Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “short stories

#RainbowSnippets: Necromancers

Happy Saturday folks!

Well I finally had my first op on Wednesday – it all went smoothly and I should get the de-brief and biopsy results in 1 -3 weeks (actually it was such a lovely hospital and the staff were all so wonderful I felt like I’d had a little holiday rather than an operation! XD So feeling like a bit of a fraud really! Eep! XD I even got plenty of time before and after to knit some rainbow Joey Bags for UK Crafters For Australian Wildlife on FB while I was reading my lovely kindle stash! lol. )

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

About 500 plus years after the events in the first book (The Curious Adventures Of Smith And Skarry) a forgotten cult are still obliviously serving their long-dead leader, Wiz, and trying to find the secret of immortality. Sort of. Actually daily temple life revolves more around knitting circles, bridge nights and summer fetes… until two novices stumble upon the secret of undeath themselves and unleash a couple of very unlikely ‘gods’ upon the unprepared and erstwhile peaceful community.

 

If you missed the last part you can catch up here: #RainbowSnippets: Necromancers

Righty, this will be my last Necromancers snippet for a while because a) I promised to do some more Smith and Skarry snippets through January and b) Necromancers is now available in ebook form (format thoroughly checked before publication this time! XD) and will soon be available in Paperback too (it’s only a short story at around 17,000 words so the paperback will be only £2.99 I think – I’m just waiting for the proof to arrive)

I’ve moved away from Viv and Reynard for this last one, to give you a glimpse of Douglas and his fellow red robe acolytes as they wait uneasily for Vivienne to come and have a ‘little chat’ with them… (sorry it’s seven sentences but it is the last one for a while!)

 

Inside the red robes’ chamber, Douglas shifted his weight uneasily on the long wooden bench and cradled his goblet of blood as though it were a comforting mug of cocoa on a cold winter’s evening. Exactly how he had got himself into Cardinal Vivienne’s bad books, he had no idea – he always attended staff meetings, always volunteered to help out on the tombola, and his sticky toffee tray bakes were the talk of the temple.
“Drumstick?” Bex nudged him out of his pensive contemplation with a bony elbow and he took the leg she offered him with an absent smile, almost forgetting to remove the knitted woolen booty before taking a bite.
“What do you think he wants to talk to us about?” Simon asked nervously. “D… d… d… d’you think it’s the summer fete?”
Liz rolled her eyes. “I seriously hope not because I am not getting stuck on tombola again, it’s not like they even appreciated the prizes we arranged for it.”
Douglas frowned slightly as he remembered being grilled by Vivienne at the end of the celebration for the fact that several village children had had to have counseling.

 

 

Wishing you all an utterly fabulous weekend folks, and don’t forget to check out all the other fabulous snippets on the official fb page here: official facebook group here.

 


#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

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

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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

 


Pipe and Slippers: Tales From Steampunk’d Lancaster

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

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

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

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

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

TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER

SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS 

TALE THE THIRD:  by PENNY BLAKE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 


Pipe and Slippers: Tales from Steampunk’d Lancaster

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

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

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

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

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

TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER

SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS 

Tale The Second By LESLIE SOULE

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, I’ve considered it.”

***

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

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

“Yeah,” I admitted.

You have no idea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


Pipe and Slippers: Tales from Steampunk’d Lancaster

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

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

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

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

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

TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER

SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS 

TALE THE FIRST : Siggy And Me

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


Tea at Three: Mythpunk For Monsters

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

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

Mahrime_Cover_for_Kindle

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Mahrime

mahrime quote

 

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

 

The Road Back Lost

mahrimequote3

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

 

DAMAO

mahrimequote2

 

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

 

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

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

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

Utterly Yourself.

 


Tea @Three: What is this ‘novel thing’ of which you speak?

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, friends, fiends, octopi and anyone else out there who is sensibly sitting in with a quiet brew instead of braving the atrocious amounts of wind out there this morning.

As November begins to wrap itself up in shiny paper and tinsel and writers across the globe chew their knuckles to the bone and pull out the last of their hair and dissolve into soft pools of jelly on the floor I thought I would share what we here in the Bitter North (Mordor some like to call it) have been doing to celebrate National Novel Writing Month.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines a novel as : A long printed story about imaginary characters and events.

Even if we lay aside all the comments we hear abut writers being turned down by mainstream publishing houses because their plots, characters, style or creative format is deemed ‘niche’ and therefore not all that profitable, there are still two words in that description which close off the world of baking and consuming novels to large groups of people – those words are LONG and PRINTED.

Those of you who only know me through the aetherweb are probably unaware that I have PMA (Persistent Migraine with Auras) with Alice In Wonderland Syndrome (cool huh? I thought so when I finally got a name for it!) This means that for as long as I can remember, I have seen an overlay of lights, colours and patterns on top of around and behind everything else. Sometimes there are sounds too and occasionally objects become very tiny and far away then grow big again. I was an early consumer of literature (by 2 I could stomach a short book and by 5 I was eating Narnia) and I recorded my first horror stories on cassette when I was 4 , but digesting long amounts of small printed text in identical format throughout has always been very difficult for me. I do it because I love stories. But it’s hard. It wasn’t until I discovered House Of Leaves in my teens that I realised a novel could be something else…

We live in an age where technology allows us to create interactive book formats, audio, braille, tactile books, stories that arrive in a series of boxes through the mail…

Our small storytelling group is fortunately blessed with some fabulous little (and big!) people who have a variety of ways of processing sensory information as well as attention, emotional, social and physical issues which render the classic format of a classic 80,000 word novel problematic. So this month we have been exploring different ways of creating and consuming works of novel fiction.

There is always a danger that when folks with what others might term ‘special needs’ (don’t we all have those?) attempt something like this the rest of society expects that we are lowering the bar or going to produce something substandard that everyone can smile at and say ‘awwww bless!’ So we also set ourselves some really tough challenges to make sure our stories were as tight and top notch as they could be, just presented in an alternative format.

I have already shared our tea books with you all. Here are some of the other things we have been up to…

Messages on bottles

Bottles, cartons, jars and tins or cylinders made from oiled paper all make lovely tactile surfaces for writing on. You can hold the physical object in your hands in a way that is great for those who need to fidget or find holding a heavy book or turning fiddly pages a strain on their joints (several members have hypermobility with arthritis and this can be a big issue). The beauty of light shining through the inked on words is enchanting and holds the attention of the reader and writing on the curves and small sections proved a very manageable and enjoyable task for those of us who struggle to attend to one thing for a long time. The containers can be painted first then inked with sharpies when dry, or left plain. We put LED candles inside ours but I would love to see them hung outside in summer where they would catch the light, or the glass bottles filled with coloured water.

Sound Stories

These were surprisingly  difficult to make well. We planned out our stories and then thought about a series of sounds that could be put together to convey that story to a listener. We tried using sounds we could make ourselves, such as footsteps or cutlery, doors etc. and soon realised that even the most obvious sounds don’t always convey the action we need them to. We later experimented with various apps to layer in music and other sounds and eventually ended up with some pretty good ‘sound stories’ but nobody was entirely happy with their finished pieces and so I think we will come back to this project again.

 

Picture Stories

Everyone loved these – even the two year olds in the group had a go! – a series of photographs were taken to tell a story. See what you think of this one…

shoe1

 

Stories Hidden Inside

Inside a bottle, an envelope, a box, a shoe… we carefully selected  a series of objects that told a story, some collections were obvious, some needed explaining, some were extremely powerful, poignant and sad – it was amazing how as few as three or four objects, carefully chosen, could move us to tears just as much as 50,000 well chosen words.

Story bracelets

Next week we will be turning one of our stories into code by choosing either coloured or shaped beads to represent each element or word in our story and then threading them into wearable novels. This is a follow on from an activity a few years ago when we made wearable story jackets, shoes and trousers which could be added to over time.

 

We also did a lot of spoken word story telling in the form of roll-and-tell (or some prefered to roll-and-write which was fine. Here are some of the D6 games we played…

FIRST WORDS

Roll a D6 and tell a story that begins with the word matching your number:

  1. Clunk                             1.Sorry!                       1.We
  2. Oh!                                 2.Violent                      2.Perched
  3. Silently                          3.Swish                        3.Struggling
  4. Never                             4.Five                           4.Why
  5. You                                  5.Sand                          5.Flames
  6. Falling                            6.White                        6.Bone

 

NEW CHARACTER

Roll a D6 and create a character that is like…

1. Glass                                1. Marble

2.Autumn                            2. Spring

3. Cider Apples                   3. Evening

4. Chalk cliffs                      4. A broken pot

5. Rain                                  5. Moss

6. A Utility knife                 6. Lemon sherbert

 

SETTING

Roll a D6 and create a setting that contains the word (or is inspired by the word) ….

1.Silk                           1. cardboard                      1. Smoke

2. Velvet                      2. Pigeons                           2. Laughter

3. Acrid                       3. Bare                                 3. Luminous

4.Stale                         4. Iron                                  4. Pin

5. Vivid                       5. Air                                     5. Sickly

6. Crunch                   6. Chestnuts                          6. Close

 

SUDDENLY

Roll a D6 and tell a story (or add an event to your story) that begins “suddenly…”

  1. A monster                 1. Sound                  1. Breath
  2. Light                           2.Pain                      2. Droplets
  3. An animal                  3. A person             3.The scent of
  4. A trap                          4. Fatigue                4. Weight
  5. A person                     5. Fear                      5. Vibration
  6. The hand of god        6. Hunger                6. Memory

 

And here are the D20 challenges we gave ourselves for editing, improving, experimenting and tightening up… Roll a D20 then re-tell / re-write your piece as follows…

  1. Don’t use any colours or visual descriptions
  2. Don’t use sounds
  3. Only use descriptive words associated with taste and touch
  4. Don’t use weather or landscape to reflect the mood / atmosphere
  5. Use only dialogue
  6. Use no dialogue
  7. For every adjective, find 3 alternatives
  8. Use metaphors and similes that seem completely out of place
  9. Tell it from the perspective of three different characters or objects
  10. Don’t use the same word twice
  11. Write it twice, each at a different time of day
  12. Use no adjectives
  13. Sum up the whole scene in one word
  14. Choose a paragraph and remove as many words as you can
  15. Double the length of the scene or paragraph
  16. For every verb find 2 different ways of describing the action
  17. Choose a colour and make every adjective fit that colour theme. Repeat with a different colour
  18. Write a synopsis of your piece in one sentence
  19. Write or tell it in just 250 words
  20. Write or tell a synopsis of your story in one paragraph.

 

 

So we have been using this month to celebrate all that a novel can be and I have also been working hard on the very last novel that will make up the Smith and Skarry series – yes, yes, I know I haven’t actually published the first one yet and the second and third are only half done but that’s the way I roll I guess, it came to me how the thing should end and so I thought it best to write what was flowing. I say ‘write’ but as each book is meant to be a hybrid graphic novel / novella there’s a lot of story boarding too. It may well be a hopeless endeavour as I still haven’t found another illustrator and my own art skills are way too shabby but ‘hey ho’ it keeps me off the streets 😀

And now a lil ‘heads up’ that the next two months round here may be a little chaotic (because they aren’t already…) I am moving house and also at some point going to have an operation (no idea when yet) I’m scheduling as many posts for Dec and Jan as I can in advance but I’m not sure when I will have computer access over that time so if I don’t respond to your lovely comments / emails etc immediately please understand I’m not being rude, I’m just on my back getting high on opiates or something.

And now we must all take a huge calming breath and brace ourselves because next week I will publish my recommended steampunk Christmas reading list (email me if you want to be added to that) and after that…. WIZMAS! (Or Christmas as I think you call it? ) anyhoo it all translates as madness and I have to polish my spurtle , order extra oats, buy a new hat, brush up on my spuelling technique and get cracking on a new witch hunting wagon…

Biggest blessings on all your novel endeavours

Penny 🙂


Pipe and Slippers: With Ichabod Temperance

 

I am 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.

old-library-1571043

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a drag-dressed octopus and its dribbling Tea Fiend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by the promise of strange fruit. 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? Finest Stout? And some of Mrs Baker’s left over steak and ale pies? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps… it is an excerpt from the tenth book in the Ichabod Temperance series, ‘The Two Faces of Temperance’. Hm, there is a note here tucked inside in the cover…

 

A fiendish monster is on the loose in London but as the machinations of intreague threaten to crush poor Miss Plumtart and Ichabod in their merciless gears, could this adventure become known as ‘the strange case of Dr. Icky and Mr. Temperance … ?

 A Request by the Author:
Dear Reader, if, perchance, you should come across some drunken rogues in song whilst reading this book, you are strongly encouraged to sing these passages aloud.
Your cooperation in this matter is sincerely appreciated.
~Icky.

THE TWO FACES OF TEMPERANCE

By Ichabod Temperance 

 

“Take a deep whiff, Mr. Temperance.”
“I’d rather not, Ma’am.”
“Fleet Street has an aroma all her own.”
“I’ll give you that, Ma’am.”
“I smell meat pies. Wait here, Mr. Temperance, I shall go and fetch us a pair myself.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Gee, there goes Miss Plumtartt. I don’t like being by myself around all these people. Oh golly, there is so much bustling traffic around here, I hope I don’t get caught up and washed away.”
“Hello, young man.”
“Hien! Oops, I mean, howdy, mister. Gee, I guess you kind of startled me. I did not notice you looming up behind me.”
“Forgive me, my boy. I could see by your clothes that you were a visitor to our shores. Now that I hear your boorish American tongue I am justified in my assumption. The moment I clapped eyes on you, my befuddled little friend, I said to myself, Todd Squweeny, you need to take that lost little lamb under your protective wing, lest some unscrupulous villain sweep in to do this innocent guest an injustice. No, I decided on the spot to make it my mission to prevent you, my sweet naïve doe, from coming to injury.”
“Golly, that sure is swell, Mr. Squweeny, sir.”
“You have the advantage, of me, Mr.? …”
“Temperance, sir.”
“You have family here in our fair city, Mr. Temperance?”
“Nossir.”
“Tee, hee! No family in the city, says you! Well, tell me, do you have family here in England, Mr. Temperance?”
“Nossir, Mr. Squweeny.”
“Ho, ho! You have friends here, then?”
“Not so much…”
“There is a Mrs. Temperance?”
“Nossir.”
“I see, I see, I see. Then you are here on business?”
“Yessir.”
“You look newly arrived. Have you checked into a hotel?”
“Yessir.”
“Blast! Oh well, this may still work. Have you made contact with your employer, yet?”
“Nossir.”
“Good! Oops! I mean, eh, pardon me for saying so, but you look a terrible sight, my lad.”
“Hunh? I do?”
“Yes, dear boy, but you are in luck!”
“I am?”
“Yes, for you see, I am a barber! I am a most skilled barber, I assure you, my bosom mate. I am the most famous barber Fleet Street has ever known.”
“Gee, my whiskers ain’t no more than a little peach fuzz. A kitten’s tongue would do the trick to their removal. Why, I just shaved this morning…”
“You SHAVED, yourSELF!?!? No sir! This is not done, sir. No sir, a gentleman does not shave himself if he wishes to make a good impression on his new employers and that’s a fact, sir! Come with me this instant. I will brook no protest. Come along to my shop and I shall see if I can remedy the damage done.”
~ding-a-ling-a-ling-ding!~
“Gee, this is a nice little barber shop you got here, sir.”
“Thank you, my boy.”
~click.~
“Did you just lock the door? Don’t you want no more customers?”
“I wish to devote all my attention to you, my boy, without any interruptions.”
“Then why do you have two chairs?”
“One chair is for commoners, but you dear child, are no commoner. I want you to sit in my special chair.”
“Your special chair? Gee, I’m about as common as common can get. Maybe I oughtter sit in this other chair…”
“I said to sit in this one, you little fool! Oops, I mean, my especially, special friend.”
“Yessir.”
“Ah, that’s better. Now then, just lie back and be comfortable as I apply a few last strops to this razor.”
“Yessir.”
~strip / strop / strip / strop~
“Hmm, hmm, hm, hmm/hmm. Strumm, strumm, strumm, dee-strumm:”
Razor, razor, lovely sight.
Piercing reflector of any light.
Scraping necks with pressures slight,
Trajectory’s change reveals your might.
“That’s a cute little ditty, Mr. Squweeny, sir, is there any more to it?”
“There would be if you would quit interrupting me you stupid little… er, I mean, let’s have a listen, eh?”
Crimson geyser to ceiling gush,
Death’s cheeks do quickly blush,
Just as quickly the face will flush,
And from the body life will rush.
“I don’t think I got the reference that time, sir.”
“Just a bit of the colloquial dialect, changing a meaning here or there. This final stanza will reveal our song’s true face.”
Scarlet rivers, they do flood.
Maroon is the colour of the sewer mud.
No-one will miss this faceless dud,
As I release this torrent of steaming bl..
“Hey, does this chair have a draft? Why looky there, there is a faint line, indicating a seam in the floor, all the way around this chair. It reminds me of a theatrical stage’s trap-door.”
“Get back in that chair!”
“Hang on a second, and lemme borrow that razor.”
“How dare you, you filthy Colonial! Return me my razor at once!”
“I just want to poke it down in this crack. There looks like there might be a latch… woah, watch out! It is a trap-door! This here barber chair is all set to tilt its unlucky inhabitant to a dreadful fall!”
“Get away from my chair! Give me back my razor!”
“Gee, it sure is a good thing I found that. I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt. I bet that little hidden cellar connects with the old Fleet Street canal, whatcha bet, hunh?”
“Perhaps.”
“I wonder if there ain’t an underground connecting cellar between this place and the meat-pie bake-shop, next door?”
“Enough! Get out of my barber shop!”
“Okay, okay, I’m going.”
“Wait, come back. Give me back my razor.”
“Oops, oh yeah, right. Here you go, mister.”
“Mr. Temperance, I have been looking for you.”
“Oh, howdy Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am.”
“I instructed you to not move, sir.”
“Well, you see, what happened was…”
“Never mind. As it happens, I find you exiting this Fleet Street barber shop at the same time that I am exiting Langela Annebury’s Meat Pie Bakery directly next door.”
~nom, nom, nom.~ “This sure is a good meat pie, Ma’am! What kind of pie is it?”
“I am given to understand that the best policy is not to inquire too deeply into a meat pie’s mysterious origins.”
“Yes, Ma’am.”
“Take a care, Mr. Temperance, for you are dribbling your juices. I am assured that Miss Annebury is ‘slitting her own throat’, by selling her ‘pastries of mystery’ so inexpensively.”

 

 

Hm? You want to know what happens next? Well you’ll just have to visit Icky yourself won’t you and ask him for a copy …

2facetemperance.jpg

 

No, no I really don’t have time to… wait a minute… are you sure these pies are steak and ale? They taste rather suspicious to me…


Soup of the day: With Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators

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 Ive 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 Im always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

I am extremely happy this morning to welcome my dear friends, the paranormal investigators Sir John and Marie Jennings… Good morning to you both, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitc… Sir John? Over here… Marie, my dear, are you sure he can see with those goggles on? Whatever are they for?

EctoscopicGlasses.jpg

Sir John: These are my ectoscopic goggles that allow me to see any spectral energy so as I look around the room…GOOD GOD WHAT IS THAT!

Marie: I think you are looking at the cat, mon cher…if you take the googles off…

Sir John: Ah yes, ahem, yes I’ve seen this before where feline energy can be mistaken for, er, ghostly energy. Perfectly normal.

Mrs Baker: Oh dear yes, I’m so sorry about the cats, they are after my illicit cream stores, you know. Well, why don’t you both have a seat here by the window. How was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you were not delayed by any spectral presences en route?

Sir John: It was relatively uneventful. We made use of my brother Saul’s cabinet to travel here through time from 1901. He was, I’m afraid to say, a bit of a crank, believing in some pseudo scientific hogwash he called Quantum Physick. Most bizarre, with strange parallel worlds and waves behaving like particles. He built this device to travel to these parallel worlds, and it seems to work as it’s brought us here. Hopefully we can return, it’s the first time we’ve used it.

The only real trouble we had was when we were stuck in some hellish box, travelling in random directions with strange, dishevelled muttering creatures. What was that thing called Marie.

Marie: I think it was Southern Rail.

Mrs Baker: Oh dear me yes, I have heard your trains are as bad as our Skyway Rails, for future visits might I  recommend the number nine bus, some have found the driver both adventurous and persuadable if bribed with sufficient tiffin. Now then, I shall put the kettle on, have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

Marie: I brought a recipe that our maid Miss Henderson suggested for Courgette and Milk Soup. She said it is from the “Mysterious and Exotic East”.

Sir John: I think she means Walthamstow.

Mrs Baker: Oh!

Marie: Here is her note…

Mrs Baker: Thankyou my dear, let me see now, she writes… “Dear Mrs Baker, please find below my recipe for Corset and Milk Soup. Take a pound of corsets…”  CORSETS?!

Sir John: we think she means courgettes

Mrs Baker: Oh! I see!…...and cook in a bit of water until soft but not too long or the taste will cook out. Mix them up – I use a device Sir John has made for me called a Vegetofruit Blending Device. It’s quite quick and only moderately dangerous. Put aside and then heat a tablespoon of butter and when that’s melted take off the heat and add tablespoon of flour. When that is like a paste, add half a pint of milk and stir until it thickens a little. Then add the corsets and some ground Kew men…

 

Marie: “cumin”

Mrs Baker: Oh yes of course!  …and season with salt and pepper. Finally serve in bowls with some Sumac powder sprinkled on top. The soup is mild in flavour and the dark purple colour of the Sumac is a lovely complement to the pale green of the corsets.”

Sir John: Funnily enough she got the name for Sumac powder right. It’s a fascinating spice, rumoured to give anyone that prepares it correctly a five octave singing voice. I’m not sure that’s true but our previous maid, Mrs Flitwick, did once mistake it for cocoa and she made a very high pitched noise.

 

Mrs Baker: Well it certainly sounds delicious, I wouldn’t worry about the Sumac, the orphans are quite hardy round here you know. So, I will just pop the cauldron onto the fire, there. Now while that is simmering away why don’t you tell us all a little more about the work you do, paranormal investigation sounds most fascinating!

Sir John: Well it all started in Paris, where we met. I was working away at various theories of how to detect paranormal activity. Marie was my willing companion, assisting where she could. Eventually we married and moved to London and set ourselves up as Paranormal Investigators. It was a little easier as my French isn’t terribly good and I was concerned it may be difficult to communicate with francophone fiends.

Mrs Baker: What a wonderful story, I do like a good romantic tale! And I have heard that you employ some very specialist inventions to help with this work, have you brought some along to show the orphans?

Sir John: This is my Thanatograph. It’s allows us to hear the spectral voices of any phantasm. It’s quite subtle, if there are any such entities present we may hear a faint human-like voice when the machine starts. Now I’ve set it up, let’s all be very quiet and see what happens.

Thanatograph.jpg

 

Mrs Baker: Is it supposed to do that?

Sir John: Actually no. It’s quite unusual for it to fly around the room like that.

Mrs Baker: Oh, silly me! I’m afraid we are directly above the underground library and so our resident ghost, Perilous Wight, may be setting it off?

Sir John: Ah I see! Let me see if I can catch it. Oooof!

Marie: Mon cher, are you alright!

Sir John: Yes I think so. I don’t chew much on that side of my face anyway. Let me put it away before it causes any real damage.

Mrs Baker: I’m so sorry about that, I hope it will be alright. Well, these machines are all very technical and exciting,  but Marie, my dear, (and while Sir John is occupied putting that device away)  I cannot help but sense something of the mystical about your aura, I have a feeling that perhaps you do not need such devices to see these ghostly goings on?

Marie: Well, why I sometimes ‘ave some, shall we say, intuition into what may be going on… I’m not sure what you mean or where you have ‘eard this…

Mrs Baker: Oh my dear, I’m so sorry, I did not mean to alarm you or to be rude! Magic is forbidden in this dimension of course, but there are those of us who still practise it in secret where we can and I cannot help but sense that you have, shall we say, the ‘gift of intuition’ when it comes to the paranormal?

Marie: Ah, I see. Well, yes, it is true that I can sometimes offer … more help than is obvious. I like to keep that to myself. Oh look, Sir John is back.

Mrs Baker: Oh marvellous, and that is the kettle singing, can I offer you both some tea? How do you like it?

Sir John: Plenty of milk, three sugars, not too strong.

Mrs Baker: Oh dear, I’m afraid that is almost the last of the sugar, I shall have to visit the smugglers again.

Marie: Black, please. No sugar.

Mrs Baker: There you are. Now I know you have had many adventures but would you like to tell the orphans a little about your most recent or exciting one?

Sir John: Yes we have recently been relating our vacation in Sunnyport in our journal. It started out as a holiday and quickly became a terrifying nightmare. And that was before anything supernatural happened.

Mrs Baker: It all sounds so very exciting! And I hear that Paul Michael and Josephine Pichette have compiled some of your adventures into a book?

Sir John: Yes, indeed. It’s a collection of our first four investigations: a haunting, a strange case of a mesmerised young heiress, a fiendish killer in London, and a theft of some magical artefacts. It’s called, rather appropriately Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators Casebook One. It’s apparently available in South America?

Marie: Amazon, mon cher.

Sir John: Ah, yes.

casebook one cover copy medium

 

Mrs Baker: Splendid! And where else can we read about your adventures?

Sir John: Well our journal regularly publishes details of our adventures and other interesting tidbits. Mr Michael and Mme Pichette are kind enough to update it twice weekly. They are also on, is it Twitbook, Marie?

Marie: That’s Twitter and Facebook.

https://thebenthictimes.com

https://www.facebook.com/thebenthictimes

https://twitter.com/thebenthictimes

 

Mrs Baker: Splendid! And will there be more books in the future?

Sir John: Yes indeed, Mr Michael and Mme Pichette are, I believe, chronicling our recent trip to Paris in a book they are calling The Paris Awakening. You may have read about the aftermath of that trip in the papers. It made the front page.

Marie: I don’t think Mrs Baker gets Le Monde here, and not from 1900, especially.

Mrs Baker: No indeed, the year here is 1840… and besides which, the only paper I get the is Tiffindependent…

Sir John: Well I believe it was in The Times as well…page 27. Underneath an advert for a mechanical carpet cleaner.

Mrs Baker Well perhaps I can use my soup-scrying techniques to locate a copy. Ah but that soup certainly smells the ticket doesn’t it? Thank you so much for coming to help out in the kitchen today, my dears, it’s been wonderful to chat with you but now those little urchins must be ravenous so shall we start dishing it up?

Sir John: Yes, let’s! Thank you so much for having us to visit. I’m terribly sorry about the scorch marks from the Cryptozoetropometer. I can pay to have that cleaned.

Cryptozoetropometer.jpg

 

Marie: Yes thank you Mrs Baker, it’s been nice to meet a fellow…cook.

Mrs Baker: Indeed! Thankyou all of you for joining us in the soup kitchen today, I hope you will come back again next week and until then

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Elevenses: Flower magic and a Steampunk short story

Good Morning ladies and gentlemen! I realise you are all probably feeling a little eleven o clockish at this hour but I must beg your forgiveness and delay the cake for a moment because we have a very special guest in the parlour this morning!

Our lovely Shonchavani friend Mrs Belle Sykes has kindly left her Tea Smuggling Tramper-Van in the capable hands of her husband Gord and their 20 children (whose names I seem to remember are, Yan, Tan, Arthur, Martha, Pip, Seth, Heather, Hogarth, Dorothy, Richard, Yan-Richard, Tan-Richard, Arthur-Richard, Martha-Richard, Barmcake, Yan-Barmcake, Tan-Barmcake, Arthur-Barmcake, Martha-Barmcake and Diggory.) and braved the long trek down here to the docks in order to show us some ways of productively using the fruits of our deflowering labours.

The Shonchavani are a diaspora of the Jentacular Isle but, as the Jentacular Isle is believed by most to be purely mythical (I can personally vouch for the fact that it is not!) the queen has decreed that they must have come from Bohemia. They first arrived in Ire during the reign of Henry The Eighth and the mechanical wonders they brought with them caused them to be instantly branded as witches. It wasn’t until Elizabeth came to the throne that this persecution eased up a little and a deal was struck – if the Shonchavani would abandon their nomadic lifestyle (ie – hiding and running from the witch hunters) and share their technological knowledge with the queen’s wizards they would be allowed to live peacefully in squalid little hovels just like any other peasant. Some agreed and became known as Tinkers, others did not. When Ann became queen she struck another deal, this time with the travelling clans – if they would agree to transport the queen’s tea safely from her plantations to the elite county of Devon in their mechanised Tramper-Vans and prevent it falling into the hands of land pirates, all accusations of witchcraft would be dropped. The Shonchavani are an enterprising folk and some of their very best friends and relatives are pirates… needless to say they immediately agreed to this potentially lucrative arrangement.

Sadly the recent introduction of skyway travel has meant less and less work for the ‘Tea Trampers’ and they have had to find other ingenious ways of making ends meet and so Belle has kindly agreed to pimp her heritage to us and show us how  quick silver can be made by making and selling the ancient magical herbal thingies that her people have used for centuries to survive on the road… hm? …. sorry did you say something about ethics or did you cough? Oh you were just clearing your throat, sorry, do have some tea…

1. Ye Most Olde And Ancient And Bone Fide Magikal Cure For Coughs and Colds

Take as many flowers of violet, white horehound and mullein as you can fit into a large saucepan, cover with boiling water and simmer gently until the mix has reduced by about half. Strain off the flowers and add 500g of sugar. Bring back to the boil and simmer for a further 20 mins or until the mixture coats the back of a cold spoon (you want a syrup, not jam but if you accidentally boil too long you can still use the jam it will have the same medicinal properties!) Pour the syrup (which is a soothing expectorant) into dark glass bottles, seal and keep in a cool place. Take one tsp as needed for a dry or chesty cough up to four times a day.

2. Most Magikkal And Traditional Healing Balm For Skin Irritations

Take 1kg of lard (or coconut oil or petroleum jelly if you prefer) and add to a very large saucepan with as many buttercup flowers (not the green steams or leaves) as you can manage. Melt gently over a low heat for 10 – 20 mins until the mix is liquid and bright yellow (do not boil). Strain off the flowers and add 20 – 40 drops of rose or lavender oil if desired, this will add scent and boost the soothing properties of the balm but may be too much for the most sensitive skins so use with caution. Pour into dark glass jars quickly before it sets, seal and keep in a cool dark place. Use as a healing cream for dry skin, eczema, bruises, minor cuts and grazes.

 

3. A Certain Tonic For The Quarrelsome Wife, Promotes Marital Bliss Guaranteed 

Take as many flowers of the Pink that you can gather and simmer in a large pan for one hour. Strain off the flowers, return the water to the pan with 500g sugar. Simmer gently for about 20 mins to form a syrup. Pour into glass bottles and seal. Drink one tablespoon of this syrup dissolved in a glass of wine as required. Double the dose during the most trying time of the month. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.

 

Now then, while Max rolls up his shirt sleeves, fastens his goggles and sets about t help with the brewing of flowers and and boiling of fat, I really feel we ought to step out of the way… s let’s sit down over here and enjoy some calming primrose tea and open a good book shall we?

waistcoats

 

The Brides Of Saint Michael are not your average group of Holy Sisters, when an ancient enemy leaves his calling card Agnes Broadshield and her militia of Women In Waistcoats take to the streets to prevent the evil creature and his minions from exacting their revenge but even as we close the final pages of the book, it seems this is not so much an ending as a beginning…

This is a splendidly crafted short story, a well balanced mixture of steampunk / gaslamp and mythology which we found engaging from the outset. If you are looking for a quick steampunk fix with a strong plot, well developed characters and a good mixture of familiarity and uniqueness then this little gem is the book for you.

Hm? Sorry? No music today? Oh well there isn’t really much room here to set up the radio so… oh well alright then I suppose if you could hold the areal out of the window … yes that’s it …

 

Thankyou very much… is your arm still alright there? Oh dear, well could you stay there for just a little bit longer I’m hoping to catch the news….

 


Morning Cuppa: An Oxford Holiday

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s formidably flamboyant and delinquently day-dreamy parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!

True, some have called it a barren affair; its charms a figment of fiendish imagination, but we consider that such people spend too much time indulging in unsavoury gossip.

You find us this morning reminiscing about the innocent delights of youth… at least I think that is what we are doing.. we are coming out of the end of an all night tiffin session with the lovely Miss Ottis, our local Milliner. I’m not sure Max has noticed that she gave her leave over an hour ago and he has just finished regaling her empty chair with a charming story about how the poet Christina Biscotti first introduced him to something called a sherbet rocket.

I confess I couldn’t follow most of it (sweet delights like that may be illegal in the land f Ire but below the sea they are simply unobtainable, as even the most intrepid cake smuggler does not think to put on a diving suit and peddle their wares along the sea bed.) but the whole thing seemed to take place on a punt in Oxford and ended in a near death collision with a steamer.

Anyway, Max has now moved on to rambling about Christina’s Mostly Awful Poetry and that can only end in tears so I think it is time we opened something splendid to read and put the kettle on  again for a nice grounding cup of Wildflower Serenity Tea from DaisyandMallow

An Oxford Holiday (An Ingenious Mechanical Devices Short Story Book 1) by [Jorgensen, Kara]

Our book this morning is An Oxford Holiday, another beautiful offering from the mistress of ingenious mechanical devices, Kara Jorgensen. An oxford holiday is a short companion story to the series and falls between books two and three.

Lovers Adam and Immanuel have been separated since their last adventure, Adam lives in London while Immanuel is finishing his studies in Oxford. Although the nightmare reality of Immanuel’s capture and torture by the gentleman devil is now over, the Oxford bully boys continue to make his life a misery and his experiences have left scars that are both physical and emotional. He is overjoyed at the prospect of Adam coming to stay for a weekend, even if they cant let their feelings show in public it will be good to have a friend as company, and then f course Adam will have his own hotel room… But things don’t go as planned as an emergency at the university means that Adam and Immanuel may not get the break they planned for after all.

If you haven’t already read the first two books it is possible to enjoy this as a sweet gay romance story on its own as Kara does a great job of filtering in the necessary facts without any annoying information dumping. What newcomers may not fully appreciate, and this is the reason devotees of the series will want to make sure they grab this little bonus book, is just how much Immanuel has suffered in the past, how much this precious time alone with Adam means to them both. Immanuel is an adorable character and we desperately want him to find happiness with Adam if their plans for the future work out, but the subtle threat to that at the very end of the book implies that even London may not be the sanctuary he is hoping for, we suspect that Immanuel and Adam have more trying times ahead and we can’t wait to read the next book

And now we must pop our oracular pet into its cup and see what its tentacles have plucked from the aether for us this morning…

 

That is truly ingenious! I wonder if he could make us one for the tea… we wish you all a very sweet and steamy afternoon, and hope you will join us for elevenses tomorrow so,until then, please be always

Utterly Yourself