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Subversive San Francisco

paranormal San Francisco

Guest blog by author L.J.K. Oliva.

First off, thanks so much for having me back on this blog! It ranks as one of my favorite online urban fantasy haunts, and I’m thrilled for another chance to contribute.

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When I was first approached with the topic “paranormal San Francisco”, I had to take a few days to think. I realized there were a couple ways I could approach it.

The first way would have been to talk about the actual paranormal community in San Francisco (there is a sizeable one) – the vampire tour guides, the corner-shop clairvoyants, even ghosts, if you believe in such things.

That would make for an interesting post, but it’s not one I feel qualified to write.

The other option is to explore why I believe San Francisco is the perfect setting for my Shades Below series (of which I just released Book 2). Surprise, surprise, this is the option I’ve decided to go with.

I grew up in the Bay Area. I’ve lived within easy driving distance of San Francisco my entire life. Strangely, though, I never spent much time there.

On the surface, San Francisco is…well…chaotic. The traffic is oppressive. The streets are narrow, steep, and confusing. Certain parts are vastly unsafe to walk through, and those parts lie right alongside areas meant for tourists. It’s common to find people who started in the shopping mecca of Union Square suddenly stumbling, wide-eyed and discombobulated, through the seediest alleys of the Tenderloin.

It wasn’t until I started researching the Shades Below series that I began to discover what lay beneath the dusty, dry-rotted surface. At this point, there’s so much I love about San Francisco, I hardly know where to start.

Here are a few of the top reasons Shades Below couldn’t take place anywhere else:

1) San Francisco is a city of ghosts.

There’s history baked into these buildings – sometimes literally, as is the case with the “clinker bricks”: bricks that survived the 1906 quake and were warped by the heat of the fires that followed, later salvaged and reused in the rebuilding of the city.

Walking along Market Street, you only need to look down to see the E’s and T’s still etched in the sidewalks, signaling where long-abandoned electrical and telegraph lines used to run.

The great breakers in the Aquatic Park near Fort Mason are constructed from headstones, discarded after the mass relocations of the city’s dead to the nearby town of Colma.

The more you learn about its storied and colorful history, the more you become aware that San Francisco is a city built in layers. It’s a city tailor-made for ghosts.

2) San Francisco is a city of misfits.

San Francisco has always attracted the people no one else wanted: the perpetual wanderers, the stupidly ambitious, the scoundrels and the downright wicked. Those people have left their mark. San Francisco is a place where anything goes. It’s a place where anything can happen…and usually does.

3) San Francisco is a city of magic.

Magic is energy, and San Francisco is a city of energy. But it’s more than that.

Magic is the view you get coming towards the city over the Bay Bridge: building after building emerging from the fog, as if waking up from a spell.

It’s the ragged figure snoozing on the sidewalk near Fisherman’s Wharf, who suddenly wakes up and starts to sing in the most beautiful, tragic voice you’ve ever heard.

It’s the accidental trip down a narrow side street that leads you to a brilliant green community garden.

No matter how often I visit San Francisco, I still find things to excite me, things to enchant me, things that make me feel like the first time I ever stumbled down one of its streets.

If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.

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Shades Below

Book Two

L.J.K. Oliva

Genre: urban fantasy

Date of Publication: March 31, 2016

Word Count: 93,338

Cover Artist: Amy Mateyka

Book Description:

In the city by the Bay, things are about to get bloody…

Psychic medium Lena Alan always sticks to what she knows, and what she knows are dead people. When her brother Cyrus agrees to look into a troubling incident for local vampire Seneca Lynch, Lena finds herself in unfamiliar territory.

One thing is clear: she needs a detective, and there’s only one she trusts.

Private investigator Jesper MacMillian is ready to get back to business. Between his duties as leader of the city’s Romani community and the stack of unfinished paperwork on his desk, he doesn’t have time to think about ghosts, witches, or Lena Alan. After nearly a month of no contact, he’s starting to think she’s forgotten about him…until she waltzes through his office door and hands him a new case.

Still reeling from his last encounter with the subversive world, MacMillian is tempted to turn it down. But this is Lena, and he can’t bring himself to tell her no. He soon finds himself drawn even deeper into the shadows, into a part of the demimonde where folklore is real and nightmares are born.

This time, there are more than just ghosts walking the streets of San Francisco.

There are monsters, too.



The Wayfare Hotel for Restless Spirits was every bit as spooky as he remembered.

MacMillian wedged his dark green Plymouth Fury into a spot alongside The Panhandle, and stared across the street at the vast old Victorian.  Was it him, or had it expanded since he’d last been here?  That was impossible, of course.  Even so, he could have sworn several of the turrets were new.

Lena waited until he had hoisted himself from the car, then started across the street.  MacMillian headed after her with a wince.  He should have known better than to sit for so long.  Now he was paying for it.  Lena glanced behind her.  He schooled his face to a neutral expression.  Judging by the way her eyebrows drew together, she wasn’t fooled.

She didn’t mention it, merely metered her steps to match his as though it were the most natural thing in the world.  They climbed the steep front steps together, crossed the stoop to the massive front door.

Lena turned to him.  “Before we go inside, there’s something you should know.”

MacMillian shifted his weight to his cane.  “All right.”

She twisted the strap of her purse.  “You’re going to meet someone.  He’s…not like anyone you’ve seen before.”

MacMillian snorted.  “Since I’ve known you, I’ve met ghosts, witches, a knight, and a librarian for God.  So unless you’re telling me vampires and werewolves are real too…”  He trailed off at the look on her face.  “They’re not.  Are they?”

Lena shifted.  “It’s a little more complicated than—”

He held up a hand.  “Please.  Yes or no.”

“Well, yes.”

MacMillian stared.

Lena continued hurriedly.  “But technically, lycanthropy is a disease.  Therians have complete control over their shifts, and are no danger to humans.  Anyway, that’s not what this is about.”

MacMillian felt light-headed.  “So, a vampire.”

At that moment, the door to the house swung inward.  MacMillian jerked his eyes from Lena’s face.  A tall, athletic-looking man with disheveled blond hair and a sardonic expression leaned against the door frame.

“I find ‘vampire’ rather a loaded word, don’t you?”  The man crossed his arms over his broad chest.  His black leather jacket creaked.  “I prefer the term ‘sangretarian.'”

MacMillian looked to Lena.

She cleared her throat.  “Jesper MacMillian, meet Seneca Lynch.”

devils diseaseAbout the Author: 

L.J.K Oliva is the devil-may-care alter-ego of noir romance novelist Laura Oliva. She likes her whiskey strong, her chocolate dark, and her steak bloody. L.J.K. likes monsters… and knows the darkest ones don’t live in closets.



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1 Comment

  1. Laura Oliva says

    Hey, Kirsten! Thanks again for having me back on your blog. Hope you have a lovely week! 🙂

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