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! 🙂

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!

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?

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!