It’s here! I’m thrilled to share my new book, SWEETEST NOTHINGS, now available in digital and print.
Step into a world of curiosities and strange tales in this collection of prose and poetry. A world of light and dark, of swift encounters and devious deeds; of steampunk spies and love in a world of superheroes; of campfire tales and the sweetest of nothings.
Inside you’ll find eight short stories and over fifty new poems including…
ALBION – A steampunk tale about the British Empire’s last great agent, whose life is turned upside down when a family secret is discovered.
TREAT – A dark horror tale about a girl, a murderer and a very unique service…
DROUGHT – A swift encounter with a different kind of vampire…
THE PARLIAMENT OF EMILY – Originally written for fund-raising anthology, a fantasy tale about the power of parallel lives…
SUPERSEDING TREVOR – A romance set in a world where capes, cowls and superpowers are as common as can be…
Please enjoy this excerpt from the opening of ALBION…
Or perhaps, in this unknown place, she remembered.
The uncertainty was not troublesome. Sounds were muted, as if heard underwater. She felt womb-encased, warm and safe, but knew it would not last. She thought of birth.
She recalled it as one does a night time reverie, fleeting and ephemeral. It was blinding, lancing oblivion’s black iris, tasting of salt and copper, smelling of scorched metal and umbilical, anodyne musk. Her newborn lungs expelled plasma-laced saline and stung at oxygen’s first assault, vocal chords stretching fervently with a scream that would remain nested in memory like a hungry, prowling beast.
Gears ground somewhere, engines whirring and tabulating, ratchets working with fine precision. It was the sound of London and half the world, a white noise that few noticed. In her half-lucid state she recalled pistons and steam, a sense of floating.
No. Not that. Flying.
The market children were playing Albion.
The girls fought over who was to portray their heroine and the boys debated who was to be her latest dastardly villain, or eager companion.
Her name was everywhere: adorning the paste-spread bills on the city’s soot-caked walls, calling for her true identity; on the pages of its best and worst news rags; on the lips of dock workers, street peddlers, aristocrats and doxies, from the heart of the city to its farthest outskirts; in the eager, fertile minds of the children who re-enacted the adventures found in their penny dreadfuls. Albion: the greatest daughter the Empire had ever known.
Abigail O’Hare watched them dart and duel before her as they weaved their way through the bustling marketplace in Earl Square. A young girl in a pair of cheap goggles, the lower half of her face covered in her best approximation of Albion’s alleged attire, a red velvet scarf tugged snug over her mouth, and the two subordinate boys, chasing her with sticks. She grinned; even if they were to examine her closely, they would never recognise her, never know they were so close to the object of their delight. Even if she were to tell them, they were not likely to believe.
She perused the avenues of collapsible lean-tos with their haphazard canopies, stalls laden with jewelry, clothing and trinkets in every conceivable colour and shape. She savoured the sounds of barking vendors and the smells of world cuisines stewing and sizzling, then drifted into Archie’s Eyes.
She strode into the covered shop to the clink of her boot spurs. It was a trove, partitioned into sections with ornately decorated Chinese shades, each one filled with rotor-spinning displays of fine spectacles, microscopes, telescopes and sturdy but stylish goggles custom-made for a dozen trades. She examined a pair of ornate theatre binoculars until his avuncular tones came from beyond the nearest partition.
“It took three days to carve and set the lenses, young lady, and three more to hand-gild the shell, yet I don’t fathom there’s time enough left this century to craft a pair befitting a lass of your calibre.” She followed his voice to find Archie Munroe, faultlessly dressed in a crisp white shirt and braces, hunched over a cluttered work table with his concertinaed-metal eyeglasses perched on his aging, bird-like nose. “Though I must say, at the risk of appearing un-gentlemanly, the spurs have got to go.”
“These were given to me by Lincoln Vaughan himself,” she said with mock indignation. “It’s rare for him to give anybody a gift other than a bullet between the eyes.”
He took her hands in his and kissed them with a noble flourish. “A face like yours could charm a skyboat off the deck without a single drop of water in its heart.”
She fished into the satchel slung at her hip and pulled out a pair of brass goggles with a fine leather strap. One of the black lenses was scuffed, the other completely cracked into spiderwebs. He took them with the look of a parent whose child had returned from a day’s play with a skinned knee and bleeding nose.
“Oh, what have you done to these?” Archie pondered, picking at the lenses with a pair of fine silver pliers.
“Not I,” she said. “A redskin’s tomahawk.”
He looked wistfully at his creation, now nothing but broken remnants. Then, with perceptible indifference, he tossed the goggles over his shoulder and pulled a replacement pair from a drawer in his scratched, scorched desk. She held them up to examine them in a thin shaft of light streaming through a hole in the roof slats.
“So how long shall you grace Britannia with your presence?”
“Frontiersville now reaches the far shores of the Americas,” she told him, securing the goggles in her bag, “and the last resistance in the Crimea is gone. I serve Victoria until she says otherwise. I read the new edition, by the by, as soon as I stepped off the boat this morning.”
Archie rocked back in his seat with a creak of wood and bones, raising a wizened white eyebrow. “And?”
“Fantastic as ever,” she smiled. “You always make her far more fearless and wonderful than I ever could. And I shall have the diaries for the next edition to you as soon as they have been appropriately censored by her majesty’s agents.”
“Alas, we are lucky it is not the Empire’s secrets that sell the tales, my dear, merely her spirit of adventure. No amount of my florid prose can ever truly capture the nation’s heart if you weren’t allowing it to beat.” Archie slid open a drawer and handed her a pristine copy on the crispest paper, the print without a single smudge. “First copy off the press. I know it thrills you.”
The artwork on the cover displayed the sloping rooftop of Big Ben and the midnight sky beyond, London a mere scrawl of streets and lamps far below. Silhouetted against the full moon was Albion, poised nimbly in defiance of gravity, a sabre in one gauntleted hand, a sleek pistol in the other, the weapon and her masked face angled towards the approaching enemy, a Russian skyboat bristling with lightning cannons.
As she flicked the pages she saw, in her peripheral vision, Archie straighten in his seat, and she sensed him hold his breath. She stole a cursory glance over her shoulder, long enough to identify the two new arrivals as Belmont’s men. Matching red bow ties and moustaches; the fool made them groom themselves to a uniform standard to impose an air of menace. Abigail found the look laughable, but Belmont was not one to hire clowns.
“Miss O’Hare,” the first one said icily. “A word in your most delicate ear.”
Get your copy of SWEETEST NOTHINGS for immediate download now, or in good old fashioned print. I’ve had so much fun putting this one together, exploring different genres and crafting new poetry. I do hope you enjoy it…