Hi, Jan! Many thanks for inviting me to your blog today. I have a new release I’m thoroughly jazzed to share with your readers. Cusp of Night is a mystery/suspense novel that weaves timelines of the present with those of the past. Dual timelines are becoming trendy in fiction today, a pattern I’m more than happy to embrace. As a reader I’m thoroughly besotted by the idea. As a writer, I found it challenging to undertake.
Writing a book with dual timelines means you’re not telling one tale, but two. That means two sets of characters and two plots.
In Cusp of Night I have a mystery involving an assault and a mysterious “creature” set in modern day. Running parallel to that story is another tied to a murderous creature and the Spiritualist movement of the late 1800s. Both mysteries have to dovetail into a tidy bow at the end.
Challenging? Yes! Enjoyable? Thoroughly!
I had a blast working on this novel and can’t wait for readers to discover it. My lead character in the present is Maya Sinclair, a woman who has recently relocated to the town of Hode’s Hill to accept a job as a reference librarian. Maya is readjusting to life after a near fatal accident that left her clinically dead for the span of two minutes and twenty-two seconds.
In the past, Lucy Strick, and aerialist in a seedy carnival is eking out a living, when a strange enigmatic man offers a proposal. This short excerpt—which sets the tone for her future—is the moment when they meet:
May 1, 1897
“Hello. Have I come at a bad time?” A tall, thin man strode into Lucy Strick’s tent as if he were an invited guest.
“Who the hell are you?” She lurched from the stool in front of her small dressing table, knocking a pot of face paint to the floor. Damn. Where was Burt? The roughy was supposed to keep cretins away. May Day always brought a good take for the circus, but seedy folk showed up right along with the local farmers. Sodbusters, she could handle. Rubes in colors as drab as the earth they plowed, slow and simple as mules.
This man didn’t look anything like them—or the lechers who thought the entrance fee to her aerial act bought a free grope on the side. Put her visitor in an audience and he’d stand out like a sleek crow in a flock of cowbirds. Fancy frock coat, weathered face, hair and eyes as black as the coal her brothers dug from the Blind Boy Mine. Odd sort. He might have been as old as her pap or as young as Anton, the Strongman.
“You ain’t answered me.” She hadn’t liked people staring at her when she was a kid and wouldn’t tolerate it now. She wasn’t a freak, no matter what her kinfolk said. “Who are you?”
He didn’t hesitate. “A man who finds you extraordinary.”
“That so?” She snorted. Indelicately. “Well, that uppity accent don’t impress me none, so you best skedaddle ’fore I holler for Burt and have him bend you fifty ways backward. I ain’t unarmed, you know.” She groped through the silks, feathers, and tinted creams on her dressing table. “I got a knife.”
“I don’t. I’m not armed, dear lady.”
“Lady?” She’d never heard the word attached to the likes of her. Charmed, she shoved a curtain of black hair from her shoulder and eyed him openly. “You got a strange way of talking. I bet you’re a snoop, huh? This ain’t no fleece or racket joint, mister. Oliver’s Emporium and Traveling Show is on the up-and-up. Just ’cause we pull up stakes after a spell don’t mean—”
“You’re wasted here.”
She clamped her mouth shut. Even soaring through the air, the ground a death trap below, she remained in control. But this man threw her off balance with his bold comments. Dumb slug. Didn’t he realize what she was? Didn’t he have eyes?
“There ain’t nowheres else for me.” She’d known the truth every time her ma held her down and scrubbed her skin till it bled. Every time her pap cuffed her and called her Hades-spawned. When she was twelve, a preacher slathered her in whitewash while her pap watched stonily and her ma prayed for her deliverance. Lucy had run off that same night, stumbling over Ollie’s traveling circus two days later. She’d never regretted her decision in the eight years she’d called the carnival home.
Raising her chin, she stood her ground. “Ollie takes good care of me.”
“Yes. It must be gratifying to go from backwater town to backwater town, eking out a meager existence.” The man’s voice lowered, his cultured accent crisp with reproach. “Do you enjoy the way men leer at you? The barbs women toss behind your back, labeling you devil-witch and daughter of demons?”
Lucy stiffened. Pious folk were the worst. Hiding behind crosses and Bibles, as if the Good Lord loved her any less because of her appearance. Maybe Ollie traded on her unusual looks, but he treated her like family. Far more than her own blood kin.
“You need to leave.” She hated being reminded of what she was.
The man’s expression softened. “Child, I don’t see you as any of the ignoble names you have been called. I see you as special. Do not be ashamed of your exotic beauty.” Looming over her, he turned her fingers toward the light. The kindness in his voice almost made her believe she was attractive.
Until she looked at her hand and saw the same damning color that covered every inch of her body—blue.
Tears threatened her eyes. Crying was a weakness she hadn’t embraced in years.
“I see the pain on your face.” The man tightened his long fingers around her hand. “Memories of cruel taunts and unjust words. Leave here with me, and you will never be ashamed of your lovely blue skin again.”
Oh, to believe!
She stared into his eyes. There was something hypnotic about his gaze, the rich timbre of his voice. Even his touch spoke to her, his palm not smooth as she’d expected, but lined with callouses earned by a life on the road. “Who are you? What do you want?”
He smiled, his eyes flashing with lightning and promise.
“My name is Simon Glass. I want to make you famous.”
Recently settled in Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania, Maya Sinclair is enthralled by the town’s folklore, especially the legend about a centuries-old monster. A devil-like creature with uncanny abilities responsible for several horrific murders, the Fiend has evolved into the stuff of urban myth. But the past lives again when Maya witnesses an assault during the annual “Fiend Fest.” The victim is developer Leland Hode, patriarch of the town’s most powerful family, and he was attacked by someone dressed like the Fiend.
Compelled to discover who is behind the attack and why, Maya uncovers a shortlist of enemies of the Hode clan. The mystery deepens when she finds the journal of a late nineteenth-century spiritualist who once lived in Maya’s house–a woman whose ghost may still linger.
Known as the Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill due to a genetic condition, Lucinda Glass vanished without a trace and was believed to be one of the Fiend’s tragic victims. The disappearance of a young couple, combined with more sightings of the monster, trigger Maya to join forces with Leland’s son Collin. But the closer she gets to unearthing the truth, the closer she comes to a hidden world of twisted secrets, insanity, and evil that refuses to die . . .
Release date is June 12th
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