Of Hauntings and Hoaxes: The Historical Basis for “No Rest for the Wicked” by Phoebe Darqueling

31 Days Of Halloween - Featured Image - Of Hauntings And Hoaxes

Writers are often asked where their ideas come from. It can be difficult to pin down all the factors that lead to a story, but in the case of my upcoming release No Rest for the Wicked, I can tell you exactly how I became inspired to create my psychic grifter character.

Back when I worked in the library of the California Academy of Sciences, I discovered a wonderful and witty nonfiction author, Mary Roach. She’s written plenty of books on a wide range of subjects, but my

favorite has to be Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. Her approach in all of her books is to take one “big idea” and come at it from every possible angle. In this book, she spent a lot of time examining the foundation of the Spiritualist movement and the rise in the belief in ghosts during the 19th century. I was fascinated how this “enlightened” time in human history also saw people turning to supernatural explanations, which could make them fall victim to hoaxes. I fell in love with the “mad science” of the steam era and it is still one of my favorite areas of research.

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One of the most famous of these hoaxes involving ghosts happened in 1848. Two sisters in New York City claimed to be visited by a spirit, and the newspapers – hungry for stories that would sell – at it up. By the late days of Queen Victoria’s reign, a huge percentage of the population in the English speaking world claimed to have communicated with the dead, or at

least believed it was possible. The Spiritualist movement was born, and it’s avid believers included Mary Todd Lincoln, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Queen Vic herself.

Nowadays, we keep death neat, tidy, and far away. In the old days, not only did most people die in their own homes with family members at hand, this was considered the definition of a “good death.” During conflicts like the American Civil War, soldiers carried photos of their loved ones with them. Not just to remember them by, but so if they died on the battlefield, the living could arrange the photos around them as if they were near their family. Because if you didn’t have a “good death,” there was a good chance you would never get to rest.

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It didn’t take long for con artists, primarily female ones, to start offering their services as mediums. Another type of lucrative hoax was to offer “spirit photography” services. This was also early days for photographic technology, and people were eager to believe that the be-sheeted figure in the background of a double exposure was actual a phantasm.

So, back to my character. During the fall of 2015, I spent a few weeks in training to be a tour guide at the Sacramento History Museum. Ultimately, the drive proved to be too long and the working hours too few for me to continue, but I gained something so much more valuable than money. While we crafted our tours, we were asked to create a character and choose a theme. As I went through the training, I was struck by how many of the stories centered on gamblers, grifters, and thieves. This became the focus of my tour, and when it came time to choose a persona, I decided on a fake medium. Though I never did give a tour, Viola Thorne was born.

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The premise was too good to let go of, and it continued to percolate in the back of my brain. As I daydreamed, I saw a woman and her assistant testing out the pulleys and various levers to create her special effects. Then a ghost walked in to answer her advertisement, and everything changed. Though this exact scene does not appear in No Rest for the Wicked, which takes place after the recalcitrant Vi has become fed up with running errands for the dead, it served as the basis for my Mistress of None series.

If you’d like to find out more about No Rest for the Wicked, stop by my blog to read some excerpts and sign up for my newsletter (the bar floating at the bottom of the screen). This Gaslamp Fantasy novel is set to come out from Black Rose Writing on March 28, but in the meantime I am also going to send my subscribers a free ebook called The Steampunk Handbook this fall. In its pages, I go into much more detail about the spooky and the supernatural side to the steam era.

Here’s to a Haunting Halloween!

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About Phoebe Darqueling

Phoebe Darqueling has hung her hat in many places as she and her archaeologist husband have chased their dreams around the world. When she isn’t sharing tips for writers on OurWriteSide.com or editing SteampunkJournal.org, she writes curriculum for a creativity competition for kids in Minnesota. You can find more of her writing in the novels Riftmaker (Feb 14), No Rest for the Wicked (March 28) and Army of Brass, and her short stories in Chasing Magicand Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales.

You can find her on WordPressAmazonTwitter, and Facebook


Author Spotlight – Katherine Gilbert

Introducing Katherine Gilbert

31 Days Of Halloween - Katherine Gilbert - Author Spotlight

Katherine Gilbert was born at house number 1313 and then transplanted to a crumbling antebellum ruin so gothic that The Munsters would have run from it. She has since gained several ridiculously-impractical degrees in English and Religious and Women’s Studies. She now teaches at a South Carolina community college, where all her students think, correctly, that she is very, very strange, indeed.

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

The decaying nineteenth-century mansion in South Carolina I mention in my bio was so creepy many people simply refused to enter it. They were the smart ones. About ten years after I finally managed to escape it, I was told by a family friend that it had burned down. He was quite surprised, when I laughed in hysterical relief. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by the gothic and paranormal, although I demand large doses of humor to make life worthwhile.

Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?

Lydia, the main character in Protecting the Dead, has spent the first 18 years of her life being raised by parents who intended from the start to sacrifice her to a demon, so she’s got some definite social anxiety disorder issues she’s having trouble overcoming. She’s decided the way to be happy is to just be the most normal person possible and ignore anything weird or strange. Since she ends up getting a job at a supernatural apartment complex filled with werewolves, cat people, ghosts, vampires, and many other creatures of the night, this isn’t easy for her. Her attraction to her angelic boss doesn’t help matters, either. It’s really a character’s journey from an uncertain past to a future where she starts to realize that embracing weirdness can lead to happiness.

Who is your intended readership?

Hoo boy–where to start? First off, I don’t do dark or gritty. To my mind, life has too much of both those qualities as it is. There are also too many unpleasant people out there in the real world either causing or enjoying the suffering of others. I’ve never wanted to spend my free or dream time with them, so (while this type may show up as a villain) they will never be my protagonists. I actually like a character I can, well, like. In other words, if you root for Sauron over Frodo or Aragorn, I’m not the writer for you.

Two of my greatest loves, as well, are humor and the weird or paranormal, so that kind of tells you something about what you should be expecting (well, if you toss in that there are romances, too). My writing is full of strange, funny, quirky characters in weird, paranormal situations.

Another aspect of my writing is kind of a quirky spirituality. Nothing in my novels will resemble any religion you ever heard of. There are both angels and demons in Protecting the Dead, but they probably won’t fit most preconceived religious notions. Still, I’d rather create worlds where the protagonists and their friends are working toward seeing good happen in the world and helping out all those around them.

It was only after my novel was published that I came to realize how much it doesn’t seem to fit most people’s expectations. If you approach it solely as a romance, the protagonist’s journey is really only partly about her relationship, so this may throw you off. If you approach it solely as urban fantasy, it will seem weirdly humorous and light. If you expect it to be a typical (i.e. rigidly codified Christianity) inspirational, your brain will probably explode. My sister attempted to define it once as an inspirational comic paranormal urban gothic romance. I guess I’d just say it the way I do in my newsletter. My writing is for those times you want humor, romance, and the paranormal–and you aren’t willing to settle for just one.

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I actually started out as a fan fiction writer for a show I was obsessed with. At first, the stories all filled in the blanks left by the episodes, but, once the show ended a few years later, I branched out into alternate universe stories. I realized through these that I was actually able to create my own plot and characters. In fact, the characters always know where they’re going, even when I haven’t a clue. I just need to get the time to put my fingers on the keyboard and let them tell me what they want written about them.

Do you have a favorite author, or writing inspiration?

There are a lot of favorite authors for me, but Terry Pratchett probably comes out on top. He mixes humor, fantasy, the supernatural, and real-world truths and concerns with absolutely seamless brilliance. I’ve reread some of the Discworld novels so many times I’ve nearly memorized them.

As to my inspirations, there are a couple. First, my sister listens to every chapter as I write and is unbelievably supportive. It’s wonderful to have someone who really gets me listening to what I’m working on. Second, a lot of my novels come from either dreams or the seed of a real-life encounter. Protecting the Dead was inspired by a run-down apartment complex my sister and I visited. When she asked about the tenant turnover, she was told, “Oh, our residents never leave.” Thus, my brain started sizzling. Third, though, are just the characters themselves. When I finally published this first novel (after years of trying), a friend asked me why I never gave up. I told her truthfully that I couldn’t betray my characters that way. They wanted their story told, so I needed to do what I could to see that that happened.

What advice would you give beginning writers?

Mostly, as I said above, if this is something you really want to do and the stories are just burning in your mind, don’t give up. This is true even when: you’re halfway through writing and either realize you have no idea where this story is going or it takes off in a sudden new direction you never expected; agents and publishers are thoroughly uninterested in your work; you’re bogged down in editing which seems to be driving you close to madness; the thought of trying to “create a platform” for your published work makes you want to hold your head; nobody’s buying your book; or some of those few who review it just say some version of, “Whuh?” Trust in your characters; do the best you can for them and yourself, and, whenever possible, help out others, as you go along.

Do you have any amusing writing stories or anecdotes to share?

In Protecting the Dead, there’s this little old Jewish woman who keeps popping up in Lydia’s dreams. For the longest time, I was as clueless as she was as to who this old woman was and why she kept invading my story. It was only partway through a chapter about halfway through the novel that it finally dawned on me who she was (although, to avoid spoilers, I won’t explain further).

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies?

My hobbies are mostly mundane (tv, movies, books). As to what I’m passionate about, I suppose spending time with my sister and friends. I love to go on small adventures somewhere beautiful or strange, whether it’s a place I’ve never seen before or one I’ve been to any number of times. Honestly, too, even if my sister and I go nowhere, just spending time laughing and talking with her is one of my greatest joys. I utterly, thoroughly scored in the cosmic sister lottery, and I always enjoy my good fortune.

What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?

I’ve got one book I’m writing and another I’m editing. For the one I’m editing, it involves magic and some demonic secrets in an antebellum mansion on the Battery in Charleston, SC. Sometimes hidden family secrets can reach out to grab you.

Protecting the Dead

Protecting the Dead-Cover

After a childhood filled with demons and her devil-worshiping parents, Lydia longs for a quiet, normal life, a safe haven somewhere blissfully dull. Being the manager at the Roanoke Apartments seems to fit that bill. But Lydia soon learns that you can’t leave the past behind so easily. She finds herself faced with unclogging drains for werewolves, conducting nightly vampire counseling sessions, and caring for two talkative cats. Then there’s the

distraction of Geoffrey, the hottest, and most angelic, boss anyone ever dreamed of. As if that isn’t enough, the demon who nearly killed her shows up to finish the job. So much for a peaceful, simple life…

Buy Now: E-Book, Paperback (Coming Soon)

Author Pages:

Amazon, Smashwords

Where to find Katherine Gilbert:

Website (Facebook)

Newsletter Sign-Up – More in Heaven and Earth–If you sign up, you’ll receive behind-the-scenes tidbits, news, and some links to current contests, usually once per month (unless there’s special news to announce).

Cover Reveal – “Wolves In The Desert”

Watch The Cover Reveal Trailer

Learn More About The Story

WITD-Tablet-CroppedWhen his squad is deployed to Iraq, Gunnery Sergeant Garfield Feldman leads them in a series operations against forces loyal to Saddam Hussein.

Recently rumors have been flying around base that the enemy has learned a few new tricks, and found ways to ambush Marine units from buildings that had been declared clear.

Now Feldman’s team has received orders to conduct a snatch-and-grab mission deep in enemy-held territory. But what lies behind the walls, and what can Feldman do to ensure the success of the mission?

Follow the release news: Facebook, Twitter

Discover The First Two Books In The Set


Book Reviews – June to August

Book Reviews-June-August-2018New Feature

For a while now, I’ve been considering adding book reviews to my line up of regular features. The problem has been that I have a huge back-catalog of reviews, and I really didn’t know where to start. I read both fiction and non-fiction books, and time allowing I can read three or four books a month.

Usually my fiction reading covers Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and Urban Fantasy/Paranormal genres, but I sometimes read outside those areas, if a book catches my interest, or it’s by an author I’ve come to trust.

My non-fiction reading ranges from author advice, to marketing, and topics related to stories I’m writing, or planning. I also pick up the occasional books on science, animals, and even biographies, or other subjects that catch my attention.

As a blogger, I often feature book spotlights as part of my regular posts, so don’t be surprised to see some familiar titles in my review posts. I’ve yet to decide how often I’ll be posting these review spots, so feel free to drop suggestions in the comments. Would you prefer to see each book review posted as soon as it’s live on the book sites, or does a round-up like this work best for you?

Reviews For Readers

FoolsOfParodyTitle: Fools Of Parody

Author: Scott Moses

Genre: Science Fiction, Satire

Rating: 4 Stars

Sci-Fi Political Parodys are a rarity

“Fools of Parody” was a fun read, but there were times when I felt a little confused by the motivations of some of the characters. Thankfully a lot of those confusions were resolved by the end of the story, as more information was revealed.
I would have liked to see certain characters fleshed out a little more, or at least more time on the page, especially given how instrumental they were expected to be in the outcome of events. However, it was a fun read, and I thankfully didn’t have to wade through a lot of hard science to feel that this was well placed in its genre selection.

Buy Now: E-Book, Paperback

TheHiddenCourtTitle: The Hidden Court (The Paranormal University Files: Skylar Book 1)

Author: Vivienne Savage

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Suspense

Rating: 4 Stars

A suspense-filled school year for the paranormal students, with a splash of romance

This book is a great read, and the romance element just adds to what would be an otherwise great story.
Starting a new school can be difficult enough, but when you’re going to a school for supernatural students things are always going to be a little different. I loved how each of the races had a unique perspective on not only each other, but the history of the magical world, and the events that are going on around them.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a suspense story without something going on to raise the tensions between the various races, or the individuals, and the author delivers on this in a wonderfully entertaining way.
What really surprised me though, is how much I came to care for the supporting cast of characters, just as much as I did for the protagonist and the love-interest. There is a great variety in the characters, and each of them has qualities that set them apart, as well as compliment each other.
I received a copy of this book as an Advanced Reader Copy, in return for an honest review, but I’ll definitely be adding more of this author’s work to my collection.

Buy Now: E-Book, Paperback

Reviews For Writers

LayerYourNovelTitle: Layer Your Novel: The Innovative Method for Plotting Your Scenes (The Writer’s Toolbox Series)

Author: C.S. Lakin

Rating: 4 Stars

This book made me rethink my book writing process

Lakin has produced a book that made me rethink my entire book writing process. Thanks to this book, I now have a way to help resolve problems I’ve been having with the plot of my current novel project.
I’ve been struggling with the plot for my first novel for years now, and this book came to my attention at just the right time. I was literally pulling my hair out at time as I wrestled with my subplots, and making sure they entered the story at the right time. But after reading through this book, not once, but three times, I’ve come away with new ways of looking at story structure, outside the basic three-act structure.
Lakin breaks stories into layers, and layers into key scenes according to how the layers fit in the story. The best part is that the entire process takes you from story premise to basic outline, and into layers of action-reaction and subplots that add depth to your story, and flesh out your characters in the process.
I’m glad that I picked this book up, even if it took multiple readings to wrap my head around the potential changes I can make to my writing process. I’ve actually made great progress breaking down the mess that is my current draft, and look forward to reshaping the subplots so that they actually make sense.

Buy Now: E-Book, Paperback


The Wait Is Almost Over!

If you loved “Under A Hunter’s Moon” and wanted to learn more about Richard Parsons, the wait is almost over.

“The Lupine’s Call” is the second in the “Shadows Over Seattle: Prequels” series of short stories. It continues the story of Richard Parsons, the wolf-shifter (or as they prefer to be called, Lupines) after he broke into a museum, and the hearts of readers in “Under A Hunter’s Moon”.

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Here’s What People Said About “Under A Hunter’s Moon”

“An amazing take on Lycans. I love the dark view taken but also the unique point of view that makes you want to care for the dark creatures.”

“I enjoy the author’s twist on the old werewolf lore, creating a whole new version and calling them Lupines, to allow him to break the rules of the legends without really breaking things, if you know what I mean.
This is a great teaser to the main character, his motivations, and his drive. Jump on in and then go yell at the author to hurry up and finish the book, just like I’m doing!”

“If you enjoy shifter stories, this one is a great Urban Fantasy short story that introduces you to some characters that you’ll definitely need to know more about!”

If you haven’t read “Under A Hunter’s Moon”, you can get your copy at all major ebook retailers

It’s Teaser Tuesday – Discover How The Upcoming “The Lupine’s Call” Starts

TLC - Sample1 - Opening

The Lupine’s Call (Shadows Over Seattle: Prequel One)

As I closed the door to our apartment, and turned left into the kitchen, my girlfriend came storming into the room. Taking one look at her I knew I was in trouble, and I had a feeling that I knew what I’d done. Nazurl was usually even tempered and when I’d done something to upset her she’d let me know with a look that could melt sheet steel.

The look she wore now was one I’d never seen before, and never wanted to see again. Her deep brown eyes flashed in anger, and I saw the storm brewing. She’d gone from being my Nubian Goddess into a full-born African Goddess of War.

I didn’t even get a warning shot, or chance to compose myself before she launched her first offensive strike.

“Richard Evan Parsons…”, Oh God, I was in real trouble. “I’ve been waiting over three hours for you to get home…” And she’d had time to build up a head of steam over whatever it was… Great.

Find Out How The Story Continues…

“The Lupine’s Call” Releases on August 26th 2018

Pre-Order @ Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & NobleKobo, iBooks

Cover Reveal Party – “The Lupine’s Call”

The Lupine's Call - Cover RevealOn July 17th, I’m devoting the entire afternoon and evening to showing off the cover for the upcoming follow-up to “The Hunter’s Moon (Shadows Over Seattle: Prequel One)”.

I’m inviting fellow Urban Fantasy authors to come help celebrate the cover reveal, and I’m going to leave the names of my guests a surprise until the last minute.

The Book Blurb

Richard Parsons is a shapeshifter with a drinking problem – not that his girlfriend knows about his abilities. But she’s determined to sober him up, and the arguments aren’t helping.
Storming out of the apartment during the latest argument might only be the first bad move of the night.

Will Richard’s drinking get him into more trouble than he can handle?

About The “Shadows Over Seattle: Prequels”

“The Lupine’s Call” is the second of the “Shadows Over Seattle: Prequel” series, giving readers a chance to meet the characters who will be appearing in the main series. Every story is a snapshot of an event in that character’s past, and can be read as a standalone short story, or as part of the series.

What’s Happening At The Party?

Authors – I’m opening the floor to Urban Fantasy authors who want to come join the festivities, and meet my readers

Readers – You’re going to be introduced to some of my fellow Urban Fantasy authors, and discover some great stories of the process.

When & Where Is All This Happening?

When : Tuesday, July 17 at 1 PM – 9 PM (AKST, 5 pm – 1am EST)

Where : This is a Facebook event

Click here to join the event