The 777 Writer’s Challenge by Mae Clair

The 777 Writer’s Challenge is making the rounds again. Love this one, as it’s a lot of fun and gets us refocused on our WIPs.

I was tagged by the lovely Susan Nicholls, a new friend who has a wonderful blog called My Brand of Genius. Pop over and poke around if you get a chance. It’s always great to make new friends in the world of writing and blogging and Susan has some great stuff to share!

So, per the 777 Writing Challenge:

Go to Page 7 of your work-in-progress, scroll down to line 7, and share the next 7 sentences in a blog post. Once you have done that, tag 7 other bloggers to do the same with their WIP.

I’m sharing a snippet from FOOD FOR POE, my upcoming Christmas novella (paranormal romance). In this scene my hero, Breck Lansing, is talking with his fourteen-year-old daughter, Sophie, who suffers from a debilitating illness:

A storybook picture. A storybook family. 

He shoved the memory aside.  “I’ll make s’mores tonight. We can sit in front of the Christmas tree and drink hot cocoa.”

“Okay.”

The lack of enthusiasm in her voice struck hard. Rolling onto her side, she scrunched beneath the blankets. All the Christmas gifts he’d bought wouldn’t make a difference tomorrow morning. She’d be gracious and happy, but he couldn’t give her what she wanted most.

~ooOOoo~

And now I’d like to challenge the following 7 writer/bloggers. Participate if you can, but no worries if you can’t!

Carmen Stefanescau 
Flossie Benton Rogers 
Stanalei Fletcher 
Daisy Banks 
C. S. Boyack 
J. M. Goebel 
Donna Cummings

When Stories Evolve by Mae Clair

If you’re a writer, at one point or another, you probably had a story evolve beyond anything you anticipated. That’s pretty much how my new romantic suspense/mystery novel, MYTH AND MAGIC, became…MYTH AND MAGIC.

Many years ago—actually decades—I wrote a short story called RESURRECTING MERLIN. At the time, I was writing full-length manuscripts and had joined a local critique group for short story writers. Writing something under 10K was a challenge for me. RESURRECTING MERLIN was my first attempt.

I wrote a lot of short stories after that, but RM was always my favorite. A magical realism piece with a dark thread, the nucleus revolved around two young brothers, Tristan and Merlin, who played games of myth and magic. They spent many afternoons imagining themselves wizards who battled savage trolls and fierce beasts. That idyllic setting was shattered by a tragedy that forever altered Tristan’s life, causing an insurmountable gulf between him and his parents.

I won’t go into the entire plot, but it always rattled around in the back of mind. I didn’t want to leave it languishing in a short that I’d probably never use. So, years later, I took the core idea—an innocent childhood of mythical games fractured by an horrific event—and made that the heart of MYTH AND MAGIC. I changed the circumstances of the event, and now, instead of only two brothers, there were four friends—one a young girl who fancied herself every bit as adept with her imaginary sword as the three boys.

Most of you know MYTH AND MAGIC is a Halloween tale about weird happenings at a secluded corporate lodge. But that’s only half of the story. The time line in the present. You’ll also find several scenes where I turn the clock back to childhood, in order for my reader to understand the motivations of my characters. Particularly my hero and heroine.

Today, my Pump Up Your Book blog tour stop is with A Little Bit of R & R. Please pop over and say hello if you can. And I’d love to hear if you’ve ever had a story evolve from something small into the nucleus of a much larger work.

Book Cover for MYTH AND MAGIC by Mae Clair depicting a brooding old home at nightAmazon 
Barnes and Noble 
Kobo 
iTunes 
Google
Kensington Publishing  

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Mae Clair

I’ve been meaning to do a number of blog posts for weeks now some time eons, but those fickle hours just keep slipping away. So here I am, determined to share my latest news with you. Welcome to “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” a new monthly feature on my blog.

THE GOOD

Close up of woman screaming in excitmentI started a newsletter :)
It’s only been on my to-do list for eight months. Okay, so the actual newsletter hasn’t happened yet, but the sign-up has.

See that little box on the right side beneath the header “Want the Scoop”? You can click there to sign up, or just follow this link. I only plan on doing four newsletters a year, so I promise not to bombard your inbox. And in celebration of finally reaching this *ahem* milestone, I’ll be giving away a $10 gift card to Amazon to one randomly drawn winner. I’m planning early July, so hop over and sign up. To quote another Eastwood movie: “Go ahead, make my day.”

Two of my back titles are now available in print :)
Woo-hoo! You can snatch WEATHERING ROCK from Amazon or Books-A-Million. The same is true of TWELTH SUN. Find it on Amazon or Books-A-Million. Naturally, I had to grab copies of each. I’m really pleased with the way Kensington Publishing made my name stand out on the printed copy of WEATHERING ROCK. It’s a little lost on the Kindle version.

My publisher started a new sub-imprint :)
Actually two. The Lyrical Press imprint of Kensington Publishing now has Lyrical Shine (contemporary romance) and Lyrical Underground (thriller, suspense, horror) imprints. I’m pretty jazzed about the latter, because I think it’s a good fit for my Point Pleasant series. *fingers crossed*

I’m researching and plotting :)
I generally wing my books, but now that I’ve made a firm commitment to write a mystery/suspense series (The Point Pleasant series), I find that plotting is more essential. I’ve got a notebook filled with scribblings and scene outlines for A COLD TOMORROW, book two in the series. It’s a learning experience, figuring all these details out in advance, but I’m enjoying it. And it gives me an excuse to read more about the Mothman, UFOs, and Men-in-Black (as if I needed a reason)!

THE BAD

Close up of woman looking wide-eyed and dazedI’m not writing as much as I should :(
I took a break from my regular Sunday routine and spent the day researching and outlining instead of writing. Ok, so I made notes poolside, then did my plotting floating around on a raft or bobbing on those noodle thingies. I’m trying to convince myself it still counts as author stuff.

Still no word on A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS :(
Book one in my Point Pleasant series, a.k.a. “the Mothman story,” is still with my publisher for consideration. I think it would be a good fit for the new Lyrical Unground sub-imprint, but it’s an odd story set in the 1980s so who knows if it will fly. One editor has given me the green light on it, but I’m still waiting on the second, senior editor, to reply. Hopefully, I’ll have news by the end of the month or early July. It’s the waiting, you know?

THE UGLY

Very angry woman screaming with hair flying in the airFacebook :( :( :(
This is SOOOO ugly I’m not even going to include any other uggies. My failure to be part of the Facebook crowd has been hanging over my head like a guillotine for months now. I am *thisclose* to killing my account.

The problem is I don’t like Facebook. I never have. But back when Lyrical Press was a small stand-alone publisher, authors were expected to have an FB page. So I created one, and I do occasionally look at it. I worry that it does me more harm than good since I don’t update it regularly.  I worry that if I kill the account all that work I did to get 496 likes (okay, it’s not Pluto, but it’s something), will have been in vain. I worry that I should keep it active and pay to promote posts to get word of my new releases out. Even if I’m not on Facebook, all of my friends are (and most of the social-media-consuming-world). Maybe if my newsletter takes off I’ll be able to ditch it and stop worrying about it. Right now it’s the King of Uglies!

So there you have my monthly wrap up of the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ll wait until early July to see what June brings.

Any good, bad, or uglies you’d like to share? We’re all in this writer’s world together, you know. Spill what’s new with you! :)

Mythical Monday: Of Fey Folk and Faerie Dogs by Mae Clair

Whenever spring and summer roll around, I think of mushroom rings, twilight evenings perfumed by honeysuckle, and faeries. Tucked away in a drawer, I have of those Frankenstory WIPs that has been hanging around for decades. Every year I think “this is the year I’m going to pull it out and finish it.” And every year it never happens. :(

The story has been through multiple title changes (it’s presently without one), length modifications, character changes, plot thread rewrites, and just about everything in between. I should abandon the wretched thing, but I can’t seem to walk away from the Fey Folk.  Yes, faeries factor prominently into the plot. It’s part urban fantasy, part horror, and part magical realism. The last one is what draws me in, refusing to let me abandon it. Who knows….maybe the Fey have placed a glamour on it and that’s why it’s still wiggling around in the back of my mind.

One of these days…one of these days I will finish it. Given how odd the story is, I’m sure I’ll have to indie pub it, but that’s okay. It’s one of those books you want to see “out there” just because it resonates with you. Kind of like faeries do.

At least for me.

But did you know there are also tales of a Faerie Dog? This ghostly animal appears mostly as a herald to announce the imminent presence of the Fey. Perhaps the ancient faerie races were too lofty to soil themselves by interacting with humans, but they weren’t above using human tools for their purpose.

A spinning wheel in an old cottageAs an example, there is a brief account I found in The Vanishing People, Fairy Lore and Legends, a book by Katherine Briggs. It speaks of a family who were visited by a Faerie Dog. According to the tale, the family would gather on winter nights in the main room, the mother and daughters working at their spinning wheels. From nowhere, a white dog would appear in the room, a sign the family was about to be visited by the Fey Folk.

Bustling about, the humans ensured a fire burned brightly in the hearth, put out fresh water for their guests, then hurried to bed. Below, in their living quarters, they could hear the faeries moving about, but never saw them. Only the white dog was visible.

The same book tells of another family who neglected to leave water out for the faeries when they arrived to do baking. Since they had no water for their dough, the Fey Folk drew blood from the toe of a servant girl and used it to bake their cakes. The next day the servant girl fell ill and only recovered when she was given a bit of cake left under the thatch.

The faeries in my Frankenstory would probably follow either path. They’re focused on their own pleasures, even at the expense of mortals, but aren’t above helping humans if it suits their fancy.

When I was a kid, I thought of faeries as small, tiny creatures, frivolous and harmless. As I grew older and became familiar with the ancient legends, that opinion changed to reflect a race of majestic beings, sometimes heroic, sometimes selfish, living forever on the cusp of right and wrong.

In Cornwall, the faeries are called the Pagan Dead…not bad enough for Hell, but not good enough for Heaven. What’s your take on these magical beings?

Black Cats Aren’t Just for Halloween by Mae Clair

Back in March, I was tagged by C. S. Boyack to share some info on my current WIP. First—thank you, Craig!—this is a fun tag and I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to respond. Unfortunately, April blitzed by in fast-forward and I never got a chance to play. I’m going to remedy that now.

Before I start, for those of you who don’t know Craig Boyack, hop over to Entertaining Stories when you get a chance. I highly recommend signing up to follow his blog as his posts are always a blast to read! A recent favorite of mine is Of Manuscripts and Mayflies. Read it and you may never look at writing and publishing the same way again.

Okay, onto the goods! The rules say I’m supposed to talk about the first three chapters of my current WIP, and then share a short excerpt. Craig broke the rules and talked about his characters instead. That sets a precedent, so I’m going to break the rules and share my blurb instead (creative people never learned to color between the lines).

FOOD FOR POE is a paranormal romance that takes place over Christmas. And yes, it involves a black cat…because black cats aren’t just for Halloween. As someone who was blessed by a black feline for thirteen cat-happy years, I can vouch they are mysterious and mischievous every day of the year. That’s Onyx in the pic below. He passed away a few years back, but I’ve got great memories of our time together. (Notice how he mangled his “scratchy post” which is to the right of the chair. I was fortunate he didn’t unleash all of that energy on my furniture!).

Black cat looking sleepy  in a comfortable chair

My handsome boy, Onyx

FOOD FOR POE is novella length, and should finish out around 20-22K. I still have to write the closing scene, but plan on publishing the end of November, just in time for the holidays.

Here’s the blurb:
When a blizzard strands Quinn Easterly at a handsome stranger’s house on Christmas Eve, she doesn’t realize her newly adopted cat, Poe, is the catalyst responsible for bringing them together.

Breck Lansing gave up on relationships after his wife left him, unable to cope with their daughter’s illness. But the pretty blonde he rescues from a snowstorm has him rethinking his stance—especially when Quinn’s arrival coincides with a dramatic change in Sophie’s health.

Should he believe an old wives’ tale about black cats, healing, and Christmas magic, or do miracles come with a price?

Together, Breck and Quinn must defeat a sinister creature intent on claiming the ultimate payment.

Warning: A clever black cat, Christmas magic, and paranormal trouble

So there you have it. That’s what all of my writerly attention has been focused on lately. What do you think? Intriguing?

Now that I’ve rattled on for a while, what is your current project?  I know several of you are juggling new releases, so I’m going to resist “officially” tagging anyone, but please consider yourself tagged if you’d like to do a similar post. At the very least, take a moment to tell me about your WIP in the comments. As writers, I imagine each one of us always has at one story on the drawing writing board. What’s yours?

The Where and Why of Vanishing by Mae Clair

Life has been a bit cagey for me lately.  Temporary upheaval on the day job spun a few things around, and I found myself covering a different department until a replacement could be found. I work in real estate and spring is when the housing market explodes. As a result, it’s been chaotic. I normally write my blog posts in the evenings and on weekends, but lately I couldn’t summon the energy to look at a computer after ping-ponging between my job and the temporary one. Fortunately, we now have someone new in that position, and life is spiraling back to a normal axis.

Two of my weekends also got sucked up in a bathroom remodeling project with my husband, and a plethora of yard work. Sadly, this is the first thing I’ve written since March 30th.

Am I whining? Yes!  I’ve missed blogging, I’ve missed visiting characters I’d left languishing in unfinished stories and notes, and I’ve missed making my regular blogosphere rounds. So if I’ve been low-key or completely AWOL from your blog recently, all of that is about to change. My mojo has returned. Huzzah!

And I do have some good things to report from those long weeks of languishing without my muse:

I am two scenes away from finishing a paranormal romance, Christmas novella (how’s that for a genre and a mouthful?) called FOOD FOR POE. Poe was my WIP when March 30th hit and my writing world went whacky. I’m hoping to wrap the story and indie pub it in time for Christmas. It’s a weird combination of Hallmark and folklore with a smidgen of horror tossed in. Not your normal Christmas read. :)

I joined a local critique group and have met some fabulous writers. It’s been years decades since I’ve been part of a local writing group, and I’m enjoying interacting with my peers. Only other writers truly “get” writers. Just to have that connection again is fantastic. The group has also been great in providing feedback on my submissions. Coupled with my two online critique partners, I feel like I’ve got a strong foundation to keep me grounded and on target with my goals.

Statue of my favorite cryptid, the Mothman, in downtown Point Pleasant, West Virginia

Statue of my favorite cryptid, the Mothman, in downtown Point Pleasant, West Virginia

I heard back from my editor regarding A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS, my Mothman mystery/suspense novel. She asked me to tighten up one of my plot threads (which I did) then she gave it her approval. YAY! Step one, down.

The manuscript is now on its way to a senior editor in the house. Because I’m venturing into a new/different genre (very little romance with more emphasis on mystery and suspense) it has to be approved by that editor as well. It will probably be 2-3 months until I get a response, but in the meantime I plan on finishing FOOD FOR POE, then starting on the sequel to Yesteryears—A COLD TOMORROW. I’ve put a ton of work and research into my Point Pleasant Series, and I strongly believe Yesteryears is my best effort to date. Hopefully, Kensington Publishing will feel the same. Wish me luck on that one!

Mythical Monday should be back on track beginning this coming Monday. I’ve got new beastie folklore I’m anxious to share, so look for more creature features from my pen.

I was tagged in a blog post by C. S. Boyack on WIPs and hope to have something up soon. It looks like a fun one, so I’m eager to sit down and draft up something about my projects. Hopefully, Craig won’t’ mind I’ve taken so long to get my act in gear.

Finally, here’s hoping everyone has had an enjoyable and productive three weeks while I’ve been on sabbatical. Missed you guys, and am looking forward to diving back into the blogosphere! :)

Are You a POV Snob? by Mae Clair

I’ve resisted writing this post for a long time because I kept deluding myself into thinking the title didn’t apply to me. But I can’t deny the truth any longer.

Yes, friends, I have shameful confession to make: I am a POV snob.

So, what exactly does this wretched trait imply?

Bald man with glasses and a snobbish expressionI’ve come to realize there is a standard set of guidelines I follow when choosing what to read. At first I wasn’t even aware I was doing it. Then a nasty little light bulb pinged on in my head, and I realized I rarely, if ever, deviate from the selection process below.

Before unveiling that list–and the woeful extent of my snobbery–I offer a heartfelt disclaimer so you don’t think I’m totally reprehensible:  My checklist only applies to authors I do not know personally, or have not previously read.  If you’re reading this blog and you fall into either of those categories, there’s no “checklist” involved.

For new authors, however, I systematically apply the following to determine whether or not I should purchase their novel:

  1. Do I like the genre?
  2. Do I like the cover? (Covers rank highly on my list. Without a snazzy cover, I rarely look further).
  3. Does the blurb intrigue me?
  4. Does the book have good reviews? (A few bad ones won’t deter me, but if most slant that way, I usually pass).
  5. Is the story written in first person POV?

“Yes” answers to the first four questions will have me pretty hyped up by the time I reach number five. I love to read, and by then I’m anticipating a great story because four of my five “must haves” have been met. But—and here’s where the snobbery kicks in—If the answer to number five is “yes,” it kills the whole deal.

POV snob. All. The. Way.

How did this happen, I wonder?  In my younger years I wrote a few shorts, and even a novel in first person, all presently languishing in a drawer somewhere. I’ve even tried to overcome my natural reluctance by purchasing the occasional novel written in first person, breaking my own stringent rules.

Did I enjoy those? Heck, yes!  Granted, they only amount to a handful, but a few rank among my all-time favorites such as The Alienist by Caleb Carr, and Bag of Bones by Stephen King.

Still…by habit, I always seek out novels written in third person narrative. I think it’s because I can sink into the story. I don’t have an “I” narrator relating it to me, so I’m able to become part of scene and connect more easily with the characters.

Many readers (and writers) love first person narrative, thus I am going to make a valiant effort to embrace it. Hence my reluctant revelation, crawling into the light to confess I am a POV snob. In 2015, I hope to slink from my comfort shell and read more books written in first person (we won’t mention present tense narrative. I have to take baby steps :) ).

What about you?  Do you prefer one type of narrative over another? Do you have guidelines you apply when deciding if a book is worthy of your time? Are you—gasp!—a POV snob?