Saturday 16 February 2019

Riftmaker Blog Tour: Character Spotlight on Heather

Today I welcome the Riftmaker blog tour and have a spotlight for you for the character of Heather from the book. Riftmaker is a steampunk portal fantasy by Phoebe Darqueling and looks fabulous. So enjoy...

Meet Heather

Like all members of The Chosen, Heather’s name comes from nature. When her people were driven out of the city to fend for themselves in the forest, they adopted this practice to set them apart from the greedy, progress-obsessed denizens of Excelsior. Although her name may come from a flower, Heather is all leather and no lace. When I found this photo spread by Pixie Vision of Felicia Day in Steampunk military garb, it felt a lot like this character.

She is a member of an elite strike force that operates on both sides of the rift. On one side, she’s a human with a long, scarlet braid. On the other side, AKA our world, she’s a panther. She spends so much time moving between the two realms, the speed, balance, and ferocity of her panther-self bleed into her human shape. Heather is a predator through and through, which leaves little room for remorse.

Her father is the leader of The Chosen, but her mother was lost on a mission to the other side. Heather is her father’s right hand woman, and never fails at her missions. But despite her frequent trips to our world, she has led a sheltered life with only her father’s words to show her the shape of things. If his plan succeeds and The Chosen take over Excelsior, her world will become a lot bigger. There’s no telling how new the experiences or the new people she encounters will change her, and it may not be for the better.

Here’s a little taste of Heather with an excerpt from Riftmaker.

As Cirroc peered at the oblivious people below, he found it difficult to think of them as the same as the faceless “enemy” the Commander referred to. Unlike the encampment in the forest, there were children in the kitetown. He shuddered to think of the members of Brigade descending upon them.

He glanced at the woman at his side, her eyes staring fixedly at the dancers. Heather did not acknowledge him with her eyes, but when she sensed his regard, her hungry leer widened. “Shall I give the go-ahead?” she asked as she surveyed the gather, nearly salivating with her desire to pounce.

A torch smoldered a few yards away, giving them a meager light to see by—not that the Brigade really needed any. Though the Brigade occasionally came inside the city’s walls, most often their missions took them through the rifts to explore on the other side. The entire corps was each some breed of feline in their otherworld form, and most retained some of the enhanced night vision of their species as a result.

“I am your commanding officer, Heather, and when we are in the field, you will call me ‘sir.’ Is that clear?” Cirroc snapped, sounding far more confident than he felt. He would not admit it to anyone, but he found Heather’s proximity both unsettling and oddly riveting.

She turned her strange, almost glowing eyes to him, and he could feel their pull. He’d just given her an order, but just like her father, a sliver of his mind was telling him to obey whatever she said instead. The lenses the mask she kept at the ready on top of her head flashed in the firelight. “Of course,” she purred, “sir.”

“Then, yes, give the signal,” he answered, both eager for her to leave and loath to set her among the happy crowd below. Heather reached for the torch to signal the others on the adjacent rooftops, the wicked brass claws on her gloves catching the firelight. Heather and her comrades were all outfitted with this kind of gear to help them climb, but Cirroc could imagine the damage they could also do to flesh.

He caught her shoulder as she turned to go. “And I don’t want any casualties,” he warned, leveling his gaze. “Is that clear?”
“But he didn’t say anything about that at the briefing,” she whined. Looking down at his hand on her arm, she added a sneered “sir” that dripped with malice.

Cirroc released her arm, but managed not to flinch or give in to her unblinking gaze. “Our goal is to cause a little chaos and get what we came for. Nothing more, nothing less,” he replied.

“As you wish…” she purred. “Sir.” 

Riftmaker by Phoebe Darqueling

Save his boy, uncover a conspiracy, and master opposable thumbs—a dog’s work is never done.

Buddy’s favorite thing is curling up for a nap at the foot of Ethan's bed. Then he stumbles through a portal to a clockwork city plagued by chimeras, and everything changes… Well, not everything. Sure, his new human body comes with magic powers, but he’d still rather nap than face the people of Excelsior, who harbor both desire and fear when it comes to “the other side.”

He discovers Ethan followed him through the portal and underwent his own transformation, and it becomes Buddy’s doggone duty to save him. Buddy finds unlikely allies in an aristocrat with everything on the line, a mechanic with something to hide, and a musician willing to do anything to protect her. Using a ramshackle flying machine, the group follows the chimeras deep into the forest and uncovers a plot that could reshape the worlds on both sides of the rift.

Riftmaker is available at:
Other Retailers
In Paperback

Riftmaker is available for $3.99 from Amazon and a variety of other e-book retailers. Print price is $18.99 from Amazon and the Our Write Side store.

Find more character spotlights, book reviews, guest posts, and interviews with Phoebe Darqueling during the Riftmaker blog tour, Jan 24 - Mar 6.  

Do you like free books? Sure you do! Get a FREE COPY of The Steampunk Handbook right now.

About the Author

Phoebe Darqueling is the pen name of a globe trotting vagabond who currently hangs her hat in Freiburg, Germany. In her “real life” she writes curriculum for a creativity competition for kids. She loves all things Steampunk and writes about her obsession on You can find her short stories in the Chasing Magic and The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales anthologies, and her contributions to the collaborative novels, Army of Brass and Esyld’s Awakening.

You can find more of Phoebe’s antics on her WebsiteFacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Saturday 2 February 2019

Beauty is the Beast Blog Tour: A Conversation with Gretchen

Today, we join the Beauty is the Beast Blog Tour with a great character interview (and a giveaway). This is a bit of a departure from the normal character interviews you see here, as our intrepid reporter Richard Dale is temporarily indisposed due to a dimensional shift (don't worry Jenkins is working on restoring reality). In the meantime enjoy this delightful slice of life with Gretchen (from the urban fantasy Beauty is the Beast by Jennifer Zamboni).

A Conversation with Gretchen

In which Persephone interviews Gretchen for a position as a stylist at Olympian’s Salon.

Percy glanced at the grandfather clock that sat to the right of her salon. The next interviewee was due to arrive at any moment. She had picked this girl specifically because of what she was, knowing that she could be of help to her. A once over in her station mirror confirmed that her glamour was fully in place.

One of the bells over the double doors rang as a tall dark haired young woman stepped in. She was blinking like her eyes were irritated, and Percy could see her nostrils flare ever so slightly, taking in the scents of the salon.

“You must be Gretchen,” said Percy, stepping forward. “Welcome! Please come have a seat over in the waiting area and we’ll get started.” She held out her hand in greeting and received a firm handshake.

“Thank you,” said Gretchen, selecting a spot on the slick sofa, then handed her potential employer a folder that contained her resume and a brief portfolio.

Percy took a moment to look it over, nodding as she thought, then closed it and set it aside.

“Alright then, let’s get started. How long have you been doing hair?”

“A long time, you?” Gretchen asked, seeming to be resisting the urge to cross her arms.

“Oh, a long time as well.”

“I figured,” said Gretchen, her nostrils flaring once more. “What are you?”

Percy was taken aback, she had thought her glamour was quite thorough. “I don’t know what you mean.”

Gretchen rolled her eyes. “You reek of magic. Old magic.”

“Oh all right, you caught me, I’m Persephone and fae and you’re a werewolf,” said Percy, a grin spreading over her lips.

Gretchen’s lip rolled up, revealing rapidly sharpening teeth, and growled.

“Oh, now, now, there’s no need of that. It’s why I chose to interview you. I already know much of your background. I know you were first licensed back in the ’80s and yet you still don’t look a day past your early 20’s.”

Gretchen huffed, then leaned forward, elbows to knees, and studied the woman seated across from her. “Okay. So the interview is for me as a supernatural or for me as a stylist?”

“Both!” Percy exclaimed. “I think the salon will run much more smoothly if everyone is fae or at least part, then there’s no need for hiding on lunch break. Or full moon.

Gretchen’s eyebrows shot up, and she settled back into the couch. “Okay. What do you need to know then?”

Percy pulled out the pad of paper with the questions she’d written out. “Let’s see. Let’s start with your real age and the age you tell everyone.”

“Um, somewhere in the 180’s I think. I’m fuzzy on dates. I usually tell people I’m 24.”

Percy nodded, noting down the answer. “And was becoming a werewolf your idea, or an attack.”

“It was an offer that I should have refused,” said Gretchen, her face neutral as she misquoted.

Percy threw her head back and laughed. “Well, that’s good I suppose! Moving on. What do you do during the full moon to keep others safe?”

“I try and lock myself up. Some doors are better than others.”

Percy tapped the end of her pen against her lip. “You know, I have a barn out back that’s no longer in use. I’d be willing to fix it up into a kennel for you. If your interested, that is.”

Gretchen drew in a quick breath, and her eyebrows scrunched together. “Why?”

“Well, if you’re going to work for me, I can’t risk you eating the locals. I can offer more than that. I can help you with your furry issue. This is more than just a job I’m offering you. I know you’ve been having control issues and that you’re a lone-wolf--”

“Hey, how did you find--”

“Don’t worry about it, I have my ways. Anyhow, as I was saying, I can offer you room, board, and potentially a share in the business. I can help give you a stable environment and keep you and your wolf safe.”

“I need some time to think--”

“I’m not sure if I can allow that. You see, you’re living in my territory, and I cannot have a loose cannon running around threatening to expose the fae community. You do understand that, don’t you.”

Gretchen’s fists tightened as she nodded. “I understand. It’s either take this job and move in here or get out of Maine.”

“Yes, exactly,” said Percy brightly. “Now, that’s settled, let’s move on. Tell me what you like to do as a stylist.”

Gretchen gaped but found herself unable to argue. “Um, uh, I like funky styles. I like color, and I can work miracles with a pair of sheers.”

“Now that’s what I’m talking about. Yes, your portfolio is quite impressive. I think you’ll succeed here. I can see that you’ve kept up with trends and training, which is very important to me. You can’t be one of those elderly beauticians that does the same cut and curl on everyone, that would just be a dead giveaway that you’re not just a 24-year-old kid.”

“What else do you need to know about me that you didn’t already find out on your own?” Gretchen’s arms once again crossed over her chest.

“Oh, how about hobbies. What do you do when you’re not doing hair or off munching on innocent woodland creatures?”

“I run a lot. It helps me burn off steam, especially with all these woods. It’s part of why I moved to Maine. And I play the violin.”

“Oh, that’s lovely! I’d very much like to hear you play.”

“Well, you definitely will, if you’re making me move in. I spend a lot of time practicing. Anything else?”

“Hey, who’s doing this interview, me or you?” Percy joked. “No, I can’t think of anything off the top of my head beyond when you’ll be moving in. You’re hired by the way.”

“I figured. I can move now if you really want. Everything I own is in my truck.”

“Splendid,” said Percy. “Let’s get you settled then. That first station will be yours, now let me show you to your room.”

Percy led Gretchen up the double grand staircase and to the left, coming to a stop in front of a door. Percy fit a key to the lock, then passed it off to Gretchen.

“Best keep this locked so clients don’t go snooping,” she said, leading the werewolf into the spacious bedroom.

The smell of death and magic filled the room, and Gretchen spun around to find a petite blonde, who appeared a little younger than herself.

“Well, well, well, look what the cat dragged in. Long time, no see, mutt.” The little vampire gave a toothy grin.

“Lacey-Marie, you work here? How have you been? Where have you been?” Gretchen stepped forward and pulled the newcomer into a tight hug.

“Yes, I almost forgot you two knew each other a few years back. I’ll leave you to get reacquainted.” And with that Percy returned to the salon, quite smug in the fact that her plan was working out so well.

Beauty is the Beast: Beasts Among Us
by Jennifer Zamboni

Gretchen is a 24-year-old-hairstylist with secrets: She likes to chase squirrels and howl at the moon. She’s also not really 24. When one of her coworkers turns up dead in the salon, she suspects that the murderer isn’t entirely human. When another stylist is murdered, and then another, she goes on the prowl. A circus with a secret side show catches her attention, as does her former pack, and a group of visiting vampires. Her only outlet is her music, but that will only keep her wolf on a leash for so long with a killer on the loose.

Beauty is the Beast is available on Amazon

About Jennifer Zamboni

Jen loves books. Reading them, writing them, reviewing them, and collecting them. (She claims it’s not hoarding) Urban fantasy is the name of her game, and being a mom is her day job. She also is a licensed cosmetologist, though she no longer works in a salon. She lives in the boondocks of Maine with her husband, 2 girls, 2 dogs, 3 cats, and 1 vocally insistent cockatiel.


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3 ebook copies of Beauty is the Beast!


For more of the Blog Tour here's the schedule:

January 29: (Guest Post)
January 31: (Guest Post)
February 1: (Author Interview)
February 1: (Book Review)
February 2: (Character Interview)

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