I can’t believe Cobalt’s release date is already so close! The time seemed to drag on, and now all of a sudden it’s right upon me, and I feel like I’m doing this all wrong. But like another indie author advised in a video I was watching on releasing your first book, this is a learning curve, so hopefully I don’t screw it up too badly.
So! Info on my book release first and some giveaways! I’m planning to release Cobalt on Cyber Monday, just in time for Christmas shopping–all you wonderful people who like to give books to their loved ones for the holidays, I’m looking at you. I think Cobalt would be a great gift with some pajamas, a pair of fuzzy sockies, and hot cocoa mix in a mug! Both the e-book and paperback will be on sale for a special price for 24 hours, and of course I’ll post ordering info as soon as it’s available.
Also, everyone who shares the link to this blog post via my Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter posts will get entered into a drawing for a free copy of Cobalt, their choice of e-book or paperback. I’m also working on some swag related to Cobalt, like handmade pendants, bookmarks, and other fun stuff that I’ll add to the drawing if I’m able to get them done in time. If not, I’m planning on attending a super amazing steampunk con this March and have the goodies available online and in person by then!
Okay, now sit back, put your goggles on, and take a look at Cobalt’s prologue:
“Stay close, darling. This is no place to play.” Katerina’s mother drew her daughter close to her side. Wide-eyed, the little girl’s gaze traveled up the steel walls of the multi-storied factory, framed from behind by gnarled branches that twisted gently in the air, despite there being no wind. Katerina pressed her hands to her ears. The staccato thock, thock of the woodcutters’ axes, always a constant sound in the distance, had never sounded this close or loud. Why were there always so many trees if the woodcutters stayed so busy?
The factory backed up against the encroaching Forest, the high timber wall that surrounded their town reaching out from either side like embracing arms. From somewhere far away on the other side of that wall, something howled.
“What’s out there, Mama?” the child asked. Although she could see the wall from her bedroom window, she had never been allowed to venture near it.
“Nothing that belongs in here with us. But also nothing to fear, for the wall keeps us safe.” Anna tightened her hand around her daughter’s and hurried them between the building’s thick iron doors.
Spotting them in the entrance, a worker waved. “Lebel!” he shouted. Josef looked up from a giant logbook at the table against the far wall, then walked over to meet the newcomers.
“Anna, dear, why did you bring Kate?” he inquired, giving the woman a peck on the cheek. “What if she runs off?”
In answer, Anna raised her arm to show Katerina’s hand enclosed in her own, and smiled. “She is getting old enough to see where her father works, don’t you think? And we’ll only be a few minutes. I just received a message at the house. It appears your latest shipment destined for the port was ambushed by pirates and everything was lost. The shipper wishes to contact you immediately.”
Josef swore. Then, at a sharp look from his wife, he gave a small smile and patted Katerina’s auburn curls. “Might not be a bad idea to hire guards who know how to keep an eye on the skies and not just down at the trees. I’ll need to ensure this is done before sending out a replacement.”
“We’re visiting the market next, if you have any messages for me to relay,” Anna offered.
“As a matter of fact…” Josef held up a finger and returned to his desk, where he rummaged through a sheaf of paperwork.
This was Katerina’s first visit to the factory. The place was a hive of mechanical and human noise, brass and steel, constant movement. She stared in awe at the honeycombs of shelves brimming with orbs of all sizes, some a dull glassy gray, others glowing deep blue. Balconies and lofts separated spiral metal stairways along the walls, where men called out directions to each other as they ran to and fro. A complicated network of iron cables webbed across the ceiling, along which huge buckets were trolleyed up and down the levels. Do the men get to ride inside those? she thought.
She opened her mouth to ask her mother whether they might let her have a ride, when her question was drowned out by a screeching noise from above. A man cried out something Katerina didn’t understand, and workers started scurrying along the factory floor like ants whose nest had been disturbed. A bucket above them started to sag on its chains. Then, as slowly as an airship docking, it sank toward the floor as the links securing it separated and broke loose. The container tipped, revealing the shimmering contents inside its iron-lined interior.
“Anna!” she heard her father yell from the other end of the room. Her mother stood like a frozen statue, tightly gripping Katerina’s hand, entranced by the sight of the blue liquid starting to spill from the bucket.
A worker slammed into them, knocking them to the ground, but something else hit Katerina from behind—a splash of liquid, cold as well water for an instant, then turning fiery hot. Anna’s arms muffled Katerina’s scream.
Then the pain was gone, except that of her mother’s weight pressing her into the rough floor. She heard loud, panicked voices all around, the clomping of dozens of boots, but everything seemed distant and muted. Like trying to hear someone from the other side of a thick glass window. She struggled out from her mother’s protective embrace, gasping for air.
“I’m all right, Mama,” she whimpered, brushing off a skinned knee and looking around. Why was Mama still on the ground? And those workers? She counted six, seven, all of them sprawled on the concrete floor like broken dolls. She didn’t understand. The bucket hadn’t even fallen; it dangled lopsided far above, a few unbroken chains still securing it on one side. All the men, and her mother too, had splotches of glowing blue goo on their arms and faces.
Katerina looked down at herself. The same blue stuff that had spilled out of the bucket covered her own arms, and she reached up to wipe it away from her eyes. It tingled, shimmering with sparks and flashes of white lightning before sinking into her skin, leaving it clean and dry.
“Mama?” She knelt down and shook her mother’s arm.
But Anna didn’t answer.
Her father, Josef, ran over and yanked Katerina away, sobbing and crying out the word “Cobalt!” over and over.