Plans for 2021 #writing #writingcommunity

Happy First Thursday of 2021! Thanks for joining me today. I’m diving in and focusing on returning to blogging after a two month lapse. November was consumed by NaNoWriMo, and December by a business move I coordinated. With all of that behind me, It’s great to be back. I’m geared up for the New Year with an abundance of energy, and a plethora of plans. Plans are good, right? So are goals and ideas.

Word 2021 Goals on torn brown grunge paper background

After an embarrassingly long time, I have finally finished my WIP, a straight mystery with a tinge of folklore. While working, I used the title Hornwood for reference, but the tentative title is The Keeping Place. I’m not exactly enamored, but it fits with the story. End result: the title is subject to change. The manuscript is the WIP I wrapped during NaNoWriMo with some carry over into December.

I’m currently editing Hornwood and sharing chapters with my critique partners. After that, I plan to shop the manuscript to literary agents—though I dread the thought of the process involved. Research on where/how to submit, and most of all, writing query letters. Still—I need to push forward, taking the next step in my evolution as a writer. If I strike out, I will probably seek out a small online press and submit there.

While all  this is going on, I will be working on a novel for indie publication. That book doesn’t have a title either, but (most of) the story has been with me in one form or another for decades. The characters simply refuse to leave me alone, demanding I tell their tale. The story is twisted and tragic—at least part of it is—combining my love for past and present. Part horror, part supernatural suspense, it falls into the same vein as my Hode’s Hill series. Right now, I’m planning it as a standalone, but time will tell.

Finally, I have been sitting on a number of short stories for two years. I’m still undecided what to do with them. My original plan was to cobble them together in a collection and indie pub them, but I’m considering seeking out magazines for publication. The only thing holding me back is the time I need to devote to researching markets. There is a chance a few of those stories might show up in anthologies.

Which gives me three projects to focus on for the coming year—one to market to agents, one to indie pub, and a collection of shorts that is still up in the air. Of course, I plan to continue Book Review Tuesdays and Guest Author Thursdays with other random posts here and there. I’d like to chat more about my writing and my characters. Hopefully, that will keep my energy level in high gear. In any event, I’m off and running with my plans!

Would you like to share some of yours?

A WIP and A Short Story #amwriting

If you’re looking for a Book Review Tuesday post, it will be back next week. I have several book reviews to share, but I thought I’d do something different today. It’s been a while since I popped in to chat writing—so here I am. 🙂

I still haven’t cracked open my current WIP, but I’m starting to feel the siren call. Before I wade in, I need to restudy the story and characters. It’s been a while since the pages have graced my screen. Right now, I’m envisioning this work as a stand alone, but it has series potential if I decide to expand it. Like most of my books, the genre is mystery/suspense, but the folklore elements are rooted in an old legend rather than the supernatural.

I started walking and jogging during our shelter-in-place time, which has been great for thinking through plot entanglements. I also had a new character pop up during a stroll. He’s been waging a campaign for inclusion, and even though the details are vague, I think he’s going to win.

Desk with an open notebook with writing, old books stacked to the side

While the WIP is currently languishing, I did finish my short story submission for a murder mystery anthology. Once more, I’m doing something a little different. No supernatural threads. Surprised?

Instead, I drummed up a Medieval setting, a winter gala attended by multiple members suspects of the nobility, and a puzzling murder.

A Winter Reckoning is a rework of an unpublished novella I wrote in the mid 90s. The original word count came in just under 32K. The core of the story was a murder mystery, but there were also a lot of unrelated plot entanglements. I cut everything that didn’t tie to the murder plot and reduced the word count by half. What’s left is the guts of the story. My critique partners have provided feedback, I’ve tweaked a few things, and it’s ready to send. I did what I’d hoped was a final read through over the weekend, but I ended up doing more fine tuning. Mostly word choices and some phrase restructuring. That means I need to let it sit for another week or two and take one final look.

In the meantime, I’m going to focus on my WIP. I had such a clear vision of this book before becoming sidetracked by NaNo last November, when I took a detour to work on a different project. That book is still singing a siren call as well, both competing with the other. I need to figure out how Craig Boyack manages to work on two stories at one time and maybe that would solve my problem!

old typewriter with sheet of paper that reads Write Something in large text

That’s the latest from me. I wish you happy writing—and happy reading. Look for more book reviews next week, and a few guests authors to pop in later in the month. As much as I love doing my book reviews, I thought I should mix them up with something different for a change. Eventually, I may get back to a semi regular blogging schedule, along with the return of Wednesday Weirdness!

Discombobulated

Discombobulated is a cool word, somewhat archaic, yet surprisingly current. At least for me. It explains how I’m feeling—confused, disoriented.

I’m trying to get back into the routine of blogging, visiting, and writing. For the last week I’ve been making the rounds of blogs (hi, friends!), and I’m working on a WIP. The latter has been going well. I’ve finished a short story I wrote for a murder-mystery anthology. Currently, I am in the clean up and trim phase. I need to cut 2,500 words and then share it with my critique partners. I’m excited about the story and it feels good to be focused on a project again.

On the home front, life is less settled. I live in Pennsylvania, where half of our state has reopened to the “yellow phase” of doing business. My county is not one of those and has been slated to reopen on June 4th.

The problem?

Many counties—mine included—have decided to defy our governor’s orders and reopen on May 15th. Things have gotten f-ugly with state vs. counties. To make matters worse, the industry in which I’m employed is governed by the state. Needless to say the whole thing is a mess and I am monitoring day-to-day press conferences as is my employer.

I am discombobulated.

Close up of cat, big gold eyes

Perhaps this explains why I have been reading the same book for over a week. That’s odd for me, especially given the book is fabulous. I’m glued every time I open my Kindle. Yet I find it hard to open my Kindle for my regular evening routine. I’ve been going to bed earlier than usual and sleeping like a log. Being discombobulated is not fun.

I hope it doesn’t last much longer.

white cat lying on back with head tilted back looking at camera

All of that aside, I pray you and your love ones are doing well. Whatever phase of craziness your state is in, look after yourself, your loved ones, and your neighbors. A few months ago, we would have never envisioned this reality but there is no escaping it. If my father were still living, today would be his 98th birthday. I don’t believe he could have ever conceived this in his lifetime. Until a few months ago, I wouldn’t have either.

If you’re discombobulated hold faith that it too will pass.


And if you have a moment while you’re roaming the blogosphere, my good friend Craig Boyack is hosting me today with a closer look at my short story, In Search of McDoogal. I am so discombobulated, I got my wires crossed and thought it was next week—which is why I don’t have a dedicated post directing readers there.

But Craig has rolled out the red carpet for me, and I’d love to send visitors to his blog. If you are not already following him, you’re missing out on entertaining content and a great author. You can find today’s post HERE. Race you to Craig’s place . . .

Saying Goodbye to Summer

Hello, and welcome to September! If you live in the U.S. or Canada, I hope you had a fun-filled Labor Day weekend.

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 magic of a summer night with friends?

child on swing suspended from a leafy tree, starry sky strewn overhead

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 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 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 far 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, how the evenings grow shorter, 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 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?

Reading, WIPs, Raven, and the Puppy Bowl

Sunday was odd. It’s normally the one day I stringently devote to writing but I finished my WIP last week and shipped it off to my editor. That amounted to a lot of Snoopy dancing Friday and Saturday night. I started reading a new book, Where the Crawdads Sing, which appears to be the “it” book of 2019 if all the buzz is true.

I’m currently 55% through, and although I’m glued to the story, I’ve yet to discover whatever it is that makes this book so haunting and unforgettable. Fingers crossed the magic will reveal itself before the end.

Sunday became a day of getting my year-end tax receipts together—not a chore I look forward to. It took several hours before I was done, and I am glad to finally have the chore behind me. Afterward, I discovered the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet and was glued for the entire two hours.

I’d heard of the PB before, and even caught glimpses here and there, but never actually watched the whole thing from start to finish. Aside from the genius behind the marketing—which I couldn’t help appreciating—the Puppy Bowl is an overload of cute. With teams Fluff and Ruff, hamsters in a blimp, cheerleading kangaroos, sloth referee, kitty half-time, and an Amazon gray parrot doing updates, you can’t go wrong. I plan to be back every year.

As I write this, I’m watching the Super Bowl, and don’t know the outcome, but I’m enjoying the commercials. Anyone else love the Bud Knight and the competitive look at corn syrup?

I’ve got a crazy work week lined up with several meetings on the day job and several after-work appointments. At least the weather is going to be in the forties and fifties, a huge jump over the single digit temps of last week. Raven was glued to my side day and night for warmth.

And speaking of my beautiful feline, how is it possible for her to be comfortable like this.

black at squished between pillows on couch

Weird, huh? For something less bizarre, you can find me on Story Empire today with a post about Writing Tight. Raven invites you to drop over and say hello. I hope to see you there!

From Beach to WIP

I’ve been off the radar for several days, taking some time to recuperate and unwind. My husband and I decided to celebrate his birthday by taking an extended weekend trip to the beach. The weather in March along the eastern shore is hit or miss. We’ve been visiting this particular beach since we were teenagers in high school. When we were in our twenties, his family owned a modular home there, and we became part owners in a pontoon boat. During the summer, we spent most every weekend at the beach for approximately fifteen years. It’s a four hour drive from Central PA, but for fresh seafood, crabbing, flounder fishing, and sunning on the shore, those trips were worth it.

These days, we normally head to the beach once or twice a year, shelling out for a hotel. I’ve been at the shore when it’s been 80 degrees in December, and when it was freezing cold in June. This trip, the weather was perfect—full sun and only a light breeze. We were able to be outside in sweatshirts.

As we’re much older now, we did a lot of reminiscing of those early trips when we were just kids, and how much the area has changed. We’re no longer “June bugs” but prefer the less crowded months of March, September (still hot enough to use the beach) and December for our trips.

Here’s a few shots from the hotel where we stayed.  The place is styled after an old Victorian boardwalk hotel, and is one of the two hotels we regularly use. This trip, they were hosting two weddings in the banquet rooms, but other than closing their cocktail lounge for three hours one afternoon (I vented to the front desk when leaving), the stay was one of the best we’ve had. More memories of our “home away from home.”

This is the entrance, with registration and the main lobby up on the second level. If you walk back through the hall there are elevators to the upper floors, or you can continue straight to the beach.

a hotel entrance with a split staircase

This is the main lobby. There’s a jewelry shop off to the side where I’ve purchased multiple pendants through the years. There’s also a huge covered porch that faces the beach and extends the entire length of the hotel. It’s lined with high-backed rocking chairs, perfect for enjoying the view with a drink or reading.

Hotel lobby with seating

The view from our hotel balcony.  My husband took shoots of the sun rising each morning but I was slept through it. Something about the coastal air always makes me sleep extra soundly.

view of beach and ocean

We spent an afternoon on the boardwalk. See the huge JEWELRY sign in the background? I picked up a sun pendant there, while hubs checked out M.R. Ducks, next door.

boardwalk with shops and eateries

Mae Clair on standing on balcony with beach and ocean in backround

Now that I’m rejuvenated, I’ll be concentrating on finishing my WIP, End of Day. I have an April deadline, so if I’m a little scarce over the next few weeks, it’s because I’ll be burning extra hours trying to reach “The End.” Cross your fingers I can finish it up by the middle of the month. I normally treat myself to something when I finish a manuscript, but in this case, I put the “treat” ahead of the finish. *gulp*

For all of you trying to pummel your WIPS into submission, I wish you happy writing—and a break to rejuvenate, even if it doesn’t involve a beach town!

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!

You’re inviting WHO for dinner?

Staying on top of things is far easier said than done. Today kicks off a new week and I’m left looking at the calendar watching the days roll by, wondering why my to-do list refuses to shrink. Ack!

My looming deadline for A DESOLATE HOUR, book 3 of my Point Pleasant series is still hanging over my head. and the clock is ticking down to the ultimate reckoning day of November 30th. Just thinking about how much work I still have to do on the manuscript sends me into a panic. ‘Nuff said.

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 belowI promised myself I was going to promote FOOD FOR POE this November and December. A holiday novella, Poe is a mash-up of Hallmark romance and urban legend, with a rescue cat at the center. This is one of my indie releases. I created the book cover for Poe and think it does a good job of mimicking the light, but quirky, mood of the story.

Poe is a short read, and only .99 cents, so grab a copy from Amazon for some early holiday cheer!

Speaking of cats, you can find me at Story Empire today sharing (writing) lessons I learned from my cat (can you tell cats have a strong influence on me?). If that sounds like a weird combination, hop over to see what I’m talking about. You can find the post here.

And, finally, A COLD TOMORROW, book 2 of my Point Pleasant series releases on December 20th..

Book cover for A COLD TOMORROW by author, Mae Clair shows a deserted country lane at night beneath a sky of green cloudsThey say the middle child usually gets the least amount of attention, but in my opinion, A COLD TOMORROW is the jewel of the series. Maybe it’s because I love the subject matter. The Mothman is still front and center, but the focus also includes UFOs and the arrival of mysterious Men in Black.

I’m guessing most are familiar with MIBs from the movies starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. But did you know the term “Men in Black” was coined by the late author John Keel, who wrote The Mothman Prophecies? It was his idea to use it to describe the strangers who suddenly descended on Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1966-67. That’s right—Men in Black originated in Point Pleasant during the height of the town’s UFO “flap.”

Curious about flaps? I’ll save more on them for a later post. In the meantime, why not invite the Mothman home for Christmas dinner? I promise he’ll behave—at least until after gifts are opened. You might want to pick up a trinket for him, so he doesn’t feel left out. Ideally, he’d love you to pre-order a copy of A COLD TOMORROW, since he has a starring role. Ask him to autograph it. He’s not shy 🙂

You can find pre-order purchase links for all booksellers here.

In closing, Kensington Publishing has put together a great promotion package for me which includes a few memes. I need to wait until they splash them on social media, but I got the go ahead  to start using the Facebook banner they created for me immediately. I wanted to share it here first before uploading to Facebook.

I FREAKING LOVE IT!  What do you think?

eerie farm road late at night below a green sky

Choosing Character Names by Mae Clair

Naming characters is a topic that gets a lot of attention. It’s been blogged about many times. I’m sure I’ve written posts in the past, too. Okay, I know I’ve written posts, but let’s face it—we love our characters and we love talking about them.

Last week, I started a new short story for a future writing project. As usual, when I begin something new, I start by creating characters and deciding on names. Plot comes later.  In this case, the two leads are brothers Conner and Dorian Ash. Yeah, I know…there I go with that family thing again, but I can’t help myself. I like the dynamics of family relationships.

Anyway, after selecting the names, I realized my attachment to the hard “c” sound. It continues to creep up over and over in my character names. Take a look at the evidence:

Young woman looking up and thinking with thought bubbles above her head. Bubbles contain character names that start with the letter C

  • My lead in Weathering Rock is Caleb DeCardian
  • Twelfth Sun has Reagan Cassidy
  • Eclipse Lake, Dane, Jesse, and Jonah Carlisle 
  • Solstice Island, Riley Carswell 
  • Myth and Magic, Caith Breckwood
  • A Thousand Yesteryears, Caden Flynn
  • I’ve even got a trunk novel called The River’s Secret I’ve considered polishing up, in which the lead is Chris Carrister

Seriously. What’s up with me and the “c” sound? Looking back on it, Food for Poe is the only story I’ve written in which the main characters escaped my obsession.

I don’t think I intentionally zero in on the letter C. I collect names (male, female and last) and keep them in an app on my iPhone. Whenever I need one, I hop over to see what I’ve got saved.

I also use online baby naming sites, which I think is pretty common for most authors. In the old days, I used to flop open a phone book, but they’ve become dinosaurs.

How do you choose names, and do you have any ongoing preferences? Is there a particular letter that continually crops up among your character names, or am I the only one who unconsciously gravitates to a certain sound and/or letter?

When Characters take Control by Mae Clair

I’ve been thinking about my characters a lot lately and how more than a few have surprised me. For the most part these are secondary characters who demand a bigger role or—at the very least—venture beyond the part I intended for them.

In my first novel, WEATHERING ROCK, it was Rick Rothrock who turned out quite different than planned. If I ever get back to that series, I still owe him a prequel story. He earned it.

In TWELFTH SUN, my characters all behaved and played their roles. Maybe because there were so many, and they are such an eclectic bunch. If you’ve read the book (I won’t spoil it) you’ll understand the tongue-in-cheek reference in this paragraph. 😀

TWELFTH SUN has always been a pretty steady seller for me despite the fact it’s several years old, and only has twenty-three reviews. I can’t pinpoint a breakout character, but that’s probably because my lead, Dr. Elijah Cross, stole the show.
If I had to pick one book that was pure fun to write, it’s this one. If you’re looking for something breezy and adventurous to read this summer, give it a try. As a reader, you get to solve clues along with the characters.

An owl with glasses is reading a book in the woods ECLIPSE LAKE rolled around and I encountered my first incredibly demanding character—Jesse Carlisle. Originally slated as a secondary character Jesse evolved into one of the four leads of the novel. Yeah, four. Count ‘em. Interesting thing about Jesse…I wasn’t the only one he captivated with his personality. I’ve had multiple readers tell me he needs his own book. It’s on my list.

In MYTH AND MAGIC one of Caith’s brothers insisted on his own book. I actually started that story before succumbing to the call of the Mothman in A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS.

Which brings me to Mr. Evening who has conveniently taken on the role of my muse. He crops up in A COLD TOMORROW, book two of my Point Pleasant series. When I did a rough synopsis to send to my publisher, his role was pretty minimal. Well, give a muse control and…:)

Mr. Evening decided to expand his part, evolving his character into one far more complex than I’d envisioned. We squabbled a bit, but in the end I went back and rewove two plot threads to accommodate him.

But it didn’t end there.

He’s now worked things to ensure he’ll be back for book three and is beginning to whisper about becoming a continuing character outside of the series. He’s conveniently pointed out how nicely that would dovetail with some of the ideas I have percolating on the back burner. Grandiose plans, but he’s got me thinking maybe, just maybe…

Which of your characters has taken control?