Wednesday, July 20, 2016

This Madness of the Heart by Blair Yeatts - Win a $25 Gift Card

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.

I had to stop him! Now, before the damage was done!

I never even got to try.

Like a sullen current of arctic air pouring through a cracked door, cold snaked down over us, coiling around my senses, freezing my anger, congealing my blood: an implacable sister to the malevolence in the garden. I ground my teeth to stifle the scream begging to be born. Even so, a small voice spoke from outside my fear, detached and curious.

“This cold is not the same,” the voice observed. “There’s a difference. It’s not threatening so much as warning, ‘Keep off! Stand clear! Don’t interfere!’”

Immobilized by fear, I was incapable of interfering.

At first I thought my teeth were chattering. A split second later I realized the wind had dropped without warning, the riot of sound had ceased, and a clicking sound had filled the darkness. “Tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch,” the sound ran on and on—no more than a field of insects, of snakes, singing in the night.

The light from JJ’s lantern brightened, bloomed, and died, shooting soft rainbows into the night. Cold weighed even more cruelly upon my breast, pressing me against the rough wall at my back, blotting all light from my eyes. Then the clicking stopped, and in the utterly empty dark, I heard the sound of stone rasping on stone, of crumbling brickwork tearing loose from rotten mortar, and the hollow thunk of heavy masonry falling ponderously onto yielding clay.

A soft sigh whispered through the grove. Then there was silence.

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I asked Blair the following question: Who is the favorite character you have written and why?

Answer: I’m going to talk about one of my favorite characters from This Madness of the Heart: Jack Crispen. Jack is main character Miranda Lamden’s friend and lover, although they’re still in the walking-on-eggs phase of their relationship. Here’s how Miranda introduces him in Madness:

Years of never-mentioned military service had taken their toll on both his flesh and spirit. Out here in the back of beyond he’d escaped the crowding bodies, the unrelenting noise, the sudden violence of the city that had aggravated his nightmares and triggered his panic. Apart from myself and Viola, only the mountains and their creatures (and a few contacts in retail trade) made it past his guard. The mountains were healing him in their own time. I’d learned from their example to tread lightly.

Above all, Jack Crispen is an artist in stained glass, but he’s also a master carpenter. He lives small, and works only to please himself, which leaves time for his other two callings: poetry—his therapy during the bad times—and caving. In Madness, he’s just beginning to make a name for himself in the art glass world, using techniques and styles roughly comparable to Tiffany’s. Miranda sees the vision he brings to his stained glass as a mystical gift:

He returned my smile, stretching out a long arm in invitation, and we walked together toward the house. I sighed with delight as the world around me suddenly took on the glowing colors of a stained glass window. Every leaf and branch, every patch of blue sky, shone with translucent magic, beckoning me to follow whatever being set the forest aflame with living fire. Such moments came to me from time to time, though rarely, and always in Jack’s company. In them, I was transported into the heart of his windows, a place where he himself resembled a pre-Raphaelite hero, sad and pale, full of inexpressible depths, blessed with wisdom that penetrated my darkest secrets. But these moments vanished as suddenly as they appeared, slipping from my grasp like dreams . . . just as this one did now.

Lest he appear too good to be true, I should mention that Jack’s fallback stress-relief is the classic 3-day bender, with a night in the town drunk tank for a chaser. But as he and Miranda learn to trust each other, these episodes are becoming less frequent. Still, he remains a hermit who welcomes almost no one but Miranda into his private world. And his mysterious military years (spent in some cousin of the Special Forces), have also left their mark, not least an unfortunate tendency toward machismo.

His name (Crispen) came from King Crispin, hero of a beloved fairytale called “Bluecrest,” but there were no illustrations of him in my book. Instead, I suspect my mental image of Jack looks a little too much like Renaissance-man Gardner McKay to be entirely an accident. If you don’t know who Gardner McKay was, you should Google him: tall, dark, heartbreakingly beautiful, brilliant, and completely outside the box. He was an actor, artist, writer, wildlife enthusiast, and master sailor. I saw him once in a summer stock production in Kentucky years ago. Jack isn’t quite that beautiful, or that brilliant, but there might be a vague family resemblance, at least if you squint really hard. Jack’s hair is long (just the way Miranda likes it), and usually tied back in a ponytail. Like all artists (at least in my mind), his hands are strong, and his fingers shapely.

He’ll be playing an increasingly significant role in the Miranda Lamden mysteries yet to come.

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.

Twitter:  @blair-yeatts

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Follow the tour for more chances to win!
June 20: Christine Young
June 21: Room With Books
June 22: Booklover Sue
June 23: Deal Sharing Aunt
June 24: The Avid Reader
June 27: Danita Minnis
June 28: It's Raining Books
June 29: Hope. Dreams. Life... Love
June 30: BooksChatter
July 1: Queen of All She Reads - review
July 11: Readeropolis
July 12: Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews
July 13: Writer Wonderland
July 14: Brooke Blogs
July 15: Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!
July 18: Jane Reads - review
July 19: Long and Short Reviews
July 21: The Recipe Fairy - review only
July 22: The Cerebral Writer


  1. I really enjoyed reading the entire post, thank you!

  2. Congrats on the tour and I enjoyed reading the excerpt.

  3. Thank you for hosting "This Madness of the Heart"!

  4. Really great post, I enjoyed the excerpt! Thanks for sharing :)

    1. You're welcome, Victoria! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  5. thank you for sharing this guest post! I can imagine it must be tough choosing between characters you created as to who you like the best. :)

    1. Absolutely! So I don't. :-) Jack is just one I hadn't really talked about, so he seemed a good choice!

  6. What are you working on at the moment?

    1. I'm working on a book under my other (original) name, and trying to do final edits on the 2nd Miranda Lamden Book, "Blood on Holy Ground." Since I hope to get both out in the fall, I'm swamped!