Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

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The Department of Curiosities Book Launch Blog Tour : Guest Post From Karen J Carlisle

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The Characters of The Department of Curiosities

I introduced Tillie Meriwether in an earlier book blog tour post (Meet Viola Stewart
and Tillie Meriwether – https://phoebedarqueling.com/2019/04/27/karen-carlisle-viola-
stewart-and-tillie-meriwether-guest-post/ ), now it’s time to introduce some of the other
characters in The Department of Curiosities.
Every hero (or heroine) needs a backup team. Some are sought out. Some thrust upon
them. Some insinuate themselves slowly – for better or for worse.
Most of the characters you’ll meet are associated with The Department of Curiosities, a
government unit in charge of acquiring; cataloguing and securing said ‘Curiosities’. The
‘Department’ is essentially a gigantic curiosity cabinet, only the ‘Curiosities’ are hidden from the avaricious eyes of The Society (Men in Grey) and other nefarious groups – for ‘the good of the people’.

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Lord Professor Avery Allington:
When Tillie Meriwether meets Avery Allington, he introduces himself to Tillie as
‘Professor Allington’. Avery Allington (Sir Avery) longs to be defined by his works and not
his title. He prefers to think he earned his position in The Department of Curiosities based on
his education and loyalty, rather than legacy.
He understands what it is to be judged by what you are and not for whom you are and,
as a result, he tries not to judge others on position or appearance. He ignores Tillie’s gender
and youth (she’s only twenty and hasn’t been presented to Society as yet) to discover her
value to The Department, via her intelligence, resourcefulness and enthusiasm.
Once his loyalty is given, Sir Avery will give the benefit of the doubt and requires
factual proof before he withdraws his loyalty. He trusts General Sabine implicitly, even to
ignoring Tillie’s concerns about the loyalty and motives of others, and his own doubts of
Tillie’s allegiances. As a result, he ignores ‘blind spots’, and the possible consequences, this
will create.
Through Sir Avery, Tillie discovers a clandestine world of secrets and the hidden
repository where illegal and unregistered mechanicals and contraptions are housed.
Allington sees the potential good in the ‘curiosities’ they are charged to remove from
circulation. Eventually he must decide which is more important: loyalty or scientific discovery.

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The General:

Next we meet General Sabine, Director of The Department of Curiosities. He is an ex-military man, loyal (beyond doubt) to the Empire, and an ardent admirer and confidant of the Queen. He is also a scientist, specialising in magnetic fields. Thus his allegiances are to the Empire and scientific research…

(The General was inspired by the historical ‘Major-General Edward Sabine’ who wrote a treatise on magnetic fields, was Scientific Advisor to the Admiralty, a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, and President of the Royal Society.)

 

Operatives and Domestics:

We also meet various ‘underlings’ and operatives of The Department of Curiosities, including Harrow, Smythe, Saunders and Grace – operatives, coachman, valet and maid. All have a vital role to play in Tillie’s development into a fully-trained operative, and as she learns who is she can trust and where her loyalties truly lie.

As you probably suspect, all four characters have their own secrets and motives, and are not all what they seem. (Spoilers!)

My favourite secondary character is Grace.

Grace’s original appearance was a Ladies’ maid to Tillie. After all, a nineteenth century lady needs assistance. And when working in a male-dominated department, Society would insist Tillie have a chaperone. By the final draft, Grace’s characters had grown, complete with her own secrets, loyalties and motives to be explored more in book two of the series.

 

The Villain:

“The Inventor?” Harrow scoffed. “I always thought that name was pretentious.”

 

Finally a bit about the villain of the story:

The Inventor, aka known as ‘The Professor’. The Inventor hides behind many names. He also hides behind a mask, not for anonymity but for protection against the world. He is a germophobe, requiring all who come in contact with him to wear a protective mask and demanding his henchmen to be injected with silver as a safeguard (this was a cure used in the nineteenth century). He is hungry for fame and will do anything for recognition by The Royal Society. The Inventor would be comical, if it were not for his callousness and disregard for others.

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The Department of Curiosities will be released 22nd May, 2019.

 

If you want to follow the rest of The Department of Curiosities book launch blog tour, check out the links on my blog post: www.karenjcarlisle.com/DOC1bookblogtour

You can pre-order your eBook copy of The Department of Curiosities (for special price of US$2.99) at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/934976

or sign up for my newsletter at: https://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/

Follow me on:

Or support me on Patreon (for less than a cup of coffee a month and you get cool rewards!): https://www.patreon.com/KarenJCarlisle

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Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of speculative fiction – steampunk, Victorian mystery and fantasy.

She graduated in 1986, from Queensland Institute of Technology, with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Optometry, and lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.

Karen first fell in love with science fiction when she saw Doctor Who, as a four-year old. This was reinforced when, at the age of twelve, she saw her first Star Destroyer. She started various other long-term affairs with fantasy fiction, (tabletop) role-playing, gardening, historical re-creation and steampunk – in that order.

She has had articles published in Australian Realms Roleplaying Magazine and her short story, An Eye for Detail, was short-listed by the Australian Literature Review in their 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes?’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.

She writes full-time and can often be found plotting fantastical, piratical or airship adventures, and co-writing the occasional musical ditty.

Karen has always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.

She is not keen on the South Australian summers.

www.karenjcarlisle.com

 

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Aether Egg Hunt: With Phoebe Darqueling

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Good Morning! Happy Chocolate Fest or whatever fabulous festival you happen to be celebrating at this time of the year!
My name is Phoebe Darqueling and I write fiction that fans of Steampunk and Gaslamp fantasy love.
Here in Steampunk’d Lancaster we are enjoying the annual Aether Egg Hunt – a chance for authors to connect with their readers and give a little gift of thanks for all their support in the form of an Aether Egg or Small Gift linked to the fictional world they have created.
And here is my contribution to the fun!
You can do a digital jigsaw puzzle of the cover of my newest novel, No Rest for the Wicked. My record is 5 minutes. Think you got me beat? Leave a comment with your time.
https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0943fc60f199

 

Twitter No Rest Hieber review

Plus, you can preview the full first chapter of No Rest for the Wicked on
https://www.steampunkjournal.org/read-ch-1-of-no-rest-for-the-wicked-by-phoebe-darqueling/

Covers
You can find my fiction books like No Rest for the Wicked on my Amazon page (www.bit.ly/PhoebeD)
and pickup a FREE copy of The Steampunk Handbook by signing up for my e-news. Find out more
here: http://ow.ly/Uohw30mfCLN
And connect with on Twitter (@gearturns), Instagram (@phoebedarqueling), my Facebook fan group
(https://www.facebook.com/groups/PhoebeDarquelingFans/)
Have a “hoppy” day and come back next time to get your next author giftie.

 


Aether Egg Hunt: With Karen J Carlisle

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

The Aether Egg

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

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

THE END

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

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

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

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

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Wishing you a Springtime filled with splendid shenanigans!

Do remember to keep an eye out this month and hunt down all the Aether Egg surprises that will be appearing each week until May!

 

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


Aether Egg Hunt: With Madeleine Holly-Rosing

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Happy Spring Equinox!

My name is Madeleine Holly-Rosing and I write the steampunk supernatural series, Boston Metaphysical Society. If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s about an ex-Pinkerton detective, a spirit photographer, and a genius scientist who battle supernatural forces in late 1800s Boston.

Here in Steampunk’d Lancaster we are enjoying the annual Aether Egg Hunt – a chance for authours to connect with their readers and give a little gift of thanks for all their support in the form of an Aether Egg or Small Gift linked to the fictional world they have created.

And here is my contribution to the fun! The entire first six issues of the graphic novel series can be read online for FREE!  Just pop on over to Boston Metaphysical Society website and start reading whenever you like.

It’s such a big world that I wrote two more graphic novels, a novel, and anthology.

You can find my books here:

Boston Metaphysical Society:  A Storm of Secrets

https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B07HCP9SW5&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_v5jFCb0K2MBK3

Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude

https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B00XB5U82Q&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_s9jFCbJ4H0EXH

Boston Metaphysical Society: The Complete Series – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0996429220/

Boston Metaphysical Society: The Scourge of the Mechanical Men-

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0996429247/

Boston Metaphysical Society: The Spirit of Rebellion (Available in May 2019)

You can find out more about me on the interwebs here:

 

Website: http://www.bostonmetaphysicalsociety.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BostonMetaphysicalSocietyComic/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mhollyrosing

Instagram:  http://www.instagram.com/mcholly1


Rromani Steampunk: Sources Of Information for writers

Greetings! Today has happily brought yet another request for sources of information  / research for writing authentic Rromani characters particularly in the sci fi / fantasy genre – this is great! I’m so happy that people are starting to get on board with this issue!

So I thought it would be a good idea to create a stripped down post that’s easy to point people at and quick to get info from on this topic. Here, then, are some quick tips for writing authentic Rromani characters in your fiction…

  1. Read Rromani Autobiography and Fiction.

We have a mantra “Nothing about us without us” and it’s a healthy one to keep in mind. The best way to learn about Rromani  people is to read what our people have written about ourselves – not someone else’s interpretation of us, which (however well meant) is never going to be as authentic and accurate.

So, here’s a list of fabulous Rromani writers across many genres to get you started:

Maggie Smith-Bendell

Rajko Ðjurić

Jessica Reidy

Ian Hancock

Caren Gussof-Sumption

Glenda Bailley-Mershon

Rosie Mckinley

Mikey Walsh

Jess Smith

Violet Cannon

Nan Joyce and Anna Farmer

Diane Tong

Jasper Lee

Nina Dudarova

Olga Pankova

Bronislawa Wajs

Philomena Franz

Elena Lackova

Hedina Tahirović Sijerčić

Cecilia Woloch

Louise Daughty

Mariella Mehr

Luminiţa Mihai Cioabă

Oksana Marafioti

Paola Schopf

Margita Reiznerová

Sterna Weltz-Zigler

Diana NormaSzokolyai

Nadia Hava-Robbins

Tera Fabianova

Katarina Taikon Langhammer

Irena Eliášová

Writers who’ve done an especially cringey / bad / offensive job of writing Rromani characters include…

Phillip Pulman

Tim Powers

Emily Bronte

Stephen King

Robert Jordan

Jane Austin

It’s worth reading them to learn what not to do! lol.

 

2. Ask why you want your character to be Rromani – if it’s just for exotic flavour or as a plot device then forget it, sorry but no one wants to be a tool! If the character is an authentic character in their own right with a personality, back story, potential for growth, development and future who just happens to Rromani, that’s the sort of representation we’re looking for 🙂

3. Avoid ‘research’ or ‘biography’ written by non-Rroma. Even if they have traveled or lived with Rromani people. Ask ‘why would someone want to study another group of people and why would they particularly choose Rromani people?’ Often the reason is that they find Rromani people exotic and so have paid a clan to let them ‘see the magic from the inside.’ You are an intelligent person, you can see the problems inherent in a mutually-exploitative situation like that! Other times a person who has adopted a new-age traveling lifestyle and spent time with Rromani travelling folk … the problem with authenticity here is that the writer may see the picture without the background  – they tend to write about the current situation of the small, poverty stricken, desperate group of displaced Roma they encountered, without any understanding of how this situation came to be, how it affects the people they are writing about, how it compares to other groups of Roma around the world and, importantly, how compares to other groups of different cultures in the same conditions – because only then can we begin to separate socio-economic issues from cultural ones!

Some writers to avoid in this area include…

Isabel Fonseca

Dominic Reeve

Raymond Buckland

Charles Leland

 

So, there you go – hopefully those are all quick, useful points to take away 🙂 Got any questions or other topics you’d like me write about on this issue? Leave me a note in the comments or drop me an email 🙂

Big blessings, Penny


#Rainbow Snippets: Jack and Marjory

 

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

So, here is the next snippet from Jack and Marjory – my novella-in-progress which gives two of my Bi-Gendered characters a chance to tell something of their own little side-adventure, which actually had a massive impact on the history of Ire in a ‘behind-the-scenes’ kind of way.

If you missed last week’s snippet you can catch up here: #Rainbow Snippets: Jack and Marjory

If you want to start from the beginning you can do so here: https://blakeandwight.com/2018/09/29/rainbowsnippets-jack-and-marjory/

Jack and Marjory have landed themselves with an unwanted travelling companion and, in a sudden fit of paranoia possibly brought on by too much tea, they are trying to figure whether he is more than he seems…  Apologies that this one is a cheeky bit over 6 sentences to keep things neat for next week…

 

“Demerara devised a chamber in which sugar-loving microbes were fed a solution of sweetened tea (also a left-over from the tiffin tables of the elite) and kept at a constant temperature of 131 degrees Fahrenheit. He then added the resulting sludge to the rancid cream in a second chamber, where the new mixture was deprived of oxygen and kept at a constant neutral ph. In just one week, the cream had yielded over eight times its mass in utilisable hydrogen gas! Can you imagine it?!”

“Not just now.” We was too busy imagining ways of escape… garotting the infuriating cretin with his own boot laces being one of them… no one, we felt strongly, had the right to hold us in such a quandry. But what to about it ? If he really was just a pitifully boring cove, murder seemed, perhaps, a little excessive (we should make it clear, Pal, that at this point we was naive in the ways of the world, had never actually dealt death to anyone and was subsiquently quite glib about contemplating it) On the other hand, if he really was one of Her Majesty’s Good Folk, or worse a wizard in disguise , we’d little chance of besting him no matter what we tried.

He shook his head “Here we are in the age of cream – locomotives, skyway trains, what next eh?”

We shrugged, “What next?”

He laughed, “Never a bad question that is it?” There was that disconcerting smile again.

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being an entertaining and informative piece of travel writing by a couple of rogues on the run as they attempt to avoid the machinations of wizards, monarchs and a ruthless band of beatnik poets, deflect a civil war and deliver a priceless, historical tea set before the owner finds himself at the gallows.

 

Wishing you all a most splendiferous week and don’t forget to check in at the #rainbowsnippets facebook group for more fabulous snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction 🙂 

 

rainbow flower image courtesy of mariah22 at http://www.freeimages.com

book cover image by Renphoto 


Steampunk Aether Egg Hunt!

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Greetings! Spring has sprung here in Steampunk’d Lancaster, the mechanical blossoms are opening, the drone pollinators are buzzing, the street corners are once again populated by pestilent urchins selling lemonade… what better way to celebrate spring in steampunk style than with an Aether Egg hunt?

An Aether Egg (similar to an Easter Egg in the world of Gaming) is a small gift to the reader in the form of a freebie / extract /  lesser-known information or inside-joke as a way of saying thankyou for their support.

Throughout April, a host of fabulous steampunk authors will be sharing their Aether Eggs each week as part of our Awesome Steampunk Aether Egg Hunt  – there are free book extracts, original artwork, online games and giveaways to look forward to and I really hope you’ll enjoy hunting them all down!

So, pop on a large pair of bunny ears, grab your basket and let’s begin! (Be warned though, many things can pop out of eggs besides cute fluffy spring chickies… perhaps pack that blunderbuss as well eh?)

Happy Hunting! – Penny 🙂

 

 

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


Soup Of The Day: With Addison Albright

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Chicken (or Turkey) and Noodles

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Website/Blog: https://authoraddisonalbright.com

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

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/AddisonAlbright

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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…