Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “gothic

Penny’s Book Reviews: The Recruit by Addison Albright

Blurb:

Albert Manlii has walked this earth for more than two thousand years, but survival on his own was never easy. Now he leads a faction of highly organized vampires who carefully guard the secret of their existence. Unlike the old days, potential recruits are carefully selected and presented with an offer.

Phillip Brewer has weeks to live — if he lets his disease run its course. He doesn’t want to die, but given a choice, will his desire to live outweigh his concerns about the vampires’ ethics?

When the new recruit’s missteps are cause for concern, can Albert control the fallout, or will Phillip’s life once again be torn apart?

 

I have to confess I actually came to this book having read snippets from the next book in the series via the Rainbow Snippets facebook group and so I had already fallen in love with the character of Albert and seen flashes and hints of how their story plays out in the future.

I’m a sucker for vampire stories but can’t stand the ‘Twilight flavour’ so many now seem to carry, so I delighted in the fresh feel of this series and loved the combination of appealing characters and engaging plot.

I fell more in love with Philip than I thought I would – he is a beautiful character without being at all delicate or whiny or precious which I think is over-done in vampire novels.

Overall, I loved the characters and their world, especially Albert, and I would recommend the series to anyone looking for a modern vampire series with lovable characters and a fresh, unique feel.


Frost Fair: With Nimue Brown

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Goblin market, come buy, come buy!

Good Morning! Welcome to the Annual Lancastrian Frost Fair on the frozen River Lune! I’m Nimue Brown and I have shivered my way through many a real world stall and event, usually for the purposes of promoting Hopeless, Maine. For this Fair I find myself wearing all of my bloomers and knickerbockers under all of the woolly things I could tie round myself, so you may be forgiven for mistaking me for some kind of sofa.

The Goblin Market goes out to events around Stroud (where I live) and tempts people with illicit and dangerous fruit – namely art and poetry, and other books. Sometimes you’ll find me at Steampunk events, huddled under a Hopeless Maine banner with other reprobates – Tom Brown who is responsible for the art side of things, sometimes Keith Healing who wrote the Hopeless Maine Role Play Game and on occasion, Keith Errington who wrote Hopeless Maine novella, The Oddatsea.

As Hopeless Maine is a cold, foggy and imaginary island off the coast of Maine, dressing for a wintery apocalypse is always authentic. Sometimes, in chilly desperation, I have gone so far as to wear an octopus on my head. A woolly one, I hasten to add. I would not expose a live octopus in so dreadful a way!

If you’d like to buy our lovely things, develop an addiction and never quite get over it (we are a Goblin market after all) you can do so without getting frostbite in your fingers, either via Etsy – https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MothFestival

Or by starting over here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/buy-the-books-and-things/

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#RainbowSnippets: Necromancers

Happy Saturday folks!

Well I finally had my first op on Wednesday – it all went smoothly and I should get the de-brief and biopsy results in 1 -3 weeks (actually it was such a lovely hospital and the staff were all so wonderful I felt like I’d had a little holiday rather than an operation! XD So feeling like a bit of a fraud really! Eep! XD I even got plenty of time before and after to knit some rainbow Joey Bags for UK Crafters For Australian Wildlife on FB while I was reading my lovely kindle stash! lol. )

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.

About 500 plus years after the events in the first book (The Curious Adventures Of Smith And Skarry) a forgotten cult are still obliviously serving their long-dead leader, Wiz, and trying to find the secret of immortality. Sort of. Actually daily temple life revolves more around knitting circles, bridge nights and summer fetes… until two novices stumble upon the secret of undeath themselves and unleash a couple of very unlikely ‘gods’ upon the unprepared and erstwhile peaceful community.

 

If you missed the last part you can catch up here: #RainbowSnippets: Necromancers

Righty, this will be my last Necromancers snippet for a while because a) I promised to do some more Smith and Skarry snippets through January and b) Necromancers is now available in ebook form (format thoroughly checked before publication this time! XD) and will soon be available in Paperback too (it’s only a short story at around 17,000 words so the paperback will be only £2.99 I think – I’m just waiting for the proof to arrive)

I’ve moved away from Viv and Reynard for this last one, to give you a glimpse of Douglas and his fellow red robe acolytes as they wait uneasily for Vivienne to come and have a ‘little chat’ with them… (sorry it’s seven sentences but it is the last one for a while!)

 

Inside the red robes’ chamber, Douglas shifted his weight uneasily on the long wooden bench and cradled his goblet of blood as though it were a comforting mug of cocoa on a cold winter’s evening. Exactly how he had got himself into Cardinal Vivienne’s bad books, he had no idea – he always attended staff meetings, always volunteered to help out on the tombola, and his sticky toffee tray bakes were the talk of the temple.
“Drumstick?” Bex nudged him out of his pensive contemplation with a bony elbow and he took the leg she offered him with an absent smile, almost forgetting to remove the knitted woolen booty before taking a bite.
“What do you think he wants to talk to us about?” Simon asked nervously. “D… d… d… d’you think it’s the summer fete?”
Liz rolled her eyes. “I seriously hope not because I am not getting stuck on tombola again, it’s not like they even appreciated the prizes we arranged for it.”
Douglas frowned slightly as he remembered being grilled by Vivienne at the end of the celebration for the fact that several village children had had to have counseling.

 

 

Wishing you all an utterly fabulous weekend folks, and don’t forget to check out all the other fabulous snippets on the official fb page here: official facebook group here.

 


#RainbowSnippets: Necromancers

Happy Saturday! And if you’re not sick of hearing it by now ‘Happy New Year’! I hope 2020 brings the biggest blessings on all your writing endeavours!

I have now finished Necromancers, my wonderful editor has polished it up and soon it will be ready for print and ebook.

If anyone would like an Advance Review Copy in the form of a pdf, shout at me on here or on facebook and I will be happy to send you one 🙂

In the meantime, here’s a bit more from Viv and Reynard but just before I post their next snippet, I want to share with you this song by Victorious because it’s totally their song. I hadn’t heard it when I started writing this but when my daughter played it to me I immediately thought ‘this is them, this is utterly them.’ lol, maybe you know it already but I’m not very good with modern music!

 

And 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.

About 500 plus years after the events in the first book (The Curious Adventures Of Smith And Skarry) a forgotten cult are still obliviously serving their long-dead leader, Wiz, and trying to find the secret of immortality. Sort of. Actually daily temple life revolves more around knitting circles, bridge nights and summer fetes… until two novices stumble upon the secret of undeath themselves and unleash a couple of very unlikely ‘gods’ upon the unprepared and erstwhile peaceful community.

If you missed the last part you can catch up here: #RainbowSnippets: Necromancers

And here’s a sneak peek at some of the lovely interior chapter artwork by Jiewsurreal :

shutterstock_1600097911.jpg

 

This is 8 sentences but I wanted to squeeze Reynards reply in there at the end! To recap, Reynard has just asked Viv what his plan is for dealing with Reynard’s ‘rogue, baby-eating flock’ … Vivienne speaks first…

 

“Maybe I don’t want to have a plan this time, maybe I quit, maybe this is the straw that breaks my overburdened hump and I shuffle off down the valley to end my days selling home-made damson preserve and hand this one over to the Papess to deal with…”
“You wouldn’t!”
“I’m so incensed, I could do anything! Perhaps I’ll just hand you this little hot potato? Hm? I know how much you love to cook! You can be the one to stand in the… tsunami of excrement created, yet again, by the over indulgence of your surrogate demon-spawn with a… with a theraline square the size of a moth’s hanky… trying to mop up the… bloody… mess! Hm? Maybe then you’d stop bloody bosom suckling them on bloody moral laxatives!”
Reynard took a deep breath, stood up and crossed the room to the desk. “I can see you’re upset.”

 

Happy New Year everyone! And don’t forget to check out all the other fabulous snippets on the official fb page here: official facebook group here.


#RainbowSnippets: Necromancers

Happy Saturday! Hopefully you’re all staying snug and warm in this crazy weather! Or better still, you’re somewhere where the weather is behaving itself admirably! 😀

I’m over the moon this week because I’ve completely finished the last draft of Necromancers now and my utterly ineffable editor has agreed to polish it up for me January so – woop – looking at an early 2020 release for that because it pretty much can be read as a standalone, even though a couple of familiar characters rear their heads in it later on! XD

Right – on with the show!

Here’s my #RainbowSnippets post for this week (a wee bit over 6 sentences, sorry, but some of them are only one or two words!) – 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.

About 500 plus years after the events in the first book (The Curious Adventures Of Smith And Skarry) a forgotten cult are still obliviously serving their long-dead leader, Wiz, and trying to find the secret of immortality. Sort of. Actually daily temple life revolves more around knitting circles, bridge nights and summer fetes… until two novices stumble upon the secret of undeath themselves and unleash a couple of very unlikely ‘gods’ upon the unprepared and erstwhile peaceful community.

If you missed the last part you can catch up here: #RainbowSnippets: Necromancers

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“A one… a one off… seriously? You mean this has happened before and you didn’t tell me?” Vivienne balled his hands into fists and looked as if he was about to commit bloody murder on something. Or someone. “Did you discipline him?” he managed, at last, through a breath taught with venom and incredulity.

“Well…” Reynard shook his head wearily and waved a dismissive hand, “how does one discipline a cleric like Sheridan?”

 

Have a fabulous weekend folks 😀 And don’t forget to check in at the #rainbowsnippets facebook group for more fabulous snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction


#RainbowSnippets: Necromancers

Happy Saturday!

Hope everyone who did NaNo is super happy with what they achieved! 😀

After this post I’ve got two more Necromancers snippets planned and then after that I’m not sure what to post through December / January – I’ve got more Necromancers, which I’m still writing, Jack and Marjory is finished now but I need to edit and change some bits of it so there’s that, and Smith and Skarry book 1 is now out in ebook and paper back so I could snip from that… SO I thought it might be fun to make a poll and see what you guys would prefer 😀 – if you don’t mind one way or the other, that’s cool but if there’s something you would like me to post more of then you can VOTE HERE! 😀

 

Anyway, here’s my #RainbowSnippets post for this week (a wee bit over 6 sentences, sorry, but some of them are very short)  – 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.

 

About 500 plus years after the events in the first book (The Curious Adventures Of Smith And Skarry) a forgotten cult are still obliviously serving their long-dead leader, Wiz, and trying to find the secret of immortality. Sort of. Actually daily temple life revolves more around knitting circles, bridge nights and summer fetes… until two novices stumble upon the secret of undeath themselves and unleash a couple of very unlikely ‘gods’ (and one disgruntled octopus) upon the unprepared and erstwhile peaceful community.

If you missed the last part you can catch up here:#RainbowSnippets: Necromancers

rendered

 

“I see,” Reynard peered into another of the many bottles and gave it a little shake.
“Oh! You do, do you?” Vivienne continued to glare as Reynard rolled his eyes and turned his back on him, moving towards the only chair in the room and standing beside it.

Vivienne shook his head, “You know, sometimes I look at you and do you know what I see? I see the only person on this Wiz forsaken little island whose dark and twisted labyrinth of mental operations I can’t even begin to … navigate or … to comprehend. Is this all some diabolical form of amusement to you? Are you so tormented by my presence on this earth that you’re diverting the entirety of your order’s time and resources to driving me into an early grave? Is that it?”
Reynard examined his nails, “Is this about Immanuel again?”

 

Have a fabulous weekend folks 😀 And don’t forget to check in at the #rainbowsnippets facebook group for more fabulous snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction


#RainbowSnippets: Necromancers

HAPPY SATURDAY!

Update on Smith and Skarry ebook… I’ve made a few format changes and fixed some typos as well and KDP have said they will offer an optional update to everyone’s copy within 72 hours 🙂 I know it was only the cloud version affected but hopefully this will make it look nice across all devices 🙂 x

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.

As it’s still the spooky season I thought I’d do a few snips from a WIP which is the very last book (probably) in my Steampunk series Ashton’s Kingdom.

About 500 plus years after the events in the first book (The Curious Adventures Of Smith And Skarry) a forgotten cult are still obliviously serving their long-dead leader, Wiz, and trying to find the secret of immortality. Sort of. Actually daily temple life revolves more around knitting circles, bridge nights and summer fetes… until two novices stumble upon the secret of undeath themselves and unleash a couple of very unlikely ‘gods’ (and one disgruntled octopus) upon the unprepared and erstwhile peaceful community.

If you missed the last part you can catch up here: #RainbowSnippets: Necromancers

 

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This snippet is from much later on in the story and the context includes some dark humour which might not be everyone’s cup of tea…

Vivienne (right hand man  / political whip to the Papess) has just discovered that his husband Reynard (head of the red robe order) has probably been turning a blind eye to the fact that his younger initiates have been trading the menstrual blood of the temple virgins for liquorice all-sorts and, possibly, even eating the first born children dedicated to the temple. He has called Reynard into his office in a professional capacity to see how much he knows… Reynard speaks first…

 

“You wanted to see me.”
Vivienne continued to write furiously on the parchment at his desk.
Reynard let the door slam shut behind him and moved idly towards the many alchemical bottles, dangling from the ceiling in the centre of the room; he prodded one and it began swinging backwards and forwards, an angry red liquid swirling and bubbling inside. “Dare I hope it’s to apologise for letting the beef bourguignon go to waste, again…”
The quill came to a sudden stop and Vivienne raised his eyes to glare across the room at his husband. Ink began to pool.

 

Have a fabulous weekend folks 😀 (at least a better one than these two are having! XD And don’t forget to check in at the #rainbowsnippets facebook group for more fabulous snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction


#RainbowSnippets: Necromancers

Happy Saturday!  And Happy Halloween / Samhain / All Saints and Souls / Candy Fest whatever you celebrate at this time of year 😀

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.

As it’s the spooky season I thought I’d do a few snips from a WIP which is the very last book (probably) in my Steampunk series Ashton’s Kingdom. This one is only 5 sentences but they’re long ones!

About 500 plus years after the events in the first book (The Curious Adventures Of Smith And Skarry)  a forgotten cult are still obliviously serving their long-dead leader, Wiz, and trying to find the secret of immortality. Sort of. Actually daily temple life revolves more around knitting circles, bridge nights and summer fetes… until two novices stumble upon the secret of undeath themselves and unleash a couple of very unlikely ‘gods’ (and one disgruntled octopus) upon the unprepared and erstwhile peaceful community.

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Thunder, Lightening, rain, hail, ominous fog and all the other things that accompany the beginning of an iconic horror movie or damn fine novel about Tea, Cake and lashings of Untimely Death, were occurring all over the little island known colloquially (and everywhere else) as The Skull.
Douglas skidded and stumbled over the vindictively slick cobblestones, cursing the length of his disgustingly sodden red robes, the ineffectual protection offered by his floppy wet cowl, the stupid little purse that dangled at his waist and was constantly expelling all his valuables into the muck, the fact that his favourite pocket watch had broken – again – and any and everything else that passed through his mind as he finally staggered, panting and wheezing to the top of the hill.
Sheet lightening flared for a second, silhouetting the crumbling chapel as Douglas clasped the cold iron ring in the studded wooden door and, with a cautious shoulder, silently eased it open.
The eerie luminescence of a hundred flickering candles, vanished in an ebbing wave to be replaced by darkness and smoke and a smattering of accusatory choking noises.
Thunder shook the walls and lightening flashed again, gleaming on several stiletto thin blades, poised in mid air.

 

 

Is Douglas in trouble? I’ll let you know next week 😉 Meanwhile have a spectacularly spooky weekend folks 😀 and don’t forget to check in at the #rainbowsnippets facebook group for more fabulous snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction


#MythpunkMonday: Hopeless Maine and The Power of Mythpunk

Merry #MythpunkMonday! Today I’m going to talk a bit about the power of myth and the importance of Mythpunk in relation to that, then look in depth at some Mythpunk which I think really exemplifies just what the genre is capable of.

So, yay! The second month of #MythpunkMonday  is happening! If you’d like to join in and share Mythpunk related marvellousness – your own or other people’s! – then just dive on in using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag or in the comments here, or on your local street corner, or whatever floats your pea green boat! 😉

Myths have been around as long as people have – from the moment we could communicate we started telling stories as a way of understanding our world, preserving and passing on knowledge and, dare I say it, entertaining eachother.

Joseph Campbell (for all his faults) tells us that mythology, particularly when rooted in religion, provides a cultural framework for any one group of people (and Maureen Murdock provides a balancing feminist alternative to his ‘Hero With A Thousand Faces’)

If that’s the case, then folk and fairy tales are perhaps already the rebellious / punk siblings of the stories found in religious texts and preached to the masses as a means of social control ; the secret vehicle by which everyday folk can pass on and preserve their own knowledge, morals, beliefs and understanding. (certainly I like to view them that way!)

It’s easy to see how much power these types of stories can wield. They speak deeply to our souls on a personal level and a lot has been written about the link between myth and psychology by Jung and his followers old and new, but they also resonate in the collective consciousness and the morals, ideas and archetypes they convey slide easily from the lips of the storyteller or the words on the page into the minds of the masses to become accepted as ‘truth’

I’m not a huge fan of Campbell to be honest, but I do recommend reading his works / listening to his interview series if you get the chance because there is a lot to gain despite how out dated and annoying it all is on the surface. He does highlight the need for new myths to be constantly created which reflect and embed the changing understanding of individual and world wide culture – and Mythpunk really does leap out and answer that call doesn’t it?

So as well as being clever, original and entertaining, Mythpunk can be a vital tool in questioning the messages inherent in traditional myths, legends, folk and fairy tales and, like the folktales of old, can be a subversive tool by which ordinary people can voice, preserve and pass on their own values, knowledge and understanding in the face of mainstream dominant cultures.

Most of us live in an exiting technological age, where our punk stories, alternate cultural frameworks and subversive ideologies can reach beyond the small circle of the family hearth, clan campfire or village boundary and touch like-minds across the globe. In a couple of  weeks I’m going to start looking at what that means from a perspective of responsibility.

But today I just wanted to focus on the power of Myths and the very subtle, subversive power that Mythpunk can wield as well. Mythpunk has a wide variety of tools at its disposal from the voice it employs – which is often snarky, smart and sassy – to the deep-rooted symbolism which it irreverently, yet sometimes surprisingly tenderly,  toys with ; like a kitten with a ball of best knitting yarn.

In that vein, let’s take a look at one of my very favourite graphic novel series Hopeless Maine. This series bridges a wide ocean of genres including Gothic, Steampunk and Mythpunk but I’m just going to focus on its Mythpunk elements because, well, that’s why we’re here right?

WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE SERIES HOPELESS MAINE

 

 

 

 

Hopeless is a Gothic island just off the coast of Maine, shrouded in sentient mists and born from the imaginations of Nimue and Tom Brown.

People wash up here after the world has chewed them up and spat them out. Few come here by choice. Those who come can never leave. Those who leave can never come back… despite evidence to the contrary, this is what we are lead to believe, this is what the young folk are told, this is what the adults say…

Inside this little pocket-universe are woven together elements of myth, legend, folklore and magic in a beautiful parodic dance macabre.

Just like in the world beyond the mists, life here is hard and troubled and full of questions with no apparent or easy answers. Inhabitants are seldom who or what they seem, and this goes for the disturbingly sentient fauna and flora of the island too who, after all, were surely there before the people came…

And people do keep on ‘washing up’ on the shores of this little hidden isle – just in the same way that world-weary travellers often wash up eventually in a place where our previously held concepts, beliefs, morals, values and so-called truth and virtue and sanity all seem to slide away or stop making sense in the face of incontrovertible evidence that ‘everything is not the way we were told it was.’

The island’s ‘spiritual leader’ seems to embody this place of juxtaposition; on the one hand he is set up as an earthly ‘all-father’ ( being head of the island’s orphanage) … on the other he lacks the ability or will to actually do anything useful to help solve the enormous problems facing his ‘flock’ (other than his default go-to plan of human sacrifice… which is a little disturbing) He calls himself a Reverend… but exactly which religion he is devoted to is a little hazy and the fact that he seems to perform a lot of his devotions in secret, on an island populated by demons, is… curious to say the least. Still, he definitely doesn’t like witches… or does he?  You can read more about him here.

Another person who beautifully personifies this ‘crisis’ point is Mrs Beaten, and her regular blog posts are a treat to follow as she flies into one flap after another over the behaviour, depravity and dress sense of her fellow islanders… yet she is obviously far from innocent herself and her very-near-slips every now and then betray an interesting past and a complexity of urges and issues which are all actually possibly very nearly normal if only she hadn’t suppressed them for so long. (On the other hand she could be a multiple murderess with amnesia… only time will tell,  but in the meantime, she is definitely judging us all. )

Leaving aside the onion skin layers which parody, lament and poke fun at the condition of the human soul as it flounders in a sea of religious and moral rhetoric and contradiction, Hopeless, Maine is an island full of its own folk lore, magic and elusive myth.

From spoon walkers to night potatoes, there are magical creatures aplenty ; some are native only to the island, some are more readily recognisable from the outer-world and, as such, some are perhaps the monsters and internal demons the islanders have brought with them?

Not much here is edible, not much here sustains the flesh and while that is reminiscent of tales of ‘Fair Elf Land’ where the very air is all that’s needed to sustain life, on Hopeless the air seems to vampirically drain away the will to live – a sort of anti-fairyland perhaps?

There are spiritual entities on the island too. Voices are heard. Eyes appear in the mists. Certainly there are demons and certainly there are those who… associate with them… does this constitute a religion of sorts? A spiritual path through the confusing fog? Are these the Hopeless Gods and do their ways spell salvation for the community of Hopeless? Or should we all be pushing away the voices in the dark that whisper insistently what ‘needs to be done’? Is our new best friend only after our soul after all?

As a series, I have already mentioned that Hopeless poses far more questions about culture and society than it answers, as that is one of the many things I love about it. But there is an ironic thread which runs like red wool through its narrative – I say ironic because that thread is Hope.

Salamandra and Owen are not starry-eyed, lovey-dovey heroes who skip about telling everyone to Hope their way out of their problems like some sickening Disney movie… but through their tenacity, their faith in themselves, their honest endeavours to ‘keep pushing’, they personify Hope whether they mean to or are aware of it or not.

Even by the end of the first volume, I had faith that Sal and Owen would prevail – even if the island itself had to sink into the sea for them to do so – they just carry inside them that punk verve, that subversive spark that glows in the heart of the  Mythpunk genre and lights the way for change to slip in through the back door and storm the building.

 

If you like the sound of the Hopeless Maine series you can find it here:

 

 

 

 


#DreamtimeDamselsAnthology blog tour: Elevenses with Nimue Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

En Route To The Fromagian Ball”

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

As I waited for the Tyburn Tree

To spread its limbs and welcome me

To its embrace eternally

I dreamed I journeyed long, to thee

(To dance The Masque at Caerphilly)

I met Morbier on the way

He wore a masque of silver grey

Very smooth he looked, yet grim

And seven rats did follow him

Fat they were, and no surprise

For, despite his mournful sighs,

And as I feasted with my eyes

Yet they with sharp teeth took their prize.

Next came Roqufort and he had on,

All speckled with viridian,

A gown so tattered, holed and frayed

I wondered not he looked dismayed….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

And can we find you online?

www.druidlife.wordpress.com

www.hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/Nimue_B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Utterly Yourself

 

Mary Woldering hosts the first round of character interviews 

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

Mary Woldering hosts the second round of character interviews

Our own kitchen witch interviews Nav Logan

Nav Logan joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

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

Mary Woldering hosts the next round of character interviews

A.M Young joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Benjamin Towe joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Cover reveal from The Benthic Times

Cover reveal from Collin on The Harlequin Ladybird

Mary Woldering hosts the next round of Character interviews

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

Paul Michael joins us for elevenses

#Twitterinterview with the authours

Guy Donovan joins us for elevenses


#DreamtimeDamselsAnthology blog tour: Elevenses with Paul Michael

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

Our tentacles are all of a quiver this morning and our china cups are chattering because we are still taking part in the #DreamtimeDamselsAnthology blog tour and, as already know if you have been keeping up to speed, we are in the happy position of being able to furnish you with links to the kindle pre-order page right here

 

 

 

Not only that, but we are over the moon to have our good friend Paul Michael joining us for elevenses this morning!

Do please have a seat, Paul,  (Max, get off the chaise and let him sit down … hm? … no he has not brought Miss Henderson with him, and even if he had, Miss Henderson is not a chair, just move aside.)

I’m so sorry about that, would you like tea? Earl Grey? Lapsang? Assam? Darjeeling? Oolong? (Max don’t be rude)

If you have Lady Grey that would be marvellous. I find Earl Grey a bit overstimulating at this time and indeed at this altitude.

Of course, I completely understand, it has taken me, as an octopus, quite a while to get used to the heights myself! There you go. Now then , do tell us more about your contribution to this Dreamtime Damsels anthology– the aether is alive with the gossip!

It’s a strange and terrible story about an innocent young lady who becomes a maid at the strange house of the mysterious Count Vlasko, recently arrived from afar and with an unusual condition that makes him afeared of daylight.

Oh did you hear that Max? Doesn’t it sound exciting. (Hm? Yes your quite right, he does sound a little like our old landlord) What inspired you to write it, Paul?

I wanted to create a short story where the character – a Miss Felicity Henderson – would be in the spotlight. The young maid in question is a recurring character in my Jennings and Jennings story cycle, which is my Magnum Opus.

Indeed! As one magnificent octopus to another, we are very well acquainted with your marvellous mystery series, and with the good lady Miss Henderson (Max will you stop making ridiculously opprobrious remarks) Let us just ignore him, what would you say most influences your writing in general?

 I would say I am driven by the obsessive need to write ridiculous and comical stories in a Gothic style. I have seen several alienists on this topic and they are unable to help, although I did get some punctuation tips from one.

Oh, marvellous! Any authours who have particularly inspired you?

The gravitas of Saki, the feather light touch of Lovecraft, the humour of Poe… all of these have affected me deeply.

Ah yes, you certainly have some of my favourites in that list too… (Hm? Max the only comparison that can be made between your poetry and the writings of such masters of gothic horror is that they all fill One with dread! Now do please stop interrupting). Battenburg?

I haven’t been myself but I hear the statuary is quite something.

Probably very wise, last time I checked it was full of cat hair. But back to the lark of writing, you know, writing is something I’ve always fancied turning my talents to – having so many tentacles I imagine I could be quite productive as an authour. Tell me, what was your own road into fiction writing like?

It was many years ago, as the rain lashed the windows and I stared morosely into the middle distance that I first entertained the idea of writing fiction. Suddenly my mind was filled with feverish visions of a man and a woman determined to fight ancient evil and terrible creatures from beyond. I fell onto the task of writing at once, my hand scratching out words as fast as the thoughts were conjured. As daylight broke, I slumped exhausted onto my writing desk, a thousand page epic created and ready to publish. Alas! In my exhausted state I knocked over the inkwell, turning all the pages black and completely unreadable.

After that I bought a computer and started again at a rather more sedate pace.

My goodness! Well, if it makes you feel any better I too have had many catastrophes caused by uncontrollable outbursts of ink; I’m sure I shall never live down Lady Harrington’s charity ball! And where can we find your published work?

I have absolutely no idea. No wait (rummages in pockets)… it is available from this place in South America… 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jennings-Paranormal-Investigators-Casebook-One-ebook/dp/B071V9PP6F/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1566288338&sr=8-3

 

And do you have any plans for new projects in the near future?

I am currently writing and serially publishing a novel length story called the Paris Awakening. That is to say, it is a story that is approximately the length of a novel, rather than an usual length. It is part of the aforementioned story cycle, of which the first four novellettes are already collected and published. My collected writings are available at this academic journal of which I am the lead and indeed only writer.

https://thebenthictimes.com/

Oh yes, marvellous, we are avid readers of that marvellous publication and… Wooooah! Dear me I do apologise, the airship must have slipped and I seem to have landed in your lap I hope I haven’t covered you in octopus slime?

In my line of work it is an occupational hazard. I maintain a supply of these eight sided “octochiefs” for exactly these kind of situations.

What a marvellous invention, perhaps we should keep a little store of them here on board for these situations! Now, can I tempt you with another cup of Lady Grey?

Delicious though it was I fear another cup will lead to a dangerous imbalance in my delicate constitution, leading to an outbreak of bilious convunction or possibly a bout of floxy.

But I should like to take this opportunity to thank you for inviting me to your vessel. It has been a great pleasure with only occasional moments of terror.

Oh dear, Max I do believe your threats of imminent and horrific poetry have scared off yet another of our guests. You really must learn to behave yourself ‘In Company.’

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

Utterly Yourself

Mary Woldering hosts the first round of character interviews 

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

Mary Woldering hosts the second round of character interviews

Our own kitchen witch interviews Nav Logan

Nav Logan joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

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

Mary Woldering hosts the next round of character interviews

A.M Young joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Benjamin Towe joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Cover reveal from The Benthic Times

Cover reveal from Collin on The Harlequin Ladybird

Mary Woldering hosts the next round of Character interviews

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


Aether Egg Hunt: With Nimue Brown

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Greetings, salutations and the polite waving of tentacles.

I’m Nimue Brown and I write a whole array of stuff – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, graphic novels… I also do unspeakable things for money, but best not to get in to that.

I gather that in Steampunk’d Lancaster there is an annual Aether Egg Hunt  – a chance for authors to connect with their readers and give a little gift of thanks for all their support in the form of an Aether Egg or Small Gift linked to the fictional world they have created. I’m always wary when talking about Hopeless Maine in terms of things people might enjoy, but there we go. This may be the bit of the process you get to feel uneasy about, while other aether eggs can be hunted with greater safety.

So here is my contribution which may do more to undermine the fun than perpetrate it, but there we go.

Hopeless Maine Easter Eggs hold the memory of other traditions. Easter itself isn’t reliably celebrated on the island – although shipwrecked Christians will try and honour their festivals. It’s just difficult to work out when anything is supposed to happen. The folk side of Easter – with the traditional decorated eggs tends to happen at the point when there are enough eggs to make a go of it. Someone starts, other people join in. These are simply eggs whose shells have been decorated.

Eggs are painted with whatever pigments can be found. Some things are ideal for colouring eggs – boiling the egg with onion skins for example. Other things, like the exciting turquoise algae Aunt Gladys found, do not always lead to the best results.

Glass heron eggs are a popular choice – their shape and length means the can be painted up to look a bit like people.

glass heron egg

Weird and wonky eggs make popular gifts. So do stones that look a bit like eggs, and there’s the added giggle that the intended recipient can’t always tell if it’s a really hard boiled egg, or something from the beach.

weird Eggs

Of course, whether by accident or design, an Easter egg is a good way of killing your enemies, and for that matter your friends and family. Sometimes it’s the choice of painting materials. Never use anything derived from a night potato – the glowing in the dark may look charming, but the results of eating are less so. Sometimes the eggs do not belong to the birds you thought they came from. Sometimes the eggs fight back. It has been speculated that brightly coloured eggs are left on doorsteps sometimes by non-human islanders looking for hosts.

egg with tentacle

 

You can find my books on any of the usual book selling sites.

This is me on Book Depository https://www.bookdepository.com/author/Nimue-Brown

And connect to me on the internet here: https://twitter.com/Nimue_B

https://www.facebook.com/hopelessmaine/

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

https://druidlife.wordpress.com/

https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

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


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…


Morning Cuppa: Sinners

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back at last to Max and Collin’s scrupulously sinful and magnificently meretricious parlour located somewhere in the bowels of the splendidly scenic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.

True some have called it the slightly sinister cellar of a maniacally minacious monster, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us this morning feeling slightly sorry for ourselves – the lemonade selling season is at an end, Lord Ashton’s delightful curfew begins again tonight and with it will come his flesh eating Liver Birds, ridding the Lancastrian streets of unsightly vagrants and orphans. If my Very Quiet Gentleman Friend and I do not find ingenious ways to pay our rent we will be cowering below the skyway rails with the best of them so, things really are as thick as government-standard-issue porridge, as they say.

But never mind all that for now, you didn’t come here to listen to an octopus bemoan the hand that a life of relentless roguery hath dealt him, you came to enjoy a splendid cup of tea and some excellent fiction, so let’s kick our tentacles up on the table and do just that…

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This is the third book in the graphic novel series and if you haven’t already dipped your tentacles into this divine cauldron of delicious gothic delights we suggest you begin at the beginning

If however you are already a fan and have previously devoured The Gathering you will no doubt have been gnawing your knuckles to bone waiting to find out what happens to Sal, Owen, the islanders and the ‘other islanders’ ( of whom so far there had only been hints and teasing glimpses through the mist) … if this is you, then in Sinners you will not be disappointed. The same glorious amalgam of wordcraft and illustration that is the hallmark of this enchanting series endures and the intriguing plot thickens – what is the eldritch presence that pervades the island of Hopeless Maine? And in what way are Sal and her, markedly absent, parents embroiled in it? The Doctor thinks he knows… The Reverend thinks he knows too… Owen hopes they are wrong but Sal’s inexplicable powers undoubtedly come from somewhere and the disembodied voices of demons in the mists claim they know as well. To make matters worse, an epidemic of consumption is sweeping the island and the delightfully demonic Durosimi and his underground followers think they have a very elegant solution ; should the islanders set their differences aside and take the controversial route to salvation? Or are there really worse things than being dead…

Flying boats, skeleton dogs, folk with tentacles … an absolute joy from start to finish.

Now then, but what tea could possibly accompany such an epic read? We think it HAS to be Seven Deadly Sins by Sugarmoon Teas (which is actually rather virtuous but shhh, don’t let on)

We very much hope you will join us for elevenses tomorrow when we will be talking treacle with impunity, until then please remain always

Utterly Yourself

 


Steampunk Summer Postcards: Greetings from Hopeless Maine!

 

 

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 from our dear friends on the island of Hopeless Maine, our favourite gothical place to be! (As long as one is armed with a sturdy rolling pin to ward off the night potatoes that is!) …

 

Postcard (1).jpg

Of course you are all aware that the latest installment in the Hopeless Maine body of tentacular awesomeness, Sinners, is now available …

sinners

And you can follow the building body of island intrigue in their pan-dimensional newspaper The Hopless Vendetta  

I certainly hope to pay another visit very soon, as soon as I have strengthened some of my shielding spells and re-enforced my cauldron that is, the plant life are disturbingly sentient there you know and seem to resent being turned into soup!

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 


Getting back to normality! (And the ridiculous route we took to it!)

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Firstly I think I owe everyone  a massive apology  that it has taken me so long to get back to the blog. When I signed off for a while we were poised to move into our new house and I was poised to have a small but necessary operation… well the best laid plans as they say!

The house turned out to be falling down and had illegal building work done on it so the sale fell through – which left us sofa-surfing while we scrabbled around trying  to find another house! On the plus side we got to spend lots of time with family and friends, visited some unusual places and had some fun caravan in the snow and wrestling with frozen pipes, no heating, filthy accommodation and all sorts of funnish things! We made some lovely memories saw some beautiful landscapes and wildlife and, looking back, our lives are undoubtedly richer for those experiences – but it is very, very, very good to finally have a roof over our heads that is ‘ours’ !

We have now settled into a lovely little house which suits us perfectly and our first house warming present arrived yesterday which I have to share with you…

 

THE FLUFFY DOOM! Made for us by the most talented, awesome and beautiful woman in the world Nimue Brown of http://www.hopelessmaine.com

We had the very great privilege of spending time with Nimue and Tom at the Hopeless Maine Tourist Information Booth and Time Quake festival in Manchester last month and you can read all about that on the Hopeless Maine website here:

https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/hopeless-maine-comes-to-time-quake/

We also joined the Ministry Of Steam Wizards and there will be more about that in the coming months.

As I’m sure you can all appreciate, moving house and getting a truck load of little coglings back into their routines takes a lot of time and energy and I’d like to make sure I do that bit right, so there are going to be some temporary changes to the blog schedule to allow me to catch up with everything and not let anyone down.

My review list has grown slightly insane! So I’m not taking on any new books just now and any books I have promised to review will be done between now and December, when the list will open again with the usual Recommended Christmas Reads.

In order to make all this happen, elevenses and the soup kitchen will stop until either September or December, with the exception of very special and worthy promotions (ie folks doing non-profit, good cause  or exceptionally cool low budget / indie things). However if you are missing our kitchen witch and her culinary wisdom, if you feel you desperately need advice on housekeeping, moral living and general wholesomeness, you may want to keep an eye on the Hopeless Vendetta over the next few weeks … I will say no more but there will be links when links are available…

The lovely library will open as usual in the autumn and authors whose work has been reviewed or featured are, as always, welcome to submit short stories / extracts for this (see submissions above).

So things will be a little quieter than usual around here but the wheels will continue to turn and slowly gather speed as we settle in and whenever I get the chance I will continue with the Rromani Steampunk posts and Notes From Penny as well.

Next Friday (yes I know that’s weird)  Max and Collin will be back for the Army of Brass blog tour which begins today on Steampunk Journal  and continues across the web until the 13th May. You can join us all for the Facebook Launch Party on 28th – 29th April as well to chat to the authors and take part in giveaways and such but more about that next week.

For now I will just say thankyou so much to everyone who has continued to be patient and supportive and inspiring and awesome through this ridiculously uncertain and disorganised period of our lives.

Blessings on all your brews, whatever they may be

Penny 😀


Soup Of The Day: With Author Jack Wolf

 

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 Jack Wolf – author of The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones, which Max and Collin reviewed a short time ago with their Morning Cuppa.

Good morning to you Jack! Thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, may I take your coat and hat? It is certainly very frosty out there today but the fire here in the bakery is lovely and warm.  How was your journey here from your own dimension?

Not too bad – the skies were fairly clear and the traffic was ok.

I’m very glad to hear that! This cold snap seems to have the Skyway Men clinging to their fires which is a mercy! And have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

I make something called Bungitin Vegan soup, which is basically a load of chopped veg – 1 onions, 2 carrots, 1 tin’s worth of tomatoes, 1 pepper, half to a whole tin’s worth of chick peas and/or other legumes, and anything else I can find in the kitchen fridge – 1-2 courgettes are good. Add at least one clove of garlic or a teaspoon of garlic paste – this is really important – and a mix of herbs and spices to taste. The italian herbs are good for this, so oregano, basil and sometimes a little black pepper. I don’t usually add salt, but you can, if you want. To cook, brown the onions and begin to soften the carrots by stir-frying in vegetable or sunflower oil for about 4-5 mins, then add everything else and about 3/4 pint of vegetable stock, and let it all simmer until everything is soft and it tastes really rich. Don’t let it burn or get too dense, as this can make the flavour too strong – you have to keep tasting it.

 

Oh vegan soup recipes are always here, what with the dairy rationing and such, thankyou very much! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire and tell us about your book The Tale Of Raw Head and Bloody Bones, and its main character Tristan Hart? I see you have brought a copy with you to show the orphans..

full cover rawhead.jpg

 

 

The cover art is stunning! I confess to very much enjoying the book myself, not least because of the cunning use of magic, folk lore and the world of faerie to support the narrative – tell me, have you always had an interest in the relationship between our own everyday ‘stories,’ and the magical and mythological frameworks we use to make sense of our ‘real world’ experiences?

I’ve been drawn to faerie tales, and faeries in general, for a long time. I’m also fascinated by human psychology, and the idea that humans create our own conceptual worlds out of the stories – and I use that word extremely broadly – that we tell ourselves. To an extent, the ‘real world’ of our experience is something we invent – a story we tell ourselves every moment of every day.

 

And the story of Raw Head, that is a real British folk tale isn’t it?

 

Yes and no. It’s a recorded folk belief, but I haven’t found any complete tales concerning it – with a beginning middle and end, and so on. It’s likely that the original RH&BB is more a general bogeyman than a character, in the way that, say, the Wolf in the Three Little Pigs is a character. I think he was a personification of the threat of drowning in a culture where only a tiny minority of people knew how to swim, and nobody knew how to perform cpr on a drowning victim. The idea was, I think, that the fear of RH&BB would keep the kids away from the waterways in a way that a simple explanation of the danger would not. References to the figure seem to peter out in the UK after the 18thC, so I guess superstitions moved on.

But oddly enough, in the US the image seems to have persisted, and mutated – there’s a legend in the Ozarks of RH&BB where a creature by that name appears as a monstrous pig. It may be co-incidental, of course. But I drew on this alternate image a little bit as well in the novel; Tristan’s dread of Joseph Cox becomes focused on the fact that Cox works as a pig-keeper.

 

Ah yes! I didn’t recognise that wonderful little twist but that certainly makes sense!  I had also thought it reminded me of the La Lorona mythos and more localised ‘Maggie O Th’Well’ tales. Tell me, what particularly drew you to use that tale as the focal point for Tristan’s story?

 

I’m fascinated by bogeymen, and the idea that one of the tools we use to keep ourselves safe is actually terror. But the name “RH&BB” is also a wonderful metaphor for what a human being is – mind and body brought together in this messy, contradictory way – and trying to make sense of that conundrum is Tristan’s most prevailing obsession.

Raw Head is by no means the only myth you reference in the book, what other prominent faerie figures feature in the narrative?

Well, I also draw heavily on the idea of the Glanconer – the Irish Faerie seducer – or as we might now acknowledge, rapist. He’s the dark Faerie who lies at the bottom of the myth of the Elf Knight, or as I call him in the book, the Goblin Knight. In numerous folk songs such as The Outlandish Knight and Steeleye Span’s The Elf Knight (which was the first place I encountered him) he is a seducer and murderer of young women who lures them to their doom sometimes by drowning, like RH&BB, or more simply by stabbing or strangling them. But of course as a Faerie Knight he’s also part of the court of the Faerie Queen, so she had to come into the book as well – and the image I’ve used to represent her is that of the shapeshifting barn owl. I’ve called her Viviane, of course, which is a nod to the Arthurian tradition. 

Of course, and very nicely done indeed! Now, in some modern / mythpunk re-workings, the world these tales and archetypes belong to is something that is a step removed from the protagonist’s reality but in your book the world of faerie doesn’t just run alongside Tristan’s human world does it?

Well, I don’t see the worlds as being separate in the way that a lot of modern fantasy does. I’m much more drawn to the Alan Garner or Susan Cooper school of world building in which the two realms are in constant communication with each other. It’s much closer to the way I experience the world, as well.

Well, I for one can certainly identify with that, Dear! I very much liked the way that, by giving each of the main characters both a human identity and, simultaneously, a faerie-self, you seemed to re-imagine (or perhaps ‘release’) some of those ancient beings in a way that made encountering them a very fresh, real and emotive experience.

Do you think that it is important to keep exploring these tales and releasing these characters into the collective consciousness?

 

Yes. I think it’s vital, actually. In the last couple of hundred years, we have built an  industrial society that demands that we deliberately reject older, deeper ways of thinking, and more intuitive ways of experiencing ourselves and the world around us, in order to be considered full, ‘rational’ individuals. It’s a form of madness, I think – cutting off a very ancient, nourishing, and protective part of the psyche. We need to find stories that allow us to reconnect with who we really are as a species. I think faerie stories do have the capacity to do this.

 

I certainly think you are right on that point!

The book is set at an important liminal moment in British history – revolutions in the worlds of medical science and industrial technology are bringing a ‘great awakening’ of so called rational thought, but at that same time, aspects of the collective consciousness seem still to be slumbering in the ‘dream world’ of spiritual / magical understanding and superstition. Did you deliberately choose this time period as one that would reflect the turmoil within Tristan and some of the other key characters?

 

Absolutely. The period stands exactly on the cusp of the modern world – and Tristan, in particular, is a character who represents – even embodies – the confusing contradictions inherent in that historical moment. 

 

The character Katherine Montague uses the story of Raw Head And Bloody Bones to communicate and cope with her traumatic life experiences and Tristan uses it to understand and make sense of his own fragmented reality… do you think that, to some degree, we are all prone to using the language of faerie / magic to feel secure and form an understanding of our often confusing or frightening world?

 

I think there is a human tendency to perceive the world through stories – and as I said above, I think that, right now, we need better ones than we currently have. It is a form of magical thinking, in a way – constructing one’s own reality through images, words and ideas. But we don’t all draw on the language of faerie to do this: we all construct our own stories out of whatever conceptual material we have to hand. In Katherine’s case, this happens to be the language of faerie tales: the abused girl, the wicked mother, the stolen child, etc are all common tropes in the folk-awareness of her time. A modern character in her situation would most probably use different stories to try to make some sense out of the dreadful things that have happened to her, and around her. But a modern character would hopefully have more psychological support… Katherine literally can’t speak about what she has gone through unless she displaces it onto a faerie tale – which both enacts and subverts another faerie trope, the magical silence. For her, magical thinking really is a survival mechanism.

For Tristan the situation’s slightly different, because the whole thing goes so much farther – for him, the worlds of faerie, story and rationality collide in a way that is quite traumatic in itself. He may be using the story, but there is also a sense in which he is also being used – and abused – by it. 

 

While this ‘magical toolkit’ for understanding the world may be useful to the individual utilising it, it can lead to fear, suspicion and ultimately persecution of individuals who are seen as liminal themselves – the ‘outsiders’ if you will, whose lifestyle or beliefs set them apart as ‘abnormal’ can’t it?

 

We still don’t live in a particularly tolerant society – even though in many ways it is, of course, much more accepting than it was in Tristan’s time. But it’s true that standing out from the crowd in ways that the crowd don’t understand, or even fear can bring about terrible persecution – I’m thinking of Sophie Lancaster’s murder here, but there are other examples.

When it comes to holding a magical or otherwise ‘fringe’ understanding of the world in some way, I have found that intolerance has tended to manifest as ridicule, rather than fear or violence. I am a panpsychist, for example (a highly unusual position here, but actually one that was most likely the norm throughout most of human pre-history, and which is still common in certain non-westernised societies), and most educated Westerners simply cannot grasp the principles behind it. So they mischaracterise and then dismiss it. The author Emma Restall Orr went through exactly this experience years ago on BBC Radio 4 with Michael Gove. She responded by writing The Wakeful World, which is a fairly decent introduction to the concept, I think. 

 

Viviane, for example, is a character whose ‘otherness’ allows Tristan to see her as quite unreal and therefore excuse and ‘explain’ his misconduct towards her using the framework of faerie mythology. This use of faerie / magical lore against women (and often, as you highlight marvellously in the book, against Rromani women) is a very real phenomenon isn’t it?

 

It was very much a problem in the 18thC, where it did become, in addition to other things, a cloak for racism against the Romani (not that the concepts of racism, or even sexism, existed then). It’s less obvious now, and here, of course – that’s thanks to the Enlightenment convincing the populace that magic is not real – but it still endures verbally in slurs – “Witch” etc – and in cultural assumptions about the overwhelming sexual allure of women’s bodies. “She put a spell on me, your honour” isn’t really that far from “she was wearing a short skirt,” in my estimation. Both rely on the belief that a female body – a woman in a body – somehow exudes some sort of mystical aura that overcomes a man’s ability to control himself, and provides him with the excuse to, as you say, explain away his misconduct.

 

But Tristan isn’t deliberately demonising Viviane in order to take advantage of her, is he? He is genuinely grasping at the threads of, what for him is, a confusing multilayered reality and this manifests to those around him as a form of madness – demonising him, in turn.

 

Yes, Tristan is completely oblivious to the cultural programming that’s going on beneath the surface; and he’s certainly not demonising Viviane on purpose. As far as he becomes concerned, she is wholly the Faerie woman of his dreams and nightmares – if she ever had a real, human self, he can’t acknowledge that.

 

Again, the demonization of those ‘outsiders’ who come to be labelled ‘mad’ is something that has always been a frighteningly real occurrence hasn’t it?

 

Yes, it has – and it is still going on today. When I was writing Tristan I was very conscious of the stereotyping that leads to people with severe schizophrenia, or similar disorders, becoming objects of fear. People have been taught to expect the mad to behave like monsters. It’s dehumanising – demonising. if you like. it’s also statistically untrue.

 

Perhaps especially unsettling is the fact that what is termed ‘madness’ to one particular culture or at one point in history, can later come to be understood as a natural phenomenon  – the hormonal surges of menstruating or pregnant women, for example, and those whose sexuality is anything other than heterosexual…

 

Absolutely – the boundaries of what is considered ‘sanity’ are shifting all the time. I really do believe that in a couple of hundred years – assuming any humans are still left by then – a lot of the beliefs and habits we hold to now will be seen as dangerously crazy. I don’t, of course, know which ones these will be. I have my hopes, but I don’t see history as  an inevitable march of “progress”, either technologically or culturally, so it may be that some very dark definitions of sanity/insanity will come to dominate. Hopefully we won’t go back to a time when women were locked up for being disobedient, but it could happen.

 

 

I suppose it all comes down to who has the cultural upper hand at the end of the day? Here in Ire, for example, a person is considered dangerous and ‘mad’ if they crave a cup of tea or a slice of cake!

 

Now, you see, I think anyone who doesn’t drink tea or like cake must be completely crazy.

 

Power is certainly a theme that you explore rigorously in the book isn’t it? – The power we may have over the people, animals and natural world around us, the power others may have over us and that which we have over ourselves, our actions and our perceptions…

 

Yes, it’s one of the major themes of the novel. It’s connected with the idea of disconnection and displacement – that the less integrated we are as beings with each other and the natural world, the more our relationships become aligned along power lines: power over, rather than power with. Katherine’s and Tristan’s relationship is really an example of mutual power in flux, rather than power over, on either side, although it may not look like that superficially. The dynamic between them is nothing like, for instance, Jane and Barnaby’s marriage, or the sibling relationship between Tristan’s father and his sister.

 

The power that women have over their own bodies is something that you explore in a number of ways through the different female characters in the story, is this something you feel strongly about?

 

I’m very passionate, actually, about the right of a woman to inhabit and control her own body. It is still a shocking truth of our society that women aren’t always accorded physical autonomy – look at the abortion debate, for example.

 

Looking at the #metoo phenomenon in your own dimension recently, it seems as though we are still very much in need of stories which explore this issue?

 

Very much so. We need, as a culture, to reclaim and then rewrite the ballad of the Elf Knight. I think we actually are trying to do something like that, in this historical moment, at least. I was delighted to read that in the latest production of Carmen, in Italy, Carmen shoots Don Jose, not the other way round – and there’s also that new prize for Crime Fiction that doesn’t focus on dead female bodies. There are other stories that can be told. When I started writing RH&BB, several of my early readers imagined Tristan was going to kill Katherine. Er, hardly! But that tells me how deeply embedded some of these unhealthy cultural assumptions about what love is, and what women can and should expect from men who love them, actually are. I was writing against those expectations then, and I will continue to write against them.

 

 

Such important subjects but oh my goodness! I do ramble on don’t I? 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?

 

Builders’, soya milk, no sugar. Thanks!

 

Here you are. Now then, moving away from The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones for a moment, what can you tell me about your own involvement in the world of faerie and the enigmatic character of Lord Crow?

 

That’s an interesting question. Of course, being bound by the laws of Faerie, I can’t tell you very much! But I suppose in one way Lord Crow is an idea; in another he’s a being-in-himself. I want to explore the possibility of writing from the point of view of the non-human, and he is my voice and my persona when I do that. I guess there are similarities here with the faerie co-walker, who is a figure I’ve come across occasionally in various modern “guide to faerie” books – though to be honest, I don’t tend to read those sorts of books. The older stories speak to me much more clearly – and also, there’s a tendancy in more modern writings to try to group faeries into species, or even races – which is a hangover from the Victorian obsession with scientific classification. The faeries I know – so to speak – would wet themselves at the thought that any human being should be able to classify them into any sorts of types – especially along such spurious lines as ‘light’ and ‘dark’. They would also probably explode at the notion that they should show any real interest in helping human beings. Faeries are wild. Humans, on the whole, are not. Faerie, as I understand it – in a modern sense, moving away from some of the ways it has been perceived historically as a concept, place, or whatever – has its essence in the flow of energy through complex systems – it can’t be fixed into any stable form. The best way I have found to get to know it is to get to know the natural world, and really fall in love with that – truly, madly, deeply, without reservation, fear, or any desire for power-over it.

I think Lord Crow is quite unlike me, personality wise, though other people disagree. He’s wilder, darker, cleverer, less forgiving, and much less patient. Given the current state of our relationship to the natural world, I don’t find this in any way surprising.

 

‘Re-wilding’ is an important concept that is, happily, growing in popularity as regards our physical relationship with the land isn’t it?

 

Yes; it’s a wonderful development, but it has a long way to go. I’m hoping that it represents the beginning of a tectonic shift in the terms of that relationship towards integration and respect and away from exploitation and power-over. It’s great that people here are slowly becoming accepting of the idea that we should live alongside beavers and – to an extent – wild boar, but I also want to see lynx in every suitable habitat across the UK, and I think some research should be done into reintroducing the wolf in Scotland, to balance the red deer population and give the Caledonian forest regrowth a fighting chance. (And besides: wolves! Wow!) Just as importantly, I want to see a new ‘wilding’ of cities. Bath, where I live, is an ideal habitat for peregrine falcons, because of the many urban pigeons. It’s also a breeding site for herring gulls, which are now in serious decline. People love the peregrines and loathe the gulls. I want to see the gulls welcomed alongside the more charismatic falcons. Urban foxes, too. For one thing, more foxes can mean fewer urban rats; and it’s not so hard for the city to provide fox and gull-proof bins. For another, there’s a moral case, I think, for opening up cities to creatures that can safely live alongside us.

Humans are a bloody invasive species. They need to learn to share.

That’s Lord Crow, now, interrupting. I knew once he heard the conversation he’d be unable to resist joining in with it.

And a very warm welcome to you Sir!

Space-invaders! Manspreaders!

All right, Crow.

 

Do you think that it also concerns our spiritual or psychological relationship with the land as well?

 

I don’t think one is achievable without the other. If we don’t change our overall attitude toward the land, then we will never effect meaningful changes in our behaviour. This whole “man must overcome nature” narrative has got to change.

 

Or it will be changed.

Is that a warning, Crow?

Just an observation.

 

 

Well thank you so much, both of you, for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Jack, it’s been wonderful to chat with you!

I know you are probably eager to be off and explore our wonderful Lancastrian Frost Fair that is just coming to an end at the moment but, before we start dishing up this wonderful-smelling soup, would you like to tell us about any of your current projects and where we can find more of your marvellous work?

 

I’ve got several projects on the go at the moment. I’m working on something with Lord Crow, of course, but obviously I can’t say too much about that, especially now he’s sitting in the kitchen with us. Faerie law. We’ll see what develops. I’ve also finished my second novel, which is currently looking for a publisher. I’m actually quite strongly drawn to the idea of putting it out via Unbound, as I like the idea of having full editorial control over my own work, and Unbound looks like exactly the sort of model I think both writers and readers want and need – grassroots, down to earth, writer and reader-centred publishing, which doesn’t have to pander to the rather limited tastes of the big London houses. But again, we’ll see what happens. Watch this space!

 

We certainly will! And I hope that you will come back and talk to us about your marvellous work again soon. Well now, I must say that soup really does smell delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins are starting to get fidgety so shall we start serving it up?

 

It’s been lovely to visit! Thank you for the conversation, tea and cake!

 

And thankyou to you all for joining us in the soup kitchen today! If you would like to read more of Jack’s wonderful works and keep up to date with his new releases, do visit his website and blog at: https://jackwolfauthor.wordpress.com/

 

 

 


Morning Cuppa: The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody bones

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Utterly Yourself.

 


Elevenses: Alternative Advent

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Well, it seems the Dustcats of Hopeless Maine are taking over our little parlour for the festive season in some strange steampunk parody of your earthly tradition of ‘Advent’ . Having put them sternly to bed on the mantle piece again last night we found them this morning in a state of spoons… with yet another odd note…

dustcats2


Morning Cuppa: Wizmas is here again!

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

True, perhaps, some have called it a house of ill manners, ill repute and illicit tiffin, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us this morning in something of a panic-fuelled frenzy.

Wiz being the usual, run of the mill egomaniacal dictator that he he is, has decreed that for  at least six weeks of the year every New World citizen must drop what they are doing and spend every waking moment celebrating his rise to power and general magnificence.

And of course being the paranoid loon that he is, the date that this ‘Wizmas’ is to be celebrated changes every year, nobody knows when it will strike or who exactly decides on the date but Wizmas cards and wrapping paper will suddenly appear in shops over night and then the mad rush to buy presents and arrange parties will begin because if The Good Folk or The Watchers catch anyone displaying a ‘Lack Of Wizmas Cheer’ …well…

So, as we’re both rather fond of our necks, we will, over the next few weeks, be celebrating Wizmas with all the flamboyant flare that only an octopus and his Very Quiet Gentleman Friend can muster. So, if the Turkeys and Nativity Plays, the Tinsel and the Wassailing of your own world is driving you insane, you can rest assured that The Parlour will remain, throughout December, a veritable haven of sanity.

Hm? Oh, Max says ‘There is a phrase that is not likely to be heard again.’

Here you will find only witch hunting, spoon duelling, spurtle wielding, soup reading and other New World shenanigans as we attempt to push subversion, parody and insubordination to the limit…without being arrested and hanged.

But before we begin rampaging about wrapping eachother in foil and wotnot, we must take a moment to introduce you all to a couple of pests…er…I mean PETS who have appeared in the parlour yesterday afternoon. They are Dust Cats, usually residents of our favourite gothical island Hopeless Maine and we are at quite a loss to know exactly how they got here, however we put them quietly to bed on the mantle piece last night and in the morning we woke to find they had created absolute havoc with the tea and left us a rather sinister note…

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Hm, we are going to be keeping an eye on these little chaps over the festive season and any further shenanigans will be posted here!

And Now we really ought to start this holiday thing in ernest and that means a cup of tea (if we have any left!) and a fabulous list of splendid Steampunk books to keep you glued to the chaise throughout December…

Selkie Cove – Kara Jorgensen

The Illusioneer – Karen J Carlisle

A Study In Temperence – Ichabod Temperence

Gifts – Margaret McGaffey Fisk

The Dandelion Farmer – Mathew McCall

Legacy  – Michelle Lowe

Legacy The Reunion – Michelle Lowe

Heart Of Brass – Felicity Banks

Silver And Stone – Felicity Banks

The Antics Of Evangeline Vol 1 – Madeleine D’Este

The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones – Jack Wolf

The Befuddlement Of Flash Mahogony – Tim and Kathy Hunt 

Strax And The Widow – Victoria L Szulc

Red Dog Conspiracy – Patricia Loofbourrow

And our tea this morning is something rather special and splendid – gunpowder and ginger from We Are Tea

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This smokey, spicy blend reminds us of our recent adventures in The Temple of Heaven and how lucky we are to have survived all that and be safe and snug here in our lovely cozy parlour…hm? …. oh, sorry, Max says ‘Don’t go too far old man’ … was I going too far? Well…

As I am apparently being censored this morning, there seems nothing left to do except consult our oracular cephalopterois (who has been notably quiet these last few weeks – probably the move has unsettled it) and see if it has any Wizmas cheer for us this morning…

 

Thankyou Mr Colin Furze. Ah, how enlightening! So that is how you do this ‘Christmas Dinner’ thing in your dimension? Well it puts our hum drum Wizmas Salmon to shame indeed.

And on that slightly warped note, we had better pour a nerve-settling brew, kick our tentacles up on the table and not lift a finger to clean up the dust in case we upset our dear little guests.

We wish you an utterly splendid morning, filled with tranquillity and calm, only dust if you absolutely must! And we invite you back to join us tomorrow for elevenses so, until then,

please be always, Utterly Yourself

 


Morning Cuppa: Punk fiction, Poe and Cake (is there more to life?)

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s pristinely punked-up and ruthlessly rebellious parlour located somewhere  near the grumbling appendix of that splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.

True some have postulated that we are an inconvenient truth which our landlord has sought to bury in his darkest and most inhospitable dungeon, but we consider that any below ground level abode is vastly preferable to one with windows in a city that is overrun by flesh eating birds. In short, we couldn’t be happier with the arrangement. ish.

You find us immensely apologetic that we have not been ‘at home’ the last few days – we honestly swear that we have been up to a lot of very good things and Penny will tell you about them shortly but for now all we can do is humbly offer an appeasing teapot overflowing with splendid keemun xiang luo, an epicly proportioned slice of sticky ginger cake, and two excellent books…

The first of which is….

 

 

 

This book came into our hands via the eminent procurer of curiosities via the historical Suffolk ‘free trading’ system – steampunk author Nils Nisse Visser , and fans of his excellent book ‘Amster Damned’ will be happy to see another splendid smuggler’s tale ‘The Rottingdean Rhyme’ featuring the series’ central character Alice Kittyhawk (as her much younger and frankly adorable self).

The collection is a gleaming treasure trove of subversive, twisted, re-imagined  and perfectly punked-up versions of classic tales from a wide variety of genres and time periods;

Our personal favourite was ‘A Connecticut Rigger In Kings Court’ not only because we are utterly besotted with anything to do with Ada Lovelace but because it was challenging and heartbreaking and had that exquisite but very subtle  tension between beauty and abomination that pervades all good Gothic tales, but presented in a refreshingly original way.

We also loved The Red Headed Mob by Anthony Stark which, although not quite as ‘punk’ as some of the other tales, was a strong, well written and altogether utterly enjoyable tale that set Holmes and Watson amid the political and social tension of the 1980s.

There really is something for everyone in here from ‘Aurelia Awakes’ by Andrea Hintz giving  Pinocchio a delightful Steampunk make-over to ‘Of Folly And Fallibility’ by Amber Cook who skillfully manganese to take Jane Austin to ‘new heights’… “If an ordinary woman is to become a heroine, she cannot allow the unremarkable state of her life to prevent it. She must and will do something, anything, to throw adventure her way…” Or from Rachel A Brune’s ‘Bea Wolf’ to Jeffery Cook and Katherine Perkins’ ‘Consolidated Scrooge’ and plenty more besides but we won’t list them all – you need to have a peek at this chocolate box for yourselves…

 

Our second book this morning is also from Writerpunk Press and (only because of our obsessive compulsive penchant for punking Poe) was our favourite of the two and longstanding followers will remember we did feature it in our Poevember month last year – but it’s such a fantastic collection we’re sure you won’t mind us singing its praises once again…

 

Here in the parlour we have read lots of Poe, we have punked lots of Poe, we have read lots of attempts at punking Poe and we therefore, rather egotistically, consider ourselves to be quite the connoisseurs of the genre. So when we say that “this collection of short stories is a splendid spectrum of Gothic gorgeousness that takes a hearty cross section of the Poevian gamut, distils each essence into scintillating glass vials and then creates a series of new and wonderful word-creatures in which the marrow of Poe lives on” you can take us at our word.

The  macabre, the melancholy and the madness that we all expect from Poe are here in abundance but the ‘punk’ aspect is very skillfully executed throughout to give a collection that is inventive, refreshing, exciting and unpredictable. Steampunk seems to marry well with Poe for obvious reasons but we hadn’t anticipated how well his themes would be translated here  into Cyber, Bio and Diesel as well.

Sandwiched between two vibrant and  enthralling versions of The Fall of The House Of Usher, we have another gem from the world of Alice Kittyhawk ‘The Oval Skyroom’ , the beautiful ‘To Helen’, the sinister ‘Envy Of Angels’ and ‘Silence, Stillness, Night’ , the pure insanity of ‘Ticker’  and so very many more treasures that we often find ourselves dipping into on a rainy afternoon or long skyrail journey. This is an indispensable addition to the library of punk and Poe fans alike.

And now the teapot is empty and we are quite breathless from all this talk so I hope you will excuse us as we retire for a little snooze? We wish you a devilishly delightful afternoon and until we see you again, please be always

Utterly Yourself

 

A Post Script From Penny – I’ve started using the ’embed’ version of sharing amazon titles because it’s easier and quicker than authors having to send me cover files and also hopefully easier to find the book if you want to sample or buy it. I haven’t signed up to the affiliate amazon programme though, if I ever do I will make that clear in the posts. If anyone would strongly prefer me to go back to the old method of posting just the cover file and links let me know 🙂


Soup Kitchen: Steampunk in Stroud with Hopeless, Maine

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!

But this morning the urchins and I are popping on our knitted gloves and woolly mittens, straddling my emergency-extendable-mini-bus-broom  and with a little bit of magic and aether-net-technology we will take you with us on a very special Halloweenish expedition to Stroud where Nimue and Tom Brown, the evil geniuses behind the creation of our favourite Gothic Island – Hopeless, Maine – have been slaving away to bring together the most splendiferous display of arts and crafts inspired by life on a small gothic island…

 

 

Oh how marvellous! Thankyou so much to Mr Brown, our tour guide, for showing us around!

The exhibition is on in The Gallery at Lansdown Hall , Stroud until the 5th of November if you are able to pop in and say hello and culminates with the ‘Strange Soiree’ a chance to “meet the residents of Hopeless Maine, a fictional island off the coast of Maine and the setting of a graphic novel by Tom and Nimue Brown. Be prepared for an evening of gothic fantasy with a twist of steampunk and unruly magic, which aims to surprise, bemuse and enchant. There will be readings from local authors who have joined the project and songs from this strange island.”

 

A very happy Halloween / Samhain to you all from myself and all of us in Lancaster!

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Elevenses: Flower magic and a Steampunk short story

Good Morning ladies and gentlemen! I realise you are all probably feeling a little eleven o clockish at this hour but I must beg your forgiveness and delay the cake for a moment because we have a very special guest in the parlour this morning!

Our lovely Shonchavani friend Mrs Belle Sykes has kindly left her Tea Smuggling Tramper-Van in the capable hands of her husband Gord and their 20 children (whose names I seem to remember are, Yan, Tan, Arthur, Martha, Pip, Seth, Heather, Hogarth, Dorothy, Richard, Yan-Richard, Tan-Richard, Arthur-Richard, Martha-Richard, Barmcake, Yan-Barmcake, Tan-Barmcake, Arthur-Barmcake, Martha-Barmcake and Diggory.) and braved the long trek down here to the docks in order to show us some ways of productively using the fruits of our deflowering labours.

The Shonchavani are a diaspora of the Jentacular Isle but, as the Jentacular Isle is believed by most to be purely mythical (I can personally vouch for the fact that it is not!) the queen has decreed that they must have come from Bohemia. They first arrived in Ire during the reign of Henry The Eighth and the mechanical wonders they brought with them caused them to be instantly branded as witches. It wasn’t until Elizabeth came to the throne that this persecution eased up a little and a deal was struck – if the Shonchavani would abandon their nomadic lifestyle (ie – hiding and running from the witch hunters) and share their technological knowledge with the queen’s wizards they would be allowed to live peacefully in squalid little hovels just like any other peasant. Some agreed and became known as Tinkers, others did not. When Ann became queen she struck another deal, this time with the travelling clans – if they would agree to transport the queen’s tea safely from her plantations to the elite county of Devon in their mechanised Tramper-Vans and prevent it falling into the hands of land pirates, all accusations of witchcraft would be dropped. The Shonchavani are an enterprising folk and some of their very best friends and relatives are pirates… needless to say they immediately agreed to this potentially lucrative arrangement.

Sadly the recent introduction of skyway travel has meant less and less work for the ‘Tea Trampers’ and they have had to find other ingenious ways of making ends meet and so Belle has kindly agreed to pimp her heritage to us and show us how  quick silver can be made by making and selling the ancient magical herbal thingies that her people have used for centuries to survive on the road… hm? …. sorry did you say something about ethics or did you cough? Oh you were just clearing your throat, sorry, do have some tea…

1. Ye Most Olde And Ancient And Bone Fide Magikal Cure For Coughs and Colds

Take as many flowers of violet, white horehound and mullein as you can fit into a large saucepan, cover with boiling water and simmer gently until the mix has reduced by about half. Strain off the flowers and add 500g of sugar. Bring back to the boil and simmer for a further 20 mins or until the mixture coats the back of a cold spoon (you want a syrup, not jam but if you accidentally boil too long you can still use the jam it will have the same medicinal properties!) Pour the syrup (which is a soothing expectorant) into dark glass bottles, seal and keep in a cool place. Take one tsp as needed for a dry or chesty cough up to four times a day.

2. Most Magikkal And Traditional Healing Balm For Skin Irritations

Take 1kg of lard (or coconut oil or petroleum jelly if you prefer) and add to a very large saucepan with as many buttercup flowers (not the green steams or leaves) as you can manage. Melt gently over a low heat for 10 – 20 mins until the mix is liquid and bright yellow (do not boil). Strain off the flowers and add 20 – 40 drops of rose or lavender oil if desired, this will add scent and boost the soothing properties of the balm but may be too much for the most sensitive skins so use with caution. Pour into dark glass jars quickly before it sets, seal and keep in a cool dark place. Use as a healing cream for dry skin, eczema, bruises, minor cuts and grazes.

 

3. A Certain Tonic For The Quarrelsome Wife, Promotes Marital Bliss Guaranteed 

Take as many flowers of the Pink that you can gather and simmer in a large pan for one hour. Strain off the flowers, return the water to the pan with 500g sugar. Simmer gently for about 20 mins to form a syrup. Pour into glass bottles and seal. Drink one tablespoon of this syrup dissolved in a glass of wine as required. Double the dose during the most trying time of the month. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.

 

Now then, while Max rolls up his shirt sleeves, fastens his goggles and sets about t help with the brewing of flowers and and boiling of fat, I really feel we ought to step out of the way… s let’s sit down over here and enjoy some calming primrose tea and open a good book shall we?

waistcoats

 

The Brides Of Saint Michael are not your average group of Holy Sisters, when an ancient enemy leaves his calling card Agnes Broadshield and her militia of Women In Waistcoats take to the streets to prevent the evil creature and his minions from exacting their revenge but even as we close the final pages of the book, it seems this is not so much an ending as a beginning…

This is a splendidly crafted short story, a well balanced mixture of steampunk / gaslamp and mythology which we found engaging from the outset. If you are looking for a quick steampunk fix with a strong plot, well developed characters and a good mixture of familiarity and uniqueness then this little gem is the book for you.

Hm? Sorry? No music today? Oh well there isn’t really much room here to set up the radio so… oh well alright then I suppose if you could hold the areal out of the window … yes that’s it …

 

Thankyou very much… is your arm still alright there? Oh dear, well could you stay there for just a little bit longer I’m hoping to catch the news….

 


Elevenses: Utterly Hopeless Music

 

Good morning ladies and gentlemen I hope we are all feeling extremely eleven o clockish because it is of course time for elevenses and our tentacles are all of a tremble with excitement because we have received a very wonderful present from our dear friend Mrs Nimue Brown …

Colin (1).jpg

 

Obviously she was aware of my recent ordeal at the mercy of that psychotic scarecrow and sent me this stunning portrait to cheer me up, I just adore the colours and details, especially the little spoon tucked into my top hat, it has absolutely made my day! And because we are hopelessly besotted with Mrs Brown’s gloriously gothic island of Hopeless Maine, let us tune in our spirit radio to listen to some of their glorious filk music right here….

Utterly Hopeless Music

And to accompany it I see our lovely werewolf butler, Klapka , has brought us something mouth-wateringly sumptuous this morning.. lavender honey cake from the wonderful kitchen of sprinkles for breakfast, this looks absolutely divine and you can find the recipe by clicking on the picture link.

lavender

Now there is nothing left to do except wish you all a most delicious afternoon filled with all your favourite fancies and we hope you will join mrs baker in her soup kitchen tomorrow when she will be joined by steampunk creator, Kaydance Heggarty, so until we see you again please be always

utterly yourself