I took a day off Shield today and had a very happy afternoon starting my “Prep” book for Gilded Scarab – a sort of mood book full of notes and pictures of handsome Victorian men and lovely rayguns and airships.
The premise is simple. It’s mostly set in a coffee shop in Museum Street, just down from the Britannic Museum, in 1890’s Londinium. This AU version of Victorian London is as dark and intriguing as the real thing was, but the Kingdom of Britannia is ruled not by Parliament, but by the Queen (God Bless Her!) and the Convocation Houses, an oligarchy of rich and powerful families. There are 8 Convocation Houses, constantly politicking between themselves and in shifting alliances with another 30 or so Minor Houses, all of which seek (and are denied) Convocation status.
Edmund (Ned) Winters is First Heir of House Gallowglass, currently the most powerful of the Convocation Houses. A widower with two small children (Harry, 6, and Thomas, 18 months), Ned is also Professor of Aegyptology at the Britannic Museum and curator of the mummy gallery (Harry describes this as “The dead people Papa keeps in the cellar.”). Despite having to give up his first lover, Professor Daniel Meredith, to marry Laetitia Tomlinson of House Archiator in a marriage arranged by his father (Lord Henry Winter, the Gallowglass) Ned is on good terms with his parents. He’s not yet under pressure to remarry since he’s provided the House with an heir and spare. But the time will come when he will be faced with another arranged marriage to further House interests in the never-ending game the Houses play as they jockey for position.
Ned Winter, First Heir House Gallowglass, Aegyptologist
Rafe Lancaster was an airman in the Britannic Imperium Forces. He’s a junior member of Minor House Stravaigar but has stayed out of House politics all his life. Injured in a fire fight between the airships of Her Britannic Majesty and the Realm of the Americas (let’s just say that the Revolutionary War is still ongoing…) he’s forced into retirement because of damage to his eyesight. Rafe isn’t blinded, just he no longer has the perfect vision required for airship fighter pilots. More than tripling his service gratuity in the casinos in Paris, he returns to London and invests his capital in a small coffee shop near the Museum. A coffee shop that numbers Professor Winter amongst its habitués. When the Professor’s reaction to the newly name Lancasters isn’t complimentary, can Rafe win Ned over with a pumpkin spiced double-shot dry latte with an extra pump of sugar-free vanilla and chocolate sprinkles, all made on his steam-powered coffee machine?
Ex-Captain Rafe Lancaster
So. This story will revolve around the slow friendship that builds between the shy Aegyptologist and the sexy, knowing captain. How will the smouldering passion be affected by Ned’s having to go to Aegypt for the excavation season and what will Ned find there amongst the tombs? How will Rafe react when he realises the business of his friend and neighbour, the baker and confectioner extraordinaire, is threatened and may be bought out by the FCC, the biggest most faceless coffee conglomerate – a move that would put Lancasters out of business? And how will the Gallowglass take the news that his eldest son refuses to contemplate another political marriage while Rafe Lancaster is in his life?
Oh, I can’t wait to get started on this over November. While I doubt I’ll formally do NaNoWriMo, I’m setting aside the month to write Gilded Scarab before diving back into Shield. Can hardly wait.
In the meantime, I feel a very pressing need to go and stick pictures of pretty men and pretty rayguns into my book.