The Jackal’s House ( Lancaster’s Luck#2) by Anna Butler
Publication Date: 30 October 2017
Cover Artist: Reese Dante,Illustrator (Map): Margaret Warner
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Anna Butler here today on her tour for The Jackal’s House. Welcome, Anna.
The Tickle Of Scarabs’ Feet by Anna Butler
You might have thought I got scarabs out of my system with the first Rafe and Ned book, The Gilded Scarab, but no, not quite. I couldn’t see how to set a book in Aegypt and not include the most mystical beetle of all somewhere. Scarabs are so quintessentially Egyptian, Rafe himself remarks, “I was fated to be haunted by the damned things.” So in The Jackal’s House I gave him a couple of experiences of my own where scarabs are concerned. One was rather sad, when my first ever live scarab ended up as a lizard’s lunch, so we won’t revisit that here. That’s rather too strong a reminder of how death is the prevailing characteristic of Ancient Egypt!
Years ago, in Sakkara, after walking around Djoser’s step pyramid and laying my hand on five thousand years given physical shape, after the cool of the Serapeum where bulls were once feted as gods and mummified like pharaohs, there was a tomb on the desert fringe. I don’t remember now whose tomb it was. Some Old Kingdom noble whose coloured statue still sat in the niche, the serdab, where once his family laid offerings of food and wine. In the doorway to his tomb, in a shallow depression in the sand, the scarabs ran and scuttled. They’re big and black. I was the only member of our group who picked one up and let it sit there, filling the palm of my hand. I’ll admit right now I was a little bit worried that it would bite—those beetles have big jaws. But it didn’t. It just sat there, quite patiently, waiting for me to be done playing. And when I set it down again, and tilted my hand to let it run off back onto the sand. I laughed. Maybe slightly from relief at being unbitten, but mostly because its legs and feet tickled the skin of my palm as it went.
I love beetles. They’re the gems of the insect world, their bodies showing an astonishing range of colour and pattern, often in rich,
jewel colours: ruby red, sapphire, a glorious emerald green. Admittedly, the dull black sacred scarabs of Egypt don’t quite fall into that category, but they have deserts and pyramids on their side instead. They’re emblematic of sand, the Nile, and skies that are the colour of beaten copper at noon—mysterious, a symbol of the romance of ancient Egypt. I can forgive them for being a little dull to look at.
I’m in poetic mood today, for some reason. My husband and I visited Egypt for our first wedding anniversary and now I’ve been writing about archaeological expeditions there, I’ve been thinking a lot about that trip to Egypt. So much of it is in my heart and memory, and certainly one highlight was a big black beetle that consented to sit on my hand for a moment.
You know, I’m not surprised that so much of my writing has a scarab running through it. Scarabs symbolise rebirth and new chances and starting again. Scarabs are about never giving in and how each morning the scarab lifts the disc of the sun up on its wide wings to signal the start of a new day.
That’s not a bad philosophy to live by. Or to write by.
And their feet tickle. You can’t ask better than that.
About The Book
Something is stalking the Aegyptian night and endangering the archaeologists excavating the mysterious temple ruins in Abydos. But is it a vengeful ancient spirit or a very modern conspiracy…
Rafe Lancaster’s relationship with Gallowglass First Heir, Ned Winter, flourishes over the summer of 1900, and when Rafe’s House encourages him to join Ned’s next archaeological expedition, he sees a chance for it to deepen further. Since all the Houses of the Britannic Imperium, Rafe’s included, view assassination as a convenient solution to most problems, he packs his aether pistol—just in case.
Trouble finds them in Abydos. Rafe and Ned begin to wonder if they’re facing opposition to the Temple of Seti being disturbed. What begins as tricks and pranks escalates to attacks and death, while the figure of the Dog—the jackal-headed god Anubis, ruler of death—casts a long shadow over the desert sands. Destruction follows in his wake as he returns to reclaim his place in Abydos. Can Rafe and Ned stand against both the god and House plots when the life of Ned’s son is on the line?
Genre: Steampunk adventure m/m romance
Sequel to The Gilded Scarab
About The Series
Lancaster’s Luck is set in a steampunk world where, at the turn of the 20th century, the eight powerful Convocation Houses are the de facto rulers of the Britannic Imperium. In this world of politics and assassins, a world powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston and where aeroships fill the skies, Captain Rafe Lancaster, late of Her Majesty’s Imperial Aero Corps, buys a coffee house in one of the little streets near the Britannic Museum in Bloomsbury.
So begins the romantic steampunk adventures which have Rafe, a member of Minor House Stravaigor, scrambling over Londinium’s rooftops on a sultry summer night or facing dire peril in the pitch dark of an Aegyptian night. And all the while, sharing the danger is the man he loves: Ned Winter, First Heir of Convocation House Gallowglass, the most powerful House in the entire Imperium.
We didn’t stay up late. It was barely ten when we headed up to our rooms on the second floor, trailed by Sam and Hugh. Todd was out at the aerodrome, keeping watch with his men over the Brunel.
“I’ll be glad to get back to the dig tomorrow,” Ned said. “Come and have a cigar and some brandy, Rafe.”
Which invitation I was quick to accept, as you might imagine. Hugh gave me a knowing grin and went off to his own room with nary a backward glance. Ned’s room, beside mine, overlooked the Ezbekieh Gardens. Sam had left the floor-to-ceiling windows open when we went down to dinner, the billowing muslin curtains filtering the sounds and smells of the Cairo night. The faint scent of woodsmoke and tarry aether rolled in as an autocar went by on its way to the Abdeen Palace where the Khedive held court.
Sam was suddenly the perfect servant. He brought Ned and me glasses of a fine champagne cognac and a box of fragrant cigars before moving on silent feet to close the window shutters against the night and light the lamp on a small table near the bed. The little screw-valve at the side of the globe squeaked as he turned it clockwise to open the pipe, the luminiferous aether hissing louder than a snake at the zoo when someone taps the glass sides of its terrarium. Sam adjusted each lamp to a warm glow inside the big glass globe by passing his hand over it. The lightning in the globe sprang into life, crackling and spitting as it followed his palm. He was careful not to make the room too bright, leaving thick dark shadows inhabiting the corners.
“I’ve locked the outer door, and I’ll sleep in there.” He nodded to a sort of anteroom that led to the main corridor. “I’ll close the door, but keep the noise down. I don’t want to hear nothing. G’night.”
It was difficult not to laugh. Dear Sam. I felt really quite mellow toward him, a sentiment he’d no doubt resent intensely. Ned grinned at me as soon as the door closed behind Sam, and dear Lord, but I just had to kiss him. Couldn’t help myself.
We took our time getting down to our skin. It wasn’t something to be rushed. Aesop’s tortoise had it almost right: less haste, more pleasure.
For a while I was content with kisses, Ned’s face so close that drowning in those hazel eyes was a real possibility. The touch of Ned’s tongue against mine had me making rather embarrassingly soft noises in the back of my throat. You know, getting lost for all eternity in those kisses, in the feel of Ned’s body pressed against mine… I couldn’t think of anything finer.
Our jackets were on the floor somewhere, long abandoned. Now all my attention was on tugging Ned’s shirt out from his trousers and running my hands up underneath it and over the heated skin beneath. Ned moaned and bucked his hips so hard that, laughing, I pulled my mouth from his. “Ah, you liked that, did you?”
Ned moistened his lips and pulled me in closer. “It wasn’t entirely disagreeable.”
Enter the Rafflecoptor draw for
1st prize—$25 or equivalent Amazon gift card
2nd prize—a signed paperback of the first Lancaster’s Luck book, the Gilded Scarab.
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Anna was a communications specialist for many years, working in various UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to organizing conferences for 10,000 civil servants to running an internal TV service. These days, though, she is writing full time. She recently moved out of the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London to the rather slower environs of a quiet village tucked deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside, where she lives with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockerpoo.