Strange Meetings

Does it ever happen to you? Do you ever encounter a person, or a situation, purely by chance? One that seems to mean more than it appears on the surface? Today it happened to me.

We had just completed my husband’s pre-surgery appointment at the fantastic St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester, MA, and decided to stop and grab a bite. One of our favorite hangouts, The Heritage, is located in Auburn, MA. It was packed when we arrived, but we managed to find a table off in a corner.

About halfway through our meal, a friendly looking woman about my age pulled out the chair at the table next to us. She was alone, and did not busy herself with a smartphone or a book. Instead, she just sat quietly, drinking her brew, until her meal arrived.

In the meantime, I had finished eating and was (my bad!) scrolling through the emails on my iPhone. My eye caught on the message from Author Seelie Kay, who was hosting me on her blog today. I’d totally forgotten about it. I opened the page and showed my husband the post.

“Read it to me,” he urged as he continued to enjoy his meal. So I did.

I tried to be quiet, but the tables were so close together. I was concerned I was disturbing the lone diner sitting nearby, but she did not appear bothered.

When I’d finished, she leaned towards me and said, “I don’t mean to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help hearing what you read. Are you really an author?”

An animated discussion ensued, and when my husband received a phone call, I moved to sit across from her. “Patty,” as it turns out, lives in the next town over from ours, writes poetry, and has always wanted to write a book. About her mother.

Her mother, Nellie Twardzik Thompson, hailed from Webster, MA – where we now live – and “gained national recognition in the 1930’s as the only girl in the U.S.A. to play on a high school boys’ baseball team.” The 1930s! Patty also told me that her mother is listed in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. What an amazing accomplishment.

In any case, our conversation was cut short by the interruption of life in general, errands to run, things to do on this day before Easter weekend. We exchanged phone numbers (since Patty, like my husband, has eschewed the modernity of internet communication). I fully intend to connect with Patty again, maybe over a cup of delicious brew at Booklover’s Gourmet, a wonderful bookstore/coffee shop which is convenient to both of us.

As we said farewell, Patty hugged my neck and said, “I’m so glad I met you today. You know, God brings people into our lives with purpose, at just the right times. Do you believe that?”

“I do.”

“And on Good Friday. This is a blessing indeed.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I gained a new friend today.

Happy Easter, to all of my friends and fans who celebrate the holiday. Happy Passover to those of the Jewish faith. And for those whose holidays may coincide but I am not aware of, well . . . God bless us all.


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Touching the Source

The past year for me has been tumultuous. Sickness and death in the family, not the least of which was almost losing my husband last month to a sudden, severe illness. Surgery still pending on that, so I live in limbo. I can’t even imagine a life without him.

Not the best environment for a writing muse.

I have pressed on. Despite having to surrender to stagnation on “PIGMENTS,” I went back to complete a manuscript I’ve been working on for a number of years. “ELECTRICITY” is set on the very grounds of the campus where I work, that of Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

The campus has a darker history, before the University purchased the property. In the mid to latter part of the 20th century, the grounds housed a mental asylum. Many of the buildings have either been razed, fallen down, or been repurposed. One, though, still stands. A hulking beast at the highest point on the campus. Building 25 stands witness to the horrors it has witnessed.

I’ve been in there. I convinced a security guard to unscrew the board holding the front door shut. I walked through its haunting emptiness, filled with only the smell of mold and neglect. To feel the unspoken desperation still hovering in the stagnant air. To encounter the skeleton of a wayward bird who made his way his, but not out.

It’s where the bulk of “ELECTRICITY” is set.

Still, I had lost my voice. My writing muse. Even though I had already written over 20,000 words on the book, I was stalled. Every sentence I wrote seemed stilted. Forced. Not my own.

So I downloaded my own audiobooks – ones I’d already had published and uploaded to Audible.com. What an amazing trick this is, fellow writers! Go back and read or listen to your own words. They will revive the muse within.

I am forging ahead on “ELECTRICITY.” The words keep coming, although I’m not sure where they’re coming from or where they’re headed. I do, however, know the ending. The light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. So I have a beacon to guide me on the right path.

Stay tuned, readers. I promise, “ELECTRICITY” is imminent. And it will be filled with not only the imaginative creation of a fiction writer, but also with facts gleaned from history. And from personal, chillingly haunting experiences of my own.


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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.

#MFRWAuthor To visit other participating blogs, click HERE! #MFRWBookHooks

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.