Where do you find inspiration? #amwriting

A recent family excursion dovetailed nicely with my latest WIP. The Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill is set in an urban river town, much like the area in which I grew up. A few weeks ago, my nephew turned 40 and his husband booked a riverboat for a private party. Everyone had a blast. Here’s a group of us, all family. I’m second from the right, hubby is second from the left (my nephew is not in this photo).

family group celebrating at party

In addition to enjoying a 2-hour riverboat cruise, complete with yummy hors d’oeuvres and fireworks (there was an event at one of the islands that coincided with the party), I had the opportunity to snap a number of photos. I’m saving these for inspiration to use in my fictional town of Hode’s Hill, which has a walking bridge much like this one.

walking bridge over river at night

I was also able to capture a few shots of the skyline. Even though I’m a country girl at heart, there’s something mesmerizing about city lights at night.

city skyline at night with reflections on river

In The Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill, I introduce the town as “Caught somewhere between quaint and struggling for expansion, Hode’s Hill was a blend of old homes, converted factories, cozy eateries, and civic buildings.”

Into this setting, I’ve set the urban legend of The Fiend—a creature with a devil-like face and cat-like agility responsible for several murders at the turn of the twentieth century. The book is set in present day, but each chapter begins with a scene from the past. The reader follows two mysteries—one involving Maya Sinclair in the present and another focused on a spiritualist, Lucinda Glass, in the past.

Eventually, the two plotlines intersect for the novel’s conclusion. It’s been fun—and challenging—weaving dual storylines. Even better, the story has been a virtual playground of oddities including ghosts, spiritualism, creatures, and a town caught up in fear. Plenty of my scenes have been set along the banks of my fictitious river, the Chinkwe, which is why I enjoyed my recent cruise. Did I mention the boat was an old-fashioned two-story paddle boat?

In closing, I thought I’d share my latest look (yes, I need to update my author photo). New glasses and I had three inches cut off my hair. Is this a sign I’m getting old (those darn glasses are bifocals).

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Do you find inspiration in every day events? Are you as reliant on glasses as I am?  Have you ever read a book with dual timelines and do you enjoy them? For the gals out there, do you freak when you change your hairstyle (guys, you can weigh in too 🙂 ) Chat away in the comments below!

Happy Solar Eclipse Day!

Before I kick off my post, just a quick note that I am also blogging at Story Empire today on the topic of “tribes.” Not sure what I mean?  You can check it out here if the mood strikes. 🙂

Having said that, I’ve been looking forward to this day for a while. Yeah, I know it’s Monday but in the U.S. August 21, 2017 is a big deal. Why? Because states and cities lying in a narrow band from the northwest to the southeast are going to experience a total solar eclipse.

As an example, if you live in Hopkinsville, Kentucky you’ve got it made. I picked that location because it’s listed as one of the 10 best viewing areas according to GreatAmericanEclipse.com.

It’s also the location of the Hopkinsville Goblin extraterrestrial incident of 1955. Hmm. That sighting occurred on August 21, 1955. Am I the only one who finds the coincidence in date a little freaky?

Total solar eclipse glowing on sky above wilderness in forest. Amazing scientific natural phenomenon when moon passes between planet earth and sun. Serenity nature background.

If you are in Hopkinsville or anywhere in the cross-country viewing band, consider yourself lucky. My area will only see a partial eclipse with the nearest to totality happening around 2:40 PM. People have been gobbling up viewing glasses wherever they can find them. As far as I know, there are none to be had.

The last time a total solar eclipse was visible from the lower 48 states in the U.S. was in February of 1979. Once again, my area only saw a partial eclipse but I vividly remember making a pin hole viewer. I also had a telescope at the time which was equipped with a sun filter and a white tray for projection. I still remember fiddling with that thing in the front yard. “Sky events” have always been something I’ve found highly intriguing. The Northern Lights are on my bucket list.

My father had a profound interest in astronomy and passed that love onto me. From sitting outside together and watching the stars, to showing me how to use my first telescope, he made sure I appreciated science and the sky. When he was in his twenties, he designed and built a telescope for one of his nephews. This would have been in the 1940s. That telescope remained operational into the 21st Century.

From the early origins of Man, we have looked to the heavens for signs and symbols. In days of old, people lived in fear of an eclipse, many believing the sun was devoured by demons or dragons. Others that the sun and moon waged war. Superstitions ranged from fear of going outside, to an eclipse being harmful to pregnant women, to children who were born during an eclipse turning into mice. In 6th Century B.C., a war between the Medes and Lydians ended abruptly because of an eclipse. The armies on both sides believed the darkening of the sun was a sign the gods were displeased by their fighting. On the more favorable side, Italians believed flowers planted during an eclipse would bloom with brighter colors than natural.

Mondays rarely make it onto my list of favorite days, but this one will go down as being special. Even if haze or clouds make the eclipse less than stellar, I love that people have taken such a keen interest in the sky, and are looking forward to a rare celestial event.

Silhouette of four people on a hillside watching a solar eclipse

Are you in the path of the eclipse? If so, what do you have planned for today? Is the excitement rampant where you are? Most importantly, have you ever experienced a solar eclipse? Let’s celebrate the event in the comments below!

A Brick in the Walk

My husband catches me by surprise sometimes. I mean really by surprise. We joke a lot because he’s not much of a reader and doesn’t understand why anyone would “waste time” reading a story. He’ll read instructional manuals and text books, but fiction? Not going to happen. The cosmic joke is that he’s married to a fiction writer.

Wait. It gets better.

After working for State Government for many long years, he was able to retire early with full benefits. That was great until a year later when he ran out of projects to do around the house, and decided he wanted to go back to work part time. So he got a job at—cosmic joke #2—a library!

It’s an easy job, something to keep him busy, but I think he enjoys it. He does meeting room set-ups and some minor maintenance around the place. The man is surrounded by books every day and by librarians who rattle on about their love of the written word. He’s come to appreciate the importance of libraries and the programs they offer, while the librarians couldn’t be happier to have someone of his work ethics. He has them completely spoiled.

The library itself is inviting, and I love going there. Among other amenities, there are plenty of comfy sitting areas both inside and out. One of the outside areas is in a section where people are able to purchase “memory bricks” for special occasions or in honor of loved ones. People place milestones there—anniversaries, awards, and names of family members. Take a seat on the bench that overlooks the area, and this is what you’ll see immediately to the left.

Brick that says Mae Clair

Yep. My husband surprised me with that. My name at our local library—a place of books, learning and imagination. I was thoroughly caught off guard. There were tears, hugs and laughter.

My books are in that library and now my name will hang around outside forever, long after I’m gone. Like I said, the man really surprises me sometimes.  🙂

multiple bricks with names

 

Celebrating our Mothers with Mother’s Day Magic

Mother’s are such an important part of our lives. I was fortunate enough to grow up in an extremely close family with parents who encouraged my love of reading and writing from an early age. My father, an artist and WWII veteran who dabbled with words, passed away from cancer when I was thirteen. I was a “late in life baby” for my parents, so by the time my father died, my older siblings were already out of the house, two of them married. My mother and I grew even closer and she became my best friend until her death in 2012 at the age of 89. I miss her and my father dearly.

It is with pleasure that I present my latest guest, Daisy Banks, a contributing author to a collection of stories honoring mothers. I hope you will discover your own magic in this boxed collection. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to charity, as noted below.

~ooOOoo~

From Daisy:

My thanks to you for showcasing the Mother’s Day Magic Boxed Set collection. I hope your blog readers enjoy the story tasters from this collection of stories.

Best wishes,
Daisy Banks

A message from Allyson R. Abbott.

READING TO HELP A CHARITY
I love to buy books as presents. I wanted to find a book that would let my mom know how much I appreciate her. As an author, I decided to write the story to say how much I love her. I told my friend what I had planned to do. Grace, also an author, wanted to do the same. We set out to write our two stories, but Grace suffers with MS and it became so bad she had to stop writing. I sent out an appeal to authors worldwide to write stories for Mother’s Day, and to donate 10% of every book sold to MS. My call was answered by 13 special authors and our Mother’s Day Magic box set was born. Read these beautiful stories and help stop a crippling disease––MS!

Mothers Day Magic boxed collection of books

PURCHASE FROM:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble 
Kobo  
iTunes 

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Fibbing for Fun by Mae Clair

Recently, my friend and sister author, Cd Brennan, invited me to her blog to share to share five facts about myself for her Sunday S’more feature. Well, actually four facts and a fib. Visitors had the chance to decide which of the five “facts” was an untruth.

Thanks for everyone who hopped over to take a peek at that post. It’s time to spill the beans on Cd’s blog, so I thought I’d spill them here too. This is your chance to see if you were right or guess again. 😀

And, the contenders are:

~ooOOoo~

My husband and I have enjoyed many years of bay fishing and river fishing. Once, while fishing for bass on the river, we got caught in a freak thunderstorm—rain, wind, lightning and hail. As we didn’t want to be sitting on the water in an aluminum pontoon boat, we looked for a place to beach with shelter. There were several small islands nearby, a few with summer cottages, so we beached on the nearest. The guy in the house saw us struggling, and motioned us inside. We anchored our boat and hurried after him.

After about ten minutes indoors we heard a massive crack directly overhead. Not thunder, but something else. We raced outside to find a large tree had been struck by lightning and dropped onto the roof. Seconds later, my husband spied our boat one step shy of being swept into the river—the storm had ripped our anchor free.  Fortunately, he was able to grab it at the last moment and haul it back in, but had the tree not fell we would have been minus a boat. Thankfully, no one was injured and the cottage only had minor roof damage.

~ooOOoo~

The high school me.

The high school me.

My nickname in high school was Starchild.

~ooOOoo~

I was a bit of a rebel in high school and during my senior year led a protest that involved barging into the teachers’ lounge, and demanding that the principal meet my group in the auditorium. There was about twenty of us who cut class, pulled down “no smoking” signs and demanded we be given our own smoking area outside. Remember, this was a looooong time ago, and people didn’t realize how bad smoking was. I was the ringleader of that protest and am still amazed I wasn’t expelled.

~ooOOoo~

A number of years ago I attended a business conference in Arizona as part of my day job. My husband went along and we extended our stay for a mini vacation. The conference was held at a resort of villas that included eight suites, each villa with a private pool.

Late one night, hubby and I went for a romantic moonlight swim. The place was deserted, no one about. We had the pool to ourselves—right up until a helicopter swooped down, hovered above us, and nailed us in the beam of a high-intensity spotlight. I freaked out, my husband yelled something not very pleasant, and the helicopter took off.

We went back to our suite and my husband spied someone prowling around below our balcony. Turns out it was a cop who warned us to stay inside as a convenience store had been robbed several miles away and the armed suspect had been chased to our area. I hate to think if he’d stumbled upon us in the pool!

~ooOOoo~

I grew up with an Italian grandfather who immigrated to the U.S. from Castelleone when he was 28.  He was proud of his cultural heritage and taught me to speak Italian when I was just seven years old.

Pop-Pop looking dapper

My grandfather

~ooOOoo~

And the untruth? It was the last one. My grandfather was from Castelleone and came to the U.S. when he was twenty-eight but he never spoke Italian around us. Even my mother didn’t know a word of it. The only time I ever heard my grandfather speak his native language was when he called home to the “old country” and chatted with his relatives over the phone. To this day, I regret I never learned Italian.

So . . . did you pick the fib? 🙂

 

A Writer’s Fiefdom Revisited by Mae Clair

Writers need a special place to create. It doesn’t matter where it is (over the years I’ve had quite a few) as long as we can put our stamp on it.

When I was a kid, it was my bedroom, scribbling in spiral bound notebooks. When I got my fist typewriter at age fifteen (a manual one), I took over my parents’ dining room table. Each day we would move my papers and notes, along with the typewriter, to the floor when dinner rolled around. When the table was cleared, my parents gladly gave me my space back. To this day, I love how they encouraged me to write.

When my husband and I married, the dining room table pattern continued through each of the apartments we leased. When we bought our first home, we set a room aside as my den. Although it was nothing extraordinary, and shared space with the ironing board and laundry basket, I had an actual desk. I remember coming home from work one day and finding it in the living room. Hubby had taken it upon himself to surprise me, and picked it up from a state surplus store.

That desk was a monster. Solid wood, with a built in cabinet in addition to drawers. It always reminded me of something that belonged in a courthouse, it was so huge. It stayed with me for many years afterward, and when we moved to our current house, it became the center point of my den. I was no longer sharing space with laundry and the ironing board, but the room could have used a facelift. Still, it was my spot, reserved just for me. Writer’s bliss.

In warm weather, I took my laptop outside and worked from our deck or covered patio. Sometimes, when the mood struck, I’d stake claim on a corner of the couch in the family room. Eventually, we decided to remodel a smaller room in the house for my den and turn the existing space into a TV room. That meant moving everything from the smaller, guest bedroom into the den during the remodeling process. You might remember me lamenting my space was usurped with clutter in A Writer’s Fiefdom. I promised in that post I would share photos when the project was done.

View of desk and small bookcase

I’ve been neglectful in posting these, but I finally have my newly remodeled den, along with a new desk, bookcases, corner fireplace and flatscreen (which I like to tune to Soundscapes for background music when I’m writing).

Corner fireplace with flatscreen TV

We gutted this room from the floor up. Everything is new – from the floor and moldings, to the doors, switch plates, outlets, etc. I should have taken before and after photos, but didn’t think of the “before” photos until it was too late. Hubby does good work, and I am now a pro at stripping wallpaper. 🙂

Bookcase

I wanted warm harvest colors and wood tones, a change from the “blue” den I had before.

I’m sure I’ll still wander outside with my laptop come summer, but in the meantime I’m enjoying my cozy new haven, which is perfect for dreaming up characters.

View of desk and computer

Oh, and about that monster desk? We had to dismantle it in order to fit it through the door for trash disposal. It went out in pieces! I wrote a lot of stories on that baby, just like my parents’ dining room table. I’m hoping to write even more in my new fiefdom.

What do you like best about your writing space?

In Honor of Gloria Mae, by Mae Clair

Although spring officially begins in March, I’ve always considered May 1st as the true date of the season’s arrival. Perhaps it has to do with treasured memories of May Day from childhood or, perhaps, that everything is green and blooming, no longer mired in the muddy browns and bleak charcoals of a fading winter. May 1st holds a special place in my heart – – not only for the renewal it brings, but because it’s my mother’s birthday.

Me and my mom, a few years ago during a beach vacation. She loved the shore. Wow, my hair was short!

Me and my mom, several years ago during a beach vacation. She loved the shore!

She passed away last year on the first day of summer, timing that is oddly poetic to me. Spring, a season of newness and light, gave way to one of warmth and eternal promise, as if summer wanted to embrace her as well.

Had my mother lived, she would have been ninety this year. Rather than write a post to mark her passing in June, I chose today – – her birthday – – to celebrate her life.

It’s been hard without her for my siblings and me. We‘re a close family and we each struggle with the loss, but we’re blessed in knowing that our mother had a long, fulfilling life.

I was fortunate to have not only a mother/daughter relationship with my mom, but an abiding friendship as well.  From the time I was in my middle twenties, my mom and I spent practically every Saturday together – – shopping, the movies, lunch, sometimes all three in one day. We had shopping marathons, discussed movies, swapped books, purses and jewelry. I can trace my love of reading directly to my mother and father and, to this day, it feels odd to try on clothes and not have her there to give her opinion. She would often tell me I was too conservative and needed more “flash.” 😀

My mom (center) and her sisters. This is how I remember her -- always the life of the party.

My mom (center) and her sisters. This is how I remember her — always the life of the party.

Extremely young at heart, she went dancing until she was almost 80 and drove until she was 85. Eventually age and infirmity caught up with her, but she never lost her love for life. We no longer did shopping marathons but we did still go shopping. Mostly for books in those later years. We would collect our bounty, then stake out a table in Border’s café for a few hours and chat before making the way to the checkout with our purchases.

There is so much I could say in this post about who she was – – her love of glitzy clothes and fashionable rings, how she loved dancing (especially disco), or she how enjoyed going out . . . even if it was just to run to the mall for the afternoon. But what stands out most was something that struck me during the last couple years of her life.

My mother was always a socializer when she was out and about. She walked into a room and commanded it, and had the ability to strike up a conversation with anyone. What amazed me — and I came to appreciate those last few years — was her natural charm. It wasn’t fabricated, never a façade. My mother had a gift to make anyone she talked to feel like they were the most important person in the world. I saw it time and time again with everyone she encountered. Why had I never noticed it before?

Another shot of me and my mom at the beach. Part of a yearly girls' trip with my sister.

Another shot of me and my mom at the beach. Part of a yearly girls’ trip with my sister.

Was it because that last year of her life was spent in a nursing home, where so many people struggled just to function? And yet my mother always had a kind word, compliment, and a friendly smile. It didn’t matter if you were a resident, medical personnel or staff. Even if she had a down day (and it’s hard not to in a nursing home), she still had compliments for anyone she encountered. People naturally gravitated to her because she made them feel special – – and in her eyes they were. That gift comes from the heart. It makes me wonder if I could do the same, facing similar circumstances. So many people told me, “Your mother is such a delight.” That tells me she touched many hearts, not just mine.

I don’t have her charisma. I am much more of a loner. As I’m the youngest of four siblings, my mom was fond of telling me “You’re my baby.” That never got old, even though I did. 🙂

So in memory of my mother, Gloria Mae, the daughter of Italian immigrants who found the love of her life in a stubborn, blond-haired, blue-eyed German, I’d much rather remember her life than her passing.

For all that you’ve taught me and all that you’re continuing to teach me – – Happy Birthday, Mom. I miss you. What a reunion we’ll have . . . some day.

Mom Xmas at Lakewood Hills