Without any exaggeration, today is the eye of the storm.
Yesterday, my first ever novel, a m/m romance called The Gilded Scarab, was published by Dreamspinner. Tomorrow another novel, Gyrfalcon (the first of a gay mainstream science fiction series) will be published by Wilde City.
Here in the middle? I’m doing a sterling imitation of Blackadder IV, with wild hair and straws jammed up my nostrils as I stick my fingers in my ears and la-la-la very loudly. If I’m very lucky I’ll get to the end of the week with my sanity intact.
I’m not betting on it, though. What was I thinking?
THE GILDED SCARAB
When Captain Rafe Lancaster is invalided out of the Britannic Imperium’s Aero Corps after crashing his aerofighter during the Second Boer War, his eyesight is damaged permanently, and his career as a fighter pilot is over. Returning to Londinium in late November 1899, he’s lost the skies he loved, has no place in a society ruled by an elite oligarchy of powerful Houses, and is hard up, homeless, and in desperate need of a new direction in life.
Everything changes when he buys a coffeehouse near the Britannic Imperium Museum in Bloomsbury, the haunt of Aegyptologists. For the first time in years, Rafe is free to be himself. In a city powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston, and where powerful men use House assassins to target their rivals, Rafe must navigate dangerous politics, deal with a jealous and possessive ex-lover, learn to make the best coffee in Londinium, and fend off murder and kidnap attempts before he can find happiness with the man he loves.
The polished wood and dark red velvet of the lobby carried through into the Praecipias, giving the lounge a rich and luxurious feel. The light of crystal chandeliers glinted on cut glass and the bottles ranged on shelves behind the bar. As the maître d’ had hinted, it was still rather early and the company was thin. Two patrons sat at separate tables. They straightened and looked back at me when I glanced around, both wearing smiles and expectant expressions. But no. They were good enough, but neither appealed to me. The trick was to pretend I hadn’t noticed them at all, instead focusing on my scotch and lighting one of the thin cigarillos I’d bought at the tobacconist. That way no one’s feelings were hurt.
A shame, perhaps… but no. Thanks to Phryne’s careful hands, I was shining that night. I deserved better than good enough. I deserved much better, and I could afford to wait until there was someone whose company I fancied. So I drew on my cigarillo and inhaled the sharp smoke. If I tilted my head back, I could watch the smoke float up toward the embossed ceiling. It hung in the light, drifting back and forth, and back and forth.
“May I buy you a drink, sir?”
I really am not a nervous man, but I jumped. Good Lord! Where had he come from? Sneaking up from the left, where I still had difficulty seeing things on the edge of sight, I supposed. I hadn’t seen him approach, and now that I looked, two or three others must have come into the room while I had contemplated my scotch and stared at the ceiling. Two stood at the bar talking, and a third slid into a chair at a table near mine, his dark eyes raking me over. He looked faintly familiar, although I couldn’t imagine where I’d seen him. He was well enough, too, but I turned my attention to the man who’d spoken to me.
Oh, but this one was better than good enough! Much better.
About my age, by the look of him, but as fair as I’m dark—wheat blond hair in artful disorder, with quite astonishing hazel eyes set above high, pronounced cheekbones and a strong mouth and chin. Thank God he had a chin. There were far too many men who had none worthy of the name. The rest of the stranger was rather attractive too. He leaned on a cane in his right hand, inclining his long, trim body toward me. It gave him a slight air of eagerness that was, I felt, distinctly flattering, as well as allowing him to show off an evening suit that fitted him like the proverbial glove and must have cost a very pretty penny. Definitely better than just good enough. Unless he turned out to have all the personality faults of Attila the Hun, this one would most certainly merit further attention.
And, really, Attila the Hun hadn’t been all bad. He was rumored to have been very considerate of his horses.
TAKING SHIELD 01 : GYRFALCON
Earth’s last known colony, Albion, is fighting an alien enemy. In the first of the Taking Shield series, Shield Captain Bennet is dropped behind the lines to steal priceless intelligence. A dangerous job, and Bennet doesn’t need the distractions of changing relationships with his long-term partner, Joss, or with his father—or with Flynn, the new lover who will turn his world upside-down. He expects to risk his life. He expects the data will alter the course of the war. What he doesn’t expect is that it will change his life or that Flynn will be impossible to forget.
All the warning he got was the slightest prickling of the hair on the back of his neck, then someone or something forcibly connected with his legs and brought him down. The impact had that foul-smelling air whooshing out of his lungs.
“Stay down!” Bennet said. “Two drones. Right behind me.”
Flynn tried to catch his breath. Bennet, arms and legs wrapped around him, rolled them both into the shelter of the rock that he’d evidently been hiding behind. For an instant they lay in the warm darkness, wrapped together. They were in deep shadow, and Flynn had to feel for Bennet’s face to touch it, to make sure that the Shield captain was really there. His hand found Bennet’s mouth, felt it curve into a smile, and he smiled himself.
Bennet disentangled himself, so that Flynn was undistracted again. Huh. Shame. Bennet had felt pretty good. He inched up to peer carefully around the rock. The two drones were about fifty feet away and marching towards them.
Bennet was breathing hard. “One each, then let’s get the hell out of here. Take the one on the right. On my count: three, two, one.”
They rolled in opposite directions from behind the rock. Flynn fetched up on his knees, bringing up the laser and firing several sharp short bursts. His drone staggered and fell onto its back, its circuitry fried by a plasma bolt to the head. The remaining one stood rigidly still, sparks shooting out from its chest circuitry. In an awful travesty of a human reaction, its hands were clawing at the hole in its chest. It toppled slowly over onto its face.
“Shit,” Flynn said. “What an exciting life you madmen lead! Any more of them?”
From Wilde City, ebook only
Comment here and one person chosen at complete close-eyes-stick-a-pin-in-it random will get their choice of a little pack of Gilded Scarab or Gyrfalcon loot and a free copy of FlashWired (a gay mainstream sci-fi novella).
Everyone gets an entry in a rafflecopter to win an Amazon gift card:
Come over to the Dreamspinner Facebook page today at 4pm (that’s 11am EST) and get the chance to win a Gilded Scarab coffee travel mug.
Go on from there to Rainbow Book Reviews Facebook page at 5pm EST (that’s 10pm GMT)today to talk about both books and get the chance to win a Gilded Scarab or a Gyrfalcon iPad cover.
Come over to Wilde City tomorrow, the 18 February, to win a rocket ship pen (it makes landing noises! How is that not the most desirable thing on the planet?)
Anna Butler was a communications specialist for many years, working in UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to running an internal TV service. She now spends her time indulging her love of old-school science fiction. She lives in the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo.