Monday, September 8, 2014


77,000 words
YA Historical/Steampunk/LGBT


Every city in the world is run by a clock tower. If one breaks, time stops. Danny’s father has been trapped in time for three years, but despite being a clock mechanic who repairs not only clockwork, but time itself, Danny hasn’t found a way to free him.

Danny’s assigned to a damaged clock tower in Enfield. The boy he mistakes for his apprentice is odd, but that’s to be expected when he’s actually the clock spirit who controls Enfield’s time. Although Danny and the spirit are drawn to each other’s loneliness, interacting with a clock spirit is forbidden, no matter how cute his smiles are. But when someone plants bombs in nearby towers, cities are in danger of becoming trapped in time—and Enfield is one of them.

Danny must prevent Enfield’s time from stopping, or else he’ll lose not only his father, but the spirit he loves, forever.

First Five Pages:

Two o’clock was missing.

Danny thought it had to be a joke. He stared at the clock tower before consulting the silver timepiece in his hand, but it only mirrored what he saw above: both clocks read 3:06  in the afternoon, when not fifteen minutes before they had read 1:51. The hands had jumped an entire hour like it was of no consequence.

Because it no longer existed.

He looked back at the clock face and swallowed. Not a joke.

The tall, thin man at his side wrung his hands together, glancing between Danny and the tower. He cleared his throat with a sound like an engine stalling.

“Can it be fixed?”

Danny wrenched his eyes away from the clock. The mayor of Enfield was sweating, but then again, so was Danny. The back of his neck felt damp and unpleasant, making him shudder when a gust of cold wind hit.

“Er, yes,” Danny said, trying not to make it sound like a question. “Yes, it can be fixed.”
The set of the mayor’s shoulders relaxed, but not by much. “Then, please, by all means.” The mayor gestured to the tower as if Danny had forgotten where it was.

Colton Tower rose forty-five meters from the ground, a pillar of limestone and plated cast iron with a brick base and pointed spire. The iron gleamed bronze in the weak sunshine, illuminating the sentinel-like tower that stood above the shingled roofs of Enfield. The clock face shone yellow, its numbers and hands black against the opal glass. That made it even easier to see the empty space between one and three o’clock.

The clock ticked on despite the malfunction, but Danny felt the lost hour as he would a missing finger on his hand. That wrongness, sharp and shocking, bore down on his body until he could barely breathe. Just to make sure he still could, he took a breath through his nose. It made his heart pound even harder.

Stolen. An entire hour, a chunk of time, taken like it was the last piece of cake on a neglected platter.
He snapped his timepiece closed with a loud click. This was his first assignment since the accident, and they had given him the most difficult one they had.

I bloody asked for it, he thought ruefully. He’d had to make a scene and say he was ready, that he was finally healed. The other mechanics were probably having a good laugh right about now. Well, let them laugh. He’d wipe the smiles off their faces. Somehow.

“Do you need assistance?” the mayor asked when Danny continued to hesitate. He was still wringing his hands, and Danny really couldn’t blame him. A missing hour was alarming on its own, but now police were combing through the town in search of the missing numeral, considering anyone and everyone guilty.

Danny tried to smile reassuringly, but all he achieved was a grimace. “No, thank you. I’m sure the apprentice is waiting for me inside.”

Turning back to his automobile, which sat dusty and exhausted in the street between the village green and the tower, he swore under his breath. He could feel himself sweating in other places now, ranging from the mildly uncomfortable to the downright disconcerting. Danny furtively bent his head to get a whiff of one underarm and felt his nostrils tighten in offense.

The small, quaint homes and shops along the street were empty at the moment, giving the street a vacant, eerie atmosphere. In startling contrast, a large crowd had formed before the abused clock tower. The people had come not only to stare ineffectively at the clock, but also for a peek at the young clock mechanic. He worried they would be able to smell the fear on him.

A few constables kept their eyes on the murmuring crowd while the children gawked at their blue uniforms. This was probably the most excitement Enfield had seen in some years, and he had become the main attraction.

He wondered if they knew the extent of the danger they were in. The threat of an absent hour wasn’t as simple as missing appointments or rushing through afternoon tea. If one hour was off, one hour subtracted every day, Enfield would be out of alignment with the rest of the world. There was no telling what would happen to the town if that continued. No telling what would happen to the people who lived here.

Enter Danny, the clock mechanic. The healer of time. Enfield’s supposed savior.

Danny clenched his hands into fists and told himself to calm down. He had, after all, asked for a difficult assignment. But he hadn’t expected one like this, not after what happened to the last tower he had set foot in.

The message was clear enough. If he was going to prove that he was ready for The Assignment, he had to tackle Enfield’s tower first. He had to restore their two o’clock or make a fool of himself trying.

Danny dragged a heavy, rectangular package from the car’s back seat and hoisted it onto his shoulder. He still wore his driving gloves, the finger pads brown with dirt, and his goggles hung bug-speckled on his chest. Another gust of wind that smelled of oncoming rain ruffled his dark, unruly hair. Because that was what he needed: a sheet of freezing rain while he worked.

The mayor told the others to stand back and give Danny space. Once through the side tower door, his foot nearly collided with the first step in a long flight of wooden stairs. There was nothing else on the bottom floor, just shadowed corners and hidden cobwebs. He looked up the stairs and frowned.
“How’m I going to do this?” he muttered. He had studied any number of clock-related catastrophes during training, but the theory on paper and the reality of the situation couldn’t compare.

Only one way to find out. He climbed the stairs towards the belfry, each creaking step giving birth to small clouds of dust. It smelled of moths and age, the scent of a childhood willingly forgotten. He counted fifty stairs until he reached the bells. They would chime again at the next hour, having already mistakenly announced the hour of three.

Farther up he reached the churning clockwork, the bronzed wheels and gears that turned the face. Below his feet swung the pendulum that swayed diligently side to side, beating every two seconds. He planned to keep going, to ignore this room altogether, but it was like ignoring a large mole on a small nose; it screamed to be looked at.

As Danny watched the clockwork turn, his throat and stomach tightened. His breaths came too fast and his vision darkened at the edges. But he refused to give in to panic. He tried to push it ruthlessly down, down, down until he could convince himself that it didn’t exist. He was Danny Hart, and he was a clock mechanic.

A clock mechanic who was now afraid of clocks.

It won’t be like last time, he told himself firmly, touching the scar on his chin. It can’t.

Whirs and clanks and ticks echoed throughout the tower, a sound both familiar and new. The sounds vibrated through the wooden floorboards, traveled through the soles of his boots, up his legs, to his heart. Strangely, that calmed him. Each tower sounded different to him, like a voice. The sound of this tower was curious, bright, unassuming.


  1. Oh, I love the world you've created here! A nice mix of steam-punk and old-fashioned wonder. (There's just something about clocks). But I love that time can be stolen--literally--and police go searching for a missing numeral. The pacing of the first five is great--just enough character and suspense to make me want more.

    I was just a little confused in the pitch, though: how does stopping time trap people in time? And how did his dad get trapped? If time stopped in a tower and his dad got caught in it--doesn't that mean that an entire city was trapped as well? I'm not sure how much of this you can clarify in a short pitch, but I wanted to throw the suggestion out there.

  2. I really like the idea of the world! Anything dealing with time manipulation or travel grabs my attention. And I like that this doesn't read like other stories I've picked up where it's a mystical or supernatural ability. It's a fact, widely acknowledged, that this is how time works, and people sort of accept that and build their lives around it. I'm also fascinated by the fact that he's afraid of clocks and curious about the thing that caused it.

    If the dad's going to be an important part of the story, though, I'd like some small mention of him in the first five pages. Maybe he wears his dad's old hat or the watch belonged to him. Something to tell me that Dad is important to Danny but missing.

  3. This is not a genre I'm drawn to, BUT I enjoy so much the world you're creating for your readers. Time is an interesting element to play with and you're playing with it well:) I'm someone who is drawn to characters when I first start reading something. I can honestly tell you I like Danny. There's a sensitivity to him that I gravitate to. Moreover, he's a protagonist I am willing to follow as he leads me through his story.

    I would like to see Danny's dad on the first couple pages somehow. Maybe even just a sentence or two from Danny's stream of thoughts as he's going about his day.

    I have a question for you. I see that your genre is partially historical, which is awesome. Did you ever think, though, to put Danny's story in present tense? There would something about the immediacy of the present tense that could be quite effective, especially when your book focuses so much on time.

    In regards to the pitch: I thought it was great. I did share Rosalyn's questions, mainly, how does stopping time trap people in time? And, why is interacting with clock spirits forbidden? That is interesting!


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