Hello! I’m Elizabeth Mueller, the author The Cog Prince. I had no idea that my story would be accepted for the challenge of the Insecure Writers Support Group anthology contest. Imagine the shocked thrill that shot through me when I received that email?
I’m a hopeless romantic and the first thing I thought of when I read the theme for the contest—masquerade/mask, I couldn’t help but imagine ball gowns and masks and stolen kisses—Regency fan here! But my muse did not take me into that era but into another entire vein of whimsy.
My thought process was to create something mysterious, strange, magical, and romantic—with a dash of steampunk. I wanted to leave the reader wanting more of the world just as much as I! As I let it stew for a while, the whispers began to stir until images and events flashed through my head.
Soon, the book was born within the matter of hours.
Will a missing key free a clock-bound prince?
Falling in love, saving the day, and a masque—oh my! The clock strikes the thirteenth hour and Ivy is sucked into a masquerade ball of whirling dancers where the Cog Prince has summoned her. Mysterious darkness seeks their destruction and she alone holds the key. Will Ivy save his kingdom in time?
*Excerpt from The Cog Prince
If I slowed my breathing long enough, I could hear the odd clicks of the many clocks that surrounded me. The constant ticking eventually got on my nerves and I gave into a shiver. It was weird, but it still felt as if someone watched me.
I screamed at the sound of a deep rumbling. I whipped around and faced a towering grandfather clock. Many spires framed the main part, ending with jagged, glinting points. Dark, wooden scrollwork fanned out symmetrically at the top. Its round face shined a burnished brass, the Roman Numerals one through thirteen. Thirteen? Within the glass case, a tiny door cranked opened with a grinding click and something trembled inside the dark opening.
From inside the little portal, a miniature skeleton lurched forward. It moved in its track with a strange slowness. Its head bent into an unnatural angle with a dangling jaw, its arms gnarled at its chest. Chills clawed up my back and the feeling of being watched escalated to a dark foreboding.
Again, the clock sounded. Lightning flashed, followed by a crack of thunder. I cried out and jumped back. Glass shattered and the sound of singing dishware exploded. Outside, the wind moaned. The rain pounded against the panes. The steel doors outside rattled with a fearsome rage.
Then another sound reached my ears. At first, they were quiet. I wasn’t sure if it was just me or the wind. But the more I concentrated, the louder they grew. Whispers. Laughter. Clinking of crystal. A soft, red glow caught my attention. There, below the clockface, burned the etching of a pulsating rose.
Touch it. A man’s whisper breathed along the side of my face.
I cried out, spinning in place at the sound of the man’s whispered breath. No one stood behind me. “Who’s there?”
My fingers slowly curled away so that my index was left solo, pointing to the red rose. It quivered before bursting into flames. Soft shrieks echoed in my head. Ash gathered and dispersed into the air. The floor vanished but I remained suspended in thin air. A painful jolt rewarded me as my finger finally grazed the rose. The clock shook and the rose fell away into a dark hole; a sharp whining sound pierced the air as a vacuum gaped wide open. Unable to control myself, I fell straight into it.
I hope you enjoyed the teaser as much as I enjoyed writing the story. If you want to experience more, my daughter says this musical piece reminds her of my story—I agree. Enjoy!
*excerpt has been modified to suit blogging purposes
Award-winning author Elizabeth Mueller lives in Texas with her husband, five lively children, five indoor kitties, a few outdoor kitties, and seventeen chickens. While she enjoys homeschooling her kidlets, she thrives as a full-time writer of any genre that captures her heart. She loves to hear from her readers!