Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “Pagan

Light In The Lantern: With The Last Witch Of Pendle

Greetings! Welcome to to Steampunk’d Lancaster! My name is Mrs Albert Baker and… well yes, that’s right I am a witch, how very kind of you to notice! Perhaps it’s my magical aura… or the smell of freshly baked gingerbread that tipped you off? Officially I’m actually The Last Witch Of Pendle but, sadly, 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 my little underground soup kitchen for the street urchins.

Strange times have struck here in the Scattered Isles of Ire – Lord Ashton’s Flesh Eating Liver Birds plague the skies above us and hoards of Mancunian Sugar-Zombies roam the cobbled streets spreading their curse like a plague…

So some of us have decided to re-kindle the old beacon in the city watchtower and keep its flame burning each night as a way of giving hope to those running for their lives and being hunted down by terrifying monsters, or evil scarecrow landlords…

Tonight is my shift and never fear, I am well armed to protect myself with a hot cauldron of soup, a fistful of hexes and of course my trusty rolling pin, which has seen off many an Annoying Wizard, Giant Crab or Night Potato, I can tell you!

Over the coming weeks, a marvellous host of writers, artists and creators will each be taking a turn to keep the light in this old lantern burning through the dark and share with you some of their wonderful books, stories, artwork and other fabulous creations.

Now then, since I’m here I thought I would share a little excerpt from some of my own adventures with you. This is taken from The Curious Adventures Of Smith And Skarry when those two miscreant wizards had the cheek to break into my house in Pendle and frighten the wits out of myself and my husband in the middle of the night!

lastwitch

The two wizards scrambled to their feet but, on cursory inspection, Skarry realised they were trapped. This was not magic that they, as mere initiates, would have any hope of disabling.

“Oh! Burglars? Thieves? Oh no!” The woman standing in the doorway, dressed in a long cotton nightdress and curlers, trembled, sending the glaring yellow light from her lantern quivering over the moon-slicked floor, serving no purpose other than to irritate the eyes of every conscious person in the room. “Oh, this can’t be happening! I…I must get Albert, yes, he will know what to do!” and she quickly spun on her heel and disappeared again. They heard her stumble back along some hidden corridor, muttering in frenzied tones as she went: “Oh blessed mother! Oh Green Goddess, why is this happening? Why? Oh this is the end, I know it is! The end of Pendle, the end of everything! Oh Goddess, if it is true, if you have really not abandoned us to the mercy of Wiz, please, please grant me the strength to deal with this! But I cannot, how can I? I am the last! The very last!”

Her ravings slowly faded, swallowed into the belly of the house, and Skarry fired a look of utter bewilderment at his friend and tapped his forehead in silent questioning appraisal of the woman’s sanity. But, to his surprise and further confusion, Mercurio’s own features revealed that he was lost in some deep private reflection which was obviously beginning to amuse him.

Before long, the woman returned, now sporting an ill-fitting black toupee, which she had hastily balanced on top of her net of tightly curled hair, a false moustache and a quilted claret dressing gown. She held the lantern high again, swinging its luminescence into their squinting eyes.

“Now, see here!” she said, failing dismally at affecting a manly baritone. “Just who, may I ask, do you think you are? Bursting into my abode and frightening the wits out of my wife like this? Hmm?”

Skarry blinked. Surely, surely, this strange woman must realise the flagrant flimsiness of her charade. He opened his mouth to speak, but the woman pre-empted him.

“Don’t move! D-d-don’t move or I’ll…I’ll…well, you can’t move, can you? Hmm? If you try to, you won’t be able to so…so just stay there while I… er… go and call the Watchers… and The Good Folk. Yes, that’s it… now just you stay there! And don’t move!”’

Mercurio held up his gloved hands and chuckled with amusement. “My dear… Sir, we have no intention of going anywhere and, as you have pointed out, even if we wished to, we would be unable to penetrate this.” He gestured to the thin blue field of magical energy which now surrounded them, regarding it with the eye of a connoisseur. “But this is quite astounding!” He gave the moustachioed woman a look of respect, mingled with curiosity, which was not lost upon its subject.

She lowered the lantern an inch.

“Surely,” Mercurio continued carefully, “surely a spell like this could only have been set in place by… and please do not take offense, my good man… by a wizard? And an extremely powerful one at that. Perhaps, even, a witch?”

To Skarry’s amazement, the woman sank down into the leather armchair and began to sob, wringing the lantern chain between her fingers.

“My apologies,” Skarry said quickly, “if my friend has upset you, please… er… here, oh damn I can’t do that,” he returned the useless handkerchief to his pocket and glared furiously at Mercurio, who gave him a withering look and then hitched up a mask of sincere compassion and sympathy and turned it towards their host.

“Oh, you’re right!” the woman sobbed. “It’s true, it’s all true!” She pulled off the moustache and toupee and flung them angrily onto the floor. “Oh, this silly charade has been wearing me to pieces! But I have had no choice! There have always been six witches at Pendle, and there always must be at least one witch at Pendle – even Wiz himself says it – otherwise the whole town will crumble to the ground; the manor, the park, the houses, everything!”

“Wiz?” Skarry looked sharply at his friend, but Mercurio hadn’t flinched.

“Yes. It is only by his will that I haven’t been forced into the caves to be hunted, like game, across the marsh, like my poor sisters. He allowed just six of us witches to stay on here at Pendle because of the curse. There have always been six and we’ve always managed to fool the townsfolk into thinking we were ordinary citizens, but I am the last! And what will happen if I am found out? Oh it has worn me so thin you cannot imagine. Of course I cannot marry – who would marry a witch in this day and age? And yet I had to marry Albert or else people would become suspicious; a woman living all alone… people have such suspicious minds… you wouldn’t believe the things they say when my back is turned…” She was beginning to rave, the pitch of her voice crescendoing with the speed of the words. If she went on like this, she would be hysterical within the next 60 seconds and if she hyperventilated and fainted, even worse asphyxiated herself, they would be trapped. Possibly permanently.

“Why don’t you have a glass of brandy?” Mercurio suggested.

The woman shook her head “I don’t drink,” she sniffed. “It’s Albert who’s the drinker.”

“Albert?” Skarry mouthed silently.

Mercurio raised his eyebrows at him. “Well, perhaps Albert would care for a snifter then? Settle his nerves?”

Skarry closed his eyes so that he would not have to witness the woman reassembling her disguise so that she could nod and stumble unsteadily out of the room in search of alcohol.

 

 

 

If you’d like to read more about my adventures with those two Terrible Wizards, Scarlet Skarry and her marvellous Land Pirate crew and of course Eightcups Max and his fabulous octopus Collin, you can find The Curious Adventures Of Smith And Skarry here:

Well thankyou so much for joining me this evening as we keep the light in the lantern burning. I’m afraid that’s my shift over for the night, thank goodness it was a quiet one! Who knows, perhaps the smell of gingerbread was enough to keep wary monsters at bay?
Stay safe good friends, whatever assails you, and when times are dark, look for the light in the lanterns of others and treasure the light in your own….


Aether Eggs: With Stephen Palmer

Good Morning! Happy Oestara!
My name is Stephen Palmer and I write various kinds of genre novels: steampunk, SF, fantasy, and what used to be called slipstream, by which most people mean unclassifiable… I’ve been professionally published since 1996, and have a reputation for following my muse. But I think that’s a good thing. My most recent work “Woodland Revolution” is about myth, death, landscape and revolution. A heady brew!
So, here in Steampunk’d Lancaster we’re enjoying the annual Aether Egg Hunt – a chance for authors to connect with their readers and give a little gift of thanks for all their support in the form of an Aether Egg, or Small Gift linked to the fictional world they have created. Here’s my contribution to the fun!
Woodland Rev Aetheregg

You can find my books here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stephen-Palmer/e/B0062Z5R78?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1585396318&sr=1-1

And connect to me on the internet here: https://stephenpalmersf.wordpress.com/
Wishing you a Springtime filled with Splendid Shenanigans! Do remember to keep an eye out this month and hunt down all the Aether Egg surprises that will be appearing each week until May!


A Guest Post By Luke Eastwood: How we can really make a difference to the world

cover
My interest in the environment stems from my childhood, long before I became a Pagan – I grew up in the country and reluctantly helped my parents with the vegetable garden. I prefered to spend my time in the woods, the sand quarry (unknown to my parents) and messing about with my friends in the lanes, stealing apples or trying unsuccessfully (thank goodness) to blow-up the tiny local gas terminal or model aeroplanes.
I began to volunteer for Greenpeace as I lived close by them in London where I was a university student. I also returned to gardening as an adult after discovering a wild garden at the back of the large Georgian house I shared.
I’ve done my best to be green over the decades – good consumer choices, mainly vegetarian diet, recycling etc. However, I have watched with frustration as consumerism has become ever more powerful and the state of the world has got worse and worse. As Pagans we are supposed to love the earth, but I often see hypocrisy. I’ve visited the homes of Pagans with multiple TVs, games consoles galore and every consumer gadget imaginable. I’ve also noticed gardens with just grass and not even one plant, apart from a few sad weeds! I’m a hypocrite too, I don’t do everything that I know I should, I am no ‘saint’, however I do try my best.
How To Save The Planet is written with the ordinary person in mind, not the corporatist or government member, we’ve been waiting for them to do something postitive and useful for decades and they are still trying to avoid actually doing anything worth while. It’s up to us, the ordinary folk, to make a change, to force it to happen before political and corporate procrastination, corruption and denial ends up destroying the whole place.
We can all do more and this book shows simple things that we can all do – being conscious about where we spend our money, making real steps to help the earth recover, changing our diet to reflect our beliefs, getting involved in political movements (not party politics). The book is hopefully interesting, informative and a practical help for people to acutally make decisions to change their actions after reading it and pass on the ideas to others around them. This is not a spiritual book, but much of the inspiration behind it comes from my spirituality, hopefully anyone can gain something from this book regardless of the beliefs or even if they are complete atheists.
Luke Eastwood
You can buy How To Save The Planet at electricpublicatons.com, lukeeastwood.com or well-known online retailers. 50% of profits from this will book go to Greenpeace.


#MythpunkMonday: Owl Punk

barn-owl-1506611

Happy #MythpunkMonday! Today I thought I’d take a look at owls. I’ve always loved them and our myth-bank has a particularly sad and moving story about the barn owl which has haunted me since I first heard it.

In this tale, the sun god chases his sister the moon goddess around the earth in lust until at last he catches her. Her child is born, a winged, liminal creature of darkness and light with a terrible shrieking cry. The moon draws her night cloak over all her children – the foxes, bats, badgers, deer and all the other nocturnal creatures – but the barn owl she casts out in revulsion because she shines with her father’s light – a wood demon burning with a ghastly flame –  and her mother, after all she has suffered, finds that light too painful.

Across world mythologies owls tend to be recognised as symbolic of either wisdom / good fortune or death / ill fortune, or sometimes both.

There’s a nice article on some different cultural beliefs about owls right here: https://www.owlpages.com/owls/articles.php?a=62

Owls are also often associated with the divine feminine – often linked to a goddess such as Lakshmi / Alakshmi, Athena or Blodeuwedd and it’s this aspect of the owl-image within our collective consciousness that I feel is a good in-road for punk fiction.

In truth of course all owls are not wise, or evil and seeing an owl is more likely to indicate that we have stumbled into its territory rather than it has sought us out to give us some dire warning of our own imminent demise.

But it is interesting, I think, that a creature which is seen as magical, wise, lucky (if you eat it), ill-omened, deadly and even evil should also be so often associated with the feminine. I feel it says a lot about historic cultural views of innately feminine attributes which now, in the light of modern cultural paradigm shifts, need to be challenged.

So bring on the stories that break the owl-shaped mould for the parameters of feminine form – and visa versa of course! Bring on the stories which illuminate the prison bars of feather and bone, and set us free to really fly.

How about you? Do you have a favourite owl myth? Have you included owls in your own mythpunkery? Or do you have a real life owl encounter you’d love to share? Feel free to join in the fun in the comments below or using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag!

 

Beautiful owl image by Gavin Vincent http://www.freeimages.com

 


#IndieThursday: Druidry And The Future

This #IndieThursday Collin is sharing his love of…

IMG_4800.JPG

Blurb

The Druid path offers a person many valuable tools for coping in these challenging times. use your spiritual practice to underpin your activism, turn your lifestyle changes into offerings and find the means to stay inspired and hopeful. Explore how the bard path can be applied in face of climate chaos, how to practice self care for the benefit of the planet as a whole, how to harness your dreaming, and work with the elements to change your day to day life. Sustainable living should be the goal of any Druid’s life.

 

 

 


#MythpunkMonday: Monstrous Punk

Happy #MythpunkMonday! And happy Halloween / Samhain / Candyfest, whatever you happen to be celebrating at this time! In my house we use this time to remember our dead, to explore liminality and, of course, to stuff ourselves silly with sweet treats! We’re lucky enough now to live in a community where the whole neighbourhood hypes-up for trick or treating and everyone decorates their houses and gardens and opens their doors to the little goblins and witches who drop by to wish each family the best of the season – it’s like carol singing with a ghoulish twist!

So here is a little snippet from Mahrime, the title piece of my mythpunk collection ‘Mahrime – mythpunk for monsters’ . In this part a city girl makes a pact to save a nearby forest, each night she lets a scarlet cord down from her window for the monsters who live within it to climb up and they reward her in an unusual way…

 

You would think I cracked the treasure case open and sucked out the gold, but I was afraid, afraid of stains and questions, afraid my mother would find out about these secret midnight monster feasts. So instead I opened my mouth up wide and carefully, carefully swallowed each egg down whole.

Whole, the eggs of Del came into my warm belly and my flesh cradled them like a bowl of olive wood, my womb knit around them like latticed ligaments of vine; safe, warm, nourished… it should have been no surprise when they hatched out, the fledglings scraping my tissue raw as the forced their blind passage up through my vocal tubes and tore out of my horror-stricken mouth to flop, drenched and heaving onto the breakfast table.

In front of my mother, these fledgling crow-gods scrambled from my mouth and I could not hold them back. But mothers are used to these things. She narrowed her eyes at me, did I not think she had been young once? Did I not think she too had longed for trees and monsters and given birth to sky-gods in her time? And had not my grandmother done as she would now, stuff her daughter’s mouth with wormwood and gilead, with nightshade and mandrake and bind it shut tight with ribbons torn from her own scarlet dikhlo?

All this she did and then she cut the red cord.

I slept, falling in my dreams through the barbed gullet of a beast that was a city that was my mother that was seven little queens with seven little axes all hacking, hacking at my scarlet life line, all trying to sever me from my beloved monsters. But I laughed as I spun through their loathly innards because even in sleep I felt them; my little ravens, my little gods, pecking away at their human-girl prison, gorging and scraping at all the cumbersome weight that held us all pressed into this room, this house, this city on a hill.

Peck. Peck. Peck.

I felt the breeze stir through me, the flutter of their strong, soft wings striving through my rib cage, the thrust of bills chiselling against my teeth and I woke to find myself cleaned of all my superfluous flesh, gleaming in my bones, seeing with a thousand yellow crow eyes. Still they scrabbled and flapped and pushed the boundaries of all that I still was until they carried me up, up the chimney and out into the sky above.

 

If you enjoyed this snippet you can read the whole story here on Vocal…

https://poets.media/mahrime

And if you’d like to buy me a brew to help fuel my next outpouring of mischievous mythpunkery you can find me on Ko-Fi

https://ko-fi.com/pennyblake

 

Thanks for joining me for another #MythpunkMonday and do feel free to join in and share your own / others mythpunk creations either using the hashtag or in the comments here!

 

 


#IndieThursday: Mapping The contours

This #indiethursday I’m sharing my love of ….

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/641871660/mapping-the-contours-poetry

Mapping the Contours  Poetry image 0

 

Blurb:

A small, self-published poetry book written by Nimue Brown, with cover by Tom and Nimue Brown, printed by Stroud Print.

Poetry exploring landscape and the relationships between humans and place, inspired by life along the Cotswold Edge and the Severn Vale.

Human bodies are much like landscapes.
We have our contours and crevices,
Signs of weathering, history written
Into soil and skin alike.

Some of us are flat land formations
Others are complex, curving hillscapes
Verdant forested or marble smooth.
Clay and bone and watercourse.

The places we are inhabiting
Inhabit us in turn, as we move
These bodies through localities, as the
Shape of them shapes or motions.

 

To compensate for my lack of time to do long reviews just now, I’m using the #indiethursday hashtag to share the indie love and point at some fabulous indie books I’ve enjoyed reading 😀

So, what fab indie fiction are you reading / writing this month? Blessings on your brew and best of luck with all your indie endeavours, lets keep flying the flag for indie writing!

 


#MythpunkMonday: Arise!

Photograph by Kovacs Orsi from www.freeimages.com

Happy #Mythpunk Monday!

Today I’m going to talk about trees! I find few things more inspiring than walking through a forest where the trees seem anthropomorphic. Coming from a spiritual tradition which taught me from the earliest age that all trees were living sentient beings with their own spirits and personalities, I find it interesting that people seem to be drawn more to commune with trees like oak and hawthorn who twist their trunks more readily into gnarled semblance of faces or limbs than, say, the linden, ash or birch who mostly grow straight up to the sky. Of course there are stories of slender-limbed, silver-skinned birch dryads; pretty young maidens dancing lithe and beautiful in wooded glades, but why do we only seem drawn to trees if we can view them as being in some way like ourselves? Even Tolkein’s Ents had a human-likeness about them…

The phenomenon of Pareidolia may be in some way to blame here – the inherent nature of the brain to seek familiar patterns (particularly those of faces) in dissociated stimuli ; fire, clouds, tree bark, wall paper, rock surfaces, waves … it is a natural survival mechanism developed even before we are born to help us seek out our care givers, our kin and our kind.

But even as we grow older and are able to reason beyond our instinctive drives, wondering and questioning whether a tree spirit would or could or should look anything like us in order to be taken seriously and communed with… I know I am sometimes still guilty of being drawn to those tress who do.

Having said that, the tree spirit I have had the deepest relationship ever was a beautiful, strong, generous and resilient beech tree with little to no anthropomorphic qualities whatever – so perhaps there is a lesson for me eh?!

On the other hand, perhaps it depends on your tradition. Mine, as I say, teaches that trees are beings in their own right and unrelated to humans, although communion can and should be sought with them, but perhaps other pathways view things differently? Perhaps trees twist themselves into human like faces in order to try and communicate with us? Who knows? I’d be interested to hear other thoughts on this if you have them 🙂

What we do know and can say for certain is that we have worked trees into the heart of our mythologies and spiritual traditions since we first began imagining the beginning of ourselves and our world. Without trees we wouldn’t have the planet as we know it and we seem to have been aware of this long before it was scientifically proven.

Many religions incorporate the idea of a World Tree, stretching its branches into the heavens and its roots down into the underworld, for example  égig érő fa in Hungarian Mythos, the Norse Yggdrasil, Ağaç Ana in Turkish Mythology, The Slavic oaks which even today form the Zapis tree-temples, the Hindu Ashvattha and the Chinese Jianmu.

Leaving aside the great and the grand of world religions and moving in to a more local level, trees have always played an important part in folklore too. Cloutie trees (as we call them here) can be found all over Europe ; trees where folk can leave a small offering in exchange for the tree’s protection, blessing, healing or as a sign of thanks or respect.

My family made a great thing of visiting one of these shrines and leaving a rag of clothing and the story went that an old man was resting one day in his cloak when a poor child came by with none. The man took of his cloak – his last scrap of clothing – and gave it to the child. The tree saw the kindness of the man and sheltered him from the elements that night so no harm came to him. Then in thanks the man returned next year and tied a piece of his cloak to the tree and now all folk thanks the tree for it’s kindness, but anyone who robs the tree will be cursed! I remember my little sister being too scared to go into the shrine in case she touched a rag and it fell!

Another tradition is to hammer pennies into the trunks of trees in exchange for wishes. This tradition has always rather angered and confused me as it must harm the tree, but a few years back, while visiting a fairy tree near Scar Fell, I was happy to learn the roots of one such tradition – it started some time around the 17th century during times of great famine when there wasn’t enough work and many poor people were going hungry. Rich people in the area were encouraged to hammer coins into felled tree logs and wish for better times to come, then after dark (to spare their pride) the poor were encouraged to come and take the coins. The rich either believed or (more likely) played along with the notion that the fairies and taken their offering and were granting their wish and so things began to slowly improve. Of course it wasn’t a solution to the problem but it is still a nice story about communities working together to help one another.

If you’re interested in some really excellent research on the subject, look out Ceri Houlbrook’s ‘Coining The Coin Tree’ here: https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/files/54558281/FULL_TEXT.PDF

 

We’ve talked a lot of myth today, soon I’m going to have a good look at how we incorporate tree Mythos into Mythpunk, because at first glance it’s not an easy fit. But for now, I’ll leave you with a little extract from my own tree-punk endeavours…

This extract is from Opre! which means Arise! It was written for Romani Family History Month and the Opre Roma! movement and it draws parody between the Romani people, (caught and enslaved both literally throughout history as in our enslavement in Eastern Europe and almost complete annihilation during Baro Porajmos (in some cases still today such as Italy ) and metaphorically today where many of us are still unable to live full lives with basic human rights simply because of who we are) and the trees which our ancestors, and still many of us today, revere in a spiritual way (caught and butchered and poisoned and ‘put to use’ by humanity)

But there is a hopeful beauty here too – the roots which push up the paving stones, the seeds which find root in the cracks between tarmac, the branches and leaves which coil over boundaries and fences… so our people have not been destroyed because we shoulder what the world throws at us and we carry on, we find a way to survive, and one day I believe we will arise, not to conquer or steal or enslave others but just to stand on equal ground as all people should…

 

OPRE

Our splintered marrow guards your precious ground

Not bought in blood, but taken in the twilight

When ‘taking’ was a thing we did not understand

Now sentinels bound, subservient you think we stand

Down inside those ringlets blacked by damp

Not the wind—kin to your own cur breath—

But the jewels it carries, diamonds, our inheritance,

We feel

Touching, unveiling in our stripped-bare bones

Kali …

 

If you liked this extract you can read the rest of it here on Vocal: https://poets.media/opre

Or in my Mythpunk collection Mahrime: Mythpunk For Monsters

 

Thanks for joining me for another #MythpunkMonday!  Feel free to leave me your own thoughts on trees, mythology and mythpunk in the comments and to join in and share your own Mythpunk, or someone else’s that you’ve enjoyed, using the hashtag or in the comments below 🙂


#MythpunkMonday: Table For The Dead

Happy #MythpunkMonday!

Thanks so much for journeying along with me so far, or if your new then very much welcome aboard!

A lot of my own stories centre around the strife and tension suffered by cultures who come seeking refuge, fleeing war and persecution, when the host country fails to welcome and respect them as human beings with established beliefs, values and ways of life.

These deserve to be valued wherever possible, just as those of the established culture are already, but so often they instead become embedded in a strange juxtaposition of both shame and ferocious pride.

When our beliefs, culture, language, skin colour, clothes and ways of being are treated as strange or unnatural by others (especially if they are outlawed, as in the case of the original Rromani refugees in Europe) those precious things which are innately ours can become a source of shame and we can feel the need (perhaps in fear of our lives or liberties) to hide them.

At the same time, in hiding them there is a sense of ritual preservation – a keeping close, a treasuring – and that can become obsessive and unnatural in itself as the evolution of ideas which would take place naturally over time with each generation is now not allowed to happen.

Sacred things die. They are not passed on. Partly out of fear – putting the young ones in danger. Partly our of pride – this knowledge will die with us, the last pure ones, it cannot be trusted to anyone else now, it will become diluted and destroyed or turned against us all.

I’m going to share with you an extract from ‘Mulengi Sinija’ which means Table For The Dead. This is a small shrine of sweet treats laid out for the ancestors to encourage them to remember the next generation, the little ones, and watch over them and visa versa to encourage the young children to enjoy communing with their ancestors.

Here though, the celebration is taking place in a strange new land where the characters are forced to hide who they truly are (firebirds living secretly amongst a population of spiders) and the irony is that the precious link between young and old, past and present, ancestors and living is being lost as the generations pass and so the title is more a lamenting ; a saying goodbye, rather than the celebration it was meant to be….

Mulengi Sinija Extract:

There is a weight, more than the fabric, of that long black skirt and the high necked lace shirt she heaves up over her fire form. Here are the white-beaked masques now with their golden glitter and their gaudy plumes, here are the capes of scarlet velveteen, the sun is sinking with a sigh to the guillotine.

One more cup before we have to go? We drink it slow. Drink deep the thousand stories calligraphed in dark amber there against the white. And when it is all gone, step out into the night.

 

If you liked the extract you can read the rest of it on my sister site here:

https://faithintheteapot.wordpress.com/2017/08/18/mulengi-sinija/

 

Thankyou for joining me for MythpunkMonday! I really hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you have, feel free to join in and share some Marvellous Mythpunk that you have written, created or enjoyed. You can share using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag or in the comments here below if you like and I will continue to make this a regular Monday thing 🙂


#DreamtimeDamselsAnthology blog tour: Soup of the day with Jaq D Hawkins

dreamtime damsels anthology

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

Helping me this morning is another contributor to the Dreamtime Damsels Anthology, Jaq D Hawkins. Thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, My Dear! May I take your hat and miscellaneous weaponry?

Oh, don’t let the knives frighten you! I’ve got Mars in Pisces, you see. No temper at all. I’ve never injured an interviewer, promise!

Well thank goodness for that! How was your trip from your own dimension? I hope you did not run into any hostile sugar-zombies or sky pirates on your way?

As it happens, I’m an old hitchhiker and I’ve got history with airship pirates, so I hitched a lift on the Persephone. Best rum I ever tasted!

Marvellous! And have you brought along some soup to share with us?

How could I visit a soup kitchen without bringing something to share! This is something a little special from a now extinct restaurant I used to frequent in my youth.

Potage St. Germain (Pea Soup)

Ingredients

1 (1 pound) ham bone

4 1/2 cups water

1 (13 ounce) can chicken broth

2 cups split peas

2/3 cup finely chopped leeks or green onions

1/3 cup finely chopped carrots

1/3 cup finely chopped celery

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp thyme

Bay leaf

1/2 tsp pepper

2 1/2 cups milk

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup chopped ham, cooked

1/2 cup chopped chicken (cooked) (optional)

Instructions

Place ham bone in large pot. Add water, chicken stock and peas and bring to boil over medium heat.

Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes

Saute the onions, carrots and celery just until limp. Add them to the soup pot along with all of the seasoning and continue to simmer until peas are very soft and mixture is thick – about 45 minutes. Remove ham bone. Gradually stir in the milk and cream. Add ham and chicken. Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a splash of dry sherry, to taste.

Mmm, it smells delicious! I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely.

You might want to give it an extra splash of sherry to keep them quiet. 😉

Marvellous tip! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat by the fire here and tell me a little about the types of fiction that you prefer to write?

In the realm of fiction, I’m basically a Traditional Fantasy writer, though I often lean towards darker themes. Goblins for example, or pirates. My new series will deal heavily with dragons. I’ve also been contributing to a lot of short story anthologies recently and some of those are even Horror.

And I hear you’ve recently made a contribution to the Dreamtime Damsels anthology I’ve heard so much about – would you like to tell us all a little about that?

I was invited to contribute and couldn’t resist, having dealt with the editor on the Dreamtime Dragons anthology and being favourably impressed with his attention to quality and detail. The idea of writing about strong women is a natural for me as I’m pretty resilient myself, but most of my stories so far have featured male protagonists. I decided this would be good practice to develop my female characters more.

Splendid and now I know the book hasn’t actually been released yet but Max and Collin were bragging this morning that they had managed to get their tentacles on a pre-order link for the kindle version?

 

Oh thankyou very much, I will order my own copy post haste! As an adventuress myself, I certainly think it is wonderful to see a fantasy collection where women take the centre stage isn’t it?

It makes a nice change. The Wizard’s Quandary was meant to be a stand alone story, but now it’s inspired me to write a follow-up series, with dragons of course. I think some of them are going to have to be female as well.

Oh dragons are always splendid company… Ah now that’s the kettle boiling, what is your ‘poison’ Dear, and how do you take it?

Usually red wine, not that yuppie Shiraz stuff but a good Malbec. However, as you’ve boiled the kettle, a simple coffee will do. A spoonful of honey please, and a little heavy on the milk.

You are lucky I have just visited The Harlequin and have a plentiful supply of contraband milk! Now, why don’t you tell us all a little more about your own path into fiction writing?

Well that started in childhood. By the time I was in high school I was churning out short stories furiously. It was only natural that I would move on to novels eventually. My goblin world took me there.

Oh my! I have never encountered any goblins personally but they sound terribly exciting and is there anything that particularly inspires you when you write?

Anything. Everything. I hear a phrase and a conversation forms around it. I see a colour and start visualising a scene. Stories go through my head faster than I can write down the notes for them!

That sounds wonderful! Of course we love supporting independent writers, artists and small presses here in Ire; do you have any favourite indie authours who have inspired you or whose work you can recommend?

A large percentage of my reading for enjoyment these days is written by indie authors. The Big 5 have become cautious and keep putting out clones of whatever sold best last week, usually lightweight stuff that doesn’t appeal to me.

Some indie authors I’ve really enjoyed besides the ones contributing to the Dreamtime anthologies include Graeme Reynolds, Shanna Lauffey, Charlton Daines, Jeff Brackett, Lin Senchaid, Lita Burke, Austin Crawley, Frank Tayell and C.M. Gray. I’m sure there are many more on my book shelves but those come to mind.

Splendid, I will be sure to hunt those out – I am always on the look out for a good fireside read to keep me company while I knit or bake. And where can we find more of your own work?

My Amazon page is at

https://www.amazon.com/Jaq-D-Hawkins/e/B0034P4BFI

and my Smashwords page is

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jaqdhawkins

Then of course there is my website where you can read about anything upcoming at http://jaqdhawkins.com

Ah now that soup smells like it is about ready, would you be so kind as to help me serve it up to the orphans?

Certainly. Don’t forget a dollop of sour cream in each bowl! Dibs on licking the cauldron.

Absoloutely!

Thankyou all for joining us in the soup kitchen this morning. You will find all the blog posts so far on the Dreamtime Damsels blog tour listed below and until we see you again, Blessings On Your Brew My Dears!

 

Mary Woldering hosts the first round of character interviews 

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

Mary Woldering hosts the second round of character interviews

Our own kitchen witch interviews Nav Logan

Nav Logan joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

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

Mary Woldering hosts the next round of character interviews

A.M Young joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Benjamin Towe joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Cover reveal from The Benthic Times

Cover reveal from Collin on The Harlequin Ladybird


#RainbowSnippets: Jack and Marjory

rainbow-flower-1394714-640x480

Happy Saturday! Here’s my #RainbowSnippets post for this week – if you’re new to this, Rainbow Snippets is a chance to read and share 6 sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction every Saturday. There’s a huge variety from Steampunk, like mine, to Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Comedy and everything in between. You can join the fun and read all the other fabulous snippets at the wonderfully friendly and supportive official facebook group here 🙂

So, here is the next snippet from Jack and Marjory – my novella-in-progress which gives two of my Bi-Gendered characters a chance to tell something of their own little side-adventure, which actually had a massive impact on the history of Ire in a ‘behind-the-scenes’ kind of way.

If you missed last week’s snippet you can catch up here: #RainbowSnippets: Jack and Marjory

If you want to start from the beginning you can do so here: https://blakeandwight.com/2018/09/29/rainbowsnippets-jack-and-marjory/

 

Jack and Marjory are beginning to appreciate allure of Madame Nature ‘in the flesh’ as they trudge the their reluctant way along the picturesque Way Of The Roses en route to  pick up the smuggled teaset for the leader of the revolution…

Cormorants and Goosanders were pottering about now in the river but we left them to it, castin’ a last wistful glance towards Caton Moor and the warm Inns and Coffee Houses of that cosy little white-washed town.

There’s a tree there, beside The Ship, what the landlord calls ‘The Druid Tree’; he’ll charge you a penny to tell you that ‘back in the time of Queen Elizabeth’ the townsfolk used to catch shellfish in The Lune and sell them on the sandstone steps in front of that tree. Then he has the audacity to beam at you, like he’s just taught you something.

We’ve heard whisper of a few lads an’ lassies what’ll sell yer somethin’ delightful on those steps under the old Druid Tree n’all, but It’d cost you more than a penny, Pal.

Still the delights of Caton weren’t for us that day. Our plan was to press on hard to Cracoe and pick up the Treacle Train to York, then hire a Hippo’ton Cab to Beverly, arriving around supper time, keep out of trouble ’til nightfall and then walk the last hour or so to Cottingham.

JACKANDMARJORYCOVER

being an entertaining and informative piece of travel writing by a couple of rogues on the run as they attempt to avoid the machinations of wizards, monarchs and a ruthless band of beatnik poets, deflect a civil war and deliver a priceless, historical tea set before the owner finds himself at the gallows.

 

Wishing you all a most splendiferous week and don’t forget to check in at the #rainbowsnippets facebook group for more fabulous snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction 🙂 

 

rainbow flower image courtesy of mariah22 at http://www.freeimages.com

book cover image by Renphoto 

 


Soup Of The Day: With Meredith Debonnaire

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

Helping me this morning is sci fi author Meredith Debonnaire! Thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, My Dear! May I take your cloak?

Yes indeed, here it is. Thank you so much for having me 🙂

A pleasure! How was your trip from your own dimension? I hope you did not run into any hostile skywaymen or space pirates on your way?

Very smooth, thank you. Came through the inter-dimensional tunnels, so mainly just Dwarfs. And some of those urchins of yours I think, but they weren’t a lot of trouble.

Ah yes, children will get everywhere won’t they? And  have you brought along some soup to share with us?

Oh I am so sorry! I am honestly a terrible cook, so I thought it better not to subject you to my attempts at food. I have brought tea… Lapsang Souchon?

Oh my absoloute favourite how thoughtful of you! (You know tea is illegal here and so very hard to come by, thankyou imensely for that!) Now then, I will cook up a nice batch of soup for the orphans and why don’t you have a seat by the fire here and tell me a little about your book The Life And Times Of Angel Evans, I know Max and Collin enjoyed reading it immensely

 

Oh, how nice to hear! I enjoyed Max’s Utterly Myself book. Anyway, The Life and Times of Angel Evans is about what you do after saving the world. It was a question that has bothered me for a while. So the story is not about saving the worlds, but about picking up the pieces afterwards when the prophecy is fulfilled and you have to get on with things. Angel Evans did save the multiverse, but now she has to figure out how to have a life and sometimes that feels harder.

 

I really love that premise! I must confess to have dabbled a little in world saving myself but in the end I found running this soup kitchen far more rewarding! Have you brought a copy with you to show the orphans?

The Life and Times of Angel Evans.png

 

Marvellous, thankyou! Ah, now that is the kettle boiling, what is your ‘poison’ dear and how do you take it?

I like a good strong hot chocolate, with chocolate dark as moonless midnight please

Ah, fortunately we have plenty of smuggled cocoa powder in storage ready for the winder months! There you are. Now tell me, My Dear, what do you look for in a good story?

Hmmm, well, characters that I can root for are very important – I find it difficult to be immersed in a plot if I don’t care about the people. I want magic, and I want to be surprised, and I want lots of women and preferably queer representation. Tight plotting is a little less important to me, although I do appreciate it as a skill. As I mainly read fantasy and sci-fi, the worldbuilding is very important and I can be drawn in by an exciting-sounding world. It boils down to wanting something that I will be able to get emotionally invested in, and that will reward that investment rather than stomping on it.

Splendid, … Oh! Do excuse me for a moment, that’s the post…. There we are…Oh lovely it’s the brochure I ordered!  I am looking for my next holiday destination (it is never a good time to be a witch here in Ire but sometimes it is positively dangerous so I like to take the odd pleasure jaunt when that occurs)

How exciting! May I take a look? Holidays are very important things, especially if there is any chance of a mob turning up on one’s doorstep…

Well, yes indeed… mind you, I have heard that you are a chronicler of the history of the curious town of Tantamount – is that a holiday destination you would recommend for a witch?

Absolutely. Tantamount gets seasonal witches most Autumns as they migrate, and to survive in Tantamount you have to be at least a little bit witchy. It’s particularly a good place for picking up odd spell ingredients, though you have to be careful of the history; it bites.

Oh how wonderful it sounds like just my cup of tea! Collin told me they have interesting wildlife, I am very fond of magpies…

Magpies are very important in Tantamount, although why they are important is a subject of great debate and the occasional stabbing. So far as we can tell from the correspondence, there are also very intelligent Wild Boar (who have successfully negotiated for voting rights), spam pigeons, and of course the Carrion. We’re not sure if the Carrion are really wildlife or just some sort of odd phenomena, as no-one who’s got close enough to tell is in any state to pass the information on.

I see, perhaps I might ask Max if I can borrow his aether energy pistol. He also said they have some charming rituals there as well, although as I am post-menopausal myself it sounds like I may not be of much use for some of them?

Ah, I think you are referring to the Bluddening Ritual? That one is specifically for people who menstruate, as it is the most convenient way of bleeding a lot without hurting anyone. There are plenty of other Rituals that you could take part in: The Feast of Fears, which comes around at slightly random times and involves the ancient sport of Carrion Running, is one example. There is also the Awakening of Spring, which involves pouring tea on the Dumpsy Tump while singing classic Tantamount songs such as Truly, It Is Time To Get Out Of Bed, Hades is No Fun Anyway, We Are All Bloody Cold Oh Spring and When Will the Daffodil Beast Roam Free Again? If that doesn’t work, someone has to go and hit the gong. But usually it doesn’t come to that.

I see, well I shall certainly mull that over carefully, it does sound a lot of fun but I want to make sure I return in one piece!  Now then, where can we read more about Tantamount?

All of Tantamount is currently available here: https://meredithdebonnaire.wordpress.com/tales-from-tantamount/

I recommend reading about it from afar; it isn’t a place with a high life expectancy.

And where else can we find you on the aether web?

https://meredithdebonnaire.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/DebonnaireMerry

https://www.thebooksmugglers.com/2016/09/life-times-angel-evans-meredith-debonnaire.html

 

Marvellous! Well thank you so much for joining me in the kitchen this morning, that soup smells as if it is ready, would you give me a hand dishing it out to the orphans?

Thankyou all for joining us in the last soup kitchen of 2018, have a very blessed Wizmas or Feast of Fears or Christmas or Creepmas or Yule or Hiding Under The Duvet Until It All Goes Away Fest …. or whatever you celebrate in your dimension at this time of year and I will see you all again once the tinsel and mince pies have died down and the frost fair arives on our frozen river Lune, so until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Pipe and Slippers: Tales From Steampunk’d Lancaster

 

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of  praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

I am the ghost known as Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of that incorrigible octopus and its unnerving  Gentleman Friend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by strange creatures promising  cake. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here;   here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? A bottle of vintage port eh? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps… I have been tirelessly working over the summer, interviewing, stalking … I mean studying… the Hex Slingers of Lancaster, compiling an anthropological study of the lives of those who use magic illegally in the curated back-alley fight clubs – why and how have they come to their present situation? What are their stories? Well, here at least, is one of them…

TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER

SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS 

TALE THE FOURTH:  by ALLISON SHEPHERD

 

“My brooch!” I yelled as Mariah’s twinklepuff slam hit me full force in the chest

and sent me hurtling backwards into the wooden crates at the makeshift

gayelle’s edge. I hadn’t anticipated Mariah’s last pattern and was now

scrambling to catch my breath and get back on my feet. My brooch had ripped

off my bolero as the twinklepuff spell had infused the fibres of the old velvet.

My grandmother had made that brooch for me from the cogs of a broken toy

train and an old yuletide ornament. She’d fashioned the cogs into an owl tying

them together with copper wire, and using tiny emerald crystals pulled off the

bauble for the eyes. Every afternoon after school I’d go to her rag-and-bone

shop tucked away down a narrow cobblestone alley to wait for my parents.

She’d make a pot of Earl Grey with leaves from her “secret supplier” and tell

me stories of when her mother baked double-layered sponge cakes with

strawberry jam filling, and lighter-than-air profiteroles filled with sweet gooey

cream. “Earl Grey.” “Strawberry jam.” “Profiteroles.” I hadn’t heard those

words in almost a decade. My owl brooch had become my talisman, my

connection to my past.

I tried to stand but sat down quickly as my vision blurred. Mariah? This

powerful? I couldn’t understand; she was a third-rate slinger at best, over

estimating both her charms and her spells. Something was different. The

sophistication of the twinklepuff weavings and glitter were not her. Someone

was helping raise the level of her usually amorphous, sloppily put together

concoctions. Who? And why?

It was odd when Mariah had drawn the wildcard for our slingoff but I had

missed a few of the preliminary fights when I had gone out of town. Maybe

she’d improved and been bumped up a couple garnets, I thought. This was my

livelihood, and sometimes it’s better to shut up and sling. Now, as I sat

befuddled trying to clear my head and weave my threads, I saw a glint of silver-

black emanating from Mariah’s perfectly poised hands. Mariah who could

barely make a pattern for a pink-and-gold unicorn spell slinging an

onyxmirrorpearl? With advanced finger positions? I sat spellbound and the

omp smacked me flat. Blood gushed out of my nose, ruby red against my white

pin-tucked shirtwaist. Before I lost consciousness, I saw Emily, the bookie,

collecting from the disgruntled gamblers.

Gill found my brooch, the emerald crystals winking in the twilight-find spell he

cast. The healers had tried to revive me right away but the omp had proved

beautifully formed and knocked me out for hours. I lost my deposit and got

nothing for the night. According to Gill, Emily had been apologetic but could do

nothing as an unexpected large bet against me had her scrambling for gilt. Gill

had taken me home and tucked me up in bed with a hot water bottle, three

pillows and my favourite fluffy wrap. I was still in bed when he came back with

my brooch. I tried to sit up but the wave of nausea had me lying back gingerly

on the pillows. I closed my eyes clutching my owl, my fingers tracing the

notches along the cogs, and started to cry.

My parents were wizards, of course, fighting for Queen and country. They truly

believed that magic should be controlled and out of the hands of ‘ordinary’

people. My parents were strong weavers but by the time they disappeared (of

course) my abilities were rudimentary at best. I’d become a trope: orphan,

living with my grandmother, no magic. But as with my favourite fairy tales, this

was simply the beginning of the story.

My parents had taken an assignment to escort our Queen to Boss Town for a

diplomatic sojourn, or that was what the official correspondence claimed. We

knew better: an excuse for the elite to sample new-fangled sweet marvels and

magiscience tea twists. Mum and dad couldn’t say too much but they were

more tight-lipped than usual as they hugged me goodbye and dropped me off

at Gran’s. We never saw them again. I was fourteen.

Gran moved in with me. I finished school at sixteen and tried out for the

apprentice wizard programme. I didn’t qualify even though my parents had

been senior civil servants. Apparently, according to the report, I didn’t have the

“right attitude, and my spells were nonexistent.” Gran and I eked out a living

from the shop. I met Quelin her “tea supplier,” a jovial smuggler who was able

to find the choicest leaves for us, and sometimes, just sometimes, the tiniest

silver-sprinkled cupcakes. He’d never tell where he got them but always

tapped the side of his nose with his forefinger, “It’s best you don’t know, my

darling,” he’d say, “because if anything happened to me, you might be running

for your life from some nasty bits.” He’d glance across at Gran, who would

pretend to be engrossed with a length of glitterwool handicraft, or checking

her numbers in the accounts book. They thought I never noticed but I always

did.

I had turned seventeen the year of the Youshallnevereatcake Spring, a short-

lived, half-hearted coup d’etat by a handful of boisterous youngsters. It was

quashed by the wizards within hours, the rebels marched through the streets

to the palace courts. I rushed home to tell Gran only to find her in the garden,

sitting in her favourite chair under the willow tree, a cold cup of Earl Grey in

her lap. She looked as though she were taking an afternoon nap, the breeze

ruffling her mop of curls. I clasped her inert hands, and wept.

I started hex slinging in the underground circuit soon after.

Of course my latent abilities eventually showed up, stronger than either of my

parents but without proper training and guidance, it was a mess. My early

slingoffs were either a triumph of a knockout, or me vomiting an endless

stream of bile in a dank corner, a side-effect of using pure, raw magic. Through

practice, and more practice, and much much more vomiting, I learnt to control

and weave almost beautiful hexes. I found a circle of friends who helped me in

the nine years since Gran died: Gill, Emily, Jendra. And I still ran the shop. It

didn’t make much but had become a safe place for us to meet to try out new

patterns and concoctions, catch up on gossip and, yes, of course, find a way to

bring back tea, cakes and magic: we’d been denied our right to a free life for

too long.

***

As I clutched my brooch in my hand, tears streaming down my face confusing

Gill to no end, I realised that Mariah’s win tonight had shifted our timetable. It

hadn’t been subtle, literally a punch to my gut. Someone had wanted our

attention. No longer was our light-hearted, drinking-after-a-slingoff chant of

“Tea, Cake, Magic For All!” a someday cake-in-the-sky dream; someone, or

someones, wanted us ready now. And I was terrified.

 

Allison Shepherd enjoys reading and writing speculative fiction, especially paranormal romance. She teaches at the medical school at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, and has had her work published in bmj Medical Humanities, Tales From the Fluffy Bunny, and is upcoming in Lycan Valley Press Publications “Darkling’s Beasts and Brews”. https://mh.bmj.com/content/43/3/e33 https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Fluffy-Bunny-Various-Authors/dp/1942450699

 


Pipe and Slippers: Tales From Steampunk’d Lancaster

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of  praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

I am the ghost known as Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of that incorrigible octopus and its unnerving  Gentleman Friend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by strange creatures promising  cake. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here;   here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? A bottle of Bruadar malt whisky liqueur eh? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps… I have been tirelessly working over the summer, interviewing, stalking … I mean studying… the Hex Slingers of Lancaster, compiling an anthropological study of the lives of those who use magic illegally in the curated back-alley fight clubs – why and how have they come to their present situation? What are their stories? Well, here at least, is one of them…

TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER

SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS 

TALE THE THIRD:  by PENNY BLAKE

We wasn’t always called Jack and Marjory. But then again we didn’t always live in Lancaster. We didn’t always own these boots. We didn’t always work for Kitty Flynn.

Kitty’s coffee house, The Angel, is always full, always bustling, always respectable and everything above board.

They serve government standard issue coffee – the lifeblood of the workforce and the would-be well-to-do alike.

Chicory, acorn, dandelion … the great copper pots of brown liquid sit simmering in the seventeen fire places all day long and Kitty’s daughters run to and fro serving it out in pewter tumblers on silver trays.

The rules are framed in mahogany on the white washed wall: no foul language, no char-latin, no anti-royalist, anti-religious or anticlimactical notions, no games of chance, no business dealings, no magic.

Yes indeed, The Angel is a perfectly respectable place. It must be. The patrons run the great societal gamut from the lowliest mill worker, to dockers, street traders  and Sho’vani barge folk; from town Tinkers like The Time Keeper and The Spoon Smiths, to landlords like Montmorency and Clitheroe, even true aristocrats like Lord Ashton and Lady Grace and wizards like that so-called ‘Dr. Smith’…

The Angel is always full, never a spare room in the place. Kitty rents rooms alright but you’d be damned if you could ever get one. Very particular is Kitty Flynn about who she’ll let a room to and once she gets a tenant in, they tend to stay for a very long time.

We, certainly, intend to stay for a very long time.

Because once you’re in, like us, there’s only one way out – and it ain’t pretty. No, indeed, it really ain’t.

There are seventeen chimney’s in The Angel. Seventeen chimneys and each has an inglenook bookcase.

On a certain evening, at a certain time, after the doors are locked and barred and only a few select patrons are still at table – presumably having booked lodgings for the night and enjoying a late supper – Jack and Marjory might suddenly take into our heads the fancy of reading a particular book titled The Winchester Mystery which is located on the seventh shelf of the bookcase in the seventh chimney.

It is a favourite of almost every patron and tenant and no one  bats an eyelid as the whisper of well oiled cogs heralds the opening of a hidden door and we slip through, and down into an entirely different world below.

Here the air is tight, charged with electricity, close with the heat of many bodies and breaths and damp with sweat and mildew. Arachnid threads of green sphagnum and lichen trace along the limestone walls and arched tunnel ceilings and our footsteps echo among the cheers and jeers, shrieks of pain and laughter and flesh hitting stone.

There are rats down here, snails, reptiles, cats and dust but we don’t need them. When you work for Kitty Flynn, you keep things pure. Just the magic, that’s what Kitty wants. That’s what Kitty gets.

Kitty’s house is always full. All the tenants fight down here. It’s how we earn our keep, of course, and more than that as you can see ; no Hex Slingers in Lancaster are togged out finer than us who board at The Angel, well and truly minted is what we are because Kitty looks after her own…

But you knew that already, right? That’s why you came, that’s why you asked if there was a room and when we saw your hands, bandaged up in strips of kid leather to hide the scars and that high collar pulled up close under your chin, when we saw the hunted look in your blood shots eyes, we knew you’d fit right in…

 

 

 


Soup Of The Day : With Katherine McIntyre

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

 

Helping me this morning is author Katherine McIntyre! Thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, Katherine! May I take your hat and cloak? It is still very warm here in Lancaster today although the season is undoubtedly on the turn!

Thank you for inviting me!

Now, why don’t you have a seat by the window there, how was your trip from your own dimension?

Breezy! Flew on in by airship ; )

I had quite the quick trip from the suburbs of Philadelphia!

 

Splendid! And  have you brought along some soup to share with us?

Absolutely! I’ve got a penchant for potato soup 😊  

This is one of my favorite soup recipes: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/13218/absolutely-ultimate-potato-soup/

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us all a little more about your Steampunk series Take to The Skies?

My steampunk universe isn’t set in Victorian England like a lot of them tend to be—instead, I brought anachronistic elements to a sci-fi future where the landscape has changed and airships dominate the skies. It’s a swashbuckling adventure series akin to pirate novels, which fans of Treasure Island and Firefly are sure to enjoy.

 

It sounds marvellous! But you don’t only write Steampunk, you have two other series if I’m not mistaken?

I do! I primarily write paranormal romance. I’m currently working on the second book in my Discord’s Desire series, which is about a fae rock band who get embroiled in the middle of a war between hunters and their own kind.

The shifter series I just completed writing the third book of is the Tribal Spirits series. It revolves around the wolf and mountain lion packs in central PA and the politics that descend upon the region with the arrival of a dangerous renegade.

 

And have you brought some of your books with you to show the orphans?

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Your web-mantra is “Strong Women. Strong words.” I must say I like that very much indeed! What inspired you to choose that phrase?

I have a natural inclination to write women in places of power in my books, whether it’s female captains or alphas. I love the complexity that strength involves, whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional, and I’m determined to represent women in a realistic way that honors their flaws, strengths, and struggles.

 

Women have always had a voice in science fiction, from it’s very beginning, and today sci-fi enjoys a huge female fan-base and many excellent female content-contributors, do you have any favourites in particular either past or present day?

One of my particular favorites is Madeline L’Engle, whose intelligent book, A Wrinkle in Time, and its sequels captured my attention from an early age. Despite it being young adult, she never tried to dumb down the concepts and the book expanded my horizons in a wonderful was as a kid.

 

Despite the consistent  contribution of women to the  sci fi genre, the stories told still often portray women as the victim, the villain or the supporting role to a male hero, do you think there is a reason for this?

I think a lot of it revolves around societal expectation and what’s considered the norm. Even now, there exists a struggle to get stories out there which feature women in a different light. I’ve faced rejection for featuring a female alpha who they deemed too masculine. A lot of places aren’t willing to take the risk to push forward the change, which is a reason I will relentlessly push for it myself.  

 

Do you think we need more stories where the capacity and depth of female (and indeed male) characters is expanded and explored in greater detail – or do we perhaps have these tales already and they are simply not given the spotlight they deserve?

I think we have some of those tales, which do deserve the spotlight, but I also think we need many more. A lot of the characters prescribe to a definitive gender divide when the reality isn’t quite so clear. I would love to see more depth in both men and women, instead of the tendency to shy away from any traditionally ‘masculine’ tendencies in women, or ‘feminine’ qualities in men.  

 

Ah now the kettle is boiling, what is your ‘poison’ dear and how do you take it?

 

Always coffee, which I take with cream and sugar.

 

You are in luck! We don’t farm traditional coffee here in Ire but I do have a little canister down here that one of my guests kindly left behind some time ago… There you are, now then, diversity and representation are big issues for us here in Ire and they are for you as well is that correct?

Absolutely. Reading teaches empathy, and if we’re only presented with limited options of who to empathize with, we’re missing a broad mark of how to promote acceptance of one another. I’ve been making an active effort to push past my own experience to explore others, whether it’s including characters of different races and sexualities than my own, or exploring characters who struggle with mental or physical disorders.

 

Do you think that the sci fi and fantasy genres are representative enough of the diverse realities of our little blue planet, or do you think there is still ground to be won in that area?

I think there’s a lot of ground to be won. While some wonderful examples exist, I think in the past a lot of science fiction and fantasy represented a very white and heterosexual viewpoint, as well as a lot of Eurocentrism in fantasy. I am loving the new array of stories emerging from so many different perspectives than the ones we’ve seen in the past, and I hope that trend continues.

 

Do you have any works in progress or new releases that we can get excited about?

I’m currently writing the second Discord’s Desire book, and I’ll be starting the fourth Tribal Spirits book soon! As far as new releases, the first two books in the Tribal Spirits series are coming out with Totally Bound in January and February of 2019. I’m also participating in a steampunk Christmas anthology, Bustles and Bells, which will be coming out later this year.

 

And in the meantime where can we purchase your wonderful works of fiction?

My books can be found on

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Katherine-McIntyre/e/B00J8U4VNU

Website: http://www.katherine-mcintyre.com

As well as many other online retailers!

 

 

Fabulous! Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Katherine, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

 

Thank you so much for having me! I absolutely enjoyed the visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Pipe and Slippers: Tales from Steampunk’d Lancaster

 Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of  praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

I am the ghost known as Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of that incorrigible octopus and its unnerving  Gentleman Friend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by strange creatures promising  cake. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here;   here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? A bottle of Bruadar malt whisky liqueur eh? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps… I have been tirelessly working over the summer, interviewing, stalking … I mean studying… the Hex Slingers of Lancaster, compiling an anthropological study of the lives of those who use magic illegally in the curated back-alley fight clubs – why and how have they come to their present situation? What are their stories? Well, here at least, is one of them…

TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER

SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS 

Tale The Second By LESLIE SOULE

 

“Your writing – I’d like to see it,” he says, hopeful like a child getting candy. I don’t

want to open up that book and show him the horrors of a past I’d care not to remember – most of it I’ve already shared, but that book opens wounds afresh, even though I had to write it, to tear the little imps from my heart, force their tiny legs between the pages and stamp out their pokers onto the sheets of print.

It was part of a healing ritual, a ceremony, and maybe instructions for someone else who needs them. One never knows these things. But all I do is smile, and nod, in the way that you’re supposed to do, when confronted with such gestures of interest.

This fellow is my friend, a banker from the gentrified part of town. He rarely travels downtown. There is no tea, here. Maybe one day I’ll tell him the truth, or he’ll discover it. But for now, the coffee steams between us, and the silence speaks volumes, and I feel disheartened. I don’t want those imps to escape again, and plague my beleaguered heart anymore. It needs a rest.

“So what brings you here?” I ask, adjusting my knitted scarf. I see his eyes trace the tattoos on my hands as we converse.

“I have some business with Montmorency,” Christopher explained, sipping his coffee, and I watch those lips for a fleeting moment, hoping he doesn’t notice. I am reminded of the strange night we spent together, with kisses and cuddles, before he discarded me for getting too close to him emotionally, the way men do – the way they’ve always done, when it comes to me.

I nod, drinking my mocha as though it is the water of life that can save me, and mentally, I am far away, back at the hideout, hanging out with the rebel hex-slingers and talking shop with them.

I’d spent most of yesterday practicing martial arts with Delvan, admiring the bright blue eyes he pinned me with. It was my day off.

I look down at my watch, knowing that I have to be at work by 10am and put in a full shift, transcribing records onto the mega-typewriter in the Office of Records, and file them away into folders, and into drawers, into rooms.

What business can Christopher possibly have with Montmorency? It interests me, but I dare not approach the subject. I knew Montmorency to be a slumlord, directing his army of street-urchins selling their illegal lemonade.

Tea, cake, lemonade – the governments of Lancaster strictly controlled their use and prohibited their sale on the streets.

“Well it’s good to see you again,” I say to Christopher, and that was no lie. It really was good to see him – he tended to keep to himself and to his hobbies of making money and brewing beer. The government Wiz-goons hadn’t outlawed beer…yet. But give them time.

“Have you ever thought about leaving the Office of Records?” Christopher asked. Well I’d certainly considered it – it was boring, repetitive work and not everyone could do this kind of job. But the real reason, was that I’d become addicted to the fights and the resistance, and the feeling of power that I’d get from those late-night street duels. I never fought alone. Eros, my morph corn snake who looked white with pink patches, always joined in, channeling the mystic power that emanated from my hands in neon rays.

No one asked any questions when I walked into the office bleary-eyed, and the Wizards hadn’t yet thought to look for resistance fighters in the Office of Records – and who would? What kind of danger would lurk in such a bland atmosphere?

“Yeah, I’ve considered it.”

***

When I arrived, my desk looked exactly the way I’d left it – pens sitting there in the wooden holder, notebooks stacked off to the right. My co-workers sat patiently at their desks, some of them sipping from mugs of coffee, waiting for the work bell to ring, and indicate the official start of the work day.

“Long night?” asked Erin, my blue-haired, bespectacled co-worker.

“Yeah,” I admitted.

You have no idea.

Last night, I’d found myself cornered in an alley, three Wiz-goons heading my way. One of them wore a pink carnation in his lapel. I wondered at that strange symbolism.

I didn’t kill them. I’m no murderer, though this is a war, and I have no love for the Wiz-goon overlords who rule our lives down to the very foods that we are allowed to eat, or not. And there was something strangely intriguing about that pink carnation – it didn’t belong there, on those smelly, authoritarian streets covered in cold lamplight. It took all I had, to project the aether toward this one and knock him off his feet.

In the end, I followed through, because that was the way of the world – we stood on opposite sides of a battlefield that neither of us created, but both had to fight on, this unfair chess board of life.

“I’ll be alright as soon as I get some coffee from the break room.”

The work bell rang. I seized my timecard and dutifully punched a hole in the correct spot, grabbed my nondescript white coffee mug, issued by the Office, and walked over to the break room. This place ran on coffee – the life-blood of office work, surely as gasoline runs a horseless carriage or water runs a steam turbine. I poured the coffee from its decanter, a feeling of completeness filling my heart as the coffee poured, black as sin, dark as the deepest confessions of my soul.

Armed with it, I walked back to my desk, opening its drawer, to search for a copy of the procedure manual that I’d forgotten to toss out.

Instead, I found a pink carnation, and a small card – From Your Secret Admirer, was scrawled on it, in black ink.

 

LESLIE SOULE Infamous Fantasy Author I am a fantasy/sci-fi author from Sacramento, CA. she has an M.A. in English and is currently working on the final book of her fantasy series, The Fallenwood Chronicles.


Pipe and Slippers: Tales from Steampunk’d Lancaster

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of  praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

I am the ghost known as Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of that incorrigible octopus and its unnerving  Gentleman Friend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by strange creatures promising  cake. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here;   here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? A bottle of Single Malt eh? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps… I have been tirelessly working over the summer, interviewing the Hex Slingers of Lancaster, compiling an anthropological study of the lives of those who use magic illegally in those curated back-alley fight clubs – why and how have they come to their present situation? What are their stories? Well, here at least, is one of them…

TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER

SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS 

TALE THE FIRST : Siggy And Me

 

Sigmund Ignatius Newburger doesn’t hear his full name used often. Smite me down, I never even knew that was his full name until I heard it bellowed through the steam-filled Tiffin Den one Monday afternoon in late September. The fella bawling it was a sight. Mind you, smite me down if Siggy ain’t a sight himself. Guess we all are here though ; handling raw magic takes its toll, any hex slinger will tell you that for nothing, long as you ain’t the law o’ course!

The damage starts with your fingers, for most, just a tingling sensation at first a bit like pins and needles and if you stop then and there I dare say you’ll be alright after a fashion. But we didn’t stop, did we? Siggy and me. And now we have to hide our black veined hands and arms beneath long coat sleeves and leather gauntlets ; one look at that scorched, stained flesh and everyone knows what you are and we can’t have that now, can we?

This fella, anyways, he wasn’t a slinger. I could see his arms right up to his elbows, shirt sleeves rolled up and thumbs stuck in his braces like he meant business. “Sigmund, Ignatious Newburger!” he’s bellowed and Siggy jumped clean out of his seat like he’d just seen a flesh eating Liver Bird through the window.

It didn’t take long, a brief altercation and the fella left looking ‘Most Put Out’ as the Garish Set would say. Plenty of them in the Den that day as well but we don’t mix with that sort, revolution’s all well and good when you’re just spitting daggers about the Queen across the tea table, but smite me down if some of these Theatre Lot aren’t a bit too serious for their own safety, if you know what I mean.

Anyhow, I got the savvy over a custard tart and a pot of chajo. Clarence is the fella’s name, Clarence Aloysius Newburger and he’s Siggy’s own cousin. Siggy now spills his guts all over our elevenses and it ain’t pretty ; his old man works for Lord Ashton up at the Silk Mills, he’s some sort of overseer there, right high up and fancy which is how they got the coin  to send The Young Sigmund to school and then, later, to the Wizards’ Collegium in Litchfield.

I never knew all this about Sig before but it all makes sense to me as he says it ; there are three sorts of people who end up here in the back-alley hex rings of Lancaster and smite me down if it probably ain’t the same in all the big cities of Ire : there’s those who ran away because this was their dream, and I guess you’ve got me pegged now too coz I’m certainly one them, then there’s those who are down and out anyhow and looking at any way they can to make ends meet, hex slinging can be the end of you, WILL be the end of you if you stick at it, but if you’re good at it, really good, and me and Siggy, smite me down if we ain’t pretty damn good, you can pretty much make your fortune at it. Or so the ring bosses will tell you. Anyhow then there’s the last sort, Siggy’s sort as it now turns out, and that’s the fallen wizards.

When a wizard gets disillusioned or disgraced – I don’t know, maybe he suddenly realises that The Almighty Wiz ain’t as benevolent and loving as all his holy texts make him out to be or maybe he develops a Tiffin habit or a taste for Lemonade, we all have our vices eh? – whatever the reason for him leaving Litchfield he doesn’t have many options open to him; everyone hates magic users and if you ain’t carrying an official licence from the Collegium you can’t legally practice it anyway. Chances are he’ll end up in one of two places; The Gutter Wizards or The Hex Slingers.

We don’t get many of Siggy’s sort down here, as you can imagine.

But I’m getting off the point again. Siggy said he never like Litchfield. He loved magic but he says they don’t teach you real magic up there, only their own limited and feeble understanding of how the world is put together and how a man can influence and exert his limited and feeble will over bits of  it.

Not like us, we stretch our soul out of our fingertips and into the aether, grasp the threads that hold the world together and force them to obey. It’s incredible, raw, adrenaline-fuelled ecstasy and once Siggy tried it( in a back alley behind the Burlington Arcade with a Youth who wore the scarlet leather of the Cameo Libris Scribes and claimed his mother was witch) he knew his Collegium days were over.

He came home to Lancaster but his old man didn’t want to know about it. That’s when he met me and I got him his Beauty and we started this whole lark together.

“Haven’t a friend in the world, Erik,” he kept saying – Erik Wise, that’s me in case you didn’t figure it out – “Haven’t a friend in the world now.” He’s one of those comic-morose types y’know? All Over with the Rueful Smiles and Languid Glances, the Heavy Sighs and such.

So I got him one. In a matchbox. Docklands are crawling with mice you see and they’re good for the fight if you know how to use them. You can use anything to boost your game if you know how, but Siggy likes mice ; smite me down if he can’t stand in a hex ring with Beauty on his shoulder and whistle and every mouse in every garret and gutter will come and swarm on him like a second skin. You can really do a lot with a skill like that and it drives the crowds wild and terrifies the wits out of any newcomers I can tell you.

We always go in for the doubles, Siggy and Me. I like the dust, it listens to me now and I can use it to bring physical form to the magic, which is terrifying in its own right, even without the Myomancer beside me. But we’re a great team and I wouldn’t go solo for any common price.

So this Clarence fella, he’s come to Lancaster looking for help and Siggy’s father won’t give it to him. Clarence is all set to solve his problems some other way when he hears on the ground that Siggy is still in Lancaster and fighting for coin in the hex rings. This suits Clarence’s plan even better ;  seems that some rogue relation – Harvey Hilarius Newburger, whoever he may be – has gotten himself into a scandal and needs to be gotten rid of sharpish before he lands the whole family in hot treacle. Seems Clarence thinks a hex slinger ought to be able to sort this little problem out a treat.

But Siggy’s a decent sort and he won’t have a part in it so old Clarence goes off to do the dirty work for himself and smite me down if I didn’t pity this fella Harvey-Whoever-He-Is on account of the murderous look on Old Clarence’s face as he left the Tiffin Den that day.

We never heard from him again and smite us both if we ain’t glad about it. We’re doing alright, Siggy and Me, we make enough in the rings to keep us in ‘Tops, Tails n Tiffin’ as they say round here. Maybe one day we’ll make that fortune we were promised, or catch the eye of some well to do Patron, then we’d hit the big time and no mistake. But we’re doing alright for now…

 

So there you have it, the first in this little series of snap-shots of Lancastrian street-life.

Now then I really must insist you go, I have important work to be getting on with, not least making sure the front door is Liver-Bird proofed again, true I have no flesh to devour but they do make a dreadful mess of the books if they manage to get in …. what’s that? You’re not sure your coat is Liver-Bird -proofed either? Well I’m sorry you should have thought of that before you decided to break the curfew! It’s certainly not my problem! Good Night!  

Oh, er…leave the bottle though…I mean, if you don’t make it home it’ll be a terrible waste…


Soup of the day with Suna Dasi of Steampunk India

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

Helping me this morning is Suna Dasi of Steampunk India ! Good morning Suna, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, there is a weapons cache in the bread bin there by door if you’d like to leave your… what do you call that piece of dispachorial equipment, I have never seen anything like it!?
It’s my Aural Induction Oscillator, also known as the Earwig…and I shan’t need it while enjoying the hospitality of your kitchen! I’ll lean my pneumatic crossbow against the wall if that’s alright?
Of course! How was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you were not waylaid by any skywaymen or land pirates en route?

Well, I was hoping you were receiving my ship’s dispatches, as I very much wished to arrive on time. Unfortunately we had some temporal flux issues – putting us about eight months off-course! – but we made it in the end. As far as pirates and other skyjackers are concerned, I’d like to see them try! My airship The DevaDasi is perfectly well equipped to deal with such situations and my pilot, Captain Gita Rohini is a force to be reckoned with.
Well you don’t look at all ruffled my dear, your outfit is amazing, did you make it yourself?
I wish I were skilled enough with my hands, but no. I’m a Pengineer, so I’m most at home in the inkwell, not the sewing kit….my saree was hand spun in Varanasi, the blouse custom fit to match. Only the embellishments are mine, which reminds me, I should have taken off the bandolier belt that holds my crossbow bolts, my apologies.
That’s quite alright! And have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?
No soup, I had hoped your orphans might be adventurous enough to try some South Indian kitchree? This is the original dish that Scottish kedgeree is a derivation off. So a base of fragrant stock with ginger, galangal, some chilli, turmeric and coriander, thickened with basmati rice, chopped carrots, chickpeas, okra and green beans. My own version; you’ll find many varieties and the ‘right way’ to make it in several regions of India. I have added crumbed eggs and dried caramelised onion flakes on top. I do hope it’s not too outlandish!
 

Oh what a splendid idea! Thankyou! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire and tell us what attracted you to Steampunk in the first place?

My passion existed before I discovered the word.
As a child I was fascinated by aspects of history like the Age of Sail, the history of global trade and the Age of Steam. I had a hankering for objects behaving like more than what they were designed for. I’ve always loved classic adventure novels (Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard, et al may be problematic to modern sensibilities but their books are also ripping adventure stories!), vintage sci-fi, Victorian poetry, weird fiction, mythology, folklore and pantheism. I’m hugely interested in applied sciences, neuroscience and robotics. I’ve never grown out of preferring costume-type clothing incorporated in daily attire and because of my heritage I was very focused on blending in Indian elements. Corsets combined with tweed trousers, riding boots, a sash and a jacket made of saree material and a turban, or better yet, a traditional Indian saree or salwar kameez suit with Steampunk accessories are so much more enjoyable than modern Western fashion! All these things and many more besides, seemed to suddenly fall into the same category called Steampunk, or aspects of my interests were used in the world-building of Steampunk fiction.
And have you found that your own cultural heritage has influenced your participation in the genre?

Absolutely. I am less active at events and cons, but if I do, my costumes are always based on Indian dress. Mostly, though, it expresses itself in writing and that is because I wasn’t reading characters I wished to see. 
When we read, we want an escape and an anchor at the same time. We want to escape into worlds beyond our own and we want a character we can anchor ourselves to, a way of sailing through the narrative.
Aside from a very few dusky damsels in distress or a few crudely drawn male martial sidekicks or stern warrior types, there was a dearth of actual Indian characters with developing stories. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’s Nemo is great because we follow him through the second half of his adult life, all the way to the very end; after he dies, his daughter takes the relay baton as the protagonist. It’s almost unheard of for a non-Western character to have such a narrative run in Steampunk.
On the other hand we have the fact that the Victorian Age transformed society and made it what is today; one of the biggest ingredients of that transformation was British rule in India.
It can perhaps be understood why I felt underrepresented within the genre once I started reading the fiction on offer. India during the British occupation is a prominent and influential chapter in history, a chapter that has a deep political and cultural resonance to this day. It is really quite odd to completely ignore it as a part of the Steampunk genre. What makes engaging in Steampunk so wonderful is the re-creation of an era in history in a different mould – an era that has the Empire running roughshod over other cultures. Why not make alternate history truly alternative? Instead of writhing in post-modernist angst about what is ‘correct’, which seems to be the going trend, we should grasp the creative nettle, as it were. It is fiction: the creativity that builds alternate history must be allowed to run unimpeded or the trap of self-censoring is a very real and dangerous one. And humour. Humour is so important!

I confess to very much enjoying your writing, would you mind telling the little urchins here a little about the wonderful Steampunk world you have created?
My India has seen the Mutiny come and go, but the outcome is very different indeed. India has essentially been split into three enormous regions and the British are more or less integrated in society, depending on the region.
For my stories I have taken certain things as read: though there are traditional elements to my alternate India, it is a given that women can study, work any kind of job, have sexual relationships with whomever they please, including other women, and lead independent lives to a reasonable degree. This is not a glorious, golden army of amazing accomplished saints, however; there are thieves, cowards, degenerates and murderers among them… They are people. I have moved certain elements from Victorian Britain to the Indian setting, such as children’s workhouses, though they may not be what they seem at first glance…Mostly, it is important to me to think through of what might be in such a society. The added mythological and slightly supernatural elements, which are sparse but present, are pure fun.
 
Empowerment of women is a strong theme running through your fiction isn’t it? Is that something you feel particularly passionate about?
It fuels everything. I work in the creative industries, I’ve done some acting for theatre and film and I currently earn my living as a singer. The glass ceiling for women within the creative disciplines is an ever present beast. I wish this wasn’t so and there is a massive sea change occurring as we speak, in the film industry, the music industry. In fiction, I contribute in my own way by writing women (and men) in reversed roles, unexpected situations in which their reactions aren’t restricted to classic, outdated heteronormative expectations of how men and women are. (I’d like to say that I’m pretty politically incorrect in all areas however; I may not satisfy. I am satisfying me.)
At the moment, I’m actually digressing from specifically Steampunk into speculative poetry and harder Sci-Fi, both excellent formats for expanding similar ideas and great vehicles for turning some classic tropes on their head. Similarly, I’m exploring ancient Indian myth and folklore for writing fiction. 

You have some wonderful, strong female characters, I particularly fell in love with the idea of the Temple Priestesses with their secret double lives, would you tell us a little more about them and how their creation come about?
It comes from the very popular and often loudly vocalised idea that all sex workers are always downtrodden doormats who had no choice and that there is no woman on the planet who would enjoy doing that kind of work. That no woman would make the autonomous choice to give the gift of sex to paying customers and actively enjoys it.
Yes, there are women who fall under this category, especially in impoverished countries. But nuance is vital. There is a history of sacred sexuality in many cultures, of ecstatic pagan worship involving orgiastic rituals and yes, of sacred prostitution as a lauded, accepted and valid path for a woman to pursue (cadres of historians and feminists serving a certain agenda will loudly naysay this, whatever I say or do) So I am writing about two strong willed, happy, sex positive, kick ass temple dancers, whose patron deity is Vajrayogini (an emanation of Chinnamasta, a left hand path Tantric goddess). They use everything in their considerable arsenal of feminine autonomous strength to solve crimes and political intrigues. The underlying reasons for them being who and what they are sound quite heavy, I know, but it will make for quite the adventure. 
No one is black and white in my universe, people are complex creatures, they have flaws and foibles and they make stupid choices when they’re emotional. No one is exempt. 
I am working on a short SciFi story that goes deeper into the morals and values that surround this topic, including certain strands of current sex-negative feminism.

Your writing takes the viewpoint of characters who are often looked over in society, those who come and go unnoticed but without whom 19th century society would have ground to a halt, was that a pre-meditated decision?
It was! It seems preposterous to me that worlds are built without those strata of society, especially as, when they are incorporated, it is usually in an antagonistic setting, or a classic ‘frowned upon romance across different societal layers’. Surely there can be more outside of those contexts! It’s a big part of any culture’s struggle away from restrictive caste systems, to this day many cultures only marry into families of their own social milieu and many cultures have class wars that are still ongoing – but there were far more ‘odd couple’ groups and pairings in history than recorded history lets on. In Science, in Music, in Romance….
I must say, we don’t see many Chimney Sweeps or Night Soil Men walking round Steampunk conventions do we? Do you think Steampunk would benefit from more diversity in it’s central characters, settings and themes?
I think Steampunk, like any genre or subculture, would benefit most from accepting that everyone has different ways of expressing their passion for said genre or subculture and make sure there is enough room, without being snotty or judgemental about somebody else’s enthusiasms.
With common sense and some self awareness, everyone should be able to enjoy their favourite genres. 
I understand that some Steampunks especially love the etiquette and sense of inherent poshness that goes with Victoriana, but I imagine they may conveniently forget that some of the most retentive politeness in Victorian society covered up some of the most hedonistic behaviour behind closed doors, the Victorian criminal underworld was something to behold and some of the most inventive smut ever written comes from the 1800s. I should know, I’ve read quite a bit of it.
And as Steampunk is about alternate worlds and universes, what a great opportunity to incorporate everything, bloomers out and all – including the peoples and cultures of all those wondrous, far flung continents that made up the Empire.
If I may deviate from Steampunk for a moment, I have just seen Deadpool 2 and straight up loved it. One of my favourite characters is Dopinder, the starry eyed cab driver who wants to be a superhero. I’ve heard from many different directions how he is seen as a problematic character.
I thought he was hilarious and everything relating to his race was pure, unalloyed, wicked irony, especially as (spoiler alert!) he actually pulls through in the end and gets his kill in.
If I listen to most of the indignant people, apparently I should be offended. I am Indian and I wasn’t. I’ve asked fellow Indian, Pakistani and Sikh people what they thought and they all without fail thought he was great. 
By the same token, there was a great outcry when the other Avengers ranted at Thor about how his brother attempted to level New York, to which Thor hastily responds: “He’s adopted”.
I was howling with mirth in my seat at that. I am also adopted. I was not offended in the least.
(I’m also very invested in the Marvelverse – I’ve been reading X-Men since I was 14 – so I will stop digressing or we’ll be here forever.)

You describe the Victorians as ‘dodgy’ my dear, which I confess did make me chuckle, do you think that, as Steampunks, we stand, at times, on slightly thin ice and have a duty to make sure that we challenge rather than glorify that ‘dodgyness’?
No, I think we should absolutely glorify the dodgyness! I think a lot of Steampunk is way too politically correct. Be the cads, scoundrels and perverts some of them were, openly and with pride. It’s the glorification of stilted manners and stuffiness that gets on my nerves. You can be a sophisticate and a thorough sexual hedonist, an autodidact scientist, mathematician and musician and a wheeler dealer in the London underground crime scene.
It’s what makes Gordon Dahlquist’s Glass Books of the Dream Eaters such an exquisite symphony of politics, science, intrigue, cultishness and sexual deviance. For me, those books are the perfect Steampunk; quite literary but not eschewing the underbelly of life and it still involves airships, steam-trains and afternoon tea. Just perfect. 

And what about challenging prejudice within the genre, that’s not always easy to tackle head-on is it?
The only prejudice that continuously gets my goat is ‘more Steampunk than thou’ attitudes. Everyone is here to have a good time, whether they wear a dress with clockwork print or a full suit of armour with actual working, ticking clockwork. MAKE ROOM. YOU’RE NOT LOSING ANYTHING. 
*cough* 
Apologies, I hope I didn’t startle you.
What would you say to those here today who might want to express their own culture and history through their Steampunk writing and costuming?
Do it. Be proud.
And what about those who might want to explore and express aspects of cultures that are not their own?
Do it. Be not an idiot about it.
Now then, I must apologise, the kettle has long been singing at us and I haven’t offered you a cup of tea! What is your poison dear and how do you take it?
Masala chai without sugar, please!

Ah, one of my favourites! There you are. Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, it’s been wonderful to chat with you! I know you are very busy at the moment, would you  like to point us to where we can find out about your current projects?

Please could I refer to my website and Twitter account for listed projects and some free fiction?
http://www.steampunkindia.com and http://www.twitter.com/SteampunkIndia

image1

Some of my work includes:

A Day in the Life or, What The Tiffin Saw, Steampunk fiction, February 2014, Brown Girl Magazine, USA

Those Dark Satanic Mills, Steampunk Novella for the Tales From the Archives anthologies, edited by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, May 2014

The Steampunk User’s Manual by Jeff VanderMeer & Desirina Boskovich, (nonfiction contribution), October 2014

The Tinku Diaries, Steam/Clockpunk fiction for The Clockwork Watch Transmedia Project & the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK, November 2014

UnMade, Steampunk LGBT romance for the Steampunk Writers Around the World anthology, Luna Press, August 2017

Internal Devices, Steampunk LGBT romance for the Steampunk Universe anthology, Alliteration Ink, January 2018

 

Marvellous! Well now, I must say that kitchree smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins are starting to get fidgety so shall we start dishing it up?

Let’s! I have been baking some roti’s and garlic naan to accompany the food and I have brought some jars of my homemade courgette chutney.
Splendid, thankyou so much all of you for joining us in the kitchen today – blessings on your brew my dears!


Steampunk Summer Postcards: Elen Sentier

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… oh it’s from my dear friend Elen Sentier…

 

Lady’s Window

Well, here I am, two hundred and fifty feet above the sea, on the edge of a vertical cliff. Gulls and jackdaws call overhead, a few kittiwakes perched on the cliff opposite, a seal playing down in the water below. Oh how inviting that water looks, all I have to do is step off the edge and I’d been down there, in the water, swimming with her. Well, actually, no – I’d bounce off a whole bunch of scary-looking pointy rocks on the way down, minced nicely for shark food, expect the basking sharks hereabouts are plankton-eaters. Hmmm! Perhaps I won’t do that then!

I adore this place up on the cliffs of North Cornwall. I love that it’s hidden too, you can’t see it as you come up the path and in fact the path goes right on past, you have to deliberately turn off, go a different way, when you get to Firebeacon Hill. I did and sat awhile on the bench at the top, then slithered and skidded my way down the steep slope on the baked earth and slippery dry grass. Breathless, I sat in the cool shadow of the cliff for a few moments, it always gets my heart going doing that skid-walk! Then there’s climbing through the hole …

Lady’s Window is a huge hole in the rockface that stands up at the edge of the cliff. I don’t know enough about geology to tell you why or how it does this, it looks incredible. From the top you think if you climb through you’ll just crash down the rocks and into the sea below, but you don’t. you can climb through the hole onto a path, quite a wide path considering, where you can walk out along the outer side of the cliff for twenty or thirty feet. Ha! Walk! No, I crawl. I have a lousy head for heights but a complete fascination with them.

So I creep through the hole, clutching at the rock, and out crawl onto the path. I go a little way along and sit down with my back to the rock wall. That feels safe, my heart calms down and I begin to be able to take in the views.

Only the sounds of nature out here, birds, the wash and thud of the sea on the cliff below, the wild mewl of a seal. A small sail-boat scuds along the horizon, looks like a little fishing boat, not fancy enough for a holiday-maker’s yacht, maybe he’s out for lobster pots.

The sun is going down, falling down the sky to go to bed in the sea. This is what I came for. Not long now. Down and down he goes until he’s just sat on the edge of the horizon, sending a red-gold pathway back to Lady’s Window and the cliff where I’m sat. It’s so tempting to step out and walk that sun-path.

Later the full moon will rise and, later still, she will set out there in the west following the sun down into the sea. As she goes she too will make a pathway across the water, a moon bridge across to West-Over-the-Sea, our fairy lands and the Isles of the Dead, the lost lands that only emerge out of the sea at certain times. They will be there tonight. Will I walk the moon path? I don’t know but, for now, I pull the quilt over me and stuff myself inside the bivi-bag. It’s good to sleep in the sound of the sea. Wish you were here …

Elen Sentier

Lady’s Window features in Moon Song, Elen’s 2nd novel. It’s where Isolde, the protagonist, sets out from to find the dead Tristan and bring him back so he can finish his magical songs. It’s a really magical place where Elen spends some time every year.

Moon Song is a magical-realism mystery novel set in modern-day Cornwall. Isolde must find folk singer Tristan who killed himself before he finished a set of magical songs that help people heal. She succeeds but when she takes him back to the Isles of the Dead, where he can now rest in peace, she gets trapped there herself. Only courage and the willingness to literally jump of a cliff will save her.

Find Elen at www.elensentier.co.uk and on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Facebook, and all her books are on Amazon.

 

How delightful! Well we’re coming to the end of summer now my dears, I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday yourselves and enjoyed our series of steampunk summer postcards, as the weather starts to turn again and the Lemonade Trade begins to fizzle out for another year Max and Collin will be found fending off Liver Birds and Landlords in their subterranean parlour once more so do pop in and join them for their monday morning cuppa and tuesday elevenses, I will be opening up my soup kitchen again and looking out for some marvelous steampunk authors to help me dish up tasty soup and share their new books with our little Lancastrian street urchins, and of course our grumpy ghost Perilous Wight will be back in his lovely library with some splendid steampunk fiction to share with you all so, until then

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Tea at Three: Mythpunk For Monsters

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, thankyou for joining us once again on the swelteringly sultry streets of Steampunk’d Lancaster as we attempt to sell bottles of illegal home brewed lemonade in a desperate bid to pay our rent.

At least that is our ruse for loitering on this street corner this morning, but shhh, step closer, we have something to show you…

Mahrime_Cover_for_Kindle

 

If you’ve been with us for some time you’ll probably be aware that our mistress, Penny, as well as leading a secret double life as an incorrigible octopus and his unnerving gentleman friend (that’s us by the way and we’re not sure we care for the description!) also writes short stories, poems and prose with a far less frivolous flavour in the Mythpunk genre.

If you weren’t aware, you can read some of them here for free: PENNY BLAKE ON VOCAL POETS 

Mahrime – Mythpunk For Monsters is a collection of  mischievously mutilated and punk’d-up folk tales heavily influenced by Penny’s Rromani cultural heritage. Each poem, story or prose piece explores the themes of identity, power and love by putting the monsters, the outsiders, the outcasts, the ‘unblessed’ right at the heart of the narrative.

It’s available now to pre-order on Kindle, free with Kindle Unlimited or 0.99 without and also in paperback if that’s what you prefer (the paperback is full colour with black pages, white text and beautiful white mandala art work by ArtsyBee and comes with a free Kindle copy)

“And what is Mythpunk?” we hear some of you ask…

Mythpunk can be as simple as taking a traditional tale and re-working it to produce something fresh, inspiring and new , or it can be a far more complex synthesising of cultural and mythological evolution; a deep exploration into the cultural psyche or an unflinching dissection of archaic archetypes. A lot of Steampunk involves some Mythpunking along the way and a lot of Mythpunk has a decidedly Steampunk flavour.

 

So, now that we know exactly what we’re letting ourselves in for , lets take a little sneak peek at just some of the things inside the cover…

Mahrime

mahrime quote

 

Mahrime means ritually unclean  / unblessed in Rromani language, it is akin to the word Unseelie in Celtic lore but it is applied to people. The title story in this collection draws heavily on the experiences and mythology of Rromani People and explores the historical out-casting of certain groups and types of people who are branded as ‘monsters’ because their existence is at odds with a dominant cultural or religious ideal. It also goes deeper to hint at the aspects of self which we choose to lock away because we believe them to be unlovable or unacceptable.

 

The Road Back Lost

mahrimequote3

This Mythpunk’d version of The Company Of Wolves is a response to the ideal that we all have both an internal and external collective of wise guiding voices who can teach us our culture, our heritage, our purpose and our place in the world; these voices, intuitions, bodies of lore, family, elders, clan-folk etc are supposed to teach and guide us safely through the wild woods of life and all the dangers therein but what if we don’t have them? What if our family or culture or bodies of lore or even our parents and home have been lost to us? This is the situation for many people today as war and poverty tares children away from their families and cultural white-washing tares culture away from people and places it in the hands of the fashion industry. So what can we do? Try to go back? Try to move forward? Or stay and become the wolf?

 

DAMAO

mahrimequote2

 

Damao means ‘to overcome’ ; the final piece of prose in this collection echoes the hopeful thought that is embedded throughout the book  – with solidarity and support for eachother we can overcome the problems inherent with being labelled ‘outcast’ or ‘monster’, we are not alone and we will endure.

 

So there you have it, Mythpunk for Monsters, we hope you enjoy it, and now I think we will just sit back on this soap box here and sample some of our own lemonade, this day is far too hot to be doing any work and my tentacles are wilting despite the negligee we borrowed from Nimue Brown and her Hopeless Sinners yesterday I think what I really need is a parasol…

Thankyou for joining us on the street corner today, hm? What’s that Max? You think YOU ought to write a book? Honestly, I really don’t think ANYONE is going to be interested in anything you have to say… well alright then I will ‘wait and see!’ … and who exactly do think will publish such an atrocity? Hm? …. oh you’ll ‘find a group of marvelous monsters as mad about tea and tentacles as you are’ will you? Well good luck with that my friend! I shan’t be holding my breath…

While we wait to see what, if anything, comes of Max’s new ambition, let me thank you once again for joining us today and for supporting our endeavors as always and whatever kind of monster you happen to be please, do remain always,

Utterly Yourself.

 


Elevenses: With Nimue Brown and the Sinners of Hopeless Maine

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the sweltering summer streets of steampunk’d Lancaster! You find us this morning still trying to sell enough lemonade to keep our sinister landlord off our proverbial backs (and our actual backs, in fact – he has recently fitted his walking cane with a morning star.)

So, can we interest you in a delightfully delinquent and relentlessly refreshing bottle of fiz? Brewed by our own fair tentacles? …. What? Oh, hold on a minute, who’s this?

Well strap me into a corset and call me Susan, it’s our dear friend Nimue Brown!  What brings you to this street corner, my darling? (Max, stop being rude and ridiculous)

N: This is what I get for borrowing a pair of trousers from Professor Elemental. At least we now know where and when I am, which is progress…

Well we are very, very glad the trousers went wrong because we have been simply dying to get our tentacles on a copy of Sinners – the newest release in your Hopeless, Maine Steampunk graphic novel series!  Please, do tell me you have some Hopeless Sinners tucked away somewhere about your person?

N: I’m like some kind of non-seasonal, less than perfectly masculine Father Christmas with a really dodgy sack just now. I’ve got all the Sinners. Hopeless Sinners.

sinners

The very best kind of Father Christmas then by all accounts! Thankyou! (Max take your mits off it you’re getting it all sticky) we will certainly be reviewing that over a nice cup of tea in the parlour shortly, but before we get it home and out of its negligee (Hm? Oh it’s called a ‘dust jacket’ is it? Sorry…) a-hem… do we get a little teaser as to what’s inside? From the cover it looks like Sal has grown up a little!

N: No, you were right first time, it was a negligee, I may have got a bit carried away with the ‘sinners’ part. I don’t think I’ve got any of the chained ones left…

Oh that is shame…

Yes, Sal is a bit more grown up at this point, but it’s still a passably child friendly read, if the child has no fear of demons, elder gods, monstrous sea life and whatnot. Funny things happen, terrible things happen, and we find out more about the people who live underground on the island.

Now that is what I call a tease! And where can our good friends here get their hands (or indeed tentacles)  on a copy?

N: In theory, anywhere that sells books. In practice, you have to make an appropriate sacrifice at the full moon and pray to an elder God that the online store of your choosing will have copies and will not be charging an entirely random price for them! We’ve had issues in the pre-order period.

Well if anyone needs a potential sacrifice candidate we have a landlord we are willing to part with for noble purposes such as this so do shout…

Otherwise, watch out for Sloth Comics at comics events, or my betentacled crew at Asylum in Lincoln.

Splendid! Now look here, Mrs. Brown, I don’t suppose you could help us sell a few bottles of this fiz here could you? My tentacles are drying out in this heat and Max’s so called ‘wit’ is driving the punters away in… ouch!… I mean, is perhaps not to everyone’s taste…

N:We could redeploy some of the negligees to protect those vulnerable tentacles, don’t you think?

Hm, this reminds of that  pole dancing episode … Max get off that lampost people are starting to flee the street…

I don’t know any lemonade songs. I’ve got a lemon song, but I mostly use it for stuffing chickens with. It goes (brace yourself)

‘lemon up your bum, lemon up your bum, lots and lots of lovely lemons, lemons up your bum’.

Which might or might not sell lemonade, I suppose…

 

Well I think between the three of us we have managed to clear the docklands quicker than if someone had shouted ‘PLAGUE!’ … and now we may well be reduced to pole dancing again to make the rent this month, so may I keep the negligee?

Thankyou for joining us on the street corner this morning, we will be back soon with more splendid shenanigans and a super special announcement … or two… so, until then,

please be always,

Utterly Yourself


Soup Of The Day with Steampunk Photographer Charli Anderson-Farrar

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

Helping me this morning is photographer and Steampunk Charli Anderson-Farrar, Mastermind behind the awe inspiring Pagan – Steampunk project ‘Shades’, which you may have seen exhibited at The Asylum back in August. Good morning Charli, my dear, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?

I have indeed, and I hope you like it! I’m a bit of a cheese addict, I’m not ashamed to say it, and I discovered a wonderful creamy cheese and bacon soup recipe on geniuskitchen.com a while back that I adapted to be more to my taste by using Blacksticks Blue cheese! This recipe serves 6 and takes about 1 hour and ten minutes to complete.

 

INGREDIENTS

2 Starchy Potatoes

355ml milk

8 slices smoked bacon (you can use unsmoked if you wish but Blacksticks and Smoked Bacon taste amazing together!)

115g Blacksticks Blue cheese (you can substitute this for another blue cheese or stilton if you prefer)

475ml single cream

Salt and pepper to taste

 

METHOD

  1. Boil the potatoes until soft.
  2. Drain, then transfer to a pan with the milk and blend thoroughly. Grill the bacon until crispy then cut into small pieces.
  3. Crumble the cheese over the potatoes and gently stir it in until the cheese has melted. Then add the cream and salt and pepper to taste. You can also add the bacon now if you wish to infuse the smokey flavour. Bring the soup to the boil, then remove from the heat.
  4. If you did not add the bacon before boiling, place it in the bottom of the bowls or in the soup tureen. Serve the soup over the bacon immediately.

 

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire and tell us all about the main concept for your exciting steampunk project Shades ?

The idea behind “Shades” was initially going to be a staged version of a British myth, prompted by a topic in my university course, but I was encouraged to move away from British Myths and ended up doing a Greek one instead. The idea stayed with me though, and it quickly moved into the idea that those things that go bump in the night, the traditional zombies and vampires, were not the only things that hide in the shadows.

I was more interested in the stories that many people have forgotten over the centuries. These are Gaelic and “Celtic” tales, pre-Christianisation spirits and Gods, word of mouth stories passed down for centuries and often lost to the mists of time; the Courts of the Ancient Fae, the Aos Si, tales of Banshees and Phantom Horsemen, personifications of Human Evils and even Humans themselves touching the darkness with their desire for power and wealth. I love the origin stories of natural phenomena, such as Will o’ the Wisps (gas lights in marshes) being the lanterns of pixies causing mischief, or how fire came to the world through the theft of Faerie Fire. These stories are more open to interpretation, as there are fewer popular preconceptions and film visuals dictating how they should look, dress, act or think, which will allow me a certain freedom from modern cultural influences when it comes to creating the aesthetics of the characters.

 

And what inspired you to merge forgotten myths with the Steampunk aesthetic?

Even those that move in the Shadows have to move with the times. The television series “Grimm” shows fairytale creatures in the modern setting of Portland in the USA, hiding in plain sight, while the film “Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters” shows the God Hermes as having a day job at a Courier Centre. I already knew that I wanted to create my images in an alternate-world setting, as I felt that just bringing them forward into the modern era was a little bit limiting in terms of fantasy design and that was something I really wanted to keep a hold of – I didn’t want to just mimic Grimm and Percy Jackson by having old objects in a new setting. I wanted the objects to still be aesthetically relevant.

The alternative-world opens the way for even greater creativity surrounding the character and costume design of these fantastical creatures, and because of this, I desperately wanted to include a Steampunk element. While not exactly “modern” in its primary aesthetic, Steampunk is something that I love and cherish, and with so many possibilities and creative avenues to explore within the genre, there is something there that will cater to all the characters that I have planned. Not only that, it gives me an excuse to utilise modern ideas with a much older aesthetic.

 

It certainly is a marvellous and original idea, oh and  I see you have brought some photographs along to show the orphans?

DSC_4319DSC_6644DSC_6800DSC_6851

Those look marvellous! Who designs and creates the costumes for each character?

I do! I did some theatre and film design studies a while back, so I had some experience in designing costumes and props already. Originally I had planned to have a local seamstress make them, but I couldn’t afford to pay her as the whole project is voluntary. She wasn’t willing to work in that way, which I can understand, but it did leave me in a bit of a pickle. So I re-acquainted myself with the use of a sewing machine and revisited some of my old stage costume and prop-work from when I was at school to get myself back into the swing of things. Some of the outfits, like the Wisp, are put together from charity shop and Ebay finds or donated items, while others, such as Lorell the Embodiment of Fire, are made 100% from scratch.

 

That is amazing! And what is your ultimate vision for the project to be presented to the public? I have heard whispers of a book or possibly a performance piece?

Yes, eventually I want to get all the pictures together into a photo-book, perhaps with some short stories or essays in to compliment the images. I also like the idea of presenting the project in a slightly more interactive way than a traditional exhibition – I want people people to be interested in the project on an educational level, as many people don’t know the history of our country from before the Roman settlement. I’ve always felt that if you give people the opportunity to get involved and interact with things, they tend to be more interested and remember what they have learned.

 

Indeed! I am aware that Shades is a collaborative project, is there any way that the good folks gathered here can get involved or support the project?

Well, one way to support the project is to make a donation of money or materials, either to the one-off donation box on the Shades website, or you can sign up as a Patron on Patreon. Most of my Patreon earnings go towards Shades, and those that don’t help support other projects that I am currently working on, which in turn also generate interest in Shades, so either way, Shades wins!

Another way people can get involved is by supporting the exhibitions. I keep a list of exhibitions on the website, so you can come and visit, or if you are a festival or event organiser, we are always interested in hearing from people who might like to have Shades displayed.

Finally, if you keep an eye on the “Get Involved” page on the website, you can see if we have any voluntary openings coming up. These are usually for models, but I do occasionally need specialist skills that I can’t personally do, and these will go up there as well. I also sometimes take requests for work experience and portfolio development opportunities, but I don’t take requests for secondary photographers.

 

And where can we see the costumes displayed, learn more about the project and keep up to date with future developments?

The outfits can be seen “live” at exhibitions, though currently I don’t have any confirmed shows coming up just yet. I have just finished my application to take part in Asylum X in August, so hopefully I should have some news on that soon! Otherwise, you can check out www.charli313.wixsite.com/shadesproject where all information regarding Shades is kept. You can also follow the project on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheShadesProject/, follow me on Twitter (@charlianderson) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/CharliAndersonCreations), see pictures on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/charliandersonfarrar/ or check out my Patreon for special Patron-Only updates and exclusive behind-the-scenes pictures and footage! (https://www.patreon.com/charlianderson).

I sometimes take my work to other kinds of shows, depending on the theme. For example, the Lorell outfit is dedicated to a gaming community of the same name, they I recently took the outfit to a game fan convention to display there, so keep your eyes peeled for those odd occurrences too!

 

And finally, the all important question, on which the fate of the world may hang… the kettle is singing so which is the brew that inspires your creative endeavours, coffee or tea? (and how do you take it?)

Always tea for me, as coffee gives me headaches! NATO standard, milk with two!

 

Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Charli, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

No problem, I’ll grab those bowls for you! And if you ever have a particular British spirit or God you’d like to see me represent, I’m always up for a challenge, so drop me a line sometime!

 

We certainly will my dear, and I hope you will come back and visit us again some time! 

Thankyou all for joining us in the soup kitchen today, I will see you next week when Poet and Science Fiction authour Kevan Manwaring will be telling us all about the launch of his new Eco-sci-fi Thriller Black Box! 

Until then, Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Elevenses: Join The Ministry Of Steam Wizards!

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!

steam wizards 1

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!

GET SORTED INTO YOUR STEAMPUNK WIZARD HOUSE HERE

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.”

steam wizards nightigale

 

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)
Symbol: heart

I look forward to meeting fellow Nightgalians! Do you have what it takes to:

“A cool head and a warm heart light the way” ? ”

steam wizards edmonstone

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.”

steam wizards earheart

 

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!)

Practical Magic…

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

Utterly Yourself!

 

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).”

 

 

 

 

 


Pipe and Slippers: Army Of Brass

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…

stories meme base

Army of Brass

Chapter 45

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.

 

Order your ebook copy of Army of Brass for $.99 and receive it on Friday to celebrate Steampunk’s “31st birthday.” The blog tour continues until May 13, and so does this special price.

 

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.