Goddess Fish Promotions has organized a virtual book tour for This Madness of the Heart by Blair Yeatts, a gothic mystery/thriller available now.
Bad religion can be deadly. So Miranda Lamden, small-town religion professor, discovers in This Madness of the Heart. The dark hollers of Eastern Kentucky offer fertile soil for shady evangelist Jasper Jarboe, new president of Grace and Glory Bible College, as he beguiles the small mining town of Canaan Wells with his snake-oil charm.
When Miranda isn’t teaching at Obadiah Durham College, she’s investigating paranormal phenomena—or enjoying a turbulent romantic relationship with backwoods artist Jack Crispen. JJ’s inquisition-style gospel has alienated her long since, but when he announces his plan to transform her forest home into an evangelical Mecca, complete with neon cross and 40-foot Jesus, Miranda girds her loins for war. But JJ isn’t finished: he goes on to launch an attack on her friend and fellow professor Djinn Baude with an avalanche of vicious rumors. Not only does he accuse Djinn of demonic communion with the old Voudon witch whose curse killed the college’s founding family, but he also smears her with insinuations of lechery and vice.
With JJ’s urging, hate boils over into violence and tragedy, sweeping Miranda up in its flood. One death follows another as a miasma of evil overwhelms the tiny community, and only Miranda can see clearly enough to halt its spread.
This Madness of the Heart is the first in a new series of Gothic mystery-thrillers featuring Professor Miranda Lamden, whose spiritual gifts have drawn her beyond university walls to explore the mysteries of other world beliefs. Her unique vision brings her into repeated confrontations with evil, where too often she finds herself standing alone between oblivious onlookers and impending disaster.
“Guede-z-araignee! Come a-hungered! Drink di lifeblood o’ dis evil man! Drink he mem’ry away! Tak he woman int’ di night, Tak’ he chillun, tak’ dem all! Tak’ dem int’ di darkness! Tak’ dem all—tak’ dey lives, tak’ dey bodies, tak’ dey souls! Gi di blood o’ di murderer no rest, not in dis life, not in di next. Spill dey blood on dis bloody land! Come, Guede-z-araignee! Come an’ drink!”
Like a snake swaying on its coils, a tendril of smoke emerged from the darkness, swelling and growing, rising and twisting toward the upper floors of the plantation house. Tiny rainbow-hued flames licked at the polished floor. Then, with a screaming roar, fire like a spider’s bloated body engulfed the great hall, swallowing the keening woman and gathering the curving staircase to its tumid breast. A billowing inferno exploded into the long upper halls, curling and crisping the fine imported wood, sealing bedroom doors with sucking flame, feeding on the agonized cries within: a holocaust offered to a vengeful deity, sated at last with the charring bodies of the landowner’s family... the whole family, save one, a wtiny boychild, carried sleeping from his father’s house by an old black nurse, terrified by the fiery havoc she had witnessed in her dreams.
Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
I wrote This Madness of the Heart with women mystery-readers in mind, along with men who aren’t put off by strength and mind in women. Miranda Lamden is an independent professional woman who goes her own way and makes her own choices without consulting anyone—least of all a man. Yet she likes men, and is romantically involved with local artist Jack Crispen, although she guards her personal boundaries fiercely. Part of my reason for writing Madness (and the next two books in the series) was that I was becoming increasingly frustrated by available new mysteries. So I wrote some. The Miranda Lamden mysteries are intelligent, well-written gothic mystery/thrillers, peopled with complex characters navigating their way through ingenious and creative disasters. Spirituality and questions of meaning drive both cast and plot. Alternate realities are a given. I’m not striving for great literature here, but for a read an intelligent person would welcome at the end of a long day—and have difficulty putting down.
How did you come up with the title of your book or series?
Sadly, I had to give up my main character’s original name: Abby Lampton. I’ve always loved the name Abby . . . I have no idea why. And Lampton was the name of an old Kentucky family rich in land and history with whom I never had any contact at all; I just liked their name. But right before I started the publication process, a young woman named Abby Lampton popped up on every social media site on the web. So I changed the name. Miranda Lamden is as close as I could come to the “feel” the original name had for me. This Madness of the Heart is taken from a quote from an obscure play by Lord Byron, The Two Foscari: “There is no passion more spectral or fantastical than hate; not even its opposite, love, so peoples the air with phantoms, as this madness of the heart.” I chose this quote because the whole story of the book lies inside it. Hate drives all the book’s disasters, from the original evil that spawned the curse to JJ’s own spite-filled disintegration.
Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
I designed the cover myself. I have a background in art and photography, so it’s the kind of thing I love doing. The central image was inspired by Edward Burne-Jones’ figures—his painting of “Day” most conspicuously, but others as well. The stars also resemble a Burne-Jones window. The flowing water and flames are done in the style of Tiffany-period stained glass. The church and background hills are my own photographs. I chose to use stained glass imagery primarily because Jack Crispen, Miranda’s significant other, is a gifted stained glass artist . . . and toward the end of Madness Miranda’s friend Djinn commissions a window from Jack that resembles the cover closely.
How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
My least favorite character is my villain, Jasper Jarboe, or JJ. He’s a composite of all the greedy, power-driven, self-righteous religious charlatans that populated the world I grew up in. Sadly, people drawn to the ministry are often driven by a toxic hunger for power, just like many other career fields. The problem is, when charismatic tyrants grow powerful in their roles as pastors/evangelists/priests, etc., people in the pews too often see them as God’s anointed—and of course the tyrants encourage this sham. At least your garden-variety con-artist doesn’t masquerade his overblown ego as God’s presence among us. I suppose it’s obvious that I have zero-tolerance for such people, even while part of me recognizes that they have their own pain, their own history, that makes them what they are. Now and then one of these faux saints gets outed by the media, but somehow there are always people ready to believe that the next one will be different. So JJ is my contribution the Elmer Gantry hall of fame.Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:
I like to have photographs of the places I write about handy as I write, even if I’m very familiar with them. It helps me focus on details, and often jogs memories I’d forget otherwise. So when I decided to write Madness, I went out with a movie camera and my 35 mm autofocus and drove into the mountains, to places that resembled the hills and towns I’d be writing about. I’d never really tried to take photos of people and houses before—only of nature, and family, of course. The wild mountain images were no problem, but I have a morbid fear of intruding on the privacy of strangers—or friends, for that matter—so houses and towns were another matter. Thus the movie camera! I’d cruise slowly down the street, or highway, the camera lens peeping up over the driver’s window, and pause from time to time to pan across a scene, without ever really looking at what I was filming. Ridiculous, perhaps, and I didn’t get any Pulitzer quality videos, but I got what I needed, and intruded on no one.
Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
I love making mosaics! The first time I remember magic breathing out of one of my mosaics was after I finished a large abstract piece with all kinds of autumn leaves glued onto heavy cardboard. I’ve often given mosaics as gifts through the years: large and small seashell landscapes, tiny creek stones and crystals on wooden trays, nuts and pinecones and berries on anything from wreath frames to plates. So it wasn’t really such a stretch to move into digital mosaics, which is how I did the cover of Madness. Photoshop is a mosaic artist’s dream come true! And if you think about it, stained glass also has similarities to mosaic. In fact I’ve done stained glass mosaics with old found glass. But the problem with them is if the pieces are small and sharp they may “shed” over time and injure someone . . .
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
As a self-published author (I’ve published 3 other books with a 4th to come under another name), I’m always surprised at how little even my most devoted readers understand about how to help my books succeed (even when I tell them!). Unless you happen to be independently wealthy, or have a seriously good day job, few independent authors can afford the kind of publicity established publishers routinely give their clients. I think publicity is probably the one really solid advantage to a traditional publisher. With that as a given, what can a single reader do? Post reviews! Short, simple reviews, nothing special—but put them where they’ll do the most good: on Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads, Riffle, aNobii! I love hearing from my readers about how they’ve enjoyed my books, but reviews would be sooo helpful! Did you know that some advertising sites won’t even accept a paid ad for a book if it doesn’t have a minimum number of reader reviews? Since I’ve chosen the pen name route for this new series, I’m particularly vulnerable: I have no fan base, and very few (busy) friends I can trust with my secret identity to write reviews, even when they remember, and don’t just post it to Facebook. It’s like starting from absolute scratch. So . . . like my book? Please write a review on Amazon or Smashwords!
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Blair Yeatts grew up in the midst of a large, old southern Virginia family, much like the family of her main character. She followed her parents into a career in academia and taught religion at the college level in Kentucky for many years. Her special areas of expertise are psychology and Earth-based religions, in which she has done considerable research.
From childhood, Ms. Yeatts has been a fan of mystery fiction, starting with Nancy Drew and moving through Agatha Christie to twentieth century giants like Dorothy L. Sayers, P.D. James, and Nevada Barr. She is fulfilling a life’s dream in writing her own mysteries.
Ms. Yeatts shares her home with her photographer husband, two cats, and a dog. She has a lifelong love of wild nature, and prefers to set her stories in rural areas, where threads of old spiritual realities still make themselves felt. Her first three books take place in different parts of Kentucky and Tennessee.
This Madness of the Heart e-book will be free during the tour.
Twitter: @blair_yeatts https://twitter.com/blair_
Blair Yeatts will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.