Looking Back at 2017

Here we are with only a few days of 2017 still remaining.  Like most, I look back and think the months blasted past in the wink of an eye. Another year already? It seems impossible, yet 2018 will soon be ushered in with champagne toasts and confetti. As I normally do at this time of year, I like to reflect on the good tidings the year has brought with a quick breakdown.

WRITING
As a writer, I signed a new three-book contract with Kensington Publishing’s Lyrical Underground imprint. After finishing my Point Pleasant Series, I thought I was done with deadlines, but I couldn’t say no when the publisher asked me to submit something new. Thinking about that still has me on a cloud, and I can’t wait to introduce everyone to Cusp of Night, the first title in my Hode’s Hill Series, which will release in June.

June 2017 saw the release of A Desolate Hour, the last book in my Point Pleasant Series. I was sad to say goodbye to those characters, but gained a sense of accomplishment for finishing my first series. A bit of a rush. 🙂

Book sales were up for the third year in a row (YAY!) but I’m  worried about the first two quarters of next year. I don’t have anything releasing until the summer of 2018, which is certain to impact what I earn. I guess it’s a good thing I work a full-time job. I have a feeling it will be years (if ever) before I earn a steady income from writing. Still, it’s nice to see a return from doing something I love and connect with new readers in the process.

Banner ad for A Desolate Hour by Mae Clair features Man standing in a dark mysterious forest with bloody lake in foreground

My short story, Family Tree, was accepted for publication in the time-travel anthology, Quantum Wanderlust. If you haven’t already picked up a copy, treat yourself to an early New Year’s gift as Quantum Wanderlust is free and contains an eclectic mix of stories from various authors.

Banner ad for short story time travel anthology, Quantum Wanderlust

READING
It’s no secret I love to read. Each year I participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Last year I surpassed the number of books I set for myself, but this year I fell short—probably due to the aforementioned writing deadlines. That said, I managed to read 60 books. My goal was 75. I guess I need to dial that back for 2018.

Goodreads gave me some other cool stats about my reading. The shortest book I read was Belle’s Christmas Carol, a 33 page novella. The longest? That would be Paul McCartney: The Life at 864 pages. Quite a difference. The average length of the books I read was 209 pages according to GR.

AUTHOR PRESENTATIONS
I gave my first author presentation in October, themed on folklore and urban legends. Afterwards, I sold books and made a number of connections. I considered the evening a huge success and can’t wait to do a presentation again. Who knew it would be such fun!

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
I met the membership requirements to join two professional writer’s organizations—The Mystery Writers of America and The International Thriller Writers.  I am so honored to be a member of these groups and hope to better utilize those memberships in 2018. Yet another step in my ongoing journey as an author.

STORY EMPIRE
The authors of Story Empire are such a blessing to me! I am thrilled to be part of a group blog devoted to writing and helping other authors succeed. This year, Story Empire was nominated for Favorite Writing Blog at Positive Writer. I just found out that winners will be announced in January, so we have our collective fingers crossed. Thank you to everyone who voted for us.

I know I speak for all of the SE authors when I say we are grateful to our readers for their support and the time taken to visit our small corner of the blogosphere. We have some new features planned for 2018 and I hope you’ll stick with us as we explore and share those together.

PERSONAL STUFF
I don’t share a lot about my family on my blog, but I am so grateful for each and every one of them, especially my wonderful husband, who I met in high school. All these years later, he’s still my soulmate and my one-and-only!

We had some fun this year with a trip to Cancun in the spring, and one to Florida in the fall. No, that’s not hubs below, but the pic is from our first night out in Cape Coral—at an open air bar/restaurant called the Yacht Club. We liked it so much we went back twice. The Captain was there to greet visitors.

With a large statue of Captain Morgan outside of the Yacht Club restaurant in Cape Coral, Florida

We also did some major renovations on our house, installing zoned heat and air conditioning and completely gutting our kitchen and dining room—removing a wall and creating one large room. Someday I’m going to get around to sharing the story of remodeling….with a cat 🙂

Cute black cat looks into camera from unfinished cabinet section

Which brings me to Raven. She joined us late in 2016, and makes every day entertaining. Pets bring such joy, and I’m thankful we found her and she found us—even when she’s climbing into things she shouldn’t be!

Finally, a heartfelt thanks to my readers and wonderful circle of blogging friends. I value each and every one of you. Over the last five years, I’ve learned that writing is not for the faint of heart. I couldn’t do this without you guys. Who else would understand the triumphs and hurdles of a writer’s life? 🙂

I wish all of you a Happy New Year with good health and good cheer. Here’s to a fabulous 2018 for all of us!

New years eve celebration background with champagne and confetti. Wishes for a magical 2018 from author Mae Clair

What Do Christmas and a Gettysburg Legend Have in Common?

I’m happy to have my good friend, Staci Troilo, on the blog today, along with her delightful novella, When We Finally Kiss Goodnight. If you’re looking for a Christmasy read you’ll want to grab this one—especially since Staci is offering it at such a fabulous price. She’s even brought along a bit of folklore and history to introduce it. Take it away, Staci . . .

Banner ad for When We Finally Kiss Goodnight by Staci Troilo shows ereader with book cover on parchment style background with text

Hi, Mae. Thanks for having me back today. I’m happy to be here, visiting with you and your readers. (Hi, Mae’s readers!)

There are two things that interest me. Okay, there are a lot more than two, but these two are near the top of my list—romance and the supernatural. If I can mix the two together? That makes me really happy.

And that’s what I got to do in my Christmas-themed novella, When We Finally Kiss Goodnight.

Although the story is primarily set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (I grew up in a small town near there and went to college in the city, so it’s a favorite setting of mine), the characters, both of whom are archaeologists, take a day trip across the state to visit Gettysburg.

Gettysburg, as you probably know, is rife with historical lore. It’s got its share of ghost stories, too. As a bit of a history buff and a fan of the paranormal, I had to write about some kind of supernatural lore surrounding the city. I chose a folk legend surrounding star-crossed lovers and the Jennie Wade House.

Mary Virginia “Jennie” Wade was a seamstress who was engaged to Corporal Johnston “Jack” Skelly. While Jack was fighting in the war, Jennie, her mother, and her sister used to bake bread to serve to the Union soldiers. On July 3, 1863, around 8:30 a.m., Jennie was kneading dough when Confederate soldiers sprayed the house with more than 150 bullets. One of them passed through two doors and struck Jennie in the chest, killing her. Jack, her fiancé, never learned of her passing. He was captured and killed on July 12.

The door on the Jennie Wade House has never been repaired or replaced, and there is a legend regarding its bullet holes—if a woman (18 or older) places her left ring finger through the hole, she will be proposed to within a year. It is believed that Jennie wishes for and helps bring about a lifetime of love for others because she was denied her happily-ever-after with Jack.

The Jennie Wade House in Gettysburg, Image in public domain

And whether you believe or not, nothing can change the fact that the Jennie Wade House Museum receives letters from many of their visitors to report an engagement after visiting.

In my novella, Chloe and Britt go to the Jennie Wade House, and Chloe ends up putting her left ring finger through the door. Does she get a proposal and happy ending within a year? Well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out.

Book cover for When We Finally Kiss Goodnight by Staci Troilo When We Finally Kiss Goodnight Blurb:
Chloe Upshaw suffers from what she calls the trifecta of awful—unfulfilling job, disappointed family, bad luck with love. Just before Christmas, she travels to Pittsburgh hoping to land a job that will change her career. But not only is she in stiff competition for the position, she angers her mother by rejecting her matchmaking efforts and not going home. Worse, she runs into the guy who got away—and this time, no matter how many lies she tells to protect her heart, she leaves herself vulnerable to hurt.

Britt Garris’ callous and careless behavior in college cost him his dream girl. When fate crosses their paths ten years later, he thinks it’s serendipity. And he launches into one deception after another to win her back, including an auspicious trip for the two archaeologists to Gettysburg. Britt plays on Chloe’s love of history to spend time with her. He doesn’t count on the local lore and legend predicting their future—a future his duplicity puts at risk.

When their lies finally crumble, their budding relationship is threatened. Their dishonesties and disillusions may be impossible to overcome. But maybe the magic of the season can make their dreams come true.

This holiday-themed steamy romance novella is available for 99¢. Click here for purchase information.

Bio box for author, Staci Trolio

 

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Is this what it’s come to?

angry cat hissingI’m ticked right now. See the cat on the right? That was me a few nights ago.

Let me explain.

Lately, there’s a trend for authors to band together and offer free ebooks in a mass giveaway. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve even participated in the past. Authors get to collect email addresses for newsletters—hoping to convert the reader into a fan—and readers get to discover books they may not have chosen otherwise.

Normally, when I see a group giveaway, I’ll scan through the titles and see if anything interests me. I’ve stopped downloading books simply because they’re free, and only download if I intend to read them. My Kindle is overflowing as it is, so a lot of times, I leave these giveaways without opting to download a single title.

Recently, however, a particular book caught my eye. It’s one I had been considering for a while, and since it was being offered through an Instafreebie giveaway, I thought why not? I hopped over, provided my email address, and downloaded my free book.

Great, right?

I thought so too until I reached the end of Chapter 6 and this message appeared:  If you enjoyed this preview, I hope you’ll check out the full book on Amazon!

Huh?

Nothing like being six chapters into a novel and realizing the free “book” you downloaded was only a preview.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work:
Author offers free ebook.
Reader provides email address to the author in exchange for the book.

Simple, right?

I held up my end of the deal by providing my email, but did not get the free book I was promised in return. How does that make me feel?

Cheated.

Striped kitty looking at camera and making funny face. Words "where's the rest?" above

Worse, the author lost an opportunity for a new reader. I was enjoying the story, but suddenly—no more book. At that point, it was 10 o’clock at night and I was on my Kindle Paperwhite which doesn’t allow me to make purchases. I would have had to add the book to my wish list, then hop on my iPhone or computer to finish the purchase. Not likely given how irked I felt.

I started reading something else and don’t know that I will ever get back to the original book again. The author had just released the second book in the series so it made sense to do an Instafreebie–except it wasn’t. There are several book series I faithfully follow that initially hooked me through a free ebook. In this case, I’m sure I would have finished the first book and bought the second, likely becoming a long time fan.

That’s all down the drain given the avenue this author chose to take.

Is this the new trend, or did I miss something in the fine print? As authors we value the readers who provide their email addresses and sign up for our newsletters. There is a certain level of trust that’s expected when a reader volunteers that information. I hope what happened to me was a goof and not something most authors will practice going forward. If you promise a free book, deliver a free book. It should be simple.

Right?

Christmas . . . and #Cats

cute black cat poking out of plastic bag on bedThis is our second year with Raven, my beautiful rescue cat. Look at that face. Pretty hard to be miffed at anything that cute, right?

Last December she was seven months old and filled with curiosity. That led her to camp out in the smaller of my two Christmas trees, sprawling on the branches, and stealing at least a dozen Christmas ornaments. Every morning I’d find sparkly blue and silver balls on the floor or tucked away under the couch. Clever little thing did most of her “hunting” at night.

Because the smaller tree goes in our bow window—one of her favorite hangouts—we decided to forego it this year and just use our larger tree in the family room. She didn’t bother the larger tree last year, so we figured we were in the clear.

Uh…not.

A cat never outgrows curiosity.

The tree wasn’t trimmed more than ten minutes when I found her lying in the branches. Now that it’s been up for over a week, the branch-lounging novelty has worn off, but decorations on the bottom are still fair game. Fortunately, we’ve only had one shattered bulb and I was able to scoop her up before her little paws picked up any glass. The glass bulbs are now clustered mostly at the top.

Progress.

I’ve had cats before—three since I’ve been married, Raven being the fourth—and they were all spoiled. But this one has me wrapped. Worse, she knows it. I keep reminding myself that in human years, she’s about 18-20 years old. What’s the saying—Girls just want to have fun?

She’s definitely doing that!

If you have a cat—or even if you don’t—you might enjoy my paranormal Christmas novella, Food for Poe. It features a clever black feline, a holiday romance, and a creature from myth all wrapped up in a Yuletide tale. You can pick it up on Amazon for just .99 cents.

Book cover for FOOD FOR POE by Mae Clair shows attractive young couple in a winter setting with a black cat and silver Christmas ornaments belowBlurb
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, unable to cope with their daughter’s illness, left him. 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.

Unfortunately, that change also attracts something only whispered about in folklore. Together, Quinn and Breck must defeat a sinister creature intent on claiming the ultimate payment.

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

One reviewer’s take:
“This has become my new favourite Christmas story! I’m going to read it again next Christmas. Poe, a beautiful pure black cat (Not at all unlike my own darling, Rico… Wink.) is the hero of this most magical and thoroughly captivating tale.

It is a tale of love, hope, compassion, faith, superstition, and suspense with a touch of horror… I was hooked from the start. If it was up to me, I’d make it into a Christmas movie and watch it every year.” ~ Kevin Cooper

You can purchase Food for Poe for .99c from Amazon 

Raven and I thank you for your consideration, and send you wishes for a purrfectly Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

A Writer’s Life: Euphoria and Frustration

Happy Last Day of November. Whew! In a little over a month, we’ll be looking at the start of a brand-new year.

Fresh starts are always great. We set out to achieve new goals and break old habits. When it comes to writing, a fresh start—i.e, a new manuscript—falls somewhere between euphoria and frustration for me.

I love beginning a new book.
There are character names to decide, backgrounds to construct, settings to create, and plot bunnies to round up.

I hate beginning a new book.
There are character names to decide, backgrounds to construct, settings to create, and plot bunnies to round up.

Getting the picture? Euphoria and frustration.

I’m currently constructing book two of my Hode’s Hill series. The original plan for this novel was to tie in the life of a carnival sideshow performer of the late 1800s (think freakshow). What can I say—I like odd. I even spent a good deal of time on research.

It was only after I finished book one of the series, Cusp of Night, that I saw too much similarity in theme. Since I didn’t want End of Day to appear repetitious, I scratched the idea and came up with a new one that utilizes old legends of Church Grims and Folk Memories.

Great, right? I was jazzed about the change until I wrote the opening. I read it through once and thought it was crap. Not the power passage I was looking for to start a new book. It left me feeling like this…

woman with glasses has head down, hands clasped in hair, looking exhausted. Open laptop and blank notebook on desk in front of her

Sulking, I avoided the file for three days before I opened it again. Guess what? Everyone says wait and read with fresh eyes. My beginning needed a few tweaks to spruce it up, but they were minor when I put everything in perspective. Frustration gave way to euphoria.

Close up of woman screaming in excitment

It’s made me realize that as much as I love dreaming up a new project, sitting down and writing the first few scenes is the hardest part of the novel. At least, for me. I second guess everything—and I do mean everything. From the strength of the opening scene to the way my characters behave—to the segues between scenes and chapters, I drive myself batty. I don’t think I truly get comfortable until I’m at least halfway through the manuscript.

As an example, I wrote half of Cusp of Night feeling disconnected from my main character, Hannah Norfolk. It took me that long to realize she needed a stronger background, and the name “Hannah” didn’t fit her. Once she became Maya Sinclair and I beefed up her history, she started to write herself. Of course, those changes—especially her personal background—meant altering earlier chapters and a major plot thread. It’s a good thing I have an understanding and adaptable critique partner (thank you, Staci!).

For now, I’m in euphoria-mode again. I like my beginning, I have direction, and things are going well. I know it’s only a matter of time until frustration rears its ugly head, but I’ll ride this wave for as long as I can.

How about you? What aspects of working on a new project do you find the most maddening? What inspires moments of sheer bliss? Am I the only one who waffles between euphoria and frustration, or is it simply the norm for a writer’s life?

When Your Novel Is Retitled

Sometime ago, I ran a blog post about needing a title for the first book in my new Hode’s Hill series of novels. I submitted the manuscript to my publisher with the title of The Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill.

I liked it, but it is long, and probably not the best for marketing. No surprise that the publisher asked for a new title. Many authors have their book titles changed, but this was a first for me. I’ve written six other traditionally published books all without title changes. The hardest part was, I had already written the entire book and was waiting on content edits when the request for a title change came through. My head was already wrapped around The Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill. I’d even been blogging about the book using that title. Worse—and I don’t know why this was so hard for me—all of my computer files had that title attached to them.

Title Ideas message on a white background against view of an old typewriter and paper

The good news is that my editor asked me for new titles, rather than the publisher assigning one. I was asked to submit multiple title choices from which the head editor would select. Over the course of four days, I submitted nineteen choices. Titles are not easy for me, so coming up with nineteen was not a simple feat. From those, my editor sent a handful to the head editor. Naturally, the very last title was the one he chose. 😊 Now that I’ve had time to unwrap my head from Blue Lady, I’ve grown fond of it.

So, what did we end up with?

*drum roll*

Cusp of Night

I hope it inspires thoughts of mystery and something lurking in the dark.

I’ve received the official blurb and am just waiting on a cover. The release is scheduled for June 12, 2018. If you like mysteries with dual story lines (one set in the late 1800s, the other in the present), whispers of a mysterious creature from folklore, old spiritualist practices, and ghostly occurrences, I think you’ll enjoy Cusp of Night. I can’t wait to share the cover and blurb with you. Be on the lookout.

Hopefully, it won’t be long before I can unveil both!

Offering our Thanks and Asking a Favor

It’s only my second day online after returning from vacation, but I had to share this wonderful news. Thanks to Mr. John Howell, the Story Empire blog has been nominated as favorite writing blog at the Positive Writer. It’s so simple to vote, and we would love any support you may be inclined to give. You can read all about it here. Many thanks in advance and a huge thank you to John!

Story Empire

Hi, SEers. Hope you’re all having a great day. We sure are.

Best Writing BlogWe’re writing on a Thursday to express our gratitude to Mr. John Howell for nominating our humble little site as a favorite writing blog over at Positive Writer.

The award for Best Writing Blog will be announced by Positive Writer in January. Until then, it’s a matter of votes.

If you like our blog, please visit the Positive Writer post and leave our name (Story Empire) and URL (https://storyempire.com) in the comments along with a brief statement of why you like our site. You don’t have to fill out any forms or click on a series of links. There’s no poll or checklist, and you definitely don’t need to subscribe to anything. Voting is as easy as putting our name, address, and a short sentence or two in the comments. (And if you want to…

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A Book Lover’s Tag

In a few days I leave for a nice long vacation to sunny beaches and dockside restaurants with good seafood and drinks sporting tiny umbrellas. I’m taking a few books with me that I’ve had on my read list for a while. Top of the list is The Life She Was Given followed by Everything We Lost. If I make it through those, I’ve got plenty of others in the wings. Plane flights and beaches are great for disappearing into good fiction.

Which brings me to today’s post. D. Wallace Peach ( a lovely blogger who you should follow 🙂 ) tagged all her followers with the Book Lover’s Tag, and I was so intrigued, I had to play along. Who doesn’t like discussing books and reading habits? You’re already interested, right? 😊

Consider yourself tagged should you like to play. Just answer the questions on your own blog, but while you’re here I’d love to know your all-time favorite book. Yeah, I know it’s a tough question, but Diana posed the same one and I made myself chose a single title.

Before we get to your answer, take a look at my reading habits:

Soft cuddly tabby cat lying in its owner's lap enjoying and purring while the owner is reading a bookDo you have a specific place for reading?
Not specific but I do have a favorite. I’m happy to read anywhere, but my regular way of unwinding each night is to read in bed before I fall asleep. It’s the perfect way to end each day. Bonus points if my cat, Raven, decides to snuggle.

book mark for author Mae Clair with spooky house at top, eerie inside setting at bottom Bookmark or random piece of paper?
Normally a bookmark. I had my own created for swag, so I normally grab one of those when I’ve got a paperback or hardback. I’ve always been someone who likes colorful bookmarks, so even before having my own, I always had something artsy, usually bought from a bookstore. I still have a collection. Of course, these days, a lot of my reading is done on my Kindle. When I e-read I don’t use the bookmark feature.

Do you eat or drink whilst reading?
Most of my reading is done before I go to bed, so no. If I’m reading at other times (camped out on my deck or on the living room sofa), I always have something to drink and occasionally something to munch.

Music or TV whilst reading.
Occasionally, I’ll play soft instrumental background music when I read, but other than that, any sound is a distraction that must be squashed immediately!

One book at a time or several?
Only one. It’s the way I write, too—one story at a time.

Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?
Most of my reading is done at home but books are so easily transported, I have no objection to reading elsewhere. I never go on an appointment (doctor, dentist, hair stylist) without taking a book along.

Read out loud or silently?
Usually silently, but sometimes when I’m caught up in a story I “whisper read” without even realizing it. I’ll also do that thing where your tongue forms the words against the roof of your mouth but your lips stay closed, Weird, I know.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?
I read page by page unless a section really drags. When that happens, I’ll skim the pages that follow until the story picks up again. Not really reading ahead, just skimming. With a great book, however, I am riveted word by word right up until the close.

Break the spine or keep it like new.
If it’s a nice fat paperback, I have no qualms about folding the cover back which usually results in a creased spine and pages that waffle upright into a fan. If it’s a hardback, I’m far more careful. I’ll remove the dust jacket to preserve it, and take care not to break the spine.

Do you write in books?
Only if the book is non-fiction. I normally read those for research (or because the subject fascinates me) and then I write all over the pages, highlight passages, draw arrows and gleefully post sticky tabs for easy reference. If it’s a work of fiction, the pages stay pristine. 😊

What books are you reading now?
I’m just finishing up Keeper of His Soul by Lauralynn Elliott, a paranormal tale with a conflicted vampire—the best kind. After that I’ll be reading the books I mentioned above, The Life She Was Given and Everything We Lost. They’re going on vacation with me.

What is your childhood favorite book?
book cover of Planet of Death by Robert Silverberg
There were two books that made a huge impression on me as a child. Planet of Death by Robert Silverberg which I read in fourth grade. The vivid cover sucked me in, and decades later, I still remember it as an adult. The book was my first experience with science-fiction and I was enthralled.

The other book is The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden by Mary Chase, also read when I was in elementary school. It opened my eyes to magic, spooky houses, Victorian ladies, and a bit of time travel. Once again, I was enraptured. Those two books, coupled with my own imagination, and encouragement from my parents, really opened the door to writing.

Book cover for THE TERROR by Dan Simmons which shows an old clipper ship without sails surrounded by ice and glaciersWhat is your all-time favorite book?
This is such a hard question and my favorite has changed over time. I have a number of favorites, but if I have to chose a single title, it’s The Terror by Dan Simmons. I’ve never read anything like it—a blend of historical fact, folklore, mystery, horror, even a bit of romance. Simmons penned a fictional account of Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition to find the Northwest Passage and did it in manner that is haunting, lyrical, gruesome and brutal. It’s a mammoth tome topping 900 pages, but well worth the journey.

That’s it! You’re all tagged. 🙂
Remember to share your favorite book in the comments with your reason why.

Guest blogger Julie Holmes: Writing by the Seasons

It’s finally starting to feel like fall in central Pennsylvania after an unseasonably warm October. That change in temps is the perfect intro for my next guest who takes an in-depth look at using the seasons to influence the plot of your story.

Julie Holmes blogs at Facets of a Muse and is an uber supportive friend and blogger. She’s got a fun and quirky sense of humor that shows in posts about her muse (who is always drafting mine for pub crawls), the writing life, gardening and cats. You can’t go wrong with cats. Just saying.

Hop over to Julie’s, check out her blog, then show her some comment luv below. She’s placed her own wonderful spin on writing for the seasons. Take it away, Julie…

~ooOOoo~

Hello! *waves* A hearty “Thank You” to Mae for once again inviting me to guest on her blog. This is a nice place, Mae. Can’t wait to hear more about your new series (hint 🙂 ).

Since Mae left me up to my own devices when it came to a subject for a guest post (insert evil laugh here 😀 ), I shuffled through my mental idea bag as an October rainstorm poured outside. Not to mention Mae’s recent post about writing by the seasons on Story Empire. Well, it seems Mother Nature is trying to get my attention.

Living in Minnesota allows me the privilege of experiencing all four seasons. Each season seems to have its own attitudes and personality. Spring is hopeful and happy—most of the time. When Spring is moody and rainy, she often makes up for it with rainbows.

beautiful rainbow over open field

Summer is brilliant and fun-loving, but sometimes likes to be the center of attention a little too much with blasting heat or angry storms.

golf course backed by lake

Autumn is quiet, the friend you call when you want a companion on a walk. Sometimes she can be a blowhard, which just ruins her dye job.

autumn bank and tree in fiery colors over dark lake

And winter, well, they don’t call it the Old Man for nothing. Winter’s attitude swings from peaceful stillness to howling bluster.

cluster of trees covered with snow

Okay, I know not everyone has all four seasons, and if they do, they may not be as distinct as they are in the upper Midwest. When you experience one or more of the seasons, using the seasons as part of your setting is almost second nature. The fun comes in when you use the season as more than just the backdrop for your story.

Say you’re writing a romance. Summer just begs to be the backdrop. Think walks along the beach or summer dresses or lounging in the sun. Eating dinner on a patio. Barbeques. Pretty typical fare, right? Well, unless it’s one of those holiday romance stories about Christmas parties and sleigh rides and cuddling by the fireplace. Still, pretty typical.

Okay, now give the season a bigger part in the story. Maybe switch it up a bit. Spring rains, thunderstorms, and wind. The heroine gets stuck in the mud, and the hunky neighbor guy stops to tow her out. If it hadn’t been spring and rainy, it wouldn’t have been muddy, and the hunky neighbor would have to have another excuse to cross paths with the heroine.

Let’s try autumn. Falling leaves, apple cider, pumpkin patches, harvest, Halloween. Our heroine is helping her grandfather get the harvest in. Her grandfather has a heart attack, and can’t finish getting the harvest in. She can’t do it alone. Along comes the hunky grandson of her grandfather’s “arch enemy”, who offers to help bring in the harvest.

Hmm. What about winter? Winter’s easy. PIck anything: furnace goes out, roads blocked by a snowstorm, the holidays. It’s a gimmee, that FREE space on the bingo card.

For example, in my upcoming book, I use winter as my season character. One of the key scenes between the main female character and main male character takes place only because of a blizzard. The blizzard forces them together, because the female protagonist can’t easily get to a safe refuge, and the male protagonist won’t let her stay alone. (You’ll have to read the book for the rest—mwahahahaha!)

In the second book, spring is my chosen season, because the snow melt of spring causes rivers to run high and fast, perfect for disposing of a body. And they’re cold, which hampers the M.E. determining time of death. On a less morbid note, the awakening of spring flowers and fresh leaves on the trees has a romantic effect on the story. Sudden spring storms can also toss wrenches into plans.

Summer offers possibilities beyond outdoor concerts and swimsuits. How about a gardener who has a family emergency and asks the neighbor to water the garden. Guess what? The neighbor either forgets and the garden dries up, or the neighbor remembers, but it rains for three days straight, and the garden drowns. What does the gardener do upon returning home? If they got along before the emergency, do they still get along? What if the gardener was growing his prize-winning dahlias? Or a special tomato hybrid he was betting on to help him win first place at the state fair?

Use the season as more than just window dressing. Use it to enhance conflict. The key is to use the season to affect the choices the protagonist or antagonist must make in the story. Those choices can take the story in one direction or another. Use it to make solving the crime more difficult, to force two opposing characters together, to make characters take alternate routes that take them to no-man’s land or paradise.

Try to utilize the season in a way that is unexpected. A sudden summer deluge can cause a mudslide that can keep the bad guys from getting to the hero, or strand the heroine with no way of contacting help. A fall bonfire can get out of control, a hay ride can be the vehicle of romance, or a leaf pile can cover a body. And there’s Halloween. Let your imagination run.

Another hearty thank you to Mae for hosting me. I’m off to check out the changing leaves and figure out how I can cast my favorite season in a story.