Woo hoo! My first steampunk novelÂ Eros Element will be out on August 25 with Samhain Publishing. I’m super excited because I love this genre.
If love is the ivy, secrets are the poison.
After enduring heartbreak at the hands of a dishonest woman, Edward Bailey lives according to scientific principles of structure and predictability. Just the thought of stepping outside his strict routine raises his anxiety.
Adding to his discomfort is Iris McTavish, who appears at his schoolâ€™s faculty meeting in place of her world-famous archeologist father. Worse, the two of them are to pose as Grand Tourists while they search for an element that will help harness the power of aether.
Iris jumps at the opportunity to prove her worth as a scholarâ€”and avoid an unwanted marriage proposalâ€”while hiding the truth of her fatherâ€™s whereabouts. If her secret gets out, the house of McTavish will fall into ruin.
Quite unexpectedly, Edward and Iris discover a growing attraction as their journey takes them to Paris and Rome, where betrayal, blackmail and outright theft threaten to destroy what could be a revolutionary discoveryâ€”and break their hearts.
Warning: Allergen alert! This book was produced in a facility that handles copious amounts of wine, tea and baked goods. May contain one or more of the following: a spirited heroine, a quirky hero, clever banter, interesting facts both made-up and historical, and lots of secrets. It is, however, gluten free.
An unexpected perk of being an author is that I get to immortalize my favorite cat in the character of Professor Edward Bailey, who is a finicky sort of fellow, at least at first.
Edward is in part named after my cat Bailey, who was a charming and elegant tuxedo cat, although he had his less than graceful moments. We lost him to lymphoma in May 2014, and I was heartbroken. Heâ€™d been with me through graduate school, getting married â€“ he never got used to Hubby taking over his spot on the other pillow in the bed â€“ and starting my career as a psychologist. Heâ€™d perch on the back of my chair while I wrote my first novels. He would also let me carry him around, and he would rub his head under my chin and purr while giving me â€œkitty hugs.â€ As Hubby observed, Bailey the cat had way more social skills than Edward started out with.
Hereâ€™s a glimpse of Edward with his older brother Christopher, who will be the star of a prequel novella to the series, hopefully coming out this fall (edited for length):
Waltham Manor, 07 June 1870
â€œThis is going to be a nightmare.â€ Edward sat in his brotherâ€™s parlor and put his head in his hands. â€œThey want me to go traipsing about Europe and god knows where else and look at art, all in the name of searching for something that doesnâ€™t exist. Art, Christopher.â€
â€œThat, indeed, sounds terrible.â€ Christopher Baileyâ€”or the Duke of Waltham depending on oneâ€™s degree of intimacy with him and his householdâ€”poured two fingers of brandy into a cut crystal glass with the family seal etched on the side. He had his back to Edward, but the shake of his shoulders made Edward wonder if the duke used the opportunity to chuckle at him. Perhaps visiting the family estate on the small chance his brother would suggest a solution hadnâ€™t been such a good idea.
â€œYou know I donâ€™t drink alcohol,â€ Edward told him, and he had to admit to himself how peevish he sounded.
â€œNo, but I do.â€ Christopher turned around and raised his glass. â€œCheers.â€
So it begins, the deterioration of order and sanity, and we havenâ€™t left yet.
â€œAre you sure you donâ€™t want anything?â€ Christopher asked. â€œI have some coffee from our holdings in Jakarta.â€
â€œYour holdings,â€ Edward said. â€œYouâ€™re the duke, Iâ€™m the younger brother. You inherit everything, Iâ€™m content to spend my life drawing a decent, livable salary at the University. You make heirs. I write papers. We do what weâ€™re good at, and for me, that does not include traipsing to goodness knows where and searching for goodness knows what.â€
â€œBut there is no harm in challenging yourself.â€
Edward drew himself up. â€œI have all the challenge I need in my work, which is now going to be hopelessly delayed. I have papers I was going to finish this summer.â€
â€œSpeaking of which, Mary has written her first article and was hoping her Uncle Edward would peer review it for her.â€
Edward groaned, but he had to smile when his niece, accompanied by her mother, entered the parlor and gravely presented a set of papers folded in half, the edge bound with string. On the front, printed in neat childâ€™s scrawl, was â€œOn the Habits of Earthwormsâ€.
â€œI put it in a journal for you, Uncle,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™th on worms.â€
He took it with a serious expression. â€œAnd did you follow the experimental protocol we discussed the last time I was here, of careful observation at regular intervals?â€
â€œYeth, Uncle,â€ she said.
Sheâ€™s the only scientist I know with a lisp.
â€œShe did very well,â€ her mother, the Duchess said. â€œAnd she hopes you will give her work the serious consideration it deserves.â€
He heard the note of warning. The Duchess, formerly Miss Pauline Danahue, had been Miss Ellisâ€™s predecessor and had charmed the Duke on one of his infrequent visits to the department. While Edward was happy for his brother, he never forgave him for stealing away the best secretary theyâ€™d had. Not to mention his setting a dangerous precedent. Edward was sure Miss Ellis now hoped to marry into a title after hearing of what happened to Miss Danahue.
â€œI will read it with the utmost seriousness,â€ he said and set it beside him. Mary climbed on the couch and leaned her head on his arm. The weight of her head barely disturbed him, but what did one do with a seven-year-old child?
â€œThank you, Uncle.â€
â€œMary, come sit beside me,â€ the duchess said. â€œYouâ€™re baking your uncle.â€
With another sigh of long-suffering, the little girl complied.
â€œWell, your uncle is about to embark on a grand adventure,â€ Christopher said.
â€œAn adventure?â€ Mary jumped up from the ottoman where her mother tried to settle her and ran back to Edward. She put both hands on his knees and looked at him with the big blue Bailey family eyes. â€œWhat kind of adventure?â€
â€œYes, Edward, what will this trip entail?â€ Now the duchess folded her hands in her lap and leaned forward with a look of absolute delight. â€œDo you have to travel far?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. It depends.â€ How is the child, who hasnâ€™t been farther than five miles from home, more excited about this than I am?
â€œItâ€™s all rather a secret, Pauline,â€ said Christopher. â€œAll he can say is that thereâ€™s a rich American backer for the trip, and he and Johann Bledsoe are going on the Grand Tour.â€
â€œCan I go?â€ Mary asked. â€œMummy says Iâ€™m a good traveler. I never get sick in our coach.â€
â€œOh, motion sickness. I hadnâ€™t thought of that.â€ Edwardâ€™s stomach swayed at the mere thought of being on a ship. â€œThis gets worse and worse.â€
â€œMary, come sit here. Of course you canâ€™t go. Your uncle and his friend donâ€™t want a little girl tagging along ruining all their fun.â€
â€œNo, but a big one will be,â€ Edward said before he could stop the words from coming out. Seasickness with the possibility of female witnessesâ€”worse yet.
â€œWho?â€ everyone in the room asked.
Edward looked around, aware of the two pairs of blue eyes and one brown fixed on him. What concern is this of theirs? They seem almost giddy at the idea of me being in close quarters with a female for an extended amount of time.
â€œHer name is Iris McTavish,â€ he said, choosing his words as carefully as he would a combination of electrodes for one of his aether experiments, but he feared it was too lateâ€”heâ€™d already incited an explosion of interest. â€œSheâ€™s an antiquarian, or seems to hope to be. Her father, an archaeologist, was to have come on the journey, but heâ€™s ill.â€
â€œAh, yes, Irvin McTavish. A good Scotsman.â€ Christopher drummed his fingers on his knee as he tended to do when pulling up facts and figures from his mental ledger. â€œHeâ€™s been at the university forever. Wife died a few years ago of consumption. Rumor has it heâ€™s dying from it too, but heâ€™s been very close-lipped about what exactly is wrong with him.â€
â€œWhat cause do you have to know of him?â€ Edward asked. â€œYouâ€™re of the business, not university, world.â€
â€œMy interest in the university didnâ€™t end when I snatched Pauline away,â€ Christopher told him. â€œIâ€™m in the habit of making a gift each year to support a scholarship for a promising student in the sciences. Last year it went to a young man in the new geology/archaeology department. McTavish was on the selection committee. I met him at the banquet. Remarkable fellow.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s so extraordinary about him?â€ Edward sat back and crossed his arms. â€œHeâ€™s not a real scientist.â€
â€œRegardless, he has been able to illuminate the mysteries behind many ancient artifacts. They say his intuition is uncanny. Of course he uses his extensive knowledge to piece objects and facts together, but somehow he knows better where to start than anyone else.â€
â€œBut how, Papa?â€ Mary asked.
â€œOthers have been trying to determine his secret methods for years, but none have had success. Rumor has it that heâ€™s not ill at all but is recovering from a poisoning attempt from a jealous colleague.â€
â€œChristopher!â€ The duchess inclined her head toward their daughter, but it was too late.
â€œIs someone going to poison Uncle Edward?â€ Mary asked, her voice rising to an ear-splitting pitch.
â€œOf course not.â€ The duchess stood and held out her hand. â€œNow I believe it is time for you to have your tea with your siblings. Cook has made your favorite cream puffs. Say goodbye to your uncle.â€
â€œGoodbye, Uncle Edward. Will you bring me something?â€
â€œI will try to remember to do so,â€ he said. He patted her â€œjournalâ€. â€œAnd I shall bring this with me to read.â€
The girlâ€™s gap-toothed grin made a curious warmth bloom in his chest, and she hugged him.
â€œThank you, Uncle Edward! God speed.â€
Christopher and Edward stood when the duchess did, and she pecked Edward on the cheek.
â€œTake good care of yourself and your rakish friend, Mister Bledsoe. His violin will be missed at the summer concerts.â€ She swept out with Mary in tow, leaving Edward to his brother.
â€œCream puffs?â€ asked Edward.
â€œOf all that just transpired, you would remember the pastries. Your sweet tooth hasnâ€™t changed, brother.â€ Christopher rang the bell for the maid. â€œBut as much trouble as Iâ€™m in with Pauline over what I told you in front of Mary, itâ€™s good you know the rumors. You had best be on your guard on your travels.â€ He paused and gave Edward a look that mixed affection, tolerance and concern. â€œMore than you normally would be.â€
Eros Element, the first book in the Aether Psychics series, will be available on August 25 from all online retailers in paperback or electronic format.
You can also go here for another excerpt: Random Writings Blog
If you’re interested in checking out some of my writing at a discount price, my second book Long Shadows is currently on sale for 99 cents (ebook). Click hereÂ for more info. It’s the second in a series, but I wrote them all to be written as standalone novels, too.
Thanks so much for reading! I think Bailey the cat would be happy, or at least amused. Please comment below on your favorite pet, or if you donâ€™t do pets, your favorite dessert for the chance to win an advance electronic copy of Eros Element. Like Edward, Iâ€™m a sucker for a good cream puff. Be sure to include your email and what format youâ€™d like the prize in (.mobi, .epub, or .pdf). Iâ€™ll announce the winner in the comment thread tomorrow.
- About the Author
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Steampunk, new adult contemporary, and urban fantasy author with Samhain Publishing. Lover of psychology, so much so I got a doctorate in it. Thoughts fueled by caffeine and chocolate.