Tag Archives: arcane

Dead Magic Sniplet #2

dead magic

Dead Magic, the fourth book in the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series, won’t be out until the fall, so I thought I’d share another clip from my WIP with you. Miss Emmeline Jardine has pilfered a package from the Spiritualist Society.


The Dorothy Restaurant hummed with chatter only broken by the occasional sharp laugh. Emmeline resisted the urge to shift in her seat. She had been to the Dorothy several times with Cassandra Ashwood, but she never failed to feel odd there. There had never been a public place she frequented where men were not allowed. The room was overly bright even in the dreary weather with its cream and red walls and gaudy array of colorful Japanese fans and parasols artfully tacked to the walls and ceiling. Around them all manner of women ate the same meal at the same white tablecloth and vase of flowers. During previous visits they had spotted Constance Wilde and the Countess of Dorset not far from a table of shopgirls. In a space free of men, the women seemed to change before her eyes into some strange perversion of the womanhood she knew. Cigarettes were lit and overheard table conversation often involved politics, women’s rights, and even colonialism. Of course, there was gossip, but mixed in were stories of tête–à–têtes that bored on elicit. At the Dorothy, they all seemed so free, yet surrounded by a complete lack of restriction, Emmeline faltered.

“You’re very quiet today, Em,” Cassandra said, looking up from her roast chicken and potatoes.

Her eyes flickered over the window where rain pattered against the pane and through the drivel, she inadvertently caught the gaze of a man peeking inside. What he expected them to be doing, she couldn’t imagine, but gawkers, she was quickly learning, were common at the Dorothy.

“Ignore him.”

“Why are they always staring in? It’s rude. It’s a restaurant, not a sideshow.”

“They don’t like that we finally have some privacy. You know, you could have left your book in the coatroom. I’m pretty sure no one would steal it, especially when Miss Barker knows us.”

“That’s not what I was worried about.” She paused. What was she worried about? “I didn’t want anyone to see the title.”

Cassandra shook her head. “Maybe I don’t want to borrow it if you’re that nervous about other people seeing it.”

Emmeline gave her a weak smile. Her eyes traced the outline of the book beneath the crinkled paper. She had placed it on the table facedown with her reticule and gloves on top of it to keep Cassandra from turning it over. Her heart pulsed in her throat, ruining the taste of the meat in her mouth. She was itching to open it. Every time she looked away, she felt its glare upon her, as if the book was watching her—beckoning to her—the moment she turned her gaze. For a moment, she wondered if she should just confess to Cassandra what she had done and open the bloody book.

Before she could act on her thought, Cassandra straightened with a squeak. She wiped her mouth and took a long sip of tea before she asked, “Did I tell you about the gala?”

“What gala? The season is over.”

“Well, it isn’t a society party. It’s a gala to celebrate a new ancient botanical collection at the British Museum. I’m sure you heard.”

When Emmeline raised a dark brow, Cassandra continued, “Your aunt’s cousin, the Countess of Dorset, and her husband donated the main specimen, the silphium plant. Please tell me you know what I’m talking about. I’m sure your aunt mentioned it.”

Thinking back to dinner conversations, she could vaguely recall some mention of a party at the museum. She hadn’t paid much attention. “I don’t think I was invited, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t want to go.”

Cassandra’s chestnut eyes widened and sagged.

“You actually want to go? But why? It will be so boring. All those old stuffy scholars and their pinch-faced wives.”

“My friends will be there. I don’t think you have met her, but Judith Elliott is my best friend—”

Emmeline stiffened.

One of my best friends, and I’m certain you will love her as much as I do.”

“Of course,” she replied tartly as she stabbed a piece of boiled potato and brought it to her lips.

She could feel Cassandra’s gaze upon her, eyes torn between anger and guilt. Somehow, Emmeline had never imagined that she could have friends besides her, that she had a life outside the spiritualist society. That and the Dorothy was the only place she ever saw her, and she didn’t appear to have a beau or that she was even looking. Modern woman, Emmeline scoffed. No wonder Aunt Eliza loved when Miss Ashwood came for tea. Watching Cassandra go back to her meal, Emmeline’s stomach knotted. She knew so little about her even though they spent nearly every weekend together and most nights at the spiritualist society. She knew Cassandra worked as a secretary somewhere, though Emmeline couldn’t remember where, and that she lived in a flat not far from the society along with another woman.

From the edge of her vision, Emmeline studied Cassandra’s features. She envied her prominent cheekbones and her expressive lips. When she smiled, it made Emmeline’s face join in her joy, but it was her bearing that caught her attention when they first met. She had thought of quitting the spiritualist society for good until she spotted Cassandra waiting at the front door. She stood tall despite her short stature, with her walking suit smartly cut to accentuate her curves and the color rich enough to bring out the flecks of gold and green in her eyes. There was a self-assuredness about her that didn’t require words to enforce. Maybe that was what five years of relative independence did to a woman. Still, it was troubling to know she had no suitors to fall back on or tear her attention away from the gloom and tedium of the spiritualist society.

“I shouldn’t be telling you this since you have decided to be peevish, but Mr. Talbot’s cousin just walked in,” Cassandra whispered, her eyes darting toward the front door as a rush of warm, damp air washed in.

“How do you know who she is?”

“Because I just saw him drop her off.”

Whipping around, Emmeline turned in time to see a dark-haired woman enter and a charcoal grey steamer pull away from the curb. “I can’t believe I missed—”

The words died in her throat. Cassandra was holding the book, her book, regarding her with pursed lips. Emmeline reached to snatch it from her grasp but pulled back. It wouldn’t do to make a scene. Shaking her head, Cassandra handed the paper-wrapped book back to her.

“I knew something was wrong when you wouldn’t give it up. You never wait to open a book. Nostra is a fool, but this is hers. You can’t steal her property, Emmeline,” she replied in a harsh whisper.

Groaning, Emmeline placed the package in her lap and covered it with her napkin. “But she isn’t even the head of the society, not yet anyway. Besides, it probably isn’t even hers.”

“If it isn’t hers, then whose is it?”

Emmeline opened her mouth, but his name refused to leave her throat.

Sensing what she wouldn’t say, Cassandra shook her head. “But it’s been over five months. Do you really suspect it was meant for him?”

“I don’t know. I know taking it was wrong, but you didn’t know him, Cass. He was evil.”

“You think it’s something malicious?”

She shrugged. “It could be. Would you want Nostra getting a book on soul-stealing or God knows what?”

Cassandra sighed, her gaze traveling to the book in Emmeline’s lap before coming to rest on her concerned eyes and drawn mouth. “Maybe you should open it and see what it is. If it’s just a book, we could rewrap it and bring it back tomorrow, and if it’s something bad—”

“We can get figure out what to do once we know what it is. Good idea.”

Using her untouched bread knife, Emmeline carefully slipped it between the paper. With a crack, the must of centuries old paper and ink rushed out. Emmeline locked eyes with Cassandra as she tipped the package and let the book slide into her hand. Laying across the front cover was a letter. Setting the book and torn wrapper on the table, she turned her attention to the missive. The sole page was stained with ink and flecks of brown, but the lines of the long, looped writing had been written with such force that it had been incised into the page. As she lifted it closer, minute beams of light broke through the parchment.

 

September 14th, 1892

To the person the grimoire chooses,

I hope whoever is reading this letter can forgive that I know not to whom I am writing. I don’t have much time left. The duke is ailing and has entrusted the book to my care, but I fear my time will be as short as his. They have discovered me, and the grimoire is no longer safe in my care. This book has passed through many hands before reaching you. Others like us will have received this package, and in turn, sent it to another to keep the book out of the hands of those who would pervert the knowledge within. If you are reading this note, you are the end of the line. It is my hope that the book has fallen into worthy hands.

You must know dark forces are in Berlin and are moving north to London. They move against all of our kind. Those who would seek to keep the balance of death and life are being cut down by practioners wanting to tip the scale. They need what the grimoire possesses.

Protect it or send it to someone who can.

 

There was no signature. Flipping the paper over, she found the same note written in Latin. Emmeline’s heart thundered in her throat. Dark forces were coming to London. What had she taken?


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Book Review: “The 13th Hex” by Jordan L. Hawk

13th hex jlh

Title: “The 13th Hex” (Hexworld 0.5) by Jordan L. Hawk

Genre: Paranormal/arcane fantasy

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

TL;DR: A great short story that introduces a new world featuring witches, familiars, hexes, and of course, Teddy Roosevelt.

The official blurb:

Romance. Magic.
Murder.

Dominic Kopecky dreamed of becoming a member of New York’s Metropolitan Witch Police—a dream dashed when he failed the test for magical aptitude. Now he spends his days drawing the hexes the MWP relies on for their investigations.

But when a murder by patent hex brings crow familiar Rook to his desk, Dominic can’t resist the chance to experience magic. And as the heat grows between Dominic and Rook, so does the danger. Because the case has been declared closed—and someone is willing to kill to keep it that way.

The 13th Hex is the prequel short story to the all-new Hexworld series. If you like shifters, magic, and romance, you’ll love Jordan L. Hawk’s world of witch policemen and the familiars they bond with.


I’m a total glutton for Jordan L. Hawk’s work, and when I saw that she was creating a new series centering around 19th century New York City, I was beyond excited. If “The 13th Hex” is any indication of the rest of the series, I’ll pre-order every single installment.

The story centers around Dominic Kopecky, a hexman working at the New York Metropolitan Witch Police. His job is a tedious one, copying, analyzing, and perfecting hexes that the police use, but Dominic is the best in the business, which brings Rook into his world. Rook is a familiar without a witch, investigating murders caused by a faulty hex. While the police have closed the case, Rook suspects there’s something more. What ensues is a very enjoyable short mystery with a hint of steam.

Jordan L. Hawk instantly makes me fall in love with her characters. Dominic is the typical quiet office worker with his nose to the grindstone. While this wasn’t the job he wanted, he does it to the best of his ability, and the brief moments of hope in Dominic’s thoughts totally endeared him to me. Rook is all sensuality and action, but what I loved about her familiars is that they have characteristics of their animal forms without shoving it down the reader’s throat. Rook’s laugh is described as cawing while Cicero, the cat familiar, has a languid air to him while reverting to cat-like disdain at the sight of water.

“The 13th Hex” is a short story, so I’ll keep the review brief. The world Hawk is setting up is steeped in history and wrapped in sigils, magical creatures, and murder mysteries. The downside to “The 13th Hex” is that it’s so short. I really wanted a longer work because I loved Rook and Dominic’s dynamic and it made the pace incredibly fast. A few thousand more words may have satisfied me more.

Overall, “The 13th Hex” is a fantastic short story to introduce a new series, and I can’t wait for Hexbreaker.

You can buy “The 13th Hex” here for $0.99.

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Dead Magic Sniplet #1

dead magic

So, I promised in my last blog entry that I would post a bit of Dead Magic. What you’re about to read is the very beginning of the book.


Dead Magic

Chapter One

Flesh and Bone

 

 

On balmy summer nights, Highgate Cemetery lay as still and silent as its residents, but not on this night. Footfalls echoed across the rows of vine-covered graves, their names impossible to read in the moonlight peeking through the trees. Crickets fell silent as the young man passed and the grasses on either side of the well-worn path rustled with life just beneath the surface. Reaching for the shuttered lantern at his side, Cecil Hale stopped and listened for any sign of his compatriots. He had been told not to open the lantern until he reached the Egyptian Avenue, but the graveyard was harder to navigate in the dark than he had imagined. The dizzying rows of cockeyed graves seemed to go on forever, all nearly identical to the next.

Closing his eyes, Cecil drew in a long breath. A wave of energy passed over him as the warm wind whipped a russet curl across his forehead. In the darkness beyond the curve of trees, he felt a faint pulse of power. So they had ventured into the vault without him. He reached for the pocket watch ticking against his side but let his hand drop. As he rounded the bend, his heart quickened at the sight of the obelisk and lotus-columned entrance to the Egyptian Avenue. Leafy boughs and Jurassic ferns spilled over the top of the mausoleum’s entrance, drowning out the tang of death with the scent of summer. The iron gate whined beneath his hand, and he paused, waiting for the light of a night watchman he knew would not appear. A smirk crossed his lips. No one thought to worry about the dead.

Cecil’s gaze swept over the faceless row of doors on either side of him until it came to rest on the wavering radiance of an oil lamp drifting behind the threshold. Pulling the door open, he shut his eyes against the harsh brightness of the lanterns.

“Did they not teach you how to tell time at boarding school, Lord Hale?”

Cecil Hale stiffened. If it had been anyone else, he would have cut them down to size for not only insulting a viscount but for daring to question the standing of the youngest magister in the third order, but when his hazel eyes adjusted, he found Lady Rose glaring at him.

“Do forgive my tardiness, Lady Rose, but it wasn’t easy to find my way here in the dark. Not all of us frequent graveyards,” he replied before he could stop himself.

A low chuckle emanated from where she stood, but Cecil swore he hadn’t seen her lips or chest move. Against the dusty grey of the mausoleum, her polished bronze hair and pale green eyes took on such an unnatural hue that he dared not question what he heard. Of all the practitioners he knew, she was the only one he feared. If he stared too long, he thought he could see shadows writhing and slithering around her, pulling at the flames positioned in a circle around her and the coffin at her feet. It was her power he felt when he cleared his mind’s eye.

As Cecil pulled the crypt door shut, a lanky, white-haired figure emerged from the neighboring chamber. He was accustomed to seeing Lord Sumner at the third order meetings, but seeing him standing in the mausoleum didn’t sit well. It felt wrong, like seeing one’s grandfather walk out of a Piccadilly brothel. He couldn’t imagine him with his carefully trimmed beard and Savile Row suit anywhere near a charnel house. The man had a lineage as distinguished as any king on the continent, so what could be so important that he would risk being found prowling around a graveyard with the likes of Lady Rose instead of sending an emissary? Maybe he didn’t trust her either.

“Will it only be us this evening?” Cecil asked, his voice reverberating against the vaulted stone as he looked into the darkened chamber.

Without looking up from the coffin edge, Lady Rose replied, “If you’re worried about discovery, my man is keeping watch outside, but the ritual only needs one. His lordship is merely here to supervise.”

“Let’s hope the ritual won’t be necessary.”

“Oh? Are you having second thoughts, Lord Sumner?”

“I think all of us would prefer to avoid such vulgarity. We can only hope his family thought it best to bury the damned book with him.”

“So resurrectionists like us could find it? I doubt it,” she said, running her bare fingers over the lid as if feeling for something.

“Did anyone check his estate and town home?” Cecil asked.

Lady Rose and Lord Sumner exchanged an incredulous look before turning their attention back to the casket. Her fingers slid over the decorative molding and around the brass bars affixed to either side, probing every cranny for hidden springs, but found nothing.

Resting back on her heels, she motioned for Cecil to come to her side with a curl of her finger. “Lord Hale, would you do the honors?”

For a moment, he wished they had left the door open to the crypt. The stale air pressed in as he drew in a breath and held it. Cecil steeled himself, ready to avert his gaze when the lid cracked opened, but when he tried to yank it loose, a bolt of pain shot into his wrists and up his arms. Howling, he staggered back, nearly kicking over Sumner’s lamp.

“The bloody thing’s hexed!” he cried, rubbing his burning, twitching hands.

“The duke’s underlings are smarter than I thought,” Lord Sumner murmured under his breath.

Grabbing a handful of dust from the floor, Lady Rose cast it across the casket top. A series of rings, lines, and scribbles appeared through the detritus. Cecil leaned in to get a closer look. He had never seen a sigil that actually worked. They were out of fashion and the order didn’t support the use of such an arcane technique, so there was no reason for him to learn about them. At the pulsing throb of his hand, he wished he had. Before he could finish tracing the twisting line with his gaze, Lady Rose pulled out a handkerchief from her reticule and scrubbed at the sigil. Cecil watched with wide eyes as she gritted her teeth and continued even as the arcane symbols crackled and arced with electricity beneath her palm.

She released a labored breath and wiped at her forehead with the back of her hand. “Open it.”


 

Stay tuned for more sniplets and updates of Dead Magic. If you would like to get a preview of the book first or news on sales and forthcoming works, please sign up for my newsletter by clicking here.

Catch up on the rest of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series before Dead Magic releases:

The Earl of Brass (Book #1)

The Winter Garden (Book #2)

“An Oxford Holiday” (A Companion Short Story)

The Earl and the Artificer (Book #3)

Let me know what you thought of sniplet #1!

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