Sunday, September 21, 2014


78,000 words
YA Historical/Steampunk/LGBT


Clock towers control cities around the world. If one breaks, time stops. It’s a truth Danny knows too well; his father’s been trapped in a town near London for years. Despite being a clock mechanic who repairs not only clockwork, but time itself, Danny’s unable 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 the clock spirit who controls Enfield’s time. Although Danny and the spirit are drawn to each other’s loneliness, falling in love 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’s one of them.

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

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 beside the village green, 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 his nostrils tightened 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 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. This was probably the most excitement Enfield had seen in some years, and he had become the main attraction. 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.

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 ordered himself to calm down. He had 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 briefly touched the side door for luck; the car had once been his father’s, and he hoped to feel him there, somehow.

The mayor told the others to stand back and give Danny space. Once through the 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 bronze 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. I love the pitch--and this is nitpicky--but the use of contractions throws me off. Perhaps when you’re not constrained to a word limit, consider breaking the words apart for further impact.

    In your paragraph that beings with “I bloody asked for it,” I wonder if “Well, let them” should also be in italics? It seems more like the character’s direct thought than part of the narration.

    I adore all of your descriptions. You really paint a picture for us, both of the actual setting as well as the character’s emotions. I particularly like: “but it was like ignoring a large mole on a small nose; it screamed to be looked at.”

    Can’t wait to someday find out what happens in the rest of the story—Good luck!

  2. I really like the premise! I haven't read a whole lot of steampunk, but I love the little drops of worldbuilding that you give. Danny's voice, too; he comes across very distinctly.

    There's only a couple of things that are confusing me, the first being how old Danny is. I was picturing him in the neighborhood of nineteen to twenty four, which would be more new adult than YA. He's old enough that he's doing cases like this on his own and that he has or expects an apprentice on the job, so it made me think of him as slightly older. Also the fact that the clock spirit is referred to as 'boy' made me picture him as presenting fairly young, fourteen to sixteen. I just couldn't make the two images mesh. It doesn't have to be a lot, but is there a short way that you can give me a cue on what to picture?


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