And I know that I’ve said that I want to self-publish… That’s still true, but in the right situation, I would still traditionally publish. It just depends. This conference (free, by the way) may just provide me with a traditional publishing opportunity. And it might not. We’ll see.
So here is my pitch/query for Chroniker City, as well as the first five pages. Enjoy!
It’s 1881, the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Chroniker City, the global hub of technological advancement in the modern world. Based off the coast of Wales, the city is home to the most prestigious polytechnic university worldwide, a center of mechanical ingenuity teaching everything from clockwork mechanics and thermodynamics to electromagnetism and electricity.
Petra Wade, self-taught clockwork engineer, dreams of one day becoming a member of the Guild, an elite group of inventors and innovators who envision a future fueled by technology, but her ambitions will only come to fruition if she can find a way into the illustrious university—an institution reserved for men only. When she meets Emmerich Goss, an accomplished engineer newly recruited into the Guild, Petra discovers that he needs help building a top-secret, government-sanctioned automaton, and she is just the girl to help him.
Together, they craft the clockwork giant, and as the deadline for its completion nears, Petra finds that she can love more than gears and mainsprings.
CHRONIKER CITY is a young adult steampunk romance, complete at 80,000 words, with series potential.
(First Five Pages)
A ticker is more than its function, more than the parts that shape it. The gears, pinions, and springs, they make the machine tick, but deeper than that—beyond the spindles and bearings, beyond the weights and levers—a ticker is truth.
Petra Wade was a ticker engineer—or, she wanted to be. She wasn’t trained in mechanics. The most experience she had was studying with Mr. Stricket after her shift at the pawn shop. If God had wanted to give her a chance, he wouldn’t have made her a girl. Girls couldn’t study mechanics. Girls couldn’t be engineers. And no matter how hard Petra wished she wasn’t a girl, she still woke up every morning, put on her shop skirt and apron, and spent a good hour sewing patches onto her siblings’ clothes. The rest of the day, she spent sweeping dirt from one side of the pawn shop to the other.
Every day that she stood outside the gleaming walls of the university instead of within reminded her that she was inferior, unworthy, insignificant. She knew she had talent enough to compete with the best of the engineers, but the Guild would never allow a girl to study mechanics. The world of tickers was the world of men. But Petra Wade had the integrity of a ticker in her heart. She strived for perfection, for optimal efficiency. The only way she would ever achieve status as a worthy engineer was with a slip of gold edged paper stamped with the Guild seal and signed by the university Vice-Chancellor. That was all she needed.
With a set of her brother’s pants and her hair twisted up in a hat, she marched up the university steps.
Students milled about the door, discussing pitch circles and circumferential velocities. Petra’s skin quivered when she passed over the threshold. The rich scent of paraffin and gasoline replaced the salty outside air. The floor pulsed with the jarring oscillations of the subcity below, the steady hum of perfectly fitted gears vibrating within her bones. Her fingers twitched toward the screwdriver in her pocket. From the foyer, she saw the cluttered mess of schematics that papered the walls of the main workshop. Columns of unused gears stood at attention in the far corner, waiting for an engineer to fix them to a train. Levers rocked, and cranks spun, driving gears and sliders. Steam whistled through pipes. Blowlamps hissed and sputtered over metal joints. The workshop sang an engineer’s lullaby.
Petra grinned. She belonged here.
To her left and right, lift gates stood closed before clusters of students, the lights above the doors flashing while the lifts sped up and down the shaft. The foyer stretched upward into an arched ceiling at least five stories above the ground floor, brass so polished it gleamed like gold. The lift shafts went further, all the way to the tops of the north and east towers. Stairs curved over the entrance to the main workshop, reaching for the first of the upper workshops, and catwalks lined the walls at each floor, meeting the lift doors.
She strolled toward the only desk in the entry hall, careful to exercise the male swagger her brother had taught her. A weedy sort of man sat behind the desk, annotating a printed letter. His hair was thin and graying, barely covering his freckled scalp.
Petra cleared her throat.
“One moment,” he said without looking up. The weedy man continued to scribble into the cramped space at the bottom of the letter. He at last capped the pen and put the letter aside.
Petra cleared her throat again and spoke in the deepest voice she could muster. “I’m here to apply for the upcoming term.”
“Are you a returning student?”
The weedy man reached across the desk and snatched a blank application file. “Name.”
“Wade. Solomon Wade.”
“Date of birth.”
“March twenty-second, eighteen-sixty-six.”
The scratching of his pen stopped.
Petra stiffened. Solomon said they’d accept anyone from Eton. She checked the hair around her hat, widened her stance, and tried to look indifferent. The weedy man bent over and dug through a drawer of files. She relaxed when he thumbed through the tabs, mumbling the names of institutions. “Here it is.” He slapped the folder on the desk and flipped to the back pages. “Vonstaden, Waddington, Whitton… interesting.” He scanned a few more pages, closed the file, and clasped his fingers over the folder. “No Wade.”
“Sorry?” Her voice cracked.
“I have a list of every student who requested a transfer to the university from Eton, and there is no Solomon Wade on that list.”
“There must have been a misfile. Check again,” she demanded. She wouldn’t let that stick of a man tell her she couldn’t attend the university because her name wasn’t on a stupid list.
The weedy man raised an eyebrow and ran his finger down the list of names again. When he reached the bottom, he smirked. “Eton has enrolled no student by the name of Solomon Wade in the last five years.” The weedy man sneered. A gold tooth flashed in the corner of his mouth.
Petra chewed on the inside of her left cheek and absentmindedly twisted the winding stem on her pocket watch. Her throat constricted. She and Solomon hadn’t planned for this. “So, I’m not from Eton,” she blurted out.
“I think that’s the first true thing you’ve said.”
“You can’t stop me from applying.”
“I have no desire to prevent worthy engineers from applying. As a non-transfer student, I will need your registration of birth, a transcript of records from your former institution, a seal of approval from the Guild of Engineers, and your tuition fees for the first term. Do you think you can manage that before September?”
Petra cleared her throat. “Of course.”
The weedy man took Petra’s application file and balled it up in his fist. He flashed his gold tooth and tossed the paper into the bin behind his desk. The prat.
Had she been more flippant, she would have given him the two-fingered salute. Instead, Petra swiveled and stalked toward the door. Humiliation burned at the corner of her eyes. The vibration beneath the floor nauseated her. The smell of oil suffocated her. The clacking and shrilling of the machinery rattled her brain. She had to get out.
She shoved through a group of students and stumbled over a discarded knapsack. Petra clattered to the ground. Her pocket watch and screwdriver skated across the polished floor. When she reached for the watch chain, her hat fell from her head, and a long braid plopped over her shoulder.
“Why, it’s a girl,” said one of the boys behind her.
Haughty laughter echoed through the chamber, attacking Petra from all sides. She scrambled to her feet and snatched her things off the floor. She stuffed the screwdriver back into her pants pocket and jammed the hat on her head. When she made for the pocket watch, the laughter hushed.
A whale of a man crouched in front of her, reaching for the timepiece. His fat pinched and his bones creaked, like an old, cumbersome machine running without oil. His thick fingers closed around the brass case, snapping it shut. When he stood, the boys around the foyer snapped to attention and saluted. Petra stared.
The polished brass pin on his coat pocket brandished the Guild seal, a working planetary gear system. The largest of the gears had been painted, marking this blubbery man as the university Vice-Chancellor, Hugh Lyndon. His dark blonde hair, strictly parted down the side had a silvery sheen about it. A crease ran down the center of his forehead. He looked like a man who frowned often, as he now frowned at Petra. The reflection on his round glasses obscured his eyes, but she felt the scrutiny.
Lyndon ran his stubby finger across the ornate C that decorated the front of the case.
“At ease, gentlemen,” he said. His voice was deep and gravelly, and though he spoke quietly, his voice carried through the hall.
The room relaxed, but the boys did not move. They stared on at the pair of them. Lyndon flipped the watch open. The glare on his glasses shifted, and his eyes—a dull brown—flickered from the watch to Petra. She gathered to her full height, raising her chin in defiance.
“Your watch is slow,” he said.
“I hadn’t noticed, sir,” she replied coolly. She held her hand out to receive the watch.
Lyndon shut the case and again ran his finger along the C. He dangled the timepiece in front of Petra’s face by its chain, the gears and wheels ticking beneath the clear glass. His eyes locked with hers, regarding her with an air of superiority. He searched for something—fear, subordination. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. He might have been high and mighty Vice-Chancellor of the university, but Petra wasn’t one to bow down to snobbery. Lyndon was lucky she had been civil at all.
---end of sample---