Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “writing

#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

Happy Wednesday! I’m using Wednesdays to share some short bursts of the stories I’m working on… because that way, I figure, I’ll be motivated to keep working on them

Right now (besides the Smith and Skarry adventures, which get quite enough attention in my other posts) I’m working on an LGBTQIA+ Mythpunk standalone novel called In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers whose central themes are identity, voice and power.

It’s based in a world where Time grows like grass and is harvested, where people of the four cities – Gnarl, Ash, Slain and Caligari – wear their whole lives on their backs in the form of patchwork story Cloaks. Those who don’t have a Cloak, have no clue as to who they are. Those who have Cloaks guard them jealously for fear of the desperate Daggers who would steal them for themselves.

The novel is divided into four books – The Book Of Bujo (which btw is a complicated word whose closest meaning would be heist/ joke/ prank/ trick), The Book Of Scales, The Book of Feathers and The Book Of End – but in the opening the reader finds themselves in a burned down library where the pages of all these books have been scattered, charred and disarrayed across the floor so the narrative has to be pieced together in fragments and the time line dawns slowly rather than being obvious from the start.

It’s ambitious, I’m scared about failing at the vision I’m aiming for, but I love pushing the boundaries of what I can do and I’ve done similar things with short stories so I really hope I can make it work, let’s see… This is the fifth extract, you can find the fourth part here: #WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

 

Victorian Steampunk Plague Doctor Assassin

 

The Duchess listened to the wind screaming protest against the canvas of the Land Kite sail. There was no other obstacle to its passage across the Seaglass Isle for another six or so kilometers ; then it would shatter into gusts against the buttresses of Gnarl and howl, fragmented and broken as the citizens, through the twisted streets, biting flesh in ire at the city’s presence here in its domain.

She frowned beneath her black leather beaked mask ; Nav had indicated that this would be their last foray into Gnarl and while the others had all made at least some progress here, The Duchess would be heading to Caligari with no further clue as to who, or what, she was, or might once have been. It was a vexing situation and beneath her black lace gloves her mechanical hands bawled unconsciously into fists, betraying her frustration.

 She could sway them to stay a little longer ; even The Magon, with all their great strength, was no match for her bladecraft… but that wasn’t the way this worked. The Navigator could see things hidden in The Shattered Sky ; patterns and signs encrypted in the miasma of scales and feathers which rolled above the land in prismatic clouds – a denundated landscape of shifting grains. 

The Navigator knew exactly where they should go next and what they should do when they got there and they’d all learnt the hard way that following her guidance was always the sensible option ; The Grass Temple had been a mistake but it wasn’t ever going to be repeated, if The Navigator said it was time to move on, then that was what they would do.

 

There you go, I hope you enjoyed reading the next little extract 🙂 What are you writing at the moment? Feel free to share links to your own works in progress or Writing Wednesday posts in the comments 🙂

Blessings on all your writing endeavours!


#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

Happy Wednesday! I’m using Wednesdays to share some short bursts of the stories I’m working on… because that way, I figure, I’ll be motivated to keep working on them

Right now (besides the Smith and Skarry adventures, which get quite enough attention in my other posts) I’m working on an LGBTQIA+  Mythpunk standalone novel called In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers whose central themes are identity, voice and power.

It’s based in a world where Time grows like grass and is harvested, where people of the four cities – Gnarl, Ash, Slain and Caligari – wear their whole lives on their backs in the form of patchwork story Cloaks. Those who don’t have a Cloak, have no clue as to who they are. Those who have Cloaks guard them jealously for fear of the desperate Daggers who would steal them for themselves.

The novel is divided into four books – The Book Of Bujo (which btw is a complicated word whose closest meaning would be heist/ joke/ prank/ trick), The Book Of Scales, The Book of Feathers and The Book Of End – but in the opening the reader finds themselves in a burned down library where the pages of all these books have been scattered, charred and disarrayed across the floor so the narrative has to be pieced together in fragments and the time line dawns slowly rather than being obvious from the start.

It’s ambitious, I’m scared about failing at the vision I’m aiming for, but I love pushing the boundaries of what I can do and I’ve done similar things with short stories so I really hope I can make it work, let’s see… This is the fourth extract, you can find the third part here: #WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

Victorian Steampunk Plague Doctor Assassin

 

The Dragpie smirked, their eyes bright with jewels of wicked mirth, “I can hardly be blamed if I have more of worth to say than the rest of you and my turns pass quicker because my wit is sharper, what I have to say in an hour takes the rest of you days – weeks in your case to…”

The monologue was guillotined in a breathless squawk as The Magon clamped an expertly aimed and conveniently breadthy fist around their windpipe and lifted The Dragpie several inches off their perch. 

With the other hand, The Magon reached inside their shoulder holster, secured the vial and pulled out a battered notepad, flipped it easily open to a well worn page and shoved the words ‘SHUT IT, DICK’ printed in a shaky, unpractised hand, into the Dragpie’s face. 

The Dragpie choked, spluttered and reached inside their leather waistcoat for a strange looking blade-tipped quill, their hand trembled and their bright eyes began to leak tears as they strained to breathe and steady the tool at the same time. 

The Magon frowned but didn’t release their grip, as The Dragpie trawled the diamond quill slowly, shakily and dramatically across the ink black, scale flecked skin of their forearm to carve the words ‘EAT SHIT, DARLING’ which glowed silver, with whatever fluid ran through The Dragpie’s veins, for a few seconds, like a triumphant two fingered salute, before fading as the coal-smoke flesh healed over and swallowed the words back down inside.

The Magon growled in frustration but, seeing all else was futile, let their captive fall to the boards in a heap of choking, chuckling feathers, wiping tears of laughter from their eyes even as they coughed and spat and  massaged the feeling back into their raw neck. 

The Magon shook their head and began to walk away towards the helm of the Land Kite, pulling out the vial without looking at it and stepping carefully around the sleeping she-wolf on her bed of faded silk flowers and tarnished treasures.

 Hearing the Dragpie getting to their feet, they turned, expecting another onslaught of hyperbole, but as the Dragpie opened their mouth gleefully to continue their mocking tirade, no sound came out. 

The Magon could easily have laughed as their companion’s crest fell and their eyes filled with sudden distress, turning quickly to tears of panic and frustration, but they knew what addiction was, even addiction to the ability to express one’s self through sound. Instead they shook their head and turned their attention back to finding the Duchess and delivering her draught of Voice ; it was her turn, afterall.

 

There you go, I hope you enjoyed reading the next little extract 🙂 What are you writing at the moment? Feel free to share links to your own works in progress or Writing Wednesday posts in the comments 🙂

Blessings on all your writing endeavours!


Elevenses: With Stephen Palmer

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

image copyright Nadiaforkosh

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s rambunctiously raucous and chi-chi to the core parlour located high above it all on board our beautiful rainbow-sailed ship, The Harlequin Ladybird.Our tentacles are all of a quiver this morning and our china cups are chattering because we are honoured to have Stephen Palmer joining us for elevenses this morning.

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

Would you like tea? Earl Grey? Lapsang? Assam? Darjeeling? ( We are all out of Oolong Max so don’t even think about making that joke again)

 

Definitely Darjeeling. Nothing else will do! But I’ll just cross my legs and place this pocket abacus on my lap so that Max is stymied…

 

That is very kind and unnecessarily accommodating of you Stephen, here is your tea. Now then, do tell us more about yourself and your latest books.

 

Well… it’s a long story. Many years ago I was taken off the slush pile by Orbit Books, which started my time as a published author. Since then my career has scaled some heights and descended into some depths, though recently it’s been on a bit of a high. At the end of 2016, my steampunk/alternate history trilogy Factory Girl (The Girl With Two Souls / The Girl With One Friend / The Girl With No Soul) was published, to a very positive reception. Earlier this year we decided to relaunch it with covers designed by famed steampunk illustrator Tom Brown (he of Hopeless, Maine), with a fourth, supplementary novel – not published with the original trilogy – also set for publication. This latter novel is set in 1914-15 and is called The Conscientious Objector.

 

Oh that does sound like an intriguing series! We very much admire Tom Brown’s artwork too and did you hear that Max? That last book sounds like just your cup of tea! ( Many people find Max objectionable, I’m sure you can see why.)  What inspired you to write the series?

 

The entire plot, characters and structure of Factory Girl came to me one evening during a two hour blitz of ideas. That this happened means it was waiting in my subconscious ready to appear. The overarching theme is whether or not souls exist, an area explored via Victorian-style automata, though also through the life stories of the main characters. Of these, the main ones are: Kora Blackmore, an illegitimate mulatto (used here for historical accuracy) girl imprisoned in Bedlam Mental Hospital; Erasmus Darwin, grandson of Charles; Dr Spellman, an entirely mysterious benefactor; other members of the Darwin family; an enigmatic automaton who can speak and understand; and Sir Tantalus Blackmore, Kora’s father, the greatest industrialist of his age and owner of the Factory in Sheffield, where all the Empire’s automata are manufactured. The story takes place over all three novels during 1910-11.

 

I see, it sounds most enticing… er, no Max we do not need to hear about your experiences in Bedlam thankyou… nor why there is a young lady there who swears you have tentacles… I’m so sorry Stephen I’m afraid he has been at the sugar again this morning. Moving swiftly on, what would you say most influences your writing in general?

 

I’m known in the genre world for rarely reading fiction. Most of my influences are non-fiction. For instance, I recently read: Mama’s Last Hug (the emotions of animals), Novacene (James Lovelock’s new one, celebrating his 100th birthday), and The Hare With The Amber Eyes (an extraordinary memoir about netsuke).

 

How interesting! But if not any fiction then are there any authors who have particularly inspired you?

 

In my earlier days I was influenced by authors such as Jack Vance, Gwyneth Jones and Gene Wolfe. These days there aren’t many authors of fiction who inspire me, but in the steampunk world I much enjoyed the YA novel Cogheart.

 

Hm. Excellent. (No he does not want to hear your poetry Max, that is not in least bit inspiring, stop interrupting)  Battenburg?

 

Do you have any parkin? I understand they make it in Leeds.

 

We certainly do have some Parkin – left over from a tea party with the Brown’s in fact! – although this was made in Lancaster. You know, writing is something I’ve always fancied turning my talents to – having so many tentacles I imagine I could be quite productive as an author. Tell me, what was your own road into fiction writing like?

 

It was an extraordinary stroke of luck. I had been sending sample chapters and the like to various London publishers, but without much by way of reply. Then, mere days before I moved house (never to return for reasons best not mentioned), I received a letter from Orbit asking me to send the full MS of a novel I’d sent them over a year before. I was surprised! So I sent it off, but then, because of various life-events getting in the way for me and for them, I didn’t hear anything for a while, during which time I wrote a third version. This version was eventually accepted, to be published in 1996 as my debut Memory Seed.

 

I see, what marvellous good fortune! And do you have any plans for new projects in the near future?

 

When I do writing events or author appearances I usually mention writer’s volcano – the opposite of writer’s block. So, yes, I have lots of projects on the go! This winter I’ll be writing the final volume of a steampunk trilogy set in an alternate Shrewsbury (my home town) and in London. Set in 1899 and 1900, it follows the fortunes of a couple of orphans.

 

Ah, we are well acquainted with a small army of orphans so can easily see how that subject could provide ample plot-fodder – in fact Max often wishes he was an orphan. So, where can we get our tentacles on your work?

 

My novels are available in all the usual places online, both as paperback or ebooks. Infinity Plus have most of the ebooks of my back catalogue.

 

Splendid. And can we find you online?

 

My blog: https://stephenpalmersf.wordpress.com/

On amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stephen-Palmer/e/B0062Z5R78?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1569234616&sr=1-1

On amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Stephen-Palmer/e/B0062Z5R78?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1569234674&sr=1-1

At Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5625764.Stephen_Palmer?from_search=true

 

Wooooah! Dear me I do apologise, the airship must have slipped and I seem to have landed in your lap I hope I haven’t covered you in octopus slime?

 

It’s no problem! I’m wearing Dr Avebury’s Secret Trouser Improver, from which liquids dissipate.

 

What a marvellous invention, perhaps we should invest in some ourselves. But Are you sure you’re alright? Can I perhaps tempt you with another cup of the hot stuff?

 

If it’s my usual poison, yes indeed… but I must away. A Nigerian automaton has just leaped from my blazer pocket and told me the time. Farewell!

 

Oh dear, Max I do believe your menacing threats of mostly awful poetry and ill-concealed amorous advances have scared off yet another of our guests. You really must learn to behave yourself ‘In Company.’

Thankyou, friends for joining us this morning on board our beautiful  rainbow sailed ship The Harlequin Ladybird and until we see you again, please remain always

Utterly Yourself


#MythpunkMonday: The Road Back Lost

mahrimequote3

Happy #MythpunkMonday! Last month we talked about the power of Mythpunk, this week I’m going to ask how we wield that power responsibly – or if we even need to? I’m going to look at one particular Mythpunk song by my favourite singer/songwriter, talk about my own journey in Mythpunkery and give you a little snippet of one of my own Mythpunk stories.

So, last week we looked at the power of myth and the importance of Mythpunk as a subversive form that can challenge mainstream culture and instigate social change.

That makes Mythpunk powerful too and – as all us true geeks know – ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ (cheesy but true, guys, cheesey but true!)

So what responsibility do Mythpunk creators have and to who?

It’s not an easy question and the answer is likely to be a very personal one for all of us – different for each punk who puts pen to parchment. But I think it’s vital for us all to consider and to create ongoing discourse around this point.

From my own point of view, I came to Mythpunk (although I wasn’t aware of the phrase at the time) feeling as though I wanted to bite back at the restrictive, prejudiced, tired and boring old tales I had grown up hearing. I was carrying fire in my blood and in my head and it flowed out through my pen in rage against the morals and values inherent in those tales, all of which seemed to say that ‘people like me’ were not acceptable, could not be heroes, needed either rescuing or destroying and would certainly get our comeuppance one day … etc etc.

So I wrote to bite back, I wrote to destroy and obliterate and to replace all that ancient, old hat, prejudiced nonsense (as I saw it) with my own values, morals and world-view.

As I got older, I learned a revelation that made me stop and think. It didn’t make me regret what I’d written before, but it did make me proceed from that point onwards in a different way… I learnt the history of my people – a history which my family had been forced to hide from us because of deep rooted and continued prejudice against our people, a history which, I now realise, had been partly encrypted in story and song and passed down through generations in the hope that one day we would understand… and here I was taking a scythe to it all in anger.

Worse still, I soon found – as I now hungrily hunted for more stories, myths, tales, legends and songs which would tell me more about our culture and history – I came up blank ; most of it has been lost and what remains has been twisted and manipulated (not ‘punked’ which is something quite different) out of all recognition by other cultures in order to maintain the myth of the ‘Gypsy Creature’ by people who are not even Romany.

I felt hurt and lost and angry and guilty and very many other things as well and eventually those feelings lead me to write Mulengi Sinija (a tale of cultural appropriation and white-washing which shows how a less powerful culture can be forced to hide themselves while the dominant culture wears their clothing and beliefs like an exotic mask, until eventually the grandchildren of the less dominant culture have forgotten who they are. ) and also The Road Back Lost, which I’m going to share an exert of today.

So after that point I decided that although there really were parts of my culture that needed to evolve, so much had been lost that I wanted my Mythpunk to focus on preserving the good, the beautiful, wise and historic aspects to make tales worthy of passing on to my own children.

I’m still on uncomfortable ground here – there are definitely dark moments when I ask ‘do I have the right to do this?’ and I can only comfortably answer ‘yes’ because it is my own culture and belief, my own experience, the voice of my own blood that is singing through me. I am not certain I could always give a resounding ‘yes’ if that were not the case.

I think that, for me, the subject boils down to questions of Power,Voice and Ownership – does the mythology I’m punking from exist in enough written forms that its power and voice resound through history and are unlikely to be altered / obliterated forever by my work here and now? – does the culture which this mythology hales from have enough power and voice on the world stage to protest against my meddling with it, should it choose to do so? – and lastly, is the culture my own?

But this is just my story, my journey, my own evolving view on things, – I’d be really interested to hear what you think on the subject! Should Mythpunk be a free-for-all? Is it OK to punk from other cultures? Should we not punk at all? Or is there a middle road and if so, how do we stay on it?

In that contemplative vein, I’m going to share with you Black Jack’s Lady by my favourite singer/songwriter of all time Heather Alexander / Alexander James Adams.

It’s a Mythpunk’d version of the child ballad The Raggle Taggle Gypsies / The Gypsy Laddie / Black Jack Davy, a ballad I grew up with, which tells the tale of Lady Cassillis and her lover the Romanichal folk hero and Rom Baro Johnnie Faa.

In that folk tale, the Earl of Cassillis marries his young wife against her will, but her lover, Johnnie Faa, or Black Jack Davy, rescues her and they run away together. The Earl eventually catches them, hangs Faa and his brothers and imprisons his wife for the rest of her days. There isn’t any truth in the tale as far as Faa and Cassillis are concerned, and of course there are aspects of it which seem wonderful and other aspects which seem dreadful.

Here’s the song and above it I’ve included Heather’s introduction/ explanation of it as well – I’ve chosen it because, as with the original, there’s a lot about it that I love from a fun and feminist perspective and also a lot that feels uncomfortable … see what you think?

 

And finally here’s the excerpt I promised from The Road Back Lost, if you like it and want to read the whole things you can find it on Vocal… https://poets.media/the-road-back-lost

THE ROAD BACK LOST

Do you know what it is like to gut a wolf, child? Do you think you have the stomach for the knife? If you are a daughter of the wood, you ought at least to have that. But perhaps the tool they have given you is not up to the task? Faced with the breath, the lure of iron scent, the clinging claret clots that call to your own quickened pulse, the sharp, sharp teeth a grotesquery of your

Little

Knife

Perhaps you would rather flee?

Or perhaps that dilation of your dark and precious orbs betrays your lust to leave this wood and simply be devoured, melting on a hot tongue, melting in a hot belly, melting like a shadow into night? How many times have you tried to lose yourself that way? How many times have you wandered from the path, waiting for your wolf?

Well

Here she is, child, here she sits; white throat waiting to welcome you home.’

 

 

Thanks for joining me for another #MythpunkMonday and please feel free to join in a share your own / others Mythpunk either in the comments or using the hashtag – let’s fill every Monday with marvellous Mythpunk madness 😀

 

 


#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

Happy Wednesday! I’m using Wednesdays to share some short bursts of the stories I’m working on… because that way, I figure, I’ll be motivated to keep working on them 🙂

Right now (besides the Smith and Skarry adventures, which get quite enough attention in my other posts) I’m working on an LGBTQIA+  Mythpunk standalone novel called In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers whose central themes are identity, voice and power.

It’s based in a world where Time grows like grass and is harvested, where people of the four cities – Gnarl, Ash, Slain and Caligari – wear their whole lives on their backs in the form of patchwork story Cloaks. Those who don’t have a Cloak, have no clue as to who they are. Those who have Cloaks guard them jealously for fear of the desperate Daggers who would steal them for themselves.

The novel is divided into four books – The Book Of Bujo (which btw is a complicated word whose closest meaning would be heist/ joke/ prank/ trick), The Book Of Scales, The Book of Feathers and The Book Of End – but in the opening the reader finds themselves in a burned down library where the pages of all these books have been scattered, charred and disarrayed across the floor so the narrative has to be pieced together in fragments and the time line dawns slowly rather than being obvious from the start.

It’s ambitious, I’m scared about failing at the vision I’m aiming for, but I love pushing the boundaries of what I can do and I’ve done similar things with short stories so I really hope I can make it work, let’s see… This is the third extract, you can find the second part here: #WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

 

The Dragpie smiled, preened their beautiful head of mingled short dark hair and purple-green feathers and drew a corked vial from a concealed leather pouch within their waistcoat. They shook it and scrutinised its contents with anthracite eyes in the dagger wounds of light and shadow that scarred the swaying boards of the rolling Land Kite. “Hm, and who will speak for me today? Or who will I speak for? Who is really controlling who in this game I wonder? Who…”

“Who ever said it was your turn to talk, dick?” The Magon’s own voice was little more than a whisper but their mountain of scale-covered flesh invited no protest as they snatched the vial from their stunned and indignant companion. 

“But, but, but… I haven’t finished! And my voice is running out…I can feel it…listen!”

“You stole the last two turns, dip-shit, you speak more than the rest of us put..pu…” the last word was lost in silent breath and the Magon glowered and tried again ; the strain visible in beads of sweat on their flushed temples.

 

There you go, I hope you enjoyed reading the next little extract 🙂 What are you writing at the moment? Feel free to share links to your own works in progress or Writing Wednesday posts in the comments 🙂

Blessings on all your writing endeavours!


#MythpunkMonday: Monstrous Punk

Happy #MythpunkMonday! And happy Halloween / Samhain / Candyfest, whatever you happen to be celebrating at this time! In my house we use this time to remember our dead, to explore liminality and, of course, to stuff ourselves silly with sweet treats! We’re lucky enough now to live in a community where the whole neighbourhood hypes-up for trick or treating and everyone decorates their houses and gardens and opens their doors to the little goblins and witches who drop by to wish each family the best of the season – it’s like carol singing with a ghoulish twist!

So here is a little snippet from Mahrime, the title piece of my mythpunk collection ‘Mahrime – mythpunk for monsters’ . In this part a city girl makes a pact to save a nearby forest, each night she lets a scarlet cord down from her window for the monsters who live within it to climb up and they reward her in an unusual way…

 

You would think I cracked the treasure case open and sucked out the gold, but I was afraid, afraid of stains and questions, afraid my mother would find out about these secret midnight monster feasts. So instead I opened my mouth up wide and carefully, carefully swallowed each egg down whole.

Whole, the eggs of Del came into my warm belly and my flesh cradled them like a bowl of olive wood, my womb knit around them like latticed ligaments of vine; safe, warm, nourished… it should have been no surprise when they hatched out, the fledglings scraping my tissue raw as the forced their blind passage up through my vocal tubes and tore out of my horror-stricken mouth to flop, drenched and heaving onto the breakfast table.

In front of my mother, these fledgling crow-gods scrambled from my mouth and I could not hold them back. But mothers are used to these things. She narrowed her eyes at me, did I not think she had been young once? Did I not think she too had longed for trees and monsters and given birth to sky-gods in her time? And had not my grandmother done as she would now, stuff her daughter’s mouth with wormwood and gilead, with nightshade and mandrake and bind it shut tight with ribbons torn from her own scarlet dikhlo?

All this she did and then she cut the red cord.

I slept, falling in my dreams through the barbed gullet of a beast that was a city that was my mother that was seven little queens with seven little axes all hacking, hacking at my scarlet life line, all trying to sever me from my beloved monsters. But I laughed as I spun through their loathly innards because even in sleep I felt them; my little ravens, my little gods, pecking away at their human-girl prison, gorging and scraping at all the cumbersome weight that held us all pressed into this room, this house, this city on a hill.

Peck. Peck. Peck.

I felt the breeze stir through me, the flutter of their strong, soft wings striving through my rib cage, the thrust of bills chiselling against my teeth and I woke to find myself cleaned of all my superfluous flesh, gleaming in my bones, seeing with a thousand yellow crow eyes. Still they scrabbled and flapped and pushed the boundaries of all that I still was until they carried me up, up the chimney and out into the sky above.

 

If you enjoyed this snippet you can read the whole story here on Vocal…

https://poets.media/mahrime

And if you’d like to buy me a brew to help fuel my next outpouring of mischievous mythpunkery you can find me on Ko-Fi

https://ko-fi.com/pennyblake

 

Thanks for joining me for another #MythpunkMonday and do feel free to join in and share your own / others mythpunk creations either using the hashtag or in the comments here!

 

 


#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

Happy Wednesday! I’m using Wednesdays to share some short bursts of the stories I’m working on… because that way, I figure, I’ll be motivated to keep working on them 🙂

Right now (besides the Smith and Skarry adventures, which get quite enough attention in my other posts) I’m working on an LGBTQIA+  Mythpunk standalone novel called In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers whose central themes are identity, voice and power.

It’s based in a world where Time grows like grass and is harvested, where people of the four cities – Gnarl, Ash, Slain and Caligari – wear their whole lives on their backs in the form of patchwork story Cloaks. Those who don’t have a Cloak, have no clue as to who they are. Those who have Cloaks guard them jealously for fear of the desperate Daggers who would steal them for themselves.

The novel is divided into four books – The Book Of Bujo (which btw is a complicated word whose closest meaning would be heist/ joke/ prank/ trick), The Book Of Scales, The Book of Feathers and The Book Of End – but in the opening the reader finds themselves in a burned down library where the pages of all these books have been scattered, charred and disarrayed across the floor so the narrative has to be pieced together in fragments and the time line dawns slowly rather than being obvious from the start.

It’s ambitious, I’m scared about failing at the vision I’m aiming for, but I love pushing the boundaries of what I can do and I’ve done similar things with short stories so I really hope I can make it work, let’s see… This is the second extract, you can find the first part here: #WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

Victorian Steampunk Plague Doctor Assassin

 

THE BOOK OF SCALES

 

Across The Sea Glass Isle

The Dragpie held the purple-black beetle between their slender, smokey, claw-like fingers and studied its jewelish iridescence in the deep, bleeding light. 

Somewhere a sun must be setting to cast such refracted shadows across the Marrow Roads, but that meant nothing ; the Dragpie’s mouth twisted upwards in a bitter smile – as if time were a thing that could be measured by the fickle motions of celestials from beyond The Shattered Sky.

‘So pretty,” The Dragpie sighed, contemplating the bug once more, “Soooooo, soooo pretty,” and then they squeezed; spilling black insectine blood in a thick ooze over their fingertips. 

“But,” The Dragpie cocked their head on one side as they smeared the khol-dark liquid under their eyeline and swept it up to their temples in what they considered a ferociously artistic motion, “this is war, and if you are going to persist in biting my arse all night, little bastards, then I am going to have to make your moral education my highest priority,” they wiped their fingers on dark leather trousers that were several decades past their prime, “consider this exercise less ‘corporal punishment’ and more ‘ascending to a higher realm of utility..” they mused, examining the effect in the distorted glass of a broken blue bottle. 

 

There you go, I hope you enjoyed reading the opening 🙂 What are you writing at the moment? Feel free to share links to your own works in progress or Writing Wednesday posts in the comments 🙂

Blessings on all your writing endeavours!


#MythpunkMonday: Tree Punk

Happy MythpunkMonday! A while back in September, we looked at the mythology and folklore of trees and I shared an extract of some of my tree-based mythpunk Opre! I promised then that I would spend another post looking at working trees into our Mythpunk, so here we go…

As comfortably as trees sit within the heart of many world Mythologies, they don’t lend their image so readily to the realm of punk, at least not at first glance.

We tend to associate trees with the countryside, with high fantasy or historical settings, they might be used in writing to create the feel of tranquillity or terror but we seldom see trees being used to create a gritty urban backdrop for a dystopian situation, or being the catalyst for a postmodernist plot. Fictional trees that speak, tend to speak like old men and women, or very occasionally naive young girls. I would like very much to see a Mohawk sporting, forty-something, jaded Willow Tree hurling cans at litter louts in a psuedo-park in central New London…

That’s an extreme and slightly comical example of course, but I think it’s a good hammer with which to smash our preconceptions about trees in mythic fiction. Trees are, to my mind, too often portrayed as benign life givers, old fonts of wisdom and healing, sources of magic, resources to be used and abused. But they have other faces too ; they can poison, choke, harm, barb, wound, unbalance, tear down and destroy … I mentioned Tolkien’s Ents in the last post in relation to anthropomorphism, but I do very much like their verve!

Our historic abuse of trees and their land surely has enough fodder in it for gritty, feral, subversive voices to rise up from the asphalt and the concrete, the timber frames, furnace and cellulose packaging and bite back so, here is a little list of tree-mendous (had to be done) tree-punk to give us some inspiration, click on each title to follow the links and feel free to share your own ideas, examples and gawd-awful tree puns in the comments! XD

BLADES IN THE DARK

I very much like the trees described in Blades In The Dark ; Jayan Park in the Charterhall district is full of beautiful alchemical abominations in a sunless world, deadly to touch and utterly useless for supporting life, but still revered.

“The great alchemist for whom this park is named contrived to formulate soil and seeds that could produce real, growing trees, without sunlight or radiant energy. They are horrifically toxic to all living things and must not be touched but they still grow beautifully here, over 100 years later.” – Blades In The Dark P262.

Evil Hat Productions EHP0030 Blades in The Dark RPG, Multicoloured

WHEN WE ARE VANISHED

In a world not so different from our own, a vigilante group of techies have shut down all the computer systems on the planet in an attempt to put an end to the war and destruction orchestrated by technology. But where there’s a will, there will always be a way and a new ‘cellulose tech’ has now been developed. But using living plant cells in communications technology leads to some disturbingly sentient systems… and then the people begin to vanish…

 

A POISON TREE

This poem by William Blake is, of course, not actually about a tree but I find the imagery and metaphor strongly evokes a punk sense of proactive subversion; the vengeful gardener, the poisoned fruit / the bright lure to death – in many ways the song of technology to the heart of human kind;  the two fingered punk salute at the end…

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.
And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

 

THE LAST TREE

Here’s a suckerpunch one for you, this one got me right in the windpipe when I saw it so I’m only going to post the link in the title and you can follow it to the picture. It’s inspiring my WIP at the moment!

WIND TREES

This broke my heart, appalled and held me enthralled with grim fascination when I first saw it a few years back. The video gives one side of the coin, click the title link for the other…

 

PUNK TREES

And just as a fun note to end on – Yes they do exist!

 

I hope you enjoyed this #MythpunkMonday post, do feel free to join in and share your own work or that of others, using the hashtag and post your own thoughts and tree-punk wisdom in the comments 🙂

 

 


#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

Happy Wednesday! I’ve decided to (try, for a while, you know, let’s not delude ourselves as to my ability to stick at one thing for too long.. a-hem) use Wednesdays to share some short bursts of the stories I’m working on… because that way, I figure, I’ll be motivated to keep working on them 🙂

Right now (besides the Smith and Skarry adventures, which get quite enough attention in my other posts) I’m working on an LGBTQIA+  Mythpunk standalone novel called In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers whose central themes are identity, voice and power.

It’s based in a world where Time grows like grass and is harvested, where people of the four cities – Gnarl, Ash, Slain and Caligari – wear their whole lives on their backs in the form of patchwork story Cloaks. Those who don’t have a Cloak, have no clue as to who they are. Those who have Cloaks guard them jealously for fear of the desperate Daggers who would steal them for themselves.

The novel is divided into four books – The Book Of Bujo (which btw is a complicated word whose closest meaning would be heist/ joke/ prank/ trick), The Book Of Scales, The Book of Feathers and The Book Of End – but in the opening the reader finds themselves in a burned down library where the pages of all these books have been scattered, charred and disarrayed across the floor so the narrative has to be pieced together in fragments and the time line dawns slowly rather than being obvious from the start.

It’s ambitious, I’m scared about failing at the vision I’m aiming for, but I love pushing the boundaries of what I can do and I’ve done similar things with short stories so I really hope I can make it work, let’s see…

Victorian Steampunk Plague Doctor Assassin

 

WELCOME TO THE LIBRARY

 

If only you had come at another time. Sooner, perhaps, or later. Such a very great shame; who would have thought that words, which wreak such merry havoc with the world, would prove so fragile, after all? 

 

THE BOOK OF BUJO

 

Only you know why you are here. 

Maybe you heard stories of fire, and came looking for the burning threads? 

Maybe you saw a glimmer, far and cold, and reached for it through the dark? 

Maybe, just maybe, you followed a path of heavy paw prints scorched in clay, their warm indent still laced with scents of sulphur, salt and iron? 

Perhaps your grandmother gave you a handful of matches to sell and there, alone, abandoned to the cold, you swallowed down their light, devoured and incubated their frail powder spark ‘til their soft-pulsing and insistent compass lead you down the silk blue gullet of the night, into the belly of Ullna?

What a shame it cannot lead you home again. Not that sort of light, you know? 

Well, but it matters not how you came or who you were before ; here, look, here is where you wanted to be all along, here is the dance, the dance of making and unmaking, the dance at the end of all things, the step that loops back to the beginning. Here is  the burning fire dance of Karash deep in the belly of the moon. 

Be patient, dance on, dance until the last thin wafer sacrament of yourself is licked away and then, stay, and dance yourself back whole, things are about to change, time is about to begin again, keep dancing and you will turn the universe to your own wild tune… 

 

 

There you go, I hope you enjoyed reading the opening 🙂 What are you writing at the moment? Feel free to share links to your own works in progress or Writing Wednesday posts in the comments 🙂

Blessings on all your writing endeavours!


Elevenses: David Lee Summers talks #Mythpunk with Collin…

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

image copyright Nadiaforkosh

 

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s rambunctiously raucous and chi-chi to the core parlour located high above it all on board our beautiful rainbow-sailed ship, The Harlequin Ladybird. Our tentacles are all of a quiver this morning and our china cups are chattering because we are honoured to have our good friend Mr David Lee Summers joining us for elevenses this morning, authour of the Clockwork Legion series which we very much adore.

Do please have a seat, David, (Max, get off the chaise and let him sit down … hm? … no he can’t sit on a cat, cats are not cushions Max how many times must I remind you?)

I do apologise, David. Would you like tea? Earl Grey? Lapsang? Assam? Darjeeling? (We are all out of oolong Max so don’t even think about making that joke again.)

 

I do believe a nice robust Assam would be just what I need to get this day off to a splendid start. Thank you.

 

There you go.

Now then, we are deeply concerned about our puppet mistress, Penny; there are rumours that she has a secret laboratory where she takes stories (and I’m talking about ancient, respected myths, legends and Moral Tales here, David, the backbone of what you humans call ‘Sophisticated Society’ I believe?) and does unspeakable things to them so that when they emerge they are… forgive me an affected shudder… changed! Warped! Twisted – almost out of recognition…but not quite, which I think is even more disturbing. Certainly I, as an octopus, am disturbed. We are certain that it is some sort of illness and we wondered if you might have heard of it?

 

I have indeed heard of this condition though fear not, I don’t believe your mistress is more ill than most writers. Though she might suffer from an excess of making connections in stories the original writers did not see or intend, or connecting them to new and different time periods. The condition is not especially dangerous as long as your mistress is allowed to explore her thoughts in writing.

 

But tell me that this is not normal human behaviour, I mean, do you know anyone else who behaves so disrespectfully towards the written word?

 

I know a few such authors who have looked at legends and fairy tales through new lenses and seen new meanings. Such people as Jody Lynn Nye, Jeff Young, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail have all explored these ideas. A grand example is the anthology Gaslight and Grimm which Danielle edited.

 

Of course, Catherynne M. Valente coined the term “Mythpunk” to explain such behaviour and has engaged in it a few times herself. Neil Gaiman and Theodora Goss are a couple of other authors who have done this.

 

Hm, I’m becoming a little suspicious here, David, please tell me you are not one of these fiendish writers yourself who thinks that ancient, sacred tales are merely cadavers that you can dissect and use to create new life?

 

Oh dear, it seems you have found me out. Though I will say that I do not see these ancient and grand tales as cadavers at all. Rather it’s because they live and breathe that they are so adaptable to new kinds of characters and different situations.

 

Oh. I see. Um, oh how remiss of me I haven’t offered you any cake! (Max, I’ll keep him talking while you run and find some sedative to slip into his tea, it seems these writers are all as mad as each other)

 

No need for the sedative. Yes, I heard you, Collin, but I will take a little cake, thank you very much.

 

Hm, but what is the point of it? What do you all hope to achieve? I mean, aren’t the old stories perfectly fine just the way they are? And even if they aren’t, can’t you just write something entirely new?

 

Of course, the original stories are timeless and beautiful. However, they are, sometimes, rooted very firmly in the times and places they were written. Not everyone can read one of these stories and see themselves reflected in the story, so it doesn’t seem relevant to them. Rewriting them with new characters can help a more diverse audience find the stories. Sometimes those stories are rooted in prejudices of the time they were written or collected. Rewriting them from a different point of view allows one to see the story through a new lens and perhaps bring out different or new meanings on top of the lessons one might see on the surface.

 

Ah, I think I’m starting to understand… (No not now, Max, just hold off with that laudanum-laced-sugar bowl for a moment..) So it can actually be a good thing to re-tell or re-imagine stories from the past?

 

Indeed, I have taken classic stories and turned them around so the “villain” becomes a hero, which allows you to see the story in a new light such as I did in “The Griffin’s Tail,” which appears in Jennifer Brozek’s anthology, Human Tales. In “The Vrykolakas and the Cobbler’s Wife,” which appeared in Cemetery Dance magazine, I substituted a vampire husband for elves in the story of the “Elves and the Shoemaker,” which made it a story about relationships. When I wrote “The Slayers,” I wanted to get past the madness of Ahab, which dominates the novel Moby-Dick, and look at what the story says about hunting beautiful, intelligent creatures we don’t always understand. By setting this story on an airship and using dragons instead of whales, it freed me from the expectations one might have when reading Melville’s novel. So, yes, I think retelling stories allows an author to examine aspects of a story that might be overlooked by a casual reader.

 

Hm, I think you’re starting to win me over, but I do have one last concern – I mean, we Octopuses have a great store of oral tales but very few of us are up here on the land to share them with you humans – this Mythpunk makes me almost afraid to share them in case they end up being ‘re-imagined’ by some mad-mythpunker and what then eh? How would people know the original version from the new? Or what if – Devon forbid – I should perish in some act of great daring heroism (stop giggling Max it is very rude) and the stories die with me… I suppose what I am asking is, do you think writers have some sense of responsibility to the cultures whose tales they chose to play with, or is it one big free-for-all?

 

I agree, authors do have a responsibility to respect the original tales and the cultures from which they come. I own a collection of the original Grimm Fairy Tales in German, complete with notes about the stories by the Grimm Brothers. All of my Grimm Fairy Tale retellings have involved me translating the stories myself and reading those notes to understand where they came from. I don’t think one always needs to go that extent, but I do think one needs to understand the stories and the cultures where they came from.

 

It’s common advice that a writer should “write what they know.” If a story goes beyond the life experience of an author, the author has a responsibility to conduct research to become familiar with the culture and time period they’re writing about. This is true whether you’re writing mythpunk, steampunk, fantasy, or science fiction.

 

I see. Well, I think I have been quite hasty in my initial judgement of this mythpunk phenomenon, I would very much like to find out more. Can you point us at some worthy works of marvellous mythpunk (including your own of course)?

 

My works of mythpunk have appeared in two anthologies, which present works by many authors whose work is worth seeking out. These include:

Gaslight and Grimm edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Diana Bastine https://www.amazon.com/Gaslight-Grimm-Steampunk-Faerie-Tales/dp/1942990316/

and Human Tales edited by Jennifer Brozek is available at: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00563YEBW/

 

My story “The Vrykolakas and the Cobbler’s Wife” is in Cemetery Dance, issue 66, available at: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BBJVJVI/

My story “The Slayers” is available as a standalone short story at: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A9H1BSO/

I also highly recommend the novel Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohammed. As we’re speaking, the book is in the last days of the Kickstarter campaign to fund a beautiful new edition. I’ll share the link as it will no doubt tell people when the new edition is available for purchase. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/e-specbooks/discover-the-magic-of-baba-ali-and-the-clockwork-djinn/description

I have some new works coming out in the not too distant future including a story called “Horse Feathers” where witches under the tutelage of Russia’s Baba Yaga have an encounter with marvels from the Arabian Nights. Watch my blog at http://davidleesummers.wordpress.com for news of new stories and the anthologies they’re in!

 

Thank you, that should keep our tentacles occupied for a while! Ah, the kettle is boiling again, more tea?

 

Yes, please. This is a delightful Assam.

 

Sugar?

Did I hear someone say there was laudanum in the sugar? Hmmm… perhaps just one lump.

 

Oh dash it all Max, I told you to lay off with that sugar bowl; and now we have yet another authour out cold on the parlour floor. Oh well, just add him to the pile over there and we will drop them all at the next port, which I believe is The Night Market in Bohemia? I’m sure they can find their way home from there…