We are at it again! Kicking off the year with a brand-new campaign: Full Steam Ahead!

Yes, we are funding more books. Yes, we would love if you would check them out, maybe show your support. But don’t think you have to do it blind. Here is a taste of Grimm Machinations – the sequel to Gaslight & Grimm, bringing you even more steampunk faerie tales.

The other two books funding through the campaign are A Cast of Crows, a Poe-inspired steampunk collection created in conjunction with the Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival; and Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk, an anthology that takes a look at the mechanics that keep the tech running, but more on those later.

Over the course of the campaign, we will be sharing these excerpts so you can get to know our authors’ style.

Grimm Machinations 2 x 3

The Six Clockwork Swans
Christine Norris

Based on The Six Swans

Kadie’s footsteps were all but silenced by the thick Persian carpet as she crept across the library. The tall windows that lined the one wall showed a clear night sky full of stars and a full moon that made turning on the gas lamps unnecessary. Thick shadows lay in corners where the moonlight didn’t reach. The last of the church bells’ midnight chimes still hung in the air, its resounding gongs giving Kadie the perfect cover for her journey down the stairs, across the marble hall, and through the library door.

The household had been in bed for hours, except for the night maids, who were in the kitchen gossiping over their tea. As mistress of the house, it was her right to be in the library whenever she pleased, so sneaking shouldn’t be necessary, but she knew she was being watched. And being so close to breaking the curse, she couldn’t take a single chance.

The library seemed to hold its breath as she passed the shelves of books. The framed portraits of generations of her husband’s family stared down from above, their dour expressions silently judging her. She had been told all of their names but didn’t recall a single one at this moment. There were only six names that mattered to her.

Her foot caught on something, and suddenly she was falling. She flung her arms forward to stop herself and slammed her palms into the edge of her husband’s enormous heavy desk, her knee into the side. Tears pooled in the corners of her eyes, and she gritted her teeth to hold back her cry of pain and shock. After a few seemingly eternal moments, the pain passed, and Kadie was able to gather herself enough to stand. She looked down and saw the architect of her stumble—a wrinkle in the rug. She silently cursed it and resumed her trip to the farthest corner of the library.

She tossed a nervous glance over her shoulder to make sure she was still alone. No one had heard her unfortunate crash into the desk, it seemed. She stood on tiptoe and reached as high as she could, the tips of her fingers grasping the edge of one of the books on the top shelf. With a snick softer than a whisper, the bookcase swung open. Kadie grabbed the oil lamp she kept on a shelf just inside the door and lit it with the matches she kept in the pocket of her skirt. A few yards down the stone-lined passage, she pushed on one, worn smooth, and the hidden door swung silently shut. The little oil lamp only put out a small circle of light, but she walked with quick and sure steps, her footfalls echoing along the narrow passage. She could have had no light at all, and she would know the way, so often had she traveled this corridor.

She had discovered the secret passage completely by accident, just a year after Daniel found her in the tiny cottage in the woods and brought her to his home. His was a magnificent manor house at the center of the city over which he reigned as Duke. A far different place than her home in so many ways.

The library had been her refuge from almost the moment she had arrived, and one rainy afternoon while she was looking for something to read and hiding from her mother-in-law, she reached for the book that opened the door. The passage had been dark and full of cobwebs, obviously unused for many years. But with a little sweeping and the hidden lamp, it had become almost welcoming.

The other end of the passage opened into a comfortably sized room with windows near the ceiling that allowed the moonlight to pour inside like silver. Kadie had never been able to figure out where this room was within the house, either from the inside or looking at the house from the outside. It was as if it existed just for her.

She inhaled deeply, letting the scent of machine oil and dust fill her nose before she placed the lamp on a small table beside the door and, in a few minutes, the rest of the lamps were lit, and she was ready to get to work.

The flickering yellow light bounced off the glass doors of the cabinet where she kept the collection of tools she had gathered in the last six years. She never took them from the room; if she were ever caught with even the smallest screwdriver, it could mean her death. In this realm, technology like clockworks and machinery were heresy.

Her workbench stood against the back wall. Beside a small pile of spare gears and cogs, five small music box movements sat in a neat row, gleaming in the light. The first was the largest, and each decreased slightly in size. In front of each sat a small card with a name written in her own elegant script—Albert, Broderick, Charles, Dorian, Edgar. The sixth movement lay in pieces on the bench in front of a small stool with a cracked leather seat. Its label waited off to the side. Flynn. Kadie gazed at the names, picturing each of her brothers in turn. Their faces had begun to blur in her memory. If all went well, she would see them again today.   

Kadie sat and took a deep, cleansing breath before lifting the small screwdriver in her callused fingers and tightening the screw that held the cog in place. Almost done, and yet still so far to go. It hadn’t been easy to keep her work a secret; these stolen moments in the workshop had been harder to come by, especially with her mother-in-law keeping an ever more watchful eye.

This would have been so much easier if she had been home, or even still at the cottage. Her father’s realm was a hive of mechanical things. Clock shops, mechanical vehicles on the streets, airships in the skies above. Her father loved anything mechanical. Her room in the palace had been filled with clockwork toys, many he had made himself and given to her on birthdays and holidays. 

That had been before he had married again.

Her stepmother hated her and her siblings. Kadie had no idea why, nor why she had been spared from her curse. When her brothers had disappeared, she had grabbed what she could carry and ran. From the capital city and into the forest, she ran so far she had no idea where she was. She followed the forest road until she discovered an abandoned cottage. Inside, she found a corner and cried herself to sleep. 

That was where her brothers had come to her. At sunset, six clockworks swans landed in the yard outside her door. One by one, they transformed into her human brothers. 

NorrisOnce Upon a Time, Christine Norris thought she wanted to be an archaeologist but hates sand and bugs, so instead, she became a writer. She is the author of several speculative fiction works for children and adults, including The Library of Athena series, A Curse of Ash and Iron, and contributions to Gaslight & Grimm and Grimm Machinations. She is kept busy on a daily basis by her day job as a school librarian in New Jersey. She may or may not have a secret library in her basement, and she absolutely believes in fairies.

Learn more about Christine Norris here:

Website  *  GoodReads  * Amazon Author Page

Follow Christine Norris on social media: 

Facebook  *  Twitter  *  Instagram

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