One of my favorite things to do, is sit around the fire. Whether it’s away in a campground, or at home in front the chiminea, some of the best conversations I’ve ever had, have been with a cozy flame and sparks drifting up into the night sky joining the stars. The past couple of weeks we've been to local campgrounds as well as Camp May, NJ. Each place has it's own vibe. Some are quiet, some boisterous but each time someone new comes across out path. So, wherever you’re joining us from, open a campfire video and relax. I hope you enjoy meeting today's guest and our conversation. Please feel free to leave comments or questions below. Also, if you would like to keep up with Welcome to the Campfire and other information, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter.
Today I’m welcoming, Claire Gem author to the Around the Campfire. What’s your preference coffee, tea, cocoa, or wine?
Depends on the time of day…can’t start the day as early as I do without coffee, and lots of it. But as the day wears on and I’ve drank my quota of water for the day (which I detest, because it’s boring but necessary), pop open that wine bottle!
Sounds like we'll get along quite well. Morning coffee is a must have. And a glass of wine to relax, especially around the fire, is sublime. So, let's pop a cork and have at it. Around the campfire we've talked to many folks with different camping stories. What's your tale? Good? Bad?
My husband and I went camping one time—ONE TIME—in our forty years of marriage. He got paid for some work he did with a tiny little tagalong camper. I was seven months pregnant with my daughter, and the camper wasn’t much bigger than a modest sized bathroom. The pipes leaked. There were holes in the screens, and we came back from fishing to a camper filled with mosquitoes! Needless to say, we haven’t camped like that again. The scenery, though, was amazing—it was in upstate New York, near Lake George. Lake G is still my favorite vacation spot, but now we “camp” at the Marriott . . .
I'm constantly shutting the screen door on our 5th Wheel. Bugs are a no-no. So, the Marriott it is. Well at least the view was good. Now, tell us about your latest project. What’s the title and genre?
My latest release is called Electricity, and it’s another in my Haunted Voices series. It’s not really a series, since each book is standalone and they aren’t related in any way other than genre, one I call supernatural romantic suspense.
Sounds intriguing. I read your Civil Hearts book and thoroughly enjoyed it so I can't wait to read Electricity. Do you have a tagline?
Contemporary, Romantic, Soul-Freeing. Welcome to Haunted Voices.
Come. Let me tell you a ghost story.
I love a ghost story, especially around the campfire. Thanks to my Kindle, I can read in the dark. If you don’t mind me asking, can you tell us how long it took from conception to fruition?
Electricity is set in an abandoned building that exists, to this day, on the campus where I work. It’s the only one that hasn’t either fallen down or been renovated. The property used to house a state mental asylum. As you might suspect, it’s pretty creepy, and I walk or drive by it every day. About four years ago I convinced an accommodating facilities manager to take me through the building. I’ll never quite forget the vibes. Some very disturbed souls lived and died there. I knew their story needed to be told. I didn’t begin the book until earlier this year and within 3 months, the first draft was complete.
How amazing. I worked in a prison for many years and if the walls could talk...And look at you, the walls did speak to you in some way. You have several books out now, can you tell us what challenges you face during writing? Maybe give helpful hint at what works for you?
My biggest challenge is one of my own making: I am a pantser. I don’t outline. As a result, I get an exciting idea and sit down to write the book, get about 1/3 of the way through, and then I’m lost. I’m slowly learning that although outlining a book is the quickest way to kill my creative muse, I now try to write a synopsis—including the ending. It’s a lot easier to stay on track when you know how the story ends.
What a great idea. For those who don't know what a pantser is, it's a fly by the seat of your pants technique. An author starts writing and let's the story flow from them. I may try the synopsis first. There's a bunch of ideas waiting for my attention that I'd like to get to. I know this is a new release for you but as a multi published author, I would wager you have something waiting in the wings.
I’m the same way! But I’ve been sidelined now for the past few months since I fell at work and suffered a badly broken arm—my right arm. I’m right-handed. I haven’t been able to type until very recently, and it’s harder now because of possible nerve damage. I was about 1/3 of the way through my next HV novel, TimePeace, when this happened. It’s going to take some discipline to go back now and read what I’ve written, from the beginning, so maybe I can pick up where I left off.
Oh, no. I'm so sorry. Arm and hand injuries are awful for anyone, but a an author, how devastating. We'll all pray and hope for a full recovery. Hmm, the title TimePeace is a great lead in to the next question. Let’s time travel, is there something you would tell your beginning self? Any advice or encouragement? Warnings?
Don’t waste thousands of dollars earning an MFA! Sure, those three letters look nice behind my name, but really haven’t done much more for me. I learn the most from reading and listening to audiobooks, in my own genre and others. I read craft books. And I’m a professional reviewer for InD’Tale Magazine, which has really trained me how to analyze the books I read for review.
MFA is Master of Fine Arts. I'm a high school graduate. Everyday I learn more about the craft. I think you're right about reading the work of others helping. Also there are so many books to help. My latest favorite is The Emotion Thesaurus.
Okay, fun questions. When you’re not writing, what are your hobbies or passions?
I’m a cat lover and actually used to raise Persians for show. I don’t do that anymore, but I do have a lovely Persian kitten whose show career will start very soon. I love the cat shows. It’s low-key competition, and a great place to socialize. Out of town shows provide my husband and I with a mini-vacation.
"Meow," says my cat Baby to your's. I've seen cat shows on Animal Planet and wonder how the cats remain so calm. Sounds like fun and so interesting. If you could only choose one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Believe it or not, it would be Adiemus by Karl Jenkins. If you’re not familiar, look it up. I listened to and sang along with that song for over a year, thinking it was in Latin or some language I didn’t understand. Turns out, it’s not in any language at all! It’s a language Jenkins invented to move the spirit, which is does, without making any literal sense at all. Fascinating.
I you-tubed it. It is hauntingly beautiful. Music had the ability to change us at many levels. Lift us up. Give courage. Calm us. Most Authors have a love of books from an early age. What is your Favorite childhood book?
A toss-up between Black Beauty and the Little House on the Prairie series.
Hooray! Black Beauty is one of my favorites. I recently picked up an old copy in an antique store. The Little House books seem to be a favorite of many children. Both authors are amazing story tellers. Do you have a “Kodak Moment”?
I actually did catch it in a picture, which I’m attaching. It’s of my daughter and I (who is my bestest best friend) during a visit when we’d just come home from cruising the mall and were on our way out for a happy hour. Life just doesn’t get any better than it was that day.
It's a beautiful picture. You both look so happy. How wonderful to have your daughters support. Most writers need a support system. Tell us, are there any mentors, authors, or books, other than yours, you would like to give a shout-out to?
When I grow up I want to be able to write like Nora Roberts. Her Boonsboro Trilogy is my favorite romance series of all time.
I think, and I'm sure others will agree with me, you're doing fine. A few weeks ago I was close to Boonsboro on a camping trip. Nora is many authors idea of success and it leads to my final question. As a writer, what does success look like to you?
Being able to stay home and write every day. I still hold a full-time job (at least, I did before I broke my arm!) and balancing work, a writing career, and family is challenging. If one of my books could someday show up on the NYT bestseller list, I will know I’ve “arrived.”
Well, Claire, maybe Electricity will be the book to take you there. Thank you so much for joining me around the campfire today. I'm sure we all wish you a speedy recovery. I would appreciate you leaving us a blub and exert from your work. Don’t forget to add where we can purchase your book and how we can find out more about you below.
She’s an electrician starting over with her son. New job. New town. New life.
He’s a coworker who’s interested in more than her ability to run conduit.
The building they’re rewiring was once an insane asylum…but it appears some of the patients never left.
Mercedes Donohue pulled up roots in Atlanta when her marriage imploded. She’s come back to New England, to the place where she was born. Mercy’s focus is to stabilize her teenage son’s life—he took the breakup pretty hard—and to establish her place, gain the respect of Progressive Electrical’s team.
She never expected so many sparks to fly so soon, both on the job and after hours.
Daniel Gallagher has been alone since his fiancé’s death. He’ll never feel that way about any woman again, and certainly won’t try with another independent, strong-willed one. Then Mercy short-circuits his plans.
Although the asylum closed its doors over thirty-five years ago, Mercy & Daniel quickly realize the abandoned building is very haunted.
If you like a heart-melting romance laced with healthy dose of supernatural thrills and chills, you’ll love Electricity.
Reagan tipped his head back towards Mercy in silent insolence, one eyebrow raised.
“I’ll be here to get you at ten. I have my cell phone if you need me. I don’t expect a hug, but ‘goodbye’ would be an unexpected gift.”
Reagan mumbled something that sounded vaguely like goodbye and slammed the door in Mercy’s face. No hug. She sighed, closed her eyes, and laid her forehead down atop the steering wheel. This was getting harder every day.
It was then her eyes flew open as she thought, cell phone. Where the hell did she leave it? She groped in the multiple pockets of the overalls that she hadn’t even bothered to change out of before going to dinner. She reached around for her purse, tucked behind her seat, the one she never carried to work. No phone.
Damn it, she thought. I’ve left it at the job.
Not that it was a big deal. The campus was only a mile away, and she knew security was on duty all night. All she had to do was stop in at their make-shift office in the little brown house, ask for access permission to Gravely Hall and find her phone. No big deal at all.
It was almost dark by the time she pulled up to the Campus Police building. The sleepy-looking young officer who accompanied her back out into the parking lot seemed almost grateful for the distraction. He tailed her car in his cruiser to Gravely Hall. Mercy followed him up onto the mildewed steps as he used a key from a huge metal ring to open the padlock.
“Do you have a flashlight, Miss?” The young patrolman stepped aside as the door opened, seeming reluctant to accompany Mercy into the old building. The long shadows of evening had already stamped the interior into dense gloom.
“Yeah, no problem,” she grinned at the greenhorn cop. “I’ll be back in just a minute.”
The musty smell and odd air quality seemed amplified in the growing darkness. Mercy strode confidently toward the broad staircase at the end of the great hall and snapped on the flashlight she always kept hooked to a loop on her overalls. She must have left her phone in the small anteroom, she thought. She must have laid it down after Reagan called her earlier that afternoon and failed to pick it up when she was packing up her tools.
Access to the lower level was at the far end of the great central room, and some pale light still slithered in through the greenish glass panes of the windows near the head of the stairs. As she descended the creaking boards, a smothering calm increasingly muffled all sound. Mercy felt an instinctive impulse to reach for a light switch, but of course, there was none, at least none in working order.
In the waning glow of daylight seeping in through the high basement windows, she could make out the shapes of the porcelain tubs, standing in a sentinel row. A damp shiver ran up and down her back. Mercy straightened her shoulders and cleared her throat.
I’ll just go directly into the anteroom where I’d been working, she thought, and retrieve my phone. Then I’m outta here.
She’d gotten to the open doorway of the small space when she heard the sound. A water sound, almost like waves lapping at the edge of a pool. Or on the sides of a bathtub: that soft sound of liquid kissing its solid prison walls. The tubs along the back wall weren’t even connected to a water source anymore. They’d been dry and littered with small chunks of dusty debris when she and Daniel worked around them earlier today. Some still wore their mildewed, leather coverings.
Mercy hurried directly toward the room she’d last worked in, her light flashing wildly through the mostly empty space. She aimed the beam into the gaping hole of the toilet, but it was as dry as it had been earlier in the day. Struggling to ignore the increasingly loud sloshing sound, reverberating now louder and louder all around her, she located the black wedge of her cell phone. It was lying abandoned on the concrete windowsill. She snatched it up, clutching it tight to her chest. The hard-plastic case felt reassuring in her grasp.
As she crossed the central room, the water sound echoed in the space around her, seeming to get louder with every step. Her heart hammered in her chest, and she quickened her pace. Almost there.
Resonating above the sloshing sounds, she could swear she’d heard her name. Mercy jolted to a stop and spun around. The sound had come from behind her, it seemed. Or had she imagined it?
It must be the security officer. He must be calling from the head of the stairs.
“Hello?” Mercy called out. Her voice reverberated so loudly it startled her. “I’ll be right up,” she called again, and flashed her light beam in a path straight toward the stairs.
The voice came again, louder now. Wheezing and feeble, it sounded like that of a very old man, or a very sick one. Had one of the homeless sought refuge here for the night? A jumble of thoughts tumbled through Mercy’s mind, panic obliterating the logical portion.
How would anyone even know her name?
A veil of clammy perspiration blanketed every inch of her skin. Dank basement air threatened to seep right through her. Clutching her phone to her chest, she jabbed the flashlight beam wildly with her other hand, back and forth across the wide expanse of the room. The ray glanced off the white porcelain shapes, transforming them into hulking ghosts standing in ominous formation.
“Who’s there?” she shrieked. Her voice echoed and bounced back to her in empty coldness.
This third time the voice was faint, fading, melting into the mysterious water sounds that ebbed like the receding of an ocean wave. Silence ballooned around her, black and deafening, enveloping all sound except for the wild pounding of her pulse in her ears. Mercy fought the panic rising into her throat and broke into a full run toward the steps. To the exit, where the officer was waiting for her. Toward safety.
She stumbled twice on the stairs, dropping to one knee the second time, her phone clattering from her grip. Mercy scratched frantically on the wood riser, scuffing her knuckles on the rough edge and driving splinters and grit under her nails as she snatched the instrument up. When she stepped at last onto the old tile of the ground floor, she took a deep breath and slowed her steps, basking in a wash of relief to see the shadowy silhouette of the security guard in the open doorway. His flashlight beam snapped across her face, blinding her.
“Everything all right, Miss?” The officer stood stiffly just outside the door of the building. It was almost as though he’d been afraid to step over the threshold.
“Yes. Yes, I’m fine.” Mercy’s voice was trembling, but she cleared her throat in an effort to hide her panic. “I found my phone. Thank you. Thank you for letting me in.”
You can buy Electricity here: amzn.to/2ZZ6JC5
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2nabvbm
Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO-vB7WDZhEQ8U4YpC937ng
This week's movie recommendations
In honor of cat buddies everywhere Aristocats.
And the tricky mother daughter relationship movie Terms of Endearment
Don't forget to check back next week where my guest is Viviana MacKade author of ROMANTIC SUSPENSE, CONTEMPORARY, AND FANTASY
We never know the love of the parent for the child till we become parents. Henry Ward Beecher