Frances Brown

Claire Gem

During this time of Thanksgiving and Holiday joy, I’m counting my many blessings, from my health and prosperity, to my healthy/loving/prosperous family, to the incredible circle of friends my writing career has brought into my life. And thank you, dearest friend Gail Ingis, for hosting me today – but you don’t really think I’m a turkey, do you? 😉

After achieving an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, she settled in central Massachusetts with her husband of 37 years (yes, happily-ever-after really does exist). Always fascinated by the paranormal, she holds a Certificate in Paranormal Studies from Duke University’s Rhine’s Research Center. She writes contemporary romance with a ghostly twist, a genre she prefers to call New Gothic. An avid reader, she’s a fan of strong but sensitive heroes, spunky, sexy heroines, and a ghost story worth a few goose bumps. She loves creating characters so real that readers miss them when the book says THE END.

Chased by those pesky ghosts, Claire writes for her life.

  1. Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
Phantom Traces

Phantom Traces

I grew up in New York State, about 60 miles north of NYC. We lived about eight miles out of the small town where I went to school, with no neighbors with children close by. This left me with lots of time on my hands – to read, hike into the woods, and let my imagination run wild. I really feel this had a profound effect on my writing, that “alone time” where I created my own imaginary friends and scenarios. I also developed a deep affection for the mountains and the woods – I’ve always felt there was magic there. I still do.

  1. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I am a hybrid of both, though my debut novel, Phantom Traces, was written during Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) in November of 2012 – entirely by the seat of my pants. I knew where it would take place (in a haunted library) and I knew what my hero and heroine’s names were and what they looked like. Other than that, nothing, until I sat down in an old library near my home with my laptop on November 1 and began to write. At month’s end I had 54,000 words, a Chapter One and The End. But what was in the middle was a mess! It took me a year and a half to develop Phantom Traces into the novel that Soul Mate eventually published.

Now, I do more prep work. I interview my characters to get to know them, and sketch out a general synopsis of the plot line. But I still don’t outline, so I’m truly a hybrid of plotter and pantser.

  1. Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Hearts Unlocked

Hearts Unlocked

Music! Gotta have it or the words just stop flowing. I prefer instrumentals (so I don’t end up plagiarizing the lyrics of a song without realizing it!), and I try to match the tone of the music to the scene I’m writing. Soft, New Age piano solos for love scenes, movie scores for adventurous scenes, and since I write ghost stories, I’m particularly fond of the sound tracks for video games. Assassin’s Creed is wonderful, spooky muse music – and Pandora.com my best friend!

  1. Ocean or mountains?
Sunday Splendor Oil/Gail Ingis

Sunday Splendor in the mountains: Oil/Gail Ingis

I’m definitely a mountain girl, and actually have a kind of fear of the ocean. I almost drowned as a child, dragged out by the undertow at age three. My father rescued me, but I remember still how the salt water burned my nostrils and throat for days afterward. I also get terribly seasick, so although I love going out onto our nice, calm lake on our pontoon boat, ocean cruises are out.

  1. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

My wish for that time is to be retired from my daytime career in scientific research so I can write all the time. By then, of course, I’ll be a world famous author, right? 😉 So I’ll have my home in Massachusetts to enjoy the mild seasons and the beauty of autumn, and another home in Florida near my children and grandchildren in Tampa. I’ll have a wonderful fresh-air writing nook in the corner of our screen-enclosed pool. Right next to the Tiki Bar. The well-stocked Tiki Bar.

  1. What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
My pile

My pile

Three key points: first, always have at least three books active in your reading pile – a craft book, a novel, and an audiobook to listen to while you drive. Don’t waste a single waking minute that you can be learning the craft by reading.

Second – Don’t be afraid of criticism, but don’t ever feel you have to take any of it seriously. Join a critique group, or buddy up with fellow writers you communicate well with. You will get some critiques that sting, and others will just plain make you mad. Pull on your big girl/boy panties, read the comments and really think about them. Sleep on them. Once you get over your initial reaction, you will find a nugget of useful, productive advice in every critique you receive to improve your writing. I promise. As for the rest, print out the pages, ball them up, and use them to kindle a fire under your writing mojo.

And finally – Don’t give up, and have faith in your talent. If you love writing, then your writing is good – or it will be if you work hard enough at it. Never pass up an opportunity to learn from other writers. Don’t let your gift, your creative muse, wither and die. He/she deserves all you’ve got to bring him/her out to meet the world of anxious readers.

  1. What are you working on now? What is your next project?

I am in the final days of Nanowrimo2015, sailing through another ghostly romance called Hearts Unloched. It’s set on the shores on Loch Sheldrake in the Catskill Mountains of New York, and involves an abandoned hotel, a sexy interior designer, and a gorgeous investor. And, of course, a ghost.

Spirits of the HeartMy next project will be to finish Spirits of the Heart, which I have put aside for Nanowrimo. Set in a haunted mental asylum, this story concept is presently up on Something or Other Publishing, LLC’s website for public voting. Please take a moment to check it out here: http://bit.ly/1Katlwe, where you can see the cover, synopsis, and trailer. The more votes I get, the closer I get to making this book a reality! Please vote for Spirits of the Heart.

Phantom Traces – available in ebook, paperback, & audiobook.

Trailer: http://bit.ly/1T9KwUN
Amazon Link: http://amzn.to/19XGJsy
Audible: http://adbl.co/1NLXdAx

You can find Claire here:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gemwriter
Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1BhmfCj
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/17zCJwY
Pinterest: http://bit.ly/1IvDabu

She loves to hear from fans – drop her a line.



Antonio Gaudi, Architect

Antonio Gaudi, Architect

Toledo, Spain

Toledo, Spain

Spain is being talked up in my art workshop. A trip is planned in September to visit Madrid and Toledo. It will include a visit to the El Greco Museum and exploration of the works of El Greco that adorn so many sites in Toledo. The old Town is also a treasure of churches, museums, synagogues and mosques set in a labyrinth of narrow streets and plazas in a lofty setting above the River Tajo. There will be opportunity to paint and go on photography walks, engage in lectures and excursions to Toledo venues within walking distance from the 4-star Hotel. Included is a mid-week coach to Madrid to tour the famous Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums. The trip sounds magical. My memories were jostled of my travels to Barcelona a couple of years ago and the fascination I experienced with Gaudi’s work. From 1915 Gaudí devoted himself almost exclusively to his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família, a synthesis of his architectural evolution.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia exterior

After completion of the crypt and the apse, still in Gothic style, the rest of the church is conceived in an organic style, imitating natural shapes with their abundance of ruled surfaces.

Sagrada Familia nave roof detail

Sagrada Familia nave roof detail, notice the columns projecting forward

He intended the interior to resemble a forest, with inclined columns like branching trees, helicoidal in form, creating a simple but sturdy structure. Gaudí applied all of his previous experimental findings in this project, from works such as the Park Güell and the crypt of the Colònia Güell, creating a church that is at once structurally perfect, harmonious and aesthetically satisfying.

Reptil Parc Guell, Barcelona

Reptil Parc Guell, Barcelona

The Sagrada Família has a cruciform plan, with a five-aisled nave, a transept of three aisles, and an apse with seven chapels. It has three facades dedicated to the birth, passion and glory of Jesus, and when completed it will have eighteen towers: four at each side making a total of twelve for the apostles, four on the transept invoking the evangelists and one on the apse dedicated to the Virgin, plus the central tower in honor of Jesus, which will reach 560 ft in height.

Details exterior Sagrada

Details exterior Sagrada

The church will have two sacristies adjacent to the apse, and three large chapels: one for the Assumption in the apse, and the Baptism and Penitence chapels at the west end; also, it will be surrounded by a cloister designed for processions and to isolate the building from the exterior. Gaudí used highly symbolic content in the Sagrada Família, both in architecture and sculpture, dedicating each part of the church to a religious theme.

One of Gaudi's drawings of Sagrada Familia

One of Gaudi’s drawings of Sagrada Familia

During Gaudí’s life only the crypt, apse and part of the Nativity facade were completed. Upon his death his assistant Domènec Sugrañes took over the construction; thereafter it was directed by various architects. Jordi Bonet i Armengol assumed responsibility in 1987 and continued as of 2011. Artists such as Llorenç and Joan Matamala, Carles Mani, Jaume Busquets, Joaquim Ros i Bofarull, Etsuro Sotoo and Josep Maria Subirachs (creator of the Passion facade) have worked on the sculptural decoration. Completion is not expected until at least 2027.

The idea of this historic blog writing began in 2010 with the encouragement of my writer colleagues in CTRWA. These writings and descriptions are meant to be an aid in the development of settings.



PJ Sharon

PJ Sharon

In addition to authoring award winning young adult novels, PJ Sharon owns and operates ABSolute Fitness and Therapeutic Bodywork, a private practice massage therapy and personal training business in East Granby, CT. With over twenty-five years in the health and fitness industry, Ms. Sharon offers a multidisciplinary approach to wellness.

As a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA), Massage Therapist (LMT), Certified Personal Fitness Trainer (CPFT), and Yoga Instructor, Ms. Sharon brings a wealth of knowledge to her clients and workshops. A graduate of Springfield Technical Community College and the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy, Ms. Sharon also holds certifications as a trainer through the NFPT and teaches therapeutic yoga.

PJ Sharon's book on good health

PJ Sharon’s book on good health

A Black Belt in the art of Shaolin Kempo Karate, and former figure skating and power skating instructor, Ms. Sharon’s passion for holistic health and healing comes through in her writing—whether she is penning romantic and hopeful stories for teens, or sharing her wisdom and experience with clients and workshop attendees.

When she’s not writing, or spreading the love through her practice, she can be found kayaking in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, and renovating an old farmhouse with the love of her life.

Social Media/Contact links:

Signup for PJ’s Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bm7rj5

Website: http://www.pjsharon.com

Follow PJ on Twitter: @pjsharon     http://www.twitter.com/pjsharon

“Like” PJ on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pjsharonbooks

Short Blurb: Due out in January of 2016, Overcome your Sedentary Lifestyle will guide even the most inactive of people toward improved health and wellness with easy to incorporate exercises that you can do–even at your desk, and steps to making or breaking any habit. There will be tips on ergonomic design of office space, help with choosing your Healthcare Team, ways to snack healthy, and much, much more.

Available for pre-order now! http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017JL1E20

Interview Questions and Intro:

Thanks for inviting me to share in celebrating your big milestones, Gail! Congratulations on publishing your first novel. What a wonderful accomplishment and a testament to your perseverance. It gives new meaning to the phrase, “It’s never too late to follow your dreams.”

What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?

By far, being a mother to two wonderful sons and raising them to be sweet, kind, and productive individuals has been my greatest accomplishment. Writing and publishing seven novels is a close second.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I always try to have a three year, five year, and ten year plan cooking in the back of my mind. The funny part is that I’m never where I thought I would be in ten years, LOL. Life has a way of surprising us with adventures and side trips, doesn’t it? I’m hoping to continue writing and publishing books, running my practice, and enjoying my time with family. I figure if I keep working at my current pace, I’ll have thirty or so books on my cyber-shelf in ten years. That should count for something toward my retirement.

Were you already a great writer? Have you always liked to write?

I’ve written in one form or another since I was a child. Before I even started kindergarten, I remember writing down stories with my grandfather as we would make them up. We would also spend hours playing cards, which taught me about numbers. Gramps gave me a great head start! I could read, write, add and subtract, way ahead of my peers. I kept journals and diaries all through grade school, high school, and beyond. My teachers, friends, and family always encouraged me with praise for my effort and I think there was some raw talent there, but nothing that made me consider publishing until my kids were grown and gone. Learning the actual craft of writing took several more years of education and practice. I’m still learning new ways to improve all the time! I think that’s one of the things I love about writing. There is always room to grow.

Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad or perhaps do not read your reviews? Do you respond to your reviewers?

I am one of those few who like reading my reviews. I never respond to them with more than a generic, “Thank you for reading and reviewing my book.” Everyone is entitled to their opinion and not everyone will love what I’ve written. I’ve been fortunate enough to have far more positive reviews than negative and it warms my heart to know I’ve touched so many lives with my words. I really do want to know what readers think of my books! On the rare occasion I do receive a negative review, I take it with a grain of salt and figure that person is not my target audience. If there’s something constructive that will help me improve my writing, I try to be open minded and take the critique, but most negative reviews are pretty silly and unhelpful. I wish retailers would give some guidance to those people who wish to leave a review. Instructions NOT to tell the whole story would be helpful. Also, terms like “honest but kind” would be useful tips for reviewers. It’s sad that some people just want an excuse to be mean and have found an opportunity to do so as they can hide behind their anonymity.

What is your best marketing tip?

Marketing is by far the hardest part of this job. The industry changes so quickly, it’s hard to keep up with the latest trends in marketing. In addition, what works for one person may not work for others. Many of our social media efforts are simply a way to keep our name and brand out in the public eye, but things like Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, etc., are fast becoming white noise to consumers. By far, the best tool for capturing readers and defining an audience of repeat customers is building a mailing list. Newsletter subscribers have chosen to sign up for what you have to offer. If an author can keep them happy with new content and useful information on a regular (but not spammy) basis, I think you’ll see results in sales, word of mouth exposure, and genuine fans who’ll look forward to hearing from you when a new release comes along. I send newsletters out quarterly, but more often close to a release.

Are you a plotter or a pantster?

I used to be a pantser, but over time, found that it cost me a lot of time and frustration on the cleaning up end of writing a manuscript. I’d often get stuck on plot points or my characters would take me on a detour that led nowhere. Although I still don’t plot out the whole book, I’ve learned to do some prep work that helps stream line my process. Doing a character grid to clarify the goal, motivation, and conflict for each character helps me to get to know them before I get into the story. It also helps me be clear about their fears and what black moment they will have to face to get to their HEA. Michael Hague’s story structure course helped me considerably in that I “plot” out the turning points, which gives me a guideline so I don’t go too far off track. It has helped my pacing and tightened my story structure nicely.

Writing non-fiction is a completely different animal, LOL. I outlined my chapters, wrote the book in sections, and moved things around as needed for clarity. It was much less a linear process for me and more about functionality. It requires a very different part of the brain and was a surprisingly easy process. There’s no making it up as you go along. It’s simply imparting information I already know or can easily research, and then sharing the info with others. It’s been a nice break from the emotional angst of fiction writing for teens, but I’m definitely ready to get back to the creative aspect.

What are you working on now? What is your next project?

pjsharoncinderellaimageI’m currently working on a series of novellas based on my character in Savage Cinderella. Brinn Hathaway was such a strong character and her story so powerful, I felt I needed to see where she went after THE END. A HOLT Medallion winner, SAVAGE CINDERELLA was a favorite with readers and has over 3.5 million reads on Wattpad. I’m hoping my Wattpad readers will enjoy seeing more of her. I’m doing a huge promotion with several other authors of “Cinderella” themed novels this winter, culminating in a countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve. We’ll be offering a free book of excerpts, recipes, and party tips, and doing a Princess Pampering basket giveaway. You can find out more info here: http://stacyjuba.com/blog/glassslippersisters/ or find all of our books here: http://astore.amazon.com/glassslippers0b-20

My Savage Cinderella novellas will be serial in nature. They pick up a year after Brinn’s return from years of living in the wild. Because of her experience of having been kidnapped as a child and left for dead in the high country of North Georgia, she has some special abilities that make her an asset in solving other kidnapping cases. Think Veronica Mars meets Castle. I was hoping to have the first one done by this month, but alas, my non-fiction project has taken most of my time this year. Brinn’s first adventure will be called FINDING HOPE and should be out in early 2016.

Thanks so much for having me, Gail. Peace and blessings to you and your readers!

Paula, thank you for the lovely interview. Your processes and suggestions are wonderful. I agree that Michael Hauge’s structure suggestions are valuable. Without a good structure, the building will fall. And so will a story fall without a good foundation/structure. If my readers missed it, you discuss this in my question, “Are you a plotter or pantster?” It is always a pleasure to have you visit my blog.

You are welcome to touch base, or comment. Paula would love to chat with you, so here’s a great question from her to you: When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone and tried something new, took a risk, or followed a long held dream? How did it work out for you? Any regrets?

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