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Preview of Selkie Cove: Ch 1

Selkie Cove banner1

First off, yes, I know I have been incredibly negligent these past few months regarding this blog. I’m going to try to be better about that in the near future.

So I’m hitting that point in the novel writing/editing/marketing/creating journey where I get itchy feet about sharing things with you. Thus far, I’ve been good, but today, I must share an in-progress version of chapter one of Selkie Cove. For those of you who haven’t seen it, here is the blurb:

Selkie Cove 2

Without further ado, here is the first chapter of Selkie Cove:


Chapter One

Confirmed Bachelors

 

Adam Fenice resisted the urge to turn around and check the clock ticking in the corner again for fear of drawing the attention of the other clerks and accountants. Keeping his back to them, he pulled out his pocket watch and took a quick glance. He bit down the earnest smile threatening to cross his lips. In a little over an hour, he and Immanuel would be having lunch together. No matter how often they saw each other, knowing that Immanuel waited for him sent a flutter through his breast. For weeks Immanuel had been busy running between the natural history museum and the British Museum. Between late nights, the impromptu meetings with the heads of the museums, and the nightmares and insomnia from the added stress, they had barely spent a peaceful day, or night, together. Today would be different. Immanuel said everything had been taken care of, and now things would go back to normal.

Adam scoffed at the thought. Normal. Nothing about his life was ever normal. Instead of dealing with Hadley’s toy business or his brother’s consumption, he had Immanuel’s magic to enliven his quiet life. His time spent at the office puzzling out sums and inconsistencies was a welcome relief from coming home to find Immanuel experimenting with new sigils that sent things crashing across the room or turned his tea to dingy brown ice. Between magic and Percy, their cat—if one could call him that when he was solely comprised of bones and mischief—Adam was happy to come to work and deal with facts and figures, where things that were certain no matter what happened outside.

“Fenice, can you come here a moment?” Mr. Bodkin called from his office.

Rising from his desk, Adam stretched and glanced at the clock one more time. He silently sighed, hoping this wouldn’t be an hour long conversation on Sarah Bernhardt’s latest exploit. He had promised Immanuel he would get to the museum promptly to prevent Sir William Henry Flower from commandeering him. If he played his cards right, he could distract Bodkin with a question or two and return to his work. As Adam pushed open the door to Horace Bodkin’s dim cubby of an office, he knew something was wrong. His supervisor sat with his hands folded on his blotter, his thumbs twitching in time with his beady eyes, which ran over everything but Adam’s face. Adam hesitantly sank into the chair before his desk, resisting the urge to scratch his wrist.

“Sir, is there anything—?”

“We have to let you go,” Bodkin blurted.

For a moment, Adam merely stared at him, unsure if his ears had played tricks on him, but when Bodkin’s eyes never wavered from him and his lips twitched into a regretful frown, he knew he had heard correctly. The saliva dried in his throat as he strained to speak.

“I beg your pardon, sir, but may I ask why? Have I made an error?” Adam asked, his mind flitting over the numbers he had tabulated and double-checked over the past few weeks.

“Oh, heavens, no. You’re one of my best workers.”

“Then why am I being let go?”

Mr. Bodkin released a tired breath, his sloped shoulders sighing in agreement. In the dim light with his face more pensive than he had ever seen, he seemed so much older. Adam had liked him best of all his employers. The man had given him his extra tickets to the theatre and chatted with him about novels and society page gossip, but as he tented his meaty, ringed hands and met Adam’s gaze, the fissure of rank widened into a chasm. It had been foolish to ever assume they were friends.

“You must understand, this isn’t my doing, Fenice,” Bodkin said, dropping his voice. “It was Mr. Ellis. His son is to marry soon, and he needs to secure a proper position for him.”

“I see,” he spat, his chest tight with a raw resentment he hadn’t felt since his older brother was alive. Adam’s jaw tightened as he pictured that miser Ellis’s lout of a son sitting at his desk. He eyed Bodkin. How long would it be before the boss’s son was out of his desk and in his supervisor’s chair? “And what about Penn or Weiland? They have been here less than a year. I’ve been here for four. This isn’t fair.”

“Trust me, I agree with you. You know you’re one of my favorites.” For a moment, he looked as if he might reach out and touch Adam’s arm, but upon seeing the blue fire in Adam’s eyes, he thought the better of it. “It’s just that— that— you aren’t the image Mr. Ellis wants for his business. You know, you go to the theatre, you’re an Aesthete who openly supports Wilde’s crowd, you dress flamboyantly—”

Adam glanced down at his silk paisley waistcoat as if seeing it for the first time before crossing his arms over it.

“And you’re a bachelor.”

A derisive laugh escaped his lips. “What does my marital status have to do with my work? If anything, I should have less distractions.”

Mr. Bodkin swallowed hard, his shiny black eyes darting for an answer. “Mr. Ellis likes to see people settled. A bachelor could pick up and leave at any moment, but a man with a wife and children has an anchor. You’re sharing your flat with another bachelor, aren’t you?”

Adam froze. Something lurked beneath the question, plunging his anger into something far colder. Bodkin of all people should have known the significance of Ellis’s decree. Then again, he had a ring on his finger and a brood at home.

“Yes, sir, I am.”

“I have no problems with it, but Mr. Ellis…”

“Penn shares a flat with another bookkeeper. Many young men have roommates.”

“Yes, I know, but do you perhaps have a lady friend you—?”

“No,” Adam replied, his voice sharper than he intended.

“I figured as much.” Pulling an envelope from his desk, Bodkin sighed and held it out for Adam to take. “I was able to convince him to give you an extra week’s wages for the inconvenience. I really am sorry about this, Fenice, but there was nothing I could do to change his mind.”

As he reached to take the money, Adam steadied his hand, biting back the urge to snatch it from him. It was Ellis’ fault, he reminded himself. Bodkin was merely a useless mole forced to do his bidding. A man who, like him, had kept his head down and tried not to make trouble for anyone. Only he had succeeded.

“Thank you for your generosity,” Adam murmured, his voice quavering against his will.

He didn’t try to suppress it. The rage would come out one way or another, and a little edge was much better than the venom creeping up his throat. Adam swallowed and dug his nail into his wrist as he turned, pushing in until he regained control. That was his whole life, wasn’t it? Maintaining an air of control. As he stood to leave, Bodkin’s eyes bore into his back, but before he could look away, Adam whipped around in time to see the man jump back.

A thrill of satisfaction rang through him as he slowly stuffed the envelope of money into his breast pocket. “I appreciate all you have done for me, Mr. Bodkin. I just hope Ellis can see past our shared faults when he inevitably turns his attention to promoting his son. Good day, sir.”

Without looking back, Adam marched into the office with his back rigid and his face a mask of hauteur. His heart pounded as the junior accountants and clerks raised their gazes from their papers in unison to watch him pass while the only other senior accountant kept his eyes buried in his work. Adam stared ahead as he silently walked to his desk near the window despite half a dozen pairs of eyes pressing into his back. How much had they heard? He couldn’t look at them. He didn’t want to know what they thought of his sudden fall. Pity? Scorn? Satisfaction? All he wanted was to get out as quickly as possible with some semblance of dignity.

His eyes traveled over the contents of his desk, lingering on ledgers he had been perusing for a suspected embezzlement case. The figures he had toiled over for days were meaningless now. Some other man would finish his work and take the credit for the case he had built. Adam drew in a constrained breath. Unlike the other men in the office, he had no pictures of his pretty wife or handsome children to show to clients or Mr. Ellis when they came to call. Sitting on a stack of papers closest to the window was an ammonite fossil Immanuel had given to him when they stayed at his brother-in-law’s estate in Dorset that summer. It was the only bit of his life he had allowed to bleed into his work. He could still remember the thrill of danger at having a token of Immanuel’s love in plain view. That was all he would take with him. Adam snatched the fossil, ignoring the slap of paper and the startled cries of his coworkers as the wind scattered the stack. As he slipped on his coat and top hat, he felt the weight of the ammonite in his hand and saw himself hurl it through the windowpane in his mind’s eye. Dropping it into his pocket, he kept his gaze forward, his mouth neutral, and passed down the familiar creaking steps to Lombard Street.

The bitter October cold pawed at his cheeks and tousled the edge of his pomaded henna hair as he slipped out the door. With his hand tightly around the ammonite in his pocket, Adam walked blindly and tried to keep his steps casual. His mind tallied up the rent, the cost to bring in a housekeeper, how much the washerwoman charged against Immanuel’s salary and what Adam remembered to be inscribed in his bankbook. How long would it last? He had only been out of work once during his career and money had been the least of his concerns then. Bodkin had refused his resignation and gave him time off to put his mind to rights, citing his brother’s recent passing. No one would come through for him now.

Men in dark wool coats and top hats pushed passed him on their way to banks and solicitors’ offices just like his. One man tipped his hat to Adam. Recognizing him from their business dealings only a month before, Adam gave him a nod but kept his eyes ahead. How long would it take for news of his departure to reach the other accountants or the clients he regularly worked for? He had spent his whole life avoiding becoming the subject of gossip, and now, it had been thrust upon him.

When Adam stopped moving long enough to surface from his thoughts, he stood at the iron staircase of the Metropolitan station that would take him home. Home. The word caught in Adam’s throat in a wet knot. He swallowed it down and hardened his jaw. He wouldn’t lose it. It had been his family’s home for as long as he had been alive and now it belonged to him and Immanuel. There was no way he would let someone like Ellis take that away from him, but the idea of sitting alone with his thoughts until Immanuel came home was more than he could bear. Without someone there to temper his emotions, he could only imagine the destruction he might cause, and that would be far worse than holding it in a while longer. That was simple. He had choked down the same bitter pill for nearly twenty years.

Glancing at his watch, Adam took the stairs into the labyrinth of brick and wood stretching beneath the city. The stench of urine and feculence burned his nose as he listened for the distant rumble of the electric train. He could take the train to Greenwich and vent to Hadley about what had happened. His sister would understand. She would rail against the injustice of it as only she could, but then, she would have solutions. Hadley would have half a dozen thought up in an instant, most of which would inevitably be tied to her husband, the Earl of Dorset. The thought sent a wave of nausea gurgling through Adam’s gut.

No, Immanuel was waiting for him at the museum to go out for lunch, and he couldn’t disappoint him twice in one day. Before he could change his mind, the train barreled into the station. Straightening, Adam slipped past the conductor and numbly settled in near the window. All he needed was to pretend everything was all right. If he simply didn’t acknowledge it, then perhaps he could never disappoint Immanuel with his failures. If it had worked for most of his life, surely it could work for another hour.


Thank you for reading! Please let me know what you think of this excerpt, and I will update everyone as we move closer to publication.

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Errant Plots and Acccepted Proposals

The other day I received an email from the director of my graduate program that my thesis proposal was approved! Not only that, but she wanted the file to use as an example of what a proper MFA thesis proposal should look like. I beamed with pride for most of the day, and I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. In the fall, I will officially begin my thesis and finish up with my MFA in May of 2016, which really means I’ll be going into book three full force as soon as possible.

Part of the reason I hoped my proposal would pass in one shot is that I am trying very hard to separate myself from what I wrote in it about book three. For the professors to approve your proposal, you need to show that you have your shit together and are really prepared to take on a big project and actually finish it, so you have to provide a lot of info about your work even if you really haven’t thought it through yet. It’s all subject to change (thank god), but I had to do quite a bit of cooking up of ideas in a brief amount of time. Now, my very anal analytical side wants to take all of my half-assed ideas from the proposal and check them off, but I know it won’t turn out well. The ideas I wrote down aren’t forming the story I would like to read.

Because of this, I know I need to take a step back and re-evaluate my ideas and where the story is going. It’s been on the backburner for about three weeks while I was working on classwork, but now that the semester is wrapping up, I can finally go back to it. It feels great to be able to finally go back to my writing after a self-imposed hiatus, yet it’s daunting knowing that I need to figure this out before moving forward.

My writing style is somewhere between plotting and flying by the seat of my pants. I don’t like to plot the whole thing out, but I need to know where I’m going before I begin writing a chapter. This system gives me structure but allows for fluidity and for my characters to stretch their legs a bit.

At the moment, I feel a bit lost with The Earl and the Artificer. I have a few chapters done, which are shaping up to be a good foundation, but it feels like an insurmountable task to figure out where I’m going.  The good thing is, I say this every time I begin working on a new book and by 10,000 words in, I’m usually fairly on my feet. I don’t think the anxiety goes away until I’m two chapters away from finishing it.

I’m also back to reading historical fiction again, which always seems to help. I’ll be outlining and diagramming and creating monstrosities that look more like summoning circles than outlines, but now that my proposal has been accepted and my final paper is well under way, I should be able to finally get into book three. I plan to keep everyone posted on the writing process and what I discover along the way with research or writing or myself, but first and foremost, I must write.

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What I’ve Learned From My Thesis Proposal

I don’t really read much steampunk.

When I submitted a draft to my professor, he sent back revision suggestions with a note along the lines of “What steampunk books can you cite in your bibliography?”  I stared at the page for a few minutes before sitting back and sighing. Shit, I needed to add steampunk books.  Somehow, I didn’t think I would need to reference any.  Continue reading

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Spring Semester, Sales, and Stories

eob 99c promo

I have realized that when the semester begins again, I am horrible about updating my blog (I’m going to try to work on that this time).  It has been a crazy week but a good one.

This week was the beginning of the spring semester at my university.  At the beginning of each semester I am a bundle of nerves complete with tension headaches and the urge to vomit.  Last semester began with me coming home my second day there and crying at my kitchen table for feeling like an inadequate fraud after I didn’t know who Kerouac and Carver were.  Continue reading

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Excitement, Pre-orders, and the Awkward Authoress

Live preorder

There isn’t much in life that gets me super excited, but the prospect of the second book in my historical fantasy/steampunk series being released in only a few months makes me squeal with anticipation.  Last night, after being asked by one of my followers on Goodreads when book two was being released, I decided to set it up on Amazon for Kindle pre-order.  The official release date for The Winter Garden (The Ingenious Mechanical Devices #2) is March 31st, 2015.  If you pre-order a copy of the ebook, it will automatically download onto your Kindle device on March 31st. You can order it here. Continue reading

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The Winter Garden: Blurb and Excerpt

Here is the blurb and excerpt for The Winter Garden, book 2 of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices.

Real-Winter-Garden-Cover-Final-front

Blurb:

Can death be conquered?
When Immanuel Winter set off to the banks of the Thames, he never thought his life would be changed forever. Emmeline Jardine, a young Spiritualist medium, drowns, but the potion given to Immanuel by his mother brings her back from the dead and irrevocably intertwines their souls.

But Emmeline and Immanuel aren’t the only ones aware of his ancestors’ legacy. Understanding the potential of such an elixir, the ruthlessly ambitious Alastair Rose knows securing the mysteries of death will get him everything he desires: power, a title, but more importantly, dominion over the dead and the living.

Unaware of what the dashing madman is capable of, Emmeline follows him deeper into a world of corrupt mediums, unscrupulous scientists, and murder. All that stands between Lord Rose and his prize is the boy who refuses to die, but both men know the key to stopping him lies within the girl who shares Immanuel’s soul.


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Series Introduction: The Ingenious Mechanical Devices

As I was trying to figure out what to write for my next blog post, I realized I never introduced the series The Earl of Brass and The Winter Garden are part of. The title of the series, The Ingenious Mechanical Devices, was taken from the name of a book by Al-Jazali called The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices.  The book was written in 1206 and describes over fifty automaton devices, such as mechanical clocks, pistons, programmable robots, automatic gates, and many other inventions.

imd book

While I was researching automaton devices for The Earl of Brass, I came across Al-Jazali and was immediately fascinated.  I don’t think many people realize how far back these robotic devices were being invented, I know I didn’t.  As someone who can barely put together an Ikea shelf, I am always fascinated by people who are able to create works of art that are not only beautiful but functional.  This book of automaton creatures and machines went perfectly with the aesthetic of steampunk as well as Eilian Sorrell’s love of Middle Eastern culture.  With each story in the series, there is a machine or creation that features in each book.  In The Earl of Brass, it is Eilian’s mechanical arm, and in The Winter Garden, there is an electric machine that can steal or deposit souls.  What the device will be in book three, I do not know yet. Continue reading

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Why Buy Indie?

Department stores are to traditionally published authors as independent bookstores are to indie authors.

We are the small businesses of the writing world.  Unlike authors who have published through traditional means, we are often the editors, marketers, formatters, and creative directors of our work.  Our publishing house consists of one person.  This means every success and failure falls on our shoulders, but it also means so does every cost.  Our resources are our own, and especially in the beginning when we do not have many books or readers (remember book two always sells book one), most of our expenses come out of our pockets.  We pay for the cover artists, the editors, the box of books we lug to conferences and author events.  It can be a hard road, especially when we don’t tend to get shelf space at your local Barnes and Noble or Waterstones.  Just remember that for less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks, you are buying something someone worked on numerous hours to perfect. Continue reading

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Checking Those Boxes

Become-a-writer

Often my posts mention my dealings with academia, and the stark contrasts between the “normal” world and the academic domain.  These differences have sparked an interest in figuring out the psychology of not only some professors but the world they are enmeshed in.  One of the things I have noticed during my time as a graduate student in an MFA program is the difference in publishing goals and how the professors treat their writing versus how most authors deal with their work and how they market it.

To be hired as a professor, one must publish at some point, and it seems for some that the only reason they have published anything is to able to put it on their resumes.  Maybe I’m naive and idealistic, but to write a novel or short stories to check off a box seems disingenuous.  If you have a passion for writing, why would you only write one book or a handful of short stories?  Most writers have a hard time stopping or getting other work done when the writing bug bites, so how can one instruct and inspire young writers when they haven’t really done it themselves?  Can you really consider yourself a writer or author when you only write to further your career goals?  It most definitely is not my motivation for writing, but I cannot say why others do it. Continue reading

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Age and the Awkward Authoress

The age of the author is often brought up when discussing young adult novels written by middle-aged authors or older authors writing about younger characters, but young authors tend to fall to the side unless they are exceptionally young.  This isn’t going to be a post about young people griping about “the man” or older people.  Most of my friends are older than I am, and I enjoy their company immensely. Recently, my age has come up several times when talking about my writing or books.

I’m twenty-three and am currently working toward my masters in creative writing.  I went directly from high school to getting my bachelors to getting my masters.  Somehow I always feared if I stopped, I would lose momentum or be talked out of working toward my next degree.  Apparently, I look young according to other adults.  Not sure what that means exactly. Sometimes I wonder if they expect a twenty-three year old to be in a business suit sitting demurely behind a desk or wearing a uniform at McDonalds.  I have a chubby face and wear jeans, t-shirts, flannel shirts, and hoodies, which constitutes looking young even though most of the people in my class dress the same way and are often older than I am. Continue reading

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