And the Winners are….by Mae Clair

Colorful balloons on blue skyI want to thank everyone who dropped by my blog yesterday to say hello to Mary E. Merrell while she was out promoting The Real Estate Paranormal Mystery series. I’m finding book one, House Haunting, a fun clever read and can’t wait to see what Mary dreams up in the next two.

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And now for the winners of the giveaway:

The winner of the $10 gift card to Amazon is Sheri de Grom.

The winner of the first two ebooks in Mary’s series, HOUSE HAUNTING and CURVE APPEAL is Emma Meade.

Congrats to Sheri and Emma, and many thanks again to everyone who stopped by to comment. I hope you’ll add Mary’s fab books to your TBR list. They make great summer reading!

Wizards with Words: Mary E. Merrell and Soul in Present Condition #G*I*V*E*A*W*A*Y

bigstock-magic-book-9719930Welcome to another Wizards with Words interview — With a fab giveaway!

Stay tuned for the deets later in this post. For now I’d like to introduce Mary E. Merrell who will be sharing her latest release in The Real Estate Paranormal Mystery series. 

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I’m a real estate girl (have been since 1988) and am pretty gone on all things strange and weird. Sounds like a good fit for this series, right? (I’ve been in a few vacant spooky houses in the course of my career).

I’m already invested in book one of Mary’s intriguing series and am looking forward to reading all three. Please say hello to Mary!

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Mary, Please share a bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing.  

I’ve been writing for over ten years now. I was a stay at home mom with two sons and I told myself a lot of stories while I cleaned and did mom stuff. About the time I went into real estate, we got our first computer and I attempted to put one of those stories down. It was a lot harder than I expected, but I was hooked. I took some writing classes and joined a writer’s group. I loved it! Then I went into that vacant home, and a compelling story about a newbie real estate agent and a ghost developed. When I’m not writing, I love to grow things, and my husband and I have a small business making vertical frames for succulents. I try to exercise consistently, (ha, good one) and I love reading and playing soccer. Almost time to retire from soccer…again. My team calls me Brett Favre.

You sound extremely busy! When you do find time to write, do you have a favorite place and/or time of day for flexing your creative muscles? (Sorry, couldn’t resist the exercise connection 🙂).

My favorite time to write is early in the morning. I love to get up, feed the animals and get a cup of coffee and write away, but if I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, the dogs and I go for a run first. I should be doing my crunches and pushups too, but lately I’ve been shirking. Just ask my pants. I write in the office. Usually surrounded by the dogs and cats.

Pets make a perfect patient audience when writing. And I can so relate to the exercise guilt. If it weren’t for my pool routine, I’d be woefully behind. Going back to your writing habits, when it comes to being a plotter vs. panster, I think even plotters veer from their outline to a degree during the process. When you finish a novel, how closely would you say the end product resembles your original concept — 100%? 50%? Something else entirely? series-lineup I just recently read this term, panster on a blog. I have to say I am definitely a panster, if it means writing by the seat of your pants. (Just figured that out as I was typing) My current release, Soul in Present Condition is completely different from the original draft. I changed the killer, had to add new chapters and delete others. As I really think about this, most of my final drafts probably resemble only 50% of the original concept.

I can most certainly relate to that, being a dyed-in-the-wool panster for many years running. Are you a draft writer or someone who invests a lot of time in editing and polishing as you write? Why does your method work best for you? 

I like to write the book all a one time. Straight through. I’ve written one book a year for the last four years for the NaNoWrimo, and this year, hopefully will be no different. Then the book sits until I can get back and revise it. This works well for me because I don’t do extensive plotting. I have a loose outline that I follow, but it could change drastically as I write. That does mean I have to go back and fill a lot of holes and flesh out the story threads and make sure everything is consistent when I revise. Sometimes, like Soul in Present Condition it hardly looks like the original book at all. front_v1

Speaking of Soul in Present Condition, please tell us a bit about it.

Soul in Present Condition is book #3 in The Real Estate Paranormal Mystery Series. This was a fun book to write. I changed it a lot, because I had a great idea for a twist. Rosemary Fernandes is a new real estate agent and her business is building, in spite of ghosts lurking in any home she might show. She knows how to deal with the lost souls that are drawn to her, how to help them move on.

Unfortunately, her gift attracts the undead as well. Now, Rosemary is human servant to a vampire. Marcus Lyons is…difficult but gorgeous. Rosemary doesn’t understand this strange relationship with the vampire, but the more she gets to know him the more human he seems, and the more she finds herself seeing the good in him.

When Rosemary meets a young ghost, all sarcastic and gangster, she has a plan, but this ghost keeps a secret, a deadly secret. Rosemary knows his soul will go on, even in its present condition, but she must convince the vampire that her destiny is helping the spirits that call to her, no matter how dangerous.

In this book, Rosemary’s relationship with her boyfriend, Frank Perez heats up. She realizes her friends and family are in danger just being around her. She wants to tell them her secret, but first she must get permission. As the ghost, the vampire and her friends come together to solve this latest mystery, the dynamics of her life change drastically and nothing will ever be the same.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I loved writing it.

It sounds fascinating! Without giving too much away, please share a bit about your favorite scene.

There are so many little things that I love. I know, I wrote it, but it still tickles me. But I think my favorite scene is with Rosemary and Frank, talking about what’s going to happen with their relationship. Is Frank going to stick around and work for the vampire Marcus Lyons or let the vampire wipe his memory, so he forgets everything, including Rosemary? It’s tender and heartwarming and ends with Rosemary and Frank making the most of a night alone.

I can see why it would be your favorite scene. How about sharing the first three sentences of your book?

I never take clients into a home I haven’t previewed. You never know what you’re going to stumble into. Like a ghost.

Love that! Now share one sentence – – yes, only one! – – of dialogue or description you love.

This isn’t really dialogue, well, internal dialogue then. It’s one of my favorites. “This feud they had with Marcus was going to be the death of me, because if dying of embarrassment was possible, I’d already be a corpse.”

LOL! Very nice! Poor Rosemary. And now for a bit about Mary. When  you’re not writing (or reading) what do you do to unwind?

I do a lot of gardening. Love growing things, and I run and play soccer.

I know you mentioned your pets before. Pets and writers seem to go together like peas in a pod. Tell us about yours and whether or not they shadow your writing time and space. 

I have two dogs and four…I mean five cats. A kitten got into our backyard a couple weeks ago, which is not all that easy since we have a cat fence to keep our cats in and stray cats out. He’s so little he slipped through the lattice in the cat area. I think he’s one of the gang now. In fact, he’s sleeping on the couch next to me. Having trouble naming him. My niece named him Fisher, but my husband doesn’t like it. Well, it’s better than boots. (He has white feet. So cliché.) The cats usually sleep in the office while I’m writing and usually one or another is on the desk vying for my attention. The young dog Lily is always trying to put a toy in my hand so I’ll play tug-o-war, and Charlie (The older female dog, my husband named.) barks at me to chase her. Sometimes I do…

Oh, I love pets. Especially cats! They all sound adorable. And for what it’s worth, I like the name Fisher for the little one. 🙂 Now I have a couple quick questions about fun stuff!

Dream vacation gifted to you by a fairy godmother: I would like a staycation, where I can be home, but nobody knows I’m there, and I don’t have to do anything like housework, cooking, or yardwork, unless I want to. Just me and the animals. Maybe my sisters too.  So they can do the cooking. Hee, hee. I can write until I’m tired of it. Then maybe I’ll read a little too. Or watch stupid TV shows like Big Bang Theory or musicals. Whatever silly movie I’m in the mood for.

Favorite time of day:  Morning

Favorite color:  Yellow

Food you never grow tired of:  Chocolate and coffee together.

I just had a very relaxing staycation with hubby. Unfortunately, I didn’t do any writing, LOL. And you know, I think you’re the first person who’s answered yellow to the color question. It’s so cheerful and summery. That was always my mother’s favorite color and the thought of it makes me smile.

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Blurb Soul in Present Condition
Divorced. Check. Ghost Whisperer. Check. Human Servant. Check. Great. Check. Real estate agent Rosemary Fernandes never expected to inherit the ability to communicate with spirits, and she certainly didn’t expect her gift to attract the undead as well. Now Rosemary finds herself ghost whisperer to the lost souls stuck at their haunts and human servant to a gorgeous but aloof vampire Marcus Lyons. Benito Cruz died with a dangerous secret, a secret that connects the ghost to Rosemary. Can Rosemary send the spirit to his final resting place before his past catches up with them, and can she convince the vampire helping spirits like Benito is her destiny? 

Add SOUL IN PRESENT CONDITION to your Goodreads list here!

member_817010[1]Author Bio
Mary E. Merrell writes Paranormal Mysteries and Young Adult Urban Fantasy. She has worked many jobs, but always had stories in her head. It wasn’t until she went into real estate and walked into that old, vacant home that The Real Estate Paranormal Mystery Series came to life. Fortunately, nothing spooky happened at the furniture store, or the first book could have been, “The Haunted Sofa.”

Mary E. Merrell’s plots are smooth and slightly dark, and her characters sinfully sweet. Try a little guilty pleasure with House Haunting, the first book in The Real Estate Paranormal Mystery Series. One reviewer called it “A good start to a new series.”

Mary E. Merrell lives in the Central Valley of California with her husband, two dogs, and five cats. She has two grown sons. When she’s not writing, she’s gardening or playing soccer. Please visit her website to see what she’s working on next at www.maryemerrell.com.

You can find Mary at the following haunts:
Website
Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads

Available Now/Buy Links:
House Haunting
Curve Appeal 

And now for that giveaway I mentioned at the start of this post. To celebrate the release of SOUL IN PRESENT CONDITION, Mary is giving away two prizes. One lucky person who comments will win a $10 gift card to Amazon and another will win ebook copies of Mary’s first two books in The Real Estate Paranormal Mystery Series (House Haunting and Curve Appeal). So be sure to share your thoughts, say hello, and include your email.  Mary would love to hear from you!

Winners will be announced tomorrow!

Author Spotlight: Mary E. Merrell

Today, I’m pleased to turn my blog over to Mary Merrel, author of AFFINITY-BIRD IN A GILDED CAGE. I read this great YA book a while back and am eagerly looking forward to the sequel. After reading it, I invited Mary to visit my blog and share a bit about herself and AFFINITY. Please give her a ‘pen-friendly’ welcome!

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Hi Everyone, and thank you, Mae Clair for inviting me to your blog so I can talk about my Young Adult Urban Fantasy, Affinity-Bird in a Gilded Cage. There is something wonderful about the writing community. The people I have met are caring and encouraging in this tough but wonderful world of writing. Mae Clair is no different, except she seems to have more energy than the average writer. Whenever I feel woe is me, I don’t have enough time to write, boo hoo, I read one of her blogs and stop complaining and get back to work.

When I wrote Affinity, I wanted something that was completely different from my Paranormal Mystery Series. Something out of my comfort zone. Normally, stories and characters come to me, enter my head and bang around until I relent and admit they have promise and put them down in a notebook.

Affinity started as a short story I had to think up. I wrote it in third person instead of first person, my protagonist a teenage boy instead of a thirty-something woman and my genre YA Urban Fantasy instead of Paranormal Mystery. Slowly, the short story about Talon a young man with the ability to communicate with the crows emerged, and I liked it.

16060100Affinity Description
The crows followed Talon Corvus everywhere. When he went to work with his uncle for the summer, the birds came too. Talon recognized that one straggly-tailed old crow. The same birds had flown from Modesto to Sacramento to be with him. Maybe Iris was right.

Iris Yorita lived in his old neighborhood in Modesto. Snakes were drawn to her as the big, black birds were drawn to Talon. She called their ability an AFFINITY. Claimed it was a gift from God, and they should use it to help people. Talon thought she was out of her mind. How could a bunch of mangy crows or slimy snakes help anyone?

When a thief targeted the people in his uncle’s neighborhood, all fingers pointed at the new kid, Talon. He decided it was time to put this strange ability to the test. Find out who was robbing their neighbors and clear his name. As Talon worked on communicating with his crows things heated up. Something more sinister than robbery was going on, and it would take Talon and his new-found friends, Iris and Chloe who communicated with raccoons to discover what really was going on.

Excerpt – Affinity-Bird in a Gilded Cage
Talon walked through the garage and into the house followed by the rest of the freaks. As soon as he got inside, he sprinted for the office, propped open a large wooden blind and peeked out. The tree tops were black, the branches swaying with moving bodies. Small black birds perched on the gutters of the house. Some looked more brown than black.

“There are little black birds and little brown birds,” Talon said. “What are they? And some bigger birds have black backs and white stomachs. What kind are they? And a ton of crows.”

Iris’ fingers flew across the keyboard. A blind lower down popped open and Chen and Chloe sandwiched Talon. Scraggy jumped from Chloe’s arm to Talon’s shoulder and poked her beak between the blinds, not wanting to be left out.

“OMG,” Chloe said. “Talon. What did you do?”

“I don’t know.” He had reached out to his familiar birds and any other birds he could sense; totally stoked he had called more than the usual crows.

A big, black bird, that looked like a crow but larger landed on the courtyard arch, wings flapping and pushing aside the birds already there.

“Look at the totally ginormous crow,” Chloe said.

“Probably a raven.” Iris continued to type. “Okay, here we go. Talon, did you know your last name, Corvus, is the genus for crow or raven. I bet that big bird is a raven.”

“Yep.” Talon was stoked. “Uncle Nate told me.”

“So many birds,” Chloe whispered.

“There’s another one,” Chen pointed out. “See. At the top of the house. Ravens mate for life.” Another one of the huge black birds landed on the Mendoza’s roof. The smaller birds moved out of the way, making room for the raven and turning the roof into a living, moving thing. Tiny brown birds hopped around in small bursts of flight.

“How long have you been studying animals, Johnny?” Iris asked.

“Since I knew there was something odd about me.”

“When did you know?” Chloe asked in a small voice.

“It was just after my parents were killed. Junior high, I think. That whole time in my life was kind of a blur.”

“I’m sorry, Johnny, that you had to go through all that on your own,” Iris said.

“I was at my first foster home when they started showing up. At first I thought it was a coincidence that every home I stayed in had raccoons in the neighborhood.”

“My father was Korean, and my mother was Mexican. My uncles were pretty good to me. As much as they could be under the circumstances. Not everyone was accepting of the mixed marriage. I probably should tell them I’m okay. And let them know I appreciate all they did.”

 “You speak good English for a Mexican Oriental.”

 “Talon, that’s racist and not appropriate,” Iris said.

 “I’m as American as you white boy.”

 “White boy. Wow, Chen, that one really cuts deep.” Talon ignored Iris’ sigh at their name calling. He didn’t mean to be racist, and it didn’t seem to bother Chen.

 A bead of sweat ran down his temple. Not all the birds wanted to stay, and it was taking a toll he hadn’t noticed at first.

“I bet they’re crapping everywhere,” Chloe said with a giggle.

Even the serious Chen made a snorting noise. As they watched, Uncle Nate flew out from under the courtyard arch, his gray hair waving out behind him, and his mouth wide open. He glanced over his shoulder once, and then headed across the street without looking.

“Your uncle can run fast,” Chen said. “For a . . .  old, white guy.”

Talon had never seen him move like that either. As Uncle Nate crossed the street, a police car with its lights flashing roared down the street. Talon watched in horror, sure his uncle was dead. The cruiser braked, the back end sliding sideways as it ground to a halt. Uncle Nate’s hands were on the hood as he skirted around the front end. He threw his hands up as Officer Brandt jumped out of the vehicle.

“Sssh, quiet.” Talon cocked his head to the side to hear better and so did Scraggy.

“What’s going on, Mr. Corvus?” Officer Brandt asked, way too calm for a guy who nearly ran someone over.

“Snakes.” Uncle Nate pointed to the Mendozas’ house. “Slimy snakes everywhere. I didn’t sign up for this, man.”

The officer’s shoulders jerked back, his head pivoting in the direction of the Mendozas’ house. He cleared his throat. “Calm down, Mr. Corvus.” Officer Brandt patted the air in front of him as he walked toward Uncle Nate. “I’m sure we can handle a couple snakes.”

“There’s more than a couple, man. There’s thousands of ‘em, I tell you. Thousands. Maybe more. I’m out of here.” Uncle Nate ran up the driveway and into the garage. Officer Brandt stood in the middle of the street. Slowly, he turned toward the Mendozas’ house.

Chen was making a kind of shushing noise, the blinds quivering with his shaking.

“You okay, Chen?” Talon asked.

“Uncle Nate…” He shushed some more, shoulders quivering as he gathered himself with a deep, shaky breath. “Uncle Nate is scared. Scared of snakes.”

“Terrified more like,” Chloe said.

“You think that’s funny?” Talon looked at Chen.

Tears ran down the kid’s face, his eyes mere slits as his cheeks puffed up, and his face split into a toothy grimace. He nodded.

“Hey, you freaks. Get out here,” Uncle Nate yelled from the family room.

“I don’t know if I like this…being called a freak,” Iris got up from her place at the computer. “And I definitely don’t like being summoned.”

Talon checked out the scene across the street. The police cruiser was in front of the Mendozas’ driveway now, and the birds flapped their wings, groups moving from branch to branch like a living wave.

“Pretty impressive, Talon,” Chen said.

Talon jerked, not realizing Chen was still in the room, the rat on his shoulder. Johnny pushed his glasses up and gave Talon a look before joining the other freaks.

Thanks again, Mae. I enjoyed doing this blog post and revisiting, Affinity-Bird in a Gilded Cage released October 24th of 2012. I plan on writing the next book in the Affinity Series this year. This time we’ll be with Brandon and his peregrine falcon as he and the rest of the super freaks take on the mystery of his grandfather in Affinity-Jailbird. You can visit my website at www.maryemerrell.com to see all I’m working on or find me on facebook and twitter, @MaryMerrell7.

You can purchase Affinity at Amazon

Check out my Paranormal Mystery Series as well, with Rosemary Fernandes and the gang. Book 3, Soul in Present Condition is due to be released April 2013. Thanks again.

Mary Merrell

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member_817010[1]Mary E. Merrell lives in the Central Valley of California with her husband, two dogs and four cats. She has two grown sons, Everette Merrell and Richard Mickelson who is married to a great girl, Brooke. Mary has worked at various jobs, selling furniture, a meat company and a manufacturing company. It wasn’t until she started selling real estate that her Real Estate Paranormal Mystery Series came to life in that old, vacant home. She enjoys reading all types of genres and writes Paranormal Mysteries and YA Urban Fantasies. When she’s not writing, she’s working on her decorative planter business LivingCreations with her husband, gardening and playing soccer. Please visit her website to see what she’s working on next. www.maryemerrell.com, or contact her through Facebook and Twitter.