Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s rambunctiously raucous and chi-chi to the core parlour located high above it all on board our beautiful rainbow-sailed sky ship, The Harlequin Ladybird.
Our tentacles are all of a quiver this morning and our china cups are chattering because we are still taking part in the Dreamtime Damsels blog tour and we are honoured to have another of its contributors, Benjamin Towe, joining us for elevenses this morning!
Do please have a seat, Benjamin (Max, get off the chaise and let him sit down … hm? … no the floor does not do wonders for peoples posture, just move aside.)
Would you like tea? Earl Grey? Lapsang? Assam? Darjeeling? Oolong? (Max don’t be rude)
I brought my own. It’s Enhancing Root tea. The Teacher of the Drelves harvested the tubers in Green Vale during the Dark Period on Parallan, the World of the Three Suns. The circle of Thirttene Friends oversees affairs in the vale, one of the rare green places on Parallan. It’s quite good. Drelves use the tubers in many recipes. The most promising of each generation accompanies the Teacher on the annual quest to harvest the root tubers.
My goodness, how exotic! Do let us all try some! Now then , won’t you please tell us more about your contribution to this Dreamtime Damsels anthology we keep hearing about – the aether is buzzing with the hype but we still haven’t managed to cajole any of our associates into slipping us an illicit copy – sigh – what is the point of rubbing tentacles with the likes of smugglers and pirates if we cannot persuade them to part with their contraband fiction?
Lyana Rikmon, warrior of Donothor. Lyana is a character from my first trilogy, the Donothor series. She is sheriff of the hamlet Knottington and a loyal subject of the Kingdom of Donothor. I’ve written 12 novels, but I’m new to the short story. Damsels has been a learning experience for me. Lyana’s story was written in collaboration with Nils Visser. I’m very excited about it!
Oh did you hear that Max? I love the sound of those place names and we’re all big fans of Nils Visser’s books too. What inspired you to write it?
In 1982, I was Dungeon Master and created campaigns for a group of friends, who challenged me to put the campaign to prose. The result was my first novel Deathquest to Parallan. It was written as part one of a trilogy in 1982. I published it in 2005, after my children scanned the old manuscript to a data disc and presented me my first laptop. I rewrote the story. In the first version I killed almost everyone off. I beat George RR Martin to the punch. The rewrite was kinder and gentler. I then completed the second novel, the Orb of Chalar, and then the conclusion of the trilogy, Death of Magick. Lyana Rikmon is introduced in Death of Magick. The Chalice of Mystery followed, then a prequel Dawn of Magick. Since then I’ve written “prequels.” My Elfdreams series includes Lost Spellweaver, First Wandmaker, Wandmaker’s Burden, Emerald Islands, and Mender’s Tomb. Thirttene Friends is a prequel to both the Donothor and Elfdreams series. My most recent, Unwonted Spellweavers bridges the series. I’m currently working on a sequel to Orb of Chalar.
Marvellous! We are all avid players of D&D (although Penny did manage to fracture her hand a few weeks ago at the gaming table which has been the cause of much amusement) and we will certainly hunt out your series to add to our library! Now, what would you say most influences your writing in general?
My years as Dungeons and Dragons player and Dungeon Master. I enjoy creating worlds and filling them up with characters. I love all things Magick.
Ah, alas Magick is banned here in our world but we are fighting the revolution to try and win back our right to wield balls of fire in public. Any authours who have particularly inspired you? (Max put your poetry book away, no one wants to hear that drivel)
Certainly JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Piers Anthony, Damsels has given me the privilege of collaborating with one of my favourite authors, Nils Visser. I’ve become nigh a permanent resident of the Wyrde Woods. I’ve enjoyed Guy Donovan’s masterful Dragon Treasure series and WC Quick’s quirky elves.
Oh you’ve definately listed some of our favourites there as well (No he really doesn’t want to hear your poetry Max, stop interrupting) Battenburg?
I prefer “octameter” to iambic pentameter.
As do I! How nice to find someone who shares an appreciation for all things octical! But moving on from poetry (for sanity’s sake), you know, writing is something I’ve always fancied turning my talents to – having so many tentacles I imagine I could be quite productive as an authour. Tell me, what was your own road into fiction writing like?
As I mentioned, I wrote my first novel in 1982 and published it in 2005. Writing has been a great escape for me. I encourage young people to read and write… and persist.
Oh well you must meet some of Mrs Baker’s Lancastrian orphans then! Peril does his best to teach them to read and write and they are certainly persistent in many of their other occupations (although I recommend you hold onto your pocket watch if you do venture down there.) And do you have any plans for new projects in the near future?
I’m currently working on a story that will again bridge my brace of fantasy series. It expands on events in Orb of Chalar and will ultimately be a sequel to Death of Magick. It features a powerful red-haired elf named Ravenna, the daughter of a sorceress and assassin. Her father Tigarn Nocerre commissioned the Arch-Lich Achymm to create the cursed sword, the Death of Magick.
Marvellous! So, where and when can we get our tentacles on a copy?
I hope to have it finished by end of year.
And what about your other work, where can we find more of that?
My 12 fantasy novels are available at Amazon, Authorhouse, Barnes and Noble, and some at Kobo and Apple Books. I have signed copies available. My Facebook page is Benjamin Towe books. Benjamintowe.com has excedpts from my stories. I’m on Twitter @bftowe
Marvellous I…. Wooooah! Dear me I do apologise, the airship must have slipped and I seem to have landed in your lap I hope I haven’t covered you in octopus slime?
In Wandmaker’s Burden, the residents of Vydaelia battle a triskaidekapod. 13 tentacles and legs and a nasty disposition. Being hugged by eight arms isn’t so bad.
Well how very kind of you to say so, most people get a little skittish at octopoidal contact, it’s a terrible prejudice and makes for a very lonely life…. Hm, what’s that? Time you were going? Are you sure, why it feels as though you just got here!
My Dreamraiders have the power of Translocation, which enables them to traverse space and time. A bit of Whovian influence I suppose. Escape to an Elfdream…
Oh dear, Max I do believe your threats to commit poetical atrocities and your lack of appreciation for a man’s personal space have scared off yet another of our guests. We are doomed never to get our tentacles on a copy of this Dreamtime Damsels Anthology and it is all your fault. Besides which you have eaten all the french fancies again.
Thankyou, friends for joining us this morning on board our beautiful rainbow sailed sky ship The Harlequin Ladybird, you will find all the blog posts so far on the Dreamtime Damsels blog tour listed below and until we see you again, please remain always
An Egg of Temperance
“Yoo hoo, Mr. Temperance, are you about the gardens, eh hem?”
~boingy, boingy, boingy~
“Happy Easter Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am!”
“Eep! Great Leaping Lepus! What on Earth, Mr. Temperance?!?!”
“Don’t be skeert, Ma’am, I’m just dressed up for an Easter egg hunt. We got a special invitation from our pal Penny!”
“Mr. Temperance, One cannot be seen in public with you if you choose to wear that ridiculous garb.”
“But I thought some big floppy bunny ears and a fluffy tail would be festive.”
“I got some for you, too! Take off your hat and put on some bunny ears. They’re fun!”
“I most certainly will not!”
“Will you at least stick a fluffy bunny tail on your bustle?”
~sigh~ “Very well, if it will make you happy.”
“One is compelled to correct you on a misunderstanding. Mrs. Blake has invited us on an ‘Aether’ egg hunt, not ‘Easter.’ The hunt in question is to find some clever positioning of specialized information that only One with ‘insider’ intelligence will glean, thus revealing a hidden message in an otherwise innocent scene, eh hem?”
“Oh dear, well, perhaps I can demonstrate the meaning this way: Do you remember the episode in which our Earth was invaded by Martians, bent on colonizing our fair home?”
“Yes, Ma’am! That adventure came to be known as ‘For the Love of Temperance’”
“Quite so. In it, you and a compatriot commandeer a Martian War Machine. Once within, it is realized that there are no windows. An artificial portal is duly discovered. Readers that are of an age to remember tubed, black and white televisions might recall a similar warm up period before the grainy, pixelated image, scrolling endlessly up the screen becomes fixed.”
“Oh, okay, I getcha. Sort of like that time you got kidnapped by a band of Native American, Pirate Ninja, Middle Eastern, Samurai and I had to make chase in a borrowed Handsome cab.”
“Thank you. Anyway, that stand behind buggy had a mechanical horsie. Readers that are familiar with mid-twentieth century American muscle cars might recognize what they would know as a ‘Four on the Floor’ manual transmission.”
“Just so, Mr. Temperance, however, were we to share an instance with our good friend Mrs. Blake and her wonderful following, then I should choose a selection from the novel, ‘A Journey of Temperance’”
“Oh my Goodness! That there adventure is a Fantasy Saga of Epic Proportions!”
“Yes, rather. In it, there is a chapter in which our intrepid band is assailed by monsters and devices during a perilous trek that reads not unlike a vibrant game of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’. It is the final scene of this outrageous section that shall be our parting, ‘Aether Egg’ excerpt to share.”
“Okey dokey Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. Happy Reading and Happy Easter, everybody!”
“Mr. Temperance, I see a structure up ahead stretching out across this interminable gulf. It is an arched bridge, my friends. This must be the way out of this calamitous cavern.”
“Harumph. That long, slender bridge doesn’t look safe to me. Send the Temperance boy across first, to make sure it’s safe.”
“I say, there is no time for that, Mr. Morganstern. Let us all fly across this stony segue to sanctuary, eh hem?”
“Golly, we are all running and running, but it is still a long way across. Hunh? Do y’all notice an updraft? Do y’all detect an unidentifiable smell that is accompanying it? If I didn’t know better, I’d say that something inconceivably large were coming up out of this bottomless crevasse that we are desperately running across, what do you think? I’m gonna take me a quick peek over the edge, just to satisfy my curiosity. Well, what do you know, I was right! Way down deep, I can just barely make out a faint, pale glow in the distant depths. Hunh, I think it is getting brighter and bigger. No, it just appears
that way because it is getting closer. Oh my Goodness, maybe we should keep running, y’all.”
“Verily, we are caught out. Running will avail us not. The Great White Wyrm of Impossible Revulsion has us and there is no escape.”
“I’ll give it a lick with my magic pick!”
“This would be a noble last gesture, halflet, but this fabled monster is of an enormity that will engulf this entire cavern. Your best attack would be negligible at best.”
“Gee whiz, Mr. Legolamb is right! This big old worm is gonna gobble us up all gone! I sure am sorry that I allowed you to become grub for a giant grub, Ma’am.”
“Come now, Legolamb my dear, is there no spell you can cast that will stay this beast?”
“No Persephone, there is nothing I can do to stop it.”
“Dang, y’all, he is here! We are about to get gobbled up!”
“Could you stop time, perhaps, eh hem?”
“No, I’m afraid not. Wait, I may have an alternative! Great stores of raw magic, as is loose in these mines, will sometimes develop an id, if you will. I have a spell that will force the collective consciousness of these mad mines to manifest itself!”
Mines of Madness and Deceit.
Lord of Labyrinth Despair.
These adventurers demand a receipt.
For tolls taken in your lair.
Traps and armies and devilish schemes,
we have answered all.
We have a token we would redeem,
You cannot refuse our call.
By Elven right and Elven might,
manifest for me, spell caster.
Your game is paused, in position tight,
we would parley with Dunjeon Maester!
“Burbity. The stalagmites have ceased to fall.”
“Blast it, Temperance, I’ll call them anything I want!”
“I say, how extraordinary! Our surroundings hang in suspension. Oh, dear, so do we, apparently. We enjoy very little range of motion, eh hem?”
“Ach, the freakish white glow of the colossal wurm sends strange beams of light up from below, illuminating us all in staerk contrasts.”
“Verily, the spell is working! Behold, a swirl of light inside our five person party reveals our other worldly host.”
“My word, a humanoid head is manifesting in strange turquoise hues. I say, are you our host and Dunjeon Maester perhaps, eh hem?”
“Silence! This is not thy turn to speak. Who would be so insolent as to dare this maneuver? Who hast the gall to summon me?”
“I do, Dunjeon Maester! I, Legolamb of Upper Austeria. Legolamb of the Elven High Council. Legolamb of the High Arts!”
“Ha, ha, ha, foolish elf! This mighty wurm is moments from snatching you into its bottomless gullet! You are caught out and you have failed in your quest to pass through my domain!”
“Verily, I challenge thee by the Rites of Probability!”
“Dost thou carry the Artifacts of Probability, elf?”
“I do. Behold, Dunjeon Maester, they are here!”
“By my Omnipotent Mind, I didn’t see those coming! I haven’t seen a set of those in Ages! Where did you get them?”
“In my time, they were quite common. Any Enthusiasts’ Emporium was likely to have them. These, though, may be the last in existence.”
“I will use thine occult artifacts to cast your fate.”
“I say, small objects of varying polyhedral design float from Legolamb’s hand. Apparently, they are in control by our host’s telekinesis. The multi-sided pieces spin in a furious whirlwind before being hurled to the bridge’s deck. Our disincorporated Dunjeon Maester’s head does a quick calculation in his blue-green mind.”
“Inconceivable! I have never heard of such luck. You will be allowed to cast for your fate.”
“Verily, this is not fair, Dunjeon Maester! We have successfully passed the Rite of Probability! You must let us pass!”
“Quiet, elf! I am the Dunjeon Maester and I make the rules. It is my decision that you must all cast for your passage! First, you, wizard. My reading of you suggests a robust constitution, but low charisma. You possess moderate strength and wisdom but an extraordinarily high intelligence quotient. You will throw three, ten-sided Artifacts. Thou requires a sum of fifteen or greater to survive this confrontation.”
“Verily, my sweet Artifacts, Big Daddy Wizard needs a shiny new staff. Come on, Artifacts, don’t let me down. Go do thy magics, now! Yeah baby, yeah! Verily, seven, four and eight! I succeedest!”
“Next, the dwarf will cast. Strongenfight, I read that thou art of hearty constitution and amazing strength. Moderate wisdom, intelligence and charisma follow. Thou shalt have two, twenty sided dice to cast.”
“What! That’s absurd, that dwarf having more die points to cast than I!”
“Silence, elf, it’s not thy turn! Strongenfight, thou must cast a sum of twenty five or greater.”
“Ye don’t mind if I spit on them for luck, do you?”
“Verily, yes, I do!”
“Too bad, elfie me lad. ~huh-whock a patooey!~ Now then, pull me beard out of the fire, lassies, poppa dwarf needs to buy some baby boots. Aye! A fifteen and a seventeen! I’ve doone it!”
“Next, I choose the strange little creature in the odd black hat. I do not recognize thee as a creature of Middle o’ Earthhe. Tell me, what art thou?”
“Verily, it’s a halflet.”
“Ach, nae, it, I mean, he’s a dwarf! You are a dwarf, are you not, Ichs of the Bod?”
“Eep! Um, yessir, I reckon I’m a dwarf, all right.”
“Thou art a pathetic excuse for a dwarf, Ichs of the Bod. I read thee as possessing low levels in all the major characteristics, with the exception of unusual dexterity. Tell, me, pseudo-dwarf, how didst thou survive this long?”
“I have lots of enthusiasm, sir!”
“You are entitled a cast of two, four-sided Artifacts. Thee must achieve a sum of eight or greater.”
“How do I get greater than eight with two four-sided Artifacts?”
“Thou canst. I merely said that to amuse myself.”
“Oh, okay, well, I’m gonna let Miss Plumtartt blow on them for luck. Thanks, Ma’am. Now come on, Artifacts, don’t fail me now, Icky needs a new pair of gaiters! I done it! Double quads, Mr. Dunjeon Maester, how do you like them apples?”
“Silence, fool, thy turn has passed. Female, you are next. What is your name?”
“I say, I am delighted to introduce myself. My name is Plumtartt, Persephone Plumtartt.”
“Plumtartt, Persephone Plumtartt, thou art a beautiful creature, yet thou art not an elf. Of what race are you?”
“I say, I am proud to say that I am of the human race, good sir.”
“And a better example of humanity one could not hope to meet. Incredible, your aura radiates with the astounding levels of your delightful characteristics. In every category, you are as a beacon of perfection, my dear. You will be asked to cast four, eight-sided Artifacts for a sum of twelve or greater to survive.”
“Normally, I do not approve of gambling, outside of church charitable events, though I suppose one must if our entire party is risking larval digestion in the balance. Yes, hear, hear, come along, Artifacts, mumsy wishes to avoid aforementioned appetizer status. Hoiy-yaw! Brava! I have achieved the requisite amount! Jolly good, hear, hear, I say!”
“You are a human also, J. P. Morganstern. Your aura is unlike that of the Plumtartt girl. Yours is a dun-coloured morass. Your major characteristics are abysmal. You will cast a single, six-sided Artifact. Thou needs a sum of four or better.”
“Harumph. I am well versed in removing monies from my companions by way of gambling sport. Whether by cards, dice, or betting on racing and boxing, I have amassed massive fortunes in just this sort of play. Give me that blasted Artifact. Come on, sweet dollar signs, daddy wants to return to my riches! Burbity! A snake eye! That won’t do. I demand to throw again!”
“The Artifact cast has failed! You shall all perish! I suspend, this suspended animation! You are returned to your gruesome deaths, still in progress!”
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 Sara, creator of the marvellous larp and steampunk clothing at Citadel Costumes. Good morning Sara, 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?
Yes, I have my favourite homemade tomato and red pepper soup. I made it by softening a large, diced brown onion in a knob of butter. When soft, add two diced red bell peppers and several different types of sliced fresh tomatoes. My favourites are vine tomatoes and baby plums, but you can use any you like. Then add enough vegetable stock to cover the ingredients, a little salt and pepper and simmer until the tomatoes have turned into a pulp. Whilst you are waiting for that to happen put two sweet pointed peppers on a baking tray, and drizzle in a little oil, pop them in the oven at about 200 degrees, and roast them until soft and the skin is slightly blackened, drop them whole into the soup and remove from the heat. Once the soup is cooled, blend it in the pan until smooth… you can add a little single cream or natural yoghurt to make it creamier if you wish
Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we take a look at some of your lovely hats and costumes, I see you have you brought some along to show us today!
You certainly have a wide range of costumes, what inspires or influences you when you sit down to create a new costume?
It depends really, if it’s a costume from my own imagination, it can be something as simple as seeing an image or texture, I then start to think about how to translate that into fabric, which then develops into a whole character costume…If it’s for a client, generally I build on key aspects of their brief, and add my own creative spin to it. I love a challenge, so I always try to add something to the design, which will push me outside my comfort zone. Whether that’s a challenging pattern cut, or a difficult dye job, I think it adds something special to the piece, a kind of exclusivity if you will.
Splendid! Do you usually have a particular character or setting in mind when you create each one?
Not always, but sometimes a whole costume will pop into my head; I’ll think “Sea Elf” and the whole thing will be there in colour and texture with accessories! Other times I’ll get inspired by a fabric, like Chinese Brocade and a kimono with a bustle will pop into my head! I’ll start to make the piece and a character will form around it, I’ll begin to visualise other aspects of the costume, the accessories, hairstyle, mannerisms etc.
(this must sound mad! Hehe)
No, no my dear, that does not sound mad at all, unless, as they say, ‘We’re all mad around here’ … but tell me, do you take part in live action role play yourself?
Yes, I’ve only been involved in it for a couple of years, but it’s an amazing hobby. I’ve always been a bit of a daydreamer and I love dressing up. The role play was challenging for me, I felt rather awkward the first few events I went to, but throwing yourself into the game and the character you’re portraying is the best way forward. It’s pure escapism for me, a way to get away from work/life stress and although I come home from events exhausted, in a way, I always feel recharged too
It sounds marvellous! You have a lovely range of costumes in your shop but if a customer wanted something special do you take custom orders?
Yes I’m happy to take commissions, I find some of my best work comes from other peoples briefs, even though I’m quite whimsical, I like having guidelines too, it helps me focus!
Oh lovely! Now I know I am just longing to get one of your lovely hats! Tell me, where can we find your work displayed, featured or for sale?
Currently, I only have my Etsy store for online purchases, you can find that here:
I’m also on Facebook, where you can see what I’ve been up to, recent makes, upcoming trading events etc, that’s here:
And, if any of our discerning Steampunk friends attended The Chepstow Steampunk market, in south wales on the 22nd of april I was there too and may be again in the future.
Now that is a curious thing as I think some friends of ours were there as well! Now then, as the kettle is singing, the all important question, on which the fate of the world may hang… which is the brew that inspires you more when you are creating, coffee or tea?
Oooh both really!, a good cup of coffee, with milk, is what gets me going in a morning, and a nice cup of tea in the afternoon to pick me up when I’m flagging!
Splendid, here you are then a nice cup of tea to usher in the afternoon!
Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Sara, 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?
By all means
Lovely, thankyou all for joining us in the soup kitchen today, and I will see you again next week with another splendid steampunk guest,
Blessings on your brew my dears!