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Friday, December 19, 2014

Sci-Fi Romance On Terra Firma


Science-fiction can take the form of time travel...but sometimes the result is a little closer to the earth.

Mid-Century Mayhem is the start of a 4 book series that will take the reader from 1950s Detroit to Gothic backwoods in the 1970s to a Regency ballroom in the 1810s and beyond--all via wormholes, alternate realities, and the space-time continuum.

Modern day Nashville and 1950s Detroit clash worse than an IKEA futon and a plaid Barcalounger when a free-spirited interior designer and a strait-laced automotive engineer find themselves in another time. TOMS-wearing Olivia Haugen and Madras-shirted Kyle Daniels have no idea why they've ended up in 1954 Michigan, but it's probably not because of all the swank mid-century furnishings. Discovering the reason might have something to do with a wily salvage warehouse owner and her not-so-little shop of secrets.

If you'd like to read this Kindle book for free (and pretty please leave an honest review when you're done), shoot me an email and I'll send you a Kindle copy. Below is an excerpt from the first chapter to see if you don't mind your SFR on terra firma. :)

excerpt by Bella Street
All Rights Reserved

“Oh, my dear, this is beyond anything I could ever imagine!”
Olivia Haugen smiled, ignoring the wistful tightening in her chest. She watched as her latest client, Mrs. Prescott, moved about the renovated room, be-ringed hands clasped in delight.
“The colors, the tones, the accessories...” The woman motioned toward a massive sunburst mirror positioned on the brick expanse above the fireplace. “How did you ever find such a piece? It ties the whole space together!”
Olivia deepened her smile until her face ached. “Oh, I have my connections.”
It was always the same. After pouring herself into an interior design project for weeks—sometimes months—she experienced a letdown at what should've been the biggest moment of the job.
The Reveal.
And yet here she stood with another satisfied customer, fighting a feeling of dissatisfaction.
It was all very silly. Olivia didn't know of another person as fortunate as she'd been. She'd had a prosperous and cultured upbringing, and now her new business was humming along without the growth plateaus most other entrepreneurs experienced.
She had a growing list of customers.
She had a great apartment in Franklin—a jeweled hamlet just outside Nashville.
She had...Troy.
Her eye twitched as she thought of her boyfriend.
Olivia remembered seeing him just that morning, splayed out on the couch. He must've come in late from his gig and didn't want to disturb her. The light filtering through the kitchen shades had lit up the bangles on his arm draped across his eyes.
She touched the bracelets on her wrist. He really was terribly good looking.
“You know,” Mrs. Prescott said, smoothing a wayward hair back into her updo, “I have a friend who is really into this whole mid-century trend. She'll want a lot more than a retro mirror or lamp. She's a huge Mad Men fan, and has been talking about redoing her entire house in the fifties style. She could really use someone with your connections. Can I give her your number?”
“Absolutely,” Olivia said, extracting a fresh business card from her many-pocketed binder. “Shows like Mad Men have been great for business.”
“I bet!” Mrs. Prescott said, taking the card. “But I'll stick with the modern day, thank you very much. A fifties touch here and there is one thing, but I'm not hoping for a return of machismo, suburban sprawl, and girdles any time soon!”
Olivia bit her lip. The Prescotts lived in an Inglewood bungalow—that had started out as a post-war suburban tract home.
How time changed perspectives.
“I draw the line at girdles,” Olivia said. “However, Spanx are another thing entirely.”
Mrs. Prescott giggled. “How right you are.”
After another turn around the renovated living room—and a bank check for the balance of the job—Olivia left the Prescott home. Instead of returning to her apartment, she headed to Connie's Collectibles & Salvage on Third Avenue South—an odds and ends salvage warehouse where she found the bulk of her conversation piece items—including sunburst mirrors.
Olivia didn't dwell on her unsettled feelings as she drove. She knew the shop's proprietor, Constance Presley, would cheer her up with an amusing insult or two—and want to hear all about the client's response to the mirror. The older woman (who disavowed any relation to her famous namesake) had become less of a materials contact and more of a friend over the last few years. Olivia tried to purchase the bulk of her items from Constance, rather than shop all the other salvage shops and yards in the area. Loyalty was combined with the fact that Constance simply had the most outstanding inventory she'd ever seen in one place. And when Olivia needed a special piece, somehow Constance was able to come up with something perfect every time.
Squat brick buildings—some crumbling and some renovated—lined the narrow streets as Olivia wended her way toward the warehouse. Yellow sunshine washed the eclectic scene with a mellow glow, even as dark thunderclouds piled up over the Cumberland River.
Olivia parked on a side street and left the air-conditioned chill of her car for the heavy humidity of a Tennessee summer day. By the time she opened the beat-up wood and leaded glass door of Connie's Collectibles & Salvage, she was dabbing at sweat above her lip with the back of her hand and wondering if her Scandinavian blood would ever acclimate to the near-tropical heat of the South.
Probably not, if the natives complain as much as I do about the weather.
The door alarm—an electronic version of Elvis' “Hard Headed Woman”—heralded her arrival as she stepped into the dim gloom of the shop, along with a brief sneezing fit due to years of accumulated dust coating the space.
“Bless you,” came a gravelly voice from the back room.
Olivia squinted as the bulk of the proprietor came into view. Constance shuffled toward her, a stray ray of dusty light gilding her sallow, wrinkled face and grumpy smile.
“Cleaning lady didn't show again?” Olivia asked, after another sneeze.
“It's your allergies,” Constance said, leaning her arms on the front counter that had once been a tavern bar. She peered at Olivia over the rims of her smudged bifocals.
They both knew a cleaning lady was fictional, but Olivia hoped she might take the hint one of these years. How Constance could survive in the musty old building was a mystery. Then again, Olivia could admit she felt as at home here as anywhere else.
“Hey, Miss Olivia.”
Olivia waved at Henry, the nineteen-year-old sole employee, before he returned to the back of the warehouse—his red hair lit from the skylight overhead.
She leaned on the other end of the counter and eased out a sigh. “The client loved the mirror. Said it tied the whole design together.”
“Of course it did,” Constance said dryly. “That's why you get paid to find such treasures.”
“Well, if I get this next job, I'm going to need a whole lot more of those treasures.”
“Hope it's Victorian this time. I got a ton of the frou-frou stuff takin' up space in the back that I need to move.”
“Mid-century. A total house redo.”
Constance groaned. “Everyone wants mid-century. It's partly due to that damn Mad Men show. I wonder if people realize it's set in the sixties, not the fifties.”
“Really? I didn't know that.” Olivia pulled a stick of tangerine-flavored lip balm from her front pocket and applied it with relish.
Constance rolled her eyes. “How can you do period design and not know your history?”
Olivia smacked her lips together—knowing it probably annoyed her friend. “I know all the period designers. I know the right look and how to achieve it. Besides, I let the house tell me what it wants.”
“You do not,” Constance said, sounding scandalized.
“Yes, I do. I close my eyes and ask the house to give me inspiration.”
“I thought your business name was just some silliness to get attention.”
It was Olivia's turn to be scandalized. “Nice.”
“You know what I mean,” Constance grumbled. “Anyway, you do whatever the client wants.”
“But I also get guidance from the house.”
Constance grunted. “What if the house tells you it wants Parisian bordello?”
“It's not like that. The style of the house is a big part of inspiration, but I get the vibe of the family—”
“And how much they can afford.”
Olivia sent her friend a dark look. “But when it comes to colors, tones, themes... that's what I get from the house.”
“So the walls actually talk and tell you their favorite colors?”
“Well, sometimes I do get a sense of what the history of the house is.”
“History,” Constance said sounding unconvinced. “You mean when it was built—or the secrets that happened inside?”
Olivia considered her answer. “Not secrets, per se, but I can often tell if something sad happened there. Or if the house is full of peace.”
You sound full of something, all right.”
“Classy,” Olivia said with a sniff.
“Admit it, you primarily go by whatever the homeowner wants.”
“Of course, Miss No Romance In Your Soul.”
Naturally, Constance smiled at that. “I bet people who have ranch homes often want Victoriana, and people in trailers want Hollywood Glam.”
Olivia tucked the lip balm in the front pocket of her jeans. “I may have had a few of those jobs in the past. What can I say? I had to pay the bills.”
Constance nodded. “People want what they want, and I have a theory that says it has more to do with emotion than something they saw on Pinterest.”
“Sounds like you're coming around to my way of thinking.”
Constance waved the notion away as if it were a bothersome fly. “Do you ever ask yourself why design themes and motifs are attached to eras?”
“Sounds like a college class I once took,” Olivia said. “An era can define the design, right? Like the Arts and Crafts movement was a protest to the Industrial Age...or something like that.” She wrinkled her nose. “Actually, I'm not sure I passed that class.”
“Cute. But you need context. Design can't be disconnected from history. Ask yourself why Mid-Century Modern is defined by sunbursts and clean lines and chrome.”
Olivia figured it was a trick question, and at the same time wondered why her friend was badgering her with a random history lesson. Constance usually complained about politics and the weather. “Um, the space-age thing happening at the time?”
“That's part of it. There's also the desire for a clean slate after a hard-fought war. Plus, technology was happening at an unheard-of pace. Plastics and insecticides were prolonging life for millions—”
“Plastic and pesticides? Are you serious?”
“They helped bring about the longevity and prosperity that allows us to indulge in organics and all that natural nonsense today.”
Olivia grimaced. “You're not making sense.”
“What I'm saying is that for you—for everyone born—history starts at the moment they become aware of their own perceptions. The past is discounted. Everything is about today.”
“I thought we were talking about the past.”
Constance raised a brow. “The past as you see it—not so much as it really was. Take it a step further. Why do certain era's styles trend decades later? Why is the stuff I once couldn't give away worth hundreds or thousands now?”
“TV shows?”
“That show just capitalized on what was going to happen, trend-wise, anyway.”
“Then you must mean nostalgia.”
“I mean nostalgia,” Constance said, “which is based on emotion. Sometimes it's a timing thing. People in their forties and fifties start remembering the 'good old days' of their youth and want the comfort of that style surrounding them. The world is changing so fast and even if the good old days weren't so good, they are still more bearable than the unknown.”
“But it's not like clockwork.”
“Naw, it's a bit more free-form than that. Plus there are the skipped eras. I mean, no one wants a redo of the eighties.”
Olivia laughed. “I think there was some flirtation, but it didn't last.”
“That just proves my point. Sometimes trends are psychological. The eighties were a time of transition, fortunes rose and fell, there was a cold war, and it all felt very uncohesive. Makes sense—aside from its overblown style—that there's not a huge demand to return to those days. But in the 1950s, the country was booming. We'd just won a world war, and there was a new opportunity for prosperity. Everyone was thinking positive. There was a can-do spirit. Look at economic times now and you can see why there's a longing for times when things were lookin' up.”
“Huh.”
Constance peered over the rim of her glasses. “Are you listening to anything I'm saying?”
“Of course.”
The shop owner snorted.
Olivia clapped her hands together. “Regardless of the reason behind the trends, I know you won't let me down when it comes to period pieces.”
“I'm tellin' you, you're not the only one after those pieces. Buyers been cleaning me out all year. Prices are up, too, due to demand. And, frankly, I'm gettin' too old to go traipsing around after the stuff.”
“Well, I don't have the redecorating job yet,” Olivia said. “Just a lead.”
Constance went around to the other side of the counter and pulled out a large black binder. “Give me a list of everything you might need and I'll see what I can do.”
“Like I said, I don't have the job.” Olivia picked up a pen and approached the pages of the binder. Constance often kept a wish list for her regular customers, and Olivia had a whole section devoted to her personal requests. Spinning the binder around, she wrote: Mid-Mod inventoryall of it.
Constance grunted when she read the flourish-y writing. “Very droll.” Slapping the binder closed, she said, “You might need to start trolling Craigslist and eBay, and see if you can supplement your needs from online inventory. And you know there are other shops in Nashville.”
“You haven't let me down yet, Constance.”
Another grunt. “You should start thinking about what you want for yourself one of these days—”
Olivia put up a hand. “Let's not spoil a lovely afternoon by going down that rabbit hole.”
“It's about to storm,” Constance said, dutifully changing the subject. As if manifested by her words, the sunlight disappeared and a rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance. She pursed her lips. “So I guess you're heading home to that feckless man-friend of yours. Clayton, wasn't it?”
“It's Troy.” Olivia tilted her head. “Clayton was last month.”
Constance rolled her eyes. “I'm going to start making a list so I can keep track.”
“It's not that bad,” Olivia protested. “Don't be dramatic.”
“If it's a lack of drama you want, you should lay off artists and musicians.” The shop owner sniffed. “You should be looking into more mature men like—”
“Your nephew Kyle—that pinnacle of malehood and maturity, or so I've heard.”
“It wouldn't kill you to at least meet the man one of these times.”
“And disappoint you when he fails to pique my interest?”
“You can't know that,” Constance said, exasperation in her tone.
Olivia arched a brow. “You said he's an engineer. And thirty years old. Could he sound any more exciting?”
“He's level-headed, has a great career—”
“And is such a catch that he's still single at his advanced age.”
“Don't get smart with me.”
Smirking, Olivia shrugged. “I've heard this before. It's all a retread.”
“That's what you get here in spades. Retro retread.”
Olivia patted her lightly on her head. “Let's keep the retro to home décor, shall we?”
Constance crossed her ample arms over her chest, her expression mulish. “I'm not kidding about the demand of mid-century inventory. You're going to have to find another access point if you want the good stuff. And grab one of those umbrellas by the door or you'll get yourself soaked to the skin.”

***
Kyle Daniels pressed himself against the brick storefront behind him, his body just inches out of the sudden downpour. The slight overhang of the building, however, failed to stop the rain from splashing onto his shoes. He frowned. The shoes were new—as were his pressed trousers, which were becoming speckled with moisture.
That ridiculous door jingle sounded and he peered through the sheet of rain to see a customer leaving the salvage shop, umbrella poised high over her head.
Not just any customer. He'd seen that white-blond hair and lithe figure before.
Olivia Haugen—the answer to all his dreams, according to Great Aunt Constance.
Kyle had caught a glimpse of her a few times—usually leaving the shop—and every time he saw her, his impression was the same. She was artsy, high-strung, and flighty.
And he hadn't even met the woman.
Just the way her pale hair floated around her face vexed him. How could she stand it getting in her eyes all the time? She drifted down the sidewalk in a vague, dreamy way—even in the rain. Didn't she realize she could trip on the broken sidewalk? Or get mugged by a stray criminal? She seemed completely unaware of her surroundings.
And when he saw her climb into a yellow and blue Mini Cooper, painted with the bold lettering of House Whisperer Inc., he had all the information he needed to come to a reasoned, logical conclusion.
She was a nonstarter.
A pointless pursuit.
Besides that, he knew in his gut that she'd never give him the time of day. He'd come in contact with females of her ilk before, and knew a meeting with her would be accompanied by an amused yet dismissive look coupled with the usual disdain for his attire. Madras shirts and Dockers apparently provoked rolled eyes and barely suppressed snickers. Kyle figured she'd go for the type of guy in skinny jeans and V-neck T-shirts that revealed a bony sternum.
And there would be hair gel. Lots of it.
Sorry, Aunt Constance. This dream of yours will just have to crawl into a corner somewhere and die.
It wasn't as if he were looking for a female. His job kept him too busy, and none of the women he'd ever met had interest in a mature, stable relationship. At least not the three women who worked in the automotive safety engineering department at the Nissan plant in Smyrna.
His mind flinched from the memory of the office lady who'd asked him out to a John Mayer concert because her favorite song was “Your Body Is A Wonderland.”
Talk about a nonstarter.
Right now he needed to perform his bimonthly check-in of his remaining next of kin.
Whether she liked it or not.

If you'd like to read more, click the email link in the earlier part of the post and let me know. I'll send Mid-Century Mayhem you way! 



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