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.

 

Single Chicas

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Sandra C. Lopez and her collection of stories entitled Single Chicas.

Author’s description

Single Chicas is a collection of stories about modern Latinas being in, out, and around the zany hurdles of relationships. One woman receives strange calls from a lonely soul, another seeks advice on how to love herself, and another wakes up in a parallel universe to a man she’s never met. These chicas will make painstaking effort to survive the complexities with humor and grace. Once again, López dazzles audiences with her brilliantly candid craft. Smart, witty, and funny, these stories will explore the true endurance of singlehood.

Read an Excerpt

Dear Single Chicas,
Hey, hey, love your site! I was wondering if you could help me. I have a boyfriend I’m crazy about, but he has a tendency to call me at work. It’s getting annoying. Any advice?
Sincerely, Looney Cell

“Ah, a typical relationship conundrum,” Simone said with a mouthful of pizza.
“Yeah, a typical headache,” Georgia added.
“So what do we say?” Chrissy asked.
“Try this,” Simone said, waiting for Chrissy to start typing.

Dear Looney Cell,
Your boyfriend needs to realize that, when you are at work, you are NOT his girlfriend. You need to give him specific hours, just like in any other job. Lay down the line with him. Point out that each time he calls you at your job, it keeps you from doing the work—work you’re getting paid to do and work that in no way, shape, or form involves him. Besides, it may get you in trouble with your boss, if it hasn’t already. Instead tell him to send you a simple text, but be careful not to overload your phone memory. Thanks for the shout out!
Single Chicas

The next email read:

Dear Single Chicas,
What’s up! Problem: I’m engaged and I’m totally freaking out about it. Would I be a fool to ask if we could postpone the big day until I’m less freaked?
Yours truly, Runaway Bride

Reply:

Dear Runaway Bride,
Absolutely not! Don’t do anything you don’t feel ready for. Be honest about it. If nobody can understand that, then you would save yourself the headache and the hassle, not to mention the time and money, for that whole shindig. If it wasn’t meant to be, then so be it. If, however, you have a guy that is willing to wait, then, by all means, let him wait. Wait, wait, wait until you are sure you can make it down that aisle without breaking out in hives. Just make sure you bring your running shoes on the big day….just in case. 😉
Sincerely, Single Chicas

The next email read:

Hey, Single Chicas,
I saw this one episode of “I Love Lucy” where Lucy suggests a vacation from marriage. What are your thoughts? Yay or Nay?
Sincerely, TV Addict

Dear TV Addict,
Yay! A vacation from marriage allows for the re-discovery of one’s individuality―the “I” before the “we.” There is such a thing as spending “too much” time together. Lucy said it best in that episode: “I’m sick at the sight of your face.” Take a vacation to avoid this sickness.
Sincerely, Single Chicas

About the Author:

Sandra C. López is a writer, artist, blogger, and book reviewer. She is one of today’s funny and influential authors in YA and chick lit. Her first novel, Esperanza, was published in March 2008 WHILE she was still in college. Her most recent and bestselling book is Single Chicas, a collection of humorous short stories about zany chicas. She is currently working on the next installment of the Single Chicas series called Holiday Chicas. Release date coming soon! When not writing her stories, Sandra supports the art and literary communities with freelance work and book promotion.

Website: http://www.sandra-lopez.com
Book Review Blog: http://sandrasbookclub.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SandraLopezAuthorArtist/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ArtistSandraL

The book is free during this tour!

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Single-Chicas-Sandra-C-Lopez-ebook/dp/B01KG85F1Y/

And yes, there is a giveaway too …

Sandra C. Lopez will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N gift certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter the Giveaway

See the other stops on the tour.

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions.

 

woman traveling alone

She’s prohibited in a few places, and frowned upon in many others. Some fear for her safety, others decide she is asking for trouble. Few cultures, if any, are totally comfortable with a woman traveling alone.

These days, she travels for her work, sometimes, and that is understandable. Other times, she is on her way to help aging parents, or to meet friends or family, and of course that makes sense. But what about the woman on a journey, a whole journey, by herself, simply for the sake of enjoying herself? At best, it seems odd to many.

Yet, she does exist, and she wants to go places.

Women have more money than in times past. They also have (on the average) more of a yen to travel. Spouses, relatives and friends may want to go, too, but when they don’t, women are opting to go alone. For many, joining a travel group provides an easier, and possibly safer, way to do this.

Now, I’ve always been someone who enjoys researching a destination and making my own plans. The internet allows for fabulous discoveries for someone willing to invest the time, and I prefer to move on my own schedule and get off the most-traveled path. But I also have always had someone, usually my husband, traveling with me, and I wonder if I am up to taking  similar trips, to a foreign country very different from my own, by myself.

I recently went to Peru, and did it with my first tour group.

There were a lot of considerations. I wasn’t traveling alone, but with my daughter, and I didn’t want the role of tour guide. I was concerned about our mutual safety, our poor grasp of Spanish, and the fairly daunting logistics of getting from Lima to Cuzco, dealing with a 12,000 elevation change, then navigating buses and trains through the Sacred Valley, and securing two of the carefully controlled tickets into Machu Picchu and then doing it all again in reverse to get home. I knew I could manage it, but it sounded more like work than fun.

So I used the internet to find a company called G Adventures, and read about their modestly priced, no-frills modular tour concept. It seemed to include them doing the hard part (clean yet cheap lodging, train tickets) and us handling our own arrival in Peru, shopping, dining and all extraneous activities. I liked the approach.

When our group of sixteen convened for the first time at a hotel in Lima, we were an eclectic mix of two mother-daughter combos, two sisters with one’s husband, a married couple, a pair of twenty-somethings, and five solos travelers. We hailed from Canada, the US, Germany and Australia.

Four of the solo people were men, and one was an independent young professional woman who impressed me with her approach. She’d always wanted to go to Peru, and finally accepted that it wasn’t a priority for anyone else she knew. So, here she was.

That’s the way to do it, I thought.

We had a great time in Peru, and the tour thing worked out quite well as this was one destination where having some help was wise. I took away more from this trip than happy memories and fine photos, however. I took away an idea.

You see, there are a lot of places in this world I want to go. Many of them do not interest my husband at all. Relatives and friends may be persuaded to go to some of these with me, but hey, I don’t think I’ve got anyone who wants to see Kyrgyzstan as bad as I do.

Guess what? G Adventures offers a trip there. They also do to Bhutan. And Cambodia. And Antarctica. And there are other companies like them. And maybe, after doing some of these, I’ll feel ready to tackle more difficult destinations on my own. And maybe not.

Either way, the world is my oyster, as long as my health and my funds hold out. You see, I came home from Peru with more than pretty scarves and coco candy. I came back with a plan; a plan of how to be a woman who travels alone.

(For more on my trip to Peru see What you don’t know …. has the power to amaze you and History at its most exciting.)

Better or worse?

One of the unexpected advantages of deciding to write novels is that even introverts like me find themselves making “writing buddies” online. These kindred souls are often at about the same point in the journey, and they often write in a similar genre and have compatible philosophies about writing and maybe even about life. You might read and critique each others works, you certainly exchange “how to” information and encourage each other, and then you often move on. I remember each such buddy and remain thankful for their camaraderie as I strode into a frightening new world.

BrianRushBrian Rush was one. I liked his fiction; it tended more toward sword and sorcery fantasy than mine and it impressed me that while he was clearly a guy, his tales included strong believable females who had parts in the story that went well beyond merely love interest or spirit guide. He also writes a small amount of non-fiction, published and on his blog and I have enjoyed some of it at least as well.

Working full time and writing part time doesn’t leave room for a lot else, so I don’t communicate with these folks very often now. Yesterday I had occasion to read Brian’s blog. Looks like he has done a lot of writing lately, which is great, and lo and behold there he was posting about one of my favorite topics: Are things getting better?

I was once asked if I had a time machine and could go anywhere in history, where would I go? Well the first answer is that I would never under any circumstances get into a time machine, and if you want to know why you will just have to read my novel z2. But if forced into one at gunpoint, I’d set the dials for the future. There really isn’t a time in the past in which I would care to live.

raising13My family was incredulous at my answer. (I should point out that this was a discussion being held over Thanksgiving dinner). We had people at the table lined up for ancient Greece, Victorian England and somewhere when the druids were running things in Ireland.

“You have no idea what horrible things you might be heading into,” I was told. This is true. In the past the air was cleaner, the food was natural, and nobody checked their cell phone fifty times a day. We also had scurvy, slavery, open sewers, and societies in which religious tolerance was considered the work of the devil.

“Hello,” I said. “Has anyone noticed that I am female?” “Good point,” my daughter said, catching on quickly and reconsidering her one way ticket to the Italian Renaissance.

“There has not been a single point in history of which I am aware in which I would have been granted the rights, opportunities and respect that I enjoy today,” I elaborated for the rest of the group, whether they wanted to hear it or not. “Not that today is perfect. It’s just somewhere between better and a whole lot better.”

I said something like that anyway. I do believe it, too. In spite of the many stupid things we continue to do as a species (and my new book d4 coming out in two months is about this very subject!) we are improving. Learning. Becoming more tolerant and compassionate. Optimism is hard to maintain when you pull out the magnifying glass and examine the day to day news. On the other hand, it is impossible not to feel, when you step back and look at history.

Brian apparently agrees. He has written a great series of four blog posts about why he chooses not to write dark fiction beginning here and ending with this post on optimism. He concludes that “today, fewer people die from violence as a fraction of total deaths than ever before. Famine and epidemic have both declined as well. The general trend is that things have gotten better, and barring a collapse of civilization, we have every reason to expect that they will continue to get better. Take someone from 500 years in the past, pop him into a time machine to the year 2014, and his first impression on seeing the world of today would be that he had found Utopia.”

Well said, Brian. I’ll take my chances with implanted chips, genetically engineered food and climate change any day, as long as I get to be a full-fledged person when I get out of my time machine. Give me the freedom to be what I choose, and I can always use my influence to fight for a better world.