Monday, August 3, 2015

A little Hex, Death & Rock'n'Roll

Hex, Death & Rock'n'Roll . . . 
Having barely survived a haunting in her own house, journalist and reluctant psychic Quinn Matthews has vowed never to get involved with the supernatural again. But when she accepts an invitation to watch rock band Mad Love perform in an old theater, she witnesses a fatal accident with otherwordly overtones. A heavy chunk of plaster falls on a cameraman, and only Quinn saw a shadowy figure up on the theater proscenium commit the “crime.”
It looked to her like an attempt to injure someone in the band, but the police assure her no living person could have been standing above the stage. Mad Love’s lead singer, Alan Bardot, asks Quinn to use her gifts to discover who’s been sabotaging the band over the last few months. Are they really under a curse, as threatening messages have claimed? If an enemy from their past is using occult means to get revenge, can Quinn find out who, why and how before she ends up a target, herself? And, last but not least, can her shaky relationship with her reporter boyfriend survive her spending so much time with a sexy rock star?
Wild Women Authors is pleased to welcome author EF Watkins and Quinn Matthews, female protagonist from Hex, Death & Rock'n'Roll). As usual, we'll begin with Quinn. Tell us a bit about Hex,Death & Rock’n’Roll. Some background, first: In Dark Music, I bought a Victorian house that turned out to be haunted, and to get rid of the ghosts and keep my sanity, I had to solve a murder from well over 100 years ago. Once I’d survived that ordeal, I vowed to avoid all kinds of woo-woo situations in the future, and had no desire to hang out a shingle as a "psychic." But in Hex, I do use my newly developed abilities to help someone else with a paranormal problem. I’m very reluctant at first, but after awhile I kind of get into it…maybe too much!
Why did you decide to make this leap? I really was in the wrong place at the right time and saw something no one else saw. As a perk of my newspaper job, I went to a shoot for a video by a hot new rock band; in the middle of things, a big chunk of plaster fell on a videographer, who later died, and only I saw someone cause this supposed accident. Word got back to the band’s lead singer, who believes in ESP, and he insisted on bringing me in on the investigation. I would have put up more resistance, but he as payment he offered me the professional scoop of a lifetime. Also, he was really hot!
Did pursuing this "case" have any effect on your personal life? At first, it drove my boyfriend Tony crazy. He's an investigative reporter and was covering the accident and resulting lawsuit for our paper. But in working so closely with the band, I was privy to information I couldn't share with him. Also, he got very jealous because I was spending so much time around Alan, the lead singer. But in the end, when things got really hairy, Tony came through for me in a big way. So we're still good!
Knowing what you know now, would you do it again? This experience was even more harrowing, in some ways, than “cleansing" my own house—I got stalked by a dangerous, invisible entity and was held at gunpoint for the first time I my life! Those were parts I’d have been happy to skip. On the other hand, it was satisfying to learn that I had a special advantage in solving this kind of crime and could help someone else in a scary situation.
What is your biggest fear? That I’m going to tackle something too powerful for me to handle. I’ve already had a spirit can get inside my mind and make me act out of character, and now I know there are things beyond mere ghosts that can actually hurt and kill people. Since the haunting, I've also become hypersensitive to the vibes in places where tragic events have taken place. I wouldn't want to be sucked into that darkness and not be able to find my way back.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received? I've connected with a long-distance mentor, a professional psychic named Gail. She taught me that when I feel threatened by something paranormal, I can close my eyes and imagine a protective cocoon of white light around me, and even around others I want to shield. I’ve tried that a couple of times now—in pretty dire situations—and it does seem to work. So thanks, Gail!
Thank you, Quinn. Let's talk to EF for a moment. Which writers have had a major impact on your writing? I am a big fan of Ira Levin, especially his paranormal and techno-thrillers (Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives), but of course he also was an outstanding mystery author (A Kiss Before Dying). And Barbara Michaels (a.k.a. Barbara Mertz) has been a big influence, because she was the first author I came across who injected “real” ghosts and paranormal situations into mysteries.
With regard to research, where did you start for this novel? I dealt with a lot of geographic areas in New Jersey that I already knew pretty well, but I researched details of the rock band’s video shoot by contacting a local professional who does such things. I knew I wanted an entity that could act as a kind of psychic "hit man" persecuting the band, so I poked around the web and other sources until I came up one that filled the bill. I had done research into Quinn’s various types of paranormal experiences for Dark Music, but expanded on those as she faced this new challenge.
Did that lead you down different paths, thereby changing the original concept? Quinn's "clients" in this book, the members of the rock band, came from a non-paranormal novel I wrote decades ago and never had published. This was a great way to bring them into the 21st century and give them new life and a more compelling story. By the time I started writing Hex, I had a pretty good idea of where it was going. But it actually has multiple villains -- a couple of them making only down-to-earth mischief -- and exactly which of them would do what, and when, changed and developed as the book progressed.
Tell us a bit about your publisher. How did you hear about them; what influenced you to submit to them? In 2002, I attended a meeting of the Garden State Horror Writers (now Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers) and heard a talk by a woman who wrote vampire fiction for an ebook publisher. Afterward, I asked her if she thought the publisher would look at my unpublished vampire thriller Dance with the Dragon. I submitted it, and the company went through some big changes, but in 2003 I had my first publication.
How is the submission process; what is the turn-around time from date of query to date of release? In its new form, as Amber Quill Press, the publisher also was producing POD paperbacks, all in a traditional royalty-paying format. There are pluses and minuses--you don't get a paid an advance or get ARCs for reviews months before publication. But you do get higher royalties, and once an MS has been accepted, it comes out in both ebook and print form in just three or four months. Amber Quill goes through periods when it is closed to new submissions and others when it's open, so for more details people can check
What are you reading right now? I'm re-skimming a cozy mystery, Hide Nor Hair, by fellow Sisters in Crime/Central Jersey member Jo-Ann Reccoppa. I really enjoyed it on the first read and I promised her I'd review it on Amazon, but I've been so busy this summer that I haven't gotten around to it yet. And I feel bad, because I know how much I hate it when someone strings me along like that!
What's next for you? I'm currently working on something completely different--no paranormal and only a slight mystery element. It's about a woman in her 40s and her teenaged niece who are trying to start a horse-rescue farm. Many years ago, I had to place my chronically ill horse at a rescue farm and I learned a lot about how badly these places are needed today. Even though my second published book was a romantic mystery set on a horse farm (published under "Eileen" Watkins), this is an experiment for me because it's very character-driven. There is suspense, some bad guys and the occasional person getting kicked or thrown, but no gun play and no ghosts. However, Quinn will be back soon. I already have another "case" in mind for her!
EF brought an excerpt from Hex, Death & Rock'n'Roll:
During Randall’s big solo, Bardot hovered nearer the guitarist to sway and nod along to the ominous, chiming rhythm. He stayed in that spot and faced the audience as he launched into the last verse.
Something—maybe the shifting light from the movie screen—drew my eye up to the stage’s proscenium arch. It was dark by comparison, but I saw someone up there…just a hazy silhouette, dressed all in black, walking along the top. Could he be working a special effect or adjusting something?
The climax of the song pulled my attention back to the stage.
“Watch out when I start to draw you—”
At first, I thought a smoke bomb had gone off onstage. But the way the band members leaped back and the music stopped told me it wasn’t planned. They were all miked, and as the dust settled, I heard their shouts and curses.
“Oh, my G—”
“What the—”
A woman in front screamed, and chaos broke out.
Stagehands and band members surged to the apron, so at first I couldn’t see what was wrong. Bardot sprang back to the mic and yelled, with a catch in his voice, “A doctor! We need a doctor!”
All of us in the audience were on our feet, milling around in confusion. A couple of overwhelmed security guards rushed to the front of the theater and tried in vain to calm the crowd.
I turned to Melissa. “Did you see—”
But she was gone. Maybe she’d run up to the stage to check on her idol, though he seemed fine to me. So did all the other musicians. But someone else must be hurt.
Lalita jogged back up the aisle, cell phone clamped to her ear, calling for an ambulance. I followed her out to the lobby, and when she hung up, I asked what had happened.
Her face had gone ashen. “Oh, Jesus, a big chunk of plaster fell and hit one of the cameramen. They think he’s still alive, but he’s out cold!” Her eyes were wide with horror. “I can’t believe it… That proscenium is old, but it should have been secure!”
I knew what she must be thinking. If the cameraman was seriously hurt, the Friends of the Rialto would be liable. “It was probably the fault of the guy working up there. He must’ve jarred something loose.”
“What guy?”
“Somebody was up there—a stagehand, I guess—just before that piece fell. Walking on top of the arch.”
“Walking?” Lalita stared at me, then gave her head an emphatic shake. “Quinn, that arch is less than a foot wide. No one could stand up there—it’s impossible!”
Thanks for spending this week with us, EF—and thanks also for the information about Amber Quill Press. We look forward to Quinn coming back for a return visit.
Kat and Veronica
To learn more about E.F. Watkins and the stories she creates go to



  1. Nice blog. I, too, write paranormal fiction--but I use a history base--easier when you want ghost characters! Best wishes for success with your new book--I LOVE the title!

    1. Thanks, Susan. Strangely, I had the book almost finished before I came up with the title. I was playing around with "Sex, Drugs and..." I substituted "Death" because that would brand it as a mystery, and "Hex" just fell into place! :-)
      My first book, DARK MUSIC, has a Victorian ghost and a bit more history to it.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Susan
    it's always a pleasure to see your face and name!
    happy rest of the summer
    Kat and Veronica