Tag Archives: other: excerpts

excerpt: A Night with the Knight of the Burning Pestle

This is the opening scene of my novella, which takes place in the dressing room about thirty minutes before the play is due to begin.

“Did we ever work out what this play is about?” asked Topher.

“You’re asking me now?” Dale retorted with a mild sense of outrage that was mostly feigned. “It’s our last show!”

“Better late than never.”

“We’re going on in a minute.”

“In thirty minutes,” Topher quietly replied.

Seriously.

They were sitting in their corner of the men’s dressing room, each at his own table – at right angles and far too often at cross purposes. Dale leant in to shoot Topher a fiery look via the reflections in their mirrors. Not that Dale would let Topher rattle him, of course. The friendly repartee they shared was generally for real, and the less good-natured niggling was usually for display purposes only. Dale knew that Topher knew that for Dale the work came first, and if Topher went too far, Dale would simply shut him out.

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The Fine Point of His Soul

The Fine Point of His SoulBlurb: He was the shameful cause of his sister Elena’s death and he stole state papers from England, yet Adrian Hart is feted by the best of society in Rome, and boldly dubs himself ‘Iago’. Determined to avenge Elena, his unrequited love, Lieutenant Andrew Sullivan asks the advice of poet and Shakespearian John Keats, and his artist friend Severn. Soon Percy and Mary Shelley join them, then Lord Byron and his servant Fletcher. But how can the seven of them work against this man, when they can’t even agree what he is? The atheist Shelley insists that Hart is an ordinary man, while Byron becomes convinced he’s the Devil incarnate, and Keats flirts with the idea that he’s Dionysius…

As death and despair follow in Hart’s wake, Sullivan knows he must do something to stop Hart before even Sullivan himself succumbs – but what…?

Originally published in 2012. Re-released in a revised edition in 2016.

Genre: gothic; alternate history; adventure; novel

Word count: 54,000

Look inside! Click here for a PDF of the front matter, prologue and first two chapters from the paperback edition.

Click here for the reviews.

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excerpt: The ‘True Love’ Solution

This is the opening scene of the novel. I hope you’ll be as fond of Jules as I am!

The best thing about working from home, Jules thought as he danced lightly down towards the front door, was … No, strike that. The best thing about working from home was spending all day in his pyjamas. Jules laughed under his breath, and detoured to scoop up Jem’s pashmina from her armchair. He slung it around his hips and fastened it with a loose knot while he sashayed through to the hall. A quick glance in the hall mirror reassured him that his quiff of thick red hair was looking rakishly mussed, and his pale face was unblemished by the remains of breakfast or random pen marks. Presentable, or enough so.

The second best thing about working from home was – No, that wasn’t true either.

The third best thing, Jules amended as the doorbell rang once more, was that he could accept delivery of whatever little goodies might have found their way into his Amazon shopping cart that week. And completely fluster the delivery guy while he was at it.

“Hellooooo!” Jules sang as he flung the door and his arms open wide.

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excerpt: Mitch Rebecki Gets a Life

This is from the first chapter of the novel. Investigative journalist Mitch has been making a bit too much trouble for a crime boss – who makes threats, but not so seriously that the police can do much about it. In any case, Mitch’s editor Tom has a better idea.

The next morning, Mitch arrived at work to find a note on his desk – in Tom’s own handwriting – directing him to Tom’s office ‘ASAP’. This was followed, in the typically understated Australian way, with three exclamation marks. Mitch shrugged, put his satchel down on his desk, and went to obey.

If Mitch had expected Tom to be angry and concerned about the bomb that hadn’t after all been a bomb, he was disappointed. Instead Tom seemed to be bubbling over with excitement. His eyes were sparking, so much so that Mitch worried vaguely about electrical fires. Tom even stood from his desk, and came to usher Mitch to a seat, before closing the door.

“I’ve got an idea,” Tom announced. “A great idea, a wonderful idea …”

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excerpt: The Thousand Smiles of Nicholas Goring

This excerpt is from the first chapter of the novel, which is set seven years after Dave and Nicholas were married. They are at the Brisbane airport to meet Robin, Nicholas’s nephew, who is coming to stay with them during the English summer.

_MG_1349The next morning saw Dave and Nicholas at the airport early to collect Robin. They joined the line-up leaning on the waist-high barriers, greeted with nods and friendly monosyllables from the drivers and tour operators and such, some of whom had known Dave since he was a kid. “Brought the missus with you, then?” one of them commented to Dave.

Nicholas snorted with quiet humour, but Dave answered seriously enough. “Yeah, his nephew’s coming to visit for his summer holidays. Well, you know … it’s winter here, summer up there.”

“Got everything arse-about, them Poms.”

“You just wait,” Nicholas muttered darkly. “The magnetic poles will reverse, and then where will you be?”

“Still in God’s own country, mate!”

“So you will,” Nicholas happily responded. “And so will I!”

There was a general round of laughter, and then everyone fell back to their earlier silence or desultory talk. Nicholas nudged Dave with an elbow, and indicated the cold hard floor on the other side of the barriers. “That’s where I was when I saw you for the very first time.”

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excerpt: A Threefold Cord

The first scene of the novel. We meet Grae and his actor-colleagues Ben and Chris while they’re filming a TV show called The Justice of Godbolt.

A Threefold CordBen Clyde was playing the feudal lord Godbolt with quiet gravitas and a nobility that felt astonishingly natural. Graeme was Cassius, Godbolt’s loyal yet restlessly intelligent younger brother. Chris Willoughby was the contrary villager, Jackin.

“He’s woefully miscast,” Grae said one day to Ben, as the two of them waited through yet another change in lighting. They were sitting huddled into their modern-day coats, hands tucked deep into pockets. The medieval hall they were using on location hadn’t been designed with filming in mind, and if it had ever had clever underfloor heating, that had been out of whack for centuries. “He was just too ridiculously handsome to resist.”

“He certainly has charisma,” Ben agreed, giving Grae a warm glance and rueful smile. “The peasants, in this case, are not revolting.”

“He’s here to woo the audience,” Grae continued. “There aren’t many who’ll be swooning over either of us!” Grae watched as Chris effortlessly chatted up the grip, who was really experienced enough a crew member to know better than to sleep with the cast. Surely few would ever resist Chris’s roguishly dark good looks, though. A silence belatedly drew Grae’s attention back to Ben. “Not that you’re not worth swooning over,” Grae offered in a sincere tone.

Under Ben’s calm exterior, there was the merest hint of hurt, though he said with equal honesty, “Oh, I have no illusions.”

“It’s just the role. You don’t get to do your smoulder. I know for a fact that your smoulder would bring anyone to their knees.”

Continue reading excerpt: A Threefold Cord

excerpt: Of Dreams and Ceremonies

An excerpt from the novel. It’s Dave’s first full day in England, and not only does he meet the infamous chauffeur, but he and Nicholas have to work out what happens next.

Another Butterfly from Wikimedia Commons“Poor David has had to leave his beloved Land Cruiser behind in Australia – “

“Are you joking? I’m having it shipped out.”

“So, Frank, I thought maybe you’d give him a tour of the cars sometime, and see if there’s something that might distract him from the grief.”

“Of course, Nicholas,” Frank replied. “Tomorrow morning, perhaps, sir?”

“Um, after lunch would be better. If that doesn’t get in the way of your work.”

“Plans already?” Nicholas commented with a slightly quirked smile.

“Plans … jetlag …” Dave gestured vaguely: Who could possibly know?

They agreed that Nicholas would accompany Dave to the garage at around two-thirty the following afternoon. And then Frank added that if there were any motors that Dave took a shine to, there’d be no problem with him using them, working on them, driving them …

“Thanks,” said Dave, quite genuinely. Though as he and Nicholas finally took their leave of Frank and started heading back towards the house, Dave complained, “I can’t believe you want me to cheat on the Cruiser!”

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excerpt: The Apothecary’s Garden

An excerpt from the novel. Tom begins to explore Hilary’s overgrown physic garden.

Rhododendron nipponicumThere was a stone terrace of sorts just outside the back door, with steps against the wall leading down to the left. Plants that probably should have remained shrubs had grown tall here, right up against the tower’s feet, with gnarly branches looming aggressively towards the doorway, reaching even over Tom’s head. Hilary had only ever ventured out here once before, and had very soon retreated back inside.

Tom, however, seemed undaunted. In fact, he seemed positively cheerful. “Well, this won’t do, will it? I’m glad you said that about being ruthless, because this lot will have to go.”

Hilary managed to say something fervent about his undying gratitude.

“In the meantime, I’m going to see how far I can work my way through from the bottom of the steps,” he announced. “There might be a relatively open area in there.”

“You’ll be careful, won’t you … ?” Though Hilary was at a loss to describe what he feared might happen. Perhaps he was imagining that Tom would get stuck as if in a briar patch, and Hilary wouldn’t be able to follow him in and bring him back out again.

“Of course I’ll be careful,” Tom reassured him with a grin. “I’ll start clearing a path, if it’s any use, but what I’ll definitely do is cut back some of those bushes right up against the paved area there. You should at least be able to see out!”

“Oh!” said Hilary, not knowing what he’d ever done to deserve this. It was true that the kitchen and living area at the back of the tower were rather dark rooms, even though they faced to the south; sometimes he didn’t even bother drawing the curtains in the morning. The idea of getting some more light into his home was wonderful. “Thank you, Tom.”

“Don’t mention it!” Another wink as the young man reached the bottom of the steps – and then with a twist and a wriggle, Tom disappeared into the dark foliage.

Continue reading excerpt: The Apothecary’s Garden

excerpt: Butterfly Hunter

An excerpt from the novel. Australian tour guide Dave first meets his rather unexpected new client, Nicholas, the son of an English earl.

Microsoft Office clipart (cropped) - ButterflyThe plane was due in just after seven in the morning. Dave made sure he was there in plenty of time, even though the Englishman would need to go through passport control, collect his luggage, and then get through quarantine. All of which would take an hour, probably – but it would be just Dave’s luck if he turned up at eight to find that the earl’s son had been processed as a VIP or some such thing, and had been waiting on him ever since.

Dave found a place to lean on the waist-high barriers with the drivers and others carrying signs. His own read GORING. That was the guy’s name. Nicholas Goring. Which perhaps made his father Earl Goring, or was it the Earl of Goring … ? When Dave wasn’t chatting in an early morning haze to his current companions, he spent the time trying to remember whether he’d had any clue about whether Nicholas was the eldest son or not – and if he was, whether that meant Dave should address him as ‘my lord’ or as ‘sir’. He’d looked it up on Wikipedia, realised he’d need to email the butler for more information, and then promptly let it all slip his mind.

He was kicking himself, metaphorically at least. He was always more professional than this. Always. And all right, maybe titles didn’t matter very much – though he was sure they’d matter more to an Englishman than an Australian – but no one could afford to be this slapdash in the Outback. Why would Goring trust Dave with his life, if he couldn’t even get this detail right?

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excerpt: Albert J Sterne: Future Bright, Past Imperfect

An excerpt from the story The Rending of Cloth (New York City, October 1952). The child Albert grieves for his murdered parents.

Microsoft Office clipartAlbert’s early childhood was mostly vague impressions. The love between his parents, and their love for Albert, was strong and constant and inviolate. But none of them were ever very demonstrative, there were never any displays of sentiment. The love was simply there as the foundation of everything they did, all the choices they made, the way they kept company only with each other, the scrupulous care taken to ensure that Albert had everything he needed to grow into everything he could be.

There were hazy moments he could remember. Albert, curled up in his father’s lap, listening to Rebecca’s calm voice tell the story of an old friend, long dead; Miles as rapt as the boy. The three of them being polite at some obscure relative’s after­noon tea, then mischievously sharing their boredom with each other through grimaces and raised eye­brows behind the woman’s back – they had gone home and read all evening, happy in their shared silence. Both of his parents a little giddy, someone having talked them into a fine restaurant on their twelfth wedding anniversary, dressing in their usual dull clothes – but Miles had bought Rebecca a silk scarf. The dark green of it picked out the reddish tint to her brown hair, which she left loose for once. Her eyes had glowed.

Late that night, she clutched the scarf in her dead hand and wouldn’t let it go.

Continue reading excerpt: Albert J Sterne: Future Bright, Past Imperfect