Monday, June 4, 2018

The Electrical Menagerie: Steampunk Meets Sci-Fi in a Fabulous Adventure

I was recently given the opportunity to read an advanced copy of a book that absolutely made me fall in love.

The Electrical Menagerie is one of those books that captivated me from the very beginning. The voice was the first thing that got my attention. The characters quickly came alive for me. Carthage and Huxley are so different, and yet so compatible. Carthage the inventor and tinkerer and illusionist and performer who came from circumstances that could have entirely broken him. Huxley the organizer, the businessman, the logical one, with a surprising past. I could connect with both of them and loved seeing their interactions. The depth of their characters really impressed me. The rest of the cast was unique and interesting as well. 

And the story world....

The story world. Oh, my. Steampunk with a twist of sci-fi. Trains running on rails through space. Holopaper. Steampunk-style automatons that run on electricity. The genre mash-up was perfect. And all of it centering around a circus-like competition for entertainers. The book's description says it's for fans of The Greatest Showman, and honestly I hadn't even seen that description when I read my advanced copy, but that is exactly what came to mind for me. Not a knock-off, though. Not by any stretch. The Electrical Menagerie is completely unique, but it definitely has the atmosphere of The Greatest Showman (minus the musical numbers, of course). It's got that fun for all ages feel, too. The main characters are adults, but the book is appropriate for middle grade and up. 

I am so looking forward to more books in this series! And I know without a doubt I'll be reading this one again.

The official description: 

The Electrical Menagerie, one-of-a-kind robotic roadshow, is bankrupt.
Sylvester Carthage, illusionist and engineer, has the eccentric imagination the Menagerie needs to succeed creatively — but none of the people skills. Fast-talking Arbrook Huxley, meanwhile, has all the savvy the Menagerie needs to succeed commercially — but none of the scruples.
To save their show, Carthage & Huxley risk everything in a royal talent competition, vying for the chance to perform for the Future Celestial Queen. In this stardust-and-spark-powered empire of floating islands and flying trains, a shot at fame and fortune means weathering the glamorous and cutthroat world of critics, high society, and rival magicians —but with real conspiracy lurking beneath tabloid controversy, there’s more at stake in this contest than the prize.
Behind the glittery haze of flash paper and mirrors, every competitor has something to hide… and it’s the lies Carthage & Huxley tell each other that may cost them everything.

I'm not alone in loving this one:

"Dazzles from start to finish. In Carthage & Huxley, Sherlock & Watson fans will find another dynamic duo whose ready wit and sizzling banter (and inevitable personality clashes) never fail to delight. You'll be calling for an encore performance." Gillian Bronte Adams, author of The Songkeeper Chronicles

"The stuff that fandoms are built on." Kyle Robert Shultz, author of Beaumont & Beasley

Purchase Links


About the Author:

Mollie’s first job was with a major theme park, where she operated a roller coaster, fixed parade floats, and helped Scooby-Doo put on his head. Now, Mollie is a movie producer and the author of character-driven science fiction/fantasy novels for adults who never outgrew imagination. Her favorite things include Jesus, dinosaurs, and telling cinematic stories that blend glitter and grit.

Social Media Links
Website — Twitter — Instagram

Enter the Giveaway:

Explore the world of The Electrical Menagerie by entering to win this Celestial Isles prize pack, which includes: "High Victorian" playing cards by luxury playing card company Theory11, handmade galaxy mug by DeVita Designs, Science & Engineering Themed Pocket Notebook Set by CognitiveSurplus, and a tin of Electrical Menagerie themed tea (over a $50 value)! (US only.)

And continue following the blog tour:

Monday, June 4th    
Book Spotlight – Sarah Ashwood’s Newsletter
Author Interview – New Authors Fellowship
Review – Finding Kat Heckenbach

Tuesday, June 5th   
Review – Seasons of Humility
Book Spotlight – Fairies, Fantasy, and Faith

Wednesday, June 6th  
Guest Post – H.L. Burke’s Blog
Character Interview – Kyle Robert Shultz
Review – Bold Reads

Thursday, June 7th  
Review – Inspired Chaos
Guest Post – J.L. Mbewe
Review – Scriblerians
Review – The Bibliophile of Beaverton

Friday, June 8th  
Author Interview – Bethany A. Jennings
Guest Post & Review – The Elven Padawan
Author Interview – Shannon A. Hiner

Saturday, June 9th
Author Interview, Character Interview & Review – Katelyn Buxton Books
Review – K.M. Carroll, Author – fun, fantastical escapes
Character Interview – The Book Sprite

Monday, June 11th  
Blog Tour Wrap-Up – Unicorn Quester

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Best Friends and Worst Enemies

A friend started a discussion on Facebook by asking what the opposite of "frenemy" is. The answers were interesting, and most agreed that frenemies include people who are friendly on the surface but hate each other underneath. But they also include people who seem to hate each other, yet totally have each other's back. I agree with those definitions to a certain level, but I think a real frenemy relationship it much more complex. I know this because I've had a couple of frenemships (is that a word?) myself. I drew on these relationships when writing Relent.

Yes, I see Wraith a lot like Jason Momoa.
Only Wraith has much paler skin
and much darker hair.
Relent opens with Simone meeting a guy named Wraith, who reveals himself to be a demon. He also reveals the truth about Simone: that her mother, who abandoned her, is actually an angel. Simone's father, of course, was human, and her mother lost her status as an angel because of her affair with him. She abandoned Simone in order to regain her angelic status. Okay, it's more complicated than that, but to get the full story, you need to read the book.

The point is, Wraith gave Simone both the information she desperately wanted and the information that would hurt her the most. And his motivation was both to help her and hurt her. Throughout the novel, Wraith manages to be the only one Simone can trust, while also being the one who intentionally causes her the most pain. He is there to dig and torment at all the wrong times, but he is also there for Simone during her darkest moments. 

It goes far deeper than just pretending to be friends, but hating each other underneath. Or being openly hostile, while jumping in to save the other person from peril because it's the right thing to do. There is no moral compass guiding Wraith--he's a demon, remember? All of his motives are selfish. Everything he does is calculated, and yet driven by his own desires. He toys with Simone, but he connects with her, and she connects with him. There is a level at which they simply need each other because, despite their animosity, they are the only ones who can genuinely understand each other. They are quite literally best friends and worst enemies. 

After spending her life in foster care, Simone discovers she's half angel when the demon Wraith comes into the diner where she waits tables. Wraith--the only one who is ever truthful enough with her to admit his words are mostly lies.

Years later, angry that her mother abandoned her to return to heaven, Simone finds herself abandoning her lover, Reese, and their newborn child after Wraith tells her what she can't deny is truth: "They will grow old and die while you remain young."

But could he have lied? The only way Simone can know is by finding them, and making a place for herself in their life. And when the balance between human and angel begins to shift in her, she must turn to Wraith again regardless of whether she can trust him or not.

"A unique and twisted journey into the supernatural. Compulsively readable! I was totally captivated by Heckenbach's vision." - Rachel A. Marks, author of The Dark Cycle trilogy. 

"Relent is a fresh, unique take on angels and demons that will sweep you away on a wild ride you won't soon forget." ~Amy Brock McNew, author of the Reluctant Warrior Chronicles.

Find links to purchase Relent at your favorite online retailer HERE. Also available in print on Amazon and Barnes&Noble.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Why Relent is Really a Mother's Story

I realized recently why I've had a hard time pushing Relent when I'm at author events, as well as talking about it online other than the occasional reminders that it exists as a book and I want people to read it. You see, it's labeled as "paranormal romance." I cringe every time I tell people that, but it's not because I have an issue with that genre or with romance in general. I do read romance--it's just usually romance + some other genre. (Romance+fantasy, romance+sci-fi, romance+dystopian, etc.) I find myself telling readers that Relent is lighter on the romance, heavier on the paranormal. Which is true, but my motivation for that is so they don't expect a bunch of steamy scenes. There's love, there's romantic tension, and yes, Simone gets pregnant, but the details of that union stay behind closed doors.

But while listening to this podcast with authors Janeen Ippolito and H.L Burke, where they discuss books with unique family dynamics, I was struck by Janeen's comments about Relent. She pointed out that Simone isn't just some badass warrior chick with a sword, which is a common thing in paranormal/supernatural romance and urban fantasy. (BTW, not dissing that--there are some awesome books that use that trope in great ways, like The Reluctant Warrior Chronicles by Amy Brock McNew.) Instead, Simone is a half-angel, struggling to not let her angel half fall while she tries to get back into her young daughter's life. Sure, this involves the romance between Simone and her ex, but her focus, her driving force, is the relationship with her daughter.

That relationship was broken as a result of Simone's broken relationship with her own mother. Seraphina, who was full angel, was forced to give up Simone at birth and live away from her with her angelic status and powers stripped. Years later, after Simone has grown up and had a daughter herself, whom she abandons at birth -- for very different reasons-- Seraphina is allowed to return to Heaven as a full angel. Simone is angry to say the least. She believes her mother chose to abandon her out of selfishness, and vows to get her own daughter back. Thus begins her hunt for her ex and their child.

Throughout Simone's search she is guided (read: manipulated) by the only one who understands who she is, a demon named Wraith. He was the one who told her the truth about her past, about her mother, and advised her to leave her child. He is simultaneously her best friend and her worst enemy. Their relationship is of course complex, but even Simone doesn't realize just how complex until the end of the book.

See? Relent isn't a paranormal romance. Not in the traditional sense. It's a story of a daughter who was abandoned by her mother. The story of a mother who abandons her child. It is about the lengths a mother will go to to give her child a chance at life, even it means not telling her child what's really going on, letting that child hate her for the decisions she makes because there is no way the child can understand what drives them. And it's about sacrifice, giving all you have, all you are, for the one you love.

So, yes, I will probably continue cringing every time I say Relent is a paranormal romance. Not because PNR is such a bad thing, but because it's not the right category. Unfortunately, there is no category for romantic supernatural fiction about mother-daughter relationships. At least now I can explain why Relent is different, and why it's more than just a book I wrote that I think you should read.

You can find Relent on Amazon and other online retailers by clicking THIS LINK.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Relent is a Finalist in the Realm Awards!

Yeah, I know, this quick little announcement doesn't make up for my promises to post more often here, but it's what you're getting for now.

My novel Relent, which released July 2017, was announced as a finalist in the Realm Awards, supernatural category. Here's the screen shot of the email:

Eep! My name right there beneath Tosca Lee! 

You can see the full listing of all the finalists in all categories and more info about the contest on the Realm Makers site

I'm so excited and just honored to be selected a finalist! Of course, I'm hoping to go all the way because I so, so adore the award stickers:

Tell me that wouldn't be so pretty on the cover of Relent! 

OK, that's it. Thanks for indulging me!  

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Right When I Needed It

Last night our family finally watched The Man Who Invented Christmas. If you haven't seen it, it's the story of Charles Dickens and his inspiration behind A Christmas Carol. In the movie, the characters appear to him, almost physically, and he has conversations with them in order to learn their personalities and fates in the book. Beastie 2 asked me if that was what happened for me. No, it's not. But much of the rest of his process rang quite true for me.

BTW, I realize the movie is fictionalized. I have no idea how much of it is true. So, when I refer to Dickens from here on out, remember that the Dickens I'm referring to is the movie character only.

Unlike Dickens, I don't keep a notebook with a running list of names inspired by people I meet, but I am often inspired to give characters unusual names I encounter. And characteristics of people I meet definitely show up in my characters, although generally all broken apart and mashed together again in different ways. I also very much have moments of total inspiration where I can't get the words out fast enough, and times where I just feel blocked.

There was a section of the movie that dealt with Dickens receiving advice from friends regarding Scrooge--they insisted he should be redeemed at the end, rather than staying a horrible old miser as Dickens planned. In the end, Dickens was quite glad he heeded their advice (as was Scrooge). I had a similar situation present itself while writing Relent. I can't go into detail without major spoilers, but at the behest of several beta readers, I made a significant change to the ending, a change directly affecting the fate of a particular character, and I absolutely now see how right I was to listen to them!

There was one thing--a continuous string of things, actually--that really struck home with me and made me wonder about the timing of writing. You see, Dickens was inspired by events that were going on around him at the time. Had he started writing A Christmas Carol at any other time, he would not have been focused on the social issues going on. He would not have heard those specific comments from people he encountered that inspired lines of dialog in the book. He would not necessarily have seen even the faces that inspired his characters. He would not have even chosen to write a ghost story had he not overheard his children's newly-hired nanny telling scary stories.

Right now, I'm working on a ghost story of my own. My original inspiration came years ago. I've only made progress in bits and bursts since then, finally hitting the 40,000-word mark just this week. I've been stewing in frustration over it, berating myself for taking so long. I had desperately wanted it finished before Realm Makers last year, yet nearly eight months later I'm still working on it. It's the first time I feel I've truly understood what is meant by the phrase "writer's block." And yet, I know exactly where the story is going, exactly how it is to end. There are just some steps along the way that have only been coming clear one at a time and under specific circumstances.

The most recent example is the most clear, so I'll give you that one. I just hit a point in my ghost story in which the main character, Amelia, is searching for proof that another character is the owner of a plot of land. The librarian leads Amelia to a back room at the library...and there I got stuck. What was this room? Why was it special? Oh, I knew it had to be something unique, but I had no idea what.

Then yesterday happened. I went to visit a dear friend who lives in Plant City, FL. She took me on a tour of the downtown area (where I've been a few times, but never properly explored). While there, poking around in antique shops, I mentioned a neighbor who loves buying old photos. My friend got very excited and took me to the Plant City Photo Archives--a building that houses photos and documents chronicling the entire history of Plant City. The walls were covered with photos, and shelves everywhere held ledgers and binders.

This! This was the room I needed! Granted, it will be a bit more compact in my book, but when I walked into the PCPA, I knew I'd walked into my library's back room. Okay, yes, libraries often have archive rooms, but in my hometown I've never seen one (definitely not in the years in which I've been writing). And this archive is specific to the history of a small town. And, the point, of course, is that I happened upon it at exactly the moment I needed it.

Could I have finished my ghost story before now? I'm honestly not sure. Maybe if I'd been pushing myself harder, I'd have stumbled across another answer. Or, the story would have run a different way and I wouldn't have needed that archive room.

Or, maybe this was exactly how the story was supposed to be, only I wasn't meant to find this place until yesterday.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bye-Bye, Etsy: Jumping Rails is Jumping Ship

You may have noticed something different about my blog. Probably not, because let's face it, if you actually do follow me, I haven't been posting here enough to draw attention to any changes. So, instead of making you guess (if the title of this post wasn't obvious enough), I'll point it out. Over to the right, in the sidebar, there used to be a little button that said, "I sell on Etsy!" I was so excited the day I added that button. I loved that I was getting into my painting and wand-making enough to justify joining the ranks of Etsy sellers. I was so excited to have come up with the name Jumping Rails for my shop -- a name that reflected my tendency to constantly jump from one art form to another.

The image that represented Jumping Rails.
But two days ago, I closed my shop. Jumping Rails is no more.

"Why?" you ask.

The biggest reason is that I'm tired of paying listing fees for items that don't sell online. They sell, sure, but in person. It's not like I'm off doing art shows every weekend or anything, but the few I do per year are the places where my art sales happen. Online, not so much. It may have looked like it because I used an Etsy app to mark off the things I had listed when I sold them, but those sales did not come about because of Etsy. So why should I list them there at all? Why pay them fees for what I'm doing myself, in person?

Am I blaming Etsy? No. Well, not exactly. I do think they've allowed certain products to be sold there that don't fit with their original vision and that has made the marketplace a bit unwieldy. And there are just so many sellers now. But I take full responsibility for the fact that I've done very little to promote my shop. Art is something I love, marketing is not. Which actually ties into another life decision I've made but won't go into in detail here. Suffice it to say, I've come to grips with the fact that my art and my writing must be hobbies right now because homeschooling my now-teenagers takes top priority.

What I want to say is, I'm not just giving up on art, and I'm not going to stop having my art available for purchase outside live events. You can follow me on Facebook and see the work I post. If something suits your fancy, message me. I always have matted prints of many of my paintings (4x6 prints in 5x7 mats) for $10 including shipping, and generally if I don't have one on hand I can print it quickly. You can purchase various sized prints of some of my work on FineArtAmerica.

So, while Jumping Rails has jumped the Etsy ship, I've not left completely. And maybe someday, things will have changed (either with Etsy or with me, or there will be a whole different ship to board) and Jumping Rails will be revived.