The Darkly Lumnious Haunted London Blog Tour Stops Here!

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And now a special guest blog by Strangely Beautiful author Leanna Renee Hieber:

Thanks True-Blood.Net for being my champions, fellow fans of Sookie, and for being so all-around fabulous.  I’m thrilled to bring my Haunted London Blog tour to your doorstep to celebrate the recent release of The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker.

About The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker (Strangely Beautiful #2):

“Death-pale Percy Parker was a beacon for Fate. True love had found her, in the tempestuous form of Professor Alexi Rychman. But her mythic destiny was not complete. Foretold by ghosts with which she alone could converse; a war was coming. Victorian London would be overrun by a spectral host.  Yet, within mighty Athens Academy, alongside The Guard who shielded mortals from the agents of the Underworld, she counted herself among friends. Wreathed in hallowed fire, they would stand together, no matter what dreams or nightmares—may come.”

About the Tour:

The Darkly Luminous Haunted London Blog Tour is all about showcasing the real ghost stories I use in my Strangely Beautiful series of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels. Today’s a bit of a departure in the fact that I’m not telling an actual ghost story that I use in the book but a personal experience that established the last name of my heroine, the sweet, eerie, ghostly Miss Percy Parker.  While this story might not involve a ghost directly, the story does however, involve a graveyard.

Why Percy’s last name is “Parker”: A personal tale.

Strangely Beautiful series author Leanna Renee Hieber

Strangely Beautiful series author Leanna Renee Hieber

In the fall of 2001, when the idea of the Strangely Beautiful series first occurred to me in a blaze of delirium one late night after play rehearsal, I took notes as Miss Percy took shape before me. She had a first name and a nickname but I was ambivalent about a last name. When I began my rough draft, I was working on over 5 Shakespeare plays at once for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. We toured productions to southern Ohio schools during the day and returned to the theatre for rehearsals for main-stage plays that night.  One day, between tours, we had time to kill, and with 7 actors in one van’s close quarters, clearly, we needed out.  In southern Ohio’s vast middle of nowhere, we drove aimlessly until, amidst the trees, a small graveyard was spotted.  Spending 14 hours a day with our cast meant we knew each other quite well. Jason, driving the van, turned and said, “hey, Leanna, there’s a graveyard, want out?” A graveyard connoisseur, of course I cried “Yes!” and leaped out to explore.

Many of the graves were old and broken, a few dated from within the 20th century, but all were clustered in the center of the graveyard.  Except for two.  On the opposite end of the graveyard, just before a thin fence kept a wild forest from creeping in, were two small graves, a dead tree growing up beside them. I walked to the graves as if magnetized; such a striking visual, these isolated graves, the dead tree… and then, I was struck by the markers.  Plain grey granite read: “I. Parker, mother” Then, smaller, beside it, the second marker: “Infant Parker”

There were dates on the stones, of course, but I confess I don’t remember them, because a scene and story began to unfold before me and I knew I had Percy’s last name.  I believe their dates were early 1900s, I seem to recall the dates indicated mother and child hadn’t died in childbirth. Inspiration overwhelmed me.  Why these graves were separate and isolated could have been for many reasons but surely because she was a single mother; unmarried women having a child out of wedlock was enough to not be included in any cemetery, let alone alongside other ‘proper’ families.  There were superstitions, prejudices, church policies, etc, regarding this, and the dead tree next to the graves only added to the chill of superstition and a lingering air of lonely neglect. I took the name Parker in honour of this striking scene, and this was what unfolded in my mind:

From The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber (Copyright 2010):

Alexi took a deep breath. “Before we return to London, my love, we’ve one last appointment. We must pay our respects at the foot of your mother’s grave.”

Percy’s brow furrowed. “My mother’s grave? Why didn’t I know about a grave?”

“I think we’ll see soon enough,” Alexi replied.

They traveled down a road thick with brush. Percy noted the quaint York surroundings growing wilder and increasingly unkempt. At last came an unmarked iron gate and a narrow, deep patch of flat ground interspersed with white stones. As Alexi helped Percy from the cab, she took in a full view of their destination.

Alexi was sure to keep her arm tightly in his as he opened the squealing hinges of the cemetery’s rusting gate. Percy stared at old, untended graves, sandstone eroded beyond recognition, moss over the epitaphs. There were no spirits that lingered here; those interred had either found peace or their lingering wraiths had managed to flee.

In a corner plot lined with thin-branched evergreens, two small stones lay apart from the rest. Alexi crossed directly toward them, and Percy felt her blood grow cooler with each step. Then she realized it wasn’t just her blood; the air was drastically colder here, as if she were standing in the wake of a spirit. But she saw none.

The flat grey stone they sought was not nearly as worn as its neighbors, and the moment Alexi saw it, he pressed Percy closer, holding her as she gasped and nearly fainted. The larger stone was inscribed: i. parker, mother. The stone to its left: percy parker, infant.

Percy choked, turning in to his firm embrace. “How cruel. To feel such a ghost already, and then to see this? Shouldn’t it unhinge my very senses?”

“You’re flesh and blood, Percy,” Alexi assured her. “There’s another reason for this grim landmark. Be strong, love, and wait here a moment.”

Percy watched him turn and walk away, his black cloak billowing. He returned to the carriage and unlashed something from its rear: a shovel. The very sight of it made Percy ill.

“Oh God, Alexi,” she called across the graves. “What are you doing?”

He calmly approached and drove the shovel into the earth beneath the smaller stone. Percy cried out. “Alexi!”

“Your infant body is not within this grave, Percy. What is?”

(For access to more excerpts and information, visit www.leannareneehieber.com/books)

I’m thrilled to say the Strangely Beautiful saga will continue again in October with “A Christmas Carroll” (Strangely Beautiful #2.5, starring Rebecca and Michael), a novella in Dorchester’s A Midwinter Fantasy anthology!  The Darkly Luminous Haunted London Blog Tour continues until May 4th! Visit the Haunted London Blog Tour page for the locations and please join me at any of the various sites below for more information, contests, updates and more!

Want to win a copy of both The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker and The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker? Head on over to the True-Blood.net giveaway and enter!

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1 Comment

  1. Liz

    April 28, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Wait, I’m still on “Alexi took a deep breath”. (sigh) Talk amongst yourselves.