Discover the Crystal Palace with Maggie Secara

I'm thrilled to welcome back historical fantasy author, Maggie Secara. She has just released the second part in her fabulous Harper Errant trilogy, King's Raven

A colourful adventure, King's Raven takes you from present day Dartmoor to Elizabethan England to the Crystal Palace in Victorian London during its heyday where ancient magick meets science. 

Discover the Crystal Palace with Maggie:

The World for a Shilling
Maggie Secara

The Crystal Palace, in which my characters Ben and Raven find themselves in 1854, was originally raised in all its industrial glory for the Great Exhibition of 1851, celebrating the Industry of All Nations and particularly of England. Admission, most days, was a single silver shilling, well within the scope of even ordinary working people. Sponsored by Prince Albert, designed by the Duke of Devonshire's gardener almost literally overnight, it was meant to last only a summer, and so it did. But such an extraordinary testament to British industry—and, oh yes, the rest of the world’s too—could not simply disappear, the mayfly of a nation’s whimsy. Besides, the fabulous structure of iron and glass was pre-fabricated, modular; it was designed to be set up, taken down, packed, unpacked, removed, and so on until, perhaps, the end of time. 
And so it was. Well, just the once. 


After that one brilliant summer, from June to October, the public and even the press—which had mocked it so mercilessly in the beginning—wanted it to stand, but contracts had been signed and assurances given. When it came down in November, plans were already afoot to do it all again, using the existing frames and panels. Only this time it would be Bigger, Better, and altogether in the Spirit of Empire that made the British heart swell with pride. A wonderful site with excellent views was located on an estate on the other side of the Thames. 
They added extra transepts and lofty galleries, a “winter garden” and over time added even more expansive gardens, fountains, and a pack of concrete dinosaurs around a man-made lake. And when it re-opened on Sydenham Hill in the summer of 1854, it was indeed bigger and better. It was also massively adaptable. It would at various times be used as a concert hall, flower show venue, gallery, and one year even hosted a circus. 
In 1854, however, in which Ben and Raven lead their pursuers such a merry chase was designed as a kind of museum, an “illustrated encyclopedia”. The Committee had made arrangements to send artists and craftsmen around the world to make perfect copies of some of the greatest and most famous artworks in history. The place would up seriously stacked with statuary. 
The main floor was divided in half along it’s length by a wide corridor they called the nave and transected in the middle and quarter points by transepts. Yes, just like a cathedral. On the north end they put the Artistic Courts, also called the Architectural Courts: each one a walk through full size rooms and smaller vestibules filled with the (copied) relics of the Great Ages of Man. One one side Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, an avenue of sphinxes leading to a 6-story mockup of a “restored:” the Lion Court of the Alhambra, the giant man-headed bulls of Nineveh. Then crossing the Nave around the massive Monti Fountains, one could walk through the Byzantine and Romanesque, Medieval, Renaissance, Irish, and Elizabethan ending in the Italian Court with its fabulous façade taken from the Farnese Palace.
Across the Great Transept past more famous classical statues and monuments to famous men of the age (most of whose names are utterly meaningless to most of us now) the mood changed completely as you crossed into the Industrial Courts. The right hand course took you through the great works of the modern world: Birmingham, Sheffield, and Stationery court sat opposite the Court of Musical Instruments, another of Ceramics and Glass.
At the end by the 25-foot high fountain of pink frosted glass, they put, curiously, a detailed mockup of a nobleman’s house from the ancient city of Pompeii.
Shops and commercial enterprises of various kinds behind the Courts sold furniture, carpets, ceramics, and housewares. In the gallery above, known as the Bazaar. it was a little like main street at Disneyland, selling perfumery, leather, firearms, surgical instruments, items made of India rubber and gutta percha— samples of the wonders on display below. You could even get completely outfitted for a safari. Plus, of course, a million kinds of souvenirs. The basement level featured full working models of machines like the McCormack reapers, sewing machines, carriages, even railroad engines, and unlike the original Crystal. Palace, this time there were were also working salesmen with order books.


The Crystal Palace was an extraordinary place, a monument in glass and iron to the Victorians’ vision of themselves and their place in the world. When fire destroyed the winter garden and Nineveh Court in 1865, that section was cleared away and never restored, but the Crystal Palace went on. It survived through many uses and incarnations until it was finally razed to the ground in 1936 by a fire of unknown origins. Only the water towers remained, and those were finally ordered demolished to keep them from being used as siting markers by Nazi bombers. All that’s left now is a few terraces, the dinosaurs, and the head of Sir Joseph Paxton, the Duke of Devonshire’s gardener.
There was, as you might expect, a terrible temptation when writing King’s Raven to spend too much time rhapsodizing over the wonders of the location. At one point I had to remind myself that I was building a chase scene, not narrating a travelog, and find other ways to describe the Palace without slowing down the story. I think Ben and Raven manage to notice and more importantly use enough of it to be interesting before they... well, you’ll see.


Blurb for King's Raven:

The heart of Faerie is the heart of the world.

While Oberon, immortal king of Faerie, lies under a terrible curse, the artistic spirit in the world is slipping away. The King's Raven would do anything to lift the spell, if only it hadn’t also stripped him of his magic and flung him into an iron-bound past with a damaged memory.

The only thing that can save them both is sealed inside a riddle wrapped in a puzzle that spans the centuries. Even with the help of an Elizabethan magus, a Victorian spinster, and a mad reporter, can mortal musician Ben Harper find Raven in time to solve the riddle, stop a witch, and restore the creative heart of the world?

First, he’ll have to find the key.



Excerpt:

  1. The Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, Hyde Park, 1851 

There is little doubt that the exhibitor is a man of ingenious mind and much industry but unfortunately he represents a class of men who venture to invent while yet in perfect ignorance of the truths which investigation has placed beyond all doubts
—Hunt’s Handbook to the Official Catalogs, 1851

Ye gods! Steam pressure was dropping! The experiment failing! Again! Voltaic energy fluctuating wildly, the Great Device rocked and trembled on its platform, but the vast black mirror that was its inscrutable face persisted dark even while sparks exploded from everywhere else. Something was banging that should not be banging. 
“What is it?” cried Professor Lovejoy, whose machine it was. “Newton’s wig! What is it now?” 
Beneath the old scientist’s boots the wooden platform that supported the Great Device shivered and warped. The world dropped out from under him, then spun him off in another direction to carom painfully off the protective rails and fall among the cluttered work tables and stools. A shin slammed into a bench covered with arcane tools. Dizzy, lights dancing in his head like fireflies, his hands flew up too late to keep him from slamming into the heavy desk, slewing through a litter of papers and notebooks; he barked a startled oath, quickly stifled. At least he hadn’t fallen to the exhibition floor, and he was facing the right way round, away from the snapping and clanging at the other end of the platform, 
He rubbed unconsciously at one ancient hip, while with the other, steadier hand he plucked the horn-shaped end of a speaking tube out of its hanger and shouted to the man in the steam room below. 
“What the devil is the matter with you, Murphy! Can you not hold the pressure steady for five minutes? Five... The pressure, man! What’s that? Yes, you idiot, what else?” 
No time to wait for a reply, certainly not. Not while everything was flying apart. “Damned Irishman.” He flung the horn in the general direction of the hook, and glared toward the control panel, watching for the arrow of the pressure gauge to steady. The banging stopped. 
What now, he wondered. What next? 
The Professor propped his spectacles on his forehead and ground sharp-boned knuckles into streaming eyes while the monitors wavered in and out of focus. Again he checked the madly spinning dials in the fitful light. Squinted and checked again. The light was abominable these days, for all the building was nothing but windows. The colored console lights, his own invention, which should be gleaming behind the artfully lettered tiles sputtered, flared, and went out. Lovejoy nearly wept in frustration for his fortune and his fame, his Great Device, his only care. 
“Cray!” he shouted above the din. Where was that wretched boy, what was he doing, was he asleep? 
A dark head emerged from the crawl space under the platform, then a swarthy face suffused with vexation and sweat. Then shoulders in a streaked and stained lab coat. Finally, spanner in hand, Ambrose Cray appeared, not a boy but a trim man in his thirties with a waxed mustache and a furious expression. 
Professor Lovejoy snapped at his assistant, “What are you doing down there, blast you? Stop tampering! Are you trying to ruin everything? Well? Well? Newton’s wig! I can’t be everywhere at once!”
His own wrinkled lab coat flapping, grey hair floating cloudlike round his ruthlessly shaved face, the old scientist clambered over and swung around and ducked under this cable and that canister, tripped over three copper coils that somehow tumbled into his path when a curious fold in the cosmos—or perhaps just the threadbare carpet—suddenly rippled under his feet. After two years with the dratted fellow—a failed schoolteacher from Sheffield, for god’s sake—he should know better than to trust Cray with his jewel, his genius, his Great Device. 
“Seventy-eight, I said!” Lovejoy barked, and cranked a dial, set a switch, then pulled a lever. 
“I set it to 78, you old fool,” muttered Cray, unappreciated and unheard under the crashes and bangs. “Now, look what you’ve— Damn!” 
“No, no, no!” 
Between one denial and another, other sounds: a rustle of papers, a flutter of notebooks, the whir of a spinning gauge. An aura frail as a rainbow began just slightly to rise from every surface disguised as a directionless hum, a buzz that might be pens rattling, or loose bits of metal, silk thread, and reed.
Oblivious, Cray pitched forward, straining to reach the controls though his thoughts were weirdly scattered. If he could just get to the bend of... If he could blind the... What the devil?
In his confusion, he nearly put a foot over the velvet-roped edge of the platform and into the goggle-eyed crowd that had gathered, of course, the instant things began to go wrong. 
Things were always going wrong. It made Lovejoy and Cray the most popular exhibit on the ground floor, after the the flush toilets and the refreshments area. Explosions daily with iced cream! The crowd loved it.
The grey winter light from the domed ceiling far above began to curl and stretch through the spectrum, trapping the platform, the device, two frantic men in the moment as if in amber. The gaping audience, with one voice, released a moan like the wind soughing through a hollow stone. The thickened light wavered, broke, and scattered. The moment reasserted itself, but the Device continued coughing and straining, spitting smoke.
“Bastard,” Cray muttered. “I will tame you, I swear it. I will not be bested, not again!”
“Shut it down! Shut it down!” cried the Professor, waving his arms madly as smoke began to billow and curl. 
Gritting his teeth in a snarl like a prizefighter diving into the fray, Cray threw himself forward and, gaining the machine at last, slammed down a massive horseshoe switch to sever it from the power source. A row of colored lamps set into the panel winked like madly disordered stars, then went dark. Smoke rose with one last bang from under the panel. The platform heaved once and, with something like a sigh, relaxed from its extra-dimensional adventures, leaving nothing but shocked silence in the halls of the Great Exhibition. 
Exhausted, the Professor slumped into the richly padded velvet chair provided for the device’s operator. The crowd burst into mocking applause. He had long since learned to ignore them. They would thank him, one day. By the great Sir Isaac Newton, he swore the whole world would thank him! 


About the Author:

As a writer, I love to explore the heroic ideal, to find the mythical in the every day, and discover the places where the realms of Faerie intersect the mundane. As a historian, I'm basically a gossip who just can’t stand that someone might have done something 400 years ago without my knowing about it, including who else was there, what they had for dinner, and what they were wearing at the time. 
In 2011, Popinjay Press published Molly September, the romantic pirate adventure that has been plaguing me since college. Filed with adventure, humor and yes, romance, it's the perfect way to spend a few rainy days in the sunny Caribbean without leaving your armchair.
More recently, my interests in history, folklore, and music have combined in the Harper Errant fantasy series, of which The Dragon Ring was the first of many. The second adventure, King's Raven, is now available through Crooked Cat Publishing. 
Beyond that, I live with my very understanding husband and a pair of rescued cats in Los Angeles, California.

Author Links:
Website
Elizabethan
Facebook
Twitter

Buy Links:
Crooked Cat Books
Amazon US
Amazon UK

The Gaze by Javier A Robayo - Blog Tour

Today, I'm hosting a post on an exciting Page Turner Bonanza Tour for The Gaze, the latest release of contemporary fiction author, Javier A Robayo, through Buy the Book Tours. Click on the banner for more details of the tour!






Author Bio:
Javier A. Robayo is the author of THE GAZE and THE NEXT CHAPTER. He immigrated to the United States in 1988 at the age of 12 from Quito, Ecuador. He began writing as a way of learning English throughout his high school years, and studied at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. He lives in Connecticut, with his wife, and two daughters, where he is currently at work on his next novel.



Blurb:
As a sophomore in college, Samantha Reddick meets Tony Amaya, a brokenhearted young man, whose written words she keeps as a memento of a weekend long affair. The words, written on the back of a paper placemat, become her only solid ground during a tumultuous decade that nearly destroys her, leaving her searching for answers at the bottom of the bottle. Haunted by guilt and the constant menace from a man she once loved, Samantha searches for Tony and inserts herself into his life through an online friend request to his wife, Gwen. Mutual curiosity opens the door to an unexpected friendship that becomes the catalyst of an inner battle between the better woman Samantha longs to be, and the Samantha who despises her own gaze.


Excerpt:
Tony didn’t look nervous at all. Meanwhile I was awash in uneasiness at the prospect of bringing him into my dorm. 

The story, all I want is the story and to find out what motivates such passionate writing, that’s all. Just the story… 

Liar…

I felt shaky while he walked. In contrast, his breathing was even as though he was so comfortable with the situation. I suddenly wondered if this particular situation was familiar to him. 

We took the stairway to the second floor. Our footfalls echoed loudly, the sound joined only by the faint buzzing of the overhead fluorescent lights.

I unlocked the door with trembling hands that jangled the keys. Somehow, I found the light switch and chased the shadows away, revealing a second hand living room set on cheap flat carpeting. I peeled off my denim jacket and threw it across a chair in the kitchen nook. When I turned, I was surprised to see him leaning against the door, held back by uncertainty. 

I held the paper placemat between us like an amulet to ward off his intensity. “Do you mind if I read it?”

He fixed his eyes on me and nodded before glancing away, his chin coming to rest on his chest.

I started reading. It was far more intense than I could have ever imagined. It was nothing but raw fury and passion, a determined declaration of love. It read of this girl that had become the center of his thoughts, the very core of his being. I could feel my heart breaking as I was overwhelmed with the strange notion that I wanted to be this Gwen of his. I wanted to know what it was to feel such passion, such love. Tears sprung in my eyes and I cried for him, for this fortunate girl… 

For me...

He didn’t ask what was wrong right away. He simply stared just past my shoulder while I made a futile attempt to dispel a sob. I muttered that this was beautiful and he gave me a sad, crooked smile as a tear rolled off the corner of his eye before he turned his face away.

I don’t know what it was about that tear, but it made me go to him like a magnet to steel and place my hands on his face. His skin was burning. There was a little stubble that only made me too aware of his masculinity.
"Kiss me," I whispered into those confused brown eyes of his. "Just kiss me." 


His hands found my wrists and his eyes stayed on mine. Need became a force as tangible as the strong winds that fuel a storm. 

I knew he was thinking I was crazy. I knew he thought of all the reasons why he should stop this crazy bitch in heat and go away. Bloody hell, I was thinking I was crazy.

A tiny voice in my head was screaming all sorts of warnings but just when I felt rejection eating away at me, his eyes fell on my lips and after one breathless moment, he leaned down and kissed me.

Molten lead would have frozen my insides in comparison. I was trembling and when I felt his breath stutter, I opened my lips in invitation. He pulled away and a disappointed moan escaped my throat, allowing reason to slowly take root in my brain. I kept my eyes on his. 

His hand held my face as delicately as a summer breeze. His thumb brushed away the tears I finally tried to blink away. His eyes seemed to glitter as they searched mine and time seemed to stop its endless march in perfect silence. 

Was this wrong? I let out my pent up breath slowly in a sorrowful sigh as electricity crackled between us.

In one swift motion, his hands brought my face up at an angle and he kissed me so hard, I lost what little restraint I had left. 

He loves someone else…

He loves her… 

Stop this!

I felt weightless. His touch was firm yet gentle. The kiss grew needier and heat traveled down into my body, setting my abdomen aflutter. My hands found the flat planes of his chest and then ran down his sides to his hips. On their way back, they pushed his shirt up. His hot skin sent a pang of need that had my heart hammering in my ribcage. 

My tickling fingers forced him to shift and pull away for a breath. I answered his smile with a lustful gaze as I brought his hands to the buttons of my uniform shirt. 

His hands ventured over my abdomen and moved up to grace the underside of my breasts, making my head swim. I shrugged the shirt off and his t-shirt joined it on the floor within seconds. 

We engaged in a stumbling waltz as we somehow made our way to my bedroom. Our clothes kept pooling on the floor, marking our passing like bread crumbs on an unknown trail. I was almost sick with need as the coarse hair of his chest made contact with my skin. When I felt him rigid on my thighs, I pulled hard on his neck, bringing him on top of me as he braced his fall with his arms on either side of me, never breaking from the kiss.

“Wait…” he panted. “I… um… I don’t have anything.”

It took a few seconds before I realized what he meant. Shame colored me a shade of red I thought would make me glow in the semi darkness. “It’s okay, I promise…” I said breathlessly. 

He gave me a dubious look that I hoped to eradicate with more kissing. His lips found my throat, my face, my shoulder, and I curled driving my hips up to meet him. He was being gentle, too gentle, I thought in frustration, when all I wanted was for him to go right through me. I grabbed hold of his hips, and then thoroughly enjoyed the feel of the muscles on his back as I pulled him into me. The sudden fullness forced me to bite my lip to keep me from crying out. It had been so bloody long…

“Kelly…” he whispered almost breaking the spell, but I was too far gone to care. 

A thin wisp of rational thought told me he was probably thinking about someone else. I wondered if he called out Kelly only to remind himself that he wasn’t with the girl behind his writing. It didn’t matter. My body overrode my mind as he moved within me. I held on tighter, needing the closeness, if only physical. 

…I’ll be no more than a transient thought in her mind, a small measure of time, insignificant. No more than a barely familiar set of notes to a song seldom remembered… 

The lines of his writing flashed through my head as my breath grew shallower. 

…No more can I feel the soft warmth of her kiss and its absence becomes me in the form of a living death… 

All I could do was accept this moment and quell my own thirst for that kind of love with what little he offered me. The kind of love he obviously reserved for the girl from his writing. 


His muscles grew taut under my touch while I held my breath as the inevitable rush of heat converged into my center from all corners of my body. I parted the kiss and screamed my ecstasy, burying my face into his chest while he grew impossibly large in me before collapsing, his own conclusion reached. We held onto each other, our breath ragged, both of us feeling each other’s tremors. If this was the one and only time I was to feel this way, then I’d go into the grave smiling to the high heavens.




Author Links: 
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Book Trailer

Buy Links: 

Amazon 
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Merry Christmas to my lovely friends!

Wishing all my friends and readers a Merry Christmas!

I love this season!

The lights, the decorations, the scent of fresh baking, home cooking, and steaming mulled wine – it all adds to the atmosphere. Yes, even the grumpy faces of the stressed shoppers in the supermarkets (they make me feel like shouting, "It's Christmas!!") and the heavy rain & gales, though not the flooding that has been affecting parts of the country in recent days. That is awfully sad, and my heart goes out to those whose homes have been destroyed at a time where they should – and would – be celebrating.

Anyway, I wanted to send personal Season's Greetings to some special writing buddies. They are authors who have worked hard and achieved so much, and who have helped and inspired me over the years. You'll find many of them featured in this blog over the last two years, so the folks below are just a small drop in an ocean full of inspiration.

Please visit their blogs and check out their fantastic historicals, romances and whodunits!

As they say on Strictly... in no particular order:



First up is the lovely Rachel Brimble, romance author and critique partner par excellence. She lives in the historic, inspiring town of Bath. Exciting contracts with high quality romance publishers such as Harlequin, Kensington and The Wild Rose Press have provided Rachel with a range of famous outlets for her fabulous contemporary and historical romances. Her upcoming release is Finding Justice, available now for pre-order. Long may her success last! Find her at http://www.rachelbrimble.com!

About to be published romance author, Cait O'Sullivan, has been a fabulous friend for years. We briefly met in Edinburgh two years ago, and are both keen to repeat a get together. She helped hone my own Highland Arms to the point of acceptance by TWRP, and I've never doubted her talent, even though rejections kept coming in (which we growled at!). Until her novel, Romancing the Seas, was accepted by Crimson Romance! This girl's on a roll now. Please check her out at http://caitosullivan.blogspot.co.uk.

Then there's my wonderful friend, Kemberlee Shortland. Not only a wonderful storyteller, Kemberlee also runs an ebook publishing business. Kemberlee's first Ireland-set novel, A Piece of my Heart, was published with Highland Press. A no-nonsense Californian by birth and Irish resident by choice, Kemberlee has been a wonderful buddy to sound off pretty much anything to. Please see her website at http://www.kemberlee.com.

If you're looking for riveting, dramatic romance with deep characters and intriguing plots, fire up those Kindles!

Ok, I know. They're all girls. Shall we add a guy? Yes? Here goes...

With four mystery series titles currently riding high up in the Amazon sales charts, cosy crime author David W Robinson deserves a mention. I've known David for years, through our shared early writing support days at Writelink (where I had my first blog). He is the creator of a mystery series featuring the Sanford 3rd Age Club, a group of sleuths over the age of 50 who investigate – and usually solve – crimes happening by pure chance wherever they are, be it at home in Sanford, or on holidays. Please check out the STAC series, as they make wonderful Christmas reads, especially the seasonal one, A Murder for Christmas: http://www.dwrob.com! Cosy crime at its best!

So, there you are: Four fantastic writers whose books make the perfect reading material for the seasonal holidays!

I have been fortunate to have made friends from all over the world over the past ten years. I thank you all for your support and friendship.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!




 


Inside Out by Amy Lee Burgess - Blog Tour Giveaway

Today, I'm delighted to welcome mystery romance author, Amy Lee Burgess, to my blog. She's on tour promoting her latest release, Inside Out, a Paranormal Mystery Romance. If if you click on the banner, you'll discover more about the tour, including a fabulous giveaway!!


As part of Amy's blog tour, I've asked her a few questions, curious as I am about her writing. So here goes...


1.)  Welcome, Amy. Inside Out sounds intriguing. When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I wrote my first short story  Nightmare on Crestwood Drive when I was ten.  It was a gripping tale of a young girl bullied by her so-called friends.  They used to skip rope by this dark tree which one day decided to reach out and …consume…the bullies. The story ended with the young girl happily skipping rope by herself beneath the bare black branches of the tree.  I guess while writing that story was when I realized I wanted to be a writer because I had the power to fix things that were wrong – even it was only on paper. It wasn’t until I got older and wiser that I learned that what I wrote could definitely transform my life.  The secret is not to hoard your writing in a drawer or on a flashdrive somewhere, but to send it forth into the world and see what comes back to you. 
2.)  What made you choose to write paranormal mystery about shape shifters and vampire romance?
I think about this question a lot.  Why do I incorporate shifters and vampires into my stories? My settings tend to be modern day and in a world that is pretty much the one we all live in today.  No magic, no dystopia, no apocalyptic cataclysm that changes everything.  Instead, I introduce characters who are very real, very human, yet with a difference. They can shift or they have fangs and live forever. 
Do these differences change them?  Define them?  How are their characters shaped by what they can do and who they are?  These are the questions I ask as I write.
My shifters do not possess super strength or act like aggressive Alpha wolves.  Instead, they develop a relationship with their wolves and use the ability to shift to reach into that part of themselves that is not normally accessible or talked about.  
Stanzie, my protagonist, has a wolf that is different than the rest of the Great Pack.  Different not in a superior way as in her wolf can do things others can’t, but different as in not as developed or self-aware as other wolves. Her wolf is childlike and sensory.  Only she’s never looked at her wolf as a handicap, instead she’s focused on what makes her wolf special to her.  It’s only when she moves away from her small pack in an isolated area and begins to operate in the bigger Pack world that she begins to suffer from self-doubt.  Her wolf has always set her apart, but the ways she used to deal with it no longer work and she has to find new methods.  
Each novel in the series explores how she deals with her wolf.  Should she evolve her?  Change her to be more like other wolves?  Protect her? Keep her the same?  And then in the latest novel, Inside Out, she discovers a secret that changes everything about her wolf.  
So I think the paranormal aspect is my attempt to access parts of myself that I may not know exists or that I want to bring forth.  I also am a strong defender and supporter of animals and the relationship between human and animal is one that I definitely get to explore when writing about shifters. 
I think I add a mystery to each novel because I grew up on Agatha Christie and P.D. James novels and it’s what I’m comfortable writing about because it’s what I’m comfortable reading about.  I haven’t actually written a paranormal murder mystery…yet.  
3.)  You’ve lived in some pretty exciting places and experienced fires, floods and hurricanes. Tell us more!
I grew up in a small town in Connecticut and lived there until my (first) divorce when I moved to New Orleans with my new boyfriend. I did this thing where I left *everything* behind.  My furniture, my Christmas decorations, my job, my friends and started all over again in a city I’d visited exactly one time before.  We rented an apartment in the French Quarter that was bare of furniture except for a bed, a television and my computer and, wow, it was an adventure.  I’m glad I did it, but I never want to live on the razor’s edge like that again.  Would we have rent the next month was always a question we had to ask ourselves for the first year we lived there.  
After about three years we moved Uptown and had furniture and never worried anymore about making rent until one night I decided to make a frozen pizza for dinner.  When we moved into this new place, as we were setting up the bedroom I had this really strong premonition to *never* leave a candle unattended on this particular nightstand and for almost two years I was very careful to listen to my inner voice.
Only this particular night I was tired after working a sixty-hour week and decided after I’d lit the candle on the nightstand that I could leave for five minutes to get the pizza out of the oven and return and nothing would be the matter.  The voice warned me, but I was angry and ignored it.  
Of course five minutes later when I returned, the nightstand was in flames which soon leaped to the bed and the next thing I knew I was scrambling through thick black smoke to get my cats out the door.  I only managed to get one of them.  My husband got another and the firemen found one on the balcony and one in the hall.  No one was hurt but I lost most of my furniture.
We bought a house in the Irish Channel across the street from the river and it took us a couple of years, but we built everything back up and the house was just starting to feel like a proper home when Hurricane Katrina struck.
I remember leaving the house when we evacuated thinking I’d never seen any of my things again.  It wasn’t as bad as that because our house did not flood, but we ended up evacuating to Houston and when it came time to move back, my husband and I decided we did not want to.
The days after Katrina are a blur in my mind these days and I made some weird decisions, including one to never go back and get most of the furniture, so once again I started from scratch.
These days I live in an apartment in Houston.  Katrina did a number on my marriage and we divorced and in the years sincethen all four of my cats have passed away.  Now I have two dogs and lots of furniture.   I have a history of starting over from scratch and I like to think I do it faster and better each time around.   In fact, I recently moved and the move was not prompted by a disaster.  No friends or furniture were lost in the process!
4.)  What are you working on now?
The seventh Stanzie novel from The Wolf Within series.  And the second in a vampire series I have yet to place with a publisher.  Optimistic to start the second novel before the first one is sold, right?  I feel a little crazy switching from one WIP to the other but so far it’s going pretty well for both novels.  Cross your fingers that I sell The Circle in 2013, okay?
5.)  Which are your most favorite three books on your bookshelf, and why?
Oh, this is a hard one.  I have so many books I think I will need to choose three that I reread so here it goes.
Bitten by Kelley Armstrong is my all time favorite werewolf novel.  I love the character of Elena so much and I want a Clay in my own love life. Elena’s struggle to come to grips with her werewolf nature and with the man who loved her was something that really appealed to me. There’s a line from the book where Elena is lying in her bed suffering from the change from human to werewolf and people ask her what they can do to help and her answer is “Fix me. Put me back to the way I was” and that’s impossible.  It tore at my heart to read it.  Elena is a very strong woman but even strong women need their moments of anguish or they aren’t real characters to me.  (And this is odd – I have Stanzie’s first bond mates named Elena and Grey and I swear I never read Bitten until *after* I wrote and sold Beneath the Skin.)
The Hollow by Agatha Christie.  I love all of Christie’s murder mysteries, but The Hollow is the one I think of first so that’s why I’m choosing it for this list.  Edward became something of the basis of all my male leads.   (Edward is the faithful, shy, head in the clouds dreamer guy in the novel which is really based around a more forceful, energetic and driven man – who ends up murdered but now you have to read the book to find out what happens next!)   Agatha Christie taught me how to read a murder mystery, and better, how to solve one.  She is the queen of throwing in what seems to be an innocent, throwaway remark which then, in hindsight, reveals everything.  I try to throw stuff like in into my books.  There’s one in Inside Out in fact!
For my third choice I’m going with one of the classics – Dracula by Bram Stoker.   I’ve been fascinated by vampires since forever it seems and every autumn I reread this book.  It’s such an adventure told from different points of view and all from letters, journals, newspaper articles and shorthand transcriptions and it sweeps you along with slowly growing horror until it seems sane that a group of staid, English people would set out armed with stakes and guns to go after some Transylvanian count who is escaping them by cart, ship and barge, always one step ahead. Or so he thinks…

Thank you, Amy. Like you, I love Agatha Christie murder mysteries. She always managed to convey a seemingly straightforward, simple story, only to then turn it upside down. Or inside out, for that matter...


~~~



Blurb:

There's no place like home...or is there?

When Stanzie is asked to investigate her birth pack--Mayflower--she isn't prepared for 
what she finds. 

No one respects the Alphas and the newest adult member of the pack is being encouraged to leave. Why? To make matters worse, the men are dangerously intent on mating and shifting with her.
 

How far will the pack she thought she knew go to get what they want? Without her bond-mate, Liam, Stanzie must face this alone and, barely ahead of threat of violence, must solve the mysteries, and fast.
 

WARNING: Vulgar language, sexual situations, group sex, violence 


Lyrical Press Paranormal Romance
~~~

Excerpt:

Alan looked at me and panic flooded his silver blue eyes. “Stanzie.” My name was a horrified plea.

I could see the ghost of a wolf’s muzzle beneath his mouth. He held out a hand and recoiled when he saw the dark fur on his palm.
 

“Take off your clothes, Alan,” I urged, but he stood there, transfixed. I hastily unbuttoned his plaid shirt and pushed it off his shoulders. “Help me,” I cried as I tugged at his sleeve.
 

“I don’t know what’s happening to me,” he whispered. His body gave a bone crunching shudder and he stared at Faith and Scott’s wolves, terror etched across his face. The wolves waited together, shoulder to shoulder. It was a damn good thing I hadn’t shifted myself. Poor Alan was clueless.
 

I fumbled with the button on his fly and then the zipper. His throat rippled and he threw back his head and howled. The noise nearly scared the shit out of me, but I somehow managed to get his zipper down and then I pushed him onto his ass so I could pull his jeans off. He was no help at all, caught in the throes of the first emergence of his wolf. His body morphed in and out of focus. It was like trying to undress someone by strobe light and I had to shut my eyes so I wouldn’t lose my concentration. Alan whimpered and whined. Shifting was painful sometimes--especially when we fought it and he was. He didn’t know how to relax into the chaos and let it flow. He still struggled for control, for a way to reason out the process, and that was impossible. Shifting did not make sense. It just happened.
 

“Let go. Alan, just go with it,” I coached in a quiet voice as I sat as near as I could to him. He writhed on the pine needles and screamed as his bones shifted beneath his skin. “It hurts less if you just let go.”
 

“Stanzie!” My name turned into an anguished howl and just when I had begun to get scared, it happened. Alan blinked out of this plane and when he blinked back in, he was shifted.
 

His wolf was gorgeous. Dusky black with ice-blue eyes. A touch of gray at the tips of each paw. Big too. Bigger than Scott’s gray wolf. He rolled to his feet and sprawled onto his face when he tried to walk. Two legs to four was a bitch for some people. It had never fazed me, but Grey told me it had taken him half an hour to figure out how the hell to walk the first time he’d shifted. I grinned to remember the story and reached out to pat Alan’s wolf on the head. He whined at me.
 

“Get up and walk. Four legs are fun,” I told him. I was on my hands and knees now, so we could look eye to eye. If he got up, that is. Faith’s wolf pranced over and nudged him with her dainty muzzle. He whined again and she gave a coughing bark. In wolf speak she told him to get off his ass.
 

Scott’s wolf approached me and stared at me so hard I knew he tried to tell me something, but I couldn’t figure out what. Then it hit me. Duh. I was still in human form.
 

I stood up so I could strip off my jeans and t-shirt. Scott’s wolf waited impatiently. Alan’s wolf had gained his wobbly feet but seemed stuck in one position. When Faith’s wolf nudged his back end with her nose, he promptly fell over again and I snickered. Alan’s wolf gave me a reproachful look and I patted his head in apology. Scott’s wolf moved behind me and bumped the back of my knees so hard I fell over. Alan’s wolf wheezed with lupine laughter. “At least I can walk on all fours,” I muttered. Naked, I crawled away a few feet to give myself space for shifting. Only nothing happened.
 

~~~

Author Bio:

Amy Lee Burgess wrote her first ghost story at age ten. Born in New England, she has also lived in New Orleans and Houston, survived fires, floods, hurricanes, divorce and the premature cancellation of several of her favorite television shows. Turning her back on such shocking betrayals, she is now writing about ghosts, vampires, and other paranormal things and is much happier for it.


Author Links:
Website
Twitter
Goodreads

Buy Links:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Lyrical Press



~~~


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Author Nancy Jardine talks foods

Today, I welcome back a wonderful author friend, Nancy Jardine, whose blog tour continues as she celebrates the release of her latest novel, Topaz Eyes, a romantic mystery. The hunt for the missing jewels is on!

Of course, on their trail across the world, Keira and Teun come across places offering lovely food and drink. So, Nancy's chatting about European foods here today. Nom nom...



Hello Cathie, it’s lovely to be here with you today on what is almost the last of my blog stops for the launch of my ancestral mystery, Topaz Eyes, published by Crooked Cat Publishing. 

During my blog tour for the launch of Topaz Eyes I’ve tried to find something new for each one: to prevent boring followers of the tour; and as exercise in avoiding repetition. The problem I’ve encountered is finding a new topic without giving away too many spoilers that would detract from a reader’s enjoyment in reading the story. This post might repeat some European locations, but I’ve put a different slant on the content. 

What would my main characters find that’s traditional to eat and drink in the European cities they visit? 

Keira’s first stop is Heidelberg. It’s not her first visit, but it is for Teun, the American who becomes her partner in the search for the Tiru Salana jewels - a fabulous collection which has been in hiding for many years. What German fare would Keira recommend Teun try? 

(Apologies to my blog host as she’s from Heidelberg herself, and would possibly recommended something entirely different!)

My first short visit to Heidelberg was thirty three years ago with a nine-month old daughter in tow. Back in those days restaurants weren’t entirely child friendly and tended to shut up shop early with last ordering around eight p.m. Fiona’s needs meant we ate out a lot during the day, and less at night since daytime pubs were more inclined to accommodate us. We ate local fare whenever possible. 

Fast forward twenty-one years and I was visiting Heidelberg again with my younger daughter, Sheena, then twentyish. We were there to visit Fiona who had morphed into a languages student studying at Heidelberg University, during her last year of studies. Fiona was so keen to take me back to tourist haunts I’d visited when she was a baby (though obviously she had no memory of that) and to show them off to Sheena. Being a student she also wanted us to sample the pub fare that she was able to afford, yet typically wanted to go to the restaurants she couldn’t ordinarily frequent! We had a ball sampling the mainly cheaper food, since her mother (me) is a stingy Scot!  

Some of the things we sampled are what I imagine Keira, from Topaz Eyes, would have Teun try since she was also a student in Heidelberg and budget was an issue for her, too! 

German sausage - Free image www.123rf.com 

Teun would have to try real German sausage, “Wurst”, at some time, or other. Perhaps he’d nibble on “Bratwurst", or "Knackwurst”. Fiona encouraged me to try "Nürnberger" which I believe to be a specialty of the area – though my memory may not serve me totally correctly. (Help from Cathie, perhaps?) It was eaten with a drizzle of mustard and wedged between a crispy white bun - though I remember it being different from a burger bun. 

They might try Kartoffelsuppe, the potato soup which seems to vary from restaurant to restaurant in presentation yet still, amazingly, has the same basic ingredients. 

Kartoffelsuppe with Frankfurter sausage - Wikimedia Commons

For a main course Teun might try a pork dish with potatoes, like “Steak mit Pilzrahmsoße und Pellkartollfeln”. He might also like a Sauer Kraut dish of cabbage. Keira would really encourage him to try a black forest cake for dessert. The old city of Heidelberg was dripping with drinking places that were fantastic, and naturally Teun would have to try the pubs which sold different beers. I’m not a great beer drinker, but I loved the local wines. The Schnapps was to be missed either! 


~~~

Move now to Vienna. Since Keira has never been to Vienna they might both try a traditional soup with dumplings. I’ve been to Austria a few times, my first time in 1964 when I went skiing near Innsbruck. The abiding memory I have of the food was of loving the clear soups which nearly always had dumplings floating around – large, medium and small - and soup with noodles. In 1964 the pork schnitzels were a novelty for me and definitely to my taste - with or without any accompanying sauce.  Move forward to 2002 when I re-visited Vienna. I could afford to go to some finer restaurants serving world dishes, but my husband and I sleuthed out the side streets which still served traditional Viennese dishes, and served the local wines and beers. We were not disappointed. 


Some Austrian food might seem bland, but that’s what I imagine Teun and Keira would also want to sample – whatever is local! Something that maybe resembled this dish.


Wikimedia Commons

There is, of course, a famous pastry shop/coffee shop that’s near the Vienna Music Hall. It has the most fantastic supply of cakes for afternoon tea. It’s not cheap but is a very tasty luxury – many varieties of coffee and tea on offer there too. I think if Teun heard about the place, he’d drag Keira there as a treat! 

~~~

Then move on to Amsterdam. Traditional Dutch food is much like German, Belgian and Austrian fare. The basic meats are pork or chicken and traditionally cooked in light gravies, rather than complicated heavy sauces. Having lived in Holland for 3 years I think Keira, who has also had some experience of Holland, would be encouraging Teun to try the simple dishes with interesting vegetables as accompaniments. I loved the spinazie – spinach - served with a poured over thin nutmeg white sauce, a auce that’s used to top many green vegetables. 

In the novel, Topaz Eyes, Keira takes Teun to an Indonesian restaurant in Amsterdam. Since the Dutch have an association with Indonesia of long standing, Indonesian restaurants are quite plentiful, and a Rijstafel is popular with tourists. This is a set meal for a number of persons (2,3 6..any number really) and is a banquet of small taster dishes. Some Amsterdam restaurants were known to serve as many as 30 different courses/ options back in 1979. Today, I’m not so sure of how many, but I think there will be a good number on offer. If unfamiliar with Indonesian cookery it is a great introduction to it, though some dishes are very spicy. It would be a good way for Teun and Keira to balance out the simpler dishes they’ve already tried. 
I couldn’t write Topaz Eyes, or indeed this blog post, without mentioning Poffertjes met boter en poedersuiker.
I totally love them! They are a dish of around 12 tiny pancakes topped with butter, a squirt of lemon squeezed over and a dusting of vanilla flavoured icing sugar added. Absolutely scrumptious! Some Poffertje Huises (cafes selling them) offer other toppings, though I believe what I’ve just mentioned is the basic traditional variety. Read Topaz Eyes to find out why Teun gives Keira a smacking great kiss in the middle of the Poffertje Huis! 

Poffertjes - Wikimedia Commons

Again, in Amsterdam there are different beers to try and of course Genever - Dutch gins of many types.  

These are only a few options for eating and drinking, the possibilities are many and very varied. Regardless of what they eat I can assure you Keira and Teun are having a great time!

~~~

Thank you, Cathie, for letting me share this with your readers. I hope you enjoy reading about Teun and Keira’s culinary adventures in Topaz Eyes

Blurb:
A peculiar invitation to Heidelberg embroils Keira Drummond in the search for a mysterious collection of extraordinary jewels once owned by a Mughal Emperor; a hoard that was last known to be in the possession of Amsterdam resident, Geertje Hoogeveen, in 1910. 

Who among the progeny of Geertje – hitherto unfamiliar third cousins brought together for the quest – can Keira rely on? Distrust and suspicion among them is rife. 

Which one is greedy, and determined enough, to hire thugs to tail her… and worse… as she travels to Vienna and Minnesota?  Can Keira even trust Teun Zeger - a Californian she is becoming very drawn to – as they pair up to unearth the jewellery? 

As they follow a trail of clues, will they uncover the full collection before the hired gun kills them? Details remain furtive and undisclosed until danger and death forces their exposure. And who harbours the ultimate mystery item that is even more precious than the Mughal jewels? 

Greed, suspicion and murder are balanced by growing family loyalty, trust, and love. 

Buy Links:
Amazon UK kindle  http://amzn.to/UtLexa
Amazon.com   http://amzn.to/RhRWK1
Crooked Cat Books http://www.crookedcatbooks.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=75

Bio:
An ex-primary teacher, Nancy Jardine, lives in the fabulous castle country of Aberdeenshire – Scotland. Her husband mans the kitchen, her offspring only an hour’s drive away. When time permits, ancestry research is an intermittent hobby. Neglecting her large garden in favour of writing, she now grows spectacularly giant thistles. Activity weekends with her extended family are prized since they give her great fodder for new writing.

A lover of history, it sneaks into most of her writing along with many of the fantastic world locations she has been fortunate to visit. Her published work to date has been two non fiction history related projects; two contemporary ancestral mysteries; one light-hearted contemporary romance mystery and a historical novel, The Beltane Choice, also published by Crooked Cat Publishing. 

Nancy can be contacted at: 


Sunday Blog Hop!

Today, Nancy's not just visiting me, but also fellow Crooked Cat author, Jeff Gardiner - who turns up at her's too, chatting about his new release, Myopia!



Go have a read! :-)