Exciting news! I usually wouldn’t do three blog posts in a day but I had to mark the day with the news of the pre release for Her Doll Maker’s Desire. 🙂 I woke up to seeing my name on a book on Amazon for the very first time ever. 🙂 And spent all day burning my mobile data on Facebook celebrating being a published author. 😉
To whet your appetite a little, here are the first three pages of the book, in an exclusive excerpt:
Once upon a time, down the darkest of winding cobbled streets, sandwiched between a tarot reader’s grimy window and a closed, exclusive clothing boutique stood the plainest of doors. Made of faded and splitting dull-brown worn oak, only the gleaming brass handle suggested anyone ever used it at all.
Amy Nelson looked at the door and then at the address Mick, her editor, had shoved into her hand as she left the office. She shrugged in defiance of her churning emotions. Pride…fear…the name didn’t matter when they were equally as painful to swallow. Fleeing home from London with a vow never to return had been humiliating enough, but being sent back within a few years—even for just a day—at the paper’s expense, burned. Melodramatic vows were no use when they could be so easily overturned. Worse, she’d spent the best portion of the morning seeking out a remote backstreet where she stood equal chance of being accosted by a mugger…or by a rat.
Working as the entertainment correspondent on the small-enough-to-be-insignificant local newspaper her father’s company published sounded far more appealing before she arrived on the first day and started the job. She’d pictured herself taking occasional calls from above- themselves am-dram groups about their next big show or reviewing random sleep-inducing monologue performances, not turning into the most inept of newshounds when Mick needed to fob something off to the most junior employee.
“Make the best of it!” her father commanded when he steamrolled through her quiet depression and magicked a position available in his usual controlling yet distant way. Her stepmother gave her the silent treatment until she signed the contract of employment, and her father called his parental duty done. Easy for him to say when everything he touched turned to gold. Nothing about being an ex-dancer qualified Amy to write or even think she could—not even on her stellar days. Her shoulders slumped. Such was life, though, and her life usually meant not getting a choice.
If only she’d rescued her last precious drops of self-preservation and taken the time to read the fine print. She thought she’d clocked in as a trainee-journalist, but if she failed at stringing words together in a pleasing way, she had the vague idea she could be demoted to the person typing up the company’s daily sandwich order or traded for three fine goats and a handful of magic beans…because no one would want to be caught suggesting they fire the CEO’s daughter.
In truth, though, she’d have done herself a huge disservice if she tried to argue her way out of this assignment. She gave way to a huge inner squee. As a little girl, she’d lusted after the beautiful dolls made by the magical and mysterious man called Tobias, even if she hadn’t pictured his beautiful creations starting life in a hole-in-a-wall down a grime-filled alley on the way to nowhere.
She shook off her melancholy. The street hadn’t become any more appealing for standing in it. Ignoring the tingling sensation along her spine and a misplaced premonition of change, she raised her hand to knock. Before her knuckles made contact, the door swung inward, and she would have struck the face of the man emerging from the darkness beyond if he hadn’t been the size of a six-year-old child. She moved out of his way to let him pass, recoiling even more when she noticed the electric blue tarantula crawling out of his tangled grey beard to sit on his shoulder.
“Nice to see you again, Nicodemus.” A heavily accented voice spoke from a little way inside the building, and a stooped, elderly man with a time-lined face but the dancing, bright- blue eyes of an ageless sprite stepped forward. His grey hair, thick on his head, hadn’t seen a brush in a few weeks if not several months.
He turned his attention to her, his sudden, sharp gaze unnerving. “Are you Amy? I’ve been expecting you. Told my friend Nicodemus we had an appointment this afternoon. He’ll be expecting all manner of stories the next time he passes this way.”
Amy glanced over her shoulder at the little man hobbling away on stiff but sure legs and shuddered in revulsion at the flash of blue still at his shoulder as he disappeared into the gloom. She conjured up her brightest business-like smile and held out a professional hand to the man who’d spoken to her, even though she wanted to shriek a little bit and fangirl in his doorway or ask him to make her a doll of her very own.
“And you must be Tobias the Dollmaker? I’m sorry—I’ve never known your last name, and my editor didn’t pass me one, Mr…?” She made a pantomime of riffling through the pages of her notebook.
In truth, Mick hadn’t even given her a correct first name right when he mentioned the assignment. Did Tobias even have a surname? Bloody hell. She wasn’t even in the door yet, and she was messing up her first interview. She’d never heard a last name associated with him. Maybe he started the celebrity trend of using one name.
“Not to worry, not to worry. I’ve been Tobias the Dollmaker far longer than I ever used any other names. I’m not sure I remember, myself.” He gave a lusty cough into his pristine handkerchief as he shuffled away from the door, gesturing for her to come in. “I see you found my little workshop without difficulty?”
Amy’s smile tightened as she remembered too much walking, her leg aching with the effort, and the clouds of grime setting up a comfortable home in her aura. “No problem at all,” she agreed.
A claustrophobic corridor led from Tobias’s front door to an uncarpeted staircase. Narrow shelves competed for wall space, and, on each, stood rows of dolls. Amy turned away from the miniature figures crowding around her and cringed under the weight of so much judgment.
Wooden dolls with random tufts of straw-like hair fashioned in decaying parodies of long- past state of the art hairstyles butted up against eerie little creatures—pale perfection in their heyday, probably—growing yellow with age. Their fixed faces and sharp stares watched her pass, and she shivered, pulling her coat more closely around her.
“It’s a touch small these days, but old men like me don’t entertain much, so I make do.” Tobias twisted his fingers together as the top of the stairs opened straight into another little space where yet more shelves and their residents fought with life’s usual clutter.
Amy’s eyes widened. “How do you manage to relax with all of them looking at you?” Her voice came out as a squeak, and she cleared her throat as she forced herself to remember she’d scored an unbelievable opportunity to interview a mythical figure from her childhood, regardless of what Mick thought he handed out.
“You may say they look at me…. I prefer to think they simply watch over me. We’re old friends. I’ve cared for all of them these many years, and now they do the same for me.” Tobias sat on his shabby sofa and bent to a battered copper kettle on a grate over an open fire. “Forgive the lack of modern conveniences”— he offered a vague gesture around the room—“I find my antiquated ways work better than exploring for the electric kettle every time I want tea. Can I make you a cup while we talk?”
Amy gave a bemused shake of her head, horrified at her sudden lack of words and journalistic intent, before she snapped her mouth closed and pulled her attention from the rows of dolls.
“Ahh, smart girl. You must be waiting for the kiksekage. I sent my grandson, Peder, out for some a moment before you arrived.”
Amy nodded at his ready excuse for her rudeness and offered another polite smile before pulling her bag higher onto her shoulder. Nowhere looked clean enough to put it down. “Do you mind if I…?” She gestured around the room.
“By all means. Go and meet them. Perhaps you’ll find a new friend?”
Her foray into journalism could wait while she tiptoed around Tobias’s room, for just a few minutes, anyway. The excited child who would have given up every birthday wish to get within smelling distance of this workspace would never let her forget the missed opportunity to exercise professional nosiness if she didn’t at least look.
“Wow. I haven’t seen most of these dolls before, and I thought I knew all of your work.” Her incisive and thought-provoking journalistic line of thought never ceased to underwhelm her. “I…um…what made you decide to exhibit them?”
He laughed, the ready sound musical. “Just as you said. I may very well be the only one who has ever seen all of my creations. It feels like the right time for a change.”
She cast her glance from every petite face to each delicate hand. Some of the dolls she’d never seen before were super-creepy, even though she could acknowledge their lifelike beauty. She caught sight of a doll with a particularly malicious smile. “Ew!” She coughed. “Ooooo!” She cleared her throat and hoped her shock at discovering a miniature chamber of horrors came out as delight. Some of them only lacked their little axes and cutthroat razors, though.
She walked to a different shelf with a deliberately casual air and massaged her thigh, working hard to control her ever-present slight limp. This shelf…this set of dolls was different again. The feeling here could almost be described as friendly. She stopped, and surprised herself by bending to examine a beautiful ballerina doll, her tulle tutu alive with movement she wasn’t capable of making, her features lit with recognition received from the crowd she couldn’t dance for. Lost in her thoughts of the past, Amy reached to grasp the ballet dancer’s tiny form.
“I’ve brought the cake, if you want to come and sit with us for your cup of tea?” A new male voice, deep and confident, startled her.
She jumped and straightened, coming nose to nose with the unhinged grin and vacant leer of a circus clown.
A gasp tore from her lips. “Oh my God.” She backed into something warm and solid, and shrieked before spinning round.
“Sorry. Sorry…it’s just me.” The man’s eyes, rich with the colours of wild woodland moss, held an unexpected glint of danger. She shivered as an electric jolt shot straight through her when she met that green gaze. It glimmered with mischief and laughter, and he didn’t look quite as sorry as he should have.
Reflex led to her almost leaning into his strong grip as he reached out to steady her. Almost. She tugged her arm away and held out her hand.
If reading the rest interests you, pre orders are available for a great price, here: