Everyday people and situations provide fodder for Maeve Christopher’s imagination. Keep asking “what if” and “why”, and the plot thickens. What could be more fun?
She currently lives in Massachusetts with a number of messy subplots and Freddie the tiger cat.
Maeve Christopher’s Redemption Series is part family saga, part suspense and part love story — with the touch of the Supernatural.
My journal came out of its hiding place at the back of my desk drawer almost every day of my childhood. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write little stories, or make up stories about people I encountered in life. I almost never shared them.
There’s a big difference between being a writer and taking that step to becoming a published author. I think for most of us, writing is as natural as breathing. We can’t not write. For many people, stories stay in their journals or in their heads. I was always convinced that would be the case for me. I pursued science studies and a career in health care.
One day a new patient showed up in my office. Under “occupation” he listed “editor” for a prominent New York publisher. I still remember how excited I became (even more than the time I met Phil Collins!) I asked him to tell me all about his job, then went on and on about how much fun, how exciting being an editor must be, how thrilling to work with authors, etc. etc.
When I took a moment to breathe, he asked, “Do you want to write a book?”
I was stunned silent, then burst into nervous laughter. My mind said, “Of course I do! Doesn’t everyone?” But I quickly said something like, “That’ll be the day.” Funny, but that moment was a turning point for me. I began to think it could be possible.
It was years later when I finally gave myself permission to write with the intention to publish. Unfortunately, by that time the editor had long since retired and relocated. And when my 800 word saga was complete, it had everyone’s point of view, including the dog. When I gave it to a dear friend to read, she kindly said, “You might have something here.”
Many years and revisions later that effort became the basis of the first three books of The Redemption Series. I’m so grateful when I think about that editor who asked the question that started me on this writing journey. Now I can’t wait to share my stories!
Maeve Christopher is the author of the upcoming Lachesis Publishing release A RING AND A PRAYER Book 1 of the Golden Bowl Series, an inspirational women’s fiction novel with romantic elements, plenty of laughs, action and twist and turns. Stay tuned for more details!
God gave me three gifts of inspiration in life and literature.
I was 24 years old Nov 6th 1988, standing in an operating room as doctors performed an emergency c-section on my wife. My son was dying in her womb. My son was dying. I stood there in shock and dismay, how could this be happening? I watched the surgeon cut into my bride, move organs and then reach into her abdomen and delicately pull out a small struggling life strangled by an umbilical cord. My son’s body was blue, he wasn’t crying. They freed him and his body soon took on a healthy pink color. My son, Thomas Michael, my boy had arrived, earlier than expected and seemingly no worse for the dramatic entrance. Things seemed normal for at first but Tom soon had developed breathing issues, his lungs weren’t developed properly and he was sick.
I listened in shock as the doctor explained Highland Membrane Disease, fluid buildup and under-developed lungs and a series of other issues afflicting my son. My wife had given birth with pneumonia and was having her own health issues. I remember her tears as other moms were able to hold their babies, and she couldn’t. We waited for several hours while the doctors were tending to Tom. My father stayed by our side offering his support and encouragement, he was the rock we both leaned on. A doctor finally came and told us they couldn’t help and Tom had to be sent to Children’s Hospital and placed on a respirator. Twenty minutes later I watched my son, attached to machines, being loaded into an ambulance and transferred into Boston from the small suburban hospital. The doctors would call me tomorrow. I stood there in shock, as the ambulance drove away carrying my son, my father literally holding me up as my whole world just imploded.
I looked at my dad, lost and hopeless, “Dad, what do I do? I can’t fight this battle. Why? Why my boy?”
My father hugged me, his face wet with his own tears, “God is watching over him now, Greg. You need to take all your strength and stand tall, for that woman up there and your boy. You need to grow up fast, son. You need to keep it together for your family. You told me once how strong you are, call upon it now and be strong for all of them.”
I awoke the next morning to the ringing phone at 5:30AM, I felt ill as I picked it up. It was Children’s Hospital, Tom had had a rough night but was holding his own for now but they couldn’t make any promises and I should prepare my wife for the worst. I hung up the phone, took a breath and looked at the cross hanging on our bedroom wall, “Don’t you take my boy, you can’t have him!” I’ d never sworn or threatened God before, but I let loose a string of blasphemies I’d only used on people facing me in a street brawl. He wasn’t going to die and I wasn’t going to tell my wife about the phone call from the hospital.
I got in my truck and I drove to Boston. I was escorted to a small incubator-like unit, inside was my son, hooked up to machines to do his breathing and to help cleanse his blood. His face was swollen and yellow, nothing like the child I saw the night before. THE nurses left me alone; I couldn’t touch my son I could only stare through the glass.
“Thomas, it’s your dad. I know you can hear me, son. Fight, do you hear me! You fight and you live. Don’t go with the Angels, you stay here, with me. I don’t want to lose you, do you understand? Mom and Dad love you so please don’t leave, you just got here. You just got here.” I felt my tears, “Don’t leave me son.” I sat in silence for three hours, my hand touching the glass, watching my boy, willing him to live. Imagining my strength flowing from me, through the glass barrier and into his frail, tiny body. I repeated the mental image every time I saw him, it didn’t matter who I was with or who was around and I didn’t care what anyone thought, each day he lived was a gift and a victory. And if he needed my life to survive he could have it.
Thomas made a miraculous recovery and is part of a Children’s Hospital medical journal, he shouldn’t have lived, but he did, he beat the odds and fought the ultimate fight, the first month of his existence; the battle for his life. Tom is 27 years old now, a remarkable young man with tenacity and a will to do things his way. That tenacity has caused some friction but no matter what his trial, he always finds a way to make things work out in the end, he never seems to give up on anything or anyone. In the end he finds a way to fight through.
When I find myself going through a rough patch, I remember a frightened young father staring through a glass barrier at a new life and urging that life to fight on and beat the odds. Within those memories I find the strength to rise up and keep pushing forward. My battles and issues have never been as severe as the one he fought and won over 27 years ago. Whether I’m struggling with a chapter in a novel, writing a blog or facing a financial or life hardship I look over at my son and see that twinkle in his eye or that crooked smile he inherited from his dad and I know I can get through. Tom was the one who pushed me to submit my first book and write the follow up. He inspired and motivated me to keep working on my novels when nobody seemed interested in a half-alien private detective. He gave me the confidence and the gift of his insight on the second and third book in the Hybrid series serving as critic and creative collaborator. Tom just didn’t influence my writing he is the spark that fanned the creative flame. A flame that would never have existed if he’d lost his fight so many years ago. He is the best son a father could ever hope to have.
Three years ago my youngest daughter, Christie, at the age of eleven, decided she wanted to try out for an out of town swim team. I’d coached her in basketball and softball in open town leagues but this was something different. I watched her first competitive meet from the upper balcony at Milford High School, as my baby girl stood waiting for her event with sport swim wear, a racing cap and tinted goggles. The feeling of dread weighed in my gut like I’d just eaten a cinder block as she stepped upon the diving block against other swimmers. For the first time, I wasn’t there coaching her, I couldn’t walk up to her and give her advice or encouragement, she was on her own.
The starting horn sounded and the race was on . . . everyone around me screamed and cheered, I watched in muted silence willing her on in my mind, hands balled into tight fists. It was the longest 25 yards in my life. But she finished and won her heat. It was a long year of ups and downs for her and a great deal of frustration but she grew into the sport and more importantly developed new friendships. At the awards banquet she was awarded the most improved swimmer, a trophy she has in her bedroom to this day. She’s still a competitive swimmer and will be on the High School league this fall. I’ve watched her develop into a strong competitor and have seen her conquer her insecurity and lack of self-confidence. She now believes in herself and the difference in her personality is a wonderful thing to behold. Gone is the need to be just like her big sister rather she yearns to be “Christie.”
My youngest has reminded me that the road isn’t always easy in life but those who stay true to themselves and don’t go with the crowd will prosper in the long run. She found a place for herself; it was different from herr friend’s passions in dancing and boys, it was in the pool training and competing, working to shave off that fraction of a second and master a smooth flip turn. I’ve taken that lesson and applied it in my own writing. I’m not going to write like everyone else, I’m going to write about what I want and express how I feel. My political blogs have earned me a great deal of hate mail because I call a spade a spade. I won’t ever apologize for my morals or ethics or my freedom to express them and I won’t bow to political correctness. I did for a while and took the easier choice, it gave me less headaches but I let myself be silenced. Life isn’t about taking the easy road it’s about making the hard choices, following your passions and not following the herd blindly. As I watch my daughter in the pool working and training through each practice, I’m reminded of that lesson.
January 24th 2015. It’s three in the morning, the snowfall is near white out condition and I’m looking at the weather in Connecticut and New York. My destination is the Javitz Convention Center in Manhattan. Only an experienced driver or a madman would head out in this weather. But my older daughter was auditioning for “The Voice” and needed me to drive her. “It’ll be an adventure,” she said flashing me that patented angelic smile reserved for when she really wanted something. So a week later here we are, headed off in the storm, Rachel looking out into the darkness and me gripping the steering wheel as we sloshed through the snow. We saw several spinouts and accidents but we had to keep going. Half the time my car was barely holding the road and any turn of the wheel would make us an accident statistic. A four hour ride took seven terrifying hours. But we made it.
The lines and crowds were spectacular. I waited in line with her for another ninety minutes and the group she was with was called in. Because of her age, she didn’t require a parent escort, I got to sit around and fret and hope and pray that she’d come out with a pink ticket. I had my Visa card and would gladly charge the $500.00 it would cost to stay in a hotel if she made the cut to tomorrow. Another hour later she texted me, “I didn’t get picked.” My heart sank. There must have been something wrong, my daughter sings like the most beautiful songbird. I dreaded the long ride home. Another snowstorm would be welcome over the black cloud that would be hanging over my car all the way back to Massachusetts.
I saw Rachel and she smiled, she wasn’t upset and simply said, “They loved my voice, but I didn’t have the right look, whatever that means, oh and I saw Blake Shelton, he was here for Saturday Night Live.’ I was blown away, she handled the disappointment like a trooper, we laughed on the way back to the car and I enjoyed the time with her. The ride back was light and fun despite the snow falling again. That ride home was one of those memories I will treasure forever, I gained a new insight and admiration for Rachel. She took what most would have taken as a debilitating setback and saw it as a positive experience. She wasn’t daunted or discouraged.
Life doesn’t always deal a natural strait flush or four of a kind, sometimes you’re dealt a crappy hand and just have to wait for that hand play out and start with a fresh set of cards. I was never more proud of my daughter than at that moment, she’d had solos before and large parts in plays etc, but this was an indication of her inner strength character. She understood and accepted disappointment without anger or frustration. It was a lesson in how to handle rejection and disappointment.
I’ve been on the receiving end of some letters of rejection from Penguin, DAW and a few hunting magazines and I’ve learned that handling and coping with rejection is more important than celebrating success. Failure builds character and determination. It makes me a better writer and will no doubt make Rachel a better singer. It also defines how we handle life’s larger setbacks; we can accept them and move forward, learning from the experience or be debilitated by failure and never try again. My daughter learned the lesson and discovered the right attitude. When I get down on myself or when things seem to be falling apart I like to flash back to that drive home and the precious hours we spent bonding over an unsuccessful Voice audition. I brush off the setback and try again, pushing myself harder.
As parents we spend our lives teaching our children, hoping the lessons sink in, I look at my children and realize how much I’ve relearned from them, my lessons being re-taught through their lives. There’s no bigger reward for me as a father than to spend individual time with my children, to reignite the bond and simply catch up with their hectic lives and let them know even though I’m not always around, I’ll always be there and they’ll always be with me, no matter how far away life’s journey takes them.
When I was about eight years old, my dad put me on the back of his white Yamaha 50cc motorcycle for a ride. We ended up in a field by the shopping center and he asked if I wanted to ride by myself.
Are you kidding me?
He helped me get a leg up and balanced the bike for me. A quick tutorial on the controls, and I was off. Well, off for about fifty feet when I hit a rut in the dirt and promptly fell over, spraining my arm. When we got home, mom wasn’t too happy and that was the end of my motorcycle training.
Later, my older brother by eight years came home with a big, blue bike. It was so shiny and I loved how the paint sparkled in the sun. He’d take me for rides and I’d laugh the entire time; it felt so good to go fast. Then he wrecked it on a busy street and broke his leg. Determined to keep us alive, my mom declared no more motorcycles or riding while we lived with her. She even said no to flying lessons, which seemed a whole lot safer (to me, anyway). That was the seventies, if you’re counting.
In the eighties, I got married, had a couple of great sons, divorced, and forgot about going fast. Until I met Ivan.
By now it was 2011 and here was a guy with a couple of motorcycles who’d been riding most of his life. That’s when I remembered the feeling of going fast. The little girl inside me was excited by the prospect of learning to ride. The fifty-something-year-old woman was feeling iffy about the whole thing, but game to give it a go. I am nothing, if not willing to try most anything at least once.
So, in 2012, I learned to ride.
Four years later, I’ve discovered a lot about myself while motorcycling. For starters, I know everyone in a car wants to kill me. Now, I’m not pessimistic by nature, but people in cars just don’t see motorcycles, so YOU have to always be aware of THEM. Second, I worry too much (see previous point). And, riding is a lot like yoga. I’m always practicing to do something better or with more awareness than the last time I was out.
One of the unexpected perks of riding is how it’s changed the way I see the world. The colors around me are much more vibrant when I’m on a bike. I can’t escape the ‘scents’ of the road, be it a flat skunk, trailer of pigs, or someone cooking on a grill. Everything is more immediate, in the moment. It’s these things, and others, which I believe have made me a better writer, particularly with sensory detail.
I’ve also learned to take risks and I’ve watched that translate over into my stories as well. I’ve never written contemporary mystery, but when tempted with the opportunity, immediately jumped on it. Stepping out of comfort zones is how we grow. I believe strong women are the most interesting ones, so those are who I write about, be it a ninth century healer, a Victorian time traveler, or an ex-Detroit detective returning to her small home town to take over as police captain. My goal is always to inspire others to take chances and live their dreams.
For the past several years, I’ve had the opportunity to attend writer and artist retreats. While you may think there are considerable differences, and there are some, the foundation of these types of retreats is creativity and what the effect is on those who attend.
There are many things that happen when attending these functions, such as listening to speakers, learning to use methods we haven’t tried before, eating great food we didn’t cook ourselves, and most of all we gather together to network and grow. We meet different people, get to sit and chat with our friends while making new ones. You might find yourself at a table with an agent, editor, publisher, a new author, a seeking-to-be author, and multi-published novelists/hybrids. The list goes on, but you get the idea. What a perfect time to ask those questions you’ve been trying to find the answers to from those who have been there, done that. A dining table is a perfect place for conversation, take advantage of it.
Every year, some friends and I attend the Maine Writer’s Retreat in Portland. We’re greeted with enthusiasm, warmth, and much friendliness, which encourages us to return year after year. The RIRW retreat is the same way, and a good time is had by all.
Retreats allow us to relax, to connect without inner creativity, to learn from one another and the presenters, who are as relaxed as everyone else. You’ll find speakers are more willing to sit and talk with you, to be available to us, the creative people, who are interested in what their specialty.
Unlike conferences, where large amounts of money are required to participate in all the events taking place, including hotel costs, and airfare charges, I find retreats offer cozier accommodations and fewer attendees that make the atmosphere warmer than conferences will. While I enjoy both of these get-togethers, I would choose a retreat over a conference unless, of course, I was interested in attending speaker events all day, or pitching my latest work. This is only my personal preference, and I acknowledge others may feel differently, especially if they are only starting out and want to learn the ins and outs of the writing and publishing business.
To make the most of either of these venues, we must step outside our comfort zone and talk to complete strangers instead of remaining with our friends, to be daring enough to pose questions to those people we stand in awe of. It’s difficult, but we can do it, all of us, because to network, we must leave our comfort zone. Retreats are offered all over the place. Google has lists of them for writers, including Christian writing retreats, and more. I Googled writer retreats for New England and came up with some great places in Massachusetts, Vermont, and one in Hopkinton, RI.
In May 1983, I was 16 years old and a junior at San Bernardino High School in California. One of my best friends, Rodney King, was a senior at Pacific High School across town. Rod told me that Ray Bradbury was scheduled to give a presentation at his school. I was on San Bernardino High’s newspaper and persuaded my teachers to give me permission to report on the presentation.
On the morning of Ray Bradbury’s talk, Rod picked me up and we drove to Pacific High School. We were walking across campus, when the principal stopped us. She saw I was carrying a tape recorder and asked if we were reporters from other schools. I confirmed I was. She then said, “Mr. Bradbury is having lunch in the library, would you care to join him?” Of course, we leapt at the opportunity. There he was, the man himself! Ray Bradbury in the library talking to teachers and administrators. He seemed pleased to see some students there as well and we joined in the conversation.
Once we finished lunch, we adjourned to the auditorium where Bradbury spoke and answered questions about his work. Afterwards Rod and I went up to him to say goodbye and thank him for talking to us. He pulled us aside and said, “I’m going out for cocktails with some of the teachers after this. Would you care to join us?” Of course we agreed and spent another hour with him. It was truly a magical day. I remember he told the story of how he came up with the story “The Veldt” from The Illustrated Man. He read some of his poetry. He encouraged us to read and write every day. All of that has remained with me over the years. Sadly, these were the days before everyone carried a cell phone much less invented he word “Selfie,” so I don’t have a picture with him, but he signed my copies of Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes, which I treasure to this day.
I next had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Bradbury about two years later when he spoke at California State University at San Bernardino. That was a brief visit and he signed a copy of Dinosaur Tales for me. What I most remember is that when I stepped up to him in the autograph line, he immediately recognized me, stepped around the desk where he was signing, and gave me a hug.
I didn’t see Mr. Bradbury again until early 1995. At that point, I was living in Tucson. He came out to speak at a writer’s workshop held at the University of Arizona. I attended with my wife, Kumie, and my friend, William Grother. He gave a wonderful presentation over lunch where he told us a person should read a short story, a poem and an essay every day. “Imagine how much you will learn,” he said. He also told us about his experiences in Ireland, writing the Moby Dick screenplay for John Huston. Again, I had an opportunity to visit with Mr. Bradbury. He gave me and Kumie hugs and we left him to speak to other fans.
A couple of years later, I saw a copy of Green Shadows, White Whale, book of collected Ray Bradbury’s stories about working for John Huston in Ireland. I remembered his stories from the workshop so fondly that I immediately bought the book and read it right away.
About that time, I was also reading submissions for a magazine I was editing called Hadrosaur Tales. Three stories in a row that described a knight climbing a mountain to slay some hapless dragon. I found myself asking, “Isn’t there a fresh way to tell this story?” I thought of Ray Bradbury in Ireland, writing Moby Dick. The question occurred to me, what if teams of people flew out in airships and hunted dragons? I wrote the story of a young man named Rado who joined such a crew. Rado was named for Ray Douglas Bradbury. When the story was published in Realms of Fantasy magazine, I sent Mr. Bradbury a copy and told him the story of how I came up with the idea. He wrote back a few days later and said how much he enjoyed that day in 1983 at Pacific High School, how proud he was of me, and that “The Slayers” was a “fine story.”
If you’d like to hear Ray Bradbury speak, my friend Gloria McMillian recently pointed me to a YouTube video recorded in 2001, the year my story was published in Realms of Fantasy. In it, he gives terrific advice and tells many great stories from his years as a writer. You can watch it at: here.
Back in 1983, Ray Bradbury told the story of visiting a carnival when he was a child. A man called Mr. Electrico strapped himself into an electric chair. With lightning arcing all around, Mr. Electrico pointed a lightning rod at the young Bradbury and said, “live forever!” That’s the moment Ray Bradbury decided to be a writer, so he could live forever.
That day, Ray Bradbury pointed
at me and said, “Live forever, submit your stories now!” I have lived by that ever since and now it’s my turn to point to you. “Live forever!”
When most people talk about how their job influences their writing, you discover that the astronomer writes science fiction, the court reporter crafts legal procedurals or, at the very least, the teacher knows his or her grammar inside and out.
I could tell you a similar story about being a copy writer and editor. I can write pretty much anything on demand as long as it’s in English and it isn’t fiction. Fiction I have to do according to my own muse. Yet, there’s no doubt that my fiction is better crafted because I have had to write on pretty much anything, to a deadline that might have been yesterday when I was given the job.
Writing for clients did something even more profound for me. It made it easier for me to accept criticism, without it destroying my ego, and make to use of it. I would never have submitted my novels to publishers if I hadn’t hardened my shell on the stony shore of corporate newsletters and ghostwriting.
Likewise, I owe a lot to my job with Crime Writers of Canada. No, that’s not quite right. I owe a lot to being a member of Crime Writers of Canada . . . including my job and one of my publishers. It was all about networking and timing. Never underestimate the importance of timing.
However, that’s not what I’m going to write about. There are writers and editors and networkers aplenty for that. I want to tell you how handy it is to be a crossing guard when you’re a writer.
You can’t make a living at being a crossing guard. After all, you’re only working three hours a day and only on school days. On the other hand, it’s a great job for money you can count on. When you work freelance or speculatively, which is a good description for a novelist, it’s nice to know you have a certain amount of money coming your way regardless of sales or commissions. Unlike my work for CWC, it’s also completely predictable. Being a crossing guard is relatively stress-free if you don’t count the motorists who forget they’re driving in a school zone.
The weather can be a pain. Barring snow days, and we don’t get many of those, we’re out in rain, snow, sleet and hail, skin-searing sunshine and bone-chilling cold. It’s all grist for the mill. I can imagine I’m a soldier on guard in the pouring rain or a hiker feeling like they’ll be blown off the trail by the wind.
Then there’s the random story generation game.
At the beginning and end of each shift, there’s a dead time when almost no one comes by. During that time, I tell myself stories with the help of passing cars. The letters or numbers from the license plates act like the roll of a die in making choices or quantifying damage or risk.
A Bodyguard to Remember started with a corner story. I wanted new flooring. Seriously, that was the seed idea. I decided a dead body in the living room would get me a floor.
How did he die? A for being shot. B for being stabbed. If it was an older plate that didn’t start with A or B, I’d have to come up with other options.
Who would investigate? I came up with three choices: City Police, OPP or RCMP. Using the numbers in the plate I got RCMP. They wouldn’t investigate common murder, so I had to come up with something that would bring them onto the case. As a result, my murder mystery involved espionage.
What would the detective look like? I didn’t stick with the one I came up with at the corner but I did stick with the initials I pulled from a car. I still remember the plate was BDMZ ###. I don’t remember the numbers. They weren’t important. I remember the letters. They generated Detective Sergeant David Merrick.
I’ve never got as much out of my musing at the corner as I did for A Bodyguard to Remember. Usually I come up with a solution to a problem by using the random number system to suggest possibilities. It’s a way to brainstorm with myself. Many times the stories I come up with are absolutely useless except for making that dead five minutes seem to pass more quickly.
By day I’m a mild-mannered writer of science fiction and horror. By night, I operate the Mayall 4-meter telescope and the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory outside Tucson, Arizona. These two telescopes have contributed greatly to our understanding of the universe. They’ve played a role in the discovery of dark matter, the large scale structure of the universe, dark energy, planets outside the solar system and much more. Working with these telescopes has also done much to inspire my writing.
For many years, I specialized in observations of spotted binary stars. Spotted, in this case means that they have spots, like sunspots, only much larger. In some cases the spots can take up over a third of the star’s surface. Binary means that two stars orbit each other. These are very active, violent stars and I visit such a system in the opening scenes of Children of the Old Stars.
I’ve spent many nights at Kitt Peak pointing telescopes at globular clusters. These are great spherical clouds of ancient stars that orbit our galaxy. In fact, the “old star” part of my “Old Star/New Earth” series gets its name from these stellar groups, which in my novels prove to be the home of an ancient and powerful life form. The series’s overall storyline was inspired by taking one of the deepest images of our galaxy’s center and imagining a way for humans to get there and see it firsthand.
Before working at Kitt Peak, I spent a summer working at the Maria Mitchell Observatory on Nantucket Island, off the Massachusetts coast. Nantucket was once the center of the American whaling industry and is home to many proud, old families. What’s more, the novel Moby-Dick opens on Nantucket Island. When I imagined a character who would sail off into the unknown frontiers surrounding our galaxy and at its heart, I immediately looked to a man born and bred from a long line of Nantucket sailors and you’ll find the island featured prominently in The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth.
Not only does work at an observatory inspire my science fiction, but it has a way of inspiring my horror as well. At one time, one of my co-workers used to joke that those of us who operate telescopes were the vampires of the mountain because you never saw us before sunset or after sunrise. She was also a fan of vampire fiction who introduced me to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire. Because of that, I began to ask what if a telescope operator really was a vampire? That line of questioning led me on the path to writing my novels Vampires of the Scarlet Order and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order.
Lest you think vampires are the scariest thing you might encounter at an observatory, we do have our share of ghost stories. There are tales of the rocking chair in the 4-meter lounge that rocks all by itself. Last winter police reported getting a 911 call from the observatory. When the telescope operator on duty checked the number, it came from inside a locked, empty elevator. Just a month ago, the breaker to the kitchen tripped mysteriously. The breaker is located in one of the spookiest hallways in the building, where I often feel someone is walking right behind me. Now, all of these stories actually have rational explanations, but the shivers these tales induce helped me to create The Astronomer’s Crypt, the first of a horror series that I have written for Lachesis Publishing.
Writing is a passion and a calling for me, but I’m grateful for my career in astronomy. Even if I were to leave it, I’ve seen wonders and had experiences that will inspire many books to come.
When I first started at police dispatch, ER was still on. As was Third Watch, NCIS, & CSI. I am a procedural junkie.
I love everything about them. Their formats, their crisis of the week, all of it, but what I love most are the ongoing, longterm character arcs. Seeing the life beyond the craziness of their daily grind.
People are fascinating creatures to me. I like to see & understand all the parts that go into the facade we show the world. What makes an elementary school teacher become a cop, what a hard-charging cop does to unwind. I like seeing who the characters are when they’re most vulnerable. The chinks in armor are what makes them more real to me.
And I approach my work this way, too. I’m all about the action, I love a good chase or fight scene. A countdown to an apocalypse that only the protagonist can solve. But at the same time, I want to know what they read, what they drink, what makes their world a little more sane. Then my job comes in translating this understanding of them as whole people onto paper.
The technical aspects of the job are the tricky part for me. It’s one thing to have a grand idea of a kidnapping and hostage rescue with all the bells and whistles. It’s something else when you try to write it and not sound like a goof with no idea of how any of that actually works. There are a ton of moving parts to any large operation and conveying them to the reader can be difficult if you’re not clear on it yourself. This where I’m truly lucky.
The unmitigated bonus of 13 years in law enforcement is connections. All kinds of them, and for the type of writing I do, they’re priceless. You want to plan a siege of fortified building with SWAT? One phone call, and it cost me lunch one summer afternoon. Want to learn the finer points of homicide investigation? I have folks who’ve done nothing but hunt killers for over a decade. It doesn’t matter how outlandish the idea, there’s someone available to help you build the framework to make it happen.
I wanted to plan a hostage situation/SWAT rescue for a story, so I called a friend, we’ll call him Anton. Anton is smoking hot eye candy in addition to being a great tactician & SWAT operator. We came out on the job at the same time, same district, but opposite sides of the radio. He let me pick his brain for 90 minutes at lunch, walking me through every scenario I could think of, even walking me through the finer points of shaped charges and explosive entry (he really didn’t need to be any hotter). Then after all that, he hooked me up with a hostage negotiator. I spent about two hours grilling him for info.
All that research and all it cost me was lunch. I love my jobs.
I haven’t always been a writer. There was a period of time in my early years when being a writer wasn’t even a thought in my head. I aspired to be a fairy princess or a ballerina. But I loved to read, and stories transported me to other places where I could be anything I wanted.
The first piece of fiction I wrote was in fifth grade, when we had to write an essay about how we had named our pet. My family had a dog, Skippy, and he was named that just because we all liked the name. Pretty boring story. But I made up a tale of Skippy running up and down the hallway in my house, looking like he skipped. I got an A on that essay, and felt a little guilty because, well, it wasn’t a true story. Deep down, I was surprised that my teacher hadn’t seen through my deception, and maybe a little bit pleased, too.
When I reached junior
high, I started writing fan fiction. The TV show,The Wonderful World of Color, produced by Walt Disney, ran a series about the American Revolutionary War hero, Francis Marion, nicknamed the Swamp Fox. My imagination took off, and I wrote a story about my own fictional hero, a teen-aged Revolutionary spy and the young lady he recruits to help him. Then when I was in high school, The Beatles were the hottest thing since humans discovered fire, so I wrote a story about an American girl who meets them on their first U.S. tour and becomes Paul McCartney‘s girlfriend. It was all cheesy, but my friends loved it and clamored for more. I was shocked. I could actually write something that people wanted to read!
I’m writing under my own name now, and writing about magic, and dark heroes and feisty heroines who live in the past. It’s been a long road between that first fifth-grade essay and my newest release, Moon Dark, Book 1 Auriano Curse Series. The hero, Alessandro, Prince of Auriano, is much more complex than my dog, Skippy, and quite a bit sexier, too. And the heroine, Sabrina, knows just how to push his buttons. So there are sparks and fireworks and some magical stuff. I hope you visit Moon Dark and get to meet them.
Many of us have made resolutions for 2016. Some of us have stuck to them, while others have already fallen off the wagon. But before you kick yourself and declare 2016 to be a bad year, read on!
I want you to set THREE goals for yourself in 2016. I will too. Let’s start with that. They don’t have to be grand and they don’t have to take up every hour of your day that isn’t devoted to work, family, or sleep. But they have to be challenging enough to require SOME effort on your part.
Each goal you set should have a time limit. Whether you spend time on each one separately or at the same time, you should set a clear amount of time to work on the goal and a DEADLINE.
Each goal should include a before and after picture or a note, or blog post, or facebook post, or journal entry, or even a notation in your calendar, or heck – how about a post-it note on your fridge with a happy face. So you can document that you actually achieved this goal.
Each goal should be something that you have always wanted to do but haven’t had the time, or perhaps the encouragement to do it. I’m encouraging you today. Do it! Let’s all do it!
Each goal should be something that could lead to more goals, growth, change. One goal at a time.
Each goal should represent ONE ASPECT of your life that you want to make better and may include the following: HEALTH, WORK, HOME, ORGANIZATIONAL, PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS, SPIRITUAL/INNER GROWTH.
Allow me to elaborate:
HEALTH: We all want to be more healthy but how do we achieve that? It’s one of those seemingly BIG challenges. But how about setting just ONE GOAL regarding your health and just FOCUS ON THAT in 2016? For example: You are a diet coke FANATIC and you know that ALL THAT POP – diet or otherwise – is not good for you. Your goal could to CUT OUT ALL POP/SODA/DIET DRINKS for seven days. See how you feel at the end of the week. If you feel better, keep going, until it’s completely out of your system and LIFE.
WORK: You want to write THAT book. It’ a cool idea, but you can’t find the time because of your day job, your familial responsibilities, sleep, and the other two books in various stages of completion that you are working on and have to get to your editor. What do you do? Make yourself a doctor’s appointment. We ALWAYS keep THOSE. I sure do. MAKE A NOTE OF THIS “DOCTOR” APPOINTMENT in your calendar or date book. This will be a STANDING “DOCTOR” APPOINTMENT. And you must keep it ONE HOUR A WEEK FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR. Use that hour to work on your “special” creative project. At the end of the year review what you have accomplished. Hey, your book might just be finished by Dec. 31st! 🙂
HOME: You want your home to be welcoming to people but also your own “getaway” from the world. You want your home to be a cozy nest for your family, but also a well organized and functioning household (see below). So how do you do that? You do that one room at a time. How about starting with your bedroom? Turn your room into a “zen hideaway” and get rid of all the WORK STUFF – i.e. no desk, no computer, no files. Just include things that will give you pleasure. Books, candles, aroma therapy oils, music, cozy comforter. You get the picture right? Give yourself one month to set your plan in motion. You don’t have to do everything at once – spend one hour a week on your little “zen” project until it’s done. It could be as simple as changing the lightbulbs to soft lighting in your bed side lamps. Now, relax . . . but get going.
ORGANIZATIONAL: This is a DOOZY isn’t it? Many of us have a “junk” room – everything in the house that doesn’t have a place gets shoved in there. Or closets that are overflowing with old clothes and too many shoes. Here’s an idea: Given that it can be OVERWHELMING to declutter and organize the ENTIRE house in one shot, how about picking one area in your house to “fix” and give yourself a time limit. One chest of drawers or even one drawer. One closet or even one shelf in the closet. One room or even one corner in the room. Start with that. Spread the work load out. Spend only one hour at a time on this project. Perhaps one hour a week. And give yourself one month to complete it. Make sure you have bags and boxes READY because you are going to DONATE or RECYCLE that stuff. What about a garage sale or yard sale? You know what? It takes time to plan a yard sale. So if you want to make it ONE of your projects this year, go for it. I prefer to pack stuff up and haul it to a local charity. If you are VERY MOTIVATED then set up three boxes. KEEP, DONATE, SELL and take it from there. As you tackle the next chore in your house you can do the same thing. And don’t forget to drive to your local charity or phone them to pick up your donation. Do it. Otherwise you’ll have more boxes piling up and more agita filling up.
PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS: Always a tough one to nurture – but how about you and your significant other or friend or sibling or child – work on this one together. Have a sit down chat and come up with ONE THING that you would both like to do together. And do it once a month. Try this for three months and see how it goes. You can do the same thing once a month or different things. How about game night, movie night, dinner night or coffee outing? A little twist for a COFFEE DATE- how about you and your significant other arrive there separately. Like a real date. First one there grabs a cozy, corner table. And you can stare into each other’s eyes for the next couple of hours. Try this once a month. That’s doable right?
SPIRITUAL/INNER GROWTH: I don’t know about you, but this is an ongoing journey for me. One thing that I enjoy doing is working out. Especially weight training. I find it gets me into a calm and relaxed stated of mind. Yes, pushing and lifting weights does this to me! Maybe it’s the repetition. Or maybe it’s the feeling of accomplishment. Or maybe it’s just all the endorphins my brain is releasing. My younger sister has been practicing Qigong meditation for the past two years. She loves it and has a wonderful support group as a result. Find something that you have always wanted to try, and try it once, twice, three times, to see if you like it. Or at the very least, take five minutes a day for seven days and sit quietly in a comfortable chair. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. And think of something relaxing like floating on the water on a sunny day. Try that once a day for seven days and see how you feel. If you have trouble doing that – how about making yourself a nice cup of tea and sipping it slowly, until the entire cup is finished. Okay?
No matter what changes you want to make or what goals you have in your life – it always begins with the first step. Just. One. Step. In the right direction. Write it down. Give yourself a time line and a deadline. And do it. Let’s get going!
Joanna D’Angelo is Editor in Chief at Lachesis Publishing. She loves chai tea, social media, and good writing.