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 back to Max and Collin’s marvellously magical parlour located somewhere within the bowels of the splendidly scenic city of steampunk’d Lancaster!
True some have called it a house of illusion and deception where strange creatures wait to lure unsuspecting travellers to doom, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
This morning we have some exciting news to share with you all! As well as our wonderful Hopeless Shenanigans at Time Quake Steampunk Festival last month, we had the very great honour of meeting The Ministry Of Steam Wizards, being sorted into our steam wizard houses by Aethelred The Pigeon Of Pigeonholing and taking part in their wand making, potions and wand duelling sessions!
WE CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH, THE ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF AWESOME THAT IS THE MINISTRY OF STEAM WIZARDS!
But if you were not at Time Quake, fear not! You can join us at The Ministry Of Steampunk Wizards right now and become part of this fabulous, friendly, supportive and super-splendiferous steampunk society!
Just like the Harry Potter houses, there are four Steampunk Wizard houses which Aethelred the pigeon of pigeonholing can sort you into. A quick questionnaire (which of course, just like the Hogwarts sorting hat, takes into account your own personal preference) will determine whether you would be best placed in
Shackleton : The best house to be in and not just because it is the house that we – and by association Penny – were sorted into! Named after the great polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, some may call us bold, pigheaded and obstinate but we know that is just the green eyed monster speaking.
Here’s a word from our head of house:
“Good evening everyone I shall take this opportunity to introduce myself and the next school house.
My name is Professor Albert Vastin and I am the head of Shackleton house, I am also the Duelling instructor at our school. We of Shackleton house are said to be Persistent and strong willed to the point of obstinacy, I prefer to see us as determined in all our endeavours. It’s a fact that we are the more likely of our brethren to put our magic aside and get our hands dirty be it adapting non magic gadgets to meet our own needs or expanding our knowledge of far flung corners of the world, it’s no wonder many of the great explorer of the last century came from our house, after all one of the greatest is our founder and patron! Our house colour is blue and house song is Nimrod. (At least it will be when I persuade the other heads that we should have house songs!)
Our house motto is “Exultemus in faciem adversis.” Which means “Triumph in the face of adversity.”
Our house founder Earnest Shackleton lived these qualities in abundance. A wizard of iron will he lead several polar expeditions braving sub zero temperatures and hard ships that would make most of us tremble, he managed all this without magic. (He lived too close to them to hide it). He greatest achievement was the saving of his crew while they were trapped in ice and their supplies ran low.
I look forward to greeting those who join our endeavours to discover just what is beyond the horizon, we can equip you for that journey in Shackleton House.”
Nightingale : Named after the famous founder of nursing Florence Nightingale, never cross a Nightingale they say, for the only difference between medicine and poison is the dose!
Here’s a word from their head of house:
“Felicitations my good people! Welcome to the next House in The Steam Wizard School- Nightingale 🙂 I am Queenie Goldsteam, your Head of House and Matron. We are inspired by the great heroine, Florence Nightingale, the lady of the lamp (who was, of course, a light magic user). A pioneer in her field. Our attributes are that we are caring, considerate, patient, helpful but ruthless. We are resourceful and respond well to crisis and change. We are leaders and specialists in any field we choose.
Our House Colour: Red (for the blood of life)
I look forward to meeting fellow Nightgalians! Do you have what it takes to:
“A cool head and a warm heart light the way” ? ”
Edmonstone Named after John Edmonstone the taxidermist who taught and inspired Charles Darwin, Edmonstonians are persistant in the face of adversity and prefer to work quietly behind the scenes supporting and encouraging the endeavours of others – a bit like ninjas really… only more kind-hearted and possibly bearing cake… cake ninjas?
Here’s a word from their head of house:
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen! I am Professor Solis Dark and I am here to introduce the final of our four houses- Edmonstone.
Edmonstone house is known for perseverence. We will not give up no matter the odds, and grow in the face of adversity. Our quiet strength comes from our rigour, and we apply ourselves thoroughly to any task. We are often most comfortable behind the scenes, providing knowledge and support.
We are a creative house, learning and growing together (as our symbol would suggest). In Edmonstone you are encouraged to be the best you can without judgement. Education is valued in Edmonstone in all forms, as is creativity. We are creators, in science and in the arts.
Our founder was John Edmonstone, the freed slave who taught Charles Darwin, ultimately encouraging him to move from medicine to naturalism. He inspired Darwin with tales of his time in the deep rainforests of South America and was a talented taxidermist. He was a learned man, who achieved great things in time, and we are proud to bear his name.
Our house motto is ‘gutta cavat lapidem’, inspired by his perseverance. It translates to “a water drop hollows a stone” or “constant dripping wears the stone”. I look forward to welcoming new members of Edmonstone!
A small admin note for any prospective Edmonstonians: I am primarily based on Venus for field research and am often away from my office for long periods. My Acting Head of House is Lauramavic Caradonna who will be representing Edmonstone at some events we attend. Feel free to direct queries at us both.”
Earheart Named after Amelia Earheart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic, ask an Earheart where they’ve been and you’ll likely be told “Where haven’t I been? WOOOOOFF!”
Here’s a word from their head of house:
“Good evening, fellow Steam Wizards!
The first house that I proudly present to you is the House Of Earheart. Named after the great Amelia Earheart, female pilot (and secret witch of the Ministry), Earheart has inspired the qualities of our House: Bold, adventurous, and lovers of derring do! Outgoing and brash- not afraid to break convention and fly with ideas!
I (Korbynn Talon) will be your head of house and I look forward to meeting fellow Earheartians! Do you have the derring do to be one of us?
On Wings We Fly!”
SORTED! WHAT NEXT? ….
Once you’ve sorted yourself, you’ll need to make a wizard name for yourself, you might have one in mind already but if you need a little help you can use this WIZARD NAME GENERATOR
Once you have your name and house you’re ready to come and introduce yourself on the facebook forum!
Here you can meet the staff and your fellow wizards, post anything pertaining to your steampunk wizarding adventures and create a personal Chronicles file which can build up over time as an on going in-character diary of your magical adventures!
Wizards and witches of all ages are welcomed at the Ministry Of Steam wizards and their ‘outreach programme’ seeks to encourage and support youngsters by sending them a letter of encouragement and support or congratulations for an achievement ( you can ask them to put a specific thing in the letter if you wish) along with a steam wizard certificate. This is a heart-meltingly wonderful idea which they are providing for free so if you know a young witch or wizard who could do with a boost let the steam wizards know!
Once you’ve settled in you’ll no doubt want to get yourself kitted out in some top wizarding tweeds so pop along to Madame Warpweft’s Academic Outfiters and pick up your wand, robes and official house badges, pins and hair bands, all at super-affordable prices (our little urchins were able splash their pocket money on plenty of fabulous things!)
Besides contributing to the online community there are plenty of fun and practical things you can do at home or at conventions which The Ministry Of Steam Wizards are present at.
The Ministry has devised an excellent system for wizard duelling with steampunk spells! The actual spells to be used will change at each convention or event, making it fair for newcomers, and the system works with a core of 5 spells where each spell defeats two others (exactly like rock, paper, scissors!) at the duelling master’s word the two duellists shout their spells and the judges determine who has won. Anyone can duel for fun or in the training workshops but formal competitors must be aged 10 years or over.
The spells used at Time Quake (so that you can have a go now at home!) were:
Coglito Totalis! (Beats Steamulto and Punkus)
Steamulto! (Beats Automata and Tenebitur)
Automata! (Beats Punkus and Coglito Totalis)
Punkus! (Beats Steamulto and Tenebitur)
Tenebitur! (Beats Automata and Coglito Totalis)
If you’re more of a potion brewer than a wand waver, we also had fun at Time Quake brewing colour changing potions of love, healing and death! our little urchins enjoyed this so much they had a potions day at home and devised their own simple system for naming steampunk potions, which you are welcome to borrow:
Take a Latin prefix which describes the type of potion you are making, add any word associated with steampunk, end with any Latin suffix that sounds cool!
So there you have it, what are you waiting for?! Come and join us at the Ministry Of Steam Wizards and look out for them at your next Steampunk convention!
We will be back in the parlour next week with a review of Selkie Cove by one of our favourite authors of all time, Kara Jorgensen, so until then please remain always
PS: It shouldn’t need to be said but, just in case: ” Intellectual copyright of everything in this post – rules, names and spells, competition and games etc. are the intellectual copyright of the Ministry Of Steam Wizards and not to be used elsewhere without prior agreement. Ministry of Steam Wizard (MoSW) and Mme Warpweft’s Academic Outfitters logos, house emblems, products and prizes belong to the group as intellectual property. The admins/staff reserve the right to refuse third parties to reproduce and access to MSW logos and emblems. Logos/ emblems/ names/ Houses/ intellectual content must not to be used for profit and resale. Use of logos in re-creation for personal use is permitted (and indeed encouraged- we love to see what you can do for your and your families outfits!) with copyright credited on anything shown online (physical produce, art work ,writing for instance).”
Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.
I am the ghost known as Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.
But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of that incorrigible octopus and its unnerving Gentleman Friend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by strange creatures promising cake. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here; here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!
But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? A bottle of Single Malt eh? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,
like this perhaps… it is an extract from Army Of Brass and marks our last stop on their blog tour…
Army of Brass
By Phoebe Darqueling
The funicular trundled to a stop on the landing, and Jack approached the door release. It hissed open, but Elaina stayed frozen in place, her eyes once again resting on the Baron as he and his men dismembered the fallen automaton. Crashes reverberated from around the bend as more of the giants began to move.
“Focus, Elaina,” Jack pleaded. “We need to go.”
When her eyes met his again, something had changed. The rage and sorrow had drained away, leaving her gaze hollow but determined. Her spine straightened, and her shoulders relaxed as she put the gun back into its holster. Her free hand briefly rested on her shoulder, then the last trace of rage melted from her body as she strode forward.
She passed the Cartographer and went straight to the interior controls, calling over her shoulder, “Are you coming?”
With a smirk, he followed her into the cabin. Elaina moved a dial and a lever, and the funicular rose again from the valley floor before he’d even hit the button to close the door. Apparently, she was taking his plea for speed to heart, but he’d have waited for that particular nicety. They swayed slightly as they rose, and Jack grabbed frantically for one of the leather straps built into the wall to steady himself. He glanced out the open door to see the solid ground creeping away. It felt as though he’d left his stomach behind.
“Vertigo?” Elaina scoffed, taking in his grim expression and white knuckles with a gesture. “You’re an airship captain. How could you possibly be afraid of heights?”
“It’s somewhat of a new development…” he choked, falling back gratefully into a seat across from her.
As they crept upward, more of battle came into view. Several more of the Cartographer fleet had arrived, their mismatched colors and designs a delightful quilt against the cheery blue of the sky. More soldiers poured out of the cavern, bolstered by the air support. At least two of the automatons seemed to be immobilized, but down the line, head after head lifted and turned its attention to the fight.
“Look!” Elaina rushed to the door, pointing frantically. “It’s Aletha!”
One of the automatons reached out with its drill-arm spinning and drove the point into the chest of another metal giant. The whine and the screech of metal rang out over the valley as the thing’s mechanical guts were ripped out.
Another automaton raised a fist and smashed it into the head of Aletha’s giant. The two machines stood frozen for several seconds, then the attacker lowered its arm and turned its attention to another of Bircham’s machines. The two of them ripped off its arms.
“It’s working,” Jack sighed.
“So far,” his companion agreed.
They had only made it about halfway up the mountainside, but the funicular chose that moment to lurch to an unexpected halt. Sweat beaded on Jack’s brow while Elaina calmly looked over the control panel.
Outside the cabin, most of the Cartographer fleet was engaged with the rebel lords, but a few of them had turned their attention to the brass army. A net shot from a massive gun and enveloped the head and shoulders of one of the automatons. It struggled for a moment, and Jack dared to hope it would stumble and fall. Then it reached up a massive hand, grabbing onto the line. His gut heaved as the machine ripped the airship from the sky.
When he couldn’t take her measured silence any longer, he blurted. “What happened? Can you fix it?”
She shrugged and turned toward him. “It’s not a problem from this end. It must be the winch at the top. There could be shrapnel in the mechanism, or Bircham had it disabled. Either way, it’s useless now. We can’t go up or down.”
Jack wheeled back to the door and saw parachutes blooming around the falling ship. One of the Marksmen trained his gun carefully as he sailed toward the ground. With a single, expert shot, he ignited the hydrogen, and the airship burst into a fiery ball. The automaton batted it away, undeterred, only to have one of Aletha’s metal giants punch it in the chest.
He hadn’t realized Elaina had joined him at the door until she murmured, “We can’t stay here, either. It’s only a matter of time before we’re hit by debris, or one of those things notices us.”
“How?” Jack spluttered, though on some level he knew exactly what she was about to propose. “You said it’s broken!”
“We’ll simply need to climb,” she replied. “The cable is intact, and we can use the ties between the tracks like steps.”
“I… don’t think I can…”
She waved away the panic in his voice. “Of course you can. We use those rocks and then go around to the front to grab onto the cable. It’s simple. See?” Elaina vaulted from the open door and scrambled over the jagged stone. Jack’s shock immobilized him until he heard her voice from the front of cab. “Are you coming, Mr. Davenport?”
With far more resolution than he felt, he answered in the affirmative and followed her path. He could feel the wound at his hip reopen as he lunged, and hot blood soaked his bandage by the time he reached her. True to her word, a taut cable ran up the middle of the track, and the evenly-spaced wooden beams would make the climb much easier, but the pain flashed bright, and nausea roiled in his guts. He leaned against the cab to catch his breath and put pressure on the gash in his hip.
“Pull yourself together,” Elaina said. “You’re the one who told me to focus, remember?”
Jack help up his bloody hand. “Ashtan’s handiwork.”
“I can take a look at it once we reach the top, but right now, we have got to move.”
Elaina started up the tracks, hand over steady hand as she progressed up the cable. Jack steeled himself against the pain, then followed. The sounds of the battle echoed all around them, but he resisted the urge to turn around and watch. The cable bit into his palms, giving him something to focus on besides the fact that he was over a hundred feet in the air. He kept his eyes trained on Elaina’s back and tried to match her steady pace until a few stray pebbles got between his boot and the next tie. He kept hold of the cable but landed on his bloody hip with a groan.
“I can’t. My leg—”
“Yes, yes. Your leg hurts. I heard you,” Elaina said, glancing over her shoulder before taking another step. “But honestly, what are you proposing? Will you build a nest and live up here like some sort of great buzzard?”
“This is no time for jokes, Mrs. Gable.” Jack used his good leg to regain his footing and willed himself back to standing.
“Was I joking? I can’t always tell these days,” she said thoughtfully. After another two steps, she called over her shoulder, “What I do know is that I am neither willing nor able to pull you to the top, due to the obvious discrepancy between your bulk and my upper body strength. Ergo, you shall have to climb or find some way to derive sustenance from bare—and might I remind you, toxic—stone.”
Jack frowned at her back, which was getting farther and farther away. He took a deep breath, then another step. A drop of his own blood splattered the wood under his feet, and his vertigo reasserted itself.
“Unless of course you plan to die,” she speculated, now at least ten paces ahead. “It would seem a rather fitting ending for your legend, as long as the details never made it out.”
He shook away the bout of dizziness and resolved not to let the gap between them grow any wider. With teeth gritted against the pain, he finally began to move.
Up ahead, Elaina continued. “Think about it! You lost your ship, the love of Captain Davenport’s life, on a mission to save the king. If you were to die here in the valley, everyone would think you were struck down in the Battle of Brasshaven. Now that would be one for the storybooks,” she said. “Then, of course, this discussion is all academic, and the necessity of your moving from that spot is moot. In which case, could you please let go and stop distracting me from climbing? This last part will be tricky.”
“What has gotten into you?” he marveled.
“Nothing at all. I simply took your advice,” she grunted. “Bircham is the mission. And if I am correct, and I nearly always am, we shall find him at the top of this cliff. I am simply attempting to keep you on task.”
The noise in the valley started to fade. Jack thought at first it was just because they were getting higher, but he risked taking a look. Yet more Marksmen still poured out of the caverns, and he heard the shouts of the smiths better than ever. But he realized in horror that the automatons no longer seemed to be fighting each other. Aletha was losing.
“You should press on without me!” he cried. “I just need a rest, that’s all. You have Rose’s gun, you shouldn’t need more than that.”
“You may proceed with that course of action, but I would advise against it,” she replied, disappearing over the top of the cliff. “Your arms are already shaking. What do you think a few more minutes will do?”
He willed himself to take another step. It couldn’t be more than a few more paces, but his throat was closing in panic. His wound bled freely. The Marksmen were clearly no match for the machines. The Cartographers were outgunned. And now, Aletha was failing. All was lost.
“You know the problem with stories, Jack? They are too… clean. The writers always type ‘The End,’ but it isn’t really, is it? Real endings are far more complicated than the stories make them out to be.”
He concentrated on the sound of her voice and continued his agonized climb.
“Besides,” she continued, “if you do decide to survive, I am sure the Society would be happy to get you back into the air again. Then there would be plenty of time for more adventures.”
Hope wasn’t lost. Hope was waiting just a few feet above his head. All he had to do was reach it. With a defiant cry, he harnessed his pain and took the last three strides to reach the top. At the edge, the cable no longer stood above the ground but instead lay directly against the ties. His tired hands scrabbled at the stone as he got his torso up and over, then he felt Elaina grab his belt and add her strength to his.
Jack spent a moment catching his breath, then struggled out of the pack. He heard Elaina rifling through it as the spots swam out of his vision, then turned over on his back. She held out a canteen. “Perhaps you could take me somewhere, when this is all over. I think we both could use a holiday.”
“Thanks for waiting,” he replied, taking a swig of water.
She smirked and pointed out, “You’ve got my bullet.”
And don’t forget, Army of Brass is available now! 21 international writers came together to create this tale of giant automatons, fearless airship captains, and deadly conspiracies.
Plus, Join us on Facebook April 28-29 to meet the writers, participate in giveaways, and more!
Not sure if it’s for you? Read a review, take a sneak peek at the full Chapter 1 or read another exclusive excerpt. You can also get to know the character Captain Jack Davenport a little bit better with his interview on Blake & Wight. If you want to find out more about collaborative writing, Army of Brass contributors and Collaborative Writing Challenge veterans Crystal MM Burton and Kathrin Hutson shared articles for the tour about the pros, cons, and rewards.
Speaking of giveaways, you can enter to win ebooks from the CWC writers.
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s brazenly brassy and aggressively amorous parlour located somewhere beneath the bustling city of steampunk’d Lancaster.
Our tentacles are trembling with excitement to be back in the parlour, after so many calamitous adventures, and also to be part of the Army f Brass blog tour this week so without further ado let us hand you cup of tea, kick our tentacles up on the table and take a look at this marvellous book.
Army Of Brass was written by the Collaborative Writing Challenge with a different author writing each chapter. This gives the text quite a unique feel. On the one hand there is an inescapable sense of each chapter being its own ‘unit’ or ‘micro-story’ and on the other the neat plot development and consistency that speaks of the tight orchestration that must have taken place behind the scenes in order to bring a novel like this together, couple this with a cast of fully developed and likeable characters and you get an exciting, fast flowing steampunk adventure with just the right amount of romance, technology and political intrigue. It’s an amazing accomplishment and we’re all-over impressed by it.
Master Tinkerer Elaina Gable has settled into her new life after escaping her home country which was attacked by the blood thirsty conqueror The Hunter Baron. When the Baron’s warmongering threatens to destroy her new life as well, Elaina is certain she knows a way to stop him; by reviving the ancient automaton army, the Tinkerers and the Smiths believe they can defeat the Baron, but the automatons harbour a deadly secret linked to the toxic valley in which they now sit rusting away. Only the mysterious silver skinned woman seems to hold the key, but will she decided to help or hinder Elaina and her friends as the Baron’s army draws nearer…
This is a nice, straightforward, old fashioned steampunk adventure full of automatons and airships and some really likeable characters (It was really lovely to see an older, mature heroine for once!) Excellent plot with a few carefully crafted twists and turns and overall a nice smooth read for existing steampunk fans or a perfect entry-point for newcomers to the genre.
Tomorrow we continue the Army of Brass blog tour and have the very great pleasure of entertaining Captain Jack Davenport of the Capital Cartographer’s Society for elevenses and so we must now ask you to excuse us while we race about trying on ludicrous amounts of bombazine and lace…. unless that is you’d like to stay and help a poor floundering octopus with his corset?
Well, until next time then, please remain always,
If you’ve been following this blog for a while now you’ll know that the word Gypsy (especially with a lower case g ) is a highly offensive word to most Rromani people. What you might not know is why it is so upsetting. You might also want to know the correct term to use instead and a google search might well leave you even more baffled on that score! So, hopefully this post will be a good resource for this subject and of course if you have any questions (or if you’re fed up with me banging on about all this) feel free to leave your comments in the … er… comments section 🙂
In order to understand this subject clearly, you first need to understand a bit about our language and history…
The Rromani People are a displaced diaspora of India. Back around the time of the crusades, Rajput military units were formed to protect different regions of India from invading Muslim armies. As these soldiers and their families and attendants all spoke different dialects / languages, a military language had to be formed which all could understand. This language formed the basis of what is now the spoken and written language of Rromani people worldwide.
When we refer to the way we speak might say ‘Romanes.’ But that is not the name of our language. The word Rom (s) / Roma (pl) means ‘a person / us / the people / (one of) the group / the family / ‘ so to speak Romanes means to speak ‘in the way of the group / the family / the people / us / to speak in our way … it is not the name of a language and, strictly speaking therefore, ‘Rom / Roma’ is not the name of our people.. it just means ‘(one of) the people.’ (It can also mean husband but not in this context – like the word ‘man’ can mean ‘a man’ or ‘people in general.’)
So, if you refer to Rromani people as The Roma or a Rromani person as ‘A Rom’ (which a lot of people do) you are saying ‘The People’ / ‘The Group’ / ‘The Family’ or ‘One of the people / the group / the family’. That is absolutely fine, many Rromani people speak in that way, most don’t mind it even if they don’t use it themselves. It’s certainly a polite, respectful way to speak to or about Rromani people.
Getting back to the Rajputs again, two groups were defeated by the Muslim armies and forced to leave their lands. Some were captured by Turkish armies and forced to join as slaves, those who escaped into Eastern Europe were immediately captured and enslaved for hundreds of years, those who fled west were unable to find a place to settle but continued travelling through Greece and eventually into the rest of Europe, using their military skills, skills in metal work and horse trading (as well as trades they learnt along the way such as entertaining, dancing and fortune telling – more about that in another post I think? ) to make money.
Obviously during this time The Group was forced to split many times. As each new splinter group moved through different countries, new words were added to the military language they all spoke – thus each clan now speaks a slightly different version of that first ‘Language of The Group.’ They also began to refer to themselves by different names, names that for the most part described their skills and trades much in the same way as surnames do the world over.
I belong to the Petulengros (Smiths) who are of the English clan known as Romanichals (which literally means ‘Rromani Chaps’ ) and the Kalderash (The cauldron makers / copper-smiths who turned their pots on fat posts hammered into the ground). Often a Rromani family have kept their clan name (or a version of it). Sometimes though they have had to change it in order to hide the fact they are a Rromani person and so allow them to avoid persecution and live an integrated, peaceful life with the rest of society.
So, some Rromani people don’t like to be called Rom or The Roma – you can understand that now right? They don’t want to be called ‘One of the group’ or ‘The People’ … they want to be called by their clan / family name (Like you might say ‘I’m a Jones’ or ‘I’m a McGill’) they prefer to identify as something related to who their family is and what they do / did.
If you think at this point that Rromani people seem incredibly fussy and it is all terribly difficult to know what to call them please look at it this way…
You might call yourself ‘English’ or ‘American’ defining yourself by your location.
If you do so / have ever done so, please take a moment to consider that it is a privilege to be able to claim a geographical location as an aspect of your identity. It implies that you are an accepted member of that place, you belong there, it is a part of you, it’s your home.
Rromani people do not have that privilege, have not been permitted to join another nation and call it home, they have been refugees for hundreds of years and so they must find different ways of defining themselves. (And, I feel, this is food for thought for all of us when we consider the long term impact of our treatment of refugees and immigrants today.)
(It has been suggested that Rromani people reclaim their Indian connection and that is ‘all well and good’ but as many of us now have fair skin and hair and look anything but Indian, that idea seems a little laughable really! So we continue to be ‘The Family’ / ‘That Group that left India together’ because no other nation has welcomed us and we cannot now go back.)
There are so many Rromani clans in the world today (Wikipedia has a quite dreadful map showing a very few in simple blocks which can only act as a rough guide) many, as I say, call themselves Rom / Roma and some prefer their specific clan name.
So, there you have it – When referring to a Rromani person or people you can say…
Rom – One of the people
Roma – The People
Romany (/ Romani / Rromani / Rhomani ) person – A person who is of the group (spelling is dependant on dialect)
Romany (/Romani / Rromani/ Rhomani) people – The people who belong to the group
Or you can use the specific name of the clan the person / people belong to eg: Sinti, Kalderash, Kale, Romanichal etc…
My advice is to just be clear about what word / spelling you are using, what it means and why you are using it.
“But why not gypsy?” I hear you say … well, again we need to look at history and language…
The word is a shortening of ‘Egyptian’. When Rromani people first fled into Europe their dark skin and hair caused people to mistake them for Turkish invaders and later either for Egyptians or people from Little Egypt (sources are unclear as to which). They were nick named ‘gyptians’ which soon became ‘gypsies.’ Obviously a homeless refugee population are powerless to dictate what they ‘should be called’.
The word gypsy became so far removed from the word Egyptian that, rather than describing the mistaken place of origin of a group of people, it instead took on its own bizarre set of definitions. Various leaders including Vlad The Impaler, Henry The Eighth and Hitler, all used the word gypsy to justify the de-humanisation and murder of thousands of Rromani people. Rromani people were burnt with the ‘gypsy brand’ on their skin which marked them as belonging to animal rather than to human kind and having no right to existence. They were then tortured, sterilised or simply murdered.
At least 250,000 Rromani people were murdered during the Holocaust alone, at least 85% of Germany’s Rromani population were branded ‘gypsies’ and exterminated because they were seen as sub-human.
During the industrial revolution, the notion of ‘being a gypsy’ was seen as a desirable alternative to the horrors of factory and inner city life. The dehumanisation of ‘gypsies’ at this time took a different turn as they were seen as wild, free, close to nature or at one with it, romantic, mysterious, magical, desirable, roguish, care free… writers, poets and artists failed to see the poverty and persecution suffered by a people who were not nomadic or ‘free’ , but shackled to a seasonal circuit of a few safe ‘atching tan’ (‘stopping places’) where seasonal farm work could be found, not allowed to own property, speak their own language or step foot inside shops. The Gypsy Law Society epitomised the attitude when they declared membership of their elite ‘research group’ required that the gentleman must first ‘bed a gypsy.’
You can, I hope, see why nobody would want this label. Why it is distasteful, sickening and upsetting for a Rromani person to be called a gypsy. Is it any different with a capital G? I don’t think so.
So, as writers and readers and steampunk enthusiasts who write and read and cosplay in an era where Rromani people were very visible and were habitually branded ‘gypsies’ how can we include the experiences of Rromani people of that time period without perpetuating the ongoing prejudice?
It might seem like a challenge but it’s really a no-brainer – look at other oppressed groups of the colonial period. How should they be referred to / treated / spoken about in historical or punk fiction? You might for example have a racist or ignorant English character refer to an African character using the N word, but you wouldn’t use the N word in the main text of the narrative to refer to that African person would you? You also wouldn’t call them ‘The N….’ , you would use their name. Just consider the G word, exactly the same as the N word. Because, to Rromani people , it is the same.
( Some Rromani people do use the word Gypsy – either because they are trying to re-claim and re-shape it as a form of empowerment or because the word Rromani is so often met with confusion from non-Rromani people. Many cultures take words that have historically been used against them and turn them into a form of personal power – that, surely, is their prerogative. )
If we couple the respectful use of language to talk about Rromani people, with an accurate portrayal of their history and culture, hopefully we can move the image of Rromani people away from the fantastical / de-humanised ‘gypsy’ and back into reality.
I really hope this info has been helpful – I’m by no means a linguistic scholar or historian though so if you think that I’ve made a mistake anywhere do please forgive me and feel free to discuss it, we are all learning together afterall 🙂 And of course if you have any questions or want me to cover any more topics on this subject let me know,
Big blessings, Penny 🙂
Greetings! Here, as promised, is another careful look at how to respectfully draw on aspects of Rromani culture and history in order to construct a Steampunk character. Again, I’ve used the word Gypsy in the title here because many people mistake the word Rromani for Romanian but most Rromani people find the term Gypsy offensive so it really is better not to use it. As several people have asked me for more details about this I will do another post soon explaining in detail where the various spellings of Rromani come from, which to use, the history of the word ‘Gypsy’ and why it is offensive.
But for now, let’s look at our next character…
Papusza means ‘dolly’ in the Rromani way of speaking and was the nick name given to real life Rromani poet Bronislawa Wajs by her mother. She was called ‘dolly’ because of her beauty but the word is a double edged sword – a ‘dolly’ is a pretty, powerless play thing, manipulated as suits the one who plays with it and then dropped when that player becomes distracted or bored.
Bronislawa’s poems about the difficulties faced by Rromani people on the road were used against the Rromani community by various government regimes as an excuse for the execution, sterilisation or forced settlement of Rromani people (not into decent housing and mainstream society, which most would have desired) but onto filthy containment camp sites where their strict religious codes of cleanliness and ritual (Rromanipen) could not be observed. The problems of illness, poverty, persecution and social segregation which Papusza wrote about were obviously not solved by this move and the Rromani community blamed her for the trouble she had caused them by trusting her words to the hands of non-Rromani people.
A lot of lies can be found about her on the internet – for example, that she was cast out by her people for being a poet, that women are not allowed to be poets in Rromani society, she was not allowed to read and write because Rromani people believe these things are evil, that she agreed with the forced settlement regime and that the Rromani family she travelled with were lawless nomads.
A film has been made about her life but I haven’t seen it personally and so I’m not sure how authentic and accurate it may be…
The sad truth is that most of her work is now out of print, recordings are like gold dust and versions that do exist have sometimes been altered slightly / interpreted differently “Dikchaw daj, dikchaw doj…” I look here, I look there, I cannot find my Papusza…
So I found myself wanting to pay tribute to her in my own small way, by basing a steampunk character around her real life self. But I know I’m on very dangerous ground here – what I absolutely don’t want to do is add to the false mythology that has grown up around her and now prevents people with a genuine interest from discovering the whole truth. I must remain respectful to the truth and evidence of who she was, as well as to her family and clan, her friends and everyone who may be affected by my actions in characterising her.
So, instead of trying to take Bronislawa (as little as I can ever know of her) and plonk her clumsily into my steampunk world, I’m going to build an entirely new character who suffers the same problem of being exploited because she happens to have a particular talent.
And I’m going to call her Dolly Cauldari…
Dorothy Cauldari (Dolly) is a Sho’vani character. The Sho’vani are a technologically advanced, displaced diaspora of the Jentacular Landmass. Their rebellion against Wiz and his evil army of Wizards went horribly wrong when the automaton army they had created rebelled against them and the twelve tribes, led by twelve princesses, fled across the sea to the scattered Isles Of Ire where they have been outrageously persecuted ever since.
(Colonialism is an important and troubling part of our world history but so is the historical and current treatment of refugees and immigrants and I wanted to reflect this part of Rromani history in the history of the Sho’vani.)
As the Jentacular Isle is believed by most to be purely mythical (Collin and Max can personally vouch for the fact that it is not!) the government has decreed that the Sho’vani must have come from Bohemia. They first arrived in Ire during the reign of Henry The Eighth and the mechanical wonders they brought with them caused them to be instantly branded as witches (an offence in Ire that is still punishable by death.)
It wasn’t until Elizabeth The First came to the throne that this persecution eased up a little and a deal was struck – if the Sho’vani would abandon their nomadic lifestyle (ie – hiding in woods and running from the witch hunters) and share their technological knowledge with the queen’s wizards they would be allowed to live peacefully in squalid little hovels just like any other peasant. Many agreed and became known as Tinkers, others did not.
When Ann became queen she tried to strike another deal with the travelling clans – if they would agree to transport the queen’s tea safely from her plantations to the elite county of Devon in their mechanised vans and prevent it falling into the hands of land pirates, all accusations of witchcraft would be dropped.
Dorothy Cauldari’s family were among the many Sho’vani clans who ‘agreed’ to this arrangement and so by the time Dolly was born, they had been transporting the queen’s tea from the plantations of Crumbria to the elite closed county of Devon for many generations. They moved from one government designated or safe known stopping place to the next, using their skills in technology to make life on the road that bit easier and their skills with spoon-playing and spoon-duelling to entertain themselves and break the monotony of the constant circular journeying. It was not the idyllic, nomadic lifestyle that poets like Christina Biscotti like to fantasise about, but neither was it as bad as the lives of the plantation workers, treacle miners or inner city factory workers.
Unfortunately, when Dorothy was about ten years old, the ideological militant sect know as The Pre-Cognitive Sisterhood (A group of women who violently enforce their beliefs that the world would be better off if The Cog had never been invented) attacked their convoy one night, destroyed the vans, burned the tea and murdered almost the entire clan.
Dorothy managed to escape and eventually made her way on foot to Lancaster where she soon made a home for herself, along with hundreds of other street urchins, high up amongst the new Skyway Rail system that criss-crosses the entire city, carrying the wealthy elite in safety away from the stench and commotion of the over-crowded and poverty-stricken streets below.
Here she quickly earned respect and notoriety in the illegal spoon-duelling rings that are run out of the basements of the many Tiffin Dens and Flop Houses that pepper the overcrowded docklands on the banks of the river Lune.
The urchins who live amongst the Skyway Rails are vulnerable to many predators. After her first few nights of clinging to the enormous metal girders, trying to wrap her skirts and shawl in such a way that would reduce the risk of falling should the wind blow too hard or her fingers become too frozen to grip on, Dorothy received a visitor. A kind and sympathetic woman who brought with her bottles of sweet, fizzy, sugar laden Lemonade.
Night after night the woman came, bring these little bottles of sweet, sweet hope, until Dorothy and the other orphans found their days melting into grey insignificance as they waited for their next sugar-fix.
Then one day when the woman came she was very sad, her money had run out and she couldn’t bring this free Lemonade any more. But she had a good idea! If the orphans could each sell two bottles of this illegal beverage and bring her the money, she could then buy them one bottle each. It seemed fair enough at the start. But the amount of bottles she expected them to sell in return for one bottle for themselves kept rising and when Dorothy decided that she had had enough of this game, the woman turned very nasty indeed and made it clear that opting out was not an option.
Dorothy was trapped and so she turned to the only resource she had left for comfort – her spoons. Dorothy had played the spoons since before she could walk and she often drummed out little rhythms on the Skyway Rails to pass the time. But now she threw herself into the art with a violent passion – drumming out her anger and frustration at the injustice and futility of the plight of all these children being secretly enslaved to the Lemonade Dealers. There were words too, but she never let those slip out.
People stopped to listen, although they couldn’t see the percussionist high above them, and then one day a curious theatre owner braved the climb and discovered twelve year old Dorothy. He persuaded her to come down, though she was careful to pay for her own coffee and oatcakes, and it wasn’t long before his ‘Little Dolly’ was making headlines at The Garish Theatre with her incredible displays of cutlery-based- percussion-craft.
As Dolly’s fame began to increase, she saw the opportunity to introduce lyrics to these displays and finally expose the true and dreadful story of the exploitation of Lancaster’s homeless children. Hearts broke, tears flowed, rallies were held and the government of Ire was backed into a corner – what was going to be done about this?
There’s always a man with a plan isn’t there? Some bright Whitehall spark quickly saw that what these children needed was shelter, food, clothing, soap and the prospect of a life long career. Fortuitously, Her Majesty’s treacle mines and tea plantations were struggling due to the fact that the adults ’employed’ there were often too large to perform all the terrible tasks that needed to be done.
Dolly Cauldari’s name has now become a curse on the lips of every street orphan who lives in fear that tonight may be the night when Her Majesty’s ‘Good Folk’ will arrive in their wagons and spirit them away to a ‘better life’ in the treacle mines or tea plantations. Many Sho’vani people have also loudly expressed their condemnation of her actions – claiming that she should have known better than to trust the secrets of her fellow poor people into the hands of the hated rich, who will always see something that they can get out of the exploitation and powerlessness of the poor.
Ignoring her critics, however, Dolly has continued to attempt to use her fame, wealth and influence to improve the lives of the street children of Ire. She channels all her earnings into campaigning against the ill treatment of children in the mines and plantations and exposing the corrupt empires of the Lemonade Barons, many of which she claims are members of the aristocracy.
Costume For Dolly Cauldari
Despite her fame, Dolly spends very little of her earnings on herself. Her clothing is largely home made and she places great importance on certain religious and sentimental items. She always dresses in red – the feminine, protective colour of her people. Her shawl once belonged to her grandmother and, along with her handkerchief-bag, in which she keeps her heirloom amber bracelet and silver snake hair-charm and spoons, it is the only thing she has left of her original family life. She is a traditionalist and always wears a red dikhlo (head scarf) and still braids her hair in a crown braid. The locket and mulengi dori (ribbon of the wind people) she always wears in memory of her parents.
So, there you are! As with the character of Amelia Manylentils , I have tried to draw respectfully on aspects of Rromani culture and history to create a character that is more realistic, respectful and removed from the Fantasy Creature we know from fiction and art as ‘The Gypsy.’ Again, I really hope this is helpful to anyone interested in writing Rromani characters into their Steampunk worlds or cos-playing a Steampunk Rromani character and if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments section.
Big Blessings, Penny 🙂
Good morning Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you are all feeling remarkably eleven o clockish because it is, indeed, eleven o’clock and so I hope that you will come and join us as we stroll around the Lancastrian Frost Fair, taking in the sights and looking for dainty delicacies to nibble on.
I say strolling, which implies a leisurely pace, but my Very Quiet Gentleman Friend is doing an embarrassing amount of huffing and puffing and gasping for breath which is quite off putting I can tell you and leads me, once again, to question exactly what constitutes ‘Very Quiet’ in the realm above the waves.
I say strolling, but perhaps that is a misnoma for the exercise as in fact my tentacles are all still in splints from the ice skating affair and Mrs B has kindly rustled up an old wheelchair from somewhere and we have strapped a couple of floor board planks to the wheels so that Max can push me through the snowy cobbled streets and over the icy river with ease.
Oh the joy! I cannot tell you how immeasurably more enjoyable it is to experience a winter’s walk from the cozy comfort of an armchair…there are fire eaters and jugglers, oh my goodness is that an elephant thy have over there?! It is! I’m amazed the ice does not crack! Mind you, they are roasting spit an ox with impunity over there and I am certain it is going to lead to disaster.
There are so many things for sale. Luckily Max is a bit of a Finger Smith and we manage to procure some excellent spiced buns and treacle toffee before slipping away into one of the ‘fuddling tents’. These are made of the barge sails propped up haphazardly with poles and inside you with find some of the most lethal chai-cocktails to be mixed this side of a Tiffin Den.
We sampled ‘Purl’ (a steaming black brew made with lapsang and wormwood) which the vendor told us would have a man gibbering for days, and ‘The Spiky Mother’ (A pungent Assam with chilli and dark chocolate) which had apparently already hospitalised a crowd of eight, but we must be candid and say that, even after four or five cups of each, Max still had the wherewithal to hot foot it out of the tent and away before the angry vendor could catch up with us an extract his payment. (no mean feat pushing an octopus in a make-shift sled)
He almost cornered us but luckily Max employed a pocket full of escapological marbles (if you naive to the uses of escapological marbles to thwart a pursuer just ask the nearest five year old) and we left him cursing in the gutter.
So here we are, keeping our heads down in a much quieter area of the ice and ready to show you some of the delights for sale…
Moth Festival (The home of Hopeless Maine on etsy) have a massive amount of Steampunk delights for you to spend your pocket money on, including this spiffing steampunk manifesto print which we are coveting for our parlour wall…
Hapi Cult (skateboards, skate wear and street wear for urban Magic Makers) have these fab new Hapi Life spell t shirts
Steampunk Parliament has a huge array of beautiful Steampunk lace jewellery, cute wall plaques and colouring books.
We wish you all a very splendid afternoon and hope you will join us for more frosty fun next week so, until then, please be always,
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s splendiferously sparkling and frostabulously frozen parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!
True, some have called it a frigid place of cold hearts and frosty welcomes but we consider that uch people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us this morning, warming our tentacles beside an imaginary fire after an enterprising and entertaining morning at the fabulous frost fair which is being held on our beloved river Lune.
Our psychotic scarecrow landlord, Montmorency, woke us before dawn with the business end of his walking cane and demanded that we head out into the frozen darkness and not return until we had enough money to pay for this month’s rent. The fact that we only just paid for the last month seems to have escaped the rogue and so I perched upon Max’s shoulder and we set off towards the river.
There were already traders setting up stalls on the ice but none of them took favourably to our offers of assistance (it seems that Queen Vic’s recent amendments to equality in employment law do not extend to an Octopus and a Tea Fiend) So we settled ourselves on the bank instead and watched the sun rise over the frosted spires of the sail barges which had collapsed crazily into the ice sheets and lay mired liked the skeletons of stranded beasts from some fantastical caffeine-fuelled nightmare.
Things picked up once the punters arrived. After some initial competition from a woman hawking root beer (For a Very Quite Gentleman, Max can be terribly clumsy when glass bottles are around) we managed to sell twenty bottles of lemonade (and drink many more) without being lynched by the barge folk for selling without paying the trading fees.
We decided that that was quite enough hard shirking for one morning and spent the rest of the time mooching around the stalls, watching the jugglers and fire eaters and, most impressively to me, the ice skaters. Having lived under the sea all my life, I never imagined this curious form entertainment and I am determined, soon, to beg, borrow or steal enough pairs of ice skates to attempt the thing myself.
Now here we are back in the parlour, our landlord briefly appeased, our cats greedily devouring the last of the skimmed milk ration, and all desperately in need of a reviving spot of elevenses and some soothing music to tap our tentacles to. Unfortunately our absconding butler has not seen fit to deliver the goods this morning (perhaps she thinks it’s a holiday? ‘Though what a werewolf would find to do at a frost fair we have no idea…) but not to worry because we managed to run into our lovely Mrs Baker on the way back and she has set us up with a packet of genuine Frost Fair Souvenir Gingerbread which, knowing Mrs B, will be crammed full of illegal sugar…mmm…
And, by happy chance, Max’s constant pocket companion ‘The Whole Duty Of A Woman (or an infalliable guide to the fair sex) – 1737’ (A birthday gift from a devoted family member I think) has an excellent recipe for … OWCH! …Well, really! You know, for a Very Quiet Gentleman, Max, you can be excessively violent devoid of a sense of humour…
I was going to say, before I was so rudely interrupted by a flying teapot, that this is a recipe for ginger bread biscuits, rather than the cake which we are enjoying now but it is nonetheless share-worthy, I think…
“To Make Gingerbread…
Take a pound and a half of London Treacle, two eggs beaten, half a pound of sugar, one ounce of ginger, beaten and sifted, of cloves, mace and nutmeg, all together, half an ounce beaten very fine, coriander seeds and caraway seeds of each half an ounce, Two punds of butter melted; mix all these together, with as much flour a will knead it into a pretty stiff paste, then roll it out and cut it into what Form you please; bake it in a Quick Oven on Tin-plates; A little time will bake it.”
And now we’d better tune in our Tesla radio and have some soothing sounds to placate my beastly savage companion… drink your tea Max and calm yourself down, it is not becoming for a Very Quiet Gentleman to sulk like that…
Ah, much better, that was Smith and Burrows if you were not aware of the before they are rather marvellous. We wish you a very pleasant afternoon, filled with with warmest and spiciest of delights, and we will see you back on Monday for some more splendid steampunk fiction and excellent tea. So, until then, please be always,
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, we ask that you be gentle with us this morning, no raised voices or glaring candle light please, we are very much sore-headed and delicate after a long weekend of carnival capers and masked-up mayhem and now want nothing more than to curl our aching tentacles around a marvellous piece of fiction and a steaming mug of tea…
The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones is one of our favourite books ever in the history of books. It is a love story of the most unique, raw and daring kind and at the same time it is an extremely dark fairy tale with all the exploration of psyche and self that hallmark a classic work of Gothic fiction. As a historical novel it explores the boundaries of class, affluence, education, mental health, culture, sexual and perceived moral behaviour to admirable depth making it a graphic, challenging and breathtaking read that will not suit everyone’s taste. This is not a book for the faint hearted but it is heart breaking and absorbing and utterly, utterly wonderful with characters who leave us weeping every time we step back into these dark and beautiful pages.
Tristan Hart is obsessed with understanding and preventing pain, at the same time he is addicted, enthralled and excited by it.
Nathaniel Ravenscroft is delightfully delinquent, exciting and enigmatic and everything that Tristan would like to be. Possibly. Or possess. But something isn’t quite right, there is a darkness lurking around that demonic smile, a secret or two that no one wants to talk about and when Nathaniel vanishes, does the key to his whereabouts lie in this world, or in the realm of fairies, daemons and an ancient half-remembered myth?
Katherine Montague is a troubled soul, beautiful and fragile, in need of Tristan perhaps as much as he is need of her… but is their love tonic or poison? Is their mutual obsession the key that will eventually help them both to find themselves, or is it a perversion that will eventually be their downfall?
An intensely compassionate, emotional and tormented soul, Tristan sees beauty where others see the grotesque and his days are a tense and brittle ice-path between the relationships of his physical world and the strange-woven mythology that inhabits the hearts and minds and landscapes that surround him. Who is this Raw Head? Who is Bloody Bones? Who, really, is Nathaniel Ravenscroft? Who is the monster and who the redeeming angel?
We wish you a perfectly restorative afternoon and swear we will be on better form to guide you around the frost fair tomorrow so, until then, please be always