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juliana spink mills Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Juliana Spink Mills. Juliana Spink Mills was born in England, but grew up in Brazil. Now, she lives in Connecticut and writes science fiction and fantasy. She is the author of Heart Blade and Night Blade, the first two books in the young adult Blade Hunt Chronicles urban fantasy series. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and online publications. Besides writing, Juliana works as a Portuguese/English translator, and as a teen library assistant. She watches way too many TV shows, and loves to get lost in a good book. Her dream is to move to Narnia when she grows up. Or possibly Middle Earth, if she’s allowed a very small dragon of her own.

Juliana Spink Mills’s latest book, Night Blade, is a YA novel urban fantasy fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—In the aftermath of the Heart Blade’s return, Del and Rose have different roads to follow. One leads forward, the other to the distant past. Rose is on a mission to infiltrate and double-cross the ultimate heist, and retrieve a game-changing prize. Meanwhile, as the Court of the Covenant prepares to meet, Del has a quest of her own. She must untangle her lost identity or risk her entire future. With the Blade Hunt prophecy in motion, darkness threatens to rise, and a new sword emerges from the shadows.

And a little “taste” of Night Blade:
  The vampire smiled at Raze. “How do you feel about a little undercover work?”
  “Undercover work? What kind?”
  “The dangerous kind. The sort of work that should suit Raze perfectly, since you’re so determined to leave Rose behind,” he said. “A challenge. You’re infiltrating a heist. I think you’ll make an excellent cat burglar.”

nightblade_front_mills Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Night Blade?

Night Blade is the second in my YA urban fantasy trilogy. The idea for the series came from a short story I was working on. That particular story was never published, but the world stuck in my head and kept growing, and eventually became the first book, Heart Blade.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

I think my two favorites are Camille, an immortal half-demon, and Ben a teenage witch. Camille is fun to write, because her personality is similar to my own (demonic immortality aside). As for Ben, I just like him. He’s had a lot of bad things happen to him, but he doesn’t give up. And, more importantly, he always tries to do the right thing, even if it’s going to cost him.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

Both my books were published by a small press. I think the advantages were that I was involved in every step of the process. I was given everything you can expect from a larger press—editor, copy editor, professional cover art—but additionally, because I worked so closely with the owner of the press, I was involved in a lot of the decision-making. It really was a lesson in what it takes to bring out a book! For a first timer who up to that point had only published short stories, it was a real learning experience.

The disadvantages of a small press are probably obvious, and center mostly around market reach.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m definitely a planner. That said, I’ve become a lot more organic in my process as I’ve gained confidence in myself as a writer. So now, instead of the rigid chapter outlines I used in the past, I tend to do a list of bullet points: key events that need to be incorporated. This gives me wriggle room to go ‘off road’ when I want, and I constantly update this list as the story progresses.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I was definitely a Narnia girl. I was gifted the full Narnia set as a going away present when I moved from England to Brazil at the age of eight. Brazil was new, and exciting, but also confusing and strange, so I absolutely connected with Lucy Pevensie and the rest of C.S. Lewis’ portal-travelling youngsters. I credit those books with a life-long love of fantasy novels.

What writing project are you currently working on?

After a much-needed break to write a sci fi thriller, I’m now working on Star Blade, the last book in my YA trilogy. The planning stage took ages—there is so much to fit in!—but now I’m up and running and delighted to be back in this familiar world of mine. I missed my characters!

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

My favorite bit of advice ever, and one I always pass along, is: “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Nothing happens overnight in publishing. If you love writing, allow yourself the gift of time. And keep writing!

Want to learn more about Juliana Spink Mills and Night Blade? Check out her:  WebsiteFacebook pageTwitterInstagram, and  Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Night Blade.

Thanks to author Juliana Spink Mills for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author E. C. Ambrose (Elaine Isaak) on February 21, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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0061-eWomenNetwork Thanks to Gail Z. Martin, author of Deadly Curiosities (and many other books), for stopping by and sharing some background information on Voodoo and Hoodoo as used in her urban fantasy novel and story series.

Voodoo and Hoodoo in the Holy City of Charleston, SC by Gail Z. Martin

“Welcome to Charleston, South Carolina, often called the ‘Holy City’ for its large number of beautiful churches. But the gracious lifestyle of Charleston’s wealthy planter-aristocrats was made possible by slavery, and in the years leading up to the Civil War, Charleston was the top port for slaves coming into the United States and for slaves being bought and sold.

My urban fantasy book and short story series, Deadly Curiosities, takes place in Charleston. Charleston is a beautiful city with a bloody past. It’s one of the top tourist attractions in the United States because by day, it’s filled with gorgeous ante bellum architecture, horse-drawn carriage rides, landmark restaurants and quirky shops. But by night, you’ll hear stories of ghosts, duels, pirates, wronged women and wrongful death as Charleston’s Id comes out to play.

In the Deadly Curiosities series, the focus is on Trifles and Folly, an antiques and curio shop that exists to get dangerous magical items off the market and out of the wrong hands. Cassidy Kincaide is the latest person in her family to inherit the shop and the job of protecting the world that goes with it. She’s a psychometric, someone who can read the history of objects by touch. Together with her assistant, Teag Logan, who has his own magic and her business partner, Sorren who is a nearly six hundred year-old vampire, Cassidy navigates the magical underside of the Holy City to handle things that go bump in the night with extreme prejudice.

Which leads me to Voodoo and Hoodoo. Voodoo, or Voudon as its practitioners prefer, comes from the Caribbean, with elements of African and island religions syncretized with Roman Catholicism. Most people associate Voudon with New Orleans. Hoodoo is root magic, incorporating African plant medicine and some shamanic aspects, and hails from the Carolina Lowcountry area.

I use both Voudon and Hoodoo in Deadly Curiosities. Cassidy’s allies include powerful Voudon mambos and houngan (male and female priests) as well as skilled root workers. The choice to include Voudon in Charleston isn’t as strange as it seems. Pre-Civil War, people took their servants with them when they moved from one place to another, certainly when a young woman traveled to marry a man from a distant city. Since there was quite a bit of commerce between Charleston and New Orleans, this kind of relocation isn’t difficult to imagine. Those servants would have brought their beliefs with them, and history shows that a surprising number of slave owners, especially women, were willing to secretly work Voudon and Hoodoo when dire personal situations needed special assistance.

DEADLY-CURIOSITIES1-140x214 Another reason why I chose to use Voudon was because Charleston was not just the top port for the importation and sale of new slaves. In the years after it became more difficult to import new slaves from Africa, Charleston became the main place where formerly-owned slaves from inside the United States changed hands. It was, for its time, the Ebay of human trafficking. So it’s not at all unlikely that some of those slaves came from the New Orleans area or had been exposed to Voudon from family members or other slaves.

I’ve learned a lot researching Voudon and Hoodoo for the books, and find the rich, complex belief systems truly fascinating. As part of my research, I’ve been to Voodoo museums in New Orleans and talked with people from South Carolina who know what it means to ‘put a root’ on someone! While these are just two of the many types of magic woven into the Deadly Curiosities novels and short stories, I think they bring a sense of depth and place to the narrative. Not only that, but the Voudon and Hoodoo practitioners you’ll meet in Deadly Curiosities are some of my favorite characters!

So if all you know about Voudon comes from The Princess and the Frog or The Serpent and the Rainbow (two movies that are not in any way designed for the same audience!), check out my Deadly Curiosities series. There’s a whole new world in the shadows, waiting for you to visit.

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for stories and books by author friends of mine. And, a special 50% off discount from Double-Dragon ebooks! You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here.

Trick or Treat: Enjoy The Final Death, the complete Deadly Curiosities Adventures novella here.

And a bonus excerpt from Coffin Box, another Deadly Curiosities Adventures short story here.

And a second bonus excerpt from my friend Stuart Jaffe and his short story Killer of Monsters here.

And a THIRD bonus audio excerpt from Voodoo Children by my friend John Hartness here.”

You can find Deadly Curiosities on Amazon and elsewhere.

Thanks again to Gail Z Martin for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more Monday Guests, Quotable Wednesdays, blogs from me, owl posts, and occasional recipes. Have a magical day – Vonnie

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