Must I Read it Again? #amediting

Frazzled looking woman with goofy expressionEditing. It’s a reality of writing, and sometimes it can be torture. Anyone else out there ever get sick of reading their own work?

Last week I was in hyper-edit mode, going over, and over, and over my manuscript so many times, I cringed at having to read it. Again.

As someone who edits as I write, you’d think clean-up wouldn’t be hard. When the manuscript is done, all I need to do is tweak, tighten, and make corrections suggested by my critique partners. Easy-peasy, right? If only that were the case.

During one of my marathon days of editing my husband asked, “Don’t you have an editor who does that?”

Yes, but I’m doing pre-edits and I want them as whistle clean as possible. I also had a deadline so time was not a luxury I could afford.

Reading the same book three times in three days is exhausting. That might not seem like a lot but keep in mind this is the same book I’ve been plugging away at for an extended time—writing, editing as I write, thinking about the characters, dreaming about the characters, weaving and unweaving plot threads. I’m literally sick of the story right now. I need a break from it.

According to my editor it will be roughly two weeks before she sends her first round of content edits. YAY! That gives me time to start plotting something fresh. I’m excited about the break.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m thrilled with the way Eventide turned out and can’t wait to unleash it on the world when the time rolls around (there’s a creature in it, so I get to use the word “unleash.” 🙂 ). For now, though, I am more than happy to put some distance between myself and the story.

How about the rest of you? Do you ever get sick of reading your own work when in edit mode? How do you deal with it?

Better Late Than Never

Can I still write a look back/look ahead post in the middle of January? I hope so, because that’s what this is.

Hand writing a letter with a goose featherLOOKING BACK ON WRITING
2018 was a rough year for me. I only released one novel—Cusp of Night—book one of Hode’s Hill. For the first time since publishing, I went over six months without a release. I’m still feeling the ripple effect.

And despite the EXTENSIVE effort I put into its launch, Cusp of Night did not perform as hoped. Besides two paid blog tours and 21 individual guest posts—each on a different topic—it floundered shortly out of the gate. There were bursts of life here and there, but the book didn’t really take off until the fall when it got a push on BookBub. It’s been doing well ever since—which makes me value the power of BB. And autumn.

BookBub became a primary focus in 2018 as I worked to build my following. If you’re interested, you can find me here. I’ve yet to load old reviews, but you’ll find me sharing plenty of new ones as we move ahead. I love reading almost as much as writing!

A woman sitting on the beach reading a book. Her back is to the camera, with ocean in front. Done in a wash of faded colorsLOOKING BACK ON READING
And speaking of books, I participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge every year. It’s one of the things I enjoy about the site. My goal for 2018 was 65 books. I’m pleased to say I exceeded that and reached 79. About a dozen of those were novellas, with the shortest weighing in at 15 pages.

The longest book I read, The Obsidian Chamber, clocked in at 560 pages. I started my reading year with Joan Hall’s, Unknown Reasons, and finished with I Know You Know by Gilly MacMillian. My most productive reading month was August with 10 books (only one novella) and my worst April. During the rainy season, I managed a staggering total of 1.

LOOKING AHEAD ON READING
I upped my books read for the 2019 Goodreads Challenge, increasing my goal to 70. Even though I passed that in 2018, I’m not cocky enough to think I can do it again.

I’ve shied away from posting reviews on my blog in the past, but am considering starting this year. I may try doing a post each month with the books read the previous month. Stay tuned.

Book cover for End of Day, mystery/suspense novel by Mae Clair shows old dilapidated church with bell tower and a cemetery in the background overgrown with weedsLOOKING AHEAD ON WRITING
End of Day, book two of Hode’s Hill releases tomorrow. Yeah, tomorrow. Ask me how many guest posts I’ve written and you’ll get a goose egg. Pathetic, yes?

Eventide was scheduled to release in August of this year, but the date has been delayed until December. My fault for missing a deadline.

First. Time. Ever.

Because I don’t want to go with such a long stretch between books, I hope to indie publish a collection of short stories sometime in the spring. I currently have enough for one fat volume, or two smaller ones. Time will tell which.

I may also try something different moving ahead, writing a true psychological thriller. My muse has been championing first person POV.

Which brings me to…

old world type map with script writing laid over top and words Story Empire set off as a bold headerSTORY EMPIRE
You can find me there today with a post entitled Are You a POV Snob? When you read it, you’ll understand how hilarious a certain someone would find me considering first person.

I love SE! Shortly after I ventured online, I dreamed of becoming part of a group blog. Make no mistake, Story Empire is a huge time commitment, but I couldn’t ask for a better home or better group of co-authors. We are so appreciative of our readers and plan to continue providing you with valuable content in the New Year.

IN CLOSING
Finally, I purchased a web hosting plan, but haven’t had the time (or energy) to devote to building a site. This blog will remain, but I hope to have a shiny new website to complement From the Pen of Mae Clair sometime in the future. I’ll be sure to give a shout when it’s ready to go.

cat with closed eyes snuggles with a paper red heart In closing, please know how much I treasure my online friendships. We may never meet in person—in all likelihood, we won’t—but I am thankful for our connection. A very dear blogging friend of mine passed away last month after a year-long battle with cancer. Her passing crushed me for days. I am so grateful her life crossed mine. Like the “certain someone” from my Snob POV post, she will always hold a special place in my heart.

Rest in peace, Carmen. May the angels sing you to Heaven.

When Your Muse Skips a Date

My muse and I had a date. I planned my work/vacation time so I had a four day weekend. Perfect for writing, right? Given I’m behind on my WIP, I was jazzed to pull off such a coup. Mr. E. knew when and where he was to show up. If you’re not sure who Mr. E. is, you may want to check out book two of my Point Pleasent seriesA Cold Tomorrow.

In the meantime, let’s check out how things went wrong. 😦

Plans for day one (Thursday) of my four-day writing schedule:
Several hours of writing in the morning.
Run errands.
Immunization shot at pharmacy.
Lunch with hubby.
Writing in evening.

What went wrong:
Overslept and got a late start. Part of this is the fault of my cat, Raven, who likes to curl up in bed with me. Seriously, who could resist a cute, sleepy ball of fluff in snuggle mode? Here’s a shot of what she looks like when she’s pouring on the power-cute.

Cute black cat curled up on rug looking at camera

Errands got a late start and instead of writing, I caught up with email. After I finished with errands I headed to my local pharmacy for the second half of a two-part shingles immunization shot. Have you guys heard about this thing? It’s for anyone over fifty—an uber precaution against getting shingles. The shot comes in two parts, You get part one (shot), then somewhere between two and six months later you get the second shot.

The day I got the first shot, I had also gotten a tetanus shot and had a bad reaction (chills, muscle aches, slight fever). I thought that was from the tetanus, but NOOOOO!

Thursday afternoon I got the second shot and by the evening I was a mess. Fever, extreme chills, body aches off the scale, headache, nausea—not to mention my arm felt like I’d never be able to lift it again. I got up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water and was shaking so bad from chills, I spilled water all over the place. Not a good night. The next morning, I checked out the side effects on the handout they give you, and I had every one of them.

Joy! I know countless people (including my husband) who have gotten this series of shots without any side effects. Leave it to me. Needless to say, no writing got done.

Plans for day two (Friday) of my planned four-day writing schedule:
A few hours writing at a coffee cafe.
Meet with friend at the library regarding plans for a 2019 trip to Maine.
Get together with my niece and SIL (spur-of-the moment, planned Thursday morning).
Afternoon and evening writing,

What went wrong:
Couldn’t sleep because of a miserable night with side effects from the shingles shot.
Up early and went to the coffee cafe but spent my time catching up on email and blog visits.
Enjoyed time with my niece and SIL, but was dragging from lack of sleep. Still feeling horrible from side effects of shot.
Came home, zonked on the couch and went to bed by seven PM.
No writing.

Saturday of my planned four-day writing schedule:
Starting to feel better—not 100% but enough to feel well enough to do laundry and make a huge pot of New England Clam Chowder.
My den looks like a cyclone hit it (thanks to the recent author presentation I did for a historical society) so I decide to clean it up into order to get to my desk.
That involves cleaning out my closet—which involves sorting through boxes of family photos to give to my nephew (don’t ask).
The entire day vanishes.
Evening out with my family, something that popped up at the last minute. My brother bought one of those drive-able RVs and he and his wife drove it up for everyone to see. A bunch of us ended up going out for dinner.
No writing.

Sunday of my planned four-day writing schedule:
Now fully recovered from the shot. YAY!
Back to the den to finish the cleaning project I started yesterday.
Caught up on my author record keeping (expenses, royalties, inventory, banking).
Caught up with email and blog visits again. No writing,

Four whole days without a single hour at my day job and I didn’t manage a single minute of writing. My friend, Craig Boyack, recently experienced something similar, so I know I’m not the only one who experiences plans that go haywire. Still, as much as I enjoyed time with my niece, sister-in-law, and family, it was frustrating not to manage even a few thousand words of writing. On the plus side, I’ve got a second chance. I have the entire week of Thanksgiving off and hope to hammer out major word count. I may not be as visible that week online, so if I miss a few posts I hope you’ll forgive me. My deadline is looming and the last few days have set it back another notch thanks to a dreadful shot and an absent muse!

I’m hoping your week (and week ahead) was/is much more productive—and that if you opt for the Shingrix immunization you’re like my DH and the bulk of people who don’t experience the debilitating side effects I did!

Thank You, Friends

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Kitten sitting by book.I had an amazing day yesterday. I released the cover for my upcoming release, End of Day. But it wasn’t just about the excitement of being able to splash my snazzy new cover on my blog. I had a plethora of friends supporting me, lending me blog space to share my news in their corner of the world. And I had supportive readers popping in left and right to comment on the posts.

It was a fantastic Monday. It made me realize what a wonderful community we have and how everyone rallies to support everyone else. I had twenty-seven blogs to visit and I did so with pleasure. Thank you one and all for making yesterday so special. You guys rock!

I hope you will call on me whenever I can return the favor with blog promo for your books on the Pen of Mae Clair. If you don’t already have my email, you can find me here or at maeclair (at) maeclair (dot) com. I would be honored to host you.

Writing in a Different Direction

After a whirlwind seven weeks following the release of Cusp of Night, life has been falling into a steadier writing pattern for me. Anyone with a book release knows the amount of work that goes into promotion, something authors have to juggle on top of a regular writing routine. Cusp did strong coming out of the gate then slowed for a bit, but seems to be picking up again. YAY! On top of that, several reviewers commented they had discovered my Point Pleasant series after reading Cusp and planned to purchase it. That’s exactly how a release and a back list should work. I couldn’t be happier!

While promotion was going on, I distracted myself by writing in a different direction. I have a backlog of short stories I wrote in my early to middle thirties that I decided to clean up for possible publication. And, wow, did they need cleaning! It’s amazing how much I’ve grown as a writer since then. It goes to show that we’re always learning and polishing our craft. I’m still not sure what I’ll do with the shorts. Cobble them together for an indie release or perhaps look for a few paying markets.

I noticed that when I had a lag of twelve months between A Desolate Hour, the last book in my Point Pleasant series, and Cusp of Night, the first book in my Hode’s Hill Novels, I saw a decline in sales. I cleaned up the shorts so that I have a buffer if I end up in that position again. My series books usually come out within six to eight months of each other. That twelve month stretch produced a dry spell I don’t want to hit again. I’m also already thinking ahead to a new series so I have something to pitch to my publisher when the time rolls around.

Friday, I’ll be leaving on vacation for a full week. My regular readers are used to my routine of disappearing on the weekends, but this time I’ll be gone for a full week and unable to comment on the blogs I usually follow. I’ll miss all of you, but am looking forward to the time away. My husband and I will be visiting family in Raleigh, and then in Virginia Beach. I’ve arranged a pet sitter for Raven, and of course, I’ll be taking a writing tablet and my Kindle on on the trip.

pretty black cat on a gray cat tree

Raven on one of her cat trees. Think she’ll miss me?

When I return, I hope to refocus on Eventide, book 3 of Hode’s Hill. I have several blog posts I need to prepare for Story Empire and for the January release of End of Day, but other than that, I’ll be back to my regular writing direction after my July foray into short fiction.

Drop a line and let me know how your writing life has been going!

Research: How deep do you go?

Young woman holding magnifying glass like detective. Investigation concept on blackAs a writer, we’re all faced with various levels of research. Sometimes it’s something simple we have to investigate. Other times, it can involve days, weeks or even longer. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I recently spent an exhaustive amount of time researching the spiritualist movement of the late nineteenth century for Cusp of Night

Today, I’m a guest at Romance University with a post about writers and research. Cusp of Night is mystery/suspense novel, not romance, but whatever your genre, we can all relate to the research that goes into bringing our characters and settings to life.

If you have a moment, pop over and share your thoughts about the hows and whys of your own investigative habits!

Has it really been that long?

I took a look at my last blog entry and realized it was over a month ago. Wow! How does time past that quickly? I’ve wanted to blog more consistently this year, but once again, that goal was shoved behind the eight-ball. So, what have I been doing?

The day job has kept me busy covering two positions—occasionally three—with staff out for various reasons. Thankfully, everyone is back now, but two weeks of double and triple duty took a huge toll on my energy level. I also did a book signing the end of April, which was a bust, at least in relation to sales. The day turned out to be the first nice Saturday my area had seen in ages, and no one wanted to be inside. There were about thirty authors who participated, but no one was selling. On the plus side, I did a lot of networking, made new friends, and enjoyed myself.

End of Day was finished on time and sent to my editor. She asked for a few changes, thankfully, nothing too large. I made them and shipped them off, but still had one problematic scene that required additional tweaking. We chatted on the phone about that, and I delivered the changes the next day. Content edits are done and now I’m waiting on the copy editor.

In the meantime, I drafted the synopsis, blurb, and tag for book three, completing the information forms my publisher requires. I’m ahead of schedule and have them ready to go when requested. The last time I had nothing when asked and narrowly avoided  a panic attack and meltdown. I feel pretty good about book three—even though it doesn’t have a title yet. Once again, I’ve got past and present timelines. For the past, I’m able to play off a hodgepodge of ideas I used in an old decaying trunk novel, and my lead character in the present is one who popped up unexpectedly in book two, End of Day. Originally, I planned for other characters to carry the lead in three, but Madison Hewitt pantsed her way into the spotlight. Even better? I have a pseudo outline for this book, something I rarely have. Jazzed!

In some ways I feel like I’m juggling a three-act play. Book one, Cusp of Night is up for pre-order, releasing on June 12. I’m working on promo for Cusp, while doing the edits on book two, End of Day. My publisher has also asked for the first chapter of book three to include in the back matter of End of Day. I’ve never been able to deliver that before, but I think I might pull it off. So, despite a crazy April of covering dual jobs and being buried in edits and promo, it feels like my head is above water. For the moment. We all know how easily everything can come crashing down.

I apologize if I haven’t been as visible lately or able to make my usual blog rounds. I try to keep up with rounds as much as possible, but sometimes, it’s hard to squeeze everything in. And I think most of you who are regular followers know I disappear offline from Friday to Sunday night for me and hubby time. 😊

Anyway, it’s good to post again. In parting, I thought I’d share some snazzy postcards and Twitter ads I made for a few older novels (and one new one). What do you think?

Banner ad for cusp of Night, a mystery/suspense novel by author, Mae CllairBanner ad for Myth and Magic a romantic suspense/mystery novel by Mae ClairBanner ad for Eclipse Lake, a a romantic suspense/mystery novel by Mae Clair

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

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?

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.