A Most Tumultuous Time of Year

Okay, I admit it. As of midnight tonight, there are only 12 twelve days until Christmas. And our tree is not yet up (still sitting in the trailer in the yard). I have not sent a single Christmas card (okay, well, I haven’t done that for years). But I also have not bought a single gift.

Why? Brace yourself: here come the excuses. The good? I decided to adopt a lovely baby Persian kitten and get back into showing. We brought him home last night. But I hate to admit this . . . I think he was a bandaid.

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The bad: My best friend, who has been my soul sister since I was in the first grade (we’re talking over 55 years), is dying of brain cancer. She’s at home with hospice and is within days, perhaps hours, of leaving this earthly realm. That’s the top of the bad list.

Number two is my own health: I had a followup biopsy this past week to insure I was still in remission from my stomach cancer. The results are due . . . any . . . minute. Until they arrive, I really can’t seem to muster much holiday spirit.

Nothing short of a miracle will change the fate of my best friend. With luck and God’s blessing, I will get good news from the doctor before week’s end. If not, I will then have a clear idea of my path going forward.

So am I depressed? Hell no! Strangely, perhaps even bizarrely, I am joyous. My friend will be leaving this existence but passing, most assuredly, to one much better than the one we know. I am most assured of that. She is (or was) a wonderful, kind, giving person. Her rewards will be bountiful.

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As for my health? I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. If I am destined to be clear of the Serpent “C,” I will consider myself blessed. If I am not, I accept that the Universe has another path planned for me. Not the one I had imagined, but perhaps one better. I believe.

And I have a beautiful, soft and cuddly baby kitten who kneads my lap and nuzzles my face and purrs like the motor on our boat. What more could I possibly want?

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A Haunted Southern Mansion . . . #MFRWhooks

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… is the setting for my latest Haunted Voices novel, Civil Hearts. It all started years ago when my husband and I were toying with the idea of moving to rural Alabama.

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Property was cheap, my husband had just retired, and I could work from anywhere. A real estate agent showed us vacant land for hundreds of dollars an acre instead of thousands. He also said he had a very nice, antebellum home that was in some need of repair . . . it had been empty a long time. It was within our price range. We visited the home.

Wow. The tour of that day, apparently, branded my memory. I’d never been inside a plantation-style home, and this was laid out like a mini-Tara. Much smaller, but complete with soaring ceilings, a curved stairway, and upper and lower front porch galleries. It was, yes, in need of some TLC. Some updating. Maybe more than a little.

As I walked through lonely house I had the feeling I was being watched. Like we weren’t alone. The hair at the base of my neck prickled and gooseflesh puckered my skin, even though it was a very hot, summer day. I kept getting the unsettling feeling that there was something—or someone—just beyond my line of vision. But when I turned, there was no one there.

We didn’t move to Alabama. No matter how cheap the land was, anything we could afford—including the antebellum home—was in the middle of nowhere. We remained in Florida for nearly another decade.

Fast forward to 2017. I had long ago forgotten the tour of the antebellum home in Alabama. We had eventually moved, ultimately landing in Massachusetts. But from somewhere in the depths of my memory, the Alabama mansion resurfaced one night in a dream. Complete with the ghost of a Confederate soldier pounding on the front door.

Civil Hearts was born. On sale NOW for a limited time only! 99 cents all digital formats.

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Blurb:

He’s a sexy Southern gentleman—with epilepsy. She’s a widow scarred from her late husband’s brain cancer. Her new home, an abandoned antebellum mansion, is haunted by a Confederate soldier—and she’s a Yankee.

A widow with no family, web designer Liv Larson yearns for big change. After all, she can work from anywhere, right? Why not throw a dart at the map? She heads out of the big city for the rural South and falls in love as soon as she arrives—with the Belle Bride, an abandoned antebellum mansion.

Heath Barrow loves his country life, managing his antiques store in sleepy Camellia. But he’s lonely, and his condition—epilepsy—makes life uncertain. It’s already cost him a marriage. A new medication and the new girl in town have his heart hopeful again.

Sparks fly between Heath and Liv. But his first seizure sends Liv into a tailspin. Its mimics those her husband suffered before he died . . .

To make matters worse, Liv discovers she’s not living alone. Her challenge? Dealing with a Confederate soldier, one who clearly resents his Yankee roommate—even though he’s been dead for over a hundred and fifty years.

Amazon:                          https://amzn.to/2GPU5er

All other digital formats: https://www.books2read.com/u/4NGyEG

Book Trailer:                   https://youtu.be/skHJRlU5fOQ

*****

Claire Gem Bio:

Contemporary, Romantic, Soul-Freeing . . .

                   Come, let me tell you a ghost story.

Claire is a multi-published, award winning author of five titles in the genres of contemporary romance, supernatural suspense, and women’s fiction. She also writes Author Resource guide books and presents seminars on writing craft and marketing.

Her supernatural suspense, Hearts Unloched, won the 2016 New York Book Festival, and was a finalist in the 2017 RONE Awards. Also in 2017, her women’s fiction, The Phoenix Syndrome, was a finalist in the National Reader’s Choice Awards, and her contemporary romance, A Taming Season, was a Literary Award of Merit finalist in the HOLT Medallion Awards. Her latest release, Spirits of the Heart, was a finalist in the 2017 “I Heart Indie Awards.”

Creating cross-genre fiction she calls “supernatural suspense,” Claire loves exploring the paranormal and the unexplained, and holds a certificate in Parapsychology from the Rhine Research Center of Duke University.

A New York native, Claire has lived in five of the United States and held a variety of jobs, from waitress to bridal designer to research technician—but loves being an author best. She and her happily-ever-after hero, her husband of 39 years, now live in central Massachusetts.

Website: http://www.clairegem.com

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Audiobook Review: The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

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I have to admit: I almost passed on this book due to the relatively low rating on Amazon. It has a overall review score of 3.2 out of 5 – not stellar. Most of the 1-3 star reviews criticized the ending of the book. So of course, I had to read it–listen to it, in audio, in my case–continuing to the end to see if I agreed with this opinion. As it turned out, I did not.

Lesson learned–do NOT judge a book by Amazon’s rating.

If anything might discourage a person from flying, the opening chapters of The Night Strangers would. Told from his own viewpoint, pilot Chip Linton describes how his 70-seat regional jet hits a flock of geese shortly after takeoff, taking out both engines and forcing him to attempt an emergency landing on Lake Champlain. Unfortunately, unlike the Miracle on the Hudson, one wing of Chip’s plane crashes into the wake from a passing ferry, shearing it from the fuselage. The plane flips and breaks up, killing 39 passengers as it plunges into the water.

My father was a pilot in the Air Force in WWII. I remember him telling us about a “bird strike” when he was flying in the early 1940s. The bird–a goose or a buzzard, he never was sure–crashed into and took out the “bombadier,” the low-slung, glass appendage hanging from the belly of his plane (damn if I can’t remember the name of the aircraft) where the man in charge of dropping the bombs sat. It was shattered by the bird strike, necessitating an emergency landing. Thankfully it was, at the time, uninhabited.

Chris Bohjalian’s tale struck close to home, touching on some of my earliest memories.

In the book, Chip Linton survives but suffers horrific PTSD. His wife, Emily, decides to relocate the family to northern New Hampshire to start over. They find a rambling old Victorian in the tiny town of Bethel which immediately captivates them. There is a door, however, in the basement—a massive, wooden structure bolted shut with 39 carriage bolts. No one seems to know what’s behind the door, or why it is so securely sealed.

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39 carriage bolts–the same number of souls whose lives ended on Chip’s doomed flight. Coincidence?

Not long after Chip and Emily move into the house with their twin daughters, Chip’s mental state deteriorates. He becomes obsessed with the door and what it might be keeping in—or out. He begins to have visions of three of his deceased passengers, one of whom is demanding that he murder his own daughters. Is Chip losing touch with reality? Or are these really the ghosts of the people who died on his plane?

The town of Bethel is creepy enough, with dozens of women who are obsessed with growing herbs. Everyone has a greenhouse—there’s even one on the Linton’s property. Their twin daughters become fascinated with the structure and, when they find it difficult to make friends in their new town, are taken under the wing of the local ladies who call themselves “herbalists.”

This book is a masterpiece. Jim Bohjalian has combined so many elements of the horror genre, it boggles the mind. A disaster story, a psychological thriller, a ghost story, with elements of cultism and witchcraft lacing through this intricate tale that produce a truly unique experience. Keeping the reader guessing until the very last pages, this novel is a Gothic delight set in modern times. The audiobook narrators provide an outstanding performance.

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This book has something for every lover of the supernatural, the paranormal, and the mysterious. My only wish is that I will someday be able to write such a chilling, complex horror novel as The Night Visitors.

*****

Claire Gem is an award winning author of contemporary, supernatural romantic suspense. Learn more at her Website.

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You’re Reading . . . What???

As most of you might know, I am a high consumer of the written word. I zoom through eBooks on high-speed click. There’s always a paper- or hard-back on my writing desk and nightstand. I’ve worn out two pairs of earbuds this year alone listening to audiobooks–and I have Bluetooth in my car!

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Mostly, they’re mystery, thriller, suspense–the genre I write in. I prefer when there’s a supernatural plot line, and a strong romance element as well. I like stories that grab me by all of my senses, and my heart as well. Lately, though, the science side of my brain has been doing a little exploration into the field of . . . brace yourself: Quantum Physics.

Yikes, you say! That’s pretty heavy reading for someone who’s hooked on fiction. And yes, indeedy it is. But after my third nonfiction book written by experts in this very scientifically grounded field, I’ve come to an astounding revelation. Seems there is quite a bit of experimentation going on in the field of Quantum Physics, yielding results that support the supernatural. Yes, that’s right, phenomenon such as ghosts, poltergeists, psychics, time travel, and even visits from extraterrestrial beings have a basis in science in what author Marie D. Jones identifies as the “Zero Point Field.”

I won’t even try to convince you that I understood all of the mind-blowing concepts (especially the math!) in Jones’ book, PScience. What I will say is that over the course of the eight hours of listening to this audiobook, I came to believe in ghosts and psychics even more than I did before. It all comes down to energy. We are all made of the stuff, and it seems that we have more control over the unseen energy fields that shape our lives than we know.

I’ve always held that believers in the supernatural were not only more open-minded people than non-believers, but they were more “sensitive” to the invisible energy fields around us. Like a high-tech radio tower is more sensitive, more receptive to the waves that enable communication than an old transistor radio, some people are simply better receivers. Some have figured out how to “send” thoughts out into the “ether.”

Apparently, albeit reluctantly, the world of science is slowly coming to believe that this just might be true.

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Other books, such as Mind to Matter by Dawson Church, and The Creation Frequency by Mike Murphy and Jack Canfield provide further scientific references. New studies reveal we have even more control over our immensely energy-dense brains than ever conceived. My next planned read, The Nine Waves of Creation by Carl Johan Calleman, presents a “. . . quantum-holographic perspective on world history and human consciousness . . .” Some heavy stuff, right? I’ll get back to you on that one when I’ve finished listening to the audiobook.

Have I gotten a little too “New Age” for you here? A little woo-woo? Well, I believe in the supernatural, don’t I? I write stories about ghosts and psychics. And remember, I’m also, by day, a research scientist. I’m bound and determined to find the link between the two.

The more “real” ghosts, hauntings, and psychic abilities become in my fractured mind, the more real I can make them in my fiction. And that, dear readers, is my ultimate goal: to make believers out of you non-believers. To snag more fans of series like Outlander and the X-Files. To write better supernatural suspense.

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Claire Gem is an award-winning author of romance and supernatural suspense. She loves exploring the paranormal and holds a certificate in Parapsychology from Duke University’s Rhine Research Center. Check out her Website, Amazon Author Page, and join her Author-Reader Group to be the first to know about news and new releases.

Digging Deep: Freeing the Ghosts from Our Past

We all have them. For some, they constitute nothing more substantial than the imagined boogie man in the closet, or under the bed. For others, the childhood fears are bigger, more powerful, more damaging, usually involving a situation with our parents, siblings, or peers. The end result is the same: we carry these ghosts, either consciously or somewhere deep beneath the surface, throughout our lives.

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One of my ghosts is pretty easy to pinpoint. Growing up in a family where Mom stayed at home and Dad was an alcoholic, I lived in constant fear that either, a. we would lose our home, or b. Mom would leave—without taking my younger brother or me. She actually threatened that once, a night I will never forget. She did it to make an impression on my father, hoping it would snap him out of his cyclic behavioral illness. She went as far as to pack her suitcase and “call a taxi.”

She would never have left us. I know that now. She had no idea where she would go (she had no job, no savings, no family close by), but that logic failed to prevent sending me, at the age of eight, and my younger brother at six, into a panic. Leave us here alone with Dad? Who hadn’t gotten out of bed in days (literally) and was incoherent most of the time? The very thought was horrifying.

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Not that my father was in any way abusive or dangerous. He was a pathetic drunk, one whose own emotional damage caused him, every few months or years, to take to his bed with a bottle of whatever he’d managed to bring home and hide. He would sleep for days.

Mom didn’t leave that terrifying night, but later an ambulance came to gather my father who had fallen in the hallway atop a gallon of wine he had hidden somewhere. The smell of the wine, the sight of the blood, the sound of my father’s pathetic sobs as they strapped him onto a gurney–they bound his hands–will never, ever leave my memory. They took him to the Middletown Psychiatric Hospital where they kept him until he sobered up. Weeks? Months? At eight, it seemed an eternity. I simply remember my mother being very sad all the time. I remember going to visit him on Sundays, where they let him sit out at the picnic tables under the pine trees. We brought peanuts to feed the squirrels.

Squirrels still make me sad. I’ll never crack a peanut shell without that memory causing a clenching in my chest.

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Was I trying to exorcise this “ghost” when I wrote Spirits of the Heart? I’m certain. I set the book at the same, now defunct psychiatric center in Middletown, N.Y. My hero in the novel is fighting alcoholism. Only in this rendition, I had control over the ending. I could banish the addiction, rekindle the love, and create a happily ever after.

Yep, it’s what I do. It’s what I write about. Resurrecting old ghosts, healing them, and putting them to rest. In fiction, I have the power to do what in real life, I could not.

What old ghosts are haunting your memories? If you could bring them to life once again, and had the power to change history, would it heal you? Would it make your life more complete? Tell me in comments, and I’ll select someone to receive a copy of Spirits of the Heart.

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Claire Gem writes supernatural suspense which is, apparently, based on her own deepest fears. Personal ghosts. We all have them, don’t we?

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Amazon Author Page

 

An Unexpected (and a little eerie) Side Trip

As a left-brainer by day, I tend to be a planner: reservations, time schedules, itineraries–even for a casual weekend trip. But sometimes even the best-laid plans go awry. Thanks to a harried schedule and a little trick Travelocity played on me, my husband and I ended up this past Saturday night, in the middle of freaking nowhere, with no hotel room.

(Warning: when booking through Travelocity, check your confirmation email CAREFULLY. I searched and booked–I thought–for the 28th. Arrived at the hotel with a confirmation in hand for the 23rd–which had already been charged to my bank account).

No matter. After a wonderful evening with close friends in rural Maine (VERY rural!) for their wedding, we drove twenty miles to find we had no room. The hotel across the street was booked as well. We had no choice to but to hoof it back toward the main highway.

Until we stumbled upon The Poland Springs Resort. At first glance, I was sure we couldn’t afford a room in this elegant old Victorian mansion. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that they did still have a few rooms available in our price range. What an unexpected delight this was.

The Poland Springs Resort was established in 1794, and is the original site of “THE SPRING” from which all Poland Spring water, well . . . springs. There are numerous buildings on the expansive resort surrounding an impeccably manicured golf course. The building we had the honor of staying in was called the Presidential Inn.

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The building itself has no check-in office–you do that at The Lodge a half-mile up the road. With old fashioned keys in hand, we parked and used one of the two keys to unlock the exterior doors to the Presidential–and took a step back in time to a more elegant era.

We stepped into a warmly lit lobby which, although it was only about 8 p.m., was empty. The only other guests we saw were two elderly couples playing cards on the lower level in one of their “gathering rooms.” The place was clean, quiet, but I have to admit–in its seemingly abandoned state in the dark, a little bit creepy.

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There are no elevators. So, luggage in tow, my husband and I trudged up the very long carpeted stairwell to the second floor to our room, number “5.” The room was spacious and just as comfortably appointed as the rest of the hotel. If not somewhat dated.

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The bed was clean and comfortable, there was plenty of hot water and the pressure would just about blast you out of the shower. And it was quiet . . . almost supernaturally quiet. Until about two a.m.

After a trip to the bathroom, I lay in the bed waiting for sleep to again claim me. The footsteps began moments later. First, in the hallway outside our door. These were not those of an adult. Quick, bouncy, like a small child running down the hallway. First up the hall, then back down. Over and over again. No voices accompanied these sounds, not the opening or closing of a door. Nothing.

Then they began overhead, seemingly on the third floor directly above us. A child, running excitedly, almost bouncing, from one end of the room to the other. Again, no voices. No doors opening or closing. Not another blessed sound.

This went on, switching back and forth between overhead to the hallway outside our door, until after 3:30 a.m. It wasn’t loud enough to disturb my husband–he snored through the whole thing. I was sorely tempted to peek out, but my chicken liver feared I might find one of Stephen King’s little girls from the Overlook peering back at me.

Was I afraid? Strangely not. I tried to rationalize that there was an over-active toddler somewhere in the hotel whose parents–whose mute parents–were trying to let run off extra energy.

But in the middle of the night? For almost two hours? There are placards at the head of every staircase, and on every floor, plainly stating, “Quiet Hours: 10 p.m.- 6 a.m. No loud music, loud conversations, no running in the halls.”

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My hair stood up on my neck just a little at that last line.

The next morning, a lovely buffet breakfast was included in our room rate. This was in another building, where there were additional rooms. We were not, I discovered, the only guests of the Poland Spring Resort that night. Several dozen others enjoyed their breakfasts alongside us–all senior citizens belonging to some sort of car club (my husband had noticed the line of classic Studebakers in the lot). Not a toddler or young family among them.

Is the Presidential Lodge haunted? Having been around since the turn of the 19th century, I would say that chances are good. But have no fear–I didn’t. Instead, I left the Poland Springs Resort with a sense of curiosity that will fuel my research and bring me back, again, to stay at the Presidential Inn another time. Or two.

It might even be the site for another Haunted Voices novel . . .

I Can Hear You Better Now

I stopped eating toast and cakes and pies, and I can hear you better now.

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Deafness runs in my family. My younger brother suffers considerable hearing loss. He has one daughter who is profoundly deaf and had to attend a special school. My older brother has been wearing hearing aids for twenty years. My “deafness” began quite abruptly.

We were on vacation, halfway between Tampa, FL and Ft. Worth, TX. I awoke in the hotel room on the second day of our vacation with a terrible ringing in my ears. I was alarmed. I wasn’t sure if it signaled high blood pressure, an inner ear infection, or . . . what?

After three hours and numerous tests in the local emergency ward, I was informed I had a condition known as tinnitus. Chronic ringing in the ears, for which the world of medicine had no known cause and no treatment or cure. I was devastated.

That was 15 years ago, when I was 45. Since then, I’ve learned to “ignore” the ringing, although sleeping can only take place if there is some kind of background noise (a fan or the like) to distract me. Last year I went for an official hearing test, and the audiologist concluded I had 40% loss in my right ear, and over 60% loss in my left. I was, very nearly, deaf.

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I resisted hearing aids (insurance won’t cover them) until my older brother donated his old ones to me when he upgraded. He took me to his audiologist, who tested me to adjust the aids to my deafness pattern. When I escaped from the “tank” where they test folks, I asked, “Did I pass?”

“You did fine,” he replied.

“So, I don’t really need this hearing aids?”

“Uh, no. You really need them.”

Hearing aids suck. They are uncomfortable, and amplify noises you don’t need to hear, while the sounds you want to hear remain muffled and too loud. The first time I wore them in a restaurant, I couldn’t make out what my brother was saying across the table. When a busboy dropped silverware into a bin across the room, my eardrums threatened to explode.

But when I stepped into the outside world, a wonderful realization hit me. I could hear birds tweeting in the trees. I hadn’t realized it, but it was a sound I hadn’t been able to hear for years.

I froze at the foot of the steps when I heard what sounded like a gigantic bee buzzing. In the next moment, a bicycle whizzed by on the street. I would never have heard that bicycle if not for the hearing aids.

Fast forward about a year. I will confess, I only wear my brother’s donated (and professionally adjusted to my hearing loss) hearing aids when I absolutely have to. They are still uncomfortable, and far from ideal when it comes to amplifying what I want to hear.

Four weeks ago, I started the Keto Diet. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it is Atkins on steroids. The science behind the diet is sound and impressive (see www.drberg.com). The diet is based on the fact that our brains are fueled, not by sugar or carbohydrates, but by ketones. Ketones are the byproduct of metabolized fat. Just like our caveman forefathers, if we feed our bodies sufficient fat with a moderate amount of protein, we will thrive.

It is a proven fact that sugar (and elevated insulin levels) produce inflammation. This diet, bizarre though it may seem (to those, like me, who were sucking down fat-free, artificially sweetened treats back in the 1980s and 90s), is scientifically sound. The National Epilepsy Foundation is recommending this diet to those suffering from the syndrome: it reduces the occurrence and severity of seizures. It has been known to cure diabetes. The advantages go on and on.

But hearing loss? Can hearing loss possibly be reversed by eliminating carbohydrates from our diet?

I have found little, thus far, to substantiate my claim. I can only tell you that this week, while unlocking the door to the lab where I work, I took pause. What was that noise? That high-pitched sound I don’t usually hear (without the hearing aids)?

Bird song. I could hear the early morning bird song in the trees. No hearing aids.

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I came home that day and plopped down in my office chair. There are two aquariums in my office, the bubbling sound of which I am completely unaware of. Usually.

Absently, in the process of trying to read my email, I began the attempt to snatch the hearing aids out of my ears. The high-pitched bubbling whine was driving me crazy.

I wasn’t wearing my hearing aids.

In a few months, continuing on a low-carb diet, I intend to test my hypothesis by returning to my brother’s audiologist. I will have him retest my hearing loss pattern. Will it have improved? I guess only time will tell.

Our caveman ancestors survived to evolve. Without Wonder Bread or Twinkles or Coca Cola. I sometime wonder if we’d made it this far with these elements in our diet.

~~~

Claire Gem writes romance and supernatural romantic suspense. She imbues her characters with real-life challenges: her heroine in The Phoenix Syndrome goes deaf. Available in ebook, paperback, and coming soon in audiobook. Visit http://www.clairegem.com.