Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “short stories

#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!

 

 


#MythpunkMonday: Theodora Goss

Happy #MythpunkMonday!

Today I’m going to point you at some more fantastic Mythpunk, this time from Theodora Goss who was born in Hungary and whose work is heavily influenced by Eastern European Mythos and is an absolute joy to read! Here are her thoughts on the Mythpunk Genre …

THEODORA GOSS ON MYTHPUNK

 

And you can find her fantastic collection of short stories here:


#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 🙂


#MythpunkMonday: What is Mythpunk and some books to get you started

Merry Mythpunk Monday! Today I’m going to talk about what Mythpunk is and recommend some marvellous Mythpunk to fill your shelves with.

This is a bit of an experiment, I’m hoping to do this every Monday and I’m also hoping that other Mythpunk fans and writers will join me in celebrating this wonderful sub genre by sharing your own / others writing, art, music, inspirations etc. using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag. That’s a lot of hope! … but I really passionately feel the world needs more Mythpunk and there’s some awesome stuff out there already that needs bigging-up so, let’s see what happens!

Mythpunk is a term coined by Catherynne M. Valente to describe Punk fiction which is rooted in folklore, fairytale or mythology.

At its simplest, Mythpunk could be a modern Punk retelling of a fairytale with an original ending, tangent or twist ; at its more complex, it has potential to utterly transcend its origins by bridging the gap between archaic world views and modern experience, making it an important tool for social commentary and cultural evolution.

You can read a great interview with Valente on the subject here:

http://strangehorizons.com/non-fiction/articles/mythpunk-an-interview-with-catherynne-m-valente/

 

And you can find her Mythpunk series ‘The Orphan’s Tales’ here:

 

So Mythpunk can be a punked up retelling of a myth, folktale, fairytale or legend, or it could be an interweaving of many different threads from across history and mythology, or it could be something entirely new which resembles, parodies or has elements of folklore and myth.

Mythpunk doesn’t have to be restricted to writing either – it can be music, art, theatre…

For example here’s the soundtrack to Valente’s series by  S J Tucker, which you can listen to and purchase here: https://music.sjtucker.com/album/solace-sorrow

So, if you’re new to Mythpunk and what you’ve seen so far has got you hooked, you’ll now want to rush out and stock your bookshelf / kindle full of fabulous Mythpunk titles, right?  – fear not, here’s my quick-fix / take-away / happy-meal list of five fab books / series to get you started…

1 Monstress Series

“Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steampunk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both. Entertainment Weekly praised MONSTRESS as “one of Image Comics’ most imaginative and daring new series” and dubbed it the “Best New Original Series” in their year-end “Best Comics of 2015″ list.”

 

 

 

 

2 The Automation: 

“The capital-A Automatons of Greco-Roman myth aren’t clockwork. Their design is much more divine. They’re more intricate than robots or androids or anything else mortal humans could invent. Their windup keys are their human Masters. They aren’t mindless; they have infinite storage space. And, because they have more than one form, they’re more versatile and portable than, say, your cell phone—and much more useful too. The only thing these god-forged beings share in common with those lowercase-A automatons is their pre-programmed existence. They have a function—a function Hephaestus put into place—a function that was questionable from the start…

Odys (no, not short for Odysseus, thank you) finds his hermetic lifestyle falling apart after a stranger commits suicide to free his soul-attached Automaton slave. The humanoid Automaton uses Odys’s soul to “reactivate” herself. Odys must learn to accept that the female Automaton is an extension of his body—that they are the same person—and that her creator-god is forging a new purpose for all with Automatons…”

 

3 Firebird Fairytales Series:

“Born on the crossroads between worlds Anya’s Gate Keeper magic is buried under grief and rage until one fateful night a firebird hatches on her farm who is sharing its body with the fabled Prince Yvan. With Yvan’s dark magician brother Vasilli and other powerful enemies closing in around them, Anya has no choice but to sober up, follow Yvan intoSkazki and hope that she can learn how to control her awakening magic before it destroys her and any hope of keeping the gates to both world’s safe.”

4 The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones: 

“Meet Tristan Hart, precociously talented student of medicine. His obsession is the nature of pain and preventing. He is on a quest to cut through superstition with the brilliant blade of science. Meet Tristan Hart, madman and deviant. His obsession is the nature of pain, and causing it. He is on a quest to arouse the perfect scream and slay the daemon Raw Head who torments his days and nights. Troubled visionary, twisted genius, loving sadist. What is real and what imagined in Tristan Hart’s brutal, beautiful, complex world?”

5 Vassa In The Night: 

“Vassa in the Night is a powerful and haunting modern retelling of the Russian folktale “Vassilissa the Beautiful” for teen fans of urban fantasy, fairy tales, magic, and horror who enjoy books by Leigh Bardugo, Kendare Blake, Catherynne Valente, and V. E. Schwab. In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood. In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue.”

 

 

Thankyou for joining me for my very first 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 try and make this a regular Monday thing 🙂

 

 

 

 


#DreamtimeDamselsAnthology blog tour: Elevenses with Nav Logan

rainbow keeper, put the fairy rainbow on the sky, magic ship in the dreamland, scene from wonderland,

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 ship, The Harlequin Ladybird. Yes that’s right we have escaped our dank cellar and our evil landlord (if you want to know how you will have to read our #RainbowSnippets posts on Saturdays and all will be revealed). So we are now heading the revolution in Ire from the skies – which turns out to be much safer and more fun than heading it from the ground! But never fear, we still have time to stop for elevenses! 

Our tentacles are all of a quiver this morning and our china cups are chattering because this morning we are taking part in the Dreamtime Damsels blog tour and we are honoured to have one of the contributors, Nav Logan, as our guest for elevenses!

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says 'Dreamtime Fantasy Tales authors are proud to DREAMTIME present their anthology & FATAL FEMMES With stories by: Greg Alldredge Penny Blake Nimue Brown Leslie Conzatti Guy Donovan Johan Klein Haneveld Jaq D Hawkins Marc vun Kannon Nav Logan Paul Michael Morgan Smith Benjamin Towe Expected Nils Visser Mary R. Woldering SEPTEMBER 2019 Thomas Woldering A.M. Young'

Do please have a seat, Nav, (Max, get off the chaise and let him sit down … hm? … no he can’t sit on your lap, just move aside.)

Would you like tea? Earl Grey? Lapsang? Assam? Darjeeling? Oolong? (Max don’t be rude)

I don’t drink tea.

What? I… I’m sorry I please forgive me I just slipped off my chair… I’m so sorry, I must have had sea water in my ears, I thought you said you don’t drink tea? No, I’m sure I must have misheard you, here have a nice soothing cup of Earl Grey with a dash of Absinthe.There you go. Now then , do tell us more about your contribution to this Dreamtime Damsels anthology we keep hearing about – the aether is alive with the gossip!

Gossip is the Devil’s telephone they say, but having spent my fair share of time kneeling in front of the loo, groaning “Oh God!” I guess it’s only fair to confirm that the compilation is near completion and almost ready for print, and yes, I did my small part in the whole thing by supporting the rights of women to wear chainmail bikinis, should they so wish, or not, as the case may be. We live in a diverse universe, and I say live and let live, or to paraphrase Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Oh we octopuses always think everyone should get along and … (Hm? Oh don’t be ridiculous Max I do NOT own a chainmail bikini and I’m CERTAIN my tentacles would get pinched in the links.) Although I have to say, Nav, it does does sound exciting. What inspired you to write it?

Nils Visser gave me a challenge to write this particular story. I had contributed another one too, but only this one made it through the rigorous editing process… And then only after I bribed and coerced some of the judges… but we won’t go into that.

Ah yes, bribery, coercion, cake laced with epic doses of the Green Fairy… we are certainly on the same page. We believe that is the only reason Penny’s story was included too. More cake? I see you haven’t touched your tea… (Max be quiet, everyone loves tea)

Now then, what would you say most influences your writing in general?

Heavy doses of M&Ms and a heady cocktail of Chinese food and Red Bulls, although I’m currently in rehab and detoxing … I’m sixteen days clean now!

Ah yes, Max went cold turkey once from caffeine and sugar. It wasn’t pretty. You have our deepest sympathies. Cherry Bakewell? No? Oh yes, sorry, you’re detoxing… um… and are there any authors who have particularly inspired you? (No he doesn’t want to hear your poetry Max, stop interrupting)

Thomas Jefferson. Man, that dude could write. That whole Independence thing… wow… mind blowing!

Oh yes we are all about independence – we are heading the revolution from the skies in fact (it being far safer than leading a revolution from the ground, we have discovered) but back to writing, 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 author. Tell me, what was your own road into fiction writing like?

Some would say poetry was my road to fiction… Others would refer to my previous illicit horticultural endeavours and the particular strain of plant I developed… That was some pretty mind-expanding stuff, right there. I put some in the tea to give it a kick. Hope you don’t mind.

I see, oh dear, is that why the room has turned purple and your head has exploded in a burst of golden stars? You must leave some behind with us when you go. And do you have any plans for new projects in the near future?

World domination, but I’ll start with becoming the King of Ramsbottom.

World domination… er…. you’re not a wizard are you? So, where can we get our tentacles on a copy of this delightful Dreamtime Damsels collection? I mean, I know it’s not OFFICIALLY on sale yet but we thought, you know, as we’ve been so kind and plied you with cake and suspicious hot beverages….

The Black Market… The Deep web… I’m not authorised to reveal that. It’s beyond your security clearance to even think about it, let alone utter such a request out loud.

Damn. Our hearts are broken! Oh well, it was worth a try I suppose. And what about your own work, where can we find more of that?

There are ears everywhere… Mum’s a word… <wink>

Oh! Oh I see… um…. Wooooah! Dear me I do apologise, the airship must have slipped… or perhaps that was the effect of this blasted tea… I am so very sorry I seem to have landed in your lap I hope I haven’t covered you in octopus slime?

I’m good thanks.

Are you sure you’re alright? Hm, what’s that? Time you were going? Are you sure I can’t tempt you with another cup of tea? Yo haven’t even touched your first!

I can’t feel my toes! Is that normal?

Would you like some help crawling to the door?

Oh dear, Max I do believe your awful poetry and ill-concealed amorous advances have scared off yet another of our guests. You really must learn to behave yourself ‘In Company.’ What do you mean it was my fault for pushing tea on him? Everybody loves tea!

Thankyou, long-suffering friends, for joining us this morning on board our beautiful new rainbow sailed 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

Utterly Yourself

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


Dreamtime Damsels Blog Tour: Soup Of The Day: With Nav Logan

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!

 

This morning I’m very excited to be taking part in the blog tour for the upcoming anthology ‘Dreamtime Damsels and Fatal Femmes’ and helping me this morning is one of the contributors to that anthology, Nav Logan. Thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, My Dear! May I take your hat and miscellaneous weaponry?

 Just my hat today, and my trusty pen. They say the pen is mightier than the sword, especially if you are up close. A Bic in the eyeball usually does the trick in close combat.

 Oh I most wholeheartedly concur! 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?

There were a lot of hostile Traffic Cones clustered menacingly on one section of the motorway, but I kept my throttle on max and didn’t look back.

 Marvellous, I do the same thing on my steam powered hover-broom. And have you brought along some soup to share with us? 

I’ve brought some of my speciality dish: Boxty, Random Road-kill Vittles, and freshly-plucked Stinging Nettle soup. (Always pick the top most leaves… they are the freshest, and the dogs can’t wee that high!)

 Mmm, it smells …. er…. most interesting…. and of course delicious! I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t I open a window and you have a seat by the fire here and tell me a little about the types of fiction that you prefer to write?

 My novels are all fantasy fiction, but when writing smaller works, I dip into a range of different fiction genres. It’s good for the brain to challenge yourself as a writer.

 Indeed! 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?

 My contribution to the Dreamtime Damsels compilation is Mulie the Bald. It’s about a young lass who refuses to be pegged, and pushes the boundaries of convention, refusing to accept her designated lot in life. She has her own plans, and may the Gods help anyone who gets in her way.

She sounds like just my sort of lass! And now I know that the release details are all very hush hush at the moment but could you perhaps give us a little teaser that we can get excited about? 

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says 'Dreamtime Fantasy Tales authors are proud to DREAMTIME present their anthology & FATAL FEMMES With stories by: Greg Alldredge Penny Blake Nimue Brown Leslie Conzatti Guy Donovan Johan Klein Haneveld Jaq D Hawkins Marc vun Kannon Nav Logan Paul Michael Morgan Smith Benjamin Towe Expected Nils Visser Mary R. Woldering SEPTEMBER 2019 Thomas Woldering A.M. Young'

 

 Wonderful, I will keep my eye out for its release and be posting links on here when it is available! As an adventuress myself, I certainly think it is wonderful to see a fantasy collection where women take the centre stage isn’t it?

 I totally agree, My own book of novels: The StormBringer Saga, centres around the life of one such young girl: Maerlin Stormbringer, and also has some other strong female characters too. Celtic Mythology depicts many such characters within the three figureheads of The Maiden, The Mother and The Crone. We have the likes of Queen Medb, a strong queen who demanded equality with her husband King Ailill as joint rulers of Connacht.

 

Oh your series sounds most intriguing I will have to have a look at those, I’m a great fan of Celtic Mythology myself and…. oh! now that’s the kettle boiling, what is your ‘poison’ Dear, and how do you take it?

 

I’ll take a Black coffee please, made from freshly ground mountain arabica beans, and seeped overnight in the tears of my defeated enemies, or a small dash of stevia… if you have it.

 

You are in luck! Being a witch, such things are merely a swirl of a magical spoon away – there you are. Now, why don’t you tell us all a little more about your own path into fiction writing?

 

I started writing as a child, mainly poems back then, but the odd short story. I got into writing novels quite by accident. Maerlin’s story started off as a poem, then grew into a short story which grew into a novel… and then a bunch of novels and is still unfinished as yet. Due to my health issues, the fourth book might never get finished, but was three quarters way through its first draught before I was diagnosed.

However, I never thought I’d finish book two, and I did in the end.

It sounds like you have a tenacious spirit, My Dear, and I very much hope you able to finish the fourth. Tell me, is there anything that particularly inspires you when you write?

 Dreams. My dreams force me to get up and write down an idea, a concept, or a few chapters of my next book.

Ah, how marvellous, dreams have a magic all of their own don’t they? Now then, 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?

Having Parkinson’s Disease makes reading challenging … and finding the energy to write or focus on editing also, but there are many great independent writers I’ve worked with over the years. The authors involved in Dreamtime Damsels and Dreamtime Dragons would include some of them, and there are some others that deserve a mention: David Wailing, my editor, is a great writer. His books are worthy of a mention. I’ve worked on a few things with Rick Haynes also, and always enjoy reading his stories.

 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?

 The Stormbringer Saga and my books of short stories are all out of print officially now, although I’m sure there are copies available. I’ve had a number of stories published in compilations, plus worked on some stories with other writers which are also still in print, and which help out various charities with their sales.

That’s a shame about the Strombringer Saga but we’ll be sure to look out your short stories in other compilations. 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?

 No problem… Having spent years living on the road myself, I’m always happy to pitch in and lend a helping hand when I can.

 Splendid, thankyou Nav it has a been a pleasure having you help in the kitchen today!

 Thank you 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

Myself, and Max and Collin, will be interviewing more contributors to the anthology throughout August and we hope you will join us for those posts and share them around!

So,  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


Aether Egg Hunt: With Karen J Carlisle

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Good Morning! Happy Easter, or whatever fabulous festival you happen to be
celebrating at this time of the year!
My name is Karen J Carlisle and I write steampunk, Victorian mysteries, and fantasy.
Here in Steampunk'd Lancaster we are enjoying the annual Aether Egg Hunt – a chance
to give you a gift (or two) to thank you for your support: a short story and a game.
And what’s an Aether egg, you ask?
I’ll let Tillie (heroine of my new steampunk adventure series, The Department of
Curiosities) explain:

The Aether Egg

Sunlight flickered across Tillie’s eyelids. She opened her eyes, wriggled out from under the Egyptian cotton sheets and bounced to the edge of the bed. She grabbed the edge and plunged her head downward. A blonde ringlet slipped from the knotted rag, tumbled over her face and tickled her nose. She giggled and puffed it out of the way. There were more serious things afoot. She scanned the wooden floor boards under the bed.
Nothing.
She swung back upright; her head spun. She giggled again, placed her bare foot on the
polished wood, and waited for the butterflies in her stomach to land.
The silk robe was cool on her shoulders. Its cord danced behind her as she darted across the room, checking every secret nook and potential hiding place – inside her slippers, in her jewellery box, behind the toy box, on top of the wardrobe.
Tillie plopped onto the carpet rug and sighed. It was Monday. And Aunt Prudence had
promised…
Soft wool caressed her toes as she crept down the unlit stairs. The Parlour door was open.
Warm light trickled into the hallway.
“Is that you, dear?” Aunt Prudence’s voice was soft and welcoming.

Tillie tied the cord belt, straightened her robe and entered the room.
Blue velvet wallpaper lined the Parlour walls. Aunt Prudence sat in her favourite armchair, surrounded by matching blue-upholstered furniture. A fire crackled in the hearth.
“Good morning, Aunt Prudence.” Tillie’s gaze darted around the room.
“Are you looking for something, Little One?” Aunt Prudence smiled and rested her palm
on a small wooden box in her lap.
Tillie’s eyes widened. She skipped across the room and sat at her aunt’s feet.
“Is that…?” She licked her lips.
Aunt Prudence nodded and opened the box. Inside was a silk-wrapped egg as large as her fist. Fine golden cords criss-crossed the wrappings. Tillie lifted it gently. The cords fell away from the lower half of the egg. A small wicker basket dangled at the end of the cords.
“It’s like a little dirigible,” she gasped.
“It’s called an Aether egg.” said Aunt Prudence.
“It’s pretty,” cooed Tillie. “I shall hang it above my bed.”
Aunt Prudence leaned forward. “The balloon is made of French eating chocolate,” she
whispered.
Tillie held her breath, peeled off the silk wrappings and bit into the rich, dark chocolate.
“When I grow up, I’ll own a real dirigible,” she said.

THE END

And now for a fun challenge: Follow this link and see how fast you can solve this jigsaw:

https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&amp;pid=168f0dda4282

DOC Book 1 promo_KarenJCarlisle

You can find my books here: https://karenjcarlisle.com/shop

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And connect to me on the internet here:
 Twitter: https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle
 Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karenjcarlisle/
 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenJCarlisle/
You can sign up for my newsletter at: https://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/
Or support me on Patreon (for less than a cup of coffee a month and you get cool rewards!) https://www.patreon.com/KarenJCarlisle

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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!

 

Aether Egg image courtesy of Irum Shahid http://www.freeimages.com


Morning Cuppa: Boston Metaphysical Society

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Max and Collin’s fabulously fangtastic parlour located somewhere along the seasonably chilled spine of the splendidly scenic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.

True some have called it a dreadful place inhabited  by frightful fiends and plagued by the occasional bad tempered Wight, but we consider that such people are merely getting a little carried away with their seasonal shenanigans.

You find us this morning in haste, our paper bags empty, our turnips carved and our faces painted with… stuff… because it is never really too early to begin trick or treating is it? Certainly we were attacked by a group of urchins over the  weekend dressed in panda masks and donkey heads and demanding sustenance and shelter and illegal sugar laden treats. So we are off now to see if we can score something for ourselves on that front…

But before we do, there is (always) just about time to kick our tentacles up on the table for  a moment and enjoy a festival-fuelling brew of Hershel’s Tonic and some seaonally spooky and splendidly steampunkish fiction, which we fortunately happen to have right here…

 

This is the prequel to Madeleine Holly-Rosing’s series of graphic novels, Boston Metaphysical Society. It is our first foray into this series and we are now absolutely hooked and ready to follow these characters and their fascinating world through whatever paranormal encounters and mysterious adventures await them in the next few books.

The set of seven individual short stories includes The Secret, The Devil Within (which was our favourite) , The Demons Of Liberty Row, The Secret Of Kage House, Steampunk Rat, The Clockwork Man and The Way Home. All are set in a re-imagined Steampunk America where the paranormal is… ah… normal! … and it is the primary purpose of society’s commoners to ensure these ghostly goings on do not interrupt the peaceful existence of the wealthy elite.

There are plenty of thrills, mysteries and intrigues inside this rather delightfully gothic-feeling collection; historical references aplenty for those of you who, like us, just go gooey over mash-ups and hat-tips and the like, and it will certainly appeal to anyone who likes the focus of their Steampunk to be on the everyday working classes rather than the upper.

What attracted us most though was the obvious depth and heart pervading each tale and we really felt that if we could fall in love with the characters in such small glimpses, then following them on through the rest of their adventures was absolutely obligatory – we’re very excited to see where life will take them all next!

If you have already read and enjoyed the comics / graphic novels in this series then we are willing to bet you will love these short stories which will no doubt add colour and depth to both the characters and world you already know. If, like us, this is your first encounter with the series, then this little collection is a lovely introduction and, as it has a nice little preface to set the scene before you dive in, it is a perfect place to begin.

 

Now then, we must delay no longer, the candy calls, as they say – do they say that? Possibly, either way we wish you a splendiferously spooky build up to the big bad treat-fest (whatever you call it in your dimension) and until we see you again,

Please remain always

Utterly Yourself


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

 


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