Sunday, August 31, 2014

Crown Pheonix Series by Alison DeLuca with Guest Post and Q&A

Crown Phoenix Series Summary

An underground factory, a terrifying laboratory, and an Edwardian hospital…

Miriam has only her guardians' son for company, and she and Simon dislike each other from the start. But they must find a way to trust each other, or they will end up on the sinister Night Watchman Express. 

Target audience: Twelve and up.

Genres: Steampunk, Edwardian fiction, YA fantasy

Perfect Flaws

Characters who are perfect are, well, boring. If someone is a robot with perfectly groomed hair even in a high wind, why should I care? And how could I possibly relate?

As a writer and a reader, I adore character flaws. I love how personalities boil over, how the brain goes awry. It is a way to be paranormal without sparkly skin.

In my Crown Phoenix series, I had a host of characters with flaws. Here they are with short explanations of what went wrong in each case:

1. Miriam – My main heroine comes first. She has a terrible temper, and since she is an orphan in Edwardian England, she is furious at how her life changes overnight without being able to have any say in what happens to her. Guardians arrive in her house and hire a governess for her. She is tossed out of her bedroom and forced to sleep in the attics. She must wear black. To all this, she reacts with tantrums and even violence – she burns important papers and throws cricket balls at her uncle. (He still bears a huge bruise on his shin.)

2. Simon – The son of the guardians, his flaw is that he is a bit too perfect. He’s handsome, rich, and good at sports. With all of this comes a fast eye for pretty girls and a tendency to impatience when he encounters weakness. Simon is ripe for a loud quarrel with Miriam, and the two clash almost at once. It is only after some very exciting, dangerous adventures that Simon discovers that beauty isn’t always a good thing, and weakness can be, in the right circumstance, a real strength. 

3. Lizzie – She appears in the third book of the series, and her affliction is a physical one. She is very near-sighted and desperately needs glasses. As a maid in a large, tumbledown manor, something like spectacles is an impossible luxury. To describe the book from her point of view, keeping her limited sight in mind, was a joyful challenge for me as an author.

4. Toby – Lizzie has to wait on him, and he is the eldest son in the manor. After his mother died, however, he found that he was unable to leave his room. His agoraphobia confines him to the attics, and Lizzie is his only real contact with the world.

5. Lizzie, again – Lizzie goes through something called the Passage, a “hole” in time and space opened by the Crown Phoenix. This causes some very major changes – she finds that after the Passage she can sniff out emotions and feelings in others. 

6. Matilda – Lizzie youngest sister, she has been affected by her brother’s disappearance and her parents’ dependence on a tonic that is a fearful opiate. As a result, she becomes obsessive about keeping clean, and she washes her hands so often that they bleed.

7. Kyoge – He’s strong, tall, intelligent, and handsome. What could be the matter there? Nothing, beyond an advanced sense of Place and Duty that forbids him to make any advances to the woman he loves, since she is on a higher level of society. Everyone, including the woman, knows that he is perfect for her – will he be able to overcome his own belief system and upbringing to be able to grasp happiness?

8. Riki – She is very close to my heart. Riki is a wild child, one of those kids who was born and immediately began to plague her parents night and day. She won’t listen or behave until she meets the one boy who won’t put up with her nonsense.

9. Mana – She is largely perfect. Intelligent, dignified and beautiful, she would be an accepted member of Society – if she weren’t a woman of color in Edwardian England. She must rely on her own wits and a bit of magic to negotiate the Upstairs and Downstairs of a large country house.

There are others, but these were my favorites. I loved these characters as they came alive for me, and the reason they were so vivid in my mind was, I think, due to their lovely, beautiful flaws.

Night Watchman Express
(The Crown Phoenix #1)
by Alison DeLuca 


Orphaned Miriam has always been terrified by the sound of THE NIGHT WATCHMAN EXPRESS as it hurtles by her house. The sound of the train gives her nightmares of an underground factory, and a laboratory where brutal experiments take place.

During the day she has very different problems. Her new guardians, the Marchpanes, have arrived with their son, Simon, to live in Miriam's house. The Marchpanes are plotting to take over her dead father's business.

As they are both strong willed and stubborn, Miriam and Simon develop an instant dislike for each other. They have to work together, however, in order to solve the mystery of what the Marchpanes are doing with Miriam's inheritance.

As they come closer to learning the truth, Miriam is kidnapped and put on THE NIGHT WATCHMAN EXPRESS, and Simon must try to rescue her. In doing so, he will have to confront his own parents and the evil forces behind them.

But as he tries to help Miriam, he is captured. Simon is put in a strange, luxurious prison, where his jailers are as hauntingly beautiful as they are dangerous.

As THE NIGHT WATCHMAN EXPRESS arrives at its destination, Miriam comes to the shocking realization that her nightmares about the subterranean factory and the dark laboratory were not just dreams.

What she always feared more than anything is going to come true.

The Night Watchman ExpressThe Night Watchman Express by Alison DeLuca
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book from amazon free read. I enjoyed reading this book, it was filled with adventure and I found myself rooting for Miriam. The world building was nicely done. The story-line is very good. The characters are well developed and written. I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

View all my reviews

The Devil's Kitchen
(The Crown Phoenix #2)
by Alison DeLuca


In The Night Watchman Express, Miriam and Simon were kidnapped and thrown on the strange train... Now in Book Two of The Crown Phoenix series, they arrive at the terrifying destination known as Devil's Kitchen.

There they will face human experiments in a laboratory known as The Infirmary. 

There Miriam will be forced to work in an underground factory.

There Simon is held in a luxurious prison by jailers who are as beautiful as they are deadly...

And their courage will be tested to the breaking point.

What readers are saying about Devil's Kitchen:

"This book was so exciting it was hard to put down."

"It's definitely a fun adventure that even adults can enjoy."

"...highly addictive reading..."

"...the characters are bold. They almost seem to jump off the page and grasp you by the wrist so that you may live their lives alongside them."

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First, I would like to thank the author Alison DeLuca for giving me this book for an honest review. The world building is very good. The story-line is good and kept me wanting more. The characters are well developed and written. I am looking forward to reading more of this series and more from this author.

View all my reviews

Lamplighter's Special
(The Crown Phoenix #3)
by Alison DeLuca


Lizzie and her sister are forced to work in a huge manor and on a steamship to support their family. 

They are caught up in several mysteries:

The squire’s oldest son cannot leave the attic
An old typewriter seems to move time and space
A passenger hides in a secret room
A beautiful visitor is plotting against them

And Lizzie discovers that she has a strange, new ability.

She and her sister must discover the secrets of The Lamplighter’s Special before their enemy catches up with them.

"DeLuca writes in an enjoyable faux-Victorian voice, capturing the ‘prim and proper’ spirit of the times while simultaneously subtly critiquing conventions (for example, the Marchpane’s treatment of Mana, a black governess). Mostly, the style gives the novel both a lightness of touch and, when the voice is at its strongest, an authenticity.”

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First, I would like to thank the author Alison DeLuca for giving me this book for an honest review. The world building is nicely done. The story-line is very good. The characters are well developed and written. I really enjoyed reading this book and am looking forward to reading more of this series and more from this author.

View all my reviews

The South Sea Bubble
(The Crown Phoenix #4)
by Alison DeLuca 


An Edwardian hospital hides many secrets:

A mysterious patient lurks in the cellar...
A secret passage leads to danger...
Coded messages reveal new riddles...
Visions of danger haunt the people of Grimstead Manor…

Lizzie and Miriam find horror, adventure, and romance surrounding the strange vessel known as The South Sea Bubble.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First, I would like to thank the author Alison DeLuca for giving me this book for an honest review. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this series. I am looking forward to reading them to my grandchildren to share the adventures of these characters. The world building is nicely done and the story-line is good. The characters are well developed and written. I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

View all my reviews

About the Author:

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.

Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.


Author Interview

  • Who is your favorite author and is your writing style similar to theirs?

  • I would have to choose Enid Blyton, a children’s author from the 40’s and 50’s. She was a product of her times, but she could spin a tale of adventure like no one else. Her characters were sometimes wooden and the dialogue a bit cliché, but her books fascinated me as a child.
  • I can only hope to approach Enid’s sense of story and development. I do insist on including ethnic characters, however, unlike her. So, I hope that I am a more modern version of Enid.

  • What is your favorite part of a book?

  • Maps. I love maps. When I’m shopping for a book, if I see maps in the beginning, then I’m a buyer. As a young reader I used to pour over Middle Earth, Narnia, Oz, and the Hundred Acre Wood.
  • When I discovered the illustrator who developed the maps for my own books, I was excited beyond belief. (It doesn’t take much.) To have the places that I envisioned become visible was true magic.

  • When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meaning?

  • Names have a certain aura, no doubt. I love heroines with old-fashioned names, such as Hermione, so I chose a very classic name for mine: Miriam.
  • Some of my characters are ethnic, as I said, and they come from an imaginary land called Lampala, which I based on Madeira. Manapalata Postulate is one example; she is my magical governess who comes to teach Miriam. Her first name, Mana, was derived from the Benin language. It is the same with the other characters from my dream country: Chichilia, Wekogono, Kyoge…

  • Do you use real-life facts based on true stories? 

  • My books are Edwardian steampunk fantasy, but of course I must base my technology in the books on real-life engineering. In order to write about quantum physics and time travel, I had to research those subjects within the parameters of Edwardian tech.
  • The final book in the series, for example, talks about bathyspheres. I researched them – and their history is fascinating – so my book is based on those stories from the first underwater explorers. However, I changed events a bit by making bathyspheres appear twenty years earlier than they actually did, for the purposes of my story.

  • Do you use your OWN experiences?

  • I suppose I do. It’s a subconscious thing; I’ll see the way a child opens her mouth to cry, or how my sister captures a spider and disposes of it, the way anger makes me feel as though bubbles are exploding in my nose. Thousands of tiny details like that work their way into my books.
  • On a macro level, I used my love of teaching to create Mana. Miriam’s anger and tantrums were based on personal experiences as well, I’m sorry to say!

  • How do you conceive your plot ideas?

  • I receive a sudden flash at the oddest, most inopportune moments. I can be stopped at a red light and an idea will hit me.
  • As I write it and flesh out the story, the plot develops in my mind. It’s like watching a movie; sometimes a character will do something quite unexpected and shock me.

  • Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to publish? 

  • I’m an Indie, so I’m able to publish any books that I want, luckily! However, I do have a few howlers hidden in my file cabinet, never to see the light of day. My very first novel, for example, should be used to line birdcages. However, the thing showed me that I was able to sit down and write an entire book. That is a true moment of revelation for an author.

  • Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?

  • The Crown Phoenix is a series of four books. The Night Watchman Express is the story of an orphan, Miriam, who is undisciplined and very angry (much like Mistress Mary in The Secret Garden.) Mana, her magical governess, teaches Miriam self-control and, eventually, how to love.
  • There is also a bit of romance with the most unlikely person, Simon, who is the son of Miriam’s guardians. Simon and Miriam really don’t like each other at all at first, but they have to form a bond against some very nasty villains.

  • How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children's books, etc.)?

  • Steampunk has always fascinated me. I loved Doyle, Verne, and Wells when I was growing up. The idea of having gears and clockworks perform feats of physics is gorgeous, I think.

  • What kind of research did you do for this book?

  • I researched antique technology, such as those bathyspheres and typewriters. I also continue to research Edwardian society and history. The final installment is set in an Edwardian hospital, much like Downton Abbey, so I had to research medical history and the development of nursing.

  • What is a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

  • As soon as I get my daughter onto the school bus, I rush back to the house and write as long as I can. Of course, I have to fight my way past the dishes and the laundry to do that!
  • I love it when I can get 2,000 words a day finished, but that doesn’t happen often, alas. Still, each new sentence that I create is a concept that never existed before, and I get to bring it to life. That makes my job the best there is.

  • What are you working on now?

  • The fourth and final book of The Crown Phoenix series is my WIP. It’s called The South Sea Bubble, and I’m almost finished with the first draft. Of course, that means that the really hard stuff comes next – revisions, edits, beta reads, etc. Writing the book is the easy part!

  • What advice would you give aspiring writers?

  • Buy yourselves On Writing and The Elements of Style. Butt+chair = written work, so sit down every day and write at least 500 words. Read as much as you can. And, most importantly, develop a good, thick skin. Harsh critique is extremely valuable – a poor review can, if it is thoughtfully done, be a real gift.
  • Finally, be careful out there. Social media is a blessing and a curse for writers.

  • Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?

  • I got sucked into Suzanne Collins’ series and couldn’t stop reading. I also love JK Rowling, of course. The Age of Miracles was incredible. I love Murakami – Kafka on the Shore and Hard-Boiled Wonderland – as well as Dwight Okita’s book, The Prospect of My Arrival.
  • 11-22-63 is on my bedside table at the moment, as well as a host of others. I’ll read anything from Bizarro (Placenta of Love) to Georgette Heyer. Got a book? Heck, I’ll read it.

  • What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

  • I suppose I’d like to be asked: “How will you challenge yourself in your next book?”
  • I always like to continue my development as a writer. In my last book, The Lamplighter’s Special, the entire book was from one point of view. Furthermore, the main character was very near-sighted (as am I) and was too poor to afford glasses. To describe actions and tell the story, keeping her fuzzy vision in mind throughout, was a lot of fun and a serious challenge.
  • In my current book, I use two points of view. I’m considering different ways of presenting those POV’s while keeping the story arcs intact, and I have a few concepts in mind. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

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