Looking Back, Looking Ahead #writinggoals #writingcommunity

Happy New Year! It’s now officially 2022, and as I do every year, it’s time for me to take a look back at the year that was and a look ahead to future goals. In writing this post, I browsed back to see what my goals were for 2021. At the time, I had three:

Word 2021 Goals on torn brown grunge paper background
  • Finish edits on my mystery novel, The Keeping Place, and begin submitting it for literary representation.
  • Finish my WIP, The Ghosts of Wingate Hall, and indie publish or submit for small press representation.
  • Publish my collection of short stories or submit individually to magazines for possible publication.

Overall, I didn’t do too bad in meeting those goals.

  • I finished editing The Keeping Place, and started submitting agent queries in early December. So far, I’ve had one rejection.
  • I had hoped to knock out Wingate with NaNoWriMo but only managed a little over 22K. NaNo was a fail for me, but I used November to draft query letters and a synopsis for The Keeping Place, and begin researching literary agents.
  • I published my short stories as a collection called Things Old and Forgotten.
2022 hello new year symbol. Concept words Hello 2022 appearing behind torn orange paper. Beautiful orange background.

Moving ahead, 2022 is going to look much the same as 2021 did.

  • I need to continue submitting The Keeping Place. I know I’m in for a long haul in finding an agent, but I have faith in the manuscript. I’ve heard horror stories from best-selling authors regarding the amount of queries and time (YEARS) they invested before finding an agent. Discouraging, but at least I have plenty of other works to keep me busy while searching.
  • I REALLY plan to finish The Ghosts of Wingate Hall this year. It’s a little over halfway complete. As the title implies, the story is ghost fiction (mixed with mystery/suspense). The jury is still out on indie pubbing vs. contacting a small press, but I’ve got time to decide.
  • Once Wingate is done, I plan to return to Belladonna Cottage, my NaNo project from 2019–a straight mystery mingled with a splash of folklore.

My blogging schedule will likely look different moving ahead, too. Long time followers of this blog may remember my Mythical Monday posts, which took an in-depth look at various cryptids, urban legends, and tales from mythology and folklore. I maintained that Monday blogging schedule for years, then later did a brief stint of Wednesday Weirdness, which pandered to the same ideas.

In 2022, I’ll be introducing Mae Clair’s Cabinet of Curiosities. I can’t wait to share many of the strange and bizarre legends that have intrigued me over the years. We’ll definitely be taking a closer look at my favorite cryptid, the Mothman, the creature who factors into my Point Pleasant Series. The first Curiosities post will appear next week. While I may try to schedule them for the same day each week, they’ll likely pop up sporadically and won’t be on any set schedule. The same goes for my book reviews and guest author posts.

Elsewhere, you can find me on Story Empire, where I’ll be blogging throughout the year with the other members of SE on topics of writing, publishing, books, and all things related to the written word. I hope you’ll join us, and I hope you’ll continue to visit me at From the Pen of Mae Clair.

The last two years have been a challenge for all of us, but I’m hoping we’re headed toward the light at the end of the tunnel. Among all the things I’m grateful for, I include my many friends in the writing community and blogosphere.

I’m raising a glass of the virtual bubbly and wish all of you health, happiness, and many blessings in the coming year!

Happy Halloween and NaNoWriMo

Black cat silhouetted against large, partially full moon

Happy Halloween! As I’ve done for the last several years, I’m going to be vanishing offline for the month of November to participate in NaNoWriMo. I’ve woefully neglected my WIP for most of 2021, and hope to make significant wordcount progress during the insanity that is NaNo. Wish me luck!

You’ll still see me at Story Empire, and I have a few guests already scheduled with new releases. I may also pop in now and again to comment on a blog post, but for the most part, I’ll be AWOL throughout November.

I couldn’t vanish without wishing everyone a Happy Halloween. If you’re a writer, whether you’re participating in NaNo or not, I hope your muse is kind and showers you with inspiration and word count. I’ll catch you on the flip side of November! 🙂

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!

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. 🙂

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!

Better Late Than Never

Can I still write a look back/look ahead post in the middle of January? I hope so, because that’s what this is.

Hand writing a letter with a goose featherLOOKING BACK ON WRITING
2018 was a rough year for me. I only released one novel—Cusp of Night—book one of Hode’s Hill. For the first time since publishing, I went over six months without a release. I’m still feeling the ripple effect.

And despite the EXTENSIVE effort I put into its launch, Cusp of Night did not perform as hoped. Besides two paid blog tours and 21 individual guest posts—each on a different topic—it floundered shortly out of the gate. There were bursts of life here and there, but the book didn’t really take off until the fall when it got a push on BookBub. It’s been doing well ever since—which makes me value the power of BB. And autumn.

BookBub became a primary focus in 2018 as I worked to build my following. If you’re interested, you can find me here. I’ve yet to load old reviews, but you’ll find me sharing plenty of new ones as we move ahead. I love reading almost as much as writing!

A woman sitting on the beach reading a book. Her back is to the camera, with ocean in front. Done in a wash of faded colorsLOOKING BACK ON READING
And speaking of books, I participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge every year. It’s one of the things I enjoy about the site. My goal for 2018 was 65 books. I’m pleased to say I exceeded that and reached 79. About a dozen of those were novellas, with the shortest weighing in at 15 pages.

The longest book I read, The Obsidian Chamber, clocked in at 560 pages. I started my reading year with Joan Hall’s, Unknown Reasons, and finished with I Know You Know by Gilly MacMillian. My most productive reading month was August with 10 books (only one novella) and my worst April. During the rainy season, I managed a staggering total of 1.

LOOKING AHEAD ON READING
I upped my books read for the 2019 Goodreads Challenge, increasing my goal to 70. Even though I passed that in 2018, I’m not cocky enough to think I can do it again.

I’ve shied away from posting reviews on my blog in the past, but am considering starting this year. I may try doing a post each month with the books read the previous month. Stay tuned.

Book cover for End of Day, mystery/suspense novel by Mae Clair shows old dilapidated church with bell tower and a cemetery in the background overgrown with weedsLOOKING AHEAD ON WRITING
End of Day, book two of Hode’s Hill releases tomorrow. Yeah, tomorrow. Ask me how many guest posts I’ve written and you’ll get a goose egg. Pathetic, yes?

Eventide was scheduled to release in August of this year, but the date has been delayed until December. My fault for missing a deadline.

First. Time. Ever.

Because I don’t want to go with such a long stretch between books, I hope to indie publish a collection of short stories sometime in the spring. I currently have enough for one fat volume, or two smaller ones. Time will tell which.

I may also try something different moving ahead, writing a true psychological thriller. My muse has been championing first person POV.

Which brings me to…

old world type map with script writing laid over top and words Story Empire set off as a bold headerSTORY EMPIRE
You can find me there today with a post entitled Are You a POV Snob? When you read it, you’ll understand how hilarious a certain someone would find me considering first person.

I love SE! Shortly after I ventured online, I dreamed of becoming part of a group blog. Make no mistake, Story Empire is a huge time commitment, but I couldn’t ask for a better home or better group of co-authors. We are so appreciative of our readers and plan to continue providing you with valuable content in the New Year.

IN CLOSING
Finally, I purchased a web hosting plan, but haven’t had the time (or energy) to devote to building a site. This blog will remain, but I hope to have a shiny new website to complement From the Pen of Mae Clair sometime in the future. I’ll be sure to give a shout when it’s ready to go.

cat with closed eyes snuggles with a paper red heart In closing, please know how much I treasure my online friendships. We may never meet in person—in all likelihood, we won’t—but I am thankful for our connection. A very dear blogging friend of mine passed away last month after a year-long battle with cancer. Her passing crushed me for days. I am so grateful her life crossed mine. Like the “certain someone” from my Snob POV post, she will always hold a special place in my heart.

Rest in peace, Carmen. May the angels sing you to Heaven.

When Your Muse Skips a Date

My muse and I had a date. I planned my work/vacation time so I had a four day weekend. Perfect for writing, right? Given I’m behind on my WIP, I was jazzed to pull off such a coup. Mr. E. knew when and where he was to show up. If you’re not sure who Mr. E. is, you may want to check out book two of my Point Pleasent seriesA Cold Tomorrow.

In the meantime, let’s check out how things went wrong. 😦

Plans for day one (Thursday) of my four-day writing schedule:
Several hours of writing in the morning.
Run errands.
Immunization shot at pharmacy.
Lunch with hubby.
Writing in evening.

What went wrong:
Overslept and got a late start. Part of this is the fault of my cat, Raven, who likes to curl up in bed with me. Seriously, who could resist a cute, sleepy ball of fluff in snuggle mode? Here’s a shot of what she looks like when she’s pouring on the power-cute.

Cute black cat curled up on rug looking at camera

Errands got a late start and instead of writing, I caught up with email. After I finished with errands I headed to my local pharmacy for the second half of a two-part shingles immunization shot. Have you guys heard about this thing? It’s for anyone over fifty—an uber precaution against getting shingles. The shot comes in two parts, You get part one (shot), then somewhere between two and six months later you get the second shot.

The day I got the first shot, I had also gotten a tetanus shot and had a bad reaction (chills, muscle aches, slight fever). I thought that was from the tetanus, but NOOOOO!

Thursday afternoon I got the second shot and by the evening I was a mess. Fever, extreme chills, body aches off the scale, headache, nausea—not to mention my arm felt like I’d never be able to lift it again. I got up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water and was shaking so bad from chills, I spilled water all over the place. Not a good night. The next morning, I checked out the side effects on the handout they give you, and I had every one of them.

Joy! I know countless people (including my husband) who have gotten this series of shots without any side effects. Leave it to me. Needless to say, no writing got done.

Plans for day two (Friday) of my planned four-day writing schedule:
A few hours writing at a coffee cafe.
Meet with friend at the library regarding plans for a 2019 trip to Maine.
Get together with my niece and SIL (spur-of-the moment, planned Thursday morning).
Afternoon and evening writing,

What went wrong:
Couldn’t sleep because of a miserable night with side effects from the shingles shot.
Up early and went to the coffee cafe but spent my time catching up on email and blog visits.
Enjoyed time with my niece and SIL, but was dragging from lack of sleep. Still feeling horrible from side effects of shot.
Came home, zonked on the couch and went to bed by seven PM.
No writing.

Saturday of my planned four-day writing schedule:
Starting to feel better—not 100% but enough to feel well enough to do laundry and make a huge pot of New England Clam Chowder.
My den looks like a cyclone hit it (thanks to the recent author presentation I did for a historical society) so I decide to clean it up into order to get to my desk.
That involves cleaning out my closet—which involves sorting through boxes of family photos to give to my nephew (don’t ask).
The entire day vanishes.
Evening out with my family, something that popped up at the last minute. My brother bought one of those drive-able RVs and he and his wife drove it up for everyone to see. A bunch of us ended up going out for dinner.
No writing.

Sunday of my planned four-day writing schedule:
Now fully recovered from the shot. YAY!
Back to the den to finish the cleaning project I started yesterday.
Caught up on my author record keeping (expenses, royalties, inventory, banking).
Caught up with email and blog visits again. No writing,

Four whole days without a single hour at my day job and I didn’t manage a single minute of writing. My friend, Craig Boyack, recently experienced something similar, so I know I’m not the only one who experiences plans that go haywire. Still, as much as I enjoyed time with my niece, sister-in-law, and family, it was frustrating not to manage even a few thousand words of writing. On the plus side, I’ve got a second chance. I have the entire week of Thanksgiving off and hope to hammer out major word count. I may not be as visible that week online, so if I miss a few posts I hope you’ll forgive me. My deadline is looming and the last few days have set it back another notch thanks to a dreadful shot and an absent muse!

I’m hoping your week (and week ahead) was/is much more productive—and that if you opt for the Shingrix immunization you’re like my DH and the bulk of people who don’t experience the debilitating side effects I did!

A Writer’s Life: Euphoria and Frustration

Happy Last Day of November. Whew! In a little over a month, we’ll be looking at the start of a brand-new year.

Fresh starts are always great. We set out to achieve new goals and break old habits. When it comes to writing, a fresh start—i.e, a new manuscript—falls somewhere between euphoria and frustration for me.

I love beginning a new book.
There are character names to decide, backgrounds to construct, settings to create, and plot bunnies to round up.

I hate beginning a new book.
There are character names to decide, backgrounds to construct, settings to create, and plot bunnies to round up.

Getting the picture? Euphoria and frustration.

I’m currently constructing book two of my Hode’s Hill series. The original plan for this novel was to tie in the life of a carnival sideshow performer of the late 1800s (think freakshow). What can I say—I like odd. I even spent a good deal of time on research.

It was only after I finished book one of the series, Cusp of Night, that I saw too much similarity in theme. Since I didn’t want End of Day to appear repetitious, I scratched the idea and came up with a new one that utilizes old legends of Church Grims and Folk Memories.

Great, right? I was jazzed about the change until I wrote the opening. I read it through once and thought it was crap. Not the power passage I was looking for to start a new book. It left me feeling like this…

woman with glasses has head down, hands clasped in hair, looking exhausted. Open laptop and blank notebook on desk in front of her

Sulking, I avoided the file for three days before I opened it again. Guess what? Everyone says wait and read with fresh eyes. My beginning needed a few tweaks to spruce it up, but they were minor when I put everything in perspective. Frustration gave way to euphoria.

Close up of woman screaming in excitment

It’s made me realize that as much as I love dreaming up a new project, sitting down and writing the first few scenes is the hardest part of the novel. At least, for me. I second guess everything—and I do mean everything. From the strength of the opening scene to the way my characters behave—to the segues between scenes and chapters, I drive myself batty. I don’t think I truly get comfortable until I’m at least halfway through the manuscript.

As an example, I wrote half of Cusp of Night feeling disconnected from my main character, Hannah Norfolk. It took me that long to realize she needed a stronger background, and the name “Hannah” didn’t fit her. Once she became Maya Sinclair and I beefed up her history, she started to write herself. Of course, those changes—especially her personal background—meant altering earlier chapters and a major plot thread. It’s a good thing I have an understanding and adaptable critique partner (thank you, Staci!).

For now, I’m in euphoria-mode again. I like my beginning, I have direction, and things are going well. I know it’s only a matter of time until frustration rears its ugly head, but I’ll ride this wave for as long as I can.

How about you? What aspects of working on a new project do you find the most maddening? What inspires moments of sheer bliss? Am I the only one who waffles between euphoria and frustration, or is it simply the norm for a writer’s life?

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!

Digging Out by Mae Clair

I live in a northeastern state which means we have unpredictable winters. The last few have been cold, but we’ve been spared any major snowfall. Until recently. I’m sure most of you know a storm of historic proportions hammered the east coast over the weekend. It is now officially the Blizzard of 2016. To put that in perspective, our last blizzards occurred in 1996 and 1993.

In my area, Old Man Winter hit us with the largest snowfall on record—30.2 inches in a single day. Ugh!

The snow started Friday night, about an hour before I left work, and continued all day Saturday until approximately seven o’clock that night. At times we were getting an inch or two per hour.

Below is a shot taken from my front door looking down my driveway. The lump on the right side is my husband’s Jeep Grand Cherokee. And the light in the bottom left is the top of our lamppost, peeking out above the deluge.

Blizzard of 2016 snowfall showing buried vehicle and very top of lamppost peeking about the snow

Hubby spent that night snowblowing our drive and half of our neighbor’s (she’s an older woman) while I spent over an hour cleaning off his Jeep. The next day after the plow came through we were back at it again.

Check out this lovely image of my mailbox.

Blizzard of 2016, mailbox buried in snow mound

After digging it out and removing the snow row the plow left at the foot of our driveway, we headed next door to our neighbor. By that point, the snow was above my knees, much too deep for the blower. So I spent the time knocking down row after row with a shovel while DH followed behind with the snow blower. He wanted me to take over the blower, but I’m not very good with anything mechanical and gas-powered, unless it’s a car. 🙂

Monday the roads were a mess. We went out in the morning but were back by the afternoon. I used the time to change a major thread in my current WIP. That involved its own kind of digging out—going back through and reworking the thread wherever it cropped up in the story. I had hoped to use the time for writing, but the edit took longer than anticipated. No worries, as I had taken off work on Tuesday and planned to spend the day writing.

Tuesday morning arrived with freezing rain that turned the roads into a skating rink. I was glad I didn’t have to inch my way into work. Before I opened my WIP, I had a promo card I needed to create for A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS. I figured it would take me no more than a half hour. Multiple computer issues, browser issues, three calls to tech support, and a glaring mistake on my end, and I finally finished the project—two and a half hours later. The low point came after I had created a rack card in Photoshop and then inadvertently saved something over the file.

The next few minutes involved choice words, the uncontrollable urge to sob, and two Excedrin.

Then it was back at it again.

When I finally completed the thing I needed to get out of the house. Hubby and I did some errands but it was far from relaxing. More like a Christmas rush. I don’t know if the whole world no longer holds day jobs, or just that everyone who hadn’t been out for the last three days decided to hit the roadways and flock to the stores. Insane!

We grabbed a late lunch to unwind. Finally a place free of crowds and mountains of snow in the parking lots. As I type this, I’m getting ready to hit the WIP again. The downside is I had planned to put a huge dent in the project with 4 days off in a row. Instead I reworked a single thread and managed a paltry 2059 in word count.

Which means…I’ve still got a lot of digging out to do. Hopefully, your last few days have been far more productive than mine. If I don’t see snow again until next year, I’ll count it a blessing!