

 

I sat up on the chaise longue that I had been sleeping on and wrapped my kimono around me.

 

“Well, show them in!” I said. The butler looked pointedly in the corner wherein was my latest art project. It was a nude of a girl. Also in the corner was the girl from the picture, still nude and fast asleep.

 

“I’m sure they have an open mind,” I said and the butler left. Shortly after, the two men appeared. The first was in his early 30s with a light suit and clear blue eyes. The second was in his 40s wearing a bowler hat, dark brown suit, and an enormous moustache. It twitched at the sight of my room. I’m not sure if was the general air of debauchery, the aforementioned painting, or the gently snoring girl that provoked that response. In fact, I had met the second gentlemen before, during an unfortunate incident the previous year. I won’t bore you with the details. In fact, I couldn’t; they’re really rather racy.

 

“Constable Blowfly!” I said. “How nice to see you again. Who is your young acquaintance?”

 

“It’s Detective Constable Blowry, Lord Hollingbury,” he said, gruffly. “This is Detective Inspector Hampton.”

 

“Enchante!” I said. “How may I assist you gentlemen this fine spring morning?”

 

The moustache twitched as I’d hoped, and the younger superior spoke.

 

“Lord Hollingbury, we’ve come because we need your specialist skills.” said Hampton. “Something unusual has happened … a man has died.”

 

“I would have thought that was fairly commonplace,” I said. The policeman looked confused.

 

“I mean, rather, that the circumstances of his death are unusual. There is the suggestion of … occult forces. You are, I believe, a … magician?”

 

“That’s rather an old-fashioned term,” I said. “I prefer something more in keeping with the modern times. I call myself a Nouveaumancer.”

 

“I see, well, whatever we call you, we think we need your help,” said Hampton.

 

I was about to speak when Blowry interrupted. As he spoke he stared straight ahead with a look of smug amusement on his face.

 

“Chief Inspector Mouslecomb wishes to be remembered and reminds you that he still has the photographs.”

 

“And I’m sure he finds them most delightful viewing on cold winter nights,” I said brightly, Blowry’s expression clouded and the moustache twitched.

 

“Still, I understand your inference. Let me put some more clothes on and you can show me what you have.”

 

Hampton looked a little perturbed. He glanced in the corner.

 

“What should we do with the young lady?” he said.

 

As I wandered to my dressing room I called back.

 

“You’re all consenting adults, you can do what you like!”

 

I could almost hear the moustache twitching down the hall.

 

***

 

Suitably attired, I travelled with the two members of the constabulary from my humble seaside abode on the Steine to an imposing looking house in Preston Park. The gentlemen escorted me down to a basement where there was a most interesting scene. A large circle and a triangle were inscribed on the floor with various symbols and hieroglyphs. Inside the triangle was an Egyptian sarcophagus with the lid pushed aside and a dead man dressed in a robe with a sheet over his face.

 

“What makes you think there is an occult influence?” I asked innocently. That’s always rather a struggle.

 

“The, eh, circle, triangle and robes really,” said Hampton, looking confused. I inferred humour wasn’t his strong suit.

 

I walked around the circle, first reading the hieroglyphs.

 

“These are Old Kingdom,” I said. “Not my speciality, but I can more or less read them. These are pleas to various deities imploring them for protection and assistance.”

 

I walked around a little further until something caught my eye.

 

“This is interesting,” I said, looking at the marks on the floor.

 

Hampton came over to look. He glanced down then looked at me.

 

“Is it some manner of demonic curse?” he said earnestly.

 

“No,” I said, “it’s a recipe for fish soup. I think whoever wrote this copied it from a book, and rather inexpertly at that. There’s far too much salt in it.”

 

I looked back into Hampton’s earnest blue eyes. It wasn’t an entirely unpleasant experience.

 

“Did the gentleman have some sort of book with mysterious and eldritch symbols?” I asked. “They usually do in my experience.”

 

Blowry shoved a grave looking tome between me and his superior with a quiet grunting sound. I looked at the book and flicked through the handwritten pages.

 

“How tiresome,” I said. “It’s written in some manner of code. I’ll have to look at that a bit later.”

 

I moved to the sarcophagus then and started to read the hieroglyphs on the lid.

 

“Dedelion,” I said. “Well, that’s a name to conjure with.”

 

“Who is he?” asked Hampton.

 

“A Fourth Dynasty magician,” I said. “He was said to have the power to create demons into physical form. He would assemble body parts of humans and animals and evoke the demon into the form, bringing it to life. It’s the sort of thing that Mrs Shelley or Mr Wells might write about.”

 

“Is this his sarcophagus?” asked Hampton.

 

“No,” I said, “but it’s something that belonged to him. Let me look at this book. Now I have a name, I may be able to crack this code.”

 

I looked in the book and skimmed for the name of the ancient magician in code.

 

“Good heavens!” I cried out.

 

“What is it man?” said Hampton, sounding panicked.

 

“This code is so simple a schoolboy could crack it … ah, I see now what he was trying to do.”

 

I looked again at the sarcophagus lid.

 

“Oh dear,” I said.

 

“What is it?” said Hampton.

 

“I think I know what happened here. May I see the corpse,” I said.

 

“Yes,” said Hampton, “but I must warn you, the man has some terrible injuries. The sight may be very disturbing.”

 

We walked around to the front of the sarcophagus and stood over the body. Hampton knelt down and looked up at me for confirmation, and I nodded gravely. He removed the cloth and looked away himself. I gasped and put my hands to my mouth.

 

“My word!” I said. “That haircut is two seasons out of date!”

 

“Good God, man!” exclaimed Blowry. “Have some humanity, a man has died!”

 

“Yes, and a man that was as foolish as he was unfashionable,” I countered. “If Mr Darwin’s theories are to be believed, and I think they are, this man has done the world a service, assuming he hasn’t bred. And with that haircut, I imagine he has not.”

 

“You said he was foolish,” said Hampton. “Was that because of the ritual he did.”

 

“Indeed,” I said, walking in front of the sarcophagus, “for this man has attempted, and I believe succeeded, in summoning to this world one of Dedelion’s most ferocious demons. A creature of immense power and utter cruelty. A creature that exists only to maim and kill. Unfortunately, because this idiot had only a passing knowledge of ancient Egyptian, he has managed to bring this beast into the wrong body.”

 

“What do you mean,” said Hampton.

 

“From his book he mistranslated this word here,” I said pointing to the sarcophagus. “He has translated this section as ‘within here is contained Master Dedelion’s most beloved and treasured demon.’ This is inaccurate by exactly one word. The word he has as demon is, in fact, … cat.”

 

“Then he has evoked a demon of immense power…” started Hampton.

 

“Yes,” I said, “into a mummified cat.”

 

There was silence as both men tried to comprehend what had happened. I took the advantage of the pause to turn to show my best side.

 

“The creature would have awakened in rage and confusion, hence the scratches on the fool’s face, and then gentlemen … it will have left to hunt.”

 

“To hunt what exactly,” said Blowry.

 

“A more fitting form,” I said.

 

***

 

“Follow me,” I said to the policemen as we left the house in Preston Park. “We need help and I know where we can find it.”

 

“Can’t you somehow track the creature?” said Hampton.

 

I stopped to face him.

 

“What would you like me to do, get on all fours?” I asked.

 

Hampton looked flustered, and Blowry’s moustache started twitching which provided me some light relief.

 

“I’m not a magical dog,” I said, “but I know where we might find one.”

 

We rode down to St James Street and knocked on the door of my old friend’s house. Presently, a butler with a pale, waxy face came to the door.

 

“Good day, sirs,” he said in a monotone voice. “May I take your names?”

 

“I am Lord Hollingbury, and these are two gents from the constabulary, namely Hampton and Blowry,” I said. “May we speak with the Maker.”

 

The butler nodded and walked down the entrance hallway. About halfway round he stopped suddenly, jerked and turned round and came back to the door.

 

“Good day, sirs,” he said in a monotone voice. “May I take your names?”

 

“Lord Hollingbury,” I said, “and acquaintances.”

 

The butler walked back into the house as before. Halfway down the hall he stopped and turned again. Suddenly, from behind him a short and plump figure with a welding mask appeared. It made an anguished sound before hitting the butler around the side of the head with a metal wrench. There was an unexpected clanging sound.

 

“Good God, man!” shouted Hampton. “What have you done!”

 

The policeman pushed past me into the corridor. The butler was lying on the ground and twitching as the short figure stood over him.

 

“I am going to have to arrest you, sir,” said Hampton.

 

The figure flipped up the welding mask to reveal a young woman’s face. She leant over the butler and opened his suit. A mass of wires and clockwork formed his upper chest.

 

“Bloody thing,” said the woman with a Scottish accent. “The short term memory is always a problem.”

 

“My God, it’s …”

 

“An automaton? A woman?” I asked stepping in. “Clarissa, darling, how are you?”

 

We embraced briefly, as I didn’t want to get engine oil on my suit.

 

“What are you doing with the peelers?” asked Clarissa the Maker. “Have they finally nabbed you for something? What was it – animal, vegetable, or mineral?”

 

“Nothing so mundane,” I said. “There’s something more than a little sinister on the loose in Brighton, and I need your help.”

 

I explained my requirements and discovered that Clarissa, bless her, had more or less what we needed. So in no time at all we were back at Preston Park with the nice gentlemen from the police and an automaton dog.

 

“It can trace the magical scent of the mummified cat,” explained Clarissa, “but it can get stuck behind complex objects. I’ll tag along to make sure it works.”

 

We let the automaton lose, and after running in circles it started off down Preston Drove.

 

We continued for some time with Clarissa adjusting the dog as we went, as it became thwarted by a plethora of everyday objects. We were heading down Millers Road when it first dawned on me where we may be going.

 

“You know, chaps,” I said to all and sundry, “call it intuition, but I think I know where the demon went. What would you think was interesting if you were a dead cat?”

 

“I don’t follow?” said Hampton.

 

“Dead birds,” I said.

 

***

 

When I got to the Booth Museum things weren’t as bad as I thought. They were much, much worse. Inside the foyer was one dead mummified cat and two dead museum staff, with a multitude of scratches on their bodies.

 

The Booth Museum has, of course, one of the largest collections of stuffed bird specimens in Europe. There are all sorts of shapes and sizes, from vast eagles to tiny sparrows. The demon had obviously had some difficulty choosing which bird to possess, as all the glass cabinets were smashed. It was clear though which form he had decided on in the end. The cabinets were completely empty; he had chosen to be all of the birds at once.

 

Having successfully managed to think like a mummified cat, I wondered what it would be like to be hundreds of dead birds. It was a difficult thing to do, even for me, so I waited for my companions. They had decided to follow the automaton dog in case my intuition was wrong. No, I don’t know why they did that either.

 

“There’s good news and bad news,” I said as they arrived. “The good news is that we have found the mummified cat. The bad news is we are now looking for several hundred reanimated dead birds.”

 

“The dog’s nae use then,” said Clarissa, “if yon beasties can fly.”

 

“Quite,” I said. “I imagine the birds will try and find a place where they can cause as much havoc and mayhem as necessary. So maybe we should look for somewhere visible from the air where people gather. Oh, and Blowry, I need you to pass a message on for me.”

 

I handed the policeman a slip of paper with a name and address. He looked at it with immense suspicion.

 

“It’s alright,” I said, “there’s no chance of contracting moral lassitude from it. It’s a note for someone who may help.”

 

I turned around to find Clarissa gone and Hampton gawping up at the sky. I followed his gaze and saw Clarissa had shinned up the nearest tree and was looking through a pocket telescope.

 

“I think I see where they went,” she said.

 

“How can you tell?” I asked.

 

“I can see people running,” she said. “Lots of them.”

 

***

 

 

As we headed to the seafront, we saw people running, too. They were shouting and screaming, which seemed to disturb Hampton but just reminded me of an interesting evening I’d had a few months back.

 

When we got to Hove Lawns, we saw the full extent of the chaos. By now, it was early evening and people were perambulating on the seafront. A nice turn around the lawns would be a natural thing to do, as one could enjoy the sea, the greenery, and look at the West Pier. Unfortunately, this evening’s promenade was being ruined by hundreds of dead birds: flying and running, biting and pecking. Couples ran for their lives, and fashionable young gentlefolk had their clothing ruined. It was hard to bear.

 

“Right, I’ll be back in a bit,” said Clarissa and headed off. “I may have something that will help.”

 

Hampton decided to be a hero and attack some of the birds, but that sent more flying at him. I stood at a short distance on Brunswick Terrace and viewed the scene. I drew a little circle to protect me from the demon. I had also seen the demon’s sigil so I knew I could trap it into a triangle at least. Hampton came to where I was, his clothes torn and scratches all over him.

 

“How can we defeat this?” he said. “It’s too powerful.”

 

“Well, first we need to contain it. Traditionally it should go in a triangle. The West Pier can form one side of it, and the Kingsway road the second. Then we would just need somehow to connect the end of the pier to – say about here, and we could trap the demon in that space. So we need someone to trot along the Kingsway muttering a special incantation, then keep going out to the pier and then somehow get back here.”

 

I looked at Hampton.

 

“Are you game?” I asked. He nodded gravely and I leant closely into his ear and whispered the words.

 

He headed off down the road whilst I tried to figure out how to get him back and close the loop. Just then Blowry arrived. He looked red-faced.

 

“What were you doing there with Detective Hampton,” he said accusingly.

 

“Nothing untoward,” I said, “just teaching him a powerful demonic incantation.”

 

I suppressed a smile as the moustache twitched. Just then a giant mechanical angel flew down onto the lawns.

 

“Thought it might help,” said Clarissa, who appeared next to us. She was holding a circular object that I inferred controlled the automaton. I was about ask how when it breathed fire.

 

“Oh, very good,” I said as burning birds fell to the ground. “Maybe we won’t need my plan after all.”

 

The angel span round emitting fire in all directions and soon large numbers of birds fell onto the lawns. If the sight of mad dead birds and screaming people hadn’t driven people away then a fire breathing angel did. The lawns were pretty empty and it seemed like the fight was all but over.

 

“Well done, old girl,” I said slapping Clarissa on the back. I turned to walk towards my local club. They would be serving cocktails by now.

 

“Wait,” said Blowry. “Look.”

 

The burnt birds had started to get up. They pulled themselves up onto their feet and slowly, awkwardly walked again. Then some started to flap charred wings, and they flew into the air.

 

“Oh dear,” I said. “I guess we can’t kill them if they’re not alive. Back to plan A, then. Clarissa darling, can you fly onto the West Pier and pick up Detective Hampton. We’re just trying to make a giant triangle to trap the demon in.”

 

“Of course,” said Clarissa and the angel flew over to the pier. Unfortunately, the birds had rather got the hump with it and flew across as well. As the angel landed on the roof of the pier it was forced to contend with birds diving at it from all angles. The angel breathed more fire, but the birds had learnt and were thinly dispersed. Worse, the pier caught fire in the mayhem. Clarissa took out her telescope again and could just see Hampton as he grabbed onto the angel’s legs. She piloted the device back to the lawn and away from the burning pier. He ran back up to join us in the circle.

 

“Good work,” I said. “Now we have them trapped as long as we are here.”

 

“Is that the plan then?” asked Blowry witheringly. “We stand on this step forever.”

 

“Well … we need a finishing touch, I suppose.” I said.

 

“Excuse me, Lord Hollingbury,” said a man with a cello. “We’ve arrived.”

 

“Oh, splendid!” I said. The man and three others with stringed instruments arranged themselves in semi circle.

 

“Debussy, I think,” I said to the quartet. I turned to look at the other three in the circle.

 

“I simply can’t think straight without music. I have this quartet on a permanent retainer. Thank you for fetching them, Blowry.”

 

As the warm, rich harmonies of the French genius wrapped around us I felt myself transported from the less fashionable end of Hove into a world of art and magic. The warp and weft of colours and sounds circulated in my mind, and freed from reason and rationale, I hatched a plan.

 

“We need the sarcophagus,” I said, “Good fellows of the constabulary, if you could arrange to bring that, it would help enormously. Clarissa, would you be able to keep the birdies entertained whilst that happens.”

 

Clarissa shrugged. “No problem,” she said.

 

“You see, the problem is there’s nothing physical to tie this demon to. He came in the wrong vessel so to speak, so he’s able to reanimate any dead thing. I can trap him into the sarcophagus, as that was his entry point, but then that leaves us with a very dangerous box. If the box opens with even a tiny crack the demon can escape and posses anything that is dead.”

 

“I see,” said Clarissa, “I think.”

 

An interesting thing had occurred whilst I explained the plan to Clarissa. The charred birds, now trapped and deprived of victims, had united into a giant creature. It was roughly humanoid, a shape I suppose the demon liked and around the same size as the angel. The two were trading blows on the lawn.

 

“Gentleman,” I said to the quartet. “I think this requires some Wagner.”

 

Clarissa and I watched the mechanical angel and the composite bird demon fight as an adaption of “Ride of the Valkyries” was played by the quartet. It made quite a spectacle.

 

The policemen arrived with the sarcophagus on a wheeled trolley. We pushed it into the triangle and onto one end as I started my incantations to trap the demon. The bird demon heard the words and came heading toward me. I chanted as quickly as I could as the creature got closer and closer. I uttered the last syllable to trap the beast, and I stepped out of the way as the birds were sucked into the sarcophagus. The two policemen maneuvered the lid into place. I used the control that Clarissa had given me to bring the angel onto the end of the sarcophagus and pressed the button to turn it off.

 

I turned to leave then saw the weight of the mechanical angel was too much for the sarcophagus. A crack had appeared along the edge.

 

“Oh, no!” I said. “The demon can escape!”

 

The demon’s essence flowed out of the sarcophagus. With the angel turned off, it was able to take over the giant automaton. The demon-angel leaned down at me so I flicked on the on switch and tried to move the angel away from me. The mechanical angel jerked and spasmed as the demon and I fought for control of it.

 

“I bet you’d rather like this,” I said to the demon holding up the circular controls. The angel leaned forward to reach for them but I threw them high in the air.

 

“Catch!” I said and the angel-demon’s hand reached out and caught the controls.

 

At that point the electric charge that Clarissa had just now fitted into the control triggered. Electricity surged through the angel-demon. It shuddered a little as its joints fused together. Finally, it stopped still. The demon was caught.

 

The policemen, Clarissa, and the string quartet walked over.

 

“Beethoven,” I said to the quartet. “Something pastoral.”

 

“You know,” said Clarissa, “I didn’t think it would work.”

 

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” I asked Clarissa,

 

“No, of course not. I have hoards of giant angel automatons at home,” she said sarcastically.

 

“That’s the spirit!” I said.

 

“Can we move this now?” said Hampton.

 

“That might be … inadvisable,” I said. “The demon is still there, it’s just stuck in that angel. If it comes into contact with anything it can reanimate, there may be trouble.”

 

“What should be done with it, then?” asked Hampton.

 

“I’d cover it with a nice layer of metal so it can’t accidentally touch anything and then I’d leave it there, call it a statue,” I said, “for peace, or something disinteresting like that.”

 

“It’s a shame about the pier,” said Hampton looking at the smouldering wreck.

 

“Oh, I’m sure they’ll do something about that,” I said. “No one would be crazy enough to leave a rotting wreck on the promenade.”

 

With the job complete, I turned to leave for my club. Those cocktails weren’t going to drink themselves.

 

***

 

It was a little after midnight when I got back to my house. And by a little, I probably mean five hours. I’d rather lost track of time, but I think sunlight was starting to appear. My butler came and brought me a cup of cocoa with a splash of rum. I thanked him and topped it up with rather more rum when he left. My nude model had vanished, which was unfortunate as the picture was half finished, and in truth, I could recall neither where I had met her or even her name.

 

So, unusually for me, I managed to get to my own bed, and equally unusually, I got to it on my own. As my eyes closed I thought I would probably sleep the sleep of the just. And I wondered what that was going to be like.

 

 

 

 

 


Steampunk Summer Postcards: David Lee Summers

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… oh how lovely, it’s from steamunk author David lee Summers!

 

French Quarter Sepia (1)

 

Greetings from New Orleans, Louisiana!

 

I’ve taken a trip back through time and across to a parallel world to visit my dear friends Ramon Morales and Fatemeh Karimi in the year 1885. They live in the Vieux Carre, or French Quarter, neighborhood. It’s filled with tightly packed, brick and wooden buildings decorated with frilly wrought iron. People fill the streets. The neighborhood has grocers, cafés, and clothing stores. Anything a person could want is close at hand. The dockyards where both ships and airships visit the city are only about a half-mile away. Ramon and Fatemeh live just down the road from the infamous Bourbon Street where many New Orleans saloons have opened their doors. The smells of sewage, horses, people, and industry do blend with the aromas of cooking food and the local flora to give the air a rather piquant quality.

 

Ramon works as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. He hopes the position will help him advance in the government. The only problem is that he must wear a clacker, a sort-of wireless telegraph device his bosses may use to summon him when required. Fatemeh has a pharmacy degree, which is required to open a pharmacy in New Orleans, except that she is a woman of color. Fortunately, she has found a man who serves as her partner. He rents the building, she has the pharmacy license. I’ve been especially charmed to get to know Ramon and Fatemeh’s young daughter, Alethea. She’s a well spoken child, though I do wonder about her best friend’s mother. It’s said Francoise’s family has connections to Marie Laveau, the famous Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.

 

Ramon and Fatemeh showed me the book Owl Riders written by the newspaper reporter Lafcadio Hearn. In the book, he recounts Ramon and Fatemeh’s adventures out West where they helped to stop the Russian Invasion of America. Neither Ramon nor Fatemeh seem altogether comfortable with their newfound fame. Still, I think the book’s title is rather clever and I’ve borrowed it as the title of my novel detailing Ramon and Fatemeh’s adventures from this point on. Although I do wonder if I should be out west where I’ve heard the action is. I’ve been reading reports that Apache warriors have taken Professor Maravilla’s mining machine, which I wrote about in Lightning Wolves, and modified it to fight against the army’s flying machines in Arizona.

 

Tomorrow, Ramon and Fatemeh plan to take Alethea to the Cotton Exposition up in the Garden District. Speaking of Arizona, I’ve heard rumors that Doc Holiday from Arizona is in town for the Exposition. I haven’t bothered Ramon and Fatemeh with such trivial matters. After all, it seems unlikely they’d cross paths.

 

Because time and dimensions are fluid, I can tell you that you can read about what happens to Ramon and Fatemeh in my novel Owl Riders which is available at: https://www.amazon.com/Owl-Riders-Clockwork-Legion-Book-ebook/dp/B07C2L24RP/

 

All best wishes from your time-traveling, dimension-hopping scribe,

David Lee Summers

 


Steampunk Summer Postcards: Ichabod Temperance

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, lets see now what have we got in the letter box today… Why it’s a postcard from my dear friend Mr Ichabod Temperance and Miss Persephone Plumtartt! …

 

A Post-Card of Temperance

or,

Wish You Were Here in Sunny San Monique!

 

“Do you wish to remain a Virgin, Mr. Temperance?”

“Oh my Goodness, Miss Plumtartt! I’m a good boy!”

“I was referring to your ‘Pina Colada, sir. One had hopes that you might indulge a splash of San Moniquan spiced rum into your fantastical fruity concoction, eh hem?”

“I don’t think I oughter, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. I want to have all my senses operating at peak efficiency since I plan on communicating with our friends in the distant futuristic year of 2018. Thanks to my trans-dimensional, temporal scripto-rator, we can tell our friend Mrs Baker and her pals about our adventures here in 1877 on the island.”

“Delightful, Mr. Temperance, please detail the skinny on our dip into the Caribbean pool.”

“Yes Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. Well, you see, what happened was, a big, mean, VooDoo bigwig named Sku Le’Bizzare done up and kidnapped a pal of ours; the Right Reverend Alonzo Dolomite, and whisked him off to his secret island with the intention of instigating a global cadaver-awakening catastrophe. Well what do you know, this island is hidden by magic and our rescue party must seek passage on a ghost ship to visit the shark-infested waters of this tropical isle of terror.”

“One might make note, sir, that you and I were in the midst of heretofore unseen tribulations within our own relationship. I must say, your having taken up an unseemly friendship with that dance-hall floozy has left me uncharacteristically unnerved.”

“But you started running around with that handsome and dashing Kit Eppington first!”

“Be that as it may, our primary purpose here on San Monique is to free our friends and prevent an undead apocalypse, eh hem?”

“Yes, Ma’am, but things sure have not gone as I might think they would.”

“One cannot imagine how One would preconceive such an event. Never mind, sir, and listen. I detect the approach of shambling feet and dirge-like, though rhythmic, chants. One suspects that our gratefully undead waiter returns with delicious refreshments.”

shuffle, shuffle,

shuffle, shuffle,

Thoughts are fixed,

no need to think.

Plodding ahead,

without pause or blink.

Around and round,

like a skating rink.

Chop the fruit,

Prepare the drink.

Mix it up,

in the kitchen sink.

Especially for,

this Lady and Fink,

shuffle, shuffle,

shuffle, shuffle.

“Mmm! These are some yummy drinks, that VooDoo zombie dead feller brought us, Miss Plumtartt!”

“Just so, I quite agree, Mr. Temperance. I say, his curious song reminds me. This adventure we are upon, ‘The Measure of Temperance’, is your sixth of ten publications. Each of our previous five novels contain but a small amount or rhythm and song, yet this book and the subsequent four have music from end to end, do they not, eh hem?”

“Yes, Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. I reckon they are a bit Dr. Seuss-like in that regard, but I don’t see anything wrong with writing kids’ books for grown-ups, Ma’am.”

“One is not quite sure how to respond to that statement, Mr. Temperance.”

“Ain’t no response necessary, Ma’am. Let’s just say goodbye to Mrs Baker and her wonderful friends in Lancaster. I wonder if my little pal Collin the Octopus will read this? Let me know if you need any adjustments on your above-water breathing apparatus, little buddy!”

“Thank you, ever so much, Mrs Baker darling, for allowing Mr. Temperance and myself to send greetings from Sunny San Monique. Ta ta! We do so truly wish that you and your kind readers were here.”

 

 

Oh how splendid, I’m so glad they are umm… enjoying themselves! I hope they make it back in one piece though, having had my own encounters with zombies I can vouch for their ferocity! I’ll be sure to pass this postcard on to Max and Collin when they come in from their hard days’ work, I think Collin may be keen to approach Mr Temperance upon their return on the subject of a tentacular cooling system for this hot weather…

If you’d like to find out what happens to Mr Temperance and Miss Plumtartt in this their 6th adventure you can do so here:

Or if you’d rather start at the beginning (and I highly recommend that you do as it is a splendidly entertaining steampunk saga!) you can find the first book here…

 

Bon Voyage and blessings on your pina coladas my dears!

 

 

 

In the interests of Transparency, a note from Penny : I have the potential to earn a small amount of income through the Amazon Associates program should visitors to this site choose to purchase books via the links in this article. I only review and recommend products which I genuinely think others will enjoy – Penny 🙂