The Characters of The Department of Curiosities
I introduced Tillie Meriwether in an earlier book blog tour post (Meet Viola Stewart
and Tillie Meriwether – https://phoebedarqueling.com/2019/04/27/karen-carlisle-viola-
stewart-and-tillie-meriwether-guest-post/ ), now it’s time to introduce some of the other
characters in The Department of Curiosities.
Every hero (or heroine) needs a backup team. Some are sought out. Some thrust upon
them. Some insinuate themselves slowly – for better or for worse.
Most of the characters you’ll meet are associated with The Department of Curiosities, a
government unit in charge of acquiring; cataloguing and securing said ‘Curiosities’. The
‘Department’ is essentially a gigantic curiosity cabinet, only the ‘Curiosities’ are hidden from the avaricious eyes of The Society (Men in Grey) and other nefarious groups – for ‘the good of the people’.
Lord Professor Avery Allington:
When Tillie Meriwether meets Avery Allington, he introduces himself to Tillie as
‘Professor Allington’. Avery Allington (Sir Avery) longs to be defined by his works and not
his title. He prefers to think he earned his position in The Department of Curiosities based on
his education and loyalty, rather than legacy.
He understands what it is to be judged by what you are and not for whom you are and,
as a result, he tries not to judge others on position or appearance. He ignores Tillie’s gender
and youth (she’s only twenty and hasn’t been presented to Society as yet) to discover her
value to The Department, via her intelligence, resourcefulness and enthusiasm.
Once his loyalty is given, Sir Avery will give the benefit of the doubt and requires
factual proof before he withdraws his loyalty. He trusts General Sabine implicitly, even to
ignoring Tillie’s concerns about the loyalty and motives of others, and his own doubts of
Tillie’s allegiances. As a result, he ignores ‘blind spots’, and the possible consequences, this
Through Sir Avery, Tillie discovers a clandestine world of secrets and the hidden
repository where illegal and unregistered mechanicals and contraptions are housed.
Allington sees the potential good in the ‘curiosities’ they are charged to remove from
circulation. Eventually he must decide which is more important: loyalty or scientific discovery.
Next we meet General Sabine, Director of The Department of Curiosities. He is an ex-military man, loyal (beyond doubt) to the Empire, and an ardent admirer and confidant of the Queen. He is also a scientist, specialising in magnetic fields. Thus his allegiances are to the Empire and scientific research…
(The General was inspired by the historical ‘Major-General Edward Sabine’ who wrote a treatise on magnetic fields, was Scientific Advisor to the Admiralty, a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, and President of the Royal Society.)
Operatives and Domestics:
We also meet various ‘underlings’ and operatives of The Department of Curiosities, including Harrow, Smythe, Saunders and Grace – operatives, coachman, valet and maid. All have a vital role to play in Tillie’s development into a fully-trained operative, and as she learns who is she can trust and where her loyalties truly lie.
As you probably suspect, all four characters have their own secrets and motives, and are not all what they seem. (Spoilers!)
My favourite secondary character is Grace.
Grace’s original appearance was a Ladies’ maid to Tillie. After all, a nineteenth century lady needs assistance. And when working in a male-dominated department, Society would insist Tillie have a chaperone. By the final draft, Grace’s characters had grown, complete with her own secrets, loyalties and motives to be explored more in book two of the series.
“The Inventor?” Harrow scoffed. “I always thought that name was pretentious.”
Finally a bit about the villain of the story:
The Inventor, aka known as ‘The Professor’. The Inventor hides behind many names. He also hides behind a mask, not for anonymity but for protection against the world. He is a germophobe, requiring all who come in contact with him to wear a protective mask and demanding his henchmen to be injected with silver as a safeguard (this was a cure used in the nineteenth century). He is hungry for fame and will do anything for recognition by The Royal Society. The Inventor would be comical, if it were not for his callousness and disregard for others.
The Department of Curiosities will be released 22nd May, 2019.
If you want to follow the rest of The Department of Curiosities book launch blog tour, check out the links on my blog post: www.karenjcarlisle.com/DOC1bookblogtour
You can pre-order your eBook copy of The Department of Curiosities (for special price of US$2.99) at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/934976
or sign up for my newsletter at: https://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/
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Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of speculative fiction – steampunk, Victorian mystery and fantasy.
She graduated in 1986, from Queensland Institute of Technology, with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Optometry, and lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.
Karen first fell in love with science fiction when she saw Doctor Who, as a four-year old. This was reinforced when, at the age of twelve, she saw her first Star Destroyer. She started various other long-term affairs with fantasy fiction, (tabletop) role-playing, gardening, historical re-creation and steampunk – in that order.
She has had articles published in Australian Realms Roleplaying Magazine and her short story, An Eye for Detail, was short-listed by the Australian Literature Review in their 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes?’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.
She writes full-time and can often be found plotting fantastical, piratical or airship adventures, and co-writing the occasional musical ditty.
Karen has always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.
She is not keen on the South Australian summers.
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Max and Collin’s fabulously fangtastic parlour located somewhere along the seasonably chilled spine of the splendidly scenic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.
True some have called it a dreadful place inhabited by frightful fiends and plagued by the occasional bad tempered Wight, but we consider that such people are merely getting a little carried away with their seasonal shenanigans.
You find us this morning in haste, our paper bags empty, our turnips carved and our faces painted with… stuff… because it is never really too early to begin trick or treating is it? Certainly we were attacked by a group of urchins over the weekend dressed in panda masks and donkey heads and demanding sustenance and shelter and illegal sugar laden treats. So we are off now to see if we can score something for ourselves on that front…
But before we do, there is (always) just about time to kick our tentacles up on the table for a moment and enjoy a festival-fuelling brew of Hershel’s Tonic and some seaonally spooky and splendidly steampunkish fiction, which we fortunately happen to have right here…
This is the prequel to Madeleine Holly-Rosing’s series of graphic novels, Boston Metaphysical Society. It is our first foray into this series and we are now absolutely hooked and ready to follow these characters and their fascinating world through whatever paranormal encounters and mysterious adventures await them in the next few books.
The set of seven individual short stories includes The Secret, The Devil Within (which was our favourite) , The Demons Of Liberty Row, The Secret Of Kage House, Steampunk Rat, The Clockwork Man and The Way Home. All are set in a re-imagined Steampunk America where the paranormal is… ah… normal! … and it is the primary purpose of society’s commoners to ensure these ghostly goings on do not interrupt the peaceful existence of the wealthy elite.
There are plenty of thrills, mysteries and intrigues inside this rather delightfully gothic-feeling collection; historical references aplenty for those of you who, like us, just go gooey over mash-ups and hat-tips and the like, and it will certainly appeal to anyone who likes the focus of their Steampunk to be on the everyday working classes rather than the upper.
What attracted us most though was the obvious depth and heart pervading each tale and we really felt that if we could fall in love with the characters in such small glimpses, then following them on through the rest of their adventures was absolutely obligatory – we’re very excited to see where life will take them all next!
If you have already read and enjoyed the comics / graphic novels in this series then we are willing to bet you will love these short stories which will no doubt add colour and depth to both the characters and world you already know. If, like us, this is your first encounter with the series, then this little collection is a lovely introduction and, as it has a nice little preface to set the scene before you dive in, it is a perfect place to begin.
Now then, we must delay no longer, the candy calls, as they say – do they say that? Possibly, either way we wish you a splendiferously spooky build up to the big bad treat-fest (whatever you call it in your dimension) and until we see you again,
Please remain always
A GUEST POST BY STEAMPUNK WRITER KAREN J CARLISLE…
<The Parlour door creaks open. Smoke drifts into the room. An old lady with a grey bob enters, shuts the door behind her and leans on her silver walking stick.>
Don’t worry, dears, the smoke should dissipate soon. I should’ve never left Agnes to watch the scones/oven. She always gets distracted, that one. I managed to save some scones for us.
< A plastic container thuds on the table.>
I’ve brought that new book you wanted. It took some trickery to pry it from the author’s hands, you know. They’d only just arrived by courier. She’s so excited. I thought you might like her to visit.
<The cane taps on the floor.>
Oh, sorry. I didn’t see you there. Are you here to see Max and Collin? We haven’t met have we? They said they would introduce us before they left. I’m Enid Turner.
Oh, dear that sounds very formal. <She smiles.> Just call me Aunt Enid.
They didn’t tell you I would be looking after the Parlour, today? They had to pop out to sell some lemonade… <She lowers her voice.> To earn the rent money.
<The clock strikes eleven. Aunt Enid sighs.>
It’s time for Elevenses already? Oh, dear, I am late, aren’t I? That explains why they aren’t here. That’s the problem with Relocation Magic. It’s not always reliable.
<She reaches into her apron pocket, retrieves a book and plops it onto the table. The kettle whistles in the kitchen.>
Do you prefer tea or coffee?
<Tea cups chink onto their saucers. The plastic container snaps open. The smell of freshly baked scones fills the room.>
I made scones and lemon butter. Why don’t you try some.
<She dribbles some honey into her coffee, her hand grips her walking stick as she waits.>
Why, thank you. It’s a family recipe. Are you feeling all right?
<She relaxes and rests the walking stick against her chair.>
Oh, good. Now that’s done, I suppose I should get started.
<She clears her throat.>
Ahem…Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s rambunctiously ridiculous and chi-chi to the core parlour located somewhere within the lower intestines of the splendidly steampunk’d city of Lancaster.
Is that how it goes? Yes? Oh, good. I must apologise; Max and Collin said they would leave some questions for me, but I can’t seem to find them anywhere. I suppose I’ll have to ask the questions myself.
<She sips her coffee.>
Q: Tell us about the new book, Aunt Enid.
Oh, it’s just a little story Agnes and I wrote. My niece, Sally, insisted we publish it. But don’t believe everything you read.
Q: And what is The Dark?
There’s no such things as Shadows and Collectors, or The Dark. That sort of thing gives people nightmares.
<Aunt Enid frowns, picks up the book and reads.>
“When people start disappearing Sally is drawn into her aunt’s secret world and soon discovers her aunt is a Protector Extraordinaire.”
Yes, it’s my duty to stop it breaking through this world’s protective shell, and protect you all. That’s what a Protector does – in the story, that is.
Would you like another scone?
<Aunt Enid turns the book over and shifts in her seat.>
Q: Tell us about your garden?
Oh, I’d love to. Did you know hydrangeas change colour depending on the acidity of the soil? I like/prefer mine to be blue.
What’s that? Why blue? Well… I like blue. It’s a lovely colour don’t you think? Bees like blue. Oh, did I tell you about my bees? They are such lovely creatures. Very observant. As are garden gnomes.
Did I say that?
<Aunt Enid stares into her teacup and whispers to herself.> I wonder what Max has put into the coffee…
<Lightning flashes outside the window. Thunder rumbles over the roof tiles. Aunt Enid grasps her cane and glares out the window. Loud drops of water tap on the roof. Her hand relaxes and she rests her walking stick on her lap.>
Everything’s fine. It’s just a rain storm.
Oh, silly me. You mustn’t mind an old woman. One must be expected to get flustered at my age.
<She smiles, pulls a folded piece of paper from her pocket and places it on the table in front of you.>
Do you like the lemon butter? I promised Max and Collin I’d share my recipe with you.
<The front door slams shut. Footsteps hurry down the hall. Max and Collin enter the Parlour, dripping water all over the carpet.>
Well, it’s about time you two got back. You forgot to leave me some questions to answer.
Yes, Collin, I’ll leave the scones for your afternoon tea.
<Aunt Enid turns back to you, and smiles.>
Thank you for keeping an old lady company. I need to get back to Adelaide and get lunch ready. My Sally’s on afternoon shift at the hospital today. Just make sure Max and Collin don’t hog the scones.
Goodbye Aunt Enid! See you again soon we hope! … Hog the scones indeed! Who does she think we are, a pair of cake crazed tea guzzling lunatics without an ounce of self control when it comes to…. Max! Stop stuffing your face with scones, that is no way to behave in front of our guests… mind you they do look exceedingly tasty… and is that lemon butter? ….
You can read about Aunt Enid’s adventures in the first book of Karen J Carlisle’s new cosy paranormal mystery series, The Other Worlds Chronicles
“Daemons, fairies, magic: it’s all real!
The Otherworld is bleeding through cracks into our world. And Adelaide is ground zero. Something is coming. Something dark – trading souls for passage. And only one person stands between The Dark and the fate of the world.
Aunt Enid is just your average seventy-something year old. She loves to cook, is a regular at bingo and spends hours in her garden, talking to her army of garden gnomes and fussing over the colour of her hydrangeas…
When people start disappearing, her great niece, Sally, is drawn into a secret world and soon discovers her great aunt is a Protector Extraordinaire.”
Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of steampunk, Victorian mystery and fantasy.
She graduated in 1986, from Queensland Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Optometry and lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.
Karen first fell in love with science fiction when she saw Doctor Who as a four-year old (she can’t remember if she hid behind the couch). This was reinforced when, at the age of twelve, she saw her first Star Destroyer. She started various other long-term affairs with fantasy fiction, (tabletop) role-playing, gardening, historical re-creation and steampunk – in that order.
She has had articles published in Australian Realms Roleplaying Magazine and Cockatrice (Arts and Sciences magazine). Her short story, An Eye for Detail, was short-listed by the Australian Literature Review in their 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Karen’s short story, Hunted, featured in the ‘A Trail of Tales’ exhibition in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe.
She writes full-time and can often be found plotting fantastical, piratical or airship adventures.
Karen has always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.
She is not keen on the South Australian summers.
Where to find Karen:
Twitter: @kjcarlisle – https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle
For information on where to buy Karen’s books: http://www.karenjcarlisle.com/shop
You can also follow Aunt Enid’s progress on the book’s FB page.
In the interests of Transparency, a note from Penny : I have the potential to earn a small amount of income through the Amazon Associates program should visitors to this site choose to purchase Aunt Enid – Protector Extraordinaire via the featured links in this article – Penny 🙂
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the sultry summer streets of stemapunk’d Lancaster! You find us not at home this morning but peddling our home made Lemonade on street corners, trying to catch the eye of corruptible young ladies and avoid the attention of Her Majesty’s police force because, as you already know, Lemonade (along with every other sweet treat) is illegal here in the land of Ire.
But we’ve a lot to be cheerful about because although custom is slow this morning and the threat of not making the rent money looms over us like an enormous sinister landlord with a large stick … a-hem… the lull in foot traffic has given us time to kick our tentacles up on a soap box and enjoy a delightful book in the early morning sunshine…
There are so many things to love about the first book in Karen J Carlisle’s new series of cosy paranormal mysteries.
The detailed description drew us straight into the story and kept us there, fully immersed on a sensory level – obviously we humble Lancastrian tea fiends have never actually been to Australia but right from the first page we felt we were there, feeling the intense heat, the buffeting and scorching winds and the scent of eucalyptus and lemon butter, hearing each chink of china or enamel in Aunt Enid’s quaint kitchen and dated bathroom.
Sally is staying with her aged Aunt Enid when the sudden death of Enid’s dearest friend, Olive, hints at events which may put the safety of the entire world in jeopardy. As Enid and her friend Agnes begin to investigate, the secrets which Enid has been keeping from Sally are forced into the light – fairies, daemons and magic are real, so is The Dark ; an inter-dimensional force that is hungry for human souls, and so are the treasured gnomes in Aunt Enid’s garden…
We really loved the fact that the main characters in this series are mostly in the 50 – 80 age range and all multidimensional, feisty and streetwise with no aversion to high speed driving and late night poker sessions, or a spot of romantic intrigue!
Fans of Carlisle’s Viola Stewart series will lap this up like cream – it has the same delightful mix of thrilling suspense, heart-in-mouth action and charming characters and settings that we have all come to adore.
We shall be out here selling Lemonade throughout most of July and August but don not fear, we have invited some of our very favourite authors to come and give us a hand, some will be helping us sell Lemonade, some will be minding the parlour, and those who cannot be here in person will be sending in picture postcards from their exciting inter-dimensional travels!
Tomorrow Aunt Enid will be hopping in from Australia and minding the parlour for us so do please pop in and have a scone with her and until we see you again, please remain always
In the interests of Transparency, a note from Penny : I have the potential to earn a small amount of income through the Amazon Associates program should visitors to this site choose to purchase Aunt Enid – Protector Extraordinaire via the featured links in this article. This has not affected my review, I only review and recommend products which I genuinely think others will enjoy – Penny 🙂
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Thankyou for joining us in the parlour this morning. Our fish-oil lanterns are still burning well, as you can smell…er…see for yourselves and so we laugh in the faces of those who mentioned the impracticalities and health risks of such a venture, at least we would if we could see their faces through the haze of fish-funk and sooty black smoke, ah-hem – ugh – hem..
But all that aside, please, pull up a lemonade crate and a cushion, perhaps even a cat or two, kick your tentacles upon the table and let us treat you to something rather splendid because today we are hosting a leg (tentacle?) of the book tour for the release of Karen J Carlisle’s fabulous new Viola Stewart ebooks – ‘From the Depths’ and ‘Tomorrow, when I die.’
We first fell in love with Viola Stewart almost a year ago when we read Doctor Jack and we have been devoted fan-boys ever since. These next titles in the series did not disappoint, if you are already a fan you can expect the same thrill and excitement of these delightful steampunk mysteries coupled with a cast of much loved characters (and a few new ones to boot!) If you are not familiar with Viola yet then have no fear, you can still enjoy these novellas as stand-alones so, what are we waiting for? Let’s dive in…
FROM THE DEPTHS
Doctor Viola Stewart, a widowed optician with a penchant for investigating, is recuperating after her last adventure ; a relaxing holiday on the Scottish coast, a spot of sea bathing and fossil hunting… but Viola hasn’t been there long before she hears rumours of a mysterious sea monster that is plaguing the local coastline, attacking bathers and fishing boats. At first Viola, woman of science, isn’t taken in by the tales, but when her bathing machine is attacked, it seems that something certainly is haunting the waters around the bay. Determined to investigate, Viola soon stumbles into a web of murder, intrigue and an enigmatic stranger… who is this mysterious Mr Peabody? Who exactly is he working for? And why is he so interested in Viola?
TOMORROW, WHEN I DIE
Viola’s friend , Sir Archibald, physician to the queen, is in danger – he will die tomorrow unless Viola can save him. But as Viola begins to investigate his strange assertions she begins to unravel a fantastical plot involving time travel , secret societies and curious devices that ought only to exist in science fiction! Will Viola’s rational understanding of space and time be forced to accommodate the incredible? Is time travel really the only way to save Sir Archibald? And with her beloved Henry out of action, the dashing Mr. Peabody back on the scene and The Men In Grey lurking in the shadows, just who can Viola trust?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen J Carlisle is an imagineer and writer of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition and published her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, in 2015. Her short story, Hunted, featured in the Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’. Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat. She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea. Her favourite tea at present is a local specialty (special tea – ha!) called Roman’s blend – Assam and Darjeeling combination – named after a friend of hers. He worked with local tea cafe, Kappy’s, to develop the brew. It sold so well, they named it after him.
And there’s the kettle boiling so please do join us in a cup of Roman’s Blend while we tell you about Karen’s free ebook competition…
For a chance to win a free Viola Stewart ebook visit www.karenjcarlisle.com and answer the daily question in the comments below the post. (See Karen’s blog pages for full terms and conditions. ) You can enter once. No purchase is required. To enter, answer the day’s question in the comments below on the corresponding post at www.karenjcarlisle.com Begin your entry comment with ANSWER: (to make it clear you wish to enter).One winner is chosen randomly from those with the correct answer posted in comments below and will be announced at www.karenjcarlisle.com Prize is one Viola Stewart eBook and cannot be redeemed for cash. Prize is redeemed via Smashwords. The winner will be advised to email Karen to receive Voucher code and instructions on how to redeem your prize.
MORE TO LOOK FORWARD TO…
The final ebook in the series is due out early October and the paperback is due later in October. sign up for Karen’s Tea and Tidings newsletter to get all the latest info. http://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/
Where to find Karen on the aether web:
And you can find hints of current research threads on her Pinterest page: https://au.pinterest.com/riverkat42/
We wish you an exceedingly scrumptious afternoon and hope you will join us in the parlour tomorrow for more tea-based adventures, until then,
please be always, Utterly Yourself
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!
I am extremely happy this morning to welcome my dear friends, the paranormal investigators Sir John and Marie Jennings… Good morning to you both, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitc… Sir John? Over here… Marie, my dear, are you sure he can see with those goggles on? Whatever are they for?
Sir John: These are my ectoscopic goggles that allow me to see any spectral energy so as I look around the room…GOOD GOD WHAT IS THAT!
Marie: I think you are looking at the cat, mon cher…if you take the googles off…
Sir John: Ah yes, ahem, yes I’ve seen this before where feline energy can be mistaken for, er, ghostly energy. Perfectly normal.
Mrs Baker: Oh dear yes, I’m so sorry about the cats, they are after my illicit cream stores, you know. Well, why don’t you both have a seat here by the window. How was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you were not delayed by any spectral presences en route?
Sir John: It was relatively uneventful. We made use of my brother Saul’s cabinet to travel here through time from 1901. He was, I’m afraid to say, a bit of a crank, believing in some pseudo scientific hogwash he called Quantum Physick. Most bizarre, with strange parallel worlds and waves behaving like particles. He built this device to travel to these parallel worlds, and it seems to work as it’s brought us here. Hopefully we can return, it’s the first time we’ve used it.
The only real trouble we had was when we were stuck in some hellish box, travelling in random directions with strange, dishevelled muttering creatures. What was that thing called Marie.
Marie: I think it was Southern Rail.
Mrs Baker: Oh dear me yes, I have heard your trains are as bad as our Skyway Rails, for future visits might I recommend the number nine bus, some have found the driver both adventurous and persuadable if bribed with sufficient tiffin. Now then, I shall put the kettle on, have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?
Marie: I brought a recipe that our maid Miss Henderson suggested for Courgette and Milk Soup. She said it is from the “Mysterious and Exotic East”.
Sir John: I think she means Walthamstow.
Mrs Baker: Oh!
Marie: Here is her note…
Mrs Baker: Thankyou my dear, let me see now, she writes… “Dear Mrs Baker, please find below my recipe for Corset and Milk Soup. Take a pound of corsets…” CORSETS?!
Sir John: we think she means courgettes
Mrs Baker: Oh! I see!…...and cook in a bit of water until soft but not too long or the taste will cook out. Mix them up – I use a device Sir John has made for me called a Vegetofruit Blending Device. It’s quite quick and only moderately dangerous. Put aside and then heat a tablespoon of butter and when that’s melted take off the heat and add tablespoon of flour. When that is like a paste, add half a pint of milk and stir until it thickens a little. Then add the corsets and some ground Kew men…
Mrs Baker: Oh yes of course! …and season with salt and pepper. Finally serve in bowls with some Sumac powder sprinkled on top. The soup is mild in flavour and the dark purple colour of the Sumac is a lovely complement to the pale green of the corsets.”
Sir John: Funnily enough she got the name for Sumac powder right. It’s a fascinating spice, rumoured to give anyone that prepares it correctly a five octave singing voice. I’m not sure that’s true but our previous maid, Mrs Flitwick, did once mistake it for cocoa and she made a very high pitched noise.
Mrs Baker: Well it certainly sounds delicious, I wouldn’t worry about the Sumac, the orphans are quite hardy round here you know. So, I will just pop the cauldron onto the fire, there. Now while that is simmering away why don’t you tell us all a little more about the work you do, paranormal investigation sounds most fascinating!
Sir John: Well it all started in Paris, where we met. I was working away at various theories of how to detect paranormal activity. Marie was my willing companion, assisting where she could. Eventually we married and moved to London and set ourselves up as Paranormal Investigators. It was a little easier as my French isn’t terribly good and I was concerned it may be difficult to communicate with francophone fiends.
Mrs Baker: What a wonderful story, I do like a good romantic tale! And I have heard that you employ some very specialist inventions to help with this work, have you brought some along to show the orphans?
Sir John: This is my Thanatograph. It’s allows us to hear the spectral voices of any phantasm. It’s quite subtle, if there are any such entities present we may hear a faint human-like voice when the machine starts. Now I’ve set it up, let’s all be very quiet and see what happens.
Mrs Baker: Is it supposed to do that?
Sir John: Actually no. It’s quite unusual for it to fly around the room like that.
Mrs Baker: Oh, silly me! I’m afraid we are directly above the underground library and so our resident ghost, Perilous Wight, may be setting it off?
Sir John: Ah I see! Let me see if I can catch it. Oooof!
Marie: Mon cher, are you alright!
Sir John: Yes I think so. I don’t chew much on that side of my face anyway. Let me put it away before it causes any real damage.
Mrs Baker: I’m so sorry about that, I hope it will be alright. Well, these machines are all very technical and exciting, but Marie, my dear, (and while Sir John is occupied putting that device away) I cannot help but sense something of the mystical about your aura, I have a feeling that perhaps you do not need such devices to see these ghostly goings on?
Marie: Well, why I sometimes ‘ave some, shall we say, intuition into what may be going on… I’m not sure what you mean or where you have ‘eard this…
Mrs Baker: Oh my dear, I’m so sorry, I did not mean to alarm you or to be rude! Magic is forbidden in this dimension of course, but there are those of us who still practise it in secret where we can and I cannot help but sense that you have, shall we say, the ‘gift of intuition’ when it comes to the paranormal?
Marie: Ah, I see. Well, yes, it is true that I can sometimes offer … more help than is obvious. I like to keep that to myself. Oh look, Sir John is back.
Mrs Baker: Oh marvellous, and that is the kettle singing, can I offer you both some tea? How do you like it?
Sir John: Plenty of milk, three sugars, not too strong.
Mrs Baker: Oh dear, I’m afraid that is almost the last of the sugar, I shall have to visit the smugglers again.
Marie: Black, please. No sugar.
Mrs Baker: There you are. Now I know you have had many adventures but would you like to tell the orphans a little about your most recent or exciting one?
Sir John: Yes we have recently been relating our vacation in Sunnyport in our journal. It started out as a holiday and quickly became a terrifying nightmare. And that was before anything supernatural happened.
Mrs Baker: It all sounds so very exciting! And I hear that Paul Michael and Josephine Pichette have compiled some of your adventures into a book?
Sir John: Yes, indeed. It’s a collection of our first four investigations: a haunting, a strange case of a mesmerised young heiress, a fiendish killer in London, and a theft of some magical artefacts. It’s called, rather appropriately Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators Casebook One. It’s apparently available in South America?
Marie: Amazon, mon cher.
Sir John: Ah, yes.
Mrs Baker: Splendid! And where else can we read about your adventures?
Sir John: Well our journal regularly publishes details of our adventures and other interesting tidbits. Mr Michael and Mme Pichette are kind enough to update it twice weekly. They are also on, is it Twitbook, Marie?
Marie: That’s Twitter and Facebook.
Mrs Baker: Splendid! And will there be more books in the future?
Sir John: Yes indeed, Mr Michael and Mme Pichette are, I believe, chronicling our recent trip to Paris in a book they are calling The Paris Awakening. You may have read about the aftermath of that trip in the papers. It made the front page.
Marie: I don’t think Mrs Baker gets Le Monde here, and not from 1900, especially.
Mrs Baker: No indeed, the year here is 1840… and besides which, the only paper I get the is Tiffindependent…
Sir John: Well I believe it was in The Times as well…page 27. Underneath an advert for a mechanical carpet cleaner.
Mrs Baker Well perhaps I can use my soup-scrying techniques to locate a copy. Ah but that soup certainly smells the ticket doesn’t it? Thank you so much for coming to help out in the kitchen today, my dears, it’s been wonderful to chat with you but now those little urchins must be ravenous so shall we start dishing it up?
Sir John: Yes, let’s! Thank you so much for having us to visit. I’m terribly sorry about the scorch marks from the Cryptozoetropometer. I can pay to have that cleaned.
Marie: Yes thank you Mrs Baker, it’s been nice to meet a fellow…cook.
Mrs Baker: Indeed! Thankyou all of you for joining us in the soup kitchen today, I hope you will come back again next week and until then
Blessings on your brew my dears!
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s luxuriously libatious and rigorously refreshing parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.
True some have called it a refuge for Yellowists, where the company are all sour and full of bitterness and where the refreshments leave a nasty taste in One’s mouth, but we consider that such unadventurous individuals are not used to adding birds eye chillies to their morning Lady Grey … it is an acquired taste and one we discovered, quite by accident, in the depths of the Jentacular Jungle…
But I digress! Please, come in, step around the mountains of discarded lemon husks and… no, no don’t worry that is only sugar syrup, I’m afraid that making lemonade is an extremely messy business but you know these tentacles come in very handy and as you can see we have quite a mountain of bottles filled now and ready to sell.
But it is rather exhausting work so, I think it is time to kick our tentacles up on the table, pop on a brew of Lemon Meringue Tea from Post Tea and open a marvellous book, like this one…
“Jennings and Jennings, Paranormal Investigators, available for hire in the Home Counties. Are you plagued by supernatural goings on or troubled by fantastical events? We can help, using the most modern scientific advances, to rid you of even the most ancient of terrors. 3 pence an hour, double on Sunday.”
We have been gleefully following the adventures of Sir John and Marie Jennings via the online journal The Benthic Times for quite some time now so when we heard they were publishing their first casebook we simply had to get our tentacles on it at once!
This collection of four Steampunk Paranormal Mysteries stands out as something particularly special. The mysteries are real, intense and engaging – from ghostly apparitions to machinating mesmerists and ghastly fiends to mysterious missing treasures, there is an enthralling mixture of Victorian folklore and imagination brought together in each carefully crafted adventure.
In beautiful balance to this serious backbone, the over-enthusiastic Sir John, brandishing his alarming home made detecting devices, is called in to solve each case. Thankfully, his compassionate and competent wife, Marie, is usually able to use her ‘intuition’ to keep them on the right track and the resolutions are always both satisfying and surprising.
Fans of Mark Hodder are bound to appreciate this delightful mix of paranormal mystery and comedic Steampunk, and we certainly can’t wait for the next casebook to be released.
We wish you all a very marvellous morning filled with sweetness and spice in equal measure, and until we see you again,
please, be always
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! A very warm welcome back to Max and Collin’ s ravishingly refreshing and zestily zany parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.
True some have called it too piquant for their tastes, but we consider that such individuals are simply sour that they have not yet received an invitation.
Well you find us this morning safely returned from our inter-dimensional jaunt to MCM Comic Con in London (for some reason your London is not a clockwork city run by Land Pirates as ours is but nevertheless our tri-cornered hats, fake mechanical limbs and crys of ‘arrrr me hearties!’ did not seem to be out of place)
Unfortunately operating the photographic device we had brought with us whilst preventing our small hoard of street urchins from half-inching shiny things, assaulting aliens with their lethal balloon-swords and getting themselves locked up by the security team meant we didn’t actually take many photographs, but here is a small taste of some of the steampunk splendidness that was on show in case you weren’t able to make it there yourselves …
But now the excitement is all over and we are very pleased to be home and able to kick our tentacles up on the table with a splendid pot of Lady Grey tea from Mystic Brew Teas and an excellent book… like this one…
Katie is a 28 year old woman in crisis; her relationship (if you could ever call it that) has crumbled and she’s back at her father’s house popping pills and drowning her sorrows while her demonic step sister is trying to win the world’s worst tantrum award. But when the little brat falls down the stairs, breaking her neck, Katie is blamed for her murder and sent to Greystone Asylum… a dark and terrifying place where death stalks in a black hood and no one is quite what they seem. Who is the mysterious murderer? What secrets are the doctors harbouring behind their office doors? And will Katie survive long enough to find out?
To call this book a contemporary lesbian murder mystery would be accurate but not do it justice. The raw reality of Susanna Kaysen meets the gripping horror of Paul Hoffman in this dark and twisted tale which, amongst the sexual intrigue and the pervading tension, has at its heart some deep questions about humanity, our concept of self and our judgement of others.
Overall, a gripping page-turner which horror and mystery fans will adore.
Now our oracular cephalopterois is straining at the leash to tell us something so let us pop him into his teacup and what his far seeing spines have plucked from the aether for us this morning…
Oh ho! Well, that makes sense because it is indeed lemonade season here in Ire and our meticulously maniacal landlord Montmorency has been badgering us again about getting out there and selling the stuff so, for the next few weeks we will be All Over Lemonade; its history, place in Victorian culture and lots of luscious recipes for making your own.
So, we invite you back to join us tomorrow for some lusciously lemony elevenses and until then, please be always,