Time for an Update #amwriting #writingcommunity #WIPs

Typewriter, old book and a quill pen with a inkwell on an author desk table background.

Hello! It’s been a while (January?) since I shared how my writing is progressing, so I thought it was time for an update. After all, this is a writing blog. 🙂

Several short stories aside, I’m mostly focused on two novels.

The Keeping Place

This was my NaNoWriMo project, which I didn’t finish until December. A mystery that combines the recent past—a disappearance/murder from the year 2012—with the present, it also addresses relationships. Family drama plays a large part, examining the forced reunion between an estranged mother and her twenty-seven-year-old daughter.

For the most part, this is a straight mystery, although it does have threads of an old legend woven in. Apparently, it’s impossible for me NOT to play with a little folklore. In the case of The Keeping Place, the legend is one I invented for the novel, involving a derelict shack and the daughter of a railroad tycoon.

abandoned building overgrowin with trees and vines along railroad tracks

My critiques partners have been through the manuscript chapter by chapter and have provided feedback. I’ve tweaked what needed to be tweaked. Right now, the story is waiting for a final read through. This is a manuscript I hope to market to literary agents. I’ve yet to begin that search—which I know is going to be time consuming—but I’m in no rush.

In the meantime, I’ve been concentrating on my WIP.

The Ghosts of Wingate Hall

I guess there’s no question this one has a supernatural theme. 🙂

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ve probably seen mention of a story that has haunted me for decades. Wingate started as a novella (different title) when I was in my 20s, then evolved into a novel (different title again) in my 30s. Both were complete, but I wasn’t happy with either. I’ve dug the novel manuscript out again and again. During those times, the story went through several plot and character changes, but nothing worth keeping. Even so, this tale refuses to leave me alone.

I’m now in the process of yet another major plot overhaul. Several existing characters have been dumped (or seen their roles drastically altered) in favor of new characters. For the first time, I feel I might actually finish. I’d love to have the book ready to release in October for Halloween. Right now, I’m planning to indie publish.

A Follow Up to In Search of McDoogal

It’s always been my intention to turn my McDoogal characters into a series of short reads and novellas. If you’ve read this short story, you know it’s completely different than anything else I’ve written­—a comedy of errors. It was such a diversion, and so much fun to write, I would love to visit with Declan, Brady, and Clark Barr again. 

The second story (no title yet) is partially formed in my head, I just have to find the time to write it. I promise a fun and “out there” adventure when I do finally get around to it. In the meantime, if you haven’t checked out McDoogal, and you’re looking for a short, off-the-wall read, the link is below.

… and that’s my update. I’ve been sticking to my regular weekend writing schedule, even squeezing in hours on Saturday (in addition to Sunday), which has really helped moving my WIP along. I’ve only got one quarter of Wingate written, but I’ve worked out the worst of the hurdles in my head. I’m feeling pretty good about 2021 as a writing year.

Now, I just have to find that literary agent!

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?

Happy Halloween and a Break for NaNoWriMo

Illuminated home garden path patio lights with halloween pumpkin lanterns

Happy Halloween! Wishing you plenty of treats and no tricks!

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m going to take a break from blogging for the month of November. I’m focusing on NaNoWriMo and attempting to finish a WIP that has been languishing far too long (wish me luck!).

I’ll be popping in at Story Empire from time to time, and hopefully, can make a few rounds of the blogosphere as well–especially if I get stuck. Although I’m hoping that won’t happen…er, the getting stuck part. Please pardon my absence.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Halloween. Regardless if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, or working at your own pace, I hope your muse is extra generous. See you in a month. 🙂

‘Fiction In A Flash Challenge’ Week #21 NEW Image Prompt! Join in the fun! #IARTG #WritingCommunity #flashfiction #writingprompts @pursoot

It’s that time again! Suzanne Burke chose a great photo for her most recent flash fiction photo prompt—a perfect fit for autumn weather, Halloweenish happenings, or things that go bump in the night. As always, I enjoyed playing with this prompt and giving my muse free rein. To learn more about Soooz’s weekly fiction challenge, click HERE to join in the fun.

This time I came in at exactly 750 words (the limit) when including the title.

Old abandoned, boarded up two-story home in autumn woods at sunset

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

I’ve Got a Plan

“You really bought this?”  Mason shook his head as he surveyed the derelict property. In its day, the house had probably been grand. Now, it was nothing more than a weathered, ivy-encrusted shell. Gilded by the last rays of the setting sun, the old two-story appeared part of the barren woodland surrounding it. “I hope you can get your money back.”

“It was dirt cheap.” Jeremy’s face glowed with pride. “Besides…I’ve got a plan.”

There was always a plan with Jeremy—another fanciful idea or dragon tail. It had been that way since he was a kid. “Okay, I’ll bite. What’s the plan?”

“A Halloween Haunt. Picture it.” Jeremy spread his hands, framing the house. “It won’t take a lot of money. Just enough to shore things up and make certain they’re sound. We add a few fog machines, cheap vintage furniture, and I’m telling you, Dad, it can’t fail.”

“You’ll need actors.”

“I’ve got that covered. We add to the existing atmosphere and play up grim and creepy.”

Business would be limited to a few months in the fall, but that wasn’t entirely problematic. Plus, it would be good experience if the kid pulled it off. At twenty-eight, it was time he managed something. 

“Maybe.” Mason wasn’t ready to commit. “Let’s see inside.”

~ooOOoo~

Isabelle rolled her eyes at the agonized creak of the front door. It had started screeching like that somewhere during the last century. “Dearest, we have company.”

Liam flipped a page in his book. “Two men. I saw them standing out front.”

“Don’t you think you should go downstairs and see what they’re about?” She lowered her embroidery hoop to her lap, the soft folds of her saffron gown, a color match for the flames in the hearth. As cozy as their sitting room was, she understood why Liam was reluctant to leave but one of them had to address the situation. “You’ve already read Moby Dick numerous times.”

“But I never tire of it. We could send Chloe.”

“That strumpet?” Isabelle clucked her tongue. “I think not. I don’t even know why the fool girl insists on lingering.”

“She did love me.” Liam set his book aside. “Probably still does.”

He was a distinguished man with a smattering of gray in his hair, his eyes the dark blue of midnight skies. Isabelle was sometimes overcome by her devotion to him. She couldn’t term the affection love—not any longer—but her emotion ran strong. She’d been naïve when they’d wed, but after a decade discerned his wandering eye. Especially after Chloe came to live with them, lending a hand with domestic chores.

“Her love is irrelevant. I do not share.”

“As you proved.”

Isabelle flashed an innocent smile. “You always enjoyed my tea in the past.”

“Minus the poison.”

“At least I followed you to the grave by drinking it myself.”

“Not quite the grave.” He motioned to the room at large.

“Which brings us back to the problem downstairs.”

“Very well.” Liam heaved a breath. “I’ll scare them off like the others.”

~ooOOoo~

“It has potential.” After exploring the main level, Mason was almost ready to commit. It would take an outlay of cash, but nothing he couldn’t raise. Maybe this time Jeremy would finally turn one of his pipedreams into gold. “We should look upstairs.”

He started toward the staircase, halting abruptly when he spied a figure at the top. “What the—” 

The man’s face appeared chiseled from granite. Dressed in outdated clothing, he looked much like a Dicken’s character, wearing a short waistcoat, silken cravat, and high-topped boots. 

He speared a finger in their direction. “Trespassers! You do not belong here!” The walls shook at the boom of his voice. The floor heaved and cracked. Behind him, lightning exploded from the ceiling, filling the air with ozone. “Leave while you can.”

“Holy shit!” Mason stumbled backward, colliding with his son.

Jeremy caught him by the shoulders. “Don’t mind him, Dad. That’s just Mr. O’Conner.” He hustled past, climbing the steps two at a time. “Hiya, Mr. O’Conner.” He flipped a wave to the stunned apparition. “Chloe told me all about you and your wife. You’re going to fit right in. Aren’t they, Dad?” Jeremy glanced over his shoulder. “Dad?”

Mason stood rooted to the landing, knees quavering, heart thundering. “J-J-Jeremey…” He couldn’t seem to find his voice. “Th-that’s a ghost.”

“Yeah, I know.” The idiot kid grinned ear-to-ear. “Didn’t I tell you we wouldn’t need actors?”

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!

More News: Blogging Schedule

Hi, friends! Last week I told you about my new website. Today, I’m sharing plans for a new I blogging schedule. Beginning soonish. Probably Octoberish.

I’m on a roll! But first. . .vacation.

DH and I are headed to Maine the end of next week, through the end of September. Please excuse my lack of comments on your blog posts while I’m gone. I’ll look forward to chatting with you when I return in October.

An open tablet, pen, and a pair of glassesAt that time, Book Review Tuesdays will continue, but I’ve also decided to add another regular weekly post. Those of you who have been longtime followers of my blog may remember Mythical Mondays. It’s a theme I kept up for years, eventually abandoning for lack of time. No, Mondays are not coming back, but something sorta/kinda/quasi-similar­—Wednesday Weirdness.

Like my Mythical Monday posts, you’re apt to find myth, legends, and folklore, but I’m also planning to share anything I come across that’s too “weird” for explanation. That opens the door to mysteries, strange coincidences, unexplained happenings, and even a few personal experiences. I’ll also be chatting about the “oddness” that inspired each of the books I’ve written. I’ve missed sharing that aspect of my writing and look forward to trotting it out again.

You may see other random posts from me here and there, and as always, I’m happy to host friends with new releases and other news you’d like to share. Give me a shout and we’ll get something scheduled!

So, why am I telling you this now? It’s been said that if you publicly state an intention, you’re more apt to follow through. Who wants to promise something, then fail to deliver? With that said, picture me nervously gnawing my fingernails (my nail tech is not going to be happy).

I know I’m going to be insane when I return from Maine. There will be a ton of catch-up on my day job, October is NaNoWriMo prep time, and the Story Empire Something Wicked Blog Tour will kick off toward the end of the month. But there’s always something to delay plans, right? I’m going to ignore all of the potential hurdles and go for it. I have Staci Troilo and Joan Hall, to thank for inspiring me with their own blogging schedules.

And while I’m in Maine, as Craig Boyack told me—“Find some great New England cryptids while you’re there.”

Sounds like good advice to me! 🙂

 

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?

A New Look and Changes

Three parrots are chatting under the header "Did you hear Mae's news?"Hi, friends. I usually reserve Tuesday for book reviews, but today is different for several reasons. As usual, I had my nose buried in a book last week, but it was a beta read for a friend, which means I can’t share my review just yet. Bummer, because I’m super excited about this novel. You’ll have to wait several months for the release, but rest assured, I’ll be dancing around and chanting “rah-rah” as I cheer my friend on!

Secondly, a few weeks ago, I made a change in how I keep up with the blogs I follow (if you’re reading this, that means you! 🙂 ). Because I follow so many blogs, my inbox balloons each day like a mushroom on steroids. A friend suggested I try Reader, something I’d avoided in the past. I have no idea why, because using Reader has made life so much easier. This means I no longer get a notification when you make a new blog post, but by scrolling through Reader I’m able to see it. Sounds good, right?

There is one downside. I have not been able to find a way to organize which blogs appear first in my Reader, which means I have a long list to scroll through. If I’ve missed any of your posts, please excuse my lapse. I’m still on a learning curve but getting better.

Finally, you may have noticed the look of my blog has changed. Also that all of my secondary pages have disappeared, replaced by a single new entry—VISIT MY WEBSITE.

Creating a website is something that has been on my to-do liist far longer than I want to admit. It’s embarrassing. Seriously.

I finally took the time over the long Labor Day weekend to cobble one together (if you’re a regular follower of my blog, you’ve probably noticed I like the word “cobble”).

I’d be seriously jazzed (that’s another favorite word), if you hopped over to MaeClair.com, poked around, then let me know what you think. The website supports everything that was previously on my blog with a link to this site. I’ve learned from others to keep the blog where it’s currently homed. There’s too much history involved to start over.

You’re currently visiting my blog home, which is MaeClair.net. My website is MaeClair.com. Each connects to the other. I hope you’ll use them both.

Next Tuesday, look for a return to book reviews which will continue to be a regular feature. I’m also hoping to introduce a few other regular weekly posts, returning to a habit I haven’t been able to maintain for years due to looming publisher deadlines. With those behind me, I’m excited by new prospects for expanding my blogging schedule.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll visit my new WEBSITE, bookmark it, and let me know what you think. How do you like the look? Does it work for my genre? Did I do a good job?

That’s My Plan and I’m Sticking to It #Publishing

No one is wild about change, and it usually happens when you least expect it. Several weeks ago, my publisher informed me they would no longer be considering new material from me. I wasn’t entirely shocked, given Cusp of Night and End of Day have not followed in the path of my previous releases. A Thousand Yesteryears, A Cold Tomorrow, A Desolate Hour, and Myth and Magic did very well for Lyrical Underground/Kensington Publishing, and they expected the new series to perform in the same vein. Sadly, those numbers have been lacking. To top it off, the senior editor who liked my work, and requested new material from me, took a position with Marvel shortly after contracting Cusp of Night. I believe he would have taken another series given my past numbers, but the new editor is not inclined.

So now what?

Directional arrows pointing different ways

If nothing had changed, I would have been happy to continue submitting books to Kensington, but their decision has made me re-evaluate what I want to do moving ahead. As I see it, I have three options:

Seek out an online publisher
Indie publish
Try to gain an agent and go after the Big 5 publishers

Each has its own value. I’m not sure I want to go with a small press, although there are several with excellent reputations. I’m more likely to go Indie or seek an agent. I spent one night thoroughly bummed over Kensington’s decision, but can’t say I was shocked. The same thing happened to two friends last year. I have no idea why my Hode’s Hill series has not performed like my previous books, especially given I dumped more paid promo and online promotion into Cusp than previous works. Maybe the type of books just didn’t resonate with readers like the others did. It’s puzzling.

A woman with confused expression, thinking, question mark above her head

I won’t miss the deadlines (the last one nearly did me in), though I will miss the promo Kensington did for my books, especially Book Bub. I am, however, a strong believer in fate, and that everything happens for a reason. I have to trust that this is part of God’s plan for my life.

With that in mind, I hope to seek an agent while releasing a few indie works. My current WIP, The Keeping Place, is mainstream mystery with just a twinge of folklore. No monsters, creatures, or ghouls, just the hint of an old legend from the 1900s. It’s a different direction for me, so perhaps the timing is good. I have a lot of faith in this book, and feel it will end up the strongest of anything I’ve written. Once finished, I hope to approach an agent for representation—although I dread the research involved.

In the meantime, Eventide, book three of my Hode’s Hill series, will release the end of December through Kensington. I’ll be jabbering more about that as the time nears.

I have a book of short stories I originally planned to indie publish the end of summer or early fall. I’ve now decided to hold that until April of 2020, as I’d like to continue to strive for two releases a year. That also gives me plenty of time to play with cover design. I’m still not settled on the title, but this book will include a story I hope to spin into an ongoing series of novellas. Remember the name “McDoogal.” 🙂

I also have plans for a string of novellas featuring a character from my Point Pleasant series. If that isn’t enough to keep me busy, I’m going to have to re-release my older works as the rights release back to me. And I thought I was juggling too much with a full time job before. Oy, vey!

I’ve got a lot to wrap my head around, but it won’t stop me from writing. I’ve dilly-dallied long enough not trying for the Big 5. This is the push I needed. It’s time I buckle down and search for an agent. And in the meantime, I can stay active with smaller indie publications.

So, that’s my plan, and I’m sticking to it!

An Interview, Creatures, and Cats

I am so excited to be interviewed by fabulous book reviewer, writer, and musician, Kevin Cooper. And let’s not forget he loves cats!

Even though Kev’s on the other side of the pond, Raven and I are always keen to know what he’s up to—including sending kitty hugs to his gorgeous felines, Aragorn and Ricco.

Although cats don’t come up in Kev’s interview with me, he had plenty of interesting questions—as only Kev can deliver. I hope you’ll get a moment to pop over and see what we’re discussing (hint: creatures are involved).

You can find the interview HERE. Hope to see you there. Raven even stirred from a mid day nap to see what all the fuss is about. 🙂

Beautiful black cat curled up on a bed with pillows