Euphoria by Jayne Lockwood
Jayne Lockwood has a new queer sci fi book out:
It might take the arrival of an alien being to remind an isolated man what it means to be human.
With a stressful job, his boss breathing down his neck for profitable results, and an estranged wife and daughter, scientist Kurt Lomax doesn’t think life can get much harder. Until a nonbinary extraterrestrial with an otherworldly beauty, captivating elegance, and a wicked sense of humor inconveniently shows up at his apartment.
Vardam watched the destruction of their own world, and they don’t want to see the same thing happen on Earth. They are lonely, and feelings soon develop between them and the supposedly straight scientist—feelings Kurt reciprocates, much to his confusion.
The arrival of cheery interpreter Tom Soames—whose Goth appearance belies a gentle heart—is like a ray of sunshine in the somber lab. He acts as matchmaker for man and tentacled extraterrestrial, unwittingly instigating a national crisis when the news breaks out.
But will a misunderstanding ruin Kurt and Vardam’s chances for happiness together—along with the hope for peace between humanity and the Var?
Jayne is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card with this tour – enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win.
Direct link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4722/?
Three hours later, they were still none the wiser.
“Any joy with communications?”
Nic shook her head. “None. They don’t seem to respond to any spoken language. I’ve tried binary code, sonar, whale music, radio waves. Not a flicker. I’m not sure how well they can see or hear. They won’t let me near enough to do any examinations. They just keep staring at me like I’m the one who isn’t getting it. It’s really frustrating.”
When Kurt looked again, Vardam was there. With a graceful tilt of the head, they watched him as he approached the glass.
“What about the forensics on that note?”
“Just got them,” Troy said, looking up from his computer. “The note was written with an old-style Bic ballpoint pen by a human female….”
“Human? Are you sure?”
“I can’t argue with the evidence. There was a trace of fingerprint on the paper but nothing I can analyze. The paper looks like any A4 copy from a twentiethcentury printer or photocopier. The only thing is, I think it might have been written by someone in distress. The handwriting is very jerky, like they weren’t sure what to write and then just dashed it down. But….” Troy shrugged his wide shoulders. “That last bit’s a hunch. Could be totally wrong. Still waiting on the DNA.”
“Thanks, Troy. Let me know as soon as you get it.”
He turned back to where Vardam was standing, staring at him with those unnerving gemstone eyes.
“Who are you?”
Vardam raised their hand, running the back of it down the glass close to Kurt’s face. He jerked away. It was too close for comfort, even with three inches of glass between them. Vardam backed away as well, as if alarmed by his sudden movement. For reasons he didn’t understand, he was irritated beyond measure by their wounded expression.
“Talk to me, damn it! What do you want with me?” He smacked his hand against the glass. The sharp slap shocked Vardam into stepping back. They bared gold teeth at him and made a gesture that looked almost obscene. Then they dropped into a crouch. Immediately, a smooth iridescent shell closed over their hunched body, covering it completely.
Kurt and Nic exchanged glances, then looked back at the pod. It was completely smooth, devoid of any seams or openings. Every few seconds it quivered. Kurt could almost feel the waves of disapproval emanating from the gleamingsurface.
“Well, that’s new,” Nic said. “Get some rest. I’ll babysit until ten. Troy will take the graveyard shift.”
Kurt tore his angry gaze away from the strange pod. The way it hunched reproachfully in the corner didn’t improve his mood one bit. He knew he was more than tired. He felt emotionally and physically drained and couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten a proper meal. Not that he was hungry. He just wanted sleep.
In his apartment, he lay naked in his wide bed. He was thinking about his continued feud with James Dyer. The issue dangled over his career like a sword of Damocles but all he could see was the beautiful creature. Those eyes, staring into his ragged soul. What did they want?
The telephone by his bed rang, waking him from an unnerving dream. Glancing at the clock, he saw it was 6:15. The last eight hours had passed frighteningly quickly.
“Hello?” His voice sounded faded.
“Sorry to wake you, Professor, but I’ve got the DNA results back. You need to see them.”
“I’ll be right down.”
He stumbled out of bed and into the shower. Twenty minutes later he was down in the lab, a fresh white coat over his shirt and tie.
In the isolation room, Vardam had emerged from their shell. The melon had been eaten, apart from the rinds, neatly scalloped with teeth marks.
“It was just as I thought it would be. There’s human DNA on that note. Female. I took the liberty of cross-checking it against the National DNA Database and found a match. Whoever wrote this note is related to you. Not just distantly, but directly of your bloodline.”
Kurt looked closer at the screen. It was policy to hold the medical details of everyone at the Bunker, including himself. Even so, he wondered why he wasn’t more surprised.
It was impossible but saying so would have been redundant. The evidence was right there in front of him. He walked over to the glass and beckoned to Vardam. They gave him a withering look and turned away, presenting a bony back to the window.
“I think we’re going to have to use the softly-softly approach,” Troy said. “They’re not going to tell us anything until they’re ready. And I’ve got another hunch. I think they’re using BSL.”
“British Sign Language?” Kurt was skeptical.
“I know it sounds weird, but there’s a guy who works at Tesco in Wycombe. He uses it with some of the customers. It looks the same. It’s worth a try, isn’t it?” Troy prodded buttons on his iPad. The official website came up with a finger-spelling option. “Not all words have signs, obviously, so each letter has a sign, right?”
“I know the principles of sign language,” Kurt said irritably. The alien was an inconvenience, however beautiful they were.
“You write in your name, and the finger shapes come up.” Troy typed rapidly. Kurt’s surname appeared on the screen in sign.
Troy gently tapped on the glass. “Hello?”
Vardam turned around, saw it was Troy, and ambled over. Troy showed them the diagrams on the iPad screen. The alien nodded, repeated the signs, and pointed at Kurt. Then it signed, “I am….”
“I can’t tell what they’re saying,” Troy said. “They’re too fast. Hang on.” He typed again. “I’ve found a YouTube video for learning phrases. Ah! This one is easy.” He put the iPad down and signed, making a sad face, swirling his fist on his stomach, then raising both hands over his head, shaking it at the same time.
“What are you doing?”
“Telling him I don’t understand. It’s ‘way over my head.’ Get it?”
Vardam seemed to. They signed “okay,” then turned to Kurt and made another gesture, flattening one hand and punching up into it with the other.
“My instincts are telling me that isn’t good,” Troy said. “Looks like we need to find ourselves a sign language expert.”
“We can’t bring anyone else in at the moment. Certainly not in a professional capacity. The government will be all over us before we know it.” As Kurt said it, the seed of an idea was forming in his mind. “Where did you say that BSL user worked again?”
Jayne Lockwood has always wanted to learn to fly. Spending free time honing her Peter Pan skills on an aerial hoop, she also creates flights of fancy in her books, mingling sex and romance with angst and a healthy dash of dark humor.
Since she was a small child, Jayne has always sympathized with the villain. It all began with Alice Cooper, even though she was banned from listening to his music by her mother. From wanting to sail away with Captain Hook or redeeming the Child Catcher, the antihero has been an enduring fascination ever since.
After a two-year sojourn in New Jersey and two decades of child-rearing, Jayne is an outwardly respectable member of an English village community. She also is one of the founder members of WROTE podcast, which is dedicated to showcasing LGBTQA authors and their work, and now writes book reviews as well as diverse fiction.
She is also in a sub/dom relationship with a cat called Keith.
Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jayne.lockwood.71
Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/hollowhillspublishing/
QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/jayne-lockwood/
EUPHORIA BLOG TOUR – The birth of Euphoria (and a deleted snippet)
By Jayne Lockwood
Hi everyone, and very many thanks for letting me take over your blog for this post.
Have you ever read a book and wondered afterwards where the hell that idea came from in the first place? If you’ve ever thought about what an author’s mindset is like when they come up with storylines which seem completely leftfield, here is a bit of an insight.
I had no idea I was going to write Euphoria before I started. If someone had said to me “write a science fiction book,” I would have instantly forgotten my teenage enthusiasm and run away screaming about sci-fi geeks flaying me for incompetence. Yes there was also a nebulous idea of a setting. Where I live there are any number of weird and wonderful places begging to have stories written about them. Also, I wanted to give myself the challenge of writing a love story with tentacles, and make it relatable and romantic, rather than so niche only a handful of people would want to read it. Finally, the whole MPREG (male pregnancy) genre puzzled me. Having read three concurrent books of shifters getting knocked up, fade to black births and golden-haired, perfect off-spring, I felt a bit short-changed. I’m not talking about transmen here. I’m talking about human/wolf hybrids popping out Aryan offspring without any visible effort (what, no puppies? How so?) Where was the screaming, the terror, the blood and guts, hemorrhoids, wind, cankles, zero interest in sex and aversion to the smell of tuna? Nope. Something wasn’t right.
So I decided to do something about that, but as these things tend to do, it evolved.
Crucially, I didn’t put myself under pressure. I have three novels stewing in the background, but none of them were working for me right then. I badly needed to write something. Looking back, the first chapter of Euphoria I actually wrote was Kurt spinning out after overdosing on Vardanium, and that scene didn’t even make it into the final novel in the end! (I’ve added it below.) Because I began to write knowing I wouldn’t be showing it to anyone, the pressure to perform, to do things the “right” way, was absent. I could play with ideas, characters, concepts. The freedom allowed creativity to run riot. After all, no-one was going to read it.
I can honestly say I’ve never written a novel so fast before, and I think it was because of the lack of expectation. It taught me much for future work. The next novel is developing in the same sort of way, without constrictions of what is “right.” And again, this approach is gleaning surprising results. It’s worth saying that I could be dismissed as a “hobby” writer, one that doesn’t have to worry about deadlines from publishers. The only deadlines I have are the ones I set for myself, until a publisher takes an interest, that is. For people who rely on writing to put food on the table, it isn’t possible to just “see how it develops.” I appreciate that, but for me this isn’t a hobby. It’s a passion and one I take seriously, even when talking about tentacle sex.
Back to Euphoria, I’ve obviously polished it since the idea was put forward that I unleash it on the wider world. After I gave it to a friend (“read this. I’m not publishing. I’d be locked up…”) things began to happen rather fast. I have good, honest friends to thank for this (they are in the dedication at the front so I won’t embarrass them here.) and I appreciate their input more than they will ever know.
I guess the moral of this post is, don’t let anything stifle your creativity. Write that weird-ass book you thought of at 3am, then chickened out of in the cold light of day. See where it goes. It might turn into something strange and wonderful that people will want to read. Time will tell if that’s the case with Euphoria, but it’s worth free-wheeling it and seeing what you’re capable of. The results might surprise you.
Deleted Snippet from Euphoria
Kurt tried to focus on the face in front of him, but his eyes did not have the strength. Memories crept in, like spreading cracks on a windshield. His grandmother, scrubbing his hands until they were raw. Dirt is evil. Filth defies the Lord. Eating cold, tasteless broth. Meat is murder. Dairy is filthy. The body is a temple. To defile it is to burn in hell.
Pain shot through his limbs, making him gasp. The warmth had gone and it was cold. So very cold. He began to shiver as the golden light in his head began to dissipate, replaced with black, horrific images of his thoughts, skittering around in his brain like spiders, confusing his analytical mind and turning it into a jumble of short-circuiting wires.
Yet he was thirsty as if he had been crawling through the Sahara in the middle of the day, his hands shaking like that of an old man. His vision was edged with dark, a daguerrotype devoid of colour, the images morphing and shifting, making no sense.
Someone approached him, their eyes black, worms sliding out of their open mouth. He screamed and backed away as their face changed to a Día de Muertos grinning mask, teeth gnashing. He backed away, trembling, until he was caught in an iron vice.
“Vardanium. I need it,” he heard himself gasp.
“Get help!” Someone was yelling. Muscular arms closed around him. He wanted to struggle but he was too weak. He fell into their arms and let himself be carried away as the needle slipped into his vein.
Super For You, Bad For Me by Asta Idonea
Meet Asta Idonea
Asta Idonea (aka Nicki J. Markus) was born in England but now lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She has loved both reading and writing from a young age and is also a keen linguist, having studied several foreign languages.
Asta launched her writing career in 2011 and divides her efforts not only between MM and mainstream works but also between traditional and indie publishing. Her works span the genres, from paranormal to historical and from contemporary to fantasy. It just depends what story and which characters spring into her mind!
As a day job, Asta works as a freelance editor and proofreader, and in her spare time she enjoys music, theatre, cinema, photography, and sketching. She also loves history, folklore and mythology, pen-palling, and travel, all of which have provided plenty of inspiration for her writing.
Matt Doyle has a new lesbian sci fi book out:
New Hopeland City may have been built to be the centerpiece of the technological age, but some remnants of the old world still linger. The tools of the trade have changed, but the corruption remains the same, even in the criminal underworld …
When PI Cassie Tam and her girlfriend Lori try to make up for their recent busy schedules with a night out at the theatre to watch the Tech Shift performer Kitsune, the last thing they expected was for Cassie to get a job offer. But some people are never off the clock, and by the end of the evening, Cassie has been drawn into a mundane but highly paid missing pet case. Unfortunately, in New Hopeland City, even something as simple as little lost dog can lead you down some dark paths.
Until now, Cassie wasn’t aware that there even was a rabbit hole, let alone how far down it goes.
“I’m sorry, but did you want to get changed before we speak? We’d be happy to leave the room while you get ready. It must be hard work performing in both the TS gear and a kimono thick enough to house projectors without them moving out of line with each other, even if they are the smaller, lightweight models.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” Kitsune sighs. “There’s a wireless motion detection system in each hand too,” they add, waving two metallic, clawed paws. “You’ll note that my tails are missing. They don’t yet make multi-tailed suits, you see, and the number is important within the folklore, so we had to find other solutions. The projector tucked under the obi sash keeps the back open nicely, and it allows movement, both in animation and in the actual device, but it’s a bit stronger than the main ones.”
“Meaning that it’s heavier,” I reply.
“Indeed. The way the system works is identical to the tail guidance in regular suits though.”
I frown and Lori clarifies, “Regular Tech Shift gear uses two small wireless touchpads to control tails, one for the bottom half, and one for the top half. They’re embedded in the hand rest of Ink’s front legs. For hybrid-style gear, they usually sit inside the thumb of each hand. It’s the same concept in each one, but animal-style gear allows for bigger movements, while hybrid gear measures micro movements.”
“Which would be rather fiddly, given the level of movement that I require. These are built into the paw pads and are set to register larger movements so that the tails can move in time with the different dance routines and my more flamboyant gestures,” Kitsune explains, demonstrating one of the hand flourishes from the show. They pause then and chuckle. “Ah, but I’m rambling. I am afraid that changing is, contractually speaking, impossible. Will my appearance be a problem?”
“No, I’m used to Tech Shifters…”
Lori laughs and cuts in with, “You are sonot used to us yet.”
I laugh quietly, despite myself. The miserable old loner that still lives in my head says I should be angry about that; I’m working after all. But the part of me that was enjoying the evening is far more prominent and reminds me that this was supposed to be Lori’s evening too. I can allow her a small jab or two on that basis. “My early experiences with Tech Shifters were notpositive,” I say, addressing Kitsune. “I’m getting better, though. What do you mean by ‘contractually speaking,’ if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Not at all. It is essentially as it sounds. The Kitsune brand is a joint venture between myself and Kevin, and there is a lot of paperwork involved dealing with how the whole thing is to be played out in every mundane situation that you could imagine. What it means is that I can boss Kevin about and make him my dogsbody as much as is required, but at the same time, I must respect his rather brilliant marketing strategies. Part of that means that the mystery of the Kitsune’s true identity is to be protected at all times. As such, I do not meet with anyone without my professionalface on. It seems a little strange, I know, but he was previously a historian of certain old-world sporting brands by trade and thought that applying a degree of what he called kayfabewould help give the whole thing a new edge. I can’t say that he was wrong.”
“So, are you Kitsune when you’re around family too?” Lori asks. “Or partners?”
“Oh, I have no time for partners, not with mytouring schedule. With family, I can be myself, though Kevin did insist upon them signing a gagging order to prevent them from revealing my identity to anyone who hadn’t signed a similar contract. You should have seen my mother’s face when he brought that up. I honestly thought that the rolling pin she was holding was going to be put to nefarious use. Outside Kevin, even my oldest friends do not know who resides beneath the mask.”
“That must be hard to maintain,” I say.
“Oh yes, I have cover stories and everything. It’s somewhat akin to witness protection if television is to be believed. As far as most know, I am simply a touring stagehand for the great performing fox spirit.”
I nod. “Kitsune, as pleasant as this is, I assume there was a reason that you wanted to see me?”
“Oh yes, of course. I saw the news coverage of your recent success with that Gary Locke character,” they say, and Lori flinches slightly. “As far as local detectives go, there are plenty of them about, but you are certainly the most well regarded. I have actually been in town for a week now, and I am due to remain here for a further two. I am afraid that, over that initial period, I was subject to a crime of the nature I am led to believe the police do not take overly seriously.”
“The police wouldn’t be happy about not knowing your identity, regardless of the crime. If it’s one that they won’t usually touch, that doesn’t leave many possibilities. What are we talking about?”
“It is rather lonely on the road,” they sigh wistfully. “A few months ago, we stopped in Toledo, and I was awoken from a post-performance nap by a clattering outside the tour bus. I wandered out, expecting to find a fan or two hunting autographs, and instead found this charming little thing skulking around the bins. I named him Fish.”
Kitsune produces a phone from their kimono, loads up a photo, and passes it over. It shows a snow white American Shepherd dog sitting on one of the tour bus seats and giving the camera a suspicious look. It’s too big to be a puppy, but certainly not big enough to be fully grown.
“You named your dog Fish?”
“It seems strange, doesn’t it?” Kitsune laughs. “There’s a reason, though.” They take the phone back and enlarge the picture, revealing that the dog’s tail is about half the length it should be. It was easy to miss at normal size because the single colouring made it seem like it was tucked under its legs. “When I was young, my parents had some rosetail betta fish. One of them was pure white, and it had a habit of nibbling through its tail fin. When we took Fish to the vet, they said that the tail damage, judging by the angle of the marks, was likely self-inflicted. I couldn’t remember what my parents called the fish, so I just stuck with Fish.”
I nod. “And I assume that Fish is now missing?”
“I am afraid so. It happened yesterday, during the early hours. I was woken by a loud bang and found that Fish was gone, and the tour bus door was open.”
“Could Fish have run away?”
“It would have been difficult for him to open the door, but not impossible. I don’t think that he would have run, though. We were lifelines for each other, you see. He kept me company during the day, and when he had nightmares, I comforted him. If he was spooked, he would usually run and hide near my bed. I heard something else too, a van door being slammed shut maybe? And then an engine.”
“So you’re thinking that he was stolen.”
“Honestly? I don’t know. Do you think that you could take the case? How much would it cost?”
Matt Doyle lives in the South East of England and shares his home with a wide variety of people and animals, as well as a fine selection of teas. He has spent his life chasing dreams, a habit which has seen him gain success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.
These days, Matt can be found working on far too many novels at once, blogging about anime, comics, and games, and plotting and planning what other things he’ll be doing to take up what little free time he has.
By Matt Doyle
Whereas Addict saw PI Cassie Tam investigating the death of a virtual reality junkie, The Fox, The Dog, and The King deals with a very different case: a missing pet. Here, Cassie is hired by a touring performance artist named Kitsune to find their dog Fish. Fish is a white American Shepherd that Kitsune and their manager found abandoned during a previous tour. After making sure that the fuzzball was given proper medical treatment, they adopted him, and he’s been living with the pair ever since. Over the time that they’ve been together, Kitsune and Fish have become a bit a lifeline for each other too; Kitsune providing Fish with a stable home and comforts him when he’s upset, and Fish providing companionship for the lonely performer. Unfortunately, the man that stole Fish has dark intentions for the pooch: he’s setting up a dogfight.
Now, from here, I shall be providing some mild spoilers for part of the book. While I won’t be going into great detail about the overall mystery, I will be addressing the topic of dogfight itself. The thing with it is, dogfighting is frowned upon in New Hopeland City. Regular citizens and law enforcement view it as a deplorable act, as you would expect, but it goes further than that. The Criminal Underworld in New Hopeland doesn’t take too kindly to it either. This is perhaps best illustrated by Charlie Goldman, herself one of the most renowned drug dealers in the city. When she discovers what’s going on, she comments: “If he’s setting up dogfights, he’s going to be looking at repercussions from more people than he probably realizes. We don’t do animal cruelty.”
So that means that it’s not just law-abiding people that will be upset with the man in question, but groups of drug dealers, assassins, crime lords, and thieves alike. With that much at risk, you have to question why he’d set the thing up in the first place, especially as those that are set to attend aren’t too happy about being there either.
The answer is simple: he is employed by a member of the Criminal Underworld in a legal capacity and, after discovering something unexpected about his employer, has decided to set them up for a fall. He doesn’t just want to hurt them, he wants them taken out of the equation completely for his own gains. And what better way to do that than to set him up as the culprit behind an act so cruel that even his fellow criminals would turn on him?
Okay, so that probably sounds a little worrying, right? The truth is though, I’m an animal lover myself, and I could never write something like that actually coming to fruition. So, this is the biggest spoiler of the piece: the dogfight is stopped. Cassie turns up just as things are about to get started and, aided by her metallic gargoyle Bert, manages to disrupt proceedings before the dogs are made to fight. The police arrive shortly after, and Fish is given a happy reunion with his owner.
But the man responsible escapes. You don’t need to worry though, there is still plenty of the book left after this, and Cassie soon shifts from working a missing pet case to taking part in a manhunt for the culprit, with the ultimate goal of bringing him to justice.
Welcome to My World