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.
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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
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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.
8/27/2018 01:02:36 pm
8/27/2018 04:25:27 pm
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