Like Clockwork – the cover

Mark the date: 28th Feb is our target for publication. Since my last announcement my friends at Transmundane Press have been busy coaxing my vision out of the virtual paintbrush of a designer, and here we have it.

lc-cover

Here’s a reminder of what it is all about:

Commander Raymond Burntwood of the Royal Navy has returned to England where he meets the reclusive heiress Lady Ariana Grayhart. After the scandal of a night spent dancing together, Ariana returns home to Northumberland. Raymond’s superiors—seeking information about Ariana’s father—dispatch the commander under the cover of courting the heiress.

All is not as it seems in the Grayhart household. Captain Grayhart is an invalid, the servants maintain a monkish silence, and secrets are layered upon secrets. Everyone has their own agenda, from Raymond’s friend and confidante Du Bois, to the family lawyer Sir Berwick, and Ariana herself.

In the midst of it all, Raymond must unravel the truth of Captain Grayhart’s decline and save Ariana’s reputation and fortune. In doing so, he learns dark secrets about himself that could tear his world apart.

And if that is not enough to whet your appetite here is an excerpt:

Mon ami, you have taken the enemy flagship as a prize.” Du Bois was in fine form that evening. He lounged in the little cubicle of the dark, panelled restaurant and pulled on a cigar, adding to the dimness. The clink of cutlery from the other diners was distant; this was evidently a place for quiet conversation between men of means.

“How so?” I tried not to take umbrage at his statement; my limited financial resources were a testament to my lack of success in taking ships as prizes. My record of sinking the enemy was, in contrast, something to be proud of.

“Lady Ariana Grayhart. She is the only child of Captain Grayhart, whose late wife was the only daughter of the Duke of Wearhaven. The title of course lapsed without a male heir, but she retains the honorific as the granddaughter of a Duke.”

“Of course.” I had no idea about this sort of thing, but a response seemed to be required.

“What that means is she is rich. Rich in the manner of my forefathers.” He ticked off the elements on his long fingers, “Grayhart money from trade and factories, Wearhaven land to invest it on, and of course, the grand weight of the title. Any one of those would be beyond the dreams of a bootstraps boy like you.”

He was not being unkind, what he said was true. I joined the Navy when my mother died. My father was a sailor I had never met, and who had long been lost at sea.

“The Grayharts already owned swathes of your cold country. Edward Grayhart marrying up into the Wearhavens caused something of a stir, but the result is that it makes Lady Ariana a unique catch. Her arrival in London from Northumbria was eagerly awaited, and all the landless second sons were lined up to woo her.” He pointed his cigar at me, “Until you came along.”

I laughed at that. “I had no idea of any of this.”

“That could be what attracted her, someone courting for courting’s sake alone.” He leaned forward and said in a conspiratorial tone, “The young ladies are, of course, agog with the romance and the scandal, as well as being delighted by the removal from the field of an unbeatable rival.”

“Removal from the field?” I laughed again. “You forget that I have been at sea all my life, what do I know of women and courting? Besides, I know nothing of her feelings, nor have I made any proposal to her.”

“Faugh, Raymond, hang your head in shame. In front of all London society, you dance with her all night. You both ignore everyone else. You even ignored me.” That last seemed to hurt him most of all. Sparks flew as he stubbed the cigar out angrily.

“And yet you sit there and claim to have made no proposal.” He gripped my arm, fingers like iron. “You may escape to sea again, and come home to marry the daughter of a baker or a spice merchant. But memories are long for girls, and London will not quickly forgive or forget yesternight.”

Head over to Transmundane’s blog to read another excerpt.

Make sure you bookmark my author site for all the links of where to buy, and follow me on Amazon so that the endearingly enthusiastic retailer can nudge you when the book is launched.

 

END

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Suspicions mount as a murder follows the plot of a short story which has not yet been published.

–>

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

“Who did you kill this time?”

Alexandria’s question is pitched low, inaudible to anyone else against the whine of hair dryers. She waits for me to answer with a lock of my hair pulled between two fingers.

“Eric, my neighbour. He insists on trimming the hedges at stupid o’clock in the morning on a Saturday.” I can’t gauge her response because my glasses are on the table, she’s just a blonde blur somewhere behind me in the full length mirror, so I plough on. “Frayed wire and a puddle, he wasn’t using a circuit breaker.” She cuts ends of the hair she is holding and combs up some more. “Measuring the distances to make sure Eric was standing in the puddle when the wire crossed it was the only tricky bit.”

“That’s eight so far this year. Is that enough to make you a psychopath?” I nod and she laughs. “I should fit a tape recorder to the chair and sell you out to the police.”

“There’s a recession on, you couldn’t afford to lose the clients.” I retort. She gives my hair a playful tug, because she knows I’m right. The other girls have been losing business to her since I left a copy of my book in the salon. Women waiting for their hair to set or their dye to dry read my short stories. When they find out the guy who wrote the book gets his wash and trim from Alex, they want her to ask me to write them into a plot line.

The real mystery is not in my murder stories, but that none of them go out and buy their own copy.

“So when does Eric meet his shocking end?”

“There’s a print magazine in Australia accepting international submissions, I’ll try him in that one.” She doesn’t comment on that, the rigmarole of submitting and waiting and rejections is one she has heard from me every six weeks when I come to see her, and she still finds it incomprehensible.

Gloria breaks the silence, hurrying over and clearly bursting with a choice bit of gossip. She swings her long legs to drop into the seat beside me and leans forward, the sudden waft of perfume makes my nose twitch, but my hands are trapped under the apron. “Something terrible has happened.” She gives me a meaningful glance, “this will be right up your street.”

From her expression it can’t possibly be terrible. In fact, as Gloria’s salon is the hub of local news, ill winds tend to blow in more business. Alex stops so that Gloria can talk.

“It’s George. He’s dead. Someone killed him.”

Alex gasps, her hand falling onto my shoulder. “How did it happen?” I ask. The Superintendent’s secretary is a regular at the salon, Gloria probably knows as much as the detectives on the case.

She looks around in case anyone else is listening, even though every stylist and customer in the salon will know within an hour. It’s only a good story if she is the one that gets to tell it. “It was at the park, on the mini golf course.” Gloria leans even further forward. If I had my glasses on I would be able to look right down the front of her shirt. “His body was trapped in the windmill, and he had been shot.” Her eyes are wide, but she’s so close I can see it is excitement not fear or sorrow.

Alex’s hand spasms on my shoulder; I’m glad I’m sitting because you could have knocked me over with a hair dryer. “Mini golf?” I repeat hoping my weak smile is the right expression for a time like this.

Gloria nods. “And the weird thing is the bullet went through him and was lodged inside the windmill.”

My heart rate has just spiked up and I’m struggling for air. I grasp for another inane question to stall for a little time. “That’s weird?”

“He was packed inside the windmill, there wasn’t room for a gun in there, and there is no sign of how the bullet got in. The kids complained their golf balls wouldn’t go through, which is when the attendant found him.” She puts a hand on my arm. “If anyone can work out how it was done it’s you.”

“Trust me, I’m the last person who could figure that one out.”

Then Alexandria comes to my rescue. “He was an asshole, he deserved it.”

Gloria makes a face but doesn’t disagree. George would come in every couple of weeks to have his hair washed by one of the girls and then trimmed really close. The stylists complained about his wandering hands and the customers about his serious body odour issues. “Whatever the girls say, he tipped well,” Gloria says with a shrug. She swings back and up in one movement. “If I find out any more I’ll let you know.”

I catch a blurred smile in the mirror as Gloria walks away. “See, people are reading your stories,” Alex says brightly.

I’m suddenly conscious that she is wielding a pair of very sharp scissors around my head, but I have to know. “Alex. I didn’t submit the story to that journal. I couldn’t get the method of the murder to work. You’re the only one I told about it.”

She doesn’t say anything; she just leans forward and trims the errant hairs off my eyebrows. The snip, snip sounds very loud. She puts the scissors down and sprays my hair damp again. I start silently cataloguing the myriad different ways to kill someone in a hair salon. Why the hell didn’t I think of this as a setting before?

“Will you turn me in?” She asks at last with a heavy sigh.

I turn to look at her, genuinely perplexed. “Of course not. I want to know how you did it.”

END

Prompt: Mystery / Mini golf / Bullet

If you are interested in my storytelling look here