Bec McMaster/
Jun 7
2016
Shadowbound print copies available

Shadowbound - P06

 

Print copies for Shadowbound have landed, and look at that cover, isn’t it amazing? Special thanks to Damonza.com for their awesome design work on this series.

Print copies available here.

May 31
2016
Nobody’s Hero Release

Nobody’s Hero is out in the wild, and I’m so excited. This kicks off a new series for me: The Burned Lands, which is a planned trilogy. One part Mad Max, one part Walking Dead, one part cursed shifters, and three parts hot, high-intensity romance with a devilish hero and a kick-ass heroine.

Nobody's Hero - Ebook

 

So where did it come from?

Well, long before London Steampunk was even a twinkle in my eye, I started playing with this little post-apocalyptic romance (before the Walking Dead even appeared actually), that just wouldn’t leave me alone. I had a hero all mapped out–one Adam McClain–and his heroine, Riley, who’d been looking after herself for years. In order to kickstart the story, Lucius Wade–warg, bad-boy and all-round sexy villain–strolled onscreen to kidnap Riley, and set motions into event for McClain.

One problem: Wade took one look at Riley, and said, ‘She’s mine’, and Riley decided, hey, she was onboard for this too. Poor McClain found himself relegated to side character, and this author decided she could only fight it for so long before she threw her hands up in the air, and went, ‘Fine.’

I wouldn’t say that I’m a plotter, or a pantser (flying by the seat of your pants) author, as I tend to be somewhere in between, but honestly, this story just took hold and wouldn’t take its foot of the pedal.

So… here’s hoping you all enjoy it as much as I did! Buy links are here.

Or if you want to read the first three chapters to get a feel of the story, follow the link.

And don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten Adam McClain! He’s getting his very own story soon (I’m about half completed), followed closely by Johnny Colton.

May 12
2016
RELEASE MONTH!

Here at Casa McMaster we have not one but two new releases for the month of May! We’re kickstarting two new series’, with Shadowbound being the first book in the DarShadowbound - Ebook Smallk Arts Series – picture a Victorian paranormal romance, with occult societies, sorcery, demons, and a dangerous deal between two enemies – and Nobody’s Hero is the first book in the Burned Lands trilogy. Both of these worlds and stories have been in my head a long time before Kiss of Steel was even a twinkle in my eye, and I’ve finally had a chance to get them up and running.

Shadowbound is available now at e-retailers. Order via the books page. Print copies should be available in the next couple of weeks. I’m just waiting on the formatting and then the print cover to go through.

Also available is the pre-order for Nobody’s Hero, at e-tailers like iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. Amazon is not available for pre-order, as the time span is too short.

Nobody's Hero - Ebook

FAQ FOR NOBODY’S HERO

So your last series, London Steampunk, was Victorian-alternate-era steampunky good times. Is Nobody’s Hero anything like that?

Short answer: no.

This is as far as you can get from London Steampunk, although there are a few similarities, like smoking hot sex scenes, crazy intense action, and a bad boy hero who just might be mostly monster himself. Plus the ladies like to kick some serious ass.

Picture a world where a meteor struck, and the skies darkened, and the only people and animals who survived were those who endured life in underground bunkers for five years. Then fast-forward 97 years. Most people are above ground now, but life has changed. It’s every man – or woman – for themselves. No laws beyond what you make yourself, and the only way to survive is to band together against the monsters of the world, be they human, or… otherwise.

In no particular order, it’s all about kidnapped heroines who refuse to stay kidnapped. Reiver gangs. Smexy times. Past betrayals. Some tears. More smexy times. Deadheads. Dynamite. Chases. Escapes. Revenge. Redemption. Stuff like that…

Tell us more about this bad boy hero…

Luc Wade began the story as the villain in my mind. One chapter in, and he was like, “Nope, I’m totally the hero in this one.” We fought it out, but Riley (the heroine) decided she was all on board with his plans. He looks a little like this.

And a kick-ass heroine. That sounds like fun.

Kick-ass. Literally. A girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do, and in a world where your survival depends upon your shooting skills… well… Let’s just say there is definitely a lot of push-pull between Riley and Wade, when he kidnaps her.

So how do you get a romance between two characters like this?

He had her at ‘Princess.’

Just kidding. That nickname only made her want to kill him even more. No, it might have something to do with that kiss, in the dark…

So, if Wade wasn’t supposed to be the hero, then who was?

That would be Adam McClain, Wade’s onetime best friend and betrayer, wannabe world-saver, and a man hiding his own dark secrets. There might be a little bit of a bromance in here, if they decide not to kill each other first.

Hmm, that looks like a wolf on the cover… So is this a shifter story?

Define shifter. If you’re talking about wolf packs and alphas and betas… then no. If you’re talking about men who are forced to deal with the monster within… then yes.

Favourite quotes?

“Kidnapping you was the worst mistake I ever made.”

***

TheManyLivesOfHadleyMonroe300Don’t forget that The Many Lives of Hadley Monroe is also available! This short story was included in the Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance two years ago, but is now available as a novella! (Plus the cover is gorgeous).

Happy reading! xx

 

 

 

May 9
2016
And we have a cover for Shadowbound!

Just a quick post to show how pretty it is:

Shadowbound - Ebook Small

Formatting is going ahead as we speak, so expect to see this published in the next couple of days (sometimes it takes 24 + hrs to upload through retailers, so that’s why there’s no specific day and time).

Apr 22
2016
New Releases 2016

The Many Lives of Hadley Monroe is out now from all ebook retailers! Previously published as a story in the Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance, it’s a fun little novella featuring a romance between Death and Hadley Monroe:

When the clock stops ticking, and the storm rolls in, Hadley Monroe knows exactly what’s going on. Forty years ago her grandfather made a pact with Death, and now Death has come calling again.

Forced to make her own deal with the reaper, Hadley has only three weeks to answer his question, or he’ll take her grandmother too. The problem is, there’s no way to answer it, and three weeks is not long enough with the reaper who’s beginning to steal her heart…

TheManyLivesOfHadleyMonroe300

 

Next up is Shadowbound, the first full-length novella you’ll be seeing from me this year, and the first in a brand new series I’m calling The Dark Arts. I’m just waiting on the cover, and then Shadowbound should be available. Most likely by the end of April. Here’s the blurb:

SHADOWBOUND

THE DARK ARTS SERIES

When a powerful relic goes missing from a secret society that dabbles in the occult, Miss Ianthe Martin is charged with finding it at all costs. She needs help, but all clues point to someone on the inside being the thief. The only sorcerer she knows that can’t possibly be involved, is the very man she saw locked in Bedlam a year ago…

The mad, bad, dangerous Earl of Rathbourne.

When the seductive Miss Martin appears in his Bedlam cell, Rathbourne fears he’s finally lost his mind. The devilish sorceress played a hand in his incarceration, and now she comes asking for help? Perhaps she should begin by begging for mercy…

But Ianthe’s offer of freedom is one he can’t refuse, although he has a clause of his own to add. She may bind him with her power – the only way to still the demons haunting him – but for every day spent under her command, the nights will be his… to wreak delicious revenge on her willing flesh.

It might have started as a devil’s bargain, but when the trail they’re following reveals a hidden conspiracy, they both realise their bond might just be the only thing to save them.

Shadowbound-2

FAQ FOR SHADOWBOUND 

I’ve been seeing a lot of teasers online about this mysterious Shadowbound. What is it?

Shadowbound is an old story that’s been playing on my mind for about ten years now, long before London Steampunk was even a glimmer in my eye. I just couldn’t get it right, until now.

Picture this: A little bit of Penny Dreadful, mixed with some Sherlock Holmes, with a dash of secret societies and sorcery. So it’s a similar tone to London Steampunk, but not really. Which helps. I know (:

There’s a prophecy about three cursed brothers doomed to die. A damaged Earl, and the woman who sentenced him to Bedlam. Demons. Sorcery. Shadows. Some very, very sexy bargains. Assassins. Dangerous relics. A little bit of revenge, and a dash of secrets. An EVIL villainess. Explosive action. Twists. And a heroine who will do anything, anything at all, to save those she loves.

More about this bargain, please…

Lucien Devereaux wants revenge, and freedom from Bedlam. Ianthe Martin needs to find a dangerous relic that’s been stolen. It’s an inside job, and the only one she can trust is the only sorcerer who couldn’t possibly have been involved. AKA Lucien. So he must pledge his help in finding the relic during the day… But Ianthe must return the favor at night, in his bed.

So Lucien is ‘damaged’?

The setting is the Victorian era, and unfortunately the Victorians had a very umbrella approach to what constitutes as mental illness. Lucien went through a psychic attack a year before the story is set, and can barely use his sorcery now. He also suffers from synesthesia to some extent, though it shows itself in colors that he reads as emotions, and after a year in Bedlam he’s struggling to deal with the overload on his senses – particularly his sorcerous ones – as he re-enters the world. I liked exploring a hero who can’t just save the world with a wave of his hand, and the weight this plays on him. Romance heroes are often invincible, but what happens when they aren’t? Lucien has power, but he can’t use it, and the only people who might be able to help him, are those he distrusts.

The heroine sent him to Bedlam?!?

So he thinks. It was the best of a lot of bad choices at the time, but he’s certainly not going to forgive her for it in a hurry.

Sounds dark.

I think that anyone who knows my work knows I like to explore darker themes, although I always try to balance that with humor, and saucy good times. This is very much the story of two people who need to heal, who find each other, and realize they’re not so alone in the world. It’s probably a little more of an emotional journey for both characters than I’ve ever written before.

You mentioned humor. Character who almost steals the show?

Lady Eberhardt. Definitely.

Why is this not the next London Steampunk book?

As for the next arc in the London Steampunk series, it’s coming. In July. I know everyone wants it, but if an author is only allowed to write one series, they get stale. Trust me. Nobody wants that. I try to put it like this: imagine only being able to read one series, over and over again. Even if it’s your favorite series, with the best characters and ideas in the world, by about the fifth time through, you’re starting to flirt with that other series across the shelf. Or the dozen or so you see online. You love your original series, but you’re desperate to try something new. You just want a little break. And if you go off and try those new books, then a little while later, you’re probably going to want to read that original series again.

I’ve had a little time off to play, and now I’m keen to dive back into that London Steampunk world, and explore the possibilities. No. I almost need to. And that’s the book my readers want to read.

So keep an eye out folks! Shadowbound is due to drop soon, and in May I’ve got another exciting release lined up for everyone!

Jan 12
2016
Another 2015 please…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Dec 20
2015
Favourite reads in 2015

 

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:

  1. 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?24876258
  2. 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. 17333171
  3. 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.16096824
  4. 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.24920901
  5. 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. 7896527
  6. 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! 10852343
  7. 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.22395684
  8. 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!220px-A_Memory_of_Light_cover
  9. 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. 18811222
  10. 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. 6314019

BOOKS I CAN’T WAIT FOR 2016

  1. Truthwitch Susan Denard
  2. A Court Of Mist And Fury by Sarah J Maas
  3. The Score by Elle Kennedy
  4. Magic Binds Ilona Andrews
  5. Monstress by Marie Liu (out already, but I won’t get to read til Jan)
  6. Peace Talks by Jim Butcher
  7. King’s Rising by CS Pacat
  8. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
  9. Gaslight Hades by Grace Draven
  10. 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?

Aug 25
2015
Snippety snippet

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)

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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.

            “Did you?”

            “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.”

Mar 27
2015
RITA® Finalist Forged By Desire

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.

ForgedByDesire100313D

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!

Mar 25
2015
Of DABWAHA and paying my dues

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.

CHAPTER ONE

            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 female.

            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.”

            “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.

            Lilies.

            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.

            Her.

            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?”