QSFer Matti McClean has a new MM steampunk romance out (Bi, Gay, Reference to trans character): “The Cypher.”
Penner had always considered his life ordinary-but when his lover Chess receives a divine revelation that can’t be explained, he finds himself on the run from mysterious forces. Upending their idyllic life in a small town, Chess propels them on a journey to find answers to deep questions that plague his thoughts and his sanity.
Partnering with Fred, a boisterous sky pirate with an enigmatic past, they head out to find the answers they need on her airship. But the closer they get to their mysterious destination, the more danger they find themselves in.
Facing betrayals, battles and a malevolent being that seems to be hunting them, soon they find themselves deep into conspiracies that threaten the very fabric of their reality. With their wits, their ship and a spot of tea, their quest for answers will make them confront the forces that created the universe. With only each other, will their love be enough to save them?
“For a moment I thought you meant that you were—” Penner began, but stopped himself. He lay there for a moment, basking in the warmth that still radiated off their bed. It smelled like them. As he lay there, he ran through the words Chess had just said. He peeled his head off the bed and watched as Chess stuffed clothing into a satchel.
“Did you have a bad dream, or something?”
“No. Not a bad dream. A good dream. The best dream,” he said as he clung to a ragged shirt with one hand, and a torn pair of pants with the other.
“Those are my pants.”
“I need them. We need them,” Chess said as he threw them into the bag that was almost bursting. “We need to pack light, though. Here.” He threw Penner a small bag, which he caught before it slammed into his face. “Grab only what you need—we need. The toothbrushes, your pen. Oh! Bring your journal. You’ll want it.”
“Chess, what’s going on?” Penner said, peeling himself off the bed and wrestling the bag out of Chess’s hands. Chess looked at him, confused.
“I told you.”
“No. You didn’t.”
“I didn’t? I swear I—”
Penner gripped Chess’s face, squishing his cheeks into his lips with his palms.
“Words. Use your words.” Chess shook his head free and grabbed Pen- ner’s hands in his.
“Penner, I need you to listen to me. We don’t have much time and I can’t spend it talking to you about what needs to be done. Pack light and trust me.”
Penner felt the bag grow heavy in his hands as the knot in his stomach grew. Chess had already returned to running around the room, throwing clothes and tools into the bag or discarding them on the floor.
“You wanna take a trip?”
“No. Not a trip.”
“You’re talking in fragments. I don’t understand. Where are we going?” Penner frowned.
“Away,” Chess said, a tinge of excitement in his voice. “Far away.” “We can’t just leave.”
“We must. I don’t have a choice right now.”
“When WILL we be back?” Penner asked.
“We won’t,” Chess said. “I mean, I won’t. This is it.”
Penner’s mouth was dry. He tried to swallow but could barely breathe.
“You’re asking me to leave with you without even knowing where we’re going?”
“I’m asking you to come with me. But with or without you, I’m leaving. Don’t make me leave alone.”
Chess slid into a shirt and vest before packing a few more items in the bag. Penner wanted to argue, but there didn’t appear to be any point. Chess looked serious, in fact he looked more serious than Penner had ever seen him. If Chess really was leaving, there didn’t appear to be any choice. Any- where Chess went, he’d follow. Gripping the small canvas bag, he ran into their washroom and began to pack.
“We need to leave in five. Be quick,” Chess said as he rushed to the door. “Chess!” Penner called out.
What?” Chess asked.
“Wear pants.” Chess held his gaze for a moment before looking down. “Right.”
Matti McLean is a creative dynamo originally hailing from North Bay, Ontario, but now primarily residing within Toronto. His first novel, Catalyst, was published in 2011 by Brighter Books. The young-adult novel performed well and inspired the sequels Ignition and Combustion. He has also published two colouring books, a collection of his human canvas portraits, and has his next novel “The Cypher” which is due to be published in fall 2020 by Renaissance Press.