Friday, July 1, 2016

Virtual Book Tour & #Giveaway for This Madness of the Heart by Blair Yeatts

Welcome to my stop on the Virtual Book Tour, presented by Goddess Fish Promotions, for This Madness of the Heart by Blair Yeatts.  Please leave a comment or question for Blair to let her know you stopped by.  You may enter the tour wide giveaway by filling out the Raffleopter form below.  You may follow all of the stops on the tour by clicking on the banner above, the more stops you visit, the better your odds of winning, My review will post later today or in the morning. 

How Teaching Prepared Me to Write by Blair Yeatts

This subject caught my eye because of its strangeness. I’d never thought about it, and I don’t know the answer. Did teaching prepare me to write? I know that graduate school UN-prepared me. Academic prose can kill a novel cold in the first paragraph . . . for instance, take the two unbreakable academic commandments: never use active voice when you can warp your words into passive, and never use a simple word when a longer one is handy:

  • Fiction/active/simple: “Thin and frail as a wraith, my grandmother had been little more than a rustle of faded silk drifting through those shadowy rooms.”
  • Academic/passive/complex: “Emaciated and insubstantial as an ethereal being, my grandmother’s presence was heralded by little more than the crepitation of achromatic taffeta being wafted through those adumbral chambers.”

This may explain why scholars often pay journals to publish their articles! And we haven’t even looked at how source citations can tie your thoughts into knots. I worked for years unlearning academic-speak before I could write a decent sentence.

But how did teaching help?

I should mention that I taught mainly in city and community colleges, so my students were an odd mix of somewhat motivated less-advantaged students, unmotivated and blas√© suburban students, and older students returning to school because they really wanted to learn. I discovered fast that an academic lecture model didn’t work. Even with reviews and pre-exam handouts, most students picked up less than a quarter of the essential information we covered. So I wracked my brain, looked up innovative teaching methods, and discovered “student centered learning,” which is (briefly) about reaching the student where she is, capturing her interest, and getting her to ask the questions.

But first I had to understand my students—and that was more intimidating than entering a third world culture as a participant-observer! I learned a number of basic things:

  • Start with the senses, not ideas—visual images, emotions, other senses like touch, smell, hearing, and taste. That meant hands-on experiences in class, from which students could draw their own conclusions.
  • Use story rather than facts and theories whenever possible. Films were especially helpful here.
  • If I chose the class experiences carefully, the questions I wanted students to ask were already there, waiting to be “discovered.”
  • Insights that students found for themselves stuck with them. They weren’t dry concepts in a dull lecture (although I think I’m an excellent lecturer).

So what does this have to do with preparing to write? I’ll explain, in case you haven’t seen it coming. First, my mixed students become the book-buying public. How do I get their attention? By taking advantage of our universal fondness for story, along with appeal to their senses. I’ve already decided not to go the gratuitous sex and violence route, so instead, I look for a point where what I like meets popular taste: for me that’s the gothic mystery thriller genre. Now I’ve picked fiction, and I’ve narrowed it to a specific genre.

How about plot? What kind of story pleases readers of my genre? This is a gimme, since I’ve already chosen a genre that I enjoy reading—and writing. Since I prefer reading books with meaning and psychological depth, I’ll also want to choose story lines that will make this easy: injustice, abusive relationships, greed for money and power, recovery from trauma, love and the barriers we put in its way, betrayal. The list goes on and on.

Now for the mechanics. If readers prefer to have their senses engaged, then every part of the book, from the characters’ descriptions and personalities to the details of the environment must be full of sensory appeal and detail. The individual words need to be simple, but full of color, and their rhythm should flow like a bard’s voice in a mead hall. Never, ever slip into lecture mode. Keep the action lively and crisp, and the descriptions sensuous. If there is anything like an underlying truth or meaning in the story, be sure it’s never conspicuous: it should be the story’s gift to the attentive reader. I know nothing puts me off like a narrative voice that conjures up a scolding finger.

What did teaching tell me about writing?

  • Know your audience.
  • Make sure your plot flows through depths and heights of spirit, passion, and courage.
  • Keep your words simple, elegant, sensuous, visual.
  • Keep it subtle: leave something for the reader to discover.

Let me know how I did!

This Madness of the Heart
By Blair Yeats

Publisher:  Blair Yeats
Release Date: May 1, 2016
Genre: Gothic Mystery/Thriller
Length: 328 Pages
ISBN: 978-1530824960

Buy Links:  Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Smashwords

Free during the tour only

About the book:

Bad religion can be deadly. So Miranda Lamden, small-town religion professor, discovers in This Madness of the Heart. The dark hollers of Eastern Kentucky offer fertile soil for shady evangelist Jasper Jarboe, new president of Grace and Glory Bible College, as he beguiles the small mining town of Canaan Wells with his snake-oil charm.

When Miranda isn’t teaching at Obadiah Durham College, she’s investigating paranormal phenomena—or enjoying a turbulent romantic relationship with backwoods artist Jack Crispen. JJ’s inquisition-style gospel has alienated her long since, but when he announces his plan to transform her forest home into an evangelical Mecca, complete with neon cross and 40-foot Jesus, Miranda girds her loins for war. But JJ isn’t finished: he goes on to launch an attack on her friend and fellow professor Djinn Baude with an avalanche of vicious rumors. Not only does he accuse Djinn of demonic communion with the old Voudon witch whose curse killed the college’s founding family, but he also smears her with insinuations of lechery and vice.

With JJ’s urging, hate boils over into violence and tragedy, sweeping Miranda up in its flood. One death follows another as a miasma of evil overwhelms the tiny community, and only Miranda can see clearly enough to halt its spread.

This Madness of the Heart is the first in a new series of Gothic mystery-thrillers featuring Professor Miranda Lamden, whose spiritual gifts have drawn her beyond university walls to explore the mysteries of other world beliefs. Her unique vision brings her into repeated confrontations with evil, where too often she finds herself standing alone between oblivious onlookers and impending disaster.


The night turned around her, until, in the darkest watches before dawn, she rose from her knees, abandoning the bloody altar with its guttering candles. A queen entranced, she paced slowly down the hill toward the sleeping house, her eyes blind with visions. Through the front door she walked, into the hall’s center, to the foot of the great staircase. There she raised her bloody hands and cried aloud in a high-pitched wail, sinking at last to a low hissing hum.

“Guede-z-araignee! Come a-hungered! Drink di lifeblood o’ dis evil man! Drink he mem’ry away! Tak he woman int’ di night, Tak’ he chillun, tak’ dem all! Tak’ dem int’ di darkness! Tak’ dem all—tak’ dey lives, tak’ dey bodies, tak’ dey souls! Gi di blood o’ di murderer no rest, not in dis life, not in di next. Spill dey blood on dis bloody land! Come, Guede-z-araignee! Come an’ drink!”

Like a snake swaying on its coils, a tendril of smoke emerged from the darkness, swelling and growing, rising and twisting toward the upper floors of the plantation house. Tiny rainbow-hued flames licked at the polished floor. Then, with a screaming roar, fire like a spider’s bloated body engulfed the great hall, swallowing the keening woman and gathering the curving staircase to its tumid breast. A billowing inferno exploded into the long upper halls, curling and crisping the fine imported wood, sealing bedroom doors with sucking flame, feeding on the agonized cries within: a holocaust offered to a vengeful deity, sated at last with the charring bodies of the landowner’s family... the whole family, save one, a tiny boychild, carried sleeping from his father’s house by an old black nurse, terrified by the fiery havoc she had witnessed in her dreams.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Blair Yeatts grew up in the midst of a large, old southern Virginia family, much like the family of her main character. She followed her parents into a career in academia and taught religion at the college level in Kentucky for many years. Her special areas of expertise are psychology and Earth-based religions, in which she has done considerable research.

From childhood, Ms. Yeatts has been a fan of mystery fiction, starting with Nancy Drew and moving through Agatha Christie to twentieth century giants like Dorothy L. Sayers, P.D. James, and Nevada Barr. She is fulfilling a life’s dream in writing her own mysteries.

Ms. Yeatts shares her home with her photographer husband, two cats, and a dog. She has a lifelong love of wild nature, and prefers to set her stories in rural areas, where threads of old spiritual realities still make themselves felt. Her first three books take place in different parts of Kentucky and Tennessee.

Author/Book Links


Twitter:  @blair-yeatts

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Thank you for the excerpt and for the chance to win :)

  2. Thank you for hosting "This Madness of the Heart"!

  3. I enjoyed reading the post.

  4. Great post, I loved the excerpt! Thanks for sharing :)

  5. How did you come up with the title?

    1. I try to use classic quotes in titles when I can, and if I don't know one offhand, I'll look up quotes with words that fit the content. This title is from an obscure drama by Lord Byron and refers to "hate" as madness.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your post with us. I am really enjoying this book tour. I wish all Americans on the blog a happy healthy and safe 4th of July weekend! :)

    1. And a happy 4th to you too, clojo! I'm glad you're enjoying the tour!

  7. Have a terrific weekend and thanks so much for this giveaway

  8. Happy 4th to you as well, James, and you're welcome!

  9. Replies
    1. They just come--like fireflies in the night!

  10. Happy to be a part of this tour, thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Nikolina! I'm glad you're enjoying it!

  11. Thanks for the giveaway and hope you all enjoy your 4th of July weekend

  12. Congrats on the new book and good luck on the book tour!

  13. Happy 4th of July! Hope you have a fantastic day! Looking forward to checking out this book!

  14. Happy 4th of July to all in America celebrating Independence Day and thank you for this giveaway

  15. Do you have a specific writing style?

    1. It's not a conscious or rational style, but, yes--it's more a matter of rhythm and flow . . .

  16. Hello! Hope your having a great evening and stopping by to say thanks for the giveaway

  17. Wishing you a terrific Wednesday and thanking you for the chance to win.

  18. Hello! Hope your day is awesome and thanking you for the giveaway.

  19. Happy Friday! Hope it's a good one for you I appreciate your offering us such a great giveaway and thanking you for all you put into this for us.

  20. Have a great weekend and thanks for all you do amd hard work you put into offering us the great giveaways

  21. Enjoy this beautiful Sunday and thank you for this chance to win

    1. You're a riot, James! Thank you for your many, many posts!

  22. I have added this book to my TBR list and look forward to reading this book!

  23. Great except and thanks for the giveaway