Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

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Steampunk summer postcards: Karen J Carlisle

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

 

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

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Blessings on your brew my dears!


Author Postcards: Jennings and Jennings

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the best,Your very good friend

Miss Felicity Henderson

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

As I wandered to my dressing room I called back.

 

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

 

I could almost hear the moustache twitching down the hall.

 

***

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I walked around the circle, first reading the hieroglyphs.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Who is he?” asked Hampton.

 

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

 

“Is this his sarcophagus?” asked Hampton.

 

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

 

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

 

“Good heavens!” I cried out.

 

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

 

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

 

I looked again at the sarcophagus lid.

 

“Oh dear,” I said.

 

“What is it?” said Hampton.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“What do you mean,” said Hampton.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“To hunt what exactly,” said Blowry.

 

“A more fitting form,” I said.

 

***

 

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

 

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

 

I stopped to face him.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“My God, it’s …”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“I don’t follow?” said Hampton.

 

“Dead birds,” I said.

 

***

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“How can you tell?” I asked.

 

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

 

***

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I looked at Hampton.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Wait,” said Blowry. “Look.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Clarissa shrugged. “No problem,” she said.

 

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

 

“I see,” said Clarissa, “I think.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“That’s the spirit!” I said.

 

“Can we move this now?” said Hampton.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

***

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 


Steampunk Summer Postcards: Ichabod Temperance

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

 

A Post-Card of Temperance

or,

Wish You Were Here in Sunny San Monique!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

shuffle, shuffle,

shuffle, shuffle,

Thoughts are fixed,

no need to think.

Plodding ahead,

without pause or blink.

Around and round,

like a skating rink.

Chop the fruit,

Prepare the drink.

Mix it up,

in the kitchen sink.

Especially for,

this Lady and Fink,

shuffle, shuffle,

shuffle, shuffle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

Bon Voyage and blessings on your pina coladas my dears!

 

 

 

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


Steampunk Summer Postcards: Greetings from Hopeless Maine!

 

 

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

 

Postcard (1).jpg

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

sinners

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

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

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 


Tea at Three: Mythpunk For Monsters

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

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

Mahrime_Cover_for_Kindle

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Mahrime

mahrime quote

 

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

 

The Road Back Lost

mahrimequote3

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

 

DAMAO

mahrimequote2

 

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

 

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

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

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

Utterly Yourself.

 


Elevenses: With Nimue Brown and the Sinners of Hopeless Maine

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the sweltering summer streets of steampunk’d Lancaster! You find us this morning still trying to sell enough lemonade to keep our sinister landlord off our proverbial backs (and our actual backs, in fact – he has recently fitted his walking cane with a morning star.)

So, can we interest you in a delightfully delinquent and relentlessly refreshing bottle of fiz? Brewed by our own fair tentacles? …. What? Oh, hold on a minute, who’s this?

Well strap me into a corset and call me Susan, it’s our dear friend Nimue Brown!  What brings you to this street corner, my darling? (Max, stop being rude and ridiculous)

N: This is what I get for borrowing a pair of trousers from Professor Elemental. At least we now know where and when I am, which is progress…

Well we are very, very glad the trousers went wrong because we have been simply dying to get our tentacles on a copy of Sinners – the newest release in your Hopeless, Maine Steampunk graphic novel series!  Please, do tell me you have some Hopeless Sinners tucked away somewhere about your person?

N: I’m like some kind of non-seasonal, less than perfectly masculine Father Christmas with a really dodgy sack just now. I’ve got all the Sinners. Hopeless Sinners.

sinners

The very best kind of Father Christmas then by all accounts! Thankyou! (Max take your mits off it you’re getting it all sticky) we will certainly be reviewing that over a nice cup of tea in the parlour shortly, but before we get it home and out of its negligee (Hm? Oh it’s called a ‘dust jacket’ is it? Sorry…) a-hem… do we get a little teaser as to what’s inside? From the cover it looks like Sal has grown up a little!

N: No, you were right first time, it was a negligee, I may have got a bit carried away with the ‘sinners’ part. I don’t think I’ve got any of the chained ones left…

Oh that is shame…

Yes, Sal is a bit more grown up at this point, but it’s still a passably child friendly read, if the child has no fear of demons, elder gods, monstrous sea life and whatnot. Funny things happen, terrible things happen, and we find out more about the people who live underground on the island.

Now that is what I call a tease! And where can our good friends here get their hands (or indeed tentacles)  on a copy?

N: In theory, anywhere that sells books. In practice, you have to make an appropriate sacrifice at the full moon and pray to an elder God that the online store of your choosing will have copies and will not be charging an entirely random price for them! We’ve had issues in the pre-order period.

Well if anyone needs a potential sacrifice candidate we have a landlord we are willing to part with for noble purposes such as this so do shout…

Otherwise, watch out for Sloth Comics at comics events, or my betentacled crew at Asylum in Lincoln.

Splendid! Now look here, Mrs. Brown, I don’t suppose you could help us sell a few bottles of this fiz here could you? My tentacles are drying out in this heat and Max’s so called ‘wit’ is driving the punters away in… ouch!… I mean, is perhaps not to everyone’s taste…

N:We could redeploy some of the negligees to protect those vulnerable tentacles, don’t you think?

Hm, this reminds of that  pole dancing episode … Max get off that lampost people are starting to flee the street…

I don’t know any lemonade songs. I’ve got a lemon song, but I mostly use it for stuffing chickens with. It goes (brace yourself)

‘lemon up your bum, lemon up your bum, lots and lots of lovely lemons, lemons up your bum’.

Which might or might not sell lemonade, I suppose…

 

Well I think between the three of us we have managed to clear the docklands quicker than if someone had shouted ‘PLAGUE!’ … and now we may well be reduced to pole dancing again to make the rent this month, so may I keep the negligee?

Thankyou for joining us on the street corner this morning, we will be back soon with more splendid shenanigans and a super special announcement … or two… so, until then,

please be always,

Utterly Yourself


Elevenses: With Aunt Enid – protector extraordinaire!

A GUEST POST BY STEAMPUNK WRITER KAREN J CARLISLE…

 

<The Parlour door creaks open. Smoke drifts into the room. An old lady with a grey bob enters, shuts the door behind her and leans on her silver walking stick.>

 

Don’t worry, dears, the smoke should dissipate soon. I should’ve never left Agnes to watch the scones/oven. She always gets distracted, that one. I managed to save some scones for us.

 

< A plastic container thuds on the table.>

 

I’ve brought that new book you wanted. It took some trickery to pry it from the author’s hands, you know. They’d only just arrived by courier. She’s so excited. I thought you might like her to visit.

 

<Silence.>

 

Oh.

 

<The cane taps on the floor.>

 

Oh, sorry. I didn’t see you there. Are you here to see Max and Collin? We haven’t met have we? They said they would introduce us before they left. I’m Enid Turner.

Oh, dear that sounds very formal. <She smiles.> Just call me Aunt Enid.

 

< Pause.>

 

They didn’t tell you I would be looking after the Parlour, today? They had to pop out to sell some lemonade… <She lowers her voice.> To earn the rent money.

 

<The clock strikes eleven. Aunt Enid sighs.>

 

It’s time for Elevenses already? Oh, dear, I am late, aren’t I? That explains why they aren’t here. That’s the problem with Relocation Magic. It’s not always reliable.

 

<She reaches into her apron pocket, retrieves a book and plops it onto the table. The kettle whistles in the kitchen.>

 

Do you prefer tea or coffee?

 

<Tea cups chink onto their saucers. The plastic container snaps open. The smell of freshly baked scones fills the room.>

 

I made scones and lemon butter. Why don’t you try some.

 

<She dribbles some honey into her coffee, her hand grips her walking stick as she waits.>

 

Why, thank you. It’s a family recipe. Are you feeling all right?

 

<She relaxes and rests the walking stick against her chair.>

 

Oh, good. Now that’s done, I suppose I should get started.

 

<She clears her throat.>

 

Ahem…Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s rambunctiously ridiculous and chi-chi to the core parlour located somewhere within the lower intestines of the splendidly steampunk’d city of Lancaster.

Is that how it goes? Yes? Oh, good. I must apologise; Max and Collin said they would leave some questions for me, but I can’t seem to find them anywhere. I suppose I’ll have to ask the questions myself.

 

<She sips her coffee.>

 

Q: Tell us about the new book, Aunt Enid.

Oh, it’s just a little story Agnes and I wrote. My niece, Sally, insisted we publish it. But don’t believe everything you read.

Q: And what is The Dark?

There’s no such things as Shadows and Collectors, or The Dark. That sort of thing gives people nightmares.

 

<Pause.>

 

Pardon?

 

<Aunt Enid frowns, picks up the book and reads.>

 

When people start disappearing Sally is drawn into her aunt’s secret world and soon discovers her aunt is a Protector Extraordinaire.”

Yes, it’s my duty to stop it breaking through this world’s protective shell, and protect you all. That’s what a Protector does – in the story, that is.

Would you like another scone?

 

<Aunt Enid turns the book over and shifts in her seat.>

 

Q: Tell us about your garden?

Oh, I’d love to. Did you know hydrangeas change colour depending on the acidity of the soil? I like/prefer mine to be blue.

 

<Pause.>

 

What’s that? Why blue? Well… I like blue. It’s a lovely colour don’t you think? Bees like blue. Oh, did I tell you about my bees? They are such lovely creatures. Very observant. As are garden gnomes.

Did I say that?

 

<Aunt Enid stares into her teacup and whispers to herself.> I wonder what Max has put into the coffee…

 

<Lightning flashes outside the window. Thunder rumbles over the roof tiles. Aunt Enid grasps her cane and glares out the window. Loud drops of water tap on the roof. Her hand relaxes and she rests her walking stick on her lap.>

 

Everything’s fine. It’s just a rain storm.

 

<Pause.>

 

Oh, silly me. You mustn’t mind an old woman. One must be expected to get flustered at my age.

 

<She smiles, pulls a folded piece of paper from her pocket and places it on the table in front of you.>

 

Do you like the lemon butter? I promised Max and Collin I’d share my recipe with you.

LEMON BUTTER RECIPE

 

<The front door slams shut. Footsteps hurry down the hall. Max and Collin enter the Parlour, dripping water all over the carpet.>

 

Well, it’s about time you two got back. You forgot to leave me some questions to answer.

<Pause.>

 

Yes, Collin, I’ll leave the scones for your afternoon tea.

 

<Aunt Enid turns back to you, and smiles.>

 

Thank you for keeping an old lady company. I need to get back to Adelaide and get lunch ready. My Sally’s on afternoon shift at the hospital today. Just make sure Max and Collin don’t hog the scones.

 

Goodbye Aunt Enid! See you again soon we hope! … Hog the scones indeed! Who does she think we are, a pair of cake crazed tea guzzling lunatics without an ounce of self control when it comes to…. Max! Stop stuffing your face with scones, that is no way to behave in front of our guests… mind you they do look exceedingly tasty… and is that lemon butter? ….

 

You can read about Aunt Enid’s adventures in the first book of Karen J Carlisle’s new cosy paranormal mystery series, The Other Worlds Chronicles

“Daemons, fairies, magic: it’s all real!
The Otherworld is bleeding through cracks into our world. And Adelaide is ground zero. Something is coming. Something dark – trading souls for passage. And only one person stands between The Dark and the fate of the world.
Aunt Enid is just your average seventy-something year old. She loves to cook, is a regular at bingo and spends hours in her garden, talking to her army of garden gnomes and fussing over the colour of her hydrangeas…
When people start disappearing, her great niece, Sally, is drawn into a secret world and soon discovers her great aunt is a Protector Extraordinaire.”

 

 

Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of 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 (she can’t remember if she hid behind the couch). 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 Cockatrice (Arts and Sciences magazine). Her short story, An Eye for Detail, was short-listed by the Australian Literature Review in their 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Karen’s short story, Hunted, featured in the ‘A Trail of Tales’ exhibition in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe.

She writes full-time and can often be found plotting fantastical, piratical or airship adventures.

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

She is not keen on the South Australian summers.

Where to find Karen:

www.karenjcarlisle.com

Twitter: @kjcarlisle – https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/KarenJCarlisle/

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

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com.au/riverkat42/

For information on where to buy Karen’s books: http://www.karenjcarlisle.com/shop

 

You can also follow Aunt Enid’s progress on the book’s FB page.

 

 

 

In the interests of Transparency, a note from Penny : I have the potential to earn a small amount of income through the Amazon Associates program should visitors to this site choose to purchase Aunt Enid – Protector Extraordinaire via the featured links in this article – Penny 🙂 

 

 


Morning Cuppa: Aunt Enid – Protector Extraordinaire

 

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the sultry summer streets of stemapunk’d Lancaster! You find us not at home this morning but peddling our home made Lemonade on street corners, trying to catch the eye of corruptible young ladies and avoid the attention of Her Majesty’s police force because, as you already know, Lemonade (along with every other sweet treat) is illegal here in the land of Ire.

But we’ve a lot to be cheerful about because although custom is slow this morning and the threat of not making the rent money looms over us like an enormous sinister landlord with a large stick … a-hem… the lull in foot traffic has given us time to kick our tentacles up on a soap box and enjoy a delightful book in the early morning sunshine…

 

 

There are so many things to love about the first book in Karen J Carlisle’s new series of cosy paranormal mysteries.

The detailed description drew us straight into the story and kept us there, fully immersed on a sensory level – obviously we humble Lancastrian tea fiends have never actually been to Australia but right from the first page we felt we were there, feeling the intense heat, the buffeting and scorching winds and the scent of eucalyptus and lemon butter, hearing each chink of china or enamel in Aunt Enid’s quaint kitchen and dated bathroom.

Sally is staying with her aged Aunt Enid when  the sudden death of Enid’s dearest friend, Olive, hints at events which may put the safety of the entire world in jeopardy. As Enid and her friend Agnes begin to investigate, the secrets which Enid has  been keeping from Sally are forced into the light – fairies, daemons and magic are real, so is The Dark ; an inter-dimensional force that is hungry for human souls, and so are the treasured gnomes in Aunt Enid’s garden…

We really loved the fact that the main characters in this series are mostly in the 50 – 80 age range and all multidimensional, feisty and streetwise with no aversion to high speed driving and late night poker sessions, or a spot of romantic intrigue!

Fans of Carlisle’s Viola Stewart series will lap this up like cream – it has the same delightful mix of thrilling suspense, heart-in-mouth action and charming characters and settings that we have all come to adore.

 

We shall be out here selling Lemonade throughout most of July and August but don not fear, we have invited some of our very favourite authors to come and give us a hand, some will be helping us sell Lemonade, some will be minding the parlour, and those who cannot be here in person will be sending in picture postcards from their exciting inter-dimensional travels!

Tomorrow Aunt Enid will be hopping in from Australia and minding the parlour for us so do please pop in and have a scone with her and until we see you again, please remain always

Utterly Yourself!

 

In the interests of Transparency, a note from Penny : I have the potential to earn a small amount of income through the Amazon Associates program should visitors to this site choose to purchase Aunt Enid – Protector Extraordinaire via the featured links in this article. This has not affected my review, I only review and recommend products which I genuinely think others will enjoy – Penny 🙂 


Pipe and Slippers: Army Of Brass

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

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

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

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

like this perhaps… it is an extract from Army Of Brass and marks our last stop on their blog tour…

stories meme base

Army of Brass

Chapter 45

By Phoebe Darqueling

 

The funicular trundled to a stop on the landing, and Jack approached the door release. It hissed open, but Elaina stayed frozen in place, her eyes once again resting on the Baron as he and his men dismembered the fallen automaton. Crashes reverberated from around the bend as more of the giants began to move.

“Focus, Elaina,” Jack pleaded. “We need to go.”

When her eyes met his again, something had changed. The rage and sorrow had drained away, leaving her gaze hollow but determined. Her spine straightened, and her shoulders relaxed as she put the gun back into its holster. Her free hand briefly rested on her shoulder, then the last trace of rage melted from her body as she strode forward.

She passed the Cartographer and went straight to the interior controls, calling over her shoulder, “Are you coming?”

With a smirk, he followed her into the cabin. Elaina moved a dial and a lever, and the funicular rose again from the valley floor before he’d even hit the button to close the door. Apparently, she was taking his plea for speed to heart, but he’d have waited for that particular nicety. They swayed slightly as they rose, and Jack grabbed frantically for one of the leather straps built into the wall to steady himself. He glanced out the open door to see the solid ground creeping away. It felt as though he’d left his stomach behind.

“Vertigo?” Elaina scoffed, taking in his grim expression and white knuckles with a gesture. “You’re an airship captain. How could you possibly be afraid of heights?”

“It’s somewhat of a new development…” he choked, falling back gratefully into a seat across from her.

As they crept upward, more of battle came into view. Several more of the Cartographer fleet had arrived, their mismatched colors and designs a delightful quilt against the cheery blue of the sky. More soldiers poured out of the cavern, bolstered by the air support. At least two of the automatons seemed to be immobilized, but down the line, head after head lifted and turned its attention to the fight.

“Look!” Elaina rushed to the door, pointing frantically. “It’s Aletha!”

One of the automatons reached out with its drill-arm spinning and drove the point into the chest of another metal giant. The whine and the screech of metal rang out over the valley as the thing’s mechanical guts were ripped out.

Another automaton raised a fist and smashed it into the head of Aletha’s giant. The two machines stood frozen for several seconds, then the attacker lowered its arm and turned its attention to another of Bircham’s machines. The two of them ripped off its arms.

“It’s working,” Jack sighed.

“So far,” his companion agreed.

They had only made it about halfway up the mountainside, but the funicular chose that moment to lurch to an unexpected halt. Sweat beaded on Jack’s brow while Elaina calmly looked over the control panel.

Outside the cabin, most of the Cartographer fleet was engaged with the rebel lords, but a few of them had turned their attention to the brass army. A net shot from a massive gun and enveloped the head and shoulders of one of the automatons. It struggled for a moment, and Jack dared to hope it would stumble and fall. Then it reached up a massive hand, grabbing onto the line. His gut heaved as the machine ripped the airship from the sky.

When he couldn’t take her measured silence any longer, he blurted. “What happened? Can you fix it?”

She shrugged and turned toward him. “It’s not a problem from this end. It must be the winch at the top. There could be shrapnel in the mechanism, or Bircham had it disabled. Either way, it’s useless now. We can’t go up or down.”

Jack wheeled back to the door and saw parachutes blooming around the falling ship. One of the Marksmen trained his gun carefully as he sailed toward the ground. With a single, expert shot, he ignited the hydrogen, and the airship burst into a fiery ball. The automaton batted it away, undeterred, only to have one of Aletha’s metal giants punch it in the chest.

He hadn’t realized Elaina had joined him at the door until she murmured, “We can’t stay here, either. It’s only a matter of time before we’re hit by debris, or one of those things notices us.”

“How?” Jack spluttered, though on some level he knew exactly what she was about to propose. “You said it’s broken!”

“We’ll simply need to climb,” she replied. “The cable is intact, and we can use the ties between the tracks like steps.”

“I… don’t think I can…”

She waved away the panic in his voice. “Of course you can. We use those rocks and then go around to the front to grab onto the cable. It’s simple. See?” Elaina vaulted from the open door and scrambled over the jagged stone. Jack’s shock immobilized him until he heard her voice from the front of cab. “Are you coming, Mr. Davenport?”

With far more resolution than he felt, he answered in the affirmative and followed her path. He could feel the wound at his hip reopen as he lunged, and hot blood soaked his bandage by the time he reached her. True to her word, a taut cable ran up the middle of the track, and the evenly-spaced wooden beams would make the climb much easier, but the pain flashed bright, and nausea roiled in his guts. He leaned against the cab to catch his breath and put pressure on the gash in his hip.

“Pull yourself together,” Elaina said. “You’re the one who told me to focus, remember?”

Jack help up his bloody hand. “Ashtan’s handiwork.”

“I can take a look at it once we reach the top, but right now, we have got to move.”

Elaina started up the tracks, hand over steady hand as she progressed up the cable. Jack steeled himself against the pain, then followed. The sounds of the battle echoed all around them, but he resisted the urge to turn around and watch. The cable bit into his palms, giving him something to focus on besides the fact that he was over a hundred feet in the air. He kept his eyes trained on Elaina’s back and tried to match her steady pace until a few stray pebbles got between his boot and the next tie. He kept hold of the cable but landed on his bloody hip with a groan.

“I can’t. My leg—”

“Yes, yes. Your leg hurts. I heard you,” Elaina said, glancing over her shoulder before taking another step. “But honestly, what are you proposing? Will you build a nest and live up here like some sort of great buzzard?”

“This is no time for jokes, Mrs. Gable.” Jack used his good leg to regain his footing and willed himself back to standing.

“Was I joking? I can’t always tell these days,” she said thoughtfully. After another two steps, she called over her shoulder, “What I do know is that I am neither willing nor able to pull you to the top, due to the obvious discrepancy between your bulk and my upper body strength. Ergo, you shall have to climb or find some way to derive sustenance from bare—and might I remind you, toxic—stone.”

Jack frowned at her back, which was getting farther and farther away. He took a deep breath, then another step. A drop of his own blood splattered the wood under his feet, and his vertigo reasserted itself.

“Unless of course you plan to die,” she speculated, now at least ten paces ahead. “It would seem a rather fitting ending for your legend, as long as the details never made it out.”

He shook away the bout of dizziness and resolved not to let the gap between them grow any wider. With teeth gritted against the pain, he finally began to move.

Up ahead, Elaina continued. “Think about it! You lost your ship, the love of Captain Davenport’s life, on a mission to save the king. If you were to die here in the valley, everyone would think you were struck down in the Battle of Brasshaven. Now that would be one for the storybooks,” she said. “Then, of course, this discussion is all academic, and the necessity of your moving from that spot is moot. In which case, could you please let go and stop distracting me from climbing? This last part will be tricky.”

“What has gotten into you?” he marveled.

“Nothing at all. I simply took your advice,” she grunted. “Bircham is the mission. And if I am correct, and I nearly always am, we shall find him at the top of this cliff. I am simply attempting to keep you on task.”

The noise in the valley started to fade. Jack thought at first it was just because they were getting higher, but he risked taking a look. Yet more Marksmen still poured out of the caverns, and he heard the shouts of the smiths better than ever. But he realized in horror that the automatons no longer seemed to be fighting each other. Aletha was losing.

“You should press on without me!” he cried. “I just need a rest, that’s all. You have Rose’s gun, you shouldn’t need more than that.”

“You may proceed with that course of action, but I would advise against it,” she replied, disappearing over the top of the cliff. “Your arms are already shaking. What do you think a few more minutes will do?”

He willed himself to take another step. It couldn’t be more than a few more paces, but his throat was closing in panic. His wound bled freely. The Marksmen were clearly no match for the machines. The Cartographers were outgunned. And now, Aletha was failing. All was lost.

“You know the problem with stories, Jack? They are too… clean. The writers always type ‘The End,’ but it isn’t really, is it? Real endings are far more complicated than the stories make them out to be.”

He concentrated on the sound of her voice and continued his agonized climb.

“Besides,” she continued, “if you do decide to survive, I am sure the Society would be happy to get you back into the air again. Then there would be plenty of time for more adventures.”

Hope wasn’t lost. Hope was waiting just a few feet above his head. All he had to do was reach it. With a defiant cry, he harnessed his pain and took the last three strides to reach the top. At the edge, the cable no longer stood above the ground but instead lay directly against the ties. His tired hands scrabbled at the stone as he got his torso up and over, then he felt Elaina grab his belt and add her strength to his.

Jack spent a moment catching his breath, then struggled out of the pack. He heard Elaina rifling through it as the spots swam out of his vision, then turned over on his back. She held out a canteen. “Perhaps you could take me somewhere, when this is all over. I think we both could use a holiday.”

“Thanks for waiting,” he replied, taking a swig of water.

She smirked and pointed out, “You’ve got my bullet.”

 

And don’t forget, Army of Brass is available now! 21 international writers came together to create this tale of giant automatons, fearless airship captains, and deadly conspiracies.

 

Order your ebook copy of Army of Brass for $.99 and receive it on Friday to celebrate Steampunk’s “31st birthday.” The blog tour continues until May 13, and so does this special price.

 

Plus, Join us on Facebook April 28-29 to meet the writers, participate in giveaways, and more!

 

Not sure if it’s for you? Read a review, take a sneak peek at the full Chapter 1 or read another exclusive excerpt. You can also get to know the character Captain Jack Davenport a little bit better with his interview on Blake & Wight. If you want to find out more about collaborative writing, Army of Brass contributors and Collaborative Writing Challenge veterans Crystal MM Burton and Kathrin Hutson shared articles for the tour about the pros, cons, and rewards.

 

Speaking of giveaways, you can enter to win ebooks from the CWC writers.


30 Years Of Steampunk: The Second Decade – Guest Post By Phoebe Darqueling

Steampunk: The Second Decade

Greetings to fans of Steampunk old and new! This is the third installment of a series exploring the history of the Steampunk genre in honor of its “31st birthday” on April 27. As part of the 30th birthday festivities in 2017, I coordinated and contributed to a collaborative Steampunk novel called Army of Brass. You can pre-order now at a mere $.99 as our “gift” on this most hallowed of days and it will be delivered on Friday.

 

In the first post in this series, I talked about adaptations of Victorian works as examples of Steampunk before the word “Steampunk” came into being. If you want to know more about that momentous occasion and the first ten years of amazing books, check out part 2. Now, we embark on the decade spanning the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s in which Steampunk branched out from literature and found a home in fashion and graphic novels. Plus we see the birth of the first online forums for connecting Steampunk fans.

Army of Brass Cover

Steampunk Fashion

Steampunk jumped from the pages of books into the realm of wearable art sometime in the mid- to late-1990s. Fashion student and member of the fashionable set, Kit Stolen, is one well-known example. He wore distressed Victorian style clothes paired with his own unique hair creations (called “falls”) and caused quite a sensation. Large-scale events wouldn’t show up in earnest for a few years yet, but daring creators like Stolen paved the way for the rest of us to enjoy our corsets and top hats later on.

Visual Media

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

In 1999, writer Alan Moore (The Watchmen) and illustrator Kevin O’Neill paired up to create the first LoEG graphic novels. The story is set in 1898 in the aftermath of the events of Dracula. Mina Harker is recruited by Campion Bond (a predecessor of James Bond) to lead a unique group of “extraordinary” literary figures. She recruits the likes of Allan Quatermain, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, and Captain Nemo to join her to fight Fu Manchu in the first collection. Volume II centers on the events of War of the Worlds.

 

This two-volume collection of comics is brimming with literary characters and settings from the 19th century. And much in the same vein as the first Steampunk books, this series definitely has a dark side. The 2003 film by the same name, however, was pitched as more of a family affair. Sean Connery plays Quatermain and as the one with the star power, he ended up totally usurping Mina as the leader of the group. They also added a big role for Tom Sawyer as a CIA agent. Many fans of comics hated the movie because it shed all of its darkness, and film critics didn’t love it either. Still, it’s a fun homage to the literature of the steam era.

Wild Wild West Movie (1999)

This is another movie that checks several Steampunk boxes but ran into problems with fans. This reimagining of the 1960s Western-spy crossover as an adventure comedy rubbed many the wrong way. The franchise centers on James West, a sheriff who works for Ulysses S. Grant. At the time, Will Smith, who played West, was one of the hottest actors in Hollywood, and Kevin Kline was on a similar hot streak when he played West’s sidekick. It culminates in a mad scientist on a rampage in his giant mechanical spider. I personally loved this movie when I first saw it. Then again, I’d never seen the original so I wasn’t suffering from any dashed expectations. The movie is definitely a comedy, so I can see why someone looking for James Bond in the Wild West could be disappointed. (But still, giant mechanical spider = awesome. Am I right?)

 

Panel 07.1.jpg

Girl Genius (2001-Present)

The husband and wife team of Phil and Kaja Foglio created this series in 2001. It straddles the line between Steampunk and gaslamp fantasy, a term that Kaja Foglio created to describe the series as it straddles the line between sci-fi and fantasy. It’s about Agatha Clay, a harried science student in a semi-Victorian setting and carries the tagline “Adventure, Romance, MAD SCIENCE!” It started off as a black and white print book, added color in issue 3, and jumped to the web in 2005. You can read the entire series from the beginning and it is still updated every week.

Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidoqc (2001)

In the original French, this film is called simply Vidoqc because this name is famous in their history. Eugene Francois Vidoqc was a real police investigator in the first half of the 19th century and is largely recognized as the “father of forensic science.” His methods were so advanced, in fact, that people thought he dabbled in the occult. This association is the inspiration behind the film, which is both gritty and beautiful. The structure is unusual and non-linear, and among my favorite films of all time.

The Amazing Screw-on Head (2002)

Dark Horse comics later released this dark comedy by Mike Mignola (Hellboy) about a secret agent working in Abraham Lincoln’s service in 2002. True to his name, Screw-on Head has a removable head that can be installed in a number of bodies with different capabilities. A few years later, the SyFy channel released the pilot for an animated series. Unfortunately, despite the voice talent of Paul Giamatti, David Hyde Pierce, and Patton Oswalt, it never made it past the first episode.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbsDvGtTRWU

 

The Five Fists of Science (2006)

Dark Horse published another Steampunk gem with Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla in the starring roles. This is a tight little book that doesn’t waste any words, which means that all of the front-pages are more than just prologue. If you pick this one up (and I recommend you do), make sure you check out the short biographies of the real people involved, as well as the letter shared between Twain and Tesla that inspired this story full of giant robots and Lovecraftian beasties.

 

Steampunk Hits the Web

In 2006, the first dedicated Steampunk forum was established. Though the creator no longer plays an active role or updates it regularly, you can still visit “Brass Goggles.” This was an important step in the evolution of Steampunk as a community rather than a string of independent people. People could swap tips about making props and costumes, recommend books, and plan get-togethers in a streamlined way.

And Then Came the Music

Panel 08

And don’t forget, Army of Brass comes out tomorrow! 21 international writers came together to create this tale of giant automatons, fearless airship captains, and deadly conspiracies.

 

Order your ebook copy of Army of Brass for $.99 and receive it on Friday to celebrate Steampunk’s “31st birthday.” The blog tour continues until May 13, and so does this special price.

 

Plus, Join us on Facebook April 28-29 to meet the writers, participate in giveaways, and more!

 

Not sure if it’s for you? Read a review, take a sneak peek at the full Chapter 1 or read another exclusive excerpt. You can also get to know the character Captain Jack Davenport a little bit better with his interview on Blake & Wight. If you want to find out more about collaborative writing, Army of Brass contributors and Collaborative Writing Challenge veterans Crystal MM Burton and Kathrin Hutson shared articles for the tour about the pros, cons, and rewards.

 

Speaking of giveaways, you can enter to win ebooks from the CWC writers.

 

 

and if you want to read the other posts in this series you can find them here:

What’s in a Name? Steampunk before “Steampunk” :  https://www.steampunkjournal.org/2018/04/24/whats-in-a-name-steampunk-before-steampunk/

Note from Penny: Thankyou so much to Phoebe for this awesome guest post which forms part of the Army of Brass blog tour. Regular readers may have noticed the Abney Park album featured on the panel in the music section and recall that this blog is temporarily boycotting Abney Park because of Robert Brown’s antiziganistic remarks and behaviour (until such a time as we can speak to him personally and see what he has to say for himself)  However we have allowed this one exception so as not to ruin Phoebe’s wonderful guest post (Coz we iz nice like that innit?) and not at all used it exploitatively to draw attention to this issue we’re passionate about… a-hem… 😉