So… 2016. What do you hold?
I’m not going to lie. 2014 was a tough year on all fronts, but I loved almost every minute of 2015, so 2016 has some tough competition. I would like to order another year like 2015, please. It was a bittersweet year in some respects – saying goodbye to my nan, after a long, long drawn-out battle with alzheimer’s and the return of her breast cancer, but in a way, saying goodbye was a relief. Alzheimer’s is brutal. I lost my nan a long time ago, and the body that remained is no longer in pain, no longer devouring itself from the inside out, until all that remains is… something she would never have wanted to be. Nan’s at peace now.
Missing you, Nan
It’s weird to admit, but her funeral was both a terrible, and a wonderful day. One of the hardest aspects of dealing with this loss, is that I was having trouble remembering who nan was as a person, not who she became with her disease. I was racking my brain for memories of her, but all I could come up with were those from recent times; the look on her face when I was like, “Nan, you can’t put the pumpkin in the microwave for 40 mins, because it will explode”, and she was still there enough to realise that she’d slipped up again, and the Alzheimer’s was slowly winning; watching her struggle to put a sentence together because she was losing track of what she was trying to say, and finally dwindling to a halt; the dull look in her eyes when you walk through the door, because she doesn’t know you anymore. Those memories all hurt. The funeral made me cry, but it also made me laugh, because there were so many stories of her from other people, and it was like the dam broke inside me, and she came back to me. My nan who loved sunday sippers, and enjoyed a ‘brandy and dry’, Nan’s laugh, the way she’d say ‘Leo!’ (my Pa’s name – it actually took me two books to realise what I’d named Leo Barrons, because Pa was always Pa to me, and never Leo), the way she would take in random strangers from her small home town and feed them or give them a bed, just because that’s who she was, her delicious roast potatoes which were almost deep-fried, the way she would hug you as a kid, and you would sink into her, because she was round and tiny, and she loved her grandchildren more than anything in the world… So it was nice to get that back, just a little.
My health was good, after the fugue of 2014 (you may have picked up that I hated 2014 with a passion (: ), and I wrote more last year than I’ve ever written before – partly because you don’t realise what you’ve got until its gone, like words, energy, not living in a cloud of exhaustion all the time, and I think I threw myself into every story with a renewed love for the worlds, for the words, than I’d ever felt before, when I finally could. I stopped being as hard on myself too. I like to achieve. I am goal-orientated, competitive with myself, and driven, and being so sick forced me to recognise that sometimes you just can’t. Can’t anything. And that’s okay, because one day when you’re well again, you’ll meet those targets, hit those goals, but if you don’t that’s okay too.
My baby sister lived with us for a while, and while I love her to bits, 2015 was the year where she got her own place, got a job, started working her butt off, and I love watching her confidence bloom from that. She also got a kitten, and I get to baby-sit sometimes. It’s been a turbulent 5 years in my family, and I hate watching the people that I love going through some rough times, so it’s nice to see everyone happy and healthy, and finding themselves. There were a lot of girls’ trips with my mum, and my sisters, and I spent 7 weeks travelling with my brother, which was really nice, as they’re a bit younger than me, and moved away in their teens, so it was lovely to get to know him as an adult more.
Beta Hero and I bought a block of land. It’s a little bit of a dream for us, and one day we hope to build there. We want to be off-grid, and plant fruit trees and run sheep, so that we can eat a lot more of our own food, which is a minor obsession we share. It’s perfect, and private, and the view is amazing. I still can’t believe its ours.
New digs… in greener times, because Australia is a dry, barren dust hole right now
And I travelled. I spent time in Costa Rica rappelling down waterfalls with my brother, crawling through caves, and trekking volcanoes. Mum joined us in Mexico, for the trip through Guatemala and Belize, and then it was on to New York for the RWA Conference, where I’d been nominated for a RITA (a dream come true for me, and a little bit of validation about my writing). London Steampunk Series 1 came to an end with Of Silk And Steam (which may be my favourite book, but shhh! Don’t tell Blade), which received a Top Pick from RT Reviews, and is up for their Best Steampunk Romance of 2015 (along with some other really awesome steam punks). We sold French Rights to the London Steampunk series, so it’s lovely to see it expanding to other countries.
I read some amazing books. I dreamed. I created. I baked. I ate more doughnuts and cake than was good for me, but thought fuck it, because one day when the PSC deteriorates I won’t be able to eat anything (no gluten, no sugar, no fat, no… taste basically), so I will enjoy it while I can. Life is too short to not enjoy doughnuts. I ran, and played netball, and hiked mountains, and water skied. Life was good.
So what does 2016 hold?
More book releases – I’m really excited about this, as I have two new series’ to show the world – and the first book in the second London Steampunk arc to play with. There will be a schedule up sometime soon. I also have a new cover, which should be going out in my newsletter any day now (or maybe a week). I just got back from Bali, so the house looks like Christmas hit it with a vengeance, and there is so much organisational stuff to do this week. So much.
Bali with the Beta Hero
I love New Year’s. It always feels like a fresh start, and I love making resolutions and goals for the year. I know, I know, I should do it all year, but I find life gets busy, things happen, goals fall by the wayside… So New Year’s is basically a chance to dust off, reassess and clear the cobwebs.
This year’s resolution is about exploring another avenue I used to spend hours on: drawing. I haven’t drawn for years. The writing thing kind of took off, but I’m determined to give some time back to art. I’m already playing with a map of a fantasy-world I’m dabbling in writing-wise.
Fitness and health goals are always something I do too. Chronic illness sucks ass, and the fitter and healthier I am, the better I feel, so it’s always a work in progress. I’m aiming to play more with my gluten free recipes this year, to work out how to create with gluten-free.
And I’m planning… more books, more series’, more travel. Hoping to attend San Diego in July, but… we shall see. I’m an author. That means I have learned to be frugal with a dollar, and I’m not quite sure the budget stretches that far. Yet.
So here’s to 2016. I hope it’s a good year for everyone else too.
I always find it interesting to look back over the year and see which books turned out to be my favourites, and this year was an exceptionally strong field. Sometimes they’re books released prior to 2015, which I’ve only gotten around to now, but most were released this year.
As usual, trends seemed to run toward UF and fantasy-based YA, though I read a lot of New Adult this year. Burned out on a lot of NA too. It’s interesting to find that sports-related NA really agrees with him, considering most of it is based around sports this little Australian has never even seen – American football, and Ice Hockey, for example. I’m fairly competitive and love sports myself, so that’s why I think I get it (:
Also found some time to dabble in some amazing fantasy worlds – my first love – and caught a few paranormal romances.
So here’s the list:
- The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher – classic Jim Butcher, with a steampunk spin, featuring an ensemble cast, the favourites of which were Captain Grimm, the captain of the airship Predator, and Bridget, or more particularly Bridget’s long-suffering talking cat Rawl who gets his own POV’s here, and considers it his lifelong duty to look after his blundering human companions. Amazing action scenes, political intrigue and a cool new world. What isn’t to like?
- Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews. As always, Kate Daniels, is one of my favourite go-to heroines, and I especially like that of the UF series out there, there have never been any love triangles, or stupid misunderstandings between Kate and Curran once they both decided they were each other’s HEA. The relationship is evolving, but Curran is always going to be there for Kate.
- A Court of Thorn and Roses Sarah J. Maas. A YA featuring Feyre, a young girl with two sisters, who keeps them alive by hunting the forests for food, and Tamlin, the fae who steals her away when she kills one of his shapeshifting fae. Awesome, awesome YA which I loved, not least because of a curse, a heroine who has to save her lover, and Rhys the dark fae lord, who is going to play an interesting part in future stories.
- The Deal by Elle Kennedy. Been reading a lot of NA this year, but this was the standout for me, by far. The Deal is what happens when Hannah, a smart, witty young woman with dreams of her own, runs afoul of Garrett Graham, the college hottie hockey player, who needs a tutor to save his spot on the team. The best bit? Hannah wants nothing to do with it, or him, and is the last girl to fall at his feet. The thing I liked best was the fact that they truly became friends before anything further happened, and that Garrett – whilst hilarious – was also protective and respectful of his ‘Wellsy’. I’m not going to lie though – the locker room scene – penis! penis everywhere! – had me in stitches.
- Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Another YA from Sarah J. Maas, which was released in years earlier, but which I only came across this year. I fell in love with her snarky assassin heroine Celaena (in the first two books anyway), and the Prince who hides his own magic from his tyrant father, and his protective captain of the guard, Chaol, who would do anything for Prince Dorian.
- Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. Kick-ass monster hunter Yukiko is another YA heroine who stole my heart this year. When she and her opium-addict father are sent to hunt the arashitora – AKA thunder tiger (griffin), in an oriental steampunk world – Yukiko finds herself caught between a power-mad emperor, and a rebellious group seeking to overthrow him. I like how Yukiko grew up over the course of the novel, and the world-building was simply amazing!
- Soulbound by Kristin Callihan. Callihan’s PNR’s are always a favourite of mine. This one features Adam, the GIM master we’ve been tempted with over the years, and Eliza May, his long promised soulmate who may be the only person to save him from the deal he made with a notorious Fae, Queen Mab. The catch? Eliza hates his guts, at the start, and Adam’s not particularly fond of her, seeing her as only a means to an end, until he comes to realise just how much he likes her.
- A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan. Finally, at long last, I got my hands on a copy of the final Wheel of Time novel, written by Brandon Sanderson years after Robert’s death. This is a series I began when I was thirteen-ish, and the ending left me with that old nostalgic feeling, even though I still wish Elayne had died, instead of the heroine I loved from the very start of the series. My favourite scenes featured my favourite characters Egwene, and Mat, Lan (taking care of a dread lord nobody else seemed to be able to handle – I could just imagine him thinking, ‘I’m getting too old for this shit’ as he headed after Demandred), and Perrin, and my new favourites Androl and Pevara, who were Sanderson’s inclusions to the series. This book was basically one long battle, but it was the battle. Tarmon Gai’don finally arriving. And man, what a battle!
- Entreat Me by Grace Draven. Basically a version of Beauty and the Beast, this is a fantasy romance featuring Ballard, the cranky old beast who’s curse extends to his son, and Louvaen, the cranky older sister of the beauty, who is more than capable of handling any old curse. Beautiful writing, beautiful world building… It was a toss-up for me between Radiance and Entreat Me by Grace for this list, but I’ve always been a sucker for Beauty and the Beast stories, so this wins out, barely.
- Darkborn by Allison Sinclair. Torn apart by a curse 800 yrs ago, the Darkborn have cast aside their magical impulses and live in the dark, using sonar – or sonn – to get around, and the Lightborn cannot exist in darkness, and use magic. In a city divided by wary alliances, when Balthasar Hearne answers a knock on his door and finds an old friend, heavily pregnant, he sets off the start of a tale of deceit, danger, politics, and love. His wife Telmaine, is a dark born mage who hides her gift for magic, yet must accept it when their daughter is kidnapped, Balthasar is injured, and she must come to rely upon Ishmael, the shadow hunting dark born lord, who just might be the key to saving the city.
BOOKS I CAN’T WAIT FOR 2016
- Truthwitch Susan Denard
- A Court Of Mist And Fury by Sarah J Maas
- The Score by Elle Kennedy
- Magic Binds Ilona Andrews
- Monstress by Marie Liu (out already, but I won’t get to read til Jan)
- Peace Talks by Jim Butcher
- King’s Rising by CS Pacat
- Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
- Gaslight Hades by Grace Draven
- The Winds of Winter George R R Martin
So what books were your favourites in 2015? And what are you looking forward to in 2016?
So, as mentioned on social media, I’m spinning off the London Steampunk series, with the first book due for publication mid-next year. There will be a new story arc to take place over the new series, which is tentatively titled, The Blueblood Conspiracy. Heh, heh. Make of that what you will.
Frequently asked questions about the new series:
Charlie? Yes. There will be some Charlie action, he just has a little bit of growing up to do, after the events of Of Silk And Steam.
What is this series about? Well, let’s just say, there was a lot of aftermath following the events of OSAS. One doesn’t just cast down the Prince Consort with no consequences. Is everybody happy about the Queen ruling her own country? Maybe. Maybe not. (Highlight for spoilers)
This is the Malloryn in my head. Yummy, huh?
Who else? The first book features Byrnes and Ingrid. That’s no secret. But there are a few characters in my sights. Malloryn, for one. Poor Ava, with her clockwork heart. And let us not forget Adele, Lena’s cunning friend, with her terrible future.
What to expect? Suspense. Sexy times (of course). Daring adventures. We’re taking a little bit of a different road with this series. London Steampunk was all about politics, overthrowing the cruel aristocracy, making the world a better place. The Blueblood Conspiracy, has a slightly different tone. Spies, a secret enemy organisation with a dark agenda… It’s all a little bit V for Vendetta, turned on its head. Oh, and of course, there was that diary that Leo found at the end of OSAS…
Cameos from old friends: Yes. Want to guess how many children Garrett has? Or see what’s happening in Blade’s little corner of the world? There are certainly ties between these characters, and the London Steampunk character, but don’t expect them to pop up, and make an appearance unless it enhances the plot. Sorry. I just don’t work that way (:
Here’s a little excerpt from the first book, which has a working title of Byrnes:
“Miss you?” Byrnes asked flatly, though the heat in his blue eyes wasn’t cold. Not at all. He took a menacing step toward her before pausing, his lean form falling into absolute stillness.
Ingrid smiled. She’d worked with Byrnes for two weeks – or worked against him, perhaps, when he’d declared the bet – but in that time she’d come to know him well enough to predict him.
He hated emotional displays, especially in himself. His control was absolute. And she’d just caused him to break both of those self-governed rules.
Call it the devil on her shoulder, but when it came to Byrnes, she absolutely could not help herself.
A delicious, heated intensity filled the room. Her skin itched at the silence, at all the words that weren’t being said in this moment. Silences had never made her uncomfortable – indeed, she often preferred them – but this one was filled with such promise that she actually gave a shiver.
“Miss you?” he repeated slowly, carefully. “Why yes… I believe I did. I have a little debt to repay.”
“A little debt?” Ingrid glanced at him from beneath her lashes in a most un-Ingrid-like way. “What a curious choice of words.”
Instantly his gaze flattened, and she laughed.
“I searched for you,” he said stiffly.
“I spent months looking for you.”
“You wouldn’t have found me, no matter how much time you spent looking for me.” You wouldn’t have found me, because I wasn’t here. Not that her quest to Norway had been successful, even with all of the lovely bounty money she’d earned by bringing in the so-called Vampire of Drury Lane, all by herself. The humour drained out of her, but she managed to keep her smile on her face.
Some mysteries took time. She certainly wasn’t giving up on this one. And now she’d had this lovely offer, with more money on the table, should her work prove satisfactory to the Duke of Malloryn. More money meant more informants she could pay, more searchers she could employ. She’d find the family she’d been stolen from, all those years ago. One day.
She just had to be patient.
“Where did you go after the case? You weren’t in London. You weren’t in any of the towns nearby. You weren’t even in bloody Scotland!”
Ingrid shrugged. “That’s not really any of your business.”
“Oh, I think it is.” Byrnes was in her space. They were of a height – especially with her in her heeled boots – but she never felt unfeminine around him, the way she sometimes felt with other men. Byrnes had always challenged her to be an equal. And that look in his eye had always made her feel distinctly feminine.
“You left me naked and bound to my bed. I’ve been thinking about what I’d do to you – to repay the debt – for the entire year.” His voice dropped. “Oh, and Ingrid, I’ve had time to get very creative about it.”
Very excited to announce that Forged By Desire has been named as a finalist in the Paranormal Romance Category of RWA’s RITA award.
Basically that is the formal announcement. In reality? You could knock me over with a feather right now. I want to do cartwheels everywhere.
I rarely know what date it is (month even sometimes), so I was totally unprepared for a phone call on the 26th May. I looked at my phone and thought, ‘Huh, that’s a weird number. Why is someone from San Antonio, Texas, calling me?’ A second later I think my eyebrows hit the roof, as I realised the only possible reason someone from America – and specifically that city – might be calling me. What was the date? OMG, my calendar flashed up the 26th. Cue nervous excitement.
I had a lovely phone call – or the first minute of it actually – when the lady let me know that Forged By Desire was a finalist. Then the connection broke down and I couldn’t hear anything else, except the odd half-word. Thank goodness she emailed me, or I might have thought the whole thing was a dream!
So tonight is champagne, dessert and any item on the menu that I want to order. Cheers to Perry and Garrett, and a big thank you to all of those who have invested time in the series!
So Dear Authors and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books are running their annual DABWAHA challenge and strike me blind, but Forged By Desire got in. (Cue excitement!) Up against the awesome Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett (go read it, it’s a cool book) in the first round, I offered a bribe if it got through to round two – the first two pages of the next book in the London Steampunk series. And, it actually got through, so, huh, thanks to those who voted. Because I am so thrilled, I’ve gone one better. I’m going to post the first scene in the next book.
Please note, this is completely unedited, and also the first, very first draft. This scene may be tightened, changed, or edited severely at some point. I’m not sure if the tone is right, sometimes I get in a funny mood, and put my tongue firmly in cheek, but hey, author’s are allowed to play with things like that. It may not even appear. I have a very good idea where this book is going, but I also like to play a little fast and loose with my outline, so you just never know, you guys…
But it will give you an idea where we’re going, a few hints, a few teasers, and an idea of main characters for the next series. Everyone’s favourite question gets answered: is Charlie going to get a book (:
So who’s the hero? Read on and find out.
Who is the heroine? Also revealed.
Working title: Blue bloods vs Wolves. Game on.
The invitation contained an address and two words: Come alone.
Caleb Byrnes had found it earlier this morning, in the middle of his bed in the Nighthawks Guild Headquarters, a place that he’d previously considered impenetrable. Not only were the Nighthawks comprised of rogue blue bloods – those afflicted with the craving virus, whose infection had not been sanctioned by the aristocrats who’d once ruled London – but they were also thief-takers and bounty hunters. An intruder should have been heard, or smelled, or spotted before they got within five yards of the place. And if they hadn’t been, then the Guild was protected with all manner of mechanical devices. It was a virtual labyrinth. To his knowledge, nobody had ever broken in successfully.
His curiosity was aroused.
Or perhaps that was just a side effect of the fact that the invitation smelled quite liberally of perfume.
Someone had just dared him.
Someone who knew enough about him to know what piqued his interest.
If there was one thing that Byrnes desired above all else, it was a mystery, or a chase. The hunt was everything to him, whether he was hunting miscreants over the rooftops of London, vampires causing mayhem, or women.
It was only once the chase was done that he grew bored, and considering that it had been a good year since he’d had a decent pursuit or case – that actress from the theatre, or the so-called Vampire of Drury Lane – and he figured he was due.
Hence why he was here, at the address.
Lifting the invitation to his face, Byrnes breathed in the scent, and stared up at the nondescript Georgian townhouse in front of him that threatened to blend into all of the others along the street. If he hadn’t owned preternatural senses, the perfume would have been subtle. Lilies floating in the wind past him. As it was, he could make out the tiny trace notes of oil, and chemical, of solvents and preservatives. A faint underlying rankness that he figured he could overlook, if the female deliverer proved worthy.
Lifting his hand to knock, he stepped forward, and paused as skirts swished behind him. Every hair along his body leapt to attention, and–
“Goodness, Byrnes, is that you?” Ava MacLaren asked, coming directly to a halt behind him.
Not his intended pursuit, though Ava certainly could have delivered the invitation, as she too was a Nighthawk, and therefore had the means to enter his room. The scent was wrong however. Ava was engine oil, blood and chemicals, masked by the faint trace of rose perfume she sometimes wore.
Byrnes spun around, gracing her with a smile. Three years ago, Ava had been the victim of a madman who performed clockwork experiments on women, a case that had left her with a thick, ragged scar between her breasts, a mechanical heart, and a case of the craving virus. Her parents had thought her dead, and there was no place in the world for a female blue blood such as herself, so she’d ended up staying at the Guild and taking a position there in the laboratories with Fitz. In three short years, she’d become quite adept at crime scene investigation, whereas Fitz still fainted at the sight of blood.
“Indeed it is.” Byrnes raked a glance over her and missed nothing – including the gold-engraved invitation trailing from her fingers. “What are you doing here?”
Had she received the same invitation? The thought irritated him a little, for he’d thought this to be his mystery. However, he saw Ava as a friend – one of the few he truly owned – so he pushed the thought away.
“Same reason, perhaps, as yours.” She lifted the invitation ruefully, juggling her parasol in her other hand. “I received this but an hour ago. It sounded urgent.”
Ava offered him the piece of parchment.
To the Divine Miss McLaren… An offer awaits you, if you dare… Come immediately.
Ava’s cheeks had coloured. “I thought – perhaps – an admirer. I was just curious…”
“You should be more careful,” he said with a frown, turning it over to find the same details. “What if it hadn’t been? What if someone with nefarious intentions had sent this to you instead?”
“They still might have nefarious intentions,” she suggested.
“Yes, but my virtue is non-existent, and everyone knows it. So I doubt they’d have invited me.”
Ava rolled her pretty green eyes. She was used to his humour, though she often told him it was lacking. “I’m a blue blood, Byrnes. There’s not a lot that could kill me, and considering my heart is made of metal, perhaps not even that, hmm? And you’ve taught me how to protect myself. I deemed it an acceptable risk.”
Byrnes looked up at the building. “They still might have dangerous intentions. You should let me go first.”
“I should,” Ava said, swinging her parasol with a dangerous glint in her eyes, “but I’m not going to. For goodness sakes, Byrnes, I’m not a debutante. Besides, I have this–”
The parasol swung toward him and Byrnes tensed, ready for anything. “I’m not certain I’ve fully recovered from the last ingenious device. What does this do?”
Her eyes glittered, and she slid her hand toward some trigger on the handle. The tip of it was pressed directly against his chest.
“On second thoughts, I don’t want to know,” he replied, moving it swiftly away from him.
Ava laughed. “Trust me. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of my electro-magnetic discombobulator.”
“After you, then,” he said, and knocked on the door.
The second his knock died down, the door swung inwards.
A butler appeared, impeccable in black. “Good morning, sir. Ma’am. My name is Herbert. Please come in. You’re expected.”
Byrnes hadn’t heard him so much as breathing. His eyes narrowed, one hand dropping to the knife sheathed at his side as he stepped past. The foyer was polished mahogany, and a chandelier gleamed above. No sign of anyone else, however.
“Oh, thank you,” Ava told the butler, handing over her parasol and warning him to be careful with it.
“The others are gathered in the library,” Herbert said, gesturing them toward the stairs.
“Others?” Byrnes glanced up. He could hear murmurs from above.
“The rest of the Company, sir.” Herbert returned a bland smile that told him nothing. “If you’ll join them, I’ll send for refreshments–”
“Do you know the purpose of this meeting? Who’s hosting it? Who’s–”
“All shall be revealed, sir. Perhaps some blud wein for the lady?”
An expensive brew. Byrnes hadn’t quite made up his mind about this place. It was immaculately clean, and the furnishings he could see in the parlour were expensive, but there was an eerie air about the place, as though nobody actually lived in it. His curiosity was rampant, but it was clear from glimpse of the butler’s face that Herbert was going to reveal nothing.
“Please,” Byrnes replied, then offered Ava his arm to escort her up the stairs.
“What do you think this is?” she whispered, her flyaway blonde curls brushing against his shoulder.
“I’m not certain,” he replied. “Who are the others? What could they want with a pair of Nighthawks? A case?” He shook his head. “No. They wouldn’t have requested your presence, and they would have applied for the commission through the Guild Master.”
“Besides, I cannot smell any blood,” Ava replied. “Only… lilies.”
Lilies. His gut clenched, and his gaze raked the foyer. That at least, boded well. There was something mingled with the scent now though, something almost musky. Byrnes frowned, as a slither of warning lit down his spine, but Ava tugged on his arm and drew him toward the library. He lost whatever train of thought instinct had served up.
“You’re seem distracted,” she noted.
“Something on my mind.” The curiosity was almost itching on his skin. “Here we are.”
Byrnes threw the doors open, drawing the attention of three sets of eyes from within the library. Two men eyed each other across the expanse of the room, one an enormous bruiser with black hair and evil blue eyes, and the other a young lad who bore evidence of the craving virus on his pale skin and the faint, gilded tones of his hair. The distance of almost five feet parted the two men, and the lad looked both cocky and amused, as if he’d been picking a fight with the brute.
The woman leaning against the curtains rolled her eyes. She was everything elegant, with loose black curls swept into a chignon, and a sweeping fall of violet skirts. Beautiful, but ultimately uninteresting, as Byrnes could detect an Oriental perfume about her, not the one he was hunting for.
“So who the fuck are you?” The black-haired giant snarled, staring up at them from an armchair, with his boot hooked up on his other knee.
“This would be Master Byrnes, of the Nighthawks,” said the woman by the window, crossing her arms with amused disdain, “and Miss Ava McLaren, I presume?”
Both Byrnes and Ava exchanged glances. Ava looked a little discomforted by the strange man’s animosity, but tipped her chin up. “I believe you have the advantage of us–”
The lady strode forward, her skirts swishing about her legs as she took Ava’s hand and squeezed it gently. “My apologies. You may call me Hollis Tremaine. Information is… an interest of mine. And female blue bloods are so rare, that I’ve made a note of them. I believe you to be the third located in London proper? The Duchess of Casavian, the Lady Peregrine of the Nighthawks – and yourself?”
“There’s one more,” the lad muttered, “but she… she ain’t likely to be known.”
Byrnes eyed him. “Charlie Todd?” He recognised the boy as one of the rookery lads who ran with Blade, the Devil of Whitechapel.
The young man grinned, and shook his hand. “The one and only.”
He’d grown even taller in the three years since they’d met, though Byrnes only knew him passingly. The Nighthawks occasionally had dealings in the rookeries, and ever since the prince consort had been overthrown, Blade had become a common sight around town. The Hero of the Realm, the commoners called him, though the man was more like the devil, Byrnes thought privately.
“More fucken blue bloods,” the dark haired man said, under his breath. “Like we don’t already have enough in here.”
Ava stiffened, and Byrnes strolled toward the window, hands clasped behind him. “By the scent of oil, and the whir of clockwork, I presume you’re a mech.”
The word had once been an insult, before the Uprising, when the blue bloods of the Echelon – and more particularly, the prince consort – had decreed that humans were but cattle, and mechs – those with mechanical limbs or organs – even less so. Once there had been a line in the sand; blue bloods versus humans and mechs. Or even blue bloods of the Echelon, those who had been infected by right of law, against rogue blue bloods like himself. But the line was hard to distinguish these days.
Ava herself was part-mech, part blue blood. What the Echelon would have thought of her, Byrnes didn’t like to consider. But that was almost three years in the past. Times had changed, or at least, they were changing. Some of the slower or more archaic blue bloods had taken a year or two to learn that they couldn’t simply stone a mech to death anymore, or keep humans as slaves, but it had taken a few heads rolling before they caught on.
The human Queen still sat on her throne, but this time she had power, and she was quite intent on using it. Blue bloods still prowled the aristocracy, but now the blood rites that infected their sons with the craving virus at the age of fifteen were no longer an elitist privilege. A man couldn’t be executed for falling prey to a virus that was spread by blood contact anymore, or forced into the Nighthawks to serve. He’d still stayed however, as there was nowhere else for him to go, but at least the option for a different life was there, if he chose to take it.
Old hatreds, however, still lingered.
Kincaid found his feet, and Byrnes stared up at him. He had an inch on the bastard, but Kincaid more than made up for that in breadth. Muscle rippled beneath his coat, and bulged as the brute flexed his forearms. Byrnes simply clasped his hands behind him and stared back.
“Aye, I’m a mech. What of it?” Kincaid asked, in a low, threatening tone.
Byrnes smiled faintly. Ava would tell him later that he was causing trouble, but sometimes he simply couldn’t help himself. “Nothing really. It explains a great deal.” Then he turned away and ran his fingertips over the shelves, as though dismissing the man.
Kincaid sucked in a sharp breath, “Aye, well–”
“Mr Kincaid,” Hollis mocked. “Pray don’t tell me that blue bloods make you uneasy.”
Kincaid’s voice flattened. “Not really. They tend to bleed just as well as any other, only takes a bit more sticking to finish the job.”
“Gentlemen,” Ava said firmly. When he looked at her, she arched a brow behind her steel-rimmed spectacles. “Byrnes.” This was said somewhat more warmly, with just a touch of exasperation.
He held his arms out, as if to say, ‘What?’
“Well, don’t you all wonder why we’re here?” Ava asked, including them all in her look. “I don’t think picking fights with each other is conducive to anyone’s cause.”
“But hardly unexpected,” Hollis declared, with a faint snort of amusement. “After all, what happens when you put three blue bloods, a mech and human in a room together?”
“That sounds like the beginning of a good joke,” Charlie Todd declared.
“I just hope it’s not on us.” Ava sounded nervous.
“Only thing is, we’re missing one particular species, if we want it to have a truly decent punch line,” Hollis replied.
“A verwulfen?” Charlie said with a grin.
The only one who didn’t find that thought amusing was himself. Byrnes’s gut dropped through his boots at the word. No.
“Let us hope not,” Hollis said. “We already have one hothead.”
It continued, but Byrnes’ attention had been caught by something else. He could hear footsteps padding behind the closed doors at the far corner of the room, and a slither of shadow darkened the door briefly, softening the air with scent.
And something else… Something that was becoming clearer as the day continued, as if the overpowering scent of perfume was wearing away, leaving a musky hint of something else. Something… all woman.
No. Hell, no.
Every nerve in his body grew tight. Byrnes stalked toward the door on silent feet, pressing his fingertips against the panelling.
“–fuck me–” Kincaid muttered.
From Ava, “Well, it stands to reason. Verwulfen were cleared by the treaty too, you know–”
“And what do we need one of them for? It’s not like this is a frigging alliance of any sort–”
Every one of Byrne’s hunting senses was alight. His mystery was beginning to clear up, and it was drawing a conclusion that he didn’t particularly like. Not at all.
A light, husky laugh mocked him through the door, and then movement danced in the room beyond. Going. His prey was going.
Byrnes slipped through the doors before he could think about it.
There was no one there. Only another door, swinging shut slowly. And her scent, becoming obnoxiously clear the closer he got to her. He knew that scent hiding beneath the perfume. It had driven him crazy a year ago, when someone – the Guild Master – had this smashing idea about pairing him with an outside bounty hunter on a case nobody could seem to solve. His fucking case. The case he couldn’t solve.
“Just work with her, Byrnes. She’s good at what she does, and she’s an even better tracker than you are–” Garrett’s voice echoed in his memory.
Byrnes grit his teeth. Garrett had known he worked better alone. He always had, and it got on every one of his last nerves to know that not only could he not find the answer in this particular case, but that they expected that she would.
They lasted an entire day working together.
And then it became a competition.
“Bet I catch the killer first,” that husky voice whispered in his mind.
“I bet you I do,” he’d shot back, and stepped toward her, into her space. “And when I do, you’re going to get down on your knees, and–”
“And?” She’d drawled, straightening a little, her eyes lighting with a challenging fire.
It changed what he’d meant to say. ‘…And kiss my boots…’ had been his intention. That was not what had come out. The instant he’d stated his intentions she’d taken a step toward him, closing that last inch between them, and reached up to whisper in his ear.
“Be careful what you wish for, Byrnes.” A mocking finger traced over his shirt so lightly he barely felt it, yet the not-quite-touch sent a shiver through him, and their eyes had met then, and something more than words had been exchanged. “I don’t think you’ll want my teeth anywhere near your balls.” A smile that gripped his cock like a vice. “Not that that will ever happen. But it does add a certain little incentive toward the case. When I bring this bastard in, I have my own terms, and you’ll meet them.”
“Name them.” The shock of his sudden interest had flared through him, and he’d caught her wrist, stopping her hand just above the waistband of his leather breeches.
“If I solve the case, then I get to tie you to my bed, and do anything I desire to you. Anything at all.”
A mistake. He should have made her be more fucking specific, but just at that moment she’d flexed her wrist in his grasp and raked her fingernail over the leather protecting his cock.
“Done,” he’d said. After all, he’d never lost before.
If there was one person who could get into his room at the Guild and leave that taunting note, knowing, just knowing how much it would get his itch going, it was her.
The Devil in Disguise.
Pushing open the doors to the next room, he came to a halt. It too was empty.
And then someone spoke. Someone he knew all too well.
“Looking for something? Or is it someone?” Said an amused voice from the side.
Byrnes met a pair of eyes that were lit from within with a bronze glow. She hadn’t changed one inch from that debacle last year, where he’d been left tied to his bed, naked, with a lovely little message written across his chest in ink, which all of his fellow Nighthawks had found absolutely hilarious.
“Ingrid,” he said flatly.
“Did you miss me?”
I’m so excited to announce that Of Silk And Steam has hit shelves! Of Silk And Steam is the story of Mina, the icy Duchess of Casavian, and Leo, the man she considers her nemesis. It’s the thrilling conclusion the first story arc in the London Steampunk series, and I hope you enjoy!
ENEMIES. ALLIES. LOVERS.
When her beloved father was assassinated, Lady Aramina swore revenge. The man responsible is well beyond her grasp, but his dangerously seductive heir, Leo Barrons, is fair game. When Mina obtains evidence proving that Leo is illegitimate, she has the means to destroy both the killer and his son, a man who troubles her heart and tempts her body.
A woman of mystery, Mina’s long driven Leo crazy with glimpses of a fiery passion that lurks beneath her icy veneer. He knows she’s hiding something, and he’s determined to unravel her layer by silken layer. He just doesn’t expect the beautiful liar to be the key to overthrowing the corrupt prince consort…or to saving his own carefully walled-off heart.
“McMaster has the uncanny knack for outdoing herself in each installment of her London Steampunk series… a perfect finale to a phenomenal series, and readers can only hope for more to come soon from McMaster’s limitless imagination.”
– RT Book Reviews, 4 1/2 Stars, Top Pick!
“With the fifth book in her London Steampunk series, McMaster once again proves her remarkable gift for cleverly fusing a nonstop, action-driven story, a deliciously dark and atmospheric setting, and off-the-charts sensuality into one riveting read.
” – Booklist
WHERE TO PURCHASE
Had a lovely girl’s weekend away in Melbourne with my mum and two sisters, so I’ll still feeling stuffed to the gills.
There was High Tea at the Windsor (OMG, there was even a chocolate fountain), White Nights (a street/art festival with over 500,000 people), tickets to Cirque du Soleil and a roam through Dymocks Booksellers. Best of all, it was simply great company.
I always get excited when I see my books in a bookstore, it makes it all feel so real.
Observe proud author moment.
As for news, we have:
The Kiss of Steel ebook is available on Nook for $1.99 for a short time!
Tarnished Knight is also Free for a short time at Apple, Nook and Kobo.
After a vicious vampire attack left him struggling to leash the dark urges of the craving virus, John ‘Rip’ Doolan, thinks he’s finally starting to master the darkness within. The only thing that threatens to shatter his hard-won control is Esme, his closest friend and the only woman he’s ever wanted. If the stubborn beauty ever realized precisely what was going through his mind, their friendship would be ruined…
For six months Esme has waited for Rip to recover and take her as his thrall, not daring to hope for more. Too afraid to put her heart on the line, she is devastated when Rip reveals that he never had any intentions of making her his.
But when a savage gang of Slashers start causing havoc in Whitechapel, Rip and Esme have no choice. They must face up to the depth of the passion that burns between them and forge a new relationship… or risk losing each other forever.
The next time I name a book, it is not going to start with ‘Of’. Do you know how many times I have written ‘of Of’?
In other news…
Eep. It’s only two weeks until Of Silk And Steam drops. I’m feeling very excited, because I’ve been waiting for this book since the beginning, when I first introduced Mina and Leo in Kiss of Steel. What to expect? Twists. All I can say is that all will be revealed in Chapter Six and from there, it’s a dangerous, thrilling ride to the end.
I notice it’s available on Amazon for $4.13 for pre-order. From experience, this price usually goes up once the book is available, so get in quick!
Here’s what reviewers are saying:
Booklist: ‘It is just one kiss. That is the price Leo Barrons demands from Lady Aramina “Mina” Duvall to help her escape from the Prince Consort’s Falcons. The problem is that Leo is the Duke of Caine’s heir, and Caine poisoned Mina’s father. Although Mina is determined to see her father’s death avenged, calling a temporary truce with Leo seems like the smart thing to do. After all, it is only a kiss, and no kiss is worth making such a fuss over. As far as Leo is concerned, however, that attitude means that Mina has never experienced the right kind of kiss, and he sets out to show her exactly what she has been missing. With the fifth book in her London Steampunk series, McMaster (Forged by Desire, 2014) once again proves her remarkable gift for cleverly fusing a nonstop, action-driven story, a deliciously dark and atmospheric setting, and off-the-charts sensuality into one riveting read.’
Carmel from Rabid Reads – ‘I love, love, LOVED this installment! It’s definitely in my top 3, possibly top 2 favourites in this series. I’ve long been fascinated by Lady Aramina’s character, the only female councilor among the Echelon, and was so incredibly pleased with her story. The main LONDON STEAMPUNK plot arc comes to a head in this book with fabulous twists, all of the previous couples step up, and the chemistry between Mini & Leo was extraordinary. A must read!’
Annie from Under the Covers – ‘Bec McMaster’s London Steampunk series has been consistently strong. Each installment makes tremendous leaps in its politics and worldbuilding as well as delivering fiery passion with its romance. OF SILK AND STEAM is no exception to that. In fact, McMaster may have up the ante a little bit with this installment, creating mysterious and intrigue with this world she has built.’
More reviews here at Goodreads, if you’re interested.
I tend to think of Silk as my HEA Romeo & Juliet. Here’s a snippet to tide you over, where Leo makes a dangerous choice:
“If you want the truth, Mina, you have in your hands information that could ruin me. You could cut at the Duke of Caine while you’re at it, but you’ll never bring your father back. You’ll never slake that empty hole inside yourself that you think vengeance will fill.” His thumb stroked her jaw. “All you’ll do is destroy me. Not him. Me.”
Those dark eyes lifted to his, widening in shock—and then uncertainty.
“Your choice,” he whispered. “I know you’re frightened of what’s happening between us, but in this…you have all the power.”
“You’re a fool,” she blurted out. “To tell me of this.”
“Maybe.” He was a fool. When it came to her, he was the worst kind, and damn him for it, but he couldn’t help himself. “Or maybe I think I know you, just a little. Maybe I’m the only one who’ll ever risk getting close enough to know all of you. You can either run from that or ruin me so that you feel safe, but I don’t think you want to.” He brushed that same thumb against her lip, his voice dropping. “But the choice is yours, in this and everything between us. I won’t deny that I want you, Mina, but you’re the one who’s going to have to take that step, and so I choose to trust you with this.”
I wonder what she knows, hmm?
De la soie et dégagement de vapeur
– The French version of Kiss of Steel is coming in April, or so I am told! Can’t wait to see my new cover – though I pity the poor translator working with Blade’s accent!
Warning, this is going to be a big mess of a post.
2014: TO HELL AND BACK
I had big plans in 2014. Big plans.
And then around mid-year it all kind of fell in a heap on me. May 2nd. That was the day it started, and from there it was just a big dwindling mess of June, July, August and September – illness surged, people I loved died, I couldn’t keep up with what I was trying to do, whether it was the sport I was coaching, or my writing, or generally life (which is super, super hard to admit from someone who likes to achieve and doesn’t like failing), and basically I fell into a big black hole of fatigue when my colitis flared (and fatigue isn’t tired, trust me on this. Fatigue is like watching the Walking Dead, only, you are the Walking Dead. You sit and stare at your computer for hours on end, and only a grey haze emits in your mind, you can get through the day only by taking four two hour naps sometimes, and by the time seven o’clock rolls around and your boyfriend comes home you’re in tears. Not because something bad happened but just Because. You. Can’t. Even. Anymore).
The unfortunate fact is that I live with chronic illness (basically my immune system likes to pick on major internal organs and hasn’t quite got the memo that I need them to operate), and in May I was diagnosed with autoimmune issue number three. It’s usually not too bad. I take medications to suppress my immune system so it’s not strong enough to kill my liver/colon/now bile ducts, I don’t drink, I eat right, exercise, and my doc’s are always amazed at how well I am. Only, this time I don’t get to pop a magic pill, and make it all good like the other two, this time I’m headed toward a liver transplant, be it in 5, 10, 15 years, whatever. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it unfortunately.*
So that kind of… threw me. I had this magic block in my head where life was going to end in ten years time. Don’t ask me why I picked ten years, I just did. And things will get kind of unpleasant before then, because to get on the liver transplant list, basically you have to be sick enough that you’re only going to last another six months.
And everything in my mind went; what about children; can I have them; will I be able to raise them when I can barely get out of bed; what about my boyfriend; will he still love me when I am sick because chronic ill health is really, really hard to deal with; what about travel, which is my major love; my cancer risks just went through the roof; I won’t be able to play sport or run or lead an active life; how can I afford this; I need money to deal with my health, so I need to get writing, but I can’t write, I just can’t because of this bloody awful fog in my head…
And everything kind of associated with that.
This is not a cry for sympathy. I’m cool. I’m through it. I got to the point where I had to say, there will be life after this transplant. As in my theory of all things sick or pain related – just push through, it will only be a few years, and then everything is back on track. So I’m in a good place, but I just wanted to explain where my head was at, and possibly why any emails anyone sent might have gone unanswered because – grey fog of fatigue – and why the Will vs Blade serial story in my newsletter kind of disappeared… I had no inspiration. My writing dried up, and the more I pushed (why can’t I get 3000 words a day like I usually can! Duh, I’m sick. Let’s try for 300. Maybe even 30 instead.)
It was kind of hard/weird. Because usually my mind doesn’t operate like that. I always believe in glass-half-full, and life is awesome. But this time life wasn’t awesome.
Every time I felt like life was getting good, and 2014 was going to be my bitch, something else came along (like a flu with the type of wrath I’ve never felt before, or I tear my calf muscle and there goes my budding new fitness campaign, or my mum rings to let me know my nan – who has severe Alzheimer’s – has been re-diagnosed with cancer). And they weren’t huge things, but it was enough to kind of throw me back into my I-really-hate-2014 sludge.
The last few years have been really hard for my family, but even through that I was the cheerleader or the pep squad, I got to be mum to everyone else and push them through. But this time it was me. And this time I was the one who needed someone else to be my cheerleader (Which happened. My boyfriend, mum, and my sister Kara were awesome, and some of my netball friends really helped me put a lot in perspective). I’ve always been the kind of person who just soldiers through, keeps it all quiet, and puts a smile on my face, but this time I needed some love and I got it, and something really amazing occurred to me – you need to let people know when things are tough.
Yes, yes I know I am stupid.
BACK ON TRACK
I think the hardest thing about this entire situation has been not having any control over it, and letting go of that fear of failure. So I’ve been working on the things that I can control, and not worrying about those that I can’t. I have so many things to be grateful about (including Australia’s health insurance system, thank goodness).
I won’t lie. November was good. December was good. I’m feeling fit after getting back into the gym and doing boot camp, I’m discovering all these wonderful new gluten free recipes to play with, I kicked NaNoWriMo’s butt, and have a major business plan mapped out for 2015 plus heaps of works in progress. I cut off all my hair, and I’m now feeling like a new me, one who is so ready for 2015.
There are plans in place to travel to Mexico and Costa Rica with my brother this year even if I have to rob a bank (jokes), and the end of the first arc of London Steampunk will hit stores in March.
I’ve been waiting since Kiss of Steel for this book, where I get to say goodbye to Leo, Honoria, Lena, Blade, Will, Perry, Garrett, Lynch, Rosa and the rest of the gang. I’ve been planting seeds through the whole series for what is to come, and I hope you all enjoy it!
Don’t worry, I still have plans for another story arc in my blue blood world which I’ll hopefully self-publish later this year, but right now I’m focusing on a couple of other little stories that have been brewing for a few years. I was a little burnt out. I need to be fresh and play with something else for a couple of months, and then I’m diving into Eric’s story (the Scandinavian verwulfen you may remember from Heart of Iron). There might also be a glimpse of Lena and Will beckoning from that story, as I’m nearly finished mapping it out.
I’m also keen to start playing with a little bit of a different style, genre and format to really stretch my writing skills. By this I mean I’m working on something in a first person POV, something in first person present POV for my agent, and something else in a serial format (by that I mean a little episodic, kind of like a TV show, not just one book cut up into several parts). Plus the usual. There is paranormal and steampunk goodness galore for me to dive into.
I’ve always been a polygamist when it comes to reading and writing, and there are so many stories that want my attention.
So keep an eye out, as there are grand schemes ahoy!
PS. I wish every one else a fantastic 2015 too!
* SIDE NOTE: I remember ticking that form when I first got my driver’s license (kinda pessimistic of the road network I think) at 18, saying I was happy to donate organs in the case of no longer needing them. And you never really think you or someone else will ever need a transplant until it happens. So please, please, wherever you are, please think about it (I’m not saying do it, that’s your choice, but please think about your choice). It’s not a nice thing to think about, but there are so many people out there who need a transplant, and I never even realised it until now.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHOY FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T WATCHED VIKINGS SEASON ONE AND TWO
So I started watching Vikings with my boyfriend earlier this year – he loves that kind of thing, and so do I, plus hot men! – and for the first few episodes I was really excited about Ragnar’s story. He’s a compelling hero, and I liked his relationship with his wife, his children and his quest to conquer what was essentially parts of England and France. He’s precisely the type of hero I like watching, wondering at his character evolution. I was fully expecting this to be all full of bro-love and how cool these men are (and I don’t mind that at all), but the series has taken an unexpected turn for me.
Halfway through Season One I started paying more attention to his wife, Lagertha. Here’s this woman, a viking shield maiden who can kick some serious ass (oh, be still my heart!), is a good mother and wife, kind, clever… basically all things cool. And viking society being what it is, Ragnar accidentally gets another woman pregnant, as he wants children more than he wants Lagertha. My romance writer heart was devastated, and I was thinking oh no, here it comes, the bitch fighting etc.
But the script writers were way ahead of me there. Lagertha isn’t the type of woman to slap down another woman. She supports her, even when the other woman bears a crippled son, and sticks up for her. I HATED the other woman for a long time, but I’m starting to think the relationship between these two women is probably the most fascinating part of the show for me now, especially the path that Lagertha is taking. Does she just sit there and let her husband take two wives? Hell, no. Ragnar loves them both and expects to keep them both, but Lagertha is all “I’m going to be your equal”. She rides off into the sunset, gets herself another husband (an abusive bastard, at that, but then she doesn’t take his shit for long either), earns the respect of his men, becomes a female earl/jarl, and comes back and saves the day when Ragnar desperately needs an ally. Men respect her, some of them love her, and even the other women are all, “I want to be like Lagertha.” There’s one moment where some man holds a knife to her throat, and she literally stares him down, pushes the knife aside and tells him why he won’t rape/hurt her. As for the second wife, Aslaug, I’ve gotten over Ragnar’s betrayal. It’s clear that she knows how cool Lagertha is, both respects her and envies her (I think she wants to be like Lagertha too), but I also like how she’s trying to do her best, especially when life throws her some challenges. She’s really growing on me, and I love how they both push their sons to know each other and their father. I expected Vikings to be all brutish fight scenes ala 300, but the complex relationships are totally winning the show.
For the first time, I don’t want the man to get the girl (or both of them in this case). Ragnar’s pretty, but he’s no longer the main reason I’m watching this show. And he cheated on his wife after she miscarried, and also after their daughter died of illness. I’m hoping she sticks to her guns and doesn’t take him back, but I respect her for still having a relationship with him and his new family.
I have a girl crush and I’m not afraid to admit it.*
*Please excuse my over-excited rambling. Is there a point to this post? Possibly. I’m just getting excited about all of the strong female characters we’re starting to see on film. Hollywood may be a little behind when it comes to movies, but I’m liking how TV shows are almost the forerunner here. Other shows where my inner feminist is waving flags or can’t wait to watch? Peggy Carter, Agents of S.H.I.EL.D, Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones, Buffy, Sons of Anarchy, NCIS (my other girl crush Ziva), Spartacus… Yes, some bad things happen to women on these shows, sometimes they make mistakes, sometimes they do bad things, but I like how the women in all these shows transform themselves from this and how the men respect them for their mad skills – also, I love that sometimes the female characters can be just as dangerous as their male counterparts, if not more so. Case in point – Gemma Teller from SOA, Lucretia and Ilithyia from Spartacus, Katherine from Vampire Diaries.