Books for 99 cents!

As anyone who has ever spoken to me knows, I love a bargain.  I also love books. Bargain books, unsurprisingly, are pretty well my Nirvana.  Entangled Publishing are re-releasing a number of ex-Samhain novels today – among them is A Minor Inconvenience –  and all are only 99 cents this week!

I am about to head over to Entangled and fill my boots, or at least my ereader.  I hope others also find some tantalising tales at this bargain price.

99c

 

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A Minor Inconvenience re-release

I’m delighted that Entangled Publishing will be re-releasing A Minor Inconvenience on August 21st.

I’ve spent many happy hours trawling the internet looking for reference pictures to convey to the cover artist my impression of the characters, and it struck me, not for the first time, how writing must be the best job in the world (except perhaps for looking after puppies).  I can’t think of another job where I would be able spend hours learning random but fascinating facts or gazing at pictures of attractive people or architecture.  I mean, I’ve done those things for years anyway, but I can finally justify them as being in the name of research.  I’m pretty lucky.

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Spring is (almost) sprung

Tomorrow is the first day of spring, meteorologically speaking, and I will be celebrating by visiting a farmer friend.  My justification for the visit is that I’m researching sheep-farming for a book; my real reason is the almost unbearable cuteness of new-born lambs.  I can’t decide whether they’re more adorable when they’re all wobbly and fuzzy and almost brand new, or when they’re gained their confidence and discovered that their legs appear to be made out of coiled springs, just perfect for jumping on top of their long-suffering mothers.

I used to think it unfortunate that lambs grew up into sheep, as I thought sheep ranked among the most boring animals in the world, but I’ve come to realise that viewpoint was blind prejudice and they’re actually quite interesting.  They’re not unintelligent, and they remember faces (mostly those of other sheep, it must be said).

baby-lamb

I’ve been absent from online life for a while, but seeing a new doctor has brought a new diagnosis and treatment and I’m finally beginning to feel human again.  I’m not yet quite up to writing, but at least some gentle research is now possible.  And I have an awful lot to catch up on – I think about the only piece of writing-related news I’ve been aware of during this time is Samhain Publishing’s demise.  It’s a great shame to see another independent publisher go, and I hope all Samhain staff and authors are able to find new opportunities.

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Guest post: Round-up

I’m thrilled to welcome Anna Butler here for the final day of her tour for Gyrfalcon and The Gilded Scarab. Anna and I became friends online rather more years ago than I care to remember; when we finally met in real life, I found she is at least as warm, witty and wonderful as her writing.

Which neatly leads me to the reason she’s here. Never one to do things by halves, Anna has had two books released within days of one another. I’ve mentioned The Gilded Scarab a time or two before, and its fantastic world-building, sly humour, tension and politics, and a protagonist who isn’t as insouciant as he’d like everyone to believe. Poor health has prevented me from reading Gyrfalcon yet, but I know I’m going to be in for a treat when I do. Welcome, Anna!

 

I’m delighted to be here at Sarah’s blog for my last stop on what’s turned out to be a much longer blog tour than I ever anticipated.

Sarah and I go back years. More years than I care to admit to, although Sarah can be a little more sanguine about it as she appears to be wearing rather better than I am. We have met several times in real life as well as online, and I can guarantee that the writer of the best-breeched m/m romance I’ve ever read, is one of the nicest people around. I knew, you see, that when I asked online if people would be willing to host me, I could count on Sarah to step right up to help me bring it to an end, the way Sarah Madison stepped up to kick it off. They’re friends. They’ve been wonderful and supportive and it didn’t surprise me one bit.

What has humbled me is the sheer number of people with whom I’ve had only the smallest interaction in the past, who said, “Of course, come to my blog and talk about your stories. I’d be delighted! What date suits you?”

It has brought home to me, so strongly, that this is a real community of writers. Given the genre we share, that almost guarantees we have mindsets, values and philosophies in common, although that isn’t to say we all think exactly alike. Things are more shaded than that.

Of course there are disagreements and rivalries. We’re still human after all. But when push comes to shove, we are a community of people who support each other, who will give up space to help other writers market their books, who look on each other as comrades, and who are allies to the bigger LGBTQ community and work to support it. A community of people who care.

That’s a cool sort of community to belong to, don’t you think?

Bless you all. And thank you.

 

BLURB: The Gilded Scarab

GildedScarab The FS
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.

(Cover by Reese Dante)

EXCERPT

“Edward?”

He drew a breath so shaky I heard it from where I stood beside the bed. And another. He turned his head toward me at last, and the firelight sprang up to light the side of his face, limning his cheekbone in red-gold, sliding its way across the side of his neck and pooling shadows in the hollow of his throat, slipping more shadows under his cheekbones and edging the line of his jaw.

The firelight loved Edward Fairfax, breathed living gold into him.

The breath caught in my throat. He was beautiful in this light. Very beautiful.

“I said I’d been away a long time, just as you had,” he said. “The commitments I had… well, they involved other people and promises made that I couldn’t break. It has been a very long time since I was free to be with someone like you, Rafe. And although I’ve been back to Margrethe’s three or four times recently, I haven’t allowed things to go this far.” Edward’s smile, the little crooked turning-up of his mouth, was pained. “I think I’m a little nervous.”

I could understand that. My hands were trembly, and I had to keep working my mouth to moisten it, it was so dry. I may even have been a little nervous myself. Odd, though, how his honesty, the lack of polite evasion, prompted the same in me. “It’s been a while for me too. Not because I was ever lucky enough to find one person the way you did, if I understand what you say about commitment—the Lancaster luck doesn’t run that way. But still, the life I had, the Aero Corps… I couldn’t risk it. So it’s been a long time.” I managed a grin. “At least, a long time since it wasn’t furtive and quick and in the dark, as if it were shameful. Nothing as open as this. But what I remember of it, it’s a pleasure I would really like to taste with you.”

He nodded, and this time his smile looked real. “I would be very glad to retaste it with you, Rafe.”

I took a step toward him. He pulled his hand out of his pocket and held it out to me.

I sought for something to say as I took it. His palm was warm and dry, and his fingers curled around mine. “Do you like kissing?”

This time I got the full smile, bright and dazzling and lighting up his whole face. “I do.”

“Not all men allow it.” I made a gesture with my free hand. “There’s a spot there I’d rather like to kiss.”

The particular kissable spot was under his chin, half-hid in flickering shadow, half-lit by the firelight. I laughed when my lips settled against the skin of his throat, and he laughed with me; I felt it thrumming in his throat. I raised both hands and held his face, tilting it away from the fire. His eyes were shadowed. I used my fingertips first, following the light down the side of his jaw, tracing the line of his neck and smoothing into the warm hollow at the base of his throat. The little bones cradling it were hard under my fingers, harder still under my tongue. The hollow of his throat tasted of salt.

Edward sighed, his hands fell onto my shoulders and squeezed, his head tilted back to let me do my worst. It would be all right. We’d find our way back to our old lives together.

The next kiss wasn’t gentle. It set the world ablaze.

 

WHERE TO BUY THE GILDED SCARAB

Dreamspinner as an ebook and in paperback.

From an Amazon near you (Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk links for starters)

All Romance as an ebook

 

BLURB: Gyrfalcon

Gyrfalcon_cvr_f
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.

EXCERPT

As advertised, the Shield officer was proving to be the enigma that everyone had expected.

Flynn had worked it that first briefing so he got a good look before anyone else. He liked what he saw. In his black uniform, the Shield captain stood out in the crowd of Fleet pale grey. Everything about the Shield rig was plain. The rank pips in the stand-up collar of the tunic under his flight jacket were a dull silver, and only about half the size of the ones Simonitz wore. There wasn’t a medal ribbon in sight. Only the tiny, ornate Shield badge at his throat was a bright silver.

The monochromatic look suited the Shield captain, matching his black hair and the pale grey eyes. The captain’s hair had more cowlicks than a field full of heifers, spiking up despite it being worn longer than was strictly regulation. Flynn took note, too, of cheekbones so sharply defined that they looked like they’d been machine cut, and a strong mouth. The face was youthful, except for the eyes. They’d seen a lot. Altogether, the Shield captain was definitely one of the pretty people in life. Almost as pretty as Flynn himself.

Cruz, to whom he imparted this insight in the OC after Bennet’s first visit, rolled her eyes so hard it was a wonder the girl didn’t have to grope about on the deck for them. She had never appreciated his true worth. He had to guilt her into buying him a beer in reparation.

He sipped his beer appreciatively. It always tasted better when someone else was paying. “What d’you think of him?”

“Seems pleasant enough.” Cruz shrugged. “He didn’t tell us much, though. I didn’t think he would.”

“No. And that first briefing was a bit basic. Wonder what he was fishing for there.”

“We’ll likely find out in time,” said Cruz.

“I’d rather know now.” Flynn took a pull on his beer. “Simonitz doesn’t like him.”

“Did Sim ever apply for Shield?”

“You picked up on that too, did you? I don’t know, but there were a few hints there. I thought the Shield was pretty gracious about it, with Sim sitting there glowering all night.”

Cruz nodded. After a minute, she said, “He was good with Nairn, taking him seriously. Some people might have laughed or slapped the kid down.”

“Nairn’s a question mark on legs, some days.”

“He’s young for his age.”

“And getting a severe case of hero worship,” Flynn said, laughing.

Cruz looked at Flynn, brown eyes warm with affection and amusement. “He’s not the only one, I’d say.” She smiled. “Would you?”

WHERE TO BUY

Gyrfalcon is available as an ebook at Wilde City Press

 

GIVEAWAY

Comment here and get an entry in a rafflecopter to win an Amazon gift card (drawn when the blog tour is over at the end of March).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In addition, one commentator 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).

ABOUT ANNA

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.

Find Anna:

Website and Blog

Facebook

The Butler’s Pantry (Facebook Group)

Pinterest

Twitter

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Why none of my Regency characters will ever visit the dentist

I’ve been a little quieter than usual for the last few months due to some health issues. Perhaps most frustratingly, the migraines and exhaustion have prevented me from writing. The good news is that I received a diagnosis a couple of weeks ago: “Pernicious anaemia,” the doctor said. To which my helpful response was “That’s rather judgemental, isn’t it?”

When I came to read up on the condition, I realised that the term pernicious is in fact very well-deserved – this form of anaemia has been responsible for numerous deaths over the years, as well as causing dementia and psychosis (which leads me to wonder about my great-great-grandfather who ended his days in an asylum. His son’s account of having to leave him there still breaks my heart). The wonderful news for me is that these days all I need is a vitamin B12 injection on a regular basis, and I’m good to go. Or I will be; it’s going to take my body some months to recover from its current state. But given the fairly recent alternative treatment of eating raw liver three times a day, I am most definitely not complaining!

Similarly, I’m not a big fan of going to the dentist, but when I read of treatment during Regency times, I remember again how fortunate I am to be living now. The aristocracy of course could afford toothpicks, toothbrushes, tooth powders and, from the 1800s, toothpaste, whereas the poor were quite likely to visit the farrier for dental treatment, or even to part with their teeth for money. ‘Live’ teeth were more highly prized when it came to false teeth than those which had been scavenged from a battlefield or graveyard. Yet even for the aristocracy, dental treatment was not a bundle of fun:

“Extractions were by forceps or commonly keys, rather like a door key…When rotated it gripped the tooth tightly. This extracted the tooth – and usually gum and bone with it. Sometimes the jaws were also broken during an extraction by untrained people.” (BBC)

And then there was the practice of numbing the nerve of a tooth by inserting a heated wire into it, not to mention using ashes of earthworm to treat a decayed tooth. I suppose that’s better than a live earthworm, at least.

V0012094 Three scenes involving the end of a tooth extraction operati(George Cruikshank. Wellcome Library, London)

While it’s fascinating to read about Regency dentristry from a safe distance, I don’t think I’m going to be writing about any of my characters visiting the dentist any time soon. And yes, that means that even without the consumption of raw liver, I hope to be well enough to start writing again very soon.

 

 

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Coming soon – but not soon enough!

It sometimes seems that books are like buses – you wait forever for one that piques your interest, and then a bunch come along at once. Anna Butler is a case in point. She has not one but two books being released within days of one another next month. I was lucky enough to read a draft of her Gilded Scarab, released by Dreamspinner Press on 14th February. The worldbuilding in this steampunk m/m novel, the sheer fun of encountering a full and rich history that’s taken a slightly different turn yet still remains recognisable, made it a delightful and deeply satisfying read. I’m itching to get my hands on a copy of the finished novel.

As if that is not enough, Gyrfalcon will be released by Wilde City Press on 18th February. I haven’t read this one – a treat in store – but I know Anna’s worldbuilding skills and her love of science fiction, and have no doubt that it will be just as splendid as it sounds.

COMING FROM WILDE CITY PRESS

18 February 2015

Gyrfalcon

by Anna Butler

Gyrfalcon_cvr_f

Earth’s dead, dark for thousands of years. Her last known colony, Albion, is fighting an alien enemy that no one has even seen. In Gyrfalcon, the first of the Taking Shield series, Shield Captain Bennet is dropped behind the lines to steal priceless intelligence. It’s 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.

Extract

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!” hissed Bennet in his ear. “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, dropping the laser rifle it was holding, 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 lead! Any more of them?”

 

WildeCity Gyrfalcon will be available as an ebook from Wilde City Press from 18 February

 

About Anna

Anna worked for many years as a communications specialist in the UK government, working in a range of central 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 featuring handsome heroes running about shooting lasers. She doesn’t claim to be a romance writer – that her laser-wielding heroes are gay and their relationship is a real one are both integral to her Taking Shield series, but not the reason for it. When she isn’t writing, she looks out at her garden thinking that she really should get out there and tackle the weeds, but is easily distracted into building up the biggest collection of tiara images on Pinterest instead. She lives in London with her husband and Molly, the cockerpoo.

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The sport of princes. And rabbits, apparently.

I’ve been reading about horse racing at the turn of the nineteenth century and have been both charmed and appalled by some of the things I’ve discovered. While I’d been aware of some of the Prince of Wales’s less savoury characteristics, I hadn’t realised he was believed by some to have cheated on the turf.

The prince’s horse Escape, offspring of the mighty Highflyer, was the clear favourite in his first race at the second October meeting at Newmarket in 1791, a view formed because of Escape’s form before the meeting.  He finished last.  The result of this – along with several angry punters, undoubtedly – was that Escape was ranked as a 5-1 outsider in the following day’s race. He won emphatically. Suspicions were raised not only because of his uneven form but because neither the Prince nor his jockey had backed the horse for the first race, while both had done so for the second.

Escape’s jockey, Sam Chifney, asserted there was nothing suspicious about the results. Chifney said that he had entertained reservations about Escape’s fitness for the first race as he had not been sweated, ie worked while wearing a heavy rug, but he felt that the first race had opened the horse’s pores sufficiently to enable him to run well in the second race. The Jockey Club didn’t buy it, perhaps because Chifney was regarded in some quarters as being less than honest.

Sir Charles Bunbury, the leading figure within the Jockey Club, interviewed Chifney, and then informed the Prince that if he were to use Chifney again as a jockey, no gentleman would be found to start against him. The prince awarded Chifney £200 a year to compensate him for loss of earnings – an annuity which Chifney subsequently sold. He spent all the proceeds, eventually dying in a debtor’s prison. The prince continued to race his horses, but never returned to Newmarket. Having been seen to stand up to the heir to the throne, the Jockey Club’s power and influence over British racing increased yet further.

Highflyer by John BoultbeeHighflyer by John Boultbee

A rather depressing tale is told of Newmarket’s first Spring Meeting in 1811, where a number of horses were poisoned by the addition of arsenic to a drinking trough. Several died as a result. A well-known tout, Daniel Dawson, was accused of the crime after one of his associates had laid information against him in return for a £500 reward offered by the Jockey Club. The case against him was dropped on a technicality. He was arrested again on a different charge of poisoning horses, and confessed to poisoning twenty or so. He was subsequently sentenced to death and hanged.

On a much happier note, I came once more upon the tale of the stallion Waxy, whose stable mate was a rabbit. The trainer, John Kent, Snr. (1783-1869), told his son about the doe, who ate oats from Waxy’s manger and would nestle up to him when he lay down. According to Kent Snr., the doe made her nest in the middle of Waxy’s stall, where “…family after family was reared in this risky home, and no harm ever befell one of its members from any action on the part of the horse. The old horse would thrust his nose into the nest, as though he would fondle its tiny and helpless occupants.”

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