Once upon a time…

There were five authors with a passion for writing and story-telling who decided to band together and create a blog where they could share their love of the written word with the world. They didn’t set out to create an empire, just a small pocket of the blogosphere where others with similar interests might gather.

But then they realized how powerful writing could be, and that there were SO MANY writers, authors, and readers who might enjoy coming together and visiting their humble abode that they envisioned an empire. A place where writers could go to talk craft. Where readers could discover books—not only from the five authors—but from works that had impacted the lives of those authors.

Thus Story Empire was born

old world type map with script writing laid over top and words Story Empire set off as a bold header

I invite you to join me, Craig Boyack, Staci Troilo, Harmony Kent and Sandra Cox as we explore realms of fiction and more. We’ve got some fun stuff planned, including a few giveaways that will be coming up next month. For starters, you can find a post from me on the pros and cons about writing a series. Weigh in with your comments. We’d love to hear from you.

And don’t forget to click the “Follow” button while you’re there. You’ll get viewpoints from five different authors over time, view great content, discuss books, and network with many other wonderful writers.

Once upon a time…is now!

Summer Productivity by Mae Clair

I just came off a long weekend (happy belated Fourth of July to my U.S. readers) that wasn’t extremely productive. I spent a good portion of it goofing off, swimming, hanging with family and doing things around the house. Summer in general tends to be less productive for me when it comes to writing, though I do a lot spend a good portion of it reading, plotting and writing notes for my WIPS.

Case in point: I have notebooks I devote to each of my WIPS. They’ve been through the “war zone” of exposure to the sun and pool, constant handling and travel. The notebooks below are for A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS (pink, black and gold notebook) and A COLD TOMORROW (dark blue).

Two closed spiral notebooks, covers a bit battered

I have a weird system when I make notes that involves alternating pages of research (mostly right hand pages) and plot (left hand pages). I use different color ink and highlights to draw attention to various points I want to remember.

Two spiral notebooks open on spine with pages filled with writing and some passages highlighted

I started this system with the blue notebook and plan on maintaining it with the last book in my series, A DESOLATE HOUR. I’ve started making research notes while dreaming up plot points as I float around with foam noodles in the pool.

Open spiral notebook with blank left page and pen on top of page, right page filled with writing

As you can see, the left handed page for plot points is still blank. I know where I want to start but I’m still fleshing out the characters who will factor into the prologue which is set in 1777. Book three ties the curse of Shawnee Indian Chief Cornstalk to the legend of the Mothman and Point Pleasant.

In addition to plotting, I spend a good deal of my summer reading. As a habit, I read every night for an hour or two before I go to bed, but during the summer, I also like to read on my deck in between dips in the pool.

One of my favorite summer reads is THE TERROR by Dan Simmons.

Book cover for THE TERROR by Dan Simmons which shows an old clipper ship without sails surrounded by ice and glaciers

Although a massive book (my paperback copy is 955 pages) this is a story I want to read again, and I can’t imagine reading it during any season other than summer. The book is set in the artic, and fictionalizes the tale of Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition to discover the Northwest Passage in the mid-1800s. Although I originally read it two years ago, it remains one of the best books I’ve ever read, a bizarre and spectacular combination of history, horror, lyrical writing and myth. I’ve never encountered anything to equal it, and each time summer rolls around I think of reading it again.

My current read, however, is a bit different. I’m presently immersed in the WITCH OF LIME STREET, a nonfiction account of Harry Houdini’s battle to unmask medium Margarey Crandon as a fraud. Here’s the cover:Book cover for the Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher is black with lime green border and cameo photos of Harry Houdini and Margery Crandon

Imagine my surprise, when the first night after reading, I switched off the light and realized the cover was glowing. All that lime green you see to the right lights up as neon-glow-in-the-dark with the lights off. I tried to capture a photo of it with my cell phone, but unfortunately it didn’t take.

That aside, I’ve always loved things that glow in the dark—as far back as to when I was a kid and played with a “Dark Shadows” game that had glowing skeletons—so I’m thoroughly besotted with this clever cover. And, in case you doubted, the book is darn good too, especially if you’re a Houdini or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fan, or are interested in the spiritualist movement of the 1920s.

Next up?

downloadKevin O’Brien has a new release, YOU’LL MISS ME WHEN I’M GONE that releases on July 26th. I’ve already pre-ordered  my copy. Kevin is an am amazing author and on my automatic read list. If you like mystery, crime and suspense, you’re going to love Kevin.

In the meantime, I’ll content myself with this:

Book cover for DEVOUR by Kurt Anderson shows a cruise ship at night with lights and a huge monstrous mouth with teeth looming above it

 

 

 

 

I have a horrible weakness for creature/monster books (and movies) and have been saving this one for a while. DEVOUR is definitely a summer/beach read IMHO. Isn’t the cover grand? I can’t wait to discover what lurks within the pages.

So tell me…how productive are you during the summer? Do you plot, do you read? What’s on your TBR?

Choosing Character Names by Mae Clair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Characters take Control by Mae Clair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it didn’t end there.

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

Which of your characters has taken control?

Staci Troilo on Story Inspiration and Gargoyles

Hi, friends. Today, I’m delighted to welcome Staci Troilo back to my blog with her latest release, LOVE SET IN STONE. I read this novel shortly after release and was immediately taken by the blend of paranormal elements in an urban setting. The character development is wonderful with one character in particular quickly stealing my heart. You can find my five star review on Amazon. In the meantime, please welcome Staci back with a great post on story inspiration and a special favorite of mine—gargoyles!

~ooOOoo~

Hi, Mae. Thanks for inviting me back to your site. And hello again, Mae’s friends. I appreciate you giving me a few minutes of your time today.

People often ask me where I get my ideas for my stories, probably because I write in several different genres. Truth is, my ideas come from all over the place. Weird dreams, conversations I overhear, stories my kids tell me, song lyrics, family history… the list goes on and on, and could probably become a blog post—or several blog posts—itself.

Today, I want to talk about the inspiration for my newest novel, Love Set in Stone. There are a few supernatural elements in that story (an angel, a fallen angel, and a gargoyle), but the inspiration for the novel came from a poem I read by Dav Pilkey called “God Bless the Gargoyles”.

In that particular work, there are no fallen angels. In fact, there are no romances, no criminals, no police detectives, no curses, no trips to hell. Yes, my novel has all these elements, and a lot more woven into the plot to turn this glimmer of an idea into a full-length novel.

What “God Bless the Gargoyles” does have is something that inspires me. After I read the poem, I was haunted by the image of these poor gargoyles who wanted to do nothing more than help the humans they watched over, and how sad they were when the humans turned on them. How the only friends they were left with were the angels in the clouds with them.

Believe me, my adult PNR novel is nothing like the children’s poem. But that one concept in the poem—the guardian angel and the gargoyle—stuck with me. And I think it’s proof that you can find inspiration for any kind of novel in the most unlikely places. Even for a paranormal romance in a children’s poem.

Book cover for Love Set in Stone by Staci Troilo shows a young woman with the image of a man and gargoyle behind herExcerpt:

“Damien?”

Damien jumped at the sound of Anael’s voice. He spun around to find the angel standing there. He didn’t float, he didn’t glow. Didn’t even smile like he usually did.

But he was there.

“Are you all right?” Damien asked. “I’ve been worried.”

“You didn’t make me break the rules, Damien. I chose to.”

“Because I was being stubborn.”

“It doesn’t matter. It was my choice.”

“I didn’t think angels had freewill.”

“How do you think we got the fallen? Sometimes we’re left to our own devices. And sometimes, we choose wrong.”

Damien tried and failed to shrug off the chills creeping up his spine. When he spoke, his voice croaked, barely above a whisper. “Did I make you… fall?”

“Stop worrying about me.”

“I’m sorry.” He was. Profoundly so.

Anael turned away from Damien and walked to the edge of the roof. He looked out over the lights of the city, didn’t turn around when he spoke.

“Damien. You need to forget about new terms to your contract. Operate as though nothing has changed.”

“If I’m not getting to renegotiate, then nothing has changed.”

Anael didn’t turn around.

“Anael? Has something changed?”

“Claim your destiny, Damien. And let me worry about mine.”

With that, the angel disappeared.

Damien called out to him, but he never returned.

A quick roll of his head released the tension in his neck. For about two seconds. Then the stress settled back on him, heavier than the stone of his alter ego.

Anael was in trouble. Because of him.

And the terms of his deal were absolute. Claim his destined future or forfeit his eternity.

Without the angel, without new terms, he had no choice.

So there’s a brief glimpse at Damien and Anael, the gargoyle and angel in Love Set in Stone, a PNR inspired by a children’s poem of all things. My advice to writers? Keep your eyes and ears peeled… you never know where inspiration will come from. And my advice to people who know writers? Be careful… you never know what about you might become fodder for your writer friend’s next work.😉

Love Set in Stone Purchase Information:

Available now: Amazon | B&N |Kobo | Inktera | Scribd | 24 Symbols
Coming soon: iBooks | Paperback

Author Bio
Author Staci Troilo in a candid pose
Staci Troilo has always loved fiction, ever since her parents read her fairy tales when she was little. Today, her interests are much more eclectic. She loves getting lost in sci-fi battles, fantasy realms, horror worlds, suspenseful intrigues, and romantic entanglements.

As goes her reading, so goes her writing. She can’t pick a single genre to focus on, so she doesn’t even try. She’s proud to say she’s a multi-genre author.

When she’s not reading or writing, she’s spending time with family and friends, possibly cooking for them, or maybe enjoying an afternoon in the pool. To learn more about her, visit http://stacitroilo.com or connect with her on social media.

Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Google + | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page

 

Where does time go? by Mae Clair

Spiraling image of a clock face with big bold numbers reducing in size Wow, where does time go? I’ve been off the radar for a while, but have had a lot going on behind the scenes. I thought I’d share a project update with you, just so you know I didn’t get snatched away by the Mothman.😀

Here goes…

I was able to meet my March 31 deadline and send A COLD TOMORROW, the second book of my Point Pleasant series, to my editor—on March 31. Talk about down to the wire! A huge shout-out to my critique partner for working so tirelessly the last week of March and quickly turning chapters around so I could meet that deadline. You rock, lady!

The beginning of April, I participated in an author event at my area library. Forty-one local authors were represented. I only sold four books but I got to network with so many authors, both new and aspiring. I also did a fifteen minute presentation on the importance of social media branding for authors. That was fun and my small audience asked good questions.

Table display for author book signing by Mae Clair

Rave Reviews Book Club picked MYTH AND MAGIC as an April book of the month selection, and Twitter has been exploding with Tweets. I intend to blog on the whole experience in the near future, but in the interim, I have to say I’m overwhelmed by the attention this novel has received from RRBC.

On the writing front my publisher sent me the blurb for A COLD TOMORROW and I LOVE it! No cover yet, but I’ll probably be sharing the blurb in the near future. I also finally decided on a title for the third and final book. Thanks to everyone who responded when I did a post asking for title help some time ago. I’ll toss the title out there when I share the blurb for book two. I like it!🙂

I’ve already received the first round of edits for A COLD TOMORROW and need to get them back to my editor by next Wednesday. I foresee a lack of sleep in the near future, LOL.

I’ve also been invited to participate in an anthology of short stories that will be offered for free on Amazon in hopes of exposing the work of the contributing authors to a wider audience. That deadline is April 30 and the theme is western. I’m polishing up something old I wrote years ago and reworking it as a quasi-mystery. I’m about halfway through on that one.

I also finished eight posts for a blog tour on A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS I have kicking off May 2. I still owe blog posts to a number of friends who said they would be happy to promote the book on their blogs. Any shout-outs on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ would be greatly appreciated come release day, April 26.

novel by Mae Clair shows young attractive couple kissing and ocean settingFinally, my publisher has reduced the price on TWELFTH SUN, a romantic mystery set at a lavish seaside estate. I’m not sure how long the reduced price will hold, but for now you can grab a copy for $1.99.

Reviewers have compared the book to Clue (the board game) and an Agatha Christie ensemble. The plot involves a younger man, older woman and an eclectic assortment of characters all engaged in a treasure hunt for a marine artifact. There are clues to solve along the way and a mysterious host orchestrating the whole thing. I’ll close by sharing the cover, blurb and purchase links. This is a fun, breezy read perfect for warm weather. I hope you enjoy!

TWELFTH SUN BLURB:

Reagan Cassidy is settled in her life. She has a thriving interior design firm, an upscale condo, two cats, and a goldfish. As a favor to her uncle, she agrees to team up with his marine archeologist friend to validate and retrieve a nineteenth-century journal, reputedly that of a passenger aboard the doomed schooner Twelfth Sun. Finding a hunky twenty-five-year-old coming out of the shower in her hotel room wasn’t part of the deal, but it’s hard to complain…

Dr. Elijah Cross is cocky and he knows it. He enjoys trading barbs with the lovely Reagan. Barbs, and some innuendo. He can tell she’d rather get back home to her business than stick around for the extended treasure hunt they’ve been talked into, but he’s fine with the situation. At least, until the “clues” start getting personal.

Reagan finds Dr. Gorgeous is as skilled in matters of the heart as he is behind the lectern. Throw in a series of clues which mean more to Elijah than he’ll explain, several odd-ball competitors out to win the journal, a saboteur, and a lavish seaside mansion, and Reagan has enough trouble keeping her head straight, let alone her heart.

WARNING: Younger man, older woman, nautical riddles and romance.

TWELFTH SUN IS AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE FROM:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Kobo
iTunes
Google

Guest Blogger C. S. Boyack on Writing and Inspiration #RRBC Author

Welcome! I’m turning my blog over to C. S. Boyack, who is touring with his new speculative fiction/horror novel, THE PLAYGROUND, which releases today. Craig put together a great post about novel inspiration and ideas, which already had me dreaming up storylines as I read through it. Some of the feeds Craig talks about below, he shares on his blog Entertaining Stories in the form of “idea mill” posts. If you’re not currently following Craig’s blog, it’s a fun place to hang out and ruminate on a writer’s life.

Take it away, Craig…

~ooOOoo~

Writers are often asked where they get their ideas from. I think it’s different for every author, but in my case it could be literally anywhere.

I had an old family story that I’d forgotten about years ago. When I heard a creepy song on Pandora, the old story came back to me and I morphed it into a short story that I’m pretty happy with. I may wind up publishing it in a book of short stories one day.

Sometimes it’s a line from a book, or a visual from a film of some kind. A casual reference overheard at a restaurant might be the key to a character that works in my story.

I’ve been watching television and gotten angry because something doesn’t work the way it’s portrayed. “It actually works this way,” has led to scenes that wind up in my stories. Think about the double barreled shotgun that breaks in the middle, the television insists upon making the wracking sound of a pump action shotgun even though it doesn’t work that way.

I wrote one of my novels because I watched a movie with my grandkids. The Disney film Brave has a will o’ the wisp in it. My imagination was sparked, and I wrote Will O’ the Wisp because of an afternoon with the grandkids.

One thing a speculative author should always keep in mind is the question, “What if?” I don’t always have a soapbox hidden inside my stories, but on occasion it happens. This usually involves looking at a situation that exists today and pushing it to a prediction of some kind.

This one is fun to experiment with, ask yourself, “What if…”:

  • The human population exceeds the ability of the Earth to grow enough food.
  • Those refugees aren’t the problem, but a virus one of them carries is.
  • Global warming thaws something evil from the ice pack.
  • A piece of yeast or a bacteria was on the Mars rover.

I’m sure you can come up with your own, but it’s a fun game to play.

I have great faith in my Muse, Lorelei. I also believe in treating her right. I do this by subscribing to various push feeds online. I get news about topics of interest pushed to me without hours of endless searching. When one of them has merit, I make a note in one of my living documents. Some of those ideas led to stories, or even elements that enhanced a story.

Sometimes it’s a conglomeration of all of this. Maybe I get an archeological post about discovery of European graves where a stake was pounded through the skeleton. I play a little “what if” about pulling the stake out. Maybe I add a setting I was impressed with from a movie. Maybe a conversation, or song lyric, inspires a character that would be perfect for this story. A story is born.

I don’t believe in waiting around for inspiration. My push feeds send me data that might work in a story. My living documents serve as reminders, and I keep them up to date.

What works for you? Where do you find inspiration?

Book cover for THE PLAYGROUND, a novel by C. S. Boyack shows dramatic image of young girl's face over a sinister looking house at night with a car in the foregroundBLURB
The hottest toys of the Christmas Season are the Playground Network dolls. They contain a worldwide social network for children. Except, the network is controlled by a ruthless businessman with dreams of power.

To reach his goals he turns to the occult. Will our children make up his personal army? Could we have an enemy soldier in every home?

Gina Greybill is a cancer survivor who stumbles into her own brush with the paranormal. She wants nothing to do with it, but may be the only one who can bring down the Playground Network. To do it she’ll have to embrace her new situation, and recover the next generation of Playground software.

There is competition for the software in the form of a brutal thug named Clovis. He’s bigger, more ruthless, and more experienced. To top it all off, he has a head start.

The Playground is suitable for more mature readers, due to violence and mature themes.

Author C. S. BoyackMeet the man who dreamed up the story:
AUTHOR BIO
I was born in a town called Elko, Nevada. I like to tell everyone I was born in a small town in the 1940s. I’m not quite that old, but Elko has always been a little behind the times. This gives me a unique perspective of earlier times, and other ways of getting by. Some of this bleeds through into my fiction.

I moved to Idaho right after the turn of the century, and never looked back. My writing career was born here, with access to other writers and critique groups I jumped in with both feet.

I like to write about things that have something unusual. My works are in the realm of science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy. The goal is to entertain you for a few hours. I hope you enjoy the ride.

~ Craig ~

Connect with Craig at the following haunts:
Blog

Twitter @Virgilante
Facebook
Goodreads
Find all of Craig’s novels on his Amazon Author Page

Purchase your copy of THE PLAYGROUND from Amazon