Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

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Pipe and Slippers: Tales From Steampunk’d Lancaster

 

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

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

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

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

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

TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER

SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS 

TALE THE FOURTH:  by ALLISON SHEPHERD

 

“My brooch!” I yelled as Mariah’s twinklepuff slam hit me full force in the chest

and sent me hurtling backwards into the wooden crates at the makeshift

gayelle’s edge. I hadn’t anticipated Mariah’s last pattern and was now

scrambling to catch my breath and get back on my feet. My brooch had ripped

off my bolero as the twinklepuff spell had infused the fibres of the old velvet.

My grandmother had made that brooch for me from the cogs of a broken toy

train and an old yuletide ornament. She’d fashioned the cogs into an owl tying

them together with copper wire, and using tiny emerald crystals pulled off the

bauble for the eyes. Every afternoon after school I’d go to her rag-and-bone

shop tucked away down a narrow cobblestone alley to wait for my parents.

She’d make a pot of Earl Grey with leaves from her “secret supplier” and tell

me stories of when her mother baked double-layered sponge cakes with

strawberry jam filling, and lighter-than-air profiteroles filled with sweet gooey

cream. “Earl Grey.” “Strawberry jam.” “Profiteroles.” I hadn’t heard those

words in almost a decade. My owl brooch had become my talisman, my

connection to my past.

I tried to stand but sat down quickly as my vision blurred. Mariah? This

powerful? I couldn’t understand; she was a third-rate slinger at best, over

estimating both her charms and her spells. Something was different. The

sophistication of the twinklepuff weavings and glitter were not her. Someone

was helping raise the level of her usually amorphous, sloppily put together

concoctions. Who? And why?

It was odd when Mariah had drawn the wildcard for our slingoff but I had

missed a few of the preliminary fights when I had gone out of town. Maybe

she’d improved and been bumped up a couple garnets, I thought. This was my

livelihood, and sometimes it’s better to shut up and sling. Now, as I sat

befuddled trying to clear my head and weave my threads, I saw a glint of silver-

black emanating from Mariah’s perfectly poised hands. Mariah who could

barely make a pattern for a pink-and-gold unicorn spell slinging an

onyxmirrorpearl? With advanced finger positions? I sat spellbound and the

omp smacked me flat. Blood gushed out of my nose, ruby red against my white

pin-tucked shirtwaist. Before I lost consciousness, I saw Emily, the bookie,

collecting from the disgruntled gamblers.

Gill found my brooch, the emerald crystals winking in the twilight-find spell he

cast. The healers had tried to revive me right away but the omp had proved

beautifully formed and knocked me out for hours. I lost my deposit and got

nothing for the night. According to Gill, Emily had been apologetic but could do

nothing as an unexpected large bet against me had her scrambling for gilt. Gill

had taken me home and tucked me up in bed with a hot water bottle, three

pillows and my favourite fluffy wrap. I was still in bed when he came back with

my brooch. I tried to sit up but the wave of nausea had me lying back gingerly

on the pillows. I closed my eyes clutching my owl, my fingers tracing the

notches along the cogs, and started to cry.

My parents were wizards, of course, fighting for Queen and country. They truly

believed that magic should be controlled and out of the hands of ‘ordinary’

people. My parents were strong weavers but by the time they disappeared (of

course) my abilities were rudimentary at best. I’d become a trope: orphan,

living with my grandmother, no magic. But as with my favourite fairy tales, this

was simply the beginning of the story.

My parents had taken an assignment to escort our Queen to Boss Town for a

diplomatic sojourn, or that was what the official correspondence claimed. We

knew better: an excuse for the elite to sample new-fangled sweet marvels and

magiscience tea twists. Mum and dad couldn’t say too much but they were

more tight-lipped than usual as they hugged me goodbye and dropped me off

at Gran’s. We never saw them again. I was fourteen.

Gran moved in with me. I finished school at sixteen and tried out for the

apprentice wizard programme. I didn’t qualify even though my parents had

been senior civil servants. Apparently, according to the report, I didn’t have the

“right attitude, and my spells were nonexistent.” Gran and I eked out a living

from the shop. I met Quelin her “tea supplier,” a jovial smuggler who was able

to find the choicest leaves for us, and sometimes, just sometimes, the tiniest

silver-sprinkled cupcakes. He’d never tell where he got them but always

tapped the side of his nose with his forefinger, “It’s best you don’t know, my

darling,” he’d say, “because if anything happened to me, you might be running

for your life from some nasty bits.” He’d glance across at Gran, who would

pretend to be engrossed with a length of glitterwool handicraft, or checking

her numbers in the accounts book. They thought I never noticed but I always

did.

I had turned seventeen the year of the Youshallnevereatcake Spring, a short-

lived, half-hearted coup d’etat by a handful of boisterous youngsters. It was

quashed by the wizards within hours, the rebels marched through the streets

to the palace courts. I rushed home to tell Gran only to find her in the garden,

sitting in her favourite chair under the willow tree, a cold cup of Earl Grey in

her lap. She looked as though she were taking an afternoon nap, the breeze

ruffling her mop of curls. I clasped her inert hands, and wept.

I started hex slinging in the underground circuit soon after.

Of course my latent abilities eventually showed up, stronger than either of my

parents but without proper training and guidance, it was a mess. My early

slingoffs were either a triumph of a knockout, or me vomiting an endless

stream of bile in a dank corner, a side-effect of using pure, raw magic. Through

practice, and more practice, and much much more vomiting, I learnt to control

and weave almost beautiful hexes. I found a circle of friends who helped me in

the nine years since Gran died: Gill, Emily, Jendra. And I still ran the shop. It

didn’t make much but had become a safe place for us to meet to try out new

patterns and concoctions, catch up on gossip and, yes, of course, find a way to

bring back tea, cakes and magic: we’d been denied our right to a free life for

too long.

***

As I clutched my brooch in my hand, tears streaming down my face confusing

Gill to no end, I realised that Mariah’s win tonight had shifted our timetable. It

hadn’t been subtle, literally a punch to my gut. Someone had wanted our

attention. No longer was our light-hearted, drinking-after-a-slingoff chant of

“Tea, Cake, Magic For All!” a someday cake-in-the-sky dream; someone, or

someones, wanted us ready now. And I was terrified.

 

Allison Shepherd enjoys reading and writing speculative fiction, especially paranormal romance. She teaches at the medical school at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, and has had her work published in bmj Medical Humanities, Tales From the Fluffy Bunny, and is upcoming in Lycan Valley Press Publications “Darkling’s Beasts and Brews”. https://mh.bmj.com/content/43/3/e33 https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Fluffy-Bunny-Various-Authors/dp/1942450699

 


Morning Cuppa: The Dandelion Farmer

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s exuberantly experimental and improbably porcine parlour located beneath the grimy streets of the splendidly scencic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.

True some will call our flamboyant descriptions of our subterranean safe-house ‘Hogwash’ but we consider that such people are merely swine.

You find us this morning with a dead pig on the rug. This is entirely the fault of Nimue Brown and we take no responsibility for the matter whatsoever. (As Max says, “A True Gentleman never takes responsibility for anything, if he can help it, least of all his own actions.”) We have done some research and ordered a new pig and some beer and a couple of Conservative MPs and hope the thing will go better next time… What?

… Max says I am painting a very suspect and inaccurate picture of events and he would like me to make it clear that a) Max was not in any way involved with the pig , b) the purpose of the pig in the parlour was completely innocent and c) all we did was feed the pig substandard black-market tea which likely consisted of a large amount of brick dust and asbestos and this caused it to keel over and die. d) Max was in no way involved with the pig…

What? … no I don’t think that by making point d) a repetition of point a) it makes it sound as though you were involved with the pig Max… and I’m sure none of our dear friends here would think that of you in any case, I mean, I know you’re shackled to a regrettable romantic history but… owch! … right. Fine. I see cruelty to animals is not beneath you afterall. I shall say no more about it.

Anyway, you didn’t come here to listen to us bickering over a dead pig, you came to enjoy some marvelous tea and some splendid steampunk fiction. So, let us kick our tentacles up on the table, and do just that… Our tea this morning is Dandelion and Burdock brew by Muddy Boots (we are not usually fans of Dandelion, as you know, but coupled with Burdock here it is quite sweet and delicious) and to accopany it, what better than this…

 

 

The Dandelion Farmer is a magnificently crafted  steampunk’d science-fiction novel that could easily stand alongside any of the sci-fi classics, and indeed should be considered essential reading for anyone keen to expand their collection to include modern gems alongside the familiar old.

Humans have colonised Mars and the Dandelion Farmer is trying to grow plants for bio-fuel while fending off the underhanded tactics of his land-grabbing adversary. But when a stranger appears on the farm needing assistance events rapidly spiral into a dark and thrilling journey through a twisted labyrinth of past and present with some very real demons.

McCall’s Mars has an 1800s American Western feel and holds a critical mirror both to that colonial era here on Earth, and to our current socio-political climate. It is an exceptional work of science fiction with a steampunk flavour and we look forward to reading and reviewing the next book in the series , The Hour Glass Sea,  when it is released.

And now that appears to be the door … hopefully it is either the butcher or our new pet… hm? You’ll call who? The R.S what? Well there’s really no need to be like that you know… why don’t you calm down, put that dueling parasol away and stay for lunch? We’re having bacon sandwiches… OWCH! … Max stop cowering behind the sofa and protect me, our guests have been inexplicably incited to violence!…

 

 

 

Note from Penny: No pigs, octopuses or Very Quiet Gentlemen were actually harmed during this tea party. Well, not much… certainly no more than they deserved…


Pipe and Slippers: Tales from Steampunk’d Lancaster

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

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

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

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

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

TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER

SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS 

TALE THE FIRST : Siggy And Me

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


Steampunk Summer Postcards with Phoebe Darqueling

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… oh it’s addressed to Penny and it’s from our dear friend Phoebe Darqueling…

 

Hey Penny!

Life is good here in Freiburg, Germany. After about six months of spatzle, pilsner, and watching the sun set over the Schwarzvald, I think it’ll take a team of wild horses to drag us away. Luckily for me, I can write from just about anywhere, so I probably won’t have to commit equinocide to keep the status quo.

This spring, I finally got to publish Army of Brass after over a year of working with the 20+ international authors who helped bring this collaborative novel to life. People are calling it a perfect “gateway to Steampunk” for people unfamiliar with the genre, as well as good fun for long-time fans. The launch went really well, and I had a great time writing guest posts for other Steampunk bloggers.

Just this month, my horror retelling of Pinocchio was featured in The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales, and it’s a great anthology that I am proud to be a part of. Right now, I’ve got some publishers interested in my Gaslamp fantasy novel, No Rest for the Wicked, so hopefully that will be out sometime in 2019. I’ve got excerpts and news on my blog if you want to find out more.

I’m still editing SteampunkJournal.org, and our team of contributors is growing. We’re always looking for guests, so if you or your readers have any ideas for articles, we’d love to host you!

Wishing you were here,

Phoebe

 

Well that’s marvelous, I’ll make sure Penny gets it! Well we’re coming to the end of summer now my dears, I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday yourselves and enjoyed our series of steampunk summer postcards, as the weather starts to turn again and the Lemonade Trade begins to fizzle out for another year Max and Collin will be found fending off Liver Birds and Landlords in their subterranean parlour once more so do pop in and join them for their monday morning cuppa and tuesday elevenses, I will be opening up my soup kitchen again and looking out for some marvelous steampunk authors to help me dish up tasty soup and share their new books with our little Lancastrian street urchins, and of course our grumpy ghost Perilous Wight will be back in his lovely library with some splendid steampunk fiction to share with you all so, until then

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Steampunk Summer Postcards: Grigory’s Gadget

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… Ah, it’s a lovely postcard from my dear friends E. A.  Hennessey…

 

 

Ubesk is absolutely as beautiful as they say it is! The city center is filled with buildings in every color, housing shops and taverns with exquisite goods and delicious food. The people here are so warm and welcoming, too. I hear a marvelous sideshow is coming to town soon as well. There’s just so much to see and do!

 

There is one unfortunate circumstance, however. My timing in visiting this beautiful city is not ideal. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the Crown Princess Rozaliya is missing. How exactly does a princess go missing? There are all sorts of rumors buzzing around. I’ve heard she was kidnapped by spies, that she ran away with a secret lover (scandalous!), that she never existed in the first place…every new rumor is crazier than the last!

 

In fact, my trip may be cut short, as the whole country of Starzapad seems to be preparing for war. I’d like to be safely on my way back home before that happens, but the next ship out doesn’t leave for a couple more days. Perhaps the princess will be found before any of that happens.

Meanwhile, it seems that pirate activity has increased on Glavny Strait. As if travel wasn’t dangerous enough with a war looming…

 

I’d say I wish you were here, but with all of this excitement it’s certainly safer to stay at home. If you want a taste of pirating adventure, why not read Grigory’s Gadget? And then stay tuned for the sequel, Serafima’s Stone, to find out what exactly has happened to the Crown Princess. You can stay up-to-date on these adventures and more by signing up for my newsletter.

 

I have to be off now. I’m going to meet with the Detective Inspector, who invited me to his husband’s lovely tavern. Perhaps they’ll give me some more ideas of things to do while I’m here, to take my mind off the war!

 

Your dear friend

E. A. Hennessy


Steampunk summer postcards: Karen J Carlisle

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… why it’s a beautiful postcard from our dear friend Karen J Carlisle…

 

GroundZero wish you were herepostcard blank_105x148

GroundZero Message_Karen J Carlisle_2018

 

Goodness yes it was a scorching summer for Aunt Enid, why I’m sure I was sweating just reading about it … although that may well have been the tension as well! If you haven’t yet delved into this new paranormal mystery series you can read the first book here:

auntenid525x8_FINAL COVER_copyright2017KarenCarlisle_SMALL (1)

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Author Postcards: Jennings and Jennings

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… why it’s a postcard for me from my dear friend Miss Henderson!
jennings1.jpg
Hello Mrs Baker,
I hope you are well.

We are all in Paris now, myself, Mr Bosch and Morag. We all came here on what was supposed to be a holiday for Sir John and Marie Jennings, but it has all gone horribly wrong again. Those fiends, Clackprattle and Pook are also here and are up to no good trying to find a magical weapon. Also, the food is almost all French, which is rather difficult to digest, and has caused Mrs Jennings to have an unusual mood yet again.All in all it is rather unpleasant and our so-called holiday is mainly taken up with trying to solve magical clues to prevent a catastrophe and avoid sauces that are too rich, which is most of them in my opinion.

Having said that they have something nice called Petty Fours which are like cakes but much too small.We are staying with some local people, a pleasant gentlemen called Emile and his lady friend, who is very modern if you get my drift. She is not really my sort, but I am being polite and not letting it show.We have also been able to spend some time sight-seeing in Paris.

Everyone says it is a romantic place, but I have to agree to disagree. I find it a little bit ‘flash” and “showy” and not really my idea of romance. I would rather spend a pleasant evening at the dog races with my special friend Detective Symonds.We went to the Eyeful Tower, which is well named because it is an eye-full. Also we spent a day looking at paintings in the Loos, which no-one found funny apart from me.

And then we went shopping on the Shampy Sleazy. I suppose that was alright if you like that sort of thing.All in all, I would rather be back in England having a warm pie and beer with my special friend the Detective.

Hopefully, we will be back soon and the world won’t have been destroyed by Pook and Clackprattle. The whole thing is being written about in some paper called “The Benthic Times”. The writer doesn’t seem very good, but the story might be interesting.

All the best,Your very good friend

Miss Felicity Henderson

PS If you get a chance, can you send a packet of Colbert’s Patented Washing Salts, Sir John has an embarrassing red wine stain on his dinner jacket and I feel the salts will help.

Oh dear! Poor Miss H it doesn’t sound like Paris suits her does it? I will certainly send her the salts and also a little potion I have tucked away for stain removal (although I won’t let on as to it’s true magical properties!)

If you would like to find out what happens to Miss Henderson, Sir John and Marie on their adventures in Paris you can read the entire story in THE BENTHIC TIMES.  And if that gets you hooked (and I’m certain it will!) you can read more of their adventures in their book ‘Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators Case Book 1 ..

You know when I was dusting Peril’s Lovely Library for him I came across a rare Jennings and Jennings story, and took it home to browse by the fire, would you like to hear it? It’s called The Nouveaumancer…
Nouveaumancer prisma (1).jpeg

The Nouveaumancer – by Paul Michael

 

I was awoken at the godforsaken hour of two o’clock by the butler. I guessed at the time by the angle of the sunlight streaming into the lounge window.

 

“There are two gentleman to see you,” said the butler, “from the constabulary.”

 

I sat up on the chaise longue that I had been sleeping on and wrapped my kimono around me.

 

“Well, show them in!” I said. The butler looked pointedly in the corner wherein was my latest art project. It was a nude of a girl. Also in the corner was the girl from the picture, still nude and fast asleep.

 

“I’m sure they have an open mind,” I said and the butler left. Shortly after, the two men appeared. The first was in his early 30s with a light suit and clear blue eyes. The second was in his 40s wearing a bowler hat, dark brown suit, and an enormous moustache. It twitched at the sight of my room. I’m not sure if was the general air of debauchery, the aforementioned painting, or the gently snoring girl that provoked that response. In fact, I had met the second gentlemen before, during an unfortunate incident the previous year. I won’t bore you with the details. In fact, I couldn’t; they’re really rather racy.

 

“Constable Blowfly!” I said. “How nice to see you again. Who is your young acquaintance?”

 

“It’s Detective Constable Blowry, Lord Hollingbury,” he said, gruffly. “This is Detective Inspector Hampton.”

 

“Enchante!” I said. “How may I assist you gentlemen this fine spring morning?”

 

The moustache twitched as I’d hoped, and the younger superior spoke.

 

“Lord Hollingbury, we’ve come because we need your specialist skills.” said Hampton. “Something unusual has happened … a man has died.”

 

“I would have thought that was fairly commonplace,” I said. The policeman looked confused.

 

“I mean, rather, that the circumstances of his death are unusual. There is the suggestion of … occult forces. You are, I believe, a … magician?”

 

“That’s rather an old-fashioned term,” I said. “I prefer something more in keeping with the modern times. I call myself a Nouveaumancer.”

 

“I see, well, whatever we call you, we think we need your help,” said Hampton.

 

I was about to speak when Blowry interrupted. As he spoke he stared straight ahead with a look of smug amusement on his face.

 

“Chief Inspector Mouslecomb wishes to be remembered and reminds you that he still has the photographs.”

 

“And I’m sure he finds them most delightful viewing on cold winter nights,” I said brightly, Blowry’s expression clouded and the moustache twitched.

 

“Still, I understand your inference. Let me put some more clothes on and you can show me what you have.”

 

Hampton looked a little perturbed. He glanced in the corner.

 

“What should we do with the young lady?” he said.

 

As I wandered to my dressing room I called back.

 

“You’re all consenting adults, you can do what you like!”

 

I could almost hear the moustache twitching down the hall.

 

***

 

Suitably attired, I travelled with the two members of the constabulary from my humble seaside abode on the Steine to an imposing looking house in Preston Park. The gentlemen escorted me down to a basement where there was a most interesting scene. A large circle and a triangle were inscribed on the floor with various symbols and hieroglyphs. Inside the triangle was an Egyptian sarcophagus with the lid pushed aside and a dead man dressed in a robe with a sheet over his face.

 

“What makes you think there is an occult influence?” I asked innocently. That’s always rather a struggle.

 

“The, eh, circle, triangle and robes really,” said Hampton, looking confused. I inferred humour wasn’t his strong suit.

 

I walked around the circle, first reading the hieroglyphs.

 

“These are Old Kingdom,” I said. “Not my speciality, but I can more or less read them. These are pleas to various deities imploring them for protection and assistance.”

 

I walked around a little further until something caught my eye.

 

“This is interesting,” I said, looking at the marks on the floor.

 

Hampton came over to look. He glanced down then looked at me.

 

“Is it some manner of demonic curse?” he said earnestly.

 

“No,” I said, “it’s a recipe for fish soup. I think whoever wrote this copied it from a book, and rather inexpertly at that. There’s far too much salt in it.”

 

I looked back into Hampton’s earnest blue eyes. It wasn’t an entirely unpleasant experience.

 

“Did the gentleman have some sort of book with mysterious and eldritch symbols?” I asked. “They usually do in my experience.”

 

Blowry shoved a grave looking tome between me and his superior with a quiet grunting sound. I looked at the book and flicked through the handwritten pages.

 

“How tiresome,” I said. “It’s written in some manner of code. I’ll have to look at that a bit later.”

 

I moved to the sarcophagus then and started to read the hieroglyphs on the lid.

 

“Dedelion,” I said. “Well, that’s a name to conjure with.”

 

“Who is he?” asked Hampton.

 

“A Fourth Dynasty magician,” I said. “He was said to have the power to create demons into physical form. He would assemble body parts of humans and animals and evoke the demon into the form, bringing it to life. It’s the sort of thing that Mrs Shelley or Mr Wells might write about.”

 

“Is this his sarcophagus?” asked Hampton.

 

“No,” I said, “but it’s something that belonged to him. Let me look at this book. Now I have a name, I may be able to crack this code.”

 

I looked in the book and skimmed for the name of the ancient magician in code.

 

“Good heavens!” I cried out.

 

“What is it man?” said Hampton, sounding panicked.

 

“This code is so simple a schoolboy could crack it … ah, I see now what he was trying to do.”

 

I looked again at the sarcophagus lid.

 

“Oh dear,” I said.

 

“What is it?” said Hampton.

 

“I think I know what happened here. May I see the corpse,” I said.

 

“Yes,” said Hampton, “but I must warn you, the man has some terrible injuries. The sight may be very disturbing.”

 

We walked around to the front of the sarcophagus and stood over the body. Hampton knelt down and looked up at me for confirmation, and I nodded gravely. He removed the cloth and looked away himself. I gasped and put my hands to my mouth.

 

“My word!” I said. “That haircut is two seasons out of date!”

 

“Good God, man!” exclaimed Blowry. “Have some humanity, a man has died!”

 

“Yes, and a man that was as foolish as he was unfashionable,” I countered. “If Mr Darwin’s theories are to be believed, and I think they are, this man has done the world a service, assuming he hasn’t bred. And with that haircut, I imagine he has not.”

 

“You said he was foolish,” said Hampton. “Was that because of the ritual he did.”

 

“Indeed,” I said, walking in front of the sarcophagus, “for this man has attempted, and I believe succeeded, in summoning to this world one of Dedelion’s most ferocious demons. A creature of immense power and utter cruelty. A creature that exists only to maim and kill. Unfortunately, because this idiot had only a passing knowledge of ancient Egyptian, he has managed to bring this beast into the wrong body.”

 

“What do you mean,” said Hampton.

 

“From his book he mistranslated this word here,” I said pointing to the sarcophagus. “He has translated this section as ‘within here is contained Master Dedelion’s most beloved and treasured demon.’ This is inaccurate by exactly one word. The word he has as demon is, in fact, … cat.”

 

“Then he has evoked a demon of immense power…” started Hampton.

 

“Yes,” I said, “into a mummified cat.”

 

There was silence as both men tried to comprehend what had happened. I took the advantage of the pause to turn to show my best side.

 

“The creature would have awakened in rage and confusion, hence the scratches on the fool’s face, and then gentlemen … it will have left to hunt.”

 

“To hunt what exactly,” said Blowry.

 

“A more fitting form,” I said.

 

***

 

“Follow me,” I said to the policemen as we left the house in Preston Park. “We need help and I know where we can find it.”

 

“Can’t you somehow track the creature?” said Hampton.

 

I stopped to face him.

 

“What would you like me to do, get on all fours?” I asked.

 

Hampton looked flustered, and Blowry’s moustache started twitching which provided me some light relief.

 

“I’m not a magical dog,” I said, “but I know where we might find one.”

 

We rode down to St James Street and knocked on the door of my old friend’s house. Presently, a butler with a pale, waxy face came to the door.

 

“Good day, sirs,” he said in a monotone voice. “May I take your names?”

 

“I am Lord Hollingbury, and these are two gents from the constabulary, namely Hampton and Blowry,” I said. “May we speak with the Maker.”

 

The butler nodded and walked down the entrance hallway. About halfway round he stopped suddenly, jerked and turned round and came back to the door.

 

“Good day, sirs,” he said in a monotone voice. “May I take your names?”

 

“Lord Hollingbury,” I said, “and acquaintances.”

 

The butler walked back into the house as before. Halfway down the hall he stopped and turned again. Suddenly, from behind him a short and plump figure with a welding mask appeared. It made an anguished sound before hitting the butler around the side of the head with a metal wrench. There was an unexpected clanging sound.

 

“Good God, man!” shouted Hampton. “What have you done!”

 

The policeman pushed past me into the corridor. The butler was lying on the ground and twitching as the short figure stood over him.

 

“I am going to have to arrest you, sir,” said Hampton.

 

The figure flipped up the welding mask to reveal a young woman’s face. She leant over the butler and opened his suit. A mass of wires and clockwork formed his upper chest.

 

“Bloody thing,” said the woman with a Scottish accent. “The short term memory is always a problem.”

 

“My God, it’s …”

 

“An automaton? A woman?” I asked stepping in. “Clarissa, darling, how are you?”

 

We embraced briefly, as I didn’t want to get engine oil on my suit.

 

“What are you doing with the peelers?” asked Clarissa the Maker. “Have they finally nabbed you for something? What was it – animal, vegetable, or mineral?”

 

“Nothing so mundane,” I said. “There’s something more than a little sinister on the loose in Brighton, and I need your help.”

 

I explained my requirements and discovered that Clarissa, bless her, had more or less what we needed. So in no time at all we were back at Preston Park with the nice gentlemen from the police and an automaton dog.

 

“It can trace the magical scent of the mummified cat,” explained Clarissa, “but it can get stuck behind complex objects. I’ll tag along to make sure it works.”

 

We let the automaton lose, and after running in circles it started off down Preston Drove.

 

We continued for some time with Clarissa adjusting the dog as we went, as it became thwarted by a plethora of everyday objects. We were heading down Millers Road when it first dawned on me where we may be going.

 

“You know, chaps,” I said to all and sundry, “call it intuition, but I think I know where the demon went. What would you think was interesting if you were a dead cat?”

 

“I don’t follow?” said Hampton.

 

“Dead birds,” I said.

 

***

 

When I got to the Booth Museum things weren’t as bad as I thought. They were much, much worse. Inside the foyer was one dead mummified cat and two dead museum staff, with a multitude of scratches on their bodies.

 

The Booth Museum has, of course, one of the largest collections of stuffed bird specimens in Europe. There are all sorts of shapes and sizes, from vast eagles to tiny sparrows. The demon had obviously had some difficulty choosing which bird to possess, as all the glass cabinets were smashed. It was clear though which form he had decided on in the end. The cabinets were completely empty; he had chosen to be all of the birds at once.

 

Having successfully managed to think like a mummified cat, I wondered what it would be like to be hundreds of dead birds. It was a difficult thing to do, even for me, so I waited for my companions. They had decided to follow the automaton dog in case my intuition was wrong. No, I don’t know why they did that either.

 

“There’s good news and bad news,” I said as they arrived. “The good news is that we have found the mummified cat. The bad news is we are now looking for several hundred reanimated dead birds.”

 

“The dog’s nae use then,” said Clarissa, “if yon beasties can fly.”

 

“Quite,” I said. “I imagine the birds will try and find a place where they can cause as much havoc and mayhem as necessary. So maybe we should look for somewhere visible from the air where people gather. Oh, and Blowry, I need you to pass a message on for me.”

 

I handed the policeman a slip of paper with a name and address. He looked at it with immense suspicion.

 

“It’s alright,” I said, “there’s no chance of contracting moral lassitude from it. It’s a note for someone who may help.”

 

I turned around to find Clarissa gone and Hampton gawping up at the sky. I followed his gaze and saw Clarissa had shinned up the nearest tree and was looking through a pocket telescope.

 

“I think I see where they went,” she said.

 

“How can you tell?” I asked.

 

“I can see people running,” she said. “Lots of them.”

 

***

 

 

As we headed to the seafront, we saw people running, too. They were shouting and screaming, which seemed to disturb Hampton but just reminded me of an interesting evening I’d had a few months back.

 

When we got to Hove Lawns, we saw the full extent of the chaos. By now, it was early evening and people were perambulating on the seafront. A nice turn around the lawns would be a natural thing to do, as one could enjoy the sea, the greenery, and look at the West Pier. Unfortunately, this evening’s promenade was being ruined by hundreds of dead birds: flying and running, biting and pecking. Couples ran for their lives, and fashionable young gentlefolk had their clothing ruined. It was hard to bear.

 

“Right, I’ll be back in a bit,” said Clarissa and headed off. “I may have something that will help.”

 

Hampton decided to be a hero and attack some of the birds, but that sent more flying at him. I stood at a short distance on Brunswick Terrace and viewed the scene. I drew a little circle to protect me from the demon. I had also seen the demon’s sigil so I knew I could trap it into a triangle at least. Hampton came to where I was, his clothes torn and scratches all over him.

 

“How can we defeat this?” he said. “It’s too powerful.”

 

“Well, first we need to contain it. Traditionally it should go in a triangle. The West Pier can form one side of it, and the Kingsway road the second. Then we would just need somehow to connect the end of the pier to – say about here, and we could trap the demon in that space. So we need someone to trot along the Kingsway muttering a special incantation, then keep going out to the pier and then somehow get back here.”

 

I looked at Hampton.

 

“Are you game?” I asked. He nodded gravely and I leant closely into his ear and whispered the words.

 

He headed off down the road whilst I tried to figure out how to get him back and close the loop. Just then Blowry arrived. He looked red-faced.

 

“What were you doing there with Detective Hampton,” he said accusingly.

 

“Nothing untoward,” I said, “just teaching him a powerful demonic incantation.”

 

I suppressed a smile as the moustache twitched. Just then a giant mechanical angel flew down onto the lawns.

 

“Thought it might help,” said Clarissa, who appeared next to us. She was holding a circular object that I inferred controlled the automaton. I was about ask how when it breathed fire.

 

“Oh, very good,” I said as burning birds fell to the ground. “Maybe we won’t need my plan after all.”

 

The angel span round emitting fire in all directions and soon large numbers of birds fell onto the lawns. If the sight of mad dead birds and screaming people hadn’t driven people away then a fire breathing angel did. The lawns were pretty empty and it seemed like the fight was all but over.

 

“Well done, old girl,” I said slapping Clarissa on the back. I turned to walk towards my local club. They would be serving cocktails by now.

 

“Wait,” said Blowry. “Look.”

 

The burnt birds had started to get up. They pulled themselves up onto their feet and slowly, awkwardly walked again. Then some started to flap charred wings, and they flew into the air.

 

“Oh dear,” I said. “I guess we can’t kill them if they’re not alive. Back to plan A, then. Clarissa darling, can you fly onto the West Pier and pick up Detective Hampton. We’re just trying to make a giant triangle to trap the demon in.”

 

“Of course,” said Clarissa and the angel flew over to the pier. Unfortunately, the birds had rather got the hump with it and flew across as well. As the angel landed on the roof of the pier it was forced to contend with birds diving at it from all angles. The angel breathed more fire, but the birds had learnt and were thinly dispersed. Worse, the pier caught fire in the mayhem. Clarissa took out her telescope again and could just see Hampton as he grabbed onto the angel’s legs. She piloted the device back to the lawn and away from the burning pier. He ran back up to join us in the circle.

 

“Good work,” I said. “Now we have them trapped as long as we are here.”

 

“Is that the plan then?” asked Blowry witheringly. “We stand on this step forever.”

 

“Well … we need a finishing touch, I suppose.” I said.

 

“Excuse me, Lord Hollingbury,” said a man with a cello. “We’ve arrived.”

 

“Oh, splendid!” I said. The man and three others with stringed instruments arranged themselves in semi circle.

 

“Debussy, I think,” I said to the quartet. I turned to look at the other three in the circle.

 

“I simply can’t think straight without music. I have this quartet on a permanent retainer. Thank you for fetching them, Blowry.”

 

As the warm, rich harmonies of the French genius wrapped around us I felt myself transported from the less fashionable end of Hove into a world of art and magic. The warp and weft of colours and sounds circulated in my mind, and freed from reason and rationale, I hatched a plan.

 

“We need the sarcophagus,” I said, “Good fellows of the constabulary, if you could arrange to bring that, it would help enormously. Clarissa, would you be able to keep the birdies entertained whilst that happens.”

 

Clarissa shrugged. “No problem,” she said.

 

“You see, the problem is there’s nothing physical to tie this demon to. He came in the wrong vessel so to speak, so he’s able to reanimate any dead thing. I can trap him into the sarcophagus, as that was his entry point, but then that leaves us with a very dangerous box. If the box opens with even a tiny crack the demon can escape and posses anything that is dead.”

 

“I see,” said Clarissa, “I think.”

 

An interesting thing had occurred whilst I explained the plan to Clarissa. The charred birds, now trapped and deprived of victims, had united into a giant creature. It was roughly humanoid, a shape I suppose the demon liked and around the same size as the angel. The two were trading blows on the lawn.

 

“Gentleman,” I said to the quartet. “I think this requires some Wagner.”

 

Clarissa and I watched the mechanical angel and the composite bird demon fight as an adaption of “Ride of the Valkyries” was played by the quartet. It made quite a spectacle.

 

The policemen arrived with the sarcophagus on a wheeled trolley. We pushed it into the triangle and onto one end as I started my incantations to trap the demon. The bird demon heard the words and came heading toward me. I chanted as quickly as I could as the creature got closer and closer. I uttered the last syllable to trap the beast, and I stepped out of the way as the birds were sucked into the sarcophagus. The two policemen maneuvered the lid into place. I used the control that Clarissa had given me to bring the angel onto the end of the sarcophagus and pressed the button to turn it off.

 

I turned to leave then saw the weight of the mechanical angel was too much for the sarcophagus. A crack had appeared along the edge.

 

“Oh, no!” I said. “The demon can escape!”

 

The demon’s essence flowed out of the sarcophagus. With the angel turned off, it was able to take over the giant automaton. The demon-angel leaned down at me so I flicked on the on switch and tried to move the angel away from me. The mechanical angel jerked and spasmed as the demon and I fought for control of it.

 

“I bet you’d rather like this,” I said to the demon holding up the circular controls. The angel leaned forward to reach for them but I threw them high in the air.

 

“Catch!” I said and the angel-demon’s hand reached out and caught the controls.

 

At that point the electric charge that Clarissa had just now fitted into the control triggered. Electricity surged through the angel-demon. It shuddered a little as its joints fused together. Finally, it stopped still. The demon was caught.

 

The policemen, Clarissa, and the string quartet walked over.

 

“Beethoven,” I said to the quartet. “Something pastoral.”

 

“You know,” said Clarissa, “I didn’t think it would work.”

 

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” I asked Clarissa,

 

“No, of course not. I have hoards of giant angel automatons at home,” she said sarcastically.

 

“That’s the spirit!” I said.

 

“Can we move this now?” said Hampton.

 

“That might be … inadvisable,” I said. “The demon is still there, it’s just stuck in that angel. If it comes into contact with anything it can reanimate, there may be trouble.”

 

“What should be done with it, then?” asked Hampton.

 

“I’d cover it with a nice layer of metal so it can’t accidentally touch anything and then I’d leave it there, call it a statue,” I said, “for peace, or something disinteresting like that.”

 

“It’s a shame about the pier,” said Hampton looking at the smouldering wreck.

 

“Oh, I’m sure they’ll do something about that,” I said. “No one would be crazy enough to leave a rotting wreck on the promenade.”

 

With the job complete, I turned to leave for my club. Those cocktails weren’t going to drink themselves.

 

***

 

It was a little after midnight when I got back to my house. And by a little, I probably mean five hours. I’d rather lost track of time, but I think sunlight was starting to appear. My butler came and brought me a cup of cocoa with a splash of rum. I thanked him and topped it up with rather more rum when he left. My nude model had vanished, which was unfortunate as the picture was half finished, and in truth, I could recall neither where I had met her or even her name.

 

So, unusually for me, I managed to get to my own bed, and equally unusually, I got to it on my own. As my eyes closed I thought I would probably sleep the sleep of the just. And I wondered what that was going to be like.

 

 

 

 

 


Steampunk Summer Postcards: Ichabod Temperance

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, lets see now what have we got in the letter box today… Why it’s a postcard from my dear friend Mr Ichabod Temperance and Miss Persephone Plumtartt! …

 

A Post-Card of Temperance

or,

Wish You Were Here in Sunny San Monique!

 

“Do you wish to remain a Virgin, Mr. Temperance?”

“Oh my Goodness, Miss Plumtartt! I’m a good boy!”

“I was referring to your ‘Pina Colada, sir. One had hopes that you might indulge a splash of San Moniquan spiced rum into your fantastical fruity concoction, eh hem?”

“I don’t think I oughter, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. I want to have all my senses operating at peak efficiency since I plan on communicating with our friends in the distant futuristic year of 2018. Thanks to my trans-dimensional, temporal scripto-rator, we can tell our friend Mrs Baker and her pals about our adventures here in 1877 on the island.”

“Delightful, Mr. Temperance, please detail the skinny on our dip into the Caribbean pool.”

“Yes Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. Well, you see, what happened was, a big, mean, VooDoo bigwig named Sku Le’Bizzare done up and kidnapped a pal of ours; the Right Reverend Alonzo Dolomite, and whisked him off to his secret island with the intention of instigating a global cadaver-awakening catastrophe. Well what do you know, this island is hidden by magic and our rescue party must seek passage on a ghost ship to visit the shark-infested waters of this tropical isle of terror.”

“One might make note, sir, that you and I were in the midst of heretofore unseen tribulations within our own relationship. I must say, your having taken up an unseemly friendship with that dance-hall floozy has left me uncharacteristically unnerved.”

“But you started running around with that handsome and dashing Kit Eppington first!”

“Be that as it may, our primary purpose here on San Monique is to free our friends and prevent an undead apocalypse, eh hem?”

“Yes, Ma’am, but things sure have not gone as I might think they would.”

“One cannot imagine how One would preconceive such an event. Never mind, sir, and listen. I detect the approach of shambling feet and dirge-like, though rhythmic, chants. One suspects that our gratefully undead waiter returns with delicious refreshments.”

shuffle, shuffle,

shuffle, shuffle,

Thoughts are fixed,

no need to think.

Plodding ahead,

without pause or blink.

Around and round,

like a skating rink.

Chop the fruit,

Prepare the drink.

Mix it up,

in the kitchen sink.

Especially for,

this Lady and Fink,

shuffle, shuffle,

shuffle, shuffle.

“Mmm! These are some yummy drinks, that VooDoo zombie dead feller brought us, Miss Plumtartt!”

“Just so, I quite agree, Mr. Temperance. I say, his curious song reminds me. This adventure we are upon, ‘The Measure of Temperance’, is your sixth of ten publications. Each of our previous five novels contain but a small amount or rhythm and song, yet this book and the subsequent four have music from end to end, do they not, eh hem?”

“Yes, Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. I reckon they are a bit Dr. Seuss-like in that regard, but I don’t see anything wrong with writing kids’ books for grown-ups, Ma’am.”

“One is not quite sure how to respond to that statement, Mr. Temperance.”

“Ain’t no response necessary, Ma’am. Let’s just say goodbye to Mrs Baker and her wonderful friends in Lancaster. I wonder if my little pal Collin the Octopus will read this? Let me know if you need any adjustments on your above-water breathing apparatus, little buddy!”

“Thank you, ever so much, Mrs Baker darling, for allowing Mr. Temperance and myself to send greetings from Sunny San Monique. Ta ta! We do so truly wish that you and your kind readers were here.”

 

 

Oh how splendid, I’m so glad they are umm… enjoying themselves! I hope they make it back in one piece though, having had my own encounters with zombies I can vouch for their ferocity! I’ll be sure to pass this postcard on to Max and Collin when they come in from their hard days’ work, I think Collin may be keen to approach Mr Temperance upon their return on the subject of a tentacular cooling system for this hot weather…

If you’d like to find out what happens to Mr Temperance and Miss Plumtartt in this their 6th adventure you can do so here:

Or if you’d rather start at the beginning (and I highly recommend that you do as it is a splendidly entertaining steampunk saga!) you can find the first book here…

 

Bon Voyage and blessings on your pina coladas my dears!

 

 

 

In the interests of Transparency, a note from Penny : I have the potential to earn a small amount of income through the Amazon Associates program should visitors to this site choose to purchase books via the links in this article. I only review and recommend products which I genuinely think others will enjoy – Penny 🙂 


Steampunk Summer Postcards: Greetings from Hopeless Maine!

 

 

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… Why it’s a postcard from our dear friends on the island of Hopeless Maine, our favourite gothical place to be! (As long as one is armed with a sturdy rolling pin to ward off the night potatoes that is!) …

 

Postcard (1).jpg

Of course you are all aware that the latest installment in the Hopeless Maine body of tentacular awesomeness, Sinners, is now available …

sinners

And you can follow the building body of island intrigue in their pan-dimensional newspaper The Hopless Vendetta  

I certainly hope to pay another visit very soon, as soon as I have strengthened some of my shielding spells and re-enforced my cauldron that is, the plant life are disturbingly sentient there you know and seem to resent being turned into soup!

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 


Tea at Three: Mythpunk For Monsters

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

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

Mahrime_Cover_for_Kindle

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Mahrime

mahrime quote

 

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

 

The Road Back Lost

mahrimequote3

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

 

DAMAO

mahrimequote2

 

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

 

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

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

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

Utterly Yourself.