Tag Archives: Penny Blake

Necromancers

Putting the romance back into necromancy… Necromancers by Penny Blake is a funny, twisted sort of a tale. There are pointy things to be said about religion and the use of humour and fantasy to make comment on human behaviour reminded me very much of Terry Pratchett. I didn’t feel I could review this one, having proof-read it just long enough ago to be unhelpful. I very much enjoyed it.

I can tell you that my slightly evil teenage son chortled all the way through and pronounced it to be excellent.

 

For your delectation…

 

 

 

An Extract From NECROMANCERS By Penny Blake

A terrible accident involving a minor miscalculation has flooded almost the entire planet with lemonade. A few sparse scraps of humanity cling to flotillas of cobbled junk in attempts to sustain some semblance of civilised existence. War, famine and caffeine withdrawal have turned the erstwhile peaceful world into a post-apocalyptic nightmare.

Meanwhile, on the remote and inexplicably unaffected island of Eilean Claigeann, an ancient cult are still obliviously serving the obsolete ‘supreme ruler of the universe’, Wiz, and trying to fathom the secret of immortality. Sort of. Actually daily temple life revolves more around cake sales, bridge nights and village fetes… until two novices discover the secret of immortality themselves and unleash a couple of very unlikely ‘gods’ upon the previously peaceful community.

This LGBTQIA+ short story is part of the Ashton’s Kingdom series and takes place approximately 500 years after the events in The Curious Adventures Of Smith And Skarry

 

CHAPTER 1: Cake or Death

Thunder, lightening, rain, hail, ominous fog and all the other things that accompany the beginning of an iconic horror movie or damn fine tale about Tea, Cake and lashings of Untimely Death, were occurring all over the little island known colloquially (and everywhere else) as The Skull.

Douglas skidded and stumbled over the vindictively slick cobblestones, cursing the length of his disgustingly sodden red robes, the ineffectual protection offered by his floppy wet cowl, the stupid little purse that dangled at his waist and was constantly expelling all his valuables into the muck, the fact that his favourite pocket watch had broken – again – and any and everything else that passed through his mind as he finally staggered, panting and wheezing, to the top of the hill.

Sheet lightening flared for a second, silhouetting the crumbling chapel as Douglas clasped the cold iron ring in the studded wooden door and, with a cautious shoulder, silently eased it open.

The eerie luminescence of a hundred flickering candles vanished in an ebbing wave, to be replaced by darkness and smoke and a smattering of accusatory choking noises.

Thunder shook the walls and lightening flashed again, gleaming on several stiletto thin blades, poised in mid air.

Sorry,” Douglas ventured, shuffling sideways along what he hoped was the back row of folding chairs. There was an almighty crash as something large and metallic clattered to the flagstone floor. “Sorry! So sorry, Francis, er, Your Grace…”

Douglas!”

Sorry!”

Buy the book here – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Necromancers-Ashtons-Kingdom-Penny-Blake-ebook/dp/B083RVWP2G/


All hands to the decks

This song is a collaboration with Penny Blake, who you can find on Patreon –  https://www.patreon.com/blakeandwight or over here – https://blakeandwight.com/ 

The song lyrics come from  Penny’s fabulous novel – The Curious Adventures of Smith and Skarry, Book 1, which you can find on Amazon.  I reviewed it here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2019/09/29/the-curious-adventures-of-smith-and-skarry-a-review/  

The whole thing is rather steampunk, with tea, pirates, and so forth so we decided to dress up for the occasion. Tom is frequently a tea pirate.

Tune by me, with singing in by Tom Brown and James Weaselgrease.

I don’t do much cosplay, but this is also me having a go at being Max – a gender complicated being from the same book. I need to buy a wig.


The Curious Adventures Of Smith And Skarry – a review

Imagine a world in which caffeine and sugar are controlled for being too dangerous. Imagine illicit tiffin dens, land pirates, soup seers, dodgy magicians, and a very quiet gentleman with an octopus friend… and you’re starting to get a feel for the delightfully madcap reality in which Penny Blake’s Curious Adventures are set.

It’s great fun.  This is playful steampunk adventure with lots of LGBTQ characters (so much yay!), and political substance underneath the entertaining surface. It’s a tale that has questions to ask about who holds power and on what terms. It has things to say about gender and identity, and questions to ask of the reader, who will be left to ponder their own answers at their leisure. For me, this book is the perfect balance of entertaining escapist fantasy, and serious stuff to chew on.

The world building is great – it’s such an entertaining setting, and the way in which tea, and sugar and cake function in the lives of the characters is a joy to behold. For me it also says a lot about who gets to decide which of our pleasures are socially acceptable, and which are vices to be punished or made inaccessible. Actual history is full of this and I think it’s no coincidence that the kind of real-life people who would bring back hunting are often also the ones who would criminalise being gay, for example.

The ways in which money and perceived class impact on how legal and acceptable your vices might seem is certainly a concept you’ll find in this book. It’s there in the dynamic between the two eponymous characters – one of whom has the confidence of wealth and one of whom does not and is consequently a lot more anxious about things. Illicit things become playthings for the affluent who can buy their way out of trouble, and dangerous life choices for people too poor to have many options.

Pagan readers should note that there’s some really interesting Goddess stuff going on in the background of the story. There’s also some no-punches-pulled things to be said about invasive, patriarchal upstarts who wish to be worshipped as Gods.

I very much recommend that you check this book out. My only warning is that it is clearly the start of the series and you’ll get to the end of book 1 and have feelings about not having the next one right now.

Pre-order a copy here – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Curious-Adventures-Skarry-Ashtons-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B07Y4SYRVX

And I gather there will be a paperback in the fullness of time!


The painter’s daughter

This is a short story from Penny Blake’s beautiful collection Mahrime.

Once upon a time, when you and I were naught but pips in the core of the great cosmic apple, there lived a painter. You might chance to meet him still, wandering the shore line as the sun rises over the blushing surf, counting the grains of sand or shuffling the streets at dusk, studying the cracks in the paving stones, calling down and listening for a voice.

Back in his studio, his tumbledown beach hut, he paints each grain, each echo. He paints the light and the shadow, the rising and the setting, the dance and sparkle and the soaking up and the deep. His eyes are full of dreams and his dreams are full of shades and glamour.

One day, the painter’s daughter bare-foot tip-toed into that secret space.

And gazed at all the many muchness of towers of tins of tangy turp-scented rainbows.

And wondered what it would be – to touch, to taste, to take in and become such wonders.

One drip.

One lick.

In goes a flinger, smooth and slick.

Gloopy and gorgeful.

Smick  smuck  smack.

Blue, yellow, indigo,

Purple,

black.

She tasted blue – A taste of salt sea and pillow cases, stained glass and new slippers, skinned knees and berryjams and Monday mornings and shaggy hillsides damp in November fog.

She tasted yellow – A taste of custard of course. And a taste of bathrooms and tiled floors and a caravan holiday in 1975, old stiff newspapers and curled up cats, the dust that gathers on lampshades and dims the whole room and a taste of skin and bone and the streets of Rome in July.

She tasted green – A taste of coal and iron, old sandals and ploughed up earth, toadstools and pine woods and rain low down in the valley of the Dove.

Every colour in the universe she drank it down. She gorged on glamour and shade, on dances and sparkles, on things soaked up and deep. She swallowed down the soul of every colour until her limbs felt clogged and cloyed with the weight of them.

One small pot of black she saved for last, – a taste of burning and drowning, of being squeezed out and sucked up and exploded into stars, a taste of being held for eternity and the aching emptiness of an eggshell cracked too soon.

 

This black, she smuggled it away in her pocket, off to her little box bed beside the woodstove. There, when she was feeling dizzy with the reel of the rainbows spinning through her veins, she would sip

Sip

Sip

At the comforting black.

From that day on, every time the painter’s daughter opened her mouth, out spilled thick , oily paint in puddles and spewks that stained the folks and the things all around her in violent assaults of crimson,  viridian, amaranth and egg yolk.

She stopped opening her mouth.

Her limbs dragged heavy as a rag doll and every breath, every step, every heart beat was a drudge and a drain. So much colour inside. So much sparkle and depth. So much echo and shade.

Walking, talking, even breathing seemed mountains too steep to climb with all this weight inside.

She sat on her bed, day in day out, and sip

Sip

Sipped

At the comforting black

Until it spilled out of her eyes in puddles that pooled upon the patchwork quilt and cast back mocking rainbows.

That is how the little bird found her one day. He hopped upon her window sill and cocked his shining eye – the way the bird folk do – and then he fluttered down onto the eiderdown and whistled.

“Go away,” the painter’s daughter hissed, “do you think I care to see your coloured plumes? Do you think I am impressed? What if I told you that I am so full with the light and dark of every colour in the universe that I ache with it and to look at you does not fill me with joy or wonder, only regret and fatigue until I am sick of it.”

The little bird cocked his eye again – infuriating it is when they do that, y’know? – and he reached his yellow bill in deep amongst his tail feathers and plucked out a needle sharp quill the colour of every blue-green under the sea.

The painter’s daughter shrugged in scorn of him and made to turn away when

Ouvchsh!

The little demon jabbed the quill spike hard into the soft, pale flesh of her arm.

Out leapt a tiny spurt of paint.

Then slowly, and with the girl in thrall,

He dragged the rainbow colours out

In swirls and spirals, tree cassyn pathways to guide the flow of all that weary weight into traces of beauty and scope.

Here was a dream in flesh.

Here was pointillized pain.

Here was inside out for all to see and staining no one but herself; surely, no words would be needed now . The world would smile and nod its head at her, as they knocked shoulders in the street, and whisper

‘ah, so, that is how it is with her, mm, we understand now why she walks so slow and dares not speak. How could a child do otherwise, with so much colour inside?’

So she stepped out.

Stained.

With the bird quill tucked behind one ear

And bold, without fear,

Into a forest of fingers who pointed and blamed and waggled and shamed and prodded and poked and jostled and joked and fat cold palms that pushed her far away.

The painter’s daughter ran.

She ran on and on.

She began to feel very proud of her running.

One dark night, she came to a cave, above a river, above a pool, beside a village and into that cave she crept and lay down to sleep.

When she woke up the smell of sweet meat cooking down in the green valley filled her with hunger and the longing for all the things that human company ought to bring but seldom does.

So she spent the morning gathering leaves,  the afternoon stitching them together and by evening she had made for herself a fine long cloak that hid the patterns on her arms, and a hat with a broad brim to cover her face.

Under the stars, she took out the bird quill from behind her ear and dug it deep into her skin until it was slathed in colour, then she found a broad, flat stone and she began to paint

In swirls and spirals, tree cassyn pathways to guide the flow of all that weary weight into illuminated forms both wild and wonderful.

Here was a dream on stone.

Here was pain projected, disembodied, disowned.

Here was inside out for all to see and staining nothing but this unfeeling earth. And the world would smile and nod and never know where all the colours came from.

As the sun rose over the valley, the painter’s daughter stepped down from her cave, down and down and into the village and by that afternoon the tongues were wagging like wild fire flames; who was the stranger in the cloak of leaves who traded her marvellous paintings for table scraps? Some had seen her return to the cave – a hermit then? An anchorite? A holy one, certainly, a wise healer, a cleric, a teacher, a goddess in the flesh… ?

Every day, more and more villagers made the trek up to the painter’s cave. They wondered at her work – colours and patterns that seemed to describe the deepest parts of themselves. The parts they never let show. How? They asked, with tears in their eyes, how can she know?

They bought canvases. They paid in gold.

Inside her cave, hidden from sight, the painter took her feather quill and emptied herself out for them.

Day after day.

Night after night.

Slowly, as time went by, she began to grow old and paper thin. She had to coax out the paint in crusted oozes from her gummed up veins. Sometimes finding the strength and the will would take hours. Often there was not enough. Not enough colour, not enough energy and too much pain of the flesh and the bone to finish the work. ‘One day,’ thought the painter, ‘one day I will dry up. There will be no way of getting these crusted up colours out of my dried up body any longer. And what will happen then? Will the world understand when I can no longer paint their pain for them?’

The painter smiled and shook her head. She stuck the feather quill behind her ear and pulled off her cloak and hat of leaves. Clotheless under the silver moon, she walked down to the lake pool and stepped right into the comforting black.

The next morning, when the people came up to the cave the painter was gone, but the waters of the lake below, as they looked down into the valley, were snaked with rainbows.


Marhime – a review

I do not come to this book as any kind of neutral reviewer – my name is mentioned in the dedication. I’ve read many of these stories and poems in parts and in whole as they were developing. One of them goes back to the collection that brought Lou Pulford into my life some years ago. Lou was a gift from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, who sent me an anthology to review. We got talking, we’ve kept talking, she’s a wonderful person to have in my life. For this book, she’s writing as Penny Blake.

So, here’s a confession that relates very much to Mahrime. I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a monster. I’m the intolerable, the excessive, frightening, unacceptable thing to be chased out of your village with pitchforks. When Lou came into my life, I’d not long escaped from a pitchfork incident, and was feeling awful about myself and unable to deal with people. And Lou said yes, I know what kind of monster you are. Let me dry those monstery tears and tell you a story. (Some poetic license has been taken in writing this for the blog, but only for brevity).

This is beautiful writing, haunting, soulful difficult, alive with feeling and incredibly powerful. It will be too much for some people; too difficult, too raw. But if you are too much, too difficult and too raw it will be a lot like coming home. There is solace here, and also hope.

Mahrime means outcast. This is a collection of stories and poems for a certain kind of monster. Those of us who are on fire. Those of us who have swallowed the dragon we should have cared for. Those of us who have written our stories in our own blood and used our finger bones as tools to carve what we had to say into the walls. This is a collection for people who have ached with wanting a tribe and never having found a tribe. It turns out it isn’t just me. If you are a person who needs to read these stories, and cry over them, and burn too much with empathy and recognition, then get this book now. Go.

Go here, in fact – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FLSRPVR