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.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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…
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…
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,
Touching, unveiling in our stripped-bare bones
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 🙂
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:
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 🙂
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
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:
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,
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
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…
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,
The Characters of The Department of Curiosities
I introduced Tillie Meriwether in an earlier book blog tour post (Meet Viola Stewart
and Tillie Meriwether – https://phoebedarqueling.com/2019/04/27/karen-carlisle-viola-
stewart-and-tillie-meriwether-guest-post/ ), now it’s time to introduce some of the other
characters in The Department of Curiosities.
Every hero (or heroine) needs a backup team. Some are sought out. Some thrust upon
them. Some insinuate themselves slowly – for better or for worse.
Most of the characters you’ll meet are associated with The Department of Curiosities, a
government unit in charge of acquiring; cataloguing and securing said ‘Curiosities’. The
‘Department’ is essentially a gigantic curiosity cabinet, only the ‘Curiosities’ are hidden from the avaricious eyes of The Society (Men in Grey) and other nefarious groups – for ‘the good of the people’.
Lord Professor Avery Allington:
When Tillie Meriwether meets Avery Allington, he introduces himself to Tillie as
‘Professor Allington’. Avery Allington (Sir Avery) longs to be defined by his works and not
his title. He prefers to think he earned his position in The Department of Curiosities based on
his education and loyalty, rather than legacy.
He understands what it is to be judged by what you are and not for whom you are and,
as a result, he tries not to judge others on position or appearance. He ignores Tillie’s gender
and youth (she’s only twenty and hasn’t been presented to Society as yet) to discover her
value to The Department, via her intelligence, resourcefulness and enthusiasm.
Once his loyalty is given, Sir Avery will give the benefit of the doubt and requires
factual proof before he withdraws his loyalty. He trusts General Sabine implicitly, even to
ignoring Tillie’s concerns about the loyalty and motives of others, and his own doubts of
Tillie’s allegiances. As a result, he ignores ‘blind spots’, and the possible consequences, this
Through Sir Avery, Tillie discovers a clandestine world of secrets and the hidden
repository where illegal and unregistered mechanicals and contraptions are housed.
Allington sees the potential good in the ‘curiosities’ they are charged to remove from
circulation. Eventually he must decide which is more important: loyalty or scientific discovery.
Next we meet General Sabine, Director of The Department of Curiosities. He is an ex-military man, loyal (beyond doubt) to the Empire, and an ardent admirer and confidant of the Queen. He is also a scientist, specialising in magnetic fields. Thus his allegiances are to the Empire and scientific research…
(The General was inspired by the historical ‘Major-General Edward Sabine’ who wrote a treatise on magnetic fields, was Scientific Advisor to the Admiralty, a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, and President of the Royal Society.)
Operatives and Domestics:
We also meet various ‘underlings’ and operatives of The Department of Curiosities, including Harrow, Smythe, Saunders and Grace – operatives, coachman, valet and maid. All have a vital role to play in Tillie’s development into a fully-trained operative, and as she learns who is she can trust and where her loyalties truly lie.
As you probably suspect, all four characters have their own secrets and motives, and are not all what they seem. (Spoilers!)
My favourite secondary character is Grace.
Grace’s original appearance was a Ladies’ maid to Tillie. After all, a nineteenth century lady needs assistance. And when working in a male-dominated department, Society would insist Tillie have a chaperone. By the final draft, Grace’s characters had grown, complete with her own secrets, loyalties and motives to be explored more in book two of the series.
“The Inventor?” Harrow scoffed. “I always thought that name was pretentious.”
Finally a bit about the villain of the story:
The Inventor, aka known as ‘The Professor’. The Inventor hides behind many names. He also hides behind a mask, not for anonymity but for protection against the world. He is a germophobe, requiring all who come in contact with him to wear a protective mask and demanding his henchmen to be injected with silver as a safeguard (this was a cure used in the nineteenth century). He is hungry for fame and will do anything for recognition by The Royal Society. The Inventor would be comical, if it were not for his callousness and disregard for others.
The Department of Curiosities will be released 22nd May, 2019.
If you want to follow the rest of The Department of Curiosities book launch blog tour, check out the links on my blog post: www.karenjcarlisle.com/DOC1bookblogtour
You can pre-order your eBook copy of The Department of Curiosities (for special price of US$2.99) at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/934976
or sign up for my newsletter at: https://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/
Follow me on:
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle
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Or support me on Patreon (for less than a cup of coffee a month and you get cool rewards!): https://www.patreon.com/KarenJCarlisle
Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of speculative fiction – steampunk, Victorian mystery and fantasy.
She graduated in 1986, from Queensland Institute of Technology, with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Optometry, and lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.
Karen first fell in love with science fiction when she saw Doctor Who, as a four-year old. This was reinforced when, at the age of twelve, she saw her first Star Destroyer. She started various other long-term affairs with fantasy fiction, (tabletop) role-playing, gardening, historical re-creation and steampunk – in that order.
She has had articles published in Australian Realms Roleplaying Magazine and her short story, An Eye for Detail, was short-listed by the Australian Literature Review in their 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes?’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.
She writes full-time and can often be found plotting fantastical, piratical or airship adventures, and co-writing the occasional musical ditty.
Karen has always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.
She is not keen on the South Australian summers.
Good Morning! Happy Chocolate Fest or whatever fabulous festival you happen to be celebrating at this time of the year!
My name is Phoebe Darqueling and I write fiction that fans of Steampunk and Gaslamp fantasy love.
Here in Steampunk’d Lancaster we are enjoying the annual Aether Egg Hunt – a chance for authors to connect with their readers and give a little gift of thanks for all their support in the form of an Aether Egg or Small Gift linked to the fictional world they have created.
And here is my contribution to the fun!
You can do a digital jigsaw puzzle of the cover of my newest novel, No Rest for the Wicked. My record is 5 minutes. Think you got me beat? Leave a comment with your time.
Plus, you can preview the full first chapter of No Rest for the Wicked on
You can find my fiction books like No Rest for the Wicked on my Amazon page (www.bit.ly/PhoebeD)
and pickup a FREE copy of The Steampunk Handbook by signing up for my e-news. Find out more
And connect with on Twitter (@gearturns), Instagram (@phoebedarqueling), my Facebook fan group
Have a “hoppy” day and come back next time to get your next author giftie.
Good Morning! Happy Easter, or whatever fabulous festival you happen to be
celebrating at this time of the year!
My name is Karen J Carlisle and I write steampunk, Victorian mysteries, and fantasy.
Here in Steampunk'd Lancaster we are enjoying the annual Aether Egg Hunt – a chance
to give you a gift (or two) to thank you for your support: a short story and a game.
And what’s an Aether egg, you ask?
I’ll let Tillie (heroine of my new steampunk adventure series, The Department of
The Aether Egg
Sunlight flickered across Tillie’s eyelids. She opened her eyes, wriggled out from under the Egyptian cotton sheets and bounced to the edge of the bed. She grabbed the edge and plunged her head downward. A blonde ringlet slipped from the knotted rag, tumbled over her face and tickled her nose. She giggled and puffed it out of the way. There were more serious things afoot. She scanned the wooden floor boards under the bed.
She swung back upright; her head spun. She giggled again, placed her bare foot on the
polished wood, and waited for the butterflies in her stomach to land.
The silk robe was cool on her shoulders. Its cord danced behind her as she darted across the room, checking every secret nook and potential hiding place – inside her slippers, in her jewellery box, behind the toy box, on top of the wardrobe.
Tillie plopped onto the carpet rug and sighed. It was Monday. And Aunt Prudence had
Soft wool caressed her toes as she crept down the unlit stairs. The Parlour door was open.
Warm light trickled into the hallway.
“Is that you, dear?” Aunt Prudence’s voice was soft and welcoming.
Tillie tied the cord belt, straightened her robe and entered the room.
Blue velvet wallpaper lined the Parlour walls. Aunt Prudence sat in her favourite armchair, surrounded by matching blue-upholstered furniture. A fire crackled in the hearth.
“Good morning, Aunt Prudence.” Tillie’s gaze darted around the room.
“Are you looking for something, Little One?” Aunt Prudence smiled and rested her palm
on a small wooden box in her lap.
Tillie’s eyes widened. She skipped across the room and sat at her aunt’s feet.
“Is that…?” She licked her lips.
Aunt Prudence nodded and opened the box. Inside was a silk-wrapped egg as large as her fist. Fine golden cords criss-crossed the wrappings. Tillie lifted it gently. The cords fell away from the lower half of the egg. A small wicker basket dangled at the end of the cords.
“It’s like a little dirigible,” she gasped.
“It’s called an Aether egg.” said Aunt Prudence.
“It’s pretty,” cooed Tillie. “I shall hang it above my bed.”
Aunt Prudence leaned forward. “The balloon is made of French eating chocolate,” she
Tillie held her breath, peeled off the silk wrappings and bit into the rich, dark chocolate.
“When I grow up, I’ll own a real dirigible,” she said.
And now for a fun challenge: Follow this link and see how fast you can solve this jigsaw:
You can find my books here: https://karenjcarlisle.com/shop
And connect to me on the internet here:
You can sign up for my newsletter at: https://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/
Or support me on Patreon (for less than a cup of coffee a month and you get cool rewards!) https://www.patreon.com/KarenJCarlisle
Wishing you a Springtime filled with splendid shenanigans!
Do remember to keep an eye out this month and hunt down all the Aether Egg surprises that will be appearing each week until May!
Aether Egg image courtesy of Irum Shahid http://www.freeimages.com
Happy Spring Equinox!
My name is Madeleine Holly-Rosing and I write the steampunk supernatural series, Boston Metaphysical Society. If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s about an ex-Pinkerton detective, a spirit photographer, and a genius scientist who battle supernatural forces in late 1800s Boston.
Here in Steampunk’d Lancaster we are enjoying the annual Aether Egg Hunt – a chance for authours to connect with their readers and give a little gift of thanks for all their support in the form of an Aether Egg or Small Gift linked to the fictional world they have created.
And here is my contribution to the fun! The entire first six issues of the graphic novel series can be read online for FREE! Just pop on over to Boston Metaphysical Society website and start reading whenever you like.
It’s such a big world that I wrote two more graphic novels, a novel, and anthology.
You can find my books here:
Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets
Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude
Boston Metaphysical Society: The Complete Series – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0996429220/
Boston Metaphysical Society: The Scourge of the Mechanical Men-
Boston Metaphysical Society: The Spirit of Rebellion (Available in May 2019)
You can find out more about me on the interwebs here: