Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Elemental Detective by Kirsten Weiss: Interview and Excerpt



Welcome Kirsten! I am thrilled to get this chance to find out a bit more about you.  Thank you for stopping in!  Tell us about your current release. 

The Elemental Detective is book five in the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels, but it can be read as a standalone. Metaphysical detective Riga Hayworth is on her honeymoon in Kauai when she and her husband, Donovan Mosse, find a murdered man and seal on the beach. This one was fun to write because for the first time, Riga and Donovan act as a real team in the investigation. I wasn’t sure how it would work out – Riga’s used to working alone – but it ended up being a fun romp around the island. 

My next release actually just happened – a Steampunk novel of suspense called Steam and Sensibility. It’s about a young British woman who gets stranded in San Francisco just as the gold rush is getting started, so it’s a very different animal from my Riga Hayworth series. But it was huge fun to write – nature spirits and secret societies, romance and spies – and I plan to write a sequel to it this year. 

Has someone helped or mentored you in your writing career?

My friend, editor, and fellow Sisters in Crime author, Diana Orgain, writes the Maternal Instincts mysteries, about a new mother who sort of falls into becoming a private investigator. Diana’s been a tremendous support, and has taught me so much about the art and tactics of writing.

Where do you research for your books?

Wherever I can! I have friends who are police officers, and they’ve been helpful with some of the police procedures (though police officers behaving badly sometimes also make up parts of my story). And my hapkido instructor has helped me with some of the fight scenes. Whenever I can interview people – especially magical practitioners – I do. For The Elemental Detective, I interviewed a woman who teaches Huna, the Hawaiian magical practice. She not only taught me a lot, but also referred me to some great books.  

When I travel, I take photos and notes in case I can use the scene in a book. Fortunately, I’d been on a vacation in Kauai in 2012, so I was able to use that material to build out my setting. And of course, the Internet has made research so much easier. I’ve become addicted to the Evernote program and use it to organize all my web clippings into files for each book I’m working on.

Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they

Aside from “keep writing,” I think it’s important to be open to learning new things. As a writer, you’re really putting your heart and soul out there, but that makes it easy to fall into the traps of ego and defensiveness. Not every bit of advice or criticism you’ll receive about your writing will be good, and you’ll have to weed out the bad. But I think it helps if you recognize that no, you’re not perfect, and your writing can ALWAYS get better. 

What are your hero and heroine of the story like?

My heroine, Riga Hayworth, is tough and can be prickly. And she starts out as a deeply flawed character. But it drives me nuts when I read a series and the lead character doesn’t development, so some of those edges have been softening and maturing as the series has progressed. I’m enjoying her character arc, but the sixth book in the series I’m working on now, The Hoodoo Detective, throws her into some very dark waters which threaten to knock her character back. I’m still not sure where that will go, but generally speaking, I prefer happy endings.



Mermaids, menehunes, and murder.

Riga Hayworth just wants to relax with her new husband on their Hawaiian honeymoon. But a body on a Kauai beach pulls them into a murder investigation, sending the supernatural world into an uproar.

When Riga detects traces of magic at a murder scene, she knows she can’t ignore the call. There’s necromancy afoot, and she must prepare for the battle to come. But can Riga fight the forces of nature? Or will they destroy her and everyone she loves?

Book five in the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels, The Elemental Detective is a fun, fast-paced urban fantasy blending romance with the supernatural, and exploring the magic of Hawaii.



Chapter 1

The palms outside rattled like bones, awakening Riga. A warm salt breeze slipped through the open door, and shivered across her bare skin. Beside her, the mattress sagged, the bed frame creaking an accompaniment to her own, steady breathing.
One breath, rising and falling. Her breath.
Muddled by sleep, she stilled, her heart leaping with a sudden jolt of adrenaline as she understood it wasn’t her husband beside her, weighting the bed. Riga kept her breathing steady, and extended her other senses. Probing. She opened her eyes, peering through her lashes. Through the open glass door, the moon illuminated a winged figure, hunched beside her on the hotel’s bed.
“Brigitte!” Riga sat up, torn between annoyance and the panic rising in her throat. She clutched the sheet to her breasts. “What are you doing here? Where’s Donovan?”
The gargoyle shrugged, the sound of rocks grating together, and the bed shifted. “Monsieur Mosse left an hour ago,” she graveled, a French-accented Lauren Bacall. “And his whereabouts are the least of your worries.”
Riga lurched to the left and reached for the bedside lamp. Instead, her fingers found emptiness, fumbled in the dark, then touched a wooden leg, upright, seemingly supporting nothing. Where the hell had the tabletop gone? Her fingers brushed a rounded stump and it fell over with a crash. Where the hell had the lamp gone?
She swung her feet out of bed, took two steps, and bashed her shin into something hard. Riga felt along the wall and smacked the light switch, cursing. Uncomprehending, she stared. Everything but the bed had been turned upside down. Cushioned wicker chairs. Wooden table. Television… She grabbed her silk robe, draped over an upside down ottoman, and slipped it on, walked to the entertainment center. That was still upright, but the TV inside had been inverted.
Wonder leaked past her anxiety. She sniffed. A trace of magic lingered, wild like a forest glade, elemental. Fae? She regarded the creative destruction she’d slept through, and amended that thought. Stealth fae. Dammit. She fumbled the belt of her robe.
“What happened to Donovan? Where is he?” Riga’s voice sounded shrill, even to her ears.
“Your husband left of his own accord.”
“Alone?” Riga motioned toward the mess. No, it couldn’t be happening again. Not another run-in with the faery world. Not here. Not now. “Did you see who—”
Brigitte’s stone-feathered head reared backwards. “I do not spy!”
“But you saw Donovan leave.”
“And then I waited by ze rocks until you woke up.”
“You woke me up.”
The gargoyle picked at her feathers. “I grew bored, and the sun will rise soon, and we have much to discuss.”
The diamond on Riga’s finger glinted, and she rubbed the back of her wedding rings with her thumb. She and Donovan hadn’t yet adjusted to island time, and both were rising well before daybreak. Donovan had probably woken up while she was sleeping and grown restless, hadn’t wanted to wake her. Of course he was safe. It couldn’t be happening again. That would be stretching the bounds of… She worked the knot on her robe. He was safe.
She swallowed, despising the remnants of fear that made her muscles twitch, and flipped her emotions to anger. Anger was simpler.
“For pete’s sake, Brigitte! We’re on our honeymoon. Whatever the problem is, it can wait.” Only two weeks ago, she and Donovan had had an undead crisis at their wedding. She just learned her niece may be a necromancer. Had just learned that she, herself, was a necromancer, albeit an unusual one, and connected in horrifying ways to dark magic. And Donovan was… God only knew what he was.
Brigitte tossed her head. “You and your niece are necromancers, even if you happen to be a terrible disappointment at the art. And I am here because I sensed dark magic, black necromancy, and not your own.”
“Well, of course not mine. I would hardly—”
“Black magic, Riga. Big magic. You cannot ignore this.”
“Faery tricks? Oh yes, I can ignore them.” She allowed herself to hope. After all, these were just silly pranks. It wasn’t as if someone had died.
“Not ze furniture. Something else, something terrible. This is serious.”
“No. It’s always serious,” Riga snarled. “And there’s always something terrible coming. Let someone else deal with it this time.”
Riga righted the bedside table, replaced the clock and lamp. “It’s four A.M., and I’m on my honeymoon. Go away.” Well-traveled and just north of forty, Riga was experienced enough to know she had a lifetime ahead of her with the man she loved. This honeymoon was just an interlude. But their first week in Hawaii had been blissfully supernatural-free, and she’d hoped...
The gargoyle flapped her wings. “Ze honeymoon is over! Put your big girl pants on and stop ze dark magic.”
“Put your big girl… Did you get that from my niece? And you’re supposed to be watching her, training her.”
“Pen is fine. You, however, are headed for big trouble.”
Riga righted a chair. Her stomach tingled unpleasantly. “This is Hawaii. I’m sure they’ve got their own shamans and kahunas. They don’t need me.”
The gargoyle shook her head. “But this magic is—”
The lock on the bungalow door clicked.
“Get out,” Riga hissed.
The gargoyle’s stone muscles tensed beneath her stony feathers, and she leaped, wings angling to soar through the open glass doors.
Donovan edged inside, carrying a wooden tray laden with fruit and juices, and relief flooded her senses. Rumpled raven-black hair, broad shoulders, chiseled features, green eyes that crinkled around the edges. He stopped and took in the disarray, his expression shifting to surprise. “Redecorating?”
“Not me. You know how I feel about morning exercise.”
His eyes glinted. “Not all morning exercise.”
Riga’s heart beat faster, warmth spreading through her. She contemplated her new husband – her first. She was his first, too, which had struck her as miraculous given his age (mid-forties) and astonishing good looks. Donovan owned a chain of casinos, and the patina of money and power made him even easier on the eyes to most women. While she couldn’t claim complete immunity to those charms, Donovan was so much more. He was someone to grow old with, an idea she’d once found trite but no longer.
As for herself, Riga knew why she’d stayed on the shelf. Ever since her college years, she’d been a magical freak, and a powerful one. Last year, her life had changed and that power had flickered, turned erratic. And life had grown dangerous.
“What happened?” he asked.
“I’m not sure. Menehunes, maybe.” She grimaced. “This has the smell of fae about it.”
He nudged the door shut with his bare foot and the tray wobbled, threatening to stain his loose, white linen shirt with orange juice. Catlike, he regained control. “What are menehunes?”
“The Hawaiian little people.”
He eyed the overturned bureau. “How little?”
Smiling, Riga righted a chair. “I’ve never actually met one.”
“And they turned our bungalow upside down because…?”
“They’re known as tricksters.”
“Annoyances, is more like it.” He handed her the tray, and ran his hands down her arms, to her hips.
“Or they might just want to let us know they know we’re here.”
“That’s one of the many things I love about being with you. You introduce me to the most unusual… people.”
Her heart turned over. And that was one of the many things she loved about him. He didn’t just accept the magic, he embraced it, another adventure. But he was new to the magical world, and the fae weren’t the cutesy faeries of Victorian greeting cards. They could be capricious, deadly. “The fae aren’t people. And I’d rather they stay out of our honeymoon.”
 “Hold that thought.” He flipped the table, took the tray from her, and placed it on top. “You were saying?”
“They might have been trying to send us a message. Brigitte—”
“Forget the faeries.” His mouth claimed hers, and her blood hummed in her veins.
His lips drifted to the arch of her neck, and his attention drifted lower.
She gasped. “But…”
There was something she had to tell him. Something…
He smelled of ancient forests, wild and primal, and heat rose inside her. She found the buttons of his shirt. “Later,” she said, her voice husky.
Their lovemaking was slow, sweet. And when they lay curled in a drowsy knot, he bent over her and brushed her lips, and heat flared between them again. Afterward, he pulled her into the wide shower and they bathed, and then settled down for breakfast on their balcony, watched the stars dim. The sky over the Pacific lightened to gray and the curve of Hanalei Bay took on definition, mountains rising in the background.
She sighed. “Is this heaven?”
Donovan’s broad hand covered her own. “It ought to be.”
“Only one week left in paradise.” Riga brushed a fleck of croissant off her short-sleeved blouse, and it fell to the lap of her white skort.
“I couldn’t take more time away,” he said.
“You were a marvel to manage two weeks.” Donovan’s casino in South Lake Tahoe was still in rocky condition. And he owned other casinos as well, in Las Vegas and Macau. But she hadn’t seen him check his e-mail once, or more than glance at his smart phone. 
“And we can always come back.” His thumb traced a pattern in her palm, leaving it tingling.
He rose. “Shall we?”
She let him pull her out of the chair. He unlatched the patio gate and they stepped into soft sand. They were staying in one of the hotel’s private bungalows, tucked amidst kukui trees behind a small private beach.
They walked past a tangled banyan tree, and clambered onto a pile of smooth rock, slick with sea spray. Donovan froze, the grip on her hand tightening.
“Do you hear that?”
She strained to listen, caught a woman’s soft sobbing.
Slowly, they picked their way over the pile of large rocks. At the top, a woman’s outline, semi-transparent, blurred. The Christmas lights on a kukui tree shimmered through her bathing suit, through her slim arms and legs, glittering off the water droplets in her hair.
“Hello,” Donovan said. “Can we help?”
She ignored them, and Donovan gave Riga an apologetic look. It wasn’t the first ghost they’d seen on the islands. None had been aware of their presence, and this one seemed no exception.
“I had to try,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than hearing a woman crying.”
The ghost turned and walked through him.
He winced. “I take it back. That’s worse.” But he watched the woman disappear into the trees, his expression regretful.
Riga watched too, her scalp prickling. She touched his hand. They both knew the ghost would become aware when she was ready. “We’ll be here another week. Who knows? Maybe she’ll notice us.”
He nodded, and led her onto a long stretch of beach, curving around the bay.
Gentle waves lapped the sand, covering their feet and ankles, and Riga felt that strange disorientation of the earth being sucked from beneath her.  She stooped to pick up a cowry shell.
A sweet miasma choked her throat. The world slipped sideways, and she stumbled as her other senses recoiled from the scent of dark magic, rotting, sulfurous. And then it was gone, as if carried off by the wind.
Donovan caught her arm. “Careful.”
“Thanks.” Not now, she prayed. The fae were one thing, but dark magic was quite another.
They walked on, skirting rocks and bits of driftwood. Palm trees still wrapped in Christmas lights twinkled along the shore.
“What do you think of our hotel?” Donovan asked.
“I love it, of course,” she said, looking at him curiously. Donovan had chosen the hotel, and it wasn’t in his nature to seek approval or validation.
“But what do you think about it?”
“Spectacular location, recently renovated interior with a modern, eco-chic feel, a bar and restaurant that makes me want to stay in… What’s not to like? Why? Has it given you ideas for your casinos?”
The sky above the mountains pinked, shot through with ribbons of gold. But a chill rippled through her. The sense of dark magic had returned, crawling along the edge of her awareness, making her want to run. She stopped, tightening her grip on his hand, probing with her senses.
“It’s our casino, now,” he corrected. “And no. Those are two different worlds. I’m thinking of…” He stopped, frowning.
She followed his gaze. Something lay still on the beach. No, she realized, two somethings. But one was bloated, misshapen. Its image flickered, as if a television channel had been switched. “Oh, my God.”
Donovan was running across the sand.
Too late.
Riga already knew – the somethings were dead.


Kirsten Weiss is the author of the steampunk suspense novel, Steam and Sensibility, and the Riga Hayworth paranormal mystery series: The Metaphysical Detective, The Alchemical Detective, The Shamanic Detective, The Infernal Detective, and The Elemental Detective.
Kirsten worked overseas for nearly fourteen years, in the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone.  Her experiences abroad not only gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature, but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives.

Now based in San Mateo, CA, she writes paranormal mysteries, blending her experiences and imagination to create a vivid world of magic and mayhem.

Kirsten has never met a dessert she didn’t like, and her guilty pleasures are watching Ghost Whisperer reruns and drinking good wine. 

You can connect with Kirsten through the social media sites below, and if the mood strikes you, send her an e-mail at kirsten_weiss2001(at)

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1 comment:

ParaYourNormal said...

Thanks for hosting me, Laurie!