Today I am so pleased to welcome Nikki Woolfolk to Joyfully Jay. Nikki has come to talk to us as part of the Coastal Magic Convention Blog Tour to talk to us about her release, The Case of the Rose Grimoire (Riveted, Book 2): A sweet steampunk Detective Pepperpot Mystery. She has also brought along a great excerpt. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Love in the Key of Magick
Pat Benatar. Gina Torres. Jackie Chan.
What do these three entertainers have in common?
They were classically trained to sing opera.
But Nik, you ask, what does this have to do with your newest Steampunk/Gaslamp novella “The Case of the Rose Grimoire”?
In our minds and in media there is a preconceived notion of what an opera singer looks like or how they carry themselves. We imagine opera singers to look down upon others and lack any humor or humanity. As an author, I wanted to explore a lover of opera who is an amateur opera singer via my very stoic no-nonsense detective Gillian Pepperpot of the Ankle Bite Falls precinct. Everyone has a hobby and Pepperpot is no exception.
In “The Case of the Rose Grimoire”, the third book in the RIVETED series, Pepperpot is investigating a crime in the New Virginia town of Stubborn – the town next to Ankle Bite Falls. Pepperpot made her debut cameo in the first steampunk romcom “The Invitation”. The plan was to give her a story that was counter to her nature.
The question I asked myself was, for a person who only believes in science and has a disregard for anything mystical, what situation would make them bristle? What kind of environment would tear them from their comfort zone?
I blended two beautifully chaotic and spontaneous things, theater and practicing magick, with a good-natured bisexual hero thrown in to help Pepperpot to grow.
Vincent de la Cruz is a theater director with multiple talents, a love for family (both born and made), and knows his worth. In my teens and beyond I don’t see bisexual men represented I stories beyond a tragic, confused, or erotic character so I wrote my own. Writing Vincent allowed me to see the representation I believe needs to be common.
Vincent is loved by the theater staff and he brings out the best in anyone he meets. He controls the chaos of egos, performance schedules, and production wants versus availability. Pepperpot is controlled and in her element as a detective, but going undercover as an assistant to Vincent de la Cruz is unpredictable. He engages her in conversations that seem simple, but make her question her bias. His warm nature and pointed questions leave Gillian Pepperpot befuddled and intrigued.
For readers that have read my other mystery stories including the full-length steampunk culinary mystery story “Mise en Death”, I love my sleuths to be paired with a polar opposite partner. Revisiting the town of Stubborn with familiar characters from previous novellas is a continued joy and discovering new things about my fictional town.
This Gaslamp mystery story can be read as a standalone, but for those who have read the first two novellas, “The Invitation” and “Cinderfella: a Steampunk Fairy Tale”, you’ll get more Easter eggs about your favorite steampunk chocolatier Alex LeBeau. There’s still an unfolding of mystery behind her staying in Stubborn that continues in the fourth book in the series “Suzette and the Holiday Hangover”.
“The Case of the Rose Grimoire” is set right before Day of the Dead celebrations and explores the topic of family, community, food, and the friction it can bring. This is a perfect story for you as you recover from the holiday hangover and just the last year in general. Though a fair warning dear reader, as always, do not read this story while hungry.
Coastal Magic Convention takes place virtually February 18-21, 2021. You can find out more about the convention, as well as how you can join in for the panels and events, by checking out the site here and some of the ways you can get involved virtually here.
Stubborn Fine Art and History Museum was making a name for itself in the world despite having a small-town budget.
“As with any museum worth their salt, the local curator chose appropriate artifacts for the Samhain and Día de Muertos celebrations, which surrounded the arrival of the Rose Grimoire,” the tour guide said.
Gillian looked up at the domed ceiling and natural light coming through the multitude of windows ornate with gold filigree, giving the dome a glow even in the daylight.
The hush and muffled sounds of leather soles on the marble floors came from various hallways and corridors. She imagined that perhaps from the sky, the building looked like a honeycomb.
Keeping close with the other museum attendees, Gillian tried hard to make her face look rapt with attention. Instead of letting her look engaged, one of her long, dark eyelashes fell into her eye. It felt like sand, and though she kept walking with the group, she had to close her eyes as she attempted to rub the lash free.
Several feet spanned between her and the group.
A sculpture jumped out in front of her. A hand grabbed her shoulder and pulled her out of the way.
Blink, blink. Gillian managed to get one eye open and looked up as a towering woman with long hair fashioned to look bobbed gazed down at Gillian. A member from her group.
With her good eye open, Gillian noted the tall, stiff collar with a tie that matched the bespoke floor-length jacket buttoned around a narrow waist. The ankle-length trousers shouted that this woman had money and no care for societal expectations. The woman’s fashion sense was not current but not that of the past.
“Are you all right?”
“I’ve an eyelash in my eye.”
“Here,” the woman in bespoked clothes offered, placing a hand on Gillian’s shoulder. “Let me be of some assistance.”
She tilted Gillian’s chin down and asked her to open her eye wide. Gillian did as she was told and felt the woman give a quick puff of air into her eye. She blinked.
“It is out,” Gillian said as she blinked a few times. “Thank you, Madam…”
“Mixter Artemis Thortonbury.”
Jillian’s cheeks turned crimson. “Forgive me for my assumption.”
“No worries. It happens often, and I am too old to really be offended,” Thortonbury said, then smiled.
The museum tour guide continued. “While many practitioners of the occult are known for keeping their lineage and practice secret, it is not uncommon for a practitioner to keep a book they fill with their own notes and experiences.
“The revered Kalinda Rose was no different in that regard, but unlike other practitioners of her time, she happened to dabble in alchemy. Her focus was not only on gold but on alloy creation, making impenetrable metals. Kalinda Rose was a scientist and a witch—a powerful combination.”
“Is the Grimoire available for private viewing?” Mx. Thortonbury interjected.
Gillian looked at Thortonbury, who stood out from the rest of the group with a fashion all their own. Noted the question was eager—too eager for a patron.
“Not at this time. Unfortunately, Kalinda Rose’s Book of Shadows is quite delicate, and the less handled, the better. Though I can reveal to you all that a replica is being created to not lose a piece of religious and scientific history.”
“Scientific?” Mx. Thortonbury asked. “Are you saying that the spells presented in the book are possible?”
The museum host began to trip over his words. “You know, that is a great question, but I do not know the answer to it.”
Gillian looked at Thortonbury with new eyes. Very suspicious eyes.
Gillian raised her hand and mustered up a flustered, nervous voice. “H-How long will the exhibit be on loan?”
“We will have it for six months. Or at least that is the time we’re told the original will take to be replicated.”
Mx. Thortonbury leaned over and whispered in Gillian’s direction. “I’d give anything to see that book. Can you imagine the power that must come from just one page?”
Gillian could not fathom what might be in a book that would make anyone believe it had powers. It was a text wrapped in leather but not encrusted with jewels or other priceless baubles.
They were just words on pages, and the worldly knew there was no such thing as magick, but occultists ignored such absolutes. Was she the only skeptic in this town?
Nevertheless, it was her job to discover who stole the original, but her deductions made everyone in Stubborn a suspect.
Getting to know the townsfolk was the first part of the plan. If she succeeded, Gillian would find her way into the inner circle that was the art culture. Though the idea that she, in all her pragmatic, even-keeled self, would be able to effortlessly blend into an established group would force her to be a hell of an actress.
A muerte, a mystery, and a pocket full of marigolds.
Officer Gillian Pepperpot does not get hunches or gut feelings. She sees patterns. Connections between seemingly unrelated dots. And right now, a series of petty thefts in Ankle Bite, New Virginia tells her the perpetrator is after a bigger prize.
Like a marigold-bright arrow, all clues point toward Stubborn, a sleepy town with a crime rate softer than a kitten up a tree. A town that’s about to blend its annual Day of the Dead celebration with the unveiling of an ancient magical manuscript, the Rose Grimoire. Gillian excels at fading into any background, so she shouldn’t have much trouble escaping notice in the midst of the color-saturated festival. But someone does notice. Vicente de la Cruz, a man as warm and colorful as the music he composes.
Gillian never shies away from a challenge, but she’s determined to never let her heart be stolen again. Especially by Vicente, who, when the grimoire goes missing and a body turns up, could be the prime suspect—or the next one to fall victim to dark magic.
Proud Blerd and self-proclaimed Kween of the Side-Eye, award-winning author Nikki Woolfolk sculpts decadent desserts and fantastical fiction with equal skill and flair.
When she’s not playing a never-ending game of “what if” in a writing space that’s part DieselPunk, part Willy Wonka, she’s drawing on her former STEM career and collection of quirky experiences to work up new recipes in her kitchen (tasting encouraged), designing her Goth-inspired garden (tasting decidedly DISCOURAGED), and mashing up real and fictional worlds on social media (virtual kitchen table is always open).
Join her cogged-and-geared world at NikkiWoolfolk.com.