I have a new book out everyone!
If you ever watched Project Runway and thought, “This needs more pirates and mermaids,” this is the book for you.
I last published a book, The Matchgirl and the Magician, in 2018.
Since then, I’ve been hard at work writing more books in the world of Pippington, in between enduring a pandemic along with the rest of the world, buying a new house, having my job change, and generally conquering the world. I also had to find a new cover artist (the prior one is great – so great, however, that they’re now out of my price range).
I have ten more finished manuscripts in the queue at various stages of getting ready to publish (see my last post on other projects coming soon), including the next two books in the trilogy and a companion book. So, plenty to come over the next couple years.
What Adventures Wait In This New Book?
The Pirate and the Mermaid’s Tailor trilogy tells the grand romance of Mabel Sinclair and Antonio Cortez, who both want to live in the world of fashion, but are pulled into a whirlwind of adventures featuring mermaids, pirates, and underground magic cartels.
The Mermaid’s Apprentice is the tale of how they begin their journey into larger worlds, eventually meeting at port.
Here are a few samples of what is to come, though beware of spoilers…
*These events are early in the book and not giving away too much of the plot.
Preview – Reader Beware of Minor Spoilers! Arrgh!
From Chapter 3: In Which Mabel Meets Pirates
Paulson fired while Mabel’s wet fingers fought with the hammer and lever on the second rifle. Once the breech chamber was open, she dropped the bullet in, closed it, and handed it to Paulson.
“You’ll get it. Just keep steady.” Paulson gave her a nod before leaning over the side of the ship and firing.
“Tighten that sail!” the captain yelled. “Get this blasted ship moving!”
The wind grew harder as if he had summoned it, the ship gaining speed as they drove further from shore. She fell into a steady rhythm of reloading and trading the rifles with Paulson. He had to often load for himself, but she was getting faster.
“They’re heading off!” a crew member yelled.
She panted while falling against the side of the ship as their enemies relented. A cheer grew among the crew, a few of them hugging each other. A few patted some donkeys standing on the deck, wearing striped shirts across their upper half.
“Those’re our crewmates we came to rescue.” Paulson nodded toward them before slapping Mabel’s shoulder. “You did a fine job helping, girl.”
As he turned to another crewmate, Mabel picked up the lantern holding Malcom in toad form and moved to the nearest mast, trying to be as invisible as she could. Exhaustion dragged on her and she tried not to shiver in her damp dress under the cold wind.
She had gone from a common ballroom to a merfolk gala to a pirate battle in a matter of hours. Looking down at her brother, half of her hoped closing her eyes would lead her to wake up and discover this was only some exhausting dream. However, a freezing gust of wind battering her face reminded her how real everything was.
“This here’s the lass.” Gregson hobbled toward her. “Heartier than she looks, Captain Stenton.”
The captain’s heavy footsteps approached, and Mabel pushed herself to stand and appear more confident than she felt. He rested his hands on his hips as he looked her over, a scowl on his grizzled face, a few scars nicking his skin.
“What’s your name, miss?” Captain Stenton eyed her.
“Mabel Sinclair, sir.” There was no point in lying. She raised the lantern holding Malcom, still in toad form. “I’m just trying to get my brother and myself home to Barthan.”
He tapped the lantern. “Got you mixed up with merfolk, eh?”
“It’s not the first trouble my brother’s gotten into, but it is the most dangerous.”
A small smile cracked Stenton’s hard face. “I know the sort. And you got dragged along?”
“Somewhat.” It had been her choice to jump onto Cassandra’s yacht. “Can you help us find passage home?”
“Perhaps. When we’re in less dangerous waters.” He scratched his nose. “Any special skills, besides being the slowest rifle loader I’ve seen?”
Mabel stared blankly. It would be fair to contribute what she could on the ship, while traveling to some port where she might find a passenger vessel headed to Barthan. Thinking through what she had to offer, she said, “I can read and write, sir. And do a bit of accounting, if needed and I―” She tried to think of something else as he squinted at her. Glancing at her drenched skirt, she said, “And I have two hands and can sew.”
“Tonight, two hands that aren’t hooves are in short supply.” He held out his hand. “Welcome aboard the Gray Moon, Miss Sinclair.”
From Chapter 6: In Which Antonio Shares His Sketchbook
(Note: This is on the same day where Antonio and Mabel meet at port. I don’t think that’s too much of a spoiler. They’ve been walking together a few hours at this point.)
Antonio pulled a notepad from his pocket and flipped to a sketch. His stomach clenched. Each drawing in this notepad was meant for Sofia, his girl at home, to wear someday. It was his best way to remember her after months at sea, and only three letters from her.
These dresses wouldn’t sit on Mabel quite right, since they were made for Sofia’s rounder hips and bosom. Mabel would need straighter lines and some padding to shift her silhouette to match modern trends. Though, her silhouette was quite admirable as it was.
Catching his thoughts, he said, “Sometimes, when I’m lying in my bunk, I’ll sketch out designs.”
He offered his notepad. She took it and flipped through, taking time to analyze and admire each one. Sofia always glanced at his sketches and said, “Oh, that is nice,” before talking about the house she wanted someday. While he would build the house she deserved, it always hurt to have her dismiss his sketches so quickly.
Looking at the fifth drawing, Mabel said, “I like how there’s movement in the way the ruffles sit. It’s a very Castallan fashion, but I think there are ways to adapt it to the straighter lines women in Barthan prefer. Could open a whole market to you.”
“I hope if I put out the most beautiful clothes, people will come from everywhere for a Cortez design,” he said. “I’d be content, though, earning enough for a nice house, with room for my mother to have her own space and for my wife and children to be comfortable. But, if I did get into Modan, maybe I could have a whole hacienda, with a few servants to make my wife’s life easier.”
“I think your wife will be well taken care of, whether in a hovel or hacienda.” Mabel turned the page. “All of these are so well-drawn.”
Antonio sat up. “You think so? I’ve worked hard, basing my illustrations on sketches in Modan from Señor Valdez. It took me a long time to get the gesture lines to look right.”
“They really are excellent. Though, if you saw my sketches, you might not want my opinion.”
A warmth ran through Antonio. “I think I’d often want your opinion.”
“You won’t after you see my scribbles.”
She reached in her satchel and pulled out her own notepad. With a knowing look, she handed it over. Flipping through, Antonio held his thumb to his mouth as he bit back a laugh. Most were stick figures and messes of lines, but some were recognizable as dresses.
He squinted as he turned one sideways, trying to decipher the mess of scribbles and color.
“It goes this way.” Mabel moved it a quarter-turn. “And was meant to be a gown.”
“Now I see it.” At least he was attempting to while he traced the lines with his pinky. “I see how it widens out here, and the details along this side. If executed well, would be lovely.”
Mabel rested her chin on her hand. “That is a very kind lie, señor.”
“I like the ideas behind your sketches,” Antonio said, “even if they take a while to decipher.”
She gave him a skeptical look. “My drawings are atrocious.”
“They have potential.” He pressed his tongue against his cheek before pulling his colored oil pastels from his satchel. Flipping to a blank page in her notepad, he said, “Tell me what you meant the gown to look like.”
As she spoke, the vision of the gown unfolded in his mind like unfurling a bolt of fabric. His hand moved with little thought, taking in her description and transferring it onto the paper. When they finished, a red and white striped gown spread across the page, a sense of movement to his sketch, details hinted at along the bodice and on one of the skirt panels.
A softness entered Mabel’s eyes and she grinned. He found himself returning the smile.
“That’s just how I picture it.” She took the notepad and admired the sketch. “Better, actually.”
“With some practice, I think you’ll improve.”
She let out a wry laugh. “I’ve been trained in drawing since I was a child and practiced figure drawings for three years. I want to be a designer, but who would take a chance on sketches like these?”
“Maybe you need a better tutor.”
She chuckled. “And where am I to find that while traveling at sea?”
He touched her notepad, his fingers close to hers. “You have the ideas. The drawings just need finesse. If we take time over the next few days, I can teach you some tricks to help, how to use circles and shapes better to build your figure. It’ll take some work, but you’ll have a better foundation.”
A weight rested in her gaze. “Señor, both of our ships are leaving tonight. All we have is a few hours.”
An ache ran through him, and he rested his hand next to hers. If he were only Antonio, and not a naval sailor, he would find a way to spend more time with her. However, he had to return to his ship tonight and was unlikely to meet her again.