Minor characters with major ambitions

Join me in sharing consolation and appreciation with author A.R. Henle (Alea Henle.) Her novel The Museum of All Things Lost & Forgotten just became one of the 290 books that won’t make SPFBO7’s final 10, although Fantasy Faction did call her work “fascinating and unique.”

Today she tells us how she had a plan for each of her three main characters, and then two of them began negotiating for different roles.

Many minor characters have major ambitions.

In the case of The Museum of All Things Lost & Forgotten, I started with three character who share certain core commonalities: they’re among the youngest of the Forgotten (quasi-immortals who exist only in the museum) and they host the spirit of Memory who powers the museum.

One character would be little more than a walk-on. A second would play a vital role but they would not be “on stage” most of the time. The third gets the biggest role and wound up kicking down a door while wearing Crocs.

The walk-on character accepted his fate (although he’s currently negotiating for a bigger role if/when/when I write another book set in the museum).

I planned for Rumaisa to take the second role and Jay Doe the third.

Note the word planned.

Rumaisa turned out to be a lot more proactive than I expected (she’s the one who insisted she could kick down the door despite wearing Crocs). Jay Doe, on the other hand, proved a lot more tentative. This worked out when I switched her to the second role, where she was younger (chronologically as well as physically, something one has to keep in mind when dealing with quasi-immortals) and arguably still in shock from having shifted from being a human on the margins in the world at large to one of the Forgotten. I suspect Rumaisa had her eyes on the third role from the start (she, too, is negotiating for a sizable role in another book.)

Then there’s Tiy. The assistant director of the museum rather than the director only because, as one of the Forgotten, she can’t physically leave the museum (the director has to be a regular human). Many Forgotten cling to the places and things they knew in their “before lives” and resist change. Not Tiy. She enjoys being on the cutting edge and exploring ways to adapt modern technology to support the museum’s core mission: remembering that which was lost or forgotten. The reason she agreed to join the Forgotten in the first place was to learn to read, and she’s never let go of learning.

The Museum of All Things Lost & Forgotten is told from the point-of-view of a sorcerer from the “real world” (who happens to be the younger sister of the heroines of other books in the standalone Ordinary Sorcery series).

Tiy has made it very clear that she expects me to write more works set in the museum—and intends to be the pov character. She’s willing to wait until I’ve finished a few projects already in-process, but no longer.

She may not be quite so happy when I finally start her book, however, as it will likely require she go somewhere she’s avoided for a very long time: the drought-stricken place she once called home.

How a young messenger steals hearts in D.L. Gardner’s novel

Join me today in distracting author D.L. Gardner (Dianne Gardner) as she awaits a verdict on Rise of the Tobian Princess from the blog BOOKNEST. Gardner is a fellow contestant in #SPFBO7.

When I asked her about secondary characters who tried to have more of a role her novel, she told me of a young boy, Cephas. He not only plays a bigger part than she intended in her SPFBO novel , but, well, I’ll let her explain in her own words…

Little Cephas isn’t much older than ten going on twenty, he lives on the streets begging and sometimes stealing but he mostly steals everyone’s heart. He was meant only as a messenger for princess Erika when news of an invasion is brought to the castle and Erika pays him and his friend to bring a note to the high commander. But Cephas worms his way into the halls of the rich as well as the poor and pops in again in book two, lies his way into life on board a ship and in book 3 pretty much saves a day.

Gardner also sent this excerpt, so we could all see Cephas in action. Enjoy!

Three days after they had rescued Prince Barin, Cephas came to Erika’s door.
“You have a note for me?” she asked the lad. With Barin’s condition, a cloud of depression hung over the castle as if Skotádi had cursed the entire kingdom. Good news would be a healthy reprieve.
“No note. Just words,” the boy replied. His eyes were open wide, as if what he had to say would terrify her.
“And those words are?” she asked.
“There’s a rumor the sailors wanted you to know.”
“A rumor? Why do you worry me with rumors?” she asked.
“They told me you would want to know. Two anglers who were fishing near the island heard a great noise and threw down their nets. One of them hurried along the beach to see who had called out for help. He said he saw a man up on a hill wielding a great sword about as big as this room fighting those winged beasts. The flock became a black cloud and came at him like a twister swallows a farmhouse. The man didn’t win. The anglers saw him fall.”
She stared at the boy, not sure if the reason he came to her was because the rumor was about Arell. Her skin grew cold as her heart slowed. This is only a rumor, she told herself. It couldn’t be Arell. Odd how he was the first person who came to mind, as if the man were continually in her thoughts. She caught herself from falling by leaning against the door frame.
“Are you all right?” Cephas asked. She nodded.
“After the man fell, chanting began, and the skura were taken up into the sky. The men saw natives put the man on a horse and rode off. The fishers thought you and the king should know.”
Erika reached in the purse strapped around her waist and pulled out a few coins.
“Is that all?” she said, breathless, afraid she would faint in front of the lad if he didn’t leave soon.
“That’s all. Just that the anglers were sure this man was important. Maybe a king or someone. Just bringing the message. That’s what they told me to say. Only they didn’t say the sword was as big as this room, I said that because it had to be if he were fighting those monsters three at a time like they said he was.”
Erika listened intently, her heart sinking.
“Thank you, Cephas,” she said as she dropped the silver pieces in his hand.
“Much obliged!” He grinned just before a blood-curdling scream came from Barin’s room. Cephas jumped and looked down the hall. Feeding time.
“Go now,” she told him. He mustn’t know the condition of the prince. No one in Prasa Potama should know. After Cephas raced away down the corridor, Erika felt her head for fever, collected her balance, and left for her father’s chambers.

How the Doomsayer Prince took over Rune S. Nielsen’s debut novel

Please join me in distracting author Rune S. Nielsen as he awaits a verdict on Doomsayer Prince from the blog Fantasy Faction.  Rune is a fellow contestant in #SPFBO7 and when I asked Rune if any secondary character tried to have a bigger role his novel, I got this vehement answer!

Imagine my surprise

To my utter astonishment, one of my minor characters completely took over my debut novel. Phytiax just exploded onto the pages and extended my writing phase by months.

Because of Phytiax, my debut novel now begins in another part of the world than I first intended, and he completely took over the first many chapters of the novel. Mage Prince Phytiax even “stole” the title, as he is the Doomsayer Prince that my novel in SPFBO#7 is named for.

Mage Prince Phytiax was initially supposed to be this foreign hero. A legendary kick-ass, action-man, swordfighter, that just dropped in to save the day when the actual main characters needed someone like him the most. I thought up this scene in a castle where the reader suddenly finds her/himself reading about this uncannily tough swordfighter, chopping his way through the opposition, guard by guard.

Leading up to that would be a terrible situation like “Oh no, we are getting tortured! There’s no way out! We don’t deserve this. Why is it happening to us? We are just these simple and nice people.” Then more torture and “Nobody’s coming for us. Cry!!”

Then BAM! In jumps the hero. Kills the bad guys, rescues our main characters to their surprise, and completely saves the day.

At first, this was a sort of simple plot device (perhaps dumb, perhaps clever, I don’t know) to get them out of a bad spot unexpectedly.

For a while, it became a way to show just how not-very-hero-like the actual main characters were at that point in time, and it ended up being a story of a 3-dimensional really cool character you could relate to. With issues and troubles of his own, and the glue that sticks the plot together. Not to mention many of the reader’s absolute favorite.

How did that happen?

I fell completely in love with this character and his backstory. I dreamed about it, woke up many days (very early,) and was quite full of ideas.

First off, I decided it would be silly for Mage Prince Phytiax to show up out of the blue, and so at first, I wrote a prologue featuring him. The idea being the reader’s joy/surprise when he later showed up: “who is that dude? Oh, it’s that guy again!” However, I needed the prologue to be really good, since it’s the first thing you read, and to capture the reader’s attention, I needed a character with nuance and depth. Not just some guy with big biceps. I went back and forth, giving him strengths, and weaknesses, goals in life, a family, a country, even creating a wholly unique style of magic, which became his ‘thing.’

As a result, the prologue got longer. And longer!

Finally, it got to a point when it was impossible to call it a prologue any longer, and it became like the first five chapters or so. It was one of the main reasons that my planned 90K words standard-sort-of-sized fantasy novel exploded into a 300K work of epic and unintended proportions. It was so much fun!

Phytiax ended up being HUGE, and not only a part of the prologue and the beginning of the novel but the entire journey. From the reader’s perspective (in the finished novel) the whole backdrop to the plot comes from his story. His view of things. The book literally became about his quest to find the others and convince them to help him save everything they hold dear. Not about them doing their thing, and him giving a helping hand and a nudge in the right direction.

Thanks for sharing this story with us, Rune! Best of luck in SPFBO7, with the sales of Doomsayer, and with your next novel!

Note: Rune’s story is the first in a series of guest posts by SPFBO7 authors answering the question “did you have a minor character in your SPFBO7 novel who insisted on playing a larger role in the story?”  The question was prompted by my fascination with the creative process and how the story one finishes writing isn’t ever quite the story one started with!

Once Upon A Princess Trio

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Deborah A. Bailey and her three fairy-tale inspired paranormal romance novellas entitled Once Upon A Princess Trio.

Author’s description

Formula for Fairy Tale Love:
1 adventurous Heroine + 1 tortured-but-noble Hero = Happily-Ever-After

For all the innate complications involved in finding the secret to blissful fairy-tale love with shape-shifters, three wise and discerning princesses trust their hearts instead of their eyes and fall in love with the unlikeliest of princes.

“Heart of Stone:” Leesa trespasses into a haunted palace, where she meets a gargoyle. Breaking the spell that cursed him may carry a price steeper than she’s able…or willing…to pay.

“Beauty & the Faun:” Kayla flees an arranged marriage and falls for a faun shifter instead. But how can she ignore her duty by refusing to marry a prince?

“Land of Dreams:” Cicely knows she possesses magical ability. Falling in love with the courageous, self-sacrificing Willem may be the key to her awakening…or may unleash forces that will separate them forever. (Sequel to Heart of Stone)

Box set includes books 1-3 of the Once Upon A Princess paranormal fairy-tale inspired romance novellas.

Using Fairy Tale Elements in the Once Upon A Princess Novellas

I asked author Deborah A. Bailey to tell us how much vocabulary she created for her fantasy worlds in this trio and I got back fascinating information about what guided the creation of her entire worlds. Enjoy her answer.

For my worldbuilding, I considered creating words for the worlds I was writing about. But as it turned out I only ended up creating one word, “Malida.” The reason I created it was because I wanted to use it during a conversation between the hero and heroine in Heart of Stone. Willem, the hero, uses that word to refer to the heroine’s grandmother. The grandmother is a former queen of the province where the story is set. In the aftermath of a war, the heroine, Leesa, and her grandmother are (as far as they know) the only remaining members of the royal family.

When Willem asks Leesa about her grandmother he calls her Malida, which is also a term of endearment. It means “great mother.” For Willem to know that name, he would have to have known more about the family than he’s admitting.

Though I didn’t focus on creating the words and language for those worlds, Since they’re based on fairy tales, I made sure to include certain elements. For instance, I included princesses,  magic, and fantasy creatures. In Heart of Stone Willem is a gargoyle who is under a magical curse. He lives in a deserted palace and he has access to enchantments that were left there by the former inhabitant.

In Beauty and the Faun, the heroine ends up escaping into the Great Forest and it becomes a refuge. Forests are often used fairy tales as places filled with magic and mystery. Satyrs, forest nymphs, centaurs and fauns are among the inhabitants of the Great Forest. Each group has their own culture and behavior that they’re known for. The heroine finds these creatures when she enters the forest, and they show that this is an entirely different world than the one outside.

In Land of Dreams the Great Forest is also included, along with fauns and water nymphs. I added additional magical characters, such as elementals, shifters, and river deities. There’s also a character called the Night Queen who presides over the elementals. While I would’ve loved to have created other words (and languages) for the stories, I made sure to include many fantasy elements and fairy tale touches to set the mood.

About the Author

Deborah A Bailey’s Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance novels include suspense, a bit of mystery and a lot of romantic heat. Her books include the Hathor Legacy science fiction romance series and the Family Pride and Once Upon A Princess shapeshifter paranormal romance series.

Her short stories have won awards from the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference and have been published in US1 Magazine and the Sun and are included in, Electric Dreams: Seven Futuristic Tales. She’s the author of non-fiction books, and articles for various online publications.

Visit her site https://dbaileycoach.com/brightbooks for more information and subscribe to the newsletter here: https://eepurl.com/bokGdX so you’ll be the first to find out about giveaways, book launches and sneak peeks.

Find the Author

Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/AuthorDeborahB
Twitter — https://www.twitter.com/AuthorDeborahB
Pinterest — https://www.pinterest.com/debstyle3
FaceBook — https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDeborahAB/
Amazon Author Page — https://amazon.com/author/deborahannbailey
Bookbub —  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/deborah-a-bailey

Buy the Book

Buy link (universal book link): https://books2read.com/u/4Dg5xA
Personal Sales page: https://payhip.com/brightbooks

Yes, there is a giveaway

The author will be awarding a $40 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

Heart of Stone:

Leesa headed up the stairs and stopped at the 2nd floor landing. Eduardo and Erokan’s rooms had been on this floor. Dust was everywhere, but otherwise the furnishings were just as they’d been left. Varmont’s bedroom, private study and library were on the 3rd floor. Most likely he would’ve hidden some of his valuables there. She went upstairs to check. The doors to the Duke’s room, study and library were open. But the fourth door was closed. The treasure room, perhaps?

She opened the door and stepped inside. Strangely, this room wasn’t as dusty as the others. The air was heavy with perfume. Across from the door was a folding screen decorated with blue and yellow flowers. Behind it she could make out the base of a claw-foot tub.

To her surprise, the entire room had a feminine feeling, from the huge bed covered with blush pink coverlets and plush furs to the gold-trimmed white furniture. Even the jewel-encrusted skylight above her had its own beauty, reflecting colorful sprinkles of light over the pale stone walls.

A white cabinet with glass doors caught her attention. The shelves held glass bottles of different shapes and sizes. Some had liquids inside, others were empty. What were these? Perfumes? Or maybe potions.

The Duke used magic. Maybe this was where he’d kept his enchantments. Would they be worth anything? Possibly. But just as Leesa reached out to open the cabinet, the door slammed behind her.

Startled, she spun around. She was alone. Who had closed it? Leesa ran to the door and gripped the handle, expecting the door to open as easily as it had when she’d come in. But it didn’t. She pulled and banged on it, but it wouldn’t budge.

She was locked in.

Thank you!

Deborah A. Bailey — we appreciate your sharing Once Upon A Princess Trio with us! Best of luck with sales, and with all of your future writing.

Piper’s Song

Today it is my pleasure to welcome Sara E. Tall and her young adult fantasy novel, Piper’s Song.

Author’s description

Billie thinks stopping her fellow students from committing murder and almost getting kicked out of the Realm is as bad as it gets, but she should know better.  Not only are seven of the most powerful students out for her blood, but Sedna —her former enemy turned ally— turns her enemy again when Billie refuses a part in her revenge scheme.  What’s more, Alpha Administration’s refusal to address the injustice in their school is sparking a full-on rebellion, and a lot of innocents are going to be caught in the cross-hairs. It isn’t just the school either, the Realm itself is overrun with violence and hatred, which will have deadly consequences. Lucian, her self-imposed magical guru, insists Billie’s extraordinary magic is the key to stopping the flood of violence coming their way.  Billie knows her magic is extraordinary, but she also knows its destructive power. It might do more harm than good.

World building Is Fun

When I got the chance to ask author Sara E. Tall anything, I asked her one of my favorite questions for other fantasy authors. “How much vocabulary did you create for your fantasy world and what, if anything, did you use to guide the creation of your words?”

She really gave it some thought and I enjoyed her answer a lot.

This is an interesting topic that I haven’t really thought about before, but I’m excited to dive in. I didn’t have to create a ton of vocabulary for this story, but I tried to make the words I created meaningful and connected to the culture.

Probably the most prevalent is how the Magi referred to the world above. Officially it is called, The Aboveland, but most refer to it as, The Dustlands. To them, the lack of magic in the air makes that world dry and dusty. They also refer to non-mage humans as Dusties.

The spin-off to The Dustlands, is The Rustlands, where powerless half-breeds and other non-magical Magi are exiled from the Realm. It’s a small neighborhood nestled in a remote part of Maine, United States. It’s called The Rustlands because the Magi claim the “Misfits” that are sent their taint the land and drain it of life. It’s true that The Rustlands tends to be a run-down neighborhood, though that might be due to the morale of its inhabitants more than anything. Though Misfits is the officially name of The Rustlands inhabitants, they are often called Rusties.

I also put a lot of effort into their insults for each other. There’s a lot of tension between the seven magical species that live in the Realm, and that leads to a lot of name calling. The main insults are Misborn and Clamor. Misborn is a direct reference to the Misfits, who are considered freaks of nature because of their half-breed status or their lack of magic. Parentage and bloodlines and incredibly important to them, so calling someone “Misborn” is about insulting as you can get.

Clamor is Latin for crier. I chose Latin because many Magi trace their roots back to the Greek/Roman gods, so Latin is one of their universal languages. Clamor originally referred to a Magi who would betray another Magi to save their own skin. Now it is used to refer to anyone who doesn’t behave the way their species is supposed to behave. Billie hears that word a lot, since she never does what she’s supposed too.

For curses, they sometimes say, “Oh My lands,” Or simply, “Lands.”  Throughout their history the Magi have been constantly looking for a place to call home. They’ve spilled each other’s blood over safe havens more than anything else. Finding an underground world where they could all live safely was a lifesaver. Land has defied their history, which is why they use it to curse.

And finally, I coined the term Paradises to refer to the humans who chose to travel to the Realm with the Magi. Most of them were loyal to Magi families for generations. The humans in the Realm work exclusively as blue collar workers, and are often treated like they are invisible. Why did I decide to call them Paradises? I actually can’t remember. I’m pretty sure I had a reason, but seven years later I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.

Worldbuilding is fun, isn’t it?

I had to laugh when I read that author Tall spent a lot of time developing the insults her characters sling at each other. Judging from the various excerpts I read, her efforts paid off.

I confess I put a similar amount of time into the made-up cuss words in my book. I actually have poster boards filled with potential substitutes for our most common expletives.

Indeed, world building is fun!

About the Author

Sara’s enjoyed creating fantastic stories since she was old enough to hold a play sword, around the time she learned how to walk. Gradually she learned to direct her creative energy into writing, and it’s been a downward spiral ever since then. When she’s not writing she’s probably either dancing or reading batman comics. She also loves running away to the mountains of Utah and Montana. Nothing gets more fantastic that those views.

Find the Author

Website: https://saraetallbooks.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SaraETall
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SaraEatough
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/saraetall/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18726933.Sara_E_Tall

 Buy the Book

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Pipers-Song-Alpha-Academy-Book-ebook/dp/B08KFP25FW/

The book will be $0.99.

Yes, there is a giveaway

The author will be awarding a $15 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

Nothing said, “I’m sorry,” like a scalding hot iron mallet to the face. Especially when you were a Faerie, and allergic to Iron. Saranya and her friends really knew how to make a girl feel special.

At least, we heard they were going to attack me with a mallet, it was hard to keep up with all of Saranya’s schemes to get revenge on me for preventing her from torturing another student. The nerve of me.

I tightened my grip on the empowered soap Iris, my roommate, had given me. It paid to be friends with an Elf, I’d learned, as they possessed the ability to infuse magical properties into a variety of house-hold objects. And all she ever wanted in return was my help getting books down from her top bookshelf.

“Uhh, Billie,” Thea, my other roommate, said. “Perhaps it would be in your best interests to not look so tense? We are supposed to be discussing a class project, after all.”

I loosened my grip on the soap and gave her a quick smile. Thea was terrified of Saranya and the others, but that hadn’t stopped her and Iris from telling me about their plan, or offering to help me thwart it.  She had a lot to lose, too. As a Wizard, she had a certain image to keep up, and helping a Misfit against other Wizards would do nothing good for that image.

Thank you!

Sara E. Tall — we appreciate your sharing your book Piper’s Song with us! Best of luck with sales, and with all of your future writing.

Georgian Romance Revolt

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Lucinda Elliot and her satirical/dark humor novel Georgian Romance Revolt.

Author’s description

Elaine Long is trapped in the body of the heroine in a warped cyber version of an historical romance. Something has gone drastically wrong, with the characters talking and acting outside the script, and her coachman is exactly like one of the author’s Golden and Reckless hero types.

Worse, the disgraced earl turned highwayman anti-hero – one of the author’s Dark, Mean and Moody hero types, has stolen the heroine’s betrothal ring, which just happens to be Elaine’s escape device.

Elaine, once eager to escape from everyday life and being taken for granted by her part-time boyfriend into this cyber version of her favourite author’s fictional world, isn’t even confident that this story can guarantee a happy ending, even if she does have three or four hero types in it with her…

A darkly comic, fast moving spoof on the tropes of  historical romance from four times BRAG medallion winner Lucinda Elliot.

My Review

This is a funny book. It’s funny in the sense of making you laugh out loud and it’s funny in the sense of being strange and hard to describe. I’ll start with the first.

Georgian romance novels are ripe for satire and Elliot does a fine job taking aim at all the easy targets like handsome heroes with perfect teeth and some of the more difficult ones like chaperones, forced seduction, and social inequities. She tells her story through the eyes of Elaine, a modern, slightly futuristic woman inhabiting the head of a romance novel heroine. Elaine’s take on this partially-sanitized fictional world provides another layer of humor.

But having two women living inside of one body, often fighting for control of it, is also where the story gets odd. Elaine is in eighteenth century England by way of a  virtual reality entertainment system that malfunctions, adding a sci-fi help-I’m-trapped-in-a-video-game subplot. Because even the best of satire is only funny for so long, I began to enjoy the get-me-out-of-here subplot more than the Georgian-romance-gone-wrong story.

Then it starts to get weird. Without giving away too much I’ll just say the 1960’s author of the original novel gets involved along with Stonehenge, reality and maybe multiple dimensions. Then Elaine’s own personal life enters the scene as well.

Balancing all this is quite a feat. I think Elliot pulls it off but by the end I’d have preferred a good bit less of the Georgian romance, and a more thorough resolution of everything else.

The author says in her bio that she loves a good laugh. She certainly provided me with several and for that I am thankful. I recommend this book to anyone who likes reading something different and who enjoys satire.

About the Author

Lucinda Elliot, four times winner of the BRAG medallion for outstanding self published fiction, was born in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. When she was growing up, her family lived in various large, isolated old houses in various parts of the UK as they used to renovate such places  in the days before it became fashionable. She lived for many years in London and now lives in Mid Wales with her family.  She loves a laugh above anything.

Find the Author

Visit the Author on her blog at: https://sophieandemile.wordpress.com/
Find her on her Amazon author page at: https://www.amazon.com/Lucinda-Elliot/e/B008YU9B58
Find her on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ElliotLucinda
Find her on Goodreads  at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/6469356.Lucinda_Elliot

Buy the Book

Buy Georgian Romance Revolt on Amazon. The book will be on sale for $0.99.

Yes, there is a giveaway

The author will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

Aurelia wrinkled her well-shaped nose at inside of the carriage. The floor littered with rubbish, including a filthy boot, the broken handle of a dagger, a blood stained handkerchief and wisps of straw left over from the winter.

A false nose lay on the seat. It was as grotesque as that worn by the messenger the day before. To lighten Betty’s mood, Aurelia showed it to her. “They have stolen the idea from Earl Lawless’ band.”

The man guarding her scowled thunderously. “That is a scurvy lie. We never nab their tricks; they does ours.”

“I am happy to hear that you are so scrupulous,” returned Aurelia. “Do not fret, Betty. This is an adventure such as comes to  a few.”

“Then I wish I wasn’t one of them few, Miss Aurelia!” The girl burst into tears, and Aurelia took her hand.

 

Cooking for Ghosts

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Patricia V. Davis and her magical realism/women’s paranormal mystery novel, Cooking for Ghosts.

Author’s description:

Do hearts broken long ago forever leave a tangible trace?

A Vegas cocktail waitress. An Indian herbalist. A British chemistry professor. An Italian-American widow. Four unique women with one thing in common: each is haunted by a tragedy from her past.

Cynthia, Rohini, Jane, and Angela meet on a food blogging site and bond over recipes. They decide on impulse to open The Secret Spice, an elegant café on the magnificent ocean liner, the RMS Queen Mary, currently a floating hotel in Long Beach, California. Rich in history and tales of supernatural occurrences, the ship hides her own dark secrets.

The women are surrounded by ghosts long before they step aboard, but once they do, nothing is quite what it seems. Not the people they meet, not their brooding chef’s mystic recipes, and not the Queen Mary herself. Yet the spirits they encounter help them discover that there’s always a chance to live, as long as one is alive.

An Official Pulpwood Queens Book Club Selection, and read by Ann Marie Gideon, Cooking for Ghosts is an unforgettable tale of love, redemption, and divine female power.

My Review

Cooking for Ghosts is based on a great premise and is filled with a terrific cast of characters and just enough ghostly activity to keep you on the edge of your seat. It has plenty of humor, a lot of romance, and a few surprises.

My favorite aspects of this book included the many strong female characters and the wide variety of people who are written with affection and empathy. I appreciated the detailed look into the foodservice industry (where I once worked) and the wonderful descriptions of mouth-watering dishes.

I also thought the author hit exactly the right notes in this mostly-gentle ghost story. The paranormal parts were interesting and occasionally thought-provoking without being either horrifying (or disgusting) or being too cute.

I did struggle with the sheer amount of drama and trauma in every character’s life and, after a while, I found myself yearning to be introduced to someone without major issues. I  also got frustrated a few times when the backstories went on too long. I wanted to get back to the action moving this story forward.

The things I liked about this book far out-weighed those I didn’t, so I’d recommend it to anyone who appreciates complex stories of women’s lives, or novels about cooking fine food, or well-done ghost stories. If you enjoy two out of three, you are going to love this book!

About the Author:

Patricia v. Davis’s debut novel series, the secret spice cafe, is comprised of three books: s Cooking for Ghosts (2016) Spells and Oregano (2017) and Demons, Well-seasoned (2019). The audiobooks will be released in 2020 by Tantor media, and narrated by Ann Marie Gideon.

Patricia lives with her husband, who is both a poker player and a rice farmer, so she divides her time between southern Nevada and northern California.

Say hello to Patricia at her author website: www.TheSecretSpice.com.
You can also find her at
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/authorpatriciavdavis/
Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/patriciaVdavis
TikTok:        @patriciavdavis
Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patricia_V._Davis

Buy The Secret Spice Cafe trilogy on Amazon.

Yes, there is a giveaway.

Patricia v. Davis will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

Unconcerned with what her business partners were up to, Rohini was giggling with excitement. Hugging herself, she whirled in circles, then flung her arms up over her head and collapsed back in dizzy elation onto the enormous bed in the glorious stateroom. Everything was glorious. She was here. This was her room. The Secret Spice was, in part, her restaurant.

Hers.

And when she’d first seen the Queen from the back seat of Cynthia’s preposterous little car, she knew she was headed to exactly where she should be. She couldn’t stop smiling, until, abruptly, a lump formed in her throat and her eyes misted with tears.

“I made it, Zahir,” she whispered. “I made it.”

She sobered as she thought of him, of all he’d done for her, and all that she might still need to do on her own.

But that wasn’t for today. Today was for celebration and thankfulness. Getting up from the bed, she opened her case, pulled out all the little plastic sacks of spices and herbs she’d packed, and sighed with relief. Not a one had opened or torn. Even so, she could smell their pungent bouquet right through the protective wrappings. Rauvolfia, Serpentina, Jaiphal, Javitri, Khus Khus, Ashwagandha and more — why did cinnamon always smell the strongest? There were dozens of varieties that she’d stuffed inside shirt sleeves and trouser legs and white cotton gym socks, just like a drug dealer might hide a stash. The TSA had missed them completely. They’d even affixed a sticker to the top of her bag: “Checked by Homeland Security.”

Giggling again at that, Rohini placed all the smaller sacks into a large white bag she’d found in the wardrobe. The bag had a price list for various laundry services printed on it. With that mission accomplished, she took her treasures downstairs to the kitchen.

But she wasn’t two steps in before she stopped stock still and remained right where she was, listening.

“Oh, my,” she murmured to herself. “Oh, my, my, my.”

Now she understood why she’d felt that the ship had summoned her. To anyone else who might peek in, the kitchen appeared silent and empty. But not to Rohini. She could hear the walls sighing.

Gradually, she walked further inside, and the sighs turned to whispers. She stood still, breathing cautiously, waiting, watching. In unison, the stainless steel cooking utensils dangling from the long, narrow cylinders that were screwed to the walls began to sway, soundlessly. The copper pots that hung from the ceiling over the two spanking-new ovens and eight burner stoves began to twirl, gracefully. Every inanimate object in the room that wasn’t bolted down was waltzing eerily, on its own. To Rohini, the dance seemed sad rather than ghoulish.

Walking quietly, listening carefully, she followed the hushed sounds as they moved along the walls, leading her back to the scullery. As she approached, an ancient, enormous, floor-to-ceiling freezer blew out a puff of ice-cold air as its door swung wide open as though it were greeting her, then gently clicked closed again.

Unafraid, Rohini observed it all. Still clinging to the laundry bag filled with her precious sacks of spices, she turned in a full circle, leisurely, so as not to miss any of it. After a while, she set the bag down on one of the gleaming stainless steel work tables. Bending into a full and formal curtsy, she spoke aloud.

“It is my great honor to meet you, Your Majesty.”

The Duplex

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Lucky Stevens and his historical LGBT  novel, The Duplex. 

Author’s description

THE DUPLEX is a thrilling tale, set in 1950s L.A., of four gay friends who hatch a daring scheme to live life on their own terms, during a time of systemic governmental persecution.

Los Angeles, 1956. Shangri-La. Palm trees, swimming pools, movie stars. And if you’re gay—persecution. In a society that demands conformity and lockstep conventionality, gay people find out quickly and the hard way, how difficult, dangerous and downright terrifying it is to be different.

So, when the constant fear of arrests, evictions, job loss and ridicule become too much, four gay friends and lovers pull together to hatch an ingenious scheme designed to allow them to live freely, without harassment.

But their secret plan is not without its flaws. Internal struggles and personality conflicts conspire to make their situation harder and more life-altering than any of them could have predicted, leading to valuable and universal lessons about the high cost of blending in—or not.

My Review

In The Duplex, Lucky Stevens has written a story that both packs a punch and needs to be told.

I liked so many things about this book, including the way Stevens captures the fifties along with all its many ingrained biases. I enjoyed watching the tale evolve through the eyes of four protagonists, often seeing the same incident through different points of view. I appreciated how Stevens demonstrated the way prejudices against any group seep into the beliefs and self-images of those most adversely infected until they begin to doubt themselves. Sometimes it was painful to read, but, as I said, it’s a story worth telling.

In fact, I liked almost everything about this compelling tale. It moved quickly, and the voices rang true. I suppose one could complain that certain aspects of the two gay men, and two lesbian women, were too stereotypical, and they would have a point. I suppose others might struggle with four alternating first-person points of view, although I liked it.

Some might prefer a neater, more happily-ever-after ending for all, but I thought the ending worked fine. Without giving anything away I’ll just say things get messy but happiness is found, much like in real life.

I recommend this book to anyone, but especially those who like historical novels, are fascinated by the 1950s, or are fans of reading about Los Angeles. The novel may appeal to those in the LGBTQ+ community, but I have a special recommendation and this one comes from the heart.

I HIGHLY (caps intended) recommend this novel to those with close friends or family members who are LGBTQ. It’s an eye-opening look at the world they could be living in. I know it made me aware of the need for us all to be vigilant about preserving the basic human rights this group has had to fight so hard for. This novel is important food for thought for a caring community.

About the Author

Lucky Stevens lives, works and plays in exotic North America.  He has written three novels.  He was also a finalist in a nationwide screenplay writing contest.  He was inspired to write The Duplex because he wanted to tackle a subject that grappled with universal themes in a creative and exciting way.

He can be contacted in the following ways:
https://twitter.com/LuckyStevens1
https://www.facebook.com/luckystevens.writer/
luckystevenswriter@gmail.com
https://bublish.com/author/luckystevens

Buy The Duplex at Amazon.  The book will be $0.99 and is
Amazon’s #1 New Release in LGBT Historical Fiction!

 Yes, there is a giveaway.

Lucky Stevens will be awarding $40 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

With the tone of the evening in its proper place, we exited the apartment.

As much as I adore Cliff, I figured I better latch onto Jerry. I don’t know, he just seems a little more like the babe-in-the-woods type. Besides that, it would give me a chance to get to know him. So I stood next to him and slipped my hand around his arm. I gave his bicep a little squeeze. “Ooh, al dente. Just right.” He smiled, and I smiled back. Naturally Cliff and Dot paired up themselves, and us girls held on to each fella’s arm as the men escorted us down the stairs.

As we headed to the car, I was happy to see that my landlady—her name is Mrs. Tambler—was on her patio watering her flowers. She has always been a very nice woman, but she can also be on the nosy side of the street. Because of this fact,

I have had to be careful with Dot, whom Mrs. Tambler has now seen numerous times.

I have told her that Dot is my closest friend, but I am not sure she buys it. For one thing, Dot is quite beautiful and ten years younger than I am. A fact that is a plus for me, but I think a little suspicious looking for Mrs. Tambler. I also only have a one-bedroom apartment, so the idea of Dot spending the night or ever moving in is strictly out.

In any event, with “our men” in tow, I waved to my landlady good and hard in an effort to build up some nice heterosexual brownie points for any possible future mishaps. She looked more than pleased to see Dot and me hanging off the arms of two handsome characters of the masculine variety, shall we say.

The boys, for their part, were just swell. Opening our doors for us, helping us off with our coats, the works. And the fact is, I think we all enjoyed it. It was fun. And nice to be pampered for the night. The boys took care of everything.

It was the perfect mixture too, of chivalry and flirting and teasing which was all made possible by the incontestable fact that no one of the opposite sex was attracted to each other. This is a situation that is very freeing. When there is no chance of romance. No sexual tension. We just played.

 

Hard Luck Girl

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Topshee Johnston and his mystery/thriller novel Hard Luck Girl.

Author’s description:

Hard Luck Girl is a mystery about prostitution in a location better known for gardens than gangsters — Victoria, British Columbia.

Rose’s life has never been easy. When she finds her pimp murdered it gets a whole lot harder. At first, she sees it as an opportunity but discovers the status quo has been disrupted and she’s not at the top of the food chain, not even close.

Avoiding psychopaths, police, and friends like thieves, there is no one she can turn to for help not once she discovers a pimps life is cheap, a prostitute’s even cheaper.

Stuck between the desire for a better life and holding on to hers, is a needle she’s not sure she can thread. But maybe Hard Luck is better than no luck at all?

“A gritty novel with a surprising and strong female lead. Johnston offers all the expected hard-boiled elements in this mystery—including shady characters, near misses with the police, rampant sex, drug use, and violence.” – Kirkus Review

My Review:

In Hard Luck Girl, Topshee Johnston tells the story of a young prostitute who finds her drug-dealing pimp dead on page one. More importantly, he manages to  keep the reader (or at least this reader) cheering for this unlikely hero as she deals with the body, the customers, the other girls, the rival dealers, the cops, the slimy hotel manager, the nosy cleaning lady and the real money behind the entire sordid mess. No small feat, Mr. Johnston. Well done.

I appreciated how this book contained enough description to make it seem as if I was there, riding on the ferry, or there, in the run-down lobby of the hotel, and yet it never bogged down. The initial characters were all believable and their actions made sense, giving the plot an urgency that felt like real life. Honestly, I had trouble putting it down.

The book stumbles when it nears the end, however. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll only say the major villains didn’t ring as true as the other characters, and their motivations remained murky to me even after the last page. Parts of the ending were were confusing, and threads that mattered (to me at least) were left hanging.

Yet, it was a heck of ride up to that point. So, I recommend Hard Luck Girl to to anyone who enjoys hard-boiled crime novels and to other mystery fans willing to be a bit morally flexible with their story’s hero. This book will also appeal to those who like novels about women finding inner strength they didn’t know they had, and to people who enjoy tales of the downtrodden triumphing over those with more advantages. That’s a pretty good market share, I think.

About the Author:

Topshee Johnston, author of Hard Luck Girl, writes because it’s the only way to get his characters to stop talking to him. He lets them tell their story and trusts their voice. Once a story is finished, he moves on to the next in line.

He lives in Victoria, B.C with his wife and daughter and when he’s not writing, he’s skateboarding, playing guitar, or fly-fishing.

Connect with Canadian author Topshee Johnston on Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or on his website.

Check out the book on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and Indigo/Chapters!

Yes, there is a giveaway.

Topshee Johnston will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt:

As I closed the door, the squeaky wheels of the cleaning lady’s cart came around the corner. A sound I’d heard many times, disregarded until now. In my rush to get here, I’d forgotten to put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the handle of my room. To run back upstairs and take care of it would look crazy. Instead, I shut the door, because to neglect Linden Aubrey for a second was a second too long. The door’s latch clicked shut, extinguishing the daylight, my chance to make it back to my room before the cleaning lady, and a clean way out.

A Personal Note:

Besides enjoying this book, I got a kick out of reading Topshee Johnston’s reason for writing. I have a similar problem, and a queue of people in my own head, insisting their stories be told.

I hope he makes his way through all of his characters before he’s done, and I wish him and the stories he’s compelled to tell the very best!