Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “sci fi

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!


#Rainbowsnippets: Jack and Marjory

 

rainbow-flower-1394714-640x480

Happy Saturday! Hope you’re all getting into the festive spirit and yet artfully managing to avoid the insane highstreet crushes! Lancashire is mostly soggy just now but in a cheery sort of way we’re ‘hugging the yog’ as they say and keeping the hot soup flowing!

Still posting  from the novella I’m working on. It’s called Jack and Marjory and it gives space for two of my  bigender characters to tell something of their own side-adventure (which played a massive part in the history of Ire in a behind the scenes sort of way.) If you want some world background, check out the Introduction page above 🙂

To see all the other fabulous rainbow snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction for this week check out the rainbow snippets facebook page 

The previous snippets from Jack and Marjory were posted here:

Snippet 1

Snippet 2 

Snippet 3

Snippet 4

And here’s snippet 5, (just a tiny bit over six lines so I could work in the tease at the end)… Jack and Marjory have been innocently minding their own business (sort of) when they catch the eye of the notorious trouble maker Eightcups Max…

 

It ain’t that Max is a bad sort, quite the opposite really – the most notorious tea fiend in all of The Scattered Isles, a fugitive from Hull and, along with Christina and Michael Biscotti, one of the foremost figureheads of the revolution. No, that ain’t our problem, it’s that a gent like that attracts too much attention of the wrong sort, and hex slingers like us need to avoid attention wherever possible ; magic, like tea and cake, being illegal in The Scattered Isles, unless you’re rich enough to rise above the law – which we ain’t.
Still he comes swanning over with that dumb grin on his face, his octopus clinging to his shoulder and his bowler hat jammed down tight, covering the worst of those gawd awful scars… “Good evening Jack,” he says, “where’s the lovely Marjory tonight? Not out to play?”
“Not just now.” We hug our teacup and keep our eyes on the steam.
His brow furrows under his hat brim and his purple eyes fill suddenly with concern, « You alright ? Look, I was only playing, you know, I didn’t mean… »
« S’alright, we know, we just had a bad night – one fat monkey an a flippin’ big stick, y’know ? »
“Yes. Yes indeed. Right, well, listen, I’ve got something – something quite big actually, something that might just cheer you up and I need someone I can trust…”

 

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.

 

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

book cover image by Renphoto 

 

 


#Rainbowsnippets : Jack and Marjory

rainbow-flower-1394714-640x480

Happy Saturday! I didn’t have an author snippet sent to me for today so I thought I’d share another six lines  from the novella I’m working on right now. It’s called Jack and Marjory and it gives space for two of my  bigender characters to tell something of their own side-adventure (which played a massive part in the history of Ire in a behind the scenes sort of way.) If you want some world background, check out the Introduction page above 🙂  To see all the other fabulous rainbow snippets for this week check out the rainbow snippets facebook page 

The previous snippets from Jack and Marjory were posted here:

Snippet 1

Snippet 2 

Snippet 3 

And here’s snippet 4, Jack and Marjory have just come up from a difficult fight in the hex ring and are absolutely NOT listening in on Kitty and Max’s conversation, nor indulging in a cup of illegal Lapsang…

 

« I tell you, Kitty, the revolution’s gone to the dogs and Christina… » he knocked back his teacup and Kitty refilled it sympathetically, « …Christina is la reine de salope, if you’ll pardon the French. »

« I wouldn’t excuse you for anything, darlin’, I think it’s lovely. »

He shook his head, « No, no it really isn’t and there’s the rub. » He massaged the back of his neck carefully and ,on turning, caught sight of us and waved cheerfully.

We turned our head to the side and tried to pretend we hadn’t noticed.

 

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.

 

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

book cover image by Renphoto 

 

Hope you’ve all survived the storms last week and are getting in the festive spirit (or not depending on your take on the whole tinsel-fest thing) We’re still in new-house-honey-moon mode I think and have gone decoration nuts which is not like us at all! Hope you all have a warm and cosy weekend, blessings on your brew! 🙂


#Rainbowsnippets : Friends In High Places

Friends in High Places.final.jpg

Happy Saturday! Hope everyone has recovered from the spooky treat fest and the big bang weekend 🙂 I’m afraid I fell off the wagon last week – limited laptop access is throwing blogging and other tech-based pursuits into pandemonium so I’ll have to do some serious strategising over the next three months and see how to organise myself better!

In case you’re new to this game (which sounds weird because I’m a total noob myself!) Rainbow Snippets is a Saturday challenge to share 6 sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction and you can read all the marvelous contributions here on the rainbow snippets facebook page.

My rainbow snippet this week is from Friends in High Places (The Far Seek Chronicles Book 1) by Andi Marquette and Max and Collin are going to be reviewing this in the near future so watch out for that at some point 🙂

 

SYNOPSIS:

 

Outlaw Torri Rendego, captain of the Far Seek, travels to the mining colony of Newburg on Old Earth. Along with her crew, she has to smuggle out rare black opals, in fulfillment of their latest contract, which skirts the edges of legality.

 

Everything goes as planned until Torri discovers that the hated Coalition is increasing security and that Kai Tinsdale, her former bunkmate at the prestigious martial training institution known as the Academy, is stationed in Newburg to break up dangerous but profitable smuggling rings. Kai is now a captain in the Coalition military forces, and she’s very, very good at her job.

 

They’d shared a connection once that deepened not so long ago, but will it mean anything now? Because in a city where allies can quickly become adversaries, Torri and her crew have to navigate both, and any wrong move may be a price too high to pay.

 

Rainbow Snippet Extract –

 

She stopped, training the light in the direction of the offshoot. The beam didn’t reach the opening, but something was definitely lingering just outside its perimeter.

 

“From the surface,” came a low, guttural voice, speaking a variant of Empire Torri hadn’t heard since she was a child. Her guts knotted, and adrenaline shot through her limbs. This was worse than some kind of non-human predator because animals were predictable. Humans or variants thereof were infinitely more dangerous.

 

 

 

And if that has piqued your interest and you’d like to buy the book …

 

https://www.dirtroadbooks.com/friendsinhighplaces

 

 

 

 


#rainbowsnippets: Jack and Marjory

Happy Saturday! I didn’t have an author snippet sent to me for today so I thought I’d share another six lines (well sorry a bit more than six because otherwise it would have ended in a weird place, hope that’s ok) from the novella I’m working on right now. It’s called Jack and Marjory and it gives space for two of my  bigender characters to tell something of their own side-adventure (which played a massive part in the history of Ire in a behind the scenes sort of way.) If you want some world – background, check out the Introduction page above 🙂  To see all the other fabulous rainbow snippets for this week check out the rainbow snippets facebook page 

The previous snippet of Jack and Marjory was posted here

 

We wasn’t always called Jack and Marjory.

Then again we didn’t always live in Lancaster, we didn’t always own these boots, we couldn’t always wield magic, 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 caffeine-free coffee – the lifeblood of the workforce and the would-be well-to-do alike.

Chicory, acorn, dandelion … the great copper pots of caffeine-free 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, intended 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. Dying in a Hex fight, your atoms ripped apart by some aether-wielding maniac, is no one’s plan for their day trip to Abney Park. Certainly, it has never been our aspiration.

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.

 

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

book cover image by Renphoto 


Soup of the day: With Ceri Harper-Leigh and George Shorttail

ceriandgeorge

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 I am extremely honoured to welcome Admiral Ceri Harper-Leigh and George! Thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, me Dears! May I take your hats and coats? We may be over St Michael’s Little Summer but here in the kitchen the fire is nice and warm

Thank-you, its splendid to be here. George and I feel quite at home sat  by the fire.

How was your trip from your own dimension? I hope you did not run into any hostile skypirates or alien life forms on your way?

Fortunately the Sky Pirates and aliens stayed away.  Luckily we managed to cadge a lift from the Regius Professor of Chronology at St. Cedd’s college, who just happened to be passing by your time/space co-ordinates.

Oh that’s marvellous, how convenient for you! And  have you brought along some soup to share with us?

I think we should have Georges favourite meal of “Magical Soup” – basically a mixed vegetable recipe with a star shaped toasted cheese crouton to float on top..

Mmm, it smells delicious, what a lovely idea! I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now George why don’t you stand on a stool beside me here and as I chop the vegetables you can put them into the cauldron for me?

oooo, thank-you Mrs. Baker

You are most welcome my Dear, It’s so nice to have a little helper in the kitchen! There, now while the soup is simmering away,  why don’t you tell us all a little about how the two of you first met?

We first met when we (The Royal Steam Navy) rescued George and his family from the pirate Red Tail and his dastardly crew of grey squirrels when they unsuccessfully tried to sell the bears into “showbiz”.

Oh my goodness! What a dreadful scoundrel! George have had many adventures, haven’t you dear?

I have, thank-you. Not only pirates, but also martian mice, and my latest adventure which is yet to be published with queen Victoria.

Indeed! And Admiral you have begun documenting them in a series of beautifully illustrated books, have you brought some with you to show the orphans?

 

Is it an easy task to keep up with the adventures of such an intrepid young bear?

Yes, they a very easy to write down as I keep a personal journal of my travels, and I can assure the fans of the “bear that dares” that his adventures will continue for at least three more books, bringing the total to six.  So when you place them in order they will portray the colours of the rainbow flag.

I think that is a very beautiful idea! And which has been your favourite adventure so far George? (I know that Max and Collin have enjoyed reading all about your trip to Mars!)

oooo, tough question, but I think I have to say it’s my latest adventure with queen Victoria.

We are all excited to read about that when it is available! And will you be having any other adventures in the near future?

Most certainly, Mrs Baker. I love having adventures

Splendid! Good for you, Dear! But the life of a small grey bear cannot only be about adventuring, surely you have a loving home and family George where you spend most of your time?

Sometimes I can get a little sad when I’m away from my mums and my cat, spot.  but I sing my “happy bear” song and I feel so much better. would you like to hear it?

Oh yes please! We love a good sing-song!

(ahem) # i’m a happy little bear, i never try scare.  i always am polite and i never like to fight. i love my mums and spot so i never ever stop from be-ing a hap-py little bear…#

Oh that is marvellous! Well done indeed! Ah now the kettle is boiling, what can I offer you my dears? – I have contraband tea of all descriptions and a very little coffee saved for special guests (assuming you don’t want the government-standard-issue-decaff?)

Thank-you, tea for me, milk and no sugar please, and a baby-bear-o-ccino for George please.

There you are, now where can we purchase copies of your small grey bear adventures?

Funnily enough you can find us on Facebook as “Small Grey Bear Adventures”

Marvellous! And will you be making any public appearances in the near future?

We are planning to return to the “Festival of Steam and Transport” at Historic Dockyard Chatham next Easter as part of the “Steampunk Village”

Well perhaps we will see you there! Thankyou so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Admiral, and for bringing young George along to help as well! It’s been wonderful to meet and chat with you both 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 Ma’am for inviting us to your cosy cottage. Sadly we have to return to our own dimension now as I believe I’m needed back on the bridge of my flagship HMS Essex, and George has school in the morning and we wouldn’t want to upset his teacher Mrs. Shorttfur.

No indeed! Thankyou all for joining us in the soup kitchen today, you can find George’s adventures by following the links below – Blessings on your brew my dears!

George books LINK: http://www.smallgreybearadventures.yolasite.com/

Umbrella publishing group LINK: http://ghostbearpublishing.yolasite.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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 FIFTH: PENNY BLAKE

 

So, here we are, Johnny. You have asked me to put to paper my reasoning in support of my new found pastime. Nevermind that you are as transparent as ever, obviously hoping to glean some marker as to the level of either my sanity or depravity or perhaps in the pompous hope that by attempting to justify myself I will find my own supporting arguments so weak that I will realise my own folly and quit this… what did you call it? …. deplorable habit?

Sorry to disappoint you but, true to your enviably robust character, you have again completely missed the purpose of my endeavours.

But perhaps I am being ungenerous, afterall, despite all we’ve been through together – the giant crabs, the loss of limbs, the zombie hoards, the atrocious dinner theatre… – if you cease the whirlwind and reflect for a moment, you barely know me at all.

Let me enlighten you then and perhaps, if I am really as wicked as everyone says, you’ll see that I am also correct and that your only option, really, is to join me or wash your hands of me completely. I don’t believe you are the sort of man to walk away from any challenge, Johnny, but, lets see, perhaps I don’t know you as well as I think I do either… unlikely but always a possibility…

I must begin with an apology. I’m afraid I have let you believe for some time now that I failed my exams multiple times and was only, eventually, allowed to enter the Collegium because my uncle is head of one of those Towers. How you could have believed such a flagrant twisting of the facts for so long is beyond me, still you will take people at their word won’t you? Another useful character flaw.

The truth is that I passed my exams with merit but my Uncle, who had overseen a large portion of my earlier education, petitioned the Dean repeatedly against my admission. Why would he do such a thing? Why do you think? Because he could already see that my ideas and ambition, my reckless innovation and energetic pursuit of knowledge would be dangerous within those walls.

He guessed, quite correctly, that my passion to enter the wizarding profession had nothing to do with a desire to serve Wiz or learn his petty doctrines and laws of magic, no, all I wanted was access to all those books and ingredients and utensils that were banned everywhere else in Ire. I wanted to get my hands on and into everything related to magic, I wanted to possess it, to become it, to use it to create my own reality and make the world around me dance to my own tune.

You suppose that I accepted Lord Ashton’s commission to create a portal in the aether because of the reward he offered me. I cannot fault you for that, Johnny, it’s exactly what I told you. But really, really, are you honestly that obtuse? To open a portal, whether you believe there is a goddess on the other side of it or not, is to invite new power into our world and that can only increase the power here at our disposal. And what of the world on the other side? A chance for an ambitious wizard to pull the strings on not one, but two realities? I sense your frown already, stop it at once.

 

Perhaps you feel that none of this has anything to do with Hex Slinging, as they call it; that back alley sport of pulling magic, raw and burning, from the aether and using it to rip your opponent to shreds in front of a rabid crowd of gamblers. But my hope is that, being an intelligent fellow, a dread enlightenment of sorts is beginning to awaken at the edges of your consciousness.

I am not, as you are no doubt beginning to realise, frequenting the hex rings of Lancaster in the interests of pleasure, distraction or mere entertainment. The study of magic must be practical, and by observing and imitating these men and women who live and die by the aetherial sinews of the universe, we can learn far more than the fusty towers of wizardry could ever have taught us.

That’s right ; us Johnny, I want you beside me in this as always, our fates are almost inseparably entwined now, even you must see that neither of us can ever go back to Litchfield , so what else can you do? Join your sister in rebuilding the pirate city? Live out your days gutting fish like your father? I think we both know that is not how your story ends.

I am not suggesting, of course, that you join me in the ring ; although I don’t doubt your capabilities in this field, your skills in alchemy are equally as vital to our enterprises and I would not risk you for that reason – you have already made your revulsion at my own scarred and aether-damaged hand quite clear and there is no reason for you to suffer the same.

But nevermind about me, Johnny, I have heard of an underground craftswoman who can replace my prosthetic left hand with a silver one that will conduct both soul and aether and then I will be able to use that instead of continuing to sacrifice the flesh I have on my right.

So, there you have it, my obsession is incurable and I invite you to join me in it at once, if you know me at all, John, you’ll have expected nothing less.

Your friend and associate, Dr. Mercurio Smith

 


Morning Cuppa: Selkie Cove

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Max and Collin’s Utopian underwater apartments located, at present, beneath the deluge of water overflowing from the river Lune and into the drainage systems of the splendidly scenic city of steampunk’d Lancaster.

True some have said that there’s always something fishy going on around here, but what exactly do they expect when one of us is an octopus and the other refuses to kowtow to public demands for personal hygiene … owch! It was a joke Max! My gentleman friend has no sense of humour at all…

Well our pig is still happy, although we have had to set him adrift in a little crate as the parlour is flooded with rainwater coming in through the floor and we are going to have strong (ish) words with our landlord about this, once we pluck up the courage… in the meantime I am going to perch on Max’s head while he ‘bails out’ and… hm? … you think I ought to be just fine in the water because I’m an octopus? My dear friends, there is a world of difference (at least there ought to be) between the waters of The Great Western Ocean and the excrement of the Lancastrian sewer system… a-hem… now where was I? Oh yes, perching on Max’s head about to open a marvelous book …

 

Selkie Cove is the next installment of Kara Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices series which we have become absolutely addicted to over the last few years. It is no secret at all that she has become one of our favorite authors and with very good reason – her writing combines diverse, complex and compelling characters embedded in  gripping narratives which combine action, emotion and suspense in perfect balance.

If you are new to this series, it is possible to start here and still understand what has gone before, but much better to start at the beginning: The Earl Of Brass

If like us however you have been dying to know what happens next, you will not be disappointed…

With the horrors of the past seemingly far behind them, Immanuel and Adam are still feeling the after effects that dark magic has left on their lives. When a new mystery surfaces and magic invites itself into their lives once more, the couple are faced with some difficult choices that will affect the course of their future lives.

It was interesting to see how Adam and Immanuel’s  relationship developed – and how they both grew and changed as individuals – when faced with the new challenges of life as a couple within the rigidity of Victorian society. This interplay gave the story warmth and depth and added to the emotional roller coaster that all the IMD novels offer. Overall this was a top notch adventure and we loved the interplay of myth, magic and science within this steampunk setting.

Now then, I’m afraid we don’t have any tea to offer you today because it is all being painted with – today is the first of Inktober and, just like last year, we are going to endeavor to do a little bit of tea painting each day in the hopes of producing one painting per week (or perhaps more but lets not got carried away!)  we will post our first effort so far tomorrow so, until then

please remain always

Utterly Yourself


#rainbowsnippets: Jack and Marjory

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Happy Saturday! I didn’t have an author snippet sent to me for today so I thought I’d share the first six lines from the novella I’m working on right now. It’s called Jack and Marjory and it gives space for two of my  bigender characters to tell something of their own side-adventure (which played a massive part in the history of Ire in a behind the scenes sort of way.) If you want some background, check out the Introduction page above 🙂  To see all the other fabulous rainbow snippets for this week check out the rainbow snippets facebook page

CHAPTER 1

         IS THIS WHERE WE END… ?

“ of laughter and soft lies, no safety or surprise, I’ll never look into your eyes…”

 

Yeovil skyway station, vomiting bile onto the porcelain of a public Crapper with a full hip flask boasting a lethal dose of Matcha and no hope in Hull.

Is this where we end? I s’pose it must be.

The door of the next cubicle swings open and through the blur of caffeine withdrawl we clock a deek at him – a Plain As Henry well dressed body, an everyday sort of beast, someone unremarkable with an enviably dull and happy existence, who pays his sugar tax and sticks to his government standard issue cup of dandelion root coffee and his tinned tomato soup, his peaceful caffeine, sugar, magic free existence… is this a moral tale? P’rhaps it is, but we don’t think it was ever meant to be. We, certainly, didn’t plan it that way.

The door swings shut on just another dreary tea sot dead in a pool of their own vomit … yep, sounds plausible alright.

But we wasn’t always like this you know…

 

JACKANDMARJORYCOVER

Jack and Marjory:

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.

 

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

book cover image by Renphoto 


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