Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “geek

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…

 

 

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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…