Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

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Silk and Steel

And here’s Vraxi straight after his encounter with Spyro. This one’s quite introspective (though purely emotive not graphic) so, again, if you find these things upsetting you’ll want to skip this one. The next one is fine though 🙂 xx

 

 

It took a little over an hour of walking the darkening cobbled streets, keeping to the gunnels and snickets, sometimes even taking to the rooftops for a while, before Vraxi felt he could face anybody.

To say he had never felt so utterly desolated and worthless would be a lie. He had sat with these demons more times than he cared to count. But he had made it the purpose of almost every moment of his life to try and forget, to push those feelings away, to mask and ignore and gloss over the fact that he was not a person that anyone could ever love, like or desire.

He never expected any of those things from anyone, least of all from Mendicci, not even from Xander (although he dared to hope that perhaps, one day, his friend might come to understand how much he genuinely cared about him). But in the space of one short afternoon, Mendicci had completely dismantled the emotional scaffolding that Vraxi kept carefully in place to try and stop himself sliding into despair. He’d let Vraxi see himself the way he saw him – as nothing but a convenient piece of pretty flesh that was only worth his attention if it was doing exactly as it was told. In Mendicci’s eyes, Vraxi only existed to please him, he had no other worth or purpose and his own feelings, emotions, desires, were so insignificant that even Vraxi himself would not be permitted to acknowledge them.

Vraxi sat on the gutter rail, his legs hanging over the edge of the rooftop and swallowed hard. None of this was new. It had just been a while since he had been forced to remember how very powerless and alone he was. And how trapped. His entire livelihood was entrenched in Silk and Steel, he lived and worked and thrived and survived and had his liberty (despite his many misadventures) because they allowed it. There was no more to say about the matter.

He touched two fingers to the bite mark at his neck and winced. A whore’s mark. Had Spyro known what that would mean to a boy who was born in a brothel? Of course he had.

“Enough.” he said out loud. “You are becoming tedious Vraxanthrin, and if there is one thing nobody should ever be able to accuse you of, it is being tedious.” It took a momentous effort then to fight down the voices which screamed that tedious was exactly what Spyro Mendicci found him, probably Ros and Agathri and Xander and Edmund and everyone else as well.

“I will, not, hear you.” he whispered, swallowing it all down and standing up to stretch his arms and legs. Stretching always made him feel a little better. He spread his arms out and turned a full circle then skipped a silly little dance across the slates and forced himself to laugh. “Come on, enough,” he told himself again, clapping his hands together before swinging lightly down onto an outhouse roof and then into the next street. “Let us go and find some diversion or other, Xander is bound to be abroad somewhere, perhaps we can persuade him to a game of chance? Or if not,” he reasoned, turning onto the bright lit mainstreet and feeling the voices begin to fade amid the cacophony of lights and sounds and smells that filled the city night, “at least we may find some amusement or distraction in the form of something or someone.”

To say that he felt better as he pushed open the door of The Cross Keys and began weaving his way towards the familiar hunched figure that could only be Xander Dumarle, would have been a lie.

But then it would have been equally untrue to say that anybody looking at him would have guessed he wasn’t anything but on top of the world, as usual.


Silk and Steel

So Vraxi is invited to ‘lunch’ and this one comes with a trigger warning my lovelies  –

There’s nothing too graphic or gratuitous but it is an emotive extract and does portray power imbalance within a sexual relationship and implied emotional, psychological and physical abuse. Give it a miss if you find these things upsetting and I’ll see you on the other side. xx

 

 

*

“So, Agathri Hogarth paid you to remove the pastes and the demonsong was an unexpected bonus?” Spyro undid the top button of Vraxi’s shirt, and then the second. He brushed aside the silk fabric, revealing a few inches of the Yag’s shoulder where the fire inside him was rolling in furious clouds beneath his translucent olive skin. Slowly he traced his fingers along the collar bone.

“Just so. A side job. Nothing more. I didn’t think you’d mind.” Vraxi tilted his head, trying to catch Spyro’s eye. “She wanted the insurance money.”

“I see.” More buttons fell away at Spyro’s gently insistent touch and another tug brought the shirt right off and sliding down to the floor.

Vraxi’s heart was racing. Of all the people in all his little world, Spyro thrilled him the most, terrified him the most; was the most attentive, and yet the most elusive, the most dangerous and delightful and demoralising. A month could pass without him so much as glancing at the Yag, and Vraxi would begin to wonder if Mendicci had lost interest in him, would begin to feel rejected, insecure and almost desperate in the man’s presence until at last he lost hope and turned his attention to other, less complicated playmates like Agathri or Ros.

But other times, and Vraxi never knew what it was that caused the change, Spyro seemed not to be able to keep his hands off him. He seriously hoped this was the start of another one of those stints when he would engineer every opportunity for them to be alone together, knowing that within seconds he would feel Mendicci’s breath hot against the side of his neck, or his hands wandering idly over his shoulders, chest, hips, sliding, slipping, grasping.

He reached for the black buttons on Spyro’s damask waistcoat, but Mendicci caught his hand and held it gently back against the wall as he let the fingers of his other hand skirt along the lip of Vraxi’s leather waist band. “Why do you always wear such tight trousers?”

Vraxi smirked, “Perhaps it is that I like playing hard to get?”

Spyro trailed his fingers round a second time, pushing a little deeper below the fabric. “We both know that is not the case.”

“Well…what would you have me do?” The Yag asked playfully. “Wear a skirt?”

Spyro smiled thoughtfully, sliding his hand up, over the Yag’s chest, tracing slowly and deliberately over the single sigil which kept his soul trapped inside his flesh.

Vraxi winced and closed his eyes, gritting his teeth against the mix of pain and pleasure coursing through his frame. The flames inside him swelled and coiled in and over and under themselves in response to Spyro’s touch until he felt he was going to explode.

“Look at me, Bane.” Spyro caught the yag under the chin and brought his lips within a hair’s breadth of his own, looking deep into his eyes for so long, that for one wonderful, terrifying, heartbreaking moment Vraxi thought he was going to… kiss him…something Spyro had never done before…

But instead he turned Vraxi’s head slowly to the side and brushed his lips briefly against the Yag’s neck. “I would have you do, exactly what I tell you to do, exactly when I tell you to do it,” he breathed. And then bit down, slowly, not hard enough to break the skin, just drawing soul and fire up towards the surface until Vraxi began to twitch away, crying out for him to stop.

He didn’t immediately, of course, that wasn’t the game. He waited until his name was a desperate gasp on the Yag’s lips, until the first tears spilled down his burning cheek.

Then he let him go. “Get them off.” he said, slapping the Yag’s backside and starting to unbuckle his own belt.


Silk and Steel

And here’s what our lil Vraxi is obliviously up to while all that was going on, blissfully unaware that Spyro’s ‘sword of Damocles’ is hanging over his head (no no no, stop singing Rocky Horror… stop it!… this is serious stuff y’know… a-hem…   😉   XD   )

 

“When you said you would be able to remove some unwanted pastes for me dear,” Agathri Hogarth didn’t get up from her dressing table, but watched the Yag’s reflection in the mirror as he climbed in through her powder room window, “you made no mention of turning the entire house into a demolition site in the process.”

Vraxi shrugged, “you made no mention of your brobdingnagian security system, my lady. Indeed, you may count yourself fortunate I do not come begging recompense for the damage to my coat.”

Agathri smirked, “When weighed against the cost of the damage you caused by setting it off, and considering the market value of the four vials of demonsong you requested, I’m certain I should be the one claiming recompense from you.”
“Well, then I am all contrition,” Vraxi said, with a low bow, “however can I make it up to you?”
Agathri smiled slyly at him, rose from the dressing table and drifted idly towards him, the many diaphanous layers of her dressing gown flowing like flames of muted light around her in the little breeze from the open window.
She pressed her palms gently against his chest and Vraxi felt his own fire begin to swell and uncoil within him, even as he watched hers rising and rolling beneath the surface of her skin.
She nestled her head of tight silver curls against his shoulder. “Whatever do you see in me?” she asked suddenly, her breast rising and falling with a gentle sigh. “Such a faded bloom I must seem in this city, among a garden of new budding blossoms who keep their youth eternally.”
He took her hand in his and caressed the parchment-frail skin tenderly before bringing it to his lips in an almost reverent gesture, letting the kiss whisper against her wrist like a prayer.
“You are no rose.” He spoke the words into her ear. “Never have you held such transient, fragile allure. Your beauty is the rich, enthralling depths within the pearl, the amber, the tourmaline; a spell that cannot be cast in some brief moment. Yours is the radiance that only time can bestow; deep as the swell of ocean or the heat of flame and maddening as golden honey to the mind…”
Agathri laughed out loud with glee. “You ridiculous rogue!” she chided, “It is your own wicked tongue that maddens like a honey-trap and well you know it!”
She pushed him away and crossed back to the dressing table, locking the door before winding up the handle of an ornate resin-cylinder phonograph until the raucous music filled the room, and no doubt the entire upper portion of the house.
‘Just as well,’ Vraxi thought with a grin, Agathri had never had a penchant for being discreet and he really didn’t like the thought of the Colonel suddenly coming home and… interrupting them…


Silk and Steel

So, right now I’ve not much clue what day it is or what I’m meant to be doing my life has become even more of a yarn ball that a pack of feral kittens have been handed lol, what with Dan working from home most days, all four kiddos in lock-down mode it seems every moment mama needs a new trick up her sleeve to juggle people and pokemon and elves and spring bunnies and creepy pasta people… it’s all good fun but it just means I’ve no brain or time for much else! XD Still, this book is still flowing in the few quiet dark hours so here’s the next bit. How are your days shaping up? Hopefully better than Ros and Spyro’s… XD

 

 
The Yag’,  Ros thought as she spun on her heel and stormed back into the house behind the shop. Who else could it possibly be? Either Spyro had acted without her knowledge… no, she immediately dismissed that possibility… or the greedy, opportunistic little Yag and his demon-bound friend had made the mistake of their lives.

Possibly the mistake of all our lives, Ros thought desperately. The colonel, a retired demon hunter who still retained a healthy appetite for adventure, owned many of the properties – both commercial and residential – out of which the associates of Silk and Steel operated. His connections to high society were, in many cases, their connections to the same and his unimpeachable reputation validated a significant number of their fronts across the city.

Ros went to the tzujka cabinet and poured herself a drink. What have you done, Vraxi? She thought furiously… and why? She had to get to the bottom of this immediately; to ascertain whether the Yag and his dumb-waiter had acted on impulse or if they had taken on the job from someone higher up the chain, in either case she would have to make an example of them some how, but if the latter were so she needed to find out who they were working for before she pounced.

She left the drawing room and wound her way through to the cramped little cupboard they used for doing accounts, easing the door open with her hip.

Spyro, half hidden behind piles of old books, gilt framed paintings and mounds of paperwork, looked up from his desk as she entered.

“Busy?” she asked, handing him a tzujka .

“Always. But never too busy.” he replied, his dark eyes drinking in her appearance in a way that made it quite obvious what he was thinking.

Ros shook her head. “We need to put a tighter leash on our firey little friend.” she said seriously, taking the only other chair in the tiny over-stocked room.

Spyro leant back and steepled his fingers. “Again?” he asked, and Ros narrowed her eyes at his ambiguous tone, unsure exactly what he was thinking. She shot him a warning look but he merely smiled and said nothing.

“His unwitting actions have rocked the boat.” she said tartly. “Seriously this time I’m afraid; the colonel is very upset and although he hasn’t said as much, I think we’re going to feel the crushing blow of his displeasure before too long.”

“Ah, I meant to find out where that pair got their hands on four vials of demonsong…” Spyro tapped his fingers together thoughtfully. “In wrapping up the Pav’shamah contracts and trying to manage the carnage the Doctor has left us with, I placed the question on a back burner.”

“Well, the matter is now a pressing one.” Ros said firmly. “I need to know… we need to know, if they decided on a whim to add the colonel’s property to the list of jewel grabs we told them to make …”

“What would be the logic in that?” Spyro asked. “All the houses we listed were on the East side of the city – that serves the strategy of our purpose in angering those who are most likely to blame the duke for the rise in crime and to paint him as incompetent in the public eye. The colonel’s town house is on the west side. They would have had to go considerably out of their way to include it just for the sake of a few pastes.”

“Pastes?”

Spyro opened a desk drawer, pulled out a bag and emptied a collection of necklaces, brooches and bangles onto the desk. To the untrained eye they were very convincing but neither Spyro nor Ros needed to examine them to tell at once they were fake.

“And the demonsong.” Ros added.

Spyro shrugged, “I rather thought that was an unexpected find. They tried to sell it to me in the same haul as the jewels.”

“And you didn’t tell me?”

Spyro looked uncharactaristicly strained for a second. He put a hand over his eyes and massaged his temples with his thumb and forefinger. “If you recall…” he said, looking up again through his fringe of dark curls, “things got a little intense that night.”

Ros’s expression softened a little, and she reached across the table and stroked her partner’s hand. It was not a sympathetic gesture; rather one which exerted her power over his need. But they both smiled at the action – they had played this game for a long time afterall and, despite its constant cadence there was trust, there had to be.

“So, you think the jewel grab was pre-planned but the demonsong was an unexpected bonus?” Ros asked, frowining slightly when Spryo closed his hand over hers, preventing her from withdrawing easily.

He held it for a moment, moving his thumb slowly over her fingers, and then finally spread his palms and shrugged. “I honestly have no idea.”

Ros nodded. “I will ask the Doctor to have a word with him this time.”

Spyro shook his head, “Leave it with me.” he said, in a tone that did not invite dispute. “Bane is far too tightly woven into our inner circle to risk scaring him off.”

“I doubt Vraxi would ever betray us knowingly.”

“True. But a frightened fox will bolt for any hole. We want to draw him in closer, not scare him away.”

Ros nodded and bit her lip, fully grasping the implications of what he was saying.

“Leave him to me.” Spyro repeated. “I know how to put Bane in his place.”
He tapped the ledger he was writing in with his pen. “I’ll be done here by one, tell him to come to lunch.”


Silk and Steel

Happy Beltane! I hope this finds you all still safe and well 🙂

Well camp NaNo is over and instead of finishing this ‘short story’ … a-hem… I seem to have turned it into a novel, working in all manner of complex shit from my time on the streets as a teenager to my issues and hangups about love, religion and gods know what else! I should probably be shot or lynched or something but hey ho here I am still prattling on! 😉 So I’m well over 30k now ‘filling in the gaps’ I’ve split the book into three parts : A time for heroes / Stone the crows / The end of the world (no prizes for guessing what music I’m listening to right now.. a-hem…) and each has about three short chapters but they’ll be interspersed with those lil monologue reflections from Spyro and some from his nemesis the mysterious Man In The Moon.

So, all that’s gone so far has been chapter one and two now we move on to chapter 3… if you are still managing to cling on to this crazily careering ship full of monsters then thankyou from the bottom of my heart!

Chapter 3

“I’m having a problem with cats.” Colonel Gerrhard Hogarth didn’t look up from perusing the antiques on display. He picked up a closed umbrella and tried it in a thrusting motion back and forth a few times, finally giving it a rather swashbuckling flourish before frowning in dissatisfaction and returning it to its stand.

“Cats?” Ros asked perplexedly.

“Mm, cats,” Hogarth said, turning and fixing her with a rather hard stare. “Got anythin’ for ’em?”

“Um…” Ros spread her hands “…cats aren’t really our domain, Colonel?” she ventured, wondering what on earth was really going on behind this sham of senility. The colonel often played the fool, usually in order that he might delight himself and his ordinance with some fine joke he was building up to, but very occasionally he had a different motive, and then, Ros reflected, he could be a teensy bit dangerous. She hoped this time it was joke.

The colonel did another slow, tortuous circuit of the shop and then came to rest at the counter, his fists balled against the glass, arms locked straight, cold blue eyes fixed on Ros’s dark pools of innocence. ‘Oh dear’ she thought, and gave him her very sweetest smile.

“Funny thing,” the colonel said, “cats not being your domain. I was rather under the impression they constituted a large portion of your business..” Ros opened her mouth but shut it again quickly as the colonel ploughed on “…vermin, is what I call them. Oh, I know you ladies have a great love of the blighters, my wife is just the same, but the trouble is they get everywhere.” He raised his eyebrows as if Ros should now be completely aware of what he was talking about.

Ros’s sharp mind raced with possibilities but she came up blank – as far as she was aware, neither she, nor Sypro, had any connection to cats in any way shape or form and she was absolutely certain that neither of them had any active operations which might have rattled the colonel’s cage.
The colonel stared at her for a long time and Ros just stared helplessly back.

“Hmph. Don’t know what I’m talking about eh? That’s interesting. Fine, here’s the rub – a couple of your precious little kittens have been on my roof, and they didn’t stop there, understand? They made off with some of my wife’s favourite jewellery – for which you can give them my thanks and this to buy themselves a drink.” He handed the stunned looking Ros a couple of coins. “If they’d stopped there I’d have campaigned to have them knighted, old girl’s in an absolute fit over the thing and for my part it’s highly entertaining. But they didn’t stop there. Cats never do. Greedy is what cats are. And disloyal, m’dear, never forget it.”

“What exactly did they take?” Ros asked, aware the colonel had drawn a fine line between the humour and the gravity of the situation and uncertain on which side she was about to fall.
The colonel leant in and whispered in her ear “Four vials of demonsong.”
Ros’s eyes grew wide and then narrowed to dangerous slits. She drew herself up, smoothed the front of her black silk shirt, adjusted her hair slightly and smiled in a reassuringly professional manner. “Leave it with me colonel.” she said crisply “I will see that your goods are safely returned to you and the… cats in question never bother you again.”

The colonel stood frowning at her for an uncomfortably long moment before nodding and stepping back from the counter. “Appreciated.” he said “But, you must appreciate in turn that a line has been crossed. It is the role of the mother to teach her kits where the lines are and as I know that you are not a neglectful teacher, my dear, so I cannot help but wonder …” he raised his eyebrows again and this time Ros caught his meaning precisely as he turned and headed for the door. “Tell all your little kittens” he said gruffly “I’m buying a mastiff.”

 

 

So that is the colonel and we’ll meet his wife Agathri soon as well. Blessings on your new season, I hope it is filled with all the love and hope it possibly can be and that you feel able, despite the madness, to remain always utterly yourself! 🙂


Aether Eggs: With Stephen Palmer

Good Morning! Happy Oestara!
My name is Stephen Palmer and I write various kinds of genre novels: steampunk, SF, fantasy, and what used to be called slipstream, by which most people mean unclassifiable… I’ve been professionally published since 1996, and have a reputation for following my muse. But I think that’s a good thing. My most recent work “Woodland Revolution” is about myth, death, landscape and revolution. A heady brew!
So, here in Steampunk’d Lancaster we’re 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. Here’s my contribution to the fun!
Woodland Rev Aetheregg

You can find my books here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stephen-Palmer/e/B0062Z5R78?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1585396318&sr=1-1

And connect to me on the internet here: https://stephenpalmersf.wordpress.com/
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 Eggs: With Karen J Carlisle

Good Morning! Happy Chocolate Fest 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, fantasy, and the occasional cosy mystery with a fantastical twist.
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! …

Need Quarantine Reads?

Even though we’re all stuck in isolation or quarantine, we can still have adventures, meet new friends and discover new worlds. It’s all there in books. This year, I’m sharing a few Aether eggs because, let’s face it, we all need a little pampering at the moment.
I’ve just finished a short story (actually a novelette) heralding the return of one of my most requested characters, Doctor Jack. You’ll be able to see what he’s up to later in the year… but why not introduce yourself to him now?

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Aether egg #1: Download a free eBook copy of Doctor Jack (valid until 1st May, 2020) at Smashwords. Follow this link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/544203, and use the voucher code: WQ76W to get your preferred format copy.

I’m now working on the second book in the Aunt Enid Mysteries, A Fey Tale. This is a cosy fantasy mystery series (not steampunk).

You may have met Aunt Enid here before; she’s dropped by for Elevenses: https://blakeandwight.com/2018/07/10/elevenses-with-aunt-enid-protector-extraordinaire/ ).

This time, there’s a vague steampunk-ish connection: Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, meets the Protectors in this adventure. Current scheduled release is end of September, 2020.
Aether egg #2: You can get the first book in the series, Aunt Enid: Protector Extraordinaire, for only 99c, until 1st May (Via Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/833068 Use the voucher code: NF83R)

AUNT ENID SMASHWORDS-1600X2466_FINAL COVER_copyright2017KarenCarlisle

Aether egg #3: When you sign up to my email list (https://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/ ) you get a free ebook copy of my short story collection, With a Twist of the Nib: A collection of ten speculative fiction short stories. Dwarves, vampires, time travel, detectives, steampunk adventures or supernatural events – take your pick. (and you get sneak peeks, info, video links and more, every month.)

WithaTwistoftheNib_1_Karen_J_Carlisle_CoverSMALL

Aether egg #4: And if you’re a voracious reader, and love short stories and articles:
there are more free original short stories on my webpage – https://karenjcarlisle.com/free-stuff/free-stuff-short-stories/
And research articles and book stuff at: https://karenjcarlisle.com/free-stuff/free-stuff-book-extras/

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I hope that keeps you pleasantly entertained for a while. Until next time, eat chocolate, drink tea, practice social distancing and stay safe.
You can find my books here:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/karenjcarlisle
For information on other places to buy my books (including paperbacks) and book related merchandise: http://www.karenjcarlisle.com/shop

And connect to me on the internet here:
Web/blog: http://www.karenjcarlisle.com
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/karenjcarlisle/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/KarenJCarlisle/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4LiXU6uVL_g4MT5ykMIUzw
Or support me on Patreon at: http://www.patreon.com/KarenJCarlisle
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!

KJCarlisleicon2S (1)

Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. She is currently writing a cosy fantasy mystery set in Adelaide. Her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.
Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.
She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.


#Mythpunk Monday: Spiders, Wizards and Giant Cocks

Happy Mythpunk Monday! That’s a lot of promises in one title isn’t it? (wicked giggles) let’s see if I can deliver then…

In the introduction to Silk and Steel (My CampNaNoWriMo project this year) we meet the main protagonist Spyro Mendicci and one of the running themes through the entire story is ‘Who the hell is this guy?’

He doesn’t seem to fit in with all the others, who have a very obvious reason why their souls could not ascend to heaven or descend to hell at the end of the world.
So who is Spyro Mendicci? Well, only read on if you don’t mind the spoilers!

silkandsteelquote

 

Spyro Mendicci is the sidekick friend of the Polish sorcerer Pan Twardowski whom Pan turned into a spider when he met him in a tavern.
Spyro was running for his life from someone and Pan promised to save him if in return he became his faithful servant.
He told the spider that he wanted him to change the deal he had made with the devil Zcerneboch to say that Zcerneboch could only take his soul when he was in Rzym (a far off city).

Pan then turned Mendicci into a spider which hid him from his enemies and let him sneak about and change the contract.
Pan had made a deal with the Zcerneboch many years ago and this had enabled him to do many wonderful things, including raising spirits from the dead. Because of how the spider had changed the contract, Pan was able to make fool of Zcerneboch many times as well!
But in the end the cunning devil arranged to meet him in a tavern, concealing from Pan the fact the this particular tavern was called Rzym.
Zcerneboch thought he now had him cornered but Pan managed to escape by praying as hard as he could to the great godesses of life and death – Kyselica and Vesna – who loved him dearly.

They answered his prayers by summoning a giant rooster (See, I promised you a giant cock, don’t you just love the randomness of old folk lore!?!) to fly him away to the moon with his spider friend.
So Pan Twardowski is the original ‘Man In The Moon’ and sometimes lets his spider friend down on a silver thread to earth where he turns back into human form to plot and scheme and spy.

But when the world ended Spyro wanted to come down to earth and be human again and see what opportunity he could make of it, so he cut the silver thread back up to the moon and this angered Pan who vowed he would one day come down and get his revenge.

The word Pan means Sir and this is why Spyro always refers to his old master as My Good Pan / My Good Sir.
This is the blend of myth and mischief that sits at the core of our little tale Silk and Steel. Next Monday I will look at the actual myth of Pan Twardowski and its variant forms as this is just my punk’d version of it.


#MythpunkMonday: Guest Posts, writing hooks and ferrets!

 

WARNING – CUTE SMALL MAMMAL ALERT!!!!!

Happy #MythpunkMonday!

Wow, we’re three months into this regular post now and I’m feeling really positive about that, thankyou for all the enthusiasm and support you’ve all shown 🙂

Heading into the insanity of the festive season I thought I’d use our December #MythpunkMonday posts to bring you little lesser known snips of winter-themed myths and legends as mythpunk writing hooks to feed the imagination through this manic time of tinsel and terrible music 😉

And moving into January, I’d like to offer some Mythpunk Mondays as guest post slots so if you have an idea for a post with a mythpunk theme, or if you are a writer or artist who would like to promote your own mythpunk works, drop me an email at ladywiththewyvern@gmail.com subject #MythpunkMonday Guest Posts and I will slot you in.

But before all that, here’s my last #MythpunkMonday for November and I thought I’d give you an extract from the mythpunk / steampunk short story which I was lucky enough to have included in the Dreamtime Damsels And Fatal Femmes Anthology here…

 

It’s called Mulo, which is the Rromani word for the spirits of our own dead but it actually translates as ‘the wind people’. Here are a few brief facts about the story before I share the snippet…

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic era where workable land and water are scarce and focuses on an exclusively Roma community which has the same class/ caste system as other settled communities. I thought it would be interesting to explore the interplay of power and prejudice without bringing the issue of race into it.

All the names in the story have a certain significance for example, Ndrita means to shine like a small, bright glittering light, to twinkle like a far off star. Ndrita embodies this – a small light that brings hope and then is gone again.

Sihana means like the moon. The moon reflects light, it isn’t a true light itself, it reflects the power of the sun but it doesn’t have it’s own source of power. It can also seem like a cold light, illuminating without aiding life or growth. All this seemed to embody the character of Sihana.

The marsh lights are a real phenomenon here in Britain – and perhaps elsewhere. They are really caused by marsh gas igniting or sometimes by the glowing fungus known as fox fire. Marsh lights have also been called Death Lights, Jack of the Lantern and Peggy of the Lantern and were thought to be malevolent spirits who had drowned trying to lead travellers astray off the path and into the marshes. I first encountered marsh lights in Bleaklow, Derbyshire and have been obsessed with their lore ever since.

I wanted the story to be gritty and realistic but also carry a thread of hope – to explore power imbalances that are inherent in all social constructs regardless of race or culture but also to highlight the notion of choice as a facilitating vehicle for change. Nothing actually changes in the story on a societal level, but the two main characters, Ndrita and Anika, both changed a little for a moment – they put aside their prejudices to save the life of someone they would normally abhor, and who would normally detest them. They took back the power of choice.

Writing is never a clean process and I had some initial problems with keeping the tense and perspective consistent between the characters’ different scenes – something I wouldn’t have picked up on if not for the fantastic editing team so I owe a lot to them for helping me get that straight!

My own favourite character in the story is Anika’s Ma. She is so like a lot of our own older relatives – stuck in their ways and clinging to superstitions so ancient they barely understand their meaning themselves, wise in so very many ways but powerless against the problems of modern times for which all their handed down wisdom couldn’t possibly have prepared them.

I don’t tend to write stories with a message or a moral, instead I hope my writing opens doors and then leaves them open in case others want to come in and explore what I’m exploring.

Extract:

In the city, where the fog curls just above the cobble stones, there are many lights; the flickering gas lamps breathing milky pools against the evening’s cool, dark breast; the tinder sparks from flaring pipes; the window-stars like cold diamonds or bright catalysts of life.

Move out beyond the streets, out into the woods, follow that lonely ribbon of road away through the marsh, and the lights out there do not cast the same impression on our minds.

Lights, we understand, mean there is someone and who, we ask ourselves, who could be out there in the dark and the mist? Who on a night like this?

The word for the carriers of the marsh lanterns is Mulo and Baba always told me that this word means demon. After Mammy and Daddy and little Dragan were gone, and all that was left was Baba and me, she taught me to light the tallows in their little glass bottles and set them all around the farm each night, to keep the demons away.

She knew a lot of things my Baba, how to keep us safe through the long dark nights in Indigo. But she didn’t know how to make the water safe, and in the end it was only me, and I didn’t know either. 

Thankyou for joining me for another #MythpunkMonday, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you’d like to jump in and share your own / others marvellous mythpunkish-ness then feel free to do so using the hashtag or in the comments below!

And before I scoot, I promised ferrets, and here they are… All the proceeds from the above mentioned anthology go to Abington Ferret Refuge, you can check them out here…

http://abingtonferretrefuge.com/?fbclid=IwAR0zzH5eDy4EY5V9PVPf0jQWmyL-P7ElyKrWcZRC4bDFtDw6CQdDp47Udu8


#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

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

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

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

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

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

 

Victorian Steampunk Plague Doctor Assassin

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Blessings on all your writing endeavours!


#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

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

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

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

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

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

Victorian Steampunk Plague Doctor Assassin

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Blessings on all your writing endeavours!


Elevenses: With Stephen Palmer

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

image copyright Nadiaforkosh

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Splendid. And can we find you online?

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Utterly Yourself


#MythpunkMonday: The Road Back Lost

mahrimequote3

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

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

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

So what responsibility do Mythpunk creators have and to who?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

THE ROAD BACK LOST

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

Little

Knife

Perhaps you would rather flee?

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

Well

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

 

 

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

 

 


#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Blessings on all your writing endeavours!


#MythpunkMonday: Monstrous Punk

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Peck. Peck. Peck.

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

 

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

https://poets.media/mahrime

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

https://ko-fi.com/pennyblake

 

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

 

 


#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

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

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

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

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

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

Victorian Steampunk Plague Doctor Assassin

 

THE BOOK OF SCALES

 

Across The Sea Glass Isle

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

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

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

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

 

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

Blessings on all your writing endeavours!


#MythpunkMonday: Tree Punk

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

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

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

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

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

BLADES IN THE DARK

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

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

Evil Hat Productions EHP0030 Blades in The Dark RPG, Multicoloured

WHEN WE ARE VANISHED

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

 

A POISON TREE

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

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

 

THE LAST TREE

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

WIND TREES

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

 

PUNK TREES

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

 

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

 

 


#WritingWednesday: In The Cities Of Cloaks And Daggers

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

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

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

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

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

Victorian Steampunk Plague Doctor Assassin

 

WELCOME TO THE LIBRARY

 

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

 

THE BOOK OF BUJO

 

Only you know why you are here. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Blessings on all your writing endeavours!


Elevenses: David Lee Summers talks #Mythpunk with Collin…

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

image copyright Nadiaforkosh

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

There you go.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Yes, please. This is a delightful Assam.

 

Sugar?

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

 

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


#indiethursday: How To Successfully Self-Publish Your Steampunk Book on Amazon (Guest Post by Desiree. J. Villena)

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to this special “how to” edition of your favorite blog for all things steampunk! Gather ‘round the virtual fire — particularly those of you who’ve penned your masterpieces but have no idea what to do next — because today we’ll be talking about how to self-publish and sell your very own spectacular steampunk book on Amazon.

The gargantuan online retailer maintains a variety of reputations, from cutthroat marketplace and notorious Borders’ assassin, to a veritable land of milk and honey (if you know the right tricks). And though we as a self-respecting literary faction might want to turn our backs on Amazon, the fact is that it’s one of the easiest platforms for self-publishing authors to use, offering a simple upload process through its Kindle Direct Publishing unit and a range of exciting promotional options for authors.

On top of that, you simply can’t beat the consumer reach: Amazon controls roughly 80% of the ebook market in the US and UK, and significant portions in every other book-buying country too. Everyone knows Amazon, and most people use it, even if we may also shake our fists at the sky and scream “Damn you, Bezos!” whenever we hear about the latest Amazon travesty. Cognitive dissonance, economic convenience, willful ignorance — call it what you want, but Amazon’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

I mentioned “knowing the right tricks” in order to find success on Amazon, and it’s absolutely true that you can’t just waltz into the marketplace (metaphorically) and expect to make millions. Indeed, self-publishing a book is far from a glamorous business; you get more creative freedom and royalties than you would if you published traditionally, but you also have to put in about ten times the work. That said, if you’re courageous enough to put your book out into the world and you’re determined for it to succeed, you’re probably not the type to be dissuaded by hard work.

So with my slightly diatribical intro out of the way, let’s dive into the reason why all of us are here: presenting my most practical tips for self-publishing your book on Amazon and becoming the steampunk sensation you’ve always dreamed of being!

1. Build a devoted following

The most critical move toward successfully self-publishing almost any kind of book on Amazon is, unfortunately, the hardest. This is because it’s not about the publishing process itself, but what you do in the weeks, months, or even years leading up to your book launch: steadily building your following.

Imagine that each of your readers is a feral cat you are trying to tame; if you try to put a collar on it right away, it’ll claw and hiss at you. But if you leave some food out, coo at it, provide it a warm bed and maybe even a few toys, the cat will grow to trust you. By the time you go to slip a collar over its head, it won’t even notice — in fact, it’ll probably purr at the offer, happy to oblige. (This may be a little optimistic for a cat, but I digress.)

Basically, if you try to promote something to a new follower right away, they’ll unfollow you quicker than you can say elevenses. But if you ply them with interesting material, like interviews and reviews of other steampunk authors, they’ll stick around. You might get them to subscribe to a newsletter where you share your personal thoughts on the tropes and trends of the steampunk genre… and which you can eventually segue into talking about your own self-published book.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a steampunk blog or newsletter but you are active in relevant social media circles, try to capitalize on that! Engage in dialogue surrounding new releases and quintessential classics, squeal over fashion and fanart, and share cool and interesting images with your followers (I’ll talk more about this next). Maintain a friendly yet authoritative persona — this is helpful for any author, but especially in a niche like steampunk, where knowledge runs deep even among casual fans.

The point of all this is for other people to enjoy what you have to offer, trust that your content is high-quality, and believe that you are a talented person worthy of their support in the future. This method is known as “give, give, give, take,” and it’s highly effective in tight-knit communities like those of steampunk, where reputation is everything.

Speaking of ways to cultivate a strong reputation…

2. Create striking visuals

Steampunk has a very distinct aesthetic in both the literary genre and subculture as a whole. Even someone who knows very little about it can still hear the word and immediately envision clockwork and corsets. Of course, there’s often a difference between what people think of as “steampunk” and actual steampunk, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of popular perception to promote your book with some amazing art!

By far the most important aspect of this is your book cover design. In the publishing world, we like to joke about how “don’t judge a book by its cover” is totally backwards advice for authors; while it works as a philosophical adage, it’s simply untrue when it comes to actual books. Readers will inevitably judge a book by its cover, and decide whether to “look inside” or even buy based on the quality of the design. Which, to be fair, is sort of logical — if the author didn’t bother making an effort with the cover, why would the inner contents be any better?

This doesn’t mean you need to go to art school just to sell your book. However, you should put some serious thought and probably money toward your cover design, whether that means commissioning a friend or hiring a professional. As you’ll learn throughout this process, this is just one of many times when it’s helpful to have a community — you can ask other steampunk authors what level of quality they’ve gone for with their covers, as well as how they managed to afford it and/or if there’s a particular designer they’d recommend.

Don’t forget to look at other bestselling steampunk books on Amazon, too! Again, there’s a distinct dark-and-metallic aesthetic that universally indicates steampunk. But trends can change, and you want to ensure your book cover is clearly associated with this particular genre, both for your personal promotional purposes and on Amazon itself.

Finally, when it comes to visuals, don’t stop with your cover. If you have the budget for it (or some artistically inclined friends to help you out), you should absolutely get a few additional illustrations for your book. Steampunk is one of the most inventive genres out there, and while there’s something to be said for allowing your readers’ imaginations to run wild, it can also be incredibly powerful to provide some visual aids.

What’s more, you can tease these images alongside text previews from your book in order to give your followers a taste of what’s to come. Remember: give, give, give as much as you can before you take. Even something fairly simple (like, say, a tongue-in-cheek “wanted” poster) can make really fun bonus material for your fans.

3. Test out KDP Select

Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of self-publishing on Amazon. For those who don’t know, all self-publishing authors on the platform use Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP, to upload and publish their books.

However, within that all-encompassing process, you also have the option to enroll in KDP Select — a program that allows you to run various price promotions through Amazon, put your book on Kindle Unlimited, and earn higher royalties in certain territories. It’s free to enroll, but it requires 90 days of Amazon ebook exclusivity, meaning you cannot go through any other digital distributors for the first three months of your book’s release.

This is super-condensed summary of everything that KDP Select actually entails, but for our purposes, that’s all you need to know. Your conundrum now is: is it worth it?

The best thing about KDP Select is how easy it is to use. You can start promotions (either free or discounted) with the touch of a button, and then simply direct your fans to your Amazon page. Plus your book will automatically be discoverable on Kindle Unlimited, where subscribers will read it and you’ll get a payout based on how many pages they get through.

The worst thing about KDP Select is, obviously, the fact that your book is restricted to Amazon — despite its far-reaching dominion, it can be unnerving to feel like you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. And if you live in one of those countries where Amazon isn’t quite so totalitarian, you may even be missing out on significant distribution and marketing opportunities. While you will be able to digitally distribute to other places once the 90-day enrollment period is over, you’ll be staking most of your early-launch momentum on Amazon alone.

I can’t tell you outright whether KDP Select is the right choice for you. However, I can tell you which factors to consider: How much help do you want with implementing promotions? Do you have followers who are willing to pay for your book at full price, or will they need a promotion to entice them? How important is wide distribution to you personally? Are you writing a steampunk series? (Series tend to do well on Kindle Unlimited.)

The one aspect of KDP Select that probably appeals to almost all steampunk authors is that there aren’t too many steampunk books currently on Kindle Unlimited. Not only is this a unique selling point for your marketing, but the steampunk-starved SFF readers who subscribe to KU will rush to your book like flies to honey. Of course, there’s no way of knowing how many people will end up read ingyour book through KU, but at least it’s free to get into their library.

4. Experiment with more promotions

Whether or not you decide to enroll in KDP Select and run an Amazon-sanctioned price promotion, there’s still plenty more you can do to externally promote your self-published steampunk book! There are oodles of book review blogs and promotion services that you can explore, not to mention advertising on your own blog and social media — though with relative restraint, since you still don’t want to scare your followers away (remember the cat lesson).

One hot tip for steampunk authors is to aim for quality, not quantity, when reaching out to potential reviewers and third-party promoters. By that I mean: don’t click on those directories and then send a canned email to every single contact on the list! Take the time to comb through your options and select 3-5 reviewers who you think could really help out your book, then write a personalized inquiry to each of them. Off the top of my head, I’d recommend The Kindle Book Review and BookDoggy for first-time authors. And of course, you can always ask for a review or interview from a steampunk-specific blog like this one.

You can do so much more with your own personal connections, too: ask a popular mutual follower about a cross-promotion, encourage your newsletter subscribers to leave a review, and maybe even offer a larger giveaway to increase engagement. The prize doesn’t have to be your book; the giveaway could be for anything steampunk-related, and indeed your followers might be more excited by the prospect of a cool clothing item or small piece of furniture than a book.

Whatever path you take, I certainly hope you’re in a better position to succeed than you were about 2,000 words ago. Steampunk is such a singular genre with an incredible community behind it, and every author’s  voice matters — so get out there and make yours heard.

 

Many thanks from all of us at Blake and Wight to Desiree for this fabulous guest post this morning! Here’s a little more about the author…

“Hello folks! My name is Desiree Villena and I’m a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace and resource hub for self-publishing authors. In the course of my work, I’ve become incredibly passionate about independent publishing and I hope to help as many aspiring writers as possible reach their dreams! I’ve also become a fan of steampunk over the past few months, which is what inspired me to write this particular post. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!”

#MythpunkMonday: Arise!

Photograph by Kovacs Orsi from www.freeimages.com

Happy #Mythpunk Monday!

Today I’m going to talk about trees! I find few things more inspiring than walking through a forest where the trees seem anthropomorphic. Coming from a spiritual tradition which taught me from the earliest age that all trees were living sentient beings with their own spirits and personalities, I find it interesting that people seem to be drawn more to commune with trees like oak and hawthorn who twist their trunks more readily into gnarled semblance of faces or limbs than, say, the linden, ash or birch who mostly grow straight up to the sky. Of course there are stories of slender-limbed, silver-skinned birch dryads; pretty young maidens dancing lithe and beautiful in wooded glades, but why do we only seem drawn to trees if we can view them as being in some way like ourselves? Even Tolkein’s Ents had a human-likeness about them…

The phenomenon of Pareidolia may be in some way to blame here – the inherent nature of the brain to seek familiar patterns (particularly those of faces) in dissociated stimuli ; fire, clouds, tree bark, wall paper, rock surfaces, waves … it is a natural survival mechanism developed even before we are born to help us seek out our care givers, our kin and our kind.

But even as we grow older and are able to reason beyond our instinctive drives, wondering and questioning whether a tree spirit would or could or should look anything like us in order to be taken seriously and communed with… I know I am sometimes still guilty of being drawn to those tress who do.

Having said that, the tree spirit I have had the deepest relationship ever was a beautiful, strong, generous and resilient beech tree with little to no anthropomorphic qualities whatever – so perhaps there is a lesson for me eh?!

On the other hand, perhaps it depends on your tradition. Mine, as I say, teaches that trees are beings in their own right and unrelated to humans, although communion can and should be sought with them, but perhaps other pathways view things differently? Perhaps trees twist themselves into human like faces in order to try and communicate with us? Who knows? I’d be interested to hear other thoughts on this if you have them 🙂

What we do know and can say for certain is that we have worked trees into the heart of our mythologies and spiritual traditions since we first began imagining the beginning of ourselves and our world. Without trees we wouldn’t have the planet as we know it and we seem to have been aware of this long before it was scientifically proven.

Many religions incorporate the idea of a World Tree, stretching its branches into the heavens and its roots down into the underworld, for example  égig érő fa in Hungarian Mythos, the Norse Yggdrasil, Ağaç Ana in Turkish Mythology, The Slavic oaks which even today form the Zapis tree-temples, the Hindu Ashvattha and the Chinese Jianmu.

Leaving aside the great and the grand of world religions and moving in to a more local level, trees have always played an important part in folklore too. Cloutie trees (as we call them here) can be found all over Europe ; trees where folk can leave a small offering in exchange for the tree’s protection, blessing, healing or as a sign of thanks or respect.

My family made a great thing of visiting one of these shrines and leaving a rag of clothing and the story went that an old man was resting one day in his cloak when a poor child came by with none. The man took of his cloak – his last scrap of clothing – and gave it to the child. The tree saw the kindness of the man and sheltered him from the elements that night so no harm came to him. Then in thanks the man returned next year and tied a piece of his cloak to the tree and now all folk thanks the tree for it’s kindness, but anyone who robs the tree will be cursed! I remember my little sister being too scared to go into the shrine in case she touched a rag and it fell!

Another tradition is to hammer pennies into the trunks of trees in exchange for wishes. This tradition has always rather angered and confused me as it must harm the tree, but a few years back, while visiting a fairy tree near Scar Fell, I was happy to learn the roots of one such tradition – it started some time around the 17th century during times of great famine when there wasn’t enough work and many poor people were going hungry. Rich people in the area were encouraged to hammer coins into felled tree logs and wish for better times to come, then after dark (to spare their pride) the poor were encouraged to come and take the coins. The rich either believed or (more likely) played along with the notion that the fairies and taken their offering and were granting their wish and so things began to slowly improve. Of course it wasn’t a solution to the problem but it is still a nice story about communities working together to help one another.

If you’re interested in some really excellent research on the subject, look out Ceri Houlbrook’s ‘Coining The Coin Tree’ here: https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/files/54558281/FULL_TEXT.PDF

 

We’ve talked a lot of myth today, soon I’m going to have a good look at how we incorporate tree Mythos into Mythpunk, because at first glance it’s not an easy fit. But for now, I’ll leave you with a little extract from my own tree-punk endeavours…

This extract is from Opre! which means Arise! It was written for Romani Family History Month and the Opre Roma! movement and it draws parody between the Romani people, (caught and enslaved both literally throughout history as in our enslavement in Eastern Europe and almost complete annihilation during Baro Porajmos (in some cases still today such as Italy ) and metaphorically today where many of us are still unable to live full lives with basic human rights simply because of who we are) and the trees which our ancestors, and still many of us today, revere in a spiritual way (caught and butchered and poisoned and ‘put to use’ by humanity)

But there is a hopeful beauty here too – the roots which push up the paving stones, the seeds which find root in the cracks between tarmac, the branches and leaves which coil over boundaries and fences… so our people have not been destroyed because we shoulder what the world throws at us and we carry on, we find a way to survive, and one day I believe we will arise, not to conquer or steal or enslave others but just to stand on equal ground as all people should…

 

OPRE

Our splintered marrow guards your precious ground

Not bought in blood, but taken in the twilight

When ‘taking’ was a thing we did not understand

Now sentinels bound, subservient you think we stand

Down inside those ringlets blacked by damp

Not the wind—kin to your own cur breath—

But the jewels it carries, diamonds, our inheritance,

We feel

Touching, unveiling in our stripped-bare bones

Kali …

 

If you liked this extract you can read the rest of it here on Vocal: https://poets.media/opre

Or in my Mythpunk collection Mahrime: Mythpunk For Monsters

 

Thanks for joining me for another #MythpunkMonday!  Feel free to leave me your own thoughts on trees, mythology and mythpunk in the comments and to join in and share your own Mythpunk, or someone else’s that you’ve enjoyed, using the hashtag or in the comments below 🙂


#MythpunkMonday: Table For The Dead

Happy #MythpunkMonday!

Thanks so much for journeying along with me so far, or if your new then very much welcome aboard!

A lot of my own stories centre around the strife and tension suffered by cultures who come seeking refuge, fleeing war and persecution, when the host country fails to welcome and respect them as human beings with established beliefs, values and ways of life.

These deserve to be valued wherever possible, just as those of the established culture are already, but so often they instead become embedded in a strange juxtaposition of both shame and ferocious pride.

When our beliefs, culture, language, skin colour, clothes and ways of being are treated as strange or unnatural by others (especially if they are outlawed, as in the case of the original Rromani refugees in Europe) those precious things which are innately ours can become a source of shame and we can feel the need (perhaps in fear of our lives or liberties) to hide them.

At the same time, in hiding them there is a sense of ritual preservation – a keeping close, a treasuring – and that can become obsessive and unnatural in itself as the evolution of ideas which would take place naturally over time with each generation is now not allowed to happen.

Sacred things die. They are not passed on. Partly out of fear – putting the young ones in danger. Partly our of pride – this knowledge will die with us, the last pure ones, it cannot be trusted to anyone else now, it will become diluted and destroyed or turned against us all.

I’m going to share with you an extract from ‘Mulengi Sinija’ which means Table For The Dead. This is a small shrine of sweet treats laid out for the ancestors to encourage them to remember the next generation, the little ones, and watch over them and visa versa to encourage the young children to enjoy communing with their ancestors.

Here though, the celebration is taking place in a strange new land where the characters are forced to hide who they truly are (firebirds living secretly amongst a population of spiders) and the irony is that the precious link between young and old, past and present, ancestors and living is being lost as the generations pass and so the title is more a lamenting ; a saying goodbye, rather than the celebration it was meant to be….

Mulengi Sinija Extract:

There is a weight, more than the fabric, of that long black skirt and the high necked lace shirt she heaves up over her fire form. Here are the white-beaked masques now with their golden glitter and their gaudy plumes, here are the capes of scarlet velveteen, the sun is sinking with a sigh to the guillotine.

One more cup before we have to go? We drink it slow. Drink deep the thousand stories calligraphed in dark amber there against the white. And when it is all gone, step out into the night.

 

If you liked the extract you can read the rest of it on my sister site here:

https://faithintheteapot.wordpress.com/2017/08/18/mulengi-sinija/

 

Thankyou for joining me for MythpunkMonday! I really hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you have, feel free to join in and share some Marvellous Mythpunk that you have written, created or enjoyed. You can share using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag or in the comments here below if you like and I will continue to make this a regular Monday thing 🙂


#MythpunkMonday: The Star Talers

Happy #MythpunkMonday!

Today I’d like to share with you a little extract from one of my own own Mythpunk stories ; this is from The Star Talers – a short poem spun from elements of the original Grimm fairytale.

It was inspired by the historic treatment of Rromani slave dancers during the 13th to 18th centuries and the parallels between this and the modern cycle of poverty and exploitation that I have witnessed in the red light districts of British cities today. As such, it touches on  issues of slavery, abuse and recovery, sexuality, identity and self-discovery and ends with the hopeful thought that, ultimately, we can survive and journey on from our past…

 

THE STAR TALERS

The boy had been hollow rose

Carved out from the hip bones of his mother

Beautiful as a choked out sob against silk pillows

Beautiful as a neck bent back swanlike to display the pulse

Beautiful as an eggshell is to crush and feel the yellow juice spill down

And lap

It

Up

Once. Once he had been that hole

A space to fill with so much Other Blood

Now he stands on the banks of a bright river, Old,

Full, frayed, and spilling out onto the bank

No one comes near

The fear of all the screaming demons, stench and blade sharp thorns that close around him

Holds the world away

But still he will stay

He heard a story once; a whisper, rumour, gossip or snatch of song that clung like a butterfly to his sleeve – there is a land across the river, where you can see the stars fall to earth and in their fierce, full, burning beauty there is peace…

 

Thankyou for joining me for my second MythpunkMonday! I really hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you have, feel free to join in and share some Marvellous Mythpunk that you have written, created or enjoyed. You can share using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag or in the comments here below if you like and I will try and make this a regular Monday thing 🙂

If you enjoyed The Star Talers excerpt, you can read the rest of it here on Vocal:

https://poets.media/the-star-talers

 


#DreamtimeDamselsAnthology: Elevenses with Marc Vun Kannon

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s rambunctiously
raucous and chi-chi to the core parlour located high above it all on board our beautiful
rainbow-sailed ship, The Harlequin Ladybird.
Our tentacles are all of a quiver this morning and our china cups are chattering because
joining us for elevenses this morning we are taking part in the Dreamtime Damsels blog
tour/ internet blitz and we are honoured to have Marc Vun Kannon.
Do please have a seat, (Max, get off the chaise and let them sit down … hm? … no floor cushions are not ‘all the rage’ Max, and that is not a floor cushion it is a cat, just move aside.)

I do apologise, Marc, would you like some tea? Earl Grey? Lapsang? Assam? Darjeeling? Oolong? (Max you have definitely exhausted that comedic avenue)
Earl Grey, please. I love the smell of bergamot in the morning. Well, anytime,
actually.
Marvellous, there you go. Now then , do tell us more about your contribution to this Dreamtime Damsels anthology which are excited to be able to supply the pre-order links for here:

Mine is the story of Sarah Mack, who may turn out to be a fatal femme, but is most
definitely a dangerous damsel. Taken as a baby from her parents shortly after the
Night of Echoes, when magic returned to the world, her parent, mentor, and boss –
known only as Mr. Tom – has trained her in the gentle arts of magic and thievery,
usually in combination. One of the few who possess psychic talents as well as
magical ones, she is sent to Glastonbury Tor in search of a certain, special
something, but what seems a graduation exercise of sorts is really the first step on
a slippery slope of love, revenge, and redemption. I’m just not sure for whom, yet.
Oh did you hear that Max? Doesn’t it sound exciting. What inspired you to write it?

This story is set in the world of my novel Ghostkiller. This story will be the first
chapter of the sequel, when I get around to writing it. The Night of Echoes changed
the world in just so many ways.

I see, how marvellous. And what would you say most influences your writing in general?
No one thing, in particular. While I am willing to take inspiration from any source, I
prefer to blaze my own trail when it comes to the actual telling of the story. My only
rule of writing is, I’ve seen it done once, don’t do it again. I have a huge stash
of material from books, films, TV, and even music in the back of my head, but when
the story brings it forward, I take that as a sign to do something a little different.
Splendid idea! Any authors who have particularly inspired you?
A few, negatively. I’ll do them a favor and not mention them by name. On the
positive side I suppose I could mention L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson,
creators of the Oz books. I grew up with those.
Hm. Excellent. (No he does not want to hear your poetry Max, we had quite enough of that yesterday) Battenburg?
Certainly. Never tried that before.
Well, it doesn’t usually have as many hairs in it as this slice but the galley cats are incorrigible gluttons. You know, writing is something I’ve always fancied turning my talents to – having so many tentacles I imagine I could be quite productive as an author. Tell me, what was your own road into fiction writing like?
Unplanned. It started with some dreams. I don’t normally remember those. When I
mentioned them to my wife she said, that sounds like it make a good book. A few days later I had a sentence in my head. I wrote it down and said now what? With no
writing classes or experience to speak of, I developed my whole technique based on
the books I’d read, and what I did and did not like about them. Basically, the story
came up to me and said ‘you will write me!’ Ever since, it’s been one story after
another.

Excellent! It sounds like fate! And do you have any plans for new projects in the near future?
Oo, well, ‘plans’ is a hard word. I’m a total pantser, I have no plans for anything, not
even the book I’m in the middle of writing. Inspiration can come from anywhere,
though, all you have to do is pay attention to your life. My stories are always growing, too. ‘Sleeping Dragon’ is an example of that.
So, where can we find your work?
All of my work is available on Amazon. I’ve recently taken to self-publishing, and I’ve also had my stories appear in a number of magazines lately as well. I’ve got a link around here somewhere…
https://www.amazon.com/Vun-Kannon-Marc/e/B0076OUKWQ
Oh thankyou… Wooooah! Dear me I do apologise, the airship must have slipped and I seem to have landed in your lap I hope I haven’t covered you in octopus slime?
Not at all, not all. (brush, wipe) What’s a little octopus slime between friends?
Are you sure you’re alright? Hm, what’s that? Time you were going? Are you sure I can’t
tempt you with another cup?
Sorry, but there’s octopus slime in my bergamot. Maybe another time…
Oh dear, Max I do believe the rumours of your awful poetry and your clumsy antics at the tea table  have scared off yet another of our guests. You really must learn to behave yourself In Company.
Thank you, friends for joining us this morning on board our beautiful rainbow sailed ship,The Harlequin Ladybird, you will find all the blog posts so far on the Dreamtime Damsels blog tour listed below and until we see you again,

please remain always,

Utterly Yourself

Mary Woldering hosts the first round of character interviews 

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

Mary Woldering hosts the second round of character interviews

Our own kitchen witch interviews Nav Logan

Nav Logan joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

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

Mary Woldering hosts the next round of character interviews

A.M Young joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Benjamin Towe joins us for elevenses on The Harlequin

Cover reveal from The Benthic Times

Cover reveal from Collin on The Harlequin Ladybird

Mary Woldering hosts the next round of Character interviews

Jaq D Hawkins helps Mrs Baker to dish up some tasty soup

Paul Michael joins us for elevenses

#Twitterinterview with the authours

Guy Donovan joins us for elevenses

Nimue Brown causes havoc with her tentacles