Tag Archives: historical

Book Review: Spectred Isle

spectred isle

Title: Spectred Isle (Green Men #1) by K. J. Charles

Genre: Historical-fantasy, historical-romance, LGBT fiction, LGBT romance

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Tl;DR: Spectred Isle fantastically blends the pain and trauma of war with the hope and healing that only nature and human connection can bring while still imbuing the story with a piping mystery.


First off, I have to say that I was given an ARC of Spectred Isle in exchange for an honest review, but I still pre-ordered a copy because I love K. J. Charles’ work and want to support my favorite authors.

Spectred Isle follows the story of Saul Lazenby and Randolph Glyde as their lives intersect in a post-WWI world where magic and monsters lurk beneath the surface. Saul has been deeply scarred by his experiences in the war where he was less than honorably discharged. Facing bleak prospects, the ex-archaeologist becomes employed by a rather odd older gentleman who has him running all over creation chasing some rather wild theories about a very (maybe very) dead lord. His life is rather humdrum until he visits a sacred tree, which spontaneously bursts into flames, and spots the handsome, old money (and magic) Randolph Glyde. Randolph has secrets and scars of his own, but those roots run far deeper in England’s history, and as the mystery of the burning tree deepens, Randolph must decide if Saul, too, is a secret worth keeping.

As a heads-up, if you haven’t read The Secret Case Book of Simon Fleximal, you probably should. The book is less a sequel and more of a spiritual successor (much like the characters), so if you want to be in the know about certain characters, it would behoove you to read it. Plus, it’s just damn good.

What I loved about Spectred Isle was the balance between human connection and healing from past traumas and the British mentality of keeping a stiff upper lip. Neither Saul nor Randolph are the type to fall to pieces, but they need help moving forward from the carnage both suffered. Charles does a good job of having those traumas be very different, and both play nicely into their characterization. In the story, we also meet several other characters who have been psychologically and physically changed by the war and the occult war that was waged beneath the war waged by normal soldiers. I loved how this juxtaposed with post-war bureaucracy and the ancient magic the Glydes wield.

I think because I really love Charles’ characters, I felt like the book went too fast, especially at the end. What I really wanted was more about the green men, how they tie to Glyde’s family, and what function they really serve in England. I know it’s the first book, but I also know that K. J. Charles usually focused on a different couple each book, so I worry I will never get my answers.

If you like old Hollywood movies (think 1920s-1940s), this book has that sort of Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes on the modern moors feel to it. Spectred Isle is a great start to a new historical-fantasy series, and I, for one, am dying to get my mitts on the next one. Pick Spectred Isle up here or whatever platform you buy your books. It is officially out August 3rd.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Selkie Cove: Chapter Five

With Selkie Cove coming out July 25th, I’ve decided to post a chapter a week until it comes out. My apologies for not posting another chapter earlier in the week, but it was my birthday and I was spending it at my favorite place on earth, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you haven’t pre-ordered Selkie Cove, you can here.

Just as a heads-up, if you’re a paperback fan, they will be out by the end of the month, but they will not be available on the 25th (due to my own incompetence). I will let everyone know when they are ready to order.

Catch up on:


Chapter Five

Evolution

When Immanuel surfaced from the creature’s corpse, the blackbirds and robins outside the alley window had begun their morning trills despite the brumous day. Squirming on the narrow stool, Immanuel cracked his back and neck as he leaned back to examine the creature, which now lay in pieces. She was real. At lunch the day before, he never would have thought it possible. Even after seeing her final moments, he was hesitant to believe it hadn’t been a hallucination, but after working on the dissection all night and carefully documenting the anatomy of her organs, he knew he had found a human-pinniped hybrid. If only he had a microscope and supplies at home, then he could prepare slides and study the creature’s microanatomy. He had only studied human tissue under a microscope, but if he could get his hands on some seal samples, then he could—

“There you are!” Adam called as he threw open the workroom door but immediately brought his hand to his eyes. “Dear Lord, it’s bright in here.”

A weary smile spread across Immanuel’s features as he watched his companion grimace and squint. Serves him right, he thought, eyeing him warily for any sign of drink. Beneath Adam’s blue silk robe, he still wore his shirt from the previous night, but now, it had been buttoned to his collar. His hair had been brushed down, and without pomade to keep it in place, it stood out in floppy waves around his bloodshot eyes. As Adam took a step forward, he yelped a curse as Percy darted in, nearly knocking him over as he flew past. At the edge of the worktable, the cat wiggled his hips and flipped his tail. Adam reached for him as the cat dove for the liver sitting in the nearest metal tray.

“No! Don’t you dare!” Immanuel cried as he swatted at the skeleton cat.

The cat’s eyes locked on the liver as he took a slow step back. His tail wiggled and snapped, but when he pounced, Immanuel caught him, the scalpel clattering to the floor. Grimacing at the cat’s claws sinking into his wrists, Immanuel shoved him into Adam’s waiting arms.

“Take him, please. I’m not finished yet.”

“Fine, fine. Just stop yelling. My head is killing me,” Adam grumbled as he held Percy at arm’s length. “Ugh, he smells like a corpse.”

“I’ll bathe him later. Just put him in the kitchen.”

Tossing the cat into the other room, Adam shut the door and stood at Immanuel’s shoulder as he settled back into his work. Adam’s eyes flitted over organs he vaguely recognized before landing on the nearly empty cadaver. He had hoped that what he had seen the day before had been a nightmare from far too much gin, but even disarticulated, he recognized its mermaid-like form. While its hands still reached for something unseen, Immanuel had cut along its forehead and peeled the skin back to reveal a nearly empty human skull, its sightless eyes hidden beneath the flap. Adam shuddered at the thought that this nightmarish being lived inside of him, and one day, it would live on without him. Averting his gaze, he meandered around the room, looking through Hadley’s remaining tools and bobbles before turning to the gleaming wall of windows.

When his eyes started to burn and his head pulsed in time with his heart, he sat at the work table and began picking through the pages littering the table. Immanuel’s notes ranged from drawings as detailed as Da Vinci’s notebooks to page upon page of observations written in tight lines of German and English. Pushing through his hazy mind, Adam calculated the time he thought he fell asleep to when he came downstairs and divided it by the speed of dissection with pauses for reflection and study.

“Have you been at this all night?”

Immanuel continued working with his head down.

Adam frowned. “Why didn’t you go to bed? You have to go to work soon, don’t you?”

“I told Sir William I would be working from home today,” Immanuel replied, his accent formal and clipped. “He agreed, so long as I have a report on the deceased by this afternoon. If you don’t mind, I must get back to work.”

“I see.”

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Adam tried to remember what had happened the night before, but it only came in smatterings and blurs. He remembered the creature, he couldn’t forget that even if he wanted to, but what had happened to make Immanuel cross with him? It wasn’t like him to be so curt. He had awoken with the taste of stale gin on his lips, a splitting headache, and the only body in his bed an undead cat nestled on Immanuel’s pillow. As he stared at Immanuel’s notes, a pit formed in his stomach at a vision of Immanuel’s face breaking with hurt. Adam tried to remember what exactly he said, yet all he could see was Immanuel. What had he done?

“I made an ass of myself last night, didn’t I?”

“You could say that.”

Adam drew in a slow breath and winced as he scratched his wrist. Blood coated his nails, but he tucked his injured arm out of sight before Immanuel could notice. “I don’t remember what I did or said, but I am sorry I took it out on you, Immanuel. You must believe me. I would never try to wound you.”

Immanuel paused, his pencil hovering above a sketch of the creature’s lungs. “I know, but you did.”

Putting his work aside, he swiveled to face Adam. Their gazes locked, and the silent regrets snapped between them like a tether. In that moment, Immanuel wanted nothing more than to take Adam into his arms and kiss him until they both forgot the previous day’s trials, but he couldn’t do it. There had been a moment of alcohol-induced abandon when Immanuel felt the threat of impending violence. He swore Adam might hit him, and he couldn’t live with that fear. He refused to.

“Promise you will never do that to me again,” Immanuel said, keeping his damaged eye locked on Adam’s face even as it clouded. “I have to be able to trust you, Adam. I have been able to count on you thus far, but I can’t live with uncertainty when it comes to you. If you’re going to drink like that…” He shook his head. “I’m not trying to be dramatic. I just can’t do it after all that’s happened.”

Even if it means losing you. The words hung in his throat, but Adam knew they were there. He lowered his eyes to the floor and fingered the loosened scab on his wrist.

“I don’t know what to say, except that I will try not to do it again. I didn’t think it would upset you so. I thought it would take the edge off. It’s what I’ve always done.” He closed his eyes as Immanuel stroked his cheek. A little voice told him to tear his face away. He didn’t deserve it. “Anyway, after I get cleaned up, I’m planning to visit Hadley. I don’t want a position out of pity or loyalty, but the earl has connections and it would be foolish not to use them.”

Immanuel nodded, but as he turned back to his work, Adam put his hand on his arm and carefully turned him until they were face-to-face again.

“Immanuel, please trust me. I’m going to try to make things right. I promise I’m not going to let us sink.”

Drawing closer, Adam gently pressed his lips to Immanuel’s, his fingers sweeping his lover’s hair from his brow. Adam pulled him in deeper with the touch of his tongue upon his lips and a hand on his back. Entering his mouth, Immanuel could taste the tang of last night’s gin, and he wondered if Adam noticed the salt of the sea clinging to his teeth, a remnant of the dead woman’s final moments. Adam leaned between Immanuel’s legs, brushing his thighs as they parted. Heat sparked in Immanuel’s core as he rose upon feeling his lover’s hands squeeze his shoulders and slip along his side in time with their lips. He wanted to hate him, he wanted to be angry, but it seemed impossible to sustain.

“Am I forgiven?” Adam asked between kisses.

“We’ll see.”

Adam’s arms closed around him, hugging him closer until their bodies were flush. Stumbling back, Immanuel braced himself against the workbench as Adam’s lips skimmed the delicate flesh of his neck, sending a shudder through his form. As his palm brushed a metal dissecting tray, Immanuel stepped away and carefully guided Adam back toward the empty wall where crates of finished automatons had once sat. His lover’s hands kneaded Immanuel’s sides and back, cupping his buttock as his back collided with the wall. Immanuel lightly ran his tongue along Adam’s lip, eliciting a rough laugh from his companion as he tugged Immanuel’s shirt from his trousers. Before he could reach for his belt, Immanuel gripped Adam’s arm and slowly pulled it away. He stared at him through hooded eyes, his breath coming in heavy puffs as he steadied himself.

“We can’t,” Immanuel said, his voice hoarse with desire. “After, we will, but I need to finish this first.”

Disappointment flashed across Adam’s features, disappearing as quickly as it materialized beneath a concessionary nod.

“And I stink like a fishmonger. Please, Adam, I promise we can, but later.” Immanuel kissed him again until the tension released from Adam’s arms. “Later.”

Clearing his throat, Adam looked around the workroom as if seeing it for the first time. “I guess I’ll leave you to it, then. I’m going to take the train to Greenwich. Hopefully I can catch Hadley before she goes out for the day. Would you like to come? I could wait for you to clean up.”

“I would love to, but…,” he gestured to the glistening organs littering the table. “Send Hadley and Lord Dorset my love.”

Wiping his lips and straightening his clothing, Adam slipped out of the room. As the door shut behind him, a knot twisted in Immanuel’s stomach. Even if Adam had kept his head out of his cups long enough to think straight, there was something Immanuel still had to do. Reaching into a cabinet, he hefted a typewriter onto the only clean corner left on the workbench, a gift from Adam’s cousin and her husband upon his graduation. Carefully arranging his notes, he pecked out a report that would hopefully satisfy Sir William Henry Flower. He stared down at the page, rereading his half-truths and outright lies until he steeled himself against the knot in his stomach. If this plan was to work, he would need enough room to weave his story. There was only one missing component.

Reloading the typewriter with paper, Immanuel pulled his notes closer and hammered them out word-for-word. Judith Elliott asked for a comprehensive report, and he wasn’t going to fail his first mission as one of Her Majesty’s Interceptors.

***

Standing outside Miss Elliott’s door, Immanuel’s hand hovered, poised to knock. For a long moment, he merely stood in the hall, trying desperately to remember if he had brought everything he might need. During the entire journey to the Inner Temple Gardens, Immanuel had rehearsed all that he wanted to say, but the moment he reached the main hall with its sundial floor and practioners rushing between destinations like a swarm, his mind seized. What was he doing here?

After being attacked by Lord Rose in its courtyard and returning after the disastrous affair involving Lord Hale, he told himself that he never wanted to step foot there again, yet every few weeks he managed to slip in during his lunch break to exchange books with Judith Elliott. As he wove between Interceptors and made his way up the iron steps, he felt the deep resonance of magic reverberate through his bones like the hum of a hundred tuning forks. There was a whole building of people who in some way were just like him. He bit his lip to suppress a smile at the thought. Even after working at the museum for months, he still felt the distance of being an outsider. He was younger, quieter, less charismatic, less sure of his convictions, less accomplished, and certainly less English than any of the other curators. From what he had seen of the Interceptor Headquarters, there were plenty of young people and even those with darker complexions and accents that betrayed their origins. When he left Germany, a little part of him thought it would be a grand adventure. Maybe he needed to listen to that voice more. Immanuel tugged at his collar and straightened the strap of his leather satchel before knocking.

“Come in, Mr. Winter.”

Immanuel froze with a frown. Pushing open the door, he found Judith with her head bowed and her eyes on the paper in front of her. “How did you know it was me?”

“I could see you through the glass. Besides, no one who works here waits or even knocks. If you don’t barge right in, you aren’t an Interceptor.”

Barely raising her gaze, she motioned to the seat in front of her. Immanuel sank into the chair, clutching his bag as his eyes ran over the whitewashed cabinets lining the walls. Judith Elliott always seemed at odds with her surroundings. Her dark blonde hair had been expertly pinned and tightly bound in an elaborate chignon that hovered above the mandarin collar of her military-style jacket. Lining the perimeter of her office were display cases and art nouveau wallpaper that led the eye from shelf to shelf. Sunlight from the tall window behind her desk glinted off the crystals and artifacts locked within the cases. He wished he could borrow her powers just for a moment to understand how such a martial woman could own such a feminine space.

Finally surfacing from her work, Judith gave him a slight smile. “So how may I help you, Mr. Winter? Come to trade books?”

“No, I— I finished the report you wanted.” Immanuel reached into his bag and pulled out his sketch pad along with the packet of typed pages. “I tried to be very thorough, as you asked.”

“I can see that.”

Taking the papers from his outstretched hand, Judith flipped through them. Immanuel watched, holding his breath as her eyes skimmed over his notes before traveling to the black sketchpad between them. She returned back to the page, but every so often her gaze flickered from the rickety type to Immanuel’s face. After a moment, she cleared her throat and set the papers aside.

Folding her hands on the desk, she said, “This is all rather technical for me. Tell me, what did you find regarding our dead selkie?”

“Selkie?”

“My apologies, I meant to tell you, but I didn’t want to influence your findings. Selkie is the common name for what she was. Sometimes the Scottish call them maighdeann-mhara. I did some research on our friend after she arrived. According to several legends, selkies are creatures with the ability to take on two forms: one human and the other seal. I’m sure you’ve heard of sirens or mermaids in fairytales. Much like them, selkies are often described as beautiful women who lure men to their deaths or fall in love with humans and shun their true, animal form. Some folklore talks about how their magic resides in their pelts, which allow them to slip between forms or, like werewolves, they may be merely shapeshifters. It’s still unknown.”

“Did— did you say werewolves? Are they real, too?”

“Don’t fret about them, Mr. Winter. They are of little consequence at the moment.” Leaning forward, she tented her fingers and focused on Immanuel’s bisected eye, her mind’s probing tentacle nudging at Immanuel’s thoughts. “So how did the selkie die?”

“She was murdered.” Immanuel fought his mind as it threatened to travel back to that awful moment under the silty green water. “She saw something. I’m not certain what it was, a sunken ship or a foundation, but as she approached it, she was attacked by someone.”

“Was it another selkie?”

“No, I’m certain it was a human or at least close to it. I didn’t feel the same sensation I felt when I saw her for the first time.”

“A sensation?”

Immanuel chewed on his lip and watched Judith warily. Something about her made him nervous. Even if he was telling the truth, he still felt as if she might uncover a secret he never intended to hide. It made it harder to think, to find the words he needed to make sense.

“It’s like what Nichols described to me when he talked about meeting another person with magical abilities. It’s like an itch or a frequency resonating in my bones. I felt it at the museum when Sir William showed her to me.”

“Interesting. Tell me more about the murder and the murderer. Thus far, we know the perpetrator isn’t a selkie nor a practioner. Even so, we could still have an incident on our hands that could result in an uprising. These situations are touchy. Go on.”

Immanuel swallowed hard. He rested his hands on the cool wood of the chair, fighting back the sensation of water burning his throat. Closing his eyes, he rubbed his brow as pain constricted his temples. “She was stabbed, but when she tried to fight back, I think— I think she began to transform into a human. Then, she pulled the blade out. I don’t know what kind of blade it was, but it was long and thin, on a handle. It only took a few seconds for her to begin to bleed out. When I examined her, I found a tear in her heart and a matching wound on her chest. I couldn’t tell whether she bled out or drowned first due to the preservation fluid.” As he released a tremulous breath, he bit down on his lip until the pain blossomed anew. “Her thoughts… They were so human. She was scared in her last moments for the others. Does that mean there are others of her kind?”

“Oh certainly,” Judith responded as she flipped through the collection of sketches. Her mouth parted in surprise as she turned to the two page sketch of the selkie’s body exposed for examination. “She was mid transformation. Do you realize how rare this is, Winter? To see a selkie transform is a once in a lifetime opportunity. They don’t change in front of humans, that’s why there’s pelt versus shapeshifter confusion. A selkie mid transformation,” she repeated, turning the page to study her organs and bone structure, “what luck. The cryptozoologists will be beside themselves at the news.”

A pang of guilt rang through Immanuel’s gut. “Is this really something to celebrate? She’s dead, and it felt like my body was ripping in half when she transformed. Changing like that—“

Immanuel rubbed his arm where pain had radiated from the marrow as every bone broke and regrew in an instant.

“You felt it?” she asked, the joy sapped from her voice.

He released a tremulous breath and squeezed his arm to remind his mind that the visions of her underwater tomb were only a memory. “I feel and see everything they do as if I were in their bodies. It was excruciating. Her transformation, her fear, her death. Please understand that seeing their last moments is rarely a cause for celebration.”

“My apologies if I sounded insensitive, Winter. You must understand that we are an agency that studies these creatures, and selkies have been rather uncooperative and elusive despite living right off our shores. Don’t think this creature’s death was in vain. We can learn a lot from it. We already have. Your dissection findings and her remains will be preserved for future study, and who knows what we may learn from them given weeks or months to do so.”

Was she merely a specimen to them? Immanuel licked his lips before slowly meeting Judith’s eager gaze. “Miss Elliott, I’m not certain how to phrase this, but do you—and the Interceptors—view selkies as human?”

For a long moment, Judith merely studied him, her brassy curls blazing gold in the afternoon sun. The tendrils of her mind fell away as she said, “Cryptids, creatures of that nature, are not my area of expertise, so I claim no intimate knowledge of selkies. The Interceptors are divided on what constitutes a human being or, for lack of a better word, personhood.”

“I see.”

Clearing her throat, Judith rose. “Well, Mr. Winter, if that will be all, we greatly appreciate your time and help in this matter. We will send someone to investigate the case, but if we need any more information, we will contact you. May I borrow your sketches to have photographs taken? It will only take a few moments.”

“Yes, but—” As she reached for the doorknob, Immanuel opened his mouth twice, the words refusing to issue from his lips. He had to say something, for the selkie’s sake if not his own. Finally he called, “Miss Elliott, I would like to continue investigating this case.”

Judith stopped, her back ramrod straight as she looked back at the young man hunched before her desk. Despite her hard hazel gaze, Immanuel never wavered. She motioned for him to wait. Calling down the hall, Cassandra Ashwood appeared at the door. The dark-haired woman in her smart gown looked over Judith’s shoulder and spotted Immanuel as she gave her instructions. With a wave and a wide grin to Immanuel, she took the sketchpad from Judith’s hands and disappeared down the hall. When Judith turned back to Immanuel, her features were caught between annoyance and amity. Perching on the corner of the desk closest to him, Judith folded her arms across her chest and searched his face.

“So you want to join the Interceptors now. Why the sudden change in heart?”

Clasping his shaking hands in his lap, Immanuel fought to keep his eyes on hers. “I thought I could join unofficially for now. I would like to see if this is what I’m looking for before I agree to anything permanent.”

“You cannot possibly think you can join un—”

“It was in the contract. Read it for yourself, and you’ll see that I can be called upon to continue an investigation.”

“At our discretion.”

“At your discretion. You said it yourself that a scientist who is also a practioner isn’t easy to come by.”

“Yes, but we have everything we need from you. You finished the autopsy.”

Immanuel’s throat tightened. “I don’t know why the Interceptors want me and Adam to join together, except that you said we were more powerful together. It sounds like we would be an asset to the organization, and if they want us as badly as you make it seem they do, I’m hoping they might be willing to work with my terms.”

A faint laugh escaped Judith’s rouged lips. “Does Mr. Fenice know about your proposition? I seem to recall he was a tad skeptical of magic.”

“He has come around, but no, I haven’t told him yet.”

“That could backfire on you.”

“I know.” But both of them had so little to lose now.

“I’ll tell you what, I will plead your case to my superiors and get a file together for you. They may not agree, but there have been several discussions about how to bring you around,” she replied with a knife-sharp smile. “Now, you must know that a practioner doesn’t simply join the Interceptors like one joins a club. There are certain protocols that must be followed, especially regarding your and Mr. Fenice’s connection.”

“But I thought you said the Interceptors were tolerant of…”

“Not an emotional connection, a magical one. We can discuss that later. In the meantime, I would suggest you start figuring out what you will say to Mr. Fenice should they agree to your proposal. While you have your strengths and unique abilities, they want you and Mr. Fenice. You won’t get in by yourself.”

“I don’t mean to be forward, but why? What makes us so special together? Adam…” He paused for a moment, struggling with how to phrase it without coming off as insulting. “Adam isn’t a practioner.”

“Yes, but every practioner is better with their amplifier. Let me explain. You know that Cassandra is my partner in multiple ways, much like your Mr. Fenice, and she is a normal person. The reason why an Interceptor really needs a non-practioner partner is to ground us. They will see things we miss because we are too wrapped up in using our extranormal abilities. In your case and in mine, your partner is an amplifier, which means, as you have probably guessed, they can elevate your abilities by simply being in your presence. After the ceremony I mentioned before, Adam’s connection to you will be even stronger.”

“But what makes him an amplifier? Is it merely because we’re companions?”

“Well, a bond is necessary, but his alignments are the opposite of yours. You know about batteries and magnets, Mr. Winter?”

“Yes.”

“Then, you understand the power of opposite poles. What happens with extranormal abilities is that we tend to align with a specific element or pair of elements. In my case, mind-reading aligns with air while Cassandra’s personality is very much grounded in earth. Therefore, we are opposites.”

Immanuel fingered the stitching on his satchel thoughtfully. His mind reeled at the thought of the four ancient elements having any sway beside the growing periodic table. He wanted to reject the notion as superstition, but he had seen so much those past few months that sent his mind spinning yet it all proved true.

“What element is my ability? Air as well?”

“You,” she paused, “you are a strange breed, Mr. Winter. You have two elements. Which two do you think are most needed for life?”

He blinked, hoping the answer on his lips wouldn’t prove him to be a fool. “Water and air.”

“Precisely. My theory is you were born with the ability to manipulate water since you mentioned your alchemical heritage, but after suffering through a series of traumas, your body took on air as a way to adapt to your needs. It’s your wyrd.”

“Excuse me?”

“Your wyrd. Your fate. Your trauma shaped your abilities. It’s fascinating really. There are several known cases in ancient writings.”

For a long moment, Immanuel merely glared at her through his clotted eye. He had never found his traumas to be fascinating. Did they see him as another exotic specimen like the selkie? Swallowing down the thought, he added, “So that would make Adam fire and earth?”

“Perhaps. Though, he only needs one opposite element to boost your abilities. It would be ironic, wouldn’t it?” she said with a smirk. When he didn’t respond, she continued, “Adam, the Biblical figure was born of clay, and the name itself has its origin in the color red, which is your Adam’s most prominent feature.” With a dismissive wave of her hand, she added, “The point is by having Mr. Fenice with you, he will amplify your already unusual abilities, and the Interceptors won’t need to find you a partner. Trust me, Mr. Winter, you don’t want to have to tell your partner that they have been replaced by your lover. Peregrine can attest to that.”

Peregrine. Immanuel snapped open his pocket watch and nearly propelled out of his chair. “My apologies, Miss Elliott, but I have to go. I have an appointment with the director at the museum, and I didn’t realize I had been here for so long. If I don’t go—”

“Go on, then. We will be in touch about when the handfasting will be held, and I will have your sketchbook delivered to your address.”

As Immanuel reached the threshold, he felt the familiar touch of Judith’s powers knocking at the back of his skull. “Did I forget something? I really must go.”

“No. I was merely wondering what you’re planning to tell Sir William about the sideshow spectacle I brought him.”

“That it isn’t real, but the skin is. There’s a seal somewhere missing a pelt, and it’s possibly a breed I’ve never seen,” he replied slowly as her hold nudged deeper despite his futile efforts to keep her out. “That way I can keep the body a while more.”

“Very smart. You may want to start thinking of excuses for missing work.”

Immanuel cocked his head.

“You’ll need it if they agree to your terms, won’t you?”


Thank you for reading! Please let me know what you think, and if you’re interested, you can pre-order Selkie Cove on Amazon.

Leave a comment

Filed under selkie cove, Writing

Chapter Three of Dead Magic

dm-preorder

Since Dead Magic will be coming out in a little over a month, I thought I would share the first few chapters here to wet your appetite for its release on November 10th. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be releasing a few more of the opening chapters. I hope you enjoy!
If you missed it, here are chapter one and chapter two.

Chapter Three

 The Junior Curator

 Looking up from his research notes, Immanuel Winter bit down a grin. Everything was falling into place. After only eight days in London, he found that he suddenly had everything he always wanted. He had moved in with Adam Fenice, he had a job as a junior curator at the Natural History Museum, and he never had to set foot on Oxford University’s grounds ever again. Immanuel leaned back in his chair, arching his back as he ran his hands through his hair and stretched. Wayward blonde curls sprang to life at his touch. The best part of this transition from student to professional was the privacy. No longer did he have to contend with constant rabblerousing from other students or having to find a secluded spot in order to work. Now, he had an office with a door he could close and like-minded employees who were, for the most part, peaceful.

His office was just how he had pictured it when Professor Martin told him that he had called in a favor with Sir William Henry Flower at the museum and secured a position for him in the zoology department. Most of the room was taken up by his desk, which was already covered with stacks of paper after only four days of work. Behind him and in the space between the door and the windowed wall were shelves and drawers for taxidermy creatures, fossils, and jarred specimens. The office’s previous occupant had been with the museum for years before it moved to South Kensington and had accumulated a veritable cabinet of curiosities and a small library of texts. At times, Immanuel felt as if he was merely borrowing the old curator’s office, but he was glad he hadn’t moved into an empty room, knowing he would have had very little to add besides a handful of textbooks from his time at Oxford. Even if the office didn’t have any personal touches yet, it was bright and clean and his.

Something shifted in the damaged side of Immanuel’s vision. He turned in time to watch a three foot swath of pale green wallpaper flop off the plaster. Immanuel sighed. That was the third time that had happened since he moved in. He opened the drawers of his desk one at a time, searching for anything he could use to secure it. Pins. He had seen dissection pins the other day, but where? As he yanked the bottom drawer, he heard the familiar tinkle of dozens of small things sliding together. Inside, surrounded by hand-written research notes and correspondence was a wooden box no bigger than a tea chest. Pulling off the lid, he snatched his hand away. Where he had expected to find a jumble of loose metal pins, he found a pile of bleached bones. Immanuel carefully lifted the box onto his desk, tipping it sideways to coax the bones to slide away from the skull. A blank-eyed face stared back at him with fangs bared. From the size and shape, he knew it had once belonged to a decently large housecat.

Immanuel stared down at the disarticulated creature. Its vertebrae lay scattered across the bottom of the box alongside ribs and leg bones, which had separated long ago. Why had the previous curator kept a cat skeleton in his desk? It wasn’t as if they were rare or that the museum didn’t already have a specimen on display. He chewed on his lip with his eyetooth, his eyes locked on the cat’s empty sockets. The longer he stared, the more clearly he could imagine its pointy ears and the curve of its tail. Since he gained a hint of Emmeline Jardine’s power, he had touched far too many corpses not to expect the cat’s death to be gruesome. When he touched the dead, he witnessed their final moments, and most specimens’ lives ended with the distant retort of a gun, the beast blissfully unaware while Immanuel screamed in his mind for them to run. Now that he was preparing his own lunch and helping with dinner, he often found his latent talents showed him the moment of squirming agitation before a chicken’s head was lobbed off or a cow’s throat was cut. It was enough to make him consider becoming a vegetarian.

He sighed. He had to know if the cat had met an unseemly end. If that was the case, at least he could bring it back to Baker Street and give it a proper burial. Adam wouldn’t mind, and if he did, he would simply wait for him to go to work and bury it anyway. Drawing in a deep breath, he braced himself for whatever godawful fate the cat could have suffered. Immanuel reached into the box and gently stroked the smooth spot between the cat’s ears. The bright office dimmed into a darkened bedroom. The moon peeked through the bed curtains and a fire crackled somewhere nearby, but the sound was drowned out by the rhythmic gurgle of purring. Ahead of him, he could make out a pair of fuzzy legs with the ink-dipped markings of a Siamese. A wizened hand lifted the sheets and pulled them up to the cat’s chin.

Immanuel released a breath as his lips curled into a relieved smile, but it quickly faded as a wave of grief washed over him that he hadn’t anticipated. The skeleton cat had been a beloved pet, one the previous curator had apparently kept until his own death. Maybe he should bury him after all. As he closed the box and carefully placed it back in the bottom drawer, he made a note to ask someone about the old curator. Opening the cabinet behind his desk, he found the jar of t-shaped pins he had been searching for. Immanuel dragged his chair over to the wall with the fallen paper. Taking a pin, he twisted it through the thick wallpaper and into the plaster, but when he tried to secure the other corner, the pin refused to sink in. With the heel of his hand, he hammered it home.

“Mr. Winter!”

Immanuel whipped around in time to meet the penetrating gaze of Sir William Henry Flower. The swivel chair spun beneath him as he tried to step down. Stumbling forward, the museum director caught his arm. Immanuel’s face reddened, turning a deep shade of scarlet at the sound of pins tinkling behind him followed by the flop of paper. Sir William Henry Flower stared down his patrician nose at the young curator. He stood only an inch taller than Immanuel, yet his air of authority gave him a presence that made Immanuel wish he could disappear into the wallpaper.

“Is everything all right in here?”

Swallowing hard, Immanuel straightened and nodded quickly. “Yes, sir. I— I was just trying to secure the paper.”

“We could hear you trying in the hall. Have Miss Nelson contact the maintenance staff to fix it.” The museum director’s light eyes roamed over the shelves before coming to rest on the jumble of books and papers across the desk. “How is the research coming? Have you found everything you needed?”

Immanuel pushed his chair back to the desk, suddenly aware of the chaos in which he had been working. Every inch of the six foot long tabletop was used to hold an open book or allow him to see multiple pages of notes. If he had another two feet of space, he knew he would have filled that, too. He hadn’t even worked there a week, yet he was already making a mess. Drawing in a long, silent breath, he banished all thoughts of being fired. At least one of his colleagues had to be worse.

“Yes, sir. I’m still getting the lay of the land, but the librarians have been very helpful.”

“Very good. It may be a good idea to check the specimen room in the storage cellars and take some measurements and notes yourself.”

“I will, sir. I didn’t know if I was allowed to do that. Touch the specimens, that is.” He swallowed hard, hoping he could hold off visiting the basements until he could bring a pair of gloves from home.

“Museum staff can borrow whatever is needed to further their research. If you have any questions about protocol, Mr. Winter, just ask one of the other curators or librarians. As you may be aware, there is a staff meeting today at one in the Shaw Room. You haven’t been with us long, but I think you should be present to see how things operate. Do you know where that is?”

“Yes, sir.”

Giving Immanuel a firm nod, Sir William turned to leave but stopped on the threshold. A wave of nausea rippled through Immanuel’s gut as he realized the older gentleman’s gaze was resting on his brown-blotted eye.

“I have been meaning to ask, but have you had your eye examined by a physician?”

The urge to run his fingers over the bump of raised skin that bisected his right brow was nearly irresistible. Immanuel’s hands twitched at his sides, but he quickly clasped them behind his back.

“Yes, sir. I was under a doctor’s care after the—,” he paused. What could he call it? Even after six months, he didn’t know what to say when asked about how he received the scar that clouded one blue eye with a half-moon of blood-brown. Immanuel’s jaw tightened and his eye burned. He wished he could pretend it never happened. “After the incident.”

“Was it treated?”

“Sort of. At the time, there were more pressing injuries to treat. The doctor couldn’t completely restore my sight in that eye, but it doesn’t trouble me much. I have grown accustomed to it,” he replied, his voice tightening.

“Very well. Remember the staff meeting is at one in the Shaw Room.”

Holding his breath, Immanuel watched Sir William leave, shutting the door behind him. At the sound of the glass rattling in its frame, Immanuel darted to the window. He wrenched open the pane and leaned out on his elbows. Summer air flooded his lungs as he exhaled the vision of Lord Rose looming over him and breathed in London’s unique perfume to keep his mind from conjuring the demon’s smoky breath. The earthy fragrance of Hyde Park down the road brought him back to the reassuring pressure of his office’s wooden floorboards beneath his feet and the paper on seal physiological evolution flapping against his desk behind him. Immanuel raked a rain-spattered hand through his hair. If Sir William had continued to question him, how long he could have lasted before the memories tore him from reality? Lord Rose is gone, he reminded himself as he did nearly every day. Lord Rose is dead and gone.

 

***

 

Walking down the wood-lined hall, Immanuel’s gaze traveled over the engraved brass signs beside each door. The Shaw Room, he repeated to himself as he made it to the end of the hall in less than a dozen long strides. It had to be there somewhere. He should have asked Sir William where it was. He thought he had known, but there were so many rooms named for founders, and after a while, they became as tangled as the streets he tried to memorize on his way to work. Rounding the corner, he resisted the urge to check the time. He didn’t want to know how late he was. Immanuel’s pulse fluttered at the thought of being dismissed in front of the senior and junior staff. It would take all his strength not to walk off London Bridge— if he could find it.

Why had they even hired him? It was something he had wondered since he received the news that the famed museum director had agreed to take him on as a junior curator sight-unseen. He had a hard time believing that Sir William had taken Professor Martin’s word about his student’s intellect and ability to articulate a skeleton as if by instinct. Perhaps it wasn’t often that Elijah Martin called in favors, and it made him wonder what Martin had done for the director.

Upon meeting him on the day Sir William had agreed upon for him to start his duties, the only thing the director had asked was his position on evolution. Satisfied with his belief in Darwin’s theories, he passed him off to the nearest curator, who happened to be Peregrine Nichols. At least it had been Nichols and not one of the museum gentry who were as white-haired and stoic as Sir William himself. Nichols was a junior curator, too, but had been hired a few years earlier in the botany department. He stood over a head shorter than Immanuel with boyish brown hair and long, dark eyelashes. Even if he was half a decade older, he had the fragile, delicate features of a child and the rapid-fire speech of a sideshow barker. As Mr. Nichols led him past cases of specimens, pointing out the ones he worked on along with those Immanuel would have to update soon, he caught him up on museum politics.

“You’re lucky you weren’t here for it. It was chaos, utter chaos for months when they left. Most were junior curators and assistants complaining that they couldn’t pay for their wives. Pfft, a crock. You know how people are, they always want more money than they could hope to get. We get paid well for what we do. By the by, do you have a wife?”

“No,” Immanuel answered a little too quickly as they skirted a mass of schoolchildren who stared up at the stuffed elephants in awe.

“Well, then I guess I don’t have to worry about you running before you even get settled. It would be nice to have someone to talk to who didn’t live with one of these,” Peregrine said with a chuckle, hooking a thumb toward the mastodon skeleton. “Your predecessor, Mr. Masters, was nice enough, a bit eccentric. You will have to get accustomed to that. There isn’t much that’s normal in a museum. Anyway, just stay out of Sir William’s way and do as he says. He’s been eagerly awaiting your arrival.”

When Immanuel’s eyes lit up, Peregrine continued, “Albert Günther, the old Keeper of Zoology, retired early after a fight with Sir William over the theory of evolution being forced upon the new exhibits. If you can’t tell, old Günther was more than a little agnostic when it came to evolution, and Sir William can’t stand that. It’s black or white with him. Anyway, he’s been forced to manage zoology along with his duties as the director, but now, you’re here to help bear most of the burden without the higher title.”

“Do you have any advice? Is there anything I should know?”

Peregrine tilted his head in thought, his pink lips pursed. “You went to Oxford or Cambridge, right? Well, then you know it’s all politics. It isn’t just what you know but who you know. The good thing is you seem quiet, trainable, and you’re replacing another German, so you should fit right in.”

More than anything, Immanuel hoped he was right.

Immanuel froze at the brass plate marked, The Shaw Room. Taking a calming breath, he adjusted his notepad and smoothed a wayward curl over his scarred eye. As he scooted inside, a dozen grey heads turned toward him, murmuring half-hearted greetings before returning to their conversations. It was like being back at Oxford. The entire room was lined in richly polished woods from the far-reaches of the empire and smelled faintly of leather and brandy. An oil painting of the museum’s founder, Sir Hans Sloane, hung over the hearth. The man’s curly powdered wig hung down in long heavy locks like a spaniel, his eyes staring ahead impassively as his hand rested on a book of botanical prints.

Before Immanuel could locate a free seat around the long, mahogany table, Nichols caught his eye and pointed to the chair beside him. Immanuel didn’t know how he missed Peregrine. His blue suit shone against a sea of somber blacks and greys, reminding him of Adam’s penchant for flashy fabric. Adam. He suppressed a smile at the thought of what waited at home and shimmied behind the senior staff to the empty seat. The moment he sat and tried to steady his breath, Sir William called the meeting to order with a rap against the table.

“I’m certain you all know why I have called a meeting today. The gala is in less than a fortnight, and we have plenty of work to do. The invitations, food and other sundry have been taken care of, but all of the specimen tags in the museum must be up to date, especially in the great hall and the ancient botanicals exhibit.”

A silent groan passed through the room while Immanuel and Peregrine stayed silent.

“Everything must be in top shape. You never know who will show up. We must present ourselves as if we know Her Majesty will be there. Mr. Glenmont, are the preserved plant specimens ready?”

A middle-aged man with gold-rimmed spectacles lurched awake. “Huh? Uh, yes, sir. The live specimens from the horticultural society are also ready to be picked up.”

“Very good.” Sir William raised a white brow at the little man nearly bouncing beside Immanuel. “Mr. Nichols, do you have everything under control with the specimen cards?”

“Yes, sir, completely done. Well, except for the silphium, but I’m nearly done. The Earl of Dorset sent me his notes, but they are rather hard to read.”

Immanuel’s ears perked at the familiar name.

“Mr. Winter, do you have something you would like to add?”

At the sight of everyone staring at him expectantly, he opened his mouth, then closed it before uttering softly, “I— I would like to help if I could. I particularly liked botany and did well in it.” He licked his lips. Should he say it? “The Earl of Dorset is my flat-mate’s brother-in-law, so I could possibly speak to him and clarify any questions we have.”

Immanuel paused as a murmur passed through the room.

“You know him?” Sir William said.

“The earl wrote his own notes?” one of the curators asked over him, his hoary beard in stark contrast to his lilting voice.

“I— I would assume so, sir,” Immanuel replied, his eyes sweeping from face-to-face before returning to his lap. “From what my flat-mate has said, Eilian Sorrell is a well-respected mechano-archaeologist and researcher. He found the silphium at his estate in Dorset.”

“Well, I’ll be. Never thought you would know an earl,” Mr. Nichols added with a shake of his head. “I would greatly appreciate Winter’s help if you can spare him, Sir William.”

Sir William thought for a long moment, his eyes flickering between the two young men. Immanuel resisted the urge to shrink beneath his hard gaze. Had he overstepped his bounds?

“It’s a bit irregular, but I don’t believe the zoological specimens are too out of sorts. Be sure to read and alter the cards for the pinnipeds. You are our resident seal expert, Mr. Winter.”

Immanuel inwardly sighed at the title. That probably meant more nights coming home smelling like decomposing walrus. Poor Adam. Perhaps a trip to the arctic would be his punishment for not knowing his place or for ruining the gala with poorly written cards. As Sir William moved on to other topics of greater interest to the rest of the curators, Immanuel replayed the conversation over in his mind. His heart thundered in his ears, blocking the men’s urbane, muted voices. It was like being before the dons and professors at Oxford. Every word had to be scrutinized to decode layers of forethought, alliances, lies, and useless politics. That wasn’t his way. It was hard enough to remember to refer to Adam as his flat-mate after months of waiting to share a bed, but that was a matter of life and death.

“Meeting adjourned. Mr. Winter, please stay behind. I would like to speak to you for a moment.”

Immanuel’s eyes widened, but as he looked up, Peregrine caught his gaze.

As Peregrine pushed away from the table, he gave Immanuel a half smile. “I wouldn’t be too worried,” he whispered. “If he was going to sack you, he would do it in his office.”

Swallowing hard, Immanuel clutched his notepad to his chest, waiting for Sir William to approach. When the last man filed out, the museum director turned to him, his face unreadable.

“You said your roommate is the Earl of Dorset’s brother-in-law?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Are they close?”

“Yes, but—” It dawned on Immanuel where this line of questioning was going. “Yes, sir, he is the only family the countess has left. Adam Fenice and I spent Christmas with the earl and countess in Greenwich last year, and I believe they have gone shooting together as well.”

Sir William nodded, running a hand over his bearded chin thoughtfully. “I will have to extend an invitation to Mr. Fenice. If you and the countess are going, he may feel slighted if he is overlooked.”

“His cousin and her husband are going as well,” Immanuel added, staring at his feet.

“Who?”

“The Hawthornes, sir. Dr. Hawthorne is the Coroner to the Queen.”

“Very well. The earl made a sizeable donation along with the silphium, and I won’t lose their patronage over a slighted relative. Give my secretary his name, and I will make certain to personally invite him.”

“Thank you, sir. I’m certain he will appreciate it.”

When Sir William turned his attention to the snifter on the sideboard, Immanuel slipped out. A wry smile crossed his lips as he passed the men who had just been in the meeting. Their gazes fell upon him with a newfound respect. No longer was he some no-name German boy. He knew nobility and that would establish him better than age or experience ever could.


If you enjoyed what you read, you can pre-order Dead Magic here and have it delivered to your Kindle on November 10th. Paperbacks will also be available closer to the release date.

Stay tuned for more chapters and previews to come.

3 Comments

Filed under dead magic, Writing

Chapter Two of Dead Magic

dm-preorder

Since Dead Magic will be coming out in a little over a month, I thought I would share the first few chapters here to wet your appetite for its release on November 10th. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be releasing a few more of the opening chapters. I hope you enjoy!
If you missed it, here’s chapter one.

Chapter Two
A New Regime

In Emmeline Jardine’s eighteen years, she had learned two things for certain: people are nearly always dumber than they appear and nothing lasts forever. It was with this in mind that Emmeline told herself that Madame Nostra’s reign at the London Spiritualist Society would be short. She loathed everything about the woman, from her over-sized hats and too orange hair to her rib-splittingly tiny waist and the wild patterns of her gowns. Standing with her back to the wainscoting and paisley wallpaper, Emmeline watched with an incredulous black brow as the other spiritualists swarmed the fake medium, listening eagerly to her recitation of her two month long European tour.
Madame Nostra let out a throaty chuckle and patted the massive ribbon affixed to her hat. “Oh yes, the King of Italy was a joy to read. I didn’t want to say anything, but I did tell him about the death of a son he didn’t know he had. His Majesty was deeply affected by the news.”
Emmeline rolled her eyes as the others tittered for her to tell them more. One day back on English soil and they were already falling over themselves to be in Madame Nostra’s good graces. Did they not realize she couldn’t actually communicate with spirits? All it took was one reading with her for Emmeline to discover that Madame Nostra’s spirits spoke in knocks that came from her left foot. It didn’t seem right for her of all people to rise to the top, but with Lord Rose dead, Madame Nostra had the biggest name and the loudest mouth. If Emmeline had remained in Oxford, maybe things would have been different.
Someone bumped against Emmeline’s arm, breaking her train of thought. She turned with a scowl at the ready only to find Cassandra Ashwood at her elbow, giving her a knowing smile. Against her will, Emmeline felt a grin cross her features. Ever since Cassandra arrived at the Spiritualist Society in March, they had been as inseparable as—and often mistaken for—sisters. Besides having the same brown eyes, round faces and short stature, they also shared the same opinion of the illustrious Madame Nostra.
“And I thought you would be thrilled to see the old girl back,” Cassandra whispered, keeping her eyes on the middle-aged women hanging on the Madam Nostra’s every word.
Emmeline snorted. “Can’t you tell I’m overjoyed at being ignored again?”
“I guess that’s the end of our coregency,” she replied, a faint smile crossing her lips. “It was fun while it lasted.”
“Our holiday won’t be long if I have any say in the matter.”
Cassandra shook her head, a curl of mahogany hair dancing against her cheek. “It isn’t worth staging a coup. The woman’s harmless.”
“Cass, you know stupid people are never harmless.”
Locking eyes, Emmeline held Cassandra’s gaze until finally her best friend relented with a shrug and a sigh. “Your aunt is rubbing off on you. Still though, aren’t you happy that you don’t have to manage everything now? You can be a medium again.”
Words gathered on Emmeline’s tongue, but she swallowed them down in a bitter gulp. Even to Cassandra, she couldn’t admit that she had enjoyed every moment she ran the Spiritualist Society. For most of her life, she had watched her mother manage the Oxford Spiritualist Society, so taking up the reins in London felt as natural as throwing a party. She had been fortunate that no one older or better known stepped up after Madam Nostra went on tour because she would have surely been usurped, but she might have allowed it, if it had been the right person. With Cassandra’s help and calming words, they had managed the servants, tended to the account books, kept track of everyone’s appointments to ensure there was always a parlor available for a séance, and had even organized a small dinner party for the benefactors of the society. It had all gone swimmingly, especially after the first week when the older members of the society finally realized she wasn’t going to stop and acquiesced to her temporary rule.
“They may soon find that they miss my managerial style.”
“I know I will.”
Emmeline whipped around to find Lord Hale staring down at her with a cheeky grin. Her eyes ran appraisingly over his pomaded auburn hair and emerald waistcoat. He was the sort of man every woman imagined as her prince. She should have veiled her feelings for him as propriety dictated, but with a gentleman who was not only handsome but could dance and speak as well as Cecil Hale, it was nearly impossible.
“Lord Hale, what brings you here? Have you come to hear Madam Nostra’s tall-tales?”
“No, much like you, I’m merely making a show of it.” His gaze ran over her, lingering a moment too long before he caught himself and added with a cough, “Has the post come yet? I’m expecting a package. For the life of me, I can’t remember if I addressed it for here or my flat.”
“Why would you send it here?” Cassandra asked.
“At the time, I think I was between flats and wasn’t sure if I would be settled yet. The parcel ended up being delayed, and well—” He shrugged. “Would you keep an eye out for it, Miss Jardine?”
Heat flooded he chest and cheeks as he flashed a vibrant smile. “Of course, I will let you know if I see it.”
“Well, I guess I should pay Madam Nostra a visit. Good day, Miss Jardine, Miss Ashwood.”
As Emmeline watched Lord Hale cut through the circle of women in the parlor, unabashedly tracing the curvature of his back and buttock with her eyes, she felt Cassandra’s cold gaze upon her. “Don’t give me that look, Cass.”
“You’re much too obvious, and he’s a flirt.” She waved a dismissive hand. “Anyway, I’m feeling peckish, would you like to come to the Dorothy with me? If we leave now, we can still get an eightpenny dinner.”
Emmeline frowned. Even if she didn’t love going to the women-only restaurant, it guaranteed that Madam Nostra and her entourage wouldn’t be there. “Fine.”
With a nod of satisfaction, Cassandra disappeared down the hall to retrieve their cloaks. Behind them in the hall, the mail hit the rug with a dull thump and a crinkle of paper. Emmeline sighed and scooped up the massive jumble of letters and parcels. If she didn’t do it, she knew the others would let them sit there until they were trampled into the carpet. Emmeline flipped through the stack of letters with little interest. Most were advertisements for fake mediums with even worse acts than Madam Nostra or letters from clients hoping for a séance, but at the bottom of the pile was a package. The brown wrapping had been creased and torn at the edges in transit. Between smudges of dirt, Emmeline could make out the remnants of stamps and words written in half a dozen languages. The package had gone far in its time abroad, yet no return address appeared on the front or back.
Holding it in her palm, she judged its weight and smiled to herself. It had to be a book and a fancy, well-bound one at that. Her eyes flickered to Lord Hale, but as she took a step forward, she caught the words scrawled in tight script across the paper wrapping: To the Head of the Spiritualist Society. Lord Hale certainly was not it. It could have been Madam Nostra’s as she technically had assumed the role as head of the society, but if it had been something she ordered, certainly she would have given the shopkeeper her name. If it wasn’t hers, then… Emmeline’s throat tightened at the thought of Lord Rose snarling down at her, his golden eyes alight like the end of his cigarette. He died by his own hand nearly six months earlier, but from the journey in faded stamps of ink, the book easily could have been ordered right before he died.
“What’s that?” Cassandra asked as she handed Emmeline her cloak.
Emmeline opened her mouth to speak, the words tangling in her throat as she held the book tightly to her breast.
“It’s nothing. I—” Dropping her voice, she said, “If you must know, I ordered a book that I don’t want my aunt to see.”
Cassandra’s chestnut brows arched. “Another one? If that one is anything like the last, you had best hide it well.”
“I’m lucky she hasn’t found my cache yet.”
Cassandra chuckled and slipped on her mackintosh. Releasing a silent breath, Emmeline slipped on her cloak and followed Cassandra out the door toward Mortimer Street. She bit her lip, glancing over her shoulder to see if anyone had seen her take it, but all eyes were on Madam Nostra. As Emmeline stepped outside, she kept the package under her arm and her hand tightly over row of script written across its face.

***

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 out of place there. She had never been in a public place where men were not allowed. The room was overly bright even in the dreary weather with its red walls and gaudy array of colorful Japanese fans and parasols artfully tacked to the plaster. Around them all manner of women ate the same meal on identical white tablecloths with vases of flowers. During previous visits, they had spotted Constance Wilde and the Countess of Dorset not far from a table of shop girls. In a space free of men, the women seemed to transform 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 bordered on elicit. At the Dorothy, they all seemed so free, yet surrounded by a complete lack of restriction, Emmeline felt stunted.
“You’re very quiet today, Em,” Cassandra said, looking up from her roast chicken and potatoes. “Anything the matter?”
Emmeline’s eyes flickered over the window where rain pattered against the pane and through the drizzle, she inadvertently caught the gaze of a man peeking inside. What he expected them to be doing, she couldn’t imagine, but gawkers, as 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 gaze upon her, as if the book was watching her—beckoning to her—the moment she let her mind wander. 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 an excited squeak. She wiped her mouth and took a 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 Natural History 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, a 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,” Emmeline 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 annoyance and guilt. Somehow, Emmeline had never imagined that Cassandra could have friends besides her, that she had a life outside the Spiritualist Society. She only ever saw her at the Dorothy and the society, and she didn’t appear to have a beau or that she was even looking for one. Modern woman, Emmeline scoffed. No wonder Aunt Eliza loved it when Miss Ashwood came for tea. Watching Cassandra go back to her meal, Emmeline’s stomach knotted. How did she know so little about her even though they spent nearly every weekend and most evenings together 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 demure self-assuredness about her that didn’t require words to enforce. Emmeline wondered if 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 swampy air washed in.
“How do you know it’s her?”
“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 Cassandra pulled it 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. You can’t steal her property, Emmeline,” she replied in a harsh whisper. “Nostra is a fool, but this is hers.”
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 frowned. “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 strings and 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. Lying 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 Emmeline lifted it closer, minute beams of light broke through the parchment.

September 14th, 1892
To the person the grimoire chooses,
I hope whoever reads this letter can forgive that I do not know your name. 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. The grimoire is no longer safe. By the time you read this, the grimoire will have passed through many hands to keep it away from those who would pervert the knowledge within it. If you are reading this note, you may be the end of the line. It is my hope that the book has fallen into worthy hands.
Dark forces are in Berlin, and they are moving north to London. 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?
“What is it?” her friend asked, noticing her sudden pallor.
“I don’t think the book was meant for Lord Rose, but I don’t think it was meant for Nostra either. Here, read it for yourself.”
Handing over the letter, Emmeline turned her attention to the heavy tome; she couldn’t stand to watch Cassandra’s reactions. Maybe she was right. She should have just left it alone. Running her fingers over the soft leather cover, Emmeline closed her eyes. Where there weren’t deeply hewn arabesques or veins are fine as capillaries, it was as smooth as skin. She followed the lines as they hypnotically wove through one another to form not only a picture of a stylized garden but an intricate knot. Her fingertips hummed the moment the entire circuit had been traced, and in her mind’s eye, she could make out the loops and whirls, seen and unseen, lying in her hands. Open it. Her freehand crept toward the latch.
“It has to be a joke of some kind. Something to scare off Madam Nostra. It has to be, doesn’t it?”
Emmeline opened her eyes, her breath coming heavy as if she had just awoken. What could she say? She believed every word. In the past year, she had seen and experienced things no one would believe. Cassandra watched mediums like Emmeline tap into a different plane of vision to speak to the dead, but it was nothing compared to what she had dealt with. She had been resurrected and felt her own heart stop in turn to revive another.
She stroked the ridges of the book’s spine. “I’m not so sure. What if it is true? I can’t just put the book back now. What if it falls into the wrong hands?”
“You need to give it to someone else. The letter said to pass it on if you couldn’t protect it,” Cassandra replied, her eyes wide with fear. “I could probably find someone.”
She eyed the women sitting around them suspiciously before turning her gaze back to Emmeline, who clutched the book close as if it was a cherished storybook.
Cassandra rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe you. You’re going to keep it, aren’t you?” She dropped her voice. “Em, if you believe what it says, people will come after you. Bad people. They could hurt you. We need to figure out who to give this to. Did your mother know anyone that you can trust?”
“Perhaps. I could look into it, but for now…” Keep it. “For now, I can keep it in Uncle James’s safe. No one would bother it there.”
Emmeline’s eyes traced the unending pattern carved into the supple leather. It felt warm in her hand, and if she let the world around her fade, she swore she could feel its steady pulse. It had a life within it, and it was hers to protect.


If you enjoyed what you read, you can pre-order Dead Magic here and have it delivered to your Kindle on November 10th. Paperbacks will also be available closer to the release date.

Stay tuned for more chapters and previews to come.

4 Comments

Filed under dead magic, Writing

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?


Stay tuned for more updates for Dead Magic. If you would like news about releases, ARCs, and special deals, please sign up for my newsletter.

Leave a comment

Filed under dead magic, Writing

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

3 Comments

Filed under Writing

The Low-Down on The Winter Garden (IMD#2)

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen that the release date for The Winter Garden has moved from March 31st to March 15th.  When I arranged the pre-order for the story, I had left plenty of room in case I got busy with class and was unable to finish and edit it as quickly as I planned.  As it turns out, I have everything ready to go about a month ahead of schedule.  Part of me would love to release it today, but due to the way Amazon has the pre-order set up, I can’t move it up that far.  I decided to release it two weeks early, which will allow me to do one more proofing of the opening chapters, but both the ebook and paperback will be out by March 15th.  Let me tell you a little more about The Winter Garden in hopes that it will pique your interest. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Writing

The Winter Garden Preview

WG preorder 99c

Leading up to The Winter Garden‘s release on March 31st, I will be posting a few excerpts from the story.  You can read an excerpt from chapter one here.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter Two: Alchemists and Pinnipeds:

Immanuel smiled to himself as he made his way across the lawns and between the medieval buildings, feeling the money from his professor jingle in his pocket. It was bittersweet to finish Otto’s skeleton since he enjoyed spending his afternoons with his mentor, but it would be nice to use the bit of money he earned to have a meal out or buy some new supplies. He wove between the throngs of students and strangers until he reached the massive entrance of the Bodleian Library with its gothic portal and school coats of arms. The warm smell of must and parchment engulfed him as he slipped inside. The cozy, cave-like atmosphere of the Bodleian calmed him on his worst day and had been his refuge since he arrived. The librarian barely looked up from his desk as the lanky, young German signed in and strolled toward a desk among the stacks. He wandered through the shelves searching for those who may be able to help him in his search. It had been weeks since the day at the Thames when the girl fell in and his heart stopped, but he couldn’t help but wonder what his alchemist ancestors created. Every spare moment was spent in the library researching what could have revived her. On a shelf of philosophers stood Magnus, Bacon, and Pseudo-Geber; all were men who sought to wholly understand life but, unlike him, took their studies toward the otherworldly. Immanuel hoped within their spines he would find the curious secret to what had been brewed and bottled in the necklace by his ancestors.

For hours he sat at the desk in solitude and silence with his hands covering his ears and cupping the sides of his face like blinders. Most of what he read made little sense, but as he reached the section on Albertus Magnus, his eyes lit up. Another German had made an elixir of life. He reread the words, but they refused to sink in. The lapis philosophorum had the power to grant life. Immanuel’s eyes passed over the page until they reached the part about how it looked. The immature stone was white but would transform to its most potent form, which was red, with the addition of a reagent. The vial had been a murky milk until it morphed into a sanguine solution upon the addition of his blood. Could his mother’s forbears have left the lapis philosophorum for him as his inheritance?

When Immanuel finally surfaced from the massive volume, his neck was stiff and his hand was cramped beyond cracking. He sat back, clenching his eyes shut, but upon opening them, he suddenly noticed how dark the library had become even with the electric sconces. As he gathered up his belongings, a door opened in the distance, and the lights were extinguished. Immanuel quickly threw on his satchel and grabbed the book by Albertus Magnus to return it to the shelf when their voices rang out in the darkness. He peered around the edge of the bookcase, ready to yell to the librarian that he was still inside when his eyes fell upon three men in the shadows.

“Are you certain he is in here, Higgins?” asked the man in the middle, his voice deep and urbane.

“Very, he is the only one who has not left.” The second intruder’s voice vacillated nervously. “I should know, I have been outside for four bloody hours.”

“Keep it down, or he will hear you. I do not want to have to chase him. Higgins, go toward the back. Thomas, go check the shelves.”

Immanuel carefully padded backwards, keeping an eye on the shrouded men at the other end of the library as he darted toward the Seldon End. His chest tightened as he spun around, hoping to find a place to hide, but all he found was a dead end. He could hide under the tables, but even with the scant amount of light coming in through the windows, he would cast a shadow. Two pairs of feet were rapidly approaching. One of the men called out that the stacks were empty. Immanuel’s heart pounded as his eyes fell on the catwalk above his head. Holding his breath, he inched toward the hall where the men were regrouping and noiselessly climbed the steps on the tips of his toes.

He flattened against the bookcase as the men came in and checked under the desks and near the shelves for any sign of him. What they could want from him, he couldn’t imagine, but he didn’t want to find out. From his hiding place, he watched the figures below move in the waning light. He didn’t recognize them as students or lecturers, and while they weren’t carrying cudgels or guns, it was clear they were hunting for someone. The two who were sent ahead stepped into the lantern light, revealing that they were both at least a dozen years older than he was and better dressed. The man who eagerly sought him under the long desks had a gaunt and haggard countenance with bulging eyes that darted nervously over every surface. The other was a stout man with spectacles, who appeared more fit for servitude or banking than crime.

As their leader emerged from the shadows of the hall, it became clear why they didn’t need to carry weapons. The robust man strode in like a Roman commander. He held his head high and marched past his inferiors. Immanuel swallowed hard as the man put his hands on his hips, causing his ribs to flare and push dangerously against the tailored fabric of his suit and waistcoat. As much as he wanted to monitor the men, he feared that if he looked at them directly, they would feel his gaze and discover him in his darkened corner.

“He isn’t here, sir.”

As the pudgy intruder spoke, Immanuel looked out over the railing toward the arched portal. If he could leap from the second floor and run toward the exit, he might just be able to outrun them, especially since he knew the terrain.

“The German couldn’t have gone far. Thomas, go up there and tell me if you can see him.”

His eyes widened in panic as the fatter man climbed the steps. Immanuel stared up at the inlaid ceiling, taking long, slow breaths to keep from hyperventilating. The fidgety man peered out the window for their prey while their leader lingered under the walkway on the opposite side of the room. The paunchy criminal looked out across the library, gripping the railing until his meaty knuckles turned white. With a final steadying breath, Immanuel knew what he had to do. He clutched The Theatrum Chemicum and began his silent shuffle toward the intruder. In the shadows, the man never noticed as he slunk behind him. Raising the tome high above his head, Immanuel brought it down so hard on the back of the heavy man’s skull that he crumpled against the rail. Immanuel dashed the book to the floor and jumped over the edge. His leg gave out under him as he stumbled forward, ignoring the pain radiating up from his ankle.

For a few fleeting seconds, he thought he would be able to escape until he heard the sound of a bench crashing to the floor and boots thundering behind him on the ancient planks. His satchel slapped against his thigh as the shelves blew past him on either side. Immanuel slammed his wobbly ankle down step after step despite the pain. The door was only feet beyond the deserted librarian’s desk, but as he rounded the corner, the footsteps finally caught up with him. They collided in a pile of wool and leather and fell to the ground with the brawny man easily pinning him. Immanuel flailed and thrashed wildly until he was able to work his arms free from under the man’s body. The bug-eyed Higgins soon joined the pile, but as he reached for Immanuel’s arms, the younger man sent his elbow into the criminal’s nose. When his attacker fell back onto their commander, Immanuel rolled onto his stomach and scrambled to his feet. A claw wrapped around his sore ankle and yanked him back down. Immanuel lay on the floor panting, the wind knocked out of him by the fall, as the man knelt on his back and tightly bound his hands with the strap from his satchel.

“I knew you were in there. Even if I could not see you, I could sense you,” their leader explained in a harsh whisper. His mouth was so close to Immanuel’s ear he could taste the puffs of hot tobacco-ridden breath with each syllable. “I did not expect such a fight from you.”

“The money is in my pocket. I swear, I have nothing else of value,” Immanuel cried with his face pressed into the floor from the man’s weight, but his hands worked frantically against their binds.

“Oh, you have something much more valuable than money that I want. Stop struggling, boy. We are just going to have a little talk.”

Before Immanuel could reply, a sharp pain followed by a flood of cold ran through his arm. Then, the world went black.


44 days until The Winter Garden comes out!  If you haven’t read the first book, I hope you will check out The Earl of Brass, and if you like what you read, you can pre-order The Winter Garden (IMD #2) here for 99 cents.  I cannot believe there are only 44 days left. As a bonus, here is a little Valentines Day fun from Adam and Immanuel.  You’ll meet them soon.

valentine__immanuel_and_adam_by_fi_di-d767gqs

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing