Author: Jeanne G’Fellers
Book: Cleaning House
Series: Appalachian Elementals, Book #1
Page/Word Count: 304 pages, 112K words
Categories: Fantasy/Paranormal/Sci-Fi, Contemporary Appalachian Fantasy w/ historical & romantic elements (romantic content between pansexual woman and gender-shifting elemental spirit)
Release Date: August 1, 2018
Publisher: Mountain Gap Books
Centenary Rhodes is an old soul with a well-traveled name, but she doesn’t know this yet.
Growing up in southern Appalachia wasn’t easy, so Cent left home as soon as she could, but the post-collegiate happiness she’d expected has never occurred. She can’t find a decent date, much less find that special someone and, after losing her job in a corporate downsize, she’s struggling to meet her most basic needs. Her car has been repossessed, her bills are piling up, and her questionable North Chicago neighborhood is dangerous to navigate.
Returning home to Hare Creek, Tennessee, never crosses Cent’s mind until her Great Aunt Tess contacts her with an offer she can’t refuse. The family’s southern Appalachian homestead must be sold, and Aunt Tess needs someone to clean it up. Cent will have access to Aunt Tess’ garden and truck and can live on the homestead rent-free for as long as it takes. A part-time job is waiting for her as well.
It’s a chance to solve some of Cent’s financial woes, but will her return be enough when evil sets its sights on Embreeville Mountain and the homestead?
Cleaning House is a carefully woven Appalachian tapestry of granny magic, haints, elementals, and the fantastic diversity of the human condition – served with a delicious side of fries and a generous quart of peach moonshine.
“Fourteen. Fifteen.” Centenary Rhodes counted the bills in her hand a second time and shoved them back into the front pocket of her cargo pants. She had fifteen dollars left after she paid her rent. Fifteen dollars for food and the bus. She sighed and turned away from the hamburger joint whose door she’d darkened. “Beans and rice it is… again.”
She skipped the bus— too much money— and walked the two miles back to her shabby one-room North Chicago apartment, opting for the alley that shortened the last six blocks to four, ignoring the catcalls from the construction site at the far end.
Short, dirty-blond hair styled into an undercut, black, heavy-framed glasses that hid soft blue eyes, and baggy pants that masked what little curve her large-boned frame had managed to achieve. She wore a loose t-shirt over her top-half and a ball cap with a brim bent much like her current attitude. Cent was skinny but strong nonetheless, a tough-as-nails Appalachian woman, a concept no one in North Chicago seemed able to grasp. Those idiots will whistle at anything on two legs.
She turned on her size twelve sneakers to jog across the street, down the block, picking up her pace the last two blocks to her apartment when it began raining, closing the progression of bolts and chains on her front door before she leaned against it to stare wearily at her dingy apartment. The marble flooring and Art Deco lighting in the corridor were still pretty, but they didn’t match the cracked plaster walls. The old bank had once been grand, but now…
“What a dump.” Still, it was all she could afford on two part-time jobs. Cent threw her coat over the single dinette chair and flung herself, face-down, over the sheet-draped, worn plaid couch that served as both her living space and bed. Not even a fold-out. She’d finagle one eventually, but until then she’d sleep solo. Always solo. “Who’d want to come back here, anyway?” Her romantic and job prospects had been abysmal since she’d lost her full-time accountant job in a corporate down-size. For the past year, she’d divided her time between a local bodega and a small computer repair shop. Both bosses were pricks, and the bodega owner’s wife kept telling her that she’d find herself a good man if she’d try.
“You’re a smart girl, too smart to attract a man, so dumb it down and pretty yourself up. Put on some makeup. Grow your hair. You can’t find gold without putting a bit of polish on yourself.”
Forget that. Take me as I am or not at all. Cent kicked off her shoes and rolled so she faced the cracked, plaster ceiling. She’d graduated top of her class at the University of Chicago and knew account management inside and out.
About Jeanne G’Fellers:
Born and raised in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Science Fiction and Fantasy author Jeanne G’Fellers’ early memories include watching the original Star Trek series with her father and reading the books her librarian mother brought home. Jeanne’s writing influences include Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert. Jeanne lives in Northeast Tennessee with her spouse and their five crazy felines. Their home is tucked against a small woodland where they regularly see deer, turkeys, raccoons, and experience the magic of the natural world. Jeanne’s first series, The Taelach Sisters Series, won two Golden Crown Literary Awards for excellence in Speculative Fiction and was short-listed for a Lambda Literary Award.
Interview with Jeanne G’Fellers:
- What was the inspiration behind Cleaning House? For me, Cleaning House is about returning home to Appalachia where I was born and raised. It’s about family. It’s about all the things I live around and appreciate most about my community. It’s about being queer within the unique culture that has developed in the Appalachian Mountains and the resilience of the people there, especially the minorities. Cleaning House is also about Nature, about respecting and understanding Nature and the magic that rests in ancient places like the Appalachians. We haven’t been kind to these mountains during the last 200 + years, so it only stands to reason that they’d be reluctant to speak with us. And, for that matter, what would they want to say? What would the land want to discuss? Would it speak about the pain coal mining and logging has inflicted on it? Would the rest of the elements, meaning air, fire, and water, have anything to add? And would we listen?
- What is your writing process? I drag through my first drafts. I hate writing them, getting the story down for the first time. My initial drafts resemble screen plays. Action. Dialogue. I much prefer rewrites. That’s where all the little things happen. For me, it’s where a story really comes to life. You see, I’m an onion writer, meaning that I write in layers. Each pass through the manuscript means more details, more intricacies… more of the things that make for a good story.
- There’s a big leap a writer takes from putting words down on paper for the love of it and actually publishing those words for public scrutiny. What was that journey like for you? For me, writing to publishing isn’t necessarily a leap. It’s more of a steady progression. I write first and foremost for myself, to get stories from my head to paper (or computer file in my case). It’s my coping mechanism, my safe place. Writing is about the fun of creation. It’s art in a form I can still manage. I can’t not write, so I share every piece when I think it’s ready, and every novel-length work I’ve written has found a home and an audience, no matter how small that audience might be.
- What piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer? Find your writing tribe and hold them tight. It’s a tremendous relief to find those who think like you. And finding your tribe has nothing to do with genre. It’s about process. It’s about understanding writerly rants and laughing at your own and others’ mistakes. Find those you can think out loud with and can take constructive criticism from.
- What can readers expect from you next? Readers can expect a yet untitled novella from my Surrogate series later this year, the next novel in the same series, Surrogate: Traditions, in 2019, and the sequel to Cleaning House, Keeping House, summer 2019. In other words, I’m keeping busy.
- Least favorite endearment: Sugar Booger – ugh. I’ve heard it many times before, and I loathe it. I think it’s a southern thing. What a sweetly disgusting thing to call someone. To my ears, it sounds as passive-aggressive as can be.
- Sleep with your socks on or off: Off in the summer. On in the winter. I like toasty but not overheated.
- Ask for permission or ask for forgiveness: Permission. Always ask first. It’s a matter of respect.
Where to find Jeanne G’Fellers:
The author is giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card.
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