Mae Clair: The Lovely Blogger Award

The wonderfully prolific Kitt Crescendo recently nominated me for the One Lovely Blogger award. If you’re not familiar with Kitt’s blog theinnerwildkat you need to hop over and start reading pronto. She’s brilliantly creative and always delivers a thought-provoking post. Thanks for the nomination, Kitt!

So how does this particular award work? Well, to start I’m supposed to share seven random tidbits about moi. Yes I realize the anticipation is tantamount to a lunar shuttle launch, but try to restrain yourself while I collect my thoughts. 😉

Ready?  Here goes:

  1. I’ve always been a romantically idealistic dreamer. You never expected that, right? In high school I was known as “the Starchild.”
  2. I am addicted to most anything related to Sherlock Holmes, especially the BBC series SHERLOCK, and Robert Downey Jr.’s brilliant portrayal of my favorite detective. I’m currently suffering from Benedict Cumberbatch withdrawal.
  3. I love disaster movies and plague movies. They’re a guilty pleasure. The strange part is I tend to think they fall flat once the disaster happens. I love the spine-tingling string of circumstances and discoveries that lead to the ‘event,’ but not so much the aftermath.
  4. I was collecting anime and manga before most people knew what it was, and have a pristine collection.  Hmmm…must throw some of that stuff on eBay.
  5. I am in love with Aloysius Pendergast. My world will come to a screeching grinding halt on December 11, 2012, when Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child release the next book in their series. Time must/will stand still until I can devour it. 
  6. I love warm windy days and stormy skies, especially together.
  7. As a teen, I volunteered for the Red Cross and held multiple medical certifications.

Now for the Rules of Participation:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
    Thanks, again, Kitt!
  2. List seven random things about yourself.
    Done! Riveting facts above.
  3. Nominate fifteen other awesome bloggers.
    Wow, fifteen is a lot, but here are my nominees for those of who’d like to participate: 

Alicia Coleman
Angela Quarles
Calisa Rhose
Christine Warner
Donna Cummings
Jessi Gage
JM Stewart
Karen Michelle Nutt
Kate Meader
Kate Warren
Maryellen Brady
Renita Pizzitola
Stanalei Fletcher
Susan Koenig
Veronica Scott

Okay, ladies ~ spill the beans on your blogs. What would you like to share about yourself? 😀

Mae Clair: A Lifetime’s Journey

I recently discovered Google Alerts. If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s a pretty cool system that allows you to type in a string or reference phrase. Any time those words appear in web content you receive an email alert. Because I’m anxious to learn when WEATHERING ROCK is going to appear on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and a few other sites, I set up alerts for the book title plus Mae Clair.

Yesterday I received a death notice for Ola Mae Clair. At first I had that sad creepy sensation that always overcomes me when I learn of someone’s passing. Then I started thinking about Ola’s life. She was 93 when she died. Can you imagine the sweeping changes she saw in her lifetime?

In 1919 when Ola was born, Woodrow Wilson was president, prohibition was one year away and the jazz age was just beginning. Ten years later, the Great Depression turned life on end and sent the country into a plummeting downward spiral.  By 1941, she would have had to face the horror of Pearl Harbor and the long dark hours of WWII.

By 1950, life had settled into recovery and production. In 1968, the Summer of Love, a 49 year old Ola might have looked askance at the events taking place in Haight Ashbury, California, and been grieved by the turmoil of the Civil Rights movement; the tragedy of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination.

She would have seen the introduction of the floppy disk in the 1970s, the premiere of M*A*S*H, Patty Hearst’s kidnapping , disco, pet rocks and platform shoes. By 1989, a 70 year old Ola would have witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, the passing of Lucille Ball, the birth of moonwalking and parachute pants—a far cry from the homespun clothing of 1919.

The 1990s brought the horrific standoff in Waco, Texas, the birth of the World Wide Web going public, Oprah Winfrey’s book club and Tickle-Me-Elmo dolls. In 1999 we hit the staggering turn of a century. Remember Y2K? My husband and I started a new tradition—lobster tail for New Year’s Eve dinner. It’s something we’ve kept up every year since.  I wonder what Ola did. She would have been 80 years old.

The last decade brought the tragedy of 9/11, ipods, Geocaching and speed dating. I wonder what Ola would have thought of the latter. All in all, I like to think she had an amazing life and a happy one. Certainly it was a long one. It makes me realize I have so much learning and growing yet to do…including this new venture of writing!

Be at peace, Ola. You have a new journey ahead of you and I’m sure you won’t walk it alone.

Mae Clair’s Summer Serenade

Although summer hasn’t officially rolled up and called it a season (that will happen later this month), once the calendar inches past Labor Day, I consider it over. Maybe it goes back to childhood when returning to school ended afternoons of roaming sun-soaked fields and playing hide-and-seek well past dark. Who can forget the whimsical magic of a summer night with friends?

When I was in school, we didn’t start the new year until the day after Labor Day. To the child in me, that was the official end of summer. Game over, welcome to a reality check.

The first day of school was always one of excitement…getting to see friends I hadn’t since early June, discovering new classes, classmates and teachers. But after the initial gloss wore off, I was more than ready to return to the frolicking routine of summer’s carefree lifestyle.  

Now I see the passage of the season differently, but still mark its demise with a sense of sadness. Don’t get me wrong—I love autumn. I’m constantly telling my husband I couldn’t live anywhere that didn’t include all four seasons. I’d miss the change from one to the next (although I could do with a shorter winter). He, on the other hand, would gleefully sign up for a zip code that offered tropical temperatures 365 days a year.

As summer fades, I note how the air smells differently, underscored by the brewing musk of autumn;  how the evenings grow shorter with the smoky kiss of September, and how even a slight breeze will send a kite-tail of leaves fluttering to the ground. The flower beds and decorative pots that once cried for water have sprouted into ungainly bushes, creating vibrant bursts of color in my yard. I have to turn lights on earlier than I used to in the evening, and my Green Mountain coffee selection has morphed from Island Coconut to Pumpkin Spice.

Seasonal change. It’s here.

I’m generally a productive writer, but admit summer puts a bite into my output. There are more events to distract me–picnics, parties and outdoor gatherings. In that respect, I’m looking forward to an autumn where I can snuggle inside and let my fingertips dance across the keyboard, creating characters and stories that involve all four seasons. Yes, I love summer, but autumn brings a new and different sense of exhilaration.

What about you? Do you have a favorite time of year that coaxes you to write more often than others?

Mae Clair: My Shameful Addiction

It began at an early age. My parents made several attempts to intervene and steer me onto the straight and narrow. I believe they thought I‘d grow out of it given time. Later, my husband tried to help me break the habit, suggesting I go cold turkey. Instead, I ended up corrupting him and introducing him to the dark side.  You see…I am a chipaholic.

Yes, you heard correctly. Those innocent crisps of potato and salt are my downfall. Before you roll your eyes and reach for an Utz, allow me to put this craving in perspective.  My willpower runs like this:

Chocolate? Eh. I have to be in the mood.
Ice cream? Eh. Maybe some mint chocolate chip a few times a year.
Cakes, cookies, donuts? *yawn* They don’t speak to me.
Soda? Never. I hate the fizzy stuff.
Chips. Oooh, look how pretty and tempting!

That’s not to say I don’t have standards. I’m not much for flavors like sour cream and onion, cheddar, salt and vinegar, Cajun, dill pickle (seriously?) and pizza. Give me plain, or the occasional barbeque. Old-fashioned, kettle brands, and russets are great too, as are those fancy gourmet colored ones you buy in the organic aisle (as if that’s going to make them healthy. Yeah, right).

But I digress. Any chipaholic worth their salt will tell you there is a proper method to christening a fresh bag of chips. The following steps must be followed precisely:

  1. Grip bag to release auditory crinkle of foil (this builds anticipation)
  2. Tug bag apart/open (do not tear)
  3. Inhale/savor the bouquet
  4. Eat one chip, and one chip only, to absorb flavor. This must be done to appreciate the vintage of the batch, the same way you would sample wine after allowing it to breathe. Not all chips are created equal.
  5. If spouse is present, share chip with him.
  6. Pretend snobbery and control
  7. Devour bag, then tell yourself it’s the last time

Pitiful, yes, I know. Since my will power is notorious for gleefully hopping the Middleswarth or Martin’s Kettle Cooked train, we don’t often buy chips in my house. Occasionally, however, my husband will want a bag and I don’t feel it’s fair to deprive him.  The solution? After much discussion (and hysterical sobbing on my part about unwanted weight gain….okay, kidding, but you get the idea), we determined he would buy only ripple chips. Why is this a big deal? Because, I hate ripples. They’re thick and ridgy and don’t taste anything remotely like a chip should.

Genius, right? I was happy. He was happy. We threw confetti. Then he brought the innocuous ripples home.

Guess what?

When there is no other chip in the house, the siren call of a ripple is enough to awaken the slumbering beast of a chipaholic. It wasn’t long before it dragged me into the kitchen whispering I should taste ‘just one’ to remind myself how wretched they were. After all, I’m a chip snob. A ripple had no power over me. Or so I thought. *hangs head in shame* 

The end result?  We don’t buy ripples anymore. If I’m going to cave, I want it to be for the real McCoy. So I’m back to banishing chips from the house and eating carrot sticks. Er, most of the time anyway. After all, what good is a guilty pleasure if you can’t wallow around it in once in a while?

So, how does all of this relate to writing? Simple. I’m addicted to that too, and that’s something I won’t banish from the house. Ever!

Now that I’ve fessed up to my woefully embarrassing addiction, what’s yours? Do share! 😀

Mae Clair: When the Sky Had a Tail

Last week I read a great blog post by Stephanie Ingram called Aliens Have Landed.  She relayed how as children, she and her brother searched for aliens in the fields behind her house. Imaginative fun!

Stephanie pointed out that much of what we experience as kids makes its way into our writing as adults. Some of it is conscious, some not so conscious. I love the frivolity of childhood and the stories I used to invent with friends. I was always dreaming up something, or imagining a secretive place tucked under the horizon of a far-off land.

If you scroll down the sidebar of my blog you’ll see “12 Weird Facts About Me.”  Note number three. Minus any eye-rolling, please! 😉  The story is this:

It’s a warm summer night, almost dark, and I’m sitting on the front porch with my father. He didn’t realize The Spooky House was two doors down, (for some unfathomable reason he thought it was a simple office building), but I was conscious of it even then. He and I often sat together at dusk, especially if there was a thunderstorm brewing.

He must have worked a long shift, because he drifted off to sleep. Shortly afterward, a large green object trolled across the sky. I remember it as a semi-cloud, the color of algae-enriched seawater. Light spilled from the bottom, drenching the street, front lawn, and half of the porch in an eerie green glow. The light swept over me but didn’t touch my father who remained seated in the shadows.

I don’t know why I didn’t wake him. When you’re a kid you accept the unusual. The ‘cloud’ moved past, and soon people were walking up the street, jabbering excitedly. My dad woke up and I followed him down to the sidewalk where a woman stopped to chat. She’d come from the below The Spooky House, and told my father “the sky looked like it had a tail.” I remember those words clearly.

Had I seen a UFO?

Maybe not of the alien variety but, even now, with the hindsight of an adult, I can’t say what it was.

Hot air balloon?  Weather anomaly?

Given the woman confirmed something strange had happened that night, it will live forever as a goose-bump ‘what-if’ memory in my mind. At some point in the future that strange dirigible will most certainly worm its way into a story.

Are there childhood events, mysterious or common, you see yourself using in fiction?  Maybe you already have. Do tell! Inquiring minds (er…that would be me), want to know! 😉

The Magic of Betwixt

Enchantment lingers in transitional periods, those fleeting moments when time hangs suspended before hurtling forward into definitive change.  I’ve always been fascinated and inspired by those passages.  Not sure what I mean? Here are some of my favorites:

Twilight.
The first tentative rays of dawn.
The transition between seasons.
The arrival of a storm front.
The sliver of time between 11:59 and midnight.
New Year’s Eve at midnight.
The awe-inspiring cusp of a century. Remember how you felt on New Year’s Eve 1999?

As far back as childhood, betwixt moments have conjured a sense of wonder in me.  

For the most part, I’m a disciplined writer. Over the years I’ve trained myself to sit down and begin story-crafting with minimal effort. Let a transitional element wash over me, however, and the need for discipline vanishes. Creativity unfurls in its rawest form and my muse, bless her fanciful little soul, starts spinning out ideas like shooting stars. I feel connected, acutely aware of the ephemeral passage of time.  Creatively awake.

Perhaps that’s why transitional periods resonate so strongly. They transport me back to those days when technique had little to do with writing. When it was all about snagging the tail of a comet and hitching a ride to a brooding mansion, a magical forest, an underwater labyrinth, or a forgotten graveyard. To this day I feel that familiar rush at twilight, or when the weather turns warm and windy, the sky black with storm clouds. The thought of New Year’s Eve is sheer magic, and the sound of a clock striking midnight, every bit as enchanting as a fairy-tale spell.

What about you? What are the moments that inspire your creativity to blaze out of the ordinary?  I’d love to hear about them!

Who is John Lehman?

I wish I knew. I think about him sometimes and wonder what he was like.  I know he lived in 1823 but I have no idea how old he was that year.  How do I know John?  He left a message for me, which I discovered 188 years later.

If you didn’t know, my day job is real estate marketing. That means I get to visit a variety of homes. Over the years, I’ve toured an equine surgery center, several B&B’s, multiple million dollar+ homes and a string of historic properties among others.  Old homes are my favorite.  They resonate with the echoes of yesteryear and the lifeblood of faded memories. “Weathering Rock,” the title of my time-travel/paranormal romance coming in October, refers to a fictitious home built in 1832 that is central to the story.

But let me jump back to John Lehman. Last year, I had the pleasure of visiting a property built in 1783. Think about that. It was the year the American Revolution ended. Am I the only one who finds that mind-boggling? To think of the people who walked through the halls of that home…the joys and concerns they must have had as our newly forged nation took its first tenative steps.

I fell in love with the property. Chestnut plank floors, massive moldings, a center hall with turned staircase, multiple fireplaces and four bedrooms each with its own “keeping cupboard.” That was where Mr. Lehman left his mark–in the rear bedroom on the inside of a cupboard door. He burned his name into the wood, along with the date “John Lehman, 1823.” Surely, he couldn’t have known I’d stumble upon it 188 years later, but it gave me chills.

Was he a young man, just starting out with a wife and family, anxious to embrace life in a nation that had proved iself 40 years after winning a revolution?  Or was he older, reaching the sunset of his life, wanting to leave his mark before he passed from this world?

He made sure he did. I think about him. And I’m sure every homeowner who has ever lived in that historic 18th century property has thought about him too. It was his home and he made sure we knew it. Some of that property went into Weathering Rock when I created it, along with bits and pieces of most of the historical estates I’ve toured. They all left a mark on me in one way or another, each teeming with the phantoms of forgotten years.

Do old homes inspire you?  Are there any you’ve toured, lived in, or visited that stand out in your mind?  I’d love to know about them! Aside from a professional interest, I have a passion for old properties.

Weather ‘Tis Better

I’m a geeky girl about a lot of things, and weather is one of them. We’re a month away from summer which is prime thunderstorm season.  I love the change in the atmosphere right before a storm when the sky grows black, the wind blows through like an angry zephyr, and the leaves bend belly-up to the heavens.  

A few weeks ago I was visiting my mother when she mentioned how much electrical storms frighten her. Then she casually told me when I was a child, I used to sit on the front porch with my father to watch as storms rolled in.

I did?

Oh yes, she assured me.  The rest of the family would be tucked safely inside the house, but my father would take me outside until the weather grew too severe to linger.  I’d forgotten how much he loved that, and was saddened to realize it had slipped from my memory. It all came tumbling back in a rush like someone flipping a light switch. The sprawling front porch, sitting side by side, listening to the thunder, watching the lightning. How bizarre this should be a father/daughter bonding element, but he loved storms and taught me to appreciate them (with a healthy dose of respect for the danger).

Today, weather patterns have grown erratic, often becoming violent.  Tornados were a rare occurrence in my area when I was a kid. Now they spin closer each summer. I’ve even been caught on the fringe of one and don’t think I will ever forget the way the sky looked at that moment, or the unnerving blackness that followed. I know many of you have experienced tornadoes and other weather events first hand.

Do changes in the weather influence the way you write or feel?  I often find myself moved to bursts of creativity during those transition periods.

As we head into storm season, stay safe everyone!

Conversation Starter

When I sat down to write Weathering Rock, (coming in October from Lyrical Press) I had to decide what time period to use for the setting.  I’d already decided on a time-travel with paranormal elements, and knew I wanted to reference the Civil War era. After that, it was a matter of deciding who would do the traveling (hero or heroine) and whether they would go forward or backward in time.

I eventually settled on the novel’s hero, Caleb DeCardian, hurtling him from 1863 into the present. Using a character who lived when the nation was divided, fought the Battle of Gettysburg, and helped put down the New York City Draft Riots, allowed me to sprinkle historical references throughout the book. Today, that has me thinking.

If you could go backward in time and have a conversation with someone famous from history, who would it be and why?

I’m torn on this. Part of me would say Robert F. Kennedy because I admire him and was far too young to remember anything about him. Another part would like to sit down with George Armstrong Custer and say “What were you thinking?!?” Still another is enraptured by the thought of  the Sons of Liberty discussing independence. I’d talk to any one of them! Then there’s Doc Holliday, and . . . can you tell I like history? 🙂

Okay, I’ll stop now and go with RFK.  How about you?  Who inspires you?  Who would you love to have a chat-fest with if you could turn back the pages of time?

A Helicopter, Robber and a Moonlight Swim

A number of years ago I had to attend a 3-day business conference in Phoenix for my employer. Since I’d never been to Arizona, my husband came along, we tacked on a few extra days, and made it into a vacation.

I fell in love with the Sedona area, ate rattlesnake and Indian fry bread, saw my first professional hoop dance, and came home with one very cool kachina doll. But my most vivid memory of Phoenix? You guessed it . . . a helicopter, robber, and a moonlight swim.

I can’t remember the name of our resort, but it was divided into groupings of two-story buildings with eight suites in each. The buildings were sprawled over acres of ground, each building with a private pool. Nice, right?

I thought so too until the helicopter showed up.

Late one night, hubby and I decided to take a dip in the pool (yes, we had our clothes on, thank God!). There we were, enjoying a moonlight swim when a helicopter nailed us in the beam of a high-intensity spotlight. I felt like a fugitive on America’s most wanted! Helicopter-1; romantic moonlight swim-0. Talk about killing the mood!

After it took off, we went back to our suite and my husband stepped onto the balcony to nose around. He saw a cop snooping below and asked what the problem was. Apparently someone had held up a Quickie-Mart and been chased to the area. Given the helicopter, I think the guy was probably armed and the hold-up ugly. The cop didn’t share details, but advised we stay inside. Of course, my writer’s imagination kicked into overdrive.

We’d been oblivious to the danger when in the pool, enjoying the moment, unaware of our surroundings. What if the robber had been lurking in the darkness with a gun?

So, why am I thinking of this now? Because events, no matter how random or long ago, are worth tucking into the idea book you carry in your head. I’m not sure that moonlight swim will ever make it into one of my novels, but I’m going to hang onto the memory. It freaked me out when it happened but, hey, how many people can say they were caught up in the middle of a manhunt?

How about you?  Are you one for collecting ideas and nuturing them indefinitely?

Oh, and by the way, should you ever make it to Phoenix I highly recommend the rattlesnake at Rustler’s Rooste. It really does taste like chicken!