Thursday, 28 March 2013

Available Now: Lush Situation

Welcome, Kate Laity, author of the incomparable Chastity Flame series. Kate's taking over Heart of Fiction today to tell us about Chastity, Lush Situation, and the cover artist who has helped wrap this series up in glossy graphics that can't be ignored. Take it away, Kate!

When I describe Chastity Flame to people I usually use the shorthand description that she's like an über-sexy female James Bond. Since the Bond reboot with the yummy Daniel Craig that's a good selling point, although when I started thinking about Chas what I had in mind was the kick-ass heroine of Peter O'Donnell's comics and novels (and yes, the rather camp, pop art movie version from the 60s with the gorgeous Monica Vitti) Modesty Blaise.

You may notice a slight similarity of the names (cough). It started as a joke: "Oh, I'll think of something better by the time I finish…" but I ended up liking the name and I like that it's an homage to O'Donnell's heroine.

One of the things I loved about Bond in the reboot era (apart from Daniel Craig, yum yum!) was the relationship between him and M. Not surprising that the orphan should bond with the authority figure. I made Chastity an orphan too, who bonds with her boss 'Monitor' although her memories of her family are warm and often leave her confused when she begins to piece things together—

—like her 'special' ability for receiving visions of things she couldn't possibly have seen.

She doesn't quite understand how it happens and she can't control it either. Rather than the gadgetry of the earlier Bond films (so he always seemed to have just the right capabilities for a completely unforeseen and unlikely situation) I figured it was better if her slight advantage remained also elusive and unpredictable.

I was pleased when a friend who doesn't much like 'unrealistic' narratives said he totally bought the slight supernatural element. In Lush Situation we see further developments in her ability, as well as in her complicated love life. Once again there will be a lot of steamy encounters (scorching hot fun!) but there's also the opportunity for Chas to begin forging friendships, something she doesn't have a lot of experience with doing. She's really conflicted—it's only natural to want to build friendships, but she also realizes that being friends with someone in her line of work can put people in danger.

One of the lovely things about this series is working with cover artist S. L. Johnson who has a terrific sense of design. She has created some incredible covers for the books that really give them the oomph they deserve.

The first Chastity Flame book has a computer hacker, so she put some 0s and 1s in the background that spell out a special message (we had a contest to reward the first person too figure out the message!). I love the way the flames form her curvy hips and echo the fire from her gun.

In Lush Situation the theme is human trafficking, which gets linked to an upscale London sex club for women. The handcuff hanging from Chas's hand echoes both of these themes, so at the same time it's playful and sinister. In the background are rows of stilettos, which create an eye-catching wallpaper to the image. The two covers look great side by side. I can't wait to see what the third one will look like, so I better get busy writing it!

• • •

Chastity Flame is back and hotter than ever. She’s sworn off meeting her irresistible colleague Damien, but how long can they really stay apart? Fortunately she’s got an international human trafficking ring to crack. When an upscale sex club for women opens in London with great fanfare, Chastity hopes it will prove distracting as well as providing a potential break in the case — until she runs into Damien with a gorgeous woman clinging to his arm. Maybe a broken heart will make it easier to bury herself in work – and kick a few asses.

"I need work, not tasks for a fill-in. I need something real."

Monitor took a moment to respond, but it seemed as if the weeks of consistent devotion to duty—annoying as that duty had been lately—finally had the expected impact. "As a matter of fact, I have something that I think you will find engaging," Monitor smiled, clearly pleased with herself. "Something that you’d be perfectly suited for, too."

"Tell me more," Chastity said, at last sitting in one of the chairs before Monitor’s desk. "I’m intrigued."

Monitor opened her desk drawer and drew out a folder, which she tossed toward Chastity. "It’s got everything: sex, intrigue and international law breaking."

"What’s the story?"

"Human trafficking," Monitor said with evident distaste. "We’ve been trailing them for some months now, but we haven’t been able to get involved directly because it’s been outside our borders. But they finally brought the game here. A girl was killed in the Czech Republic and they had some trouble covering it up. Apparently they have relocated their headquarters here."

"Must be the attractive new economic incentives," Chastity said with the trace of a smile.

Monitor gave her a look, not quite as severe as it might have been. "They prey on the lost and the vulnerable, like the one who was murdered. She had been a runaway, someone who would not be missed."

"But she was not as missable as they had thought?"

"Sort of," Monitor sighed. "She managed to get a letter out to her mother. Detailed the operation—at least as much as she was able to see."

"Must have been a smart girl," Chastity said as she flipped through the notes and photos.

"Not smart enough."

Chastity pulled out a photo. "So this is our kingpin? Or should I say queen pin?" The woman in the picture had a jaw like a bulldog and an expression to match it.

"That’s the one. Her name is Abita Teufel. American by birth, but her parents were Canadian. Early on she graduated from minor theft to serious drug running. Never had her own hands in the pot once she learned better—after a short stretch in a Maryland prison. Married to a Romanian gangster who died mysteriously."

"As they do," Chastity muttered. The woman wasn’t playing with kittens. She studied the photo a little longer, fixing the details in her mind, before flipping through the materials in the rest of the folder.

"The ring seems to have been begun by other people, but this Teufel woman was quick to exploit it."

"Clearly she has the right touch of ruthlessness," Chastity said, her voice cold as she stared at a photo of a poor girl smashed on the pavement.

"She's cruel, focused and without concern for the opinions of the rest of the world," Monitor agreed. "Her only interest is expanding her empire and her profits."

"So how do I get to her?"

"A bookstore."

Chastity looked up at her boss to see if she was making some kind of joke. That would have been the last thing she expected, but it seemed far more likely. "A bookstore?"

"Yes," Monitor said with a humorless smile. "She's sponsoring a reading tonight at a local chain in honor of her cover business—the sex club for women. Surely you saw that on the news?"

Chastity vaguely recalled snarky coverage that cocked a snook at the very idea that women could enjoy sex so casually. She had felt her own eyebrow rise as the newscasters implied that such women would have to be terrible sluts of course to be able to take pleasure in such shenanigans. Idiots! Of course women treasured pleasure. A place like that, which catered to women's fantasies? Sounded perfect for a little exploration—and distraction.

Maybe visiting the club would be just the thing to stop her obsessing over Damien.

"So, you're willing to go?" Monitor asked over her glasses.

Chastity laughed. "You bet."

• • •

When I created Chastity Flame, my sexy government agent, of course I had Ian Fleming’s Bond in the back of my head. While working on the sequel, Lush Situation, I decided that Chas needed a drink just as memorable as Bond’s “shaken not stirred” martini. Et voilá! I give you . . .

The Chastity Flame:

2 measures gin (I recommend Boodle’s or Tanqueray Rangpur)
1 measure vodka ( I recommend Zubrowka, Reyka or Stoli)
A generous dash of bitters (is there any but Angostura that will do?)
Lime garnish

Pour all the ingredients into a shaker with plenty of ice, but don’t dawdle or it will get dilluted. Strain the chilled contents into martini glass — or a tumbler if you’re a heathen. Garnish with a lime slice and a shot of lime juice if you like that sort of thing (I do). It should be the color of Chastity’s amber eyes and be rather lethal, but then again, so is its inspiration. A perfect accompaniment for a stimulating book.
• • •

K. A. Laity is the award-winning author of Rook Chant, Owl Stretching, Pelzmantel and Unikirja, a collection of short stories and a play based on the Kalevala, Kanteletar, and other Finnish myths and legend, for which she won the 2005 Eureka Short Story Fellowship as well as a 2006 Finlandia Foundation grant. With cartoonist Elena Steier she created the occult detective comic Jane Quiet. Her bibliography is chock full of short stories, humor pieces, plays and essays, both scholarly and popular. She also writes romance as C. Margery Kempe and Kit Marlowe.

Find Kate online at --

KA Laity
A Knife and a Quill
Tirgearr Publishing

• • •

See where it all started.

Get 50% off Chastity Flame at Smashwords.

Just enter SV59W at the point of purchase.
Offer good through 31 Mary 2013.

--> Kate is giving away a copy of Lush Situation to one lucky winner today. Just leave a message for her in comments, along with your email address, and the best comment wins. :-)