Well, what should I write next, then?

seven-summer-nights-customdesign-jayaheer2016-banner1

Seven Summer Nights is out! Here are the buy links:-

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/SevenSummerNightsUK

Amazon.com: http://bit.ly/SevenSummerNights

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/686203

All Romance eBooks

Now, I think I warned you over on my Facebook page that there would be FUN. I want to give some books away, dammit! And I also want to pick your brains a bit, so this is a two-birds-with-one-stone job.

I’m exhausted after finished Seven Summer Nights, and I’ve had to dive straight into some very hard on my festive shortie, which may or may not happen. It has a great title – When Christmas Lights Are Blue – but I understand that it also has to have some words in it to make it saleable.

Honestly, you lot are so demanding.😀

So, here’s a not-exactly-competition. Anyone who gives me an answer will get their names put into Lucy’s little hat in the usual way, and on Sunday I will pick out seven of you – yes, seven, because, y’know, Seven Summer Nights, and… well, marketing. (I know how to do this stuff!) My seven winners can choose an ebook each, and it can be Seven Summer Nights, anything from my backlist, or, if they’re lovely folks who’ve already bought every word I’ve written (and have I told you lately that I love you?), I’ll put them down for a copy of When Christmas Lights Are Blue. Or – as I have to say, because time is running out, and my brains are quite broken – if my Christmas Lights don’t switch on in time, I’ll put those winners’ names down for a free copy of whatever I write next.

Which brings me to the competition. What the hell do I write next? I’ve got a few ideas noodling around in my skull, and I’d love some feedback on what would be most popular. Just tell me, either here in the comments or over at my Facebook, which option you’d like to see emerging next from the FoxTales Factory – either 1, 2, 3 or 4. I’m not saying I’ll take any notice of the winning choice… because I’m a monster, mu-hah-hahhhh! …but your opinion will definitely influence my thinking, and although I’m plainly a little bit delirious and hysterical today, I’d really value your thoughts. And, as I say, there’s no “right answer” to get your name put in the hat – I just need a number.

So, here we go:-

Option 1: Sasha and Laurie Get Married. This would be book three of the Midwinter Prince series, and, as you might gather from the title, perhaps not as serious as the previous two. It will be a fun romp. But you know life is never straightforward for my Prince boys, so I’d also be taking a fun look at post-Brexit Britain and the upsurge in racism and general intolerance as the lads negotiate their way to the altar. I know, right? So much fun. 😀

Option 2: A Salisbury Key sequel. I’d have to sell this one to Samhain because they still hold the rights, but it’s definitely something I’d consider if enough folks wanted to see it. Summer and Winter Rayne still have a lot to say for themselves, and fans will know that I left Winter on the verge of a rather amazing discovery. And Dan and Rayne are settling now into their long-term romance, and have many adventures in store.

Option 3: Preacher, Prophet, Beast. Another good title, I think, and, “What would that be for, Harper?” I hear you say. Well, what that would be for is book seven in the Tyack & Frayne series, and I think a few of you might just enjoy another encounter with Gideon and Lee. I’m planning a longer book for them this time, and a great deal of danger and upheaval in the strange world of Dark.

Option 4: A brand-new novel, and I really don’t have many more ideas beyond that, except that I think I’d like to go contemporary, adventurous, maybe with a big dash of magic thrown in. I don’t want to say “paranormal”, because I love my readers who don’t love paranormals and I want to keep ’em, so paranormal to the extent that the Tyack & Frayne series is paranormal – ie a strong real-world setting, but all kinds of gateways opening out of that into mysterious realms. Which, for me, is just the way things are, so perhaps I need a new category. Fox-anormal?!

 

There you go, then.  Tell me which of those appeals the most, and on Sunday, Lucy Fur and I will pick the winners. I’ve had a very small peek, and Seven Summer Nights is doing fine. I never chart outrageously with my indie-pubbed work, but a visit to the top hundred on Amazon is lovely, and very much appreciated, so thank you to everyone who’s bought the book so far, and I really hope you enjoy it.

Let me take you away…

seven-summer-nights-customdesign-jayaheer2016-3drenderWinter has descended upon us early here in the wilds of the north – cold winds, late dawns, early dusk. Out in the broader world, I think most of you would agree that things are a little bleak and challenging, too.

So I’d like to take you away. I’d like to transport you back in time to the very first summer after the end of World War Two. I’d like you to come with me to a strange and ancient village nestled amongst the hills of the South Downs, a mysterious landscape of chalk-carved figures, deep-shaded valleys, and wide, wild hilltops under a shimmering blue sky.

I won’t be taking you to paradise, even if that’s how it sounds. Rufus and Archie’s world is a broken one, too. The dust of a global conflict is just beginning to settle, and then – just as now – being different means danger, and requires all the strength of loving hearts.

But come on the journey anyway. I want to immerse you in a world of summer magic, and burgeoning love between two complex, lonely and life-scarred men. This is the longest book I’ve ever written, and I hope that my vicar and his shellshocked archaeologist are among my best-developed MCs. I’d like to say a big thank-you to the wonderfully talented Jay Aheer, for so beautifully realising my vision in the cover art.

I’m releasing on 30th of November, but Amazon has been frighteningly quick about loading the pre-order! Here are the links for .com and .co.uk, and on release day I’ll also be making the book available on Smashwords and All Romance. Then, schedule permitting, I’ll get a print version ready by mid-December.

SevenSummerNights preorder Amazon.com

SevenSummerNights preorder Amazon.co.uk

At last!

harper-with-finished-7summernights-2Seven Summer Nights is finished. If I look whipped, that’s because I am. Poke me with any kind of cutlery you like and serve me sprinkled in Parmesan curls: I’m done. I will have this book in your hands, or in your e-readers at any rate, by the end of November at the latest. The very talented Jay Aheer is working on the cover, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.

This book! (Here you have to imagine the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes pacing about the floor, clutching at his fevered brow: This case, Watson! THIS CASE!!! [He was such an adorable drama queen.]) How long has it taken me to write? Too long, that’s how long. Since February, in fact, and that doesn’t make me financially viable as an author. To manage that, I need an average of four releases a year, although since I somehow popped out Priddy in the midst of all this, and I hope to offer a festive shortie, I guess it’s not too bad.

This is the longest book I’ve ever written. Nearly 140K words. And, after all, it may tank on me: I’ve reached further, dug deeper, and although I adore my MCs and am missing them already, the issues are serious, the romance wrapped around some heavy-duty plotting. I don’t think it’s an easy read: it was a bloody tough write.

But the joy of creating for my core readers is that I’ve always found you open to whatever bonkers thing I decide to try next. You’ve loved my secret agents, my agoraphobic Scotsman, my quantum physicist with Asperger’s and my sheep-farmer. I think – dearly hope – that you’ll love Rufus and Archie, my World War veteran and his vicar. I know not all of you love extracts, though, so this is your warning to read no further! For the rest of you, here we go…

***

Spence led Archie into an open ward. A first glance showed him twenty or so beds arrayed along the walls. This was the seaward side, to judge by the chilly light, but the high windows were keeping their secrets. Only a handful of the beds were occupied. Spence sheered off at an urgent summons from a nurse, leaving Archie to find Rufus for himself.

Which should have been so easy. The one man of all other men who’d entered Archie’s world and turned it painfully, deliciously inside out: Archie could have picked him out among thousands, he’d thought, by scent alone if he had to.

But this place stank of Lysol, and Rufus, with his head shaved and his dapper suit replaced by hospital pyjamas, looked just like the other wasted bodies under blankets in the shifting sea-ight. “Dear God,” Archie whispered, finally picking him out. He swept up to his bedside like a hot wind. “I thought I’d lost you. It’s all right. I’m here now.”

Eyes like the clouds over Colditch Sands. The shorn head turned on the pillow. Archie could feel the effort of focus, as if a seagull’s mewing had turned out to be a human voice, in need of response and attention. “Could you… pass me some water, please? My throat’s dry.”

“Of course.” Archie perched on the edge of the mattress. The brigadier was in conclave now with another two white coats, and Archie couldn’t have cared less anyway: leaned in and brushed the lightest kiss to the exposed brow. “Why didn’t you tell me these scars were so bad? Here, let me sit you up a bit. Here’s your water.”

Rufus leaned back on the pillow Archie had pushed behind him. He held the glass awkwardly, like a man wearing thick sheepskin mitts, drank a mouthful or two then lost his grip. Swiftly Archie reached in, wiped up the spillage with a napkin and held the glass to his lips again.

The clouded eyes watched him from a vast, lost distance. “That’s enough. Thank you.”

“Why can’t you manage for yourself?”

“Not sure. Jolly annoying. Slipped me a mickey, I suppose – they always do, in here.”

“You haven’t been here before.”

“Not this one, no. All the same, though, really, aren’t they? I’m just hoping this one’s…” He faded out, struggled to sit up a little further. “A bit closer to home.”

“You’re not in a field hospital, Rufus. All that’s over.”

“Oh, I know it will be soon. With all the surrenders on Eastern Front, things can’t go on much longer. So you needn’t look so worried.” He put out a hand and briefly patted Archie’s. “I say. You mustn’t cry over it, old man.”

“I’m not.” Archie rubbed the napkin over his face. “All right, I am. Sorry. It’s just that I’ve been looking for you all night, and… they cut off your lovely hair.”

“Do I look awful?”

“No. Like a fallen angel.” Archie ran the lightest touch over his scalp, gingerly avoiding the scars. “It looks as if you fell on your head, though. They’re going to make this feel better.”

“That would be nice. Listen, though, Reverend. It’s good of you to come and see me, but I’m not a believing man, not… not in that way. You should go and see Corporal Brooke. He was going to go into your line, he told me. Before he got drafted.”

Archie’s turn to spill the water now. He placed the glass back on the bedside cabinet. “You don’t know who I am, do you?”

“I’m sorry. Have you come to see me before? You’d think I’d remember a chaplain brave enough to come so close to the Front. Especially one this handsome.” Colour rose painfully into his face. “Forgive me. I am drugged.”

“Oh, Rufus.”

“Please don’t tell anyone I talk that way.”

“I won’t.” Archie fought back terror. “Listen. Do you remember the village and the church? Do you remember…” He paused. Impossible to find words for what remained so lucidly clear in his own mind. “Being with me in the orchard at night?”

“No.” The wan face became wistful. “Sounds lovely. I wish I could.”

Archie would do neither of them any good by lying face-down on the blanket and bursting into tears. The sense of loss expanding within him was bigger, more eviscerating, than the pain he’d experienced on the first morning after Richard’s suicide. A comforting graveside cliché: the people we love are never truly gone as long as we remember them… What kind of death-in-life would it be to have lost his place in this man’s mind? “Don’t worry,” he said hoarsely. “Everything will be all right.”

“What about this church, and the orchard?”

“They’ll be waiting for you.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

A faint, weary chuckle. “I must be worse off than I thought.”

“What? Why?”

“Because you’re holding my hand, Vicar. They generally only do that when we’re about to snuff it.”

Well, that was bitter truth. The rough semblance of training Archie had received for his front-line role had almost prohibited physical touch, as prone to unstring the nerves and make lonely squaddies weep for home and their mum. He tightened his grip. “You’re not about to snuff anything. You don’t remember, Rufus, but I’m your friend. And as soon as you’re better, I’m going to take you home.”

 

 

T & F Print Volume 2

So, I’ve finished the formatting for the paperback Tyack & Frayne volume two – Kitto, Guardians of the Haunted Moor and Third Solstice. If I say so myself, I’ve done a bloody lovely job. (Modest as ever.) Nice font, good layout, pretty guttering and margins. These things please me. Now it’s off to Shutterstock for a bit of cover art, and I can get my proofing copy, check that all’s well and put it up for sale.

I have to say, formatting for Createspace prints is a nit-picking swine of a job, at least if you want all the bonny headers and footers and page numbers, and for the chapter heads to be on a page on their own and all that kind of thing. You can hire Createspace formatters to do it for you, but of course that costs, and I make such tiny returns on my print stuff that the only way to render the project viable has been to learn the skills and do it myself.

And, to be honest, there are worse ways of spending a fireside evening than noodling away with my section breaks. I am getting close to the end of Seven Summer Nights, but the final chapters are kicking my brain’s butt, and this is maybe my equivalent of a down-time knitting project or an embroidery piece. Hey, I like the idea of the Tyack Tapestry! Tamsyn levitating kitchenware would make a good scene.

electricitySo give me a fortnight or so, and I’ll have buy links for Volume 2. Priddy will soon come following after. As I think I’ve said, it’s my intention to get all my FoxTales books into paperback at some point, which in part is to shore myself up against my Apocalyse Complex, and in part just to please my print readers.

I hope you both enjoy it. ;-D

Announcing winners!

lucy-for-dalLucy Fur is exhausted but happy after picking the names of the winners from the hat! Mrs H is holding her paws to show there are no sneaky candidates concealed between those little toes. Three of you will receive a free ebook copy of Dal Maclean’s new release, Bitter Legacy. Carolyn, congratulations! You’re a winner from the blog commenters here, and the other two came from Facebook – Jeffrey Carvish and Sula Holland. I just need you to email me at harperfox777@yahoo.co.uk and let me know your preferred choice of format. Dal can offer mobi, pdf and epub, and will be happy to send on your prize to you.

A big huge thank-you to everyone who entered, and to Dal herself, who allowed me the great pleasure of being involved with the launch of her debut novel. We’ll be hearing a lot more from this talented writer in future, I’m sure.

Introducing Dal Maclean

dal-coverFirst off – what a great cover, and I am in full agreement with Josh’s opinion on what lies beneath!

So, everyone, tonight it’s a first at the Foxhole. I have the very great pleasure of hosting Dal Maclean, an exciting new author about to make her debut with Blind Eye Books. Dal’s novel, Bitter Legacy, releases tomorrow, and in this post you’ll find not only an excerpt from the book but a very unusual personal encounter with her main protagonist, and a great craft insight into how Dal created her vivid evocation of London, where her story plays out.

And, as if that weren’t enough, there’s a giveaway! Just leave a comment – anything at all you’d like to say – here or on the Facebook link, to be in with a chance of winning one of three ebook copies of Bitter Legacy. Lucy Fur, who has finished hiding out in a barn (terrifying the living bejabbers out of us!!!) and returned to her duties, will pull three lucky winners out of her little hat on Friday.

I haven’t hosted an author here before. Two reasons – the first one purely practical. It’s not that I’ve been standoffish – just that, until recently, this small blog-space of mine hasn’t been sufficiently well known to offer authors any kind of useful platform! And I’m still not, like, Pirate Ninja Blog Queen of the Universe, but you, dear readers, helped me out a huge amount with the character-interview suggestions you gave me a few months back, and the Foxhole has been quite a lively little burrow since then.

The second, and far more important reason – Bitter Legacy is, quite simply, an outstanding book. I’ll be honest – I don’t read a lot in my own genre. I get terrible, paralysing cross-interference, so as a rule, it’s deep space or Victoriana for me. But once I’d dipped my toe into Dal’s prose, I found myself wading all the way in. This is an uncompromising new voice. Bitter Legacy is not a comfortable read, so don’t expect one. However, the book carries an emotional legitimacy and truth that will, I’m certain, carry you along with James’s story, and involve you as deeply as it did me.

Let’s start with the blurb, to get you oriented within James’s world…

“London… Detective Sergeant James Henderson’s remarkable gut instincts have put him on a three-year fast track to becoming an inspector. But the advancement of his career has come at a cost. Gay, posh and eager to prove himself in the Metropolitan Police, James has allowed himself few chances for romance. But when the murder of barrister Maria Curzon-Whyte lands in his lap, all that changes. His investigation leads him to a circle of irresistibly charming men. And though he knows better, James finds himself enticed into their company. Soon his desire for photographer Ben Morgan challenges him to find a way into the other man’s lifestyle of one-night stands and carefree promiscuity. At the same time his single murder case multiplies into a cruel pattern of violence and depravity. But as the bodies pile up and shocking secrets come to light, James finds both his tumultuous private life and coveted career threatened by a bitter legacy.”

Wow! That is quite some intro. And now let’s meet the man himself. I had the pleasure a little earlier, and a most intriguing conversation it was. I advise a cautious approach. James is feeling a little fraught…

James: Oh. Hi.  Yeah. Is it okay if I just take a moment? Catch my breath a bit?  Thanks.  That’s very kind of you. You have a beautiful place here.

Harper: Thank you. Happy to offer you a little change of scene!

It’s nice to meet you. My name’s James.  James Henderson.

Enchanted. Harper Fox at your service. Er… Are you feeling a bit under the weather, James?

No, I’m just… just a bit knackered. I had a bit of a hard night.

Out on the town?

Yeah, I went clubbing with my girlfriend and a few… friends and we ended up at a party. Some oligarch. Too much coke. Too much expensive booze. I’m just… 

I’m just tired. 

It looks like more than that. I remember London – it can be a tough gig.

Sorry? 

Tiring, emotionally as well as work-wise and socially. The whirlwind of it all can bring you down.

Oh. Well. 

You’re very… perceptive.  

Yeah, I suppose I might be feeling a bit low.  But it’s totally self indulgent of me. I mean…I have no right to be depressed. It’s probably the coke. I don’t do it much. It’s not worth the comedown.

Yeah, I can dig that. Fun times can extract high prices.

The thing is, I have everything – a fantastic flat, a brilliant car, a beautiful, sweet girlfriend, and my job’s challenging… God it’s challenging. I have a great future, if I keep my head. 

Okay. But it’s not as simple as that, is it?

It’s just that… sometimes I can’t help thinking… it’s useless, you know? I have so much money, and I’m just making more and more. And what the fuck’s the point of that? 

Well – nothing, not when it’s just you. But that’s not true, is it, James? You’ve got someone important in your life.

Yeah.  She’s…my girlfriend’s…really great. Her name’s Ellie. She’s the daughter of my father’s business friend. So he’s pleased. For once. But, she’s… kind. That’s important you know?  Not enough people are kind. She’s an actress. I mean, a female actor. You may have seen her in a few things.

I live in a bit of a cave out here, but I bet I have. You two are in pretty good shape, then?

Are we in love? 

Not what I asked, but you know I’ve got to be interested in the answer to that.

Oh. Well. She loves me a lot. I think. She really does. 

Have you ever felt… like a rat in a trap, Harper?

 

Well – I wanted to tell James that I had, but he left pretty abruptly at that point. He’s a man on a mission, and he has a hell of a lot on his plate, as you can probably see. I just had to step aside and let him back into the rushing white-water raft-ride of his story!

Which leads me to the excerpt. Hope you enjoy this tantalising slice of Bitter Legacy. Once you’ve read it, I’m sure you’ll agree that Dal is a great scene-setter, so be sure to take a look at the short Q&A that follows!

*****

Excerpt

The windows caught his attention as he pulled his car into a parking space, several yards along from No. 22 Selworth Gardens.

They were huge, multi-paned, Georgian, and James could tell that they would drench the space behind them in pure, bright light.

No. 22 proved to be part of a terrace, built of yellow-brown London brick. Like all its neighbors, it had three floors of windows, no basement and a painted, paneled door, surrounded by a whitewashed portico. And on the first floor, those amazing windows were decorated with finely wrought mock balconies made of iron, gazing across to the twee, pretty little Georgian houses, peering out from behind their privet hedges on the other side of the road.

This would be prime real estate. And, James knew, sadly unlikely to sport external CCTV cameras. They tended to sit on new apartment blocks and commercial buildings. But hell—no one could blame him for dreaming of finding incriminating footage of Maria arriving for afternoon liaisons with an obvious suspect, could they? He still hoped in his heart of hearts that it could be that easy.

James stretched carefully as he slammed the door of the car, a loud, obtrusive noise in the comparative quiet of the street. He felt surprisingly alert given he’d spent the night at the station, but he’d caught three hours of sleep on one of the office camp beds. It would never be a comfortable fit for his frame, but by four a.m. he’d have slept on a bed of nails. He’d even managed to fit in a shower and a shave before setting off here.

On the whole, he’d done considerably better than Scrivenor, who’d resembled an exploded mattress when James left the office. On the whole, he thought, he’d best make an emergency visit to Costa for a takeout, before he got back to the station.

He stretched again as he walked along the pavement until he reached the pale-grey front door of No. 22. A brass plate was fixed to the brickwork with three buttons, placed vertically very close together, and an intercom. There was every likelihood that no one would be in at this time of day, but then again, maybe some of the residents were too rich to need to work. James started, methodically, at the bottom. The name beside the button read Nicholas.

His phone buzzed in his pocket, and he fumbled for it as he pressed the door button blindly.

He glanced at the screen and sighed. He’d set an alarm a couple of days before, to remind him of his viewing appointment at the Earls Court flat, in half an hour. He’d already phoned that morning to cancel, but the guy had sounded unconcerned; he thought he’d found someone anyway. It didn’t ease James’s restless conviction, though, that he’d missed out on something good.

Beside him, the intercom crackled into life.

“Okay. You’re really early, I’m afraid.” An attractive, cultured male voice, which managed to sound, somehow, both friendly and politely accusing. “I’ll let you in, but the guy before you’s still here. Can you just come up and wait in the hallway? First floor.”

James blinked at the brass plate for a confused second. First floor. He’d pressed the wrong bell. But as he opened his mouth to identify himself, the intercom shut off with a loud buzz.

He frowned and pushed the heavy door, which opened at once into a well-decorated, artificially lit hall. A flat door stood to his left, and fresh white paint covered all the woodwork and walls. None of the communal hall smells he’d become used to were in evidence—no stale smoke or urine, and definitely no cabbage. Instead, the place smelled of expensive polish and new carpet. There was no room for a concierge and, as he expected, no CCTV. Obviously, it had once been an old house, converted into flats.

He eyed the door beside him, the one he’d meant to start off with, and deliberated taking his opportunity now and knocking. But the man on the first floor would be expecting him.

His feet made no sound on the bouncy thickness of the dark-blue carpet.

The door on the left at the top of the first flight of stairs appeared identical to the one on the ground floor—paneled and freshly glossed white. But though James knocked on it, ignoring the intercom-man’s instructions, and though he definitely heard voices behind it, it remained stubbornly closed. He knocked again. The door didn’t open. The man had meant what he said.

James had no real reason to feel as pissed off as he did. The man inside couldn’t know he was a detective investigating a murder. He wasn’t purposely disrespecting the police. Yet, as James lurked, frustrated, in the plush hallway, stealing irritated glances at his watch, he found himself almost deliberately pushing himself to conclusions.

The visitor in there had an appointment. And the man who’d answered had said there’d be another right after James.

So. What kind of men were most likely to have serial “appointments” at expensive residential addresses? High-end hookers.

He glowered at the pristine door, copper’s imagination running with it. Fuck—the last thing he needed was a vice collar right now, but he couldn’t exactly ignore a high-class prostitute operating under his nose.

Or maybe—he could. He really didn’t have time for this.

He frowned fiercely, slumped against the opposite wall. Then, without warning, the door to the flat opened with a shocking blaze of light, and a man slipped out into the hall.

James, as he straightened, could hardly fail to notice the guy was flamboyantly good looking—all extravagant cheekbones and pouty lips, like a catwalk model—and to all appearances, extremely pleased with himself. As he strutted past, he gave James a quick once-over and a knowing smirk, then he trotted down the stairs and out of sight.

James stared after him. He didn’t look like the kind of man who paid for it, but, if police-work had taught him anything, it’d be that people rarely obliged by fitting their stereotypes. Whatever the guy had been there for, he’d emerged appearing very satisfied indeed. James’s suspicions solidified.

“Sorry about that, mate. Overran a bit.”

James snapped his head back to stare at the figure now standing in the open doorway of the flat, assessing him in turn.

The man was startling. Caucasian, round about James’s height, but with a more slender build and thick, dark, shoulder-length hair in silky, loose curls. He had a fine bone structure, straight black brows and large, dark eyes whose color James couldn’t determine in the dimness of the hall. If the guy fucked for money, James thought in those first moments, he could fully understand how he could afford to live in Selworth Gardens.

Suddenly James felt very aware that, while he was wearing a very nice Paul Smith suit from his old life, it needed a good pressing. And after only three hours’ sleep, he could do with the equivalent himself.

The man smiled brilliantly, which rendered him even more startlingly attractive.

James found himself fighting not to blush. It was his fatal emotional tell and he hated it—a lifetime of self-discipline, and he still colored up like an adolescent.

“Hey,” the man said. “Come in.”

*****

Great stuff, Dal! One of the things I admired most about Bitter Legacy was your evocation of background, a real tangy taste of realistic London life. Could you take a moment to tell us how you, as an author, set about that amazing piece of scene-setting? I think both readers and fellow authors would love to know.

Dal: Thanks so much,H! I’m glad you felt the feel of London came through! I worked there for a while (and truly loved it) so I got to know it a bit, but I think having lived abroad too, you realize what an iconic city it is. There are things about it that are like …cultural shorthand? Certainly for anyone interested in crime – there are these famous places I got to use in the plot, like New Scotland Yard and The Old Bailey. It can be a place of extremes too. There’s the opulence and almost chilly elegance of places like Knightsbridge and South Kensington and then just a short drive away, there’s the multi-cultural vibrancy (and often deprivation) of areas like Brent. It’s a gift to use as a setting for a book to be honest. The scenes set themselves!

Well, I think there was a hell of a lot of hard work and talent involved too, but whatever you say, lady.😀

Thanks, everyone, for visiting the blog tonight! I’m certain you’ll join me in wishing Dal the very, very best with Bitter Legacy. Good luck with the giveaway, and here is the buy link for this excellent debut novel!

http://amzn.to/2di6w3q

Update on my latest

 

My post this Sunday is about my current work-in-progress, Seven Summer Nights. Forgive another “industry” post: next week I’ll be doing a character interview/coda.

I’ve decided to self-publish SSN. This was not an easy decision to reach. I would really have loved to work with a publishing house again, but even if I managed to place the book right away, I’d probably be looking at a wait of up to a year before release. Financially, that’s not a viable option for me. My own fault – ideally, before submitting a long book to a publisher, I’d have a shortie in an advanced state of preparation to self-pub while I was waiting. (SSN became a much more intense and complex novel than I’d intended, and took over my brain and my schedule to an overwhelming extent.) As I think I’ve said before, the hybrid model is working very well for me as an author. I love the freedom of FoxTales, but I also love the opportunity to refine my craft, and a good publisher’s editing team will do that. Not to mention the marketing reach and the chance to build rep.

The bright side is that SSN will be with you sooner rather than later! The main plot arc is consummated and I’m looking to land the plane. The runway is in sight, my landing gear is deployed, and as I’m sure my fellow authors know, at this point all my concentration will be required not to hit an air pocket or slew this baby into the ATC. Um, the novel isn’t about planes at all, so I’m not sure why this metaphor has run away with me.

Another advantage is that I won’t have to dial back on the scope, reach and general glorious weirdness of my story. This one’s set in the 1940s, and will bring to you Dr Rufus Denby, an amnesiac archaeologist struggling with post-war flashbacks. Sacked from his prestigious job at the British Museum, he’s sent to work on restorations at a church in a sleepy village on the Sussex Downs. There he meets Archie Thorne, a vicar with a war record of his own. Rufus’s investigations of the church soon unfold into a numinous ancient mystery that will sweep the whole village into the labyrinthine depths of the past. Meanwhile, Rufus and his vicar are both finding out for the first time in their lives what it means to fall in love.

I like this book. I might have had to streamline/shorten it considerably for a publisher. But this time I want it long. I want it to develop at its own slow, sexy, potent pace, and I want my support cast to have time and space to do their thing. So self-pub has many pleasures, not least of which is that this time around I can afford to hire a great cover artist and realise my vision for the book. You get a little bit of input into cover art when you trad-publish, but usually not a huge amount.

I’d like to share an excerpt with you. I know a lot of you don’t like excerpts, so this is your alert to stop reading now! I hope to release the book within the next couple of months, so watch this space for a firm date. Also, there is mild naughtiness in this excerpt – just a gentle heads-up to the lovely real-life friends who’ve been kind enough to befriend me on Facebook for reasons other than my writing. ;-D

 

From Seven Summer Nights

Rufus lay down flat and read as he’d used to do in childhood, the book poised just off the tip of his nose, his toes clenched on the footboard as if he would otherwise float off into deep space. The Reverend Thorne’s house held him like a hammock, like a chrysalis, like a deep embrace from strong male arms. Night came down, and at some point of shimmering non-darkness from the summer skies, a careful hand lifted the open book off his face.

***

He woke in the trenches, his enemy near him. This time the hallucination didn’t eat him whole: the awareness was left to him, dim and distant, that his body remained in a beautiful place, guarded and cared for and safe. Utter misery seized him. No matter where he went, he would end up here. No matter who he reached for in friendship and love, the shadow would fall. A bull in a labyrinth, a faceless Minotaur, groaning and snorting in the dark, a demon with the power to take a firelit room and fill it with mud, blood and horror.

Rufus tore the bedclothes back and lurched onto his knees. He would kill the bastard this time, that was all. He flattened his hands to the mattress and let loose a long, raw howl of desolation. It was too bloody grim that every beauty he found, every safety and sweetness, could be ruined and torn down to shit. He burst into racking sobs.

The bedroom door flew open. Rufus seized his chance. He couldn’t see, but that didn’t matter – who else would dare find him here in the firelit trench but his enemy? “Charles,” he roared, scrambling off the end of the bed and into the bullet-pocked hell of the earthworks behind Fort Vaux. “Stop, damn you! I won’t let you do it this time!”

He collided with flesh and bone. The devil of it was that he recognised Archie straight off, by scent and warmth and the well-restrained power that cushioned and held him even as it fended him off. “Rufus,” Archie gasped in his ear, but it was no use. The logic of flashback ate both of them whole.

They crashed together onto the bedroom floor. Rufus made a grab for the gun at Charles’s belt, but the coward had hidden it somewhere, ready for the atrocious scene that always followed on from this fight. “Give it to me,” he grunted, rolling Charles over, and cried out as a huge strength lifted and rolled him in his turn, dumping him hard against the base of the wardrobe, whose scrolled and clawed feet Rufus couldn’t account for here, unless the Minotaur had learned how to dance.

He lashed out wildly. The blow connected, sending a pang of exhilaration through him. He could taste his enemy’s blood. Connections formed hotly in his mind: Charles was the enemy, the monster he’d been seeking through the mud-lined tunnels of his dreams since his return from the Front. Charles, his commanding officer. His brother-in-law, the sweet-natured boy he and Rosie had run with through childhood’s meadows… “Charles, stop,” he begged, aiming another knockout blow at the once-beloved face. “Stop. Please.”

“I will if you will.”

He couldn’t. Wherever he travelled, no matter how far he ran, this dream would compel him to hunt down the nearest likeness of the beast, the greatest threat. He twisted out from under the beast’s weight – so warm, this beast, smelling of love, not death – and struggled onto his feet. The beast stood too. “Rufus, stop,” it commanded, and this time it stopped his fist in mid-air. “You’re looking for the strongest man? You’ve found him. You’ve found him.”

Rufus woke up. The mud and blood dried to thin, brittle shells on his skin and fell away. The trench burst wide open to dawn light. Archie was holding him, not Charles – Archie in rumpled dressing gown and brightly patterned pyjamas, staring down at him, such a blaze of passion and pity that Rufus would have fallen in love with him right then, if he hadn’t already dropped and dived and lost that battle somewhere among the Droyton lanes. “Archie,” he whispered, lifting a shaking hand to caress the face he’d bruised. “Archie!”

“Yes. You have to stop this now.”

Rufus couldn’t. He slipped a hand around his nape, pulled him down and kissed him – brief, hard, full on the mouth. Let him go immediately and stumbled back, almost thrusting him away. Easier to do that than be pushed, than to see shock gathering, rejection, distaste… But Archie only frowned. He touched his lip wonderingly, as if remembering. Then he shot out a hand and seized Rufus by the front of his nightshirt. “Come here.”

“Archie…”

“Come here, man. For God’s sake.”

Rufus stumbled back to him. Archie didn’t relinquish his grip: used it to haul him up and in, at the last instant catching him tenderly with his free hand, cupping his jaw. He dipped his head. A faint sound escaped him, a muffled sob of yearning. He closed his eyes and pressed his mouth to Rufus’s in return.

Clumsy, awkward. He must have got at least one punch in – pain popped like a flashbulb on Rufus’s lip, delicious and wild. He kissed like a man who’d been tied hand and foot while other people fucked and danced and loved all around him, inches away, untouchable. Christ, Rufus knew how that felt. He threw his arms around him, left off trying to keep his rising erection a secret. Archie groaned and pushed back at him, knocking him off-balance. They crashed against the wardrobe. “Dear Archie. At least let me take you to bed.”

“I can’t. I… Oh, yes.”

“Make sure the door’s shut.”

“It is.”

“You’d better close the window. Pull the curtains too.” Rufus clutched his shoulders, hardly able to bear the answering stiffness behind the absurd pyjama trousers. Elspeth would have bought those, he was willing to bet, a pocket-money present for her borrowed father, and Archie would faithfully wear them to show her he valued her gift. “Do the windows have shutters?”

“Er… yes, but – ”

“Better close them.”

“Rufus, this is my house. We’re up on the attic floor. I won’t shut us away in the dark.”

“You have to. You don’t understand. You could be jailed and disgraced for what you just did to me, let alone…” Rufus caught his breath. “Let alone what I’m about to do to you.”

“Only the birds will see us. The moths and the bats flying home.”