My faithful readers will, by now, be more than aware that today is the day! Today my nautical fantasy adventure novel Jubilant, co-authored with the amazing Galadriel Coffeen and the first in a lengthy series to come, is officially available in Kindle format, paperback, and Kindle Unlimited on Amazon.com. If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy, pop on over to Amazon and get yourself a new book for the holidays! While you’re at it, add a couple more copies to your cart for other readers on your Christmas gift-giving list.
In honor of today’s launch I’m sharing an excerpt from the book. Below is a section taken from chapter 15, a little over halfway through the novel. I’ve included the chapter illustration, (drawn by Galadriel) as well.
She stayed close to the wall as she slipped through the dark entry. The corridor was short, carpeted, and as she trailed her fingers along the wall to guide her, she felt the thick, smooth texture of paint. Probably a mural. It was a pity the hallway was so dark; Alokite murals were famous for their realism. People often mistook them for windows at first glance. Some were even imbued with magic so that the plants appeared to sway in the wind, heightening the illusion.
Something moved suddenly against Kelta’s leg, and she caught a sharp breath, her heart lurching into her throat. Then she spotted the pale yellow eyes staring up at her from shin-height, and she let her breath out slowly, forcing herself to relax. It was only a cat. She should have expected it; the Alokites kept cats in most of their buildings to scare away ghosts.
Kelta kept moving slowly. Her hand slid off the texture of the painting and onto a surface of polished wood. A door. She felt along until she grasped the ornate handle, a curling spur of metal that ended in a carved leaf arrangement. She tried it, and it drew only a little before the lock stopped its motion.
Kelta had picked a few locks before, for the challenge and for the pleasure of learning something new, but she was no expert in the art. She fingered the lock carefully, and found to her relief that it was a large, simple keyhole. Nothing sophisticated or tricky. She crouched down, drew her tiny wrist knife, extracted a little fold of wire from the cuff of her coat sleeve, and pushed the tips of both into the lock. She found herself trying to see the lock through the dark, and shut her eyes so she could focus on the feel of her work.
The cat picked that moment to slink over and rub its head against her leg. Kelta pushed it lightly aside, her fingers sinking into its thick silky fur. It returned to her other side and started rubbing its face against her pants again, purring so loudly she couldn’t hear the click of the lock’s tumblers. She pressed her ear to the door, focusing intently, and a moment later the lock clicked open.
Kelta pushed the door open slowly, listening, holding her breath. Nothing. By the feel of it, the room was smaller than the atrium, and it smelled of wood and ink and the all-pervasive euka incense. She stepped in, keeping one hand on the door, and slid her foot forward until her bare toes touched wood. A set of tiny soft feet padded across her foot, followed by a satiny tail that whisked against her ankle. The cat had followed her in. She didn’t mind, so long as it stayed quiet.
She shifted her weight forward, reaching out with her hand this time, and found a low desk meant for sitting on the floor. She moved to the side and found another desk, then a third. This office belonged to clerks or lesser functionaries; she doubted she’d find anything of value here.
She locked the door behind her and moved on. The second room was far too small for an ambassador’s office; she guessed it belonged to his aide. But in the third room, her groping hands found the high back of a chair, ornately carved, and a matching full-height desk. Apparently the ambassador had decided to conduct his business in the local fashion.
Kelta drew the chair toward her to hold the door open, then realized she couldn’t do that. A quick escape route was well and good, but she needed light. She let the door ease closed behind her. She groped toward the smell of incense, hissed as she touched the still-hot edge of the little brazier, and felt beside it for matches. Another moment’s fumbling exploration yielded an elaborately carved candlestick. She lit it and carried it to the desk.
The top was clean, holding nothing but a stack of blank foolscap and a jar of ink. The cat sprang up, curled its thick tail around its legs, and eyed Kelta judgmentally. Its fur was all black, which Kelta knew was particularly lucky in Poravia; perhaps the Alokites felt the same.
The cat sprawled out across the desk, staring insolently at her and pawing at the ink jar as if thinking about knocking it down. Kelta moved the ink safely to the floor, then began opening drawers, wincing at every squeaky roller and hinge as she shuffled through pens, pots of ink, penknives, cigar boxes, letter openers, and other office implements. It might be easier if she was looking for a specific document. But she doubted she’d find files labeled “bounty” or “slavery.”
What she needed was names. Names of badras and their seals, names of known or suspected pirates, names of merchants or anyone else wealthy enough to put a bounty on ships. Evidence of bribes, complaints, or other untoward behavior would be convenient, whether the ambassador was complicit or investigating.
She flipped through a stack of papers she’d lifted out of the drawer and paused to open an envelope with the Fosseni governor’s seal stamped on it. The letter was in Alokite, but the script was clumsy, written by someone who wasn’t quite comfortable with the blocky Alokite alphabet. Probably a clerk taking dictation.
Kelta almost laughed at the directness of the missive. It was warning the Alokite ambassador to order certain problematic people out of local waters if he wanted said problematic people to remain alive. And there was a list, too! Governor Guarita must have started his career somewhere other than politics. He didn’t waste time with pleasantries and didn’t bother softening his accusations or pretending to do the Alokites any favors. So different from how the Ellondese would handle things. No wonder Wellerdon was cautious about the Fosseni governor. Haias Ganat, on the other hand, might find a politician he actually liked.
Kelta read the letter several times, memorizing the list of captains and merchants Guarita accused of underhanded dealings. Several of them were names she’d acquired in Afuego. It was nice to have confirmation, but that didn’t gain her anything just yet.
Kelta returned the letter to its envelope, flicked through the rest of the papers without finding anything worth reading, and put the stack back in the drawer. Now to see if she could untangle some of the rumors about Alok’s current political structure. Kelta sifted through three more drawers and found nothing. As she slid the last one closed, she noticed its rollers were absolutely silent, yet it still stuck slightly about halfway in. She frowned, pulled it open again, then slid her arm in over the top of the drawer and down the back of it to feel the top of the rollers.
Her fingers slid across a layer of fabric, and her lips pulled back into a thin smile. She had learned much from the horror that had changed her life, but the lesson she had learned best was how to take advantage of dishonesty. People who did not lie had no reason to hide silk bags underneath drawers. This secret might have nothing to do with what Kelta wanted, but that hardly mattered. If the ambassador didn’t want it known, Kelta wanted to know it.
They say you should write what you know. Well, I take issue with the simplicity of that advice, but that’s a rant for another day. For now, let me just say that, while I do not know anything about breaking and entering or stealing intelligence from foreign powers in order to blackmail them, feeling my way through unfamiliar buildings without direction or injury is something I’m quite adept at, and I enjoyed drawing on that experience for this scene.
Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see more of my fiction, be it short stories, excerpts from longer works, material from other genres along with the usual content I bring you. Until next time, I am the blindfluencer who reminds you that reviews are an indie author’s life-blood!