Tag Archive for: paranormal

An Interview with Jessica Riley Miller

by Paula
Gail Benson
Jessica Riley Miller with husband Chuck Miller at her first signing. (Her short story is in The Big Bad II anthology.)
Jessica and
I initially met as members of the Inkplots Writing Critique Group. I’ve always
loved Jessica’s wonderfully inventive imagination and intriguing descriptions. We’ve
gotten closer as roommates at two Bouchercons and working with others to
develop the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime, which will virtually host its
Mystery in the Midlands conference on Saturday, July 25, 2020, with Jessica’s fav Charlaine
Harris as guest of honor.
This week,
Jessica debuts her paranormal series with a novella followed by rapid release
of three novels during late summer and fall. It’s an amazing publishing
journey, but I’m not surprised. Jessica has always exhibited the drive, will
power, organizational skills, and writing craft to balance teaching, marriage,
motherhood, and authorship. I hope you’ll take the time to discover her work. I
promise you’ll be delighted!
Jessica,
thanks for joining us at The Stiletto Gang!
Tell us
about yourself and why you wanted to be an author.
Sometimes you pick your passions, and sometimes
your passions pick you. I’ve always loved stories, especially mysteries, so writing
feels kind of inevitable.
What is
your series about and who is the main character?
They are supernatural mysteries in the
tradition of Charlaine Harris’s True
Blood
series and Karen Marie Moning’s Faefever
series, with heavy doses of romance and the unexpected.

In the novella, Jade’s obsessed with reading
conspiracy theory tabloids, the more outrageous the better. To the
amusement of her friends, she finds them a comforting escape from her every day
worries. It only makes sense when she accepts an internship at the best
tabloid around, believing it will give her a carefree summer.

Unfortunately, any illusion of comfort vanishes when
Anthony, an attractive young lawyer, enlists her help. He claims the tabloid’s
keeping a dark secret that threatens his job. When Jade starts investigating,
she learns the paper isn’t an escape from the truth at all. Suddenly, her
normal life becomes eclipsed by the paranormal.

But knowing the tabloid’s secrets make her position
vulnerable, and suddenly it isn’t just Anthony’s livelihood at risk. Her life
is too.

The rest of the series picks up from her best friend
Maggie’s perspective, ten years later.
Your series
is independently published. What made you decide to take that step?
Jade’s story–to be released this week!
My answer here actually starts with a conflict,
as all good stories do:
This series is the main reason my fantastic
literary agent and I parted ways. She was interested in a different kind of
story from me, but I couldn’t let this series go.
The characters kept speaking to me, and I
needed to get the drama out of my head and onto the page. It was almost compulsive.
I have seven other manuscripts, several of which I will return to, but I had to get this series out into the
world. By choosing indie publishing, I am able to obsess over the stories I
can’t let go.
I’m also able to release them on my own schedule.
I’ve been working on them for years, mainly at 5 am, or in the car, or on
Saturday afternoons—and now, I’m ready to share them.
Plus, I’ve been able to build my own team.
That’s been an unexpected bit of awesomeness. I adore my editor. I’m fanatical
over my cover artist. They are my people, and I picked them—they do excellent, flattering
work for me and my stories, making me look much better than I could on my own.
Why are you
beginning with a novella, then rapidly releasing several novels?
I’m appealing to binge-watching culture,
really. There’s nothing I enjoy more than diving into a world that I can splash
around in, so I’m trying to give that to my readers. Come on in, stay awhile,
the water’s fine.
Plus, I want to make sure readers are getting the
experience they want. That’s why I’m releasing my novella first, for free.
Check this out, see if you like it. If you do, I’ve got all these other books
coming. If this isn’t your thing, high five and have a great day. Nothing’s
lost on either side.
What has
been your greatest challenge and greatest delight in writing and producing this
series?
My greatest challenge has been scraping out the
time I need to dream and write and work on the ever-important author platform.
I’ve got a full time job, a wonderful husband, and a darling one-year-old.
While I’m fortunate to have a full family life and a job I like, there are only
so many hours in a day, you know?
My greatest delight has been the dreaming, or
what some folks call plotting. My daydreams become reality on the page, as
characters move through mazes I’ve created, solving their mysteries and
unearthing secrets as old as the world. It’s empowering and fun. I love that
part.
What’s
next? Will this character or the world you’ve created appear in other books or
stories?
Ha! I’m laughing because there’s so much more
where this came from. So, this novella is Jade’s story. The next few books are
Maggie’s story (Jade’s best friend), and she’s got at least three books worth
of drama, y’all. One of her love interests, Adam, has a short story already
written. I’ll give that to my newsletter subscribers for free later this year.
I also have a tie-in series with the first book already written. I’m excited
about that one. It takes place on the beach in Florida and starts with a faerie
on the run. It could be looking at a 2021 release.
Thank you,
Jessica, for being with us! Best wishes on all your upcoming releases. May your
stories reach a wide audience and be thoroughly enjoyed!
Jessica with her precious daughter Marlowe, who already loves books!
Short Bio: You will often find Jessica Riley Miller
behind a stack of books. However, she won’t stay hidden for long as her voice
(ahem) carries. Jessica’s been writing stories for over a decade. In her spare
time, she works with some of the best people in the world: English teachers.
She lives in the land of South Carolina, somewhere between Westeros and 221B
Baker Street. Her husband, daughter, and tiny elfin dog provide constant
amusement and inspiration. Check out her website or sign up for her newsletter at
www.jessicarileymiller.com.

Stiletto Heels, a Witch and a Deadly Dinner–TK Thorne



   Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.

I love the idea of vicariously wearing stiletto
heels because that is the only way that will ever happen!  What Rose Brighton discovers, however, is
they might very well be good for something else.

Rose is a police officer who discovers she’s a
witch of House of Rose. She’s received an invitation to dinner from a
devastatingly handsome man, a warlock of another House of Iron. All she knows
is that someone from his House has been trying to kill her and wipe out her
family.

So, of course, she goes—

The Club (pronounced with emphasis on “The”) is a private
dinner club atop Red Mountain overlooking the city. Very posh. I wear my black
dress and a pair of heels I bought, which are killing me. How do women walk in
these things? I let the valet park the car, because I don’t think I could make
it all the way across the parking lot.
In spite of the fact that she is dead, I can hear Aunt Alice
in my head protesting how dangerous it is to meet Jason Blackwell anywhere. I
wonder if any of my family members were prone to do dangerous or impulsive
things. If so, I inherited it, and it’s not my fault, right? Besides, I’ve got
to have info, and I’m not going to get any sitting on my butt.
So, for the sake of gaining intelligence about House of
Iron, which I know nothing about, I am practically standing on my toes trying
not to fall on my face. My sympathies to the Chinese girls whose feet were
bound in ancient times to keep them small for the aesthetic taste of Chinese
men. Thinking about that horrid practice makes me angry. Why am I torturing
myself on these stilts for the pleasure of men?
By the time I make it to the private dining room, I’m
scowling.
Ciao, Rose!”
Jason Blackwell greets me, rising from his chair at a table by the expansive
window. “You are beautiful even when you look ready to eat the first person in
your path.”
“I look like that?”
“Indeed.”
“It’s the shoes.”
“Ah.” He pulls out my chair, and I sit . . . gratefully.
A bottle of wine chills in a bowl on a small stand by the
table. I’ve seen setups like this in movies, but this is way out of my comfort
zone. Jason gestures at the wine. “I took the liberty of ordering. It’s a fine
year. Would you like to try it?”
“Yes.”
He lifts a finger and a waiter I didn’t even see glides to
our table and opens the bottle, pouring a small amount in Jason’s glass. It
would be nice to have a touch of James Bond sophistication with wine at this
point, but I can see it’s a French white from the label, and that’s about the
extent of my wine knowledge. Fortunately, Jason seems at home with the
requirements and takes a sip, savoring it on his tongue for a moment before
nodding assent at the waiter, who pours my glass first, then his. I watch all
this with fascination, and because I am afraid to look at my date. He almost
hurts the eyes.
Suddenly Becca’s voice is in my head: Oh my God, Rose. Does he have a brother?
That breaks the spell and I smile. Thank you, Becca.
“So, has anyone tried to kill you lately?” Jason asks,
turning his attention to me.
I laugh and chastise myself for being so easily charmed.
This man, I remind myself, may have lived a lot longer than I, despite his
youthful looks.
“Actually, I have managed to outwit a sniper since we last
saw each other.”
His face, which I am now watching carefully, hardens. “I didn’t
know that. He missed, I assume.”
“How do you know it was a ‘he’?”
Now it is his turn to laugh. “Be easy, detective. I do not
know that. It was a chauvinistic guess.”
The waiter sets down a basket that smells heavenly. Jason
folds back the white linen to reveal the warm breads inside. “You must try an
orange roll, house specialty.”
I bite into it and close my eyes. After I swallow, my tongue
finds the bits of crystalized sugar on my lips.
Jason clears his throat. “I’m not sure if I wish to eat or simply
watch you eat.”
I open my eyes, my earlobes burning, and snatch at the menu.
I order fish, and he orders lamb. Appropriate. I feel like a
lamb stalked by a wolf and wonder if I used enough deodorant to last through
dinner.
Jason’s gaze drifts to the huge window that looks down into
the valley. “It is a beautiful view, isn’t it?” Below us, the lights gleam like
multicolored gems.
“It is.”
“Sometimes,” Jason says, “when I cannot sleep, I look down
on this from my bedroom window.”
Warning bells ding in my head. This personal revelation is a
bit of intimacy meant to make himself appear more human, a little bait thrown
out to gain my sympathy.
 I can play the game
as long as I know there is a hook beneath the bait . . . right?
“You have trouble sleeping?” I ask.
“More often than I’d like.”
I wonder what his
nightmares are about.
I take another swallow of wine and decide it is time to stop
flitting around. “I have a question.”
He arches a brow.
“Who is trying to kill me?” I ask.
For a swiftly passing moment, his face tightens. Anger? Then
the lines smooth and he considers me.
“I do not know.”
“You have no idea?”
“No.”
Was there the slightest hesitation before that answer? He
takes my hand and lightly rubs a thumb down the inside of my wrist. My pulse
jumps. ‘Jump’ is the wrong word, more like catapults.
. . . I take a deep swallow of wine and feel it burning into
my chest. “Are we going to have an honest discussion?”
His mouth crooks again. “That would be novel.”
“Answer the question,” I demand.
“Yes. Yes, we are going to have an honest discussion.” He is
amused again, which is irritating.
“You know more about who might have tried to kill me than
you are telling me.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I’m a detective, remember?”
“I think you are prejudiced against the House of Iron.”
“Maybe.”
He leans back. “I honestly don’t know. At times I’ve thought
it could be someone in my House, but I’ve no proof of any kind. Most of my
youth was spent in Italy where my father had a villa and a mistress. After his
death, I remained there. It is still my primary residence.”
“So who comes to mind when you think that?”
“Let us not play this game. I have no knowledge that my
family is involved. If I ever have, I will tell you. I find I have a desire to
keep you alive.
 Frutti proibiti sono i più dolci.”
“Which means?”
“Forbidden fruit is the sweetest.”
My ears burn again. “Is that a promise, Mr. Blackwell?”
“It is a promise.” He smiles. “Enough of that. Now, let’s
talk about you.”
My defenses rear up. “What about me?”
“I take it you are not a social butterfly.”
“Was it the shoes thing?”
He laughs. “In part. You are intriguing, Miss Brighton,
though forbidden fruit.”
I sip my own wine. “Forbidden? In what way?”
“House of Iron and House of Rose never . . . intermingle.”
“Really? Why is that?”
“Let us call it a strong cultural tradition. Both Houses must
marry outsiders.”
His reaction makes me suspect this prohibition is more along
the lines of prejudice, and my jaw tightens. “Them” and “us” exist even among
the witches and warlocks.
. . .Our food comes at that moment. It is beautifully
presented, with a small sprig of cilantro and a lemon wedge cut artfully in a
spiral design, and I realize I’m starving. While he talks, I eat, feeling his
eyes on me again. I want to believe he had nothing to do with my family’s
murder. I can’t explain why. I just do. Maybe because his eyes are so blue.
When our plates are whisked away, I excuse myself from the
table to powder my nose and wobble my way down the hall. “If I ever try to wear
heels again, just shoot me,” I mumble aloud.
A platinum-haired lady exiting the women’s restroom gives me
an odd glance. I smile and point to my ear. She sniffs in disapproval of the
concept of people talking on invisible phones in public and walks on with her
nose in the air.
Once inside, the first thing I do is kick off the shoes, sit
on the toilet seat and rub my arches. I linger just long enough to give my feet
a reprieve, wash my hands, and reapply lip gloss. Lipstick requires far too
much aim and control. My hair is curling wildly from the moisture outside, but there’s
not much I can do about that. I wash my hands and dry them in the curls, a
temporary taming technique. Reluctantly, I slip the heels back on.
In the hall, a girl with freckled skin and bony elbows steps
carefully around the corner, balancing a tray of glasses. Unbeckoned, a surge
of living-green sweeps into me. The girl freezes, and a shadow girl steps ahead
of her, slightly out of focus, moving in my direction. I am seeing the future,
moments from now.
A portly shadow man exits the men’s room, which is next to
the women’s room where I stand, and bumps into the girl, spilling her tray. He
turns on her, angry and wobbly, probably drunk. I can’t hear anything he says
to her, but it isn’t necessary. The slump of her shoulders reflects his abuse.
The whole thing fades, and the girl in my universe or time-line resumes walking
toward me.
Without thinking about it, I step to the men’s room and lean
against the door. Someone on the other side pushes to get out, but I set my
weight into it.
“What the hell?” he slurs from inside.
When the waitress is safely past, I move away from the door,
and it bursts open. The man staggers out like carbonated foam pent up in a can.
At that moment, the headache that seems associated with seeing into the future
hits me, and I just happen to step on his foot with my heel. “Oh, I am so
sorry,” I say and leave him cursing and limping in a circle.
These shoes might be good for something, after all.

Click HERE to preorder on Amazon
Click HERE to preorder on BarnesandNoble.com

A retired police captain, T.K. has written two award-winning historical novels, NOAH’S WIFE and ANGELS AT THE GATE, filling in the untold backstories of extraordinary, yet unnamed women—the wives of Noah and Lot—in two of the world’s most famous sagas. The New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list featured her first non-fiction book, LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE, which details the investigators’ behind-the-scenes stories of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing case. Coming in November: HOUSE OF ROSE, the first of a trilogy in the paranormal-crime genre. 

She loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons. T.K. writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, Alabama, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap. More info at TKThorne.com. Join her private newsletter email list and receive a two free short stories at “TK’s Korner.



Writers’ Lessons from Paranormal or Supernatural Holiday Stories


Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life

by Paula Gail Benson
I
watched It’s a Wonderful Life when
NBC broadcast it earlier this year. Letting myself get caught up in George
Bailey’s story and Clarence Oddbody’s struggle to get his wings, I began to
think about how some of our most memorable holiday stories involve a
supernatural or paranormal element. Consider Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Where would Scrooge
have been without those ghosts? Even Miracle
on 34th Street
showcases Santa’s, or Kris Kringle’s, magical
capabilities.
What
is it about Christmas that brings makes us ponder the world beyond that we do
not know and only through religious texts, unique circumstances, and fiction catch
a glimpse? Does this preoccupation stem from the fact that during this cold time of
year, memories of the past draw close? Or, does the nativity story give us the
courage to ponder how humans may connect with God, angels, and dearly departed
who may be looking out for us?
A Christmas Carol (1938 film)
In
all three of the Christmas stories I mentioned, the supernatural or paranormal
creatures have the power to show humans what they may have been unable to see.
For George, how the world might have been if he weren’t born. For Scrooge, how
his actions had and could influence others. And, for Susie and her mother, how
believing, even if you’re not certain, can help you lead a happier, more
fulfilled life.
Often,
when writers think about creating paranormal creatures, we consider allowing
them to swoop in and rescue humans, like super heroes. But, in these Christmas
stories, that doesn’t occur. A reader might wonder why Clarence doesn’t ask
Gabriel if he can tell George that Mr. Potter has the missing money. In 1986, Saturday Night Live featured a sketch
introduced by William Shatner, who said the lost ending for It’s a Wonderful Life had been
discovered. Phil Hartman, playing Uncle Billy, remembers where he left the
$8,000 and learns from Clarence at the bank that Potter made a deposit in that
amount. George (Dana Carvey) and the crowd gathered at his house become an
angry mob, hunting down Potter (Jon Lovitz) and beating him to a pulp. It’s
just wasn’t the same as Clarence taking his lead from George’s suggestion and
by example showing him no man who has friends can be a failure.
I
decided to do some background research on the story, “The Greatest Gift” by
Phillip Van Doren Stern, that became the basis for It’s a Wonderful Life. According to Wikipedia, Stern was an editor and
author of books about the Civil War that have been described as authoritative
and respected by scholars. In 1938, he woke from a dream that inspired his
4,000 word short story, which he completed in 1943. When he could not find a
publisher, he sent it around in 200 Christmas cards. Eventually, it was
published and came to the attention of RKO Pictures, which optioned it due to
Cary Grant’s interest in playing George Bailey. Later, Frank Capra acquired
the rights and the role went to James Stewart. I found a copy of “The Greatest
Gift” available through Amazon. One of the reviewers pointed out that the names
of the characters in that story weren’t the same as those “in the original”
movie. I guess writers whose work has been adapted for the screen have been
facing that criticism a long time.
Speaking
of Cary Grant, he later played, not the struggling human, but the divine
intervenor in The Bishop’s Wife (a
role reprised by Denzel Washington in The
Preacher’s Wife
). In that story, Grant’s angel, named Dudley, created more
havoc for the humans, but in the end, found he had to allow them to make their
own decisions, even though he had fallen in love with Julia (Loretta Young),
the Bishop’s (David Niven) wife.
So,
in remembering these holiday stories with paranormal elements and considering how
they were constructed and created, what have I learned as a writer? Here are my
thoughts:
Miracle on 34th Street

(1) Successful movie adaptations often receive more credit than the original source.
(2)
A ghost, an angel, or even Santa can never “fix’ a human’s problem, only help
the human find his or her way.

(3)
Even if a lesson is hard learned, humans are invariably better off by allowing
some of the mystical qualities of the season to transform them.

Here’s wishing each
of you a wonderful holiday and a new year of happy writing!

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It…

by Bethany Maines

It’s a new year! And you know what that means? Time for
resolutions! Personally, I resolve to stop obsessively watching old episodes of
the West Wing. (Actually, I really don’t, but in public we’re going to pretend
that I do because it’s embarrassing to obsess over a show that’s over a decade
old.) I’m also making the usual one about going to the gym more and eating more
vegetables. Which is also my husband’s resolution.  Only he’s far more serious about it than I am.  He’s actually resolving to try eating meat
free a couple of days a week. I fully support this idea, but it has kind of put
a kink into my regular dinner making plans. I just don’t have a repertoire of
vegetarian recipes yet. He’s been contributing some fun new meals and an
oil-free hummus recipe that is highly delicious, if slightly over the top in
roasted garlic, but we’re still low in the whip-something-up-in-a-pinch
vegetarian recipe department. So that will be my 2013 challenge – learn to cook
vegetarian.

If that weren’t enough of a challenge I’ve also decided that
2013 is the year that I will be putting out a new series of short stories. I’ll
be trying out new characters, self-publishing, and vegetarian cooking all in
one year and I don’t mind telling you that I’m a little bit worried about it
all. I’ll admit, mostly I’m worried about the cooking. I don’t like mushrooms
and every other vegetarian recipe seems to feature mushrooms, but the
self-publishing and new characters are also weighing a bit on my mind. I really
don’t want to starve while in the midst of a new creative endeavor. Not that I
will starve. I’m pretty sure I’ve got enough fat reserves that I can subsist until at least February before I actually start to starve, but if I go on steak
consuming rampage I’ll be blaming the great profession of writing. I cannot be
expected to produce sublime creative work or even moderately entertaining
creative work on a protein deficit.
And so, dear Stiletto followers, if you wish for a sneak
peek of my paranormal adventure Tacoma series you may visit
CityofDestinyStories.com. The first story, The Dragon Incident will be released
next week and I will give a free copy to the person who submits the best meat
free recipe between now and January fifteenth.  You may leave a recipe in the comments or email it to me at carriemae.agent@gmail.com! And
please remember… I hate mushrooms.