Happy Spring Equinox!
My name is Madeleine Holly-Rosing and I write the steampunk supernatural series, Boston Metaphysical Society. If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s about an ex-Pinkerton detective, a spirit photographer, and a genius scientist who battle supernatural forces in late 1800s Boston.
The big news is that the first six issues, plus a bonus story, is now in trade paperback from Source Point Press! You can order it directly from them or through your local comic book store. (Order # #APR202042)
And here is my contribution to the fun! My award winning novel, Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets is 60% off over at Smashwords until APRIL 20.
It’s such a big world that I wrote three more graphic novels, a novel, an anthology, and more short stories. You can find my books here:
Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets- https://www.amazon.com/Boston-Metaphysical-Society-Storm-Secrets-ebook/dp/B07HCP9SW5/ OR at Smashwords (60%) off.
Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00XB5U82Q/
Boston Metaphysical Society: The Scourge of the Mechanical Men-https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0996429247/
Boston Metaphysical Society: The Spirit of Rebellion – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0996429271/
Here Abide Monsters (Short Story and Audio Book) – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07Y5T9RL8/
You can find out more about me on the interwebs here:
Wishing you a Springtime filled with Splendid Shenanigans! Do remember to keep an eye out this month and hunt down all the Aether Egg surprises that will be appearing each week until May!
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:
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?
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
Happy Spring Equinox!
My name is Madeleine Holly-Rosing and I write the steampunk supernatural series, Boston Metaphysical Society. If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s about an ex-Pinkerton detective, a spirit photographer, and a genius scientist who battle supernatural forces in late 1800s Boston.
Here in Steampunk’d Lancaster we are enjoying the annual Aether Egg Hunt – a chance for authours 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.
And here is my contribution to the fun! The entire first six issues of the graphic novel series can be read online for FREE! Just pop on over to Boston Metaphysical Society website and start reading whenever you like.
It’s such a big world that I wrote two more graphic novels, a novel, and anthology.
You can find my books here:
Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets
Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude
Boston Metaphysical Society: The Complete Series – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0996429220/
Boston Metaphysical Society: The Scourge of the Mechanical Men-
Boston Metaphysical Society: The Spirit of Rebellion (Available in May 2019)
You can find out more about me on the interwebs here:
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.
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.
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.
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
Aether Egg image courtesy of Irum Shahid http://www.freeimages.com
Good morning! So, this is me taking over the review slots from Collin and Max … is it weird that I should feel inexplicably nervous about this? As though Collin is peering over my shoulder to make sure I get all my links in the right places and don’t get my tentacles in a twist over the spellchecker? (Perhaps not as he is in fact sitting in the armchair by the window contemplating the frost outside and hopefully not about to put his ice skates on again after the last fiasco.) If you are missing Max and Collin, they are still very much around and doing fun and you can catch up with them having that on Saturdays in our #rainbowsnippets posts. But for now you have me, hugging my mug of Lapsang in fingerless gloves to ward off the snow and bringing you our monthly book review…
Boston Metaphysical Society is a graphic novel series set in the late 1800’s in an alternate retro-futuristic America, where steam power has allowed rapid technological advancement along with rapid and, for some, alarming changes in the function of society. This socio-political upheaval and its affects on the collective consciousness have rent the fabric of time and space and a sinister creature has been able to pass through into this world.
Caitlin O’sullivan, Samuel Hunter and Granville Woods are The Boston Metaphysical Society and their individual expertise in science, detection and the spirit world must combine to destroy The Shifter once and for all.
This is a story which touched my heart in many ways. Firstly the illustrations (Emily Hu) are perfect; capturing the pace, emotion, mood and narrative perfectly in each scene and reminiscent of a combination of the weight and beauty of Sana Takeda and the vibrancy of Tim Yates in a style which enticed me before I had even read a word.
Secondly, the writing is exquisite and tight as tuned drumskin. The dialogue is an absolute joy to read at times, particularly the banter between Tesla, Houdini and the other members of the secret society B.E.T.H, and works in perfect harmony with the illustration to give a rich and immersive experience for the reader.
And lastly I loved the characters – from the machinating big-names who I fell in and out of love with all over again (having had to wrench their souls laboriously from dry history books and dull documentaries over the course of many years, to see them here given life in alternate and vibrant form which both captured and questioned their lives, personalities, motives and aspirations was an exciting and exhilarating experience.) to the Boston Metaphysical Society characters with their rich, diverse and engaging personalities and their complex and intriguing back stories (more about which can be found by reading the prelude to this series) .
This is bold, unflinching storytelling at it’s best and sits at that raw, uncomfortable heart of the Steampunk genre where the lives of the privileged and the poor jarr together and their stories and histories vie for our attention. This is the curtain – as subtle and subliminal as it ought to be – which gives the backdrop for this graphic novel series. Madeleine Holly-Rosing has built a seductive world filled with the classic steampunk staples of alternate science, technology, history and magic and laced through with sharp wit and subtle warmth, but our storytellers come from every corner of late 1800’s society and this, for me, makes the series particularly enjoyable.
The complete series of Boston Metaphysical Society installments can be bought as one paperback with a ten page bonus story ‘Hunter-Killer ‘ here:
Or kindle users can purchase the episodes separately in special editions here:
I hope you are all able to enjoy, or at the very least survive, the cold snap and I hope you’re enjoying our Frost Fair guest posts as well which will be going on throughout the rest of January and February, we’ve had some fabulous contributions and if you’d like to take part there’s still just about time to send me something so drop me an email for full details.
Blessings on your brew, Penny 🙂
Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!
Helping me this morning is author Madeleine Holly-Rosing! Thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, Madeleine! May I take your hat and coat? It is seasonably chilly outside I know but warm enough here in the bakery.
Thank you so much for inviting me on this lovely day. And the smell in here is delicious.
Now, why don’t you have a seat by the fire here, how was your trip from your own dimension?
Traffic was horrendous as usual. Too many vehicles, steam-powered and otherwise, clogging the roads, but it was worth it just to be here with you today.
Splendid! And have you brought along some soup to share with us?
I actually don’t care for making soup, but I do love to bake! Which is why I brought along my version of Congo Bars. Though in some places they are referred to as Blondies. They are a type of chocolate chip cookie bar if you’re not familiar with them.
I’d be happy to share the Congo Bar recipe. What I do differently is add semi-sweet chips, bittersweet chips, and butterscotch chips. Use either Ghirardelli’s or Guittard for the chocolate chips and Nestle’s for the butterscotch. Quality matters.
11 TBSP unsalted melted butter, cool
2 cups brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup semi, 3/4 cup bitter, 3/4 cup butterscotch chips (This is an imprecise amount, but close enough)
Oven temp 325 degrees.
Butter or spray 13 x 9 baking pan.
Mix butter, sugar and eggs making sure to break up any lumps. Sift flour, baking powder and salt and add to sugar mixture until blended. Add chips, mix until blended.
Spread evenly into pan. Bake 30-35 minutes if in metal pan. Longer if glass. Check at 30 minutes with toothpick to see if it comes out clean. Top should be light golden brown and edges a medium golden brown. Not too dark or it will be to hard and dry.
Cool for at least 45 minutes before cutting.
My goodness! What a treat – the orphans are going to be so excited! (Although I will just ask them to keep an extra vigilant look out in case The Good folk come and catch us with all this sugar and chocolate!) Now while that is baking nicely, why don’t you tell us all a little more about your web comic Boston Metaphysical Society?
The story of the original six issue mini-series is about an ex-Pinkerton detective, a spirit photographer, and a genius scientist who battle supernatural forces in late 1800s Boston. Our latest story, The Scourge of the Mechanical Men is a standalone continuation of the series featuring Granville Woods and Nikola Tesla.
It sounds marvelous! Have you brought some copies with you to show the orphans?
I most certainly have. J
They look marvelous! Now I do have some experience of the paranormal myself – afterall one of my closest friends is a ghost, but I’m guessing that the paranormal events your characters investigate are far more disturbing than a bad tempered Wight grumbling about his literary disturbances?
Just a bit. They deal with wraiths, demons, ghosts, and the occasional man-made beastie. While we were in production for the original series, I wrote a series of short stories and novellas which I put into an anthology called, Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude. Those stories range from straight steampunk (Steampunk Rat and The Clockwork Man) to gothic/paranormal (The Secret of Kage House) to supernatural (The Demons of Liberty Row). Steampunk Rat has been the fan favorite so far.
It all sounds terribly exciting! Rather makes me long for my own days of high adventure… although perhaps not just now, my rheumatism is playing up a little this morning. What with the damp… so tell me dear, what inspired these fantastical tales? Are they semi-autobiographical?
I’m afraid not. They are tales from my imagination though I do integrate historical figures into the story like Bell, Edison, Tesla, and Houdini. And even Granville Woods was a contemporary of Tesla’s and an inventor himself.
As an independent comics creator I suppose you have had to develop a vast array of skills and expertise beyond the obvious, is there any advice you would give to aspiring creators who are just starting out on that journey?
Arg, yes. Hone your marketing and sales skills, as well as embrace time management. Social media is important, but so is making time to create. Also, try to find a mentor. I was lucky enough to have had three mentors who educated me on the comics business and helped me be a better comic writer. Mentors are invaluable.
Marvelous advice … Ah now the kettle is boiling, what is your ‘poison’ dear and how do you take it?
Tea. Black, please.
There you are. Now then, do you have any works in progress or new releases that we can get excited about?
My goodness, yes. I just sent off the script to my artist, Gwynn Tavares, for the new Boston Metaphysical Society story called The Spirit of Rebellion. It is also a standalone continuation of the original series and will be on Kickstarter in early 2019.
My first novel, Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets, was just released. The novel takes place five years before the start of the original graphic novel mini-series. You can purchase it here: https://goo.gl/wWV8Nz
I also have two Boston Metaphysical short stories that will be published in 2019 by two different publishers, and I’m currently writing a four issue comic mini-series for Evoluzione Publishing called Kasai: The Homecoming. Issue #1 was just released and Issue #2 will be on Kickstarter in November 2018.
And in the meantime where can we purchase your wonderful comics and support your future endeavours?
Boston Metaphysical Society: The Complete Series and The Scourge of the Mechanical Men can be purchased at: https://www.storenvy.com/products/23967879-boston-metaphysical-society-trade-paperback-and-the-scourge-of-the-mechanica
Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude – https://www.amazon.com/Boston-Metaphysical-Society-Prelude-Collection/dp/0988312182/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_5?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=67YXBQ9G28JXPNPP1C32
Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets – https://goo.gl/wWV8Nz
Fabulous! Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Madeleine, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?
Thank you so much for inviting me. I’ve had so much fun! Let’s do it again soon.
Definately! Thankyou everyone for joining us in the soup kitchen today, do join me next week when I shall be cooking up something devilishly delightful for the spooky season!
Blessings on your brew my dears!
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…
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
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s religiously ravishing and piously precocious parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!
True, some have called it a festering Hull-hole filled with demonic fiends, tentacled terrors and irreverent imbeciles, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us this morning deep in philosophical discussion. Our delightful landlord, ever the entrepreneur, has given us an ultimatum – either we make enough money to meet our next rent by selling his filthy lemonade (a feat which is becoming ever more difficult as The Good Folk have increased their street patrols now that the warmer weather has set in) OR we join the chorus line at his (even filthier) burlesque club across the Docks Road and earn the money in tips. The question is, would anyone really want to see a Very Quiet Gentleman and his Octopus pole dancing in their suspenders? Would it be coins and wolf whistles, or glass bottles and death threats that were flung at us from the stalls?
These are all serious matters to consider. Max has done a lot of artistic modelling in Litchfield, mostly for Michael Biscotti, but he assures me it is hardly the same thing at all. He also assures me that going back to Litchfield is not an option, well, we have until Friday to make our Hobson’s choice.
Ah well, let us take our minds off these tribulations with a nice cup of tea and this morning we’re filling our pot with cranberry rose from melysteashop and to accompany it we must of course have something splendid to read, like this…
For The Love Of God Marie! by Jade Sarson (also creator of the fabulous comic Cafe Suada, of which we are huge fans) is a heart-warming, heart-breaking, masterpiece with bold, gutsy,lovable characters who held us spellbound throughout – we laughed, we cried, we forgot we were reading a graphic novel as we became so emotionally invested in Marie, Will and Annie’s lives.
This is a book we have now read many times! The story follows catholic schoolgirl Marie on her journey from daughter to mother and as we voyage those stormy seas along with her we see the changing attitudes of society towards issues of sexuality both on macro and micro level. 1960s school girl Marie just wants to love people – what’s so wrong in that? Well, plenty according to her parents and teachers who both manage to present a highly prescriptive yet utterly confusing ideal of what love is.
By the 1990s Marie is now both teacher and mother but instead of being able to make up for the mistakes of her elders, Marie finds herself just as alienated from the wants and needs of her own teenage daughter.
There are lots of laughs, some really joyful love scenes and a fair few teary heart-breaking moments along the way but the book ends on a beautiful, sassy, optimistic note (which we won’t divulge for fear of ‘spoilers’) and left us with a lovely warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
And speaking of things which feel fuzzy, it is time to lift our oracular pet into his cup and see what its far seeing tentacles have plucked from the aether for us this morning…
Oh my goodness that is marvellous! I know Penny has an old singer I wonder if she would make us a tea machine? Perhaps if we ask very sweetly…
We wish you a very splendid afternoon filled with only the finest fancies and we will see you back in the parlour tomorrow for elevenses so until then please be always
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s perfectly piscean parlour. Today you find us in the role of ‘Baby Sitter’ (which is a hat not usually associated with an octopus, or his Very Quiet Gentleman Friend, but we are determined to prove ourselves the epitome of competence when it comes to caring for things other than ourselves)
The thing in question is a Mermaid and it belongs to our very dear friends, Tom and Nimue Brown – the masterminds behind the gorgeously gothic graphic novel series ‘Hopeless, Maine’
Hopeless is a strange, gothic island off the coast of Maine, cut off from the rest of reality for the greater part. The sea washes all kinds of things onto the coast of Hopeless. It’s an island that catches the debris of some unusual tides. Many of the residents are descended from people who washed ashore. Those who aren’t tend to be horribly inbred.
Now despite the fact that we have heard the terrifying tales about the evil creatures that inhabit the island of Hopeless, I won’t lie to you; both Max and I were tentacle-tremblingly excited when Tom and Nimue asked us if we would like to open our parlour to a Hopeless Mermaid for the afternoon. Max gets a little swoony over anything vaguely female (you may have noticed) and I haven’t tasted fish in…well, too long for an octopus, far too long indeed…
We were a very little suspicious when they hurried away leaving us to remove the tarpaulin from the tank ourselves, promising to be back to collect her ‘soon-ish’ but our hopes weren’t finally dashed until we peered into the murky water and saw this beauty looking back at us…
And read the hastily scrawled note which was attached to the side of the tank:
“There are no family lines claiming any merfolk ancestry on Hopeless and this is for the simple reason that despite a repressive culture and limited opportunities to get laid, no one on Hopeless has ever been desperate enough to try and shag one of these creatures. It’s less a prejudice against appearances, (Hopeless Maine folk can hardly take issue with the beauty standards of others) more to do with not wanting to have your face bitten off. Cooking instructions: assuming you can get round the issues of having your face bitten off, the bottom half of a merperson is legally speaking, a fish. The top half however, is legally a person, raising issues of cannibalism. Devotees of bottom of the garden stew will of course know that it only counts as cannibalism if you don’t cut it up small enough to begin with.”
Hmm, it seems our friends know us far too well – damn.
But we can bear the disappointment of being cheated out of our fish supper because of the marvellous news that our beloved Hopeless Maine series is now published by Sloth Comics and available to buy from The book depository or to order from local book and comic stores.
If you are not familiar with Hopeless, Maine it follows the adventures of young Salamandra who is struggling to survive in a world of full of very personal demons.
“Sal is an ordinary orphan girl, just one of many other orphans on the island (come to think of it, where did all the grown ups go?). She faces the normal, everyday struggles of being a teenager- avoiding fell creatures of the night, trying not to get eaten by the aquatic fauna and finding something to do on a Saturday night. Like all young people, Sal can’t wait to get out of her dead end home. Unlike most teens, if she doesn’t get out she probably will wind up dead.”
We absolutely adore this series from the gorgeous gothic artwork to the beautiful melancholic prose. Salamandra is a character to die for, you cannot help falling in love with her combination of ‘cutesy big-eyed goth-girl all alone in the word’ and ‘independent strong willed power wielding demon slayer’ she is totally real and completely heart-capturing.
The story is rich and multilayered. Without giving away any spoilers, Hopeless is a place full of magic and mysteries and each new chapter hints at a history and mythology that we, and Sal, have yet to fully comprehend. This intrigue hangs about the pages like an island fog, wrapping us up in its tendrils and keeping as snared within its sinister thrall; where are all the grown ups? Who exactly are Sal’s parents? Why is the island so plagued by evil and where does Sal’s own power come from?
These are questions you will have to seek answers to yourself within the pages of Hopeless Maine…
As for us, we have our hands full of this…er…lovely creature… maybe we could feed it a cat or two to keep it happy…or perhaps persuade our unsuspecting landlord to take a dip in the tank… at any rate we hope that Tom and Nimue will be back soon to collect her, I really don’t like the way she is eyeing up the teapot.
Wish us luck and please, if we do get eaten before the Browns return, do remain always
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s delightfully delinquent and ruthlessly rebellious parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.
True, perhaps, some have called it a treasure trove for the Freudian Sleuth, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us on this, boisterously bright and cheerful, Monday morning absolutely apple-free and wondering about fairies. Are they real? There seems to be unnecessary amounts of hubbub in the town of Lancaster at present surrounding the subject and, against our better judgement, we have been ‘drawn in.’
Of course there are those who say that there used to be fairies in The New World, before Wiz arrived and stole all the tea, cake and magic, but those people are mostly witches and you should never trust a witch should you? (don’t tell Mrs Baker we said that).
Well at least there’s one fairy we know is real (she’s green and old Peril is very fond of her) and look at this little treasure we have unearthed…
Tea and Absinth? TEA AND ABSINTH? Oh I don’t think my tentacles can take it I’m all of a quiver..
Luckily we have a nerve settling Wuyi rock water fairy puerh tea from music city tea shop steeping as we speak… hm, fairies everywhere this morning, even in the teapot…well it must be because the book we are about to enjoy with our morning cuppa is none other than
If you were enchanted by volume one of steampunk fairy tales, well, be prepared to be enchanted again. The eagerly awaited second volume is filled with enough whimsy, magic and imagination to satisfy even our appetites for adventure…
The tales featured include an electric gingerbread house, a clockwork cabinet, a fairy samurai and many more but our favourite was Vasilisa and the Mechanical Matryoshka by Heather White which puts a fabulous steampunk twist on this awesome ancient tale! And Heather has kindly agreed to help our lovely Mrs Baker in her soup kitchen soon, so that is something to look forward to!
But before we commence our tea , let’s just see what our oracular cephalopterois has to show us this morning…
Good grief that has done absolutely nothing to settle my nerves, perhaps we should steer clear of fairies from now on, whatever their colour! Ah, thankfully, the tea is brewed and it is time for us to say ‘chin chin pass the tin open the book and let’s begin…’ We wish you all a very green and luscious morning, filled with magic and wishes-granted, and we invite you back to join us in the parlour tomorrow for elevenses so until then
Be always, utterly yourself
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope we are all feeling extremely eleven o’clockish because the time is, indeed, 11’o clock. So, step inside, take off your hat, hang up your parasol and make yourselves at home in Max and Collin’s perfectly polished and chichi-to-the-core parlour, located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.
True, perhaps, some people have called it a rattling death wagon filled with bad apples and other forbidden fruit but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us this morning going dippy over apples – yesterday our afternoon stroll was intercepted by a band of oiks who thought it would be great sport to pelt us with the rock-like rounds of a nearby tree.
Never go up against myself and Max in a hurling match.
Of any description.
The cowards soon fled for their lives, dropping their fruity load, which we gathered up and are now having enormous amounts of fun dipping them into every sweet or sticky substance we can get our hands on.
If you find yourself the sudden owner of superfluous fruit and need some inspiration check out the link below, we really don’t think life holds greater pleasure than a plate full of huge glittery pink apples.
And whilst we wait for those beauties to dry and our delicious pumpkin pasty tea to brew – All that is needed now is some eleven o’clockish music to tap our tentacles to as we tuck in, No Lodging For The Mad? That seems appropriate, still, not for the faint heart ed perhaps…
Ah, awesomely audacious audios to usher in the afternoon! We wish you have a very sweet and sticky one, filled only with the very best apples, and hope you will join our dear witchy friend Mrs Albert Baker and the marvellous Karen J Carlisle in the soup kitchen tomorrow. Myself and Max will be back on Thursday with some tantalising Tea @ Three so, until then
Be always, Utterly Yourself.
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s predominately pristine and excessively existential parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.
True, perhaps, some have called it a nightmarish landscape of unsavoury fancies and tasteless chinaware, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us on this, dark and sinister, Monday morning playing the knife game – which is a lot easier for Max than it is for me (five fingers, of course, being far easier to negotiate than eight tentacles). Of course we are using our beautiful new skull spoon from Wild and Violet instead of an actual dagger – daggers being horribly dangerous and un-gentlemanly things to go throwing about the tea table, all the same, a slip with a spoon can also cause the need for a doctor, and luckily we have one in the house today! (Albeit a rather deadly, knife-wielding one)
If you are not sure what the knife game is you can watch Bellabeth sing a lovely version of it here, also with spoons…
Bella will be joining our darling Kitchen Witch on the 26th October so there is a splendid thing to look forward to!
And speaking of things to look forward to, I cannot wait to get my tentacles into our book this morning…
Karen J Carlisle has created a captivating steampunk series with her heroine, Viola Stewart – a widowed optician with a talent for detecting.
This book has the same comforting familiarity of picking up a Conan Doyle or an Agatha Christie but enough uniqueness in terms of plot and character to keep us on the edge of our leather armchairs throughout – you know by the end of the second page that you are both ‘in safe hands’ and ‘in for a thrilling ride’ – Most of us have heard the tales of Jack The Ripper but this new version goes beyond the common knowledge to reveal a chilling world of Grey-clad conspirators in which Viola must keep her wits about her if she is going to uncover the truth and survive.
Karen will be helping in The Soup Kitchen on Wednesday so make sure you drop by for a taste of her lovely home cooking and to hear more about Viola and her adventures…
But for now, just while our marvellous teapot is brewing us a nerve-settling sup of Monkey Picked Oolong by the Kent Tea And Coffee Company, (gosh, what are they playing at getting monkeys to pick tea? Reminds me of all that hard labour harvesting seaweed in The Sunken City) let us carefully place our oracular cephalopterois into his cup of hot water and see what futuristic fantasies it has to show us this morning…
Well, that is a little worrying to say the least…let’s hope that we never have such problems here in The New World, can’t have the tea plantations put into jeopardy! And think of the wheat! No wheat – no cake… now that is a spine-chilling thought!
But enough morbidity for now, the tea is brewed and it is time for us to say ‘chin chin pass the tin open the book and let’s begin…’ We wish you all a perfectly perilous morning dusted with dastardly delights, and we invite you back to join us in the parlour tomorrow for elevenses so until then
Be always, utterly yourself
Good evening and welcome to my alluring athenaeum of litigious librettos…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.
I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.
But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have blundered in here on the ill-advice of a cross-dressing witch and her soup-slurping orphans, let me assure you that you will find no noodle-ish nonsense or brothly behaviour 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? La fée verte? 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…
This story is taken from the folk tale anthology Gather Around The Flame, the profits from which are donated to the homeless charity, Shelter. It is based on a ghost story from Windsor Forest, Berkshire.
Once upon a wood, this wood in fact, this very wood we breathe into ourselves this eve. Its heavy vapours wind their fingers through our cords, into our minds, green and bronze, dripping with deer scent and dew, the divine musk of fern and mould-rich earth.
Ease into the night, friends, its cool breath a cloak to cradle us, breathe in its riches, deep into your soul.
Once upon this wood, there was a tree. A tree of terrors and angels, they say, monstrous giants and fantastical beasts. The essence of all the worlds, they say (the old ones, who would remember), is spun like moth silk through its branches.
A mythical tree, perhaps. And yet here it stands. Its branches upholding the weight of the evening sky; the mauving fabric of a tent above our heads. Feel that it is real, friends. Press your palms against its rough skin, deeply burst open with the glut of memories it strains to hold. Circle your arms around its trunk, press ear and cheek and hear the thrumming veins – up from the well of life, out from the marrow of the earth’s great bones it sucks the blood of warrior and priest, martyr and maiden and every other that has watered the ground with the crimson ink of their history and ever, ever will.
A mythical tree, perhaps. But here it stands. And you sit beneath it, very patiently, waiting for its story. For your story. Well, and so here it is, a story of hoof and horn for these darkling days of satellite and silicone.
Once upon this wood, upon this tree, there hung a man.
Ah, but as I’m sure you know, every tale that begins with a man on a tree must end with a woman. Or else it may be the other way around, right? Such is the way of our island stories, though other nations may mock us for it I’m sure. Still, there it is.
But let us start this tale at the beginning, as I say, with this particular man. And his name, my friends, is Herne.
Richard Horne was a gamekeeper, here in this wood, the greatest gamekeeper the wood has ever seen, so they say. But it wasn’t always like that, oh no. When Richard was a lad, of just around sixteen years, or so I’m told, he was here a-poaching. Not pheasant or hare as his friends would, oh no, Richard had his sights on greater game, and not for his pot but for his pride he walked the forest floor one night, in what he thought was silence at that time, stalking the scent of a young stag. But just as he had the creature in his sights, a hand he feels upon his shoulder, ah-ah! And young Richard quails, for young Richard is now caught and he knows what fate must have in store for him.
But when the poor lad turns to look his apprehender in the face he sees, not the keeper, nor one of his groundsmen, but a lady. A Lady of the Wood, or so she must be he thinks, for her skin is the green-gold of opening ferns, her hair is soft oak grey and birch silver and her eyes are dark and moon-licked like pools that collect in the folds of roots and earth. On her head she wears the curling antlers of a great stag and her clothes are laced up animal skins, scraped clean, worn soft and bleached pale.
“Leave him, Horne.” she whispers, her voice like rain in honey comb, secret and sweet. “Leave him go and I will teach thee something. Men eat deer flesh and they think this way they will become the beast. But they become only more themselves, more and more man. Come with me, Man, and I will show thee how to become Him. How to become the beast. Then you will hunt for me and your quarry will be man-flesh. Come with me, Richard Horne, and I will give thee a new name, and a crown and I shall be thy Lady.”
Well, what should young Richard do? What would any man do I ask you? He jumped to his feet and, cap in hand, he followed the green lady into the wood.
Well now, a time or two and a half went by and by again and there came a vacancy for the post of park keeper over there, up at the old lodge, you know, and the days became weeks and the weeks became a month and still no one was found who was able enough to take the post on. Meanwhile of course the lodge keeper was at his wits end, even as the poachers were in their element, and he vowed most earnestly to accept the very next applicant for the post, be he who it please God, he did not care.
Well then, close to the dusk of a day not unlike the one that we have just had, there came a man. He was dressed head to foot in animal hides, crudely laced together, worn soft and bleached pale. His skin was the puckered gold of walnuts after the frosts have bitten them brown and pinched them up and his eyes were the silver grey of island sky and rock and rain. On his feet he wore great boots of shaggy brown fur and from out his head of long wiry hair, two massive antlers curled like a warrior’s crown.
The lodge keeper was assuredly taken aback by the stranger’s appearance but, in some doubt of the man’s sanity, he refrained from conveying his astonishment and, being by now in desperate need, he agreed to give the man a trial of one week. If he could rid the park of its plague of, now flagrant, poachers, he could keep the job.
But when he tried to show the man his lodgings, outfit him with his uniform and acquaint him with the various traps and weapons he might employ to carry out his duties, the stranger quietly declined all that was offered, stating simply that he would have no use for them. Feeling now both bemused and intrigued, the lodge keeper shrugged and asked the man if he wouldn’t at least give his name?
“Herne.” was the reply. And with it the stranger walked with quiet confidence out into the gathering shades of night.
The lodge keeper scratched his head and damned himself for being an old fool in allowing a simple minded man to walk out to his certain death at the hands of the merciless poachers, with nothing to protect himself but a comical piece of headwear. Then he turned to his stove and his kettle and his pipe for an hour and, when no screams were heard or ill news brought up to him, he scratched his head again and went to bed.
The next morning the lodge keeper awoke and, curious to know what had befallen the new game keeper (for he was certain it could be nothing good), he took up his flask of brandy and his stoutest staff and strolled out into the dew-jewelled grounds, all hung about with a soft white veil of mist that was rising away fast to reveal the tender glow of a buttermilk sun in the soft grey sky.
He had not gone far when his curiosity was slaked for there, striding through the tall white grasses of the grazing land, was Herne himself. Well, you can be sure the lodge keeper was both amazed and relieved and he hailed the new gamekeeper at once and asked him how he had passed the night.
“Well enough.” was the reply “I met with ten who had no rightful business here, to one I dealt justice as the law of the wood decrees, perhaps only nine will come tonight.”
The lodge keeper was impressed and he scratched his head and said so. “And now” he continued “I suppose you are wanting your meat and your bed and well, it seems to me, you deserve it.”
But Herne merely shook his head “All the meat and rest I require” he said quietly “I have already taken.” and with that he nodded his great antlered head and continued his pace across the grass. The lodge keeper watched him go, until he was swallowed up by the curve of a high- brackened mound, and then he scratched his head and went about his own business for the rest of the day.
Well, the days that followed passed in an almost identical fashion, each morning the lodge keeper would take his constitutional before beginning his day’s work, each day he would, at some point, meet with Herne, and each day the game keeper’s remarks would be the same.
He had started work upon the Monday. On Tuesday he reported meeting “nine who had no rightful business here, to one I dealt justice, as the law of the wood decrees, perhaps only eight will come tomorrow.” By Friday eight had become six, come Monday again and the number was down to three and so, you see, the lodge keeper was well pleased, and he said so, for never had the park known such a keeper that could dwindle the number of poachers and bring them to justice so speedily and with such quiet confidence.
Well now, on Tuesday evenings ‘twas the lodge keeper’s habit of strolling out of the park grounds, down the lane to the village and a little further on to the White Hart, where he was wont to share his wages with the landlord in exchange for a fair portion of meat, a fair portion of ale and a fair portion of the gossip he had missed in the days since his last visit (for life up at the park, you must understand, was one of isolation from the comings and goings of the village itself).
On this particular Tuesday, he happened to be sharing the bar with the village constable and the lodge keeper could not resist singing the praises of his new gamekeeper, and was the constable not impressed with the regular flow of poachers this Herne was bringing his way down at the station?
To his dismay, however, the constable’s face darkened. No, he had never met this man, Herne. No, no poachers had been arrested, not his knowledge anyroad, but for the last few days his own hours had been occupied in trying to solve the mystery of a number of ‘well-known’ young men from the village who had, or so it would seem, vanished from their beds without anyone being able to say where or why they had gone.
Driven by intrigue, and a grim sense of foreboding, the two men hastily finished their drinks and, arming themselves against any possible violence, they made their way quickly to the park, hoping to tie the knot in the end of these uncanny coincidences.
The moonlit sweeps of the gently undulating parkland were, as they had expected, quiet and vacant but, as they made their way into the woods, they were struck instantly by a queer and unsettling sound. At first they took it to be the gentle knocking of the tree boughs above their heads but, as their foray took them deeper into the thickets, they were not so certain. Surely tree boughs did not sway so rhythmically, surely their resonance was not so hollow, their chime not so faintly melodic? But what, in a wood, if not tree boughs, could be knocking together to produce such an eerie symphony?
Their curiosity was soon satisfied when, to their horror, they turned the corner of a small earth mound they had been skirting and beheld the thing they had been seeking.
There sat Herne, cross legged on the bare earth, amid a small grove of dark, towering yew trees. His eyes were closed, his great antlered head was raised towards the stars and around the glade, from the boughs of every tree, hung seven human skeletons, each perfectly in-tact, stripped clean of flesh and swaying gently in the breeze like seven ghastly windchimes.
“Two walk this wood, who have no rightful business here,” Herne said softly, not bothering to open his eyes or make any other movement. “Perhaps tomorrow, there will be none.” and with that he leapt at them with gnashing teeth and a hunger in his eyes as that of a wild beast. He fell upon the lodge keeper first and his strength was immense, bowling him over into the dirt as a wolf might flaw a rabbit. But the constable was too quick for him and, drawing his cudgel, he struck the wild man across his temple, below the crown of horns. Blood spilled instantly and Herne collapsed, leaving the grateful lodge keeper trembling and breathless but unharmed.
The constable’s blow was not fatal but Richard Horne never regained his senses. They hung him from this very tree, or so I have been told, and before his breath could leave his body, a strange lady, dressed in green velvet, with a crown of gold upon her head, came and kissed his lips and drew his soul away with her, vanishing into the woods over there, from where, they say, she had first come.
Now on many a full-mooned night, such as this, Herne and his Lady walk the park and sit below this tree and talk and laugh and make merry beneath the stars. If you have business here, they will leave you to it so, let us leave them to theirs now, for it is well known in these parts that they who bring peace into a place, will find peace in it, but they who carry evil, will find evil waiting for them there with hungry eyes and sharp, sharp teeth.
Hmm? What’s that you say? Very real evil waiting for you outside in the form of flesh-eating Liver Birds? Well, you should have thought of that before you decided to break the curfew! No I am not reading you ‘just one more’ this is not some bedtime story hour I am running here! You can tell that lunatic witch, when you see her, to stop sending people down here to bother me with their ‘special requests’ I have serious work to be getting on with. Good night.
Oh, er, leave the bottle though….
all images used with kind permission from http://www.freeimages.com
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome, once again, to Max and Collin’s perhaps-not-so-private and extensively excavated parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.
True, perhaps, some have called it a house of ill manners, ill health, ill-conceived fancies and illicit tiffin but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
We are taking tea on our new balcony this afternoon. It was immensely kind of our landlord, Montmorency, to put one in for us…sorry? Oh yes, well… Max says, “There are implements better suited to smashing holes in walls than the heads of Very Quiet Gentlemen”… well, yes, Montmorency does get a little over excited when we don’t pay up on time. But never mind about your injuries, Max, because it is Thursday afternoon and we are ‘all punked up with no place to go’ so, while our lovely werewolf butler makes us a reviving cup of Slytherin Serpent’s blend from Friday tea , let us peruse the society papers and see where we should be heading to this weekend….
The Yellow Book in Brighton, Brittain’s first Steampunk Themed Pub is always a delightful hotspot for steam-themed shenanigans and on Saturday they are playing host to Victor and the bully…
Need we say more?
Or, looking further ahead, don’t forget The League of Splendid are planning another Splendid Day Out- on the 22nd of October in Morecambe, Lancashire. It looks set to be a smaller but just as marvellous event with artisan market, tea duelling and entertainment from Cauda Pavonis, Professor Elemental and more.
And on the 24th of October the monthly Newark Steampunk Meet are holding their Halloween Event as well so, all good things to look forward to.
Ah, but now I think our tea is brewed and it is has just occurred to me that having an enormous hole in the wall is not perhaps the best of plans when the sun is about to set and hoards of carnivorous Liver Birds are about to descend upon the streets of Lancaster… perhaps Klapka can nail some planks over it…quickly…
Hopefully, we will survive the night and be back in the parlour on Monday! In the meantime, we hope you will join Perilous Wight for Pipe and Slippers in his lovely library tomorrow evening when he will be sharing something of ‘ineffable literary merit’…or so he informs us…hopefully it isn’t his sugartax returns…
So until then! Be always,
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.
Helping me this morning is one of my favourite authors, Charity Tahmaseb, writer of ‘Coffee and Ghosts’ which Max and Collin recommended to us all on Monday. Good morning Charity, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?
“I do have some soup, although my husband is the soup expert in our house. That being said, my daughter’s favorite is the matzo ball soup I make (and to be honest, I use a kit–still, she loves it). “
Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us all a little more about your book series, Coffee and Ghosts?
“Coffee and Ghosts revolves around the adventures of Katy Lindstrom and her business partner Malcolm Armand in which they use coffee (and sometimes tea) to catch ghosts.
The first season begins with Katy and her grandmother using coffee to catch ghosts and storing them in Tupperware containers, an idea which I (and probably most of your readers) found instantly adorable, where did the inspiration for such a brilliant idea come from?
A long while back, I wrote a mystery from the point of view of a ghost. While the novel never went anywhere, during my research, I came across an anecdote about people catching ghosts in jars.
That idea percolated for years until I saw the call for submissions for Coffee: 14 Caffeinated Tales of the Fantastic, and I used that to write a short story about catching ghosts with coffee. Glass jars seemed too dangerous for that task, so I substituted Tupperware containers.
That story, Ghost in the Coffee Machine, became the pilot episode for Coffee and Ghosts. Early this year, The Drabblecast produced the story in audio. It’s so much fun. It even has sounds effects! It’s not very long and you can listen to it here:”
And have you ever seen a ghost?
“I have not. Can you believe it? I even did a “haunted London” tour when I went to England several years back. No cold spots, no slamming doors. Nothing. I was so disappointed.”
Well, never mind my dear, you must be sure to pop along and visit our own resident ghost, Perilous Wight, in his Lovely Library some time! Now then, several readers have commented on the beautiful coffee pot illustrated on the front of your books, do you have a special coffee pot or other piece of chinaware that inspires your writing?
“The samovar that Malcolm uses is based on the one my in-laws have, as is the tea he brews. I love incorporating a little piece of their heritage into the story.”
Oh that is wonderful to know! I must say I did love the samovar description and the gorgeous smell of the tea he brews, how wonderful! Malcolm is a splendid character and Katy is a very lovable character who I think most readers can identify with but, if you had to chose, who is your personal favourite in the first series?
“Although he doesn’t get a lot of page time in season one, I do like Police Chief Ramsey. He changes a lot over the next two seasons, and has his reasons for being so grumpy. But there will always be a generation gap and some antagonism between him and Katy.”
Hm, reasons to read on then and discover more! Each series is made up of fairly self-contained ‘novelettes’ which makes them very convenient reading for a busy witch like me, rather like a biscuit tin which can be dipped into during sneaky tea (or indeed coffee) breaks! Did you set out to write like this or was it more of a ‘happy accident’?
“It’s a little bit of both. When I started, I thought I would write a handful of self-contained stories. But as I was writing, a larger story arc appeared, one that encompassed the entire season. Then, it evolved into a multi-season arc.
I make a point to wrap up each story (even if not all threads are resolved) and try to make each one a satisfying read. It’s a fun way to write. It’s more flexible than a standalone novel, and I can take time in various episodes to explore subplots and secondary characters.”
And do you have any plans to write another season?
“Seasons one and two are already out, and I’m getting season three ready to go, with the first episode available on or about Halloween. I recently released both seasons on all vendors, so you can find the series on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.”
Coffee and Ghosts has totally captured my heart as a reader and I really hope you will continue to write about Katy’s adventures but what other projects are you working on right now? Do you have any new releases we can look forward to
“Certainly! Season three of Coffee and Ghosts is almost ready to go. This season wraps up all major story threads and was a blast to write.
For 2017, I’m hoping to launch two new series, a fairy tale one and another paranormal one.”
Wonderful news! Well I will be sure to keep an eye out for those next year and perhaps when they are out you’ll come back and tell us a little more about them. But now the all important question, on which the fate of the universe may very well hinge,…you are obviously passionate about hot beverages but which do you really prefer, coffee or tea?
“I must–must–have my coffee in the morning, and I take it with half and half, no sugar (in fact, I dislike sweet coffee so much, I don’t even like coffee ice cream).
In the afternoon? Well, that’s a different story. Then I’m all about tea. I love all sorts of teas, but generally drink green tea and the hot cinnamon spice tea from Caribou Coffee. (My go-to drink when I’m writing at the coffee shop.)”
Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Charity, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?
“Thank you for having me! I’ve enjoyed our chat. Let’s eat!”
I will be back in the kitchen next Wednesday with another helpful guest, Karen J Carlisle who will be telling us all about her steampunk series, The Adventures of Viola Stewart, but Max and Collin will be back in the parlour tomorrow with some tremendous Tea @ Three.
Blessings on your brew my dears and if you’d like to read Charity’s lovely series for yourselves you can find her books by following the links below…
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope we are all feeling extremely eleven o’clockish because the time is, indeed, 11’o clock. So, step inside, take off your hat, hang up your parasol and make yourselves at home in Max and Collin’s privately perfect and exclusively expansive parlour, located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.
True, perhaps, some people have called it a ramshackle old shrimping shed, suspended by a rusty chain above the turbulent waters of the river Lune, liable to plunge its inhabitants to their icy deaths at any given moment, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
Upon this curiously clement autumnal morning, you find us in a quandary, you see Klapka, our werewolf butler, has found for us these beautiful little ghosties to go with our tea this morning…
…but honestly they are so adorable we’re not sure we can bring ourselves to…oh…oh well it seems that Max has got over the adorability of them and eaten twelve already. I suppose I had better catch up…the advantage of having eight tentacles of course becomes apparent when rampantly cake-scoffing.
And to wash it down we have this frightfully good Zombie Hunter blend from Fandom teas! All that is needed now is some eleven o’clockish music to tap our tentacles to as we tuck in, something spine-tingling and macabre is in order I think…
Ah, perfectly atmospheric audios to usher in the afternoon! We wish you have a very splendid one, filled with adorable apparitions, and invite you back to join, not us I’m afraid, but our dear witchy friend Mrs Albert Baker and her special geust, Chariy Tahmaseb, in the soup kitchen tomorrow. Myself and Max will be back on Thursday with some tantalising Tea At Three so, until then
Be always, Utterly Yourself.
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s perfectly paranormal and extensively exorcised parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.
True, perhaps, some have called it a haunted hovel located within a hideous high-rise that is harangued by demonic presences and liable to be sucked into the jaws of the abyss at any moment, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us on this, bright but blustery, Monday morning debating a piece of local legend with our beautiful friend and Milliner, Miss Belle Otis. We were just showing off our new Tea Cake Or Death teapot, and my matching tattoo, when Miss Otis told us that she herself was saving up for a similarly splendid pot…
This beautiful, hand painted raven six-cuppa from Tattoo Tea Lady! Isn’t that just gorgeous? And of course talking about teapots got us talking about haunted teapots…
I well recall visiting a bookshop in Kent where the teapots were haunted and Miss Otis remarked that when her aunt had stayed at The Three Mariners in town (an Inn well known for its ghostly goings on) the teapot brought to her room one evening had undoubtedly been laced with spirits.
Apparently, as the old lady reached across to take the handle of the pot, it rattled ferociously at her until she pulled her hand away. This happened repeatedly until at last she rang the bell and ordered a second cup be brought for her invisible guest. This seemed to resolve the issue and once two cups of steaming chai were poured, Miss Otis’ aunt and the spectral presence enjoyed a peaceful evening’s sup.
Well the Three Mariners is the place where criminals from The Castle are allowed to pause on their way to the gallows in order to taste one last cup of Devonly Tea before the ‘short drop and sudden stop’…something we tea fiends don’t like to think about too often…perhaps one such felon enjoyed his tea so much he has returned post-mortem for a second helping?
Which reminds me, we haven’t yet had our first helping! This morning we are calming our nerves, after all this talk of ghosts and gallows, with the mellow, earthy flavours of Birt and Tang’s Pure Pu ‘er tea (mainly because it is going to be terribly humorous to try saying ‘pure ‘pu er’ as fast as we can after eight cups)
And in keeping with our conversation about possessed beverages, our book this morning is:
This really is a delightful book! It begins with Katy and her grandmother and their unusual methods for catching ghosts…using coffee! But when Katy’s grandmother dies and a new ghost-catcher moves into town things begin to get tricky. Malcolm, you see, uses tea to catch ghosts and his stylish shirts and shiny teapot are stealing all Katy’s customers. But Malcolm has a bit of problem…and he needs Katy to help him deal with it…
Coffee and Ghosts really is as fun and charming a read as it sounds, packed with witty lines, belly laughs and crazy adventures, and we highly recommend it. What is more, Charity has kindly agreed to help our darling witch, Mrs Baker, in her soup kitchen on Wednesday, so there is a splendid thing to look forward to!
And now, just while the pot is still brewing, let’s see what our oracular cephalopterois has to show us this morning…
Well, as usual that makes little sense to us here in The New World but hopefully it has inspired some of you out there in your own dimensions…
As for us, there is little left to say except ‘chin chin pass the tin open the book and let’s begin…’ We wish you all a hauntingly beautiful morning full of pu’er perfection and we invite you back to join us in the parlour tomorrow for elevenses so until then
Be always, utterly yourself
Good evening and welcome to my pulchritudinous plethora of accumulated antiquities…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.
I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of The New World.
But this is not a ‘lending library’; if you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a ludicrous Tea Fiend and their rampant octopus, let me assure you that you will find no frivolous fancies or biscuit-based buffoonery 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 say? Late Bottled Vintage Port? Ten years eh?…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something to fight off the chill. And I suppose I could read a very little something,
like this perhaps…
THE CROW AND THE CHILD
If you take the leg bone of any creature that dwells on this earth and slice it open, there in the marrow you will find a wondrous land populated with castles and citadels, golden-leafed forests and wide open wilds far more fantastic than mortal minds alone can conceive.
In this land, if you look closely, you will see there is a little gathering of dwellings, each one barely enough to be called a house, and even altogether barely enough to be called a village. Just a little gathering, then. A little huddle of souls. And in the skies above this huddle, one particular star-winked night, a stork was sailing.
His wide white wings caught the moonshine like a silk sheet and for a moment he glowed silver against the indigo sky before tilting his tips to spiral down and down and down, through the tunnels of air and shadow, to alight upon a thatched rooftop. And there he stopped and considered himself for a moment.
Side stepping awkwardly on his long jointed legs, he approached the chimney stack and was about to peer inside when he suddenly remembered the bundle in his beak. So he stopped. Paused. Thought about it some.
A crow, who had been waiting on the rooftop since sundown, tilted its head and regarded the stork with curiosity.
After a while, the stork laid the bundle down carefully beside him on the rooftop and then proceeded to stick his long, inquisitive beak down the chimney. He withdrew it immediately with a squawk of alarm. This is what he had seen:
In the single room of the dwelling below, a man and woman lay in peaceful slumber, wrapped in each other’s arms, and, in a rocking chair beside the hearth, an old woman likewise lay with eyes closed and her mouth fallen softly ajar. From the breast of each silent figure there flowed a river of blood. It slicked their skin and matted their hair, soaked their sheets and clothing and, in the light of the dying embers, the floor shone red like a vast pool.
The stork ruffled his feathers, let out another shrill shriek of near-hysteria and began side stepping a strange and agitated dance up and down the rooftop. So great was his obvious distress, that the crow thought, really, and against his own better judgement, that he ought to try to offer some assistance. He stepped out of the shadows and enquired what the matter was.
“The matter? The matter? You ask me what is the matter? I am supposed to deliver a new life into the loving bosom of this happy household and what do I find? ” his pitch rose, feverishly, “Dead! All Dead! Every last one of them down to the crone in the rocking chair and don’t,” he pointed an accusatory pinion at the crow, “pretend you know nothing about it! And now what am I to do? I cannot very well leave the infant on the doorstep can I? Not when there is no one to come and take it in! Stone dead within a few hours and what will be the point of that? Hm?”
“I think you should calm yourself at once,” the crow said, dark eyes each like a tiny galaxy, their light coming from so deep within. “Remember that none of this is our concern. You are bid here this night to bring life into the world and I am bid here to take life out of it. This is our way and always shall be and whether or not this infant is destined to spend but a few hours in the mortal realm has nothing to do with us at all. Please calm yourself my friend and do the job you were sent to do, no further responsibility is yours to claim.”
“But if I don’t do something…”
“But if you do!” The crow’s voice was suddenly stern, “If you do act, with your limited understanding as your only guide, you may do greater harm than good. Souls must pass in and out of the mortal world and you and I have neither the wit nor the wise to dictate how and when that should be so.”
But the stork had got himself all worked up into a frenzy by this time. Damned was he if he would leave this babe to freeze to death outside a door that was never going to open to welcome it in. Violently, he snatched up the bundle in his beak once more and, with three beats of his mighty wings, he rose again into the air. Exactly what he would do, he had not yet decided but the crow’s words about his own impotence and ineptitude for decision making had settled like a red mist around his senses and he could not think clearly. He would take the babe to some other village, some other house, a great house, a palace perhaps…
Fearing that he had only made the matter worse, and seeking now to correct it, the crow left his watch post on the rooftop and swept like a rag of storm-harried cloud into the sky in pursuit of the stork. “Come! Come come! Back! Back back!” he croaked, weaving this way and that around the enormous bird so that soon the stork grew so vexed and dizzy that, forgetting all that he was about, he lashed out savagely at his tormentor with his harpoon of a bill, slicing open the side of the crow’s head from beak to glittering eye and, yes that’s right, he dropped the bundle too.
Two tiny scraps of flailing life spiralled down through the stars to earth …
and landed on the doorstep of a high-turreted castle, way up in the mountains and far from anywhere. The door creaked open and a woman made all of stone leaned out, picked up the bundle in one hand and the broken crow in the other, then slid, with a grating sound that would rattle teeth, back inside the castle and shut the door.
The stone woman slid on a network of metal tracks that covered the flagstone floor. Down long, cold corridors she went, where tapestries fluttered briefly in her wake, depicting the glorious endeavours of the living. Through halls populated with still and silent figures like herself, through the grim, dark-vaulted castle, she continued her slow but steady progression until she came to a winding spiral slope, then up and up and upwards she wound her way to the top most tower and there she pushed open a wooden door and creaked inside.
The old man, bent crooked over his desk and teetering atop a high wooden stool, lifted the visor on his welding helmet and peered at her with bright reptilian eyes set deep into brown leathery tortoise skin. He did not speak. Like everything else, the woman’s ears were made of stone. She held out the bundle and the crow and the old man lifted them gently and placed them on the desk in front of him, clearing away the parts he had been working on with paternal care.
The white sheets in front of him were stained claret with blood. He opened the bundle carefully and frowned; bending brows of feather-white quills over those bright little eyes. On the desk lay a boy child and out from his chest, out from his heart beneath his ivory skin, blood flowed bright and shameless, staining everything it touched crimson, matting through his white blonde hair in thick unsightly clots of black.
The ancient gentleman shook his head. “So fragile…” he muttered softly to himself “…so delicate, so fallible. No, no, no, a child cannot go through the world with a heart that bleeds. And this child, one day, will need to be a man. But no matter, no matter eh? He has come to the right place. I will make him a heart that will last a hundred years and more.” And at once he set about the task of making the child a heart so strong that it would not be able to bleed even if it wanted to.
The crow, barely clinging on to its body, struggled to squawk a protest but, if he heard it, the old man did not look up from his task. “Your turn next, birdie,” was all the muted muttering that filtered through his white moustache and, all the while, the stone woman stood in the corner and waited.
The old man was an inventor of some considerable skill and experience. Soon he had fashioned a marvellous heart and he carefully cut a hole in the flesh of the sleeping infant, plucked out the heart that wept so much claret over everything, and fitted in the new heart, sealing the chest cavity with a metal plate, screwed down through flesh and bone. The babe screamed and howled and the crow beside him fluttered feebly, but he could not do anything to help.
“Now, now my boy, what an ungrateful whelp you are eh?” the old gentleman chuckled “Don’t fuss now, don’t fuss. See this new heart will last you a hundred years and more, that one you came with would not have served you five minutes. Not in this world, certainly not. Now then,” he turned at last to the stone woman, lifted the screaming child awkwardly from the workbench and placed him into her strong, cold arms, then he turned his attention back to the bench, “alright then my little black bird, let us see what we can do to fix you now, shall we?”
The stone woman did not need to have ears of flesh to be told what to do with a baby. The inventor had made her plenty of stone children of her own, just as he had made her, her husband, and all the other stone figures that populated his castle. Insatiable in his desire to create, he churned out figure after figure until the castle was plagued by the grim, grey host. Still, he never once descended the tower steps to see how his creations were getting along without him.
The stone woman took the screaming baby to the nursery. She trundled across the wooden floor and laid him in an empty crib with silk sheets and soft wool blankets. She tucked a bottle of milk into his chubby white hands and he drank and slept. Then she turned on her tracks and trundled out of the room, leaving the baby alone, in the dark, with row after row of silent stone babies sleeping soundlessly in their cribs. Their sightless eyes did not need light. Their stone skin did not ache for the warm touch of throbbing flesh. Their carefully carved ears did not strain for the sound of comforting voice rising softly in song.
In those silent halls, hung with curtains of shadow and frosted breath, the baby grew to be a child. He wandered through the long vaulted corridors with their tattered tapestries and picked at the threads, wondering at the tales depicted there. He sat in the courtyards, crowded with statuesque figures who never spoke or sang but only trundled here and there along the metal rails their inventor had laid out for them.
Once he found a boy. Sitting with his back pressed against a bulky pillar, reading a book. But the book was made of stone as well and all the boy could do was turn a single page – back and forth – upon which was written a tiny scrap of story that his sightless stone eyes would never read.
Still the child wandered and explored the many rooms and passageways of the castle until, at last, investigating a staircase that wound skyward up a tower which swayed back and forth in the howling mountain winds, he came across a cage.
The crow in the cage cocked its head on one side and regard the child with a glittering eye that seemed to hold a galaxy, its light came from so deep within. Half its head, including one eye and all of its beak, was made up of metal plates but, the child’s breath caught in his throat, the rest of the bird was feather and flesh and bone. The bird radiated the warmth of life, it moved with its own purpose and intent and, when it opened its beak, sound – the croak of a voice, rusted but not yet broken.
“Back! Back back!” The crow spluttered. “Back, child, you should go back! Back to the village, back to the cottage, your place is not here in this castle. No. No. Go back. Go back back!”
The child filled his enormous eyes with the feast of the creature before him. Tears pooled.
“I am not who you think I am,” he whispered. Voice a cobweb in a storm. “I did not come from any cottage or village or far away better place. My place is here. It always has been.”
“No. I am not mistaken.” The crow ruffled its feathers and flapped its wings against the bars of the cage. “You are the baby, brought by the stork, to a village far away from here. But the stork thought he knew best and delivered you to this castle instead. I was there, I tried to stop him.” He clicked his mechanical beak crossly. “There is none so stubborn as a stork, it seems. But all is not lost, child, set me free. Set me free from this cage and I will show you the way back.”
The child caught his tears on his fingers . The crow’s words made sense; he had never felt he belonged in this world of stone figures. Never found a way to slide easily along the inventor’s metal tracks as they did. He longed for things he sensed were real, although he had never experienced them – warmth, touch, song and movement unprescribed. Although a secret part of him whispered that if he did not belong here in the castle, he surely did not belong anywhere, he ignored it.
He reached up pale fingers to the latch, opened the cage door with a snap and a swing, and the crow leapt out and perched upon his shoulder . Together they left the tower, down the spiral stair, and fled the castle forever for the long and difficult road across the windswept mountains.
Night was spreading his cloak over the land as the child and the crow sank down into a wooded valley. As the light dimmed to a pumpkin glow, shadows rose around them taking form from fancy and conjecture.
“Light! Light light! We must have light. Strike a flint child, light a flame that we can see our way through the darkness.”
But the child did not know how.
In desperation, the crow snatched up the last bright thing from the forest floor, as the sun sniggered into its sleeve and slipped away. A last pale leaf, softly luminous in the moonlight. He handed it to the child and the child clung to it, fixing his eyes upon its faint, cold glow. But it was not a flame, only an imitation of one. It gave no warmth and nothing at all was illuminated.
All night long, the crow and the child sat huddled amongst the trees and clinging tight to their leaf.
They heard things pass them in the darkness; some far off, some so close they could feel their breath. They smelt good things cooking on campfires, saw the distant dance of what might be a flame or a farmhouse. Sometimes a voice would hail them, “Hey! You there, is that somebody there? Have you lost your way then? Come with us, we will show you the path out, we have food and light over here, come out of the shadows and join us!”
But the crow advised the child to close his ears to all of this. It was so dark, afterall. The voices could belong to anyone. Or anything. So they clung to eachother. And their leaf. Through a night they started to believe might never end….
But nothing is ever as eternal as it seems when we are in it. At last a paleness began to seep slowly over everything. The night’s dense pelt teased apart into fine needles of shadow and the child and the crow heaved their cold and aching bodies up out of the dry leaves and blinked at eachother, surprised to recognise familiar form after all the liquid swell of night through their senses.
They saw the path. The crow remembered the way. Through the dense wood, never stopping, out of the valley and over hills which became green and spongy with succulent moss and sedge beneath their feet and whispered tales of secret underground springs and maidens and moles and other goings on beneath the soil.
The scent of that soil rose up like iron, bold and beautiful and life affirming and it wove a robust rhythm with the heather and the broom that danced like gypsies wherever they pleased as the wild wind tugged playfully at their hair.
The child and the crow did not dance over the hills with the heather. They were too weary from their long and watchful night. Heads down, wings and shoulders hunched, they trudged. Each footstep a tiny miracle. If they had chanced to look up, they would have seen the little huddle of dwellings, each one barely enough to be called a house and even altogether, barely enough to be called a village, rising out of the landscape ahead.
It happened all of a sudden; the way you can be standing in a room sometimes, floating in waves of conversation that ebb and swell without conveying meaning, until someone on the far side of the room whispers your name. And you blink. And suddenly the world makes sense again.
The boy stopped. And blinked. His feet were wet.
In fact, the ground all about him was saturated with something thick and oozing. He lifted one foot, curiously, and then the other. The crow put his head on one side and then flapped excitedly off the child’s shoulder and began to circle a giddy, euphoric spiral above his head. “Back! Back back! This is the place child, we have found the way back!”
But the boy wasn’t listening to the crow anymore. At that particular moment he didn’t need to.
He simply knew.
As soon as he felt the warmth of the blood between his toes, the blood that flowed down the main street of this place like a river, he knew it for the same rich, red life that pulsed through his own flesh in such abundance that it ached to be released. He sank to his knees, he washed his white flesh in it, he licked it off his wrists and arms and the taste of iron made him weep like a starveling cub.
Ravenous, he raised his eyes and saw people hurrying towards him, boots splashing through the flood of red that flowed, shameless, out of their breasts and into the street. They didn’t ask his name, who he was or where he had come from.
Perhaps they knew he was one of them.
Or perhaps they did not care.
They welcomed him, they brought him inside, fed him and clothed him and the child bathed and soaked and gorged himself on blood that seemed inexhaustible because everyone bled and fed and bled some more…
The child stayed in the gathering of bleeding hearts. He never found his parents because the crow could not remember the dwelling to which the stork had brought him, but that did not matter. He had found a place filled with folks that were more akin to him than any cold castle filled with stone automatons. And did it worry him that the inventor had so brazenly stolen his heart all those years ago? Well, yes, after a time it did start to bother him. It bothered him so much that one day he sought out the crow who had helped him to find the place where he belonged, and together they set off on a quest to steal back his bleeding heart… but that story is a long one, and will have to wait until another time…
Hmph, not that there will be another time, as I said, this is not some nursery bedtime story hour I am running here! You can tell those miscreant pot-sots, when you see them, to stop sending people down here to bother me with their remedial reading requests I have serious work to be getting on with. Now go on, out with you, shoo, no I don’t care if there is a curfew and you are worried about getting eaten by Carnivorous Liver Birds, you should have thought of that earlier. Good night.
Oh, er, leave the bottle though….
Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome, once again, to Max and Collin’s perpetually private and extensively exquisite parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.
True, perhaps, some have called it a Hull-spawned roach-hole unfit for human habitation which contravenes every health and safety law in the history of The New World, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
Our teatime today is plagued with slime. As an octopus, one is of course used to a certain amount of fluid seeping from one’s glands, however an octopus with a cold, as Max has quite rightly pointed out, is simply ‘not amusing.’
Fortunately our tea today is none other than ‘Kiss My Crossbow’ by Fandom Teas– a super strength oolong that should blast away all traces of this wretched cold. Our Oracular Cephalopterois (That’s a hybrid cross between a lion fish and a vampire squid…in case you were wondering) tells us we should expect a heatwave in the next few days. A heatwave? I ask you! The things that creature would have us believe…
But enough of that nonsense! It is Thursday afternoon and Max and I are ‘all punked up with no place to go’ so, while the pot is brewing, let us peruse the society papers and see where we should be heading to this weekend….
The National Tramway Museum in Critch, Derbyshire is holding a Steampunk Theme Day from 10am until 5pm on Saturday 8th October. There will be tea duelling, dancing dolls, storytelling, steampunk weapons display and beautiful market stalls selling all kinds of crafts and curiosities.
Or, looking further ahead, (always advisable where tickets have to be booked) I see that The League of Splendid are planning another Splendid Day Out– on the 22nd of October in Morecambe, Lancashire. It looks set to be a smaller but just as marvellous event with artisan market, tea duelling and entertainment from Cauda Pavonis, Professor Elemental and more.
And on the 24th of October the monthly Newark Steampunk Meet are holding their Halloween Event as well so, all good things to look forward to.
Ah, but now I think our tea is brewed and it is time for us to recline back amongst the crates and cushions and wait for the sun to set and the hoards of flesh-eating birds to descend upon the streets of Lancaster. There’s something rather comforting about having your tentacles wrapped around a warm mug of chai, listening to the screams of all those poor unfortunate souls who tried to break their curfew… mmmm…
We will not be back in the parlour now until Monday but we hope you will join Perilous Wight for Pipe and Slippers in his lovely library tomorrow, when he will be sharing something of ‘superfluous literary magnitude’…or so he informs us…hopefully it isn’t something dreary he has penned himself…
So until then! Be always,
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 so over the next few months I’m going to be looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!
For now I’m afraid it is just me, but not to worry, I’m cooking up something seasonal and spicy to really help us beat this wet and chilly weather – Roasted Pumpkin Soup with garlic sage pesto and spicy roasted seeds from Half Baked Harvest. You can get the recipe by clicking on the picture below:
Mmm that smells delicious and while it’s simmering away let me share with you all my latest cast on project. I’m always making something whether it’s with knitting needles and a ball of steel yarn or, more recently, a blow torch and a few loose screws.. today I’ve fallen in love with this crochet octopus mask by Amy Hitchcock, and I’m determined to make one for Collin – I think it will keep him perfectly warm and toastie as he strolls…well, slithers…around Lancaster with Max.
Ah and now I think the soup is ready, and my goodness the little urchins are quing around the corner so I had better get to serving up! Max and Collin will be back in the parlour tomorrow for tea @ three and I will see you next week with more delicious soup recipes and an exciting mystery guest to help with the cooking!
Blessings on your brew my dears!
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, and who amongst us is feeling a little eleven o’clock ish? Well, say no more, step inside, pull up a chair…or…crate of lemonade and make yourselves at home in Max and Collin’s perfectly private and exquisitely exclusive parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.
True, perhaps, some have called it a rat-riddled room in an abandoned fish factory that is ravaged by Liver Birds and liable to be infested by plague at any given moment, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
Upon this wet and wild autumnal morning, you find us shamefully still wrapped in our dressing gowns and huddled around the soft glowing warmth of our divine teapot, waiting the arrival of our werewolf butler with elevenses. I say ‘werewolf butler’, which is what Max calls her, but only, you know, when she is out of earshot.
This morning we are enjoying Darcy’s Delight; a deliciously dark oolong brought to life with orange zest and exotic osmanthus flowers, available from one of our favourite tea shops, Friday Tea. It is just the thing to raise the spirits during this dead season of chills and inclemency.
Ah, now Klapka is here with the tray! She isn’t really a werewolf, of course, any more than I am a squid or Max is a Very Quiet Gentleman but, as Max says, throw enough custard pies and some will stick…and Max is, of course, very good at throwing pies. Now let’s see what delights she has for us to combat this tentacle-chilling weather…
Mmm treacle tarts, click the picture for the recipe which is so quick and easy you’ll be done in four minutes! Truly there is no better comfort food than a treacle tart and a nice cup of tea.
All that is needed now is some eleven o’clockish music to tap our tentacles to as we tuck in… something nostalgic perhaps that will remind us of our time in The Sunken City…
Splendid, perfect entertainment for a chilly Tuesday morning, and now as we sink our suckers into these treatsome tartlets there is nothing left to do except wish you all a much warmer afternoon than we are likely to suffer here and invite you back to join, not us I’m afraid, but our dear witchy friend Mrs Albert Baker in her soup kitchen tomorrow. Myself and Max will be back on Thursday with some tantalising Tea At Three so, until then
Be always, Utterly Yourself.
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s perfectly private and exquisitely exclusive parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.
True, perhaps, some have called it a rat-infested garret in a toppling tenement that is plagued by Lemonade Pushers and liable to topple over at any moment to nobody’s regret, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us on this, seasonably grey and chilly Monday morning, uncharacteristically alert and swooning over our marvellous new teapot courtesy of the utterly ineffable creators at Wild and Violet
Yes you read that correctly! Tea Cake Or Death… Max is tattooing it upon my tentacles with a runcible spoon even as I write (the advantage, of course, of having eight limbs and being naturally disposed to multi tasking)
We are just waiting for our brew to steep and this morning we will be enjoying the fantastically festive flavours of Raise The Dead by Friday Teas We can’t speak for the dead but the aroma alone has raised these two Hullians out of our usual early morning stupor. The scarlet cranberries like drops of blood make this tea the perfectly ghoulish accompaniment to our book this morning
Written well before Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it is one of the first literary versions of the Vampire myth – apt reading for the build up to Halloween, or Samhain, not that we celebrate either here in The New World but, there you have it, a Tea Fiend needs no excuse to indulge in a little macabre romanticism …
Ah, and now Max informs me our tea is ready and my tattoo is finished which means there is nothing left to do except consult our Oracular Cephalopterois (always being careful to avoid its bloodthirsty fangs and venomous tentacles of course, neither Max nor myself wish to be turned into brain-munching un-dead zombie squid. Not this morning at any rate, we have not yet had any cake.)
So, before we languish back upon our silk-covered lemonade crates, let us stir the cup and see what our far-seeing vampiric hybrid has for us this morning…
Well as usual we’ve got no idea what part of the aether our little pet has pulled that random piece of innovation from, still, hopefully it will prove interesting to some of you out there.
As for myself and Max there is nothing left to say except ‘chin chin, pass the tin, open the book and let’s begin…’
We wish you a very delicious morning full of beautiful and black delights, perhaps, like this tea, with the odd dash of crimson, and we invite you to join us tomorrow for elevenses so, until then,
Be always, Utterly Yourself.
If you have a splendid book or exciting project you would like us to feature with our ‘morning cuppa’ please send us the details to Collin.firstname.lastname@example.org