by Penny Blake

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Morning Cuppa: The Brazen Shark #steampunk fiction

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s brilliantly brute-proof and cunningly-concealed parlour located within the somewhat-invisible-from-here but nonetheless scenic city of Lancaster!

True, some have called it the cat-infested oubliette of a psychotic-scarecrow-landlord, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us on this bright, sunlit morning struggling to read by candlelight and failing to find cushions to sit on that are not occupied by damp cats. The water doesn’t drip from the roof down here, it rises up through the floor instead, at first we thought there was a tasteless carpet on the floor, but after a few licks it turned out to be some sort of softly luminescent purple fungus…

Anyway, you didn’t come here to eat mushrooms (or did you?) No – you came to enjoy a nice cup of tea and to hear some excellent steampunk fiction and that, dear friends, is what you shall have –

Brazen Shark Cover-333x500.jpg

You want Steampunk that’s ‘Beyond Victoriana’? You want airships, aliens, pirates and samurai? Then look no further than The Brazen Shark…

Welcome to the third book in the Clockwork Legion series!  The concept and motives of the alien life form Legion, who can read and control the human mind, continue to grow and intrigue – at times we felt sympathy, and at others fear and awe at the scope of their involvement in the affairs of planet earth – as Fatemeh and Ramon find themselves taking an active role in world affairs once more, this time in Japan, where a group of Samurai are planning to overthrow the emperor, sparking conflict with Russia in their purloined airship!

We have already enjoyed the earlier adventures of Fatemeh and Ramon Morales but The Brazen Shark is by far and away our favourite book of the Clockwork Legion series and, to be honest, even if you have not read the previous Owl Dance or Lightning Wolves, you can still start the series here and become thoroughly enthralled with David Lee Summers’ epic host of engaging characters in this brilliantly paced, world-spanning Steampunk adventure.

 

And no reading session is complete without an excellent tea to go with it, so please join us in a cup of ‘kiss goodbye to summer’ Peach Cobbler from Friday Teas

Now then, to make up for the dreadful fiasco this week we will be in the parlour Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week as we are taking part in Karen J Carlisle’s fabulous book tour for the new titles in her Viola Stewart series (tentacles writhing in excitement!)

In the meantime, we wish you all a very dry and witty weekend and until we see you again, please be always,

Utterly Yourself

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Tea @Three: Painting with Tea…

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s brand new, re-located and  innovatively  Liver Bird – Proof  Parlour, courteously provided for us by our delightfully obliging and inventive Landlord, Montmorency.

Last week we asked our dear Landlord if he wouldn’t mind switching our sack cloth roof to something more stalwart… and so we now find ourselves relocated to what he calls his ‘Subterranean Sepulchre Suit’ conveniently adjacent to his  ‘personal, private pied a terre’ … do you ever have those life moments where you wish you had never asked? … hmm…

Still, here we are, hugely apologetic for not being available at the start of the week as we moved our humble belongings in and arranged our copious amounts of furniture and lace, and now eager (is that the word?) to introduce you to our new room mate, who you may actually (if you are a long standing follower) have met before.

freddie

His name is Freddie Payne (a tribute to that great literary criminal John Payne Collier and the famous Punch and Judy puppet maker Fred Tickner) and he is an  anchorite – a devotee of The Divine Comedy – which is why he is chained to the wall, not for any other reason, honestly, he was like that when we moved in…

In this portrait he is painted using tea (lapsang if you were wondering) and a little weak coffee because Penny realised that such things could be done and HAD to have a go. There may be more of us turning up painted in tea at some point… but in the meantime we will return tomorrow with our usual review slot and next week should be back to normal, well, as normal as an octopus and his Very Quiet Gentlemen friend and their religious fanatic roomie can get… a-hem.

Still, until then, please be always

Utterly,  Your Delightful Self

 

Soup Of The Day: With #Steampunk Author David Lee Summers

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

DLS-Owl Dance

Helping me this morning is Steampunk writer David Lee Summers, author of The Clockwork Legion series! Good morning David, thank you so much for coming to help me in the kitchen today, I hope your journey here from your own dimension was a good one?

I had a delightful journey. The spacetime vortex was a trifle bumpy in the middle, but that just adds some zest to the ride!

 

Indeed! And have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

I did indeed. This is a soup my character Ramon Morales enjoys in the novel Lightning Wolves called Caldo de Pollo.  It’s a traditional soup from New Mexico and the proportions are easily adjustable to feed as many as you need.  This recipe will make about six 8-ounce servings.

 

1 tablespoon Canola oil

4 chicken leg quarters

4 cloves garlic chopped

1 teaspoon garlic powder

48 oz chicken stock

1 cup whole grain brown rice

2 cups water

1 cup baby carrots

2 large potatoes

1 onion chopped fine

¼ cup cilantro

2 tablespoons New Mexico or Anaheim green chile roasted and chopped

2 stalks celery cut about an inch long

½ cup salsa (pick the flavor you like, I like a smoky, Chipotle salsa)

 

Heat oil in 4 quart pot.  Sauté onions until clear to lightly browned.  Cut chicken quarters in half and add to the pot.  Add chicken stock, rice, garlic, and green chile.  Bring to boil then simmer until chicken is tender—about an hour.  Allow to cool.  The dish may be prepared to this point and refrigerated overnight.  Remove chicken from pot.  Discard skin and bones. Shred meat and set aside. Skim fat from broth.  Add 2 cups water, carrots, celery, potatoes, cilantro, salsa, and garlic powder to the stock.  Bring to a boil then cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender.  Add water as needed to keep it brothy.  Add the shredded chicken back to the pot and heat through.

 

 

Oh how marvellous! Thankyou! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we have a seat by the fire and I will put the kettle on, and you can tell the orphans here all about your Steampunk series, it starts in New Mexico but the story unfolds to span the globe doesn’t it?

The Clockwork Legion series does indeed start in New Mexico.  It begins when a small town sheriff meets a woman from a distant land who endeavors to be a healer in every sense of the word.  She wants to heal not only sick and injured people, but the land and rifts between people. Unfortunately, not everyone wants those rifts healed and she falls afoul of the rich and powerful.

In the meantime an alien swarm, so tiny it can’t be seen, comes to Earth.  Fascinated by our two main characters and their desire to heal the rifts that divide people, it decides to take action and starts unlocking the potential of the world’s great inventors. In the process, it inadvertently unleashes the Russian Invasion of America and our heroes struggle to set things right again. The story spans the Western United States and then crosses the Pacific to Japan for the third book.

And what about the main characters, Fatemeh and Ramon, could you tell us a little more about them?

Fatemeh Karimi is the healer I mentioned. She ran away from Persia when she converted to the new Bahá’í Faith and found herself in danger of persecution. She’s curious about all things spiritual, has a strong sense of justice, is a talented herbalist, and wants to help every troubled person she meets. That strong sense of justice, though, gets her in to trouble.  Also she might, just might, talk to owls.

When we meet Ramon Morales, he’s the sheriff of Socorro, New Mexico, a raucous mining town in the center of the territory.  He’s very owl-like with round glasses and soon falls under Fatemeh’s spell.  Like her, he has a strong sense of justice, plus he has a strong interest in what this great century of change will bring.  When we first meet him, he’s trying to find his direction in life.  As the books progress, we see his interests come into greater focus.

Your settings and characters are certainly a move away from London-centric Steampunk do you think we need to encourage greater diversity within the genre or do you think we have it already?

The whole world experienced the steam era, which means there is a whole world that could serve as a backdrop for stories.  There have been some good strides made toward diverse steampunk such as Nisi Shawl’s Nebula-nominated Afro-steampunk novel Everfair or Eric Brown’s steampunk novel set in India, Jani and the Greater Game.  If you add time to the mix and allow for post-apocalyptic stories we can consider Paulo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl set in Southeast Asia.  Cheri Priest’s Clockwork Century novels are set in America.  If we now add in small and independent press titles, we truly span the globe.

So yes, we do have diverse steampunk, but really, we’re just beginning.  Because people do have a very London-centric view of Steampunk, it’s clear we need to keep up the good work and encourage more diverse steampunk.  We need to encourage people from diverse backgrounds to come and join us as we explore this wonderful, fun, creative space and have them tell their stories.  Steampunk will only be richer for the efforts.

I absoloutely agree with you I …Oh! now the kettle is boiled, may I offer you a cup of tea? How do you take it?

Just a little sugar, please!

Hm, it is the last of the ration I’m afraid! There you are. So what first attracted you to Steampunk?

I think I was a Steampunk before I even knew what Steampunk was. My dad was a locomotive foreman for Santa Fe Railroad and introduced me to steam locomotives at a young age. What’s more, while I’m a speculative fiction writer by day, I’m an astronomer by night. My first job in the field was working on a nineteenth-century telescope with a wind-up clock drive and glass photographic plates. I got to see first-hand how I could use nineteenth century technology to produce publishable science in the late twentieth century!

My first story published for professional rates was called “The Slayers” and told the story of an airship crew who hunted dragons. The story had a very Steampunk aesthetic and appeared in Realms of Fantasy Magazine in 2001, long before I even heard the word “Steampunk.”

I first heard the word “Steampunk” around 2009 when I was telling someone about a story I’d written in which a zombie-like creature is raised from the dead with a Tesla coil.  The person said the story sounded very Steampunk.  I looked into it and realized he was right. What’s more, I realized a lot of the stuff I liked writing could, indeed, be called Steampunk.

This is all to say that when I finally did discover Steampunk, the pump was primed and I was ready to jump aboard.  I’ve always loved nineteenth century technology from precision gear-driven machines to electrical apparatus such as Tesla coils.  Also, I love looking at points in history and seeing what would happen if dots were connected that hadn’t been connected in history as we know it.

Splendid! And how have your own culture and experiences influenced your writing?

When I write, I try to capture the world around me as I see it. I grew up in a culturally diverse neighborhood in Southern California.  My mom was a third-generation New Mexican and we visited the state often when I was young. I fell in love with it and moved to New Mexico for college. In college and in my subsequent astronomy career, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and work with men and women from all around the world. Currently, I live in a diverse neighborhood about 35 miles north of the Mexican Border.  The observatory where I work is in the Tohono O’Odham Nation of Southern Arizona.

Ethnically, I’m some mix of Celtic and Central European stock and undoubtedly have reaped the benefits of white privilege.  That said, I’m so far removed from those roots, it’s not always easy to separate those cultural influences from the ones that surround me on a daily basis. Although I do worry about falling into the trap of cultural assimilation in my writing, I do my best to avoid that by respecting the cultures I write about. I learn what I can about their history and remember that first and foremost, we’re all people and we’re more alike than different.

Having noted all that, I always thought it was strange when I was a child to watch western films and see them populated with nothing but white people.  They seemed nothing like the west as I knew it.  It took books like The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols and Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya to show me the New Mexico I saw with my own eyes. I wanted to capture that New Mexico, that western United States, in my writing.

Another element to mention is that I’ve been surrounded by strong women all my life, including my mom, my wife, and my daughters. They are a big influence on the strong women in my stories. Among other things, it’s important that the characters in my stories be good role models for my daughters.

There is a strong undercurrent of social , religious and political commentary to your work, do you think Steampunk is well placed to draw attention to important issues both past, present and future?

By its nature, Steampunk looks at the past and asks “what if?” That puts it in a unique place to not merely report on the past, but ask how it could have been changed.  Although we can’t change the past, those insights can help us see where problems persist in the present and allow us to shape the future in response.

The nineteenth century is rightly criticized for many human rights’ abuses and inequalities. It was an era of rampant colonialism. That said, it was also the era when many brave men and women began to speak out. Arguably, that was a much harder time to speak out. Speaking out often got you beaten or even killed. Looking back and facing the ugly parts of our past becomes a way to remind ourselves to be brave and steadfast in the present, seeking justice and equality where we can and not to allow ourselves to fall back into a time when we judged people by their gender or their skin color.

The Bahá’í Faith features strongly in my Clockwork Legion novels. That started simply because it was a brand new religion during the late nineteenth century. However, the more I learned, I discovered that its practitioners are denied educations and even jailed to this day simply for their beliefs. What’s more, there’s a lot I agree with in the faith, including the emphasis on education for all and equal rights for women. It became an opportunity to bring attention to a subject that’s often buried under more prominent social issues.

That is fascinating, it has certainly inspired me to find out more. But back to your own writing for a moment, do you have any new releases or projects brewing that we can get excited about?

I just co-edited an anthology called Maximum Velocity: The Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales which is a collection of exciting science fiction tales released by WordFire Press.  My most recent novel is called The Astronomer’s Crypt and imagines astronomers, ghosts, a drug cartel, and a monster from the dawn of time colliding at an observatory like the one where I work in real life.

On the Clockwork Legion and Steampunk front, I’m very excited to announce that my Clockwork Legion story “Fountains of Blood” is in the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone edited by David Boop and published by Baen Books. In addition to my story, you’ll find stories by Jim Butcher, Larry Correia, Jody Lynn Nye, Alan Dean Foster, Phil Foglio, and many more.  Also, I’m just putting the finishing touches on the fourth Clockwork Legion novel, Owl Riders.  Stay tuned for more information about that soon!

Wonderful! Lots of things to look forward to! And where can we find your work online?

You can sign up for my newsletter and find more about me and my books at http://www.davidleesummers.com

I also maintain a blog at http://davidleesummers.wordpress.com with news and information plus articles related to my writing, my work life in astronomy, and other things that influence my work.

 

Marvellous! Well now, it really has been so wonderful to chat to you today David, thankyou so much for coming to give me a hand in the kitchen! I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready so shall we start dishing it up?

Thank you so much for the interview. I’m hungry now! Definitely time to dish up the soup!

Thankyou all of you for joining us today, I must pass on Max and Collin’s apologies for not being at home this week – apparently they have ‘reasons’ and apparently these will soon become…er…apparent! In the meantime, do please take the time to visit David’s weblinks below and come and join me next week when I will be hosting our blog tour post for Karen J Carlisle’s wonderful new instalment of Viola Stewart!!! Until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

Maximum Velocity: The Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074FHCJXG/

The Astronomer’s Crypt: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N5EH8QP/

Straight Outta Tombstone: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1481482696/

Clockwork Legion novels are as follows:

Owl Dance: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00K8N8U7O/

Lightning Wolves: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00LI3LO80/

The Brazen Shark: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01AHCSA0W/

 

Soup Of The Day: With Steampunk Author Kara Jorgensen

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

 

Helping me this morning is one of my favourite Steampunk writers Kara Jorgensen, author of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series!

 

Good morning Kara, thank you so much for coming to help me it is so nice to welcome you back to my soup kitchen again, I hope your journey here from your won dimension was a good one?

…. It’s always a little rough this time of year, but luckily, I made it in one piece. Thank you so much for having me.

Oh you’re most welcome , Dear, it is lovely to have you back! And have you brought something delicious with you today to share with the orphans?

I have brought some Tamatar Palak Ka Shorba, or Indian spinach and tomato soup. Here’s the link to the recipe:

https://www.whiskaffair.com/tamatar-palak-ka-shorba/

 

Thankyou! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we have a little peer into its depths and see what images it can conjure up for us from the aether?

steam arm

 

Ah yes, the Steampunk genre is certainly full of characters who sport mechanical prosthesis of one form or another isn’t it? I wonder why that is?

I’ve wondered that myself. A lot of it I think is merely due to aesthetics. You can add all sorts of gizmos and gadgets to a prosthetic, like knives, guns, rocket launchers (if you’re a little more modern in your punking). Plus, then your character has some steampunk flavor beyond just their clothing. Now they are actively part of the genre, so to speak. If it’s an actual limb, your character will also regain most of their function or even more, depending on how functional the prosthesis is.

Prosthesis feature prominently in your own writing, not simply as an aesthetic to support the genre but as key elements which shape the narrative, was this a conscious decision?

Yes, it was definitely a conscious decision. While I enjoy the aesthetics of steampunk, I had read a story where the prosthetic served no other purpose than to look cool. I didn’t want that with Eilian and his arm. Disabilities aren’t a costume, and I didn’t think a character with a disability should merely be used to strengthen the genre’s aesthetic. I wanted to show Eilian’s struggles with coming to terms with his disability and eventually progressing enough that he could function without an arm or prosthetic. I felt that journey was necessary before I introduced the prosthetic arm into the story. Instead of having the prosthetic “solve” his problems, I wanted him to solve them himself.

 

Of course to Eilian and Hadley, prosthetics have a huge impact on their lives in many ways…

Oh yes, well, poor Eilian is minus one arm, so his prosthetic arm plays a large role in his story. Going from an active world-traveller to an invalid, even temporarily, is a huge blow to him, but he eventually adapts to his burn scars and missing arm. His first prosthesis is horribly cumbersome and not worth wearing. After he meets Hadley, well, I won’t give too much away, but she devices something much more functional. Prostheses are Hadley’s business, so they are her livelihood. As a woman in the Victorian Era, she is expected to keep house and have children, but because she is the last surviving member of her family who can create prostheses, she totally goes against the norms of the time by actively working on mechanical devices.

 

But for Immanuel, his eye injury is not remedied by technology or medical science. Did you ever think that he might choose to try and repair or replace his injured eye, or was that never an issue for his character?

It may sound silly, but I don’t think Immanuel likes to admit that his eye bothers him. In several scenes, his partner has suggested he get glasses, but I don’t think there would be any other technology that could “fix” his eye. In my writing, I only use materials that were at least semi readily available during the Victorian Era, so I can’t make anything too complex. A moveable arm is one thing, but an eye is a much higher level of complexity. I couldn’t think of a way to make a device to help him see that wasn’t completely anachronistic.

 

You do a marvellous job of showing the complexities that Eilian has to face, both physical, logistical and social when he loses his arm, do you think it’s important to explore these issues in Steampunk and not just have characters ‘slap on a clockwork prosthetic limb and jump back into the fray’ ?

Very. It’s one thing if the story takes place a long time after the character lost their limb or they have always used a prosthesis (as in someone who has a birth defect). Then, it would make sense for them to slap on a prosthesis and go, but to lose a limb is a life-changing event. To brush it off as if it were nothing is unrealistic and kind of insulting to those who have gone through similar traumatic experiences. One thing I try to teach in my creative writing classes is that characters are people, too, so you have to give them human psyches. Exploring these psychological and sociological complexities are what make works of fiction rich, and in my writing, I try very hard to give my characters realistic experiences that readers can connect to.

 

Immanuel certainly has some physical injuries remaining from his ordeal with Lord Rose (goodness that monster’s name sends a shiver down my spine!) but what affects his life the most is PTSD, isn’t it?

Definitely, his PTSD is far worse than any physical wound. In time, those heal and disappear, or scars at least lessen, but PTSD never truly goes away. As I mentioned before, my characters are written to be human and have human limitations, as far as trauma goes. After being kidnapped and tortured for nearly three months, he has deep psychological wounds. I try not to overdo it in his stories to the point that his PTSD is comical or makes him seem completely dysfunctional, but it affects his everyday life. There are times when something triggers flashbacks to Lord Rose (such as cigarette smoke) or he has a panic attack that tears his mind away from reality. As the series goes on, his PTSD lessens to a point and the psychological issues associated with it change with the healing process.

 

Prosthetics are very popular in Steampunk cosplay but do you think there is ever a line of tension between creating worlds where varying abilities and needs form major narrative / aesthetic devices, and making those worlds accessible to real people with varying needs and abilities?

I’m not someone with a physical disability, so I can’t say for certain but I could definitely see how that tension could arise. When a disability is used as a prop, it may look cool to the average reader, but to someone with a similar disability in real life, it could be disheartening to see themselves used to further an aesthetic while in real life they struggle for accommodations that would help them live a more normal life. Having a disabled character float through life, especially Victorian life, without issue is hard to believe unless a very high percentage of people in that world are also disabled. No one’s hardship should be used as a prop, whether it’s a disability, their sexuality, or their race, just because it makes the character more exotic or interesting. These things affect people’s lives, and to treat it as nothing more than added flavour, is disrespectful to those living with it.

 

Do you think more can be done to make sure that Steampunk fiction and conventions are made accessible and welcoming for all fans of the genre?

With conventions, it is fairly easy: make sure the events are all on one floor or have elevators and accommodations for those who need them. The Steampunk World’s Fair does a good job of being inclusive for those with disabilities, differing sexualities, nationalities, etc. Panels on writing/creating characters different from yourself would help a lot to create awareness among writers that their stories could hurt people with disabilities if they don’t do proper research. Going off that, writers of steampunk fiction can take these things seriously when they write and be aware of what having a foreign or disabled character really means and what bad representation does to those that character represents.

 

Thankyou Kara for those wise and insightful words, I absoloutely agree with you. It really has been so wonderful to chat to you today, thank you so much for coming to give me a hand in the kitchen again! Now then, the kettle is singing so why don’t we pour a nice brew and you can tell me about what is new in the world of Ingenious Mechanical Devices; I know you have Selkie Cove which has just been released ?

SelkieCoveLH

Oh yes, Selkie Cove, book five of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices, came out in late July. It’s my latest book child, and I’m super stoked to have it out in the world. In Selkie Cove, Adam and Immanuel get involved with a magical government agency called Her Majesty’s Interceptors, and for them to join, they must first solve a case involving a murdered creature called a selkie. The selkies are seemingly half-human and half-seal and dwell in the northern waters between England and Scandinavia. Along the way, they find more dead bodies, new powers, and that Adam has been holding back more than he’s let on.

And do you have any new titles planned for next year?

Several, hopefully. I’m currently writing a story about Emmeline Jardine that takes place around the same time as Selkie Cove. She finds new love, some interesting lore about her family, and a new direction for her life. In 2018, I’m hoping to write another Eilian and Hadley story as well as an Immanuel and Adam story. With those, I only have a vague idea of what those might be about, but the Emmeline story should be out by Spring 2018 at the latest.

 

Well that certainly is alot to look forward to! Oh! I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready so shall we start dishing it up?

Mmmm, I can’t wait. Thank you so much for having me. Bon appetit!

 

Thankyou all of you for joining us in the kitchen today, if you would like to find out more about Kara’s writing you can find her on the aether-web here…

 

Website: http://karajorgensen.com

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

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kara-Jorgensen/e/B00L4KTO0W

 

Blessings on your brew my dears!

Tentacoils

Very honoured to be invited back to play on my favourite gothic island, Hopeless Maine! 🙂

The Hopeless Vendetta

‘Twas chillblist, and the tentacoils
  Did writhe and wrangle ‘midst the waves:
Beleaguered was my little boat
Far off the coast of Maine.

Above the storm, a voice sang fell

 A knell, if not a note in tune,

But th’ wind did snatch the words away

 And left my soul in swoon.

 

“Beware the mermaids, child!” it cried
  “The howlers wild, with nails that slash!
The noisome gnii, the beasts of sea
and those your spoon wouldst snatch!”

 

 

“Beware the tentacoils!” it sang

“Beware the stinging succubus

The eyes that glow, the shades that grow,

And demons of the dust!”

 

But firm I took my oar in hand:
  Long time in dark for hope I sought —
‘till in Hopeless State I came to rest,
And lay awash in thought.

 

And, as in lone despair I lay,
  Demonic Shades, with eyes of flame,

View original post 70 more words

Morning Cuppa: Dead Magic #steampunkfiction

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s drop dead delectable parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!

True some have called it a ghastly garret haunted by fiendish ghouls and black hearted demons, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us this morning, quaking to the core because we are certain we heard the mounful cry of the first flesh eating Liver Birds rising from their long summer sleep and we are now trying to pluck up the courage to ask our landlord if he might not possibly, very sweetly, consider replacing our sack cloth roof for something more substantial…

But before we do anything so foolhardy, let us contemplate the matter over a nice cup of tea and a good book…

dead magic

 

Kara Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices series has been our chief excuse for not lifting a tentacle from the chaise longue for hours on end over this past year; these books just cannot be put down and when the final page is read, the sense of loss as we close the cover on some of our favourite fictional characters ever, is so great that we just have to read the thing all over again.

Dead Magic is no exception. If you are new to the series you will want to start here. But if, like us, you have followed Immanuel and Emmeline to hell and back, defeated demons and even death by their side and are wondering if, at last, Immanuel and Adam will get their ‘happily ever after’ in London then take a deep breath and step into the jaws of Dead Magic…

Immanuel has now moved to London with his lover, Adam, and begins his new dream job at the museum. Meanwhile Emmeline (as adorable as ever) is ‘suffering’ under the watchful eye of her aunt and continuing her work at the Spiritualist Society. But soon Emmeline finds her lust for success, both in magic and marriage, drawing her down a much darker spiritual path, a secret path which both terrifies and enchants her; will Immanuel be able to bring her back this time? Or does Emmeline require a new saviour, one whose soul isn’t quite so pure…

This book left us breathless, in tears, in love, in anguish and practically clawing at the aether to get to the next book, Selkie Cove, which thankfully is now available to purchase here.

And is that the kettle singing? Perhaps you will join us in something appropriately dark and delicious? Like this dark Side chocolate and cherry tea from fandom teas…

dark side tea

We wish you a divinely dark and marvellously magical afternoon and invite you back to join us for elevenses tomorrow so, until then, please be always

Utterly Yourself

Soup Of The Day: With Steampunk Author Nils Nisse Visser

 

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

Helping me this morning is Steampunk writer Nils Nisse Visser, author of Amster Damned! Good morning Nils, thank you so much for coming to help me in the kitchen today! 

NILS bw author

An absolute pleasure!

Oh and who is this magnificent gentleman you have with you?

FIVEWAYS 2

I’ve brought Fiveways Wilf, an extraordinarily adventurous ginger Persian cat from Brighton. Fiveways Wilf is extremely sociable to both the delight and despair of the humans he owns (Staff#1 and Staff#2) as he’s an incorrigible jailbreaker and forever devising new ways to go for a saunter around the Fiveways area of Brighton, visiting friends, strolling into shops and generally just about owning the whole neighbourhood. Fiveways Wilf has become quite a local celebrity and generously uses that fame to raise funds for less fortunate felines (http://www.lostcatsbrighton.org.uk/). Naturally I was delighted when Fiveways Wilf agreed to star in the Time Flight Chronicles where he appears as himself, albeit simply called Fiveways. All the payment he asked for was for me to help him support Lost Cats Brighton and I added the City Cat Shelter to that list of my own accord. My protagonist Alice Kittyhawk has a soft spot for cats you see…..when she retires she’ll probably become a crazy cat lady.

Well there is certainly nothing wrong with that, I have rather a soft spot for cats myself – except the clockwork kind, of course! And is that your sky-skiff double parked outside, Dear? I wouldn’t leave it there too long you know, the local law enforcement are inconveniently vigilant at this time of year. 

Yarr, Alice lent me The Liddle Mew, her own skyskiff, which means ‘Little Seagull’ in Sussex dialect. I’ve checked your local Lancaster parking regulations and they are fairly detailed on wheeled vehicles and air ships, but there’s nothing about leaving a fishing boat on the street, so I reckon that leaves me covered.

Oh splendid, well done for checking that! But how was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you didn’t run into any rogues en route?

As for the journey, we had a brisk spectral wind at our back. Apart from having to evade a few critters and an Aero Fleet patrol it was pretty uneventful. All in day’s work.

For you perhaps! Goodness me I have never taken much to flying, not that I have done much of it I confess but my one impromptu airborne adventure was enough to last me a lifetime I assure you!  Mmm, but something smells delicious!  Have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

Sussex Fish Stew, a local speciality. Leek, fennel, bay leaves, rosemary, parsley, ground pepper, homemade fish stock, cider, a few taters, some sour cream and a dash of double cream as well as filleted cod and haddock. The secret ingredient is the cider, which goes into both the fish stock and the soup itself, it has to be unpasteurised Sussex cider, so none of your supermarket stuff. Proper cider does the trick.

Oh how wonderful! That certainly sounds delicious – and thankyou so much for bringing the cream, we are spoiled for fish here at the docks but since The Good Folk have stepped up their patrols I cannot risk having any contraband in the house! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we have a seat by the fire and I will put the kettle on, and you can tell the orphans here all about your book, Amster Damned…

There are a number of themes in the story. One is the notion that girls can’t do some things because only boys can do them. That is absolutely ridiculous. Girls can do anything they want, they are just as clever, just as resourceful and just as capable as boys. So my main character, Alice, is a young woman doing what people in her time considered a man’s job, and she is very good at it. Some of her friends are the same, there’s a female Admiral in the story and the engineer of the airship The Centennial Kestrel is a woman too, and both of them are very friendly, intelligent and capable. The Minister of Lost & Found is a woman as well, but although she is very clever and cunning she isn’t such a nice person. Anyhow, none of these women, nice or not, stand around waiting for men to rescue them or tell them what to do or how to think, and that’s how it should be, don’t you think so?

Oh yes indeed! I’m sure we all agree with that!

Another theme is one you might know well children. Maybe you’ve been told before by adults that you can’t read certain books or find out about certain things because you’re not old enough. Well, in the story some people, the powerful ones, have taken that a step further and made very long lists of books people of all ages aren’t allowed to read or ideas people aren’t allowed to think about. Adults can be just like children and when they are told not to find out or think about some things that’s exactly what they do. That includes Alice. She is an avid reader of books and she spends a lot of time finding books she’s not allowed to read.

Well here in Ire we can all identify with the notion of having others control what we can or can’t read, think, say and even eat! But Alice is a wonderful character isn’t she!

Then there are a lot of interesting characters, many of those really exist. I don’t know them myself but a good friend of mine, Corin Spinks, is an excellent photographer and takes their photographs at steampunk gatherings, sends them to me and I then make up a story about them and put them into my stories.

Last but not least, there is a fabulous airship, because……well, you know, because: Airships.

Yes of course, airships are beautiful things indeed, although, as I said,  I think I prefer to keep my feet firmly on the ground! Oh lovely, I see you have brought a copy of your book with you to show the children?

 

amster damned

 

That is marvellous. Now then, the theme of smuggling crops up rather a lot, are you a smuggler yourself , Dear?

We prefer to use the term ‘free trader’ in Sussex.

Oh dear, I’m so sorry I didn’t mean to cause offence!

It’s been my professional ambition to become a fully-fledged pirate since I was a little lad. As I got older I was often told that wasn’t realistic or mature which only made my determination stronger, being an irrationally stubborn person (or so I am told – I don’t believe a word of it myself of course). I was absolutely delighted when I moved to Sussex and discovered a very rich smuggling heritage, moreover, one of which the locals are extremely proud. In Rottingdean, Hastings, Brighton and other places there are annual celebrations in which everybody dresses as a smuggler, pirate or mermaid. *glances at orphans* A lot of “Yo Ho Ho and bottle of sugar-free lemonade” going on on those days, savvy?

Oh yes I’m afraid we’re all a little more worldly wise than we ought to be around here… A-hem… Ah now the kettle is boiling!  May I offer you a cup of tea? How do you take it?

With a dash of ru……a dash of milk and sprinkling of sugar please.

I quite understand, Dear. There you are. So what first attracted you to Steampunk, was it the tea?

The Nautilus. I was six or seven and my parents took me to a seaside town in the Netherlands with an unpronounceable name, Scheveningen. There’s a pier there and at that time within one of the pier buildings they had a life size scaled Nautilus submarine. I walked into that ship and was smitten. Gleaming pipes, fascinating instrument panels, portholes which offered a view of a sunken pirate treasure protected by a giant octopus waving its tentacles, schools of fish…..now those fish were paper mache dangling from strings but as a young child with an overactive imagination it was pure magic. The rest wanted to go to the beach, swim, eat ice cream and such stuff and I just wanted to stand behind the helm of the Nautilus and sail off into the unknown. They had to drag me out screaming and kicking in the end.

So it was love at first sight? What a splendid tale, and how have your own culture and experiences influenced your writing?

I define myself as a cultural chameleon. When I was a child I grew up in countries in Asia, Africa, North America and Europe, all over the place really. So I have passport which says I have a nationality but I feel transnational. I can identify with all the cultures I’ve lived in but also see the less positive sides. I hear a lot of people from different countries enthusiastically expounding on how their country is the greatest and best, but I don’t believe in all of that. All the countries I’ve visited or lived in have wonderful sides to them, and darker, far darker, sides to them as well. As a writer I feel that I’ve benefited greatly from the ability to view things from multiple perspectives. I am going to use The Time Flight Chronicles to revisit all of those places. We’ve had Amsterdam in Amster Damned, but in her attempt to find Dr Beesworth, Alice Kittyhawk will visit Brighton, Paris, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Dar-Es-Salaam, Zanzibar, Cairo and Oklahoma. I know all of these places, have vivid memories and my own unique insights, so the setting is pretty much sorted.

There is a lot of humour and warmth in your writing style which complements the serious issues you raise concerning prejudice, governmental control and oppression, both historically and today – do you think Steampunk is well placed to draw attention to important issues like these?

Thank you, that is a very thoughtful compliment and I’m glad you’ve picked up on that. That balance is very hard to achieve and you’re the first to suggest I’ve succeeded in it. I think Steampunk is ideally placed for this purpose, yes. The inclusion of ‘punk’ in the name suggests as much. I reckon Punks are meant to be hollering about something or other and definitely ought to be kicking against the walls of the establishment. So I remind people of Victorian realities, in which, for example, two adult ‘gentlemen’ tell a ten year old girl they’ll pay for her services in four, five years time when she is considered ‘ripe’. At that time their social status as rich and influential men and the child’s as a slum-girl meant they could get away with that kind of behaviour. The child is Alice, my protagonist. She’s far older in Amster Damned, around 25, but the incident left a deep impression on her, the notion that such a future was all she was deemed good enough for has fuelled her aspirations to reach to greater heights and make her own destiny.

I also think Steampunk can be used as a mirror to reflect on our own time, and you’ve noticed that because the attempts by TimePol to suppress all forms of fantasy fiction in my steampunk setting very much reflect the manner in which today’s global society sees increasing government and corporation control over every conceivable aspect of our lives. In Alice’s world, the powers that be have identified writers, readers and librarians as the enemy and are actively oppressing them. The current flow of international politics suggests that we might not be far off from such a moment. Freedom of speech is under threat when science and progressive thinking is debunked as fake news, experts are ridiculed and fantastical make-believe is presented as reality. As another Alice once famously said: “Curiouser and curiouser.”

Indeed! Do you think, there is sometimes a danger that Steampunk may be seen to glorify the blunders of the past rather than expose them?

No. One of the reasons that I really love this genre is that it affords me ultimate creative freedom, Steampunk is whatever I want it to be. In my case I have some limited talent in telling a story and in that I weave social and historical observations and try to kick the establishment a little. Somebody else may be 100% engaged with Steampunk purely because of the frocks and corsets or creating the perfect top hat, not ever having read a single word of Steampunk literature or caring much about the social inequality of the period. Who am I to say that what they are doing is not Steampunk and what I am doing is Steampunk? The moment I would do that I would try to impose rules on Steampunk. That leads to exclusion and dogmatism, moreover, it erodes the very core strength of Steampunk which is the freedom it affords.

Yes I see your point, there certainly is a strong argument for keeping things as rule-free and inclusive as possible. Now then, back to your own writing, do you have any new releases or projects brewing that we can get excited about?

Definitely. Time Flight Chronicles Book 2 is called Brightonesque and should be out within a year. Also, Writerpunk Press has recently published its fourth anthology, called What We’ve Unlearned: English Class goes Punk. I’ve got a novellette sized story in there called “The Rottingdean Rhyme” which is a stand-alone story and it’s about the friendship between a London poet and a Sussex smuggler called John Hawkeye, who happens to be Alice’s father. So Alice Kittyhawk features in that one as a six-year-old and as a nine-year-old, in the company of her childhood friend Brax Beesworth and Fitzsimmonds Noakes also makes an appearance. So if you simply cannot wait to read more about Alice, I’d very much recommend the anthology, it has really good stories in it from the other writers as well, a wonderful diversity of imaginative craftings. Seth features in another story in the Writerpunk Press anthology Merely this and Nothing More, as a side-character in my “The Oval Sky Room” story the main character in my “The Oval Sky Room” story is Alice’s childhood friend Lottie. As for the Wyrde Woods fans, my other main series (magical realism and dark urban fantasy), I haven’t forgotten about them. There will be a brand-new Wyrde Woods back story in a new Fantasy Anthology called Dreamtime Dragons, and I am determined to get on with Hidden Spring, the sequel to Forgotten Road. Also, back to Amster Damned, Alice was recently invited for an interview by The Protagonist Speaks. Being rather busy she sent Fitzsimmonds Noakes instead and you know what Captain Noakes is like, so prepare for a torrent of Victorian obscenities. That is scheduled to be released on October 6th.

Oh splendid, lots of things to look out for then! And where can we find your work online?

Well, there’s an Amster Damned teaser here: https://hubpages.com/literature/The-Yellow-Book-Chronicles-part-the-first

I’ve got a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NilsNisseVisser/

GoodReads works for an overall impression of all my books: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9843111.Nils_Nisse_Visser
Marvellous! Well now, it really has been so wonderful to chat to you today Nils, thankyou so much for coming to give me a hand in the kitchen! I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready so shall we start dishing it up?

The soup does smell delicious. Thank you very much for having me, it’s been a pleasure.

And thankyou all for joining us today! I hope you will all pop back again next week for some more splendid Steampunk and Soup, until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

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