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.

 

Surviving a Deadline

I am so happy to be back in the blogging world!

Most of my regular followers know I’ve been burning the midnight oil on my latest manuscript to meet a publisher’s deadline. I’m happy—make that ecstatic—to say I finished on time and my editor graciously gave me another week for clean-up. I also have to send a huge shout-out to my excellent critique partner, Staci Troilo, who went above and beyond in turning sections around quickly—and expertly—so I could meet my deadline. Staci, my friend, you rock!!

I’ve been up against deadlines before, but this one was the toughest by far. Part of my problem was I languished on the beginning, and by the end of July only had 19K of the 80K I needed. I ended up writing 61K in 6 weeks—while working full-time! It’s amazing what you can produce under pressure, but it’s not something I EVER want to duplicate again. I can do without the anxiety attacks at 3:00 A.M.

Fortunately, my deadline for book 2 has more of a buffer. This one was tight because my publisher didn’t want to go over a year between releases from A Desolate Hour. I fully respect that decision. It’s all about keeping your name forefront in the mind of readers—not easy to do even when you have multiple releases close together.

I’ve already got my revamped blurb from Kensington. Earlier, I submitted my suggestion. Their gurus work from that and send an updated version. I liked theirs better, but did ask for a few minor tweaks. No cover yet, but I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

The book delves into the old Spiritualist practices of the late 1890s—think mediums and séances—but also has a full storyline set in the present. I’ve got two mysteries going on in this book, along with a haunted house, and an urban legend about a Spring Heeled Jack-like creature. The research was riveting!

This is a Ouija board with lit candle on the antique setting.

One thing my publisher wants to change is the title—The Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill. We’ve already decided this will be book one of the Hode’s Hill Mystery Series, but Kensington’s marketing team isn’t in love with my title. I can understand why. When it comes to marketing, it’s a mouthful. So we’re currently debating other titles. I’ll definitely be spreading the word when we’ve settled on one.

I’m expecting first round edits from my editor tomorrow and hope to have changes back to her by Monday. I’m heading out of town the end of October and she’s already agreed to work with my schedule. I’m sure we’ll finish things up before I leave. In the meantime, I’m steadily getting back to visiting everyone again and will be sharing blog posts of my own. Thanks for sticking with me while I worked through my deadline hurdle.

It’s great to be back among friends! 🙂

Apologies…

white keyboard with a red panic button and red delete button

Hey, everyone, this is just a quick update to let you know I haven’t disappeared. I know I’ve missed commenting on a lot of blog posts lately, and I’m hoping you’ll excuse my absence. I’m working under an extremely tight publisher’s deadline.

I promise to resurface and get back to my regular blog visits after September 15 (deadline date). This is just a head’s up that you probably won’t see me online much until then.

I miss you guys and promise I will be back. I’ve never had to disappear like this before, but I’ve got to concentrate and wrap this manuscript. Hope you understand!

Writing Dark Poetry #amwriting

Some people write beautiful uplifting poetry. I am not a poet, but when I dabbled in verse (back in my twenties) my poetry was heavily influenced by the music I was listening to at the time. That included King Crimson, an orchestral rock band that meshed the antiquated with modern arrangements.

I’ve shared a few of my poems before. Today, I’ve got an interesting story about one of them. During one of my early jobs I had a co-worker whose teen daughter enjoyed writing poetry. “Leslie” knew I liked to write, and shared some of her daughter’s poems with me. Somewhere during the course of encouraging her daughter to write, I foolishly mentioned that I had dabbled in poetry. Of course, that resulted in pleas to read my poems.

I’ve never been shy about sharing my prose, but poetry is different. Those creations are raw, a slice of soul we don’t normally expose. After repeated requests from Leslie, I finally gave her several of my poems to share with her daughter. Days passed with no feedback. Finally, I pushed the envelope and asked what her daughter thought of my poems.

Leslie was uncomfortable, even embarrassed She finally admitted that after reading my work, her daughter had asked “Mom, is she evil?”

Evil?

I’ve never shared another poem until putting them on my blog.

Okay, I get that if you don’t know me, you might find my penchant for the dark and unusual, well…dark. Because I love fictional accounts about ghosts and all things odds, people are generally surprised to learn I won’t set foot in a haunted house, or take part in a seance. I won’t even have my fortune read!

And movies about demons and exorcisms? Forget it. In real life, I’m pretty much a wuss. But that hasn’t stopped me from conjuring fiction and poetry tinged with a darker side.

Here’s a poem inspired by my King Crimson period, and one which left me tagged with….well, that “E” word I shudder to repeat:

Simple wooden cross on nature grave in the forestA Funeral for the Fallen

In forests dark, the Harvest Witch smiles,
a black-draped carriage passes her by,
a silent trek through crossroads and hollows,
championed by Death’s primordial scythe,

Horses of ebony stamp their hooves in the stillness,
the strike of shod iron upon moss,
icy breath plumes in the air,
and shrivels upon the casket’s gold cross.

The Harvest Witch grins and turns to her hex,
drawn with the sprig of a sapling oak,
etched on the soft, pungent floor of the forest,
where enchantments are whispered, and spells are invoked.

Mushrooms and toadstools, she gathers for portents,
a funeral of the fallen is a soul to collect,
bound to the forest by a fragile, pale vision,
are the shards of a life fate failed to protect.

Comes now a pale horseman topping the rise,
the black-draped procession pretends not to see,
the Harvest Witch plucks at the bones of the earth,
and summons the Herald to the funeral’s debris.

The forest is silent, brooding with souls,
a funeral for the fallen matters not in the end;
how fleetingly mortal and fragile are lives,
which in conscience forever, our sprits transcend.

Tada! So what do think? Was I thoroughly warped or did I just enjoy experimenting with imagery and archaic ideas? Anyone out there remember King Crimson as fondly as I do? As a writer, do you ever find your niche misjudged by others? Chat away in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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!