We are delighted to be hosting the cover reveal with an excerpt for Leanna Renee Hieber’s latest Steampunk Fantasy A SANCTUARY OF SPIRITS , out this November.
Without further ado, here is the smugglerific cover!
About the book:
Souls are vanishing into the ether. It’s 1899 New York City and the mortal world and spirit realm walk side by side. A Sanctuary of Spirits follows gifted young medium Eve Whitby as she leads the NYPD’s secret Ghost Precinct through its most treacherous trial yet. Investigating the disappearance of a mortician, Eve stumbles upon a dashing and dangerous magician. The deeper into the investigation she journeys, the more drawn to him she becomes. Tangled up in secrets and intrigue, Eve must unravel the link between the charismatic man and the spirit world, called the Ghost Sanctuary, before every soul in the city is taken, all while protecting her budding relationship.
An excerpt of the novel and a song:
“Maggie.” Eve Whitby waved at the distracted ghost who floated before her, a transparent, greyscale and luminous form. “Answer me. How could you, of all spirits, simply disappear? And what brought you back?”
“I am dead; we do that sometimes, you know. Vanish,” Maggie said with a laugh. She turned and began floating north, in the direction of the train depot where they were headed. The wraith was a visual echo of the lovely young lady she’d been in life, dressed in a fine gown of the early eighties.
“Don’t you be flippant, my dear,” Eve chided, lifting her skirts and hurrying after the specter, running directly into the cold chill of her wake. “We’ve been distraught for weeks,” she continued with a shiver. “We knew you’d never leave without telling us! We couldn’t even catch a trace of you during our séances!”
The dark-haired man taking long strides to keep up beside Eve cleared his throat.
The generally drawn pallor of Eve’s cheek colored. “I’m sorry, Detective.” She turned to him without breaking her pace. “I forget you can’t completely hear or see our subject here.”
Tall and lithe, with a neatly trimmed mop of dark brown curls that bounced in the breeze, dressed in a simple black suit with a white cravat, Detective Horowitz, in his mid-twenties, was as sharp in wit and mind as he was in features. The angles of his face curved and softened as he smiled. His ability to shift from serious to amused was as swift as it was attractive.
“I’m catching pieces here and there,” he replied, “but to be honest, I’m more enjoying the looks you’re getting from passersby, averting wary, disdainful eyes behind hat brims and parasols.”
“Oh.” Eve batted an ungloved hand, caring not a whit for the fine details of sartorial propriety, as gloves often got in her way of tactile experience important to her work. “Mad folk walk New York streets daily and no one stops them; it’s one of the glories of the city—minding one’s own business!”
Horowitz laughed and kept pace.
The three angled along bustling Broadway as it slanted up ahead of them, the ghost at the fore, dodging passersby with parasols and weaving past horse-carts, careful to mind their droppings. Eve grumbled as the stray foot of a businessman’s cigar was lifted by the wind onto her shoulder, and she brushed off the embers before they caught the thin wool on fire. She wore an adaptation of a police matron’s uniform: a simple dress with buttons down the front, but in black, having donned constant mourning in honor of those she worked with and for, the spirits of New York.
The detective didn’t seem to hold Maggie’s interruption against her, despite the fact that he’d been leaning toward Eve in a near-kiss when the spirit’s incorporeal form had appeared between them. That the detective even entertained the idea of a ghost was a blessing. That he could slightly see and barely hear fragments from Maggie was incredible progress. Just weeks before he’d been a confirmed skeptic. Perhaps Eve’s Sensitivities were rubbing off on the practical, level-headed detective. The idea that she might be able to draw this man further into her world was an equally thrilling and cautionary prospect. Eve reeled in more directions than one.
Maggie Hathorn had been Eve’s dearest friend since childhood, the most trusted spectral asset in her Ghost Precinct since its recent inception, and the spirit didn’t seem to be taking her own disappearance seriously. Yes, ghosts often came and went as they pleased. But they were generally creatures of habit with particular patterns of haunt. Eve’s Ghost Precinct of four mediums relied on the constancy of their stable of specters, Maggie at the core. Until she’d vanished with no word.
“If the Summerland draws you and you wish to go, Maggie,” Eve said earnestly, reaching out to the floating figure and touching chilled air, “just tell us. I love and need you, but I know I mustn’t keep my dear friend from her well-earned peace.”
“Oh, my dearest friend.” Maggie turned and reached out. A transparent, icy hand brushed across Eve’s cheek. “None of this was about wanting to go but wanting to stay, to help. But come, there are details I can’t trust myself to remember. I’ll take you to where the Sanctuary left me. You can’t go in, but you of all people should know where I came out.” She turned and resumed her float. Eve and the detective tried again to keep up.
The spirits that pledged themselves to Eve’s Ghost Precinct promised they wouldn’t go on to the Sweet Summerland, as the Spiritualists called their idea of a heavenly plane, without telling their coworkers. It was a way of ensuring that the delicate channel between the precinct Mediums and the spirits did not tear itself into injurious pieces. An open, psychic channel to the spirit world hurt if torn away and not properly shut. A wounded third eye could never properly heal. It had injured Eve when Maggie had been ripped away. It seemed the spirit hadn’t thought of that. Eve swallowed back a reprimand that would seem ungrateful considering how glad she was to see her dead friend.
“Eve, who is this gentleman trailing you?” Maggie waved an incorporeal hand toward the detective. “Have you started hiring men since I’ve been gone?”
Eve shook her head. “Detective Horowitz and I have been consulting on strange cases that have unexpected, intersecting patterns. He’s been a critical liaison for the department and a valuable friend.”
“To be clear,” the detective added, looking vaguely in Maggie’s direction as they continued uptown, his gaze focusing and losing focus as if he faintly caught sight of her spectral person then lost her again. “I do support Miss Whitby and her precinct, even if I don’t always understand it.”
The public at large didn’t know about the existence of the small Ghost Precinct, technically part of the New York Police Department. The few lieutenants and sergeants who did know thought the whole thing preposterous. “Full of hogwash,” Eve had overheard one day in Mulberry Headquarters. The fact that the Ghost Precinct was made up of women didn’t help the force’s estimation, and it had been Eve’s hope that Horowitz championing them would help win over some colleagues. The ones who didn’t similarly judge him for being Jewish, that is.
The unlikely trio made the last fifteen blocks to Grand Central quicker by jogging over an avenue to catch an uptown trolley line, hopping on the next car that clanged its bell at the stop.
Maggie looked around with fierce interest in every sensory detail as the trolley dinged along, her luminous eyes taking in every storefront and theatre. The venues grew grander as the blocks ticked up their numbers. The ghost seemed to study every horse and cart, carriage or hack; every passerby, be they elegant or ragged, watching the shifting sea of hats along the sidewalk, from silk top to tattered caps, feathered millinery to threadbare scarves, forms dodging and darting like fish in a narrow stream. Eve saw it all pass around and through the ghost, her transparent image superimposed over the tumult of midday Manhattan.
“I’ve missed you,” the specter murmured to the metropolis. Eve didn’t hear New York reply, but she felt it in her heart. When one genuinely loved the city, the soul of New York took note.
Watching Maggie watch New York was a study in eternal eagerness. Love kept the good spirits tethered to the tactile world. Moments like this were Eve’s lesson about life taught by the dead: drink it all in, the chaos, the tumult, the bustle of life and its myriad details as much as possible, as one’s relationship to it all could change at any moment.
Once inside Grand Central Depot, a noisy, dark, crowded place filled with glass and trestles, soot and steam, a building dearly overdue for an upgrade to a full station, Maggie gestured toward a particular platform.
“Transit is with us, and if we’re quick, you can be back within the two hours I quoted,” the ghost exclaimed, wafting up train-car steps on the northern line. With a screeching rumble and a billowing burst of steam, they were off. Eve and the detective took a small bench at the rear of a car before pausing to consider whether it was wise to trust the demands of an excitable ghost.
The Gothic Victorian Chamber Metal band Valentine Wolfe created a theme song for Spectral City as a series! How cool is that? Lessons of the Dead: A Spectral City Theme Song utilizes text from the book and creates a very eerie and rocking atmosphere and you can listen to it right here, right now:
About the author:
Actress, playwright and author Leanna Renee Hieber is the award-winning, bestselling author of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels for adults and teens. Her Strangely Beautiful saga, beginning with The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, hit Barnes & Noble and Borders Bestseller lists and garnered numerous regional genre awards, with new revised editions from Tor Books now available. Darker Still was named an American Bookseller’s Association “Indie Next List” pick and a Scholastic Book Club “Highly Recommended” title. Her new Gaslamp Fantasy saga, The Eterna Files and Eterna and Omega, is now available from Tor Books. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies such as Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, Willful Impropriety, The Mammoth Book of Gaslamp Romance, featured on Tor.com and she writes for Criminal Element.
A four-time Prism Award winner for excellence in the genre of Fantasy Romance, Leanna’s books have been selected for national book club editions and translated into languages such as Complex Chinese, German and Polish. A proud member of performer unions Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA, she lives in New York City where she is a licensed ghost tour guide and has been featured in film and television on shows like Boardwalk Empire. She is represented by Paul Stevens of the Donald Maass agency and is active on Twitter @leannarenee