The lucky winner will receive the copy on the book’s release day (which will be announced in the next week). Just to get everyone started, here’s a new excerpt from the book below:
Sneak Peek at CINDERMAID:
There was no one in the shop. Its shelves seemed bare, compared to the magicians and conjurers he had visited in the last year or so, whose shelves or cramped chamber were always crowded with wares and all manner of gruesome or innocuous discovery.
Here, there were only three dried bundles hanging over the bare wood counter. On its surface, a stubby black candle, its curling wax sinking inwards like deformed fingers trying to grip themselves and having no luck in the effort. Beside it lay a tinderbox.
There was no bell or chime, but Jack did not look for them. He struck a flame from the flint, sputtering in the shop’s semidarkness, touching it to the wick.
It flared to life. A glow was cast across the scarred wood, a semicircle of light which gleamed in the surface of its cheap brass holder. And then he saw her.
She might have come from the shadows of the shop, but even its darkness could not have concealed the form so evident to his eye. There was no curtain separating another chamber, no boards which might swing away to reveal a hidden door. She was simply there.
“You can light the lamp also.” A voice soft and clipped with the accent of the south islands, like a music lifting words into soothing speech and rocking them slowly. She drew closer, revealing a smooth, round brown face, its features scarcely memorable beneath the great many small black braids hanging thickly around it with their painted wooden beads.
A bright orange headwrap and wrapped dress of linen once dyed brilliant and now faded with grime and age into barely discernible patterns. Around her neck were several strange necklaces crowding each other: teeth and beads, knots of human hair and carved bone like intricate charms. A leather cord with a small pouch tied at one end; a small head hanging by a few strands of hair, flesh shriveled like a carved apple shrunken beneath the sun.
He had not noticed the lantern hanging above his head until now. He obeyed her, lifting the tinderbox to light it as well. Now his own profile could be seen in the light, her eye studying him with interest.
“A handsome face upon this one,” she said, her accent softening th to d in its rhythm. “A sailor of the Twins’ House be he, once.” Her eye was upon the right sleeve of Jack’s leather coat as if she saw through it.
“Once, yes.” He flushed, his color quickly fading away in succession. His right arm had born a tattoo of the celestial sign for this astrology house, but even if she could see through his sleeve, there was nothing which remained of it but a scar. Grimewalde had burned it from Jack’s arm, ignoring the cries and oaths which the act drew forth. Destroying it in the same manner he had destroyed anything he feared would identify Jack’s mercenary past -- for the bodies of royalty did not bear painted marks.
“But dat was a long time ago,” she surmised, as if reading his thoughts. “Come and tell me what you are here for.”
The words came forth without him even realizing he spoke them. “A map to the pool of the fairies,” he said.
He had spoken that thought aloud? In surprise, he felt his lips part again, although no sound came out this time. The calm expression of the woman before him had not been altered by these words.
“Let me see de palm.” At her command, he held out his hand. A brown one slid beneath it, a worn, dry thumb paring his fingers back from the center.
She did not trace the lines; a faint click and a soft sigh, spaced apart from each other, were the only sounds which came from her throat as she studied it. There was nothing in that expressionless dark eye which would tell him anything.
“It is a strong thing that binds you,” she said, softly. “You are afraid of its power, I see.”
“Yes.” His voice trembled. She had released his hand, so he withdrew it.
“And so you wish to go to de fairy pool to find dem,” she continued. “Because de magic of fairy spirits is very strong also.”
“It would take it off, I was told.” Jack ventured. “If it were one of the powerful ones living among humans. Is it true?’
“It is true,” she answered. “And you have found such a one.” Jack shivered again at these words, as the woman continued speaking. “But if you don’t hurry, it will all be gone.”
“Gone,” repeated Jack. “How?” He pictured Faenwick vanishing in the blink of an eye, returning to some existence of fairies and magical beings beyond the reach of human travel.
“Because de powerful ones give it all away to one person.” The fortune teller tapped her finger on the table, a jagged, dirty nail hewed short. “Dey know only when dey see de one. Dat is always true. If it has power now, it will not have it tomorrow, perhaps, if de moment comes.”
Blood thundered in Jack’s ears. “How soon?” he asked. There was nothing of this in the fairy book of the magician who breached their world that he recalled from the translator’s readings this night past.
“Who knows?” The fortune teller shrugged, her head tilted to one side. “Dey don’t know, perhaps. But if you force dem before --“ she lowered her voice, “-- dat is another matter.”