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!

Where Have All the Bloggers Gone?

Recently, it dawned on me that many of the bloggers I followed five years ago have faded into the woodwork. I was a newbie back then, and there was a core group of writers I developed a rapport with, many starting out themselves. Most of us bonded through Six Sentence Sunday, a weekly blog share. Over the years many have stopped posting, a few embraced Facebook as their platform of choice, and—sadly—one passed away.

Every now and then I might hear from an old friend and that contact instills a sense of whimsy for the early days. When publishing was new and scary, and terms like blog tour, media kit, and and mobi were Greek. If I’ve lost contact, some of that is my own fault.

After two books that were romantic in nature, I made a switch to mysteries and romantic suspense. As an author I’m happy where I’m at, straddling a line that crosses genres and has moved the emphasis away from the bedroom. But it makes me wonder—where have all the bloggers gone?

a stack of old letters tied together with string beside a fountain pen

Even within the last few years, new friends have come and gone, surfacing on the grid while working on their novel, only to disappear after the release. My Twitter stream is filled with authors who launched a profile only to have crickets replace their feed months later. What is it about this industry—yes, it is an industry to those who stick with it—that devours staying power?

Is it the fact that we have to juggle multiple tasks—writing, editing, book promotion, social media exposure, reading, betas, ARCs—in addition to our family life and day careers? Being an author is not for the faint of heart, and I will be the first to admit there have been  times when the pressure made me want to toss in the towel. The only thing that kept me going was the thought that I would have to start over, rebuilding all that I had worked to obtain. For even as I thought about quitting there was no doubt that I would be back. Writing is not something I can walk away from. It’s been a constant in my life from the time I was a child, and I have no doubt it will remain so until I leave this Earth for good.

That said, my blog has languished recently due to the constraints of daily life. I’m going to try to rectify that and hope to return to a more regular posting routine. For those of you who don’t already know, I vanish offline each week from Friday evening to Sunday evening, the intervening hours set aside for family and my regular writing routine. I try to catch up with the blog posts I have missed by Monday, but due to the sheer volume of blogs I follow, it’s not always possible. If I miss you on the weekend, I will catch you during the week. I don’t want to be one of those bloggers who vanishes into the woodwork. I have made many good friends over the last few years. New friends I don’t want to lose.

Where have all the bloggers gone? Right where we’ve always been—supporting and helping each other. For the record, you guys rock.

Old Writings and Decades Past

Monday of a new week, almost a new month, seemed a good time to roll out something I’ve never really shared before. Back in the day (way back in the day) I used to experiment with poetry. I don’t know anything about forms, or proper meter, but that never stopped me from experimenting. Recently, while digging around in computer files, I came across my poetry folder. Random exercises, these have been languishing on my computer. They’re never going to see the light of day in a book or anywhere else, so I decided to share some of them here. We all have early forms of writing we experiment with, and this was one of mine.

The first piece is about King David of the Old Testament. He is someone I loved reading about and still do. Back in day I penned this short poem to express that fondness:

Stained glass image of King David with harpFor the Psalmist 

Ancient words
penned by an ancient hand,
centuries faded but music still sweet.
From pasture to kingdom
your harp sang praise.
That I might do the same
and dance before the ark
or mourn beloved Absalom,
taken before peace could be sown.

Sweet singer of Israel,
Son of Jesse,
I linger still
in the melody of your song.

~ooOOoo~

That was one of the very few poems I wrote without rhyming verse. I still remember as a kid, when my dad introduced me to a rhyming dictionary and explained how it worked. He knew I loved to write, but poetry was something I’d never tried. My first attempts failed miserably. I was in my twenties when I wrote this:

Crossfire

night sky illuminated with lightning above silhouette of treesLightning dances on a midnight sky,
mushrooming fire and ancient sword,
conjured, unleashed by the Nether Lord.

How we struggle to appease our guilt,
puppets pulled by tattered string,
jesters dancing on a broken gallows,
capering and scraping to the Gallow’s King.

The Weaver of Life threads her loom,
cracking and shuddering beneath destiny’s hand.
We wander down corridors soiled with souls,
never stopping to ponder life’s final command,

In a cathedral of stone, we unleash fragile dragons,
quietly ruing our own masquerade,
forever refining and silently polishing,
gold-plaited images of Self we have made.

Tarnished but chosen, we forge our own demons,
plucked from the bowels of a mute, angry fire,
we are children of circumstance, knighted by time,
torn between failure and noble desire.

~ooOOoo~

Yes, I tended to be a bit strange even then. But all of that strangeness and those old creativity avenues—including my attempts at poetry (more to come)—allowed my writing to venture into the areas it has today. I haven’t written poetry in years, but I still look back on those moments with fondness.

What types of writing did you experiment with when you were younger? Have they shaped your writing today? Did you ever try your hand at poetry? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Can I Start My Weekend Now?

If there was ever any doubt, let it be known that I love Fridays. The weekend is looming around the corner, and I’m already in countdown. Now that summer has arrived, I will be spending sunny afternoons plotting and/or reading poolside. I still need to work in my normal writing schedule but I’m hoping to grab a little down time as well.

funny cat peeking over shelf at camera

I’m also hoping to get back to a more regular blogging schedule. This past week, saw an award (thank you, Jess Bakkers) and a surprise from my husband (thank you, love of my life). If you’re interested in either post, just follow the links.

Looking back:
On Story Empire, Joan Hall shared a post that cleverly combined The Beatles, Sgt. Peppers and Writing and Harmony Kent shared Part One of her series Commas and How to Use Them. Today, you can find the weekly Curated Writing Content gathered by the authors of Story Empire. I hope some of these appeal to you.

Looking ahead:
My own writing projects are moving forward. A Desolate Hour will be releasing on July 18th, and I recently submitted a short story for an anthology I was invited to participate in. You’ll be hearing more on the latter as publication time approaches.

Book cover for Ghosts by Gaslight, a book on Spiritualism by Troy TaylorCurrently, I’m knee deep in research mode for my next novel, The Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill.  Although I read daily, I’ve been entrenched in non-fiction as opposed to putting a dent in my TBR.

Half of Blue Lady deals with Spiritualism in the late 1800s as related to practicing mediums and fraud. I’ve been reading a book called Ghosts by Gaslight by Troy Taylor in order to get up to snuff. It’s fascinating, but dense, especially as I’m making notes as I go. I also just picked up a massive tome on Harry Houdini, someone who has always intrigued me—more so as I delve into the late 19th century and early 20th century.

We’re spending tomorrow evening with friends so this weekend is more about fun and pool time, but I’ll work writing and research in somehow.

What about you? What project or book is calling you and are you a Friday Fanatic like I am?

A Brick in the Walk

My husband catches me by surprise sometimes. I mean really by surprise. We joke a lot because he’s not much of a reader and doesn’t understand why anyone would “waste time” reading a story. He’ll read instructional manuals and text books, but fiction? Not going to happen. The cosmic joke is that he’s married to a fiction writer.

Wait. It gets better.

After working for State Government for many long years, he was able to retire early with full benefits. That was great until a year later when he ran out of projects to do around the house, and decided he wanted to go back to work part time. So he got a job at—cosmic joke #2—a library!

It’s an easy job, something to keep him busy, but I think he enjoys it. He does meeting room set-ups and some minor maintenance around the place. The man is surrounded by books every day and by librarians who rattle on about their love of the written word. He’s come to appreciate the importance of libraries and the programs they offer, while the librarians couldn’t be happier to have someone of his work ethics. He has them completely spoiled.

The library itself is inviting, and I love going there. Among other amenities, there are plenty of comfy sitting areas both inside and out. One of the outside areas is in a section where people are able to purchase “memory bricks” for special occasions or in honor of loved ones. People place milestones there—anniversaries, awards, and names of family members. Take a seat on the bench that overlooks the area, and this is what you’ll see immediately to the left.

Brick that says Mae Clair

Yep. My husband surprised me with that. My name at our local library—a place of books, learning and imagination. I was thoroughly caught off guard. There were tears, hugs and laughter.

My books are in that library and now my name will hang around outside forever, long after I’m gone. Like I said, the man really surprises me sometimes.  🙂

multiple bricks with names

 

The Liebster Award

Icon for the Liebster AwardHey, friends! It’s been a very long while since I’ve done an award post or been nominated for one, so I was honored to be nominated for the Liebster Award by Jessica Bakkers. Jess has a great blog with a wide variety of content, including her ongoing posts about INFJs, the topic that connected us initially. If you don’t know Jessica, I highly recommend you check out her spot in the blogosphere and say hello. Lots of fun happenings over there! 🙂

For the Liebster Award, the rules are:

  1. Acknowledge the blog who nominated you and display the award.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you.
  3. Give 11 random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 11 blogs
  5. Notify those blogs of the nomination.
  6. Give them 11 questions to answer.

The eleven questions Jessica sent my way are:

What is your favourite childhood memory?
Sitting under the stars with my father and imagining far off worlds.

Do you have pets? If yes, what are they?
One black cat named Raven. She’s a rescue I got as a kitten. She turned a year old the middle of May.

Best way to spend a Sunday afternoon?
Writing! Sunday afternoon is the time I routinely reserve for writing.

Favourite TV show?
I love Once Upon a Time, although I’m a little worried about the shake-ups coming next season. It’s the only hour of television I actually watch as it airs. I’m also a big fan of Gotham, which I DVR. Other than those two shows, I watch very little television.

Do you dance?
Dance you say? I LOVE to dance!! Point me in the direction of music and a dance floor, and all of my INFJ insecurities fall by the wayside.

You’re going to a deserted island. What three things are you going to take?
My husband, my cat and a truckload of books (that last counts as one, right)?

Favourite painter or painting?
My father. He was a classically trained artist who produced work in oils, pastel and charcoal, with oils as his primary medium.

Country or city?
Country all the way. I’m a small town girl.

What food do you seek out when you’re blue?
Chips. Oh, wait—I seek them out even when I’m not blue.

Weirdest word you know.
Macadam. I don’t know that it’s weird, but I’ve had critique partners and editors balk when I use it, stating “most readers won’t know what you’re referencing.” Now I force myself to type “asphalt” instead

Is the ‘u’ in colour necessary or just odd?
It’s the equivalent of fine champagne!

And now eleven facts about me. I’m cheating because these can actually be found on my blog:

  1. My favorite number is 12
  2. I adore cats
  3. I saw a UFO when I was 6 (don’t laugh!)
  4. I’ve taken two trips in search of the legendary Mothman
  5. I’m passionate about folklore and cryptozoology
  6. I like to watch bats soar overhead at twilight
  7. I like reading about Robert F. Kennedy
  8. If I could have a superpower, I’d choose the ability to fly
  9. I have a bizarre fear of bears
  10. I like exploring old graveyards
  11. I have a passion for history and old photographs

My eleven questions for those I nominate.

  1. You’ve been given a working time machine. What era of history would you visit?
  2. What is your totem animal? (Inspired by a post I recently saw on Jan Sikes’ blog).
  3. What was the first story you wrote?
  4. Beach or mountains?
  5. What is your favorite time of year?
  6. Name someone from history you find intriguing.
  7. What is your favorite fairy tale?
  8. When was the last time you played a game of chess?
  9. If you could travel to any city or country in the world, where would you go?
  10. Name your favorite cartoon when you were a kid.
  11. What mythical creature do you wish actually existed?

Now, I know not everyone likes to do these awards, but I’m going to  nominate:

Staci Troilo
Joan Hall
Carmen Stefanescu
Julie Holmes
Teri Polen
Marcia Meara
Jan Sikes
Judi Lynn
D. L. Finn
Robbie Cheadle
Lizzie Chantree 

Have a go at it., ladies. There’s no time limit for turn around, and if I you’d like to pass, no worries. I know not everyone has time to do awards or cares to. Just have fun with it if you do. Thanks again to Jess for the nomination. I enjoyed doing this!

I Said I Wouldn’t…Then I Did #writingaseries

I’m kind of embarrassed to be writing this post. You may recall last fall when I was struggling to meet the deadline for book 3 of my Point Pleasant series, I swore up and down I would NEVER write a series again. No way, huh-uh, not gonna happen.

But you know where I’m headed, right?

The process unfolded like this:

I finished A Desolate Hour (Book 3 of Point Pleasant) and realized that for the first time in two years I didn’t have a deadline hanging over my head. That was liberating, but also kind of scary. I could just…write. No communication with my editor or publisher, just me in a void with my muse.

I dug out an old (really old) trunk novel that I felt had possibility and started tinkering with it. I rewrote the beginning, trashed it, rewrote it again, trashed it again, and started fresh.

spiral notepad and books on deskAbout that time my editor (Editor B) contacted me to say her boss (Editor A) wanted to see a new book proposal from me. Um, Editor A?!?!?  He ranks up there in the house, so I was notably blown away that he was requesting something from me! As expected, I danced around on clouds for an afternoon.

Editor A wanted a series—uh-oh—but agreed to take a look at my stand-alone novel. I polished up the first three chapters along with a synopsis, and shipped it off to Editor B who agreed to review it before sending it to her boss.

I don’t know if was from spending too much time hunched over a keyboard, but my lower back suddenly became a quagmire of pain. Back pain is something I’ve had for a while, and for the most part I know how to manage so that it’s not severe. Not this time. The pain was debilitating. So nasty it involved a trip to the doctor for medication.

About that time Editor B emailed to say she thought the (trunk) novel needed a stronger opening, and suggested a few ideas for improvement. Another rewrite? I was starting to think the trunk novel wasn’t the gem I hoped it to be. All the euphoria I felt when Kensington asked for a proposal evaporated.

woman at laptop covering her face

On the plus side, my back pain also disappeared, but the medication left me wired (I quickly ditched it). For a single night, unable to sleep, I plotted an entire novel from start to finish in my head. When morning rolled around, I slunk into my den and poured out four pages of notes, which I promptly emailed to Editor B.

She liked the sound of the book—a mystery incorporating two time periods, one in the present, the other in the late 1800s. She suggested I draft a synopsis from my notes and submit it with the first three chapters so that she could share it with her boss. I added the task to my to-do list.

Before I had a chance to start the book (unknown to me) Editor A emailed my editor to ask if she’d received a proposal from me. All she had were my rough notes, but she sent them to Editor A—only telling me after Editor A came back saying he loved them. He agreed to give me a contract based on my notes. No standard submission process, no two to three month waiting period. Can we say, gobsmacked?!?!

If there is any downside, it’s that Kensington wanted another series. After some back and forth exchanges, we finally arrived at a time frame I can work with and still maintain my sanity. I’m happy to announce book number one of the Hode’s Hill series—The Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill—will release next summer. I just finished all the preliminary paperwork (cover art, production forms, etc.) A mystery suspense novel, Blue Lady will also contain a few supernatural twists, some historical references and a bit of urban legend. Would you expect anything less? 🙂

Book cover for A Desolate Hour by Mae Clair shows a small town overlooking a river at night, full moon overhead, cover in wash of green red and black with white letteringSo here I am, writing a series again. I guess it goes to show you should never say never.

And while I work on Blue Lady, I’m looking forward to the final novel in my Mothman series. If you haven’t grabbed it already, A Desolate Hour is available for pre-order and will release on July 18th.

Looks like I’m in this game for the long haul!