Yesterday I finished the second-to-last draft of The Case of the Dragon-Bone Engine, which brings me into the final push to get the book published by December. I have a number of readers helping me proofread and polish the manuscript right now; while they comment on the book, I’m going to spend most of November working on illustrations. I’ll fly through the final draft in the last week or two of November, since hopefully I’ll only have small adjustments to make at that point, and then I’ll be ready to start putting it all together! It’s going to be a whirlwind ride, but I’ve always worked best with a deadline, and I’m determined to have the book available well before Christmas.

In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from the first chapter and the first illustration!

Chapter One

I stepped down from the hansom cab into an ankle-deep slush of snow, soot, and horse leavings. Exactly what my boots needed this morning. “Sorry about that, miss,” said the cabby.

“It’s all right.” With the snow piled in the gutter, he couldn’t have pulled close enough for me to step directly to the sidewalk. I handed him my fare before pulling my boots free of the slush and hopping up onto the clean pavement. The cabby tipped his hat to me and drove away into the dark with one wheel squeaking every time it turned.

“Excuse me, miss,” said someone, and I sidestepped to let a shopkeeper drag a bright-colored display rack onto the sidewalk outside his door. It was about half past seven, and the city was just waking up. I liked starting my day early. In summer, I usually walked to work and watched the shops open on my way, but the chilly winds and lack of sunlight this time of year made taking a cab far more appealing.

“Morning paper, fresh off the press,” called a voice from overhead. Fairy wings buzzed above the streetlamp, glittering as they caught the light, and I flicked a penny in that direction. I heard the paper-boy’s fingers snap it out of the air. He was getting better at catching.

“Morning, Pip,” I said as the fairy boy dropped into the circle of light cast by the streetlight. 

“Morning, Miss Beka.” He landed with a thump and tucked the penny into the pouch around his neck. He’d been growing this winter: he’d match my admittedly unimpressive height if he stopped slouching. I noticed that he’d added mustard-colored fingerless gloves to his usual getup. They clashed with his faded puce jacket and made him look grubbier than usual.

“Let’s have it, then,” I said. “I don’t want to be late for work.”

“You’re an hour early, Miss Beka,” he said with a smile, but he dug a rolled copy of the Eastern Informer from his satchel and handed it over. “It’s all full of that Lord Donovan’s fancy talk,” he said. “Not worth a penny, if you ask me.”

“Maybe not,” I agreed. I tucked the paper under my arm and added, “But be careful who you say that to.” Most people liked Lord Donovan’s “fancy talk,” and most people wouldn’t want to hear a fairy’s opinion about it.

The antennae above Pip’s pointed ears twitched. He opened his mouth, then thought better of whatever he meant to say. “Have a good day, Miss Beka,” he said, then tugged the brim of his shapeless cap and sprang back into the air. His wings spread in a humming silvery blur behind him, and he darted up the street, vanishing in the dark for a moment before reappearing dimly above the next streetlamp.

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