The Dog Who Swallows Millions

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I’ve just pressed ‘send’ and the second Rafe and Ned steampunk/adventure/m-m romance should have landed in Dreamspinner Press’s inbox by now. Let’s pray they like it!

I can promise you adventure and romance, spooky Aegyptian temples in the moonlight haunted by the towering figure of Anubis, House machinations and House assassins. Most of all, I can promise you that Rafe and Ned are together and happy, despite the Hard Stare of Disapproval from Ned’s son Harry. And I can promise you a cute dog to balance the scary Dog, and one day soon, she’ll get a post of her own.

Here’s the blurb: “Rafe Lancaster’s relationship with the Gallowglass First Heir, archaeologist Ned Winter, flourishes over the summer of 1900, and deepens yet further when Rafe goes with Ned to Aegypt for the winter digging season.

In the world of the Britannic Imperium’s Houses, self-seeking ambition is the norm and assassination is the tool of choice when it comes to advancing House interests. Consequently, it concerns Rafe that his House, Stravaigor, is keen for him to go to Aegypt with Ned: Stravaigor does nothing without an eye to the main chance. But when Ned’s team of archaeologists reaches Abydos to begin the dig, what follows suggests the Houses are the least of their worries. Tricks and pranks escalate to outright attacks, and throughout these incidents, the figure of the Dog stalks across the Aegyptian desert bringing destruction in its wake. He who is upon his mountain, the Lord of Westerners, the Dog Who Swallows Millions… Anubis has many titles and appears to be returning to Abydos to reclaim his own. When Ned’s young son is kidnapped and Ned himself left injured, Rafe has to solve the riddle of the Dog and face up to devastating personal impact of House Stravaigor’s plots before he can save the day.”

Watch this space for more news!

PUBLICATION DAY Taking Shield 04: The Chains Of Their Sins

PUBLISHED TODAY!

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The Chains of Their Sins, the fourth Shield book, is published today by Glass Hat Press (aka: me!)

JUMP TO:

Buy Links

Launch Blog Tour and Chance to Enter Giveaways

Goodreads Giveaways

About the Taking Shield Series

About The Chains Of Their Sins and an excerpt

Payhip – pays me the most in royalties! Available in epub and mobi (Kindle) formats

Amazon.com  |  Amazon.co.uk  |  Kobo  |  Barnes and Noble (live today)

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Launch Tour and Giveaways

I’ll be visiting various blogs next week to promote the book and a $25 Amazon gift voucher giveaway. Visit one of more of these blogs to enter the giveaway – there’s lots of choice!

FEB 13 AbibliophobiaAnonymous
Books Laid Bare Boys
Charli Coty
Gay Book Reviews
Jana Denardo
Marie Brown
MM Good Book Reviews
Nerd Girl Official
Novel Approach
Prism Book Alliance
Stories That Make You Smile
Wicked Faeries Tales and Reviews
Yah Gotta Read This
FEB 14 My Fiction Nook
Nicole’s Book Musings
FEB 15 Bella’s Blog
Fangirl Moment & My 2 Cents
Louise Lyons
MJ’s Book Blog
FEB 16 Antonia Aquilante
Nicki Markus/Asta Idonea
Queer Sci Fi
FEB 20 Molly Lolly
FEB 22 Thorns and Ink

Giveaway at Goodreads

Over at Goodreads, I’m giving away 5 copies of Gyrfalcon and 5 of Heart Scarab to mark the publication of The Chains of Their Sins. All copies are signed first editions – maybe not yet worth quite as much as a signed first edition Harry Potter, but just you wait!

Nip over to  GOODREADS GIVEAWAYS, use the filter to look for science fiction and you’ll find Gyrfalcon and Heart Scarab listed there.

About the Taking Shield series

Earth’s a dead planet, dark for thousands of years; lost for so long no one even knows where the solar system is. Her last known colony, Albion, has grown to be regional galactic power in its own right. But its drive to expand and found colonies of its own has threatened an alien race, the Maess, against whom Albion is now fighting a last-ditch battle for survival in a war that’s dragged on for generations.

Taking Shield charts the missions and adventures of Shield Captain Bennet, scion of a prominent military family. Against the demands of his family’s ‘triple goddess’ of Duty, Honour and Service, is set Bennet’s relationships with lovers and family. When the series opens, Bennet is at odds with his long term partner, Joss, who wants him out of the military and back in an academic, archaeological career. He’s estranged from his father, Caeden, who is the commander of Fleet’s First Flotilla. Events of the first book, in which he is sent to his father’s ship to carry out an infiltration mission behind Maess lines, improve his relationship with Caeden, but bring with them the catalyst that will destroy the one with Joss: one Fleet Lieutenant Flynn, who, over the course of the series, develops into Bennet’s main love interest.

Over the Taking Shield story arc, Bennet will see the extremes to which humanity’s enemies, and his own people, will go to win the war. Some days he isn’t able to tell friend from foe. Some days he doubts everything, including himself, as he strives to ensure Albion’s victory. And some days he isn’t sure, any longer, what victory looks like.

Taking Shield 01: Gyrfalcon

Taking Shield 02: Heart Scarab

Taking Shield 03: Makepeace

About The Chains of Their Sins

Shield Captain Bennet arrives on the Gyrfalcon to take up his final year’s posting before returning to the Shield Regiment after his rotation out.

On the Gyrfalcon he faces up to the fallout from Makepeace—ethical, political and above all, personal. Will he be able to accept necessity: that knowing what the Maess are up to outweighs the humanitarian issues surrounding the prisoners he rescued from Makepeace? Can he ride out the political furore that follows the loss of the dreadnought Caliban? How will he cope with an entire year of serving under his father, Caeden? And worst of all, how in the name of every god in the Pantheon can he stand to see Flynn every single day, with the Fraternisation Regs standing between them and keeping them apart?

It will be an interesting year. Bennet can hardly wait for it to be over. Of course, things never really do go to plan…

Book Title: The Chains Of Their Sins
Series: Taking Shield 04
Publisher:  Glass Hat Press
Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas
Wordcount: c 97,600
Category: Sci Fi, Gay mainstream

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Thinking back to the first day was not calculated to keep a man’s sleep sweet and carefree. And dammit, Cruz was not helping. Why in hell had he given her access to his quarters? The woman was relentless.

She sat on the side of his bunk and prodded his ribs with a sharp forefinger. “Are you getting up?”

“Cruz, it’s the middle of the fucking night!”

“It’s after five and you’re on duty in a couple of hours anyway.”

“That’s a couple of hours of sleep.”

“Or a couple hours mooning over our pretty captain?” She delivered a second sharp jab to his ribs.

It bloody hurt. “Cruz!”

“I’m sure he was looking for you yesterday morning when I met him in the gym before breakfast.”

“Cruz!”

“Have it your own way. From what he said, he’s there every morning when he wakes up. I’d have thought you’d know that.”

“How would I know that? The time I was on Albion, the man had his right knee in a healing capsule. He could barely walk. He was hardly up to gymnastics.”

“Really?” Cruz said, with a wealth of meaning. “Lowering your standards?”

“Sod off and leave me alone.”

“You go most mornings anyway. He won’t cotton on to it being lovelornness if you make it every morning.”

“I go most mornings, later most mornings. I do not go in the middle of the night. I do not go to meet dawn’s clarion call. I turn up for ten minutes so that Pershing clocks that I’m there and then I bugger off again, job done. I don’t take it seriously, for the gods’ sakes.”

After a pause, Cruz nodded and said, thoughtfully, “Of course, Pershing might notice and have something to say about your sudden dedication to health and fitness, and knowing Pershing, he’d say it in a voice loud enough to cut through steel bulkheads. Bennet might doubt your motivation then. You’re probably right to be subtle about it at first.”

“It’s not about being subtle. It’s about being dignified and not running… well, not being pathet… just not going to the bloody gym in the middle of my sleep period. All right?”

“All right. Sleep tight, charmer.” Cruz got up to go. “Any messages you’d like me to pass on?”

Flynn spat out some very rude words, turned over and pulled the covers over his head. Cruz left Flynn’s quarters, whistling.

Flynn waited until the door had closed before turning over onto his back. He stared up at the ceiling and slid a hand into his sleep-pants. If he concentrated, he could remember the feel of another hand. He reckoned it was the closest he was going to get.

He made the most of it. After all, he was not going to change his habits now and go to the gym at the same time as Bennet did, just to get an extra half hour of Bennet’s company. That was just too pathetic.

PUBLISHED TODAY!

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World-building. Again.

From Mederndepe on Flickr, under creative commons license.

From Mederndepe on Flickr, under creative commons license.

Last weekend, I was at Manifold Press’s “Queer Company” meeting in Oxford, a gathering of (mainly) UK based writers and readers. For my sins, the lovely Elin Gregory and Sandra Lindsey pulled me into doing a panel about, essentially, world-building.

We focused it around “sense of place”. How does an author create the look, sound, taste and feel of the place in which their MC is playing out his or her story, make it authentic and pull the reader in so they almost feel they’re there too? How do we make the reader *believe* in the world created, rather than merely suspend their disbelief? By following the advice of the great Tolkien in On Fairy-Stories, of course, where he says that in order for the narrative to work, the reader must believe that what they read is true within the ‘secondary reality of the fictional world’. Create an internally consistent fictional world and belief is possible.

Both Sandra and Elin write historical fiction, so I left it to them to talk about how to create a believable, realistic historical (and contemporary) setting. My only contribution to that is, of course, The Gilded Scarab, my steampunk romance set in an alternate version of London powered by phlogiston and luminiferous aether. But even there, I worked hard to get a sense of the real London’s time and place: the buildings and streets are London’s buildings and streets (see Rafe Lancaster’s Londinium here), real people such as gunsmith Athol Purdey make brief appearances, even the racehorses mentioned actually ran at racecourses in 1900.

My main focus was on worlds a writer creates themselves. I love writing science fiction. Love it. oh! The freedom! The worlds, the culture and society, the government, the geography and the weather are all entirely up to me. I can make this shit up. And equally liberating: I can twist the details to suit the story. I’ve used this example before, but really how delightful is it that I can write nonsense like this in my background notes:
On the ground, a Shield warrior has his or her Shield suit: close-fitting, black, heat reflecting material threaded through with wiring (masking circuitry) powered by a flat battery pack across the shoulders and upper back. It produces a form of interferomatic dispersion that modulates to scatter radar and infra red/ultra violet sensors – a  layer of energy distortion creating a refractive, reflective shield (in a play on the Regiment’s name).

It sounds scientific enough, doesn’t it? Sci-fi-ish. It has a basis in fact. In my research for Shield, I came across something called ‘interferometry’ (the technique of combining and superimposing electromagnetic waves to study displacements, refractive index changes and surface irregularities). Total lightbulb moment. Obviously I’d have to twist it and warp it, but as a scientific basis for a protective suit, it passed my sniff test. All right, I have a dreadful sense of smell and a real scientist would die laughing if they read that paragraph, but a little bit of me is with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle here: “It has always seemed to me that so long as you produce your dramatic effect, accuracy of detail matters little. I have never striven for it and I have made some bad mistakes in consequence. What matter if I hold my readers?

I’m not saying he’s entirely right. But in the sense in which he is right, is that what matters is the story. I’m not writing a treatise on interferometry. I’m writing a science fiction yarn. If I end up bending those electromagnetic waves a little too far to the left to please the scientists, but the reader just thinks “Cool suit!”, then job done. An element of my created, imaginary place feels true and internally consistent, and helps the reader believe in it.

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From Flebilis Rosa, Flickr, under creative commons

So… take something that matters to your story – history, geography, languages, religions, economy; weather, societies, people, flora and fauna, power sources, industries, what people farm and what they eat and drink – and then decide how it all works in your world. Then take the next issue, rinse and repeat until you have a good understanding of what your imaginary world is like. And if you’re anything like me, you have a folder six inches deep.

Is it important? Yup. Where you set your story, will have a profound impact on the characters you’re writing about. It will shape what they do and even what language they (and you) will be using – everything from oaths to proverbs. Places shape people. Never forget that. Even if your story is set in 2016 London, don’t forget that. You still have some world-building to do. No one ever escapes unscathed!

How do you do it? Not through huge paragraphs of exposition and explanation. You weave it into your narrative so the reader barely notices it, bleed it into your descriptions of place, your character’s behaviour and speech, and into your plot.

The key question to ask yourself is what your PoV character knows. In Gilded Scarab, I don’t draw attention to the steampunky bits because to my narrator, Rafe, these things are so much part of the background to his life, they’re as unremarkable as  breathing.  They’re just there. In the background. Unremarkable to him as a character, so unremarkable to him as narrator.

Let’s take a more real world example.

I’ll bet you drive a car. Without looking at Google, can you explain step by every little step

From Clark at Flickr under creative commons

From Clark at Flickr under creative commons

how the internal combustion engine works? So why would you expect your PoV character to know this level of detail? You put in what’s relevant to your characters and his story. If you’re that desperate to share the details, create annexes in your book or information pages on your website. Geeks will love you for it, but the reader will also love not having to slog through pages of techy stuff that gets in the way of the storytelling.

It’s all about balance, see? Blending your imagination with all that stuff you’ve collected together, and seeding those details through your narrative so quietly and seamlessly your reader just sees the whole, complete world – your secondary reality with all its wonderful, consistent detail – and never has to worry about the plumbing, say, because you’ve done it for them.

They can just sit back and believe.

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With love and thanks to all at Manifold Press, for giving me the opportunity to waffle on, and being too polite to tell me to shut up. Because believe me, I was nowhere near this coherent on the day!

Taking Shield Blog Tour

Blog tours are a great way of letting people know you have a new book out. When it’s part of a series, it doesn’t hurt to remind them of the previous books either!  So, I proudly announce the Taking Shield (Reminding You What It’s All About) Blitz.

Taking Shield 01: Gyrfalcon

Taking Shield 02: Heart Scarab

Taking Shield 03: Makepeace

With huge thanks to Rachel at Signal Boost, for arranging this so quickly, here’s the tour stops and dates:

 

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TSSidebarJuly 08
HeadTripping Books
Gay Book Reviews
MillsyLovesBooks
T&L Book Reviews
blissfully bookerized

July 13
Maari Loves Her Indies
The Way She Reads

July 15
The Secret Dreams of Books
Reading In Sarah’s Corner
Oh My Shelves

July 21
Divine Magazine
Dreams and Screams Bookaholics
You Gotta Read This

July 25
Bonkers About Books
Unquietly Me

July 28
Avid Reader Amy’s Reviews
MM Good Book Reviews
Nicole’s Book Musings
nerd girl official

August 02
My Fiction Nook
Bella’s Blog

August 04
Bayou Bay Junkie
Cat’s Guilty Pleasure
Thorns and Ink
Diverse Reader

 

 

 

 

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PUBLICATION DAY Taking Shield 03: Makepeace

PUBLISHED TODAY

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I’m delighted to say that Makepeace, the third Shield book, will be published today by Wilde City Press.

About the Taking Shield series
Earth’s a dead planet, dark for thousands of years; lost for so long no one even knows where the solar system is. Her last known colony, Albion, has grown to be regional galactic power in its own right. But its drive to expand and found colonies of its own has threatened an alien race, the Maess, against whom Albion is now fighting a last-ditch battle for survival in a war that’s dragged on for generations.

Taking Shield charts the missions and adventures of Shield Captain Bennet, scion of a prominent military family. Against the demands of his family’s ‘triple goddess’ of Duty, Honour and Service, is set Bennet’s relationships with lovers and family. When the series opens, Bennet is at odds with his long term partner, Joss, who wants him out of the military and back in an academic, archaeological career. He’s estranged from his father, Caeden, who is the commander of Fleet’s First Flotilla. Events of the first book, in which he is sent to his father’s ship to carry out an infiltration mission behind Maess lines, improve his relationship with Caeden, but bring with them the catalyst that will destroy the one with Joss: one Fleet Lieutenant Flynn, who, over the course of the series, develops into Bennet’s main love interest.

Over the Taking Shield story arc, Bennet will see the extremes to which humanity’s enemies, and his own people, will go to win the war. Some days he isn’t able to tell friend from foe. Some days he doubts everything, including himself, as he strives to ensure Albion’s victory. And some days he isn’t sure, any longer, what victory looks like.

Taking Shield 01: Gyrfalcon

Taking Shield 02: Heart Scarab

 

About Makepeace
Returning to duty following his long recovery from the injuries he sustained during the events recounted in Heart Scarab, Shield Captain Bennet accepts a tour of duty in Fleet as flight captain on a dreadnought. The one saving grace is that it isn’t his father’s ship—bad enough that he can’t yet return to the Shield Regiment, at least he doesn’t have the added stress of commanding former lover Fleet Lieutenant Flynn, knowing the fraternisation regulations will keep them apart.

Working on the material he collected himself on T18 three years before, Bennet decodes enough Maess data to send him behind the lines to Makepeace, once a human colony but under Maess control for more than a century. The mission goes belly up, costing Albion one of her precious, irreplaceable dreadnoughts and bringing political upheaval, acrimony and the threat of public unrest in its wake. But for Bennet, the real nightmare is discovering what the Maess have in store for humanity.

It’s not good. It’s not good at all.

Book Title: Makepeace
Series: Taking Shield
Publisher: Wilde City Press
Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas
Wordcount: c 94,500
Category: Sci Fi, Gay mainstream

 

 

Excerpt

The thing, whatever it was, had fallen between two pods. It didn’t move. Unlike the soldier outside, it didn’t kick its legs or drum its heels. It felt nothing. Bennet bent over it, laser at the ready, his shoulders lifting to hunch protectively over his neck. He blew out a soft breath. Thank fuck. Thank fuck.

Not an organic Maess, at least.

Definitely a drone. Possibly a modified EDA? It had the same well articulated hands, the same smooth plasticised skin over the electronics and metal underneath. But the metallic body had a bluish tinge.

The head was different. His first thought was it was translucent, the interior scattered with pinpoint lights. But no. The ovoid was bigger than usual but solid and opaque. Some sort of mesh covered the metal casing, the tiny lights woven into it at varying depths, giving the illusion he could see inside.

Blue lights, the intense sapphire blue of the lights fizzing down the columns into the pods. Whatever this was, it was no ordinary drone.

The lights in its head dimmed. Flickered out.

The thing was deactivated.

It had shaken Haydn out of his previous calm. “What the hell is that?”

T18. Bennet had seen something like this on T18. Just a glimpse. When he’d seen that Thing, the real Maess, surrounded by drones, there had been something else. Something thinner than the usual drones, less bulky. Blue lights were involved, too. The Strategy Unit analysts never had worked out what it was. In the end they’d concluded it had been a problem with his camera, reflecting the lighting inside the base on T18. He’d had no reason to argue.

Well, now he knew it hadn’t been the lighting.

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Buy Links

From Wilde City Press today, and available on Amazon in about a week.

Buy the previous books in the series:

Taking Shield Book 01: Gyrfalcon available at Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk  Wilde City Press  All Romance eBooks

Taking Shield Book 02: Heart Scarab available at Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk  Wilde City Press  All Romance eBooks

 

Oooooh!!! MORE Shiny! And voting…

 

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I’ve been amusing myself over the last couple of days with deciding on making myself a publishing company.

Between writing chapters of The Dog Who Ate Millions, and refining the final draft of the fourth Shield book (The Chains Of Their Sins), I’m trying to write one short story a month until I have enough for an anthology. I intend to wrap FlashWired up into it, as one of the stories is a semi-humorous account of how Cal and Jeeze finally get together, so is set a few months or a year before FlashWired itself. I have a lot of fun coming up with names for stories, by the way, so if I tell you that particularshort story is called Worm’s Eye View, then I’ll leave the reason for that to your fertile imaginations and say only that it involves wings, if not exactly beaks.

The other stories are sort-of set in the Shield Universe, and is a planned trio of shorts depicting the destruction of Earth some ten thousand years before Bennet’s adventures with Flynn and the Maess. Two are complete: Overthrown by Strangers and Habitation of Dragons, and to my immense surprise, turned out to be f/f. Which I’ve never written before. Not explicit, but still. A new departure for me. Different.

I’m most likely to self publish these, since I can’t imagine a publisher being interested in them, and since Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs insists on sending me emails as if I were a small business, why not *be* a small business? A small press. A very small press. With one author on the books.

As I mentioned in my last post, one of my great passions in life is haute joaillerie – exquisite, criminally expensive jewellery. I particularly love tiaras, which (as the great Geoffrey Munn has it) scintillate shamelessly. I also love my niece, who’s had a happy turn of phrase since childhood, and one of my abiding memories is her account of a school visit to the Tower of London where she saw “the Queen’s glass hats.” AKA, the Crown jewels.

So, in honour of tiaras, in honour of Sally’s felicity with words, I will publish my anthology later this year under the aegis of the Glass Hat Press.

And here’s where you come in.

A couple of years ago, in Houston, I had the great good fortune to drool over see Faberge’s Josephine (or Leuchtenberg) tiara for myself. It’s one of the world’s most famous tiaras, since the briolettes (the oval, hanging diamonds) were given to Napoleon’s Josephine after the divorce by the then Tsar of Russia, passed down through her family and returned to Russia and Faberge’s workshop when her grandson, of the ducal Leuchtenberg family, married one of the Tsar’s descendents. Using them, Faberge created a small, but devastating lovely tiara. Here it is, in either a negative image on a white background that has then been considerably tarted up in Photoshop , or the original on the black background:

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Which one would you wear to the ball? Vote HERE!

 

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Ooooooh! Shiny!

D and I have been spending time getting to know our new home and the countryside around it. We live in Nottinghamshire, a county chock-full of history. Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest is a bare ten minute drive away—what’s left of his forest, anyway. We’re slap bang in the middle of the Dukeries, the part of the county where the great estates of no less than four Dukes all rubbed shoulders. The Dukes of Portland (Welbeck Abbey), Newcastle (Clumber Park), Kingston (Thorsby Hall) and Norfolk (Worksop Manor) all lived cheek by jowl here, and each of their houses is within twenty minutes of us.

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Welbeck Abbey. Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

I was at Welbeck Abbey yesterday, arguably the most interesting house and interesting Duke—the 5th Duke was rather eccentric, and built a mass of below-ground rooms, including a ballroom, library and billiards room. The dukedom died out in the 1990s, and the house is now owned by the Earl of Portland, which was the older title in the family stable. They’ve just opened a wonderful museum and gallery. Not very big, but full of the most wonderful collection of paintings and miniatures, silver plate and this:

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The Portland diamond tiara, by Cartier, c1902. commissioned by the 6th Duke of Portland for his wife, Winifred. The Duke supplied the diamonds hanging in the circles, which had been cut in the 17th Century. More history here: Winifred was one of the canopy bearers for the anointment of Queen Alexandra at the coronation of Edward VII, and wore this tiara. And there’s a charming, amusing story about the Duke waiting for her to finish dressing one evening when they were going out to dine, and sitting on a chair without looking first. He sat on the tiara. Both it, and the Duke’s posterior, were apparently undamaged.

See? History no matter which way you turn, and in the smallest objects.

It’s a seriously lovely piece. Until you see a diamond tiara in the flesh, so to speak, you can’t really imagine how very sparkly it is. How ooooooooooh shiny!

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I adore jewellery, you see. The real, criminally-expensive stuff that the French call haute joaillerie; the wonderful pieces by Cartier, or Mellerio, or Boucheron. I hasten to add that I don’t own any of it personally, but when I am very rich I am going to go out and buy myself a tiara. A real one. One by Cartier that I can wear while I’m doing the housework.

So when, in The Gilded Scarab, I needed to find a way for Rafe Lancaster to finance the purchase of his coffee house, what better way than for him to find that his that his inheritance from his mother is her jewel box, and far from it having a few gewgaws that might be worth a few hundred guineas, it has some very fine pieces indeed. Very, very fine pieces that he sells for thousands of guineas to the head of his House, The Stravaigor. The drawback is that this puts him an obligation to his House that he will, one day, come to regret.

In his mother’s jewel box, Rafe finds a ruby grande parure. The language of jewellery is French, and a parure is a jewellery set: several (or all!) pieces from tiara, necklace, earrings, bracelets, ring, devant de corsage and brooches. The one owned by Elizabeth Lancaster, Rafe’s mother, is particularly fine, with rubies of a true pigeon’s blood red, and made by one of the oldest of the French jewel houses, Mellerio dits Meller.

Mellerio has a long history, going back to 1613 when Queen Marie de’ Medici granted special privileges to the Mellerio family permitting them to carry cut crystal, trinkets and other small goods between said town of Paris and elsewhere throughout the kingdom without let or hindrance by any person. From this small beginning, the Mellerio family very soon became jewellers to an illustrious clientele.

MellerioAlmost every royal house in Europe has a bauble or trifle made by Mellerio. Elizabeth’s jewels are modelled on the ruby parure owned by the Dutch royals. This is the tiara from the parure, which has some very fine rubies indeed. Even in 1899, you’d pay a pretty penny for an item like this. Certainly enough (almost) for Rafe to buy a coffee house in central Londinium, just beside the Britannic Museum.

But more importantly, although Rafe doesn’t know it yet , the jewellery has a significance he can’t even begin to guess at. As Rafe himself says, when he sees the parure for the first time:  How on earth had my mother acquired these jewels? I’d expected one or two good pieces—she had been the wife of a wealthy country squire, after all. But the jewelry was far more than I’d anticipated, far more befitting someone in a much higher social position. I’d have given my pension to know where it had come from.

Let’s just say that this is one of the breadcrumbs I left in The Gilded Scarab, that will be picked up in The Dog Who Swallows Millions. And let’s also just say that this may be a bet Rafe would prefer to lose…

 

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He Who Is Upon His Mountain

I have finally started the second in the series I’m calling Lancaster’s Luck – the m/m romantic steampunk adventure that’s the follow up to the Gilded Scarab. I’ve been thinking about the title and what that says about me and the way I write.

Sometimes, I’m too hidebound for my own good. I find it very hard to write anything if it doesn’t have a title. Oh, and pictures to inspire me. I can’t just call the file  “WIP” or “DRAFT” or “FRED” and just crack on with the story. I have to have a proper title first, and that means a lot of sitting about and frowning while I think about it, or researching, or looking up literary quotations that might (even if only tangentially) touch on what the novel is going to be about and that might give me an idea for a title for the book. Add to that, an unhealthy attachment to Pinterest and pretty pictures that will help inspire plot or how I see the characters, and it’s a wonder I ever get around to writing anything at all.

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Wiki Commons: Anubis Mask from Harrogate Museum

However, I have made a start. The second book is set in Aegypt, with Rafe and Ned off on an archaeological dig over the winter of 1900-1901. As with the first book, there will be scarabs everywhere, and a couple of personal experiences with scarabs from years ago, when my husband and I spent our first anniversary on a Nile tour, will find their way into the novel when Rafe arrives in Cairo. Did you know their feet tickle?

But scarabs aren’t the focus of this book. Instead, one of the more equivocal and frightening Egyptian creatures will stalk his way through the story: the jackal-headed god of the dead, the Embalmer in chief, Anubis.

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Public domain: Anubis tending to the mummy of Sennedjem

Anubis isn’t his real name, of course. That’s a Greek version of the hieroglyphics associated with the Egyptian god who oversaw the embalming of the dead, and who was instrumental in dealing with the soul in the afterlife: ı͗npw (apparently pronounced as Anapa). 

 

 

hieroThe standard way of writing his name in hieroglyphs was composed of the sound ı͗npw followed by a “jackal” — now believed, rather more excitingly, to be an African Golden Wolf. Later in the Old Kingdom, the jackal was shown lying on top of a tomb. hiero1

 

Of course, the likelihood is that invoking inpw as a god was a form of sympathetic, protective magic. Wild dogs and jackals abounded, and they were all carrion eaters. There’s little doubt they haunted the cemeteries looking to have a quick snack off a recent burial. Little wonder that a jackal god became associated with death.

As with most gods, he has a wonderful array of titles. Believe me, the ancient Egyptians were poets who loved to come up with epithets to describe their gods, with titles that rolled off the tongue with fierce, evocative imagery: He Who Is Upon His Mountain, Lord of the Necropolis, He Who Counts The Hearts, Jackal Ruler of the Bows… and countless others.

And there was my inspiration for the title of the next Rafe and Ned book. Jackals play a big part in the story, it was only fitting that one of Anubis’s titles be used. Most of them are lovely, euphonious… but only one leapt off the page at me. So the next Rafe and Ned book, gentle people, will be:

The Dog Who Swallows Millions

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Copyrighted Free Use: Jackal from Tutankhamun’s tomb

Editing Words Out

As if it weren’t bad enough that authors have to come up with words to write down, we then have to winnow through them to take out the words that don’t add anything.

These are the words to put into ‘Find’, and on each and every occasion they pop up, look at rewording and tightening your story. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a quick job. It will take you days of hard work and thinking, for the average novel. But it will be worth it. Really worth it.

Ask your editor.

Words To Cut

 

 

That’s my list. What would you add to it?

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Taking Shield 03: Makepeace is on its way!

I don’t have a publication date yet, but I *do* have a cover. And one that is just gorgeous – with thanks to Adrian Nicholas at Wilde City.

Here it is.

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Returning to duty following his long recovery from the injuries he sustained during the events recounted in Heart Scarab, Shield Captain Bennet accepts a tour of duty in Fleet as flight captain on a dreadnought. The one saving grace is that it isn’t his father’s ship—bad enough that he can’t yet return to the Shield Regiment, at least he doesn’t have the added stress of commanding former lover, Fleet Lieutenant Flynn, and knowing the fraternisation regulations will keep them apart.

Working on the material he collected himself on T18 three years before, Bennet decodes enough Maess data to send him behind the lines to Makepeace, once a human colony but under Maess control for more than a century. The mission goes belly up, costing Albion one of her precious, irreplaceable dreadnoughts and bringing political upheaval, acrimony and the threat of public unrest in its wake. But for Bennet, the real nightmare is discovering what the Maess have in store for humanity. It’s not good. It’s not good at all.

Book Title: Makepeace
Series: Taking Shield
Publisher: Wilde City Press
Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas
Wordcount: c 94,500
Category: Sci Fi, Gay mainstream

 

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The thing, whatever it was, had fallen between two pods. It didn’t move. Unlike the soldier outside, it didn’t kick its legs or drum its heels. It felt nothing. Bennet bent over it, laser at the ready, his shoulders lifting to hunch protectively over his neck. He blew out a soft breath. Thank fuck. Thank fuck.

Not an organic Maess, at least.

Definitely a drone. Possibly a modified EDA? It had the same well articulated hands, the same smooth plasticised skin over the electronics and metal underneath. But the metallic body had a bluish tinge.

The head was different. His first thought was it was translucent, the interior scattered with pinpoint lights. But no. The ovoid was bigger than usual but solid and opaque. Some sort of mesh covered the metal casing, the tiny lights woven into it at varying depths, giving the illusion he could see inside.

Blue lights, the intense sapphire blue of the lights fizzing down the columns into the pods. Whatever this was, it was no ordinary drone.

The lights in its head dimmed. Flickered out.

The thing was deactivated.

It had shaken Haydn out of his previous calm. “What the hell is that?”

T18. Bennet had seen something like this on T18. Just a glimpse. When he’d seen that Thing, the real Maess, surrounded by drones, there had been something else. Something thinner than the usual drones, less bulky. Blue lights were involved, too. The Strategy Unit analysts never had worked out what it was. In the end they’d concluded it had been a problem with his camera, reflecting the lighting inside the base on T18. He’d had no reason to argue.

Well, now he knew it hadn’t been the lighting.

 

 

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Earth’s a dead planet, dark for thousands of years; lost for so long no one even knows where the solar system is. Her last known colony, Albion, has grown to be regional galactic power in its own right. But its drive to expand and found colonies of its own has threatened an alien race, the Maess, against whom Albion is now fighting a last-ditch battle for survival in a war that’s dragged on for generations.

Taking Shield charts the missions and adventures of Shield Captain Bennet, scion of a prominent military family. Against the demands of his family’s ‘triple goddess’ of Duty, Honour and Service, is set Bennet’s relationships with lovers and family. When the series opens, Bennet is at odds with his long term partner, Joss, who wants him out of the military and back in an academic, archaeological career. He’s estranged from his father, Caeden, who is the commander of Fleet’s First Flotilla. Events of the first book, in which he is sent to his father’s ship to carry out an infiltration mission behind Maess lines, improve his relationship with Caeden, but bring with them the catalyst that will destroy the one with Joss: one Fleet Lieutenant Flynn, who, over the course of the series, develops into Bennet’s main love interest.

Over the Taking Shield story arc, Bennet will see the extremes to which humanity’s enemies, and his own people, will go to win the war. Some days he isn’t able to tell friend from foe. Some days he doubts everything, including himself, as he strives to ensure Albion’s victory. And some days he isn’t sure, any longer, what victory looks like.

Taking Shield Book 01: Gyrfalcon available at Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk  Wilde City Press  All Romance eBooks

Taking Shield Book 02: Heart Scarab available at Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk  Wilde City Press  All Romance eBooks

 

 

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