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cindy spencer pape

Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Here Be Magic Boxed Set, by Various Authors, Post No. 5

And, finally (albeit wrapping around from last week, the last of the Boosting the Signal feature posts for the Here Be Magic Boxed Set! I’ve got one more doubleheader today for you all. The first of the two posts features yet another prior Boosting the Signal guest, and yet another bestselling Carina author: Cindy Spencer Pape. Cindy’s story in the set is Devil of Bourbon Street, and she’s offering up an excerpt to tease your fancy. Her hero, Detective Quinn Carling, has a nicely understated goal in this scene: doing a good turn for a street busker. Or at least, on the surface. Check out the scene for what he’s really after!


Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Here Be Magic Boxed Set

“Come into the café and I’ll buy you lunch—no strings attached.” It was something Toni would have done, and it seemed a good way to honor her memory today.

Her lips, devoid of makeup, quirked. “They won’t let me in—I have a dog.”

He brushed aside a vine and peered through the fence. Sure enough a big mutt—Labrador sized, maybe, but with something long-haired and spotted in its background—thumped its tail by the street singer’s feet and grinned up at Quinn. A battered plastic bowl near its head was half full of water.

Quinn smiled back at the dog. “Doesn’t he scare away the customers?” He noticed her guitar case was on a concrete bench, a good four feet to her left—probably just out of reach of the big guy’s leash.

“Nah, Olaf’s pretty mellow.” She continued to strum her guitar as she chatted, nodding her thanks to a couple who dropped some change into the guitar case. She was sort of ordinary-looking for a street performer in NOLA—no fake vampire makeup or voodoo beads, she wore faded jeans, a yellow T-shirt and battered canvas sneakers.

“Well, tell me what you want, and I’ll bring you out your meal.” Now that he’d gotten the idea of feeding her into his head, it wouldn’t let go. He could sit on the bench out there and listen, as well as in here.

“Why?” she asked easily, as if the answer didn’t much matter. There was no accusation in her tone, just simple curiosity. Tiny smile lines around her eyes suggested she was older than she’d looked at first—maybe in her mid-to-late-twenties. “Am I your good deed for the day?”

He shrugged. “Maybe.” The truth was that he had no idea and didn’t really care to analyze his own thought process too deeply. “It’s been a day. I suppose I wouldn’t mind having someone to talk to while I finish my lunch. We’re on a public street, so I’d guess you’re pretty safe.”

“Fair enough.” Giving him that same, crooked smile, she asked for a coffee, two ham sandwiches, and an order of beignets.

Quinn doubled the order, in case she intended to share with her dog. If not, she could stash the extra away and have dinner tonight as well. He’d almost swear he heard Toni’s voice in the back of his head, urging him on. Then he took the singer’s food and his refilled coffee and wandered out to sit on the bench beside her guitar case. “Been doing this long?”

“Playing guitar, or singing on the street?” She moved the case to the ground, laid her guitar inside, and slid it under the bench. The dog moved with her, plopping his shaggy butt down on the ground in front of the center of the bench—making sure he was between Quinn and his mistress.

“Either. Both.” Quinn sipped his coffee and watched her tear off a big chunk of the first sandwich and feed it to the dog. “Name’s Quinn. And you two?”

“Darcy,” she said with a mouthful off bread and ham and cheese. “And Olaf.” After another bite, she added, “Nice to meet you, Quinn. Thanks for the food.”

It might have been a polite brush-off, but Quinn decided not to take it that way. He leaned back against the fence behind the bench. “I was enjoying your music. Seemed like a fair trade.” Quinn snitched a beignet from the second basket and bit into the hot, fried dough, dripping with powdered sugar. God these were amazing. He’d never been able to duplicate the flavor back home, no matter how hard he’d tried, despite the fact that he was a pretty decent cook.

“Works for me.” She split another chunk of the sandwich with Olaf. “I’ve been playing guitar—just not very well—since I was a kid. I’ve only been trying to make a living at it for the last few months.”

“What’d you do before that?” Quinn had no real idea why he found her so fascinating. He just did. And it wasn’t only because she was a pretty young woman, though he’d have to be blind to not notice that. He was honestly curious.

“I worked at a day care center.” One of the sparrows chose that moment to land on her shoulder, and rather than recoil, Darcy laughed, making her deep brown eyes sparkle with an amber glow. “I love these guys, but dude, you are not getting any of my beignets.” To Quinn’s surprise, Olaf seemed to completely ignore the birds.

“They are pretty persistent,” Quinn stopped himself from wiping a dot of mustard from her upper lip. When she flicked out her tongue and got it, he nearly groaned. Yeah. As soon as he got home, it was time, past time, to get his sorry ass back into the dating pool.

“But they add character—something that’s very important here in the Big Easy.” She winked at him. “Mind you, I’m a Detroit girl by birth, but I’ve been here long enough to have figured out some of the basics. Where are you from? Your accent is hard to place, but you don’t strike me as a tourist.”

“Philadelphia, now” he said. “Maryland, originally. But I lived over in Metairie for a while in my misspent youth, then here in the Quarter for oh, five years or so.”

“Just here visiting old haunts?” Her eyes widened and warmed. He could have sworn she was sensing his pain.

“You could say that, I guess.” He closed his eyes and inhaled. Haunts, indeed.

“No, really. Whatever brought you here wasn’t a happy thing.” She reached over and brushed some powdered sugar off his knee. The intimacy of the touch sent a jolt through his system. “Sometimes it helps to talk to strangers—and I’m as strange as they get.”

Quinn chuckled at that, but under her determined gaze, he caved in and sighed. “My late wife is buried here. After three years of beating myself up day in and day out, I’ve finally realized that her death wasn’t entirely my fault. So I came down here to make my peace. I took flowers to her tomb today—and after all this time, I really said goodbye.”


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Ether & Elephants, by Cindy Spencer Pape

I’ve featured fellow Carina author Cindy Spencer Pape on Boosting the Signal before, with her book Dragons & Dirigibles. I’m thrilled to feature her again today, with the latest installment of the Gaslight Chronicles, Ether & Elephants! And don’t forget–if you like the sound of this book, Carina has a 40% off site-wide sale going on till Monday, so you can get this book as part of that sale! Her character for this piece is Thomas Devere, and his goal is simple: win back the love he’s lost, and become a proper father for the child who’s most likely his son. Take it away, Cindy!


Ether and Elephants

Ether and Elephants

My life was simple when I was a kid. Pick a few pockets, dodge a few coppers, maybe cheat the occasional sailor in a game of cards. Whatever it took to find a little food and a place to get off the streets at night, since the slums of London were rife with vampyres in those days. I teamed up with some other street rats, we learned to kill the vampyres, we got a permanent room over a tea shop, and life was pretty good. Then when I was fifteen, it all went crazy. We got ourselves adopted by one of the best monster-hunters in England. I found out I wasn’t a bastard at all, but the legitimate heir of a bloody baronet! In just one day we were off the streets of Wapping and into a St. James mansion. Even then, I knew, and my new mum knew, that I was in love with Nell, the younger girl in our crew. So they didn’t legally adopt me. Someday, Nell and I would be married.

That was before I did something so devastatingly stupid that it destroyed everything. In university, for a while, I let my little head do the thinking, and wound up married to a barmaid who claimed I’d gotten her pregnant. Day after the wedding she disappeared, and I never heard from her or the child again. It didn’t matter though. I was married, so Nell and I were doomed. She took a job teaching music to blind children, and I did my best to avoid her as much as possible.

Then, Fate intervened. One of Nell’s students went missing—a boy with supernatural gifts, not unlike my own. As soon as I began to investigate, I knew there was a good chance that young Charlie was my missing son. Finding him and his mother became the sole focus of my life.

Now, we’ve discovered hints that I might not be legally married after all. That Charlie, who may or may not be my son, might be better off if I did have the marriage ruled invalid and simply claimed him as my son, despite the stigma of illegitimacy. His mother appears to be involved with an old enemy of ours—an Alchemist who uses children to test his chemical and magical potions.

So I might be free to marry Nell, but now she wants nothing to do with me. And it looks like we’re heading to India. It’s a three-day airship ride. Her natural father might be waiting on the other end, as we hunt a criminal and a little boy through a foreign land. Anything could happen. Anything at all.


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Dragons & Dirigibles, by Cindy Spencer Pape

This is a fun one, folks, because today’s Boosting the Signal guest is none other than Carina’s powerhouse mistress of steampunk romance, Cindy Spencer Pape! She’s got a brand new book in her ongoing series, the Gaslight Chronicles! And the goal of her heroine Melody McKay? Get back into the sky. No matter what irritating earls may be in her way.


Dragons & Dirigibles

Dragons & Dirigibles

Airships are my life. Designing, building and then flying a machine that soars above the clouds is about the most exciting, exhilarating career I can imagine.

And that explains why I’m still a spinster. In Queen Victoria’s England, what man is going to accept an airship engineer and pilot as a wife? As far as I can tell, exactly none, since I have no intentions of giving up flight if I ever do settle down. Still, sometimes it does feel like life is passing me by. My brother and sister are both married now, along with my best friend, Wink. I have a gorgeous nephew and my sister-in-law is expecting twins any day. I suppose my role in life is to be the crazy auntie who takes the kiddies on dirigible rides.

At least that was my plan until my perfect, crash-free record was broken when someone shot—that’s right, shot—my prototype silent-flight airship out of the sky. And wouldn’t you know it, I ended up on the lawn of an earl who thinks women ought to be wrapped in cotton wool and trotted out for teatime. He’s stifling his poor niece, who’s a fun little imp. I wonder what it would take to get the stick out of his arse? Or maybe it’s a mast, since he used to be a Navy man. He might almost be handsome if he’d actually smile for a change.

Thanks to a sprained ankle, I’m stuck here in Devon at his gloomy old manor house, while he’s trying to investigate a smuggling ring. Since I think it was the smugglers who shot me down, I’m inclined to help. Even if he doesn’t want me to. Maybe in the process, I can get it through his thick head that females are more than just brainless baubles.

As soon as that’s done, I am soooo out of here and heading back to London, where I belong.


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