I'm here today to talk to you about my novel, Nefertiti's Heart. It's a steampunk read, about a young woman who arrives in London after the strange death of her father. She ends up tangling with a serial killer and a sexy viscount. Instead of taking the Victorian era and completely turning it on its head, in this book I give it a gentle shake and a light twist. Sounds like a cocktail recipe doesn't it? lol
If I had a favorite chapter, it would be chapter 11, when Cara goes sparring with Nate in an underground pit, surrounded by his men. It was an evocative scene to write and shows aspects of both their characters and highlights the danger swirling around Nate that could overflow to Cara, if she gets too close. Here's a peak for you:
Cara's eyes roamed the room, taking in the ever-watchful men. Their numbers had swollen while she and Nathaniel sparred. The air seemed stifling, hot, and sweaty, making her suck in every dry breath, the atmosphere charged, like before an electrical storm. The image of lions on the zebra fled her mind, replaced by a hungry pack of hyenas, with eyes glowing yellow in the dim light. She realised how deep she was in over her head, in a hidden room, surrounded by ravenous predators.
She pulled an edge of bandage and began to unwrap her hand, rolling the cotton as she went, buying herself time to think through her predicament. "No, thank you, I have other plans for this evening. Another time, perhaps."
Hawke elbowed Nathaniel. "She said no to you."
"She does that a lot." He kept his position by her side as she finished rolling the bandage and tossed the bundle to Jackson to put away.
A commotion from the hallway caught their attention. She glanced up to see two miserable-looking men pushed through the door. With their arms tied behind their backs, and unable to put a hand out, they fell hard onto the stone floor. A group of men piled in behind them. Picked up roughly by their forearms, the pair of bound men were dragged to the middle of the room, rudely deposited on the mat, and forced to their knees. The pack scented fear in the air; men circled the two unfortunates. Tension rolled around the room, while they waited for a cue from their leader.
Do you think the excitement of a bad boy is worth the potential danger, or do you prefer the good guy who makes you feel safe?
A. W. Exley
Publisher: Curiosity Quills
ISBN 10: 1620071797
Number of pages: 280
Word Count: 83,000
Cover Artist: Ricky Gunawan
Cara Devon has always suffered curiosity and impetuousness, but tangling with a serial killer might cure that. Permanently.
London, 1861. Impoverished noble Cara has a simple mission after the strange death of her father - sell off his damned collection of priceless artifacts. Her plan goes awry when aristocratic beauties start dying of broken hearts, an eight inch long brass key hammered through their chests. A killer hunts amongst the nobility, searching for a regal beauty and an ancient Egyptian relic rumored to hold the key to immortality.
Her Majesty’s Enforcers are in pursuit of the murderer and they see a connection between the gruesome deaths and Cara. So does she, somewhere in London her father hid Nefertiti’s Heart, a fist sized diamond with strange mechanical workings. Adding further complication to her life, notorious crime lord, Viscount Nathaniel Lyons is relentless in his desire to lay his hands on Cara and the priceless artifact. If only she could figure out his motive.
Self-preservation fuels Cara's search for the gem. In a society where everyone wears a mask to hide their true intent, she needs to figure out who to trust, before she makes a fatal mistake.
About the Author:
Books and writing have always been an enormous part of my life. I survived school by hiding out in the library, with several thousand fictional characters for company. At university, I overcame the boredom of studying accountancy by squeezing in Egyptology papers and learning to read hieroglyphics.
Today, I write steampunk novels with a sexy edge and an Egyptian twist. I live in rural New Zealand surrounded by an assortment of weird and wonderful equines, felines, canine and homicidal chickens.
Excerpt 1 – from Chapter 1
Sunday, June 23
There was something cathartic about wielding a crowbar. Cara used one end to loosen the tacks, before ripping up the expensive, patterned carpet. She tossed the strip in a growing pile by the wall. She never intended to remove all the carpet, but with the cool metal bar in her hand, she lost herself in the rhythm of tearing away a layer from her father's sanctuary. Pushing a deep auburn spike of hair from her forehead, she took a moment's break from the dusty work. As spring gave way to summer, Cara found the air inside the narrow terrace house stuffy and oppressive, a situation exacerbated by her current labour. She flung open the second-storey window, took a large breath of London air, and coughed. Coal smoke and steam belched from the horseless carriages below and spiraled past her window. The combination of the narrow street and tall buildings forced the vehicle emissions skyward.
She blinked the stinging smog from her eyes and leaned on the casement as she surveyed her work. She had taken up most of the library carpet, the floor underneath finally revealed. Coated in several years of dust and grime, the boards appeared dull in the morning light. Pacing the floor, she knew she was close; a spot to one side called to her. The hairs on the backs of her arms rose as she walked the bare boards. Ah. There. She saw wooden planks stained a slightly darker colour. A maid spent hours on her knees there. With a scrubbing brush and bleach, she had tried to wash away the blood before the new carpets were laid.
There was an old saying: blood will out. Cara wondered if this was what her grandmother meant. You can scrub as hard as you want, but you can never remove the taint, not once it leached into the porous fibres of the wood. The stain became a permanent reminder of the violence committed.
Cara remembered she lay on the floor, unaware her blood soaked the carpet and seeped into the floor beneath. Darkness crept over the floor and surrounded her numb body. Oblivion wove tendrils around her, sight the last sense she relinquished. Her vision turned black as her fourteen-year-old self watched her father. He took a book from the shelf and pressed the hidden lever, before the waiting darkness swept her into blessed unconsciousness.