Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “soup

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

dreamtime damsels anthology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Potage St. Germain (Pea Soup)

Ingredients

1 (1 pound) ham bone

4 1/2 cups water

1 (13 ounce) can chicken broth

2 cups split peas

2/3 cup finely chopped leeks or green onions

1/3 cup finely chopped carrots

1/3 cup finely chopped celery

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp thyme

Bay leaf

1/2 tsp pepper

2 1/2 cups milk

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup chopped ham, cooked

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

Instructions

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

Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Amazon page is at

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

and my Smashwords page is

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

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

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

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

Absoloutely!

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

 

Mary Woldering hosts the first round of character interviews 

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

Mary Woldering hosts the second round of character interviews

Our own kitchen witch interviews Nav Logan

Nav Logan joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

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

Mary Woldering hosts the next round of character interviews

A.M Young joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Benjamin Towe joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Cover reveal from The Benthic Times

Cover reveal from Collin on The Harlequin Ladybird


Soup Of The Day: With Addison Albright

 

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

Helping me this morning is Addison Albright! Thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, My Dear! May I take your parasol, it’s unseasonably sunny today isn’t it?

Thank you! I’m thrilled to be here today. Yes, it is, but sunny days make it easier to be cheery, so I won’t complain.

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

No space pirates, but I did run into a few vamps. Thankfully they weren’t particularly hostile, just a mite hungry. I might want to partake of a bit of this soup to help offset the blood loss.

 

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

Yes, I have. I used to make this regularly back in the day, but I haven’t thought to do so since all the kids grew up and moved out. I thank you for reminding me of it.

I’d be happy to share my recipe, such as it is. I’m afraid that outside of baking, I’m not big on measuring ingredients, so folks will need to “wing it” right along with me.

Chicken (or Turkey) and Noodles

Regarding the poultry portion of the recipe, I was in the habit of making this recipe using leftover chicken or turkey, so I generally started with something like “Better than Bouillon” for the broth. But, if you’re making it completely from scratch, you can boil up some chicken pieces and go from there (use approx. a gallon of water, boil the chicken for a ½ hour, remove meat from bones, then continue to boil bones for added flavour while prepping the rest, removing the bones prior to adding the veggies).

Dice up however much you want of carrots, celery, and onion. Add them to the (now boneless) broth. Add back the diced up poultry now if you want, too (or wait until after adding the noodles…doesn’t much matter), and add spices like salt (unless you’re using purchased bouillon/stock, which is often very salty already), pepper, and thyme (if you use fresh, put in whole branches, then fish out the stalks before adding the noodles). Let all that simmer for 10-20 minutes or so.

Then add egg noodles. You can use the store-bought frozen noodles (like Reames), but it’s pretty easy to make your own. Basically use 1 cup of flour and 2 eggs per serving you wish to make. That’s it for ingredients. Mix together and knead the heck out of it, sprinkling flour as needed to your hard surface, until the dough is smooth and “pliable.” Then roll it out thin (sprinkle with more flour as needed) and cut it into strips about ¼” wide and 3-4” long. I usually do this first and store the bowl in the freezer while preparing the rest.

Be sure to stir well when adding the noodles so you don’t end up with big noodle clumps. Boil with the noodles for about 10 minutes or until they pass your taste test.

Enjoy!

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

So far I’ve written romances or love stories featuring two men. Usually the stories are contemporary, but I’ve recently branched out into light fantasy and paranormal (a vampire series in progress and a Big Foot story in my WIP pile).

Heat levels vary, but even with the shorter and more erotic stories I try to make the story surrounding “the scene” be the primary focus. Especially with my longer works, I want the story itself to be the focus.

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

Hahaha…I’m not sure how appropriate my books would be for the young’uns. Even the stories without any onscreen sexy times usually have a reference or two that might be best glossed over if sharing with the kiddies. Even my short, Déjà Vu, which I don’t think has any sexual references at all, might give the kiddies nightmares with the dark humor scenes it contains. How about we share these with their caregivers, instead?

Oh of course! Yes, um… perhaps I’ll save these to share with Max and Collin then, I wouldn’t call them ‘care givers’ as such… more, ‘organisers of the troops’ I suppose. Although I must have a good look myself first you have a lovely stash there indeed!

Of Rats and Cats & Deja Vu - Covers & Review Snips - 690x690 copyVows Series - 4 Book Covers - 690x289

For readers who like longer books with a nice dose of drama, I’d recommend trying my Vows Series, featuring 2 novels with a novelette and a very short story sandwiched in-between. These stories range from low to medium heat levels. The first book in the series, ’Til Death Do Us Part, is a novel featuring a couple who are torn apart when one is thought to have died in a plane crash. The second book, From This Day Forward, is a novelette featuring the same couple and gives them a small dose of drama to deal with together and solidifies their HEA. The short story, Okay, Then, also features that same couple and takes us back to their earliest days together, so it can be looked on as a prequel. It can be, but by no means needs to be read before the novel. It’s a bit of a bonus story. The last book in the series, To Love and To Cherish, is a novel featuring a different couple. One MC was an important side character in the first novel who deserved to find his own HEA.

For readers looking for short, fun stories to see how they like a new-to-them writer’s style might want to try Of Rats and Cats (comedic with zero heat, but still not entirely appropriate for young children), or Déjà Vu (holiday story with some dark comedy, zero heat, and HEA for all despite early indications to the contrary).

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

I’ve never acquired a taste for tea, but that’s mostly from lack of interest in giving it much of a try. So I’ll drink whatever you recommend for a novice tea drinker. I’d like to try it straight up before modifying it with cream or sugar, please.

My goodness, not given tea a try? Well, here you are my dear a cup of my very best contraband Lady Grey unsullied by milk or sugar but do help yourself to a slice of fresh lemon or lime to go with it if you wish.

Now tell me, My Dear, what do you look for in a good story?

First off the writing itself (both style and editing) are important, because it’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey getting there, and entertaining writing can make the difference between a bad, good, or great story. So I prefer an engaging style. I don’t object to the occasional grammatical slip up. There’s a meme I’ve seen that has fun joking about the odd tenacious error that makes it through all the read-throughs, beta readers, edit rounds, etc. Heck, we can pick them out in mainstream books. But it does bother me when a finished story is utterly riddled with bad wording choices and outright poor grammar.

I like good pacing (boo to filler), and especially if it’s a romance, I want characters I can like and/or relate to. Flawed is fine—good even—but justify it. Make me understand what’s driving their choices and actions. Otherwise I enjoy a wide variety of story genres and tropes. Sometimes I’m in the mood for total fantasy, other times for something real world. Regardless, I want the drama to be believable for that world and not obviously fabricated by unjustified eye-rolling character actions.

And do You have any favourite authors who inspire your writing?

Absolutely.  A couple of my favorite M/M authors who are also popular in general are Josh Lanyon and JL Merrow. They both have engaging writing styles and write wonderfully entertaining stories. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a sucker for hurt/comfort and most of Josh’s have an element of that, and my favorite JL Merrow series (The Plumber’s Mate) does too.

A couple more authors that are recently new-to-me and have impressed me enough that I’ll be looking for more from them are C.H. Clepitt (I Wore Heels to the Apocalypse and the followup story Everything is Better with a Cape are hilarious), whom I discovered via the Rainbow Snippets group on Facebook, and Zakarrie Clarke (I’m in the middle of reading Hangover from Hell, and look forward to enjoying Hangover and Out, too).

One of my favorite people, who’s also a fantastic M/M author is Nell Iris. I have the pleasure of getting to beta read her fabulously emotional stories. I’m inspired by the charm of their stories, whether it be the appealing characters/storylines, the comedic flair, or the high level of feelings they elicit.

And do you have any new publications, appearances or upcoming projects we can get excited about?

Heh. I wish I had something scheduled in the near future, but everything I’ve submitted is already published. The story I’m working on and hope to finish next is The Best-Laid Plans, which is a sequel to my fantasy novelette, The Contingency Plan. I was perfectly happy imagining the happy couple traipse without issue into their HEA after the intriguing story of how they got together, but the common refrain from readers was…but, but, it was too short, and I want more! And of course, I can’t just write nothing but happy times for them, so now I’m putting them through a little hell (political intrigue, murder, and kidnapping, oh my). I’m in the planning stages of a Big Foot shifter story, and a possible shared universe story with another writer where we each write our own stories, but they’re related and might have some scenes that intersect. I’m also working out the details of the projected third story in my vampire trilogy and thinking about what I might do for a third story for my fantasy couple.

As for recent publications, the past few months have seen several releases from me. Mostly short stories like the aforementioned Of Rats and Cats in November, and Déjà Vu in December. The super short in the Vows Series (Okay, Then) released as a “hot flash” single in February (although it had previously been included in several collections). I also had a novella, The Choice, come out in January. It’s the second book in my vampire trilogy, following The Recruit, which came out last June. I’m a detail-oriented and pedantic person, so my goal in writing my own vampire world was to address all the picky little things that I’m often left wondering about when I’ve read other paranormal stories. I love the world I’ve come up with, and I’m reluctant to let it go. After the currently planned third story, I might write more with another couple in the same world, but that might depend on whether or not sales for this series pick up enough to make it worth the effort.

I can be found around Facebook now and again participating in group takeover events with giveaways. I do have one a week from when I’m writing this, but I expect that might be in the past once this is posted. I don’t have any in-person events planned. I did my first GayRomLit in Denver a couple years ago, but the big in-person events are so expensive I don’t know when I’ll be able to do another.

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

Website/Blog: https://authoraddisonalbright.com

Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/addison.albright.profile

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AddisonAlbright

Twitter: http://twitter.com/AddisonAlbright

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/addison-albright

Newsletter (New Release Notifications) Signup: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/addison-albright

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

I’d be happy to. I hope they enjoy eating it as much as I did making it.

Thanks so much for having me. I’m delighted to have discovered this site and your sidekick Penny’s writing on Rainbow Snippets. Each week I look forward to getting my Jack & Marjory fix and anticipate the day when I can read their completed story.

Thankyou so much Addison, and thankyou all of you for joining us in the soup kitchen today! Penny will be back on Saturday with her Rainbow Snippets post and then at some point this month we will have her March Book Review slot to look forward to before our April Aether Egg Hunt kicks off. 

Until I see you again, blessings on your brew my dears!

 


Soup Of The Day: With Meredith Debonnaire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

The Life and Times of Angel Evans.png

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://meredithdebonnaire.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/DebonnaireMerry

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

 

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

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

Blessings on your brew my dears!


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

ceriandgeorge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

oooo, thank-you Mrs. Baker

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Most certainly, Mrs Baker. I love having adventures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well perhaps we will see you there! Thankyou so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Admiral, and for bringing young George along to help as well! It’s been wonderful to meet and chat with you both and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

 

Thank-you Ma’am for inviting us to your cosy cottage. Sadly we have to return to our own dimension now as I believe I’m needed back on the bridge of my flagship HMS Essex, and George has school in the morning and we wouldn’t want to upset his teacher Mrs. Shorttfur.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Soup Of The Day : With Katherine McIntyre

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

 

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

Thank you for inviting me!

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

Breezy! Flew on in by airship ; )

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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TheAirshipAlsoRises-2.jpgCaptivating-Melody-evernightpublishing-JUNE2018-eBook.jpg

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Always coffee, which I take with cream and sugar.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

My books can be found on

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

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

As well as many other online retailers!

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Soup Of The Day with Steampunk Photographer Charli Anderson-Farrar

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

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

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

 

INGREDIENTS

2 Starchy Potatoes

355ml milk

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

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

475ml single cream

Salt and pepper to taste

 

METHOD

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Until then, Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Soup f The Day: With Army Of Brass Author Jeremiah Rickert

 

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

Helping me this morning is Army Of Brass author Jeremiah Rickert, good morning Jeremiah and what a beautiful sunny one it is! Here, let me take your coat and hat and you can have a seat here by the window and put your feet up while I make the soup for the orphans.

There now, I have heard so much about the Collaborative Writing Challenge and your marvellous book Army Of Brass, tell me how did you first get involved with the CWC?

I believe I saw a solicitation on the CRWOPPS listerv and was intrigued by the idea of both collaborative storytelling and the idea of writing some steampunk fiction.

And what is your favorite part of working collaboratively?

It takes a lot of pressure off of worrying about macro-storytelling.  You get to focus a lot of energy on just your chapter.

Yes I imagine that must be a refreshing and unique experience. Who is your favorite character?

I had the most fun with Captain Davenport.  I like the idea of a gentleman swashbuckler with a strong well of pragmatism inside of him.

Oh yes I believe he made quite an impression on Max and Collin yesterday! Did you have a favorite setting in the story?

I usually would be seated at the keyboard with a goofy grin on my face whenever the characters were on one of the airships.

Ah yes, airships – I have seen some of my visitors arriving in those although we haven’t quite reached that level of technological advancement here in Lancaster. Did you have a favorite gadget or technology?

The airships with their gas bags and propellers have always been my favorite aspect of Steampunk.  They are a ubiquitous in the genre, but they are pretty cool, so I can see why.

Indeed! Did you have much experience with Steampunk before the collaboration?

I had read a few books, but I’m not super dedicated to the genre.

I see, would you mind passing me that sack of onions, Dear? Thankyou, goodness I’ve so much to do today! How often do you sit down to write?

Not with any regularity.  I write when I feel like I have something to say.

And what is your ideal setting for writing? 

I did most of my writing for this project at a local all-night diner.  I have headphones on, but often they are just there to filter the noise a bit.  After two hours, I would pause and have a snack, then write until I started getting sleepy.

Oh that sounds marvellous! What is your favorite genre to write?

I like all genres.  The key to me is just to have fun characters to play with, no matter what the setting.

Perhaps the reason you write such strong and memorable characters! Are there any genres you haven’t tried but would like to?

I have been sitting on an idea for a pulp-style Space Opera story for a long time.  This project has loosened up a lot of the machinery inside me that feels compelled to create.

That certainly sounds like a project that should see the light of day! Who is your favorite character that you’ve created?

I have a finished novel about a noir-style detective who happens to dress like a clown when he’s on the job.

Oh marvellous, perhaps he would like to meet our own anchorite clown Freddy Payne some time! Where do you get your inspiration for these wonderful characters?

Being observant and people watching typically serves as my inspiration.  I tend to take a lot of notes with snippets of conversations I’ve overheard or thoughts that have occurred to me.  A particularly fertile period for me was when I worked a graveyard shift in a 7-11. I saw a lot of people and things that I am still mining for inspiration to this day.

And are there any writers who inspire you?

The first that comes to mind is Mark Helprin, author of A Winter’s Tale, Soldier In The Great War, and others.  I don’t know how he produces such beautiful, descriptive prose, that never seems like a slog to read through.  It is sorcery. I am also a huge fan of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, particularly the recent translation by Edith Grossman.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

There are two tips that come to mind:  First, read everything you can, as much as you can stand, across all genres, and don’t be afraid of the classics.  Second, get yourself some deadlines. The one thing I missed most about college after I graduated was having deadlines.  They are highly motivating.

Yes indeed! And speaking of deadlines, our soup here is nearly done and I can hear the urchins clamouring in the street outside so we had better start serving this up. But before we do, where can we find more of your writing?

Most my print and online material appeared in the late 90s/early 2000s and is no longer accessible unfortunately.  The Army of Brass collaborative project has re-awakened the urge to write, however, so I anticipate more material appearing soon.

Well I hope you will come back to the soup kitchen some other time and tell us about your next work when it is published! 

Thankyou everyone for joining us in the kitchen today and if you would like to find out more about Army Of Brass or purchase your own copy you can follow the links below.

Blessings on your brew my dears! 

 

Order your ebook copy of Army of Brass for $.99 and receive it on Friday, April 27!

 

Take a sneak peek at the full Chapter 1, read an exclusive excerpt, or check out another interview with writer Jason Pere or Jean Grabow as part of our blog tour, now until May 13. If you want to find out more about collaborative writing, Army of Brass contributors and CWC veterans Crystal MM Burton and Kathrin Hutson shared articles for the tour about the pros, cons, and rewards.

 

Plus, Join us on Facebook April 28-29 to meet some awesome writers, participate in a giveaway that includes a $25 Amazon gift card, and more!
Speaking of giveaways, we’ve got one going on for the entire blog tour, so between April 13-May 13, enter to win ebooks from our writers.


Soup Of The Day: With Author Jack Wolf

 

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

 

Helping me this morning is Jack Wolf – author of The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones, which Max and Collin reviewed a short time ago with their Morning Cuppa.

Good morning to you Jack! Thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, may I take your coat and hat? It is certainly very frosty out there today but the fire here in the bakery is lovely and warm.  How was your journey here from your own dimension?

Not too bad – the skies were fairly clear and the traffic was ok.

I’m very glad to hear that! This cold snap seems to have the Skyway Men clinging to their fires which is a mercy! And have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

I make something called Bungitin Vegan soup, which is basically a load of chopped veg – 1 onions, 2 carrots, 1 tin’s worth of tomatoes, 1 pepper, half to a whole tin’s worth of chick peas and/or other legumes, and anything else I can find in the kitchen fridge – 1-2 courgettes are good. Add at least one clove of garlic or a teaspoon of garlic paste – this is really important – and a mix of herbs and spices to taste. The italian herbs are good for this, so oregano, basil and sometimes a little black pepper. I don’t usually add salt, but you can, if you want. To cook, brown the onions and begin to soften the carrots by stir-frying in vegetable or sunflower oil for about 4-5 mins, then add everything else and about 3/4 pint of vegetable stock, and let it all simmer until everything is soft and it tastes really rich. Don’t let it burn or get too dense, as this can make the flavour too strong – you have to keep tasting it.

 

Oh vegan soup recipes are always here, what with the dairy rationing and such, thankyou very much! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire and tell us about your book The Tale Of Raw Head and Bloody Bones, and its main character Tristan Hart? I see you have brought a copy with you to show the orphans..

full cover rawhead.jpg

 

 

The cover art is stunning! I confess to very much enjoying the book myself, not least because of the cunning use of magic, folk lore and the world of faerie to support the narrative – tell me, have you always had an interest in the relationship between our own everyday ‘stories,’ and the magical and mythological frameworks we use to make sense of our ‘real world’ experiences?

I’ve been drawn to faerie tales, and faeries in general, for a long time. I’m also fascinated by human psychology, and the idea that humans create our own conceptual worlds out of the stories – and I use that word extremely broadly – that we tell ourselves. To an extent, the ‘real world’ of our experience is something we invent – a story we tell ourselves every moment of every day.

 

And the story of Raw Head, that is a real British folk tale isn’t it?

 

Yes and no. It’s a recorded folk belief, but I haven’t found any complete tales concerning it – with a beginning middle and end, and so on. It’s likely that the original RH&BB is more a general bogeyman than a character, in the way that, say, the Wolf in the Three Little Pigs is a character. I think he was a personification of the threat of drowning in a culture where only a tiny minority of people knew how to swim, and nobody knew how to perform cpr on a drowning victim. The idea was, I think, that the fear of RH&BB would keep the kids away from the waterways in a way that a simple explanation of the danger would not. References to the figure seem to peter out in the UK after the 18thC, so I guess superstitions moved on.

But oddly enough, in the US the image seems to have persisted, and mutated – there’s a legend in the Ozarks of RH&BB where a creature by that name appears as a monstrous pig. It may be co-incidental, of course. But I drew on this alternate image a little bit as well in the novel; Tristan’s dread of Joseph Cox becomes focused on the fact that Cox works as a pig-keeper.

 

Ah yes! I didn’t recognise that wonderful little twist but that certainly makes sense!  I had also thought it reminded me of the La Lorona mythos and more localised ‘Maggie O Th’Well’ tales. Tell me, what particularly drew you to use that tale as the focal point for Tristan’s story?

 

I’m fascinated by bogeymen, and the idea that one of the tools we use to keep ourselves safe is actually terror. But the name “RH&BB” is also a wonderful metaphor for what a human being is – mind and body brought together in this messy, contradictory way – and trying to make sense of that conundrum is Tristan’s most prevailing obsession.

Raw Head is by no means the only myth you reference in the book, what other prominent faerie figures feature in the narrative?

Well, I also draw heavily on the idea of the Glanconer – the Irish Faerie seducer – or as we might now acknowledge, rapist. He’s the dark Faerie who lies at the bottom of the myth of the Elf Knight, or as I call him in the book, the Goblin Knight. In numerous folk songs such as The Outlandish Knight and Steeleye Span’s The Elf Knight (which was the first place I encountered him) he is a seducer and murderer of young women who lures them to their doom sometimes by drowning, like RH&BB, or more simply by stabbing or strangling them. But of course as a Faerie Knight he’s also part of the court of the Faerie Queen, so she had to come into the book as well – and the image I’ve used to represent her is that of the shapeshifting barn owl. I’ve called her Viviane, of course, which is a nod to the Arthurian tradition. 

Of course, and very nicely done indeed! Now, in some modern / mythpunk re-workings, the world these tales and archetypes belong to is something that is a step removed from the protagonist’s reality but in your book the world of faerie doesn’t just run alongside Tristan’s human world does it?

Well, I don’t see the worlds as being separate in the way that a lot of modern fantasy does. I’m much more drawn to the Alan Garner or Susan Cooper school of world building in which the two realms are in constant communication with each other. It’s much closer to the way I experience the world, as well.

Well, I for one can certainly identify with that, Dear! I very much liked the way that, by giving each of the main characters both a human identity and, simultaneously, a faerie-self, you seemed to re-imagine (or perhaps ‘release’) some of those ancient beings in a way that made encountering them a very fresh, real and emotive experience.

Do you think that it is important to keep exploring these tales and releasing these characters into the collective consciousness?

 

Yes. I think it’s vital, actually. In the last couple of hundred years, we have built an  industrial society that demands that we deliberately reject older, deeper ways of thinking, and more intuitive ways of experiencing ourselves and the world around us, in order to be considered full, ‘rational’ individuals. It’s a form of madness, I think – cutting off a very ancient, nourishing, and protective part of the psyche. We need to find stories that allow us to reconnect with who we really are as a species. I think faerie stories do have the capacity to do this.

 

I certainly think you are right on that point!

The book is set at an important liminal moment in British history – revolutions in the worlds of medical science and industrial technology are bringing a ‘great awakening’ of so called rational thought, but at that same time, aspects of the collective consciousness seem still to be slumbering in the ‘dream world’ of spiritual / magical understanding and superstition. Did you deliberately choose this time period as one that would reflect the turmoil within Tristan and some of the other key characters?

 

Absolutely. The period stands exactly on the cusp of the modern world – and Tristan, in particular, is a character who represents – even embodies – the confusing contradictions inherent in that historical moment. 

 

The character Katherine Montague uses the story of Raw Head And Bloody Bones to communicate and cope with her traumatic life experiences and Tristan uses it to understand and make sense of his own fragmented reality… do you think that, to some degree, we are all prone to using the language of faerie / magic to feel secure and form an understanding of our often confusing or frightening world?

 

I think there is a human tendency to perceive the world through stories – and as I said above, I think that, right now, we need better ones than we currently have. It is a form of magical thinking, in a way – constructing one’s own reality through images, words and ideas. But we don’t all draw on the language of faerie to do this: we all construct our own stories out of whatever conceptual material we have to hand. In Katherine’s case, this happens to be the language of faerie tales: the abused girl, the wicked mother, the stolen child, etc are all common tropes in the folk-awareness of her time. A modern character in her situation would most probably use different stories to try to make some sense out of the dreadful things that have happened to her, and around her. But a modern character would hopefully have more psychological support… Katherine literally can’t speak about what she has gone through unless she displaces it onto a faerie tale – which both enacts and subverts another faerie trope, the magical silence. For her, magical thinking really is a survival mechanism.

For Tristan the situation’s slightly different, because the whole thing goes so much farther – for him, the worlds of faerie, story and rationality collide in a way that is quite traumatic in itself. He may be using the story, but there is also a sense in which he is also being used – and abused – by it. 

 

While this ‘magical toolkit’ for understanding the world may be useful to the individual utilising it, it can lead to fear, suspicion and ultimately persecution of individuals who are seen as liminal themselves – the ‘outsiders’ if you will, whose lifestyle or beliefs set them apart as ‘abnormal’ can’t it?

 

We still don’t live in a particularly tolerant society – even though in many ways it is, of course, much more accepting than it was in Tristan’s time. But it’s true that standing out from the crowd in ways that the crowd don’t understand, or even fear can bring about terrible persecution – I’m thinking of Sophie Lancaster’s murder here, but there are other examples.

When it comes to holding a magical or otherwise ‘fringe’ understanding of the world in some way, I have found that intolerance has tended to manifest as ridicule, rather than fear or violence. I am a panpsychist, for example (a highly unusual position here, but actually one that was most likely the norm throughout most of human pre-history, and which is still common in certain non-westernised societies), and most educated Westerners simply cannot grasp the principles behind it. So they mischaracterise and then dismiss it. The author Emma Restall Orr went through exactly this experience years ago on BBC Radio 4 with Michael Gove. She responded by writing The Wakeful World, which is a fairly decent introduction to the concept, I think. 

 

Viviane, for example, is a character whose ‘otherness’ allows Tristan to see her as quite unreal and therefore excuse and ‘explain’ his misconduct towards her using the framework of faerie mythology. This use of faerie / magical lore against women (and often, as you highlight marvellously in the book, against Rromani women) is a very real phenomenon isn’t it?

 

It was very much a problem in the 18thC, where it did become, in addition to other things, a cloak for racism against the Romani (not that the concepts of racism, or even sexism, existed then). It’s less obvious now, and here, of course – that’s thanks to the Enlightenment convincing the populace that magic is not real – but it still endures verbally in slurs – “Witch” etc – and in cultural assumptions about the overwhelming sexual allure of women’s bodies. “She put a spell on me, your honour” isn’t really that far from “she was wearing a short skirt,” in my estimation. Both rely on the belief that a female body – a woman in a body – somehow exudes some sort of mystical aura that overcomes a man’s ability to control himself, and provides him with the excuse to, as you say, explain away his misconduct.

 

But Tristan isn’t deliberately demonising Viviane in order to take advantage of her, is he? He is genuinely grasping at the threads of, what for him is, a confusing multilayered reality and this manifests to those around him as a form of madness – demonising him, in turn.

 

Yes, Tristan is completely oblivious to the cultural programming that’s going on beneath the surface; and he’s certainly not demonising Viviane on purpose. As far as he becomes concerned, she is wholly the Faerie woman of his dreams and nightmares – if she ever had a real, human self, he can’t acknowledge that.

 

Again, the demonization of those ‘outsiders’ who come to be labelled ‘mad’ is something that has always been a frighteningly real occurrence hasn’t it?

 

Yes, it has – and it is still going on today. When I was writing Tristan I was very conscious of the stereotyping that leads to people with severe schizophrenia, or similar disorders, becoming objects of fear. People have been taught to expect the mad to behave like monsters. It’s dehumanising – demonising. if you like. it’s also statistically untrue.

 

Perhaps especially unsettling is the fact that what is termed ‘madness’ to one particular culture or at one point in history, can later come to be understood as a natural phenomenon  – the hormonal surges of menstruating or pregnant women, for example, and those whose sexuality is anything other than heterosexual…

 

Absolutely – the boundaries of what is considered ‘sanity’ are shifting all the time. I really do believe that in a couple of hundred years – assuming any humans are still left by then – a lot of the beliefs and habits we hold to now will be seen as dangerously crazy. I don’t, of course, know which ones these will be. I have my hopes, but I don’t see history as  an inevitable march of “progress”, either technologically or culturally, so it may be that some very dark definitions of sanity/insanity will come to dominate. Hopefully we won’t go back to a time when women were locked up for being disobedient, but it could happen.

 

 

I suppose it all comes down to who has the cultural upper hand at the end of the day? Here in Ire, for example, a person is considered dangerous and ‘mad’ if they crave a cup of tea or a slice of cake!

 

Now, you see, I think anyone who doesn’t drink tea or like cake must be completely crazy.

 

Power is certainly a theme that you explore rigorously in the book isn’t it? – The power we may have over the people, animals and natural world around us, the power others may have over us and that which we have over ourselves, our actions and our perceptions…

 

Yes, it’s one of the major themes of the novel. It’s connected with the idea of disconnection and displacement – that the less integrated we are as beings with each other and the natural world, the more our relationships become aligned along power lines: power over, rather than power with. Katherine’s and Tristan’s relationship is really an example of mutual power in flux, rather than power over, on either side, although it may not look like that superficially. The dynamic between them is nothing like, for instance, Jane and Barnaby’s marriage, or the sibling relationship between Tristan’s father and his sister.

 

The power that women have over their own bodies is something that you explore in a number of ways through the different female characters in the story, is this something you feel strongly about?

 

I’m very passionate, actually, about the right of a woman to inhabit and control her own body. It is still a shocking truth of our society that women aren’t always accorded physical autonomy – look at the abortion debate, for example.

 

Looking at the #metoo phenomenon in your own dimension recently, it seems as though we are still very much in need of stories which explore this issue?

 

Very much so. We need, as a culture, to reclaim and then rewrite the ballad of the Elf Knight. I think we actually are trying to do something like that, in this historical moment, at least. I was delighted to read that in the latest production of Carmen, in Italy, Carmen shoots Don Jose, not the other way round – and there’s also that new prize for Crime Fiction that doesn’t focus on dead female bodies. There are other stories that can be told. When I started writing RH&BB, several of my early readers imagined Tristan was going to kill Katherine. Er, hardly! But that tells me how deeply embedded some of these unhealthy cultural assumptions about what love is, and what women can and should expect from men who love them, actually are. I was writing against those expectations then, and I will continue to write against them.

 

 

Such important subjects but oh my goodness! I do ramble on don’t I? I must apologise, the kettle has long been singing at us and I haven’t offered you a cup of tea! What is your poison, dear, and how do you take it?

 

Builders’, soya milk, no sugar. Thanks!

 

Here you are. Now then, moving away from The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones for a moment, what can you tell me about your own involvement in the world of faerie and the enigmatic character of Lord Crow?

 

That’s an interesting question. Of course, being bound by the laws of Faerie, I can’t tell you very much! But I suppose in one way Lord Crow is an idea; in another he’s a being-in-himself. I want to explore the possibility of writing from the point of view of the non-human, and he is my voice and my persona when I do that. I guess there are similarities here with the faerie co-walker, who is a figure I’ve come across occasionally in various modern “guide to faerie” books – though to be honest, I don’t tend to read those sorts of books. The older stories speak to me much more clearly – and also, there’s a tendancy in more modern writings to try to group faeries into species, or even races – which is a hangover from the Victorian obsession with scientific classification. The faeries I know – so to speak – would wet themselves at the thought that any human being should be able to classify them into any sorts of types – especially along such spurious lines as ‘light’ and ‘dark’. They would also probably explode at the notion that they should show any real interest in helping human beings. Faeries are wild. Humans, on the whole, are not. Faerie, as I understand it – in a modern sense, moving away from some of the ways it has been perceived historically as a concept, place, or whatever – has its essence in the flow of energy through complex systems – it can’t be fixed into any stable form. The best way I have found to get to know it is to get to know the natural world, and really fall in love with that – truly, madly, deeply, without reservation, fear, or any desire for power-over it.

I think Lord Crow is quite unlike me, personality wise, though other people disagree. He’s wilder, darker, cleverer, less forgiving, and much less patient. Given the current state of our relationship to the natural world, I don’t find this in any way surprising.

 

‘Re-wilding’ is an important concept that is, happily, growing in popularity as regards our physical relationship with the land isn’t it?

 

Yes; it’s a wonderful development, but it has a long way to go. I’m hoping that it represents the beginning of a tectonic shift in the terms of that relationship towards integration and respect and away from exploitation and power-over. It’s great that people here are slowly becoming accepting of the idea that we should live alongside beavers and – to an extent – wild boar, but I also want to see lynx in every suitable habitat across the UK, and I think some research should be done into reintroducing the wolf in Scotland, to balance the red deer population and give the Caledonian forest regrowth a fighting chance. (And besides: wolves! Wow!) Just as importantly, I want to see a new ‘wilding’ of cities. Bath, where I live, is an ideal habitat for peregrine falcons, because of the many urban pigeons. It’s also a breeding site for herring gulls, which are now in serious decline. People love the peregrines and loathe the gulls. I want to see the gulls welcomed alongside the more charismatic falcons. Urban foxes, too. For one thing, more foxes can mean fewer urban rats; and it’s not so hard for the city to provide fox and gull-proof bins. For another, there’s a moral case, I think, for opening up cities to creatures that can safely live alongside us.

Humans are a bloody invasive species. They need to learn to share.

That’s Lord Crow, now, interrupting. I knew once he heard the conversation he’d be unable to resist joining in with it.

And a very warm welcome to you Sir!

Space-invaders! Manspreaders!

All right, Crow.

 

Do you think that it also concerns our spiritual or psychological relationship with the land as well?

 

I don’t think one is achievable without the other. If we don’t change our overall attitude toward the land, then we will never effect meaningful changes in our behaviour. This whole “man must overcome nature” narrative has got to change.

 

Or it will be changed.

Is that a warning, Crow?

Just an observation.

 

 

Well thank you so much, both of you, for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Jack, it’s been wonderful to chat with you!

I know you are probably eager to be off and explore our wonderful Lancastrian Frost Fair that is just coming to an end at the moment but, before we start dishing up this wonderful-smelling soup, would you like to tell us about any of your current projects and where we can find more of your marvellous work?

 

I’ve got several projects on the go at the moment. I’m working on something with Lord Crow, of course, but obviously I can’t say too much about that, especially now he’s sitting in the kitchen with us. Faerie law. We’ll see what develops. I’ve also finished my second novel, which is currently looking for a publisher. I’m actually quite strongly drawn to the idea of putting it out via Unbound, as I like the idea of having full editorial control over my own work, and Unbound looks like exactly the sort of model I think both writers and readers want and need – grassroots, down to earth, writer and reader-centred publishing, which doesn’t have to pander to the rather limited tastes of the big London houses. But again, we’ll see what happens. Watch this space!

 

We certainly will! And I hope that you will come back and talk to us about your marvellous work again soon. Well now, I must say that soup really does smell delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins are starting to get fidgety so shall we start serving it up?

 

It’s been lovely to visit! Thank you for the conversation, tea and cake!

 

And thankyou to you all for joining us in the soup kitchen today! If you would like to read more of Jack’s wonderful works and keep up to date with his new releases, do visit his website and blog at: https://jackwolfauthor.wordpress.com/

 

 

 


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!


Soup of the day: With Steampunk treasures from Jamlincrow

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

Helping me this morning is Joe, creator of the beautiful steampunk inspired jewellery  at Jamlincrow. Good morning Joe, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?

I’m rather partial to a good vegetable soup, until recently I had always dipped lightly buttered bread in my soup. However, the other day I hollowed out the top of a baguette and filled it with cheese and shoved it in the oven as a little experiment. Hot crusty bread with lashings of melted cheese was quite the treat to accompany my soup. So that is what I have brought with me today! 🙂

 

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we take a look at some of your lovely creations, have you brought some along to show us today?

Well, let’s see, what have we got…… ah yes I have this magical key necklace featuring some splendiferous clockwork watch mechanics from a bygone era. Also a sprinkling of Amethyst to mesmerise all that gaze upon it!

Jamlincrow-Key.jpg

 

What else can I rummage up? How about these cufflinks, with some rather special Tissot watch movements. Quite the extravagance for the discerning gentleman!

Jamlincrow-Cufflinks

 

Or maybe a tie bar would be more the ticket…

Jamlincrow-TieBar.jpg

 

A lady such as yourself would look rather fetching with a colourful dragonfly fluttering around your neck. Careful, not to dangle him in the soup though!

Jamlincrow-Dragonfly.jpg

 

They really  are  marvellous, I especially like the key and dragonfly necklaces! How long have you been in the business of making steampunk jewellery?

Thank you so much for your kind words! People do seem fond of my dragonflies and keys…. I think being able to customise by choosing their own colours adds to the attraction 🙂

I reckon I must have been steampunking around with jewellery for about 5 years now. It doesn’t feel that long, time flies when you’re working with watch parts and winged insects 😉

 

Oh yes I suppose it must! And what inspires you when you set about making a new design?

 

I’m lucky enough to have found my soulmate, who is a constant source of inspiration to me. In fact she is the reason I started my Jamlincrow journey in the first place!
So my work is often guided by insightful mutterings from my better half 🙂

 

Oh what a beautiful story! Now then, you have a lovely range of jewellery in your shop but if a customer wanted something special do you take custom orders?

 

Yes indeed! I get all sorts of requests, so people only need tap at my chamber door and ask the question…… don’t be shy.

A lot of my custom requests are for steampunk plug earrings (for people who have stretched ears). I seem to have carved out a little niche for myself making those.

Jamlincrow-Plugs.jpg

 

Goodness! Whatever next! And, where can we find your work displayed, featured or for sale?

 

Although I always have plans to get my website up and running, I would say my Etsy shop should be your first port of call for now 🙂
jamlincrow.etsy.com

I am also an official supplier to the National Maritime Museum who stock some of my items, including my watch mechanism cufflinks at The Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

Jamlincrow-Cufflinks-Royal-Observatory

You can also keep an eye on what I’m up to on my Facebook page!

facebook.com/Jamlincrow

And finally, the all important question, on which the fate of the world may hang…  the kettle is sing so which is the brew that inspires you more when you are creating, coffee or tea? (and how do you take it?)

TEA?!?! Yuck! What a disgusting thought. I’m all about the coffee 😛
Usually an Americano or two in the morning, moving on to a Cappuccino as an afternoon treat, each with 1 and a half spoons of sugar. Wow, no wonder I don’t sleep well :/

Coffee? I think I do have a little jar around somewhere, yes here we go…

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

Most definitely. We can’t sit around here nattering all day when their are empty bellies to feed!

 

Thankyou so much for joining us in the soup kitchen today,I hope to see you all again next week when another exciting guest will be helping me dish up some tasty soup so, until then

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Soup Of The Day: With Mythpunk Author Amy Kuivalainen

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

Helping me this morning is author Amy Kuivalainen! Good morning Amy, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Can I take your parasol?

Absolutely, but do be careful…it bites. Lovely to be here with you today.

Oh! My goodness, what a disturbingly sentient promenadial accessory – although I imagine it comes in extremely useful! How was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you were not waylaid by any skywaymen or vampires en route?

The journey was long and only one minor altercation with a storm demon over the South Atlantic. It’s their breeding season and it makes them surly. The trick is to shoot a projectile of cayenne, gunpowder and myrrh into the clouds. It’s enough for them to think twice about getting lovesick over the dirigible.   

Indeed! I’m sorry to hear you had difficulties but what an ingenious deterrent, I must write that recipe down myself, it may come in handy against the Landlord. Ah, marvellous, I see you have brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

I have bought a soup with me today. It’s called ‘Lohikeitto’ and it’s a soup from the northern lands of Karelia where night hags and magicians still roam. Its very easy to make and salmon is a staple in the colder Nordic countries:

  • Tbsp Butter (you can use Olive Oil as an alternative)
  • 1 Brown or Yellow Onion, finely chopped
  • 4-5 Potatoes (buy a firm variety as they need to retain their shape through cooking)
  • 25 litres Fish Stock
  • 1/2 kg Fresh Salmon Fillet, cubed
  • 100-200 ml Cream (or Milk, if you prefer a thinner soup)
  • 1 cup Fresh Dill, finely chopped
  • 5 pieces Bay Leaf
  • Dash of sea salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • Dash of Allspice

Finnish Salmon Soup (Lohikeitto) – Instructions

Fresh Dill (Tilli)

  • Cut the potatoes roughly into 1-inch cubes, and keep in water to prevent discolouration
  • In a large saucepan, simmer the chopped onions in the butter over medium heat until soft
  • Add peeled and diced potatoes and then enough water to just cover the potatoes. Turn up the heat to high, cover the saucepan with a lid, bring to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are just soft, adjusting the heat down as necessary
  • Add the cubed salmon to the pot and cook until it is mostly opaque (this will take about 5 minutes, if that). Do not stir the soup so as not to break up the salmon
  • If you want to keep the Salmon cubes looking like cubes, once the salmon is cooked, remove from the soup and set aside
  • Add the fish stock and cream, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste, with just a dash of Allspice. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
  • If you prefer a thicker soup, as I do, add cornstarch slurry (mix 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 Tablespoon of water, stir to dissolve the cornstarch) to the soup and simmer until the soup has thickened
  • Take off the heat and stir in the fresh dill
  • (If you removed the salmon cubes, transfer the cooked salmon into individual bowls and ladle the soup over
  • If you want to add a touch of artistry to the presentation, place a small sprig of  dill on top of the contents of each bowl

Serve with rye bread and butter

(Recipe from Alternate Finland)

Thankyou! What a marvellous recipe! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell me a little more about your books, I see you have brought some along with you to show the orphans?

I have indeed! I have brought my Firebird Fairytales a few of my others with me. In my travels it always is a good idea to carry a few just to hand out when you get talking to people. There is also my newest story Wylt – a gothic tale that ties in with Arthurian legends in unexpected ways.

 

Marvellous! I confess to having already fallen in love with your Firebird series, I very much enjoyed the way you wove the ancient mythologies into your plot. Have you always had a passion for folklore and myth?

I have always enjoyed the dark and mysterious fairy tales and mythologies. There is something so primal about them, like they say proudly, “We have seen the earth move and change and humans will come and go and still we will be here to outlast you.” Finnish folklore and mythology are my special passion, a rich body of stories I hope to do more with in the coming years. I do love the Arthurian and Celtic legends and am thoroughly enjoying weaving these into modern tales.

You know I struggle to get these young  street urchins to listen to and remember the old tales, I do try but they don’t seem to be able to relate to my old yarns about The Goddess, do you think it is important that we continue to develop new versions and twists to our old mythological stories?

Stories change, are retold, adapted and meddled within each generation like one continuous Chinese whisper. It’s important, I believe, to keep this tradition alive. Mythology endures because it hits a part of your heart and soul and mind that isn’t always awake. It’s a way of expressing the big truths that continue to plague mankind and attempt to find some form of illumination. In a time when truth is so important I think there is a great resurgence of these stories happening. People try and go back to find the answers their ancestors always knew. Mythology doesn’t belong to one group of people but are, like kindness, a universal currency.

Now I saw Max and Collin reading your excellent steampunk short story ‘women in men’s waistcoats’ , would you like to tell us a little more about that?

Women in Mens Waistcoats came about when I saw a publishers advertiser for steampunk vampire cross over stories. The publishers didn’t survive but the story did. We don’t have many steampunk stories based in Australia so I wanted to create an alternate Victorian Sydney and see what I could dredge up. It was a tricky piece of work in the research department but well worth it.

And will there be any more adventures for the vampire slaying Sisters?

The second instalment is called ‘Guns in Garters’ but it hasn’t been written yet. It’s still rolling about in the back of my brain palace but Agnes Broadshield will return and I can guarantee her final showdown with her nemesis will be epic. 

And do you have any other new releases planned this year?

I do have a few kicking about. Eastern Gods, an epic fantasy story, is currently available for nomination on Kindle Scout that will hopefully be released in the next few months. I have some Wyrd and Wonderful short stories as well that will be seeing the light of day.

Well that does sound like some lovely things to look forward to! And where else can we find your writing?

All of my writing can be found with the wonderful chaps over at Amazon. They are also available worldwide so any one interested can find them. I do journal some of my adventures on my blog as well if people are interested in what I am up to and what will be coming out soon.

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

Thank you so much for having me, it’s been splendid having a chat. If any of the urchins or anyone else wish to get a hold of me they can find me lurking around the corners of social media, and please tell them to check out a preview of Eastern Gods here, it’s a cracking adventure.

 

Marvellous! Well thankyou all so much for joining us in the soup kitchen today, I hope you will join me again next week and until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Soup of the day: With Alexander James Adams

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since those dreadful land pirates , 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! 

 

Now I am extremely honoured this morning because Faerie Tale Minstrel, Alexander James Adams has very kindly agreed to help me dish up some soup for our poor unfortunate orphans here in Lancaster. Good morning Alexander! Can I take your hat and coat? This is supposed to be spring but nobody has told the weatherman as usual!

 

AJA

Oh, and who is this you have brought with you?

While not always visible except to such discerning folk as yourself, my Lady, my feline familiar Bartholomew Dragon Master is always with me since he became a ruler of the Sun.  When he ascended from this realm in 2015 during Samhain, he made it known to me to have his name inscribed on my neck where he liked to rest his paw when sleeping and the ink used was to be infused with his ashes so now he is a part of me and I of him.

 

Oh what a touching tale! Well you are both most welcome. Have a seat here by the fire and I will put the kettle on, and here of course is a saucer of cream for Bartholomew. Now do tell me, how was your journey here from your own dimension?

Wonderous and unthreatened.  That is not always the case when traveling, but you gave very safe directions so I was able to avoid the Unseelie Court and Their kind. They like to invite me to Their parties, but I try to have other things to do so as not to be tempted so often to do mischief with Them.

Oh dear me yes, there are many who delight in leading the unwary traveller astray! But of course you must be quite used to time and space travel by now; from Victorian, Medieval and Renaissance times on earth to the realms of Fairyland, your music speaks of a most exciting and adventurous life! Are there still more stories to tell?

Yes. I have been to many magical places, not the least of which was the Land of Fae Itself where I was abducted to by the Fae at the time of my birth. A changling took my place bearing the name of Heather Alexander and she dwelt among the Mortals for forty years or so enchanting folk with her magical music.  Then she got bored and returned home, where upon I saw my chance, challenged the Queen of Faeries in a dual of fiddles, won my freedom and came here to the realm of Man. I plan on traveling to more and more magical realms to collect new songs and stories.  The lands of Steampunk,  furry talking animals who walk upright like humans, and even the Realm of Aegis, a new world of high adventure and canticles where I bear the name of Everon the XIII, a false immortal bard who battles for the Light of the World:

Canticles Productions – www.matthewmorrese.com

Goodness it all sounds so exciting! And certainly puts my own meagre adventures to shame! But it is so kind of you to brave the trip to our blighted Isle Of Ire to come and help me out this morning in my humble little kitchen , tell me have you brought some soup along to share with the orphans?

 

I brought my favourite! As a musician and sometimes empty pocketed, I have learned to make the most of what I have and can save for a hard time ahead. I call it Boiled Bone Soup.  I use the frozen bones from various dinners previous, reboil them til I can strip every little bit of meat from them, toss out the bones, add rice, cloves, cinnamon, brown sugar and nutmeg to taste, plus any vegetables I have around.  If I’m really lucky, I‘ll have a little port or red wine to add. Stir and cook until it’s all soft and warm and serve with fresh homemade bread. The next day, it will be almost solid and becomes a casserole until it’s all gone, but it’s so good, that doesn’t take too long at all.

Oh how delicious! Let us take out my largest cauldron then and make a double batch so we have plenty for tomorrow as well. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us about your exciting new Steampunk project?

It will be a huge event.  A kind of Cirque du Soleil presentation with musicians, elaborate settings and four to five “Mechanical Technicians” to run “Hypnotica’s Magical Mind Machine”.  It is a form of stage hypnotism themed in a setting of Steampunk and done by music and singing rather spoken suggestions.  It won’t be just simple entertaining parlour tricks and making folk do silly things either. Everywhere they “travel” in the machine will give them an experience that will give them a sense of accomplishment and fun.  I want to make sure that everyone who comes, whether they volunteer for hypnosis or not, are transformed and empowered by the show.  Hypnotism does work much like real magic.  It is a way of allowing your brain to accept a specific suggestion and then believing it to be real.  If done with proper intent and respect, it can change the way a person thinks and behaves for the rest of their life. When folk see the Magical Mind Machine, they will learn that with the power of their own minds, they can change life for the better.  That’s good magic, right there.

That certainly sounds like a marvellous thing to look forward to! When do you hope it will be released?

The musical album should be out by the end of summer this year.  The show itself will take a little more time, but we hope to see a version of it come out next year. The producer himself, Mark Maverick, is a Manchester man, so we hope to have the show in London in the first year, if possible.

Oh how exciting! Now I know you’re rather a legend in the folk / filk arena but this new project isn’t your first Steampunk album is it?

Not entirely. I released a faerietale/steampunk combination album in 2014 called Summer Steam.  It combines the 5 songs of Summer Releases from that year and 4 songs called Clockwork Collection all bundled to make a 9 song album.

I have heard it playing on Max and Collin’s spirit radio, it really is marvellous! But tell me my dear, what first sparked your interest in Steampunk in particular? Was it the tea?

Indeed, the tea is exceptional, but I really love the old ways of air travel like with dirigibles and hot air balloons.  They seem so much more connected to the air and the magic of flight. Also, it is a genre where the gentlemen can have as much fun with clothing as the ladies and I’ve always enjoyed accessorizing!

Oh indeed! You know I think you would get on very well with our dear Captain of The Chronic Agronauts, he shares both those views entirely! But, I do find it very curious that so many people who have their roots in folk eventually find themselves drawn towards Steampunk, do you think there may be some intrinsic link between the two?

Perhaps.  While Steampunk does involve the machinery and innovations of Man, it works so much more intimately with Nature and the land, leaving a much lighter footprint, so to speak, which the Folk culture tends to favour.  If we had been smarter and more respectful of our world when we first started inventing, perhaps we would have become more like the world Steampunk represents.

Now there’s an interesting thought indeed… Ah, now the kettle is boiled, what is your hot beverage of choice, my dear, and how do you take it?

Hmm…I think some hot chocolate with a twist of brandy would be good, if you please.

Splendid, there you are. I’m afraid I cannot indulge in the brandy myself though, it’s my husband Albert who is the drinker. Now while we are waiting for your new release, where can we see you performing this year?

I will be traveling to the Renaissance period for the month of May performing for the Queen in Castleton, Muskogee, Oklahoma and then just popping in and out of many realms and times as I am invited to do for the rest of the year.

www.okcastle.com

Most of the friends that gather here can actually see me bi-monthly if they wish through the magic of a service called Concert Window.

https://www.concertwindow.com/alexanderjamesadams

I try to perform an online concert  from my home every other month and I ask my friends via the Book of Faces for their favourite dates and times during a given weekend.  If those gathered here contact me through the Book of Faces under my full name of Alexander James Adams, I will be happy to arrange a time where this side of the pond will be more awake to attend.

Oh that is splendid news indeed! I know many of us here were thrilled to see you perform a few years ago when you visited the UK as part of Tricky Pixie, do you have any future plans to pay the UK another visit?

If I get an invitation and some help with the travel, I would jump at a chance.  The Steampunk CD will bring me to Scotland to mix and master it with my good friend Fox Amoore so perchance this summer I will schedule a gig there and possibly elsewhere if I get information and the schedule to make it happen. If any one of your friends can help, please contact me at ryuuaja@aol.com and let’s talk!

That sounds promising indeed! And for those of us who are trapped in another dimension entirely and cannot make it out to your live performances, where can we purchase recordings of your marvellous music?

Through my web page:

www.faerietaleminstrel.com

or direct download through Bandcamp:

https://alexanderjamesadams1.bandcamp.com

They can also get access to music, videos and art that no one else can if they wish to join my Patreon subscription:

https://www.patreon.com/AlexanderJamesAdams

It starts at 1 dollar US currency per month but it will be helping to pay the monthly fee on my live-in Pro Tools Studio which I hope to have built by the end of this summer so I can make even more music and magic than before.

Splendid! Now I know that the little street urchins were hoping you might play a song for them before we eat?

This being May and still a little chilly, I recommend a “Good Beltaine Fire”!

https://alexanderjamesadams1.bandcamp.com/track/good-beltaine-fire

Oh marvellous! Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Alexander, it’s been delightful chatting with you and I hope you will come back and see us again sometime. Now I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready so shall we start dishing it up?

Please, and thank you so much for inviting me today! May your soups always be fulfilling to the soul!

Thankyou all of you for joining us today, I hope you will come back again next week and until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

Oh and before I go I must take a moment to apologise for the absence of Max and Collin this week, apparently their participation in the de-flowering festival has resulted in their home-made-steam-powered-wagonette crashing into a farmer’s barn and setting the whole thing on fire. They are now walking home, keeping to the woods and ditches to avoid said irate farmer, and should hopefully be back in the parlour next week – in my opinion it serves them right for fraternising with wayward cultists but, you know how it is, boys will be boys…

 


Soup of the day with steampunk author Gill McKnight

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

Helping me this morning is author Gill McKnight! Good morning Gill, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Can I take your hat and miscellaneous weaponry? I do apologise for the heat in here but I must keep the fire burning even in this weather!

Good morning, Mrs Baker. It’s a pleasure to help out and I don’t mind the heat at all. It’s good for the wet beriberi.

 

Indeed! Now then, have a seat here by the window where it is a little cooler. How was your journey here from your own dimension? Did you come by time machine, or is your camper van wired for inter-dimensional travel?

On the number 9 bus. I waited hours for the dirigible before they finally told is it was cancelled due to seagulls?

Ah yes, we have similar problems here with the Liver Birds but that number nine is always reliable. Ah, now I see you have  brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans!

Yes, I brought my famous chickpea and turpentine soup. It cleanses as it nourishes and makes your colon sparkle.

Oh how…er….interesting! Goodness I think it is making my nostrils sparkle already! Now while that is simmering away nicely, filling the bakery with its fumes, why don’t you tell me a little more about your steampunk adventure The Tea Machine, have you brought a copy with you to show us?

image004

I once had a history teacher who postulated that if the Romans had manged to use steam as a power source other than for bathing, then with their verve and vim we’d all be living on Mars by now. The advances would have been mind-blowing with the right power in the right hands at the right time.

Marvellous, I know that Max and Collin enjoyed it very much indeed! What lured you in to writing in the steampunk genre? Was it the tea?

Tea and crinoline – the ying and yang of any well-kept parlour. What could possibly go wrong when these two forces get together.

Oh absolutely!

Also, there are some fantastic authors out there who get the Oolong flowing. I’m thinking of Gibson, Powers, Carriger, Reeve, Priest, and Blaylock, the list is endless. They all acted as catalysts to my imagination.

The story is full of believable, loveable characters, particularly Weena the giant space squid! Do you have a personal favourite, or are they all your ‘darlings’?

It’s so unfair to have favourites, but I do have a slight preference for Millicent. Mostly because she shoulders the plot and drives it through all sorts of rubbish. Such a trooper – every author needs one.

The story takes us from the Victorian era to the height of the Roman Empire, two very different settings which you capture the essence of perfectly, did you have to do much research to inform your writing?

I tend to make it all up. If I so much as open Wikileeki, or anything like it, or go browsing this or googling at that, I lose hours of writing time. Really the internet is a time travel machine in its own right, in that the present seems to disappear whenever I open it.

And it should be obvious I dig deep into the cannons of Rider Haggard, H.G. Wells, Lovecraft, Melville, and, of course, Nora Roberts.

There is plenty of frivolity, humour and whimsy woven into your steampunk world but you skilfully manage to draw the reader’s attention to a lot of important issues such as equality, exploitation, industrialisation and religion and how seemingly innocent things –like tea – can be manipulated to satisfy greed and power lust. Do you think it is important for science fiction / steampunk to challenge and expose these issues?

It’s the nature of the beast. I think steampunk authors naturally go against the flow. The inversion of historical norms can’t help but throw up closer inspection and commentary. And science fiction has a long pedigree of commenting on the nature of humanity and the world around us.

Now you have hooked us all in with the first book and left us on a splendid cliff hanger, when can we get our hands on the next book in the series?

Parabellum is pencilled in for 2018. I have too much on my plate to bring it in any earlier. I write full time now and somehow seem to manage to produce less? Why is that?

And where else can we find your writing?

www.gillmcknightwrites and www.dirtroadbooks.com should do the trick.

Marvellous! Do you have any other new releases or events coming up soon?

A contemporary lesbian romance this May, and part five of my Werewolf series this July. Why was I complaining above?

So plenty to look forward to then! Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, my dear, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I do hope you will come and talk to us again when Parabellum is released! Now then, I must say that soup really does smell like it must be about ready, even with the window open it is making my eyes water! Shall we start dishing it up?

I’ve enjoyed myself today, Mrs Baker. Thank you so much for inviting me over to help. The little, rickety orphans are a joy to behold. Could you pass me that ladle, please?

Certainly! You know I think I will keep a jarful back for next time my flame-throwing parasol runs out of juice, or perhaps when the landlord calls…

Thankyou all of you for joining us in the soup kitchen today I hope you will join me again next week so until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

 


Soup Of The Day: With Citadel Costumes

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

Helping me this morning is Sara, creator of the marvellous larp and steampunk clothing at Citadel Costumes. Good morning Sara, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?

Yes, I have my favourite homemade tomato and red pepper soup. I made it by softening a large, diced brown onion in a knob of butter. When soft, add two diced red bell peppers and several different types of sliced fresh tomatoes. My favourites are vine tomatoes and baby plums, but you can use any you like. Then add enough vegetable stock to cover the ingredients, a little salt and pepper and simmer until the tomatoes have turned into a pulp. Whilst you are waiting for that to happen put two sweet pointed peppers on a baking tray, and drizzle in a little oil, pop them in the oven at about 200 degrees, and roast them until soft and the skin is slightly blackened, drop them whole into the soup and remove from the heat. Once the soup is cooled, blend it in the pan until smooth… you can add a little single cream or natural yoghurt to make it creamier if you wish

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we take a look at some of your lovely hats and costumes, I see you have you brought some along to show us today!

You certainly have a wide range of costumes, what inspires or influences you when you sit down to create a new costume?

It depends really, if it’s a costume from my own imagination, it can be something as simple as seeing an image or texture, I then start to think about how to translate that into fabric, which then develops into a whole character costume…If it’s for a client, generally I build on key aspects of their brief, and add my own creative spin to it. I love a challenge, so I always try to add something to the design, which will push me outside my comfort zone. Whether that’s a challenging pattern cut, or a difficult dye job, I think it adds something special to the piece, a kind of exclusivity if you will.

 Splendid! Do you usually have a particular character or setting in mind when you create each one?

Not always, but sometimes a whole costume will pop into my head; I’ll think “Sea Elf” and the whole thing will be there in colour and texture with accessories!  Other times I’ll get inspired by a fabric, like Chinese Brocade and a kimono with a bustle will pop into my head! I’ll start to make the piece and a character will form around it, I’ll begin to visualise other aspects of the costume, the accessories, hairstyle, mannerisms etc.

(this must sound mad! Hehe)

No, no my dear, that does not sound mad at all, unless, as they say, ‘We’re all mad around here’ … but tell me,  do you take part in live action role play yourself?

Yes, I’ve only been involved in it for a couple of years, but it’s an amazing hobby. I’ve always been a bit of a daydreamer and I love dressing up. The role play was challenging for me, I felt rather awkward the first few events I went to, but throwing yourself into the game and the character you’re portraying is the best way forward. It’s pure escapism for me, a way to get away from work/life stress and although I come home from events exhausted, in a way, I always feel recharged too

It sounds marvellous! You have a lovely range of costumes in your shop but if a customer wanted something special do you take custom orders?

Yes I’m happy to take commissions, I find some of my best work comes from other peoples briefs, even though I’m quite whimsical, I like having guidelines too, it helps me focus!

Oh lovely! Now I know I am just longing to get one of your lovely hats! Tell me, where can we find your work displayed, featured or for sale?

Currently, I only have my Etsy store for online purchases, you can find that here:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/CitadelCostumes

I’m also on Facebook, where you can see what I’ve been up to, recent makes, upcoming trading events etc, that’s here:

https://www.facebook.com/citadelcostumes

And, if any of our discerning Steampunk friends attended The Chepstow Steampunk market, in south wales on the 22nd of april I was there too and may be again in the future.

Now that is a curious thing as I think some friends of ours were there as well! Now then, as the kettle is singing, the all important question, on which the fate of the world may hang…  which is the brew that inspires you more when you are creating, coffee or tea?

Oooh both really!,  a good cup of coffee, with milk, is what gets me going in a morning, and a nice cup of tea in the afternoon to pick me up when I’m flagging!

Splendid, here you are then a nice cup of tea to usher in the afternoon!

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

By all means

 

Lovely, thankyou all for joining us in the soup kitchen today, and I will see you again next week with another splendid steampunk guest,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Soup Of The Day: With Ichabod Temperance

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

 

Helping me this morning are the magnificent monster fighting duo, Miss Persephone Plumtartt and Mr. Ichabod Temperance. Good morning to you both, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Can I take your hats and offer you a cup of… oh, goodness me what on earth is that?

“Good morning, Miss Mrs. Baker, Ma’am, please do not be alarmed, she ain’t near as dangerous as she appears.”

“Mr. Temperance!”

“Not you, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am! I was talking bout this here contraption I’m lugging around. It’s a universal-trans-dimensio-temporal-type-o’grapher. I use this to communicate with the alternate dimension of an Earth in the far-future year of 2017.You ladies just wait until the condensors are charged and the vaccuum tubes get warmed up, then I’ll show you what she can do.”

“This may not be the appropriate time to engage this wonder of information transportation, eh hem? One is concerned at the unusual amount of errant electrical discharges, sir. Not only have the organic felines of the house been frightened away, but the clockwork cat has fled in fear of the dread device as well.”

“Oh my Goodness, I did not mean to scare the kitties! I can show off the temp-o-graph another time.”

Oh not to worry my dears, the cats are only after my secret stash of illegal cream and as for that dreadful clockwork contraption it is an awful piece of gutter wizardry! I really cannot stand it snooping about. So, now then, do have seat, how was your journey here from your own dimension?

“Boy, oh, boy, we sure ‘nough had us a humdinger of a trip, Miss Mrs. Baker, Ma’am! I bought a ‘build your own dirigible’ kit from an advertisement in the back of a Greater Britanicacaca Scientific Journal for Kids catalog. We made it here all the way from Irondale, Alabama, USA in it!”

“No, not quite, all the way, Mr. Temperance. Unfortunately, the aircraft did not survive the journey. Moreover, One maintains the craft was woefully under-sized and ridiculously impractical for such a trying voyage.”

“It looked a lot bigger in the catalog picture, Ma’am. I still think that we could have made it all the way if those Portuguese sky pirates had not gotten after us.”

“Perhaps, Mr. Temperance, nevertheless, I think my own prudent caution of packing an inflatable dingy in my bustle saved us from certain drowning when you wrecked our own vessel’s steerage whilst disabling our foes, eh hem?”

“I didn’t have no choice, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am! I didn’t have so much as a slingshot aboard to fight with!”

“With which to fight.”

“Nor that neither.”

“You lost my newest parasol, sir, during the engagement.”

“But I needed it to hook the rudder what sent our Portobellan Buccaneers into a nice, neat spiral. They didn’t like being upside down worth a flip. So to speak. I sure did hate crashing our little ship into the ocean. I’ll never see that $7.95 again. At least we ran into a friendly herd of psychic porpoises that pushed our safety raft all the way into Morecambe Bay. We hired us a pony cart to get us from Heysham to Lancaster. I think that mean little horsie over-charged us, though. I’m sure this is a lovely area, I’m just waiting for the fog to lift, to let me have a look. I know this is an invite to a soup kitchen, but this here pea soup fog is more substantial than what I have planned.”

Oh dear me, it sounds like you have had a dreadful journey! Thank goodness you are such a resourceful pair, it would not have done at all to let sky pirates get in the way of a nice cup of tea and a sit down.  I can only apologise for the fog, I’m afraid at this time of year it is dreadful but Lord Ashton is working on a set of turbines to blow it further inland (along with the toxic gasses from his factories.) Now then, what is this soup you intend to share with the orphans? That’s not it there is it?!

“‘Kudzu Gumfoo’! This here is a real life magic soup! Its primary ingredient is the magic vine of Alabama, ‘Kudzu’. I just had a small root of it with me, but as soon as I planted it outside, it took ahold like it was happy to be here. We already have plenty to make soup for all the kiddies. Just remember, you have to keep eating it. If you don’t eat the Kudzu, the Kudzu will eat you.”

 

“Oh! My goodness! How … unique! I think I will just ask one of the street tuffs to wrestle it into submission so that we can cook it. Now then, while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we put the kettle on? Max and Collin have told me so much about your exploits battling monsters and such it all sounds thrilling but tell me, Miss Plumtartt, how did a nice genteel lady such as yourself become mixed up in such awful events ?

“Good morning my dear, I cannot say what a delight it is to be welcomed into your abode. My thanks to Max and Collins for sharing our adventure. As to my acquaintance with Mr. Temperance, I confess that a rather unlikely set of extraordinary circumstances brought him and me together. Mr. Temperance and I come from disparate backgrounds. I am of the family Plumtartt, famous throughout Britain for our production of capital ships. Technically, I am from Elderberry Pond, of Crimpenmestylenshire and of the famous Plumtartt Manour there, but in truth, I am the product of many and varied educational environs. My involvement with the unassuming Mr. Temperance, who bears an under-educated rural Alabama resume, borders on the edge of improbable to impossible, yet, somewhere, in that little fellow is an ineffable essence of charm that I find difficult to deny.”

Indeed? And you, Mr. Temperance, you are an inventor from America, is that right? How did you come to be involved with Miss Plumtartt?

“Oh, yes, Ma’am, Miss Mrs. Baker, Ma’am, I surely am an inventor. In the world that Miss Plumtartt and I inhabit, our Earth is visited by a comet, that apparently, did not visit any of the other multitude of universes out there. In the summer of 1869, the Earth passed through the tail of a comet. Well, what do you know, ever since then, there have been sprinklings of varied genius popping up all over the world. There have been all sorts of amazing advances in spring and steam-powered mechanicals. The advances in electrical products are shocking!”

“Mr. Temperance!”

“I couldn’t resistor, Ma’am. It is now the year 1877, and this here planet is just awash in fantastic contraptions. Things have gotten a little out of hand in the paranormal sections of our world too. It seems like Miss Plumtartt and I can’t swing a holiday possum without hitting some kind of devious monster bent on subjugating our unsuspecting planet. It ain’t like we go out hunting for monsters, they just sort of plop into our laps and it is up to us to set things right.”

It sounds like your adventures are far from over, where can we read more about your exciting battles to save the world?

“Golly Gee Whillikers, you can bet your pointy hat we have more adventures to share! We have ten of them published so far. Each themed, stand-alone adventure is a full length novel, yet is reasonably priced at .99. It is even free to read on KDP for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. The universal-trans-dimensio-scripto-temporo-graph is all warmed up, so here is a link to my alternate dimension Amazon author’s pages”

Amazon US

https://www.amazon.com/Ichabod-Temperance/e/B00J71862M/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Amazon UK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ichabod-Temperance/e/B00J71862M/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1487094544&sr=8-1

Amazon AU

https://www.amazon.com.au/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D2496751051&field-keywords=Ichabod+Temperance

Oh marvellous, I know that Max and Collin are very keen to follow along with the fun, which reminds me, Mr Temperance, I did promise Collin that I would ask you a question; I’m sure you have very little time for making goggles these days but Collin uses a specially made pair of gill-goggles to ‘breathe’ on land, sadly they are leaking and he wondered if you might be able to fix them before you go? (tinkers are few and far between in Lancaster you see, unless you count the Spoon Smith and the Time Keeper – who we are all a little afraid of…)

“I was wondering what that was on the floor. You know how it is with pets. I am relieved to know that it is just seawater. I can fix Collin up in a jiffy! I always have lots of tools and general repair supplies on hand. I will probably need to employ my micro-tools, and utilize my macro-goggles, but that’s why I carry that stuff around.”

Oh that is so kind of you Mr. Temperance, thankyou!

Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, my dears, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and learn about your adventures! I must say that soup smells…. interesting. I think it must be about ready now so shall we attempt to serve it up before it devours somebody?

“It has been our pleasure! Thank you for having us!”

“Hear, hear, I say, good show!”

“We better let them kids in. That Kudzu vine is coming on strong, and I don’t want them urchins to get ette before they can do the eating.”

“Mr. Temperance, I wish you to convey an unusual quality of your writings to our host and her guests. You see, little by little music has crept into the books. Before we depart, will you share a sample of your singing with Mrs. Baker, eh hem?”

“Oh, yes, Ma’am, Miss Plumtart, Ma’am! You see, in this latest adventure, we are up against a ruthless gang of pirates! Strangely, though….

 

My pirates get to sing

I let their voices ring!

It might be wrong, to write in song,

but I don’t give a ding-a-ling!

Splendid Days, everybody!

Your pals,

~Icky and Persephone. 🙂 “

Oh how marvellous, come on children, join in the song! We do love a good sing song while we eat, and singing pirates bring back such happy memories of my time with the Chronic Agronauts..

thankyou all for joining us today and do come back again next week for more soup-based fun, until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Soup of The Day: With Margaret McGaffey Fisk

 

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

 

Helping me this morning is storyteller Margaret McGaffey Fisk, author of The Steamship Chronicles.

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Good morning Margaret, thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Do let me take your coat my dear and…oh! What an adorable mechanical puppy you have with you!

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Hopefully he can scare off that dreadful clockwork cat that keeps sniffing about; it is a dreadful piece of gutter-wizardry! There, I have set him a little dish of oil on the rug. Now then, is that the lovely soup you have brought to share with us?

Yes! I was raised on a hearty pea soup myself. I think it would be wonderful to line urchin bellies especially if you have some butter crackers around that managed to avoid the recent soaking.

I certainly do, here we are…

I called on my mother for the exact recipe. I just hope I brought enough for everyone. Good thing dried peas can survive almost anything.

Christmas Eve Split Pea Soup

 

2 quarts boiling water

1 lb. split peas

1 medium carrot

1 stalk celery

1 white onion (optional)

 

Seasoning: 1 Bay leaf, 1/8 tsp Thyme, 1/8 tsp Savory, Salt & pepper.

 

Wash and quarter celery and carrot. Rinse split peas in cold water, drain and add with other veggies to boiling water. Season to taste. Boil moderately fast for 1-1/2 hours. More water may be added if necessary. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. Take out bay leaf and blend until smooth.

 

P.S. My mother often puts in a cup of red wine for cooking. Also, when serving, she sometimes adds milk (and I always do ;)). The ham-flavored recipe just adds a ham shank or ham bone (rinsed) and added first to the boiling water. Then continue as above.

 

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire. I hope your journey was a good one, although I imagine you are quite used to travelling by now, like me you seem to have done rather a lot of it!

I had quite an exciting journey on the way over here, but then I always have fun travelling whether it’s down familiar paths or somewhere brand new. It’s all in the perspective. You never know when you’ll see a wild animal, bird, or even just some unexpected structure to tickle your fancy.

That is so very true! You certainly seem to have lived in some very exciting places, has that influenced your writing do you think?

Not a bit 😉 unless you consider the frequent forays into desert and Middle Eastern imagery, the prevalence of social and cultural clashes, and philosophies uncommon to American traditions. In other words, quite a lot. On an amusing side note, the greatest culture clash I personally experienced was my return to the United States both because the diplomatic community has guides to your new cultures and because I was believed to be native when, beyond visits to family, I hadn’t lived stateside since I was three or four.

You’ve written plenty of historical fiction but what started your interest in steampunk?

Both my grandfathers were tinkerers (at least that’s how I remember them), and I spent many a visit with my mom’s father in his basement workshop. As a reader, I’ve always been drawn to the mad scientist type of story starting with Jules Verne and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Long before I’d heard the term, I loved steampunk, even playing with dismantled travel clocks myself.

However, I never thought to write in the genre until a very special young woman introduced herself and explained her story. My characters come to me rather than the other way round, so even had I thought to write steampunk, I would have floundered until Samantha showed up. How could I turn down a tale rife with social and economic change, and unjust laws to boot? This was the little sister in Safe Haven, by the way. I didn’t meet Lily until later.

Their world and personal circumstances offer the perfect conjunction of a grand adventure or two with questions to encourage thought about how we define people and treat difference. I don’t seek to make a statement with my writing, but I’m definitely drawn to stories that both entertain and have something interesting to say.

I have read the prequel book in the Steamship chronicles, Safe Haven, and very much enjoyed it. It is a gripping and highly original steampunk adventure that centres around the lives of Lily and Henry as they struggle against the prejudices which place Lily’s sister in danger. Would you like to tell us a little more about it?

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Well, though Safe Haven is the prequel to The Steamship Chronicles and was written first, it came into being after Sam showed up demanding her story be told. I saw a call for short novellas that were steampunk romances and I thought I had nothing. After dismissing the idea, Sam pointed out she didn’t come from nowhere and would I like to meet her sister? That didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped because their story, when held to a tight word count, missed too much of the meat. A few years later, I went back and fleshed out the society until the novel, a mix of romance and adventure, was born.

I’ll admit to having a soft spot for Henry, a crusader born to what he thought to be the wrong age and the wrong social status. Little did he know he would stumble upon a duty every bit as important as his grandfather’s efforts to hide those suffering from religious persecution. I would never have thought the older sister and guardian of a Natural (a small group of talented people able to talk to and transform machines—for those new to The Steamship Chronicles) would be drawn to a police officer, and had Henry been a normal man, I doubt she would have been. He might not have any supernatural abilities, but he’s a very special person who believes everyone has the right to be happy, regardless of class or circumstance.

And do the other books in the series continue this storyline, or do we move on to new characters within the same world?

The answer to this is yes … to both. There is an eight-year gap between the prequel and the series, giving Sam time to grow from a precocious child to an equally intense young woman. As is true of any good romance, Lily and Henry end up together, sharing the welcome task of protecting Lily’s little sister. But when it’s no longer possible, they send Sam off to the safe haven Lily and Sam had been working toward in the prequel. The first three books in the series focus on Sam’s journey in search of a place where she can be accepted for who she is. This introduces a whole cast of new characters, including Nathaniel Bowden. He is a cabin boy determined to learn all he can about sailing and steamships so he can captain a ship of his own someday. I have always loved the sea, and Nat is the embodiment of that joy. Lily and Henry remain in England, while Sam sets off for unknown lands. They are present only in the beginning of Secrets, but the second volume of three books (only Life and Law has been released as of yet and I’m currently writing the third) follow Henry’s attempts to end the persecution of all Naturals in England now that he won’t risk Sam’s safety doing so. As you might guess, they discover more than just legal hurdles oppose them, making their path a full adventure in its own right, peopled by some familiar and some new faces. I’ll even note, while Henry’s policing days are far behind him, his former team has an important role to play in this second volume as well.

Is the series finished or will there be more?

The series will ultimately be composed of three volumes and somewhere between seven and nine books. Only the first volume is complete, and the second just begun, so the series is not over quite yet. I also have some other stories in mind that are set in the same world with some character crossover for when this one is finished. I’m having far too much fun to walk away, and I hope my readers feel the same.

And do you have any new projects, appearances or releases in the coming months?

I’m on the verge of releasing the third in my Seeds Among the Stars series. While far future science fiction rather than steampunk, some of the same themes make an appearance there, and it’s definitely an adventure though of a very different sort. The main character in the first book fights her way out of the lowest class on a low-tech colony, not always making the right decisions, but determined and with a good heart. She shares the leading role in the later books with Deluth, who is ship-bred and has little experience with colony life.

The fifth Steamship Chronicles should also be out later this year, continuing Lily and Henry’s story as they leave the English shores for the Continent in search of Sam, among other goals.

Finally, if you enjoyed the sweet romance in Safe Haven, the fourth in my Regency sweet romance series, Uncommon Lords and Ladies will be released this year as well.

For those in (or visiting) the San Francisco Bay Area, California, I will be a panelist at BayCon 2017 over Memorial Day weekend, a convention focused on all things science fiction and fantasy: http://baycon.org/bcwp/.

Oh splendid, that sounds like lots to look forward to! And where can we find your books for sale?

I go where the readers are so you can find my books at the main online stores: Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, etc. If you’re a paper aficionado, all book-length works are available in paper both online and by order in your favorite bookstores. You can find links to many options on my website, which lists the anthologies and short stories I have out as well: http://margaretmcgaffeyfisk.com/publications/.

For those intrigued about The Steamship Chronicles, you should know Secrets (the first in that series) is free in eBook at all the main online stores.

Splendid! And now the all important question, upon which the fate of the universe may hinge – the kettle is singing so, what is your favourite hot brew and how do you take it?

I have to name just one? If so, it must be a traditional Masala chai, spiced and steeped very dark with cream, just one more influence of my vagabond childhood. Sacrilege, I know, because properly done, it’s steeped all day in the spices and tea leaves. I can’t remember which of the first volume books, but one of them has a tiny joke about the differences between tea steeping across cultures.

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

Absolutely. Mustn’t keep hungry bellies empty. I do so hope you will answer the question of “please, [Miss], can I have some more?” with a full soup bowl and a smile.

But of course! Besides the seaweed they scavenge from the shoreline, this soup is the only sustenance the poor darlings have.

Thank you for having me. It’s been a delight, and always grand to enjoy a thick soup with eager company. If you’d like to explore any of my worlds a little more or just say “hi”, feel free to drop in at my website, http://margaretmcgaffeyfisk.com/ . I’m always happy to see new faces.

Wonderful, well thankyou once again Margaret for helping me today, I hope you will all join me again next week when Mr Ichabod Temperance and Miss Persephone Plumtartt will be joining me to help dish up some tasty soup so, until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Soup of the day: With Elen Sentier

 

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

Helping me this morning is author and Awenydd (or Spirit-Keeper) Elen Sentier. Good morning Elen, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Can I offer you a cup of tea?

Lapsang Souchong, please, straight, no milk. Unless you happen to have Bruichladdich single malt ???

I’m afraid I don’t touch alcohol Elen, it’s my husband Albert who is the drinker. Now here is your tea  my dear…

Thankyou Mrs Baker, I wonder if we’re related? My aunt was Ida Baker who kept the sacred well in the village on the edge of Exmoor where I grew up; it was in the wall between her garden and ours, still there and still revered. She was a darling, and so was her magical gardener-husband, Uncle Perce, she gave me seedy cake and strawberries when I got in trouble at home when I was a wee kiddie J, and Uncle Perce taught me about talking with plants and bees.

They both sound marvellous Elen, you know I do think it’s possible we could be connected in some way, although I have never been to Exmore I’m afraid, it was my Mother’s job to guard Pendle before me, and I had never set foot outside it until the pirates came and kidnapped me…

BTW, I’m really sorry to hear about the treacle (and the sprats!). Just down the road from me is, I think, the only pub in the country called The Treacle Mine. Wish they could have done that with you, a much better idea z|a.

Oh we do have treacle mines at Sabden and Chobham, but you’re right it was a dreadful waste of confectionary, I do wish they had used some of the dreadful ‘standard issue tinned soup’ the government forces upon us all instead…

Oh yes, the soup for the orphans! … well, goodness me, there’s so many. When it’s the season, I just love tomato soup and it’s so simple to do. You need a good wallop of ripe tomatoes, the ones with that fabulous smell, a big bunch of fresh basil, and you can either use olive oil or good butter, butter gives it an extra sweetness. You need a good, heavy-bottomed pot to make it in.

Chop the basil really fine so all its scented oils are released. Chop the tomatoes small, and heat up the oil or butter, not boiling but good and hot. Take the pot off the heat, put half the chopped basil into it and swish it about to scent up the oil/butter, then add all the tomatoes and put back on the heat. Don’t have the heat up high or you’ll burn rather than cook. Keep stirring the mix as this helps the flavours to seep through. When the tomatoes look/taste/feel ready take the pot off the heat and allow it to sit for at at least an hour to steep further. 

When you want to eat, heat up the pot again but don’t boil, keep stirring and watching, as soon as it’s ready pour it into heated bowls and Bob’s your uncle J. I like to eat it with some fresh sourdough bread and good unsalted butter, and maybe a bit of grated cheese … Yummmm !

Oh how delicious, there is nothing better than good homemade tomato soup (it knocks the socks of the tinned variety every time!) Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire. I hope your journey to our dimension was a good one?

Not too bad at all, got a bit bumpy flying over the M6, the turbulence there can be frightful, damned near fell off me broom and the cat got sick! But we’re all fine now, that cuppa you gave me sorted things.

Oh dear, the poor cat, I’m glad he is feeling better now though. Elen it is so lovely to meet another woman who deals in spiritual matters, here in Ire it is absolutely forbidden and I have to do all my work in secret which is a dreadful strain. Now why don’t I put the kettle on and you can tell me a little more about the work that you do ?

Another cuppa would go down grand, and the cat would love a saucer of milk now, says his stomach can handle it. We, he and me, don’t have quite the same problems you seem to have up here, not down in the Welsh Marches. It’s a lovely twilight land, between two countries and between two worlds, where the Faer folk are very happy to come and play with me and the students. I always have some students to pass on the work to, the old ways, and it’s such a lovely spot for writing too.

It sounds wonderful. I have had the very great pleasure of reading some of your books, including your newest release;  Merlin – past and future Wizard, oh is that a copy you have with you there?

Yes, indeed, would you like it? I thought you might so I brought one along. Hmm … Merlin … well he and I’ve been friends all my life. Dad it was who introduced us, Dad’d known him too, when I was nought but a baby, and I began to find out about him through the stories. Where I live now is one of the places he was born and lived, we have our own Merlin-story but here we call him Dyfrig (you say it Duvrigg) which means water-baby because of how he got born.

 

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I had heard a little about this Merlin figure from your world and thought him to be a fascinating mythical character but your book goes beyond these myths to show us a Merlin who we can engage with within the context of our daily lives doesn’t it?

Well yes, he’s not an academic construct and certainly doesn’t fit into those boxes. He really does want to get known again, to make friends with as many people as want to know him because he really can, and will, help us through this enormous crisis the Earth is going through.

He wants to know people – when they want to know him. He comes as a friend, an older and more experienced friend who has walked the path far longer than any of us humans. But he comes as a guide not someone who expects either worship or rule-book following. He works with each of us in ways we can do best. All we need to do is ask him. I say “all” but I do know how hard that can be, because we’re no longer encouraged to believe and work with our intuition, nor are we taught how to know it from our personal wants and desires. That’s part of what we learn with Merlin.

 It seems that Merlin is a figure who can guide and influence us no matter what age we are living in but are the old stories as important as the new?

Yes, indeed. Merlin is just what the book-title says – the once and future wizard. He has been with us here on Earth since time out of mind, and he will be as long as the Earth still orbits the Sun. And, it seems to me from my lifelong experience with him, that he was around in the universe long before the Earth was formed and will be still after she’s gone. That makes him always here, always available to help … whenever we ask. And the old stories are still as important as the new. Our old ways are what I call “and/and” rather than “either/or”, they’re inclusive not exclusive. We are our personal selves and, at the same time, we are our spirit selves, the two are not exclusive, they happen at the same time – we call it walking between worlds.

Everyone’s spirit-life is always evolving. Nothing is ever set in tablets of stone, it’s always growing and adapting to where and when we are at this instant, so new stories are needed to fit with who we are now. But the old stories still fit too – if you read them properly and don’t try to dumb them down into whatever your “normal-box” is. Stories are one of the very basic ways humans learn and pass on wisdom to each other, and always have. Recent research has shown that our stories – the ones they’ve worked with – go back at least to the Bronze Age, that’s maybe 5,000 years ago! The old stories show us how to be, how to behave, how things really are, and how to relate with otherworld, as well as how to travel there. But we, and our stories, are as riddling and contrary as Zen, if not more so. To get the point, understand them, you need to spend time with the stories learning how to feel into them rather than trying to translate them into what you already know. After all, what’s the point of doing that? !!!

Throughout the book this dynamic, engaging (at times quite seductive) spirit of Merlin urges us to take up that liminal space between past and present and truly live ‘in the moment’… that is a very big challenge isn’t it, especially with all the pressures and insecurities of modern life?

Chuckle! Yes, he can be very seductive! That way of living, engaging all the time with the liminal, is very challenging for many modern folk. We’re so heavily caught up in the shibboleths of how we should be, according to the adverts on TV, politics, political correctness and all that crap! And it’s so scary for most people to dare to break out. This is the first hurdle my students have to get themselves over, and they do it too but it can be like ripping your skin off, like a snake shedding its skin. And getting used to the fact (yes, fact!) that otherworld completely permeates your everyday world is a huge step, but it does, and the students discover this for themselves with my help. That’s really important too, I do Merlin’s job in little, at my own small level, because I’ve walked the path a bit longer than my students. You always need that, someone you can really get on with who’s been doing it longer than you. That’s what being apprentice is about.

 

The Merlin I felt as I read your book, Elen, seemed to be firmly planted in the modern man-made world, but at the same time you show us his continuing rootedness in nature and the history of the land, do you think it is important that Merlin is able to straddle these, sometimes so opposing, spaces?

Oh yes, he’s the threshold, the doorway, the place between that connects us across the worlds. And he’s in the here-n-now with us just as much as in the “past”. An example – he called one of my students on her mobile phone last autumn on the workshop! LOL, it was hairy for her but she got it, worked with it and grew herself enormously as a result. And it made me smile. We too often want to get into the cutesy fantasy-stuff rather than reality, and Merlin’s all about reality. He’s in every particle of our Earth’s body as well as being with us in our everyday modern world – and/and again. Try this ancient picture of the goddess/god, it’s on a gold brooch from the La Teine culture …

lady-lord

Do you get it? The one head is the other but turned upside-down! And/and yet again J. One interpretation of this is Vivien and Merlin as lady and lord, the pairs of opposites which make the whole. We’ve forgotten that. We’re taught to think that things are “opposing” when in reality they’re two sides of one coin. We need to change this attitude and Merlin will help us with that. Being a threshold is how he does it. Come to me he says, step through me, now look back and I’m still here but different, the same but different. It’s a bit like light which is both particles and waves at the same time!

Your book was such an enlightening read, Elen, and I really feel I could pick your brains all day about this subject but I know you must be off soon, you have a talk to prepare for in London is that correct?

I do indeed. I’m doing an illustrated talk for Earthstars Sacred Space, at Steiner House in London on 24th Feb, and need to get on it J. It’s about Merlin and his relevance for us today too. If you want to come here’s the link https://www.facebook.com/events/1839244072988715/

 

Oh marvellous, I shall certainly try to come along, even if I cannot do the dimension hop in person I will try to tune in with Max and Collin’s Spirit Radio, it picks up most things from your world. Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Elen, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

Yummm! Let me give you a hand …

Wonderful, thankyou. I hope you will all join me in the kitchen next week when Steampunk author Liz Hennessy will be dropping in to give me a hand and talk about her book Grogory’s Gadget. Until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Soup Of The Day: With Nimue and Tom Brown

 

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!

My guests this morning are our good friends Nimue and Tom Brown who have sailed in on a strange tide from their mysterious gothic island of Hopeless, Maine . Welcome to Lancaster Nimue and Tom, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?

We have brought some soup, but it’s probably awful. It’s the traditional Hopeless Maine dish – Bottom of the Garden Stew, which involves whatever you think might be edible, cut up really small so as not to be too alarming, and cooked for a long, long time. So it’s more for demonstration purposes than actual eating. Although it is mostly what urchins on Hopeless subsist on.

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Oh my goodness! That is… quite eye watering… indeed…um, let us just set it over there for a moment, perhaps near the window? Or is it likely to try to run away? There. Now then, why don’t you have a seat over here by the fire, how was your journey?

Aside from the anxieties caused by hefting a large jar of ominous gloop without breaking it, and thus releasing the contents, the journey was quiet. Nothing tried to eat us, and there was absolutely no unspeakable dread, which is pretty good for a train journey I tend to think.

Oh marvellous, travelling in the morning through Ire is always more advisable than travelling at night. That is a different story altogether! Now, while the kettle is boiling, why don’t you tell us a little more about the island of Hopeless?

Hopeless is an island off the coast of Maine – cut off from the coast of Maine, to be more precise. It is a place of strange magic, uncanny creatures, unwholesome sea airs and troubling miasmas.

And is it true that the pair of you are documenting its strange history through a series of graphic novels?

We have been doing this for some years now, first as a webcomic, and now in book form (thank you Sloth Comics).

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We have to channel the voices of the islanders – we don’t dare actually visit because while getting in is easy (insofar as being shipwrecked is easy) getting out is notoriously difficult. Fortunately, Salamandra is quite good at doing things through the ether, and my scrying skills aren’t too shabby either.

Oh I see! Now when I last saw Collin he was nursing a severed tentacle and this was apparently the result of an unprovoked attack by one of your Hopeless Mermaids? Goodness, are there any other strange or vicious creatures inhabiting the island?

Harsh landscapes tend to produce determined survivors with sharp teeth, I’m afraid. I’m not sure anything or anyone on the island would fail to fall into either the strange or the vicious category, human populous most certainly included! It does tend to drive people (and others) a bit mad after a while.

Goodness me it sounds like a very dangerous place to be living! Perhaps that is why, like us, you have a bit of an orphan problem? Does anyone do anything to try and help?

‘Help’ is such an interesting word, isn’t it? There’s lots of help. Doc Willoughby likes to help people who are ill. He helps them very diligently right up until they become dead. Reverend Davies likes to help people spiritually, and he’ll do that right up until they go entirely mad. Frampton Jones helps people stay informed of what’s going on, although there are some who feel that ignorance might be better. Annamarie is very good at helping people recover from the kinds of problems that seem to have been caused by witchcraft in the first place… And then there’s Owen, who really is quite a nice lad and really does mean well, but hasn’t the faintest idea what he’s doing.

Hm, you know I WAS thinking of visiting Hopeless for my holidays next year (Next time they decide spring Wizmas on us and things round here become a bit hot) but now I’m not so sure… if I were to go, what vital things would you advise me to take?

Well on the plus side, it is a fairly witch-friendly space, the witch-burning to witch-ratio is better than average at any rate. Take sugar, spices, anything that keeps well and does not mostly taste like mud or seaweed and you will make a lot of friends, which is often key to survival.

And would they welcome a witch do you think? Magic isn’t forbidden is it, as it is here?

There are always a few people who want to ban magic – or at least, magic that works in a different way to their own. The occultists and the cultists don’t get on so well with each other or the Reverend, or the witches, opinions remain divided as to whether the island’s inventors were really sorcerers, the magic in the underground community is not looked upon favourably by those who are less dead, and going into the graveyard at night is really taking your afterlife into your own hands… But other than that, it’s all fine and friendly on the magic front.

Hopeless does sound rather cut off from the rest of the universe, is there a newspaper or radio broadcast, anything where concerned citizens can keep up to date with what is happening on the island?

There have always been a few islanders with the means to get information about the world – demons have been used for this, along with other equally unreliable occult means. Most news come from those who survive the shipwrecks – usually a few each year. On the island, the only sources of news are The Hopeless vendetta – a very small newspaper run on recycled paper by the ingenious and slightly deranged Frampton Jones. He also has a big notice-board where people leave each other messages. Some evidence of this can be found at http://www.hopelessmaine.com

Oh Splendid. Now that kettle is singing away merrily, can I offer you both a hot beverage? Which would you prefer and how do you take it?

We’re both seething coffee addicts so ‘in a cup’ and strong enough to do your central nervous system an injury, for preference!

Coffee? Hm, let me see, I do have a little of that strange dark powder somewhere in a jar…yes, here it is! I hope you have had time to visit our little Frost Fair while you are here, does Hopeless have any regular celebrations or festivals? It sounds like the island folk could do with a little spirit-raising now and then!

The biggest annual event on Hopeless is Founders Day, when islanders gather together the things the founders found when they landed, and look at them mournfully – a feast of the inedible.  The annual church picnic is not terribly well attended, the hiring fair at the orphanage tends to be a lively affair though. The people of Hopeless love rituals and traditions, and tend to keep making up new ones, it’s the only way to keep themselves amused, and everyone likes an excuse to wear an outlandish hat.

Oh yes indeed! Hats are marvellous aren’t they? Much better than toupees at any rate. Well it has been so good to see you both today Nimue and Tom, thankyou so much for helping in my soup kitchen today, and for bringing your…er…bottom of the garden stew to share with the orphans….

I feel slightly troubled that we’re feeding this to them, their bellies being largely innocent of the kinds of things that go into Bottom of the Garden Stew. Are you going to be terribly upset if any of them are changed as a consequence… ?

Sadly, my dear, the only other food available to the poor street folk of Lancaster is a slightly toxic purple seaweed  – you may have noticed the extraordinary tint of the children’s’ hair? – but perhaps you are right… I know, I think I have some potatoes and onion hidden away somewhere that are not too bad, and I will save this …delightful brew…for Montmorency next time he calls, hopefully that will stop him calling quite so often, he is disturbingly persistent. Well now here are your hats and coats it was so lovely to see you!

Thank you for having us. Did you want us to take the mermaid away now? We brought a pole and the extra thick gloves just in case…

Oh yes I think Max and Collin would appreciate that very much indeed!  I think you will find them down by the river, or rather in it, clinging to a printing press and being pelted with oatcakes.

Now then, I hope you will all join me next week when Steampunk Author Kara Jorgensen will be dropping in to give me a hand,

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Soup Of The Day: With Steampunk Splendidness from Terrible Mischeif

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

Helping me this morning is Morrigan, creator of the amazing steampunk and cosplay accessories at Terrible Mischeif Studios. Good morning Morrigan, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?

Why yes, of course I love potato soup the most at this time of year, it’s hearty and feeds a lot of your little urchins!

 

  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3-4 cups of peeled and cubed potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup chopped ham or turkey ham

 

  1. In a large stock pot add potatoes, celery, onion, chicken broth and parsley flakes. Season with salt and pepper and simmer until vegetables become tender.
  2. In a separate bowl mix flour and milk. Once it is well blended, add to soup mixture and cook until soup becomes thick.
  3. Stir in ham and simmer to desired consistancy!

 

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we take a look at some of your stunning creations, have you brought some along to show us today?

Of course, here are just a few examples of my work I specialise in metal wings and medals for airship pirates and captains of every stripe, but I also occasionally make jewelry, cosplay props, and art when the mood strikes me.

Your steampunk creations really are wonderful, what inspires you when you sit down to create each one?

I adore the creativity of the world of steampunk, so I try to imagine what someone who is a pirate, or an imperial merchant, or a wild free as the breeze captain might actually do in such a world of mayhem and machines, and I use bits and shinies to try and create something that that character might really wear in their everyday life, and then try to never make two pieces exactly alike so they an authenticity to them as a part of unique costume.  Of course putting on some of my favourite steampunk music from Professor Elemental, Abney Park, and Steampowered Giraffe really gets the creativity flowing!

Ah yes, my dear, I recognise some of those name as Max and Collin often have their Tesla Radio tuned in to your dimension when I visit The Parlour! Splendid! And where do you source all those amazing materials?

I try to use actual vintage clockworks and parts as much as possible, most of which I get from the Europe and also from a local clock repairman who has a shop two doors down from mine in Tacoma, which is a really lucky break for someone in my line of work!  Most of my centrepieces are just interesting things I collect up on my adventures in craft shops, bead stores, and reclaimed recycling places both on and offline, so I like to think of myself as a true scavenger!

How marvellous, you know I do think it is so important for a woman to be resourceful, especially when living in a post apocalyptic dystopia.  Tell me, do you take custom orders?

Most Definitely, I do try to find ways to make peoples experience with me a real positive interaction with a  a fellow cosplayer rather than a faceless business, so I try to accommodate in any way I can!

Wonderful! Now then, you also specialise in cosplay photography, would you like to tell us a bit about that?

I do, have actually been using photography as an art medium for several years, and I am expanding to include it in my geeky sphere as well.  Mostly because it seems that most professional photographers that are offering it are quite expensive, so I’m just trying to be a more affordable option!  Most of what I do however is professional editing of personal and candid photos people have of their cosplays, and  I offer that service at very affordable rates as well, as my way of supporting the cosplay community 🙂

That’s marvellous! And where else can we find your work displayed, featured or for sale?

We have a small etsy shop and a small brick and mortar shop in downtown Tacoma, as we sometimes frequent local shows and conventions, the info on all of our adventures can be found at our website www.terriblemischifstudios.com

Now I also hear that you are known as Captain Piper, would that be an airship you are captain of and if so do you ever use your creations to help you on your steampunk adventures?

Yes, I am officially known as Captain Aurelia Piper, I have a small independent trade ship the Mischief which I pilot around and sell my goodies,  I call it my little gypsy ship! Our little shop in Tacoma is actually decorated as a small airship to represent her , and I usually dress as Captain Piper for events, and of course I use my own goodies and props for my cosplays.

And finally, the all important question, on which the fate of the world may hang…  which is the brew that inspires you more when you are creating, coffee or tea? 

Quite important, surely, it is tea of course.  I prefer strong oriental spiced black teas myself, they keep me awake and sturdy at the helm on those long nights keeping guard against airship pirates!

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

Of course, thank you so much for the opportunity to meet and learn from a magical creature such as, and to share my story, I do hope we can get together again soon!

Certainly! It would be a pleasure to see you again my dear, now we really must give the orphans their soup before The Good Folk start their patrol (if they find us serving home cooked soup instead of the regulation issue tinned variety, they will have our heads!) Thankyou all for joining us today and please come back next week when Nimue and Tom Brown, creators of Hopeless, Maine, will be stopping by with some rather sinister smelling stew to share with us, so, until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

 

 


Soup of the day: Whovian knits and Wild mushroom soup

Good morning! Albert Baker here, did you want some soup? You did? Well that’s fortunate isn’t it as this is a soup kitchen and… hic…and today I’m serving up some delicious Polish Wild Mushroom Soup from Ren Behan, click on the picture to see the rercipe…

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and while that is simmering away I shall just pull out my knitting bag and do a spot of crochet.  Today I am going to share with you a treasure trove of Whovian delights from Terry Matz at In The Loop Knitting

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Right now, I must get on and serve this soup, see you again next week I expect, goodness me this Wizmas is dragging on isn’t it? Good day….hic…


Soup Of The Day:Butternut goats cheese and crochet death star

Good morning! Albert Baker here, did you want some soup? You did? Well that’s fortunate isn’t it as this is a soup kitchen and… hic…and today I’m serving up some mouthwatering Moroccan butternut and goats cheese soup from Half Baked Harvest..

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and while that is simmering away I shall just pull out my knitting bag and do a spot of crochet.  Today I am going to try this marvellous Death Star cushion from Popsdemilk

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Right now, I must get on and serve this soup, see you again next week I expect, good day….hic…


Soup Of The Day: Creamy Chestnuts and Crochet Cephalopods

 

Good morning! Albert Baker here, did you want some soup? You did? Well that’s fortunate isn’t it as this is a soup kitchen and… hic…and today I’m serving up some deliciously creamy Chestnut soup from Willow at http://www.willcookforfriends.com

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And while that is simmering away I think I’ll pull out my knitting bag… What’s that? You think a gentleman cannot indulge in a little crochet or tatting in his spare time? What century are you living in?!

Well today I am crocheting this lovely little octopus from Kali at The Friendly Red Fox to add to my stack of Wizmas presents for the little street urchins who come here to the soup kitchen…

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Right now, I must get on and serve this soup, see you again next week I expect, good day….hic…


Soup of the day: Where’s the witch?

Good morning! Albert Baker here, did you want some soup? You did? Well that’s fortunate isn’t it as this is a soup kitchen and… hic… sorry? You’re looking for my wife? A witch? Well how very dare you!

Shhh! It is me Mrs Baker!  I have cunningly disguised myself as my husband Albert in an attempt to hide from the good folk until these witch hunts are over.

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I do apologise for his drinking habits I’m afraid he is a little too fond of the brandy. Albert will be keeping the soup kitchen running throughout the Wizmas season but do not fear my dears, if you are brave enough to venture down to the Lovely Library on Friday evenings, Peril has kindly said that the orphans and I can shelter there until he returns from his ‘business trip’ and I will be reading some delightful little bedtime tales for the children so I do hope you will join us! Now, do please excuse me my dears, I must pop my disguise back in place and Albert must return to dishing up this soup from The Reluctant Entertainer, if you’d like the recipe simply click on the picture…

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Blessings on your brew my dears…er….I mean, Thankyou come again…. hic….


Soup Of The Day: Steampunk Adventuring With Bone Shaker Boxes

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

Helping me this morning is Shannon, creator of the steampunk adventure boxes at Bone Shaker Boxes. Good morning Shannon, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?

Here is a simple Bean Soup made from an old Ham Bone you can get at the local butcher!

  • 2 tablespoons bacon grease
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 potatoes, diced
  • 8 cups hot water
  • 8 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 1 ham bone
  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 (16 ounce) package frozen corn
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

  • Melt bacon grease in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in hot bacon grease until vegetables are slightly tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Stir potatoes into onion mixture; cook and stir until golden, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir hot water and chicken bouillon together in a large pot until bouillon is dissolved; add onion mixture, ham bone, diced tomatoes, corn, tomato sauce, black pepper, and salt.
  • Cook soup for 4 to 6 hours. Remove ham bone from soup and let rest until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from ham bone and stir meat into soup.
  • Serve hot with biscuits

 

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we take a look at these amazing boxes that you make, have you brought some along to show us today?

Yes I did! I brought along the Tea for One box, the Radio Box, Father Mike’s Vampire Kit, and the Traveling Tea Set so we could share a pot or two, and it serves 6 so if anyone else is about they can join us!

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Oh yes please a cup of tea would be marvellous and I’m sure the urchins would like some to! It is such a brilliant and original concept, do tell me, what inspires you when you begin to create a new box?

I am a very practical person and usually a need is what starts the process. An example would be the Tea for One boxes I make. When you travel, especially here in America, hotels cater to coffee drinkers and if you are a tea drinker you usually have very poor, if any, choices for teas. I decided to make a portable box that if you can get 8 oz. of water you can make a pot of tea anywhere (as long as they allow open flame), so the Tea for One box was born. It comes with its own teapot, cup, stove, and fuel. Then I have created areas to keep tea, sugar, spoons, strainer, and everything else you need to make the perfect pot of tea. Once you set the pot on the flame it takes about 10 minutes for it to reach 185° (F) or 85° (C), the perfect temperature for tea.

I have also created boxes from the story I have about Queen Victoria’s Secret Service. I create the boxes they would need to protect her and her family. The Radio Box and Father Mike’s Vampire Kit is from that series. You can read all about it and the stories that go with the boxes on my website http://www.boneshakerboxes.com/ and go the “About” section.

I try to make the boxes as practical as I can. The radio box has an MP3 player in it and you can listen through the headset or the built in external speakers. Other boxes have been portable bars, backpacks, and lap desks, just to name a few.

My boxes are usually very functional and are built to a quality standard that I expect you to use them and with a minimum of care should last you a lifetime. I want these passed down to your children so they can create their own character or use the same box they grew up watching you use.

I’m sure there are many adventurous souls out there who are already imagining the splendiferousness of toting around their very own Bone Shaker Box! Tell me, do you make each box as a custom order and, if so, how do you work with your clients to get a box that’s ‘just right’ for their Steampunk alter ego?

All of my boxes are one of kind! I will not repeat them, I built it once, why would I want to do it again? Now with that said, I will keep a good design idea (Tea for One boxes), but I always change something including the theme. So you never have to worry about someone having the same item as you. I started out making boxes for myself or for friends and now it is about 50/50 on original design (mine) or custom box for a client’s specific design/need.

I work very close with the individual, I provide pictures and feedback all through the process. Customizing the box to the individual is what makes it fun for me because it usually adds a level of complication. “How am I going to fit this into the box and make it look like it belongs there?” is a question I have asked myself many times.  It all works out in the end and I usually get to see tears when I present the finished project because the person was involved throughout the process and seeing their personal items displayed how they imagined (or close) just brings out all the emotion, and that can’t be priced into any box. Seeing the person fall in love with something that I made, is just the greatest thing.

Besides the boxes themselves, are there other Steampunk props and curios that you create?

Yes, I started out with a jewellery line as well. It was very popular and I got a bunch of complaints when I dropped it, but it was tough to get raw materials in the quality I wanted and keep pricing down. I also do leather work, and have made leather armour, belts, flask holders, restraints. I am a reasonably competent seamstress and have made a few costumes, but the boxes are my passion, I just love making them.

And besides your online store where else can we find your work displayed, featured or for sale?

I do have an Etsy shop, and I have been a featured artist at DragonCon’s Altered History Museum for the last 4 yrs. My work has been in multiple blogs and online magazines, plus I was featured in “Just Steampunk” magazine last year. I just filmed an episode of Ghost Finders (My first TV show) that will feature a new box called the Clairvoyant’s Box based on Georgiana Eagle the Queens Clairvoyant. She reportedly did upwards of nine readings with the Queen to try and contact Albert, so I made a box that she could have used during these readings.

I also travel the Southeast U.S. doing different conventions every year and just love meeting people and seeing the reactions when I show them the boxes are actually functional. Plus I have the usual social media sites as well:

https://www.facebook.com/BoneShakerBoxes/

http://boneshakerboxes.tumblr.com/

https://www.pinterest.com/boneshakerboxes/?etslf=8756&eq=bone%20shaker

 

And now the all-important question, on which the fate of the world may hang…  which do you prefer, coffee or tea? (and how do you take it?)

I am a mood person when it comes to hot beverage. If I want to relax or I am feeling a little blue I prefer tea (English Breakfast is my favourite). However I do start every day with a cup of coffee, and both are with cream and sugar.

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

Thanyou so much for having me here and I am so glad I could help with the children. Hopefully you will have me back again and we can talk more about The Queen’s Secret Service and I may even have a tale or two for the urchins while they eat.

Oh that would be wonderful Shannon, thankyou I… but wait a minute I think… is that an octopus hurrying down the street towards us? Why yes it’s Collin! It’s not like him to leave the parlour without Max I wonder what could be the matter?

Oh dear! Collin informs me that Wizmas – the season of Witch Hunts and ill will to all women over the age of thirty  – has begun! I had no idea! I must find my toupee and false moustache at once, please excuse me, I have a lot of arrangements to make and a large bottle of brandy to buy…. 

blessings on your brew my dears!