Please welcome Lindsay Buroker to Read My Mind today. She's here to promote her newest novella, FLASH GOLD, a steampunk story set in the Yukon. I'll just say that I've read two of her full-length novels, and was very impressed by the adventure, romance and plot contained within. FLASH GOLD was no exception. See my 4 star review here. Here's an excerpt from the beginning of FLASH GOLD, which can also be found at Lindsay's blog.
Flash Gold: Part I
Kali McAlister tapped a wrench against her thigh as she contemplated her invention. She had stripped every extra piece of metal she could from the “dogless sled” and had even debated removing the brush bow, but that seemed unwise. Besides, it’d been cold enough the last week men were complaining of pee freezing before it hit the ground. The ice on Forty Mile Creek ought to be thick enough for the heavy steam sled. If it wasn’t…winning the race would be the last of her worries.
Hinges creaked, and a gust of frigid air hurled snow into the workshop. Kali spun toward the door, her long braid whipping around her shoulder.
A fur-clad figure loomed, head an inch shy of the top of the frame. With those broad shoulders and that height, she assumed it was a man, though a cap buried his eyebrows and a scarf swaddled most of his face. He gripped a rifle in one gloved hand, and the hilt of something—a sword?—poked over his shoulder. Who in tarnation brought a sword to the Klondike?
Kali’s grip tightened on the wrench. Another thug who wanted to interrogate her about her father’s alchemical masterpiece, probably.
“If you’re going to hold the door open that long, you could at least bring in some wood.” That sounded cocky, especially since the wrench was the closest thing to a weapon she had handy, but bravado went a long way in Moose Hollow.
Meanwhile, she sidled closer to the workbench and the panel of levers on the far end of it. The man’s blue eyes were the only thing visible between the cap and scarf, and they narrowed, watching her.
“The stove’ll have to work double time to heat the place again,” Kali said, hoping to distract him from her movement. “Not that this drafty hole could aspire to warm anyhow.”
The man stepped inside. Kali tensed, ready to spring for a bronze lever with a billiards-ball knob.
He did not move past the threshold though. Without taking his eyes from her, he pushed the door closed. He removed the cap, revealing thick tousled black hair, then tugged the scarf down to his throat. Kali might have called him handsome, but a scar gouged one cheek, as if someone had tried to remove one of his eyes. The beard stubble darkening his jaw would do little to warm his chin in the cold. He must be new to the north.
His cool gaze skimmed the shop, resting briefly on the unorthodox metal sled before settling on her.
“You Kali McAlister?” he asked, voice smoother and more pleasant than his rough exterior hinted at.
“Ma’am.” She propped her hands on her hips by way of disguising another step toward the lever. “It’s polite to call a lady ‘ma’am.’ Even if she’s a half-breed wearing man trousers with tools sticking out of all her pockets.” Not to mention she was only eighteen and covered in grease. She would collapse in surprise if anyone called her ma’am without the ulterior motive of needing a favor.
He stared at her for a long moment. “You Kali McAlister? Ma’am.”
“I reckon that depends on who you are.” She pretended to scratch her knee and took another step.
“Your identity changes depending on your caller?”
“Sometimes it does.” Another step.
“That’s not a name,” she said. “That’s a tree.” Though at his height, children might mistake him for the latter.
“And what are you here for, Cedar?” Three more steps and she would reach the lever. He might plow through her “security measures,” but they would distract him and give her time to run.
He strode toward her. She lifted the wrench threateningly.
“The job.” His free hand delved into a pocket. Paper rustled. He pulled out a sheet with writing on it.
It was Kali’s turn to stare. “What job?”
Wordlessly, he held out the flyer.
ASSISTANT MUSHER FOR BARTON’S RACE
Experienced pugilist preferred. Inquire at Kali McAlister’s Tinkery.
Kali scratched her head. “Where did you get this? I didn’t post it.”
“Nelly’s Good-Time Girls.”
“Nelly. Oh.” Kali puffed out an annoyed breath. While it had been nice having someone step in as a big sister after her father died, sometimes Nelly presumed too much. At least this meant the man was probably not there to rob or interrogate her. “That’s a mistake.” She waved at the flyer. “I can’t afford to hire help. I’m going alone. Sorry to have wasted your time.”
Cedar lowered the paper, but did not leave. “If you win, there will be prize money.”
“Yes…. One thousand dollars hard money goes to the first-place finisher, thanks to Francis Barton’s lucky claim. The old sourdough’s spending like a drunk.”
“Then you’ll be able to pay me.”
Kali’s suspicions toward her visitor returned. Only gold miners worked for the possibility of payment, and most of them were addled in the head. More, nobody in town thought her steam sled would do anything except crash through the ice and disappear forever. Francis wouldn’t have let her enter the race if anyone believed otherwise.
“If I win, I’m using that money to build…something I’ve wanted to build for a long time,” Kali said. “And I’m getting out of Moose Hollow to go somewhere warm.” And where nobody knew about her crazy family or called her a witch.
“One hundred,” Cedar said.
“Are you truly trying to negotiate with me over money that odds are against me winning?”
“You believe you’ll win.” A hint of impatience hardened his jaw.
“Everyone believes they’ll win or they wouldn’t risk their lives in this Godforsaken endless winter to run their dogs up a river. Look, Mister—”
“Look, Mister Cedar. I appreciate you coming—”
Something shattered upstairs. Kali froze. That sounded like the ceramic-pot booby trap she had set up in front of her bedroom window.
She scowled at her visitor, suspicions deepening. He did not appear surprised. His head was lifted, eyes toward the open stairway at the back of the workshop.
“You know anything about that?” she asked. He was probably the distraction while his cronies—
The front door slammed open. Three men charged inside, six-shooters leading.
Cedar whirled to face them. Metal rasped, and his sword appeared in his hand.
Hoping the men were focused on him, Kali darted for the bank of levers. She yanked the one with the billiards-ball knob.
A door along the wall slid upward, revealing two bulky figures in a shadowy cubby. Gears whirred, and a pair of four-legged mechanical constructs clanked out. Though comprised of a patchwork of spare parts and metal scraps, they had cohesive, canine forms. And they were big.
Her guard “dogs” angled toward the intruders, issuing growls that sounded like knives rasping against sharpening stones. Two of the men noticed the metal hounds and stumbled backward, eyes wide. The dogs’ steel maws gaped open, and iron teeth snapped.
Thanks so much for sharing, Lindsay! Intrigued? Want to purchase the book? Find FLASH GOLD for .99 at: Barnes and Noble | Smashwords | Amazon
With her modified rifle and a pocketful of home-made smoke bombs, Kali wouldn't normally hide from a confrontation, but taking on a whole airship single-handedly is a daunting task. Unfortunately, the other racers won't assist her--they're too busy scheming ways to sabotage her unorthodox sled.
When a sword-slinging stranger shows up, wanting to hire on as her protector, she's sure he has ulterior motives, but he's the only one interested in helping her. The question is...why?