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?
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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?”
EUPHORIA BLOG TOUR – Exclusive Excerpt
By Jayne Lockwood
Hi everyone, and very many thanks for letting me take over your blog for this post. My new novel, Euphoria, has just been released by DSP Publications. The story is about what happens when one alien being decides to travel back in time to save Earth from human destruction.
Here’s an excerpt from the book. Previously, Vardam had requested to intervene in Wingnut (Room 17’s) treatment and had been refused. They decide it is time to show what they can really do, and uses their advantage to make a few requests. It’s safe to say that Kurt isn’t happy…
Var beckoned to Tom and took his injured hand, then began to remove the dressing. “Tom trust Vardam.” It was a statement, not a question.
Tom watched nervously as his raw knuckles came into view. He winced as the stained sterile pad was peeled away. The cuts still looked a mess, for all of Nic’s expert treatment.
Vardam dipped a slender finger into the liquid in the agar plate. As they moved to smear the substance over the wound, Tom jerked away.
“Hang on a minute. What’s it going to do?”
“Help Tom heal.” Vardam grasped Tom’s wrist and pulled his hand firmly back, stroking a fluid-covered fingertip over the wound. Tom cringed, then relaxed.
“Ooh,” he said, as the most amazing warmth wrapped around him.
“What’s happening? How does it feel?” Nic asked. She avidly watched his hand as if expecting something to happen.
“Ooh, it feels… weird. Like, my whole body is floating!” Tom sighed. “Wow, that’s….”
“Awesome,” Vardam said, flashing a golden grin.
Tom nodded, then looked disappointed. “Oh, it’s gone. What the hell is that stuff, and please can I have some more?” He flexed his fingers. His knuckles were covered in small, shimmering scales that changed color as he moved. He looked up at Vardam. “Is that… going to stay like that?”
“Yes.” Vardam inspected the healed wound. “Not change. Tom part Var now.”
Kurt grabbed Tom’s hand and ran his thumb over the smooth, unblemished knuckles.
“How is that possible?”
Tom was grinning widely. “That’s so cool. I’m like the fucking Terminator! Is this….?”
“Yes. Protect from heat, blunt force trauma.”
“But not human part. Just this.” Vardam circled the patch with their finger.
Kurt seemed to realize he still held Tom’s hand. He dropped it rapidly.
“What happens if humans have too much?” Nic asked. “Tom looked like he was tripping for a moment.”
“Felt like it too,” Tom agreed. “I’d have some more though.”
“Is it addictive?” Kurt asked.
“No. Vardanium good product. No human side effects.”
Tom was showing his hand, stretching the fingers, bunching the knuckles, admiring their metallic skin. He was grinning widely, saying it was “awesome” again.
“I think, based on what we’ve just witnessed, it’s worth a shot trying it in the other volunteers,” Nic said carefully.
After a long pause, Kurt nodded. “I admit I’m curious, but this stuff isn’t any good to us if we can’t reproduce it. It’s a party trick. That’s all.”
Tom was watching Vardam’s face. The Var had obviously been expecting a different response. They shimmered with indignation.
“Are all humans as foolish as you?”
Kurt whipped round to face them. “Unless you can confirm otherwise, you’re the only Var on this planet. How much Vardanium can you produce? Enough to save the whole damned world? That’s nine billion people, Vardam. Nine billion. Let that sink in for a moment.”
“If Var people have safe haven on Earth, Vardam is willing to trade.”
“Jesus Christ.” Kurt cast his gaze to the ceiling. “I can’t guarantee that! No one can. You don’t know how things work here.”
“Vardam fast learner.”
Kurt compressed his lips, thinking. “Nic, do a full analysis on this….”
“Vardanium,” Vardam said helpfully.
“See if there’s any way we can reproduce it.”
Nic looked doubtful. “We did some analysis already. Only 1 percent of its composition is available on Earth. The rest is unrecognizable.”
The Var seemed to sense their advantage. “Vardam have one more request.”
“What is it?” Kurt crackled with irritation.
“Vardam bed too small. Vardam live in apartment. Like humans.”
“What? We don’t have one available!”
“Vardam stay in Kurt’s apartment. Discreet. Leads to U4. No one will see.”
Tom covered his mouth to hide his grin. Kurt’s pale face became flushed.
“I’m not moving out of my apartment.” His voice was mild, but he radiated fury.
“Not necessary. Vardam in spare room. With view. Keep out of sight. Keep Kurt healthy. No negotiation.”
“No,” Kurt said, now visibly shaking with anger. “Why are we even having this conversation?”
Tom looked at Troy and Nic, both staring at the ceiling or at the floor, their faces immobile. Vardam tossed away Kurt’s protests with an elegant hand.
“Vardam decide. We waste time talking.”
“Then don’t fucking talk to me,” Kurt snapped and turned smartly away. He went inside his office, slamming the door.
The humans were agape, Tom letting out the snort he had desperately been holding in.
“The first time I’ve ever heard him swear,” Nic said. “Got to hand it to you, Vardam. You bring out the best in him.”
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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