Thursday, November 29, 2012

Whatcha Reading? Keys to the Coven by Vicky Loebel

Whatcha Reading? is a feature that spotlights currently released titles. Today we have Vicky Loebel here to tell us about her book Keys to the Coven (see my review above).  As I noted in my review, this book confused me a bit at times but I ended up being totally engaged by it and really enjoyed it in the end...enough that I wanted to visit this world again.  I needed to know more about it.  So I asked Vicky to visit the blog and give us  a closer look. 



Keys to the Coven
Demonic Interventions, #1
Word count: approx. 100,000 (Novel)

Get ready for "Keys to the Coven," a witty, tightly plotted, (adult) urban-fantasy/romance set in an original universe where karma is power, sex is karma, and it's not who you know but whose soul you own that matters.*

To become a demon, you must die in complete and utter despair. Three hundred years ago, Max passed that test with flying colors and joined the afterlife resolving never again to have innocent blood on his hands. Now a successful Demonic Intervention Agent, Max has been given the job of breaking a young woman's family curse. But what she doesn't know, what Max can't bring himself to tell her, is that completing his mission almost certainly means her death.

When Felicity Woodsen inherits her mother's coven, she learns each firstborn Woodsen daughter must become the consort of an evil-arch demon. Felicity's only hope is to ally with the mysteriously charming Max. But is saving her body from one demon worth the price of losing her soul to another?

Roxashael became a demon when his Roman captors sent his family, one by one to be devoured by lions. The lesson was clear: power is good; lots of power is better. Two-thousand years later, Rocky has power. He's purchased hundreds of souls, and he's created the Minsk Homunculus, a magic artifact that, by binding a human witch as his consort, turns him into an arch-demon and places him above the goody-two-shoes laws of karma.

Unfortunately, Rocky made a mistake. He fell in love with Felicity's mother and in a moment of weakness promised to give up his demon-consort charm. Now Felicity's mother is dead, the Minsk Homunculus is slated for destruction, and Rocky's power as an arch-demon is about to end.

No demon can break a promise. If Rocky refuses to give up the Minsk Homunculus, he'll become the lowest, most abject slave in Hell.

But then, why break promises when they're so easy to corrupt?

*Caution: This book contains violence, strong sexual themes, moderately explicit sex between consenting adults, (unfulfilled) threats against children, and one completely gratuitous reference to unicorns. Not intended for readers under 18.

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1) What’s the basic premise of Keys to the Coven?
The hero, Max, is a demon whose job is destroying evil magic artifacts. The heroine, Felicity, has just inherited a very evil artifact, indeed. She’s happy to hand it over, but there are two problems: she doesn’t know where it is, and she doesn’t know that destroying the artifact almost certainly means her death.

2) What inspired the idea for this book?
I’m a fan of old spy shows & wanted my demon to be a sort of secret agent among the living. The catch is that to operate freely, he has to stay emotionally connected to the living world. And the best way to stay connected is through glorious, life-affirming sex. Naturally, he’s forced to team up with the one woman who’s immune to his charms.

3) Who is the audience for this story?
Although it has the central relationship (and happy end) of a romance, “Keys” reads more like Urban Fantasy or Science Fiction in that the pace is fast (possibly unrelenting) without much space given to either exposition or the characters’ inner lives.

Hopefully “Keys” will appeal to readers who like a complicated supernatural dark comedy where plot and world-building come together as puzzle pieces throughout the course of the story.

4) How would you define the genre for this book?  Are there any underlying themes?
It has the snarky tone and supernatural elements of Urban Fantasy. The main question running through the book is: How far are people willing to kid themselves to get what they want? For most of the characters, that answer is “pretty far!”

5) What sets Keys to the Coven apart from other books in the genre?
I don’t like exposition and for better or (possibly) worse went to great lengths to build my world and plot in story pieces rather than info dumps. So it’s different in that the reader’s expected to put the plot together, not just pick it up.

I think it’s also unusual in that every secondary character has his or her own subplot, and that they all tie together in the end. I love twists, turns, and humor, and Keys is loaded with all three. So far, nobody’s told me they predicted the end!
  
6) How would you describe the heat level?
There are a few spicy scenes between Max and Felicity, but it’s well short of erotic.

7) Will Keys to the Coven be part of a series? If so, can you tell us more about it?
I had originally planned to continue the series with Max and Felicity as a sort of Paranormal Nick and Nora Charles, but that’s on a back-burner at present. My work-in-process is a light-hearted zombie novella called “Speakeasy Dead” set in Felicity’s coven but time-shifted back to prohibition.
      
8) Who did the cover art for your book?
I did the original cover, carefully avoiding the use of people or natural objects that would tax my Photoshop skills. Derek Murphy of Creativindie helped me do a recent revamp. It was really fun working with a professional designer!
  
9) What is your favorite scene or line from Keys to the Coven?
I’m fond of the opening chapter quotes from the (imaginary) “Girl’s Guide to Demons,” a book of advice for would-be traffickers in the supernatural.

10) How did you choose the names of the characters?
“Felicity” got a happy name because she’s destined to break her family curse. “Max” sounded vaguely old-word, which fit his tragic fairy-tale backstory (that ended up getting cut from the book).

Felicity’s ne’er do well brother, Alton, was the most fun to name, because my son and I were fans of “Good Eats,” in which the star occasionally used to dress up as his own evil twin.

11) Can you give us some better insight into one of the characters?
I think the villain, Rocky, poses an interesting question of “amoral vs. evil.” He has no interest in hurting anyone. He wouldn’t cross the street to kick a dog. But there’s pretty much no limit to what he’ll do to maintain his status. That ended up feeling scarier to me than someone who wants revenge or enjoys hurting people, and left me thinking maybe “amoral” is the worst of the two.

12) Karma is an important concept in this book. Can you explain how it works in this world?
It looks complicated, but there are just three rules to my fictional take on karma: (1) It only applies to dead people and/or living people who meddle with demons (2) Good deeds award karma (3) Everything else costs karma on a sliding scale. (See? Simple!)
  
13) Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
I once spent a whole weekend at a Science Fiction convention with Jim and Shannon Butcher and managed not to squeal, jump up and down, mention my book, and/or leave discreet copies under their chairs. I thought someone ought to know of my restraint.

14) Where can readers find your book? Is it available in ebook, print, or both?
“Keys to the Coven” is available on Amazon as an ebook and brand new (yay!) paperback. There’s no Digital Rights Management, so the book can easily be loaded into a free program like Calibre and transferred to other e-readers.

15) Where can readers find you online?
Website: http://www.vickyloebel.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/VickyLoebelBooks
Twitter: https://twitter.com/vickyloebel

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FIRST WORDS...
     Hellfire roared through the pedestrian underpass, fusing concrete to glass.  Max dove forward, flattening himself into nonexistent cover, hunching head and neck into his demon-skin jacket.  A flaming nest of what had once been baby birds thudded to the bubbling pavement.  He kicked off the smoldering remains of socks, wriggled bound wrists over his naked butt and past his feet, and smeared a handful of sticky asphalt--ouch--onto the hemorrhaging gash much too high for comfort on the inside of his thigh.
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Before proceeding, take a moment to consider why you've opened this volume. If the answer is power, spite, sex, or petty revenge, you've come to the right place!
-- The Girl's Guide to Demons
 
EXCERPT from Keys to the Coven
Copyright 2012 Vicky Loebel

Max, my demon hero, has just met Felicity—a reluctant witch who steadfastly refuses to believe magic is real—and is giving her a ride into town. He’s attracted to her but perplexed because, unlike most humans, he can’t automatically see into Felicity’s heart. (I’ve edited this down a little to make sense out of context.)

********

THERE WERE TWO SEATS in the Bugatti Veyron, so the rest had to fend for themselves. Max slipped his key into the slot next to the Veyron’s steering column. Beside him, Felicity Woodsen slumped onto lush leather upholstery and lowered her eyes.

“I hate this place.”

Her mother’s home? Max pressed the start button. The sixteen-cylinder engine roared once and settled into a willing growl. He switched on headlights and pushed the Hansel-and-Gretel gloom collecting outside Rose Woodsen’s estate a couple of yards into the forest. Shafts of reflected sunlight flickered in and out among the trees as if searching for lost boys to stuff into an oven.

He could see her point.

“I hate my life.”

Max eased the Veyron into a three-point turn and fell in behind the jeep on the unpaved surface. He wondered which parts of her life Felicity Woodsen particularly hated and whether he could interest her in one minor, short-term alteration. He wondered how eager she was to keep her legal appointment in town. He wondered whether it would be possible to pull off the road somewhere and conduct an informal investigation. There were plenty of side roads between here and Falstaff and while the Bugatti was on the cozy side for seduction, well, he’d entertained women in worse.

Far worse.

A bat swooped out of shadow and swept past the car. The Bugatti crept between potholes and weeds. On the plus side, once he got her out of her clothes, he’d know whether she had the Minsk Homunculus. On the minus side….

Max glanced at Felicity. He liked her. She had spirit.

On the minus side, he had no idea how she’d react.

Which made things awkward.

Ordinarily, Max knew what people wanted; he understood their desires. It was automatic. It was one of the few perks of a somewhat thankless existence, and provided he was careful not to abuse the effect—and Max was always careful—it guaranteed any lady he made advances on had already decided to advance upon him. Felicity, however, seemed almost immune to his demonic empathy. He couldn’t read her at all. She might not believe in witchcraft, but she’d clearly been protected by a strong witch sometime in life.

He ought to stop the car and search her, he supposed, but she’d probably be offended. And an offended sorceress—whether she believed in magic or not—could be a disagreeable companion. Besides, she’d had a hard day already. Stripping her naked against her will seemed ungracious.

Which brought Max to his original puzzle. How did a man undress a woman graciously if he didn’t know she was eager to undress herself? He thought it had something to do with dinners and candles and pretending to run out of gas. That might work if the Bugatti used gas, though this particular one didn’t, and more generally, if the lady believed the man was stupid enough not to refuel his car.

In other words, to find a partner a man either had to be stupid or pick a woman who was exceptionally dim.

It didn’t seem like much of a system. And anyhow, what if a man went to all that trouble, ran out of gas, and the woman still pulled away? His mortal background provided little to draw on. His first attempt at sex had gotten him killed.


Want to sample some more?
 
Take a Look Inside or download a sample at Amazon 
Add it to your Goodreads shelf HERE
 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Once a systems programmer for NASA, Vicky Loebel followed a logical progression from computer scientist to technical writer to urban fantasy author before finally settling in as a demon from Hell, because it isn't who you know, but whose soul you own that really matters. Vicky is the author of award winning amateur fiction and an avid reader of anything written with panache. She lives in the human world with a rotating cadre of four men on the slopes of Mt. Lemmon, Arizona, and on the internet at http://www.vickyloebel.com.


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Vicky, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing more info about your book.


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