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Things I am up to

Comics making thoughts from Nimue Brown.

Druid Life

This week I finished colouring volume 3 of Hopeless Maine. It’s the second graphic novel I’ve coloured, and the first time on my own project. For those of you less familiar with the mechanics of comics making – this is normal. Making a comic involves writing a script, drawing it, colouring, inking (or over-lining in our case) and lettering the pages. These can all be done by different people, and in the more famous comics there is more of a production line approach to creation.

I started working on pages back when Tom did a project called The Raven’s Child. I took on some of the shading work to try and get him some breaks and time off. It’s not unusual in the comics industry for people to work ten and twelve hour days, and seven day weeks, and for a while we did that. We’ve since decided that the…

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Sailing the gothic sea, bound for Hopeless, Maine

Review!

Mind Games with Dr Matt

Hopeless, Maine, from the minds and pens of Tom & Nimue Brown, is a deep, rich world, that is both new and also incredibly familiar.

It taps into a deep melancholy that evokes Poe, Dickens, Carroll, and Lovecraft, and also shows us that we can find warmth and comfort at times from acknowledging the collective sadness and angst, which we as humans, are all touching to varying degrees throughout our lives.

The visual style has an almost therapeutic quality, and it’s clear the artist pours themselves utterly into each frame.

I don’t want to talk at great length about it, as it can only really speak for itself, I just would like to encourage you all to discover Hopeless, Maine, for yourselves.

https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/

And if you are a devotee of roleplaying games, can I also recommend you follow the link below and check out the Hopeless, Maine RPG, which is…

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New England Gothic

Hello people! (and others)

Many years ago, when Nimue and I started this whole Hopeless, Maine thing, Nimue wrote two books that went along with the timeline of The Gathering.  The first of these two books was New England Gothic, which takes place before book one and gives a lot of background on Annamarie and her earlier life (Yes. Those of you who have read Sinners will be having feels at this point) NEG is a bloody wonderful strange tale and we thought we’d bring it and the other prose book out along with the graphic novels, lavishly illustrated, of course. Well, this was before we learned a lot of things about the publishing industry (some of which we would rather not know, but that’s a long story for another time) We do plan to release both of these books in PDF form in the near future on the same Etsy site that the game is on. Then, hopefully, later there will be the fully illustrated print version. In the meantime, you can get New England Gothic in installments by pledging to Nimue’s Patreon!

Hoping, as always, this finds you well, inspired and thriving.

Steampunk Summer Postcards: Greetings from Hopeless Maine!

A postcard from Hopeless, Maine. May contain tentacles and tea.

Blake And Wight . com

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…

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The Perilous Life of a Reviewer

A warning here (lavishly illustrated with photos) from the frighteningly brilliant Nils Visser. It may be wise to prepare to defend yourself (and your book) before sitting down to read Hopeless, Maine. Nils is the author of Amster Damned, (which I loved!) among other things, also,  he is apparently handy with a cutlass.

 

“Upon my first attempt to mind me own business and settle down for a good read of Hopeless, Maine SINNERS, I was blissfully unaware of the dangers posed…ere I knew it a slithering serpent with many rows of razor-sharp teeth materialised and attempted to snatch the graphic novel away from me. Fortunately, I’m skilled with a cutlass, and sliced the dastardly creature into sushi. I was given no chance to recover, however, as a first tentacle wrapped itself around the book, announcing the appearance of a far more dangerous creature. All I can say, never try to wrestle with an angry octopus. I have retreated, but have vowed: I’ll be back!”

Book Review: Hopeless, Maine: Sinners by Tom and Nimue Brown

FIRST review of Hopeless, Maine-Sinners!

Meredith Debonnaire

hopeless maine sinners cover shows woman standing in flying boatHello, traveller.

This review will contain spoilers for Hopeless, Maine: The Gathering which I have reviewed here. You have been warned! This is your final warning! Don’t go below this line unless you are okay with major spoilers for The Gathering!

We return to the island of Hopeless. Some time has passed. And Owen, who left the island at the end of The Gathering, returns. In the nature of these stories, he is now expected to have all the answers. Which he doesn’t, although he does have a nice earring and better hair.

This time around, there is something in the air of Hopeless. Perhaps it is getting into people’s heads, or perhaps people are simply very good at building their own hells. One of the wonderful things about the worldbuilding here is that it could be either, or both, and the story would still work. There…

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Professor Elemental and Hopeless Maine

In which Professor Elemental comes to Hopeless, Maine!

Druid Life

Here’s an exciting development! Right now on Professor Elemental’s bandcamp page there is an EP called Nervous, which you can buy. Every penny of revenue from this release will be donated to the YPC Counselling service. This is a youth service based in Brighton and their counselling offers vital, low cost help for young people, giving them a chance to talk about their lives and their problems. So, an excellent cause, which you can support by buying music. https://professorelemental.bandcamp.com/album/nervous-ep

On that EP is a track called Hopeless Maine. This is a song that the Prof has written in response to www.hopelessmaine.com – the graphic novel series (and soon to be many other things) that I’m involved with. It’s a great song, and my son James has been performing it as part of the Hopeless Maine song set for a while now. It’s wonderful to see it released into the world.

I’ve known…

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Our Toys need us!

Hello people! (and others)

This week the Vendetta will be departing from the norm because of special circumstances, and for the best possible of reasons.

Edrie Edrie and Walter Alice Sickert are some of our favorite people in the world, at all ever! They are our art heroes and have been part of our journey as creators since the beginning of the Hopeless, Maine project. Walter and Edrie are the hub of Walter Sickert and The Army of Broken Toys (Which is one of our favorite bands in the world at all ever. You may be seeing a pattern developing here) Walter is also a visual artist (And all around creative force of nature)  We commissioned him to do this Salamandra piece for the first graphic novel volume of Hopeless, Maine.


Bloody. Gorgeous.

He also wrote a hopeless, Maine song that had me in actual tears the first time I heard it. Here is a video Nimue made with the song as the soundtrack.

If/when the thing that we can not talk about happens, you know that the Toys will be a part of it, because they get it on a very deep level and are just plain bloody amazing.

Now, let’s get to the crux of the matter. Edrie is (for a brief time, and obviously through no fault of her own) sans job. In order for the band to be able to continue making music and art and love and tentacles and amazingness, they need the funds for studio time and all of the other necessary things. Here is how that is going to happen. They have a Patreon Page where you can go and pledge and as a side effect, be exposed to more brilliant, wildly creative art and music. In these times especially, WE NEED THESE PEOPLE MAKING ART. (Pardon the volume, I feel strongly about this) So please, please, pretty please with tentacles, get in there and be a part of this!

(Tell them Tom and Nimue sent you)

Enter a world of Steamcrunk Imagination!

 

Love and tentacles (As Walter would say)

Us.

Thanksgiving

Here on Hopeless Thanksgiving has never been as popular as it is on the mainland. There are valid reasons for this as most islanders, or their ancestors, came here unwillingly, more often than not as the result of a shipwreck and few have seen little reason to give thanks for anything. Another contributing factor to the general indifference to the holiday is that most of the variety of foods associated with it are scarce, to say the least. Despite these factors, however, following a disastrous Hallowe’en party (related in the tale ‘The Unquiet Gravy’) Betty Butterow was determined that Thanksgiving that year should not only be celebrated but celebrated properly.

Having made up her mind to do this  Betty compiled a shopping list and sent her husband, Joseph Dreaming-By-The-River-Where-The-Shining-Salmon-Springs, to the city of Portland with strict instructions to bring back only the best of everything. Joseph, originally a trader from the Passamaquoddy tribe, was one of the few people who regularly went back and forth to the mainland, often bartering moonshine for whatever was needed on Hopeless. When, at last, he returned from this latest trip, Joseph’s  canoe lay low in the water, laden down with enough sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, dressed turkeys, corn, pumpkins and a host of other comestibles, to provide the makings of a real Thanksgiving feast.

The Lypiatt family, who owned The Squid and Teapot, were as enthusiastic as Betty to make this an occasion to remember. They filled the ground floors of the inn with chairs and tables; dining tables, kitchen tables, gateleg-tables, card tables, trestle-tables – you get the idea, I’m sure – begged and borrowed from all over the north of the island and beyond. Bill Ebley donated several crates of ‘Old Colonel’ from his brewery, while his brother-in-law, Solomon Gannicox, sent a firkin of his popular and famous ‘Gannicox Special Distillation’. Almost uniquely on Hopeless, this promised to be a night that nothing could mar – and fortunately the full moon was not due until the following Saturday, so there was no possibility of Lady Margaret D’Avening suddenly manifesting in the privy and upsetting the unwary.

The evening of Thursday the twenty-sixth of November arrived and the guests who poured into The Squid and Teapot gasped at the sight that greeted their eyes. Never before on Hopeless had such extravagance been seen. Each table, laden with the most mouth-watering delights, was graced by a number of candles, thrust into either old wine bottles or candlesticks. The effect was quite magical, creating a constellation of flickering lights that sent shadows soaring up honey-gold walls, gilding the simple cutlery and twinkling in the delighted eyes of young and old alike.

Those familiar with these tales and conversant with the ill-fortune that often besets the islanders will doubtlessly be expecting some dreadful tragedy to occur. I am happy to report that on this occasion nothing untoward happened. Joseph Dreaming-By-The-River-Where-The-Shining-Salmon-Springs breathed a huge sigh of relief at the end of the evening. He had, quite erroneously, felt responsible for the shambles that was the Hallowe’en party; this success seemed to put things right. It had been no mean feat haggling for the party food and then transporting it to the island. The result, however, made everything worthwhile. He sat back in his chair a contented man. He was even happier

when, after the guests had left, Sebastian Lypiatt urged everyone helping to get home to bed and leave the clearing up until the next day.

It was in the early hours of the following morning and Randall Middlestreet, the Night-Soil-Man was more than half-way through his round when he reached The Squid and Teapot. Since the installation of the new privy, some six years previously, he had found no reason to call there but tonight, however, was the exception; this was pleasure rather than work. Betty Butterow had made up a small hamper of Thanksgiving food for him, along with two bottles of ‘Old Colonel’, leaving instructions for Randall to collect it from the porch. This was a rare treat. The unsociable nature of his calling usually excluded the Night-Soil Man from celebrations on the island. This did not trouble Randall particularly; he was introverted by nature and was happy not to attend but the promise of sumptuous food and strong beer… well, that was a different story.

Randall, having collected his hamper was just leaving the porch when he heard a faint, clinking noise. This carried on for a while then the clinks were joined by a volley of high-pitched, argumentative squeaks, all coming from within the building. It sounded as though the Squid was being burgled and Randall hazarded a guess as to whom the culprits might be. Spoonwalkers, no less! He slipped into the darkest shadows, beneath the wall, making sure he was well downwind of the doorway.

A minute or so elapsed before the diminutive burglars appeared. There were half-a-dozen of them, each laden down with as much food as they could carry. Some were sporting extra spoons, stolen from the uncleared tables. Randall grinned to himself in the darkness; despite their evil reputation and madness-inducing gaze there was no denying their comical aspect.  His grin grew even broader when two more appeared, carefully carrying a glass filled with ‘Gannicox Special Distillation’. They gently lowered the glass to the ground and then the eight Spoonwalkers stood examining it with some curiosity. One cautiously dipped a spoon into the clear liquid and took a large sip. Randall nearly gave himself away and only managed, with difficulty, to stifle a laugh when the Spoonwalker almost toppled off its cutlery stilts in a fit of coughing. The others fell back, obviously worried at their colleague’s reaction but were reassured when, once recovered, the inquisitive creature felt emboldened enough to sample another sip of the powerful brew. This time, fully prepared for the taste, the Spoonwalker drank with gusto, then, just to be sure, helped itself to several more mouthfuls. It did not take long for the others to join in and soon the contents of the glass were completely gone.

Spoonwalkers, although adept at all sorts of criminal activity, are not known for their drinking habits. To be frank, this particular raiding-party had no head for booze at all. They were soon giggling and staggering around in the time-honoured fashion of drunks everywhere. Then something peculiar happened. One of them started to dance. Randall could not believe his eyes. It was definitely a dance, with a regular set of steps and gestures. To add even more to this most bizarre of scenes the other Spoonwalkers began to make a humming noise, a noise which could be loosely construed as being faintly melodic as, one by one, they all joined in the dance. Randall found a stub of pencil and a scrap of paper to record what he was witnessing. I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing his words slightly, here, in the hope that the ‘Spoonwalk’ might become a recognised dance on the island. Foot and arm movements are suggested in the lyric but feel free to improvise.

(Any resemblance to a certain other dance is purely coincidental. Honestly).



It’s  just a hop to the left.
And then a step to the right.
Put your spoons where they fit
Pull your tentacles tight.
But it’s those glowing eyes
That really drive you insane.
Let’s do the spoonwalk again.
Let’s do the spoonwalk again.

Betty Butterow

It was midnight when the full moon rose over Hopeless, Maine, to welcome in the Vernal Equinox. It shone palely through the grimy window of a small, candlelit room where a young mother was giving up her own life in order that her baby should live. The year was 1905 and Betty Butterow was about to become the newest, and by far the youngest, child in the orphanage.

Even as he took her from the weeping midwife’s arms, Reverend Crackstone disliked the girl. It was not totally irrational; while there was nothing in particular that he could identify to mark her as being remotely out of the ordinary, he knew her ancestry only too well. According to the information that he had been given her mother was Amelia Butterow, an unmarried woman who had lived on the island for all of her short life. What irked Crackstone was the knowledge that Amelia was a direct descendent of the O’Stoats, a  family riddled with heathen tendencies. Not just any branch of the family, either. Colleen O’Stoat, Amelia’s great grandmother, was known to have had the gift of ‘The Sight’. During her lifetime there had been tales of witchcraft and shape-changing told about Colleen which had, over the years, grown in the telling. Added to this the fact that there was no clue to as to whom the child’s father might be only served to strengthen Crackstone’s disapproval of her. These Godless and immoral practices had always been all too common on the island. Time was no healer, in this instance. The passage of the years did nothing to dispel his hostility towards Betty, who was growing up to be quite stunningly beautiful, though no one ever told her so. The reverend gentleman was more than relieved when, at the age of fifteen, she left the orphanage to watch a cricket match and decided, for reasons best known to herself, never  to return.


Betty was a sensitive girl and acutely aware of Reverend Crackstone’s chilly indifference to her. She assumed that it must be her fault, somehow. She knew of her disreputable lineage; Crackstone had mentioned it in disparaging tones more than once, and she decided that she must have been born with wickedness flowing through her veins. Trying to ignore these thoughts, she left the orphanage and went to the cricket match at Creepy Hollow with mixed feelings. Although her fellow orphan, shy and introverted Randall Middlestreet, was blissfully unaware, Betty had developed something of a crush for him. Her heart would race, her cheeks flush and her knees turn to jelly on the odd occasions when he spoke to her.

That trickster, Cupid, plays a cruel game when he fires his arrows, for now that Randall had become apprenticed to the Night Soil Man he was beyond her reach forever. It was an unwritten rule on the island that Night Soil Men were unmarried, unattached and, save for their apprentice, solitary. Even, in the unlikely event of her being willing to put up with the more anti-social aspects of his job, the islanders and indeed Randall himself, would not have tolerated such a breach of tradition. From now on she would have to be content with seeing him from afar, if at all. Today, however he was allowed to play in the match; she really hoped they might have a chance to spend some time – maybe their final time – together.

She was disappointed to find, upon reaching the impromptu cricket ground, that he was nowhere to be seen. Betty had no idea that, due to a misunderstanding, Randall had gone to another part of the island altogether. Crackstone had done a good job in destroying any self-esteem Betty may have possessed and Randall’s absence was all that was required to convince the girl that he was going out of his way to avoid her. Walking along the headland, lost in her own thoughts, she allowed this erroneous belief to blossom; it grew inside her mind like a cancer.  Was it because people could see her as she really was? Ugly and horrible? Hideous even? Is this really what everyone thought of her? The world saw her as some foul creature to be avoided at all costs.

Nothing, of course, could have been further from the truth but each new thought was increasingly irrational and had her descending ever deeper into The Slough of Despond. Beaten down with self-loathing she walked blindly on until, finding herself by the shore, she decided that maybe the best course of action for all concerned was for her to end her life there and then. At least everyone would be spared the burden of her continued existence; she would walk into the ocean and never return.

Even in this unbalanced frame of mind, however, her first thought was for others. Everything on the island was in short supply; it would be selfish – sinful even- to destroy a perfectly good, albeit seventh-hand, set of clothes when another girl would be happy to wear them. With this in mind and with an uncharacteristic lack of modesty, she took off every stitch of her clothing, folding it neatly on a rock where the waves could not reach. Then, closing her eyes tightly, she waded into the mist-bound  ocean.

The icy chill of the wild Atlantic took her breath away but she knew what had to be done and steadfastly carried on. By the time the water was lapping around her thighs her body was blue with the cold. Soon it would be over. No more cold, no more ugly thoughts. No more rejection. No more…oooh… her descent into the waves was terrifyingly accelerated as a deep shelf beneath the waterline caught her unawares and before she knew it there was salt-water in her eyes, ears and nostrils. Tendrils of seaweed – she hoped they were seaweed- wrapped themselves around her legs.  Despite her plans to die, some primitive survival instinct made her kick out and try to escape. She thrashed ineffectively in an attempt to clutch on to life at all costs but it seemed to be to no avail; every movement made her predicament worse. Then, for reasons she could not fathom, she became perfectly relaxed and a great calmness came over her. Closing her eyes once more, she felt a comforting warmth enveloping every inch of her frail form, cosy and caressing, like a soft blanket. She was not breathing but strangely, she no longer seemed to need to. If this was death then it was not so bad – but no, she knew that this was not death. This was life in its truest form, with every sense vibrant and alert with a strength and certainty that rushed through her blood and sinews in a way that she had never before felt. Fearing nothing now, she threw herself into the embrace of the ocean, giving everything up to its irresistible will. Opening her eyes for the first time since her fears had subsided, Betty received the biggest shock of her young life. Her limbs had receded far into her body and where there was once pale flesh there was now a mighty grey frame of muscle and a warm, insulated hide.She had become a seal, strong and free and mistress of the seas. Then, as she swam, joyous and reckless, she remembered. This was not her own memory but the memory of soul, the memory of blood; the memory of bone; the memory that flowed through the countless generations of her kind. She was a Selkie, a seal-woman tasting the freedom of her birthright for the very first time. She knew then that her doubts and fears were groundless. Breaking the surface of the water, the seal that was Betty looked at the island with different eyes. Not only had her body changed but so had her perception. Where once there were only mists, there were now ghosts. Even from this vantage point she could feel their loneliness, sorrow and sometimes rage. These, she realised, were the gifts of her ancestors; ancient gifts that they had brought from a distant land when they fled persecution.

Little did she realise, as she revelled in her new body, that the greatest gift she had been given that day was a powerful sense of self. The despondent Betty who had left the orphanage that morning had died and had been re-born.

Having circled the island, roaring and bellowing and savouring her new-found abilities, she decided to rest. Finding a suitable spot she dragged herself up onto the rocks to bask for a while and as she slumbered, so she dried. Gradually a change came upon her. The comforting, heavy sealskin slowly sloughed off and once more the Selkie became Betty, shivering and naked as the day she was born. Waking, she instinctively folded the skin and concealed it in the rocks, promising herself many more Selkie adventures in the days to come.


It was purely by luck that Madrigal Lypiatt was alone when she made her way back to the Squid and Teapot after the cricket had finished. Seeing a naked girl sitting on the rocks was not a common sight on the island and Madrigal made it her business to find out what was going on. Betty’s story about going swimming did not fool Madrigal for one moment. No one in their right mind would swim in these treacherous waters but having no better explanation, accepted what the girl had told her without argument. Throwing her shawl, which was fortunately of generous dimensions, around Betty the two quickly made their way back to the inn, thankful that most people were still hanging around Creepy Hollow, barely able to believe their eyes after Crazy Wally’s dramatic departure from the island.

It did not take Madrigal long to work out that Betty was unhappy at the orphanage. Astutely, she wondered if the alleged  swim was really something much more dramatic, possibly a drastic effort to escape its walls forever.To send her back would cause nothing but harm. Fortunately, a good landlady is never short of a plan or two and, following a short conversation with her husband, Sebastian, a solution was hit upon. Betty found, to her great delight that The Squid and Teapot had acquired in her a new barmaid who would work for board and lodgings. A cosy attic room in the inn was to be her very own, a luxury that she had never before known. Betty Butterow was home at last.

Few of the wild creatures found in any known zoological taxonomy venture very close to the island. Even fewer live to tell the tale. Many folk were surprised, therefore, to hear that a full-grown harbor seal had, on several occasions, been seen boldly swimming close to the rocks. There was talk in the Squid that this was an omen, maybe things on the island were set to improve. From her position behind the bar, Betty Butterow, gently blossoming into womanhood and still tasting the salt-water tang of the sea in her nostrils, quietly smiled. She mopped the ale slops from the counter and said nothing.

Art by Clifford Cumber