Tag Archives: #romance

The Stranded Sky Castle

Paranormal romance lovers will devour these seven novellas featuring alpha male shifters and the men they’re determined to claim. Our handpicked stories are full of heat, passion, and romances to remember. Seven authors, including some of your favorite Evernight bestsellers, are proud to present Alpha Male: Manlove Edition.

Releases Nov. 8th.

Get it here from Evernight, Amazon, Apple, kobo, Barnes and Noble, Scribd

My story in Alpha Male is “The Stranded Sky Castle”

The Stranded Sky Castle is a Romeo and Juliet story, if Romeo was a magic-wielding wolf and Juliet was a very militant eagle. Rokor, an eagle-shifter and child-soldier, grew up in a war with witches that ended when his father died to defeat the coven. He takes his role as a leader very seriously and is skeptical, flattered, and somewhat annoyed when he finds himself relentlessly pursued by the cheerful and cunning alpha wolf of the valley, Tchen the Trickster. The wolf lives up to his name laying traps to get closer and closer to his lover, until he finally manages to take the young eagle hostage. It’s only then that Rokor realizes how much the witches’ stole from the wolves and how very alive the witch threat still is.

Selection from “The Stranded Sky Castle”

He stood there by the window, howling at the moon in his human form, ignoring me and my entourage. Today, he was wearing soft fabric trousers and a thick hemp belt. Otherwise, he was only covered with one of our cheap feather blankets. The sight of his broad shoulders, his long unkempt hair, the angles of his jaw, and the shape of his mouth made me weak. I’d made love to that man. I’d kissed that skin, had those lips around my cock, felt the body move over and inside of me.

I had to stay cold. “All right, you hell-raiser, what are you doing in my prison?”

The howling silenced at once, and he beamed at me like a child. “Well, you look very nice out of your armor, your majesty. Like a red peacock. Very soft, very elegant.”

I turned to the other second and both of our entourages. “Would it be possible for me to speak to this person alone? I commend you all on your service in capturing and subduing this man, but it takes a while before he says anything other than lewd jokes and meaningless drivel when he’s alone with me. I can only imagine how much worse he will be with an audience.”

“You know this man, sir?” The other second was curious.

“From patrols. He frequently comes too near the border.”

She was not at all sorry to miss the show. “I wouldn’t leave him to anyone but you, sir. Call if you need help. Flock dismissed!”

Tchen leaned on the bars, devilishly handsome and innocently pathetic. Still, he at least had the sense to wait until the rustle of their feathers retreated. “I had to see you again.”

“You’re insane.”

“Am I?”

“You must be. To abandon your people and give up your freedom just to see—”

“I hope to more than see—”

“That’s not likely—”

“I hope to touch, kiss—”

“God’s balls, wolf. You are a prisoner of war!”

Tchen stepped back as if he’d been punched. Shocked deeply by my shout. I hoped I’d made progress, just the slightest dent in his madness.

“Tchen, you have to give this up. There’s no world where you and I—”

I saw his trick too late. The man didn’t have a shred of contrition, and by the time he’d grabbed my wrists, I wasn’t strong enough to hold my ground. He yanked me against the cold metal and kissed me.

My cock leaped at even this slightest contact, and I knew I’d been anticipating this. As much as I promised myself I would remain in control, Tchen’s hands groped at my ass. I should never have left the library. Never have sent my entourage away. Never put myself near this beast.

“Rokor.” My name in his mouth cracked my control, and the rest of his growl melted me to the core. “I want you so much. Please.”

Sent out first Queary Letters for a new novel: Route 413

Recently, I attended the 2022 Writer’s Digest Conference, where I was able to pitch my latest rom/com horror novel, Route 413. This is a story about a mail carrer whose route takes him through hell, fairyland, and a retiremnent community for dead and dying gods.

I pitched to three agents with this project and got requests to send materials to each of them…

which I did today!

[cue exhausting variety of celebration videos, memes, parades, etc]

Anyways, now I will forget I ever sent these in order to not get my hopes up.

Route 413

Bridger Hahn is a solitary mail carrier, whose route takes him through hell, fairyland, and into a retirement community for dead and dying gods. If he can survive his route, his mother, and the constact attacks of an unfeeling universe, he might true love and becomes the next Santa Claus.

A rom/com for fans of literary horror, ala Welcome to Nightvale, John Dies at the End, and Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. Between 70 and 90 k, this book uses mythology from all over a world but especially folktales from Southeast Asia (Bridger is Vietnamese-American) and the indigenous people of the New York area (another character is the Hudson River who has not forgotten he was once worshipped as a god).

CLICK FOR FIRST CHAPTERS

October Surprise: Inspiration

Reluctant Groom: Manlove, Evernight’s latest LGBT anthology, is an collection of stories celebrating May/December romances between two men… and, you know, forced marriages turning into happily-ever-afters.

What a perfect way to celebrate Pride Month!

Get it here from Evernight, Amazon, Nook, Kobo, iBooks

My story in Reluctant Groom is “October Surprise”

Image is everything to Whim, a stoic mayor who is also an openly gay, black man running for governor of a Southern state. So when the blackmail letter arrives, Whim knows there’s only one person in his city he can trust. Sunshine, raised in Whim’s aunt’s foster home, has idolized Whim since he was a kid. The young man is as brilliant as he is free-spirited, and his solutions to Whim’s troubles will either save the campaign or destroy them both.

October Surprise: Inspiration

Evernight released the call for Reluctant Groom just before the 2020 elections. So I had politics on the brain. The initial plot-bunny that hopped through my head was about a gay politician who covered up a scandal by claiming the sex worker in those dirty pictures was actually his fiancé.

And that was all I had.

In my first attempts to carve out a story, I thought maybe the politician was the sort of rake who’d make Bill Clinton blush while the younger man was a college student who could barely speak in public. Or maybe he was a secret war vet? Or maybe a born-again Christian… that wasn’t working. Then I thought, maybe the politician was super corrupt and the young fellow was the victims of a sex trafficking thing and… that fell apart very quickly.

With the deadline for the submission getting closer and no idea who I should be writing about, I took drastic measures.

I made a playlist.

I love Spotify because it lets me like any damn song I want and keeps that song in a positively enormous list for me. When I get stuck on a character or a conflict in a Romance book, I shuffle it and let the first three songs dictate where I go from there.

The first song I came to was Johnny Cash’s cover of Eagles, Desperado. It’s an absolutely legendary song, made even more heart-breaking by Cash’s lonesome vocals. It was the perfect starting point for the December in my story. A cowboy type, trying to save his city. Thinking he had to do it all alone without letting anyone see his weaknesses. Whim Deluth became a paragon of his community, obsessed with appearances and haunted by his own virtues.

The second song was so wildly different I nearly skipped over it on instinct. be steadwell’s “What I Want,” is a glorious ode to lesbian seduction (like most of her songs). Lines like “she is a reoccurring dream/ and she came back just like I knew she would” and “I don’t wanna hear you scream/I wanna hear you whisper “Please don’t stop” coupled by the raw sensuality of the song are the reason I’m a huge fan of be steadwell. The May of my story was not going to be a wilting flower, or a soft, inexperienced victim. With that one song, Sunshine became a young, gender-fluid man who knew who he was, who he wanted, and how to get his way. Is it any wonder, the young man became the more forceful of the two?

The final piece to the puzzle came with another less known artist, Rebecca Angel, and her song “Again.” It’s a deceptively simple song. Here are the lyrics without repetition.

Touch me again
like you did before.
My skin cries out
with the memory of you.

I was tempted to include the repetition and the stresses. Half the magic of the song comes from the singer’s pleading, playful, forlorn longing. There’s a lovely spareness and mystery to those few words and the light touch of the instrumentation. It evokes a rich history between these two lovers, hints at something deeply broken, and offers hope that this time will be different, better, and more satisfying.

Three songs that I doubt have ever been put near each other before, but they came together, and suddenly, I had a story to write.

October Surprise: A Bit Odd

Reluctant Groom: Manlove, Evernight’s latest LGBT anthology, is an collection of stories celebrating May/December romances between two men… and, you know, forced marriages turning into happily-ever-afters.

What a perfect way to celebrate Pride Month!

Get it here from Evernight, Amazon, Nook, Kobo, iBooks

My story in Reluctant Groom is “October Surprise”

Image is everything to Whim, a stoic mayor who is also an openly gay, black man running for governor of a Southern state. So when the blackmail letter arrives, Whim knows there’s only one person in his city he can trust. Sunshine, raised in Whim’s aunt’s foster home, has idolized Whim since he was a kid. The young man is as brilliant as he is free-spirited, and his solutions to Whim’s troubles will either save the campaign or destroy them both.

October Surprise: a little bit odd

October Surprise: not exactly the story I thought I would be writing

I don’t usually write contemporary realism stories. My mind tends to run more towards the thriller and speculative sides of the romance genre.

I don’t usually write May/December romances. The power dynamic of a much older partner and a young person ‘groomed’ for the role always freaked me out when I was a teenager, and I never got over that.

And I never thought I would be asked to write a Forced Marriage between two men. I’m a little like Whim, and my old-fashioned ass is still tickled pink and a bit unused to the fact that gay marriage is legal in the U.S.

But one of the fun things about anthology calls is that challenge to get outside yourself and write something specific to a theme.

Like every other person on the planet, 2020 was a tough year for me. I’d left my apartment in NYC to teach abroad in Shanghai, China, just as the pandemic shut everything down. Abruptly, I was thrown out of my comfortable life with an enriching career and the luxury of my own home and pushed back into life as a cashier, living with my in-laws. I spent most of 2020 joking that quarantine was a writer’s dream, but in truth, I was worn out by fear. Fear of the pandemic, fear of my nation’s negligence, fear of the racial strife that seemed just as dangerous to my family as the disease.

Evernight released the call for Reluctant Groom just before the 2020 elections. I was so wound up in these thoughts that a politician forced to marry to quiet down a scandal was the only story I could dream up. Thinking about a gay, black, uber-responsible Democrat running for governor was therapeutic for me.

Partly because I wished for a real-life Whim so much, I couldn’t bring myself to make him the sort of fella who would coerce his lover into a marriage. So, it ended up being Sunshine, the younger man, who was applying the pressure. It’s a little bit odd, so is Sunshine, so I wrote the story the way I needed to and hoped for the best (more on this in another post).

By the time I submitted it, my nerves were back. I knew I was walking the line of the most important part of the theme, and kicking myself for being cavalier with the rules, with spending months on this story with such an obvious flaw at the very heart.

I fully expected a rejection.

So when Evernight’s email came back, I was devastated but not surprised. It read: “Thank you for your submission. The story doesn’t fit the anthology requirements (almost opposite with the younger man being the forceful party)”

And then I stopped reading and wallowed for a while.

It wasn’t until a day later when I received a follow-up email asking for my response, that I went back and finished reading the initial email.

“… but the acquiring editor really enjoyed your story and is willing to bend in this specific case.”

So moral of the story, kids, finish reading your emails.

I hope you enjoy “October Surprise” even if it’s a little bit odd.

October Surprise

Reluctant Groom: Manlove, Evernight’s latest LGBT anthology, is an collection of stories celebrating May/December romances between two men… and, you know, forced marriages turning into happily-ever-afters.

What a perfect way to celebrate Pride Month!

Get it here from Evernight, Amazon, Nook, Kobo, iBooks

My story in Reluctant Groom is “October Surprise”

Image is everything to Whim, a stoic mayor who is also an openly gay, black man running for governor of a Southern state. So when the blackmail letter arrives, Whim knows there’s only one person in his city he can trust. Sunshine, raised in Whim’s aunt’s foster home, has idolized Whim since he was a kid. The young man is as brilliant as he is free-spirited, and his solutions to Whim’s troubles will either save the campaign or destroy them both.

Selection from “October Surprise”

A blackmail letter sneaks onto my desk in early spring. I’m on a call with a local school board member who needs to be reminded he’s essential, and I open my mail with indifference until the handwritten lettering peeks through. Chisel-tip marker, quite beautiful, if I’m honest. I look at the envelope again—good forgery of City Hall’s seal.

The message reads: I know your secret. When we meet, you’ll give me what I want. No questions asked.

The fellow from the school board pauses, so I mirror enough of what he’s said to make him continue on.

There’s a tiny part of me that’s pleased to receive a blackmail letter as the mayor of a mid-sized city. Death threats, I’d grown accustomed to during quarantine two years ago. But to be blackmailed … that’s proper validation.

The greater part of me is confused. Do I have a secret worthy of extortion? I’ve spoken openly, though not frequently, about my sexuality. I’m not exactly proud of my time in the Army, but there’s nothing to publicly shame me. As far as I know, I’ve never been successfully bribed. Maybe something from before. Before the military. Before my political ambitions.

Sunshine will know which of our old friends sent this.

I return the letter to its envelope, tuck it into my jacket pocket, and focus on my phone call.

After I’ve soothed the school board official, I sit in the silence. City Hall is a tomb after hours, a pristine echoing place, especially my office. The clean empty walls are cool and crisp as snow.

The last time I talked to Sunshine—not so much talking as moaning and panting, if I’m honest—I hadn’t returned his calls. He knew I wouldn’t. I’m the mayor of a mid-sized city, aiming to be governor, and he was … is … a strange kid. Feral, lawless, but not in a mean way. Boy’s heart is pure gold, just … unpredictable. He’s magic to kiss, heaven to hold, and impossible to keep. For me, anyway. Someone with less ambition and a softer heart might tame him. But he’s too fragile for my strength, too odd for my world.

Still, he answers the phone when I call. As usual, he doesn’t speak first.

“Sunshine, it’s me.”

“Who?”

“William Duluth.”

“Naw, it ain’t.”

I smile to spite myself. “It’s Whim, then.”

“Shame on you, Whim, forgetting yourself.”

Considering the blackmail letter filling my pocket, is there shame in forgetting what deserves to be forgotten? “I’m glad you remember me. How’ve you been, son?”

Sunshine bucks against the small talk. “What color’s the sky where you are?”

“Black.” Then I look out the window and consider the darkest part of this southern sunset. The springtime heat floats in a haze above the asphalt. Rows of city-approved palmettos and oaks sway in the glow of streetlights, and the skyscrapers hemming in the historic district reflect the peaceful twilight. The glowing dome of City Hall dims the stars. “Hazy gray.”

“I’ve been where the sky is purple in the night.”

“You outside the city?”

“Yup. Just ’cross the river. I like your town, Mayor Whim.”

His endorsement means more to me than a dozen donors. “Proud to hear that. Listen, I’d like to—”

“Where and when?”

“Sunshine, you don’t even know why I’m calling.”

“You sound lonely.” I bet he’s smiling to hide his own aloneness. “You know I’ll keep you out of trouble.”

In more ways than one. “Nothing has changed, son. If I’m honest—”

“I know it.” He has no patience for my defenses.

“Let’s—as a thought experiment—keep it professional. Set some boundaries.”

He laughs at my attempt. “Come and fuck me, Whim.”

I pinch the bridge of my nose, frustrated by his transparency and by the excited energy zipping through my spine. “I’d rather meet in public.”

“How’d that work last time?”

Last time. Winter. He’d worn a pink scarf from a street vendor, a long trench coat, and— I learned when he’d sauntered into my condo later—nothing else. The brightness of cheap cashmere on his mysterious dark skin … the platinum blond cloud of his shoulder-length afro … the memory burns my blood.

“It was a good effort.”

“We know how this goes, Whim. It’s like playing with matches in a pile of newspapers.”

Or a flamethrower in a weapons bunker.

“Come on over and start a fire.”

Nominated for Evernight’s Best Paranomal Romance 2019

Freeing the Witch is nominated for an award (it was already an Editor’ Pick!)!

I’m so ridiculously thrilled about this. If you liked the book, please vote for it here:

Evernight’s Best Paranormal Romance 2019

Freeing the Witch is the hardest romance novel I’ve ever written since it’s about two people who are very different than me. They are shy and self-effacing and the kind of folks you want to get a happily-ever-after. Even though one a wolf and the other is a witch. So really its an Enemies to Lovers story, but with genuinely sweet people.

 

Emaula Whispel thought she’d be happy if she could live outside her mother’s magical stone tower, but when Emaula starts working as a chef at her friend’s trading post, she becomes smitten with Porter, her co-cook. Now Emuala’s magic is obsessed with possessing this quiet, charming wolf, and the budding witch has to fight to control her powers and her lust, to prevent her new friend from becoming her accidental victim.

If you’ve not read the book, click here to get it from Evernight or contact me. I still have a few author copies to give away!

 

Freeing the Witch

Happy Friday the Thirteenth, Everyone. I know I’m having a good day because I get to announce the official release of Heart of the Mountain 2: Freeing the Witch just in time for Halloween!

*Update: Freeing the Witch won runner-up for Readers’ Choice Best Paranormal Romance. Save 25% off 2019 Readers’ Choice Winners with coupon code WINNERS2019.

Easily the hardest to write and probably the best of the romance novels I’ve written, Freeing the Witch is about Emaula a sweet, shy witch who is trapped by her psychopathic mother who is slowly eating her soul and has cursed her to be poisonous to the touch. She is saved by her friend Jasprite (heroine of Hiring the Tiger) and whisked to the jungle mountains of the south where she meets the effortlessly charming Porter, a wolf she immediately falls in love with but can never touch.
The wolf-pack is deeply suspicious of witches, and Emaula’s curse makes her particularly distrustful, so Porter finds himself for the first time ever disagreeing with his pack. He loves Emaula and he knows she wants him, what he can’t understand is why she’s so hesitant about it. And even if he could get her to admit her feelings, and smooth over the tensions with the wolf pack, there’s still that evil mother to contend with.

Starting today, you can find it online at Evernight Publishing: here.

Or on Smashwords: here.

Emaula and Porter’s love story has been particularly weird for me to write because it’s so sweet (my roommates have been listening to me complain for months about how hard it is for two shy people to fall in love). Generally my characters are as much in competition with each other as they are with the outside world; this is the first time I’ve really tackled a romance between not just one shy person, but two.

Porter and Emaula both have a lot of growing to do before they can acknowledge their own worth and fight for their mutual love.
But that’s also the reason this is one of my favorite stories. Their happy ending, because of course there’s a happy ending, is sooo earned.
So pleased to finally share this with the world.
I hope you guys enjoy Freeing the Witch.

Steampunk according to Shelley Adina

I had the great pleasure of attending some of Shelley Adina’s lectures on creative writing. In addition to being a phenomenal teacher, Shelley is an extraordinarily kind woman who will let weirdos with websites interview her. I didn’t even have to take any chickens hostage (though apparently, “The Silkie Mafia” comes armed with lightning pistols, so…)


Steampunk_cropped

Shelley Adina is the author of 24 novels published by Harlequin, Warner, and Hachette, and a dozen more published by Moonshell Books, Inc., her own independent press. She writes steampunk, contemporary romance, and young adult fiction, and as Adina Senft, writes women’s fiction set among the Amish and other plain communities.  She won the Romance Writers of America RITA Award® for Best Inspirational Novel in 2005, was a finalist in 2006, and in 2009 was a Christy Award finalist.

When she’s not writing, Shelley is usually quilting, sewing historical costumes, or enjoying the garden with her flock of rescued chickens.

Her latest Magnificent Devices story comes out on the 19th and it looks like this:

 

MD_SelwynPlace_FC_800

Here’s my full interview with Ms. Shelley Adina:

L.J.: What brought you to Steampunk?

S.A.: Would you believe the Wild Wild West TV show back in the 1960s?

L.J.: YouTube says it’s like James Bond on horseback. I can believe it.

S.A.: I loved the adventure in the Wild West, the trick gadgets, the derring-do of it all. Because I was the oldest, when we recreated the episodes after school, I always had to be James West. But I wanted to be Artemus Gordon because he got to invent the cool stuff. Carry that forward several decades, and I’m inventing cool stuff in my imagination now.

L.J.: I’ve been making people define Steampunk all month, but you’ve actually defined it in the past really succinctly as “high technology in the Victorian age,” but you write in the Regency as well. Does the era matter?

S.A.: Since the steam engine was invented by Richard Trevithick in 1807 or thereabouts, the age of steam falls both in the Regency and in the Victorian age. For writers focusing on both eras, steam matters. But what also matters is the punk element—the element of subversion of authority and fighting for independence, especially among women. While it may be easy to imagine Victorian ladies getting up to subversive activities in a time that saw the likes of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Viscountess Amberley, the Regency had its share, too, like Ada Lovelace (born 1815), the first computer programmer. Steampunks know this, and celebrate it in the characters and art we create for ourselves.

L.J.: What do you think caused the Steampunk movement?

S.A.: In a world that’s so high-tech, where you can have relationships with people you never meet in person, the hands-on, “I made this” aspect of steampunk is very appealing. The maker communities are large and active, sharing a community build of a steam-powered motorcycle or a particularly attractive bustle design for a dress. The art of it brings like-minded people together, and there’s a real appeal in sharing a common weirdness 🙂 That speaks to me as a writer, too, because I’m building a community around characters who embody that brave, punk aspect of the movement.

L.J.:  As a reader, do you think Steampunk leans more dystopian or utopian? As a writer which way do your books tend to swing and why?

S.A.: I’ve read steampunk in both flavors. Being an optimist at heart, I prefer the utopian. My heroines get what they want because they’re clever, brave, and compassionate. My worlds, while they might be broken in some ways, still have room for happiness if one is brave enough to create it. Maybe that’s a bit of my life philosophy, too.

L.J.: I really like that as a life philosophy. Can you tell us more about your books?

S.A.: The Magnificent Devices series numbers 12 books, followed by four “manor house” novellas that continue the adventures in a much smaller, more domestic way. Because, you know, the adventures don’t stop after the wedding 🙂

Then there is my spinoff steampunk mystery series, Mysterious Devices, which follows the adventures of Daisy and Freddie Linden, two young ladies from Bath who are searching for their father. He went missing in Book 11 of the larger series. Along the way they solve murders, missing persons cases, and espionage cases. As one does, in steampunk.

L.J.: Last thing, because I don’t want your chickens to get out and start robbing banks without their mom keeping an eye on them, what are your top five Steampunk favs?

S.A.:

  1. The Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld
  2. The Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest
  3. The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger
  4. The Baskerville Affair series by Emma Jane Holloway
  5. And a delightful French movie called Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec that is based on a comic book series

You can find Shelley’s work here.

 


The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.

And this month, while they celebrate Steampunk, one of them is mine!

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Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

Steampunk: How to Feed People Underground?

So this is less to do with Steampunk in general and more to do with my story in specific. One of the primary images I was working with was a huge number of people trapped underneath another city. And one of the main problems was figuring out how they were still around after being effectively buried alive.

I turned to science for my fiction and let me tell you, the future is coming fast and it’s actually rather encouraging for those of us afraid of climate change.

Aerofarms is a real company in New Jersey; they grow salad in a warehouse.

aerofarms
Aerofarms

Obviously, this is hugely important stuff. The technology they use allows them to produce huge amounts of crops without soil or sunlight (aka land in New York); their website can tell you better than I could about the technology they use and how it gives reliable crops with better growing seasons using less water, and all that other really cool, hippy crap.

I’ve eaten the salad and it’s as good as salad is ever going to be for me (I’m a pizza and burger person). I think this is an awesome company and it needs all kinds of support.

However.

I grew up in farm country and I’ve worked in warehouses. So that image above is hugely jarring to me. There’s something so out-of-place about plants growing indoors that I immediately started thinking about science-fiction Dystopias. Of course, this is closer to a Utopia because more food, produced with less waste and cheaper, is the stuff of a good society.  It feels strange to us now, but this is the way we will be fed in the future, at least those of us who eat salads.

Personally, I will be eating this:

 

Clean meat, grown in a lab, with no harm to animals.

Honestly, I’d totally eat that. It looks like raw hamburger meat and I bet it tastes the same. Once they make it cheap and shape it like nuggets, I’ll never kill an animal again.


The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.

And this month, while they celebrate Steampunk, one of them is mine!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

Steampunk: How does Clockwork…Work?

While I was writing The Scribbling Windhund, I made the inventor/terrorist very aware and a little embarrassed when he started going into technical details, so he’d cut himself short and not over explain science that I couldn’t explain. However, I do know a thing or two about clockwork mechanisms and if you’re interested, I’m going to indulge.

One of my favorite things to do when I was a kid was take apart my older sister’s wind-up music box collection and clean the insides. Partly it was fun because she couldn’t put them back together and it terrified her to see her beloved music boxes in pieces, but mostly I enjoyed it because it let me pretend to be an inventor.

I’d have my tweezers, a little copper bowl of Brasso, some q-tips, rubbing alcohol (which was absolutely not necessary and probably shouldn’t have been mixed with other chemicals), and a tiny screwdriver. Then I’d set to work dismantling the movement.

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This is a “movement.” Clockwork speech for the shit inside.

The way these music boxes work is really painfully simple and extraordinarily beautiful. The round part in the upper left of the image is either called the main spring or the spiral spring. If you take it out of the case (and be very careful you don’t hurt yourself when you do), you’ll be holding a flat band of metal wound very tightly. That’s were the energy of winding the music box comes from and the longer and thinner the wire was the longer the box would play (the shorter and thicker the faster it would play). This is basically the battery of the mechanism. After you put in the energy turning the key to the music box, it tightens the spring. This is slowly unleashed and turn the wheels, gears, and eventually causes the revolving cylinder to turn. The raised bumps hit the tuned teeth of a steel comb (or lamellae) and “Music of the Night” or “Romeo and Juliet” begins to play.

I’d take great delight in carefully unscrewing the comb, and dismantling the gears, cleaning them of the little bits of dust and hair that somehow got into the device. I’d talk to myself pretending to either be inventing the thing for the first time, or defusing a bomb, or discovering a piece of old technology lost to the ages.

And of course, I’d reassemble it by the time my parents came to yell at me for messing with my sister’s toys.  They’d find nothing except a perfectly functional music box and the strong scent of rubbing alcohol and Brasso in her bedroom.

The only time I ever really got in trouble was when I took to un-making my Great Uncle Wes’ pendulum clock. The piece was much more complicated, with a lot more small moving parts (pinions, the escapement, the damned pendulum, a chiming train, and a movement train) and after I’d taken it apart I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to put it back together before someone caught me.

In the end, I stole the clock and all it’s parts and hid in the clean field (which was actually a very dirty hill) next to my Aunt and Uncle’s house. I can vividly remember skidding down the rocks and past the snake burrows to hide among the staghorn sumac. I spent the rest of the day figuring out those gears and wheels and pinions, watching the sunlight cutting through the leaves and the bars growing longer and longer as I ran out of time.

I was particularly frustrated when I realized I had put the hour hand where the minute hand needed to be and I had to take it all apart and reassemble it again.

I was there for about four hours, lying among the rocks and the grass on my belly trying to piece the thing back together. In the end, I couldn’t figure out the chiming mechanism (I suspect I lost some pieces on my flight to the field).

I don’t know if my Uncle Wes ever figured out exactly why the clock stopped chiming, but I know whenever my Aunt Annie would remark on how he ought to go and get it fixed he would just shrug and cast me a wry little smile.

It was like this clock, but not as ornate:


The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.

And this month, while they celebrate Steampunk, one of them is mine!

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