Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Miss Havana Saga

When I wrote the first Miss Havana novel, The Substitute, I had no idea I would eventually write five … and perhaps more. I envisioned Miss Havana as a smart and stunning substitute teacher who led a proper life by day, but a deeply flawed and sinful life by night. An approach-avoidance character, she was easy to like and dislike at the same time.

In The Substitute, Miss Havana toyed with powerful people in dangerous ways, and many men and women wanted her dead. They made certain that happened. None of the perpetrators knew the others had already murdered her, so they killed her three times in one night. First by poison, then by stabbing, then by bludgeoning and finally, by ten gauge shotgun …with a little dismemberment tossed in for good measure. As it turned out, all the killers also met untimely violent deaths.

The series of chapters concerning the multiple murder of Miss Havana were a joy to write, especially when, for the sake of efficiency, Miss Havana and her killers came before Lucifer in a gaggle for judgment. The King of Darkness banished the perpetrators to horrible pits eternal irony, but fell in lust with Miss Havana. That’s where the fun began in earnest. Being conniving and ambitious, Miss Havana set her sights on Lucifer’s job, and eventually dethroned him while he taught their daughter, Lilith, the finer points of evil on “the surface.”

As the Queen of Darkness, Miss Havana believed she had risen to the top of the bottom, but she underestimated the evil nature of her daughter. Lilith surprised her parents when she overthrew them both to become the Princess of Darkness. With the fate of the world at stake, Lilith groomed her father as the antichrist, but Miss Havana struck back with a stunning surprise of her own.

That led Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! The interaction between Miss Havana, Lucifer, Lilith and God was just too juicy to let go. In this second novel, Miss Havana is on probation in purgatory. She retains some power from her stint as the Queen of Darkness, plus a few new capabilities from being in a distant part of heaven, and decides she should be the Angel of Death.

In her assumed role, she attempts to solve many social problems in unpredictable ways … usually involving lots of bloodshed. She teams up with an evil spirit from below known as Waldo, and subsequently flunks out of probation. It’s a wild romp where Miss Havana has a split personality: advice columnist by day; assassin by night.

Although Miss Havana’s spirit remains relatively dark in Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!, she tries to do good works to redeem herself. Unfortunately, her problem solving approach is so violent God is forced to drag her into the woodshed. All is not lost. During the course of the novel, Miss Havana learns a few lessons about true love from her advice columnist host, Jackie, and her spirit softens.
The third novel in the series, The Training Bra, was released on April 3, 2013 by Solstice Publishing. The softening of Miss Havana’s spirit continues throughout the novel and, by the end of the book, almost every reader will like her. In The Training Bra, Miss Havana’s spirit is assigned to an eleven-year-old girl named Shelly. The title of the book represents Shelly’s growth from a child to young womanhood. Shelly is murdered at age eighteen by Lucifer. By that time, her evil self has also come of age, and Miss Havana ends up back in hell with her daughter. That’s where the fun begins.

The in-fighting between Lucifer, Lilith and Miss Havana continues until, once again, Miss Havana finds herself in a position to spite her father and daughter … and save the world. God is pleased with the choices she makes, and gives her another chance at being a teacher. The devil regains his throne in the process, and sends his daughter, Lilith, to torment his ex-mate and make Miss Havana’s teaching job a living hell.

So, that brings us to book number four, The Trophy Wife. I have completed the first 90,000 words of that novel, and believe it is the funniest of the bunch. It’s hard to edit without laughing out loud. In The Trophy Wife, Miss Havana’s spirit has matured enough to attract God’s attention, and they have a child together. Being immaculate, that particular joining is an extreme disappointment for Miss Havana. In any event, Miss Havana’s spirit continues to develop in good ways as she raises her daughter, Angel, but Lilith, haunting a student named Lily, is a nightmare in every evil way possible. This time, the reader will feel sorry for Miss Havana instead of her victims.

In addition to mellowing out Miss Havana, I tried something entirely new in The Trophy Wife. Not only does the battle between good and evil continue in hilarious ways, but the novel contains a story within a story, like Orwell’s Animal Farm. The characters are symbolic of events, and the symbols tell the secondary story. Writing the book is a challenge. The main story is a paranormal comedy, like all the Miss Havana books, but the underlying story is not. I am anxious to see if the undercurrent comes through, but I won’t know until I hand the book off to a few beta readers.

I also plan a fifth novel in the series, where the good-evil battle is carried out by Miss Havana’s two daughters, Lilith and Angel. That one is titled, Sisters. I thought Sisters might be the end of the series, but I’m no longer sure. I left the door opened in The Trophy Wife when God says, “I never should have let Miss Havana near that apple tree.” In other words, Miss Havana has been around tempting men from the beginning of time, so some prequels are possible.

I had a dream about that. Imagine Miss Havana’s spirit, with all its wile and conniving nature, paired with Adam, a caveman-like male. That could be too funny to pass up, and the title is already well known: In the Beginning.


In an unexpected twist of fate, God gives Miss Havana’s dark spirit a second chance after she fails probation in purgatory. She is returned to the surface in the body of an eleven-year-old girl named Shelly. Over the next six years, Shelly develops into a voluptuous young woman and becomes the central figure in a tug-o-war between the forces of heaven and the ruler of hell, Miss Havana’s daughter, Lilith.

Lilith sends her father, Lucifer, to tempt Miss Havana and report on her progress. However, when Miss Havana’s true spirit emerges, Lucifer murders her out of revenge for stealing his throne. Miss Havana’s spirit returns below, where Lilith orders her to learn from three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse: Stupid, Macho and Scourge. Lilith intends to use Miss Havana to bring the four horsemen together to precipitate the Apocalypse. The fourth horseman is Sin, Lucifer himself, but he isn’t told what’s being planned because he screws everything up.

Battle lines are drawn between Lilith, Miss Havana and Lucifer—just a normal dysfunctional family with serious anger issues … and the fate of the earth at stake.


In the EXCERPT below, Miss Havana is being re-introduced to hell by Lilith. When Miss Havana memorizes the rules, Lilith will send her for on-the-job training with Stupid, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Lilith also requires a test of loyalty that will force Miss Havana to reveal her true nature.


Near the back of the book are pages on loyalty, but the rules are vague, as if written to engender mistrust. The ruler of the underworld can, at any time, demand a test of loyalty from any of his or her servants. The test is not specified, but the penalty for failure is death by excruciation and humiliation, whatever that means.

It’s also telling that the discussion on “Trust” is presented as a series of rude jokes. Lucifer should have read the one about trusting women: how can you trust something that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die? If he had heeded that warning, he would still rule the underworld. The comment about lipstick being the only difference between a woman with PMS and a Rottweiler probably applied as well, but he must have ignored that one too.

It’s interesting that developing a hierarchy of creatures is prohibited. They are all to be mistreated equally; none are allowed to develop pride, which is rigidly reserved for the King or Queen of Darkness. I find this rule especially interesting because the very fact that Lilith, Lucifer and I exist simultaneously seems to be a contradiction. My daughter has cut Lucifer and I slack on several occasions when I’m not sure I would have, especially in Lucifer’s case.

I continue to read throughout the night, until Lilith drags out of her bedroom the next morning with disheveled hair and dark bags under her eyes. She looks as if she’s been in a bad mood for thirty years; maybe she believes looking like shit is in style here. Although I didn’t find it earlier, she might have a secret stash of liquor in her room, something to make her mood foul enough to help her through another day of chaos, panic and disorder. I smile thinly from the far end of the kitchen table. “Good morning, Daughter.”

She snarls, “Don’t they ever shut up on your fucking planet?”

I growl back, “Whatever look you were going for, you missed.”

She rummages through her kitchen until she finds some rotten meat and stale coffee, plops down at the opposite end of the table and glares over the fly-covered pile she places in front of her. “Aren’t you just a fucking ray of sunshine? If you haven’t noticed, I’m not a fucking people person—a good appearance here is just a fucking waste of makeup.”

Ah, sarcasm is just another service she offers. “I read your book many times last night. The ending seems … a lot like revenge.”

She stuffs some rancid meat in her mouth without shooing the flies away. “Why is that so wrong?”

Some questions are better left unanswered. I shrug. “What now?”

She finishes her meat and coffee without saying another word but, as she prepares to leave for a day of judgment, she turns to me and hisses, “Your time with the other side means I must test you. You will sacrifice an innocent female child to me—a virgin—and Stupid will verify the task has been completed on the surface before he returns you to me. If any vestige of the other side remains in you, I will know because you will not be able to complete this task. Are you prepared for this test?”

Thanks for reading,
James L. Hatch


Tina Donahue said...

Fascinating series, James - how many books do you think will be in the series?

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Tina. There will be at least five. After that, I just don't know. I could see writing a prequel, just for the fun of it. Writing raunchy humor seems to suit my personality ... but I'm not sure there's much of a market for it. I get good reviews from people who do read the books ... but not many people buy them. I'm not sure if they just don't like the subject matter ... or just don't know what they are missing. Questions, questions ... always questions.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

It takes time to build a fan base, James. Be patient and keep writing. Try posting on paranormal groups that are more alined with your genre. In time, readers will get your brand and start buying your books.
I wish you great success with this spicy and funny series.

James L. Hatch said...

Sarah: You are always so sweet and encouraging. I'll hang in there, and I will try a few posts on paranormal groups. I think I have not been sufficiently active on those groups. I'll do better. Thank your for your advice, as always. Sincerely, James.