Quarantined with Creativity


2020 certainly has been a banner year, although I can’t quite pinpoint what the headline should say. I believe the universal theme has been CHANGE. Our world is radically different now than in most of our lifetimes. It’s difficult to imagine us ever really going back to the “old world,” the way things used to be.

All of this time at home has given me the opportunity to really think about my writing, and I believe that a CHANGE is coming in that venue as well.

As my readers well know, my ghostly stories are always set in a haunted location, one that bears quite a bit of very real history. Research has always been my favorite part of the writing process, and I am obsessed with history–especially of the Middle Ages. Over these past months, I’ve been able to branch out from my normal reading favorites and venture more seriously into reading historical romance.


I believe that’s where Claire Gem is headed.

Actually, I more than believe it–the first book of a newly created series is already well underway. I am unwilling at this point to reveal much more than this:

  1. The books will be set in the Middle Ages.
  2. They will definitely be romances.
  3. The stories will be set in an entirely different location than the current historical romances on the market.

That’s it. That’s all you get for right now. Over the next few weeks I will be rolling out the Series name, the title of Book One–I might even reveal a sneak peek at the cover.

Sadly, for those of you who are waiting for another ghost story, I regret to say there will be no haunting in this new series. There will be, however, a just as intensely emotional love story with lots of conflict, along with setting details it has taken me a lifetime to collect.

You see, at the tender age of eight, I stumbled across a painting in a picture book of art history. After years of nightmares associated with this image, I decided to research the artist, the area, and the era in which it was painted.

My bookshelf looks like a library dedicated to Medieval History.

So I guess, in a way, you could say my new series is based on a haunting–but one that’s lived inside my own head. Up until now, I’ve never felt my abilities as a writer were “good enough” to do these stories justice.

Now, I believe, is the time.


Get in the Mood for Halloween! #MFRWHooks #MFRWAuthor


A woman, encased in glass, lives in the center of town, yet everyone pretends not to see.

A phone call from Mom turns horrifyingly urgent.

A sports car, a family inheritance bound up in memories.

A graveyard of nameless souls.

Haunting. This collection of short stories will send a chill, linger in memory, leave you wondering: Is there something beyond what our eyes can see? Can the veil between life and death really be so thin? Four tales in this Kindle 45 minute Short Read by award winning paranormal author, Claire Gem.

Announcing New Release, ENIGMATA: Eerie Bits, Book 1, a collection of creepy short reads to rev up your imagination for the Halloween season. Get your copy HERE.


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The Seven Best Romantic Suspense Authors of Our Time

According to the Romance Writers of America, romantic suspense is the most popular sub-genre for readers who love a love story. They want their hearts to melt a little, but they also want their spines to tingle or their skin to prickle. These readers want it all–a roller coaster ride of emotion big enough to take them away from their own, ordinary lives.

After reading (and listening) to hundreds, maybe thousands of romantic suspense books, I of course have a few favorites. Is this a list of the seven best “in my opinion” romantic suspense authors?

Maybe. I don’t know. Why don’t you read a few you’re not familiar with and test me out?

1. Nora Roberts

Nora is one of the most prolific romance authors of our time, and although she writes in numerous sub-genres, I’m particularly taken with her romantic suspense. A personal favorite is The Witness, a compelling story about a young girl’s one mistake that changes her entire life–and the man determined to break through her protective armor.

The Witness

2. Heather Graham

Another author whose books can be found in several sections of the bookstore, I am particularly fond of Heather’s Krewe of Hunters Series. These stories follow the adventures of a group of paranormal investigators who are so good at what they do that they are employed by the government as a secret investigative unit. In this series (29 and counting!) Heather combines espionage and murder/mystery with the supernatural to create addictive reads. Start with Phantom Evil (Book1) and see if you don’t agree!

Heather Graham

3. Linda Howard

My first book by this author was Dream Man, the premise of which fascinated me for obvious reasons: the heroine has the psychic gift of clairvoyance. The detective who at first thinks her a fake soon discovers not only is he wrong, but also that he can’t resist her–body or soul.

Dream Man

4. Wendy Webb

Called “The Queen of Northern Gothic” by her fans, Ms. Webb again combines mystery/suspense with the supernatural to weave irresistibly spine-tingling tales. The End of Temperance Dare is a particular favorite of mine, since it takes place in what used to be a sanatorium – a waiting place for death by tuberculosis patients, i.e., haunted to the nines. Ms. Webb’s stories lean more toward the supernatural and mystery/suspense elements with romance as a sub-plot. Page-turners. Leave the lights on, please.


5. Simone St. James

For fans of historical fiction, you won’t find much better romantic suspense than in Ms. St. James’ books. Her debut novel, The Haunting of Maddy Clare, won the 2012 RITA Award, and immediately placed this author on my must-read list. My favorite title of hers is An Inquiry into Love and Death, set in 1920s England. A young woman is called away from University to investigate the death of her uncle in a town haunted by a restless spirit. Again, this author’s books concentrate more on the mystery aspect and less on the love story element, but are riveting nonetheless.


6. Juliet Blackwell

Her Haunted Home Renovation Series is a winner. There’s always a mysterious murder and ghostly happenings abound. The thread connecting the books is Mel Turner, whose construction business always seems to lead her to a reno project in a haunted location. In A Ghostly Light, Book 7 in the series, Mel’s challenge is to turn a crumbling site on a remote island into a first-class resort. There’s something, though, living in the lighthouse that no one can see…


7. Susanna Kearsley

I will end this list with an author who wrote a book that I read (in print) twice, then listened to in audio format no less than three times. The Winter Sea is, in my humble opinion, the most delightful combination of mystery/suspense, supernatural, historical–with a heart-melting love story to top it all off. As described on its Amazon page, “a hauntingly beautiful tale of love that transcends time.”

Hmm. It’s been a while. Might be time to dig this one out and read or listen to it again . . .


Now that you know what kinds of novels appeal to me, you might have a better idea of the kinds of stories I endeavor to write. Check them out at my Amazon Author Page, or at my website.



Floundering My Way Through the Fog



Is there anything more unsettling than not being able to see the path ahead of you clearly? Driving home on a foggy night when you mistakenly choose to take the back roads instead of the highway . . . Waking up to look out your window and realize you see . . . nothing but a dense, pale grey haze. It’s how my life feels right now, since I’m not really sure what my tomorrows will bring.

You see, a few months ago I held a full-time job, plus spent every spare moment I could nurturing my life as an author. A trip, a tumble, and a broken arm later, my entire life has been halted in its tracks. I can’t work, I’m in constant pain, and even my writing is on hold. Typing, just recently at all possible, is slow, inconsistent, and painful. It was my right arm and shoulder that suffered the damage, and I am right-handed. Voice-to-text software isn’t compatible with my Mac computers, and Apple’s built-in app is great for emails or blog posts, but for fiction? Not so much.

My life has become shrouded in fog, a dense haze of uncertainty that has me feeling fidgety, impatient, depressed–and afraid. I’m not sure how long it will take for me to heal, or if my arm and shoulder will ever regain full strength and range of motion. Let alone how long I will be a slave to the relentless pain, the sleepless nights, and the uncertainty of what my future looks like.

All of these emotions can be distilled down to one word: FEAR. And fear is the most crippling of all maladies because it does a number of things: for one, it paralyzes, both body and soul. Isn’t that the feeling you get when you’re driving down that winding back road in the pudding-thick fog and have no idea whether the pavement will bend left or right ahead? Whether a wayward animal will wander into your path? Even worse, a crazy or lost pedestrian? If you might inadvertently plunge headlong off into a ravine?

Yet this very emotion enabled our ancient ancestors to survive. Huh?

Fear is at the heart of every story I write. Why? Why would anyone want to write, let alone read, a tale driven by fear? Stephen King described best the three different types of terror:

“The Gross-Out . . . a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs . . .the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm.

The Horror . . . Spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around . . .

Terror: when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute.”

–Stephen King


Here’s where fear helped our species survive: Our bodies have a physiological reaction to fear known as the “flight or fight” syndrome. It’s an adrenaline rush, with spikes in endorphins and dopamine. It’s what kept our caveman ancestors alive, since when threatened by a landslide or hungry mastodon or pillaging enemy tribe, these hormones enabled the cavemen to become stronger and faster.

Modern man has learned these spikes in hormones–feeling the rush of fear–can be pleasurable IF experienced in a safe environment. It’s why we love scary stories, horror flicks, and haunted houses at Halloween time. We know there’s no real danger, reading alone at night in our bedroom or snuggled up in front of our TV screen.

But on that foggy back road late at night? Do we really know we are safe?

This terror I’m feeling right now . . . there are no severed heads, no giant spiders, no slimy green stuff splattering my arm. It’s that everything once familiar to me has now become frighteningly similar, yet unfamiliar. Uncertain. Do I really know, in my situation, if I am in a safe environment?

I suppose only time will tell.



Claire is the author of seven novels, five in the Haunted Voices series, standalone supernatural suspense romance stories set in spooky, haunted places. You can find out more about her work at her Website. Unable to continue work on her next HV novel for now, Claire has compiled four of her creepiest short stories in a collection called Enigmata: Eerie Bits, Book 1, an Amazon Short Read that’s on pre-order right now.

Check it out.


Ghost Stories & Romance: Why the Combination is So Compelling

While conversing with a saleswoman in my local Apple store recently, I shared the information that I wrote novels.

“What kind of novels?” she asked.

“They’re basically romances, but they are all set in haunted places,” I replied.

Her eyes grew wide. “With ghosts, you mean?”

“Yes. There’s always a ghost story intertwined with the romance.”

“Have you contacted someone to make them into movies? I’ll bet they would sell like crazy.”

ghost story, spooky, paranormal books, novels

*Sigh.* If only it were that easy to get the word out to the movie industry about my ghost story + romance novels. Unfortunately, the path to silver screen stardom remains as obscure to me as the yellow brick road was to Dorothy—before Glinda arrived.

Her remark got me to thinking, though, about whether or not what she said might be true: does the combination of a ghost story with a romance really have a wide audience appeal? We all know that ghost hunting programs have gained a cult following all their own on cable channels. Zombie and apocalypse themes have developed numerous very successful series. But throw in the word “romance,” and something changes. It seems the audiences hooked on this type of entertainment want to be spooked, not swooned.

Now take the average romance reader: The Romance Writers of America lists romantic suspense at the top of the list of popular subgenres (most of these are crime/murder mysteries), with erotica and historical following close behind. Paranormal romance, it claims, appeals more to younger readers.

Where does my flavor of romance fit? When one hears paranormal, they normally think vampires, shapeshifters, and werewolves. But what about ghosts? Is there a readership to whom my books will appeal? And how can being spooked by ghosts relate (even remotely) to a blossoming romantic relationship?

My research took me to this very recent article in The New Yorker magazine about Lafcadia Hearn, an author who was born in Greece in 1850. During the tumultuous life of this “mixed race” man (his mother was Ionian, his father Irish), Hearn wrote 29 books in a vast variety of genres. His specialty, it seemed, was ghost stories.

Hearn traveled the world, wandering from one country to the next when his life situations crumbled around him, ending up in Japan. Here he became fascinated with the Japanese ghost-story folktales known as kaidan. His collection of spooky and sometimes dismally purple (his Dismal Man writings contain scenes no less graphic than an episode of The Walking Dead) are still included in the curriculum of many schools in Japan.

So where does romance fit into all of this? Tragically, Hearn’s personal life is littered with abandonments and failed relationships scarring him with psychological wounds that resound clearly in his work. No happy endings here, for certain.

In the New Yorker article by Jonathan Dee, the author explores our fascination with ghost stories:

Our primal fear when it comes to ghosts, Hearn wrote, is not of seeing or hearing them but of being touched by them; the kaidan both exploit that revulsion and offer the heroic spectacle of characters whose passions enable them to overcome it.”

Passions. There is clearly passion at the root of many of Hearn’s kaidan tales: a mother whose passing from cholera does not prevent her from remaining to nurse her infant son for three years. A widower who, after vowing to never remarry after his wife’s death, reneges. His new, young bride is haunted to her death by the ghost of his first wife. Penguin classics has just released a Hearn collection, as well as another by Princeton University Press. The passion—the intense love represented in these haunting tales—apparently does have the potential for an avid audience.

Again, though, no HEA—no happy ever after. This is what I attempt to do by combining a romantic, passionate love story with a haunting ghost tale. In my Haunted Voices novels, I can promise you, romance fans of the HEA will not be disappointed. Those who want gooseflesh to rise and who go to bed leaving the light on after a thoroughly spooky experience—you will not be disappointed either.

In my paranormal romances, the heroes and heroines are very much alive. The ghosts haunting them are very much dead. I manage, though, to bring peace to even the tormented spirits in my stories.

“Supernatural romantic suspense” is a tag I feel fits my flavor of fiction much better than paranormal romance. You can find out more about my work at my website and peruse the list of my published titles on my Amazon Author page.

romance novels, love stories, romantic suspense

romance novels, love stories, romantic suspense

Book Review: “The Bog People – Iron-Age Man Preserved” by P.V. Glob


Unusual material and far from a new release, I just finished reading this title as part of the research for my upcoming novel, TimePeace. The book was originally published in 1969, and is not even available in digital format–I had to borrow it via inter-library loan. Outdated material, you say? Well, not when you consider the subject of this title–corpses found in peat bogs. Some date well over 2000 years old.

The discoveries of these bodies is earliest recorded in 1640, when workers uncovered an extremely well-preserved corpse while cutting peat, which was used for fuel. But these bog bodies have been turning up ever since in peat bogs in most of eastern and northern Europe. When first uncovered, it is assumed the body must be a recent murder victim. Thanks to modern science, however (even back in the mid 1900s), it has been determined that the corpses had been interred in their marshy graves as far back as before the birth of Christ.

It seems the conditions under a peat bog are just right for preservation: no air, no light, and high acid content. The skin of these victims is blackened, taking on the appearance of leather that has been tanned. Remarkably, internal organs, including the brain in some cases, are amazingly well-preserved–even to the point where scientists are able to determine the contents of the intestinal tract to identify what the victims ate for their last meal.

I use the term victims quite deliberately, as a large majority of these bodies show evidence of having suffered violent deaths. Strangulation or hanging, sometimes followed by throat slashing, is common. Whether some of the other broken bones were inflicted before death, or as a result of being crushed under tons of wet peat over the millennia cannot always be determined. It is also not clear whether these poor unfortunate souls met their demise as the result of a murder, a capital punishment for crimes committed, or as human sacrifices to the many gods worshiped during this, the Iron Age.

The most striking example, which the author describes as wearing “an air of gentle tranquility,” is the Tollund Man, discovered in central Jutland in 1950. The facial features are so well preserved that a short stubble still covers his chin and upper lip. The serenity of the man’s pose is shattered, however, when one realizes that he still wears around his neck the rope consisting of two leather thongs. The Tollund Man was either hung or strangled before interment in his watery grave–2000 years ago.

P.V. Glob does an outstanding and painstaking job of describing each bog body finding and the subsequent research conducted by the National Museum up until the book’s publication. The author also explores the culture of Iron Age Man, and extends hypotheses as to why and how these souls met their ends. Since I had never heard of bog bodies, I found this book to be fascinating and highly educational, despite the textbook style of prose. The title is also liberally embellished with black and white photos, some of which I must warn are disturbingly graphic in nature.

If you are interested, you can find The Bog People: Iron Age Man Preserved on Amazon here. Or you may, like I did, secure a copy for free from your local library.

Also disturbing is evidence that some of the bodies were literally “pinned down” beneath the bog by forked branches around the limbs. Was this done to prevent the body from rising to the surface? Or was the victim submerged alive?

In earlier times, the belief was that as long as the body remained buried, its spirit could not escape. “Fear of ghosts,” as the author states, “has persisted into even more recent times…” Was it just irony that when the Tollund Man was being exhumed that one of the workers succumbed to a heart attack and died on the spot? Or was his life the tariff for the afterlife losing one of their own?

Bog bodies and bog wood will play a significant role in the haunting portion of my upcoming title, TimePeace. Stay tuned.




Gathering Eerie Bits


As many of you know, a badly broken right arm has waylaid my intention to complete and release the next Haunted Voices novel, TimePeace, at the end of September. Voice to text is not an option, since I use all Mac computers. DragonSpeak, the best dictation software program for authors, doesn’t play well with Mac. The built-in voice to text on my Mac is great for emails and blog posts (like this one!), but for writing fiction? Not so much.

So rather than allowing fuzzy green stuff to grow on my brain while I heal, I decided to go poking around in my writing archives (love you, Carbonite!). I opened a folder called Short Stories and was pleased to find a number of flash fiction pieces I’d written over the years. Of course, with me being a fan of all things eerie and believing in ghosts, many of these were . . . well . . . eerie.

I then discovered a wonderful category on Amazon for very short reads (under 22 pages). What a great idea, I thought. If you have only a half-hour or so to devote to reading, how nice to know there are actually “books” you can finish in less than 30 minutes.

So, the Eerie Bits series was born. In this first, Book 1, I have compiled four of my eeriest short pieces for your reading pleasure. This collection is called Enigmata, and I’m considering this image for its cover. I’d love to know what you think. Creepy enough?


Coming soon to Amazon, Enigmata will be free for KU subscribers!

The Perfect Love Story…with Ghosts


Those of you who know me at all know I am a huge fan of Nora Roberts (duh, I’d have to be dead not to be), but my absolute favorite series of hers is the Boonesboro Trilogy. When I say favorite, I mean, OBSESSIVE. Favorite. Love of all time.

I’ve listened to all three audiobooks at least twice. I have all three print books in hardcover, stacked on my nightstand (my good vibe writing mojo). I’ll admit, I’ve listened to books 1 & 2 the most, straying by the time I get to book 3.

This week was book 3’s turn. The Perfect Hope. It really is my favorite because not only does the haunting of “Lizzy,” the resident ghost at Inn Boonesboro, play a bigger part than in the other books, but it’s because I fell in love with Ryder right off the bat. I’ll summarize quickly for those not familiar…

Justine Montgomery is a widow with three sons: Beckett, Owen, and Ryder. They live in Boonesboro, Maryland, and Justine has made it her mission to renovate the crumbling downtown district. It all starts with Inn Boonesboro, which dates to the Civil War era. Her sons are expert craftsman at carpentry et al. It doesn’t take long for the brothers to figure out they aren’t alone working in the old Inn. It’s haunted.

Lizzy–a name Ryder gives her–is mischievous and always signals her presence with the smell of honeysuckle. In the first book, Beckett falls for Claire, the local bookstore owner. In the second, Avery, who runs the pizzeria across the street, falls for Owen. In the third, Ryder, who is an ill-tempered, short-wired smartass, falls for the new innkeeper, Hope Belmont.

This is probably only my second go-round with Ryder and Hope, but the story–from all three books–comes together in this book with a heart-melting romantic roller-coaster that for me, is unsurpassed.

If I ever grow up to be a real romance author, I’ll be able to write a story like the Boonesboro series. The characters are so real I miss them. The conflicts so believable my blood pressure spikes. The history comes to life in a way that is unforgettable.

Like I said, the stack of three hardcovers lives on my nightstand. I’m hoping I can channel Nora organically, in my sleep. From my lips to the patron saint of writers…please.


A Sneak Peek at ELECTRICITY – #MFRWHooks

My new release, Electricity, is the latest installment in my Haunted Voices novels. This one was especially exciting to write, since I work where it is set: the location used to house a State Mental Asylum. There’s still one building that’s never been renovated, and it is a spooky place indeed.



Here’s a sneak peek inside ELECTRICITY: A Haunted Voices novel:

Mercy crept down the steps, shivering as the chill of underground air crawled over her. Just as she reached the bottom step, something tickled her cheek and she swatted frantically before realizing it was just a fragment of spider web waving from the rafter. The sound of Daniel’s snort behind her made her bristle. She shot him a contemptuous glare.

The passageway was low ceilinged, forcing Daniel to stoop, and so narrow a man could almost span the width with outstretched arms. Rough fieldstone walls, joined by random patches of mortar, rose from a cracked concrete floor. The hall disappeared off at right angles to the steps in both directions. Conner strode boldly down one way, then the other, pulling the tattered, hanging cords to bring yellowed bulbs to life, one at a time. Some were dead, but those that still fired bathed the space in an eerie, amber light.

Mercy studied the bench lining the outside wall. Heavy planks formed a shelf about two feet above the ground. Every ten feet or so, a pair of round iron rings hung from the wall, mortared between the fieldstones.

“I’ve read about places like this,” Daniel mumbled. “This was their holding area.”

“What do you mean? Like in a prison?” Even to her own ears, Mercy’s voice sounded squeaky and unsteady.

Daniel tipped his head, pulling his fingers through his short, tawny beard. His gaze glanced off hers. “Guess you could call it that. Back then they didn’t ever know what they were getting into when a new patient came in.”

You can watch the book trailer HERE, and buy on amazon HERE.

And check out our other #MFRWAuthors #MFRW Hooks by clicking the image below!


The Final Countdown


In three short days, my next Haunted Voices novel will go live on Amazon. I can’t believe this all happened so fast. After a loooong dry spell in my writing life, The Great Muse finally smiled on me again.

Of course, it helped that I took a week’s vacation from my day job with the sole intention of finishing the book. Oh, how I loved life that week. I rose at my usual early hour, but instead of cramming words into the hour before I have to get ready for work, I stayed in my jammies until nearly noon. The words literally bled out of my fingertips–such a difference when there is no clock ticking in the background. I worked more hours that week than I ever do at my day job, and I loved every minute of it.

In one short week, I wrote over 50,000 words, then did two rounds of edits. I designed a cover, and a book trailer. If I didn’t have to work a day job, I could put out three or four books a year, no problem.

Of course, I’d also have nowhere to live, nothing to eat, no wine to drink . . . *sigh* I digress.

So, get ready, world for ELECTRICITY: A Haunted Voices Novel. The eBook goes live on June 8th, and it’s available now for pre-order on Amazon. The paperback will go live on June 16th. I have a special connection with this book because it’s set on the campus where I work, which used to be a State Mental Hospital. All of the other buildings have been renovated and repurposed except for one. It sits high atop a hill, massive and brooding, crumbling. I drive and walk past it every day.

It was the perfect place for a ghost story.

My hero and heroine are electricians working to rewire the building, and soon discover that some of the tortured souls who resided there never left.

The cover, I might add, is up for an award at AllAuthor. Please vote for it! How exciting it would be to discover on release day that the cover made it to the final round!


So now, what’s next? I have several story ideas in various stages of development . . . decisions, decisions.