Monday, 13 February 2017

In The Doghouse - Excerpt


In The Doghouse

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Jerry Thorne is on the run with a greyhound, and nowhere left to turn for safety but an old one-time friend, Mike Brown. Which could be a huge mistake. Not only did Jerry have a crush on the man back in the day, Mike happens to be a cop and has no wish to take in the two strays…


Chapter One


I'm a coward. A fully paid up, card-carrying and devoutly fervent coward and I've never made any secret of it. And I like my kneecaps just the way they are. Which is why I was heading out of London as fast as the car could take me on a particularly fogged-in January night. Not only fog, but frost and black ice as well, I discovered, as we skated round a curve in the Fosse Way. Not all Roman roads are plumb line straight, and the Fosse can kink with the best of them. Don't ask me what I was doing on the Fosse Way—I haven't a clue. I'd initially intended to head north. I have friends in Leeds, and I knew we'd be safe up there. But with Joe Mullins on my tail, I'd stayed away from the main roads.

So, since I was taking which ever turnings panic and instinct suggested, while clutching the steering wheel with the grip of a drowning man on a lifebelt and my foot as heavy on the accelerator as I dared in the weather conditions, I'd gone a bit astray. You don't believe me? Listen, I only discovered I was on the Fosse heading southwest when the road sign loomed out of the murk and informed me that Cirencester was ten miles away. On the plus side, as far as I could tell, no one was following us.

The reason why I was haring around the country like a panicked greyhound was—a greyhound. Spot, aka Edie's Lightning, all ridiculously long legs, ditto tongue, and soulful eyes, patrolled my Renault's back seat, shedding brindle and white hair on my upholstery as he went from one window to the next.

Normally I worked at the Customer Information Desk in my local branch of Lloyds Bank. In my spare time I was a member of Brayswood Harriers, an amateur cycling club. Not exactly Tour de France material, any of us, but we did okay at the inter-county level. I'd taken a week off from the Evil Day Job and my training schedule to stand in for Uncle George in his hardware shop while he and Aunt Edie prepared Spot for his upcoming race. They both were greyhound fanatics, and had two or three around the house for as long as I could remember. Usually it was a couple of older dogs kept as beloved pets when their racing days were over, and a young dog in training. Uncle always named their dogs for Aunt Edie; Edie's Charm, Edie's Surprise, Edie's Gift, Edie's—well, you get the idea. Each dog was as much a family member as a racer, and were great characters in that laidback greyhound kind of way. The current three were Gift, Surprise, and Lightning.

Anyhow, all was well, until things started to go pear-shaped. First, Uncle George's old van failed its MOT and the garage had to order in a part, so I was making deliveries in my Renault. Then he dropped an oilcan, slipped in the resulting mess and buggered up his left wrist. These things come in threes, so I wasn't entirely surprised when he'd come to the shop late this afternoon. His worried expression had been warning enough that things weren't about to improve.

"Do me a favour, Jer, my lad," he'd said. "Take Spot to the vet for me and get her to do a blood test on the quiet. He's as jumpy as a cat on a griddle today, and that's not right. I think he's been nobbled."

I'd scoffed, of course. I mean, the race was tomorrow night, and so far Spot was the odds on favourite. Uncle George loved the skinny streak of greased lightning as much as he did his own kids, and it would no more occur to him to give Spot performance enhancing anything than to shove steroids down the rugby-playing twins' throats. Besides, the local track had drug-testing down to a fine art. He wouldn't get away with it.

But if the dog had been dosed with something and it showed up in the post-race tests, both he and Uncle would be blacklisted, banned, fined, and generally be neck-deep in the manure. Zero tolerance was the watchword for the Brayswood Greyhound Racetrack.

I took a quick glance in the rear-view mirror. The road behind us was clear. In the foreground was Spot, tongue lolling, still going back and forth like a canine metronome. Which was odd. He was normally a pretty laidback kind of character, and even I knew this was excessive. He probably should have been travelling in his crate in the Renault's boot, rather than the back seat, but I hadn't paused to fiddle around with catches and locks. I'd bunged him in the back and taken off like Vettel in pole position at Monaco, and moments later the black BMW was hot on our tail.

~ * ~

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Release Day for Manifold Press


February 1st, and Manifold Press has three titles out of the starting gate today. Once again, this small Press punches so far above its weight, Manifold should be in a Marvel movie, scripted by Josh Whedon. In no particular order they are:
Harbinger Island by Dorian Dawes

Every community has a dark side, a sordid past that’s kept to hushed whispers and out of the ears of prying tourists – and Harbinger Island has the darkest shades of them all. Professor Bartleby Prouse is obsessed with the secrets and occult conspiracies surrounding the island’s myriad of unsolved murders and mysteries. He’ll have to use every bit of magic and cunning at his disposal if he is to protect his students after they unwittingly draw the attention of one of the island’s most insidious cults.

Harbinger Island is a collection of character-driven stories which combine dark fantasy and horror elements within a modern setting. The diverse cast of LGBT+ individuals come from various backgrounds, and the stories examine the prejudices they experience in their day-to-day lives along with the supernatural horrors they face.

84,500 words / 322pages
$6.95

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Ardent by Heloise West

In the village of Torrenta, master painter Morello has created a color that mimics the most expensive pigment of all, the crimson red. Master Zeno, from strife-ridden Medici Florence, tells him the color gives him a competitive advantage – but Morello must be careful. Fraud is ever-present in the dye and pigment markets.

As they work together in Torrenta, Morello falls hard for Zeno’s assistant, Benedetto Tagliaferro, a young man of uncommon beauty and intelligence. Benedetto is still fixed on his old lover, the master painter Leo Guisculo, and cannot return Morello’s affections.

But when Leo dies in a terrible accident, it’s to Morello that Zeno and Benedetto turn for help. And Morello soon finds that in Florence, every surface hides layers of intrigue.



75,600 words / 292 pages
$6.95


BUY LINKS
Last, but by no means least, is a new Espresso Shot from Rainbow Award winner Jay Lewis Taylor (The Espresso Shots imprint is designed for shorter works, with a more informal publishing schedule than for Manifold's ‘regular’ works.). This story follows on from his successful recent novel Across Your Dreams:

Break of Another Day by Jay Lewis Taylor

The Great War is over. Jack Townsend, no longer a hospital orderly, is back at work in his photographer’s shop in Lewisham. But there is no peace yet; his blackmailer is still in business, and Celia Vavasour seems determined to manage his life. All his life; even his love-life …

Meanwhile in Sussex, David Lewry, former army officer, is still holding off from a closer relationship with Alan Kershaw, once in the Navy and now the village’s GP. Lew knows how much Alan wants him, but this last step is one he cannot take – not yet, unless something changes …

16,200 words / 66 pages
$1.99



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Thursday, 1 September 2016

THROWBACK THURSDAY - Ghosts, Curses and Psychics...

"I curse you and your children's children, that you shall all live out your allotted years, and that those years shall be filled with grief and loss and betrayal, even as you have betrayed and bereaved me."
But in this case, the caster was vindictive enough to tantalise his victims with a spark of hope. In the best fairytale tradition, if certain conditions were fulfilled, the curse would be broken:
"When the one who reads the earth joins with he who sees beyond, when the warrior and the healer stand to swear a sacred bond, when the one who seeks in danger is sworn to the landless lord, then shall my curse be lifted and all the lands restored."
Some years ago, RJ Scott had an idea for a paranormal trilogy, each story to be written by a different author, and she invited Sue Brown and me to join her in writing The Fitzwarren Inheritance. "We need a curse," she said, and blinked innocently the way she does. I came up with the required malediction and its get-out clause, and those two passages formed the springboard for The Psychic's Tale by Chris Quinton, The Soldier's Tale by RJ Scott, and The Lord's Tale by Sue Brown. Each title is available as a single ebook, and also as a box set, The Fitzwarren Inheritance. All versions are available across the Amazon sites, and from All Romance eBooks.

I sort of fell in love with my two men - Mark Renfrew, closeted psychic and openly gay, and Jack Faulkner, archaeologist. So under the overall label of The Renfrew Files, I've written two standalone stories.


The Carpenter's Tale

It should have been a bit of a break for Mark Renfrew, attending an archaeological conference with his lover, Jack Faulkner. No ghosts, no drama beyond the academic. But it didn't work out that way. The modern Five Star hotel held a dark secret, and Mark knew he had to uncover it before more people were hurt.







The Cameraman's Tale

Mark Renfrew is a researcher for a paranormal reality TV show, but no one involved with the show knows he is the real deal—a genuine psychic. When a cameraman encounters a ghost and needs his help, he has to come out of that particular closet. Along with his archaeologist lover, Jack Faulkner, Mark must find a way to break the ghostly cycle of injury and death on a haunted road, but things don't go according to plan. Mark discovers a new aspect to his psychic talent, and with another ghost to contend with, he is entering dangerous and uncharted waters.



Both titles are available across Amazon as well as ARe

Saturday, 21 May 2016

RAINBOW SNIPPETS - Mat 21-22

For more tantalising snippets from a whole host of authors, see the Rainbow Snippets Facebook group, you won't regret it. There are Snippets to suit every reader.

Life is back to being hectic this weekend, which means my Snip will be posted on auto-pilot, as it were. We're on Chapter Four of Coins Not Accepted, and it’s far more than six sentences, I’m afraid. Apologies, but this is about as far as I have got with this WiP, so I thought I’d leave you with a longer teaser, and move onto another story next time...

"In the meantime we need to get Allan to safety. Somewhere far from here where they won't think to look for him and he can recover from his injuries." His stern gaze fell on Miles. "Take him home with you and keep him hidden."

"What? No, I can't. The twins are in and out of my place like a horde of Visigoths on bungee cords."

"All the more reason for him to be there. Business as usual, my boy; that is all the enemy will see if they should follow or find you."

"Seriously? How do you expect me to explain him?"

"How do you think?" his grandfather replied, exasperation in his voice. "He's your lover, of course."

"Oh, of course. Stupid me," Miles said over Allan's startled, "What?"

"Allan, like you, my grandson is also strange. At least, I assume you are and the rumours I've heard about you have some basis in truth."

"I'm not--" Miles began, affronted. This, from a man who took alternate dimensions in his stride? Then he noticed his patient had a mutinous set to his mouth and his face was even more scarlet, as much in embarrassment as fever.

"Strange is the same as gay," Miles Senior replied  crisply, "and Logrean society is not as accepting as ours. Hence the scandals that have followed Allan around for most of his adult life."

~ * ~

I've also doing Throwback Thursday, featuring a longer excerpt from a novel from my backlist, so if you'd like to read a few more than six lines of my fiction, check the excerpt from DARK WATERS in the previous post.





Thursday, 19 May 2016

THROWBACK THURSDAY - DARK WATERS

Today’s Throwback is a shifter tale with a difference, more traditional in some ways. It's set in an historical, semi-mythical Scotland where the Elder gods haven't quite left the lands.


Dark Waters

Available at Amazon HERE
All Romance eBooks HERE
Smashwords HERE 

~ * ~

Flein is a wanderer by instinct and need, roaming the known world as the fancy takes him. In the Highland village of Glenfinnan, women have been raped and brutally murdered.  By all accounts, the killer is a waterhorse, a monstrous shapeshifter. But when Flein meets Donnchadh, first in its equine form, then its man-shape, he knows the waterhorse is innocent. Flein is drawn to the shapeshifter, but he finds it difficult to acknowledge it's more than a monster.


Donnchadh, though wary, shares the same attraction. They join forces to hunt for the real murderer, but time is short.  They must find the killer before more women die. Then suspicion is turned on them and the hunters become the hunted.

Excerpt


At the water's edge stood a horse. A riderless horse. It wore neither saddle nor bridle and the glossy brown hide gleamed in the May sun. The mane and tail were long, very black and by the look of the wind-tangles in them, had never known a grooming. The heavy stallion neck swooped down to join strong shoulders, and arched ribs led on to powerful haunches. Long black legs and rounded hooves completed the picture of what to Flein seemed the perfect horse. Sharp ears were angled toward him, deep dark eyes were fixed on him and the fine head was held high, nostrils flaring.

Flein Traveler smiled, his eyes narrowed and watchful. He knew danger when he saw it.

"Gods, but you're magnificent," he said quietly. "I know you. I don't know who you are but I know what you are." Flein had long ago learned all he could about shapeshifting predators. Loki was such a one and far more lethal than this creature. The horse gave a deep-throated grunt that was almost a snarl and took a pace toward him, its ears flattened against its skull, long neck snaking forward. "Waterhorse." He had an instant of warning as the muscles bunched and he hurled himself away from the stallion's charge. Fast as he was, the narrow head whipped round and carnivore fangs clashed a scant hairsbreadth from his shoulder. Laughing, Flein put the slender grace of his rowan tree between himself and the creature. "If I'd known this land had such wonders I'd have come here sooner."

It might have been his laughter or his lack of fear, or perhaps it sensed the difference in him that came from his sire, but the stallion stopped and its ears flicked forward. He was being studied, assessed by a keen mind.

"So, I'm something new, am I?" Flein drawled softly. "I've not met the likes of you before, either. I can see how you'd entice someone onto your back. You're the finest beast I've seen in many a year, but you won't be chewing on my bones, nag."

The ears twitched and it came toward him, pacing slowly. He was not deceived. He'd already seen it could move with the speed of a striking snake for all its size. Reluctantly, Flein drew his sword and the waterhorse paused.

"I don't want to hurt you," he said. "Go back to your loch and leave me alone." He stepped out from his shelter, blade held ready. "I've a long journey ahead of me and I'd sooner not fight you."

Again the ears flicked forward. The gesture was purely equine but the growing curiosity in the steady gaze was not.

"Go back." He moved closer and stopped with his sword point only a few feet from the broad chest. It was more than a little risky and it put him perilously close to those murderous hooves and teeth, but it also enabled him to see more clearly the intelligence in the beast's eyes. "Don't you know an iron sword will kill you?" he snapped. "And you, my splendid fool, would find it hard to kill me."

The waterhorse wrinkled its upper lip, scenting him. As a sneer, it was monumental. It came forward until the point of the sword was almost touching it and Flein smelled the lightness of clover, as if it had rolled in a meadow. If it feared the touch of the forged metal, Flein could see no sign of it. The dark eyes were challenging him now, daring him to chance his speed against its swiftness for the first strike and Flein laughed again. "Shall we call it a draw between us, then?" he suggested. "We go our separate ways and agree not to harm each other?" It would be so easy just to grab a handful of mane and swing up onto that sleek back—Flein got hold of the impulse and smothered it, easing back a pace. At the same time the waterhorse retreated a short way.

They matched each other step for step, until Flein was on the road and the stallion hock-deep in the loch. Then the each-uisge turned and plunged into deeper water, sending up twin wings of spray. Feeling oddly disappointed, Flein called his horse to him and soothed its sweaty fear. He took off the hobbles, tightened the girth, mounted and started on his way.


Saturday, 14 May 2016

RAINBOW SNIPPET - May 14-15

For more tantalising snippets from a whole host of authors, see the Rainbow Snippets Facebook group, you won't regret it. There are Snippets to suit every reader.

Life is a little less hectic this weekend, so I should be able to manage my Snip a lot better. We're still on Chapter Three of Coins Not Accepted: Gramps performs the introductions...

"Good. No one knows Miles is here, either, so..." He paused thoughtfully. "Hm. Proper introductions are in order, I think, then I'll open the emergency link. I present my grandson, Miles Westerman Carter." He gave Allan a semi-formal bow. "Miles, this is Prince Allan, youngest child of the Wyvern Throne." Yes, he definitely didn't approve of this uninvited guest.

"The in disgrace youngest child," Allan said, his voice light. "Also known as Allan Landless."

"Good grief." Miles sighed and shook his head. "This is Alice Through The Looking-Glass insane."

~ * ~

I've also doing Throwback Thursday, featuring a longer excerpt from a novel from my backlist, so if you'd like to read a few more than six lines of my fiction, check the excerpt from STARFALL in the previous post below.




Thursday, 12 May 2016

THROWBACK THURSDAY - STARFALL

Over the years - and I mean decades of original fic and fanfic - I've written in a mix of genres; paranormal, contemporary, mystery, historical, romance, fantasy, and science-fiction. But among my list of published works, there is only one SF [so far]. So if a story of an alien on our planet, trying to stay unnoticed and find his sister, sounds interesting, give STARFALL a try.

BLURB:
Ash is looking for his sister. He refuses to accept she's dead and he's come halfway across the galaxy to the lakes of Vermont in search of her.

Faye and Conn are on the trail of an underage runaway who has no intention of going back to Florida with them.

They all meet up in Amassol, Vermont. When Ash and Conn encounter each other, the attraction is immediate and almost overwhelming.  It's also impossible. Ash's mission and Conn's assignment, as well as rival street gangs, make sure of that.

EXCERPT:
Quincy's Roadhouse & Grill squatted on the western edge of the town, on the other side of the wide High Verde River. Just upstream from the modern bridge a long, smoothly curved outcrop of rock jutted from the water. It looked like the back of a prehistoric creature or an overturned boat. The Roadhouse, a solid-looking two-story place with a poorly surfaced parking lot surrounding it, had a deep covered porch the length of its front. On the apex of the roof sat a neon sign that glowed with only a slight intermittent flicker. The rough and ready agelessness of the Roadhouse hinted at drovers, loggers, quarrymen, and prohibition. Now it seemed an anachronism.

Conn pulled in and stopped well away from the dozen or so vehicles already parked, and they climbed out. The heat hit like a wall of wet feathers.

There were maybe twenty people in the thankfully air-conditioned room, and none of them looked like tourists. Conn was expecting the swift checkout he received when he followed Faye inside, and he kept his expression bland as he did some surreptitious checking of his own.
What he did not expect was the peculiar jolt behind his eyes as his gaze swept over the attractive barkeep and the man leaning against the bar talking to her. It came as a soundless click, as if something that had been out of alignment had just snicked into place. Not painful, and gone as soon as he'd registered it, but definitely not his imagination messing with his head.

Conn was too good at his job to show any reaction. Without a pause he strolled to the bar and ordered a couple of beers, giving the woman behind the bar a friendly smile. The man had turned away slightly so that his back was toward Conn, but every detail of the pair was already filed away in his mind. The woman was about five-six and in her forties, older than he'd initially thought, and on the plump side. She had long dark hair worn in a trailing tangle of ringlets, and her makeup was a little too garish for the sunlight struggling through the windows. Her scarlet shirt was tied off under her impressive breasts, and her painted-on jeans hung low on well-padded hips. A Chinese dragon tattoo snaked around her waist, its head and tail meeting at the crimson rose surrounding her navel. The heart of the vivid flower was a navel-piercing, a ruby-colored crystal that glittered when she moved.

The man's skin had a red-brown tint that suggested a varied racial heritage, and his hair was mostly a rich burgundy that never occurred in nature. That color and the streaks of copper and pale blond must have cost a packet in a salon. It fell over his forehead in heavy waves and curled on the collar of his shabby denim jacket. He wore shades and, incongruously, gloves that drew attention to his hands. Both pinkie fingers seemed to be unusually thickened inside the supple leather. He was maybe in his late twenties, six feet tall, and lean, his shoulders tapering to narrow hips. His jeans were faded, baggy and shapeless, as if he'd bought them from a thrift shop, but somehow managed to be stylish. Conn had gotten a brief glimpse of a high cheekboned, unsmiling face and lips pressed to a thin line that might have been anger, and he wondered briefly what the woman had said or done to irritate the guy. Who seemed familiar. But Conn's usually infallible memory let him down in this instance. Or maybe it was the tension in the man, that coiled-spring alertness beneath the casual surface that struck a chord.
He carried the beers over to the table in the corner and slouched beside Faye.

"The guy at the bar," he said quietly. "The redhead. Do you know him?"

"No," she answered. "Pretty, though."

Conn snorted. "So's a mountain lion, but you wouldn't want to get up close and personal." And he wondered where the conviction that the man was dangerous had come from.

"Speak for yourself." Faye snickered. "Or is the scarlet Amazon behind the bar more your type?" Then she became serious. "Why? Do you know him?"

"Just looks familiar, like I've seen him around somewhere, or maybe in a photo in a file."

* * * *

"What's suddenly bitten your ass?" Rose demanded, thumping another beer in front of him. Ash shrugged.

"Just remembered something I was supposed to do," he lied. He could feel the man's presence scratching at the edges of his awareness, and indisputably there. No, that was impossible. He was imagining it. For a moment Ash lost track of what Rose was saying. Of course it was his imagination. This wasn't a Fourth Consortium planet. It was a Class One Prohibited World, poised on the edge of space-flight and with no knowledge at all of the species and politics that lay beyond their solar system. There was no way he would be drawn in—not for casual sex and never by the deep-in-the-gut awareness of a true connection.

Rose's knuckles tapping none too lightly on his forehead brought him back with a jolt.

"Earth to Ash," she drawled, amused. "For the second time I'm asking, Angi isn't here yet. Is she going to be late tonight?"

"Uh, probably. She's gone to the discount warehouse in Montpelier with Emma. The Lodge was running out of basics ahead of schedule, she said. I told your dad at lunchtime," he added.

Rose scowled. "Oh, great. So of course the drunken bum forgot to tell me. Fuck!" She made an obvious attempt to sweeten her expression. "Hey, want to earn a few extra bucks? I booked the Raiders for tonight and it's gonna be busy. They're a popular band around here."

"Behind the bar or bouncing?"

"How about both? Not that I'm expecting trouble, but you never know these days."

"Okay." Ash glanced at his watch. He wouldn't be able to search another segment of the lake that night, but he could do with the extra cash. "I have to finish up at the Lodge first. Nine o'clock?"

"Great. The band should be setting up then. Be here by eight-thirty and I'll throw in a burger on the house before you start. Dad's promised to be sober this evening."

"Deal." He smiled and drained his beer in long swallows. Being a carbon-based life form on a planet that shared the same fundamental chemistry as his own species had its advantages. There wasn't much in the way of food and drink he had to avoid.

Ash took another quick look at the couple in the corner on his way to the door. The woman was watching him with unhidden interest. He knew most of the people he'd met here thought of him as handsome—and that had taken some getting used to, after years of his family and friends teasing him about his height, his heavy-set body, and coarse features. Then her companion looked up and for the first time since he'd landed on this planet, Ash's shades provided no barrier. The man locked eyes with him and Ash swore under his breath. A slow fire began in his blood. Yes, there was no possibility he was imagining it. He had never experienced the sensation before but it was hard-wired into his psyche. Every Vyan knew what to expect when they met their true-bond. The connection was real and unless he was very careful, it would only strengthen from now on. At least, it would as far as he, Ash, was concerned. What the Douryan felt—if anything—was another matter entirely. Either way, it meant he was effectively shafted.

available from All Romance eBooks HERE